Sesshin Lecture

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Sesshin 2 Day 7

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"Taping Error: First few minutes missing"


I would like to talk a little bit about the question that Devin asked at the end of yesterday's talk which was something like, given the absolute nature of emotions in the realm of non-attachment, what use is it to pay attention to our feelings? Something like that. A good question. It reminds me a little bit of Dogen's question, if we all have Buddha nature, what need is there to practice? That was Dogen's big question right before he went to China. So if all emotions and feelings


are empty, what need is there to pay attention to them? We have to understand that there are two truths which you probably know about already, the absolute truth and the relative truth. In the realm of the relative truth, there's good and bad, right and wrong, and so forth. This is the realm of comparative values and the place where we usually think of as our life, the values that we consider when we talk about our life. Then there's the absolute value or absolute realm, absolute truth, which all things are empty. So when we talk about the Buddha side and ordinary side, ordinary side is the so-called


ordinary side in a dualistic sense, is the dualistic world. Buddha side is the world of unity. So when a feeling comes up, we have to honor the phenomenal side because our life takes place in the dualistic realm. So when feelings come up, we have to pay attention to them and we have to deal with them. We have to recognize them and feel them, feel them thoroughly and not avoid them. So this is the realm of attachment. The other side is the realm of non-attachment. So we live our life in the phenomenal


side, in the realm of attachment, and we can't really avoid attachment. Whatever we touch or pay attention to or hang on to is attachment of some one kind or another, one degree or another. But if we understand our practice and if we understand our life thoroughly, we understand that there's nothing to be there. This is genjo koan, which is the koan of our practice life. Attachment in the phenomenal realm and non-attachment in the Buddha realm. We're attached to that sound because we don't want it. So we live in a


realm of attachment based on non-attachment. I don't know why that's happening. Attachment is important. We say non-attachment, Zen is non-attachment. But non-attachment in a dualistic way. Non-attachment


in a non-dualistic way means to find freedom within attachment. If you try to get rid of all attachment, it's not possible. So whatever we're involved with is, we have some degree of attachment to. But within our relationships, within our work, within our activity, to find the freedom within the activity. This is the non-attachment of attachment. So when feelings come up, we have to acknowledge, feel them and take care of them. And at the same time, we have to realize the emptiness of these feelings. When we


realize the emptiness of these feelings, we can have some space because we understand that where feelings come from and that it's more important to stand in composure than to be tossed around by feelings. So, through the practice of composure, which means to stand not on ego, but stand in Buddha's hands. Always come back to Buddha, rather than coming back to self.


So when we experience our feelings as Buddha, we have some way to deal with our feelings, which is not egotistical. But when we come back to stand on ego, then our feelings are controlling us. So we can accept any feelings and know how to deal with them if we're standing in the place of something about the 24 hours. The monk was asking Joshua something about being busy, so busy in the 24 hours. And Joshua said,


I control the 24 hours, but you are controlled by the 24 hours. So we all are living in a similar time-space, space-time continuum, but some of us are controlled by it, and some of us control it. So the point is, how do we take control by not controlling? It's not that we manipulate the 24 hours, it's simply that we have freedom within the 24 hours. The 24 hours are not pushing us around. This is really the secret of practice, how to do things one thing at a time, be totally involved, and find our ease as well as our


exertion, to find the ease within the exertion, to find the ease within the feelings, to find release within the feelings, to find our freedom within the emotions, to not be pushed around by them or caught by them. This is non-attachment. Feelings come up, everything comes up, but non-attachment is to stay in Buddha's place. Then we can deal with anything that comes up. The other thing I wanted to talk about was the question that came up during Greg's talk. I think Greg responded to all the questions very well, very nicely, but I wanted to expand on it a little bit. The question came up about what do we pay attention to mostly? When we're doing some work, some projects, taking care of things, what's the most important thing, the work or the student?


That's really a very good question. You know, work has to be done, so to speak. The food has to come out three times a day, somebody has to prepare it, we have to take care of the systems. It's a little city, an independent little city, where the city planners and the garbage collectors and the waterworks, everything is taken care of by us. It's a little civic system. We have a mayor. So, in the midst of having to take care of everything, what is the practice? Why are we here? We're here to take care of the students.


So, what comes first is the practice of the students, and the practice of the students is to take care of the little city, the town, as a vehicle for practice. So, the students take care of the place of Tassajara as a practice, and to make the practice work for everybody. So, the practice of the students is to take care of Tassajara, and the practice of the teachers is to take care of the students, and the practice of the students also is to take care of each other, and also to take care of the teachers. So, everybody's taking care of each other, and everybody's taking care of the place, and the place is taking care of all of us. So, it's a reciprocal, harmonious relationship that we all have.


But, it can easily get out of balance, whereas there are circumstances where we may place too much importance on the work, or on getting something accomplished, getting something done, and to the neglect of the benefit to the students. And we should always be careful about that. So, sometimes the work becomes the focus, and the students have to come up to the work. Sometimes the students become the focus, and it doesn't matter how the work is done.


So, we have to always weigh in the balance, you know, which is the appropriate kind of action to take, depending on what has to be done. So, sometimes there's some kind of project, and it takes a lot of effort, a lot of work, and it has to be done. So, it doesn't matter so much about the feelings of the students. They have to swallow their feelings, or just go ahead and do something. And that's appropriate for that kind of situation. And there's another kind of situation where it would be great if we had an expert to do this work, but it would really be good for the student to do the work, even though they don't know what they're doing.


And then there are all the kinds of details that exist in between those two extremes. So, sometimes it's for the work, and sometimes it's for the student. But at the same time, it's always for the student. The student's welfare should always come first. Their practice should always come first. That's the reason for this place. So, we always have to keep that in mind. I think in the past, there was a time when the students were used to create an idealistic practice place.


And the place became more important than the students. So, we always have to be careful to guard against that. But I don't think we have to worry about it so much. Things are going quite well at Dosahara now. But maybe you have some questions about that. Speak aloud. I have a question, and it has to do with the talk you gave David yesterday, when you said, you can believe in Zen because Zen promises you nothing. Well, aren't the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path a method to free ourselves from suffering? So, doesn't the Buddha suggest strongly that there is some result to practice?


If you practice the Four Noble Truths, you may understand them. The Four Noble Truths don't promise you anything. Well, there is a cessation of suffering, though. There's a cessation of suffering? Yes. Will you tell me about that? Well... What is the cessation of suffering? Sometimes I find that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. It's standing with composure, like you were talking about, in the middle of the suffering. Zen. Nobody promised that that would happen. So the Buddha was just making strong suggestions?


Exactly. Buddha said, I'm making suggestions, but the practice, but... Salvation is up to you. All I'm doing is making suggestions. So the results of the... so it's more like an experiment? More like what? An experiment? No. To take up the Four Noble Truths? No, it's not an experiment. It's not an experiment. Help! You have to find out for yourself.


You have to find out for yourself. No one can give you anything. So it's all a finger pointing this way. But there are no guarantees. The Four Noble Truths are a statement. This is the cause, this is the problem, and this is the cure. But there are no promises. This is a direction. There's the road. There are no promises. There's the road. If you follow the road...


Then what about the fact that most people, everyone I know, hate Buddhism for a reason? Yes, that's right. Yes. No. Yes. To begin with, we do. And then, as our practice matures, we realize that we came for the wrong reasons. We did not come to get something. We came to lose something. You see, we come with our ego. I want something. And then we don't realize that we're committing suicide.


We're leading our ego to slaughter. So we're not getting something. We're not... That's not to get something. There's no promise of something. If there is any promise, it's a promise... Well, there's no promise. If you practice correctly and diligently, you will lose something. But... That's about all I can say. Earlier, when you started the talk, you said that we can understand where our feelings come from. I wonder if you could say more about that.


Well, come from, meaning that... Feelings have no root. They're not rooted someplace. Feelings are like... Feelings arise through causes and conditions. And through... You know, there are many contributing factors that create a feeling. Memory. Feeling of pain. Passion, or desire, or rebuke, or insult, or whatever. So, there are...


Causes, which... Or circumstances, which create a stimulus within you. And through that stimulus, various feelings arise, depending on how you want to express a feeling. So, there's no... Feelings are ephemeral. Feelings are ephemeral. And they can change. And they can appear and disappear. E-motion means to put into motion a feeling. So, we have e-motions, and the feelings that accompany e-motions.


But feelings and e-motions are like waves. And you can feel one thing in one moment, and turn around and feel something else in the next moment. So, they're not rooted in anything. They simply arise as e-motion. And we give them... Well, I don't know what we give them, but... They're not substantial. But it's not that they're not... At the moment, they have a certain reality. And some feelings are very deep, and some feelings are very shallow.


And we talk about feelings all the time. I feel this, and I feel that, right? So... We can know where they come from by what they are related to within us. What do you think? Well, when you say that some are deep and some are shallow, that seems to belie the not-rooted-anywhere argument. No clue. If anything, you know, memory and past experience. Present experience. But...


Given the fact that feelings are ephemeral, that's what it means by not-rooted. Would you say the same thing about our stories as you would about feelings? Stories? Our stories, our mental formations. Would you say the same thing about those? Well... Yeah, our stories are also ephemeral. It's not... These are all on the level of relative truth. So in the realm of relative truth, we have our stories, and we have our reasons, and we have our story. Basically, we have our story, like, this is me, and this is my life, and so forth. And then within that, we have our stories, and it's all on the ephemeral level, still.


In other words, it's called the dream world. The dream world, the ephemeral world, the Saha world, the Samsara world, it's all related, it's all on that level. Our stories, everything. Which is, you know, we have to pay attention to and take care of, but... It's called the unreal world, actually. But we have to find our reality within the unreal world. It seems that within that, we assign some conventional validity to things? Mm-hmm. Conventional validity, yeah. That's what seems to get us into trouble. Yes. So, when our conventional reality is not rooted in our Buddha nature, in our enlightenment,


then it gets us into trouble. Or it can get us into trouble. Is that what's meant by holding on too strong? Attachment. That's what's usually meant by attachment, in a dualistic sense. Being attached to the ephemeral world, because everything is passing by. Everything is changing and transforming, so hanging on is the cause of suffering. And when we let go, when we lose our egotistical clinging, then we have some freedom. This is what Buddha meant by the Four Noble Truths.


That clinging causes suffering. Desire causes suffering. Clinging and discrimination and so forth is the cause of our phenomenal problems. It seems like there are a lot of metaphors pointing to the same thing. Silence within action. What? Silence within sound. What was it? Stillness within action. Yes. Silence within action. Sun reflecting off the waves of the ocean, being a quiescent light. The Moon in the Dew Drop talks about the pearl, if you're familiar with the pearl.


The freshwater pearl, as over time it gains more and more particles. I think that's related to our mind and the way we learn and understand things. When enlightenment is reached, it says in the book that the whole pearl turns. I thought that was sort of related to what you said yesterday about the whole universe is affected. Everything that I might have learned over time, if I reached a new understanding about things, then everything in my mind and everything in my soul was affected by that and is changed by that. It seems like all these metaphors that we're talking about are related to that and how we can allow ourselves to be. Is that true? Everything we talk about is the same thing, but from a different point of view. Looking at this thing from the point of view of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and so forth.


It's still the same thing that we're always talking about. But we try to understand it from these different points of view, which come up in our life. How do we understand it from the view of emotions or how do we understand it from the point of view of feelings and thoughts and actions and relationships? I have a question. I have a question about Moina. Moina has had her hand up. Moina has had her hand up. I'm going to ask for clarification on your comment about leading your ego to the slaughter. Because I can see it. I feel like you can see it. I think that there was either a lecture or some conversation earlier in the 5th grade about actually not slaughtering your ego, trying to surgically remove it, but to embrace it or allow it to dissolve into...


It's just a dramatic way of speaking. Actually, it's cutting it down to size. During my last... I think it's called a shosan ceremony? Shosan, yeah. You did give me a guarantee, and it pertains to what we were talking about. You said that change is guaranteed. Yes. Does that mean that... That's the only thing. The only thing? Am I really understanding that correctly? Yeah. That's the only thing that's guaranteed. Dion? I do have a question about work practice. Oh, yeah. My relationship to my job right now is DA. Can you hear me? Almost.


It's to be a... My question's about work practice. I know. How I relate to my job right now is DA. And every work period that I go in there, I know there's too much for me to get done. Right. And the only way I can move, I feel like, is just to do... As things come to me, I do them. I'll just walk through, and I'll see, oh, I can do that. I'll do this. And Sonya will say things, do this. You know, and I'll just kind of try to stay one thing at a time, knowing well that things aren't getting done. So my question is, and I know that I could get more done if I just started multitasking, but I know that's not so good for my practice. So I'm always wondering what is the balance. You know, how do I find the balance for myself? What community needs and what this student needs. How can I know, like you were saying, that sometimes you just need to do work for the community, and sometimes it works for the student.


So every day I go in there and have that call. Right. How do I find that? And how does every day turn out? I feel like I'm always walking on a thin line between okay and really stressing out. Do you ever fall into one side or the other? Not yet. Good. Pretty close. We'll see if the dragon has come off soon. Well, that's not a bad line, you know. Not a bad line to be on. It's like you're right on the edge, and to be able to find your composure in that place. And when we know that we have too much, we start hurrying. And so to not hurry, and just do what you can do.


And what you can't do, you can't do. That's all. Just admit, I can't do that. And then you talk to your boss. You say, well, I can't do that. I guess the question for me though is, that has worked for me, but am I not... In doing that, in practicing that way, that's sort of like the side of work that's taking care of the student. Am I not taking care of the community in that way? Well, you have to know your limitations. And you have to know your abilities. And right there, where your abilities cross your limitations, is the place where you are. And you can't be any other place.


So, yes, you're taking care of everybody. I like working with people. I think it's really important for me to be working with people, because that's the way I get to know people. And you can sit on this seat and talk, but that's not really... that's fun. But to actually be working with people is the most important thing. Because whatever it is that I have to teach has to come out with what I do. And whatever you have to teach comes out in what you do. So I learn things from you, and you learn things from me. Not things that we learn. It's more like our attitude, or things that we can't necessarily express. I don't even think learning is not right. It's what we bring out in each other.


If I'm doing my best where I am, it brings something out in you. And when you're doing your best, it brings something out in me. So we influence each other. And that's the way practice gets communicated. It's not so much learning things. Learning things is okay, too. I learned how to chop onions some time ago, even though I thought I knew how. I learned a new way to chop onions, without crying. So you were talking about how feelings are kind of changing so quickly. Well, not necessarily. They stay with you. They're not permanent. They're ephemeral. Thank you. And also thoughts are like this, perceptions. So I was going to ask, what do we trust in to kind of base our life decisions on?


Even small decisions like, oh, wow, that person's upset. Maybe I should give them a hug. That's the thought. There's also the letting go of that thought. And that's not acting on it, but it's also the acting on it. So how do you know what's actually true and real in leading you to the life we're supposed to live? Well, the life that you want to live is the life of compassion. And compassion is Buddha. So you live in Buddha's world through compassion. So maybe you should give that person the hug. The thought comes up, and then you give the person the hug, and then the thought's no longer there. The thought's served its purpose. But with so many thoughts, we can't act on all of them. Like, you know, one that's not of compassion would be in North Carolina saying, I gotta get the hell out of here, and come somewhere like here.


Which seems to be a good thought. Now I'm here. The thought, I gotta get the hell out of here. The problem is you're always obsessed with the same thought. So, just let go of that thought. Offer that thought up to Buddha. There, Buddha. Here's my thought of having to escape. I'm going to offer it to you. And I no longer have the need to escape. So I'm going to live my life thoroughly without escaping. And when something comes up that makes me want to escape, I'll keep turning it over to you. What is that work done, and I start moving again?


You'll always keep moving. You just have to do it over and over again. Till it sticks.