Have Some Tea

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Sunday Lecture: "Have you been here before? Have some tea"; judgment and conduct; Four Noble Truths; Eightfold Path; ethics and etiquette

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Well, I don't think it's any coincidence that there are two midwives sitting here in the front row this morning. I don't know what was trying to be born through me yesterday and last night, but I didn't sleep at all, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to say it, whatever it is. So, here's a lecture, but maybe together we can find out what it is that's working its way through me, through us. This story is from Zen Master Dogen, the fascicle of the Shobo Genzo called Everyday Activity. Zhao Zhou, great Master Zenji, asked a newly-arrived monk, �Have you been here before?� The monk said, �Yes, I have been here.� The Master said, �Have some tea.�


Again the Master asked another monk, �Have you been here before?� The monk said, �No, I haven't been here.� The Master said, �Have some tea.� The temple director then asked the Master, �Why do you say, have some tea, to someone who has been here, and have some tea to someone who has not?� The Master said, �Director.� When the director responded, the Master said, �Have some tea.� So sometimes when I'm going to give a lecture, people will ask me, �What are you going to talk about?� And I feel a little embarrassed and totally stumped. Because I have no idea what I'm going to talk about. And I won't know what I'm going to talk about until I sit down with myself for a pretty


long time and begin to turn my own thoughts into more or less visible form, to find some kind of a theme or topic that might be showing me what's important for me right now. So, this process of introspection actually initiates itself as the lecture date begins to approach. It kind of looks like that. It's funny, you know, like some giant mammal on the horizon that's running this way. First it's months away, then it's weeks and days, and that's minutes, and here we are. So, in the initial phase of getting ready to speak, there's a little bit of a panic that I've noticed over and over again, until I actually find that topic or that theme, what it is that perhaps is trying to be born.


So, last time I was here I spoke about something that was up for me around the experience and the pondering of the topic, the theme of judgment, judgment both by and of ourselves. Judgment is one of the most common products of our private thoughts and also of our shared imagination. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha uses judgment again and again as a kind of standard for human thinking, human behavior. They beat me. She cheated me. He lied to me. They deceived me. Those who think such thoughts will not be free from hate. These are very famous lines from the earliest teachings on the workings of the human mind. The Buddha called the disturbing thoughts that were occurring in his own mind as he


sat under the Bodhi tree, samsara, samsara, which means endless circling, round and round. He beat me. They lied to me. They cheated me. So, following on the heels of my own concerns with the subject of judgment, I wasn't surprised to find this time that my concern began centering around the issue of conduct. This is kind of a two-step judgment and conduct. They go together. First, there's the invisible process of imagining how we've been injured or what's been done to us and what we're going to do. Then the next step is taking action, conduct. So the first step, they did this to me, and the second step, I take action.


I make them go away. Or, first step, I like this, and second step, I'm going to keep it for myself. So, the Buddha talked about conduct as right conduct, and it was one of eight of the folds of the Eightfold Path that he offered as an antidote to our tendencies of mind and of behavior to create suffering for ourselves and for others in this world. He beat me. She robbed me. They cheated me. He lied to me. Those who think not such thoughts will be free from hate. So I thought I would go over this morning a little bit the Buddha's basic formula for the causes and the relief of human suffering. I know many of you have already heard and know quite well the Four Noble Truths.


But again and again, these are the primary template around which all of the other Buddha's teachings make sense. We can always refer back to the Four Noble Truths. So, he taught the Four Noble Truths in his very first sermon that was named The Turning of the Wheel of the Law. And he said that, like a doctor giving a medical diagnosis and then the prescription for a cure, he said, Noble Truth number one, there is illness, there is suffering. In this human life, things are not quite the way we want them to be. And this illness can range from the mildest disappointments to the most virulent forms of violence and self-abuse. In the sutra itself, he says, birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering,


death is suffering, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering, association with the loathed is suffering, disassociation from the loved is suffering, not getting what one wants is suffering. In short, the five aggregates of the mind and the body, in other words, all that we are, is affected by suffering through clinging, through clinging, through grasping. So, this is the illness. And the cause of the illness is Noble Truth number two. The cause of our suffering is a fundamental ignorance that couples with our desires to create this basic two-step that I mentioned before. I want it, I'm going to get it.


I don't want it, I push it away. So, judgment, I like it, I don't like it, and action, I'm going to make it happen, I'm going to stop it. Very familiar, all day long, back and forth, back and forth, round and around. Samsara, this is samsara. So whether we're the victimizers or the victims, it really doesn't matter so much. It's this same spin that's causing the world of suffering to go round and round and round. So again, in the Sutra it says, it describes Noble Truth number two in this way. It is craving, craving based in ignorance, which produces the renewal of being accompanied by relish and lust, relishing this and that. In other words, craving for sensual desire, craving for being, craving for non-being.


So I thought I would say a little bit more about this fundamental affliction of ignorance that underlies this whole edifice of suffering. Ignorance is not anyone's fault. We're born that way, and we can't really blame ourselves, we can't blame a creator, and we can't even blame our neighbors. It's just how we come into this world. And ignorance is basically a misperception of the universe caused by the reflective lenses within our minds. It's kind of a trick, but it's a very good trick, like the moon reflected in the water, or the shadow puppets on the wall made from lanterns, only they're sticks and twigs, but they look like real animals running along there. So these formations of our mind themselves create the genuine appearance of a genuine


self, of a natural person that we believe is here, and that we believe needs to be protected and to accumulate all of its desires. There's a verse from my childhood that I think is rather creepy, and I'll share with you. I met a man upon the stairs, a little man that wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. Oh, how I wish he'd go away. So this is this magical creature that resides somewhere in the location of our body and our thoughts, this self, this false self. And as the world turns, so is the whim of this creature. So right here in the midst of an ocean of colors and textures and sounds and tastes,


where each of us is bobbing along, there's a kind of magic spell from which emerges the king or the queen of the fairy tale. Have you been here before? Oh, yes, I've been here before. Well, then have some tea. Have you been here before? No, no, I haven't been here before. Well, then have some tea. We're talking to me, not to me. So I was thinking of some other examples of this exaggerated self that is produced magically through the processes of our minds. And one of the images that came to me was from the Star Wars saga. Do you remember Jabba the Hutt, like a giant banana slug?


He has a huge mouth and a huge abdomen, and he's bringing all of his needs into his mouth, and he doesn't move. He just demands, tells people to get him more food. That's kind of like me. Kind of like that. And so I was thinking that the sad side of this is that throughout human history, it seems as though these inflated knees have been elected as the leaders of our nation. Like the accumulators of wealth, an exaggerated sense of self-importance. We say things like patriotic. It's a virtue. And my country, right or wrong, that kind of feeling, that kind of idea is this self.


And its cause is the core of our suffering. Recently I was disciplining my daughter, some of you know, and she said to me, Way to go, Stalin. I didn't laugh. So anyway, it seems as though this egotism or this inflation, not only occurs within people, but also nations themselves are seeming to act like overgrown babies. They're sucking up the resources and hoarding all of their toys to themselves. It kind of seems that way. Kind of a crazy world, don't you think? Yeah, I do too.


So out of our failures, world-round, both as individuals and as institutions, to awaken from the ignorance of selfish formations, we jump to conclusions and then we fly into action. Which helps us to understand the bombing of Baghdad, the attack on New York, on London, on Madrid. So, jumping to conclusions and flying into action. Just as the wheel of the cart follows the beast that draws the cart. This is very human to the core. Because they beat us, they lie to us, they steal from us, they cheat us. Those who think such thoughts will not be free from hate. So once again, this ceaseless and well-routed journey around the circle


seems to be the pathway for the human race. So these are the habits of our mind, the habits that come from ignorance and self-clinging, and that lead to suffering. And just like smoking and drinking and nail-biting, these habits are tremendously difficult to break. But the good news is that they can be broken, and they were broken by the Buddha, as he reported 2,500 years ago, in just this way. Seeking but not finding the house builder, I traveled through the round of countless births. Oh, painful is birth, ever and again. House builder, you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again.


Your rafters have been broken down, your ridgepole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nirvana and reached the end of every kind of craving." He was a really happy guy. And he apparently accomplished this amazing task by simply sitting still under a tree in the forest for about a week. Pretty good. So when he spoke, he made an effort to explain to us what actually had gone on inside of himself during that time he spent apparently immobilized under the tree. And he taught the Four Noble Truths by way of that explanation. So just a quick review.


Noble Truth number one, there is suffering. Noble Truth number two, the cause of suffering is ignorance coupled with desire. So Noble Truth number three is the good news. There is the cessation of suffering. The house is torn down. The house of this false self. And Noble Truth number four, the cessation of suffering is caused through the devotion of our lives to the unfolding of an eightfold path. So this is the inner world of the outer appearance that we call the Buddha. This unfolding of the eightfold path. So this word fold, an eightfold path, reminded me that the prescription by the Buddha


for the end of suffering is really all of a piece like the robe itself that we wear. Oops. Tidily. So even though this robe starts off in pieces, pieces which we actually cut ourselves out of a whole cloth, we then take the pieces and we stitch them back together very carefully. And while we stitch, we sing a little song. You know, I take refuge in Buddha. I take refuge in Buddha. Every stitch, I take refuge in Buddha. All around. It's a very long pathway to complete the sewing of the robe. And we measure them so that they fit our bodies, each of us is measured. In the end, we wrap them around ourselves. One time I was feeling pretty upset about the world. It happens to me quite often.


I'm sure it happens to all of you as well. And I went into my teacher and I said, so how is this going to help the world? And he said, well, maybe it will save the world from you. Maybe he was right. So once we sew our robes, we iron them and we fold them very carefully. And then in this particular way, we fold them so that they fit very nicely into the envelope for storage until the next morning when we put them on again. So I bring this up as an example of a devotion to the practice of the Eightfold Path. There are many such practices that the Buddha offered to us to keep us busy, keep us devoted to activities


that cause no harm and that perhaps even bring some measure of peace and harmonious union to our community and to our world. So there are lots of other folds in the Eightfold Path. I thought I would name them and give you a very brief example of each. The first one is Right View. Right View. Right View includes the Four Noble Truths themselves, which I've just been recounting. It includes the laws of karma, of how our actions, if they're good, lead to good results, and if they're not good, lead to negative results. This is the law. And it also includes the teachings of interdependence, and basically that we belong to each other. And in fact, we are nothing other than one another.


We are of a peace, like the Buddha's world. Right View is expressed in our tradition by taking refuge in the Triple Treasure, in the teacher, in the teaching, and in the community. The second fold is called Right Intention. And Right Intention is taking the three pure precepts, or the three pure vows, which are quite simple. To embrace and sustain right conduct. To embrace and sustain all good. To embrace and sustain all being. There's really nothing more to it than that. To save the world from ourselves. The next three are Right Speech,


Right Conduct, and Right Livelihood. And these three are embodiments. They're physical. And it has to do with an awareness of the impact that we have through our words, through our physical actions, and through our possession on one another, and on this world. Will it be a hummer or a hybrid? Each of us gets to say. The sixth of the Eightfold Path is Right Effort, which here at Green Gulch means getting up at 4.40 in the morning. When you hear the bell ring, you get up. That's what we call Right Effort. It's not easy. It is effort. And the next one, Right Mindfulness, is the full engagement of our bodies, of our hearts, and our minds in the work of our lives.


And the last one, Right Meditation, is whichever meditation you're doing right now. That's the one. Have you been here before? I'll have a cup of tea. So, whether, and only you know, you're packing a giant banana slug or a tiny one, the mechanism of self-creation is the same for each of us. And so the practices and the realizations are also the same for each of us. Same human beings, same mechanisms of deception, of illusion, and same liberation. So as the Buddha said to the monks, just as the ocean, O monks,


has one taste, the taste of salt, my teaching has one taste, the taste of liberation. Overcoming the grand illusion of the self, in all cases, takes a great deal of patience and persistence, and in the end, tremendous humility. But it also takes the safety and the stability of the containers, such as the Eightfold Path, to hold us during our transformation. And what I also wanted to talk about today was, what about before the transformation? What do we do about the world of human beings and human conduct before we've all awakened? So, I had an idea.


And it has to do with conduct, this theme that was occurring to me as I pondered my current concerns in the world, of the world. And I was thinking that, you know, we need some basic rules, whether we're Lutherans, or Buddhists, or Muslims, secular scientists, whatever we are, whatever we think we are, perhaps we need some rules, some common rules of ethics and of etiquette. Now, ethics is a word that, a very old word, it comes from the Greek culture, and it has to do with character. Character. Character is an inner quality that develops within young humans as they grow, if they're taught, if they're tutored.


And it's that invisible hand that animates the adult. We don't really know what anyone's ethics are. We just see the behaviors. Some people are sneaky. So we don't know. We'd like to take each other's word. That would be good. So, only we know what our ethical commitments, our ethical life is, how it's shaped, and which way it leans. Are we upright? Gentle and sincere? Is that our standard of deportment? Are we honest? So, good character is no less of an illusion than any other kind. However, it's a movement in the right direction towards a genuine and authentic integrity,


the as-if. We are meeting with the Buddha each time each of us meet together, as if we are meeting with the Buddha. Now, one of the great dangers in the teaching halls of the spiritual tradition is a desire that one could rid oneself of a person, of the person we are. Enlightenment means I got rid of this self, but out of hatred or low self-esteem. And this is not what's recommended. That's not the self we're trying to de-install. First step is to create a self, a character, that's worthy of love by us, that we love.


A beautiful house, solidly built, full of integrity and joy, good humor. That's the house you can tear down. Doesn't matter. These are qualities. There's no clinging. But if you're full of hatred and fear and self-loathing, then the first step is to re-engage in the process of growth and development. So, this is just a caution for all of us. I have a story about that. This took place in a tea house, somewhat like ours, over here across the lawn. We have a lovely tea house. The monk Tetsugyu was serving a bowl of tea to Lord Sendai in a precious antique bowl


that had just been given to him by his guest. The monk Choan dropped by and joined them. At the time of appreciating the bowl, it's a very special moment in the tea house when you've finished your tea and then the bowl is sent around and you get to look at it, keeping it very low to the mat so no harm would come to it if you would have it slip out of your hands or something like that. So at the time of appreciating the bowl, Choan smashed it with his ceremonial stick. This guy here. And he said, Now look at the authentic tea bowl that exists before birth. Now look at the authentic tea bowl that exists before birth. Tetsugyu nearly fainted. However, Lord Sendai remained present and asked to have the bowl returned to him,


repaired, and in a special box, which he would label the authentic bowl before birth. And then he would pass it down to his descendants. So I think Tetsugyu in this story was holding on to the forms a little too tightly, to his own good character, to his tea house, to the bowl, to his own conduct, to his self. And Choan, a bit of a rascal, he was clearly fond of breaking it all. I'm sure it wasn't the first time he'd used a stick. That kind of guy. Quack. Lord Sendai, however, through his presence of mind, knew how to put it all back together again. And he knew how to care for the forms,


even though they are continuously being broken. As my teacher Tenshin Roshi once said, our practice is arranging rocks in an avalanche. So, whereas ethics and character may be the invisible standards that animate our lives, I also wanted to speak on behalf of etiquette, the visible standards of behavior, through which we meet one another in the marketplace and on the freeway. Etiquette comes from a French word for ticket, meaning a small piece of paper on which were written the rules of conduct, social conduct. Initially, I'm sure, for use by the court of the nobles, the ruling classes. But it wasn't only the Europeans


who were into this kind of ticket thing. The Indians had a very elaborate court ritual as well, and the Buddha was born a prince. So he spent a great deal of his teaching career transmitting the rules of etiquette to his youthful disciples. And although the rules of etiquette, as we know, can degenerate into hollow and devious ritual, for the Buddha, they were a skillful and simple means to express the ethical virtue that had arisen inside of him at the dawn of his awakening. He was no longer a prince. When he was asked, what are you? Are you a human? He said, no. Are you a god? He said, no. Are you a demon? No. Are you a water spirit? No. Well, what are you? He said, I'm awake.


In the earliest years of his teaching, the Buddha didn't present his students with a long list of rules of conduct. In fact, initially there were only five enlightened disciples, and they spent their time with the Buddha, sharing food and shelter, and enjoying the awakening that was common for the six of them. But as time went by, and more and more people, both men and women, came to listen and to practice with the Buddha, need arose to have some rule, some direction with people. And so, case by case, these rules of deportment were established. People would come to the Buddha and say, such and such happened, and this is discouraging to the people of the town. They'd gossip about the monks, and the Buddha would call the monk to him and say, you're discouraging the people of the town by your behavior.


Maybe you should speak more quietly, or whatever. And so, little by little, these became the rules, and they were collected together into the Vinaya Pitaka, which means the basket of the discipline, the rules of deportment for the monks, and the nuns, and the laymen, and the laywomen. So, early examples included regulations around housing, clothing, speech, medicine, and hours of meditation. But they also included some rather startling admonitions, such as not taking food from your neighbor's bowl, not eating with your mouth open, not sticking your leg straight out in front of you, and my very favorite of all, not hopping into a donor's house. And it


took me a while to appreciate some of these archaic rules, until I began to realize that the Buddha must have been working most literally with children. He was teaching children. And whether they were young in age, or simply young in their social development, these were kids. And so, very kindly and persistently, they were given these rules of deportment, this etiquette. And as a result, the early Buddha Sangha was warmly welcomed as they went from town to town. They were quiet and respectful. And they waited their turn. And they held their bowls out with gratitude, and people gave them food. They lived for many centuries on this simple gesture. Even today, in Asian


countries, so I hear, the young children who are ordained, trained by the monastics, are very sweet. They have a wonderful deportment, inspiring to see. I don't know if any of you have seen these pictures of Greg, what's his name? Snow and Ashes? Ashes and Snow? Yeah, there's these pictures of these monks, young monks, Burmese monks, you know, with jaguars, leaning up against jaguars with their eyes closed, with hawks flying over their heads, and their faces are totally calm, totally at peace, very beautiful. Children, who have been trained, who have been given an opportunity to learn a way, a way of being. And personally, I also experienced this same


degree of respectful deportment in the children of the Navajo who were visiting here last summer. I think it's what struck me the most about meeting them, is how the children spoke to the elders, and to one another. I was so moved and appreciative of the quality of their familial relations that I mentioned it to my therapist, and he then asked me if I could imagine what that might be, what it might be that I was seeing that moved me so much. And I did know, and I did say, it was love. Thank you very much. Please have a cup of tea.