Saying Yes!

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I vow to taste the truth of the Tathagata's words. Good evening. I'd like this person over here in the farthest corner and that person over there in the farthest corner to be kind of monitors and to wave at me if you can't hear me, okay? Sometimes, I have a reputation of letting my voice trail off, so please let me know. I'd like to welcome all the guests here, but I have to be quite frank with you, this is probably my only opportunity this summer to speak to this particular group of students, so my remarks are going to be primarily addressed to them and I hope there may be something of interest to you in what I have to say.


I have just, what this is and I may or may not refer to it, is a doctoral thesis in anthropology studying intentional community using the community of Untaiji Monastery in Japan where she practiced for three years in the 70s when Uchiyama Roshi was still abbot as her example of an intentional community and having just come back from Japan where among other monasteries I visited Untaiji and that's what I was going to talk about anyhow. I was very interested to read this doctoral thesis which someone had just come across and offered to me. So I have marked umpteen things with post-its and I may refer to it, I may not, but those


of you who are interested may ask me to look at it while I'm here. So, a group of us went to Japan in the spring. Some of the people are here, Susan and Vicky and Kathleen and I and fourteen others including Mel Weitzman went to begin with to stay at Suzuki Roshi's home temple Rinso-in in the small city of Yaizu in Shizuoka province where we did a three-week sort of mini ongo, mini practice period. I love to do that. I did it once before in a group in which Meili was present because there's a little traditional


monk's training hall at Rinso-in. It has twelve tatamis and it's very intimate and it has sort of all of the things described in Dogen Zenji's rules for the pure monastic community. And I just thought the first time I went it would be fun to practice in a place that has all the bells and whistles and try to do all the forms the way Dogen Zenji describes them. And we had varying success. There were those among us who thought the forms were just peachy keen and there were those among us who thought the forms were just kind of a pain in the neck and particularly in all the intricate detail that I kind of wanted to do. Meili was one of the latter, but I don't know. She went along with the game. This time also we enjoyed ourselves a lot.


We learned a lot about Zen practice, but the most significant thing to me this time was observing or experiencing the way in which Hoitsu Shinjiru Suzuki Roshi's son responded to whatever arose, responded to the members of his community and to us with a presence and availability and unhesitating quality that was remarkable to me. Remarkable to me in that I have this ideal in my mind as the way a monk should respond


and in particular the way an abbess should respond, but I have a very hard time doing it because for me I notice there is an idea of me and I should and it interferes with just the spontaneity of response that I observed throughout our visit from Hoitsu Roshi. It was very instructive. I didn't really kind of get what it was that captured me about this until I got back and because after we left Rinz┼Ź-in, we visited some other monasteries and we went to Sojiji Monastery, one of the two head monasteries of Soto Zen in Japan, which was established by


Keizan Zenji, and many of you who were here at Zen Center at one of the three places during January, February, and March of this year met a young monk from Sojiji, Shotoku-san, who was here for a while and in the city and at Green Gulch. And he was, I went there to do, we went to visit, but also I went to do a ceremony and he was my Jisha for the ceremony. So we spent a lot, and then he also was our guide. We spent some time with him. And two things were commented on that I want to bring up. I mean, there were a lot of other things commented on, but these two things I want to highlight. One was the monks were in the middle of a training period. Many of them were brand new monks.


And as we walked around the campus from time to time, we would hear this sort of unison exclamation of, which means in Japanese, yes. No. And I sort of asked Shotoku-san what that was. Well, this is the monks getting their Sojii assignments. You know, they're getting their work assignments and they're saying yes, and rushing off to rake here and sweep there and do whatever. And it sort of sounded like boot camp. And so we sort of commented on that, you know, among ourselves that this is really, you know, sort of militaristic or anyhow. There were comments about that. And then there were comments about what sweet guys these were,


these monks who were showing us around Sojii-ji and actually then on out into the town and went and had noodles with us for lunch, actually took us to lunch. And what really wonderful, sweet guys they were. And so accommodating and so forth. And to me, there is a direct connection between this training activity of just saying yes, just doing it, you know, and their availability to just do it, showing us around, to just be present, showing us around without any grumbling or withholding or, you know, we're spending anyhow, nothing held back. And to me, there was a direct connection between those two things. And it went in a straight line to what I had noticed about Hoitsu Roshi's ready availability.


Anytime you knocked on the door of his, the family has its own room there and it's right next to where we were. Anytime you knocked on the door, there was such a big pipe. Yes, what can I do for you? You know, he would drop what he was doing and turn toward you and be there, right there. And so that in fact, we noticed that we really had to, we had to limit ourselves and be sure that we really needed to call on him, because he's going to respond anytime we call on him. Do we really need to disturb his tea, to disturb his dinner, to disturb his time with his family, to, you know, do we need to go to him all the time? We began to sort of really consider, can we take care of this ourselves, or do we have to ask for help? Because he was always, he was never going to turn us away. And that became clear. It was never, I'm too busy now, please come back later.


And I recall a time in my training, when I had such confidence in my teacher, that whatever he said to me, my immediate response was, yes, I will. And I would do it. And I didn't always understand why he would suggest this to me, but I'm, I really, I had a lot of confidence in him and I, I just did it. And in that way, I learned a lot. And yet, you know, and, you know, my primary teacher, my home teacher, from whom I received Dharma transmission, one of his favorite phrases is, just do it. Just do it. And I think that I had the notion that this was very masculine or very, I don't know what,


but I have not, I have not taken that approach with students who consider me their teacher. And I have recently realized that it's simply a lack of courage on my part. And it is not kind, and it is not helpful, and it is not good training to sort of say, well, you know, do it your way. It's okay. It doesn't help cut through self-clinging in the way that, yes, I will. Helps to cut through self-clinging. Then you, then you get to see where you're, you know, where you're grinding your gears, where you're, you're stuck, you know. But if nobody ever gives you that opportunity, it's much harder to see that. And my lack of courage is based on the fact that I don't like people to be angry with me.


And somebody might not love me if I say, just do it, you know. I mean, because I remember getting, you know, a little pouty, just doing it, but getting a little pouty sometime if I was asked to do something that, I didn't really want to do it, you know. Um, so that's one of the things I brought home from, from Japan. And we'll see if I really learned anything. We'll see if I have the courage to ask students who want to train with me, please just do it. Let's talk about it later. Just do it, see what you learn, and we'll talk about it later. Um, I may or may not have that kind of, uh, backbone.


But some of you may get a chance to find out. Um, in order to do that, I have to be clear that what I'm doing is not just some idea that I have. I have to be clear that what I ask you to do has to do with, um, helping you to see where you're stuck in self-cleaning, and not just getting you to do what I think you ought to do, or what I think, you know, that's, that's, I have to be clear. Or else it's just, uh, me being bossy,


um, or having some sense, you know, some, um, inflated sense of power and authority, which is not at all helpful to anybody. So we shall see. But one thing that I really, uh, where my practice is, right now, is to see where my idea of how I think I ought to be, um, my concern with, um, um, meeting my own self-image or something, or, or, or, um, how that interferes with me actually being completely available to respond.


Because that complete availability to respond requires that I not get caught up in a notion of self. So that's sort of the cutting edge of, of my own personal practice right now, those two things. But in this study of, um, um, monasteries as intentional communities that I was speaking of. Oh, then I went out, I should mention on Taiji, because it's quite different than Sojiji and also Eheiji, where we went, uh, which are, are two big training monasteries, the two major training monasteries, along with the Yoji, the third one, um, of Soto Zen in Japan, where monks come to be trained to be temple priests. Then I went to on Taiji, which has an altogether different basis of being.


It's a place that's organized for a group of people who want to put Zazen practice and the expression of Zazen practice in their everyday life. At the center of their life, who want to, to organize a community where Zazen is the focus of their life and their life with each other, expresses and supports that Zazen practice. And I, I particularly, um, like and admire and relate to on Taiji and the lineage of Sawaki Kodoroshi, who founded it, and Uchiyama Roshi, who continued it, um, through reading, um, Uchiyama Roshi's books, uh, many of them translated by Shouhaku Okamura, who will be here this, uh,


this fall, uh, for a while, and whom I admire very much, but also my deep connection with that lineage through Joshin-san, who was a, uh, a nun, disciple of Sawaki Kodoroshi, and came here beginning in 1972, uh, to teach us the sewing of Buddha's robe. And, uh, as many of you know, um, out of my intense, uh, feminist sort of, of, uh, militant feminism, I got very excited, a woman teacher being here, right? And, uh, so I, who had never done any traditional women's activity in my life, can hang out with her, and of course she came from a traditional society where women do traditional women's things, and she was teaching sewing, which I had sort of flunked out of in high school and never tried again.


Um, I didn't actually flunk out of it, I, I made an A by refinishing the sewing machines. Um, so I gave up sewing for good until I met Joshin-san, and one of my friends, um, who was here at the time said, well, if she'd been teaching, uh, TV repair, I would have studied TV repair. I wanted to hang out with her, so I did, and she was from this lineage, and she was devoted to Sawaki Kodoroshi. And, um, so I felt this deep connection even before I began to read, uh, the teachings of Homeless Kodo, and, uh, Ichijan Moroshi's, uh, books, Approach to Zen, Opening the Hand of Thought, uh, Refining Your Life, uh, The Wholehearted Way, um, many, most of them commentaries on, uh, some of Dogen-senji's writing, Dogen-sen.


Um, so I was prepared to love Antai-ji, and, uh, I went out to visit, uh, six years ago when I was there, because Joshin-san is buried there, and, um, she had written me, uh, Antai-ji moved from Kyoto to a mountaintop in Hamasaka in 1979, and she had written me from there and sent me some photographs of her little house, and she said, the monks have built me my own little house here, and they take very good care of me, and I live now a life of gratitude and gassho. This was a time when she was getting quite old, and had had a stroke, and had a heart attack, and, um, really couldn't sew anymore, she had cataracts, she really couldn't do what she loved to do, I mean, her life had been making buddha's robe. Um, so I live a life now of gratitude and gassho.


I thought that's pretty great, you know, when I'm, when I'm old and, and infirm, will I be able to say, I live a life of gratitude and gassho. Um, so I have a great regard for Antai-ji, and I went out there, and, uh, spent a little time this time before, I just kind of went there, said hello, uh, did a little memorial service at her haka, and left. This time I stayed a little longer, there's a young man who practiced at Zen Center in San Francisco, who's now out there, and has become a monk there, Mark Modersky, I don't know if any of you remember him, he did shukai with Paul Haller, and sat a number of sesshins with us. So he's out there, uh, and, uh, I went along with a couple of the other people on the, on the trip to visit, and, um, it's a great bunch of monks, you know, and they're just all doing one thing, it's a small group, but they're all doing one thing, and it's, uh,


to my mind, that's what monastery is. It comes from monos, and, uh, some dictionaries say meaning alone, but it also means one, and I think it means more a group of people doing one thing together. And since this is also a monastery, what is this one thing that we're doing together? What is our intention in practicing together? Of course it's Zazen, but it's not only Zazen, it's also the expression of Zazen in our everyday life. I mean, over and over again, Suzuki Roshi spoke of Zen as everyday life. Zazen enables us to settle on ourselves, to begin to be intimate with ourselves,


to begin to wake up this Buddha. This is not a practice to become something that we're not. This is not a practice with a gaining idea of getting something that's not here. This is a practice of waking up and realizing what is right here always, what is the fundamental nature of who we are, which we share with all beings. And you may not know that's what you're doing here, and actually, if it's not, maybe you made a mistake, you know, maybe this is the wrong place. And there are a variety of people here, there are people here who have made a commitment of their whole life to this practice, and there


are people here who are just dipping in to taste and see what they think about it. There's a whole range of people here. But while we're here, we're doing one thing together. And this doing it together is the way that we ourselves are supported to do what we came to do, and it's the way in which we support everyone else. Zazen, if we are practicing wholeheartedly, should inform how we respond to one another, how we bow to each other on the path, how we work together in the kitchen, in the cabins, in the shop, on the recycling crew, whatever we're doing. The settling and waking up that we're doing in Zazen


should affect all of that. If you can sit motionless, erect, upright, focused for hours and then leave the Zen Doh and be unresponsive to the people around you, there's something missing, there's something you're not understanding. About Zazen. I think naturally we all come to practice expecting to gain something. I don't know, I don't know how we would get here if there weren't some gaining idea somewhere along the line to begin with. I'm not going to be able to read any of this because I can't read it.


It's too dark in here. I wanted to read to you what Suzuki Roshi had to say about gaining idea, but I may not be able to. Yeah, Suzuki Roshi said, there are several poor ways of practice which you should understand. Usually when you practice Zazen, you become very idealistic. You have some gaining idea within yourself. By the time you attain your ideal or goal, your gaining idea will create another ideal. So long as your practice is based on a gaining idea and you practice Zazen in an idealistic way, you will have no time actually to attain your ideal.


So, so long as my practice is aimed at being responsive to everyone's request, being open, available and present for everyone, so long as I have that as an ideal, I'm just getting in my way of actually actualizing that possibility. Because I have an idea of self as somehow separate from other. And this notion of self as separate from other is the kind of underlying delusion with which we all live when we cling to a notion of self. If somehow, for a moment, we realize and recognize the nature of reality, which is non-dual, which is,


so to be courageous to say over and over again, not one, not two. Self and other are not one. They act, actually there are differences, but self and other are also not two. This is very hard to talk about because language is, by its very nature, dualistic. And thinking is always based on language and so thinking is dualistic. So the actual experience of non-duality is not in the realm of concept or language or thinking. The actual experience of self and other are not two can be very real and unmistakable and compelling, but you can't grab it and hold on to it.


You can't keep it in focus all the time. You can just see it, recognize it, and keep practicing based on your realization that this is the nature of reality and I keep separating myself from it by conceptual thinking. And so, little by little, learning not to be so attached to our concepts, not to be so, I mean, there's nothing wrong with thinking as long as you don't believe it's true. But if you believe, I know it, it's true, because I think it, you get very stuck. But when you can, by just good luck rather than more than good management, but when you can


open yourself to the possibility of seeing things directly, you will see that self and other are not two. You will see that inside and outside are not two. That inside is infinite and outside is infinite, and they're not one, but they're not two. I heard recently a description of Shikantaza, of Soto Zen practice, sometimes called silent illumination practice, by a Chinese teacher. Who said, first, you sit and develop and develop awareness of your body, completely working on awareness of breath, posture,


bringing your awareness throughout your body, and this may take some years, but this is the beginning of this practice. And then, when awareness permeates the whole body, then we let it move on out to include the environment, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, so that our awareness now extends throughout the body and throughout the environment. And this may take many years. Then he said, we investigate inward as far as we can go, and we investigate outward as far as we can go, and let our awareness extend outward as far as it can go,


and we see that outward is infinite, and we let our awareness extend inward as far as it can go, and we see that inward is infinite. This was a very different way of describing this practice, but in that realization of the infinity of inward and outward, we see the not-two, the not-one, not-two. And in that awareness, we can meet whatever arises as ourself. We can respond to whatever arises in the most appropriate way.


It's bedtime. So, please, let us all join together in this practice of waking up this Buddha, which is here and here and there and everywhere. But our job is to wake up this one and recognize it as Buddha. And in recognizing this one as Buddha, to see it wherever we look. Recognizing Buddha in everything.


To do this, Suzuki Roshi says, we have to have a calm mind, so we can begin there. May our intention equally permeate every being and place.