Saturday, May 26, 2007

Errata (2): Confession

When we receive the bodhisattva precepts, we do prostrations and practice confession.

Doing prostrations, I have no doubt, can be a big help in vestibular re-training. I have no doubt because a few years ago I guided an anonymous reader of this blog, a vipassana devotee and Alexander teacher, through a reflex inhibition programme that was based almost solely on bowing work. The experiment seemed to be successful -- although if it had been more successful, at least from my point of view, the man in question might now be more than an anonymous reader of this blog.

For the confession, we recite four lines. In Japanese, they are:

GA = I
SHAKU = in the past
SHO = object particle
ZO = committed
SHO = many, various
AKU = bad
GO = acts
"The many bad acts committed by me in the past,"

KAI = all
YU = stem from
MUSHI = [times] without beginning
DON = greed
JIN = anger
CHI = stupidity, delusion
"All have stemmed since times without beginning from greed, anger and delusion."

When I reflect back on what seem to me to have been my most serious mistakes, the karmic deeds whose ripples I still feel most keenly today, especially in the period between waking and sitting, bodily passions have played their part, but I see increasingly clearly that the real reason why, for example, I cheated on the woman I loved, was delusion: I was lost, disoriented, had no sense of a true direction, had no wide and true perspective in which to see things.

So, yes, it had to do with imbalance in the autonomic nervous system; but more than that, I now believe, it had to do with vestibular dysfunction.

I still feel lost, disoriented, and lacking a true sense of direction. For example, where am I going now with this blog? I have no idea. I just seem to blunder on day by day.

When I was working in earnest on the Shobogenzo translation, tough though it was, persevering with that work had a true direction in it, which was a kind of salvation to me. But since I stopped work on the Shobogenzo translation, ten years ago now, in 1997, I seem to have been guilty of a tremendous amount of aimless wandering.

The only difference between my being lost 30 years ago and being lost now is that recently I do see increasingly clearly that being lost is at root a vestibular problem. And vestibular problems do tend to run in the Cross family -- giving rise to the recognized phenomena in Ireland and Wales of "the Cross temper," and the interesting fact that, despite being a leading member in his youth of his school rugby and cricket teams (games generally played with the eyes open), my father, when I tested his tonic labyrinthine reflex with his eyes closed, fell over at once.


The many bad acts committed by me in the past,
All have stemmed since times without beginning from greed, anger and delusion.
They were done with body, mouth, and mind.
I now totally confess and repent them all.


Blogger Jordan & The Tortoise said...

Once again I feel compelled to say,
I appreciate your efforts.

I was looking for the translation of the confession yesterday. I had to make an apology for my own bad behavior. I will save it this time.


Saturday, May 26, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Jordan. Again I am heartened by your bothering to read this blog, which must be one of many Zen blogs out there. It feels good to be listened to and appreciated.

Apparently there is an old gypsy curse: "May you get into an argument in which you know you are right."

When I was about 18 months old I suffered from "testicular torsion," which, judging from my medical records, was mis-diagnosed by a locum as mumps. After a day or so, the testicle must have atrophied and my cries must have subsided. But crying out some message to which no-one listens is a pattern of suffering I know well.

So, again, thank you for listening.

To add an after-thought on confession, it is all very well reciting the words DON-JIN-CHI, greed, anger and delusion. But what I have been endeavoring to clarify (ever since I used to suffer from panic reactions brought on, for example, by the approach of a girl on the school bus) is how the three are originally part of the same thing -- i.e. the so-called Moro reflex.

Grasping, anger, and vestibular dysfunction are originally three aspects of one immature reaction to a stimulus that is perceived as threatening.

How to spring the body free of this unholy trinity is the original koan in sitting-Zen practice. Hence Master Dogen's teaching that if we get this point, becoming like a dragon that found water, then we need not bother with prostrations, reciting or confession; because, in just sitting, we have already got it from the beginning.

When we begin to understand in these terms the original fearful reaction, along with all its subtle compensatory offshoots, that "just sitting" is not, then we begin to see what a challenging and demanding practice "just sitting" is.

"Keeping the spine straight vertically" doesn't begin to capture the subtlety of it. What a grotesque, tragic-comic oaf I was in pursuit of that teaching. A dream hero tripping on a banana skin.

To err is human, someone said. But I find it difficult to forgive, either Gudo or myself.

Sunday, May 27, 2007  

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