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 A Jitsudo Story

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Serend



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PostSubject: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:40 pm

It was in 1976, I think, when Jitsudo Baran and Eko Little came at my invitation to give a weekend introductory workshop at China Lake, California, home of the Naval Weapons Center where I was living and working at the time. I had gone to Shasta Abbey the previous year and taken the Precepts at Jukai. I asked the monks to do the workshop in hopes that a group would start up to help support me in my new meditation practice.

There were a dozen or so people attending and the incident of note took place during a Q&A period. I forget how the conversation on anger exactly led up to it, but Jitsudo told the following story. I'll tell it in first person since that's the way it comes to me now:

'I was in the meditation hall wearing socks. There had been several changes of protocol concerning whether to wear socks or not, sometimes they were required and at other times prohibited. Perhaps I never got the latest memo, or perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention. Anyway, my teacher looked at me and said, "Get those socks off your feet, RIGHT NOW!"

'Naturally anger flared up at first and then I simply bowed, removed the socks, and went on with what I was doing. I managed just to let the anger go.'


As he was telling this story I found a good part of my mind was rising up in indignation over the inappropriateness of RMJK's behavior, how understandable and excusable Jitsudo's confusion over changing dress codes, how unfair her attack on him, etc etc etc. This was very much "business as usual" mental activity for me. Nothing terribly interesting about this so far.

However, I also noticed that a part of my mind was thinking "[banned term], this is a whole new take on things!" I wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew it was very significant.

Over the years I've often recalled this incident and the insight I eventually got from it: that when anger arises we can choose to do something else than abandoning ourselves to the flames of righteous indignation and outrage, no matter how reasonable or justified the anger would be.

So, Josh, I would like to thank you for years ago making the trek to the Mojave desert to do that workshop. And thanks most of all for planting a seed that continues to grow in my practice. cheers

with bows,
Jim
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:03 pm

Serend wrote:


Over the years I've often recalled this incident and the insight I eventually got from it: that when anger arises we can choose to do something else than abandoning ourselves to the flames of righteous indignation and outrage, no matter how reasonable or justified the anger would be.

with bows,
Jim

Ah, the Koan of the Ceremonial Socks. It happened more than once over the years that monks didn't know whether or not to wear their socks in the ceremony hall. I believe RMJK created this uncertainty intentionally to teach the lesson that sometimes in spite of your best efforts you find yourself breaking a rule. You can't control it, but you can accept when it happens, and let go of anger and fear - a useful life lesson. I see the humor in the story. It becomes less funny though when you consider that monks lived with that uncertainty on an ongoing basis.

We'll see what Josh thinks...
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:14 pm

I didn't find it a funny story, so much as one that helped me to discover that there is, to use RMJK's phrase, a "third position" beyond the opposites of "he's right/she's wrong." I don't think I'd been exposed to that idea before and as I said, it has continued to germinate and grow over the years...to my benefit. A wonderful gift that I doubt Josh realizes he gave me along the Way.

Jim
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:15 am

A third position,the plot thickens.
I have to confess I do not know the practice of Sojiji. I have not been there, I do not know how much of Dogen's influence is there, and how much is Keizan's influence.
The temples in the Dogen lineage, would certainly follow Dogens style and teaching. The heart of the practice is Bendowa, the code of practice for a monk to live in a temple. It is at first seemingly rigid,but actually becomes this is the way we do things,and becomes normal. Personally I found it very helpful, turn your teacup a quarter turn , where your robe in the correct way. There are some good spin offs, seeing how the Abbot walks, his posture of zazen, How he holds his hands. Of course the Abbot has to practice too,there is no variable. The eightfold path, the code of practice of life, right mindfulness,this is how we meditate, all together, let go off the self creating mind,let go of this way and that way.This is how we sit, let go of your limitations. The practice was so constant, day after day, night after night, take the right amount of sesame and salt and the universe is void.
I never met a monk who was attached to the practice,
When I came back from Japan I did not tell you about my welcome home.there I was at Paddington train station, bursting for the toilet,it was very late at night,no one was around, but there under the platform, in a evil looking toilet, was my welcoming committee, out the corner of my eye I am sure I saw a red balloon tied to a door that said welcome home Chisan we hear you are enlightened. But the party game was standing right in front of me and right behind me wanting money.The one behind was big, It was serious. The incin bell was starting, I was a schoolboy boxing champ, I do not like bullies, and I had also taken a vow to save all sentient beings. Stand like this, hold your chopsticks gently, sit with dignity. What is the heart of Buddhism?
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:57 am

Michael , as so often thank you ,a 4th posistion ,the plot widens , or disperses ,not sure .

I admire you and dont admire you
I want to fill that teacup with roses
I want to hold that cup just so
More sesame than salt please
and sit in an arm chair.

where is right minfullness
what phrase would be mine ?
none does .

I wont cant dont didnt
Have been murdered internally by that teaching
And received TOO something so sweet and quiet
Vital , vitality pure and roaring .
why do i sink ,
Reading about your incin bell ?
Is it just that that pure zen - translated in the OBC - ISNT ?

But, ANY WAY what happened next?

Also those sock stories.............i despair, yes i see the life lesson and again admire your gratitude, Serend, but i dont admire that teaching .
Many hours of sitting in the zendo did i gaze at that monks socks so threadbare, and large holes in the heal , and catch myself wondering about giving him new cosy ones . i never did .
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Thu Jun 23, 2011 6:09 am

Superb reply Nicky love it
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:41 am

Well Michael , phew , Thanks..... thats done that , all is quietened , love Nicky.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:47 am

I guess I should weigh in here since my feet and socks are the center of this tale.

First, I do remember visiting China Lake, mostly because it was an usual place to teach meditation - a naval base in the desert, and secondly, our visit was covered by the local newspaper - it might have been the base paper? Jim, you probably arranged that or anyway, somehow a local reporter was there and the paper ran a story with a big picture of myself and Eko with me smiling at the camera. I guess in the following edition of the paper, a local Christian minister wrote a letter to the editor, noting my smile, but because we all didn't believe in Jesus, we were doomed - or some version of that - and so to him, my smile or happiness was foolish. Jim, you must have sent the articles to Shasta - since how else what i have seen them?

In terms of telling the sock story as part of teaching meditation at China Lake, of course, I have no recollection of what I said that day. Jim, very glad you found it helpful.

Kennett forcefully correcting monks - telling them to do this or that -- changing the rules or making them up as she went along - was a constant way that Kennett worked with us. And from the beginning, this teaching method was defined as Zen, skillful means and the path to break down attachments and self-clinging, and the right response was "all acceptance" - instantly do whatever she said, no hesitation, no defending yourself or making excuses, no "yes, but" -- just go along with it and bow, no matter what. It was all "teaching." Resistance was futile. If you did try to explain yourself or make excuses, heaven help you - her response escalated dramatically.

Part of this approach certainly came out of her Soto Zen experience in Japan, but it was also a mixture of Kennett's personality, perhaps some British school discipline mixed in also. I would point out that in the culture of Japan, you would not only treat a zen teacher as god and never talk back, but your father, your boss, your teacher, all probably male elders, leaders, superiors. It makes for a very orderly society, but it definitely has its shadow side.

A few things to say about this. During the early years, as a bunch monks, we were young, undisciplined, and i would use the word "foggy." One of the reasons we sought out Zen or meditation or awareness practice was because we realized that we were often lost in a fog, wandering, confused by our forest of thoughts and feelings, need clarity. Well, when i came to Zen training at 19 years old, i was certainly foggy -- and much of what Kennett did and said was actually quite helpful at cutting through that fog, forcing me to pay attention on the spot. She wasn't gentle about how she did it, but especially during the first few years, I still feel her motivation was clean. And I am still grateful for that. At the same time, i can understand that some people would feel brutalized by Kennett's approach.

Now sometimes her process was just forcefully correcting her monks - but other times, clearly she was either forgetful or she was just changing the rules as she went along. Now, there are different ways to see this behavior -- as the skillful means of a Zen master or the antics of a megalomaniac or as just pure manipulation - like we were dolls in her dollhouse - she had the power, we were all going along with the rules and the game, so she could do or say anything and we would all go along with it.

For example, a frequent occurrence would be for her to say, for example, "make me some toast." You bring her toast, and then she forcefully says, "I didn't ask for toast, I wanted crackers, you [banned term]." Now, you know she asked for toast. This is certain. You were paying attention. You did what she asked, but you are being yelled at for doing what she wanted. So you bow / grovel, say sorry, and go get crackers. This would happen all the time. Now, if you buy into the Shasta "playbook," you see this as Zen skillful means, ego-busting of some sort, great teaching, the behavior of zen sage and so forth.

Certainly for years, I went along with this approach, but the last few years of my time at Shasta, as Kennett descended into confusion, self-doubt, her lotus period with her shadows and projections running amok, her demand for total blind obedience, this kind of teaching / behavior became increasingly abusive and I began to see it as lacking any Zen/dharma/teaching at all. Maybe it started out as some form of Zen teaching, but it devolved into extreme abusive behavior. For me, we were all child dolls in her doll house. And I use the word "extreme" quite deliberately.

For years at Shasta, I did practice what you call the "third" approach - using whatever is happening right now as part of the path, as a means of self-reflection or awareness or an opportunity to be more awake or compassionate. Be grateful for whatever is happening. Many teachings share that insight - that you can use whatever happens to you as a learning or enlightening experience - like a zen teacher telling you to take off your socks, or much more extreme situations like illness, cancer, divorce, losing your money, your house burns down. Beyond telling yourself the story that "this sucks" or "this shouldn't be happening" or "this is terrible," or "She's crazy" there is the approach of - as my friend Byron Katie teaches, "loving what is." Not always easy, especially when a big British women is screaming at you for making her toast (or unwrapping the Christmas gifts for her cats), but it can be done.

But when things took a downward and darker turn with Kennett and at Shasta in 1975-76, the right practice for me was to leave, to say NO, this is not helpful. Maybe some aspects of Kennett's teaching / ego-busting were valuable in the past, but not now.

Of course, this kind of decision is / was entirely my own. Who else? We all have the power to certify and de-certify, so to speak. Everyone on this board has made their own decisions with regard to Shasta, Kennett, Eko, the OBC, Zen, spiritual practice, and so on. Since this website is mostly former members, most of the people posting and reading these posts found their inner NO, their inner, "enough's enough" and walked out.

We all have our own versions and so we don't have to be "on the same page."

Three TV shows come to mind that relate to this.

"Friday Night Lights" - a terrific show about a Texas high school football team and their world. I am not really into football, but the show is quite wonderful. The team's coach is a kind of divine example of tough love. He totally loves his players, but yells at them, pushes them, punishes them for misbehavior or not paying attention, they must obey him no matter what, but he is portrayed wonderfully as a kind of football bodhisattva who never abuses his power of does anything for personal or selfish reasons. And he changes the lives of these players who would otherwise end up in jail or dead, they win the games - of course, this is American television. It's all about winning the play-offs. Their team motto is "Clear eyes, full hears, can't lose." So that's the bright, one-sided idealized version of tough love. And, the coach is of course extremely handsome.

The other TV show is "Game of Thrones" which just finished its first year run on HBO. It might be showing in the UK and Europe. Fantasy, very well done program about these fantasy kingdoms and their royal intrigue and wars and magic and dragons where everyone speaks with a British accent. The old king dies and he is succeeded by a young and very abusive prince - who beheads people and tortures them and completely misuses his power. Now he has total power so he can do what he wants. And of course, the culture at court is the king is divinely appointed, has royal or special blood, is not a normal person, so everyone at court obeys -- except of course the rebels who will I am sure eventually unseat him - in the next year's series.

There was another show on also called "Tudors" that played for a few years - about Henry VIII and all his wives, but the king in this fantasy version was extremely good looking and skinny, unlike the actual historical king. But a frequent theme was that Henry was the divine king, appointed by god, must be obeyed, could not be questioned, had absolute rule, could do whatever he liked and everyone bowed down or were beheaded. He screamed a lot, "I am the King of England" and so on - a common story on the planet of divine leaders appointed by heaven who could do no wrong.

As I watched these shows, the themes of power and abusing power came through - and frankly, i was reminded of Kennett and Shasta. Especially during the last few years I was at Shasta, it did resemble a medieval court.

anyway, I am babbling.....

josh
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sat Jun 25, 2011 12:48 pm

Jcbaran wrote:

Of course, this kind of decision is / was entirely my own. Who else? We all have the power to certify and de-certify, so to speak. Everyone on this board has made their own decisions with regard to Shasta, Kennett, Eko, the OBC, Zen, spiritual practice, and so on. Since this website is mostly former members, most of the people posting and reading these posts found their inner NO, their inner, "enough's enough" and walked out.

josh

Josh,

I feel you've explained the "koan of the socks" very well. The matter of finding the "inner NO" is the most serious aspect. As monks we were taught there was no "turning back". The commitment to RMJK was identified with Buddhist practice, and the notion of breaking off the relationship with her was equated with turning to the dark side. I don't know that people who haven't experience it can appreciate how serious this taboo was. It was the basis for the shunning that occurred and caused profound harm to some people.

We were taught that the practice of seeing everything as teaching did not ever permit saying No, and I believe this lies at the heart of the disagreement between those who stayed and those who left.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sat Jun 25, 2011 5:02 pm

Josh, thanks for your additional thoughts. I'd forgotten entirely about the newspaper articles until I read your reply.

I'll leave it to others who are more familiar with them to comment on RMJK's teaching methods (I neither approve nor condemn them in this case).

As I was reading your post, Josh, I was reminded of the old story about Joshu and the hermit's, and Yamada Roshi's commentary on it. (I find the account in Richard Aitken's "The Gateless Barrier."

The story, briefly: Joshu goes to a hermit's cottage and asks "Anybody in? Anybody in?" The hermit lifted up his fist. Joshu says, "The water in here is is too shallow." (or something of the sort in the way of negative/critical remark) Joshu leaves.

Joshu then goes to another hermit's cottage and repeats his "Anybody in?" question, and this hermit, also, raises his fist. Joshu says something approving and does a full bow, indicating his approval of this monk's action.

Yamada Roshi suggested that Joshu must have glanced at each hermit in turn to see each one's response to the abuse and to the praise. Here, I'll just quote a bit from Aitken's comments:

There are important overtones to this case that relate to everyday life. When you make a presentation and it is put down, what is your response? When you make a presentation and it is praised, how do you react? How do you view the critic? ...Without a certain measure of emotional maturity it is difficult even to begin Zen practice. You tend to take the roshi's suggestions as personal criticism and end up on your cushions with paranoid thoughts revolving in your head. Or you take his approval as personal praise and make yourself unbearable to your friends. But as you become emotionally mature you can handle praise or blame with equanimity.

I had never encountered the idea that one could learn to handle praise or blame with equanimity. It was radical...I would NEVER have figured this out on my own, of that I'm certain. To say that I found it helpful hardly does the experience justice. I was blown away, and I continue to be blown away by the generosity inherent in this rock-hard truth. It gave me an important early glimpse into the power of the Dharma. Many thanks, Josh, to you and wherever/whomever that teaching came from.

with bows,
Jim


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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:49 pm

When I left Shasta, I chose life over obedience, over 'training' which was artificial. It was artificial, not because I had a shaved head, but because I was expected to twist my natural reactions, emotions, into a pretzel. I was to be more than human, but was in fact amputating my humanity.

I reject that. If someone keeps changing rules, behaves in an arbitrary manner, this should be seen for what it is, and not glorified, elevated into some stratospheric holiness. It is normal to feel anger; it is also our prerogative, our birthright, to exercise choice. To bow to someone who behaves in an arbitrary manner is bogus. It is false humility, substituting a safe, sanctioned formula of behaviour for spontaneous - and risky - one.

Probably we all bowed this way. I certainly did. And then I saw through the charade - my own; at first dimly, but forcefully enough that I was propelled out of there. I could not stay.

How important it is, for me, to think for myself! And what a waste I find it to follow, oh so obediently, someone who doesn't make sense.

As for such emotions as anger, fear even - I'd rather accept THEM with equanimity, then suppress them. It is honest to feel those emotions, even if I may make a fool of myself sometimes, and someone may wrinkle their nose at me, 'oh, she is so unspiritual!'. So be it! I am alive.

I am so glad, Josh, we are shot of it, as Mark put it. I am so glad you can wear your socks, when you dmn feel like it! I am so glad that we are not at the receiving end of a bogus teaching, bogus discipline 'for our own good', in the name of busting our ego. Why bust it? Why not see it for what it is instead? What's there to fear?

O.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:50 pm

I liked what you wrote above Ol'ga it must have hit home as I found myself thinking about it when I was gazing at the turquoise sea.
The part I liked was 'and someone may wrinkle their nose at me, 'oh, she is so unspiritual!'. So be it! I am alive.'

It started me thinking about my involvement with Kennett Roshi, what I had learnt and how I had benefited from her. What also was my definition of spirituality for me personally. I think the main thing I learnt was how to motivate and discipline myself, and how to apply this to meditation so it helped me to deepen my resolve and desire to meditate. I think it helped me work within a framework of practice,and develop a greater feel for Zen Buddhism.
Without intending any criticism actually I learnt these things or pulled them from myself from within the support of a framework.
Personally I believe my spirituality is more defined by my desire to deepen my belief in meditation rather than finding solace and support in a framework,,whilst saying that a framework for me was really really helpful.

The main thing I took from what you wrote was I feel you are a thoughtful spiritual person, ,who has taken the next step in abandoning the framework. Reading all the stories not only of our own group but also the Eido Roshi and Gempo stories, continually highlights, that for me personally ,what was right for my spirit, was saying this 'No I do not want it'. Personally I believe that my spirit or spirituality does not have to be found, and certainly is not found in the circus of other peoples so called spiritual sideshows,or offerings of further frameworks of maybe more fingers pointing at another version of another moon. My spirit (spirituality) always had and always will lead me in the right (possibly undefined) direction for me. This may well lead me to being with people that can help and teach me, or may even lead me to sitting on my own on a turquoise cliff . I enjoyed what you wrote.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:10 pm

Ol!ga,
I loved your last post! Thank you so much. I agree with everything you said.
Chisan,
I wish I had your grace in learning all these lessons. You always amaze me. Thanks so much for being here!

Cheers,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:09 pm

Well thats really nice Diana lets hope we get a follow up from Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:22 pm

Michael and Diana,
It is really funny, that while I was writing that last post, I remembered, Michael, your response to my very first one - you picked up my rebelliousness; and so, writing it, I thought, you're spot on, I am a rebel, and that's the way to be! There is that life in us, it's such a wonderful thing! It is in you, to be able to have weathered all those life storms, and to be able to help the troubled youth as you do.

And then, later, I thought about the post, and funnily I thought, Diana, help! you know what I'm saying.

I don't mean this is anything mystical...it's just really nice when you sense that affinity with someone. You know.
O.

I'll write later, no doubt, but now have to go - we have company tonight, and there is no place to sit down, books and papers everywhere! My poor hubby, what he has to put up with! Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:03 pm

Just returned from my nightly encounter with friend the fox

Now the koan of affinity.
What is better than one fox.
Easy one its two foxes.
There have I been having a few personal moments with my friend who is very habitual, sits on this ridge and at 9 15 pm comes into our back garden ,it is then impossible to see him, but at about 1015 , he comes up to me and I give him some bread,sometimes he comes from the right and sometimes the left, then I eventually got it, there are two of them, about 10 30 pm, they sort of call or make a sound like a laugh, so I assume they find me rather amusing.
My part in this is I have to sit very still physical and mental. It is peculiar having a contact with something that lives under the ground.
Yes Ol'ga we did feel affinity with you that is special too
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:20 pm

Can I be the third fox??? Feeling the affinity!

Ol!ga,
My rebelliousness can't be changed. I used to be very unsure of myself and naive. I struggled when I was young to repress my rebellious nature and I tried to fit in and ended up just being accomodating. Then, somewhere along the line, after training with Eko, I realized I turned into something completely unnatural for me; I lost my voice, my intuition, my ability to think critically and stand up for myself... My anger helped me to stand up for myself- it was healthy for me. I had to say "NO" as well. I have found myself again. Now, my rebellious nature is my voice, it's when I say "NO!" and when I let my intuition and critically thinking skills do what they are supposed to do- keep me from harm.

Michael,
Thanks for letting me be me and thanks for your support. You inspire me to sit! Funny, I don't know what training is anymore. I always thought that there was no such thing as NOT training. Then I fought that for a while. Now I'm back to asking what it is again. I just know I can never go back to being a submissive "student." No more masters!

Fires a burning here in New Mexico...if there is any magic out there, please bring some rain!

Peace,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 5:37 am

Diana, Michael , Olga ,
I couldn't get on line for a while or i would have leapt in - except much as i want to be part of your .......ways ? your affinity ....oh words .........i dont like foxes ,or their smell ,No not even one fox , let alone 3 aaaaaieee because i have a dear old hen called mrs brown, and several other hens in the village have been killed or carried off or traumatized .In fact Micheal , i hope your neighbors dont have hens - this is going wrong im suddenly being all strict , when really i want to thank you all , its so important once we are more on our own to gather courage and warmth and freedom , and thats what i receive ,Ahhh - just been swimming in a strong currant and it feels part of THAT ,Thank you deeply, love Nicky.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:04 am

Nicky, Please do not worry I can assure you that Mr Fox absolutely adores chickens
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:47 am

oh no he doesnt mr Fox, is being sly , i will worry on , especially today as mrs brown is hot and anxious herself , so i cant even discuss this new fox-turning- into threat with her .
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 11:13 am

Diana like Ol'ga you seemed to have sneaked a crafty one in and poked me in the eye.
' I don't know what training is anymore.'
it strikes a chord as I struggle with the word training, I like practice and enlightenment,training does not do it for me. So again I find myself having to think and try and define what I understand my practice to be
So for me, practice, zazen, and realization , is found in who I am, perhaps not what I am told I have to struggle to be,If Zen does not allow personal expression of being,or does not allow us to be truly ourselves it simply is not relevant. I feel Zen points out to me who I am, not what I can attain. Personally natural integrity dignity and love not only are the basis of any realization of who I am, but the basis too of any practice, as their demands as to how to live are high. A good Zen teacher,would have faith and believe in us, and would encourage us to be who we are, and encourage a high standard of living. I do not believe a Zen teacher would have the slightest inclination to give us a restrictive box to live in, who on earth wants that?
More importantly 3 foxes and 1 chicken it is
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 3:33 pm

Hi Michael,
I don't know if you care for my two cents' worth...
I find the term 'realization' ambiguous.

If you already are what you want/need to be (a free being, complete), it is then simply a question of knowing it.
If you are not what you want to be (and can't settle for less - any lack is irksome), can you become that?
I would say, you can't become that. You can't get to infinity by adding 1+1+1+1+1...

We may agree so far. If we do, then a question arises, how to come to know this important fact about ourselves? I think one can get an inkling of it, intimation. Possibly all of us have had such experiences - that is why we want more. The experience fades - always. That is the nature of experience.

It appears that zazen gives such experience, but not only zazen. I don't have much faith in it. I sit down, not knowing who I am; I go through some experiences while sitting; and I get up still not knowing. We will probably have to agree to disagree on this one.

As for foxes, yes, I would not trust them with my hen. I rather like them - I particularly like the wolves, but would not trust them either. There was a dog/wolf hybrid in the news here in Ontario - it kept killing lambs and chickens and goats, just for fun. They had to kill it.

I saw a fox in Orpington, Kent, a satellite town of London, a few years ago. It was running among houses. Amazing.
O.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:15 pm

Thanks for your reply Ol'ga
I think I understand what you are saying,and maybe there are different answers for different peoples .
For me experiencing zazen is experiencing for want of a word limitlessness awareness, I don't like the word emptiness, and knowing who I am is not really a part of it for me. Being who i am maybe closer for me
I am not an expert at all but I believe experiences of this moment tend to happen when least expected when not sitting zazen, I feel that these experiences need none or little explanation as we experience ourselves it is ambiguous and words are awkward at the best of times. For me the relevancy has been highlighted by being here without mental commentry being here for the first time,I think the basis of such an experience is unity of body and mind, unity of self and other, I believe that these experience can be vast and limitless, and there can always be a greater unity to be experienced .Bill Picard would say dropping of body and mind rather than unity of body and mind. i agree also that such experiences can fade,but zazen is a deepening thing that we do,and the habitual mental churning does not really ahve a life of its own.
I hope I have not misunderstood you. And I hope I have not sounded too ambiguous,but I have tried to get my words round something which is tricky at the best of times to get words round
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:46 pm

Hello Chisan & Ol'ga

So many words trying to solidify what's fluid, corral the unbounded and find a definable identity.

Zazen is just naked observation. Practise is it's verb. Because realization tied to identity can be as limiting as ignorance, the meaning of what we are, what we know, what we want and what we could become, is of little importance.

Today I think Zazen is a best described as a journey towards a wider eternally unclaimed heart. Not knowing who you are throughout zazen is just an experience of a deeper truth, not the result of it's failure.

I sympathize with Ol'ga's Shasta experiences of zen. I would submit that these are the results of peoples disquiet of this simple truth and the lack of willingness to let such observations remain unclothed.

These would be the foxes I'd watch out for.

Cheers.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:29 pm

I think that what Ol'ga describes as her experience of Shasta is what Stephen Law describes as brainwashing: "But take a group..., apply isolation, control, repetition, emotional manipulation - the tools of brainwashing - and there's a good chance many will eventually accept what you say." This is from a great interview with Stephen Law in the 11th June New Scientist. Unfortunately the tite of his interview has an OBCconect banned term for nonsense in it or I would post the URL, but if you go to
http://www.newscientist.com/search?doSearch=true&query=Stephen+Law
it is at present the second on the list "2. a field guide to [banned term for nonsense]", he also has written a good book amplifying on his theme: "Believing [banned term for nonsense]: How not to get sucked into an intellectual black hole". He describes all the tricks used to sucker people into, and to defend, the most ludicrous beliefs. And how once sucked in it is very difficult to extricate oneself. Still it doesn't always work, if you as ornery Ol'ga clearly its like water of a duck's back!

I would like to have written more but I'm away for three weeks on holiday from tomorrow and have pack or die, at least I think that's what my wife said!
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:55 pm

My friend Michael,
I think you expressed what you wanted to express very well.
We may agree somewhere, and elsewhere we probably don't; it is not a problem. You are a lovely human being and that's plenty enough for me!
To jump back to a previous post, I don't like the word 'realization', partly because it became so horribly hackned; and, to me, it doesn't tell me anything. I do like the word 'recognition', because what I've come to know, is in a way very old, not esoteric, very homey. It's as if arriving home - recognizing that's where I always was, because I could not be anywhere else!
In my experience, words, used skillfully, certainly unlocked something for me: not described, they were not 'about and about'. Those words are not theorizing, philosophizing, not at all.
I don't advocate you or anyone try that "approach". You do what you do. I don't believe in any possiblity of perdition. On another thread there was talk about loss - of innocence, I guess - banishment from the garden of eden. But I don't at all see it that way. The only loss is not knowing who we are, and that is not through forgetfulness - loss of something we previously had known. If that were so, we could forget over and over again, and there would be no end to suffering.
After my experience with Zen (not only at Shasta - also through my own practice and a lot of reading at one time); and then some 'wobbles' in my study of Vedanta (because I am not easy to satisfy), I for a number of years concluded that there is no solution, you just live as best you can, and then it's eventually over. It worked quite well, but then I hit a very nasty patch...and after some 'epiphany' started studying again. There is always a possibility of wobbles, for me. I have to accept it, since there is nothing I can do about it.
But what I have now seems to hold. A part of it is faith, or there is a fluctuating proportion of faith in what I have. At times it just seems clear.
Well, that's where I am at. I am not trying to sell this to anyone - you can't sell it! And if what I have is indeed true, there is no need to save anyone, you see...except that it is painful to see people suffer.
If one suffers from cancer; or because one lost a loved one - one can just give support, lots of love. It's a simple situation.
However, if I see someone suffer because they believe that they are unworthy, when they struggle with their 'bad bad' ego, I have trouble controlling my impulse to try to talk to them, "hey, you don't have to be miserable that way", because it is simply NOT true that you are selfish (that's my personal koan, because of my upbringing); it is not true that you choose to be stupid, and spiritually stupid at that, or a failure in any way. That's not how it is.
At any rate, I send you a big bear hug, Michael. If you don't like it, next time I'll be very cool and collected; I'll try, anyway.

And, Howard, if we are trying to capture in words something that maybe escapes words, well, I think that human language has quite a lot of depth, and so much can be conveyed. If there is no point in trying, why this forum? Why all that humangous Buddhist and other literature? Or did I misunderstand you as I tend to do?

Tell me, can one tip a kayak as one can a canoe?

Luv to yevribodi,
Ol'ga

*****************

In the meantime Mark posted something interesting but I can't decipher the following sentence:
Still it doesn't always work, if you as ornery Ol'ga clearly its like
water of a duck's back!

We'll have to wait patiently your return, Mark...don't trifle with your wife, go packing packing! And have a super holiday, and come back safe.
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:13 pm

Ol'ga wrote:

In the meantime Mark posted something interesting but I can't decipher the following sentence:
Still it doesn't always work, if you as ornery Ol'ga clearly its like
water of a duck's back!

We'll have to wait patiently your return, Mark...don't trifle with your wife, go packing packing! And have a super holiday, and come back safe.
Ol'ga

I'll stick my neck out and say Mark made a typo and it should read "water off a duck's back". The implication is orneriness has protected you from being suckered into ludicrous beliefs.

Ol'ga wrote:
But what I have now seems to hold. A part of it is faith, or there is a
fluctuating proportion of faith in what I have. At times it just seems
clear.

I like this. I would say that faith is distinct from belief. It can co-exist with beliefs, but do happily without them. At Shasta Abbey, along with the beliefs that became so problematic over time there was the practice of faith. I'm glad I could tell the difference, and when I left keep my faith intact while discarding everything else.


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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:45 am

Hey Ol'ga

It's not that I think there's no point in trying to talk about something that is difficult to convey, its just that I'm careful about not intellectualizing about the practise of zazen. The process of zazen for me is all about not fiddling with the observed phenomena. Having had a long history of trying to defensively control my world through my thought processes makes the dropping of those mental manipulative impulses a bit of a challenge. It's why I lean more toward seeing zazen as an active experiential process of unlearning than as an intellectual composition.
I was also raised in an environment that asserted that there was nothing you couldn't talk about. It took me a long time to realize that being able to talk about something was not the same as understanding it. Watching the disconnect between ones intellectual speech and ones corresponding action was also one of my earliest impetuses for exploring zazen.

As for the misunderstanding, bless you as usual, without your challenges I'd probably just be snoozing on my zafu again.

Tell me, can one tip a kayak as one can a canoe?


The tipsiness of a kayak is a combination of the narrowness of its beam and how low the overall centre of gravity of the kayak & paddler is. Our trips are usually for 10 - 20 days at a time so all of our kayaks are pretty beamy just to hold all the food supplies. For wilder trips we have a custom kevlar 23 foot double kayak that has stayed upright when by all reason it shouldn't. 2 years ago on a mirror still ocean we had an adult humpback surface from a depth right behind us, immediately redive just under our kayak to avoid crushing us at the last moment, and then explode back out of the water on the other side of us. The displacement alone of the water from his passage under us tossed our boat 3 feet straight up. I still remember that split nano second before when the whales and my eye locked together in surprise, and I'm pretty sure we were both thinking "what the **** !. It would have been definately the wrong place for a canoe.

Cheers again.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:29 am

Re Mark's last post - I am not clear what he meant by 'ornery Ol'ga'. My dictionary (Concise Oxford) gives synonyms 'coarse', 'cantankerous'. Perhaps he meant the latter. But I was far from that. I had no safe net - was alone in the world; and I had some failures behind me - was very unsure of myself.
I wouldn't say I was brainwashed by Roshi. I went to Shasta already brainwashed - by books, by lore of Zen, D.T. Suzuki, Zen stories, the whole mystique. That is what made me vulnerable to abuse, including intellectual abuse of calling black - white, up - down. The mystique, the mystery of enlightenment, kensho, esoterism of Zen, caused me to switch off my alarm bells, my common sense, my autonomous judgement.
This is probably something that happened to others, to varying degrees. In my case there was that utter disorientation that emigration as a refugee caused. I had not found my bearings in the foreign world. I really didn't know which end was up. And my failures had weakened me very much.
Of course, many young (and perhaps also older) people may be in a similar state of confusion, uncertainty, for various reasons. Obviously people go through all kinds of turmoil - if they then enter a situation as Shasta was, who knows where they may end up.
I think if I were more successful in winning Roshi over (I tried hard to be a goody-goody), maybe I would have stayed. Who knows? It's conceivable, if not very likely. But I often felt a stranger, unwelcome. And so my departure had many motives; if it was a rebellion, it was many other things, too.

My leaving, though, made me so much stronger. I was on my own, responsible for my own life. You know, we talk a lot about the damage that Roshi/Shasta did to us; which is true. But leaving, we grew up. For me, that is the most positive aspect of the experience - together with learning to face my own mind, which happens in zazen; and the whole maturing process, while still at Shasta, as the decision to chuck it ripened, the gradual taking back the reigns, the control of my own life, my own mind!
How sweet it is to be frank with myself- to freely ask myself 'What do I really think?'. Not what I should think! How sweet it is to walk freely in the spacious 'kingdom' of my own mind, the kingdom that contains the whole world. Well, that's how I feel.

What I really, truly think right now, is that I should go to bed. Otherwise I'll be a zombie tomorrow.
Night-night,
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:55 am

Howard, my favourite kayaker!
I can't write much, to your relief, I'm sure. Don't contradict me, I'm older!
You see, what I write about 'those matters' is not intellectualizing. I am talking about something that is as immediate as anything possibly can be.
But I understand where you're coming from. One ceertainly can avoid living by pontificating about life, and that's a tremendous waste of time.

Thank you for telling us about the kayak, it seems a beautiful craft.
I've never been in one. I've done canoeing, and loved it, usually as the bowman; couldn't do the J-stroke (week wrists), needed for competenet steering.
NA Indians took canoes to wide sea, too, in the old days. Now they have lost most of their skills. Terrible pity.

Your story about the encounter with the humpback is fantastic! I love it, thank you so much!

I think words can bridge one person's experience to another's. What I firmly believe is, that the important 'thing' can be conveyed, because all the necessary experience is already there. (No 'special' experience is needed.) The only thing that may or may not be present is certain openess, and that comes when it comes. There is no rush, anyway.

Much love,
O.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:31 am

Howard thanks for joining in the discussion of zazen and practice,and ambiguity.

Olga thanks for your reply,It is funny how life is here am I attempting to talk of relevancy of zazen, and deep awarness, and also trying to struggle through a 24 hour spell, of my mum being exhausted and find it hard to breathe, not being too sure if am coming or going. In the midst of a mini crisis, my comfort zone remains when my mum is in bed i sit in the garden take a breather,and am visted by my friend the fox.
Again I ponder your words and appreciate them as I do Howards as we bravely talk of the essential issue of spirituality.

The word realization ..would you feel better with the phrase experience the moment, experience here and now. It is a funny phrase, again personally speaking, I live here and now,but my direct experience of it has not by any means been costant,so often I have dragged my past karma with me,for me the times of dropping my past karma has enabled me to experience this present moment.

You wrote
I for a number of years concluded that there is no solution, you just live as best you can, and then it's eventually over.

I think we should live our lives as best we can,I have not always done this I must admit, I do not know if zazen has given me a solution or if I have actually looked for one , But I can say relevant and key moments in my life have been these experinces of myself, experiences of here and now,so for me. After being at Zuoiji temple I never felt the need to analize things, or even try to understand things. From that time zazen meditation has been the entry point for me from a dysfuncional and cluttered life to experience awarness of here and now.

For me personally It is something I shared with Ikko Roshi and something I just do, far too early in the morning and if I do not do it I do not feel quite right,

I hope we all continue the discussion
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:25 am

Hello Michael,
I can really appreciate how hard it must be for you right now having to care for your ailing mum. I had a similar experience when my mum was coming to the end of her life and I found it very confusing, on the one hand all the love I felt for her and on the other hand hoping she would be at the end of her suffering. Being a human being is not an easy business sometimes.
i'm happy that Mr.Fox is keeping you company and I wish you all the best, with gassho, Lesley cat (ps.this is the nearest to a fox I could find!)
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 11:07 am

M' dear Michael,
It's beautiful how you write about zazen and how it fits in your life. I also 'practice' it frequently, even though not formally. For me it overlaps with prayer, again not formal. But I can't describe it, at least not right now.
You say the question 'Who am I?' is not really yours. We may talk about that later, if the discussion goes that way. For me it is the crucial question, so there is no merging, or relaxing or healing into (as some here have put it, I think) Something, unless I relax into myself. To me, all that is totally valid, but I need to know who I am, whether I merge or not, before, after and always...and that same is you, and your mum, and all the boys and gals here and everywhere. And, of course, foxes and hens, and even rats.
Analysis is used only to knock off the erroneous conclusions, that we all inevitably formed, not knowing any better. There is no 'armchair speculation' quality about it. But I don't push it - have no reason to at all. Sometimes it comes out as 'but but but', when I kinda can't help myself.

I think of you and your mum, and hold you in my I love you .
Lots of love, Michael,
O.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:31 pm

Michael ,
I'm glad mr fox is a comfort , and i can be tender about your fox - at least , and even mrs brown would understand.
I'm impressed you manage to write , think , respond at ALL when you're looking after your mum, and i send you both lots of love .
My mother who's 89 keeps on nearly dying , and then gets furious and doesn't , and she's in spain , and i.m not even sure weather to go and see her , and certainly my role is not a looking after one , so im impressed with your time , not quite envious , but sad at what i and my mum lack . It's an odd sensation these different ways of being .of us little beings ,in our minute but crucial movements of our hearts .

O, Oli , Ol'ga thank you again , you too write beautifully ( in response to Michaels last post )
and i become more whole again .
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:05 pm

A reply to marks pre holiday post above, you actually misheard what your wife said Mark. She actually said
' Stop pretending you are doing something important on that computer, make yourself useful, and help me pack, I think you're sly'
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:14 pm

Thanks again for your kind comments Lesly Ol'ga and Nicky
And Ol'ga did I say

You say the question 'Who am I?' is not really yours.

I can not find that I can find

After being at Zuoiji temple I never felt the need to analize things, or even try to understand things.
If that is the bit you refer to Ol'ga what I meant ( hopefully without sounding ambiguous)
Is that with sitting zazen my need for understanding appears to have dropped away, I feel I do have times of deeper awareness of this moment,and I feel that satisfies my need for answers that I may once have had
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:08 pm

Hi Michael,
I probably misunderstood your:

For me experiencing zazen is experiencing for want of a word
limitlessness awareness, I don't like the word emptiness, and knowing
who I am is not really a part of it for me.

It's in your 3:15 pm post, yesterday.

It's so very easy to misunderstand one another here; even more so because, in some ways, we speak different 'languages' (come from different traditions).

As I said earlier, in Vedanta analysis is used to knock off erroneous conclusions that we have about ourselves and the world. It is, in my experience, a wonderful methodology. It works for me, I took to it like a duck to water (an ornery duck, of course ha ha). A few times I said something about it on the forum, just to see if I'd find a 'buddy', and to see how much Vedanta and Buddhism say the same thing. In some important ways they don't, I think, but I don't restrict my appreciation of my fellow humans to Vedantins, of course. I cherish my contact with you people here, and don't have to see eye to eye on this particular thing. (Why eye to eye? What about the other eye?)
Luv,
O.
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Tue Jun 28, 2011 11:57 pm

Yes I understand you and agree with you of course,this fundamental question of who am I is most probably the most relevant question, ( and I greatly respect you having it) thanks for helping me rethink my answer,I believe that the question not being a part of me , or dropping away from me,because somehow the answer is more and more found in the awareness of zazen.

My mum has another aspect of what you say Ol'ga, She more and more steadily looses her memory, her memory of who she is,where she is and who I am too.I spend most of my time with her going over facts,to answer her qestions.
You live here now mum. Here is in this village in Cornwall. Your mum died 40 years ago . Dad died 25 years ago. I am your son.Don;t worry mum you don't need any money in your wallet. You sleep in there.

It is a constant thing,If I said you don't need the answers mum have a cup of tea and watch tele, there is no need to worry, she would say well where is my mum then is she coming. Or what am I doing here.

So she, constantly asks me her fundamental questions,one has to learn to be very respectful, and answer the same questions all the time.

Amazingly when it starts to get dark she always says now....'Where's the fox!'
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:40 am

This might not be the right thread , but seeing as the last word is fox ( hen in my heart ) , I'll do it .
what happens is i get drawn in, deeply sometimes as in the few latest postings , i think, react, write a response delete it ,sense a bit more , do a lot of wondering about what you all say , then occasionally i post something.
By which time ive forgotten , or cant be bothered to care, that this is totally public .i woke up this morning like an arrow hitting the sand ...........what , WHAT, was i doing writing about my mother ? Its deeply complex and personal . i have to be aware how i cope within that .
Something not quite balanced there , but then sometimes , i want to share things wide ,shallow or deep on this very site .
I suppose that this is just our reality now , and i have to learn , but its tricky , isnt it ?

(I better try a long mp to someone , when ive pulled that arrow out ) .
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:54 am

We are human arnt we Nicky,openness and vulnerability seem to run together. We have all been pretty open lately . Revealing it all.. I think it makes people closer togeter. You do seem to have been very open recently, and perhaps getting thing of your chest, personally I feel it is lovely to see your openess
Take care
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:30 pm

Some posts are theoretical, others are personal. I prefer the discussional living room approach where the exchange is personal and immediate. Some of the most eloquent posters remain so safely distant from their postings that they might as well be reading from a book. Courage, risk, openness or vulnerability are not what is being offered in most of those postings.

It is the postings of what folks are discovering in this very moments practise that I find the most instructive. This meditative fox, in the face of endless paths only needs to keep his nose on this scent. It might be raw, unpolished, unsteady, unsure and uncomfortable but it's usually so much more real than the story that follows.
Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:31 pm

Howard writes:

Some of the most eloquent posters remain so safely distant from their
postings that they might as well be reading from a book. Courage, risk,
openness or vulnerability are not what is being offered in most of those
postings.


What an unspeakably condemnatory statement!
I don't know, Howard, whom you are refering to, but wonder, what authority you claim to have to make this kind of judgement?

Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:01 pm

What an unspeakably condemnatory statement!
I don't know, Howard, whom you are refering to, but wonder, what authority you claim to have to make this kind of judgement?
Sigh..

Hello Ol'ga,

All drama aside, I just don't need any particular authority to make such a sentence, but to give it some context that the rest of my posting apparently didn't convey....again.

There are imminently confident, good writers submitting posts that can feel distant, impersonal, analytically sterile or aloof. I would not bother looking for who they might be or even if any of us can consistently escape this failing.

I was writing to state my appreciation for those less certain posters that post of raw, vulnerable and exposed personal understandings of this very moment of life that I find courageous. They model a level of spiritual bravery that inspires me. This was my thank you & encouragement note to them for the precious spiritual gift they offer all of us.

That's all. I will work on making my postings clearer to all.

Cheers


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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:18 pm

Howard,
You see, you wrote much more than a simple 'thank you' to those whose postings you liked. You quite explicitely condemned some others (and there must have been some concrete ones you had in mind, otherwise you would have no reason to describe them), by describing them as you did.
You can't possibly know how vulnerable the posters are, how much they go out on a limb writing what they do, in an environment they are writing in.
I don't think it is right to be so judgemental on a forum where many of us described very personal, even intimate, events in our lives - on a public forum at that.
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:24 pm

Hello Ol'ga
My words as I have stated were for those that express feelings of vulnerability or inadequacy in the posting process. I was saying thank you to them.

The opposite side of this would be a common broad spectrum spiritual difficulty (sometimes called 2nd mind in Shasta speak) that is a worthwhile factor to consider at anytime, especially for all longer term trainees. No one who should or shouldn't look at that possibility will be hurt by considering if it's true for them or not.

Your personalizing of it, defending some imaginary slagged individuals in your own mind who I have truly not considered (and have said so) and the application of such language like " unspeakable condemnatory statements" and implying that I'm lying about it is miss placed, judgemental and is simply a personal vitriolic attack.

I am assuming that you are somehow thinking that I was talking about you and it's just not so. Others who are just as mystified by all of this have suggested that I should leave it all alone but I am not sure that just averting my eyes will work even if your avatar is a water bear and all I've got is this tippy kayak.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:02 am

aieee just lost a posting ,perhaps it was too long , this site has its own speed .

Olga ,
i didnt find Howards posting ' an unspeakably condemnatory statement!'
I'm baffeled by your reaction , and so sorry this has set you and Howard off down the river .

Meanwhile from my shore , thank you Michael and Howard , being part of this forum ,how to do it - is a peculiar business = well as life is .
Lets all go for a swim ......................
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Thu Jun 30, 2011 4:15 am

Sometimes the cool wind of Buddhism blows our minds away,and we contemplate what is really important and what is not,Howard held his own and maybe Ol'ga and Howard worked something out,the issue of impermanence is always with us,how can we not find compassion and love even for ourselves
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PostSubject: Re: A Jitsudo Story   Thu Jun 30, 2011 7:47 pm

Sorry to be jumping in so late...I see the kayaks, bears, and canoes rounding the bend some miles downstream, I fear.

Couple of things. first, surely I'm not the only one to enjoy the wonderful music in Ol'ga's question:

Can one tip a kayak
as one can a canoe?

That one will echo in my brain for quite a while.
Very Happy

Whales: I live in Puget Sound and one December some years ago a large pod of Orcas (killer whales) followed a run of pink salmon into a secluded bay near my home (Dye's Inlet) and attracted a LOT of attention. Cars backed up on the freeway in view of the water to watch the whales as they surfaced to breathe before diving back for more fish. In no time everyone who had a boat, skiff, yacht, kayak, canoe, or surfboard was out in the bay to do some up-close whale watching. There were coast guard and game warden types trying to control traffic, but the situation was simply impossible: the whales were following the food, and sometimes that meant they'd be breaching right in the midst of the crowd watching them.

I was in a friend's sailboat (a pretty large boat) and I saw with alarm a young couple nearby in a canoe with a small child, a toddler. Bear in mind that the water temperature was around 50 degrees F, and they didn't have on life jackets. The pod of whales surfaced maybe 50 yards away, headed right for us and the people in the canoe. The dorsal fin on one of the whales was at least six feet tall...I was watching a tragedy play out in front of my eyes!

Sure enough, the whales next surfaced not more than 5 or 10 yards from the canoe (moving away from our larger boat), headed straight for the young family. To my utter astonishment, each whale slid smoothly down into the water, missing the canoe entirely, breaching again on the other side! I realized that the whales were perfectly aware of every obstacle in their path, and as we continued to watch them for a couple of hours, there was not one collision to be seen. The whales knew what they were doing. (I still wish I'd been able later to catch the young couple on land...I'd have gone over them with a wire brush for being so irresponsible!)

Re: unspeakably condemnatory statements, "who am I?", rebelliousness, reservations about efficacy of Shasta training, etc. Forgive what will probably be a ramble:

My grandfather was known to say, when some unlikely soul accomplished something noteworthy, "Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then." Over the years I've come to see that such an event (and I'm thinking of my having stumbled upon something important in a place that many here would consider a very unlikely place to do so) calls for celebration...or maybe just quiet gratitude.

What I've found is that without my practice I am like a carpenter who, trying to drive a nail, is hitting his thumb at least half the time and cursing the hammer and nail. Practice helps me see that it's enough simply to stop hammering my thumb. My karma seems to be a package of attitudes that finds consummate rationale for how the hammer and nail, or the poor parenting I endured, etc etc make my anger well founded and logical. My practice helps me see that, even so, it's enough simply to put down the darn hammer.

Bodhidharma, who Josh says is a mythical being...which is no big deal, far as I'm concerned, is supposed to have said, when asked "who are you?", or words to that effect: "I don't know." Sometimes I find myself in similar territory.

With bows,
Jim
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