Tuesday, March 07, 2006

解脱 (GEDATSU): You Cannot Do an Undoing

大哉解脱服
DAI-SAI-GEDATSU-FUKU
How great is the clothing of coming undone!

As a compound of two characters, 解脱(GEDATSU), is given in the dictionary a stink of "Buddhist" religiosity: (Buddhist) salvation, deliverance (from sin, passion, attachments).

For me 解脱(GEDATSU) expresses what is allowed to happen in Alexander work: release, undoing, coming undone. Nothing religious, nothing "Buddhist," but an undoing of the innermost connection between a human head and a human spine.

The kesa is not a symbol of celibacy; it is not the uniform of a holy man. It is the uniform of release, of liberation. It is the clothing of coming undone. To wear the kesa is to be embraced by the teaching of Buddha, which is liberation.

Whenever did the Buddha speak of "Buddhism"? The Buddha spoke of liberation.

解脱 (GEDATSU) is said to represent the Sanskrit word vimukti which is given in the dictionary as: disjunction, giving up, release, deliverance, liberation.

Individually, the first character 解 (GE) means undoing, untying, unravelling, loosening, dissolving, releasing; and the second character 脱 (DATSU) means coming off, shedding -- as in the famous phrase 身心脱落 (SHINJIN-DATSURAKU), body and mind dropping off.

The fundamental point of Zazen, speaking for myself, with the limited understanding that I have now, is momentary release, momentary coming undone. If there is any such thing as a final religious deliverance from all my sins, passions, and attachments, I haven't experienced it yet. What I have experienced, in odd moments, in Alexander work and in my own Zazen is moments of allowing, moments of undoing. There is no finality in it, and it is not a celestial experience: it is a momentary liberation from my habitual holding, arranging, grasping tendency. It is greater openness in the joints of my body, especially in the joints of the head and the spine.

This greater openness, this opening tendency, is an openness which brings all kinds of benefits INDIRECTLY. These INDIRECT benefits are most readily observable in ease of breathing. We can all improve the way we breathe, by undoing. But if we try to deepen the breathing DIRECTLY, that is just doing.

The direction in which Zazen and Alexander work seems to be taking me is towards wishing, more and more completely, and more and more of the time, for undoing.

Exhortations by the likes of the little upstart Brad Warner to "fix the posture," it seems to me, are pointing people entirely in the wrong direction. That guy has really put my nose out of joint, declaring his intention to write his interpretation of Shobogenzo, on the basis of his shallow and wrong understanding. He relies on the translation I was slaving away at years before he arrived on the scene, while giving himself airs and slagging me off. Who does he think he is? The little lickspittle. If we were members of the same karate dojo, I would kick and punch the hell out of him. That is my very strong instinctive feeling towards the little lickspittle Brad Warner. He has really offended my sense of proper order.

In working in the direction of undoing, it is not reasonable to adhere to any principle other than the principle of non-doing. However one chooses to translate it, the fundamental meaning of 無為 (MU-I), as I see it, must relate to this principle of non-doing.

Why? Because when you investigate in detail the process of undoing, it becomes more and more apparent that it cannot be done. You cannot do an undoing.

I submit to you for your own verification that this is a universal truth: You cannot do an undoing.

It is not only a principle that adorns the subtle method of the buddhas. It is not only the core principle of Alexander work. I submit to you that it is a universal truth. You cannot do an undoing.

16 Comments:

Blogger oxeye said...

He wears glasses and only weighs 135 lbs. and yet has intuitively understood the profound truth of indivisibility of the Self from the Whole and has destroyed the persistence of the instinctual mental habits underlying all convictions. Oh yeah, he even managed to do an undoing. it wasn't quite as expected but became undone just the same. Just imagine all the things the little "upstart" could accomplish if he didn't try.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Hey Mike! you were nominated for the Blogisattva Award for Best Celebrity Buddhist Blog of 2005. congratulations! I bet you didn't even know you were a celebrity. :)

http://zenunbound.com/2006/03/blogisattva-award-winners-announcement.html

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

Thank you, Oxeye.

If the little upstart of whom you write has destroyed the persistence of habits underlying all convictions, why does he remain convinced of the need to fix one's posture in Zazen by doing something?

This is the fundamental conviction, or delusion, that FM Alexander addressed.

Yes, sometimes in our wholehearted doing, something unexpectedly comes undone. We have all experienced that, in the playground, on the sports field, in the workshop, in the dojo, et cetera. But in all such cases the coming undone happens spontaneously; it is not achieved directly. The undoing is not done.

In a moment of realizing the unity of all things, the head and the spine become undone from each other. This is not a posture that can be fixed. It is not even a postural activity that can be done. It is an undoing.

It is an undoing that can be invoked by wishing, by allowing, but never by doing.

This is the point that neither I nor Brad could understand under Gudo -- because, in my honest opinion, Gudo has never clearly understood it himself. Possibly Kodo Sawaki began to understand it at the very end of his life, but I think not during the years when Gudo was practicing under him. Possibly Renpo Niwa, a man who liked to play with doll's houses when he was a child, understood it on a deep intuitive level--I don't know about that, but from meeting Master Niwa a few times in person I somehow suspect it. He was in no sense a macho man.

Anyway, you cannot do an undoing. It is a very simple principle, but I did not begin to see it until I came across the teaching of FM Alexander. Before that time I devoted a lot of time and energy to very diligently trying to do my own liberation.

If there's one point I'd like to get across on this blog, this is it. You cannot do an undoing.

Ah, celebrity, celebrity, celebrity. I'll settle for the robins and blackbirds, thank you.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Bob J. said...

I might suggest you try a different medicine for your schizophrenia. If you've seen A Beautiful Mind, you might see where you're going. Except the beautiful part.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

mike it's not only about how you sit that matters. brad may have been taught a 'wrong' way to sit zazen but there are plenty of people in the world who have never sat zazen who know that your attitude towards brad and gudo is inexcusable

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

or rather would know if they ever happened to read your blog

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Bob J.,

It's nice to see such sublime compassion and circumspection arising from your "Zen practice."

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

P.S. It seems to me that answering a perceived wrong with one of your own is hardly productive (I need to follow this advice, too).

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Bob J.

An ex-lawyer whose favourite books include Hardcore Zen.... Mmmm. I begin to get a picture. But of course it is a false one. How could it be otherwise? I have never set eyes on you, nor you on me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Dan.

No, I disagree with you. It IS only how you sit that matters.

If your sitting is to practice the ineffable, then it is no problem to excuse the inexcusable.

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Michael, as always.

Yes, your P.S. is not only a teaching directed at Bob. J, but also a teaching directed at yourself. At the same time, it might also be a teaching directed (unconsciously?) at me!

In the end, what can we say?

Sewing a kesa, we drop stitches and carry on.

One stitch in front of another.

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

you said of brad:

If the little upstart of whom you write has destroyed the persistence of habits underlying all convictions, why does he remain convinced of the need to fix one's posture in Zazen by doing something?

the same could be said for you. why are you so obssessed with how you sit? every single person i have told about your hatred of gudo and brad stemming from a disageement about how you sit has seen it for what it is. complete bollocks.
you cannot see how ridiculous the whole thing really is. you are worse than a clown because at least a clown enjoys it when people laugh at him.
your strong intuitive reaction is to beat brad into a pulp. it does not take an enlightened master to correctly recognise that this is not how grown ups should behave. almost everybody knows right and wrong deep down.you can dismiss this as dualistic thinkning or start talking about mirrors if you like but the fact remains that you are not acting like a a sane and balanced individual let alone a buddhist. imagine if we were all in the same room in real life right now. would you say that out loud in front of others to brad's face?
if you went to a tibetan or theravada temple and they told you to 'fix your posture' would you feel anger towards them? would you remain convinced that their wisdom is false and deluded? what about religions that never talk about zazen? are you saying that the things that they value (the things that they say matter in life) are in fact worthless?
you are wrong to say that how you sit is the only thing that matters because you seem to mean it literally. you don't seem to be saying 'if you get your zazen right then right action, speech etc will follow during the time that i am not sitting' instead you seem to be saying ' it is only how you sit that matters and i can say and do whatever i like during the rest of the time'.

'If your sitting is to practice the ineffable, then it is no problem to excuse the inexcusable'

this is not buddhism and you should not claim that it is.

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Dan.

The Buddha-Dharma is sitting, and sitting is the Buddha-Dharma.

I don't know what this thing called "Buddhism" is that seems so important to you, and I make no claim to know it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

if you do not know what this thing called buddhism is then you are not a buddhist

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Dan,

Some things defy definition. Adequate definition, anyway.
I think we tread upon thin ice when we begin designating people as Buddhist or non-Buddhist, Christian or non-Christian, us or them, and so on.

Thursday, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Zzzzzzzzzzz...

Zzzzzzzzzzz.....

Zzzzzzzzzzz.......

Thursday, March 09, 2006  

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