Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei #3
12:27AM Jun 23, 2023
This is the third day of this June 2023, seven day sesshin. And today we're going to continue with the unborn the life and teachings of Zen master Bankei. Yesterday we finished with the biography of Bankei, as told by the books translator, Norman Waddell. And we ended yesterday by starting to read from a transcript of one of his public talks given at Ryumonji as part of a training period there attended by more than 1500 people, both householders, and we're monastics. And we won't have time to cover the entire text, and there is some degree of repetition in it as well. So I'm going to occasionally be skipping around some paragraphs. And Picking up from where we left off Bankei speaks of how our intrinsic buddha mind is operating all the time. It's operating right now. We're each endowed with it each and every moment. And that's the case, even if we don't yet know it. He says, while you face this way, listening to me now, if a sparrow chirps behind you, you don't mistake it for a crow. You don't mistake the sound of a bell for that of a drum, or hear a man's voice and take it for a woman's, or take an adult's voice for a child's. In other words, in hearing a sound, it's just that just as it is a sparrow or a crow
are a pack of coyotes bursting into the Zendo. For the benefit of those sitting on Zoom, who may not have been able to hear or couldn't decipher it during our early morning round. We heard here from the Chapin Mill Zendo, a lone coyote barking and then just a moment later, the rest of the pack chiming in howling nipping. Oh
bonk, a says you hear and distinguish those different sounds. And we can also say any any sensation, seeing, touching, tasting smelling. Without making a single mistake, you hear and distinguish those different sounds without making a single mistake, by virtue of the marvelous working of eliminative wisdom. This is the proof that the buddha mind is unborn and wonderfully illuminating. So no matter the name, we give it or the form we assigned to it. Any label we might use for the sensory inputs we receive. That that's her true nature. That's things as they are and when we're one with things as they are, and we're not relying on mental constructs or judgments we see it more clearly.
When You're eating an apple, say, are you just eating the apple
you take a bite your teeth sink into it. You immediately taste it. tasting food doesn't require thinking. Just tasting and even though thoughts may arise, we might try to identify or evaluate what we're tasting. As for as far as the apple, you know, we might evaluate the texture of it, we might say if it's good or bad to ourselves. We might think, hmm, yeah, I want another one. Or is, is this a Fuji? Or is it a gala, or, you know, some other kind of Apple. And because we've eaten apples before, we have a mental framework for that. Our brain recognizes it as such, and makes comparisons based on our past experiences. And that's, that's just a brain doing what the brain does. The same way. Our glands do what they do, they produce hormones, and our lungs supply the body with oxygen.
And we can't find fault in our mind for producing thoughts any more than we can find fault in our heart beating.
But we do have a choice in terms of where we place our attention. On the eating a case of eating an apple, yeah, chewing, tasting swallowing, or thoughts about it. judgments or eating an apple and thinking about one's practice at the same time. The mind is split.
Bankei Bankei goes on to say more about the sensory input of sounds in particular. But again, this can apply to any sensation. He says none of you could say that you heard the sounds of say a sparrow, a child or a drum because you had made up your minds to hear them beforehand. If you did, you wouldn't be telling the truth. All of you are looking this way. intent upon hearing me. You're concentrating single mindedly on listening. There's no thought in any of your minds to hear the sounds or listen to the noises that might occur behind you. You are able to hear and distinguish sounds when they do occur without consciously intending to hear them because you're listening by means of the unborn buddha mind
there's a line in one of the chants we do affirming faith in mind. If you would walk the highest way do not reject the sense domain do not reject the sense domain naturally and spontaneously. We perceive sounds, sites tastes and so on. Hearing is just hearing We have the capacity to do it without being burdened by thoughts
if we hold on to the thoughts that arise rather than just let them fade into the background as we're devoting our attention to our practice, we hold on to them. We're removing ourselves from direct experience.
Bonk a then says, when we are firmly convinced that the buddha mind is unworn and wonderfully illuminating, and we live in it. By living it he means we don't remove ourselves from what we're experiencing. When we live in it, we're living Buddhas and living tailgaters. Buddha to the word Buddha is just a name arising after the fact. It's only the skin and shell. When you say Buddha, you're already two or more removes from the place of the unborn. A person of the unborn is one who dwells dwells at the source of all the Buddhas, the unborn is the origin of all and the beginning of all, there is no source apart from the unborn and no beginning that is before the unborn
so thought forms, names words, it's all just skin and shell removed from direct experience and even words like Buddha, unborn enlightenment any idea any notion beyond just experiencing this one moment, and the ideas about the passing of time about birth and death coming and going arising and disappearing they're all concepts removed from lived experience
what lies beneath concepts and words what's underneath that? What's underneath the skin and shell?
Bonnke goes on to say.
bunkie goes on to say, despite the fact that you arrived in this world, with nothing but an unborn buddha mind, your partiality for yourselves now makes you want to have things move in your own way. Your partiality for yourselves now makes you want to have things move in your own way. So we arrive in this world with nothing but this prior to developing a sense of self and ego, which we do need in order to function in the world. Prior to that it's just this bright open Mind
and as we develop into adulthood our social conditioning leads us to develop mental constructs, and to form attachments. And some of them do take a great hold on us. We do become attached to words and ideas, things, people emotions. And taken together, these things that we're attached to culminate in this belief that we're a separate self. We form an identity, around our likes and dislikes, and all the names and labels we come to associate ourselves with, in relation to and in contrast to others. So that would include our sense of our gender, or age, or nationality, or race, or religion, and so on. We take these attributes to define who we are, as if that's all we are. We're just shell shell in skin.
The psychologist Carl Jung once said, The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego. The second half is, is devoted to going inward and letting go of it.
But it's our partiality or partiality for ourself, that makes us want to cling to that shell and to be in control, not let go to get things the way we want them to be. And, in turn, that only leaves us feeling unsatisfied. Because even if we do get what we want, then it becomes the new norm. And we want something else or we want more of it. And in the highly structured setting of the sheen. One of the ways we confront this desire to be in control is by pursuing things that bring us some sense of, of comfort, even escape from machine. Some people resist the schedule the bell rings, and you say, Oh crap. I just want to stay in bed. I just want to lie here and nap. Or during breaks, we might take every opportunity there is to go outside and just relish in the lush greenery of springtime. And for some people that can be an escape mechanism, taking a little break. Break from one's practice. On the other hand, if you're keeping your practice with you, wherever you go, that's another matter. Whatever you do
best way to practice is to just flow freely with things as they are so when the bell rings put on your robe just that but also when tired sleep no resistance knows second guessing
besides, you know things can never be the way we want them to be. They can only be as they are
as bunkie continues he brings to life the melodramas we can find ourselves creating in our, in our mind. He says, you lose your temper, become contentious, and then you think I haven't lost my temper. That fellow won't listen to me. By being so unreasonable. He has made me lose it. And so you fix belligerently on his words and ended up transforming the valuable buddha mind into a fighting spirit
how many of us have done that blaming others for our difficulties? He says by stewing over the unimportant matter, making the thoughts churn over and over in your mind, you may finally get your way. But then you fail in your ignorance to realize that it was meaningless for you to concern yourself over such a matter. As ignorance causes you to become an animal. What you've done is to leave the vitally important buddha mind and make yourself inwardly a first class animal. First Class animal that reminds me of a sang by Anthony de Mello that John Sensei likes to try it out quite often. I'm an S, urine s.
And what Demello says is that's the most liberating wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you're an ass. It's wonderful. He says, when people tell me, you're wrong, I say, what can you expect of an ass?
Each one of us has habits of mind. There's no exception to that. We all have habits. And even in that each one of us is equally a Buddha.
We're all asses, and we're all holding complete.
banket then says, you're all you're all intelligent people here. It's only your ignorance of the buddha mind that makes you go on transforming it into a hungry ghost, fighting spirit or animal. You turn it into this and into that into all manner of things, and then you become those things.
In Buddhism, living beings are classified into 10 worlds or realms, and the Hungry Ghosts, fighting spirits and animals. So although they represent different realms, they all suffer from insatiable cravings and delusive thinking
most people, the average person dwells in thoughts and chases after their preferences and pushes away or resists the things they dislike.
And it's the suffering that comes from that. That brings us to practice and brings us to 16. We have a leg up on the average person because we have this practice. You can see what's going on in the mind
we chase after the things we want sunshine and rainbows and try to escape the things we don't want
but when we see things clearly from our unborn mind
we cut to the chase
we see that each thing has its own place.
buggy buggy then says, You go from one hell or animal existence to the next, or spend countless countless lifetimes as a hungry ghost. You pass through lives and existences one after another in this way, in constant darkness, trans migrating endlessly, and suffering untold torment, for 1000s of lives and through endless kalpas of time. The word kalpa means incalculable beyond measure time. And during it all, you have no opportunity, whatever to rid yourself of the burden of your karma. This happens to everyone when through a single thought. They let the buddha mind slip away from them. So you can see that it's a very serious matter indeed.
It is so, so painful to find ourselves getting caught over and over again, in our habitual mode of thinking and acting. We see the patterns. It might be blaming others for our circumstances. Or it could be wallowing in pride or self pity.
We can also intellectualize and objectify our practice by trying to come up with something to say and joke's on about it. Sitting here in the Zendo or on the waiting line, trying to come up with something to say rehearsing it. In such a shame we can also engage in self talk Having some kind of inner dialogue where we're coaching ourselves and in doing this we're keeping, we're keeping our practice keeping our koan at a distance we're not keeping it close we're not staying intimate with it when we do that yeah, it's like eating that apple you look at the apple and you say okay when I'm eating this apple I'm eating Mu this this year is it I'm taking a bite into it
or objectifying it adding words that aren't needed thinking our way through practice only separates us from it
when eating just eat
Bonnke then says, You must thoroughly understand about not transforming the buddha mind into other things. In other words, not making it into thoughts or or things, objectifying it. As I told you before, not a single one of you in attendance here today is an unenlightened person. You're a gathering of unborn Buddha minds. That includes right here, in the Sandow and on Zoom, a gathering of unborn Buddha minds. If anyone thinks, no, I'm not, I'm not enlightened. I want you to step forward. Tell me, what is it that makes a person unenlightened?
In fact, there are no unenlightened people here. Nonetheless, when you get up and begin to file out of the hall, you might bump into someone in front of you, as you cross over the threshold. Or someone behind you might run into you and knock you down. When you go home, your husband, son, daughter in law servant, or someone else may say or do something that displeases you. If something like that happens, and you grasp onto it, and begin to fret over it, sending the blood to your head, raising up your horns and falling into illusion because of your self partiality. The Buddha mind turns willy nilly into a fighting spirit.
When you live, just as you are, in the unborn buddha mind, you aren't deluded, or unenlightened. The moment you do turn it into something else, you become an ignorant, deluded person. All illusions work the same way. By getting upset and favoring yourself, you turn your buddha mind into a fighting spirit and fall into a deluded existence of your own making.
Fortunately, we can change that around in a flash
just by redirecting our attention and doing it over and over Whatever it takes. And this is important to remember. If you ever find yourself stuck in, in self doubt or self pity what's wrong with me? There I go again. What was I thinking signing up for this machine? I'm hopeless
the poet, Khalil Gibran once said, doubt is a pain, to lonely, to know that faith is his twin brother. Doubt is a faith. Doubt is a pain, to lonely, to know that faith is his twin brother.
The truth is, we're all here because we have that faith. Deep in our heart we no we're a Buddha. We know it's who we are. So even when we feel downtrodden or bored or restless, gloomy or any other kind of passing mind state that's who we are. That's, that's our Buddha nature.
Don't check out
there's not a single, emotional, mental or physical state that's outside of our true self, this unborn mind.
barangay says, so whatever anyone else may do or say, whatever happens. leave things as they are. Don't worry yourself over them. And don't side with yourself. Just stay as you are right in the buddha mind and don't change it into anything else. If you do that, illusions don't occur and you live constantly in the unborn mind. You are a living, breathing, firmly established Buddha. Don't you see? You have the incalculable treasure right at hand?
And then he says, while you're walking down the road, if you happen to encounter a crowd of people approaching from the opposite direction, none of you gives a thought to avoiding others. Yet you don't run into one another.
You aren't pushed down or walked over. you thread your way through them by weaving this way in that dodging and passing on. Making no conscious decisions in this, yet you're able to continue along unhampered nevertheless, now in the same way, the marvelous illumination of the unborn buddha mind deals perfectly with every possible situation. I suppose this this example was quite relevant in that moment, when you consider the throngs of people that formed around Bombay to hear him speak. crowd of people descending upon a town trying to get into the temple lining up
And as he the way he describes the crowd threat people threading through weaving this way in that it's such a wonderful image of, of synchronicity. People moving in time in coordination with each other, with not a thought. Another thought in the mind, people coming from different directions and angles. weaving around yielding, stopping everyone and everything falling neatly into place when we drop our thoughts and it's kind of cool that we also get to experience this in session. Fueled by the amount of Zen that we're doing. And this, this really can happen as days go by. We experience it in the ducks on Rush, you know, everyone jumping up at the same time, and somehow it all sorts itself out.
Also, people when filing off of the courtyard deck, when the outdoor keen Hina ends in the morning, and everyone kind of floods into the Hsuan cubby area. Going this way in that way. No mindedly are flowing like water around rocks in the creek.
But if we throw thoughts into the mix, then we bump in to somebody or stumble, hesitate.
I'm now going to skip ahead a bit. Because he, in this talk, he recounts his life story which we already covered in the biography. And he tells his life story. He talks about his hardship, the hardship he put himself through, including coming to the brink of death, due to very austere measures, denying his body of basic needs like sleep and food. And he uses that to offer advice based on his experience. He says, Just as I was foolish and bullheaded when I was young, sure enough, if I tell you about my experiences, some of the young fellows among you will take it into their heads that they can't achieve the Dharma unless they exert themselves as I did, and that would be my fault. But I do want to tell you about them. So let's make this point perfectly clear. You can attain the Dharma without putting yourself through Arduous struggle, as I did, I want you to remember that carefully. As you listen to what I say.
Listen carefully and confirm for yourselves, then you will be enlightened. When you speak of a Buddha or ancestor that's merely a name. It is a word that is left behind, and is several removes from the sight of the unborn itself and thus totally unimportant. When you dwell in the unborn itself, you're dwelling at the very wellhead of the Buddhas and ancestors. No, no one can know the dwelling purse of a person who is firmly convinced that the buddha mind is unborn. It isn't even known to Buddhas and ancestors.
Don't have to resort to extreme measures oftentimes When we do that, it's grasping. Searching outside instead of going inward
no one can know the dwelling per place of a person who is firmly convinced that the buddha mind is unborn. It's not even known to Buddhas and ancestors no one can know because no one can no one else can do this work for us as desperate as we might feel at times as much as we want somebody to just tell us what to do that's not the way that's just imitation of somebody else's experience
the this resorting to extreme measures it's it's part of the process. On the other hand, you know experimentation is good. Breaking out of our habits is good.
When we exhaust looking outside ourselves then then we know we've got to turn inward and sometimes that's what it takes. We have to experiment and eventually eventually we find our way