Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond

The matter of buddha ascending beyond, in my limited opinion, as I understand it now, is a tendency.

Yesterday on Dogen Sangha blog I revealed my stupidity again. I let out an outpouring of criticism of James Cohen -- who I have never met. As soon as I had pressed the publish button, I realized that the tendency I criticized in James Cohen is a tendency which it is all to easy for me to follow myself.

As Gudo’s self-styled protector and legal enforcer against a world of bad guys, James Cohen sees himself as an archetypal good guy, on the side of right. He sees me as one of the bad guys.

Thus, faced with Cohen’s hostile words and actions, it is all too easy for me to think: No, it is the other way round. I served Gudo for years and years before Cohen even arrived on the scene. The truth is that I am the good guy, the true long-time servant of Buddhism; Cohen is the bad guy, the Jonny-come-lately fame and profit seeker. To follow that self-justifying tendency is all too easy for me to do: like staying in a warm bath -- “easy to slip into, difficult to get out of.”

I think that Gautama Buddha established and encouraged us to investigate for ourselves another, extremely difficult tendency, which is to rise above right and wrong, good and bad, self and others. He laid down the great challenge of Zazen, which is to ascend beyond all our easy habitual tendencies of thought and action. In other words, to use Master Dogen’s imagery, the challenge is to follow the vigorous road of getting the body out.

In Shobogenzo there is a chapter called BUTSU KOJO NO JI. During the second half of the 1980s, Gudo and I discussed together several times how best to translate BUTSU KOJO NO JI. It was one of the phrases in Shobogenzo that I struggled with most. In the end, the translation we agreed upon was “The Matter of the Ascendant State of Buddha.”

A couple of years ago we discussed it again by email and agreed that a better translation would be “The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond,” or “The Matter of Buddha Ascending Beyond [Buddha].”

The point I am trying to make, mainly for my own benefit this morning, is that I think that the matter of buddha ascending beyond is best understood not as a state, but as an upward tendency.

Ascending beyond is an upward tendency -- a natural tendency, but not an habitual one. It is like water flowing vertically upwards. It does happen in nature--as in a geyser, or a naked baby boy lying on his back and peeing--but it is a relatively uncommon happening, against the usual stream.

25 Comments:

Blogger Michael Tait said...

Buddha trying to become is still just the way of Buddha.

Right, trying to be is still just the way of Buddha.

Sam Mallgap cannot but express the truth unfolding.

The Buddha is not right but real and expresses itself as real.

Buddhas ascend to meet Buddhas below, Buddhas ascending, Buddhas above.

This post of yours is an example of this very thing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Michael, I appreciate that you are still there, reading my ramblings. But in what you write, I definitely sense the presence of a gap. You write as if you know, as if you have understood, as if you have recognized yourself as Buddha already. In the question of Pretabe a few posts ago, in contrast, I sense real sincerity, a hunger for the truth.
I know both situations well from my own experience -- false intellectual pretenses, and real hunger for the Buddha's original truth. You most probably do too.
We need to practice clarity in relation to which is which.
For example: What does it really mean to ascend beyond?
Michael: Shut your big mouth, and try to answer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Mike, you probably think too much. well what the fuck.. so do I. wishing you well.. be nice to gudo. what can it hurt?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

You're a very interesting man Mike and this moment of clarity is welcome.

I cannot recognise anything in myself. As Robert Burns put it 'Oh that God would give us, the gift to see ourselves as others see us.' I can recognise however that this moment and all that it contains cannot but express the truth.

False intellectual pretences, real hunger for the truth and so on, indeed I do recognise. I'm guilty of these and many more but the important thing is to always come back to the zafu, to focus and persevere in opening always to what is real, to what is before us but often obscured. It cannot be maintained, only realised in each instant. This is my real experience of practise and of life.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Pete, an ordinary bloke. said...

THE MATTER OF THE ASCENDING HAWK.
Digging my allotment this beautiful bright morning my attention was drawn to squawking overhead. A flock of bright green parakeets was mobbing a hawk. The hawk just circled around and around and, with the occasional flutter of its wings, seemingly effortlessly ascended into the bright blue sky. Upwards and upwards away from the squawking parakeets. When the hawk was out of sight I returned to my digging watched closely by a robin.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Oxeye:
Sometimes I think too much, sometimes I am like a dragon that found water, or like a tiger before its mountain stronghold -- like Buddha sitting like Buddha. In the state of thinking too much there is nasty and nice. But dragon, tiger, and Buddha are all far beyond nasty and nice. You write as if you know me from my internet ramblings, but you don't.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

MT:
I think that true opening to what is real generally manifests itself in the form of a question. But you write as if you found the answer already. I don't believe a word of it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Pete:
Your heels are on solid ground, and you feel secure within the limitations that you know -- those of the ordinary bloke. But those limitations are just a construct of your own cowardly mind.

Suddenly I feel as if I am writing a horoscope. Have I finally found my true voice?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

It's possible to characterise open sitting and open life as an unanswered question.


But if this is not what you mean then what is to be striven for? What great truth still eludes you that cannot be consistently met on the zafu, not answered but contended with?

I'd say that I haven't found an answer but I've certainly found a question.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger SteveP said...

like staying in a warm bath -- “easy to slip into, difficult to get out of.

keep at it. eventually the water will get cold and you'll want to get out quick.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

MT:

For example, what is the sitting?

Is it thinking?

Is it non-thinking?

Is it doing something?

Is it non-doing?

Is it a kind of discipline?

Is it a kind of liberation?

When Master Dogen wrote that there is mental sitting that is different from bodily sitting, what did he mean?

There should be asking of thousands of concrete questions like these.

Concrete questions like these. Thousands of them. You should ask.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

YES - but these questions are posed with the whole being constantly in practise. Even the 'asking' is not how we usually characterise that activity.

The whole consciousness asks of it's experience: How can this be THIS? Experience asks this consciousness: How can this be? What is this? There is 'asking' or another expression of that may be 'opening' or your 'allowing.'

Dogen deconstructs this:

One can separate this experience into using the mind to ask of itself - What is not-thinking?

One can separate this experience into using the body to ask of itself - What is not-doing?

In the end there is something that is real that transcends both of these approaches and any answer that can be posited - it simply exists and practise of the above two is the gate to its revelation. This is an intellectual answer but the corollary experience is the same, defying description and categorisation - it is one that can only be known by the undivided consciousness. This sounds a bit mystical to people who don't practise zazen or practise zazen without sincerity but to the sincere practitioner of zazen who has learnt their practise from a true teacher this is just a statement of fact. I experienced it just this past weekend during three days of sesshin with my teacher. I commit this being to sit twice a day every day and sweep away obstructions from being to experience it as consistently as I can.

Despite the fact that we study and think about the problem in our inevitable human way, I'm not certain the questions can be answered intellectually at all. This is why the world of blogging can never approach true sitting. This is why true sitting can only be transmitted one to one by one who experiences the state.

Despite what Nishijima Roshi has suggested recently on his blog; reality can only be perceived directly....but what is the meaning of 'directly'? There's another one for the list.....

(I'll stop posting again for a while here, it's a rather addictive activity. But I'll check in now and again to read your fascinating posts.)

All the best,

Mike

Thursday, October 05, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Mike, You are right. I do not know you from your internet ramblings. But I know you only a little less than I know myself.. And you do not seem too unlike any other immature person. Just a little more cocksure when blogging. There is nothing particularly instructive in what you write. But it seems to amuse us both.

Thursday, October 05, 2006  
Blogger Friend said...

how about little something from china. didn't dogen go over there to some effect? ;)

"The Master said to me: All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible. It is not green nor yellow, and has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old. It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it transcends all limits, measure, names, traces and comparisons. It is that which you see before you - begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error. It is like the boundless void which cannot be fathomed or measured. The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind. Even though they do their utmost for a full aeon, they will not be able to attain it. They do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifest in the Buddhas."

Friday, October 06, 2006  
Blogger Pete, an ordinary bloke. said...

A robin hungry for worms watches as squatting with heels on solid ground I release broad beans down into the freshly dug soil. Sowing completed I stand up. Happy with the limitations of this real world I walk home with head up and a hunger for porridge.

Saturday, October 07, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

I am in France now.

Sitting again on my platform under a huge ash tree, facing the forest, once more this morning I experienced being like a dragon that found water.

Gudo first offered to make me his Dharma-heir nearly 20 years ago. At that time I lacked the confidence to accept -- what Gudo himself calls KAKUSHIN, being cocksure, if you like.

Nowadays when I write about feeling like a dragon that found water, I am expressing my own KAKUSHIN.

It's the result of 25 years sitting four times a day, and ceaselessly endeavoring to get to the bottom of Fukan-zazen-gi.

A Buddhist teacher needs to have that KAKUSHIN.

Fukan-zazen-gi is great. Nature is great. Everyday work, digging and carrying, is great. Zazen is great. And I am part of that greatness.

Saturday, October 07, 2006  
Blogger Pretabe said...

All this talk about others such as James Cohen and Gudo Nishijima is getting on my nerves. Buddhism is not politics or drama, it is the direct pointing to the truth.

You sir, have lost all my respect. Good day.

Sunday, October 08, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

I’ve failed already to take my own advice – it’s your fault Mike for a stimulating post on Nishijima’s site and I quote:

‘When people are proud of their own meagre understanding, such intellectual pride gives rise to a gap.

Fortunately, the gap causes us, again and again, to lose our false self-confidence and fall into confusion. At that time, we have the possibility to come back to the principle of Fukan-zazen-gi, which has been transmitted in one line. We have the possibility to start again at square one, orienting our wrong selves once more in the right direction.’

This is interesting indeed and speaks to and from experience directly.

I wonder that ‘the gap’ that Dogen mentions is not as I had understood it to be; a term applied to those who do not understand or practise Buddhism. On the contrary, the gap is a state into which it is inevitable we will fall into if we practise zazen, not if we do not practise zazen. The gap is one in which we interpret and compound our reality with our subjective confabulation like Korsakoff’s monkey mistaking his wife for a hat. We create the story of our existence as opposed to experiencing directly with undivided consciousness.

It is only possible to be aware of ‘a gap’ when one has experienced something other than a gap. Without standing on a mountain, there is no chasm beneath us to negotiate. Thus the perception, the presence of a gap at all denotes realization.

It is when we do not perceive the existence or presence of gaps at all that we are truly lost. We are truly lost because it is only through gaps that we may travel beyond gaps.

Philosophies of many kinds identify the presence of the gap but they posit no means of its traverse. Anyone who has met long term philosophy students or teachers of same will know they tend to be discontented. Buddhism allows us to experience the gap and cross over to the other side with the dynamic act of zazen.

In these established terms we could call zazen the act of ‘closing the gap.’

As ‘the gap’ has most often been applied it has pointed to the actual lack of knowledge of a gap thus not a gap at all but a chasm into which one is falling. Absolute certainty that one understands Buddhism is exactly this kind of chasm. Absolute certainty of anything at all is exactly this kind of chasm. The truth is marked by profound doubt. Profound doubt sitting with profound doubt but sitting fully nevertheless, a Buddha ascends beyond.

Mind the gap!

Sunday, October 08, 2006  
Blogger anonymous said...

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Monday, October 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Pretabe:
I hoped you might be a mate, in the Aussie sense of the term. Seems that I missed the target again. One of these days I would like to go to Australia. I sense that it could be a place where I might find some true mates in Zazen.


MT:
If my words caused you to drop off an old view, they may not have been totally in vain after all.

Now it is time for you to drop off your new view:

ZAZEN IS NEVER THE CLOSING OF A GAP, you dunderhead.

It is the realization that there has never been, from the beginning, any gap. That is the state of a real dragon that found water. A dragon trying to close a gap might be laughed at by the real dragon.


Anonymous:
Ordinarily, we wish to be judged as good, true and right, and we fear to be judged as bad, false, and wrong. But Master Dogen’s instruction for Zazen is: ascend beyond all that. If people wish to judge me as having a plank in my eye, let them. It is not my original task to be judged, and not my original task not to be judged. My original task is to manifest the true meaning of Fukan-zazen-gi -- which, by the way, you can find on my linked blog of the same name.

Monday, October 09, 2006  
Blogger Friend said...

Vulnerability arises as an energy in the organism. Just plain vanilla vulnerability, without a reason connected with it. In the yin/yang, hot/cold world of the behavior of matter, there are ways that the organism resonds to the vulnerable energy. Condensing from it, hardening, tightening - outwards towards "Other" Judgement - inwards towards "Self" Judgement. The reason mind seems to react to the vulnerability energy by linking it to an object, self or other, created fantasies in the first place.

This just happens. See it to lessen the extent to which it proliferates.

Can we bear to reside in the plain vanilla vulnerability? It is probably the most difficult thing for a human to do. It is the doorway. It is the last thing you'll ever think of doing.

Monday, October 09, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

Quite right. Never the closing of a gap. There never was a gap.

That was wrong and misleading. Even the confabulated world has the reality of itself.

Hmmm...

Monday, October 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Friend:

I think that there was true meaning in Alan Watt’s choosing as the title of his book “The Wisdom of Insecurity.”

We respond to insecurity by wanting to grasp onto something secure -- like a definite intellectual conclusion. We grasp like that instead of devoting ourselves to a process -- a series of instants that follow one after another in a certain direction (which might, in the case of Buddha, be upward). Don’t you think so?

MT:
The teaching of Fukan-zazen-gi, as I understand it, is like this:

(1) Originally, there is no gap.

(2) In fact, in our Zazen life we suffer very frequently from gaps. We go around proudly thinking “I know.” “I am right.” “I agree with you on this point. Yes, Master, you got that right. But no, on that point, my opinion is somewhat different.”

I am afraid that you, MT, might be already a Scottish national champion at this past-time, so you shouldn’t say “There never was a gap.” I know very well where you are coming from--so how could I despise you for it? Maybe you should take lessons from OB Pete -- he is much more careful than you in concealing his gap, so as not to make a fool of himself. For my taste, a fool should show himself to be a fool. A fool has a duty to be a fool. So, good work, MT! Keep it up. You bloody big fool.

Because we civilized human beings rely on faulty feelings and intellectual thoughts, there is very frequently a gap. When you truly understand this point, you will become a really clear Buddhist teacher. But you have not understood yet. Even without meeting you in person, that is very obvious to me. You feign the understanding of an enlightened Buddha, which you haven’t really got. Just in that, there is a gap.

(3) Whether there is a gap or not, we just sit, ascending beyond. Buddha is just the action of ascending beyond, in which there is only reality, no gap.

(4) To grasp the above intention is to be like a dragon that found water, or a tiger before it’s mountain stronghold. It is a momentary experience -- always followed, at least in my experience, usually sooner rather than later, by the arising of another gap.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006  
Blogger Friend said...

We respond to insecurity by wanting to grasp onto something secure -- like a definite intellectual conclusion. We grasp like that instead of devoting ourselves to a process -- a series of instants that follow one after another in a certain direction (which might, in the case of Buddha, be upward). Don’t you think so?

Grasping vs. devoting (perpetually returning?) to process - yes! this seems to be my choice. Doorway 1 or B?

However, it seems to me that to form a thought *about* process (such as 'upward' or 'of Buddha') and to attach to that thought by considering it to be important or essential to liberation would be to depart from process. This is expressed more eloquently by Huang Po as quoted from above: By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind.

Methinks it's best to know the insecure state and keep as still as possible when it arises. Me being one who trips over that often!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006  
Blogger Friend said...

More Huang Po... Any thoughts? ;-)

To make use of your minds to think conceptually is to leave the substance [of Mind, Buddha] and attach yourselves to form.

The Mind is no mind of conceptual thought, and it is completely detached from form.... There are those who, upon hearing this teaching, rid themselves of conceptual thought in a flash.... But whether they transcend conceptual thought by a longer or shorter way, the result is a state of BEING: there is no practicing and no action of realizing. That there is nothing which can be attained is not idle talk; it is the truth.

If you would spend all your time - walking, standing, sitting or lying down - learning to halt the concept-forming activities of your own mind, you could be sure of ultimately attaining the goal.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006  

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