Treasury of Light

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Sesshin Lecture: light can't be seen - only reflections off objects; Koun Ejo's Treasury of Light Samadhi; myth of Phaeton and Helios - driving the sun chariot; Yunmen: What is everyone's light? The zendo, the kitchen; not believing anything we think

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Daigong-san asked if I would give the talk today, and I said, Oh, why don't you do it? He said, I don't have anything else to say. And I kind of smiled inside, understanding what he meant and knowing that he would probably say many more things in the future anyway. And though, as I said the other night, the Buddha's speech mudra is, nothing needs to be said, but in that spirit, speech can happen.


On the fifth day of sushin, maybe nobody needs any more special zazen instruction. It's beyond that point. And I know that usually by the fifth day of sushin, I feel like anything anybody says is, I'm happy to hear. It doesn't matter so much. So, in the spirit of not talking about anything, I thought, speaking about light, because light is not really anything.


Light can't be seen, actually. And on closer inspection, objects actually can't be seen either. Only the reflection of light off of objects can be seen. Thank you. Koun Ejo Zenji, Dogen Zenji's main disciple, wrote an ode to the light called The Treasury of Light Samadhi, Koun Ejo Zamae.


He says, the zazen of our school is absorption in the treasury of light, or the treasury of light samadhi, handed down from burning lamp, Dipankara and Shakyamuni Buddha. Dipankara is the 24th generation previous Buddha before Buddha. We say Shakyamuni Buddha was not the first Buddha, and Dipankara was the first that we have the name of, who lived a hundred thousand eons ago. We still have his name, though. And his name is the Burning Lamp Buddha, Dipankara. And he was the one who gave Shakyamuni Buddha his prediction of enlightenment,


being filled with light. And Shakyamuni Buddha told this story of his prediction in a previous lifetime, way, way, way back from Dipankara Buddha. And then the Buddha just before Shakyamuni Buddha, one eon previously, was Kasshapa Buddha, Kassho Butsu. And his name means light drinker, drinker of light. So something about the light was shining through all those eons of previous Buddhas. And then the light was transmitted from Shakyamuni Buddha up to us.


. And what is this light . that can't be seen, . but without it we can't get through the world. Lisa referred the other day to the myth of Icarus, who with wax wings tried to


fly up and touch the sun, but as he got closer the wings melted and he fell, trying to touch the light. And there's another Greek myth of Phaeton and Helios that is very similar to the story in the Lotus Sutra about the lost son who is really the child of a king and can't understand that, can't believe it. And a wonderful story that I won't tell today, but it's in Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra. And maybe deriving from this more ancient Greek story,


Phaeton was the son of Helios. Helios is the sun god. And the friends of Phaeton would tease him, saying, you couldn't be the son of a god. I guess they had heard rumors that he was the son of a god. And Phaeton had been told by his mother that he is the son of the sun god. But because of his friends teasing him and saying he couldn't be, he started to doubt that. And he would go back to his mother and she would reassure him that indeed he was the son of the great sun god Helios, but he would just doubt it more and more. So eventually his mother said, well, why don't you go actually confirm this with your father himself? Go see Helios up in his celestial palace.


So Phaeton did this. He flew up to this celestial palace above the clouds. And as he approached his father, he couldn't get very close because the brightness was so intense. He was dazzled by the rays emanating from his father's head. His father saw him coming and he was his son, so out of compassion he took off the crown of rays around his head so that his son could approach. And he did confirm to his son that indeed he was his father, the sun god, and out of great love and compassion for his son


he granted him any wish. And this son was exhilarated by this point of being up there and being confirmed as the son of the sun. So that wasn't enough for him. He said, can I please drive your chariot of the sun for one day? This was Helios' job, to drive a chariot of the sun across the sky each day. And his father said, oh, I don't think you should do that. This is really a job for, this is my duty in this world, is to drive the sun across and your job is to be my son.


But it takes a lot of training to drive this chariot and maybe you'd like something else. But of course it was too late and the sun, Helios had said he would grant him any wish so he couldn't go back on his word. So he let Phaeton sit up on the chariot and hold the reins of the horses that took the sun across the sky and he coated him with sunburn cream and the 30 factor or something. But he kind of knew it wouldn't be enough


and he wanted to give him a little bit of instruction about how to drive the chariot but Phaeton was too impatient, he was ready to go. So he hopped up there and started driving across the sky and the horses could tell he was an inexperienced charioteer and they, as horses sometimes do, went kind of out of control and instead of going up across the arc of the sky they started heading down towards the earth and basically the sun was blazing and burning Phaeton and totally out of control. And there was Phaeton with the reins trying to control the great sun itself but without having any idea how. And at this point the other gods could see the disaster coming


that the earth was about to be burnt up by the sun and in fact there's a desert near this area of Greece that the myth goes that this near accident actually caused this desert which was once a fertile green land. But just before the sun hit the earth the gods blasted apart the chariot and Phaeton was blasted apart and that's the end. So the story in the Lotus Sutra has a happier ending. You can read how. I think the gods helped out.


I think they climbed back in the chariot and steered the horses skillfully back into orbit. So if we want to know what this light is, please be careful. And yet for thousands of years after that the sun continued to travel across the sky and everybody can appreciate the sun completely and use the sun and be used by the sun and often take the sun for granted because it's always there. And isn't that enough actually?


To have the room filled with light right now. So appreciating it. Vairochana Buddha, the Dharmakaya Buddha sometimes described as the universe itself is in Japanese, Dai-nichi, Great Sun Buddha. And I think the Sanskrit word means something like universally illuminating light Buddha. This is the Dharmakaya. Shui Fung said to the assembly,


the Buddha's past, present, and future turn the wheel of Dharma in flames of fire. And Master Yun Men said when he heard this saying of Shui Fung, he said, the flames of fire expound the Dharma to the Buddhas. The Buddhas sit there and listen. So the Buddhas are servants of the flames and the light. And the light is what's expounding the Dharma.


So the Buddhas sit there and listen. And maybe they speak too, but really it's the light coming through them. On another occasion, Yun Men said to the assembly, everybody has a light. But when they look for it, they don't see it. It's obscure. What is everyone's light? And as usual in these cases, no one had any reply. So Yun Men said on their behalf, the Zen Do, the Buddha Hall, the kitchen, the mountain gate.


What is everyone's light that when they look for it, they don't see it? The Zen Do and the kitchen. Walking through we can see the bells and drums. Due to the light reflecting off them. Surrounded by light, permeated by light.


And each person seeing the bells and drums a little bit differently because each one has his or her own light. And yet it's not a matter of just one's personal light because we can say, would you ring the bell? And someone else can go over to what we refer to as the bell and ring it. But when we look for


what the word bell refers to, looking more closely, we see that the word doesn't stick to anything that's really called a bell. Words just slide off the light. Even the word light doesn't come anywhere near


what it refers to. It's a very clumsy way of describing the indescribable. In his ode to light, Ejo says, this is the light of the one vehicle in which ordinary and holy are non-dual. It neither lets anything inside out nor lets anything outside in.


Outside the light there's no other practice, no different teaching, much less any object of knowledge. In this light, nothing can be discriminated into ordinary or holy or anything else. And the light is strict in the sense that it doesn't let anything inside of it out and it doesn't let anything outside it in. And no pleading with it will convince it to give in.


Though it has no borders, it has no inside or outside. So if we say this Sashin is holy, the word does not apply to the light of the Sashin. And if we say it's ordinary, it's just a Sashin.


It's just contrived human activity that doesn't apply at all to the light of the Sashin. Anything, anything I'm saying now doesn't apply to anything that I'm really talking about. Not even slightly. Which maybe is why Daigon said he has nothing else to say. But we can play with words as long as we don't believe them.


If we have the slightest belief that this Sashin is either ordinary or holy, we won't be able to enjoy the Sashin anymore. I say even if we think it's holy, we won't really thoroughly enjoy it. Because then, when the server trips and spills the food everywhere, we'd be very upset. Some of the priests have an assignment this week


to put into words how we practice meditation on suchness. And at first response, we might get frightened by that assignment because the word suchness has a kind of holy meaning. And we might be afraid of having an ordinary response. But what if we don't


believe the words of the assignment or of the answer, but we play with words? This is the realm of poetry. Not believing in anything that we say or think. What would it be like for the next few days to not believe anything we think? This is different from not thinking anything. But really not believing it. And that doesn't mean that everything is nonsense


and that it doesn't matter what we do. We're so conditioned, so we're going to keep doing what we do and responding appropriately to situations moment by moment. But what if we didn't really believe any of it? Didn't believe that the thoughts actually apply to what's happening, apply to the light? What if we're just servants to the light and we let our thoughts be servants to the light? Ko Un Edjo goes on to say,


Reciting scriptures, bowing every single step of the feet, all are manifestations of the great function of the light. So this is the other side of not disparaging thought and the conventional world, but completely respecting and living fully within the magical display of the light. We could say the Sashin is the light or we could say the Sashin is a manifestation of the great function of the light.


Two sides. The light of the Sashin we can't see and we'll never see and if we try to see we will be blasted apart by all the gods. But the manifestation of the great function of the light we can dance in that. And though we can't see the light, we can trust the light. That's a challenge, to trust something completely that we can't see, can't perceive, can't know. But it's not blind trust or blind faith either.


Where does this trust arise? Not believing anything we think and yet completely honoring every thought. Because every thought, no matter how karmically ensnarled and disturbed and painful is a manifestation of the great function of the light. How much can we trust that? So obviously it's not a matter of doing anything particular.


Let the light of the assembly speak, if you will. Yes? It takes a lot of training to do this, Chairman. Thank you very much. I'm not steering the chair yet. No? Okay. Is it the light that you are, the light that you see by? Is that Meister Eckhart, maybe? Is it something like that? I think it's someone else. Did I die? Maybe. Maybe I heard it too, but I can't remember. The light that I am is the light that I see by, and the light that I see by is the light that I am.


Sounds like... Is the light that I see by the light that I am, and the light that I am the light that I see by? Is that what you're talking about? Neither inside nor outside. So we say, turn the light around and shine back, and there's a kind of Taoist, Buddhist text called Secret of the Golden Flower, people might know, that's basically all about turning the light around, and one thing that's said in there is that turning the light around is not turning around the light, one's own individual light, but turning around the light of all creation,


turning around the vast light and shining back. And then this inner light is not other than the light that fills the room inconceivably. Yes? What's the relationship between the light, the dark side, and the invisible reality? All the same thing, but that's too short an answer probably for you. What?


All the same thing, my dear. What's that? All the better to see you with. Sounds like we're making light of the subject. What's that? Making light of the luminous feather one. Yes? Yes? Yeah, and I think the way that it works between us all


is inconceivable because it is dependent co-arising which can't be seen. It's the way that the whole universe is working together interdependently, completely affecting everything else. It's the totality of everything, Egeo says. And yet to any idea about how the universe works together inconceivably and to say that dependent co-arising is when this arises, that comes to be, those words just darken the light a bit.


So if dependent co-arising is completely free of anything we can say about it, that any words would just slide off of it, is that ungraspability of the interdependent mutually supportive universe, is the ungraspability of it, is that what suchness is? To say that suchness would be the interdependent, interworking gear wheels of the universe would be too limited, but the ungraspability of it, so to say the ungraspable


interdependent universe is suchness, I would say is a little bit off, whereas to say the ungraspability of the universe is something closer to what we mean by ta ta ta suchness, I would say at this time. So meditation on suchness may be something like opening to the ungraspability of the light, which is kind of the other direction from trying to touch the light in some way. Yes? When you were just saying that, using the word of, the ungraspability of, as though they're an object, and then there's the subject and thought, so I was wondering how one might say anything


about the ungraspability of the grasper. The ability to grasp also is not really present. No grasping, no graspables, nothing's happening. I mean, it's not at all present. So the language is very tricky. Yeah, well, to say ungraspability of the light makes the light seem like an object. As though there's a grasper who just can't get a hold of it. And then you've got this concept of self-converting. What if we just say ungraspability, period? Does that imply a subject and object? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think it's true that when we say of,


then the inconceivable universe is immediately polarized and split in infinite ways. It's almost like just that one word, of, and like a thousand-mile brick wall immediately shoots up from the ground across the world. Yeah. It's nothing to do with light, but... Well, nothing does. Two days of sitting, removing sign, not moving, still tired. Can you say that again? Can you say it louder? There is nothing to do with the light.


Two days of sitting, removing sign, not moving, still tired. There is a sign on the heart. Moved out, empty, open house. Yeah. Does the room seem lighter? Or is it my imagination? Yes. Just wondering if you can say the relationship is between the light and the heart and love. Mm-hmm. Well, again, the easy answer would be the same thing. But... I think that


opening to the inconceivable light, trusting that light, is, at the same time, the opening that is love and compassion. It's the same opening. But to say that, oh, what the light is, I know that it's love, that would be maybe darkening the light zone, too. But the practice, if we could say it's a practice of opening, whatever that is, is the same practice.


Yes. You were talking about light. It seems like there's maybe a couple different kinds of light. Because you were talking about objects and how... It seems like one type of light is kind of such. And then another type of light is this thing you might learn about in physics. Or something. And I was wondering, and you said we can't see this physical light, so is it that when light arises in a matter or object, is that when we can see light, or we can't see either, or what are we seeing? When light arises with objects? Because I guess, if there's no light, you can't see anything. If there's no object, you can't see anything either. Maybe that's not correct.


Well... Yeah. So we could say that the physics, physical light that can't be seen is a metaphor for the spiritual light that can't be seen. But maybe, I don't know enough about the physics to go into the realm of saying because we can't see either one of them, that they're not different. That the realm of the inconceivable is simply the realm of the inconceivable may not be accurate. But again, this is the realm where it's playing with words. None of this is actually accurate at all. Please don't believe any of it. Thank you.


There's an inconceivable dependent co-arising and then, based on that, we name it something and then we can see it as an object. So there aren't actually objects in dependent co-arising until our perception labels them with a name. It might even be a pre-verbal name, but like objectifies them and sees them outside ourself. So then they're an object and we're a subject. And that's the realm of delusion and that's the cause of all distress


and the cause of all lack of love, you could say, is actually this delusion that there are objects. It's necessary. Hm? Isn't it necessary? It's necessary to eat breakfast. To build a zendo. To build a zendo and many, everything. It's necessary for everything. So that's why, without disparaging it, without trying to stop thinking, we can't stop thinking and if we could, we couldn't function. So just not believing, not believing, not taking it quite so seriously. I'll be another way to put it. Just, if we're really getting upset about something,


see if we're like taking what we think very seriously. Too seriously, maybe. And then, or see if we're not taking it seriously enough and we're just like, feel like, ah, you know, anything, whatever. And then we don't really feel engaged or alive either, maybe. just just enjoying the manifestation of the great function of life in the form of thought. Yes? I appreciate you bringing up the theory of how the concept of the name of life that we can see in the form of thought.


And Diane said something about the universe, the other day, and there's been this thought or image or imagination running through the last couple of days wondering what is the sun that what is the sun's shadow and how far up does it fall and what is the energy that it's following? Does it just keep falling and falling and falling and falling? And like that. And what keeps the stars in their place in vast, empty space?


Because if it fell, it wouldn't be gravity pulling it any direction. yeah, at this point in Sashin, I often find it enjoyable to look at the stars at night and and just gawk at the miracle of the universe. And also, this is also good medicine for when like when our body's really hurting and and our problems seem so serious to remember the the physics, right, of the how the planets go around the sun like that orbit kind of thing and how, and then the sun is like this little bit of the Milky Way.


I think there might be part of that that myth of Phaeton is when he was exploded, his body became the Milky Way. So it's like this puny little Sashin is like, you know, in vast time is like so much less than nothing. You know, when are the planets going to go out of orbit? Much less the sun fall from the sky. And then at that time, we will look back on this Sashin and think, wow. Wow. Yeah, the the miracle of the light.


Wow. There's more miracle to experience. So we can go back to sitting. I think at this point also it's it's, if we've been trying to do some practice or something, it's like I would encourage us to these last few days just experience the miracle of being alive and forget everything else. Maybe it's come to that point anyway. Nothing else works. I think with the sun falling off, I feel like the sun is falling.


We are falling right here in this vast Sashin right along with it. I don't, I mean, there's this other in the vast Sashin, in the vast Yeah, yeah. At the same time as it's Yeah, yeah. The sun's falling, so be careful. It's hot. So I just wanted to read just to close the kind of end of this kind of long essay of Ko Un Ae Jo, Absorption in the Treasury of Light. Just for fun. He talks about the light in many ways and then this is kind of like he gets, this is his kind of I feel inspired conclusion.


I humbly say to comrades who are true aspirants, don't hold on to a single state or device. Don't rely on intellectual understanding. Don't keep what you've learned in meditation. Cast your body and mind into the great treasury of light and never look back. Don't seek enlightenment. Don't try to get rid of delusion. Don't be averse to thoughts arising. Don't fondly continue thoughts. Just sit. If you don't continue thoughts, they cannot arise by themselves. Just be like space, like a mass of fire. Just breathe naturally in and out and sit through everything without getting involved. Even if 84,000 random thoughts arise and vanish, if one doesn't get involved with them


and thoroughly releases them, each thought will be the light of the spiritual power of wisdom. This doesn't apply only to sitting. Each step is the walking of light. Each step not engaging in subjective thinking. 24 hours a day, being like someone who has utterly died, there is no view of self and no false discrimination at all. Nevertheless, the breath goes out and in and the nature of hearing and feeling, being without thinking or discrimination, body and mind are one suchness in the unified light silently shining. Therefore, one responds when called. This is the light of one suchness of ordinary and holy, delusion and enlightenment. Though it is within activity, it is not hindered by activity. Forests, flowers, grasses and leaves,


people and animals, large and small, long and short, square and round, all manifest at once without any conscious discrimination or will. This is the proof that the light is not obstructed by activity. The empty luminosity shines by itself without exerting mental energy. Without exerting mental energy. This light fundamentally has no abode. Though Buddhas appear in the world, it does not appear in the world. Though Buddhas enter nirvana, it does not enter nirvana. When you are born, the light isn't born. And when you die, the light doesn't disappear. It is not more in Buddhas nor less in sentient beings. It is not diluted when you're diluted. It does not become enlightened when you awaken.


It has no location, no sign or name. It is the totality of everything. It cannot be grasped or abandoned or attained. While unattainable, it is in effect throughout the entire being. From the highest heaven to the lowest hell, it is just thus, complete and clear, the wondrously inconceivable spiritual light. VE-AH-RIN-DEM-CHU