2004.05.04-serial.00026

00:00
00:00
Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

Serial: 
EB-00026
Photos: 
Transcript: 

how's it going well here we are again this afternoon I'm remembering when fairly early on when I was the head cook here you know nowadays you need to devote yourself for several years to be the head cook but when I became head cook I had been cooking for two and a half months and practicing Zen for two years things were different in those days and we didn't have a lot of rules so I probably wouldn't you know if I came to Zen Center now I probably wouldn't like last long and I think I probably

[01:05]

survived Zen practice because I was working in the kitchen rather than meditating all the time I'm not sure meditation is you know that great a thing to be doing but you know that's a that's another subject I mean you know endlessly sitting there waiting for the biggie thank you thank you anyway when and when I because when and because when I would go and sit I am I had a lot of involuntary movements nowadays people seem to just go there and they just sit and I would sit down and people tell me you could stop that if you wanted to and and you're just doing that to get attention and you know they tell me all kinds of things you know because people like to fix you and everybody else always knows better about how to be you than you do take your own

[02:11]

advice so it's very challenging for me to sit very much and in fact the first Tangaria we had you know Tangaria is when before practice periods new students are asked to sit all day in the meditation hall with a little break after meals with no periods of meditation but just to sit there and now before practice period is five days before the first practice period in 1967 we did three days and I worked two days in the kitchen so I got in but the night before the first time Gary I know a number of people have been here living here and the first practice period was July and August of 1967 and a number of people have been living here in May and June and then the night before the first Tangaria a dozen people up the road we're not ready to sit for three days to

[03:11]

in order to go on staying here and then there was one person who sat three days in full lotus and then left the day after we're not quite sure what he figured out so I suppose you could say that I am you know figured some things out over the years so I can sit still now anyway that's a different talk anyway I was remembering so when I worked in the kitchen and I was you know I was 22 or 23 years old and I was the boss so I was a little bit like that 18 year old who was running for mayor of Mill Valley a year or two back and he said hire me while I still know everything so I was kind of

[04:20]

like that is that and I thought my job was to tell people what to do and that their job was to do what I told them and somehow and I thought that was Zen you know Zen is doing what I tell you to and I'm not the only one who's thought this you know we also had Zen teachers who said that you're doing what I tell you is how you give up yourself you know you give up yourself by doing what I tell you so I wasn't the only one only I wasn't authorized to be in that position the way that some people are called teachers in this position so after a while after several months and I noticed people would talk a lot during kitchen and usually when people talking in the kitchen they would their hands would stop moving most people cannot keep their hands moving while they're

[05:20]

talking not with the same focus so and also people took very long bathroom breaks sometimes sometimes they came to work late sometimes people just disappeared for a while who knows and I was pretty frustrated so I finally went to see Suzuka and I told him that I asked him you know I would really I'd like your help on how to work with people in the kitchen and you know I'm you told me to wash the rice when you wash the rice and cut the carrots when you cut the carrots and stir the soup and you stir the soup and all these people working with me don't seem to be doing that and I'm wondering how to get them to actually practice then wouldn't that be good and I somehow thought it was up to me maybe to make them do it how could I get them to do what they should

[06:21]

be doing and I told him that people were talking when they came to work you know people talk about their dreams here we're not going out to the movies so people can't say I saw this movie they say I had this dream last night and and that they were taking long bathroom breaks and that they you know they were talking in the kitchen and they came to work late and they didn't seem to be particularly focused or attentive or concentrated or absorbed in what they were doing what should I do and he'd been sitting there listening very carefully and kind of nodding his head I think I had sort of the idea yeah you can't get good help these days can you isn't it a shame and then he was quiet for a moment and he said if you want to see virtue you'll have to have a calm mind and that that kind of stopped me I mean I thought to myself wait a minute that's not what I asked you how do you do that how do you see virtue and in

[07:26]

others so I started trying to study that and when I would find something amiss in some in what somebody was doing I would try to see also some virtue in who they were sometimes the the climax for this was the day that somebody went to get 16 or 18 cups of beans and and I and I would just forget and then you know like a half hour later like wait a minute he went to get 16 cups of beans he's not back yet and I went out to what was our store room and then and he was there like checking each bean to make sure it was a bean and I thought well I guess he's being thorough and very careful and conscientious and I then endeavored to

[08:26]

explain other ways to be thorough and careful and conscientious that didn't take so long like we do now put the beans out on a plate and look at the plate and another plate something but this thing this is a fairly important kind of question or issue this morning when we were we were cutting vegetables so we had a good time with the radishes there's something very charming about radishes they're they're red and they're they're kind of like these little jewels that you get out of the ground and they're plump and they're round so they're kind of friendly and kind of cheerful and they have a little crunch a little bite to them and and it's very it's not so a it's fairly common to serve like well they're just radishes they're just it's just a little something you put in a salad and we sort of we're not always sort of ready to appreciate the

[09:27]

virtue of radishes so this morning we were appreciating the virtue of radishes and we cut them three different ways and we're tasting them and then we put them with orange and basil and we we wanted to allow the radishes to as Dogen says let things come home to your heart let your heart go out and abide in things that things come and abide in your heart and you know can we actually receive the blessings of our life and we're you know because our tendency is like something has to be really special before it's going to touch us and this isn't a matter of you know efforting or it's interesting as Suzuki said if you want to see virtue you have to have a calm mind and yet there's no way to sort of exactly like how do I how do I do a calm mind because many people have pointed out that a calm mind is not something you can do it's not something you can

[10:29]

make happen it's not something you can manufacture as soon as you go and manufacture something that's not that's not calm anymore I was sort of joking with people in the kitchen this morning that's like you tell your mind now that we're going to be calm now and it's kind of like talking to a two-year-old or a three-year-old right so how do you how are we going to do that you know so you could also say if you want to have a calm mind why don't you practice same virtue works the other way around too Dogen says for instance about the mind of realization that this is not something you can manufacture or establish make happen and in fact he says it's not even something that you can discriminate this is a calm mind in

[11:29]

this one isn't how do you even recognize which is which the mind of realization well so I found this an ongoing sort of study for me to see virtue both in myself and in others how do I do that it's sometimes quite challenging and also then to see virtue in food so I I feel like I might I think that the you know the cook and Dogen says this in the Tenzo Kiyokan if you you know to handle the food carefully and respectfully and take care of it and make a sincere effort and when the cook appreciates the food you have to appreciate something enough to offer it to others for their appreciation and if you don't appreciate it then it's hard to offer it and then you think well this

[12:30]

isn't good enough or special enough or how can I offer something like this and so then we're all a little bit in that situation am I good enough but my special enough in front of everybody else to be in front of everybody what are they going to think of me and is there some way I could just be sincerely who I am and I could appreciate the virtue in that rather than I have to be special I have to be different I have to perform well I have to do things right in order to get recognition in order to be valued in order to have virtue so this is our usual thinking so Dogen says don't when you're in the kitchen he says don't see with ordinary eyes don't think with ordinary mind so that's the way ordinary eyes and ordinary mind works you know we compare ourselves to others we compare one thing to another thing some things are good some things are bad some things are better some things are worse am I good enough but my special

[13:33]

enough is this so we're busy doing this and so the suggestion in Dogen's instructions the cook is make an honest effort or sincere a sincere effort or you know in a certain sense way sense and be sincere and that being sincere is another way of appreciating virtue in that sense okay so I want to talk a little bit about sincerity one day we were having tea with Suzuki Roshi and someone said Suzuki Roshi why haven't you enlightened me yet I think myself and you know a number of other people there kind of had this kind of reaction who did they think Suzuki Roshi is who did they think they are what what were they thinking he

[14:33]

would do and there's a little tone in that of are you singling me out for some reason to not enlighten me while you're doing that you're enlightening others and not me or there's a little bit of you know I thought I'm doing pretty well and I deserve to have you enlighten me but you don't seem to have done it yet anyway there's a there was several ways you could take that not very well or Steve is not being very respectful of Suzuki Roshi when his son came here one time with all the Abbots from the sub temples 16 of them it turned out there weren't enough places at two of our eight seat tables because nobody sat next to him that was how you respected him just sort of funny for us you know like would you sit next to him and but no they're sort of like leave some space there so anyway Suzuki Roshi said I'm making my best effort and you know as I think

[15:39]

about that now I think he's sure knew when to stop he didn't say I'm making my best effort how about you are you sure you are so I appreciate that very much I'm making my best effort and it's just a way of you know and then in a certain sense no understandings and everybody is making their best effort and this is very hard to see and it's very hard then to appreciate and this isn't this is seen with not seen with ordinary eyes and not seen with ordinary mind so one of my favorite stories in cook a cucumber but Suzuki Roshi is when David Chadwick I was the head of the kitchen David was the head of the dining room and David's way of doing the dining room is unlike the way anybody else has ever done it he would wander around Tassajar in the afternoon and get to talking to

[16:43]

people and then he'd say you know I'm gonna go set up the dining room now why don't you come with me so he kind of would be recruiting his own crew we were very understaffed he would kind of wander around Tassajar and meet people and kind of get them to come over and set the dining room with him while they went on visiting and then somewhere through dinner he'd be sitting down drinking wine with them and then at some point he'd be going back to their cabin and drinking scotch and brandy with them and being up until one or two in the morning and then he wouldn't necessarily get to Zazen at 5.50 and you know nowadays this would never be tolerated never and and maybe that's all for the better and one morning we then after breakfast in the morning with some of us would have tea with Zuckers you know the officers of the monastery so David is head of the dining room I was invited to go to that but I very rarely did because I was just too busy and there's the director and the work leader and people would go after breakfast to have tea with Suzuki Rishi and we'd have tea and then he

[17:44]

would talk and then he would say and is there anything you would like to bring up and the director said David's sitting there having missed morning Zazen morning service morning breakfast and just gotten up in time to get to the meeting the tea with Suzuki Rishi and probably you know you can still smell the alcohol so the director says Suzuki Rishi what do we do with somebody who is always breaking the rules and Suzuki Rishi said well hmm and well you know everybody's making their best effort but Suzuki Rishi flagrantly breaking the rules flagrantly and over and over again and Suzuki Rishi said well it's it's better if they break the rules in the open rather than hiding it from us and but Suzuki Rishi shouldn't we do something he's breaking the rules and Suzuki Rishi said well sometimes people are following the spirit of the rules

[18:46]

even though they're not following the rules to the letter and the director said well wouldn't it be better if you follow the letter of the rules as well as the spirit and Suzuki Rishi said yes that would be best and you know both these people are still disciples were both disciples of Suzuki Rishi's but David Chadwick is the one who spent years of his life accumulating the stories about Suzuki Rishi and putting in the biography and and single-handedly basically saw to it that all the Suzuki Rishi's lectures were put on reel-to-reel tapes from these little tapes there on these little machines and set up the whole Suzuki Rishi archive and or his energy is what made all that happen so what's a good student you know who has virtue nobody else was interested in

[19:48]

doing that and David very clearly loved Suzuki Rishi and you know spent years doing that collecting the stories seeing that the tapes are preserved setting up you know saying that there's you know money is raised to have the tapes transcribed all the tapes finally were re-transcribed so you know there's Suzuki Rishi saw something in David which is different than what other people saw other people saw somebody who is not following the rules not doing what he's supposed to do and didn't see you know David's heart so the other thing that's interesting to me about you know I'm making my best effort is that making your so-called best effort and this is a kind of Japanese Zen expression is not about you know the results it's that you just give your you

[20:52]

give your attention to something and you work at it and you spend time with it and and something happens you you you it's like doing it's doing like doing meditation it's not like oh and then people say well how was your meditation oh it was great I was so concentrated well it's about the same whether you're concentrated or not I mean you he just put in your time you spend time with yourself and sometimes spending time with yourself is spending time with somebody who's upset or distracted or confused and sometimes spending time with yourself you're somebody who's kind of happy or content or you know focused or you know and that's the way it goes there's no way to sort of say well I want to produce a magnificent experience moment after moment and that will show what how great I am and how good I am at this practice no we're just hanging out with somebody who's me who's making my best effort I'm doing what I can I'm you know here I am and you know something happens so the the aspect of

[22:04]

sincerity as I was mentioned the other day some of you sincerity actually comes in English comes from the root s-i-n is without like sans in French and sere is wax it's without wax and the wax is what you can use to fill in the little wrinkles and the cover in the little blemishes and cover over everything so actually to not be sincere is to hide is to hide behind your front ear you know your your presentation and you present yourself a certain way but then you're actually hiding behind that and to be sincere is the wrinkles show the blemishes you know your difficulty is revealed so we're in this unusual business of revealing how difficult it is for me to be me how difficult it is to do my work you know to meditate and well as I do things my goodness you know

[23:05]

there's there's these problems there's these wrinkles it's not working out quite the way I want or would have liked you know I'm not doing as good a presentation or a show of things as I might so I very much and partly you know for me you know I'm somebody who sat there in Zazen and and there were all these people sitting Zazen so there's always been you know people who are better than me or they look better they look better at doing at being Zen and I don't think you know I have a very good you know presentation that way you know so I've had to kind of just go ahead and be me and go ahead and be sincere and and let people see my wrinkles because I've just never been very good at you know at covering them over at being Zen if you have a question I can

[24:11]

clarify it for you and I'm not going to clarify much of anything for you anyway and then you know to me like radishes or vegetables or food food is very sincere already it's sincerely you know what it is and radishes don't go like why can't I be an eggplant I'd rather be purple on you know and they're just radishes and they're happy to be radishes they're very sincerely radishes they're honestly radishes and carrots are you know truly carrots and we're and the idea here is to appreciate something for being exactly what it is and that's valuing the difference and and we have the sort of sense that varying the difference is also appreciating the the sameness or the way that each thing is so completely what it is and that completely what it is is you know beyond our you know

[25:16]

beyond the differences that somehow that completeness or that it's something we taste or appreciate the virtue of something carefully enough and then it's like Roka says this comes from far away this is something from beyond when we appreciate round apples smooth banana melon gooseberry peach how all this effluent speaks life and death in the mouth I sense observe it in a child's transparent features while he tastes this comes from far away that's the virtue of something and it's the the preciousness of something is preciousness is something being exactly what it is with all of its pluses and minus you know virtue and problems and and not that we only appreciate the preciousness of something when it's magnificent and the problem because the

[26:19]

problem is when when is it ever magnificent enough so one of my favorite stories is that simple story about the two monks who are walking along and one says this is the summit of the mystic peak and the other one says so what do you say you know is this the summit of mystic peak or are you headed for some other place at this point it would be better than here and more lofty and the other monk says yes indeed isn't it a pity I figure that's dry Zen humor you know isn't it a pity that this is the height of our life being here and with this body and this mind and these problems and issues and confusions and difficulty and fatigue and can you know whatever feelings thoughts discouragement encouragement you know and this is the summit of the mystic

[27:24]

peak and the commentary about that story of course says a lot of people lose their heads trying to get to the summit oh I gotta gotta do this better I gotta you know I've got to straighten out my mind I've got to you know get these people to shape up and I have to make better food and whatever you know and then I would be someplace and the wonderful story about this is that also in the commentary it says that a monk asked Zhao Zhou and Zhao Zhou he knows is one of his he was so so to speak known to be remarkable with his speech that it said the golden light came out of his mouth when he talked so I don't know if that's metaphorically or you know literally but this is what they say I don't know Chinese culture enough to know but a monk asked Zhao Zhou how do I get to the summit of the mystic peak and Zhao Zhou says I won't tell you of course the

[28:29]

monk wants to know why not like we might ask you know why won't you tell me why haven't you enlightened me yet and Zhao Zhou says if I told you you would go on thinking that you were still on level ground so this is our sense that we're not we haven't arrived yet so Zen is we're practicing like this is we've arrived this moment we're arriving we're at the summit let's let's see how virtuous things look and let's appreciate radishes and let's appreciate our sincerity and let's appreciate people's presence in their lives and let's appreciate people's sincere effort and let's see if we can encourage one another you know in that way and let's see if we can share the virtue of radishes with one another and lettuces and tomatoes and let them be tomatoes

[29:33]

and that you know it's a tomato and we could can we appreciate it and sometimes you know we think well we need to do something to make the tomatoes worth serving you know we're we're involved in doing something often to make it better or somehow make it good enough so the the sensibility at some point I mean and I and I have a I have a certain feeling for this you know I think it's nice to use some seasonings and things and at the same time I want something to be what it is and here try this I think it's pretty nice so hmm I think this is about what I wanted to talk about this afternoon and

[30:45]

so again you know where we're not studying how it relate to how to have a special experience or create our a special experience we're studying how to experience things closely experience our experience closely and and it's not like any of us need to manufacture or produce special experiences we're more interested in just experience things closely enough and that experiencing closely enough is to see things clearly to see things as they are and we get confused with that thinking that's about our performance thinking about how people see us thinking about how whether something's good enough so seeing not seen with ordinary eyes not thinking with ordinary mind is to be out of that realm and into then and Dogen says you let things come home to your heart let your heart respond to things let things come and abide in your heart let your heart abide in things so thank you very much and some of you if some of you need to go that's fine

[32:00]

I'm happy to spend a few more minutes if you have any questions or comments or further interests are sort of around this subject or others perhaps it wasn't I know it wasn't one of the stories that something that really interested me was the idea that I think what you said was accurate public not so much people break them privately most people know they're breaking them but nonetheless it's very private now I was wondering do you really think it's better to break them publicly this you know this partly has to do I think with

[33:07]

you know who the abbot is who's who they you know the spirit of the place but the the idea there is that when you do things privately other people don't have a chance to relate to you about it and so the curious you said why don't you just be yourself then I may have some suggestion for you because then if I know you and meet you I can work with you and if you're not letting me know who you are actually you know I can't I don't know what to suggest so it's in a particular context and this is a very interesting point because you're also reminding me of that when you know when Suzuki when Tatsugami Roshi came it was

[34:11]

the fall of 1969 I mean it was 1970 67 68 69 the fall of 69 I think and he was this Zen teacher from Japan and he instituted the monastic system here which we hadn't had up until that point so all of a sudden there was a Zendo police you know there was going to be somebody if you weren't at meditation somebody was going to come looking for you before that we didn't have a Zendo police and at one point during that fall we had a problem with people taking food from the kitchen so there was a meeting with Tatsugami Roshi and people said you know people are taking food from the kitchen and from the storerooms and and what are we going to do about it and how do we get people to stop doing that and he said why don't you take the locks off your minds and put them on the doors and because we were thinking that well now what you do is you get people to

[35:17]

behave differently by by some kind of mechanism to get them to do something differently and he said no if you have locks on the doors then you don't need to get them to do anything one way or another that only worked out for a very short time because you know where we tended to be in those days this is the 60s still we tended to be a group that practiced a fair amount of civil disobedience so as soon as the locks were unlocked so somebody get in the storeroom other people would come by and take the unlock lock and throw it into the creek eventually you know this led to the backdoor cafe you know having food out that is available to people when they would like to snack so they don't have to so it doesn't have to be taking something isn't given something is given to them for them to take and up until then we sort of had overly high expectations but anyway it's a kind of interesting point too because on the

[36:24]

whole Zen practice and what the way that we do things here kind of depends on people following the rules and if people on the whole follow the rules we know what to do with them or we think that this is working and for the people who don't follow the rules we say I'm sorry but you're not following the rules you're going to have to leave so we're not anymore very good at working with people who aren't at least at an obvious exterior level we're not very good with those people who aren't following the rules or how to work with them or how to talk with them or what to do with them but this is also related then to how do you how do you manifest yourself or express yourself and one style is and many of us do and especially spiritual people have some tendency to do is I'm not going to reveal that much about me because the less I reveal the less likely it is that I will reveal something that's a blemish and that will be a problem for other people that they will criticize me about so I'm

[37:26]

going to kind of keep to myself and I'm not going to say much and I'm and I'm going to be careful and so then and then people wonder like how to communicate and then somebody else is doing something that bothers them and they have not a clue how do you talk to that person they have not much practice at it because you've been following the rules and doing what you're supposed to do and then somebody else does something and and and you have no practice at talking you have no practice at expressing yourself so the only way really to develop at something like communication people sort of think if I meditate long enough then somehow when I go to talk it's going to be really good but actually the way that the way to develop in terms of how do you converse or how do you interact with somebody verbally is you practice it and you study and then you see like well in a certain sense I broke the rules there and now they're you know or I did something that and I and I watch and observe how my speech

[38:30]

you know impacts others and do I and so I'm in a certain sense making mistakes and by making mistakes I can actually then adjust my effort and and notice what I'm doing and try something else next time and I keep thinking about it and over a period of time I learned something about how to do this so there's a certain value in going ahead and doing things outwardly that aren't working and studying by doing that how to adjust your effort this is what I'm going to teach in knife sharpening you could look what you're doing and if you're doing it in mistaken fashion you adjust it whereas if you're not going to make any mistake at all you're not going to sharpen a knife or if you think you can only going to do something that you're only going to do the things that you can do really well well can't do that can't do that pretty soon you're you're taking away your opportunity to actually grow and develop and and learn new skills I love the story too about Quan Yin how Quan Yin got 11 heads

[39:36]

because you know there's some Quan Yin's that have 11 heads sometimes they go up vertically and sometimes they're two or three rows around this way and the story is that Quan Yin who's the bodhisattva of compassion decided one day to go to hell and save all the beings there now is this a good idea or not so she worked very hard people in hell are not very receptive that's part of why they're in hell and they they've been betrayed before they've been abandoned you know they don't have a lot of trust there's some other place that you could go if you come with me oh right I've heard it before so she finally gets them together and is leaving them all out of hell and she turns around and innumerable more beings are wandering in like it's the best place in the world and her head explodes literally nowadays we say well that's literally you know nowadays we

[40:37]

say it blew her mind so at that time she was Amida Buddha gave her another head and this is what happens to us you know we go ahead and do things and we come apart and it doesn't work and we get another head but if we're if we're always careful and doing you know sort of like what we're supposed to we're in a little too narrow a place and and then that's another kind of mistake but it's actually in some ways a harder mistake to make because you're not you nobody gets to you don't get to see what what it is you don't and other people don't get to relate to about it so you know there's all kinds of degrees in this but basically it's that in order to grow and develop in our life we go ahead and do something in not such a good way and then we learn something from that about well and all she learned was I'm gonna try again I'll do that again and she went back and it had to happen ten times which is innumerable ten is the number

[41:40]

for innumerable times before she had a head that would survive under the circumstances of doing something that kind of in a certain sense fruitless so it's a little bit like doing the dishes and they keep bringing you dirty ones and you finish one meal and you start another one and there's something about our life that is that kind of repetitious and that it doesn't finish so there's there's always a balance of these things because at some point people acting out if they're acting out too dramatically it's going to be a problem for everyone and it's and it's it's not conducive to the overall harmony of the situation and so forth so when it gets some point of excessive then you know we need we do something some of us you know learn this for

[42:43]

ourselves up to a point I mean I used to think it would be nice to have attention but and so you can get some attention by being kind of crazy but then it's like wait a minute now is this the kind of attention I wanted all right well thank you very much some of us we're going to do the knife sharpening at 430 so that's in about 10 minutes and that's in the student eating area and did you get my stone yet Luke from my room to soak in water okay thank you all right so anyone you're all welcome I mean if you want to come to knife sharpening you can it'll be in the student eating area in about 10 minutes thank you

[43:26]