My friendship with Trevor Leggett

I first had the good fortune to meet Trevor in the early 1970’s when, with my wife-to-be, we made weekly trips from Kent to London to attend talks given by speakers from Shanti Sadan at the Friends’ Meeting House in Hampstead.  A different speaker was chosen for each talk throughout the six week termly series and as – unsurprisingly, since most members of Shanti Sadan had no prior experience of public speaking – the quality varied greatly, it was always with delight that we saw Trevor taking the chair. And anyone who has listened to the recordings of Trevor speaking on this website will readily appreciate just how much his audiences enjoyed his talks. At that time Trevor was in his fifties with a personality and presence that inspired both awe and attraction.  In our early years as members of Shanti Sadan, although he was always approachable, we spent little …

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Categories TPL

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 …

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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 …

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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; …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Teacher Out-of-date, Up-to-date

I believe we can say that in the West, the traditional relationship of teacher and pupil has been very much weakened by the ideas of science. In science, the teacher of more than fifty is regarded as probably out of date and wrong on many things. Most of the big discoveries in science are made by very young men. When they grow older, they become unable to change with the still newer ideas which are coming forward from the young men. For instance Einstein, so marvellous in his early discoveries when he was young and unknown, in his later life spent some twenty years fighting a losing battle against the consequences of the quantum theory which he had done much to found. So the conclusion in science is, that the older men can still teach basics which do not change, but they do not like new ideas, and so cannot …

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Some Shakespeare plays have helped me in life

It is pleasant to be praised. But when one is praised, or one’s country is praised, for some qual­ity which one does not like. .. what is one’s feeling then? I have seen young Indians listening to enthusiastic Western women talking to them about Gandhi, and saying how wonderful he was. The young people were moving their feet uneasily: they were not enthusiastic about Gandhi. I re­member an Indian doctor in such a case, after trying in vain to stem her tide of words, suddenly bursting out, ‘ Gandhi was a sincere man, but his ideals of rustic simplicity are quite impracticable for this age, and his influence has been disastrous. The sooner we forget him, the better for India.’ Few Japanese people would be as rude as that, but I have noticed a weariness and uneasiness in them when Westerners talk about Kabuki or the genius of Murasaki Shikibu, …

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Too much Man, Too little Man

The principle of Maximum Efficiency — Saidai Noritus Genii,was stated in these words by Dr.Jigoro Kano. When I was sixteen, I heard him explain it, in his beautiful English, at the Judo hall in London. He said that it applies in every action in life: do not use too much force, and do not use too little. Use exactly the amount of force that is necessary. To do this, he said, is Right Use, Zen-Yo. He slso told us that this is the true meaning of the word Ju in Ju-do; to use too much force is Wrong Use, what he called  Hardness or Go-do. (The next day, he brushed some huge Chinese characters on a long roll of paper; it was framed and hung high on the wall of thd judo dojo in London. The words were read and then translated for us: Ju Sai Sai Go o sei-su: …

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Victor Hugo awakened the sense of compassion in France, as Dickens did in Britain

Victor Hugo,  was a supreme novelist. He depicted the miseries of the poor, and awakened the sense of compassion in France, as Dickens did in Britain. But Dickens could not create the beauties that the poet Hugo could express, even in translation. When I was a boy, I found Hugo’ s Les Miserables on my father’ s bookshelves. At the age of eight, I read it again and again; I find that I know some of the details better than most French people, who have, I suppose, read it only once. (It is a classic, and most of us read our national classics only once at most.) Whether it made me more compassionate I do not know, hut it gave me an insight behind the scenes of our vaunted civilization. It also showed me that happiness does not depend on being with many people. It can be solitary. The scenes …

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Do Social Service social service, on an entirely voluntary and unpaid basis

About 5,000,000 people in Britain do some form of social service, on an entirely voluntary and unpaid basis. That is about 9 per cent of the total population. In terms of man-hours, these volunteers make a contribution greater than that of all the paid staff in the social services departments of the local authorities. It has been found that the Welfare State cannot do all that is required. In many places, voluntary organizations are the only providers of, for example, youth clubs, advice centres, or preschool playgrounds. It is an interesting and important fact that more  than half these volunteers are young people under 24. Many of them spend one or two evenings a week in some form of service. Some go out in groups to do repairs and cleaning for old people living in dilapidated houses. Of course, often the work is not done with professional skill, but as …

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One of them was a jewel

When the Shinkansen, the so-called Japanese ‘bullet train’ first came in, it was a great triumph of technology, and a national triumph also. All the kids heard about it. And they arranged to have parties of the children from the country villages so that they could ride on this train. A teacher told me about one such party, where for some reason, some oversight, it was not explained to the children that they were going to ride on the Shinkansen, of which they’d seen so many pictures and photographs. So they got on this train without seeing the engine and they were shooting along, when they saw another one on another track. The children all crowded to the side of the train, ‘Look, the Shinkansen! Look,the Shinkansen!’ And the teacher said, ‘Boys and girls, you’re in the Shinkansen. This is it! You’re in it. You don’t need to look at …

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Tips and icebergs

As you know, the iceberg is supposed to be ten per cent, or one per cent some people say, on the surface and the rest is hidden. My method of presentation here (it’s not the only one) is to present just a small proportion and people can find out the rest of the iceberg. In this method of teaching, a number of illustrations or stories are given, but they’re meant as, so to speak, seeds to work on. And unless they change our lives, then they’re just entertaining stories. I’m telling these stories because some of them have been helpful to me and so I have confidence in them. But it’s necessary that, like a seed, it should go into the ground. You know the parable of the sower in our Christian Bible. There’s a famous paint­ing of ‘the sower went forth to sow’ which has been adopted as the …

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Kata judo introduction second part

‘Katame ’ is a Japanese root meaning to harden or tighten or hold still; to clench the fist, for instance, could be rendered in Japanese by this word. The Katame-no-kata, or form of Katame, is in Judo often referred to as the ‘groundwork’ Kata, but the last one, for instance, begins in a standing posi­tion. The Katame-waza or Katame techniques are really the methods of immobilizing the opponent, whether by restricting his movement by a technical hold, or by threat of causing pain or unconsciousness. It is true that in general it is easier and more appropriate to use the Katame techniques at present permitted in Judo when on the ground. In this connec­tion it may be noted that this same final technique of the Kata, namely Ashi- garami, involves a lock on the knee which would not now be permitted in contest. The great difficulty with Katame-no-kata is to prevent …

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Kata judo introduction first part

Kata or formal demonstration is an important part of Judo training. A pre­arranged opportunity is given and then the appropriate technique exe­cuted. Under these ideal conditions, a far greater degree of perfection is required than when a throw is brought off in the flurry of Randori or free practice. It is now compulsory for students to prepare themselves for examination in the Kata here described before they can take the ist Dan (first Black Belt grade) in the British Judo Association, the official Olympic body in this country. This book is designed to help them; by studying the explanations and pictures, it will be possible to master all the main points and most of the fine points as well. I introduce each throw with the formal ‘standard’ text, as laid down by the Japanese Convention on Kata held in i960. This text can be taken to be the official version …

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The Principle of Fairness

Nowadays a bully is despised very much. There has been a big change in British opinion on this question since the last century. Even as late as Kipling, at the very end of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth, you can find the idea that a new recruit in the army must be bullied, persecuted and frightened till he is nearly ready to commit suicide. Only then will he be “hardened” and be a good soldier. But now the climate of opinion is quite different. We feel that a man should indeed be hardened, but hardened in combat against opponents of his own level, so that he sometimes wins and sometimes not; or else hardened in struggle with natural obstacles such as heat and cold, lack of sleep and so on. But he should not be subjected to the casual cruelty of those who are senior …

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Sparks from the flint of the heart

In the last article, the case was given where something (say a garden) has been created with work and sacrifice. Then someone comes at night and deliberately destroys it. If he later admits doing it, and is asked why, he says: ‘Oh, I don’t need a reason. I just wanted a bit of fun.’ Now how is a man of Budo to react to that situation? I wrote last time how a Zen teacher said: ‘It’s no good trying desperately to forgive him a little. You have to drink that poison down, to the last drop.’ A Budo teacher said about a similar case: ‘Your personality is like a little cage; the bars are your feelings of Me and Mine. The bars are not fixed to anything; the only reason they are there is because you are hugging them to yourself. What has happened is like a crow, and it …

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Beyond the tangle of words

Dr Shastri used to give before a spiritual meeting the practise -just a touch between the eyebrows, just bring the attention to this point for just a few seconds.  So if you would like to try now just touch there and use the after sensation to bring the mind to this point. Ormmmmmmm. Ormmmmmmm. The text, the holy text, on which our teacher based much of his instruction is called a Bhagavad Gita.   He translated some of the important verses for the commentary, it is on the book store ‘Teachings from the Bhagavad Gita’ by Hari Prasad Shastri. Now one of the verses of chapter two says, in rough translation, ‘when you begin to pass beyond the tangle of illusions you will get adverse to, our teacher said sometimes you will get sick of all you have been told and all that they are going to tell you, the tangle of …

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Onshi: Revered Teacher

Onshi: there is no single word in English. Revered teacher, beloved teacher: these are not natural English phrases. The single word ’teacher’ can refer to anyone from Verrocchio who taught Leonardo da Vinci, to an irritable old lady forcing spelling into unwilling children. Master can mean the head of an Oxford College (Master of Balliol College) to a barber with one apprentice boy. Some Continental languages distinguish: they use maestro for instance to mean a master pianist or artist, who also teaches, and a quite different word for an employer. In English we borrow the Italian word Maestro with that meaning. I suppose this shows that though we have respect for art and learning and science, we do not revere them or their teachers. Recently a new word has been introduced to fill the gap, but again it is a foreign word: guru. Originally this is a Sanskrit word meaning …

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TPL BS talks

On Attitudes – Views – Mind 26-8-1997 Poem – On the Sea Shore of Endless World 26-8-1990 Robes of Honour 11-12-1996 Short Stories & Teachings 28-9-1996 Smacking Down the Waves 14-6-1989 Songs & Stories of the Ways Sparks from the Heart Flint 1-9-1982 Stars and Comets Study Class – Fragments of Stories 19-9-1989 The Breeze Hammering at the Door 25-8-1999 The Five Hindrances 15-8-1987 The Flower of the Heart 11-9-1986 The Mind Twitches 2-9-1997 The Obstacles Created by the Intellect in Understanding the Teachings – Mindfulness 26-8-1990 The Soft and the Hard 28-8-1980 The Spur 10-10-1990 The Stone Sermon 11-8-1985 The Ways 1974 Thus I Have Heard 28-10-1998 Time for Listening, Time for Learning Aug 1990 Tips and Icebergs 3-9-1983 Tokusal on Sword and Mind 15-3-1993 Tradition of the Ways 3-9-1976 Traditions of the Ways Zen and the Ways Zen Buddhism (4) A Hundred Hearings Not like One Seeing 22-1-1990 …

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Categories Zen

Principle of Highest Efficiency

Dr. Kano put forward the Principle of Highest Efficiency as one of the central pillars of his system. He used to give illustrations in the physical field, which are familiar to all students of Judo; for instance, unnecessary force should not be used in making a throw, but just enough to make it succeed. This was contrary to some of the older Ju-jutsu teachings that the whole of the body-force should be put into the throw. Dr. Kano gave some illustrations from the field of ordinary behaviour. I remember when I heard him speak about argument and debate. I was then about seventeen years old, and very energetic. I sometimes used to get excited in an argument, and begin to shout. As I was big and even then fairly strong, sometimes the opponent would become nervous, and would stop arguing against me. So I found this quite a good method …

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Voluntary actions produce an effect in this or future lives

The teacher in his sermon was explaining the doctrine of karma, which teaches that all voluntary actions produce an effect on the doer in this or future lives. ‘If you want to know what you have done in the past he said, ‘look at your present circumstances, which are the result of what you did; if you want to know what your future will be, look at what you are doing now, which will shape it. In the Christian Bible too the same doctrine is hinted at in the words, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” ‘ Afterwards one of the pupils said to the teacher, ‘In the Christian Bible there is a story of the man who was attacked and left for dead by robbers. Two people passed by on the other side of the road, and then a third man picked him up and looked after him. …

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Sengai’s auspicious words

Priest Sengai was a famous calligrapher and one of the congregation asked him if he would write a scroll of four or six Chinese characters to hang in his house – something auspicious for the family. Sengai agreed and said, “I will write some words of blessing.” He took a new brush and inscribed six Chinese characters in a magnificent gold ink: The parents die, The children die, The grandchildren die   The recipient was bewildered and after some hesitation murmured that everybody dying was not exactly a blessing. Sangai said: “Everybody dies, but the blessing here is the order in which they die. If the children die before the parents the father and mother will be in grief for the rest of their lives. Again if the grandchildren die before the others then who will carry on the line. The family will become extinct. But if the parents die …

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The business of the world is carried on by unreal things

A 17th century law student had to make a visit to Bristol and booked in with the landlady at a small inn. He had to stay rather longer than expected and ran out of money. The outstanding bill was five pounds, then a substantial sum. He took a piece of parchment and wrote in Latin a credit note for the sum; wearing his law robes he sealed this impressively and passed it to her saying that it was worth five pounds. He told her that he would be coming again to Bristol and would stay again at her inn. His intention was to retrieve the note then and give her actual money. After he had gone, it occurred to her that she could settle the cobbler’s bill, and buy some new shoes into the bargain, for five pounds. So she took the parchment sheet and showed it to the cobbler …

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Zen master Hakuin on the Lotus Mantra

The Sutra called “The Lotus of the Wonderful Law “ (Sad Dharma Pundarika) is one of the fundamental scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. A commentary on it was written by Prince Shotoku, who used it to introduce Buddhism into Japan in the sixth century. Since his time, the chief Buddhist teachers of Japan have given this text an important place. Dengyo Taishi, founder of the Tendai Sect in Japan, made it the centre of his doctrine ; his great contemporary Kobo Daishi, of the Shingon or Mantra Sect, wrote his own commentary on the Lotus Sutra. There are introductions to the sutra by Honen, founder of the Pure Land sect, by the famous Zen master Dogen, and many others. Then in the thirteenth century, the saint Nichiren began to teach his followers the practice of repetition of the mantra of the Lotus, which runs: ” Namu Myoho Ren ge-kyo “, ” …

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Categories Zen

Life structure falls to pieces without spiritual conviction

INTERLACED BRANCHES When there is a grove of trees growing closely together, their branches can get interlaced, so that they seem to support one another. Because they are so close, their individual roots are often very shallow, but the whole thing looks like a stable structure, a sort of table with many legs. But when a big storm comes, it all collapses, because there are no deep roots anywhere. A society or group, says a Zen master, can be like this. The various elements support each other by a system of conventions accepted by all, for no other reason than that they have always been accepted. There may be no deep roots of conviction anywhere, but people act as if they had conviction. After all, the others seem to believe. Such a society can look very stable. It is, however, no longer creative, and it too collapses in a big …

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