Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Backround Notes to Practice: 2 - Tom Helsby Sensei

These Notes are to develop, broaden, and amplify our discussion. (Bunbu Ryodo)
I use the words and cases of giants as - the topic under discussion is deadly serious.
I am not wanting to be ambiguous, mysterious or put forth an entertaining medley; they “have stolen all my best ideas”; I am getting my own back; I am dyslexic and many words confuse but their brevity and poetry is purely, addictively inspiring.

“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts and lead you to read the author’s works.”
- W S Churchill

One engraved on my memory is the reply of Ch’an master Ta-wei when asked by master Hsiang-yen for help ”Unfortunately, I cannot say anything for you. Maybe later you would resent my having done so.” Beautiful. These expressions will need further interpretation, like also “not slandering the sky by looking at it through a pipe.”

Not hard if you actually hold it up to examination but you must examine these well. One that always makes me smile is:
This is standing by a stump waiting for a rabbit.

“This refers to a story of a man who saw a running rabbit happen to collide with a tree stump and die; the man took the rabbit for food, and, thinking to obtain another rabbit, he foolishly stood by the stump, waiting for it to catch another rabbit for him. This is used to describe those who cling to words or images, thinking them to be a source of enlightenment.”
- Thomas and J.C.Cleary The Blue Cliff Record Vol.1 p52 note h.

Shugyo: the deepest level of training in the Way.
“The everyday life of the patriarchs is nothing but drinking tea and eating rice.”

“This is not mere theory it is to be practiced.”
Shugyo is the highest possible spiritual training. Zen illustrates this as –
A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not depending upon letters,
Pointing directly to the Mind (literally “human mind”)
See into Nature itself and attain “Thusness”.

“This is the moment of our final destination, the ultimate goal of all creation,
the conclusion of all history and all life: and at the same time a step of the eternal process of life’s way. In the kitchen, at your work, wherever you are, you have arrived at your final goal. Intellectually you may think of some future tomorrows, but in reality, this encounter is our whole life. You are the way of true life and have nothing more to seek.”                        
- Hogen Yamahata

Rinzai’s “The True Man of No Rank” (Mu No Shinjin) when “Bodhi and Nirvana will be like hitching posts for asses.”

“This instant of revelation of reality, I do not understand it, nor do you, nor does anyone else. Not even the Buddha vision see it, so how can it be fathomed by human calculation.”           
- Dogen

It is the life of a genuine person, or individuated ego, working in the service of the Self in and through common, daily activities. Moving from an egocentric life (jiga) of Eros to Agape (jiko) our true original self. The classic dying of the old encumbered self, the dropping off of mind and body, to live magnanimously. This then is being in and through wisdom (prajna) and one pointed ness (samadhi) – no-mind (mu shin); no thought (mu nen); no-hindrance; ultimate transcendence and freedom in everything to share the Way.

“The Way is essentially perfect and exists everywhere. There is no need to seek or realise the Way. The Truth, which carries us along, is sovereign and does not require our efforts. Need I say that it excels this world? Who can say that the expedient of (mirror) wiping is necessary? Essentially the Truth is very close to you; is it then necessary to run around in search for it?

Even so, if there is the slightest error, there is a gulf as great as that between heaven and earth.”
- Zen Master Dogen - General Recommendations for Doing Zazen - Fukan Zazengi

The smallest creaturely image that ever forms in you is as great as God is great. Why? Because it comes between you and the whole of God. As soon as the image comes in, God and all Divinity have to give way. But as the image goes out, God goes in.
- Meister Eckhart

We only usually experience such a purgation of self when we are close to death, when the whole thing could turn to ashes in our mouths, when we have nothing left, no more strength, no more intellect, no more anyone to save us. Shugyo is this complete poverty, which is sought through years of austere purification practices (misogi). But this sanctity is the exact opposite of suicide and with regard to its excellence, it is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.
Mother Teresa call herself “God’s pencil stub” I cannot imagine Mother T putting it like the following but D. T. Suzuki considered “The Record of Rinzai is a book that should be regarded as one of the greatest analects of the Orient – no, of the whole world.” When you read this or look into the face of MT and do not laugh and cry you need to, want to, seek help to be beaten till you do. There is a saying that the lion’s roar will shatter the brains of little foxes. (fox spirits – don’t go all fluffy on me)

"Followers of the Way, you take the words that come out of the mouths of a bunch of old teachers to be a description of the true Way. You think, 'this is a most wonderful teacher and friend. I have only the mind of a common mortal, I would never dare to try to fathom such venerable ness.' Blind idiots! You go through life with this kind of understanding, betraying your own two eyes, cringing and faltering like a donkey on an icy road, saying, 'I would never dare speak ill of such a good friend, I'd be afraid of making mouth karma!'
Because it is the original wish of life: of Self realising itself. Because we need to breathe fresh air. Because there is no self-preservation and right now suffering cascades down from us doing nothing to a tidal wave of raw obscene violence that sweeps away all we hold dear and love. “Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?” Because you know!  Because it is thereby making us live in a state of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “Cheap grace” Christians should not take the consolation of Christianity without being prepared to accept the challenge of it. Because Rumi reminds us. Because “A prince is just a conceit until he does something with generosity.” And I pour contempt on all of my Pride.

Hogen (Daido) Yamahata points directly. “The problem is that we have not felt enough pain and awareness of our insensitivity to practice correctly. We urgently need to feel this.” So a lifetime of learning, or is it unlearning, a continuous prayer; watchfulness (nepsis - in the hesychia tradition). It goes deeper and deeper, from discursive thought or indeed any internal dialogue, to loosing oneself in action,
(ji-zanmai – limited samadhi),

A certain person asked what the state of samadhi was. Shozan unsheathed his sword and held it in the seigan no kamae (the middle position) and said, “Well, do you understand? If you understand this, it is the easiest way for a samurai to achieve samadhi. That is so, but why can’t the samurai understand Zen? Because when they lay their swords down, the state of samadhi is lost.”
- Suzuki Shozan from Omori Sogen The Art of a Zen Master

Any gnosis to a continuous state of  oo-zanmai (the great samadhi) which is one’s “Birthright” every individual posses from the very beginning, belonging to no one else. Each person contains a boundless treasure within do not be one who always counts another person’s treasure. Give up the old ways of enmity and fear.

“The intellect sees neither itself nor anything else in a material way. On the contrary it is often drawn away even from its own senses by the light acting within it: for now it grows immaterial and filled with spiritual radiance.”
- St Gregory of Sinai

To appreciate it’s relevance in the martial sense, not that with Bunbu Ittoku we should make any distinction, please read Takuan’s Letter to Yagyu Tajima No Kami Munenori on The Mystery of Prajna Immoveable. (p 95 D. T. Suzuki’s Zen and Japanese Culture or William Scott Wilson’s “The Unfettered Mind”)

O Sensei would say that practice is misogi to ”settle the spirit and collect the mind” (Chinkon-kishin) There are many techniques, but all must match with the principles of the Universe. All techniques that do not blend with the truth of the Universe return to destroy one’s own body. This is because these are martial techniques that cannot be linked to the Universe and are, thus, not the Take of Take-Musu  Aiki (Infinite Martial Creation of Aiki) to “return to the Divine” (kishin) is “to repose in the holiness of life”
Read John Steven’s “The Essence of Aikido” and look deeply into the pictures.

The Zen master Yuan-chih (Ta-an) of Chang-ching Hall in Fu country once addressed the monks in the Dharma hall: “For thirty years I live on Mt. Wei and during that time I ate the monastery’s rice and gave it back in the latrine.  I did not learn the Zen of Master Wei-shan. All I did was raise a water buffalo. When he wandered from the path into the grass, I pulled him back: when he ran amuck in someone’s garden, I chastised him with a whip. Now he has been tame for some time. Unfortunately, he use to pay too much attention to what people said, but now, however, he has become a pure white domesticated bull. He is always right in front of me wherever I am, dazzling white all day long, and even if I try to drive him away he will not go.” We should pay careful attention to this story. The thirty years of arduous practice with the patriarch (Wei-shan) consisted of eating rice, and there was no other consideration. When you realise the meaning of the life of eating rice, you will also understand the deep meaning of raising the buffalo bull. Dogen’s Shobogenzo Kajo “Everyday life”

“You have to live your Love or else you’ll only end in words.”
- Rumi

This life of Eating and Shitting is not mere theory….

“Whatever man is desirous to attain skill in any art, unless he observes the rules and orders of the best masters of that work or science, is indulging in a vain hope to reach by idle wishes any similarity to those whose pains and diligence he avoids copying.” John Cassian, Christian monk (ca. 360-440)

A man who is not at peace with himself necessarily projects his interior fighting into the society of those he lives with, and spreads a contagion of conflict all around him.

Our being is not to be enriched merely by activity or experience as such. Everything depends on the quality of our acts and our experiences. A multitude of badly performed actions and of experiences only half-lived exhausts and deplete our being. By doing things badly we make ourselves less real. This growing unreality cannot help but make us unhappy and fill us with a sense of guilt. But the purity of our conscience has a natural proportion with the depth of our being and the quality of our acts: and when our activity is habitually disordered, our malformed conscience can think of nothing better to tell us than to multiply the quantity of our acts, without perfecting their quality. And so we go from bad to worst, exhaust ourselves, empty our whole life of all content, and fall into despair.
- Thomas Merton “No Man is an Island” p108

 “Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.”
- Abba Moses, one of the early Desert Fathers of Egypt.

To be continued….