Meditation on the navel


Female Questioner: Could you say a little more about the fact that Zen eliminates emotion and yoga tends to cultivate?

Trevor Leggett: I didn’t say quite eliminates it but it doesn’t cultivate it so much. Look at the pictures of Bodhidharma. This partly is a convention that the meditation is at the navel point. Meditation on the navel brings the mouth into this. But it’s will. Look at the face of Bodhidharma for 10 minutes and you will see will. If you look very carefully, you might see something else but the main point is will. When we face death, that’s emotion. When we are strongly tempted, that’s emotion. When somebody spits in my face, that’s emotion.

There was a painter of the invisible and he was asked to paint the human heart. He flicked the ink on the man’s face and then he quickly sketched these blazing eyes. Then he was asked to paint the Buddha-nature. Now how do you think he painted that? This is what Zen does. It creates an enquiry. One wonders what he did. Those methods and those stories are very good at catching the mind. It’s done on will and enquiry. The teacher won’t let us off. Cultures vary.

One of the elements of this culture, which is a good one and which this culture has given to the world, is the idea of sport. People try at their sport very hard but they are trained, when children, not to shout with excitement and elation in victory and not to be furious or depressed when they lose and yet they try very hard. They don’t say, “It’s only a game, what does it matter.” This is an example of non-attachment in one limited sphere. Some teachers in Japan and in India, my teacher used to say that this point should be easier for people here to grasp.

In many countries, the idea of sport isn’t grasped at all. They play the games but when they win, the winning team gets up and shouts and the losing team skulk away and perhaps they shave their heads. They are in disgrace. They are completely attached to it. There is no non-attachment there. But if you think of what we mean by a good winner and a good loser, it’s somehow the same thing. Now, if you try to explain that to somebody who hasn’t got this idea, he can’t see that it’s the same thing.

He’ll say, “That must mean that you simply don’t try.” No, you do try. Now as to the training in non-attachment, these are two practices. When you sit on a hillside or on the beach, you pick up a stone and throw it. There is a sense of relief. Many, many people do this. It’s difficult to say why they do it but they do. One of the Zen practices is actually to go to a hill before the dawn and collect a lot of little pebbles in a bag and sit on the hill at the dawn. As the thoughts come up, as the thought comes up, simply throw a pebble as if you’re throwing the thought away, then another.

They do this and they find it effective. In yoga, as you know, the non-attachment is cultivated by giving a much stronger attachment to Ishtadeva, to the object of our worship. But in Zen, officially there is no form of worship and they do it in that other way. These things are something to be tried. It takes quite a bit of organising. They can only be practiced. It can’t be done until there is some inner light and balance. When you teach, you cannot teach people that you dislike and you cannot teach people who you like, you can’t do it.

The people who you dislike, you can’t tell them off. Not that you can’t praise them, you can’t tell them off properly. You do too much or you think, “I don’t like you. I don’t want to say much.” People you like, the teacher, to be successful, has got to be balanced in himself. He may like people outside the teaching area but in the teaching area it must be just so much. More or less doesn’t do the good. In the same way doctors don’t like treating their own family, they don’t see things clearly or they may not.

Male Questioner: Could I just ask one thing, Mr. Leggett, which may have puzzled a number of us, is it correct that Zen is concerned, as indeed yoga is, in the Jnana sense with the annihilation of I? On the other hand, that to speak of the will, Zen is concerned with activating will, that is an act of extremely affirmative I-ness within the normal view of things? Triumph of the will is an assertion of I which would normally tend to mean an inflation of I.

Trevor Leggett: Do you think assertion of the will is always an affirmation of I?

Male Questioner: I would think that we would normally put that construction upon it.

Trevor Leggett: No. Only if we expect results from it for ourselves. That’s when it’s an expression of the I. As a matter of fact, now here’s an example of Zen, in yoga they say, “Perform the actions with great enthusiasm but you must consign the results to the Lord. Don’t expect gratitude. Don’t say it wasn’t noticed. Don’t say it wasn’t appreciated. When it fails, don’t think, “God should have done something about that,” but to be able to act very enthusiastically and then…”

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Damascus 1977

Part 2: Meditation on the navel

Part 3: Yaza is real devotion

Part 4: Not in Samadhi all the time

Part 5: The glories of Zen in Japan

Part 6: Disillusionment in society

Part 7: Yoga and Zen in Christianity

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