The Practice of Constancy

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SR015 - On this tape is Lecture C and last part of Lecture D. This tape is known as the C lecture tape of as #2 - Track 1 Roshi's Lecture C 9/12/67 - copied

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This is a different version of the talk - transcript and title updated SDH 12/21.

David Chadwick's notes

Source: 67-09-12 digital audio archive from DC. Problem set. Thanks to audio work by AW, transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Further preparation to post by DC. More editing and transcription by CM middle of October 2012 using the enhanced audio. Audio mainly understandable but seems to get worse, particularly around beginning of sentences. Maybe 70-85% is clear, and talk isn't outright straightforward. Tape cuts and resumes almost exactly after the halfway mark.


File name: 67-09-12: what is Bodhisattva (titled by pf) muffled Crestone took X of; #improved-audio


In the last lecture we studied two Prajna Paramita of the six Prajna Paramita which is the Bodhisattvas' practice. Bodhisattva -- I didn't explain what is Bodhisattva. And Bodhisattva is a little bit different from Buddha. A Buddha is the perfect one. And Bodhisattva is the one who is -- his purpose is -- his motto is to help others before he helps themselves. And this idea of Bodhisattva, is very deep and wide.

In comparison to the idea of the Bodhisattva, we have some other idea: sravakas. Sravakas mean the Hinayana Buddhists. The difference between Hinayana and Mahayana is the Hinayana Buddhist is concentrated on his personal practice to attain arhatship. That is Hinayana's way of practice, and Mahayana practice is to help others rather than to help themselves. This is Mahayana way of practice, and those six practice are Mahayana practice, or Hina-- Bodhisattva's practice.

We count here six, but those six Prajna Paramita will be formalized in three: precepts observation, and practice of Zen, and wisdom. And those are more popular way of counting it -- numbering it. But it is convenient for us to understand this teaching in six ways, which is precepts observation -- or Dana Prajna Paramita, almsgiving or giving some teaching; and then precepts observation; and constant practice or effort, to make effort, or to make vigorous effort; and practice of Zen; and wisdom. Those are the six Prajna Paramita. Oh, and one more important one is constant patient practice. But patient practice, or vigorous practice, will be included in Zen practice or in Sila observation, or precepts observation.

It is necessary to be patient, or to be vigorous, when you practice Zen, or when you observe precepts. So those two will be included in practice of Zen, or observation of Sila.

But more original way of counting is to count -- to name six practice, and we already explained precept observation, and difference between our observation of precepts and pre-Buddhistic observation of the precepts. And the difference was, as we studied, pre-Buddhist observation of Sila is to be born in heaven. Or to attain something was the purpose of precepts observation.

But for us, Mahayana Buddhists, precepts observation itself is valuable. It is not to attain -- the way to attain -- means of to attain something. And, not only for Buddhists, but also all the religious people, it is very important to observe precepts.

Recently this observation of precepts is slighted and ignored, but this is not good tendency. When religion, or especially Buddhism, become more and more philosophical, and more and more -- observation of the teachings become more and more elaborate and fancy, ignoring [laughs] actual precepts observation, many famous teachers appeared, and reformations of the Buddhism happened.

Whenever some reformation was -- has happened, precepts observation was emphasized. In Kamakura period in Japan, there were many famous teachers in various schools: Shinran Shonin, or Eisai Zenji, or Dogen Zenji, or Nichiren Shonin or Honen Shonin. Before those famous teachers appeared, there were many teachers who emphasized the precepts observation. And after those unknown, or pretty well-known teachers who emphasized precepts observation, many famous teachers appeared.

Anyway, as we studied already precepts observation, it is very important. Tonight I want to -- we want to study about constancy -- or vigorous -- practice of our way. And patiency -- patience -- how it is important to be patient when we study our way.

As Buddha says, observation -- observation of this wisdom of patience is more important than even precepts observation. Here he counts -- here he speak of precepts -- observation of constancy. He says the precepts observation and he -- he says observation -- to be patient or constancy is even more important than precepts observation. And this constancy or patience observation is -- the opposite of the observation of the constancy or patience is to be angry – anger. And he says, "If we become angry, all the virtue will be lost all at once, will vanish."

If he is a priest, you know, to be angry -- anger is the most -- most dangerous thing. He said, you should, you know, feel your head, you know. With shaved [laughs] -- with shaved head to be angry is like a white cloud. Like lightning, which come out of the white cloud. Usually the lightning comes from black cloud [laughs], like yours. Black cloud [laughs]. You are, you know -- you are not-black cloud [laughs]. Edward is black cloud. But some of you are red cloud, or golden cloud. But you should, you know, feel your head, he said. Other priests push, who have shaved head. To be angry is to see the lightning from that white cloud. [Laughs].

The white cloud is supposed to be peaceful and calm, but if lightning comes out from the white cloud, no, there's no virtue of the white cloud. If a priest become angry [laughs], all the virtue of the priest will vanish, all at once, he said. Anyway, for everyone, it is necessary not to be angry and to be patient. This is very important thing.

When we become angry, we lose everything. We lose our way. To come in Tassajara for you is to study our way. But if you become angry with someone you lose your way. You lose your point why you came to Tassajara. And you will feel to leave Tassajara, all at once. One minute before, you have no idea of going back to San Francisco, but one minute after [laughs], your mind changes. "Oh, I must go back to San Francisco. There's no point to be in Tassajara any more!" you may say. You see you lose your point already, because of just anger. [laughs].

We know how foolish it is, to become angry [laughs]. But when we become angry, it is rather hard to stop it. And it is too late, you know, try to stop to -- anger when it appears. So constant practice is necessary - incessant practice. In your mind, there should not be any gap from one practice, to the other. If you have right understanding of our practice, there is no gap between your practice: observation of zazen, observation of precepts, or Dana Prajna Paramita. All those practice is, the many faces of one practice. So, you know, dana practice and precepts observation is not two – just one.

So... and Zen practice is also another side of that one practice. If so, there can -- cannot be any gap between one practice to the other. But you -- your understanding is piece by piece. Here are precepts observation, here is zazen, here is dana, almsgiving, you know, here. So, you have, you know, many practice, one by one. And if your understanding is like this, one-by-one understanding, then in your practice there is gap. But if you understand, if your practice is many side of one practice, there should not be any gap between one practice, and the other.

This is so-called constancy, or patience -- patience. To be patient -- to be patient -- actually there is no need to be patient, if you -- if your practice of Zen is right, naturally you will be patient. So there's no need to be -- to try to be patient, if your practice is good. And if your practice is good, right, there is no gap between one action to the other. One practice to the other practice. Zazen practice and everyday activity. So everyday activity and zazen is the different side of the one practice, so there's no gap, there should not be any gap. In this way we should understand our way.

In Japan, I don't know how many years ago. Maybe two -- more than 150 years ago, almost maybe 70 -- 170 years ago there were very famous Zen master. And he had very good disciple, called Genro. And his master was Inshi Osho. This is very famous story. Genro Osho wear one ring(?) of tabi -- white sock, white tabi, for thirteen years. [laughter] One pair of white tabi for him last -- lasted thirteen years. Thirteen years! [laughs] He did not, you know, have any other pair. He had just one pair, and he wear it for thirteen years. [laughs] Very patient person, no-one can be more patient than that. Thirteen years!

And we have, you know, those tabi. We can see the tabi. Of course, do you -- what do you call it? Patch? [Student: Yes] Yeah. Patch over patch. [laughter] And, it doesn't look like tabi any more. [laughs] He was a famous Tenzo Osho, cook, in the kitchen. And his -- as his master was very good, he had many disciples. Many -- not disciples, but many students, who practiced our way with him. But as he was so poor, he couldn't afford to give them enough food. But students did not leave the temple, so naturally they had very, very poor food. And Tenzo Osho, the cook of the monastery, had very, very difficult time to prepare food for them.

But by all means, he did his best. Everyone was very hungry, of course. Some of them were sick. But late at night, someone -- many people saw him in his room, cooking something special, late at night, when the night bell rung. He was cooking something. And some students told his master that he was cooking something after everyone went to bed. But his teacher, his master didn't believe that he's cooking something special. So he didn't say anything to him -- to his disciple.

So he -- the students have a conference [laughs] one morning, and discuss what to do with him, because his master did not believe that they were right. He always said, "That will be your mistake, he is not that kind of person." And in discussion, there were many people who saw him cooking late at night. So -- and they -- some several people went to his master -- went to their master and told them, so many people saw his cooking late at night.

So his master one night went to his room late at night, and smelt something from inside -- from inside. So his -- his teacher was surprised, and he became very wild, and -- but he had to open the door. And he saw him cooking something. And he asked him -- the master asked him what is he doing? And he said, "I'm cooking something here," he said. And -- but he said, "I'm not cooking anything special." But his master said then, "Let me see what you are cooking." So he has to open the lid. And the master wanted to eat -- to taste what it is, but Genro Osho refused him, "This is not for you. You cannot eat it," he said. [laughs] "You cannot eat it." And the teacher become rather angry, you know, because he is resisting something. Even though he's actually doing something wrong, so he had to offer some little bit of the food he was cooking. And he took it.

Got into him (?) nasty [laughs] food or something, which he cannot tell what it is! So the master, you know, made a -- what do you call it? -- grimace [laughter]. "That's what it is," he say. "This is special food for you. Everyone says I'm cooking something special. Yes, I'm cooking something special. This is special food for me. Because there, you know, we haven't not much to eat. So everyday I keep the leftovers. And I'm cooking right now in this way. Some of them is not -- is already, you know, gone bad, but I'm eat -- eating now in this way." So, his master, you know, he didn't know what to say. The next morning the master went to his room, and bowed his disciple. His master said, "I'm sorry. I couldn't trust you."

This is the good example of the patient priest, Genro Osho. It is pretty difficult to trust someone, and it is once we trust it, we should follow here our duty, whatever happen to us. We should not lose our way just by some -- something which occurs all of a sudden, like anger, like some feeling between people. We should always know why we are here. This is the most important point in our practice. We should know, we should have, always, the purpose of practice.

Just to cook something good is not all of of our practice. It is a part of practice, but the more important thing is to do it completely, through and through, whatever happens to us. We should not give up.

We see many students, [puts on different voice] "If you don't understand me, I will leave!" [laughs]. This is very serious, you know? Whatever happen to us – once we started something, we should not leave until we fulfill our duty. Without this spirit, you cannot practice our way. Zen is not some technique, to attain something. When you are doing something, there is enlightenment, there is the way. When you do it something with some purpose, with immutable spirit, that is true practice. That is your duty. And that is is the practice. So to do something, or to cook something good, is not the ultimate goal. To give people something good always, is the responsibility of the cook in the kitchen, in the monastery.

So Dogen Zenji says, "Cook in the monastery is quite different from the cook in the hotel." We should not compare our cook to the cook in that hotel, or restaurant. The cook in the restaurant -- it is necessary to make something good, for the cook in the restaurant, and that is all what he should do. But in the monastery, for a cook, there's some more responsibility.

That is cook, in the kitchen. So, in the monastery, Chinese -- in China or in Japan, the cook in the kitchen supposed to be the most great man of spirit. Without great patience, you cannot work in the kitchen. You cannot have the responsibility in the kitchen. The other day, I talked about the gardener. Tonight, I'm talking [laughs] about the cook. But whatever we do, that is practice when we have -- when we realize our position through and through, and when we devote ourselves completely to it and involved in it completely, forgetting all other thing, other superficial things. This this kind of spirit -- when you do something with this kind of spirit, whatever you do, that is Zen practice.

There are many interesting story about the cook in the kitchen. [Laughs]. I think I have told you about this story. Tonight we had something interesting, you know. Do you know what it was? Black... thing -- like biscuit, black biscuit. We call it in Japan, we call it gobo. It is the root of the plant, as thick as this. It is rather troublesome to cut. [Cutting sound] - like that. But head of the gobo is as big as this.

In the monastery, in one monastery, a cook, was -- he was very good cook, but as they had -- hadn't not much food, so he had -- he had also some difficulty in preparing food for people. So others -- the other students blamed him of his, you know, poor food, poor food. And people wanted him to resign his post. If someone there is take his place, they thought,they will have some more good food.

Someone, you know, throw -- someone caught a snake, and cut off his head, and put it in the miso soup. [Laughter]. Miso soup for the master. [Laughter]. And, as the master was eating, he picked up something funny [Laughter]. And the master called the, you know, head of the kitchen, "Immediately, come here! What is it?" And picked up -- picking up the head of the snake! [laughter] But he didn't do anything, you know, he didn't do anything. He just saw the something on his -- in his hands, and he realized that that -- that was, you know, head of the snake. But he wasn't afraid of anything, and he "Let me see what it is?" Pretending he couldn't understand what it was. And the master gave it -- gave him the head, "which is in my miso soup." [Laughter].

And, oh! This is something funny. "I know, this is the head of gobo!" And he ate! [Laughter]. And drank it, There is no evidence you know, whether it was gobo or ... [Laughter] snake any more, That's all you know, all the difficult -- all the plan -- cunning plans, they found out -- effort -- all the effort they made was in vain. That kind of, you know, attitude is necessary for the people who work in the monastery. No only for the tenzo in the kitchen, but also for everyone – this kind of spirit is necessary.

So usually we are, you know, enjoying hot springs, and, you know, giving water to the plants, and working on rocks, and everything! But it is not always so! Something will happen to us. We don't know what will happen to us. When it will happen --something will happen to us. In that case we should know, what we are doing actually.

When nothing happens, to enjoy hot springs, and stay here, is not our way. Whatever we are -- we looks like, enjoying good samadhi sort (?) here. But, actually, it is not so. We will see some day, what we are doing, don't run away from Tassajara when something happens to us.

When the big earthquake -- we had big earthquake in Eiheihji -- there were many interesting stories. Someone, who is supposed to be very -- who behave himself very good Zen master, ran -- ran away. And someone who did not say anything, and he looks like very common Zen master, stayed there and fulfilled their duty, and they did what they shoud do in such case.

It is not because you practice zazen that you obtain enlightenment. The practice just to attain enlightenment does not work. It is exactly the same to enjoy hot spring and sitting cross-legged position every morning and evening, you know. And in one or two months, after one or two months, he may say, "I studied Zen for two months, or for sixty days, but nothing happened to me!" [Laughter]. i think that kind will go back to San Francisco! This kind of Zen does not work. It means nothing. If you don't practice it, it with some spirit, it is not Zen.

When you have this kind of spirit, how can you be angering so easily? It is -- it is not so easy to be angry. Because your spirit is not there [knocking], so you become angry. Because your mind is caught by something superficial – trivial things, you become angry. When your effort is concentrated on the true spirit of Zen – true way of Zen, it is not so easy to be angry.

So, when I was at school, the head of the university always told us, "You should not be concerned about what people do. You should be concerned about what you should do. You should be a friend of heaven and earth. And you should not be friend of your classmate (?) or your friend. You should not be friend of human being," he said. I couldn't understand, you know, it. "You should not be friend of human being. Your friend is heaven and earth," he said.

Now I understand what he meant. When your practice is real practice, including heaven and earth -- which includes heaven and earth, that is true practice. We should not be involved in useless confusion, which we will have in our human world. This is very serious thing for us, to be completely caught by some trivial things which will which we don't -- do not know when it will happen to us. If we became angry with some trivial thing, like that, you know, we have no time to practice our way. One after another, this kind of thing will happen to us. This point, should be remembered. And we should not caught by some trivial things This is the teaching constancy or patience, or teaching of vigorous way of practice.

[Closing chant]