Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Philosophy of Action

Caution: The Philosophy of Action Can Seriously Damage Your Health

When Gudo Nishijima first preached to me the philosophy of action in the summer of 1982, the truth of it totally won me over. I thought that I would gladly like to give up everything to follow this teacher and this teaching.

So how did things go so badly wrong? Like this: I grasped the philosophy of action intellectually and, thinking it to be the truth, sought to identify myself with it.

My situation thus became exactly as described by Master Dogen in the second paragraph of Fukan-zazengi:

However, if there is a thousandth or a hundredth of a gap, heaven and earth are far apart, and if a trace of disagreement arises, we lose the mind in confusion. Even if, proud of our understanding and richly endowed with realizations, we obtain special states of insight, attain the truth, clarify the mind, manifest a zeal that pierces the sky, and ramble through those remote spheres that are entered with the head; we have almost completely lost the vigorous path of getting the body out.

The reason that I call FM Alexander a modern-day Buddha, the man who re-discovered the secret of Zen for our time, is that his work opened up a way for me to get back on the vigorous path of getting the body out.

The philosophy of action is true. It is so true it is dangerous. It is dynamite. Beware of it--or, more accurately, beware of your own deluded reactions to it.

ReallyNotImportant said...
mike: I think you think way too much. I am starting to picture you as this huge brain just floating in a tank with no body attached.I am pretty sure that my pet cat had grasped "The Philosophy of Action" as unfortunately had the mouse it caught....

Pierre Turlur said...
reallynotimportant, very good example of deluded reaction. Yes, we should be grateful to Nishijima Roshi for this amazing clarification of Buddha's teaching. At the same time, it is altogether so easy to fool ourselves and think we have caught the mouse of zazen when we are just playing old records, viewing old films and chewing old thoughts. Good old cats. I have seen too many zen zombies at it, nazi-like priests behaving like army guys, not really making the difference between reaction and action. The real question is :where does action come from? Is this action a byproduct of our favorite patterns or beliefs or is it this unknown springing and falling like blossoms, snow, blue mountains and rivers? True action is only possible if i am not in the way. How can I be sure I am not in the way? The more I sit, the more I am aware of fake action in this body-mind, and it does make you a bit more humble. At least, I become a bit more aware about the risk of becoming another military zen bloke.

Mike Cross said...
Pierre is spot on. The issue is action or reaction. Receiving Master Dogen's stimulus "just sit upright," the phoney Zen masters of today react to the stimulus blindly, and they proclaim that this practice of blind reaction is just enlightenment itself. Their Zen students imitate them and we have a perfect situation of the blind leading the blind. The dignified action of buddhas should not be confused with the animalistic reactions of a cat to the stimulus of a mouse. In the case of buddhas, the intention is to allow. In the case of mice and other animals, the intention is to get their dirty paws on something.
8:21 PM


Blogger Jules said...

mike cross wrote: Michael Luetchford tells us that he experienced enlightenment already while climbing up a mountain. He just needed Nishijima Roshi's explanation of the philosophy of action, so that he could understand intellectually the real enlightenment he already experienced. What a joke. What Luetchford experienced climbing up a mountain was just his own deluded reaction to the stimulus of climbing up a mountain!

If this is true, how unfortunate. This reminds me of something I read recently:

Gasan instructed his adherents one day: "Those who speak against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious beings are right. It is good to protect even animals and insects. But what about those persons who kill time, what about those who are destroying wealth, and those who destroy political economy? We should not overlook them. Furthermore, what of the one who preaches without enlightenment? He is killing Buddhism."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Jules, thank you for your comment.

When I encountered Nishijima Roshi’s teaching, I reacted to it in a blind, deluded, grasping way. In postural terms this reaction manifested itself in undue muscular tension: I fixed, stiffened, braced: held myself up.

When Alexander work demonstrated to me the non-necessity of this blind reaction, and the possibility of another approach, it was a huge “Ah hah!” moment for me, a kind of enlightenment. Not the supreme integral enlightenment of Gautama Buddha (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi), but still a kind of enlightenment.

Nowadays when I sit in Zazen, I do not intend to manifest a blind reaction. But it is stronger than that: it seems to me that I DO intend NOT to manifest a blind reaction. In other words, I intend to allow something other than blind reaction, and I suppose the other thing that I intend to allow is what the buddhas call “action.” So, yes, when I sit in Zazen I do think that I want to reach the state of action taught in the philosophy of action.

Is this how a buddha sits in Zazen? Is it true to say that when a buddha sits in Zazen, he or she has this intention, the intention to allow? I do not know. I have a strong conviction that it must be so. But so far Nishijima Roshi has never affirmed that this understanding of mine, which comes from experience in Alexander work, is true.

Nishijima Roshi teaches that intention and action belong to totally different dimensions, and that Zazen is just action itself. Therefore, we should never bring our intention to Zazen, but we should just sit.

For me, Buddhist action corresponds to what Alexander called “the plane of conscious control,” and intention is like a ladder which we have to use to reach that plane. So I bring to Zazen my intention not to follow old paths of habitual reaction but instead to allow the possibility of action.

The reason I continue to seek, with such desperation, the affirmation of Nishijima Roshi, is that I am very much afraid, as one who is not fully enlightened, of “killing Buddhism” in the manner that you describe.

I know that I have realized something that it is vitally important for other Zazen practitioners to realize. At the same time, I know that I don’t know. So should I preach or not? Without Nishijima Roshi’s affirmation, I find it difficult. And the stridency of tone which others such as Brad Warner observe in “Mr Angry” might be a manifestation of that struggle. If you hear a screeching sound, it might be because I am trying to drive with the hand-brake on.

Maybe I am like Galileo and Nishijima Roshi is like the Pope. On the other hand, I might not be Galileo, and he might not be the Pope.

Thursday, December 08, 2005  
Blogger Jules said...

In Nishijima-sensei's blog, mike cross wrote: Reading it, I notice that Brad is my enemy. I can't see it any other way. What do you want me to be, a Christian saint or something?

You misunderstand me. I'm not saying there's no such thing as an enemy. I'm just saying the enemy is in your mind.

You don't make an enemy of everyone who has ever criticized your behavior, or you would have no friends.

If what Brad wrote was true, well, suck it up. From what I read you were the one who took the argument public. It was a mistake. Learn from it, forgive yourself, and move on.

But if what Brad wrote wasn't true, then calmly pointing out the discrepancies would do a lot more to repair your precious reputation than angrily "calling him out," which is a fairly ironic response to what he accused you of.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005  
Blogger cromanyak said...

Wow, do you ever go back a read your own posts? How can you talk about false teachers unless your are one? To me you obviously just a parrot.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005  
Blogger Jules said...

Well, I've spent a good part of an earlier discussion as a squawking crow, now I might as well join the parrots. Squawk!

The words you used to relay Dogen's teaching were: "Those who greatly realize delusion are buddhas. Those who are greatly deluded about realization are ordinary beings."

Mike, I believe that you are a perfect, complete human being, right now in this moment, lacking nothing. Look at what you're feeling right now. What's delusion? Stop challenging phantoms to duels. Stop chasing ghosts. You don't need to. Squawk!

Someday I'll stop chasing my ghosts. Mostly. I hope. Someday. :-) It takes a lot of work to recognize them, they're so familiar and comfortable. Parrot Zen! Gimme a cracker! Squawk!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005  

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