Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Vouge

Sawaki Roshi: Often a kid does things by blindly following others. When his friend eats a potato, he wants to eat one. If his friend wants candy, he wants some. When someone he knows gets a Kintama-bue (a bamboo whistle with a balloon attached to one end), he begs his parents, "Please buy a kintama-bue for me." And he is not always a kid.

Uchiyama Roshi: At the time that Dakkochans (a type of plastic doll) were in fashion, I read a letter in the readers' column of the newspaper. It said, "Because my daughter wanted to have a Dakkochan, we went to buy one at a department store. We had to stand in line, but they sold out while we waited our turn. We have a very disappointed daughter. Please produce many dolls for the girls so that everyone who wants one can get one."

It was really a stupid letter, but I found it interesting because it expresses an attitude that is so common these days. I remember the letter exactly; the mother complained as if she were weeping. Dakkochans would soon go out of fashion and no one would pay anymore attention to them, but for her, being behind the times was a fate worse than death. Similarly, parents think that in order to go to a first class primary school, their childeren must go to a first class kindergarden, so they stand in line in order to obtain admission. (Acceptance is base on the ordr of arrival.) Kyoiku-mama wants her chideren to play the piano, so they go into debt to buy one.
By following the fads of the day in buying things, many people find their lives worth living. First, three kinds of electric appliances; next a camera; after that a new car; and then an air conditioner. "Grow up a little" is my immediate response.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mob Psychology

Sawaki Roshi: Mob psychology seems so strange to me. If people don't know anything they'd better not say anything. People do things, say things, an hang on to others, without any convictions of their own. They don't know themselves at all. This is ukiyo, the floating world.
Although you think you did a brave deed in trying circumstances, if you did it imitating others, it cannot be called a truely brave deed.
Do not lose your head in distracting circumstances. Don't be intoxicated in an intoxicating atmosphere. This is the only true wisdom. Do not be won over to any idea, or "ism", or any orginization. Have nothing to do with the big fool called "human being."

Uchiyama Roshi: The recent trouble at Waseda University is a good example. I myself was a student at Waseda during a strike in 1931, and I wactched the whole process of the student movement from within. I can appreciate how easily people can become intoxicated in such an atmosphere. Next time however, instead of passing around pamphlets, they should put big banners on the clock tower that read, ALTHOUGH YOU THINK YOU DID A BRAVE DEED IN TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES, IF YOU DID IT IMITATING OTHERS, IT CAN'T BE CALLED A TRUELY BRAVE DEED AT ALL, and DO NOT LOSE YOUR HEAD IN DISTRACTING CIRCUMSTANCES, and DON'T BE INTOXICATED BY AN INTOXICATING ATMOSPHERE and demostrate while looking at those banners.

Sawaki Roshi: To do zazen is to look at the world anew after being in hibernation.
It is best not to anything but zazen. If you do something else, maybe the devil made you do it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Group Paralysis part 2-Uchiyama's Commentary

Uchiyama Roshi: In Buddhism, the problem of delusion is often mentioned. The importance of the various forms of delusion has differed from one period to another. In ancient India, the biggest delusion was thought to be sex, so Buddhist practitioners tried hard to repress their sexual desires.

Dogen Zenji said, "Attachment to fame is worse than violating one of the precepts," and he regarded chasing after fame and wealth as the worst form of delusion because in his day, many Buddhist preist in Nara, and on Mts Koya and Hiei competed with each other for fame and wealth.

Practitioners must be aware of the delusions of sexual desire and chasing after fame and wealth. But by coining the term "group paralysis" Sawaki Roshi has pointed out a major delusion of modern times. Today men and women live their lives relying on groups and organizations and simply drift along in them without forming any real roots. Buddhism is the practice of waking up from all forms of delusion, of opening the "clear eyes of the self".

Monday, April 13, 2009

Laughter Through The Tears

After my last post I decided to copy Uchiyama's book into a PDF document. Here it is. Let me know if you are having trouble opening it and I'll email it to you.



Group Paralysis-Part 1-Sawaki Roshi

Sawaki Roshi: When a person is alone, he's not so bad. When a group is formed, paralysis occurs, and people become so confused that they cannot judge what is right and wrong. Some people go into a group situation on purpose, just to experience group paralysis, even paying a fee. Often people advertise in order to bring people together for some political or spiritual purpose and only create group paralysis. Buddhsit practitioners keep some distance from society, not to escape from it, but to avoid paralysis.

My note: This is an extremely potent teaching from Sawaki Roshi. I was born and raised(and still live) in the Washington D.C. area, so you can probably guess the type of "group paralysis" I've been exposed to. The worst of it comes from those of great affluency. Anyone looking for a great book on the nature of mass movements should check out Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer". Classic.

From now one I'm going to psot Sawaki's comment one day and Uchiyama's the next. I type extremely slow and it is taking me longer than I originally thought to enter the both of them, especially because Uchiyam was quite verbose.

Speaking of Uchiyama, I found this the other day: It is a book by Uchiyama called "Laughter Through The Tears" and is his thoughts on a life of Takuhatsu. As far as I know this is the only place this book exist.

Thanks to everyone who stops by.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Production of Sutras

Sawaki Roshi: The person who has left home must create his own life.

Uchiyama Roshi: This was one of his favorite sayings. The "homeless life" was his creation. Preaching the dharma by using colloquial in profound and inventive ways instead of using Buddhist technical terms was his own uniques style. But as his disciple, if I merely imitate his life or only repeat his sayings, I will not be following his teaching. If I am to be his true disciple, I must go beyond him and create my own way of life and express Buddhism in my own words. So, I can't be satisfied by only repeating or explaining his remarks. He often said, "All Buddhist scriptures are only footnotes to Zazen." I want to continue to practice Zazen even more intensely than I did before his death. I also want to describe the meaning of Zazen in a language that is intelligible to modern mena and women.

Buddhism has become stagnent becuase monks and scholars only expound the old Buddhist scriptures. No one produces sutras for our age. For several centuries around the time of christ, the extensive Mahayana buddhist scriptures were produced by "Zazen-men." they were responsible for the rise of a vivid Mahayana Buddhism. I would like this to be a new age for the production of Mahayan Buddhist scriptures. Religion sinks and loses its vitalty in mere exposition and maintenence of the pre-established religious order. Only when each and everyone of us seeks the reality of ourselves for ourselves and responsibley creates our own life, will religion be a real scource of transformation in this age.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to Sit

When you enter a zazen hall, it is not just to practice zazen - you also have to keep to the rules of the hall. First, go to your seat and bow toward your cushion, turn around and bow the opposite direction, then place your behind on the zafu, taking care not to use more than half of it. Don't sit on the full cushion. Your zafu is just as important for your zazen as is the sword for a samurai. It is important that it has the right size and height for your body.

Now place your right foot high up on your left thigh, then place the left foot high up on the right thigh. Your knees should rest firmly on the mat, just like shells that attach themselves to a rock in the ocean.

Next, place your right hand on your left foot, palm facing upwards. Then put the palm of the left hand on top of the right hand, with thumb tips touching each other. After that, sway your body left and right, making first big movements that gradually become smaller, until after seven or eight movements you settle firmly in the zazen posture. Take one deep breath and relax your shoulders completely. Push your lower back forward. Resting on your hip bone, your spine should be straight and unmoving.

Stretch your neck as if you tried to pierce with your skull through the ceiling. Draw back the chin. Sitting like this, your nose should be straight above your navel, and your ears straight above the shoulders. Put the tongue against the roof of the mouth, while the back teeth sit on each other. Keep the eyes slightly open and cast them down on the tatami 3 to 4 feet in front of you.

Take care not to pull the inner organs upward. That doesn't mean though that you should exert any force down in your lower belly. The inner organs should rest naturally in the body. If you are too hard on your organs, you'll become sick. Breathe naturally. If you have difficulties to breathe, this caused by an unreasonable strain. Make sure that your hips are always bend forward and your consciousness sharp and clear. Don't forget that the vital point of zazen lies in the hip/waist/pelvis area.

You should always be alert. Don't make a sleepy face - or you'll look like a ball of cotton wool! Pull back the chin and make a lively face


Sawaki Roshi: Nowadays, young gangsters and hoodlums often say, "My circumstances were bad," as an excuse when they commit a crime for which they are arrested. What kind of circumstances are good or bad? What a pity if, even though you are a human being, you are not aware of the true self. That is a really bad circumstance!

Uchiyama Roshi: When Sawaki Roshi was five years old, his mother died. When he was eight years old, his father died. He was then adopted by Bunkichi Sawaki. Bunkichi paper-lantern making as a cover, but was really a professional gambler. Soon after Sawaki Roshi started living with his new parents, his stepfather asked him to watch out for the police. Tough as he was, Saikichi (Sawaki Roshi's name as a layman) was amazed by that. His home was on a back street in the red light district.

When he returned home from the Russo-Japanese war because of a nearly fatal wound, Sawaki Roshi had found that his stepmother, who had been a prostitute, had gone crazy. She was tied up and smeared with her own shit. His stepfather had stayed out to gamble, so he stayed with a neighbor. Later his stepfather came and said to him, "Your mom has gone crazy and I'm broke. What shall I do? Give me some money!" Even though he grew up in such an environement, Sawaki Roshi lived his life only for the sake of the buddha-dharma. Anecdotes like the one related above are an expression of his impatience with the young people of today.
At the same time, they have limitless value as a warning to most of us because we feel bound by the circumstances of our personal lives.