Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reality, Materialism, and the Autonomic Nervous System

After having finished the English translation of MMK, I would like to have a short comment on Realty, Materialism, and the Autonomic Nervous System. Because in 19th Century almost all human beings didn't know about the existence of the Autonomic Nervous Systenm (ANS) at all.

But in the 20th Century we, human beings, have found the existence of the ANS in our body and mind, and because of such important scientific progress, we have found very important change of explanation in Buddhist philosophies.

Before finding the ANS, it is impossible for human beings to find the difference between Matter and Reality. But after finding ANS, human beings have find the difference between Matter and Reality for the first time. After having the knowledge of ANS, haman beings have begun to understand the difference between Matter and Reality as follows.

ANS is divided into the two parts, that is, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). And when our SNS is stronger, we are prone to be spiritual attitude, and when our PNS is stronger, we are prone to be physical attitude. But when we are too much spiritual in our daily life, we can never be human being, but being like gods. And when we are too much physical, we can never be human being, but being like animals. Therefore Gautama Buddha recommended us to be human beings at every momet. In other words Gautama Buddha recommended us not to be like gods, or not to be like animals in our daily life.

Before finding the importance of balanced ANS, it is impossible for human beings to find the difference among the three kinds of situations, that is, the stronger SNS, the stronger PNS, and the equality between SNS and PNS, and so it was impossible for human beings to find the existence of the balanced state between SNS and PNS at all. In other words human beings have
never find the balanced state of ANS at that time, then it was impossible for them to recognize
the true meaning of Enlightenment, that is, the equality between SNS and PNS, or the balanced state of ANS. Therefore we can say that we have noticed the true meaning of getting Enlightenment in 20th Century for the first time. In other words we have noticed the true meaning of the Enlightenment in 20th Century exactly, therefore we can say that Buddhism has left the characteristics of Religion, and has entered into Philosophy, which can be certified by schientic experiment too. Therefore we can explain that Buddhism is just the ultimate philosophy in human societies. We can say that Buddhism is not Religion, but it is just the ultimate Philosophy in the Universal History..

Therefore when we have discussion about Buddhism, it is necessary for us to think about the
difference between before in the 20th Century and after the 21st Century. Before the 20th Century Buddhism has included only the two kinds of philosophies, that is, Idealism and Materialism, but after the 20th Century because of finding the balanced situations of the ANS, Buddhism has found, not only the stronger SNS, and the stronger PNS, but it has found the three kinds of states, that is, the stronger SNS, the stronger PNS, and the balanced state between SNS and PNS, that is called the balanced state of the Autonomic Nervous system.

In such situations human beings have found the three kinds of situations in our ANS in the 20th Century, that is the stronger SNS, the stronger PNS, and the Balanced State between SNS and PNS. The Balanced State between SNS and PNS has been found in the 20th Century scientifically for the first time, and that is just the state of Enlightenment. In other words we, Buman Beings, have found Reality philosophically for the first time, and we, human beings, have found Reality relying upon the balanced situaton of the Autonomic Nervous System.

42 Comments:

Blogger Al Coleman said...

Roshi,

Thank you for your teaching.

Regards,

Al

10:20 PM, January 26, 2009  
Blogger Uku said...

Nishijima Roshi,

thank you for your inspiring and clearminded post! I agree, it's all about the balance in our body and mind; The Balanced State between SNS and PNS.

Thank you very much.

With palms together,
Markus

5:36 AM, January 27, 2009  
Blogger Rich said...

I found it helpful to understand the functioning of the Automomic Nervous System and its relation to the balanced state. The scientific explanation certainly gives credibility to zazen. I only know what to do to try and attain the balanced state. This knowing is more based on scientific facts than just faith which is a shift from the past.

9:07 AM, January 27, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

I hope you are keeping well.

After some time practicing 'dropping off body and mind' in China, Dogen Zenji had a special experience which his teacher acknowledged with the statements "the body and mind are cast off" (shinjin-datsuraku) and "cast off are the body and mind" (datsuraku-shinjin).

What was the nature of this special event which distinguished it from other instances of practice, and how can we consider this special event in terms of the theory of ANS/PNS?

Thanks & Regards,

Hanrei.

10:42 AM, January 30, 2009  
Blogger Jiryu02 said...

Dear Nishijima,

I'm not sure if balancing the Autonomic nervous system has anything to do with the true meaning of enlightenment. Though, I do find that what you say is remarkably parallel to the relationship between the SNS and the PNS. Of coarse, before thos kind of research, masters relied more on the philosophical aspect (not in a metaphysical or abstract sense at all). Isn't zazen a way of ridding the body of falshoods which is equal to gaining an understanding?

I guess this understanding brings that physical balance?

12:23 AM, February 02, 2009  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hello Roshi,

Thank you so much for your teaching. It is good to hear your strong voice.

Roshi, one of the members of our Sangha asked me if you were being "idealistic" about your insistence on Zazen as balance in ANS, and Theory of Action. I said that I would let you answer in your own words.

Be well,

Gassho, Jundo

4:07 PM, February 04, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Al Coleman San, Uku San, Rich San,

Thank you very much for your answers, which are affirmtive to my interpretations.

I think that since 20th Century, many scietific explanations of zazen has become true and useful, and so I think that Buddhism has become, not a religion, but a philosophy, and relying upon such a situations I think that we should think that Buddhism is not a religion, but the ultimate philosophy of the world, which teaches us that the Universe is just the Truth, and Reality itself.

Harry San,

I would like to answer your questions.
The story is written in Master Dogen's personal history called Kenzeiki, which was written about 150 years later than Master Dogen's death. Therefore there is a small doubt whether the story is a historical fact, or not.

And if it were a historical story, it should occur as a possible fact even in the 21st Century, and so my interpretation is necessary even in 13th Century.


Jiryu02 San,

As you kow Buddhism has an absolute principle of "oneness between body and mind."

Therefore it is always necessary for us to certify every philosophical priciple on the basis of scientific theoretical research.


jundo cohen San,

I think the your student's opinion "Be well" does not have any meaning.

Therefore the word "Be well" can never be possible to solve anything.


Godo Wafu Nishijima

9:25 PM, February 06, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Thank-you for your answers, Roshi.

Regards,

Hanrei.

10:36 PM, February 06, 2009  
Blogger Rich said...

"I think that we should think that Buddhism is not a religion, but the ultimate philosophy of the world, which teaches us that the Universe is just the Truth, and Reality itself."

what about God and the higher power theory? Did we just make that up too?

11:41 AM, February 08, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Rich San,

Thank you very much for your important questions.

I think that God is just the Universe. Because even though we are looking for God, it is impossible for us to find God in the Universe, so far.

And science teaches us that the Universe is limitless.

Therefore if we want to find God in the Universe, it is necessary for me to think that God might be the Universe itself.

Because it is said that God is almighty, God is everywhere, God is eternal, and so we have to think that God must be the Universe itself.

Therefore I think that God is the Universe, and the Universe is God. And so I think that God must be the Universe, and the whole Universe must be
God.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

12:55 PM, February 08, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

I have noticed a tendency in myself to mistake Zazen as a personal mental/ psychological exercise. I think this manifests in a tendency for me to be opinionated and to try and impose my ideas of others onto those other people (other students and teachers for example).

It seems to me that Zazen may often be mistaken as a personal mental experience when we try to improve something, when we try to improve the world or others in the world, when we try to make things conform to our ideas. Also, we may be trying to rationalise Zazen mentally so that it makes sense to our conventional thinking.

In my case I became fixated on the idea of non-thinking and tried to become a 'non-thinker' despite the clear instructions of teachers such as Dogen Zenji who advised against such mental efforts/willful efforts.

Do you recognise this problem and do you have any advice for people like me who tend to mistake Zazen as a personal mental experience?

Thanks & Regards,

Harry.

8:51 PM, February 08, 2009  
Blogger Rich said...

Dear Roshi Gudo,
Thank you for your prompt reply.

I can accept my thinking that 'God is the Universe, and the Universe is God'. My interpretation of your comment that 'Buddhism has become, not a religion, but a philosophy' is that it is not necessary to have a belief or thinking of God but it is necessary to have Buddhist ideas that will lead me to practice the balanced state of zazen.

10:05 PM, February 08, 2009  
Blogger Loi said...

Hi, are you still teaching? I would like to visit you in the summer.

Thanks.

Loi Tran

4:15 AM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger Al Coleman said...

Roshi,

I look forward to your answer of Harry's question as I quite often find myself in the same predicament.

Al

9:43 AM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

jundo cohen San,

To your last question, I have only answered your own question, but I haven't answered to your student's question, and so I would like to answer to your student's question too.

(To your student)
Zazen can never be idea, but practice itself, therefore it is perfectly impossible to be idealistic explanation at all.

And at the same time the explanations by ANS is a physiological interpretations, and so it is just a scientific interpretation, but never idealistic.


Rich San,

Yes, your interpretation is right. God is limitlessly wide as the Universe, and so it is impossible for us to have a personal image of God. I think that God must be much more great than a person.

Therefore we should think that God is absolutely big and powerful as the Universe<.

The Sanskrit word "Dharma" means the Universe, and so we can think that the Universe is the Truth.


Harry San,

I am very sorry that because of my ignorance on computor, I have lost your final question in my computor, but fortunately I have made a copy of it, I would like to answer your question relying upon the capy.

Thank you very much for your valuable question. I think that almost all people, who practice Zazen, usually have the same misunderstanding. In other words people usually understand that we, human beings, can stop our thinking relying upon our mental efforts, but it is absolutely impossible. And the reason why I say so, is also related with the state of the Autonomic Nervous System
(ANS).

When our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is stronger than our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), we can never stop our thining absolutely.

Therefore if we want to stop thinking, how should we do? It is necessary for us to stop our thinking, we shoud make ANS balanced. In other words we should inevitably make the strength of the SNS and PNS equally, because SNS and PNS have the functions, which work completely opposite. Without such efforts, it is perfectly impossible for us to stop thinking. Our consideration is much related with the fanction of SNS, and so if it is impossible for us to stop the function of our SNS, it is absolutely impossible for us to stop thinking.

And fortunately Gautama Buddha has found the very powerful method to make our ANS balanced. Those are the two kinds of posture in Yoga, which have been practiced before Buddhism has occurred.

Therefore relying upon Zazen, we can make our ANS balanced, then even though we can never erase the function of SNS and PNS, we can make the strengths of SNS and PNS equall. Therefore even though it is perfectly impossible for us to erase both the functions of SNS and PNS, we can make the situation of the strength between SNS and PNS equal, or the situation might be similar as if it is like + / - = 0.

This states are called the balance between SNS and PNS, and relying upon such a practice we have method to transcending body and mind, and such a state is called "Dropping off body and mind.

12:08 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

Yes, I have noticed that the posture of Zazen has a balancing effect regardless of the state of my thoughts and so it is clearly not a matter of my thinking one way or the other. Unfortunately some old thinking habits seem to be rather persistent in my case.

I will sit for another twenty years and report back to you!

Thanks & Regards,

Hanrei.

9:15 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry San,

It is never necessary for you to wait 20 years at all.

When you make your efforts to concentrate your body and mind to keep in the posture of Zazen regularly, you can enter into the area of Action, and then the strength of your SNS and PNS will become balanced after several seconds. Therefore you can stop your thinking and feeling from that moment.

And when you will continue your efforts to maintain your posture further, you can continue your efforts (Action) to keep your spine straight vertically without thinking and feeling.


Gudo Wafu Nishijima

12:23 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Thank-you for this clarification, Roshi.

Regards,

Harry.

9:07 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Al Coleman said...

Roshi,

Thank you for you're very helpful answers. It is a great help that you go online to help so many of us.

Regards,

Al

10:31 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Loi San,

Thank you very much for your questions. Even though I have finished almost all Buddhist lectures several years ago, but I am living in an area of Tokyo still, and so you can visit me if you like to have Buddhist talks with me.

11:14 AM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Dear Nishijima Sensei,

I try to sit zazen 30min twice a day, but I rarely succeed. Often I skip. Often I sit for a shorter time.

Lately I am very angry about this. I believe Buddhism is in the sitting, not the idealistic thinking about the sitting. I am angry that it is so difficult for me to sit. I am angry that Buddhism is so hard.

I think, even though I am angry I must continue to practice sitting. Even if I skip. Even if I don't sit 30min.

I don't know what to ask about this, but do you have any advice?

Okage samma de,
Lauren

4:16 AM, February 13, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Lauren San,

Thank you very much for your important reports.

First of all, please understand that to stop thinking does never mean stopping consciousness. Our consciousness is always very clear, but concentrating our consciousness to keep our posture regularly, we do not have any idea to think, or to perceive.

We are just concentrating our efforts to keep our porsture regularly.

Therefore in that situation we should make our efforts to keep our spine straight virtically, and enter into Action itself.

So we can think that leaving consideration and perception, we will enter into the sate of Action actually.

This is Zazen, and so I would like to ask you to practice Zazen everyday, to distinguish consideration, perception, and Action.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

9:50 PM, February 13, 2009  
Blogger Bill Tibbitts said...

I like this idea but wonder if it there is not even more biological and neurological functions that balance during zazen. The brain has different functions that happen simultaneously. When the verbal part gets excited it can drown the other processes out of conciousness-- which puts us out of touch with our emotions, our sense of balance, and other things. Could this also be part of what is going on?

3:28 AM, February 14, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Bill Tibbitts San,

I am sorry, but it is impossible for me to follow your idea.

I think that the character of ANS is so much different from the character of cerebrospinal nervous system. Therefore even though the existence of cerebrospinal nervous system has been found in the ancient time, in the case of ANS it has been found just in the 20th Century for the first time, therefore we can think that the founding ANS was so much difficult than the case of finding cerebrospinal nervous system.

Therefore I think that the function of ANS is much more different from cerebrospinal nervous system.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

7:45 PM, February 14, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Dear Nishijima Sensei,

Thank you very much for your teaching regarding my post. It is a bit difficult for me, but I think I understand.

I would like to double check two things from your response.

First - You said "we will enter into the sate of Action actually." Is this almost the same as saying we will enter "reality itself?" Kono "Action actually" wa nihongo de, nan to imasu ka? I think this is a very important point and I would like to understand it more fully.

Second - Do you think we can be in "Action actually" doing other activities too, or only during zazen? My thought is zazen is the best way to practice experiencing reality itself, but it can extend beyond zazen into other activities in our life.

Thank You Again,
Lauren Crane

11:16 PM, February 14, 2009  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hello Nishijima Roshi,

How are you today. The question came up about what you teach about "attachment" or "non-attachment" in Buddhism, and whether those ideas are part of Buddhism. I wrote that your opinion would be that, if one sits Zazen each day and makes effort to keep the spine vertical, the ANS will naturally balance and one will be naturally "non-attached".

I also wrote that you and I disagreed sometimes on whether various aspects of Buddhist philosophy should be taught apart from balancing the ANS (such as the Precepts, Non-Attachment etc.)You believe that sitting Zazen each day will naturally lead to a balancing of the ANS and a natural keeping of the Precepts, Non-attachment, etc., while I believe that those subjects need to be separately taught.

I also felt, and have told you, that I do not feel that Zazen is enough (apart from teaching the Precepts) because many of your students tend to have problems keeping the Precepts when not sitting Zazen, always fighting with each other and about your books. That is why I told you many times that I disagree with you when you say that Zazen naturally leads to keeping the Precepts, because it does not seem so (for example, in Brad's new book). Here is what I wrote, and I would appreciate your comments.

Gassho, Jundo

____________

Nishijima Roshi tends to emphasize that all one needs to do is sit Zazen in the morning and evening. That will naturally bring about a state which he calls "Balance of the Autonomic Nervous System". As far as Roshi is concerned, that is about all one needs to know about Buddhism. (You also need to know about something called his "Three Philosophies & One Reality", but that too basically comes down to sitting Zazen on a Zafu, whereby the Autonomic Nervous System will naturally be balanced).

That's about all he teaches.

He doesn't teach his students much anything else about Buddhist philosophy or daily life except that they should have a balanced ANS (which, as stated, comes from Zazen in the morning and night).

(Please do not believe me on this. Search his books and blog for discussion of any of these subjects, and you will come up pretty dry ... except as they relate to ANS).

Ask him, for example, about the "Precepts", and he will say that the Precepts naturally arise from a balance ANS which (as stated) comes naturally from Zazen twice a day. That's about all you need to know and all he teaches about the Precepts. Likewise for just about every other concept of Buddhist and Zen philosophy taught by every teacher now or in centuries past. Even all of Dogen, in all his subtle meaning, pretty much comes down to balance of the ANS in the action of sitting Zazen. In fact, most concepts of Buddhist philosophy can be discarded, so long is one is sitting with a balanced ANS.

The end result is that SOME Dogen Sangha teachers tend to be very good about sitting Zazen and attaining a certain sense of peace and balance during their sitting, but are rather uneducated and apathetic about most other aspects of Buddhist philosophy (even at the most basic level). Furthermore, they sometimes tend to ignore or say that key aspects of Buddhism (like 'non-attachment') are "not Buddhism" because they have no appreciation for any other idea beyond Nishijima Roshi's vision of Zazen and the ANS. And further, they tend to not place emphasis on how one should lead life when off the Zafu.

This last point is very important: For some Dogen Sangha teachers, one can pretty much throw away living like a peaceful, non-attached, Precept abiding and gentle Buddhist (and be a mean and attached, Precept disregarding Buddhist) so long as one merely keeps sitting Zazen twice a day.

I say "SOME" Dogen Sangha teachers are like that because many of us have had multiple teachers who influenced us (and who were able to provide a more traditional and wide ranging Buddhist education), with Nishijima Roshi being just one. It is the folks who ONLY had Nishijima Roshi (such as Brad and a few others) who are pretty much in the dark for what all the rest of the world considers "Zen" and "Buddhism" and Buddhist living.

Now some folks will think that I am putting Nishijima Roshi down, and I am really not (at least, not as much as some might think). He is a marvelous teacher of Zazen and a beautiful man. However, if you want to learn about the rest of what Buddhism and Zen Practice is, one must study under other, more traditional, Buddhist teachers. And that is what many of us have done.

Gassho, Jundo

10:48 AM, February 15, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Lauren Crane San,

Thank you very much for your important questions, and I would like to answer your two questions one by one.

First - "We will enter into the sate of Action actually," means that we can enter into Real Action, which is different from action as idea, or action as perception.

That does not mean to enter into "reality itself" directly, because first we enter into Real Action, and it means that we enter into "reality itself".

"Action actually" wa nihongo dewa "Genjitsu no Okonai" to iimasu.

Yes, this point is very important. In Greco-Roman Civilization I think that action as idea, and action as perception are very clear, but Real Action is not so clear. But in the ancient India Gautama Buddha insists that the Real Action really exists at the present moment, and action as idea, or action as perception can never be Real Action at all.

Second - I think that our human life is just series of Real Action at the present moment, and so Real Action can never be limited only in Zazen. Therefore I would like to affirm your idea that Real Action should pervade throughout our human life totally.

3:06 PM, February 15, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear jundo cohen San,

I think that your questions are rather many, and so I would like to answer your each question one by one.

I have been rather surprised that you do not know that Buddhism recommends us not to have attachment so clearly. I think that it is very common rule in Buddhism not to have any attachment to anything. Therefore if you insist that Buddhism does not recommend us to leave attachment, the problem is related with a fundamental principle of Buddhism, and so I would like to ask you, please check
whether Buddhism does not recommend to leave attachment, or not.

I have been also very surprised that you do not believe in the principle that it is very important for Buddhists to keep the balance of the ANS at every moment.

But in your case you do not follow Master Dogen's teaching SHIKAN TAZA, or
just to practice Zazen, at all, and so you do not agree with Master Dogen's important teachings at all.
Of course you have your perfect freedom not to follow Master Dogen's teachings at all, because you are not a believer in Master Dogen's Buddhist theories at all. In such a situation it is very clear that your Buddhist thoughts are perfectly different from my Buddhist thoughts. But you have written already so many your Buddhist ideas, which are perfectly different from Master Dogen's thoughts, I would like to explain what points are different between your own Buddhist idea from Master Dogen's Buddhist thoughts.

Of course still I have been keeping my fundametal Buddhist principles, that is, the Theories of the Four Philosophies, the Rule of Cause and Effects, Philosophy of Action, and Reality itself. Therefore if Cohen San thought that I have left those kinds of fundamental Buddhist Principles, it might be very laughable mistakes.

In my Buddhist philosophical system, the theory of ANS has become clear in the 20th Century scientifically for the first time, and so recently I am diligent to explain the theory of ANS especially. I have never think other priciple of Buddhist theory right at all.

As I said, I never think the value of Buddhist Precepts light at all.

I am afraid that it is too difficult for him to understand our Buddhist discussions, and so he thinks that Gudo Nishijima does not know Buddhism at all.

I am always teaching my only one Truth especially, and so if there is anyone, who can not understand my teaching, everyone can have perfect freedom to leave me.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

8:38 PM, February 15, 2009  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Roshi,

As often happens, I am afraid you have some misunderstandings here. May I correct you? Just to make clear:

1- I (Jundo) do believe in principle that Buddhism is about "Non-attachment". It is Brad Warner who wrote on his blog yesterday that Buddhism is not about attachment. Brad wrote:

I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept. It's more of a Brahmanistic (Hindu) idea that got incorporated into Buddhism when Buddhism came to the West as part of a mixture of Eastern philosophies. ... I'm not gonna go look thru every chapter of Shobogenzo to check. But off hand I can't recall Dogen ever talking about non-attachment except possibly when speaking about ancient Indian philosophies.

Anyway, please read the rest on Brad's blog and do not blame me for his idea. :-)

2- I teach Shikantaza, Just Sitting, in the manner of Master Dogen. That is all I teach.

3- My question was not whether you believe balance of ANS is important. My question was whether it automatically causes someone to comply with the Precepts just by sitting Zazen. I believe that just sitting Zazen twice a day, people do not automatically comply with the Precepts (because many people sit Zazen, but do harmful things when not sitting Zazen). So, Zazen alone is not enough.

I think most important things is for teacher and student to talk to each other, and in that way there are few misunderstandings. Don't you agree?

Gassho, Jundo

10:09 PM, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Bill Tibbitts said...

Dear Mr. Nishijima:

I apologize for not expressing myself clearly in my previous posting. I have only discovered books about the different processes that take place simultaneously in the brain recently and so I am not very good at talking about it. It is my understanding that different parts of the brain simultanneously coordinate or regulate different bodily functions. So, one part of the brain processes emotions, another part processes things like the sense of balance and other parts deal with other things. A small part deals with thoughts. Out of these collective processes our consciousness emerges.

It seems to me that one way people get out of balance is when they mistake one of these brain processes, especially a thought or an emotion, for their entire self. Then they tune out the other processes. A person who makes this mistake will be so focused on a thought or emotion that they will move awkwardly and not respond naturally to what is happening.

It seems to me that these different brain processes resemble the five skandhas, from which the self emerges, but I am not really educated enough about Buddhist philosophy to be sure about that.

It also seems to me that the practice of sitting meditation helps us to calm down the thinking and emotions part of the brain which means that those processes no longer dominate the other processes and so we return to balance. In balance we move more naturally and are more able to respond to other people naturally.

I have probably still not done a very bad job explaining brain science and so I am not sure that I am asking a question that can be answered. I really have only read a couple books about this subject, Welcome To Your Brain and a book I cannot remember this morning and so it is possible I am not understanding things correctly but I believe the latest brain science says that the self is an emergent property from a number of different processes that take place simultaneously.

It seems to me that when those processes are in balance we are able to respond to life naturally. Monkeys are kinder than some humans but when our bodies are in balance we all have the ability to be kinder than monkeys. I personally think the world would be better if more people were kinder than monkeys and so I meditate so that at least I can be fully human.

I apologize if I am still not making as much sense as I think that I am. Thank you for your translations and other books. Thank you for working on this blog. It is very nice to see someone work so hard to develop a truly scientific understanding of Buddhism.

Bill Tibbitts

10:15 PM, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Rich said...

"Second - I think that our human life is just series of Real Action at the present moment, and so Real Action can never be limited only in Zazen. Therefore I would like to affirm your idea that Real Action should pervade throughout our human life totally."

Dear Gudo Roshi,

Thank you for clarifying the meaning of Real Action. It seems to me that the purpose of Buddhist thinking is to become Real Action which is non-thinking or before thinking.

I enjoyed your book, Meet the Real Dragon.

Rich

10:37 PM, February 15, 2009  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hello Roshi,

How are you today?

Since we were discussing the teaching of Master Dogen and Shobogenzo, I thought I would post this. I have begun a series of video talks on Bendowa. Please have a look.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2009/02/zazen-as-supreme-perfect-enlig.html

Today, I present Shikantaza as just anuttara samjak sambodhi attained.

Yet, though anuttara samjak sambodhi is attained, we keep sitting!

I hope to see you soon.

Gassho, Jundo

10:09 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

I forget if I provided the correct link. It is here:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2009/02/zazen-as-supreme-perfect-enlig.html

10:10 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Rich San,

Thank you very much for your clear understanding Buddhism about Real Action. I think that your understanding the meaning of Real Action is perfectly true.


Dear cohen San,

Frankly speacking, I have clearly noticed that your Buddhist thoughts are completely different from mine, and so I think that even though we have discussions on Buddhism, we can never arrive at the good conclusion at all. Therefore I want to stop our Buddhist discussions completely.

Gado Wafu Nishijima

11:55 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hello Roshi,

No, Buddhists must never stop talking to each other. Especially teacher and student. As well, we tend to only see differences where the mind creates differences. That is a shame. Let us meet soon, and I can explain to you where our ideas lack all difference.

Always be generous with the Dharma. I read that somewhere.

Gassho, Jundo

12:05 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Julian said...

Dear Nishijima Sensei,

I happened to come across your teaching about balance of the PSNS as the goal of zazen just when I have begun to see some similarities between the action of the PSNS and the interplay of yin/yang within the body. I am an acupuncturist and shiatsu therapist and have begun to see connections between these two disciplines and Zen.

I want to thank you for these teachings as they have opened my mind further, enabling me to understand more about what I had begun dimly to see.

In regard to zazen, I find that when I practise regularly (2-3 sittings per day) I tend to feel quite calm for a time then feel irritable later on. If I practise less frequently or irregularly it is somewhat the same although I feel as though I get more strongly irritable with more frequent sitting. I have difficulty understanding this.

Thank-you again for your teaching.

Most repectfully,
Julian Yates

1:26 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear jundo cohen San,

Unfortunately I think that you are a typical Sravaka, and so it is impossible for me to call you a Buddha. Therefore it is perfectly impossible for me to have a Buddhist talk together with you.


Dear Julian Yate San,

I think that your supposed similarity between SNS/PNS and yin/yang might be true, but in my case I have known the relation between SNS and PNS, however I do not know the relation between Yin and Yang at all, and so I would like to reserve my answer between Tin and Yang for a while.

I would like to say thank you for your explanations.

Actually speaking so many people in the world have lost their balanced state of ANS usually, and so when we are beginners of Zazen, we have to continue our daily practice as far as possible frequently..

9:35 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Dear Roshi,

I am very sorry you are not feeling well, and I am happy just to recall how things once were with you.

I know you like people these days just to tell you what you want to hear, but I never could do that (not about some important matters anyway). If I did not care about you, I would keep my mouth shut and lie to you. Many do.

By my count, over 15 of your long term students or heirs no longer speak with you because the relationship has broken down. Several more teach a kind of Buddhism very different from your ideas, but (because they are thousands of miles away) just ignore what you have to say. Others mouth their loyalty, but act in ways to disgrace your legacy. (A few, like Peter, truly are good and loyal to you). While you still have time on this earth, I hope that you might change a little.


Please know who really cares about you.

Gassho, Jundo

10:19 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Nishijima Sensei,

Thank you for helping me recently with understanding your ideas on Buddhism.

This is now how my ideas are organized. Does this seem correct?

===========
Our body-mind (the object) must, of course, always be present in reality as it is, there is no other place it can physically be.

Our consciousness is always clear, but it can be focused on considerations (ideas, thoughts, beliefs, worries, plans) and it can also be focused on perceptions (what is seen, or heard, or smelled, or even the perception of thinking). And so, our experience of reality as it is can be very untrue, very disappointing.

However, when our consciousness is in action actually (genjitsu no okonai) there is no consideration, no perception.

This "no consideration" does not mean our brain stops functioning, but rather there is no consciousness of consideration. We don't experience "thinking."

This "no perception" does not mean our sense organs stop working (we still see, smell, hear, etc..) but there is no consciousness of perception. We don't experience "seeing" and so on.

In this way of talking about the situation of genjitsu no okonai we can say that mind (consideration) and body (perception) have "dropped away."

Zazen, and the posture of zazen, is the best way to notice consideration occurring, and perception occurring, and to experience them becoming still so that our consciousness can be focused on the simple action of sitting-to-have-our-spine-vertical, and we can experience this as genjistu no okonai.

Zazen as constant action is very different from zazen as a comfortable position to rest and consider ideas, or as a comfortable time to enjoy our perceptions.

As we practice this genjistu no okonai in zazen, we can become better at having genjitsu no okonai in other actions in our life.

When we are in genjitsu no okonai we are in accord with the "great flow" of reality as it is, and dissatisfaction is absent.

Or, to put it in a more Western poetic style, we are in harmony with the universe and we are happy.
==============
Kind Regards,
Lauren Crane

2:25 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Dung House said...

Roshi,

You point your finger in such a way that it cannot be seen; only the way is seen in your teachings. For this, I am deeply grateful.

11:10 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Hecklev said...

Dear Sir,

I am much more a student of neuroscience then Zazen so I will limit my comments to what I know at least something of.

I just wanted to say that it pays to be careful when referencing scientific understandings. The sciences have a long standing tradition of changing their minds about great swaths of theory. This can be tricky for someone who has used the "old" science to explain themselves.

I do not mean to imply that you didn't know this, or that the science that you have referenced is on shaky ground. It's just that when philosophers stand on foundations built by science, they have abdicated control of what they are standing on.

Respectfully,
Josiah

12:23 AM, March 05, 2009  
Blogger Lucy said...

I am brought to this site because of my interest in the ANS. Several years ago I began having physical problems due to ANS imbalance. To make a long story short, I now work with a company that makes the only technology that measures the ANS using spectral analysis of heart rate variability incorporating the respiratory component. My imbalance was improved using medications that are known to affect ANS balance. I am stumbling here in search of ways to further improve ANS balance with lifestyle changes.
Regarding the data that is seen in the general population, I can tell you that few individuals have ANS balance at rest. By ANS balance, I mean that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work with equal power when a person is at rest (a 1/1 ratio). Sympathetic dominance or Parasympathetic dominance within certain parameters are considered normal. Outside of these parameters Parasympathetic excess and Sympathetic excess can cause symptoms. Sympathetic excess can lead to high heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety and a faster decline of the parasympathetic system. Parasympathetic excess can cause problems such as fatigue, migraine, depression and sleep problems. The ANS cannot and should not remain balanced for physical challenges. Sleep and digestion require a surge of parasympathetic activity. Strenuous exercise and standing up require a surge of sympathetic activity. Even with each breath we take, the ANS is changing balance, more sympathetic tone with breathing in as heart rate increases and more parasympathetic tone with exhaling as heart rate slows down.
How Zazen affects the ANS, I do not know. It has to differ from person to person depending on what type of balance the person is starting with. Many of the practices in yoga are known to increase parasympathetic tone, but is this helpful for the person who has too much parasympathetic activity to start with. Again, I don’t know.
I do know that with the improvement in my ANS function I have had remarkable experiences related to spirituality and enlightenment. I keep moving forward and improving. And it is really neat that I have a high tech gadget that can measure my ANS.

11:15 AM, January 25, 2010  

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