Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Stink of Enlightenment

There was once a man who liked pictures of dragons, and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affection for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window.

It is said that he died of fright. Hagakure

This is not mere theory it is to be practised…

The Art of War opens “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life and death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.” This study is of fundamental passions; bridled and unbridled, orthodox and unorthodox but is, lest we forget, as much to do with life and humanity as about death and enmity. It is certainly forthright and pragmatic but above all needs to be Truthful as it affects and connects all people, always. For that which is genuine has a “resonance” that echoes through time and space; it chimes with strange people, in strange places; it quickens the pulse and invigorates the artist to create Art anew. So how can we, with our urbane lives possibly apply such dynamic, for it cannot be merely acted out? Well, that always depends on you, on how serious you are, how careful and determined you are in what you say and do and choose, how much love you can exercise, how sincere. For famed aphorisms, your practice mean nothing if we have not tasted bitter. You only truly know why, the forms are the way they are, the principles so urgent, when you get it wrong. Experience that terrible, terrible draining sensation of losing it. And that is why you respect your Teacher, your Guide, your Friend. And that is how your Teacher, your Guide, your Friend respects you, because we share the Way. Why we have such powerful words as commiseration and compassion because people do not forget one another. We should have shame if we forget, or do not practice, or have the courage to simply stand up. We should, must establish “watchfulness” as a building block of any self-respect and society. But all these words may be too grand, too much, over inflation of the self for there are those that say that those that know do not speak, which is true, for a number of good reasons, but if you find someone who always prattles this out, ask him or her for an answer right now! Or, watch and see how long, to what depth, how golden their silence is? If they say, that because of “nothing”, nothing matters, then introduce them to our Friend Rinzai and watch him beat the living daylights out him or her. Don’t let fools bamboozle you and steal your precious life but also you do not waste this time. So find something that “you” love, which has meaning for you, that inspires and moves you. Study it extensively, inquire accurately, think carefully, sift it clearly, practise it earnestly and learn to live, by the living. This is not the droppings of old sages, this is about life, the courage of your convictions and how ultimately you realise this world.

Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice. St Mark the Monk

We are great fools. “He has spent his life in idleness,” we say; “I have done nothing today.” What, have you not lived? That is not only the fundamental but also the most illustrious of your occupations. “If I had been placed in a position to manage great affairs, I would have shown what I can do.” Have you been able to think out and manage your own life? You have done the greatest task of all. …

To compose our character is our duty, not to compose books, and to win, not battles and provinces, but order and tranquillity in our conduct. Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live appropriately. Montaigne

We need a guide not a wet nurse. There is a real and ever present danger, and we may be shaky but that is the raison d’etre of practice. You will need to be able to take (a hell of) a lot in any fight, as it is “always a close run thing”. But all the practices, all the centring, enables us to “calm down” to become quiet and thereby develop, enjoy, our greatest ability to “Listen”- to “Receive”. True listening is always fresh, wonderfully, fragrantly fresh as it is without prejudice or intention, with “no mind” or no ego. We do not know, we do not get this enlightenment; it gets us; but this is not mere theory. So we stop and through rest and rust forget that we are participants in, we partake, of Life.

Do small things well. Be there in the very next thing you do. Be interested, be concerned, be absorbed, be happy because if not now, when? Sincerity rings, there are, of course there bloody well are, wake up, bells of mindfulness ringing true from genuine people and praxis. This is no game, and you must navigate your own course; be careful, like one fording a river in winter. Have courage, we are not alone, and our Friends are magnanimous souls, with whom we share the way. Be quiet, and active; enjoy the thrill when the wind blows through and Al-Ghazali reminds us “tasting is the way to certitude.”

You make the soup, taste the soup, make it again and again, no magic, no secret technique, with love and listening you make the best food that you can, proper food to feed yourself, your family, the world. Each day, in everyway renew. “Self knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” Krishnamurti. Takuan reminds us not to “stop” at any thing. “Grace, is never a stationary thing, it is always found in a becoming.” Eckhart, Mencius, “When travelling to a distant place: one must start from the nearest point.” And I am sure that you must know a thousand more, for the truth is not bound by tongues. But if you do not say who will, if you do not bear witness, who else “if not now, when?” Hillel. The various ways form a continuous “living out” of this whole being. Their forms and principles are like the two wings of a bird; but their subtlety that is only experience when one is without desire. “Radiant Aiki is not your own strength or technical skill. Rather it is the child of a generative union with the Universe.” This however takes a diligence in practice that very few can achieve, the rest of us give it thought now and then and then there are those who simply laugh out loud at such cautiousness and effort. But that is OK. “You must examine this well. ”

“Eternally chained to only one single little fragment of the whole, Man himself grew to only being a fragment…he never develops the harmony of his being, and instead of imprinting humanity upon his nature he becomes merely the imprint of his occupation, of his science.” Schiller

But study without practice, reading without reflection; understanding, is called “counting the treasures of another without having a penny of one’s own.”

In the East it is not strange for a person to walk the way with a Confucian cap, Taoist robes and Buddhist sandals. The Person cannot be separate from the “Way”, and its attendant “Virtue” and Learning’s sole concern is to go after the heart that has strayed. That is all. So seek and you will get it; let it go and you will loose it. The “ways” point to a continuous Body, Mind and Spirit and are constructed and tested, desired, by reality. Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you forget the words. “But where can I find someone who has forgotten words so I can have a word with them?”

The “ways” don’t chatter. Their Form supports, informs, reflects the Intelligence and Spirit. The Intelligence supports, informs, reflects the Spirit and Forms. The Spirit supports, informs, reflects in the Intelligence and Form. Like clay that is shaped into a vessel it opens into Emptiness into Nothingness. O Sensei’s “It is with the sincerity of our Breath, instead of a sword, that we sweep this world Clean.” This is not mere theory.

You must examine this well.

Merely to have Zen realisation is not enough unless we make it practically effective in life. Merely talking about water will not satisfy our thirst, nor will talking about fire make us warm. Both Buddhism and Confucianism explain what the mind is, but unless it is made to shine in our daily life, we cannot be said to have a realisation of its truth. The main thing is to meditate on it all the time, trying to realise it in yourself.


So what do I know? “Que sais-je?” “A life unexamined is not worth living.” And one-day a real dragon will appear and there is nowhere you can hide; you imaging you can fight, you want to fight but there is no conceivable way to fight and nowhere to run to. We come to realise the value of our practice of our lives and know for the first time “True Budo begins and ends in Reigiho.”

By this practice, and it is only through practice, we will know the root; we will arrive at the place where we began and thereby renew ourselves every day in every way. This “Winning means winning over the mind of discord in yourself.” This practice reflects Harmony in Body, Mind and Spirit. It reflects Reverence in Body, Mind and Spirit. It reflects Purity in Body, Mind and Spirit. It reflects Tranquillity in Body, Mind and Spirit. It is nothing special, but something really quite special, it is “The art of Tea Way consists of boiling water, preparing tea and drinking it.” Sincerity means no self-deception and so in Aikido we must be critical of our “self” and so constantly thank partners for the giving of themselves to such a halfhearted slovenly effort. This shame it is akin to the courage it takes to continue to try. You must examine this well!

Understanding is now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is for the lazy mind, the sluggish mind, the mind that is not interested. Krishnamurti

The Bu (martial) practised “cruel war” all out aggression; the only consideration, winning. To enter directly, without hesitation, with high moral, wins many a day; this determination was the complete demonstration of the virility of the Bushi. Survival, and honour, was dependant on leaving no “opening” in Body, Mind or Spirit. The morality of their art was in its accuracy. After hundreds of years of war came hundreds of years of regime repression. But for a “body” to survive and have any real enduring strength and depth it needs to establish and cultivate its balance. Sincerity is apparent, in always, now and everlasting, has no sides, can’t fall over. The Bun (Learning) of the Warrior, for the majority of that class, was the practiced of the Confusion Relationships and the Five Virtues - Humanity, Righteousness, Propriety, Wisdom and Faithfulness. He was not insensitive but his “Duty”, verified by generations of bloodshed, demanded constant vigilance, the keeping in mind always of their position.

To let go the requirements of the ideal means not only to diminish the possibility of perfection, but to make an end to the ideal itself. The ideal that has power is not an ideal invented by someone, but the ideal that everyone carries in their soul. Only this ideal of complete infinite perfection has power, and stimulates action. A moderate perfection loses its power over influencing hearts. Tolstoy

But we seem to fall, in today’s apparent western ease, to an old enemy; one the “noetic warriors” of the Philokalic tradition knew well and called Arcedia. Arcedia is a state of listlessness; listlessness to such an extent that we do not even care that we do not care anymore. “It is a vice that makes us hate what is good and shrink from the only virtues that can save us.” We do not care because hardly anything is going to jump out a bite us. So we have lost sight of the value of our lives, stopped up our nous, abandoned our soul. What was it for that this clay grew tall? Never mind someone else will explain it to us. It doesn’t care because it doesn’t care. These warriors where also instructed, as with the Samurai, to keep from morning to night the remembrance of death as an indispensable practice. This enabled the warrior to discard cares and vanities, guard the intellect, enhancing the unique value of each moment of time and so concentrate themselves on their Lord. It is those who have learnt that to die means also not living like as a slave, are then open to fresh energy and vision, can fulfil their duty; a joyous life. But remember, if you have narrow vision, you have narrow courage and you slander this life, this potential, by looking at it through a pipe. You must examine this well.

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. Dr. Johnson.

It takes a lot, remember, be serious, remember, love, remember, to listen, remember, to receive, remember, sincerely, remember, please, remember, because the ferocity of the world is not consigned to some distant past, remember, lest we forget, remember, commiseration, remember, humanity is humanity, remember, always, remember, what is done, remember, what left,

remember, in your name, remember, what you enjoy, remember, truly, remember, not to stop, remember, each one, remember, we need each one, remember, how we are strong, remember, yourself, remember, your family, remember, this time, remember, now, remember, please teach me, remember, breathe deeply, remember, my son, remember, my daughters, remember, past, remember, anew, remember, your present, remember, always remember, the price, remember, the innocent, remember, their virtue, remember Free at last, remember, Free at last, remember, knowledge, remember, action, remember, do, remember, extensively, remember, accurately, remember, carefully, remember, clearly, remember earnestly, remember, once, remember, ten thousand, remember, not in your own image, remember, narrow vision, remember, courage, remember, magnanimously

So please remember, the price, the strength it takes to say, to believe,

To practice

“I shall not hate” Izzeldin Abuelaish

“To continue to use your liberty to promote ours” Aung San Suu Kyi

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Our congratulations to Linda McQuillan on her promotion to 4th Dan; Ken Gannon on his promotion to 5th Dan; and Alexis McGann on his promotion to 5th Dan.

Shen-tu - Self-watchfulness when alone

Shen-tu - Self-watchfulness when alone

Though the ceiling looks down upon you, be free from shame in the recesses of your own home.

Ode no. 256

This is not mere theory. You practise it.

I left the concept of shen-tu hanging around in mid air as it explains a lot.

We know we feel something about it from our own tradition and family values. And because it points to what is universal it conveys, surely, what is above time and fashion for you and I knew about shen-tu, before it was formulated. In fact, if you’re not too busy, you are drawn to it, like a fire that warms the heart. That wonderful face attracts you to want to know, remember more and then is marvellously critical and demanding, demanding of you, no one else. And if you have ever been in love it is never a matter of what is small but what is magnanimous. We know, have been told, and are left alone to get on with it; after all we are mature, students? But why now; why me – because your lucky. Because you are missing that immense joy, the virtue (power) of: work; a private Way; an uninhibited Way; personal value. Because we respect, respect, what has been mined from humane existence by legions of people and for goodness sake should not be forgotten. Because this is serious now!

Because that Why can withstand almost any How as Frankl was fond of quoting Nietzsche. (Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl)

Viktor Frankl survived three years in Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps. But he did more than survive. He helped others survive. Frankl’s first discovery was that in Auschwitz you needed a reason to carry on living. If you lost that, you lost the will to live, and if you lost that, you died.

The Nazis robbed the prisoners of every vestige of humanity. But Frankl realised that there remained one thing they could not take away: the freedom to choose how to respond. That one slender opening of hope in the walls of despair was all that remained, and it was enough. Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks

Because it makes us human,

Each one of us must make his (her) own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way. This is the mystery.

To be independent in this true sense, we have to forget everything which we have in our mind and discover something quite new and different moment after moment.

This is how we live in this world. Shunryu Suzuki

Makes us whole.

When your heart trembles for the rights of another human, that is when you begin to slip; that is when the interrogations begin. When your heart trembles for another prisoner, a woman, a child labourer; that is when you become the accused.

When you find faith in people and believe in humanity and nothing else; that is when you commit your first crime. Shiva Nazar Ahari

Can you give up what is in your mind? What a blessed relief.

Discover something quite new and different moment after moment; how much more exciting can you get! Or are you too old for all of this? Not enough energy? Courage is the basis of all virtues

Shiva Nazar Ahari was arrested was first arrested at the age of 17, in 2001 participating in a candle-lit vigil in solidarity with the American people after 9/11.

Azar Nafisi

We should be troubled. We should be ashamed.

To tell others that, it is a rumour, will not do. When your own heart asks, how will you respond? Gosen waka Shu

Shen-tu - Self-watchfulness when alone

This is rectification of self and seeks nothing from others

Chung-yung – XIV :3

This is not mere theory. You practise it.

But just for the irritated among you the term used here is taken from Confucian writing specifically in this sense from the Doctrine of the Mean or Centrality and Commonality – An Essay on Chung-yung by Tu Wei-ming.

“(shen-tu) may suggest a kind of unremitting vigilance. A person who watches over himself when alone is also likely to be sensitive to the external environment, to be aware of situations around him, and to be alert in confronting unexpected developments. This sensitivity, awareness, and alertness enables him to apprehend with ready promptness that which “he does not see and does not hear” under ordinary circumstances. The self-watchful person is not necessarily a clairvoyant, but his personal knowledge is such that he can fully comprehend matters beyond the range of normal perception. His ability to have such clear-sightedness is not because he is by chance endowed with some unusual power of apprehension. Rather, it is through his continuous effort of critical self-examination that he becomes perceptive of the subtle manifestation of his inner feeling.

What Chung-yung envisions seems to be a creative process of self-realisation, fostered by a self-generating source of strength. Strictly speaking, one cannot become a profound person by model learning. Unless one has already come to terms with one’s inner self, that which is hidden and subtle to others but visible and manifest to oneself, modelling one’s life upon an established pattern of behaviour will be a limited and limiting experience.

It is predicated on “The Way cannot be separated from us for a moment. What can be separated from us is not the Way.”

I also related it to the practise of “Hidden Virtue” but I didn’t know what “Virtue” meant and the fact that it was hidden also meant I need not be concerned, it would be revealed in the fullness of time. Just keep working. Bunbu – Bun culture requires seriousness, that which is deeply looked into, maturity in things. Bu requires discipline and obedience. Later I was enlightened to the fact that it was cleaning the toilets before dawn.

Bloody cold, very smelly, very Martha not Mary. But Meister Eckhart holds Martha up because of the maturity of experience, the practise of virtues, of enlightenment within enlightenment. A life of everyday effort, done and supported by love. A wise woman a woman of the wise.

A man in prison is sent a prayer rug by his friend. What he had wanted, of course was a file, or a crowbar, or a key! But he began using the rug, doing five-times prayer before dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug, just at the qibla, the point, where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him in his cell and how it works. He is able to escape. Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom. Coleman Barks

How do you express yourself, your desire, your courage, your Way?

Courage was always linked with Shame in the Eastern psychic but not only as a negative spur but in a positive need to try harder which develops into a source of creative transformation. So, for example, you would never state directly that you where a student of somebody for fear of shaming that person.

I have had the pleasure of observing Japanese who have supported a Sensei in their travels and efforts. They quietly, unobtrusively smooth the way and ease the burden and this is in return quietly and unobtrusively acknowledge but it is also taken for granted in the sense that this is purely this person’s duty. It allows the person to satisfy a need. It demonstrates what is on the inside, hidden (ura) and the value it reveals about the person. But this care and attention of another is evident in all mature traditions as it shows a deep respect for the work, not the ego.

But courage in fighting is by no means the only form, nor perhaps even the most important. There is courage in facing poverty, courage in facing derision, courage in facing the hostility of one’s own herd. In these, the bravest soldiers are often lamentably deficient. And above all there is the courage to think calmly and rationally in the face of danger, and to control the impulse of panic fear or panic rage. There are certainly things which education can help to give. Bertrand Russell

Budo, my education, can be expressed as Zanshin, Zanshin, Zanshin!

Zanshin is usually translated as “Remaining Heart / Mind.” And is usually relegated to what is existent, or illuminated, after the event. Zanshin!

But that is why it is stated three times, not merely for affect, but to drum into us, to make us think, that it is not only at the end where we review, experience the quality of our actions, and so by improve, but it is what is before, during and afterwards; that which has never gone away. The background, the water not merely the wave. Actions point to one’s understanding.

Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small. The most difficult things in the world must be done while they are still easy, the greatest things in the world must be done while they are still small. For this reason the sages never do what is great, and this is why they can achieve that greatness.

Tao te Ching

The Sink of Enlightenment

The maxim “Nothing avails but perfection” may be spelled “P-a-r-a-l-y-s-i-s”.

Winston Churchill

This is not mere theory. You practise it.

So please continue continue continue…

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Warmest congratulations to Sensei Matthew Holland on his promotion to 7th Dan.