Freitag, 22. Mai 2020

The Magic of Archery in ZEN, video

Herrigels Arch Teacher Awa, full excerpt

"One day, after a shot, the master 
bowed deeply and then broke off the class. ´ES´ (english ´IT´) just fired, he exclaimed when I stared at him stunned. And when I finally understood what he meant, I could not suppress the sudden joy".[1] This is how Eugen Herrigel formulates his first really successful shot with the Japanese Zen bow back then in Japan, Kyudo. That was probably a first enlightenment experience or Kensho, as it is called in Japanese.

Master Dogen says in Shobogenzo: "When you experience the highest awakening directly, one uses (the word) IT". And it could be that this It would even exceed the imagination of the whole universe. Because IT is the living wholeness of man, body and mind, IT therefore even exceeds body, psyche and mind. Whoever is caught in the trap of selfishness will unfortunately not experience the magical waves of happiness at all.

And how do you become one with the awakened IT? For example, by letting the ego come to rest while practicing. The ego then dissolves in action and disappears. Instead, there is the harmonious interaction of real life, IT, as it's said in Zen. Buddha calls real life: The arising in mutual interaction. That is the magic of reality! What else?

Herrigel experienced and learned this wonderful, magical Es during archery with a great spiritual master of the bow. In my opinion, he also let the rigidity, extreme ideology and fanaticism of his own time in the West and Japan evaporate. Because such extreme ideologies are empty, they are without truth and without the meaning of a holistic living It, of true Zen. Such cramps of the isolated but dominant mind are without the life of the IT, like the current conspiracy theories and fake news about the corona virus. They inevitably lead to suffering and unnecessary stress.

Who acts simply, naturally and with increasing precision, be it in archery or in normal life, can experience the waves of happiness without doubt, like those from the bow, arrow, movement and the in- and exhalation. He does not need over-the-top conspiracy theories as infantile media playpens that are not really a help. They inevitably lead to suffering. But then you hit the real target like in archery, unexpectedly and miraculously. This is the magic of action, without a cramped ego. Then waves of happiness occur and leave traces of that happiness and joy of life.

The great kyudo master Onuma
 And Herrigel goes on to say: "But inside, for the shooter himself, right shots have such an effect that it feels as if the day has only just begun ... “This state is extremely delicious". The bow master said with a subtle smile that one should not be fixated on this condition. Then the delicious moment would not hesitate to come back. And don't think too much: IT stretches the bow in the full extension, IT - exactly IT - shoots and relaxes people, bow and world.

Can you understand now why I'm learning Japanese archery?

This is the magic of happiness in ZEN. This is meditation: nothing but sitting. This is Kyudo: nothing but shoot! This is how we develop vitality, satisfaction and happiness in life.

Click to archery

Donnerstag, 21. Mai 2020

Awakening and brain research

he awakening in Buddhism is sometimes explained as if you wake up from the nocturnal "unspiritual" sleep of the night and as only then the mind can awaken to consciousness and contribute important things. So the mind was as if passed out or dead when sleeping or would only wake up afterwards from unreal dreams. The mind could not contribute anything meaningful in sleep. According to reliable results of brain research, this is completely wrong!

For our brain is highly active during sleep and performs great things: for example, it organizes new information from the day into the existing knowledge and ability and works to combine non-networked details into a harmonious whole. To do this, the short-term memory networks with our entire brain and mind, especially during the sleep phase in a very dynamic way. And we do not mind voluntary or doctrinal thinking while we sleep! The unconscious knowledge is often wiser, more sensible and more comprehensive than the intellectual conscious knowledge. So consciousness can learn from this. In my opinion, this is a very important contribution to Buddhist emptiness: to develop well and positively without doctrines, prejudices or other obstacles. So sleep is inherently smart and very effective for awakening. Would you have thought that? But we should wake up from the unnatural ideologies, prejudices, distortions and illusions that are driven by greed, hatred, vanity and ego stress.

The Buddhist wisdom and exercises develop positively and reliably our conscious, non-conscious and their interaction as a whole. This enables the true self to liberate itself and we actualize good new areas of life of joy, peace, balance and new life energies, so probably areas of great peace. I can confirm this through the experience of my own life.

And we know very well that conscious thinking, planning, remembering, acting, etc. in the so-called frontal brain is only a very small part of the entire brain and mind: the ratio of conscious to unconscious is about one in two hundred thousand. This means that we can only recognize and improve important relationships, important knowledge and important skills through the interaction of the conscious and the unconscious. This is the only way we can really develop healthily. This is the great intuitive spirit of Zen: thinking also from unconscious thinking. And this clarity can and should be practiced and trained.

What does my teacher, the Zen-Master Nishijima say about this? He uses the term intuition for this important mental and psychological fact. Intuitive clarity is especially developed in zazen meditation and in stress-free healthy sleep. So Master Dogen says: "Zazen is thinking out of non-thinking". That is our great comprehensive mind. It has a lot more opportunities and potential than most people think.

Intellectual thinking and compulsive thoughts prevent clear, intuitive thinking and understanding of important life relationships - and the  mutual interacting causes. Therefore, this urgent request to our own narrow, doctrinal thinking:

"Please don't bother me on the way to clarity in my life".

But this is not a fundamental rejection of thinking, but a fundamental and necessary expansion of thinking on the path to awakening and thus happiness in life.

We will experience again and again certain problems and the associated suffering. They can be solved more easily than you think, when you are caught in the vicious circle of narrowed thinking. You can leave the vicious circle. Brooding is a waste of time! And Zen is about action. According to Buddha, intuitive, clear knowledge and skills of practice enable a good life, so that unnecessary suffering dissolves and comes to rest. Ideologies, prejudices and, above all, greed and hatred prevent this intuitive, comprehensive ability and knowledge. These ideologies are unfree and are typical of delusion and thus of pain and suffering.

Back to waking up in the morning: At such moments, there are often clear effective solutions to psychologically knotted and complex problems. You have probably already experienced this! The same applies to zazen meditation, it loosens knotted feelings and thoughts. In this way, good solutions for our life can ripen in the mutual interaction of the conscious and the not-conscious (pratitya samutpada) and bring new clarity. But please no hectic, no stress, no sensually exaggerated will, no wanting of evil, no sluggishness and no compulsive doubt. Together with intellectualism, these are the obstacles on the way to awakening, as Buddha clearly recognized. [1] Such barriers prevent a full life and create suffering. They are completely unnecessary.

Deepening for those interested

[1] Gäng, Peter: Meditationstexte des Pali-Buddhismus I, S.39 f

Montag, 10. Juni 2019

Buddha-Nature: Mutual Arising and Wholeness

Buddhism is about to the wholeness and the interaction of our lives and the whole universe, which Dôgen describes as "rail of iron". This is the spiritual indivisible wholeness and not duality of subject and object. He used the same Japanese word for the dropping off of body and mind during the practice of zazen: the constricted meaning that we “have” or “own” the Buddha nature as an object has therefore to be dropped, in order to get to the encompassing entirety of real life.

To resolve the rigid meaning of "to have" and "object", Dôgen called the Buddha nature the "path of the birds". That sounds strange. What does he mean with that? In Chinese Buddhism it's central for this example that the birds leave no physical or even unethical traces when flying in the air. This is a parable that in our actions and generally in life no bad karma and no harm to other people remains. Moreover, the sky is a symbol for the space that has no end, that represents a space-infinity, and it is a parable for the highest state of human beeings. [i] This leads to an important correlation with the fourth immersion (Jhana) of meditation and of Samadhi in early Buddhism. This immersion is described with different terms indicating infinity, for example, the space-infinity. [ii]

Dogen sums with the following sentence, which is also a revealing reversal: "Therefore, the nature of all Buddhas possesses all the many living things."

That means, the living beings and we all are "owned" by the true nature of the Buddhas, so they are nothing else than the Buddha nature. This reversal indicates the

direct interaction and not a division into subject and object. Dogen adds that this statement illuminates the living beings and the Buddha nature at the same time, so that it denotes the essential of our lives. Thus an objectifying, simple and insufficient understanding of the Buddha nature as a thing, object or substance is dissolved.

According to Dogen we tend to forget that we are the truth itself and that at the same time reality is in the actual moment always present and alive. These include the four elements and the five components in the world (Skandas), the individual dharmas of truth.

It is crucial that verbal statements on the Buddha nature are understood through our whole encompassing life and that all the individual moments of our lives are linked directly and immediately with such fundamental truths.

[i] see. Chapter 2, ZEN Schatzkammer, vol. 1, p. 36 et seq .: "Die große intuitive Weisheit, die das Denken überschreitet (Makahannya haramitsu)".

[ii] see. Gäng, Peter: Buddhism, p. 94 et seq.

Milestones of Buddhism

When I met my future teacher Nishijima Roshi in 1996 at his center in Tokyo, he worked intensively on its own translation of a great Buddhist work by the famous Indian master Nāgārjuna . It is a didactic poem in verse discussing the Middle Way (abbreviated MMK - derived from Mūlamadhyamakakārikā , as it says in Indian language Sanskrit).

Nishijima Roshi was so fascinated by MMK that he, being over 60 years old, learned Sanskrit to understand it in the original language and interpret it from there. He repeatedly emphasized that it he found significant similarities with the famous fundamental work Shobogenzo of Zen master Dôgen and wanted to find out whether this approach would bear up against an in-depth analysis. He wondered: Did these great masters realized the authentic and true Buddhism and brought into words? They were certainly Buddhist masters and not scientists and therefore have had their own deep experiences. Because who hasn’t practiced and meditated himself, cannot authentically report Buddhism through their own reality.

Thus, Nishijima Roshi has been thoroughly engaged for about 25 years with the MMK, worked on it until his old age and refined his writings again and again. Together with his student, the famous Buddhist teacher and his successor Brad Warner, Nishijima has issued a comprehensive work on Nāgārjuna. [1][i]In my view that was a milestone into a new era Buddhism. He has gone completely new ways of understanding and interpretation. Based on its profound practical and theoretical experience in Zen Buddhism and, as he says, certainly with this grid of deep understanding, in my view, he advanced into entirely new areas of significance of the MMK. The reactions among experts ranged from enthusiastic approval to clear rejection. That was to be expected. Now, I would like to further develop Nishijima Roshi's work. I cooperated more than 17 years with him.

Prior to his translation of the MMK Nishijima Roshi had completely reprocessed the fundamental Japanese piece Shobogenzo ("The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye") of the great Zen master Dôgen in over 40 years of painstaking work and transferred it into English together with his student Chodo Cross. This four-volume version has prevailed among experts worldwide and constitutes now a key foundation for the works on Zen Buddhism and especially on Master Dogen. [i][ii

A few years after the English translation of Shobogenzo by Nishijima and Cross, Ritsunen Linnebach produced a German version for which I cooperated with her for about eight years. [ii][iii] Moreover, an important volume of the Shobogenzo is published in Spanish (Luis Diaz ).

Tanahashi: Powerful Center
Meanwhile, a second, in my opinion, excellent English edition of the Shobogenzo was published under the direction of Kazuaki Tanahashi  [iii][iv], so that we now have three truly reliable versions of this basic work of Zen Buddhism available in the West. Thus, the Dōgen research experienced a sustained recovery, and many irritating and inaccurate representations of Zen Buddhism have become obsolete. Particularly the misconception that paradoxical incomprehensible statements would be the most important element of Zen must be cleared out, because exactly the opposite is the case. In fact, Zen is trans-intellectual and follows a broad and profound reason, that analyzes extensively the dynamic of mind-psyche-body. Philosophically I’d like to describe this method as phenomenology, which was actually developed earlier in Buddhism than in western philosophy. In my opinion, Buddha realized the networking of nature and humanity 2500 years ago. We needed quite some time longer in the west! Zen approaches topics, questions and problems from different perspectives. That might confuse some western readers, as it goes out of the simple logic of yes-and-no-statements. However, only this way the central spheres of the developing and emancipating human being become visible with the necessary clarity and depth and therefore can be fostered. Man is not a machine that either works or is broken.

For me, the two works of Nāgārjuna and Dōgen mark splendorous moments of Buddhist life and spirit . On them I want to build my future work. Thereby I follow the fundamental aim of Nishijima Roshi to relate these two thinkers and buddhist masters to each other, to bring them into fruitful reciprocal effect and make them available for the west.

[i][ii] Dogen Shobogenzo (translated by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross), English.
[ii][iii] Dōgen: Shobogenzo. The Treasury of the True Dharma-Eye, German.
[iii][iv] Dogen; Tanahashi, Kazuaki (Editor): Shobogenzo. Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.

Mittwoch, 26. August 2015

The Lion’s Roar of a Child

(Shoaku-Makusa) Part 3

In fact, it is remarkable to see that some people act quite differently than they think they would. Furthermore, often theoretical moral considerations, which sound  good, are  often linked to the fact that  right is not being done.
In general, a  thing is often  called right which cannot be seen as rightful acting once it has been examined. In addition, it is usually veiled and serves an individual's personal advantage.

At this point Dogen highlights the fact that there are many ways to do good, e.g. the practice of the Pure Land and Zazen practice which he is very fond of.
It is important that while acting rightfully, one acts carefully. Which means, that one should respect other people and their actions. As Dogen underlines, this is not only true in the case of friends and relatives, but even more so in the case of rivals and enemies.
It applies both to family life, while dealing with friends, and also at the workplace which is often dominated by envy and a fight for important positions.

Doing the right thing in a respectful manner takes place in the moment itself. As Dogen mentions, we should not blame outer circumstances or situations as the cause if we fail to do the right thing – this way we would be naming the wrong causes. What applies to active action is also true in the case of letting things happen - because we can realize right by letting things happen.
In such a case one should not interfere in a disruptive or egoistic way – one would only generate wrong oneself.

In a poem it is said that heart and mind would naturally open up and become pure, if we were not doing wrong and respectfully doing the right.
Also, this statement should not be rooted solely in theory and conceptual thinking, but should be discovered and experienced through acting.

While we act we can learn how Buddhas are meant to be. Then we will not, according to Dogen, have to act like ordinary people who accept the suffering produced by unjust actions, resign themselves and will never break through to righteousness. This is how we can avoid generating wrong in everyday life - and it may even be possible to do good.
In a well-known Koan-story a famous poet asked a great master:

“What is the meaning of the Buddha-Dharma?”
The master answered:
“Not to generate wrong and to do what is right.”

The poet, who was also a powerful governor, remarked snidely:
“If that is true, even a three-year-old* can say that.”

The master replied:
”A three-year-old child can already speak the truth, but even a very experienced man of eighty years cannot realize all.”

The poet then thanked the master with a prostration, but he could not fully capture the deeper meaning of this statement. He was known for his great poetic qualities and praised greatly in the circles of writers and poets.
However, the deeper meaning of the words, one should not generate wrong and do good, he was only able to understand on a conceptual level – that is why it remained on the level of words and thoughts. That is, according to Dogen, not surprising, as he was a man of words and not a man of action. Practice and action are crucial and they often differ from talking and thinking.

Obviously, due to his great poetic skill, he was still far removed from the Buddhist practice of Zazen and in everyday life.
In fact, it is easy to say what would be morally correct and meaningful – namely not to generate wrong and to do good. It is certainly true that even a child who has learned to form proper sentences could say that.

But the realization of this moral intent requires a new dimension to life. Often times, the experience of a long life and the learning acquired along the Dharma path are not sufficient to realize this completely.
For this realization an intuitive clarity and the all-encompassing power of acting in the present are absolutely necessary.

You can also call them, as Dogen does, the “miraculous causes and effects” or the “Buddha causes and Buddha effects”.
When people do the right thing – and this can be done in many ways - their spirit, form, body and their positive energy are being realized.

Dogen questions why the poet despises the three-year-old child when he says that even it could phrase such a simple and obvious statement about injustice.
He (Dogen) doubts that the poet even knows what a three-year-old child really is. If he knew it, he would also have access to the Buddha Dharma. He says:

“Whoever got to know a single particle, knows the whole universe – and he who fully realized the true Dharma, realized the ten thousand Dharmas.”

According to Dogen, one could even say that a child participates in the lion’s roar of the Buddhist teachings right after it is born and embarks on its way to the Buddha-Dharma.
Obviously, this poet does not understand the lion’s roar of a child and dismisses the words of the child as being unnecessary babble. But even a three-year-old child can express the truth and we should thoroughly explore and understand it.

We should also explore the question, if and when an experienced man of eighty years has realized the truth.

For this, it is useful not to beinfluenced by interpretations, so that we don’t remove anything or add anything to true meaning – so that we view only reality and therefore understand and experience truth the way it is.

Montag, 10. August 2015

This way we avoid becoming contaminated

(Shoaku-Makusa) Part 2

In the first part of the chapter, Dogen emphasizes active individual action. But he also mentions that it is of due importance to let rightful action happen and not to tolerate unjust action. More observant behavior which lets things happen can often be morally rightful action.

In our lives we often come into contact with unjust action. This can happen through friends, relatives, but mostly through our enemies and rivals.
Buddhism teaches with utmost clarity that it is not correct to allow others to do injustice and to look on. Such behavior cannot be justified with the misunderstood comment, “it is how it is” – this is to shirk responsibility in this world.
Beneath rightful and wrongful action, according to Dogen, there is also neutral action – which is neither just nor unjust.

This is because injustice does not exist as a permanent, abstract reality, but is or is not generated through our own actions which can only happen in the present moment.

Therefore, the right or unjust action exists only in the present of the Now, and not permanently.

From a Buddhist perspective, the injustice of the past, which we can still remember, is only roughly comparable to the injustice of the present – it is not identical. Memories can never be the same as the reality of the present.
The same is true of the expected and anticipated injustice of the future. According to Dogen, we gain clarity about that through Buddhist practice, mainly Zazen.
In this connection he mentions that, regarding the question of justice and injustice, people of the Buddha-Dharma on the one hand and people of the ordinary world on the other , differ greatly compared to other differ more greatly from each other than in other areas within Buddhism.

As mentioned in detail in the chapter  “Just for the Time Being, Just for a While, For the Whole of Time is the Whole of Existence (Uji)” in the Shobogenzo, the true time of the present moment is inseparably connected to rightful and wrongful action.

If you only hear the words that you should not commit wrong, this, according to Dogen, already changes your behavior and actions to some degree. It is important that the Buddhist practice of Zazen is carried out and that a moral code is not limited to thinking and talking only, because the power of practice enables us to gain more clarity and to transform our actions and behavior.
Due to this practice one gains an intuitive and moral clarity in the present moment, so that it is almost impossible to do wrong.

As we are always acting in the present moment, this creates the clarity and power in the Now.
But this moment is so short that we cannot reflect consciously on justice and injustice and act at the same time.

While we are acting rightfully, independent evil cannot evolve – at any place or at any time.
This is even true if we are living in an environment or get into a situation in which a lot of injustice is perpetrated, and we believe that injustice has won over action. Then, in fact, the thought or the idea injustice has become stronger and turned into an essence, which rules the mind.

Dogen speaks about it as follows:
“If we devote our whole mind and our whole body to the practice (of Zazen), eighty or ninety per cent are being realized (that no injustice is generated) just before (at) this moment. And there is (also) the fact that after the moment (no injustice) is generated”.

The practice of Zazen is realized through physical and mindful action. This way we avoid becoming contaminated.
As there is a unity between the universe and the world in Buddhist practice, we can overcome limitations and duality. According to Dogen, we can also say that mountains, rivers, the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars practice as well and that we let them practice.

In this sense, the Buddhas and their predecessors in the Dharma have never contaminated practice and experience. They are free and have never limited themselves. This means: do not commit wrong!
With regard to the Buddhist teachings, injustice as an independent entity is neither existent nor non-existent – but it is always generated immediately through the action itself.

In the same way, it does not have a material or immaterial quality because it is about generating action in the Now. One should not understand it as being too abstract, as it refers to a real and concrete act in the Here and Now. All too easily injustice is minimized and whitewashed. However, these are only assessments of people, which make things unclear.

While we regret having done wrong, the strength and the desire for the rightful action develop, according to Dogen.
If one has gained the necessary strength and clarity through practice, it is not possible to deliberately do wrong.

In the beginning of the poem mentioned above it is said that we can practice  many kinds of right. This involves concrete action in the present moment – and the liberty we possess to do good and right things (by acting in the present moment).

Discussions as to whether  right exists or not do not lead any further and necessarily become rather inflexible on a theoretical level, which is far removed from acting in the Here and Now in our everyday life. For then right is being discussed as a thing, which is not correct.

Samstag, 25. Juli 2015

Liberate yourself by not doing wrong

(Shoaku-Makusa) Part 1

In this chapter Dogen explains that, from a Buddhist perspective, injustice does not naturally exist in this world and this universe. It is generated and contributed to by man through unjust actions. This is a remarkable point of view as most religions teach that evil is a part of man and this world, e.g. in the shape of the devil. Man needs to fight it with the forces of good.

But in Buddhist reality injustice as a form of evil or everlasting essence does not exist. There are only evil deeds and actions of man which do not comply with our moral principles  and therefore violate the laws of the universe.

Nevertheless, wrong, unjust and criminal acts are in fact a part of the reality of mankind, which one should not rationalize and push aside.
In the Shobogenzo, Dogen warns us repeatedly not to become lost in illusions and not to be mistaken about reality.

In this chapter particularly, he emphasizes that moral principles and ethics, i.e. rightful actions, are inseparably bound up with Buddhist theory and practice.
That is why Buddhism is not a “value-free” philosophy or theory. It is the unity of body, mind, action and morality.

Rightful or wrongful actions in the Here and Now of the present moment are essential for the Buddha Dharma.
If people discuss  the injustice of the world, in an outraged and abstract way, as one can often witness, this is therefore much too general and belongs to the realm of theory and philosophy.

One can have perfect discussions about injustice, one can argue about it and, afterwards, feel superior to others; but in reality often times you have done wrong yourself by arguing aggressively to hurt others. In this case, you have violated the social laws of Buddhism through causing conflict and trauma. Sometimes, such aggressive disputes grow into an open verbal fight involving one ego against another. This can, in no way, represent the Buddha-Dharma.
Dogen quotes an old Buddha, who taught that:

“The eternal Buddha says,
Not to to generate wrongs,
To practice the many kinds of right,
Naturally purifies the mind;
This is the teaching of the Buddha “

While translating the German edition of Dogen’s “The Treasury of the T*rue Dharma E*ye” (Shobogenzo), Mrs. Ritsunen Linnebach and I were considering thoroughly whether to use the often applied phrase Not doing wrong” or not.

We came to the conclusion that the precise translation from Japanese correlates better with the term “to generate” – and that that was exactly what Dogen meant.
This term shows very clearly that man generates injustice artificially – and that, naturally, it would not exist in this universe.

Would you choose another translation instead of “to abstain from evil” – one would get the impression that evil  naturally exists as an essence in our world and we have to watch out for it – to abstain from it. From our point of view, this is exactly what Dogen does not want to say.

The proposition that injustice and evil are only created through action and do not exist naturally in the harmony of the universe may be surprising at first. But taking into consideration the fact that in Buddhism  action gets most of the credit and therefore acting is assigned the qualities of reality and truth and not  any abstract idea or imaginary essence – then this is of great importance for our lives.

It is just a question of not generating wrong – and of committing ourselves in our lives and in our actions to the many opportunities we have to do meaningful and good deeds – with care and respect. This is the way to independence and freedom. To generate wrong creates addiction.