Sesshin Practices

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Sesshin Lecture: ordinary mind is the Tao; practice of confession; guilt/shame; Self-Receiving and -Employing Samadhi

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Morning. Welcome to the second day of sasheen. And all of the thoughts that arise with second day sasheen. We started with a full moon. Now the moon is a little less than full. Waning moon. Is the full moon the perfect moon? Of course, from some perspective, the moon is always full. From another perspective, the moon is always dark. But each time we look day after day, we notice the moon is changing and it reminds us of our own impermanence.


I wrote some notes because there are some things I wanted to mention. In terms of information, I have a plan for doksan. And I'd like to see everyone one time in doksan. And the people who see me more regularly, I'll try to see twice. So unless people have some urgent request, I'll begin probably this afternoon seeing people who are on the regular list. And then with some expeditiousness, see you again, maybe the last day or two of sasheen. It's a wonderful opportunity


to really settle in and work with some questions in a more refined way. Work with your practice in a more refined way than is usually possible when we don't have an opportunity for this kind of concentration. So given all that, still, if you have something urgent, feel free to communicate with Gensha. Gensha will be usually positioned in cloud hall at the bottom of the stairs when we go out from the zendo. So he could put your name on the list and try to respond. Sometimes when we have doksan infrequently, we take quite a bit of time. During sasheen, I'd like to encourage you to


come in and take a minute, say, to settle yourself, and then present something. A question, a statement, something to report. Focus on what's the focus of your practice or how it's going, or if you're some point where you'd like some clarification and you want to bring that forward. So that will help. So then there will be time for everyone. It may have been mentioned in orientation, but adjusting posture while you're sitting. Once in a while, I may be able to go around and adjust


your posture. So if you feel hands on your shoulder, your back, or maybe pushing your chin back or something like that, see if you can receive that as a suggestion. If there's, I don't know, did it come up in orientation? If there's someone who finds that it's really problematic or traumatic, maybe let the ino know and she can tell me. Because I do understand there are people who've had various experiences that when someone comes up behind and touches them, it triggers some alarm. So if that's your situation, then let the ino know and she'll tell me. Just as an extreme example of that,


a friend of mine, Anshan Thomas, who's a Vietnam vet, and had many traumatic experiences years later now, still finds it difficult to even walk down the aisle in the grocery store. Some sound may come up and it triggers a reaction in which he immediately looks for something that could explode. A bomb could go off. So anyway, while you're sitting or also while walking in Kinyin, I may come up and make some adjustments. So this is part of the attention that we can give to refining our awareness of our body and alignment of our body during this session in practice. I also wanted to mention that you may discover that in the evenings now,


you may have some energy for sitting. During the day, your concentration, samadhi practice may generate some energy for late-night sitting. And so the zendo will be open for that. It'll be dark. I think usually we just leave the lights on right on the steps, but there's just enough light you can come in and find your seat and quietly sit, as long as you feel that you have some energy that just arises for sitting. I don't suggest that there's any particular virtue in it or that you force it or push yourself beyond what feels like it's actually the energy of samadhi. Also, when you go to your room or your bed, I suggest that you sit


after you've prepared everything for bed. You could sit up right at your bed for just a few minutes so that you are fully aware of your state of mind as you lie down and enter dreamland. And then in the morning, when you wake up, whether it's wake-up bell or when you hear some sound or you just wake up from your sleep, that you take that moment just to immediately find your breath, awareness, bring awareness to your mind at that point. And so you actually engage with your awareness practice immediately before you even begin to move and then continue that as you do your morning preparations and come to the zendo.


So there's always the matter of pain. Second day Sashin, you may particularly notice the sensations that we call pain in your knees or your hips or your back or something. So it's a wonderful opportunity to notice the difference between the sensation and your reaction to it. What's the difference between the sensation and even calling it pain? And then noticing how you tend to have some tension, some maybe resistance to the experience. So there's a saying that pain in the knees is the taste of Zen.


And so we're all familiar with it. So if you're out at some other time talking with a bunch of Zen students and or Zen practitioners and you haven't experienced any pain, then you won't know what they're talking about and you won't really feel like you're part of the group. But that's okay. Some people sit actually quite comfortably. But then something else comes up to work with. So when you feel that the pain is possibly going to cause some damage to your knee or your hip or your back or something, then please, if you have any pain, adjust your posture and take care of yourself. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking,


oh, it's so virtuous to sit through pain that they injure themselves. And so I want to caution you to be careful with that. And there's a way of sitting with, let's say, maintaining your sincere attitude of concentration and a sense of stillness even as you adjust your posture. And then with courtesy to the people around you, what we do if you want to change your posture is just put your hands in gassho, do a little bow like that, adjust your posture, and then complete it with a bow and then resume your mudra of sitting. So that brings some awareness to that change. It also might be helpful sometimes to try,


when you feel that you have to move, just to experiment. The pain is really unbearable, but you know you're not injuring yourself before you adjust your posture to say, well, OK, I will track three breaths and then I'll adjust my posture. So staying with those three breaths actually brings more complete awareness. And you may notice, oh, you actually have the capacity to sit with that pain for those three breaths and extend your range of what you're able to find composure with. So second day Sashin, for many people, is particularly difficult. So while I'm talking


Dharma talk, feel free to sit comfortably. It's sometimes hard to listen and sit uncomfortably. So maybe just cultivating the thought of being kind to yourself, is of value, particularly on the second and third day of Sashin, when you're noticing old habits and tendencies that want to carry you away, tend to be particularly strong for a lot of people. I used to always feel kind of sick second and third day. Like I was confined from my usual activities, like being in bed with the measles or something when I was a kid. I remember that same kind of feeling. It's somewhat disorienting, but also there's a sweetness to it because you're actually taking good care of yourself.


So this feeling of being kind to yourself doesn't mean being indulgent with yourself, but it means a kind of strictness that you know that you're paying close attention and doing just what is appropriate, just what is needed. Sometimes it's just a slight shift. You may just straighten up a little bit. Your angle of your, say, pelvis and the way your sitting bones are on the cushion may just shift an eighth of an inch, something like that. But that is refining, being kind to yourself and taking good care of yourself. So I'm deeply grateful to everyone for your practice. People are sitting quite well. It's


really wonderful to come into the Zen Dojo in the morning and step into this deep silence. So we're very fortunate in our tradition. Zen arose as Chan with the the influence of Taoism and Confucianism that were already part of Chinese culture, with the Buddha Dharma arriving and being well established, you know, after several centuries of being established in China. And in order to incorporate the teachings of Buddha Dharma,


the language of Taoism, particularly, became a part of our Zen tradition. So a young student, Zhao Zhou, had an essential question for his teacher. He framed it as a question of, what is the Tao? And the Tao, I think, in this actually includes the De. In the Tao, De, Jing. The Tao, the word Tao, we usually translate as way. And the De is a little more difficult, maybe, to translate. It has sometimes is translated as virtue.


It's more like, what is the actual manifestation of the way? Along the same lines that Dogen picked up later on, for those of you who are familiar with the Genjo Koan, realizing or actualizing. So, actualizing what is essential or what is fundamental. How is what is most fundamental actually manifest? So, when Zhao Zhou asks his teacher, Nanchuan, what is the Tao? This is a very deep question. It includes the absolute and includes the relative. So then when Nanchuan responds, ordinary mind. Ordinary mind is the way. Ordinary mind is the Tao.


He's pointing to ordinary mind is already the manifestation of totality. So, whatever is arising in your mind can be regarded and actually seen as Buddha mind or Buddha nature. So, on the theme of our practice period being developing confidence in your Buddha nature. When you look at the response, ordinary mind is the Tao, then you understand that whatever is arising in your mind, in your consciousness, in your awareness, is the Tao, is Buddha nature. So, in this time of the arising of Zen in China, the Tao, the word Tao, and Buddha nature become unified and often changed or played with interchangeably.


But Zhao Zhou didn't really understand the answer. He didn't understand Nanchuan's answer. Ordinary mind is the Tao. So, he asked, how do I direct myself? Or do I direct myself toward it? And Nanchuan said, to direct yourself toward it is to betray your life. Very strong answer. Cuts him off right there. Directing yourself toward it is to betray your life. Suzuki Roshi commented on this whole matter of how to practice. He wasn't commenting on this particular dialogue directly, but he was talking about the question of right effort. And right effort becomes a matter of more subtlety as you settle into


your sitting practice, particularly in Seshin. But, of course, it's a matter of ordinary life, everyday life. What is your practice, moment by moment? So, Suzuki Roshi talks about right effort. And he makes a number of statements that are very similar to Nanchuan's. And these are statements probably most of you have heard before, but listened to them in this context. Our effort should be directed from achievement to non-achievement. People ask what it means to practice zazen with no gaining idea. What kind of effort is necessary for that kind of practice? The answer is effort to get rid of something extra from our practice.


If some extra idea comes, you should try to stop it. You should remain in pure practice. That is the point to which our effort is directed. So, try not to see anything in particular. Try not to achieve anything special. You already have everything in your own pure quality. If you understand this fundamental fact, there is no fear. There may be some difficulty, of course, but there is no fear. And then a little bit later in this comment, he says, even if your effort is in the wrong direction, if you are aware of that, you will not be deluded. There is nothing to lose. There is only the pure quality of right practice.


So, Suzuki Roshi turns it in there from getting rid of something extra to accepting your delusion, if you're aware of it. This is a very interesting point and something that it takes a lot of experience to really understand what is the correct practice. Should you get rid of something extra? Or should you simply be aware of something extra? Be aware of delusion. My experience is that both kinds of practice are necessary. Now, the key, I think, in what Suzuki Roshi is talking about, when there is no fear,


if you are actually able to remain, as he says, remain in pure practice, he's assuming, maybe he's assuming or suggesting that you're sitting with great confidence in your nature, so you have no fear. This is just the line from the Heart Sutra, right? The Bodhisattva puts complete confidence in prajnaparamita, and when putting complete confidence in prajnaparamita, there is no fear. However, you may notice in your sitting that things interfere with putting complete confidence in prajnaparamita, putting complete confidence in what can't even be described, what is inconceivable, putting complete confidence in this present moment,


which is unknown. So you find that your mind is struggling with various directions. In the shuso ceremony at the city center on Saturday, Marsha Angus, at the conclusion of the ceremony, the shuso holds up the shipe, the staff, and says various things, including, I'm so ashamed having misled you, right? And, but Marsha had felt compelled to add a little line, I'm so ashamed, but not in the Jewish sense. There's often, I think, confusion because of the overlapping nature of guilt and shame. Two words, guilt and shame.


And we have the practice of confession. In the morning service we chant, you know, our confession, all my ancient twisted karma. And in the chant that everyone just participated in before I started talking, it says the pure practice of confession. Among Samantabhadra's ten vows, the fourth vow is confession. Samantabhadra, the bodhisattva of great activity that we recite before each meal in our meal chant, bodhisattva of great activity, one of the activities of Samantabhadra is continuously confessing misdeeds of the past. So misdeeds of the past refers to deeds,


actions, taken consciously, unconsciously, out of habit, out of reaction, out of cultural misunderstanding, out of personal fear. All those misdeeds can be confessed once they are seen and acknowledged. So how about confession during zazen? Sometimes when something comes up and you feel regretful during your sitting, should you try to get rid of it? Just trying to get rid of it, avoiding actually making confession. Can you actually try to get rid of something that arises in your zazen?


You may see as something extra, as Suzuki Roshi said, well, get rid of something extra, but something extra may be that that may be your avoidance of acknowledging what it is that you need to confess. So this is a very interesting and sometimes tricky point to establish some clarity for yourself is what is correct here? So this is a point if you're not clear or have some doubt about, very good to check this out with someone else. That's what spiritual friends are for. So guilt has to do with something that you have done. And shame has to do with something, I think, maybe more deeply embedded,


which has to do with your own feeling of your own existential being. Do you feel that you have the right to exist? Or that, do you have that feeling that Suzuki Roshi is talking about, saying that you are acquiring the pure quality of your practice, which is the sense that, fundamentally, you are already perfect. You are already the manifestation of the Tao in all of its perfection. I'm not so sure what was going on with Shakyamuni Buddha when he touched the earth, but I have some feeling that this was addressing this matter,


that according to the legend that he was challenged by Mara, you know, in various ways, and finally was challenged as to his right to exist, his right to sit under the Bodhi tree. So until you actually establish your right to exist, you can't completely be still. You can't completely find composure. So for Shakyamuni Buddha, as the one here on our altar, sitting in front of Manjushri, is touching the earth, and the earth responds, saying, due to all of your kind, generous, carefully attentive, compassionate actions over many lifetimes,


due to all those connections that you have with all beings, you do have a right to exist, and the whole earth supports you being right where you are. So this is a profound and beautiful recognition and experience to actually know this, to actually realize this. So for Shakyamuni, this is not just some idea. This is some deep experience that penetrates through every cell of his body. And for all those people who are sitting here in this room, that profound experience of being able to be free of any doubt about your right to be exactly who you are, it's a beautiful realization.


So I think that this is what Suzuki Roshi is suggesting when he says, just remain in pure practice. He says, you already have everything in your own pure quality. But in our culture, we have this question about this. For some people, it comes up as the doctrine of original sin. Many people are told directly, and others of us pick it up indirectly, because it's so much a part of Judeo-Christian culture, the whole notion of original sin, that you are actually born tainted. And this is a theological debate, of course, among different schools of,


say, rabbinical schools and Christian theologies. And some of us have this matter of shame delivered as, let's say, a parental reprimand. Some people are told, you know, you're no good in various ways. Ways that actually cut right to the heart of the person feeling that there's something fundamentally wrong with me. So this is a layer of shame that doesn't relate exactly to some misdeed, but it relates to something more essential.


And it is a kind of a barrier to having confidence in true nature. So when you're sitting, you may come to this barrier. You may come to the barrier of your own, the way you have absorbed and taken on the beliefs, various beliefs, of shame. And how to confess something that you have never done. Well, it's not a matter of confession. This goes beyond something that you can actually take some action and correct. So this goes back to Nanchuan's response saying, if you try to direct yourself toward it, you betray your own life. If you try to do something to change one iota of your being,


you're betraying that iota of your being. So this is the point where you really can enter what Dogen calls Jiju-yo-samadhi, self-receiving, self-fulfilling samadhi. The profound experience of being willing to be present with everything just as it is. If there was some fault to confess, you can freely confess it. No more problem with that. You have, you notice desires that you may wish for something. You may notice a tendency to regret something.


You may have to completely face all the limitations of your body and mind. Everyone's body and mind is a little different. People often go through some periods of time of wishing they were a little different. Siblings sometimes are jealous of some quality another sibling has. Someone else is stronger, someone else is smarter, someone else is more intelligent. Someone else is more beautiful. So all that comparative thinking has to drop off for you to enter the place that Nanchuan is suggesting to Zhaozhou. To direct yourself toward the Tao is to betray your own life.


When Zhaozhou hears this, he's still not so content. He says, well then, if I don't direct myself, how do I know? How do I know? How do I know that this is the way? How do I know this is the Tao? How do I know I'm on the path? So Nanchuan gives him a longer answer saying that the Tao is not subject to your knowing it. You can't grasp it. The Tao is not subject to your knowing it. So knowing it, if you think you know it, that's delusion. But if you avoid knowing it, that's a kind of blankness, kind of dullness.


So there is experience that he says of boundlessness, that when you actually are in tune with the Tao, then you experience its boundlessness. We may have some picture of something very wide and spacious, but actually in your practice, you may discover that the space is just a little bit more than that. A little bit of, say, relief. Feeling the pain and seeing that your reaction to the pain is a barrier. Just seeing that, not trying to change it. That seeing is spaciousness. So Nanchuan says this can't be discussed in comparative terms.


He says it can't be, it's not a matter of affirmation or negation. So there he's saying this is not a matter of comparative thinking. It's not a matter of whether you are knowing the Tao or not knowing the Tao. Same thing as Suzuki Roshi is saying. Your pure practice, in a way, it's guaranteed. He said you can't lose. Someone the other day asked, can you waste your life? All the struggle to actually accomplish your life.


That struggle itself may be misguided. But at the same time, it is all the Tao. It is all the path. It is all the absolute perfection of your life. And the more you cultivate awareness, the more you realize that all you can do is be sincere. So you can be sincere in sitting still, and you can be sincere in changing your posture. Moment by moment, you have choice and you have no choice. And when we were studying the Tenzo Kyokan, we found Dogen saying,


you are turned by things and you turn things. So as you sit and you refine your awareness, you notice that you have a chance to very carefully not add anything extra. And when you notice you've already added something extra, you completely accept it. You completely accept it because not to accept it is to add something extra. Moment by moment, seeing what's extra, accepting it as given. Everything that has happened in your life is present now and must be completely accepted. This is the moment where your life turns.


Please, wake up to it. Thank you for listening.