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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mr Mike Cross's Questions

Recently I received a question from Mr. Mike Cross on meanings of Fukan-zazen-gi. The question is related with a short sentence "The Universe conspicuously realized, and restrictions and hindrances never reach it," in our translation, and his new translation "no nets and cages" (RARO IMADA ITARAZU). And he asked me to write my answer in Dogen Sangha Blog. Therefore I would like to answer to him relying upon Dogen Sangha Blog, because relying upon such method many people can notice the true meaning of the sentence.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Mr Cross's question

Dear Sensei,

On my blog I wanted to try to answer people’s questions on Master Dogen’s words “no nets and cages” (RARO IMADA ITARAZU), by which, I suppose, he expressed freedom from what might restrict a dragon or a tiger.

However, nobody has asked me.

So instead of writing on my blog, I would like to ask you to answer some questions on your blog on the pursuit of freedom by sitting-zen.

Recently I have reflected on the irony that Alexander teachers have a tendency to tie ourselves up in the pursuit of a free neck. Whereas your example is of somebody who has lived his life rather freely, not worrying about good and bad, but pursuing a rigidly upright spine in sitting. So I would like to ask you to express your thoughts on the real meaning of freedom.

(1) Please could you express your understanding of what kind of freedom, freedom from what, Master Dogen expressed with the words “nets and cages have not yet arrived.”

A. (1) The nets and cages, from which we Buddhists should become free, are two. The one is our idea, which has been made from our childhood more and more, and the other one is our sense stimuli, which has been accumulated in our sense organs so much. But those ideas and sense stimuli are both our own products, and so when we make our spine straight vertically for leaving our thinking and feeling at once, there is no possibility for us to be bothered by those ideas and those sense stimuli. Master Dogen wanted to describe such a situations, when we are practicing Zazen, and so he described that "no nets and cages."

(2) I notice that it is still very difficult for me, when I practice sitting-zen, to be free of idealistic effort (trying to be right, trying to become somebody). After almost 70 years of daily sitting-zen and studying and teaching Shobogenzo, do you still notice any idealistic tendency within your own sitting-zen practice?

A. (2) After almost 70 years of daily sitting-zen and studying and teaching Shobogenzo, I do not have any kind of idealistic tendency in my life. When I am practicing Zazen, I always keep my spine straight vertically, and such efforts can not do anything for me to do other than sitting.

(3) A teacher of sitting-zen said to his student: “When you smoke a cigarette, buddha smokes a cigarette.” But I think that the desire to smoke a cigarette is not a natural or healthy thing, and the smoking of a cigarette has an artificial influence on the autonomic nervous system. So how can teaching like that be true?

A. (3) I think that what the teacher said is perfectly wrong. When the student smokes, the student is just smoking. And we should clearly notice a so strong power, which a small habit has. Any baby does never have its habit to smoke. But when someone has had the habit of smoking, it is very difficult for him to stop it.

(4) In the one-to-one, face-to-face transmission between master and disciple, along with concrete things like the Buddha-robe and the custom of sitting in the full lotus posture, is there some essential thing -- for example, freedom, or balance of the autonomic nervous system -- that has been transmitted?

A. (4) Everyone has original freedom, and his or her natural autonomic nervous system.

With best wishes,

Mike Cross

With best wishes,

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

P.S. When I have finished my own first original translation of Shobogenzo, I made the copies three, and I have kept one by myself, and I passed one to Mr. Jeffrey Bailey, and I passed the last one to you. And in my case when I built my new house in Shintokorozawa, I made my mistake that the new library seemed to me too much small, and so becoming a little emotional, I have sacrificed the draft for my stupidity. But recently I need to read it again, and so if you have maintained them even today, I would like to ask you to borrow them for a while.


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