This is the first day of this July 2023, seven day sesshin. Before I begin with the text, just a word about listening to teisho. And I'll repeat the instructions that Roshi Kapleau used to give which is that, if if you're able, it's advisable to not look at the teacher well during the teisho, but just to listen
I think it's it's widely reported that when we can't we're not taking in visual data, our sense of hearing - we listen better. Now for people who are following this online who have serious hearing impairment, the problem is that the the captioning may be kind of screwy -- maybe even that word screwy? I wonder how that came out in the captioning. And so I've been I've been asked by one or two people to have a have a camera in front of me, to, so the people can lip read. But as things stand now, I'm told that the camera would have to be right in front of me at three feet in front of me. And that's just something I find leaves me feeling too much like I'm giving a performance, which is not in the spirit of it.
Roshi Kapleau used to say, and he used to quote this from his own teacher, Yasutani Roshi, that a teisho is more of a presentation to the Buddha, a presentation of one's own understanding of the Buddha Dharma. And that's why you face the Buddha. I'm not up there at the altar with my back to the Buddha, which by the way, in some Buddhist traditions is, is practically a crime to ever turn your back to the Buddha. But more importantly, it's it's, it's the teacher presenting his or her understanding to the Buddha, and everyone else kind of listening in. So we're going to continue with what we've done in recent years, which is where I'm facing most of the people in the Zendo but but back here, at a distance, facing primarily, the Buddha. I'm sorry for those who are unable to -- who are left stuck with the captioning. But I think this is the most I can do at this point.
I'm gonna start and teisho this session rather, with reading from the teaching of the great Ta Hui. And Ta Hui was was born in 1088. Let's Plays him in the in the Song Dynasty. The two dynasties you always hear about with the great masters, or the Tang Dynasty in the Song Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, very roughly the 800, the seven hundreds, eight hundreds and nine hundreds. And then about 1000. The soon dynasty begins and in there, the Tang Dynasty is widely is often called the golden age of Zen. So many of these great Chinese masters live then taught then, but the Song Dynasty also had its its great stars. And this was one of the one of the most illustrious of the Sung Dynasty masters Ta Hui. By the way, it's spelled the last The first word is T-A, the T is spelled pronounced like a D da. And then the second one Word H-U-I, is not we and he'd think but it's, I'm told is pronounced way Dawei.
Just to get a sense of, of where Western culture was at that time is in during his lifetime, were the earlier crusades. The the Cathedral of Notre DOM was built, and Oxford University was founded. I hope I'm not the only one who finds it interesting to hear what was going on in the Western world. During these the lives of these great masters.
I'm turning first to great collection of biographical material on the Masters, and it's called Zen's Chinese heritage, the Masters in their teachings. And I think these are mostly Tang Dynasty masters. But near the end of the book, we find Dawei just keep it relatively brief, because it can get kind of complicated. But yes, it was born a little years as dates are 1088 to 1163 is a disciple of the Great Yuanwu. Yuanwu is credited as the editor of the blue Cliff records, the great, great collection of koans, the blue Cliff records, and for interesting to hear that both Dawei and his teacher Yuanwu really advanced the cause of women teachers. You know, we take this, I think, pretty much for granted. In our in our contemporary world that of course, there will be women teachers as well as men, but in in Tang Dynasty, and even Song Dynasty, China, you're still beset with his cultural prejudices. And most most women, however, enlightened they were didn't be received Dharma transmission. And that really changed with Dawei and his own teacher great credit to their their free thinking their their spirit of liberty, that they wouldn't be bound by old Chinese ancient Chinese cultural prejudices. You might well ask, wait a minute. What about those other earlier Chinese masters? If they're Zen masters? Why were they caught in that those prejudices? And I don't have an answer for you, except that conditioning can run deep, especially if you're reared in the culture of certain conditioning. That's not much of an explanation, but I think it's the best we can do. It's unfortunately so first Dawei before getting to Yuanwu, he found some other master out I'm not going to clutter this up with a lot of different names. But it says here that the master recognize doorways unusual ability, and assigned him to work as his personal attendant. This has always been considered, especially in China and Japan. Korea is a great honor to work as the personal attendant of a teacher. But it says doorways obstinate personality, clashed with his teacher, leading to an exchange in which the teacher ridiculed young Dawei and he's saying you haven't experienced enlightenment. And the problem is your intellectual understanding.
He seems to have been intellectually brilliant before and after enlightenment
we're continuing here with this this translation of the old the old records by Andy Ferguson. I don't remember if I said his name. He's the the editor of this In a huge collection of biographical material, after six months had passed, Dawei asked of gay firstly went then he went to Yuanwu. And he asked one who, I've heard that previously you question would zoo about this phrase? But I don't know what he answered. And Yuanwu laughed, just laughed, he didn't reply. So Dawei said at that time you pose this question to everyone, why not say it again? Now? We're getting to the phrase Yuanwu said that he had asked his teacher what is the meaning of the phrase? It is words without words, a creeper held up by a tree. And then his teacher had answered you can't trace it, it can't be drawn. And then, again, you want wool, responding to Dawei that he asked his teacher when the tree has fallen down and the creeper has weathered and his the creeping vine has weathered what then, and his teacher wozu said, see what comes next. And those words Dawei came to enlightenment. And he said, I understand. To which Yuanwu Then posed some questions and probing questions to test Dawei. And the way replied to each one without hesitation.
And then, he Dawei became the abbot of certain temple. And got all snarled up in the political turmoil of 12th century China. I guess I'm not going to get into that. But except to say the Dawei was caught up in the fallout of some episode, and was forced to flee with his monks to another province.
In the year 1150, Dawei, and his monks were forced by social unrest, to move again. This is this time, even farther. There, plague and famine, killed more than half of them. More than half of the 100 monks in doorways group. Just to stop and consider this. So we've heard now from massive political unrest, social unrest, play plague, and famine.
We think we have problems today and we do for sure. But it's it's nothing original, and what we're going through and then social conditions improved, die was invited to move to a certain tempo. In the years that followed, and this is important. Dawei emphasize that the goal of all practice is the realization of enlightenment.
That's what he emphasized. And yet, my impression is that the goal of coming to awakening is something that isn't heard much in our contemporary Western centers, Zen centers. It's much much much more common to hear Zen teachers say, Well, we have this originally enlightened mind, this body mind and let's leave it at that.
And yes, enlightenment confirms that, that every one of us without exception is endowed with his enlightened nature. But until we awaken to it it's not really functioning in our lives as it could be. There are more than a few Zen centers where the word Enlightenment now is just as distinguished from original enlightenment. The world the word of white men are awakening to the original alignment is almost a taboo. We don't talk about that to talk about awakening is to divide the indivisible after all, we're all enlightened well yes
but it's it's such such a sellout to not acknowledge cannot acknowledge the possibility of awakening
and that possibility is fully viable in this session this week within everyone's reach everyone beginners How could it not be within our reach when our original nature is enlightenment? This is our nature.
Just one or two little anecdotes here, in this book Dawei once said to the assembly of monks, every day, persons who practice the way should investigate others efforts. And they should always examine their own efforts in this manner, they cannot help but be successful in practicing the way the Dow whether they're joyous, angry at peace or troubled all these occasions or times for examination
in the course of a seven day sesshin or even five days, sesshin and even fewer days. We go through one state of mind after another. It's inevitable. We've got this practice. We're working on breath, a breath practice at koan. shikantaza But however much we stick to it, what it does is expose our issues. The stuff in the mind come up, you find our way to the surface memories or even aside from memories, emotional states it's a it's quite a ride sesshin as anyone knows who's been to even one, especially a seven day and when he says these are all occasions for times for examination, we don't make we don't analyze these states of mind as they come up. That's that's not what we're doing here just by focusing holding to the practice of working on they, they are revealed. They rise to the surface. And it's enough just to see them to notice them. Habit forces emotional thought patterns, things that keep repeating themselves in our lives, reactions, the all the different kinds of reactivity. These are all going to be on display this week. And there's there's nothing wrong with that that's part of the process. It's part of the, the illumination process. The key thing is, even while seeing them, not dwelling in them, not making stories about them. Because if we do, we're just clinging to the eye.
Is one more anecdote? Zen master Dawei was sitting and relaxing in his quarters, when he suddenly said these days, the brethren, the monks gain their understandings with intellect and emotion. Many of them just recall some idle talk or catchy phrases, and bring them in here to use as their answers to my questions. It says if they have a priceless jewel in their hand, and when someone asks them, what's in your hand, they drop it, then pick up a lump of dirt. So stupid. If they keep on like this, they'll never gain enlightenment. Apparently, there was a lot more of this going on in doorways time then, in our time, monks coming in having memorized the words in the Masters may be, you know, chunks of koans. And they're all primed to respond accordingly when they're asked a question. I don't see that at all. I never see people doing that, which is, I feel very privileged that we don't have to go through that. That's not what ducks on is about. He's talking about ducks on people would come come to his quarters and ask questions or he asked them and, and this is what they come up with all the stuff they had memorized. Zen practice is not about memorizing anything. It's bringing forth what's authentic in the moment.
And then I'll just read the the some of the details of his dying. This was the year 1163. a falling star fell to the west of a temple with a terrifying flash. And then Dawie starway be suddenly became slightly ill. Disciples inquired about his health Dawei exerted himself and said in a loud voice. Tomorrow I'm setting off on a journey.
The next day, he personally wrote his testimonial. Ray many wrote a farewell letter to another one of his students. And then the monks pestered him to compose a verse in large brush strokes. This This was a tradition lasted for some hundreds of years where the master on his deathbed would write a verse a final verse and so he did so. But this is what he wrote his brush. Birth is thus death is thus verse or no verse. What's the fuss?
That's the end of the biographical material that we have. Now I'm going to go to switch tacks to a book of often read from, as did Roshi Kapleau. It's called swamp land flowers, the letters and lectures of Zen master Dawei. I see from my notes, I try to date everything when I read from these books, so that I don't repeat the same material too often. And I see that the last time I read from this book, which was in 2020, left off on page 4043. So that's where I'm going to pick up now.
And here's, here's how it goes. The Buddha preached all doctrines to save all minds. I have no mind at all. So what's the use of any doctrines? No mind I'm sure most of you know this is a Zen phrase. No mind means a mind. It's free. A mind that's not caught in conceptualization. Mind that is fully present, responsive.
You could say that, this whole week, we're trying to reach a state of no mindedness. Doubt Dawei continues basically, there is nothing in any doctrine and no mind in mind. The emptiness of mind and things both. Is there a real character? Again, I have to pause here he's touching on the very essence of the Buddha Dharma, the very essence that all phenomena, physical phenomena. mental phenomena, thoughts, emotions, feelings, all phenomena are without substance. There's no roots. There's no roots to anything, everything is in flux. It's one way to understand emptiness, everything is in flux. So, there is no thing that when we we point to it is the same after we point to it. This is what in Sanskrit is known as shunyata. And the teaching of emptiness, no thingness. And it is again it is the essence is the essential nature of all things, all people, that is our nature, every one of us is devoid of any fixed substance, any fixed self.
He continues, but these days students of the way often fear falling into emptiness. Those holding such views, Miss apprehend expedient means and take the disease for the medicine, they are to be pitied deeply, while the medicine again is emptiness, seeing into the emptiness of all things. But it is a very, very, very basic human fear of disappearing.
Losing the self this is the irony that what we need to do most to achieve liberation is to lose this attachment to the south. And yet it is probably the deepest human fear is disappearing. Isn't that what death is the fear of death is the fear of disappearing no self
and so the the art Hours and hours of sitting we do every day and says she is a way to lead us, lead us into this realm, lead us beyond our attachment to the self, our bondage to the self. And by the way, the self just means our ideas about who we are. And if we can just in this, in this journey, in this move beyond our comfort zone of the self, if we can just trust the practice, we're working on just that completely trust it, then we will be led beyond the shackles of this self image, self thought and find our ourselves free.
requotes Lehmann Pang. Remember the great enlightened lay people have early Zen, Chinese Zen, don't be averse to falling into emptiness, falling into emptiness isn't bad. He also said, Just vow to empty all that exists. Don't make real that which doesn't exist. And see the fundamental emptiness, of everything that supposedly exists. And don't reify it don't make make keep making it real in your mind by dwelling in it. conceptualizing about it or yourself or others. And then he says Dawei says if you can see through this one saying, then the ignorance born of boundless evil deeds will instantly melt away and disperse. Even the great the whole great Buddhist canon, preached by the Tattaglia. That's the Buddha cannot explain this one sentence. Again, the one sentence is just a vow to empty but all that exists vow to to see the formlessness of form. The emptiness of all things, the no thingness of this world of things. But even that, to say that you don't want to make a project out of that you don't need to. That's not going to get you there. It's it's to just reach single minded absorption in your practice. Forget about the word emptiness forget about even that sentence that one sentence. Forget about emptying all of the exists. It happens on its own through single minded absorption in the practice.
Apparently this is a letter he's, he's writing to disciple by the name of Chen. Because then paragraph later he says, Buddha's disciple Chan, you have realized that personal existence is false, and that things are illusory. So I would take that to mean that you've had an initial glimpse into the formlessness of form. You've had you had what Japan would be called Kensho, which can be very, very slight. He continues Dawei amidst illusory falsehood, you were able to contemplate the saying, a dog has no Buddha nature. Because of course, the koan Mu, suddenly, while washing your face you found your nose and sent me a letter expressing your understanding, trying your hand and explaining chon Zen. This was like a three day old tiger cub who already has the spirit to devour an ox. The message you conveyed though, was like a lucky monkey hitting the ground with a stick where it hit. It went in a few inches, but where it missed it had no grasp of the issue at all. Though in the main, your basis is already correct, you are not yet clear about the great dharma. This is a common disease of beginners entering the first barrier. If you can realize such a thing, push it to one side and take the essential gate of all the Buddhas and patriarchs and shut it at once. Only if you find a life on the other side of the primordial Buddha, will you gain mastery of the Dharma
so he's saying, good, good. You've entered the first gate, you got a little taste it's more than most people do in their whole life. But now, don't settle for that. That's not going to take you very far.
Then he ends this letter by saying just get the route. Don't worry about the branches. Over a long, long time, it will sink in thoroughly. Don't worry that you won't attain oneness. Work on it just get the root the essence the essence that this world of thickness is no thing. Don't worry about the branches. The branches are all the the various aspects of Zen practice the prostrations that chanting, devotions.
Certainly all of the all the ways that we engage with the world you could say these are the branches. A tree there's no tree without a root got to get to the root. So Sheen's are, are dedicated to realizing the root the essence. But then, we leave sesshin and now we're back in the branches and the leaves is no tree with our branches and leaves. We need both. But this week, this week, is where we have the best chance of our lives to realize the root. That means just single minded absorption in the one practice we're working on. Not being concerned with other people, other things comparing oneself to others. This is a huge one huge. People waste so much time thinking that's the word thinking about themselves as compared to others imagining what others are, are going through or achieving saying and dogs on what other others others others, there's no others in sesshin in this respect, just move just the questioning. Just one week. You have all the other weeks of the year, 51 weeks of the year we can can learn about the trees, the leaves and the branches. Here is our chance to get to the root. Stop now and recite the Four Vows