Dining Room Lecture

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Now we may not always feel that way but you know it's good what is it they say in 12-step fake it till you make it adjust your posture as if you're really here and then when you discover you've gone hiding again come back so these are some elements of sitting posture that I want to just bring to your attention just attending to posture you know posture is happening right now if you're attending to your posture you are in the present moment because the present posture is happening in the present moment so breath and posture are very helpful objects of attention in sauce and because they bring you back to right here and right now you know that


though cliche be here now well breath and posture are here and now and so they're a good way to keep your attention in the present moment and by keeping them adjusted so that you're balanced so that you you're present so you're open to whatever arrives you can begin to fully respect this extraordinary life that we've been given this extraordinary body that we've been given it's kind of miraculous when you study it and this extraordinary world we've been given to live in him when you come to respect yourself and each other then you can leave this endo and meet each other and whatever you encounter with


respect and that's what this talk that I'm going to share with you today is about Rainer Maria Rilke okay so the talk that I want to share with you today is respect for things in our Zazen practice we stop our thinking and we are free from our emotional activity we don't say there is no emotional activity but we are free from it that is we don't get caught by it we don't start making a production out of it we see it we notice it and we receive it and we let it be we don't say we have no thinking but our life activity is not limited by our thinking mind in short we can say that we trust ourselves completely without thinking


without feeling without discriminating between good and bad right and wrong because we respect ourselves because we put faith in our life we sit that is our practice when our life is based on respect and complete trust it will be completely peaceful our relationship with nature should also be like this we should respect everything and we can practice respecting things in the way we relate with them and now he's going to talk about a particular what is one of the things that impresses me about this this talk which is the complete talk in itself about respecting ourselves and the things we meet happened as a result of something this came out of something that happened five minutes before the


talk began we used to have the lectures at the city center in the dining room and so a few of us would come up just before the lecture while people were still sitting in the Zendo and arrange the room you know move the chairs and set them up like this forces of Hiroshi's lecture how many of you been in the city building but we have we have a tile a terracotta tile floor in the building it's a little bit you know kind of each each tile is sort of like this it's not fully smooth like like this floor and the chairs have these little you know metal gliders on the bottom of the legs and so we would we would move the tables and we would slide the chairs up and line them up when you


slide them on the floor like that in the dining room which is about I say the dining rooms maybe twice as big as this room in both directions and it's immediately above the Zendo so when you slide them over the over the tiles it's like thunder in the Zendo of course we weren't thinking about that we were just up there sitting up the room you know and actually probably as I recall I was feeling rather pleased with myself that I was joining people setting up the room so then he says this morning when we were bowing in the Zendo we heard a big noise overhead because upstairs in the dining room people were pushing chairs across the tile floor without picking them up this is not the way to treat chairs not only because it may disturb the people who are bowing in the Zendo underneath but also because fundamentally this is not a respectful way to treat


things to push the chairs across the floor is very convenient but it will give us a lazy feeling of course this kind of laziness is part of our culture and it eventually causes us to fight with each other instead of respecting things we want to use them for ourselves and if it is difficult for us to use them we want to conquer them this kind of idea does not accord with the spirit of practice you can see why I remember this talk in the same way my teacher Kishizawa Ion did not allow us to put away the Amado more than one at a time do you know the Amado they are the wooden doors outside of shoji screens which are put up to protect the shoji from storms so in a Japanese style building like the


Kaisando there are wooden doors on the outside for the weather and then inside there are shoji screens at the end of the building there's a big box for storing the Amado since there are sliding doors one monk can easily push five or six doors and another can wait and put them in the box but my teacher didn't like this he told us to move them one by one so we would slide each door and put it in the box one door at a time when we pick up the chairs one by one carefully without making much noise then we will have the feeling of practice in the dining room we will not make much noise of course but also the feeling is quite different when we practice this way we ourselves are Buddha and we respect ourselves to care


for the chair chairs means our practice goes beyond the zendo if we think it is easy to practice because we have a beautiful building that is a mistake actually it may be quite difficult to practice with a strong spirit in this kind of setting where we have a handsome Buddha and offer beautiful flowers to decorate our Buddha hall we Zen Buddhists have a saying that with a blade of grass we create a golden Buddha which is 16 feet high that is our spirit so we need to practice respect for things I should also say this was when when our one fairly soon after we moved into the 300 page Street building and it is a beautiful building it's it's a it was designed and and the building was


supervised by Julia Morgan whom many of you may hurt may have heard of she designed Hearst Castle at San Simeon she designed the will she designed a lot of public buildings and they have a real flair and style they're really quite wonderful we're extremely fortunate to have it and we were fairly new in that building when he gave this talk I don't mean that we should accumulate many leaves or grasses to make a big statue but until we can see a big Buddha in a small leaf we need to make much more effort how much effort I don't know some people may find it quite easy but for someone like me great effort is needed although seeing a large golden


Buddha in a large golden Buddha is easier when you see a large Buddha in a blade of grass your joy will be something special so we need to practice respect with great effort in this Zen Do anyone can come and practice our way experienced students and also those who don't know anything about Zen both will have difficulties new students will have difficulties that they could never have imagined old students have a double duty to do their own practice and to encourage those who have just come without telling them you should do this or you shouldn't do that the old students should lead the new students so they can practice our way more easily I have noticed I mean I noticed for example when I was not a really really new student but you know I've been about


around about a year or so and I kind of knew the forms and I was kind of pleased with myself I kind of knew the forms you know I would be quite bossy don't do this and we do it this way it's really painful to think about and it's it's not all that unusual but the longer you practice the more you will be able to convey the spirit of practice to new students without some big sense of self there I know how to do this and I'm going to show you but more let's do it this way more actually just by being yourself and practicing out of the Zen Do as well as in the Zen Do you will convey the spirit of practice to newer


students and if you take the road of telling people how to do it in some kind of self-important way you will not open the door for new students you will really people will not think oh this is a really this is a really nice practice people really respect one another here I would like to join this practice that we convey through our body and through our the openness of our heart through our full acceptance our embracing the world and our open the open mudra which is open to everything that's the spirit that spirit of practice will communicate to people and the spirit of practice that is tight and


judgmental and well you know what I mean I don't have to say more but this is very important this is carrying practice off the cushion and into our relationship with each other and with everyone and this is very important if our practice is just on the cushion it's a very selfish practice and it is not going to lead you to the kind of joy he's talking about when you can fully respect everything when you can really appreciate the gift of this life and the wonder of this life even though newer students don't know what Buddhism is they will naturally have a good feeling when they come to a beautiful Buddha hall that is the


ornament of a Buddha land but for Zen Buddhists especially the true ornament of the Buddha hall is the people who are practicing their each one of us should be a beautiful flower and each one of us should be Buddha leading people into our in our practice whatever we do we're considering how to do this since there are no special rules for how to treat things or how to be friendly with others we keep studying what will help people practice together if you don't forget this point you will find out how to treat people how to treat things and how to treat yourself this is what we call the bodhisattva way our practice is to help people and to help people we find out how to practice our way on each


moment to stop our thinking mind and to be free from emotional activity when we sit is not just a matter of concentration this is to rely completely on ourselves to find absolute refuge in our practice we're just like a baby who is in the lap of its mother Katagiri Roshi often used to say just sit in Buddha's big lap this is I think we have a very good spirit here in this Zen Do I am rather amazed at the spirit but the next question is how to extend this spirit to your everyday life you do it by respecting things and respecting each other because when we respect things we will find their true life when we respect plants we will find their real life the power and beauty of flowers


the love is important if it is separated from respect and sincerity it will not work with big mind and with pure sincerity and respect love can really be love so let's try hard and find out how to make a blade of grass into a big Buddha thank you very much and I have another quote from another page of the little Zen calendar from Suzuki Roshi the goal of Buddhism is to bring about right human life not to have the teaching or teacher or sentient beings or Buddhism or Buddha that it's not to get something but if you think that without any training you can have


that kind of life that is a big mistake so now I'm open for questions so we can have a discussion anybody want to throw something in here for us to take off on that is a very important question and I think if each of you will hold that question you will find in each situation how how best to go about whatever you're


doing this practicing with difficulty you know taking a shortcut is not always the easiest way I find and it doesn't always make me feel better and I you know I think that that what you bring up how do you how do you practice with respect for things in the midst of the summer with the heat and with being tired and with too much to do is a real question but it's it's going to be different in every situation if you're there with the intention I think


you will find what is a respectful way to do this because we're talking about not just moving chairs we're talking about innumerable activities but if you're seeing Buddha in each thing then you will find a respectful way to to deal with it if you're seeing Buddha in each person you'll find a respectful way to interact with them it begins by seeing Buddha here and then seeing your connection with everything that things are not objects separate from you and other people are not objects separate from you you're all living one life and and we're all trying to find out


together how to take care of that life it expresses itself here as this one and there as that one but it's not a different life and I think as we come to really understand that and experience that we will find ways to be respectful with whatever or whoever we're interacting with and when we forget it then we do thoughtless things and then we say oh shoot I wasn't there yes I think that's a very interesting point Suzuki Roshi in that talk makes a passing reference to our culture and I think that our acculturation, our upbringing many things are geared towards efficiency, economy, speed, and getting things done


and results and results not process but result yeah so I think about that a lot you know and I think sometimes our practice is a little subversive it's a little counter-culture and you know guest season is a primo example of that because you know we're trying to have a very efficiently well-running spa here and and we're doing this practice so we have to make choices we have to we have to make decisions like every day when I was guest cook you know I'd be in the middle of serving up guest dinner it has to be out the door at seven o'clock and me and my partner would just sometimes we just stop and talk about our feelings because that was what was on this is not something you would find ordinarily


yeah I think I think the mindfulness bell is a very good thing that we learned from Thich Nhat Hanh when things get like that just stop take a breath take another breath come back to yourself and then continue I have a really wonderful physician who's he's extremely conscientious and he's been practicing a long time so more and more of his patients are getting old like me so they take more time you know you have to see them more often they have more health problems so he you know he's just I see him working through his lunch hour or walking down the hall you know like he's got the weight of the world on his back so I said to him once you know Ned I'm more concerned about you than you are about me when you you move around like you've just got the weight of the world on


your shoulders and you're kind of leaning into it and you know when you when you're feeling like that you can just stop for a moment and feel your feet on the floor and take a breath and the next time I came in which is a few months later he said to me he said it works it works I'm telling all my friends it works you know and I said well you know Ned you can take two breaths instead of one he said you didn't say anything about breath you just said feel my feet on the floor that much mindfulness that much bringing his mind back to his to where he was made such a difference this is a friend of Rick Levine's who referred me to him that when he was telling Rick about it he was crying so if we develop just that much mindfulness when we find ourselves


pushed around to stop take a breath feel your feet on the floor and then continue just bring your mind back here so your whole body and mind is in one place it will make it will make it a lot easier to deal with whatever it is you have to deal with and you know this this practice I was talking about of the mindfulness built Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen monk among other things he has a monastery in France called Plum Village and there and I think probably also has one down in Southern California near Park yeah done not outside of San Diego and there is


someone there whose job it is I forgot his bell master or something anyhow every so often I think it's as often as 15 minutes they make one sound of the bell and everyone when they hear it is supposed to stop and say listen listen that wonderful sound brings me back to my true self and take a breath and then continue whatever they're doing we can let any sound be like the sound of the bell we can let any sound bring us back to our true self here and then continue and we we do have situations the kitchen in particular I think where you ring a mindfulness bell when when things kind of get to feel like this someone notices and rings the bell and everyone stops I think it takes three breaths is that


right so what's the what's the practice at this point with the mindfulness but you still have a mindfulness belt in the kitchen yeah good and how just to stop the busyness for a moment and just come back to yourself and then continue so any one of us that we can do that for ourselves wherever we are and this suggestion I made to my doctor Ned came from someone who was a hospital nurse who had devised that as a way to keep herself from getting just frazzled by all the demands made on her and she was in at UCSF in one of the wards there and so every now and then when she was rushing around she'd stop


and take three breaths and continue and then after a while people what are you doing and she told them and pretty soon everybody you know all the nurses on the ward took up the practice and it gave a calming effect to the whole ward so we can develop practices like this to bring body and mind back together when they get separated by the by the pressure and the rush and you know we're trying to run a spa down here but in fact what this is is a monastery which accepts and cares for guests it's not a spa which incidentally has some monks here in his endo that that well but I know but that was the big change that happened between 1967 when we first came here where it was just Tassajara hot springs and there happened to be some monks here this change has happened


gradually but I think it has happened that this is a monastery which in the summertime accepts guests and I think most of the guests realize that I hope most of the guests realize that yes I used to be a cook for an ashram and I know what it's like. It's very fiery and there's a lot of people you're cooking for, but I'm amazed by this place because what you just said just struck home to me because it's a practice center, a monastery, and in the summer guests can come to and it's an amazing combination because the people that live here and the monks and people that practice here all the time it's amazing I feel very grateful that it's open to guests and I'll come back here because I like to do Zazen, I like to do sitting practice at home in this place. We have these wonderful baths, wonderful food, and then you can sit Zazen, I mean what a combination.


You know when Akibaroshi, who is sort of the administrative head of Soto Zen in North America, sort of like a bishop or something I suppose, it's called Sokan in Japan, in Japanese, he first, when he first came to this country, he came down here to visit and then he came and did a training period here. I believe it was a training, may have been the training period, I wish you so. Anyhow, he was down here and someone reported to me, one of the men reported to me, that he was over in the baths and then he went into the steam room and then he went into the creek and he's floating in the creek and he says, Japanese monasteries are not like this. He said very appreciatively. He's a wonderful monk. He showed us how to make bamboo brooms out of the bamboo. We've still got some around here.


I'm grateful that people work really hard here and serve the guests in the summer. Well it's true that the students here work really hard in the summer and it gets really hot and I'm extremely appreciative too. I don't think I could follow the full student schedule now but most people here are now at 79 so probably it's a little easier for them. But it's still hard. It's a lot of work and I really appreciate the spirit in which it's done. Mostly people are pretty good spirited about all the work they're doing, taking care of guests. And I think that's because we sit Satsang, because we're practicing this practice. I don't think that the way that students take care of the guests would be nearly so kind and considerate if we weren't sitting Satsang together, if our fundamental practice wasn't practicing the Bodhisattva path.


Something from the book is saying that the true love is to have respect and to be good to the other person. I find this to be very challenging sometimes. If my partner is upset with him, I don't see the bitter in him. I want to punch him. So to have that respect and sincerity, I want to talk a little bit more about how you consider that relationship. In developing a relationship, that you are friends. I think it's important, I really advise people to become friends first and to establish a friendship.


That is to choose someone whose company you enjoy, not just someone who races your motor. Because, you know, the fuel for that racing motor runs out as you get older and the hormones sort of slow down and then you're left with somebody that you don't find very interesting anymore. And so that doesn't make for a very long-lasting relationship. So I think to develop a friendship before you become intimate, I really think it's important. And one of the things that makes me feel that way is that at a time in my own marriage when I was finding other people attractive and making my husband really unhappy, I said, whoa, this is my best friend. I'm hurting him. I don't want to hurt my best friend. And so I just dropped it. You know, you can make up falling in love with thoughts. And you think, oh, it just happened to me. I'm just the innocent victim of falling in love. I didn't have anything to do with it.


But that's not my experience. My experience is that we construct this thing called falling in love by obsessive thinking about someone. And if it happens that that person is already in another relationship or you're already in another relationship, you can also let go of that obsessive thinking if it's going to cause a lot of pain to people. But you have to recognize that you're doing it with your thinking before you can recognize that actually you have a choice whether to do it or not. So that's one thing that I want to get out there because summer is a time for falling in love. And I really think that this business of establishing a real friendship first is so important. And in that process, you do develop respect for your partner.


And yeah, when things don't go the way you want them, that's where we're dealing with our human nature. We want what we want when we want it. And when we find ourselves getting in that state of mind, we just need to look inside a little bit and say, what's happening? Oh, I'm not getting what I want. Let's see, I feel about five years old right now and I didn't get my birthday present I wanted or whatever. Those feelings, you can recognize them. I've had those feelings before. My experience also is that we choose a partner who is quite different than we are. Most long-term relationships I know, the people are quite complimentary. For example, I'm very gregarious, maybe too much so. I sometimes say terminally gregarious.


And Lou is an introvert and he's not so extroverted. And I'm an optimist and he's a pessimist. He says, a pessimist is someone who has to live with an optimist. I like to have people around me all the time and he has to have some time when he's by himself. He needs it. The first time after we were married that I had some people over to dinner. We were living in a tiny little apartment. About 10 o'clock somebody said, where's Lou? And I said, gee, I don't know. Well, there was no place he could be except in bed. And so I said to him, you can't do that. You can't just go to bed when we've got company. And he said, well, I thought it would be better than being nasty to them. And I said, is that all the choices I have? He said, yeah, I'm afraid so.


If I'd stayed around, I would have gotten nasty. It was time for him to go home. So, you know, there's been 58 years of just trying to work with each other in the ways that we're different. So that we can enjoy the ways that we really appreciate each other. But, you know, when I look at the long-term relationships I see, people are, including my own parents, people are like that, that one is an extrovert and one is an introvert. One is, anyhow, there are certain kinds of temperament and habitual relation to the world that are quite opposite, but complementary. I mean, I think we sort of choose people to complete ourselves.


We choose people who have qualities that we don't have, somehow. And so naturally, there's going to be a certain amount of adjustment and give and take in finding out how, I mean, Lou is extremely neat, and I am not. And at a certain point, we went to a couple's counseling. And the therapist said to Lou, when he brought up again the piles of stuff I leave around. I mean, I happen to have ADD, but I didn't know it at the time. He said, Lou, let me tell you one more time about these piles that Blanche leaves. You have three choices. You can step over them, you can pick them up, or you can leave. You can't make Blanche be different than she is. And I think that's an important thing.


We chose this person because there was something we really liked about them. And that's the person we chose. So how do we gradually accommodate to each other's differences so that we can actually live together? That's the koan of marriage, or long-term relationship. I mean, to me it's always marriage, but nowadays everybody talks about relationship instead of marriage. Okay, we have time for one more. Yes? Speaking of respect, I don't know whether it would help for the people who are practicing here, but those of us who come have great respect for you and for the place. Thank you. Thank you very much.


I hope that we deserve that respect. My dear friend, Reb Anderson, who is also a senior Dharma teacher here, is quite insistent that people he ordains live where he's living at Green Gulch so he can see how they actually practice. And that sometimes causes a little difficulty at Zen Center. We would maybe like to have them here or at the city. But he says, you know, people get so much automatic respect when they put on Buddha's robe. I want to see how they're living to be sure they deserve it. So I hope that we can deserve the respect that you have for us. By the way, we treat you and everybody and everything. Thank you.