Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bodhicitta: The Will to Be One

Good old BBC Radio 4, the voice of British reason, tolerance, and fair play.

My mind has been busy of late with thoughts about the meaning of submission, and its antithesis -- disobedience, or opposition.

The Islaamic principle of submission seems to me to be totally admirable. To submit oneself utterly must be the supreme allowing. The examples of Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, all spring to mind.

For the antithesis, one thinks of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela as examplars of the principle of non-violent disobedience. Going further, for examples of outright opposition, one thinks of Churchill and Roosevelt, and the British carpet bombing of Dresden, or Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The principle of submission is all very well, but if some dictatorial, oppressive power would like me to force me to submit to their will, my strong instinct, as one individual, is not only to disobey, but to fight back.

The unenlightened endeavor to suppress this instinct, by holding myself rigid, has been a constant theme of my Buddhist struggle for over 20 years. By turns, I have prostrated myself to Gudo Nishijima, literally and metaphorically, and then given way to violent verbal outbursts against him. It is only in very recent days (I hope I am not kidding myself) that I have arrived at what feels like at some kid of stability (though I hope not fixity).

With such sentiments cursing through my veins, this morning I gave my son a lift to his football match, and on the way back switched on Radio 4. As part of the discusion of religious tolerance/intolerance, a Christian church leader was giving his impressions of an art
exhibition by Gilbert & George. The title of the exhibition: "Was Jesus Heterosexual, 2005." This churchman was singularly unphased by the artists' apparent attempt to shock with titles that combined God and the f-word. "Yes," the churchman intoned, "God did create fucking."

At the conclusion of his interview, this bastion of British tolerance was asked if he would like to tell a religious joke. He came up with the following:

A Buddhist monk goes into an Italian restaurant and orders a pizza. The waiter asks him what kind of topping he would like on his pizza. The monk's response:
Make me One with Everything.

What is the practice of just sitting, if not our expression of our desire to be One with Everything? In just sitting there can be no lowly subject who submits himself and no objective higher power that demands submission. There is just one individual act of total and utter submission. It is not yielding to a superior view; it is the giving up of all views. It is not the assumption of a position of rightness; it is refusal to hold onto any fixed position. It is not the gaining of moral legitimacy; it is losing my false sense of security -- a little bit of nothing.

16 Comments:

Blogger Dan said...

later when the bill comes the buddhist monk puts his money on the platter and the waiter promptly walks off. the buddhist monk sits there for a while and eventually approaches the waiter who took his money, "hey" he says, i've been waiting here ten minutes and you never brought me back my change and i gave you a twenty!" the waiter simply smiles and says, " ah! but CHANGE MUST COME FROM WITHIN!"

Sunday, February 05, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

"It is only in very recent days (I hope I am not kidding myself) that I have arrived at what feels like at some kid of stability (though I hope not fixity)."

Balance not stability.

I do not know anything about your relationship with Gudo Nishijima beyond what you and others have stated.

In the last few weeks your posts about Gudo and yourself have looked to me a lot more realistic, truthful and balanced.

It looks like you have come to a realisation about both yourself and him and have grown as a result.

This is I think paradigm shift and one that looks to be very healthy.

The thought occurs that over the last two weeks Mr Angry has died and been buried.

As always, these are just my own thoughts about things of which I know nothing.

Sunday, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

No, dan, you haven't understood. Buddhism is a non-habitual way. In following it, sometimes a Buddhist monk has to depend on external objects; for example, an electric shaver, soap, water, a telephone, a train...

Sunday, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you for your kind observation, jd. If you have got any question, don't hesistate to ask it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

I wouldn’t see Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela as examples of an anti-thesis to the supreme allowing. Aren’t they examples of submission, submission to something coming ‘from within’ – call it daemon, God, prajna, the heart, conscience, love, or something else. Didn’t they submit to something like that rather than assume ‘a position of rightness’? They didn’t condemn, pass judgment, or create conflict – they just acted. And didn’t they reach out to their opposition, perhaps from a sense of Oneness, never showing contempt or an intention to stop dialogue and create conflict and separation – always believing in and hoping for the best in their opponents? Isn’t it a kind of submission, of giving up not just all views, but also oneself, totally? Aren’t they examples of intention and 'beyond intention', freedom and destiny coinciding? Let’s hope our zazen practice can teach us that. And for it to do so, I think we have to examine our intentions. But that’s a different topic.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 05, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

it's the other half of that joke mike. that's how the joke goes
(except usually it's a buddhist monk at a hotdog stand)

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger goofball said...

yeah, I've heard that one before too, with the part that dan added.

Sure, we always need to depand on external objects, mike. Interdependance. But sometimes you also have to take responsibility for fixing your own problems, 'cause often nobody else can do that for you. Get it? Ha ha.

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, zero, for your challenging comment.

I think of Gandhi, King and Mandela as leaders of movements of oppressed peoples. Each had consciousness of an external enemy, and each recognized non-violence as a clever strategy for defeating the particular enemy that was oppressing them.

In the case of the tyrannical regimes of the Third Reich and the Japanese Imperial Army (in which, incidentally, Gudo Nishijima served as a young officer), non-violence would not have been an appropriate strategy. Thank God that I was not alive in those days, but if I had been around then, I hope that I would have done my human duty and served in the military effort to defeat those evil regimes.

Brother Bob said, "If you know your history, then you will know where you're coming from." Freddy Hegel wrote of "The slaughter-bench of history." Gudo Nishijima taught me to see history as "a twirling flower."

The point, in all of the above cases, is to see what really happened -- and not through the rose-tinted spectacles of political correctness.

True submission, as I see it, cannot be a mass movement, led by somebody's view. The true submission that Guatama Buddha taught is always an individual act, an act of Zazen, as the relinquishing of all views.

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

thanks. I agree completely that true submission cannot be a mass movement. But I seem inclined to think that Gandhi, King and Mandela were motivated by the cause rather than the enemy, as would be the case in a tribal conflict, and that theirs might be cases of true submission to all fellow men. And a man, or woman, does not have everything to do but something, and couldn't submitting to this something, this cause be the way of a boddhisatva? Isn't the proof of the practice in the living rather than on the zafu? Relinquishing all views, how do you live in the world?

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Relinquishing all views, how does a person live in the world?

Thank you, zero, for this totally pertinent question.

I wonder if I know what it might be like to relinquish all views, or not. Probably not. But I believe your question has been answered already by a bodhisattva named Nagarjuna:

Relinquishing all views
He taught the true Dharma
Using compassionate means
I pay homage to him: Gautama

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

thanks for quick reply. Should your answer be taken to mean that, having reliquished all views, the only right action is to teach the dharma? What about socially engaged Buddhists? Off the mark? What about Buddhists living 'ordinary' lives, pursuing some path of action?

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, zero.

It seems to me that when I hold on to some view, this is doing something. To hold to a particular view is a kind of fixing.

Not to hold, not to do, not to fix, IS to allow.

To allow I know not what--maybe the sewing and free giving of Buddhist robes (I refer you to the Blue Mountain, the blog of Pierre Turlur); maybe to give an Alexander lesson; maybe to lift people's hearts by making music; maybe to release a nervous swimmer from their fear of the water... All these might be examples of using compassionate means.

In any case, I think that to allow a true response is always to teach the Dharma.

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

thanks again. And thank you for clarifying that point. I agree wholeheartedly. I have a slight problem with your (and Pierre's) use of the a-word, 'allow', though. Maybe I shouldn't be harping on it, but here I go: In the expression used over at Pierre's blog, "to allow IT, to get out of the way of IT", it seems to me that the terminology creates a separation/duality between the allower and IT, when in fact there is no separation. The separation appears out of confusion/delusion, and seeing confusion as confusion eradicates the separation and a different kind of action can take place - without allowing. To me 'allowing' seems to be coming from a place where separation remains.

It is a pleasure to exchange thoughts with you in this way. Thank you.

Monday, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, zero.

It might be that at the place where no separation remains, there are no words.

For myself, I like to ask the question, I like to put the question to myself in words: "What does it mean to allow?"

Whatever kind of bad state I might be in, following the waves of my mind, that question is a constant. To return to it makes me happy. "What does it mean to allow?"

As far as it is possible for me to prevent myself from doing so, I am not presuming to tell you what it is to allow. (I might presume to tell you, on the basis of my own experience, what it is not!) Neither should I try to propogate some philosophichal system in the attempt to throw a net over allowing and thereby tie it down.

As far as it is possible, I would like to bear true witness to you about what I have experienced and what I have discovered, about not allowing and about allowing.

The gist of it is that it is impossible for a human being to wake up (in the sense of liberating the self from unconsciousness) by doing something unconsciously. Rather the secret of waking up is to stick to the decision NOT TO DO something unconsciously. And to follow this decision NOT TO DO, is to allow. Not to do one's old thing, and to allow something else to happen, are one and the same fact.

When I sit in Zazen, as far as possible, I give up my doing mode of being, and enter into an allowing mode of being -- one in which there is no separation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006  
Blogger zero said...

Mike,

thank you very much for sincere response. So for you the words are “What does it mean to allow”, for Paul McCartney “There will be an answer, let it be”, and for me to wake up to confusion, to “see confusion as confusion” or simply “don’t know”, which for me is a good place to return to.

Your words “…the secret of waking up is to stick to the decision NOT TO DO something unconsciously. And to follow this decision NOT TO DO, is to allow” somehow explains where my unease with your use of the a-word is coming from. To me, deciding not to do is also a form of doing, and rather than waking up it means engaging in doing and another endless dog-chasing-tail game. In my experience, inhibiting habits doesn’t uproot them but adds another one. For me, the only way to get rid of habits is to exhaust them, and I think that is behind Wanshi’s/Hongzhi’s (most highly acclaimed by Dogen in Zazenshin) choice of words in his famous “When the stains from old habits are exhausted the original light appears, blazing through your skull, not admitting any other matters.”

Then again, I may be completely confused!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, zero. No, I don't think you are completely confused. One who is even slightly awake to his or her own confusion is not completely confused, just as one who is able to see even slightly that he is a fraud is not a total fraud. (I draw confidence from the latter truth.)

The point you are getting at I don't disagree with. We turn everything into a doing. We turn allowing into a doing. We turn "Let it be" into a doing. We turn "Just wake up" into a doing. We turn inhibiting into a doing. And yes, the ultimate irony, we turn non-doing into a doing.

That is just the way we human beings are. We can't cope with the insecurity of not knowing, of having nothing to cling to.

We are born with a grasp reflex, and most of us, it seems to me, go through life with this reflex more or less uninhibited; so that, even when we open out our hands, a trace of the old reflex remains. (For more information on primitive reflexes, I recommend www.inpp.org.uk)

Look at old Gudo. He thinks that, with his theory of the autonomic nervous system, he has grasped some valuable essence of Buddhism. He thinks he has grasped the conclusion of world history - US hegemony. All it is is the trace of an old habit, an old reflex.

Yes, zero, you and I are confused. But if we are able to glimpse our confusion, even for a moment, then we are not totally lost. The great thing is to see it.

The great thing, as Patrick Macdonald put it, is to "Look the bugger in the eye."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006  

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