Unknown Date, Serial 00379, Side B

Audio loading...

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

AI Summary: 



Two talks on tape - Side B unidentified female speaker


Well, we've come here on this very beautiful day to sit seshin, most of us, to sit zazen from about five in the morning till nine at night. And why are we doing that? We're doing that, we're sitting all this time, we're sitting in order to know ourselves better. because during the week, during our ordinary lives, we go through one activity to another to another, and we're involved with the activities. But Seshin gives us a chance to just sit. And Seshin gives us a chance to just sit in quiet and to really look at who we are. As we do this, there are two parts in a certain way to discovering who we are.


There are two different ways in which our effort works. One is that we have to be very alert and make a great deal of effort. We have to investigate the dharmas. We have to sit and watch what comes up, be very alert, and notice, and let go, to make a big effort. You know, our minds are like an enormous, an enormous animal, and that animal just wants to go its own way. It's very used to going its own way. It mostly does go its own way. And so we come here, and we're quiet, and we have this experience of this enormous animal that's always wanting to go its own way. And we're always having to pull it back, pull it back, pull it back.


It's huge work. And on the other hand, there's something very simple about what we're doing. Something very simple and very quiet. In a real way, we're just doing nothing. Exactly nothing. We're just here. Just with every bird chirp as it sounds, and just with the breeze when we feel it on our skin. We're making no effort at all. We're just receiving. We're just being. So we talk about these two sides of our effort, the quiet side and the active side.


And of course, neither one could exist without the other. And we're always in a condition, as we said, of balancing ourselves and matching the moment in a way that we need to match it, trying to match it in just the right way, whatever that way is. So I wanted to read today from two different books both of which I'm quite fond of and are very different. And the first reading is from the Lotus Sutra. It's a parable from the Lotus Sutra. And actually, it's a story about Zazen, a story about


how we sit, because we have some kind of faith in what we're doing for some reason, how we sit, and we know we have a connection with that, and how we get lost, and how from somewhere there comes some recognition of our being lost, and from somewhere there comes some kind of instruction, and little by little we do the skillful work that it takes to regain our balance again. So, this story is a parable, and it's a little bit long, but I'm just going to read it. And it comes in the fourth chapter, which is called Faith Discernment. discernment resulting from faith, or discernment by faith, that's the subject of the story.


So we come here with some kind of faith that our boundaries are much bigger than we think they are, that we are much larger than it seems that we are day by day. We come with some faith And in the midst of that faith, we find out more. So, the Lotus Sutra was one of the early Mahayana sutras. And the setting of this chapter is that Buddha was talking to the Sravakas. And the Sravakas, these very... these monks who had reached a great deal of attainment in their practice, had nevertheless become weary. We are weary in our bodies and neglectful, only thinking of the void, the formless, and of non-function. But as Buddha has arrived, they suddenly cheer up and feel a kind of unexpected joy, which they hadn't had.


We have not conceived a single fond thought of joy, but now we, in the presence of the Buddha, hearing perfect enlightenment predicted, are extremely glad in our minds and have obtained that which we have never experienced before. Profoundly do we congratulate ourselves on having acquired so great and good a gain, an inestimable jewel, without seeking. O world-honored one, now let us have the pleasure of speaking in a parable to make plain this meaning. So, this is the parable that Buddha gives. It is like a man who, in his youth, leaves his father and runs away. For long, he dwells in some other country for 10, 20, or 50 years. The older he grows, the more needy he becomes. Roaming about in all directions to seek clothing and food, he gradually wanders along until he unexpectedly approaches his native country.


From the first, the father searched for his son, but in vain, and meanwhile settled in a certain city. His home became very rich, his goods and treasures incalculable, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, and other gems, so that his granaries and treasuries overflow. He has many youths and slaves, retainers and attendants, horses, carriages, animals to ride, cows and sheep. His revenues and investments spread to other countries, and his traders and customers are many in the extreme. At this time, the poor son, wandering through village after village, passing through countries and cities, at last reaches the city where his father has settled. The father has always been thinking of his son, and though he has been parted from him for over 50 years, he has never spoken of the matter to anyone, only pondering over it himself and cherishing regret in his heart as he reflects.


Old and worn, I owe much wealth. I own much wealth, gold, silvers, jewelries, granaries and treasures, but I have no son. Someday my end will come and my wealth will be scattered and lost, for there is no one to whom I can leave it. Thus does he earnestly, whenever he thinks of his son, repeat this reflection. If I could only get back my son and commit my wealth to him, how contented and happy should I be. World-honored one, meanwhile the poor son, hired for wages here and there, unexpectedly arrives to his father's house. Standing by the gate, he sees from far his father seated on a lion couch, his feet on jeweled footstools, revered and surrounded by brahmins, and with strings of pearls worth thousands adorning his bodies. Perfume is sprinkled in the earth. All kinds of famous flowers are scattered about. The poor son, seeing his father possessed of great power, was seized with fear, regretting that he had come to this place, and secretly reflected thus, This must be a king or someone of royal rank.


It is no place for me to obtain anything for the hire of my labor. I had better go to some poor hamlet where there is a place for letting out my labor, and food and clothing are easier to get. If I tarry here long, I may suffer oppression and forced labor. Having reflected thus, he hastily runs away. Meanwhile, the rich elder on his lion's seat has recognized his son at first sight, and with great joy in his mind has thus reflected, Now I have the one to whom my treasuries of wealth are to be made over. Always I have been thinking of this, my son, with no means of seeing him, but suddenly he himself has come, and my longing is satisfied. Though worn with years, I still yearn for him. Instantly he dispatches his attendants to rush after and fetch him back. Thereupon the messengers hasten forth to seize him. The poor son, surprised and scared, loudly cries his complaints. I have committed no offense against you.


Why should I be arrested? The messengers all the more hasten to lay hold of him and compel him to go back. Thereupon the poor son thinks in himself that though he is innocent, yet he will be imprisoned and will certainly mean his death. So he is all the more terrified and faints away and falls in the ground. The father, seeing this from afar, orders the messengers his word. There is no need for this man. Do not fetch him by force. Sprinkle cold water on his face to restore him to consciousness and do not speak to him any further. Wherefore, the father, knowing that his son's disposition is inferior, knowing that his own lordly position has caused distress to his son, yet profoundly assured that he is his son, tactfully says nothing to others that it is his son. A messenger now says, I will set you free. Go wherever you will. The poor son is delighted, thus obtaining the unexpected.


He rises from the ground and goes to a poor hamlet in search of food and clothing. Then the elder, desiring to attract his son, sets up a device. Skillfully, he sends two men of doleful and undignified appearance, saying, you go and visit that place, and gently say to the poor man, there is a place for you to work here. You will be given double wages. If the poor man agrees, bring him back and give him work. If he asks what work do you wish him to do, then say to him, it is for removing a heap of dirt that we hire you. and we both also would work along with you. Then the two messengers went in search of the poor son, and having found him, placed before him the above proposal, whereupon the poor son, receiving his wages beforehand, joins with them in removing the dirt heap. His father, beholding the son, is struck with compassion for and wonder at him. Another day he sees at a distance through a window his son's figure, gaunt and lean and doleful, filthy and unclean by the piles of dirt and dust.


And thereupon he takes off his strings of jewels, his soft attire and ornaments, and puts on again a coarse, torn, and dirty garment, smears his body with dust, takes a dustpan in his right hand, and with an appearance of fear says to the laborers, get on with your work, don't be lazy. By such a device, he gets near to his son, whom he soon afterwards says, I, man, you stay here and work here. Do not go again elsewhere. I will increase your wages, whatever you need. Bowls, utensils, rice, wheat flour, salt and vinegar, and so on. Have no hesitation. Besides, there is an old and worn-out servant whom you shall be given if you need him. Be at ease in your mind. I am, as it were, your father. Do not be worried again. Wherefore? I am old and advanced in years, but you are young and vigorous. All the time you have been working you have never been deceitful, lazy, angry, or grumbling. I have never seen you have such vices as like the other laborers.


From this time forth you shall be as my own begotten son." Whereupon the elder anew gives him a name and calls him a son. Then the poor son, though he rejoices at this happening, still thinks of himself as a humbled hiring. humble hireling. For this reason, during 20 years, he continues to be employed for removing dirt. After this period, there is mutual confidence between them, and he goes in and out at his ease, though his abode is still the original place. O World Honored One, Then the elder becomes ill, and knowing that he will shortly die, says to the poor son, now I possess abundant gold, silver, and precious things, and my granaries and treasuries are full to overflowing. The quantities of these things and the amount which should be received and given, I want you to understand in detail, such is my mind. Do you agree to this?


Do you agree to this my will? Wherefore, because I and you are of the same mind, be increasingly mindful so that there be no waste." Then the poor son accepts his instruction and commands and becomes acquainted with all the goods, gold and silver, precious things, as well as the granaries and treasuries, but has no idea of expecting to receive as much as a meal. while his abode is still the original place, and his sense of inferiority, too, is still unable to abandon. After a short time has passed again, the father, knowing that his son's ideas have gradually been enlarged, his will well-developed, and that he despises his previous state of mind, on seeing that his own end is near, commands his son to come, and at the same time gathers together his relatives and the kings and ministers and citizens. When they are all assembled, he thereupon addresses them, saying, No, gentlemen, this is my son begotten by me.


It is over fifty years since from a certain city he left me and ran away to endure loneliness and misery. His former name was so-and-so, and my name is so-and-so. And at that time, in that city, I sought him sorrowfully. Suddenly, in this place, I met and regained him. This is really my son, and I am really his father. Now all the wealth which I possess entirely belongs to my son, and all my previous disbursements and receipts are known by this son. World-honored one. When the poor son heard these words of his father, great was his joy at such unexpected news. And thus he thought, without any mind for, or effort on my part, these treasures now come of themselves to me. So, this is a story of skillful means.


And skillful means was one of the most surprising teachings that this Lotus Sutra brought. And where do the skillful means come from? As we sit Zazen here, where are the skillful means? And where is our teacher? And what is our Zazen? And what is this process, this work that we're doing? The sun had to shovel dirt for 20 years. And we probably, we need to shovel dirt for our lifetime.


Shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. And as we sit here, we're quiet and our difficulties arise and our teachings come with them. And our Zazen is our very skillful teacher. Our Zazen is always very gently and never too much and very persistently showing us what we need to do next. And showing us in a very loving way. If we get the message, there's a certain kind of comfort and gratitude that arrives.


And if we don't get the message, and we hurt. So we're always being pushed a little bit all the time. So as we're looking for our balance, as we're looking for this place where we belong, we're always having to sort through the dirt and sort through what's extra and so we're quiet and something comes and often we can let go of it and we're quiet and our bodies are straight and we get some kind of pain some kind of discomfort and we accept it and we see what happens And we're always trying to use this discomfort, this suffering, which comes persistently.


We're trying to use it well. We're trying to suffer well. We're trying to do a good job with the dirt. So that when some mental formulation comes, some problem that we're having, when that comes, we don't reject it, we let it go, and if it comes back again right away, we accept it, and we accept it again and again and again and again. And we try to accept it wholly, so that we're feeling it, in our bodies and feeling it in our hearts. So it's not just the mental dialogue that goes on in our heads, but we're trying to see the whole thing and to feel the whole thing and to appreciate the whole thing.


And this is our shoveling dirt. And there's always, the fit is exact. The fit between what comes and what we need to see. No matter how long or how little we've practiced. And the problems change somewhat. At the beginning, instead of first session, and it's often very difficult, Very difficult. A lot of trouble in body. A lot of difficulty in relaxing into it. And then we sit. We sit for months and years and many sessions.


And then there's a new set of problems. And we may get to the point where we can sit fairly comfortably in our bodies and even sit fairly comfortably in our minds. And then we begin to have all the concerns about what other people are doing. And should we do this? Should they do that? And we begin more to appreciate sitting together and sitting in the midst of Sangha. And become more grateful for that and also more troubled by it as we become more engaged in it. And so, sometimes it's just very difficult to be in session and accept


your part but you're playing in it and just say yes to what comes. And sometimes that can become the focus of our practice. So the teaching comes from many sides, many forms. Very easy to slip into a kind of dullness, where we're sitting out of habit, just sitting out of habit. And then, miraculously, something comes up, and we remember, and we're mindful again. And as we continually make the effort of noticing what comes up, and listening to it, and appreciating it, and letting it go, as we continually make that effort, gradually we settle down some, and the dirt settles down more in the bottom of the glass.


And we're quieter. And we have a clearer sense of our connection, our big connection. Like the sense that the son and the father had of each other before they got lost. or the sense of the sound that's always there, one hand clapping. And the sense of ourself, our big self that's been there since before our parents were born. That this big connection becomes more clear. And we keep getting a sense of the big connection all the time we sit, all the time this effort.


We also have this faith. And get little messages that are encouraging. Can't just say from where or how. The messages just come. as we're able to sit with our breathing and with our bodies and appreciate our experience in a wider way. So the next thing I want to read is from a book called The Cloud of Unknowing. And it was written by, it's anonymous. It was written by a Christian monk, probably, in the 14th century, about 100 years after Dogen wrote.


And the cloud of unknowing is what this writer calls the privation of knowledge, the dropping off of knowledge. As we sit and as we have done some of the shoveling of dirt, some of the big effort and the constant effort, we get to be quieter. and our minds get to be quieter. And we can begin to use our desire and use our longing in a different way. We can begin to use them in perhaps what might be called just exactly the right direction or be able to use them to use our desire without an object. We'll have to keep that sense we have of belonging somewhere, belonging somewhere, where, where, to keep that question very alive in our hearts and to use it.


So the author talks about this little exercise, as he calls it, this little exercise of how to how to be quiet. By now you put me a question and say, how might I think of him in myself and what is he? And to this I can only answer, I have no idea. But with your question, you have brought me into that darkness, into that same cloud of unknowing where I would you were yourself. For a man may, by grace, have the fullness of knowledge of all other creatures and their works, yes, and of the works of God's own self, and he is well able to reflect on them. But no man can think of God himself. Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think.


because he can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love, but not by thought. Therefore, though it is good at times to think of the kindness and worthiness of God in particular, and though this is a light and a part of contemplation, nevertheless, in this exercise, it must be cast down and covered over with a cloud of forgetting. You are to step above it, stalwartly but lovingly, and with a devout, pleasing, impulsive love, strive to pierce that darkness above you. You are to smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love. Do not leave that work for anything that may happen. Therefore, when you set yourself to this exercise and experience by the grace that you are called by God to it, then lift up your heart to God by a humble impulse of love and mean the God who made you and ransomed you and has in his grace called you to this exercise.


Have no other thought of God, not even any of these thoughts, unless it should please you. For a simple reaching out directly toward God is sufficient without any other cause except Himself. If you like, you can have this reaching out wrapped up and enfolded in a single word so as to have a better grasp of it. Take just a little word of one syllable rather than of two, for the shorter it is, the better. It is in agreement with this exercise of the Spirit. Such a one is the word God or the word love. Choose which one you prefer. or any other according to your liking, the word of one syllable that you like the best. Fasten this word to your heart so that whatever happens, it will never go away. This word is to be your shield and your spear, whether you are riding in peace or in war. With this word, you are to beat upon this cloud and this darkness above you.


With this word, you are to strike down every kind of thought upon the cloud of forgetting. so that if any thought should press upon you and ask you what you would have, answer it with no other word but with this one. If the thought should offer you, out of its great learning, to analyze the word for you and tell you its meanings, say to that thought that you want to keep it whole and not taken apart or unfastened. If you will hold fast to this purpose, you may be sure that the thought will not stay for very long. And why? because you will not allow it to feed itself on the sort of sweet meditation that we have mentioned before. So this is a nice description of just being and the gratitude that comes with a sense of the right connection


as well as the use of mantra, the use of a word, one word. Sometimes we use the word mu. Sometimes we don't, we use a word, sometimes we just use breath. But it's our intention to try when we have a moment of silence, of real silence, to appreciate it in this way, and not disturb it, and just to meet it face to face, and to keep our intention with a word, with a mantra, with our breath, to keep this very subtle balance And if other things come, if the hindrances, if the distractions come, just kind of look over their shoulder and keep the word, and keep the breath, and keep this sense of face-to-face presence.


And as the day goes on, you may be able to do that once in a while. like paddling the stern of a canoe, steering it. You don't have to do much. You just keep the paddle in the water and you know where you're going. Just little turns of the paddle keeps the canoe headed right. And we're well-balanced, well-aligned, using this desire that we have, and knowing exactly where we are, and feeling in our heart where we want to go. And so we feel a kind of sense of refreshment and ease.


And then the teaching begins again in another direction. And the hindrances come again. And we take up our shovel and we begin shoveling, shoveling. And so gradually there's a kind of drawing together of the two sides of effort. And as we shovel and shovel the dirt and work on the hindrances and accept them, the hindrances are not, they become less big and the eye with which we see them becomes steadier. And as the eye, the observing eye, with which we see them, comes steadier, it's open more.


And we are open more. And then the bell rings a little bit quicker than we thought it would. And the period's over. And as Thich Nhat Hanh says, we really begin to enjoy our breathing. And enjoyment just comes. And appreciation just comes. So in this nice day, let's be aware of this. Let's do the work we have to do. And do it with some confidence and some joy. and very persistently and very thoroughly. And have some confidence that no matter what is coming and what teaching is coming towards us, that we're in the right place.


And be grateful for that. Because in fact, we're all very fortunate to have this practice. It's the most fortunate thing that could happen.