2005.01.30-serial.00037

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Good morning. I got a new haircut. Some of you may not realize, but it's an old style actually for me, but I haven't had a shaved head in many years, but in honor of the occasion today, I'm doing my first priest ordination. I'm ordaining two women as Zen priests this afternoon, so I thought I would join in the festivities by shaving my head as well as shaving theirs. Sympathetic. It's kind of refreshing. When you wash your face, you can also wash the top of your face. The way I do it is I scrub the top of my head, get off

[01:07]

all the little flakes of old skin and things, kind of really open things up. It's very refreshing. I'm not sure I'm going to keep it though. We'll see. I haven't heard yet, you know, if, well, usually, you know, people don't say, I like your shaved head or I don't like your shaved head or I liked you better with hair. You know, I don't know, you know, what difference it makes, but I'm a Zen person now. So with this in mind, you know, I'm kind of thinking about, I've been, which is something I do anyway, but thinking about why would we do Zen? Or, you know, what are we up to with these clothes and without any hair? So

[02:18]

I want to tell you various things. I'm not sure what I want to tell you, and the way that I give lectures is kind of to let something happen. This is a kind of, you know, people have different styles, but my style is the sort of more, you know, risky or reckless style where you don't know what you're going to say and then it might be quite good or it might not. And each of you will have some experience and some may think one thing and some may think the other. But this is true of everything we do, that no matter how good-hearted we are, you know, some people say, thank you, and other people say, what were you thinking or doing? We see this, of course, in the world. I do want to remind you, first of all, about

[03:24]

a well-known Zen story which, for me, is something about this today. I'm forgetting now, you know, the names of these people, but the monk asked the teacher, what is the way? And the teacher says, everyday mind is the way. Got it? Everyday mind is the way. Well, the monk isn't sure whether he's got it or not, so he says, how do I get it? How can I attain this everyday mind? And, of course, the teacher says, as soon as you try to attain it, you've lost it. So this is, you know, what we're up to a lot of the time, trying to become somebody

[04:25]

else. Self-improvement plans. So, you know, Suzuki Roshi said, what is ordinary is that we try to attain something we think is special. This is very ordinary. What is truly special is to abide in the ordinary. Always here, right here. So we have two ordinaries here. So which one will you try to attain? Or which one are you losing? And so on, you know. How will we know it's ordinary mind is the way, and when we've lost our ordinary mind, trying to get somewhere else. Trying to be somewhere other than here. So with this, as a little background, I'm going to talk

[05:33]

about various things, and we'll come back to this from time to time. I was recently, I worked on an article for one of the Buddhist magazines, Is My Practice Working? So you might wonder, you know, is my practice working? And practice here is a kind of euphemism for, is my life working? But for those of us who are practicing, ideally, of course, your practice is your life. But you might think it's something other, you know. This is already, you know, a point of possible confusion. And so this to me is very interesting, because almost everybody I know who's, you know, who practiced and who I've talked to about it, you know, we all started out practicing,

[06:36]

and I don't know how to say this in a simple way, but we all started out practicing to, you know, a kind of improvement. So for instance, one of my friends said, well, I had all these problems with drugs and alcohol, and then I met these people who were doing spiritual practice, and they seemed like such really nice people, and very friendly, and I thought maybe I could be like them. So I started practicing zazen, and it was as though I took all my problems and confusions and difficulties, I put them in the closet, I closed the door, I built a nice stone wall in front of the door and hung a thangka. And I was a spiritual person. So this is often the way we start out, you know, with spiritual practice. I'm not going to have those problems that I used to have, and that have been plaguing me. I'm going to be a spiritual person now.

[07:45]

So as my friend said, you know, this works for a while, but, you know, at some point, the closet door, whether you've got a brick wall in front of it or thangka or not, the closet door comes open and stuff starts pouring out of the closet. And this even happens to people who are doing spiritual practice, not just people who are married or people who have kids. So you have one sort of idea, like, is my practice working? Initially, it's working when you're no longer angry, you're no longer sad, you're no longer depressed, you're no longer the things that you thought you shouldn't be. Now, the interesting thing here is that this is exactly the things that you were trying to do as a very little person,

[08:54]

and you never quite could do it. So now let's call in some spiritual reinforcements to make it a spiritual practice rather than just the practice of me. So I'm going to give you a couple examples, okay? Say I'm a kind of a shy person and I have a lot of intense feelings and I don't want to say much because I want to protect others from my intense feelings. So what's better than Buddhist practice? You can sit in silence, and silence now is, instead of being shy, that's spiritual, and not expressing yourself, well, we don't talk, and you should be very pleasant and nice to other people and you shouldn't tell them about your painful feelings. This is spiritual. You're just going to be compassionate and kind and good-hearted, so you wouldn't want to share those things. So now instead of just being your hang-up, it becomes a spiritual practice to be who you are. Am I making sense here? Or another person I know said, well, when I was growing up,

[09:55]

in my family, I learned that it wasn't a good idea to whine or complain, and that I shouldn't have any needs. I shouldn't really ask for anything. That wasn't safe. So doesn't that sound like it could be Buddhism? You do this practice, and you just do it, and you don't whine, you don't complain, and you show up for everything, and you don't ask for anything, because you don't have any needs. To have needs is, that's not very Buddhist. You know, desires? Desires, no desires, no, no, no, that's attachment. Don't have them. Eliminate them. So initially, starting out practice, we often have the idea that it's a kind of childhood choices masquerading as adult choices called Buddhism. Is that too complicated for you? Anyway, you know, take the way that you thought you should be. Like your parents,

[11:01]

they were probably saying, please me, make me happy, don't disturb me, you know, don't upset me, you know, fit in, help out. And now you get a chance to do this only, and instead of looking to your parents to approve of your good behavior, now you can look to the spiritual authorities. Am I doing this well enough yet? Mom and Dad Zen Center. So how well has it worked? You know, how well is it working for any of us? And is there, you know, so this goes on for quite a while. Now at some point, you know, and again, coming back to my friend who said, with the tongue on the wall, and then at some point the closet doors, things are spilling out. And she said, well, I started going to AA meetings. You know, I got to be real. I got to say things that I didn't usually have a chance to say. Other people shared things that

[12:02]

they didn't, you know, that, you know, nobody talked about at Zen Center. We actually got to, you know, I actually got to have my problems. And it was a nice place to have them and to talk about them and to share my difficulties with others. So this is, you know, this is not just a challenge of spiritual practice, but a challenge for any of us. You know, in a long-term relationship, you start out with the idea, I'm going to protect you from my painful life, and you're going to protect me from yours. We're going to be, you know, friends, lovers, you know, partners. And so I agree to be a certain kind of a person that you will like, and it's not upsetting for you to be around. But as you start to trust this other person and, you know, relax a little bit, I mean, things start to come out and happen. So now is this an indication that this relationship isn't working, or does this indicate that actually the relationship is working? The relationship is working in that you trusted enough to have some difficulty and problems.

[13:03]

But initially, you look at this as, this isn't working. So it turns out, you know, that after a while, you finally begin, and maybe it takes five years, ten years, fifteen years, and you start to realize that, oh, this practice of sitting here in the Zen Dojo, this is a good place to have problems. Or this relationship is a good place to have problems. Rather than, this is a place to hide from my problems, and to become a kind of person who doesn't have those problems. To become the person my parents always wanted me to be, who pleases everybody else, makes them happy, doesn't have any needs or wants, and makes others feel okay, and is not, you know, disturbing anybody. This could be a recipe for making yourself very small. You see? Now, so this isn't the end of, you know, practice, because actually we're aiming to become free, you know, to become liberated. And in a certain sense, what we're becoming free or

[14:12]

liberated from, is all these ideas we have about how we should be, and how we thought our parents wanted us to be. And to, you know, so in other words, we come to like this Zen teacher who said, the Japanese Zen master said, for 30 years I tried to sweep away the dust, before I realized that the sweeping was creating more dust. So this is to say that the only way that you can accumulate virtues and eliminate faults, is to adopt the very things you're trying to get rid of. The next thing you know, you're angry about being angry. You're sad about being sad, because it's so important. You wanted to be a good person, so you wanted to have certain characteristics and not have others. So now you become guarded and defensive. No, I'm not really angry. Why are you accusing me of that? And, you know, so we get into these,

[15:18]

all these things about, you know, issues of what indicates what about me, and what I might need to do about that, you know, in order for others to recognize that actually I am a good person. So this being a good person, what does it depend on? Does it depend on your performance? You did this, you didn't do that. Now you get approval. You are a good person, certified. Has that happened for you yet? Is this due because you haven't been trying? No, we've all been so, you know, we've tried so hard to be good people in our lives, to be kind and friendly and, you know, accepting, tolerant, patient. Of course, except for that one person

[16:22]

who's closest to home, you know, you yourself. Because it seems like it's important to be hard on yourself so that you would finally be kind. So being hard on yourself, you know, this is a kind of way of sweeping. We sort of, we come through with our awareness and we see, like, what's going on here? You know, it's like a parent coming into the child's room. What's going on here? What are you up to? And so we have this mind that comes through. What's going on? What are you up to? You call that being curious and interested and spontaneous and buoyant? I call it making trouble. Things have so many different sides. So in other words, we adopt, you know, in order to be a certain way,

[17:35]

we adopt the very things we were trying to get rid of. Sweeping. For 30 years, I tried to sweep away the dust, the dust of, you know, our mind, our awareness, the confusion, the delusion, the darkness, the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the sorrow, the grief, the dread, the fear. You know, I tried to sweep it away. This is probably about the amount of time it takes. 30 years. For 30 years, I tried to sweep away the dust before I realized I was creating more dust by sweeping. And, you know, after 30 years, one day he said, looking up from my bowing mat, the sun is streaming in the window. Everything is completely new.

[18:35]

Everyday mind is the way. Everything is completely new. So, that's tremendous letting go, renunciation, you know, giving up the struggle to become someone better than you, other than you. And you could be you. When Zen is Zen, you are you. And you have nothing to prove. You are a child of the Buddha. Or, you know, we could say, you know, you have or you are an expression of Buddha nature. When I was, I'm not sure who, I think it was mostly my father, but my mother to some extent,

[19:53]

they kept a book of pictures, but also lots of other things. So, I have a copy of my baptism. I was baptized, I guess, in the Unitarian Church. Unitarians, you know, depending, some people argue about, you know, are they really Christians? So, they're kind of, you know, what, you know, tentatively is called, you know, humanistic Christians. So, an example of this is that in the baptism it says, and God is another name for the divine spirit which we all share. So, you know, in Buddhism we could say something like, and Buddha nature is another name for the absolute or the boundless spirit that we all share. So, you don't have to, you know, do anything to have that. You know, this isn't related to performance. Do you understand?

[20:56]

Performance means I do this, I don't do that, and if I do this performance well enough, everybody is going to finally applaud, and when they finally applaud, I will feel good about myself. Thank you very much. And why aren't you applauding? So, if you think about this at all, how well has it worked, in other words? You can, you're only, it's very stressful because you're only as good as your last performance. There's no performance that's ever good enough to actually give you the satisfaction and the love you always wanted. All you got was a temporary approval and applause, and people who are performers understand, when you're performing, nobody knows you, they like your performance, and it has, it's nothing, and what does it have to do with you, yourself? No, you've been busy performing for others and you've abandoned yourself,

[22:04]

and then you feel very lonely and as though nobody sees you. So, this is the kind of problem we have. How do we become real? In a way which is beyond performance. And real would mean that we could rest, in a sense, rest in our absolute nature, our boundless being, the spirit, Buddha nature, the divine spirit that we all share, we could rest in that, and we would have joy and sorrow, happiness, sadness, fear, anxiety, well-being, safety, we would have a whole range of experiences. So, there's a little confusion here, you see, that, oh, I thought spiritual practice was going to protect me from those painful things, save me from those things.

[23:10]

This is a basic, you know, kind of human or religious issue, right? If God is good, why is there all this pain? If we're children of the Buddha, why aren't we protected more? But as we know, as parents, we can't protect our children, we can't protect ourselves from all the pain and difficulty in the world. But the confusion here is that if I was more spiritual, I wouldn't have these problems, if my practice was better, I wouldn't have these issues. So, could I just go ahead and have the problems and difficulties and experience my life, and take it all in, and chew it all up, and swallow it, and digest it, and have that be nourishing? Do you understand? And now, if you're all defended, how do you even take in any nourishment? So, we say in Zen, you know, that Zen people have big mouths like furnaces.

[24:13]

Furnaces, takes in everything, burns it all up. And we also say, mine's like a fan in winter, useless. So, I want to digress here a little bit, and then see if we can come back. I don't think of these as tangents. Now, you can if you want. But, it's just coming around to this from another direction. I've been reading one of Larry Dossie's books, Healing Beyond Mind, Beyond the Body, Healing Beyond the Body. So, one of the things that, you know, I mean, science is kind of coming around here and there, you know. So, one of the things he points out is that nobody has yet demonstrated or found mind. You know, that and nobody has shown that the brain gives rise to mind.

[25:21]

You know, in other words, is mind a function of having a brain? And does the brain produce consciousness or mind? Where does that mind come from? And nobody has shown how mind arises from a brain. You can check it out for yourself, you know. You can understand all you want about oh, light comes and hits the eye and, you know, goes through these chemical things, and it goes to the such and such part of the brain, but that still doesn't explain seeing. You know, that something's going on other than physical occurrences in the brain. And nobody's ever shown any connection, you know, how minds and brains are related to each other. So, of course, this also means that science, like, you know, every other field, nobody knows what happens to mind before birth or after death.

[26:26]

Is there relationship? What is the relationship between a brain and mind? So, some scientists now have the idea, you know, partly this is, you see, you know, people in science, of course, have been caught for years in the idea that how could the mind, because they're assuming in some way that the mind is connected to a brain, which is here in this head and not in that head, that there can't be any connection, you know, non-locally. But that's just thinking that, you know, mind is associated with brain. Why would you want to think that? Or how would you know that? Nobody's shown that minds are a function of brains. So, some scientists now are positing or suggesting that consciousness, mind, is everywhere. And the brain is kind of like, the brain is like a receiver.

[27:29]

And you, you know, you get a brain and then consciousness. Some stuff comes through. And a particular version of consciousness happens in, you know, around this location. But it's very difficult to get out of the, you know, the thinking that mind is local and mine, that my experience is here and not there. But, you know, consciousness, consciousness is already here in this idea. And then you could have, of course, you could have things happening, you know, across distance. And actually, in that school of science, like in our school of religion, consciousness is not bound by space or by time. So, consciousness, mind is already one with everything, one with all time.

[28:38]

It's not something you do. It's not something any of us do or make happen. It's just the way it is. Right? So, is this a help? Can you relax now? So, you know, we're still, so we have two, you know, it's suggested in Buddhism that, you know, we have two approaches to reality. One is to have this kind of understanding or remember or be reminded or rest in, you know, consciousness, my mind being one with all mind, all space, all time. And, you know, it's not then, it's not like what anything I do, it's all up to me. And I have to make this a certain way. And if I did a good enough performance, I'd get plenty of approval. No, we don't need to worry about any of that, you know. So, rather than, you know, you're shifting from performance to presence, just let's just show up. Everyday mind is the way.

[29:41]

And let's relax. I've made this a project of mine for many years, you know, maybe I could lighten up. Anyway, and then, of course, on the other hand, we probably ought to work on some things like hunger and disease. But all these things end up being problematic. And, you know, we do, we offer what we have to offer, the gifts that are ours. You know, particular gifts seem to come through particular versions of consciousness. So, is there some way to express my gifts, the gift of who I am, the gift of the consciousness that comes through me? Is there some way to do that? And you see this, and again, you know, if I go to Larry Dossey's book, you see you have problems like, there was a huge study done with 22 research centers involving over 13,000 people.

[30:43]

You know, they have half do one thing and half not. So they took half the people and spent seven years with a real push to reduce the risk factors for heart disease. Seven years, and these people succeeded in reducing their risk factors for heart disease. They died more frequently than the other group. Nobody knows why. So, what are you going to believe? What are you going to do? How are you going to live your life? Do you start, do you start studying up on the risk factors or the, you know, and you're trying to make it like this and not like that? And if you don't do any of that, well, you know, if you don't have any aim or focus, you know, now you're just lost. So where does this come from? You know, your gifts coming through you, manifesting yourself in the world in a way that benefits all beings.

[31:45]

Is there some way to do that? Is there some way that you can be you that, and it benefits all beings? And you're not getting caught in just some little program that actually is extremely stressful somehow. Nobody has figured out why the group that reduced their risk factors died more often. They're still arguing about it, apparently. Why is that? And, you know, in a similar vein, all the risk factors for heart disease only explain 50% of heart conditions, you know, of new heart attacks and things. So something, there's more to our life than, you know, saying things mechanistically and mechanically. There's some way, you know, we can rest in our wonderful good heartedness

[32:51]

and trust in our capacity to meet and be with what comes up in our life, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow. You know, so Suzuki Rishi said, we practice sasan to be ready for anything. That's rather different than, you know, to be, you know, practicing sasan to be happy and not sad or, you know, still and not, you know, having no demands, no wishes, no needs, being cheerful, being buoyant. Anything, ready for anything. Everyday mind is the way. So at some point you can see this starts to sound like, that's not even practice. What would make it practice then?

[33:54]

Practice, you have to have a project to make it practice. Wouldn't you need a project? Like, wouldn't you need some risk factors that you could be working on to reduce them? And that would be, now you could be doing a practice, you know, because you have, you've figured out the risk factors and now you're going to work on reducing them and then you could succeed in your practice. You might die because you, you know. So finally, you know, or so to speak, finally, because I'm ending my talk soon. So, you know, there's a somewhat different view of what, what Buddhist practice could look like.

[34:55]

And so we, we have the understanding that as a priest or someone practicing Buddhism, and again, this is, you wouldn't have to be a priest or practicing Buddhism to view this this way or to live your life this way. But being a Buddhist priest then is more about how you would dispel the spell of reality. And how you would weave the spell of reality. You know, what, what project are you involved in? And is there some way to dispel, you know, the idea that that particular project is so all-important? The project that is the sweeping away the dust is creating more dust. But my ambitious plans for perfecting myself are making me feel small and scared that I don't measure up.

[35:56]

And anxious about whether or not other people will like me and approve of me. And if only they liked and approved me enough, I could like me. Really? And finally, you know, there's no evidence that you can get that it's okay to like yourself. Finally, it's just like, okay, that's a spell. That's a trance. It's a trance, you know, that everyday mind is the way. It's okay for me to be me. This mind itself is Buddha. I am Buddha and an ordinary person. So we're actually in this business of how do we,

[37:00]

you know, which trance are we going to be involved in? Which spell? And can we create these and let go of them? Dispel our obsessions and our, you know, sweepings? So we let our life come through. The life of the consciousness that we all share. Our particular expression. You know, we have different gifts. How do we let our gift, you know, manifest? And finally, you know, how we do that is, I'm going to do that. And it helps when somebody says, would you do that? Would you let us see your gift? Would you let us see the gift of who you are? Would you share that with us? We'd love to know the gift of who you are.

[38:02]

Rather than you're being careful and concealed and, you know, so that, how am I going to do this so that it comes out so that, and we get so involved in these things. And we have such magnificent, you know, such a magnificent spirit we share. I'm wondering, I'm wondering how it feels to you right now here in this Zen Do at Green Gulch.

[39:44]

When I close my eyes and go inside, it feels like a very sweet place. So I'm guessing that if you go inside, you will feel also something about sweet, something in a way sweet, something about, you know, being in the one heart that we all share, part of this one heart or great heart, great mind, big mind. A week after, two weeks after my third birthday, my mother died of cancer.

[41:09]

My birth mother, a week before that, she sent a letter to her sister and it included a little poem, a poem about a little duck. It's about a duck, you know, the duck riding on a hundred, riding on a wave a hundred feet beyond the surf and it cuddles in the swells. It can rest while the Atlantic heaves because it rests in the Atlantic. Probably, he doesn't know how large the ocean is and neither do you. But what does he do, I ask you? He sits down in it. He rests in the immediate as though it were infinity, which it is. That's religion and the little duck has it.

[42:13]

I like the little duck. He doesn't know much, but he has religion. So, apparently, ducks also have received consciousness. Consciousness appears wherever we look. My mother's letter after that goes on and she says, her sister's name is Hattie. So, the next paragraph says, there you have it, Hattie. Let's rest in the immediate as though it were infinity. That's religion and the little duck has it. Everything is a part of the infinite. Everything is, she says, everything is well if we just wait a little bit.

[43:17]

We cannot take any thought of the moral. And then she says, well, after you've taken all the constructive steps you can to prepare for it. So, I guess I come by my Buddhist practice honestly. So, we can sit, rest in the immediate as though it were infinity. And we can study or practice or play at how to express, offer, share ourselves, our gifts with others in a way that benefits them. And as much as anything, this doesn't seem to be a particular program. There doesn't seem to be a particular way to do it. This is a kind of like, I'm going to go ahead and do that. See how it works? And there's no measure.

[44:19]

It's just like, okay, we'll do it. All right. I'm going to stop. Thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate being in your presence and all of us together generating this bright, sparkling consciousness. Tension.

[44:52]