Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Do


My legs neither walk nor feel pain. I do.

My brain never dreams and never thinks. I do.

No superego suppresses my deepest desires. I do.

My unconscious mind never denies reality. I do.


But letting go I do not do.

Natural breathing I do not do.

There is such a thing, Dogen wrote, as:

Body-mind-dropping-off full-lotus sitting.

That I do not do.


Friday, January 27, 2006

The Blue Lotus Blooms in Fire

You return from abroad to hear that your best friend has been hospitalized with a suspected malignant tumour, and guess what: he has been going out with the woman you love.

Your Dharma-brothers who are publishing your book let you down, and you feel utterly betrayed.

A Johny-come-lately punk who is writing a commentary on a book you translated, writes a post about you on his blog, stating his amazement that someone with 25 years Zazen experience can be "such a total prick."

Your Buddhist master accuses you of being a non-Buddhist with an evil plan, and he asks you to leave his sangha.

What advice does Master Dogen have about coping in such situations? In Fukan-zazengi he writes, SEN-ITSU NI KUFU SEBA, MASANI KORE BENDO NARI: "If we single-mindedly work out, just this is wholehearted pursuit of the truth."

What did Master Dogen mean by work out? (The characters KUFU are as in the Chinese martial arts, kung-fu.) He meant just sit in lotus, and when something arises in the mind--it might be a passing philosophical reflection, it might be a suicidal thought, it might be blind rage; if one waits long enough it will probably be awareness of pain in the legs--just wake up.

"Just wake up" means let the blue lotus bloom. Let it bloom in fire.

There is nothing one can do to make the blue lotus bloom. It can only be allowed. But don't ask me how to allow, because I do not know.

What I can report, from my own experience, is that belief in the teaching of Fukan-zazengi has been, for me, absolutely indispensible.

The blue lotus flower is never mine to give, but I offer my translation and interpretation of Fukan-zazengi to any sincere person who wants it. I do so not with the intellectual confidence of a witty popularizer like Brad Warner, or the dubious legitimacy of a political operator like James Cohen (member of the American Zen Teacher's Association), but with the battlescars of one who has been through 25 years of fire.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Fukan-zazengi Fundamentalism

In his comments on my last post, Michael (One Foot In Front the Other) expressed the view, or at least implied it that, the Alexander Technique might be understood as a skilful/expedient means on a par with koan study, or Zazen itself, or incense, or ideas such as those of physiology, coming from outside traditional Buddhist thought.

I like Michael’s style, his tone, his blog, and his evident courage, but there is something in what he suggests here that I disagree with, and would like to clarify what it is.

The first thing I want to emphasize is that, for me, anything that I see as incompatible with Master Dogen’s teaching in Fukan-zazengi is out. That definitely includes so-called koan study. Intentionally thinking about koans in Zazen only excites the brain. What Master Dogen means by “Just wake up” is something totally different. He is talking about liberating the whole self from unconsciousness.

Of course in the process of translating Shobogenzo, one finds oneself thinking about koans the whole time. But Master Dogen’s teaching is that, when one recognizes one has been thinking about a koan, just then we should make our effort to wake up.

If I ever felt that the principles of Alexander’s teaching were incompatible with Fukan-zazengi, those principles would be out. I would discard them without hesitation. But I would stake my life (in a sense I have staked it already) on the fact that there is nothing whatsoever in Alexander’s teaching that is incompatible with Master Dogen’s teaching in Fukan-zazengi.

In recent months I have come increasingly to the conclusion that Gudo Nishijima’s view of the centrality of balance of the autonomic nervous system is incompatible with the teaching of Fukan-zazengi. Understanding about the autonomic nervous system is not understanding of how to wake up. It is a view that should be dropped off in Zazen, not brought into Zazen. Alexander’s understanding is just understanding about how to wake up, about how to drop off all views, including Alexandrian views.

The second thing to emphasize is that, in Shobogenzo, Zazen is never put on a par with anything else. Master Dogen writes of the wonderful skill/means (MYOJUTSU) that buddhas have, and he writes in Fukan-zazengi of the essential skill/means of Zazen. But Zazen itself is not only a skilful means. Master Dogen reveres even the Zazen of a beginner who has no skilful means. He reveres Zazen above all other things. This reverence runs through the whole of Shobogenzo and it is distilled in Fukan-zazengi.

Gudo Nishijima taught me to be a Fukan-zazengi fundamentalist. The irony is that, in order to truly be so, I had to go beyond his teaching. Neither he nor I have coped very well with that necessity.

In Gudo’s eyes, to go beyond his teaching was to depart from Buddhism. But that was only the old man’s arrogance. It is this arrogance that I hated so deeply even before we fell out over Alexander work--probably because in the mirror of the old man’s arrogance I saw my own inflated sense of self-importance.

So I have reacted to him and he has reacted right back at me, resulting in the present mucky and heated situation. But it is out of such muck and amid such heat that the blue lotus blooms.

Don't dwell on all the crap and don't worry about the heat -- just look out for the blue lotus.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The View from the Top of the Mountain

Who climbed Everest first? Tensing or Hilary?

United at the top of the mountain, those guys didn’t care. To the extent that they were an item, the question was irrelevant. Everest had allowed itself to be climbed, and that was that.
Afterwards people with fish to fry turned it into a big deal. Someone had to have been number one.

Yesterday Brad Warner circulated an email to members of Dogen Sangha stating categorically his opinion that “While I was not present for any of the conversations and exchanges involved in Mr. Cross’s work on Shobogenzo, I can assume they resembled the ones I have been involved with regarding other translations. The words in the English version of Shobogenzo may have been chosen by Mike Cross. But the translator of the work is Gudo Nishijima.”

Brad is like those Indian nationalists who proclaimed, without having been there but on the basis of their strongly held assumptions, that Tensing was first up. Brad’s judgement is clouded by a political agenda.

The people who know best about my Shobogenzo translation process are me and my wife Chie. When in 1997 Gudo Nishijima decided to stop my revision, fearing that I was corrupting Master Dogen‘s teaching with “Alexander theory,” I did not shed a tear. I just redoubled my determination to get to the bottom of Zazen. But my wife shed tears profusely. Senior members of Dogen Sangha who were there in Japan during the years in question and who can bear true witness to what happened are Michael Luetchford, Jeremy Pearson, and Gabriele Linnebach. Latter-day politicians who have expressed an opinion, such as Brad Warner, James Cohen, and Michel Proulx, have no basis on which to do so other than their own intellectual suppositions.

Tensing and Hilary’s was a joint effort all the way. The Nishijima/Cross translation was a joint effort all the way. But if someone would like to steal the translation from me, I am going to say: “Wait a minute. That is my translation you are stealing.” I am going to say it long and loud.

Gudo Nishijima is not deliberately lying when he says that he translated Shobogenzo, and I rewrote it, because that is what he sincerely believes. So it is quite logical, from his point of view, that he should recommend me, as he has done, to make another translation, the Mike Cross translation (“based on Alexander theory“). But Gudo Nishijima’s point of view is wrong, and by acting on it, he is in danger of turning himself into a thief. It is time for me to say so. I have suppressed myself out of loyalty to Gudo Nishijima for too many years already.

The last will and testament of Gautama Buddha is this: Endeavor, with undivided mind, to pursue the truth of liberation.

Liberate what from what? The Buddha is talking about the struggle to liberate the self from unconsciousness. The Shobogenzo translation process has and continues to be part of that struggle to liberate the self from unconsciousness -- nothing more or less than that.

I have understood, as a result of struggling for more than ten years to understand the relevance of the discoveries of FM Alexander in the practice of Zazen, that we can never liberate ourselves from unconsciousness by DOING something unconsciously. We liberate ourselves by consciously deciding NOT TO DO what otherwise we would do unconsciously.

This includes the conscious decision, when something arises in the mind, not to suppress it. Suppression is a form of unconscious doing. So Master Dogen instructed us, “When something arises in the mind, just become conscious.” Don’t do something unconsciously. On the contrary, consciously decide not to do anything unconsciously.

One of the dangers of meeting Buddhism is that it may stimulate us, in our idealistic zeal, to suppress our own innermost desires. This form of unconscious doing is always a mistake.
I cultivated the bad habit of suppressing myself during my years in Japan. It was a form of unconscious doing that I felt I should do for the sake of the Shobogenzo translation. In retrospect, it was not skilful practice. Nowadays I see that the subtle skill of Zazen is to consciously decide not to do what otherwise I would do unconsciously. This is the essential skill of Zazen, and my mission to teach it to others has begun.

One task is to demonstrate the difference between true Buddhist teaching of Zazen and the viewpoint of Brad Warner.

On December 16th last year, a visitor to my blog recommended me to check out “Brad’s meditation post” on his Hardcore Zen blog. I did so and came across the following paragraph:

"When I started studying with Nishijima Sensei, I found that he did not like any of these methods at all. Not even breath counting. It wasn't like he warned us all against them as if they were gonnna ruin the practice. I think what he said was something like, "Those methods are a little bit artificial." The only "artificial" thing he recomended was taking three deep breaths at the beginning of practice — and even this, he said, was a bit fakey, though somewhat useful. I have never seen him recommend anything other than this, and fixing your posture, for dealing with thoughts that come up in Zazen."

Brad Warner does not know what he is talking about. Before he published it on his webpage, he asked me for my feedback on his article “Proper Posture Required.” It contains the following further gem:

After a few years of sitting zazen wrong, I finally buckled down and started doing it right and noticed a tremendous difference, not just physically, but mentally as well. You will too if you try it.

Presumably thinking that Alexander Technique is all about “fixing your posture,” Brad thought to ask me for my feedback on his article--as if, while having nothing to say to him about Buddhism itself, I might know a technical or issue or two about how to fix oneself in the right posture.

When I took the trouble to reply to him, Brad didn’t want to engage with me in a discussion of why his thinking about posture might be flawed. He ignored my reply to his email and went right ahead and published his misguided teaching on his webpage. I shall persist in my efforts to demonstrate the falsity of the viewpoint expressed here by Brad Warner. What he is propagating is never true Buddhism.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


What did Master Dogen mean by "Just wake up"?

What did Master Dogen mean by "the subtle skill" that buddhas have, "the essential art of Zazen"?

When Master Dogen wrote of the "the vigorous road of getting the body out," what did he mean--get the body out of what? Liberate the body from what?

What is that intention, the grasping of which causes the Zazen practitioner to be "like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger before its mountain stronghold"?

Zazen causes me to persist in asking these questions.

People, including friends, sometimes question my persistence, recommending me to "move on." But I like to persist. I like to persist for the sake of persistence. Maybe in the field of human relations too much persistence is a failing. But in Zazen practice persistence is a virtue.

Shortly before his death Gautama Buddha bequeathed to his followers eight great human truths. Master Dogen quoted them in the final chapter of Shobogenzo, shortly before his own death.

The first three of these truths one can observe without getting out of bed in the morning: (1) have small desire, (2) know satisfaction, and (3) enjoy peace and quiet.

But to observe no. (4) requires persistence. In fact, no. (4) is persistence.

Gautama Buddha said (paraphrasing):

If you persist, nothing will be difficult. So persist--like a constant trickle of water drilling through rock. Don't be a quitter--like someone who twirls a stick to make fire but gives up before the stick gets hot. Persist in pursuing the truth of liberation.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Homage to Gudo Nishijima

Without FM Alexander's teaching I would never have understood the real meaning of Master Dogen's words "Just wake up."
Without Gudo Wafu Nishijima's teaching I would never even have heard of those words.
Homage to Gudo Wafu Nishijima. That stubborn, opinionated, irrepressible old man.
I hate him deeply. I prostrate myself to him wholeheartedly.

Just Wake Up, Again

In Master Dogen's original instructions for Zazen that he wrote just after coming back from China, he teaches: When something arises in the mind, just wake up; just become conscious.

What does it mean to wake up? What does it mean to become conscious?

It means, in my understanding and my real experience, to allow one's body to liberate itself from unconsciousness.

An unconscious person cannot make themselves more conscious by controlling themselves with their unconsciousness. We cannot cause ourselves to become conscious by adjusting our posture unconsciously this way and that; we become conscious by the indirect means of allowing.

We realize consciousness in Zazen by stopping our unconscious habitual postural activity and allowing something else to happen.

Are there any other teachers in Master Dogen's lineage, other than Pierre Turlur and myself, who are clear in the understanding of the above? If you know of any, please let me know about it. I would like to join forces with them and establish a totally new movement. As a provisional name for this new movement, I tentatively propose: True Buddhism.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Coming Back to Stillness

Its chains unlocked, never held straight,

The swing is moved by noisy children:

All disturbances are allowed.

At break of day, it hangs in stillness.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Not Opium for the Masses

Not to do, but to allow,
And thus, just by sitting,
To wake up.
This is Buddhism.

Master Dogen wrote that the act of sitting is the Buddha-Dharma and the Buddha-Dharma is the act of sitting.

Buddhism is just the act of sitting in the lotus posture, and the fundamental unit of sitting in the lotus posture is THE INDIVIDUAL.

A group of people can sit together, each one in the full lotus posture. But the full lotus posture itself is inherently a matter for one individual. When I cross my legs to sit in the lotus posture, there isn't room in there for anyone else's legs. When the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree, there wasn't room in the Buddha's full lotus posture for anyone else to put their legs in.

Albert Einstein, quoted in the blog of Oxeye, said:

The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.

Einstein saw what kind of religion might cope with modern scientific needs. Whether or not Einstein truly knew Buddhism, however, is another matter.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The True Dharma Eye is Not a View

The True Dharma Eye is a means of liberating the body from blind reaction. In other words, it is an instrument of consciousness. It is not a viewpoint. A person's viewpoint is always liable to be wrong. Even a buddha's viewpoint is liable to be wrong. But the True Dharma Eye is always true. So, no, the True Dharma Eye cannot be a person's viewpoint.

On January 17th, Gudo Nishijima sent me the following email, cc to all his Dharma-heirs.

Dear Mr. Mike Cross,
I hope that you will not change the serious problem into a small kind of theory. You have proclaimed that you are not a Buddhist in your own email to me. It might be a Freudian mistake. But I think that such a kind of Freudian mistakes usually suggest his or her own honest mind. I have clearly noticed that you have intention to change Dogen Sangha into a part of the group of Alexander Technic after my death. I do never permit your such kind of evil plan at all.
With best wishes
Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Whether Gudo Nishijima has been a true teacher to me or not, I honestly do not know. Witnessing my reactions to Gudo Nishijima over the past several years, Pierre Turlur has described me as being like a yo-yo. But reading this and other recent emails, I have no doubt that Gudo Nishijima's viewpoint has become wrong.

I first shaved my head and wore the Buddhist robe in 1986. So it is 20 years now that I have been sitting in Zazen every day, shaven headed and wearing the robe, endeavoring to follow as truly as possible the instructions Master Dogen set out in Fukan-zazengi. I wanted to train as an Alexander teacher for one reason only: because I sensed that what FM Alexander discovered might be vitally important, if I were ever to grasp the intention that Master Dogen described in Fukan-zazengi, thereby becoming "like a dragon that has found water."

So when I read Gudo Nishijima's email, I find the content disturbing and I find it difficult not to react. But, on reflection, what is new? When has it ever been easy for me not to react blindly to the various stimuli that Gudo Nishijima has presented to me over the years? So, yes, I doubt myself. But I have always been prone to doubt myself. Nothing has changed there.

What I have realized over the past few days is that I don't doubt the truth of my practice, at all. The True Dharma Eye is always true, and I am just a Buddhist who, for 20 years or so, has devoted himself to it. This is my confidence, and not even the buddhas can shake it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Clever Fly

Trying to be right, trying to do good, is, for a Zazen practitioner, the most pernicious of unconscious bad habits.

Anything one does to break this habit just increases ones entanglement in it, like a fly increasing its entanglement in a spider's web. The solution is not to do something but just to wake up, to become conscious.

To become conscious does not mean to recognize something intellectually; it means to let the whole body be liberated from unconsciousness.

A clever fly does not struggle in the spider's web. It simply wakes up to the sticky situation in which it finds itself. Then, if it is a fly blessed with good karma, there may be a chance that its body and mind will drop off.

A Dragon Finding Water

Not to do bad habits,

To devote oneself to good works,

Naturally clarifies that very intention;

This is the teaching of the buddhas.

The original teaching of Gautama Buddha is so simple; and yet so difficult, because the force of unconscious habit is so strong, and other intentions creep in.

This is why Master Dogen urged us, above all other things, to strive in Zazen to liberate this body from unconsciousness, and thereby to grasp the original intention of Gautama Buddha.

To grasp this intention, Master Dogen wrote, is to be like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger in its mountain stronghold.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Virtuous Circle?

The Lotus Sutra teaches us that the Universe in which we are living, and our living in it, are good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.

Experience shows, however, that our efforts to do good can never be successful. Why not? Because good is not something we do.

The good things in life take care of themselves. (Have you ever watched a woman grow and a child being born, for example?)

What is very easy for us to do is our bad habits. So the primary intention which Gautama Buddha recommended us to have is not the intention to practice good. The primary intention in Buddhism is rather the intention NOT TO DO what is so easy for us to do--our wrong unconscious habits.

So-called Zen teachers who recommend in regard to Zazen that we should "do it right," or who proclaim "proper posture required," fail to understand this most fundamental point in Buddhism. What they are teaching is not true Buddhism.

For people who profoundly believe in cause and effect, I would like to try again to express in English the fundamental teaching of Gautama Buddha, perhaps more accurately than it was expressed in our original translation of Shobogenzo chap. 10, like this:

Not to do bad habits,

To let all the good things happen,

Naturally causes this very intention to become clear;

This is the teaching of the buddhas.

Not to Do

Not to do what would be easy to do,

To allow something else,

Liberates Zazen from unconsciousness:

This is not the teaching of Mike Cross.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just Wake Up, Again

When Master Dogen instructed us, "When a thought arises, just wake up," what did he mean by "wake up"?

Did he mean the effect which is got from drinking a strong cup of coffee? No, he didn't.

Did he mean the experience that we all have first thing every morning? No, he didn't.

What Master Dogen means by "Just wake up" is, in other words, "Let the activity of sitting upright in the lotus posture be liberated from unconsciousness."

My intention in posting this is to recommend to everyone who reads it, but above all to remind myself, as the champion of intellectual worrying: Just wake up.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stillness without Fixity

I set aside some hours every day--the more hours the better--to sit upright in the lotus posture. It is not like other time in the day, when I am unconsciously doing this, that, and the other. It is a time devoted to conscious allowing, as opposed to unconscious doing.

How do these special hours influence the other hours of the day? The answer depends on how successful I am in realizing my intention not to do, but to allow. Being an intellectual worrier by nature, more often than not I am unsuccessful. When I am successful, what carries over into everyday activities is a sense of stillness without fixity.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Middle Way

On the right hand side of the Middle Way is over-excited, too hasty reaction; over-exertion; a rigidly upright sitting posture in Zazen. The antidote to this is nirodha-satya, the truth of stopping.

On the left hand side of the Middle Way is aimless wandering, drift. The antidote to this is marga-satya, the truth of right direction.

The right direction in Zazen is, mainly, up. There are other directions too: torso not only lengthening upwards but simultaenously expanding outwards, head and limbs releasing out of the torso, fingers lengthening, wrists and elbows opening--indeed, all joints 0pening up, altogether, as one.

What is difficult for us to understand is that these directions cannot be done unconsciously. They can only be allowed. And allowing is a conscious act.

This is why Master Dogen wrote in Fukan-zazengi Shinpitsu-bon, "When something arises in the mind, just wake up."

To wake up. To become conscious. Not to do unconsciously, but to be conscious.

This is the thing that we have difficulty understanding and difficulty believing. We don't trust the power of conscious allowing. We don't believe that it might be possible for us to effect real change, unless we make the kind of effort with which we are familiar, which is unconscious doing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


It is impossible for me to practice just sitting.

Just sitting practises itself.

To manifest this in reality,

A Subtle Technique exists.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Ineffable En(eff)abling the Ineffable

When buddhas sit in the full lotus posture, their practice is the manifestation in reality of what?

In this blog I have stated my case that the Subtle Skill of the buddhas has something to do with what is called in Alexander work "allowing." But have I explained what allowing is? No, because allowing is ineffable.

I have quoted Master Dogen's words that the criterion of true allowing is the samadhi of accepting and using the self. But the self also is ineffable

In regard to what is allowed, I have written about the allowing of openness. But the word "openness" is just the manifestation of the deluded attempts of my intellect to close its grip upon the ineffable.

So in the end what is it?

Should we call it "the ineffable en(eff)abling the ineffable"?

No, not even that. Not even that.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Holding Views on Allowing Is Not Allowing

I pay homage to Gautama,
To him who out of compassion
Taught the true Dharma
As the relinquishing of all views.

-- Master Nagarjuna

The above was fished up out of the Muddy Pool. I don't know where it originally came from, or who left it there. A black turtle? A floating weed? I would like to know.

Master Dogen wrote that the standard is "the samadhi of accepting and using the self." Observing the behaviour of my Buddhist Master over many years, he has always been manifesting this standard in reality very conspicuously.

And yet, he explains the standard as "balance of the autonomic nervous system" and, it seems to me, attaches very strongly to this explanation, seeing it as a kind of bridge between eastern and western thought.

The key to realizing the standard, my Master teaches, is "to keep the spine straight vertically."

It remains a mystery to me: how can his standard be so constantly true, and yet his teaching be so consistently misleading and false?

The standard is our natural, innnate, original state. In order to manifest This Brightness, we do not need any kind of physiological understanding of what it is, and we do not need any kind of view on how straight the spine should be.

Rather, if we have some such physiological or anatomical view, the challenge might be just to relinquish those views.

What I could not understand under the guidance of my Buddhist Master in Japan, and have only begun to understand under the guidance of experienced Alexander teachers, is this:
To have a view on how straight the spine should be is totally antithetical to the practice of allowing the spine to do what it wants.

In saying this, I am doubtless guilty of holding onto another view--a view that is antagonistic to the view held by my Master. That is my usual way.

So, there comes a point at which one has to set aside even one's view about "allowing" and what one has learnt from wise Alexander teachers about the allowing of openness--intellectually, emotionally, and physically.

It is good to think things out before that point. The more clearly one's whole body has become informed with thought in preparation for it, the simpler the practice of allowing is likely to be.

But there comes a time--it might be shortly after one's arse has touched down upon a zafu--to relinquish all views and really just allow it.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Allowing Openness

Intellectual openness is not knowing (yet still seeking).
Emotional openness is not minding, not caring (without giving up).
Physical openness is freedom and space in the joints.
In any case, openness cannot be manufactured; it is manifest in reality through the practice of allowing.

Then the proof of the pudding is in the way a person accepts and uses himself. In the case of a buddha, evidently, it is with good cheer and a certain economy of effort.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Dukha-nirodha-satya means the truth of stopping suffering. I understand it as the stopping of habitual reaction. To stop habitual reaction, especially emotional reaction--greed, anger, worry and the like-- is a Buddhist monk's difficult practice. When a monk reacts badly, the fault is not with the stimulus; the fault is within the monk.

Recognizing the fault, a Buddhist monk can always go back to the beginning: The origin of the present unsatisfactory situation is my habitual reaction. Observing the unsatisfactory nature of my reaction, I renew my intention to stop reacting and to allow something else to happen, to surrender to something else -- I know not what.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Cut Above Bodywork

As a shy and sensitive teenager at an intellectually elitist English boys school, easily prone to blush in the vicinity of girls, I cultivated an alternative persona of hard-drinking, iron-pumping rugby player, which carried over into karate practice and eventually even into Zazen itself. Mike Cross, Zazen man of iron. I took the same well-cultivated attitude to the Shobogenzo translation itself: "Just fucking do it."

Nishijima Roshi's original co-operator on the Shobogenzo translation was his beloved disciple Jeff Bailey. It used to bug me, as it also seemed to bug other of Gudo's foreign disciples, that Gudo seemed to regard Jeff as his favourite son. Gudo denied it, but it seemed obvious. When Gudo and Jeff were together, it was like that old thing of sympathetic resonance between tuning forks. I felt jealouos that Jeff had it whereas I didn't. Still, the Shobogenzo translation was too heavy a burden for Jeff to carry. Too heavy for Jeff, but not for iron-pumping Mike Cross.

Thank God that beneath the macho posturing, the other strand, the more sensitive strand, was still pulsing faintly at some level, not entirely out-muscled, leading me to the subtle teaching of FM Alexander. Leading me in particular to the teaching of two Alexander teachers, two old ladies as it happens, to whose frequency I have resonated.

Shobogenzo Book One, published in 1994, begins like this: "When the buddha-tathagatas, each having received the one-to-one transmission of the splendid Dharma, experience the supreme state of bodhi, they possess a subtle method which is supreme and without intention."

If I expressed the same thing today, not as a literal translation but in my own words, it would go something like this: "When buddhas of the authentic one-to-one transmission are experiencing for themselves the Buddha's supreme enlightenment, there is present at that time in them a subtle skill which is of the highest order and yet natural and spontaneous: without artifice or pretense, free of doing."

People who have no experience of Alexander work, who have had lessons but failed to understand the subtlety of it, think that it is a kind of bodywork--something akin to Pilates, Qi Gong, Yoga or some manipulative therapy. But truly it is, in the words of one of the old Alexander teahers mentioned above, "a cut above" all those things. It is of a higher order. It is not about postural self-adjustment or muscular re-conditioining. It is about allowing.

It is all about allowing. Even after 12 years in the Alexander work, and 25 years of Zazen, I still have to remind myself of this constantly. Allowing is a subtle skill of the highest order. It is a cut above bodywork.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Oneness of Practice and Enlightenment

Without the presence on the earth of a true teacher, there is no oneness of practice and enlightenment; it is only an idea in people's heads. Hearing the idea, people who are not enlightened like Michael Luetchford, Brad Warner, James Cohen think that their own practice of Zazen must be enlightened, and they transmit the idea to others, manifesting themselves in the world as "Dharma-heirs" of Gudo Nishijima. This is the general situation in the world of Zen today; it is not limited to Dogen Sangha. People enjoy their unenlightened Zazen and reinforce each other in their deluded beliefs. Master Dogen would say: KANASHIMU BESHI, KANASHIMU BESHI. It is lamentable. It is lamentable.

Monday, January 02, 2006

It Is All in the Allowing, not the Physiology

What does it mean to allow? For me that question is the beginning and the end of practice. Nishijima Roshi goes on and on about balance of the autonomic nervous system. Physiological balance must be a vital part of what is allowed to happen in Zazen. But to focus too much on that, it seems to me, might be a kind of mistaking the finger for the moon. The essence of the practice is not in the physiology but in the allowing.