Zendo Lecture

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I am about to face the truth and let you know it does work. Good morning. Morning. As I put my hands up and got show, I realized I didn't know what we were going to chant. My God. It's like a miracle or a blessing. Is this working okay? No? Yes. It is working?


Yes. Yeah. It's like a miracle or a blessing to come into Tassajara in the middle of practice period because there's something very particular going on and then it's like a game. What is going on? What's going to happen next? What exactly are we going to chant? What forms have stayed exactly the same? What have completely changed? I would just have a little nuance, you know. The old Buddhist ten directions has a little more zest to it now. And the Daishinderani positively moves along.


That's it. It's thinking that, you know, it's like an ecosystem. You know, the wonder of an ecosystem is that all the pieces, they talk to each other and they interact and then they collectively create something. You know, normally when we think of Dogon Zenji's statement, you know, to study the way is to study the self, you know, I think most of the time we think of, well, that's me. Study me. But there's also a collective self. This product of interaction, of common vow.


Let's chant the Daishinderani like this. Not to say that what happens completely corresponds with the vow. It doesn't. But the vow affects it, you know. The common intention. Sense of purpose. And then also, sense of time. To enter this time. This time of approaching the last Sushine of the winter practice period. This time of just Sushine and then practice period is almost over.


This time of the accumulation of hours and hours of dozens. Of thousands and thousands of inhale and exhale. You know. This accumulation of thoughts and feelings. This amazing blend of personal journey and personal experience and collective journey. Collective experience. And just before I came over, I was looking at the Ginkgo tree just outside the Cassando. And it's in this amazing place, this amazing time place called spring.


You know, on the main trunk of it, there's little leaf buds coming straight out. And there's this grey, seemingly inert bark. And then out of it is just like this little explosion of spring. Vibrant green, packed, ready to unfold with life. So part of the ecosystem of now is spring. And so, being here, experiencing these different ways of identifying or experiencing reality.


One week before the end of practice period. And the beginning of the Ginkgo tree bursting forth. The rose bud in full blossom. You know. Even the weather having its piece, its play in this symphony. You know. Okay, now we'll have a little sun, now we'll have a little rain. Now we'll warm it up, now we'll cool it down. Is your changeable nature doing this to the weather?


To study the way is to study the self. To be located here with what's going on. It's like the first radical statement of practice. The question is not, what do you want to have go on? What do you want to avoid? What are you least looking forward to? What do you most remember from the practice period? No, it's a simpler, more direct question. What's going on? Inside, outside, singularly, collectively. And study.


Yes, it does involve our mind. It does involve our cognitive ability. But sense study much more involves becoming, immersion, giving over. You are in the middle of spring at the Sahara. Whether you like it or not. Here it is, here you are. You're not separate. What is such a way? That's Zen study. What is this that comes forth?


What is this that manifests right here? And then the paradox is, we study it by entering in. It's like we study it by forgetting all the very good reasons we've thought up to stay separate. It's not quite what I wanted. I'm just going to hold my breath because I know pretty soon practice period will be over. Or I'm going to hold my breath because I can't bear for practice period to be over.


All the noise and clamor and confusion and commotion of work period. I can't stand the thought. So this study, this just as it is, this entering into it, this experiencing it. This paying attention to the inhale. Ten thousand times. That's how you study the inhale. And with each immersion, something arises. Maybe something beautiful and serene. Some subtle connection to the breath that you hadn't realized before.


You hadn't experienced before. Some subtle release. Or maybe the opposite. Maybe fiery restlessness. The nature of our bow is either way. Settledness. Unsettledness. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. You know, it's kind of magical to come in and sit down and eat oreogi breakfast.


It's like the time since I last did that, right here, shrinks. You know? It just disappears. And it just seems like, oh, wasn't that just a few hours ago? That I had breakfast sitting right here. Held out my Buddha bow. Did the meal chant. So as we give over, it's as if the world, according to me, starts to melt. Are we willing to allow that?


Are we willing to allow the world, according to me, to not be the definition of reality? Are we willing to be as simple as just holding the oreogi bowls? Two small fingers tucked in. Two fingers and thumbs representing the six petals of the lotus. It's like the body and mind and bones become the expression of the Buddha way. And we allow it, and we resist it, and we worship it, and we diet it.


And we forget it. And we bow to it. And all of that is the Buddha way. Nothing is outside of it. That's the generosity of it. So something is undone. Something immerses into. Becomes absorbed in. You know, this is the prime function of the Zen practice.


The Zen way, this immersion. And then out of winter comes spring. Out of immersion comes recreation. Recreation. The next thought, the next feeling, the next image. And allowing it to be so. Which is quite ridiculous, because it is so. You know, we do not stay in a static state.


We are a dynamic expression. Singularly, collectively, just like nature. You know. You know, we can say, OK, this is the equinox. But for how long is it such? A moment, a day, whatever. It doesn't last. Something else comes along. It shifts into its next well-being. So it's fun to come here and play detective.


What's going on? What's happening? You know. And to listen. Oh, now it's talking about this. Oh, OK. The five ranks. And sitting here, in Dogo's hand, I'm manifesting my response to his teaching. I'm manifesting what his teaching is telling me. The alchemy of his teaching within this one. So this immersion and coming forth.


This is the fundamental play of the five ranks. This acknowledging and appreciating this time and space. As it occurs to us, and as maybe it didn't occur to us. No. Whether we acknowledge spring, it happens. Whether we think our state of mind is completely influenced by the weather, or whether we think our state of mind is completely independent of the weather, still that interplay goes on. There's the seen and the unseen together.


And very much in our style of practice, we emphasize this beginning point. It's like every time we sit Zazen, we return to the very beginning. Every morning when we wake up, how do we construct reality? As we set forth in the day, do we allow a newness, or do we just paint it over with habitual thinking and feeling? Do we give rise to the grind of freedom, or do we give rise to the grind of limited conditioned existence? And how exactly does this one do either of those?


So if we just come at that study, if we just come at that inquiry from fixed mind, then it's like we get answers from the context of our fixed mind, our fixed prejudices and opinions. As we allow mind and body to be undone by the very details of our everyday life, then that question is not simply referencing our own opinions and ideas. So sometimes this is called coming from the mind of not knowing. It's like a shift in consciousness.


It's like coming from the city to Tassajara and just bursting into the middle of something. And it's like, oh my goodness, what's this? What's this? What's happening? This is really something, no? What is it? Oh, the daishundrani is a little faster. And then the mind wants to take ownership of it. It's a little faster. Faster than what? Slower than what? Different from what? Is that solidifying it or is that allowing it to have the unique breeze of its own existence?


Is the ginkgo tree the same as last year or is it completely just this? So this mind, this way of being, this coming from not knowing, the product of being undone by immersion, in the language of practice, it illuminates, it makes a little clearer what's going on. Rather than it just being another version of my reality.


It's more just itself. It has a luminous quality. It has a luminous wisdom. So we have these moments, dance, this sweetness of practice period. It's like we come here and we follow this schedule and we immerse almost despite ourselves. Because it's just coming at us. Event after event, meal after meal, breath after breath, gassho after gassho.


So this point, each gassho is asking quite specifically, quite literally to be completely done. For the self to be completely undone. This is the contradictory nature of Zen practice. We make a big deal out of the little things. And then the big things, like, oh they'll just take care of themselves. It's like careful attention to the details of the chanting and the serving and the bowing.


And how we do this and how we do that. Then somehow the mandala of practice period, the mandala of this valley, of spring and people and ritual, takes care of itself. We don't really need to know how spring affects us. We don't need to have it calibrated and figured out. We do our part and then something comes forth. The ecosystem is not the product of our cleverness. It's the nature of how things are. Not to say that our effort doesn't have consequence, but it's part of something larger.


It's like we do things with big mind. I hold up my balls and the universe is supported. Not within the usual understanding of that phrase, but in some way that's manifest through the interconnectedness of existence. The Ginkgo tree is not the total of spring. It isn't driving spring, it's participating in spring. So this is like an antidote to our need to separate, to our need to have a controlled environment.


Sometimes I think that we come to Zen practice and we enjoy the particulars and the order of the forms because the world is just frightening us to death. Because it's so immense and uncontrollable. But I still think it is to know exactly how you're going to be served breakfast. It's quite a kick, you know, to just come down the road, come into this room and know what's going on. It's reassuring. It offers an access point.


It offers a way into the immersion, the letting go, the not knowing, the coming forth. If that wasn't confusing enough, I'm going to cross-reference it with a Sufi teacher. This poem is called Deepening the Wonder. Death is a favor to us, but our scales have lost their balance. This dropping away, this immersion, this being undone.


In spiritual terms, shorthand, death. This is a favor to us, but our scales have lost their balance. Scale is how we measure, how we calculate, how we assess. But it's not what I wanted. I didn't want oatmeal, I wanted cornmeal. I don't want practice period to end and have all those noisy carpenters and people come here. Just think how awful it's going to be when there's ten times as many. It'll be unbearable. So this undone, in a way, is in direct opposition to what we want and what we don't want.


So it doesn't feel like any favor at all. Death is a favor to us, but our scales have lost their balance. The impermanence of the body should give us great clarity. Sounds awful like Buddhism, doesn't it? The impermanence of the body should give us great clarity. Nagarjuna said, the mind that sees into impermanence awakens. The impermanence of the body should give us great clarity, deepening wonder in our senses and eyes. It's like when we let go of fixed view and the moment arises


there's something extraordinary. It's like when you look at the rosebud ablaze with blossoms. How does that happen? And you look carefully at the color and the hue of it. And it's just wonderful. When you feel the warm sun on your back, it's almost like your bones can still remember the cold of winter. How could that have hurt so much and this feels so wonderful? Impermanence.


Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes of this mysterious existence we share and are surely just traveling through. You know, Tassajar is this amazing event. And some sensibility, some purposefulness of relating to reality stays right here. And we just flow through it, you know? Like you come in 1985 and you stand in the work circle, good morning. You come in 1995, you stand in the work circle, good morning.


You come in 2005, you stand in the work circle, good morning. And the same care and kindness and thoughtfulness and dedication in the bodies and the minds and the dramas and the relationships that were the ecology of that time and place, they've disappeared. But something flows through. How amazing. What is it that flows through our dharma veins of our one great body? Who can know such a thing? Who can stop such a thing?


Of this mysterious existence we share and are surely just traveling through. If I were in a tavern tonight, I would buy freely for everyone in this world. It has its own abundance. There's no need to hoard it. You don't have to lock this moment away in a treasure chest. The special treasure of the end of practice period in the winter of 2005. You know, at one point, the Shobo Genzo became a very revered book.


And of course, at that time, it wasn't easy to copy things, so there were limited numbers of copies. So the monasteries that had copies of it, they would say, well, you can't see the Shobo Genzo until you've been here five years or three years. Only senior students are allowed to see it. And then amazingly, I don't know all the details of this, but I do know that this is true. Because of this kind of hoarding, it literally got hoarded to the place where people forgot about it. And then it became ignored. And then it was rediscovered with great revelation. Oh yeah, right. So maybe thinking we should hold on to this is a little dangerous.


Maybe if we really cared about it, we should give it away as quickly and as fully as we can. Or as Hafiz puts it, if I were in a tavern tonight, I'd buy freely for everyone in this world. Because our marriage with the cruel beauty of time and space, cannot endure very long. We seem to have this kind of mixed relationship with practice.


We love it and we hate it. We can't get enough of it and we can't wait to get away from it. So be it. It's the way we're made. This cruel beauty of time and space cannot endure very long. Death is a favor to us, but our minds have lost their balance. The miraculous existence and impermanence of form always makes the awakened ones laugh and sing. You know, it's quite a paradox to devote your whole life to nothing special.


But would practice work if it was any other way? Can you imagine if we just took ourselves more and more seriously and thought we were more and more special? We'd be sickening. We'd sicken ourselves and we'd sicken everyone else. Then we're completely devoted to nothing special. So please, at this time, this auspicious time towards the end of the practice period, where the countless breaths, the countless periods of zazen, or yokimyo, gassho, has loosened up the habits of heart and mind, has allowed some light to shine in and to shine through.


That's what you're bringing to this machine. There's a lot of suffering in the world. And, you know, it's hard to be here. It's difficult and challenging. But it's also a blessing. It's a rare blessing. So even though, with your own pains and difficulties, to remind yourself that this time here, in this place, is precious,


that this is an auspicious moment, going into this, the last shishin of the practice period, the end of the monastic, the winter monastic session. This opportunity to be undone. And to go into the tavern of life and give that treaty to everyone. But what makes more sense than that? What could be more fun than that? So we just live in the same tight patterns of our habits and obsessions and compulsions,


boring and annoying each other. Oh, he always says this. She always does that. Enough already. Please, I give over to this jewel called the shishin. Don't know what shishin is. Don't come at it with your strategy, how to make it work. Pay very careful attention. As if you're entering into a strange and wonderful land, where you've never been before.


And will never be again. And let it undo you, and let it work through you. This is our practice. We don't have to have it figured out. It's more about giving over. I'll read you a feast for the last time. Death is a favor to us, but our scales have lost their balance.


The impermanence of the body should give us great clarity. Death is a favor to us, but our scales have lost their balance. Deepening the wonder of our senses, of this mysterious existence we share and are surely just traveling through. If I were in the tavern tonight, I would buy freely for everyone in this world. Because our marriage with the cruel beauty of time and space cannot endure very long. Death is a favor to us, but our minds have lost their balance. The miraculous existence and impermanence of form always makes the awakened ones laugh and sing. Maybe this is a better note to end on here. Dear pilgrim, I love your shoes, your coat, your pants, your hat, your bald head, your cup, your bowl, your messy closets.


And most of all, I cherish your cute ears. Why? Don't ask. Thank you. May I intake?