The place of emotion in Yoga and Zen in the form of questions and answers

Question: What is the place of emotion in Yoga and Zen?

TPL: In Zen they turn it into austerity, enquiry and will.

Question: Are they happy with what they find, is it a sort of fascination with enquiry?  Is it emotional satisfaction?

TPL: In Zen, you have to produce an answer to the teacher twice a day. You have got to produce an answer and he has got a big stick.

In Yoga the emotions are made universal but in Zen they are sort of re-canalised, they are forced into this enquiry and will.  They all practise some art.  With Zen monks it is calligraphy, they are good calligraphers and they nearly all paint a bit. From the Zen point of view if you are really keen on music, you should all play something yourself. Not necessarily well but you should create some beauty, not passively, just listening.  Don’t passively appreciate.  Make some contribution.  You don’t have to be good.  They all write poems.  There are 300 poetry magazines in Japan.  Here we have about five. Sometimes if you see the sun going down in a beauty spot, people are silent.  You come back afterwards.  They have made little poems.  They are rotten most of them, but they have made them.

Question: Is this true of women?

TPL: Yes, especially among the women.  That is why the educational standard in Japan is very high because the women are educated and cultured and you can say that the designs of the cups and the towels are much better in Japan.  Here we just put three red stripes on, but there the mass-produced things are not without taste because the Japanese housewife had the taste to choose the good design and many of them don’t have to be rich.  Here, with a flower arrangement you have to have a sort of cornucopia, masses of flowers, don’t you.  Two or three looks skimpy.  But among the Japanese, no.  Just a few flowers.  They can be a masterpiece.  You don’t have to be rich and many of the housewives who are not rich at all, they take these little lessons.  On peak-hour television I saw some flower arrangement and it was very well done.  They got some amateurs from all classes of life and they made flower arrangements and the expert looked at them, and she said yes and she said, you see the gaps here and relation between these and then she just shifted it and that’s it. You think it is very good and the expert says it can be improved.  And you think: No.  And they just make a small movement.  In those things, in Zen training, they do a little bit of meditation.

In a chess championship here they make the first few moves like lightning but I have seen a Japanese chess champion, it was 10 minutes before he made his opening move.  It was the one he always makes and I know him and said to him:  Why what are you doing? He said, I calm myself, then I feel a current and I come to know how he is thinking.

These are things that are unknown to us.  Some of us learn individually, one of these little things but we have no tradition.  People here individuals learn it but they often only learn it in their particular field.  If you saw Menuhin going to play, when he is just going to begin there is a sort of withdrawal, like a man meditating.  And you see this sometimes with specialists but we don’t have a tradition, so it generally dies with a man. In these things Zen has contributed to everyday life and this is one of the glories of Zen in Japan.  In China and India it is just a little but in Japan yes, you can say the influence was very great.

Question: Now you have told us Mr. Leggett that it is very customary in Zen to involve oneself in various creative techniques and perhaps sporting techniques as part of one’s training so that the body and various aspects of the self are cultivated and co-ordinated.  You have worked with a distinguished Vedantist and Adhyatma Yogi.  Now, from time to time one does come across a Raja Yogi who will affirm: “Do not waste your time on Hatha Yoga.  Do not waste your time on working with the body.  Don’t waste your time on physical considerations.  The only thing that matters is liberation which is attained through meditation.  Therefore abnegate everything else.  Concentrate solely upon meditation and that attitude would leave no room for say the assiduous practice of judo”.  Have you ever reflected on those two viewpoints?

TPL: Yes, some people can do this but not very many.  No scope for the feelings there, just sit and meditate, sixteen, seventeen hours a day.  There are people who do it, perhaps they have done it in a previous life or something like that but somebody who did that would have a pretty rough time. Alright for a few weeks but then a burst of internal irritation comes up, tremendous because there is no scope at all.  The Yoga training says no.  Do the actions in the world but free you from this hanging on to results.  Be able to perform free actions.  Arjuna was a warrior and Krishna did not tell him to give up.  But again there are people or it can be a person at a particular time in a crisis, after a bereavement very often there is an intense detachment. Everything was concentrated on this one point or person.  Then that person vanishes.  Then there is a vacuum, and this is a very favourable time for Yoga or Zen, Very favourable indeed, nothing seems worthwhile.  But most of us spend the time in thinking, and then the energy gradually get dispersed and then new roots are put down and after a bit it is all what it was before,  But these times are very favourable.  There is a detachment.  Then perhaps people can just meditate but for the ordinary person who is not under specific stress it is not easy and as I said, in the Gita four elements are given and meditation is one of them.  But of course these things can become a mania.  One can take refuge in preparation, prepare to prepare to prepare and you never actually get on with the thing at all.

Question: Mr. Leggett, in this century and previous centuries there occurred an extraordinary compressing of the world of the East and the World of the West and a fusion of cultures in which you yourself, consciously or unconsciously initially played some fair part. Have you any reflection on what is happening in evolution?

TPL: Well we have had one sort of great disillusion.  When I was a boy we believed for instance that crime was solely due to want, quite soon standards were going up all the time and crime would simply disappear.  Well that was more or less axiomatic.  I can remember when there were beggars and we would give them pennies, give to a beggar whom we knew and he was encouraged and all that.  Well now there are few beggars but the crime hasn’t gone down.  So there has been a tremendous disillusion.  We thought with education everything would become clear and logical but it hasn’t happened.  It has somehow got more anxious and more discontented.  Now this is why we are turning to the East.  The fact is for instance the old people in the East although there aren’t nearly so many of them.  But generally speaking they are much better off than the very old people here.  In the East they are more mobile and they still have a sense of significance.  They don’t show a lot of the distressing symptoms which one often gets here.  One tends to think it is inevitable but it isn’t so.  There is a great big sort of gap missing and certainties are not what we thought they were, so we have to find something new.

Question: This very plausible equation of crime and poverty, crime and squalor, hasn’t in fact established itself consistent with changing social circumstances.  In fact as standards have in some ways improved crime has also increased enormously.  Not just a little but enormously.  You, having travelled the world, and studied these matters for a very long time, having been actively trained in more than one discipline, have you formulated any view independently or in consultation with your teachers, about what we have to do to eradicate crime and the state of mind and the state of consciousness from which the problem arises?

TPL: Well I think a lot of this is adventure.  Especially young people, they want adventure.  I stole when I was a kid. Certain things I never stole… I didn’t steal money.  I often stole books.  I couldn’t afford them.

But there was something missing.  Again, before I was 10 years old people were tired.  Now life is very slow.  A hairdresser’s apprentice had to get up at 6 and call at the boss’s house for the shop key about quarter to 7, gets the place open and swept by quarter past 7 and he wouldn’t leave until 8 or 9 at night.  That was six days a week and he didn’t get a summer holiday.  Well he was exhausted, wasn’t he?  Absolutely exhausted. But now he is working reasonable hours and he has got energy and also he has got information.  Well then something has got to happen with the energy and information.  There are the facilities.  What is he going to do?

Question: It has to be channeled in the right direction.

TPL: Well, any sort of – You’ve got to be able to experiment. They say to you: What am I going to do?  You tell me what to do. Libraries shut at 8 o’clock.  Supposing he sees a programme on television on astronomy or Chinese history.  Ha, I want to follow it up.  Well, you go to the library and the door is about to be slammed in your face and they are shut on Sunday. Well, we shouldn’t be talking about social things.  My teacher said: In the end it will be that some people will change their consciousness and come into touch with the universal consciousness and that will have, unknown to them, an effect on changing the whole consciousness.  He said they must do this and some will do it.  As a service.  They won’t be famous, they won’t be known, they may be hated and in general they will be obscure but man’s psychology is a much bigger thing in the cosmic mind than his body is in the physical cosmos,  and the changes he makes can be very significant in producing big differences.  This is what he told us.

Question: Will many people want to do this?

TPL: Well, generally, people don’t want to do it; a lot of Indian people don’t want to do it.  They are taking up the Western idea now.  They think “We want a national health service and so on”. There are seven hundred million people and that’s going to cost quite a bit.  No, Germany before the War was in the front rank of science.  They knew perfectly well that this Aryan myth denoting superiority was scientifically nonsense.  They had got the best scientists perhaps in Europe but the people didn’t want to listen to them and didn’t listen to them.  It is like music.  You can’t make people like Beethoven. You can play it.  If people go on listening to music, in the end they will come to Beethoven but they will start with Johann Strauss.

Question: What is the way forward?

TPL: Yes, well that is why we must study these elements in yoga and Zen which poor people can do.  We mustn’t have magnificent services, you know, or huge buildings or own a lot of property.  When Buddhism was very strong in China, the Emperors wanted to smash it periodically.  All the sects had big temples, relics of the Indian founders were in those temples and to be ordained a priest you had to be ordained in front of the relics of the founder, who brought it from India.  The emperors struck at that temple and burnt them and destroyed the relics.  That meant in these sects that you couldn’t have any more priests.  Of course they ordained priests but everybody knew it hadn’t been done properly.  Not in front of the relics of the founders.  But in Zen they could dispense with these ceremonies.  They do have them but they can dispense with them completely and the teacher and the pupil could be working together side by side.  The teacher did not have to have a robe or anything and so it couldn’t be stamped out. After the persecution passed, Zen was the only one that was left.  We must remember this point.

Question: How is Christianity in Japan?

TPL: There is a great Jesuit Centre in Japan.  It is the one of largest in the world and the Jesuit father there, Professor Kadowaki, is taking Zen lessons, doing Zen training under a very good teacher whom I have known for quite a long time.  He has written two books on it and I asked the Zen teacher about it.  He said in Christianity they teach too much about the small Christ, they don’t teach the universal Christ. I was very impressed with that remark and I had a look through some of Paul’s letters where he speaks of Christ as universal.  Another Zen teacher, Suji, I have known him for a long time, in his unpublished autobiography he gave the answer to one of the koans.  Not I but Christ in me.  Now what do you think the teacher said to me?  Well, he didn’t say I was wrong.

So there is Yoga and Zen in Christianity.  We shall have to revive these traditions.  They probably exist.  There are people who know them but it has been pushed on one side.  Do service, that’s the thing to do.  What Christ really taught was the brotherhood of man, wasn’t it? –  and not these theological considerations.  Well he didn’t think so,  if you read Christ’s words.  He didn’t think he was teaching the brotherhood of man.  He did teach that but if you read what he said when the disciples of John came to him for instance “Are you the one we seek or must we seek further?”  He didn’t say: “Here I am, teach me the brotherhood of man”. No.  Our teacher said that Yoga will have to be accepted by the people here as a reinterpretation of Christianity and people mustn’t feel: I am leaving Christianity.  If one reads the Gospels with this in mind, you get some surprises.

© Trevor Leggett

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