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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, good morning. My name is Lou Richmond and I appreciate being asked to give the talk here, which I do occasionally. Around 1967, I started to come to Zen Center and sometime in 67 or 68, I can't remember, at a Saturday morning lecture in the old Sokoji Temple, where Zen Center started in San Francisco. There was a, that Saturday, there was a big demonstration against the war in Vietnam. Many of us wanted to go, but instead we came to lecture, or 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 anti-war activist. And I can't remember exactly my, what I'd done at that point, but eventually I ended up going to jail in demonstrations and turning in my draft card, expecting to go to federal prison, etc. So the big issue that was on my mind and everybody's mind at that time was, how does Zazen, this new Zen practice, fit in with our anti-war position? So after Suzuki Roshi's 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 Goza mats, 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 mat on the floor, and he pointed to the one in front of him and he said, when two people sit down on a Goza mat, they want to smooth out their side of the Goza mat so they don't have wrinkles. And when the wrinkles meet in 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 I won't go into right now. I will say that it ended up with one of the senior students, after a long discussion back


and forth, saying, but 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 hell with his robes flying and picked up 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 at Zen Center were there and remember it. We all remember it differently. But I remember the first part because it involved me, and I want to put forth this mando, what is war, and then his response, as not just a casual question and answer, but as a koan,


like we would read in the Hekigan Roku or the Mumon Kan. I feel that this is a case in the one-day-to-be-written Shunryu Roku, things that Suzuki Roshi said in response to what we might call real questions or Dharma questions. Now, every Zen teacher has a kind of style, and Suzuki Roshi's style was very matter-of-fact, very plain. 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 meet in the center of the Goza mat, that's war, that that's a kind of simple thing to say. Oh, well, 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 35 years, and 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 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, wants that. It's embedded in our genes. We want a smooth place to be, as smooth as possible. At the same time, it's one mat, you see? It's one mat. So if there are only two creatures in the universe, and they're both smoothing their mat, thinking, oh, this is my place on the mat, you see, right away there's a problem. The one mat is the first important message.


One mat. It would be fine if we all had our separate mats, our separate universes, but we don't. We're connected by the one mat. So this is the first penetration of this story. The one mat means interconnection. It means impermanence. It means what Buddhists call dukkha or samsara, illusion or suffering. And the first insight of the Buddha is that this is not an epiphenomenon 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 mat, and that there are wrinkles on the mat.


So every creature wants, you know, it's like a dog circling around to find a place to be. The dog is looking for the most comfortable place. Dogs know how to do this, and we're the same way. Everybody wants the smooth mat. 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 in Disneyland?


They're all very perfectly put in, and there are no weeds, and there are no flowers mixed 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 there are these artificial communities that have been constructed by bringing in vast amounts of water, and they plant them. 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, from my sensibility, certainly, as a practitioner, 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? After World War I, the slogan was, or during World War I, let's make the world safe for democracy. Now, 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 we're 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 samsara. Illusion. Misunderstanding. Ignorance. A world where, strangely enough, things don't work at all, and we just don't know why. We're just trying to make, you know, it's just simple. We try to smooth the wrinkles out. And it's interesting what happened after that response. The whole room, like this room, erupted. But Suzuki Roshi, what about this? And is it better to do zazen or go to the demonstration?


How is zazen 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, it was one of the rare times he did it. So 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 practice is 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. Fundamentally, Buddhism is not about ideas or thinking or 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, and it's an absolutely natural question, is what is the Buddhist approach? What is the Buddhist 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 Thich Nhat Hanh.


Many of you may know it. I'm not going to read the whole poem, but I'll read part of it. It's entitled, Call Me By My True Names. This was written during the time of the boat people. Some of you may remember there was a period about 10 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 12-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea 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 in 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 fills four 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. Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I knew and who was active here at Zen Center for a time, is 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 is 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 an extremely dangerous thing to do, because everybody took sides. It was a war. It 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 Buddhists thought, 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 in 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 in the tatami mat,


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're 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 calm business in the cloister of the monastery and hope, and think to yourself, well, the world is always this way, we must keep our Buddhist life alive, that's kind of taking sides too. 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 II in Japan did,


because that was a great, awful 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 belong to are apologizing and attempting to make that right. But that was a great disillusioning point when the book Zen at War came out and we learned about all of this. Even D.T. Suzuki, who brought so many of us older folks to Zen, turned out in Japan to be quite an enthusiastic war person. Wrote about the oneness or the 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's 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 sense is that 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 toward the end of the war, and 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 Thich Nhat Hanh, 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 San Francisco,


one of the first ones, and it was very raucous and people were shouting into microphones. It's like most peace demonstrations. And in the middle of all that, there were 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, and I sat down with them and we sat for about an hour, and I thought, you know, 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 wisdom, and one is called Karuna, which means compassion.


To say, don't take sides, is more from the Prajna side. And there is a famous poem in the Zen tradition by the third patriarch of Zen Buddhism, some of you may know this poem, that begins, The great way is not difficult, just avoid, the way it's usually translated, just avoid picking and choosing. Do you know this poem? Is this familiar to you, some of you? The 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 35 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 can be very difficult.


By taking sides means, I want my side of the tatami mat 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 we're 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 being alone, the 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 it 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 as that I want to 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 Genjo Koan, Dogen 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 root of why we need to smooth the mat. 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 what other people feel, feeling sorry for them, feeling sorry for a starving child or an injured person or something. But prajna, karuna go together. The actual compassion that 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 all on the same mat. You're smoothing your wrinkles because you're afraid and I'm smoothing 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 that I know about his life more and know what he must have seen and heard and felt, it's a little clearer to me. He knew about that fear. And when you're able to encompass that fear and absorb it and awaken to it, then you can be like Thich Nhat Hanh and go into the situation and be there and 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 able to... The poem, that's the poem. He's able to see 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 not compassion that's the usual sort of... The usual idea about compassion is we feel so sorry for the little girl and we hate the pirate. No. Because with our eye of 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 eye. I don't remember them all. Somebody can tell me. But I know there's the ordinary eye, the flesh eye. Then there's the mystical eye, paranormal eye, and there's a third one I can't quite remember. Then there's the Dharma eye and the Buddha eye. Now, what are they talking about, five eyes? When a Buddha sees, it's not like ordinary seeing. The Buddha's able to see through things.


There's a certain transparency for a Buddha that's not available to ordinary people. The Buddha sees the fear, sees it like this. It's just so obvious. In everything, in everyone, 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 guns, some people don't have guns, some people may be big, some people may be small, some strong, some weak. So naturally our heart goes out to the weak, but the reality is the fear encompasses everything. And from this, says my teacher, comes war.


What is the right thing to do? So we're always asking, if we're serious and sincere, here, what is the right thing to do? What is the right thing to do? Don't take sides doesn't mean don't get involved. It doesn't mean to take this side or that side. It doesn't mean to do what you can. It doesn't mean not to be an activist. It doesn't mean to be anything in particular. It means to open your eyes the way a Buddha sees, and see things as they actually are. That's the Prajna side, the wisdom side. And then the compassion side is to be there, wherever it is, to be there. We happen to be in Marin 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 superstition, to signs and symbols, but I do think that it's safe to say that I do believe in the, 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 is 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 Roman Empire today, you might say. There's a reason, and also a challenge. Buddhism itself, we might say, as an institution, as a tradition, has not necessarily always realized or fully realized


the full implication of, don't take sides, but be there. I'll tell you one example that occurs to me. Buddhism began, of course, as you know, in India, and has been the source of all other forms of Buddhism. And it persisted, and it really had its height in India in the, you might say, the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. or maybe even earlier, but it persisted as an institution with many, many monasteries and monks and nuns until the 1100s. In the 1100s, the Mughals, 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 religious persecutions of 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 map. And I'm sure at that time, 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 knew and who told me what he said about this persecution. He said, well, you know, by the 11th century, the monks were really quite removed from the people. They were off in their monasteries. It was really quite sequestered. And so when the Mughals 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 Mughals were 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 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 20th century, where it's had something of a resurgence. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a poem. I know I heard him read it, but it's not in this book as far as I can tell. Maybe they left it out on purpose. But the tagline of the poem is, My Brothers Are Sleeping. My Brothers Are Sleeping. Have any of you heard this poem or know this poem? No? I think he tucked it away. It was a poem about his Buddhist brothers in Vietnam. My Brothers Are Sleeping. And this is something we have to be


careful of as 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 Zazen 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 do we emphasize, or 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, and not so many people understand what this really means. The Middle Way is fundamentally the middle way between existence and non-existence. And 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 Manjusri. 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 realize that these statues are teachings. They're non-conceptual teachings, and 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 statues. The face is always calm, but there's kind of a smile. You know what I mean? It's a Buddha face. 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, of being in the midst of it all. The word Avalokiteshvara, Avalokiteshvara is the Bodhisattva of compassion, and the word Avalokiteshvara means the one or the Lord who sees. Avalokiteshvara means Lord or Great Being, and Avalokita means the one who sees. So it's worth penetrating, considering carefully what kind of seeing is this, and what is it that this Lord of compassion sees. It's not ordinary seeing, we know that, because ordinary seeing, if we really saw,


if we really absorbed how it really is out there in the world of wrinkles, and even though we do a pretty good job on the surface with our big lawn mowers, 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 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 in Disneyland together. There's no such thing as a single person, there's no such thing as a single person,


there's no such thing as a wrinkle-free world. So it's not a matter of building a bigger and better steam iron, I guess is a better image than a lawnmower steam iron, to smooth out the wrinkles. It's something else. I'm here speaking to you today, because the power and authenticity of 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 35 years have 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 said something about it. Well, I wasn't sure I was going to talk about Spider-Rabbit, but I think I will. In the 60s, Michael McClure wrote a play called Spider-Rabbit. Have any of you ever seen it?


It's a play about a spider-rabbit, and in the 60s, 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 rabbit suit, with ears and everything, and he's like a kiddie show host. Who's that guy? Not Mr. Rogers, the other guy, Pee-wee Herman, kind of like that. And I remember 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 can imagine. It's like a kiddie show host. And after a while, he starts to get kind of sleepy, and he nods over. And then you realize that you see his costume as he bends over.


On the back of the costume, there's 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 spider is the spider is hungry, really hungry. And he just wants something to eat. And so he does things, horrible things. At one point in the play, he pulls out a jigsaw. What's the kind of saw where 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 head has been hidden by a cloth. And spider rabbit cuts open his skull while the guy is 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 is back. And rabbit doesn't know anything about what spider has done. And he says, hi. And he says again, like somebody with a concussion, this is my spoon. You can see why this play really struck me. And this was written during the Vietnam War. And I understood the play in a way that I think I didn't even realize at the time. Michael, from a poet's and playwright's perspective, was trying to get at something very deep. And not so different from what I've said about Disneyland and trying to smooth the wrinkles. What's interesting, though, is he managed to convey the degree of unconsciousness, mutual unconsciousness, that the spider side and the rabbit side have for each other.


And 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 tells 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. And he says, I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so. He's sorry about 12 times or 100 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's 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. And the minute you feel the temptation to reach down to smooth the wrinkles, you realize these are the hands of spider. But the reason spider is coming out is because rabbit gets sleepy and kind of uncomfortable and doesn't know what to do. And the Buddha eye sees it all. The Buddha eye isn't for rabbit. The Buddha eye isn't for spider. The Buddha sits in the middle of it all and sees. And that seeing is a kind of compassion that is not in our conceptual mind. At the time, it's very shocking what Michael McClure had spider do,


but I understand it now. He wanted to get at the most horrible, unconscious images because they're real. And we're too afraid to face them. And ultimately, spider means we're so frightened to be here and we don't know what to do about it. So when the third patriarch said, the great way is not difficult. Just avoid taking sides. What he's really saying is the great way is very difficult because taking sides is our nature. So I started to... I'll finish the thought I started, which is I feel that Buddhadharma in the West 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 end by saying one last thing that Suzuki Roshi said a lot. And 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'll lose your way. Thank you.