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Sesshin Lecture: just sitting with no technique or theme; monk: what about when not carrying anything? Zhaozhou: put it down; Shakyamuni holding up the flower; zazen in everyday life, all the time; softening the heart, saying yes to life; Okumura Sensei sick and hopeless, sitting zazen for the first time; Kumon's poems; Q&A

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This is the morning when we come to our last gathering, opening, opportunity to sum up, as it were, what has been going on for us this week. And, maybe to bring into open discussion whatever residue or whatever leftovers there are to be finished up in terms of our conversation. As you know, I haven't spent much time giving talks this week, although we've had enough talk, I think. We've had discussions, we've had face-to-face practice discussions, and extemporaneous outbursts


from my seat during Zazen of one kind or another that, at the moment, at least, seem pertinent. In the long run, I have not tried to either find or develop a particular theme or line of discussion pertaining to techniques of meditation, different styles of practice, and so on, or any particular scriptural teaching. Rather, I preferred, for this Seishin, to experiment and just sit and see what happens. Because if you are like me, and I think we're all pretty much the same, we come to Seishin with certain mindsets, certain expectations, experiences that we have had in the past


that have motivated us to practice even harder or again. And every Seishin that I have ever experienced, and there are a lot of them now, each one is different. And none of them have ever met my expectations. They have presented new material, or new experience, or new vistas, or new scenery, I think is the word I'm looking for. That in our Zazen, just sitting and letting everything else besides the sitting and the posture go whatsoever. As I said at the beginning, all of our ideas about ourselves and the world and our practice and so forth, just let them go in order to, as we sit, actually begin to experience and feel the texture of our psychology, of our physiology, of our mentality.


The rough edges, the smoothness, the round edges, the falling off of the edges, experiencing emotions from maybe rapture to panic. And sometimes occurring even in one day with a person, the scenery of our life arising and passing away. You might say ourselves arising, to the extent that we are that scenery, treating ourselves, what we call the self, constantly in motion, constantly in change as we sit still. And without gaining idea, without using Zazen for anything whatsoever in terms of the future, what it might bring to us, what we might gain from it.


Although we will gain from it and it will be used, although in ways perhaps that have not been accessible, so easily accessible while we're sitting. That this openness to our condition, to our human condition, to this condition of change and impermanence, that we are that impermanence, and that to the extent that we try to get hold in some way of ourselves, I use a lot of different metaphors. The metaphor that I used earlier in the week was the metaphor of the cartoon character, the white coyote and roadrunner. That as we sit, we find out that we're trying, we're hoping to attain or reach some place of equanimity, realization, freedom, that the egoic or the separate self sense that


is creating that and putting that out in front is the same self that wants to get away from itself. And so we're in this kind of dilemma. Mentioned that at the beginning. But by doing that, by placing ourselves in that dilemma that was characterized by the saying, nothing will do, now do something, or nothing will do, what will you do? Very succinct, cogent way of the Chinese expression of putting us in the position of either faith facing the fire or turning away, and neither will do. Now do something. And one of the strategies, if you want to call it a strategy, behind this is to see finally that you just have to give up and surrender to what you are moment to moment without any plans, without anything to rely on to hold you up.


In fact, you begin to look for this you that's going to hold you up and you probably notice you can't find it. It keeps slipping away into different images, into different modalities of experience. I think we use the, I use the little story of Zhao Zhou. The monk who came to Zhao Zhou, remember that one we talked about, and said to Zhao Zhou, what would you say to someone who has, who's not carrying anything, remember that? Here's a monk that had probably practiced, we don't know how long, but these monks after all started as children and they got very grounded at first in the teachings before they kind of took off into the realms we're speaking of here, a very advanced practice. So there's no doubt this monk had done considerable practice in his life about releasing, hearing about the constant need to release, to let go, to let go, and no doubt felt a sense of


exhilaration and freedom from his experiences. Goes to this old monk, this old teacher and says, you know, what will you do? What would you tell a person that has nothing left to hold on to? And Zhao Zhou said, put it down. I think it's clear enough what he's saying, this monk is still hanging on to the fact that he has done something like getting rid of it. There's still the same problem. So the monk said, but I don't have anything to put down. Then keep carrying it, said Zhao Zhou. In other words, you still have this idea about yourself and you're still hanging on to it and you still are building your identity around that idea. And my job is to pull out that nail, that peg, so that you can have total freedom to move in the moment, standing free and happy in the midst of your life with no grasping whatsoever. It's a kind of freefall. Are you ready for it? I think one night I also said something about we are, you know, about Shakyamuni Buddha,


that wonderful, wonderful picture, legend, archetype, call it what you will, of picking up a flower, twirling it between thumb and forefinger. When the monks are asking what is the real meaning of the Dharma, the final meaning or the deepest meaning of the Dharma, he twirls it and Mahakasyapa smiles. A single flower in the universe blooms, a single thought in you blooms, a single moment in your blooming. Every single thing is nothing other than the Shobo Genzo, the true eye of the Dharma Treasury. But though we can hear these teachings, and we must hear them, I think, because we're always reconditioning ourselves through new information, it is only when we begin to practice again and again and again in situations in which we are, which we've taken upon ourselves the discipline to actually sit still long enough for this stuff to manifest, to come


up, to cook, as it were, that we begin to understand what that means, that each moment, just as it is, regardless of its temperature, regardless of its characteristic, whether it's dark or light, whether it's heavy, whether it feels emotionally one way or the other, that too, because it is our life, each person's life, living the life of life fully, completely, a hundred percent, just as it is at this very moment, that is the one flower blooming throughout the universe. That was Dogen Zenji's teaching. It's not something outside of that. And if we need any strategy or any, what should I say, any directions about our practice, it has been pointed out again and again and again by all of our teachers, what is in front of you? From the moment you open your eyes in the morning to the moment you go to sleep


at night, what is in front of you? That is the one flower in the universe blooming, and you are that, and that is you. Paying total attention to that, giving total energy to that, in whatever capacity we find ourselves, driving down the highway, shopping for groceries, meeting a client, feeding our kids, going to school, studying, endless activity of our human life. If we can, from moment to moment, come back to that breath, to that realization, that openness, that everything from the past that has ever made us, imagine that, I mean everything in our evolution that has ever made us is coming to this moment right now. Do not waste the bodies or the fruits of all those who have come before us. Put it to use, totally to use. And out of that comes what sounds like a kind of negativity, about dropping


this, having no, gaining idea. The more you let go, the more impoverished you become about hanging on, the richer you become and so on. And all of these religions are teaching the same thing. I think it was Tsuwaki Roshi who said, gain is delusion, loss is enlightenment. Well, of course that sounds, you know, really negative, but in the context of which I'm speaking now and which we've been studying this week, I think we understand. It's not that we're not to have some kind of conventional sense of ourselves having gain and loss, it's simply that whatever you get, you're going to eventually lose anyway. So do not be attached. Learn how not to be attached or learn how we are attached and the fire of that and the existential reality of that and let it go. And then the next one comes up, the next beat comes up. So it's this moment, this person, this place, this thing, that is our practice. And we can


practice that anywhere at any time, Zazen. That's when we hear over and over, Zazen is not a matter of simply sitting and letting go. Zazen is our life from moment to moment. So the next time I go to the bank to cash a check and I'm in a big hurry or I'm in a supermarket and somebody's in front of me counting out their change slowly and I'm already an hour behind my appointment and I begin to get uptight and anxious and aggressive, usual speed and aggression that propels our life forward into our day to get the next thing, right there, right there at that time, at that moment is the perfect place to practice my Zazen. I mean, everything's perfect right there. Everything I need is still right there in front of me. But I forget. Always, always I forget. And so do you. And so do we all. So we come back again and practice. And that's why every morning I think we say, all my ancient


twisted karma, I'm here to avow again and again that I am willing to put everything I have into what I'm doing moment to moment. And even if I'm judging my moment to moment activity in the light of some goal or other, to understand that that too is nothing else but a single flower blooming. There's nothing outside of the single flower blooming, delusion, enlightenment, all the dualities. Once we begin to manifest that feeling in our heart, then the Zazen or the practice begins to work, not up here anymore, begins to move down, you see, begins to soften our hearts, begins to take that tough, strong gristle of the heart that has been so well defended for so long and work it until it begins to open more and more and becomes the good food for the world to eat. We share our hearts with one another and our deepest intention, which is to say yes to our life. What else could it


be? And by saying yes to our lives, no matter what it is, we become an inspiration to everyone else who is also in the same place in the dark about their lives. Everybody, everybody in this room has been doing his and her best from the beginning. But as Suzuki Roshi says, even though we're perfect, we can use a little improvement. So we come to improve ourselves a bit. I want to tell you, if I may, a little story about the Zazen. As you know, there's this teacher that some of you have met, many of you have heard speak, Shohaku Okamura Sensei, been associated with the Green Zen Center for many years and so on, and now has his own Sangha in Indiana. But he tells this story. He started very young in his life, as a young, I think even teenager, becoming interested


in Buddhism and went to the university, Komazawa Buddhist University, and studied all of the way to graduate. And then went to Antaji, the training temple of Sawaki Roshi and Uchiyama Roshi and that particular lineage of the Soto Zen school in Japan, a strict sitting school. Not a lot of, what should I say, not a lot of coverings around it, mostly just Zazen. They have a Seishin every two weeks, five days every two weeks they sit, plus all day. So mostly they sit and work, sit and work, and it's very, very strenuous, as you know. And there's not much fun, and there's not a lot of food, and they go out on Takahatsu, begging, expeditions. And so their life is one of continual serving the needs of the


practice, and of one another, and putting these teachings into practice. Total whole hearted involvement in what is in front of them, and so on, you see. So he did this for a number of years, and Sawaki Roshi died, of course, Uchiyama Roshi became his teacher, and Uchiyama Roshi himself had gone through. Talk about ups and downs, if you want to read an interesting life about despair and so on, and working with the ups and downs of his life during the war, and before the war, and after the war, just as begging hand to mouth almost. And having nothing is a very inspiring story anyway. Uchiyama Roshi, Okamura Sensei finally came to the States with a couple of other monks and they decided to, they would come here in order to set up a practice center in the east. I think it was in Pennsylvania, maybe it was, no, where? Massachusetts, yes. And they worked very hard to do this, and of course, they didn't have a lot of money, so they had to have jobs, and they had to build this place, and get


it together, and get the Sangha, and the upshot of the whole thing is he lost his health. He got so sick, and so weak, that there was no recourse for him but to go back to Japan. I don't remember why he didn't go back to Ontagi, I don't think they were prepared to, maybe they were going through some change there, I don't know. But what he said, or what I remember him saying, is that... I guess he began to feed himself the best he could with scraps of food he could find. And then he said, there was nothing left to do but sit down. I had come to the end of


something, and I simply sat down, folded my hands, sat up, and for the first time, for the first time, I did Zazen. And from that moment on, my life changed. I began to understand the teachings now. Everything you see, we hear this again and again, and everything in some way is swept away. Zen is about sitting and sweeping, but also we are the passive recipient of that sweeping that is happening. And it can come in painful forms like that sometimes, before we can actually understand that there's no gaining mind, and that all we need is still right in front of us, and always has been, and as far as we know, always will be. Anyway, for me that was a very inspiring story. Now, during Seishin, or at the end of Seishin, I suppose it would be nice if we could, at


the end of this, sum up some message to carry with us. What did you learn? Your friends and so on will say, when you get back, you who are coming in from the outside, or even the practice period, so you sat for a week, or you sat for three weeks, or you've been there for, so what did you get? What did you learn? And what are you going to say? What are you going to show? Sometimes we have a conversion, a kind of, you know, a radical shift at the basis of our consciousness, which is called Satori, something like that, and for a long time a person would be kind of on fire and glowing like a glowworm, but eventually even that will wear out. And when that is happening, and you've had that kind of conversion, then just sitting in front of people is enough of a statement for most of us, you know. We do the best we can, and we have whatever we have, and so we have, we're between a rock and a hard place. What did it do for you? Show me something. Tell me something about you, your


weekend, your year, your ten years, whatever, of practice. And what are you going to say to them? Vast emptiness? No merit? Vast emptiness? I have this brother of mine, older brother, he's still called, I'm 75, he's 78, I'm still his kid brother. I call him up in Hawaii, he calls me up and he says, what are you still doing Dave? What is it sitting there? Tell me again what you're doing. I feel like Bob Newhart talking to somebody. What's that? You sit and fold your legs and stare at a wall all day? Long pause. But don't you think there's something else you could do with your life, Dave? I mean, I'm glad you're happy staring at a wall. So what do you say? No, I saw that one.


Another one. He said no. I don't mean bad dad, but people pay to do this. The other story that goes with that is when I was a little kid growing up, you couldn't drag me to church. I hated churches. I was nominally a Catholic, but they couldn't get me in church, although somehow they managed to get me through that. But I remember this Irish father saying, now Davey, how do you like mass? And I said, I don't like it, father. And he said, why not? I said, it hurts my knees. Right then I sent out some karmic chickens that were going to come up. So there it is. What are you going to do?


I just wrote down a note that Uchiyama had written. He said, you learn there is finally no other place to throw yourself into that is separate from you. No other place you can throw. That's that duality. Who's the thrower, you know? That's going to be different from the place you land in. So we throw ourselves into our work. We throw ourselves out. But wherever we are, there we still are. And there everything else is again. And each individual life is equally the world. My world, as I see phenomena, is a little bit different from yours or yours or yours, although we have a conventional world that is verbally established still. And understand still my experience is different, somewhat different from yours. Water, the word water is different for somebody who lives on the desert all their lives than someone who lives by the ocean probably. So our subjectivity is different. Yet that subjectivity


in that world that we manifest as the self, as the small self, is also the whole universe, the big self, the whole world coming forward, as Dogen said, to realize itself as you and me, as the self, the big self and the small self, or as Suzuki Roshi said, big self, universal self. All things coming forward to establish the subjectivity. I guess another way of saying that is the universe experiencing itself as subjectivity. Pebbles, trees, rocks, everything, there's nothing else but the self sitting on the self. Once that becomes obvious to us then the world becomes a kind of love affair and we never quite slip back to the old dungeons of despair that might have had us in its grip. Although this does not mean


that we won't suffer depression and go through dark times in our lives or grieve those people that we, and those parts of ourselves that, of the world that make us who we are, those loved ones, loved things. In fact, I do not believe, on the contrary, that practicing zazen or practicing the Dharma makes us less invulnerable to the world. In fact, it makes us considerably more vulnerable. And this invulnerability, that softening and opening to the world, which makes us actually, relieves us feeling even more susceptible to the whips and scorns of time, the injustices of the world and so forth, all the suffering, what we call suffering, which is also nothing but a single flower blooming. Anyway, I don't know how it was for each of you. I do want to say and commend all of you.


I think the sitting has been really solid, and this is true of the whole practice period. Everybody has done his or her utmost to be here, has practiced with body and mind and speech and awareness in a fashion that has been, for me, really inspirational. Thank you. And it makes me want to practice even more and harder because of you and this experience I've had, so-called leading, but sitting in the Dharma seat, on the hot seat, and feeling all of this stuff come and go, and happy in its coming and going, essentially. So I want to be sure to tell each of you, thank you very much. Now, sometimes people do have... I'm going to read a couple of poems, and then I would like to have a little discussion.


Here's a poem that was written by somebody at Tassajara a number of years ago. It's called Are You Ready? Are you ready? You who come fleeting over the horizon bounded by mountains between storms, famished for praise in a lifetime of waiting. Ready at last to stop shaking a fist at the sky in the passing traffic. Drop your heavy bag and empty all your pockets. This place is what you saw from yonder on the highway... I wish that you being seen, being heard by everybody. I wish to invite everybody to come here now. But there is just you, nobody else. How childlike I can be. The whole universe is the image of you. Still, everywhere I look, just you, nobody else. Those are written by our own Kimon.


So I think that's why we love poetry. Somehow poetry is a language that's intensified our experience. Shakespeare says to give to... I always use this, but to give to nothingness, a local habitation and a name. To give to nothingness. I love that. It's what we do. So then, we're coming to the end, and we're going to do a little more sitting today, and then we're going to be done. And anybody would like to say something, or have a little discussion, or ask a question? As you know, I'm not a very good answer man, and sometimes I'm really off center and don't hear the questions properly. But I think I'm a little more focused after a week, so... And my heart isn't beating so fast today as it was last time I met you. So sitting works, you see. Anybody want to say something?


Yeah. A confession. I pinched my feathers. And anybody else can back up. I've been right at the back there. I didn't want to be the first one. I'll say something. When I first started... This is also a confession, but it's a different kind of confession. When it first started, there was a period of time that seemed fairly long, but I'm sure it wasn't very long, where I had no idea what it was. It was a sound. And that was the best part. And then after that, I was trying to understand what it was, and because there had been some question about something that happened in the fireplace, I thought, my God, it's a fire alarm. I recognized that it was music, and it was coming from right above my head.


And from then on, I was pissed off. It may have been more comfortable over there. Right here. And what I was experiencing... I've been studying, like, why was I so angry about this music? And there were a number of factors. I've had a lot of physical pain, and I was enjoying the period of sodomy. Maybe it was because of the music. But this is the explanation that I find most interesting, because I realized... I ended up with a greater understanding of something I never fully understood, which is, we don't use it to stop it. And we don't use it because there are people who are traumatized by the sound. Other people, even willingly, receive it. And I never fully understood that. It always seemed like, here's a description that's great, and we don't use it. And now I get it. I'm still traumatized. From now on, it's Spock for you. But I'm glad I'm over it today.


Thank you. Thank you. Yes, Susanna. I was hoping you would get up and dance. I said, I wonder... If I had gotten up the way I wanted to, she would have thought someone was getting up to dance. You could have done it, you know. You could have started dancing. The stone woman gets up to dance. Yeah. I've often had the temptation in the middle of the full moon ceremony to suddenly start singing, Blue moon, you saw me standing alone. And then we would get up and dance for a moment. And then the bell would ring, and we'd all go back to it. Yes, sir. I was amazed when you asked about the music.


I don't know why, but I felt Al was playing. And I was like, what the hell? How is he playing the music? I realized it was over the speakers, too. It took me a while to realize. I was like, what is Al doing? And then I looked out of the sky and said, I've got to see if Mayo's in here. And Mayo was just sitting there, and I was like, who is playing this music? How did I do this? Yeah. So my question is, could you explain more about the music? Could I explain more? Well, over the years, it hasn't happened a lot, but there have been occasions. There was a teacher, Maureen Stewart, I think, Roshi.


At the end of her seishins, she would often play. She was, I think, a concert-level pianist or so, I believe. She'd play a piece at the end. We had a person here once who was a professional musician with one of those kind of fold-up electronic piano organs, and he brought it in and played some music at the end of a seishin, and we all sang. And when I was at Tassahara, I was sitting also very quietly, and suddenly Beethoven's Ninth came on. Eau de Joy. Well, I love Eau de Joy, but Beethoven was a little powerful at the end of a seishin, and it was 40 minutes of that, which was a little much. Some people left the zendo of that. So I always liked, and Norman played some jazz once at the end.


And on another occasion, somebody had Louis Armstrong singing It's a Wonderful Life. So I didn't think of it until yesterday afternoon, actually, or yesterday morning, and kind of scrambled around for a piece that would be just short enough, like no more than five minutes. So we finally settled on, I think, Bach's Piano Concerto for Two Violins, number two, I think, right? The second beautiful piece. Of course, this is not Dobie's sound, and probably just as well for you it wasn't. So it wasn't so clear. Overtones were scrambled and so on, but anyway. Yes, Adam. I would just like to express my gratitude for the music.


I also love the music, but it was one of the most exquisitely, thoroughly, most magnificent. How many people liked it? How many people didn't? It's okay if you didn't. Yes, that's true. Or softer. There's something about Bach, you know. It's almost the music of the universe and the spheres. I understand. We understand. Yes. Yes.


Yeah, yeah. Is that a sonata form they call it? It establishes a theme and variations of it. Maybe we're doing sonata form. Is that it? Yes. Disturbing? Yes.


Bad, huh? Sometimes the samadhi states are like that. When you're in samadhi and sounds come, you can't identify them at once and they can be disturbing. People have had awakening experiences like that, even from a bird or something hitting a bamboo or something, you know. Yes. Yes. Uh-huh. No, that's right. It's coming. Yeah.


No, I had that feeling, yeah. Interesting, isn't it? Yeah. I know I've sat and had people say things, and there was a certain irritant at first, yeah. Irritation to the calmness. Probably somewhat as an alpha wave in our brain that gets... Well, it's been wonderful. And sooner this, too, will be gone, and this moment will never happen again for any of us


in this particular grouping. Oh, yes. Uh-huh. That's right. Yeah. Yeah. The interesting thing about music for me is you don't listen to music to get a meaning. Well, I mean, opera or something, there's a meaning in the story, but music, you don't listen for the meaning. It's something else. Whereas language carries meaning, concepts. But music, you just listen to it. Kimon.


I can't hear you. I can't hear your crazy people, but I can hear your crazy friends. Here is the next lesson. Krishnasandha said, Take black and white. It means... Take black means I'm white people. Just right. No discrimination. No question. No opinion. Just right. Here we are, and a poet like this, 75 years old, Denmark, is found in a law barn, and a little kindergarten here. David said,


Who does not know what is the most pronounced first love last name? Actually, it must be very interesting friendship. Maybe it's them. Maybe it's not. Who knows? I have friends. I am humble. Oh, I mean practical. It might be a friend. Who can be that humble? Such a friend who faithfully teaches me. Such a friend. I just want to say that this session had a very grammatical quality to it. I really appreciate it. Thank you very much. Thank you.


May our intention...