Beating the Drum

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Good morning. This is a little distracting, but I'll work with it. Thank you.


Okay. That's better. Just got to flow with the times here. So I was, I'm prepared to give a talk and then I had a little impromptu doksan with Sojin Roshi and he completely erased my mind. Brainwashed. But as he always says, we wash the brain but don't put anything back in. So I'm completely empty. Anyway, Karen Sondheim invited me to give a talk, and I agreed. And I asked, oh, hi, Leslie. I haven't seen you in a while. Anyway, I said, well, what do people want to hear about these days?


And she said, well, people are pretty down about the current administration. and these challenging times. But she said, you know, you always offer something a little different, so just go with whatever you think. And I just felt really in that moment so honored and respected by her. So I just wanted to say thank you, Karen, for just being allowing and empowering and loving. Those are key ingredients with guiding a Sangha. So I was actually taught how to give a Dharma talk in a program called SPOT, Shogaku Priests Ongoing Training. I was in the first class.


We were the guinea pigs, and it was a three-year program. And we were all completely purified after three years. But I really learned a lot in that program. But in terms of giving a talk, I tend to just say whatever wells up from my heart. I can't quite, you know, beginning, middle, end. It's more kind of coming back around to something I talked about earlier in the talk. So anyway, I'll try not to ramble, but I think I have something to offer that will resonate with you. For right now, Soja and I were talking about Zendo's being a sanctuary or place of refuge, which at this time, I wish we had one on every corner.


So I just want to encourage you, especially during Dharma talks, and I think that's still the tradition here, just relax. Just relax and feel your body supported by your cushion. Just let all your muscles relax and forget about all the busyness, all the zen busyness of the day, of the morning. Sitting Zazen, washing the dishes, sweeping the grounds, cleaning the bathrooms. And just really enjoy your breathing. bring your awareness to your breathing. So we do learn about how to give talks, but I don't hear a lot about how to receive a Dharma talk. So just empty yourself out and maybe bring some warm energy to your heart center. It's really a heart-based practice.


We chant the Heart Sutra every day, right? and all that flows from this area, compassion, kindness, willingness, givingness. And our lives are so busy these days and fraught with a lot of difficult things going on in the world. So whenever you get a moment, just allow yourself to enjoy your breath. A great gift, the gift of life. And my admission is I've intentionally stepped back from the, all of the news and et cetera around the current administration, the presidency.


Well, when I find an opening such as this, I have an opportunity here. I try to do something to be encouraging and spread goodwill. and let you know that I'm here if you're feeling down. So that's what Zen priests are, can be your person. We're just here to be with, to help get grounded, have a cup of tea, get some encouragement and support. That's what we're here for. So I am here. And now I wanted to pass out these. So my social activity of the day is to pass out something.


Sometimes we call it Dogen Zenji's vow. And I thought we could recite this together. It's Eihei Koso Hotsukanmon, kind of a prayer or a wish or a vow for practice. I think there's enough. Or you can share, you know. So as most people know, Dogen is a 13th century Zen master. I say is because he's very much in my mind. And his writings are a little difficult to understand.


But the more that you read Dogen's fascicles on various aspects of practice, you begin to develop a relationship with him and begin to understand in a different way what his point is. Similarly, we hear so much about Suzuki Roshi And sometimes I have to remind myself I actually never met him, but I do feel his presence in my life, even though he's passed on from this human body many, many moons ago. So let's recite this together. I find it very uplifting. I hope you will too. We vow with all beings from this life on, throughout countless lives, to hear the true Dharma, that upon hearing it, no doubt will arise in us, not will we lack in faith.


that upon meeting it, we shall renounce worldly affairs and maintain the Buddha Dharma, and that in doing so, the great earth and all living beings together will attain the Buddha way. Although our past evil karma has greatly accumulated, indeed being in the cause and condition of obstacles in practicing the way, may all Buddhas and ancestors who have attained the Buddha way be compassionate to us and free us from karmic effects, allowing us to practice the way without hindrance. May they share with us their compassion, which fills the boundless universe with the virtue of their enlightenment and teachings. Buddhas and ancestors of old, whereas we, in the future, shall be Buddhas and ancestors.


Revering Buddhas and ancestors, we are one Buddha and one ancestor. Awakening Bodhi mind. we are one Bodhi mind. Because they extend their compassion to us freely and without limit, we are able to attain Buddhahood and let go of attainment. Therefore, the Chan Master Lungyas said, those who in past lives were not enlightened will now be enlightened. In this life, save the body, which is the fruit of many lives. Before Buddhas were enlightened, they were the same as we. enlightened people of today are exactly as those of old. Quietly explore the farthest reaches of these causes and conditions, as this practice is exact transmission of a verified Buddha.


Confessing and repenting in this way, one never fails to receive profound help from all Buddhas and ancestors, By revealing and disclosing our lack of faith and practice before the Buddha, we melt away the root of transgressions by the power of our confession and repentance. This is the pure and simple color of true practice of the true mind of faith, of the true body of faith. So thank you. You can take those home with you. So I am going to tell a little story, which may not seem related, but I'll come back around to the Ehekoso Hotsugoman. So a couple of weeks ago, Jeff and I were in Tassajara.


Jeff's my husband. And we made plans to go there not knowing Sojon would be there at the same time. So, of course, I lived here and practiced here for many years. And Sojon was my ordination teacher times two, for lay ordination and then priest ordination. It's interesting to me that the memories of the practice periods that I did in Tassajara are so completely vivid. So the only thing I can figure out is that there we're just constantly coming back to our awareness and breathing, and we're not distracted by much. No one comes in, no one goes out, really, during the whole practice period. When I was there, these memories came flooding back to me of these practice periods. The ecstasy, excellence, the good, the bad, and the ugly.


My memories of those times were the happiest moments of my life and the most devastating. Very difficult practice. So Jeff and I made reservations really close to the time we went to Tassajara. So we didn't stay in the same room. I stayed in a room with two other women, and we became best friends within just a couple of days. And he really enjoyed his roommate too, and we were on the cabin crew. And of course, we chatted quietly. During the summer, it's a little more relaxed. And I was getting to know my supervisor. And she said, have you been to Tassajara before? And I said, Yes.


And she said, oh, did you live here? And that's always kind of a trick question. Oh, no, I was just here for practice period. Oh, when was that? And I said, fall of 1991 and spring of 1993. And she said, really? So in that moment, I thought, my God, 27 years have passed. Where did the time go? I always cry when I give a Dharma talk. I don't know why. Someone told me it's because I never have time to cry any other place. So thank you. So 27 years ago I was there. I don't think she was 27 years old. So I also felt a little old, feeble, kind of gray haired old lady.


And also in that moment, I started thinking about Bill Milligan, Doug Greiner, Ron Nestor, Lorinda Sheets, Ken Berman, Ken Knapp. He's here. I saw him. There he is. So these people who, when I got here, seemed like they had been practicing forever, probably had been. And who, I remember this, some event here, I think it was Sojin's 60th birthday. Doug Greiner and Bill were barbecuing. It must have been vegetables. I can't imagine we were like doing barbecue. Maybe we were, I don't know. Oh, and Peter Overton too. Anyway, they were kind of poking fun at us and calling us fledglings or neophytes, something like that. But their warmth and their support was so keenly felt.


And just this kind of ancient history coming through them. and this love, and what the Ehekoso Hotsugamon is talking about, the support we give each other, the way we practice together so intimately, and the stuff we go through. It was just really remarkable. It's amazing that I'm sitting here giving this talk. So much water under the bridge. Anyway, before I left Tassajara, I thought, I have to dig that out and take a look at it, because I remembered reading this Ehe Koso Hotsukamon in Tassajara the first time I read it.


I was so moved by it, especially this part. Buddhas and ancestors of old were as we, We in the future shall be Buddhas and ancestors. Revering Buddhas and ancestors, we are one Buddha and one ancestor, awakening Bodhi mind. We are one Bodhi mind. Because they extend their compassion to us freely and without limit, we are able to attain Buddhahood and let go of the attainment. So that's a really beautiful point. So because of the support of these beautiful people like Doug Greiner and Bill Milgan and others, I felt the support but I didn't feel any competitiveness. It's like we're doing this thing together. It's mind-blowing, isn't it? Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the ancestors.


It just also happens in another way. And because of these challenging times, I'm kind of measured when I talk about these challenging times. But in my heart and physically, it's affected me greatly. I'm not really expressing that, but don't get me started. What I've been doing is calling them in for support, bringing them to my mind, bringing them into my mind's eye, and I see them, the whole of the lineage, row after row, weaving up Tassajara Road. see them as helping spirits and guides, light beings, and I ask them to help us.


So we don't talk about, directly talk about asking the ancestors' support, but in the ceremonies, we talk, you hear it, you know, it's all kind of woven in there. And that's one piece of me that's really coming to the foreground is my love of ceremony and how I really like it because of its supportive and loving and transformational properties, all these ceremonies. A lot of people don't like ceremony ritual, but I've always really loved that. And I think it's because it's kind of out of the box. Which, you know, a lot of this Zen stuff is. You know, if you read the koans or read Dogen, what's being asked of us is to approach our life somewhere other than here, the brain, the intellect, or even conscious mind.


You know, our usual way of ordering things and whatnot. To go deeper. I think we're all here because we want to go deeper. brings up this next point. So physically, after 30 years of practice, I've developed this anxiety. I wake up in the morning and I feel panicky, which is, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would have this, but I know a lot of people do. I won't blame it on, you know, who, but it certainly doesn't help. So I'm living with this problem, and that's part of the problem, is I think of it as a problem, I want it to go away. So I'm really trying to, even though it's uncomfortable, lean into it, which is what we do here. Yeah, it's just practice. It's like, lean into it. What's it feel like, look like, what color is it, what's the texture?


Just breathe into it. And I know someday it'll be lifted. So with all of this, I think I still have time, Gary, right? Okay, good. This is just the first chapter. I've got 20 more. Just kidding. Raise that striker as needed. We'll be out of here. We'll be out of here at 11.14 or before. Anyway, so there's all these experiences, all these experiences I've had here in Tassajara and other practice places. and which, when I was thinking about this talk, brought to mind this koan that I've also first read in Tassajara called Hoshan's Knowing How to Beat the Drum. So I'll read that to you and talk a little bit about that now.


Hoshan is Seigen Gyoshi. Hoshon imparted some words saying, cultivating study is called learning. Cutting off study is nearness. Going beyond these two is to be considered real going beyond. A nun came forward and asked, what is real going beyond? Shan said, knowing how to beat the drum. Again, she asked, what is the real truth? Shan said, knowing how to beat the drum. Again, she asked, mind is Buddha. I'm not asking about this. What is not mind? What is not Buddha? And Shan said, Very good.


Again, she asked, when a transcendent person comes, how do I receive her? So I studied a little bit about this. And one thing I was reading, you know, all this is available on the internet. And you just look and it's all in there. Before, you know, you'd be just reading 10 books just to find something to go on. And that was so easy. So I studied a little about this. And I'll go over this a little bit now. So to begin, cultivating study is called learning. I was listening to a talk by Kadagiri Roshi, and he said, sometimes this is translated as hearing. But what I heard him say, which makes sense because he's Japanese, healing.


So I'm going to use that. Cultivating study is called healing. So cultivating study is a kind of, maybe you're studying the Dharma and you can hear it. Something opens up or something opens you up and you begin to study the Dharma. You're awakened. Something in your life happens and you awaken to the Dharma, the Buddha Dharma. cutting off study is nearness this is the next place, I don't want to say the next level but the next place you could find yourself which is it's no longer study and book learning it's a real experience so somewhere in your system you've opened up to


the experience of impermanence and the experience of suffering. Whether it's good, a good feeling, a bad feeling, or a neutral feeling, it's still called dukkha, or suffering. So, you're having an experience of this. You get it. You're starting to get it. And you're willing to weighed into this dream of that. You're okay with it. You get it, like, you're not resisting anymore. You're not fighting it. You're not saying, I don't know. You understand it. So that's the next place. And then there's this place of going beyond these two is to be considered real going beyond. So I can't say, well, that's not true. Perhaps I've had this experience several times in my life or more for a moment or two.


Generally, it's not my experience. But maybe I'm experiencing it now. I don't know. I've had glimpses. I think it's something that I can't think about in the way that I usually think about things or experience something in the way I usually experience things in my daily life. But the only way to experience going beyond these two is through it, is through our daily activity. get up in the morning, we have our toast and tea or whatever, go to work or go work in the garden, feed the cat, really to our friends or superiors, feel all that we feel and


sit zazen, eat dinner, go to bed, start over the next day. And we just keep going along having our experience that is based on our conditioning. So we all come here with, I believe, lessons to learn. So it's good not to talk about dogasan to each other, because what you need to learn is not what Sue Marvin needs to learn. So Sojin might tell Sue Marvin something and tell Ross something else. So you say, well, he told me to do this. He told me to do that. So everybody has their lessons. Everybody's different. And this is really important too. understand when practicing with the Sangha is everybody is exactly where they need to be. In fact, everything in the universe is perfectly in place, even though it doesn't feel like it, even if we're upset and want things to be otherwise. Everybody is exactly where they need to be, and you just need to get where they are to relate to them and enjoy them where they're at.


rather than, God, I wish this person would be, get over themselves. It's just, it causes you more pain than them. So just be really honoring and respectful and empowering and supportive of everybody practicing. Nobody's here because they thought it's a really good idea. You know, like I'm going to go have fun at the Zen Center. Yeah, right. Try sitting rahatsu. See how fun that is? You know, I have to say, when I was at Tassajara this time, I all at once had a fantastic time and had a terrible time. Because there's something about that place. I go there and I just, all my stuff just explodes. So I was really upset being asked, I don't know, I don't even know where I came from. Have you been trained to clean the bathrooms? Yeah, when I was about five, when my mother showed me how to clean a bathroom.


So I had this kind of stuff coming up. I was a big nobody. Just another person needing training on how to clean a bathroom. So it was really interesting to just interesting and also kind of made me happy like I still have all this stuff to work out. It's just incredible. I had to laugh at myself. So let's see. The reason why in the koan the nun is bringing up, she wanted Ho-Shan to not be, make a mistake about what she was talking about. This mind is Buddha's in reference to Baso, who was asked by Dai Bai, who, what is Buddha?


And he says, this very mind is Buddha. And that was a popular thing being studied and talked about at the time. So she says, I'm not talking about that. This koan resonates for me because it really reminds me of the practice here. Sojin just, you know, has always said, no matter, no matter, just sit sasa. Return to the zendo, return to your vow, over and over. It doesn't matter what we're going through. We just keep sitting, cooking together, eating together, pissing and shitting together. That's a quote from Mel, referring to Shane. mowing the lawn, pruning the trees, fixing the bricks, moving them from one place to another, thinking about what might look nice here and there.


Maybe some fighting, going through stuff, people passing away. I remember sitting through Sashin and Daniel was having a fit in the foyer for like two periods, just yelling. Remember that? Sitting after the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake. 5.04 p.m. on October 17th, 1989. We just, there was the earthquake and then we went sad sasa. I remember sitting during the time of the Oakland Hills fire, watching the homes burn from Russell Street. That was in 1991.


We sat as Operation Desert Storm began. We sat Zazen with Rwanda. We sat Zazen when our friends began to die. Fran, Maylee, Dolly. We sat Zazen when Nancy died. And we chanted. And there have been many celebrations. And we keep the schedule, keep working on ourselves. So there's no end to this, knowing how to beat the drum. And sometimes the skin of the drum is flabby, and the sun comes out, and then it's taut and makes a beautiful sound. So there's things that happen we have no control over.


The rain comes. And we just keep drumming and adjusting to life's circumstances, really not knowing anything. Getting to know our relationship to practice, to each other. And then there's no longer coming and going. No longer a drummer or drummer. hanging in space. It's beautiful. So as Ram Dass says, we are walking each other home. So the home could be here or it could be we're talking about, you know, we're all getting older. Some of us, we're walking each other home. But I also like to think of it as we're helping each other to return to our true self, our true nature, our true home here.


So, you know, just being really careful with your energy, dropping arrogance and judgments, coming back to breath and posture, always being gentle with ourselves, trying to be ourselves, not something we want to be or someone else wants us to be. It's kind of like, some students, it's kind of like tuning a guitar. There's some tone, probably an F tone, heart chakra, F tone. But I mean tone like as in muscle tone. There's some effort, some energy there. If you tighten it too much, it doesn't sound so good. So you're just always adjusting, adjusting that string. So one more thing from our superhero, Dogen, when he was speaking to Ajo.


Do not worry about the small number in this sangha. Do not mind that you are a beginner. At Fenyang, there were only six or seven people. At Yaoshan, there were less than 10. Nevertheless, all of them practiced the way of the Buddhas and ancestors. They called this the flourishing of the monastery. This way is inherent in each of us. Still our gaining the way depends upon the help of co-practitioners. Though each person is brilliant, still our practicing the way needs the power of other people in the Sangha. Therefore, unifying your mind and concentrating your aspiration, practice and seek the way together. A jewel becomes a vessel by polishing it. A human being becomes benevolent and wise by refinement.


What jewel glitters from its inception? They're all just polishing each other. Who is brilliant from the outset? You must polish and refine, so do not demean yourselves and do not relax in your practice of the way. And that's all I have for you today. But I'm happy to receive questions if there's still time. Yes. What do you think it means?


Did you get a sense of it yourself? like a heartbeat concrete it's not very concrete So you're needing something like something that's


less ethereal and more solid, like maybe some phrase or some idea or... So I think that What's being pointed to is how we get comfortable in trying to order things and make things understandable. So the key here is, and I'm just wondering, I can come up with something a little better, if you can allow yourself just a moment of not knowing anything. and just see where that is in your body and see if you can just relax into that a little bit.


I don't know anything. I don't know what this means. Is that possible? Sorry, it's hard to see you. Can you try that? Oh, okay. Yeah, I'll give him some air time. Go ahead. Carry. Can you say something about the title?


Well, ehe is, you know, dogen, ehe dogen. It's something like arousing vow. Ganmon is also, means prayer in Japanese, ganmon. So it's like arousing vow mind. Hey Ko. When you talk about the dharma and Dogon and those together in my mind, I think of the points to the trees and the birds and says they're preaching the dharma. Have you ever done any drumming?


Oh, yes. Yeah. So what's that about? Yeah, actually, it's a wonderful expression of rhythm from the body. What else? Usually trying to go along with the rest of the crew playing the trumpets and the flutes. And how is it you come to beat the drum? Well, by chance. So this... Where does it come from? Okay. But what was brought out? Okay.


Sounds good. Thank you. I don't get the metaphor either at all. But when I think about a pounding drum, I think about my heart beating. I think about my heart beating. I think that life goes on. The guys in office, we have this administration, sunshine, and we're really interesting. I've heard a lot of them. I just keep going. I just, that's I think what, when I thought about it, I thought, well, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. But that's the thing I could come up with as people start asking is that just, to me, it's not going back to meeting it. Maybe for me it's remembering it. like a drum is a column. So I don't know, maybe that's a different column.


Hey, it's whatever it is we sense or feel about it, that's the place to start. You just start there. Just start with that. And once in a while, knowing how to beat the drum. I read somewhere this is a very difficult koan this is just the most difficult koan I don't see it that way it's hard to put into words because you can't really Don't try to make it anything. Just keep trying.


Yes, Ross. I had a thought of one of the first teachings of compassion that my parents gave me, which was when I had a problem with somebody who said, they're just marching to a different beat. And I hadn't thought about that in years. I'd rather... I won't tell you what I'd rather do besides talk about it. I'd rather just send a prayer, and I appreciate your request for me to analyze the situation, but I can't do that.


I find it... makes me ill so I just so how I take care of this situation is send out prayer and just try to be kind and stay aware of my energy and try to spread goodwill when I can and yeah and all of that sorry it's just I don't have that temperament for it. Hi. Yeah. in order to be able to overcome a life cycle.


And so I've noticed that in your practice, and I want to honor that, you just might not realize how important that is in your life. Or I mean, you probably do, but you might not know you actually have that. The question I have is, in which students around these teachers might have benefited the entire lineage by catching these things. I'm not going to say they're responsible for it. So sometimes there's this It's kind of a hierarchical situation.


And yet, aren't we all becoming like each other? So, doesn't it, by necessity, mean that as humans, they're working with doesn't also end up being kind of static. Whereas if they're both growing, then they both become enlightened. So going back to the situation with ancestors, aren't we also responsible to help these ancestors grow along with us? Because at a certain point, there's that necessity I don't think of the ancestors as hierarchical.


But I grew up in this place, Enlightened, at Berkeley. So I've never thought of the ancestors as hierarchical, which is why we call them ancestors and not the patriarchs anymore, right? So it's up to us to come to a place of not feeling beneath somebody. nobody can give that to us. We have to realize it ourselves. So... If you have something to say... Yeah. Right, so if you have something to say, say it.


And we're all just, as my friend Skip calls us, pathetic two legs. Excuse me. We're human beings and mistakes will be made. A wonderful sign of practice is being able to forget people who make mistakes and not jump on board with... We're all here practicing. People are doing their best and mistakes will be made. So, you know, it's up to us to... I think we have to go create our worlds. Yeah, please don't hold back.