Zendo Lecture

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I thought it might be appropriate, since there are so many new students, Tangario students, to remind ourselves as we enter into practice period, what is it that we're entering into. In Buddhism, the notion of practice period came up in India. Because of the monsoons, it was too wet to travel around, so they didn't travel around, the best of it. So they stayed in one place and turned that into a time for intensive practice. And then that tradition has been carried forth into China, Japan, and now the U.S. I read somewhere that the translation of

[01:09]

the term ango was to not travel around or to not move around. So we're here, hopefully to be here as fully as possible and to minimize coming and going, both as a momentary experience and as a physical reality of going out over the mountains and back in. So in the next couple of days, including today, including this morning during a study, we'll be setting up the workings of the monastery. In early Buddhism, the guidelines referred mostly to

[02:13]

personal behavior and interpersonal behavior. But because they were essentially traveling and wandering monks, they didn't have so much need to attend to an organizational structure with defined roles. They did actually have defined roles. Even in Shakyamuni Sangha, there were particular roles. But what they didn't have was they didn't have a fixed place. They didn't set up within that a way of being. So the rules, the sila, the admonitions and guidelines around conduct were mostly to enable harmonious workings of the Sangha and to enable awakening. And that certainly applies to us too. Then the term that was developed as monastic

[03:23]

practice in a settled place became the flavor of Zen, became the heritage of our Zen practice. There were extra roles developed around that. And that's how the Shingi was developed. And Dogen Zenji was quite particular in how he wrote up the Shingi. If you haven't read that book, that's a wonderful book, Pure Standards for Zen Monastery, by Taigen Leighton and Shohako Komura. I recommend it. It's marvelous to see how Dogen Zenji will describe so many things in detail. Very much the heritage of the Zen way, that the detail gives us access to the momentary experience.

[04:26]

And that access enables the mindfulness, the awareness that realizes the nature of existence. You know, this is the flavor of our school. Pretty simple and difficult to practice. So on a personal level, on the level of Shingi and Sila as personal behavior, to behave in a way and engage in a way that turns us back to our intention, why we came here in the first place, why we go through the Argyr of Tangario, and to ripen that intention. Our karma brings us to

[05:39]

as we practice, we start to see through our own karma, our own likes and dislikes, our own imaginings and notions about how we're going to improve ourselves or how we're going to escape from some of the suffering of the world. We continue to practice. We start to see through that and a deeper, a fuller awakening or intention to awakening comes forward. So arising the mind of awakening is a continual process. It's what brings us in the door and constantly we're refining it, we're rediscovering it, we're ripening it. It's as if our practice was like a deep sobering. Now we settle and the intoxication of our own emotions and imaginings start to dissipate.

[06:48]

And something quieter, something steadier, something more real because it's more connected to what's going on, teaches us what it is to be alive and it helps to ripen this awakening wise seeking mind. So the shingi, the sila, are to enable us to return to the moment, to engage this process of sobering up. I mean we're so entrenched by what goes on in our own mind it's hard for us to believe that it isn't the most important thing that's going on. It's

[07:58]

actually hard for us to imagine that all our imaginings and fears and anxieties and yearnings are not the substance of reality. That they don't command it and define it. And of course when we're in the throes of our subjective world they do. That's simply what's going on. So our intention is to pause. It's to remember, yeah, that is the nature of human mind. That intoxication, that way of investing our energy in what we want and what we don't want. Some mysterious notion that if we invest our energy in it it'll come true.

[09:01]

That eventually we'll get what we want and we'll be able to avoid what we don't want. Sometimes that'll happen but overall it's just not realistic. In some ways it's literally a waste of energy. So we remind ourselves of our intentions. Not to be lost in that intoxication. Something in us knows that the chirping of the bird directly manifests the nature of what is. That it's not held sway by our imaginings, our likes and dislikes.

[10:04]

It has the commanding authority of its own being. And that awakening to this will enable us to see what's going on instead of just dreaming about what might go on or what might not go on. So the details of our forms constantly offer us this access to present experience. And the daily schedule and the weekly schedule they offer us a way to go beyond what we want and what we don't want. They draw us into the awakened life. They draw us into the buddha life. And also they draw us into an interrelated life.

[11:20]

We are in this life together. We can eat oreoki because someone goes to the kitchen early and makes breakfast and someone else stands out on the angawa and brings the food in and serves it to us. So we bow before we receive the food and we bow after we receive the food. Because the forms of our practice are showing us the interrelatedness of existence. There is a mutuality to our welfare. We support each other. Dogen Zenji says within the one body there are many bodies. Within the one body of the monastery there are many bodies.

[12:33]

There's the kitchen, the shop, the office, the baths. Study hall, the meditation hall. Within the one body, within the one human body of the monastery there's a whole bunch of individuals. Each person living their life. Each of us going through our own personal process. So it's very helpful if we can remind ourselves that the shingi is asking each of us to engage that one body. With kindness and consideration and respect.

[13:35]

Like when you serve food with kindness and consideration pretty soon you get to know how much a certain person takes. It's almost like you can feel it how much they want. So each person you come to, you stop, and you make that connection. And then you bow and then you go to the next person. You know when we come to the monastery, when we enter practice period, it's very much about dropping off. But sometimes dropping off seems quite close to falling apart. Sometimes it's hard to know whether you're dropping off body or mind or you're just literally falling apart at the seams. I think this is just how practice is.

[14:48]

And this is why we need each other's kindness and consideration and respect. You know one of the definitions of sangha is a body of practitioners with shared intention. As we deal with each other we should always keep close our respect for each other's intention. Maybe how the person is manifesting it right now isn't so clear to us, but still we should respect it. And still we should endeavor to be supportive and generous. A kind of environment, if we can create that together, a kind of environment is very helpful. You know I walked up the road yesterday

[16:05]

and I was remembering how extraordinary it is here. In the late fall, it has a mellowness, a softness. As it becomes quiet again and still some of the lingering summer warmth. How collectively we can move into this new mandala, this new way of being together. Like a sigh, just a release again. But with a gratefulness. How wonderful it is to be able to do this together. To be here, in this enchanted valley.

[17:08]

And this ferocious heritage of Tangario. Those of us walking around outside, remembering. Oh yeah, Tangario, I remember that. I thought Tangario, but coming up for 30 years ago, I still remember the flies. Yeah. Wandering in and out of my ears. Going to the corner of my eye to use it as a drinking fountain. So walking around and thinking, oh yeah, now. Now this great group of Mahasakvas is in there. Pouring their effort, their determination, their sincerity into manifesting buddhahood.

[18:16]

In the midst of all this. And it stirs our hearts. It reminds us of what the heart of practice is. And it opens our heart to support them. And then sitting inside, thinking. All those people outside went through this. They've done this. They made this effort. I too will make this effort. So this is our mutual support. This is our mutual respect. This is what enables us to go beyond what we want, who we like and who we don't like.

[19:22]

How we want things to be and how we want them not to be. We align ourselves. We align something very heartfelt. Something deeper than like and dislike. We align it with the heritage and the request of practice. So the shinghi. The interpersonal, the interactive aspect of the shinghi is to tune us in. Is to fully express this aspect of our common intention. When you clean the baths, you clean the baths so the monks can bathe. The bodhisattva mahasattvas.

[20:24]

So each of us in our different places, in our different departments, works for the benefit of others. And that natural human tendency of getting caught up in our selfishness is constantly undone. This is the spirit of shinghi. The interactive, the interpersonal aspect of it. And then the third aspect of shinghi. Is that which connects us to the whole world. Is that which connects us to all beings.

[21:43]

We don't waste water. We use all the resources carefully. We don't waste water. We don't waste food. We don't waste kerosene. We don't waste kerosene. I think Nina was a little surprised the other day when I mentioned to her that the lamps were lit very early. But that's what was in my mind. Oh. Let's use this precious resource, kerosene, carefully. Let's not contribute to global warming any more than we have to. So as we take the water that we've used to wash our bowls, we pour it towards us instead of away.

[23:04]

Sustaining our connection. We're not casting away our rubbish, our discard. In deep belief of separation, we pour it towards us in an expression of interconnectedness. This land, this stream, our bodies are all part of the one body of being. So this also we reflect in our shingi. So please, over the following days, as you're learning the details,

[24:09]

even though they may seem at times unusual, maybe even unnecessary, please try to remember that they are part of a heritage that's trying to express and enable it, the awakened body of Buddha, the interconnectedness of all beings. This is their intention. I was listening to the wake-up bell this morning. And I was remembering for a long time, my most immediate visceral response to the wake-up bell was a kind of aversion and dread. Not something I intended to have, but just that momentary thought, something like, oh no. So, it's hard to take on the rigors of monastic practice without some sense of struggle,

[25:31]

some sense of wanting to stay safe or to stay separate or something. So to remind ourselves to keep activating our intention, to realize, yes, turning up is a powerful practice, but actually wholeheartedness has something extra from us. To not just turn up reluctantly, but to turn up fully committed. So each time we notice our dread or aversion or inclination to cut corners,

[26:46]

or to say, well, maybe I'm too tired to get up today. I think it's better if I just sleep in. To really examine that carefully. To let that deeper intention shed a light on it. Is this just the intoxication of like and dislike? The always way-seeking mind offers us a deeper truth. A way to examine more thoroughly what's arising. Similarly, when we interact with each other. Of course, our aversions and attachments are going to arise. But will that be what we energize? Will that be the place from which we act?

[27:58]

Will we allow this way-seeking mind to see that for what it is? And to remember the interdependence of our existence. To remember that this monk who's right now annoying me is a great pilgrim on the path of practice. Worthy of my support and respect. Not to say we're going to be perfect at this. That would be amazing if we were. Absolutely. Maybe it wouldn't even be that helpful if we were perfect at it. Sometimes I think part of how we support each other's practice is by annoying each other.

[29:07]

Then we get to see what arises. We get to see these karmic arisings. And then we have the opportunity. Okay. Don't get stuck in that. But returning to the expression of way-seeking mind. The fundamental intention of our practice together. So in this practice period, what I'd like to offer as a teaching are the teachings of early Buddhism. And I'd like to start with the Satipatthana Sutta.

[30:10]

You know, it's my notion that these early teachings aren't really any different from so-called later teachings. Mahayana, Zen. I think they all express the three bodies of Buddha. They all express the path of awakening. And I think the early teachings, they offer us a certain flavor, a certain straightforwardness. A certain involvement and engagement in the yogic practice of entering the moment.

[31:17]

And becoming attentive to what's happening in the moment. It's my notion that no matter what school, or no matter which of the meditative schools of Buddhism you practice, that this theme runs through them all. So that will be what we will study. And with a little luck, we'll have copies of that by the first class. In Zen practice, the study, the study of the teachings is the same way you may say you might study playing the piano. There is music theory, there is technique, but it's in the doing.

[32:23]

If you just study music theory and technique without actually engaging in playing the piano, it's just an abstract learning. Maybe even a little ridiculous. So similarly, as we study, we take on the teaching and we find it in our own life. So I hope as we go through these studies that we can find a way to do that together. And certainly in terms of doko-san, in terms of one-on-one interviews, this is my hope. That these teachings, these engagements in body, in breath, in feelings, in mental disposition and mind objects,

[33:30]

that they'll offer a reference, they'll offer vocabulary for arising experience. And that in doko-san, this can be eliminated. The nature of doko-san is to bring forth the dharma. This is the point of it. It's not so much a hierarchical convention where this person tells you what to think or what to do. That's what they make. But even that's just in the service of a mutual bringing forth the dharma. You enter the doko-san room as Buddha. And Buddha meets Buddha, and the dharma is manifested.

[34:33]

When I led a practice period 18 months ago, the doko-san tended to be quite long, which meant that I didn't see people that frequently. So I would like to suggest, maybe after the first doko-san, where I think it takes some time to get to know each other, how your practicing can be established, and then that can be addressed in a more succinct manner. And then the doko-san can be shorter and more frequent, which I think is more helpful. And, of course, if they need to be longer, they can be longer. It's not a fixed rule. It's just a notion. And then also we have the wonderful practice leaders that we have here. I was just thinking this morning how wonderful it is how many of the Rokkajiji, the senior staff, are continuing in their positions.

[36:01]

So they can bring that seasoned experience with them. It's a great benefit, a great support. In a way, we're always in a learning mode, all of us. Huh? So when we have a seasoned senior staff, they can support us all in our learning. So it also encourages you to have practice discussion with the other practice leaders, too. And... In Zenshin, Greg will be a practice leader now, too. Kosho and I were asking each other what would be an appropriate ceremony or acknowledgement of that.

[37:08]

Unfortunately, we don't have such a thing. I have to make one up. But just so you know, he is available as a practice leader. Also, I would hope that we would have some way to interact as a Sangha. You know, in my role as Abbot, I spend a good deal of time thinking about what's best for Zen Center. And, of course, Zen Center is basically a people church. We are Zen Center. Yes, the buildings are very helpful to have, but really we're it. If you take us away, the buildings are just buildings.

[38:08]

It's our wholehearted effort inside of them and outside of them that makes them a Zen Center. I'd also like to have a way to engage and hear your thoughts and your feelings around our practice and how we're doing and what you would like us to do. This would be very helpful for me. As I, you know, look at these questions, where are we going? Where do we want to go? How are we doing here in our monastic practice? I'm not sure whether doing that in Chosen is the best way or just informally or whatever. So I look to you for your opinions as to how that might happen. Okay, that's my piece for today.

[39:15]

So thank you for coming. And thank you for those of you who've just said Tangario. As I say, it reminds those of us who've said it in the past. Oh, yeah, Tangario. You know, it would be nice somehow if our practice, our awakening, was always a kind of a sweet event. That happened in a soft and gentle manner. But, you know, sometimes it does seem that other expressions of it do help. I mean, we should be careful. No. Balance. No. It's not just arduous.

[40:17]

In fact, as we explore the practice a little deeper, we see that this wholehearted giving over, in its own way, it asks more of us than just sitting through the difficulty. This practice, it asks us to look carefully. Where are we holding? And to call up the intention that says, okay, even that, allow that to open and release. This is the way of all the Buddhas and ancestors. This is the way to awaken and be free from suffering. Thank you very much.

[41:17]

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