Nirvana, The Waterfall

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

This talk will not appear in the main Search results:

Sesshin 3 Day 2

AI Summary: 



Having it as the endless do, do remember and accept. I vow the day is the truth of the daughter to those words. Good morning. This morning, several, well I said that I would talk about birth and death and people have been asking me if I'm going to do that. So this morning I'm going to do that. And I'm going to use Suzuki Roshi's talk, which is well known, when he talked about


the waterfall at Yosemite, which expresses his understanding of birth and death, which was published in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. And so he says, if you go to Japan and visit Eiheiji Monastery, just before you enter you will see a small bridge called Henshaku-kyo, which means half-dipper bridge. Whenever Dogen Zenji dipped water from the river, he used only half a dipper full, returning


the rest to the river again without throwing it away. That is why we call the bridge Henshaku-kyo, half-dipper bridge. At Eiheiji, when we wash our face, we fill the basin to just 70% of its capacity and after we wash, we empty the water towards rather than away from us. This expresses respect for the water. This kind of practice is not based on any idea of being economical. It may be difficult to understand why Dogen returned half the water he dipped to the river. This kind of practice is beyond our thinking. When we feel the beauty of the river, when we are one with the river, with the water, we intuitively do it in Dogen's way. It is our true nature to do so. But if your true nature is covered by ideas of economy or efficiency, Dogen's way makes


no sense. We think in terms of utility a lot, and when we think of Zen practice, we do think in terms of conservation of energy. Conservation of energy is very important, but conservation of energy isn't necessarily meant to conserve something. Conservation of energy means that we get down to the essence of our life. When we use just what we need, and when we use it in a way that we use the least amount


of effort to do the most work, like in Zazen, then we are more in touch with our big mind. We let go of what is not necessary or what we don't need, and simply focus on what's really necessary to do something. And when we focus on what's really necessary to make something work, we are more attentive to our fundamental nature. So when we're working, often when we want to do something or carry something from one place to another, we may load up our arms with stuff, and things are kind of falling


through our elbows, and we take it from one place to another, and we want to carry as much as we can in one load in order to get to where we're going. But actually, just to take one thing, pick it up and take it to where we're going, and then come back, pick up one more thing and take it to where we're going. So that instead of the utility of moving a lot of things at once, we actually relate to each object that we're moving, we relate to each object and give that one object our whole attention. And the way we handle the one object takes our whole attention. And how we actually handle something is not as an object.


There are no objects. Our attitude and practice is that there are no objects. Whatever we are handling, whatever we're taking care of, is a part of ourselves. So we treat everything as ourself. Dogen says, you should treat the pots and pans as your own head. But everything that you use in the kitchen, you should treat with great respect. I think there's a ceremony where all... I don't know if it's in some temples in Japan, I don't know if it's at Eheiji or not, but where all the pots and pans are laid out and incense is offered and bows and great respect


is offered to all these parts of ourselves that we use daily, which we call pots and pans for convenience, for identification's sake. But they're not objects and we should never treat them as objects. So when Dogen puts back some of the water, the water is not an object, the water is life itself. So he's returning life to life. He's paying great respect to the life of the water. This is actually a very important part of our practice. This is the main focus of our practice, is that there are no objects. This is Tozon's realization when he saw his reflection in a stream.


He said, everywhere I turn I meet myself. He didn't say, everywhere I turn I meet objects. So for Tozon, everything is a manifestation or aspect of himself. So the whole universe is subjective, even though things do exist in an objective way for us. But it's only because our consciousness creates objects by discriminating. So, you know, there's this statement, minmitsu no kafu, means careful family way, but it means careful attention to how we relate to everything.


I remember one time when I was in Suzuki Roshi's room and several people were there and someone had brought him a tea, an incense burner from Japan, or it may have been a teacup, maybe it was a teabowl, and so everyone passed it around to look at it. And when it came to me, I was looking at it and he said, no, put it down on the floor. Don't hold it up to look at it, put it down on the floor so it's resting on the floor and then you turn the bowl to look at it. So that was a big teaching for me about not looking at this as an object, not examining it as an object, but actually relating to it as something very close and very intimate.


I don't always act that way, but there are things that remind me to act that way, sometimes. So he said, I went to Yosemite National Park and I saw some huge waterfalls. The highest one there is 1,340 feet high and from it the water comes down like a curtain thrown from the tip of the mountain, top of the mountain. It does not seem to come down swiftly as you might expect. It seems to come down very slowly because of the distance and the water does not come down as one stream, but is separated into many, many, many tiny streams. From a distance it looks like a curtain and I thought it must be a very difficult experience


for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. It takes time, you know, a long time for the water finally to reach the bottom of the waterfall and it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life, but at the same time I thought the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river. Only when it is separated does it have some difficulty in falling. It is as if the water does not have any feeling when it is one whole river. Only when separated into many drops can it begin to have or express some feeling. When we see one whole river we do not feel the living activity of the water, but when we scoop a part of the water into a dipper we experience some feeling of the water and


we also feel the value of the person who uses the water. Feeling ourselves and the water in this way, we cannot use it in just a material way, it is a living thing. So, originally all discriminated objects or discriminated subjects or discriminated things are originally one being, one whole big being. And this is Suzuki Goshi's main point, of course, that everything is a splinter or a spark or a manifestation of this one big whole thing, being, big being. And only when we find separation do we begin to feel and think and discriminate.


And this is pretty much my own Buddhist, well I would just say Buddhist understanding, the wheel of conditioned co-production begins with separation and when the child is very young there is very little discrimination and so the feeling of separateness is not present or it's very mild, very subtle and as the child grows older and begins to make sense of the world, it begins to see things in color and in form and in the beginning


is just the will to live. This will to live is actually called ignorance, but not in the sense of stupidity, it's ignorance in the sense of blind will to live, blind will for existence. And so this separation process at the beginning of this particular manifestation called existence is, you know, the newborn child is actually existing in both worlds and in the world of oneness and the world of separation and learning how to be separate, we all learn how to be separate and then as we learn how to be separate we forget where we came from, we forget that we


all belong to the same, as Yasutani Roshi used to say, we all belong to the same nose hole society and we manifest as different personalities and we actually become a person. It takes time to become a person, takes time to manifest and to learn how to become a person. We have to learn how to see and we have to learn how to make sense of what we hear, make sense of what we touch and it's mostly learned behavior and then our world appears to us through our learned behavior and we act out through our learned behavior and we call this the world. So the delusion comes through only acting out our separateness without realizing


that we're still part of this whole being called true nature, essence of mind, whatever we want to call it. So before we were born we had no feeling, we were one with the universe, this is called mind only or essence of mind or big mind or Buddha nature and after we are separated by birth from this oneness as the falling water from the waterfall is separated by the wind and the rocks then we have feeling and you have difficulty because you have feeling, you attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. So we have this instinct or blind will to survive. Once we are splintered off as an individual our task is how to survive.


So some people have an easy time, some people have a difficult time, but whether we have an easy time or a difficult time we all have a difficult time. It doesn't matter whether you are a poor person you can have a really difficult time surviving and an unhappy life or you can actually have quite a happy life without anything, but this is the problem. A monk has nothing and is happy with nothing whereas a poor person has nothing and is very unhappy with nothing. It's very strange. A wealthy person looks like they're very happy because they have whatever they want, but because they have whatever they want they're very unhappy and suffer. We think that wealthy people, often we think that wealthy people are very happy because of their wealth but actually


they suffer a lot because of their position. Can you imagine how insecure you have to be in order to amass a great amount of wealth in order to feel secure? That's great suffering. You just don't understand the suffering, but it's a different kind. You may have everything you want to eat and all the conveniences of life, but it's all just suffering. So when we enter the realm of feelings, feeling and thinking, this is where our problems begin. So you attach


to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river or one with the universe you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and our death are the same thing. When we realize this fact we have no fear of death anymore and we have no actual difficulty in our life. So we have this fear because the more separate we feel the more fearful we are. The more separate we are, the more individualistic we are, the more we see the world as an object. The more we see the world as an object the more deluded we are, the more fear we have. And it's the fear of dying


because we don't understand that living and dying are two aspects of the same thing, two sides of the same coin, and that we're always dying at the same time that we're being born. Being born and dying are happening moment by moment faster than we can think. This is also the stream. The drops of water are separating from the stream and reuniting with the stream in the waterfall. The waves, just like the waves in the water, the water is the essence and the waves are the activity. Waves are the activity of the water. So our lives are the activity of emptiness and emptiness is the


essence of activity. Stillness is the essence of movement and movement is the activity of stillness. So when the water returns to its original oneness with the river, it no longer has any individual feeling to it. It resumes its own true nature, undivided nature, and finds composure. How glad the water must be to come back to the original river. If this is so, what feeling will we have when we die? I think we are like the water in a dipper. We will soon have composure then, perfect composure. It may be too perfect for us just now because we are so much attached to our own feeling, to our individual existence. For us, just now, we have some fear of death, but after we resume


our true original nature, there is nirvana. That is why we say, to attain nirvana is to pass away. To pass away is not a very adequate expression. Perhaps to pass on or to go on or to join. Would you, maybe one of those would be better, maybe to join would be better. Will you try to find some better expression for death? He is giving us this question. What will you say? When you find it, you will have a quite new interpretation of your life. It will be like my experience when I saw the water in the big waterfall. Imagine it was 1,340 feet high. You remember this statistic. You are proud of this statistic. So we say, everything comes out of emptiness. One whole river or one whole mind is emptiness. When we reach this understanding,


we find the true meaning of our life. When we reach this understanding, we can see the beauty of human life because we realize this fact, everything that we see is just delusion. Sometimes we overestimate the beauty. Sometimes we underestimate or ignore the beauty because our small mind is not in accord with reality. So sometimes it is hard for people to say, when we say subject and object are not two, it is hard for people to understand this because we are only looking at things from the point of view of separation. When we let go of the point of view or viewpoint which is only the point of view of separation, then we can see that subject and object truly are not two. They are two, but they are also one. We also say, not two and not one. Because the non-dual contains the dual. As long as the two sides


are contained in the oneness, that is right understanding. Then we can live our life in the dual world with right understanding because we understand that what is dual is also one. Duality exists within the oneness. So birth and death are two sides of life. I don't like to say, I never use the terms life and death because death is not the opposite of life. Death is the opposite of birth. But life is a term that encompasses both birth and death. So it's the


life of birth and it's the life of death. As Dogen says, everything is contained in birth. Everything is contained in death. Birth is one side, death is the other side. But when we talk about birth and death, what are we talking about? So there are two births and deaths. One birth and death, my understanding is that you were born on a certain day and you lived your life and you died on a certain day and you went out of existence. That's one understanding. The other understanding is that there's no such thing as birth and death. There


is only continuous transformations and in the realm of, or the reality of, continuous transformations which is quite logical and it's not, it may be mysterious, but it's quite logical. In the realm of continuous transformations there's only manifestations of something, karmic energy. So we say, when you die, or when this body-mind complex has a radical change, the first six vijnanas, I, ear, nose, the sense vijnanas, the sense faculties and Mano Vijnana disintegrate. And Manas, which is personality, and Alaya Vijnana, which is the seed


consciousness, seedbed of consciousness, the energy which is, due to the conservation of energy, those two aspects of consciousness, the energy of those two aspects of consciousness continue, in some way, to influence another manifestation, which we call birth. So whether this is true or not, I don't know. But this is the understanding, that Alaya is the seed, the seeds of consciousness, and the person, because Manas is karma, so the karmic energy continues to influence things.


And those two aspects of consciousness together create, or look for, another opening. And how accurate that is, some say that this blind energy, the will to live, looks for its parents, and seeks out a certain parental couple. But it must be pretty ignorant, because I think for a lot of you, you'd say, I sought out these people as my parents? But, I don't know, something happens. We don't know what happens,


but, you know, this is like, you got to say something, right? So, this is the tale. But you can see how the energy is circular, it's not linear. So, rebirth energy is circular, it's not reincarnation. The Tibetans believe in reincarnation, maybe. Tibetans have this mostly figured out. I think they have it too well figured out. But, rebirth energy does not mean reincarnation, it means the action influence of, where it contains the seeds and the karma, the continuation, the action influence. And instead of going in a straight line, after the disintegration of the six vijnanas, the action


influence continues and enters in through another coupling and enters through the womb and influences a birth somewhere. So, there are people who document rebirth. And you read books about, how did Mozart come out, at three years old, playing all these wonderful compositions, where did he learn to play the piano? You know, it's very interesting, Mozart also was considered one of the two best violinists of his time, but where did he have time to learn to play the violin? Seriously, he spent all his time playing the piano. So, people bring these kinds of cases up and there are thousands of them. So, there's a lot of seemingly convincing arguments and case


histories to prove this point. But, I don't know if it actually proves the point, but it seems to prove the point. It's interesting. So, in Theravada Buddhism, the understanding is that, this is very ancient, that one candle lights another. Is it the same candle, I mean, is it the same light or a different light? When you light one candle from another, is it the same light or a different light? Well, it's the same and it's different. So, the idea of rebirth is also, like when you have a seal and you stick it into the clay, you pull it out and the seal has the same imprint. So, this imprint is what creates the next existence, so to speak.


It has all the qualifications for a birth influenced by these characteristics. So, that's interesting. But, the interesting part is, for me, it's not how one is reborn or who is reborn or who you are or who you weren't, but the fact that life is continuous. This particular wave of our life, which we call my life, is just a wave in the ocean of existence, in the big ocean of existence. And so, our birth and death are happening all the time. Birth and death is happening all the time. But, life itself is not lost. So, if we identify only with this psychophysical structure as myself, then we get lost.


Because, we're separating ourselves from identifying with life itself as our true self. So, there's the old saying that the whole universe is the true life of the monk. A true human being, a true person is the whole universe. So, to identify with the flow of life rather than what we try to preserve as our manifestations. So, to appreciate the fact that we die rather than to resist the fact that we die. But, our will to live is so strong that we keep putting off death, which is good. We should be putting it off because we want to live.


So, sometimes people think, well, Buddhism is kind of nihilistic. They always think about dying easily. But, actually, it's not so. So, to be neither attached, neither birth or death is how we live our life. Not attached to birth, not attached to death. Not wanting too much out of existence and not wanting, not craving to end it. But, simply taking care of everything on each moment. That's how we come to just take care of this moment. It's all involved with birth and death. The meaning is, what's the meaning of life? I'll tell you. Just take care of this moment. The meaning of life is whatever you're doing at any moment.


We keep looking for the meaning. We never find it. People go crazy looking for the meaning of life. It's right where you are, doing what you're doing, thoroughly. If you do it thoroughly, without attachment. You live your life for the sake of living your life. So, whatever we encounter helps us to live our life. Whatever we encounter makes us. We make life and life makes us. So, if we want to live a meaningful life, then whatever we encounter, we should see it as meaningful. That's why, men mitsu no kafu. We take care of everything very carefully. Take care of the smallest thing with respect. Then we find the meaning of life.


So, I call it co-operation. Is it that we're being pushed around by a big mind? You know, we say, there's no self. Well, that's true. There's no self. No separate self. At the same time, there is a separate self. If you fall into one side or the other, you fall into birth and death. So, we're free to come and go. Sometimes we're in the dark side, sometimes we're in the light side. This is what Tozan is talking about in the Five Ranks. It's how you balance the absolute and the relative. You can't say that there's no self because when somebody hits you over the head, it hurts. You can't say there is a self because what hurt yesterday doesn't hurt today. Well, what happened to yesterday's self? No longer here.


So, we say, everything comes out of emptiness. To talk about it in this way is quite easy, but to have the actual feeling is not so easy. But by your practice of Zazen, you can cultivate this feeling. When you can sit with your whole body and mind and with the oneness of your mind and body under the control of the universal mind, you can easily attain this kind of right understanding. Your everyday life will be renewed without being attached to an old, erroneous interpretation of life. When you realize this fact, you will discover how meaningless your old interpretation was and how much useless effort you have been making. You will find the true meaning of life, and even though you have difficulty falling upright from the top of the waterfall to the bottom of the mountain, you will enjoy your life. So, even though you have good understanding, you still have difficulty. But difficulty is very helpful for it.


Without difficulty, our life doesn't have any stimulation. Do we get cold? We don't get cold. So, it's really important to have difficulty in Zazen, very important to have difficulty in Zazen, because pain and difficulty are part of our life. And if we try to avoid them, we're avoiding that part of our life. And then, we only have everything nice, we just fall into fooling ourselves. So, to touch reality, you touch it through pain and difficulty. Not that we should try to force pain and difficulty on ourselves. There's no problem there. It will come.


But, you know, we learn how to enjoy our pain and our difficulty. Within pain is pleasure, and within pleasure is pain. We can't separate all that. So, this is the principle of Zazen. Within pain is pleasure, and within pleasure is pain. You face and accept each one, and find out how to deal with it. And even if you have sailed through Zazen with no problem at all, no pain, that can be a problem. That's a problem. So, you can't escape having a problem.


My attention. My attention.