Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Knew You Were Going To Ask That


sixth sense


Here’s a question someone asked me a while ago:

Do you have a sixth sense?  How do you experience it?

Everybody has a sixth sense, except they don't notice most of the time. In Japan there's an expression "i-shin-den-shin" which means something like "heart-to-heart communication". Without saying anything you can sometimes pick up a vibe from someone else. Or it’s almost like we can communicate with someone even though they’re not anywhere near us. It's like if you stop off at the bakery on the way home from work and see a nice apple strudel and decide to buy it. But when you get home the person you live with has bought the exact same thing!

I watched a TV show recently about research someone did to see if a dog could tell when their owner was on the way home. It wasn’t to check if the dog had figured out the time the owner came home at each day. It was to see if the dog could tell if its owner was on the way home at a random time during a particular day. The dog lived in a house in a country town, and its owner spent most weekdays in a nearby city. The researcher arranged for the owner to come home from the city suddenly one afternoon, and recorded the dog’s behavior from around the time the owner started to make her way home. Sure enough, the dog started to become more alert right around the time the owner began to leave the city. By the time the owner got within a few miles of the house the dog was waiting right next to the door. It was strange to see, but the owner or the dog didn’t seem to care too much. They were just happy to see each other.

I’ve a feeling that if we worked on this we probably wouldn't need mobile phones anymore.

Or maybe it's just a coincidence...


  1. Hi Peter,

    cool post! I think there are also some Buddhist examples of this subject: Buddha the Man's and Mahakasyapa's Flower holding event and master Dogen's chapter Menju. Of course those are not the same as your good examples, but I think those have the same deeply rooted basis: it's all about "intuition". I mean, if you're sensitive enough, I think it's possible to "see" what's happening. Well, not like "I see dead people" Sixth sense stuff, but in more daily and ordinary context. Like you mentioned. I believe our brains has so much power without a use, like scienticists are supposing. Seeing without eyes, hearing without ears. Things are just happening and everything is happening for a reason, hahhaa!

    I hope you all have everything allright over there and Japan is getting back to her feet!


  2. Howareya Peter,

    We don't hear so much about Japan in the news these days, so I hope it's all moving along okay.

    I think you may have hit on the title of your new book with this post! I can see it hopping off the shelves now:

    "Zen and the Art of Dog Whispering".


    On a slightly related matter:

    In our lineage there's quite a bit of emphasis on the physical aspect of sitting, while things like 'realisation', 'enlightenment' are at times treated somewhat like dirty words (despite the historical basis of the lineage, i.e. Master Dogen, who thought fit to use their equivalents often and who sought to clarify what they really are, what the words really substantially mean).

    Anyhow, Master Dogen writes in various places about 'self', both the self as we personally ourselves, and a bigger, universal self (that line 'the whole universe in ten direction is one human body' springs to mind).

    In Zen, as in the rest of Buddhism, isn't this question of self quite important? Isn't it important that we very directly realise something about the self in doing zazen?

    Regards to All,


  3. Harry wrote: "Zen and the Art of Dog Whispering" Hahhaa! Great! :)

  4. Hi Markus,

    Japan is gradually getting back on its feet again, although there are still a lot of problems. The nuclear plant is still leaking radiation, so it's going to take a while to get back to the way it was before the disaster.

    I agree that are brains have a lot of capabilities to do things. I think zazen or meditation is a kind of training for our brains as well as our bodies. Sometimes it's not so clear what we're training ourselves to do, but if we continue for a while we can notice something about it.

    I hope things are going well for you over there.


  5. Hi Harry,

    Thanks. "Zen and the Art of Dog Whispering" it is! I was going to go for something like "Doctor Dolittle's Guide to Zen", but I think I'd be barking up the wrong tree.

    There is an emphasis on sitting in Nishijima Roshi's lineage. I think Kodo Sawaki Roshi felt there was a need to bring Buddhism in the Soto School back to the importance of zazen, rather than doing ceremonies and other things, and Nishijima Roshi followed that attitude. Dogen emphasizes sitting too as you know. I don't think things like 'realisation' or 'enlightenment' are treated like dirty words. Nishijima Roshi spoke about those kinds of things in his lectures sometimes, but I think his idea of what they mean is different to ideas some other people have. His basic idea of 'realisation' or 'enlightenment' is that someone realizes that they're living in the universe. Sometimes those conversations can get a bit abstract though, so maybe that's why some people don't emphasize things like that so much.

    I think the question of self is important in Buddhism. I remember in one of Nishijima Roshi's talks someone asked him about something like the "big self" and the "small self". As far as I remember, Nishiijma's idea was that in reality there aren't actually two selfs, there's just one. Although like you say, Dogen and many others use concepts like that to distinguish between our individual self and a kind of universal whole. I think when we do zazen we can realize things about our self, and of course about the world in general, and that can help us to be true to ourselves in everyday life. But I don't think we need to look for anything else in our own zazen practice than what actually happens when we do it.

    Best regards to all,


  6. Hi,
    I'm going to be in Japan, up in Sapporo, for about a week during August (15-22).
    Any recommendations on how to work in a short retreat or some zen sitting (even zen visiting) while I'm up there?

  7. Hi Adi,

    I don't know an awful lot about Sapporo, but there's a temple there called Chuoji that seem to hold zazen practice on Sundays that foreigners can go to. There's more information at:
    I don't know what it's like, but it might be worth checking out.

    There's also a temple called Hokudaiji ( up that way, although I don't know it they hold retreats or sittings that foreigners can go to. If you can speak a bit of Japanese they might be worth checking out.


  8. Hi Peter,

    Hope you're all well over yonder.

    Your missing loads of rain and gray skies over here... I'm sure you're jealous.

    A few people contacted me to see if you were coming over, and if there was a retreat in Ireland this summer. Maybe we can plan something for next year at some stage?

    All the best,



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