Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Compassion happens

“Compassion arises by entering into the subjectivity of others, by sharing their interiority in a deep and total way.” (Bhikkhu Bodhi).

After 30 to 35 minutes of Zazen, a stabbing pain arises between my shoulder blades, slightly to the left. It burns, it stabs, it nags... I can adjust my position and find some relief to it, but I know it's here, ready to strike !

Once upon a time, I was driving on a small road of Provence. It was a rainy stormy night of  1981. The road was slippery. The car skidded, I tried to catch up, it skidded the other way... And I flipped my Dad's convertible into a 25' deep ditch.

My head crushed under the windscreen frame, I knew I was bleeding, and realized I was going to die there if I didn't try do something about it. After quite a struggle, I was able to collect my legs underneath my chest. I lifted the car just enough to release my head from the wreck. (I was practicing Aikido one hour before the accident, and all my muscles and joints were warm and stretched)

I pushed the door open. I got out from under the car and climbed back to the road. Some people stopped and took me to a doctor. And from there to a hospital. Literally covered with blood I walked to the ER - I distinctly remember a cat sitting on the operation table...

They shooed him away. I climbed on the table and within 30 seconds was paralyzed from head to toe.

Not a good feeling...

The doctor had to stitch my scalp back together. Because of the concussion, she could not put me to sleep. This was painful... You can deal with 2 or 3 stitches, but 30 or 40 of them, added to the fear of paralysis... I could not even punch the Doctor in the nose: I was paralyzed !

A nurse gently grabbed my hand. She said nothing, she just held my hand. I could not squeeze hers, but I could feel it. The release was amazing and instantaneous. She did not move, she did not speak, she was just here with me, sharing physically and in person.


I was young, I recovered quickly. Minor damages. One dorsal vertebra slightly crushed. I would feel it when I'd get older said the good looking Doctor...

So now, when I sit and feel the pain, I know where it comes from, and remember Compassion.

Compassion is often confused with benevolence, generosity, altruism or self-sacrifice. But Compassion hardly can be defined with words. I can tell you what it's not, but I can't tell you what it is.

You don't decide to be compassionate, Compassion happens. When it happens, you don't know it, and once you realized it happened, well, it's not happening anymore ...

Don't be excited or fooled by big words, big deeds, big acts. In Compassion two sentient beings become one, and experience together. There is no need or room for words, thinking, or feeling. 

Compassion happens.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Calligraphy by Yamaoka Tesshu

Last acquisition for the Dojo : A Calligraphy by Yamaoka Tesshu - Zen, Sword and Calligraphy master of 19th century Japan.

Yamaoka Tesshu was the founder of Muto Ryu style of Kenjutsu - also practiced by Omori Sogen Roshi (see my other post about this other remarkable Master).

Tesshu also negotiated with Saigo Takamori, leader of the Satsuma rebellion who inspired the famous movie "The Last Samurai".

Although this is just a piece of paper with ink on it, I am proud and happy to display in the dojo the work of a true Master. 

May this inspire us all on our ways. 

On a more practical account, if you know someone who could read this, I would highly appreciate their interpretation ! 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sekiguchi Komei Sensei shows us how to use one's tsuba (the guard of the sword) to stop a Kirioroshi (vertical cut), and 3 different follow-ups:

  • One strike with the Tsuka gashira (Tsuka ate).
  • One diagonal cut (Kesa giri)
  • One strike with the tip of the Saya (Kojiri ate).

This is a good illustration of the use of the Tsuka gashira and Tsuba as a shield.

Note how Sekiguchi Sensei keeps his hands protected :  
  • He always blocks with the LEFT side of his Tsuba (his Right hand is on the Right side of the tsuba...) and

  • His Left hand grabs the saya just above the Kojiri and never around the Koiguchi.

Have fun, Train Hard.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Zen on a budget : the $13.08 Zabuton

    Zen stuff is expensive. A basic Zabuton - without a removable envelope, is hard to find under $35.00, and then you need to have it shipped, that's 5 to 10 more bucks...

    A few years ago I watched a movie about an Ango in Korea. The Nuns were sitting on folded blankets, and at night, they used these blankets for bedding. 

    Harbor Freight (a.k.a. "The Chinese Embassy") has on sale right now some 60 x 80" wool blankets.

    The price is $5.99.

    I bought 2 of them - total $13.08 (yes, the taxes...), folded each one of them to 28 x 30",  and stacked them. 

    This gives you a 2" thick mat that sits very nicely. 

    If it's not thick enough for you, triple them, you will have a very comfortable cushion for less than $20.00. At this price you can't go wrong...

    Blanket and regular Zabuton at the Headland Zendo

    If you really want it to look traditional, you can have a cover made for them. Personally. I won't; I don't want to spend more money than I need. 

    If the Koreans do it, I can do it, (did I say I liked Korea ?), and then when comes the time to clean up, No envelope to remove; just wash them in cold water and let them dry in the shade.