About Forms

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Wednesday Lecture #shuso-talk


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five-star whoa
important form is to me what this early this morning because i woke up with a start i was having a dream where i was being hunted by
is the thing working can you hear me them
with having a paper

yeah i think it is recording okay
so as we rush into action
so i had this dream
i had this dream where i was being hunted by this man who was carrying a big bow big bow and long arrows with i'm still very sharp nul points points and
we're running through the mountains and i was terrified terrified and i usually to only have a dream like this when i'm going to have to do something publicly now to express myself publicly
about something that's important to me but you don't have to worry about me thinking that it's any of you who is carrying the bow because when i looked at the man's face it was mine
so having said that time
i found a lot about form in my life having been lucky enough to be surrounded by it in a very positive way
as a certainly as a parish priest i heard a lot about form
such such questions insightful questions as and why do we have to do that or i hate in sense i start to choke or or you seem so cold
and certainly
when certainly as as you know
he'd get to hear if it very interesting very interesting thing things some people really really love form in fact that's one of the things that attracted them to to our our place here because if you haven't noticed we are rather formal
some people are wounded roman catholics
boy yeah i almost converted to roman church when i was nineteen i'm really glad i didn't based on some the things i've heard
and i'm really sorry for that
the people are so wounded
there are other people who were trained or did a lot of sitting with the vipassana the for personal discipline which is purported to be very informal
the don't think so i mean it's certainly not it's not like us but i did a ten day retreat at don't bury in massachusetts one of the first things i i didn't turn of meditation and i was amazed at how formal they were
course from their point of view they were very informal
and then there are some people who have been trained in a tibetan tradition which don't seem to notice in fact i think we're kind of like a
i'd rather dull hot fudge sundae to or tibetans
as opposed to what
oh i'm so as opposed to what as opposed to what tibetans do
i'm very lucky oh my impression is very lavish very colorful not everything is white and black know wow
actually i always thought of phone
i always thought of zen eyesight of tibetans as the the hot fudge sundae with with all the sprinkles and as on see and zan as kind of like the hot fudge sundae without the ice cream and fudge and stuff

i had a
i was at tassajara for two years
had a had a ah let's see what was it
oh yeah last week i talk about mine whenever i get burnt out to get these
get a very deep monastic vocation
so so i left to zahara the monastery and went off to look at other christian ones and when that didn't pan out
i went home to me and take care of my bishop who was sick at the time and stayed there for three years and one of the things that happened was that were formed a sitting group and it was eventually moved to this gigantic house right next door to the cathedral my cathedral
in the episcopal church and and i set it up zendo style a double parlors zendo style made all this offers and zappa tons and had i put a statue and suzuki roshi calligraphy that i pasted onto a blank scroll and candle and course incense stuff and
i'm quite pleased with it myself
and and the folks that came by a pretty much and didn't mind me they're kind of they knew me anyway they're sort of used to
my stuff and the the priest next door at the dean of the cathedral
he came he came over he actually is very very supportive very supportive of my shenanigans
and but he didn't pull me aside one day and said down and he had that look at hand has a look on his face you know it's very helpful very sincere on don't you think that your threshold is rather high
that's what
a so what that made me think this was what does this business about threshold on other words it was too hard for people to getting the door because he had to do all this stuff first know they had to take off their shoes which is very disarming i think in our culture taking off your shoes in somebody's house
i mean it's comfortable in your own i think it's makes you vulnerable in someone else's are especially a public place
plaza plus bowing and things like that we did we do the whole works i mean it was pared down obviously
and so and then get got me thinking what what is the value of all this threshold business and i know that when i first came here i was scared to death to walk through the door fact i asked some people and they had the same experience and then pretty much did to that it's kind of a scary thing to come into a foreign
or something different
so at any rate so what is form i used to think it was a form of etiquette in fact the instructions that i had on how to do stuff how to get in and out of those endo was called zendo etiquette sendo etiquette
in every group has its own etiquette i mean you must know that even if it says it doesn't there are certain behaviors that are supported reinforced and other behaviors that are considered an appropriate they may be stated or not stated but every group always has a way of dealing with each other of department
so whether it's over or hidden is going to be there

so and i was thinking about them what are some of the ways that term different groups relate to each other there are some people who are very comfortable in a military
outfit where everything is ordered there's a way you stand there's a way you talk there's a way you defer to people above you know some folks find that very very comforting
there's a is also a way of lc i call it
i studied sloppiness
you can see it in some time in a manner of dress wherever of everybody dresses that way so it's not like oh i just got up and threw on what i had is kind of really studied and certainly ways of speaking that are rather
inexact to
there are cultures where you have to be really tough like riding on the buses for me a very very difficult thing to do some of the folks are really like mean spirited and really tough as if as if if you
don't carve out with force your space it will be taken from you it seems almost
so every group has its way of doing things
ah see
people people in maine
now we're that i'm used to when you meet people in mean they will say this is so until i hi how are you
that's about it that's about it in other words it's very at first it's very it seems very cool and distant the for the most part but then over over time of people open up and get warm get warmer so it's a gradual warming to friendship
imagine my surprise coming to california
in were not only that they shake your hand but they probably tried to hug you too
in now warmth friendliness and a home could god either i'm in hell or i've gone to heaven
and else and i noticed that time that that that seems to with my opinion is that that seems to be the way it is at first and then gradually a pupil kind of cool

in terms of form in terms of manners i ran across something very short track tiny from this really neat book that i found at
coin of cornea is that right i like keno cornea i say it wrong as called learning to bow inside the heart of japan by bruce felt filer an american who went to teach english there in japan for a year and he writes about is what a way found out to really funny
and very revealing but one of the things he found was what happened to him physically when he started when he talked japanese and this is what he said
when i spoke japanese with mr cherry blossom is his name in english or my eighty five year old landlady where the principle of my school i could feel myself physically change i would scrunch my shoulders stiffened my arms and even second my stomach at times my posture would decay
take my speech
it's nearly impossible for example to have a good knock down drag out fight in standard japanese one's body one's words will not allow it
how we how we deal with ourselves i think helps form and shape our character
and i was thinking and see
when i hear people have trouble with form usually it says is the they say something like can
muncie why can't we deal can't we when we do much better without all this formality like why don't we just sit why don't we just sit idle take care of all the stuff
but i find you can really get that the the ideas that we could really get down to business we didn't have all this stuff and all these things to remember all this hard thing all these hard things to do
for itself for example even even guess students come as you know when i was you know i'm not now
showing guess students how to get in and out of the buddha hall i mean it it took me
but six months to figure it out myself and no amount of telling me would help so when i tell him when i show them as and this is the hardest part of zen center zaza and is a snap compared to getting in and out of the buddha hall
so wouldn't we wouldn't be much easier off without all this stuff
plaza ah plus all the bowing and stuff plus on the way some of us dress you know isn't isn't this rather irrelevant to our culture to our time
to which i say yes isn't it wonderful
but here's here's my point then they say besides it's so foreign so foreign
oh which is a very revealing a statement i think i was really heartened when bobby road spoke
wednesday night she for those of you who weren't here she comes she's of the a korean limit lineage
from the providence and center and her teacher since i mean
somebody was complaining about they couldn't do all these foreign forms and he said well gee you know not everything is american
when know what a nice insight and it wouldn't i wouldn't have occurred to me i mean you can go anywhere to a mcdonalds everything is american sometimes
so i've found that very helpful
yeah so then the other thing is why can't we just use western forms
that makes sense
i shudder to think what those might be
can you see a passing somebody in the hall high five
i can't see myself doing that ever but
but what it lacks in dignity i think it does make up and enthusiasm
i remember going to green gulch arriving there in the dead of night and popping into the zendo in the morning sitting there watching my breath i'd never done that before my life i sat in a room inside watching i mean seeing it
not being aware of it been seeing it now it's freezing then after zazen which was okay because i was rather distracted by all this we got up for service and and bowed oh no the doshi i didn't know what doshi was but this person out here in the middle
oil went up and offered something that was on fire
and then everybody got back and amidst all sorts of bells and things everybody fell on the floor
i was left standing there what the hell is this
i don't do this where i come from but then it hit me oh wait a minute i don't stick out like a sore thumb either where i come from so i fell on the for to with everybody else
you know i've thought about
what is the value if any of having forms that don't make any sense or that are that are foreign they're different and i think it's the same kind of question that arises with different people now what how what happens to us when we are in the face of something different
what happens to us i think the biggest thing that happens as we get disoriented
if we walk into her you know what see i've been to england
which for me was bad enough that was hard enough that people were different they react differently they talked differently i didn't really know who i was with them till i belong i didn't i but but we're the same color we spoke the same language but i was disoriented i didn't know where it was didn't know who i was
i think of when i got two cents at san francisco i thought
i had been here for a few days before before i came to the zen center and
saw all these people of different nationalities and whoa this is great in maine that and well as he when i grew up when i was growing up until very recently everybody looked like me everybody the only people of color like or on t v so i never never had that experience so coming to san francisco is his term
civic but when i got this in two cents hunter
first things i thought was will where is everyone where it's everybody they all look like me too
so i didn't have the chance to be disoriented that way
i wonder i wonder though if if that's a bad thing
i'm being disoriented that is
it strikes me the other thing that happens sorry if i stumble it's because i'm confused when
disoriented the other thing that happens leads to me as i get self conscious very some very self conscious and i mean like self conscious wanting to disappear disappear whenever i'm disoriented or and i'm up against something that i don't understand or this different from me
and so i wonder
out out there that's bad that's bad know we're outta control were disoriented self conscious that that's bad in here it's my impression that's good that you're right on the right track
and the things that led me to believe that was a hearing duggan's thing when he said to the to study the way is to study the cell etc etc what sell well we were itself we're talking about i think it's the the the condemned totally condition self and where do you find that
when you don't know what's going on when you feel out of control
you don't know the language you don't want to do with your body
but everybody else is doing something and you feel like you have to join so i come up i come up i hate this i love this i don't like this i don't know what's going on
the end of the sentence doesn't matter what matters is the i i think the i that pops up that's the south that has to be studied
i ten trungpa said something telling him when he said
self-awareness is one insult after another
self awareness is one insult after another
that conditioned i is quite embarrassing
i think
somebody asked i hear that somebody asks suzuki roshi at tassajara how come we all had to wear robes
right right wear robes doing zazen and apparently he said that you know when you're all doing the same thing facing the wall all looking alike your uniqueness shines through your own uniqueness i would say your own beauty really shines through i see them as end i'm facing out to hundred
it was a token who said practices when continuous mistake
right now so out their mistakes that make a social conscious out there bad that's bad making mistakes as bad you and get scolded didn't get fired in here
really if you don't know that if you don't know that stick around as if you've made a mistake that's good that's good here
should i say that
so i think i think that form that's annoying it is to some people
really brings out our condition self the self that makes us a slave in a slave now and we long for freedom but i don't think there's any getting free unless your face that self and form if i think better than most other things i've seen it really pulls it out really pulls it up and it brings up ah
stuff with it no
it brings up if we're dependent that brings that out who i want to do it right i want to do it right or if we're account counter dependent i hate this always did and always will
also some of us so somewhere got the message that whatever we did it had to be correct how sad how impossible that is but that's still the condition self that arises i remember being introduced to people as a kid and they would stick out their hand to shake it but i feel
felt so ashamed of myself generally speaking that i felt just horrible
doing something formal like that and i'm so ashamed
that that was me i didn't have the practice then alas but it certainly brought out me
it brings up our inferiority complexes brings up our superiority complexes and if you don't think so
just don't try
bowing to people as they are
walk in the hall
no tassajara tuscarora it's easier because you have to do this stuff all the time all the time so there's one women whom i sat next to whom i really hated oh i hated her
i hated it in fact i even built i built a psychological wall between us
it was and it was very strong know how stupid as this right
and i would pass her meeting her and on the walkway and i would of course being mr perfect when we do a marvelous bow and she wouldn't she were gonna go
and go up and i was so insulted every every time it happened i was totally insulted it was personal and because she's like that know
and i thought i was dealing with her know another mistake that's only dealing with me but not by not dealing with me
ah i have not had very it's not much fun dealing with my condition self
it's embarrassing
and it's also covered in blindness
i practice discussion sometimes maybe when they dare i can't tell but they'll mentioned something that you know do you know when you are you know that you when you do this you at you actually doing this and i'm thinking
oh yes
it's awful and i don't want to admit it i don't want to admit any of it but but you get you get used to apologizing
no and owning things so
so our practice helps i think it helps helps the embarrassment of being yourself your conditions are
have you also notice tell you a sense of humor evaporates around the condition sell huh
when they when you do something they think it's funny it isn't
in a oh are trying to talk with somebody oh gosh oh mercy being being you know and and getting you know the myriad excuses for for everything and tons of excuses none of which i really strictly care about frankly because i i i see a person whom the that was just wonderful most
the time so all the excuses are really quite extra but
well i hope you can get my point i just forgot it
oh oh so if you point out if you point out to them that oh well you know into that that your that's really not that big a deal
they don't like that too much know because the condition self likes to be real likes to be important you know if if oh i yeah i didn't say this before but i was talking with tia
the other day
couple weeks ago actually and we were talking about this condition self and in your how you how how the way you see it when you're conditioned to see reality is the way you really think it is you really think it is it's unquestioned and so we were questioning with the way i was seeing reality and it occurred to me my god and i asked her how do you tell the diff
trust between what's real and what you make up
fair question
and she said what difference does it make
think about that
i found a very liberating myself
and so
ah but that's not all it is i think form form does bring up our self my condition self but that's not all and i think this is that this is the juicy part
because i think that the forms are transforming i think they transform us
and that's that for me is the marvel and the greatest thing is you don't even know it you don't even know it have you ever have you known people here and city centre had them go away to tassajara for a few months come back and you say quot what happened to them if you noticed the newest they're soft
this after their open there's a there's an innocence and at the same person but there's an innocence about them they glow they really glow and it's really quite a
it's really sweet sweet to see them
why is that
if you say it to them they don't watch saying they don't know that doesn't make any sense to them because they just themselves
and why is that i think it's because of the former life the stuff you do in and out in and out and the struggle the struggle with yourself that arises not the forms forms only they don't care it's like sort of like that anybody ever played tetherball know like forms are kind of like the post
and and we are kind of like playing with a ball and it doesn't really matter what we do with the ball and we will like it we may punch you may get mad at and chase it around but the form the stays the same it doesn't care it acts as kind of an anchor kind of a check in place
ah i ran across something which struck me in
oh what is it time that book we read every time it's staff meeting duggan's
pure standards yeah is that the sent the a changing a hitching and other the which means the the rules and regulations in the forms at aig that nasty monastery called eternal peace
how wonderful
he said will actually he he didn't say this one of his disciples said he said this so you're getting at third-hand
i it purportedly he said department is the buddha dharma
manners are the heart of the teaching
is that powerful or what department mean that's a lovely word elegant word department how we carry ourselves
i is the buddha dharma is the buddha dharma is reality is that teaching of reality is is what's happening that manners are the heart of the teaching me how we deal with each other manners or on see other word the is
i don't know but that's enough
so so something else is going on here mean it's not just doing something that's uncomfortable or marvelous there's something deeper that happens through these forms that was thinking how
we have this form this was an eastern form very old form gosh l
it's probably a positive form mean and you all know that the rash the reasoning the the stuff we make up about what this all these things mean and i think maybe you're probably was oh it's like a like a handshake is not it's not really agree a greeting of warmth it's really showing that you don't have a knife in your hand
like like the the roman legions the salute was to raise your right arm which was to show you were unarmed you didn't mean you didn't mean harm so maybe you got show was maybe like that too but then all these things get sort of mystical explanations to so once i have other side coming close together
maybe so doesn't matter but what strikes me as it in the west we also have another sign
kiss me
but this this one right
what would it be like to practice this as a greeting instead to know
i don't mean to be facetious about that i think it makes a difference which forms we actually use know as as people as people i think ones that are aggressive and mean spirited i think created an aggressive and mean spirited character
i think the ones that have been around for thousands and thousands of years which were gestures of kindness and open heartedness i think they formed kind and open hearted character so it could be worse
the other thing is i don't think it really matters a whole lot but we think about form
i think if you have the courage to just jump in
that the form will take care of you know
that it will change her you will open your heart softened it soften your mind and open your mind no matter what we think
oh and end with them by telling you have experience i had in the zendo during the one day sitting
the last and we had you know as you know you're always on the lookout for trouble
which is our way of saying i want to be helpful
so i'm suzanna i'm always watching to see you know
who needs help more than others
know by my writing a tourist note to the soccer or or or by
we'll see what else to idea that years ago got down here now know tightening up myself which is not very helpful i suspect over other people
or things like that so you're always scanning always scanning the zendo
eating is quite secondary
that least for me as you know i never even mostly i don't even know what it is unless it stewed fruit which i hate
no offense ten zone pension
so so at this point so i'm not a know anymore you know
and so i was sitting there and i next to blanche who was very very steady very focused and i decided okay i'm going to eat
i'm going to do or aoki and i remembered something that i was told the
a long time ago pure
it our this this little thing we have this form called do your own practice to your own practice don't worry about them
can you imagine that but do your own practice so i decided i'm going to do my own practice and so i mimicked blanche when it when she did something i did it to very focused and when i didn't have something to do i didn't look around i looked at a place on the floor and kept very steady very steady
and i've been doing or are you okay enough by now that i almost i haven't i have it a little bit more so that that wasn't a real problem trying to present from prevent things from falling off onto the floor so i just was very steady and just eight and just a
it just eight just did or yeah okay and all and when you know when by critical mind would come in now just eat just need just breathe just be here and the question arose in my mind when is when is
just eating much more than just eating
and the answer that came was when you're really just eating
because what happened to me it was a marvelous it's like towards the end of of the meal i mean that now it's hard to describe big spacious gratitude
i love just because i was eating just because i was eating just doing that one thing so i recommend it to you i really do instead of trying to worry about you're doing you're right stuff just do it just do it
it's difficult but i think worth it
based on my my small experiences actually just doing one thing at a time
and so on
if you do have trouble with form either from the past or
from the present i hope you'll give it another another chance use it now let it work in you use them let them working you let your heart open
be above all be kind to you be kind of the mind who has trouble as be very gentle very kind
that's all i have to say
thank you very much
me or intention equally penetrate every be