2022-11-D5-AW: November 2022 Sesshin, Day 5: The Teachings of Maurine Stuart-roshi 5
6:15PM Nov 15, 2022
Sensei Amala Wrightson
We going to pick up where we left off reading from the "Subtle Sound: the Zen Teachings of Maureen Stewart" edited by Roko Sherry Chayat. And we just heard the story of the burglars an analogy for the nature of practice. The point being that we learn on our feet or we could maybe say on our seat, nobody can give us a set of foolproof instructions that can be pointers made. But ultimately, each of us has to find our own way, because each of us is different.
Or in Stuart continues, like the burglar who locked his son in a chest as a way of teaching him his trade. A good Zen teacher puts the student in a box from which there seems to be no way out.
Surely everyone who has worked on koans his head times when they felt like they were locked inside a box, there's no way out. Really, each of us has to become a Houdini. Find find our way out of this box. And what what the box is made of the walls of the box are made of egoistic opinions and ideas and attachments.
The more we practice the more we come to know our own minds. And we come to realize the absolute hopelessness of the mind restrained by the ego, all our accumulated knowledge is inadequate. Our teacher tells us over and over again be simple, be plain, be ordinary, be open, have no fixed ideas. And still we hang on to the idea that we can achieve something finally, we give it up. A young man told me he was walking step after step after step and how wonderful that was, finally, he had given up the idea that he had to do something when we completely surrender into this, then everything goes quite smoothly. When we give up the egoistic effort, when we stop saying, I have certain standards or I demand such and such for myself, then we can do the very best we can we walk with for concentration in the moment and let everything else take care of itself. Some of that, living up to certain standards can be quite unconscious. Stuff that is is old in us that comes from from what we were told as children and very common is the desire to please to, to impress. To live up to sets of standards which come from outside us. Think of flora Courtois some of you all have heard her story. She had this spontaneous deep awakening at the age of 17 or 18. And one of the things one of the things that happened after this breakthrough was that she her her university grades went down and she comments that she was some in some classes they went up and others they went down she was then studying to what interested her what drew her rather than to some external standards.
Something else that must be given up is the idea of labeling this universe and everything in it, including ourselves is in a flowing situation. There are no fixed identities. The true Buddhist doesn't say I'm a Buddhist, or I'm a Zen Buddhist or I'm a Tibetan Buddhist, we are just human beings. When the Buddha was asked to give a definition of reality, he didn't put any label on it. He referred to ongoing to not becoming and not made, not compounded. He directed us to look into matters of our own experience, to examine the nature of suffering, where does our suffering come from? My way, my opinion, this is the way things should be, I have to do it this way. When we let go of this egoistic way of life, we discover what obaku said obaku Chinese name is Juan Paul. Mind, universal mind or reality is no other than the Buddha and Buddha is no other than sentient beings. When mind assumes the form of sentient beings, it has suffered no decrease and when it has become a Buddha, it has added nothing to itself.
I'll read one post is weird again mind universal mind or reality is no other than the Buddha and the Buddha is no other than sentient beings. When mind assumes the form of sentient beings, it has suffered no decrease and when it has become a Buddha, it has added nothing to itself.
One of the outcomes of recent cosmology is more and more people realizing that everything needed for the existence of what is existing. Now, here in this the Zendo for example, was that was there at the beginning it was there at the at the Big Bang, nothing has been added. We look at a worm Everything is there in that worm needed for it to evolve into other forms. And of course, it is one of our many ancestors. This Buddha's seed is prisoned in everything.
Nothing needs to be added.
So clear away these deep seated notions that a real substantial and abiding ego exists. Thank goodness it does not. It did not. It will not what a relief. As we go along in this practice, we begin to see things differently. But don't expect anything. Don't think my life will change dramatically. To say my life is to go back to that egoistic process. Just do what needs to be done and let the results take care of themselves. Be patient. Everything will change.
We think we know how this process unfolds. But what if we knew we know we think we know gets in the way.
Be patient, she says everything will change.
Before sesshin I was talking to Martha Thompson, who's been volunteering in the kitchen, and she now works with a Tibetan teacher. And she said that one of the things that really struck her with Tibetan teachers in general, was their extraordinary patience.
Patience of course is one of the six parameters or the essential ingredients of the of the bodhisattva way along with giving ethical conduct, effort, meditation and wisdom
patience we can we can underrate it we think it's something that just involves enduring what is difficult, but it's an element of patience is having a long view
thinking not just about ourselves, but of all who will come after us. What will we leave for them? And, and all that came before us, all those who came before us. Will we will requite a debt of gratitude to our ancestors, dharma ancestors, biological ancestors
with patients we can avoid sub sabotaging our practice. Keep taking taking the lid off that that pot we're trying to get to boil and checking it out. No, just put the lid on and do what's needed. Let the results take care of themselves as Maureen Stewart says put our faith in change.
Next section is called daily life practice is the way
often when a student comes to see me I ask how is your everyday life koan going as strong forms as in training helps us to live our ordinary lives supremely Well, to do the best of our ability, not make inordinate demands on ourselves but accepting what we can do step by step, not being discouraged because things do not go as perfectly as we think they should go. But being patient and mindful, and observing how this condition changes, moment after moment, sitting after sitting. One minute, we may be very sad, depressed about something that we feel we have not done very well. In the next moment we realize that after all, we must drop it and move on. That moment represents something else and then something else again, presents something else and something else again. being constantly aware of impermanence, how helpful that is in our lives. Something we can trust in in and depend on impermanence a monk named Rosa was once lifting a kettle for the tea ceremony when he accidentally overturned it. What was under the kettle asked the government official for who ro was making tea. This is a case from the Hekiganroku What makes us have accidents, what has caused the overturning of the kettle do we allow an accident to knock us off base or do we just keep steadily moving on? I think here of the saying in the in the theater that the show must go on. If even if you get fed the wrong lines or you get your own lines, the show must go on. We we have to take what was given to us in that situation and the theater situation. Even if we get the wrong line we have to make the best of it. What we think is is the wrong line and sometimes improvisation is creative.
In each koan, some words are very important and some are not so important. In this one Don't watch out for what is under the kettle. Watch out for what is under your feet. Maintain your firm awareness of body and mind wherever you are. Maintain your firm awareness of body and mind wherever you are. stay grounded if you feel yourself
and more than one way or another then just feel your feet on the ground or your seat on the cushion. Breathe. Look around. See where you are
so Zan, the third patriarch says in his poem, on believing in mind, one in all all in one. If only this is realized no more worry about your beat not being perfect. It's a little different from the translation from our child of having faith in mind we say one thing is all all things are one no this at all is whole and complete. But this message in the in first translation is an important one for us to hear. No more worry about you're not being perfect. It's a call and for many of us what what is, is perfect about things. You see so many faults everywhere. How can we see the perfection that is there
it continues no more worry about tripping over the park during the tea ceremony or keeping things in some pristine condition. If only this is realized, it's in quotes, we are able to regain our balance, moment after moment. We are not knocked off base by little mishaps that come up in our life. We are not swallowing we are not wallowing in them, not indulging in self pity. Self Pity. Will is guaranteed to make us feel isolated. There's a little practice we can do which can be very helpful in this regard. It's kind of like a simplified form of Tibetan tonglen practice. If you something difficult has come out something that you're you're struggling with. You can just say to yourself, may all people who are suffering like this, be free of this suffering. Suddenly go from isolation to being part of a vast web of people. Maybe it's a certain kind of illness that you're experiencing, or an afflictive emotion just in that moment to send out a wish that all those suffering as you are suffering are free from the suffering. This is very helpful if we can remember to do it and that's the that's the way we need a daily practice to keep up presence of mind. Not get get sucked in.
Daily life practice is the way this is the hardest practice. But if we think of the tea ceremony, it may help. What is under that kettle that's warming the water in your life. What is the firm foundation that you are making now sitting in the Strong's as in posture, following your breath, leaving all the extraneous stuff fall off? This is what we are doing making a wonderful firm base for the kettle. And if the kettle gets spilled, if some accident occurs, we maintain our firm footing our motion. This is no mind motion. In the story about overturning of the teakettle, row Joses teacher mele Shaw says, still you wonder about the countryside working with stump. Our vision of the this has working with gathering charred wood That seems pretty a pretty useless thing to be doing.
He means what are you? Why are you not getting down to what is essential? Why are you not really devoting yourself to this? Great? Not at metta? Row answers? What about you? And Maureen Stewart comments, don't ask someone else, please work on your own original answer in life. Take care of your own life, drive your own life. Get on with your own affairs. She tells the story of once going to see so unlock ago. He asked how did you get here? Good scene opening question. And she said I drove my car. And then he asked how you driving your life?
It's a question we can all ask. Like, like peeing, no one can do it for us.
You may wonder what about this matter of pain, desire all of that. In The Heart Sutra, we read that the President paramita Derani completely clears all suffering, we have an RS whose words delay or pain but to have no pain and no desire is to become dead. In fact, it means to have no content, no connection.
This is where our pain comes from. We often we feel pain for other suffering, but the pain of dissatisfaction and depression is connected with selfish ideas. Of course, sometimes we have to be selfish to some extent as in protecting our space, our health our time, but when the small self stays small, and does not expand to more than itself, then indeed there is pain, pain and and isolation. When this fault small self finds itself enveloped in that wider and deeper being, then it is not merely a relative self. And we can accept the pains of everyday life with more courage, more endurance. This is what Zen gives us.
bigger frame we could say
no frame, that circle that has centers everywhere and circumference is nowhere. That's that's what we're a part of, we just can recognize it. There are two Buddhist terms Ri and G and Japanese re means universal truth Truth. G means a particular event or phenomenon. Another way of saying it is formlessness and Form G also means a technique that can be seen and taught. But what is formulas cannot be seen or taught or even chosen. The G of Z in the instruction and how to practice is very simple, very plain, very straightforward. But there is a deeper meaning of this instruction with respect to posture and breathing. Our attitude towards life is expressed in our posture. Each one of us knows by the condition of our own breath, what is going on in our minds. Our composure or lack of composure really shows itself in every situation. But it is expressed not only in wonderful Zen calligraphy, but in our lives in the art of living.
We can particular mind state one of the things we can do is to check our posture. Are we are we collapsed in slumped over? Are we too tight? What is our breath doing? Is we can regulate ourselves by staying aware of these
things not just in the Zendo but everywhere
she continues, I cannot do calligraphy but I have practiced the piano over and over and over. I have done really deep practice and have always considered my spiritual practice from the earliest days of my life. So instead of doing a calligraphy for you, I may say, Would you like to hear about Prelude And Fugue that is my Zen expression. The point of using some one special way again and again, its way in the sense of particular art or discipline, is that our expression becomes clearer and clearer through the discipline. Just as with Zen, sitting after sitting, everything becomes clearer. When we are in the condition of motion, even to some small degree, the nature and spirit, human and superhuman become one, then the great works of art are created. Looking at a calligraphy by Solon Roshi, we feel how Mu wrote Mu. There has been no egocentric attempt at effect, or an or interference but simply a spontaneous and wonderfully vivid expression that comes straight out of us. There is no fixing it up no removing the smudges, no brushing it over. It's just as it is. This is one of the beauties of really great art is the imperfections. Something very perfect is in a sense did in a way that something with flaws, is not, it's alive.
The ego is the natural aim and enemy of all great human activity. When it is out of the way we are in a heavenly condition. In the state of selflessness, our energy makes the heavens dance, not choosing to do but being done. In the tongue period, the golden age of Zen and China, the wound Oh koans they were just living situations. anytime anyplace was the place of practice, everything at hand, every event was an occasion for the forceful and free functioning of Zen. So it is in our lives, anytime anyplace is our place of practice. It's wonderful to have a Zendo to come to, but in fact we carry as endo within us everywhere we go
she mentions about when we're free of ego it's it's a heavenly condition. And where our energy makes the heavens dance. This This
dance is a is a important element in practicing the sense of playfulness or or joining with the practice
for a long time, I think when I was working on Mu, I had this notion that I had to somehow kind of wrestle it to the floor and pin it down. And at a certain point I realized that it was completely at odds with what needed to be done that I needed to find a way to dance with Mu
to find a kind of flowing freedom in it rather than heaviness grimness
The next section is called, who is the real you?
our essential nature is no different from that of the Buddha's, the substance of the universe is coextensive with our own Buddha nature. When our minds are clouded with the illusion, however, we don't see this, we see nothing but a world of individual entities, we are unaware that we are never separate from our essential Buddha nature, whether we realize it or not. This this she's restating here the basic teaching of the Buddha, from the Avatamsaka sutra. All beings are Buddha, endowed with wisdom and compassion, passion and virtue, lacking nothing in his only because our minds have been turned upside down by delusive thinking that we fail to perceive this.
When we hear that we are endowed with Buddha nature from the very beginning, we want to know where it is, we begin our search for our true nature. We may begin by reading books, listening to talks, and gradually affirm belief and the reality of Buddha nature comes about, then we are driven to discover it with all the force of our being. And when we do, what is it that we have discovered, only that we have never been without it?
It's it's the difficulty of this, this process actually, in part comes from the fact that Buddha nature is so intimately who are what we are, that we we don't see it.
Sitting down and concentrating one's mind on a single matter, nothing is left unrealized. This list, this does not mean that we control our minds. Our minds naturally settle down through our practice of mindfulness. Instead of drifting around, we truly turn our attention inward. Instead of the monkey mind, condition, scrambling from one thought to thought we just said, we concentrate on one thing, following the breath are counting the breaths, just leading mood do mute Mu, or investigating what it is adding that there. All of the all of these are practices of turning towards the great metta turning towards Buddha nature.
Our minds set naturally settle down if we let them. If we can get rid of our egocentric preoccupation that we have to do something, then mood as Mu. The body takes up its natural posture, the breath flows all by itself, and all inner and outer disturbances resolve themselves. When we try to resolve them, they only become stickier. There's nothing to do but to be ordinary plain and take one thing at a time. This is probably the most helpful piece of instruction there is in terms of doing see Shane, take one thing at a time. One round at a time, one breath at a time. Don't imagine that we know what what's coming next. Just leave just put our faith in the law of impermanence.
We look closely we see how infrequently we actually take one thing at a time when we were eating will be chewing one mouthful and we're already getting ready to take you take the next one
When we're going somewhere, we won't be fully just going, wherever we going, but already our mind will be at where we are intending to go.
Rinzai says, the mind is without form, it pervades the 10 directions and is functioning right before your eyes. Stuart continues these are not just words for us to memorize or quote, this is a vivid expression of the mind revealing itself can you see it? Are you experiencing it are you it without form, it is per day pervading the 10 directions, manifesting itself right here before us, it is no different from what one runs around seeking it, it shows itself right here, whether we can see it or not. It is not a matter of believing or not believing, knowing or not knowing, seeing or not seeing, it is beyond that.
The way of being truly human is beyond beyond all shapes, it has no form, when we use words like Buddha or to targeter, there are some, there is some danger that we think of this as something apart from us, searching for the mystery outside oneself leads us astray, the mystery is right here. Any anytime we use labels, we run this risk of the the label beat being taken for the thing itself, the finger pointing at the moon being taken for the moon, but we do it because to to not turn our minds towards Buddha or to Toledo and so forth, is to miss what is so vital and important in our lives that that it's really a matter of being alive or dead. You be aware or not aware of these things is no things are you completely here or as part of you somewhere else? Are you all of a piece or are you split? Each of you has different roles in this life. Each of you wears many different hats. But are you fundamentally aware of your own true person who is the real you there is no unchanging ego there is no entity called a soul. Everything is constantly changing in the stream of cause and effect. What has appeared verticality, one moment is gone the next moment after moment it streams along beyond this coming and going this appearing and disappearing, there is nothing else phenomena are coming and going. And when you ask what is real, you have already missed it. It's gone. What is real is only realized in deep says in deep samadhi we pass from one condition state of mind to another dark cloudy moments come, tears come and then the sun comes out and we smile. The mind is clear. And then again it's troubled. It's in pain. All this is just passing by. The mind is like the sky a bird flies in flies out. A cloud floats in floats out. An aeroplane comes in goes out and we are just here quietly and earnestly doing so as in with this understanding no matter what kind of situation we get into. We find our base is strong. When things become clear who is the real you this is a good description of shikantaza especially just sitting just allowing the parade to come by pass through
people have said to me because all very well to come to the Zen No uncertain peace and quiet. But what to do when we are a go home? That's the big test the big koan for all of us. How do we deal with this everyday life? We think I have so many passions, so many things that upset me. So much going on in my life. How do I find peace of mind? Dogan says that when the clay is plentiful, the Buddha is big. He meant by Clay, raw passion, lots of it. Where does the Lotus grow in the mud? If someone tells me I never get angry, I don't have any jealousy in my nature, I think, Oh really. We are constantly dealing with such emotions and they fertilize our practice. So please do not feel that you have to be in some absolutely tranquil, serene, permanently detached condition. This is not possible. It's not human. But because of this practice, when some deep emotion like anger takes hold, when our whole body is blazing with it. Then in the very midst of it, we taste Mu we realize the true peace of mind that has been here there all along. You have never been without it. We'll stop there and recite the four vows