Monday, February 05, 2007


Gudo Nishijima never taught me to preach peace and compassion. Never. James Cohen is pursuing his own agenda.

Gudo Nishijima never taught me to preach peace and compassion. Never. He taught me to study the slaughterbench/twirling-flower of world history, and not to be idealistic.

Gudo Nishijima taught me, above all, to study what action is, in Zazen. He taught me, having studied what action is, to stop worrying and act.

In this blog I have been endeavoring to clarify for self and others the fundamental meaning of feeling, thinking, and action. Are there any questions?


Blogger siapac said...

who do you think you are kidding old boy.. you are as idealistic as they come. anyone a little less so would make more of an effort to get along with his buddhist peers and not be such a prick. everytime you tell someone to fuck-off you are really saying "I am attached to my beliefs and will not compromise them."

Monday, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, siapac, for making the effort to keep reading my blog.

Are there any questions?

Monday, February 05, 2007  
Blogger siapac said...

Yes, Thank you Mike. I have a question. Do you think there is any value in reciting the Poem of the Five Reflections. If so, what would that value be?

Monday, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Pete, an ordinary bloke. said...

Master Dogen’s exhorts us to “become free of the intention to achieve” and yet promises that “ If you practice the ineffable for a long time, you will be ineffable. The treasure-house will open naturally, and you will receive and use it as you like”?
How can I become free of intention with such a promise in the back of my mind?
For the lazy and confused like me is there any hope of the door opening natuarlly?

Dazed and Confused

Monday, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you for your question, siapac.

For example, when teacher and student recite out load before eating a meal together, the teacher's voice transmits to the student a sense of how open and free the teacher's body is, and vice versa. It might have to do with the principle of sympathetic resonance, or perhaps to do with the principle that empty vessels make a greater volume of sound.

Monday, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, OB Pete.

I'm not sure if Master Dogen exhorts us to become free of the intention to achieve. He describes the subtle method of Zazen as MU-I, free of the intention to achieve, or free of doing, spontaneous. And he exhorts us to revere a person who is MU-I, free of the intention to achieve, free of doing, spontaneous.

I think it might be more accurate to understand the freedom expressed by MU-I as something that exists a priori -- our original state. So it is not so much a question of becoming it. More a question of having confidence in it -- having confidence that beneath what you feel to be laziness and confusion there is your true original state of being like a dragon that found water, or like a tiger before its mountain stronghold. So it is not so much a question of becoming something; more a question of dropping off what does not originally belong to us, in order to manifest what is usually hidden from us.

ONOZUKARA means naturally and at the same time "by itself" or "spontaneously."

Last week I racked four gallons of cider that I made last autumn. To do that I siphoned the cider from one gallon jar on a table to another gallon jar on the floor. To initiate that process I sucked on one end of a plastic tube (enjoying a quick mouthful of half-fermented cider in the process). Then, without doing anything, I watched the seeming miracle of cider spontaneously flowing upwards out of the higher gallon jar, before flowing down again into the lower gallon jar.

These kind of spontaneous processes really exist in the miracles of nature which are all around us and all within us. They seem to defy our habitual conceptions. I think that appreciating the wonder of this, may be part of what Master Dogen means when he says “If you get this point, you are like a dragon finding water.”

I think that what Gudo Nishijima calls “action” is properly understood as a spontaneous process, different from the habitual over-exertion which arises out of our unreliable feelings and thoughts. We generally think that we are going through life performing actions. But a moment of truly spontaneous action -- maybe a cry of katsu, or the striking of a wooden board with a mallet -- might not be, after all, such a common event.

Probably it is when we feel we are at the end of our tether -- when we think “Sod it! I give up!” -- that we get closest to truly allowing it to happen.

Understanding this, and thinking, in this light, “Sod it! I give up!”, unfortunately, does not work at all.

Monday, February 05, 2007  
Blogger siapac said...

Mike - Thank you. I have another question. Could you give me your understanding on the four kinds of wisdom spoken of in Master Dogen's Shushogi? Please be as expansive as you can afford.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you for your question, Siapac.

I have never studied Shushogi. My intention was to translate it, along with various other works, in cooperation with Gudo Nishijima after we crossed the finishing line on the Shobogenzo translation. But that never happened.

The other day I followed the link on Dogen Sangha blog to Shobogenzo on, and read some of the reviews there. People write of the Nishijima translation, which is fair enough. He was the original driving force, and he was in charge throughout -- the editor-in-chief.

Really, it was a joint effort. But the actual work of translation was my job. Gudo’s job lay primarily on the interpretation side. That one reviewer praises Gudo for making the translation literal, to anybody who knows the real situation, is laughable. That was my job.

I translated Shobogenzo for Gudo Nishijima as a service to his lineage of buddhas, as a kind of Buddhist practice. When he stopped that process, I stopped.

Whatever translation energy I have left over, I have focused into polishing the Nishijima-Cross translation of Fukan-zazen-gi Rufu-bon, believing that everything that needs to be written about Zazen is written there. You can find the latest version on my web-page at I regard it as just a continuation of the Nishijima-Cross translation process, but nowadays Gudo asks me not to include his name. In that case, I wonder: Whose name should I add as the translator? If I write “translated by Mike Cross,” that might be a kind of lie.

The above is all stuff that Zazen invites me to transcend. To that extent it is the raw material of my practice, for which I should be grateful.

Worrying, feeling, and doing, are all very much tied up with each other. Thinking is the key to springing free from all that. It is out of this wisdom that the Zazen decision is made -- the decision symbolized by Manjsuri’s sword. It the decision not to do but to be. It is the decision to act.

So far, as a result of innumerable wrong decisions I have made since my Zazen life began in earnest 25 years ago, I have understood only this one kind of wisdom.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007  

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