Zendo Lecture

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I bow to teach the truth about the Bhagavad-gita. I bow to teach the truth about the Bhagavad-gita. I bow to teach the truth about the Bhagavad-gita.


I bow to teach the truth about the Bhagavad-gita. I hear the river. I can project my voice. Sometimes I get a little bit attached to using speaker systems. It's kind of nice, but... I could... Oh! Are we back? Are we here? There's a little bit of a hum. Can you live with that? How about over there? Are you with us? It's so far away. Okay. So, good evening. It's between my head. I'll talk to you. Then we're okay.


Then I'll talk to you. So... I'll talk to Kosho. Just try not to look. So... I'm very happy to be at Tassajara. And there are many reasons I'm happy to be here. One of the reasons I'm happy to be here is that I'm here with my son. I have a seven-year-old son. Probably some of you have seen me with him. And this is the second time this summer that I've spent time with him in a Buddhist monastery, a Buddhist meditation center. And it's been on my mind a little bit what it means to bring my son to a Buddhist temple and why it's important for me, what I have in mind in bringing him here. And what, if any, guidance or direction I can maybe give him as his father. And how to give him guidance


and some of the teachings of the Buddha. So this summer I remembered that the Buddha had a son. And it's a little interesting. Most people, when they think about the Buddha and his family, remember that the Buddha left his family when his son was a day old, first day. As the story goes, the Buddha went and made one last look at his son while his son's mother was sleeping and then left town. And as far as his renunciate life, his seeking life, looking for enlightenment. Which he did for six years. After six years, he attained his awakening. And then he made his way back. After his awakening, he made his way back to his hometown. And so by the time he reached home, his son was seven years old. Now his wife, the mother, seemingly


was still annoyed. And wouldn't come to see the Buddha. But the son went to see him. Maybe the mother sent him. But maybe because she was still annoyed, she said to her son, when you see your father, ask him for your inheritance. Now the Buddha was the son of a king. So the inheritance would have been somehow to be continued in a royal line. But the Buddha was now a monk, renunciant. Given up his claim to royalty. So he had nothing of that to give. But as the story goes, the son, his name was Rahula, went up to the Buddha and said to him, you have a very pleasant shadow. It's a very strange thing to say to your father, he hadn't seen it at all. But the way I understand the story


is that when you meet someone who is very honored, revered in an Indian setting, you have a special kind of language and way of talking to them. And it's kind of like you don't want to talk too directly about them or to them. So he's talking indirectly about his shadow. And he said, you know, you're really special. There's something very special about you. It's really pleasant to be with you. At which point the Buddha did something unusual, is he got up and walked away. That's the story. But if you read other situations where the Buddha did a similar thing, the Buddha tended to get up and walk away when people had become enamored with him. And somehow that was his response to being enamored, infatuated to his beauty or his charisma or whatever. And so his son followed him. And he said, please give me my inheritance. And so the Buddha turned to Shariputra, who was kind of like his right-hand man, right-hand monk.


And he said, ordain him. So Rahula was ordained at the age of seven as a novice monk. What that meant is that even though the Buddha had left his family and wasn't part of his son's life for the first seven years of the son's life, for the rest of his sons growing up, Rahula was under the care of his father. And so in a sense the Buddha was the primary parent because the mother was no longer real. I don't know, she kind of disappears from the story, as far as I know. And so then we could ask, what kind of parent was the Buddha? How did he father his own son? Now we don't have a lot of surviving records of this. And it seems that the historical interest in these kinds of stories, the interest in these kinds of stories was not so great on the part of those people who saved


the records of the Buddha's life and his teachings. But you can see embedded in his teachings some events that occur with the relationship to his son. And in particular there are three discourses where the Buddha is specifically teaching his son. And what's interesting about these three discourses is that they represent three different periods or ages in his son's growing up. And so you can see that the Buddhist is giving teachings that are appropriate for each age, for each phase of the son's growing up. And in a sense you can say that the Buddha was recognizing a developmental model for how these children grow up. They grow up developmentally in stages. But the Buddha also had a developmental model for adults also engaged in the Buddhist path. And it also turns out that these three discourses


represent the three divisions of classic Buddhist training, which is sila, samadhi, and prajna, which is virtue or ethics, the training in ethics, the training in meditation and inner development, and then the training in wisdom and liberation. So three trainings. The first discourse, the tradition says, occurred when Rahula was either seven or eleven, somewhere in that age range, so relatively young still. And you understand as you go through the discourse that what happened before the discourse began, before this event is recorded, is young Rahula has told a lie. Maybe not so unusual for a young kid. So the Buddha, that evening, walks over to where Rahula is staying.


And as is the custom, when someone comes, a guest comes, especially a dear guest comes to where you are, in a country where people walk barefoot and it's very dusty, you give them a bowl of water so they can wash their feet. So Rahula gave the bowl of water to the Buddha. He washed his feet. And then the Buddha sat down and held that bowl of water. That bowl still had a little bit of water in it. And then he said to Rahula, Do you see how little water is left in this bowl? And Rahula said yes. That is someone who is not ashamed of telling a deliberate lie. The value of the spiritual life is as little as the little water left in this bowl. So I imagine that Rahula at this point gulps. He's been caught, wet-handed, or caught. And then the Buddha throws the water away.


And he shows the empty bowl and he says, The value of the spiritual life of someone who deliberately lies is thrown away like I've thrown away this water. And then he turns the bowl upside down. And he says the value of the spiritual life of someone who tells a deliberate lie is turned upside down like this bowl. And then he's really going to make a point. So he takes the bowl and now it's completely empty of water. He says, see how this bowl is empty. In the same way, the spiritual life of someone who tells a deliberate lie is empty. So he's really making a point about the value or the importance of not lying deliberately. And the Buddha goes on to say that anyone who's not ashamed of telling a deliberate lie is capable of breaking any transgression, breaking any precepts.


That lying, in truthfulness, is so fundamental to spiritual life or to life that transgressing against this one thing of not lying sets up the possibility for someone doing other things. Other transgressions. Now, when I read this part of the story, I'm reminded the Buddha was raised in a warrior caste. He wasn't exactly in the warrior caste. And there was a noble tradition, as in many countries, of the etiquette of warriors. And they had a certain level of, I don't know if pride is the right word, but a certain level of dignity, of pride, of uprightness, that's very important. Your honor, your card of your honor is very, very important for such people. And I think the Buddha, in trying to stress the importance of not lying, of being ethical to his son, was not doing it to diminish the life of his son,


but really to try to enhance it, to develop it, and to support him in being an upright, in a sense, upright, honorable person. Then the Buddha went on and said, what's the purpose of a mirror? This is kind of an example, maybe a child could understand. What's the purpose of a mirror? And Mahārāja said, it's for reflection. And the Buddha said, in the same way, before you do anything, whether you're going to speak it, do it, or think it, you should reflect about what you're about to do. You should reflect, think about it, whether this is for the benefit or the affliction of yourself, or others, or both. And if it's going to cause the afflictions, if it's going to cause harm for anybody else,


then don't do it. And then the Buddha said, if you are doing something, while you're doing something, you should also be reflecting, you should also be mindful, and you should reflect in this way. While I'm doing this, is this going to cause harm to anyone, including yourself, or is it going to be for the benefit of self and others? If it's going to cause harm for anyone, then stop doing it. And then he said, after you've done something, you should reflect about what you just did. So before, during, and after your acts, you should kind of be mindful and reflective about what you've done. And after you've done something, you should also consider, based now on the evidence of the results, is this then for the benefit, or for the harm of yourself, or for others? And if it's for,


if it caused harm, then you need to go and confess it to a teacher, or someone, a fellow practitioner in the monastic life. You need to confess it, not just simply recognize it for yourself, but you need to do something about it, which is called confession. You say it, and there's something very powerful about confession. That acknowledgement to someone else helps us to step aside, or disidentify from what we've done. It kind of reinforces the idea, yes, I don't really like what I've done, I don't stand behind it, and I'm going to try to do better in the future. So in this first discourse, when his son was young, the Buddha was trying to pass on ethical values. Then, Wahura became a teenager, maybe 14. And in this story,


Wahura and the Buddha are going out for alms. Monastics go out every morning to get alms from the village, and so they're sitting out, and the Buddha's in front, and Wahura's behind. And Wahura had a thought, and maybe that thought was even manifested in how he carried himself. It was basically something like this, that Wahura was the son of the Buddha, the Buddha was supposed to be a very beautiful man, a very striking person, both in terms of his charisma, his presence, his purity, but also physically. And even before he was enlightened, people were struck by his presence, and who he was, his visage. And Wahura was walking right behind the Buddha, thinking, you know, I kind of look like him. Maybe he kind of puffed up his chest a little bit,


kind of proud, and I'm also kind of sane. so the Buddha stopped, and turned around, and said to Wahura, Anything physical, any physical characteristic, any form, any rupa, should be understood or viewed in the following way, that this is not mine, this is not who I am, this is not the self, not me, myself or mine. And Wahura says, only physical form? And the Buddha says, no. No feelings, no perceptions,


no mental formations, no inner mental life, intentions, dispositions, and consciousness should not be seen as mine, as who I am, and that this is me, this is myself. And at which point Wahura decides, says to himself, it is not appropriate for me to go out with the Buddha in arms today, since I've just been admonished. So the Buddha caught him, noticed that he was having these proud thoughts about how he looked, his good appearance. Wahura didn't have any zits that day, so things were going well for him. Feeling admonished, Wahura just went home. And he sat under a tree.


And the story continues. But I want to back up to these three things the Buddha said. Don't see things as me, myself and mine. This represents three very important forms of clinging or grasping that Buddhism is meant to be an antidote for. And the first is the clinging or grasping to possession, to things as this is mine. And we do that with our possessions, we do it to aspects of ourselves. This is mine, this is my hair, this is my clothes, this is my possessions. And the movement of mine, the movement of possessions, is a very interesting one because it is only a construct of the mind. It's an activity of the mind, something we do with our mind. If all of us left here this evening in different shoes than we came with, our shoes wouldn't care. Our caring has to do with our ideas about these are mine. So there's something


in the tendency to grasp onto this is mine, which can cause a lot of suffering. There's a beautiful story of Suzuki Roshi and there's a picture of this, just as he was saying this, holding up a pair of glasses, holding like this, and he says, These are not my glasses, but you know about my tired eyes, so you let me use them. Conventionally we'd say that craving was his glasses, but he wasn't seeing them as mine. The second craving is a craving of conceit. And conceit has to do with comparing ourselves to others. This is who I am. I'm a role. I'm somewhere or other. When I was 13, the summer of 1967, I lived in Italy, a small provincial town in Italy. And I'll tell you, I was the coolest kid in town. I had the longest hair and I had blue jeans.


And I felt pretty hot. King of town. Expatriate in Italy, you know, and strutting around. And then the end of the summer, end of summer of 1967, I went back to Los Angeles. And unbeknownst to me, a lot had happened in California in 1967, that summer. And when I went back to school, I did not have the longest hair in town anymore. In fact, my hair was really short compared to what had happened over the summer. And I spent a lot of time trying to pull out my hair so it would get longer. And I just had blue jeans. Just having blue jeans was boring. My friends, they had taken their blue jeans and put them in the washing machine 30 times with bleach. Some people would put their jeans out in the roads so their cars would drive over them. And anything to make them torn up and worn out. And suddenly, I was not so cruel anymore. And the only thing that happened was that I had crossed the Atlantic and I was comparing myself to different people. It was in the comparison that I felt


great or down. It turns out a lot of suffering on a sense of self has to do with comparative thinking. Comparing ourselves to others. Comparing our, you know, all kinds of things. Anything at all. Human beings have a great capacity to compare and evaluate themselves in relationship to other people and ideals and stuff. A lot of suffering around that. As well as telling your son, imagine telling a 14 year old, don't bother comparing yourself to others. That's pretty good. Will you listen? And then the third grasping is the grasping on abuse. And this is where you have a view about what the nature of the self is. Conceit has to do with something that's unique with you. A view of self has to do with your kind of philosophical universal idea that this is what it means to be a self. So the self is pure consciousness, is a view.


Or the self, all selves, are inherently sinful. That's a view. Or all selves inherently are good. Or pure. It's a view. Some kind of philosophical view. So people tend to grasp to views like that also. And some people really need or want security of knowing something that's a view about the fundamental, true, universal aspect of the self. And the Buddha said, don't take any of these things as the self. So the Buddha is taking away a lot of the things that a teenager spends a lot of time concerned about. Me, myself, and mine. And you might, some of you might be therapists in the room, and might be horrified. Shouldn't a young teenager kind of be acquiring a sense of identity and self? And that's so much part of growing up. What's interesting is the second half of the discourse where the Buddha says,


I'll tell you what's the story. So, Rahula, as you remember, felt admonished, and so he sat under a tree. And Shariputra saw him sitting there, and said to Rahula, you should meditate. And meditate following your breath. Your breath meditation. And seemingly, Rahula had never gotten any instruction in meditation before. Because when the Buddha came back later in the day, Rahula went to the Buddha and said, Dad, how do I meditate on the breath? How do I do that? So the Buddha then proceeded to give instructions. But the first thing he did was to create for his son an image, kind of like a visualization perhaps, an image of how to hold yourself when you're going to meditate. So you know sometimes when people give meditation instruction, they'll have the image, imagine yourself like a mountain, really stable and firm and strong.


Or sometimes imagine your mind like a still alpine lake. People use images like that to help kind of get this mood. So the Buddha gave his son five images for how to create a level of equanimity, or acceptance, or balance, non-reactivity for doing his meditation practice. The first was, he said, establish your meditation like the earth. Be like the earth, a great big earth, solid earth. Because the earth is not troubled by the pleasant and unpleasant things that people do to it. Back in the old days they didn't do very much. But you know, if people spit on the earth, the earth doesn't mind. People pee on the earth, the earth doesn't mind. Establish yourself like the earth that is untroubled by the pleasant unpleasant things that come. And then the Buddha, that's the beginning,


this very big solid foundation for the meditation practice. And then the Buddha proceeds to give an image, each of them gets lighter and lighter, more spacious. But based on this firm foundation of the earth. And then he says, establish yourself in meditation like water. Like water is untroubled by the pleasant unpleasant things that come. So, like your mind like water, the pleasant unpleasant things won't trouble you and won't stick in your mind. Establish your meditation like fire. The same, the rest is the same. Establish your meditation like air. You can throw all kinds of things into the air, the air doesn't mind. And then establish your meditation like space. Even lighter and more spacious than the air. He says sometimes, let thoughts be like clouds


drifting in an endless sky. Kind of very spacious, open, expansive. Let your mind be that way. So whatever happens in meditation, pleasant or unpleasant, it's like they just drift through, like it's a great space to hold it. So that was his Buddha's first instructions in meditation for his son. Then he went on and gave him, told him to practice loving kindness meditation. The practice of developing a friendly goodwill. Then he gave him a couple of other instructions, and then he proceeded to give his son instructions in breath meditation. Those of you who know about this come through the tradition, he taught him the 16 stages of breath meditation, the Anapanasati. And some of the key elements of Anapanasati, this particular way of using the breath, is you're using the breath meditation to get concentrated and develop joy, delight, happiness, rapture in your being


as you do this meditation. And that's part of the stepping stone to deeper and deeper meditations, to go through a phase of meditation where there's a tremendous feeling of well-being. So that is what the Buddha offered to his teenage son as an alternative to me and myself and I. Instead of self-building and creating a strong sense of self, he offered the Buddha to create a strong inner life where there's a strong sense of inner well-being, a strong capacity of equanimity and balance. These really good qualities inside, develop those. That's what you should be doing. So then, the next discourse, when the Buddha was about 20, the Buddha spent his teenage years in training. In fact, the Buddha called the Hula the foremost of those who train. So he got pretty serious about his training. He was a monk, he trained hard.


And at some point, the Buddha discerned that his son was ready to receive the deepest teaching. He was ready to kind of let his wisdom eye open. The eye of awakening. And so he took his son and he said, come with me. And they were already in the woods. They led his son deeper into the woods, into the forest, to a grove, we still know the name of the grove, called Blind Man's Grove, where there are these Sal trees, these huge trees, majestic trees that they have in India. Trees that the Buddha said once, if trees were people, the Sal trees would be enlightened. He had such high respect for these particular trees. And they're huge trees, and they have these what do they call these roots that stick out the sides, above the ground, they're called? What? Petrises. Right? Petrises that stick out,


like walls coming out. And so they're deep into the woods, these huge trees, like big redwoods, and in the grove trees, you can imagine, to me it's very important where he took him, the natural setting. Because what the Buddha is going to teach him has to do with identity, with self. And what a place, you know, your sense of self, who you are, the perspective of that, the context of it, changes when you're in some really awesome place in nature. So that's where he took his son, probably a very still, quiet place. And then, he proceeded to teach the son deep teachings, which I'm allowed to speak for three more minutes about. Someone who is well trained in the time of the Buddha, practiced meditation a lot, he's let go of a lot, he's a monk, he's let go of a lot of attachments, a lot of things, a lot of people are preoccupied with,


caught up with. He's let them go. He's let go of his idea of appearance, his idea of possessions, the idea of sexual relationships, a lot of things he's let go of, and he's been able to do that. He's also developed his ability to concentrate very well, so much so, that Rahula could stay in the present moment very precisely. His mind wouldn't have to wonder. Staying in the present moment very precisely means you stay in the place where contact happens with reality. The immediacy of contact with reality. If you're thinking about yesterday a lot, lost in yesterday, lost in tomorrow, abstractions and fantasy, you lose that place of contact. So Rahula could stay in that place of contact, which is one of the realist places we have, the place where we're going to meet life in immediacy before we create abstract structures, abstract ideas of what it is we're contacting. So Rahula has this ability.


So the Buddha then guides him. It's kind of like a guided meditation. And he says, first he says, is your I permanent or impermanent? And Rahula says, the I is impermanent. Is the I reliable? And he said, no, not ultimately reliable. You know, I can go bad, you can lose an I. The I is not ultimately reliable. You can't rely on it. And the Buddha says, somewhere which is impermanent, subject to change, and somewhere which is unreliable, is it appropriate to take that thing as the soul, as the true essential self of who you are? Because the idea of the soul, or the essential self, is that it's permanent, and it's reliable. So Rahula says, no, I can't take the I. Then the Buddha says, what about the objects of what the I sees? He goes through the same kind of


guided meditation. It's impermanent, it's unreliable. What about the perception that arises at the I? Same thing, you can't take that as a self. What about the consciousness that arises with seeing? What about the thoughts? Everything connected in the immediate present, around that experience of the I, you cannot find, you cannot take that. It's not appropriate to take that as a self. Then the Buddha does the same thing with all the sin stores. So that all the places where you meet life directly, all the different ways you might take that, to look at it, you realize you won't find a self there, or a soul there. And that's taking you to the whole empirical world, the world which you can directly experience. And the world that we cling to, let's just say this myself, when the Buddha did guided meditation for Rahula, then Rahula became


disenchanted. It's a very important word in this early tradition of Buddhism. It's a great thing to be disenchanted because it means you've been enchanted or in a spell to begin with. He became disenchanted with all the things that he had taken as maybe his soul, his essential self, that these weren't really that. As he became disenchanted, his heart cooled, his passions of his heart, his clinging, his drivenness of his heart, his craving of his heart, cooled, quieted down. And when the drivenness and the craving of his heart quieted down enough, because he wasn't going out in any kind of direction to reach and grasp and make something into a self, then the discourse says, Rahula's heart, his mind, became liberated, became free. And the contrast here is between taking anything as a self and freedom


that happens when you stop doing that. And for someone who's let go of so many attachments, that can be sometimes the last, most tenuous attachment a person has, this attachment to the self. Though we might not use those words. And at that point, Rahula's mind was liberated. So, ethics as a foundation, then Samadhi, developing this inner life, this inner sense of well-being and stability, concentration, loving kindness. And then with that as a foundation, having the capacity to have wisdom, to see clearly and deeply. And using the capacity to see clearly, to see something very profound about the deeply embedded human tendency to be attached to a self. Becoming disenchanted with that movement of selfing. Letting the heart cool


of its passions, its clingings. And then, at some point, the heart or the mind releases itself, which is the experience or the tasting of liberation that Rahula had under the guidance of his father. And I can't imagine a more wonderful thing for a father to offer a son than liberation. If the Buddha had stayed a prince and then become a king, he could have given his son lots of wonderful palaces, chariots, all kinds of great things. But the Buddha didn't stay as a king, but discovered the possibility of freedom and liberation and very deep abiding peace. And to be able to give that kind of happiness and peace to your child must be one of the greatest things. So I bring my son to Tassajara


with the hopes that all the mistakes I make as a parent, he'll know where to go to remedy them. So, thank you.