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I vow to taste the truth of God to target his words. Good evening, it's a great pleasure to be here. I'm back here at 8th Street to see some of my old friends here. So I thought tonight I'd talk about Zazen. No matter what I talked about, I would come back to Zazen Sunday, so I'll just start there. So I thought I'd talk a little bit about the realm of Zazen,


as it's spoken of in our tradition, in our language. Or the world of Zazen, or maybe the wonderful world of Zazen. It has to do with the meaning of Zazen, the purpose of Zazen. Of course, when I say Zazen, I just mean our life. It's just our life. And we find it in Zazen. I received a note recently from a friend who said that he's been lately Zazen has been pretty bad. And he was not making any progress in his practice. So I think we think like that.


We think that our Zazen is really bad. Some mornings and afternoons we think, go out of the Zen Do, we stop, get up from sitting, and we feel, oh boy, that feels good. Or we feel, boy, that was terrible. Or while we're sitting we think, when is the bell going to ring? That's how our mind works. We think that it's bad or good or right or wrong. That's what our mind does. Actually, Zazen, it's impossible to do Zazen right. You can't do it right. Forget it. It's also impossible to do it wrong. It's actually impossible to do it at all. So what the meditation in our school is about is not something we can do. It's a way of opening up to a deeper life or the world of Zazen, realm of Zazen.


And Zazen does us. But we have to, first of all, kind of confess, acknowledge, admit that we do have this human judgmental mind. So Zazen is not about, Zen practice is not about getting rid of being a human being. In fact, it's about really being a human being. So we do have a judgment mind. We do think that was good or that was bad or I'm making progress or I'm not making progress or whatever. We have those thoughts. And it's important not to make too many judgments about those judgments. They're just judgments. And if we realize we're making judgments about, I don't know, I'm thinking that's bad, I'm thinking that's good, or when we realize that we're making judgments about our judgments,


that's just judgments, don't worry about it. So I love the way Uchiyama Roshi talks about thoughts. Blanche knows this very well about how when we're sitting, our stomach continues to secrete digestive juices. And in the same way when we're sitting, our brain continues to secrete thoughts. It's not good or bad, it's just what happens with our mind, it's what we do. And human monkeys are very good at making judgments. And so a big part of Zen practice is actually studying the way our mind makes judgments and makes judgments about judgments and how to get caught by that and knowing what kind of judgments this particular person here makes. Knowing the pettiness, knowing the desire, knowing the anger, frustration, confusion,


all of those kinds of judgments that we make as human monkeys sitting upright. So we have to study that, but I want to talk about something not other than that. I want to talk about the realm that is kind of beyond these judgmental secretions or these thoughts that we have in Zazen. Not about getting rid of the thoughts, but what's also going on in this deeper, greater, wider, indescribable Zazen world. So, one way to talk about it is that we can't sit alone.


So some of you and I go to the Zendo in the morning or in the afternoon here and sit with a lot of other people. And I used to live in this building for numbers of years, and I've lived in Tassajara and at Green Gorge, and now I live in Central Marin with my family, and most mornings sit quite alone in my room. But actually, essentially, Zazen is kind of a group activity. We can pretend, we can think we're sitting alone. I mean, it is possible for us to think that. But on the deeper level, Zazen is something we do together with all beings. It's not that we vow to do it with all beings, although we may vow to take that on and be aware of it, but actually, Zazen is something that includes everything, everybody. So sitting here in this room tonight, each of us is a particular person,


particular body and mind, particular experiences. And if you just kind of sit and are aware of the thought patterns that are secreted by your mind, you'll see that actually also present with you are family, friends, loved ones, even so-called enemies. And maybe your great-great-grandparents, whose names you don't even know, are somehow part of your genetic karma, and lineages of cultural ancestors and spiritual ancestors. And somebody who, ten years ago, you were walking down the street, and somebody walked by you, and you barely noticed them. They're also part of what is sitting here with you tonight. So all of those people, not to mention birds and dogs and cats and trees and various places, all of those are part of each of us right here.


Everything is included. We can't avoid that. So when we open up to this wider level of zazen, that we actually sit together with all beings, and we do that together with all beings, this is beginning to see this realm of zazen, this wonderful world of zazen. And according to Durga and according to the teachings of our school, something happens in that space where everyone is present. It's not something we can do. It's not something we can figure out. It's not something we can manipulate, but there's something very dynamic that is happening.


And it's not something we have to kind of think about when we go down to the zen dhamma. Just to sit upright, to be present. Take the next breath. Hear the sounds of the cars going by. See that thought floating by. Whatever scenery comes up, there's this deeper space in which we are communing with all beings. So there are various ways, there are various aspects of that. Part of our sitting is that we actually, in a sense, almost retreat from that. We turn within. We put aside our involvements in the world, our conscious, intentional involvements in the world when we sit zazen. We just turn the light within and be present with this here being,


these thoughts, these stomach secretions, these thoughts, these memories, these imaginations. And we keep turning the light within, so there's this turning within that we do when we sit, we face the wall. The wall faces us. We commune with the wall. And then we get up and we go out and we cut carrots in the kitchen or go down Market Street or whatever it is we do during our day. So there's this kind of interaction that we have with this turning within and then with how do we share that? How do we share our zazen with the world every day? How do we share this experience of communing with all beings, with the world? How is that part of our activity every day during whatever we're doing? And the strange thing about it is that somehow when we do that,


it has an effect on the world, when we are willing to just sit upright and face our life, be in our life uprightly, when we're willing to take another breath and exhale and watch the thoughts go by and stay upright in the middle of all of that. It has an effect. So we might see the effect in terms of how we interact with people during the course of our day, people we work with, family, friends, how they relate to us. We're always processing that. That's the work of zazen. But even deeper than that, there's a way in which Dogen says that when we sit, it helps the walls and the bookshelves and the windows and the cars going by and the flowers in the courtyard and even the plane flying overhead.


There's some effect. So this is not something we can exactly track or trace or figure out scientifically. I can say this and you can believe it or not, but whether you believe it or not, when we're actually in this space of openness, we meet ourselves in this realm where everything is there. And I feel like there are ways in which we taste that. We've all tasted that, or else we wouldn't be here in this room now. We wouldn't be talking about the Dharma together if we hadn't all tasted that space of openness where not only do we affect the world, but also the world helps us. We've all been benefited by zazen, by teachers, by friends,


by actually these same walls and tiles and pebbles that Dogen talks about. He talks about this in terms of mutual resonance. So when we are willing to face this interface, there's some way in which it has relationship with the trees, with the sky, and of course with our friends. So again, this is a mystery. This is the mysterious world of zazen. This is something we can't figure out exactly how it works, and we can't make it do things, and we can't arrange for it to be a certain way. The world arises and we need it. But how we do that...


We've kind of got to be willing to allow something new to happen. We've got to admit that we don't know who we are and what the world is. And of course we all know who we are. We all have names and addresses and histories, but there's some aspect of who we are that we don't know. This is what zazen is about. There's some aspect of the world that we don't know, and there's some aspect of zazen that we don't know. And our real practice, the standard of practice, is to play with that. As Hange says, to romp and play in samadhi, to just be wild on the cushion. So there are various practices we can do. We can follow our breath. We can count breaths. We can pay attention to our posture. All of those are ways of settling into this deeper space where we just don't know who we are. We don't know what the next thought will be.


We just watch it go by. We take an inner breath. At some point there won't be any more of those. We'll exhale and that'll be it. But for now, this is an inner breath. And in the middle of that, there's another aspect to this mystery. There's a word I learned in Japan, when I was studying there, called noka. Or there's another bloody word, noshi. And noshi is kind of hidden. And ka or shi has to do with help or guidance. There's some unknown, mysterious, hidden help guidance, support. When we're actually willing to do the work of turning with it and meeting our face, even though we cannot see our own eyeballs, even though we can't see our own face without a mirror,


when we're willing to settle into what is this original face, when we're willing to just be up there in the middle of the mystery, there's a kind of mysterious, hidden, dark, unknown, unknowable help and guidance and support that is there. And maybe some of you have had some sense of that. When something happens in the course of your day, when coincidences sometimes show us this. But it could just be a flower or a breath that we really appreciate or just the space of walking down the street or sitting at a desk, working, and suddenly it's OK just to be who we are, where we are. So, there's a way in which


when we first hear about this realm of Zazen, this kind of dark, mysterious, but supportive realm of Zazen, it may seem strange or we can't quite believe it. And I'm not exactly asking you to take it on in faith. This is something that we have to find for ourself, so I can talk about this. And it really doesn't mean anything unless you hear something that turns in your Zazen. So, again, I believe that we all have some experience of this. And it's part of why we're here. Concern with Zazen. I think children have it a lot. So, you may remember some experience in childhood


where there was just this sense of openness, play, that this life is OK. And when I say that this life is OK, when I say that there's this guidance or support, it's not kind of a passive thing. It's very dynamic because we have to actually live it for it to be there. So, by just sitting down and being willing to sit upright and be with your breathing and be with all the brain secretions and the stomach secretions and whatever else goes by, we are in that realm. So, I can keep babbling about this,


but I would love to hear from you how you feel about this, or if you could share something or comments or questions. So, does anybody have anything to say about this mystery of Zazen? What is it? Sometimes the description of Zazen, I think there are so many descriptions of Zazen, seems as if it's something transcendental, something that's kind of otherworldly. But sometimes it seems to me that Zazen is the opposite of that, that it's trying to understand and come in contact with what's real


and that our normal state of consciousness, because of our thinking and our ideas and our ideologies, all these different kinds of things, is actually something that keeps us from what's real, if we can use that word. And Zazen is trying to get past our ideas and our ideologies and our concepts and all this kind of stuff, to the real. Maybe you could comment on that. Yes. Yes to everything that you said. It's about coming back to our deeper experience, which, you know, we can say real. And there are different levels of real. There's the conventional reality, when the light turns green, we go, when it turns red, we stop. We have to accord with the level of reality that is our storyline,


our culture's storyline. And if we go too far outside that storyline, we might find ourselves in big trouble. So, of course, we take care of the ordinary level of reality. But Zazen is about also, together with that, finding our deeper experience beneath. So it's about experience. It's not about the stories about experience. It's about how do we meet our real, raw, passionate, confused, open being in this world right now, then, in the present. And it's about becoming very intimate and familiar with that level of our being. And then turning it back around and seeing what happens when I walk outside and walk down the street or go to my job or whatever.


So we build these many worlds, let's say two worlds, of the ordinary stories about the world. Of course, everybody has a different story about what this world is. But we pretend, we conventionally figure out something, some story that we can agree on well enough to get through the day. So there's that level. And then there's this other level, which I'm bringing up tonight, which is more vivid and fresh. And in a way, to even talk about it is kind of yucky, you know. But it's important that we come back and remember that there is this aspect of, this raw aspect of our real experience,


which is beneath all the stories, and for which the stories are besides the point. Yes? I found it particularly interesting what you said about not sitting alone. Because like yourself, I find myself sitting at home a lot more often than I sit over here. And somehow I had the feeling that, well, I was devaluing my sitting, because, well, it's not quite as good as coming to a Zen center, sitting in the Zen dome with other people, and doing this alone. It somehow lacks something. So I was kind of glad to hear you say that you are not really sitting alone.


And I see the point of what you said. So I appreciated that. I also want to ask you, quite often I've heard it said, well, sit with that. Well, formerly it's a study of a koan, or a problem that might be on your mind. They say, sit with that. What do they mean exactly, sit with that? The prescription is to take. Can you comment on that? Oh, well, I wouldn't say the prescription is to not think. Myself, I would say more like, don't get caught while you're thinking. So you're not trying to get rid of thoughts. That's more thinking. So if you're thinking,


don't do Zazen, just think. But what kind of thinking is that? And are you getting caught up in following some kind of thought? Is it a thinking that you can let go of, and let come back to? So when we sit with something, when we sit with a problem, when we sit with our life, in fact, when we sit with our beings, of course, we all have problems. There's always going to be some problem. And if you don't have any problems, then somebody else will show up with theirs. But pretty soon we'll have problems, too, then. So we sit with our problems, and that means just to do this practice of connecting up our thinking about things and our digestive juices about things and our hearing about things, whatever the problem is, and this other realm, which includes everything. So when we have a problem,


and we're willing to be with it together with everyone, even if we're sitting in the same room, something else can happen. Our usual way of thinking about a particular problem, or what did I do with that person who's always being nasty to me, or whatever it is, whatever kind of problem we have, whatever kind of situation in our life or in our practice that we question in our inner being, to just sit with it is to be present with it and to let the thoughts be the thoughts, to not try and do anything about it, to not try and fix it, to just sit with it. And getting rid of thoughts about it is not just sitting. Getting rid of thoughts about it is more thinking and more delusion.


But how can you be present in this way that includes your whole life right now with that problem? And then just to continue sitting with it, and continue, and then take the next breath and keep going. And don't try and get rid of the problem. Don't try and fix the problem. But when we're sitting with the problem in that way, it turns. There's also a question here. There's a question about, well, what is this ritual resonance? What is this life I'm living? Who am I? Who is this so-called other person that I've decided is another person? What is this problem that I've decided is a problem? So to keep turning that, to allow your thinking not to be your ordinary thinking and your usual thinking, and not to be caught by any of the thinking about it, and not to try and settle on some definition


or judgment about it. And judgments are just judgments. And then keep sitting. So it's that kind of process where we're actually dynamically alive with our love. And the thing about sitting, you know, one thing about sitting alone and sitting like the mozambero with a group, a large or small group, it is very helpful if you're sitting alone, practically speaking, to sit with other people sometimes. We can get a little off balance. We get off balance more easily when we're sitting together with everyone alone. So the more that we are aware that you're sitting with other people, the more that resonance kind of gives you the help you need to just sit with your problems. So because we do think that we're sitting alone when we're sitting alone, it's good to kind of sit with other people sometimes. But also then, when we go and sit in the room,


you know, the person who you were sitting next to the last time you were sitting in the mozambero down at the pastry is there, and so am I. It's part of your zazen. So there's this kind of dance going on all the time. Yes? I'm confused about help, the serious help. I'm not sure if I'm thinking about it correctly. The way I see it is that there's space there for you to have, I guess, more of a channeling one that you're actually receiving from the world, whereas if you're too chaotic and you're too caught up in yourself, you're not actually receiving. And I guess I wanted you to talk a little bit about that. Is that who you are referring to, or is there some other type of help?


Well, I don't... I think there are many... there are various types of help, but that's what you were saying when we were talking about it, that when we settle, when we're willing to just sit there with whatever thoughts, with the chaos, you know, when we're willing to sit upright and breathe in the middle of the chaos, there's a kind of settling that we've all experienced. So when my friend said that his sitting has been bad lately, maybe he meant he just felt unsettled. And we do feel more or less settled, and we do have to make that judgment about it. But even when we're unsettled, there's a way in which we can settle into that. And then, yes, so there's a kind of way in which we're more open to... I don't know if you want to talk about channeling. I don't know. We're more open to the energy of... kindness, you know.


Besides, it was also about just being kind with ourselves, being willing to sit upright with yourself, being willing to face your own confusion, and frustration, and not to mention the confusion and chaos and greed of our culture, which we all carry with us in our bodies. When we're willing to just sit upright and live that, you have to be very kind to do that. You have to be very kind to yourself. So there is already this kindness, this help there, just by the fact of you being willing to sit still for it. So it's a very subtle, very gentle kind of help that comes out of our own intention and effort and good wishes. And then the practice, of course, the endless practice for lifetimes is


just playing with that, dancing with that, refining it, deepening that, opening that up, that kindness and gentleness which the world has along with the cruelty, and which we have along with our own cruelty. So how do we be kind with our own... If you think about... The thing that you think is the worst thing you ever did... You might try this as a meditation. Think about what is the worst thing you ever did. You don't have to do it right now. And can you forgive yourself? And can you see the innumerable causes and conditions from many lifetimes of yourself and others, and whatever, the world, and is it okay? And in some way, maybe it's not okay. Maybe there are consequences which are harmful to yourself and others, but can you still keep sitting? So this is the kind of aspect of confession


that is part of this kindness, this mysterious help. And then there are energies in the world which meet that willingness on your part. Brent. It seemed like in the end, I'm not really sure about this, I'm just wondering, I want to shift gears, I thought it would be somewhat quick. My reaction to some of the things that you said is that if a person has been doing this meditation for a while, for a period of years, it seems like, again, I'm not real sure, I don't know how much your reaction is, but almost inevitably, it seems like when you have a feeling, there is some sense of your meditation improving, or your life improving, because of your meditation. I don't know, in a way, I'm not really sure, maybe it's not like that. But it seems like to me, it's almost a truism, that you probably wouldn't


continue sitting, if you didn't have some sense of sitting being a worthwhile sort of thing to do. In other words, I guess this would be sort of along the lines of the brain, including thoughts. It seems like that's one thought that almost immediately meditates for a long period of time. In any way, you get the idea, or I'm in the possibility now, so I'm going to continue to make progress by having less and less of a sense of progress. Yeah, you anticipated my response, which was... This notion of progress is one of his main stories that we learn as human beings. So we want to have some sense of progress, you know. And it's possible to tell ourselves that story if we sit for a while, if we continue some practice, religiously, as they say. And sure, maybe there is


some kind of progress, but the progress is really just being more and more open to what's always been there. And then the other side of it is that there are people, there's more people at Zen Center who, at least they say, that every period of Zen Center is total agony. There's some people who have a great deal of physical difficulty sitting Zen Center. And it's quite inspiring and encouraging that some of those people keep sitting anyway. And maybe they don't feel any progress. So yeah, there's something, I guess, that we feel that allows us to continue facing our life. And that's wonderful. I don't know. Maybe.


I'm not sure what that means. You know. I can make up stories about that, sure. Wonderful progress, yeah. I don't know. What do you think, Jack? Have I progressed, Jack? Years ago at Zen Center. It's quite awesome to say. Laughter Ah! Laughter Laughter Laughter It's okay to progress, you know. I'm not saying you shouldn't progress. But you should know that we're telling stories about progressing or regressing, or when we can look at our lives and see things that work better and things that don't. Part of what happens, I think, when we sit for some period also is that, you know, this happened in the beginning of our practice that sometimes when we first start sitting,


it's harder because we see our own confusion much more clearly. And we see all the thoughts running around and we realize what a mess our mind is. And sometimes I think that, you know, there are plateaus in there, you know. So if you try and talk about the progress of somebody's practice over years, I think that there are times when you might hit some situation where you may have been progressing and practicing wonderfully for years and suddenly some aspect of your life will suddenly become evident that is extremely painful and difficult and this happens to people too. So, you know, is that progress? Maybe it is. But it might be really miserable for a while. So part of the lack of continuing is to find somebody to enjoy the fact that we're willing to face our life,


to really face our life, to really just settle down and sit upright in the middle of all of it. And we should feel good about that, you know, and enjoy it. It's a wonderful dance. It's very dynamic and all kinds of things happen and nothing happens at all. And so it's OK to tell stories about it, you know. We all can make up stories and find stories about it. But just don't take the stories too seriously. ... Yeah, this one mentions children doing that naturally. I just want to share this. Actually, it wasn't I remember it wasn't really triggered until I read a short story by Herman Hesse which he talks about. At the beginning it didn't trigger the emotional memory. I had always remembered doing it,


but he talks about looking at the blueness within of Iris. And he goes through life, he gets involved in life and suddenly things don't work anymore and he's a woman whose name is Iris. And the story ends with him in a sense being alone, but he's died and he again looks at the blueness within as he did as a child. Suddenly that triggered that emotional memory and I had a very young child walking around the house, looking at an Iris. And suddenly it was like I don't know the best way I can describe it it's like time stopped. And it was I am the father of the one, that's the only way I can describe it. And it was that state that I think I've always remembered but never practiced. So it's it's something I think in times of stress or something I've always relied upon just that memory. That's all. Part of the


one way to talk about this whole thing is remembrance. So to remember Buddha to remember that the livingness of our experience to remember when we were a child and not caught up in so many stories and suddenly saw whatever. And it was really there. And our actual life and experience is always like that always has been. But how do we remember that deeper life? I've been lately spending a lot of time with the story of Baizhang and Yunmen where Yunmen says to Baizhang every day there's so much work


and you do it all for [...]