Encounters in Yoga and Zen

The book of 108 pages contains fifty incidents showing applications of Yoga and Zen in life. Half are from the Indian tradition and half from the Japanese. There are tales from long ago, preserved orally or in temple magazines and so on; others are modern, some of them observed or participated in by the author. It is not, I think, necessary to have a knowledge of or even interest in, either yoga or Zen to find pleasure and learning in this book. Unlike much that has been written on these subjects, the text is unpretentious, easy to read, and for the most part hugely enjoyable….The aim of such stories is to help a serious student to find realization and inspiration in everyday life. As the book jacket puts it: ‘Just as flint and steel are used to make fire, so these stories can be used to create sparks within the reader’s mind, which can, with care and attention, be nurtured into the strong light of realization.’ Care and attention are qualities which Leggett brings to his work. Each short episode is exquisitely unfurled. At first reading, some appear inconsequential: others score direct hits. All, however, are deceptive. Leggett himself says …

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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

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 hazy. If you don’t use the right method but just look, you may see a clear moon, but it will probably be a reflection in a puddle. So you need the method for a good time, but then the focus must … jump! Taking up this unnoticed point, the author explains how to make the jump in focus, from clarity of holy texts to clarity of truth-realization. Stories, parables, and examples have been a favour­ed way of conveying spiritual insights and …

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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

The book consists of some fifty short pieces, some of them in this author’s familiar anecdotal style. The first half, the Lotus Lake, are from the mystical Indian tradition, which seeks to penetrate the depths of the mind and then beyond; the second half, Dragon Pool, are from the Zen and associated traditions of Japan, which likens itself to a ball floating on the surface of a river, freely turning to meet all changes and never attached to any. There is a Chinese poem which brings together the two: In the uttermost depths of the heart, There is a pivot on which the whole world turns. The commentator says that ‘the uttermost depths of the heart’ represent the Indian tradition of silent meditation; ‘the pivot on which the world turns’ represents its application to life in the traditions of the Ways in the Far East. Lotus Lake sections The Magistrate , Do Good , Self-examination , Last words , Anger , Habits , Honor , Prayers Answered , Proclaimed Wisdom , The Judge , Tail, No tail , Powers , Obedience , Holy Ceremony , Handshake , Prescriptions , Test not , Giving up Illusion , Fire Stages , In …

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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 Stories, parables, and examples have been a favour­ed way of conveying spiritual insights and truths since time immemorial, and Trevor Leggett was a master at it. He had the knack of pointing out the spiritual implications of practical events which people can relate to. The Old Zen Master contains stories based on Buddhism with references to martial arts, music, chess and incidents in ordinary life. He describes this as a freewheeling book: `I am trying to give a few hints which have helped me and which can be of help to others,’ he said. For those who know nothing of Buddhism or Zen in particular, this is an ideal introduction. It is nevertheless relevant to long-term practitioners as well. As the author points out, occasionally a new slant, a new angle or a new illustration — especially if it is an unexpected one — can be a help in absorbing practice, study and devotion. 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 …

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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

 Old Traditions for Present-day Life In 1947 I went round the secondhand bookshops in the Kanda district of Tokyo, which had miraculously survived the bombs, and bought many books on Budo and Zen. These books were now almost given away, and the whole group of ideals had been discredited. I began to translate some of these materials-no easy task. Already in 1946 I had published some short essays in small magazines. At first, editors asked for articles about the decorative arts or about ‘how Japan has changed’. But quite soon they were attracted to the theme of Budo. One of my earlier writings, ‘The Maxims of Saigo ‘, became rather well known. In 1956 my First Zen Reader, a collection of translations, was brought out by Charles Tuttle in Tokyo and had a big success. It was followed by a number of other writings-translations and some essays of my own. This book consists of 18 articles which have appeared in the monthly Budo magazine and are reproduced here by the kind permission of the editor and my friend Mr. Kisaburo Watanabe. My thanks go to Mr. Katsuo Tamura, President of the Simul Press, for his co-operation. It may seem daring …

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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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