There’s a traditional Japanese farce called Changing Zazen

There’s a traditional Japanese farce called Changing Zazen. Such farces are played between the serious Kabuki plays and are generally about some local lord, who’s always depicted as an absolute fool; it’s very democratic. Anyway, in this one, the local lord wants to go to the red light quarters, but he’s completely under the domi-nation of his wife. So one day he says to ^ her, ‘Enough of my dissolute ways, so con-trary to the Buddha’s teachings. I’m going to change and every week I’m going to sit all night in zazen,’ (formal sitting meditation). Now, the Japanese monks adopted from China, for the winter, a long wadded meditation robe with a hood, to keep out the cold. The wife said, ‘I shall be looking in on you, you know.’ ‘Of course!’ We see him get into this robe at the beginning of the night and she sees him into …

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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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Putting Life Into Life

The business of getting the necessities is, for many people, a boring necessity. It is livelihood, not life. For them, life begins only after the work has finished. This is especially true when the work has to be done alone, with no one to talk to. Making endless entries in computers down to scrubbing the floor and steps, it is said to be soul-destroying work, in which there is no progress. One is simply a replaceable element in a machine. From the point of view of yoga, this is a big mistake. It is in just those jobs where not much mental alertness is required that there is a better chance for inner progress. They are good conditions for practising a special form of meditation – the meditation on bare action. Normally when doing these jobs, the mind is full of stray thoughts. If there has been a quarrel recently, …

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The Will to Make It Happen

Now let me talk about an example which doesn’t apply to anyone else here. Suppose I am 60 and I want to learn a new and difficult language. People would tell me: ‘That’s absolutely out, absolutely out! At your age, you know, the brain cells are dying at the rate of 100,000 a day’. I look it up, and it’s true. I feel like clutching my head and crying, ‘Aaargh!’ That’s what they want me to do. But if I have faith, I think that I can do it with fewer brain cells and then find that in fact I can. As a matter of fact, if I look a bit deeper I find that I’ve got 10,000,000,000 brain cells, so at that rate they’ll last me 274 years. If I had been scared off, I should have been scared by nothing. In this sort of way, the experiences which …

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The Wide Range and the Short Range

Technique develops, and in a very wide field of possibilities technique can develop almost endlessly. Even in a narrow field, it is wrong to think that the best technique has necessarily been found after a couple of hundred years’ experience. We should not become slaves to fixed ideas and analysis of technique. I learnt the piano as a kid under a teacher of the old school, who was a pupil of the great teacher Oskar Beringer. He taught me to play scales with a matchbox balanced on the back of the hand. I learnt to keep the back of the hand level even when the thumb passes underneath the fingers. I made quite good progress and became able to do it. And then my father sent me to a very famous teacher, and one of the first things he said to me was, ‘Why do you keep your hands so …

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Dr. Jigoro Kano and Judo

A lecture delivered at a meeting of the British Judo Federation The Buddhist Ideal of Mutual Benefit When I was a boy, I heard Dr. Jigoro Kano speak in London. He was then 70, my age now, I thought he was a remarkable old boy, but I wasn’t very impressed with remarkable old boys then, so I don’t expect anyone to be impressed now. His complete works, his complete writings, have just been published in Japan, and I telexed to have them sent by airmail. There are about 1,200 pages here in these three volumes, written in the old style of Japanese. I will just read you one little extract about Judo and other sports. Of course, things change, but this was the opinion of Dr. Kano, the founder of Judo. What I have here is a rough translation of the summarizing part of a short article which he wrote …

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With Faith in Fellow Human Beings

Many Japanese lack confidence in themselves. Even when they are expert at something, they are frightened of making some small mistake. This is perhaps because there is in Japan a bad habit of laughing at a mistake. All nations do this, but Japanese seem to do it more than others. When a foreigner comes up to me in London and asks, ‘Me from Hungary … where Westminster?’ I do not laugh at his baby English. I know that if I were in Hungary, I would speak baby Hungarian. I smile and point the way. He is not ashamed, and we both understand the situation. But sometimes a Japanese, who has a wonderful knowledge of English, hesitates nervously before speaking. He feels he must prepare a good sentence in his head before he speaks it. His nervousness makes me uneasy too. His literary English is too good for a casual conversation. …

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Technical Training as a Means

When one looks at a high-speed photograph of a ballet dancer in mid-leap, one can get an uneasy feeling. One knows that this figure is not really flying and must come down very quickly. Yet it remains impossibly hanging in the air. It is very unnatural and against the whole spirit of ballet dancing, which is movement. The photograph is frozen movement: it is a contradiction. So it makes some people feel uncomfortable, and I am one of them. Soon after I began Judo in 1930 at the age of 16, I had this kind of experience in connection with Budo. I was a member of the London Budokwai (yes, this is how it was spelt), the first Judo club in Europe. Every year we had a big public display, which was mainly Judo. I remember the exhibition of ju no kata (basic forms of Judo) by the two Japanese …

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What are Japanese people really like?

When foreign people are asked to give a lightning impression of the British, many of them mention ‘mania for dogs, the gentleman ideal, honesty in politics and something called a sense of humour’. Then they go on to give individual opinions. Frenchmen say that Englishmen are crude and cold, and I have heard Japanese call us yabottai (unrefined) and also cold. Russians wonder why the English are always complaining, like Russian farmers. As to the dog mania, I admit that it is true. Often British people say to me: ‘What are Japanese people really like? I have talked to some Japanese, and they were all very serious’. ‘You forget that they had to use a foreign language to talk to you’, I would tell them. ‘They wanted to get their English sentences right—that is why they were serious. You would be serious if you had to talk to them in …

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The Unforgettable Friend I Met Only Once

Still, there are some who can keep the child alive in themselves. I met one such person when I first took a Judo contest in Japan. I had trained hard in Britain, but of course we were limited to what we could learn from the old Japanese teachers there and occasional high-grade Japanese players. I was fairly strong at harai-goshi and osoto-gari. On the other hand, I had never met a really fast kouchi-gari. As it happened, this first opponent was skilled in it. I was totally unprepared for his attack and lost the contest in a few seconds. I was knocked out of the tournament at once. The winners of contests then were given a little medal, a fact which I did not know. As I came out of the changing room into the crowd, someone caught my arm, pressed a little box into my hand and hurried away. …

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World Culture and Budo

To a few foreigners, Japan is a second home. I am excluding the sentimentalists who are fascinated by* the polite surfaces of Japanese life. Most of them are living comfortably sheltered from its deeper realities. Usually they can neither read a Japanese magazine or book nor speak more than broken sentences. These people are not at home in Japan, though they sometimes think they are. They are more like guests. Home is a place not only of security and affection, but of quarrels and struggles. Furthermore, it is a place where in the middle of the quarrels and struggles we give—and find—love. In spite of all the faults, we want to be there. A few foreigners can feel that about Japan. They know all the defects, but still want to be there: it is home. For still fewer of us, it is a sort of third home. We are the …

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Yin and Yang in Budo

In some texts of traditional schools of Budo like the Itto-ryu, there is a distinction between the Budo of yin and the Budo of yang. I first heard about this from a Judo teacher, long before I could read the Budo texts. It confirmed an impression that had been growing in me that there are two kinds of Budo. This is the sort of thing that some of the traditions taught: Before a combat, the swordsman of yin is perfectly calm. His expression does not change; he does not defy the enemy. He does not stare at the opponent wide-eyed or try to intimidate him with feints. He does not come forward with little steps, as if crossing a single-plank bridge, but he walks as if on a wide road, with a perfectly normal posture. This is a master who can hardly be defeated. The swordsman of yang, on the …

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True Sportsmanship

The true spirit of sportsmanship is appreciation of the game itself. The game must not be a means of national or group superiority. In the English soccer, the teams were generally representative of a particular town. Soccer originally did not have a strong tradition of sportsmanship; it was the sport of the masses. So the crowd of spectators was divided into two parties; each would applaud a goal by their own side but would be silent when the other side scored. But in a cricket match, the spectators—though supporting one side—would applaud a skilful stroke by one of the opposing batsmen. The true sportsman could appreciate an opponent’s skill as well as his own. He could rise above mere partisanship and view the game from above, as it were. This ability to rise above the immediate situation was one of the most valuable assets given by sport. Of course, the …

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Being sincere versus being right

In 1938, my first year in Japan, I noticed how often the word ‘sincerity’ came up. Sometimes I was surprised at how it was used. For instance, before leaving Britain I had met the Japanese ambassador in London, Mr. Mamoru Shigemitsu. He walked with a stick, and I assumed that he had probably been in a car accident. Later on, I was told that he had had a bomb thrown at him by a Japanese nationalist. Many years later, I heard that Mr. Shigemitsu had met this bomb thrower, after he had finished his dozen years in prison. The Japanese press asked Mr. Shigemitsu how he felt about this man, and he replied something like this: ‘I have no resentment against him, because I feel that he was sincere in his beliefs’. A British politician would not say this. In fact, after an attempt was made to kill her by …

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The Spirit of Budo

The Spirit of Budo In this first essay I would like to recall how an Englishman, who was brought up 70 years ago in the traditional way, viewed the Budo spirit in Japan in about 1940, and to tell you how he sees the Budo spirit today. First of all, I should say a few words about the persistence of the ideas. When I was young, there were ideas of being a gentleman; doing one’s duty honourably and keeping calm under all circumstances were the main things in life. Culture was less important. In the romantic novels read by young people then, the plot often centred round some conflict of duty: the hero’s problem was just to discover what his duty was. Then he would do it and marry the heroine. She would never marry anyone who did not carry out his duty. In my teens, I did not much …

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Two Zen Stories

(1) TESSHU Tesshu was asked by a brilliant young fencer: “What is the inmost secret of the Way of Fencing?” He said: “Go to the Kannon temple at Asakusa and pray to be enlightened about it.” After a week the young man came back and said: “I went every day and prayed there a long time. Nothing came to me. On the last day as I was coming away disappointed, I noticed the inscription above the shrine: The Gift of Fearlessness. Was that what you meant?” “Yes,” repiled Tesshu. “Complete fearlessness is the secret of fencing. It must be complete. There are those who are not afraid when they face an enemy with a sword, but who are cowards when they confront the assaults of passions like greed, and delusions like fame. Complete fearlessness in the face of the inner as well as the outer enemies is the end of …

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True Man of No Rank

Recently I wrote about a general impression that foreigners have, that Japanese people tend to put everyone into some rank or relative position.  The rank or position determines what the person is.  I have heard a Japanese say (and have read similar remarks) that without all the personal connections and relations, “I should be no more than a pinpoint on a blank sheet of paper”.  When we think just of brothers, they think of elder brother and younger brother; in other words, there is a fine distinction between the ranks.  Of course in life, people can change their ranks, and when they do, Japanese society treats them differently.  Or so it seems to us.  Seniority seems to account for a very great deal in companies.   Japanese are supposed to like long-lasting relations; they want to stay in a company for life if possible.  All this is the familiar picture as …

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