Zendo Lecture

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Good evening, I think the only thing that could make this room slightly more unpleasant were if it were filled with 3,000 mosquitoes and a couple bats. So thank you for coming and putting up with our heat. Am I on? I don't hear my voice. So I wanted to read something out of National Geographic which I somebody brings and boy it is so terrific to have this. You can learn tons of things but this particular one I took to my room and I found that at night I had to turn it over. What does that look like to you?


Spider, big, yes. So I found that even that looked like a big spider so I couldn't stand it so I turned it over. So this article here, it comes with an illustration and it's too bad you can't see it because it's bizarre. It shows the space-time continuum for those of you who are interested in those things and it has all kinds of globs coming out of it and one of those globs contains our universe and the other globs are other universes and there's a little something that describes it that I wanted to read. It's entitled Origin, Infinite Beginnings. Pushing the limits of theory and imagination in true Einsteinian fashion, cosmologists are


daring to speculate that ours is not the only universe. The Big Bang that created everything we know of, of everything we know of space and time could be just one of an infinite number of beginnings yielding a never-ending sequence of universes. The scenario shown in this artist's concept, the globs, emerges from inflation theory, a descendant of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Relativity implies that space and time can stretch to vast dimensions from a tiny starting point. Inflation describes how your own universe ballooned in the first moments and suggests that the same thing can happen anywhere at any time. The result, an eternal expanse of space erupting with bubbles of energy or big bangs, each the seed of a universe. You know, I love this stuff but I wonder if anybody else cares about this kind of thing


because when you think about it, I was sitting outside today and, oh, thank you. Thank you very much. And I'm no fool. And so I, you know, I looked up in the sky and, you know, we have, what are our instruments of perception? Five senses, right? And we create a world from those five and that world we call the conventional world because we agree on it. Convention means an agreement. So that a tree is a tree. A chair is a chair. And if you look up in the sky, you know, what do you see? You see, in the daytime, you see a blue dome. So the sky is a dome. The sun is a disk and it goes from one side to the


next, right? And when the sun is there, the sky is blue. And why is it blue? Because that's the name we give that color. At night it's a little different. Then sparkly things turn on because the sun isn't there. I guess we probably couldn't, we can't see them because the sun is there. And we call them stars. And the other thing I noticed, and I have actually, I've noticed this before, is that the earth is flat. No matter what anybody says, the earth is flat. Sure, there are mountains and there are valleys and there are oceans, but if you ever traveled over land, it's flat, right? Even flying. You know, the sky is, of course, only three or four miles high, but even when you're flying, you fly over continents, you fly over oceans, fly over Asia, and it's flat. It's always flat. It is not the other thing, you know, it's flat. And even that picture that was taken from outer space,


wherever that is, shows a disc, right, blue and white disc, that they said is the earth, and it's flat. And the only thing wrong with the picture is that it has an edge. And I don't know about you, but when I've traveled, I have never seen that edge where everything, where you drop off. So there's some sort of optical illusion that happened when taking that picture of the earth. The only thing I can't quite understand is how you could fly from San Francisco, go across the United States, Atlantic Ocean, Eurasia, Pacific Ocean, come back to San Francisco on a flat surface. I don't quite get that. But that, I account to, have you ever tried to find the square root of minus one on a calculator? You haven't? Well, cool. What did you find?


What? See? Nothing. Well, what my calculator came up with was something equivalent to a smiley face. So when I try to think of the universes that they describe here, it takes a leap that my imagination can't quite make, and all that comes up is a smiley face. In other words, there's no need to go there. So the same thing, the same kind of thinking or perceiving goes for us as people, where I am just as I am. I am who I am, and I'm nothing else. I'm not you. I'm myself. And I am


I am not conditioned by everything else. It's just my life. I'm not a part of anything else. I mean, obviously, if I jump up, I'm not connected to anything. And I'm not just a collection of stories, stories poorly written by somebody else that I'm cursed to live. It's actually my true life, just as it is. I'm not ruled by habits and addictions. Sure, I've always hated myself, but for good reason. And then there's you. You are not me, but you're just like me. You think like me. You feel like me. When we look at an object, we're seeing the same thing. I can read your mind, because it's just like mine.


And any difference between us only shows your flaws, that somehow you've made a mistake and became not like me. And if you'd let me help you, you wouldn't have to be like you. You could be like me. And if you don't think this is so, just ask me. Come on, ask me. Well, no, it isn't. It's not really true. Although I think some of us, me certainly, before I came to Zen Center lived in that world and saw that world, that very tight, very small, prejudiced, frightened, tunnel-vision world, the world of I, the self-center. I know in cosmology,


any place in the universe is the center of the universe. Of course, that's kind of bizarre, isn't it? But any place, any point in the universe is the center of the universe. I love that stuff. And somehow, we know that, but we think it's ourselves, that I am the center of the universe. And it's true. But if everything else is, it kind of loses its impact. The Buddha must have been amazing, because he, you know, like, what do they call it, astrophysicists? Well, people like Einstein came up with that view of the universe. And, oh, where is it? Buddha said, false imagination teaches us, teaches that such things as light and shade,


long and short, black and white, are different and are to be discriminated. But they are not independent of each other. They are only different aspects of the same thing. They are terms of relation, not of reality. Relation, have we heard that word before? Relativity. Isn't that amazing? That he found this stuff out under a tree? Well, of course, there's a story also of Albert Einstein. His wife went to, I think, Mount Wilson, which was the largest telescope of the day, to watch how it worked, so he could actually see the things that he thought about. And he was running around, actually being quite annoying. And his wife looked at all this machinery and said, you know, my husband figures all this stuff out on the back of an old envelope. So, he's a hero of mine, obviously. So, obviously, things are not as they seem,


even though we wish dearly that they were. So, what is it to us if, what does it mean to us if things aren't the way they appear? Because, apparently, all we deal with is appearances, unless something else opens up inside of us. Buddha says that by becoming attached to names and forms, not realizing that they have no more basis than the activities of mind itself, error arises, and the way to liberation is blocked. So, in a way, if you're coming from the position that I just outlined, where the earth is flat, and so is everything else in that view, liberation is blocked, and we're trapped in, well, we call it rebirth, which to me means where you end up doing the same old things, getting into the same old trouble, saying the


same old things, thinking the same old things, falling into the same old hole. It's endless and it's circular. But Buddha comes along and says, you know, there's a way out. There's a way out. And he said, in that way, of course, it is practice, it is Buddha's practice. Of course, there are other ways, too, but the one we've all come here for is the Buddha practice. There are moments when we actually do glimpse that there's more than what we think, and there's more than what appears to be. I think if we didn't have that, none of us would be here. Every now and then, probably frequently, if you're here, it's happened enough so that you begin to see that the little tiny world is included in the bigger world, in the way things really are. And that's called being awake. So we always have enlightened


experiences. They're not rare. I think they're very frequent. Okay, so let me just go with what I had down here. We live in a conventional world where a tree is a tree, I am I, a chair is a chair, you are you. But we have glimpses that this is not the only world we live in. Those moments, those flashes where we enter another world that knows in its deepest wisdom that things come up together with everything else and are inextricably linked to one another, they then vanish instantly in each moment, only to arise again, slightly different, in the next moment. And because their nature is change, there is nothing truly solid or permanent about them.


Well, this true seeing, I think, brings us to practice. And it's the practice of liberation and compassion. They seem to go together, oddly. Wouldn't you think liberation might lead to something else, like parties? But strangely, true liberation leads to tenderness and kindness. So the idea is that when we have a glimpse of true wisdom, we see how things really are, that things change, that things continually change, they are change, that nothing is permanent, that nothing is solid or separate from anything else. Everything rises up together continually, continually, like a fountain. And that when you finally see how things really are, then what happens is that compassion arises. For example,


if we knew how the depth of each other's suffering, I think we would behave towards each other very, very differently than we do. Coming from that first example of how it is to be in the world, very narrow, where everybody's just like me, only flawed, then when I see you, I can easily put you in a box, because I know who you are, I know what you're thinking, I know what you're feeling. But if I actually realized who you really were and saw the depth of your suffering and the depth of your joy, then I would be very careful around you. I would honor you and respect you, and I would not push you away or try to kidnap you for myself. So each of us, I think, is here to wake up. And, of course, the thing about that is we may not


like what we see when we wake up. That's always a risk. And I think Trungpa Rinpoche said it the best when he said that self-awareness is one insult after the next. I always found that very comforting and very descriptive of my experience. And there are many ways to wake up. And here, we follow Suzuki Roshi's way, hopefully, as best we can. And, of course, he was following Dogen's way, the founder of the school. And Dogen was trying desperately to follow the Buddha's way, which happened 1,500 years earlier. So we're all on this trip together that hopefully is awakened and liberated living. Because this Dogen guy made a very astounding


discovery, much like this one here with the blobs, that practice itself is the liberated life. That while we're doing this stuff, and it doesn't matter what you think or what you perceive, in particular, but what's actually happening at a deeper level is that we are living the life of liberation and compassion and joy in the midst of great suffering. If I could tell the guests, are there many guests here? Well, I'll tell you a secret since this only just us, us few guests and folks. This is not always a land of bliss here in Tassajara. This is a place where we come to get the wounds reopened, to face our suffering by letting it come up. And so it certainly does lead to joy, and it also leads to the transformation of pain and suffering.


And sometimes we're glad of that. So what we do here is we sit Tassajara together as much as we can, having to deal with resistance to getting up early, and resistance to coming into this room, this little room, resistance which is mostly unconscious. We don't really have a clue. When the Eno or the Tanto comes after you saying, well, where were you this morning? We usually try to make something up that makes sense. I was tired. I have repetitive stress injury in my ankle. Anything to try to make sense out of something that is bigger than me, bigger than you. So it's very difficult facing what's actually going on. We follow the same precepts of right living, and we follow the same monastic standards, guidelines, that the community itself has worked out


to enable us to show respect and care for each other, and not to cause much damage. Also, but that's not the only place it happens, there's also in our daily relationships with each other, teachers with each other, practice leaders, stage drivers, the works, where we experience the emotional transformation that comes from working on our ancient twisted karma and its transformation. So in all these nasty interchanges, or even extremely pleasant interchanges, it's always a realm of practice for the transformation of karma that drives us. Karma that drives us to be that small, narrow person. So each of us is incredibly unique,


and each one of us has to find our own way. That's often very difficult and very lonely, but we support each other here incredibly. It amazes me, it amazes me. So to end this, I wanted to give you the words of Einstein and then Buddha. Einstein, who was not particularly a religious man, but he was a man who saw the truth, who experienced the truth. And by looking, no not looking actually, by delving in mathematics, which is rarely wrong. In fact, mathematics proves things that we don't know yet, and often discover much later. So, not that I know anything about mathematics, I was terrible at it, but I appreciate something that comes from human genius.


So at any rate, Einstein said, a human being experiences himself, his thoughts, his feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Imagine, imagine that from a scientist. The Buddha said that we should practice so that we can realize that deep happiness that is in each one of us. And he said it was a true happiness, true happiness, that comes not from a limited concern for one's own welfare or that of those one feels close to, but from the developing love


and compassion for all beings. If we do no less than that, I think we will have done enough. Thank you very much.