A Zen Way

A Zen Way


Well, this is a text from the fringe where Judo and the Knightly ways touch Zen. I’ll read the text and then just comment on two or three things in it.

“I have no parents: I make heaven and earth my parents. I have no home: I make the meditation point my home. I have no methods: I make sincerity my method. I have no means: I make softness my means. I have no miraculous power: I make human nature my miraculous power. I have no life and death: I make AUM my life and death. I have no body: I make endurance my body. I have no eyes: I make the lightning flash my eyes.  I have no ears: I make awareness my ears. I have no limbs: I make promptness my limbs. I have no strategy: I make freedom to die and freedom to live my strategy. I have no plans: I make seizing the opportunity my plan. I have no miracles: I make dharma my miracle. I have no principle: I make adapting to circumstances my principle. I have no tactics: I make emptiness and fullness my tactics. I have no talent: I make seeing things as they are my talent. I have no friend: I make mind my friend. I have no enemy: I make rashness my enemy. I have no armour: I make fellow-feeling my armour. I have no castle: I make unmoving mind my castle. I have no sword; I make ‘not minding’ my sword.”

Now, you’ll notice this is something which has no home, but which makes a home the meditation point. It has none of these things, but it makes a temporary resting place in these things. One teacher compared it to electricity, he said, “Electricity, it doesn’t cook but it makes cooking in the electric oven. It doesn’t shine but it makes shining in the electric bulb. It doesn’t heat but it makes heating in the electric radiator. It doesn’t calculate, but it makes calculating in the computer.”  It’s in none of these things

In one of the no plays, a priest is overtaken by a storm and he knocks at a door for shelter.  It’s the home of a prostitute. He begs for shelter, and she says, “No, you’re a priest. You mustn’t stop anywhere.”  The buddha was a shramana.  They’re not supposed to stop more than one night or more than two nights at any one place, and this is a hint. When we try to stop, we think, “Let this day, the moment is so fair, let it stay.” Faust’s bet with Mephistopheles was that Mephistopheles said, “I’ll give you all experience.”  But the bait was if he ever says, “Ah, this is so fair, this moment, let this stay,” then he’ll lose his soul. When we say, “Ah! This is it!”, we lose our soul.  In other words, we lose our spiritual awareness and intuition and energy.

It can be not only pleasure in a thing. Tagore has a brief story of a court painter who was a favourite of the king. A minister was jealous and faked a plot and had the painter disgraced.  So he went to a back street, lived in a back street, where he still painted. One day he painted a most beautiful picture of the goddess of wisdom. The minister’s son happened to pass through that back street on some other errand.  He saw this wonderful picture in the little shop, and he fell in love with the picture. He said, “How much for the picture?” The painter said, “Who are you?” He said, “I’m the son of the minister.” The painter threw a cloth over the picture and said, “That’s not for sale.” Well, the boy fallen in love with it, and he begged his father to buy it. The minister offered a big sum of money, but the painter said, “No.”

Then the minister came and apologized. He said, “My boy, he’s fallen in love with this picture, he’s getting ill. I beg you. I’ll have you reinstated; I’ll apologize publicly.” The painter said, “No, and if you send people to take it by force, I’ll slash it to pieces before they can take it.” The minister went away heartbroken. The painter thought, “Ah!”.

Well, like some painters in India, he worshipped one of the gods and his sole form of devotion was every morning to sketch, in about 30 strokes, a picture of the god.  They do this in Japan too sometimes. Some of the Zen people sketch Kwannon in 30 strokes.  He used to do this every morning. Then he noticed the pictures beginning to change, but he couldn’t make out what the change was. It changed and it changed, and then one day he looked at the face of the god he’d painted and he saw it was the face of the minister and he cried, “My revenge has turned and struck me.” We’re not to stop and say, “Ah,” at any of these points, however, satisfied we may think that we’re going to be.

I have no home: I make the meditation point just below the navel, my home. When there’s a crisis we press the fingers just below the navel there, we tense the muscles.  Instead of us getting nervous and twitching and biting our fingernails and fidgeting with the feet, we bring the attention here, tense the muscles here – then we can wait without disturbance for an hour, or two hours, and then go into action.  If the energy gets dispersed, then when we do go into action it’ll be all jerky.  But by bringing the attention here, we can wait, and then when it’s necessary to explode, the body can explode.

“I have no means, I make softness my means.” This means not to force things against their nature, not to bang the keys of a typewriter, not to press the pen or the pencil into the paper as though the paper was our enemy. There’s no love. The pen, fingers, the paper, form a unity: softness it’s called. Just so much, not to force the things.

“I have no miracles: I make dharma my miracle.” Well, dharma means righteous action. We have to know about righteous action and not stop at righteous action.  “I did that pretty well.”  It’s worth remembering a remark by Shaw: “I can’t think why he hates me so, it’s not as if I’d ever done anything for him.”  There’s a proverb, “Do good and be abused,” and I’ve even heard it as, “Do good and run for your life.” Consciously to do good.

I’ll give a personal experience. I go away every year on a study group and sometimes in the evening, in a gap after the study, some of them play chess. I was fairly strong at chess at that time. There was nobody in the group as it happened that year that was worth playing, but they used to play themselves. One of them used to ask me for a game and I’d play him. He’s terrible, but I’d keep the game alive for about half-an-hour.  Then I’d think, “I’ll just polish him off.”  I did this because I thought, “Well, he likes it. He gets the thrill of playing against me.  He knows I’m much stronger.”

Then, it so happened that I’d left a book. I went out of the room, but I’d left a book and I’d came back. Just as I came back, I happened to hear this chap talking to another one. He said, “You know, I don’t like playing chess with him at all. His pieces come swooping down, but I feel he’s lonely. Nobody plays with him, so I have to play with him.”   I thought, “Oh, for goodness sake! He’s been doing good to me, and I’ve been doing good to him.”  After that, we never played again.

“I have no tactics: I make seeing things as they are…”  This means, one teacher said, “It’s seeing through the stage props of life.”  If you can remember as a small child going to the theatre or pantomime, you don’t see through the stage props and you think it’s all real. I can remember when I was about five, there was a sort of pantomime, and there were the lords and ladies talking and playing in the garden. There was a path there leading to a castle painted on the backcloth.  I was five, I was completely misled. I was taken in and I was always waiting for somebody to come down from the castle, but it had been painted. When I got a little bit older, I became able to see that these things were just backcloths, that they had no substance at all. “To see things as they are and not to be misled by the stage props of life,” the teacher said.

One of the great raiders of India was Mahmoud of Ghazni. He made one his raids into India and they took many slaves. He happened to be in the slave market and he saw this slave and he took a fancy to him.  The boy was just in a rough, rustic jacket and very poor shoes. They bought him. He made him his personal attendant and the boy turned out to be brilliantly clever and loyal. The King promoted him and promoted him until he became a minister.

Well, the other ministers naturally were jealous, coming out of the dust like that. They noticed that in his section of the palace, there was a small room which he always kept locked.  He used to go there every day, briefly. They realized that was to put the bribes into his secret coffer there. So they informed the King of this. “He’s taking bribes and he’s hiding things. May we have permission to break it open?” The King paused and then he said, “Yes.”  So they broke open the chamber, but they found nothing there, except this old coat and a pair of shoes. They came back and reported to the King, very crestfallen. He said, “Well, where are the bribes you found?”  “Well, there’s nothing.”

The King called Ayaz and he said, “What’s been going on? I had faith in you, but what is this?” He said, “Well, I’m a minister and I’m clad in all this wonderful gold brocade.  But every day I just go into that room for a few minutes, and I take off all my finery and I look at the cheap rustic jacket and these broken shoes, and I realize that’s what I am. Everything else here that I have is the King’s.” The King said, “Yes. Now, what are you going to do with these people? I give you complete authority over them. Have them killed.”

Ayaz replied, “I did that so that I would not be deluded by all the grandeur and the splendour of the King. They have been deluded by the grandeur and splendour of the King. They didn’t have unfortunately a rustic coat and shoes to look at but they’ve just been deluded, as I nearly was deluded.”

When we tell this story it’s meant to illustrate that for time every day, we should be what we are and not have all this splendour, which we think is glorious put onto us, but to be our real selves.

“I have no castle: I make immovable mind…” There’s a famous text on it, called ‘The record of the immovable mind’. The first sentence is, “You must not stop anywhere.” You think, “Oh, for goodness sake.  ‘Immovable mind’ is the title of the thing? Then the first sentence is ‘He mustn’t stop’!”  This sort of contradiction doesn’t bother. One teacher explained it as, “If you look at the sky, it’s full of dark clouds.  But there’s a little patch of blue sky which appears to move. The patch of blue moves. Sometimes, it gets bigger; sometimes, it gets very small.  It’s moving, all the time, it’s moving.

But when the clouds sweep away, you find the blue hasn’t moved at all. He said, “It’s like that, this is the immovable intelligence of mind. It moves freely but really it doesn’t move at all.” The text is meant to be pondered on. The application of these things can be through words, and those words can be very, very few, if we are concentrated. Even from one or two words, our lives can be changed and we can be strengthened.  If we’re not concentrated and if we’re too lazy, or distracted, or careless, then thousands of volumes won’t change our lives and speeches.

I’m introduced as a Judo man.  From my early training, the teacher saw, I was keen. I had to practice hard. Then one day I felt very tired and I had a headache, so I prepared to leave early and he just said, very quietly, “Where are you going?” I said, “Well, I’ve got a bit of a headache and I’m a bit tired today, but I’ll come tomorrow.” He said, “If a man comes up to you in the street with a hammer to kill you, can you say to him, ‘I’m a bit tired today but come back tomorrow’?”  So I went back on the mat and I practiced hard until he said, “Go home now.”

This was very useful in life. I’ve passed it on to a few other people who were concentrated, and they’ve told me that it has helped them. When one’s feeling, “Oh, no, I can’t be expected to do this.”, you think of the man with the hammer: “Come back tomorrow”.

Well, on another occasion – you get injuries sometimes in Judo; that’s to say, if you play very competitive Judo. When you get the first few knocks and so on, you think, “Oh, heaven and earth has fallen to pieces” because of the pain.  But later on, you find that heaven and earth actually haven’t fallen to pieces.  You’re not so badly off after all.  Well, there was one man, when I’d been there a few months. He moved quickly and his opponent moved quickly at the same time and caught his toe.  The man shouted with the pain and sat on the ground, nursing his toe.  The teacher came down and said, “Shall I call your mother?”

Well, it made me resolve that he was never going to say that to me. It was a great help at times when there were actual injuries. If it’s done from a state of high realization, a point can be conveyed with very, very little. There’s a famous story – it’s in all the Japanese primers – about the mother of Mencius, who was the second Confucian Sage, perhaps an even greater man than Confucius. He said, “I hate the princes in their silks and furs, when their people are starving.”  He was a really great man.

When he was a little boy, his mother took him for the first time to school and left him there. She was a weaver and she was weaving in the garden in summer. She left him at the school, came back and she was beginning a very beautiful embroidery. The boy didn’t like it at school, so he came back. She looked out and saw him at the gate.  She simply picked up a knife, gashed this beautiful embroidery that she had just begun and said, “I have done the same as you have.”

He went back to school and he became the second Confucian sage. In Japan there’s a temple called the Peony Temple, where they grow tree peonies. It’s got spacious grounds on the slope. I’m not an expert, but the tree peonies come up on the stick. It makes it very beautiful there every few yards. Well, there was an uprising in one part of Japan and the general put it down and captured the leaders. Then, he thought the next day he would execute them.  He was a man of some culture, in the afternoon he thought he’d go to the peony temple and enjoy the flowers.

He sent a messenger to the abbot saying that the next day, after the execution, the general would come and see the flowers. The abbot said, “Oh, yes.”  He took the messenger and said, “You should see them.” They went around. The abbot took a little sickle and as they passed each flower, he cut it off and passed on to the next one. The messenger was appalled. He didn’t dare to say anything. The abbot cut off all the blooms. Then, he turned to the messenger and said, “Tell him I’ve murdered them.”  The report says that the messenger took the message back and the general was furious. His eyes turned red with anger. Then, he became thoughtful. Then, he sent the captured men back to their own part of the country.

Well, the last illustration is in a symbolic setting. The saint is to be granted the gift of proclaimed wisdom for his spirituality and he is to have it. The heavenly messenger comes through the air, and then he meets the resident guardian angel who lives watching the saint’s house. The guardian says, “Oh, what do have?” The messenger replied, “Oh, I’m bringing the gift of proclaimed wisdom. The saint is to have it.”

The guardian spirit says, “Well, unfortunately, people around here are such terrible gossips that he’s taken a vow of complete silence to set an example to them not to gossip. He won’t be able to proclaim the wisdom.” The other one said, “Well, he’s got to have it.” He said, “All right. What is it?” “Oh, it’s two drops of nectar. We’ll put it in his evening drink.”  So the saint has it in the evening drink, but he doesn’t speak.

One day there’s a monsoon, and the saint is out in the monsoon. Well, when it comes down it’s like a wall of water coming down.  You all rush to the nearest little house with eaves and you huddle under the eaves and you get absolutely soaked because it comes off the eaves on you. One man who was out in this storm was crouching down and he was getting wet. Then he saw the saint walking down the middle of the road as if he was enjoying a shower bath.  It’s not cold, it’s a monsoon rain. He was just calmly walking through the rain.

Now that man, he was a public servant engaged in important social work. He was very successful and as a result, he was subject to an absolute torrent of abuse and vilification from vested interests, which used to distress him. He said that later on, he went back to his duties and heard about these lies and slanders that were being told about him and he was beginning to get distressed.  Then suddenly the picture came to him of that man walking calmly through the rain, pouring down on him, walking calmly.  Then, he felt himself that, although there was all this torrent of spite and venom falling on him, he found something in himself walking calmly through, not a bit distressed.

Well, these are some of the examples from practices that are given. Anyway, time’s up. Thank you for your kind attention.




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