He spent hours in devotion and prayer but there was never any response

A disciple came to a teacher and complained that though he spent hours in devotion and prayer, there was never any response. ‘When my daughter was ill I prayed the whole night that she would recover well, and, as a matter of fact, she did recover. How do I know that she would not have recovered anyway?’ This disciple was a minor official in the local administration and had a good knowledge of all the by-laws and regulations. The teacher made no reply to his question but said: ‘I want your advice on some things here, to do with this little temple. The fact is that there is supposed to be a right of way, across one corner of the temple garden here, and of course I have no objection to people using it. But when whole parties of them come, drunk and singing bawdy songs in the middle of the night, I think it is and unreasonable use of the right of way. But I am not sure if I can legally put up a gate which can be closed at night’. The disciple opened his mouth to make a reply, but before he could say anything, the teacher …

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The dangers of presenting doctrines of meditation and realisation in words

One of the dangers of presenting doctrines of meditation and realisation in words is that they become identified with the words. When they are translated the new words do not correspond exactly to the translated words. There is a gradual dilution and a spreading vagueness. There is however a language not in words which can convey the meanings exactly. One may wonder how this can be and an example may make it clearer. First of all, in a limited field. The digits 2,4 and 8 have no actual pronunciation; they are read by a speaker in his own language which is not comprehensible to a foreigner who does not know it. The line 2 x 4 = 8 could be read by a German zweimal vier ist acht; the words will not be understood by those who do not know German. But the digits convey and exact meaning all over the world. The mathematical language has no actual pronunciation yet it conveys exact meaning. But of course the field is narrow, because specialised. Another example is the fact that Chinese from the north cannot speak with those from the southwest or the southeast. Their pronunciation of the words varies too …

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Our minds cannot be typed in some way

Occasionally in the past, a Japanese newsman who saw me practising Judo at the Kodokan, or playing Shogi at the Shogi Association, would have a few words with me. In his article later, he would say something about a blue­ eyed foreigner skilful at Judo, or Shogi. He saw of course that I did not have blue eyes, but blue eyes were supposed to be the marks of a foreigner. He knew his readers would expect the foreigner to be blue-eyed. There is no harm in this, because Japanese meet many foreigners now, and can see that in fact very few of us have blue eyes. (We do have hair on our bodies, though – a fact that Japanese newsmen are too polite to mention.) But there is some danger in thinking that our minds can be typed in some way. Not all Englishmen are gentlemanly but stiff and cold; not all Frenchmen are irritable and witty; not all Germans are hardworking but humourless. There are all sorts of minds behind the “blue eyes” and they are not all the same, any more than the eyes are all blue. One way of explaining national character is to take some incident …

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The Closed Fist of the Teacher

The closed fist of the teacher is an Indian expression, referring to the handing on of a succession in some tradition. It is illustrated by one of the little stories in the Persian classic Gulistan or Rose-garden, which was several times quoted by Dr. Shastri to illustrate some point (not necessarily the same one). Here is a summary: The Ninety-nine Tricks The story can be summarized: A teacher of wrestling had a promising pupil, to whom he taught ninety-nine of the hundred tricks of wrestling. One rare trick, however, he kept back. As the boy became stronger and more skilful, the time came when he began to boast in public: ” Of course in an actual bout I defer to my teacher and allow him to win. But in actual fighting ability I am superior. Wrestling was then (and still is) is a national sport in Persia. The Hundredth Trick The King came to hear of this boast and had a match arranged in his presence between the master and pupil. The young wrestler rushed forward like a furious bull, and then the master made use of that one rare trick which the other had never seen. The master lifted …

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Kangeiko and Shochugeiko

In 1939, I was told about the Kangeiko and the Shochugeiko at the Kodokan for the judo. I was then a strong 3rd dan in Britain and I was not at all upset by the idea of practising during the heat or practising in the early morning in the extreme cold of the winter. There were one or two foreigners at the Kodokan at that time. They told me that the Kangeiko especially was terrifying. It was freezing cold in the Japanese winter, much colder than in Britain, and there was no heating in the Kodokan. But I thought, “Oh no, I know all about this”, and I waited for the winter without any anxiety at all. I had thought it would be like some of the Western austerities which sportsmen do. I did not know that the real idea of the Kangeiko is something quite different from the Western idea of dogged endurance and fighting spirit. Westerners are often surprised when they first hear about the Kangeiko in Japanese Budo. We have the idea of training oneself in endurance of heat and cold, but it is not the same thing. When I was a student, every fortnight I used …

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The second kind of pupil

When I began to train at Judo under Yukio Tani, I was in my late teens. I was very ambitious, and at first thought only of getting more skilful and winning contests. The other teacher at the London Budokwai, Gunji Koizumi, was an artist and a man of great culture. From listening to him, I learnt that Judo should mean much more than showing off on the tatami. He said that the principles of Judo must be applied in every situation in life. This seemed almost meaningless to me at first. After graduating in Law I worked in an office in a big company; how could Judo be applied to my job there? Koizumi showed me that even sitting in a chair can be done properly. Most people sit in an unbalanced position. So they must keep re-adjusting themselves. I practised his method, and found that sitting in a balanced position made the job far less tiring. Tani gave examples from the Budo techniques. He told a few of us about the traditional samurai. In his own family, the father and grandfather had been teachers of Jujutsu. He said that such a samurai was always in a balanced position, so …

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