Hand Me Midnight

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

This talk will not appear in the main Search results:

AI Suggested Keywords:


Sunday Lecture: Daigan's trip to Bali; ritual; poems from Daigan's new book, "Hand Me Midnight"

AI Summary: 



Through the Tathāgata's words. To the abbess and to the śūsa, we're happy to see you. And to all of you, good morning. Good morning. How many are here for the first time? How many of you have never seen me before? Well, then I'll introduce myself. My name is Daigon. First time I heard that in this room, 16 years ago, I thought my teacher was calling me Daikon. Which, as you know, is a big, white, Japanese radish. Horse radish. I thought he had a very acute perception of my personality.


And then I saw that I had made a mistake. And he interpreted my name as being a big or great bao, I thought he said. Great bao. I thought that was strange too. But he was my teacher. And maybe from now on I'd be called Great Bao. But it turned out it was Great Vow. And that, that moment, and that name stuck in my head for the next 16 years. I've been calling myself that since then. And of course I get a lot of feedback on it, but Daigons be Daigons. Ah, the mini-blows.


Well, I'm here also to talk about and elucidate the Dharma, and the truth and experience of enlightenment. But since I have forgotten what those are, I'm going to talk about something else. Our trip to Bali. Bali. This is a travelogue morning. Recently, I had the good fortune, my wife and I, Arlene. Where are you? There she is. We're the guests of a couple, an old friend of ours, who invited us for a month south of the equator. And no Bali. Now, I don't know about you, but I grew up hearing songs like Bali Hai, and so on. And people had been there,


and many of our friends had been to Bali already and spoke very highly of it and said you may never come back, and so forth. I thought we'd take a chance and go and let my lovely wife, you know, hang ten on a shopping wave. Well, I stayed by the pool and read books on Buddhism, which actually I brought along but never opened. But Bali is really very interesting, and my first impression was that I've gone, I know this place. There's something about the atmosphere, Bali, that reminded me of something that seemed to be in my genes or in my blood, which is a kind of a deep, close


binding or bonding with fellow human beings tribally and very, very close to those powers that we can't control or that we try to control through ritual and prayer and ceremony. And it was very interesting to watch the society of highly integrated people performing their day-to-day life and tasks. How many of you have been there? So you know what I mean. They have what they call the banjar, it's a group of people I think mostly oriented around family, heritage, tradition. And it may be a few families that may be a hundred or more people. Huh?


1,700 people. We were lucky enough when we got there to be invited to some of the festivals and some of the rituals that were being performed, one of which was a funeral and cremation ceremony. So soon I found myself standing in a sarong with a headpiece and being ushered along into a neighborhood festival, actually. Transitioning of the people from this life to the other world and what a celebration that was, what an offering that was for people. Every day, whether it was a shop or a family or an office or workplace, twice a day, in fact, where we lived, the people would get up and offer to the to the statues or to the altars


some offering flowers and incense and cuttings, blossoms, flower blossoms, to all of the representations of the gods and goddesses and powers that they've inherited through the Indian tradition. And it reminded me of something that we once had but lost and that we try to regain in our practice here, places like Green Dotch where we perform rituals and ceremonies. But the connection, the blood connection, the old, very old and ancient connection of blood between people and their rituals is something that, at least when I perform them myself, I don't have the same kind of empathy, although I can feel it there. I looked up the word ritual to see what it had to say


about what aspect of ritual. A ritual may be defined as an action or an imitative of an imitative or symbolical kind designed to achieve some end, often of a supernatural character that would not be achieved through normal means, normal means, by the person performing it or on behalf of whomever it is performed, for whomever it is performed. Its efficacy is usually deemed to depend upon its careful conformity to a tradition and pattern. Its efficacy depends on the careful conformity to tradition and pattern. That's what I wanted to say. I felt that tradition and pattern and the efficacy to the details of their day-to-day life, that was moving to me and to us. We lived right on a rice paddy and of course being south of the equator.


By the way, I checked out to see if the toilet spins the other way. I ran all the water and flushed the toilet several times. We were right on the equator, seven degrees south. The water went straight down. So I haven't really settled that question yet. In the springtime there, you know. And so all the rice was being harvested and in the old way, which was somebody grabbed it by his hand or her hand. I think they were women, actually. And with a curved blade, cut it off and handed it to someone else who thrushed it over a large container. And they did this for hours right outside. After which they flooded the paddies and brought in the ducks. So every morning there were ducks and roosters to wake up to. And to somebody who went along chasing away the birds from the paddies


that continued to, hadn't been thrushed yet or picked yet. Somebody who every morning would shout out as if he were being tortured. Ah! Hey! Ah! Hey! Five o'clock in the morning. I thought there was maybe a revolution or something beginning outside. He scares the birds away, keeps the birds away. He's the bird chaser. And of course, you know, there's a I don't mean to say that this is a society that's totally isolated and I'm looking at it romantically from the modern gods of Google and Yahoo. They have that and they also have their own versions of all of it. And of course, at night the god or goddess of all of modern life is at large in all the houses and burning very brightly, which of course is television.


So they're not that different in that sense. But one morning the woman who we called Putu, who took beautiful care of us and was charming and lovely lady, had an accident on the motorcycle, which everyone drives at top speed there. And what was interesting about this, and she wasn't badly hurt, her toe was damaged somewhat, but it was painful, but not mortally wounded, was that as soon as the accident happened, somebody made an offering and brought it to the spot and put it down. Because from her point of view, she had made a mistake in her karma and she was paying for it. Everything is seen in that light. It seems that we have such a close connection to the forces of what we might call God, God-head, Buddha-mind,


the ever-present witnessing awareness, whatever we wish to call it, or answerable to, by paying close attention to the details of our life. And that reminded me of the kind of practice that we are trying to generate a kind of culture in Green Gulch. Although Green Gulch is not a family-oriented, particularly family-oriented in the same sense, we do have a tradition now. And a large turnover of people who come and fill the hall with their practice and try to generate a sense of the fidelity and order to the details of our life. To the extent that that energy can be extended back into the universe for the well-being of everyone. But for my part,


I feel, as I said before, that brought up in a culture that is predominantly about individuating yourself and expressing yourself in the 48 ways of power, as somebody just wrote a book, the 48 ways of manipulating the world and other people, that the closeness, the blood closeness, is gone. It feels a little bit mechanical when I do it, the rituals, in that sense. But we try. We try. I always find it interesting to go to a new country,


a totally new country where you have no history and you have strange customs, you don't know each other, and your reference points are pretty much missing. And if you are separated from your spouse or your wife or your friend when you're there for a while and you're just there by yourself, it's an excellent time to kind of study this question of what we think of as our identity. And you can't but notice that what you call yourself is made up of everything else that has been pre-eminently influential in your upbringing, in your culture. And not to have to give it a name and not to have to talk about it, particularly with other people for a while, is a very interesting kind of meditation to do. Because, in a sense, I noticed it kind of intruded into all of my thinking, into all of my feelings


when I was alone there, not trying to see anything, not trying to experience anything in particular, not going anywhere, simply being there. Nice setting, you know, palm trees, coconut palms and so on. A kind of paradistical sitting, and yet there's a certain edge to who one is. Would I like to live here? What would it be like? A lot of expats around. And watching the mind, always looking for something new to get hold of, a new place to secure itself. Until with four or five days, you become used and accustomed to the place. And then the stories come forward and you begin to establish get your tree, your roots down, the names out there in front. We all know who we are, what our places are. Again.


And again. I also always feel at my age that when I go somewhere, it may be the place I finally take my last breath. And when that number comes home to roost at three in the morning, again, how does it feel? You know. It's really good practice sometimes. Lizards on the wall, talking to you, you know. Lots of frogs outside, strange voices in the night. The mystery of life, the mystery of being, the sense of between worlds, the bardo state.


It's scary. You try to pick up a book and read it, it doesn't work. Nothing helps, nothing ameliorates. Or softens the feeling of rawness. All the senses are open, the feeling of the vibrations of the moment. Where are you? And the need to look for something that will comfort, console, tell you who you are. Names don't mean anything, we don't understand each other's language. Hmm. It's good to get away sometimes and feel that. I forgot, I used to do it when I was a young man. It's harder now when I'm older. Thought it'd be easier. Put yourself down any place in the world,


after all you've been studying Zen all these years, right? So be at home in the world everywhere I go. What a disappointment. Well, I don't mean to make it so serious, we had a lot of fun. Most of the time I painted. My host was a person who had been turned on by painting. And of course, as you might know about Bali, at least in Ubud where we stayed, is kind of the artistic capital of the island. And also, the Balinese themselves, they're dancing their music, their gamelan music, and they're dancing, they're ritualizing of everything in art form. Statuary, wood carving, whole neighborhoods devoted, whole clans, as it were, devoted to one craft and so on. Everywhere you go, people have this sense of art. Went to all the museums.


Museums have the classical art, but they also have all the new painters. They're all abstract expressionists, post-expressionists. And so on. They had a wonderful painting, very alive, very juicy. Yeah, it was good, very stimulating. Sent us back to our own little meager efforts. And they were very tolerant of our efforts. Said nice things about them. You go downtown to any shop and you see a hundred better pictures than the first shop you got to. By better, I mean maybe more accomplished, technically. This is what happens these days.


Whole blocks of sentences and ideas drop away. Can't think of anything left to say. I've been suffering that since the age of 22. So to fill in some of the time, I thought I would, with your permission, read a few poems. From a book that was published in Mexico and smuggled across. No, not really. Published in Mexico by our dear friend Andres Segal and his sister Ana Segal. Of a group of poems and prose poems which I, in my better moments, wrote. Called, optimistically, Hand Me Midnight.


Great title for a Zen teacher, don't you think? So if you don't mind, I'll read a few. And then, of course, if you like them, you can have your very own autographed copy by the Mad Monk Diagon. And you can pick it up in the office for $10 and all the funds will go to good causes here. I receive no remuneration that goes into the general coffers. The price of one movie, $10. Of course, I am strictly liable for any tone, message, idea, utterance contained between those covers. In no way does it necessarily reflect the views of the management. I'll get back to Bali if I can think of more.


This is called, All Your Days. All your days you will be honey bunch, sweetie pie, and sugar. When you roll over groaning in your sleep, your lover will pat you on the head and say, poor cupcake. One morning in the bathroom mirror, you will stand revealed as a jelly bean. And even walking down the street, you will begin to feel you are feeding the insatiable sweet tooth of time. You'll be packaged in a crisp wrapper and sold over the counter. Then slowly chewed and swallowed in small, wet lumps. And one day, a certain hand will crack open your heart, will crack open your heart like a fortune cookie. And there you will read the message of your life.


It will say, all your dreams come true. The game. Coach says, everyone needs guidance. Says in the beginning, there were, there was the family hour, the hope chest, the salt of the earth, and the king's ransom. Tells us, this season we work on the farm. There are four basic plays. The fire, the ice, the emperor's clothes, and the morning after. Time to suit up. Coach pulls a tragic romantic from left field. The line drive and high fly ball are burned into our mitts by the electronic doormat. I get caught in a squeeze play between second and third,


and the pitch hitter walks. In the dugout, we exchange tobacco plugs and steroids. Between games, I look up, I bone up on particle physics and string theory. And I'm big on the concept of unified field dynamics. Suddenly, we're down two games. Coach, don't look at me like that. I'm up to bat. The consistent hitter, confident, relaxed. The pitcher is their man from Havana, with an arm made out of parts gutted from 50s Fords and Chevys. The chance for the pennant rests in my hands, gripping the bat. My eyes narrow, I shift the plug to my other cheek. Here's the pitch. It's a fast dactyl, inside and low. He tries next with a long, looping spondee, which I fall into the stands.


Then he gets wild with an aeroic couplet. And I, a guy who has taken his measure, really connect and send it out in the park. I get a free champagne shower and immortalized for a day and a half. This has nothing to do with Zen or sitting. Please don't be discouraged. Instructions to lay a foundation of equilibrium. First, remove tough outer skin. Using the principles of diffusion and osmosis, hold the self at an angle with butt end up. Careful not to use too much pressure, or it will crack or shatter. Next, heat slowly, but do not boil. Wait until a sticky consistency develops.


This will be a sign that an unraveling has taken place, and the denatured self is ready to be removed and transferred to a cool, dry corner. Do not disturb for seven days. It is then ready to serve. For largely a matter of degree, for best results, install under the sign of the Ram. Makes a beautiful centerpiece, as well as captures the essence of Italian art. There's many different moods. May I read a couple more? I can't think of a single Dharma thing to say today. Sometimes the Dharma comes through, even in the poems.


I want you to know that if you're embarrassed by these poems, you should have been in my studio. I see why they came out of me. Club Soda. In one breathtaking moment, the perch snatcher copped the gilded lily and made off into the golden mist of the tropical sunset. Drinks were on the house. Goya looked bored stiff, buffing his nails, digging clams as hard on a manicure. There was a blizzard of feathers resulting from the evening's pillow fights, plus a drizzle of positive ions. But the tango lessons were dynamite and left some lucky lady swooning in the hotel pool for an hour afterwards. A bunch of getaway con artists sat around the table sipping cognac and teaching grammar skills to the waiters, each one looking for chinks in the armor, their own and others. I felt as if somewhere a hole was widening in the ozone,


the faded air flattening faces into buttermilk pancakes. I ascribed the reason for this to the solar storm the papers claimed the world was being subjected to. Just then I'd have paid up or shut up, but some little part of eternity intruded on my plans and came down like the rain on my new shoes. I gambled away my cufflinks into the continuum. I couldn't recall if this was the place I'd signed up for. I became inaccessible to myself. I drank another club soda, one I didn't belong to, and went to bed early with a splitting infinity. It was, for the moment, magnifico.


A golden light filled the room. She said it was how she did her hair that did it. Well, she always said she'd do it, and she did it. I thought I did it too. I did. I think I did, didn't I? The bears were gone by the time I got home. I stayed in in the bunnies also. We got close around the fire and told stories there in our gingerbread house. The moment came when I just wanted to stay in bed. The covers pulled over my head, but the sun beat on the doors and windows until it was lit inside where her pie rushed straight at the cat. We ourselves don't live here anymore either. It has not been conclusively established whether we slipped or tripped or either or that the otherworldly may have had a hand in it. It began when we took a breath and the smoke cleared from our eyes. How it ends remains in the contract as the claws that will freak out the canary. C-L-A-W-S


In the meantime, the dredging continues, but so far, no bottom in sight. To muffle the sound, almost every evening we strolled arm in arm down the avenue of priceless furs to the pond where the paper boat is waiting to be set adrift with its small candle glowing like the lost star's zorba. Meanwhile, she tosses and turns. No one knows how she does it, but she does it. Did it. Found a window into sleep. Where? For all we know. She slumbers on the back of a black swan that cruises the internet looking for reliable information on the subject of meaningful relationships. We stay close to the fire, processing. Well, you get the idea. There's some serious poems in there, too. But their poetry is generally serious, by its very nature.


It's so serious it has to laugh at itself. You realize I'll never be invited to speak again. Part of my plan. I warned them, but they're very good to me. My teacher says, you have to go out there and do it. You have to go out there and let them throw things at you. So go ahead. They're too polite. But we'll come back for a discussion. They're going to tell you we'll come back for a discussion.


And then you can tell me what you really think. The people there smile a lot. The first thing I saw was the immigration person's frown when I returned here. Even the immigration people are smiling. They were very nice, friendly, smiling. Before they took me away and tortured me. It's beautiful sitting out there. Everybody, you know, we are Buddha, just as we are.


And you can't make a mistake. Even sitting here you can't make a mistake, because you're not going to take it too seriously. The situation, as they say, is hopeless but not serious. And while we're here, we have no choice. Well, we have one choice. We can kill ourselves, as they say, or go bowling. Or we can, like those good people, pay homage to our life and all of its details. You know, washing dishes and getting up and going to meetings, spending hours arguing over detergents, worrying about the hole in the ozone and the melting ice cape and the vanishing species around our globe.


But meantime, we've got to dance and laugh and make our own sangha. And we try to do it with the Dharma, which is just maybe that, what we're doing all the time anyway. Just giving it a formal name, as they say, local habitation in the name. I know that when I was in Bali and lying awake thinking about these things I mentioned earlier, with a kind of shudder, I started counting my breath. The best practice I ever learned was to simply go back to one and start counting my breath. And when I got to ten, wait a minute, I never got to ten.


I got to about three and then I was somewhere else. If you really want a confession, I'm really going to confess something. This is the truth. I'm going to confess something. I've never made it to ten. That's the truth. I really feel good saying it. I have never made it to ten without losing it. By losing it, I mean, you know, the boss thought, the one I said, you know, the rest of you guys, so just concentrate on the breath and don't think of anything else but your breath. That's me. You know, the boss thought, the practice thought. But of course, the mind has a mind of its own, doesn't it? It goes off and tells its own stories. What a wonderful invention that is. I can't control it. Imagine that, I can't control it. I can't control my mind or my body so much. Try as I will, I don't get very far.


I get to about three, sometimes I made it to seven. I do know somebody here who's made it to ten so many times that they now count the number of times they can make it to ten before they lose it. This is the way the mind works, right? As soon as it's made this, it has to elaborate and get a little more territory. It's called greed. Yeah. It's almost eleven now. I always admire how all the other teachers can come in here and actually stay for a whole hour and keep talking about things that are interesting. How do you do it? I don't know how you guys do that. But I'm practicing. I'm still working on it. Next lifetime, if you're around and we meet again, of course we won't know who we are.


But we'll maybe recognize some of you. Yeah. Anyway, thank you so much for coming. It's a beautiful day. We have one singing, of course we do have one singing priest here. So I won't usurp that. But it is a beautiful morning. Recently I saw in the New Yorker, maybe I've told you this one. There's a joke in the New Yorker about this guy. He's happy, he's dancing. His arms are out and he's throwing flowers in the air. And he's singing, oh what a beautiful morning, you know, a song from Oklahoma. And the caption is, denial. Denial. So there it is. That's the new age. We're denying the hard facts of life.


Okay. Thank you.