The Direct Experience of Reality

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Sesshin 1 Day 5: practice is right where you are - practice is/of sensitivity.

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And that's it. So it's something, it's like a question-and-response which is very concentrated and to the point. No, no, nothing extra. So this, there are 62 or so of us and we don't want this to take all night. So if it's, you know, keep in mind that it's a very concentrated activity, we'll all benefit, whatever that means. When you ask me your question, I have absolutely nothing in my mind. I have no


preconception in my mind at all, so my response just comes up in response to what you are saying. So you may think, what kind of question should I ask? One of the hardest things, you know, in Shosan is to think up a good question. I have been thinking all week, and I can't come up with a question, I'm sorry. But you can ask a question that you've asked somebody else before and see what you get from me. It may not be the same. Matter of fact, it won't be the same. So just bring out one of your old, tired questions. See what happens. The other thing is that tomorrow I'm going


back to Berkeley for 10 days and you can play. I know that you're all mature and that you can take care of yourselves. So I think it's a good idea for me not to be here. That's not just a rationalization. But my sangha in Berkeley is without me for three months, so this is not so much. Not that I'm so important, but this is the way things go. So I want to check in with my sangha and I also want to check in with my wife, who's always been very generous with me. In the past,


when I was abbot, I did a practice period every year for nine years, I think. And even before I was abbot, I did practice periods. And she was always, no problem, always by herself for three months. And she doesn't say, you should come home and see me, but I feel it's generous of me to go home and see her, without her asking. And her father is an old man, almost 90, and he's going downhill and she has to go visit him every other weekend to take care of him, because he's on the way out. So she needs some support. So that's that. And the other thing I want to talk about


is our serving, some aspects of serving in Zendo. You know, our practice is to get to the bottom of things. Our practice is to get to the bottom of our life. And so that's exemplified by, when we serve, getting to the bottom of the pot. You know, the heavy stuff goes to the bottom and the water stays on the top. And if you just serve the water to the first row, the people at the end get all the heavy stuff. And it also works the opposite, you know, sometimes the heavy stuff stays on top and the juice all goes to the bottom. So, in our practice, we do have rules, but rules are just


kind of to help us get started. The actual practice is called sensitivity. Being sensitive to how to do things. Being sensitive to, when I serve this person, what am I giving this person? I should be sensitive to the fact that the heavy stuff goes to the bottom and the water stays on top. So when I put the pot down, I stir the pot. It doesn't matter what it is, even though it looks like the soup is all the same, consistency, stir it anyway. You don't have to stir anything fast like that, but just kind of get it moving, get it moving. Any pot, except gruel. You know, gruel is consistent all the way. Rice is consistent all the way. But, you know, soups especially, and salad. Sometimes a salad is made with the lettuce all on the bottom and


then all the goodies are on the top. So the people in the front get all the goodies and the other people get the lettuce. So, be sensitive to what you're serving. Be sensitive to who's going to get what. Maybe you don't like me, so you don't stir. But, I just wanted to put that out there, because I don't want to have to tell you to stir the soup every time I see you. It's not nice. I shouldn't be talking during serving. So, what? You can't hear? Still? Aw, shucks. I might have to go through that again. Oh yeah, but your hearing is a little different. Your hearing is like mine. So now I will start. This talk of Suzuki Roshi's was named, Direct Experience of Reality.


So, Zen Master Dogen said, Mountains and rivers, earth and sky, everything is encouraging us to attain enlightenment. In the same way, the purpose of my lecture is to encourage you to attain enlightenment, to have a real experience of Buddhism. Even though you think you are studying Buddhism, when you are reading, you may have just an intellectual understanding, rather than a direct experience. In the past, many people complained that Suzuki Roshi never talked about enlightenment. He was always talking about practice, but he never talked about enlightenment. Everything that he talked about was about enlightenment. And because he never talked about gaining enlightenment, he does talk about gaining


enlightenment, but it's just a matter of speaking. And he talks about having an enlightenment experience. But it's not the same as the way most people talk about having an enlightenment experience. He says, Intellectual understanding is necessary, but it will not complete your study. This does not mean to ignore intellectual understanding, or that enlightenment is entirely different from intellectual understanding. The true direct experience of things can be intellectualized, and this conceptual explanation may help you have direct experience. Both intellectual understanding and direct experience are necessary, but it is important to know the difference. Sometimes you may think something is an enlightenment experience, and it is just intellectual. That is why you must have a true teacher who knows the difference. We want our enlightenment experience to match our idea.


And when we want our enlightenment experience to match our idea, we wonder why we can never experience enlightenment. I hear it over and over again, I'm waiting for something to happen. When I say Zazen, I just keep waiting for something to happen. But we don't pay attention to what's happening. If we had paid attention to what's happening, we would understand our enlightenment experience. But we have the idea from our reading, we should take all those Zen books and burn them. As a matter of fact, the student of the compiler of the Blukhov record burned them. He burned the whole thing, and then somebody went through the ashes and picked it all


out again, or remembered a lot of it. But the original one was burned, and I understand that. But it's a useful tool, a very useful tool. The problem with it is that we want our enlightenment experience to match what we read about, or what we think we understand, or our image or idea. So one good question is, after you have your enlightenment experience, what will you do with it? Go to Disneyland. Go to Disneyland, yeah. Well, that's where we are, right? But as I said, it's possible to have an enlightenment experience when reading, studying, and often we do.


I get that, you know, we understand something, something goes through us. But we make too much of enlightenment. We make it into this huge elephant. We need to keep it into perspective. Enlightenment is necessary, and Suzuki Roshi once said, you should be careful about what you want. You know, you should be careful about if you want enlightenment, because when you get it, you may not like it. That's the most profound thing I ever heard. When you get it, you may not like it, so be careful of what you really want. Because if you have it, it'll take everything away from you. Do you really want it? Do you really want to lose everything you have?


It's not a matter of gaining something. Just let go of everything. But we sit there waiting for something to happen. What will happen if you sit there long enough? Everything will fall away. But you have to work. That's what the work is, to let go. That's what practice is. People say, God, it's so boring here in Tassajara. Because there's nothing to hold on to. We're now in the third week, I mean it's the middle week, the second week, the second, the middle month, soon, the second month of practice period. The first third is almost over. Now, and we had the, it was very nice, you know, getting into practice period. Now we have the bottom, getting down to the bottom. And all this, a lot of stuff is beginning to rise up.


That's been kind of latent in the background. And now our stuff is beginning to rise. Certain kinds of energies are rising up. We miss certain things, and we wonder, what the heck am I doing here? Is this it? Well, if it's not, what is it? That's a good koan, actually. One of the better koans. What is it? Is this? This is? We should all be going around for that koan. What is this? This is a koan of seppo and ganto. What is it? What is it? So, when we study Buddhism, it is necessary to have strong conviction, and to study not


only with our mind, but also with our body. If you come to the lecture, even though you are sleepy and unable to listen to it, you're attending the lecture, it will bring you some experience of enlightenment. It will be enlightenment itself. When we used to go to Suzuki Roshi's lectures, everybody was nodding off. Everybody was real attentive. Maybe there's something wrong with my talk. I talk kind of slowly. The cars will go by. As soon as we get to a crucial point, and you thought, car, we're going, whoa. You can hear it on the tapes. Oh, missed it again. So, direct experience will come when you are completely one with your activity, when you have no idea of self.


That's what it's all about. When you're one with your activity, and you have no idea of self. But because we have an idea of self, we say, this is a boring activity. Or, I'm just, what am I doing? Garbage, chopping vegetables, sweeping the ground. I went to Ryu Takuji one time when I was in Japan, and worked with the monks for a day. All they did, all day long, is sweep. They just sweep and rake the ground. That's all they ever do. That's really all they ever do, sweep and rake the ground. Just meaningless activity. The grounds are already clean. They're so clean from yesterday that you want to throw something down. This could be when you are sitting, but it also could be whenever your way-seeking mind


is strong enough to forget your selfish desires. Your selfish desires are coming up next month. When you believe you have some problem, it means your practice is not good enough. This is a very interesting statement. When you think, I have a problem, your practice is not good enough. You just think, I have a problem. When your practice is good enough, whatever you see, whatever you do, that's the direct experience of reality. The point is, this point should be remembered. Usually, without knowing this point, we are involved in judgment. So we say, this is right, that is wrong, this is perfect, and that is not perfect. That seems ridiculous to me. It seems ridiculous when we are doing real practice, because it's just in the realm of comparative values. Real practice includes comparative values, but it's not based on comparative values.


It's based on emptiness, on oneness. So we say, two arrowheads meeting in mid-air. It's like the box fitting the lid. It's like our activity in the realm of comparative values is one with emptiness. So, a problem is just part of our activity. A problem is not a problem, it's just reality. A problem is just a way to go. This is called the realm of practice, and in the realm of practice,


if everything you do is in the realm of practice, then problems don't have the same charge as when it's not in the realm of practice, because a problem is just part of your life. When you get rid of one problem, another one pops up. You only have room for so many problems at once. And Suzuki Goshi used to say, be careful about getting rid of your problem, because you may get rid of your problem, but then a worse one will appear, may appear. So be careful. He never asked us to get rid of our problems, never talked about getting rid of our problems. He talked about dealing, being one with your problem. If you don't have a problem, you don't have a way to go. No problem, no practice. So we don't think of problems as being good or bad.


It's just, this is what's happening. If you just realize this is what's happening, then you don't have the baggage of attaching good and bad and right and wrong and guilt onto it. We are so guilty. I can't believe how guilty we all are. We make a mistake, we feel so guilty, you know. A mistake is just a mistake. You just recognize, acknowledge a mistake, and go on. That's all. If you need to apologize to somebody, you just say, I'm sorry. I apologize from the bottom of your heart, from the bottom of the pot, I'm sorry. And go on. You'll be forgiven. You'll be exonerated. Don't make a big deal out of it. Every morning we acknowledge our ancient twisted karma.


This is very formal. But then there's the fact of, I did this, and I'm sorry about that, and oh what a mistake. So that doesn't really get taken care of in the morning. It helps us think about that, but it doesn't really take care of it. So if you feel that you are carrying the burden of transgressions, you can light an incense stick, bow to the Buddha, and say, I'm sorry, you know, and I try to do better. And then go about your business. No self-flagellation. No beating yourself over the head. No carrying around all this stuff. Let it go. Take care of it and let it go. So what we're doing all the time is unburdening ourselves. This is our practice. Unburdening ourselves moment by moment.


So that you're getting freedom. This is the realm of enlightenment. I read one time, I was reading this book by Kanze, and this passage said, a monk delights in giving up. And that stuck with me, you know, and I thought, that's it. That's the essence of practice. A monk delights in giving up. It's hard, you know, like I have all these desires. It's hard to give them up. But to just keep giving up, that's called renunciation. Renunciation is to let go of your burdens. Let go of the stuff that's holding you down. And when we carry around all this sorrow, it gets exaggerated, you know. We do some little thing and then we feel sorrowful.


To acknowledge it, to ask for forgiveness if that's necessary, and let it go. Stop carrying around all this negativity. And when we carry it around for too long, it becomes our mode. And then it's hard to get out of it. Carrying around guilt, terrible. So we have to feel the lightness, you know, of practice. If we know how to practice, practice feels light and buoyant, not heavy and oppressive. So sometimes we may say that for Buddhists there's something, there's nothing wrong. Whatever you do, you know, Buddha is doing it, not me, or Buddha is responsible, not me.


But if you use that as an excuse, that is a misunderstanding. We say all beings have buddhanature to encourage you to have an actual experience of it. The purpose of the statement is just to encourage your true practice, not to give you some excuse for your lazy practice, for your practice that is merely formal. We can rely on formal practice too much. We shouldn't do that. So you have to, I mean, we should be able to be ourselves, beyond formal practice. The formality of practice is just to give us a framework in which to live together. But sometimes we use formal practice as a way to, if we, you know, do everything just right, we don't have to reveal ourselves. So that's a problem in formal practice, and it's a problem with rules.


Suzuki Roshi did not like rules, even though we have rules. But sensitivity and being able to expose ourselves, when you are you, Zen is Zen. So if you hide within the rules, or hide within the formality, which can be done, this is a kind of negative aspect of formal practice, then that's a problem. But if you're a good practitioner, the problem is okay. You have a chance. But we should be careful. He says, in China, people would carry something on their heads, perhaps honey or water in a big jar.


Sometimes someone must have dropped the jar. This is a big mistake, of course, but if you did not look back, it's okay. Just keep walking. You must just go, you just go on and on, even though there is no more honey or water on your head. If you go on and on, that's not a mistake. But if you say, oh, I lost it, oh my, that's a mistake, that is not true practice. You become attached to the problem, to acknowledge the problem and do something about it, and then go on. Repentance means to acknowledge what you did, and turn around, and go in the right direction. That's repentance. In Zen Buddhism, there is no such thing as repentance. Zen. Not to linger. Well, I talked about that.


When a skillful martial artist uses his sword, he should be able to cut a fly off his friend's nose without cutting his nose. With his eyes blindfolded, this happens. To have the fear of cutting the nose is not true practice. When you do something, have a strong determination to do it, without any idea of skillful or not, dangerous or not, you just do it. When you do something with this kind of conviction, that is true practice, that is true enlightenment. So, one time, at Tassajara, during the summer, some years back, a Korean Zen teacher with his student came, and there was, maybe this wasn't at Tassajara, maybe this was at Esalen, I think this is Esalen, they invited a number of gurus and Zen masters to some kind of a thing to see who could do


various things. So, they asked each one of them to do something spectacular. So, this Korean Zen master had his student lie down, he put a watermelon on top of his head or on top of his belly or something, and they blindfolded him, and he turned around, and took his sword and went, you know, and the watermelon still stood there, but when you pushed it, you know, all the pieces fell apart. And so, it was Chino-sensei's turn. And Chino-sensei used to do archery, Zen archery. So, he had his bow, and he took everybody out to the edge of the ocean, to a cliff overlooking the ocean. He took out his bow, and shot his arrow into the ocean. Did we get it? I don't think so. It's still going around the world.


So, the strong conviction to realize your life is beyond successful or not successful, beyond any feeling of fear, you just do it. This is a real practice, and that is the way-seeking mind, which goes beyond the dualistic idea of good and bad, right and wrong, you just do it. As he said before, just to draw a line is enough. You don't have to draw a straight line. You don't have to have technique. There's no technique. People would say, what is the technique of sitting in Zazen? There's no technique, but we think there's a technique. Not technique. Zazen, there's no technique. There's a little technique, you know, in that we say you sit this way, you put your hands in the mudra, and you sit with a straight back, but technique has to be filled with something. You know, if a musician only has technique, there's no music, unless it's filled with something. The technique is just something to a framework.


If an artist has great technique, this has to be something to fill the structure with, besides just the technique. So, to say there's Zazen, there's no technique. There is a structure, but it has nothing to do with technique. It's just, you do it the best you can. Everybody is in a different place. Every one of us is in a different place. We all do the same thing, but we're all in a different place, so we can't compare ourselves to anybody else. As I said before, you can't compare. Everybody's doing, all you have to do is do your best, and someone's best looks different than someone else's best. So, we can't judge people. You say, like, that person walks funny, you know, and does things in a clumsy way, but that person may be doing their very best, and it may not look good to you, but it's


perfect practice. So, you don't know who's doing the best practice and who's not, and you don't know whether your practice is good or bad. You really don't. You may think, God, that was a really good period of Zazen, because I didn't have any pain, and I felt light as a feather, and no thoughts came into my head. That was a wonderful, it may have been a wonderful period of Zazen, but it was not necessarily a good period of Zazen. And you may have a period of Zazen where you think, God, you know, thoughts were crammed into my head, just this going around and around, and my back hurt, and I couldn't sit still, and I was fidgeting around. That was an unpleasant period of Zazen, but it was not a bad period of Zazen. It was just what it was. You totally experienced what it was. That's all. It was enlightenment, an enlightened period of Zazen. Just do it. Just, that's all. You can't say


what was good or bad. You can't say the period of Zazen was good or it was bad. You may say how you felt, that's okay, but you can't judge it. You can judge it, but that's delusion. So, we experience enlightenment within our delusion. Without delusion, there's no enlightenment. But there's enlightenment beyond enlightenment and delusion. Peter? Can you say something about just doing it and no game idea? You're doing something just to do it. You don't do it to get something. You don't do Zazen to get enlightenment. You just do Zazen to do Zazen. Nowadays, people go to work in order to make money,


but actually what you're doing is work. If your attitude is, I just enjoy doing the work, and then at the end of the week, there's a paycheck and you're surprised. That's enlightenment. That's enlightened practice. At the end of the week, oh, money. I get money too. That's enlightened practice. You don't work for the money. Otherwise, you're wasting your whole week doing something you don't want to do. You're wasting your whole week not enjoying your life, not fulfilling your life. So, when we sit to get enlightenment, we're doing all this Zazen and not appreciating it, not living it, because we think we're going to get something from it. You're just wasting your time. Someone asked a very good question the other day about personal days.


Yes, that's an interesting term. Schedules tell us exactly what to do. We just show up. To have no gaming idea within that, to me, that's the practice. When personal day comes, I have a choice, or I think I have a choice. That's when the problem for me is just doing it, but what do I do? There's no gaming. That's where the ... That's the koan of personal day. It is. It's a good koan. When you have the structure that you agreed on structure, it's all comfortable and you know what to do. And so, if you feel that the schedule is a restraint, then you have a problem. If you feel that the schedule is restraining you, you have a problem, because you should be able to


find your freedom within the structure. You should be able to find perfect freedom within the schedule, because you're just going along with things. There's no self in it. And then, when you have a day when that structure is no longer helping you, you have to find whatever circumstance you meet becomes a way to practice, becomes a vehicle for practice. So, you make your bag lunch and you practice making your bag lunch. And you have a choice and delight in the choice. Nothing wrong with that. Oh, I like the olives, you know, and I get to have some eggs for change, you know. You just enjoy yourself. And then, I get to take a walk. I get to take a bath. I get to talk to people.


Just enjoy that. I get to wash my clothes. I get to clean my cabin. I get to whatever. Just enjoy whatever you're doing. Why should it be a problem? So, a personal day is like something to enjoy, something to relax, you know. It's like when you're in Tassajara and you go outside. You know, there are two sides of practice. One is the so-called formal side, where it's all set up, and this is Zen practice. I know because we get up in the morning at a certain time, we bow, and we, you know, sit Tassajara. That's the atmosphere of practice. So, you know what to do. When you go outside of that structure, you take all of the opportunities that you meet, and those become the forms of practice. You treat those as the


forms of practice. So, it's just turning the bag inside out. One is that all the forms are set up for you, and on the other side, you create the forms out of the raw material that you meet. So, there's no end to practice. Both sides are practice, but one is set up, and the other is, you create it. That's the creative part of practice. A day, a personal day, is a creative day to create practice out of nothing. You create practice out of whatever's around, whatever you meet is a form of practice. So, it's not like this is practice and that is free. That's practice too, it's just the other side. And this is what I, you know, people say, well, you know, lay practice or temple practice, you know, it's not the same as Tassajara practice, because it doesn't have that structure. But if you understand lay practice or temple practice,


you realize that the way to do that is you go back and forth. You go to the zendo in the morning, and then you go to work, or whatever you do in the daytime, and then you practice zazen again, and the zazen is the bookends for your day. And then all the forms you meet, you treat as forms of practice. That's very creative. People say, well, you know, there's not the pressure, you know, that we have like in the monastery, but if you treat everything as practice, the pressure's there. But it's advanced practice. Lay practice is advanced practice. Monk's practice is beginner's practice. I'm serious. But there's no beginners, and no, it's just a matter of speaking. In a certain sense, that's true. But some people are available to do one kind of practice, some people are available to do the


other. But wherever you are, whatever you're doing, if you understand practice, you can practice in any situation. That's the real practice. You should be able to practice in any situation. Not think of personal day as some, you know, God, what do I do now? You're not a zen student. If you don't know how to turn whatever you're doing as a practice situation, you're just relying on the rules, relying on the forms. You have to create the forms. There's no such thing as, well, everything is formless, you know. At the same time, everything has form. So, all forms are the forms of practice, when you practice them. Making your bag lunch is a form of practice. Going to the bath is practice.


Laying around, doing nothing is practice. Nothing to be worried about. Taking a hike is practice. Talking to your friends is practice. There's nothing that's not practice. But it's helpful to have zazen in the morning. That's right, that's right. So, this gives us a sense of what practice is, and then you apply it to other situations. That's why back and forth. The nice thing about lay practice is that you go back and forth. You have both. This is one side of practice. Monastic practice is one side of practice, but lay practice has both sides, although it's not as intense. That's why it's good to have monastic practice, to have this intensity of practice for a period of time,


and then to apply it in the world. You create practice in the world. If we don't do that, what are we doing? Here we have guest season. That's right. Here we have guest season. Guest season is hard practice. It's not just an interval between practice periods in the hot summer. It's definitely practice. You have to see that as practice. Making beds is your practice. Being a guest cook is practice. Working in the office is your practice. How do you practice doing that? What does that mean? If this is the only practice and the other thing is something else, it's not practice. It's got to include everything. I'm not going to be able to finish this talk, and I know I wouldn't,


but the time is up. But that's important, very important. When I leave here and go out into the world, I don't have any problem. It's all the same. I come to Tassajara. I go out to Berkeley. It's all the same. It's all practice. It's just that here is one kind of practice. There is another kind of practice, but it's all the same. It's all practice. I don't have any trouble going back and forth. People say, oh, when I get out in the world, I don't know what to do. There are problems in our practice, and one of the problems in our practice is that we don't know what to do when we get out in the world. We don't know how to practice in the world, and that's the complaint that I've always had about people practicing at Tassajara.


If you go back to Page Street or Gringotts, you're kind of back in the fold, but if you don't do that, people just stop practicing, because practice is something you do at Tassajara. It's not something you do out here in the world, and that's a big misunderstanding. This should prepare you for being out in the world, carrying your practice out in the world, because all you have to give to people is your practice and your enlightenment. Enlightenment touches people. You can't give anybody anything, but it touches people, and they light up. Yeah? You use this word, enlightenment, often. I've heard it God knows how many times. Is there a better word for that? Well, I like the word enlightenment because it means light. It means expressing light,


and it also means lightness. So, it has a dual meaning. It means allowing light to come forth, and it also means living your life lightly, with lightness, holding things lightly. So, it is a good word, although it's a buzzword, and there's a problem with it in that it gives people an idea, and then they cling to this idea. So, it's true, it's not ... but since Suzuki Roshi is talking about enlightenment, I'm commenting on his talk, but I agree with you that it's not good to talk about it too much.