July 2021 Sesshin, Day 5: The Way of Korean Zen by Kusan Sunim (trans. by Martine Batchelor)
8:59PM Aug 4, 2021
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
This is day five of this July 2021, seven day sesshin.
Continuing with the teachings of Korean Zen Master Kusan Sunim from the book called The Way of Korean Zen. Since the subtle wisdom of complete enlightenment has been present even before the creation of the earth, it has never been lost. Why do you say that you are looking for it again. From long ago until now, it has been unimpeded, and it's been shining brightly, and tranquilly.
So hard to comprehend with the discursive mind with our ordinary rational mind. How can this body mind this original nature of ours present even before the creation of the earth? Oh, it goes back before then, for the creation of the universe, the cosmos. Beyond such notions as creation and destruction, it's not of time for men apart from it,
assembly gathered here today, have you completely awakened to it or not? If there's a monk endowed with the Dharma, I let him say something. In reality, what is this subtle wisdom of complete enlightenment?
Notice he, his challenge is challenged to use the word completely. Have you completely awakened to it or not? It's not just whether you've had a glimpse into it, initial breakthrough. Long Way to go after that.
He goes on when a stone Tiger gives birth to a lion cub and a wooden woman becomes pregnant. Only then will you understand. And then, there appears here a verse with a wooden staff one strikes Mount sumeru. Everything is contained in the midst of a sound that echoes like thunder, who can say that he has secretly buried a precious gem deep in the ground. The Pierson wisdom is like an all in a bag. Mount sumeru is the mythical mountain at the center have said that he's at the center of the universe.
Who can say that he has secretly buried a precious gem deep in the ground. And the piercing wisdom is like an all in all case anyone doesn't know that word. It's like a something you use within leather work I guess it's a very sharp sharp thing sort of like an icepick. But then after this versus me says this stanza refers to a well known story in China. That concerned a certain Mr. Wah. This man once obtained a precious gem that was able to emit light at night. started at a gym that was able to emit light at night, a fresh breeze in summer and warm wind in winter. Of course, he tried to hide this gem from from others and thus used to bury a deep in the ground. But however deep he hit it, the authorities always found it and took it away from him. Likewise, when someone awakens, she is unable to hide her wisdom. Little by little it will be it will become apparent. Furthermore, however carefully you put an awl inside a bag, it is sure to pierce it and extrude same way if you are practicing meditation, others will be able to judge this by observing your outer appearance. Even if you try you will not be able to deceive them. And so he's saying it becomes part of our demeanor. The way we carry ourselves the way we respond to others and to situations respond to conditions.
course to people say in Western culture who who have no ever heard of enlightenment, then it might just leave them puzzled more than anything else.
Ice RSI example springs to mind, if someone is tantruming at you, and you don't react yourself with anger. Don't allow it to escalate if you just maintain calm composure, poise and silent dignity. I'm just conjuring up a pair of scenario this would be hard for many people to understand.
He starts turns to some words of his own teacher. Oh no, not him and Master Zhang Jing. He says Let me introduce you to a few words from a lecture of Master Zhang Jin. He once said all sentient beings are covered by the six dusts. The phrase sentient beings is literal translations you also encountered in Chinese sources, there was used to distinguish from the enlightened so sentient beings means the so called unenlightened all sentient beings are covered by the six dusts. And then kusatsu name says this means that they are covered by the six kinds of thieves that come from the outside. Yes, two different similes for the same thing, going to turn forward about 30 pages to where he goes into, goes into this a little more about the six thieves. If you feel that you are not yet a Buddha, meaning you're not awake, not yet awakened. This means that no excuse me. He says if you feel that you are not yet a Buddha, in other words, if you don't yet have faith in your original nature, regardless of whether you're awakened to it, this means that the downfall of the six thieves is still to take place. All things in the external world that pass through the Sixth Sense doors are like thieves who are intent on cheating you. There's this the six these are the six senses, the five ordinary ones, sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and the six in Buddhism. The six is thinking these thieves who are intent on cheating you, they continuously deceive you and drag you here and there. And as soon as you are deceived, and even the slightest way by one of these thieves, it is equivalent to being killed by them. For at that moment, they take control of your mind because of them, intrinsic Buddha's that's all of us are made to act like ordinary sentient beings. So talking about how we get pulled this way in that, by what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think about the thinking about is the one we most directly grapple with, in in Zen practice thoughts. But all of these have the potential to cause our mind to stray to all of these potential invite thoughts.
He continues in the face of these six thieves, as soon as the slightest thought appears in the doorway of one of the six senses. So for example, what what kind of bird is that, that I'm hearing? are what is that fragrance or anything like that? You should be as alarmed as though a thief we're trying to break into your house. The moment one of the six thieves shows itself in the doorway of the senses. The koan investigation of the essential will have deserted you. Otherwise, how could one of the thieves have appeared in the first place? For as long as the colon is held firmly in mind, the Sixth Sense doors will be kept tightly closed, and there will be no gap through which a thief could enter.
To be clear, the Sixth Sense doors will be tightly closed, doesn't mean that we literally have our our sight hearing or thinking blocked off, it doesn't mean that we become insensate doesn't mean that we're, we're not we're not hearing and thinking so forth, it just means that we're not clinging to the thought. To the sound, we don't get stuck there.
There is this idea of in Asian Buddhism of nan ndn. And the idea of successive nuns, the First Men, what's called the first Nan is the direct experience the sound, Mark. And then second, then is thought about that sound and then a third Nan is, is still another thought and so forth. When we when we closely attend to the mind, the way the mind is working, we can see these trains of men that in no time seconds, they can transport us away from the first Nam that direct experience just this.
So to keep the sense doors tightly close, is to keep it to the direct experience, they directly experience the thought that's also just one of the six senses. The brain generates thoughts. Just as the ear perceive sounds in the eye, perceives sights. So the there need to be a problem with just having thoughts coming through the mind as long as we don't build on them.
So they mean means by tightly closed, not sewing, sewing, sowing further thoughts on top of the direct experience. So that's what Hakuin means in his chant. Where is our thought now being no thought. It's as if there's no thought because it just is No it doesn't. We don't abide in it. He continues there for a while the koan remains vivid, you remain alive, that is you remain in the indirect experience. But as soon as one of the six thieves manages to enter the door of the senses, you are already dead. Soon as we get taken away,
he goes home but this in order to cause the downfall of the six thieves, you must cast aside all concern for the body. You should discard it as you would a useless stone that serves no purpose habitually, you blindly follow your uncontrolled attachment to the body, and thus spend your entire lives trying to feed it and clothe it well, thereby making sure that it is comfortable. Throughout beginningless eons, you have been the servant of the body, and if this played the role of an ordinary sentient being, but from now on, you should learn to make it serve you. Likewise, instead of being captivated by the six senses, that is taken captive by them, you should also make them obey you. Henceforth, it is you who must have the final word. In this way your practice will be able to progress well.
Statement of a great Zen master Josue springs to mind, he said most people are used by the 24 hours, I use the 24 hours
we, we have a choice. millisecond by millisecond, we have a choice as to whether we're used by thoughts and the other senses, or we use them in a way in which we're not attached to them.
He continues, it is a great mistake to think that after having practiced hard for a few days, you are then entitled to lie back and enjoy yourself for a while. It is easy to find any number of pretexts for behaving in this manner. But to do so will cause you to be killed by the six thieves. Thus you will be reduced to playing the role of a corpse
I've led quite a few sessions and Mexico southern Mexico it's the altitude is high enough something like 4000 feet that the nice can get quite cold in February especially that's when usually they are that nice and yet quite cold. During the during the early morning ducks on the temperature can get down to 45. The dogs on waiting line is outdoors. And people learn very quickly that they have to be well dressed and dressed well for that kind of cold. But then then, very quickly, after sunrise it starts warming up. And so by late morning like around now we often see the participants lying on the grass outside the zendo Lima grass just taking the sun and join that sun. It would be one thing if they would be sitting upright, the straight back enjoying the sun but the sprawling out on the grass. It would be an extraordinary person who wasn't just letting his or her mind go slack and lapse into daydreams. So we say to people don't be sunbathing out there on the on the lawn.
He continues, throughout beginningless eons, the way has been obscured by the great weight and depth of defilements. defilements is very distinctly Buddhist word, at least in its English translation. It's not hard to find examples in oneself, you can start with the three poisons greed, anger and delusion, all the many, many subtle and gross forms of greed, or the many subtle and form gross forms of of hostility, ill will anger, rage, irritation, annoyance, and similarly other varieties of delusion, confusion and so forth. He says exactly how heavy and deep are these defilements they are as heavy as the earth and as deep as the ocean. defilement defilements are actually the habitual tendencies you have acquired since beginningless time.
There's some kind of formula and Buddhism that have the significance of 108. The idea is that human beings have 108 defilements. It seems very modest estimate to me. But that's why we why New Year's Eve, New Year's Eve ceremony, we have the tolling of the bell and Arnold Park tolling of the bell 108 times as is done Japan on New Year's Eve. He continues since they are so deeply ingrained within you and weigh you down so greatly. How can you not see the need to practice with the utmost diligence. The defilements are like clouds covering the sun. Although the sun shines brightly behind the clouds, its brightness cannot be seen. Only when the clouds disperse. Well, it's brilliant speak clearly apparent.
Elsewhere, he says that our original nature is never obscured. Therefore. And here he's quoting his Master Zhang Jing. If a poor woman were in possession of a treasure, she would bury it so deeply that no one would be able to dig it up and take it away. But even if someone were to take it away, it would still remain the same. And if the poor woman kept it in her possession, he would also remain the same. This treasure mind will always stay just as it is. Moreover, even though a diamond is extracted from very deep within the earth, it cannot be destroyed. You should bear this in mind. The wisdom of your original nature is always clear and bright and never changes.
This reminds me of a koan in the blue Cliff record, or Oman begins there's one treasure hidden in the mountain of form.
He continues now if you really want to unearth a precious gem from the mud and stones of defilements you You'd think of how snow and ice harden and melt. Recently there has been much snow here. Now it is packed and hardened on the ground and will not melt very quickly. Just look, the snow is delivering an unsurpassable discourse on Dharma for to dissolve the defilements and discover your true nature is the same as the melting of this snow. In order for it to melt, it must be exposed to the sun. And thereupon it turns into water, which you can then use for drinking, washing, and so forth. Imagine how long it would take to melt if it were only exposed to the sun for one day, and then allow to harden again over the following 10 cold days. It is similar when you try to practice meditation. If you practice hard for one day, but then relax and enjoy yourselves during the next 10 days. How will the hardened crust of the defilements ever melt?
The hobby the importance of sustained exertion.
Again, I know from experience that many people hear this and they kind of wilt thinking all Christ I have to do this for I can't ever stop. But do this just means making one's best attempt to mindfully, mindfully know how you're using or misusing the mind. doesn't mean you have to stay up all night, every night. It's to be sincere about just doing your best and not doing your best not to indulge in thoughts needlessly does does get easier as sesshin goes on. We what happens is we notice more quickly when the mind has strayed. And that's the effect of doing so much sitting. The basic truth is that we can't notice the mind is straight until we notice that we can there's nothing we can do about it till we notice it. But that but then noticing happens sooner that we're doing a lot of sitting.
He goes on even in the midst of the utmost quiescence, you should never let the koan fade. For if at such times it remains bright and vivid, then great awakening will drawn nearer. Furthermore, than meditators should now consider the koan as her very life when coming the koan should be coming. When going, the koan should be going while eating, the koan should be eating, and even while deprecating, it should be the koan, the deprecates words, no separation, constant awareness of the koan. If you practice in such a way, then great awakening will certainly be closer. Therefore, do not just idly Enjoy yourselves to know purpose carefully and earnestly investigate the living word the koan.
In conclusion, I would like to comment upon this well known proverb I guess, I guess it's a Korean proverb. In the utmost softness lies the greatest strength in the utmost harmony, the sublime must joy in the utmost gentleness, the noblest virtue and in the utmost meekness, the highest Felicity. Only with the utmost patience, does one become a sage.
Then the says a little more about those first through three lines, it is possible that someone might appear on the outside to be rather simple and even foolish. He may seem to have no courage to be overly compliant and slow witted. However inside, he may be wielding a mighty sword. Similarly, when confronting circumstances on the outside, you should appear to deal with them softly and compliantly get inside your mind, inside your mind should be as sharp as a mighty sword. A person who can act in such a way has truly build up a sound practice. This echoes what Roshi Kapleau would say from time to time about the the ideal Zen person in in Japan, I don't think he ever went to Korea, someone who is flexible, soft and gentle, pliable on the outside, but inside strong, solid enormous stamina it may be that only when we have built up this kind of stamina and strength and the inside strength of character of course, that we can allow ourselves to be soft, tender on the outside
this this is a these ideals are more much more widely embraced in East Asian culture and Southeast Asian culture where these you see books and movies and how much this is cultivated this harmonizing with others not opposing others somehow finding a way to dexterously gracefully not set up conflict exacerbate conflict but to find ways to to get along.
was in Japan I was told that there's no in Japanese there's no word exactly for No.
When you when you asked for something that does not with that. But with the rules of the of the temple instead of instead of No, he can't do that. It might be this kind of response is drawing in the breath. Okay, meaning Okay, we can we can talk about it. I'm talking about in some circumstances, others it's just clear. Just the answer's no.
He goes on. Likewise, you should try to be harmonious. You should learn to like and get on well with one another and to do things for other people instead of yourself. But if you behave in a way that is contrary to the well being and interests of others, then you will only create conflict. You learn very quickly at the meals, the meals and Japanese temples that you never serve yourself first. You don't reach for the rice and put it on your on your in your bowl you reach for the rice and offer to the person then your left or your right. these are these are great ancient civilizations they have, they have refined this matter of interpersonal relations.
It is important to be gentle and not to go against the wishes of others, even go out of your way to be helpful to other people. In this way, you will amass the noblest of virtues. It's hard, hard to imagine that in China or Japan or Korea, people would refuse to wear face masks to protect others. I suppose there must be some, maybe some who do this. But always, they're thinking of the greater good thinking of others. meekness is another quality that should be cultivated. instead of forcing yourself on others you should learn to flexibly adapt yourselves to their needs. You should listen well to what they say and offer to help them whatever work they are doing. In this way, you will find contentment and happiness. It's an interesting conclusion there that it's not just for their benefit but one's own happiness. And finally, you must learn to be patient. You need to be able to forbear hardships, and dueler difficulties and undertake what is arduous. while practicing you are liable to encounter difficult periods, it is important not to give up at such times but to bear through them diligently. This way the strength of forbearance will grow within you and in the end you will become accomplished sages. Such people are able to sit on the lion throne and utter a lion's roar for the welfare of all beings. There it is, again for the welfare of all beings, not to just to be a big shot lion, but for the welfare of all beings.
Here in this paragraph, you can see why we take it so seriously that once one is committed to attend to full sesshin that they not leave early. Because of who you are, we are sure to encounter difficult periods. That's the nature of machine. Anyone who who doesn't, hasn't encountered a difficult stretch of this machine. Please come to docs on entailment. And so, what you learn if you can just soldier through it is that it passes. It's important not to give up at such times but to bear it through them diligent in this way the strength of forbearance will grow within you.
This this stamina and strength I was talking about a minute ago this is this nothing develops this as much as going through sesshin and especially multiple sessions. This diamond strength diamond itself, it's a very often used analogy and in the Zen diamond is so strong so, so hard it can cut anything in that cannot be cut itself.
Assembly amongst It is true that these days you are exerting much effort in your practice of meditation. However, I would like to add a few words for your benefit of the 90 days of this winter retreat. already half have passed. For today we have reached the midpoint of the meditation season, and only 45 days are now left. Every day time flows on urgently like water. Even though it may seem that there are certain enjoyments in daily life, actually, we are just like fish in a pool whose water is constantly being drained. Likewise, not only you monks gathered here, but all sentient beings are traveling the path that only leads to death. As each day passes, your lifespan decreases by one day. And as each hour passes, it decreases by one hour. Just listen to this clock, with every tick, the second hand moves, pauses, and moves on again. This itself can be taken as a Dharma lecture of the Buddha. Therefore the demon of transparency is propelling us toward death every moment. If you do not realize the truth of the unborn, it is of our original nature. Then when the time of death suddenly arrives, you will find yourself moaning and illness. Even though nobody wants to die, every one of us will inevitably perish. Is there anyone here among you whose body is not a potential corpse? Furthermore, should we live solely for the benefit of this potential corpse? Or would it be better to live in order to awaken to the truth of the unborn? When you are finally moaning an illness, then you may have regrets and not having diligently practiced while life by live. But at that time, such regrets will be in vain. Therefore, why do you not practice now? Why do you just continue to play around? Well, I don't see anyone here playing around. But we can always we can always go a little further we can always push the envelope. You know, in a way, that's what sesshin is all about is just going beyond ourselves. Beyond the self it's thoughts and ideas.
We have no fixed self whatever we imagine we we can't do has to be false. Because there's no way there's no fixed, unchanging self. It's changing moment by moment. We are we are through this sustained practice developing resiliency which is another form of strength and it goes on and on. But we we couldn't do a week ago. We might very well be able to do now what we couldn't do yesterday we might be be able to do now. We don't know. We don't know without giving it our utmost will stop now and recite the four vows