Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Non-Blind Obedience

What is supremely valuable in Buddhism is just to sit in the full lotus posture -- like Buddha sitting like Buddha. In other words, bodily to sit; mentally to sit; dropping off body and mind, to sit. Just I know this.

What I hoped to possess was not the Shobogenzo copyright, but the authentic transmission of Shobogenzo itself--which should not be compared to a rock, but should be compared to a jewel. For many years I hoped and secretly expected that Gudo Nishijima would annoint me as his true successor in some kind of crystal-clear affirmation that would make me feel secure in my position. I hoped for that and at the same time feared that.

But now I am adjusting to the realization that this won’t happen. Actually I have been struggling for 10 years to adjust to this realization, ever since Gudo broke our translation partnership because of his suspicions about my enthusiasm for Alexander work.

I have tried long and hard to overcome Gudo’s suspicions about Alexander work and my attitude to it, but ultimately I failed. To be honest, if Gudo couldn’t trust me after the service I performed for him translating Shobogenzo, then, on several levels, I didn’t want to overcome his suspicions.

If people want to know what I am really like, they should make their effort to meet me face-to-face. We can’t know each other from our internet postings.

At the same time, when someone’s writing misrepresents the truth, or denies reality, or subscribes to an illusion, we can know it from what they write. Gudo’s statement on his blog that I wanted to insist that AT is the same as Buddhism, is a misrepresenation of the truth. It helps him to justify to himself and to others his actions, including appropriating our Shobogenzo translation, but it is not true.

Cohen and Warner in their internet postings, by identifying themselves with Gudo’s side, which they perceived to be right, have shown themselves to be in denial. Brad Warner sent an email to all Gudo’s Dharma-heirs insisting that Gudo, not I, was the translator of Shobogenzo. How could he know that? It was a perfect example of taking sides out of blind denial of reality.

Gudo is not on the right side. Gudo is in reality. In reality there is no right side. There is only reality.

It seems to me from some recent blog comments, from people who admittedly I do not know, that something might be changing for the better in people’s perceptions. Old certainties are becoming shaky. It makes us feel insecure. It makes me feel insecure that Gudo has excluded me from Dogen Sangha. But that is how it has to be. There is no other way.

Just to sit dropping off body and mind is a way of liberation. To follow this way requires courage. Above all, we have to overcome the fear which is deeply ingrained in all human beings. This fear makes us grasp for certainty and a secure place in a group. We fear being wrong and excluded. So we try to be right, and live in fear of being wrong. That is the way of the Hinayana, the small vehicle.

As Mahayana Buddhists guided by the teaching of the Middle Way, when people perceive there is a right side and group together on it, we have to dare to be seen as not on the right side. We have to dare to spring free from denial, and live in reality.

What state of senility Gudo is in now, I don’t know. But I tell you that living in reality, not in denial, is the original teaching whose importance he identified in Shobogenzo.

FM Alexander described his work as the most mental thing there is. People think that it is about how to manufacture the right physical posture. In truth it is about how to uncover the right mental direction. Without Alexander work I could not have understood Master Dogen’s statement that there is mental sitting that is different from physical sitting. Gudo has not clearly understood that statement. For the last several hundred years, has anyone other than me understood it?

Still, even having understood this point, just to sit in the full lotus posture dropping off body and mind is difficult. When you are guided by a Buddhist teacher who you trust implictly and who trusts you implicitly, so that you are able to just follow that teacher’s teaching without question, the process is facilitated. So, yes, there is meaning in Gudo’s exhortation on his blog that Buddhist students should exhibit total obedience. In the first instance, if we find a teacher that we trust, we should manifest total, blind obedience to that teacher. But ultimately, it is obedience not to the teacher, who is a temporary bag of bones, but to the teaching.

6 Comments:

Blogger Pretabe said...

Hello there Mr Cross!

I would like to ask about the Alexander technique in relation to zazen. How do you sit in zazen?
Could you put it down as accurately as you can in words? Possibly with diagrams. I know its impossible since words are ultgimately limited, but if you can describe the posture as accurately as you can, that would be better than nothing.

You see, I live many hundreds of miles from England and have no money to visit you. I wish I could understand the FM technique in reguard to zazen.

Thanks mate.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006  
Blogger gniz said...

Mike,
Good post.
I like what you've written, less flowery, more in your own voice, it would seem.
I always cringe a little when you say, "Other than Dogen, is there anyone else but me who has understood this in the last 400 years?" or however you put it.
First off, I dont know you or Gudo or Brad or the Dali lama.
But i do know my own teacher, a guy of no particular lineage who clearly has understood whatever there is to understand.
I have full confidence that there are other people out there, though surely many less than claiming, who have understood what needs to be understood.
I am glad you have the balls to be on your own and stand apart.
I am glad you are trying to write from your heart.
I love the soap opera but it sure would be nice if you all would reconcile and sort this shit out. For your sakes.

Aaron

Wednesday, September 20, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Aaron:
If you have a sincere question about the practice, I will do my best to answer it.

Friday, September 22, 2006  
Anonymous Judy said...

Gniz, I recognise what you say about your teacher. My teacher too (AT teacher that is) just "understands whatever there is to understand", and even though her framework is AT, some, no, most of the things that she taught me are timeles, universal in a way.

Mike, your blog and your comments on Gudo's blog raise so many questions with me. Like, how do you, as an AT teacher, view the relationship with your AT students? Do you guide them for a while and then prepare them for continuing on their own? Or do you see them as part of a kind of community, like a sangha?

I'm not familiar with Zen, but it strikes me that a Zen "teacher" is almost a father to his students, and the commitment seems to be for life. How do you keep a healthy relationship between a student and a master in that case? Is it at all possible?

I notice that I, and others who've had AT lessons for a long period of time sometimes struggle to stand on our own feet, without the help of a teacher. I'm only just discovering that the actual Work probably starts at that point, and that AT lessons are not so much a solution, rather just a preparation.

I'd be interested in hearing your views on this.

Thanks,

Judy

Friday, September 22, 2006  
Blogger gniz said...

Mike,
no i dont have any real question about the practice although I like what you wrote in response to Pretabe in discussing how you view sitting.
I actually do not sit very much (surprise surprise!).
The meditation i've learned from my teacher is of a different variety.
I believe (without much to back it up admittedly) that any meditation, if done consistently and using moment-to-moment awareness, will have a good effect.
I also believe that any meditation, when done sporadically and not carried moment-to-moment, will have far less results.
So i believe the key ingredient is actually the "paying attention" part and not the form of the meditation. Meditation which favors only paying attention when sitting, seems to be missing the boat, in my opinion.
My teacher, whom i trust, pays attention to his breathing, to how he talks, to his eyes and his vision, to his hearing, his bodily movements.
This attention and its consistency seems to be what causes him to be more balanced than most people i run across.

Aaron

Friday, September 22, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Hi Judy,

I see my AT students as AT students. They walk into my teaching room and I do my best to guide them, with hands and voice, to deepen their understanding of what it means to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the spine lengthen and the back widen.

I see my Zen students as Zen students. Primarily my aim is to transmit to them whatever understanding I have got of Fukan-zazen-gi -- mainly by the simple act of sitting in lotus with them.

I think that relations between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and students, are always prone to be problematic.

Probably every criticism of Gudo that you can read here or on his blog is just a recognition of my own shortcomings. I think that I chose him as a teacher because I recognized in him a mirror of myself.

Friday, September 22, 2006  

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