Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dropping Off the Middle Way

Ultimately, in pursuing stillness without fixity, there may be muddy forest tracks, steep stairways, and long and winding roads, but there is no such path as the middle way.

The tendency to fix, in contrast, is tangible, concrete, real and ever present. All I have to do is tell myself: Sit still!, and there he is -- my old friend Fixity, born of fear, my one truly constant companion, stiff-necked and narrow-backed, always inviting me to get to know him.

Fixity, born of fear, is the Zen disease. I hope that I am one of those sufferers who, in small increments, sees it more clearly.

In his true-Dharma-eye treasury, Gautama Buddha bequeathed to us a conscious means of waking up to blind fixing, and an open invitation to spring free from fear. That is my strong conviction.

When Jeff Bailey left Gudo and returned to the US nearly 20 years ago, I was afraid that my behaviour might have been a factor in Jeff’s decision, and I phoned Jeff up to express my concern. Jeff assured me that it was not so. “Sensei is a closed system,” Jeff told me then.

I did not accept Jeff’s conclusion, and I still do not accept it. Gudo is a human being. He is not a closed system. He is an open human system, who has a very strong will to the truth, but at the same time a strong wrong tendency to be fixed in his views. Jeff’s conclusion seemed to me to be defeatist and at odds with the fundamental bodhisattva vow. I took a different view: To the extent that Gudo had wisdom to teach me, I would endeavor to learn from him. To the extent that my understanding was more clear than Gudo’s, I would endeavor to teach him. That is the viewpoint that I have maintained for more than 20 years. To say that I have changed direction in recent times is not true.

This blog, which was instigated as a response to Gudo’s opening of Dogen Sangha blog, has been part of my effort to teach Gudo. I have tried to clarify what the wrong unconscious tendency is that I know from bitter experience exists in Gudo’s sitting-zen teaching -- the tendency to fix. I expected that, if I could succeed in this, although I may never forgive Gudo for killing our translation partnership, reconciliation between us might be possible. Gudo’s decision might then naturally follow, like day following night, to make me his successor, in accordance with his intention all those years ago.

I seem to have failed totally and utterly. Still, as a result of my stupid efforts over the last couple of years, something has become much more clear to me. I have become more aware than I was before of a wrong unconscious tendency in me. In my holding of strong views about the origin and stopping of fixity, and in my fearful and sometimes bullying attempts to uphold and propogate those views, I tend not to flow; I tend to fix.

Anybody heard any good jokes recently?






Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you are deep in Zazen are those views still held?

Who holds them?

How does holding strong fixed views fit with the path of relinquishing all views?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

To be “deep in Zazen” does not ring a bell with my actual experience of sitting-zen. “Deep in Zazen” is a phrase like “deep in thought” or “deep in meditation.” There is no such phrase as “deep in sitting.” So I think your question might signal an understanding of what sitting-zen is that leaves scope for growth.

The views I hold are held by me, Mike Cross. Incidentally, I notice something very interesting as I write this answer. I want to bully you, MikeDoe, whoever you are. I want to angrily put you down, for trying to be too clever. I want to use all my power, as a Buddhist Patriarch in the lineage of Master Dogen, to intimidate you. I want to abuse you like Gudo abused me. However, now that I see that tendency for what it is, and see from whence it came, I will stop following it, just here and now. Furthermore, I solemnly vow that for the rest of my life, I shall endeavor not to be a Zen bully at all. I shall endeavor to stop the cycle in my lifetime.

Marjory Barlow’s words that “being wrong is the best friend we have got in this work” are so profound. When we begin to understand Marjory’s intention, it inspires a revolution in our attitude to practice. What Marjory showed me, not only with dry philosophy, but with her loving hands and loving voice, with her whole being as “an enlightened witness,” was the true meaning of Master Dogen’s teaching of polishing a tile. In short, don’t worry your little self about life on the far shore of relinquishing all views. Just investigate the relationship between two good friends with whom you are already swimming -- holding onto wrong conceptions and fixing in your joints. In short, don’t try to be right, which you are not. Really get into being wrong, which, most fortunately for a sitting-zen practitioner, you already are.

From now on, if you would like to talk about sitting-zen, let us frame the discussion with reference to Master Dogen’s rules of sitting-zen, and let us do it on my Fukan-zazen-gi blog. This blog is already just ancient history.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I chose my words with care and I choose not to reiterate trite phrases. I could have written "when body and mind have dropped off are those views still held?" that would have been a more accurate question but it would have elicited a different emotional response and it would require me to assume that you have a practial understanding of "body and mind dropping off" and of that I am not the least bit certain.

It's interesting that you don't answer the questions. It's even more interesting that you've missed the point of all 3 questions for really there were not 3 questions but one question phrased differently.

"Too Clever" is a term that suggests that you are not unhappy with the questions but the originator. That you have been challenged in some way.

Unfortunately, you do not get to choose how I behave. That is the desire of a bully who is afraid of a world that is outside of his control.

Master Dogen did not publish a set of rules but a set of guidelines. There is a difference and the difference is crucial.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

If anyone has any questions on Master Dogen's rules of sitting-zen, I would like to try to answer them, with as much clarity as I can muster, on my Fukan-zazengi blog.

Thank you.

Over and out.

Thursday, August 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thursday, August 30, 2007  
Blogger Gregor said...

Stuck in the past?

Saturday, September 01, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Nobody can get stuck in what does not exist. But people do get stuck, actually, because of their fear that does exist.

According to the mirror principle, we see and sometimes we criticize in others a tendency which we fear in ourselves. It is not necessarily a tendency which we actually have -- it is a tendency we fear we have. The mirror principle is all about denial, all about fear, all about projecting our own inner demons onto others.

Hence James Cohen worries about other people not keeping the precepts. Hence Gudo suspects Michael Luetchford, who served him for 30 years, of being a divisive political operator. Hence Gudo suspects me, who served him for 25 years, of being out to adulterate the Buddha’s teaching with Western intellectual knowledge. Hence I get angry with tools that don’t work properly, with pieces of equipment that fail to do the job they were designed to do.

Worry, suspicions, anger... all offshoots of fear, all examples of the mirror principle at work.

The fundamental motivation of this blog was my desire to be named as Gudo’s successor. But in the end there was no reconciliation, no middle way between us. At some point in the last two years Gudo perceived and Gudo wrote that he and I “crossed the rubicon.”

Gudo is stuck in a view about the autonomic nervous system. He is a man against himself. A man against himself -- that is what you get when a man is taught to pull his chin back forcibly into his neck. That’s how Kodo Sawaki, in his younger days, taught Gudo to sit. And that is how Gudo taught me to sit. You see, it is not a minor technical issue. It is the crux of the whole problem -- how to wear the head in sitting-zen. Or rather, how NOT to wear the head in sitting-zen.

Accepting and using the self are never only autonomic functions. The theory of the autonomic nervous system is just Western intellectual knowledge which is irrelevant to Master Dogen’s original teaching. Alexander’s discoveries, in contrast, about how NOT to fix the head, are absolutely vital, and I will never back down in saying so. Not for the sake of being named as Gudo’s successor. Not for anything. What FM Alexander discovered is too valuable. I am sticking to what Alexander discovered and what Alexander taught, which is not a viewpoint, but a conscious means-whereby.

Gudo is stuck in a viewpoint because when he practices sitting-zen he fixes his head down onto his spine, just as he was taught, wrongly, by Kodo Sawaki. Just that. I have the same bad habit as Gudo. But I am, I hope, the one who sees it. Because Gudo cannot see it, I am endeavoring, as freely as I possibly can, to move on. Letting go of this blog is part of that endeavor.

If you ask me on my Fukan-zazengi blog a question on the meaning of Fukan-zazengi, I will do my utmost to answer your question as clearly and truly as I can. That is the job that, here and now, I sincerely want to do, for anybody with a sincere question.

For example, you might want to ask me about the words NEN OKOREBA SUNAWACHI KAKUSE YO, “If a thought arises, just instantly wake up!”

Sunday, September 02, 2007  
Blogger Gregor said...


Thank you for the response to my question. I will follow up at your Fukanzazengi blog, for an explanation of head position issue. I would like to apologize if my question seemed trite or judgmental, I did not intend for it to be so. I had just gotten the impression that were very upset about things that have occurred. From your answer I can tell you are looking to move forward. I think your decision to abandon this blog seems to be a natural step in that direction.

take care,


Sunday, September 02, 2007  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

No problem Gregor.

Through the 1980s I never hesitated to throw anything I liked at Gudo, thinking that a true Zen master should be able to handle anything without any problem.

What goes around comes around!

Sunday, September 02, 2007  

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