2012.07.29-serial.00139

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It is so nice to be here, I think after 10 years. The last time I gave a talk in this zendo was, I think, 2002, so 10 years ago. And that was a few weeks before I had the first Genzo-e at the city center. At that time I lived in San Francisco. I talked about Sansui-kyo or mountains and water sutra of Shobo Genzo. Green Garage, as a kind of introduction to that chapter of Shobo Genzo, I talked about one poem about Mount Rue by Sushi. I don't believe that was ten years ago.

[01:05]

The next year, in 2003, I moved to Bloomington, Indiana. So I have been living in Indiana for nine years. In Indiana, Zen Buddhism is still new and small. So my Zendo is still small, and I like small Sangha. Anyway, when I was in San Francisco, I worked for the Sōtō-shū International Center. So I was very busy. So I didn't have much time to work on making books. But after moving there, I had some time to make books. So one of the focus of my practice since moving to Indiana was making books.

[02:13]

And last month, this is my second book, entitled Living by Vow, was published from Wisdom Publications. This morning, I'd like to introduce one of the stories I wrote in this book. The story is about how Shakyamuni became a Bodhisattva. This is much before he was born as a Gautama in India. Excuse me. Because This is interesting and also important and helpful that we are going to study this Genzoe, the chapter of Shobo Genzo, Yoibutsu, Yobutsu.

[03:19]

Only Buddha, only a Buddha together with a Buddha. So, what is Buddha? And what is Bodhisattva? I think as the origin of Mahayana Buddhism, this story is very interesting and helpful to understand our practice, what we are doing actually. is based on my lectures I gave at MZMC, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, when I was the teacher there, from 1993 to 1996. So the lecture was given almost 20 years ago. So it took me almost 20 years to make this book. But, I talked, while I was at the Zen Center, I talked about the verses and sutras from the sutra book.

[04:31]

The sutra book used at the Zen Center. The verses, such as Four Bodhisattva Vows, and Birth of Repentance, Birth of Three Refuges, and Robe Chant, and Mail Chant, and Heart Sutra, and Hokyo Zenmai, and Sutra Opening Verse, because those are the most familiar Buddhist literature, actually, for many practitioners practicing at Soto Zen centers. But not those verses and sutras. Verses are not often explained. So I thought it's helpful for the practitioner to talk about those verses.

[05:35]

Anyway, all those verses and sutras are about bodhisattva practice based on bodhisattva vow. That is my understanding. And the origin of bodhisattva vow is from this very old story about Buddha's previous life. This story appeared in the introduction of Jataka stories. That is a part of Pali Nikaya. So this is not from Mahayana text. This is from Pali text. Of course, the same, very similar story appeared in the Chinese translation also. time I used the Pali version. It says, this story took place countless eons ago, so many years ago.

[06:57]

There was a person, a young person, whose name was Sumedha. And when he was a kid, his parents died. So he was an orphan. But his family was a very high-class noble family in a certain kingdom. So after his parents died, someone took care of his family property until he became old enough to inherit the family wealth. When he became, I don't know, 18 or 20, or I don't know how old he was, but when he was ready to inherit his family wealth, the person showed how much wealth his family had. Said, for seven generations, his ancestors accumulated the wealth.

[08:02]

The family treasure was filled with gold and silver, gems and pearls, and other valuables. So he had a lot of wealth to inherit. But somehow he didn't want to inherit the wealth. But he thought He was still a very young person, but what he thought was, you know, all of his ancestors and parents, you know, worked so hard. Maybe not only good kind of work, because, you know, at that time, maybe there were a lot of wars. So they had certain difficult situations to accumulate those wealth. And when his parents died so young, when he was a kid, that means behind that there must be some sad and painful stories.

[09:20]

But anyway, when he saw the family wealth, he thought, you know, all of his ancestors and parents None of them, when they died, they couldn't take even a penny of the wealth. So he thought that is not so meaningful to live, you know, to keep the family wealth. He wanted to live different ways. He told the king of the country that, I want to give this wealth to the poor people. And he went into the mountain and became a spiritual practitioner. At that time, when he left, he thought as follows.

[10:25]

He saw that a life transmigrating within samsara, the cycle of birth, sickness, aging, and death was suffering, and he wanted to find the path of deliverance, liberation from the suffering of samsara. That is a cycle of birth, sickness, aging, and death. So this is the same as Shakyamuni Buddha found when he left his palace, his father's palace. And he thought, suppose a man, after falling into a heap of filth, heap of filth, that means he becomes dirty, Here's about a distant pond covered with lotuses of five colors.

[11:31]

Lotus flowers, of course, symbol of Dharma. The man ought to search for the pond. We should go to the pond and clean our body. If he does not, that's not the pond's fault. In the same way, there is a lake. Reiki's nirvana, the great deathless nirvana. Deathless means beyond or free from the cycle of birth, sickness, aging and death. Then, in which to wash of the defilements of my harmful karma. If I do not seek it, that will not be the lake's fault. That is my fault. So I should go to the pond, that is nirvana, to clean his harmful karma.

[12:37]

Because he was so young, I don't think he himself did harmful karma. But probably he thought of his ancestors' karma. Probably. probably think he inherited the harmful karma also from his ancestor. Anyway, he left the country and started to practice by himself in the big mountains, Himalaya. Because he was very capable, eminent person, after for a while he After practice, he attained superhuman knowledge and some supernatural power. So he became a powerful person, spiritual person. But he didn't know about Buddha.

[13:40]

But one time, one day, he was flying. One of the supernatural powers he attained was he could fly in the sky. So wherever he needed to go, he could fly. And when he was flying, he found one town where people were working to fix the street. It seems they had a storm or something, and the street was very muddy. And also, people were making a decoration of the street, and people seemed so excited. It seems like they had a festival. So, Sumeda came down and asked, what's happening? Then the people in the town said, Buddha is coming. The people invited the Buddha named Dipankara.

[14:49]

So Sumedha was very delighted that Buddha is coming so he could meet with Buddha. So he offered his help to fix the road. because the town people knew he had superhuman power. They asked him to fix the street. The story said, if he used his magical power, he could fix the road very easily. He didn't want to use his magical power for Buddha. So he started to fix the road with his own hands. Unfortunately, before he completed his work, Buddha and his Sangha monks arrived.

[15:58]

So one part of the street was still very muddy. and Sumedha didn't want Buddha to walk on the muddy road. So what he did was, it seems he had long hair and he loosened the hair and he lied down on the muddy road and put his hair on the mud and asked Buddha to walk on his hair. That was his offering. So the posture of putting his hair on the ground is a similar posture of making prostration that we do. Anyway, at that time, when Buddha was walking on his hair,

[17:03]

Somehow, something happened. Probably because of Buddha's presence, he had some transformation in his mind. Until then, he wanted to escape from samsara and wanted to enter nirvana. But at the moment he met with Buddha, he changed his mind. And the story says, when Sumedha, lying in the mire, looked out He made a vow. If I want, I could now enter the Buddhist Sangha to become a monk and, by practicing meditation or studying Dharma, free myself from deluded human desires and become an Arhat

[18:24]

So he thought, if I became Buddha's disciple, he could release from delusions and desires and become Arhat. Then, at death, I would at once again nirvana. After he attained Arhat and he died, he entered nirvana. and cease to be reborn. So he does need to be born again in samsara. So his transmigration will be ceased. But he said, but this would be a selfish cause. This would be a selfish cause to pursue. For thus, I should benefit myself only. So he could be released from the suffering of samsara and enter nirvana.

[19:30]

But he thought that way of practice is selfish. You know, this is from Parinikaya. I want to help all beings as Deepankara Buddha is doing now. I am determined. So he made a vow. He was determined. I vow to attain what Deepankara Buddha attained and benefit all beings. So he changed his mind. First, originally he wanted to become free from samsara and enter nirvana. But when he met with Buddha, he changed his mind. That way of practice is selfish to him. So he vowed to attain whatever Vipankara Buddha attained.

[20:35]

That means he wanted to become a Buddha. I am determined I vowed to attain what Deepankara Buddha attained and benefit all beings. That was his vow. And he was still, you know, lying on the ground. Then the Buddha, walking on his hair, he knew the person took a vow to become Buddha. Dipankara said to his assembly that this young person would become Buddha after many eons later of bodhisattva practice. So this was the prediction that this young person, Sumedha, who took a bodhisattva vow,

[21:45]

And Buddha, previous Buddha, gave a prediction that this person will be able to become Buddha. That is a kind of origin of bodhisattva practice. So, upon seeing Vipankara Buddha, Sumedha abandoned his earlier intention to escape from samsara. Now he aspired to live like the Buddha, staying in samsara to help all living beings. So he didn't become Buddhist monk. He determined to live within samsara to help all beings. And since that time, it is said, for more than 500 lifetimes, he was born and die one lifetime, and be born again and continue this bodhisattva practice based on his vow.

[23:00]

And finally, after more than 500 lifetimes of that kind of practice, he was born as a Gotama in India. And within that lifetime, he actually attained Buddhahood and became Shakyamuni Buddha. That is the story. This is a really long story, and within the Jataka story, There is a Jataka collection of more than 500 stories. That is why it is said Shakyamuni was born more than 500 lifetimes. And he was not only a monk or a spiritual practitioner. Sometimes he was a king. Sometimes he was a beggar. Sometimes he was even a monkey or a deer or a bird. So he became all different kind of forms of living and practiced ten parameters.

[24:10]

The Pali version says he practiced ten parameters and within those ten parameters, five of six parameters in Mahayana teaching is included. So I think this story of Shakyamuni since he allowed Bodhicitta and took a Bodhisattva vow until he really attained and became a Shakyamuni Buddha. It took more than 500 lifetimes. This is a long story. But this long story, I think, is the basis or origin of the idea of Sambhogakaya. Sambhogakaya, one of the English translations of Sambhogakaya is the reward body of Buddha. Because of his long continuous practice, he became a Buddha as a result.

[25:16]

Anyway, this story to me is really interesting. I think Many people go through this kind of transformation. In my case, my family was born until my father. For six generations, my family had been a merchant in Osaka. It's not a big, you know, business. It's a small business. So they are not so rich. But after six generations of, you know, working as a merchant, there must be some property accumulated. But fortunately or unfortunately, my family lost all that property in one night, during one night.

[26:26]

That is 1945. In March, Osaka was bombed by the American Air Force. We lost everything. So when I was born three years later, in 1948, my family had no property. I really appreciate that. If the family property was there, I couldn't become a monk. Because I was the oldest son. In Japanese culture, the first son has a responsibility to take care of family business and property and take care of parents. But when I was a kid, my father said, we don't have any property, so you are free. You can become anything. But he didn't expect me to become a Buddhist monk.

[27:28]

That was too extreme for him. So he was not happy. But anyway, I believed that I was free. So when I was a high school student, I had many questions about life and the ways people lived in Japan. That was 1960s and 70s. You know, Japanese People, in that time, worked so hard. After World War II, you know, Japan lost everything, and people were starving. After that, you know, people worked so hard to become rich. And in the 60s and 70s, Japan became rich again. That was the time I became a teenager. And I didn't like that way of life. My parents or teachers and the entire society expected me to study hard and go to a good, famous college or university and get a good job, work hard and make money.

[28:50]

When I was a high school student, I couldn't find any meaning to live in that way. Why I have to work, live for making money? That was my question. And no one actually gave me the answer. I didn't want to live in that way, but I didn't find any alternative way of life until I I had a chance to read my teacher's book. My teacher was Uchiyama Kosho Roshi, and a friend of mine knew someone who practiced with Sawaki Roshi, so my friend knew Uchiyama Roshi. And he allowed me to read Uchiyama Roshi's first book, entitled Jiko, or The Self. When I read my teacher's book, somehow I wanted to live like him.

[29:54]

That means I didn't understand. I knew nothing about Zen or Buddhism, but I understood when he was a teenager, he had the same question. And he devoted his life to find the answer. And after he found the answer, he continued to practice and share the practice. In his case, Dogen Zen's teaching and practice of Zazen. After he found that was his answer, he continued to practice and share with younger people. Before that, I read many books about religions, and I knew, you know, there are many such spiritual teachers, but Uchiyama Roshi was the first actual person who lived in that way. So somehow I wanted to live like him.

[30:59]

But my first motivation was I wanted to escape from this material world. So I went to Komazawa University to study Buddhism to understand what the answer Uchiyamoroshi found. So after studying Buddhism for three or four years, I understood what Zen or Buddhism is about. And Uchiyamoroshi put emphasis on Bodhisattva vows. He didn't like ceremonies, rituals, so we didn't even have morning service at Antaiji. But before and after he gave a Dharma talk, we chanted four voice-over vows. That was the only vows we chanted at Antaiji.

[32:03]

So he put very much emphasis on living by vow. Four bodhisattva vows is really important. I understood that by studying Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and also Dogen's teachings and practice with Uchiyama Roshi. Still, my very fundamental motivation is I didn't want to live in that, you know, material world. So I wanted to escape, to find a kind of a better, more stable, quiet, healthy life. And after a few years, I practiced with Uchiyama Roshi at Antaiji. I came to this country when I was 27. And I lived in the woods in Massachusetts.

[33:08]

Only three Japanese monks from Antaiji lived in the woods in western Massachusetts. And not many Americans knew what we were doing there. So not many came, not many people came, but we practiced, all three of us practiced there. We had no financial support, so we had to support our practice by doing some odd jobs, like helping a blueberry farm to pick up big blueberries, or helping a potato farm to help harvesting. A few years later, we started to work at a tofu shop. a macrobiotic group in Massachusetts at that time. So there was a tofu shop. So we worked there. That is how we practiced, supported our practice.

[34:14]

Anyway, so we are very poor. And what we did was just working in the property. We had about five to six properties. We had many trees, but that was the only thing we had. So the first thing we did was cutting trees and digging the stumps and making vegetable gardens. And in the first half year, we didn't even have water. So each day after morning dazen, we walk to the neighbor's property and get water in the plastic container and return. And that was one day use of the water. So I dug a well with hands, with a shovel. We have no machine. Anyway, that was how we lived.

[35:19]

and we practiced for about five years. After a few years, I started to live in that situation. I had a chance to go to New York to have Sesshin. There's a small Zen center in New York City near from the Central Park. After the Sesshin, before taking a bus to return to Massachusetts. But I had some time, so I took a walk towards the south in Manhattan. Then I reached the place, I could park, I could see the Statue of Liberty. At that time, I had nothing. I didn't have a driver's license. I didn't have a passport.

[36:21]

And I didn't have money besides a ticket to return to Massachusetts. So I had really nothing. And I had no identity. At that time, I felt I was really released. I became completely free. If at that time I was hit by a car, no one knew who I am. I was really happy about that. So I felt, you know, my escape was completed. So I don't need to escape anymore. But at that time I felt I don't need to escape anymore. That means I can return to the world. From that point, not suddenly, but gradually I try to return to the world, not to become part of that world, but to bring this teaching and practice and share the Dharma and practice with people.

[37:40]

A few years later, I had to go back to Japan because I had problems with my body. My body was half broken. And I didn't have money to have treatment. So after I went back to Japan, my teacher asked me to work for the Dharma. Because my body was half broken, he asked me to work with my head. that means working on translation. That was the beginning of my work and practice as a translator. And so I have been, about 30 years, I have been working on translation. And some of the translation and these books are kind of fruits of my working. Anyway, so I think I went through the same kind of transformation.

[38:50]

First, you know, I had a question or a doubt, a problem about life, and I wanted to escape from this problem or situation. And it took me more than 10 years of study and practice to Realized, you know, in the case of Sumedha, he was very smart. The moment he met with Buddha, he changed his mind. And he became a bodhisattva. But for me, it took 10 years to make that transformation. But I think many of us have the same kind of transformation. First, I want to be free from my problem. And we studied Dharma and practiced.

[39:51]

And when I feel, you know, now I'm done, then we can open our mind and think how I can share this with other people. probably Shakyamuni Buddha himself had the same, I think, much, much, you know, higher, it's not like mine, but after he attained awakening under the Bodhi tree, the first few weeks he didn't want to teach. He wanted to just enjoy the freedom he attained, but because of by the name of the god Indra. Indra came and asked him to teach. He had hesitation, but somehow, after for a while, he watched the situation and people in the world who were suffering, seeing that some of them could understand what he found.

[41:02]

So he stood up from his sitting and walked to the beer park and taught those five monks. That was the beginning of Buddhism. When he attained awakening, he became Buddha. Before he started to teach, I think he thought how he could teach what he found. and it took him a certain period of time. And that became his teaching. And when he started to teach those five monks, those five monks understood and became Buddha's disciples. That is the origin of Buddhist Sangha.

[42:04]

Those three Buddha Dharma and Sangha is the very basis of Buddhism, so-called Three Treasures. And when we become Buddhist, we became Buddhist by we take refuge in those three treasures, Buddha and Buddha's teaching, and the Sangha. So, this process is really important. First, we need to have a question, or we have a kind of a problem. But this is not a healthy, this way of life is not healthy. And we need to go to, we need to walk, start to do something to find the place we need to go.

[43:17]

So we started to practice, study and practice. But an important point as a bodhisattva is to become free from our problems, our suffering, is not the goal. But that is a starting point. And we start to practice as a bodhisattva, how to share this teaching and practice with all beings. That is voice sattva vow. And, you know, during our practice in Soto Zen tradition, we first, when we receive the precept, first we chant the verse of repentance.

[44:20]

This chanting the verse of repentance at the precept receiving ceremony is a kind of a turning point to transform our way of life from being led by our karma. We make another karma, unwholesome karma. we suffer, not only ourselves, but we create suffering with other people, and we make repentance how much suffering or pain we created through our karma. And one of the definitions of bodhisattva is in Mahayana Buddhism, is ordinary living beings, I mean ordinary beings are living, being purified by karma. But bodhisattva is living by vow.

[45:26]

That is the origin of the title of this book, Living by Vow. means by making repentance, practice repentance, we make transformation from the life we live, being brought by our karma, means our like and dislike, or fulfilling our desire. We feel, we think, usually we think, when my desire is completely fulfilled, then we can be happy. We can be satisfied. But according to Buddhist teaching, that is heavenly beings within samsara. It's not free still. Being heavenly beings is not free. from samsara, because there's no end.

[46:28]

Things are always changing. So, when the situation changes, heavenly beings need to go to somewhere else, possibly to hell again. So, that is the way we live before receiving the precept. Mahayana precept. But when we receive the precept, we make repentance of the way we have been living, being pulled by our karma. And we try to live by vow, bodhisattva vows. But as a bodhisattva, our karma, our karmic conditions, still continues. because our vow is not to enter nirvana. We vow to stay in samsara. That is the fact, you know, Sumedha made determination.

[47:36]

We stay in samsara to help all beings. So in order to work within samsara, we need our karma. Karma means condition. As this person, you know, I am a Japanese, so I think in Japanese language, and yet I have to speak in English. This is really a terribly painful karma. I cannot be free from this karma. I have to keep this karma. But somehow I try to use my karma to use for the Dharma as a part of a vow to share the Dharma with Western people. That is what I do when I give a talk or I make translation.

[48:38]

So I cannot escape from karma. But I try to use our karma, conditions for the sake of Dharma as a practice of vow. So, you know, Vaisakha vow does not allow us to escape from samsara. But because of the vow, we have to stay in samsara. You know, that is the meaning of the first of the four Vaisakha vows. I'm not sure which translation you use, but the translation of four bodhisattva vows we use in Indiana is, beings are numberless, we vow to free them. You know, within this one very simple vow, there's a contradiction. That means, beings are numberless, and we vow to free them.

[49:45]

We vow to free them means we vow to free them all. This vow means until I free all beings, I don't enter nirvana. That means I vow to stay in samsara until all beings enter nirvana. And there is no end if beings are numberless. There's no end. This vow is fulfilled. That means this vow is endless. That means there's no time we can enter nirvana because we vow to be a last person to enter nirvana. So this is a really strange vow. It's almost nonsense. A clever person cannot take such a vow. If we take a vow with careful understanding, This is simply a fantasy or kind of a lying.

[50:51]

But to me, this contradiction is really important. That means when all bodhisattvas take this vow, then no bodhisattva is in nirvana. So nirvana is empty. That means all bodhisattvas are working within samsara. Then, it's kind of a strange thing, but we can find nirvana within samsara if all people live with that aspiration to help others first. Then we find nirvana right now, right here. To me, that is the meaning of bodhisattva path. So our goal as a Buddhist practitioner, our bodhisattva, is not entering nirvana, but staying here, right here within samsara, and work together, walk together with all beings, and find nirvana right now, right here.

[52:01]

That is what I have to say this morning. Well, I think we have time for questions and answers after tea, so please give me questions or comments if you have some. Thank you very much for listening.

[52:31]