- As for the blog's name: -

I was @ Gustav Ericsson's sight, - Anzenkai, and I was looking at Nishijima Roshi’s calligraphies over there. Particularly there is one - "seki shin hen pen" - about which Gustav has earlier said in a blog post that it is Nishijima's favorite phrase from Master Dogen.

This seemed strange to me. It was not what I would expect Nishijima Roshi's favorite phrase to be. It seemed it could be some Rinzai master's favorite quote, - it seems to express continuous and constant sincerity, - but it did not seem to fit my view of the way Nishijima Roshi saw things.

So - consequently - I tried to think what would I expect his favorite quote to be. But all phrases I could think of did not seem to fit just what I might have had in mind.

So I tried to come up with what I would see it as, - and what I have come up with - is - "this universe out here".

- And this seems to be the right name for this blog here too.

- Definitely.                                                 ________________________

- - Unlike Dogen’s Instructions -

In Fukanzazengi Dogen says as follows - “... put the right hand above the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other”. (- the Nishijima-Cross translation, - appended to Vol. I of the Shobogenzo)

I recall asking Nakagawa Kyudo Roshi about the mudra, - whether the thumbs should be touching, - he said “Not touching”.

I don’t think there should be any difference between “Soto” and “Rinzai” regarding this matter. In Rinzai they allow another form too, mainly for beginners or young monks perhaps, - but this is irrelevant. - The posture of Zazen is the same, - there is no difference. This is not the issue.

- I used to care very little about the position of the hands. There was a time I would just drop them disregarding the mudra. This was until Harada Shodo Roshi of Sogen ji (Rinzai sect, where I was staying then) instructed me to do otherwise. Still quite clearly I did not care much about that. Like many. Obviously, in my view, the posture is something you forget about during Zazen. Still this post is about something else.

- I could not sit [Zazen that is] for quite some time. Due to a bodily weakness since about the beginning of the millennium. I could sit a bit for some periods but generally could not. - I used to like nothing better, but wtf. Anyway, - unlike my absence of interest (very reasonably, generally, though) earlier, - I now think the mudra is wonderful. This is quite relevant to what I said at the beginning. But this is not so if the thumbs lean against each other. Supporting each other as Dogen says. They ought to be as if pulled toward each other, - doubtly touching, doubtly not touching. No support. This is just based on how I feel but I don’t doubt that. - Dogen, I guess, - wanted to present a piece of instructions in reasonable simplicity and relating to the point I am writing about here might have not been in accord with that. Or perhaps otherwise, - I don’t know, - but I do believe the fact stands anyway. - The feeling is different, - it is not the same, - if the thumbs don’t support each other they might practically fall and not stay in place as they should for the perfect mudra, - since naturally one’s main interest in Zazen does not focus continually on the position of the hands, - but regarding the mudra itself and what it ought to reflect and manifest in expression of the universal harmony - thinking of it ideally as the best form suitable for the Buddhist meditation, - it seems there is only one way for it to be, - as if holding something - precious perhaps, - where the flow off both hands would unite and harmonize. Allowing the thumbs to support each other is a bit of a lazy feeling. No offence to Sawaki Roshi of course. (whose pictures are not in accord with what I say, but I am quite confident he would agree if he read this piece) Anyway, Master Dogen’s place is not diminished of course by what I say, - and the essence of Zazen does not rely of course on any millimeter of the posture being meticulously measured and examined in a materialistic manner as if it was everything. The posture is important but understanding and experience are not a mere derivative of its physical accuracy. There is what goes beyond, - and we are not forever dependent on the initial tools we use, - and our attention must naturally at some time let go of these and move on, otherwise our Zazen too (Rinzai or Soto) will go nowhere. So far.

- The Vicinity of the Incomparable -

Master Rinzai (Linji Yixuan) said “If you are your own master wherever you stand is the pure land”. Dogen says “Someone who randomly affects the forms of teaching others, without arriving in this field of earth, is a great nuisance to human beings and gods”. (Shōbōgenzō Keisei-sanshiki) A master, a “Zen” master, - is one who has arrived at the state of Buddha, at the state of a buddha, - all other ideas or interpretations, however popular recently in the west, - are bullshit. I may have used a less severe word was I writing in Hebrew, - but in English there doesn’t seem to be an exact match, - “vanity” would be the closest, - as it seems, - but the meaning would anyway be the same.

           (Just to make clear, - I never intend to imply I came to this state, - but I would never want to take on as a teacher someone who hasn’t)

- - - Occurring thought, - Jan 14th 2019 - - -

There will, indefinitely come a time, - when the attitude will be and people will say, - simple and learned alike, - about our time and era in which we live, - that it was a time when the attitude - in the academic circles and the accepted and the authoritive institutes, - about religion and related issues, - was that these were phenomena of no real substance and no real or true foundation, - and investigation and the research of these were conducted as merely relating to superficial layers of narratives and their comparison and assumed origin.

- This is all I wanted to say here. January 14, 2019. - This day is impossible not to come. I will not argue. But understanding could not be still awaiting forever, it will inevitably arise, it is not possible for it not to dawn.

Today learned scholars who for some reason go to the trouble of investigating the issues of spirit and religion would usually relate to their issues of research as some sort of anthropological phenomena and the idea of looking for a real root of actual facts behind various beliefs would most clearly normally not occur. Now of course this behaviour seems natural to most, in accord with common beliefs of materialistic nature which are taken for granted unquestionably. - In an age of darkness the intellectuals imagine themselves progressive. - But quite in contrast with this dry view of the educated today who trust their sources, - in future times when faith will be re-established and the place of this world will be further and better known and understood, the strange phenomenon of this peculiar age will be most easily seen for what it is, - though the present proud leaders and pioneers of mankind - heading a slim two dimensional plain of thought devoid of any actual volume - will not be there to capture a glimpse of their concluded foolishness.

Slightly corrected on March 8th, same year.
        (I wrote the above as it is here, - as it appears here, dates mentioned. – However, after that while looking through dictionaries I found out “indefinitely” means not definitely, completely different from what I thought. – I thought “indefinitely” means most definitely, - like “invaluable” meaning most valuable. I did try to rewrite this, - but eventually still decided to leave it as it is: - On “Wordnik” I found what they say – “... we believe, like Humpty Dumpty, that words mean what we want them to mean” . – “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less”. – So this is the way it is – though, - of course, - “indefinitely” here means most definitely, unquestionably, - with great certainty, not otherwise. – Still, - you could find a corrected version here, - where the use is as it is usually supposed to be. – Also, - the word “authoritive” is supposed to be a mistake, - “authoritative” is supposed to be the correct form, - but it seems the meaning is not exactly the same: - “Authoritative” seems to have more of a meaning of bearing formal authority, - while “authoritive” feels more like having to do with being generally or spiritually considered of an authoritative nature or reliable superiority widely accepted by the public in general, not primarily in the formal sense, - so Humpty Dumpty may apparently prove his attitude correct here too.)

Thinking at Rest

Master Dogen says in Fukanzazengi, - “(- …) Sitting immovably in the mountain-still state, ’Think about this concrete state beyond thinking.’ ’How can the state beyond thinking be thought about?’ ’It is different from thinking.’”, - “This is just the pivot of Zazen.”.* - I don’t know the original Japanese but I quite certainly assume the “about” appearing twice here would not be there. - It does seem wrong to me. Also the word “concrete” I guess has been added intentionally by Nishijima as to emphasize a point he would consider important there, - it is quite obvious. - This too is not in place in my view, but I don’t know if it is practically wrong, but we can see quite obviously that Dogen did not observe a need to express it explicitly in such a manner.[1]

In Shōbōgenzō Zazenshin he quotes the story as follows: - “While Great Master Yakusan Kōdō is sitting, a monk asks him, ‘What are you thinking in the still-still state?’ The master says, ‘Thinking the concrete state of not thinking.’ The monk says, ‘How can the state of not thinking be thought?’ The master says, ‘It is non-thinking.’”.

There is also another repetition in Shōbōgenzō Zazengi but I will not bring it here.** (else than in the footnote you can find below that is, to be more exact)

All translations [here] are of the Nishijima-Cross Shōbōgenzō. I might have checked more translations (mainly Okumura perhaps) for the purpose of writing this but I am off the web now and don’t have even the books I have (not many) with me at the place where I stay.

- The Fukanzazengi is appended to the first volume of the Nishijima-Cross translation.

It was already quite some time ago that the “about” above did not seem right to me, -
(- at the time of correcting this article I’d add thinking of no thinking is just what we do not do while we are sitting, - we do not think of that and we do not think of anything else, this is quite the point of sitting, isn’t it? - Otherwise we’d be ruining our sitting, - would we not[2]?) it seemed it should be think-no-thinking rather than think about no thinking, - but it is not that I could tell or see what does this idea of thinking-no-thinking mean, - it just sounded like a strange or an enigmatic expression.

As for what Master Dogen is saying in the text, - it’s obvious, - not from the text I mean, - but it is no secret: - The intention is generally clear: - We’re supposed to simply ignore whatever comes up in our mind. The reason for his use of the way he does is of course a different question. - I do admit I cannot see why does Dogen say in Shōbōgenzō Zazenshin about Master Yakusan’s words “This use of ’non-thinking‘ is brilliant”. - Also I do not understand much of what he is saying about the story in that chapter, but it would not negate what I am going to say here. - Again, letting go of thoughts and mental objects or pictures is in my view no complicated thing, - the thing to do is very simple and initially seems to be also very easy to explain, - If Master Dogen has chosen this apparently not-obvious way of relating to it, - (while in the rest of the Fukanzazengi he is speaking in a quite simple and immediate manner) there of course has to be something to it, but as for this question you will perhaps have to relate to his own words in the chapter I mentioned. - Though the point I am intending here might also point somehow regarding the issue.

As for Dogen’s praise of the expression of “non-thinking”, this ought to have to do with the way it is in Chinese. (which I don’t know, or Japanese, - which my knowledge of is very far from being able to relate to it, - as it seems at least)
- It is translated differently even in these examples I have here, by the same translators, which might tell of its untranslatable nature. - We might guess its subtlety or exquisiteness generally escapes translation. If we’d be checking other translations I believe we’d be getting other versions too, - this is not the point here anyway.***

Now to the point: - Not so long ago I got in touch
(by e-mail) with a person I met years ago by the name of Yuval Gil, - who has recently got authorization in the Kwam Um school of “Zen”, and is now teaching in Israel.

- Subsequently I had a look at their site.
(It’s all in Hebrew)

They say they have three main forms of practice, - bowing, singing and sitting meditation. (Quite obviously, - “singing” would refer to sutra chanting, - Korean and Japanese “Zen” are not that different; - but I never made sure)

They refer to bowing and singing as meditation as well. - When sitting, - we might think of our mind as standing still, - as stopped, as unmoving. - Observing the more active (if they may be so called) forms of practice or meditation, - and of course mainly the mental state therein, - it might not be necessarily so: - the mind would not necessarily be as-if-blocked or of course harsh at the time of the meditative exercise, - carrying out the action referred to, - though the state is not the usual state in disregarding activities unrelated to practice, - the mind inevitably needs to function, - it is not dead or lifeless, - it does carry out the mission of leading and guiding the being within which it takes place, - but of course in a different way. - We do not witness its rough (perhaps) steps we may be used to previously, - but the bowing or oral expression evidently needs to be guided by something, - and the same would be true of walking (as in kinhin) or performing a formed task such as the structured begging (takuhatsu) monks do in Japan, - or just generally carrying out any action. (- Such as in samu)

We do not kill thinking in bowing or chanting (or singing) or walking or begging or just performing any necessary action as meditative practice. - There is the refined stream within - though clear and undisturbing - which does live within us ever as we are to respond to anything in our surroundings.

Now, - considering Zazen, - would it be the same or different? - How about the seated meditation? I do believe this is what the expression used is about.

- At first view, - you might naturally think of sitting [in Zazen] as where all ceases, - as a break off the world, - as where no action is carried out and no motion takes place. Dogen does speak of “not moving a speck of dust and not breaking a single form(- here it’s Okumura’s translation, off my memory, - I like it better (- Shōbōgenzō Bendōwa)) but this could be done in the active practice as well. - When sitting it does feel a lot like I said in the first sentence here, - and I think it would be true of many forms of meditation, - but quite clearly this is where Dogen wants to make the difference. - Sitting is an action we do in daily life as well. - We do sit, occasionally, - and we get up, it does take place in our course of action. - The state in sitting Zazen (as directed in the house of Dogen) should not essentially be different from all other practiced forms of living meditation through an active fulfilment of a task. - It is obvious that practically just sitting in the [full] lotus posture (as Master Dogen’s expression) or anyway in an immovable one is a significant and central key holding most of the importance of our practice. - All other treasured active additions may come up to very little had this not been performed. And it need not be said. - But put that aside, - as a matter of principle, - when seated in Zazen, - should it be like cutting off all of our having to do with anything and leaving all motion and progress behind, - or should it be like a practice of sitting as part of everything? This is what thinking-no-thinking is about, I have come to understand after my glancing and looking through the web site I mentioned. It is not their intention, - but it crossed my mind subsequently. - It is not blocking thinking or any mental functioning, it is not like standing still and forcefully stopping anything from getting through, - it is letting go of any unnecessary thinking or dreaming of an absent mind while not preventing the allowance of the actual natural and real essential functioning - though just of the so-simple act of sitting. This is where Dogen is different, but I may be opening a different issue here.

- Just as we are walking in kinhin, just as we are doing our work in samu, just as we may gradually learn to make our usual state the clear and transparent hopefully (also gradually) known through the practice in the sitting posture, - so when we are sitting too it is fundamentally the same thing. - The string of time never brakes, the chain of life is not excluded out of, - harmony is not disregarded or broken too, - it is not a piece moved out and detached off our lives, - it is an integral part of it. Zazen, - practiced in the Buddhist meditation posture, - is also an active form of meditation or practice as the other various methods aforementioned. - It is just that unlike the other practices, - of walking or chanting or whatever, - it is so simple, - it is of an action that requires perhaps almost nothing (or sometimes just nothing) of our capabilities of sorting and organizing information received through the senses known as “thought”. - Regardless of the question of how different would it be practically, - the principle is the same principle. This may be closely linked to why Nishijima says (used to say that is) Buddhism is a religion of action. Crossed my mind just now.

- So far. See the following note. I’ll probably write this again sometime, if conditions are in favour. - But that’s the idea, - this is what Master Dogen wanted when using the expression I related to in the beginning. - I believe I have broken the encryption code of these words. See this page.

       I started writing this post on February 2nd this year. It seems it was close to being completed within a few days. But then for some reason (I don’t remember exactly, I have lots of trouble, or had, and things to do consequently) I put it aside for some time, - then it happened that since sometime later I could not remember things in the same way I would while writing continuously, - the little that was still left to be completed was not at all easily finished.

       - I also wanted to reread what I’ve already written and perfect what needs to be where I might have not expressed myself in the best way. - Eventually this did not work out. - It is not my habit [in this blog] but I am leaving things here (in this post) where I am not sure I have written them in the best way or as I should.

       - Beside that some things are not the way they were the time when I wrote them, - I said “I might have checked more translations (...) for the purpose of writing this but I am off the web now and don’t have even the books I have (...) with me at the place where I stay” but actually since I did come across another translation. - Also I am still without an Internet connection but I get to connect quite more frequently or conveniently and the books I mentioned are accessible. I said about Yuval Gil that I got in touch with him “Not so long ago” and that he got his authorization “recently” but this is not so much so now. - I said about Shōbōgenzō Zazenshin that “I do not understand much” of what Master Dogen is saying about the story (of master Yakusan and the monk) in that chapter, but I went through this again since and the situation is not the same as it was. - As for another issue see note ***.

       (Btw, - the note I added on the sixth paragraph I added a long time ago, - on Feb 12th as it seems)

       Had I wanted to correct all that might have been needed in the post it would practically take a rewriting of it all. I can not do that now. - I also wanted it to be on on August 2nd, - which eliminates this possibility. - It could not be regarded as a completed post. Still the message is there. - I think I will [have to] write it again. It will quite clearly be quite shorter. - But I am not in the right state for writing it or dealing with it now. This is the main issue. - Also my “Time” post I was quite unhappy with, and it is to be written again sometime. - So far.

[1] I might add relating to the “about” above, that sometimes expressions are apparently intended to be viewed in one manner at first view or by an incapable person, - and otherwise, in a more refined manner or less obvious one, - in a further observation or a more thorough or later listening or reading. Such seems to be the case relating to Master Daiman’s words to Daikan on their first meeting saying people from the south are without, according to Master Dogen that is. (- See note 53 to chapter 22 (- Busshō) in the Nishijima Shōbōgenzō translation, - else there may be a similar issue (relevant to the previous one too) when Master Daii (- the fourth patriarch) is meeting Daiman (who was still a child of seven at the time) earlier than that)

[2] Rudolf Steiner speaks in an old series of lectures translated to English as “at the Gates of Spiritual Science” - in the last of these lectures when relating to the practice of the Rosicrucian order in Europe, - of a stage in that practice in which he says about the pupil there that “the content of his thought falls away, but the activity of thought remains”. This sounds much like the same idea of what I am writing about here.
* Though “zazen” has not been capitalized originally in the translation, I have still capitalized it here.
** - “Sitting in balance in the mountain-still state, think the concrete state of not thinking. How can the state of not thinking be thought? It is non-thinking. This is the real secret of zazen. Sitting in zazen is not learning Zen meditation. It is the great peaceful and joyful gate of Dharma. It is untainted practice and experience.”.

*** After writing the above I came across Okumura’s translation to the relevant part of Shōbōgenzō Zazenshin and there the statement that “This use of ’non-thinking‘ is brilliant” does not appear at all. The relevant sentence is translated differently and actually makes more sense. So my whole discussion of this issue may actually be unnecessary.

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