Nothing Holy About It

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Minnesota Zen Center for 14 years. And Tim and I go back a long way. We both started our practice at Sokoji Temple in San Francisco at about the same time in 1964. And Tim left I think somewhere in the early 70s, early. And I went to practice with Katagiri Roshi in Minnesota. And was ordained by Katagiri Roshi. And it's been a long time. We've met in passing a little bit during all that time, but this is the first time we actually sat down saw each other again. So, Tim has written a book, a lot of which is about his experience with Setsuki Roshi, and he's going to sell his book today through a violin.


So, I'm really happy that he's here, and I'm anxious to hear what he has to say. This is Berkeley's for you. It's about my Zen teaching over the years, but my Zen teaching has also included all these memories by talking about my discovery of the Zen Center.


So I was in 1964, I was a junior psychedelic stuff, which I had not experimented with, but I thought, wow, there's something I should study that stuff, at least, so I would do my paper, you know, Ann Ambrom was psyched on it. So I bought a book that's Teachings of the Mystics by Walter T. Stace, and I was just amazed to find out that at the core of these traditions, the culture after culture talked about immersing oneself in a great silence and letting go of worries and concerns.


They're just evaporating into thin air. So I almost couldn't believe it, but it was there on every page in the book. So I quit going to classes at Stanford, and I just started reading a book. And I read the same pages over and over again. I didn't know anything about Zazen. I knew nothing about meditation. But I got into sort of a meditative state reading these phrases over and over again. And then it was spring break, and I went to Utah to ski with my friends. And on the train ride, I just kept not knowing about meditation, but then I got to Utah, and I spontaneously just let go of Tim. And there was just the world. There was just everything. And this intercessor, intercessor was gone.


The intermediator was gone. And then it was time to go back to school, and on the train on the way back, Tim started coming in again and got, you know, my anxiety started. Tim identifies with this fear body starting coming up. So by the time I was back at Stanford, I was a wreck. But I had this memory. So I thought, well, Zen, that's the one chapter in the book that talks the most about this, and there seems to be the least falderal. Later I found out that, well, there is quite a bit of fondness. But I didn't know it then. So I said, well, San Francisco has a huge Chinatown. Zen comes from China. I'll go up to San Francisco and see if I can find a guy who has done this and maybe a Zen master.


So I look in the phone book under Z. So I look under Z and there's the Zen bar and the Zen center. And that's my first koan. And I think to myself, well, I know the Zen bar scene pretty well. Too well. Much too well. So I'll try the Zen Center. So I go over to the Zen Center. This little man answers the door and takes me up. He tells me, introduces himself as Suzuki Sensei, Reverend Suzuki. And I start sitting. I start sitting. And not too long after that, I meet Mel. And Mel tells me he's a taxi driver. as a taxi driver, but I never got to know Mel. But he was very encouraging just by being, just by being. So that's kind of sort of my induction into Zen practice.


And I've been speaking at Zen centers around Northern California since I got here. I've spoken at Tassajara, I've spoken at the Los Altos Zen Center And I spoke at City Center. Well, when I spoke at City Center, San Francisco Center, I had to go over and show Wanda where we used to sit, where Mel and I used to sit. It's a Koji Temple, a Jewish synagogue that the Japanese, I don't know, they must have bought it, I don't know. But that's where we did our sitting upstairs, and the Japanese did their stuff downstairs in the big auditorium. And they didn't come sit with us. But Suzuki, my teacher, my first teacher, ministered to them. He ministered to them. And one of the ways he ministered to them was that he went to the movies on Saturday night.


I think it was Saturday night. I could be wrong. It might have been Friday night. These were like Class D movies from my point of view. There was a big poster on the outside of Sokoji, Mel probably remembers this, that would show the movie of the week. One morning, I think it was on a Sunday morning, but I can't be sure, after the movie, I said to Sensei, we called him Sensei, I said, gee, I said, you have to go to those movies every week? Do you go every week? He said, oh yes, I go every week. And I said, well, do you like any of them? So there's a teaching there.


So these offhand comments that he often made, there's a teaching there. And I didn't know it at first. I thought, oh God, he is There was a teaching in there. I had been going through a really hard time in my sitting. I'd been sitting then with him for probably a couple of years, and we sat every morning and every night, and I had these images that were just reeling through my head. Just reeling. And they were not very pleasant images. And I was getting kind of discouraged. At the movie. The movie was discouraging me. I wanted a different movie. But I didn't connect until a couple of years later, his statement. Although I think on an unconscious level it really helped me. So often we need help at a deeper level in our conscious mind. So it helped me.


Although I didn't make sense of it until later. So that's our situation if we get serious about Saisen. The movies that pass through get boring, they get scary, they're repetitive, they don't make sense, and we feel But it's just a movie. It's just a movie. And is it possible to like them all? Is it possible just to be with them with kindness and openness? And as you begin to like them all, to disidentify with them? To not have to jump up on the stage and try to get them to be the North Beach movie instead of just what they are? What they are is what they are. It's what they are. Is it possible? I think so. Just to be with them. I think so. This one is from when I had been practicing for a couple more years, and I'd really been doing intense practice, spent time at Tassajara Zen Monastery.


This is from the section called Too Much Emptiness, a Cup of Tea, and Finding a Good Seat. which was named Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery, I returned to San Francisco and immediately took a bus to the De Young Museum. I was still in the afterglow of the long retreat. De Young Museum had a wonderful, wonderful Asian collection. Wonderful. And floor, they had Japanese on one floor, Chinese on another floor, and then Thai on another floor. Beautiful. When I came to the first When I looked into the Buddha's eyes, they seemed to open into pure space.


I felt as if I were teetering on the edge of something. Instinctively, I turned away. But just a few feet away, there was another statue. Its eyes were also like deep holes into no-thingness. Again, I turned away. But the statues were everywhere. I told him about the statues. The spaciousness emanating from their eyes had pierced me to my core. There were no thoughts bubbling up in my mind. My body felt awkward, unable to adjust to the sudden shift. Which statues, Suzuki asked, which seemed totally irrelevant.


But I told him where I had been in the museum and described the statues I saw there. Let's have a cup of tea, he said. And that's about all he said. Let's have a cup of tea. I sat and drank tea with him and then I went home and I got up the next morning and came to Zazen and I was fine. I was fine. So we think, you think, we all think that we want to sink into a deep openness, a deep spaciousness where our worries and concerns Tim, or little Ruth, or little. But actually, often we're not ready for it. Often we think we want it, but we're so hypnotized by this little guy in here, who's remembering, repeating, rehearsing, regretting, remembering, repeating, rehearsing,


This was the case for me, and particularly physically, physically. And so, what did Suzuki do? Well, Wanda pointed out, I said to Wanda, this statue, you've been asking me about the specific statues, it was stupid. And she said, no, he was grounding you in the physical. And he offered me the tea, he was grounding me in the physical. great team for it. So now I want to read the next section, which, oh this is not the next section, but the next section that I'm going to read, which is Living Beyond the Fear of Body. So it's this fear of body that we carry in our heads that makes it so hard for us to let go and just right here, but it's hard for us because we're so mesmerized by our fear, and it takes up so much space.


So this is about my teacher, my root teacher. I really had three teachers. Oh, I have multiple teachers, myriad teachers, but I had three kind of historical teachers, Suzuki Roshi, Katagiri Roshi, and Shino Roshi. And you know, I was kind of Forrest Gump. You don't know. You just show up and try to pay attention as well as you can. Once as I was driving Suzuki home after our Palo Alto group, after our Palo Alto city group, which he asked me to start, he asked if I would take him to an area in Hillsboro. He wanted to visit a woman who would contact him about Buddhism. He had never met this woman, but he felt he should go. class, but I did it anyway.


His directions weren't good. We drove around. I should say that I was actually happy about it. I was very enamored with him, and I would much rather hang out with him. So I felt special. He asked me to drive him, so I didn't mind that we got lost. He wanted to visit a woman who had contacted him about Buddhism. He had never met this woman, but he felt he should go visit her. I wasn't too happy about it because I was both anymore."


I said, why? She said, well, these memories are wrong. Wrong, right. Wrong, right. They're inspirational. If you're inspired, does it matter? Does it matter? What do we know about the historical Buddha, really? What do we know about Bodhidharma, really? Does it matter? You stay here, I'll go up," he said. So I waited. But after only about five minutes, he came back. How'd it go? I asked. Very interesting. But not woman I thought. Wrong woman. Then he started to laugh. She thought I dared to wash her windows. But I didn't bring my squeegee.


He chortled with great amusement. It was easy to see how she'd made the mistake. I grew up in Palo Alto. Before I met Suzuki, Roshi, I was not called Roshi then. Before I met him, the only Japanese I knew were cleaning women, were gardeners, were garbage men. Why? This was 20 years after World War II. What did we do with the Japanese in World War II? We dispossessed them. We dispossessed them. We sent them all to relocation camps, and they lost everything. So when they came back, they only did menial labor. So Suzuki was the first person I met of Japanese origin who didn't do menial labor, and he was dressed in black. He was dressed in his black traveling clothes. But Suzuki, instead of feeling humiliated and pissed, he just thought he'd played this wonderful joke on her.


And then afterwards, for about a year, he talked to me about, I found my squeegee. When can we go to that window? He said, her window's really dirty. I found my squeegee. When can we get back? Anyway, that's moving through the fear body, you guys. Not transcending it, but just moving through it. I'm seeing that that movie, it's just a movie. You don't have to be afraid. You can return to just this. Be with just this. He taught me that just by being. Just by being. He could accommodate himself to his environment without getting So the next section that I want to read is The Spell of Desire.


So it was the woman who had contacted him, but she didn't... No, it was a different woman. It was the wrong woman. It was something like Mrs. Jones or something, and it was the wrong Mrs. Jones. So I wouldn't have known how to go back there anyway. And I know he was just teasing. He was a teaser. He was a teaser. But always in a fun way. And did he think he was teaching to me? No, I don't think so. Wanda and I have this argument about him when I tell her these stories. She said, oh, he was teaching you. And I said, oh, he didn't think he was teaching. She said, well, he really was. He knew what he was doing. So I don't know. Did he know what he was doing, Mel? Yes and no. OK. This next one is about desire.


Desire, it's because of desire that it's so hard for us just to disidentify with a movie, disidentify with the images and just be with each other. It's just being, so on. But we need to learn about this desire. I don't mean intellectually, but see when it comes up on Arzafa's and just be with it. Be with it and see that it's not everything. love for the first time or even the second time, being in that semi-conscious, dreamy, la-la land. Anybody who doesn't remember that either has bad amnesia or is lying, right? So in Palo Alto, my first girlfriend named Mickey, I would drive around her house at night, around the block. Every night I drove around the block when my dad would let me


What was I doing? Just driving around hoping I get a peek of her, you know, whether she was eating or whatever she was doing. Open up for a peek. When we meet someone we're attracted to, even their faults are appealing. We're not seeing the person at all. We're only seeing our own desire. And of course we do that with our teachers, too. I did this with Suzuki. It's not bad. It's what we do as human beings. It's what we do. What we do. But too often it turns into a fear body. Often in meditation we're besieged by desire. One desire after another, they cycle through our mind endlessly. We're alone with them, with nothing to distract us and no way to fulfill them. We can only look at the endless parade of images, of desires. If you sit in meditation We use desire to cover up all kinds of things, don't we?


All kinds of hurts, all kinds of difficult emotions. If we're insecure, then we set goals to prove our self-worth. And goals are important, but if we get too hung up on them, we lose our composure, our natural composure, our natural joy of just being here. Just being here. Avoiding difficult emotions. with even more intensity. Can you accept your desires graciously? Can you? When you sit on a cushion and see one desire after another and feel how consuming it is, if you remain on your But when the bell rings, what happens? Usually when the bell rings, the desire is just gone. It's just gone. And so then we see how little the desire really means to us. And we don't have to identify with it. We don't have to be caught by it.


We don't have to be plagued by it. Seeing the nature of desire is the beginning of spiritual liberation. As Zen practitioners, we learn, you'll learn, maybe you have already learned, to carry your desires lightly, like butterflies alighting on your shoulder. I hope they're still here. I hope we'll take care of our environment so they'll come back. We can just watch the delightful butterfly. When it flies off, another will come, then another. If we don't get clingy or judgmental, we can enjoy them. If you learn nothing from Zen practice, I hope you will learn how to hold your desires lightly. place in your body, in your psyche.


You pass through the little you to something spacious. This still includes the little you. You've got to take care always of the little you. I had to ask twice about how to get into gender one day. The little you wanted to do it all right. So now I've got three more that I'm going to read. So, I've got to do one about Bob Dylan because, you know, I practiced in the 60s. My early years with my root teacher were in the 60s, so Bob Dylan. So this one in this section, my love-minus-zero mantra. After my first year of Zen practice, the austerity of sitting still and doing nothing did not seem to be working for me anymore. Even Suzuki Roshi was not working for me, though I kept sitting with him every morning and evening.


To make the early morning meditation, I sometimes stayed up all night. I sat in an all-night diner, drinking coffee and staring out the window. I would go up the night before, or go up from Stanford the night before and sit and drink coffee. And I did that for quite a while, quite a while. This was about the time Bob Dylan came out with his album, Bring It All Back Home. Four lines from two verses in the song, Love Mine at Zero, No Limit, became my mantra. My love, she speaks like silence without ideals or violence, she knows us at all.


The first line, my love, she speaks like silence, was about my teacher. Sensei seemed to speak like silence. Silence went with him wherever he went. Silence goes with you wherever you go, wherever you are. It's there with you. It's there with you. And you may overlook it because of this movie that you get caught by, but it's here. It's here just But in a way, we can say it's waiting patiently. My second teacher's name was Dinan, great patience, category. He just stood there waiting, but not waiting for anything, just being, just being. Silence went with him wherever he went. I'm still romanced by that silence.


I sense something wonderful in it and was drawn to it. I'm still romanced by that silence, but not by the silence of any one person, by the silence that's present in all beings. After almost 50 years, and this is now 51 years, I'm still awed by that great silence. I'm still awed by it. Second line, without ideals or violence. One reason practice became so hard for me, and it might become hard for you, or maybe it has been, was that I had an ideal that I was clinging to. We have an aspiration, but our aspiration too quickly hardens into an ideal. We need to keep our aspiration alive, and then notice when it rigidly turns into an ideal that we cling to. My idea was that I should do Zen practice with grace, but I was stumbling through it with no grace at all.


And there was a guy there named Bill Kwong, and I was very Ideals are frequently generally about should and shouldn't. They have nothing to do with what's actually going on. Too often they provoke violent thoughts. We are limited and bullied by them. Just showing up for Zazen each morning and evening was all I needed to do. I didn't need to compare my Zen practice with some ideal. The more rigidly idealistic we are, the more violent we become on the inside. And again, I'm differentiating this kind of idealism from aspiration. Aspiration to help people. Aspiration to help ourselves. Which comes out of our still mind and our open heart.


And look at all the religious wars. Aren't you embarrassed about what the Buddhists are doing to each other? Because they have some ideal. Aren't you embarrassed when you It's embarrassing, and we just need to see that embarrassment, breathe into it, let go of it. It's just another movie. It's another movie, but it tells us something. These movies tell us something. There's a reason for these movies. Don't diss them. They're great, great learning from these movies. Two more I've been reading, two more. This is a section of Suzuki Roshi's counterculture. 800 years after Dogen, Suzuki Roshi breathed new life into Buddha's original counterculture. So, the little we know about the historical Buddha, he was developing a counterculture.


The caste system was very, very rigid, and I understand from Alan and from my daughter-in-law, it's still pretty rigid, although it's gone underground. And he was just saying he would ordain anyone, that he wasn't going to do that, that he felt experienced in it. But he did it in a way he didn't get crucified. Which is interesting, huh? He did it in a way he didn't get crucified. Suzuki made Buddha's original counterculture come alive again. Everything he did seemed to arise from the ground of his being. The same ground as Buddha in India. Bodhidharma and Hanshan in China, this Zen started as a counterculture to the Confucian dominant culture in China, no doubt about it.


And Dogen in Japan, we know this. Dogen thought that Buddhism in Japan was very rigid and superstitious and philosophical. Like Dogen, Suzuki felt that Buddhism in Japan had taken on a corpus of fear, a body of fear. I actually remember him talking about this. I remember him talking about this. And Mel may or may not remember, when Gene Ross came back from Japan, Suzuki gave a talk about how the Japanese were caught by the ritualized way of doing things and didn't have the that came from the Zazen. And Jean was offended. She had been to Japan. So he had her give the talk the next week. Were you there when that happened? Yeah, he had her give it. He said, OK, you give the talk. So the next week she gave the talk. She talked about all the wonderful Japanese stuff. Because these are our teachers.


This is our lineage. It's wonderful. But it had become very stultified, very sort of rigid from Suzuki's point of view. Nobody was doing Zazen. Nobody was doing salsa. He came to America seeking an enclave of fresh ground to cultivate. He discovered a wellspring, but it was unlike anything he could have imagined. Some of you are old enough to know what I'm talking about. Some of you don't know. But maybe you've read about it anyway. Probably most of you have. On November 13, 1967, to raise money to buy Tassajara, we organized a zenith that held in the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. And I had David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber author, read through this whole book before I, to see if I'd made mistakes. And he said, Tim, it was not in the Fillmore Auditorium, it was in the Avalon Ballroom. So he made several vital corrections.


The concert featured performances by about the book, someone sent me online a poster of the 1967 Zenefit. Well, it's online, you guys can just call it up. And it mentions the Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, but it doesn't mention Janice. And I said to my friend, why? And he said, well, that must have been a mistake. I said, how could they have made I finally found someone who told me, well she was part of Big Brother in the holding company and she was not the big huge star yet. I mean she was becoming the huge star. And actually I worked in the San Francisco post office when Mel was driving taxi. I was a mail handler. who were just deeply in love with Janice.


So they came to the Zenefit, even though they weren't Zen students, just to hear her, just to hear her. I didn't usually go to the Haight-Ashbury District because it wasn't my scene, but I went to the Zenefit. The auditorium was full. Light effects emanated from strobe lights and lasers mounted throughout the theater. Pungent odors filled the air. of regalia, and the huge sounds of 60s rock boomed from the stage. Katagiri sensei had been in the United States for only two years at the time. He was reserved, quiet, and a very gentle presence. Suzuki was older and had been living already in San Francisco with us.


and people more beatnik, more hippie, and this was kind of a transition phase, than us by far. And so he had been with this culture for a while, and he'd also been doing resiliency practice for 30 more years than Karakuri Roshi. Zazen is resiliency practice, you guys. It is, and it may not feel that way, especially at the end of the day of a retreat, or the second day, or mid-second day, or third day. It feels like it's very unresilient. It feels like you're just frozen, your body's frozen, your mind's frozen. But if you stay with that, if you just stay with it, with kind attention, not judging the movie, whatever the image is, not judging, it starts to melt. You see, it's all water. Then it freezes up again.


It freezes up again. Still for me, it freezes up again. But it's all water. It's all water. Suzuki sat in the Surrounded by the utter chaos, he was completely relaxed and seemed totally in his element. He was looking around, smiling, taking it all in. I think he was grooving on the whole thing. Finally, the last performer, the amazing blues singer Janis Joplin, took the stage. He gave it her all. Talk about shedding the fear of body. In front of a thousand people, she bared her heart Then it was time for Suzuki to say something to the crowd.


The auditorium grew silent as he crossed the microphone. When he spoke, his voice was calm and warm. At first, I think you're very different from ours. No, I think not so different. Not so different. The crowd roared. Janice imbibed the music, imbibed the music. It seemed to come from the ground of her being, but she didn't have a practice that But luckily, we have a practice. We have a practice to cultivate resiliency and return to our original still nature, where we let the water just take its different forms and just enjoy being in it.


Whatever the temperature, just enjoy being in it. So now one more, and then there'll be a little time, I think, for questions and comments. Well, first I want to say a little bit about this counterculture thing. So Suzuki, how many of you read Crooked Cucumber? Raise your hands. Oh, we've got a good Crooked Cucumber group now. Look, more Crooked Cucumber people here than any place like them. So, you remember, maybe, that Suzuki Hiroshi wanted to come to this country from the time he was a young man, when he was first at Dharma here. And he wanted to come because he had this tutor, this Miss Ransom, this British tutor, who she taught him English and he taught her Japanese. And she was very interested in Buddhism.


Now, she didn't sit with him, but she was very interested in every afternoon. She was disciplined in the way she did things. He thought, oh, I want to come to the culture where they have this discipline and where they have the aspiration that she seemed to have. She was modest. She was well regulated. And he didn't know. He didn't know. He thought US, Britain, you know, but he sure didn't know about San Francisco in the early 60s. Of course, when he came here in 59, maybe it wasn't much, but by the time I got Wow, it was unrestrained, it was undisciplined, it was immodest, it was unregulated. So, that was the counterculture that he... That's us, and that's why we're here. Somehow, there was a marriage between us.


Somehow, we valued his teaching enough so that we became more modest. We stayed out for a Zazen. We've quit smoking dope, or at least we've diminished it myself. I didn't talk to him about it. And here we are today, you guys. Because he had the resilience and the aspiration to be with us and to sit with us. And we believe that if we sat with him, we're naive, something wonderful would happen. And something wonderful has happened, it is happening. And it's always happening. We're pretty lucky, pretty lucky. So now I have one more portion from the epilogue that I want to read to you. This is from To Forget the Self is to Begin. looked at my shoes strewn by the door


I wasn't interested in my shoes. Zen was an opportunity to transcend the physical, to experience something beyond ordinary. I was often frustrated by Suzuki's reluctance to give us the real stuff. What did my shoes have to do with emptiness, with spaciousness? However, one of my teacher's favorite phrases What does that sound like? Very simple, very ordinary, don't you think? We stay connected to the world through what we do, not what we think.


It's important that we be fully engaged in our lives. Today, people frequently come into Doksan with me to talk about their ideas is, what are you going to do and how are you going to live? Life is so short for us as human beings. What are we going to do with our time here? When Ram Dass asked his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, how can I be enlightened in his first trip to India, Baba said, love people, feed people, love people. Later Ram Dass went to India a second time and asked, what's the best path to awakening?


Baba said, feed people, love people, feed people. So Ram Dass came back to this country, and if you know So he went back to India a third time after trying to help to establish a community which completely failed. He went back to Baba again and he asked, well, I've tried to do this, I've tried to follow your advice. So, to study the self is to forget the self. When we penetrate the small self, we move beyond it.


So we're not studying by thinking. We're watching a movie, you guys. Just kindly, just non-judgmentally, just patiently, we're watching a movie. When we penetrate the self, we move beyond it. Trust it. Shraddha or trust is the realization that in an interdependent universe all beings are completely nourished. And then to forget the self is to be intimate with all life. That's a blueprint for living. But don't worry about it in your head. Just do it and you'll experience it in your heart, in your heart of hearts. So that's what I want to say and that's probably a little


It's 11.17. Two questions. Okay, two questions. Time for two questions. Yes. I found it interesting that I've not heard that phrase in this mind yet. I guess no enlightened being, no enlightened being, just mind activity. It occurs to me that there's no being. Very good. Very good. All right. Second question. Yes. We've got this class with Sojin Roshi on the eight stages of, the eight levels of consciousness. It sounded like you were talking a lot about, particularly when you were talking about your younger days, the talking you Yeah, that's how you're doing it.


You're doing it. You're a shark boxer. Wow. And my question is about something that I discovered when I moved to California that a lot of people do around here, which we don't do so much in Britain, which is psychotherapy, where people sit and talk, talk a lot about, you know, if you thought that that was a healthy thing, or if that was indulging one's manners? Well, that's an interesting question. Could you guys hear him? Yeah. Yeah, that's a very good question. Now, you know, I'm prejudiced because I just retired as a psychologist. I kind of asked the wrong guy. But I did tell Mel that I limit my doksan to 30 minutes max, because in doksan, a lot of stuff. I want to help people come back to just this, to being with just this.


I want to encourage them. So I don't want to get into talking too much about their movies because then they get all revved up and get caught by the movie. But there is a place for therapy. And often my You know, because I think there's definitely a place for that. Because often, people get discouraged by the negativity of their movies, and get just caught by them, and they need a therapist to help them, sort of, sit, practice asana, so they can just be here, and talk with a therapist, lover or something. That's cool stuff, I'm just not going to do that as a Zen teacher. Does that make sense to you?


I appreciate it. I guess that's the second question. Alright, thank you.