June 2021 Sesshin, Day 5: Mumonkan #10, Sozan and Poor Seizei
4:18PM Jun 27, 2021
Sensei Amala Wrightson
Today is the fifth day of our five day hybrid sesshin. It's the ninth of June 2021. And this morning we're going to take up a koan - number 10 in the Mumonkon - Sozan and poor Seizei. And the case goes like this. A monk says a by name, said to master Suzanne, I am poor and alone. I beg you master to please make me rich. Suzanne said, venerable says A Yes, master replied says a. Suzanne said, You have already drunk three cups of the finest wine of China, but still say your lips are not yet moistened.
Just a little bit about our two protagonists say those Chinese name is changed way. And we don't know anything really about him except what we know from the case. It's likely that he was known at the time of the recording of the car and because we we have his name, but we don't know anything about an exhibit what appears in the story. The other protagonist sews on the his dates 842 901. And his his Chinese name is sao Shang Benji, and he's the co founder of the Soto school, so Dong in Chinese, with his teacher, Don Shawn, toes on in Japanese. So we'll just launch right into looking at the case, we'll come to the commentary in the verse later. I am poor and alone. I beg you master please make me rich. So the first point to look at in this con is what is says a state of mind. Why does he come to master so there are there are two plausible possibilities. First, that he's is expressing his his experience of emptiness to master souls on he says I'm poor and a lone lone wolf we could say possibly like, like the baby Buddha. Above the heavens below the heavens I alone and the Honored One.
Or the second possibility is that he's he's experiencing a dark night of the soul. So he's really in despair, feeling totally poor and alone.
Look at each of these in turn. If in fact he is coming in a state of great, great emptiness to see signs on. Then his motivation caught for asking the question could be testing so zone just getting some Dharma discussion going? Dharma interaction. But if if that's all there is to it, then it doesn't make much of a case for us to look into another possibility under the heading of this first. One is that perhaps he's stuck in his emptiness and is asking for help. sort of coming with the question well, okay, what comes next? Where do I go from here? In his commentary on, on the move on Khan, co gu has a dhaba successor to mushing in. Teachers are thinking in Florida, he takes the this this, this tech this
goes from the point of of considering size as being then somehow stuck in emptiness.
in quotes he puts words into say those mouth, I have nothing lift nothing to grasp, loving to obtain, and no more attachments. What more is there to do? Then he comments, global comments on the one hand, this was a gesture to seek instruction. On the other It was a challenge. How do you teach a man who has let go of everything? You let go of the notion of having let go and start living. This is why so Sean's Suzanne. yells out venerable she's way we're in our vision, venerable say yes, he replied. Suzanne then continues what a response having had your full of the finest homebrewed wine of genuine, you still aim that you claim that you have nothing and there's a little bit of decoding can go come in here with this wine of genuine in our version it just says the finest wine in China but chain you on. It's also the name of Chan master actually recite his name when we do the ancestral line xingyuan shinshu. He was one of the main disciples of the sixth ancestor way known. And a an early progenitor of that cell dawn lineage Soto lineage of which Suzanne was one of the founders. So in saying that it's the wine of genuine gives it another dimension, the teaching but how does that relate them? To his having answered Yes. To his to says so Zen says Venerable saisie and say they replies Yes, Master wherescape got to do with with drinking this wine. That's another point here in the car.
Kobo continues with his commentary, he says in this case, the monk responds to, to Suzanne's call, but does not recognize his own response as the most natural function of the awakened mind. The response to what is seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched and thought he dealt dwells in what Chan refers to as dead emptiness, or the stagnant void of holding on to attachment, the state of being destitute.
Little bit later, he says, even the teaching of emptiness or non attachment is a construct that some attached to people may mistake this inner freedom for some kind of blissful state, such as nothingness or emptiness, or if they are clear of wandering thoughts, they may think that is emptiness, no it is not emptiness is everything right now. It is the dynamic flow of our connectedness to everything. It is our natural ability to respond from moment to moment. It is fullness, connectedness, and relationships. It is the free response to the world without being obstructed without interjecting a self indoor situations, in everything that needs to be done. There's a poem by by sensing guy that we can throw in here. What I call alone, is to forget both alone and not alone. And again to forget the one who forgets This is true. Truly to be alone,
forget the one who forgets This is truly to be alone. We have this this virtually constant voice in our minds, judging, evaluating, reacting, scolding us, spare disparaging, us and others and we, we suffer because of this and this, this one's This is in a voice or voices, she say, go with us wherever we go.
So, in this in this exchange, we can, we can recognize that the question that Southern so skillfully asks, venerable says A Yes master is it's really his teaching says, experiment experientially inviting him, we could say to come back to free and obstructive relationship minus those, those concepts that he has around emptiness and aloneness, that really appear actually not to be as empty and alone as he had imagined.
This kind of approaches is not restricted to size and much more recent teacher, Japanese teacher, bank a talk with Tokugawa era
does a kind of similar teaching. The student came to see him and the student said, my wisdom is tightly confined within me and I am unable to make use of it. How can I use it? And Banco says to him, come closer my friend. And then when the disciple disciple steps at a few steps closer to a bank, a bank a remarks how wonderfully well you were using it.
Let's look now at the the second possibility that we have here in this approach by saizo to master SOS on I am poor and alone. I beg you, master please, to make me rich.
Another possibility is that says a is experiencing What we call the dark night of the soul. This is a this is something that Robert Akin Roshi explores in his commentary to move on Khan. It may not have been something that was intended by the original compiler, but it's a possibility that Lee yields rich material for us as members of postmodern society, where we we live in a culture that, that subliminally sends us messages about our lack constantly almost, and in which meaninglessness and despair and pervasive depression or prevalent. So, you can have a look at this, this other option.
So, aikon interprets this question this I am poor alone, I beg you master please make me rich, as
this is, this is again his paraphrasing or, or unfolding what says he is asking. Everything is totally without meaning or purpose. The whole universe is nothing but a vast desert without a blade of grass or drop of water. There's no significance, no merit, no virtue in my life. I feel completely lost. And then he adds, thus have students of all religions describe the dark night experiences, not only to students of religion encounter this fearsome Valley, people everywhere sound its depths, a condition sometimes laughed off by their friends is a midlife crisis. This bleak stage of spirit was called a chidiya. By the early Christian teachers, a word that means spiritual sloth, according to the dictionary, slothful, however, implies being lazy on purpose. And there is nothing intentional here. David the psalmist, called this condition, the valley of the shadow of death. William James called it the sixth soul. Though it has negative names and a bad reputation, it is actually a very promising condition and essential phase of the spirit of spiritual evolution.
There's some words of of get cornfields that fit in here, and that were very helpful to me, when going through such dark periods. JACK kornfield says, it is a basic principle of spiritual life, that we learn the deepest things in unknown territory. Often it is when we feel most confused inwardly, and are in the midst of our greatest difficulties, that something new will open. we awaken most easily to the mystery through our weakest side. The areas of our greatest strength where we are most competent in clearest tend to keep us away from the mystery. So to be to be able to remember that such dark nights bring us closer to the mystery can make a huge difference and so's on presents the mystery to say when he says venerable says a and say the replies Yes, Master.
Continued continues once I consulted father Thomas hand, address juicer word, retreat master about a Cheerio He said that people passing through this phase should be careful. First to keep this schedule of religious practice and second to stay in touch with their spiritual guides. Think we can we can take his river reviled advice completely unfiltered here. Makes makes perfect sense. Keep your religious practice so helpful just to have scheduled religious practice especially if you're doing solo retreat the it becomes an enormous support. Of course there are other supports when we sit together but it is equally important. When we do see Shane together, they're just the showing up and if each block is sitting, doing the chanting during the vows, all of these things can change, provide a vessel for all that we go through the all the ups and downs and, and pain and joy.
Keep this schedule over to keep the schedule of religious practice and stay in touch with these spiritual guides. Sometimes people feel that they they should be in good shape to go to dogs. But actually, we probably need to go to dogs on most when things are amiss.
When we feel most at sea, certainly we can understand by this advice that it is important not to turn back it's such a crucial point in one's development. When the Scottish philosopher David Hume reached a place like this in his intellectual quest, he found it frightening and turned for solace to his Mary friends and a good game of backgammon. But
says a priest on he is more can take he is more courageous. He is a more courageous model for us. Instead of giving himself up to the comfort of chase or a game of cards with his friends. He presents himself fully to SOS. This is where I am. What should I do now? Most commendable says Akin Roshi. He goes on, we must be clear about Caesar's position. Yamato Rashi says he is trying to examine the state of Suzanne's consciousness to fathom the depth of his realization. This is exactly to the point but it must not be interpreted to mean that says I was already aware that his poverty and solitude were complete fulfillment. From the depths of his poverty, he examined his teacher as his own practice. In other words, he this wasn't just Dharma dialogue, but coming out of a profound need. Question.
Suzanne, with marvelous directness, rises immediately to say those urgent requests and calls out Venerable saisie and says a replies Yes, Master. That's a splendid presentation to Suzanne says, You have already drunk three cups of the finest wine in China. And still you may have said, You say you have not yet moisten your lips. And then he he talks again about the the reference to the the ancestor. So he's so as admonishing him that he's been exposed to the teachings of the ancestors. But there's another as a more immediate understanding of this drinking of the wine. What, what else does it refer to? as one of the points of the car
I can goes on to Talk about Mr. Akers the great Christian mystic. And what he had to say about spiritual poverty and realization. Which is, is right at the core of this with a sad case. He says it is interesting to see what Meister Eckhart has to say about spiritual poverty and realization, from his point of view, says they might not have been truly poor, when he came to SOS, perhaps he was still looking for something. You must the outer Meister said, Be as free from your creature will, as you were when you had not yet been born. creature will is isn't really another ways of saying small self self preoccupation. And then he quotes be accounted for by the everlasting truth, as long as you will, to do God's will and yearn for eternity and God, you are not really poor, for he is poor, who will does nothing knows nothing, and wants nothing. He who is poor, who wills nothing, knows nothing, and wants nothing, even wanting to fulfill God's will. My steakhouses has to be let go of even the yearning for God has to be let go.
We have from shantideva in a similar vine Bay. If there is no self surrender, sorrow, likewise cannot be avoided, you will not escape from being burned, if you do not keep away from fire.
continues, so long as you seek peace of mind in Buddhahood. You cannot realize the peace which is the true poverty of spirit. You cannot acknowledge the Buddhahood of your own original nature, which wills nothing knows nothing wants nothing. Our ancestors in the Dharma sweated blood in their practice, but they were caught up in the process. They were not visualizing how it would be when it was over. They weren't yearning for a thing. Because as we've as we've said, Before this week, as soon as there is that grasping there is the one who is doing the grasping. There's a separation split.
Kobe can comments on this, this notion of not visualizing what it would be when it was over? He says, This is like any intensive period of change in human development. adolescents for example, do not constantly hold in mind the attainment of adult adulthood, they are too caught up in the process struggling struggling within the present, it is not experientially becoming or attaining. Externally it may be viewed as such, but internally it is not learn from your teenagers let your concepts of becoming entertaining go and you will be truly poor, free to give your full attention to move.
Now, just look at the commentary says a assumes and obsequious manner, what is his real intention? So zone with his penetrating eye sees through sizes mind but be this it as as it may tell me how the venerable says a lot of drunk this wine.
really the important question in this commentary is this is this last one, just tell me how the venerable says a quart of drunk this wine really is asking us. How do we drink this fine, why?
Actually, we're drinking it right now. Can you see that? Can you see the way in which we're doing that right now?
The Buddha said it is great awakening on seeing the morning star wonder of wonders. All beings a Buddha, endowed with wisdom and virtue lacking nothing. That only is only because their minds have been turned upside down by delusive thinking that they failed to perceive this.
This decision is coming to an end we'll all be going back to our regular lives. And we won't be doing nine or 10 hours Xena day or at least most of us won't imagine. How how do we bring the spirit of our sitting to each moment?
It's helpful to to understand as as in as an attitude or an orientation where in which we don't have to be sitting in the in ASEAN posture, inner attitude
how do we how do we bring the wisdom of letting go to our relationships and our interactions? Keep in mind the the insubstantial nature of our internal and external life while at the same time not getting caught up on any ideas of that. But responding cleanly, openly. Kindly allowing our focus to go beyond narrow mindedness beyond I me and my
how do we work with despair and depression when they come up? How do we practice with them? some
suggestions in this regard from union psychologist Marilyn Louise well France can be helpful. She She says if depressed, be depressed. Go deeper into it. Listen, go deeper and deeper. Don't try to escape. If the division says that life means nothing and nothing is worthwhile, then except then and say, What about it? Listen, go deeper and deeper until you again reached the level of the psychological energy where some creative idea can come out. And suddenly at the bottom, an impulse of life and creativity which has been overlooked, may appear. If we if we take this in in terms of our practice, then we might say, if the if the depression says that there is there is nothing life is nothing and that nothing is worthwhile, then accept that and say, what is what is Mu right here? What is this? Where is this coming from? What's its nature going deeper and deeper until we until we reach some spark there's a story about gration and in by John
by John asked gray shanties to stoke the fire see if you get it get it going again and gration poked through the the the ashes but he couldn't find any fire in Bhaijaan, got up himself took the poker and stood the ashes and stood the ashes and finally succeeded in finding a tiny live Ember. And so he showed it to his disciple and said, Is this not fire? And we told the question at that moment had an awakening.
We're so, so fortunate to have the Dharma that can can shore us up when Willow reminded us that those those embers can be stood to life. From in the depths of the ashes.
From in the depths of our of what we would find most uncomfortable to face, and unpleasant. For its conquer wrote about this, and I don't know who he is. But he says, the amazing process begins with the decision not to fight against our vices, not to run away from them, nor conceal them, but to bring them into the light. If the desire to be honest, is greater than the desire to be good or bad, then the terrific power of our vices will come that become manifest and behind the vise, the old forgotten fear will turn up the fear of being excluded from life and behind the fear, the pain, the pain of not being loved. And behind this pain of loneliness, the deepest and most powerful and most hidden of all human desires, the desire to love to give oneself and to be part of the living stream that we call brotherhood.
Lastly, the verse his poverty, his like hand turns his spirit like that of coke. Though he can hardly sustain himself, he does to compete with the richest of men. So this is referring to say as a Hangtown was somebody who ancient China who was proverbially poor, and cola was a great general, someone a great spirit. So we could we could say here
His poverty was like that of Gandhi. His Spirit like that of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing and have to have a Marshall in the cheer.
Aiken Roshi comments on this that if you are poor in a literal sense, and you'd better have a strong spirit and these two are closely related Of course, says I was a monk so he would have been materially poor it's that's the reference in the third line of the first two, he can hardly sustain himself. Or at least one one part of what that means. And Mina says he dares to compete with the richest of men.
When we're when we're truly empty, then we discover the richness all around us in in within us.
When we when we're truly about anything, then
we're receptive. There's nothing in the way
is in here with a haiku. Kissing it's, it's probably.
I'm not sure who the writer is. But here it is. In my little heart, there is nothing. There is everything.
We'll stop here and recite the four vows