Sunday, January 15, 2006


What I do most of the time is to fiddle with the physical form of sitting, adjusting this, correcting that, I do what is taught in the whole Zen world: Deshimaru sangha, Dogen sangha, San Francisco Zen Centre, Japanese Sotoshu... I view zazen as a body form and bodywork that I have to get right: to sit in a beautiful upright posture, have a nice mudra seal, put my head in the right position, my tongue touching the upper palate etc. The list goes on and on, the list is what one calls the proper way to sit and all my years of Zen practice come to this: follow the guidelines, copy the model. Duplicate it. Repeat it.Now, two very clear and simple observations:a) Dogen never gives a clear and precise description of how to sit.b) He also says that Zazen has nothing to do with sitting.WHY?I am a complete beginner on this path and, nevertheless, I would like to say that one can only fool oneself by trying hard to sit properly. It is clear that the enlightened godos of Deshimaru Sangha, the great Brad, all the copycats of the Zen world and myself when telling you how to sit or not sit are deluding ourselves into thinking we have got it right.WHY?the body-mind is originally neither one nor two. It is. One piece. Adjusting body or breathing to control the mind is deluded practice. You may" act" it, "perform it" ( I am talking about my own sitting too), it might look good but it is not the real thing. In fact what years of Zen practice give you is the subtle ability to pretend that you have got it right. Mind of the expert. Mind of the fox. The beginner's mind is open, not in the way, not filled with habits and pre-conceived ideas.All these experienced sitters proud of their ability to fake true sitting do correct others. They will touch and correct the body as they correct they own sitting practice, generating habits in beginners and they call this Zen transmission.Last Autumn, when I visited Daijoji in Kanasawa, I was shown how to sit by a young and very rigid monk. He was correcting my way to do gassho (my hands where not up enough) and desperately trying to show the fool I am to sit on the platform. As he asked me to put my shoes properly under the platform and as I could not do it being like a fat and clumsy bear failing to reach the dam sandals, I started to laugh. I thought it was just funny to find myself trying to catch the shoes-fish in all this dignified environment. So did everybody around me, entertained to see such a ridiculous gaijin who could not put his paws on the shoes. And eventually, the twenty years old monk, straight like a iron pole, started to shake with laughter and what did I see, stupid bear making a fool out of himself? I could see his rigidity fading away with laughing, tensions disappearing and suddenly he was standing like a beautiful grown up Buddha child. This is how Buddha teaches through a nobody like me, this is how Buddha manifests himself in the form of a young Japanese monk laughing . Unfortunately, he managed to resume his original composure very quickly, teaching how to do this and that. The real teaching this monk gave me was his bodymind free of his idea of what Zen behaviour and conduct should be like.What I experienced yesterday in the hands of this good old bloke-friend-teacher of mine is pretty close: during an Alexander lesson, in and out of a chair, I experienced that only when, getting up or sitting down, keeping the direction of going up, I didn't mind, didn't care anymore about the result and stopped trying, only then...IT was doing ITself. IT is something I don't know. All I can say is that it happens. No feedback to tell me what it is. No need then to correct my own sitting (doing it, it is I, the foolish and deluded guy victim of his false sensory appreciation that acts, not IT). I don't want anybody to do IT for me (fixing me from outside). All I can do is to trust, allow and accept the self and IT is without minding anymore about what it looks like or if IT is following the holy guidelines. When the real thing does ITself, no need to check, correct, adjust.

As Mike puts it, zazen means to wake up.

To wake up is to make the conscious decision to allow IT and not be in IT’s way.

When IT sits you, then Zazen appears in the phenomenal world.

Neither moon nor body.

IT. Just it.

Neither one nor two.

Remember the poem of Nagarjuna quoted in the chapter Bussho of Shobogenzo:

(My) body manifests the roundness of the moon,
By this means demonstrating the physique of the buddhas.
The preaching of Dharma has no set form.
The real function is beyond sounds and sights.

Toying with breathing, physical stuff is bodywork.

IT , circle of the moon, is expressed in this form (sitting).
IT, voice and body of the Buddhas has no set form.
When IT is, this is.
When IT is not, what is this?

The only Zen I understand is to allow IT to be. Unfortunately, the Zen I practice is mostly a crude and very deluded form of adjusting this and fixing that.

End gaining is my activity: I am always busy chasing something: thoughts, mental movies, social recognition, people, bottoms, proper posture…

Aren’t you?

I am constantly in the way.


I make the vow to allow IT more and more in my life.




Blogger oxeye said...

Hi Pierre, your references to the "great" Brad are very funny indeed. I'm not sure how skillful they are but they do tell a lot..

10:10 PM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Hi Oxeye,

Thank you for reading my bad (not brad) prose.

I am certainly not skillful. I don't know what it is supposed to tell. At that stage you might suspect that I am also stupid. And I think you would not be far from the truth.

What amazes me is that you pick up and comment one word, and this word is the least interesting of my blog.

What is IT ? Oxeye, what is the experience of the ineffable?

I will never write a book about Buddhism, let alone dream of a second one or have my say about everything and nothing for a very simple reason: the job of somebody like Brad is to be great. To work hard at it. To get lots of disciples. Mine, is to be small. I am too big already but from time to time this big bundle of stupidity, arrogance and beliefs vanishes.

That is what I am really interested in. The pracice of the ineffable.

Wether people like it or not, a zen teacher that writes something called: "Propper posture required" is good at selling himself and the stuff he practices. Unfortunately, he obviously has not been grasped by the ineffable or better, failed to surrender to it.

Once It meets you, you cannot doubt anymore about it.

the only thing great in life is IT, not you, not Brad, not Mike not Nishijima, not me.




7:02 AM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

An eternal buddha said: "You must learn to get out of the teacher's way, learn to get out of your own way, then learn to get out of ITS way."

I am with you all the way, Pierre. With you in the way--in the way of IT.

9:43 AM  
Blogger oxeye said...

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9:05 PM  
Blogger oxeye said...

Pierre, I certainly don't think you are stupid. I just don't understand you. You are concerned with things I do not understand yet. When I think of Buddhism, I think mainly of the 8 fold path. You obviously see other things. But I am just a novice. I see zazen as a tool for life. A possibly useful tool. You see it as something else. You have more esoteric concerns. I am not going to pursue those ideas unless they become clearer to me. They could mean anything right now. I’m not worried if my progress is slow. Sometimes you and Mike seem disinterested in communicating with the uninitiated. Two undoubtedly intelligent guys unable to communicate your ideas very well except to each other. That might just be the nature of your interests. It might be my lack of understanding. I will read what you have to say and shake my head sometimes. I wish you well Pierre.

You wrote.. "I will never write a book about Buddhism, let alone dream of a second one or have my say about everything and nothing for a very simple reason: the job of somebody like Brad is to be great. To work hard at it. To get lots of disciples. Mine, is to be small."

How do you know what you will do? Have you already decided? You do write your blog. You do wish to communicate with others. That statement seems self-pitying.

You will do whatever it is you want to do and it will only be revealed when you do it.

Your statements on the “Great” Brad “tell” me that you are mentally setting yourself up beside him and making a comparison.

I respect him. He has helped me. I am very grateful to him. I think he works hard. He is coming at this thing from a different direction. My sometimes faulty intuition tells me that he doesn’t have any interest in greatness. Not now anyway. I think he might just want to help people. The things that seem obvious to you might not be the truth as it really exists. You might have a more base emotion influencing your judgment here. And if my perceptions in this small matter are slightly more accurate than yours, you might be hurting some people by mocking the guy.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Dear Oxeye,

Thank you for your honest reply.To answer I would need more than a few sentences and and less than one word. Nevertheless, let us try.

What you call "self-loathing horseshit" is what I call "getting out of the way" and what Dogen calls "to forget the self", you will easily understand that your translation is a bit far off even if it is very close to Brad W's manure-like style. I beg you to read Shobogenzo genjokoan again and again and not just with your eyes or brain but with your whole being. Let, allow genjokoan to become your life.

You don't understand what we are talking about? Rightly so. You are not the only one. Nobody has the skill to teach IT by the means of words only. The twirling of a flower was Shakyamuni Butsu's way to express IT. Kodo Sawaki coined the following sentence to express it: "the self doing itself by itself". In fact, Sitting is the expression of IT when the self is forgotten. Most Zen blokes think we are nuts. To understand what we are talking about, words won't do. IT is an experience, not a lecture or an attempt to popularize Zen theory. IT is the ineffable, suchness, and Dogen writes all the time about it, he even writes a whole chapter called: Inmo...IT (p119, Book 2). We are talking about an experience in which one doesn't worry, try, control, manipulate reality. We are talking about zazen sitting the self.

In this world of polical-correctness, it is very naughty, very unacceptable to use certain words and mock and blablabla. The funny thing is that when Brad throws his critics and verbal abuse and uses his toilet-punkish language, nobody seems to care. Even the great Nishijima seems to approve of his style ( i wonder sometimes if our roshi understands all brad's sexual innuendo for he has a limited commad of American-English slang). When Mike says something unpleasant ( far less that B) well, he is a bad guy. So am I. No problem. Your problem.

You see zazen as a tool for life. You see, that is precisely the dammage done by the Brad and his flock. Brad doen't seem to have taught you this very clearly: ZAZEN IS GOOD FOR NOTHING. ZAZEN IS UTTERLY USELESS. Who said that? Kodo sawaki, all his life. Zazen exists beyond any economy, goal or end. It is not a refined tool taken out of the buddhist box. It is the whole of Buddhism and beyond. How can you experience IT? You will if you study with a true teacher, and in this world, there are rare. Excellent alexander teachers are rare, let alone Zen teachers. Both worlds are pervaded by arrogance and lies. I strongly recommand you to study Sodo Yokoyama rosh's words as tranlated by Braverman in his book "living and dying in Zazen", in a letter written to Yuno, Yokoyama says : "the awareness that you are deluded, which comes from practicing zazen, makes you, a Buddha". And he quotes Sawaki:" Those who are unaware of their ordinariness are from a religious point of view shallow and comical".

Now, you want to understand? You may come. Buy yourself a ticket. Fly to England. Come and visit Mike. He is an excellent Alexander teacher and an amazing Zen teacher for many reasons and the first is the following: he knows how much he fools himself.

Yes you are young, very young in the Dharma. It took me nearly thirty years to start to catch a glimpse of the true meaning of Zazen. I am sure you can do better. Time flies, Oxeye. And then you can go back to Brad or whoever you want. I sense a will to the truth in your words.

I will write a post soon to remind myself and others that Zazen is totally useless and good for nothing.

8:26 AM  
Blogger oxeye said...

Thank you Pierre. Earlier I amended my words to try make myself more understandable and less harsh. unfortunately your comments were on my earlier version. I said then that The things that seem obvious to you might not be the truth as it really exists. What I should have said is - Those things that seem obvious to us might not be the truth as it really exists. That is more accurate. I keep imagining that somehow your truth is different from mine. That is a reoccurring mistake I make with people.

9:46 AM  
Blogger oxeye said...

You say Mike is a great teacher. I do not know if he is or is not. I will take your word for it. People are suspicious of him because of his actions. they saw him berate the old man. That was not just politically incorrect, it was also ugly. Those earlier words, now erased from the Roshi’s blog, are the only reason he is seen as a bad guy. Brad’s sexual innuendo is what it is. Might not be your cup of tea but sometimes street language can be a straighter path to a point than murky poetic perceptions.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:31 AM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

During the second world war, when Gudo Nishijima was a young officer in China, what happened between Japan and her enemies was truly ugly. If Oxeye paid attention to the twirling flower of history, he might think that recent Anglo-Japanese disagreements were no big deal. Indeed, seeing the twirling flower, he might just smile.

2:33 AM  
Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:38 AM  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

If you do not know what 'IT' is, how would you recognise a true teacher?

11:09 AM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Hi, Welcome Johndoe,

Dogen has written a chapter called Menju. It answers your question. .."When you see through and get free from your habitual bones and marrow, the face-to-face transmission of the Buddhist patriarchs is there" ( Shobogenzo Menju p.161,B3). To recognize is to see through, to pierce, direct beyond, to drop our body of delusion and habits. It can be a glimpse for we always come back to our old patterns.

When you get out of the way, when IT meets IT, and the self meets itself, you don't need to know. IT is.

11:42 AM  
Blogger oxeye said...

"What amazes me is that you pick up and comment one word, and this word is the least interesting of my blog."

Pierre, It now amazes me also. I can see how on my first reading of your interesting post, I was stopped by my own thoughts and was unable to let them go. Your phrase about the "great" Brad irritated me to the point where I was blind to the rest of your words. You might not have been being ironic for all I know. And even if you were being malicious, which I have no reason to believe, I should not have let it affect me that way. Because after that, I literally did not hear anything else you said. I got hung up on one remark. I think because Brad made certain things understandable to me, I felt closer to him than I really was. It felt personal somehow. Why I felt that way I have no idea. All vague emotion. Anyway, I apologize.

8:26 AM  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

That was a good answer but it was not your anwser. It is also not the question I asked. I asked how do YOU recognise a good teacher.

My rule of thumb for teachers in anything that I do is "Do I in some way want to become like them". I ask because that is what happens when someone teaches. They always teach all of themselves.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

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8:42 AM  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

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6:23 AM  

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