Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A visit with Nishijima Roshi.

I finally got to visit Gudo Wafu Nishijima Roshi in recent days. An amazing man for his 90 years. He asked me to wait at a train station near his home in Tokyo and said he would come to meet me and bring me to his apartment. I was shocked when I saw him, tiny and bent double on his walking stick. I thought he'd be more spritely, given that he was happy to come to meet me. We greeted each other and began the walk to his apartment, which was only a short distance from the station.

He's spritely enough to refuse offers of physical assistance. He wouldn't let me help him on steps, and when we got to the apartment, he busied himself in the kitchen, peeling me an apple and making tea, and he wouldn't let me help with that either. We sat at the kitchen table and chatted about Buddhism for some hours. He listened intently to me giving my understanding of Buddhism for his correction, and he laid out his understanding of Buddhism for me to hear. Regularly he would hold up his hand to stop me talking and say, "Buddhism is not consideration or perception, but action. It is philosophy of action." At first I thought that maybe his age was weighing down on him as he repeated this very often, but in retrospect, I think now that he was merely trying to get it through my thick head and into my brain. Here's my take on what he was telling me.

Consideration alone is unhealthy. It is only brain activity, that's all. The mind and the body are not separate, but one thing. Only when mind and body are working together on the matters of the present moment are we engaged in Buddhist practice. Zazen in the pinnacle of such practice.

He has suggested that I become the student of one of his students. I can see why. He's terrible frail. He's effectively confined to his flat, apart from the odd trip to the shop, which is in itself an extraordinary feat for a man of such frailty. I have accepted his suggestion and look forward to meeting me new teacher with Nishijima Roshi at his apartment some time soon. "You will be the student of my student, " he said to me, "which will make me your grandfather!" He is a remarkable man.


  1. Wonderful news! Nishijima Roshi is indeed a marvellous human being and his teachings are really important for us modern practitioners.

    All the best to you!

  2. How can non-movement be the "pinnacle of such practice"? Maybe the problem lies in the "philosophy of action". It should better be the "realization of action". Otherwise Nishijima would be a koan-teacher: Act but don't move!

    Real buddhism starts when you leave the cushion!

  3. Gui Do, thanks for visiting the blog. I terms of action, zazen is action. It can't be anything else.