June 2022 Sesshin, Day 7: Shoyoroku # 14, "Attendent Huo Serves Tea"
4:30PM Jun 16, 2022
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
This is the last day of this June 2022 seven day sesshin. We're going to explore another koan this morning. This is from the Book of Serenity, Shoyoroku, and it's number 14 Attendant Kuo Serves Tea.
Kuo, the attendant, asked the question, "Where have all the Buddhas and ancestors of the past gone." Deshan replied, "What? What?" Kuo said I gave the command for a Flying Dragon horse to spring forth, but out comes only a lame tortoise the shine was silent the next day when Deshawn came from his bath, crow served him t Deshawn patted him on the shoulder quote said this old fellow has finally gotten a glimpse again there Shannon was silent
this day Shan spelled in the Roman alphabet as de SHA n, but the way these things work the D E The E is pronounced like a you like the Da Shan dushaan seems to have been some some squirrely thing that happened when the China China during the Cultural Revolution was alienated from just about every country except
is a Balkan country that yeah, Albania Thank you, Albania and the as a result of that, that transmission from China to our Albanian language, this is how these things got spelled just to be nettlesome to us forevermore. These pronunciations but he is Deshawn is his course Chinese mastered almost all these masters and all these koans are Chinese. But the Japanese rendered his name as toxin that may be a more familiar name to some of you. So dushaan or toxin lived during the Tang dynasty the nine eight hundreds and nine hundreds is one of the very most famous of the Chan masters especially the fire breathing Chan masters
just a little bit of material here I see that as recently as last July, I read material biographical material on him but just to give a flavor of
this this there is this phrase in the end of the Tang Dynasty Rinzai stick talk sounds shout.
Though there shun held his own with a stick to here's one dushaan said to the monks. As soon as you ask you have erred. If you don't ask, you're also wrong. Among came forward and bowed. dushaan struck him. The monk said I just is bowed. Why did you hit me dushaan said, What use would it be to wait until you opened your mouth
there are at least four koans that somewhat span the life of dushaan They start with the first one is in the Mumonkan where it's called Wu Tang blows out a candle. And I'll try to stick to the Chinese dish on because it's not that difficult to pronounce this is not as bad as some others. So dushaan had earned a reputation as being the leading scholar in the Diamond Sutra. This is before he got into Chan. And also the vinyasa school. So both the precepts and the sutras and would go around everywhere today we'd say he's going on lecture tours, lecturing on on the Diamond Sutra, he came to be known as diamond shell. And he heard about this new school, the Zen school, the Chan School, and now they just said, emphasized direct experience outside words outside the sutras and infuriated him. And he has a very strong bumptious carousing character. So He put all his His books, His copies and commentaries of the Diamond Sutra and set off. He said, to exterminate the lot of them, all these Chun practitioners, and then he met this woman, so a woman on the road, who set them back, she offered him a challenge, and he was tongue tied. I'm going through these fat quickly, so you don't have time to go through them in detail. And I left him completely deflated, and open, open to what what more lie hidden what he's been missing, what has been deficient in his Buddhist training and, and it was the direct facing the wall. And then he arrived at the monastery of this new town. And they talked deep into the night and Newton finally said, It's time for you to leave. And he headed for the the door of the heart and saw that it was dark out and he turned and said it's it's dark outside and return, lit a candle held it out. And as the shine was about to take it, Newtown blew it out. And that dude Deshawn came to enlightenment. Next koan fair, featuring dushaan. And now he comes in he arrives at the monastery of Ihsan. Another of the great big names as Chinese name was question. And what he does is he storms into the Buddha Hall where a sign is sitting Zen, he storms in there, he stalks from one side of the hall to the other, and it says nothing, nothing. Then he heads for the exit, and then has second thoughts and he comes back and he goes through the more the proper comportment for a monk. He takes out his bowing cloth, and he says, Master, the sun reaches for his whisk. It's one of these implements that these Chinese masters had. whisked away the flies I guess. He reached for his whisk, and dushaan yells rice, and strides out. So this second koan is fresh, he's fresh off his experience, his deep awakening with routan with the blowing out of the candle. So he's still got all this piss and vinegar in him is arrogance. They have a saying in Japan they heard from Roshi saying that someone after an initial
deep awakening is, is puffed up like fresh bread right out of the oven hasn't really settled yet.
And then koan number three is where now, the sham by all indications is much older. And he's starting to head for the dining hall with his, his bowl in his hand, and the head cook Seppo confronts him. He's early and sempo says, Where are you going? With your bowl? We haven't hit the Olympian yet. We haven't hit the gong, which Deshawn just turns silently, and walks back to his room. Is that silence? And then Seppo, same koan. Seppo goes to senior monk, and tells him what happened and this Gonzo says, Great master, though he is he still hasn't grasped the last word of Zen. dushaan hears about this in summons Kanto. And according to what the koan reads, When God two enters his quarters, he says, Don't you approve of me? And God until leans in, and whispers in Deshawn zere. It would appear from the way the koan is structured, he's whispering, the last word of Zen. And then the next day, the Shang was different doesn't say how he was somehow different. And Seppo came forward and that is in his talk. And Seppo comes forward the cook and says, are the masters at last grasp the last word of Zen and this is now the fourth in the series that don't know for sure about the order. But here in this one too, it seems that the dushaan is not young.
So he had in his in his youth, this Deshawn had a fearsome reputation. Now we see a different man, at least for this one story.
So let's go back to the case, call the attendant and we don't know anything about this attendant. Asked dushaan. Where have all the Buddhas and ancestors of the past gone? On the face of it, it might seem it could it could be that he's asking the same it's the same question that anyone might ask. after someone has died
from from my experience in talking with people over the years and from my own experience, this is for for many, this is the burning question. Where did she go?
Where is she now?
Specially gripping soon after the death of the loved one.
But we can't be sure that's what the attendant is asking about. Is koans are like coloring books where you get the outline of the what happened. The exchanges And then it's up to the student working on it through Doakes on to color in the coloring book and and to try to intuit what might going on be going on behind the words, the state of mind of these different characters. That's the most important thing, not the words. Deshawn replied. What? What?
That's the next point of the koan. How did he say that? I had to, just because I'm voicing that I had to do it one way but may have been a different way
and then call comes back, I gave a command for a Flying Dragon horse. to spring forth this is an symbol with great courage and spirit. From giant Chinese culture, the command for flying dragon horse to spring forth, but outcomes only a lame tortoise So the very fact that he used the word command at least that's how it's translated, I gave the command for this horse to spring forth, gives us a clue as to his initial the attendants initial question wherever all the Buddhas and ancestors of the past gone
and here in reply dushaan are silent
all kinds of ways to interpret that silence.
The next day when Deshawn came from his bath, Coco served him t Deshawn patted him on the shoulder
Cuomo said, this old fellow has finally gotten a glimpse and again the shine was silent
think of this line from forming faith in mind. When this one mind rests undisturbed then nothing in the world offense.
There's some commentary on this koan in the book of serenity itself not in the the published book includes commentaries for two or three different masters and in one of them is the commentator is talking about the old Deshawn and he says dushaan usually thrashed the wind and beat the rain, hollering at the Buddhas and reviling the patriarchs this monks errors filled the sky. Why did the Shan let him go? What is hardly realized is that he wrestled down oxen without using rope killed people without using a sword. How many Has he ever let go?
The same commentator then says Deshawn keeps deaf and plays dumb. But even so, he gets the advantage unseen. The attendant covered his ears to steal the bell what can be done for the unseemliness of the onlooker?
And then the same commentator says referring to the attendant he's like he's like trying to take the jewel from under the jet black dragons jaw at the depths of the Abyss getting there just when the dragon is asleep if the dragon wakes up, he'll surely be chopped into mincemeat.
So, what about these two silences?
Well, we can look to the words of another master of famous master fold wall, who said Deshawn really had ruthless hands and feet. But he saw that this monk was not a man to accept the hammer. So he stopped right away.
Teaching in Zen and no doubt in many other fields is not just imparting information. But recognizing that a lot depends on the readiness of the student to hear what the teacher is saying.
I only half jokingly say that the first three days of sesshin I'm giving TV shows speaking in Duck son, but most of it goes unheard it's that that first half of sesshin first three days that is is prying open the mind of the student making her more receptive. So then more can be received later in sesshin. And then, aside from that, it's everything depends on the the maturity of the student as to what she or he can assimilate.
Congress strikes me as one of the most heart full of horror of of the koans in our collections. There's a humanity here that it's not often so evident in the koans somebody the koans are this Dharma dueling and all the strong spirited pronounce pronouncements a shouting the
this just makes me think of a doggone Zen master dog and I think said the purpose of Zen is to develop a tender heart
It also calls to mind different issues with respect to age. We don't know the age of the attendant But the something that, okay, just going by intuition. It sounds like he's got more years ahead of him than behind him
makes me think of some of these nature, nature. movies, documentaries. I saw one. Some episodes of one not long ago, called out wild babies. And it's about it's basically about family systems of animals. It's very little Mortal Kombat. The Mortal Kombat, you see, so many of these nature documentaries. It's more about parents and children and siblings, and PACs, and tribes, including siblings, sibling rivalry. It's marvelous, marvelous, documentary. It's it's full of human nature. It's all animals, but it's full of human nature. I think of these scenes of the young cub, the tiger cub, or the young monkey harassing the mother, father, and the the parent, just kind of enduring it. Putting up with it for a while until this guy, get out of your kid you bother me.
But Deshawn doesn't even do that.
A young Zen student can present an a good understanding of this koan. But how deeply can he or she appreciate their Shan and his silences? There's a when speaking of generational differences, there's a basic asymmetry where the older member of the species knows what it's like to be young. She's been there. Whereas the younger one doesn't know what it's like to be old. Now really, the younger person can imagine, can read about it.
It's sort of like a non parent can never know what it is to be a parent. A non grandparent can't know what it is to be a grandparent. Try as we might. It is not within our experience.
The elderly know many of the sufferings of youth. But same can't be said quite the same way of young people knowing of the sufferings of age. The way the systems break down and over the years. What are those systems the circulatory system, respiratory system, muscular system, skeletal system, reproductive system, neurological system, whatever they're called. I'm drawing from junior high here. But they get more and more obvious as the wheels come off for lucky just gradually, little by little.
And the elderly know the joys of youth to the extent that we can remember them But one for sure I can't quite know is all of the the anxiety stoked by social media
I feel such sympathy based on a lot of reading of what young people go through with social media just sounds like a lot of suffering involved with that
but we probably remember the the daring of youth and the recklessness of youth we may remember we men may remember with regrets how testosterone fueled a lot of but we did mistakes we made injuries we suffered
young people can't know the wide perspective of the elderly who have weathered decades of hardships and losses physical losses again, across the the physical body mental losses, but but also the deaths over these decades deaths of people, dear to them to the elderly, parents, friends, siblings, students, teachers.
as we as we do get older, we can think back and sometimes with regrets of how blindly we're I think of Roshi Kapleau Of course, he was 35 years older than I was and sort of became a second father and to see him age and have some sympathy, but never How could i How could I have understood that? How could I understood what that really means
but in exchange for the losses is this detachment let's call it that detachment that is the attachment of having having had to bounce back from so many mistakes and in the whole die out of winning and losing and gaining and losing.
I've heard more than a few parents new parents say they never appreciated their own parents until they became parents
it's such a blessing when you're young to to be able to imagine not just getting old but what death might mean this great spirit of practice of course
there's something I'm really fishing here now I am unprepared something I photograph I have a skeleton and I don't know some medieval monastery. And the caption this is from hundreds of years ago the caption under the skeleton is I was once like you, you will want to be like me.
But who would want to change? Even if we could, who would want to change these generational differences? Look, what is it reckless, daring, often arrogant youths and who could, who can look back and say we weren't have accomplished because of their daring, because of, of not having lived long enough to know the dangers there could be
the the arrogance comes from the same thing. Not having lived long enough to know how little we know as youth. Still talking about this koan to
and Will Rogers the humourist of us earlier earlier 20th century said good judgment comes from experience. And a lot of that experience comes from bad judgment from making mistakes
there is a some kind of a Middle Eastern sage, I'll say the name in case it means anything I Bucha of Omdurman. He was asked, which is better to be young or to be old. He said to be old is to have less time before you and more mistakes behind. I leave you to decide whether this is better than the reverse.
hope you'd think maybe that as we age, we're more likely to want to practice and, and we see that happening sometimes as people come to to appreciate the wisdom of Bodhidharma himself saying anyone who has a human body is an heir to suffering and a stranger to peace. But just through life experience, seeing more and more the the indisputable wisdom of the Dharma in practice impermanence start with impermanence. But unfortunately, too often as we age we it's not just our body that gets stiff it's the mind and habits get set and it's becomes harder to change for some
and then the silences. First, being clouded by this attendant denouncing him for not coming back with what he thought would be a better reply or the reply than he imagined should be coming. And then then silence
and then that marvelous marvelous moment where does she call serves him tea after he comes out of the bath and he Pat's him on the shoulder?
Guys There's a passage I've read, I see three times before over the years, least three times. It's I marked it. But it's been a while looks like it's been for six years. I haven't read it. So those of you who have heard it before, I hope you will indulge me. It's by Edgar Lee Masters. American writer of who died in 1950. Talking about silences different kinds of silences. I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea, the silence of the city when it pauses and the silence of a man and a maid. The silence for which music alone finds the word. Silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin. And the silence of the sick when their eyes roam about the room. And I ask for the depths of what use is language. A beast of the field moans a few times when death takes its young and we are voiceless in the presence of realities. We cannot speak. A curious boy asks an old soldier sitting in front of the grocery store. How did you lose your leg and the soldier is struck with silence. Or his mind flies away because he cannot concentrate it on Gettysburg. It comes back Joe coastally and he says, Oh bear bid it off
there's the silence of a great hatred
silence of a great love and the silence of a deep peace of mind
and the silence of an embittered friendship. There is the silence of a spiritual crisis through which your soul exquisitely tortured comes with visions not to be uttered into a realm of higher life.
There is the silence of those unjustly punished and the silence of a dying whose hand suddenly grips yours
there is the silence of those who have failed
and the vast silence that covers broken nations
and vanquished leaders
and there's the silence of age to full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it in words intelligible to those who have not lived the great range of life