Zendo Lecture

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experience of work, and, excuse me while I reach, there, here's my talk, work which which most people have to do, have to do in order to survive, wasn't always such a, wasn't always favored in Buddhism. In fact, apparently the Buddha insisted that the monks of the sangha do no work as a way of preventing any accidental killing, for example, like if you're working at a garden, you wouldn't want to accidentally kill a being. At least that's


as much as I've heard about what he thought about work, but they didn't work. In fact, they lived on the kindness of those around them. They would go out begging every day for their food, really. They would go out in the morning, and what they got in their rather big bowl, it's more like a pot, is what they lived on that day. If they got a lot, they ate a lot. If they got nothing, they probably ate nothing. Although they might have shared when they got back, but I'm not sure about that either. But the important thing is that they were discouraged from working, and probably learned kindness by being so dependent on others. Well, and that was in India. And apparently, about a thousand years later, when Buddhism went to China, it met a culture to where that kind of begging just wasn't acceptable. It would be like Buddhism


coming to this country. Begging is not acceptable in our culture. Because in China, apparently very practical people, and that if you didn't work, you didn't eat. You weren't paying your way. And so in Chan, Zen, our school, it became quite a thing to spend a lot of time working, manual physical labor. And that, of course, is where we are today. And there is that practical approach of everyone wants to pay their way. I think every one of us does. I mean, it's very difficult, I think, actually to beg. In fact, a bunch of us were in Japan for a little while, staying at Suzuki Roshi's temple, and we went out on begging, dressed up in our Buddhist clothes, with our big eyes, big round


eyes, going downtown, downtown in Yaizu, Japan, with thankfully Suzuki Roshi's son, whose temple it is, he took us. So he sort of paved the way before us, telling them, I think, probably not to be afraid. So he marched us through the town. We were ringing our little bells and chanting something in Japanese. And the people would come out of the stores and put money into our little bags that we were carrying. It was sort of like trick-or-treat in that way. But I was mortified pretty much by the whole thing, sort of traipsing through somebody else's town, asking for their money. So I could see that there's quite a teaching in that, to be able to accept the charity and kindness of others in that so visible and public a way, public display.


Yes, well, back in this country, we don't do that so much. And so that the, what Buddhism, what happened, I think, in China was something very, very, radical happened to the whole idea of work. It wasn't just, it just wasn't doing your part, doing your share. It actually became a practice, a transformative practice, spiritual practice, like counting your breaths or chanting a mantra or sitting. It was a ritual, it became a ritual, a transformative event. And I think, and I hope it is for us here too. Otherwise, we're sort of wasting a lot of our time during the day. In the winter, we don't work so much. We mostly spend our time here in the Zen Do until after lunch, and then we'll work two, three or four hours, two, three hours in the afternoon. And


then we're back to the Zen Do in the evening. But in the summertime, it's much more traditionally monastic in the Japanese sense, where a little time in the morning in the Zen Do and a little time in the evening in the Zen Do. And the rest of the time is working, which usually means sweeping, for Japanese, as far as I could tell, sweeping all day. Sweeping places that didn't need to be swept. So obviously, it wasn't goal-oriented, whatever, the work. In fact, when we were in Japan, we did that too. We were given our brooms, our bamboo brooms, which are really neat, and we just swept what we had swept the day before. And often there wasn't anything there, but you just did it. You just did it. It was nice. So the Buddha, from what I hear,


after he awoke, after his enlightenment, after he saw the true nature of reality, continued to meditate. Does that make sense to you? It might not. Somebody who's finally made it, who's finally gotten to the top, become the CEO of meditative practice, why would they need to continue meditating? Well, he did, and still practiced. Dogen, who is the founder of this particular school in Japan, he got it from China, and he brought it to Japan, this school. Just a minute. My mind is wandering. Hold on. Well, never mind about that. I don't know what I was going to say. Oh, well, whatever. The Buddha kept practicing because that's what a Buddha does.


When a Buddha is enlightened, a Buddha lives enlightened after that as well. And the way you live enlightened after that as well is to continue to practice, is to continue to sit, is to continue to follow or be the precepts. In other words, you continue to lead a wholesome life. So there really isn't any big surprise in that. Oh, Dogen, I remember what I was going to say. The big matter for him to solve was, if you are a Buddha, why do you have to practice? Why do you have to try to find that you're a Buddha? So it's the same thing, that we practice because we are. That is our true nature. We are Buddha. And the way that shows in the world is by practicing. Isn't that great? That's so logical. Well, all right. Here's my point. I think it all boils down to Zazen,


the whole business. That seems to have been the thing that finally opened the Buddha's eyes to the nature of reality. And it is the core of our practice. It's just, and there's not much to it, as most of you know who've tried it. In fact, there's even less to it than you'd think. Just sitting in an upright fashion, facing the wall, and watching your mind and watching your body. What could be easier than that? So, from what I can tell, where the radical change comes in work as practice, when work is actually practice, is that we take Zazen mind to it. And it doesn't matter what work. In fact, it doesn't really matter what you take Zazen practice to. It can be work. It can be going to the toilet. It can be driving in the car. It can be getting ready for bed. Any activity.


And the Zazen mind is having your eyes open and being upright. Having your eyes open in the sense of being a beginner. A beginner. I know what it's like over the hill out there. And to be a beginner is frowned on. It's something to be ashamed of. If you knew better, you'd be an expert. At least that's what I got in my training. But when I got to Zen Center, it took maybe three or four years before I realized that it was okay to be a beginner. Actually, we were encouraged to be beginners since we were. And to make that even more poignant, we were always. Well, at least I was always putting a job that I didn't have a clue on how to do. Yes. And had no skill for. So I either went crazy or got sick or left or


adopted beginner's mind. Yes. And that's our secret. That it's okay to be a beginner. And so that means not to be an expert. It's really interesting when folks come who have been trained to be experts, or at least to seem that way. It gets kind of painful, because there's the story of the Zen master where the professor comes and wants to ask questions of the Zen master. And the Zen master says, would you like some tea? And the professor holds out his cup and the teacher pours tea and keeps pouring and it overflows and gets on the floor. And the professor said, what are you doing? And the master said, well, this cup, like your mind, is too full. It's too full. There's nothing I can give you, in other words.


So I guess maybe the more open and unassuming and willing we are, I guess the better off things are here, at least here. So that's eyes open. And upright means to notice when you wobble, to notice when delusion comes in. Let's think of an example. Let's see. The kitchen is the best place for me to think of examples of delusion or trouble. Like how to cook the soup, for example. I mean, who hasn't cooked soup? Probably all of us have cooked soup. So we know how to cook soup, right? We know how to cook soup. And so we come to a Tassajara kitchen and someone says, would you help cook the soup? And we say, well, sure. And I'll do it my way. That's assumed, isn't it? And so the Tenzo or the


so then please don't do that. We do that. We do that a little, just a little differently. And because the person oftentimes, any kind of instruction is experienced as criticism and defensiveness arises immediately. So you learn to get adroit in correcting people or you get into big trouble with people. And so you keep coming up against folks will, and sometimes it can become the Fukuten's will against the person in the kitchen working's will. So anyway, so in terms of practice, to be able to sit, to be able to stand there and to notice that, oh my goodness, I really want to do this my way. I really want to do this my way. And then take a deep breath and come back. Yes, here I go. It's to continually come back


to what's actually happening. To notice this gigantic story or even a small one has come up and it starts to pull you, starts to pull you over. Or if that person breathes that way one more time, I'm going to have to get up and leave. And then, oh, back to my breath, back to my posture. So I think we also have a thing about goalless activity, activity without a goal. And that's always very difficult to talk about because it's so easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. But just to do the job, just to do the job. I think anybody who really loves their work does that. Why do you do it? Because you do. And why do you do it? Because I love it. Because it expresses me and it's something that I really enjoy. That's pretty easy, I think, too. But it's more difficult when it's something we don't like to do.


Well, I can't think of anything I don't like to do. I don't mind the dentist. Washing floor towels. Well, maybe. But so the next time, whatever you do, see if you can just do it, just to do it. Not to get it out of the way or just to do it to get money for something else. But just to do it, just to do it. It's actually quite satisfying. And that would be doing it as a practice. That's work as practice. That's working as an enlightened being. Just doing it because it's there and doing it wholeheartedly. So instead of saying, when somebody asks you to do something, instead of saying, oh, I don't think I want to do that, which would be embarrassing here, but it would be, how would you like me to do that? How would you like that done?


And you know where I learned this the most? Where I learned this the most was during work periods with professional carpenters. I'd never really seen them before. Ever, actually. Never. Until living here. And they, I would watch them. They would come in with their tools. And they'd work. And they'd be very concentrated. They'd take a break. They'd take the 15-minute break for 15 minutes instead of an hour. And they'd come back to work. And then they'd be very focused. They would ask how we wanted it, and they'd do it. And then, at the end, they would, what do you call it, clean up. They'd clean up without their mother being there.


I think it was the first experience I ever had of actually seeing somebody clean up when you I learned Zen work from them, from those folks. And I'm very grateful for it. So hopefully, we, who are going to be staying here for the summer, can look at work, which we'll have a lot of, as a religious spiritual Zen, true Zen, the real thing, a practice. And what will help that to happen is if we actually do make it to the Zendo before and after, in the morning and in the evening. Without Zazen, we don't have the actual spiritual practice of keeping our eyes open and being, coming upright, coming back to upright. You know, just that brief time, that hour and 40 minutes, can help greatly in taking it to our work.


That's all I have to say. There's about maybe 10 minutes. Does anybody have any comments? Trevor. So, is that, is Zazen at the beginning and the end of the day, the time when you can get upright and rise up and, which is also what we're trying to do during work. Is Zazen, then just a, what do you say, call it a simple, like a simple quiet activity, or? Because it's like, it's like what we're doing all the time, except like, it's not all the other stuff that we actually have to do. Yes, yes. It's like it's pared down, isn't it? It's like having, having one of these without the tap, the cord and the tassel on it. I think that's the, it's like the


hot fudge sundae without the hot fudge, maybe. Like what? Like what? Like an activity stripped down. Well, it's simple, isn't it? And I think it's, I think it's the core, I think it's the core activity that a Buddha does. And again, it's not, it's not really the what, it's the how. It's the how we, how we do it, how, how, how Buddha manifests, you know. I don't think it's any different than working or going to the toilet. Colin? So I find that when I'm doing this hard work that we're doing, I'm at least shocked anyway, uh, because I am much more present in my body and focused than I am looking at a wall.


How can I bring that to looking at the wall? Maybe ask for more pain, pray for pain. Pain always helps, uh, focus, brings us in. Oh, I'm so sorry. Yeah, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. If your eyes are open and you keep returning to upright, that's enough. Where else can you be? Uh, what's that? You know this. You know this. Everett? Well, that's not work then, is it? They say, what about work being a way of running away from pain and suffering?


Well, that's not work, that's running away. And that's okay, if you want to practice running away, that's fine. I'm talking about work as a spiritual practice. You know, if you, you can employ Zazen mind to that and it's fine, then you know what's happening, what's actually happening. I'm running away, I'm not working. And that's, and that's being awake. Have I had enough? Oh, yes? Forgotten. Okay, uh, oh yes? Maybe. Yes. Maybe. That's why I said maybe. Maybe. Uh, I don't think you have to go that far.


I don't think it's that complicated. I think it's just, um, sitting there with your eyes open, watching your, aware of your breathing and aware of your posture. Always coming to upright. I think that's all there is to it. Who doesn't really matter, because our Buddha nature is not a who and it's not a it. So we don't really have to worry about all that. It's just becoming very still amidst all of the motion. Well, thank you all very much. May I attention here.