Joshu's Way Is Not Difficult

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Shuso talk

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Morning. This is the third talk in this practice period that I'll be giving on my koan, which is a case 2 in blueprint record, Zhou Shu, The Real Way is Not Difficult. What I want to do today is to do it a little differently than I've done in the past and actually weave into this the three other cases in the blueprint record that also reference the same line from the poem Faith and Mind by the Third Ancestor, The Real Way is Not Difficult. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to start reading the case and then kind of fill in a little more just kind of how I want to proceed in going through this. And we'll have a kind


of an adventure today. Zhou Shu spoke to the assembly and said, The Real Way is Not Difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment. With but a single word, there may arise source and attachment, or there may arise clarity. This old monk does not have that clarity. Do you appreciate the meaning of this or not? Then a monk asked, If you do not have that clarity, what do you appreciate? Zhou Shu said, I do not know that either. The monk asked, If you do not know, how can you say that you do not have that clarity? Zhou Shu said, Asking the question is good enough. Now make your vows and retire. So what I want to go into today with this koan and weaving the other ones in and also digging into the


Faith and Mind is kind of what I think of as the heart of the koan, which is Zhou Shu's practice and manifestation and teaching of non-duality in Zhou Shu's own unique way. And rather than just sort of going through a lecture, what I really want to do is try to paint a picture today. I've got an impressionistic picture of Zhou Shu and his teaching. It makes a lot of sense to me because a lot of the depth and what affects me with Zhou Shu is not just the words, not the storyline, the plot, but a unique quality that Zhou Shu has that he brings into everything that he does and everything that he says. And with that,


just sort of mentioning a statement that's been made of Zhou Shu, which is that his ways of speaking and what he says, that his lips emitted light. And what this means in a lot of ways is that when Zhou Shu is speaking and responding to his students, is that he's not using words in a particularly literal way, concrete way. And it really, whenever I think of this, it brings to mind the line in the Jewel Mirror Samadhi, meaning does not reside in words, but a pivotal moment brings it forth. And again and again, this is kind of what Zhou Shu is doing. He's using words in his own unique way, trying to bring forth the pivotal moment that will help his


monks see what he's trying to get at. So the line that starts off this coma, the real way it's not difficult, it only abhors picking and choosing, the opening lines in the Faith and Mind by the Third Ancestor, Kanchi Sosan. And there are three other cases in the Blue Cliff Record, which I'm going to read now, that refer to these same lines. And this will help us just kind of fill in how, in different situations, Zhou Shu is responding to responses and questions about these lines. The first one is case 57. A monk said to Zhou Shu, it is said the real way is not difficult, it only abhors choice


and attachment. Now, what are non-choice and non-attachment? Zhou Shu said, I alone and wholly throughout heaven and earth. The monk said, it's still choice and attachment. Zhou Shu said, you country bumpkin, where are choice and attachment? The monk was speechless. Case 58. A monk asked Zhou Shu, you so often quote the words, the real way is not difficult, it only abhors choice and attachment. Isn't that your point of attachment? Zhou Shu said, a man asked me the same question once before. Five years later, I still have found no justification for it. And then case 59. A monk said to Zhou Shu, the


real way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment. If you say a word, there arise choice and attachment. How then can you go about helping someone? Zhou Shu said, why don't you quote it to the end? The monk said, I have only this much in mind. Zhou Shu said, you know, the real way is not difficult. It only abhors choice and attachment. And I want to also go into some in faith and mind. It will kind of go back to these and faith and mind because this this poem, aside from the fact that it's referred to that Zhou Shu refers to it often, is a very, very important thing in his own life. And when Zhou Shu


had his great enlightenment experience with non-sin, which is in the koan, the ordinary mind is the way. So we see a lot of the faith and mind coming through lines such as pursue illumination and you lose it. And no need to seek the real, just extinguish your views. And this, when I sort of look at these particular koans and other koans of Zhou Shu's, that again and again, he's coming back to a lot of the basic teachings in faith and mind, which is really all about non-duality. So I want to actually, as part of our painting that we're doing, touch on a few


things in faith and mind that kind of stand out for me right now. One is, in faith and mind, there's just a lot of this catalog, a whole catalog of dualities, things that you run across again and again, picking and choosing, love and hate, for or against, grasping, rejecting, right and wrong, subject-object, likes-dislikes, going-staying, aversion-affection, fine-course. And some of the things that really stand out, in terms of looking at these koans in Zhou Shu, are things like, do not


pursue conditioned existence. Do not abide in acceptance and emptiness. In a way, when Zhou Shu replies to the monk, when he makes his initial statement, this old monk doesn't reside in clarity, he's really kind of touching on this. Don't abide in acceptance of emptiness. Banish existence and you fall into existence. Follow emptiness and you turn your back on it. And then later in case two, where the monk starts asking these other questions, delving and getting more intellectual, excessive talking and thinking turn you from harmony with the way. Cut off talking and thinking. If there is nowhere you cannot penetrate. Return to the root and attain the principle. Pursue illumination and you lose it. Do not abide in dualistic views. Take care not to seek after them. And I really appreciate this term,


take care. Because in a way, our practice again and again is this taking care not to seek after dualistic views. When we're sitting in Zazen and things come up, we find ourselves getting attached to things. We go after them, we come back. We come back to our breath, our posture. We take care not to seek after the various things that arise. And as soon as right and wrong arise, the mind is scattered and lost. Another line that I really think a lot about, which speaks of Joshu and his practice, let it go and be spontaneous. Experience no going or staying. And this question that's sitting in my mind in the five or so weeks that I've been working with this koan, is this issue of going and


staying. And the question is always back there, well where is Joshu? What's Joshu up to? Another sense of getting kind of the flavor of Joshu are in some of the comments and notes by Ingo, who has written the introductions to these koans. And he uses a lot of very interesting terms. One, he calls Joshu a thief in broad daylight. And then he has this wonderful comment that comes in his notes on the question of the monk back to Joshu about clarity and not having it. And he said, I'm going to get the case out here. I really like these.


If you don't know, how can you say you do not have that clarity? And Ingo's comment here is, look, where is he, Joshu, going? He's chased up a tree. And then Joshu replies, from up the tree. Asking the question is good enough. Now make your vows and retire. And Ingo's comment is, lucky thing he has this move, the old thief. And it's a theme through a lot of these things that Joshu is being tested and trying to get trapped. And he finds these ways of turning in the simplest way. Another comment of Ingo's on this is, Joshu moved where it was impossible to move. He turned around where it was impossible to turn


around. And when I think about this, I think about a lot of things in my own life. And I think about a particularly, it's a graphic example of, you know, how my body works in terms of, you know, how things work at home. We have a lot of blackberry patches. And it's as though Joshu is someone who can get into the middle of a blackberry patch. And he doesn't find himself getting stuck, caught, and all scratched up. He just finds these places. And, you know, I find myself constantly getting stuck. Constantly getting pulled this way and that way. Responding to things like like and dislike, pick and choose, love and hate, right, wrong, grasping, rejecting, the whole litany. All these things, you know, coming up out of the conditioned existence that I find myself so often tangled up in.


So Joshu's responses in all these situations are spontaneous, original, not the least bit contrived. No cliches. He doesn't repeat the same teaching thing again and again. It's as if he's engaged in a spontaneous dance with whatever's going on around him. Finding the right move. And the move is coming because he's just not getting stuck on anything. These things just pass through. He can fit through the eye of a needle. He can just about anywhere. And he teaches, you know, some of the most profound dharma with the simplest of words. Like the move I'm calling case number one. No. Just a simple response. And, you know, that no has been going strong for over a thousand years.


The oak tree in the courtyard. Wash your bowls. All these simple little everyday things that really kind of, you know, confound our ability to wiggle around with discriminated thinking, to try to fit things up in a conceptual framework. It's just what's right in front of you. One of the teachings that we have in our lineage, our family, so much all the time just resonates through here. It's just what's in front of you. Thoroughly be present with what's there. Don't get entangled. Don't try to control it or figure it out. Find out what your response is. Response that comes from that non-dual perspective. Be at ease. Great ease.


There's a wonderful line that Ingo has in his notes on case 59. It's wrong to say that he had words or didn't have words. Nor will it do to say that his answer neither had nor didn't have words. Joshu left behind all the permutations of logic. And it's this quality in Joshu that I find really enriching, rewarding, and, you know, staying with it and watching it, reading these cases over and over. Wondering, you know, wow, where does this come from? And trying to just absorb into myself this way that is an antidote for my own grasping, picking, choosing, wanting things to be the way I want them to be.


All these diseases of the mind, as the Third Ancestor puts it, that take what is not difficult and makes it into the most complex and arduous of things. That takes what would not lead to any problems at all into a constant reinventing of problems, creating more problems, just trying to work out all the tangles, all the tangles. So, this is a bit of the picture that I want to try to paint of Joshu, and go back again to the cases 57, 58, and 59.


Just back again, the different ways that Joshu is dealing with what comes up in this simple little statement, the real way is not difficult. Now, what are non-choice and non-attachment? This is an invitation that I know that I would be really wanting to just jump in and grab, and go into some kind of explanation. Joshu just steps back and goes to another place. I alone am holy throughout heaven and earth. And, country bumpkin, where are choice and attachment?


For Joshu, there is no choice and attachment in this. But the monk is looking for things like choice and attachment, and telling the missus that there is another way that you can be that is not choice and attachment. In 58, when the monk asked her, isn't that your point of attachment, this quotation, this citation? And, a man asked me this same question before, and five years later, I still haven't found justification for it. And, again, it's like, I just don't see what you're getting at. It's not there. And, in case 60, one of the things that I think really, I mean 59, that really struck me is when the monk asked, how can you go about helping someone?


And, Joshu asked, why don't you quote it to the end? Which really sort of struck me, and it's what really got me to saying, I just want to really go into faith and mind some more. And to start looking into it, because there's something that's like, why don't you go to the end, and you get past just sort of getting stuck on the first line. And, see what the third ancestor is trying to say. Go through all this at the end. What cuts through all the things that get in the way of being separated from the way, from making the way so difficult when it's really not so difficult.


And so, this, why don't you go to the end, is, among these, really been the real kind of important thing for me. Because it really says, okay, let's go through each one of these things, let's go through and see where the helping words of the third ancestor are. So, that's about what I wanted to say today. I really like, as much as anything else, since I'm really thinking of this talk more as a, trying to get an impression, a feeling, a feeling sense of Joshu and his way. Just as I think when Sargent talked about his practicing with Suzuki, it's just watching him and following him, which was so meaningful.


It's how we learn. And so, trying to get this feeling, this thing, looking through the various cases where Joshu is going through this again and again. How can I get to know Joshu and see what he's trying to help all of us with? So I'd like to just open things up at this point. Thank you. Sargent, will you say something? Well, I think that, probably most people know this, but, Only I am the Holy One is a quote from when Shakyamuni was seven days old. He walked, took seven statues of earth, and he held up one hand, one finger to the sky and the other to the ground and said, Throughout heaven and earth, I am the Holy One.


Meaning, all of us are the Holy One. Not just me. But, I hope that's what he said. I think it was Nyogen Suzuki that said, That little boy needs a little kick in the ass. I think the other, the four cases that deal with the same thing. So, the last one. Why don't you quote to the end? Not, why don't you go to the end. Why don't you quote all the way to the end? So, what is that? Quote all the way to the end? He asked the question. Why don't you? And then Joshu said, Why don't you quote all the way to the end?


What does that mean? The whole teaching. All the way through. The whole teaching. What is the whole teaching? That's what Joshu was giving in those simple words. The real way is not difficult. It only. It only. Of course, choice and affection. That's a lot about it. Maybe we don't need to know so much. Thank you. Joshu, thank you. So, we are, we make choices. Does that mean that we are not walking within the great way? It's like when Yogi Berra says, when you come to a fork in the road, take it. That's a choice, but it's not picking and choosing.


My question is two parts. First part is, what period did Joshu live? The second part is, Am I safe to think that Joshu came to this space by neither resisting attachment nor clinging to emptiness? Or... And therefore came into harmony with nature, or maybe even within nature. Joshu lived principally in the 9th century. He was born in 778 and died in 897 at the age of 119. The Tang Dynasty. 13th century, you said?


8th century. He was born in 778. His practicing and teaching career was in the 9th century. And Joshu had his great awakening with his teacher Nansen. And he asked Nansen about the way. And Nansen replied, ordinary mind is the way. And Joshu then asked a question about seeking it. And Nansen said, seeking it will recede from you. You won't be able to get it. And then he asked a follow-up question, how then, if I don't seek after it, will I know it? And Nansen replied, the great way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing.


So, it's like, yeah, trying to seek, to look for, to, you could say maybe gain. Does that help? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just think, maybe I'm coming a little from somebody I'm very influenced by, Nagoro Kagitora, who was much later. This was during the period the Portuguese came. And he just basically said, somebody asked him how he finally found this. He basically said that he still had his resistance to the sort of, you know, what was fighting in him. But he found that at the right moments, nature provided him the time. So, he would be very calm when he was in, like, battle or certain areas. And then, on the way to the temple, all his upset would be there. So, he just came into harmony with it.


So, it appeared that he was like a Buddha. So, it's interesting. Thank you. Go. Thanks for your talk. You know, I think I like, you know, Dogen saying, you know, my life is one continuous mistake. And we have the general goal line where, you know, our enlightenment comes in the midst of delusion. It seems like it's a much different flavor than saying, avoid picking shoes. Or do you find it very harmonious? You probably do, but it seems so different than real life. This is the 21st century. In real life, you know, we do make choices.


We do have to do things. And that we don't get stuck with them. And if we do make a mistake, we just let go of it and keep going. Whatever it is, we just, we finish it, we finish it. And I don't think it's such a difference, because I think what Joshu was talking about is not, never doing this or that or everyday life. But how do you do things in your everyday life? And not be stuck with them and not be comparing things. Not one thing over another, better than another. And not constantly sort of contriving.


You know, non-duality includes everything. It's not like you can separate something out from, you know, the universe. It's all there, it's all part of manifestations of Buddha nature. It's, you know, when we get into a lot of, you know, thinking and stuff, it gets twisted around. And sometimes you say mistake, but mistake is just what we call it. I guess they're just different flavors of saying the same thing. Yeah. What's that? I'm thinking of the two of the cases that you read, and the two cases, the two circumstances, in which Joshu talked about answering the question, does the dog of Buddha nature differently, right?


The first one, the classic one, that we, you know, it's a point of entry, is no. And then later he said, yes. The first case, your core case, this monk does not abide in clarity, right? Separated with the sis. And then the next, I think it was the next one, or the one after 57 or 58, I alone am holy. Can you say something about those different perspectives, or different, he's coming from a, he's making a different point, right? And can you articulate that? Look, I do not abide in the clarity, it's really just, you know, I'm just not stuck here.


You know, it's like, there's the duality, clarity, and choice and attachment, or delusion and enlightenment. And I'm not sticking in either one of them. I just, I'm not in that game. I don't use those, you know. And so it's this, just freely moving without any, this is where I am, this is what. And with the I alone am holy, it's this feeling of like, it's the whole universe. My true self. That was the answer to, excuse me, that was the answer to the non-picking, non-choosing, right? Right. Okay. Yeah. And I think that's basically an answer to, you know, trying to, you know, you've got this, or you've got this, which one are you going to choose?


And he didn't choose either. It's the whole universe. We can talk some more. Yeah. Yeah. I just want to go back to that, the great way is not difficult, and you use a different translation. I like it. It doesn't abhor attachment, it only abhors attachment and choice, is that what you're saying? Yeah, yeah. So I was wondering how the great way could abhor anything. It's not so much that the great way is abhorring. It's a way of just describing it, if you want to be in harmony with the great way, then you don't pick and choose choice and attachment. Because it almost sounds like we're leaving out picking and choosing. There's picking and choosing, and then there's picking and choosing that's not picking and choosing.


Sir? If one does something wholeheartedly, thoroughly, is there picking and choosing in that activity? No. How do you know? I don't. Oh. Yeah. How do you describe what kind of man Yoshi was in a word? I like the word thief. Thank you for your talk.


This is about Joshua, this guy really highlights my confusion about this. He seems to be all, please correct me where I'm standing, but he seems to be all about faith and there's little room for doubt. What am I missing here? Certainly Joshua had his doubt, which is what led him to his asking nonsense. And certainly in these cases and what we have recorded of Joshua is that we see his clarity.


But we don't see his doubt. Are you saying the records left out his doubts? Are you saying the records left out his doubts? No, I think a lot of the records we have of people, especially back then, are there to present something like nonduality or some aspect of the teaching. Unless it's like, you know, there'll be cases in which a monk will get a response that leads to realization. But, you know, Joshua certainly in his life had doubts about his understanding, that's why he talked to nonsense. That's why he practiced.


He never followed, like Joshua. So in him resolving his doubts, was for him, historically, him traveling around to different monasteries or teachers, was that beneficial to him like it was for David? I can't really say, I mean, after Nansen died, he did the traveling around and with the desire to test his understanding. So, you could say that he still wanted to make sure that, you know, he had his understanding was complete, thorough. That is, one of the statements he made when he was going on his pilgrimage is that if I meet a boy of seven, more understanding than I will learn from him.


And if it's a hundred year old person who has less understanding, I will teach them. Towards the end of your talk, you sounded like you were saying that you wanted to read the whole of the Tsing Tsing Ming, not just get stuck on the first part of it. Did I hear you right about that? Yeah, I mean, the opening lines, which is the great way, it's not difficult. Yeah, I really wanted to, you know, I hadn't read it for some time. And I was waiting for that. And I did. And this is what happened. This is how it was. Yeah, what I found in reading it and going through it is an appreciation for it. And just more of a sense of joy.


When you're up on the farm there, what is the best way to go through the blackberry patches? Carefully. And with gloves. I'm confused by something you said. You got more of a sense of Joshu from reading the Tsing Tsing Ming? Yeah. Joshu didn't write the Tsing Tsing Ming? Right. Okay. It could be just my own thing, but Joshu cited the work a lot. And I don't think he was just talking about the first lines. And there are a lot of things in it that I think are connected to what Nansen told him. Okay. And so it just kind of filled in in the sense of, oh, just look through this and really see.


And then seeing how, in many situations, Joshu's response can be seen as coming out of that basic teaching. And that basic teaching is not sort of unique and invented by, but certainly put together in a very nice, neat way by the Third Ancestry. Thanks for your talk. How has it been to live with Joshu's koan during the practice period? What have you found? What has it been like for you? I think one of the things that I sort of said the other day is, in doing this, I find myself realizing more and more and more and more.


Just what I don't understand. And so it's sort of living with it and just sort of living with, you know, what is this about? Help me see what I don't understand. I said in a tea recently, I said, well, my practice is being stupid. My practice is being stupid. Well, I just want to say that when Mr. So enters the practice period, I give them a koan to work with, which they've never worked with before. They have six weeks to deal with it. Usually it takes 10 years, but it's just a wonderful spot to have to do something with a lot of pressure and come up with something.


And so I think we have to understand and appreciate that, and appreciate that we're all working on something together, and whatever comes up, the pressure of having to deal with this is massive. So, ordinarily, we may think about something like this, you know, take our time, there's only a short period of time, you have to come up with something, some understanding. So sometimes the understanding is great, sometimes it's not so great, sometimes the light shines, sometimes, you know. So, I really appreciate this talk. Also, the shin-shin-min, a work like that, the first lines make the statement, and the rest is commentary.


So, you have the statement, you have to make your own commentary, and that's what's happening. So, basically, it's about the shin-shin-min, it's about Joshu's understanding of the shin-shin-min, and then it's about your understanding of Joshu's understanding. And it stimulates all of us to work on it. Thank you.