Non-Thinking and the Twelve-Fold Chain of Causation

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Sunday Lecture

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ah or contains the truth and not to don guitars words
the morning

who is thinking how kind of is for our eyes to go as we age you know everything just like
looks more and more beautiful
soft and wrinkle-free

well that doesn't help
oh dear so
after many years of studying the teachings of buddha i began to feel that i'd gotten a little lost in the forest of the tradition itself
that there are so many images and sutra and commentaries language is on
and even though i'd known for a long time that i wanted to be a buddhist and i think from when i was very young and saw david carradine as kung fu
it was just clear
this was my path so
but i really didn't know what a buddhist was you know what it meant and
but i did think that these images from my childhood and my young adult life that represented buddhist to me had to do with values such as community
self respect personal integrity
and later on i added nonviolence and had to drop david carradine and my pray
so these are values that are in my heart and have been in my heart since i was pretty little i think they're in i i kind of think they're and everybody's heart when they're little
so as i tried to understand what a buddhist was than i really wanted to know more and more about what a buddhist thanks how they see the world and how they explain what they see
which for a buddhist really means how does a buddha think what is the thinking of a buddha
so that's what i want to talk about days offer some examples of buddha's thinking particularly
how the buddha thinks about the causes of are terrible suffering and violence in this world
the endless cycles of suffering starting with endless greed and endless hatred and endless confusion
so i wanted to begin by talking a little bit about ah
thinking itself
and i was imagining that those of you who have not yet begun some kind of meditation practice of your own
whatever it might be
may not have spent much time looking at your own thinking
no but even if you have it's not that easy to do
kind of like trying to study smoke or fog and soon as you try to get a hold of it it sort of moves away
but i think it's important and i think it's important because thinking is according to the buddha the very cause so far sense of isolation and our sense of loneliness and of our need for defense that both as individuals
most and as nations cause this terrible ground of of grief and violence
so if i were to ask you all to think in a particular way you might find that difficult to do but i'm going to try that anyway i'm going to give you an instruction of a way to think just a moment and if you're willing maybe you can see what happens when you
you know that thinking is the cause of of our great suffering is is what we can say as the bad news
but the good news is that because thinking as the cause it's also the possibility for release r bondage is based on thinking and our liberation is based on thinking what kind of thinking we do
so this is showing them fly the way out of the bottle
the instruction i want to offer this morning as from zen master again
he wrote a farcical or i guess it was first a lecture that he gave to his students and this one we call an english the universally recommended instructions for as in
in japanese food cans as mg the food guns are thinking
and you can find the full text of this lecture in our sutra book which is available in the office and also we chat here in the morning quite often
so in the beginning of this lecture he gives quite a bit of instruction about posture and i think if all of you who bent his as an instruction have received the basic time list of pointers you know to keep the spine straight in the head balanced on the shoulders the ears and line with the shoulders
and so on that you're in an upright and more or less relaxed comfortable posture on so then assuming that that's how you're sitting and that there's energy and awareness in your body is starting with the body then we go looking
for the mind
and master do again says
place your tongue against the front roof of your mouth with your teeth and lips both shut
so there's not much talking this point
your eyes should always remain open and you should breathe gently through your nose
once you have adjusted your posture take a deep breath
inhale and exhale
in rock your body left and right and settle into a steady that's so lovely to see you do
rock your body left and right
and settle into a steady immovable upright sitting position
so here's the part i want you to try
k once you've settled a settled
i'll know when you don't know
okay here it is think of
not thinking
a physio this is true as when it said of think of not thinking

and then he says how do you think of not thinking
non thinking non think this is the essential art of zaza
so i of course don't know how that experience is for you to you
only you know
but i i wanted to imagine that perhaps for some of you a kind of spaciousness might have occurred
and i'm
the spaciousness is the possibility that opens for us when we think of not thinking
which is very close to thinking of not me
or not here
who are not now
yesterday i was preparing for this talk and my daughter kept coming into the room and i kept saying to her hunting not now not now
finally toward the end of the afternoon she said maybe you don't want a kid
and i said honey i do but not now
what is it that's not me not now not here not thinking
what is that place
a big place
so if you feel kind of stumped by these suggestions that's the idea
their stompers and the zen tradition is basically full of stompers one after the other
other stump or is include what is it
that's a great one you go and feeling all open and and your teacher says so what is it
as mean
well been stomped his kind of like ah
now what we're trapped will trapped
but you know been trapped is a good thing in this case this is allowing the discursive mind to get trapped to freeze or be tranquilized just for a moment
you know
you said the image of watching the craighead brothers tranquilizing a grizzly bear you know in order to tag its ear
pretty soon a bear started to wake up and they jumped back
so that's the mind the grizzly bear gotta get a quiet just for a moment so we can see what else there is look at the wilderness all around the grizzly bear
why not
but here now
he liked that better
you do
it's okay with me
what about that
where's that
we can talk about that later i'm going to lose track of what i'm saying that by going here i have makes good
ah kei so
not here not now
not now
so when we're stumped you know being stumped is what happens when you cut down a big tree what's left is what we call stump so this is the same thing with this discursive thinking this stream of thought is river of consciousness when you stop it were stumped
what's left
well what's left is a kind of poised quality or potential ized consciousness it's ready to alert
it's not moving
so been stumped as a very good first step in learning how but of thinks
it's a very good first step on a path of peace

now for some of us i would count myself in this crowd it's kind of scary when thinking stops
i have a mom who talks a lot
i once asked her if she would be willing to try and experiment while we were driving of not talking
have i got away with it she said sure i can do that
oh well this will be interesting so i said okay mom i'm going to time you and provide minutes you're not going to talk
so about two minutes later she said so is it been five minutes in life no no not yet you so we waited longer and may be another minute and so then i said so what happens to you when it's quiet
and she said i get scared i think something wrong
which really helped me a really help sweeten my feeling about my mom and her talking him she's given scared something's wrong
so when we freeze this discursive mind when we let it stop it may be a little scary so that's one nice reason to sit with other people you can kind of look around everything's ok
you'll be back in a moment anyway and to worry
but if you're lucky at that moment of freezing you may get a glimpse of reality in its in its homeless its fullness justice is it
this kind of the potential for a big wow wow
wow in that big space
that's where the beauty arises and we've seen it many times we all have
now at the ocean or staring into a fire into the sky at night
when perhaps into her lover's eyes wow
one of my favorite movies of all times is a japanese film called i think it's called ever after
maybe somebody knows that's right
after i tell you a little bit on it's a film about
it kind of halfway house on the way to heaven where are these people what they call afterlife
afterlife and these people who are on their their waited to something they've died come to this halfway house and they are assigned a case worker to help them figure out
which memory of all their memories they would like to have recorded to be their eternal moment
so apparently this began as a documentary of asking people this very question and it turned into such a wonderful thing that they made it into a
film a movie
whatever is the opposite of a documentary anyway it was
one by one these people were interviewed and they talked through their lives and eventually selected that moment and it is if it's very sweet process the ah
one one
very old woman chose a time that she was young and she got a new pair of red ballet slippers and was dancing in her slippers that was her mom eternal government another man shows the time he was flying through the clouds in a small airplane
so they replicated the same using a a mock-up of an airplane and some cotton batting until they got it just right and he said yeah yeah was like that that a fan going
q and they say yeah and then they recorded this scene
so i there was another rather kind of creepy guy older middle aged man who was really angry he kept saying i'm going to pick one of those times with one of those women you know we really haven't given it on and babylon and the caseworker kept saying you sure that's what you want to choose you what made me think about it
well bit more finally he picks a moment when he was a schoolboy standing on a trolley when the first breeze of spring hits his face through crack and window
very sweet
i'm so then they show this film of this these chosen moments in a theater and as the scene comes up with that person in it the person in the theater vanishes
one by one until they're all gone
and then there's just the caseworker sydney
now as it turns out the case workers are people who couldn't choose
so they're stuck in a halfway house
and they're very nice people they just haven't been able to choose some of them have been waiting a long time one of them is this very handsome young man who was killed during the second world war and his life never happened
so he he can't choose something that for him didn't happen
but finally and really the very sweetest scene of the whole film he does realize that he has a choice to me and then you see him sitting on a bench
and you don't know what he's looking at but he's smiling very sweetly and then they show you the same and it's all of his fellow caseworkers standing looking back at him smiling
and that's what he chooses to have recorded for eternity
this bond of human affection
suzuki roshi said that sooner or later we die
and we go to the same place that we go when we sit zazen
the place of non thinking
the place where everyone and everything is myself
so this depiction of the eternal moment is also one of the major features of one of the greatest tex since the buddhist
collection of of suitors called the lotus sutra
and it occurs in the first chapter there in which the buddha creates this enormous vision of reality for the assembly in i i wish i could do it would be so cool he basically
opens this kind of circle of white hair on his forehead and
everybody sees the entirety of reality
eighteen thousand worlds and the eastern quarter all illuminated with all the details of the heavens and the hills and just
everyone is like wow
but then one of the humans raises their hand and says what does it mean
what kind of thinking is that
so that's how we humans are you know very quickly after the miracle we want to know what it means or what time is it or
what's next can we do it again
so in the lotus sutra
but butter then begins to teach and this is chapter two it's called skillful means so not thinking becomes thinking again for the benefit of others
and he explains slowly and carefully for the humans why they suffer he teaches the four noble truths there is suffering there is a cause of suffering there is cessation of suffering and there's a cause for the cessation of suffering and that is that you have to change
your way of life
and you have to address your way of thinking
paul about thinking
so thinking comes back non thinking thinking what kind of thinking is that non thinking stick thinking like a pearl rolling in a silver ball
this is a buddhist thinking

so if this kind of experiential lesson were enough for us than we can be done you know
just think not thinking
this is the essential art of zaza not nice package
and of course the problem is that we don't remember
we forget we forget what we got
so this is exactly what happened to the young prince shakyamuni buddha
when he was a young man he forgot
and he abandoned his palace and is tiled and his loving family and he was walked off into the wilderness to practice severe punishing forms of asceticism
he forgot how to balance himself between thinking and not thinking between coolness and loss and between water and the see
and then on one wonderful morning as he gazed at the sky
had a star
he remembered who he was where he came from and why he was here
that eternal moment
had returned
and he said the entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body
that's who he was the entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body
and then he said
we are here to live in harmony with one another
that's why we're here
just this is it
and yet he knew how deeply his own confusion and anxiety had driven him away from harmony from piece from his own humanity and so he was reluctant to teach what he now understood
and then in legen it said that the gods intervened and convinced him to try to find some people who would listen to him and it might be able to learn what he had to say
so he went looking for the five aesthetics who he had practiced with who had abandoned him when he had come away from the asceticism they thought he'd become a slacker
and they wandered off without him left him there under the tree
when they saw him coming they had agreed among themselves not to be very warm in their greetings so they said what will give him a seat but that's about it
but as the buddha approached they quite naturally began to treat him with great respect they can see that something had happened to their friend
so they gave him a seat they washed his feet they took his ball in his robes and they welcomed him to sit at their site and then he said to them
the awakened one is accomplished and fully enlightened
listen monks listen monks the deathless has been attained and i shall instruct you
i shall teach you the dharma
by practicing as you are instructed you will by realizing it for yourselves here and now
through direct knowledge enter upon and dwell in the supreme goal of the holy life
pretty good pretty good offer they couldn't review
by his words in his department they were able to open their hearts and to listen to what he had to say and of all the things that one can choose to say this is what he offered them as his first sermon called rolling the wheel of the law
this just the first paragraph of the first sermon
if you look into the other teachings of of the buddha and in the tradition i think you'll find this first paragraph and per sentence echoed over and over and over again so very foundational to all that followed in the teachings
monks there are these two extremes
that ought not to be cultivated by one who has gone forth
what to what to extremes
there is devotion to pursuit of pleasure in sensual desires which is low course vulgar ignoble and harmful
and there is devotion to self mortification which is painful ignoble and harmful
the middle way discovered by the awakened one avoids both of these extremes it gives vision
gives knowledge and leads to peace to direct knowledge to enlightenment to nirvana
the middle way
a boy the extremes
so this morning i was talking first about thinking itself
and the potency of thinking in determining the outcome of our lives i've talked to some of my friends who are hospice workers in what they say is that most often people die the way they live
you know if you're angry or sad or disappointed than often your death will be full of anger and sadness and disappointment if you're grateful and for peaceful than your death may also be
that way
so you know this is the time that we want to look at how we think and see if there's some way we might address our thinking and redress are thinking to alter this what might be otherwise and editable outcome
and it takes some courage for us to gaze into the psychological and attitudinal well of our existence and for any of you who tried a little therapy or read the enneagram you know it's little scary to see yourself characterized
fact the other night i went to a play called is anybody home which a friend of ours sheila glover is doing up in larkspur it's well worth the time if you have it i think she's showing the play next week as well and it's a depiction of the enneagram she comes out in different costumes as each of
nine characters as it's very funny i was really laughing a lot except when she got to the one that i think is closest to me
that wasn't funny
and then that's how you know which one it is
so she told me later so which why didn't you like and assertion
the boss
number eight
i had to i
so i'm
it's important for us to do these explorations into ourselves because in this way will begin to find the most important of the two extremes that we need to avoid and that is the extreme view of ourself
and the other extreme view of the other or you
self another is the big one that's the big wall and this is the one that's the cause of all of our you know nuclear weapons to start with
the way we dress the way we talk how we house ourselves how we identify ourselves are all in the service of protecting the one that we believe is in here to be saved
that little guy
we believe in that little guy and we do a lot of stuff to keep her safe
and this is the source of are suffering
to safety comes from letting go
just the opposite of what we think
so looking at the extreme views as the buddha taught in his first sermon avoid the extremes the extremes our views and this is different than this first exercise i had you try which was think not thinking
that's about cutting thinking off this is a different practice it's the practice of samanta or tranquility when you allow thinking to quiet there's a very peaceful state that it's possible you can enter for a while take a rest
when it's time when you feel restful then you bring thinking back into view bring your views into view take a look at how you think your opinions
your political affiliation whatever it might be where your passions start to rise
there you are that's the self coming back self of you
what i believe to be so
is how we suffer by holding these we're not by having them they're fine you can have all the views you want just don't hold onto them and don't hit anybody with
for yourself
so again rolling like a pearl and silver bowl
think not think nine think
so this other kind of practice practicing with our views extreme views of self and other is called inside practice or v persona
and it's through insight that we come to understand ourselves better and the world better and in this process we can begin to let go of are mistaken views which on most of them are
get done with this protestants
stumped scholars stumpy

there's a little poem that i i like to it's kind of dark actually
you probably know it last night i saw upon the stair a little man it wasn't there he wasn't there again today oh how i wish he'd go away
that's stumpy right there
so this self that we believe is in here is actually very target of our spiritual practice we want to find that one reassured and dismantle it let it go you're fine now you know
go away
and one way to study this self is to study how it got there in the first place and this was exactly the content of the buddha's enlightened reasoning the night of his enlightenment he was studying what he called the twelve volt chain of dependent core rising
there and basically he was watching his mind and how it formed into a self a person a person who then created a barrier to the outside world and then reached through that barrier to get ahold of stuff to bring inside
you know that process go shopping
bring it home and a big bag so this is this is the process he was exploring in his own mind just sitting there under the tree watching the arising of this self
creation of the cell twelve full change twelve steps and i'm going to go through them hopefully you can stand it i'll try to make it interesting
so the first step is called ignorance ignorance is basically ignoring the fact that we are not separate
if you don't do that the rest of it doesn't follow
unconditional love does not separate us from the world that connects us to the world in a state of unconditional love
why everything's fine
but you know we don't stay there
we go to this other state called ignorance where we feel separate isolated afraid alone betrayed you name it we all know those states we contract from non separation so that's step one in the link ignorance and the image the drying
most of these teachings were done to a pre literate society so the people didn't know how to read but they could see pictures so the picture of ignorance is of a blind man with a cane
the second step is called karmic formations and that picture is of a potter making little pots one after the other so these are our tendencies or our habits or way of doing things gyrus notice how familiar your life has become
hello assembly line so these are karmic formations again and again
and the next step is consciousness and the picture there's of a monkey in a tree kind of looking around quickly
scanning looking seeking searching restless
so consciousness now as arisen not not a kind of diffuse at the moment then the next step there's a a boat on an ocean with three little characters inside so this is the now we're assembling a person we're beginning to create a person here the boat is the body
form inside the boat are these qualities and three of them are very strong feelings
perceptions and notions about your feelings and perceptions so those are the big three feelings perceptions and notions and there in the boat in the body and the bodies floating along on the ocean of consciousness
that's a print what we call a person that's really what we mean by me
this set of activities that are going on all the time
busy busy bee
the next step in the links and now we're getting more and more for person the person leaves the boat and moves into a castle
and the castle has lots of windows and doors and it has a big wall all around the outside
and this is a kind of completed or fully fully embodied person
and then the next step the castle meets another castle
well and the picture here is of a kiss
on the lips
in little drying it's a man and a woman you know could be a man and a man we know that woman and a woman than anyway lips together contact is called contact
after contact the next link and this one is a little harsh for us to here is a picture of a person with an arrow in there i
it's called feelings
but you could also just show somebody's been hit by a thunderbolt you know we say that when we fall in love right
so there's a big feeling that happens when we have contact castle the castle
big feelings they're not necessarily bad but they're big they're impactful
so that's ok if you just stop at feelings you can live a pretty happy life
but we don't do that we go from feelings to desire so then they show a picture of a guy sitting in a tavern having his glass refilled over and over again
that first one was good how about the second one how about the third one how about the fifth one so we become drunk
on our feelings this is desire or intoxicated
the next picture is of a person picking ripe fruit off a tree and having huge baskets of bright fruit all over the ground picking it all up and gathering and taking the storage area this is our accumulation of karma as a result of our desires grasping more and more and more
trying to pack it all in guys have closets in your houses
i should do it's amazing you know i keep them closed so that stuff as and come out at night
so all of these different parts are glued together by thinking you know it's like a magician skillful conjuration this is not really happening it just looks like it is and were caught by how we think so
wheel turns you know it's very hard for us to stop this turning wheel so we've now collected all the fruit
and then the very next step
where did
oh yeah oh yeah since terrible than the next one is becoming becoming and this kind of like it's predestined you know i have a story about becoming the one illustrated in my little tonka drawing is of a couple in a tent you know making having sex and looks like casual sex
but i have i want to offer a better example from my own life i think it's a better than i once went fishing with some friends out and the fairlawn this is before i was officially a buddhist and
we were fishing for rock cod
and i by accident caught a link hot i didn't mean to do that but the rock cod that i caught was bait for lingcod so this lingcod is was about six feet tall
and they pulled this fish into the boat and everyone was going all way to go you way to go i was absolutely horrified the fish stayed alive and that boat for a long time biting it was
an amazing animal and the fishermen who didn't seem to mind we're just hitting it on the head and stuff it was awful the whole thing was really awful and everyone's cheering you know why to go
i was nancy at the times and nancy graves that i have a picture myself holding this fish
so then the fishermen cut the fish up into little pieces and i and all my friends carried this fish home in little bags which i then stuffed into my freezer and all of their freezers
and i never could eat all that fish
so this is becoming
in the next step which is
the birth of the outcome of all of this stuff that we've been into was that i throw that fish away
he was really sad
i couldn't eat all that fish
and it's still very painful to me what was i doing
how much do we need what what is it what is this but we're doing so anyway we can we can see it on our own lives these patterns and then the very very last step is the final curtain call you know death aging and death when the whole sequence collapses on itself and disappears in our belief that things
that there is a curtain call
closes and it's all over i will accept that we just start again with the next around separation
round and round and round but a call this endless cycling samsara endless circling around and and this is a function of our mind this is how the imagination works
is what we see what we think and what we believe is so

we are dreamy
of these things
and therefore we can wake up
we can think of not thinking and what kind of thinking is that non thinking the central art of zazen
and he also said that there is a self
not that one but there is another self that we can claim and that we can treasure
and that this is the one that's closest to us
when we allow that moment of peace
that opening
that occurs when we're not thinking
then eternal moment
when once again we are conjoined with the sense of wonder at life itself
and when we are conjoined once again in a wholeness with the universe
not separate
filled with unconditional love
such a place there is no coming there is no going
there's no arising and there's no cc
what kind of thinking is that
thank you very much