November 2021 Sesshin, Day 4: Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck
7:36PM Nov 16, 2021
Today is the fourth day of this November 2021 seven day sesshin. And I'm going to continue reading from the book Everyday Zen: Love and Work by Charlotte Joko Beck.
I'm going to go to a new section entitled no hope. She says, a few days ago, I was informed of the suicide of a friend of mine, a man I hadn't seen for a dozen years. Even then, suicide was all he could talk about. So I wasn't surprised at the news. It's not that I think dying is a tragedy, we all die. That's not the tragedy. Maybe nothing is a tragedy. But I think we can say that to live without appreciating this life is at least a shame. It's a precious opportunity, we have to be alive as human beings. It's been said that the chance of having a human life is something like being picked up as one grain of sand out of all the grains on the beach.
I've read in some of the Buddhist texts, as compared to the chances of a turtle that comes up once a year to the surface of the ocean, coming up and putting its head through. Not sure what it is. But let's say it's a an inner tube. Thinking that in the sutras, it wasn't an Enter to
good odds of putting its head through some kind of plastic. It's such a rare chance and yet somehow as in the case of my friend, some error arises. Some of that error is present in each one of us, not fully appreciating what we have just in being alive. So today I want what I want to talk about is having no hope. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? Actually, it's not terrible at all. A life lived with no hope is peaceful, joyous, compassionate life. As long as we identify with this mind and body, and we all do, we hope for things we think will take care of them. We hope for success, we hope for health, we hope for enlightenment. We have all sorts of things we hope for all hope, of course, is about sizing up the past and projecting it into the future.
And one of the things we learned about that over time, is what terrible predictors we are things we think will bring us joy. Bring us frustration. things we think are going to be terrible, turn out to be wonderful.
The session we think will never turn around for us suddenly does blissful mind state that we think will continue forever comes to a sad end. We really don't know. And it's this attempt to know to predict, and then to hope. Try to put the body English on the bowling ball of life is our source of unhappiness. Major source
she says anyone who sits for any length of time sees that there is no past and no future except in our mind. There is nothing but self and self is always here present. It's not hidden. See that again. It's not hidden. We're racing around like mad, trying to find something called self this wonderful Hidden Self. Where is it hidden? We hope that for something that's going to take care of this little self because we don't realize it already. We are self there's nothing around us that is not self. What are we looking for? Students recently loaned me a book on a text by Dobyns Engie called Terenzo Kyokushin. It is Dogan Zen G's writings on his ideas of what attends Oh, a head cook. That's a monastery head cook should be the qualities of a tempo the life of a 10 zone. From Dogan, Zen G's point of view, the 10 zone should be one of the most mature and meticulous students in the monastery. If his practice is not what attends those practice should be then from Dogan, Zen G's viewpoint, the life of the entire monastery suffers. But obviously Dugan Zenji in describing these qualities of attends Oh, and the directions for how attends Oh should do his work. It's not just talking about the tenza. He's talking about the life of any Zen student, any Bodhisattva and so it's very instructive and pertinent reading. So, what we find is he describes this life of an enlightened Terenzo some mystic vision, some rapturous state, not at all. There are many paragraphs on how to clean the sand out of the rice, or the rice out of the sand. Very, very detailed. There's nothing in the management of the kitchen that Dobyns Engie left out, he writes about where to put the labels, how to hang the labels and so on. Let me read you one paragraph. Next, you should not carelessly throw away the water that remains after washing the rice. In olden times a cloth bag was used to filter out the water when it was thrown away. When you have finished washing the rice put it into a cooking pot. takes special care less than mouse accidentally falls into it. Under no circumstances allow anyone who happens to be drifting through the kitchen to poke his fingers around or look into the pot. Guess things weren't so different back then. What is Dobyns? Engie telling us? He didn't write this just for the tenso what can we all learn in this writing. Dogan Zenji repeats a famous story. If we understand this one story we really understand what Zen practice is.
Young Dogan Zenji went to China to visit monasteries for practice and study in one day at one of them. On a very hot June afternoon, he saw the elderly Terenzo working hard outside the kitchen. He was spreading out mushrooms to dry on a straw mat. And then she quotes directly from Dobyns writings. He carried a bamboo stick but had no hat on his head. The sun's rays be down so harshly that the tiles along the walk burned ones feet. He worked hard and was covered with sweat. I could not help but feel the work was too much of a strain for him. His back was a bow drawn taught his long eyebrows were crane white. I approached and asked his age. He replied that he was 68 years old. Then I went on to ask him why he never used any assistance. He answered. Other people are not me. You are right, I said, I can see that your work is the activity of the Buddha Dharma. But why are you working so hard in this scorching sun? He replied, If I do not do it now, when else can I do it? There was nothing else for me to say. As I walked along that passageway I began to sense in really the true significance of the role of tenza. And then JOCO comments, the elderly Terenzo said other people are not me. Let's look at this statement. What he is saying is my life is absolute. No one can live it for me. No one can feel it for me. No one can serve it for me. My work, my suffering, my joy, our absolute. There's no way for instance, you can feel the pain in my toe in my toe. Or I can feel the pain in your toe. No way. You can't swallow for me. You can't sleep for me. And that is the paradox in totally owning the pain, the joy the responsibility of my life. If I see this point clearly that I'm free. I have no hope i have no need for anything else. But we are usually living in vain hope for something or someone that will make my life easier, more pleasant. We spend most of our time trying to set up life in a way so that will be true. When contrary wise, the joy of our life is just in totally doing just burying what must be born in just doing what has to be done. It's not even what has to be done. It's there to be done. So we do it get a real look at this in sesshin.
So many people wishing things were smoother, they were more concentrated that their pain was relieved. But the more we spend time in wanting things to be different, the more we delay actually getting thoroughly into our life. Which is what we're here to do. She goes on Dogan Zenji, speaks of the self settling naturally on the self. What does he mean by that? He means that only you can experience your own pain, your own joy. If there is one impression that comes into your life that is not received, then in that second you die a little bit. None of us lives completely like that. But at least we don't need to lose 90% of the experience of our life. Then she quotes again, if I do not do it now, when else can I do it and says only I can take care of the self from morning tonight. Only I can receive life. And it's this contact second by second by second, which Dobyns mg is talking about as he describes the day of the 10s Oh, take care of this. Take care of that. And that. Not just washing the rice but doing it carefully grain by grain, not just throwing the water out. Each bite we take of our food, each word I say each word you say each encounter each second. That's it. Not chanting with your mind somewhere else. Not half doing the dishes, not half doing anything. She says I can remember when I used to daydream literally four or five hours at a time. And now sadly, I see so many people dreaming their lives away. Sometimes a man or a woman dreams of an ideal partner. They dream and they dream. But when we live life in dreams and hopes than what life can offer us, that man or woman sitting right next to us ordinary unglamorous the wonder of that life escapes us because we are hoping for something special for some ideal. And what Dogan Zenji is telling us is that real practice has nothing to do with that
reminds me of coming into a party, lots of people there and you're talking with someone and they're looking over your shoulder, seeing who else is in the room who else might be coming in. Or maybe you're the one doing it can't quite be present
when my son was sick,
five years old. We took him to Boston Children's Hospital for a fairly complicated operation. And the doctor was one of maybe four or five in the country that could do what needed done. His name was Dr. Hall. And he was obviously a great man of the hospital. He was followed around by four or five residents. And he came to see us before the operation to talk about it and tell us what to expect. And it was astounding to me how completely present he was. He was just this was a busy busy man. But he listened completely and he made sure that every question we had that we were aware of was aired and got answered. I don't think I've ever seen anyone with that kind of attention. Least I hadn't at that point, except for Roshi Kapleau. And then when All Our Questions were exhausted, he was out there in a flash he just turned and went on to the next thing.
gioco back to Joko, we're saying once again, the designs and sitting is enlightenment. Why? Because second after second as we sit, that's it. The old 10s Oh, spreading seaweed. That's a passionate life, spending his life preparing food for others. And actually all of us are constantly preparing food for others. This food can be typing, it can be doing math or physics. It can be taking care of our children. But do we live our life with that attitude of appreciation for our work? Or are we are all we are we always hoping? Oh, there's got to be more than this. Yes, we're all hoping not only do we hope, but we really give our life to this hope to these vain thoughts and fantasies. And even when they don't produce for us, we're anxious, even desperate.
back about a little over 30 years ago, I had just stopped drinking and begun to work on myself in a different way than I ever had before. And I was out in the front yard of our house in Brighton raking leaves. The job I normally didn't like very much. At least it seems that I didn't. And I all of a sudden I noticed there was absolutely no urgency or compulsion. I was just raking wasn't focused on how much remained to do or how long it was going to take. Just a pleasure to do it
was startling, so different than the way I'd been operating up till then? What happens when we gioco says abandon hope? Stop trying to anticipate what's going to happen. Really get into the moment. So what we're here to do in sesshin. But so often, just the rigors of sesshin throw us back into this old dysfunctional way of being where we try to anticipate the problems and find a way around
them. And Joko has a story. She says one of my students recently told me a good story. It's about a man who was sitting on his roof because a tidal wave was sweeping through his village. say by the time Yeah, okay. Tidal Wave was sweeping through his village. The water was well up to the roof. When Along came a rescue team in a rowboat. They tried hard to reach him. And finally when they did they shouted, well come on, get into the boat. And he said, No, no, God will save me. So the water rose higher and higher. I'm thinking this is not a tidal wave. This is a flood. But anyway, the water rose higher and higher, and he climbed higher and higher on the roof. The water was very turbulent. But still another boat managed to make its way to him. Again, they begged him to get into the boat and to save himself and again he said, No, no, no, God will save me. I'm praying. God will save me. Finally the water was almost over him. Just his head was sticking out. That Along came a helicopter. It came down right over him and they called Come on. This is your last chance can see them with a bullhorn. They're good in here. Still, he said no, no, God will save me. Finally his head went underwater and he drowned. When he got to heaven, he complained to God, God, why didn't you try to save me? And God said I did. I sent you two robots in a helicopter
we spend a lot of time looking for something called the truth. And there is no such thing except In each second, each activity of our life, but our vain hope for a resting place where some somewhere makes us ignorant and unappreciative of what is here right now. So in sesshin, in Zen, what does it mean to have no hope? It means, of course, to really do Zen to just sit. Nothing is wrong with dreams and fantasies, just don't hold on to them, see their unreality and turn away
stay with the only thing that's real. The breath and the body, the environment. This moment now, none of us wants to abandon our hope. And to be honest, none of us is going to abandon it all at once. But we can have periods when for a few minutes or a few hours, there is just what is just this flow. And we are more in touch with the only thing we'll ever have, which is our life. So if we practice like this, what reward will we get? If we really practice like this, it takes everything we have. What will we get out of it? The answer, of course, is nothing. So let's not have hope. We won't get anything. We'll get our life of course, but we've got that already. So let's not be like my friend failing to appreciate our life and our practice. This life is nirvana. Where did we think it was Dogan Zen ji said if you are unable to find the truth right where you are. Where else do you expect to find it?
Joko says Finally, let's remember that old 10s Oh, if we practice the way he spread seaweed that we can be rewarded with this nothing at all.
Yeah, nothing at all is quite remarkable. All of our problems come from the things that we bring to the party.
The whole spirit of Zen practice is just this.
Not just this and I wish it would get better.
Of course, as Joko said elsewhere. When we truly do commit in that way, it does get better. But as long as we're looking for a result, we're getting in the way. I'm going to turn to another section. It's called shut the door. And she begins in the 1960s Hacohen Yasa, Tani Roshi began making annual visits to teach the Dharma in America. during each visit, he would conduct a week long session here in Southern California. Like others who began Zen practice with the isotonic Roshi. During these visits, I would practice intensively with him for seven days each year, and for the rest of the year, continue doing Zen on my own. Those machines were extremely difficult for me. And I have to say that if there was ever a muddled practice, it was mine. But having the opportunity to study with him, even though it was only for one week each year, and to see what he was humble, gentle, vital, and spontaneous, was enough to keep me going. He was quite old when I knew him in his 80s and having some physical difficulties. When he shuffled into the Zendo. I wondered if he would be able to make it all the way to his seat. Just a little bent, old man shuffling in. But when he would begin his Dharma talk, I couldn't believe it was like a streak of electricity running through the room. The Vitality spot natty the total devotion. It didn't matter what he said, or that he used an interpreter. His very presence revealed the Dharma not to be forgotten, if it had once been encountered.
One of my regrets that I came to the center after the US, Tani was no longer coming. But I have listened to some of the tapes of him talking with Senator members, translated by Roshi Kapleau. Really, really quite fascinating. She says, two qualities of Yes, Tony Roshi struck me most deeply. I would say that he was luminous and ordinary at the same time. looking into his eyes in a formal interview was like looking for 10,000 miles. There was nothing there. It was amazing. Yet somehow in that open space, there was total healing. out outside of the Zendo he was just an ordinary little man, running around with his broom and with his pants rolled up eating carrots. He loved carrots. The guy had heard that somewhere before. Yes, Itani Roshi gave me my first experience of what a true Zen master is. And it was a very humbling experience, because he was so humble, radiating from him where freedom spot natty and compassion, the jewel that we all seek in our own practice. But we must be careful that we don't look for the jewel in the wrong place outside of ourselves, failing to see that our life itself is the jewel, unpolished, perhaps, but already perfect, complete and whole. When you come right down to it, the Dharma is quite simple and always available. But the trouble is that we don't know how to see it. Because we don't this jewel, this freedom escape us. Freedom is such a sticky thing to talk about. Our usual way of looking at Freedom is to see it as a matter of being left alone to go where we want to go and do what we want to do. And we hope that something out there will give us freedom. So when we are in an unpleasant and restrictive situation, we leave a door open, so we can run out the door to new hope and freedom. All of us without exception do this. Which brings us to another sticky word, commitment. One important aspect of our practice is to look honestly at this constant process of hopes and fears, and all the schemes that are a reflection of our lack of commitment to our lives. To do this requires that we shut the door that we like so much to leave open, and turn around and face ourselves as we are. This is commitment. And without it, there is no freedom.
So hard to make that commitment. We're so afraid to truly shut the door. Yet there's so much power that comes from committing completely. She says through practice, we wear out the fantasies we have about running out the door to something somewhere else. We put most of our effort into maintaining and protecting the ego structure created out of the ignorant view that I exist separately from the rest of life. We have to become aware of the structure and see how it works because even though it is artificial and not our true nature, unless we understand it, we will continue to act out of fear and arrogance. By arrogance, I mean the feel of being special, of not being ordinary. So that by that definition, arrogance can only can even mean thinking that we're worse than other people. I'm hopeless. It's a form of arrogance. The French essayist montane said, I consider myself an average man, except for the fact that I consider myself an average man reminds me of Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average.
She says we can be arrogant about anything about our accomplishments, about our problems, even about our humility. There's a movie breaker mirande. And it's about the war between the English and the Boers, the Dutch in South Africa. And there's a point where two Englishmen are speaking to each other about The Dutch, and one of them says they don't have our altruism.
Out of fear and arrogance, we cling to all kinds of self centered attitudes and judgments, and so create all kinds of misery for ourselves and others. Freedom is closely connected with our relationship to pain and suffering. I'd like to draw a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain comes from experiencing life just as it is with no trimmings. We can even call this direct experience joy. But when we try to run away and escape from our experience of pain, we suffer. Because of the fear of pain, we all build up an ego structure to shield us. And so we suffer. Freedom is the willingness to risk being vulnerable to life is the experience of whatever arises in each moment, painful or pleasant. This requires total commitment to our lives. When we were able to give ourselves totally with nothing held back, and no thought of escaping the experience of the present moment, there is no suffering. When we are completely experiencing our pain, it is joy. Pain but not suffering. Sometimes you hear it, the difference. Characterize is clean pain versus dirty pain or clean pain versus complicated pain.
JOCO says freedom and commitment are very closely connected. When two people make a commitment to each other in marriage, they are in a sense, shutting the door on their chance to escape the heat and pressure that is part of any relationship. But when accepted as part of their commitment, the heat and pressure make for growth and the relationship blooms. I'm not saying that one should commit my oneself to any relationship that comes along. That's crazy. What I mean is that our practice is to commit ourselves to our experience in each moment. Just as the commitment of marriage puts us under heat and pressure, so too does Zen. We might even say that the first thing we must do in Zen is to marry ourselves. We shut the door and sit quietly with what is feeling the heat and pressure
recognizing this moment is absolute it can't be any other way. It's already been determined.
She says often people have the idea when they begin practice that it is going to be nice and comfortable. But Zen practice has phases that are anything but pleasant. By just sitting with this very moment the secure walls of the ego structure crumble and this can be confusing and painful. Physically experiencing the confusion and pain rather than avoiding them is the key to freedom like that physically. It's in the body. We do instead is we run off in our thoughts either complaining or strategizing trying to put a spin on things trying to shape it
totally come into the body to be here on the mat
totally giving ourselves to our practice whatever our method of practice is the breath or koan.
Returning each time we drift away, returning to this moment patiently without complaint without grumbling without despairing.
Really, there's no problem. Just our job is so simple. It's not easy of course. It's so simple.
physically experiencing the confusion and pain, rather than avoiding them is the key to freedom. We have to embrace the misery, make it our best friend, and go right through to freedom. This jewel of freedom is our life just as it is. But if we don't understand the relationship between pain and freedom, we can cause suffering for ourselves and others. We have to be willing to be on the cutting edge. Just being there with whatever comes up in each moment. Pride greed, arrogance, pain, joy. Don't try to manipulate what comes up and Zen. And we should add, don't attach to what comes up. Don't grab at it. Don't start to think about it. She says by sitting with as much awareness as we can muster attachments in time just wither away. We change slowly but we change the more devotedly we set, the faster arguably the change is going to be
that continually coming back to why sesshin develops as it does go through periods where we're discouraged. Stuck in glue. But Zen is a powerful solvent. So long as we abandon our thoughts, projections, keep coming back. It can work. Just have to do it. Have to have faith. Of course, it helps when we've done it and seen it work. Then we have that experiential knowledge. Yeah, this practice does work. But even then, we keep forgetting at least speaking for myself. You're back to trying to game the system. JOCO says when Yassa Tony Roshi was 88. On his last birthday before his death, he wrote, The Hills grow higher. And then she says the more clearly we see that there is nothing that needs to be done, the more we see that which needs doing. It's a funny thing. When we really share what we have, our time, our possessions, and most importantly, ourselves, our life will go smoothly. There is a story of a well fed by tiny springs that always gave a good supply of water. One day the well was covered over and forgotten until somebody uncovered it years later. Because nobody had drawn water from it, the springs and stopped feeding it and the well had dried up. It's the same with us. We can give ourselves an open further or we can hold back and dry up. It's always painful to see people who've in their old age, have dried up. It's not at all uncommon is it?
She says Zen practice is shutting the door on a dualistic view of life. And this takes commitment. When you wake up in the morning and don't want to go to the Zendo shut the door on that. Put your foot out of bed and go. If you feel lazy during work, shut the door on that and do your best in relationships, shut the door on the criticism and unkindness in Zen shut the door on dualism and open up to life as it is very slowly as we learn to experience our suffering instead of running from it. Life is revealed to us as Joy
waking up in the morning not wanting to get out of bed and I've worked with that a lot. And you find out eventually all you have to do is get out of bed within within 10 seconds. Problem gone. You're brushing your teeth. What was that all about? I was in bed and it seemed Oh my god. I need sleep. Well, maybe you do. but you can get out of bed. So many things where we limit our lives by trying to protect ourselves. The things we learn in sesshin is to step out and to do a little more than we think we can do to bear a little more than we think we can bear. We have a lot a lot to bear. It's tough, very tough. But out of that comes real seasoning. We become more of a person more who we are.
John Tyrunt said, quoting this from memory, we're all flowers. What kind of flower we are is not our business. Our job is just to bloom.
And with that, stop now and recite the four vows