Sunday Lecture

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You You You Well this morning my topic is


The second case of the moon one con the gateless barrier Which is the title of the case is Shaka Joe's Fox And this morning I'm using the Japanese readings of the Chinese names of these teachers involved In case number two Shaka Joe's Fox Once when Shaka Joe delivered some Zen lectures an old man attended them unseen by the monks At the end of each talk when the monks left so did he but one day he remained after they had gone and Shaka Joe asked him who are you? The old man replied I am NOT a human being But I was a human being when Kashapa Buddha preached in this world I Was a Zen master and I was abbot of this mountain


At that time one of my students asked me whether the enlightened person is subject to the law of causation I Answered him the enlightened person is not subject to the law of causation For this answer I became a fox for 500 rebirths And I am still a fox Will you save me from this condition with your Zen words and let me get out of this fox's body Now I ask you is the enlightened person subject to the law of causation and Shaka Joe answered the enlightened person is one with the law of causation At the words of Shaka Joe the old man was enlightened I Am emancipated he said Paying homage with a deep bow. I


Am no more a fox But I have to leave my fox body in my dwelling place behind this mountain please perform a Funeral ceremony for that body as if it were a monk and then he disappeared The next day Hyakujo gave an order through the chief monk to prepare for the funeral of a monk No one was sick in the infirmary One of the monks what does our teacher mean? After dinner Hyakujo led the monks out and around the mountain in a cave With his staff he poked out the corpse of an old fox and then performed the ceremony of cremation That evening Hyakujo gave a talk to the monks and told this story Obaku upon hearing it


asked Hyakujo I understand That a long time ago because a certain person gave a wrong Zen answer. He became a fox for 500 rebirths Now I want to ask suppose the old man had given the right answer What would have become of him Hyakujo said Come here closer, and I will tell you Obaku went near Hyakujo and slapped the teacher's face Hyakujo clapped his hands and laughed at the discernment I thought the barbarian had a red beard he said and now I know a red bearded barbarian That is our case for this morning The


Master Mumon's comment on this story goes like this As always his comments are brief and to the point The enlightened person is not subject to causation How can this answer make the monk a fox The enlightened person is one with causation how can this answer make the Fox emancipated To understand clearly one has to have just one eye if so You will appreciate how Hyakujo lived 500 Fox lives as lives of grace And Mumon's poem on the case goes like this subject or not subject The same dice shows two faces Not subject or subject both are a grievous error


So this I can tell that some of you have never heard this story before But actually It's one of the most famous of all Zen koan and it's been told and told and retold and discussed Thousands and thousands of times over the generations and it turns on the dialectic if this is the right word Between the two aspects or functions of our lives the relative and the absolute Or The phenomenal and the essential as Yamada koan Roshi calls it in his commentary to this case form and emptiness as The Heart Sutra teaches it difference and unity in the language of the Sando Kai In other words in simple terms Each one of us is an ordinary person


with an ordinary outlook with our quirks and our foolishness our brilliance and our dullness our Loving and our hating our likes and our dislikes our hopes and our fears Everybody without exception is like this because all of us are karmic beings limited particular created beings so our perspective is necessarily always a little off and Our action is always a little skewed in one direction or another On the other hand We are all also Buddha Everyone's sitting here without exception even if you never heard of Buddhism till this morning All of us here are Buddhists all of us here are also Perfect All of us are also because we are animated by consciousness


Because we all breathe the breath of life we are all also absolute beings So you and I are Buddha and not Buddha and that's our human dilemma How are we going to live out this problem in Peace and harmony instead of suffering and confusion That's the question In our everyday life There's only the relative Who goes around all day or even part of any day and thinks about being Buddha? Hardly anyone except maybe a few people who are mentally imbalanced Mostly we're thinking about What kind of a new car we should buy and how much money we have to pay for it


And whether or not our boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife really loves us And if they really did love us, how come they don't respect us the way we know they should In other words, we're all trying to get through the day and that's hard enough No one really has the time or the psychic space to think about much more than just this And even if we did take the time to stop and think about our inmost desires our deepest hopes Even they probably wouldn't take us all the way as far as Buddha Maybe heaven But usually not Buddha So that's ordinary life A struggle to get what we want And to stay as far away as we possibly can from what we don't want


Now in religious practice, it's just the opposite of this In religious practice, we're supposed to transcend our ordinariness and become really good Maybe we're supposed to imitate Jesus or have a perfect love for God If we're Zen students, then we are encouraged to do Zazen with Buddha's mind To throw away our relative life and just enter the absolute completely Actually, usually Zen students like this idea very much. The absolute is very sexy actually people really like this idea of religious experience profound Realization of oneness and so forth sitting long hours to realize this. This is pretty good. People like this somehow to go beyond our human limitation and Float in the ozone of Nirvana. This is really good


So religious practice is quite idealistic in this way And And for sure in Zen practice the absolute is definitely emphasized Because you can't really have spiritual practice without emphasizing the absolute Real spiritual practice can't be a self-improvement course Even if we might improve slightly As a result of our practice that can't be the point that can't be the motivation of our practice the point of all spiritual practice has to be To touch the absolute with our whole body To be confronted bodily with the absolute So Zen like any other


Religious path is like that But also in Zen practice it is very clear That the absolute alone isn't enough either In the tradition they call longing for the absolute alone as a relief from our relative woes They call that Hanging around in the cave of emptiness They call it the Zen sickness the Zen disease So we sit around a lot in our practice Sometimes weeks at a time nothing, but sitting sitting sitting and breathing But then always we get up And our practice is both of these things sitting down and getting up There isn't any absolute in the sky


Floating pure above the world in the heavenly realms There isn't any heaven there's only actual experience and And So the absolute in all its profundity only appears in The form of the relative it can't appear any other way The limitless sky of nirvana only appears as you and I and what we're having for breakfast That's why when Zhaozhou is asked in another famous story, what is enlightenment He says to the monk. Have you had your breakfast yet? And the monk says yes And Zhaozhou says then please wash out your bowls That's real enlightenment at least as we understand it in our tradition relative and absolute


Together integrated merged So this is the trick of Our practice to be ourselves just as we are Just as our karma has shaped us And at the same time to know that we are really Buddha and to actually allow ourselves to be Buddha To allow that side of our manifest to allow that side of our lives to manifest also at the same time Not some Sutra book Buddha Superimposed over the normal everyday poor me But Buddha as ourself Because there isn't any other Buddha besides Buddha as ourself


So that's what this case is all about in its colorful way Adopting Chinese folk tale about a fox. That's what this case is talking about The old Hyakujo the old man in the story Was asked the question about karma about ordinariness about the relative world Is the enlightened person still in the relative world or not? Of course the classical answer to this question The answer given in the sutras is no the enlightened person is free of the relative world just as he said a Buddha is beyond all that That is the right answer Buddha is not subject to entangling karma


That's what makes a Buddha a Buddha a Buddha is free of all that But uh-oh seems like that wasn't the right answer after all And the poor old guy slogs through 500 lives as a fox and finally he comes around to return to the mountain where he seen of the crime and To ask the present Hyakujo or the present monk who is now abbot of Hyakujo Mountain To see if he can come up with a better answer than the one that got him in trouble in the first place And this monk now gives the opposite answer the enlightened person is one with causality The enlightened person embraces the relative He doesn't escape it So now the old monk is saved So that must be the right answer, right?


Well, maybe not Do you believe in past lives? If you don't then what happens to you after you die Where are you going to go after that? And if you think you just disappear and there's no more Did you ever think what does that actually mean? According to the laws of physics nothing whatsoever disappears it only transforms But what about consciousness? What is consciousness exactly anyway? And where does consciousness go After you die and come to think of it. Where was it before you were born and


How did it get inside of you if it is inside of you? Well, I don't know the answer to these questions and I have the feeling that no one else does either To me it even seems An odd idea to even think that someone would know the answer to something like that It just doesn't seem to be that kind of thing does it the kind of thing that someone would know the answer to So you might think it's pretty fruitless to even talk about or think about such stuff And probably you would be right if you thought that And yet Consciousness is our life every moment even when we're sleeping And isn't it strange


That even though that's the case no one knows what consciousness is and No one even has any idea how to go about figuring it out. No one has yet designed an experiment That could figure it out In Buddhism including in Zen This law of karma, this law of causality is very very important In a way it can seem complicated, but in a way it's actually pretty simple The easiest way in the sutras of explaining causality is the phrase if this then that in other words If you do something there will be a consequence from it for sure You can't tell exactly what or when


This consequence will arrive because there are so many many causal factors in the world interacting with each other But one thing is really and surely and definitely so That good actions will have good results and bad actions will have bad results You may not believe this is true, but I really believe it and that's because I Have sat on my little black cushion for a very long time and I have gotten to see my own mind In all its tricks and disguises. I have observed my own conduct over time and And so it is very clear to me that good actions lead to good results and bad actions lead to bad results I have seen this In my own mind, and I know it's so And I have faith in it because it's my own experience But somebody might come along and say well, you know what I've done lots of bad actions and


I haven't received any bad results or they might say I've done lots of great actions and all I get is bad results and What about that? To tell you the truth, I don't think that's really ever so I think that's a misperception Even though someone might experience it that way But I would say if someone experiences it that way they haven't examined their own mind carefully enough But still they may sincerely have that experience and Then I would say to them well Yes, it may be that you have done good and received bad results, but wait for your next life. You'll see Lots of good things will come in your next life because of all the good you've done and


If the person believe me They might be motivated to continue doing good actions Figuring that in the next life, they'll get good results In this case apparently the monk had the opposite experience he Did a bad action giving an incorrect answer it would seem on the surface at least But Maybe then the rest of his life. He had a good life as an abbot. Abbots generally have a good life They have a lot of attendance, and they don't have to work too much It's a little meditation give a talk and in those days sometimes just a shout or two and that was all you had to do So he Maybe had a good life and and died happily, but then after that 500 lives as a fox So in the next life he got his just desserts


Now you might hear the story and think well, you know I think it'd be kind of nice to be reborn as a fox I Think that would be a good result not a bad result And that's how I feel I think it might be better to be a fox than a human being actually But that's an extraneous matter I think in the story We're supposed to believe and accept that it's a bad thing To be reborn for 500 lives as a wild fox in China a Wild fox spirit is kind of like a ghost or a goblin or a black cat or something like that It's like a bad omen. You know not a good thing to be reborn as so we just have to Accept that that's the convention On the other hand if you read the story carefully, that's not entirely clear either So


There are these two levels of activity I'm speaking of and the koan speaks of Karma is the relative level In which good leads to good and bad leads to bad But then there's the absolute level nirvana Beyond Good and bad So when the monk is questioned he thinks Since he's an abbot and so on he must be beyond all that and so he answers that way In the new Hyakujo the present abbot says no no one is beyond all that So there isn't any nirvana there isn't any enlightenment It seems as if both of them are right and both of them are wrong Anyway, let's look into this question of bad actions and bad results a little further


In Zen there is no God who gets mad at you if you do something bad Maybe that's the bad thing you had to do But then You're going to have to face up to it because in the end the consequences of that action will manifest one way or the other Sometime or another and you'll have to deal with that There is no escape Maybe you could hide from God and escape God's punishment Maybe at the time you did your bad action God was looking somewhere else Elsewhere and didn't notice or he was busy with other affairs and wasn't paying any attention and you got away with it Who knows? But such a thing is absolutely impossible In the law of causation No matter who's looking or not looking No matter who is merciful or compassionate and not merciful or compassionate


You will certainly Receive the fruit of your action So this means of course you better be careful with how you live You better study What is good and what is bad? and Try to encourage what is good and let go of what is bad because you'll suffer if you don't and You can learn from your mistakes and reduce suffering But you can learn and if you do something bad and there are bad results You can learn from that and maybe That's exactly what you needed to learn. Maybe you needed to do that thing so that you could learn what there is to learn from it Maybe all of this is really not a question of right and wrong or good and bad


But simply Buddha doing What Buddha has to do to get the job done? To evolve toward enlightenment So maybe it might not be bad to have 500 lives as a fox Even if it's bad to have 500 lives as a fox Maybe that 500 lives as a fox was exactly the path You needed to Things happen in our lives And whatever happens it's always workable There's no such thing as that shouldn't have happened If it happened it happened Then you practice with it that's the spirit of this koan It's not a matter of free from karma or not free from karma


Both are just two ways of looking at the same thing two descriptions of one indescribable Phenomenon just as mu man comments The enlightened person is not subject. How can this answer make the monk a fox the enlightened person is at one with? How can this answer make the Fox emancipated to understand clearly one has to have just one eye If so, you will appreciate how he Akujo lived 500 Fox lives as lives of grace And the poem is even more clear Subject or not subject the same dice shows two faces Not subject or subject Both are wrong In other words karma is real and important We all have the capacity and the responsibility to discern what's good and do it


To discern what's bad and avoid it Every moment we have that freedom Every moment we have that choice Every moment whether we accept this or not We are the boss and Every moment is an action point Every moment is a decision point But also every moment is a result the result of past moments When we accept what is as what is And make our best effort with all our heart willing to accept what will come out of it and Knowing that we will work with that whatever it may be Then we are free Fearless Fearless Not free from karma exactly


but free with karma free in karma embraced by an embracing karma then We are human and Buddha At the same time and I mean that literally at the same time in the present moment in the actual depth and connection of the presence of each moment of our living So that's my comment on the main part of the story then a little part at the end Oh Baku comes along and Says suppose the old master had answered correctly. Would he have saved himself the trouble of 500 lives? and before the abbot has a chance to slap Oh Baku because he probably would have done that when he said come a little closer and I'll tell you Oh Baku knew that he was going to do that. So he jumped the gun and slapped him first


So now I would like to say especially now that I'm retired Abbott That we no longer practice the noble practice of slapping Abbott's And that not only that but we don't even slap anybody I'm sure that was a noble practice Worthwhile in its day and There's no use being critical of it But we don't practice that anymore So you should all know that this may be the main point And the point of that little Pantomime is simply to tell us that Oh Baku was quite right and he and the abbot understood the same way


They understood that our life our practice Isn't about being right about something saying the right word Understanding the right way having the right doctrine You read the story and you start pondering what's the right doctrine here, but it's not about that I Always say there's nothing to understand about Zen All the Zen literature is Pretty simple anyway when you get past the exotic Chinese stuff In any way understanding the literature well Unfortunately is no guarantee of anything If you like Zen then you appreciate understanding I do I really appreciate


People who understand the literature and I like to listen to their talks because I'm interested in it. So that's good. I Also listen to sport talk radio Which is less good probably But the point is not understanding something The point is living something How do you live I Don't know about enlightenment It may be as someone Said the other day to me it may be true that our Soto Zen practice is really bad and Somewhere along the line. We forgot how to get enlightened And I really don't know that may be true But you know, I have to admit that whether it's true or not the whole matter is quite unimportant to me I


Was listening to sports talk radio the other day and Someone used the word crux the word crux and see all of a sudden I Sometimes I maybe you who out there who listen to sports talk radio know how that's done It's a kind of subliminal listening. You don't really hear most of it, but the word crux Stuck in my mind You know, we say the crux of the matter What a strange word that is crux, you know crux And I didn't look it up in the dictionary, but I guess a crux is kind of like a cross An intersection a place where two things meet Right there where two things meet is the crux of the matter So even if we did get enlightened Now as we're sitting here


Listening to the talk this nice gentle voice like a lullaby Suppose you did get enlightened right now What about the next moment Does this enlightenment make us immune to the next moment And there isn't any answer That's correct forever. There's only the answer that's correct for now And there isn't any way of living That's correct forever only the way of living that's correct right now The truth is Every moment we are living at the crux Literally living at the place where life and death meet The place where time and timelessness meet


The place where Buddha and you yourself meet nose-to-nose Every moment every moment Even the moment of waiting in a dentist's office Even the moment of being stuck in the traffic jam Even the moment of anger the moment of despair the moment of disappointment the moment of loss every Moment has that density That thickness that weight because every moment is the crux of the matter Do we appreciate this Do we live our lives Knowing that that's so and embracing our experience in that way Do we pay that much attention


Also, I don't know about religion either I Don't know if there is any such thing The point simply is to live the life we are given we are given As fully as possible And with full responsibility for its miraculous and ineffable nature How are we going to do that I Don't know that either, but I know that sitting and breathing helps Also a little bit of teaching helps to remind us of what we're trying to do So I came here this morning just to tell you that a little bit of sitting helps a


Little bit of listening to teaching helps And a whole lot of paying attention in your life helps So Please think about that and think about how important it is to you Whether or not you are living out your life on the crux of the matter It's a wonderful moment this moment right now And now it's gone and it is an unrepeatable moment Thank you Our Intention


Our intention