Dogen Sangha Blog


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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Philosophy of act (4) Zazen

At the ultinate phase of philosophy of act, we have arrived at Zazen, which is the central point of Buddhism. However, in this situation, the most important point is that the explanations of Zazen can never be the practice of Zazen itself. Zazen itself is just that we fold our legs, we fold our arms, we streach our each spine straight virtically, and so forth. I would like to ask you to remember that it is absolutely different for us to read the explanation of Zazen, or to look at others's posture of Zazen than to practice Zazen really.
After finishing this Dogen Sangha Blog, I am planning to write my explanation of actual method for practicing Zazen after finishing this blog, and so I would like to ask you to wait for a while.
Actually speaking, Buddhism is a very unique practical philosophy, which is very rare in another civilization. Buddhism is a civilization, which can open just relying upon the practice of Zazen. Therefore Buddhism is just the real world, which can open just relying upon the practice. Without practicing Zazen there is no Buddhism.
At the same time, however, if there were the practice of Zazen, we can easily open the the World of Buddhism at once, and this is the benevolence of Gautama Buddha. Therefore Master Dogen proclaimed that in "Shobogenzo Bendowa" as follows.
"This Rule of the Universe is abundantly present in each human being, but if we do not practice it, it does not manifest, and if we do not experience it, it cannot be realized. When we let go, it has already filled the hands; how could it be defined as one or many? When we speak, it fills the mouth; it has no restriction in any direction."


Blogger Mike Cross said...

I think that the description that "we each stretch our spine straight vertically" derives from the Japanese phrase SEBONE O NOBASU. But does this phrase appear anywhere in Master Dogen's writings? I think maybe not.

Rather it might come from a more recent oral transmission. But this oral transmission, which I think came through Master Kodo Sawaki, might be misleading. At least I can say from personal experience that my own reaction to this description of Zazen was one of undue stiffening and rigidity.

It might have been less misleading if Master Kodo had said SEBONE GA NOBIRU YOU NI SURU. That would translate into English as "we [each] allow our spine to lengthen vertically."

If the point of Zazen is to come back to stillness, can we make that happen by stretching the spine straight vertically? In my experience, no. A different approach is called for, a more subtle skill. Not doing the lengthening of the spine, but allowing something else, something ineffable.

5:27 AM, January 31, 2006  
Blogger Smoggyrob said...

Master Nishijima:

Thank you for sharing your teaching with us. I have a question, if you'd be kind enough to indulge me.

When you use the word "act" I always find myself adding "-ion," as in, "action." For example, I read "philosophy of act" and I think "philosophy of action."

Is this in any way correct, or am I missing your point?

Perhaps you use the word "act" intentionally to point to right now, and believe using "action" is a less skillful way of expressing this. Or, maybe it's just some difference between Japanese and English that I'm not understanding.

I would appreciate anything you might have to say about this.


Rob Robbins

2:38 PM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Mike Cross San

Reading your comments, I was much surprised for your so brave ignorance in the fundamental theory of Buddhism. Don't you remember the Master Dogen's instruction in our English translation of Fukan-zazen-gi, that "Just make the body right and sit up straight." This expression was never changed both in Fukan-zazen-gi of Rufu-bon, or the pervasive-edition, and in Shin-pits-bon, or Master Dogen's own calligrphy-edition, at all. Therefore in Japan even novices, who have entered into Buddhism just a few weeks ago, clearly notice the true meaning of the instuction.

I suppose that your strong criticism against Master Kodo Sawaki might have come from one-sided and journalistic Buddhist book, which was written by Victoria, but if you like to discuss an important Buddhist problem, I hope that you will not rely upon such a kind of journalistic popular book so easily.

I strongly believe that the traditional teaching in Buddhism is never your opinion that "SEBONE GA NOBIRU YOU NI SURU," but I strongly believe that the teaching should be that "we should stretch the spine straight vertically as far as possible." I think that this is very important for us to spread the true Buddhism through the world, and so I can never agree with your opinion. When we keep our spine a little relaxed, the balnce of our autonomic nervous system will become a little relaxed, and some kind of instability in our body and mind occurs, and so it is very difficult for us to keep the stability of body and mind actually.

For Rob Robbins San

Thank you very much for your important question. I think that the true Buddhist philosophy is always relying upon a kind of dialectic, but the Buddhist dialectic is a little different from Hegelian dialectic, or Marxist dialectic. In the cases of Hegel and Marx their dialectics are constructed by the pattern of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, but in the case
of the true Buddhism, the pattern of dialectic is thesis, antithesis, synthesis, and reality. I think that you have known the theory of the four philosophies in Buddhism, and I interpret that even the four philosophies in Buddhism are also one example of the Buddhist dialectic.

Therefore when I think about a philosophical problems of Buddhism, I usually utilize three kinds of concepts in intellectual area of consideration. Because in the area of intellectual consideration, we can avoid the ultimate phase of reality.

For example in the case of "act," I usually think about the three kinds of concepts, that is, "action" as an abstract concept, "conduct", or "behavior" as an concrete concept, and "act" as a real concept in the case of a real act at the present moment.

I think that the background of my philosophical Buddhist consideration seems to be too much complicated, but I think that by utilizing such a kind of thinking method, I think that relying upon such a little complicated thinking method, the consideration of Buddhist philosophy will become much more easier than before.

2:56 PM, April 19, 2006  

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