Alignment With The Great Way

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Sunday Lecture - Children's Lecture: waging peace; taking up a practice

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Good morning. It must be getting to be close to spring, with all the new life showing up. So, I'd like to talk about alignment. Alignment with the great way. And one of the ways we do that is through meditation practice. So, I'd like to invite particularly the smaller people in the front, but actually everyone, to join me in a meditation, which I call nose and belly meditation. So, if you take your hand and you put it kind of like this, make


a kind of an open fist, not a tight fist, and you place it, so this part of your finger here is right under your nose. And you take your other hand and you put it on your belly. And someone has a bell? So, do you also have a clock? So, you could time us for one minute. And during one minute, just see what you notice. Okay? Pay attention to your hand at your nose and your hand at your belly, and just see what you notice. So, does anyone want to say anything that you noticed? Yes?


Whenever you breathed in it, it felt like it was going in your stomach. I mean out in your stomach. Uh-huh. Yeah. When you breathed in, you noticed your stomach was going out. Yeah. Okay, good. Anyone else notice anything? Okay, so that's good. One thing was noticed and mentioned. Since it is close to spring, a couple of weeks until spring, there's various kinds of activity that people are doing around here to get ready for spring, and one of them is taking care of bees. And I don't know if you all know how important bees are. Do you know that a lot of the food that we eat,


we wouldn't have without bees? Yeah? Someone know some kind of food that we wouldn't have without bees? Yeah. Honey, of course, honey. Yeah. That's a good one. Anything else? Yeah? No? Well, do you know that, do you like cherries? Anyone like pears? Yeah, okay, there's some pear fans here. That's good. How about nuts, like almonds? Yeah, some people like almonds. So bees are very important. They fly from flower to flower, and they take the elements from one flower to another,


which actually makes the flower turn into nuts or fruit. Even chocolate, did you know that? Chocolate is dependent upon bees. I just learned that yesterday myself. So, we have a picture of, maybe in our minds, various Buddha images. There's one up there. You can't see. We have a standing Jizo here. We have another Bodhisattva here, sitting here. And I just wanted to reflect for a moment on the idea that Buddha sitting was in alignment with the bees. So, do you mind when bees crawl around on you? No? How about spiders? Yeah?


So, Buddha was able to sit there and be in agreement with the bees, and be in agreement with spiders. And so, I'm going to have Gensho here pass out some copies of a short song about Buddha sitting under the tree and not being bothered by bees, and not being bothered by spiders. And these can go out to the whole assembly. And I did this with one group, and one person said they were not... they actually were bothered by the fear of doing it wrong. So, we'll do this song three times, and the first time we'll say Buddha's not bothered by bees,


and the next time not bothered by spiders, and the next time not bothered by the fear of doing it wrong. Maybe that should be the first time. So, it goes like this, and some of you know it already, so you can just join in. There's old Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. There's old Buddha, mind as quiet as it can be. Sitting like a bump on a log. Sitting like a wise old frog. Sitting like a smile on his face. Sitting like empty space. That's supposed to be silent there. So, you have to pay attention. Doesn't mind rain, doesn't mind thunder.


What could bother old Buddha, I wonder. He doesn't mind bees, he doesn't mind bees. He lets those bees just buzz on by. Let's do that verse one more time, and then we'll go on to spiders. There's old Buddha, we can pick up the pace a little bit now, right? There's old Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. There's old Buddha, mind as quiet as it can be. Sitting like a bump on a log. Sitting like a wise old frog. Sitting with a smile on his face. Sitting like empty space. Doesn't mind rain, doesn't mind thunder.


What could bother old Buddha, I wonder. He doesn't mind bees, he doesn't mind bees. He lets those bees just buzz on by. There's old Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. There's old Buddha, mind as quiet as it can be. Sitting like a bump on a log. Sitting like a wise old frog. Sitting like a smile on his face. Sitting with empty space. Doesn't mind rain, doesn't mind thunder. What could bother old Buddha, I wonder. He doesn't mind spiders, he doesn't mind spiders.


He lets those spiders just crawl on by. There's old Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. There's old Buddha, mind as quiet as it can be. Sitting like a bump on a log. Sitting like a wise old frog. Sitting with a smile on his face. Sitting like empty space. Doesn't mind rain, doesn't mind thunder. What could bother old Buddha, I wonder. He doesn't mind the fear of not getting it right. He doesn't mind the fear of doing it wrong. He doesn't mind the fear of doing it wrong. He lets that fear of doing it wrong just float on by.


Thank you very much. So now we'll do a major rearrangement and the little people can go out into the sunlight, right? And then other people can come and fill up in the front. Thank you. Come on. We still have a few more seats up here if anybody needs more space or closer.


All right. So alignment, alignment with the great way. Zhaozhou, a Chinese Zen student, asked Nanchuan, What is the Tao? And Nanchuan said, Ordinary mind is the Tao. So we've adopted the Tao into the English language, usually translated way. I like to translate it great way. So it's not so ordinary. I just want to propose that the practice of alignment, which we do in our sitting practice, in our meditation sitting,


by sitting up straight and noticing the alignment of our ears and shoulders and hip bone, nose and navel, it's helpful to find alignment when you're sitting. And then the challenge for us is to take alignment out into our everyday lives, out the door of the Zen Do. So when we're pruning an apple tree, you can pay attention to your body in alignment and you can be in alignment in all different postures. And also it's important to be in alignment with the season, with the time of year, and maybe the time of day, and with the insects that are buzzing around. I'll read a little quote from Suzuki Roshi.


Shinryu Suzuki, this is from a collection of talks that Ed Brown collected in the book Not Always So. Here he states, Enlightenment does not come until your mind and body are in perfect accord. If you cannot accept your experience, you won't feel you have enlightenment. In other words, when your mind and body are completely one, enlightenment is there. Whatever you hear, whatever you think, that is enlightenment. So it's not the sound of a stone hitting bamboo or the color of plum blossoms that makes people enlightened. It is their practice. In your everyday life, you always have opportunities for enlightenment. When you go to the restroom, there's a chance for enlightenment. When you cook, there's a chance to attain enlightenment.


When you clean the floor, that's also a chance to attain enlightenment. Some years ago I did a series of workshops here on driving. And it was a real challenge to have some sense of being in accord with things while driving. People would come and confess that they're... Well, some of them would confess, and some of them would confess that someone else told them that their personality would change when they were behind the wheel. And perfectly, supposedly calm, sane, reasonable people would experience anxiety and rage when behind the wheel, particularly when something happened or someone got in their way. Cutting in front, of course. So that's really an opportunity to notice your own tendencies.


A tendency to maybe be impatient. Yesterday, I had to take a drive into the city for a meeting in the afternoon, and I hadn't figured on all the traffic around Muir Woods on Saturday afternoon. I'm leaving Green Gulch, and I'm just a little late. And there was a particularly slow car. So it was an opportunity for me to work with my impatience. So I tell myself to allow plenty of time for whatever it is, and then I can actually do the activity without that additional stress of being late. But then, when late, when you're already late, then what do you do? So for me, the practice with my own impatience is to accept being late.


To actually acknowledge, OK, I'm late. And I have to accept whatever the embarrassment at the other end, when I'm arriving and someone says, you're late. So to find alignment in that situation is actually to completely accept the situation of being late. Now, it's been a week since I've been wearing this robe. I was installed as co-abbot of San Francisco Zen Center last Sunday. One of the great opportunities during that ceremony was to say a dedication for world peace. And I wanted to just read a modified version of that statement.


And think of the whole matter of world peace in relation to living in alignment. Today, let us honor our whole practice of world peace. From our founder, Shakyamuni Buddha on, throughout our wide circle lineage, we end any thoughts of harm. Let us vow to investigate deeply and keep faith with this vision. It includes all species and the biosphere itself as one. Rocks, rivers, trees, mammals, birds, insects and frogs are equally Buddha-mind. Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, Hindus and Wiccans


are equally Buddha-mind. To realize no self, no other, is the harmony of Buddha-fields. Listen with the bodhisattva of compassion to the sounds of the world. Respond with skillful attention and bliss-bestowing hands. This is our whole practice of peace in the world. So, Shakyamuni Buddha made some effort. Sometimes I think things did actually, in fact, bother him and motivate him to get up. There was a case of two of his clan. Actually, he was related to both the Kolyans and the Shakyas.


He was born in the Shakya clan. And his mother was from the Kolya clan. And they were having a squabble over water. I expect that in the coming decades there will be more squabbles over water on our planet. So, 2,500 years ago, they were having a squabble over water. They used the same river for irrigation of these two different clans. And in this case, the silent sage spoke to both sides and convinced them that it was enough for them to, say, be concerned about the water


and not have it turn to blood. And in that case, they actually negotiated a way in which they could share the water and the Buddha was able to make peace. He wasn't always successful, though. There were other times. There was a time, even in his own Sangha, when some of the monks were squabbling and over some disagreement about an interpretation of the rules that they had undertaken. And this squabbling went on until it disturbed the whole community and the surrounding lay community and the Buddha himself could not resolve the conflict. So he walked away, back into the forest. And until the Sangha discovered


that they weren't going to be supported anymore, that the lay community was withdrawing support, until they settled down and began to live in harmony with each other again. During that time, it's said that Shakyamuni Buddha made great friends with an elephant. And actually, he would come out and do his begging and the elephant actually picked up on the idea and carried his begging bowl for him. And then there was a monkey that liked the idea, too, and so the monkey would ride along with the elephant. So they had this nice little trio going out and begging. And it was actually very sad for the elephant when Shakyamuni Buddha decided to leave the forest and go back and do some more teaching. And the elephant shed tears.


So we're in a situation of, say, misalignment. I wanted to read some suggestions about aligning in regards to peace from Mary Oliver. I'm sure many of you have seen this. It was an email that was sent around shortly after 9-11, and it's been over five years. At that time, Mary Oliver made these suggestions, and some of them may still be helpful. So here's a reminder. She says, Wage peace with your breath. Breathe in firemen and rubble. Breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red-winged blackbirds. Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.


Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees. Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact. Wage peace with your listening. Hearing sirens, pray loud. Remember your tools, flower seeds, clothespins, clean rivers. Make soup. Play music. Learn the word for thank you in three languages. Learn to knit and make a hat. Think of chaos as dancing raspberries. Imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish. Swim for the other side. Wage peace. Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.


Have a cup of tea and rejoice. Act as if armistice has already arrived. Don't wait another minute. So... It's hard to believe that some small actions actually can bring the world into alignment. But the misalignment of the world is actually due to many small actions. It's the accumulative effect of a distorted view and acting upon distorted perception and fear and not seeing that there is a possibility


of harmonious action. So, Zhao Zhou, when he was asking Nanshuang what is the Tao, he was a young student, probably. He came to study with Nanshuang when he was 18. And probably shortly thereafter, he had this question. What is the great way? And Nanshuang said, ordinary mind. So then, Zhao Zhou said, should I direct myself toward it? And Nanshuang said, to direct yourself toward it is to betray your life. To actually...


This becomes a more subtle question of alignment. How do you actually find a way where you're not clumsily turning this way and that to find what you already know? To find what you already have in your body, in your mind. To find acceptance of what is. Zhao Zhou asked another question. He said, how can I know the way if I don't direct myself toward it? And then Nanshuang said, the way is not subject to knowing. Or not knowing. Knowing is delusion. Not knowing is blankness. If you truly reach the genuine Tao, you will find it as vast and boundless as the sky.


How can this be discussed at the level of affirmation and negation? So this was the point at which Zhao Zhou had his first awakening. Of seeing that there is a practice which is not exactly knowing and not exactly not knowing. Not being caught in grasping at knowing and not being caught in the fear, the anxiety of not knowing. So, Suzuki Roshi commented on ordinary mind like this. You may say it is not possible to be ordinary and holy. When you think in this way, your understanding is one-sided.


And then he talks about the image of the board-carrying person which actually is an old Chinese Zen image where those of you who are carpenters have certainly had that experience and many of you have carried something, maybe a carpet on your shoulder or something. But when you have something on your shoulder you may notice that you can't see what's over there. So the board-carrying person is an image of someone who has a limited view. So he says, if you think that you can't be both ordinary and awake or holy, as he says, then that's just noticing that you have a limited view like a board-carrying person. So, you think that you are just an ordinary human, but if you take off the board, you will understand. Oh, I am Buddha.


I am Buddha too. How can I be both Buddha and ordinary human? It is amazing. When you experience this, you will understand. You will understand things more freely. You won't mind whatever people call you. Ordinary? OK. I am ordinary. Buddha? OK. I am Buddha. Yes. So actually I am both Buddha and ordinary. Buddhism, Buddha in its true sense, is not different from ordinary mind. An ordinary mind is not apart from what is holy. This is a complete understanding of ourself. When we practice zazen with this understanding, that is true zazen, we will not be bothered by anything. Bees, spiders, the fear of doing it wrong.


Whatever you see, whatever you hear, that will be OK. So, then he says, to have this feeling, it is necessary to become accustomed to the practice. It is necessary actually to take up some practice. And he recommends the practice of zazen. So without some practice, it is pretty difficult to find the way of alignment with the Tao. Our habits and tendencies in past karma tend to distract us, take us away from this moment of our life, which is the only place we can really truly live. So when Zhaozhou is asking Nanshuang,


he is asking really how to live. What is the great way? Zhaozhou says, pay attention to your ordinary mind. Pay attention to what is happening right now. Thank you for listening.