Naming and understanding

There is a mediaeval Japanese story about learning which is quite revealing. A man turns up at a mediaeval court, supposed to be about 13th century, and it is noteworthy that the local lords are, in the cheerful, democratic, traditional Japanese way, often presented as  fools. Anyway, the local lord is there and the man turns up at his court and asks for a job of employment. The local lord says, ‘What can you do?’ The man replies, ‘I know the unusual things that other people don’t know’. ‘Oh, oh, well, that might be useful, mightn’t it?’ so the lord takes him on. Well, the man’s at the court and periodically there are court crises when the accounts are miles behind and they ask him to lend a hand. He says, ‘No, no, the accountants can do the accounts, clerks can do the accounts. I do the things that no one …

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Categories TPL

Training the Inner Self

Instruction: Learning through instruction consists mainly of hearing and reading. Some people say, ‘Instruction is wrong; let students find out everything for themselves by experiment’. That idea is nonsense. How can we say to a student? ‘Here are some copper, zinc, acid and wire. Now discover electric current! Geniuses like A. Volta, M. Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell took only about 200 years. Perhaps you can do it in an afternoon’. Clearly it would be impossible; he must have some instruction. For a negative-‘Don’t do that!’-the instruction alone should be enough. Judo beginners are often told: ‘Do not try to prevent yourself from being thrown by putting your arm out on to the tatami. It is dangerous. You may dislocate your elbow’. In life a similar instruction would be: ‘Do not drive a car when you are drunk’. These instructions may be followed, or not followed, depending on the intelligence …

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The Four Keys to Learning

Many years at Judo-first as a student and then as an honorary teacher in London-have given me some valuable lessons for life. I discovered that one can learn in four in ways-instruction, observation, inference and personal Experience. My conclusion is that to know something thoroughly one must learn it in all these four ways. This applies to life in general, but we can see it in a model from Budo. Budo practice in a dojo training hall is like doing experiment in a laboratory. If the correct result is clearly confirmed, one can recognize the same principle everywhere outside the laboratory, though not in such a clear form. For instance, the principle of gravity is demonstrated in a laboratory, inside a vacuum. In the vacuum, a thread falls at the same rate as a stone. This does not happen in the world outside because of air resistance. But the same …

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The great Self takes on itself the illusion of the succession of bodies

II.22 As the wearer casts off worn-out clothes and puts on himself others which are new, Even so, casting off worn-out bodies, the body-wearer passes on to new ones. This great verse on reincarnation comes at the beginning of the teachings, and it refers to the great Self which takes on itself the illusion of the succession of bodies. A master of meditation remarked that the idea of reincarnation contains hints at wider truths than the bare idea of things wearing out and being replaced, which to many older people has a depressing ring. They find their bodies less and less reliable, and less competent to fulfil most of the purposes of life as they have understood them. He said: ‘Take the case of furniture. If a chair is reasonably well made, at the beginning it sparkles with the fresh varnish laid evenly all over it. It has an unyielding …

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Shaku Soyen gives Suzuki hidden help with the koan

 For a teacher or expert to help without the pupil knowing or recognizing it is good for a pupil’s motivation. But if the teacher is not present, it may induce despair when there is continued failure or seeming failure. For the pupil to know he is helped may on the other hand lead to dependence – “What do I do about this? Oh, he will sort it out for me when he comes to it.” A good teacher is able to give a tiny hint at just the right moment to bring the pupil to a realization or a success, so that he feels he has achieved it by his own efforts. Only afterwards does he appreciate what was done for him. Then he is grateful. In a memoir, Dr. D.T. Suzuki wrote of how he was given the koan of the Sound of One Hand by the famous teacher …

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For a complete change, you have to change yourself too

“The doctor says that I need a complete change. So I am going to Italy, to stay for a month with a family which one of my friends knows well. It’s beautiful country round there. They don’t speak English, but I know a little Italian, and they say they would like their small children to hear the real English accent a little bit. I am not to go with a companion, and I am not to meet any English people there, or fluent English-speaking Italians. So it will be a complete change. I’ve made all the arrangements.” “Not quite all, perhaps” remarked the friend. “It won’t be a complete change if you are there yourself. For a complete change, you would have to change yourself too. What arrangements have you made for that?” “What can I do?” “You might take with you a text that tells you how to change …

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There are no ghosts except those that haunt the human mind

An old Zen Abbot and his attendant, while on a journey, stopped at a small inn. In the evening they talked and the innkeeper asked the priest about ghosts. The abbot said “There are no ghosts except those that haunt the human mind.” The master was a bit annoyed at this as ghosts had been seen in the neighbourhood, but the abbot would not give way, and soon went to bed. Still rankling at his defeat, the innkeeper said to his daughter: “In the night, you go and steal into his room, go up to his bed and hold his hand. Then I and one of the others will burst in with lights and discover you. He will be humiliated.” The daughter said “I couldn’t do anything like that” The innkeeper said, “Is a silver piece any good to you?” The daughter said, “Oh well of course, I am your …

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Share the beauty of your treasures and you will not regret them if they go

A rich disciple had a fine collection of Chinese jades. Then there was a financial crisis in his affairs, and it turned out that he would lose a good deal of his wealth, even perhaps all of it. The teacher mentioned this fact in conversation with a younger disciple who had, like the teacher himself, lived in the Far East. The teacher added unexpectedly: “I have no sympathy with him in his loss. What did he do with wealth? He knows that you have been in the East and would appreciate those jades. But did he ever invite you to see them?” “Well, no,” was the reply, “I didn’t know him so well….” The teacher looked at him and remarked: “If he had done something to share the beauty of those treasures, he would not now regret them if they go. I have no sympathy with him at all.” In …

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Judo spontaneity, the blind spot and Bushi of the Yin, Bushi of the Yang

When the time comes, we have to jump. We should learn the right technique, but there is something else that judo can give us if we really train. We have our tokui waza – this is how I am going to win. We rely on it. But the psychological training is to go in and forget all your favourite things and just throw yourself in totally. It is very difficult to do. But if you succeed in doing it, something new will come. The body seems to move by itself. And quite often it is something that you are not very expert at. This is one of the things which the old masters stressed. That the Way comes to an end. You train and train and now you have got to forget that training and open yourself. This applies to life. We have got our pet techniques in life. I always look …

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Trevor leggett on Judo and Shuji

When I had been a few months in Japan and had learnt a few hundred of the most frequently occurring Chinese characters, and became able to read a sentence here and there which was written in those common characters, I felt quite pleased  with my progress. But then I found that for anything beyond simple sentences, one would need to know not a couple of hundred more, but a couple of thousand more. I set to work, but began to get bored with the drudgery of it. Like most foreigners at this stage, I experienced a sort of oceanic weariness. Each new character had to be written out twenty times in order to learn it, but for each  hundred new characters one learnt, it seemed that one forgot some old ones. ‘You cram them into your head in the day,’ complained one student, ‘but you find that in the night …

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Imagination and Open Judo : Weaknesses, Stances and Training

Judo is not football. When we are young, we play football, and we are told, ‘Try and win, try and win’. But the main purpose is to develop our physique. It’s not for most schoolboys to become professional footballers. In the same way, judo is to give you something for life, and for most of us it is not to become contest leaders. Dr Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, regarded judo as a training for life. He thought it was much better for this than ball games which are not natural activities. But fighting is a natural activity and if the natural activity can be spiritualised and made rational, so that instead of making enemies, you are making friends, then it will give you something for life. Imagination and Open Judo But it is much more than that. In order to safeguard the health of competitors, contest judo has …

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Practising Yoga yourself to meet a real need

A learned scholar of Indian thought, both Buddhist and Vedanta, thought he would like to get some insights into the actual methods of practice. After some search he discovered that there was a man reputed to be an expert in the practice as well as the philosophy of one of the main schools. His further enquiries took him to a member of the group who was studying and practising under this teacher who was of the line founded by a great 19th century Mahatma named Balram Udasin. That Mahatma had been a famous adept in the yoga of Patanjali, and had written a masterly tika gloss on the Yoga Sutras. The yoga is the basis for the meditation and other practices of main sects in both Buddhism and Vedanta. The Western Scholar therefore applied for an interview but the assistant to the teacher told him that he would not be …

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