Sunday Lecture

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For those of you who don't know me, my name is Steve Stuckey. I used to live here at Green Gulch, and that was from 72 to 79. Lately, I've been living over the hill in Mill Valley. So it's always a pleasure for me to come back, kind of like to my Zen grammar school. One of the things I've been working on lately is meeting with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Chapter of Marin County. And we were planning to do a day of mindfulness out here at Green Gulch in October, dedicated

[01:09]

to the idea of making peace with our families, partly the notion of cultivating gratitude toward the families we had as children, and partly with the idea of being creative about bringing peace to the families we find ourselves in now, or the families we're in the process of creating as parents. One simple thing is, at mealtime at my house, we do a simple grace. We chant like this, we venerate the three treasures and give thanks for our food, the

[02:18]

work of many people, and the suffering of all forms of life. So my children have gotten used to doing this. Once someone asked, well, what are the three treasures? And the three treasures, of course, refer to the Buddha, the Awakening One, the Awakened One within us, the Dharma, which is reality, or the teaching of reality, and Sangha, the community of people who are practicing the Way. And in a wider sense, Sangha is totally inclusive, because our bodhisattva vow includes all beings.

[03:19]

Our Sangha includes all people and all rocks and trees, the furthest galaxies, even black holes. So wherever you find yourself, you can consider yourself in the center of the Sangha. Some friends of mine, also with younger children, they weren't satisfied with this formal verse, so they created a little song, which, this is an experiment, and of course, we need to be finding ways to express ourselves and teach each other and remind each other of our practice. So I'm going to try singing this with my dry throat.

[04:21]

This is Larry and Louis Sheridan's effort. Thanks to our teachers, family, and friends for growing food in the garden. Hard work and labor brought us this meal to taste and enjoy with awareness. Living with an open mind, this is the way. Harmony with people each moment of the day. Bowing to each other as Buddhas do. Smile at me, I'll smile at you. This is public domain now, so you can do with it what you will.

[05:29]

If anyone would like to try this, you could see me afterwards, maybe. I think there's, is there an operating Xerox machine here? We could do a few copies, and then you can write your own and prove on this or whatever. In a hundred years from now, we'll see what has lasted. Another thing that's happening this weekend is the conference of women in Buddhist practice. I noticed there are a number of women missing here today. Some of them are over at Lone Mountain in San Francisco. And they've been meeting there for several days. So this is an interesting moment in the development of the Buddhist experiment historically. That we have a situation where due to the cultures that Buddhism has been transmitted within,

[06:40]

virtually all the expression of the Dharma has been by men. Virtually all the articulation. There have always been women practitioners. And there are a number of stories about the practice of women and expressions of women's practice. But by and large, men have been talking about the Dharma and writing it down and passing it on. So it'll be interesting to see how this shifts with the voices of women. It's already been happening. But I think we'll see a great deal more of it. And it will open a new petal of the lotus. Or a new branch on the tree.

[07:42]

Or maybe put a slightly different wave to the leaves of the tree of expressing Buddhism. And I think what's wonderful about it is that the American women have found that there's something really fundamentally workable and true and helpful in Buddhism. In the Dharma and in the practices of meditation. And have been drawn to that. And at the same time have been frustrated by not having maybe an expression that really fits the personalities and psychology of being a woman. I have a personal bias in this regard because as I look at my own family,

[08:46]

I grew up in a Swiss Mennonite patriarchal household. My father had the authority and my mother had the insight. So it was very frustrating to me growing up in the household to see that my mother understood some things, had some insight, some wisdom that never could really find a mature expression. And I see the consequences of that, the karma of that being played out in myself and my siblings. And what I want to talk about for the main body of the lecture has to do with fully recognizing the situation we're in.

[09:49]

So from the 9th century, this story comes from Tungshan in Japanese, Tozan. Tungshan means cave mountain. So his name came from the mountain named for the cave. Probably a cave where people said Zazen. And one day, a monk student came to Tungshan and said, How can I avoid hot and cold? And he replied, Why don't you go to a place where there is no hot and cold? And the monk asked again, Where is such a place where there is no hot and cold?

[10:53]

And Tungshan said, When it's hot, you swelter to death. When it's cold, you freeze to death. End of story. So how do you avoid hot and cold? I can't help suggesting that you move to California. Simplest level, you have hot and cold to deal with. You have some uncomfortable experience. We have a range of tolerance. As human beings, that's just part of our makeup.

[11:57]

We get to the threshold of pain, either too hot, too cold, and we begin to feel pain. We begin to resent our life. I don't know whether the monk was just talking about being hot or cold, or whether he had the great question of Buddha in mind, which would be extending this to all forms of suffering. How can we be free from all forms of suffering? And how can all beings be free from all forms of suffering? So Tungshan says, Well, go where there's no suffering. When people were cold in the Zendo Atasahara, Suzuki Roshi once said,

[13:02]

Well, why don't you just adjust your body? So there are yogic practices to adjust your body. He developed some skill, actually, in taking care of hot and cold in a very, very practical, physical way. But what about his statement, When it's hot, you swelter to death. When it's cold, you freeze to death. One commentary says, When you hear the bird song, you hear the bird song to death.

[14:08]

So we have a tendency to want to avoid death, avoid the death of heat, the death of cold, the death of pleasure. Too much, it can be too much, too intense. So let me give a very simple example. This past week, my son and I were putting in a redwood header board between an edge of a lawn and a planting bed. And we're working on, so the board sits on edge, and it's staked into the ground in a trench, and then you fill back to the board.

[15:17]

But we had a problem that when we pushed down one end of the board, the other end would come up. Now, we could pretend that that didn't happen. Right? Let's go ahead and stake this end of the board into the ground. And then we could even force the other end into the ground, and maybe it would hold until the winter rains come and soften the ground, and then it would spring back up again. That kind of thing, if we do it in our life, is avoidance. We don't recognize the consequence of what we're doing at one end. We think this is the only end. I just read that the United States is producing 60% of the world's garbage. And Western Europe is really doing a fair share of that as well.

[16:27]

And there are companies who are setting up contracts to ship garbage to third-world countries. There's just been a big deal to send Western European and English trash to Spanish Guinea on the coast of Africa. A lot of it's actually radioactive waste and toxic waste. So we seem to think that we only have to take care of our end and push the objectionable, hot, cold, garbage, pain to the other end. It's like we're sitting on a seesaw, and we only believe there's one end of the seesaw. We want to keep it up, keep our end up. And we're accumulating some baggage down on the other end. This is karma, and it's immediate.

[17:31]

We tend to think of karma as something that happens later. Now, it may be that we only become aware of it later. It may be, but the karma is instantaneous. So, becoming fixed on one end of the seesaw, it's also like foreground-background. If you're only aware of what's in the foreground, and you deny what's in the background. Now, a lot of this is happening at all levels of our life and experience. Part of it is what is happening, as I mentioned earlier, with the women's movement. Or with where, for some thousands of years,

[18:33]

there's been the male end has been up in certain ways of the seesaw. So, the masculine has been representative. And we could almost draw like this is the fulcrum here. We could say this is the surface of consciousness, whether it's social consciousness, or family consciousness, or your own personal individual consciousness. What's up here is recognized, seen, accepted, articulated. What's down here stays submerged. And whenever things kind of float up to the top over here, it causes some problem. We don't want to believe that there's something over there. So, what does this have to do with hot and cold? What does it have to do with how we practice?

[19:36]

With that which we deny, or that which we avoid? When Tungshan said, when you're hot, swelter to death, one way of understanding that is to say, that's what you need to do. You need to be completely hot. When it's hot, don't fight it. Learn the experience. Investigate the experience of being hot. Even sitting here in the Zen Do, it used to be much colder in here. We didn't have a stove. We actually had, this whole wall was open,

[20:38]

because they used to have a stove. George knows. He used to bring the hay right through here. So, when the hay moved out and we started Zen Do in this room, this was open, and the wind would howl through. We had this big sliding door, and it would be swinging and banging back and forth. So, some of us had an opportunity to practice with being cold. And I learned that if I fought it, if I said, oh, this is cold, I can't stand it, I really couldn't stand it. And it was miserable. But if I could let go of taking it so personally, and actually do a practice of seeing, what was the experience itself? What was the experience? I realized there was a whole range of experience

[21:44]

that I had not even noticed before. There were little tinglings. There were little breezes. And it became so interesting that being cold was only a small part of it. So, this is one understanding of what Tung Shan is saying. Freezing to death is you losing yourself, not taking it personally, being completely one with the experience. It's much more subtle. You get the texture of it. You get the smell and taste of it. In momentary doses. Almost manageable doses, you know, just a moment at a time. And you begin to recognize that this situation is workable.

[22:45]

It's not totally inhospitable and forbidding. So you can do this with a physical pain. Now, it may take some training. It may take some time sitting on your cushion before you can bring yourself to investigate that kind of discomfort. But if you don't take that time, then you're running away. You're making a greater division and pushing things down on the bottom of the seesaw. That's called creating karma. And the more karma you create, the more work you have to do to keep your end up. Because the more you do that, the more you create karma like that,

[23:46]

the more you have a kind of a fabricated, phony existence. There's a story about Milarepa, a great Tibetan yogi who had a tremendous amount of suffering that he had to overcome, and a tremendous amount of karma that he had to overcome, because he'd used his training in sorcery to take revenge on people that had wronged his family. And later he felt remorse for all that he'd done in this vengeful activity

[24:48]

and began practicing very hard under the tutelage of Marpa, who was a very good teacher, a very wise teacher. Milarepa, after he was quite well-trained, quite far along in the path, and was actually enjoying his life again, one day came back to his cave and found right around his little cave where he lived and meditated, he had a little campfire, a cooking pot. That was his hearth, his kitchen, his living room. He came back, and there sitting around around his campfire and his cooking pot were a bunch of demons. And Milarepa

[25:57]

at that point was able to enter the cave with his demons, and he recognized that these were his demons. Most of us, I think, would have run out of the cave, let the demons have it, think they were somebody else's demons. Where did they come from? So he sat down with them, and I'm not sure about the conversation that happened. I'm not sure exactly how it went. But from my own experience with demons, I think it went something like this. He said hello, and they did their stuff, shrieked at him, kind of got right around behind in his mind and started yakking at him,

[26:59]

told him he was no good. He named them and greeted them one by one, and then said, okay, you can go anytime. And then the demons left. But the demons wouldn't leave until he had greeted them and named them and indicated that it didn't really matter to him that they were there being demons, except that he really had other things to do now. So he didn't get caught with the excitement and fun of keeping the demons around and inviting them back the next day.

[28:04]

So that's a kind of a maturity of practice where you can entertain a host of demons. One cautionary note, he didn't invite them. So there's really no virtue in conjuring up demons. But I think if you pay attention, you will find that there are demons enough. And when you're receptive, sometimes demons will appear. Generally we say, don't make too big a deal out of it. Just continue your cultivation of the path. Now I think the most relevant practice

[29:21]

to the problem of avoidance and denial, whether it be hot or cold, or dealing with demons, or dealing with the fact that in your work situation or in your family situation, there's some problem that isn't being recognized, there's some child that's being left in the closet, there's some person who never gets heard, or there's some issue that nobody wants to talk about. I think the first of the seven factors of mindfulness, the first is fundamental, which is the seven factors of enlightenment, which are really like the stream which cleanses us in our practice. The seven factors are mindfulness,

[30:23]

investigation of states, investigation of phenomena, effort, or energy, joy, concentration, tranquility, and equanimity. Mindfulness means coming to the present moment, bringing some awareness to the present moment, noticing what you experience, not exaggerating it, not denying it. Investigation of states is, I think, really the area that's really of cultivation for facing hot and cold.

[31:26]

This means that you are the investigator. You are the consciousness that has to find out what's going on. It's not second-hand information from somebody else. You have to be calm enough and have your mind stabilized enough that you can actually watch, observe. As Suzuki Roshi said, give your cow and horse a wide pasture. Give them room, but don't ignore them. Observe carefully. So investigating what's going on is in itself a step on the path to awakening. Investigating, that means fully experiencing

[32:36]

the hot, fully experiencing the birdsong, fully experiencing when your friend tells you you're terrific. Don't deny it. ... [...]

[33:36]

So we all come to practice with a great deal of suffering, a great deal of karma, history, and it's only if we stop and listen carefully that we can stop that stream of karma and create some new possibility for ourselves and for our whole culture, our children. So, thank you for coming today and please remember to take time to stop. ...

[34:38]

... ... ...

[34:41]