With notes on RAW’s Zen training & “Yositani” (see below)…
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RAW’s training in Zen / “Yositani”/Yasutani Roshi
I’ve long been intrigued by RAW’s citations of “Yositani Roshi” regarding Zen, sleep and “enlightenment”. For example:
‘There is nothing special about Enlightenment. You do it every night in your sleep. Zen is just a trick for doing it while awake.’ (‘Yositani Roshi’ quoted by RAW).
– RAW, Coincidance, chapter 1
‘Yositani Roshi, of the Rinzai Zen sect, adds that we all pass through it every night in sleep (during the “vacant” interludes between the four dream or REM periods); the trick is to remain conscious while it is happening. Many, like Dr. Lilly, have several experiences of being there, and getting thrown out by the Guardian Angels, before the crucial experience of learning how to live there.’
– RAW, Serpent Power
My internet searches pretty much drew a blank on “Yositani Roshi” (aside from RAW’s own citations), so I wondered if that spelling resulted from a typo or misheard pronunciation. Yoshitani (with an “h”), perhaps?
But then I read this passage in The Starseed Signals:
‘One day in 1970, shortly before I resigned from Playboy, I had lunch with Alan Watts and his lovely wife, Mary-Jane. I had known Alan off and on since 1957 and his charming expositions of Zen Buddhism, Taoism and Vedanta had led me to occasional bursts of involvement with those disciplines, including several months of training in Za-Zen (sitting Zen meditation) with Yasutani Roshi, the Zen Master who lives in Hawaii but occasionally gives Zen seminars on the mainland.’
– RAW, The Starseed signals
There are plenty of mentions of Yasutani Roshi (Hakuun Yasutani) on the web, even a Wikipedia page – with references to both Rinzai and Sōtō Zen. So I wonder if RAW’s various references to “Yositani” in fact refer to this guy (who, after all, was the one he trained with, according to the passage in The Starseed Signals)? *See Update, below.
Well, regardless of sources and exact spellings of names, the quotes themselves certainly seem worthy of contemplation (or you could just purchase the new tech from our sponsors – I recommend the crypto-currency subscription version, so you can get rich and enlightened in your sleep!). Here are a few more related RAW quotes to intrigue you:-
‘Yositani Roshi, trying to explain the Zen concept of “Buddha-mind” (the closest thing Zen has to a “God”), used to say it is not far away and metaphysical but always right where you are sitting now. “When the room gets cold at night and you pull up the covers without waking, that is Buddha-mind acting,” he said.’
– RAW, Right Where You Are Sitting Now, ‘The Semantics of “God”‘
‘Only the eighth circuit libertarian knows that all the other types are right also, in their own way. Yositani Roshi, a great Zen teacher, used to say it to his students in these words: “You are absolutely perfect just as you are.”‘
– The Noble Eight-Fold Path By Robert Anton Wilson
And the following is from an interview quoted on Facebook (without links or source details – perhaps someone can trace the original interview?):
Robert Anton Wilson: “Yositani Roshi, with whom I studied zen briefly, said there’s nothing special about satori. You do it every night in your sleep. Zen is just a trick for doing it while you are awake. Well you might say that Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are two other tricks for doing it while you are awake.”
Interviewer: “Doing what?”
RAW: “Achieving full recognition of the difference between the map and the territory, or between your subjective evaluations, which you can be sure of in the sense that they’re your own, and objective reality, which you can never be completely sure of. All you can be sure of is your own subjective interpretations of objective reality. You can only fully know the map. You can never fully know the territory. Besides, the territory is changing all the time. Universe is non-simultaneously apprehended.”
*Update (6 July 2021): Prop Anon has confirmed that the Roshi cited by RAW in those quotes about enlightenment and sleep was indeed Hakuun Yasutani.