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.


Blogger Michael Tait said...

In paying deep and committed attention to releasing we intend to reveal the Buddha's state of non-attachment, the foundation of life.

Releasing everything, in awareness.

Not grasping, attaching or attaining, this releasing is lifting the sluice to spill ourselves back into our universe and allow the flowing of that universe back into us.

Dogen affirms that persistence in this practise is realisation. Just this activity for 'twenty or thirty years' and just now completely at this fleeting moment.

Like practising right and not doing wrong, this must actually be done, not considered and written about. It must be enacted, the wheel of dharma must be set in motion otherwise to state the blindingly obvious (that even an old man of eighty cannot practise), it will not be real in this world.

This affirms enlightenment to be real in this real world and denies 'enlightenment', the special state some imagine.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...


You write of "practising right and not doing wrong," but in Shoaku-makusa it is always the other way round: the not doing first.

Similarly, in Alexander work, the primary effort is to eliminate the wrong, so that the right thing may do itself.

Not doing, and allowing: in reality are they two things or are they one thing?

Body and mind: in reality are they two things or are they one thing?

People who do not know it think of Alexander Technique as a kind of bodywork, but Alexander emphasized the principle of pyscho-physical unity.

People who do not know it think of Zazen as a spiritual practice, but Master Dogen called it dropping off body and mind (not mind and body; body and mind).

Tuesday, January 24, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

I respectfully offer this parody:

Monday: "Mike, I'm not going to comment on your blog anymore. I can see it's a lost cause."

Tuesday: "OK, Mike, this time I really mean it. I'm not going to waste your time or mine anymore."

Wednesday: "Mike, now I really, truly mean it. I'm finished with your blog."

Thursday: "Mike, one last thing ... "

Tuesday, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

Yes, you are right, these phrases are the wrong way round.

'Eliminate’ the wrong however does not seem like the right terminology. It is the terminology of the Mike Cross manifest on Gudo Nishijima’s blog - a stubborn, irrepressible, opinionated not so old man I’d venture, quite different from the individual we know on The Middle Way. We can’t eliminate wrong like ‘wrongness terminators’, we can only cease from doing wrong.

'Not doing', 'stopping' 'ceasing to do' or your 'allowing' all feel the more accurate in practise. Getting our'selves', our view-holding bodies and minds out of the road so that the great vehicle, the beginning and endless end 'doing itself' may travel without obstruction.

In reality, ceasing, not doing, allowing are one thing. In reality body and mind are one thing. It is conceptualisation that divides and creates this terminology to describe the illusion. The practise is something other than these expressions of it. The practise is real, it is something we actually do. Otherwise there is no practise, there can be no 'not doing wrong,' we default to our habits.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Oxeye,

On the contrary, I think writing can be a valuable tool toward self-discovery. At least it is for me.

Old Zen saying: Throw mudpies at everyone.

I would add: Especially at yourself. And if you throw them, then expect to be a target.

I think that anytime we write, we take that chance. But if it helps me to grow, then I think it's worth the risk. (OK, time for me to duck...)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006  
Blogger NickM said...

outside the window... sun shines on newly fallen snow

Wednesday, January 25, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...


Apologies for the delay in responding to your, as ever, elegant and accurate comment.

One cannot help wondering about the concrete form behind the words. I am reminded of the Nun Mastsuzan (Pine Mountain), who never showed her peak.

When I used the terminology of "eliminating the wrong," I had in mind the following quote from Patrick Macdonald's book, The Alexander Technique As I See It:

"You must learn to think in trends and tendencies and not in fixed positions. Everything (so they say) is relative, not least the proper relationship of the neck to the head, the neck and head to the back and neck, and the head and back to the rest of the body. If you can learn to think in tendencies (which is the way I teach you) you may continue to teach yourself.

Remember, you are slowly eliminating the wrong. Finality, for most of us, and that includes me, is not in sight."

Thursday, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

The truth of the real state of 'not doing wrong' is absolute and whole. 'Things as it is' in the words of an old Buddha.

This 'eliminating' process actually suggests something which can be done to eradicate wrong - shifting the relative natures of things to prevent wrong and achieve a state of 'perfection' or 'finality' as you put it. 'Perfection' or 'finality' however does not exist as some kind of abstract state waiting for us to achieve it. Perfection is already manifest, 'not doing wrong' reveals it to be so.

It is true that something must not be done, not inhibited or prevented, very simply not done. A child of three can say this, even a middle aged man cannot practise it. It is the actual doing of wrong that obstructs the passage and shining prescience that can be called the state of 'not doing wrong.'

Learning to think in any kind of system, whether absolutes or trends and tendencies cannot help you to live in this real world. Dividing reality in this way is some sort of mental discipline. Intellectuals and yogins believe this sort of rank nonsense.

Dynamic beginning and dynamic end manifest in this moment immanently. If finality is not in sight, where is it? I wonder if you can see beyond this beautiful system you have created. I wonder if you can see.

You write that consciousness liberates us from unconscious doing which is true.

What can you write about consciousness liberating consciousness?

Monday, January 30, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, FW, for your meticulous investigations.

I am not sure what consciousness is. Did I write that consciousness liberates us from unconscious doing?

I think, for disciples of Gautama Buddha, it is sitting in Zazen as the not doing of wrongs, that liberates us from unconscious doing.

You wrote: "Perfection is already manifest, 'not doing wrong' reveals it to be so."

The intention behind this seems to me to be the same as the intention behind Master Dogen's words in Fukan-zazengi "The Universe is realized, and hindrances have never arrived."

Master Dogen says further that to get this intention is to be like a dragon that has found water. Those words suggest a certain finality, don't they? Would you describe your own state as being like that?

Monday, January 30, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

Master Dogen does not refer to an abstract state of finality waiting to be not done in the future. This state is 'just not doing wrong' in this instant. This is a matter of just not doing wrong. It is so simple and so self-evident that our sophistication cannot accept such doltish simplicity.

We exist in layers of chambered dreams pursuing the ghosts of old teachers, long silent sabres rattling on distant battle fields and the lost vigour of youth. The illumination you speak of is this prescience - what else could it be?

You have clarified your thesis but you have not answered me. I am asking you to point beyond your system, to point as directly as you can in this medium.

To your question about my state, I'm not familiar with dragons but I would say I was content at the moment.

Peering deeply into the dark mirror.
Echoing within the empty house,
this shuttering instant bangs open,
screen door in the wind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, FW.

If your question is still about consciousness liberating consciousness, I do not know about that. I have nothing to say about it.

If you are asking me if I have realized the reality that always exists just in this instant, the answer is No.

To realize reality is not what I do. Reality realizes itself.

In general, denial of reality is what I do... (your intuition on this point, sadly, may be all too true) ... except maybe in odd fleeting moments:

Two letters in the mailbox!!

John is dead.

The moon shines through the rafters

Of Shinagawa Station.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

Dear Mike,

This point of philosophy 'reality realises itself' is absolutely right.

'Reality realising itself' is always present 'in (odd) fleeting moments.'

("Eternal existence is momentary" she said as she was pouring the tea.)

John's death sent you to Shinagawa station which is not near Aylesbury. I profoundly wish that John knew where he was.

Consciousness itself is only a conception. Really, it is without anything at all.

'This' is without anything at all.

What makes me weep at writing these words? I don't know, the tears come from somewhere that does not know itself.....somewhere beyond dimension, beautiful without attributes, absolutely here in this space and time between us. Defined within and expanding beyond dimension - aside from Buddhas only quantum physics is approaching it apparently.

With consciousness out of consciousness through consciousness to consciousness, beyond consciousness, without consciousness, above and below consciousness liberating consciousness from consciousness.........

In my investigations here I have found your nature to be curiously extreme ranging from great and real compassion to the embittered rage of an ordinary person but fundamentally you are a true and great Bodhisattva beyond value. It is an idiotic wrong and most regrettable that some members of Dogen Sangha have mistaken elements of the form for the truth.

You must relinquish your taste for streetfighting, let your prisoners go, withdraw from battle on all fronts so that you may go to sit quietly in a real place. Master Dogen made this decision and we cannot estimate the value of the effects of that cause.

My prostrations to the efforts which are you. Please take great care. Perhaps we shall meet in another dimension some time.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, FW. My prostrations to this prescient brightness which is you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006  

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