Alive or Dead?

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Sunday Lecture: Koan: "Alive or Dead" (Daowu's condolence call); mind fleas; confession; too busy; leap or die when at an impasse; story of Buddha and king - what else can I do but walk in righteousness; Dogen's death poem

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did you all get this terrible cold it's been going around
anyone not have a chance to get the gold

so this sub story is a corn from the cliff record
it's called a condolence call
buddhist master dao wu and is attendant one went to a house in the village to offer condolences
jean ones struck the coffin with his hand
and he said to his teacher alive or dead
thou wu said i'm not saying alive i'm not saying dead
genuine one asked why not
dow was said i'm not saying i'm not saying
on the way home gene one said say something right now teacher if you don't i'll hit you
dow who said you can hit me but even if you hit me i'm not saying
jin one hit him
later after doubt we had passed away genuine went to see sheesh one and told him this story
sheesh once said
i'm not saying alive i'm not saying dead
jean one said why not
she sean said i'm not saying i'm not say
at these words one had an insight
later on one day jin one took a whole and he went into the teaching hall and he crossed from east to west and from west to east
she's once said what are you doing
jin one said i'm searching for the sacred bones of our late teacher dow whoop
sean said waves flood every place whitecaps overwhelmed the sky what sacred bones of our teacher are you looking for
genuine said
this is just what i needed to strengthen me
full of taiwan when he heard about this story said the sacred bones of the late teacher are still here

so in the last couple of months a lot of people have come here to live in residence with us a green gulch and to practice with us
and december there was there were hottest shane and this room was filled with meditators and then at the end of december about twenty five people came for the new year's retreat
in january we had a large group of people come maybe fifty or so who spent three weeks here in january intensive and in a few weeks another group of people are coming to begin this spring practice period
one of the most common questions that people ask me after they've been here for a while and they're about to go home as how do i keep my practice alive when i'm back with my family and my job
so that's what i want to talk about today how do we keep our practice alive and what does it mean to have a lively practice in the first place
so i imagined that some of you might think that those of us here at green gulch know the answer to these questions
and of course we do we do know
and you laugh and of course we don't know nobody knows
alive or dead
each of us alone must answer this question for ourselves alive or dead impounded or free
which is it
the main thing is not to be afraid to ask the question and the first place
the answer for their poor monk g one who had been practicing meditation and precepts for many many years was terrible anger and frustration
which is not a bad place to start if you want a lively practice
unfortunately if you don't have proper guidance anger and frustration can lead to some rather useless
practices kind of worldly and disturbing some monks have withered healthy limbs others have simply sad
on jan one hit his old teacher in the head you know this is pretty pretty rough stuff
and there are many stories in the buddhist tradition of students trying to get something from others and particular from their teachers
you know like i want it i wanna give it to me give it to me now
well this is exactly the way that humans think and it starts when we're very very young
when i became the mother of an infant i was greatly relieved to realize that there's just a limited number of possibilities of how to respond to a screaming child
you can change their diaper you can feed them you can comfort them play with them or put them to sleep
basically you hold the space while they regain their sanity by calming down
and this is the same for the monk gym on he needed to calm down
but unlike the infant and the case of gin one he's about to be born
and his teachers know this and that's why together they hold the container so that he can be born in a healthy way
so if you hear from the story each of them gives him the same response i won't say alive i won't say debt why not i won't say i won't say they hold him
out of kindness
so at crucial times and the relationship between a teacher in a student or between a parent and a child it gets to be very much like her mother chicken with her egg you know if the mother opens the egg too soon and the baby is underdeveloped but if she
he waits too long it may suffocate and die
now fortunately the young chicken inside knows when it's time to signal and begins packing and this is what gene one was doing when he knocked on the coffin alive or dead you know peck peck peck
he's knocking he's knocking on the show
what's about to be born in of gene one is the knowledge of his own freedom and of his own true nature
and meanwhile in the village where he lives nothing much will appear to have changed at all the farmers will continue planting rice in the valley and the dogs and cats will sleep in the shade
alive and dead arising and passing away
reality itself as it's always been as it always is a wondrous world a wonder as day
in john parents book called bring me the rhinoceros he tells this story of the condolence call and in his version of the story when jin one's mind finally opens and it becomes buoyant and light and gentle and clear
he suddenly realizes and ability to laugh
and he laughs at himself most of all he laughs at his teacher and he laughs at the floor at the ceiling and at the walls
and then his teacher joins him and he laughs to and then he walks the young monk outside to meet the bright new day
the story of a young monk confronting the question of birth and death and of his spiritual awakening is a story that has been told in many forms and all the traditions of the world
the body of jesus emerges alive from a cave eve awakens in a garden and moses stands on top of a mountain
white shell woman comes back from the sea
and within each of these stories the sights and sounds and smells and thoughts and the tastes and textures are all dancing together making the shape of a human being
but at all times these shapes are changing
and free
so i want to propose to all of you that like the icons of religious folklore
we are here on this earth to fully awaken to life
and if you accept that proposition than like gin one you need to start from where you are you need to start from your frustration your anger your boredom your create
your ignorance
these are the same visitors that came to disturb the buddha when he was sitting there under the tree trying to understand the problem of human life and it's solution
a friend of mine calls these visitors mind fleas
that's a good name mind fleas and ironically it's the presence of mine fleas that signals to us that we're in the right place for a spiritual awakening you know if you don't have any mind please than there's just two possibilities either they haven't hatched yet
or you've already done the work of quieting
there's a story i heard from the old tradition about a monk who used to sit out in front of the monastery and he'd open his his ah
campari and take the fleas off of his chest hairs and put them on a piece of paper so that they can get a little bit of sunshine before he replaced them
it's what i read anyway
so alive or dead we're not trying to kill the mind fleas through the practices of awakening but we're trying to find out what inside of us is still alive is our life enhancing and life affirming and what has already died
so one of the reasons that we sit upright and meditation is to give ourselves time to see what's going on to look at our insides of our minds and the insides of our feelings and to sort through the storehouse so perhaps
ths old grudges or old ambitions things we don't need anymore that can be to simply and the light of our wisdom and are an investigation these mindfully as seemed to disappear all of their own
and this kind of an honest life takes a bit of courage you know for us to actually be willing to look honestly at ourselves and to say what it is it we find to confess not only to ourselves but to someone else about the kinds of thoughts that run through our heads
and this is part of a lively practice it well as well it's called the practice of confession
and having made confession many many times and also having listened to confession basically they go something like this
i am worthless
stupid i'm hateful greedy talentless and ungrateful and what's more that's a lot better than most of the people i know

i once said to my teacher why don't you criticize me i thought i was been very brave
and he said well if you would stop criticizing yourself for a while maybe i could take a turn
so again this is lively practice the kind of practice that makes us squirm
so we start where we are we start with confession confessing to the ideas that are running through our minds
and these ideas are tend to repeat themselves i don't know you've probably noticed that but like the monk going from east to west and back again this is the kind of thinking we'd do it's called discursive thinking back and forth back and forth
and usually we use our discursive thinking to try to find something that we believe is outside of ourselves something that we think we're missing
now this young monk jin won money had his spiritual awakening had a new kind of thinking and new use for a discursive thinking
he was looking for the bones of his dear teacher foul
and thou was the one that he'd hit in the head you know put those bonds
so perhaps he wanted to thank him
know we don't know or maybe he wanted to cry with shame at having not trusted the old teacher and the first place
but either way it's kind of silly because the old man is dead
you know
or is he is he dead
is he alive or is he dead
i won't say
master chefs one said waves flood every place whitecaps overwhelmed the sky once sacred bones of our teacher are you looking for
master fu of taiwan said the sacred bones of the late teacher are still here
so what are the bones that they're talking about in this story you know
well i think they're talking about the bones bitter right here in this room the bones in our hands on our feet and our legs in our hips are chest or head
you know we are our ancestors we are not only the inheritors of life itself but of the responsibility for enacting the play
when we get to choose know
either we protect and hands and affirm or we subtract reduce and ignore
the buddha was offered worldly power and sensual pleasure eve was offered the unearned fruits of a garden moses the tyrannies of a jealous god and the white shell woman eternal life under the sea
so what are we being offered you know what kinds of enticements are we being offered to pull us away from ourselves and from our sacred duty
the one i hear about most often is of the enticement of business
that's the one i know the best as well
know over and over again people say to me i am just too busy i'm too busy to sit i'm too busy to practice in fact i'm too busy to even think about sitting or practice
that's how busy i am
so i don't think it will come as a surprise to you that ah the thing that we exert the most control over and our community of practice here is time itself
in fact it's the very core of our practice and we call it following the schedule
so any of you who've ever lived here or listen to the sounds they're all in a following the schedule there was actually supposed to be a bell that rang when i bowed at the altar and i kind of waited a bit and i god
maybe he's fainted
and then i came around the corner and he had vanished

he was busy
so at eight forty there's a very lively wake up bell it runs through the halls
how don't we wish and four forty excuse me eight forty eastern standard time
and then we arrive at the meditation hall at three minutes to five before the doors close lot of people to squeak right in that very moment breakfast is at seven twenty
work meeting at eight twenty lunch and twelve fifteen dinner at six class at seven thirty and most of us try to be in bed by nine
there are two days off and on one of those days you can sleep as long as you like
sounds pretty nice her
so you might say to yourself what is the point of that
actually when i first heard about this schedule at zen center i met my first than soon many years ago i thought they were crazy
i said you get up at one time i'd never in my life consider getting up at four in the morning you know
well what i would say about the point of that is that the schedule eventually forces each and every one of us into a crisis
you know that kind of impasse where it appears that we must either leap or die
so you know where do we leap to
well we don't know we just leap
we leap outside of the restricted thinking that we've been doing about our preferences our views or opinions ourselves what we do like and what we don't like what we will do and what we want to
so in other words we leap beyond the restrictive boundaries of words themselves
words like i like it i don't like it yes no alive or dead
he's a words that's all
this is from the song of the jewel mirror somebody the meaning is not in the words the meaning is not in the words and yet yet the meaning response to the inquiring impulse
move and you are trapped
miss and you fall into doubt and vacillation
turning on touching are both wrong it's like a massive fire
so whether you're busy or not or whether you're ready or not leaping is recommended as the most lively practice of all
you know it's like i remembered i was thinking about this and i remembered yeah i'll say so vivid one of the most i must have been a very powerful image to me but flash gordon is in the dungeon of emperor ming and the walls are closing in i see anybody remember that i guess it happened to lot but
and you think he's just been going to be squished like a bug and that's when the segment ends right there at the walls of shut on flash gordon
so this is the signal for leaping when the walls are closing in on you
it's time to leap
and these are the very walls that jin one eventually was able to laugh her
so here's a final story i want to tell you from the old suitors about the walls
one fine day king percent a of kasama paid a visit to the buddha the buddha said where are you coming from at midday great king and the king said having stabilised the country and conquered a wide stretch of the earth i am greatly involved in administration of those
things done by warrior kings and all the while drunk with authority and obsessed with lust for sensual pleasures sounds like a politician isn't
the buddha said if a trustworthy messenger arrived from the east and said great king a huge mountain as high as the heavens is advancing and crushing every living thing do as you will sire and another messenger arrived from the north from the south from the west
all with the same message with the impending destruction of your entire kingdom what should you do
the king said at such time as that lord buddha what else can i do but to walk in the law in righteousness and to cultivate what is a benefit to everyone
and the buddha said well i tell you great king aging and death are closing in on you what should you do
the king said my elephants and chariots horses and infantry or of no use when aging and death are closing in on me magic spells and gold are likewise have no use at such a time as this lord what else can i do but to walk in the law in righteousness and
to cultivate would as what is a benefit to everyone
so in this story the buddha has basically helped the king to reach an impasse and he trapped him
trapped him inside the walls
the king you could say is our ego or self centered views are self centered narcissistic self
and so the buddha has helped this this ego to reach the place where leap in is not only possible but it's necessary
he leaps the king leaps into righteousness into selflessness and to devotion to the common good
so for each of us are true virtue is in not refusing to jump
so in closing i want to offer a death poem that was written by as and master dogan in the last hours of his life
there's lighting up the sky a quivering leap smashes a billion world's ha
entire body looks for nothing
living i plunge into the yellow river
fifty four years lighting up the sky
a quivering leap smashes and billion world's ha
entire body looks for nothing
living i plunge into the yellow river
thank you very much
may i