Friday, February 13, 2009

SNAPPY ANSWERS TO (NOT) STUPID QUESTIONS


Those of you who never read MAD magazine won't get that title. Go look it up! Anyway, I've decided to try & answer some questions I've received by e-mail on this blog.

If you have questions, you can send them to me via e-mail. I can't promise I'll answer because my in box is always full. But I'll do what I can. I don't read the comments section on this blog (sorry, but it's troll city in there and I break out in hives every time I enter), so don't just put them there.

Here goes:

In the midst of a heated debate while attempting to communicate Zen concepts to a friend, there were a few times, more than a few, where I ran into difficulty articulating myself, naturally. Particularly the idea that the point of practice is to have no point to practice. My friend asked 'How does sitting benefit you?' and I tried to explain that it is essential to get away from this idea of benefit. When one is sitting, just to sit, with no goal, no reaching, no looking, no mind, no Buddha, no attainment. My friend had a hard time with this, essentially arguing that this is impossible, to just sit without some idea of benefit motivation or goal, arguing that no-goal is itself a goal. Eventually I simply said that words and explanation breaks down, and that's the point. One can only sit zazen, because eventually any logical reasoning breaks down. I am wondering if I am articulating this properly?

This is a tough question. The longer I do zazen, the harder it gets to explain why I do it. I mainly do it these days because I enjoy it. Although I don't know if "enjoy" is really the right word. Plus I feel like crap when I skip it.

Your friend is perfectly correct that "no goal is still a goal." And you're right in saying that at some point words and explanations break down. The fact is everyone who does zazen has some kind of motivation to do so. That's just the way we humans work. I used to sit so that I could get Enlightenment and be the biggest blow hard in the zendo. Look how beautifully I succeeded!

This is, of course, a joke. What I wanted and what I got were two completely different things. It's always that way, though. Which is why it's better to drop any goal you might have for practice. If you can't drop your goals, just recognize them as ideas floating around in your brain.

If you're trying to convince your friend to practice... I can't really help there. I never bother with that. People who want to do zazen will find a way to do it no matter what obstacles are placed in their way, including busy schedules, physical disabilities and all the rest. People who don't want to do zazen will find any excuse at all not to. It's best not to waste time trying to sell anyone the practice.

Next question.

I've been wrestling with two attachments I can't seem to let go: reading and running. My problem is, while trying to free myself from attachment, I vacillate between donating my books and ceasing exercise and buying more books to learn about Zen Buddhism and on a different track running (which I love for its meditative and liberating nature) but also having to do yoga, lift, blah blah blah to make sure I'm balanced. I'm having trouble finding a middle ground, and was interested in what you thought. I have a stack of Buddhist magazines next to my couch and I don't know whether to smack myself with them or read them. They are healthy endeavors, it just seems that I'm allowing myself to become too attached to them, especially in our news-obsessed/ultra-healthy culture (do I really need to know about the elections in France and how to lift more than the guy next to me in two hours a day?).

There's nothing wrong with buying books -- as long as they're my books!

But seriously, authors need to eat and buying books and magazines is a way to help them earn a living. And for those of you who don't believe in wasting paper on books and magazines, I think that's very noble. But you still need to pay writers for their work! Once we get it together to pay writers for the work they do on-line I'll go paperless. Until then I still buy books and magazines.

ANYWAY, running sounds to me like a healthy thing to do. So why worry about being attached to it? Reading is fine. I like reading too. Dogen was a voracious reader. There's no shame in it at all. I take what I read in Buddhist magazines with a big huge grain of salt. In fact, I rarely read them. I prefer MOJO (a British music rag) and FILMFAX (all about obscure old sci-fi movies) myself. Still, every so often the Buddhist mags put something interesting in, and that's all right. It's part of the way Buddhism gets spread around.

But maybe the question is really about attachment. That's a big buzz word among American and European Buddhists. But oddly enough I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept. It's more of a Brahmanistic (Hindu) idea that got incorporated into Buddhism when Buddhism came to the West as part of a mixture of Eastern philosophies. A lot of Westerners seem to find it a bit distasteful to suggest that there are some very big differences between the various Eastern philosophies. But there are.

Which is not to say the idea never comes up in Buddhism. It's just not a real key thing the way it is in Hindu philosophies like Vedanta (at least I think it's big in Vedanta philosophy, I've never studied Vedanta in depth).

I'm not gonna go look thru every chapter of Shobogenzo to check. But off hand I can't recall Dogen ever talking about non-attachment except possibly when speaking about ancient Indian philosophies. Maybe the idea of non-attachment to views comes up. But non-attachment to running or reading and stuff along those lines? I can't recall anything like that.

ANYWAY, the fact of the matter is that we all have attachments. We love our families, our kitty cats, our favorite breakfast cereals and all the rest. You can't be a real human being without having some attachments. The goal of Zen practice isn't to turn us all into un-feeling robots or clones of Mr. Spock from Star Trek.

It's good, though, to see your attachments for what they are; just thoughts inside your head. The lighter your attachments are, the easier your life will be. Because nothing stays one way forever, and whatever you're attached to will change some day and eventually be gone. I sometimes think this "non-attachment" thing is a way of trying to numb oneself so that the day you lose your mom and your kitty and the store runs out of Corn Chex you'll be all cool and "non-attached" about it. The real goal of Zen is to find a way of life that's easy and undramatic. Strong attachments lead to upset and drama.

The fact that you can recognize your own attachments is very good. Most people never do.

Next!

What´s your practice when it comes to food and eating?

I'm a vegetarian and have been since I was 18. I wanted to be a vegetarian from the time I first learned that hamburgers were made from dead cows and hot dogs from dead pigs. My mom freaked out over the idea of having to cook special food for me. So I decided I'd wait until I moved out of the house. Once I moved out I quickly went veg.

BUT, vegetarianism is not necessary for Zen practice. There's a story about Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. It seems he was traveling with a student of his who was a very strict vegetarian. They were hungry and the only place to stop was a little roadside diner. The diner didn't have anything vegetarian on the menu so the student ordered a grilled cheese sandwich to be made specially for him (maybe like that scene in Five Easy Pieces). Suzuki ordered a hamburger. When the sandwiches came, Suzuki quickly grabbed the student's grilled cheese and stuffed it in his mouth. Then he said, "It's OK, you can have mine!"

I started Zen at roughly the same time I started being vegetarian. I think vegetarianism came a few months earlier. I was pretty hardcore about it at first. So when I heard stories like that I worried a lot that some Zen teacher would force me to eat meat or that my vegetarianism was somehow un-Zen.

But both of my teachers encouraged my vegetarianism, although neither one of them was a vegetarian himself. Tim McCarthy used to say he was a "liberal vegetarian." This, he said. was a ridiculous designation, even though he used it. He said, "It's like saying your a 'liberal celibate.' Like, 'I'm celibate but sometimes I still fuck!'" He ate meat, but not much and never red meat. Nishijima's pretty much the same. Though he might eat a bit of beef or pork sometimes. I don't know for sure. Nishijima has great respect for vegetarians, though. He used to say that if there were more vegetarians there would be less violence in the world.

The thing about eating is that even if you're a vegetarian you're killing other beings so that you can live. A carrot is almost certainly less self aware than a cow (though who can say for sure other than a fellow carrot? And they ain't talking!). But it's no less alive. So it's important to have respect for your food.

This is why Zen monks recite big long chants before eating -- so long their food is always freezing cold by the time the chant is done. The chants remind them that eating is a big deal and must not be taken lightly. In part the Zen meal chant goes like this:

We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.

We reflect on our virtue and practice and consider whether we are worthy of this offering

We reflect on our illusions and mistakes, we must avoid greed, anger and ignorance

We reflect on the reason for eating meals, it is to avoid becoming weak

For the sake of attaining the truth we now receive this meal


Nishijima Sensei chants this whole thing before every single meal even if he's eating prepackaged bento from the local convenience store. I'm not as hardcore as that. But every time I eat something, even a bag of Fritos (see photo above), I fold my hands and say, "itadakimasu," which is a Japanese word meaning something like "I receive this with gratitude." Half-assed, sure. But so am I!

OK. That's all I got time for today. Tune in next time!

223 comments:

1 – 200 of 223   Newer›   Newest»
Glenda said...

Hi Brad,
Itadakimasu!
Gassho, Glenda

Anonymous said...

Any particular reason you prefer giving thanks in Japanese rather than English?
Thanks for the questions/answers and I'll take my answer off the air

Anonymous said...

"I don't read the comments section on this blog" = the sound of one eye winking?

jundo cohen said...
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jundo cohen said...

What is he like over on his own Treeleaf site? Go take a look and see for yourself. Everything is controlled, posting behaviors must fall within an 'acceptable' range. From at least two people posting here, it would seem when he was challenged, he invited the challengers to leave or pejoratively labeled them and then invited them to leave.

We only have two "rules" at Treeleaf Forum: (1) be kind to each other in speech, thus do no yell or curse other members; (2) if there is a concern about health, a doctor's note is required. The two individuals mentioned (who happen to be the only two ever asked to not participate) refused to do precisely those two things. In the two years since Treeleaf began, I have deleted a total of 3 postings (one really unfunny dirty joke and a fight involving one of those individuals)

Oh, and one more "rule" is that participants should sit Shikantaza Zazen each day. That's all.

Gassho, Jundo

Jinzang said...

I don't read the comments section on this blog (sorry, but it's troll city in there and I break out in hives every time I enter)

The original meaning of troll is somebody who would make a controversial post in order to get a reaction. For example, if someone said here meditation causes brain damage. The term troll comes from the phrase trolling for fish and not the mythical character that lives under bridges. These days the original meaning is almost forgotten and the term has come to mean anyone who challenges the consensus of a group.

Jinzang said...

I break out in hives every time I enter

Skin, eruptions, urticaria, excitement: Bovista

Jared said...

(Even though you said you don't read the comments...)

I really enjoy your question-answer posts - if you have the time, please keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I don't read the comments section on this blog (sorry, but it's troll city in there and I break out in hives every time I enter), so don't just put them there.


His saying up front that he doesn't read the comments means he read the comments . Anyway he always reacts like a lab rat to the comments

Stephanie said...

Jundo - I can remember you deleting or modifying at least three of my posts, at least one of which I recall didn't transgress any forum rules. Your opinion was that I was writing / thinking too much and so in at least two cases you physically altered my posts to make your point. What strikes me as funny is that my experience is that you've done to me what the people at e-Sangha did to you - took restrictive action toward me because my posts did not conform to your notions of Buddhist orthodoxy. And the thing is, I don't blame you--I can understand why you didn't want me on the forum and I can see that my posts were indeed 'rocking the boat' in a way that was unfair to what folks were trying to create there in terms of atmosphere. So I get it. But don't be insincere. I'm sure you've meddled with more than 3 posts on there and for reasons other than people not being kind or being "ill."

Pot-kettle-black said...

"But maybe the question is really about attachment. That's a big buzz word among American and European Buddhists. But oddly enough I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept. It's more of a Brahmanistic (Hindu) idea that got incorporated into Buddhism when Buddhism came to the West as part of a mixture of Eastern philosophies."

"One of the most important teachings of Zen Buddhism is non-attachment. The teaching of non-attachment may be easy to understand, but it is not easy to practice. Nevertheless, it is very essential to cultivate non-attachment if we are to live a serene and happy life".... Ven. Thich Thien An

Ven. Thich Thien An then goes on to write an entire article (you can google it on the web) about the importance of nonattachment in Zen. Funny, but his name doesn't sound like some new age westerner confused about the various eastern philosophies.

Then there is this by Rev. Fa Gong Shakya:
"In Buddhism, typical of all mainstream religious thought, the concept of "attachment" is a central and recurring theme" also followed by a lengthy article on the subject.

And this:

"When we emerge from nothing, when everything emerges from nothing, we see it all as a fresh new creation. This is non-attachment."--Shunryu Suzuki

"What exactly does nonattachment in Zen practice mean? First of all, it does not imply a lack of feeling, or a quietistic unconcern. Basically, nonattachment means all-acceptance with willingness and positivity of mind. All-acceptance means complete willingness to admit that things are exactly as they are. This implies absolutely nothing about whether or not they can or should be changed, but it does mean seeing things clearly. After all, we can't understand something that is right in front of us if we do not first accept that it is. When we see things clearly with an all accepting mind, we stand a much better chance of acting wisely. All-acceptance means to drop the "self," with all its preferences, opinions, and attachments, whenever it arises, remembering our own free, natural mind of meditation. ---Kyogen Carlson, Sensei

"People think that when we talk about nonattachment, we are talking about not loving. Nonattachment is nonattachment. It is not not loving. It is not attaching to love. In fact, there cannot be loving until there is nonattachment."---roshi John D. Loori

"Nonattachment is the first phase of Zen; not dwelling on nonattachment is the second phase." --Soul of the Samurai / Thomas Cleary

"The world is formless—simply a phenomenon of flux, consisting of various relations and is conceivable only in relation to subjectivity and objectivity. Without this close relation, there is no thing, and there is no world. Non-dwelling means non-attachment. Non-attachment discourages man’s clinging ideas of loss and gain"---Nyogen Senzaki (obviously another misguided new age westerner)

"Letting go, letting be, or embodying the Buddhist term "nonattachment" greatly reduces and even alleviates suffering. In fact, it is the goal of Buddhism. Buddha taught that the cause of suffering is craving and attachment." ----Lama Surya Dass


Brad is simply woefully mistaken on this (and many other) points as anyone who cares to do even a tiny bit of independent research can discover for themselves. Nonattachment (like mindfulness) is indeed a central teaching of nearly all sects of Buddhism and especially Zen. Not withdrawal, not separation, but nonattachment as described in the writings listed above.

"Yet there is the danger of taking hold of Dharma wrongly. If this danger is not avoided and one's approach to Dharma is faulty, 'Dharma' becomes a cause of harm instead of benefit. This is not the intent of the Enlightened Ones nor of those masters who have entrusted it to us. Recognise and avoid this danger: it is called 'narrow-mindedness'. It manifests in sangha circles in the form of sectarianism: an attitude of partiality, a tendency to form deluded attachments to ones own order and to reject other schools of Buddhism as inferior....It was common in Tibet for the least spiritually developed adherents of each of the four great orders to nurture this spirit of sectarianism.---Ven. Deshung Rinpoche

mtto said...

...but if you define non-attachment the way the questioner did: not reading books or going for a run, then Zen and most Buddhist schools are not about non-attachment.

The same can be said for "mindfulness". Depending on how you're defining it, the word may or may not be in accord with Buddhist teachings. I've met people (at retreats and sitting groups) for whom "mindfulness" is checking out of their real situation for a fake bliss. In that situation, it is more in line with Zen Buddhism to throw out the word "mindfulness".

pot-kettle-black said...

mtto:
Yes. Nonattachment has little to do with withdrawing or in many cases avoiding the object of attachment. I can become mindful of my attachment to chocolate and as this awareness deepens, the attachment towards chocolate may ease and eventually disappear. This does not mean I never eat chocolate again.

Conversly, I can vow to sever my 'attachment' to sex by avoiding all outward sexual contact. Yet I may still burn with desire inwardly. That is still attachment in the buddhist sense.

If Brad had simply critiqued some common misunderstandings about the meaning of nonattachment or mindfulness in Buddhism, that would have been different. Instead, he made the blanket statement: "I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept. It's more of a Brahmanistic (Hindu) idea"

And that, from a strictly factual, literal, historical pov is simply mistaken. As for throwing out various words because they aren't 'in line' with Zen Buddhism...this again goes back to various concepts of what real Zen is. The same argument could be made for throwing out most any and all words associated with Zen...since people have tended to misunderstand their meanings on a regular basis. Master Yunmen once said: "Zen (Chan)...can we get rid of that word?" So perhaps we should drop it as well. Stating that nonattachment is not a key buddhist concept is akin to stating that compassion or the 4 noble truths aren't key buddhist concepts.

mtto said...

That is correct: Zen, compassion and the 4 noble truths, if misunderstood or improperly defined are not key Buddhist concepts.

But sometimes you have to say something.

Anonymous said...

Brad, You lying sack of shit! I love you but you are a lying sack of shit. You do, at least occasionally, read the comments here. Why you like to pretend you don't is a mystery to many of us.

Anonymous said...

Buddhists focus on release from the
attachment that creates suffering....
One such teacher that I admire is the
late Dainin Katagiri, a Zen teacher
from Minnesota, formerly from Japan.
In his book "Returning to Silence",
he taught about real knowing, and
allowing yourself

"to stand in the appropriate place."
-- Kevin Ryan

Anonymous said...

"The original meaning of troll is somebody who would make a controversial post in order to get a reaction. For example, if someone said here meditation causes brain damage."

Subtle.. But a definite troll attack by jinzang aimed at Andrew. Andrew offended jinz, who then felt like he needed to return fire. Et tu, Jinzang?

Justin said...
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Justin said...

"I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept. It's more of a Brahmanistic (Hindu) idea"

When Brad says stupid things like this and the rejection (as opposed to clarification) of 'mindfulness' (or [insert whatever aspect of Buddhism Brad doesn't understand or doesn't fit into his viewpoint]) it just illustrates how narrow, and shallow his understanding of Buddhism is.

He doesn't look outside the narrow interpretion he persoanlly finds appealing. Non-attachment is absolutely fundamental to Buddhism. It has little to do with whether or not we do things we like but everything to do with out mental attitude while we do or don't do.

The three poisons that the Buddha taught about - that is the three things that keep us in samsara rather than nirvana - are: ignorance, desire and aversion

The latter two in Buddhist parlance are forms of attachment (one positive, one negative). Non-attachment is freedom from desire and aversion.

Brad's arrogant dismissal and misunderstanding of this is ignorance.

He's an amusing writer, but ignorant comments like this really undermine any credibility he has as a Buddhist teacher.

Justin said...

If one thing is more fundamental to Buddhism than anything else it is The Four Nobel Truths (not zazen):

1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment (or desire).
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

Brad should go out and try to thoroughly understand Buddhism before he goes setting himself up as a teacher of Zen Buddhism.

jundo cohen said...

Jundo - I can remember you deleting or modifying at least three of my posts, at least one of which I recall didn't transgress any forum rules. Your opinion was that I was writing / thinking too much and so in at least two cases you physically altered my posts to make your point.

Yes, I recall that. You are right!

Sometimes people's minds run on and on with a kind of mental diarrhea (I do not mean that term in an offensive way, I simply meant that there are certain folks whose mental wheels just keep turning and turning and you need to toss cold water on them to get them to appreciate that they are wrapped up in words). I was trying and trying to tell you to stop the spinning wheels of your very long and self-absorbed posts. I was trying to tell you that your were spending so much time talking on the forum about what you saw as "your problems your problems your problems" that you should try to drop the words and drop "your problems".

You are right, I forgot. It was not a matter of some "rule" I was trying to enforce.

Gassho, Jundo

Anonymous said...

You mean pavlov's dog I think. Yes, Brad always makes a point of saying that he does not read the comments when the comments put the heat on him too much

His saying up front that he doesn't read the comments means he read the comments . Anyway he always reacts like a lab rat to the comments

Moon Face Buddha said...

[dijointed thoughts]

"But maybe the question is really about attachment. That's a big buzz word among American and European Buddhists. But oddly enough I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept."

It would seem to be a bit disingenuous if I were to take this part of Brad's latest blog post and use it as an excuse to trash his whole teaching, Sangha, and impune the veracity of his Inka.

However, I do not believe it to be a correct statement. I have not read any of the Dogen Sangha teachings or visited them in person, but if this is the direction official Dogen Sangha 'buddhism' is going to take under Brad then it would seem hard to reconcile Dogen Sangha as either part of the Zen tradition, or as part of the Buddhist tradition.

I go back to the Dhammapada (Desire) for the teaching of Gotama on this subject;

"The gift of truth is beyond giving.
The taste beyond sweetness,
The joy beyond joy.
The end of desire is the end of sorrow."

And in The Seeker;

"Master your senses,
What you taste and smell,
What you see, what you hear.
In all things be a master "

The Reductio ad absurdum then employed by Brad "The goal of Zen practice isn't to turn us all into un-feeling robots or clones of Mr. Spock from Star Trek.", as if this is the goal of 'western' zen practice.

I have visited a number of Sangha (Zen and non-Zen) in the UK and it is not my experience that "The fact that you can recognize your own attachments is very good. Most people never do.", as a lot of people (buddhist and non-buddhist) I have met DO recognize their attachments but find the practice difficult...and if it were easy we wouldn't value the teaching of Gotama so highly :)

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau

[/ disjointed thoughts]

Mika Rantanen said...

These SATNSQ posts are great! Keep it up, Brad!

For the first anonymous poster on this thread, about why saying thanks in Japanese rather than English, I'd guess it's the number of words needed to express the sentiment involved. Or at least if I'd have to choose between saying I receive this with gratitude or itadakimasu every time I eat something I'd pick the shorter one too!

Could also have something to do with the fact Brad lived in the weirdland so long.

OsamaVanHalen said...

Why do Buddhists have trouble using their vacuum cleaners?

jundo cohen said...
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jundo cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jundo cohen said...

Hello,

As someone who has been "inside" Dogen Sangha, I think that I can explain the origin of assertions like Brad's today, namely, that Buddhism has nothing to do with "non-attachment" (thus throwing much of 2500 years of Buddhist philosophy into the crapper. I hope you were not attached to it!)

Nishijima Roshi tends to emphasize that all one needs to do is sit Zazen in the morning and evening. That will naturally bring about a state which he calls "Balance of the Autonomic Nervous System". As far as Roshi is concerned, that is about all one needs to know about Buddhism. (You also need to know about something called his "Three Philosophies & One Reality", but that too basically comes down to sitting Zazen on a Zafu, whereby the Autonomic Nervous System will naturally be balanced).

That's about all he teaches.

He doesn't teach his students much anything else about Buddhist philosophy or daily life except that they should have a balanced ANS (which, as stated, comes from Zazen in the morning and night).

(Please do not believe me on this. Search his books and blog for discussion of any of these subjects, and you will come up pretty dry ... except as they relate to ANS).

Ask him, for example, about the "Precepts", and he will say that the Precepts naturally arise from a balance ANS which (as stated) comes naturally from Zazen twice a day. That's about all you need to know and all he teaches about the Precepts. Likewise for just about every other concept of Buddhist and Zen philosophy taught by every teacher now or in centuries past. Even all of Dogen, in all his subtle meaning, pretty much comes down to balance of the ANS in the action of sitting Zazen. In fact, most concepts of Buddhist philosophy can be discarded, so long is one is sitting with a balanced ANS.

The end result is that SOME Dogen Sangha teachers tend to be very good about sitting Zazen and attaining a certain sense of peace and balance during their sitting, but are rather uneducated and apathetic about most other aspects of Buddhist philosophy (even at the most basic level). Furthermore, they sometimes tend to ignore or say that key aspects of Buddhism (like 'non-attachment') are "not Buddhism" because they have no appreciation for any other idea beyond Nishijima Roshi's vision of Zazen and the ANS. And further, they tend to not place emphasis on how one should lead life when off the Zafu.

This last point is very important: For some Dogen Sangha teachers, one can pretty much throw away living like a peaceful, non-attached, Precept abiding and gentle Buddhist (and be a mean and attached, Precept disregarding Buddhist) so long as one merely keeps sitting Zazen twice a day.

I say "SOME" Dogen Sangha teachers are like that because many of us have had multiple teachers who influenced us (and who were able to provide a more traditional and wide ranging Buddhist education), with Nishijima Roshi being just one. It is the folks who ONLY had Nishijima Roshi (such as Brad and a few others) who are pretty much in the dark for what all the rest of the world considers "Zen" and "Buddhism" and Buddhist living.

Now some folks will think that I am putting Nishijima Roshi down, and I am really not (at least, not as much as some might think). He is a marvelous teacher of Zazen and a beautiful man. However, if you want to learn about the rest of what Buddhism and Zen Practice is, one must study under other, more traditional, Buddhist teachers. And that is what many of us have done.

Gassho, Jundo

Moon Face Buddha said...

Thank you for the 'clarification' Jundo. However, I read Brad's post and on one point you seem to be mistaken;

"But both of my teachers encouraged my vegetarianism, although neither one of them was a vegetarian himself. Tim McCarthy used to say he was a "liberal vegetarian.""

This indicated that Brad has had at least two teachers.

The way you describe Dogen Sangha teaching sounds to me to be the Zen equivalent of Shinran, only the nembutsu is replaced by zazen.

In either case it seems to me that some 'magical' process is expected to take place. This is at odds with my understanding of the teaching of Gotama. The idea that 'Right Meditation' will in and of itself cause the other seven elements of the Eightfold Path to come into being (or perfectly align the chackras, or bring about balance in the ANS, or some other pseudo scientific sounding spiritual enlightenment) is, to me, getting into the realms of faux Buddhism.

I do not know enough about the specific practices of Dogen Sangha, or the variations within the different individual Sangha that make up the whole, to make a more meaningful assessment.

It would be of interest to me to read the opinions of those involved.

jundo cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jundo cohen said...

The way you describe Dogen Sangha teaching sounds to me to be the Zen equivalent of Shinran, only the nembutsu is replaced by zazen.

I think that there are some very good analogies to be made there. The description is not wrong. It is more subtle than that, so I also cannot say it is right.

As far as Brad's other teacher "Tim McCarthy", my understanding is that Brad sat with Tim as a lay person for a few years before Brad came to Japan (I need to check Brad's books to see how he describes he relationship with Tim). He describes Tim very often as a very relaxed, informal and unconventional teacher ... all great characteristics in a teacher, unless one is looking for an education in traditional Buddhist ideas. Now, sitting is the heart of our practice, but ONLY teaching sitting does not make for a well rounded Buddhist education. You can read about that on page 40 of Brad's first book here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=kBKCADEmybkC&pg=PA40&vq=tim+mccarthy&dq=%22tim+mccarthy%22+zen+brad&source=gbs_search_s&cad=0

Even so, it is interesting to me that Brad seems to be emphasizing his relationship to Tim more and more, and somewhat less and less to Nishijima Roshi, as the years go by.


Gassho, Jundo

Harry said...

Clear statement on the function and importance of the Precpets from Nishijima Roshi's own mouth:

Q. So what is the relationship between the precepts and morality?

A. The precepts guide us in our life. They have come from the experience of the truth in the past, so we can say that they are based on reality. But our lives are tremendously complex and varied. If we try to apply the precepts too strictly we may lose the freedom to act. We are living here and now so we must find rules which can be used here and now. We must find our precepts at every moment. Reality is changeable so our rules must also be changeable. True rules must work in the real world. True precepts are changeable and at the same time unchangeable. This is the nature of Buddhist precepts. They help us to live correctly. They provide a framework which is exact and rather narrow, and yet we are free to act in the moment by moment situation of our life.
A Chinese priest once said, "No rule is our rule." This statement expresses the Buddhist attitude precisely. The precepts are valuable to us. They can help us before and after we act, but in the moment of the present we cannot rely on any rule. We must make our decisions directly: at the moment of the present to be without precepts is our precept. No rule is our rule.

Q. So is it important to keep the precepts or not?

A. It is important to keep the precepts.


Please consider going directly to Roshi's own material for his teaching on this matter:

http://www.dogensangha.org/downloads/Pdf/Precepts.pdf

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Jundo loves to think of himself as the normal DSI guy. But some of the things he says to Stephanie.. and others, The mental imagery.. It is strange. Comparing her thoughts to shit. Wanting to throw cold water on her (thoughts).

And then he has the chutspah to say to her after he has been going on and on for days here.. "I was trying and trying to tell you to stop the spinning wheels of your very long and self-absorbed posts. I was trying to tell you that your were spending so much time talking on the forum about what you saw as "your problems your problems your problems."

Wow!

Anonymous said...

Gautama (allegedly) said:

"I do not call truth what the foolish confront each other with; they make their own view the truth; that is why they treat each other as fools"

(Quoted in "The Awakening of the West" by Stephen Batchelor)

Rich said...

On attachment / non-attachment

My experience is that the letting go of thinking and feeling is correct action on the exhalation. I interpret this as non-attachment so would agree it is an important part of Buddhist thinking. My experience also is that accepting (being aware) my feelings, emotions, thinking as it arises helps see correct action which helps the letting go. Not accepting and being aware of inside and outside compounds the problem of continuation. So practice is essential. As I grow older I notice I don't react but take more time to act.

Rich said...

I can appreciate Gudo's simple teaching because the Universe is vast and it is easy to get lost, so Keep it Simple Stupid. This is Brad's blog but he doesn't participate because of trolls - and Jundo has become the resident teacher - but I think there are other teachers in residence that are not ready to publicly identify themselves - which is just fine.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

I think we're all in the same ballpark here, it's just the fine points of what constitutes a foul ball that we can't iron out into a consensus. And a consensus can be dangerous, it leads to fundalmentalism.

jundo cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jundo cohen said...

Clear statement on the function and importance of the Precpets from Nishijima Roshi's own mouth:

Q. So what is the relationship between the precepts and morality?

A. The precepts guide us in our life. They have come from the experience of the truth in the past, so we can say that they are based on reality


Harry, yes, I think you have found the few paragraphs the Nishijima Roshi wrote about the Precepts that do not concern ANS. He hands it out, in a little pamphlet, to all the folks receiving Jukai from him with no further explication or discussion of the meaning of any of the Precepts. You read the pamplet, receive the Precepts and you are done.

However, I point you to the last paragraph of that pamphlet, which sums it up:

Gautama Buddha, Master Dogen, and the great patriarchs all gave up trying to obey the precepts. This sounds strange but it is true. They found they could not obey the precepts by their conscious efforts so they worked on the problem from another angle. They found that when they practiced Zazen every day their lives became simple and clear. They found in fact that they could not disobey the precepts.
In our life we must make our decisions moment by moment. They are instantaneous: they are dependent on the condition of our body and mind at the moment. Therefore when our body and mind are balanced and composed, our action reflects our composure. When we are `right', our actions will also be right. So the only way to obey the precepts is to change our body and mind through the practice of Zazen. When we practice Zazen we resume our original natureour Buddha-nature. We find ourselves in harmony with the Universe at every moment. In such a state it is impossible for us to break the precepts. When we practice Zazen we become persons who cannot disobey the precepts.


I know that there are all kinds of folks who like to be apologists, and to bend over backwards to find a subtle message in his teaching that is not there. He is what he is, a very nice priest who is committed to Zazen.

I too appreciate the simple message. All one needs is to sit Zazen. But, unfortunately, there is a point where an emphasis on Zazen alone, and an over-reliance on Zazen alone to fill all gaps, results in a neglect of all other aspects of education and training.

Gassho, Jundo

Harry said...

Jundo,

Personally I like Roshi's allowing people the dignity of finding their own way and that, of course, is a result of the sort of person Nishijima Roshi is/does/did as you point out. That we sometimes fail is not his fault.

I'm sure it will all be fine. I don't share your concerns. Much of where you want to go with this is not my business and, frankly, it doesn't look to me that it's yours either (if, that is, what *Dogen Sangha* people here are saying about your stance is an accurate reflection of what they feel).

I won't discuss this any further here because I don't think Nishijima Roshi is privvy to this and I am not at all convinced that you are representing his views/teachings accurately at all.

Go after the really dodgy 'Buddhism', Jundo. Your letting yourself and your teacher down with this nonsense IMO.

Regards,

Harry.

jundo cohen said...

Harry, sure sounds like your Autonomic Nervous System has been put out of balance by this. Sorry.

Jinzang said...

Brad, You lying sack of shit! I love you but you are a lying sack of shit.

I can't recall the last time I called someone I love a lying sack of shit. But YMMV.

Harry said...

Hmmmmmm... cheap shot, Cliffdo.

Believe me, I've made a religion out of an imbalanced ANS and I think It no shame. If there was a specimen in a case somewhere representing imbalance it would look just like me. I have less and less problem with that, for what it's worth.

Get a life, my man... preferably your own one (not mine at least!)

Regards to you and yours,

Harry.

Jinzang said...

Subtle.. But a definite troll attack by jinzang aimed at Andrew. Andrew offended jinz, who then felt like he needed to return fire.

You're right, it is a subtle dig at Andrew. But if you re-read my original comment, you'll see that it's not a troll.

Jinzang said...

When Brad says stupid things like this ... it just illustrates how narrow, and shallow his understanding of Buddhism is.

You're right, and so is Jundo. Brad's grasp of Buddhist philosophy is a little weak, and it showed in "Sit Down and Shut Up". However, IMO, this is not so uncommon among Zen teachers. It's that whole "separate transmission outside of words and scripture" thing.

In Brad's defense, desire and attachment are broad terms and not all senses are rejected by Buddhism. The desire to help others, for example, is usually wholesome. I usually make this point when asked about desire.

Justin said...

You're right, and so is Jundo. Brad's grasp of Buddhist philosophy is a little weak, and it showed in "Sit Down and Shut Up". However, IMO, this is not so uncommon among Zen teachers. It's that whole "separate transmission outside of words and scripture" thing.

It's for this reason that I think it's important that Zen Buddhist get some education in the original conventional teachings. I've found this approach (studying the Nikayas especially) valuable. I'm not sure that the Zen transmission 'ourside the scriptures' was really intended to be an alternative to conventional Buddhist education rather it seems best as complimentary to it.

And many Zen texts are impossible to understand without a grounding in the conventional path. I've seen some terrible Zen mistranslations of the Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra and much of Dogen's writings are a commentary on conventional Buddhist teachings (the 4 Noble Truths, the Skandhas, etc). Both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism teach that while Nirvana itself cannot be described the path to it can be clearly described.

In Brad's defense, desire and attachment are broad terms and not all senses are rejected by Buddhism. The desire to help others, for example, is usually wholesome. I usually make this point when asked about desire.

I think true compassion in the purest sense in Buddhism is supposed to be free from attachment.

Justin said...

Nishijima Roshi tends to emphasize that all one needs to do is sit Zazen in the morning and evening. That will naturally bring about a state which he calls "Balance of the Autonomic Nervous System". As far as Roshi is concerned, that is about all one needs to know about Buddhism. (You also need to know about something called his "Three Philosophies & One Reality", but that too basically comes down to sitting Zazen on a Zafu, whereby the Autonomic Nervous System will naturally be balanced).

That's about all he teaches.


If so he isn't teaching Buddhism more a sort of 'static yoga'.

Harry said...

Jundo said on my blog that he doesn't want to bring these things up with Nishijima Roshi because he doesn't want to hurt him... directly at least.

I may copy and paste some of the content of these comments into a comment for Nishijima Roshi's blog as I think he deserves a chance to respond.

What say ye, is this the right thing to do?

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

well, you have to start someplace
quite a few people I've met, and others posting here say they first starting sitting after reading one of Brad's books. And there are people who say they started sitting again after not sitting for a considerable period of time, spurred to return to the cushion after reading one of Brad's books--this is quite extraordinary to my way of thinking.

For zen buddhism and the practice of zazen to continue and not die out, it requires people to sincerely take up the practice.
Read all the books you want, have at your fingertips all the references and be as eloquent as you please, but these and fine turns of buddhist phrases are places for the intellectual athlete specializing in things buddhist. (I am not putting those who acquire this knowledge down--like lovers wanting to know everything about the beloved, they can reveal nuances and subtleties of understanding which are inspiring, and the weaving of present experiences with the weft of historical material is helpful: Dogen's writings for example) Scholars can be useful, very useful, and helpful: sprinkling a bit of spice over the bland fare of this practice.
But it is the bland fare of the practice which is its taste of authenticity.

I didn't start out intending to have a variety of teachers from various lineages, but that's what ended up happening. I'm glad for it, and I'm glad I had experienced different teachers before meeting Brad so that I could more fully appreciate what he has to offer. No small thing.

When these folks who started sitting or went back to sitting (again I emphasize this as extraordinary) go looking for a teacher to sit with--those teachers will owe Brad their thanks--for the part he has played in the continuation of this practice. (As a matter of fact quite a few over at Treeleaf credit Brad with their interest in zazen).
For Brad writing his books, writing about his life and a long rough patch in it, maybe this is no big deal, But it is no small thing.

Justin said...

Well, without some background in Buddhism you might not even realise that zazen isn't the whole of Zen.

Harry said...

Tell me now or the cat gets it!!!

H.

Stephanie said...

Jundo--you realize that I'm no more guilty of 'verbal diarrhea' than you are, with your pages and pages and pages written testifying to your various opinions on this and that? It's just that to you, your thoughts are valuable and 'correct,' while mine are/were worthless and 'incorrect' crap.

Dropping thought is a short-term solution when thoughts are not of the nature that once dropped, they do not return. It's easy to drop thoughts about which brand of ketchup you're going to buy at the store, but when you're going through a difficult emotional experience, any thought you drop will just come back and back if you haven't really dealt with what it is you're going through.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wacMgB-gKs

Bottom line is, you might be a good or helpful guide to some, but you certainly weren't to me. That's fine. I put all this out there for those who might also find your 'guidance' as off-base and unhelpful as I did, so that they'll realize they're not alone, and don't have to labor to force themselves into your strict vision of what a 'correctly practicing Buddhist' should look like. 'Cause while 'Jundoism' may have its merits, it certainly does not encapsulate all of Buddhism, if it even reflects it correctly at all.

But you don't have to take my word for it. An excerpt from a talk by John Daido Loori, Roshi:

http://www.fluctu8.com/media/2722/40207/

0:50

Koans of the Way of Reality: Yunmen's Ricecake

The Main Case

The great master Yunmen entered the Dharma Hall and said, "Even a single word, the instant it is brought up, puts the thousand differences into a single groove. Though it includes the minutest particles, it still is just speech for saving others. What then is this patch-robed monk supposed to impart? If I discuss it here, the intent of the Buddhas and ancestors and Shokei's single route will be obliterated. Is there anyone who can say a word?"

A monk came forward and asked, "What's the talk that goes beyond the Buddhas and ancestors?"

Yunmen said, "Rice cake."

The monk said, "How is that relevant?"

Yunmen said, "Exactly: How is it relevant? You cannot make anything of it, yet upon seeing someone speaking about the ancestral intent, you inquire of the talk that transcends Buddhas and surpasses ancestors. What are you referring to as Buddha? And what are you referring to as ancestor? When you speak of talk that transcends Buddhas and surpasses ancestors, if you ask how to escape from the triple world, then bring me the triple world."

The Commentary

Though usually spare of words, Master Yunmen seems to have run off the deep end this time. While the monk was still gagging on the cake Yunmen had stuffed into his mouth, Yunmen launched into a litany of responses, invocations, challenges, and justifications, berating both the monk and the congregation and, finally, waving his staff over his head, drove the assembly out of the hall. But tell me, what was Yunmen's meaning when he said, 'Exactly. How is it relevant? You cannot make anything of it." Was he deliberately being obscure and irrelevant, or is there more to it?

Master Dogen, commenting on this koan, said, "You should quietly concentrate on this utterance. And so far as rice cakes appear completely, there are ancestral teachers who discuss talk which transcends Buddhas and ancestors, and there are iron persons who hear, and there are students who listen. It is completely apparent speaking. Now divulging the matter and resonating with it certainly consists of two or three painted cakes. It is the talk which transcends Buddhas and ancestors and it is the capability for entering Buddhas and entering Mara-devils."

Zen practitioners all over the world have always been confused by this koan of Yunmen. they rush to "rice cake" to try to understand. Others go to the phrase "Beyond Buddhas and ancestors" and speculate and concoct theories as to its meaning, as if it were a philosophical question. We should understand that "rice cake" is not to be understood as "cake" nor is it to be understood as going beyond Buddhas and ancestors. Although he simply said "rice cake," it's truly impossible to hold on to it and make something of it. As Yunmen himself has said, "If you still really don't have a clue, then for a time, go into yourself and investigate it thoroughly on your own."

The Capping Verse

Seeking the truth with empty hands,
One returns empty-handed.
In the place where there is fundamentally no attainment,
After all, one truly attains it.

* * *

25:00

"...Dogen is saying that this--'rice cake'--is the talk that transcends Buddhas and ancestors. And it also contains the capability for entering Buddhas and entering Mara-devils. "Entering Buddhas" is a phrase that is used in an eye-opening ceremony, which occurs when a Buddha is brought into a hall, for example. What it's about when there's an eye-opening ceremony is that there is a mutual empowerment of the icon and the priest. The icon is empowered by the priest entering into it and animating it with the qualities of life, of a living person, of a living Buddha. And once that happens, the living icon enters into the priest and empowers the priest with its spiritual qualities. And each of the icons has a very different spiritual quality. Jizo Bodhisattva is one thing, Kannon Bodhisattva is another. Manjushri is another. Each one of these deities has a specific characteristic about them.

"So what he's talking about here is that 'rice cake' is the power to develop the capability for entering Buddhas and entering Mara-devils. Now it includes--the Buddhadharma is non-dual. So if you're empowered to enter Buddhas, you're empowered to enter Maras, the evil demons who obstruct Buddhism, who bring suffering into living beings, the Lords of the Realm of Desire, defilements, afflictions, hindrances to spiritual progress. Isn't that a wonderful notion? Can you appreciate what Dogen is saying? So not only does "rice cake," when it's understood completely and fully, empower the person to enter Buddhas and animate them, it also empowers them to enter demons.

"Else how will you deal with demons? How will you resolve the dichotomy between demons and Buddhas? By erasing them? Telling them to go away? Denying them? Pretending they're not there? The process is to enter, not to deny. That's why we talk about in zazen, when something keeps coming up, you don't push it away. If it repeatedly comes up, let it. Welcome it! People say, "Well, it hurts." Yeah, it hurts. Let it hurt! I always think of that movie with Frank Sinatra where he gets thrown in prison and is being beaten up by this big burly head prison guard, and this guy is punching and hitting him. The guy keeps hitting and hitting him, and [Frank Sinatra's character] says, "Is that all you got? Is that the best you can do? That's nothing!" Demons need to be entered before you can let them go...

39:45

"...So when you set out in seeking, you need to set out with empty hands. That is, get rid of the baggage. Getting rid of the baggage is the first step. We're always in a rush to get past that first step. We somehow regard counting or following the breath as a waste of time. 'I already know how many breaths I have. I don't need to count them.' That process of following the breath is a critical process of clearing the way so that the work can start later. But we're in a rush to get to the work. But what happens is that you get into the work, say of koans or shikantaza, and all you're doing is dealing with all of this stuff that hasn't been processed, hasn't been dealt with. And in the process of working on, say, a koan like Mu, all you're doing is suppressing the things that need to come up that are in the way.

"So 'seeking the truth with empty hands' means getting rid of the baggage before you go, before you start. So 'seeking the truth with empty hands,' one returns empty-handed. You don't go with anything, you don't come back with anything. If your hands are full, if the backpack is full, you go off with a full backpack and you return with a full backpack. You go off with a handful and you come back with a handful.

"And the next line says, 'In the place where there is fundamentally no attainment, after all, one truly attains it.' And that's where seeking the truth with empty hands takes you: it takes you to the place where there is fundamentally no attainment. And when you get to that place, you, in the end, truly attain it. Once you truly realize that there is nothing to attain, you've attained it all.

"That doesn't mean waving your hands and saying, 'Oh, I'm already perfect and complete, I don't have to do anything,' as you hold your head up standing in shit up to your nostrils, worried about somebody making a wave. 'Everything's fine, everything's wonderful...' That's just deceiving yourself.

"You really, truly need to plumb the depths of what it is you carry and how that informs your life, how that has defined you, how that has made you what you are, and get past all of that, because that doesn't belong to you. That's not yours. That's the conditioning. Get beyond that to the ground of being--that's yours. Get familiar with that ground of being. Get cozy with that ground of being. Learn to live your life out of that ground of being, to trust that, to trust yourself. And when you're doing that, you attain nothing, because you've just discovered what has always been with you. And when you've done that, you've given life to the Buddha. And ultimately, that's what this practice is about."

Justin said...

I may copy and paste some of the content of these comments into a comment for Nishijima Roshi's blog as I think he deserves a chance to respond.

What say ye, is this the right thing to do?


Well ask yourself what your motivation is. If it's spite then don't bother.

Harry said...

It's funny that, Justin. Because my motivation isn't clear... I might like to think it is, but its not.

Do you ever feel like that, Justin?

I'm not at all qualified to kill a cat, Justin. Are you?

I might like to think I am, Justin, but...

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

I credit Brad for sparking my interest in doing actual buddhist practice and Zen in particular for real.

Anonymous said...

Jundo,

You mention "traditional Buddhist teaching" and "the relaxed way of Nishijima/Brad" as if they are on odds. Now, I'd like to ask for a clarification do you think the traditional way is somehow better or more relevant than the just sitting zazen way - ie. is it absolutely necessary to know about all the stories and subtleties and how to perform rituals to carry the practice off from the zafu (which, to my understanding, is what one should be able to do according to you too)? If one only sits and is able to bring the practice to the life outside the zendo with him does one really need all the other stuff and if so, what for? What is the reason one should study all the traditional aspects that Nishijima roshi or Warner roshi do not teach?

I ask this especially because as I understand it, Nishijima is teaching kind of back-to-the-roots-no-nonsense tradition of Zen - which itself is a back-to-the-roots-no-nonsense tradition of buddhism. So why bring all the tradition back to the picture?

For the anonymous who commented "balanced ANS" as some pseudophilosophical concept - well, it can of course be viewed as such, but it can also be taken very literally and scientifically. The autonomic nervous system is the part of the central nervous system that is outside our conscious control and yet it is responsible for the most of the reactions in our body - even to the emotional level (such as sexual arousal). So if your ANS is truly in a balanced state - so that neither the sympathetic or parasympathetic system is more active you are literally and very really living in a quite balanced and not-easily-disrupted state. The real middle way.

And if that is something you can achieve on the zafu it certainly follows you away from the zafu as well. And if you can keep it going for the most part of the day off sitting ... well, I'd say to most people you will look something quite extraordinary!

Anonymous said...

Harry,

I don't know your association with Nishijima roshi, but if Jundo who has studied directly under him does not want to trouble his teacher with the issue why should you? Of course, if you want to get sensei Gudo's answer to the questions Jundo has been bothering you with why don't you ask them from Nishijima yourself? No need to just copy'n'paste Jundo's comments on Nishijima's blog. No need to even say they are from Jundo, unless you of course want for some reason to tell Nishijima roshi about it. Do you?

I think that sometimes it is better to let the old minds rest and have their peace for the time they still have with us - not to trouble them needlessly with trifles.

Harry said...

Anon,

Yes, good point.

On the other hand, all this stuff being said here about Nishijima Roshi, words being put into his mouth and all, it strikes me as distinctly dishonest and distasteful it being said in his absence while the man himself is still very much alive and contactable.

I think Nishijima still has plenty of energy in him for this sort of thing if the lucidity and vigour of some of his recent blog comments are anything to go by.

Anyway, I'm not going to do what I said, I was just rattling some cages... I never claimed to be an authority on honest conduct!

Regards,

Harry,

Anonymous said...

you, harry are at least forthwith and honest about your conduct
you 'think aloud' in your posts here before taking action,
you allow your 'thinking aloud' to be answered by other thoughts, other thinkers

quite admirable

and that cat I see, is purring on your lap

Harry said...

Anon,

If I was really adept at thinking out loud I'd be making a terrible joke about stroking my pussy now right now... D'oh!!!

H.

Anonymous said...

purring?

yeah, right

more like hissin' and scratching

Jinzang! remedies for cat scratch fever?

Harry said...

It amazes me that people still come here expecting to find good little Buddhists.

Sorry to disappoint yet again, for all THAT's worth.

Regards,

H.

Anonymous said...

it amazes me people come here expecting to find buddhists period

Moon Face Buddha said...

It beats the rather sterile discourse on e-sangha :)

Anonymous said...

Harry,

I think Nishijima still has plenty of energy in him for this sort of thing if the lucidity and vigour of some of his recent blog comments are anything to go by.

I, too, have been following Nishijima's blog for quite some time and while some of his answers and clearly misunderstanding of the what is being asked probably comes right down to him not being a native (or very good at all?) English speaker I have to say that while certainly some of his recent comments are lucid and vigorous, quite another some clearly are not. And I don't think it all comes down just to the missing in translation factor either.

Sorry to rattle your cage, just saying what it looks like from over here. To be certain one would of course have to have a face to face conversation in Japanese with old master Gudo.

Is there anyone here who actually meets with him regularly and speaks Japanese fluently who could attest to his current situation, especially compared to the past?

Anonymous said...

Moonface,

Does e-sangha have a zen subforum nowadays? I heard they closed it off some year(s) ago due to the administration persecuting Zen ideas too much (they were facing the possibility of real life charges of religious persecution).

Is discussion of ideas such as no-rebirth/reincarnation taught by Buddha still a bannable offence?

It were things like that - forcing down one dogmatic view of organized religion Buddhism - that made me leave the place alone.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"And there are people who say
they started sitting again after
not sitting for a considerable period
of time, spurred to return to the cushion
after reading one of Brad's books--this
is quite extraordinary to my way of thinking."


After not sitting for many years, due to
unbearable disgust at the hypocrisy of so
many zen teachers, I started sitting again
after reading about Brad's refusal to accept
big bucks for some New-Age luxury cruise up
the Amazon, some "spiritual" vacation deal
with other "enlightened" teachers for those
with the means to pay -- that, and his open
criticism of other "teachers" -- as MLK said,
"a time comes when silence is betrayal..."

thus, the love-hate relationship with "zen"
continues...

(happy fucking valentine's day :)

Harry said...

Anon,

Don't get me wrong; I think we should be realistic about how Nishijima Roshi is.

But, to offer contrast to Jundo's reports, most weeks I am in Skype contact with someone (a Westerner who speaks good Japanese and who is a dharma heir of Nishijima Roshi's) who sees him regularly and who says that he's doing fine considering his age. Maybe it's just that the person I'm talking to about it is completely brainwashed and in denial, maybe its just that he doesn't have beef with Nishijima Roshi's teaching/ teaching style, or maybe Nishijima Roshi is actually fine for a man of his age. Or maybe all/ some/ none of the above... but, you know, the person I'm in touch with is a nice, reasonable man and I don't think that he would lie to me about it.

Nishijima Roshi has trouble both with English and with using a computer at times. I'm apologising for him here (and, yes Jundo, that makes me an 'apologist') because N Roshi kindly apologised to me about these difficulties he has.

Regards,

Harry.

OsamaVanHalen said...

Coming Soon To Pay-Per-View:
Dharma Battle 2009!
Odo versus Jundo!!
(The sound of one hand covering a yawning mouth.)

Anonymous said...

Any voracious readers and thinkers concerned by the alleged absence of Buddhist theory/philosophy (apart from, latterly, the increasingly frequent mention of the ANS!) in the teaching of Gudo Nishijima Roshi will be rewarded, I am sure, by spending a few absorbing kalpas with the Nishijima/Cross translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo.

A brief perusal of the copious footnotes alone should leave noone in any doubt that Gudo believes, strongly, that a student of the way must practice zazen and study buddhist philosophy, as he himself clearly has.

Harry said...

BTW,

To more important matters: What the hell has the photo for this blog article got to do with anything?

A guy eating Doritos and an attractive female observer...?

Definitely masking some dark conspiracy...

Regards,

H.

Harry said...

Oh, I just seen it now.

Hinduism.

H.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jundo cohen said...

Hi Folks,

I have decided to post my message at Nishijima Roshi's blog and ask for his impression. (I will make a few minor changes/additions to clarify my English given limits to his abilities. I hope you agree in looking at the changes/additions that they help clarify my points for him, not change my points. The comments posted there usually take a day or so to appear before he gets them posted, so you may not see it right away).

I anticipate that his response will be something along the lines that, if one sits Zazen each day and makes effort to keep the spine vertical, the ANS will naturally balance and the Precepts, etc. will be kept.

I am just responding with what needs said about Brad's strange new book, and saying some things which I believe need saying.

I do not think it is a pissing contest, and I believe I am putting myself in the line of fire by doing so (the safer course would be to keep my mouth shut like many others around Nishijima Roshi). But I am the type to say what needs to be said, whether folks agree or not.

It is definitely not fun.

By the way, I also salute the brilliance and spirit Brad showed in "Hardcore Zen" (a true classic"; I mistakenly said last week that his Shobogenzo book "Sit Down & Shut Up" is a favorite, and it is not so much because of what I felt were some strained interpretations). I have also defended or paid homage to him when I have been asked and think he deserved it (by describing him as a firebrand who has introduced thousands of people to Buddhism who would not also have come). One can both compliment what should be compliment and criticize what need criticizing. Same for anything I write.

Gassho, Jundo

mtto said...

The footnotes to the Nishijima/Cross translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo will boggle your mind, and I don't understand how the indexing in relation to the Lotus Sutra was done unless by someone with a VERY VERY VERY good knowledge of the Lotus Sutra. Even then, it seems to me like an impossible task and I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it for myself.

I hung out with two of Nishijima's Dharma heirs today and their description of him is rather different than Jundo's version, specifically regarding the studying of Buddhist philosophy or lack thereof. I'm not saying Jundo is wrong, because I personally don't know.

Also, Jundo's criticism of Tim McCarthy is baseless and it comes across as mean-spirited. Maybe he does not intend that... but why the quotation marks around Tim's name? (as if to say, "if that's his REAL name!) I haven't met Tim, but I've met more than one of his students and heard some of his poetry.

Harry said...

"I anticipate that his response will be something along the lines that, if one sits Zazen each day and makes effort to keep the spine vertical, the ANS will naturally balance and the Precepts, etc. will be kept."

Jundo,

Yes, I think that is a reasonable supposition.

In Roshi's case, of course, it seems very true and he lives this truth as you have mentioned.

Kindly remind us exactly what you hope to achieve by making Roshi say that?

And possibly you could make a comment on how you think his saying that now should reflect on the extremely large amount of work that Nishijima Roshi has done (his numerous books, Shobogenzo translations, lectures over the years etc.) to help people understand many, many aspects of Buddhist philosophy... lest anyone get the inaccurate impression that ANS is all Nishijima Roshi ever talked/ talks about.

Regards,

Harry.

jundo cohen said...

Actually, printed everything without change except the first paragraph (because I did not think he would understand the context of the discussion of some terms like "in the crapper"). I also added a few introductory sentences to provide some context. I did not change one comma on anything else.

Gassho, J

Jinzang said...

Does e-sangha have a zen subforum nowadays? I heard they closed it off some year(s) ago due to the administration persecuting Zen ideas too much .

I don't know what's happening on e-sangha, because I no longer read it. The soto zen subforum (not the whole zen forum) was closed after Jundo threatened legal action against them. Some of the more respected posters on the zen forum of e-sangha have recently started up a new bpard, Zen Forum International.

OsamaVanHalen said...

Did Mysterion really write "I thought Jundo had a blog of his own...why is he so anxious to hijack this one?"
Pot, meet Kettle.
Kettle, meet Pot.
Maybe you two can go hijack-off on each others' blogs now.
Go in peace.

Jinzang said...

Scholars can be useful, very useful, and helpful: sprinkling a bit of spice over the bland fare of this practice. But it is the bland fare of the practice which is its taste of authenticity.

If I had to choose between practice and study, I would choose practice. But I don't need to make that choice, there's no reason I can't do both. It's important that a practitioner study. Otherwise, there's a real danger they'll get fixated on their achievements in meditation and misinterpret them as enlightenment. And it's important that anyone who takes on the role of teacher have a good background in study. Answering people's questions from your own experience is fine, but no one is so experienced that they can afford to ignore the towering figures of the past. Your explanation should be guided by theirs.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jundo cohen said...

Kindly remind us exactly what you hope to achieve by making Roshi say that?

And possibly you could make a comment on how you think his saying that now should reflect on the extremely large amount of work that Nishijima Roshi has done (his numerous books, Shobogenzo translations, lectures over the years etc.) to help people understand many, many aspects of Buddhist philosophy... lest anyone get the inaccurate impression that ANS is all Nishijima Roshi ever talked/ talks about.


Hi Harry,

First, please understand that this is not pleasant for me. Standing up in this place to voice an unpopular opinion invites the torch-bearing hysterical mob.

Second, let me remind you of the focus of my comments: I am attempting to respond to a book (in a comments section devoted to that book at which the author has invited comments, and a book that impacts my "family") in which book the author appears to take cavalierly various aspects of Buddhist teachings such as the Precepts. I am also responding to a posting by Brad with a seemingly bazaar comment on something that is considered "Buddhism 101", attempting to explain the origins.

I love my teacher, and I have never hidden my relatively minor disagreements with him. I do not play my Jazz piano precisely as he plays his old Japanese folks songs. We both believe that daily Zazen is indispensible to our lives, that Zazen means "goalless just sitting", that it does help bring a balance to life. He has been and is a wonderful teacher of Shikantaza. However, he believes that all one needs to do is sit Zazen twice a day, whereby the ANS will naturally balance and (presto) one will naturally abide by the Precepts, be peaceful, be "non-attached" etc. (He seems to believe so because he is such a self-controlled fellow in his character, the old Japanese Samurai). Because it comes naturally, he feels he does not need to even mention many aspects of "Buddhism 101". On the other hand, I point out to him that many of his own students seem not so "balanced" in their behavior between Zazen sittings, and to lack awareness of some things that almost every other Zen Buddhist in the world considers basic to practice. An example is this sad exchange I stumbled across yesterday, when I googled the terms "Nishijima Shobogenzo Attachment" ... part of a 10 year dispute between Nishijima Roshi and two of his other Dharma Heirs, Michael Cross and Michael Leutchford, over who did what in translating the Shobogenzo (especially Michael Leutchford's first comment ... at the time I did not see it, now I do)

http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/2007/08/our-translation-of-shobogenzo.html

Anyway, I first attended Nishijima Roshi's lectures on Shobogenzo back in 1989 (although I came and went over those early years). Nothing can or should take away from the brilliance of the Nishijima-Cross Shobogenzo translation and other like works, a super-human task which succeeded both due to Nishijima Roshi's attention to detail and Mike Cross's (although a difficult person) genius as a translator.

However, as you well know Harry, Nishijima's interpretation of the Shobogenzo (and almost everything else in Buddhist philosophy) is that there must be a nearly 1-to-1 correspondence between each single line of Shobogenzo and one of Nishijima's 4 categories of (idealism/materialism/realism/action). Nishijima's ideas are very insightful, and provides a true and fresh understanding of some of Dogen's teachings. However, it gets a bit much sometimes when Nishijima Roshi attempts to force fit everything in the world into one of the 4 categories. Even a brilliant idea can be stretched to the breaking point. An example is this famous attempt to fit the "Four Noble Truths" into the 4 categories, something no Buddhist scholar or priest anywhere in the world can buy into, and which pretty much has nothing to do with the traditional interpretation (Chapter 8 of To Meet the Real Dragon):

1- the mental;
2- the physical;
3- the point of view of action itself, in which body and mind are combined; and
4- reality, which is all-inclusive.

And, of course, for him the Fourth Noble Truth is merely Zazen and balance of the autonomic nervous system. If you sit through hundreds of hours of his talks, and look through each and every page of his blog (please, try) all he is usually discussing (apart from some political opinions and such) is how to fit all of Buddhism, Dogen, etc. into those 4 categories, all resolved by a balanced ANS. It is a good idea taken to extreme ... incredible, strange extremes (there is a joke that if you go to lunch with Nishijima Roshi and look at the menu, he will explain that the "chicken" is idealism, the "beef" materialism, etc.)

None of that should take away from his technical brilliance as a translator (although it does shine through sometimes, such as his attempt to stuff, kicking and screaming, each Koan 1-for-1 into the 4 categories in the Shinji-Shobogenzo Koan collection), his grace as a human being, his service in introducing hundreds of foreigners in Japan to Buddhism, his brilliance and dedication as a teacher of "Just Sitting" Shikantaza.

One can learn a tremendous amount from one's teacher about subject X, and honor one's teacher, without having to agree with your teacher's every strange idea about subject Y. Personally (and Nishijima Roshi may not know this), I honor and show my love more by talking "truth to power" than by kissing his posterior or making crazy "interpretations" of his ideas to try to smooth them over and fine a subtlety that may not be there (Harry, I know you don't think you do that):-)

I am in Skype contact with someone (a Westerner who speaks good Japanese and who is a dharma heir of Nishijima Roshi's) who sees him regularly and who says that he's doing fine considering his age.

He -IS- doing wonderfully ... for a 90 year old man.

I hung out with two of Nishijima's Dharma heirs today and their description of him is rather different than Jundo's version, specifically regarding the studying of Buddhist philosophy or lack thereof. I'm not saying Jundo is wrong, because I personally don't know.

There is always a tendency for the missionaries to circle the wagons when the chief is attacked (or whatever the proper metaphor). Of course, folks who received their education from him, and were ordained by him, or going to tend to say they received a complete and good education.

Now look, I am not bringing any honor on myself by saying these things. By speaking about these things honestly, I am not building up myself (quite the contrary, because if Nishijima's teachings are doubted it makes all his children look bad including me). I am just speaking honestly, as I see, about a problem with "grandma", a grandma's kids and grandkids who are running wild. By speaking honestly (what I see as the truth), I just get the rest of the family mad at me.

Go ahead, "innuendo squad", get your torches lit, your name calling a go!

Gassho, Jundo

jundo cohen said...

Also, Jundo's criticism of Tim McCarthy is baseless and it comes across as mean-spirited. Maybe he does not intend that... but why the quotation marks around Tim's name? (as if to say, "if that's his REAL name!) I haven't met Tim, but I've met more than one of his students and heard some of his poetry.

I certainly did not mean to cast any criticism on Tim or imply anything with the "quotations" around his name. It is just that Brad describes Tim in as a very relaxed teacher who Brad new as a lay person in his early years of Zazen, and I doubt (only Brad can answer) whether Tim was formal providing training to Brad.

I'd like to ask for a clarification do you think the traditional way is somehow better or more relevant than the just sitting zazen way - ie. is it absolutely necessary to know about all the stories and subtleties and how to perform rituals to carry the practice off from the zafu (which, to my understanding, is what one should be able to do according to you too)? If one only sits and is able to bring the practice to the life outside the zendo with him does one really need all the other stuff and if so, what for? What is the reason one should study all the traditional aspects that Nishijima roshi or Warner roshi do not teach?

On certainly does not need to know how to do "all the rituals". But neither should one throw out the baby with the bath water (or, in Nishijima Roshi terms, assert that just sitting Zazen will automatically wash to baby). There are some valuable teachings there garnered over centuries of Zen practice that need to be cultivated and do not arise sua sponte out of Zazen.

Gassho, J

Harry said...

Jundo,

I think some of Nishijima Roshi's applications of his theories, especially his recent treatment of MMK, are highly eccentric. I also think there is much of value in them, and I value eccentricity, especially the eccentricity of a nice, helpful man like Nishijima Roshi, highly.

So, I have no problem at all 'smoothing over' these things as I just don't see them as a problem like you do: they are not hurting anyone, they are not being propagated deviously or rammed down people's throats, they may in fact be helping a lot of people... I quite enjoy them for what they are.

Nishijima Roshi once said that Buddhism was a sort of 'hobby' for him... he likes to make his patterns and juggle things around in a way which pleases him and makes sense to him. He jams with it in his own way. It seems it is everyone but him that is about making a big problem out of that.

It seems it is others who are making his stuff harmful, who are taking it most seriously: most notably you of late.

Regards,

Harry.

jundo cohen said...

I think some of Nishijima Roshi's applications of his theories, especially his recent treatment of MMK, are highly eccentric. I also think there is much of value in them, and I value eccentricity, especially the eccentricity of a nice, helpful man like Nishijima Roshi, highly.

So, I have no problem at all 'smoothing over' these things as I just don't see them as a problem like you do: they are not hurting anyone, they are not being propagated deviously or rammed down people's throats, they may in fact be helping a lot of people... I quite enjoy them for what they are.

Nishijima Roshi once said that Buddhism was a sort of 'hobby' for him... he likes to make his patterns and juggle things around in a way which pleases him and makes sense to him. He jams with it in his own way.


So we completely agree. What's the problem?

Harry said...

Erm, Jundo... you might want to read back the page a bit... to the stuff you wrote before you got that knock on the head a minute ago.

?

Regards,

Harry.

kudra said...

if you read this blog like really fast it sounds like clucking.
and stephanie dear, just try and condense your thoughts a bit. your post are just a little "wordy". i start to nod about half way through and then your message gets lost:) thats all.
and brad thanks for the question and answer format. please consider that in the future.

RUATroll said...

I'm dumbfounded by what Brad means by this comment section being overun by trolls. It seems remarkably clear of any lately. Does Brad not know what troll means either?

The discussion lately seems very serious and on-topic with many participants who apparently have years of zazen experience. What am I missing? Does Brad label anyone who takes a critical stance to his pronouncements or dares to disagree with him a troll? I guess just calling people that disagree with you names is at least a consistent teaching.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Jundo said:
"An example is this famous attempt to fit the "Four Noble Truths" into the 4 categories, something no Buddhist scholar or priest anywhere in the world can buy into, and which pretty much has nothing to do with the traditional interpretation (Chapter 8 of To Meet the Real Dragon):

1- the mental;
2- the physical;
3- the point of view of action itself, in which body and mind are combined; and
4- reality, which is all-inclusive. "

It is the assertion of these four 'truths' that Nishijima Sensei will be remembered for, long after we're gone.

Justin said...

Anon#692

I ask this especially because as I understand it, Nishijima is teaching kind of back-to-the-roots-no-nonsense tradition of Zen - which itself is a back-to-the-roots-no-nonsense tradition of buddhism. So why bring all the tradition back to the picture?

You only believe this because Nishijima is the only teacher you study. He teaches a #True Buddhism' myth that Buddhism was once just as he teaches it, then it got obscured by all this other stuff and he is returning it to the source. If you study more broadly and study the history of Buddhism you will see this is at best an extremely distorted version of the truth. Some metaphysical baggage was added, sure, but Nishijima's version of Buddhism has removed a great deal of material that was in original Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism is far closer to original Buddhism than Nishijima's Zen - or almost any Zen for that matter. The oldest Buddhist texts are the Nikayas - study them, or at least read an overview of Pali/Theravada Buddhism.

Justin said...

Anon#837

So if your ANS is truly in a balanced state - so that neither the sympathetic or parasympathetic system is more active you are literally and very really living in a quite balanced and not-easily-disrupted state. The real middle way.

This ANS stuff has nothing to do with Buddhism (or accepted medicine or science) and is something that Nishijima made up.

And if that is something you can achieve on the zafu it certainly follows you away from the zafu as well. And if you can keep it going for the most part of the day off sitting ... well, I'd say to most people you will look something quite extraordinary!

Buddhism is not about selfishly balancing your physiology. Nishijima has got you to believe this. I recommend studying Buddhism more broadly.

Justin said...

Does e-sangha have a zen subforum nowadays? I heard they closed it off some year(s) ago due to the administration persecuting Zen ideas too much (they were facing the possibility of real life charges of religious persecution).

eSangha is not a good place to go for a vigorous discussion especially for Zen people. They kicked Jundo out for not challenging literal rebirth. He threatened legal action and they closed doen the Soto Zen forum. IMO it's better closed than the over-controlled place it was.

A new Zen forum has opened which looks very good:
Zen Forum International

Buddha Chat is also quite good.

Justin said...

Sorry that should be "They kicked Jundo out for questioning literal rebirth"

Justin said...

It is the assertion of these four 'truths' that Nishijima Sensei will be remembered for, long after we're gone.

That's probably true and it's an interesting and I think valuable contribution, but he seems to try to squeeze most of Buddhism into this system. Of course Buddhism makes use of philosphical schemes and without them it is very difficult to interpret Zen and other Buddhist texts (which often have obscure or coded references to them). However, AFAIK this 'four truths' system has no precedent before Nishijima. Far more valuable for interpreting Buddhist text and koans is an understanding of the doctrine of the 'Two truths' (conventional vs ultimate truth) as well as an understanding of original Buddhism and the Mahayana commentaries on that.

Anonymous said...

we didnt get to the top of the food chain because we're a species of herbivores...

Anonymous said...

my DHaRMA is bigger than yours, mothafuckas!

nondual said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks all Zen teachers really could benefit from a shrink - anyone who can point out blindspots would be an asset - and Zen teachers can't always find them all. I admit that this isn't an original idea - Barry Magid's stuff made me think about it as relates to Zen teachers. Nonetheless, therapy has helped me with 'holy shit I didn't even realize I BELIEVED that' type of moments...and some of the things I was doing because of the things I didn't see were staggeringly misguided, if unconscious.

I also think that some of the strict fealty to a Zen teacher, although understandable, is problematic. Ultimately, the only understanding that counts is your own, and anyone who truly understands that is unlikely to be mislead by a teacher with a blindspot. They say you can't con an honest man - and the same goes with Zen students. If you're mislead, it's because you WANT something, and I think the only way to avoid being mislead is to openly find and acknowledge who you are and what you want. Eventually you'll figure out that Zen ain't ever gonna give you that. The people who stay after that are the real Zen students.

Does Brad have blindspots? Does Jundo? Nishijima? Oh hell yeah, but pointing out THEIR blindspots only helps THEM (and only if they can hear it anyway). Worry about your own missing insight.

Moon Face Buddha said...

Anon wrote...I'm dumbfounded by what Brad means by this comment section being overun by trolls.

Yes, it is somewhat unfortunate that Brad does not participate in the discussion here. You may wish to view the other posts and comments though, as some have (as Brad pointed out) been a troll-fest.

As for the ANS balance = Buddha true teaching...I cannot buy in to that. It sounds a bit too much like Samurai Zen, whereby you create a calm and self-controlled clockwork killer.

Zazen outside of the rich context of the teaching of the Buddha (just the basics; 4 noble truths and 8 fold path) is just someone sitting on a cushion. It may be calming, it may be soothing, it may even balance the ANS (whatever the heck that actually means in practice) but it is NOT (imho, and I am NOT an ordained Buudhist so who the heck cares what I think) Buddhism.

And to be honest I am a heretic myself. I appreciate the beauty and apparent simplicity of the teaching of master Bankei. And from a certain point of view one could say that a balanced ANS and Original Mind are one and the same thing.

Bankei does seem to have valued the teaching of non-attachment;

Attached to this
Ephemeral burning house
You yourselves light the fire, kindle the flames
In which you’re consumed


It may be useful to note that Bankei was aiming his "Song of Original Mind" teaching/poem to lay folk and rural peasants rather than an educated elite, using a language they could understand (in much the same way that Vatican 2 heralded a change from the Latin Mass)

And I am not in a position of make a critical analysis of the teaching of Nishijima because I have not studied it...which is why it would be nice if Brad came here and posted :)

Anonymous said...

Justin said
This ANS stuff has nothing to do with Buddhism (or accepted medicine or science) and is something that Nishijima made up.

Do you mean Nishijima's interpretation of ANS or ANS in general, because if you had bothered to read the link I gave or knew about human anatomy and physiology in general you'd realize that what he talks about is in fact very much part of accepted medicine or science of the 20th and 21st century.

I happen to have a formal university level education on the matter of the functions and structure of human body (especially the nervous system) so you'd do well to get your facts straight before trying to "lock swords" with me, buddy. ;)

Anonymous said...

Ok Buddy - show us the research about a balanced ANS/PNS creating mental states & the physiology behind these assertions

Moon Face Buddha said...

For completeness I should point about that Bankei did (seem to) place a great deal of value on Meditation. He did not encourage, or discourage, his followers (both lay and monastic) to practice Zazen.

Bankei seems (from what I understand) have placed greater emphasis on actual day to day living, and thus the practice of "Original Mind". Non-attachment to ideas, concepts, etc...let them come and go.

Moon Face Buddha said...

Oops, should say "did NOT"

Doh!

Stone said...

Ok Buddy - show us the research about a balanced ANS/PNS creating mental states & the physiology behind these assertions

Yes, I have a degree in phys too. The ANS/PNS exists. That's like saying the kidneys exist. That is not the question. There is some research the meditation slows heart rate and does have an effect on ANS/PNS. But that may not be much more than saying that people relax and their breathing/pulse rate slow.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8582759

However, I do not know of any research connecting ANS/PNS to to anything more than breath and heart rate like changes in awareness.

Stone said...

Let me correct what I said. There might be some accompanying changes like alertness. I do not know how it could be anything more just by ANS/PNS

Justin said...

Anonymous buddy,

Do you mean Nishijima's interpretation of ANS or ANS in general, because if you had bothered to read the link I gave or knew about human anatomy and physiology in general you'd realize that what he talks about is in fact very much part of accepted medicine or science of the 20th and 21st century.

Obviously I'm not claiming that the ANS doesn't exist. However, there is no good evidence that zazen brings the ANS into balance or that this is what Buddhism is about. This is a hypothesis dreamed up by Nishijima which he touts as fact.

Anonymous said...

A reminder:

Gautama (allegedly) said:

"I do not call the truth what the foolish confront each other with; they make their own view the truth; that is why they treat thier opponents as fools"

I can only think (most of you) think that applies to someone else, not us.

A fool.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh. Nishijima posted a reply to Jundo's post and to me it seems that Jundo should have clarified his English a lot and/or accompanied it with a Japanese commentary for mister Nishijima's understanding. Nishijima does clarify some of the issues, but then goes completely off road with the rest.

As it is obvious he often struggles with English and with computers, does he not have any English speaking students in Japan who could help him with these issues? Give a hand with internet use and offer translation help understanding the comments in his blog posts and expressing his own views clearly in English? I think that would be of a great benefit to everyone reading his blog! Now, it sometimes just muddles the issue further and gives the expression he's not totally with himself at all times. :-(

Anonymous said...

Justin,

Well, unless you are of the religious sort of persuasion - thinking there's Something Out There - all the effects of zazen on you should be explainable by physiological effects and this ANS through balancing of PNS/SNS idea that Nishijima promotes seem to be closest to real scientific facts that I've seen so far. What's your explanation if you do not believe that sitting zazen (sitting still in an upright position concentrating on keeping your body straight) can bring about changes in the behaviour of the ANS? Which databases did you search for research and with what keywords when you claim there are none?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said

"all the effects of zazen on you should be explainable by physiological effects and this ANS through balancing of PNS/SNS idea that Nishijima promotes seem to be closest to real scientific facts that I've seen so far"

Don't twist it around - please present the research which backs up this claim, which you support - the onus is on you not us

Anonymous said...

For the scientifically inclined, a few results of a quick google search with keywords "meditation and autonomous nervous system":

Functional brain mapping of the relaxation
response and meditation


Changes in EEG and autonomic nervous activity during meditation and their association with personality traits

Meditation for Health Purposes

You would all also do well to refamiliarize yourselves with what Gudo actually says about ANS

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

You seem to misunderstand the scientific requirements for proof. As of now I am not aware of any other scientifically sound theory explaining the benefits of meditation than it affecting through ANS as Nishijima suggests, so actually the burden of proof is on you to explain why this ANS theory is incorrect and present us with a better one. Just saying a theory is incorrect without providing evidence is just mindless flapping of the lips.

Anonymous said...

Tortology & tosh - it's a theory, but not one based in research. All can see which mouth is flapping.

Anonymous said...

Here's how Gudo's talk, referenced by anon at 5.17am begins:

The Relation Between the Autonomic Nervous System and Buddhism
- A talk by Gudo Wafu Nishijima -
Brussels November 2002

"My theory about the relation between the autonomic nervous system and Buddhism is only my supposition..."

So you see? It's "only...supposition".

Nothing to get your knickers in a twist about.

Your sitting/Buddhism/whatever is your business. Noone else's.

And their's is their's.

A Fool

Harry said...

Yes indeed, just a theory:

"My theory about the relation between the autonomic nervous system and Buddhism is only my supposition, but I have been utilizing it in explaining Buddhism for many years. Since I first arrived at this proposition many years ago, I have not met a case that caused me to change my theory. Therefore I would like to express my primitive proposition to the audience for their reference. Of course, I am only a Buddhist monk and do not have sufficient knowledge of physiology, psychology, and so forth. However, in my experience I have found it very useful to explain Buddhism on the basis of scientific knowledge, and so I would like to express my proposition on this occasion."

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

Well, unless you are of the religious sort of persuasion - thinking there's Something Out There - all the effects of zazen on you should be explainable by physiological effects and this ANS through balancing of PNS/SNS idea that Nishijima promotes seem to be closest to real scientific facts that I've seen so far.

I don't dispute that we should expect physiological correlates to meditative states and effects.

What's your explanation if you do not believe that sitting zazen (sitting still in an upright position concentrating on keeping your body straight) can bring about changes in the behaviour of the ANS? Which databases did you search for research and with what keywords when you claim there are none?

You are claiming that this ANS balance hypothesis is true. The onus is on you to provide proof.

You seem to misunderstand the scientific requirements for proof. As of now I am not aware of any other scientifically sound theory explaining the benefits of meditation than it affecting through ANS as Nishijima suggests, so actually the burden of proof is on you to explain why this ANS theory is incorrect and present us with a better one. Just saying a theory is incorrect without providing evidence is just mindless flapping of the lips.

Something does not become a scientific/medical fact simply because it's the only hypothesis going. Anyway, there are several different hypotheses that attempt to explain the effects of meditation eg.

Dr. James Austin, a neurophysiologist at the University of Colorado, reported that Zen meditation rewires the circuitry of the brain in his landmark book Zen and the Brain (Austin, 1999).

Dr. Herbert Benson of the Mind-Body Medical Institute, which is affiliated with Harvard and several Boston hospitals, reports that meditation induces a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body collectively referred to as the "relaxation response."[51] The relaxation response includes changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and brain chemistry. Benson and his team have also done clinical studies at Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas.

Daniel Goleman & Tara Bennett-Goleman (2001), suggest that meditation works because of the relationship between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Some studies of meditation have linked the practice to increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is associated with concentration, planning, meta-cognition (thinking about thinking), and positive affect (good feelings).

Others have proposed that the effects are due to increased alpha and gamma waves in the brain.

The jury is out. Certainly the hypothesis that the effects are due to ANS balance is not a scientifically or medically accepted fact.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Harry & Fool :-)

Anonymous said...

Well said Justin

Justin said...

For the scientifically inclined, a few results of a quick google search with keywords "meditation and autonomous nervous system":

For the scientifically inclined, a few results of a quick google search with keywords "9/11 and aliens":
9/11: The alienst did it
Did aliens try to stop the terrorist on 9/11?
Aliens blamed for September 11 by conspiracy fans

jundo cohen said...

Hi,

Here is Nishijima Roshi's reply. As usual, it starts off with me being blamed for Brad's idea! :-) It is hard to communicate with him these days, and he tends to misunderstand disagreement or questioning on issues as disloyalty. Maybe I should just take a "yes Grandma, whatever" attitude too, like the folks who allowed his MMK to be published without discussing its problems with him.

Anyway, we can leave it there. You can see his attitude on ANS balance.

Dear jundo cohen San,

I think that your questions are rather many, and so I would like to answer your each question one by one.

I have been rather surprised that you do not know that Buddhism recommends us not to have attachment so clearly. I think that it is very common rule in Buddhism not to have any attachment to anything. Therefore if you insist that Buddhism does not recommend us to leave attachment, the problem is related with a fundamental principle of Buddhism, and so I would like to ask you, please check
whether Buddhism does not recommend to leave attachment, or not.

I have been also very surprised that you do not believe in the principle that it is very important for Buddhists to keep the balance of the ANS at every moment.

But in your case you do not follow Master Dogen's teaching SHIKAN TAZA, or
just to practice Zazen, at all, and so you do not agree with Master Dogen's important teachings at all.
Of course you have your perfect freedom not to follow Master Dogen's teachings at all, because you are not a believer in Master Dogen's Buddhist theories at all. In such a situation it is very clear that your Buddhist thoughts are perfectly different from my Buddhist thoughts. But you have written already so many your Buddhist ideas, which are perfectly different from Master Dogen's thoughts, I would like to explain what points are different between your own Buddhist idea from Master Dogen's Buddhist thoughts.

Of course still I have been keeping my fundametal Buddhist principles, that is, the Theories of the Four Philosophies, the Rule of Cause and Effects, Philosophy of Action, and Reality itself. Therefore if Cohen San thought that I have left those kinds of fundamental Buddhist Principles, it might be very laughable mistakes.

In my Buddhist philosophical system, the theory of ANS has become clear in the 20th Century scientifically for the first time, and so recently I am diligent to explain the theory of ANS especially. I have never think other priciple of Buddhist theory right at all.

As I said, I never think the value of Buddhist Precepts light at all.

I am afraid that it is too difficult for him to understand our Buddhist discussions, and so he thinks that Gudo Nishijima does not know Buddhism at all.

I am always teaching my only one Truth especially, and so if there is anyone, who can not understand my teaching, everyone can have perfect freedom to leave me.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Anonymous said...

Jundo said:

"...like the folks who allowed his [Nishijima's] MMK to be published without discussing its problems with him".

I wonder who that dig was aimed at?

Since you know so much about Gudo, you should be very well aware that he's a very stubborn (and in his heyday, brilliant) man. Maybe he just didn't listen.

Jim, If - as you say - you find all so this very difficult, stop being a martyr why dontcha?

Clearly all this justifying ain't convincing anyone.

hendrik said...

I see Nishijima-sensei every now and then, and as far as I can tell there's nothing wrong with his mind whatsoever, with or without the "for a 90-year old man" qualifier. On the contrary, he is very sharp and very precise.

I do 30 minutes of Zazen, twice a day, and have done so for about 4 years now. Without a shadow of a doubt it has been, and continues to be, beneficial to my life and to those around me. There is less procrastination, and more precision and effectiveness in my daily activities, whether cerebral (mathematics) or manual (carpentry, household chores). Anger outburts are now rarer, shorter, and less intense. The effects are gradual and relentless.

To my mind it is vital to understand Nishijima's instructions on Zazen realistically, and to carry them out literally. This means, when you sit, you really are acting to maintain the posture, constantly. A materialistic reading of them is a mistake. So just because a person's posture conforms to a lotus geometry it does not follow that that person is doing Zazen. Maybe he's just wrapping himself up in his body, or busy pretending he has no intensional mind.

When I meet with Nishijima he always emphasizes the importance of Buddhist theory. In my opinion his rendering of it, in the form of the "4 philosophies", is both ingenious and illuminating. To situate it in the contexts of philosophy and science makes it more accessible to the modern educated mind. Instead of dismissing it on the grounds of superficial dissimilarities with older Buddhist texts, why not attempt to debunk it properly?

Similar remarks apply to Nishijima's long-standing conjecture between the practice of Zazen and the functioning of the autonomous nervous system. It's a beautiful hypothesis, and, if true, establishes a direct connection between Zazen practice and health. See for instance here. Again, investigation, not ridicule, might be a more appropriate response here.

hendrik

Anonymous said...

Jundo,

I assume you speak Japanese quite fluently too, living and teaching there for many years? Does Gudo have the same kind of trouble when you speak with him in his native language - or do you do that these days?

Anyways, I agree with you. When it is obvious that there is an insurmountable language barrier it is useless to try to discuss let alone debate finer points of a deep philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Judging from that reply, it seems that Nishijima is very old and/or ill, and that he really doesn't have a clue of what Jundo is asking him.

Anonymous said...

Justin,

Next time, instead of making a fool of yourself, why don't you go and read the links provided? I'm done handfeeding you baby - you're on your own from now on.

jundo cohen said...

Jundo,

I assume you speak Japanese quite fluently too, living and teaching there for many years? Does Gudo have the same kind of trouble when you speak with him in his native language - or do you do that these days?


Unfortunately, I have found language not to be the issue. He tends to hear what he wishes to hear in any language.

Since you know so much about Gudo, you should be very well aware that he's a very stubborn (and in his heyday, brilliant) man. Maybe he just didn't listen.

Yes, that is VERY possible with Roshi. But he did not arrange for the publication himself, and it was done for him by others.

Anyway, let's all take a breather. We have moved far off the original points of the topic.

Gassho, Jundo

Justin said...

Next time, instead of making a fool of yourself, why don't you go and read the links provided? I'm done handfeeding you baby - you're on your own from now on.

We won't have you to handfeed us half-baked nonsense? This is heartbreaking news.

The existence of a few studies apparently showing evidence that meditation balances the ANS as Nishijima claims wouldn't show that this is an accepted scientific/medical explanation. But have you even done that? Let's see:

Link 1:
"The data indicate that meditation activates neural struc-
tures involved in attention (frontal and parietal cortex) and
arousal/autonomic control ...The acti-
vation in limbic regions probably modulates autonomic
output
[23]. Future experiments will examine the role of these structures more directly."
Indicates some evidence of activation of structures involved with attention and
arousal/autonomic control. No evidence that ANS is 'balanced' by this.

link 2:
"During meditation, increases were observed in fast theta power and slow alpha power on EEG predominantly in the frontal area, whereas an increase in the normalized unit of high-frequency (nuHF) power (as a parasympathetic index) and decreases in the normalized unit of low-frequency (nuLF) power and LF/HF (as sympathetic indices) were observed through analyses of heart rate variability."
So this one seems to show an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity - evidence of ANS activity, among other things, but not balancing of sympathetic and parasympathetic not any evidence of whether this causes perceived meditation effects or is merely a secondary correlation.

link 3:
"While scientists are studying whether meditation may afford meaningful health benefits, they are also looking at how it may do so. One way some types of meditation might work is by reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system and increasing activity in the parasympathetic nervous system."
Well firstly, this isn't a scientific paper just a website about meditation. Secondly, it defeats your own argument in two ways:
1. It admits that [scientists] are looking at how it may [give health benefits]. The jury is out as I said.
2. Secondly, (as suggested in the article above) it says it MAY do this by "reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system and increasing activity in the parasympathetic nervous system." which is contrary to what Nishijima is hypothesising - see below:

Link 4:
" I think Buddhism emphasizes the importance of equality or equilibrium between the SNS and the PNS. "
Nishijima argues not that meditation increases activity in the SNS and decreases activity in the PNS as the two articles above claim there is some evidence for, he is claiming that they are brought into balance

Not only have you failed to provide evidence for Nishijima's hypothesis, you have succesfully provided evidence against it.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!

Does that mean Gudo might be wrong?

Or not completely right?

Who's next? Dogen? Gautama?

What would we all do then?


Turn your light within.

jundo cohen said...

Let me add that it was just a mistake to bother him with this. The situation just is what it is.

Rich said...

Jundo,
Forget about Buddhism for a minute, as one human being to another I am here to tell you that what matters is what YOU do and teach. Do not let what Brad and Gudo do, get in your way.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Justin,
Over Brad's last columns and the last few strings of comments, I seem to have lost your original opinion? Are you saying buddhism can be understood intellectually without zazen?

Stephanie said...

The thing I find amusing about the average layperson's attitude toward neuroscience is this unchecked assumption that stating the neural correlates for a phenomenon somehow explains it. It doesn't.

Whether meditation affects the ANS, the prefrontal cortex, or whatever else, only tells us what the brain / neural system is doing while one meditates. It doesn't tell us what that particular brain activity signifies. And to the extent we have some awareness of what these different physiological systems do, it becomes a tautology. One knows that meditation makes one calm; one knows that calmness is reflected in a certain autonomic response. To say then "meditation affects the ANS" is just to dress up the basic common sense knowledge that sitting zazen produces a state of calm in mystifying sounding scientific language.

I'm not knocking Nishijima Roshi here, who has extended this basic observation in many useful ways. But is this really worth arguing about? Is this really the "Great Matter"? Knowing what meditation does to the brain doesn't tell us diddly about the larger implications of what occurs in meditation, and it never will. It's like that old Zen saying--a knife cannot cut itself. An eye cannot see itself. The mind can know itself--that's the very heart of Zen practice--but it can never know or experience its nature via more thoughts and concepts. Any form of science will be of necessity rooted in words and concepts, and as such will never be able to fully capture the significance of Zen practice.

We'll be able to see or show or prove that meditation increases activity in brain regions associated with attention (duh), that it relaxes the sympathetic nervous response because while sitting we are dropping the usual activity of thinking ourselves into an agitated state, etc., that it actually physically alters the brain and even increases brain mass--but even if we could perfectly map out what happens in the brain during an 'enlightenment' experience or experience of insight, it still would not tell us what it is.

Who is this person sitting here? What is mind? What is reality? Concepts can help point us in the right direction but they will never give a complete answer to those questions. This is the heart of Zen teaching that makes Zen uniquely what it is as a Buddhist school--this emphasis on the failure of words and concepts to capture reality, an important teaching in Taoism, which is what influenced the different 'flavor' of Zen compared to other Buddhist schools--and it's as relevant now as ever. Neuroscience, while a valuable asset in our knowledge-understanding of meditation, is ultimately a diversion when it comes to the REAL matter of Zen, which is beyond-knowledge-understanding of reality.

Anonymous said...

Stef seems to take a religious approach to Zen, which is all fine and good as long as it rocks your boat. But it's just saying "God is in the holes" in different words.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich said...

Stephanie, That was eloquent and insightful.

God is in the holes and everywhere else, if you call it God, mostly I call it Don't Know cause it's not an idea or concept. Some call it original mind, universal substance, Buddha nature etc. I'm just happy to be here.

Moon Face Buddha said...

Justin,
Over Brad's last columns and the last few strings of comments, I seem to have lost your original opinion? Are you saying buddhism can be understood intellectually without zazen?


Not Justin, but I thought I would venture an answer/opinion.

Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration (from the Eightfold Path as taught (apparently) by Gotama) can conceivably be put into practice without Zazen.

So I would say that Yes, the teaching of Gotama can be "understood intellectually without zazen", and beyond that it can be put in to practice without Zazen.

On the other hand it may be useful to note that Brad is posting from a certain point of view, and that point of view is based on the teachings of Dogen and Nishijima. It is to be expected that Zazen is fundamental to his teaching and his posts here.

Where I think Brad should be more careful is in his posting about Buddhism beyond this context. His statement "But oddly enough I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept. It's more of a Brahmanistic (Hindu) idea that got incorporated into Buddhism when Buddhism came to the West as part of a mixture of Eastern philosophies." is (imho) nonsense.

Brad takes a tough stance on faux-Zen teachers. It may be prudent if he were to adopt a similar attitude towards his own posts that stray beyond the rigid confines of Dogen Sangha / Nishijima approved Zen.

In the name of full disclosure I should make readers aware that I practice Zazen/Meditation infrequently. The reason is that I have noticed that it triggers/aggravates a bi-polar condition. If that makes meunfit in some peoples eyes to comment here then so be it :)

NellaLou said...

In Hinduism the term Sannyasa- Renunciation is used. It is a rejection of material in favor of idealistic objectives. There is not much "non-attachment" in Hinduism due to the Hindu concept of Karma which is different from the Buddhist concept. The Atman is also a significant concept in Hinduism as is the idea of reincarnation. A person in Hinduism cannot "not-attach" because of the perception of karma in literal rebirth. One is permanently "attached" throughout countless lifetimes. One can reject material things but that is different than non-attachment. It is a negative attachment through rejection.

Anonymous said...

steff has very little experience with zen. as she proceeds with her training, she will wax eloquently less and less. please forgive her for her immaturity in the nature of the dharma. i remember my youthful, rambling drunkenness of prose. yes...yes...even i was once young.........

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that Anon in his pronoucements on Stephanie has forgotten about Right Speech.

Anonymous said...

Mysterion said...
"Or is it that he suggests that your perception of Brad's idea is errant?"

You are reading WAY too much into Nishijima's reply. It is clear that Nishijima had no clue what Jundo was talking about. And, based on Nishijima's reply, it is clear that Brad doesn't seem to understand his teacher's views on some of these things.

It seems this is a huge matter of perception. Nishijima has very strong views and opinions about Brad and Jundo. It is clear who his favorite is. Thus, this colors all his dealings with each man. I have a feeling that if Brad presented exactly the same info as Jundo did in the exact same manner, we would be reading a very, very different type of reply.

Both Nishijima and Brad are true believers. This taints their views and attitudes towards so much. Thus, neither is a very strong critical thinker. They are just not that smart. No true believe is. They cannot see beyond their own delusions. Look at all the crazy apologists in Christianity. It's the same shit, just in different robes. At least Jundo admits when he doesn't know what he's talking about, or when he makes a mistake. Lest you think that I am a true believe of Jundo, I am not, but at least he's more critical than the other two.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Anon. Stephanie's postings are a rambling bunch of immaturity. I hope she doesn't take too much of her own BS TOO seriously.

Harry said...

Re non-attachment & karma:

"In Hinduism the term Sannyasa- Renunciation is used. It is a rejection of material in favor of idealistic objectives. There is not much "non-attachment" in Hinduism due to the Hindu concept of Karma which is different from the Buddhist concept. The Atman is also a significant concept in Hinduism as is the idea of reincarnation. A person in Hinduism cannot "not-attach" because of the perception of karma in literal rebirth. One is permanently "attached" throughout countless lifetimes. One can reject material things but that is different than non-attachment. It is a negative attachment through rejection."

The quite subtle, ineffable and ungraspable Buddhist 'take' on this is expressed in the wild fox koan:

http://tinyurl.com/ctlu4c

Dogen's view (discussed in the above article) is not a simple doctrinal 'yeah' or 'nay' of course:

"This view [Dogen's], which is in accordance with Wumen's position, notes the contingency of causality and non-causality and the need to transcend a limited perspective of cause and effect. However, Dōgen turns against this interpretation later in his life and stakes out a position in opposition to the conventional reading..."

I see it in terms of 'free to be stuck (attached)/ stuck to be free'.

In Genjo-koan Dogen employs the image of birds and fish who, while they have never 'since antiquity' left their respective elements (the air and the water) yet they are free to move in any direction within their limitations and there is no end to their element in all directions of their movement.

We are never not part of the whole of existence yet we have almost infinite freedom to act within it and the limiting (from one perspective) conditions which define and allow for our existence.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

PhilBob-SquareHead,
Over Brad's last columns and the last few strings of comments, I seem to have lost your original opinion? Are you saying buddhism can be understood intellectually without zazen?

No - not normally at least. However you can't understand Buddhism through zazen alone either.

Stephanie,
is this unchecked assumption that stating the neural correlates for a phenomenon somehow explains it. It doesn't.

I agree with that. The neural correlates of meditation is scientifically interesting and may be of long-term value, but for practitioners it's pretty irrelevant and one more reason why Nishijima's 'ANS balance hypothesis' is a red herring. On the other hand, having a realistic evidence-based understanding of what meditation is and what the likely effects are is more immediately valueable for us.

Moon Face Buddha
Where I think Brad should be more careful is in his posting about Buddhism beyond this context. His statement "But oddly enough I don't think this whole idea of non-attachment is really a key Buddhist concept. It's more of a Brahmanistic (Hindu) idea that got incorporated into Buddhism when Buddhism came to the West as part of a mixture of Eastern philosophies." is (imho) nonsense.

Brad takes a tough stance on faux-Zen teachers. It may be prudent if he were to adopt a similar attitude towards his own posts that stray beyond the rigid confines of Dogen Sangha / Nishijima approved Zen.


I completely agree.

Anonymous
Both Nishijima and Brad are true believers. This taints their views and attitudes towards so much. Thus, neither is a very strong critical thinker. They are just not that smart. No true believe is. They cannot see beyond their own delusions. Look at all the crazy apologists in Christianity. It's the same shit, just in different robes. At least Jundo admits when he doesn't know what he's talking about, or when he makes a mistake. Lest you think that I am a true believe of Jundo, I am not, but at least he's more critical than the other two.

I think you're right, which is why we need to do our own critical thinking here.

gumbo cajun said...

time to heal
jundo must approach master
must say, "i'm sorry master gudo"
"i shall not disappoint you again"
jundo must now get along w/ brad san or face permanent rebirth as a dung beetle

Stephanie said...

Anon @ 8:28AM:

I don't object to being described as having a "religious" approach to Zen, but I would qualify that by saying it is an engaged religious approach. I don't see idle mysticism as a method for discerning reality any more than I see logical thought as a way to do so.

One has to study that which one studies with--to me, that's as obvious and "scientific" as it is religious. If our experience of reality is determined by the biases and tendencies of our minds, we have to find methods that put those biases and tendencies in relief. Some of these methods may indeed involve concepts--as nondual points out, therapy can help us to see, and therefore empower us to see through, some of our conditioning by naming and explaining it. Zen practice provides another angle by throwing the basic functioning of the mind into relief so that one can see how this mental experience shapes perception of reality rather than reflecting it directly. Ultimately, what you see as "religious" I see as an inevitable conclusion that we cannot get to the bottom of things with concept alone, which is all that science can or will ever offer. The problem is not that science isn't useful, but that it cannot take us beyond conceptual thinking.

Rich: Thank you. I appreciate your positive feedback to my comments here a lot.

Anon @ 9:34AM: Yes, I am young and do very much still consider myself a beginner. But I am not a novice either. I have been a serious and committed Zen practitioner for over five years now. Zazen is a central part of my life. I have worked with teachers and attended several sesshin. More importantly and significantly to me, I have committed to truth above all else in my life and lived it accordingly for the same amount of time, which has meant that my life itself has taken on the character of serious practice for years now, and with that a constant, often difficult stripping away of delusions and exposure of faults. None of this takes away from the fact that I still lack experience and am still in many ways just beginning, and have much further to go--but I'm no "armchair Buddhist" either and suspect I have more experience than many people posting here.

Anon @ 10:09AM: What is "immature" about my posts? That I am prone to being wordy is no revelation, especially in a forum such as this where I only minimally review and edit what I've written before I post. It is what it is. I don't understand what it is about my style that is especially "immature," however.

Anonymous said...

Stef,

When you say "laypersons" have some views about neuroscience are you implying you are not a layperson yourself? What kind of a degree and from what university do you have in M.D.?

Stephanie said...

Anon,

I am a "layperson" as well in that I am not a neuroscientist by trade. However, I did my undergraduate training in psychology at a very research and neuropsych oriented psychology department and was deeply immersed in the study and analysis of neuropsych research for years. As such, it's helped me to see beyond the mysticism that the average person seems to approach it with, to think a little more critically about the import and limitations of this sort of research.

Anonymous said...

Re Nishijima roshi:
and he tends to misunderstand disagreement or questioning on issues as disloyalty."

That explains where Brad gets it I guess.

From reading Nishijima roshi's reply to Jundo, it seems Brad's own teacher strongly disagrees with Brad's views on nonattachment. Even though he mistakenly attributed these views to Jundo instead. Hilarious! Tune in next week when Brad teaches that karma is not a key Buddhist concept, but something hippy hindu heretics made up.

Anonymous said...

Bows, Namaste and all that other stuff to Justin for your clear analysis. Keep it coming. (At least until Brad decides to censor or restrict the comments.) You and some of the others make the comment section here often more edifying than Brad's own posts. And we know that probably won't be tolerated for long.

proulx michel said...

Some of the posters here are truly extraordinary, especially (but not exclusively) the anonymi...

Justin said...

Bows, Namaste and all that other stuff to Justin for your clear analysis. Keep it coming. (At least until Brad decides to censor or restrict the comments.) You and some of the others make the comment section here often more edifying than Brad's own posts. And we know that probably won't be tolerated for long.

Thank you. Glad you've found me helpful.

Gassho
_/\_

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OsamaVanHalen said...

Because they don't have attachments.

OsamaVanHalen said...

http://www.nextag.com/vacuum-attachment/compare-html

Other Stupid DS guy said...

Jundo,

I do think you are good guy, very brave but very stupid. I also received the Dharma of Nishijima Sensei, but it is very hard to talk to him the last two orthree years. A longer time. Taijun left him, many already left him, because of these changes in him. It is paranoia of an old man. Please, we need your good voice, but do not be stupid to challenge Sensei and those near Sensei. The people he loves now only smile whatever he says, or stay away safely, or just repeat his words with no thought. Others leave.

Always our Sensei talks about his ideas, but these years he talks about only that more and more. Only that. If you disagree, he is polite. If you disagree more, he is polite on outside but burning on the inside. It is his age. I have not visited Sensei for some time, so I cannot say about changes this year. Many Dharma Heirs like us do not visit now, because of this and just keep to a safe distance.

Hendrick, I do not think I know you. You seem to see Sensei more than most people these days.

You say

When I meet with Nishijima he always emphasizes the importance of Buddhist theory. In my opinion his rendering of it, in the form of the "4 philosophies", is both ingenious and illuminating.
Similar remarks apply to Nishijima's long-standing conjecture between the practice of Zazen and the functioning of the autonomous nervous system.

So, you mean that Sensei almost only talks about "4 philosophies" now and autonomic nervous system. Yes. If he talks about other Buddhist topic it must only connect to that. He was always this way, but now it is notas before. Please everybody leave it alone.

Turtle said...

Other Stupid DS guy said...
"Nishijima Sensei... it is very hard to talk to him the last two orthree years."

and let it go... at that.

Blake said...

"Justin said...

If one thing is more fundamental to Buddhism than anything else it is The Four Nobel Truths (not zazen):

1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment (or desire).
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering."

I know that people in the west love to say that samudaya (#2) means that suffering is attachment or desire or craving. But this is incorrect. Samudaya states that suffering (which "suffering" isn't a fair translation but that's another issue) comes from dependent origination, NOT attachment. Attachment is pretty minor in Buddhism. But since we love slogan, "suffering comes from attachment" fits nicely.

nondual said...

Blake:

Interesting take on Noble Truth Two. It never occurred to me that someone would reduce all of the second Noble Truth to 'attachment', but I guess if I pay attention to some of the conversations I've had with people in the past, some people do place a certain emphasis on that. I've never really understood that though, because taken to it's logical extreme, total 'un'-attachment doesn't seem to very accurately describe what little we know about the actual life of the Buddha.

Sometimes teaching someone to learn to practice 'unattachment' would be a good thing - other times it would be a bad thing. In the case of someone who was using Zen to validate their own emotional dysfunction, it would be absolutely disasterous! The key point here IS the teaching of dependent origination, IMHO. That is that the dharma as spoken/written/taught does not exist 'from it's own side'. Therefore, much of the emphasis and utility of many of Buddhism's practices and prescribed attitudes has a LOT to do with what I would call 'karmic predisposition'.

Buddhism is a smorgasbord of powerful medicines, and no powerful medicine is wholly benign in and of itself.

Rich said...

" I also received the Dharma of Nishijima Sensei, but it is very hard to talk to him the last two orthree years."

Don't know him personally but his blog entries from the past two weeks are pretty clear. He sounds more real than your entry.

Jinzang said...

First, I don't understand what the term balance of the ANS means. Is this something that can be measured quantitatively, or only understood qualitatively, through the presence of symptoms of being out of balance? If it can't be measured quantitatively, how can it be considered scientific?

Second, if one's sole concern in zazen is balancing the ANS, then it is not a Buddhist path. Buddha said that just as the water of the ocean has one taste, my teaching only has one taste, the taste of liberation. Liberation here is twofold: from the afflicting emotions and the false concepts of me and mine. Liberation cannot be equated with balance of the ANS.

Buddha's contribution to the practice of meditation is that up to his time meditation only was an exercise in concentration. This kind of meditation leads to a calm, balanced mental state. But it is not insight, which is using this concentrated mind to see things as they truly are (i.e., empty.) If one takes balance to be the goal of zazen, one is reverting the view of meditation the preceded Buddha. It's like taking a gold bar and using it as a door stop.

Jinzang said...

I know that people in the west love to say that samudaya (#2) means that suffering is attachment or desire or craving. But this is incorrect. Samudaya states that suffering (which "suffering" isn't a fair translation but that's another issue) comes from dependent origination, NOT attachment.

Saying desire is the cause of suffering is a simplification, but not one only made by modern Western interpreters.

The Abhidharmakosha Bhasyam says: "The sutra says that desire is the origin by reason of the capital importance of desire. But all the other impure dharmas are also a cause or origin of suffering."

Jinzang said...

You and some of the others make the comment section here often more edifying than Brad's own posts. And we know that probably won't be tolerated for long.

Whatever Brad's faults, one of his more endearing qualities is that he doesn't seem to be eaten up by envy.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To all thouse who would too quickly before believe Nishijima's "theory" you had better watch this first

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/michael_shermer_on_believing_strange_things.html

P_K_B said...

"I know that people in the west love to say that samudaya (#2) means that suffering is attachment or desire or craving. But this is incorrect. Samudaya states that suffering (which "suffering" isn't a fair translation but that's another issue) comes from dependent origination, NOT attachment"


Blake, I don't know where you are getting this. Every single source I've read indicates the second noble truth is that suffering is caused by tanha. Meaning thirst, selfish craving, desire. All definitions of attachment. Not dependent origination. I think you must be thinking of the 12 fold chain. So you are suggesting that attachment (desire, craving, thirst) plays a minor role in Buddhism? Amazing. It would be closer to say that the entire chain of causation itself is the result of tanha, which I think is exactly what the Buddha taught.

It seems many are willing to perform elaborate mental gymnastics to defend Brad's views.

Jinzang, yes it is an oversimplification in that the english word desire can mean simple intention or physical thirst or hunger and none of these is what the Buddha seems to be talking about. Selfish craving seems to fit better. But it would also be silly to suggest that desire or attachment (in the sense of tanha) is not also a key buddhist concept.

Mysterion said...

Another translation of the Pali "Cattari-ariya-saccani" or "Four Truths for Nobles."

First truth: Pali - dukkha, rebirth - suffering, is caused by samsara - wandering.

The forms of suffering are birth, aging, sickness, and death.

The second truth: Pali - samudaya or cause of suffering, which is mistranslated as "craving." (A better translation is wandering, lost, or ignorance.)

The third truth is cessation of suffering (Pali: nirodha), or the vulgar nirvana.

The fourth truth is "the path" (Sanskrit: marga; Pali: magga) to the cessation of suffering.

Of this translation, I am 12.5% certain.

Mysterion said...

First "suffering" (Pali dukkha).
dukkha also means impermanence (of cessation) or imperfection (of wisdom).

Second the recent concept of tanha or trishna (in Sanskrit, it was samudaya - wandering).

Third, the Sanskrit term nirodha (cessation).

Fourth, is the path to cessation.

These "Four Noble Truths" are, in fact, The Four Truths for Noble People (of Wisdom). Implied is an extensive education followed by the development of wisdom (through meditation). Sorry about that.

NellaLou said...

Expanding a little on what Jinzang, nondual, Mysterion and others wrote re:

the scope of Dukkha

Dukkha-Pāli दुक्ख duḥkha-Sanskrit दुःख

A summary of the word dukkha is as follows:

"...three main categories of dukkha. These are:
...
1. Suffering or Pain (Dukkha-dukkha). Ordinary suffering, as defined by the English word, is one form of dukkha. This includes physical, emotional and mental pain.

2. Impermanence or Change (Viparinama-dukkha). Anything that is not permanent, that is subject to change, is dukkha...

3. Conditioned States (Samkhara-dukkha). To be conditioned is to be dependent on or affected by something else. According to the teaching of interdependent origination, all phenomena are conditioned. Everything affects everything else."

from Life Is Suffering? What Does That Mean?Dukkha: A Little Word With a Lot of Meaning By Barbara O'Brien

Dukkha is related to attachment and conditioned phenomenon. (I chose this reference because she tends to explain things in a fairly clear non-technical way) It is such a large concept that even the word suffering is insufficient to hold it. Putting an ocean into a teacup.

P_K_B said...

Mysterion. Again, all the references I find give the definition of samudaya as a specific type of 'wandering', i.e. restlessness or thirst. Moreover, my understanding (which is open to improvement) is that pali suttas predate the sanskrit sources in the majority of cases according to most scholars.

As I said, a great deal of special pleading and mental gymnastics are required to expunge the concept of tanha as 'attachment' from buddhism. (Besides which it seems Nishijima roshi also agrees that attachment is a central concept in buddhism)

It's nearly as tortured as Dark Zen's attempt to reinterpret anatman teachings as supportive of an eternal self (atman) in buddhism. But in order to support their 'teacher's' (zenmar) strange ideas, his followers readily do just that, producing their own twisted translations for just such a purpose.

Justin said...

Pali and Chinese canon text

1. The Nature of Suffering (Dukkha):
"This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering."[9][10]
2. Suffering's Origin (Samudaya):
"This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination."[9][10]
3. Suffering's Cessation (Nirodha):
"This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it."[9][10]
4. The Way (Mārga) Leading to the Cessation of Suffering:
"This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration."[11][12]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Noble_Truths

I have heard an interpretation of the 12 links of dependent origination that they are not about literal rebirth as popularly understood but are a more detailed description of the arising of suffering. However, even in this case craving plays an important role, craving arising ultimately due to ignorance/delusion. I can't vouch for this interpretation.

The Dale said...

OK.. Now for the really important question. Why would Brad put up a picture of himself cramming a handful of Fritos into his mouth on this post? I feel there is something deeper going on here.

I have been studying this picture like Gudo studying the Shobogenzo, and so far I have nothing.

I'm not even sure it is Brad. But there is one odd thing I have noticed.. There appears to be a skeletal hand reaching around his right shoulder apparently attempting to grab a Frito.
And the woman seems to see something too as she is looking past Brad to the left..

What in the world is going on here?

Anonymous said...

I have hard time understanding how the 12 chain link proves literal rebirth in real life. Anyone here fluent in the subject wishing to elaborate? And I do mean a more precise example than goddidit which is what it eventually came down to among e-sangha folks.

Seems to me there needs to be at least one or two leaps of faith involved if you are to believe that.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add that personally I don't support the idea of literal rebirth at all, but I was just curious how the interpretation came to be in the first place and what is the reasoning behind it. Is there one that is acceptable to a modern person too, without needing to resort in blind religious faith?

Harry said...

The wider universe might not actually really care about what we think of these things. Some people hold these ideas as if exterior reality depended upon their holding of them...

Just a thought from this fish bowl.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed Harry.

Justin (and Jinzang)- Reading you guys I often feel like I'm in some medieval talmudic debating group or islamic madrassa.

I think one concept you may benefit from studying further is shunyata.

Might I suggest you ask yourselves WHY you give a flying fig what the scriptures say.

Harry said...

May I suggest 'The Life of Brian' sutra for our next topic of scriptual discussion?

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

...On that matter I vote we worship gourd, not sandal.

H.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I shouldn't have singled out Justin and Jinzang.

(Buddhist) blogs burst at the seams with folks wanting to clarify and justify what they believe and whether they're supposed to believe it.

It is a knotty problem for us humans. I know I'm guilty. But let's not make a virtue out of the shortcoming. It's a dangerous path, I think.

Anon @ 4.53am

Harry said...

Yes, we've all been there I'm sure (I certainly have and probably will slip again!).

A thing I like which Nishijima Roshi says is that Buddhism is basically humanism (in the most fundamental sense as opposed to some grand theory of humanism I think).

Not that I always live up to it; but it's a good thing to bear in mind whether religion is humanising or dehumanising us humans.

Regards,

Harry.

Lauren said...

Harry,

Thanks. Finally a topic I feel competent to join in on.

Do you mean one sandal or two?

-L

Al Coleman said...

Justin said,
"Some studies of meditation have linked the practice to increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is associated with concentration, planning, meta-cognition (thinking about thinking), and positive affect (good feelings).

Others have proposed that the effects are due to increased alpha and gamma waves in the brain.

The jury is out. Certainly the hypothesis that the effects are due to ANS balance is not a scientifically or medically accepted fact."

Holy shit Justin.

When was the last time you took a physiology course?

These things are ALL apart of the ANS. people tend to forget that the brain is not just the lump of flesh that resides inside your skull, but refers to the spinal cord as well. Anything that affects physical changes in the brain is affecting the ANS.

Everyone here needs to go read a text book on manual medicine.

Al

Anonymous said...

With my question about the chain of dependant origination I was referring to Justin's post:
I have heard an interpretation of the 12 links of dependent origination that they are not about literal rebirth as popularly understood but are a more detailed description of the arising of suffering.

So because I have hard time understanding even the popular interpretation I was just wondering if someone here - maybe Justin himself? - could elaborate on it? What is it about? I'm not looking for justification in the scriptures for beliefs, I'm just curious how the idea of literal rebirth, that some folks seem to hold on to so dearly, arises from that.

Anonymous said...

As the Anon who tried to educate you guys about the science behind ANS hypothesis...
Just read what Al Coleman just wrote and do as he says.

Al Coleman said...

Thank you Anon,

Here is a little more from Nimal Rajapakse, Ph.D,

"Our bodies respond to meditation through three physiological systems;

1. Autonomic Nervous System,

2. Endocrine System and,

3. Musculature System.

These systems are very tightly interconnected and therefore interdependent. The chemical changes resulting in one system often has a cascading effect over the other systems.

The autonomic nervous system controls the body parts which function automatically. It has two branches; the sympathetic nervous system which increases arousal when the body is under threat.

The effect of this system is the 'fight or flight response' which is characterized by increase in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, sweating, blood glucose, blood flow to muscles, alertness etc. The other, the parasympathetic nervous system, is responsible for restoring the body to a relaxed state.

In simple terms it can be stated that the sympathetic system is designed to handle the stressful situations and the parasympathetic system to return the body to its natural (relaxed) state. "

proulx michel said...

As for the 4 Noble Truths, I admit that I was a bit disturbed by Nishijima's interpretation, some years back. But when I heard him explain them, in person, I realised that it was perfectly clear, although it didn't quite fit into the little usual boxes.
Actually, all those, 4NT or 2fold Chain, are contrivances aimed at explaining more or less what is actually non really explainable.
When I get the traditional layout of the 12fold Chain, I always tend to feel it's a bit far fetched. In some vague way, I feel it's right, but on the condition one doesn't insist too much upon the details.
So, in the end, it all amounts to that: we're trying to map something, but we ought to know full well that as precise as that map shall ever get, it'll never be the landscape. The landscape you have to walk into.

As for the autonomic nervous system, I think there is a well known dysfunctionment of it and it's bipolarity. One constantly oscillates between agitation and apathy.

I really don't see what there is to the theory that should be so problematic, unless one wants at all costs trash Gudo and his designated successor.

Moon Face Buddha said...

To Al and the (multiple?) Anons who are trying to "educate" the rest of us about the ANS.

Please can you provide a medical definition of "balanced ANS".

Please can you provide peer reviewed studies showing how a "balanced ANS" will cause a human being to always act in such a way as to uphold the Buddhist Precepts.

Many thanks.

jundo cohen said...

Hey, before I leave this madhouse to the inmates for awhile (although are a very wise and level headed folks here ... you know who you are), I thought I would give folks a chance to piss on my interpretation of Shikantaza since I have been pissing on everyone else's.

This is my first in a series of video talks and Zazen sittings I am doing, starting today. Have a listen and a chuckle.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2009/02/zazen-as-supreme-perfect-enlig.html

In answer to my brother Michel Proulx, I do not want to trash Brad, and I bow down in his direction 9 Times as Gudo's successor. Praise him and keep him! I just want to trash his crappy (and not because it is not well written, cause it is a good read) book with the weird Buddhist message.

And what is "problematic" about some theories is not the theory itself, it is the extremes of its application. For example, Darwin's Evolution is a theory and true. However, it does not explain very much if anything about gasoline prices or why I had cereal instead of eggs for breakfast. I never took you for a kind of faith based fellow.

Anyway, tootles.

Gassho, Jundo

Rich said...

Jinzang said:
"First, I don't understand what the term balance of the ANS means. Is ...
Second, if one's sole concern in zazen is balancing the ANS, then it is not a Buddhist path. Buddha "

Trying to attain the balanced state though unattainable is the correct action. Even ancient Buddhists refer to 'the balanced state' or 'the middle way' and the 'will to the truth'.

The scientific theory of the Autonomic Nervous System was formulated based on some facts just as Einsteins RElativity theory was based on some facts and conclusions. The point is if you understand some ideas then how do they match your experience. My experience is that understanding ANS helps motivate me to maintain correct posture to try to achieve the balanced state.

I think the important thing is keeping this 'try mind' no matter what your specific technique or practice. Some people are trying to follow their breathing, some are working koans, some are trying to just sit and balance their ANS. What are you doing?

Al said...

Moon Face,

I did not intend to imply that I know what defines "Balance". I actually do not prefer that word(although I have no qualms with Nishijima using it in this context). Form the classes I took in Motor Learning I know that there is no such thing as "General Balance". Homeostatic equilibrium is probably a better term.

However, when referring to the ANS I believe that an "unbalanced ANS" means that there is a noted dysfunction through Heart Rate Variability analysis. As of right now this is the most commonly used method of testing. I'm sure as more research is done others will surface.

The ANS's main function is to maintain homeostasis. This is always in flux and the body is in a constant state of "wobbling" to maintain it. I suppose that Zazen(specifically Shikantaza)probably does this better than most activities since our usual mode of cognitive striving is cut off yet the intention to maintain an erect posture is still there. I would postulate that in this state the body is ALLOWED to "right" itself.

How this relates to the precepts, I couldn't be sure although I have some theories.

Al

Jinzang said...

Might I suggest you ask yourselves WHY you give a flying fig what the scriptures say.

Well, Brad claimed that attachment was not such an important concept in Buddhism. I don't know any good way of responding to this without quoting authoritative Buddhist texts. I guess I could have made fun of Brad's haircut instead.

Jinzang said...

Trying to attain the balanced state though unattainable is the correct action. Even ancient Buddhists refer to 'the balanced state' or 'the middle way' and the 'will to the truth'.

The middle way refers to rejecting the extreme positions of eternalism and nihilism. It does not refer to balancing your ANS.

Al said...

"The middle way refers to rejecting the extreme positions of eternalism and nihilism. It does not refer to balancing your ANS."

Ok.....but nothing they said 2500 years ago could refer to the ANS because the term didn't exist. I really think that what Nishijima is trying to do is modernize these scriptures.

Moon Face Buddha said...

"Ok.....but nothing they said 2500 years ago could refer to the ANS because the term didn't exist. I really think that what Nishijima is trying to do is modernize these scriptures."

This seems to be a bit of a hole you find yourself in.

The term "balanced ANS" appears to be meaningless because nobody actually knows what "balanced" can mean in relation to the ANS.

And the process by which a "balanced ANS" will produce the result of keeping the Precepts is unknown. In fact we may as well say that a "balanced ANS" produces a magical transformation to the host in the same way that a Catholic would describe the bread transforming into the flesh of Christ.

Gotama (apparently) set out a list of instructions by which suffering could be ended. This being the Eightfold Path. Gotama does not mention the ANS, but he also does not mention any kind of magical method of transformation. He provides a set of instructions, which if followed may lead to an end of suffering.

Zazen leads to balanced ANS leads to precept keeping/enlightenment/end of suffering...this does not seem to me to be a modernization of the ancient scriptures and more of a ripping up and trampling of them. ANS appears to be a deus ex machina.

I have little doubt that the effects of Zazen on the human body (ANS included) will be studied further and more findings will be made on this subject. I do find it a bit difficult to accept at face value the assertion that this theory of ANS is all that Nishijima teaches. If that was the case then why would he even bother to translate the old texts?

Without knowing more of Nishijima and his teaching it seems that those of us outside the Dogen Sangha will have to take a step back and try and weigh up the claims and counter claims of those involved.

In a way it is better to follow the teachings of a dead master. Bankei cannot get drunk and chase girls. he cannot make stupid statements. And I can chose to read into his teaching whatever I chose sure in the knowledge his next blog entry will not pull the rug from under me :)

Mysterion said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I'd like to add that personally I don't support the idea of literal rebirth at all..."

I'ld like to suggest Life Before Life.

mtto said...

Bankei will never laugh at your jokes.

Mysterion said...

The middle way was given in social and cultural context. The antonym of asceticism is hedonism and asceticism 'did not work' for Gautama Shakyamuni.

Thus the middle way means neither starvation nor gluttony.

mtto said...

And I can chose to read into his teaching whatever I chose sure in the knowledge his next blog entry will not pull the rug from under me :)

That is not a good thing at all. Are you being sarcastic and I'm not getting it?

Al said...

Moon Face,

I find myself in no such hole.

As I said in a previous post, I prefer the term, "Homeostatic Equilibrium". This is all conjecture, but if the ANS operates on a autonomic level than sitting upright doing nothing will allow this equilibrium to follow. Where is the magic in that?

No bizarre transformation. Just making a "backward step". I would also go out on a limb and say that if one spent an increasing amount of time allowing this equilibrium to happen than one would also be less likely to "violate Precepts". Like Uchiyama says,"It is living out the reality of life."
By sitting in such a manner you are essentially operating on the level as everything else in this universe. Does the chair you are sitting in violate precepts?

This is all mental masturbation anyhow.

I do think there is more to Nishijima's teaching than "Balancing the ANS". But at the same time there isn't. I would correlate his repeating of this phrase to Ikkyu(this one's for you Mysterion)repeating, "Attention".

Al

Anonymous said...

The thing I find amusing about the average layperson's attitude toward neuroscience is this unchecked assumption that stating the neural correlates for a phenomenon somehow explains it.
Goodness. If only this was confined to "layhood".

Anonymous said...

"Might I suggest you ask yourselves WHY you give a flying fig what the scriptures say."

Of course we might ask a similar question; Why don't you ask yourselves WHY you give a flying fig what Brad or Nishijima writes? Or what is written on a comment section of a blog?

Anonymous said...

200!!!!!!!!!!!!

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