Sunday, August 3, 2008

73. The Four Abodes of Mindfulness


The Four Abodes of Mindfulness:

1. Mindfulness of the body, as impure,
2. Mindfulness of feeling, as unsatisfactory,
3. Mindfulness of the mind, as impermanent,
4. Mindfulness of the real, as free of self.



Mindfulness of the body as impure: One skin-bag being mindful here and now of his own body is the whole universe in ten directions. Because it is the real body, it is the mindfulness of the body's impurity that springs up and springs out, on the road of looking lively. For those with no spring, mindfulness might be impossible. They might be like zombies, in which case allowing as action might be impossible, expounding as action might be impossible, and being mindful as action might be impossible.

There really is such a thing as being successful in mindfulness: remember, it is success in springing up and springing out. What I have called "successful mindfulness," is everyday actions in grooving shoes -- sweeping the ground and sweeping the floor. Sweeping the ground mindful that it might be any number moon, or sweeping the ground mindful that "That was just the second moon!", we sweep the ground and sweep the floor, and so the whole earth is It.

Being mindful of the body is the body being mindful. That by means of the body's mindfulness something else is mindful, is not it. Being mindful in and of itself is the superlative having arrived.

When body-mindfulness is realizing itself, mental mindfulness is not at all worth groping for -- it is not real.

Thus, mindfulness is vajra-samadhi, diamond constancy, and is surumgama-samadhi, all-conquering stillness. Both of these are mindfulness of the body as impure.

Broadly, seeing a bright star in the middle of the night is called "being mindful of the body, as impure." Relative discussion of purity and defilement is not it. The body which I have, which is my existence, is the very negation of purity. This real body is just the negation of purity.

Learning in practice like this is, when demon becomes buddha, getting a grip on the demon in order to beat the demon and become buddha. It is, when buddha becomes buddha, getting a grip on buddha in order to form a conception of buddha and become buddha. It is, when a human being becomes buddha, getting a grip of being human in order to retune the human being and become buddha. We must get to the bottom of the truth that a way through exists just at the place where a grip is got.

It is like, for example, the washing of clothes. Water is dirtied by the clothes, and the clothes are permeated by the water. You use this water to wash with, and you replace this water and wash, but it is all still the using of water, and is all still the washing of clothes. During the first wash and the second wash, if in your view something remains not cleansed, do not hang around doing nothing!

When all the water is used up, carry on with other water. Even if the clothes are clean, carry on washing them. For water, all sorts of water can be used -- all sorts are good for washing clothes. We can investigate the truth that if the water is impure there might be fish in it.

As for clothes, all sorts of clothes need washing.

Working it out like this, we are realizing the universal law of laundry. At the same time, we are seeing into cleansing -- the point being this: our original purpose is not always to wet clothes with water, and our original purpose is not to dirty water with clothes; rather, it is in using dirty water to wash clothes that the original purpose of washing clothes exists.

Going further, there are methods of washing clothes and washing other objects, by using fire, wind, earth, water and space. And there are methods of washing and cleansing earth, water, fire, wind and space using earth, water, fire, wind and space.

The point of being mindful of the body, as impure, is also like this.

Thus, the body in its entirety, the mindfulness in its entirety, and the impurity in its entirety, are just the dull red robe that our mothers bore. If a Buddhist robe were other than the dull red robe their mothers bore, buddha-ancestors would never wear it -- how could Sanavasa be the only one? We should dwell mindfully on this principle of enlightenment, learning it in practice and getting right to the bottom of it.



Mindfulness of feeling as unsatisfactory: Suffering, dukha, dis-ease, pain, bitterness, hardship, trouble, dissatisfaction... is a feeling. That it is the independent subject feeling, is not it. That it is objective feeling, is not it. That it is feeling as something that exists, is not it. That it is feeling as what does not exist, is not it. It is the living body feeling. It is the living body suffering. It means sweet ripe melons being replaced by bitter gourds. This is bitter to the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, and bitter to the conscious mind, the unconscious mind, and so on. This is the practice and the experience of a mystical power that is a cut above -- a mystical power that springs out from the entire stem and springs out from the whole root. Thus, "It has been said that living beings suffer. Yet what actually exist are suffering living beings." That living beings are self is not it. That living beings are the other is not it. What actually exists is suffering living beings. In the end, it is impossible to deceive others. Sweet melons are sweet through to their stems. Bitter gourds are bitter through to their roots. And yet it is not easy to grope what is this bitterness, this dukha, dis-ease, dissatisfaction. We should ask ourselves: what is this dissatisfaction?



Mindfulness of the mind as impermanent: The Old Buddha Daikan Eno says, "Impermanence is the Buddha-nature." So impermanence, changeability, as understood by various types, is in every case the essence of the Awakened -- the Buddha-nature. Great Master Yoka Genkaku says, "Actions are impermanent; all is empty. Just this is the great and round awakening of the Thus-Come." Mindfulness of the mind, as impermanence, is just the great and round awakening of the Thus-Come and is the Thus-Come himself, greatly and roundly awakened. The mind -- citta, heart, thinking, intention -- even if it intends not to be mindful, follows the external world completely; therefore where the mind is, there also is mindfulness. Broadly, arrival at the unsurpassed awakening of the Buddha, realization of the supreme integral truth of full enlightenment, is just impermanence, just changeability, and is mindfulness of the mind. That the mind is constant and unchanging, is not necessarily it. Because they are far removed from the four lines and beyond the hundred negations, fences, walls, tiles and pebbles, and stones large and small, are the mind, are impermanence, and are mindfulness itself.



Mindfulness of the real, as free of self: The tall, realized in Sitting, are the Real Long Body. The short, realized in sitting, are the Real Short Body. It is thinking in activity which, because it is real, is free of the small self -- free of I, me, mine; free of the expectant, grasping, manipulating subject. A dog as the Buddha-nature is negation, a bit of nothing, freedom, absence. A dog as the Buddha-nature is affirmation, something, existence, presence. All living beings, as bits of nothing, are the Buddha-nature. All instances of the Buddha-nature, being freedom, are living beings. All the buddhas, being nobody, having nothing, are buddhas. All instances of the Buddha-nature, as freedom, are the Buddha-nature. All living beings, bereft of all and lacking nought, are living beings. Because it is like this, we study all real things as being, without anything, all real things, and we learn this in practice as mindfulness of the real, bereft of me. Remember, it is to spring out from the whole body of self-entanglement.



Sakyamuni Buddha says, "All buddhas and bodhisattvas, those who are awakened in the truth and those who are of it, will be forever at ease in this teaching, treating it is a sacred womb."

So the buddhas and bodhisattvas have each treated these four abodes of mindfulness as a sacred womb. Remember, they are a sacred womb for the balanced awareness of bodhisattvas in the penultimate stage before the full awakening of buddha, and they are a sacred womb for the subtle awareness of bodhisattvas in the ultimate stage before the full awakening of buddha. We have it in these words already: "All buddhas and bodhisattvas." How could those in the stage of subtle awareness not be included? Even the buddhas themselves treat these four abodes as a sacred womb. And bodhisattvas who have transcended stages prior to balanced awareness or beyond subtle awareness also treat these four abodes of mindfulness as a sacred womb. Truly, the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow of the buddhas and the ancestors are nothing but the four abodes of mindfulness.







---------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Translated end of July 2008 during a spell by the forest in France, inspired by re-reading "bodhinyana, teachings of Ven. Ajahn Chah," and mindful of Marjory Barlow's exhortation that our practice of mindfulness -- or whatever else we choose to call it -- "has to be REAL."


By the forest stream
Thirstily
A loser sits
Drinking sound.

11 comments:

Plato said...

Hi Mike!

I would like to ask you how do you understand Marjorie's exhortation that our practice of mindfullness has to be real?

thank you for your time!

Plato

Mike Cross said...

Hi Plato,

Marjory used to say that, in her own practice, "I think of doing nothing, and then ask myself: What kind of nothing am I doing?"

Marjory was keenly aware of the gap between realism -- a view to which I can subscribe, joining if I wish the club of like-minded subscribers -- and what is truly real.

What is truly real has got nothing to do with me. What is truly real has got nothing to do with me and my doing -- except that I can investigate, as an individual, how me and my doing get in the way. I can investigate the roots of this self-entanglement.

I can investigate this, for example, in Marjory's game of moving a leg, which I wrote up at the end of my Fukan-zazengi blog.

Marjory demonstrated how, in the game of giving up the idea of moving a leg and yet moving it, a person can learn -- primarily through the inhibition of old, unconscious, reflex patterns ("doing") -- to move a leg more mindfully, more freely, less as a slave of habit.

What often happens in this field of endeavor, however, is that the student turns himself into a kind of zombie -- a zombie of false, over-careful mindfulness. But in that case, does it make sense to put the blame on the word "mindfulness"? Is there some other word -- consciousness, attention, awareness -- whose use will prevent the student going down the zombie route?

I don't think so. The problem is not in the word; the problem is in our unconscious reaction to the word. So in the end the truest, most brilliant translation in the world, even if I could do it, would not hit the target for the reader. Even if there were such a thing as "the definitive translation," even that definitive translation would be no guarantee against the reader giving himself a carefulness headache; even that definitive translation would not be able to convey Marjory's essence, the Buddha-nature. The Buddha-nature is nothing that can ever be read from the printed page. Besides, even if it revealed itself to me yesterday, that is no guarantee that it will be revealed to me again today. Everybody, as an individual, time by time, has to ask the question for themselves: "What kind of nothing am I doing?"

Even if I succeed in stopping the bits of doing that I know about, still there may be a lot of doing that I do not know about -- unconscious reactions to disappointment of long buried expectations, and the like.

Another Alexander teacher who devoted his life to dogged pursuit of what was truly real was my Alexander head of training, Ray Evans. Ray drew our attention to the importance of the four main vestibular reflexes:
(1) The Moro Reflex, which is at the root of the body-energy being tainted by fear and faulty sensory appreciation, the body-energy being corrupted from the vestibular root of panic and imbalance -- and hence the body-energy being impure, not clear, unenlightened, reactive, base.
(2) The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex, which is also strongly implicated with the trouble of unreliable sensory appreciation.
(3) The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, or pointing reflex, which underlies human intention and communication, as a baby pointing to and saying what it wants.
(4) The Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, immaturity of which makes for an immature person with monkey-like tendencies -- one who is not yet liberated from the small view of I, me, mine.

Gautama Buddha, as a human being, must also have had these four vestibular reflexes. Perhaps they were the four underlying foundations of the practice he recommended regressing to as a sacred womb, the practice that was called in Sanskrit "smrti" -- calling to mind, thinking of, being mindful of.

Experience of the true reality of Sitting, in the end, may be dependent on an unbroken flow up along the spine. Perhaps we can say that it is a spontaneous flow not broken by unconscious dis-integrative reactions stemming from aberrance of the four primitive reflexes. In that case, as with all spontaneous flows, once it has got going it does not need any extra energy input from little me. So my job then might be not to do it, but rather to get out of its way, to allow it.

Easier said than done.

Nelly Ben-Or, taught me hundreds or thousands of times, whenever I would manifest in tightening wrists the small-scale intention to be the one who knows, the one in charge, not the allower but the doer: "No, it is not that."

Again, "I am nobody," Marjory Barlow once said to me, "Who are you?"

Harry said...

"What often happens in this field of endeavor, however, is that the student turns himself into a kind of zombie -- a zombie of false, over-careful mindfulness. But in that case, does it make sense to put the blame on the word "mindfulness"? Is there some other word -- consciousness, attention, awareness -- whose use will prevent the student going down the zombie route?"

Very good point I think, Mike.

But don't you agree that the term 'mindfulness' strongly suggests some function of the mind (as opposed to the body or mind/body) and that this may cause an assumption that we must do something with a 'focused mind'?

Regards,

Harry.

Mike Cross said...

Hello Harry,

Yes, I agree that 'mindfulness' suggests work along the lines of what FM Alexander called "the most mental thing there is," as opposed to the coarse, unconscious, habitual, reflex, functioning of the body, which tends to react blindly, out of greed, anger/fear, et cetera, to the stimuli that arise within and without.

Remember, Master Dogen said "There is mental sitting that is different from physical sitting, and there is physical sitting that is different from mental sitting."

In other words, there is mindful sitting as opposed to physical sitting, and physical sitting as opposed to mindful sitting.

If body and mind dropping off is a spontaneous flow, as predicted by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, then mindful sitting, on the basis of thinking, and physical sitting, on the basis of feeling, can be understood as effort, from opposing sides, to overcome those activation energy barriers which are preventing spontaneous flow from getting going.

Master Dogen's teaching in regard to Sitting as body and mind dropping off, especially in Shobogenzo Chapter 72 with which I began this blog, is conspicuously not one-sided. That teaching, namely, is: bodily to sit; mindfully to sit; and, body and mind dropping off, to sit.

The prejudice against the mental side which you expressed to Nishijima Sensei on his blog is in accordance with his own prejudice, and so he affirmed that prejudice. That is generally how it is among like-minded people, isn't it? Tories vs Lefties, Conservatives vs Liberals, Zen Buddhists vs Theravadins, Sunnis vs Shias, Soto vs Rinzai, et cetera, et cetera, get together mindlessly for a good old group-think and bask in the warm glow of affirmation of each other's prejudices.

So pay no money, but take your choice:

Nishijima Sensei seemed to tell you: Yes, Harry, your view on so-called 'mindfulness' is important and true.

But I am telling you: No, Harry, the view on mindfulness that you have expressed is just a view. The assumption to eliminate is not out there in others' wrong understanding around mindfulness. The assumption that concerns you is in you.

Hence:

Not doing any evil,
Allowing what is good,
CLEANSING YOUR OWN THINKING
This is the teaching of the buddhas.

Or again:

The relinquishing of all views,
Was the true Sitting he demonstrated,
Through compassionate means.
I bow to him: Gautama

The relinquishing of all prejudices,
Was the true Sitting he demonstrated,
Through compassionate means.
I bow to him: Nagarjuna

The dropping off of all assumptions,
Was the true Sitting he demonstrated,
Through compassionate means.
I bow to him: Dogen

The giving up of all my own ideas,
Was the Use of the Self she demonstrated,
Through compassionate means.
I bow to her: Marjory

Harry said...

Mike,

So I get a little fuzzy feeling from being validated by the Old Master.

Big Fucking Deal!

Do you think my life revolves around that? Will it destroy my practice (where it doesn't really feature)? Or the rest of my life (where it doesn't really feature)?

Of course you may have other motives to denounce my innocent little fuzzy feeling.

Don't worry, Mike. I don't inhabit a world of unreal absolutes. I don't sit Soto Zen, I don't sit Crossism, I don't sit little warm fuzzy feelings... not for very long anyaway.

Regards to you and yours,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

thirstily sits drinking
or
sits thirstily drinking
?

Harry said...

BTW, Mike.

Did you (like so many others) miss the point that Nishijima Roshi did not criticise 'mindfulness' in terms of 'mental sitting' but in terms of 'mindfulness' as an idealistic philosophy?

What did this mistake affirm for you?

With Regards,

Harry.

Mike Cross said...

Even into the Treasury of the Buddha's Truth, Harry Bradley tramps with his dirty boots on.

I would like to ask you in future to take your boots off before coming in to this blog -- in other words, cut out the swearing.

Sakyamuni Buddha's account of his past lives suggests the principle that there can be merit in serving offerings to buddhas, even if the service is done wanting to get something for myself -- something like the validation of an Old Master.

So the important thing might be just to keep on serving the buddhas, regardless of whether it is U-SHOTOKU, wanting to get something, or MU-SHOTOKU, not wanting to get anything.

Still, when the Buddha-nature is really nothing, what is there to validate?

Jordan said...

I have been known to occasionally sit little warm and fuzzy feelings. I think it is preferable to sitting cold and prickly feelings.

Reading the original post and even the comments section, also validated my own warm and fuzzy feelings.

I find myself feeling grateful for everything.
So thanks guys.
Jordan

Ted Biringer said...

Hello Mike,
Thank you for your continued sharing! This is great!

I especially love:

"Being mindful of the body is the body being mindful. That by means of the body's mindfulness something else is mindful, is not it. Being mindful in and of itself is the superlative having arrived."

It reminds me of a passage from another translation of yours:

"Master Ekaku of Roya, [titled] Great Master Kosho, is a distant descendant of Nangaku. One day Shisen, a lecturer of a philosophical sect, asks him, “How does pure essentiality suddenly give rise to mountains, rivers, and the Earth?” Questioned thus, the Master preaches, “How does pure essentiality suddenly give rise to mountains, rivers, and the Earth?” We are told not to confuse mountains, rivers, and the Earth which are just pure essentiality, with “mountains, rivers and the Earth.” However, because the teacher of sutras has never heard this, even in a dream, he does not know mountains, rivers, and the Earth as mountains, rivers, and the Earth."
Shobogenzo, Keisei-sanshiki (Voices of the River-Valley and the Form of the Mountains)
Translated by: Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Yes, yes...

Thanks again.
Gassho,
Ted Biringer

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Jordan, Ted.

"Being mindful of the body is the body being mindful."

The point for us to understand, I think, is that when a monk in sitting knows a long breath as long and knows a short breath as short, the knowing can be a function of the whole body -- not only the top two inches, not only the autonomic nervous system, et cetera.

I hope that my translation efforts still qualify as a kind of service to the buddhas.