2023-09-D5-DK: Teachings of American Zen teacher Joko Beck #3
1:48AM Oct 10, 2023
This is the fifth day of this September 2023, seven day sesshin. Over the past couple of days, we've been reading from the book every everyday Zen loving work by Charlotte Joko back. And we're going to continue from where we left off yesterday. This section is titled authority
after years of talking to many, many people, I'm still amazed that we make such a problem of our life and practice. And there is no problem. But saying that is one thing, seeing it is quite another. The last words of the Buddha were be a lamp unto yourself. He didn't say, go running to this teacher and that teacher to this center or that center. He said, Look, be a lamp unto yourself. What I want to discuss here is the problem of authority. Usually, we're either an authority to others, telling them what to do. Or we're seeking someone to be an authority for us, telling us what to do. And yet we would never be looking for an authority if we had any confidence in ourselves and our understanding.
We need to trust trust in our own true nature. Trust that it's always and already who we are.
Then she says, particularly when there is something in our life that is unpleasant, or baffling, or upsetting. We think we need to go to a teacher or authority who can tell us what to do. I'm always amused that when a new teacher comes to town, everyone goes running to see them. I'll tell you how far I'd walked to see a new teacher. Maybe across the room no farther. It isn't because I have no interest in this person. It's just that there is no one who can tell me about my life except who
there is no authority outside of my experience
there's no authority
outside of your experience.
Zen Zen is the School of direct experience. And Zen is not just not just a method for experiencing our true self. It's not just a tool. It's it's the embodiment the embodiment First of what Shakyamuni Buddha had experienced since sitting under the Bodhi tree, some 2500 years ago the embodiment of it the Rinzai, Master, soy and Shaku. Put it this way. Don't think that your body is your body. It's the body of all beings. Don't think that your mind is your mind. It's the mind of all beings.
So all of us, sitting here, at Chapin Mill, and on Zoom. During Zen doings, Zen itself is the embodiment the embodiment of this boundless, boundless
Then Joko says, but you may say, well, I need a teacher who can free me from my suffering, I'm hurting, and I don't understand it. I need someone who can tell me what to do, don't I know you may need a guide, you may need it made clear how to practice with your life. What is needed is a guide who will make it clear to you that the authority in your life your true teacher, is you. And we practice to realize this one you
we practice to realize this one that has been a Buddha all along
and then she says there is only one teacher what is that teacher life itself. And of course, each one of us is a manifestation of life. We couldn't be anything else. Now life happens to be both a severe and an endlessly kind teacher. It's the only authority that you need to trust. And this teacher, this authority is everywhere. You don't have to go to some special place to find this incomparable teacher. You don't have to have some especially quiet or ideal situation. In fact, the messier it is the better. The average office is a great place. The average home is perfect. Some places are pretty messy most of the time. We all know from firsthand experience. This is where the authority the teacher is
so everyone and everything offers us a teaching is the teacher each one of us
the flowers on the altar
the cushions and mats
The sounds of birds things as they are the train
then she says this is a very radical teaching, it's not for everyone. People often turn away from such a teaching. They don't want to hear it. What do they want to hear? What do you want to hear? until we're ready, which usually means until we have suffered and have been willing to learn from the suffering. We're like baby birds in a nest. What do baby birds do? They open their mouths upward, and wait to be fed. And we say, Please stuff your wonderful teaching into me. I'll hold my mouth open. But you put it in
what we are saying is, when will mommy and daddy come? When will a great teacher of supreme authority come and stuffed me with that which will end my pain, my suffering.
But when I can begin to experience this very moment, the true teacher when I can honestly be each moment of my life, what I think feel this experiencing will settle itself into just this. Or just mo just the joyful Samadhi of life. And that is Zen practice. And we don't even have to use the word Zen.
We don't have to use the word Zen because it's just that a word. Same thing goes with the words teacher and student. Words are at the conceptual level. They don't convey the whole the whole of it.
In in the Blue Cliff Record, there's a con about the conventional idea that a teacher has something to teach. It's called obaku Smash eaters. Case number 11.
obaku instructing the assembly said you are all mash eaters. However you go about traveling on pilgrimages. What is your position today? Do you know that in all the land of tiang there is no Zen teacher. So saying you're all mash eaters requires some translation. Calling the entire assembly of monks, a bunch of mash eaters is not a compliment the word mash refers to the, the the leftovers, the the solid remains from making wine. So crushed grape skins, leaves, twigs, seeds. And the term masseter was used to describe those who merely copied or imitated teachers. Monks traveling around one temple to another, meeting this teacher and that teacher, and memorizing their sayings, even reciting their sayings, as if they were their own, trying to show off their understanding, when in reality, they didn't have the experience to backup the words.
So a mass shooter, someone who's deluded in thinking that they've tasted the real thing.
So obaku says, however, you go about traveling on pilgrimages. What is your position today? Do you know that in all the land of tiang, there is no Zen teacher. And then one of the monks comes forward out of the crowd and says, What do you mean, there are no Zen teachers? Surely, there are those who teach disciples and lead communities? What about that? So this monk is saying, hey, what about you? Aren't you a teacher? To which obaku replied, I do not say that there is no Zen. It is just that there are no Zen teachers
on the one hand, teachers do serve a purpose in sustaining the practice making it available to people sustaining the training and the traditions.
But when it comes to realization this gets to what Joko is saying the real teacher is the one within it's the lamp inside yourself
and it's important to recognize this because we are socially conditioned to think that wisdom comes from the outside
there's a saying if you're still looking for that one person who will change your life look in the mirror.
All right, I'm now going to skip ahead a bit to another excerpt from Joe's book, and it appears in a later chapter. It's titled running in place.
Practice can be stated very simply. It is moving from a life of hurting myself and others to a life of not hurting myself and others that seems so simple. Except for when we substitute for real practice some idea that we should be different or better than we are. Or that our lives should be different from the way they are. When we substitute our ideas about what should be for our life as it truly is, we're we're off base and our practice is barren.
In other words, we're just living our lives through through our thoughts, preconceived ideas, not through our experience of life as it's revealed to us, moment by moment.
She then says, suppose we want to realize how a marathon runner feels. If we run two blocks, or two miles, or five miles, we will know something about running those distances. But we won't yet know anything about running a marathon. We can recite theories about marathons, we can describe tables, about the physiology of marathon runners, we can pile up endless information about marathon running. But that doesn't mean we know what it is. We can only know when we are the one doing it. We only know our life, when we experience it directly. Instead of dreaming about how it might be if we did this, or had that.
This we can call running in place, being present as we are right here and right now.
The first stage in practice is is to recognize that we're not running in place. We're always thinking about how our lives might be or how they once were. What is there in our life right now that we don't want to run in place with? What is there in our life right now that we don't want to run in place with?
Whatever is repetitive or dull, or painful or miserable? We don't want to run in place with that. No, indeed. The first stage in practice is to realize that we are rarely present. We're not experiencing life. We're thinking about it, conceptualizing it, having opinions about it. It is frightening to run in place. A major component of practice is to realize how this fear and unwillingness dominates us.
What is what is frightening? about dropping our thoughts
they've become a great source of comfort to us. They help us cope with unpleasant things if only as a distraction
what's so scary
about letting them go
everyone in this machine has experienced what Joko is describing what she calls, quote unquote the first stage, noticing our habitual thought thing it's interesting that she uses this metaphor running in place, which conventionally tends to have a negative connotation. As in, I'm not getting anywhere. I keep going to such sheen after such sheen, and nothing happens for me. I'm stuck. I'm spinning my wheels
on and on.
But she says that to run in place is to be in place. No matter where you are, what are what you're doing.
To be right, they're
not trying to go someplace else.
Make movements rest and nothing moves. See rest in motion, there is no rest.
She goes on. If we practice with patience, and persistence, we enter the second stage. We slowly begin to be conscious of the ego barriers of our life, the thoughts the emotions, the evasions, the manipulations can now be observed more easily
elsewhere in her book she refers to this ability to both observe or notice and to experience as essential to creating what she calls a bigger container What's that bigger container
to simply observe an experience without there being one who is doing the observing and experiencing
and during such sheen as our mind settles more and more As we witness the functioning of our mind we we observe thoughts arising and disappearing. moving in and out of different mind states, different emotional states. We see how random and irrelevant and outrageous it all is
all of it passes through the mind, like clouds drifting, drifting along in the bright blue sky. The other thing we notice is that somehow, somehow they manage to lead us astray.
We keep getting snagged.
But noticing all of this is the practice working, it's part of the process. As frustrating as it can be.
It's not enough though, to just notice our thoughts, we've got to take it a step further and make that choice to return to our practice. We need to do it over and over
not letting up
not giving into our ego
and at this point in such sheen, our effort our efforts are aided by jerky the power of mind
the energy of mind
it's accumulating and will continue to grow
in the days ahead.
We may experience
our or energy level ebb and flow that's natural. But know that know that that energy is there. It's growing and it's waiting to be tapped into and the way to tap into it is to continue continue continue to give our attention to our practice.
And then Joko says, and what is the crucial third stage of practice it is the direct experiencing of whatever the scenery of our life is, at any moment, as we run in place
this one now
you know, in
describing practice as a set of stages to use her language, there is a risk of seeing it as linear or a chronological progression. But it's not that at all. We might experience it that way sometimes. But we can also move in and out of the so called stages at different points and that's shift can happen in an instant.
And here's what she says about this. So called third stage. Is it simple? Yes. Is it easy? No. I remember the Saturday morning, when we delayed the morning sitting schedule for 20 minutes, so that some of us could go a few blocks for the great opportunity of watching the San Diego marathon leaders race by at 905, along they came, I was amazed by the flowing quality of the leaders movement. Even though he was in the final five miles, he was simply gliding along. It was not hard to appreciate his running. But where is it that we have to run and practice
we must practice with ourselves as we are right now. To see a top level runner is inspiring, but thinking that we should be like that now is not useful. We have to run where we are. We have to learn here and now from how we are here. And now
we have to learn here and now from how we are here.
this reminds me of how when you know one of the big mistakes I kept making over and over in sesshin. I used to treat it as if it were a marathon of some kind. I saw it as this enormous, impossible challenge and made it into a thing an object and it had a start and a finish. And so much of my energy was about getting to the finish line if not Kensho than just getting through to the end of 16.
But thinking about a finish line doesn't make it arrive any sooner. A marathon runner can tell you that
and not only that. You also miss out on the wonderful views the scenery along the route
all the nows that are yet to come.
Then Joko says, We never grow by dreaming about a future wonderful state or by remembering past feats. We grow by being where we are and experiencing what our life is right now. We must experience our anger, our sorrow, our failure, our apprehension, they can all be our tea occurs when we do not separate ourselves from them when we escape from what is given we cannot learn we cannot grow that's not hard to understand just hard to do those who persist however will be those who will grow in understanding and compassion How long is such practice required forever
let's be clear forever is now
there's that cliche
saying live in the moment you find it on T shirts but how could you not live in the moment even if you don't recognize yet that life is just just as it is.
Moment by moment
doesn't make it not so
nothing is static. Life is changing one moment to the next. And we ourselves are life. We ourselves are change
each breath is a beginning. Each breath is a chance to reunite with our practice