Septober 2022 Sesshin, Day 4: Zen Master Bassui from Mud and Water (trans. by Arthur Braverman)
2:22PM Oct 12, 2022
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
This is the fourth day of this Septober 2022, seven day sesshin. And before we return to the teachings of a Japanese Zen master Bassui I'm going to read from a book about the the mysteries of water and air waves. And there's a there's a chapter here, that Roshi Kapleau read in the mid 1970s about birds and migration flying in migration. And it struck me at the time and it always has since then, is just just a magnificent analogy for this great mysterious power we call sesshin.
It's the book is called sensitive chaos. And it's by Theodore Schwenke. And it in this this part that I photocopied 40 years ago. He poses the question about birds in flight and flying in formation, in particular an arrow formation or a slanting line as we see here with both of those with the geese. This is, this is a time of sounds of migrating geese. We hear them every day now. And he's quoting Schwenke. The author of the book is quoting the work of a researcher by the name of Schiefer Stein. I googled it and found nothing. He discovered that birds flying in an arrow or wedge formation are linked together through the air connecting them or rather through the elasticity of the air. The birds move in an aerial form, they have created for themselves as a totality the which has an effect on each individual bird. Here's where he gets into it. Each bird lives on a wave made in the air by the leader. The beats of their wings follow the ups and downs of the wave and simply make visible what as a vibrating aerial form, surrounds and bears them all in the arrow formation. By studying the wing positions of the birds flying in arrow formation, Schieffer, Stein was able to deduce the actual shape of the form. Each bird flies in a fixed position in the aerial form, and the form itself unites all the individual birds. A single bird does not need much strength. For it is as though the movement of the wave of air were to raise and lower its wings for it. If one of the birds has an excess of energy, it will do more than simply allow itself to be carried along. With the beating of its wings, it will strengthen the whole wave will infuse the aerial form with energy from which all will benefit, who would on their own no longer have the strength to fly. These take energy from the whole moving field of air. And this is one of the most interesting parts. Indeed, even the leading bird itself draws energy from this field. And it's it says that she Burstein says the idea that the bird flying at the apex of the triangle has to work harder than those following it is wrong. The wave of the field of air streams created reciprocally by all the separate birds spreads out in space with a speed of Sound and therefore, because the speed at which the birds fly is much slower, it precedes them considerably. So the leading bird can, if necessary, take energy from the field, just as can all the others
this is the, to me the most obvious thing and always has been as a teacher is how much energy I get from all of you, including people who are participating online.
This is just one more paragraph. The arrow formation is a totality in which the separate birds are embedded like organs. And a new body has been created out of air, in which, as with the body of sound of an orchestra, the single instrument to a great extent merges into the whole. It is however, a necessary part of the whole the separate birds are linked together by the surrounding air as though by a elastic threads.
The air which connects the birds like an elastic medium acts like a muscle, it unites the different limbs of the formation into a unity but that was not there before and is caused to do this by a higher being namely the group soul of these birds
one might also say that this group soul manifests itself in the density of air and acts as an integrating muscular system that's it that's it comes about that during a long flight over many hundreds of miles, or seven days. Each single bird elastically connected with the whole flight beats its wings exactly as many times as all the others in the formation and how, how would they could measure that but the entire process is in aerial form and organic hole moving through the air. The bird is a creature of the air it is born out of the air and interests itself to it. It cannot possibly be abandoned by the air.
Now back to the 14th century Japanese Zen master buss Suey from reading from the three pillars of Zen. We left off yesterday where he's urging those who have had even even some insight, some breakthrough to not settle for that. And remember he said to do so it'd be like someone who having found copper gives up a desire for gold.
And then, regarding the deeper realization, he says, with such realization you attribute achieve true emancipation. But even now, repeatedly cast off what has been realized turning back to the subject that realizes that is to the root bottom and resolutely go on
sometimes when people come and it's not that they have maybe the slightest of of awakenings, it's not always so crystal clear whether they do and and I sometimes will say to them I think it's it's not time yet I think it's you still have to have to further to go but even if even if it were something more signal Forget if it were some real awakening. You just have to forget about it. It's the same whether you have or haven't. We just discard. Just leave everything behind. Every experience we have every insight, every awakening, just go on, forget it
to do so he says your your self nature will then grow brighter and more transparent as your delusive feelings perish. Like a gym gaining luster under repeated polishing, until at last it positively illumines the entire universe. Don't doubt this? Should your yearning be too weak, to lead you to the State in your present lifetime, you will undoubtedly gain self realization easily in the next provided you're still engaged in this questioning at death. Just as yesterday's work half done, was finished easily today.
In za Zen neither reject nor cling to the thoughts that arise. Only search your own mind, the very source of these thoughts you must understand that anything appearing in your consciousness or seen by your eyes is an illusion, of no enduring reality. That's, that's what illusion in this case means. It just is it's impermanent. Hence, you should neither fear nor be fascinated by such phenomena. Makes me think of Mockito these side effects that are so common especially in session hallucinations, getting into strong emotional states sometimes crying fears anxieties so don't eat don't don't fear such things and don't be enthralled by such things. If you keep your mind as empty a space unstained by extraneous matters nothing can disturb you even on your deathbed
while engaged in Zen however, keep none of this counsel in mind see even there he's he's offering this wisdom of his deep realization and he said well wait don't even even don't when you're sitting don't think about what I'm saying. You don't need to if it helped, okay. But you don't need to he says he must only become the question what is mind or what is Mu What is it who am I?
When you realize this mind, you will know that it is the very source of all Buddhas and sentient beings that is the enlightened and the unenlightened.
At work at rest, never stopped trying to realize who it is that hears or it gets I think more be better to say what it is that here's who implies a person which is not entirely accurate. Even though that's our conditioning we so easily think of ourselves as a person a fixed person. But it's goes beyond personhood. Because it goes beyond selfhood never stopped trying to realize what it is that here's even though you're questioning penetrates the unconscious, you won't find the one who hears and your efforts will come to not yet sounds can be heard. So question yourself to an even deeper level. At last, every vestige of self awareness will disappear, and you will feel like a cloudless sky. Within yourself, you will find no high. Nor will you discover anyone who hears. This, of course, is the great mystery of it all. The unbelievable mystery of it all. No fixed self, then, who's hearing right now? Who's hearing these words? Really? What is hearing these words?
Do not mistake the state for self realization, but continue to ask yourself even more intensely. If you bore and bore into this question, oblivious to anything else, even this feeling of voidness will vanish and you won't be aware of anything. total darkness will prevail. Don't stop here but keep asking with all your strength. What is it that here's only when you have completely exhausted the questioning will the question burst. Now you will feel like one who has come back from the dead. This is true realization. You will see the Buddha's of all the universe's face to face and the ancestors past and present.
If you don't come to realization in this present life, when will you once you have died, you won't be able to avoid a long period of suffering in the three evil paths. We mentioned yesterday. That's the three lowest of the six realms of unaligned existence. And then this is the part that used to tear into me while I was working on Mu. What is obstructing realization? Nothing but your own half hearted desire for truth.
Think of this and exert yourself to the utmost.
And now, it turns toward letters by Suey answering letters. And this first one is to a man from coma saga. To whom he writes, you asked me to write you how to practice Zen on your sick bed. Who is he that is sick? Who is he that is practicing Zen. Do you know who you are? Once whole being is Buddha nature. One's whole being is the great way. The substance of this way, is inherently immaculate and transcends all forms. Is there any sickness that one's own mind and zones? True mind is the essential substance of all Buddha's once faced before her parents birth it is the matter of seeing and hearing of all the senses. One who fully realizes this is a Buddha. One who does not is an ordinary human being. Hence all Buddhas and ancestors point directly to the human mind. So that one can see his own self nature and thereby attain enlightenment. For the best relief for one perplexed by shadows is to see the real thing.
And then not by Suey draws from a parable, I guess you'd call it. Once a man was invited to the home of a friend as he was about to drink a cup of wine offered him, he believed he saw a baby snake inside his cup. Not wishing to embarrass his host, so Japanese, not wishing to embarrass his host by drawing attention to it. He bravely swallowed it. You know, when I was working with Roshi on one of his books, he, he smiled and said, You know, when I translated this, he said, I just said Snake, he believed he saw a snake inside his cup. And I said, to Yasutani Roshi, who would think a full grown snake is in one's cup. Let's call it a baby snake. And, and Yasutani said he, you Westerners with your rational minds. This would not be a problem for Japanese. You don't have to make it a baby snake. Interestingly, my sister sunyata Roshi was giving sesshin in Mexico once and they are in ducks on room, she had her her cup of water. And one morning she looked down about to pick up her picking up a cup of water and there was a toad in it. You never know what's going to happen in Mexico, I would come out of teisho. And almost every day, actually, as I was walking across the short stretch of lawn, as I was rounded, this one corner, huge Guana would flop down in my feet. I mean, it wasn't anything to worry about, he was more worried about me than the other way around.
We also had our share of scorpions there in the Zendo in Mexico, and as part of the opening guidelines that were read, to tell people that if they were they're sitting on the floor in the Zendo and a scorpion was approaching them not to just sit and it was okay to move signal to the monitor that this was going on in the monitor would get a cop in a piece of cardboard and compassionately remove the scorpion from the Zendo
trying to fish out another story that is flitted through my mind involving creatures in in Mexico.
Hello, so again not wishing to embarrass his host by drawing attention to it. He bravely swallowed it. Upon returning home, he felt severe pains in his stomach. Many remedies were applied but in vain, and the man now grievously ill felt he was about to die. His friend hearing of his condition asked him once more to his home. He said his friend in the same place the host set the guy in the stomach problem, and the again offered him a cup of wine, telling him it was medicine, as the ailing man raised his cup to drink, once again he saw a baby snake in it. This time he drew his hosts attention to it, okay. Without a word, the host pointed to the ceiling above the guest wear a bow hon. Suddenly, the man sick man realized that the baby snake quote, unquote, was the reflection of the hanging bow. Even that stretches one's mind a hanging bow looking like a baby's neck. Both men looked at each other and laugh the pain of the sick man vanished instantly, and he recovered his health
And then he then bus so he continues becoming awakened is analogous to this. The patriarch yoga, that's a yoga Daishi great Japanese master. When you realize the true nature of the universe, you know that there is neither subjective or objective reality. At the very moment karmic formations, which would carry you to the lowest hell are wiped out. At that very moment. Karmic formations are carried to the lowest How are wiped up. And that's the end of what yoga day she said. This true nature is the root substance of every sentient being. Human beings, however, can't bring themselves to believe that their own mind is itself the great completeness realized by the Buddha. So they cling to superficial forms, and look for truth outside this mind, striving to become Buddha through ascetic practices. But as the illusion of an ego self does not vanish, one must undergo intense suffering in the three worlds. He's like the one who became sick believing he had swallowed a baby snake. various, various remedies were of no avail, but he recovered instantly upon realizing the basic truth. So that various remedies were of no avail, is an allusion to this reference about ascetic practices of the Buddha ish Siddhartha thinking he could come to enlightenment through these severe self mortifications of near starvation and punish self punishment, which was a path a respected path and India of the fifth century BC we have our own milder versions of that where people feel that somehow they can achieve ultimate peace of mind body mind by getting getting ever more involved in dietary practices or other other things that would supposedly Achieve Self Mastery over the over the body and the mind is aligned in the in the Mumonkan, we're move on says rather than give relief to the body, give relief to the mind.
Here we can have any number of physical problems, physical pain and other problems crop up. And it's only sensible to do what we can, in the case of physical pain, we can adjust our cushions. Before taking our seats, we can experiment a little bit with the cushions. But But there's another approach that can work with that which is to lose oneself in the practice lose oneself in the practice absorption in the practice that can go a long way to clearing up ones physical pains and other problems. Maybe not in all cases, let's not make an absolute out of it, but it can go a long way. Once I was tormented by pain in my a sort of a hora region the the hip joint in the front. It just was driving me crazy. I kept trying to monkey with my posture, adjust how I sat and had no effect at all. And it was something like two or three days of just recurrent searing pain and that section. And I realized later because it was really only that bad and once a shame. I realized later that it was big Has I was too tense. And I was too tense because in my mind, I was grasping for this thing that I wanted. Can't y'all gotta gotta God and it creates physical tension. But but the way I found my way out of that was to just give everything over to Mu. Just okay. Pain, no pain, just smooth, just smooth. Yes, I noticed the pain just smooth and evidently, it seems that what happened was that set up a kind of a release in the mind, a release of 10 mental tension, a real release of grasping, which then relieved the pain in the body. It's faith, there is faith. Do you have what do you have more faith in tinkering with your posture? And living in that again, it's okay, but leaving it that don't leave it at that. Have faith in the mind the work of the mind. The practice rather than giving relief to the body give relief to the mind.
It continues, so just look into your own mind. No one can help you with nostrums with cures. In a sutra The Buddha said if you would get rid of your foe your enemy, you have only to realize that that enemy is delusion. All phenomena in the world are illusory they have no abiding substance. Sentient beings, always remember when they in these texts you say sentient beings it means the so called unenlightened. It's a pairing the Buddha's and sentient beings the enlightened and the seemingly unenlightened. Sentient beings no less than Buddha's are like images reflected in water. One who does not see the true nature of things mistakes shadows for substance. That is to say in Zen, the state of emptiness and quiet which results from the diminution of thought, is often confused with one's face before one's parents were born. In other words, getting into a state of deep, quiet stillness is not to be mistaken for a real breakthrough. And he says this serenity is also a reflection upon the water, you must advance beyond the stage where your reason is of any avail. In this extremity of not knowing what to think or do ask yourself who is the master? Who am I? What is it? What is Mu this practice will become your intimate only after you have crushed a chunk of ice and fire. Tell me now who is this most intimate of yours? And then he answers. Today is the eighth of the month. Tomorrow is the 13th.
Bringing you back to Justice
here's another letter this is to the ABIs of Shin Mu g shinzou. G. Gee just means temple. So shouldn't new temple. In order to come to awakening you must discover who it is that wants to come to awakening. It's a good that's a good opening statement. Get your mind off awakening. Bring it back to the the one who is experiencing the subject. To know this subject you must write here and now probe deeply into yourself inquiring. What is it that thinks in terms of good and bad? That sees that here's if you question yourself profoundly in this way, you will surely enlighten yourself. The mind which the Buddha's realized in their enlightenment is the mind of all sentient beings our essential nature. The substance of this mind is pure harmonizing with its surroundings. In a woman's body, it has no female form. In a man's body, it has no appearance of male. Like boundless space, it hasn't a particle of color. The physical world can be destroyed, but formless, colorless space is indestructible. This mind does true mind like space is all embracing. It does not come into existence with the creation of our body, nor does it perish with its disintegration is a line from a verse in the Mumonkan. When the universe is annihilated, it remains indestructible.
Though invisible, it's suffuses our body and every single act of seeing, hearing smelling, speaking, moving the hands and legs is simply the activity of this true mind. Whoever searches for Buddha and truth outside this mind is diluted.
There has never been a Buddha and enlightened one who has not realized the self nature and every last being within the six realms of existence is perfectly endowed with it.
Every one who has realized this nature and attained to enlightenment wants to make it known to others. But people clinging stupidly to superficial forms, find it hard to believe in this purposeless Dharmakaya this pure true Buddha
clinging stupidly to superficial forms in in the Sutras, the Buddha talks about this attachment to name and form it's another it's another good coupling, to to understand if you're reading sutras, name and form are linked because we human beings of every culture and every language, we see differences in forms, table Taan, Buddha flowers stick tree, we see these different forms, different appearances. And we someone a long time ago assign names to them different names and the different names reinforce the idea that the world is fragmented. It's it's the idea, that perspective it reinforces that perspective. That there is only differentiation because of our attachment to name and form to appearances. This of course is just half the truth within all of the different forms all the diversity there is just this there is the the in divisible let's let these geese tell it
How can a teacher compete with that?
Referring again to this essential nature of ours, he says to give it a name. The Enlightened Ones refer resort to such a metaphor as as the treasure gem of free will. The great path Amitabha Buddha, Buddha of supreme knowledge, Jizo canon, full gun, suffer Ganas. Samantabhadra, the bodhisattva of action once faced before one's parents were born. Every epithet of a Buddha or a bodhisattva is simply a different designation for the one mind. If one believes in her own buddha mind that is the same as believing in all enlightened ones. Thus, in a sutra we read, the three worlds are but one mind. Outside this mind, nothing exists. Mind Buddha, sentient beings are one and are not to be differentiated.
Since the sutras deal only with this mind to realize it is to accomplish at one stroke, the reading and understanding of all the sutras. One sutra says the teachings of the sutras are like a finger pointing to the moon. And then by so he continues these teachings are the sermons that have been preached by all the Buddha's pointing to the moon is pointing to the one mind of sentient beings. Just as it is said that the moon shines upon both sides of the earth. In the same way, the one mind illumines the inner and outer world. When it is said then that great marriage can be derived from reciting the sutras. This means what has just been said and nothing more. In other words, it's it's just it's it's true as far as it goes. But it doesn't go that far because it's just about causation, of piling up. Merit. wakening reveals what is beyond causation reveals the a causal. So we we say in the Hacohen chant, the gate to the oneness of cause and effect is thrown open.
says that he says thus, the merit of realizing this one mind coming to awakening in a single instant, is infinitely greater than that of reciting the sutras for 10,000 days. Just as perceiving one's own nature, in a moment of single mindedness is incomparably greater than hearing for 10,000 years why this is so. But then he acknowledges the the OPI are the skillful means, but just as one must progress from shallow to deep by degrees. So is it a blessing for beginners to recite sutras enthusiastically So, that's why we do it. It's why we chant twice a day and fishing. For them it is like getting onto a raft or a boat as a first step. But if they do not yearn to reach the other shore of realization contenting themselves to remain forever on the raft. They only deceive themselves. Shakyamuni Buddha under When many austerities yet failed to attain Buddhahood. After this, he did Zen for six years, giving up everything else, and that last realize this one mind. Following his perfect enlightenment, he spoke about the mind he had realized, for the sake of all mankind. These talks are called sutras and other words flowing from the realized mind to the Buddha