Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You are Invited

Come practice Shikantaza (sitting meditation) with us on April 10 in a traditional Japanese Dojo. 
The Dharma gates are endless...

(Headland Dojo - 610 Mitchell Street, Headland, AL 36345)

Arrive around 9:30, We'll sit from 10:00 to 11:30 - 3 sessions of 25 minutes with 5 minutes Kinhin (walking meditation) in between. Chant the Hanya Shingyo (Heart Sutra) together and discuss the five skandhas, an interesting feature of Buddhist (and Hindu) psychology.

This event is free - but you may donate whatever you can to help furnish the Dojo in Sitting supplies (Cushions, Benches, etc...)

For more information call me at (334) 798 1639 or email at frederic.lecut@gmail.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mugen and Yosei no Sai : Yoshukai only Kata

Yoshukai Karate has numerous open hand and weapon kata.

There are however 2 Kata that are purely Yoshukai.

MUGEN  - 無限 - means Endless, or Infinity. This open hand Kata was created by our Grandmaster Katsuoh Yamamoto.

YOSEI NO SAI was created by Sensei Hiroyuki Koda (1944-1997). 

"Yosei" has 2 meanings. One is "Ocean". But "Yosei" is also an other way to read Sensei Koda's first name "Hiroyuki". 

So that "Yosei no Sai" means "Sai of the Ocean", and it also means "Hiroyuki's Sai".(Sensei Koda's Sai)

This was explained to me by Sensei Hiroaki Toyama at the Yoshukai Winter Camp in 2011.

(And Mugen is also my Dog's name...)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tai Chi eases depression for the Elderly

More than 2 million people over the age of 65 and 50 % of people living in nursing homes suffer from depression.

In the next 35 years, the number of Americans over 65 will double and the number of those over 85 will triple.

So here is the $1,000,000.00 question : How can elderly people fight depression ?

Researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles, studied 112 older adults suffering from major depression. Their average age was about 70.

Each patient received a common antidepressant during one month. 73 participants in the group showed partial improvement and were assigned to 10 weeks of either a Tai Chi class or a Health Education class including 10 minutes of  basic stretching exercises. Both classes lasted two hours once a week.

After 10 weeks of Tai Chi, 94 % of the participants showed marked improvement on depression scales, compared with 77 % in the health education group. 

Also 65 % of the people in the Tai Chi group experienced remission, compared with 51 % in the education group.

The Tai Chi group also showed marked improvement in measures of physical function, cognitive tests and blood tests measuring levels of inflammation.

According to Dr. Lavretsky, lead author of the study “If a psychiatrist were to add exercise like Tai Chi, which is very non-demanding and easy to access, that would be a very beneficial thing instead of adding another drug.”

Dr. Lavretsky added that one reason both study groups showed improvement was that all the patients probably benefited from interaction with other people. “I’m sure the social aspect contributed to the improvement in both groups,’’ she said. “In the control group we see improvement, and that was purely because of the social interaction and bonding that occurred.”

Depression is difficult to treat in older people - two-thirds of them don’t respond to initial drug therapy. Often when a patient doesn’t respond to a first drug, an additional drug is given, but that may prove tricky for patients who may sometimes already be taking all the way up to 10 other drugs for other health problems.

“This is very easily translatable into community care,’’ said Dr. Lavretsky. “As their health improves, they may be able to reduce the other drugs they are taking for pain or other problems.”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Horse Medicine

The following is a quote from Horse Medicine, a very interesting and controversial book about Zen Practice in Paris in the 70's under the guidance of the late Zen Master Taisen Deshimaru. 

     "Mountains, rivers, sun, moon, stars, the big land, mind-land, treasure land and the heatless pond (i.e. nirvana) are actualization of mind," says the master. 
"All these lands are based on the experience of satori and are therefore manifestations of shiki soku ze shiki.

Mountains, rivers etc... are seen differently by heaven people and by earth people, when you attain satori the viewpoint of mind becomes universal and all existences become one mind..."

"Is it outer phenomena actualized from our inner mind or is the actualization of our inner mind coming from the outside? And when we are born is another mind added, and when we die does this mind escape?...

"All the cosmos is one-mind. All existences are the actualization of self-mind. So how should we think when we study mind ? Usually we think of natural phenomena: Mountains rivers sun moon etc... as outside our mind. But these are mind itself."

"Do not deduce from this that everything is only inside your mind. Abandon notions of outside or inside, coming or going. Undivided mind is not outside or inside. It comes and goes freely without attachment. Every thought is independent, newly created, vital and instantaneous. So please," the master enjoins us, "repeat this method of thinking, and form it, build it into your daily life with only the one mind of the Three Worlds."

        This is deep stuff and we could discuss and argue about it for a very long time. But it really is not the point, because discussion and argument can never take us very far. The point is the last sentence : "Repeat this method of thinking, form it, build it into your daily life,,,"

In other words : Train

In Zen and Budo, Discussion and Argumentation are  a waste of time and energy. Only action matters. 

We can train our minds in the same way we train our  bodies. Actually, it is the only way we can change anything. 
And training is based on repetition. If we want to get better at  Karate, Piano, Kendo or Math, we train, we practice, we repeat, times and times sequences of moves, of notes, of reasonning.  It is boring at times, but it works, and actually there is no other way. Same with the mind.

Note :
If you believe there is much more to Life and Zen than making people happy and comfortable around you, then read "Horse Medicine". If you believe that leading  a morally, socially and politically correct life is of the highest  importance, you probably won't like this book. Zen is not comfortable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Practrice and Worship

At the beginning of the Heart Sutra, Avalokiteshwara is practicing Prajnaparamita

"Paramita" is a Sanskrit word, meaning "to the opposite shore."
"Prajna" means 'Wisdom'.
"Maha" means 'great'

"The word 'Mahaprajnaparamita' is Sanskrit, and means 'great wisdom to reach the opposite shore' (of the sea of existence) . What we have to do is to put it into practice with our mind; whether we recite it or not does not matter. Mere reciting it without mental practice may be likened to a phantasm, a magical delusion, a flash of lightning or a dewdrop. On the other hand, if we do both, then our mind will be in accord with what we repeat orally." 

(Quoted from the  6th Patriarch Huineng's Platform Sutra)

What Huineng says here is that unless we also dedicate ourselves to its actual practice, the recitation of the word Prajnaparamita - or Mahaprajna paramita - as a mantra (a sort of magical trance-inducing formula) is useless .

Prajnaparamita  has sometimes be personified as the Goddess of Wisdom. Simply worshiping her does not do any good either. Burning incense in front of a piece of stone is not likely to help anyone get enlightened. So actually it will hurt whoever thinks worshiping a statue  is enough and dispenses him, or her, from actual practice. 

Prajna paramita - and Buddhism in general have to be practiced

That's all.