Find Out For Yourself

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I vow to taste the truth of that which I am to ask for. Good afternoon. It's a little too hot to think today. I'll try. One more go. So I'm going to continue talking about


Kambandigan Suzuki Roshi's teaching. And this particular talk we called Find Out for Yourself. So you can all leave now. So he says, In your zazen, or in your life, you will have many difficulties or problems. When you have a problem, see if you can find out for yourself why you have a problem. Unless, usually, you will try to solve your difficulty in the best way as soon as possible. Rather than studying for yourself, you ask someone why you have a problem. That kind of approach may work well for your usual life,


but if you want to study zen, it doesn't help. This is kind of a radical approach, I think. Often we go to someone to seek help, or we try to find out why we have some problem, so we consult somebody. And that's usual. And we take it for granted that that's a good idea. And usually, often it is. But for zen practice, it doesn't help. It's not a good idea. So the rest of his talk is commentary on this opening statement. Why is it so?


Why is it so? The moment you are told something by someone, and you think you understand, you will stick to it. And you will lose the full function of your nature. When you seek something, your true nature is in full activity, as if you are feeling for your pillow in the dark. Searching for your pillow in the dark is a reference to a statement in a koan. It's like reaching for your pillow at night. Then you are in full function, because you don't know where your pillow is, but you're groping for it. So this groping for it is practice. No one can give you practice. We have teachers. We have a schedule. We have a formal way of doing things. And these are all helpful.


A teacher can give you some guidance, usually by example. But a teacher is not someone who gives you something, because a teacher can't give you anything. No one can give you anything, in a true sense. So you already have what you already need. You already are who you already are. No one can give you that. When we meet someone, it's possible that meeting stimulates you to find yourself. That's true. That's the teacher's role, maybe, is to stimulate you, to throw you back on yourself.


And this is the role of the teacher. But the teacher can't give you something. Nobody can give you something that you already have. So if there's something that you have that you can lose, it's not real. So the purpose of Zen practice, or the essence of Zen practice, is to find out what is real. So Suzuki Gyoji is always talking about things as it is. Seeing things as it is. Things is plural, and as it is is singular. So, to see, to realize, the multiplicity in oneness, and the oneness in multiplicity. To realize who you really are. So this is why people have such difficulty


understanding the koans. If you study the books of koans, if you approach them from a dualistic point of view, you can't understand them at all. So the koans are always pointing to something which is beyond duality. And to stimulate you to realize your own essence of mind. So even though we have Zen practice, and we all practice together, and it looks like group practice, it's really not group practice. It's each person finding their own way. Together. So he says, when you seek for something, your true nature is in full activity, as if you are feeling for your pillow in the dark. If you know where the pillow is, your mind is not in full function.


Your mind is acting in a limited sense. When you are seeking for the pillow without knowing where it is, then your mind is open to everything. In this way, you will have a more subtle attitude toward everything, and you will see things as it is. When we travel to an unfamiliar place, our mind is usually in full function. Because you have to find a place to stay, you have to find a place to eat, you have to try to understand the environment, and so forth. And you have to do things on time. So our usual ways of understanding are expanded. I remember Suzuki Roshi talking about the difference between a lion in the zoo and a lion in the jungle.


The lion in the jungle is in full function. So when we become used to something, then we take things for granted, and pretty soon we don't even see things, we just kind of know where they are, and we feel secure in our activity and with our surroundings. But when we have a jolt of some kind, then things come alive. So one of the problems we have in practice, when we practice something over and over again, and we get used to it, like bowing every day, chanting the Heart Sutra every day, getting up in the morning, sitting in zazen every day, it looks like repeating something over and over. So if you feel that you're repeating the same thing over and over,


you've actually lost touch. Because even though it looks like we're doing the same activity every day, it's totally different. It looks the same. When you do nine bows, it looks like all those bows are the same, but each one is different, and each activity is different. In zazen, it looks like when we sit on the cushion, it's just like what we did last time we sat on the cushion, but it's actually a totally different activity. Sometimes people will go to a sasheen and sit for seven days, and then the next time they go to the sasheen, they think that it's going to be just like the last one, but they end up saying, well, that was totally different. So if we get into the mode of


thinking that this is just the same as last time, then our practice gets stale. And when our practice gets stale, we wonder, well, what are we doing, just repeating the same thing over and over again? So we have to be able to rejuvenate our practice moment by moment. So the secret of practice is to live on each moment as a new moment, no matter what it is that we're doing, from moment to moment, to make each moment come to life, whether it's seemingly repeating the same activity over and over, or doing some other activity, some varied activity. So he says, if you want to study something, it's better to not know what the answer is.


Because you are not satisfied with something, you are told... I think he means, because you're not satisfying something that was told to you, that you were taught. I think taught is the right word. Because you are not satisfied with something that you were taught, and because you cannot rely on anything set up by someone else... He's talking about dissatisfied students coming to Zen Center. Because in the 60s, there were so many people coming because they were disillusioned with society and with their religious practice that they were brought up with. So, because you are not satisfied with something you were told, and because you cannot rely on anything set up by someone else, anarchists, you study Buddhism without knowing how to study it. In this way, you find out for yourself what we really mean by Buddha nature, practice, or enlightenment.


So, Suzuki Roshi thought of the Zen students in the 60s as... the naivety of the Zen students in the 60s as being a wonderful gateway to practice, by not knowing anything and simply plunging into practice. And we always appreciate the newer students. Sometimes newer students say, Oh, I don't know anything, and everybody else knows so much, and they are all kind of intimidated by the older students in some way. But actually, the older students always appreciate the practice of the new students, the newest students who walk into this thing without knowing anything. And you can see their effort in their... You can tell exactly where they are at because they don't know anything and are open, usually.


Not always. Somewhat open. They're open to one degree or another and totally naive and are wonderful vessels for learning the Dharma. We always say, in order to study Zen, in order to practice Zen, you have to give up all of your opinions. You have to give up all of your opinions and your ideas about what practice is. You have to give up all of your ideas about what enlightenment is and totally begin practice with an empty mind. That's the fastest way which leads to understanding. As a matter of fact, if you give up all of your opinions, ideas and attitudes, enlightenment is right there to begin with. But you don't know it. And then, the more we learn,


the less our enlightenment shines forth. So, to maintain a beginner's mind all the way through practice is what we call right attitude. We think that, sometimes, we think that the more we practice and the more we learn, the more mature we get. But actual maturity is in maintaining not knowing mind. To maintain a beginner's mind throughout practice is true understanding. When we practice Zazen, the moment you begin to practice is exactly the same as your last Zazen.


Everybody does exactly the same practice. It's not like the teacher is sitting some form of Zazen which is advanced. A good teacher is sitting beginner's Zazen. People say, well, do your legs still hurt? Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. It doesn't make any difference. The difference is not holding some opinion about it. Holding some opinion about it means this is painful. That's an opinion. We know what it is. And when you know what it is, you don't know what it is. When you know what it is, you fall into ignorance. When you don't know what it is,


you have realization. So it's a little bit the opposite of our usual way of thinking. So, because you are not satisfied with something you've been taught and because you cannot rely on anything set up by someone else, you study Buddhism without knowing how to study it. And in this way, you find out for yourself what we really mean by Buddha nature or practice or enlightenment. Since you seek freedom, you try various ways. Of course, you will sometimes find that you have wasted your time. If a Zen master drinks sake, you may think the best way to attain enlightenment is to drink sake. But even though you drink a lot of sake, as he does, you will not attain enlightenment. But it may look like you've wasted your time.


But that attitude is important. If you continue to try to find out in that way, you will gain more power to understand things. Whatever you do, you will not waste your time. So he's saying, even though your teacher may drink sake and it won't help you, but the attitude of making the effort to follow your teacher's instruction or to follow, to investigate, to investigate on your own is what's valuable and important. So each one of us is really doing our own practice with our own motivation. If you're only following instructions without stimulating your own motivation, that's only half-hearted.


So we say, to drive the wave and follow the wave. Following the wave is being carried along by the wave. And driving the wave is actually motivating things. So if we're only carried by the wave, we're only carried by the practice, it's passive. If we're only driving the wave, that's active. So we should be driving and following at the same time. So the secret of practice is to follow and drive the practice at the same time so that you are actually creating the practice. Sometimes we think, well here's this thing going on and they're doing it and I'm joining it. But that's only partially true.


As soon as you join the practice, you should also be driving the practice. You're creating the practice, not just joining in something that's already there. And we also use the metaphor of a train. The boxcars are pulled by the engine. And the engine is pulling the boxcars. And if you're just a boxcar being pulled along, you'll never have realization. So you also need to be an engine. You need to find your motivation and through your motivation you will find your understanding by creating the practice.


So when you do something with a limited idea or with some definite purpose, what you will gain is something concrete. That's usual. We do something and we have a purpose and we gain something. That's usual. But this will cover up your inner nature. So it's not a matter of what you study but a matter of seeing things as it is and accepting things as it is. So that's why we say we don't practice to gain something. We don't have a goal in mind. The purpose of practice is to be present on each moment. So that's why I keep saying people, I keep asking questions about well what do I do in this situation and what do I do in that situation and the answer is to come back to your center


and then when you find yourself centered and come back to zero then you will have the opportunity to do something which is not simply dualistic. So all of our activity if you're really practicing all of your activity comes out of this empty space, this empty place and you're always relating to this empty place called your center. This is true creativity. Master Hong Jue says take the step into the center of the circle of light


where take the step into the center of the circle where light issues forth. This is where we should always be standing in the center of the circle where light issues forth. Then you can deal with anything that comes along. If you try to figure things out in any other way you just have problems. So he says you may study something only if you like it if you don't like it, you ignore it and I must say I do too. That is a selfish way and it also limits your power of study. Good and bad, small or big we studied to discover the true reason why something is so big and why something is so small why something is so good and why something is not so good.


If you try to discover only something good you will miss something and you will always be limiting your faculties. When you live in a limited world you cannot accept things as it is. I think what he is trying to say here is not to discriminate. When you study, study what is presented and not discriminate whether you like it or don't like it or whether it is good or not so good. Usually good people study something that is good but here we just study something. In our practice we just study something to understand it. We don't try to make something just good because good and bad go together. Non-dualistic understanding is beyond what is good and what is bad which doesn't mean that we ignore what is good


but we also don't ignore what is bad. So to be able to face everything and try to understand whatever is in front of us without picking and choosing what we like. So even if a Zen master has just two or three students he would never tell them our way in detail. The only way to study with him is to eat with him, to talk with him and do everything with him. You help him without being told how to help him mostly, or her, he will not seem to be very happy and he will always be scolding you without any apparent reason. Because you cannot figure out the reason you will not be happy and so he will not be so happy. If you really want to study with him you will study how to please him


how to make your life with him a happy one. That's kind of cute but the teacher does you a disservice by telling you the answer. So sometimes a person will come to the teacher and the teacher will not give the answer but simply give the student a bigger problem then the student will go to someone else because they say, well he's not very good because he didn't answer my question. That's the kind of problem. That's the problem of having more than one teacher around. So and so told me that and that. So the teacher if you get a big problem from the teacher you're very lucky. Very lucky.


A lot of teachers are too sympathetic with the students and won't give them a good problem. When I was studying with Suzuki Roshi I would have problems and so I'd bring my problem to him and we'd sit down and I'd tell him what it was and then he would give me something else. He would not try to solve my problem. He would give me something and then he'd laugh. And he'd say, oh I'm sorry you came to me with a problem and I just gave you a bigger problem. I'm so sorry. And then we both laughed. So then I'd go away. I never pursue my questioning. I just receive the problem and go away and deal with that for a long time as my koan. So every time I talked to Suzuki Roshi he would give me a koan


but it wasn't the koan that you read in a book. It was the koan of my life. The koan that directly affected my own life and came from my own life. So how we deal with something a problem is a little different than how we deal with a problem usually. And often we get into explanations and so forth but in the end it's like okay, that's it. Go deal with this. So I remember feeling so grateful to Suzuki Roshi for not giving me answers and making me work to find out for myself. So even when Suzuki Roshi died I didn't go look for another teacher


because I was still dealing with the koans that he gave me and I'm still dealing with the koans he gave me. So even though they say you can't have a dead teacher as your teacher I don't think my teacher is dead because his koans are very much alive in me and I still consider that that's the life of my teacher. And when we would come to Tassajara I remember in this heat he was rather sick and in 1970 it was very much like this this kind of heat and he died in 1971 so I would walk around with him I was his jisha, his attendant and I would walk around with him with a wet washcloth


put it on his head and I just did that on my own head. I would have done it here but it would have looked funny. We were making rock walls over there by the Founders Hall which was not the Founders Hall at that time because the Founder was still alive and we made a wonderful rock wall which you can't see so well because of all the leaves but huge stones and in those days we did a lot of stone work because this is the place of stones and I set up a tripod and we had a top of a car which was cut off from the car


and turned it upside down and made it into a sled and then we had an old Dodge Power Wagon which had a winch on it and we'd winch big stones up we'd drag them we'd winch them onto the car top the sled with the Power Wagon and then drag the stones to where we wanted to put them in and we built lots of walls and lots of pathways and all kinds of stuff with those rocks that was the most fun that I ever had here I think and we'd work with those big stones and he was just this little guy he must have been 98 pounds or something and he wasn't well and his wife would come walking by and say don't make him work and when she'd walk by he'd stop working and then she'd walk by and he'd say okay let's go but you know


the reason why it was so one reason why it was so wonderful was because we were doing something moment by moment not knowing what was next and just working it out working it out so that very wonderful creative activity and I learned more from him at that time than any other time so he says just living with you eating with you working with you that was enough that was how he communicated in the best way his teaching so he says you may say that this way of practice is very old fashioned it may be so but I think you had this kind of life


in western civilization too although not exactly as we did in Japan I think he's talking about a kind of apprenticeship because the old way of study was apprenticeship where students would work with a master when you were a kid you'd be apprenticed to a shoemaker or be apprenticed to whatever and then you grew up serving your teacher and then pretty soon taking the teacher's place and this is very traditional way of practice, for Zen practice very traditional way you grew up serving the teacher and working with the teacher and living with the teacher and then at some point you take the teacher's place hopefully if your understanding is good so he says the reason why people had a difficult time with their teachers


is that there is no particular way for us to study this is the problem with Soto Zen there is no particular way for us to study even though we have this very formal practice and the reason why we have this very formal practice is because there is no particular way to study so the formality of the practice holds things together holds this ungraspable practice together without it it's just boom what do I do so it gives you a way to go and a way to practice there is nothing sacred about it except that when you treat the practice wholeheartedly whatever you do is a sacred act sacred isn't limited to church it's the way you treat plants the way you wash the dishes the way you sweep the floor the way you scrub the toilet all this is sacred activity


and right there is practice so the reason why people had a difficult time with their teachers is there is no particular way for us to study each one of us is different from the other so each one of us must have our own way and according to the situation we should change our way you cannot stick to anything the only thing to do is to discover the appropriate way to act under new circumstances this is what I was talking about yesterday when I was talking about the precepts looks like precepts are rules of behavior but precepts are a guideline a guideline to orient you to figure out how to act on each situation just like the formality of the zendo is a way to help you to focus on practice


precepts are a way to help you orient your mind toward behavior but the precepts don't tell you how to behave precepts are you have to bring the precepts to life on each moment, on each occasion you have to find the appropriate way to act on each moment so it's really up to you you are creating the precepts it's not the other way around but it looks like the precepts are like golden chains or something not so the precepts are to free you and give you a way to orient yourself they are not to be followed literally on every occasion because every occasion calls for something different so the only thing to do


is to discover the appropriate way to act under new circumstances so you have to take responsibility each one of us has to take responsibility for our own actions sometimes what looks like breaking the precepts is actually keeping the precepts as an example if someone is looking for somebody and you don't think that they are supposed to find them and you are protecting that person and someone knocks on your door and says is there so and so inside? you have to lie and say no which is keeping the precepts the real precepts


so it's not just black and white you have to know what to do you have to figure out what is the best thing to do on each occasion and if you are only following precepts by rote you make some big blunders well sometimes it's good to follow the precepts by rote that also can be ok but we shouldn't be caught by that for instance in the morning we clean changing the subject a little bit in the morning we clean we don't have enough rags or brooms so it's almost impossible to participate in our cleaning under these circumstances it is still possible to figure out something to do I don't scold you very much but if I were a strict Zen master I would be very angry with you because you give up quite easily oh no there is not much cleaning equipment so there is nothing for me to do


so you just stand around while everybody is doing the cleaning and you are prone to think this way and easily give up in such a case please try hard to figure out how to practice if you are very sleepy you may think it's better to rest yes sometimes it is better but at the same time it may be a good chance to practice when I was at Eheji Eheji is one of the two head monasteries of the Soto school in Japan when I was at Eheji assisting my teacher he did not tell us anything but whenever we made a mistake he scolded us this is very typical you know sometimes students say you only say something when we are bad you don't praise us when we are good and I think there is something to that there is something to that


but as long as things are going ok you can feel that unspoken praise and as long as things are going ok oh he didn't say anything to me that's good so when I was at Eheji assisting my teacher he did not tell us anything but whenever we made a mistake he scolded us the usual way to open a sliding door to open sliding doors is to push the one on the right but when I opened it that way I was scolded don't open it that way, not that side so the next morning I opened the other side and got scolded again I didn't know what to do later I found out that the day I opened the right side his guest was on the right side so I should have opened the other side before opening the door I should have been careful to find out which side his guest was on the day I was appointed to serve him I gave him a cup of tea


usually you fill 80% of the cup since that is the rule I filled 80% or 70% and he said give me hot tea fill the cup up with very strong tea so the next morning when there were some guests I filled all the cups with hot strong tea almost 90% and served them I was scolded actually there is no rule he himself liked very hot bitter tea filled to the brim but almost all the guests didn't like hot bitter tea for him I should serve bitter hot tea and for the guests I should serve tea the usual way so we think that there are rules we should do something a certain way but actually we just happen to do things a certain way we should understand how things are done and why they are done even though sometimes the teacher says just do things this way and we just do them that way whether they are right or wrong this was Suzuki Roshi's way


he didn't say very much he didn't say a lot I remember him one time I was shocked because usually in the Zendo everybody walks down the lanes the traffic lanes and you don't step out of the traffic lanes but at Sokoji there was a large middle section in front of the altar and one day I just saw him walk across just walk across all the lanes and I was just shocked and I thought I don't know what I thought but it was just like oh I see it's not sacred territory we just do things in a certain way and then when we do things in a different way everybody gets shocked and then when I was his attendant I remember I would follow him into his cabin and one time he would just take off his robe


and let it fall on the floor and walk off and I wondered why is he doing that and then later I realized oh he wanted me to pick it up of course and do something with it so so he never told us anything when I got up 20 minutes earlier than the wake up bell I was scolded don't get up so early you'll disturb my sleep usually if I got up early you wake up and give up everything I should end there but I'll continue whatever happens whether you think it's good or bad study closely and see what you find out this is the fundamental attitude sometimes you'll do things without much reason like a child who draws pictures


whether they are good or bad if that is difficult for you this is what it means to surrender even though you have nothing to surrender without losing yourself by sticking to a particular rule or understanding keep finding yourself moment by moment this is the only thing for you to do I remember him also talking about we appreciate students who are a little bit mischievous because a mischievous student will show themselves and you'll get some feeling for that person and then you can it makes it much easier to deal with the person so sometimes we think we should all be very good and not expose ourselves but when you expose yourself when you show your so called bad side


or your troublesome side or your difficult side that's very helpful so we don't say you should act real good I never think of students as being good or bad sometimes a student will say you think I'm bad I never think of a student as good or bad I just think of them as how they are if we fall into good and bad then we create a big problem we're just the way we are and using those kinds of terms just shuts down our openness so when the problems are revealed then there's a way to go so I don't want you all to be bad I'm leaving soon I'm going to have a lot of trouble and then leave


but this is I always appreciate difficult students I always appreciate difficult students because it gives me something to work with My teacher is fond of calling you a rascal and I don't think this is a particularly provocative question but I do think that but in your discussions of precepts and I think you used an example of protecting somebody I'm thinking because the outcomes would be worse not protecting them so maybe doing lesser harm by protecting them but wouldn't that also depend on that person that person's motivation say their intentions were as soon as the danger would pass that they were going to leave and rob somebody then maybe that wouldn't be right that's right, so it all depends on circumstances and the situation and many layers of course


to discern what everyone's motivation is so now I have the next question can you say a little bit about the difference between assertion of will in terms of taking action and the intention so maybe not taking action, restraining action not taking an action is also an action so what is appropriate action in every situation sometimes the appropriate action is to assert yourself and sometimes the appropriate action is to restrain yourself so those are two forms of action it's like to not do something is also an action in the sense of because not doing is also a form of doing not speaking up sometimes


is a form of speaking up saying something by not saying something, you're saying something and maybe in a bigger way than if you said something we have just a couple minutes I have several different kinds of understanding about dualism I've heard you refer to it several times I wonder if you could expand on that well, you know, originally everything is one piece and then we divide this one piece by discrimination into subject and object into polarities but originally all polarities belong to each other so love and hate belong to each other there are two sides of polarity but in essence they share the same essence


so hate creates love love creates hate they actually create each other so when we get caught by one side or another then we fall into duality and then we can't see clearly the essence of things we can't see that the subject is a subject for the object and the object is an object for the subject they can't exist separately so we live in a dualistic world and this creates our activity discrimination creates our activity non-discrimination undivides unifies non-discrimination unifies, discrimination polarizes or divides


so non-duality is the non-discriminated aspect of duality does that make sense? so is it that we live in a dualistic world where our mind apprehends dualistically we create, our mind creates the duality and I'll talk about that tomorrow that's the subject for tomorrow oneness and duality the duality of oneness and the oneness of duality we are intention we are intention