Three Doors Of Liberation

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

AI Summary: 



So this morning, I'm going to talk about a subject, which is three subjects. The three subjects are really one subject, and the one subject is divided into three parts. So this is a Buddhist understanding what's called emptiness. We talk a lot about emptiness. We read a lot about emptiness. And so I hope it's not a boring subject for you. Can you hear me okay? I'm not on. I am though, I am on. Maybe I messed that up. We can hear you. Oh, okay. Everybody can? Low, very low. I can hardly hear you at all. What about that?


I see thumbs. That's better. Thank you. You're welcome. We'll get there. We're getting there. We're climbing up this hill, you know. Pretty soon we'll get to the subject. So Lisa called The three doors of liberation. How's that? I think it's okay. Thanks. The three doors of liberation are emptiness, signlessness, signless, and the wish-less. So we're very familiar with emptiness, but maybe not so familiar with sign-less and wish-less.


So I will start with emptiness, which is what the Prajnaparamita Sutra is all about. We say it's about emptiness, but it's also about form. I think we need to understand that the Sutra is not just about emptiness, it's about form. It's about the emptiness of form, and about the form of emptiness. So we use this term emptiness, and the problem with the term emptiness is that it means so many other things. So we have to focus on, when we're talking about emptiness, what we really mean by emptiness. because we can mean a lot of different things. Actually, in Buddha Dharma, there are 20 meanings for the term emptiness, but they're all related. So, in order to easily, easily identify what we mean in the Dharma, it means interdependence, right?


all created dharmas, or things, are empty of their own inherent existence. In other words, we're all dependent. There's nothing in this world that is not dependent on everything else. Right? Okay. So that's pretty easy. The problem is, how do we practice this? Is it just a theory? Is it just something that we chant every day? How do we actually practice emptiness? Do we want to practice emptiness? Is it worth practicing emptiness? So you can practice emptiness right here, right now. We understand it. And we don't understand it.


So emptiness is a big koan for us. Form is a big koan for us. What is form? What are forms, basically? I said emptiness is the emptiness of. What are forms? So forms being emptiness, means that all forms are interdependent with all other forms. That's why there's no special self. So when we understand this and can practice it, it is a form of liberation because we are trapped. We're trapped in our bodies. We're trapped in our circumstances. I don't want to say trapped, We are contained within, and those containers can either be a trap for suffering or a doorway to liberation.


It just depends on our understanding and how we actually deal with the circumstances of our life. So this is all, of course, connected with what we call karma. So if our actions are directed toward liberation, that's what we find. If our actions are directed toward confinement, then that's what we find. We put ourselves in jail, actually. You know, people are really caught, no matter what their circumstances are. Suzuki Roshi, I remember, always said, don't get caught by anything. What is our practice? Don't get caught by anything. But we get caught by desire, delusions. So emptiness is a doorway to liberation.


And it is a doorway to liberation if we practice it. This morning, when I was setting zazen, you were all lucky because you were sitting in the quietness of your home. I was sitting in the dokusan hat, and around the end of the first period, someone started a construction party in our over the side of the fence, on the other side of the fence. And then I was thinking about, my first reaction was, oh my God, is this going to go on all day? I mean, it was really loud, everybody shouting and digging with shovels, and it was quite an interesting situation. And I said, well, I'm not going to get up. I'm just going to sit here and


to see what happens. My first thought was of how I save myself. Should I get up or not? But no, I just sat there. And it was a little bit annoying. If I didn't like it, it was annoying. If I didn't care whether I liked it or not, it was a lot easier. Not that I liked it, but I was able to Instead of trying to escape from it, to go right into it. This is how we find our freedom. There's no escape. The only escape is to be one with something. Because as long as we're only involved in our dualistic thinking, as long as we are involved in our dualistic thinking, there's no escape. The only escape is to be one with everything.


So I didn't try to be one. I wasn't gonna be a hero. It's just, I found myself not worrying about it. Even though it was pounding in my head, I just didn't worry about it. And so I thought, this is what I'm gonna talk about today. One of the things, how to find my freedom within an impossible situation. So, how do we see ourselves free from, how do we practice free from desire, desiring too much, and self-pity.


We're full of self-pity. Oh me, oh my. Which brings us into the other two aspects, which are the and the wishlist. You know, we see indirectly. Most of the time we see indirectly. We don't, when I say see, means we see through signs. We invent words to stand for something. And we, words and concepts and ideas to stand for something. So then we name something. Russell Street. I'm on Russell Street. That's not untrue, but it limits my understanding.


We have to limit our understanding in order to do anything. You know, if we don't have signs, if we don't have representations, it's really hard to move around with each other. So, signs are representations. They are little posters, or big posters, that we invent in order to move with each other. to move rubbish. Yeah, it's on Russell Street. Oh yeah, I know where that is. So we need those things. We need signs. But the signs are representations, and our thinking is representational. So I don't want to say we're trapped in our mind, even though we are.


But we need that kind of confinement and differentiation, right? It's important. but it's still a veil. It's a veil because we design our life to conform to the signs. And then we live in a life of signatures instead of breaking through to directly understanding or directly touching. So there are, in consciousness, there are three aspects. One is directly touching. This is called intuition, by the way. Intuition, directly touching without having to go through the machinery of thinking.


It's just, there it is, period. And then, that's a doorway of liberation. See, we cling to the signs as our real life. And we don't want, that's the problem we have with birth and death. We don't wanna die to the signs. And as soon as the signs are taken away, we feel jittery, right, because we depend on them. So instead of depending on our intuition or our directly touching, like animals do, we depend on the signs that we agree on as reality. We all agree on these things. This is our, America, we agree on, and disagree, of course, but everybody has some idea, you know, about how our society should act according to the signs.


Lao Tzu, I think, you know, Lao Tzu very wise, saying, you know, before there was, There were rules and regulations, everybody adapted to life perfectly. Something like that. I'm looking at the cat. So, here are some, well, so there's directly saying, That's intuition. That's freedom. The next sign, the next level of consciousness is where we start to think, and we think


The thinking is there, and it's discursive, but it's simple. And then the third level of consciousness is where you elaborate on the thinking. That's my understanding. All three are necessary. But if we lose, or are not aware of the first level, which is intuition, we're still living in a world of signs. So here are four signs that the Buddhists pay close attention to. The first sign, is I have a self.


The second sign, I am a person. The third sign, I am a living being. The fourth sign is I have a lifespan that goes from my birthday, first one, to the last one, to the end. That expanse, that's the fourth sign. So we say, when we realize the non-self or the non-self, that's the doorway to liberation. We're liberated from our self. But we don't want to be eliminated from, we don't want to be alienated from our self. But we have to accept that fact. That's why it's so hard to die. When you realize that you are connected with everything and that you are not a separate entity, it's not so hard to die.


But we hang on. And those things that we can't handle, we just suffer with. That's why this is called the life of suffering, the world of suffering. And Buddha says, I only teach you how to deal with suffering. That's my message. So that's why we talk about these things. And of course, we hear this all the time, right? Until we're sick of it, there's no self, no self, no self. That's true. And we're, you know, sick of it because we can't do anything about it, but we can. We can do something about it. And then the idea of a person, meaning separate person. Our separation is necessary, otherwise we couldn't walk around, right?


Eat and do all the things that we do. So it's necessary to realize that we have a self. It's necessary to realize that we are a person. It's necessary to realize that we have a lifespan, right? Except that these are all signatures. They're all signs. They're not truly true reality. They're secondary reality. They're not primary reality. So there's secondary reality and primary reality. So nirvana is reached when we're no longer fooled by signs. So we keep making more and more signs.


And keep, you know, struggling and struggling to make life more complex. We think that we're doing a great job making life more complex. Do you remember when the pandemic first started? Everybody's rushing around like crazy without realizing that that's what we're doing. We kind of know that, but then the pandemic and then boom. Everybody took a big breath. The first month was great, because we were all just, you know, you couldn't do anything. And it wasn't our fault, maybe. But then, you know, we're trying to make things work better, and we have to be very careful that we don't keep making ourselves more complicated, our life more and more complicated.


This was a great treasure, this pause in our life. The skies cleared up, the water became less poisonous, everything was getting better. And we kind of realized that, some people, but everybody's still worrying. The main thing is, that there is something called a lifespan. Yeah, I don't know. But it's not a true lifespan. It's just a lifespan for this particular world at this particular time, which concerns you and me. Because everybody goes through this. Nobody escapes. And I don't like people talking when I'm talking. Anyway. I take it. So the third one is called wishlist.


You see how these are all connected. Wishlist means letting go and being able to appreciate everything around us. letting go and being able to appreciate everything around it just as it is, to accept myself just as I am. This is called virtue. It's like everyone has their own virtue, which is not the same as value. Value is comparison, right? So we stop comparing ourselves to other things. One of the driving factors in our life is that we're always comparing ourselves to other things. And the energy that's generated, we like to think of as progress, competition.


But wishlessness is beyond competition. It's actually called nirvana. Just dropping. Just letting now be now. Just letting this be this. So we live in our dream. It's like letting go of the dream. And that's scary. Because we depend on the dream. If we didn't have the dream, what would we do? We just have to go find another dream. Dreams are important, absolutely. Dreams are important. To have something, a goal, is important, absolutely. But to find your freedom within the goal, which is beyond our wishes,


So it's also characterized by not running after things. Often I walk at night, I walk the streets. Believe it or not. Every night I walk the streets with my dog. And I come across all kinds of stuff on the corners. All kinds of stuff. I would like to take that home. Gee, that's such a nice chair. I did find a chair, a really good chair the other night. And so I took it home. But I often bring things home. And Liz, my wife, said, why'd you bring that home? Why did I bring that home? At the time, it looked really good. Like something I really needed. But I bring all these useless things home. So I'm very conscious and aware, you know, how I should control my wishes.


And believe it or not, after 91 years, I realized that if you follow what you want, that's what you get. So you have to be very careful. Problem in our society, our society, is that there's so much just being pushed on us. And everyone has a better one than the next one. And so we're very confused. I remember when I sent my son Daniel, my son Daniel went to To college, he roomed with four or five other students, and one of them was very wealthy.


Actually, the guy who owned the house, his father, his parents were very wealthy. So, he opened the garage door, and there's a motorboat, and a bicycle, and a motorcycle, and everything you can possibly think of that would please a kid. And the kid was so miserable. He was really miserable. There's all this stuff that you use it for a little while and then go to the next one for a little while. There's nothing basic about his life. So these three characteristics are actually how you bring peace into the world. The world depends on these three characteristics. Understanding the empty nature of all things, beings.


The interdependent nature of all beings. getting beyond signs so we can touch directly the reality. And that we're not fooled by literature, not fooled by signs, not fooled by ideas, but getting our juice directly from the source. So easy to fool people. Mr. Trump is out there with 25,000 lies, which are all signs that we're supposed to believe. Can you imagine that? And people, what are they thinking? Anyway, I'm not going into politics. I'm just using that as an illustration. And then, Tony Downey, a wish list.


and being able to appreciate what we already have. So that's why we practice Zazen. I'm an advocate for Zazen. That's why we're sitting here with nothing. We have nothing. And when you can actually deeply understand that, you don't have any suffering. So this is a plain-chain Buddhism. Don't cause yourself a lot of problems. And, you know, in Zazen, we let go, we offer ourself to emptiness and to signlessness and to


A wishlessness. We don't canker after anything. We let go of all the verbiage and all the signs and simply give ourselves to reality, which is emptiness. Our form. Enjoying our forms, even if we're not well. You can do that. I have a little poem here by Thich Nhat Hanh. So he says, waking up this morning, I smile.


24 brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully on each moment and to look at things, look at all things with the eyes of love. Four lines. Very simple, very direct, and very true. That's all you need. And that's our thought, just before we sit zazen the first thing in the morning. And then we sit, we let go of all that, and then we get back up, we take it out. So the doorways of liberation are nirvana.


Dropping everything, wishing just for the well-being of all beings is enough. That's nirvana. You know, because we're people with busy minds and busy bodies. We're busy bodies and busy minds. And so we need something for our busy bodies and our busy minds to do. But our busy bodies and our busy minds can just practice nirvana, emptiness, and form. The forms of emptiness and emptiness of forms are the most important thing in our life. So prajnaparamita is not to be studied.


It is to be studied, but it's actually to be practiced. If you only study it, there's something missing. So when we practice it, it's helpful to study it as well. Because although we directly touch, it's also important to share our understanding with the ancestors. What did they say about this? How did they approach it? How do they understand it? And all that comes down to us, to help us to practice. So study and practice, but study the right things. so that you stay on the right track and feel right. Well, and to feel right.


So I can't say that I'm a great advocate, you know, I'm pretty good, but, or an example, I'm okay. I just do what I do. And I try real hard to stay on track. One of the things that I'm a little concerned about, I don't know if it's correct or not, but I worry about our practice falling to pieces. Not falling to, I don't think our practice will fall to pieces, but I'm a little concerned that because there's no, The only thing that's keeping us together is our memory of practice together. There are other things that keep us together, too. We all have really sincere practice, but I'm worried that we will lay back too much because there's nobody pushing us, nobody propping us up.


And I'm concerned that we will just take it easy, you know. I think to a certain extent it's good because we're recovering from the pandemic, before the pandemic. The pandemic, before the pandemic, is being pushed around by our desires. That was a real pandemic. Killed a lot of people. It made a lot of people sick. Now we're kind of healing, even though we're in the midst of this terrible pandemic and sickness. Everything appears with its opposite. If we understand that everything appears with its opposite, we won't worry too much. This too will pass. And its opposite will appear as the dominant. And then that too will pass, and its opposite will appear as the dominant.


That's the way it is. One thing follows the other. Like the cart follows the horse. The cart and the horse. You may not, the cart doesn't work without the horse. And the horse, of course, Carry yourselves a baggage. So wasn't it great to not have any baggage for a month? I mean, you didn't have to go hiking or camping or anything like that. Just free. So we had our freedom for about a month and now it's coming back. How can we trap ourselves more? Be careful. Do you have a question? If anybody has some kind of burning question or something.


Where are we? Oh, Ross. Kika. Hi. So I'm sharing now Ross's computer. Up, up, up, up, up. If anyone would like to ask a question at this point, I see some hands already going up, but I will explain. You just go down to the participants at the bottom of your screen, open that up, and then a blue box will appear and it says raise hand. So you can just click that area. If you want to type your question in, type it and send it to Ross, who's the co-host, so that I can see that and he and I can manage that together. And unfortunately, with just one computer, we probably won't see your human hand. I'm so sorry. So either type your question or raise your blue hand. Ellen, you are now ready to ask a question.


Please lower your hand. Lower my hand? OK. You want me to lower my hand? OK. I'll take care of it. OK. OK. I'm going to ask my question, even though I can't see Sotin yet. So I also really noticed that month after we were all kind of locked down and many, many people I know spoke to me about how wonderful it was to suddenly, you know, stop or pause. And I'm curious, you know, what the enticement of busyness is. What is it that, you know, draws people, even though they were so clear about how great it was to not be busy. They were drawn into being busy, and I think they wanted to be drawn into it, and I'm just so curious about that. Yeah. I remember when, back in 2000 or something like that, when we had the earthquake and the Bay Bridge lost its roadway.


Remember that? Mm-hmm. everybody had to go to, unless they drove all the way around, they had to go by ferry. And I used to take the ferry. I was abbot at San Francisco Zen Center at the time. I would ride my bike down to the ferry, Berkeley Ferry, and then put my bike on the ferry, and it was the most wonderful trip across the bay. All these ships, and the water, and the birds, and it's like a whole different world of refreshment. That was the most refreshing thing that happened to me in years. And I would do that three or four times a week, and then ride my bike up Market Street to the Zen Center. And as soon as the bridge became repaired, everybody, Went back to the bridge, which was smoky and traffic-y and, you know, stop and go.


And we tried to get, you know, stay, have that ferry stay open, but all the ridership disappeared into hell. They exchanged heaven for hell, so to speak. So what's the appeal of that? What is it? I mean, I know some people need to move faster, but during this time, people really wanted to. Well, yes. So the problem is you have to go to work. Sorry. That's the way it is. Part of our interdependent life is that everybody has to work so that everybody can stay. eat, and so forth. So that's what we're working with right now. There's nothing for people to do, so many people to do.


And they have to start doing something. So that's the other side. Well, that is the other side, and I really honor that. But I'm talking about people who are, you know, not working for one reason or another, and still they're drawn toward, you know, just accelerating their lives. It's because they're used to it. We just depend on what we're used to. It's hard to switch from depending on what we're used to to letting go. It's not easy. It is not easy. Nevertheless, that's the road. But it's the road less taken. That's all. Okay. Sojin, Blake has a question. When you correct someone's posture in the Zendo, how is this done wishlessly?


You see a need and you respond to it. Okay. Karen Sondheim, you're next. Please ask your question. Thank you, Sojin. Last week, last Saturday, you said, thinking is imagination. Can you talk a little more about that, please? Yes. Yeah, well, imagination is creating images, right? Yes. So you were always creating images. That's called signs. We create the image to represent the thing. So representations are called signs. They are the imaginative representation of the actual.


All of our It's really hard to separate what is directly touching and what is imagination. It's not always easy to separate this. It's a wavy line. It's not a fine line. When you go to the beach and you run into the ocean and that cold water hits you, that's directly touching. That's just one example. You're dreaming about the beach. I remember when I was a kid, you know, we used to drive to Venice Beach from Hollywood. I was about six or five or something. And as soon as we get down to where the beach was, I was just, my imagination was just going like crazy. When will we get to that place where there's a V, which is where the road hits the beach?


There's the beach. I can smell the salt water. I can smell the salt water two miles away. That's directly touching. Being outdoors is really good for people. Does the dualistic trap that we live in, does that begin with thought? Yes. Yes. This thought is discrimination. And discrimination is... You can go in and sit in your chair and then I'm gonna come help you, okay? Help me wipe your back off. Whatever you want to do. There you go. Okay. Whatever you do, I trust you. Thank you. I didn't hear the answer to my question because... I know, I'm still working on your question. Oh, thank you. Thank you. Oh, yeah. It's a little bump. Don't worry about it. Don't get mad.


I'm not. So thinking, anything you say is discriminative. We can't help ourselves unless we do, unless we're conscious of what we're doing because it's very easy to fall into discriminative thinking. That's why we have koans. The koans that we study are about non-discrimination. And about the discrimination of non-discrimination and the non-discrimination of discrimination. That may sound garbled, but it's the truth. Because everything, every time we open our mouth, we're talking, we're separating ourselves. So thinking, we can think, We don't have to speak, we're thinking discriminatively and acting discriminatively, but it's necessary.


It's necessary to act, we're discriminating constantly. There's not a moment when we're not discriminating. I decide to do this rather than I do that, right? So discrimination is important, but because our mind is always discriminating, we don't pay attention to the non-discrimination which is directly touching the truth because there's no division. So there's the secondary truth and the primary truth. The secondary truth is discriminating truth. The non-discriminating truth is when we're not thinking or when we're thinking non-discriminatively Which is difficult. That's why, does the dog have the buddha nature? No. Well, I thought the dog had buddha nature. No. Then, Joshu asked another monk, does the dog have buddha nature?


People have buddha nature. He says, of course. Which is true. That's why it's a koan. Do you exist as a person? Well, yeah. Joshi would say, no. And then ask him again, he'd say, well, of course. So what is it? Is it yes or is it no? Do you exist as a person or don't you? It's both and. Where does history or the past moment meet the next moment? in a universe where everything is changing without stopping. If there's no stopping, how can one thing meet another?


It's all just one whirling ball. It never stops. Except that it's perfectly still at the same time. That's why when we drop our wishlessness, which is discriminating, we enter the realm of nirvana. Just to drop our discriminating mind, and it's all one. That's why we said sadhana. Just to stop our discriminating mind. I mean, stop, meaning don't pick things up, don't get caught by anything. We live in the whirling ball of everything, of chaos, within order, an order within chaos.


You can't have one without the other. You can't, that's our song, should be our song. You can't have one without the other. Sorry, it's the way it is. Change it if you can. Thank you so much. You're welcome.