Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zen & I Ching

     Basically, the 2 great contemporary currents of Mahayana Buddhism were deeply influenced either by the Chinese or the Tibetan civilizations.

The I Ching is a good example of a very peculiar Chinese way of thought that influenced Buddhism when it came from India to China.

I wanted the other day to illustrate this fact to our Meditation group. It took us a little while to come up with the following question :

"As a group practicing meditation, are we having any impact ? (on ourselves as well as on our environment)"

Then we threw the coins. 

The result of our drawing was : 9, 8, 7, 9, 7, 6

Which translate in Binary to a primary hexagram 101110
Hexagram 49 : Change

and when we replace the 9 and 6 by their opposites to a secondary (Note I) hexagram : 001011

Hexagram 53 : Gradual Progress

The reading for the hexagrams are - according to Thomas Cleary translation of the Buddhist I Ching :

Hexagram 49 : Change :
Change is believed in on the day it is completed. It is very successful, beneficial if correct. Regret vanishes.

When the village is changed but not the well, this refers to the place. When the well is used up, there are animals there and it is muddy; it has to be changed.

The first priority of learners is to change their character. This is like fire refining gold : during the process of refinement, the gold finds it painful; only after the refinement is done and the gold is made into a vessel does it believe in the merit of fire.

This path of change is the path to creativity and receptivity; it is very successful for those who do it correctly. Before believing in it, there is regret; once it proves trustworthy, regret vanishes.

Hexagram 53 :  Gradual Progress

Gradual progress in a woman's marriage is auspicious. It is beneficial to be chaste. 

In Buddhist rems, essence is realized all of a sudden, then you use this realization to clear your mind and make it fluid. 

Phenomena are not cleared away all at once. this is done through a gradual process, just as the procedure for a woman's marriage is a gradual one.

Also the gradual method of meditation is called "woman"; arriving at reality right in meditation on phenomena is called "marriage". Comprehensive cultivation of meditation on phenomena with complete understanding is called "Chastity":

My point was ONLY to give an example of the Chinese way of Thinking, a way that deeply influenced Buddhism (We will later analyze the references to the I Ching in Master Hakuin's Yasenkanna, or the five ranks of Tung Shan)

However, just sticking the primary hexagram and not trying to interpret the part about the village and the well, the I Ching mentions 2 things : 

  • That the first change to occur is internal - there is no point trying to change the environment without first changing oneself.
  • That this is not an easy process, but hat it is worth it...

Note I : For lack of time I did not mention during our dharma talk. that when one draws a 6 (extreme Yin) or a 9 (extreme Yang)one has to consider a second hexagram obtained by changing the line for its opposite. 

This is due to the fact that when things are very Yin they turn to Yang, and vice versa. as celarly represented by the Tai Chi Symbol

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tanden location

Here is an interesting video by Bill Douglas, the founder of World Tai Chi Day -  with down to earth explanation to help you localize your Dan Tien (Tan Den in Japanese).

Now this is not only important for Tai Chi or Chi Gong, it is important for ALL martial Arts (Budō 武道), as well as Zen (禪). Actually, it is also very important in other ways such as Calligraphy (shodō 書道

No matter which discipline you practice, your Movement and Intention needs to begin there. 

There actually are 3 Dantien : The Lower, Middle and Higher Dantien. The Higher is located in the brain, the Middle one in the heart area, and the Lower one in the lower abdomen. Because this one is the most important, it is generally referred as the Dantien. This isthe Dantien Bill Douglas speaks about in this video.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Drummer

The four great wows in the Mokurai Zen lineage go that way : 

Beings are numberless, I vow to free them
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless,  I vow to enter them...
The Buddha way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it.

There are an infinite number of ways to realize the Dharma. Sitting in Zazen - Shikantaza is one of them. 

There are other ways.

In The Drummer, Sid, a young and not so bright man seduces the mistress of a Triad Boss, who totally does not appreciate, and sends a bunch of thugs to teach him better manners by chopping his hands off.

Sid flees to a remote part of Taiwan. While hiding in a the mountains of the island, he stumbles upon  a group of monks living in a monastery, far from civilization, where they practice a unique tradition allying Drumming, Kung Fu and Zazen.

This meeting totally changes his destiny.

The Drummer reminded me of the Korean movie "Why did Boddhidharma come from the West", there are lots of similarities, but it is a little more dramatized and romanticized. It is nevertheless a good movie. 

Watch it if you can.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tonfa Kata

A great demonstration of Tonfa Kata, with Bunkai (Bunkai are actual applications of a kata's moves. There may be several possible bunkai for the same move.

I particularly enjoyed the attack to the wrist (Kote) of the attacker. We often tend to attack body or head, and these are all very legitimate targets, but they are not always easy to reach from a safe position. Here, the teacher attacks the wrist from a very safe position, he controls the distance (Maai). 

A broken or badly bruised wrist will seriously decrease the chances your opponent has to hurt you, and in attacking it, you also exhibit restraint in your defense. 

We should become very proficient at our arts, so that we can defend ourselves without inflicting too much damage to our opponent. If your goal is to crush him no matter how serious was the attack, you don't need to learn Martial Arts, buy a gun, and learn how to use it. 

There is more to Martial Arts than destroying an opponent.