Mary speaks to Dean about silence

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Well, I think Dean is not here, is that right? Well, what can I say? I'm talking to her. You can tell her that I, what do you call it? I called her out. Thing is, last week, many of you were here. We had a wonderful, wonderful event here. Karen Dakotas was ordained as a priest, finally. And at the reception, I asked a few people, well, what should I talk about? Is there something in particular that I should talk about next week? And Dean said, silence, talk about silence. We never talk about silence. And silence, I think she said, you know, there's like a million people talking, whatever. I think she said that her experience was that out of silence came insights.


So I've been sort of chewing on that all week. Thinking about silence, what is silence to us? What is silence in our practice? Because she's right, we probably don't talk about it much because ultimately, you know, I could do Zen snotty and we could all sit here for half an hour in silence, or even five minutes. You know, there's one of the many koans that point at silence is, I think it's case, three, no, it's case one of the Book of Serenity. And it's that the Buddha got up on the Dharma seat and Manjushri, who's often the butt of these things. Did you ever notice that Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of great wisdom is often the butt? Yeah, and so Manjushri strikes the Han,


strikes the wooden plaque and says, behold, the Dharma of the Dharma King, the Dharma of the King of Dharma is thus. And he smacks it again. Buddha gets up, walks away. That's one of many. And then the poem says, among other things, it says, nothing could be done about Manjushri's leaking. So, all right, but we have to leak. We all leak all the time. You know, sometimes we refer to talking as a mistake, one continuous mistake. Norman Fisher, years ago, when I was really pretty new, he said something to me, I guess it was in Doksan, I don't remember, but he said, sometimes I make a mistake on purpose. And I thought, wow, that's really a presumptuous,


snotty, offensive thing to say. You don't make, I make mistakes all the time. I don't have to try. And then years later, I heard that phrase, which is actually a stock phrase. And it's one of the ways of talking about talking, that it's making a mistake on purpose, because as soon as you think, as soon as you form a concept, it's dualistic. And it's sure as hell dualistic when you open your mouth. So that's what he was talking about. But I didn't know, and I was so put off by it, I didn't ask him what he was talking about, because it would have come out like, well, that is creepy. I've never told him that. This may be the first time I ever said it in a public way. So what is silence then? Brains think, Uchiyama Roshi says,


thoughts are just brain secretions. How do you not think? We say non-thinking, but non-thinking, from the Fukan Zazengi, think not thinking. How do you think not thinking? Non-thinking. The distinction there is that not thinking doesn't work. Pushing away thoughts doesn't work. So let's focus mostly on Zazen. Of course, not talking to your friends and family doesn't work. But even in Zazen, how much silence is there in your Zazen? And then I thought maybe the distinction is it's more about quiet. You understand, these are just words. So I'm using them that way.


If you define silence as absolute silence, then it seems to me that not always. There are times in Zazen, I hope that you experience these times. There are times in Zazen when there really is just quiet. When there's no I'm breathing, there's no I'm sitting, there's just breathing going on. That's silent. But there are a lot of other times in Zazen when that's not the case. Thoughts arise. We sit, something called Shikantaza, just sitting, simply sitting. We sit in the middle of that. Thoughts arise. And if we let them, they abide and pass away. That's quiet, I think.


You could say that was silence if you want, but I'm making that distinction because I think it's important to not push thoughts away, to not try so hard. It's more of an exploration, a sitting in willingness. But there's this great, I was looking at various koans in here and I'm not gonna bother you with them. I also looked at what you're gonna study pretty soon, I think, the Xin Xin Ming, which is about nothing but this. But there's one that's not a commonly used one, Case 45 in the Book of Serenity. It's the case, the scripture of perfect enlightenment says, at all times, do not produce delusive thoughts. Also, don't try to stop and annihilate deluded states of mind. Don't produce them, don't annihilate them.


In realms of false conception, don't add knowledge and don't find reality in no knowledge. In some sense, every concept we have, every conception we have is false. Are you with me? If I'm saying something that sounds odd to you, please ask, please raise your hand, please do everybody else in the room a favor and be brave enough to say, I don't understand what you're talking about. Okay. I don't believe that there's nobody here that's thinking what she's talking about. You're grown-ups. Yes? Yes? What am I talking about? Yes. Okay. Thank you for asking.


I talk about this kind of a lot, so I think, I don't mind talking about it at all, but I think sometimes that I'm sort of preaching to the choir and I don't know. So, in realms of false conception, don't add knowledge. The way I understand this, which this may be what I think about, it is just what I think about it. We see things, you know, here's the eye, there's the bell, there's eye, there's contact, and then the mind says, oh, that shape, that metal, that, that's a bell, and it labels it. And then the trouble is that I then believe that that's the ultimate truth about that object. And I think that it's solid and that it has a separate existence from me. Okay? In some sense, it's a false conception no matter what,


because I'm just putting a label on it that we've all agreed that that's a bell. That's the big bell. I've sounded that bell many times. I like that bell. I actually love that bell. But at any rate, we all have our ideas about it. We're designating it a bell, which isn't exactly true, but we have to find a way. As I said, maybe it's a mistake on purpose. We have to find a way to talk to each other because how do you train a dohan without talking about the bell, okay? Or how do you teach people, you know, during the all Buddhas at the end of service, if you're on the floor, you get up onto your knees at the end of the first line at the sound of the big bell. It's difficult to explain that if you don't have some understanding, okay? So in some sense, it's a false conception no matter what. Okay? Okay. But what we do, we add, it says, don't add knowledge, which I think means don't add extra onto it.


Don't add substance onto it. Don't insist that it's separate from you and it's solid and there's no emptiness about it at all. Are you with me? Okay. And then don't find reality in no knowledge. You have to call it a bell. You have to, we live in this realm, okay? So don't fall off onto the form side, but also don't fall off onto the emptiness side. Okay? It's not nothing. It's no thing, but it's not nothing. Okay, thank you very much for asking. I think in explaining these kinds of things, I like to have the exact same thing said, not about a bell, but like a person.


Yes. Makes it a lot harder. Yes. Well, we can make mistakes. We can have false conceptions about simply anything. Yeah, I mean, we have some more false conceptions. I don't know. It's like, in practical terms, it's like you talked about me. All the people who hate me or whatever will see that they're deluded, you know? That's right. And you might see that you're deluded about them. Well, that's not fair. Oh, okay. That's exactly what I'm talking about. I know. But I mean, I just, I don't want to get too far off. I'm trying to, I'm trying to answer Dean and talk about silence. I hope that she, many people suggest to her that she might listen to this lecture. She's the audio archivist. Well, I get to title it.


I might call it, you know, Mary Speaks to Dean About Silence. Oh, silence. So the point of that is that it's not silent. It's not no thinking that goes on in zazen. It's not attachment to thinking. It's what I think that this case is saying is don't get caught on either side. And we do have, there is an intentionality about it. You know, we say shikantaza, just sitting, sit down in the middle of it. Let the thoughts come and go. Mel once said, you know, I don't think I was here, but I feel like I was here.


And I think I just heard about this. But at some point, somebody, he gave a talk and somebody raised their hand and said, I'm relatively new to this practice. I've been doing it a few months and my brain is just driving me nuts. I just, I just am thinking all these thoughts and it won't stop. And does it ever, does it ever stop? And Sojin said, you know, the difference between you and me is I have thoughts too, but they don't bother me. Did that actually happen? It might as well have, right? Right. Well, it's one of the, well, I don't know about you. I sometimes remind him of an exchange because I know that he doesn't record in his mind every exchange we have and dokes on. And I remind him and I tell him what he said and he'll say, oh, that was good. So if he didn't say that, I'm sure he'd be happy to adopt it. I adopt it.


I use that example all the time. So what is silence? I think it's, as I say, I think it's more like quiet. It's something more about acceptance. There is, as I say, an intentionality. I intend, when I sit, Sojin, I intend not to get tangled in my thoughts. I intend not to produce them. I do produce them, but I don't have to get on the train. I don't have to keep on going. I have the intention to notice when discursive thought arises. And I have the intention to let it go. So in that sense, I intend not to produce them. And I think, I'm not sure what this,


the person who wrote the scripture, Perfect Enlightenment, or who recited, I don't know. I'm not familiar with it. Maybe it's just a title. So it may be from the Pali Canon, I don't know. Whoever said, at all times, do not produce delusive thoughts. What other kind are there? But I do think, I do think, I confess. Yes. I don't really, I think there is, I make a distinction in my own mind and my own body. I can tell the difference. There are thoughts that I really produce, just like a producer of a movie, just like the writer of a movie, I suppose, but we're using the word produce. I tell myself stories, and I can feel that in my body.


And there are other thoughts which do not feel produced. They are produced, but not the same way. There are thoughts that, my experience of those is that they arise organically, and that may be more of what Dean was referring to. You can feel it here. Oops. I make the recorder do weird things, but you can feel it in your gut. When something arises organically, it's a different quality. And I trust those thoughts more. And I may allow that tape to run until I notice that I've intervened and I'm starting to produce it. And then I drop it, yeah. Is that intuition? It's in the neighborhood. It's in the neighborhood. It's a word that Sojin uses, and I've never really asked him about it,


but it's in that neighborhood. Yeah? I was thinking basically the same question he asked, and I've asked this before. We have original face as a concept, and we have original thought. Is this original thought as a word? Oh, I don't know. I wouldn't dignify it that much, because I think it's really useful to keep remembering that any concept, anytime I'm talking to myself, even if it's in pictures or whatever, there is a distance, there's a duality to that. There is a diluted quality to it, or an illusory quality to it. It's just that I think even so, it's qualitatively different. I think of it sometimes, I describe it sometimes as the experience you may have had when you're sort of half awake, and you're still dreaming, and you know that you're doing that, but it feels like you're watching a movie


or listening to a tape, and it's running itself. And then you wake up just a little more, and you start intervening, and you start telling yourself a story. So that time before that. And so it can happen that you're sitting as Azen, and an insight will arise, and it feels like it arises from your gut. And that seems to me can arise in quiet. It may not be silent. I mean, I'm including non-silent, including talking to yourself, because most of us don't talk a lot out loud during Zazen. But that, it seems to me, can be a quiet event, even if it's not a silent event. And whether the person who wrote this do not produce elusive thoughts, I don't know if they were referring to absolutely any kind of thoughts. And maybe it doesn't matter,


because I get to give the lecture, and this person, whoever this is. So also, but also, don't try to stop and annihilate them. That's not silence. There are lots of wonderful quotes in the Xin Xin Ming about not trying to annihilate thoughts. I know you have a wonderful translation that Sojin did, and I didn't, I have the Clark, which I think he's close to. When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity, your very effort fills you with activity. So if you try to push them away, it doesn't work. It only makes it worse. So the quiet is some kind of acceptance and non-entanglement.


Sometimes I say that Zazen is waiting in willingness, waiting in willingness, that the effort is to let go of thoughts, let go, let go, let go, but also it is to be open to whatever is arising, particularly the physical sensations. But an openness, an openness, and a willingness to allow it, whatever the thought is, allow it to arise, abide, and pass away, including those kinds of insights I was talking about. Those can be kind of exciting sometimes. Let it go. You had the insight. You don't have to think about it. You don't have to run out of Zazen or write it down. Nothing, just let it go. It happened. It's not going to unhappen. And that's where the discipline comes in,


which I didn't, there's an intentionality. There's a discipline. There's a discipline in letting go. Sometimes the thoughts are delicious. Let them go. That's quiet. Sometimes the thoughts are, in a phrase that I learned from Linda Ruth Cutts, sometimes they're wicked fun. Let them go. Gossiping is wicked fun. Which was what her talk was about years ago. It's wicked fun. It is. Let it go. Oh, you sit still in willingness. And there's a quiet in that willingness and that acceptance in that letting go. And there's patience, the dreaded patience. I dread patience. I work with patience.


Actually, I work with impatience. Shikantaza is just sitting in openness and allowing those thoughts to arise and not getting caught up in them. Not getting tangled. And in that effort, realization can arise. Actually, there's a poem called the Zazenshin, from which, now did I, I think I probably know it well enough. This is the, on the brochure at Clearwater Zen Do, this is an excerpt from the poem. Realization, neither general nor particular, neither universal nor particular. Realization, neither general nor particular


is effort without desire. Effort without desire. Clear water all the way to the bottom. A fish swims like a fish. Vast sky transparent throughout. A bird flies like a bird. So we sit Zazen like human beings. And the quiet comes from not fighting that, from being willing to be a human being sitting Zazen with all the thoughts that arise. And because we're human beings, we can let them go. But it's not a silence in the sense of nothingness. I like the notion of it's a quiet willingness. Anybody have any questions or remarks? Yes? Yeah.


You were saying, you've been saying that it's not silence in the usual sense. I want to comment on the way you've been working with what it could be if it's not that. So we usually think of silence as shut up, don't talk, keep quiet, shut the doors, get the traffic noise out. But that's not what you mean when you say what is silence or what Dean means. And you said quiet is a better word. And I was thinking stillness. I've been reading texts, the earliest texts of yoga, you know, the Yoga Sutra? Sure, Patanjali. And the first crucial statement is yoga is the stilling or cessation of the turnings, turnings of thought. So I just want to say that,


and it reminded me of a poem, which I won't repeat right now, but if we just hear what is actually going on, including our own blood moving in our veins, that's silence. It just depends on how you use the word, as you said. So up until that stillness, that's fine, that's quiet. And of course it's silence in one way, but the way I understood her to be talking about it and the way I have been distinguishing is silence as the absence of sound. And there isn't any such thing. No, well, I think we agree. But you have to make a mistake on purpose. You have to use a word. That's why I say they're just words and you use them a certain way to point at something. So, yeah. Yeah, thank you. Good topic, fruitful for me, moving.


What I find is not talking and forgiving myself for talking. And then one of the things about asthma is that I don't have breath to talk and that's sort of a benefit sometimes, not to react. I can't bring it forth. And because I can't, or because at this stage of my brain development, nouns aren't there for some reason. Yes, I'm intimate with it. I'm not churning it. I have to, it's like, oh, I didn't need to get in the middle of that one after all. I can step back from it. So it's like your body slows you down a little bit. Well, there are upsides to getting old. I think. Wait, wait, just a second.


I just want to see if there are people that haven't spoken yet. Yeah. I keep hearing, I think it's Miles Davis who has an album in a silent way. I don't know. But, you know, so, you know, or the old Simon Garfunkel. Sounds of silence. And what's coming up is harmony, that sense of, but I was wondering how all of this connects to dissonance and harmony. And, oh man. I'm going to tell a story to you. Years ago, Sojin was leading a practice period at Tassajara. And it was, you know, it's the pressure cooker. People used to say to me, oh, I can't, I hope you find the peace that you seek.


I think, oh my. It's a pressure cooker and sometimes people lose it. And it was for whatever reason, a practice period where a number of people lost it. There was some screaming on the path right by the coffee tea area, swearing and screaming. Somebody threw a plate of food across the dining room. Didn't hit anybody. And various other things were going on. And I went and talked to him and I said, you know, maybe we should have a, have like a Sangha meeting or something and talk about this because there are these elephants littering the path. And he agreed. And he got us all together in the Zendo and he started talking. And he was talking about harmony in the Sangha. And Suzuki Roshi said, we should be, what is it? As close as milk and water, we should blend as close as milk and water. And so I thought, okay, you're handing me this


on a silver platter. Well, what about when we don't? And then he talked about that. And I don't remember exactly what he said, but the feel of it is, and the point that there, we have to be able to address and be with disharmony. We have to be, we have to include it because there is a disharmony. There are thoughts that arise that are troubling and there are interactions with other people that are troubling. And there are life experiences that are troubling even unintentionally. Somebody dies, it's not exactly disharmony, but it's disruptive and not in the Silicon Valley sense. We must, we have to include that. And we can, I think with practice, we have at least a better chance of meeting it with some equanimity, with some acceptance,


with some understanding. And we are better able to practice with it. If it's like with one other person or a couple of other people to do what Ko does, they take their finger and turn it around and look at ourselves and our part in it. And also to see that the other person doesn't want to suffer and so on. But it seems to me that sangha harmony has to be a big enough container to contain disharmony. Does that make sense? I was struck by your name, Total Joy. And I'm wondering if those, I'm wondering if that's a reference to the kind of states that can be achieved in zazen, equan, joy in one and equanimity in another. And are they, how are they different


or are they different from deluded thoughts? Well, in terms of what it's meant to, you have to ask him. Pointing at Sojourn See. I was thinking it must be weird to listen to some of these things and somebody's gesturing or something. Well, I don't know. Anyway, I think it, I understand it to be the kind of joy, where is it? It's in the Nikaya Buddhist teaching, the kind of thing they would teach at Spirit Rock. You know, there's a kind of, is it in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness? So there's a kind of joy that's not yippee, wowee, you know, that's much deeper. And that does, I started to say rise out of,


maybe, I don't know, related to equanimity. So it's a deep foundational kind of joy. What he meant, I don't know. I think, you know, it's the second name. It's the one that he sees and I don't. And I mean, I like to think I, oh, it's been, he gave that to me when I did Jukai in 1990. So I think it's about, letting myself see the deep joy in practice on all different levels. Because Meili told me, I'm a one in the Enneagram system, I'm a perfectionist. And so I have this critical, discriminating mind. And it's about letting that go and seeing the perfection and the joy that's there. So that's how I think of it.


But what it means, I don't know. I don't know. Yeah. Talking about quiet and silence, here in the Zen Dojo, I'd be very interested to hear what you say. We have to speak to each other from time to time. And I think that maybe some of Dean's comments came up from this very recent talk about being quiet in the Zen Dojo. It might have been, it might have been, but she was saying that there wasn't enough talking about silence. So I don't know. I don't, and I, you know, because it was in the middle of a reception. So we didn't really talk about it. And I thought, well, I'll talk about it and then she'll say whatever. And then, so I don't know. I kind of, you know, people complain sometimes about too much talking going on, not necessarily in the Zen Dojo, but around the edges of the Zen Dojo. You know, in the community room, we're out and whatever, that in a Sashin, often we talk too much, you know,


and it's not easy to know. And I have to talk to people all the time because at Clearwater, I am the Ino and I'm the director and I'm the, you name it. I'm not the Tenzo thing, nor the work leader, but I'm those other things. And so I'm talking to people saying, you know, shorten the period or something. And it's hard to then stop. So I think I'm as guilty as anybody. Anyway, I don't know. Yeah. When I sit, it's very rare where my mind is silent. But when I pull weeds, I'm just pulling weeds. I can do that. Yeah. Well, it's easier. Zen is, you know, it's easy to describe. Just sit down and find your posture. Sit up straight, honor the curve in your lower back, da, [...] and then just follow your breath.


And after a while, don't even think about following your breath. Well, it's easy, but it's a problem. It's hard to do. I'm the fourth of pulling weeds. Yeah. Pulling weeds in your mind. So this issue of silence did come up recently from a statement from Sojin regarding, especially, I think, in the afternoons, Azen, after we get out of the zendo and we're sitting on the steps putting on our shoes, we often converse. And my understanding, from what Sojin said, is wait until you leave the zendo. And from that, I think he means wait until you step off those steps, even, and be more conscious about that transition


and that silent opportunity. Yeah, well, and because this, we make a container in here, and every time we talk, it's a problem in Vallejo because there's not much of a place to gather. So people go back towards the, well, they go towards the entrance, and they talk by the shoe rack, which is in the zendo. And I've been thinking about it and thinking about it and trying to figure out what to do because people do, they need to talk to each other and connect and so on also. So now the summer's coming, we could go outside. One more. Could you say more about practicing with impatience? I don't know anything about it. All right, but tell me something. I'll tell you, I will tell you something,


but I have to tell you a story. There was some shosan, there's a big Dharma question and answer at the end of a sasheen, with Blanche Hartman at City Center once years ago, and the person before me, whatever the exchange was, they talked about patience. So then it's my turn, so I bowed, whatever, and I said, what is this patience you speak of? And the whole room erupted with laughter. I thought, oh my. I guess that they know that this is something I struggle with. Patience is forbearance. It's being in difficult situation and accepting it is one major way of understanding it. It's how Aitken talks about it. And we practice with it by noticing our impatience, which I think is a lot about noticing your body. Noticing what, I think Alan years ago talked about,


I think it was like leaning in, the impulse to lean in. And I say, you can feel this impulse is tightening in your gut, and it's like, oh, I have to, you know, I don't think I have to say this or do this, but that's the impulse behind it. And when you, if you can notice it in your body, notice that impulse, you can lean back a little bit, take a breath, and not, you can refrain from saying or doing. That's a good physical practice. Absolutely, I think this is a physical practice. So let's sit down and shut up. Yes, okay, one more. Oh, oh, you're sitting down and shutting up. Sounds good to me. Sounds good to me. Okay, one more.