2004.05.04-serial.00032

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How's it going? It's going great. 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 survived Zen practice because I was working in the kitchen rather than meditating all the time.

[01:10]

I'm not sure meditation is, you know, that great a thing to be doing, but, you know, that's another subject. Thank you. I mean, you know, endlessly sitting there waiting for the big E. Thank you. Thank you, Luke. Anyway, and when I, because when I would go and sit, 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 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 advice.

[02:13]

So it was very challenging for me to sit very much. And, in fact, the first Tangario we had, you know, Tangario 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 periods it's 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 Tangario, you know, a number of people have been here, living here in, 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 Tangario, a dozen people up the road. We're not ready to sit for three days. In order to go on staying here. And then there was one person who sat three days in full lotus,

[03:23]

and then left the day after. We're not quite sure what he figured out. So, I suppose you could say that I, 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 like that.

[04:27]

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 have 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. 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 are talking in the kitchen, their hands would stop moving. Most people cannot keep their hands moving while they're talking,

[05:30]

not with the same focus. 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 Suzuki Roshi, and I asked him, you know, I'd like your help on how to work with people in the kitchen. And, you know, 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 when 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 Zen. 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 be doing?

[06:34]

And I told them 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 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, and 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 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?

[07:39]

How do you see virtue in others? So I started trying to study that. And when I would find something amiss in what somebody was doing, I would try to see also some virtue in who they were. Sometimes, the climax for this was the day that somebody went to get 16 or 18 cups of beans, 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 storeroom 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.

[08:42]

And I then endeavored to explain other ways to be thorough and careful and conscientious and it 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 same, this is a fairly important kind of question or issue this morning when we were cutting vegetables. So we had a good time with the radishes. There's something very charming about radishes. 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 and a little bite to them. And it's very, it's not so, 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,

[09:46]

that's the 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 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. Let 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 do a calm mind? Because many people have pointed out that

[10:49]

a calm mind is not something you can do. It's not something you can make happen. It's not something you can manufacture. As soon as you go and manufacture something that's not calm anymore. I was sort of joking with people in the kitchen this morning. That's like you tell your mind 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 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 seeing 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

[11:52]

that you can discriminate. This is a calm mind and 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 feel like I think that the cook and Dogen says this in the Tenzo Kyokan 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

[12:53]

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 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? Am I 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 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 when you're in the kitchen he says don't see with ordinary eyes, don't think with ordinary mind.

[13:54]

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 worse. Am I good enough? Am I special enough? Is this? So we're busy doing this. And so the suggestion in Dogen's instructions to the cook is make an honest effort or sincere, a sincere effort or in a certain sense we say and then be sincere and that being sincere is another way of appreciating virtue in that sense. One day we were having tea with Suzuki Rishi and someone said Suzuki Rishi, why haven't you enlightened me yet? I think myself

[14:56]

and a number of other people there kind of had this kind of reaction. Ew. Who do they think Suzuki Rishi is? Who do they think they are? What were they thinking he 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 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 was several ways you could take that not very well or see it as not being very respectful of Suzuki Rishi. When his son came here one time with all the abbots from the sub-temple, 16 of them it turned out there weren't enough places at two of our eight seat tables because nobody sat next to him.

[15:56]

That was how you respected him. Which is sort of funny for us you know, like wouldn't you sit next to him but no, there's sort of like there's some space there. So anyway, Suzuki Rishi said I'm making my best effort. And you know as I think about that now I think he 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 and then in a certain sense we understand in Zen everybody is making their best effort and this is very hard to see and it's very hard then to appreciate

[16:58]

and this is not seen with not seen with ordinary eyes and not seen with ordinary mind. So one of my favorite stories in Crooked Cucumber about Suzuki Rishi 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 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 and drinking wine with them and then at some point he'd be going back to their cabin and drinking scotch and brandy and this would never be tolerated.

[18:01]

Never. And maybe that's all for the better. And one morning we then after breakfast in the morning some of us would have tea with Suzuki Rishi 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 we'd have tea and then he 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 Sazen, 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 and well you know

[19:05]

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 better if they break the rules in the open rather than hiding it from us. But Suzuki Rishi shouldn't we do something? So they broke the rules and Suzuki Rishi said well sometimes people are following the spirit of the rules even though they're not following the rules to the letter. And the director said well wouldn't it be better if you followed 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 we're both disciples of Suzuki Rishi

[20:05]

but David Chadwick is the one who spent years of his life accumulating the stories about Suzuki Rishi and putting them in the biography and single handedly basically saw to it that all the Suzuki Rishi lectures were put on reel to reel tapes from these little tapes that are on these little machines and set up the whole Suzuki Rishi archive and so what's a good student? You know who has virtue? Nobody else was interested in doing that and David very clearly loved Suzuki Rishi and spent years doing that collecting the stories seeing that the tapes are preserved setting up seeing that money is raised to have the tapes transcribed all the tapes finally were retranscribed so you know Suzuki Rishi saw something in David

[21:07]

which is different than what other people saw other people saw somebody who's not following the rules not doing what he's supposed to do and didn't see 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 give your attention to something and you work at it and you work at it and you spend time with it and something happens you it's 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

[22:09]

well it's about the same whether you're concentrated or not I mean you 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 confused and sometimes spending time with yourself you're somebody who's kind of happy or content or you know focused 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 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 and you know something happens so the aspect of sincerity as I mentioned the other day some of you sincerity actually comes in English

[23:11]

comes from the root sin 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 cover in the little blemishes and cover over everything so actually to not be sincere is to hide is to hide behind your front your you know 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 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 as I do things my goodness you know there's there's these problems

[24:12]

there's these wrinkles it's not working out quite the way I want a word of light 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 there were all these people sitting in Zazen so there's always been you know people who are better than me or they look better they look better and I don't think you know I have a very good you know presentation that way so I've had to kind of just go ahead and be me and go ahead and be sincere and let people see my wrinkles because I've just never been very good at you know at covering them over at being Zen

[25:13]

if you have a question I can clarify it for you and I'm not going to clarify much of anything for you I'm afraid oh well so 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 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 we have this sort of sense that valuing the difference is also appreciating

[26:15]

and that completely what it is is you know beyond our you know 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, nice great peach how all this affluence 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 minuses you know virtue and problems you know

[27:21]

and not that we only appreciate the preciousness of something when it's magnificent and the problem because the problem is 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 is this the summit of the 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

[28:26]

and these problems and issues and confusions and difficulty and fatigue and you know whatever feelings, thoughts discouragement, encouragement you know and this is the summit of the mystic 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've got to I've got to do this better I've got to straighten out my mind I've got to get these people to shape up I have to make better food and whatever and then I would be some place and the wonderful story about this is also in the commentary it says that a monk asked Zhao Zhou and Zhao Zhou you know 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

[29:27]

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 of course the monk wants to know why not like we might ask 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 are 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 see

[30:28]

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 and that you know it's a tomato and can we appreciate it and sometimes you know we think well we need to do something to make the tomatoes worth serving or you know we're involved in doing something often to make it better or somehow make it good enough so the sensibility

[31:28]

at some point 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 here, try this I think it's pretty nice so I think this is about what I wanted to talk about this afternoon so again you know we're not studying how to have a special experience or create a special experience we're studying how to experience things closely experience our experience closely and it's not like any of us need to manufacture or produce special experiences we're more interested in just

[32:31]

experiencing 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 it's about our performance thinking about how people see us thinking about how whether something's good enough so seeing, not seeing with ordinary eyes not thinking with ordinary mind is to be out of that realm and to 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 some of you if some of you need to go that's fine I'm happy to spend a few more minutes if you have any questions or comments

[33:31]

or further interests sort of around this subject or others perhaps I'll ask a question I know it wasn't the point of the story but something that really interests me is the idea that I think what you said was accurate public breaking of rules is not so much here anymore people break them privately privately most people know they're breaking them but nonetheless it's very private not so out there and I was wondering do you really think it's better to break them publicly? this you know this partly has to do

[34:34]

I think with you know who the abbot is who the 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 Suzuka she 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 then 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

[35:34]

you know when Suzuki when Tatsugami Roshi came it was the fall of 1969 I mean it was 1970 67, 68 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 but 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 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

[36:37]

off your minds and put them on the doors because we were thinking what you do is you get people to behave differently by some kind of mechanism you 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 and 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 or somebody came in the storeroom other people would come by and take the unlocked lock and throw it into the creek so eventually this led to the backdoor cafe having food out that is available to people when they would like to snack so it doesn't have to be

[37:40]

taking something that 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 whole Zen practice and the way that we do things here kind of depends on people following the rules and if people on the whole 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

[38:41]

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 going to kind of keep to myself and I'm not going to say much 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 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 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

[39:43]

it's going to be really good but actually the way to 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 there or I did something and I watch and observe how my speech impacts others and so I'm in a certain sense making mistakes and by making mistakes I can actually then adjust my effort 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 learn something about how to do this and the 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 can look at what you're doing and if you're doing it in a mistaken fashion

[40:43]

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're only going to do the things that you can do really well well, can't do that because then you're taking away your opportunity to actually grow and develop and learn new skills I love the story too about how Kuan Yin got 11 heads because there's some Kuan Yins 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 Kuan 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

[41:43]

that's part of why they're in hell and they've been betrayed before they've been abandoned they don't have a lot of trust there's some other place that you could go if you come with me I've heard it before so she finally gets them together and is leading 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 nowadays we say it blew her mind so at that time Amida Buddha gave her another head and this is what happens to us we go ahead and do things and we come apart and it doesn't work and we get another head but if we're always careful and doing sort of like what we're supposed to we're in a little too narrow a place and then that's another kind of mistake but it's actually in some ways

[42:48]

a harder mistake to make because you're not you don't get to see what it is and other people don't get to relate to you about it so 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 and Avalokiteshvara all she learned was I'm going to try again I'll do that again and she went back and it had to happen ten times which is innumerable and we all 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

[43:49]

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 not conducive to the overall harmony of the situation and so forth so when it gets at some point excessive then we do something some of us you know learn this for ourselves up to a point I mean I used to think it would be nice to have attention and so you can get some attention by being kind of crazy but then it's sort of 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 4.30 so that's in about ten minutes

[44:49]

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 evening area in about ten minutes thank you

[45:05]