Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gudo's Error


Literally: It is vital that the ears vs the shoulders, and the nose vs the navel, should be caused to oppose each other.

In other words, it is vital that the muscular energy which pulls ears and shoulders towards each other, and nose and navel towards each other, should be allowed to dissipate.

This instruction is not, as Master Gudo Nishijima describes, about “fixing the posture regularly.” Master Dogen is describing a spontaneous process, involving dissipation of superfluous energy. Master Nishijima’s conception and Master Dogen’s conception are totally opposed to each other. One is fixity. The other is release from fixity.

Master Dogen’s instruction is based on his clear realization of the direction inherent in all energy. Master Nishijima’s understanding of this instruction is wrong, false, untrue. It is just the Master’s terrible blunder.


Blogger Pete, an ordinary bloke. said...

I can’t believe all this show offy big headed intellectual crap posted on these Zen/Buddhist blogs. What has happened to face to face teaching? Come on Mike Cross you can do it. Face to face teaching that is. Pierre Turlur taught me face to face how to sew the kesa, for which I am eternally grateful. Mike Luetchford teaches me Buddhist philosophy face to face (and I hope he will continue to do so) for which I am eternally grateful. Mike Cross once taught me face to face on the zafu (well face to back actually) how to sit for which I am eternally grateful. More importantly Mike Cross directed me to Julian Fuller, an excellent Alexander Technique teacher, for which I am eternally grateful. Why Mike Cross did not continue to teach me face to face is another story. Something about the company I kept.
Last weekend in Wales I watched red kites and buzzards, majestic birds both. I also watched two common and garden magpies land on the back of a ram. The ram seemed in no way to be disturbed by the pecking of the magpies. He just continued to sit. Seems to me that there are a load of magpies on this site. Rather I was the ram.
By the way Mike Cross I do not have twelve thousand quid and, at my age, I do not think I have three years to spare either. I will have to get on the best I can, just like the ram. The mundane everyday stuff now takes priority over the quest for the Buddhist truth. Or, Mike Cross, is the mundane everyday stuff the Buddhist truth?

Friday, June 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, sometimes I wonder if your troubles with Master Nishijima and your troubles with anyone else for that matter, are simply a matter of language. You seem to want to fix words in meaning. You want words to mean either this or that perfectly. Your decisions on definitions are fixed and rigid. Words are not like that, they seldom are either just this or that. They exist as multi-hued conceptions, as endless combinations of meaning, in a conceptual absence of neither yes nor no. So for you to say that Master Nishijima meant this perfectly, or Master Dogen meant that exclusively, is to misunderstand them.

there might be something to be gained in your enthusiasm concerning the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Most of that is lost on me, but to get hung up on it is to be diverted from the truth. It is an incomplete view ultimately.

Take all this for what it is worth. just friendly discussion.

Friday, June 30, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

In order to practise sitting in the full lotus posture bodily, we have to take care of certain requirements, such as food, water, shelter, bedding, a zafu -- in short, living in the world today, we need some income.

In order to sit in the full lotus posture dropping off body and mind, in the true meaning of those words, we need to be taught face-to-face by a true teacher. This relation between teacher and student is an utterly complicated one, as described in Shobogenzo chap. 46, Katto, as “the mind being transmitted by the mind.” But this transmission is at least partly dependent on very exact and clear understanding of Buddhist theory.

So I am making my effort to clarify the true meaning of Fukan-zazengi, in words and in ideas, as perfectly as possible, and to make that clarification available to everyone.

Even if I succeed in clarifying the meaning perfectly accurately, on the level words and ideas, that will never guarantee that others will understand the meaning perfectly. But to make my effort in that direction is, in the words of Gudo Nishijima, “one job.”

True, when studying under a Buddhist patriarch, we have to look beyond his words and ideas, which may be mistaken, and tune into his rhythms on a deeper, non-verbal level -- primarily by practicing Zazen with him.

But that doesn’t change the fact that to clarify Fukan-zazengi as accurately and exactly as possible, using words and ideas, is still “one job.”

In response to Pete’s question, my reflection is that Master Kodo Sawaki, as far as I understand the situation, refused to accept Gudo Nishijima as his formal student. Whereas Master Nishijima, as far as I know, has never refused anyone. So in this kind of matter, I agree, there is no black and white rule; it is not cut and dried; it is complicated.

But in translating Master Dogen’s words, and in clarifying their meaning, we should strive to hit the nail on the head.

Friday, June 30, 2006  

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