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Anti-war activities. Suzuki Roshi's response to Lew's question "What is war?" Wrinkles on goza mat.

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good morning
my name is lou richmond and i pray she
being asked to give the talk here in which i do occasionally i

around nineteen sixty seven
started to come the zen center
and some time in sixty seven or sixty eight i can't remember
at a saturday morning lecture in the old so koji temple whereas and center started in san francisco
there was a and that saturday there was a big demonstration against the war in vietnam
many of us
we're wanted to go but instead we came to lecture for i think maybe the demonstration was in the afternoon i can't remember but there was some kind of conflict we weren't sure
what to do so after the lecture
this was very much on my mind i was at that time a pretty much full time antiwar activist and i can't remember exactly my
what i'd done at that point but eventually i ended up going to jail and demonstrations and turning in my draft card expecting to go to federal prison et cetera
so the big issue that was on my mind and everybody's mind at that time was how does saas in this news and practice fit in with
anti-war position
so after the suzuki roshi is talk which i don't remember what he spoke about
i raised my hand and asked him suzuki roshi what is war
and immediately he pointed at that time
we sat on goes amounts which are three by six foot thin tatami mats and on top of those we put these kinds of cushions so there were two people to a map
on the floor and he pointed to them one in front of him he said
when two people sit down on a goes a math they want to smooth out their side of the goes amount so that they don't have wrinkles and when the wrinkles meeting the center that's war
those of you who've read crooked cucumber his biography can read in detail
the aftermath of this event this question and answer which can i won't go into right now it ended up i will say that it ended up with one of the senior students after a long discussion back and forth
what i think we're trying to say suzuki roshi is what is the right thing to do and he leaped up like a bat out of hill with his robes fly in and picked up his his stick and he beat this student a lot
and then he screamed out what are you dreaming
and then he sat down arranged his robes like i did and then he said i'm not angry
so this is the infamous story of the beating of john steiner which is legendary in zen center but i was there i initiated it so i'm part of it many of the old timers it's and center where there and remember it all we we all remember it differently
i remember the first part because it involved me and i i want to put forth this mondo what is war and then his response as not just a casual question and answer but as a call on like we would read in the hexagon roku or the movement con i feel that this is a
case in the one day to be written shouldn't you wrote you things that ah
the suzuki roshi said in response to what we might call real questions or dharmic questions
now every zen teacher has a kind of style
and suzuki roshi style was very matter of fact very plain he he did not do a lot of things like beating people or shouting or any of the things you read about in zen books he was very direct and very straightforward and very simple very genuine
so it's easy to think that his answer well when the wrinkles meeting the center of the ghosts and that that's war that that's a kind of
simple thing to say oh yes we understand that you know i have some view you have some view and we fight
i've been thinking about this exchange for thirty five years
yet now i think i have something to say about it so i'm going to try
i wouldn't say i've been thinking about it i've been practicing with it because at that time in particular
the injustice
of the vietnam situation was extremely potent in my mind and it felt i felt i felt on the one hand very ashamed to be an american but i also felt that i was being very patriotic
to raise the flag and believe me in those days it was a lot more difficult than it is now
it took a lot longer
for that sentiment to surface

this response of his is actually very deep
let me explain why

this quality of smoothing out the wrinkles is not just some superficial sense of wanting to be comfortable it's totally basic to human life to all life
every one of us every human being every creature
once that
it's embedded in our genes
we want
a smooth place to be as smooth as possible
the same time it's one matt you see it's one mac
so if there are only two creatures in the universe
and they're both smoothing they're mad thinking oh this is my place on the mat you see
right away there's a problem the one matt is the first important message one matt
would be fine if we all had our separate mats are separate universes but we don't
we're connected by the one man so this is the first
penetration of this story
the one matt means
it means
it means what buddhists called duca or samsara illusion or suffering
it's not
and and the first inside of the buddha
is that this is not
peppa phenomenon of bad management of the universe this is the universe you understand this is the way it is it's just the way it is that we all exist on this one matt and that there are wrinkles on the mat
so every creature once you know it's like a dog circling around to find a place to be the dog is looking is looking for the most comfortable place dogs know how to do this and where the same way everybody wants the smooth matte
if you want to know how that looks when lots of people do it together look around look at america
we have worked very hard in this country which is mostly immigrants coming from some bad place to make a good place where our portion of the mat is smooth
and when i think about this i think of
disneyland disneyland
you've all been to disneyland or disney world and you know it's a kind of fantasy place but what i remember about it most is the flowers you know the flowers and disneyland they're all very perfectly put in and there are no weeds and there are no flowers mix together it's all very wonderful my wife and i
had a vacation in palm desert recently down in southern california and it was very much like that you know it's a complete desert but their these artificial communities that have been constructed by bringing in vast amounts of water and they plant them in all the because it's all artificial there's no natural habitat for these kinds of plants and flowers it's
all very perfect and there's something for my sensibility certainly as a practitioner of very odd even strange about this landscape
this is a wrinkle free landscape that somebody dreamed up it's not the way the world is you understand what i'm saying it's you know in after world war one the slogan was or during world war one let's make the world safe for democracy
now it's if we had to do the slogan again we'd say let's make the world safe for disneyland or for all the golf courses that we make
but you know it doesn't mean that were bad it means that we're human and given the opportunity given the wealth given the power most other people in the world would do somewhat the same so this quality of wanting the wrinkles to be smooth and also
not noticing where the wrinkles are going is what we mean by some sarah
misunderstanding ignorance a world where strangely enough things don't work at all and we just don't know why we just trying to make you know it's a simple we try to smooth the wrinkles out
it's interesting what happened after that response the whole room like this room erupted but suzuki roshi went about this and is it better to do zazen or go to the demonstration houses in going to help stop the war and how can we really stop the war and finally he said what are you dreaming you know he was very to one of the rare
times he did it so
ah it i thought to myself at the time
either this man is crazy
or he knows something i don't have any idea about
so at that point i think you know for those of us for anyone whose practices there is a point you can look back when you're older and say this is the point that i really decided to follow the way and for me this was the moment
it was not because i thought he was right but because of him
because of the way he was this is very hard to explain if you didn't know him or weren't with him you know fundamentally buddhism is not about ideas or thinking
enlightenment even it's about something you can't really express but if you see it and your eyes are open it changes you
i think the question we were asking
question is what can what is the buddhist approach what is the buddhist ah attitude toward this war toward any war
we're trying to be buddhists we want to know it's very important
it's an absolutely real question and it needs to be addressed

i'm going to read you a poem by tick not harm many of you may know it
i'm not going to read the whole poem and i'll read part of it it's from it's entitled call me by my true names and this was written during the time of the boat people some of you may remember there was a period of about ten years after the vietnam war where many people tried to flee vietnam in boats and
many of them drowned

i am the child in uganda all skin and bones my legs as thin as bamboo sticks and i am the arms merchant selling deadly weapons to uganda
i am the twelve year old girl refugee on a small boat who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a c pirate and i am the pirate my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving
i am a member of the politburo with plenty of power in my hands and i am the man who has to pay his debt of blood to my people dying slowly and a forced labor camp
my joy is like spring so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the earth my pain is like a river of tears so vast it feels for oceans please call me by my true names so i can hear all my cries and laughter at once so i can see that my joy and pain are one please
call me by my true names so i can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open the door of compassion
tick not han whom i knew and who was active here at zen center for a time
he's probably the world's best-known buddhist peace activist
but most people know him in his modality after he was exiled after he left vietnam and he began to teach in the west
what's less well known as what he did while he was there and basically as he described it later in the midst of that war
he did not take sides
he did not take sides
and in that climate that was extremely dangerous thing to do because everybody took sides it was a war was a civil war with many factions
and because he didn't take sides everybody wanted to kill him because they thought well if you're not on my side you must be on the other side so the communists thought he must be pro american let's kill him the americans thought he's a communist sympathizer we can't trust him the buddhist thought he
he's betrayed the buddhist faith he's out there with the politicians we can't trust him everybody and they tried to kill him they threw grenades and his temple and various things and even after he left vietnam i think for a long time his life was in danger
but and i'm still talking about the wrinkles and the tommy matt so i haven't left that topic let's look at this not taking sides
when you ask somebody to say well let's not take sides the most ordinary people would think well that means you are being kind of neutral like switzerland or something you're not taking sides
and in fact even in buddhism
if your response as it was for many of the buddhists in vietnam to strife and conflict is to just go about your com business in the cloister of the monastery and hope and think to yourself well the world is always this way we must keep our are buddhist life alive
that's kind of taking sides to
we might think well we're inheritors of the zen tradition in buddhism let's look to what the great zen teachers during world war two in japan did because that was a great off a war what did they do
well we now know because it's finally been revealed that a great many of them were enthusiastic supporters of the war and wrote about it and supported military generals and the whole strategy for taking over china and they're on record as saying so so they took sides
now many many years later the buddhist schools that they belonged to are apologizing and attempting to make that right but that was a great show disillusioning point when the book senate war came out and we'd learned about all of this even d t suzuki who brought so many of us older folks does in
turned out in japan to be quite an enthusiastic go war person wrote about the the the the oneness with a great glory when the samurai's sword comes down without thought and so forth chilling stuff
so we can't even exactly trust our own buddhist tradition now suzuki roshi was not part of that it said that he opposed the war it's very hard to know in his book his biography david chadwick tried to research it and had a very hard time my own senses that he
he was japanese and he did his best as an important religious leader to support people in his town and support the young men who went off to die he was actually a chaplain in manchuria
towards the end of the war in there were quite terrible things going on in manchuria so i can only imagine what he was in the midst of
but getting back to chicken out han it wasn't just that he said well i'm not going to take sides and stayed in his temple
he went out and he put himself in the center of the situation and he said i'm not taking sides this is very different this is very different entirely
this is like i went to the peace march in february in the san francisco one of the first ones and it was very raucous and people were shouting into microphones it's like most priests demonstrations and in the middle of all that they are
people from the buddhist peace fellowship doing zazen in the middle of the demonstration and i was quite moved by that they were right there in the middle of it
this and i sat down with them and we sat for about an hour and i thought you know these these are the only peaceful people here it's a peace march but the actual peaceful people are the ones that are but they didn't go do zazen at home they went into the middle of that situation and they did it there
let me take a little bit of detour for those of you more schooled in buddhist doctrine

there is a kind of two aspects to wisdom in buddhism one is called prajna which means the wisdom and one is called karuna which means compassion
to say don't take sides is more from the project site
and there is a famous pawn in the zen tradition by the third patriarch of zen that begins some of you may know this poem that begins the great way is not difficult
just avoid coates usually translated just avoid picking and choosing do you know this poem is as familiar to you some of you a great way is not difficult just avoid i'm going to change the translation just avoid taking sides
now there is a corollary to this statement if you study it closely which is if you do take sides the great way is tremendously difficult
it's only not difficult when you don't take sides now it may take thirty five years to figure out what it means not to take sides but at that point then it's not so difficult the great way up to that point it's it can be very difficult
by taking sides means
i want my side of the to tommy matt to be smooth and oh yes you have wrinkles on your side yes well i'm sorry
and of course the other person is you know doing that too now let's talk about this what this really means this is not some irritation were trying to get rid of this is very very deep when we say we want to smooth the wrinkles out

we're talking about fear we're talking about fear and not just any ordinary fear like a snake comes into the room but the deepest fear of all the fear of being extinguished the fear of being nobody the fear of not being loved the fear of
fear of being
snuffed out
this fear lies at the root of being here
to be here in this world means to have this fear this is not something that you have a choice about this is the nature of being here at all
we have this fear
so when we talk about smoothing out the mat yes we can say well you know i want your land or would be better if i had all the water or you know i want
my palm desert resort to have irrigation pumps going and i don't really care where the water comes from or what that does or i'd like to have all my aluminum
but really what it means is
i just want to be here
i just want to be here i want to continue
and i sort of know that you do too but that really isn't as important to me is that i wanna be here
and so you know i'm going to make my side smooth even without knowing it i'm doing that and this is the way it is for all of us so at the root of this and this is why the great way is difficult because unless you're willing to give up the most precious thing in the world it's very difficult

in the ganges con dogan says to study buddhism is to study the self
what he means is to thoroughly look at over and over what it is to be here until you touch
the route
of why we need to smooth the matt this is what's called clinging in buddhism it's the source of all suffering
there's no way to be enlightened there's no way to be liberated unless you're willing to touch the fear and the minute you touch the fear you've touched everyone's fear
and this is where compassion truly comes you know we think of compassion from our ordinary understanding of the term as feeling feeling what other people feel feeling sorry for them feeling sorry for a starving child or an injured person or something
prajna karuna go together the actual compassionate buddhism talks about is when you're ready to touch the fear immediately you understand that the fear is as big as all people as the universe and immediately you understand oh my gosh we're on the same man
your smoothing your wrinkles because you're afraid and i'm smoothie my wrinkles because i'm afraid and now i understand at last i understand we're both afraid we're terrified

for so many years i couldn't understand suzuki roshi leaping up and saying
what are you dreaming
but now but i know about his life more and know what he must have seen and heard and felt a little clearer to me
he knew about that fear
and when you're able to encompass that fear and absorb it and awakened to it then you can be like tick not on and go into the situation and be there in not take sides not taking sides because you look around at all the sides and you see the same fear
and your heart goes out to everyone
this is why he says he's a he's able to use the palm that's the palm he's able to see the the girl who jumps off the boat because she's been raped by a pirate and the pirate both of those can be absorbed both of those can be absorbed this is this is not compassion that's the huge
well sort of you know the usual idea about compassion as we feel so sorry for the little girl and we hate the pirate
because with our i have awakening we see the fear in the pirate
and the fear in the girl it's the same fear
in buddhist doctrine there's something called the five eyes this kind of i i don't remember them all somebody can kill me but
i know there's the ordinary i the flesh i then there's the mystical i paranormal i've and there's a third one i can't quite remember then there's the dharma i and the buddha i now what are they talking about five eyes
when a buddha sees it's not like ordinary seeing the boot is able to see through things there's a certain transparency for a buddha it's it's not available to ordinary people

the buddha sees the fear
sees it like this it's just so obvious
in everything in every one it drives everything
it's driving the wrinkles on the mat
and everyone on the mat
is being driven by the same fear some people on the mat may have gotten some people don't have guns some people may be big some people may be small some strong some week so naturally our heart goes out to the week but the reality is the fear encompasses everything
and from this
says my teacher comes war

so are always asking if we're serious and sincere what is the right thing to do what is the right thing to do
don't take size doesn't mean don't get involved it doesn't mean to take this site or that sign it doesn't mean to do what you can it doesn't mean not to be an activist it does it mean to be anything in particular it means
to open your eyes the way of buddha seas
and see things as they actually are
that's the project aside the wisdom side and then the compassion side is to be there
wherever it is to be there we happen to be a marine county usa
the wealthiest county in the wealthiest country in the universe
that's where we are
so we have to start from here
i think that i'm not a person given to a superstition to signs and symbols but i do think that it's safe to say that i do believe in the in the on
how shall i put it the
coalescence of causes and conditions maybe that's an awkward way to say it but what i'm trying to say as there's a reason why the dharma has sprung up right now in the west in the most affluent places in the world in the centers of power in the
in the roman empire today you might say
there's a reason
and also a challenge buddhism itself we might say has as an institution as a tradition has not necessarily always realized or fully realized
the full implications of don't take sides but be there
i'll tell you one example that occurs to me
buddhism began of course is you know in india
and has been the source of all other forms of buddhism and it persisted and really had its height in india in the made say the fifth and sixth centuries a d or maybe even earlier but it persisted as an institution with many many monasteries and monks and nuns until the eleven hundreds
in the eleven hundreds the moguls the muslim invaders took over most of india and destroyed buddhism completely and killed or chased away all the buddhist monks and nuns it's one of the great
some history actually i'm not sure how many of you know this but there are many religious persecutions in history believe me
people smoothing out their side of the man and i'm sure at that time the the muslims saw the buddhists as whatever infidels competition i don't know
i knew this for many years and it wasn't until
i heard i can't remember how i heard but there was a
scholar in india who a friend of mine new and who told me what he said about this persecution he said well you know by the eleventh century
the monks were really quite removed from the people they were often their monasteries it was really quite sequestered and so when the moguls came in
the people really didn't
support them
and he felt that he wasn't exactly saying you know it was their own fault because obviously the moguls where militarily superior but the interesting quality that the buddhists by that time you see had folded in on themselves and had perhaps lost the side of be
hey there they weren't somehow there according to this scholar sorry
for the people
and i'm not saying that it would have happened any differently but the people would have been more identified with the persecution of the buddhists anyway buddhism was wiped out in india and it's been wiped out until the twentieth century where it said something of a resurgence
a chick nine han wrote a poem
i know i heard him read it but it's not in this book as far as i can tell i maybe they left it out on purpose but the tagline of the poem is my brothers are sleeping my brothers are sleeping if any have you heard this poem or know this poem
no i think he tucked it away he was a poem about his buddhist brothers in vietnam my brothers are sleeping
this is this is something we have to be careful of his buddhists because our fundamental practice
can give us a tendency to
you might say stay on our cushion
not because we're facing
ourselves and facing wisdom but because we're afraid to get off
what we have here is something very precious which very very few people know about which is
to sit down directly in the midst of it all
and to be there and to see through it all
and this is what size in is it's not meditation it's not fundamentally a way to learn to be calm
it's partly that
it's a way to learn to be awake
so only in the maybe you might say beginner stages of zazen to we emphasize or is it it is it
fresh to us that we learn the states of samadhi and calmness and all of that all of that really is preparatory for being able to penetrate
and to penetrate what to penetrate our fear the fear of everyone the actual fabric of our existence
buddhism as you know is called the middle way
not so many people understand what this really means the middle way
is fundamentally the middle way between existence and non-existence
you might say the middle way is to not take sides in the middle of existence
to be there in some inconceivable indescribable way
that we can only dream about until we do it

i'm sitting here talking to you but all the time i'm looking at that statue of manjushri
or maybe it's who knows it's a buddha manifestation and
when i was young i didn't care much for statues i thought you don't need statues you don't need anything just a cushion a wall your legs
but the older i get the more i realized that that these statues are teachings they are non conceptual teachings and it's worth it's worth
considering carefully the face that we always see on a statue of a buddha
these are actually realization faces they're not just
the face is always
calm but there's kind of a smile you know what i mean it's an it's a buddha face when we look at it we can immediately say oh that's a statue of a buddha
and it's not just the outward form but it's also some kind of expression
this is a pictorial or visual manifestation of the middle way of not taking sides have been in the midst of at all
the word are bulky tastes were kitaj for is the bodhisattva of compassion
and the word i have low-key tasty bara means the one or the lord who sees
shara means lord or great being and oblak abelow have a low-key champions the one who sees
so it's worth
it's worth penetrating considering carefully what kind of seeing is this and what is it that this lord of compassion seas
it's not ordinary seen we know that because ordinary seen if you really if we really saw it we really absorbed how it really is out there in the world of wrinkles
and even though you know we we do a pretty good job on the surface of with our big lawnmowers mowing the wrinkles down and making it like disneyland as much as we can
and striving very hard to make
america safe for disneyland
even here there are many wrinkles even in your own life there are many wrinkles in your intimate relations with your children with your spouse with your parents with your co workers there are many wrinkles

it's not a matter of getting rid of the winkles or of the wrinkles
we may think well the purpose of religion is to figure out a way for to create a wrinkle free world wouldn't that be wonderful everybody can be induced a land together

there's no such thing as a wrinkle free world so it's not a matter of building a bigger and better
a steam iron i guess as a better image than a lawnmower steam iron
to smooth out the wrinkles

it's something else
i'm i'm here speaking to you today because the power and
oh suzuki roshi in that moment and in other moments
cut through all of my ideas about things and touched me in a place that i didn't even know about
he didn't even know he did it it's not that he was trying i asked him a question he gave me an answer from his understanding
and thirty five years gone by not very long more than half a lifetime
and now
this opportunity has come up to say something about it so i've i say i've said something about it

i wasn't sure i was going to talk about spider rabbit but i think i will
st michael mcclure wrote a play called spider rabbit
then a have you ever seen it
i talked to michael recently he said well it's pretty rare even to see it in print
good i'll tell you about it it's a one person play
and as the curtain opens
it's this man in a skin a rabbit suit
with ears and everything and he's like a kiddie show host who's that guy
not mister rogers the other guy that a peewee herman kind of like that
and i'm ever the opening lines of the play
the opening line is hi i'm spider rabbit and this is my spoon and he holds up a spoon
and he's just so nice he's just so nice and he's really happy to see you and all the things you know you can imagine it's like a kiddie show host
and after a while he starts to get kind of sleepy and he he nods over
and then you realize that and you see as costume as he bends over on the back of the costume their spider legs coming out
and he sort of falls asleep and then another character wakes up it's the spider
and the big thing about the spiders spiders hungry really hungry
and he just want something to eat and so he does things
ah a horrible things one point in the play
he pulls out a
a jigsaw what's the kind of saw are you kind of the jigsaw
and he says i'm hungry and he turns on the jigsaw and you discover suddenly that all this time there's
under the table hidden and only his his head is has been hidden by a cloth and spider rabbit cuts open his skull while the guys screaming and then he eats out the brains i'm sorry for how gory this is but this is the play and he says oh man that was good now i'm not so hungry and then spider goes away
and then rabbit it's back and rabbit doesn't know anything about what spider has done and and he says hi and he's says again like somebody with a concussion this is my spoon you know
the you can see why this play really struck me
and this was written during the vietnam war and i understood the play
and in a way that i think i didn't even realize at the time michael from a poets and playwrights perspective was trying to get it something very deep and not so different from what i've said about disneyland and trying to smooth wrinkles what's into
listing though is he managed to convey the degree of unconsciousness mutual unconsciousness that the spider side and the rabbits side have for each other
nothing could be more stark than the two sides spider and rabbit rabbit and spider both part of the same being both part of the same reality but totally not integrated and at the end an angel comes down from the ceiling in the play and
and chell spider he's been bad tells spider rabbit that he's been bad and the last line of the play spider rabbit tries to apologize nice he says i'm sorry i'm so so so he says he's sorry about twelve times are one hundred times i don't remember and you get the real sense that spider rabbit has no idea what he's done
he just knows he supposed to say he's sorry so if we think that spider rabbit is somebody other than ourselves or that spider rabbit exists somewhere outside of us this is not the point of the play spider rabbit really is who you face when you really sit
down and you're willing to confront what it is to be here what it is to actually exist
in the minute you feel the temptation to reach down to smooth wrinkles you realize these are the hands of spider
but the reason spiders coming out is because rabbit gets sleepy and kind of uncomfortable and doesn't know what to do
the buddha i sees it all the bhutto i isn't for rabbit the buddha eyes and for spider the buddha sits in the middle of it all and seas and that seeing
is a kind of compassion that is not
in our conceptual mind
at the time it you know it's very shocking what
like mcclure head spider do but i understand it now you know he wanted to get at the most horrible unconscious images because they're real and were too afraid to face them and ultimately spider means
were so frightened to be here
and we don't know what to do about it
so when the third patriarch said the great ways not difficult just avoid taking sides
what he's really saying is the great way is very difficult
because taking sides as our nature
so i started to i'll finish the thought i started which is i feel that buddha dharma in the west he is coming at a very critical time
and we have a great responsibility
we have something that the world really needs right now there's hardly anybody in the world that knows what it really means not to take sides and even we don't know what it means not to take sides but the purpose of our practice is to find out
and when we do then the compassion we feel the love that we generate is not like
rabbit it's something else

i'll tell you i'll i'll end by same one last thing that suzuki roshi said a lot
and i i want to say it now because i think it's particularly apropos he said it's good to be serious
but not too serious
if you're too serious he said you will lose your way

thank you