2005.05.16-serial.00038

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EB-00038

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But very simple and very profound because how we really come alive is in doing things and this is an important aspect of Zen is we come alive in doing, in meeting things and in handling things and taking care of things, responding to things and to one another and to our own experience. This is how we come alive. We don't come alive really by consuming manufactured experiences. It's entertaining but we don't come alive in the way of, in the sense of being seen and recognized and appreciated, in the sense of seeing and being seen. So, do not be careful about one thing, careless about another. Do not give away your opportunity even to, even if it's just one drop of water and

[01:03]

in an ocean of merit, do not fail to place even a particle of earth at the summit of the mountain of wholesome deeds. This is very similar to Mother Teresa saying that we can only do small acts but with great love, with great kindness. And sometimes, you know, I'm quite discouraged and you know about the state of the world. I read a while back an article about the oil we eat. So it turns out we're using almost as many calories of oil for every calorie of food we've produced, energy. And as soon as something is manufactured, you know, so if you have Cheerios or potato chips or anything that's toasted, roasted, you know, we're using 8 or 10 calories of

[02:05]

energy to turn oats into Cheerios, potatoes into potato chips. So, we're literally eating oil and this is still economically, you know, economically still, you know, people who are manufacturing these things and we're eating these manufactured experiences, you know, you can make a killing doing this, literally, figuratively, you know, you can make money. It's still economically possible to make a lot of money by spending oil, using oil to produce Cheerios and potato chips and crackers and, you know, and to turn things into manufactured products. And you know, just in the last month or so or month or two, in the New Yorker magazine

[03:08]

there was a series of three on global warming. It's real. So you know, what are we going to do? And you know, maybe Dogen's advice is rather, you know, in a sense it's rather poignant, but there still are small acts of kindness, you know, small acts we do each moment when we do them with care and not being careless or careful and just taking care of and responding to something, washing the pot, cleaning the rice, preparing the vegetables, serving the food, doing the dishes, we're taking care of, you know, one drop of water, one particle of earth. And you know, I don't know that it's going to make all the difference, but I don't know

[04:10]

what else to do. So this week we were also thinking about, I was telling my group about making the perfect biscuit. When I was cooking here in the 60s and first I was pretty new at cooking and I made biscuits for the first time from scratch and I didn't think the biscuits came out quite the way they should. They weren't quite right. So the next time I tried it a little differently and I made the biscuits with eggs and without eggs and with butter and with other kinds of shortening and they never came out right. And I did it with milk and with water and they still weren't right. And then one day I thought, what am I comparing these to?

[05:13]

What idea do I have in my mind that these biscuits don't measure up to? And I realized that when I grew up in my family we had Bisquick biscuits and you took a box of Bisquick and poured the powder into a bowl and added milk and stirred it with a fork and then you could blop it onto the pan and they came out in a lot of different shapes and they were good. And then once in a while for a special treat we had Pillsbury canned biscuits. And you wrap the can on the corner of the counter, twist it open and then get out your biscuits and put them out on the pan and I thought those are really good. And my biscuits weren't coming out like Bisquick or Pillsbury. A few years ago I heard that Susan Sarandon or somebody was on David Letterman or Jay

[06:23]

Leno and she said that her sister down in Alabama had been to the grocery store and put the groceries in the back seat of the car and it was a very hot day and was driving home and heard this loud explosion, this pop and she felt something sticky on the back of her neck, she thought she'd been shot. She didn't dare touch the back of her neck and she drove straight to the emergency room and went into the emergency room and said I think I've been shot and they said well where? And she said well in the back of my neck and they said you mean with this biscuit? Biscuit off the back of her neck and showed it to her. But I thought canned Pillsbury biscuits were really good and my biscuits weren't coming out like Pillsbury or Bisquick and I thought well do I really need to make these things

[07:30]

come out like Pillsbury or Bisquick, why don't I just see what they're like? This is not so, this is pretty much like, this is using instead of like saying use your own hands and see with your own eyes, this is like taste with your own mouth, you know taste what you put in your mouth without so many ideas about what it should be like and see what it is like and the next time I made biscuits boy were they good, they were flaky and weedy and earthy and sunny and buttery and they kind of melted in your mouth and they were good. So I thought well isn't that interesting you know, so much for making the perfect biscuit, what about the biscuits of today and what about tasting this moment and seeing what it's like and tasting the moment that's free from the manufactured experience of Pillsbury

[08:36]

or Bisquick and this isn't just biscuits because this is our life too. I don't know about you but I pretty much, we're all involved in childhood decisions masquerading as adult choices. I don't know about you but I set out to be someone who pleased others and made everyone happy and never had any complaints, didn't whine, didn't complain and was buoyant and cheerful and happy and do what you're told, don't talk back. I had a whole picture of how to be and the thing was I could never get my life to come out like that, it was pretty discouraging. So I gave up and I thought maybe I could be me and have feelings and talk and I also

[09:50]

thought you know for years I thought I better be careful what I say because so that I better not say anything too silly or funny because then people might think I'm kind of a lightweight, you know I'm not a serious Zen student and to be recognized as a serious Zen student I better not be too funny or joke around much. So for many years I didn't say much and I thought I should only say things that were deep and profound and clever. So consequently I didn't say much because it wasn't very often that I could think of anything deeper profound or clever to say and so I had to abandon you know a lot of my Bisquick Pillsbury ideas of how to be that I had somehow come up with in the course of you know childhood choices masquerading as adult decisions and I started and I trained

[10:54]

myself to actually talk with people and to joke sometimes and to tell stories and I started you know actually finding out that I could never, I would never be this person I set out to be and then you know a couple years ago it was great I was down here at Tassajara and I got out Andy Ferguson's book on the Chinese Zen, Zen's Chinese heritage and then here's this passage in there and the Zen master says realizing the great mystery is nothing but breaking through to grasp an ordinary person's life, realizing the mystery is nothing but breaking through to grasp an ordinary person's life. This is another way of saying see you know do it with your hands, see with your eyes, taste with your tongue, walk with your legs, be in your body, use your body, use your mind,

[12:00]

meet things, take care of things, handle things, take care of things. One drop of water, one particle of earth and it's not very special you know it's kind of just every day and I wish there was more to it, I wish there was some way I just as soon saved the world, not that it wants saving and maybe it's just as well, you know I don't know what's going to happen and none of us can know what's going to happen or you know for any of our lives or for the earth as a whole. Recently I was also reading about the Zen master Deshan, he's the one who studied for

[13:03]

many years and became a great commentator on the Diamond Sutra. As many of you know he decided to go and straighten out the Zen teachers because he didn't think they understood so well and then on his way to the south of China to confront the Zen masters he met a woman who was selling tea cakes and he wanted to buy a tea cake, some tea cakes from her and she said what are all those books you're carrying and he said those are my commentaries and she said so what are you, what are the commentaries on and he said they're commentaries on the Diamond Sutra. So then she said well I have a question for you and if you can answer it I'll give you the tea cake but if you can't you're not going to eat today, you can't have it and he said oh okay. So she, it's a very famous question and it's past mind is already gone,

[14:11]

present mind cannot be grasped, future mind is not yet here, what mind are you going to eat the tea cake with? Or it's a play on words because what mind you know the tea cakes are also called refreshment or so you know what mind will you refresh, it's translated in various ways but anyway and he couldn't answer, he was speechless. So then he said to her instead of saying honey could I study with you, he said do you know any Zen teachers nearby? Oh well he missed his chance but she pointed him in the right direction and so he began studying with Dragon Marsh and when he first got to Dragon Marsh's place he said I don't see any dragon and I don't see any marsh. A little confrontational and the Zen teacher said you've met him,

[15:21]

you know, this is Dragon Marsh and anyway so he stayed there and the famous story about his enlightenment is that one night he was visiting with his teacher and it was after dark and the teacher gave him a little paper lantern to see in the dark and as he was about to go out the teacher blew out the light and he said to have gotten enlightened. And it was sometime after that you know he got together all of his commentaries and he put them in the courtyard of the monastery and the monks gathered around and he said all the mysterious doctrines are but a drop of water in a vast void. All the affairs of people are merely a speck of dust in a boundless bottomless chasm.

[16:30]

And then he burned his books, lit a match and set them all on fire. So, I wonder about that you know all the affairs of people, all the affairs of the world are a speck of dust in a boundless bottomless chasm. These are, you know, I think now there's a lot of grief in the world, unacknowledged grief, grief for the world, grief for the future, grief for, you know, the lives that we don't have because we're busy consuming and busy working hard, you know, earning a living.

[17:40]

And we miss sometimes the simple things that we can do. You know, sometimes people say to me, well, what do you think about those bread machines? Well, bread machines are great, they'll make good bread, you're not going to get your hands kneaded. You know, you're kneading the bread, you're not just kneading the bread, your hands are getting massaged. How are you going to get your hands massaged? You know, you're kneading the bread, if you don't need some bread now and again. How are you going to get, you know, your life awakened if you don't use your hands, if you don't use your eyes and see, if you don't, you know, if we're not actually working with the things of the world, how are we going to be, you know, alive and awake and well? And I don't know what else to do in this time of, which seems like a kind of bottomless grief sometimes. So, simple things, simple pleasures and seeing with your eyes, feeling with your hands,

[18:54]

tasting with your tongue. There's another Zen master who said, the monk asked him, when the great matter of birth and death is right at hand, then what? And he said, if there's tea, drink tea. If there's food, eat. I thought, that's pretty good. And the monk said, who's being nourished? And the teacher said, pick up your bowl and eat. So, I think we do pretty well at that here at Tassajaren Zen Center. So well, you know, that some people call us, they say, you're not Buddhists, you're foodists. Anyway, I wanted to, thinking about all this, I was reminded of a poem by Anna Akhmatova, Russian poet, who, you know, lived through a good deal of 20th century Russia

[19:56]

with, you know, her friends disappearing, was imprisoned at times. Very difficult times. And this is a poem, you know, about meeting, meeting the world, meeting someone, meeting something, something that, you know, you don't, you haven't known before, which is each moment. And this is the way the poem goes. A land, not mine, still, forever memorable. The water of its ocean chill and fresh. Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk. Late sun lays bare the rosy limbs of the pine trees. Sunset on the ethereal waves.

[21:07]

I can't tell if the day is ending for the world. Or if the secret of secrets is inside me again. A land, not mine, still, forever memorable. The waters of its ocean chill and fresh. The sand on the bottom whiter than chalk. Late sun lays bare the rosy limbs of the pine trees. Sunset on the ethereal waves. I can't tell if the day is ending for the world. Or if the secret of secrets is inside me again. Blessings. Thank you.

[22:14]

So, moving the chairs here, those of you who stay, we endeavor to move chairs respectfully, two hands, carefully not shoving them across the floor, picking them up, putting them down, with your own hands, using your eyes. And this time in the evening outside, we endeavor to be silent in the courtyard and around Tassajara so as to let people who are going to bed early sleep and not disturb themselves. Thank you. Blessings.

[22:50]