Friday, October 30, 2009

Mujo - Impermanence

All of Kosaka Sensei teachings evolve from this notion of impermanence. The idea that everything changes.

Because everything changes we should have no attachment to anything, it will change...and we want to change right along with it, without delay.

That everything changes is both a blessing when things aren't what we think they should be, so we know our troubles will fade away (as all things do); and a cause of suffering when we wish things to remain the same.

The teaching is, of course, that our suffering comes from our wish for things to be different than they are, and the release comes when we accept things as they are.

This does not mean to lay down (or sit still) and not care, that would be death, and we are charged to be human beings (nin gen kei sei) not human dieings. Yet we are to live with the acceptance of inevitable change and our immanent death. So we must do what needs to be done to eliminate suffering and bring happiness to everyone for all time....Every moment of every day (mainichi itsu demo, is a key phrase in our school). For as human beings we all do not want to suffer and we all want to be happy, in this way we are all the same... we are human.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Unwritten Book part 2

Truth number one is, 'All is one'. Why is this Truth not the Truth? Because, although All is One, it is also not one; yet it is not two either. You see, already the words make no sense. The Truth is beyond words and the rational mind; The Truth includes the irrational too. For even nothing, by the definition of everything, is included in everything.

We call this Ai Mai (Vague, Un-definable). The Truth cannot be put into words instead it leads the words round and round... From one side of the Truth to it's opposite, trying to include everything. Sometimes the Truth is best left to calligraphy, painting, poetry or some other art form. In our tradition we use: Kyu(u)do(u) (Japanese Zen Archery), Hatsu-Zen-Do(u) (Zen Calligraphy), Zo(u)-En-Sekkei (Landscape/Garden Architecture), & Chado(u) (The Way of The Tea).

My teacher would never tell me all of this in outright prose like this. But instead, would relate stories of the past that embraced these ideas and taught lessons; in this way, he connected me with my inheritance, with his legacy, family, and history.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Unwritten Book Part 1

Many students kept asking me to write down the principles behind our school. In an attempt to both please them, and explain why that was difficult, I wrote the following paper. The paper is a little long so I'll break it down into a few blog posts.

There is an unwritten book. It is unwritten because it is never to be written down, but is to be transmitted down orally from master to master; my teacher called this menju kuketsu (oral secrets transmitted face to face). This unwritten book has been passed down to me. I was told not to write it down; but to pass it down only 'face to face'. Yet, here I am writing it down. I write it down for me, and those I sit with face to face. I write it down for generations to come, so that it will not be lost.

Why do we not write it down? Everyone knows the Truth; That All is really connected, that nothing is really separate; so, there is no reason to write it down. Plus, words by their nature define and separate, so the Truth of Wholeness cannot be written down, it cannot even be put into words. This is why so often we use art to try and point the way to this Truth. The Truth is whole, the Truth is everything, but words separate everything into definable pieces. To try and write down the Truth is sure folly. Words, at best, only 'point the way;' they merely reflect some aspect of the Truth, the way the Moon reflects a portion of the Sun's light. So I know I shouldn't write this down, some have tried before me. Success is impossible, But I write, what I can , anyhow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kosaka Sensei has a wonderful lecture he gives on Wabi Sabi. I'd heard it many times, but could never really get my notes complete. [When I visit him privately, and he sees me taking notes on our discussion (cause he used to drop of lot of 'jewels' during our meetings, so I really wanted notes on it) he would stop talking. So I always had to fill in the gaps from my poor memory.] Anyhow on a trip to Kinokuniya (the local Japanese Book Store), there was a book entitled 'Wabi Sabi' (though today I see lots of these books with this topic, at that time I'd not seen one before). This particular one was quite close to Kosaka Sensei's lecture...not exactly the same...but some of the material was almost straight out of his rendition. I bought the book. Then after our Rancho Park kyudo practice (as was my habit back then) went to his house. I said, 'Look Sensei, I found a book on Wabi Sabi', and handed him the book. He thumbed through it for a bit, nodding what looked like approval and recognition of the contents, he seemed surprised that someone got so close to an understanding of a topic that is so difficult to state in words. Then he looked at the cover and said, 'oh, I see. I taught this guy', he paused...and then, as he said 'he shouldn't have written it down', and tossed my book into the trash.

Of course, I went and purchased another copy. But this experience, and the insistence in our school that you cannot get kyudo from a book, and that the teaching is handed down 'face to face' (we call this menju kuketsu) has made me hesitate to write down anything here, but my own experience. Although Kosaka Sensei has named me his legacy holder, and 'stamped' my understanding, I hesitate to try and expound on the actual principles of our school. But many tell me that without my interpretations, they don't see how they'll ever understand them; and some of these people are nearing their 20 year mark with us.

Most of the principles I learned are contained in the stories I've told here. I will, therefore, continue to tell the stories; but here and there, I may throw in a few prose too that just simply state some of the principles our school is based on. We'll see how it goes. Please feel free to give me feed back on whether you need more or less of these.

rick 'jyozen' beal

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Aikido group, that I really like, was setting up a sesshin at Mt. Baldy Zen Center. Though I had my own meditation practice from Master Yen since I was little, I'd never sat formerly at a Zen Center; I really wanted to go. I'd not been with Kosaka Sensei very long and I wasn't sure the protocol, but I wanted his permission to go. I caught him at the dojo just before everyone else arrived, told him about the event, and asked permission to go. He responded quite harshly, 'I can't believe you can ask such a question; a Japanese person would never ask such a thing.' I wasn't sure if that was a yes or a no, but I went.

We had a great time sitting with the monks that live there, doing aikido, and working around the center.

The week before the sesshin, Kosaka Sensei had told us a story of Joshu. 'In the monastery where Joshu was a monk, there were two buildings where all the monks lived; and, there was a cat. This cat was very clever and went to both buildings to be fed. One day, while Joshu was out, monks from one building saw the monks from the other building feeding the cat. An argument ensued, 'What are you doing feeding our cat!?...'Your cat!, this is not your cat, this is our cat!.' The ruckus became so loud that the Abbott came out of his quarters to see what all the fuss was about. 'They're feeding our cat said one set of monks'; 'it's our cat!' said the other set of monks. The Abbott scooped up the cat by the scruff of it's neck and pulled out a sword (where the Abbott got this sword, was not told, it just appeared or he brought it with him? Warrior Abbott? He brought his sword in case the monastery was under attack? Could be, I suppose; in any case, he took out this sword). 'If any one of you can tell me if this cat has Buddha Nature, I will spare the cat!' The monks all stood dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. The Abbott killed the cat (Not even attached to the 'do no harm' vow, I guess; or justified through Ho(u)ben, Skillful means?). Anyhow, he killed the cat.

Later, when Joshu returned, all the monks were crying and despondent. Joshu asked what was the matter, but none could speak coherently to answer his query. So Joshu went to see the Abbott. The Abbott told Joshu what happened.

At this point Kosaka Sensei looked at us and said, "The Abbott said, 'if any one of you can tell me if this cat has Buddha Nature, I will spare the cat.'; now, what do you say? We went around the room and most people said, 'Yes, the cat has Buddha nature, all sentient beings have Buddha Nature,' to which Kosaka Sensei politely nodded his head. When it came to my turn Kosaka Sensei said, 'Wait! you answer me next week'.

It turns out, at this sesshin on Mt. Baldy a Roshi told the same story and ended with. 'Joshu, still at the doorway, took off his sandals and put them on his head; to which the Abbott responded, 'Had you been here, I could have spared the cat.'

So at my next meeting with Kosaka Sensei as I walked in the door, he looked up at me and I gave him my answer; I took off my sandals and put them on my head. He rolled his eyes and said, 'Monkey see, monkey do' and walked away.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kotohajime - First Event of the Year

In our school we shoot an arrow for the Japanese Community at the beginning of every year. We call this ceremony 'kotohajime' or the first event of the year. A private event is held like this in some shrines in Japan. I missed the first one when I took my break at the beginning of my time with the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai (I missed the annual sukiyaki party too). The first one I was ready to particpate in was the 1986 (I think) it was the year of the Tiger. We were shooting 28 meters across the courtyard at the JACCC in downtown Los Angeles. Mishima Sensei, (my sempai) Richard Parra, and myself were going to shoot in sequence. Kosaka Sensei painted a 40' x 40' tiger across the entire could only be seen from the second floor or higher clearly but it was amazing. We did not shoot well, in fact we all missed; my last shot hit the ground and (but it finished the tail on the tiger). No hits and big audiance. Just as it seemed over, Mishima Sensei said, 'I think I'll shoot one more'. He lined up and the crowd went silent, as Mishima Sensei began to draw the bow, a not too bright fellow, jumped right in front of the target to snap a photo (well I guess since we had missed all the others, he felt safe there, but I think we move so slowly and smoothly that people forget the bow and arrow are deadly weapons). I saw some glimmer in Mishima Sensei's eye that he recognized that the fellow was there, but he didn't stop or even pause; he continued to bring the bow and arrow to full he reached full draw, the fellow took his photo and jumped out of the way; and Mishima Sensei again let the arrow fly to the bullseye.