Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Mirror Principle (2)

A brown rat, to a homeowner, is a kind of pest. But to a bird of prey it is breakfast. And to a laboratory scientist it is a kind of miracle.

That I see Jewish lawyer James Cohen, who I have never actually met, as such an objectionable pest, says something about me. What does it say?

The aim of my life is, by getting the point of Zazen, to be like a dragon returning to water, or like a tiger before its mountain stronghold.

Master Dogen said: the laws of the Universe are manifesting themselves as reality and there is no room for any net or cage to restrict a dragon or tiger.

So what kind of problem is James Cohen to me? What does the pushy, disingenuous Jewish lawyer represent to me?

The simple answer might be that the Jewish lawyer represents the continuing insidious influence on me of Jewish law, of the ten commandments and the rest of it.

On this point, what is Master Dogen’s teaching?

According to Master Dogen’s teaching, as I understand it, the act of Zazen embraces the three worlds of feeling, thinking, and action -- other than which there is nothing.

So we need not worry about human rules, whether Buddhist precepts or semitic commandments. We need not revere them. We need not go out of our way to break them. Still less is it nessary for us to show any emotional reaction to them.

Master Dogen taught: “Cut them by sitting.”

I am afraid that I am not such a brilliant advert for Master Dogen’s teaching.


Blogger siapac said...

from reading your blog, it is clear to me that you are you are a genius of habitual behavior. you are as predictable as any human being that has ever walked the planet. you are the very opposite of benevolent and are truly dull. but happily for you, none of that is very important for eventually grasping the buddha dharma. you are probably stubborn enough to do it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007  
Blogger Aaron said...

I agree with Siapac on this one. (Hi Siapac old friend!)
Mike, You appear to cycle through a range of emotions; from anger, to delusions of grander, back to humiliation and's as predictable as the sunrise.
I could set my watch to your silly moods and even sillier proclamations.
This blog serves a great purpose, Mike--just not the purpose you hoped for. It is a testament to the fact that all of the study, all of the sitting meditation, all of the desire in the world will not bring you ANYTHING at all.
NOTHING. No special wisdom. No great peace or happiness.
The world is littered with fools who want to be spiritual masters, superior to everyone else. But the irony of it all is that these people are usually the least spiritual, most obnoxious and condescending fools on the planet.
Their enormous, bloated egos will teach us more than any self-important philosophical ramblings ever could.
This blog is a warning: but for the grace of god go I.

Thursday, January 18, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Beyond bene-volent or male-volent, there is omni-volence, and there is vere-volence.

Being verevolent, I come to the forest, shave my head, wear the robe, and sit in the full lotus posture.

These things help me to let go of former conditioning and attachments.

When I let go, the Buddha-Dharma has already filled my hands, and is overflowing.

Such is the state of action, freedom in sitting.

It is a condition of effortless ease, but it is not easy to realize. It sits upon a base of effort by the feeling body and effort by the feeling mind.

I make my effort constantly to clarify this for self and others, because our capacity for self-delusion is endless. We are prone to think we know, and to give ourselves the airs of being one who knows. At such times we are far from the Buddha-Dharma.

When the Buddha-Dharma truly fills us, we are prone to self-doubt.

Master Dogen taught this in Shobogenzo. It is difficult to see in oneself, but sometimes I notice it as an objective truth in others.

For example, a Zazen friend who sat here with me last summer said, in a diffident, hesitant manner, words to the effect of: “It’s like... er... no barrier between me and the rest of nature... as if.. I am part of it.”

If that wasn’t a mouth naturally opening and the Buddha-Dharma flowing out, I don’t know what was.

What I am saying about feeling, thinking, and action is difficult to understand. I don't expect not to have difficulties transmitting it to others.

Thursday, January 18, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

As a PS to Aaron, I would like to add:

I think that Aaron might be a Jewish name. I wonder: Why are so many Jews drawn to the world of Zen? And why are so many Jews drawn to Alexander’s teaching? (Israel is a hotbed of Alexander work, and my Alexander teacher is herself Jewish.)

Is it something to do with reverence for the Law, the Torah?

And why are such a high proportion of Jews such a complete pain in the arse of humanity, such as the slithery liar Cohen, and those many Zionist Israelis who believe God promised them a piece of the earth?

Aaron said “By the grace of God.”

Sometimes here by the forest I feel the presence of God, in the birdsong, and the voices of the valley stream.

And sometimes I find liberation in the wish to place my life in the hands of God, praying “Thy will be done.” Sometimes I offer my practice of Zazen as such a prayer -- “Thy will be done.”

But according to Buddhist philosophy, both those states are different from action. This is the central plank of the Buddha’s teaching that Gudo Nishijima, above all else, strove to transmit to me.

In that case, as Buddhists I think we can believe in and revere the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed -- as a convenient fiction, as a skillful means.

Even in Zazen, I think we need our convenient fictions -- for example, the feeling body; and for example, the thinking mind.

Thursday, January 18, 2007  
Blogger Jordan&TheTurtle said...

One who is wise and disciplined,
Kindly always and intelligent,
Humble and free from pride -
One like this will win respect.

Rising early and scorning laziness,
Remaining calm in time of strife,
Faultless in conduct and clever in actions -
One like this will win respect.

Being able to make friends and keep them,
Welcoming others and sharing with them,
A guide, philosopher and friend -
One like this will win respect.

Being generous and kindly in speech,
Doing a good turn for others
And treating all alike -
One like this will win respect.

I am a firm advocate that the old teachings have a place in our practices today.
I see the mirror principal is a reflection of our own interconnectivity. If I see something I dislike, it is only something I dislike about myself…


Thursday, January 18, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Jordan.

Yes, the real difficulty is getting to the bottom of what the old teachings are.

My understanding of the mirror principle is the same as yours. And I think it works not only negatively, but when we are able to see some truth in a person's efforts that also reflects something true in us -- otherwise we couldn't see it in the other.

What I am trying to say about thinking is something very real. I may not be skillful in doing it, but I don't have any doubt about it on the basis of my actual experience. Gudo's attitude to postural re-education was totally feeling-based. Alexander clearly understood that such a direct approach doesn't work, that true postural re-education requires a standard other than feeling, which he called thinking.

Master Dogen also used the word thinking.

So what Master Dogen meant by thinking is the problem.

In Fukan-zazen-gi he wrote: Think that state beyond thinking.

Gudo wrote on his blog that this imperative refers not to Zazen itself, but to a time other than Zazen. That interpretation seems absurd to me. This is the critical part of Fukan-zazen-gi. It is the crucial instruction: THINK!

We have to get to the bottom of this old teaching.

Through Alexander work I understand that there are two kinds of thinking -- (1) thinking about, and
(2) thinking, volition, really wishing something. This is not, as Gudo keeps saying, "Alexander theory." This is what I realized from actual work and Zazen practice.

Gudo only understands the denial of (1). He doesn't understand the meaning of (2). This is the problem as I see it.

Does this make any sense to anyone?

Friday, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Jordan & The Tortoise said...

Mike, I have just finished reading Fukan-zazengi as if it were the first time. It is a treasure unto itself, thank you for making it available.

Your differences with master Nishajima make perfect sense to me. I hope you will understand if I choose to take a third position.

Sitting in balance in the mountain-still state, "Think the concrete state of not thinking." "How can the state of not thinking be thought?" "It is different from thinking." This is the secret of sitting-Zen.

When something arises in the mind, just wake up. Wake up and it will vanish. Forgetting involvements indefinitely, naturally become one piece. This is the secret of sitting-dhyana.

I noticed that there are hints to a lot of other scriptures within this text. I would like to know if you have put together a comprehensive list of the scriptures that seem to be pointed at here.


Friday, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Jordan.

I don't want anybody to take sides. I don't want anybody to follow Gudo's interpretation of Fukan-zazen-gi, much less my interpretation of Fukan-zazen-gi. I want to clarify the original intention of Fukan-zazen-gi itself, for both self and others.

We have two versions of Fukan-zazen-gi -- shinpitsu-bon (the original edition) and rufu-bon (the revised, or "popular" edition). If you check out my Fukan-zazen-gi blog you can find translations of both. My latest version of Fukan-zazen-gi rufu-bon is on my webpage at

Gudo doesn't like "sitting-meditation" as a translation of Zazen. That is my choice.

I agree with you that Fukan-zazen-gi is a real treasure. We should revere it more than anybody's interpretation of it.

Friday, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Aaron said...

Mike, It seems to me that if you truly have made a breakthrough in your practice, you'd be well contented with just KNOWING that you made a breakthrough.
But you seem to want to advertise your understandings.

...So you made a breakthrough in your practice. So what?

As my guru Steve has said, "nobody cares."

Mike, nothing could be more true, in my experience than this statement: "nobody cares," in regards to your practice. Nobody cares about your breakthroughs, your wonderful understandings, the spiritual heights you've reached, etc.

You care and that should be enough for you. If you are gaining understandings, if they are real, the understandings themselves should be enough.

Again, in my experience, the people with real knowledge are content and have nothing to prove. I seek them out because they so obviously have mastered areas in which I am struggling. They dont beat their chest and announce how amazing they are.

If you manifest these truths in your life, it will be far more powerful than intellectual spouting. If, on the other hand, you simply want to impress others, than I guess just living your understandings wouldnt be enough.

Friday, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Aaron, I appreciate that you take time out to keep reading my blog, and to think about me. But thinking about is not thinking. What I have been trying to draw attention to is this other kind of thinking that Alexander discovered, or re-discovered for the modern age -- to put it in the context of feeling, thinking, and action. At least to raise the question in people's minds.

Reflecting on what Jordan wrote about being worthy of people's respect... I really appreciate Jordan writing that. To show respect to a person who has shown you disrespect is the behaviour of a real man, I think, or a real mirror. Not an easy practice, but we are not in the business of easy practice. Thank you again, Jordan.

Sunday, January 21, 2007  
Blogger Aaron said...


Good points and well said. I only hope we can both continue to try and be one worthy of respect.

Jordan is clearly a great example of this, at least on the net.

Thanks Jordan.

Monday, January 22, 2007  
Blogger Jordan & The Tortoise said...


What I wrote about being worthy of respect, this came from the Buddha Vacana.

I was alluding to this when I said “I am a firm advocate that the old teachings have a place in our practices today.” I am not worthy of any praise for crafting the words, sorry for any confusion. They came up in my daily reading, and I felt it was fitting.

I hope this dose not diminish the teaching in any way for you.



I hope I live up to that praise in real-time,


Monday, January 22, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Aaron, Jordan.

The issue of respect has also been relevant in the falling out between Nishijima Roshi and me. When I began to advocate thinking in Zazen, Gudo Nishijima began to see me as a potential enemy of true Buddhism, which is not idealism but a way of action, and he acted accordingly. He moved decisively to protect the Shobogenzo translation from what he saw as the influence of “Alexander theory.” This caused me to feel slighted, insulted, disrespected, abused and it has been too difficult for me not to react accordingly.

What has been particulary difficult not to react to is the disrespect shown to me by the likes of Brad Warner, who I don’t remember meeting, and James Cohen, who I have never met. It infuriates me that those guys show disrespect to me who is their senior in Gudo’s order by many years. But, if the mirror principle is true, then what does my fury about lack of respect for seniority reveal? What it reveals is only my own fear -- for how can I be the real deal, how can I be an authentic successor to the samadhi of the ancestors, when I have so blatantly shown disrespect to my Buddhist master?

Probably I can’t be the real deal. The best I can do is to be a non-real deal, a non-Buddhist, non-thinking, non-monk; in short, a Zen bastard. A Zen bastard who clearly sees the role of thinking in Zazen -- within the triangular context of feeling, thinking, and action.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007  

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