Chao Chou's Four Gates

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Sunday Lecture: case 9 of the Blue Cliff Record: "What is Chao Chou?" "East gate, west gate, south gate, north gate"


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well today i would like to
talk about the ninth case
of the blue cliff record
this is the introduction to the case
when the bright mirror is on it stand
beauty and ugliness are distinguished by themselves
with a sharp sword in your hand you can kill or bring life to fit the occasion
a foreigner goes and a native comes
a forerunner comes in a native goes
in the midst of death you find life
in the midst of life death
but tell me when you get to this point then what
if you don't have the i to penetrate barriers
if you don't have any place to turn yourself around in at this point obviously you won't know what to do
tell me what is the i that penetrates barriers
what is the place to turn around in
to test i say this check it out
then comes the main case
a monk asked jojo
what is jojo jojo replied eastgate westgate southgate north gate
that's the end of the case
and minister sweaters
on that case goes like this
in their words they show their ability in direct confrontation
the diamond i is completely void of dust
east west south north
gates face each other an endless series of hammer blows can't smash them open
so let's talk about that lobby

it's traditional tour talk about the person who appears in the case
great master zhao joe
so i'll tell you a little bit about him just so that you can
get used to him and feel like you know him
he's one of my favorite all time zen masters
and he was living
during the time when the zen teaching was really going through its most creative development in china
and he lived from seven seventy eight eight ninety seven
it's a long life on and twenty years so he's
famous for his long life
his teacher was nonchalant
and he went to nonchalant as a young monk when he was eighteen or nineteen
and i like very much the story of their original meeting
and nonchalant was
taking a nap or something when
the young jah jah came to visit him and so nonchalant was lying down and
asked jojo
the very common question
the sort of a trick question you know
where do you come from
and jojo said i come from the great image temple which was apparently the name of the
temple where he had a child from and nonchalance that did you see the great image
and zhao zhao said
but i can see a reclining buddha right in front of me
the nonchalance they do you come here as a
teacher lists masterless monk or do you have a teacher
and zhao zhao said
these winter days
our chile
i hope your good health continues
this was their meeting
and or remained studying with nonchalant for forty years after that
and so you can imagine and forty years many things happened
and many of these old cases
our about the days when antoine
i was master of his monastery on nonchalant mountain and georgia was with him and together how they had fun and how they helped
the other students
to realize their true nature the basic
settling into the basic fact of their own lives many famous cases
one of them that i think particularly salient
is one time when jojo asked nonchalant again one of these old questions that was asked time and time again
judge asked what is the way the pass
and onto replied ordinary mind
it's just
ordinary mind

thought about this
and he said
if it's just ordinary mind
how can you know it
in nonchalant said
if you try to know it
in georgia thought about this for a while
did he said
oh well then how do we practice
the good questions now
how do we practice then if it's already here and if we can't go toward it
how do we practice and nonchalant said it's not a matter of knowing or not knowing
knowing is always false
and not knowing is just plain stupidity
if you really are on the path
it's just a great void an empty hall
just like this hall
completely empty
open it's just the doors are just open
how could there be talk of affirmation and denial
there's a very famous exchange between nonchalant and jojo
so not one died when jojo was sixty years old after forty years you know about sixty years old one died
and so then joshua thought well now after forty years with nonchalant i will go here and there to test my understanding and really begin my time of opening up my practice so he went on pilgrimage and he said when he was about to embark on this
pilgrimage said as i go if i should meet a young girl of seven years old
who can teach me the dharma definitely i will study with her
and if i made an old man of ninety years old great zen master who has something to learn from me then i will teach him
which i think it's a wonderful attitude for study and i recommend
we should all have such an attitude all the time beautiful spirit
twenty years he tested himself
visiting various masters and there are also records of his encounters with them
and finally after twenty years of this kind of travel he finally thought well maybe i better start teaching now
not that i couldn't travel twenty years more but
maybe i'm just might as well arbitrarily stop here anyway so at the age of eighty here
set up shop in a town called jojo
which is a little unusual because usually the great zen masters had monasteries on lofty peaks on mountains
but jogos place was an in a town called georgia that was not a large town but it was famous for a beautiful bridge
a beautiful stone bridge that they tell me the still standing
in this town and china although i have never seen it or seen a picture of it but i would like to see a picture of him and he has a picture the bridge of georgia i like to see it
anyway he settled in this town and into a temple dedicated to
the bodhisattva of compassion guanyin in the town of jojo and that's where he taught and he lived for forty more years and taught
from the age of eighty two age of one hundred and twenty if you can believe the stories which are probably almost true
i'm sure he was old whether he was one hundred and twenty who knows
so if you think about his life you'd imagine that he must have been
a person of great faithfulness you don't hang around a place for forty years unless you have a lot of faithfulness
not a person who
was restless or flashy are probably very brilliant suzuki roshi always said the only reason i hung around with my masters because i was too stupid to leave
everybody else left and i didn't realize that i could so i stayed
maybe jojo was a little bit like that he didn't sort of have the possessed
look for greener pastures so we just stayed
so he probably was very faithful and very humble person to study for so long you know you can imagine
and he seemed to have very simple
quiet temperament i think go reason why one reason why suzuki roshi liked him so much
probably one reason why was because dough again like to a lot
s luke hiroshi like duggan's mg but i think more than that i think judge probably had a temperament very similar to secure oh she's very sweet very simple
and also of course
very deep
and there are about a dozen cases and hook with record involving challenged more than any other
zen master
and probably the most famous call on of all involves master jojo the one that opens up the moment can the the gate this barrier collection
probably everybody knows that kind as the dog have buddha nature
charge i replied no
it's usually trent as usually left untranslated from the japanese move
but it just means no
and this aware that the current news usually presented that does a dog had buddha nature movie
that's more master moment that it is a master jojo master mum on cuts the dialogue off their and makes it sound like a
big thing you know but actually a judge i just said no
and in other sources you see that in fact the dialogue went on from there does a dog have good you know well everything has buddha nature
why not this dog
in georgia said oh it's just because he still has discriminative consciousness

which must have left the monk scratching his head i would think

so i think because of his temperament and also probably it was also relevant that he began teaching at the age of eighty with probably very little very little that he needed to prove to anyone including himself
that his teaching style was very much like that very very simple
some zen masters like lindsay or rinzai were very strong and harsh fierce you know even physical with their students
some like don't schon towson
i were a lofty poetic or philosophical in their sayings and doings
some like the great master young one
we're famous for posing
unanswerable questions and answering unquestionable answers
and we think of these people when we think of the zen
approach but actually a jojo's responses were always this way in a very simple
and plane but at the same time
very very deep
and i imagine that his encounters with students
i left the students often not sure at all what had happened whether something very profound had just occurred or whether the teacher was asleep at the wheel and it's hard to tell i think something
and often you know
you don't know as he's saying anything or not you know what you just
for instance
there's a case said in a moment con where a monk newly arrived at the monastery and
says to the to jojo as one would certainly
asking a please teacher tell me how shall i practice
and georgia said have you eaten yet
the monk said yes i have georgia said then please wash out your balls
was he saying anything or not

ah today's talk is actually the inaugural talk i think it is anyway ever seven
week forty nine day fall practice period
and all the students have come from all over the place all over the country and outside the country
fall period together
a practicing the buddha away
they and where the temple have been preparing for this
for a long time
and so maybe you were in the practice period i wondering
how should i practice during this precious time
and i would echo a master jojo have you eaten it
have you had your breakfast this morning
will we have lunch soon
is there anything unclear in your life
aren't you
a human being
and don't you as a human being already have the light of consciousness in the center of your heart
how could you even know your own name if you didn't how could you respond when you were called if this wasn't so
and isn't the relief or the wisdom that you seek actually only
the essence of who you already are
so dishwasher balls
i don't get stuck
all you have to do as we said the other day in the
this follow the schedule
zazen kenyan service breakfast work service lunch work study hall zazen service dinner zazen sleep
doesn't kinan doesn't so i'm like that
so you have to do
just do each day and completely
understanding of each thing that you do
as the enlightenment you sick and already have
and then forget about it
let go of it and meet the next moment
it really is as simple as that
so that's all by way of introducing a master jojo
now i have to wear
this is sir c zen teachers don't really have to worry about how they organize their talk all you gotta do is read the case in them
talk about that pointer introduction and so on that that's what all do now
the introduction says when the bright mirror is on its stand beauty and ugliness are distinguished
where the sharp sword in your hand you can kill or bring life to fit the occasion
so these lines
zen lingo
bring up ah merely the whole the completion the whole ball of wax of our practice
the bright mirror is the human function the human possibility
of being able to clearly observe what's going on
without being caught by desire
an ego and projection and confusion just to see what's happening just to see things as they really are
if it's good it's good it's bad it's bad if it's pleasant it's pleasant if it's unpleasant it's unpleasant
and it is extra
productive and completely unnecessary for us to interpret or judge or wish for anything other than what is simply there in front of us
so that's the first thing not easy to do but that's what we work with
in our zazen and in our approach to our daily life
it would be nice if that were enough but it can't be enough
because every moment of our lives calls us
and we have to answer
every moment we absolutely must do something we must respond to conditions
how are we going to do this
with clarity and kindness how are we going to do this
without holding on to a shadow of the past
shadow of desire
and this is what's as it is all about and this is what practice period especially is all about
the bell rings
and it's time to move onto the next thing and bring ourselves completely to it ready
and moment after moment our lives are always like this
we eat
we wash our boss
then the one was introduction goes on a foreigner goes and a native comes
a forerunner comes in an needle goes
again more than lingo to express something very simple
i always in our lives we are either foreigners are natives were old or young experienced or inexperienced
and everything in between
in life is an endless series of initiations and combinations beginnings and endings excitements and let downs
and that's really true
the how do we experience these things and not pretend that we don't
but experience them without being caught by them
in other words how can we admit our actual state of mind
without touching it and begin a big hole for ourselves
yeah how can we on the experience of our lives without becoming victims of it blinded by our experience
sometimes a foreigner sometimes a native
in the midst of death
you find life
in the midst of life she find death

i like this time of year in the fall that's my favorite time of year
it's interesting everyone in my family was born in the fall
and everyone in my immediate family who who has passed on passed on in the fall
so for me the fall feels like a bittersweet time of beginning
to me it makes sense that life begins in darkness
because life needs to gather energy before it can burst forth

a seed
has to grow in the dark if you put a see it out in the light
it dries up and dies
so i think it's good that we begin our practice period in the fall
and in the darkening time of the year
and it feels now the practice period fresh and bright
like is just being born
a full of expectation and promise
this afternoon
in the garden
i will have a memorial service for friend tribe
who is a dear friend
and a sister priest
who was
perfectly fine
ah young person maybe i don't know how old she was maybe fifty or fifty one or some within five months ago perfectly fine and then received a diagnosis of serious cancer
and died
just about a week ago
she was just beginning to teach dharma and to find her own way
she was an extremely courageous and clear person
and i really enjoyed my time or study with her
and i really will miss her coming to session
brilliant letters she was a wonderful writer
and the way that she pursued her practice with such passion
in such such tenacity
but i have to remember too that in her death
there is also life
and if i really appreciate my grief in losing her
i will understand my own life
and i will know that her life although it appears to be gone isn't actually
in the same way that if i really appreciate and beginning of his fresh new
practice period
i will also appreciate that in another way
it is already over
and that everything that we will realize in our seven weeks of practice together is already realized
and that is this were not so
we could never appear here together in the first place
so a monk asked
master zhao joe
what is jojo jojo replied he escaped westgate north gate southgate
as i said as and teachers are always named are usually named after the place where they live in teach for many years
almost as if the person disappears completely and there's only the spirit of the place
that's what the person is the spirit of the place where he or she lives and teaches
or as if the place disappears and only exists as the dharma itself
so when the student asks what is jojo he's asking this is a clever student a good student who knows this
and he's asking a simple question but a deep question
what is
the objective world and what is the subject of world
what is the person and what is the environment
is it possible really to bring up one without the other
when our students went some weeks ago
up to the headwaters to stand up for
the ancient redwood trees
really they were standing up for
their very own lives their very own minds
when all of us here participate as we have do now in conserving
a water here at green gulch and resources
so as not to make a mess and a problem in our temple or on our planet
it's really our own minds and hearts that we're conserving
and everything is precious because there is no inside and outside so all of this is implied and brought up in the students very simple question
what is jojo
and jojo replies to the monk eastgate westgate north gate southgate
he doesn't give any explanations
he doesn't shock or confront the student he just points to the gates of the city
escape westgate northgate southgate just a simple fact
there is no fixed person
called jojo there is no fixed place called jojo
to get caught on that is already to be doomed
things just come and go freely
not just the things that we like but everything
everything and anything comes and goes through the open gates of the city
if you want to know what the city of jojo really is if you want to understand the teachings of the great zen master jojo that's all there is to it everything is coming and going
moment by moment
nothing is excluded
and nothing remains
and the gates of the city are the city
the activity of eye and ear and mind is georgia
open gate
we say dharma gates are endless are numberless i vowed to enter them
in there are gates gates to find a city
are they did anyway in ancient china
just like our history our mind and our body
define us and just as the cushions
and the times and the rules for using the zendo defined the zendo or the schedule defines the practice period
in this world of appearances there must be such definitions
but the definitions are opportunities not fix things
and if we make them fixed we close the gates and we can never get in the gates are open useful and free
suzuki roshi says somewhere and zen mind beginner's mind i
is a swinging door
breathing in breathing out moment after moment
so this is really important point in our zen study
not to have fixed ideas
we all are philosophers you know
whether we are professors of philosophy or
gardeners are cooks or
zen teachers or whatever we do we're all philosophers we all have our idea about how things go how things are the matter how unexamined that idea maybe it's there in us
and one of the things that happens in our practice is we get to see
how much that's true
and how those ideas are arbitrary and cause us to suffer
and this the the
suffering nature a fixed ideas and a pivotal
aspect of fixed ideas to be let go of
as the linchpin our practice was something that the buddha saw very early on and we were studying lately a suitor and i want to tell you about the sutra because it's got in it
very famous image that i think is instructive this is sir
this a the appears in the old first
teachings of buddha
in the mudroom and chi the middle length discourses of this courses of the pali canon the shorter discourse on volume caputo and were sixty three
in the legitimate kids it's kind of kind of a funny story once there was a monk called
look your put the who was sitting meditating
all of certain maybe this happened to you one time was said in the middle of his meditation he got really angry and upset with the buddha
you're sitting there and all of a sudden he thought himself you know
i really want to know is the world
eternal or not
is there
life after death is the world finite or infinite is the sole the same as the body or not so on i rattles off a list of all these are things that he really wants to know about so in the buddha never mentioned anything about these things
and i'm really a little upset about that you sitting there meditating thinking it's getting more and more obsession
and he says and you know i'm going to go ask him
and if he won't tell me i quit
he gets up from his meditation cd goes right to the buddha and and he says you know like this language of the sutra you can imagine this monk saying this says the venerable sir addressing the buddha while i was alone in meditation the following thought arose in my mind
and then he tells him all this stuff and what about it was the world finite or infinite is is you know is is the world eternal are temporary is is the sole of the same as the body or not and all these things and he says now
if the blessed one knows that that's the way that they addressed the buddha if the blessed one knows the world is eternal etc etc
all you have to do is tell me if the blessed one knows the world is not eternal etc etc just tell me on the other hand if the blessed one does not know when the world is eternal or not then it would be straightforward for one who does not know and does not see to simply say i do not know i didn't i see and i will be sad
you're not say
and if you don't say i'm outta here because it's not right that you don't say this the says in the sutra this really happened in onto the one good a students so
so he repeats all this and and the buddha listens to it and he thinks about it and he says well
he says i'll ask you if you know on your copy up outta did i tell you when you came
that if you come and study which me i'm going to tell you whether the world is eternal are not eternal and whether there's life after death and i did i say that i mentioned that these things would be forthcoming and i am us as well no it's true you didn't say that you would tell me or not
and the buddha said if you or someone else were to wait around
for me to make assertions on these topics one way or the other
you would die before i did and wouldn't that be a waste of time
he said and here's the part that maybe you heard about this part very famous image from the early sutras he said the buddha said tome it would be like a person
who was wounded by an arrow which was thickly smeared with poison
and his friends and companions his kinsmen and relatives they brought a surgeon to treat him
and the man would say to his gathered kinsmen and friends and and the surgeon
i will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until i know whether the man who wounded knee was a noble or a braman or a merchant or a worker
and he would say i will not let the surgeon pull out this arrow until i know the name and clan of the man who wanted me
until i know what the man who wanted me was tall or short or middle height
until i know what the man who wounded me was dark or brown or golden skinned until i know whether the man who will didn't they lives in such a village or town or city
until i know whether the bow that wounded me was a big bow or a small bow or crossbow
until i know whether the bow string that wounded me was fiber or read or seen you are hemp or bark
until i know was it the shaft that wounded me was wild or cultivated you know from a wild or cultivated
tree or bush
until i know with what kind of feathers the shaft that wounded me was fitted whether those of a vulture or a crow or a hawk or a peacock or a stork
until i know with what kind of send you the shaft that wounded me was bound whether that of an ox or a buffalo or a lion or a monkey till i know what kind of arrow it was that wounded me whether it was have tipped or curved er barbed er caff toast or oleander
asking all these questions and then buddha said and all this would the person would never know the answer to all this and he would die
and it's just like you when you can put the you ask all these things of me and i'm not gonna tell you anything
it's not that i know or that i don't know you say
not that i know that i don't know that's not the point
the point is while you can put the if there is a view
the world is eternal
when the world is not eternal cetera et cetera if there is such a view
the holy life cannot be lived
so that's why i don't say one way or the other
and he said on younger puto what i have left undeclared i have left undeclared on purpose
because it is unban official
it does not belong to the fundamentals of the holy life it does not lead to peace to direct knowledge to enlightenment to nirvana
but it's not that i've said nothing in fact i have declared something and what i have declared you should pay attention to
what have i declared
i have said
this is suffering
this is the cause of suffering
this is the end of suffering
this is the pass
i have declared that why have i declared that because this is beneficial this will lead to peace this will lead to direct knowledge this will lead to nirvana
so don't bother about what i have left undeclared i've left an undeclared on purpose
and although the sutra doesn't mention it later on in his life when you can put the did
become enlightened then let go and find real peace letting go of all these views
so the point of this present case
in the point of our practice the point of bodhidharma
this to see suffering honestly
and deeply
and to let go it
by allowing life to be life and ourselves to be ourselves as we are
and just cooperating with that come what may
in his commentary to this case as and master yuan wu says it very nicely
it is necessary to cut off views
to see the truth outside of any pattern to see the truth outside of any pattern
and it's only when you can do this that you can penetrate through to freedom he says and then you are like a lion and dragon excuse me a drag and who gains the water
our a tiger
enter the mountain in other words you are in your element you cooperate with your environment no difference between you and your environment
when you let go of blinding views and projections and desires and notions
you can be free and easy
in the dance of your life
and you know this is a tall order and takes time and patience and there's no end i think
two confronting
our views are deeply held notions and letting go of them
some somebody jordan actually gave me a wonderful newspaper article the other day about akin roshi so wonderful zen teacher from hawaii a dear friend and teacher of mine whom i love very much and now it can roshi is retired he's practice in for about
probably fifty or sixty years it's somewhere between fifty or sixty years and tots end for maybe twenty five or thirty years now is eighty years old and he's retired
and soon as he retired we we actually had an eightieth birthday party for him
at the zen center in the city
and he came and he had a great big is swollen periods and i said geez what's the matter with you know with that said i don't know well it turned out to be hodgkin's disease so now yes to have chemotherapy and everything and so this was a newspaper article from news a newspaper in hawaii about him
and he says in the article something that i want to read to you it's very beautiful
he says sir
the realization i experienced years ago
in subsequent glimmers of understanding where in effect within a personal container that rested on a state of deep self doubt
the shock of massive doses of chemotherapy drugs
has been to break up the strata
and now all my doubts have dropped away
at eighty years old i am at last liberated from the resistance i have long felt to other people into the outside world generally
everyday is a jewel and every jewel is completely different every act every thought
his new and precious
i read the words of the old masters and laugh and laugh and laugh what hilariously funny funny fellows they were
i remember the words and the kindness of all my teachers and weep with gratitude i listened to the music of bach and mozart and haydn and thrill to the gorgeous sound
the thrush sings in the early morning in my heart
so eighty years old
study and teaching and not only teaching but one of our greatest treasure zen masters our deepest
most experienced ancestor
in the west
at the age of eighty begins again to let go of views and see life fresh
so this is necessary for all of us
to make that effort to open up the gates of our city
and see that the city is nothing other than gates gates gates gates and all sides
if we don't do this work
we were going to suffer
and those around us will suffer because of our suffering
i'm sorry that that's true
but it is i didn't make it up
and it isn't even you know about buddhism it's just true look around and see and look inside and see
so this is the job
that we can't refuse to do
in this job that no one can do for you
you have to take care of it personally

there's a story of another old master who
i went to the toilet was urinating and he said you see even this i have to do personally

so you have to do it personally
and time is short
and there is no more important concern in your life
how do we live
what are our lives
this in style is very simple
and we just sit up straight
we just breathe in and breathe out
we just try our best to remain aware with passion and inside of each present moment of our lives
not regretting the past are getting stuck on the past not chasing after the future or being anxious about the future just investigate closely right now your life as it really is
seeing that
absolutely nothing is excluded from your life
and absolutely nothing remains
when you appreciate this
then quite naturally you will be very kind to yourself
and very kind and patient with everyone
and you will appreciate
as a can she does
what an improbable and marvelous a gift
this world is

so now it remains to earth discuss a little bit diverse
in their words
they show their ability and direct confrontation
the diamond eyes completely void of dust east west south north the gates face each other an endless series of hammer blows can't smash them open

if we are convinced
as we all are
that the gates were closed
they're closed
and the biggest hammers in the world
pounding on the gates will not open them
no amount of struggle know i'm on a skill or determination will make any difference at all
so i always say
that it's embarrassing
to spend one's life as a professionals in because there's absolutely nothing to it
you know there's nothing to it at all
and this is literally true
and i think this is why akin roshi laughed so hard
at the hilarious words of the ancients
so many words
to open up gates
that are already open
life is so simple
and we make it so difficult
so we have to just let go and take one little step
not later
not from elsewhere
but for white right where we are wherever that happens to be
so i'm finished talking about case nine but before we go i know i'm going on a long time but i read this great poem today anywhere
when i read your little poem and and it'll be all
this is by the
really wonderful polish poet
whose name is wislawa szymborska and be some you know her work
her poetry is very simple and wonderful and
ah this poem is called the centuries decline
and i can't tell if it as anything whatever to do with what i was talking about but
you'll see yourself
our twentieth century was going to improve on the others
it will never prove it now now that it's years are numbered it's gate is shaky
it's breath is short
too many things have happened that weren't supposed to happen
and what's what what and what was supposed to come about
has not
happiness and spring among other things
we're supposed to be getting closer
fear was expected to leave the mountains and valleys truth was supposed to hit home before a lie
a couple of problems weren't going to come up anymore
hunger for example and war and so forth
there was going to be respect for helpless people's helplessness trust that kind of stuff
anyone who planned to enjoy the world is now faced with a hopeless task
stupidity isn't funny
wisdom isn't gay
hope isn't that young girl anymore
et cetera alas
god was finally going to believe in a person both good and strong
but good and strong are still two different people
how should we live someone asked me in a letter
i had meant to ask him the same question
again and as ever
as may be seen above
the most pressing questions
are naive ones
thank you very much for your kind attention and patients this morning i hope that you have a wonderful
rest of the day
the our intention
so what shall we discuss now
what would you like to bring up
that pounds

well i

mondelez are
symbolic representations of gate
practicing with and allah we can enter into
the depths of our living
but everything's a mandola it's just that since it's hard for us to recognize that we need to set up sometimes artificial mondelez
we could visualize anything and practice
a mantra with anything
so the zen style is doesn't use in a way the coins or mondelez right
their artificial
stories from times gone by and other people than people other than us that we can use as gateways into our own experience but if we get hung up on the
the stories themselves and not see them as entry points to our life than that's counterproductive just as if we make a mandola and we get hung up on the mandela as a physical object and don't use it as a gate
so the zen tradition doesn't use model is in a technical sense you know literal sense of
i like that other than to enact mandalas in our rituals so the rituals are all
no we haven't very strict sense of space and entering space and creating is in our daily services in and are various rituals but we don't have that practice that that they haven't tibetan buddhism of creating on a two dimensional surface a mandola that one would look at and then a visual
slicing a mandala in our mind's eye
as a form of practice it's it's not a characteristic of zen but having said that of course like all traditions that you borrow so i'm sure you can find zen teachers who have worked with model is in the past or in the present but generally speaking it's not a part of our not one of our methods

ah easy job today
yes spent reading reading
i've been hearing all this living
i'm actually
and my music to my mind also
what are you planning fit your life how could a up in an architect the out where everyone
comes on
yes well i was studying and teaching a sutra the other day which talks about
me in the present moment and not getting caught by the future or entangled by the past
and in that sutra
the buddha says here there's a little he sort of spontaneously gives a poem which says you know don't get entangled in the future duncan
well that and then he gives a little commentary to his own poem
when it gets a comment to the part about not getting not chasing after the future not getting entangled in the past he says and i'm paraphrasing
heavily here but he says something like
it's not that you shouldn't
think about the future or allow thoughts of the past to arise in the mind
it's just that you should hold those thoughts wisely and without getting caught by them
so obviously
thoughts of the past arise in our minds
and that's normal would be abner you know sometimes you read these in tax than it sounds like they're trying to tell you to be like a machine or like a dog you know that you should have only be concerned about lunch and and the rest of your life has gone into like you have alzheimer's like i was reading some summer
oliver was his name sex you know and he's talking about one guy who were who had a brain damage you know and so he can have lost the past and the future and he was living in an ashram and the students in the ashram thought that he was enlightened because he was brain damage and if you
if you read about his demeanor and his the way he was a and then you compare that to what it sounds like the zen texture saying you would say oh yeah that's right that's how it is to be enlightened is to be like a brain damaged person you know not having any idea the future not having any idea to past and having no identity just the just reacting in the present moment
but i don't think myself that this is what is meant i don't think that the buddha was trying to teach that i think that the buddha was trying to get us to see that when we get hung up on ourselves
and therefore by virtue of being hung up on ourselves hung up up with our anxiety about the future and degree can become paralyzed right with anxiety about the future and we can become totally paralyzed with concern over the past and you know repeating patterns of the past right so he will say when you were
you when you get stuck on yourself and you're not free with yourself
or within yourself for outside yourself for are real and say
and you get this neurotic right to get so it's a question of of course in the present moment now today and then i have this big fat appointment book myself you know i have a big fat appointment and i have a lot of you know in fact i would say that it's one of the things that i don't like about my life right now is that i seem to spare
a huge amount of time planning rate for the future like i'm going to show up there and do this retreat and then i'm going to go to this and do that and
but i know
that now i'm planning something
see it's now this my activity now
and if the past arises in in my mind now i know that this is my activity now is to have this thought of about past
and so i don't have to be hung up about it are worried about and are nervous about it it's just like anything else that arises in and when it comes and goes so now i plan if i if i were to think about the things like i don't even know like what i'm doing tomorrow
but i have written down in my little book so i open up the book and i see on that's what i'm doing if i were to think of it all these things and i'm supposed to do and get anxious about them and more homey going into this and then i would be a very unhappy guy but i don't think about it i just don't know i write it down and can do this and it's in a and that's it you know
so of course we live in a world where it will be quite unkind not to plan for the future like or yonge our show up to that retreat and then a day comes in as was then
fifty people are there are waiting for me but i said yeah that was then i said i was going to the but now you know it's a new day it's fresh
what are you worried about
that would be very unkind round mean i would be it would be nasty in a way to do that so well as the practical that's why we have the future's so that we have a future so that we can meet each other that's why because the future and the organized time monday tuesday wednesday thursday september
october november all these things are like
agreed upon demarcations in the middle of empty space that we can all
i agree to meet each other at that that's how we do it so it's because of out of love that we ah
have a future in a past and we must take them seriously in that in that style and that way but if we if we have too much self concern and then we get hung up on the future in the past this is a real problem and we create suffering so our practice is very practical know
it's not
about having sent ideas or something you know forgets in ideas i mean they're the worst ideas might have a other set of ideas if you're going to have any ideas xin ideas are really not helpful it's just practical you know how do we live what are we gonna do
how do we have some clarity and some kindness in our lives and so
ah the past is gone the future has not yet arrived remember that when you have a memory remember that when you plan for the future if you are clear about that than you can go ahead and have a memory and you can go ahead and plan for the future without too much concern
you don't know and i don't know what i'm going to go to any holes retreats
i really don't
lol things can happen between now and the time that that retreat half comes and i'm quite aware that you know
and you need to be aware the future has not yet come the past is gone
that's how we have to hold it
have a friend who's anxious about something that might have huge
she is no problems what advice what is good advice
well it would not be good advice to say don't be anxious the future has not yet come
with the don't care that in bologna you know
so this would not be a good idea i think that the best thing would be just to be sympathetic
ah you know there's no advice for anybody right nobody has any know advice you only you hear what you're ready to hear all the advice in the world doesn't mean anything you know avoid advice altogether i would say
but but to be sympathetic you know if someone says to you i'm really anxious about such and such and so on so in the future than you should really you look at sea and you see that this is a true thing someone really feels that way you have a feeling of that's it's an unpleasant and difficult feeling and you should be sympathetic to that and say hi i'm so sorry no
i'm sorry that you feel that way
that's what she tells
yeah well she's right
emptiness and
what is empty and emptiness empty of
emptiness is empty of anything fixed anything hard and fast all our ideas all our projections all our notions
all these things are figments of our minds
empty it is empty of that
cause that asked me again next week and we'll see what happens
because yeah
yeah so you ask me again
thank you thank you very much for your top norman was very good too
something that i was really sad keith by man the has envelope in the arrow like to go and wash your ball
and i'm
i i have experienced this week three different losses and now and i'm trying to be mindful with what i'm doing and you know just been aware of what is in front of my nose and you know enjoying life but somehow i feel that i'm working in the edge
of mindfulness and denial
ah by not
really i would like to made concentrate on on one or the other laws are there's some time and i i know that you said that there's no rental hacer by this maybe there's something michael that you can do with losses on and so you know you
you don't go into isn't eighty nine that say well now i'm
i'm cutting the wood or i'm doing decent to her and just don't enjoy better than using somehow there is a place there huh
yeah well last week i was talking about
last you know ah
instead of a person and newspaper just came out inquiring mind and the talk that i gave last week as in the newspaper and then reposted newspaper and i was saying that talk that this is the nature of experience is loss every moment when we have a big loss in our lives we take notice of
that but actually every moment you're losing your life that's why you know we're in a very dangerous situation
truly as we laugh it's but police the truth think of it me every moment we're losing our life and so
the zen practice is not about denial denial of loss it's about finding our ears within the actual situation that we're in so when we suffer losses in our lives
we have to look at that and use them as well as a deepening our understanding know there's a difference between looking at los truly and becoming obsessed with our grief grief is proper and not only useful but absolutely necessary
but getting obsessed with grief is counterproductive so this means that if you if you i say just like you're saying you have a loss you're in a grief over something and you go out and you chop wood
you should be aware of chopping wood
and one thoughts of your grief a rise in your mind you should be aware of that
and greet those thoughts of grief and let them go and greet them and let them go and know that there there that's why in most societies that are reasonable when there's a big important loss in our lives we take time to grieve that's why it's not a good idea when you're in grief to run around doing a million things and pretend like
life goes on because actually if you're really in grief and in those instances of major grief are don't happen so often a loss of a loved one or something like that or loss of a part of your body around and a lot sutton
those kind of major losses one needs to say i'm suspending all other activity and i'm just going to make my life very simple and just take care of myself and grieve
if at all possible you know
and that's very much what we need to do so but it's a process of letting what arises arise a linear pass away that's what grieving is letting the sorrow arise and letting it pass away and letting it come and go and letting ourselves be open to it rather than picking up our grief and wave
get around and getting obsessed with it an entangled in stuck to it like a tar baby and raging around the world and getting all our friends upset with us because of our grief and getting angry and all the ways that you know if we don't acknowledge our grief we get really messed up you know so the buddha really expressed to us you know whatever is there be
he open to it
don't be obsessed with it don't don't make a big deal out of it but really it's really be open to it and allow it to be there whatever it is this is the most important thing whether it's the future and the past or whether it's grieve for whether it's joy or whatever it is be there for it and don't get stuck to it
so i think that we have to practice if we're in loss you see that
when you appreciate that life is nothing but loss
and when you see that there's no joy without loss because there's no life without loss there's no life without change that's what losses right is this has gone now changed without that does no flowers there's no sky there's no you there's no me there's no love so then you when you realize that
you see that in loss is all of that the to little loss is a mixed situation
loss is very sad and it's beautiful
and then you you can sustain your grief in a way that's
that's not a painful
are so painful anyway so the more you appreciate that the more
the more loss you experience and the more sustainable that losses and then even more beautiful it is
i think it helps to be older also to appreciate this it's hard for people who are quite young to appreciate it
but we better appreciate when we get older right otherwise we like dylan to dylan thomas you know rage rage against the dying of the light have another glass of whatever it was that killed him
anywhere we have to
we have to make use of the conditions of our lives for practice whatever they may be yes
your sorting hat say you wanted
and i personally am working on that but it seems like i know that
i keep finding myself
the police woman of the world
yeah right yeah
what do you say
the also be open to yes yes
yeah well you know like most people
think of themselves as open minded probably you know i'm pretty open minded person but then you start practicing and you start being with your mind
and you realize oh my gosh know i have opinions about everything you know i don't like her hair i don't like his coat i don't like the way he looks i don't like the way she said that i don't like the way that they decorated this room i don't like the way i am i don't like the way i think i don't like the way she thinks that like everything you know we're constantly well which
we didn't notice before so i often say that the truth is a practice makes life much worse
the sense that in the sense that before we were blissfully going along thinking everything was fine and alison we're looking at our life and we're seeing in a much more persistent difficulty confusion than we ever imagined was there
and so it isn't as necessary and know to experience that so then we also learned to be very patient with that situation and were before we might have taken all those opinions very seriously
you know and without even examining them
we're a little annoyed with them
cause we see you know how much they cause pain and so it's actually we we need an advancement their right to be a little annoyed with our opinions is better than accepting them on face value and running with them every minute
so then the next thing to do is not be annoyed with them but just be patient with them notice them and not get down on ourselves which just takes time because you see how your annoyance with your opinions is another opinion but and makes more opinions
you get to see how that works so then you realize well if i can just you know accept that i'm as opinionated as i am and try not to pick up on my opinions every minute but a little let it be okay so she said that i didn't like it okay so what
okay so i don't like the looks of this person or this room so what i'll be here anyway
and you see i'm i'm happier ah then you let go a little bit more so little by little it's a kind of a gradual process but it's very natural that we notice a lot more opinions and were annoyed with our opinions and then from there we go to just going to be there without annoyance and then from work from there we go to there's not so many and then from there we go to hope i
i was wrong and there's still a lot but so what it's cute
because you know i'm from brooklyn so i'm going to feel that way
whatever know
you accept that cinnamon and you see what a neat thing would it be it will be a drag everybody was from philadelphia
it's good that somebody's from brooklyn and somebody else's from you know miami that's interesting
how is this woman came to our son sundays it
she was there she came and he took away any sense
cause she was allergic to it right yeah city
yeah well you see if you didn't have people like that you'd have to go out and hire them
those are the people
those are the people that show you your mind you know we always have to have three or four people like that around here in our temple you know and if they don't show up spontaneously when we go i can find them


he act

well yes there are forms of meditation that emphasize relaxation and kind of like tranquility
but there's pills to that you can take
there would also bring tranquility that i guess are effective and i don't know how many side effects they have
but but
a little whiskey before bed
temporarily can bring tranquility and tranquility is not a small thing i mean you know if if we're enormously anxious and there's there's levels of anxiety right we everybody has a certain level of but if you have a very high level of anxiety to the point where you are really
going a little bananas you know you you should apply some tranquility so i don't mean to be little tranquillity i remember i was at some big conference in
i forget how it went but some
oh i know some there's a catholic bishop was there you know and this bishop had written article where he sort of like and meditation to a drug
so actually he was sort of being misquoted because it wasn't afterward we had to talk about it and he wasn't really he said that either the building and mean it that way but anyway so somebody quoted him you know i brought this up and use it a global so what any of the buddhist and the gathering like to speak to that so i got up and i said something well you know meditation isn't a drug blah blah blah blah
the hearts and can i sat down and then joseph goldstein got up and he said he said well you know what's wrong with drugs
and he said there are times when you need a drug
are you need a break or you need last cooler so i think that's true
so i don't mean to belittle tranquility however
i think that the buddhist idea was that
what's fundamentally peaceful
not what will make your day a little better today
but what's fundamentally peaceful what is the fundamental cause of your anxiety and agitation
now if you're really anxious you can take a tranquilizer and it will it will call you out if you if you are anxious maybe like a little glasses whiskey will call you out and there's nothing wrong with that if you know i really so anxious that you're about to you know run off half cocked but what's the fundamental cause of that anxiety
and this is what the buddha was interested in uncovering and interested in us seeing
so that even though as as and buddhist meditation practice can as we've been discussing at times make things worse than a sense that we uncover and notice so much more in our lives ultimately it makes things much better in a more fundamental and basic way than any kind of short term tranquilizer because we get to see the fundamental causes
of our our anxiety and we get to let go of them then no matter what happens we have some tranquillity
oddly even in the midst of anxiety or loss we have some tranquillity and equanimity and some sense of balance because we understand the nature of our lives which we can understand unless we look and if if we look we're going to see all kinds of things
so in the long run i think that zazen and practice mindfulness practice is very relaxing but not the kind of relaxation of checking out
you know i'm going to sleep with the kind of relaxation that comes with waking up and knowing what's really happening in the face that that being at one with life as it really is is fundamentally scene and positive and and happy you know even though there's difficulties so that's how i would respond but like i say for people who
find that that their goal is to find some form of meditation that that will call them out and make them in their lives calmer that's okay i just don't think that it will in the long run be as effective
and there are people i've talked to people who have done forms of meditation like that for many years and realized wow there's a big disconnect between my living
and this cooling out meditation is like i'm cold out but then i don't feel on some level happy and satisfied with my life it's true that when i meditate i feel very peaceful but then i get up i can't meditate all the time and i get up with my meditation and i'm really feeling like there's something not quite altogether there about my life and so we have people who are practicing with us who have done
in the past forms of meditation like that who have found them ultimately unsatisfactory however the people who find them totally satisfactory are not here so i don't hear about it so
so i don't know i don't mean to i don't mean to say that it can't be perfectly all right that's just my feeling about


ah ok
sure cause some of you may be new to this idea of coins
basically cons are the literature of zen buddhism it's the sacred literature of zen buddhism sort of equivalent to the bible or the scriptures of other schools of buddhism
although the differences that the current literature does not purport to give you advice and say here's a nice way to live here here's how to go about something they are little windows
that we have to pick up for ourselves and open up and then we can see some view of our steepest life so collins require active participation not just simply reading them as you would read a scripture although actually when you really think about it any religious scripture if is worthwhile always involves active for participate participation
coins are studies of records of the sayings and doings of olds and masters just like the little stories that i told you this morning
in the history of then they've been used in a variety of different ways but generally they're used by meditating on taking the little story and taking the pithy essence of it and sitting with that story applying it to each breath of your meditation practice until you
story is you then you have made that store your own it's now no longer and external something about someone long ago but it's truly expressive of your own experience
traditions within zen buddhism or have curricular
of cons and you can you actually they haven't you know you do this khan and you do that one and and you go to the teacher and there's frequent meetings and the teacher says good that you pass that were not this one and then you go through them and and this way you learn to see reality from many different vantage points each con being another window on the ineffable
in our tradition we don't practice that way not because it's not a good way to practice but just because it has been our way to focus more on everyday life in the present moment then to focus on these stories so the way we use the stories this is that we tell them and we talk about them and we appreciate
eight them and we have a kind of growing sense of how the stories do represent aspects of our own practice and of our own life so we study them and we kind of saturate ourselves with them little by little rather than make a curriculum lot of them are particular approach this in is resistant to curricula and
any idea of progress
blanche hartman my co abbott was recently in new york and she was practicing with people in new york and she was saying that everybody in new york were apparently according to her the people that she encountered were extremely felt that they were living in an extremely competitive and fast-paced
environment in which making progress and go and getting ahead was very important
so they were very relieved to hear her teaching because she would say well you know there's nothing to get there's nowhere to go it's all right here you know what are you worried about and they were thunderstruck with this teaching
and and and and also she said that the xin teaching that there isn't new york and they're artists and groups in new york art was teaching that just so happens that emphasize cons and progress and going on in the next car and getting more enlightened and in stages and this and that the other thing so she said that the people in new york are starving for shows what she says made
is not true i don't i'm just telling you what you would she said she found that people are really starving for this kind of very simple no progress tradition and that is very much our way no no progress no no goal nowhere to get to you know nothing to do is very characteristic of soto's and of course it has its downside and so doesn't
historically has been criticised for this approach
this is but you know one has to have some balance so it's not a matter of knowing or not nine you know then a matter of progress or not progress it's a matter of opening ourselves and whatever it takes so if it works to use a colon and in some way like a curriculum bread and i studied the
the curriculum of collins with other teachers outside of our lineage and found it very satisfactory and great fun it's actually quite fun and interesting and very helpful so i recommend it but of course it's easy to get caught in a call on are you are they had a you
i'm not going fast and if you're going too fast or if he's going fast there must be superficial are but i'm going slow but i'm really
all this stuff easy to get oh it happens in our way of practice to but one knows in our way you know you really sounds easy easier you know that is foolishness
so yes

no meditating on something or not well in in buddhist meditation there are many things to meditate on you know how many assignments and so on and to to take up and again those things are provisional
they're helpful sometimes because ultimately of course there's no such thing as meditation right there's just life
there's no difference between meditation and life you show up for your life you show up for meditation your present for what comes and let everything go that's just that's what it doesn't matter whether you're sitting on a cushion as dogan says meditation has nothing to do with sitting standing walking or lying down
so however in the meantime that's a good idea but the truth is that it's hard for us to appreciate that you know this like i was quoting this morning and ordinary mind is the way
how do i know it
well if you try to know it you'll only be going away from it so how do i practice not a matter of knowing you're not knowing just be there well how do you do that well okay we'll give you something that in the meantime to think about and while you're waiting as a way of focusing your mind and then when you then you will give you something else and then finally will give you nothing then you just sit there so our style is to start
at the end that's why there's no progress
we started at the end which is just sit there
but there are other approaches to buddhist meditation would say do this do this this this and then later on you can just sit there so actually in practically speaking i think that it's very useful to have objects of meditation and and i often usually in my teaching i feel like it's better to have objects of meditation does not
because if you don't have an object of meditation even though ultimately