Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei #4
12:29AM Jun 23, 2023
Today is the fourth day of this June 2023. seven day sesshin. And we're going to continue with the Unborn: the life and teachings of Zen master Bankei translated by Norman Waddell and picking up from where we left off yesterday with Bankei's talk given at Ryumonji.
His message was simple. Each and every one of us without exception is a Buddha endowed with a mind that is unborn which means a mind that is free from delusion, free from obstructions.
He says, If you establish yourself firmly in the unborn, that is if you let go of your attachments to thoughts, experiences, objects and people. If you establish yourself firmly in the unborn, then simply and without any trouble or effort, while sitting comfortably, comfortably on the tatami mats. You're an authentic targeter a living Buddha the eye to see others will open in you and you'll be able to see everything from the vantage point of realization.
Notice that he says he specifies while sitting comfortably, without any trouble or effort. It is so important to relax into our seat relax into our practice. And that doesn't mean that our attention should be aimless or passive. Just not forced, or manufactured, should be natural. If we're holding any tension in our body, we're more likely to be chasing after thoughts. And vice versa. If we're chasing after thoughts, then we're likely to hold tension in our body.
Also, if we're keeping a kind of stern or grim attitude, in working on our koan for overly
serious about it.
That might be grasping, looking outward instead of inward.
When we relax, and instead take up an attitude of wonder, and curiosity, open questioning. We can more readily just let the thoughts be just let them occur. In other words, we don't reject them, nor do we chase after them or dwell in them. Again, it doesn't matter that we have thoughts nor what the thoughts happen to be about. Thoughts are equally the same. They lack substance. It doesn't matter if they're about turtles, or cheese, or airplanes. Or any number of random things one can come Come up with or about oneself for that matter. Doesn't matter. Just let them be.
Bungay says, I never err in my judgment of people, nor does anyone else who has the eye of the unborn. Our school has been called the clear eyed sect for that reason, when the eye to see others opens in you, and you can see straight into their hearts, you may consider that you fully realized the Buddha's Dharma, because then at that very place, that's what you've done. When we see things clearly, not through the fog of thoughts. We realize that everyone, ourselves and everyone we look up on everyone we meet, no matter who they are, what walk of life they come from everyone, a Buddha. We recite in the Four Vows, all beings without number I vow to liberate. We're not doing this work for ourselves alone. Fundamentally, we're not separate from other people, from other beings from things.
And then Bungay says, until you realize for yourselves what I've just said, you may find it hard to believe. You may even think I'm trying to deceive you. But after you leave here, when the day comes, that you do realize it, that very day, and that that very spot, whoever you are, you too, will be able to see into other's hearts. You will, you'll know then, that everything I've said is true. Be diligent now in the interests of that future day. Be diligent now in the future, in the interests of that future day. If I were lying to you, my tongue would be pulled out after I die for the sin of speaking falsehood. Do you think I'd be standing here telling you lies, knowing that I'd fall into the tongue pulling hell for doing it
don't waste a moment put your trust in yourself and in your practice.
You know, PRAK practice is often described as an unending journey that takes lifetimes of work
that's not the whole of it. Practice also comes down to our attention in just one moment at a time. One moment is a lifetime
I'm actually reminded of a pun that a friend shared with me last week. It was in his 365 days of dad jokes calendar
he said the past present and future walk into a bar
it was tense
only this only this one
forget about past and future. Forget about present too
and then Bungay continues. Once you come to be convinced that unworn, illuminating wisdom is unmistakably the Buddha mine, your belief in it becomes unshakable. It's as if all the people in the world were to get together and try to make you believe that a crow was a heron. Since you know very well, by your common experience, that a crow is by nature black, and a heron, white. They couldn't convince you, no matter how hard or how long they tried.
Yeah, so he says your belief becomes unshakable. And it's it's interesting that you uses the word belief. And I'm guessing it might be a translation issue. How do you put words to what is beyond belief? To what is just direct experience? How do you use words to convey convey that which we embody who we are? How could you call that a belief? It's like saying, I've come to believe I'm human
You know it yourself. directly in your own body mind.
Seeing what's been there, all along. That a crow is a crow. And a heron. Just a heroin. That's it right there. Simple and yet we complicate. complicate things with our thoughts. That's why practice requires trust and faith. Faith in the fact that each one of us is endowed. Endowed with Buddha nature, through and through. Also faith in Zen, this method of sitting still doing this work together as a Sangha, shoulder to shoulder or on Zoom square to square
bunk a then goes on. Every moment, day and night is the fixed and appointed time for practice. I don't do as they do elsewhere and tell you that the period of practice begins at such and such a time. Everyone doesn't start dashing around, making a great fuss
I wonder if he's referring to training periods, you know, ongoing these like three month sessions, as if you can just put practice into three months. And that's it. Be like, thinking that we only practice in sushi, or we only practice when the bell rings during the round can't contain it every moment, day and night, practicing continuously not letting our guard down.
And in such sheen, it can be difficult at times, we can inadvertently let our guard down during keening during periods of transition or during break periods where we check out view if you've ever caught yourself staring out the window at the water table, or just kind of looking aimlessly into the courtyard. Pay attention to that. Bring it back don't take a thought break.
And sometimes we can kind of get sucked into that for some degree of time. And we discover Yeah, we've kind of dropped our practice. And then we hear the bell signaling the start of the next round or the block and that grabs our attention. We get frustrated and struggle to get our practice back.
Remember, our true nature is always functioning. It's not limited to where we happen to be in time and space. And it's also functioning when we're caught up in thoughts doesn't start or end
when we hear the sound of the bell that's right there when we eat just just the eating when walking, just the walking can never leave it when sleeping, resting every second and microsecond.
Keeping our practice continuous both in and outside the Zendo or while practicing at home comes down to our attention giving our attention to it. making that shift in attention each time we notice we've gotten off into thoughts and there's no measure stick this is a good news. There is no measure stick or standard of perfection that we need to that we need to achieve nobody's going to judge you. And you shouldn't judge yourself just the noticing, and returning
and we get countless do overs
and when we do that consistently, when we keep returning keep returning persistence, persistence, the best that we can our thoughts do settle doesn't mean that they're going to go away completely. They just don't have the same hold on us
you know, practice is not a linear progression. As much as we'd like it to be nervous machine
we're not getting better and better and better at our practice.
At any stage of sesshin at times, we're gonna feel tired, yeah. Or bored. feel pain and struggle with it. But other times, we're gonna feel motivated, energetic, driven, light, buoyant. And everything in between. All of it comes down to passing conditions that come and go. Passing through the mind arising and disappearing. We don't have to do a thing about them. Just keep our attention calm and steady on our practice.
Bonk a then gets into this story. It's about a monk who was feeling sleepy. He says, There was once a monk in my temple, who had been dozing off. Another monk saw him and really laid into him with a stick
of course, in our tradition, we we have the encouragement stick that the monitors use the cue Saku and it's long been seen as an aid to practice. It's made of somewhat flexible wood and it's used to tap pressure points in the shoulders, at the base of the neck and that general region and it's intended to arouse energy and of course, it's available on a voluntary basis. Some people find it's really helpful in that way in terms of generating energy and also easing tension that we might be holding in our shoulders. And some people find just the sound of the stick itself helps to redirect their attention to their practice, whack whack
whereas for others, I find it distracting or bothersome. It's it's really individualized and that's why the monitors are here to work with you. If you'd like it stronger, lighter media more frequent or no stick monitors are here for you.
And back to the incident, though with a monk who had struck another monk because he had been dozing off. Bonk he says, I reprimanded the monk. This is he reprimand reprimanded the monk who wielded the stick? Not the one who was dozing off. Why hit him when he is enjoying a pleasant nap? Do you think he leaves the buddha mind and goes somewhere else when he sleeps? Now, we don't go out of our way to urge people to take naps. Yet neither do we hit them or scold them for it if they do. We don't scold or praise them for sleeping, any more than we scold them or praise them for not sleeping. If you stay awake, you stay awake. If you sleep, you sleep. When you sleep, you sleep in the same buddha mind you were awakened. When you're awake, you're awake in the same buddha mind you were sleeping in. You sleep in the buddha mind while you sleep, and are up and about in the buddha mind while you're up and about. That way, you always stay in the buddha mind. You're never apart from it for an instant
you're wrong. If you think that people become something different when they fall asleep. If they were in the buddha mind, only during their waking hours and changed into something else when they went to sleep. That wouldn't be the true Buddhist Dharma.
The need the need for sleep is a basic human need. Nearly all animals sleep it's restorative. It's essential to the functioning of our organs. But in such sheen, we might find ourselves thinking about sleep in such a way that makes it into a dilemma. A problem Hmm, how much sleep should I get tonight? When should I nap? What will happen if I stay up all night? Okay, I know I'll sleep two hours tonight. Or no let's make it one and a half. And then I won't sleep during the break
or we might just try to power through every break. Yeah Aza in this kind of headstrong way exhausting ourselves
for caught up in these kinds of thoughts or patterns there's a good chance that we're in grasping, plotting and planning mode trying to manage and control our practice and our to sheen experience
but for what purpose? There's something to attain. Somewhere you need to get you. Is there anything you need to change about the conditions that you're in? Or about yourself?
In sesshin, most of us are already sleeping less than we normally do. I'm assuming people don't keep this machine schedule outside of this machine. But most of us are sleeping less than we normally do, simply because of that schedule. It's also true that many people find that they have more energy and need less sleep. Beyond the schedule allows for as the day goes by, as the days go by. Especially during the second half of sesshin. Zen generates energy. And that's because we're not so bogged down or feeling the weight of thoughts. They become lighter. And we're fortified by our Zen are more capable of letting them go
there is a Japanese term for the power and energy that we generate through Zen it's called jerky. In it arises as the mind becomes more concentrated, it arises naturally on its own. Just as long as we're keeping our attention, returning our attention to our practice
and with jerky, even when we're feeling on the surface, kind of sleepy or it might be just kind of blah feeling Beneath that is a well of energy
it would be a big mistake, not to take advantage of that energy to not be diligent
a mistake to waste this precious week of sesshin. And in saying all of that, when you need to sleep, sleep, you're still a Buddha.
Bankai continues, you each received one thing from your mother when you were born, the unborn buddha mind nothing else. Rather than try to become a Buddha. When you stay constantly in the unborn mind sleeping in it when you sleep up and about in it when you're awake. You're living Buddha in your everyday life at all times. There's not a moment when you're not a Buddha. Since you're always a Buddha, there is no other Buddha for you to become. Instead of trying to become a Buddha, then a much easier and shorter way is just to be a Buddha. The unborn buddha mind deals freely and spontaneously with anything that presents itself to it. But if something should happen to make you change the buddha mind into thought then you run into trouble and lose that freedom. Let me give you an example. Suppose a woman is engaged in sewing something. A friend enters the room and begins speaking to her as long as she listens to her friend and SOS in the unborn she She has no trouble doing both. In other words, her her attention is just flowing freely, her mind is undisturbed. But if she gives her attention to her friends words, and a thought arises in her mind, and she thinks about what to reply, her hands stop sewing. If she turns her attention to her sewing, and thinks about that, she fails to catch everything her friend is saying, and the conversation does not proceed smoothly. In either case, her buddha mind has slipped from the place of the unborn. In other words, in that moment, her minds divided. She has transformed it into thought, as her thoughts fixed upon one thing, they're blank to all others, depriving her mind of its freedom.
There's a term for this in the field of psychology, flow. Flow is used to describe a state of being fully immersed in what we're doing. We're not really conscious of what we're doing even, we're just so immersed in it. There's just the action
we respond freely, naturally, spontaneously, without hesitation
and then he says, in the unborn, all things fall right into place and remain in perfect harmony. When everything you do is done in accordance with the unworn the eye that sees others as they are, opens in you. The eye that sees others just as they are opens in you. And you know, in your own mind that everyone you see is a living Buddha. Once you know the great worth of the buddha mind, you can't leave it for illusion again. But as long as you're ignorant of its great value, you will continue to create illusions for yourself in whatever you do insignificant things included and you will live as an unenlightened person
says Sheen is an opportunity like no other to open that eye
it's a precious opportunity to be able to put down our day to day affairs for a week and devote ourselves to practice fully.
We didn't come here to devote ourselves to our thoughts and judgments
nor to our self narratives are melodramas. We're not here to devote our devote our selves to our ideas about the past or what the future might bring
We're here to devote ourselves just
in the closing words of his talk at Rio mon G, this is what Bankai says.
The working of your bright, illuminating Buddha minds resplendent clarity is such that you can see and recognize a person over a block away. A person's just a person, you could see a towering mountain peak 50 leagues distant, just a mountain even behind rows of hills, you can see that mountain and your buddha mind can tell that it's Mount Fuji or mount Congo or some other mountain
so while the buddha mind is often compared to a mirror how vastly different its brightness really is. How vastly different its brightness really is. Even the Sun and Moon, light up only the earth and the heavens
and when you hear these words, and understand and affirm them
in other words, experience it directly for yourself, look directly. You will know for yourself that the Buddha minds wonderful brightness surpasses even the brightness of the sun and moon what an incalculable treasure your buddha mind is.