Dogen Sangha Blog


Japanese / German

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gakudo-yojin-shu (1) Outline

The outline of Gakudo-yojin-shu

As the introductory books of Buddhism by Master Dogen, there is Gakudo-yojin-shu other than Fuka-zazen-gi. In the case of Fukan-zazen-gi, because it was written by Master Dogen for the first time, it seems to be very popular, and it was read by so many people actually. But in the case of Gakudo-yojin-shu, I am afraid that it was not so much read by many people. However, when we want to study Master Dogen's Buddhist thoughts, I think that Gakudo-yojin-shu is very important for us to read it too. Because I think that Gakudo-yojin-shu includes so many important instructions, which we need to read for studying Master Dogen's Buddhist thoughts. Therefore I would like to show the fundamental teachings of Gukudo-yojin-shu in Dogen Sangha Blog too.

By the way, when I had a lecture of Gakudo-yojin-shu at Yanagibashi Hall in 1988, the record of my lecture was published by Kanazawa-bunko, and so if you read it, it might be usueful for you to understand Gakudo-yojin-shu in detail, but unfortunately it was published only in Japanese.

Gakudo-yojin-shu includes the following 10 chapters. And the original texts are written in Chinese, but recently even we, Japaneses also read it in sentenses, which are arranged into the same order as Japanese, and so I would like to introduce it in such a special style.

We can suppose that the ten chapter were not written together at once, but they were written separately one by one, and then they are edited into one book later. Because only the chapter 3 and the chapter 6 have the dates, when they were written, but the other chapters do not have any dates, when they were written, and so we can suppose that each chapter has written one by one, and later the ten chapters were edited together into one.

No. 1. Establish the will to the truth.

Master Dogen says, when we begin to study Buddhism, the most important matter is to establish the will to the truth. When we think, at what time, such a kind of will to pursue the truth, will occur, Maser Dogen quoted Master Nagarjuna's words, that when we concentrate our efforts to do
something sincerely at the present moment, we can notice that the passing time is so short and fast, and we recognize how fast the time passing through in our daily life. And just at the moment we can have the will to the truth.

No. 2. Buddhism should be studied without fail, if we had the chance to meet with it.

Master Dogen strongly insisted that if someone met Buddhism, he should study it without fail, because he clearly noticed that Buddhism, which Gautama Buddha taught us, was the only one truth, which pervaded throughout the universe, therefore without pursuing it we, human beings, could never enjoy our human life.

No. 3. Buddhism should always be experienced and entered by act itself.

In the third viewpoint, Master Dogen thought that the teachings, which Gautama Buddha taught us, are different from teachings, which we can get them relying upon our intellectual consideration, or sensuous perception, but they are just the teachings, which can be got relying just upon our acts in our daily life. Therefore if we want to get such a kind of practical experience, which can be got by our act, it is necessary for us to study it relying upon our practice of Zazen, in which we can really experience act itself.

No. 4. We should never practice Buddhism having the mind to get something.

Buddhist practice should always be done for pursuing the truth, and so it should never be done to get something other than the truth itself. Therefore if the Buddhist practice was done for getting fame or profit, it has been done just to get fame or profit, and then we should think that those practice were done for getting fame or profit, and it does never have any relation with getting the truth.

No. 5. In practicing Zazen for getting the truth, it is so important for us to get the true Master.

In the fifth criterion, Master Dogen insisted strongly the very important necessity of getting a true Master in pursuing the truth. And he said that if it was impossible for us to get the true Master in studying Buddhism, it might be much better for us not to study Buddhism. Because if we studied Buddhism under a wrong Buddhist Master, we have to spent the very valuable time of our life for studying wrong theory, and it might be so sad situations for everyone to lose so important time of his or her life for getting so unhappy and serious life.

No. 6. What we should know when we practice Zazen.

In the 6th chapter Master Dogen indicated several points, which we should know cearfully, and he enumarated them as follows. (1) It is the most valuable and important efforts for human beings to practice Zazen for studying Buddhism. (2) We should never like to practice an easy practice. Because easy practices usually do not arrive at the aim. (3) We should know that Gautama Buddha's teachings are so profound and so big. (4) We should know that it is the most important and difficult job for us to keep the balance of mind and to get the harmony of mind and physical behavior. (5) In Buddhist practice it is not so important to get sensitivity, intellect, mental contents, or mental functions, but it is important for us to keep the harmony of body and mind for entering into the world of the truth, which Gautama Buddha preached. (6) It is not so important whether we are older or younger. (7) The greatness of Gautama Buddha's teachings will be decided by whether we continue it, or not, and whether we actually practice it, or not. (8) We should never keep our own opinion subornly, and we should never change our teacher's opinion by identifing it with our own opinion. (9) Gautama Buddha's teachings are completely different from ideas, decision, supposition, intuition, perception, and understanding.

No. 7. A person, who practices Buddhism and want to transcend the secular societies, should inevitably practice Zazen

Master Dogen preached that if we want to follow Gautama Buddha's behavior to transcend vulgar secular rules, it is the best way for us to practice Zazen. Master Dogen strongly insisted that if we want to enjoy the true teachings of Gautama Buddha directly, it is necessary for us to practice Zazen, and so forth directly, to experience the balance of the autonomic nervous system actually, because Gautama Buddha's teachings are not the understandings, which can get by reading books and consideration.

No. 8. Acts, which are really done by Buddhist practitioers in their daily life.

In the Chapter 8. the acts of Buddhist practitioners in their daily life are described in their meanings. Generally speaking, in a intellectual philosophy it is almost impossible for philosophers to notice the existence of the real world, which manifests itself only relying upon the real act of us in our actual daily life. But in the case of Master Dogen, who has clearly grasped the Buddhist philosophy, which is based on the real philosophy of act, actually noticed that the real life of Buddhist practitioners are just the persuing act itself at the present moment of daily life.

No. 9. We should practice Zazen for pursuing the truth.

The Buddhist practice is just the pursuit of Gautama Buddha's teachings, which are pervading throughout the universe, therefore it must be completely impossible for Gautama Buddha's teachings to exist without the truth. And Master Dogen clearly noticed such a fact, which he proclaimed that Buddhist practice must be just the efforts to pursue the truth in their daily life.

No. 10. The direct experience just at the present moment.

The Japanese word "Jikige" means just at the present moment, and the Japanese word "Joto" means to experience, that is just the direct experience of the balanced state in the autonomic nervous system at the present moment. It is not necessary to say that there was no knowledge of the autonomic nervous system in the 13th Century, when Master Dogen lived, but it was very clear that Master Doge actually experience the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system, and so he described the state with the Japanese words "Jikige Joto."


Blogger oxeye said...

Master Nishijima, Thank you for outlining the Gakudo-yojin-shu for us on your blog. In it Master Dogen answered some questions that I had been thinking about. The nine teachings in Chapter 6 were of particular interest to me.

12:35 AM, September 26, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Gudo Nishijima--Thank you for explaining Dogen's Gakudo-yojin-shu. It is very helpful information for studying and practicing Buddhism.

4:30 AM, September 26, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

I recently was scanning over some of the past posts. For some reason, I had not read the Fukan-Zazen-Gi 4: Real Situation of Zazen. It was awesome! Thanks Gudo Nishijima.

Gudo San- You talk about "the sense perception, which is excitement in our sense organs." Could you explain what this "excitement" in the sense organs is?

I understand the idealistic/thought side, but I am having difficult understanding the sense perception side.

If experience living in reality or act at the present moment, do the thoughts and sense perceptions persist while one knows they are not real. I feel one must be able to still think, talk, see, hear things etc. if one is living in balance or reality.

12:52 PM, September 28, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Lone Wolf,

You wrote,

Could you explain what this "excitement" in the sense organs is? ...If experience living in reality or act at the present moment, do the thoughts and sense perceptions persist while one knows they are not real. I feel one must be able to still think, talk, see, hear things etc. if one is living in balance or reality.

I hope Roshi will answer, but I thought you might find interesting the results of neurological and other physiological measurements taken of Buddhist monks in deep meditation. In the experiment, scientists read various words to the test subjects with high emotional content (e.g., Hitler, Sex, Hate, Love, Mother). They also played surprise noices, such as loud explosions, that were meant to startle. It is clear that the monks were still hearing every word and sound, and that the sense organs were being stimulated (what Roshi probably means by "excited") and that the sounds were being processed by the brain.

However, while a normal person would react in very clear ways, especially to loud sounds (increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension), the monks had an almost complete absence of what researchers call "startle response."

Maybe that helps with the meaning?

Gassho, Jundo

PS. I do not have the exact citation, but found this description of the research ...

Richard Davidson (director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin) presented information about his study with Buddhist monks. He found you can startle a Buddhist monk, and he won't show the startle response, and that was unimaginable. The startle response is more like a reflex – it goes into the brain stem. But with the monks, he reported, there was no facial response, no heart-rate response.

11:42 PM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thanks for the insight Jundo. So in other words, the nervous system is stimulated to act or not, but the tense reaction of fight or flight is not there.

2:18 AM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:24 AM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Lone Wolf,

Of course, we need such things as "fight or flight" to live, don't we? We benefit from an ability to fear the dangerous, to avoid the deadly and run for safety sometimes. We evolved, like all animals, to stay alive, and that involves being afraid sometimes.

Otherwise, we'd all walk in front of trains, jump out of planes without parachutes and tease tigers. Tibetan monks may fully surpass the "startle responce," yet the Dalai Lama has the common sense to get his "Royal Ass-a out of Lhasa" when the Chinese are in hot pursuit.

This story stuck my eye today ... a child born without the ability to experience pain ...

For some children it's a mild degree such as breaking a leg, they'll get up and walk on the leg. They feel that something is uncomfortable but they keep on moving," she said. "For other children, the pain loss is so severe that they can injure themselves repetitively and actually mutilate themselves because they don't know when to stop."

Although our practice is about mastering certain aspects life, mastery does not always mean not experiencing. Don't think that Buddhist practice is about repressing the unpleasant, avoiding the human, repressing emotions, fears or the like, To be "free" of something does not mean not to experience it.

So, while knowing there is no life, no death as the mind is without thought of life or death ... RUN FOR YOU LIFE! Though it does not matter which way you go, and though one direction is as good as another ... DON'T DRIVE OFF THAT CLIFF!

Peace, Jundo

6:25 AM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Master Dogen wrote: Bodily sit in the full lotus posture.

“Bodily” means on the basis of sense perception.

In Western education we are traditionally taught only 5 senses: vision, audition, touch, smell, taste. This omits the most important other sense, which is the compound sense of proprioception (from Greek “proprio” self, and ception “sense”). This overall sense of ourself, propioception, is centred on the balance mechanism of the inner ear and its connection (through the 8th cranial nerve) to the vestibular nucleii in the brainstem.

The 8th cranial nerve is the first sensory nerve to myelinate -- which happens about 6 months after conception, long before the baby is born. The early myelination of this nerve underlines the importance of the vestibular system as the foundation stone of living.

When researcher’s talk of the “startle reflex” they are usually referring to the mature startle reflex (aka the Strauss reflex). In so-called “normal” development, this mature startle reflex represents the mature evolution of the baby panic reflex (aka the Moro reflex).

If you wish to test whether a baby’s panic reflex is working as it should, the easiest way is to let the baby’s head drop back a few inches. This stimulates/excites the vestibular nucleii in the brainstem and the baby shows the panic reflex response -- it’s arms fly out et cetera.

If you try the same test on an adult, you may see an adult startle response, but you should not see the full baby reflex in which the arms fly out. However, depending on the particular individual you are testing, and his or her state on that particular day, you may see a trace of the baby panic reflex. For example, you may get a sudden gasp of air, or an unexpected emotional reaction.

In the ideas of stupid people, among adult human beings there are handicapped people in whom the baby panic (Moro) reflex does not become properly integrated/inhibited; then there are normal adults in whom the baby panic reflex is properly inhibited; then there are special adults called Buddhist monks who are different from normal normal people.

But in reality, all individual human beings, moment by moment, are somewhere on a scale from total lack of integration of the baby panic reflex to totally perfect integration of the baby panic reflex. I can report from experience that even a man who has sat in the full lotus posture for several hours every day for many years, when the conditions are favourable, is perfectly capable of manifesting a trace of the baby panic reflex, even during Zazen itself.

Because (1) the baby panic reflex, along with other baby reflexes (or “primitive” reflexes to use the scientific term) are more or less improperly integrated, and (2) these reflexes have a very profound association, including at brainstem level, with the vestibular/proprioceptive system, human beings suffer from what FM Alexander identified as “faulty sensory appreciation.”

Faulty sensory appreciation explains, for example, the discrepancy between a Zazen practitioner’s subjective sense that he is right, and his teacher’s perception that he is wrong.

Faulty sensory appreciation is a universal human problem.

Therefore, Master Dogen recommended us, just relying on our faulty sensory appreciation, bodily to sit in the full lotus posture.

Then he recommended us, because our sensory appreciation is faulty, to rely on another standard -- that which is not feeling; i.e., thinking.

So Master Dogen recommended us: Mentally sit in the full lotus posture.

These two instructions are the two fundamental building blocks of Buddhism, upon which stands Buddhism itself, namely:
Just sit in the full lotus posture, dropping off body and mind.

Therefore Master Dogen wrote:
There is sitting with the mind which is not the same as sitting with the body. There is sitting with the body which is not the same as sitting with the mind.

Master Dogen wrote further:
There is sitting dropping off body and mind which is not the same as sitting dropping off body and mind.

And to illustrate the meaning of this latter sentence, I would like to use the following koan:

In the order of the eternal Buddhist Patriarch, there were four dragons or elephants, whose secular names were Ian David Liszt, Matthew Aerial, Steve Portsman, and Sam Mallgap.

Through many springs and autumns the Patriarch had expressed the essence of his teaching in just three sentences:

Physically sit in the full lotus posture.
Mentally sit in the full lotus posture.
Dropping off body and mind, sit in the full lotus posture.

After years and years of teaching like this, the Patriarch sensed his death was approaching. He asked the four each to express their conclusion. He said: “My teaching is just to drop off body and mind. Express your own understanding of it.”

Ian said: “I used to see it as perfectly polite and obedient service to others, forgetting myself completely. But you taught me that it is not that.”

The Patriarch said, “Mr. I. D. Liszt; you have got my skin.”

Matt said: “I used to see it as a state of balance of the autonomic nervous system. But you taught me that it is not that.”

The Patriarch said, “Mr. Matt Aerial; you have got my flesh.”

Steve said: “I used to see as an action doing itself, spontaneously; for example, effortless upright sitting in the full lotus posture. But you taught me that it is not that.”

The Patriarch said, “Mr. S. Portsman; you have got my bones.”

Then Sam Mallgap walked before the Patriarch, carefully laid out his zagu, prostrated himself three times, returned to his zafu, arranged his 9-stripe kesa, and just sat silently, without saying a word, quietly anticipating the Patriarch’s affirmation.

Then the Patriarch said, “No, Mr. S. Mallgap; it is not that. It is never that.”

5:31 PM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thanks Jundo, I agree.

Here is an excerpt from Gudo Nishijima's article called "Buddhism & Action"


"Physiologists have found that there are in fact two opposing systems within the autonomic nervous system which control the “fight or flight” reactions in the body. One system of nerves are called the sympathetic nerves, and they are responsible for our “fight” reactions—for stimulating our metabolism and
making us more aggressive. They make the heart beat faster. The other system is called the parasympathetic nervous system, and these nerves are responsible for our “flight” reactions—they calm us down and make us more passive. They make the heart beat more slowly. All internal organs are controlled by both groups of nerves and can thus be stimulated or calmed, or something in between."

"What Buddhism says is that our standard or original state is the state in which these two systems of
nerves, the sympathetic nerves and the parasympathetic nerves, are balanced. In this state we are neither too aggressive, nor too passive."

12:16 AM, October 02, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

The fight or flight reaction--reddening skin, fast heart beat, raised blood pressure,rapid shallow breathing, et cetera--is associated with activity of the sympathetic nervous system. In infancy, this reaction is triggered by the Moro reflex.

The Moro reflex opposes an even more primitive fear response, that is, the fear paralysis response, which is associated with activity of the parasympathetic nervous system -- pallor, slow heart beat, low blood pressure, holding of the breath, et cetera.

In a mature, well-integrated adult who is having a good day, a sudden threatening stimulus should be met with neither the fear paralysis response nor by the infantile Moro reflex, but by the Straus reflex, or mature startle reflex.

Because of Gudo Nishijima’s emphasis on the importance of (1) posture in Zazen, and (2) understanding of the function of the autonomic nervous system, I have dared to train both as an Alexander Technique teacher and as reflex inhibition therapist.

The head of training of the Alexander teacher training school that I attended, whose name was Ray Evans, encouraged me to investigate in detail the role of primitive reflexes, including the Moro reflex, as the building blocks of human behaviour, and as a key factor in Alexander’s problem of faulty sensory appreciation.

So, following Ray’s lead, I studied the primitive reflexes under Peter Blythe at INPP Chester ( Then I understood that the key to understanding imbalance in the autonomic nervous system is to understand the antagonistic roles played in human development by the fear paralysis response, the Moro reflex, and the other primitive reflexes and postural reflexes/movements which follow, in a developmental hierarchy. At the top of the developmental hierarchy, as I see it, a person sits without external movement, in the full lotus posture, consciously allowing the reflex mechanisms of upright posture to work.

Now I am making my effort to repay the benevolence of the above teachers.

Because of the teaching of the above three teachers, I clearly understood Master Dogen’s most important three instructions, to sit in the full lotus posture, bodily, mentally, dropping off body and mind.

Other than me, is there anybody else who clearly understands? I think that there may be only one other person on the globe, and that is an 86-year old man (87 next month) who is an extremely stubborn and stupid old bastard, but at the same time who knows Master Dogen’s fundamental idea very very clearly. That is why, for the past ten years or so, I haven’t given up trying to express my understanding to him.

Even though my own idea has become so clear, still, it seems that to repay the benevolence of my teachers is an extremely difficult task, which is made all the more difficult by inaccurate and unreliable people of shallow understanding who express half-truths for the sake of getting their own fame and profit. The most conspicuous example of such a blundering dolt is the zen charaltan James Cohen.

5:26 PM, October 02, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Not "could be." The mirror principle never fails.

4:26 AM, October 03, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

“an unreliable person of shallow understanding who expresses half-truths for the sake of getting his own fame and profit.”

Having used the mirror of James Cohen thus to reveal my own self-perceived wrongness, I feel drawn back to the computer with the hope of somehow patching things up. Why?

Why have I used Gudo and Cohen as mirrors by which to see and to publicly criticize my own wrong tendencies?

Because I am, in general, too afraid to recognize those wrong tendencies in myself. I instead project them onto others. My habitual tendency is to wish to be seen as right, and to try to justify this view by actually being right.

A wise teacher once said: “There is no such thing as being right, but there is a right direction.” Nevertheless, my strong habitual tendency is to try to be right.

Even though superficially I don’t fit the classic profile of an adult with an immature Moro reflex, I suspect that the root cause of this tendency in myself, as in many adult Alexander students I see, is an immature (imperfectly integrated) Moro reflex. A half-truth expressed out of shallow understanding? Probably. In any case, what is not in doubt is that it is very easy for me to follow my habitual tendency of trying to be right.

Ironically, trying to be right is a very wrong tendency in Zazen practice. It is a wrong tendency that we can never overcome by trying to be right, however hard we try.

In Shobogenzo Master Dogen wrote of a totally different tendency, for example, in chap.28, BUTSU-KOJO-NO-JI, “The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond.” Ascending Beyond expresses an upward tendency, a natural tendency--beyond right and wrong, good and bad, self and others. It is a natural tendency, but it is not my habitual tendency, and so it is extremely difficult for me to practice.

The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond is not my teaching; it is Gautama Buddha’s teaching and Master Dogen’s teaching. In the end, the most useful thing I can do for others may be to offer myself as an example of not following it.

8:11 PM, October 03, 2006  
Blogger brad said...

Thank you for outlining Dogen's Gakudo-yojin-shu.

12:22 AM, October 04, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home