Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bodhicitta

In Shobogenzo chap. 70 Master Dogen discusses a Sanskrit term, bodhicitta, which means the will to be awake. Bodhicitta, to me, means my wish not to be a slave to unconscious reaction.

Master Dogen writes that to establish bodhicitta means to vow that, and to endeavor so that, "Before I myself cross over, I will take across all living beings."

So bodhicitta is not a selfish wish that I should cross over to the plane of conscious control, while the rest of you can sod off, go to hell. It is a wish that we should all cross over together, led by me.

When I have told people like Kwatz and Oreste on this blog that "if your attitude is like that, you can sod off," this is how I intend the invitation to sod off. My wish is to lead all living beings across, and that is what I am endeavoring to do. That is what this blog is all about.

If you do not wish to be led by me, if my attitude does not seem compassionate enough for you, or you have some other complaint about me, then why are you bothering me? Sod off and establish your own bodhicitta.

In the second half of the 19th century, two men were born who would manifest very strong and very conspicuous examples of the bodhicitta. One was FM Alexander (1869 - 1954). The other was Kodo Sawaki (1880 - 1965).

A few years after the passing of these greats, when I was in my teens, I was prone to suffer from chronic blushing. On the school bus, if, God forbid, I ended up sitting next to a girl, I would suffer an extreme autonomic reaction, going bright red and then finally stepping off the bus reduced to a pale and clammy dribble of sweat. It wasn't so much that I was reacting to the girl; I was reacting to myself. The fear of a chronic blushing episode made the meat it fed on. Thus I became conscious to what extent I was enslaved to my emotional reactions, just as surely is if I were in iron chains.

That is what attracted me to the way of karate-do. I wanted to be a big strong guy, in control of his emotions, not a blushing wimp. Karate-do took me to the island of Okinawa, where I trained under the chief instructor of International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate Federation, Morio Higaonna. While in Okinawa I visited an English language bookstore and picked up Gudo Nishijima's book How to Practice Zazen. In the front of this book was a photo of Kodo Sawaki sitting in the full lotus posture, shaven headed and wearing a kesa. I was deeply struck by it. It seemed to fit the bill of what I was seeking to make myself into. I was an emotional wimp, and I knew it, and I wanted to make myself into a big strong independent guy, an emotional brick, as Kodo Sawaki appeared to me to be.

According to FM Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, FM Alexander's motivation in his youth was the same as mine was. FM didn't want to be a slave to his unconscious reactions. He wished to be free.

Through nearly 3o years on this journey towards Supreme Awakening, Bodhi, how much progress have I made? I don't know. I hope that I have become more awake, little by little, that the iron chains have loosened their grip, at least in odd moments. I am still prone to emotional gusts, but I worry about them less. Have I finally crossed over yet? I don't think so.

But establishment of the bodhicitta does not require me to have crossed over myself already. It requires me to vow:

"Before I myself cross over, I will take across all living beings."

That I do vow. That vow, this Tuesday morning as I await my first client of the day, a 4-year old boy with autistic tendencies, I hereby renew.

12 Comments:

Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Floating Weed.

Why do we hold? So many reasons. Maybe we are sea-sick on a stormy ocean. Maybe we are lost, standing at a crossroads not knowing which way to turn or go. Maybe we have been robbed by a bandit and remain in the grip of fear and anger.

You say that Buddhas act freely. Thank you, Floating Weed. Your words are always eloquent and beautiful.

I tell you that I hold, stiffen up, fix, brace, deep deep within, for all sorts of reasons. In general, I do not know why. I only know that a short breath is short.

Occasionally, spontaneously, I know a long breath as long. But in general I know a short breath as short.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006  
Blogger axel said...

As I watch my reactions to what I experience, I notice tensions. Things are pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad. Everything needs fixing. What's bad has to go, what's good has to stay. Everything needs my intervention. I hold my breath (and so much more...)

Buddha's are spontaneous, they act freely. Is this right? Suddenly I doubt.

Is a Buddha really free of _____ (a stiff neck for example...) I don't know...

But suddenly I'm afraid that if I answer 'yes' I will be reborn 500 times as a fox.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Floating Weed. Poetic as always. For me, today, it is a struggle enough just to know a short breath as short.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Axel.

Is it possible that my useless and crappy words, and even more inept attempt to lead by example, in the matter of the bodhicitta, could perhaps provide a spark that might, somewhere out there in the blogosphere, set some spontaneous response in motion?

If so, could you call that spark, in Spanish, una bodhicitta-chispa?

One day might you and I dwell together in La Casa Bodhicitta?

Forgive my stupid ramblings. It just struck me that there is something Spanish-sounding about the word bodhicitta. And Spanish is a language the sound of which I really like. Luis sent me a translation of Fukan-zazengi in Spanish. Although I could see several imperfections in it, arising from the fact that it had been based on my English translation and not done from scratch from the original Japanese, I was moved by it.

Are you in touch with Luis and the group in Chile?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Pete, an ordinary bloke. said...

Floating Weed, as Mike says what you say is very poetic but is it the truth. In plain words that would be understood down the Coach and Horses what do you mean when you write “Giving ourselves away into love……?” I don’t understand you. Whose love for whom, for surely love does not exist without a lover and a beloved? I am not trying to be a clever dick here. Believe it or not I am after an explanation.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

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Thursday, March 02, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thursday, March 02, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Great question by the artist formerly known as OB, and great answer by the mystery man/woman known as FW.

It is a great question, because we should challenge each other's pretentious aspirations.

It is a great answer, because without our aspirations, where are we? Without our will that the Buddha's Supreme Awakening be realized by all living beings in our own world, how can true practice begin?

Without a question like this, and an answer like this, how can we even begin to search for the Middle Way?

Thursday, March 02, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thursday, March 02, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Floating Weed.

The pool was ever clear right to the bottom. But clear of what?

Clear water is a nice metaphor that you have borrowed from Wanshi, but when Master Dogen described the subtle method as MU-I, of what was he expressing the absence?

Ordinary Bloke's question strikes me as a good one to ask you. If you had to translate MU-I literally, as for example in the first sentence of Shobogenzo, what translation would you go for?

Is it possible for you to give a straight answer, to have a stab at a literal translation? I welcome your interpretation and use of metaphor, but can you also cope with my request for an ordinary, literal translation?

Thursday, March 02, 2006  

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