Encounters in Yoga and Zen

ENCOUNTERS IN YOGA AND ZEN Extracts …the phrase about pearls before swine came up in one of our discussions on the Japanese radio: ‘Give not what is holy to dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you.’ Like many Buddhist priests, he knew the Gospels, and he said: ‘Yes, they trample the pearls, but why do they turn and rend you?’ I never heard any Christian speak of this, so I improvised: ‘It shows the mindless spite towards what they feel is superior but cannot understand.’ He said: ‘Not at all. The pigs cannot understand that the pearls are superior. You are blaming the pigs, but Christ is blaming the man who throws pearls to them. Naturally they think it is food and try to eat it, but find it is pebbles. So of course they are angry and want to bite him. It is no fault in the pigs. Don’t throw pearls to swine: it is not fair on the swine.’     Picture of the pig reading a book by Jacques Allais, a distinguished master of the Japanese Sui-boku style of brushed pictures.   Chains A …

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Encounters in Yoga and Zen extract

Cloth and Stone Cloth against cloth, or stone against stone: No clear result, and it is meaningless. Catch the flung stone in the cloth, Pin the wind-fluttered cloth with a stone. This verse comes in a scroll of spiritual training belonging to one of the knightly arts in the Far East. In these traditions, instruction is given in the form of vivid images, not in terms of logical categories; it is meant to be a stimulus to living inspiration, not dead analysis. The apparent exactitudes of logic turn out to be of very limited value when applied to life, because then the terms can never be precisely defined. In the verse, the catching cloth stands for what is technically called ‘softness’, which is not the same as weakness; the stone stands for hardness, not the same as strength. Softness has a special meaning: it is not merely giving way or doing nothing. There is a strength in softness, but it is not the hard strength of rigidity which has an inherent weakness, namely incapacity to adapt. There is another verse which illustrates these distinctions: Strong in their softness are the sprays of wisteria creeper, The pine in its hardness is …

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Fingers and Moons

FINGERS AND MOONS Extract As we know the tip of ice above the water is only a small part of the huge mass which is invisible. But with us human beings, us human ice-bergs, it is sometimes a little bit different. … Some of us are swimming around holding up a little tip of ice, and there’s no mass of ice underneath it. But the tip may be very convincing, as if it is shouting: ‘Watch out for my ice-berg!’ Synopsis The book is a transcript of three lectures, kept in its original colloquial style, given to the Buddhist Society. The message of the book is hidden in the title: You can say: A Finger Pointing To The Moon. But to understand the point, you have to try it. On a dark night, stand and point to the moon. When you focus on your finger, it is clear and solid, but the moon is a hazy double ghost. Now focus on the moon; it becomes clear and single, but the finger is a transparent double ghost. It’s the same with spiritual practice. You do have to use the methods, and while you do, they are clear but the Goal is …

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There was a Master called Iida, some of whose books are difficult to read. They are old books from the beginning of the last century, and I went over parts of one of them with a good Zen teacher who is also an excellent scholar, and he told me: In places, I don’t know what the old boy meant. He just throws difficult Chinese texts at you.’ In one section, however, Iida lists in an illuminating way some of what a former Master (Master Gudo) called ‘Zen illness’. The first Zen illness  is ‘lack of faith’ — that your faith doesn’t go far enough. Iida said, ‘It isn’t so much faith in what will be, as faith in what is’ We have to have faith in what now. We all know what people say they think; it comes out in their words. But often those same words also give away the true state of affairs. Those who have done much Judo might sometimes be asked to control people who are drunk. And anybody who has ever had to do that is very familiar with the phrase: ‘I’m not so think as you drunk I am!’ We know what he means, …

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Lotus Lake Dragon Pool extract

Devil, Devil THERE IS a method of reciting certain sutras, or parts of sutras, in which special attention is put on to the sound uttered. The would-be reciter sometimes practices for a time in the open, intoning the sonorous Chinese monosyllables into the wind on the edge of a cliff, or against the roar of a waterfall. If all goes well, gradually he comes to feel that he is bringing out all his insides with the utterance, and that his voice is penetrating the whole scene before him. It is technically called “reciting the sutra with the whole body.” When he can realize the feeling, he practices to retain it even when he repeats the sutra very softly. He still feels his body one with the sound, and syllables resonating with the universe. It can take a long time to acquire skill in this practice, and some of those who do might certainly have reason to feel pleased with themselves. One of the lesser-known sutras is thought to be particularly suited to this practice, and a city businessman, a practitioner of the method, having heard about it, asked his teacher to coach him in it. He took as his exercise …

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The Old Zen Master

“The Old Zen Master – Inspirations for Awakening” By Trevor Leggett This book first published March 2000, consists mainly of talks originally given to the Buddhist society of London over the previous 10 years. The Old Zen Master – Inspirations for Awakening Specimen Chapters Regrets Casual Doubts Taking Refuge in the Sangha Studying the Holy Texts Leaves and Moss East and West Triumph or Success A Hundred Hearings, Not Like One Seeing Sword and Mind Jottings from Zen Master Bukko If You’re Going to Die, Die Quick! Robes of Honour Extract from “Robes of Honour” “…In these ways, we put robes of honour on ourselves, and they hamper us and we can’t do the job properly. In Judo there is a certain grading contest called ‘one-against-ten.’ You have to take on ten men-one after another. They are generally a couple of grades below you, and with luck are so terrified of you, that it is easy to dispose of them. But one or two of them think, ‘Everybody knows I’m going to lose anyway, so I’ve nothing to lose,’ and they come shooting at you, taking fantastic risks. Because you are so sure of your own superiority, which he doesn’t …

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Jottings from Zen Master Bukko Bukko (Buddha-Light) was an honorific title bestowed posthumously by the Japanese Emperor on a Chinese monk, Tsu Yuen, one of the thirteenthcentury Buddhist teachers who brought Zen to Japan. From childhood, Bukko had a fondness for temples and Buddhism. One day he heard a monk recite two lines from a famous Taoist classic: The shadow of the bamboo sweeps the steps, but the dust does not stir; The moon’s disc bores into the lake, but the water shows no scar. This inspired him to search, and finally he found a teacher who set him the koan riddle: No Buddhanature in a dog. It took him six years to pass this one. He could now sit in meditation for long periods without tiring. Sometimes he passed into trance where breath stops. He said that the inner state was that of a bird escaping from a cage. After this, when he closed his eyes he saw nothing but vast space, and when he opened them he saw everything in this vastness. The teacher still did not confirm this as final but gave him another koan. He passed this second one under the teacher’s successor, who gave him …

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The Spirit of Budo

THE SPIRIT OF BUDO Sub title: Old Traditions for Present-day Life Extract The Unforgettable Words of Tani   One evening, however, I felt very tired with a headache. At about seven, I picked up my towel and prepared to leave the dojo. Tani looked across and asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I replied, ‘I feel tired and I’ve got a headache. I’ll come tomorrow’. Tani asked quietly: ‘If a man rushes at you in the street with a hammer, wanting to kill you, can you say, “I feel tired and I’ve got a headache, so come back tomorrow”?’ Then he turned away. His words were like a thunderbolt. I went back on to the mat and practised. After half an hour he said, ‘All right, go home now’. Somehow I felt I did not want to. I went on practising, but he gave me a little push with a smile and repeated, ‘Go now, go now’. This time I went. Later in life, when I have promised to do something but then have been tired or sometimes even ill, I wanted to make an excuse. Tani’s words would return to me: ‘Can you say, “I feel tired and I’ve got …

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I began Judo in 1930 at the Budokwai in London, the oldest Judo club in Europe. I was 16 years old. Our teachers were the famous Yukio Tani, 4th dan, who was one of those who had introduced Judo to the West, and Gunji Koizumi, an art expert and also 4th dan. Tani came from a line of jujutsu teachers; his grandfather had given exhibitions before the shogun. While Tani never learnt English well, Koizumi was a cultured man who spoke and wrote good English. The amazing success of jujutsu and Judo, demonstrated by Tani and others against Western wrestlers and boxers at the beginning of the century, had given them a magical reputation of wizardry in the physical realm. Phrases like ‘Verily the soft controls the hard’ (ju yoku go o seisu) became well known. Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan and Kaiten Nukariya’s ‘Religion of the Samurai’ led to idealization of the supposed ‘living chivalry’ of Japan. Even sceptical writers like H.G. Wells were impressed. One evening I saw a pair of straw sandals in the Budokwai changing room. They belonged to Tani. I noticed that underneath each sole there was a small piece of metal fixed and wondered …

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