January 2022 Sesshin, Day 6: Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui
8:58PM Jan 18, 2022
This is the sixth day of this January 2022, seven day Rohatusu sesshin. And today we're going to read from a book we read from last sesshin - in November - titled Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen master Ta Hui.
Ta Hui was one of the great Chan masters of the 12th century, the 1100s - born in 1088. He left home at 16 and at 17 he had his head shaved as a monk. Among his teachers, his final teacher was Yuanwu, the author of The Blue Cliff Record. Ta Hui was probably Yuanwu's foremost student.
I'm not going to read a whole lot about his life. But here's just one incident towards the end of his work with Yuanwu.
This was after a point where you thought we had basically competed completed his training and was actually had believe co teaching duties with Yuanwu said when Dawei entered Yuanwu was teaching room Yuanwu would always listen to his words. Afterwards one day as they were going to their private quarters. Yuanwu said, if there were a Chan man like me, how would you deal with him? That way said, what unexpected good fortune if there were as Tang posted, having been an executioner all my life, when I beat a fat fellow I slice Yuanwu laughed loudly and said, rather it's you who should enter the room with me and be my teacher. you've pinned me to the wall.
He died in Dawei died in 1163. On the ninth day of the eighth month after showing signs of illness, he told the congregation of monks, nuns and laypeople. Tomorrow I'm going towards the pre Dawn hours after he'd written his last request and letter to the Emperor. The monk who was in his attendant asked to die away for a verse in a serious verse Dawei said, without a verse, I couldn't die. He took up the brush and wrote, birth is thus death is thus verse or no verse, what's the fuss? Then he let go of the writing brush and passed on. He lived 75 years.
Back in November, we ended in the middle of one of his letters, and I'm going to pick it back up.
He says, once you have the intent to investigate this path to the end, you must settle your resolve and vow to the end of your days not to retreat or fall back. So long as you have not yet reached the great rest. The great surcease the great liberation. There's not much to the Buddha Dharma. But it's always been hard to find capable people. The concerns of worldly passions are like the links of a chain joining together without a break. Those who were resolved as weak and inferior time and time again, willingly become involved with them a knowing and unawares. They're dragged along by them only if a person truly possesses the faculty of wisdom and willpower, will he consent to step back and reflect?
It's subtle you resolve and vowed to the end of your days not to retreat or fall back. So much more fiber. When we know in our heart, this is our path. This is the direction I'm going to go. Never going to stop. Never going to settle. Many people will get into practice. They're driven there by personal problems, painful situations. And after practicing for a while some of these things resolve begin to enjoy themselves a little more than they could before. And sometimes the steel steam seeps out. People find themselves just going through the routine. No longer as engaged as they were in the beginning. This is a serious business doesn't need to be solemn and overly formal or gloomy. But it's for real. Might be the kid in a movie I saw what was it called? Search for the wheelchair people said Shit just got real.
It's hard to find capable people. It's hard to to imagine oneself as a truly capable person. But we're all works in progress. We all practice from where we are.
Each of us has this potential. This is a journey of 10,000 miles. And here we take a step or two steps.
We're always battling against the world we live in the way the ways of the world to which we become so accustomed to our own habits. Our habit of thinking and planning when it's not necessary. are constant attempts to arrange things to our liking? To avoid what we don't like and get what we want. Buddha Dharma, the way of the Buddha Dharma is not like that. It's not self preference. It's not conceptualization. It's not chasing after sensual pleasure. It's not giving in weekly to habits. Course we fail. Of course we go off course. We're garden variety people. We we have all the foibles and the shortcomings of a human being or a mix
the concerns of worldly passions are like the links of a chain joining together without a break. Everything in this world today seems to be arranged to strengthen those chains. The whole economy is based on people wanting things and buying them and being convinced that they need them
was not that long ago there was no such thing as an iPhone. Now here they are. Everyone has what it seems everything About It is designed to pull you away to suck you in.
And then there's drugs and alcohol, all the other things that can take us away. He says those whose resolve is weak and inferior time and time again willingly become involved with them. Unknowing and unawares. They're dragged along by them. We see this happen, you know, all of a sudden a new behavior grows up, we do something once and we do it again. Somebody told me that's the business model of Starbucks. Get somebody in there to go and then that's the thing I do. Every day on my way to work I get I go to Starbucks. There is a new one that just went in on Monroe Avenue. Drive up there on my way to the center. And there's one of these you know, the cars driving and it's all a drive thru setup. And it's amazing. Out of nowhere, this thing's spring that spring up. And now when you drive by, there's a line of cars looping all the way around the building. Oh, hours of the day and night.
Coffee is nice.
Yeah, it's the loss of agency. It's the, you know, the inability to step outside whatever routine we've developed. We get mired no question about it. The reason that we are able to get deeper into our practice during A cian is because we have this structure around us. And we commit not to be pulled away by talking or other things that are going to distract us looking around. A little harder in a session like this. Because we're not all Chapin Mill, not all in the same building. For people at home. It's it can be any number of different experiences, how much contact do they need to have with those around them? What responsibilities do they have. But even for us, here at Arnold Park doesn't and more or more of us here all sitting together is still sort of informal and not as structured. And so it becomes our responsibility to to find the rigor within ourselves, to find our seriousness of purpose, and to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.
He says only if people truly possess the faculty of wisdom, and willpower, will he consent to step back and reflect? That stepping back and reflecting is an important part of practice. don't often talk about it. We're talking about dropping thoughts and merging with the practice. But you have to stick your head up every now and then and say am I doing what I need to be doing? how's this working? So it's a fine line between obsessing about conditions and results. And just sort of blindly stumbling ahead not realizing when we're going off the path. What we're doing that's that's causing us problems. The ways that our grasping and aversion make practice more difficult. Getting back to you to a doorway. He says young Chas also said, the real nature of ignorance is identical to the nature of enlightenment. The body the empty body of illusory Transformations is identical to the body of reality. Once you've awakened, there's not a single thing in the body of reality. Original inherent nature is the naturally enlightened one.
We separate things into enlightenment and delusion. But this truth is in everything, it's everywhere. There's nothing that's not this truth
It echoes what we read last night from Ramana Maharshi. There is no greater mystery than this, that we keep seeking reality, though in fact we are reality. We think there is something hiding reality and that this must be destroyed before reality is gained. How ridiculous. A day will dawn, when you will laugh at all your past efforts, that which will be on the day you laugh is also here now.
This is our faith our intuition. That is in the quote from Jung, chia, original inherent nature is the naturally real enlightened one. Just as we are all Buddha's says, If you think like this, suddenly in the place where thought cannot reach, you will see the body of reality in which there is not a single thing. This is the place for you to get out of birth and death. What I said before that one cannot seek the Dharma, which has nothing to attain with the attitude that there is something to attain is just this principle. This is the motive energy behind working on a Kohan is the fate faith that it's here, it's here. Why can't I see it?
He says, gentlemen have affairs make their living within the confines of thought and judgment their whole lives. As soon as they hear a man of knowledge, speak of the Dharma, in which there is nothing to attain. There in their hearts, there is doubt and confusion, and they fear falling into emptiness. Whenever I see someone talking like this, I immediately asked him Is this one who fear is falling into emptiness himself empty or not? 10 out of 10 cannot explain. Since you have always taken thought and judgment as your nesting place, as soon as you hear it said that you shouldn't think immediately you are at a loss and can't find your grip. You're far from realizing that this very lack of anywhere to get a grip is the time for you to let go of your body and your life.
This is a stage of sesshin were often in the Docu sign room, you hear people talking about their fear of falling into emptiness, one form or another. When the mind gets really quiet, it's just uncertainty about who we really are. The whole structure that has been built up unconsciously since we were born, becomes weakened, is a good thing. But it's also frightening. People have to find their way through
sometimes it's a case of going deeply into the practice and then we Bob right up to the surface become frightened or disoriented. Need to just go in again. Gradually what was unfamiliar, becomes familiar. Familiar in a good way we find the faith and the courage to let go.
So as soon as you hear it said that you shouldn't think immediately we're in a loss and can't find your grip. We're at a loss because we keep trying to think that's our solution. That's what we do. do when we're pressed hard. It's not what's needed need to see. He goes on to only it's the person this letter is addressed to my friend to only my friend in the path. When we met in pN 1126, you were of mature age, and already knew of the existence of the great matter. But with your vast area edition, you have entered too deeply into the nine classics and the 17 histories. These are evidently works that were studied in, in ancient China. He says you are too brilliant, and your lines of reasoning are too many. Whereas your powers of stable concentration are too few. You're being dragged along by your daily activities as you respond to circumstances. Thus you are unable to make a clean break right where you stand.
Powers of stable concentration this is what we build up in our Zen so we strengthen of course and sesshin this is what we feel laden sesshin to one degree or another.
This is what can enable us to find equanimity, presence of mind. Awareness in our daily life. The Zen is like charging a battery. The purpose really is to be able to carry that mind of equanimity. Mind that's not caught up in thought or grasping or fear. bring that into our daily life. He says, If correct mindfulness is present at all times, and the attitude of fear for birth and death doesn't waver. And over long days and months, what was unfamiliar will naturally become familiar and what was stale will naturally become fresh. But what is the stale it's the brilliance and cleverness that which thinks and judges what is the unfamiliar? It's enlightenment, Nirvana, truth lessness the Buddha nature where there's no thought or discrimination or figuring and calculating cannot reach where there's no way for you to use your mental arrangements
in this phrase, the attitude of fear for birth and death doesn't waver. One of the reasons I like to read a John Cha for myself and for others
the value of reflecting on birth and death on our situation on old age and impermanence. Characteristics of life look around and no helps when we don't want to do what needs to be done. When we want to just drift off into some kind of pleasant dream numb ourselves out
why there is an inscription on the Han outside the Zendo on the block
don't waste a moment wake up. Wake up
Not sure what he means when he says that which thinks and judges he's describing what's stale
guess we could say it's what we think, is doing the thinking and judging.
What is the unfamiliar, it's enlightenment Nirvana, true lessness, the Buddha nature where there's no thought or discrimination, or figuring, and calculating cannot reach, where there's no way for you to use your mental arrangements.
In practice, we need to, we exhaust all our mental arrangements, all our manipulation takes a while. Hopefully not more than one lifetime, takes a while to find a way just to look just to be still.
He says suddenly, the time arrives, you may be on a story of an ancient entry into the path. Or it may be as you are reading the scriptures, or perhaps during your daily activities as you respond to circumstances. Whether your condition is good or not good, or your body and mind are scattered and confused, whether favorable or adverse conditions are present, or whether you have temporarily quieted the minds conceptual discrimination. When you suddenly topple the key link, there'll be no mistake about it. You interesting point here. We have this idea that we have to be in a certain state of mind in order to see in order to have some insight. But that isn't necessarily the case. We certainly have to have had long periods of close attention of forgetting the self going deeply into the practice. But the moment to moment circumstances can can turn on a dime. One moment, everything seems totally disjointed. The next moment where there helps to remember this, in a lot of people who feel when they go into a bad patch, that they're kind of out of the game. This machine is over for me clearly. So, so mistaken. You can spin your wheels for right up until the end, and then find your footing.
Next short one is called see the moon. Forget the pointing finger says a gentleman reads widely in many books, basically in order to augment his innate knowledge. Instead, you have taken to memorizing the words of the Ancients, accumulating them in your breast, making this your task depending on them for something to take hold of in conversation. You are far from knowing the intent of the sages and expounding the teachings. This is what is called counting the treasures of others all day long, without having half a cent of your own. Likewise, in reading the Buddhist scriptures, you must see the moon and forget the fingers. They all of us are familiar with this image. Don't mistake the finger pointing. Don't think that the finger is the moon actually comes from the surangama Sutra analogy that the Buddha used
don't develop an understanding based on the words an ancient word he said the Buddha's expounded all teachings to save all minds. I have no mind at all. So what's the use of all the teachings? If they can be like this when reading the scriptures Oh Then Will people with resolve have some comprehension of the intent of the sages?
Well, clearly dynaway was not reluctant to take people to task
memorizing the words of the Ancients, accumulating them in your breast, depending on them for something to take hold of in conversation. It's easy to do this there are a lot of people who are sort of Zen dilettantes. They're on the the internet. Go to sites, your people propound what they understand because anything that's a discussion on the internet is kind of disheartening. Never Never go into the comment section.
But it does it is it can be helpful to read scripture, or to read even a book like this, because it does awaken our interest and our intuition. And it can be an aid. Roshi Kapleau always said, what's a good book? It's the one that encourages you to close it, and do Zen.
Think the first year of my involvement in Zen was reading books. Of course back then, in the late 60s. Most all the books on Zen were nothing but staying sayings and Zen witticisms and philosophical accounts. And there wasn't anything really about Tata practice. Took a long time before I ever stumbled on the three pillars of Zen.
The next letter is entitled stories, stories and sayings. He says, These days in the Chan communities, they use the extraordinary words and marvelous sayings of the ancients to question an answer, considering them situations for discrimination, and beguiling students. They are far from getting to the root of their reality. When the Buddhists preached the truth, their sole concern was that people wouldn't understand. Though they had recondite and obscure things to say. They would then bring in other comparisons and similes to make sentient beings wake up and understand. For example, A monk asked Matsu, what is Buddha and Matsu said, Mind itself is Buddha. At this, the monk was enlightened and entered the path. What discrimination is there here. But if the monk hadn't awakened from this, then this very mind itself is Buddha would have been a situation of discrimination.
or places where koans are used for discussion groups, people get together and talk about their different interpretations.
I don't know. I haven't been there. So maybe some good comes out of it. But I don't think Dawei would would say so. When people engaged in meditation, read the scriptural teachings and the stories of the circumstances in which the ancient worthies enter the path. They should just empty their minds. Don't look for the original Marvel are seeking enlightenment in sounds, names and verbal meanings. If you take this attitude, You're obstructing your own correct knowledge and perception, and you'll never have an entry. Punch Sean said, it's like hurling a sword at the sky. no talk of whether it reaches or not. Don't be careless. vimble occurred he said that the truth goes beyond eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and intellect is beyond the six senses.
If you want to penetrate this truth, first you must clear out the gates of the six senses, leaving them without the slightest affliction. What does affliction mean? It means to be turned around by form, sound, scent, taste, touch, and phenomena, that is mental phenomena and not detaching from it seeking knowledge and looking for understanding in the words and phrases of the scriptural teachings, and the ancient worthies. If you can avoid giving rise to a second thought about the scriptural teachings, or the stories of the ancient worthies, entering the path and realize directly what they go back to, then there will be nothing in your own realm, or in the realms of others, that is not according to your will, nothing of which you are not the master
business of clearing out the gates of the six senses
when we practice things are different. The saying is Zen that in the beginning mountains are mountains rivers are rivers Yeah, it's a mountain there's a river about it. But once we begin to go into this mountains are no longer mountains, rivers are no longer rivers. For some people, this is the point where they become begin to be frightened. But when we get through when we see then mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers.
Says T Shan would see a monk enter the door and immediately striking with his staff, Lin Qi would see a monk enter the door and immediately shout, Venerable Adams everywhere call this bringing it up face to face, imparting it directly, but I call it first class trailing mud and dripping water. Okay, that's an interesting phrase. And there's a footnote here. Trailing mud and dripping means getting involved going to links. It can refer to expression of compassion, and resort. It can refer to expression of compassion and resort to expedient liberating technique, or to confusion and delusion getting carried away.
It's also sometimes called grandmotherly kindness. says even if you can take it up with your whole being at a single blow or shout, already, you are not a man of power. In fact, you have been doused over the head by someone else with a ladle full of foul water. How much more so if at a shout or a blow you're looking for Marvel's are seeking subtle understanding. This is the stupidest of the stupid
What does he mean to be a man of power Dawei uses this phrase a lot. He has a phrase the burst of power not sure what the Chinese word is that's being translated
could be Qi
everything is within our own breast we don't need anything from the outside. No explanation. It's going to do it for us
our job is to overcome our separation stop standing apart. Stop looking outside.
Stop looking for Marvels or seeking subtle understanding. Let the mind be still
Well the next letter is a pretty long one so we're going to stop here and recite the four vows