Sunday, July 22, 2007

Talking 'Bout a Revolution

In 1244 Master Dogen wrote:

"Bodily sit in the full lotus posture.
Mentally sit in the full lotus posture.
Dropping off body and mind, sit in the full lotus posture."

He wrote further:
"There is sitting with the mind, which is not the same as sitting with the body. There is sitting with the body, which is not the same as sitting with the mind. And there is sitting as body and mind dropping off, which is not the same as sitting as body and mind dropping off."

For 750 years nobody clearly understood the real meaning of these words.

What I experienced in 1994, after thirteen years of hardcore Zen, was a complete revolution in my approach to sitting-zen.

From "Don't think; just do!" to "Don't just do; think!"

From "oneness of body-mind" to "psycho-physical integration."
The same thing except totally opposite.

For the past thirteen years I have been struggling to make sense of it. And gradually I have made sense of it.

In years to come, people will write books, make TV programmes, build bloody statues, to celebrate the revolution about which I am talking. But for the time being there isn't one person who truly understands what the hell I am on about.

I am not worthy of it -- of that I have no doubt. And yet,
Master Dogen's Shobogenzo belongs totally to me.

Anybody heard any good jokes recently?


Blogger Mike Cross said...

Andrew’s friend (the cross between a Jehovah’s Witness and a Buddhist) knocks on a front door. A little boy in a cowboy outfit opens the door.

“Is your mother in?” asks Andrew’s friend.

“Mum!” shouts the little boy, “There’s someone at the door.”

“Ask him what he wants,” yells the mother from the kitchen.

“Absolutely nothing!” interjects Andrew’s friend enthusiastically.

”Tell him to bugger off,” shouts the mother.

Undeterred, Andrew’s friend knocks on the door of the next house along. Again, a little boy opens the door, this time dressed in high heels, stockings and suspenders, holding a cigar in one hand and a glass of brandy in the other.

“Is your mother in?” asks Andrew’s friend.

The little boy pauses, looks down into his brandy glass, looks up, and says, “What the fuck do you think?”

Sunday, July 22, 2007  
Blogger Drew said...

No jokes, just a joke of a question:

Is to ‘relinquish all views’ the same as ‘to think the state of non-thinking’?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

That question, Drew, is no joke. It is a bloody good one.

In ancient China Master Yakusan was actually sitting in the lotus posture, in stillness without fixity. A monk asked him: "What are you thinking in the still-still state?" Yakusan replied: "Thinking the state of not thinking."

That Chinese monk's question, also, was a bloody good one. The monk knew that Master Yakusan's sitting was not simply a matter of blind physical doing. He wanted to ask about the other side, the mental side. He wanted to see both the form and the non-form of the Master's practice. That attitude of the Chinese monk deserves to be praised and should not be overlooked, because, as Master Dogen teaches in Shobogenzo, to see both form and non-form is just to meet Gautama himself.

In reply, Master Yakusan expressed his intentional effort to relinquish all views.

This point, also, should not be overlooked. So-called Zen masters of today only see intention in sitting-zen as something to be got rid of. But I am telling you that Master Yakusan expressed his intention to relinquish all views, and the buddhas of the three times are all applauding me.

Ultimately, however, the relinquishing of all views might not be only the mental intention to relinquish all views; it might be a total body-mind happening; it might be spontaneous flow itself.

So the relation between "thinking the state of not thinking" and "relinquishing all views" might be like that between intentional effort and spontaneous flow.

"Thinking the state of not thinking" might be like a person priming a pump, and "relinquishing all views" might be like water, once the pump has been primed by intentional human effort, spontaneously flowing up and down.

Again, "thinking the state of not thinking" might be like a person lighting a fire, and "relinquishing all views" might be like firewood, once it has been lit by intentional human effort, spontaneously burning.

There again, "thinking the state of not thinking" might be like an angler dangling out a fly all day long. If such a person announced to the world "I am only dangling out a fly on a hook. I have no intention or expectation of catching any fish," then he would not really be an angler, only a fly-dangler. But as long as he really intends to catch a fish, he is a true angler -- even if he fails to get a bite. Whether or not he gets a bite, because his intention to catch a fish is real, he is still an angler angling.

To put it another way relinquishing all views is what Gudo calls "the second enlightenment" -- what Gautama practiced and experienced under the bodhi tree. But even we today who are mostly blind to Gautama's wisdom, by sitting in the lotus posture, head shaved and wearing the traditional robe, can manifest the real and true intention to relinquish all views. If the intention is real and true, this also is a kind of enlightenment -- "the first enlightenment."

So the answer to your bloody good question might be both: No! and Yes!

What Alexander work rather shockingly demonstrated to me is how blind I am to my own intentions. While subscribing intellectually to the principle of relinquishing all views, in my dodgy-vestibular-governed reality I cling to old views with an iron grip!

Even if we sit in the full lotus posture, shave our head, and wear the traditional robe, we cannot take the first enlightenment for granted. The intention to relinquish all views has to be real, and it may need to be guarded as such -- because we human beings are so easily prone to become unreal. In instructing us, in his dying breaths, to remain vigilant, I think that Gautama was exhorting us to keep our intention real.

The longer I go on writing about it, the more and more serious it all seems. Heard any good jokes recently? Did you hear the one about the foolish non-monk who spent two hours typing into a computer screen and forgot to eat his breakfast?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007  

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