December 9th, 2002, Serial No. 00978

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I actually want to start this morning with a song, and it's a song about dropping body and mind, and how about if I sing it, I'll sing it once, this is a first for me, this is my jumping off the 100 foot pole, I'll sing it once, you'll see, you probably all know it, I don't know, but whether you know it or not, just come on in, the second time, and let's sing it three times together, okay, it goes like this, hey ho, nobody home, no eat, no drink, no money, have we none, still we will be merry, hey ho, nobody home, no eat, no drink, no money, have we none, still we will be merry, hey ho, nobody home, no eat,


no drink, no money, have we none, still we will be merry, hey ho, nobody home, no eat, no drink, no money, have we none, still we will be merry. I have no idea where that song comes from, or what it means, or when I learned it in my life, but it came up for me yesterday, sometime yesterday afternoon in Zazen, and I noticed it brought tears to my eyes, and I wanted to share it, you know, I've been feeling how, I feel a little bit like, can you hear me back there, no?


So, I've been feeling a little bit, a little bit like Cinderella in that this time for me as she's so, you know, four days from now at the, can you still not hear, is that okay? Four days from now at the stroke of midnight, I don't know what I turn into, but I know that I stop being she's so, and I've noticed that I've actually become, I've become kind of attached, and I was imagining, you know, going home and, you know, I've particularly become attached to ringing the wake-up bell and doing the morning jhunda, and I was thinking about being at home and starting to ring the wake-up bell and do the morning jhunda, and then the next thought I had was that I might have to start going to my local She


Sews Anonymous meetings, you know, someone, someone asked after, I think after Saturday lecture a few weeks ago, I was, question and answer, and the first question that someone asked was, they said, it seems like when I come to these, these Zen talks, people are always funny and kind of humorous and self, self-effacing in some way, and I immediately felt my Sesshin mind, you know, and I looked at them and I thought, you know, how could you not spend days looking at the wall and feel that it's funny, and I, and at that time I immediately made up this joke, I turned to this person and said, what's the difference between a stand-up comedy routine and a Zen lecture, and he looked at me and I said, stand-up


comedy isn't always funny. Here we are in Sesshin, and during Sesshin we, we create this container for ourselves in which we turn up the heat on our lives and our intention, and I know that, I know that I told this story during my way-seeking mind talk, but it seems, it seems so right during Sesshin, it was about when I learned to weld, when Harry Roberts taught me to weld, and this was almost 25 years ago at Green Gulch, and he said the secret of welding is to see that, that everything is actually liquid, and that what we're doing by welding is we're


applying heat to things that just appear as solid, and we're applying them to our, to our natural state. Those guys are taking things that look solid and applying them to their natural state, but Harry also said that, that this, this image, this feeling, this space about welding is also true in our lives, that our lives are, are, are very fluid, that we just, we just think that it just looks like things are the way that they are. Things just look still. He said actually, what's real is that we haven't, we haven't even been born yet, and we've already


died, that this idea that we have about time and space is, is, is no better, is no, it's no different an idea, no better an idea than this, the reality of our lives, which is that we just don't, we just don't know who we are and where we are, whether we've been born, whether we've already died. And Sashin, Sashin is a chance to kind of make, make resolve and have this, to put ourselves in this container, and I notice there are many ways when, you know, putting ourselves in a container can, can bring up things that we, that we may not expect. We do that, you know, like, it's like studying for a test at the last minute, or, or having to write a book, having a deadline, having something, having something in which there's


a certain period of time in which to do, and Sashin is like that, a chance to really go deeply and to, to engage our minds. I mean, I also think of, it's, it's also a lot like we create a crisis for ourselves, it's, it's, we're in each period, we have a crisis to deal with, the crisis of, of us, and it's like people can do amazing things during times of crisis, you know, it's like when, when your friend is hurt and stuck under some heavy weight, you could suddenly lift a weight far beyond what you could lift if it weren't for that crisis, and Sashin is like that. I've also been feeling this, I've been feeling the container of Sashin, and I've also been


feeling the, the container and space of the upcoming shuso ceremony, and as you probably know, or may or may not know, the, the Sashin ends with this shuso ceremony in which each person brings a question, and I was thinking, as I was thinking about this, and Sashin, I realized that you don't need to think so much about what your question is for the shuso ceremony, but I do suggest that you use some of this time during Sashin to think about your question, to think about what, what is in your heart, what, what question comes up for you when you put aside thinking mind, when you put aside all of the worries and concerns about your, your life and the world, and what is your deepest question?


You know, I think of it as this, we have this chance to apply heat, and it's a little bit like, you know, the, the earth, this, this planet that we've come from, again, it, it just looks, it just looks solid, but underneath, it's bubbly, liquid, moving around, and that, the image I had when I was thinking about this was that our Sashin is a chance to heat, to heat that, what looks like that solidness below the surface, and let the fluidity of our lives form, let the, those plates that we have, let them start to move, and see what bubbles up, see what question comes up. I've been, as you can tell, you know, I've been in some way trying to, you know, prepare, seems like an outrageous word for the shuso ceremony, it's like preparing for your life.


I did go to the library to find the question and answer book, and it was already gone, so if you have it, please return the book. But I've, some people have already tipped me off as to the questions. I have, you know, I, a few people and, and all of us together, and in studying, I thought of three questions that came up for me that seem really relevant to the Sashin and to our lives. And those, those three questions that I came up with are, how do you step from the top of a hundred-foot pole? When the bell rings, we come to the zendo, why? And there's so much suffering in the world, what are we doing here in the zendo? I'm sorry if that was one of your questions, but, you know, it's, it's actually, it's still


good, you know, these questions are, they're, they're questions that should come from our hearts and it doesn't, we can all ask the same question. And actually my answer to all three questions was the same. My answer was yes to all three. That all three questions are, are about exploring the nature of reality, about awakening, about ordinary mind. These questions are, are questions that come from the hearts of teachers, of ancient teachers from long ago, who were sitting and came up with these questions. The first question is, how do you step from the top of a hundred-foot pole?


And this is one where, you know, Suzuki Roshi says, yes, you know, just, just give yourself over to being, to being here, doing what you're doing and realize that there is no, we're not at the top of a hundred-foot pole, we're, we're living our lives, we're doing just what we're doing. And we are at the top of a hundred-foot pole. We're in that place where we have to do something, we have no choice but to do something. In the, you know, this is a, a famous koan and in the commentary, commentary to this koan says, although you have entered the way, it is not yet genuine. Take a step and the worlds of the ten directions are your total body. So I think it's, I see that as pointing to this kind of fluidity, this fluid world that


Harry Roberts was talking about. This world, this world beyond birth and death. This world where we don't, we don't know, we're at the top of a hundred-foot pole and we have to do something. You know, one of the, one of the questions, I realize I, I spent about a year or year and a half with the question of asking myself, what is my life? What's, what's most important in my life and, and so you do need to be a little careful about these questions because that's kind of how I ended up here, you know, as, as she said. Over and over again with that question, what, what I kept coming back to was that my life was about practice. You know, this, this koan about the hundred-foot pole, there's a lot of discussion about, you


know, enlightenment and we, and we talk a lot, there's a, there's a lot of talk about enlightenment and I think of, you probably are all familiar with the story, I think it's in the introduction to Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, where Houston Smith is interviewing Suzuki Roshi and he says to Suzuki Roshi, why is it that you, in this whole book, you, you rarely, almost never talk about enlightenment and Oksan, Suzuki Roshi's wife, leans over to Houston Smith and, and whispers, because he's never had it and, and Suzuki Roshi kind of hits her with his, with his, mock hits her with a fan. But I think it can be a little troubling, this, you know, enlightenment feels, it feels like this sort of stagnant ending point and over and over again, in fact I was reading


something from Dogen where Dogen says that when we've reached complete enlightenment, don't think that this is the ending place, this is, complete enlightenment means that we become aware of our inefficiencies, we become aware of what else we need to work on. I also thought when I was thinking about this, this koan about being at the top of a hundred foot pole, made me think of the Tassajara bobcat and when, I don't know if you and Paul were at Tassajara when this bobcat wandered in and I was particularly thinking of it during this time because it was at a, it was during a Choson ceremony when we were in the middle


of, the ceremony had just started, Choson is this question and answer with the abbot and this bobcat leaped through the window, which was up, you know, five or six feet high into the zendo in the middle of the ceremony and it was quite striking and was incredible energy and as this bobcat leapt and I've been thinking about this bobcat while I've been sitting because it was so, the way that it, the way that it felt, it was just so powerful and full of energy and completely aware of everything around him and yet it was very, very calm and still in a way. I remember one day, the bobcat, it seemed to like hanging out at the baths and I can remember one day I was going to take a bath and when I reached


for the little cork, little rubber plug to stop the water, the bobcat came over and took it and it was kind of, it was pretty playful but I think it also liked, I think it was building a nest or something, it liked these materials. It came over and took this plug and I didn't like that so much because I wasn't able to take a bath so I started, you know, kind of calling after it to try and get the plug back and it kept walking away and I've kept following it and I walked over the bridge onto the other side of the road and it started to go up the hill and there I was, I didn't have my shoes on, I was following this bobcat and suddenly it turned, it turned towards me and it made it really clear that it was not playing and that this plug was its plug and I said, yes, this is your plug. I was also thinking in


relation to this, in relation to this question at the top of a hundred foot pole and in some way in relation to all these questions, I was reading this early Pali Sutta called the Magaya Sutta and it's one of the old, one of the old teachings, one of the old records of the words of the Buddha and quite unique, it's really, really, really beautiful. It's about this young monk Magaya who asked the Buddha, he says to the Buddha that he wants to go off by himself and go sit in meditation and the Buddha doesn't quite think he's ready so the Buddha says no and Magaya asks again and again the Buddha says no and Magaya asks a third time and this time Buddha says, fine, go ahead. So it's wonderful in that way even


to see that part of the Buddha who says no but then kind of gives in and so Magaya goes off by himself into the mango grove to go meditate and he's not able to concentrate. He's filled with, he's filled with thoughts of, with greed and hate and lust and he returns to the Buddha and he comes and says in this very kind of open childlike way, he says to the Buddha, I wasn't able to concentrate. My mind was filled with thoughts of greed and lust but it's such a kind of, he says it in this very sort of wonderful accepting way that he's just curious and I think that's also a wonderful lesson for us to approach our, to approach what comes up for us in our meditation with that kind of appreciation and curiosity that


oh look what's coming up. And the Buddha says, the Buddha's response is also quite beautiful. He says, when the heart's release is immature, there are five things that are conducive to its maturity. Again, I thought that was really beautiful, the heart's release being mature. Very different I think, there's nothing wrong with this enlightenment but there's something stagnant about it. Heart's, maturing the heart's release feels like this ongoing process, this never-ending process. And the first thing that the Buddha says to Magaya as a way to mature the heart's release is to develop a lovely intimacy, a lovely friendship, a lovely comradeship. Again,


I was struck by, I know I talked a little about this in our small groups, but I was struck by Buddha's recommendation and that to see the, to see the power in what we can, how we can mature our heart through our relationships, through getting to really touch other people. But to have a lovely relationship all starts here, all starts with our Zazen practice, with having a relationship with ourselves, with really getting, really getting to know ourselves. I was, I was struck in the, for me in the week, the week before Seshin, I noticed how my body started preparing for Seshin. I don't know if any of you noticed that also, but my, my sleeping patterns were different, my eating patterns were different, and, and I felt, I felt myself starting to enter


into this kind of Seshin mind. And, and I actually, I had this wonderful experience with a, a co-worker, with a woman who I've been business partners with for a few years. And we've had this impasse in which, you know, she's been expressing over and over again that there's some way in which she, some way that she feels not really appreciated by me. And, and of course, you know, when someone says that they, that they don't feel appreciated by me, and I, and, you know, I, I of course, I of course thought, well, what is it about her that she can't feel appreciated? You know, what is her problem? I'm, I appreciate her, and, and I'm expressing appreciation. And I started to, we were sitting, she, you know, she came to me, this was just, you know, a few days before Seshin,


and she was really concerned. And, and I started talking, and I said, yeah, there's, there's some problem here, there's some gap between you're not feeling appreciated and me feeling that I do appreciate you. And then I felt something in the open. I, I felt like something came up, which I had been kind of holding down, which was that there was a way in which I was threatened by her. There was a way, there was some way in which part of me felt that she didn't really appreciate me, that she felt that maybe, maybe this business, maybe this company would be better without me, that I was harboring, I was harboring that kind of lack, I was harboring those feelings and those thoughts, and in no way thought that they could possibly be affecting my relationship with this


other person, and yet they were completely affecting my relationship with this other person. And, and it was wonderful that, in fact, she, she said to me at the beginning of this meeting, she said, you know, I spoke to my husband and, and, you know, should I talk to, should I talk to my boss, should I talk to my partner about these feelings? And he said, no, you know, people don't talk about feelings in business. And she said, but you've always invited us, you've always invited us to talk about your feelings. So I thought, I was so glad that she pursued it, and I was so glad that it happened to be as I was preparing for Sashin. Well, the second question, when the bell rings, why do we come to the Zendo? I think we come to the Zendo as, as an expression of our deep resolve. Dogen, I wrote down the statement that Dogen said about


Zazen. He said, sitting Zazen is a direct transcending of the entire world. It is the most precious state of the Buddhas and the patriarchs. Know that the world of Zazen is far different from any other. And the third question, there's so much suffering in the world. Why do we, what are we doing sitting here? Thich Nhat Hanh tells this story of being at Tassajara and making peanut butter cookies for the first time. And it sounded like it was the first time that he had ever made cookies. And he said he started with this batch of cookie dough and used a spoon and took the


cookie dough out and put little globs onto trays and put them in the oven. And he said he immediately felt sorry for the suffering of all of these individual cookies who were in the oven. They were all, you know, they were all heating up intensely and that they were suffering. But he said then he, then he realized, he looked back and saw that there was this big bowl still of cookie dough and he realized they were just all part of this same cookie dough. It was, it was just a kind of temporary moment that they were in, this, this suffering. And I tell that story because that's, we're, we're like, we're a lot like those cookies. We're heating up in the oven. It's the oven of Sashim in which we all, we all feel our suffering, but we're all, we're all part of the same cookie dough. We're all, we're all connected. There's no, no separation.


And we're fortunate to have this time to be alive, to sit together, to put ourselves in this container of Sashim. We can begin to see the world is not always like it appears and we can trust what is beyond our senses and trust what wells up in us as we apply heat and the plates in us begin to move. And we can trust in our deepest, most heartfelt questions that arise. Dogen teaches that Buddha nature is not in us, that it's a mistake to think that Buddha nature is in us. Rather, he teaches that we all are Buddha nature. I think this is a huge, huge point.


He says that all sentient beings are Buddha nature. There's no gradual or sudden awakening. Every moment is independent of the past and the future. When we touch this place, this place of not knowing, not knowing if, if we've been born or if we've already died, it helps us to appreciate what's right here in front of us. It helps us to, to really take care of things. And by taking good care of things and the people right in front of us, it helps us touch this place, this place beyond birth and death. As I was, as I was thinking about these things, I


kept coming up for me that, that there's so much paradox in Zen practice. And I, and I realized I didn't even know, I didn't quite know what paradox meant. So I looked it up and a paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. And it comes from a Greek word that means to accept. And the word is, it's also connected to the word disciple. And our practice is filled with paradox, like we're complete just as we are and we could all use a little improvement. And the secret of Zen is just two words, not always so. And Dogen's saying, when we're enlightened, we can all see our insufficiencies.


And the Zen response, the Zen response over and over again to these paradoxes is Baba Wawa, this kind of beyond language, before language, before, before we attach things. And the Zen response to this paradox is just wash the dishes, just take care of others. I want to kind of finish this by reading, reading something by Suzuki Roshi that Suzuki Roshi says about, since we're spending so much of our time in sitting Zazen, doing Shikantaza, thought it would be good to offer some of his words. Complete Shikantaza may be difficult because of the pain in your legs when you are sitting


cross-legged. But even though you have pain in your legs, you can do it. Even though your practice is not good enough, you can do it. Your breathing will gradually vanish. You will gradually vanish, fading into emptiness. Inhaling without effort, you naturally come back to yourself with some color or form. Exhaling, you gradually fade into emptiness, empty white paper. This is Shikantaza. The important point is your exhalation. Instead of trying to feel yourself as you inhale, fade into emptiness as you exhale. And one other thing that I know has been read here before, but I think it's really beautiful. When we practice Zazen, we are practicing with all the ancestors.


You should clearly know this point. You cannot waste your time, even though your Zazen is not so good. You may not even understand what it is, but someday, sometime, someone will accept your practice. So just practice without wandering, without being involved in sightseeing Zazen. Then you have a chance to join our practice. Good or bad doesn't matter. If you sit with this understanding, having conviction in your Buddha nature, then sooner or later, you will find yourself in the midst of great Zen masters. Please continue taking good care of yourselves. Thank you very much.