Zendo Lecture

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I vow to be secure in the love of God, God of Spirits. Good evening, everyone. Well, we're all cozy, all tucked up with our nice heavy robes and our fire close by. Thank you for joining me in the steam bath. So I've been participating this week in a Zen and Yoga, Yoga and Zen workshop,


co-led with Judith Lassiter, and we've been... We've been... I can't say what we've been doing. Maybe I'll know later, but I guess I would say we've been receiving teachings and completely trying our practice moment after moment, dropping our preferences and with good spirit just trying things, even if we've done them a hundred times before, trying them again with a fresh spirit. So I would say that that might be one of the secrets of practice.


And also during this week, I made the mistake of bringing the new Harry Potter book with me. So even though I've been giving Dharma talks, little Dharma talks every day, I also have been staying up till 11 o'clock every night reading Harry Potter. And Harry Potter, there's... I kept... The more I read Harry Potter, the more it seemed like the yoga class was sort of like Hogwarts, you know? And I wanted to... Who doesn't know about Harry Potter? Is there anybody? Well, Harry Potter is a young man now. He's 16, 15 in this book, and he goes to wizarding school. He's a young wizard. It's a very involved story, but anyway, he receives teachings at school. And I just wanted to read this one part. It doesn't give anything away, those of you who will be reading it.


But this really reminded... I mean, I really had to laugh because it reminded me so much of our yoga class. They were offering a special class to the students on apparating, which is being able to disappear and appear in another place at will. And it's a kind of advanced practice, but... Apparating, and his name was... I'm missing his name here. Wiley-Tricross, I think. And it doesn't matter so much what his name was. Anyway, so the students arrived, and he said,


the most important thing to remember when apparating are the three Ds that this teacher was saying. And the three Ds were destination, determination, and deliberation. And he says, step one, fix your mind firmly upon the desired destination. In this case, they were standing there with a hoop in front of them, and they were supposed to disappear and reappear inside the hoop. That was their lesson. So kindly concentrate upon that destination now. So, excuse me, earlier than that, this is what he said. He said, it's very difficult to apparate, but I would like... This is the teacher. I would like each of you to place yourselves now so that you have a clear five feet of space in front of you.


This sounded exactly like class. Everybody take your place, five feet in front of you. And there was a great scrambling and jostling as people separated, banging into each other and ordering others out of their space and getting all ready. That just reminded me very much of our class. You had to get your space. And then bringing up these three Ds of destination, determination, and deliberation. So, coincidentally, when I opened up Suzuki Roshi's book, just randomly, he was also talking about... he didn't talk about destination and deliberation, but he did say, you must have determination. So, I'll get back to that point of Suzuki Roshi,


but in our workshop we've been bringing up some of the most basic teachings. And as part of creating a practice container at all times that goes on throughout all the day, it is a good idea to keep in mind five things. These are called the five remembrances. So, we've been talking about these and I thought I'd go over those with you as well. So, the first of the five remembrances is, I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old. And the second is, I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health. I am of the nature, number three, to die.


There is no way to escape death. And the fourth, all that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. And the last one, my actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand. So, these are very, you might say, this is kind of sobering, you know. I don't want to think about that. I thought we were going to have fun at this lecture. Why is she bringing up that, you know? But what I'd like to suggest is that remember that


remembering these things, and these are the teachings of the Buddha asking us to remember these things, creates our determination to completely practice. Now, there's no time to lose, there's no time to wait, there's no other day, there's no other time than right now. So, when we bear this in mind, we can die in each moment, we can be let go of each moment and be ready for each moment, without manipulating. These things, you know, may not be true for everyone.


Someone may not ever have a lot of ill health, but we are of the nature to have ill health. Something, you know, for everyone, needs attention and is painful and accidents and... So, we have this monastery here, this practice place, and in the summer it's open, and another name for a monastery is called a So Rin, or a forest, a grove or a forest, and in this forest, in the So Rin, there is room for all sorts of different vegetation and plants and trees and shrubs. In the monastery, in the practice place, which is wider than just Tassajara, of course,


there's room for everyone, each person with their different experiences and backgrounds and karmic life, and coming together here, or wherever we come together, with people living harmoniously together, allowing for each other, making space for each other, and all growing together, helping one another, is the So Rin, or the monastery. I think having a place where we can experience that fully and work with all different kinds of people in harmony, making an effort to live in harmony, in this world where we see so much disharmony and so much hatred, so many troubles. I haven't looked at the paper since I got here on Tuesday.


I just glanced over someone's shoulder and saw some very sad headlines. So how do we live in a world remembering that we all are of the nature to die and have ill health and grow old and lose those we love, be separated from those we love? We're all growing in this same ground together, and our actions are our true belongings. So one might, after hearing these, want to take this up. What would it be like to bear these things in mind as we move throughout our day? The mindfulness of death practice.


One image is you carry death on your left shoulder. And remind yourself, death, death, death will come. The life force will be cut off. Not as a macabre or pessimistic, but as a reminder, this is our nature. And we don't have the luxury of some dream of something else. So we've been looking at these basic practices. The first is impermanence, or everything changes. And those five remembrances speak directly to that.


And another one of these really basic practices that you've all heard of and have taken up to some degree or another, or you probably wouldn't be here right now, is mindfulness practice. Mindfulness, the character in Chinese, is present moment, the top part, and heart, the radical for heart. So being in the present moment with full heart, wholeheartedly, is mindfulness practice. And a question came up today about the way that sometimes we call perfectionism, and we get those mixed up, perfectionism and mindfulness. And I think the monastery is set up for lots of opportunities to practice mindfulness, taking care of, especially during practice period, but all during the summer, really no difference.


Everyone has their work assignments, and our effort to take good care of the space, the guests, be mindfully attentive while people are talking with us, while we're taking care of the garden and the food and the baking and the shop and the phones. What is mindfulness, and what is some kind of idea of perfectionism, which I think we get those mixed up or tangled up. And after this question today, I remembered a Zen story that had been very... In my formative years, before I came to Zen Center and was reading about Zen, I hadn't really started to practice. There was a story, you've probably heard it, it was one of those early stories that we came upon, which was the monk was asked by his teacher to rake the garden paths, and so he was out there raking, and there's a tradition of making these lines, sometimes circular and in sand often,


but raking the garden paths, so he raked and raked, and the teacher came out and said, No, no, that's not what I want, keep raking, raking, raking. That's not how you... He came out again later, That's not how you rake the paths. And the monk is raking and raking, and finally the teacher came out and said, This is how you rake the paths. And he took hold of this tree, and it was full autumn, and he shook the tree, and there was a shower of golden leaves all over the path. That's how you rake the path. That particular story hit me very hard, impressed me, I should say. It was like a seal on hot wax or something. It was like, oh, to live like that, to understand, and to live a life that's like that, rather than caught in perfectionism, get every leaf, get every... Oh, he's going to be mad at me, I'm not doing it as well. They're doing it better, and on and on and on and on,


trying to be perfect or good or something, and losing the wide picture of a beautiful golden autumn day, and the beauty of a... In the fall here, we don't rake the paths, because we actually let the leaves fall and kind of fill up, and sometimes, coming out of the zendo, it's like golden, it's like the yellow brick road, it's just golden. Those of you who are here only in the summer see another season of tasar, and reds and golds. We used to rake the paths, actually, we used to rake all the leaves away, until someone said, if we keep doing that, pretty soon we're going to have a Grand Canyon in the pathway going down to the pool. We're just going to rake and rake until we dig out the whole center of Tasahara,


and the cabins will be on two sides of a gully. Now we just let the... We kind of work them into the ground, and we walk them, and then later, right before summer, we rake. So in our own lives, when are we rigidly perfection soldiers, as somebody once said to me, that she was a perfection soldier, it's very sad how tight every part of her life was, because there was no place to just relax. There was no place to relax, because there was always something that you had to be perfect at doing, even relaxing. So, also in the class, sometimes we're very strongly perfection soldiers with ourselves, but very giving and open with others,


and we forgive all sorts of mistakes, because we see, oh, someone's just learning. This is how they learn. They have to make mistakes. We understand that. But when it comes to us, we're much stronger and stricter and judgmental and critical, so we can see what activities do we have, why diffuse mindfulness and attentiveness and attuning and others were never good enough, never. In calligraphy, we've been having a calligraphy class at Green Gulch, and you learn the technique, and this is, I would say, the same in all the arts and music, in everything we do, cooking, you name it, you learn, hopefully you receive the transmission of a way to do something


that's been tried and true, and then you bring yourself to it, and you bring something new and unique and fresh. We have to, or the teaching will die out. If we're just copying in some rigid way, the life seeps out. So when I practice calligraphy sometimes, it's never good enough. I make the strokes, and I learn the stroke order, and I try to work the brush, and I look at it, and it's embarrassing. I can't show it. I rip it up. But at the class, watching the other students, it was like each person's offering was completely uniquely themselves and was beautiful, and the teacher also, oh, good job, look! And seeing some of the calligraphy of the old masters,


doing calligraphy, and there's drips and splotches, and they're not formed according to the way it showed in the book. They have life and movement and expression, and they know how to make the character so it looks that way the book shows, but then they infuse it with their own life energy, you know, and feeling is not good enough. I can't make that line. I can't make a line. It doesn't look right, you know. This is a big burden to carry with us. In a commentary on one of the koans, it talks about in China, they used to carry big vessels on their head of honey and oil


and different things like many countries, and still today people carry these vessels on their head, and in this koan, the person was walking along and it fell off their head and fell down on the ground, and they just kept walking. They didn't turn back. Now, you might say, well, why didn't they clean it up? Who's going to clean it up? But I think the point was it's broken. There's nothing to be done about it. Why waste time saying, oh, you're so stupid. You should have been, no, no. You just, you keep moving. You keep, when I say keep moving, I mean you don't move. You don't move from your life. You don't move with, oh, how terrible. Oh, look at me. I'm such a, or whatever. You just continue your practice. So this is very hard, you know, when the bread doesn't rise,


when we burn the cookies, when we break a lamp, when we, you know, hurt ourselves or somebody. It's very hard to receive that as Buddhadharma. And we just keep going. We don't move. We keep going. We don't move. The, you know, the workshop is ending tomorrow, and there's something that happens in workshops, all the workshops where people come together and then go through something together and then separate, never to come together again like that ever again. Even if the same group showed up next year, it would be, you know, and our life is like this all the time. Each moment is its own.


And there's a, and sometimes we feel very, like, attached and clinging. We don't want it to end. We don't want to go back. Do we have to? I don't want to leave Tussar for a whole year, you know. And guests who are here who aren't in the workshop may feel that way, and students feel that way. There's a story in the Lotus Sutra called, it's a parable of the magical city. For those of you who've studied the Lotus Sutra, and in the parable people are heading off for their destination, and they get very weary and very tired and grumpy and burned out, and they say, we want to go back, this is a mistake, and they stop trusting who's ever leading them. And the leader decides he better do something because they're on their way to a wonderful place. So the leader in the parable conjures up a magical city, and he says, oh, look, you know, right on the next hill there


is this beautiful city, we can rest there. And everyone is revived, and they go to the city, and it's a magical, it's been conjured up, but they go there and they rest and they enjoy themselves and they bathe and they clean up and they have good meals and they take baths and they look at the moon and then at a certain point the leader says, well, folks, now that you're all rested and have spent some time reviving and restoring yourself, I just want you to know that this, our real place that we were going, we still have to get to, and this was just a kind of conjured up city, conjured city. And at that point they're ready to go. They've restored, they've rested, they're encouraged again, and off they go to the next city. So this is, we have these times that are like magical cities,


you might say, and we can't stay there. I think that's one of the teachings of this is nobody can stay in a magical city, but causes and conditions come together where we can receive and get the support that we need. And then when we're ready and strong, we go off, we go forward and help other people along the way. So I was reminded of this, I was thinking about the workshop coming to an end, that it's time, especially this workshop, which had afternoons of restorative time, daily restorative, giving ourselves time to do nothing, to relax, and just receive our life in a new way.


So we can't stay here forever, and it's time to go. So I just wanted to... How are we doing? Oh, okay. So I wanted to end with this thing I opened up to with Suzuki Roshi. He was talking in this little chapter on direct experience of reality, and he basically starts out saying that there is intellectual understanding, which is fine, and which helps support direct understanding,


but intellectual understanding won't satisfy it, really, if it's just intellectual. We want direct experience of our life, not just our intellect engaging, but our fullness of our life. And direct experience will come when you are completely one with your activity, when you have no idea of self. This could be when you are sitting, but it could also be whenever your way-seeking mind is strong enough to forget your selfish desires. When you believe you have some problem... Now, this is a very strict and strong practice,


so be ready to allow it in. When you believe you have some problem, it means your practice is not good enough. That's a really strict thing to say, don't you think? When your practice is good enough, whatever you are, whatever you do, that is the direct experience of reality. So rather than calling something a problem or an obstacle, to understand that whatever you do, whatever comes to you, is just your own direct experience of reality. Calling it a problem is something extra, which sets up a whole psychophysical posture around it when it's a problem, you know. So when you believe you have some problem, it means your practice is not good enough.


It's almost like whatever happens, if we can say this is the direct experience of reality, this is my life, and I am of the nature to die, and I can't escape from that. This is my life. There is no other life somewhere around the corner. This point should be remembered. Usually, without knowing this point, we are involved in judgments. So we say, this is right, and that is wrong. This is perfect, and that is not perfect. That seems ridiculous when we are doing real practice. To even call something perfect or not perfect, or judging it right, it's already so extra. And then later on,


about this determination, like the Ministry of Magic, when you do something, have a strong determination to do it. Without any idea of skilled or not, dangerous or not, you just do it. You have to be careful about this. When you do something with that kind of conviction, that is true practice. That is true enlightenment. So, when you do something with strong determination, you just do it. And that just do it may mean asking for help. Just do it does not mean being foolhardy, or hurting yourself.


Just do it is a wide mind, present moment, full heart response. So, I think that's all for tonight. I was going to ask for questions, but it might be a little bit late. Time for one or two. Okay. How about one or two? Yes. Did you read the end of Harry Potter? Have I read the end yet? No, I haven't. Don't tell me. But I do know that the teaching of Harry Potter is the teaching of love, actually. Just like the Lotus Sutra, you know. Other questions? Yes. Todd? You talked a lot about erring on the side of being too strict.


In our practice, too rigid. Rigid, uh-huh. And I'm just wondering if you could talk a little bit about erring on the side of being too loose. That's, both of those are equally, you know, equally missed the mark, you know. And some people have a tendency to be too loose, and others have a tendency to be too tight, you know, to tighten their guitar strings or whatever. Too tight and other too loose. So, and sometimes you hear an instruction like, you know, wide mind or relax or, and we take it to mean,


well, gee, I can do anything I want, you know. So we follow our kind of propensities, our habit mind that goes that way. May I ask you a question? Yes. Where do you feel you're working with right now? Too tight. Too tight? I'm interested how come you asked about too loose. Because, because I, because I do tend to be too tight, I find myself being frustrated, particularly during the summer, about behavior that I consider to be, I perceive as being too loose. The atmosphere that's created is too loose. Say that again, the last thing. The atmosphere that's created sometimes feels too loose. Uh-huh. So for you, you feel you've functioned better when things are a little more not so loose. Yeah. And it might be interesting to ask the loose, the loosey ones,


how their, you know, what their experience is. Do they feel, you know, that they're really loose or are they really working hard at their edge? You know, they're really, you might ask because sometimes what's your loose is someone else's. They are really working, you know, to make it to work on time, to not smoke or whatever it is that they're working with. But we, from our own experience, we judge it from our own shoes, right? So you might ask them. Judith says about people's, you know, ability to stretch and be flexible. This is one thing I love that she says. If you think you're flexible, I'll show you somebody who's much more flexible. If you think you're tight, I'll show you somebody who's way more tight. So, you know, what is that, you know? It's just who you are and what's helpful for you and where your edge is.


But this isn't to say that we don't make effort to help each other and encourage each other to, especially sometimes newer trees in the forest, may not know some of the real basic practices, you know? This is what I'm finding out at Green Gulch. There's some of the basic things like silent work, you know, or taking a posture, you know, a stable posture or, you know, things like that. So how do you help a newer student maybe or an older student without praising self at the expense of other, etc., etc., judging, you know? How do you help a tree in the forest? Thank you for your question. Can the newer trees help the older trees, like, remember what bamboo is like? Everybody helps everybody else.


The older trees, having the newer trees around them allows them to shelter and protect somebody, you know? And the younger trees, I don't know enough about forests, but I'm sure that those little roots that are doing everything, you know, not so deep down are helping the soil and, you know. So, yeah, everybody helps everybody. It inter... totally one fabric, totally living together, appreciating together, encouraging together, dying together. Okay, thank you very much. May I?