Septober 2022 Sesshin, Day 1: Zen Master Foyan from Instant Zen: Waking Up In the Present (trans. by Thomas Cleary)
2:20PM Oct 12, 2022
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
This is the first day of this September October. We call it the Septober. It's the first day of this September, Septober 2022, seven day sesshin. And we'll be reading from one of my favorite texts for sesshin, which is a book called an Instant Zen. Waking up in the Present, it's it's the teachings of Zen Master Foyan.
For a really get into this, I'm learning that there are people who in our Sangha who've read the Sangha email that went out last week about this being my last full year in Rochester, people who have read that who haven't heard the teisho that followed a couple of days later. And I really, I really implore you to hear the teisho there's so much more in the teisho than in that letter, the letter just just gives the bare bones of the matter. And I put so much work into that teisho filling out out and taking on all different kinds of aspects of this big change. And then talking of course about after So Shane says she's not a time to talk about you know, next month or next week or tomorrow. So she is we're going to be present in sesshin. But whatever if there are any, any kind of discomfort you feel. See if you can park that and tell you if you heard the teisho Let's start by reading a little biographical material about FOIA and this is from good old Andy Ferguson's Zen's Chinese heritage, the Masters in their teachings. And these are the masters in this book are all so all biographical information about the Tang Dynasty and Sung Dynasty masters for Yan is a Song Dynasty Song Dynasty began in roughly 1000, the year 1004 yawns Floriane live from the 11th to 12th century he was a disciple of Wu Tzu. And he says here and in Andy Ferguson's introduction, that that for Yan is one of the three illustrious students of Wu Tzu, who are known as the three Buddhas. I won't go off into who these other three were, I actually have barely heard of any of them, but each one of them has the their big name begins with fo fo, which it says in the footnote, means Buddha for young. At the young age of 14, four Yan accepted the Buddhist precepts or took Jukai. And then he went on to study the sutras and practice the tenets of the Vinaya. Then he is the the precepts studying of monastic precepts. In the Lotus Sutra, he read a passage that said, it is the Dharma that cannot be discerned by thinking that can be attained. That's a complex sentence, and we restructure it. What can be attained is the Dharma that cannot be discerned by thinking. This is before he got into Zen. He asked his vinyasa teacher for an explanation of the passage, but received no answer. foil on side and said doctrinal study can't resolve the great matter of life and death. And that's when he realized the limitations of sutra study and precept study says here Then he travelled south, that's in quotation marks. It was in the south of China, that all the action was going on in the Tang Dynasty and some died. So he traveled south and began training at the Dharma seat of Zen master named Ty poem typing. One day, as he was doing Takatsu that's making the men that can see rounds for arms as he was doing Takatsu during a rainstorm, he slipped and fell to the ground. And while he was in the mud, he overheard two men arguing fiercely nearby. One of them said, you're still defiling yourself. At these words for yawn had an insight.
Interesting defiling. It's not what you'd expect to overhear in a raucous bar where two men are, are having an argument, defiling sort of, is, refers to what for Yan had had it studied in the precepts. So we had an insight he returned to the temple to question his master about it, but the master would only say, I'm not you, you can do it yourself. Or I don't understand. I can't compare to you. This merely increased for yawns uncertainty. So we went to the head monk and tried to pose his question is these monks especially the big monasteries, they actually had a closer relationship to the Hedmark than to the Abbot, they would be have much more frequent contact with the Hedmark and be in the head monk will be more accessible than the abbot. So the head monk grabbed for yawns ear and pull them in a circle around the stove, saying, you already understand. Well, it seemed to be premature because for Yan said, I wanted you to help me Why are you playing a game? The head monk said, later you will be enlightened and then you'll know why today's song bends your ears. Another kind of opaque cultural idiom. colloquialism, but I don't I don't know except just the general spirit of it. Why Today's teaching falls on deaf ears
one cold night as he sat up alone. Let's not skip over that too quickly. One cold night, as he sat up alone. Doing yazar foil poked deep in the ashes of a dwindled fire and saw the embers flare up. He suddenly exclaimed, poke deeply and you'll find it. Life is like this
there's another story from one of these books of a Tang Dynasty master whose attendant he told us attended to the morning to get the fire going again. rekindle the fire and the and the attendant poked around and and said there's no fire there. And the master took the poker and he went in himself poked in there and he found a little Ember still still glowing. And he turned to the attendant and said, Is this not fun? here
and then in that same, that same mess, the same anecdote where he exclaimed, poke deeply and you'll find that he then picked up and read some texts about a former teacher. And then suddenly he penetrated the bottom of the stove. That's in quotation marks, he penetrated to the bottom of the stove. He didn't he then compared a verse. In the forest of knives, a bird sings out forest of knives. It may, I think it refers to one of the Buddhist hells. In popular Buddhism there are these very different kinds of colorful, vivid depictions of hell. In the forest of knives, a bird sings out, wrapped in a cloak and sitting up late, poking the fire and awakening to ordinary life. The great gods are overturned and smashed. In the glistening world, or the self deluded, who will sing a colorless song realized once it is not forgotten. The gate is open, but few pass through it
just the media go back to a couple of these lines poking the fire and awakening to ordinary life. Just this thing, exotic, extraordinary is if there's some new rainbow of colors that come about, through awakening who will sing a colorless song? Who can see? Without anything added? What is
in the glistening world are the self deluded in this radiant World of Light brilliant world or the self deluded? realized once it is not forgotten how could that be a forgotten it's not a matter of learning. You can't forget what you never had to learn but only what you discover
here's another another one presented here for yawn entered the hall. Of course now he's a he's the master and address the monks holding a staff upright he said no with perfect clarity. It does not come from thought if you had died, you can speak dive into the pit jump into the moat after all, what is it what is it
it does not come from thought. Don't waste your time in thoughts.
And another time for Yan said I say there are two types of sickness. One is to ride a donkey to look for the donkey. The other is riding the donkey and not letting yourself get off of it.
Of course he's talking here about seeking for awakening when we're already awakened on the one hand and the other is then after awakening and not letting go of the experience. Don't you see that riding a donkey to find a donkey is a fatal disease. This old mountain mark is telling you don't seek it. clever people under stret understand right where they are. They give up the seeking disease and the crazy thought pursuing mind. Once you've seen the donkey, not allowing yourself to get off now that is a disease that's most hard to cure. This old mountain monk is telling you don't write it. This can be puzzling to some people don't seek it. And he's not the only master who we have a record of having said that and emphasize that don't seek it. Meaning don't grasp at the thought of enlightenment. When you're questioning a koan, there can be no grasping there. It's not even seeking. It's it's just wandering, wandering and seeking, seeking, I think here implies an object out there that we imagined is somewhere separate from us in the future. And we're trying to get there
it's wandering that we want to do with a koan. He goes on you are the donkey. The great Earth is the donkey. How are you going to ride it? If you continue to ride it, you'll never cure this disease. If you don't write it, then all the worlds in the 10 directions are opened to you. If you can get rid of both of the diseases at once, then there's nothing left in your mind. And you're called a person of the way what then could trouble you? Therefore, he continues, Zhao Jo asked Nan tshwane what is the way and non Schwann answered? Everyday mind is the way.
Here's another passage from this Zen Chinese heritage, for Yan entered the hall and said, to realize the dharma of all the sages just recognize that their dharma is none other than the dharma of ordinary people. Completely understand that mundane and holy are not two different things.
If you get to the bottom of enlightenment right now, then you've gotten to the bottom of all future delusion. If you get to the bottom of delusion right now, then you have reached the bottom of all future enlightenment. Completely understand that enlightenment and delusion are not two different things. Why should delusion go on being covered up
to awaken to experience awakening even to a small degree is to be able to see one's delusions in a in a wholly different way how is that? We will see them as essentially nothing there's nothing there just habit energy, habit energy which is not a thing it's it's it's it's flux.
Paraphrase when he says if you get to the bottom of enlightenment right now then you've gotten to the bottom of all future delusion. And say if you've seen the essence of enlightenment, then you've seen the essence of all delusion. Nothing
he goes on to what is it that all enlightened ones have realized See, it's that when you penetrate the words common sacred, enlightenment and delusion, then you clearly see the source. I dare to ask you all what is the original person teachers and monks everywhere have said, Where can the original person not be seen
right now we can hear the original person in the falling rain.
For Yan entered the hall, he nodded his head to the assembly, a monk came forward and said, today I have encountered something for you and said, Don't speak foolishness. You realize, in these, these stories of the Masters and the monks that they had their share of these smart ass monks who have come forward where angels fear to tread, and toss out something, see how the master will respond. For iron also said every day all, all of you, every day, all of you do 1000 or 10,000 things. There's nothing you don't try to do. So why is it you don't understand? It's because your faith isn't sufficient. If your faith worse efficient, than even if you did nothing, you'd arrive at it. If you don't give a thought to all the affairs of the world and the 10 directions, then you realize it. And now he turns to speech every day, you all say 1000 or 10,000 things is nothing You don't say. So why is that you don't yet understand. It's because your faith is insufficient. If your faith worse efficient, than you'll need say nothing at all. If you didn't give a thought to what has been said, by all the toggles of the three worlds, then you'd understand in a moment. You didn't give a thought, to what all the enlightened ones have said, You'd understand in a moment, there is something very distinctively Zen about that. It's not a matter of memorizing what the wise ones have said. It's giving that a thought to what they've said. This is why I've always said as Roshi Kapleau did for me is that the best thing you could do after teisho is to forget the teisho.
What you're what you're ready to assimilate will be assimilated. You don't have to go chewing, chewing on what you remember from teisho afterward.
Then he goes on and says, Everyone, have you reached the field of which I speak? This gate of mine can only be spoken of in terms of authentic realization, not in terms of understanding. Here he's distinct here he's comparing understanding to realization. Usually we use them interchangeably but here understanding will be in the realm of knowledge, understanding with your discursive mind. Not in terms of understanding, if it is to be for the sake of those who experienced life and death, and it must be intimately realized. If you are someone who studies self and other than You won't suffer ridicule. That is, if you really come to terms with this matter of the, the ultimate non duality of self and other the emptiness of self another. But if you go seeking some special understanding looking for it and looking for it in form or words, then you will substitute form for the authentic seal. That is the, the authentic experience
and then his final words, one day in the year 1124 Yan finished eating, then sat upright in a cross legged posture, and addressed the disciples saying all of the ancient worthies when they were about to leave the world, composed a verse, may I bid the world goodbye and just quietly go on. He then placed his hands, his palms together, and peacefully passed away
that's the end of our biographical material about four yon drawn from Zen's Chinese heritage. And now we'll turn to the primary text of these first two or three days of sesshin instance Zen waking up in the present, translated by Thomas Cleary.
This is a, this is a letter in somewhere in the middle of the book. It's been I got up to this point in a teisho. A couple of years ago. This goes farther back since I read it. Those who claim to be Zen practitioners must trust in what people who know say before they will attain it. If you do not believe you make all talk useless. If you just listen without believing to the talks of people who know how can you be called Zen practitioners I've learned over the years that there's not a lot that's really heard of my teisho is the first two or three days it's a shame it's quite humbling there's too much noise in the mind still, in the first half of fishing. My words anyone's words, a lot of them just ricochet off the listeners
but in order to, to become more receptive, and to really hear, to really listen and hear what's being said, we have to go through this initial period these first few days. And maybe every once in a while something sticks.
Real Zen practitioners understand at all when the grass bends in the breeze. When dust rises in the wind. They discern immediately before any signals have occurred. Before falling into trains of thought before anything stirs. Only then can one be called a true Zen practitioner. Understand at all when the grass bends in the breeze when dust rises in the wind. That is just seeing things as they are without the layers of thought. direct experience sound or the rain the waving of the trees in the wind nothing more.
I'm skipping some paragraphs here that I think are not so useful and teisho. And there's a little bit of a he offers a little bit of information, a little bit of First Person information about his, his own awakening. Now this it's interesting this. This is not in the records that Andy Ferguson translated in the book, we just read that just just a little bit here. It seems pretty important. When I first called on a certain teacher, it's probably that loads who he taught me to contemplate this saying, what is the great meaning of the Dharma. And then that teacher answers next to the city of the king of to the river flows eastward.
He also taught me to meditate on the saying, it's not the movement of the wind, nor the movement of the flag, but the movement of your mind. This is from a koan and the Mumonkan. Then, when I left and went to call on teachers all over the land, I asked them questions. The ancients were wholly true to reality. And the old teachers explained in countless ways, but I simply could not understand. Finally, I left to travel to eastern China, but halfway there I turned around and came back. Now I was told to contemplate the story. If you kill your parents, you repent before Buddha, if you kill Buddha, where do you repent? And to that, this this is the koan continues, in response to that young man said exposed and then for young continues, this case is like a hot iron ball in the mind, and I suffered all kinds of trouble for seven years. Those of you who have practiced them for a long time will know what I mean.
This is such a such an East Asian problem the koan This is so confusion, if you kill your parents who repent before Buddha, if you kill Buddha, where do you repent?
Then he continues, let me tell you another story. When Why don started to practice Zen, he first saw you and fun. For three years he could not understand what Yun Fung was talking about three years, three years not understanding what he was talking about. He also trained with Zen master non, and after two years still did not understand. Then he went to spend a summer retreat in a cloister. He read the story where someone asked deulofeu what is the bamboo grove of deulofeu? He replied, One cane. Two canes slanted. At this Weidong finally opened up and awakened.
A lot of these a lot of these awakening accounts it does no good to ponder what, why? What is it about the question or the koan that caused that to happen? What what caused it to happen was the readiness of the mind of the monk the emptiness of the monks mind when the mind is empty, just about any thing can open the mind. Any sound any words?
The next passage here it begins. association with good companions is a serious recommendation of the ancient sages. Let's just pause there, a soul, associating with others on the path. associating with those who share one same commitment to seeing beyond the self is a big factor in, in progressing
we're so we're so much affected, influenced by people we associate with. It's important to really take this seriously. He goes on students today should follow the words of the Buddha, the Buddha's and patriarchs by finding a teacher to attain discernment. Otherwise, how can you call yourself students? In other words, work with a teacher. Don't think that you can do this by your own by yourself or they can do it as quickly by yourself. Need, in this practice any practice of the mind we need someone to someone with, with, with experience, to help guide us to point out where we're going wrong, which we may very well not know.
If you want to clarify this matter, you must arouse wonder and look into it. If you wonder deeply about this matter, transcendental knowledge will become manifest. Why? The task of a journey just requires the sense of doubt, to cease. But if you do not actively wonder, how can the sense of doubt cease? Well, I think we could. These are quite similar doubt, doubt in Zen, of course means question. But I think even better than question is wonder. That wonder has a, an openness to it, it's even more so than questioning, questioning can be. Still not as open as wandering. Wandering suggests just sincerity that is even beyond the word questioning. And then he talks about his own teacher doesn't say who it is. But we were told earlier that he he trained under Woods who my teacher was 35 years old before he became a monk it's very late. In those days, he stayed in the city of Chun due to listen to lectures on and then he gives a title 100 phenomena as only representation. There he heard a saying of how when a Buddhist enters the path of insight, knowledge and principle merge, environment and mind join and there is no distinction between that which realizes and that which is realized. subject and object are one subject an object disappear. He says a Hindu challenge the Buddha's, if there is no distinction between what what what realizes and what is realized. What is used as proof. No one could answer this challenge. So the Buddhists were declared the losers in debate. Later, the Buddhist master of Tang came to the rescue Have the doctrine and this is what he said, when knowledge and principle merge environment and mind unite. It is like when drinking water one spontaneously knows whether it is cool or warm
someone still might then ask for what is used as proof? What the hell would they like? That's the Hindus question, what is used as proof? And it's not a bad question because there are so many wonderful experiences that can masquerade as awakening we can be deceived into thinking a, a some kind of peak experience is awakening. Well, that's where the teacher comes in. Where the teacher has a battery of questions to help the student discern whether she or he has, whether it's genuine, a genuine, entering the first gate, a breakthrough, or whether it's something else.
This is quite a famous statement. It is like when drinking water when spontaneously knows whether it is cool or warm distinction of the Zen School of Buddhism, direct experience. first and then the word and Japanese word Nan is so exceedingly difficult to translate into English basically means the first the first direct experience hearing, seeing smelling tasting, touching or thinking or thinking thinking is the sixth sense. In Buddhism, a thought so a thought comes up there's that there's that's the first name a thought comes up what
tomorrow, the thought of tomorrow, that's that's not going to do any any. It's not going to be a problem if we don't weave more thoughts onto that successive Nan and certainly just a sound pure pure sound.
Just that's the first and then second is any number of thoughts. The second third, fourth, fifth, sixth seventh meant the train of thoughts that one can board after the original first min sound Smell Taste site.
Zen Master Lin-chi said just learned to cut off successive Nan it is worth more than 10 years of pilgrimage.