Judo should naturally lead to meditation

Trevor Leggett, 8th Dan Judo, scholar and author of several fine books on judo and Buddhism, head of the B.B.C. Japanese service until his retirement, has had an enormous influence on Western judo. He is regarded by many as the greatest non-Japanese judoka. Background The 17-year-old Leggett started judo seriously at the Budokwai about 1931 because of bad health. “The doctor said I must do some physical exercise. I tried several things but found them boring. My parents forbade me to do judo, so I practised secretly for about a year. Tani and Koizumi were the two instructors, then, at the little club near Victoria Station, and they had very different styles,” explained Leggett. “I trained every day and did a lot of running at weekends, realising for the first time how bad my health was. I soon became fascinated by the variety of technique in judo. If you do …

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The student must realize that the teacher has faith in him, the student himself

The cherry tree blossoms for three weeks. For the remaining forty-nine, nothing shows above the ground, but the roots are going deeper and deeper. The phrase in the Chinese Book of Change is: ‘The thunder is buried in the earth The vitality is in the roots.’ That long time of apparent inertia, and the short period of blossoming, form a unity. It is not that the cherry tree is depressed and sad, and a failure for a long time, but then has a wonderful success, but that success is, alas, all too passing, all too quickly taken away. No: this is a single tree, not two trees. The human being, especially the poet, sees the moment of qlory, and a long dull stretch when the life is in the roots as two things. But they are one. In the West there is a tendency to think of a tree or …

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Sanskrit verse first and then the English translation.

When I first went to Dr Shastri’s lectures on Vedanta and Yoga, one of the things that irritated me, as it puzzled me, was his habit of quoting a verse in Sanskrit first, and then giving the English translation. He would say, for instance: “The Gita says, in Chapter 13 Verse 30, Prakrityaiva ca karmani…..” and then a few more lines of incomprehensible Sanskrit. Then he would give the English: He sees, who see all actions Performed by Nature alone, And the Self not acting, Then he would go on to explain what this meant in living actuality. I used to think this was an incredibly pedantic habit. What was the point? He was speaking to Western people and none of them knew Sanskrit. So why quote Sanskrit? Why not simply give the English translation? I thought: suppose you wanted to study Relativity, you would not expect a lecturer or …

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Yogic methods dissolve illusions

It is easier to get rid of a burglar than a ghost. You hear a suspicious creak in the middle of the night, so you ring up your muscular neighbour, and with him make a thorough search of the house. You then know for sure that if there ever was a burglar he has made off and is not there now. But with a ghost it is different. You have been reading a well-written ghost story before you fell asleep. Then you hear the mysterious creak in the night and you get the idea that the ghost is there in the house with you. You call the neighbour and make the search, nothing there, and you go back to bed. But then you hear a board creak and you realize the ghost is still there walking about. You lie there in fear. The application of this to life is that …

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Spiritually young

A teenage disciple asked the advice of a senior in the Yoga group he had joined. ‘My parents don’t understand me at all – we are always having rows. Why shouldn’t I have pictures of nudes on the walls of my room, like my friends do? I wanted to put one up in the hall too, but they raised hell over that. Why should I have to listen to them? I think I’m a natural rebel, and I won’t just meekly conform.’ The senior said: ‘Do you really get that much pleasure from these pictures?’ The teenager considered. Then he said: ‘Well, as a matter of fact, no. I think that clothes are like the sauce with a meal; they increase the pleasure. I don’t care much for bare meat. But all my friends have them up, so I do too.’ ‘But isn’t that just meekly conforming?’ asked the senior. …

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Extracts from S’ankara on the Yoga Sutras

In these extracts the translator proposes to give some idea of the original material which this sub-commentary provides for the study of the Yoga Sutras. Purely technical discussions are not included. It is intended that the meaning should be lucid and clear to the general reader. General information about the book  The Parallel with Medical Treatment At the beginning of his sub-commentary, S’ankara compares the yogic methods to the four-fold classification of medical treatment. This is familiar in even early Buddhist texts, and it had been assumed that Buddhists adopted it from medical texts. But, as Wezler has shown, the four-fold classification does not appear in medical texts before about 200 AD. Vyasa in the second extract below reproduces the Buddhist simile, and S’ankara echoes it in the first two but the simile in the third one is perhaps original to this text. We can note that S’ankara uses the …

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Trevor Pryce Leggett

Trevor Pryce Leggett was a multi-talented man who excelled in whatever he seriously set his mind upon. His major interests were Adhyatma Yoga, a well-trodden classical path to the realization of the infinite and all-pervasive Supreme Self, and its non-dualist philosophical basis, Advaita Vedanta; Zen Buddhism; Judo and Japanese culture. His creative genius gave rise to the production of scholarly and instructive works, Yoga and Zen teaching stories, practical manuals, Sanskrit and Japanese translations and transcriptions as well as his broadcasts to Japan, in his professional capacity as head of the BBC’s Japanese service. Among the set of brilliant talents that  constituted his personality, two qualities in particular enabled Trevor Leggett to succeed in making a profound contribution, not only in terms of his life’s productive output, but upon the lives of others. His intelligence determined the effort, training and discipline necessary in a given field, born of the ability …

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Categories TPL

Eastern doctrines reject the absolute reality of the world

We are familiar with reports in the press of how fans of some TV serial begin to take the events as somehow real. They have even written to the broadcasting stations to ask them to change the script for the sake of suffering children whom they have seen in some program. These effects are nothing new. In Victorian melodrama, when the villain was stealing up behind the unsuspecting hero, it was not so uncommon for someone in the audience to shout “Look out! Look behind you!” Requests to change the script were not unknown even among the most highly educated. Lord Melbourne, then Prime Minister, wrote to Dickens in about the expected concluding chapter of the novel The Old Curiosity Shop : “Do not let little Nell die.” When this same concluding number of the serial was taken by ship across the Atlantic the quay at Boston harbour was packed …

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Put yourself vividly in the presence of the spiritual figure you are worshipping and hold yourself there.

Conscious tensions can be relaxed when attention is paid to them. But unconscious tensions are not so easily resolved, because to resolve them is itself attention. Over some fifty years ago there was a record by an American band, in which each line ended with the shouted chorus Relax, Relax, RELAX !!! and this against a background of what were then called screaming trumpets. It’s popularity did not last very long. Besides the physical tensions there are underlying mental tensions which can be relaxed to some extent by conscious distraction. But below these are deep unconscious tensions that cannot be easily located. When we cannot find them we cannot relieve them and they, from below the surface, produce mental, nervous and physical tensions of there own. Screaming trumpets, whether emotional or physical, have no effect. The relevance of all this to Yoga practice can be understood by looking first at …

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Rational thinking cannot easily overturn unconscious attitudes

Freud and Adler and their followers were able to show that in some cases what we regard as rational decisions are in fact expressions of unconscious tendencies. A young man who went to join the Indian civil service found that he cold not sleep because of the howling of pariah dogs near his official residence. Others were undisturbed, but he was becoming ill from lack of sleep. A friend recommended that while he was lying awake he should try to recover early memories connected with dogs. That night after trying to dredge up everything he had seen or heard about dogs, he slept a little. The next night he found early childhood memories surfacing and on the third night he dozed into a dream that he was standing in front of two great white pillars, from between which a hideous monster charged out onto him. He woke up screaming, but …

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They were outwitted through their impulsive greed for the food.

Hardware, more properly Haridwar, is one of the most sacred places in India. The Ganges has come out of the Himalayas and to bath in it at Haridwar is to wash away sins. James Young, the high ranking British officer who was in charge of the government force which finally defeated and captured the Thag (the word has been imported into English with a slightly different meaning) criminal tribes which infested the area, was appealed to by the local Brahmins to immerse himself completely in the Ganges to cleanse the area of the blood shed. This he did, receiving in return their gratitude and blessings. The British land surveyors recommended building a bridge with a dam across the Ganges at Haridwar for purpose of irrigation. The Brahmins all over India objected that the sacred river must not be “bound”. After some discussion it was agreed that the dam should be …

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Illumined teachers communicate the cosmic purpose

If the mind of an aged saint to deteriorates, disciples and other devotees may be distressed. They cannot help feeling that the Buddha-light or the Yoga-jnana is weakening. Their convictions may even be shaken. They have to realise that there the basic enlightenment is quite distinct from it’s manifestation through instruments. Imperfections or deterioration in the body-mind instruments do not involve imperfections or deterioration in the source, whose light is never diminished anymore than the sun is diminished by clouds or by shutting the eyes. In the old army campaign telephones at first the voice was clear but as the microphones deteriorated there were miss hearings and messages had to be slow and  repeated several times. Finally in the last stages communication could still be continued by buzzing in Morse code. When it got this far Headquarters would set up another link. Illumined teachers are animated instruments communicating the cosmic …

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Taoist thought gives warnings against trying to teach the unteachable

There are certain rules for the transmission of the Holy Truth. One set of traditions is concerned with the passing on from teacher to pupil in a face-to-face relation, and another set is concerned with what might be called broadcasting it to groups. The face-to-face relationship was in India called Upanishad, which means literally “sitting near”. The implication is that the teachings were passed on to one person only, in privacy where no one else could hear. The passing on of the secrets often took place without any formality, and was not dependent on outward circumstances. This meant that there were no fixed centres where alone the instruction could be given. It could be given in ceremonial form but that was not essential. In times of persecution under some fanatical ruler such as the blood thirsty Aurangzeb of 17th century India, it was not possible for the ruler to find …

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Categories Zen

Love must not be confused with exclusiveness

The teacher was speaking about love, and saying that it must not be confused with exclusiveness, for instance, love of country is supposed to be strengthened by hatred of other countries as possible enemies. But this is not really love of country, the real love of country tries to raise the quality of life and culture in it, and thinks of other countries with respect and with a view to learning something useful from them. Similarly love as personal attachment is often a hidden desire to possess. He said that love has to be universal and beyond limitations national or personal. It must not discriminate between persons, it must not be rationed. One of the pupils objected: “But teacher, you give much attention to some people whereas you seem to avoid talking to others. Isn’t that rationing love?” The teacher answered: “I don’t ration my love, but I do ration …

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A life which has been shaped and polished so that it’s true nature begins to appear

A life with a purpose has been compared to making an elaborate wooden piece of furniture, as for instance a cabinet with many shelves and draws. The pieces of wood are given to us in the shape of certain talents and abilities and events which happen to us. We are expected to cut and shape these according to the chosen traditional life plan and then polish them. Finally they are carefully fitted together. The comparison brings out an almost universal fault: as we handle the pieces, we paint them with harsh and jarring colours of our likes and dislikes, fears and hopes. The ones with the unpleasant colours we are reluctant to handle and so they don’t get properly shaped or polished. The one’s with bright colours we hang on to and do not want to give them up to the unity of the whole. So the cabinet ends up …

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Note of Hand

A law student in one of the old records had to go to Bristol and to stay longer than expected. So he could not pay the innkeepers bill. This was a woman who was illiterate. So he put on his law robes in which he attended court, and took an impressive looking piece of parchment on which he wrote: “Debita quinque libre”. He passed this to her telling her it was worth five pounds. She accepted it and he left, promising however that he would be back in the future and would stay with her again. © Trevor Leggett Please see:The outcome of this

The aged dictator of Spain was dying in his presidential palace

When the aged dictator of Spain was dying in his presidential palace overlooking a central square of Madrid, large numbers of his supporters came in relays to stand in front of the palace and chant their farewells: “Goodbye, Franco. Goodbye!” The sound of the voices could be heard from the sick bed in the palace. It is said that the 83-year old General beckoned to the doctor who was attending him and said feebly: “Where are all these people going?” © Trevor Leggett Please see: One point here

There is another kind of long life

Trees may live for hundreds of years, but though they add to the beauty of nature they do not as such enter into human life. Though the life may have been long, finally they die and nothing is left. This is sometimes taken as a representation of human existence when it has no real purpose outside itself. There is another kind of long life, where the tree is cut down and reduced to sections of wood. These are meticulously shaped to form furniture in patterns both useful and beautiful. Polished and polished for generations these can become treasured possessions. In some countries such as Japan the beauties of the grain are studied and those who can afford it have the ceilings made of thin planks specially chosen and matched for there exquisite grain. (This was not always understood by the troops of the occupying forces during the years after Japan’s …

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The third stage of ingratitude is a couplet by the 13th century Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz

It is a pleasant feeling to make a gift to someone who is in need. It is the superior position, generally one doesn’t make oneself too short, and it is depositing a credit for the Last Judgement. It is harder to receive the gift from condescending hands. St Vincent de Paul told his charitable followers: “When you give to the poor, give as humbly as you can manage. And then – perhaps – they will forgive you.” The second stage of ingratitude is Shaw’s remark: “I can’t think why he dislikes me so. It’s not as if I had ever done anything for him.” The third stage of ingratitude is a couplet by the 13th century Persian poet Saadi of Shiraz: “I never taught archery to anyone, who did not end up shooting at me.” The point of noting these stages is not to analyse others, but to find which …

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Ikkyu was a famous Zen priest and poet , who was sometimes overwhelmed by sexual desire

Ikkyu was a famous Zen priest and poet of the 15th century, who was however on more than one occasion overwhelmed by sexual desire. He finally caught a sexually transmitted disease. When he was dying a knowledgeable friend brought him some of the remedies of the time. However he refused to take them with the words: “No, I don’t to take them, I feel ashamed.” The friend said: “Well, you had a love affair. Tell me, who was it?” Ikkyu got up, took some paper and picked a brush. Then he wrote in his beautiful calligraphy: “O true original face, it was for love of you that I demeaned myself. And I have not been the only one. Shakyamuni and Bodhidharma too gave up royal status for a mean one in their search for you. And I was searching for you.”  

Frankly declare own self interest and then negotiate

“If I were you, I wouldn’t do that.” “I think if you were me you would do that because if you were me you’d do as I’d do and I am going to do that.” “Oh well, I meant that if I were in your shoes, in your situation…” It sounds a fine thing to put oneself in the other person’s place to try to see their point of view. But one has nevertheless brought along, to stand in those shoes, impressions and feelings and attitudes of ones own. When we try to see the other person’s point of view, and sympathise with it we are really feeling for what we imagine to be their point of view. The trouble comes when they imagine what is our point of view and modify their own position in accordance with that. I used to go every year on a reading party, and …

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Dogen brought Soto Zen from China to Japan

Dogen was the great patriarch he brought the Soto line of Zen from China to Japan in the 13th century. He established it on a very firm ethical basis in Japan, and his great work Shobo-genzo (Treasury of the true law) carries enormous prestige even outside the Soto sect. Buddhist teachers of other sects quoted either directly or by allusion. On such echo is the following. There are two ways: either you invite the Buddha into your house, or you leave your house and throw yourself down on the doorstep of the Buddha’s house. To invite the Buddha to your house, you have to make it spotlessly clean. With reverent devotion you dust and polish your furniture, and every nook and corner. Poor as you now it to be you make it as best you can fit to receive the World Honoured One. In the second case you get up …

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Advice in the Extremity of Need

This is an old story from the West Country of England. A very rich man falls sick and on his deathbed tells his only son that he will get all the property. Then he passes to him a strong leather belt with a big metal buckle, and says, “Son, promise me that you will always keep this in memory of me and where it often. Replace the belt as it wears out but keep the buckle. If you are ever in dire distress, get iron smith to open the buckle and in it you will find a piece of advice for you in that extremity of need”. The son obediently makes the promise. He knows quite well what the advice will be: “This too will pass” or “I am the captain of my soul”, or something like that. When he inherits he lives sensibly for a time but then takes …

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Most spiritual training schools stress the importance of a sangha or community

Most spiritual training schools stress the importance of a sangha or community.  In Buddhism there are the Three Refuges:  I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha.  To many people, the Buddha and Dharma are somewhat abstract supports, and the physical association with a community gives a support which is immediate.  But reliance on the sangha is not without pitfalls. During a famine in India, a Brahmin went round the homes of the better-off, and asked them to contribute a pot of milk each to relieve the suffering of the poor.  Having received their promises, he set up an earthenware tank in the central square, and asked that during the day each household should bring a pot of milk and  pour it in through the small opening in the top.  He arranged that the tank be kept cool in the …

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In the mind when there is no control, two or three obstinate thought-feelings can become locked in a struggle

Before traffic lights were introduced, two or three strong-willed car drivers could get locked in a crossing, because no one would give way. The traffic piled up behind them, and often it was impossible to relieve the tangle by driving on to the pavement. In a busy part of the town, at a busy time, the block could extend for a quarter of a mile. Finally the police had to divert all traffic and slowly get the locked cars free. In the mind when there is no control, two or three obstinate thought-feelings can become locked in a struggle, and paralyse all sensible activity. New traffic of ideas has to be stopped, in meditation or devotion, and slowly the block can be resolved. But with traffic lights, these things happen only rarely. It is essential that we become able to control one line of ideas: check it when necessary, and …

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Should they do their first training with the sword or with the spear?

A doubt comes up in the mind: ‘Scientists actively refute mysticism and yoga. They have created all these modern marvels – surely they must be right?’ It is met: ‘Some of the greatest of them like Pasteur and Einstein and today Davies, say the weight of evidence is for a cosmic intelligence.’ The doubt subsides, but returns in a slightly different form: ‘God or no God, it makes no difference. It’s all inference, so why make the inference anyway?’ Many students of yoga simply do not know how to meet their doubts. They tackle each doubt as it comes up with some answer, but it re-appears slightly changed: ‘Aha! you didn’t think of this!’ Meeting doubts piecemeal, as they happen to come up prompted by circumstances or chance associations, will never settle them. When contaminated food has been distributed to the retail shops, it is difficult to collect it. The …

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In an expansion of some faculty, there is a sense of joy

In training for some desired result, especially when it involves an expansion of some faculty, there is a sense of joy. It is leading to what is felt to be an achievement, and so it is a sort of fulfilment in itself. Mistakes have to be avoided as much as possible, but when they happen, they are corrected without any feeling of guilt – they do not really matter. However strong the efforts that have to be made, there is at the basis a sort of carefree lightness, and this we can call “light joy”. But when it comes to the actual occasion, the arena where we have to try out the actions we have been rehearsing, how is it then? A mistake does matter now – it might be fatal to the whole enterprise. For many, what had been an interesting challenge now becomes a frightening necessity, and the …

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Here is a battle unsought; completely unselfish, for a warrior that is an open door to heaven

Full pacifism is for monks. Lay people practice limited pacifism; they do not seek conflict but they may defend justice as they see it. Krishna says to the warrior- “Here is a battle unsought; completely unselfish, for a warrior that is an open door to heaven.” The limited Ahimsa means that the warrior or the policeman must not use force or bullying for personal ends outside duty. No-one can expect nations to be pacifist. A community that is pacifist may be annihilated as were the early undefended Christian monasteries or the great Buddhist Narlanda University in the 16th century India

A string of pearls, is an image used in the Bhagavad Gita

A string of jewels, a string of pearls, is an image used in the Gita. The fact is that if pearls individually and scattered all over the place in dusty corners, have no beauty.    They are of no ornamental value, and of little other value.  But when they are brought together in a string they make a most beautiful necklace. They can be strung together in various ways.  If you see black pearls they are very valuable especially the big ones, but they look horrible. They look like ordinary pearls rinsed in ink, but they are very valuable.  Sometimes the necklace has a big black pearl and two or three ordinary pearls and another black pearl, sometimes all the black pearls are put together and are arranged in gradation of size.  There are many such ways of arranging them on a string to make a necklace. In the same way, …

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Repeat OM slowly, meditating that it means the universal self

A man vaguely interested in yoga, but who could not bring himself to go under a teacher, used sometimes to repeat the sacred word ‘Om’ when he was drunk. A friend who did actually practise yoga told him it was a mistake to do this. ‘Why?’ he said defiantly, ‘Surely it is better to say the sacred Name, even if one is a bit drunk, than not to say it at all.’ No, his friend told him. You would be like a man who has been told that to cure his diabetes he should avoid sweet things, and take some insulin every day. Now if he takes the insulin, and at the same time eats a sweet to take his mind off the initial discomfort of the little prick of the needle, then he is nullifying the effect of the medicine he needs. A doctor friend of mine told me …

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The eye races over the well-known phrases, and much is missed

“A hundred hearings are not like one seeing” is a classical Chinese saying, but it applies to what can be seen, not to abstractions or other things beyond the senses. There the hearings are worth a hundred readings, for reading is often too fast and superficial. Especially when re-reading a revered text, the eye races over the well-known phrases, and much is missed. Today the tape recorder offers a new aid to study: record the main texts, and play them every morning. The reading will reveal new depths. Clara Schumann, the world famous pianist, played the Chopin study in C sharp minor every morning for eighteen years, and found new depths in it. It can be the same with the sacred texts. How many have read the Gospel of John with, as they thought, attention and reverence, and yet not noticed the apparent contradiction: in the last teachings of chapter …

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