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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Difference between Buddhism and AT theory (1)

As you know, I and Mike Cross have discussed for more than tens of years, whether Buddhist philosophy and Alexander Techinic (AT) are the same, or not.
I clearly notice that they are different, but Mike Cross strongly hope to identify them.
Originally I do not like to have such a stupid discussion, but recently I notice that if I were not diligent to deny his opinion, there might be possibility that after my death his wrong idea would survive unfortunately in future. Therefore I feel that it might be my responsibility for me to continue my efforts to deny his wrong idea until my death.
I do not have any criticism, because I do not know the True AT theory yet well, but if what Mike Cross insists is the True AT theory, I think that such a theory is different from Buddhism.
Therefore if Mike Cross will write me some article, which insists the identity between Buddhism and IT theory, I will write my criticism to Mike Cross's opinion in Dogen Sangha Blog for clarifing the difference between the two.
I do not have any expectation for Mike Cross to change his own opinion at all, but I expect that many intelligent readers will understand the difference between Buddhism and AT theories, and I think that such a kind of my efforts might be my dudy as a Buddhist monk.

I would like to copy his own insistence first, and then I would like to write my opinion to it one by one.

Dear Sensei,

Thank you for your email. My response to it is contained in the following post that I have written for my blog. It is the last part of 4 posts on the subject of "antagonistic action."

I do not have any interest to your article, but my aim is my duty to prevent a wrong idea against Buddhism.

Master Dogen instructed us, if we stand up after Zazen, SOTSUBO NARU BEKARA ZU. On this point, I am afraid, I am prone to disobey Master Dogen's instruction very easily.

I agree that you haven't become a Buddhist monk yet.

So I would like to delay posting up my conclusion in public for a while. (I wonder if anybody is interested in my conclusion anyway?) But I am going to send it to you straight away.

I think it might be good idea for you to delay posting your conclusion to all people for a while, but I would like to say thanks to your kindness to send it me a little earlier.

Thank you for worrying about my future. I also feel a little worried about your future. I hope that you will not die before having clarified Master Dogen's ultimate teaching in Zanmai-o-zanmai. Therefore, following the philosophy of action, I am continuing my effort to teach you, even though my persistence seems to others like the behavior of a madman.

It is not necessary for you to worry about my future, because it might be not so long than a few years. I hope that you will study not only Zanmai-o-zanmai, but the whole volume of Shobogenzo.

If it is not too early to say so, KOTOSHI MO YOROSHIKU ONEGAISHIMASU.

Thank you very much for your seculat greetings.

Antagonistic Action (4): Feeling vs Thinking

What is Zazen?

Zazen is sitting with folding the legs, and streaching the spine straight vertically.

Realized in unity, it is a whole which is greater than the sum of two parts -- two parts which are in antagonistic opposition to each other.

The whole does not includes the two parts, and so there is no antagonistic opposition.

The ZA part expresses the physical act of sitting, requiring a physical effort guided by the faculty of feeling.

The ZA is just an action, and so there is no
faculty of feeling.

The ZEN part expresses the mental act of meditating/thinking, requring an effort based on a faculty which is not a slave to feeling.

The action does not include thinking and feeling.

When ZA and ZEN truly become ZAZEN, it is not a physical or mental effort, but a Dharma-gate of effortless ease.

ZAZEN is just Dharma-gate of effortless ease from the beginning.

Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen wrote an excellent book called Sensing, Feeling & Action. If I intended to write a book, which for the present I don’t, I might call it Feeling, Thinking & Action. For Master Dogen’s purposes, I think the latter title would be more to the point.

I feel that it is a little strange for me that he wrote Sensing, Feeling & Action, and so I prefer your Feeling, Thinking & Action, but if I express it more exactly, I prefer that Action transcending Feeling and Thinking.

Gudo Nishijima’s Zazen teaching, in a nutshell, is: not the parasympathetic-nervous-system-dominated state of feeling, not the sympathetic-nervous-system-dominated state of thinking, but just the balanced state of action. In short: Not Feeling, Not Thinking, Just Action.

This is Gudo’s Buddhist thesis.

Yes, your interpretation is true.

My anti-thesis is simply this: Feeling and Thinking and Action.

Buddhism found a dimentional diference between the two of Feeling and Thinking, and Action.

My Buddhist master’s understanding is based on nearly 70 years of sitting in lotus. My understanding is based on only 25 years of sitting in lotus. But my understanding is also based on 12 years in the Alexander work, whose true value is very difficult to suppose, for a person who has not experienced it deeply in practice.

I think that your mixture between Buddhism and AT theory are very serious mistakes.

People who think that Alexander work is a kind of bodywork, are wrong.

I think also that people who think that Alexander work is not a kind of bodywork, might be also wrong.

Alexander work begins with the recognition of what FM Alexander observed to be a universal defect: “unreliable sensory appreciation.” First he discovered it in himself; then he noticed that he wasn’t the only damn fool who felt himself to be right when the mirror showed him to be wrong. In civilized society, we are almost all like that -- misguided by unreliable body-feeling. Ray Evans, my Alexander head of training, was ahead of the game in seeing the connection with immature primitive reflexes.

It is true that if we lose our balanced state in our daily life, there may be so many mistakes.

Clearly understanding that body-feeling is unreliable, Alexander got himself going in the right direction by trusting something other than his feeling. What was it? Some kind of intuition? In his first book he called it “Man’s Supreme Inheritance.”

I think that the "Man's Supreme Inheritance" is just the balance of the autonomic nervous system.

The full title was Man’s Supreme Inheritance -- Conscious Guidance and Control in Relation to Human Evolution in Civlization.

The Man's Supreme Inheritance is not so superficial as Conscious Guidance and Control in Relation to Human Evolution in Civlization, but it is just the balance of the autonomic nervous system.

People are prone to think about Alexander work as all about posture -- which in a sense it is. But for FM Alexander himself, the work was primarily about consciousness and thinking and rationality. He described his work as an exercise is finding out what thinking is.

The human faculty is never only consciousness and thinking and rationality, but it includes much more miscellaneous factors.

Thus, in writing of psychophysical unity, in other words, unity of mind and body, Alexander put mind first.

There is no reason, why he prefered mind first.

Master Dogen, conversely, wrote of unity of body and mind, and dropping off of body and mind. Following the example of Master Tendo Nyojo, he always put body before mind. This is vital to understanding Master Dogen’s teaching, which is always rooted in regular physical practice of Zazen, with the body seated in the traditional full lotus posture.

The oneness between body and mind is the fundamental criterion of Buddhism from its beginning.

Although body-feeling is an unreliable guide, I rely on it, as a starting point. As a seeker of Gautama Buddha’s truth, irrespective of whether my feeling is right or wrong, primarily I put my trust in this physical sitting posture.

Gautama Buddha revered both body and mind from the beginning.

But because body-feeling is an unreliable guide, I also put my trust in another faculty, which -- even if it is not human reason per se -- is at least informed by rationality. Two and two, for all practical purposes, is always four. Reason is reliable. But on its own reason is powerless. Therefore in Zazen practice I put my trust not only in the physical posture, but also in rational intention, volition, thinking.

In Zazen we do not rely upon both body and mind, but we rely upon the folded legs and the spine, which is kept straight and vertical.

Originally dhyana just means thinking.

Originally dhyana just means sitting.

In a recent email to me, Gudo wrote as follows:

You wrote that "The original meaning of dhyana, as I understand it, is
just ‘thinking.’” But I can never agree with such an idea. After my more than 60 years of study, I would like to insist clearly that "The original meaning of dhyana is just the balance of the autonomic nervous system."

But according to my Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary (which Gudo himself presented to me nearly 20 years ago), the definition of dhyana is: meditation, thought, reflection, (especially) profound and abstract religious meditation... (with Buddhists, divided into four stages).

I would like to ask you to remember that Gautama Buddha has established Buddhism about 5oo years BC, and so we can expect that Gautama Buddha's philosophy has possibility to be much more profound than Professor Monier Williams.

The great value of Alexander work, to me at least, has been to clarify what kind of thinking dhyana is.

I think that your suppositional conclusion may be perfectly wrong.

Although the aim of Zazen, Sitting-Dhyana, is a state of effortless ease which is beyond thinking, I pursue this state through physical and mental effort. I make my one-sided effort on the unreliable basis of body-feeling, and make my opposite-sided effort on the impossible basis of mind-thinking.

I hope that you will not establish your own conclusion as Buddhist Truth.

In Fukan-zazen-gi Master Dogen instructs us:

Having regulated the physical posture, breathe out, sway left and right, and then, sitting still, think the state beyond thinking. How can the state beyond thinking be thought? Non-thinking. This is the vital art of sitting-dhyana. What is called sitting-dhyana is not a kind of dhyana to be learned. It is the Dharma-gate of peace and ease. It is the practice and experience that perfectly realizes the Buddha’s enlightenment. The laws of the Universe are realized, there being nothing with which a dragon or a tiger might be caught or caged.

I think that your quotation of Fukan-zazengi is not so exact, and our translation of that chapter is "When the physical posture is already settled, make one complete exhalation and sway left and right. Sitting immovably in the mountain-still state." "How can the state beyond thinking be thought about?" "It is not different from thinking."

Therefore Master Dogen clearly proclaimed that "It is different from thinking." But why can you change Master Dogen's intention so easily into your very subjective interpretations?

So what is Master Dogen saying about thinking? I understand that Master Dogen is saying, with Alexander, that, yes, because body-feeling is unreliable, we should rely in Zazen on the faculty that is opposed to body-feeling, that is, the mental effort of thinking. So he says: “THINK that state beyond thinking.”

Where is Master Dogen saying about thinking. Your interpretation of Master Dogen's thoughts are perfectly your own products.

This understanding that I am saying now is totally different from what Gudo Nishijima teaches. In my view, his teaching on this point is not accurate and not reliable. He is prejudiced against thinking.

Master Dogen didn't say anything about affirmation of thinking. You are insisting perfectly against Master Dogen's thoughts.

Master Dogen instructs us: “Think that state beyond thinking. How? Non-thinking.”

Master Dogen clearly denied the affirmation of thinking. Why don't you follow Master Dogen's intention. If you follow such a not scientific method, you can say everything, but your opinion is always unreliable.

With regard to HISHIRYO, “non-thinking,” Gudo Nishijima is adamant that this expresses action itself, sitting itself, which is different from thinking. But I am not convinced by that argument either.

I think that it is your duty to explain the reason why you deny my opinion.

I may be wrong on this, but my understanding now is that Master Dogen not only exhorts us to make a mental effort with the imperative “Think that state beyond thinking,” but also points us in the same direction with the words “Non-thinking.”

The words "Non-thinking" does never mean thinking.

My anti-thesis to Gudo’s thesis is this: HISHIRYO, “non-thinking,” expresses not action itself, but rather thinking itself, the mental effort which is antagonistically opposed to bodily effort based on feeling.

I think that your thinking method is typically idealistic, and so you can think everything freely, and so your thoughts are perfectly unreliable.

Master Dogen goes on to stress that IWAYURU ZAZEN WA SHUZEN NI WA ARAZU.
What is called ZAZEN “Sitting-dhyana” is not SHU-ZEN “learning-dhyana.”

The pronunciation of SHU-ZEN has a characteristic of misleading, and an actual pronunciation is SHUU-ZEN, which means "learning-dhyana." And the words of "learning-dhyana" suggests an idealistic efforts to arrive at something, and so the denial of such an idealistic efforts suggests action itself.

What is Master Dogen denying? I think that Master Dogen is stressing that the ZEN part of ZAZEN, the thinking part, the mental part, is not something that we have to learn.

Master Dogen's intention is just to indicate action itself, and so your interpretation is perfectly wrong.

His intention, as I understand it now, is that the kind of thinking he is exhorting us to practice is not sophisticated, not intellectual, not pretentious, not insincere, not unreal. It is not a faculty that we have to learn. It is a faculty we have had since our first voluntary movements and non-movements in our earliest infancy.

Your interpretation is perfectly wrong.

My original state is one of peace and ease, and I wish to come back to it. Just that. What should this wish be called? Volition? Clarity of intention? Thinking? Non-thinking?

The state is called Dhyana, or the practice to become balanced, or the state of balance, which is called Samadhi.

Alexander used to say: “This work is an exercise in finding out what thinking is.”

What kind of relation exsists in Alexander's words with Zazen?

This is subtly different from saying “This work is learning thinking” or “learning how to think.”

Both the two words "This work is learning thinking" and "learning how to think" are related with thinking, therefore they do not have any interesting problem with Buddhist philosophy of act.

The great difficulty that I encounter in Alexander work is not that I haven’t learned how to think: I know perfectly well how to think. I have known since I was a baby. The difficulty is that in my practice here and now, I do not trust the incredible tangible power that a thought has. Without the assurance of feeling something that feels right, I don’t feel secure, and so my hands are taken over by a grabbing response.

I think that your life is not so realistic, therefore Gautama Buddha recommended you to study Buddhism.

When my Alexander teacher works on me, I experience without any doubt the power of a thought. Her hands do absolutely nothing; they are just there. And yet something flows through her hands and seems to dig my head out from the depths of me, from the very soles of my feet. And she calls this something “a thought.”

I think that what you have received her might be different from "a thought."

“It is a kind of wish, isn’t it?” I ask her. “Yes,” she replies, “but it is a wish that won’t take No for an answer.”

I wander whether her answer was true, or not.

When I myself am in the teaching role, at the critical moment when I wish to cause the pupil to rise from the chair, I am prone to feel that I have to do something with my hands and so I do something with my hands -- instead of just leaving them open and allowing them to transmit a thought. When, with the teacher’s help, I am able to inhibit this doing/feeling response, then something truly magical happens.

I think that your thoughts are perfectly idealistic, and so your ideas are completely different from Buddhism.

The miraculous power of a thought, a wish that won’t take No for an answer. Whatever we call it, it is a kind of mental effort that goes against the body’s habitual stream of activity which is pulled along by unreliable feeling.

Sometimes feeling is reliable.

Finally, I come back to my favourite three sentences from Shobogenzo chapter 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai:

Practice bodily sitting in the full lotus posture.
Practice mentally sitting in the full lotus posture.
Practice body and mind dropping off sitting in the full lotus posture.

Master Dogen was so kind for all human beings.

It is like the Earth’s gravity pulling at a green leaf, which a tree won’t drop. The leaf turns golden and the tree pushes it out, but still the leaf won’t drop. When the wind blows, and the leaf floats free, we should not say that it wasn’t gravity, and should not say that it wasn’t the will of the tree. We should not say that it was only the wind. It was gravity and the tree and the wind, altogether and one after another.

If your life is so poetical, I am afraid that your life is sometimes so severely painful.

For 30 years I have been pursuing the truth without caring too much how many eggs I crack along the way. Yesterday was my 47th birthday. In retrospect, my 47th year was a veritable egg-cracking fest. Might it be a case of an antagonistic end justifying my antagonistic means? I fear that Zen Master Dogen might shake his head, and FM Alexander might say: No.

I sincerely expect for you to be much more happy than now.

If the end is true antagonism, the means should be true antagonism -- which does not necessarily entail hurling abuse at venerable old teachers. But, then again, maybe it does. I don’t know.

I think that it might be only one way to enter into Gautama Buddha's teachings, and enjoy the life of the Truth.

From a disgruntled Manchester crowd a thesis was called out: JUDAS!

Even the whole world has been governed by some kinds of economical power, I do not worry about such a situation at all. Throwing out all fame and profit, we can enjoy our happy life, because of the existence of the Truth.

Bob Dylan delivered his anti-thesis with a voice that, 40 years on, still rings as true and clear as golden bells: “I don’t believe you. You are a liar.”

I am never a liar.

Then he whispered to his band: “Play it, fucking loud.”

Human societies are just human societies, but Buddhism is just Buddhism.

I am not a connoisseur of music but Bob Dylan, in my humble opinion, is a true poet. “You’ve got a lot of nerve, to say you are my friend. When I was down, you just stood there grinning. You’ve got a lot of nerve, to say you’ve got a hand to lend. You just want to be on the side that’s winning.”

In a recent email Gudo wrote that as a translation of SHOBO in SHOBOGENZO, he prefers “true Dharma” to “right Dharma.” I agree with him. This Zazen practice is not about being right; it is more about being true. But beyond that, it is about being straight. Whisky with water can still taste right. Whisky on the rocks can still have the true taste of whisky. But I think Master Dogen liked his Dharma straight -- without anything superfluous.

A few days ago I found myself becoming very antagonistic, in an angry way, with a venerable Alexander teacher. She has said in the past that, despite the fact that I am, in her words “a pest,” she admires something in my pursuit of the truth that won’t be deflected. I admire the same thing in her, and also in that other primary target for my antagonistic attitude, Gudo Nishijima.

These teachers are not only my teachers. They are my mirrors. In them I see myself, a pursuer of the truth who doesn’t care too much about anything else, and I treat them as such.

In Gudo Nishijima I see a seeker who is off the middle way on the side of bodily feeling/form/doing. He deeply understands the importance of sitting in the traditional physical posture, but he is blind to the importance of thinking.

My way is always the middle, because it is the Truth.
I think that thinking is just the main cause of the absolute pain.

In my Alexander teacher I see a seeker who is off the middle way on the side of thinking. Her clarity in regard to the tangible power of a thought, which rifles from her inner depths through hands that remain in contact but do nothing... the power of a thought to dig my head out from its deepest connections into my feet so that I can rise out of a chair magically.... her clarity in regard to the tangible power of a thought is unsurpassed in my experience. But she doesn’t sit in the traditional physical posture, as a Buddhist. In that case, how can I devote myself to serving her?

Fortunately, however, I have met one eternal buddha, who, in Fukan-zazen-gi, clearly expresses himself as one who the target hit. For the present, I will continue my effort to serve him.


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