Sesshin Lecture

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Good morning. There are some wonderful stories in our Zen lore, Zen literature, about, you know, teachers and disciples working together, and then something happening like slamming the door on someone's


leg and then their leg is broken and they have a big enlightenment experience. So just wanted to mention that this morning, on my way over here, the other morning, I fell down, right, that was, that was a big surprise. And then this morning, the Jisha and I had another surprise. I was coming out of my room, putting on my shoes, and I tipped a little bit so I held on to the door jamb while I was getting my shoes on, just as the Jisha was closing the door. And, yes, so I had this finger that was smashed in the door this morning. And it's doing okay, I don't think I'm going to lose the nail, but we have another member of our practice period who also injured an extremity and lost the nail.


Sarah stubbed her toe on a pumpkin. What? In the Zen Do, in the Zen Do. We had the Zen Do decorated for the harvest for Thanksgiving, big pumpkins all over the altar, and so, but the stories, there's all sorts of Zen stories where, you know, there's some big realization right at that point, so, next time, we'll see. But it was amazing how much it affected the whole body, it's just the end of this finger, and you know how this is when you injure yourself, it's a whole body experience, so I felt very woozy, like I was going to faint, and sick to my stomach, and, you know, the whole body was there to help take care of this.


And I was wondering, oh, now the endorphins are kicking in, and remembering this book that I'm reading called The Worst is Over, it's called Verbal First Aid, and our thinking, how we think about injuries, both for ourselves and how you speak to another person, will help the healing process. So I remembered that, and I was saying things like, the nail is healthy, the nail is doing just fine, you know, just practicing with it in a different way, I was glad I had certain phrases that I called upon, because we can also think the other way, right? We can think, oh no, what's going to happen, oh, how could I do this, stupid, you know, that also affects the healing process, right? So how we speak to ourselves, how we talk to ourselves, how we take care of ourselves,


our internal dialogue, is not just some throwaway speech thing that has no consequences. So today, as I was preparing for the talk, I was thinking, I just, I feel like I want to just tell stories and laugh, and I remember Norman, Zouketsu Norman Fisher, the former rabbi, on this day would often bring in newspapers, headlines, you know, read what was in the New York Times, just the headlines, and the whole, we would just crack up, it was so funny what was going on in the world, while we had been sitting here. And he'd read them and he'd say, this is true, this is really in the paper, you know.


So, I didn't bring the newspaper, but I did bring something I might read later that we might laugh about. Last night I sat late, I came back to this I know and sat late, and I haven't been encouraging people to come, I talked about it earlier with the practice period and it probably was brought up in the orientation that it's open to come and sit after the last period of zazen if you want to. But when I walked out of my door, in my shoes, this is, you know, I'd been home for a bit, I had a hot drink and then I was going back down, and I opened the door and in my one shoe was a little gift, there was a little Santa Claus chocolate, and a little cloth


with a bow and inside was dried fruits and nuts, and a little tangerine. And then I remembered that today is, I think, St. Nick's Day, and in some cultures you clean up your shoes, you clean your boot or your shoe, and you put it out and St. Nicholas, I guess, comes and gives you good things to eat and little presents, do you know about this? And if you practiced that when you were growing up. There was one on your bed too, a Santa Claus? So St. Nick has been making the rounds here. Having led the Rohatsa Sashin for the last, I think, three years or so, I realized, you


know, during this time of year there are certain things that arise, like St. Nick's Day, and then what arises for me is wanting to mention, you know, Yogi Chen feeling that Santa Claus was one of the Bodhisattvas of the Western world, and he had a Santa Claus on his altar, this was a teacher in Berkeley. And I've told that story again, and realizing it's maybe an old and stale story to some of you, but the causes and conditions are such that that story arises for me, I haven't thought of it in a year, but here it is again. So I wonder, is this habit, or is this according with conditions? Also, the story of the Buddha's life being told at this time of year, or his enlightenment,


the Great Departure, and so forth, there's a cyclical feeling to retelling the story, and I think stories are made to be told and retold. I think told once, it's not really a story. I think the way a story works within us, and reciprocally, and how we incorporate it and integrate it, makes it a story, and makes it worth retelling. But I realize that this particular rendition is too long, really, and too detailed to go through, although it might be a nice tradition to read this through on a yearly basis, the way we do the Huayen, the Garland Sutra at New Year's, we try and read through.


So I'm going to skip around a little bit, but I wanted to read this story and then bring up another koan about karma with you, and see how that goes. So, we left off with the Buddha heading out with his horse and his attendant, and leaving the palace, and so forth. Now, there's a lot of description there, so I'm going to skip along to... Basically, the Shakyamuni sends his attendant and the horse back, and before he sends them back, he cuts off his hair, which is traditional, but he cuts it off inside his headdress, so


the whole headdress and hair kind of falls to the ground. And his attendant is sad and crying and pleads with him, but the Buddha just sends him back. And he meets up with some practitioners, mendicants, who practice austerities. Let's see. Here's about how he cuts his hair. With these words, the mighty prince unloosed his ornaments and gave them to Chandaka, whose


mind smarted with sorrow. And then he says, Therefore you should not grieve for me, because I'm going to understand birth and death, and therefore you should not grieve for me, since I have left my home for this purpose. For a union, however long it has lasted, in time will cease to be. And he tells him several times, don't grieve for me. Having unsheathed his sword, with its blade dark blue as a blue lotus petal, he cut off his decorated headdress, with the hair enclosed in it, and tossed it, with the muslin trailing


from it, into the air as though tossing a goose into a lake. That was kind of a great image. And then he sets off on his way. And he also changes his outfit, takes off his regular royal raiment, and puts on a hermit's clothing. And then he meets these hermits, and they're practicing asceticism, and he decides to go around with them and learn from them. He's learning about their practice. Meanwhile, his servant goes back to the palace and tells him what the prince has done, and


there's great lamentations in the palace. They're very sad, and they send messengers to go and find him, and plead with him to come back. They send word, and the Buddha hears this, but will not relent. And it was, there were big problems at the palace when they heard this. His foster mother, Mahapajapati, although she wasn't Mahapajapati then, she was Gautami, with eyes restless with despair, lost her sight. She lost her self-control and wailed aloud in her suffering like an osprey that has lost its nestlings. She swooned and with tear-strewn face exclaimed, because he brought back the hair,


have those hairs of his which are worthy of being encircled by a royal diadem been cast to the ground? And so forth. So she's very upset. So they send the deputation to the prince, and he doesn't respond. Therefore, I who have set out on the auspicious, peaceful road am not to be led away towards the passions, but if you bear our friendship in mind, say to me, again and again, most certainly hold to your vow.


That's what he wants them. If you really care about me, if you really have friendship for me, don't ask me to come back, but instead encourage me and say, most certainly hold to your vow. That's if you bear me friendship. So that's when this deputation, when this person was sent to bring him back, that's what he asked them to do, to help me in this way, which we can do with our friends, help our friends in this way. So then he practices austerities, and he eats very little, one sesame seed, one jujube, one, you know, things like that, and becomes very weak. He also meets with other teachers, learns what they have to teach him, and keeps going, but at a certain point he realizes the austerities are just making him


fatigued and sick and not able to support life, so he decides to drop the austerities and to eat something. And he's brought some rice, some milk rice. He washes himself in the river and sits down, and somebody, a young girl, thinks that he's the tree spirit and wants to bring an offering, and brings him this, she was a cowherd, and she sees him. He bathed, and as in his emaciation, he came painfully up the bank of the Naranjana, the trees growing on the slope, bent low the tips of their branches in adoration


to give him a helping hand. He was so weak from just eating a sesame seed and a jujube. He climbs up the bank, and at that time this daughter of the cowherd chief went there, joy bursting from her heart. She was wearing a dark blue cloth, and her arms were brilliant with white shells, so that she seemed like Yamuna, best of rivers. When its dark blue water is wreathed with foam, her delight was enhanced by faith, and her blue lotus eyes opened wide, as doing obeisance with her head she caused him to accept milk rice. So after not eating for all this time and practicing austerities, he ate food, milk and rice, and by partaking of it, he secured for her the full reward of her birth.


She received great merit for feeding him in this way. And the five mendicants who had been traveling with him thought he was backsliding, and that he had renounced the holy life, and they left him in disgust. On this, with his resolution for soul companion, he made up his mind for enlightenment, and proceeded to the root of a peepal tree. This is peepal religiosa, this is the Bodhi tree, where the ground was carpeted with green grass. Then at that moment, Kala, the best of serpents, whose might was as that of the king of elephants, was awakened by the incomparable sound of his feet, and realizing that the great sage had determined on enlightenment, he uttered this eulogy, Since, O sage, the earth thunders, as it were, again and again,


as it is pressed by your feet, and since your splendor shines forth as of the sun, certainly you will today enjoy the desired result. And this serpent also said, Since, O lotus-eyed one, the flocks of blue jays circling in the air proceed round you right-handed, and since gentle breezes blow in the sky today, without doubt you will become a Buddha. And then, after the Lord of the serpents had extolled him, he took clean grass from a grass cutter, and betaking himself to the foot of the great pure tree, he made a vow for enlightenment and seated himself. So he made himself a little cushion out of grass, and sat down with a vow for enlightenment.


And then he took up the supreme, immovable, cross-legged posture, with his limbs massed together like the coils of a sleeping serpent, saying, I will not rise from this position on the ground till I achieve the completion of my task. Then, when the Holy One took his seat with determined soul, the denizens of the heavens felt unequaled joy, and the birds and the companies of wild beasts refrained from noise, nor did the forest trees, when struck by the wind, rustle at all. So everything calmed down, quieted, to support this vow, this resolution to sit and to not rise from the ground till he achieved the completion of his task. Now,


there's the kind of content of the Buddha's enlightenment that comes next in the story, and I thought about reading it tomorrow, but I think the Buddha's Enlightenment Day is traditionally a day of contemplation. It's actually the 8th, December 8th, but we'll be ending the Seshin tomorrow, as you know, and we'll celebrate tomorrow, so that everyone who sat the Seshin will be here. So, I feel encouraged when I read these words about the Buddha making this resolution, making this vow to sit, and this vow, this strong vow not to get up until... You know, if we're according with conditions, we can't make that vow here, because... literally, because when the bell rings,


we also have the practice of letting go of our... and according with conditions, so the bell rings means we get up, but we can't follow throughout the day with that same feeling. When the bell rings, we vow to completely enter kīnyin, or service, or break. With full awareness, we sit down, with full awareness, we get up, we eat, we work, we work, and this strong intention will constellate, in the story, it constellates Mara, you know, the Buddha makes this supreme vow, and to the degree, the height,


you know, the height of the vow, or the intensity of the vow constellates evenly the intensity of, you know, Mara. Or, oh yeah? You think so? Well, let's see about that. You want to practice? Well, how about this? Can you practice with this? So Mara comes with the retinue of daughters and sons named caprice, gaiety, wantonness, discontent, delight, thirst, and various other names that you can throw in too. Fantasy, chocolate, vacation, whatever it is that distracts us, you know. And the distractions, the strength of distractions will beat our own efforts evenly. So Mara, as you know,


starts out with trying to bring the Buddha, delight the Buddha with all sorts of pleasurable things, and shooting him with kind of the arrow of lust, you know, but it doesn't reach him, it just falls to the ground. And saying to him, Up, up, Sir Kshatriya, afraid of death. Follow your own Dharma. Give up the Dharma of liberation. Follow your own karmic pathway. Give up this, you know, the path of practice. Do this other thing. Get up. But he doesn't move. He doesn't move. And


he pays no attention. He just, I don't think he's indifferent. He sees it. He's aware. Mara's there. He's watching. He's clear. He's not in some foggy state or something. But it doesn't affect him. It affects him. It doesn't upset him. It doesn't upset him, take him off where he set himself down. And then Mara tries something else. Tries mean, angry, wrathful, vengeful, reviling, insulting, critical, judgmental, scary things to oust the Buddha, to oust Gautama with all sorts of wildly raging beings that come and surround him. And he also is unmoved.


Trying to frighten him with really scary things. Teeth, sharp-pointed, their eyes like the sun's orbs, their mouth gaping, their ears sticking up stiff as spikes. Actually, that might be kind of fun to see. Anyway, showering him with hot coals and so forth, really, I mean, this is figuratively speaking, but we know what it's like to have, to be showered with hot coals while we're sitting. It's how our knees feel. This isn't literary only. This is real experience that we have, too. And memories and so forth that are painful. But the Buddha just stays seated


and the less the sage was afraid of the fearsome troops of that array, the more was Mara, the enemy of the upholders of the law, cast down with grief and wrath. So the longer the Buddha sat there and was unperturbed, the more Mara was weakened, actually, gives up. And finally, one of the other beings from the heavens says to Mara, Mara, you should not toil to no purpose. Give up your murderous intent and go in peace. For this sage can no more be shaken by you than Meru, greatest of the mountains, by the wind. For such is his vow, his energy, his psychic power, his compassion for creation that he will not rise up till he has attained the truth. Just as the thousand-rayed sun does not rise without dispelling the darkness. So this being saw the writing on the wall.


He's not going to get up because of this strong compassion for the world. He's not sitting for himself alone. This energy and power he feels is about his vow and compassion for all beings, all those that he loves. And all those creatures that he saw. It's a wide, wide vow. Therefore, since the great physician in his pity for the world, lying distressed in the diseases of passion, etc., toils for the medicine of knowledge, he should not be hindered. And he asked Mara, you know, don't harass him. Let him alone. He's here to help


the whole world. So this is, you know, this is the Buddha's path, but this is the path taught for us when we take the path of practice. It's not only for ourselves alone. We can't really maintain it for ourselves alone. It has to be, it has to include all beings. So he goes on and tells Mara to leave him alone. And Mara heard the speech of his and observed the great sage's unshakenness. Then, his efforts frustrated, he went away dejectedly with the arrows by which the world


is smitten in the heart. Now, this story doesn't have the third thing that Mara does, which tries to, Mara trying to unseat the Buddha by basically saying, who do you think you are? You're not such hot stuff. Go home. I think it was similar to that part at the beginning where, you know, don't follow the Dharma of Liberation, follow your own life, go home, take care of your wife. Who do you think you are? You're not such hot stuff. This one doesn't have that in poetry. But we're left with the Buddha sitting there and Mara kind of defeated. And all these flowers fell. And then the Buddha's enlightenment, through the watches of the night, he basically sees beings, he sees the karmic actions of beings and how their life and the consequences


of those actions are received by beings. So he reviews in the first watch of the night the lives of himself and others and seeing consequences of actions. This is one of the first things that he saw. Those living beings whose acts are unwholesome pass to the sphere of misery. Those whose deeds are wholesome pass to the place of contentment. And the pain of seeing how beings create their own difficulties, he goes over that in his mind. And he also sees the six realms


on the wheel and he also sees the links of the dependent co-arising. So right in this karmic chain and the dependent co-arising of each link of the chain he also sees right in the cycle of existence this stream of the cycle of existence has no support and is ever subject to death. Creatures thus beset on all sides find no resting place. So within this cycle he also sees there's no support there there's no there's no foundation to it. And going through the chain ignorance karmic formations


consciousness name and form six sense fields contact feeling craving grasping becoming birth old age and death how each of the links conditions the next dependent on ignorance karmic formations and so forth. He sees all this and he similarly saw the great seer understood that the factors are their cessation by the complete absence of ignorance therefore he knew properly what was to be known and stood out before the world as Buddha as he went through the wheel and saw that it could be turned the other way with the cessation of ignorance there is the cessation of karmic formations with the dependent on the cessation of karmic formations there's the cessation of consciousness and so forth. His seeing this wheel forward and backward


he knew properly what was to be known and stood out before the world as the Buddha. The best of man saw no self anywhere from the summit of existence downwards and came to tranquility like a fire whose fuel is burnt out by the eightfold path of supreme insight which starts forth and quickly reaches the desired point. So seeing all this and also seeing that there is no substantial self there there is no permanent self there so after


it says then as his being was perfected the thought arose in him I have obtained this perfect path which was traveled for the sake of the ultimate reality by former families of great seers who knew the higher and the lower things at that moment of the fourth watch when the dawn came up and all that moves or moves not was still the great seer reached the stage which knows no alteration the sovereign leader of the state of omniscience and this fourth watch of the night with the dawn there was the rising of the morning star we saw the morning star although this doesn't have it when as the Buddha he knew the truth the earth swayed like a woman drunken with wine the quarter shone bright with crowds of Siddhas and mighty drums resounded in the sky then the


sage and also all sorts of beings proclaimed his praises and flowers fell and there was joy in the mansions of heaven and Mara was filled with despondency and for seven days free from discomfort of the body he sat looking into his own mind his eyes never winking and he was filled with great compassion then the sage who had grasped the principle of causation and was firmly fixed in the system of no self or selflessness roused himself and filled with great compassion he gazed on the world with his Buddha eye for the


sake of its tranquility seeing that the world was lost in false views and vain efforts and that its passions were gross seeing too that the law of salvation was exceedingly subtle he set his mind on remaining immobile so he saw this principle of causation and was firmly fixed in selflessness and looked out at the world with great compassion and thought this is too subtle to teach I'm not sure I can teach and he set his mind on remaining immobile and just not doing anything but then he remembered his former resolution and vow and he reformed this resolution to teach and he realized there were people


who had great and had possibility for understanding and so that he would he would teach then wishing to preach tranquility in order to dispel the darkness of ignorance as the rising sun the darkness gotama proceeded to the blessed city which was beloved and whose various forests are ornamented then the sage whose eye was like a bull's whose gate like an elephant's desire to go to the land in order to convert the world and turning his entire body like an elephant he fixed his unwinking eyes on the bodhi tree and that's how this ends so we have


various renditions of this and one point at which he the Buddha was enlightened supposedly he said marvellous [...] all beings without exception are completely and thoroughly enlightened except because of their delusive thinking confusion they don't realize it so the content of the Buddha's enlightenment was you know this understanding causation and pratityasamutpada dependent co-arising and the absence of inherent self and that all beings all phenomena all selves partake of the Buddha body all beings are completely and utterly enlightened this is


this original enlightenment except because of delusion and confusion they don't realize it so in some ways our sessions and our practice and our sitting you know taking our seat under our bodhi tree on our bodhimandala we sit with that with that teaching that we lack nothing that everything is here that we need and even though we feel so much suffering and have had so much difficulty and feel so lonely and isolated sometimes and aren't able


to trust aren't able to avail ourselves of the help that's surrounding us aren't able to feel intimacy necessarily all these difficulties that we have to remember that this what the Buddha said on his enlightenment or what they say the Buddha said marvelous marvelous all beings without exception are completely and thoroughly enlightened except for this confusion so the admonitions to not seek is to seek is just to seek is bitterness non-seeking is joy to sit with that as a as a as a truth there's some


joy there even in the midst of our suffering and to seek somehow as if we lack something to seek includes this feeling where we don't have what it takes we've got to go after it so dropping off the seeking according with conditions is the body of faith not faith in some creed or some you know some teaching that isn't able to be realized so we have to just have faith in it but sitting this way is the body of faith sitting on our seat accepting our life accepting our life as Dogen said coming back from his teacher eyes horizontal nose vertical nothing


special I knew this would take a long time to talk about to finish the Buddha the poem but I wanted to um is this too late to do this I know the kitchen's already gone I feel like this is the last chance I'm going to have to bring this up that's not true but maybe our minds aren't ready for this maybe I'll bring it up tomorrow so so tonight I will bring it up tomorrow so tonight we can if we want to sit up a little bit later maybe only if you want to as a commemoration of the Buddha's great resolve and


commemorating our we non-separateness from this body this body of faith enacting the body of faith and our this is a kind of relationship with the Buddha you know relationship with this teacher called Kanno Doko or spiritual communion some our practice is a kind of intimate relationship and I think we can't actually in isolation


or in by ourselves somehow it's very difficult to develop we need to be in relationship with beings with teachers with objects and we may have had you know relationships in the past that were damaging that were formed us in certain ways that make it very hard where our own capacities to trust have been changed in such a way that it becomes much harder so these


you know I talked about those five things ills that have not been tended for a long time cannot be healed immediately in those kinds of things this working carefully intimately with reconnecting re reestablishing in a slow and careful way our relationships renewing this ability to trust to open and no one can do it for us this is something nobody can make us or control us in this way we have to find our own way but we find our way with others and all the


buddhas and ancestors so as we sit and Mara comes in whatever guise ah she if we understand this is the way this can help us Mara can help us to find our resolve and just the fact that Mara does come is evidence is proof of our own resolve or our own effort so we can see Mara as oh this is this is a help and this


story doesn't have it but the Buddha you know in the face of this touch the earth like we have on the altar I have a right to be here I have a right to sit here for all beings and asking for witness so making this effort to accept whatever arises settled on the earth so we


see this a help be here for all beings so see Mara as and this story doesn't Mara as a help and this story doesn't have it but the Buddha you know in