Sesshin Lecture

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SF-00986
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Architecture at GGF; Layman Pang; many sesshins; "gamble everything on love"; sesshin romance and the potentiality of the present moment; recognizing your Buddha nature in your life now; ordinations/relinquishment

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So, welcome to the Green Dragon Zen Temple on our fifth auspicious day of sitting. Today is Friday, and you may have noticed if you're walking around, there's some preparations going on in the tea house. Tomorrow afternoon, there's a big tea event happening. I think it's tomorrow afternoon, yes? No? And Maya, who usually sits in the Tantra seat where Arlene's been sitting, has been doing preparations for some special tea ceremony that I know she's pretty excited about. So, we'll see if that excitement over there drifts over into the

[01:04]

Zen Dome. And yesterday, I had a little meeting with an architect, Robert Thomas, the president of the Zen Center, came out, and Arlene and Fu, Jeremy, and a couple of other people, were in the meeting. And so, just to let you know, there's some energy going into thinking about what Green Gulch needs for the short term, for the next few years, then the mid-term, the next few decades, and in the longer term, the next few centuries. And so, we're putting some energy and attention into looking at this ongoing process of how we have taken

[02:10]

what was a working branch when Zen Center first acquired it in 1972, and using what is here, actually converting what is here into something that works for Zen practice community. So, this room, most of you probably realize, was the hayloft, the hay barn. And underneath where Manjushri sits, when we first came, there was a big trap door, a hole in the floor, where the hay that was stored in this room could be dropped down through to feed the cows below. And here, on this side, and on that side, these are big doors that open and a wagon or a truck could come through and unload hay right into this space.

[03:16]

Yes? What was that ring for? That ring? I don't know, actually. Tie something, tie up an animal to a ring there. There were rings in what's now Cloud Hall, there were rings all over because that was the stables. Before Wheelwright was here with his Hereford cattle, Ray Button was here with walking, Tennessee walking horses. So, he had a horse breeding and training establishment going on here. I've heard that actually he would sometimes take the horses up that ramp on the bunkhouse roof and trade them around up on the roof here for people who were coming to visit and show them off, put them up on stage. And so,

[04:21]

some of the terms of our housings, they still continue, persist, like the bunkhouse. I still call it the bunkhouse. That's where some of the ranch hands used to bunk. And some people I think still live up in the bullpens, where the bulls were. So anyway, over, of course we converted the bullpens into human habitation. And I thought we were doing great, actually, until I kind of lost all perspective. I thought we were, you know, we were creating some magnificent habitations for ourselves out of these old stables and bullpens. A reporter came out from the Independent Journal at one point, probably in 75, something like that, after we'd been here several years. And in the article reported that she had visited someone

[05:25]

in their Zen hovel. That's what it looks like, living in a hovel. So now we have a range. We still have some hovels. And we also have some better housing, and we have some trailers and converted, partially converted projects. So anyway, we're looking at that. And at this stage interviewing several different architects. And at some point we'll invite, make a decision, make a decision about who to work with and have someone help us clarify how we want to

[06:33]

get more shape to developing Green Gulch in the future. This is not the first time we've had various rounds of, over the years, of architects coming in and giving us help and making suggestions. And it's always an interesting relationship. As an architect, it's hard to put forward your plan and then have some people who don't know anything tear it all up. Or just refuse to do it. So it's actually worked better. We've actually had some architects who are on staff here. And that was really hard. Because if you're on staff here, then you really have an investment in your plan. And then when your buddies who live here with you reject it, it's really painful. Quite painful. We've had, you know, I've witnessed

[07:41]

some architects in great pain. After they put a lot of work into something, thinking that they understood what was needed. And maybe they did, but people just didn't agree. So that was, some of you I know were walking by on the deck outside the library yesterday and noticed we were having some kind of meeting there. So that's what that was about. And then last night, I want to thank all of you for joining me in failing to do three bows. So I felt afterwards, you know, it was one of those things I put down my zygo and I stood up and I thought, oh, is it morning or evening? Then when I was clear about it being evening,

[08:48]

I went right into the appropriate refuges, right? So part of entering Sashin is to lose track of your usual mind, the mind that tracks things sequentially sometimes. You let go of that and then we remind each other sometimes. If you're on a serving crew or something, you get a lot of reminders. You do this first and you do it in that particular way. And then sitting in this seat, some of my mistakes anyway are more obvious. And so I get to practice with making obvious mistakes. And I really do appreciate you all helping me, both in

[09:55]

making the mistake, joining me, and in pointing it out to me. It reminds me of Lei Man Pong, the Chinese Lei Zen master who, there are many stories about Lei Man Pong, but this one is very short. And he had his whole family with him. He had gone to the trouble of relieving his family of their domestic burdens by taking all their household goods out in a boat into the river, drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat, letting it all sink into the river. So, they were free of all those things. So then they wandered from, I'd say probably from Buddhist community to Buddhist community, from monastery to monastery, and visited

[10:56]

various Zen teachers, and picked up materials in boat baskets and sold baskets. And then on the street for their livelihood. And one time, Lei Man Pong and his daughter were crossing the bridge. And coming across the end of the bridge, Lei Man Pong just tripped and fell right on his face. And his daughter flung herself down right beside him. And he said, What are you doing? And she said, I'm helping you, Dad. I'm helping you. So they both got up and he brushed himself off and looked around and said, I'm really glad no one was watching us. So that kind of spirit of joining, bodhisattva spirit of helping someone, being willing to suffer with them, or being willing to actually

[12:01]

join them in their mistake, is sometimes how we practice. Maybe talk a little bit more about that a little later. I also wanted to mention that we're sitting in the room in silence, and as people come in to Duk San, I hear what Se Shin is like. From many points of view. And so there are many Se Shins happening here in this one room. There are some people here who are sitting here in a state of bliss, and enjoying just the beautiful day, and other people are sitting here in great pain. Physical pain, emotional pain. Some people are sitting here and it feels cool, and other

[13:07]

people are sitting here and it feels like they're in fire. So whatever Se Shin you are in, it's the right Se Shin for you. And each of us is supporting you to sit your Se Shin. So to the extent that you can wholeheartedly sit your own Se Shin, that's really the opportunity that's presented. So don't waste it. Don't sit there thinking that you should be sitting some other Se Shin, somebody else's Se Shin. Unless of course that is the Se Shin that is right for you. So in that case, wholeheartedly sit that Se Shin. Completely understand it. Completely

[14:18]

understand comparative mind. And by the way, I've seen most people at least one time, and so there is a list of people to be seen a second time, and that's already happening. But you won't be called unless you are already asked to be seen a second time or on a regular list of people to see me more frequently, weekly or something. So if you want to be on that list, you probably should let Gensho know pretty soon, because there is only another couple of days. Last night, our Chuso made some statements, partly quoting Rumi, saying, gamble everything

[15:25]

on love. So if you want to be seen a second time, you probably should let Gensho know that. Recommending gambling right here in the Zen Dojo. And love, I think the word love can stimulate many kinds of ideas and feelings. Just as everyone in this room is sitting their own Se Shin, everyone has their own idea or ideas, probably multiple ideas and emotional arisings with the word love. So love can be attachment, can be seen as attachment, can

[16:27]

be actually experienced as attachment. There is a school of psychology that locates a whole important aspect of the development of personality based upon attachment, that actually you need to have attachment when you are a child. And if it's not clear that you have some clear attachment that you can trust, that's damaging and confusing. And then yesterday we talked about Orpheus and his love, which we could say was obsessive. Obsessive love, where he was completely bereft when Eurydice died. And again, when he lost her, bringing her

[17:32]

out of Hades unsuccessfully, and then realizing that he could never live in the same way because Eurydice was gone. And someone came up to me afterwards, and I haven't had time to check that out, but who said that Orpheus never did relinquish his obsession for Eurydice, that he never did sing, make music or poetry again. So when I was reading Rilke, Rilke was trying to help Orpheus relinquish this attachment, this obsession. But according to the myth, Orpheus never did, never did actually grieve the loss. He was caught up

[18:39]

in the loss and never could actually grieve it and release it. So some people view this as love, this kind of completely engaged and overpowering obsessive involvement, attachment. And we say falling in love is like that. We say falling in love is, we say various things like lovers are blind, people fall in love as if they have no choice, as if we, like Lehman Palm, trip at the end of the bridge, fall into love. And then on the other hand, we have the idea of love that is unconditioned, and we all want that. So the wanting of unconditioned

[19:48]

love, of course, would be conditioned. Like there's a song, right? Give me, give me your unconditional love, something like that. I don't remember any more of that song. But how can it be that conditioned beings, how can conditioned beings love unconditionally? We find ourselves in Sashin, sometimes falling in love, maybe falling in love? Sitting in love. Sitting in love with someone else in Sashin, who we don't talk to. Some people

[20:50]

have a whole Sashin romance with someone who in Sashin, in Sashin, in Sashin, in Sashin they suddenly realize their deep connection with the person, because the usual barriers between people can drop away. And you can actually experience that connection with someone, and sometimes it's more generalized, more with more people, or everyone in the Zen dojo. But sometimes it gets focused on one particular person. So it's not all that unusual to have a Sashin romance that never gets talked about. Sometimes it's a real problem for a person to realize, oh, I'm getting, I have this state of mind and I can't, I'm in the

[21:54]

grip of this state of mind, that I don't know how to get out of. So sometimes people come to Doksan and talk about that kind of a trap, that feeling of being in the grip of some overpowering emotional state. And again, sometimes it's just about something small like tofu. We're all now at vegetarian diet, we're all dependent on tofu, pretty dependent on soybeans. And we realize our interdependency in various ways, but we can have unconditioned love for tofu in all of its forms. But then that changed a couple of days ago, because the tofu came with yeast, brewer's yeast or something, I don't know

[22:55]

exactly what it is, does someone know exactly what it was? Nutritional yeast? It had a special impact, right? Several people have mentioned this to me, right? And I'm like, I don't know what it is. So this was no ordinary tofu. And just one taste, you could fall in love and want more, right? So I had some of that experience myself. But then when they come by and serve seconds, but it was mixed in with all the greens. So then when they're serving the greens with the tofu, but then you ask for seconds, and your server, who you love dearly, comes up and they give you the greens. But there's no tofu! No tofu with

[24:03]

the greens! So how do you feel about that? Can you be like Orpheus? You want to sing a song to the server, please? Please, hear my suffering. But they should know, right? They should know. You shouldn't have to tell them. So then you can have a little lover's quarrel with the server, who didn't understand your need, that you didn't express. Of course, you couldn't, except you asked for seconds. So this is how we refine our awareness, our

[25:08]

attention in Sashin. So you may have thought that you unconditionally loved all forms of tofu, but now, now maybe there's some... What was I going to talk about here? Oh yes! Gambling everything on love. So Bodhisattvas actually do gamble everything on love, but love in its widest sense. As I mentioned with the Diamond Sutra a couple of days ago, the vow of the Bodhisattva, the great vow is to, well let's say, put it in those words, unconditionally love all beings. Unconditionally vow to awaken with and save all beings, no matter what form

[26:22]

of life they are, whether they are born from a womb or born from an egg, born from moisture, miraculously born, whether they are beings that have perception or no perception or neither perception or non-perception. So this would include rocks, trees, ants, butterflies, slugs. And then we also talked about the monkeys in your own mind, those beings. To unconditionally love the beings in your own mind, including the beings that you really don't want to acknowledge in yourself. The beings that are mean, mean-spirited beings. The beings that are harboring ill-will.

[27:27]

The beings that are actually violating the precepts, that are contrary to the precepts. How can you love unconditionally? How can you love those beings? So Suzuki Roshi talks about love in various places. In his commentary on the first section of the Sandokai, the harmony of difference and unity, he talks about the harmony of difference and he talks about love in a Buddha sense, in relation to Buddha nature, as unconditional love, as not having any separation. So this first phrase of the Sandokai, the harmony

[28:39]

of the great sage of India, is intimately transmitted from West to East, the way Buddhism has been traveling from India to China, Japan, America, landing here on the West and moving across. Interesting, the way the prevailing winds of Dharma, bringing the Dharma from West to East. But then it says, human faculties may be sharp or keen or dull, but the way, the Tao, the way, has no distinctions between keen or dull, or between the Northern or Southern

[29:40]

schools of Zen in China at the time that this was written. So in the Tao, there is no distinction between people who are really brilliant and people who are kind of dull. The mind is the same mind in the Tao, ordinary mind. Ordinary mind includes the mind that is alert and sharp, can quickly grasp the Dharma teaching, and the mind that slowly, step by step, slowly, slowly struggles and works through hindrances and difficulties, never really quite being free of hindrances and difficulties. So this is saying, it's the same. And Suzuki Roshi

[30:44]

talks about this ordinary mind as having three aspects that he wanted to talk about then. Three aspects, potentiality, and interrelationship, and appropriateness. And potentiality, the potentiality of mind, Buddha mind, may be understood to be the potentiality of mind, may be fully realized potentiality. And when it says in the Tao there is no difference, that means that everyone here in the room has fully realized potentiality, that your potentiality. So that's potentiality and its sense of its completeness. And then Suzuki

[31:55]

Roshi talks about potentiality as, in terms of time, from the point of view of time, then it may mean, well, there's some past and some future. And so the possibility is that the possibility of Buddha mind exists in future, but the future, then again, is also included in this moment. So it's not necessarily some distant future, but it's a future that is the potential that's right here. It's as easy as, well, it's not as easy as noticing that your mind is drifting and then returning to the present moment. No regrets, no confusion. As soon as you're completely, wholeheartedly in the present moment, this

[33:05]

is the self-receiving and generating samadhi, the self-receiving and generating samadhi. Jiju-yo-samadhi that Dogen talks about is completely manifest and realized in this potentiality of the present moment. When you're in the present moment, you can't conceptualize it, because when you conceptualize it, you lose it. You set yourself apart from it. And when you set yourself apart from it, you can't find it, because it's not graspable. It's beyond what you can grasp. And yet we have this glimpse, right, as we actually shift

[34:10]

from oneness to duality, to duality to oneness. So Suzuki Roshi says, in terms of time, when you observe me in terms of time, even though I have potentiality, if someone doesn't help me, I cannot be a Buddha. So in terms of time, I can't be a Buddha. There's this separate self, which needs connection. If someone doesn't connect with separate self, it's a very interesting statement when I encountered that, I cannot be a Buddha if someone doesn't help me. I cannot realize full potential. So, in terms of time, I can't be a Buddha. It also means then that in terms of time, when you notice that you need some help, you

[35:24]

need some path, you need some teaching, you have a responsibility for being pretty strict with yourself. Not wasting this recognition, this moment, that there's potentiality and you're not quite with it. You understand that wholeheartedness is possible and you understand that right now, I'm not being wholehearted, and so you need to be pretty strict with yourself. So, kind, actually true kindness for yourself, true kindness, is to being pretty strict. Not dwelling in wishful thinking. Not thinking that I'm a Buddha.

[36:36]

Thinking, oh, well, I will do this tomorrow. I have this poem that's been making the rounds, some of you may have seen it, by Naomi Nye, Naomi Shehab Nye. It's called The Art of Disappearing. So, she's working with this, how to be kind to herself, realizing her potentiality, and how to be kind with herself in some social situations. When they say, don't I know you? Say, no. When they invite you to the party, remember what parties are like before answering. Someone telling you in a loud voice, they once wrote a poem, greasy sausage balls on

[37:43]

a paper plate. Then reply. If they say, we should get together, say, why? It's not that you don't love them anymore. You're trying to remember something too important to forget. Trees. The monastery bell at twilight. Tell them you have a new project. It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store, nod briefly and become a cabbage. When someone you haven't seen in ten years appears at the door, don't start singing them all your new songs. You will never catch up. Walk around feeling like a

[38:47]

leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time. So it's not that you don't love them anymore. So how to tell your family and your friends that you can't just hang out with them. That there's something important that has to do with how you love them. It actually has to do with noticing that when you're with them, somehow they don't recognize your presence. Buddha mind. And since they don't recognize your Buddha mind, you begin to forget it yourself.

[39:54]

You begin to lose track of it. You know that this happens. You know that you get caught up. You forget what she says. You forget that you are like a leaf. You forget that you are a leaf. And that you could tumble any second. You feel some constriction that's being something closing in around you. It may just be in the way your mother says, here, have some more. If you don't eat more, you don't love me. She's not recognizing your unconditional love for her. It may just be in the way that someone says, we used to have a lot of fun and, you know, singing songs and drinking

[41:07]

wine and let's do that again. And that's wonderful and it's well and good. And yet when you go back, it's not the same. Trying to have the fun that you had before is not the same. And you realize that, oh, this version doesn't work. And somehow I need to relinquish whatever it is that is this trying, this attempt to recreate something. Why not just accept where we're at right now? Why not begin again from here? Maybe the again is extra. Why not begin now?

[42:18]

And sometimes old friends don't let you do that because they want to be old friends. They want you to be who they thought you were. They want you to be the one they fell in love with, who they maybe didn't completely understand. So Sukhiroshi is saying that if someone doesn't show up to help me, I cannot be a Buddha. He's really talking about someone showing up who brings Buddha, nature. And realizing this, then this is your Bodhisattva vow to be that for someone else. So this is interrelationship. This is the capacity of ordinary mind to be with someone else.

[43:35]

So your love for them then has to relate to their present condition. It's not just Buddha to Buddha, but it's Buddha to someone who's not realizing Buddha. So if someone is being joyful, then you can join them. It's easy because they can receive your gift. So if you're in love with someone and you give them flowers, they can receive the flowers. Unless you're having a quarrel and they may not receive your flowers. They may say, oh, I don't want your flowers. You can't help me. I'm miserable. You're no good. I don't even want to see you again.

[44:39]

I spit on your flowers. This happens. Yes, you may have experienced it. So when someone's not ready to receive your love, even if it's unconditional love or any expression of it, then you know they're suffering. You can't give them anything. What can you do? As Suzuki Roshi says at that time, you need to become Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. So you don't turn away from them. You hear them. You hear their suffering. You actually are willing to join them in their suffering. And that doesn't mean impose yourself

[45:46]

on them in their suffering. It means respectfully actually allow yourself to completely feel. And at the same time, you're a Bodhisattva of compassion. So since you're as a Bodhisattva, you're not overwhelmed by their suffering. You're a wisdom being. You have stability of mind enough to not be overwhelmed by the suffering, which means that you are present. You're simply present. So in your sitting, when various beings appear, suffer with it. You can join compassionately, being fully present, not being overwhelmed.

[46:52]

So this sometimes feels like dying because you actually have to give up all of your strategies all of your methods, all of your tools, any idea you have that will make the world better. And you can simply be in the world. So sometimes you can, in interrelationship, you can offer something. And this is then what Suzuki Rishi calls appropriateness, or it's like skillful means. Reminds me of the two titles of two of Kadagiri. Kadagiri gave many talks and presentations, and some of them appeared in two books, and

[48:00]

one is titled, Returning to Silence. And then the next one is, You Have to Say Something. So together, they complement each other. Returning to Silence, You Have to Say Something. So Returning to Silence is maybe the silence of the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva who hears all the cries of the world. But then sometimes Avalokiteshvara is presented as a vision of countless arms and hands that can see what's needed and bring the appropriate response. The most skillful tool, whatever is needed, food, medicine. Sometimes someone is suffering

[49:12]

and they need food. They can't hear some talk about dharma, but they can see what's needed. They can't hear some talk about unconditioned love. What they need is food. They need that tofu. Sometimes someone needs a kind word. Sometimes someone needs some tools that you have. Sometimes someone needs something that is so subtle that you can't really tell what it is until you spend a lot of time and are completely willing to just be with them as they are. To be with them all the way and never give up on them. Without really doing anything. Just listening. And then when you're in the position of,

[50:23]

OK, you have to say something, you have to do something, listen again. So this is Return to Silence. You have to say something. Return to Silence. And notice whether what you said is skillful. Whether it was skillful. Did it fit? How is it received? Like box and cover joining. Did what you place on that box fit that box? So that again is not turning away. So, these three, potentiality is present throughout ordinary mind. Ordinary mind is

[51:36]

the same, can't be separated from Buddha mind. How do you get to know Buddha mind? By knowing ordinary mind. So, we have ways of expressing this to each other. I just wanted to mention briefly the notion of ordination. And of taking the precepts. So we, as the Sangha, we have a way of entering the Sangha. Taking the precepts. Which is really the Bodhisattva vow, then spelled out just a little bit more. But I vowed to save all beings. To be present with all beings.

[52:44]

And then, how to live in accord with that vow. So whenever you take the precepts, actually you are then making a decision, a public decision, to relinquish the precepts. And to, we would say there is some renunciation involved. There is a word renunciation, I also like the word relinquishment. That you actually relinquish whatever is interfering with your realization of that vow. From the point of making that vow forward. So we have various forms of doing that. And I think part of what I want to do in this

[53:51]

time of teaching and being Abbot, is to clarify more how we understand what is meant by, we say, zaikei tokudo and shukei tokudo. Zaikei tokudo is abiding at home and accomplishing the way. And shukei tokudo is leaving home and accomplishing the way. So there are different forms of accomplishing the way. Accomplishing the way is completely equal to what form it takes. So how we understand practicing as a layperson, and how we understand practicing as an ordained priest or monk, it's important to know what are the forms of the relinquishment appropriate to that kind of training and that kind of commitment

[54:57]

and that kind of ordination. This is very interesting because Suzuki Roshi didn't spell that out. He was very careful to not spell it out actually. To say, here in America I'm not sure what's appropriate. Some of you look like lay people and you're doing priest practice. And some of you look like priests and you're doing lay practice. So in a way I think that was completely intentional that he left us with wonderful room to sort this out. And we may, I think we should sort it out in a way that we always have room. When my teacher Mel Weitzman, after he was ordained as a priest, asked Suzuki Roshi,

[56:02]

so what does it mean now that you've ordained me as a priest? What does it mean to be a priest? And Suzuki Roshi said, I don't know. I don't know. So, was this Bodhidharma's response to the emperor? When the emperor asked Bodhidharma, you know, who is it? Who is it standing before me? Don't know. So I have some more thoughts on this matter, but I've talked quite a while. Although some people have told me that my talks are actually short. My mother would disagree. Anything over 20 minutes would be too long for her. So I keep her in mind a little bit.

[57:03]

So, let's continue to unfold the dharma in each in your own wisdom. Which you completely carry. Whatever arises in you, it's something to carefully consider. So Sashin is an opportunity to go beyond your idea of who you are. You are much bigger. You are much bigger. You are much like some vast, vast, spacious

[58:20]

being, completely beyond any conception that you have. So whatever arises is an opportunity for you to see more of yourself. To actually be a more complete friend to yourself. Please continue. And thank you for listening.

[58:45]

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