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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Philosophy of Action (3)

In the Four Philosophies I explained that the Four Philosophies are Idealism. Materialism, Philosophy of Action, and Reality. However among them the Philosophy of Action is very important in Buddhism. Because Idealism and Materialism are very famous in Greco-Roman Civilization, and so those two fundamental philosophies are also very fundamental in Euro-American Civilizations.

But in the case of Philosophy of Action it is almost impossible for us to find it in Greco-Roman Civilization, or Euro-American Civilization. Because the Philosophy of Action has been established by Gautama Buddha about 4th or 5th Centuries B.C., but the teachings of it have been so difficult, and so the true meaning of the Philosophy of Action hasn't been understood for 24, or 25 Centuries. In other words the true meaning of the Philosophy of Action has been understood in the 20th Century for the first time.

The original words of the Philosophy of Action in Sanskrit is nirodha-satya. And the word nirodha means "restraint, check, or control," and so it suggests self-regulation. Therefore in 20th Century it has meaning of the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system. And the Sanskrit word satya means true, the true philosophy, or the Truth itself. So the meaning of nirodha-satya expresses the philosophy of self-regulation, or the Philosophy of Action.

In Euro-American Civiliazation, I think that the value of consideration and perception are so high, but the vulue of Action can not be separated from consideration or perception, and so even in the modern age, the concept of Action has not been separated from consideration or perception so clearly.

And even in Ancient India, it is very rare for people to separate Action from consideration or perception too. Therefore since 13th, or 12th Century B.C. ago , even in India there was a very spiritual religion called Brahmanism existed, and at the same time when a little before Gautama Buddha was born, there was a materialistic philosophy called the Six Non-Buddhist Thinkers. Therefore at that time the spiritual religion called Brahmanism and the materialistic thinkers' of the Six Non-Buddhist Thinkers, were fighting with each other between the two.

And iust at that time Gautama Buddha was born. Therefore Gautama Buddha himself also worried about so much enormously contradictory two thoughts of Brahmanism and the Six Non-Buddhist thinkers, and after many years of his enormous efforts, Gautama Buddha has found his own solution relying upon the Philosophy of Action.

Gautama Buddha has thought that even though people revere consideration by the brain, but the consideration is just the motion of brain cells, and so we can say that consideration can never be Reality, and at the same time our human perception is just the excitement of our sense organs, and so perception also can never be Reality, but our Action at the present moment can be the true Reality, which actually exists in this Real World absolutely.


Blogger Malcolm M said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:11 PM, March 27, 2009  
Blogger Malcolm M said...

Dear Roshi,

I understand that you are saying this:

We cannot trust our consideration, our thought. And neither can we trust our sense perception. We should know that what these processes tell us is not reliable; they are just the reactions of the body itself, and of the body to the world outside it.

When we act, however, we can be sure that something real exists here and now, for we become part of it - we interact physically and mentally with the world outside our bodies. We 'penetrate the dharma'. And so acting confirms reality. Our action IS reality.

If I have understood correctly, I must thank you for your explanation, which caused me to reflect yet one more time on your theory of action. This time your words were very clear to me.

Thank you for explaining these things again and again.

9:16 PM, March 27, 2009  
Blogger Al said...

Nishijima Sensei,

Thank you kindly for your response to my question regarding Zazen posture.

I have one more question if you don't mind.

When reading about Shikantaza I often hear that there should be no particular point of concentration and that if we notice we are lost in thinking we should simply come back to our posture.

Is this how you interpret Zazen or should we keep our attention placed on our spine and our posture moment by moment while attempting not to let it wander away?



12:21 AM, March 28, 2009  
Blogger Marc Hamann said...


The word "nirodha" is often used to describe the Third Noble Truth (that it is possible to bring about an end to craving and suffering), and in that context it is usually translated as "cessation".

Can you clarify the relationship, if any, between this notion of "nirodhasatya" and the one you are translating as "Philosophy of Action"?

Many thanks,


3:51 AM, March 28, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear jiblet San,

Thank you very much for your exact understanding my explanation of Gautama Buddha's teachings.

I think that your explanations are very exact, and they are hitting the target.

But at the same time I have a little doubt in your sentence "they are just the reactions of the body itself, and of the body to the world outside it."

Because I wonder whether we can think that our consideration, or our thought, can be interpreted that they are the reactions of the body itself, but I think that our consideration, or our thought, might be activities of our brain cells.

In other parts I think that your interpretations of Gautama Buddha's teachings are perfect.

Dear jiblet San,

Thank you very much for your excellent interpretations of Buddhist philosophy.

Your interpretations are almost perfect. But I am a little worrying about whether we can say that "our consideration, our thought, or our sense perception, can be interpreted as they are just the reactions of the body itself, and of the body to the world outside it."

And I usually interprete that the unreliability of human consideration, human thought, or human perception, come from just unreliability of human consideration, human thoughts, or human perception themselves.

Im other parts I think that your interpretations are perfect, and so I feel many thanks for your excellent interpretation of Gautama Buddha's teachings so much.

Dear Al San,

Thank you very much for your important

Generally speaking, when our SNS is stronger, we are prone to think, and when our PNS is stronger, we are prone to perceive. But when our ANS is balanced, or in other words when our strength of SNS and PNS are equal, both our consideration and our perception have vanished, and the state of Action emerges.

Therefore it has become possible for us to sit when we are practicing Zazen that we can sit in Zazen without consideration, and without perception, but just we are sitting solely. And this state in Zazen is called "Shikan Taza."

But actually speaking it is rather difficult for us to make our efforts not to think anything. Therefore in my case I concentrate my body and mind into my consciousness to keep my spine straight virtically.

In such a meaning, I have a little doubt whether your expression that "they are just the reactions of the body iteself, and of the body to the world outside it" is adequate, or not.

In other part your explanations are perfct, and so I feel so many thanks for your excellent understandings.

Dear Marc Hamann San,

Thank you very much for your important question.

In the third phase Gautama Buddha is teaching the real situation of Action itself. Therefore even though the word "niroda" has the meaning of "restraint, check, or control, it suggests self-regulation in this case.

And at the same time Action is always necessary for us to keep our balanced ANS for keeping the balanced situation of Action, therefore it is inevitable for us to keep the balanced situation of ANS in Zazen completely.

12:57 PM, March 28, 2009  
Blogger Malcolm M said...

Dear Roshi,

Thanks for your answer.

By using the phrase "reactions of the body..." I was trying to express that our brain cells, which are responsible for our thoughts, are our body, and that our organs of sense, which are responsible for our perception, are also our body.

But I have read your criticisms of my sentence, and agree that I did not express myself well, and said too much.

And yes - things may be unreliable simply because we cannot rely on them.

Thank you for making these points.

2:26 PM, March 28, 2009  
Blogger Al said...

Nishijima sensei,

You're explanation of Zazen was very lucid and useful. Thank you for your teaching. You are doing a great service by maintaining this blog.

Deep bows,


8:02 PM, March 28, 2009  
Blogger Sylvie et Michel Kirsch-Egrotti said...

Dear Roshi,
I have been pondering over your words of the philosophy of Action, and also reading in your book ‘To meet the real dragon ‘ what you say about cause and effect and good and evil. I have then been analyzing the actions of my life. My conclusion is that the truth is all so much more complex. In my life good has so often turned out to be terribly disappointing, if not disastrous and bad has almost always ended up by being a blessing in disguise… It seems to me that the causes generated from good and evil are so interdependent and intricate that somehow ultimately they are the same energy, the same ‘action’. I think perhaps it’s because both have the same origin which are the three poisons?
I feel that in my human existence, through my body or my mind, I shall never be able to fully perceive or calculate the intricate causes that are born from my actions. No matter how much I strive to refine my qualities I shall always remain limited by my human condition, alternatively the more I seek to control my failings I inevitably slip up on my human condition. Either way seems to ends up as pure obstinacy ! Furthermore what is so mysterious is that Buddhism, if I understand correctly, says that it is within the very limitations of human condition that enlightenment can best be attained? Is that because, as humans, we have a most fortunate alternative, that is the practice of zazen? For myself, I’m convinced it is true when you say “When we practice zazen, we become persons who cannot disobey the precepts.”
Zazen is the only way we can humanly, actively cut through and transcend the chaos of right and wrong. It is the only way to attain the essential equanimity to deal with right and wrong from moment to moment in our daily lives…which is the best we can do. To do my best with an equally sincere and open heart in the face of good and evil.
Have I understood correctly Roshi ?

11:33 PM, March 28, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

Traditionally the Four Noble Truths are presented as a cure for Dukkha (sometimes translated as 'unsatisfactoriness', 'stress', 'suffering' etc...)

What is your understanding of the term 'dhukka' as it relates to our real lives, and how do you explain 'dhukka' in the Philosophy of Action.

Many thanks & Regards,


9:49 AM, March 30, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear jiblet San,

Thank you very much for your clear understandings.

Dear Al San,

Thank you vey much for your clear understandings.

Dear San,

Thank you very much for your own interpretations. But I would like to add a bit of my own interpretations.

I think that the area of cause and effect, and the area of Action are dimensionally separated from each other absolutely. Therefore it is necessary for us to think about the problem of cause and effect, and the problem of Action, should be considered decisively separated. The problem of cause and effect might belong to the second phase, but the problem of Action belongs to the third phase, that is, the real fact at the present moment. Therefore if we like to avoid the confusion between the two dimensionally different area, it is necessary for us to discuss the two dimentionally different areas separately. This is Gautama Buddha's teachings, I think.

I think that it is perfectly impossible for cause and effect to cut Action itself, but Action at the preasent moment can cut the Rule of Cause and Effect perfectly.

And our Action can be done relying upon our balanced autonomic nervous system (ANS), and so by practicing Zazen everyday for keeping our ANS balanced at every moment is important, I think.

I perfectly agree with your last paragraph absolutely, and so I think that it is necessary for everyone to practice Zazen everyday.

11:39 AM, March 30, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

A question arising from Jiblet's interesting interpretation:

Is it not the case that, in the action of sitting dropping off body-mind, our unreliable thoughts/bodily perceptions are nothing other than the action of reality itself directly experienced?

And so, although zazen is not a matter of 'trusting' our thoughts/bodily perceptions in the usual way, we may come to trust them in a different way, in a way informed by zazen?



11:40 AM, March 30, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry San,

I agree with your conclusion perfectly.

11:49 AM, March 30, 2009  
Blogger Malcolm M said...

"I agree with your conclusion perfectly."

And, fwiw, so do I, Harry.

There again, from one point of view our thoughts and perceptions, (as Gudo wrote) 'can never be reality'. But from another point of view they can be nothing but reality. Flowers in Space?

9:18 PM, March 30, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear jiblet San,

In the ultimate phase I agree with your conclusin, but at the same time we should revere the motherly kindness of Gautama Buddha, who has taught us the Method of Four Philosophies to explain the fundamental Buddhist philosophical system theoretically.

1:01 PM, March 31, 2009  
Blogger Sylvie et Michel Kirsch-Egrotti said...

Dear Roshi,
I am now reading chapter 13 of your book ‘To meet the real dragon’ on the Buddhist theory of freedom. I must confess that I am stuck on the theory of freedom in the present moment. I have great doubts about this. I feel my actions are so much bound by the past and equally are so much anticipations of the future…
There seems little space for freedom at the present moment. Something is obviously hindering me.
with kind regards,


3:25 PM, April 03, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Sylvie San,

I am very sorry that I have been unable for me to find your important comment about your question of my book "To meet the real dragon", which you asked me on April 03, 2009. Therefore I would like to answer to your comment even though my answer has become so late.

Fundamentally speaking, Buddhist philosophy has two kinds of philosophies, which have perfectly different dimentionally with each other. The one is fundamentally constructed relying upon miscellaneous concepts in our mind, that is, in our memory in the past, in our supposition in future, or in our recognition at the present moment. But at the same time Buddhist philosophy has the perfectly different philosophy from our conceptual philosophy. That is just the Real Philosophy of Buddhism, which is relying upon our Human Action at the present moment.

And the Real Time at the present moment in Buddhism, on which the Buddhist Realism is dimensionally different from the conceptual time in intelletual philosophies at all.

Buddhist philosophy, which can be called the Buddhist Realistic Philosophy, thinks that the real existence in the Universe is just the existence of our Action at the present moment.

And our Action at the present moment is always done just at the Present Moment itself. And furthermore the Real Present Moment only has the absolutely shortest length. And the shortest length of the Real Present Moment, when every Action is done, can be figulative to the absolutely short length of width like a edge of razor.

Therefore if we utilize a simile of a pearl, which is placed on a edge of razor, because of the so short width of the razor-edge, the pearl can fall down sometimes to the right-side, and it can also fall down sometimes to the left-side.

And relying upon this simile situations, we, human being, can solve the very famous Enigma, which hasn't been solved for many Centuries in human history, that is, the absolutely contradictory situations between Human Freedom and the existent Rule of Cause and Effect completely.

Because when we put a piece of pearl on a edge of razor, the pearl falls sometimes to the right side and sometime to the left side, because the edge of the razor may be so narrow.

And when we think about such a kind of simile, we can think about a very flexible situation of the piece of pearl on the edge of razor.

And when we think about the flexibility of the pearl, which falls down sometimes to right side, and sometimes falls down to the left side, we can notice that the reason why the pearl falls down sometimes to the right side, and sometimes to the left side, comes from the absolutely narrow width of the raxor -edge.

And relying upon such theories we can understand the reason why the piece of pearl is so flexible, and at the same time we can understand that the reason why it is possible that our Human Action can be so flexible even though the Rule of Cause and Effect is so perfecly decisive.

Therfore in conclusion even though our Human Action is perfectly decided by the Rule of Cause and Effect, but just at the Present Moment, which appears just momentally, we, Human Being, can be perfectly free because of the real structure of the Action, which occurs alway in absolutely short present moment.

5:10 PM, April 16, 2009  
Blogger Sylvie et Michel Kirsch-Egrotti said...

Dear Roshi,
Thank-you for your kind wisdom. I have been pondering over this question ever since I put it through to you.Your silence was the opportunity for mr to experiment. I hope I can explain my experience clearly in words.
Somehow I v’e given up on decisions as such. More truly, I’ve taken one ultimate decision not to decide anymore but to be attentive to how things (cause and effect) unfold and bubble up from moment to moment around me and act accordingly. I find that by observing things happening, I act more creatively and more efficiently then when I build up a mountain of pre-decisions based on past and future projections. I feel more ‘free’ in the sense I ‘ve put down the burden of the decision making “I”. My actions are somehow just “the” appropriate (I hope!) action of the present moment. Basically I feel that it doesn’t matter which side the pearl falls anymore, what matters is the quality of it’s fall moment to moment. I feel a sort of optimism that as long as I don’t meddle or fret over the present moment what I do is naturally all right…and when things go wrong or I make a mistake (as I mostly do!) it’s no longer a monumental disaster…even when my husband is puce in the face with fury!
I v’e based this ‘decision’ on what you said about not being able to break the precepts whilst practicing zazen in chapter 12. Allowing the stillness and silence of zazen to resonate through the day…
with kind regards,


8:54 PM, April 16, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Sylvie San,

Thank you very much for your interpretation of the problem about the contradictory situations between Human Freedom and the Rule of Cause and Effect.

Even though this problem hasn't been solved for many centuries, I am always surprised that Gautama Buddha has solved the problem about 5 Centuries B.C.

6:13 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

Dear Sensei,

I must say that your explanation doesn’t make so much sense to me: When we perceive - our reception is wrong - dew to indirectness. - When we consider - if we imagine reflections to be what they reflect - we are wrong.

But when we act - we are not supposed to be aware of it at all.

I recall a (Hindu Advaita) teacher called Papa-ji said: - “Nothing exists, - and this is the truth.”.

Whenever there is perception - consciousness - of what we may call the external world, - or of what we may call our mind, - or of what we assume is our action - it is indirect, - and therefore wrong.

As long as we imagine we know something - it is wrong, - what we imagine to know can not be true.

So - (as you say) "our Action at the present moment can be the true Reality, which actually exists in this Real World" - but we can not know it. (A second time.)

And being just the reality we have never been able not to know it. (The first time.)

Writing this – it seems all that is necessary is to let go our second understanding.

This is why we sit Zazen.

And it not possible for any of the phenomena ever to be missing. (Sekito.)

The Sutras have always been there.

A bottle gourd can only learn what it already knows.

So far,

12:23 AM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

To jiblet's comment from March 30, 2009, 9:18 PM: The point of view is just the point.

12:30 AM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

Or the attitude of mind.
Which is, I suppose - an absence of a secondary attitude of mind.

12:45 AM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger Sylvie et Michel Kirsch-Egrotti said...

Dear Roshi ,
In context of Ran K’s and jiblet ‘s comments, I wonder if we are not ‘barking up the wrong tree when we totally our perceptions? I don’t believe my perceptions, or human state of being are so bad. I find them more to be like tools, and as such it is the use and care we make of them that are ‘good ‘or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I feel that, fundamentally, I limit myself to my narrow human “me” view instead of a limitless, flexible view, which can stretch out to all existence from the most microscopic form to the vastness of the universe…In the context of Cause and Effect I think mistrusting and doubting our perceptions are a negative attitude that can only lead to a negative result. I feel it essential to befriend our perceptions, explore and understand their limitations which cause such confusion in our actions. Allow compassion to take the place of doubt.
Kind regards,

4:37 PM, May 02, 2009  
Blogger Sylvie et Michel Kirsch-Egrotti said...

Dear Roshi,
Here are further thoughts to explain my former message...

This question of philosophy of action is probably the reason why I have come to Buddhism. It was when one day I found myself driven to exhaustion and illness realizing that throughout my life I have made the same recurring mistakes.
I think it’s to do with the nature of our actions. What process do we go through when we think, decide and act ? Thinking over this question it seems that a lot of my actions are preconditioned by my background, social and spiritual conditioning , my anxieties, my desires, my fantasies and most of all my bad habits repeated and piled up for years. The more I analyze my actions I realize how enslaved they were. It’s not so much my perceptions that are untrustworthy as the whole process that takes over from the instant I perceive. Through zazen and the study of myself in order to find truth I feel like I’m on the contrary learning perceive life completely ! To be free at the present moment, for me, is to be free of all that stuff, those hindrances which bewitched me into always making mistakes, or when things turned out ok, I was often even more perplexed as I never understood why!
I think we ought to trust our perceptions much more than we do and act spontaneously, not thoughtlessly, but with intuitive confidence, sincerity and good-heartedness. That is a problem for westerners like me who were brought up on Christian beliefs of guilt.
It is natural that in our human condition, we are limited in our perceptions; we can do our best to improve this in the limits what our individual capacities allow, but no more, and I don’t think we have to do more. I believe from what Dogen says that the limits of our capacities are not what hinder us in attaining bodhi-mind.
The more I have been studying this in my daily life the more I live cause and effect not as a limitation of my freedom of action but as a blessing : Dogen’s words( Hotsu-bodaishin) : If bad done in the previous had not yet departed, good on the next instant could not be realized in the present.
I find that so encouraging and liberating, it takes great courage to act naturally, we tend to be so anxious about getting things ‘right’. To see ‘wrong’ as an ‘invitation’ to right fills me with optimism, enthusiasm and confidence. I realize how frightened and inhibited my life has been. What I really did wrong in the past was to not act at all :how many regrets fill the space of refrained actions, unspoken words… simply because I wasn’t fully and freely living the present moment. To busy fretting, too busy dreaming, to busy debating, should I shouldn’t I ?
Buddhism is like snapping fingers pulling me out of a lifetime of hypnosis!

I thank-you for your kind wisdom,

1:48 AM, May 03, 2009  
Blogger Sylvie et Michel Kirsch-Egrotti said...

Dear Roshi,
yesterday evening I read Hotsu-bodaishin, then zazen and this morning Ikka-no-myoju, then zazen.
These words remained, I wish I could write them in japansese:

No capacities, no limitations
One Bright Pearl

7:37 PM, May 03, 2009  

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