Which Is The Real Seijo?

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Serial: 
SF-00967
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One-day sitting lecture: when our "soul is split", what is true? Just sitting in the midst of samsara.

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The true mind of faith of the true body of faith. Good morning. So I'd like to share a story with you from the Tang Dynasty. It's a ghost story. And it appears in a case in the Mu Man Khan, case 35, called Sejo and Her Soul Are Separated. This story was suggested to me when I was a student at Tass Sahara one winter many years ago by senior Dharma teacher Mel Weitzman. Once upon a time in the state of Koshu, there lived an old man named Chokhan. Chokhan's wife and other children had died,

[01:00]

but his youngest child, Sejo, who was very lovely, was quite alive and the joy of his heart. Chokhan used to tease Sejo when she was a child and say that her beauty was only matched by her cousin, Ochu, and that someday they must marry. Just about the time that the two cousins realized that they were in love, Chokhan announced his choice of another man as husband for Sejo. The young lovers were heartbroken. Not able to bear seeing Sejo married to another, Ochu left the village that night, setting off in a small boat. He had rowed a fair distance when he noticed someone running along the bank in the moonlight, as if trying to keep up with his boat. At first, he thought it was a ghost, so he rowed faster.

[02:05]

To his great joy, he found that it was Sejo who had followed him, and they decided to travel to a far-off land and make a life together. Many years later, when Sejo had become a mother herself, she realized for the first time how deep a parent's love is for their children. Her conscience began to bother her about the way she had treated her dear father. Her husband, Ochu, also regretted what they had done to Chokhan, and together they agreed to return to their home land to ask for his forgiveness. When they arrived in Koshu, Sejo remained in the boat while Ochu went to apologize to Chokhan and to tell him what had happened. The old man listened, but he didn't seem to understand what Ochu was saying.

[03:10]

Finally, Chokhan asked Ochu, who are you talking about? The young husband replied, your daughter Sejo, of course, believing the old man had become daft. But my daughter never left home, the old man exclaimed. Shortly after you went away, she became ill and was confined to her bed. She hasn't uttered a single word since you left. You are mistaken, Ochu replied. Sejo followed me and we went together to a far-off country. We're married and we have two fine children. She's in excellent health and wants to see you again and ask your forgiveness for running away and marrying without your permission. If you don't believe me, come down to the boat and see for yourself. The old man was reluctant. So Ochu went alone to bring Sejo back to her father's house.

[04:13]

In the meantime, Chokhan went into the bedroom to tell the sick Sejo what had happened. Without a word, the invalid rose from her bed, opened her eyes, and rushed out to meet the approaching Sejo. And as the two embraced, they became one. At the end of telling this story to an assembly of monks, Zen Master Goso asked this question, which one is the true Sejo? When we ask this question each to ourselves, it can become like a small lantern to light a pathway through this mysterious life.

[05:15]

Without lanterns, lanterns of inquiry, lanterns of curiosity, we may never move, we may never learn, and we may never grow up. Like Sejo, frozen in her mindless trance, we may forego our freedom altogether for endless cycles of familiarity. In Buddha's language, this endless cycling is called samsara, samsara. It's the first and second of the Four Noble Truths. There is suffering, and there is a process that is the primary cause of our suffering. And that is this very illusion of a separated self. Is it one? Is it two? Sejo's other story, that of a young mother and a wife,

[06:21]

is about taking risks, making choices, and being alive inside of our own aching hearts. Sejo split into pieces over her love for her father, her village, and her need for a partner of her own choosing. So it's also a story about Sejo running away, and this too is called samsara, endless circling, endless running away. In either of these choices, whether we take hold or whether we run away, we lose our wholeness by half. And this story of Sejo offers to us a valuable illustration of this tendency in the human heart to split itself in two. Part of us curling up like a sowbug around the difficulty,

[07:28]

and part of us going on through the day, talking to our friends, eating our meals, answering the phone, and ignoring the poor little sowbug curled up inside of our chests. If we just keep on moving, there's a pretty good chance that we'll be able to that we'll never really notice that part of us is simply missing our wholeness, our completeness, our companionship with the great mystery of awakening itself. Which is the true Sejo? So each of us must answer this question for ourselves. You know, who am I? What is my true name? To what will I unhesitatingly respond? Yes, I'm here. I want to suggest that such a name is a universal name,

[08:37]

and it belongs to all of us equally. It passes through all the barriers of time, of place, of species, and it's a name that joins us all together with everything else. And Buddha is a name like that, and it simply means awake. Are you awake? Are you Buddha? Buddha. In the commentary on this koan of Sejo and her soul, Master Muman says, when you realize what the real is, you will see that we pass from one husk to another, like travelers stopping for a night's lodging. The husks that he's talking about are not something that we can touch with our hands. There is nothing solid for us to rely on,

[09:43]

only temporary states of mind. Even the sowbugs are only momentary in their appearances. And I think all of us have had this experience of running from room to room in the great palaces of our conscious mind, and down into the basements as well. And like children slamming the doors behind us as we go. Some of those rooms are very sad, some are very pleasant, some are filled with rage or desire or fear. But where is the true self? Who is it that's running? Suzuki Roshi offers us a clue. Your true self is always on your side. It's not the object of anything. It's always the subject.

[10:45]

Your true self is always the subject. It takes a while for us to get any use from these clues. And we continue to chase around like my cat does when she's trying to catch her tail. But eventually, we may recognize a need to slow down and to look very carefully into our lives at the restlessness and the anxiety that limits them. This is the Samatha practice of tranquility. All the Buddhas and ancestors recommend that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to learn how to sit calmly on our cushions and as a part of our daily fare. I know, and I know you know,

[11:52]

that it takes a lot of courage and determination to bring ourselves to the cushion in this way. And even though we leave our belongings and our shoes outside on the racks, we bring with us, embodied, all of our personal history, all the joy and the sorrow, all the numbness and the rage, the confusion and the grief. And in the face of such chaos and complexity, we do something very simple, something that we can simply do. We sit down for a while. So I wanted to share with you my own personal practice in this endo. How I approach a period of meditation

[12:54]

with this body and mind. I find it very helpful to attend to the details of my posture at the beginning of each period of meditation. So I want to invite all of you to please take all the time you need to find your place and to settle there completely. Beginning by building a stable and balanced container out of your legs and your pelvis for the upright placement of your spine, just as you might prepare the soil for nourishing a young plant. In sitting practice, the energy of our life is pumped upward toward the light, toward the sky. And it carries with it all the circulating components of existence. Water, heat, minerals, and air.

[13:58]

Zazen is a dance of the great elements, the Mahabhuta. Can you feel just that? Can you be just that? Earth, water, fire, air. Plant, animal, alive, dead. Which one is the true Seijo? Seijo. Suzuki Roshi says that sooner or later, we die. And we go to the same place we go when we sit Zazen. So next, I'd like to suggest that you direct your attention upward,

[15:02]

from the base of your spine up toward your head. And see if you can uncrowd the vertebra, one after another. As you become aware of your lower back, notice a long inward curve that mirrors the softness of your abdomen. And then as the spine passes through the shoulder blades, there's another curve that mirrors the softening of the throat. The most important placement is that of your large and heavy head. See if you can allow it to balance on the tip of the spine. Not leaning forward or backward. Ears in line with your shoulders. And nose with your navel.

[16:05]

Your chin and your forehead are parallel to the wall. The last area of attention is this great circle of arms and hands. The mudra of the hands is called the Cosmic Mudra. With the fingers of the left hand overlapping the fingers of the right hand, and the thumbs gently touching, we make a little cradle right at the level of our abdomen. A very good place for resting the mind. If your tendency, on the other hand, is to go to sleep, I suggest you put your attention at the spot between your eyes right at your forehead until you feel awake. We breathe gently through the nose

[17:13]

with the tip of our tongues resting against the upper roof of the mouth. And our lips and our teeth are together, gently shut. And then open your eyes and open your ears and your nose, your skin, and open your mind. And now, let go. Allowing all the tension and self-concern to drop into the fathomless well of our existence. The way home is not a journey of distance or of time. It's of letting go. And as Pema Chodron says,

[18:14]

letting go of that which doesn't work. Letting go of that which doesn't work. At the moment of letting go, we are able to witness for a moment, every moment, the illusion of separation itself, which has been forming and misinforming our lives since the day we were born. Mind as separate from body. Past from present. Self from others. The right way from the wrong way. Pleasures from pain. Subjects from objects. 10,000 things. The one true self, completely shattered. When we do sit down for a while,

[19:15]

like we're doing today, some very unusual things may begin to happen. During the long, quiet moments in this room, those little sawbugs may feel safe enough to uncurl and to reveal what they've been hiding from your view. I think you may be surprised at times by the intensity of the pain that you feel when you release what has been hidden for so long. Last night, I saw upon the stair a little man that wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. Oh, how I wish he would go away. And yet, at the same time of our great disillusionment,

[20:16]

there is another feeling just on the tip of our tongue or at the outer edge of a finger, as though some singular awareness extends beyond our imagination and the multitude of our feelings and our thoughts. What Suzuki Roshi called big mind. What Master Dogen called one bright pearl. At that time and in that very place, perhaps the one where you're sitting right now, there is an appearance of true self, coextensive with all that is, a self that continuously turns toward life with unblinking and compassionate regard.

[21:18]

Wisdom eyes, compassion eyes observe sentient beings, assemble an ocean of blessings beyond measure. When we perceive with this larger self, we perceive a capacity to cradle and nourish the 10,000 things. This is the wisdom beyond wisdom, prajna paramita, the great mother of all the Buddhas. And in the great mother's arms, we can grow confident of our ability to walk in the dark, to move slowly and carefully through the rooms of the conscious mind, leaving the doors open, playing with our friends. This is Sejo who tends to her family,

[22:24]

her entire family, her parents, her children, her community, and even to the reclaiming of her own abandoned self. Every moment, an embrace. Every moment, an admiring view of the swiftly shifting changes in color, taste, texture, order, and sound. The clouds and the moon are the same. Valleys and mountains are different from each other. All are blessed. All are blessed. 10,000 blessings. 10,000 blessings. Is this one? Is this two? Thank you very much. Thank you very much. May I?

[23:24]

May I?

[23:26]

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