Thursday, July 5, 2018

Transcription of Peter Rocca Chatting with Gudo Nishijima-roshi about Buddhism, Realism, Intuition, and Precepts

Above is a snap of Peter's blog where I got the sound file. It is an image, so the link does not work. 

Transcribed by Lauren Crane around July 2018.

Regarding the transcription:
  • ·       In the following SNS = sympathetic nervous system. PNS = parasympathetic nervous system. ANS = autonomic nervous system. ANSs = autonomic nervous systems [which are the SNS and PNS]… all are spoken out by Nishijima-roshi, I have abbreviated them for convenience.
  • ·       I have attempted to capture some of the flavor of the natural flow of this conversation with various “ahs” “unns” and the like. Not all have been captured.
  • ·       Nishijima-roshi often started speaking with “so da…” which, with my limited exposure to Japanese over many years, I take as a casual thought starter which might more formally be “so desu…”. I do not think it has literal meaning other than a gentle confirmation of what was said, or affirmation of what will be said.
  • ·       I’ve installed some time stamps in brackets throughout so you can locate snips in the tape (sorry... my age is showing. I mean, of course, the sound file).  
  • ·       I’ve also installed some comments in brackets where I had trouble clearly understanding what was being said, or to note vocal effects such as chuckles.
  • ·       Comments in braces {} are my impression of the meaning of what is happening on the tape that is not present as words.

Peter and Nishijima-roshi are discussing a story from chapter 20 in the first volume of the  Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo titled "Kokyō - The Eternal Mirror". In particular this story...

"Great Master Seppō Shinkaku on one occasion preaches to the

assembly, “If you want to understand this matter, my concrete state is like
one face of the eternal mirror. [When] a foreigner comes, a foreigner appears.
[When] a Chinese person comes, a Chinese person appears.”

(the PDF files have been available here)

==== Transcription
G: Okay?

P: Ya 

G: umm.

The story suggests the difference between European civilization and Indian civilization.

And in European civilization the two fundamental philosophies - idealism and materialism - are the ehhh main um symbols, but in the Indian philosophy, Guatama Buddha insists reality exists only, and therefore, Buddhism insists that even though in European civilization people revered two philosophies - idealism and materialism; but in Indian Buddhism they think that transcending two philosophies – idealism and materialism; and should establish only one realism, is Buddha’s saying.

So in such situation, the Shobogenzo Chinese master utilizes the symbol of two mirrors. And when two mirrors have met, two mirrors vanish, and reality exists in front of them, that is the meaning of the story. [2:16]

P: So the mirrors are symbols of ideas, of concepts.

G: ahhhh… yes ...  so da … such mirror is the human intuition.

P: Right. When the two mirrors meet… human intuition vanishes?

G: unh…so da…. vanish… and reality manifests itself.

P: ….

G: So manifesting reality, is the ultimate phase of Buddhist philosophy [2:52]

P: ohhh

G: Therefore, to explain such situation, Chinese Buddhism utilized  two piece of mirrors. [3:10]

P: um um …I see…so at the beginning of the story the master Seppou Shinkaku says uh, if you want to understand the matter … my concrete state is like one face of the eternal mirror. When a foreigner comes, a foreigner appears. When a Chinese person comes, a Chinese person appears.

What does that mean – “when a Foreigner comes a Foreigner appears”?

G: mmm so da…it is the story which symbolizes some kind of philosophical relations so da ….. Chinese master utilizes mirror as the symbol of human intuition and uh…. Two masters have met…. Two masters idea vanishes and only one reality is maintained….

P: So when they meet face to face, they are in reality, that’s the real…..

G: So this is the process of explanation [?]…. So the real situation such kind of intuition vanishes and there is just reality itself. [4:46]

P: This intuition, is it something that we that we can kind of unders … is it something we can understand ourselves and think about … or does it just happen… is it a very natural…

G: So intuition is different from thinking, so da …we should explain such problem on the basis of ANS, and when SNS is stronger, we are skillful to think. Therefore, in that case, we are skillful to consider philosophical problems on the basis of idealism, but when PNS is stronger the people usually be sensitive. In that case, people think philosophical problems on the basis of material world. [5:55]

So da…. we have tendency that when our SNS is stronger we are prone to be spiritual, and if our PNS is stronger, we are prone to be materialistic. So those two states are different from Buddhist situation. In the Buddhist situation, SNS and PNS have the equal strength. In that case, plus minus zero, then we can notice the existence of reality. [6:54]

So European philosophies and Buddhist philosophies should think about utilizing such [unclear – something like “uh… simile”].  So in Euorpean civilization, there is body and mind, but in Indian philosophy, our ANSs are balanced…. so such is described “plus minus zero”, then we can grasp reality directly. [7:41]

So practicing zazen is making our ANS balanced, and then, we can grasp reality directly. So not consideration, not perception, but just sitting, keeping the posture regularly, then we can experience reality itself, directly. That is the practice of zazen. And therefore, practice of zazen is the central importance in Buddhist philosophy.  [8:26]  

P: And what is the relationship, then, between intuition and this balanced state?

G: Ah…so da… when ANS balanced, function of autonomic…[correcting himself] function of SNS and function of PNS become equal, so such situation is like plus minus zero, and such situation of plus minus zero is just the basis of reality. [9:15]

Therefore by practicing zazen, we can utilize practice of zazen, we can live in the reality. The reality is situation of plus minus zero. [9:36]

P: I see. So this situation of plus minus zero, is the same as the situation of reality, of the universe.

G: Yes, yes, that’s it.

P: So we’re in plus minus zero and reality is plus minus zero.

G: Yes, yes. [9:53]

P: And then where does intuition come from? Is that, is that, part of reality [???] does that come from inside each person?

G: Ah, so da…. reality comes {“from” seems implied by not said} the equality between strength of SNS and strength of PNS. [10:14]

P: That’s .. intuition comes….

G: Yes,

P: They’re, they’re…

G: Yes. So intuition is beyond consideration.

P: Right

G: Beyond sense perception.

P: aha

G: ummm

P: And is it an individual thing? Do individuals kind of generate their own intuition, or is it a kind of a universal… ?

G:… therefore in European philosophy, we do not revere intuition, and sometimes we think that intuition is very dangerous. Therefore, before deciding something, we should be more considerable, but Buddhism insists different theory, and true decision comes from our intuition, not from consideration, not from sense perception. [11:25]

When our ANSs are balanced, then we can grasp the truth directly, intuitively. That is the theory of Buddhism. Therefore, Buddhism revere the balanced state, and when our ANSs are balanced, we can reflect the truth intuitively. [11:53]

P: …and we reflect the truth intuitively… the truth exists in reality.

G: Yes.

P: I see.
G: so da…. the universe is truth itself. [12:07]

P: Ah ha…

G: So if we … make identify {perhaps he intended “identical”} our mental wave with the universal wave, we can listen to the universal voice [light chuckle] {my impression is he is amused by this analogy with radio signals}  [12:24]

P: ah ha… great…great… When we do that, can we listen to it kind of consciously? Can we do it in our men[tal]… do we get a mental … can we actually recognize it?

G: Ahhh yes… therefore, sitting spine straight vertically, we are having balanced state of ANS then the wave from the universe come into our body and mind.

P: ah… and where does the wave from the universe… where does that originate.

G: It is fact. [13:02]

P: uh huh… it exists.

G: Universe has such function.

P: I see. Is this… is intuition… prajna… the word prajna… is that separate to the word dharma? You know we talk about the universal law and universal rule. Is…

G: Therefore balanced ANS is the wave of the universe. Therefore when human beings make their ANS balanced, then they can listen to the broadcasting from the universe. [13:52]

P: right.. and the broadcasting from the universe is truth, it’s reality.

G: Yes, yes.

P: well that’s very good, thank you.

G: So the Buddhist philosophy is not belief but philosophical fact. Therefore, I think all human beings should study Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism can never be [unclear] but philosophy itself. [14:25].

Because in the case of Buddhism, that is nothing to believe in. The Buddhist theory is fact itself. Therefore, we should not believe in anything. We should find the existence of Buddhism itself. [14:55]

P: We believe in reality.

G: Yes.
P: …like that…

G: Yes.

P: It’s not that… we don’t believe in a particular idea, we believe in….

G: ah…We do not need to believe any idea [15:12]

P: uh huh…

G: umm

P: I’m sorry.. one last question.. how do the precepts relate to, you know, our intuition?

G: da…. when I want to explain such situation, I usually use very wide pasture. And in the pasture, ox and horse are playing very pleasantly. But if they over the fences, the outside is very dangerous. Therefore, without getting out from the fence, is very important condition to make ox and horses safe. [16:15]

P: right..

G: umm… so precept is such kind of face… fence… therefore we should not get outside of the fence, that is the precepts.

P: I see…. Occasionally there are times when we have to act…sometimes we do something that goes against the words of the precepts.

G: Ah yes…. Therefore, in such case we should come back to the pasture hastily.

P: Hastily…

G: [chuckle] {of amused confirmation}

P:And usually the precepts and the truth in reality they should kind of be… they should … uh conform to each other… they should be…

G: uhh… Precepts is first step. And first having the precepts, but it is rather difficult to follow the precepts. So we make our effort and gradually we will get ability to follow the precepts.

P: I see…

G: So precepts is the first fess… fence…

P: yes…

G: umm. And breaking the precepts is common for human beings. Therefore, we should make our effort to follow the… play… inside the fences. Then we can have freedom, even though we are living on the earth. [18:08]

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