2004.05.29-serial.00033

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-00033

Suggested Keywords:

Photos: 
Transcript: 

Good morning, it's been a while since I've given a talk here, two, three years. Thank you all for coming. Christina invited me to, it's something of a follow-up to last weekend when we had the 100th anniversary of Suzuki Roshi's birthday. So Christina invited me to talk and come and talk about Suzuki Roshi, which will also mean, you know, so to speak, talking about me, since they're my stories. You know, one of the things that Suzuki Roshi said in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is, when you are you, Zen is Zen. You know, I spent a lot of years trying to be a good Zen person.

[01:06]

I thought that was good to become a Zen person, rather than being me, do you know? I mean, I don't know about you, but I don't, haven't always felt that I have much to offer and that, you know, I could use some improvement and it would be better to be Zen than to be me. So you know, it's a big change to decide to go ahead and be yourself. Now I tell people that, you know, I used to be Ed Brown, now I'm going to be Edward. So you know, I'm hitting Edward, you know, still. More and more Edward, I'm afraid. Which may mean, you know, less and less Zen, or it may be that as I become more me, you

[02:12]

know, Zen is more Zen, we'll see. When I became, well, before Suzuki Roshi ordained me as a priest, there was some controversy. I think there's always some kind of controversy when you're becoming a priest. Somehow your ceremony gets delayed. My nephew's becoming a Catholic priest and, oh, it's been about two years since his first ordination date. And they keep coming up with reasons like, maybe it's not such a good idea, young man. And why don't you go for a month of psychiatric counseling at our farm in Pennsylvania? Various things. And so when I was going to be ordained, there seemed to be some delay in the process. And finally one day my wife came home. That's a long time ago, you know.

[03:13]

I mean, we've only been divorced for 30 years now or something, you know. But she came, we were living at the top of the stairs, and she came home. She had a tea class with Oka-san, Mrs. Suzuki, and she said, you know, Suzuki Roshi's not ordaining you because he heard that you might want to be a baker. And I had had this idea that it might be good, and you know, some Zen people have done this where you start a bakery and then you teach various people how to bake, and you're generating job skills. So, and then, so then I went to C. Suzuki Roshi and I said, well, that was just an idea. I actually want to be a priest. And he said, if you're going to be a priest, you can't be a baker. And his idea of about, you know, Zen priest was fairly strict.

[04:16]

I don't know that we've done very well where you're just a priest. So I've been, I've never managed to be just a priest. So, you know, I've also written books, and then I became a photographer. Then I started doing hands-on healing. Then I started doing change your life through changing your handwriting. And I started doing cranial sacral. And I keep being interested in things. And I'm beginning to think that, you know, when I was younger, I thought, well, I'll be a Zen priest. Good thing to do, you know, inspire people. And I felt so incredibly grateful to Suzuki Roshi for giving me my life. It felt as though he'd given me my life, my true life. And so I thought, well, that would be a good thing to do for other people. And so I'm still aiming to do that, whether it's in the outfit of a Zen priest or not.

[05:26]

How do you do this? How do we have our true life? Or how do you become you? And are you willing to be you rather than, you know, somebody better than you? Who's maybe... And then how can you go ahead and become better than you without abandoning yourself? This is anyway interesting. Recently I was at Tassajara and it was the first time I'd been at Tassajara. And I thought, after a few days, I realized that I'm a different age than I used to be. I thought, this has become a young man's sport. Excuse me for thinking of it, you know, gender specific, but I'm an older man now. And I got into the Zendo and they were bowing. Boom, boom, [...] boom. I couldn't keep up. I used to pride myself on how fast I could go down and get up and go down and get up.

[06:29]

And I'm trying to do this and I couldn't keep up. And I'm used to doing the old-fashioned way where you raise your hands and then you touch your head to the floor three times and then you raise your hands. And somehow they were already up and starting the next bow by the time I was doing that. So I'm a relic. I've become a relic. And then it came time for the sutras. And of course all the sutras have changed. Well, the ones in Japanese haven't changed. But all the sutras in English that I used to know are different sutras now. They've all been re-translated. So I don't know anything anymore. So I get the sutra book and then try to find the light. And then, because I can't hold it up this way, you know, I have to hold it this way to get the light. And then I see if I can focus on anything. And then I keep forgetting to bring my glasses, you know, my reading glasses.

[07:30]

So I just kind of sit there and it's kind of nice. So it's strange to be, after all these years of doddering, starting to dodder. Anyway. So I'm not sure, you know, whether I'm my teacher's disciple or not. But I realize that, you know, everything I've taught, and especially since I worked on Not Always So, the book of Suzukirishi lectures, I realized that everything I teach is from my teacher. And without going back and reading the lectures again, I wouldn't have known that what I tell people is what he told me, what he told all of us. And this morning when I came in to bow here,

[08:32]

and then I remembered, what came to mind was Sashin one year, and Suzukirishi came up, it was the fourth day, and he sat over here and we sat around facing him. And very shortly into his lecture he said, the problems you are now experiencing, do you know what he was going to say next? The problems you are now experiencing will continue for the rest of your life. And we all laughed. I think everybody was like me. The problems you are now experiencing, I thought, yes, they're just kind of illusory, aren't they? They're just kind of temporary, right? There's something that you're sure to get over and get through, and then you'll be so much stronger and more able to, you know, breeze through life, surfing the crest of the wave, doing little stunts.

[09:37]

Once you, you know, get it together, the problems you are now experiencing will continue, I thought, until, you know, you get enlightened, until you grow up, until you mature in Zen practice. No, the problems you are now experiencing will continue for the rest of your life. We all laughed. And then I thought right away, no, that's other people. So, I set that aside. But it's a useful teaching, you know, as I've managed to survive a number more years that I come by these problems in my life honestly. It's not due to my lack of skill, or understanding, or lack of wisdom,

[10:49]

or lack of compassion, that the problems, the difficulties are still there. Of course, on the other hand, Suzette Gracie said, if you're having problems in your life, your practice is no good. Oh, wow. So, what's the teaching for today? Oh, boy. So, it's always a little challenging for me to know where to start with talking about Suzuki Rishi. Last week, we had a ceremony here, and I had the opportunity to say something to Suzuki Rishi, and I said, you often said, I will always be with you. And I said, I thought that might be some help, some protection

[11:53]

against the vicissitudes of life, the difficulties and suffering. I thought it might be some help to have you around. It turned out that was a mistake to, you know, think that, that that might be some protection, some, you know, salvation. Kind of mistake that I think small children make. You know, when you're a small child, you think, mom and dad will protect me. The Dharma will save me. Maybe so. And this is, you know, profound kind of religious or spiritual question. And so, you know, then I or you, you know, you, Suzuki Rishi, me, who are these people?

[13:00]

Who do we think we are, any of us? And who are we truly? I, you, Suzuki Rishi, with, always. Is anything ever, you know, separate? And we all sit here in the new life. Suzuki Rishi couldn't help but, you know, be with us. You know, in our heart, in our true heart. And this isn't a matter of, you know, problems or lack of problems or, you know, feelings you have or don't have or how concentrated or lack of concentrated or how mindful or not mindful or, it's not a matter about you. It's not to do with your performance, you know.

[14:03]

It's just, we're already one with everything. Or as he said, when someone asked him, what do you feel, Suzuki Rishi, when I serve you food in the zendo, what do you feel? And he said, I feel you're offering me your most perfect love. It's unusual to be in the presence of someone like that, who feels that way, who notices that, who appreciates your presence beyond, you know, who you are, who you think you are. I was one day working in the kitchen in Tassajara about 1968 or 69.

[15:11]

Someone asked me last summer, when I was at Tassajara, Ed, were you ever a guest cook? No. I think, young lady, you know, it was a few years before you were born. And when I was a guest cook, I was also the head cook, the tanto, the baker and the head of the zendo crew. Things were different in those days. We have a lot more guests now, a lot more staff. But anyway, I was in the kitchen, so under those conditions it was very stressful. And so I was always or frequently engaged in trying to get things done and making sure they got done and stressing about whether or not they got done and how well they got done and was everything getting done and were people doing what I asked them to do and all this. And in the middle of that I heard someone's name being called.

[16:22]

It turned out to be Ed. I was surprised because it didn't sound like that Ed was me. It sounded like another Ed I'd never met. I looked around for the Ed it could be. I finally realized it must be me, Ed, who was being called. And there was Suzuki Roshi standing in the doorway of the kitchen. So he didn't give me any teaching, but he called my name. And everything cleared away. I know I wasn't an angry person or a stressed person or an anxious or scared or worried. It was as though all those clouds and confusion had dispersed

[17:23]

and there was a stunning amount of blue sky and sunlight and vast space. So I met somebody that day that I didn't realize I was because Suzuki Roshi called my name. And when Suzuki Roshi says, I'll always be with you, I think that's who he's talking about. Someone who's also someone who doesn't have a story. Someone who has a story and someone without any story. It only lasted a few minutes. It's hard to remember and practice being that person.

[18:23]

And when I got married, I talked with Blanche about this a few years ago. Michael had asked, you know, would I write something for the Sando Kai book? Because we were thinking at one point of having little anecdotes about the people who were around that summer. And I said, no, I'm not going to write anything for the Sando Kai book. And I got married the summer that Suzuki Roshi was doing lectures on the Sando Kai. We had such a big party at Tassajara that in June of 1970, it was the summer solstice, that we decided, Zen Center decided never to do wedding parties there again. We had 10 cases of champagne and I believe that's like 120 bottles and except for two that my wife and I took with us on our honeymoon, the rest somehow seemed to have disappeared that day. Which is a stunning amount of champagne, you know. And we had, the students created their own rock and roll band.

[19:42]

There were several students who were, one who was a drummer and several guitar players and bass players. So we had our own amplified band out in the courtyard at Tassajara. But anyway, and there's a picture actually of Suzuki Roshi ducking away from Okasan's chopsticks, which was from the wedding reception. Perhaps he was drinking too much champagne, I doubt it. Anyway, at the wedding, I'd never encountered this before, but at the end of the wedding after it was all done, we'd had all the bows and then Suzuki Roshi would speak extemporaneously for a few minutes and he said, Ed and Meg are going to have a very, very difficult time. I was horrified.

[20:50]

Shouldn't you tell somebody this like before they get married? You know, and are you sure you want to be marrying this person that you're going to have a very, very difficult time with? And he said, this is not going to be at all easy for them. And he went on and on. He said, Ed is going to be a priest, he's going to become a priest, and Meg is not going to want to be a priest's wife. She's going to have other things that she'll want to do. And anyway, he went on. And I kept feeling, you know, speechless, horrified. So I kind of forgot about it, but of course it was true. How did he know? Or does everybody who gets married have a very, very difficult time?

[21:56]

And when I talked to Blanche a few years ago, she said, oh, I remember, yes, he was scathing. And she said, but you know what, Lu, her husband, she said Lu was his Jisha that day and he came back after the ceremony and he said that when Suzuki Roshi got back to his cabin, and taking off his okesa, he was muttering to himself, too serious, too serious. I want to tell you, you know, so I think we keep forgetting,

[23:01]

most of us, we forget how much of our life is just our presence. It's not so much our skills or our performance or our knowledge or our understanding. It's our presence. And it's tempting, you know, to want to have teachings to give to people, to do things that help people, but finally what is so amazing is, you know, just our presence. Being with somebody can be very powerful. So I'm remembering, for instance, when I used to serve in the meditation hall, and this is another thing we used to do when we worked in the kitchen,

[24:05]

we also served all the food in the meditation hall. For many years there, we didn't know any better. We didn't know that people from the meditation hall ought to be organized in crews and taking turns serving themselves from the kitchen. So the kitchen people just, we took off our dirty robes and put on our clean ones and served the food in the meditation hall for each meal. So I had a lot of practice serving food. And the main thing I concentrated on for some time there was being the fastest server ever. Speaking of, you know, developing skills. And, you know, something to congratulate yourself on. Did well there. So basically, in order to be the fastest server, setting aside, you know, ever, you know, there is somebody, another server on the other side of the meditation hall, and if you start at the same time, you can always see who finishes the row quicker.

[25:06]

And I had heard that zen meant, you know, moving along quickly and not being slow. Or, you know, there I think is a term, you know, zen slow. This is a different discussion, but I thought the idea was, you know, some energy and being, you know, quick with these things and moving, you know, with aliveness, with energy. You know, and zen in some ways emphasizes concentration and energy. Japanese zen. So I concentrated on getting down to the row faster than anybody else. And, of course, what this means is that each person you meet and are going to serve food to is a problem. They're in your way. They're between you and the end of the row. And so, you know, you want them to help you get to the end of the row quicker than the person on the other side.

[26:16]

So it would be helpful if they could get their bowl out there quickly. So, but, you know, many people are... And they find their bowl and get it there. And then, you know, after you've served them... They want a little bit more. They want some of that and not that. So then as I went down the row, I would be saying, you know, Hurry up. Get over it. Accept what you're offered. Didn't you know this was zen? Don't be picky. So I was trying to train everybody with my... Impassive, intense, passive, aggressive, intense nature. How to behave so as to help me win the contest.

[27:21]

I don't know that I was making very many friends. But I usually did get to the end of the row fastest. And I did notice that, you know, we served Suzuki Roshi first. In some traditions, you serve the abbot last. But we were serving him first. Which is a whole other story, you know. Because for a while there, people were worried about his tooth. After he broke a tooth on a stone in the Black Beans. And he had to come up to San Francisco to get his tooth fixed. And several people came up to him and said, Ed, this is all your fault. We are missing out on three or four days of dharma teaching. And you're responsible for this. And we will never have these three or four days again. And you know, Suzuki Roshi is getting older. And he's not always going to be with us.

[28:27]

And so we will never have these three or four days of dharma teaching again. It's your fault. You need to pay more attention and take more responsibility for things. And you should never, ever let this happen. This is America, you know. It's like now, you know, if anything goes wrong, it's somebody's fault. You can sue somebody about it. There's somebody responsible for the difficulties you're having. You know, you couldn't just expect to have difficulties without somebody being at fault. So who to blame? Well, so when Suzuki Roshi did get back, people wanted me to serve him very soft food just to be on the safe side. I mean, he'd broken his tooth on a stone. But people were worried about what to serve him. So we kept serving him. And then we tried serving him, you know, soft food. And he said, no, thank you. He was devoted, you know, he was intent on eating exactly what we ate.

[29:30]

So then they said, well, you're going to have to put the soft food in a little corner of the serving dish where the server knows where it is and can be sure to serve him the soft food. So we were doing that for a while. Finally, I went to talk with him. I said, so how are your teeth? The thing that, you know, helped me is I finally realized there's no one cause. Suzuki Roshi's teeth have been around since before I was born. He's lived through the Second World War, Mongolia. His teeth have been through a lot. So there are other causes and conditions that work besides my possible lack of oversight, my negligence. But I went to ask Suzuki Roshi, so, you know, people are concerned about your teeth. How is the food for you? And he said, fine, it's good.

[30:31]

And I said, well, so is there any foods that are difficult for you? And he said, well, first he said, you know, when I asked him how, and I said, we were trying to serve him softer foods. And he said, I said, how is that for you? And he said, Ed, you have no idea how humiliating it is to be served mashed banana. And I said, well, are there any foods that are difficult for you? And he said, well, you know, eggplant, when it's not cooked enough, it's kind of rubbery, you know, and then it's hard for my teeth because it doesn't just, and I said, well, what about, he said, apple is fine. Apple, you chew it and it comes apart. But eggplant, it kind of, it's not cooked. It's kind of rubbery. That's more difficult. And the other thing he mentioned was celery. If it's not, you know, if the strings are, if it's a big piece of celery,

[31:34]

then the strings are a little problem. But I always tried to cut the celery pretty thin anyway. So I noticed though, in the Zendo, and it's like the person who asked him, how do you feel when I serve you in the Zendo? And I used to be very careful serving Suzuki Roshi. And then by about the third person down the row, I was telling them to get their bowl out faster and help me out here. And one day I got to thinking about it. What's the difference between Suzuki Roshi and other people? And I couldn't find it. I couldn't find what was the difference between Suzuki Roshi and other people. Except the kind of difference that I had assumed there was,

[32:36]

that Suzuki Roshi was in a separate class. So I was inspired. I thought, why don't I just serve everybody as though they're Suzuki Roshi? So then I carefully started serving each person more carefully until I could do that. But I have, of course, a long ways to go. That only works if I'm serving the food. If I'm cooking the food, those people working with me are not all Suzuki Roshi. I'm sorry. But that's an example of somebody's presence

[33:37]

being an inspiration rather than somebody's teaching. So we all have this kind of nature. You know, we're all somebody who's capable of receiving love when offered food and offering love when serving food.

[34:42]

Doing something with care, devotion, sincerity, good-heartedness. And we also, you know, forget. And we get caught up in our story about what we need to get done, get down to the end of the road faster, or get the meal done sooner. And apparently these kind of problems will continue for the rest of our life. So it's not so good to hold your breath, waiting until you become more perfect. I've done, as I mentioned earlier, various kinds of healing modalities.

[35:55]

I think it's probably, you know, slightly different for different people, but for me, it's been very challenging to actually have my awareness, consciousness reside comfortably settled in my heart. Apparently the heart, the energy of the heart, the heart electromagnetically is 5,000 times the energy of the brain in the head. The heart is very powerful. And to have your consciousness that could be your heart, right in your heart, is very powerful. It's very healing. It has a lot to do with compassion because, you know,

[37:07]

in a simple sense, what we do when we have problems or difficulties is we separate our consciousness that could be our heart from our heart. So, you know, we can abandon ourselves. We can discard ourselves. We can distance from ourselves. And usually, of course, then we accuse others of doing that to us. Do you understand? You did that to me. No, I did it to me. I separated my consciousness from my heart. I held myself against myself. This is said to be, you know, the disease of Zen says, you know, the disease of mind is to set one consciousness or one mind against another mind or mind against heart. So, over the years, this has been the most challenging thing for me, is just to be willing to have my consciousness that could be my heart exactly in my heart.

[38:11]

It seems at times like it would be the most painful place to have consciousness and it would be better to have consciousness anywhere but in that painful place. But actually, the pain is actually separating your consciousness from your heart. That's way more painful. And it turns out, you know, when we serve somebody food or when we receive food or when we do any activity, we can do something with our heart with our consciousness, with our heart in our heart or we can be doing a kind of performance or trying to accomplish something that theoretically would allow us to be willing to be in our heart at some time in the future. So this is painful.

[39:15]

So I think, you know, Suzuki Roshi's teaching is, of course, that those kind of terms is that you, you know, we're studying how to trust ourselves deeply and intimately to trust our own heart. And to trust our heart is different than to follow some teaching, to follow rules or regulations, you know, to do what's right. Because following your heart, you may make a mistake. You may not get it right. Even, you know, a good-hearted, sincere person can, we can sometimes behave in a way that others will find upsetting, discouraging, maddening, unnerving. You know, we will do something that others are upset with. So there's no way that actually we could behave well enough to control

[40:27]

everybody else's response. This would be like, you know, serving food and having it please everybody. Any of you who have cooked, you know, no matter how good it is, somebody doesn't like it. It's got cheese, it's got tofu, it's got butter, it's got oil. It doesn't have cheese, butter, oil, tofu. It's too spicy, it's not spicy enough, and so forth, you know. So this is an interesting kind of, you know, challenge for us. How can we, if we're aiming to have the world like everything we do and applaud and approve and finally, you know, accept or venerate us, it's not going to work. And there's just making our sincere, good-hearted effort,

[41:27]

and each of us is this person who can do that. And, you know, it's remarkable the way that Suzuki Roshi saw this, and as far as we know, everyone. And, you know, at some harm, as you know, his wife was murdered by someone that he saw as a good-hearted person, even though he was a mad monk, that everybody told him he should not have stayed in his temple in Japan. And one of my favorite stories about all this is, you know, the story that David tells in Crooked Cucumber. David was the head of the dining room when I was head of the kitchen,

[42:30]

and I was very intense, and Edward David was very extroverted, and used to make friends very easily and talk to everybody. And two, three years ago, I sat at Tassajara with David outside in the Sycamore Grove outside the office, and everybody who came by stopped to talk to David. And David said, they were not stopping to talk with me. They were stopping to talk with David, and then they might say hello to me or kind of nod to me at some point in this conversation. And so David is very unusual this way. And, you know, however we are, it's a help and it's a hindrance. So David used to go around chatting with the guests in the afternoon, and he would recruit a dining room crew. We were understaffed. And he'd say, well, let's continue visiting. You can come and help me set the dining room. So he would get guests to come and help set the dining room, and then once the meal started, he'd sit down and have dinner with them

[43:33]

from time to time, or at least drink a little wine, and then get up and serve some more, and then, you know, sit down and have dessert. And often would end up going back to their cabins and drinking whiskey or scotch or brandy until one or two in the morning. And then he didn't always get up the next day. This is what we mean when we say, you know, people like David and I probably wouldn't survive in today's Zen Center. Many of us probably wouldn't have survived in today's Zen Center. So, you know, it wasn't that this went unnoticed. So one morning, David had missed the whole morning schedule, meditation, service, breakfast. And after breakfast, there was a meeting with Suzuki Roshi of the officers of the monastery. David was head of the dining room, so he was invited. I was head of the kitchen. I went about once a year because I was busy.

[44:33]

And I made that kind of young, foolish, idealistic decision that whatever I did was Zen. That working in the kitchen was just as Zen as sitting and talking with Suzuki Roshi. What did I know? But anyway, so this one morning, David did get up in time for the chosan, the tea with Suzuki Roshi. And it's very formal and quiet for a while, as many of you know. And then the tea is served and we sit quietly and then we bow and pick up our tea and we sip. And then Suzuki Roshi would start talking and after a bit, he would be finished with whatever, what he had to say and anybody could speak. And so this morning, David said, the director spoke up and said, Suzuki Roshi, what do we do with people who are always breaking the rules? David's sitting there next to him with alcohol in his breath. Having missed the whole morning schedule.

[45:41]

And Suzuki Roshi said, apparently, you know, everybody is always making their best effort. The director said, but Suzuki Roshi, flagrantly, flagrantly and openly breaking the rules over and over again. Don't we need to do something? And Suzuki Roshi said, it's better that he does this in the open than hiding it from us. But Suzuki Roshi, shouldn't we do something? We can't just let this go on and on, can we? And Suzuki Roshi said, sometimes, someone, even though they're not following the letter of the rule, they're following the spirit of the rule. And the director said, well, wouldn't it be better if he followed the letter of the rule as well as the spirit of the rule? And Suzuki Roshi said, yes, that would be best.

[46:47]

Because of all of, you know, Suzuki Roshi's disciples, I mean, you know, different people obviously have different things to offer. But David was the one person who wanted to see Suzuki Roshi's tapes archivally preserved. So David lobbied, you know, Zen Center, we have got to do this. We've got to preserve these tapes. And he insisted. People were annoyed with him because he just wouldn't give up and he kept pestering people and writing irate letters to the board of directors and things. Don't you care about Suzuki Roshi's teaching? That was the person who was up late drinking and missing Zazen, who loved his teacher. And then, you know, he went on to spend years of his life doing Crooked Cucumber.

[47:53]

And he's still David. Laughing Writing the biography of Suzuki Roshi and collecting material. And David's the reason there's a Suzuki Roshi archive. So this is something to do with heart. You know, what's in your heart? And any of us can also get confused and, you know, do all kinds of things in our life. So, you know, it seems to me that, you know, I don't know what Suzuki Roshi saw, but he obviously knew something about David's heart, the way he knew something about all of our hearts. And could see, you know, past our difficulties and our problems, as well as acknowledging our difficulties and problems.

[48:57]

Well, I think I've said enough for this morning. I appreciate your being here, and I look forward to visiting with some of you as the morning continues. Thank you very much. Blessings. Thank you.

[49:27]