Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sit-Thinking is NOT seated thinking

On James Cohen's blog there is a section called "Zen Teacher Nishijima's introduction to seated meditation."

These words “seated meditation” are a very misleading translation of the word ZAZEN. The words betray a lack of clarity of understanding of Master Dogen’s fundamental teaching.

Master Dogen stressed that what he called ZAZEN is not SHU-ZEN. Sitting-meditation is not meditation that is learned.

In other words:

Sitting-Meditation is NOT seated meditation
Sitting-Dhyana is NOT seated dhyana
Sit-Thinking is NOT seated thinking

ZA means sitting and ZEN means dhyana, meditation, thinking.

We should not say, as Gudo has said on his blog, that dhyana means sitting. Dhyana means meditation.

But we should never says, as Cohen says, that sitting-meditation is seated meditation.

In Master Dogen’s teaching, the sitting is the meditation, and the meditation is the sitting.

Gudo clearly understands and loudly proclaims that Zazen, sitting-meditation, is action.

But Gudo, in my view, has failed to clarify the exact relationship between feeling in Zazen, thinking in Zazen, and Zazen as action.

Yes, Zazen is action. But the practical problem remains of how to realize it.

FM Alexander clearly understood that, given the universal defect of unreliable feeling, the realization of freedom in action depends on our ability to discover what thinking is.

FM Alexander re-discovered for our time the secret of Zen -- what true dhyana is, what true meditation is, what true thinking is.

In response to me stating my understanding that dhyana means thinking (but not what we generally understand thinking to be), Gudo wrote:

“I can never agree with such an idea. After my more than 60 years of study, I would like to insist clearly that the original meaning of dhyana is just the balance of the autonomic nervous system.”

I responded to this by arguing that dhyana is a conscious effort of practice, not a state of balance.

Then Gudo wrote, on his blog: “I think that dhyana is the name of practice, and so it is different from the state of practice.”

That suggests that when Gudo said “dhyana is just the balance of the autonomic nervous system” he was using the word balance to express not a noun/state but to express a verb/process.

In that case, if Gudo wants to connect his teaching to Master Dogen’s instruction, “Think that state beyond thinking,” one way may be for him to say that balancing by the autonomic nervous system = thinking by the autonomic nervous system.

In other words, he should say that dhyana means not only thinking by the brain in the head, but also thinking by the brain in the autonomic nervous system. And going further still, he should say that dhyana means thinking by the brain in the heart, and thinking by the brain in the spine, and thinking by the brain in every cell in the body.

This, as I understand it, is what FM Alexander meant by “thinking -- but not what people understand by thinking.” And this, as I understand it, might be what Master Dogen meant by HISHIRYO, “non-thinking.”

In Gudo’s mind, HISHIRYO expresses action itself, which is dimensionally different from thinking, and so anybody who even suggests that HISHIRYO might express a kind of thinking, must be a non-Buddhist. This is why Gudo, in all sincerity, sees it as his Buddhist duty as a monk to criticize my opinion.

But it may be that Gudo’s perception of the real situation is wrong, that Gudo hasn’t understood Master Dogen’s intention clearly and hasn’t understood my intention clearly. In that case, it might be my Buddhist duty as a non-monk to continue my efforts to criticize Gudo’s opinion.


Blogger ryunin said...

Hello Mr Cross, I am the guy who writes about Buddhism in the blog Reality, anyone? that is linked to Mr Nishijima's blog

I have somehow followed your posts and discussions and today i decided to have a look at the websites of Alexander technique. I have a question. Don't you think that AT can help a lot to an invidivual, while zazen deals with the whole universe?

To me, the contradiction or
equality of BUddhism and At is not on the agenda. I think Buddhism and zazen deal with truth of the whole universe, hence zazen is universal and one person practicing zazen means the whole universe practicing. While AT is a great technique (probably, I cannot judge, of course) that can help musicians, athletes and all kinds of people with some physiological and mental problems. Although AT seems to help people be happy and live in harmony with others or relax muscles that are unnecessarily strained, it doesn't seem to be universal tool as zazen. Although AT teaches something specific about body and mind, it doesnt seem to teach the universal truth. Then why not just practice and do AT exercise and study it and zazen practice as zazen as two different things that can live together without fighting?

Saturday, December 30, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Hi Ryunin,

Your question is very welcome.

Your profile describes you as a person who "tries to live in the present, study and practice authentic Buddhism and write about it."

But trying to live in the present and fully living in the present are not the same thing. Master Dogen's very first words in Fukan-zazen-gi point us to the fact that we are already living in the truth of the Universe. What is the point of trying to do so?

Freedom in sitting lies in the direction of muscular release. Trying takes us precisely in the wrong direction.

Trying to be right, trying to be authentic, trying to be buddha, is the great obstacle.

Trying ties us to feeling.

Master Dogen instructed us not to care about right or wrong, not to try to become buddha, because that kind of attitude ties us to our unreliable sense of who and where we are.

What liberates us from our unreliable feeling is simply our wish to be free, our clear intention to be free, our volition, our thinking.

You needn't try to be free. The secret is just your wish to be free.

FM Alexander understood what I am writing above with supreme clarity. He re-discovered the secret of Zen for our time.

Saturday, December 30, 2006  

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