Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gudo Nishijima Doing Zazen

I visited my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima at his new place in Tokyo yesterday. It was around 2 pm when I arrived, and he was just starting to practice zazen. When he told me he was going to be doing some zazen, I asked if I could video him for part of it. He said okay, so I got out my camera and started recording.

Here's the video. It lasts about 8 minutes.

It was a very hot day, and there was no air conditioner in the room. He opened the window to cool the place down a bit. I think the heat was making him feel a bit sleepy, but he kept sitting anyway. His new apartment is very near one of the train stations on Tokyo's Yamanote line. It's a busy line with lots of trains going back and forth. The trains and station announcements got a bit noisy sometimes, but it was alright.

He kept sitting after I stopped recording. I wanted to do some zazen too, but I couldn't see another zafu there. So I folded up a jacket I had in my bag and did zazen on that until he finished.

After zazen we had a cup of tea and a chat. A few people have asked me if he was okay after his recent house move. He's 89 now, and not as mobile as he used to be. And if you watch the video you'll notice that he hasn't completely recovered from a back injury he suffered a few years ago when he fell at his zazen dojo. When I asked how he was feeling, though, he said he was alright, although he noticed he was getting older day by day. While we were chatting he mentioned he gave a lecture last Saturday to some of his Japanese students in Tokyo. Overall he seemed to be doing pretty well.

I left at about 4:30. He told me the telephone company were due to come to his apartment later on to help set up his computer for email and the internet. He sounded like he was looking forward to getting his blog and email going again.

Hope you enjoy the video.

All the best,

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dharma Nature

I just finished reading a short chapter titled "The Dharma Nature" in Dogen's Shobogenzo. It's chapter 54 in Book 3 of the Nishijima/Cross English translation. ( you can download book 3 here)

"Buddha Nature" is a phrase you come across a lot in Buddhism, but Dogen's the only person I've read so far who talks about Dharma Nature. In the intro to the Nishijima/Cross translation, they explain Dharma Nature as meaning the "essence of the universe", which makes it a pretty big deal. Here's the full intro:

The Dharma-nature

Ho means Dharma, that is the Buddha's teaching, or the Universe itself. Sho means essence, or nature. So hossho means the Dharma-nature, or the essence of the Universe. Needless to say, we are living in the Universe. Therefore what the Universe means is one of the most important philosophical problems in our life. Some people insist that the Universe is something spiritual. Others insist that the Universe is something material. But from the Buddhist standpoint, the Universe is neither spiritual nor material, but something real. It is, however, very difficult to express the Universe as something real using words, because reality usually transcends explanation with words. Master Dogen undertook this difficult task, in order to express the nature of the Universe, in this chapter.


It's one of those chapters you don't hear about so often, but it's a nice one nonetheless. Worth a look if you're interested in that kind of thing.