Sesshin Lecture

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SF-03548
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Second Sesshin, Zendo Lecture

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So we've had our mid-practice period ceremony, and it was a little bit after the middle of the practice period, so we're far along. And maybe somebody knows exactly what day we're on, but I have the feeling that it's almost over, you know? And I have some concern in looking at the session schedule after there were a few requests and comments about the last schedule, some kind of refinement of, you know, ten minutes here, ten minutes there.

[01:04]

So we changed a few things, and then afterwards I thought, maybe it's too flabby. Maybe the session schedule is too flabby. Do you know what I mean? Everybody know what flabby is? Loose and... Now, I don't think it's flabby, you know, inherently flabby, but there's room, you know? For example, the exercise time, we added a little bit, and we also have said that bath, we can take a bath, brief bath at breaks. So that means that exercise time for some may not be exercise bath. And then, well, what if you don't exercise that day? Or the whole session, there's this huge break, you know, some huge flabbiness, which concerns me. I think the feeling of the session, unless we're taking it up completely, everyone will

[02:15]

experience a kind of... That we're not coursing along together. So I'd like to ask everyone to please enter the session fully. All the admonitions, you know, we create the session together. All the forms of session are to help us. They're not, you know, as Akinoroshi says, session is not a deprivation chamber, that we create our own deprivation chamber by wasting session in daydreaming and cutting corners and, you know, not following the admonitions and the

[03:20]

forms is a kind of deprivation. The freedom of fully entering the forms, the freedom and depth that's found there, we're the only ones who can keep us from entering. When I was up in San Francisco, I saw a movie that was recommended to me. Actually, a couple people, somebody wrote me about it, and then Kosher reminded me, he had talked with me about it too. It's called something like, What the Bleep is it all about anyway? Something like that. Have you heard about it? Say it again? What the Bleep do we know? Yeah. And it's about quantum physics and it's a wide ranging film. It's kind of a documentary, but it's animated, parts of it are animated. And

[04:21]

one thing that really struck me, and I actually want to study more about it, is about the emotions. There was, when emotions arise, all different kinds of emotions, negative and positive emotions, the hypothalamus begins to pump out peptides. Correct me if I've got this wrong, Dana Kosho. And they're particular to each emotion, these peptides, and they had the animation of this hypothalamus pumping and then zooming out with these colorful kind of blobby things. It was like you're inside the body and these colorful things are going zooming through the body. And then the cells have receptors for these peptides, every cell. So they're like these emotional, all throughout

[05:24]

the body. And they said it was like putting a key in a lock. The peptides would come and just, the receptor, they'd just lock in. And the whole body is suffused with emotions in a chemical way, chemically speaking. And the more certain ones are pumped out, the more receptors there are for them. When the cells divide, then there's more receptors for certain habitual ones that are pumped out until, and this I want to find out more about, there's a crowding out and a lessening of the ability to receive other kinds of things like positive immune fighting things. And anyway, this is, as you can tell, a very rudimentary description. But this visual depiction kind of animated of

[06:35]

these colorful things flowing through the body and locking in to the cells was a very, very strong image. And the, our paths are made by walking. The paths, the neuronal paths are further rutted over and over again as we habitually have these same emotions, chemically speaking. So in Sashin, this deprivation chamber of going over and over and over the same stories and the same material and the same angers and the same daydreams that we are subject to, that we, no one can force us to daydream. No one can

[07:38]

force us to go over and over the same material. But we often feel like we can't help it. It just goes. This is a kind of deprivation chamber, you might say. And part of that, there's the chemistry of it too. The limbic brain cannot distinguish between a memory. Memories happen in the present, and the limbic brain and all the chemistry that goes with that experiences it again as happening again. So kind of re-traumatizing. So our Sashin schedule, no talking, no writing, no reading. I mean, sometimes the schedule has very short breaks and no work and just back to the cushion. But this schedule, as I say, is a little more, it's got some space in it, some

[08:41]

possible space. So I want to encourage all of us to take up the schedule thoroughly for one's own sake, for the sake of the world, to not waste this time in any way. In another way, we haven't talked about form so much. And here we are at the world famous Tassajara Monastery. I'm not kidding, it is. And here we all are. So what kind of training are we receiving? So flabbiness, finding flabbiness in the

[09:54]

schedule, finding flabbiness in the training opportunities. So I wanted to ask you all to, as we are past the midpoint, to take up in a fresh way all the forms, all the Tassajara forms, all the monastic forms. And I wanted to, you know, when I do the kentan in the morning, looking at the tan, the greeting, and everyone is in gassho, everyone naturally has their own way, you know, and their own flavor. Each person has a kind of flavor, which can be, when we're all pretty much doing the same thing, the flavor comes out very, you see each person's flavor very, or taste each person's flavor very naturally. But sometimes the variation is so big that you can't tell what's flavor and what's flab. That totally doesn't work as an analogy, but anyway, flavor and flab.

[11:15]

Anyway, so I wanted to ask us all to practice with gassho and also with our bowing, raising the hands. So I'll just mention those two forms. And you can see whether you feel resistive or I've heard this before, I don't want to do it, I want to do my own way and so forth, but I think that's a kind of deprivation, depriving oneself of this opportunity to find the freedom of restraint, the freedom of not just doing it our own way. So these forms are created and transmitted and there's different forms in different monasteries, but the beauty of the form and the life of the form is that it's passed on, you know, so we can feel our teachers and our Dharma friends and brothers and sisters within the forms, we feel that as we practice them.

[12:23]

So, if you all would practice this with me, the palms pressed together, a fist's width, your own fist's width from your nose, about even with your nose, and the thumb and all the fingers are all together, so your thumb isn't out or, you know, it's all touching and the palms are touching, palm to palm, warm, we talk about warm hand to warm hand, we can start right here with warm hand to warm hand, rather than, this is, there are other forms, this is lotus bud, which is Thich Nhat Hanh school does lotus bud, but we've been taught palm to palm, so feeling warm palm to warm palm, fist's width and then the arms are just about parallel to the ground and you can see, are you overdoing it, so they're flying up, or are they kind of like that, so palm to palm, arms parallel to the floor, and then in here, there's a space, so we're not closed down against the heart or protecting, there's openness in here, and I often feel kind of energy coming from under the arms out through the elbows, kind of that way, you can see if you feel something under the arms that way,

[13:53]

and we have so many chances to practice this all day long, so each time, bringing your hands up, serving, bathroom, bowing to each other, and then when you bow, you keep that fist's width away, as you go down, so in the morning during service, when we, there's the bell and the doshi, does a full bow and everyone else bows down at your place, you keep that fist's width away, and then when your palms, when your hands reach the floor, then you stop, okay, so you go down, and I remember I would go all the way down, kind of rest my hands, and then kind of rub my eyes a little bit, and kind of do some stuff down there, nobody could see, so they go down, and then when they touch the ground, you stop, and that fist's width away, and then you come back up, and when we do our full prostrations, you know, I mentioned the frontalis muscle, and the relaxation, and plunging into the bow, and resting, feeling, and then the hands are, they're kind of close to the ears, just about, they're about even with the ears, maybe, and also, fingers together, thumb in,

[15:21]

and when you raise up the palms, they remain parallel to the floor, and the traditional image is that you're raising the Buddha up, so the Buddha is standing on your hands, and you don't want to flip the Buddha over your back, you know, so you raise up, and that means that there's a kind of, in the wrist, to keep their hands parallel, if you kept your wrist straight, you'd do this, right, so there's a kind of curve right there in the wrist, to keep, and keeping the hands parallel, so raise up, and down, and then when you bring them down, you can also curl up into little palms, into little fists, little mudras, and you can use them a little bit to push on when you go up, to help yourself up, not a big, but just a little stable, as you get up,

[16:24]

and there's various practices, you know, touching the forehead three times, and raising the hands three times, or not, I think I've been taught both, and I think Suzuki Roshi did one thing, and then other teachers have done others, and Suzuki Roshi's disciples do different things, so I think that's Bauer's choice. Yes? How forward are we supposed to bow? You know, in tea ceremony, there's various kinds of bows, there's the most formal, and then there's less formal, there's three, for sure, so, and I think in standing bows, you know, you don't want to do a full all-the-way-over thing when you're kind of putting the gomashio down, you know, it's just, you don't want to do a full all-the-way-over thing,

[17:50]

it's just, it doesn't, it's not, it doesn't fit, you know, with what's happening, you're just, just a little, a little bow there, so I think it depends on the situation, you know, a deep bow sometimes is needed, and sometimes it's overdoing it, you know, but in the zendo, I think when we're doing full bows, I don't think you have to go all the way over into a deep, deep standing bow. I think, just right. Just right. But, you know, it's interesting about the forms, we sometimes overdo them and underdo them, you know, and often there's a state of mind that goes with that, or resistance, or wanting to look one way or another, or I hope they saw me do that one, or, you know, so what is just right?

[18:51]

What is meeting the situation and responding just right? I don't know if I can say more than that. Thank you. So, those are just a couple of things. Yes, I wanted to say something about Arzazan posture. I came upon something I found was very interesting, which is whenever we're anchored in one position and then sway from side to side, tension drops away. This was a kind of body work thing that I read, and they weren't talking about Arzazan posture. They were talking about kind of relaxing for another kind of thing, but it just reminded me of, you know, stabilizing the sitting bones and then rocking the body right and left before we settle into a steady, immobile, steady, immovable sitting posture.

[19:56]

And I came upon this The Art of Arzazan lecture by Kadagiri Roshi, and he mentions swaying about eight times, let's see, which I can't find right here. But, yeah, so put your hands, palms up on your knees, take a deep breath, open your mouth just slightly and inhale, letting the breath in through the mouth. This is this inhale, exhale, rock the body right and left. As you inhale, arch your body backward a little bit, stretching the front. Do this very slowly with full attention. This is right at the beginning of your sitting. Then when you exhale, arch your body forward, letting out the inhaled breath from your lower abdomen.

[20:59]

Then repeat this, but this time lean to the right as you exhale, stretching out the left side of your body. Inhale as you bring your body up to the center. Repeat, swaying from the right to the left, leaning a little less each time as your motion goes from large to small. This prepares you for sitting physically and mentally. So, this inhale and exhale through the mouth, you know, big cleansing breath, and then rock the body and exhale as you go out, as you rock, and then inhale up to center, exhale down, inhale up to center, and then slower, I mean less of an arch, less and less and less until settled in the center. So, especially during session when we're sitting so much and we just return to our sitting and our cushion and just sit right away, we sometimes do an abbreviated, you know, and I'd like to suggest that we do this rocking, inhaling the exhaling, rocking the body.

[22:15]

Stretching out the left and the right side, forward and backward arching a little forward and backward each time we sit. See how that affects your sitting. See if you notice. Is that a fresh feeling each time we sit? And this, any time you rock the body, you know, have a stable part of the body and then rock, you drop away tension. That, you know, doesn't mention that traditionally, but the tension that we carry and that I've been noticing, I mentioned this when I went up to the city in a kind of check-in group that I was in, and I think I mentioned it to you, noticing how much tension in subtle ways that I carry in my jaw and teeth and neck.

[23:23]

Ears and shoulders and stomach and legs, you know, finding noticing contraction of my leg muscles for no reason. I mean, we need to contract our leg muscles, flex and so forth. But feeling it at different times when there's no, for no reason, just a habitual contraction. And I would like to ask us to notice the body's tension and contraction in the areas and work with that, working with releasing over and over. And this beginning of sitting and rocking the body is a good way to help ourselves notice. So, we have reached, in the Lotus Sutra, we have reached chapter 9, 28 chapters, so it seems like we could do the next 10 or so chapters and then the next 10 or so chapters.

[24:38]

You know, looking at the schedule, there's just a few Dharma events left, meaning the class, scheduled classes, and then there's the other, the seven-day Sashin. So, I had hoped to really do at least an overview of the whole 28 chapters. So, during the Sashin, I wanted to bring up, try and bring up some of the chapters and the points in the chapters, since the classes themselves, we won't be able to get to it. So, chapter 9 is, I think we have just touched on it, it's called the... This has it as destiny of arhats, and it's prediction of the destiny of arhats, trained and untrained. Basically, chapter 9 is the prediction of Ananda and Rahula, Buddha's family members, really. Ananda was his cousin, Rahula his son.

[25:50]

And the main point of chapter 9 is that there's the Shaiksha and the Ashaiksha, or the trained, those who have learned and those who have not fully learned. They are also predicted, their full, complete, perfect enlightenment is predicted. And in Thich Nhat Hanh's commentary, he brings up the inclusiveness of the younger people who had maybe just started out in the way, hadn't completed their studies, hadn't mastered all the instructions and the meditations and so forth. So, they're just beginning to learn. And in the other chapters, the adepts and those who had no more to learn, these are technical terms, his oldest disciples, Subhuti and Maudgalyayana, the ones that were the most spiritually foremost, they were predicted and you would expect that to happen.

[27:03]

And here's now the younger ones. Of course, Ananda's not so young, but Ananda didn't become an Arhat until after the Buddha died. But Rahula's son is younger, so they too are predicted. And also 2,000 others who were in the audience at the time, in the assembly, both learners and those who had, learners in training and those who had completed their training, were also predicted in this chapter. And, you know, as usual, the different realms and the beauty of the places and their names and all that are mentioned. Chapter 10 is called the Teacher of the Law. And in this one, this chapter 10 is supposedly that, you know, there's three scenes in the Lotus Sutra. The first is the first teaching on Vulture Peak.

[28:11]

And then the second, which is historical, supposedly historical, meaning it's Shakyamuni Buddha, the end of his life, his regular disciples, people we know, and they're in India on Vulture Peak, you know, it's historical. And then chapter 10 is the opening into the section that's kind of opening into the ultimate side. And the second scene is the preaching or the dharma that's, the scene is in the sky and the stupa in the sky. So chapter 10 is, and then we go back to Vulture Peak in the third part. So this is the historical section still, first part. And in this one, the ultimate dimension, the historical and the ultimate is kind of opened where the Buddha, as Shakyamuni Buddha, who taught in this world, who lived for 80 years,

[29:15]

it's shown that, in this chapter, that what the Buddha taught, or the Dharma itself, and is the body of the Buddha, the Dharmakaya, as a body of the Buddha, is how after the Buddha's demise, there is a way to have spiritual communion with the Buddha through the Dharma, through the Dharmakaya. And in this chapter, there is a prediction of the four groups, laymen, laywomen, nuns, and monks. And then there's a prediction for all these people who are going to come later, if they were to hear even a sentence, even a phrase of the Lotus Sutra, or were to memorize a phrase, or were to copy, recite, keep, and treasure the Lotus Sutra, all those people too will be predicted. And if you hear even a single verse or word of the Lotus Sutra.

[30:22]

So, all these people, including all the people who come later, you know, in the future, who hear a single word, so that includes, you know, all of us are included. All such beings as these, in the presence of the Buddha, if they hear a single verse, or a single word of the wonderful Law Flower Sutra, and even by a single thought, delight in it, I predict that they will all attain perfect enlightenment. And he's addressing at this time a Medicine King, Bodhisattva Medicine King. And then, you know, he or she who reads and recites the Law Flower Sutra know that man or woman has adorned him or herself with the adornment of the Buddha, and so is carried by the Tathagata on his shoulder wherever he goes.

[31:37]

He should be saluted with hands wholeheartedly, folded, revered, worshipped, honored, and extolled, and offerings made to him. Now, there's a beautiful part in here, and I think maybe somebody actually recited this, or maybe they copied it one day and I heard it recited. This is after the extinction of the Tathagata, if there be any good son or good daughter who, after the extinction of the Tathagata, desires to preach this Law Flower Sutra to the four groups, how should they preach it? That good son or good daughter, it does say good son or good daughter, I'm not editorializing here, entering into the abode of the Tathagata, wearing the robe of the Tathagata, and sitting on the throne of the Tathagata, should then widely proclaim this Sutra to the four groups.

[32:38]

So, entering the abode of the Thus-Come-One, wearing the robe of the Thus-Come-One, and sitting on the throne of the Thus-Come-One, the Law Flower Lotus Sutra should be preached. And then it goes on to describe what is the abode of the Thus-Come-One, the Tathagata, what is the robe, and what is the throne. Now this is any son or good daughter, you know when they say a good son or good daughter of good family, or a good son or good daughter, this refers to someone whose upbringing was such that they were inclined to hear the Dharma. So it doesn't mean noble or good family, meaning economic status or social status, it means coming from a family where you were then inclined to be able to hear the Dharma, as the son or daughter of good family. Goodbye, good kitchen.

[33:41]

So it doesn't mean, and it also doesn't mean that you're ordained as a priest, this is preaching or teaching to the four groups, laymen, laywomen, nuns and monks. So you enter the abode, you wear the robe and you sit on the throne, and then it says the abode of the Tathagata is the great compassionate heart within all living beings. That is the abode of the Tathagata, the abode of the Thus-Come-One, the abode of the Awakened One is the great compassionate heart. And the robe of the Tathagata is the gentle and forbearing heart. And the throne of the Tathagata is the voidness of all laws, is what Cato translates it as, but I am more familiar with the emptiness of Dharmas, that's the throne.

[34:47]

So if you want to preach the Law of Flower Sutra, you want to preach the good Dharma, the truth, wonderful Dharma, then you put on the robe or you enter the abode, which is the compassionate heart. You put on the robe, which is gentleness and forbearance, and you sit on the throne, which is the understanding of the emptiness of all Dharmas or the wisdom and compassion. This is how one preaches this. So, can we enter the abode, wear the robe and sit on the throne and widely proclaim the truth of the Lotus Sutra in all our actions? One doesn't need to sit up on a dais or a special Dharma seat. The abode of the Tathagata is the compassionate heart.

[35:58]

Entering the abode of the Tathagata, wearing the robe, this is not ordained one way or the other, this is wearing gentleness and forbearance. Forbearance is to be able to, it includes tolerance and patience and being able to stay and receive the consequences of our own actions. To be able to not turn and run and avert from our own life and the pain and suffering of our own life, this is forbearance. And then the throne, sitting on the throne, the throne of the emptiness of all Dharmas, there's nothing to be grasped, impermanence and interdependence.

[37:11]

And the Lotus, of course, is far from nihilistic on this point, but celebrating emptiness in a positive way, all beings are, everybody's included in this compassionate heart. Even when all beings are empty of inherent self, when there are no beings there, in the way we usually think. So maybe this can be something to turn, you know, this relationship with the Sutra, as in all the, when we study, we, and I'm going to talk about this a little more during the Sashin,

[38:12]

the way that we study is to, not to gather more intellectual knowledge, but to allow the teachings to reveal themselves to us, to allow ourselves to open to the teachings. Even when we at first feel disinclined to open to them, with familiarity and memorizing and turning a phrase and with a relaxed, rather than a tenseness around, I've got to understand and trying to grab at the teachings, a kind of relaxation, allowing them in and not seeking after, but allowing the teachings to come in. So to turn the phrases, turn these phrases of the abode and the robe and the throne of the Tathagata, how do we live that? How do we enter that? How do we make that our own, our own words?

[39:18]

So the Buddha, you know, after mentioning these, how this Sutra is proclaimed, then he does it again in verse, and there's a parable in here that I thought was very beautiful, so I wanted to read this. I don't know if I'll read the whole, well it's not that long. In order to be rid of sloth, hearken to this Sutra, in order to be rid of flabbiness, maybe we could say, hearken to this Sutra. Rare is the chance of hearing it, and rare are those who receive it in faith. It is like a thirsty man, a thirsty person needing water, who digs in a table land. Still seeing dry and arid earth, he knows water is yet far off. Moist earth and mire gradually appearing, he is assured that water is near. No medicine king, such is the case with those who hear, not the Law Flower Sutra. They are far from the Buddha wisdom, should they hear this profound Sutra, which determines the law for disciples, and is the king of all Sutras, and hearing truly ponder it, know that those people are near the Buddha wisdom.

[40:50]

Should anyone preach this Sutra, let him or her enter the Tathagata abode, wear the Tathagata robe, and sit on the Tathagata throne, undaunted amidst the multitude. Let them openly expound and preach it, with great compassion for his abode, gentleness and forbearance for her robe, and the voidness of all laws, the emptiness of all dharmas, for their throne. Abiding in these, let them preach the law. And then it goes into what happens sometimes when you preach the law, and this comes up, this is in the Shoya Roku about preaching the Diamond Sutra, where there's called the Diamond Sutra Revilement, when you teach certain things, what happens is there's insults and revilement that comes. And this says, if when he or she preaches this Sutra, some should with evil mouth abuse, or lay on swords, sticks, shards, or stones, think of the Buddha, let them be patient.

[42:05]

In thousands of myriads of kotis of lands, I appear with pure imperishable bodies, and in infinite kotis of kalpas, preach the law for all the living. If anyone, after my extinction, is able to proclaim the Sutra, I will send the four spirit groups of bhikshus and bhikshunis, pure-minded men and women, to worship him or her as teacher of the law, while I will draw living beings and assemble them to hear this law. Should men seek to assail with ill words, with swords, sticks, shards, or stones, I will send spirit people to act as his protectors. Should any preacher of this law, dwelling alone in a secluded place in solitude, where there is no voice of a person, read and recite the Sutra, then I will appear to him with a pure and luminous body. Should he forget sentences or words, I'll tell him to his clear apprehension.

[43:06]

Whenever such a person, perfect in these merits, either preaches to the four groups, or in seclusion reads and recites the Sutra, that person will always see me. Whenever such a person is in seclusion, I will send gods and dragon kings, yakshas, demons, spirits, and others to be his hearers of this law. That person will delight to preach the law and expound it without hindrance, because Buddhas guard and mind them. That person can cause multitudes to rejoice. Whoever is close to such a teacher of the law will speedily attain the Bodhisattva way. And that person who becomes a pupil of that teacher will behold Buddhas numerous as the sands of the Ganges. So this is a great encouragement to take up, read, recite, listen, read it in solitude, and in the abode of the compassionate heart,

[44:27]

with the robe of gentleness and forbearance, sitting on the throne of emptiness, of dharmas, to teach about this. And the Buddha says, I'll watch over you. So this kind of Kano Doko, this communion, spiritual communion with the Buddhas and with the teaching, by taking it up, is what this chapter is revealing to us. Whether we resist this or not, or say it's a bunch of, you know, I don't get it, it's weird, you know, in some ways it doesn't matter. This is what's being offered. So please open your eyes and ears.

[45:31]

Sit still, very, very, very still, immovable. Pay attention to all the forms of, please, you know, bring yourself, bring your full self to each of the forms, to the chanting, briskly chanting. Please be very aware of your neighbors. Make sure your robe sleeves aren't migrating into other people's zabatons. You know, your zabaton is your bodhimanda, your bodhi place, so that's your spot. Just notice if you're kind of migrating to other people's areas on the floor. And let's have the, a kind of lean feeling to the sasheen, lean meaning no flab, you know.

[46:41]

Okay, thank you very much. Thank you.

[46:53]

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