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Sunday, August 6, 2006

Dogen Sangha (3) The Special Training By Father

The Special Training by Father

When I think about why I was so attracted to Buddhism, even though I was not brought up in an especially religious family, I usually remember the special training of running that I received from my father in my childhood.

By the time I became 6 or 7 years old, I was not so stout a boy. My physical size was rather small, and it could not be viewed as strong. At the athletic meets held each year in primary school, I always came in last.

Because of this, I suppose that my father worried about my situation. One evening after dinner, my father recommended that we go out for a walk together. After walking a bit, he found a place where it was not so crowded. Then he ordered me to run to an electric light pole a short distance from us, and to run back again to the starting place where we were standing. I couldn't understand the reason why he said so at all, but there was no reason for me to refuse doing it. And so, I followed my father's order every evening.

Without noticing it, the length of the run became longer and longer. Also, the time of day that I ran changed from evening to morning. As I continued, the distance of my run lengthened enormously, and so I began to notice that I was running a rather long distance, about 3 kilometers already. Each day, while I was running, my father waited for me at the starting place, and so, for example in winter, I guess that it was very cold for father to wait for my return on the street, but he continued to make such dedicated and difficult efforts for several years without stop.

In my case, however, enormous changes began to occur in my private life. In my primary school, from the first year to the third year, I came always in last in the athletic meet race. But, from the fourth year to the sixth and final year of primary school, I always won first place in the race.

At the same time, other kinds of changes also occured. For example, even though I was clearly a child, I felt that my childish tendency had vanished, and my attitudes in my daily life had become much more similar to an adult. It seemed that I had lost a childish tendency to be sometimes enormously joyful, and sometimes to be enormously sad. I had become much more calm and emotionless. My thinking method, even though I was a child, had become much more realistic, and the romantic idea or sensitive directness, which are usually common to children, decreased so much. And even though I felt regret to meet with such a situation, the fact was just the fact, and it was impossible for me to change the situation by myself. And such a situation was not happy for me.

One cold winter morning I noticed that my hands were enormously hot, but it was impossible for me to know why my hands were so hot. And feeling so strange, I plunged my hands into the cold water of a big tub used for fire-fighting purposes in the playground of the school. I worried about the rather strange situations of my physical condition. Of course, considering the situation today, it seems very natural that my hands would have been so hot after running so hard before breakfast. And so sometimes I recall such kinds of unusual episodes in my childhood.

Reaction from the Regulated Life

After becoming about 13 years old, and being quite shy, I have stopped running, in spite of my father's opinion. It was very strange that after I stopped running, my regulated personal life also stopped enormously. Even though I did not notice exactly, still it was very clear that my daily personal life had lost the former well-regulated conditions gradually. And my daily life had become very irregular unconsciously. It had become very uneasy for me to stay at home, and so it became very common for me take up wandering outside, going to the cinema, looking for secondhand books, and so forth. In short, it had become very difficult for me to regulate my daily life, and even though it was very uncomfortable for me, it remained completely impossible for me to regulate myself.

Of course, I wanted to get rid of such an uncomfortable situation, but actually speaking, it was completely impossible for me to flee from such an uncomfortable life, and the painful conditions became deeper and deeper endlessly.

During such uncomfortable daily living, I took up the enjoyment of reading so much excellent Japanese literature, as well as many novels and texts of English, French, German, Russian, etc., literature, all in Japanese translation. At that time, the Japanese Government was making its efforts to maintain the gold standard for money, and so things were very inexpensive.The value of money was very high, enabling me to buy so valuable secondhand books at a very cheap price.

And so I was able to read so many valuable books at an inexpensive cost. This way of mine at the time, a kind of random reading of books, would later prove to be very meaningful for me in my approach to the truth by the practice of Zazen.

At that time I also had many opportunities to see many kinds of foreign movies from France, German, and so forth, and those foreign movies were some of the best textbooks for me to study Euro-American Humanism.

Actually what saved me from such a confused adolescence was the approach of the entrance examination for high school. My confused adolescence had decreased gradually. And one day I found myself regulated again, while I was running on the street. And so I clearly noticed that my running was exactly useful to regulate my life. I remember that the number of the goverment high schools at that time were about 40, or so, and I selected Shizuoka High School among them. Later I heard that I had passed the examination in the literary course at the top.

The Athletic Life in High School

Just after the examination there were many invitations from many athletic divisions, but I wanted to select track and field. In middle school I received a black belt in Judo, and so a member of the Judo division recommended me to enter into the Judo Division so eagerly, but I wanted to enter into the track and field division because I had a rather lengthy experience in running.

I clearly remember that my physical build was not so well developed for athletic training, but I positively thought that if I would try to do a very hard training, the problem would be solved naturally. In other words, I thought that training hard was just the only one solution, and there was no other solution than that of training hard.

The challenge I took upon myself at that time was done with too much stubborness and was a very stupid trial honestly. Actually, I am afaid that I had been trying a very stupid trial of challenging human limitations. But at the same time, because of my very stupid and very pure efforts in the athletic training, I met something that is such a so pure and so true fact, something that manifests itself as an act at every moment.

After my stupid trial ended, I began to think that in human civilizations there are so many excellent and powerful philosophies and religions that have arisen throughout history. I continued thinking that if we looked for and studied them, there must be just a philosophy or religion that can be called the Truth without fail. This suggested to me that if someone
tried to make their efforts in their act so sincerely and so hard, there might appear a very clear philosophy or religion, one that can be called the Truth without fail. At that time I made up my mind to look for such an ultimate Truth in human civilization.


Blogger oxeye said...

wow.. it is interesting that you have such strong memories of your childhood. I have not thought much about my childhood at all as an adult. your father was a good man to direct your efforts at running. he must have realized the benefits for you. I think serious running is not unlike serious zazen. it is not easy but it is good for a person. thank you for sharing your early memories. I like to read about them.

3:09 PM, August 06, 2006  
Blogger Siir evrimi said...

Ohayouu Sensei,
This Franck from France. I really appreciate that you sharing your personnel souvenirs of chilhood . My understandig is also , from this evocation that everyone needs a coach, guide or master to discover sometimes the tresury that everyone has inside of himself ( as nature of Buddha) which needs to be exploded or brought to out. Thank you again.

7:38 PM, August 06, 2006  
Blogger Yamakoa said...

Domo Arigato Gozymas Sensei,
It is a great honor to be able to following your teachings. You give everything of yourself just like the flame and when it ceases nothing will remain.

10:00 PM, August 06, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Michael Tait,

... release being from self-limiting self-consciousness into an awareness much larger, not contained, identified with its environment in both micro and macrocosm...whole.

Meeting this true existence that we are all inheritors to it seems to me is the ultimate purpose and expression of our lives.

'Show me your face before you were born.'

Wonderful, wonderful. But, don't forget to come back to earth (our Zazen never apart from the earth). Put your boots back on, head back into the slog. Feed the kids, pay your taxes ... the modern version of carrying wood and fetching water. Forget the unbroken whole, and tend to the broken pieces.

That for me is the "ultimate purpose and expression of our lives."

Gassho, Jundo

2:25 AM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you Gudo San, Could you explain the difference between the similar balance one feels when doing an avitivity of running and the act of Zazen?

4:20 AM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger Taigu said...

Dear Jundo,

It seems to me that what you call tending to the broken pieces is what Michael Tait calls: dissolving the self into experience. Wash the dishes, cook, clean and so forth...He had too much of Wanshi's inpiring poetry as I have too much of Ryokan stuff and French wine sometimes. That gives what we say a certain twist. I am very useless and I love poetry and beauty sitting my bum in the gutter. Sometimes, I do find poetry in the gutter too. In fact, my practice is to experience and be experienced by life as it is. In this, my dirty nose of fallen clown hosts countless constellations.

12:01 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Pierre,

Good to hear from you!! How is Japan? I should be back there in the winter, and down to Kyoto maybe.

As to your comment, may I add one thing?

It seems to me that what you call tending to the broken pieces is what Michael Tait calls: dissolving the self into experience. Wash the dishes, cook, clean and so forth

Maybe not what I meant in this case. For example, I sometimes do dish washing, changing the baby's diapers, etc. like I sometimes do tea ceremony: completely present with the moment, the movement, being the teabowl (or the baby or the diaper) that is no other than me, no other than all reality, every gesture feeling like the universe gesturing, etc. etc.

Great Stuff!! An important practice, and I often do Oryoki, Samu during Sesshin and such in that Way.

But my view of "tending the broken pieces" (my "Mountains are Mountains again") is really the following: just deal with the dirty, smelly diapers filled with baby crap. It really is crap! Do so even when it is truly unpleasant, don't try to make it anything else. Don't expect or try to be "One" with it. Be content to be a disgruntled Two holding his nose. Life sometimes stinks and we want to be elsewhere. Everybody does, even the Buddha. Just let yourself want to be elsewhere. FEEL AS UNZEN AS POSSIBLE! We all must sometimes, and maybe most times: otherwise we can't hold down a job and earn the money for those diapers.

In other words, if you really have a strong Zen practice, I think, you don't need to be 'Zen' so often. If Zen is about being at home in the world, at home in reality, then you can feel at home even when the world and all the rest of reality just stinks, when you feel miserable, depressed, etc., and want to get out of town, want to jump over the monastery wall and escape!!

In other, other words: Our Buddhist philosophy lets us know the divided world is also undivided and unbroken. That is Great!! So, sometimes we can loose our little divided 'two' in the 'one' and just be the one. Sometimes we can be the two, and do divided two things, while also being present with the 'one' (the one which is two, the two which is one, never divided). However, we should know that, in most of life we will keep feeling like a two, a self banging into all the other selfs in the world, and that 'one' will be a distant memory and seemingly far away.

In those cases, just be your unpleasant 'two.'

Before I practiced Zen, sucky things were sucky.

Then I came to know that sucky things were not sucky things.

Now, sucky things just suck again.

Gassho, Jundo

5:20 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger Taigu said...

Thanks Jundo for your comment. Before coming to Japan I had to face great teachers: marriage breaking up, loosing my job, feeling really low, health probems, relatives dying... countless difficulties. Real pain. Now, it's OK. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes not. By meeting things as they are, I really mean getting in touch with the meaty, real side of things. Not to disguise it in the rags of poetry.

I tend to broken pieces too and have given up the hope of getting it back tegether. I just enjoy this, sad or happy, difficult or easy, shitty or flowery.

Thank you for your comment, anyway.

Be well

6:40 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Michael Tate,

Well, apart from the fact that the whole Platform Sutra of Hui Neng, if not Hui Neng himself, is a very romantic legend ...

... and I tend to prefer flesh and blood people and their ordinary lives (like Nishijima is describing about his life) ...

... what makes you think that the crappy, frustrating, too hot when I want it to be cold, too cold when I want it to be hot, sometimes feeling like I have my shoes on the wrong feet life I am describing is not 'wonderous'? "Wonderous' even when the feeling of 'wonderous' might not be immediately crossing my mind at that moment.

Anyway, it seems that way to me.

Gassho, J

9:02 PM, August 08, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:07 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hello Mike Doe and Mike Tait,

I removed my last post as I had stepped into one of those "tree falling in the forest, angels on the head of a pin" like situations.

For me, just to sit a moment of Zazen is Truth. That nothing exists separately, that separate existance is a delusion, is Truth. That every separate existance is just what it is, perfectly existing, is Truth too. That both are just the same is Truth. A moment of Zazen encompasses all that, and no need to talk about it.

I am perfectly content with this world while wanting to change it. It is my experience. I am even perfectly content with this world when I sometimes do not feel content at all. I wrote this yesterday to another friend (who asked about my anti-war activities if I accept and embrace this world "as-it-is" (pardon my quoting myself):

This world, for me, is perfectly what-it-is, and I would not change a hair on its little head. I would not change the place of one grain of sand, nor remove a single leaf from any tree. I do not mean it is "perfect" in the way that 'little me' might design it if I were god or king (I might change quite a few things, such as doing away with wars, cancer, suffering children and all that). Nor do I think it "perfect" because there is that Perfect Diety somewhere who made the world and, since She can do no wrong, there must be nothing wrong with Her creation (I have never met such a diety, don't know if She exists or not ... and my way of seeing things has no need to know that anyway).

No, this world for me is perfect because it is perfectly this world. It is just me, I am just it ... let it do with me as it will. Zazen let's one see things in that way. Events between our birth and death are just a breeze blowing through the leaves ... when it blows strong, it is perfectly strong and perfectly the breeze ... when it blows weak, it is perfectly weak and perfectly the breeze. It is much like casting out one's arms and letting that breeze lift one, allowing it to just take you where it will. Thus, it is beyond good or bad, right and wrong, birth or death ... there is no separate child to be killed by a soldier, no soldier to do the killing.

But, then again, I also see the world as something that needs mending, because it is my home - all our homes - and I wish to see it better. I see this without any bit of conflict with the other perspective, and really, they are just the same. Sure, an old house is perfectly an old house. Its roof is perfectly leaky, its windows perfectly cracked. And that is fine.

But, it is also something to be repaired.

I accept this world, my home, as a wondrous place even with the sorrows. I would not change a thing, and I embrace it just as it is.

And, without the slightest bit of conflict, I seek to change what I can.

Gassho, Jundo

9:10 PM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger Taigu said...

Dear Mikedoe,

I appreciate your comment. As a piece of nothing, I like them. At the same time I can't help noticing a very rigid twist to what you write: fixing the roof?!!! No negligence?!!! That sounds too much like my good old japanese roshis... do you know what Ryokan does about a roof that gets in the way of a bamboo growing? Do you know about what you do now about your own roof leaking? The only question worth asking. I don't know what acceptance means, my life is about investigating... You seem to know... lucky you!

1:43 AM, August 11, 2006  
Blogger Taigu said...

Dear Mikedo,

When I wrote : as a piece of nothing, I was just talking about myself being a piece of nothing. My English was not clear enough, sorry.

You seem to have lots of interesting and wise answers.

I pick up your suggestion about making a bigger hole in the roof. Thank you.

5:16 PM, August 11, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

That flowers fall and weeds flourish, whether people like it or not, is Master Dogen's expression of the Law which is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.

It is not, as James Cohen and Pierre Turlur seem to opine, an expression of the principle that life sucks.

Gudo Nishijima's life and teaching is full of mistakes. But during the years in Japan when I served him personally, in many hours of one-to-one contact, he demonstrated to me that underlying all his mistakes is one quality that ordinary people do not have: that is, irrepressible optimism. When he expounded the teaching that the whole Universe is one bright pearl, or that all living beings are, without anything, the Buddha-nature, he was not just reading from a pre-prepared script, and not just clarifying Master Dogen's opinion: it was just the original viewpoint of Gautama Buddha under the Bodhi tree, that is, irrepressible optimism, spontaneously expressing itself.

Having spent the last 24 years clarifying Gudo's mistakes and endeavoring to understand Fukan-zazen-gi in my own experience, I begin to understand that the very essence of Master Dogen's teaching in Fukan-zazen-gi was not in Gudo's mistake-laden words but was just what Gudo manifested to me non-verbally in his daily dealings in his office, on the train, in the temple, et cetera -- and that is, irrepressible optimism.

If I am blessed to live to 70, I hope I can spend the next 24 years manifesting in my own life what Gudo so clearly manifested to me; that is, the essence of Fukan-zazen-gi; that is, irrepressible optimism.

We are living in the Truth. How can it depend on our not making mistakes? This reality in which we are living is the Truth already. What should we intend to achieve? But if, instead of revering this as the momentary reality, we try to turn this truth into something we can greedily grasp for ourselves with our dirty paws, even if the grasping is ever so subtle and ever so slight, there is no truth in us at all. Even if we know Shobogenzo inside out and have published our own Buddhist books to clarify the hardcore essence of Zen, or the real meaning of the Madhyamaki-karika, we are utterly false, utterly fraudulent. In grasping for the end, we have utterly lost the means, the process, the real way. But this greedy grasping is a very strong tendency among human beings. To drop off such greedy, idealistic grasping, Gautama Buddha and Bodhidharma sat in lotus, both before and after their enlightenment, for six years, for nine years, for thirty, forty, fifty years. So how can people today not strive to throw away idealism and enjoy the freedom in sitting in which all is realized as good, in the beginning, middle, and end? Therefore, when we want to get free of the wrong principle that "life sucks" and come back to the true principle that life is truly good, we should stop making ourselves miserable by pushing forward in pursuit of idealistic aims. We should learn the backward step of re-directing our attention, of unconcentrating. Then body and mind drop off spontaneously. And it becomes very clear that the teaching that "all living beings, when they stop greedily grasping for what does not exist, are already just Buddha," is not only an idealistic teaching, but is just the fact.

6:21 PM, August 13, 2006  
Blogger Siir evrimi said...

for mike cross,

If I understand, you have been serving Master Nishijima for 24 years. And now you seem to have some problem with that, as far your relation to him and your understanding of his teachings.
I can accept however you have some difference with him but i dont understand why you are attacking him via this blog??
If you have any trouble with all that, its your own problem and you have to find solution by your self.
I am rather annoyed to read everytime your critism and your attacks against him and his teachings.
But i am interested to read your TRUE Budhisme practise as you seem claiming . Thank you and Gassho to all
Franck From Paris

12:15 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Hi Franck,

You sound like a sincere guy. If I have annoyed you, I apologize -- that was not my intention. My criticisms expressed on this blog have been, in many cases, a manifestation of a kind of aggressive idealism, which stands in direct contrast to Master Dogen's "backward step." In other cases, I hope that some of my posts might have contained one or two sentences expressing some bit of the Buddha's truth, for example:

Aggressive idealism is the way to suffering.
Regressive Zazen is our way to liberation.

Throwing away aggressive idealism is not only a philosophical problem. It is something that we have to learn, day by day, under the guiding hands and eyes of a true teacher. Therefore Master Dogen exhorted us: Learn the backward step. Authentically succeed to the samadhi of the ancestors.

If you knew the history in detail of Nishijima Roshi's cooperation with his longest-serving students, you might agree with my observation that he tends progressively to test our ability to throw away idealism, by presenting us with strong stimuli, and observing our ability either to react emotionally on the basis of idealism, or to transcend emotional reaction and act. Those who can't transcend, leave. In my case, I frequently fail to transcend, but so far I haven't left. Though I may be no longer regarded as an authentic Dharma-heir or even as a member of Dogen Sangha, Nishijima Roshi still acknowledges me as his student, and I have never denied that he is my teacher. So I am still in the game, and the final whistle hasn't blown yet.

Philosophically I have understood clearly for many years the difference between the practical attitude of polishing a tile and the idealistic striving to make a mirror. Still, in my actual life, when the stimulus comes, I tend to react on the basis of aggressive idealism. This experience leads me back to the regrettable conclusion that philosophical understanding by itself is not very useful. The backward step has to be learned in practice, again and again, day after day, year after year.

In a chapter of Shobogenzo called KUGE, Master Dogen quotes the ancient teaching that the blue lotus opens in fire.

I understand those words as a kind of encouragement to us who love the blue lotus not to be afraid to investigate, from many viewpoints, what fire is -- inductively and deductively, objectively and subjectively, from the outside and from inside fire itself.

The exhortation to pull the chin backward and downward in order to fix the spine in a vertically straight position is just a strong stimulus to aggressive idealism. Aggressive idealism, in response especially to this stimulus, led me into very hot fire.

Did Nishijima Roshi lead me into this very hot fire knowingly or unknowingly? Finally, I do not know. But my frank opinion, Franck, is that it was a case of the blind leading the blind.

Anyway, having had plentiful opportunities by now to investigate what the fire is, I would like to begin in earnest my effort to demonstrate to others what the fire is.

If you would like to visit me here in Normandy, where I m enjoying Zazen four sessions a day amid beautiful natural surroundings, you are welcome to join in. I will be here through the first week of September. If you wish, you can leave a message on my blog. Ca me ferait grand plaisir de vous voir.
Mike from Normandy

6:41 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Taigu said...

Hi Mike,

Over the past few months,I made the decision not to answer your numerous attacks. Unlike Zidane, and although I really would like to give it a good go, I choose not to headbut. This is what I learned from you. Even if I am bad, fraudulent. And if you have not learned anything from me, my foolisness is to blame.

What really matters now? Sewing the kesa, shaving my head and sitting. I have but one student, a difficult one, myself; and the whole universe is now the voice and form of my teacher.

I know you have very little consideration for what I write or think but you may read more carefully what I write instead of jumping too quickly to the conclusion that my view is pessimistic.

Thank you.

7:48 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Pierre: If, in spite of my enormous imperfections as a teacher and your stubborn French tendency always to think your own way is best, you have nonetheless grasped the fundamental optimism expressed by Master Dogen in Fukan-zazen-gi and by Gudo Nishijima in his daily life, then I am surprised and delighted. I look forward to reading your translation of Fukan-zazen-gi into French as soon as possible. If you really grapsed Master Dogen's optimistic viewpoint, I am sure that your translation will be very valuable.

2:52 PM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger Friend said...

António, your post was great for me. I applied the perspectives you provided to circumstances in my own life and found them to be an effective loosening agent. Write on!

2:14 AM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

body mind and breath
running through grassy fields
joyfully blended

5:32 AM, August 17, 2006  

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