Trevor Leggett talks in 1976 to Japanese students about English views of the French and the Germans

The French and the English For centuries the French and English have fought each other, not only in Europe but all over the world. In the 20th century the two countries were allied against Germany, but there is still an undercurrent from the depths of our history of antagonism. In English slang, the word “French” has mostly a bad sense. To take “French leave” means to leave work without permission for some private purpose. A French novel is understood to be probably dirty; a male contraceptive is called “French”. Syphilis was called the French disease, whereas in France it was called the Neapolitan disease, which is a good example of how unpleasant things are fathered on to a foreign country. The French have had an equally low opinion of the English. In the middle Ages it was believed in French peasant circles that the English had tails. Today “a Panglaise”, …

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The Spirit of Fair Play and Sportsmanship

Fight someone your own size I have often been asked by foreigners where they can read about the British traditions of ” fair play” and “sportsmanship”. (I call them British traditions because most foreign languages have adopted these British words; this fact shows the origin of the ideas.) It is not very easy to find books which clearly explain them. The truth is that they are learnt by children when they are very small-first from the parents, then from the little democracies of children among whom they play, and finally at school. One of the basic principles is, that every child, whether weak or strong, skilful or clumsy, older or younger (within the span of years of the group), is entitled to fair treatment. For instance, at cricket it is interesting to bat or bowl, and not so interesting to be one of the fielders. The natural tendency of the …

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The Buddha can write a masterpiece and since then I felt a strength holding me and peace within

 A Japanese master of calligraphy retired to the country and he took an interest in the schoolchildren in their education and there was one boy there who was being brought up by his grandmother because both his parents had died and the teacher of calligraphy saw this boy and saw his schoolwork and he told the grandmother, he said: ‘when the time comes he ought to go to college in the capital and sure enough the grandmother made great sacrifices for bringing up the boy and made it clear that she was making great sacrifices and that she did not have very many friends. People complain a lot if they don’t have many friends. When the time came, the teacher said: well now, he should go to the capital to study, and the president of one of the main universities is a friend of mine and I can write you …

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Categories Zen

What is your true face, your original face which you had before your parents were born

The original face is a well-known Zen riddle where the pupil is asked, when you were born, just when you were born, your face was covered with little wrinkles. When you were young your skin was smooth. When you get old your skin is covered with wrinkles again. Now what is your true face, your original face which you had before your parents were born? It’s quite easy to work out a philosophical answer to this. We can say, well, of course the true self has no attributes. These wrinkles or absence of wrinkles, they are all attributes. True self, they aren’t attributes, and so the original face is the true self. The teacher never accepts such things. If the pupil persists in them he hits him quite hard. Now he has to go and find the original face. He can think well, I know it, Hakuin quite easily said. …

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Categories Zen

The special point of Budo is that the inspiration has to manifest at high speed

Some people think that Budo has no future as such, because its typical representatives have now become mere games. Like many games, they have dropped away from the ideal of training into the aim of winning, often as professionals entertaining a crowd. To win or lose a Kendo contest, they say, is the same thing as winning or losing a game of tennis. Now it is true that the Kendo man no longer has any expectation of using a sword to defend himself. His special techniques with a sword find no application in life today. Even Judo, with its ridiculously narrowed and artificial rules of contest, has lost most of its usefulness in self-defence; few Judo men today would know how to meet an angry boxer. But it is, in fact, very easy. You run in on all fours and pull him over by grabbing his ankles. The boxer has …

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Trevor Leggett’s Notes and Observations series 1

Miracles In Shaw’s St. Joan, the miracles were no use to the main leaders, who took advantage of them and then explained them away as luck.  They themselves did not change. The powers of grown-ups are miraculous to the child; but they are not granted as the child’s demands. He wonders why not. As he grows up, he can perform more and more of them himself, but also gets to know their limitations.  If they do not conduce to inner growth they are of little use.  To do the child’s homework for him produces a miraculous result, but it has no lasting value; in fact in the slightly longer run it holds up his development. For vairagya The attractions of the world are like stage characters – a creation of lights and make-up and stage props (e.g. money, power etc.), on top of the real character of the performer.  To fall …

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They put on fierce expression and attitude, though they have no intention of actually fighting Judo

When I lived at the British Embassy, there was a British bulldog who used to sit on the steps of the central building. The bulldog is a thickset animal, bred for fighting, and with a terrifying face. This one was supposed to be a symbolic guardian of the Embassy. A dog normally regards himself as a guardian of the house where he stays, and he barks at (and if necessary attacks) any strangers who come, not accompanied by a member of the family. But in this case there were people coming and going all day, and he had learned when he was a puppy that day-time visitors were not to be challenged. So in the end he tended just to sit there and occasionally walk round a little. At night he changed, and challenged any outsider. Even in the daytime, he would occasionally bark excitedly at nothing, just to prove …

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