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 to clearly envisage the goal. His strength of character provided the will and determination and the efficient use of his energy to shape his destiny. Dr. Hari Prasad Shastri was Trevor Leggett’s spiritual teacher. Dr. Shastri, who had direct experience of what he taught, arrived in England to present the …

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Yasenkanna an autobiographical narrative by Zen Master Hakuin

HAKUIN (1685-1768) was the greatest light of Rinzai Zen in Japan. He universalized it and brought its flavour into the lives of ordinary people, and all the present lines of transmission run through him. The pattern of his spiritual life is thus of great importance in understanding Rinzai Zen. Yasenkanna (which can mean literally ‘idle talk in a boat at night’) is an account of a spiritual crisis and its solution, and a most illuminating Zen text. This and several other important works of Hakuin are in Japanese, accessible to the general public, whereas most Zen works of the time are in Chinese. Hakuin left his home when he was fifteen in order to take up a religious life. At the time he had a great fear of the Buddhist hells. He studied the Lotus Sutra, the most important one for Japanese Buddhism, and his doubts crystallized round the Sutra, and also round the tragic death of a Chinese Zen master named Ganto. This master remained in his temple when others had fled before a gang of brigands; one of them ran a spear through him. Ganto’s expression did not change, but he gave a great cry as he died, …

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The Dragon of Myoshinji Temple

All Japanese know of the great painter Kano Tanyu, whose work exists even today at the Myoshinji temple. This is the story of the time when he painted the great dragon on the ceiling of the main hall of the temple. It was his masterpiece and is one of the art treasures of the world. At that time the master at Myoshinji was the celebrated Zen master Gudo, famous as the teacher of the emperor. He had heard that the dragons painted by Tanyu were so realistic that when a ceiling on which one had been painted fell down by chance, some said it had been caused by the movement of the dragon’s tail. When the painting of the dragon at Myoshinji was mooted, Gudo went to the painter’s house and told him: “For this special occasion I particularly want to have the painting of the dragon done from life.” Naturally the painter was taken aback, and saying: “This is most unexpected. As a matter of fact, l am ashamed to say that I have never seen a living dragon,” would have refused the commission. The Zen teacher, however, agreed that it would be unreasonable to expect a painting of …

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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 time in his company and he seemed rather remote – dedicated primarily to his work which at that time constituted authoring his early works on Yoga, Zen and Judo. But some years later, in the early 1980s, he invited us to spend a week away on retreat in the country …

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Bodidharma – The First Zen Patriarch in China

THERE is a Buddhist tradition that when the Worldhonoured One was at the assembly on the Vulture Mount a man offered him a golden flower and asked him to preach the holy Doctrine. The Buddha twisted the flower in his fingers, showing it to the people in perfect silence. All were bewildered and at a loss for his meaning except the disciple Kashyapa who quietly smiled at the teacher. The Buddha then said there had been a transmission of the inmost spirit of his teaching to Kashyapa who was to be his successor and to whom he gave his robe and begging-bowl. Kashyapa, having thus become the First Patriarch, later transmitted the secret in the same way ” from mind to mind ” to Ananda, and so the succession continued. The patriarchs of the Buddha-mind transmission (now generally known by its Japanese name Zen) include some of the greatest names in Indian Buddhism, Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva and Vasubandhu. The Twenty-seventh Patriarch was called Prajnatara, and it is said that he was once invited to the religious assembly of a king in Eastern India. Noticing that the distinguished guest did not occupy himself all the time in reading the scriptures as …

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FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF PRIEST BANKEI

(The Priest Bankei lived in Japan in the 16th Century A.D.) MY father was a Ronin (samurai) of Shikoku, and my parents were Confucians. Soon after I was born my father died and I was brought up by my mother. My mother said I was the leader among the children and a naughty boy. From the time when I was only three years, I hated to hear the word ” death “. If I was crying and somebody imitated a dead man, or even talked about dying, I stopped crying, or if I was up to some mischief I at once became quiet. As I got older, my mother taught me how to read the Confucian classics, especially the ” Great Learning “. When I was reading it I came across the phrase : ” The way of the Great Learning is to make the Bright Virtue shine forth.” I wondered what that Bright Virtue might be but could not understand what was meant, and for a long time pondered on it. When I asked a group of Confucian believers what Bright Virtue was, and what sort of thing was meant by the words, no one knew.   One of them …

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