January 2021 Online Sesshin, Day 5: Teachings and Life of Zen Master Hakuin
9:11PM Aug 4, 2021
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
This is the fifth day of this January 2021 Rohatsu seven day online sesshin. We'll return to the great Japanese Zen Master Hakuin.
Before getting into some of his more vigorous passages, I wanted to read a couple of short things that that point to the compassion behind his fierceness. You know, it's I remember hearing Roshi Kapleau reading the teachings of Hakuin. There were times I confess, where I thought, Jesus, he just seems so riled up, agitated, fearsome all the time. But much later, I came to understand what what that came out of. It is how painful it is to, for him, to see people wasting their lives. Or, to put it this way, to see people who can't gather up the faith in themselves to come to awakening. What a missed opportunity it was -- how, how almost unbearable, it was for him. And out of that comes all of this effort to rouse people, to inspire courage, exhort people to go beyond themselves, not not shortchange themselves, not settle for anything but the ultimate.
Of course, he's talking to all of us, teachers and students alike. But before getting into that, I wanted to return to our hacohen book from a couple days ago, wild IV. It's the spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master hacohen. Very one short thing there. But he touches on. He's recounting how his main teacher showed you how rough he had been on him. This is this is the translator talking about how koan and showed you. And they the translator is saying an introduction to wild IV. That hacohen gradually came to appreciate why showed you pressed him so vehemently to continue his practice. Why, when showed you had asked his reason for becoming a monk, his reply, that he had done it because he was afraid of falling into hell, had brought the scornful retort, you're a self centered rascal, aren't you? Not until 18 years later, upon attainment of his final grade enlightenment at the age of 41. Would hacohen fully grasp the significance of shoulders reproach, and with it, the true meaning of post Satori practice. Years later, when Hakuin asked his student, Tory, the same question, that is his reason for becoming a monk. Tory answered, to work for the salvation of my fellow beings. And Miss brought a laugh from Hakuin a much better reason than mine. He said. Let's just pick up a couple points here. When he said, I'm when Hakuin said when he was young, he had become a monk because he was afraid of falling into hell. Well, we heard about that, how, how much he feared that. And I that's not fault. Hakuin forgiving an honest reply. If that's the authentic thing that brought him to the Dharma, all right, it doesn't matter what brings you It could be anything. For most of us. It is self centered. We just want relief from our pain, our emotional mental, sometimes physical pain. Roshi Kapleau talked about this about before going to Japan his own well To use,
I think a different word than he did his his anxieties that manifested as officers and insomnia and other things. We don't need to apologize for whatever brings us to the Dharma, there are there have cases we know here at our center where someone became a member of the center because they fell in love with someone who was already a member. So they just wanted to join with them. And, you know, I think there were cases where the person who joined just because she or he was in love with a member, then went on beyond the person, the other one, the partner, who quit earlier, it doesn't matter what our reasons are, but shoujo is making a point Yes, okay, that's a, that's a self centered reason. It's, it's about yourself relieving your own pain. But there is nothing there is no driver of practice, like the the wish to come to awakening for the sake of other beings. This, I remember when I first got a glimpse to this, after, oh, I don't know, a dozen sessions or so. Until then it had been all about, you know, basically greed, greed for kensho. And then there were moments where it opened up. And I realized, this is how I can best help others how anyone can best help others is to see through the egoistic impurities of the mind enables us to be more to serve others, more more selflessly, listen, somewhat selflessly. And oh, well, how that changed. My feeling about the practice about, about doing the isaa wasn't just to be, I don't know, get a blue ribbon or something. But it was, it was. So that from a state of having seen to some degree, even a small degree, through self and other, we are so much better equipped to help others selflessly. And and, and that should come that motivation that broader, more magnanimous pure motivation is one of the the developments that happens over time. I don't know I can't say that everyone reaches that point. But I suppose if you do it long enough, and the is the the ego, and its motivations, has been sanded down enough, then probably everyone would get to that point because that's our, our natural inclination. underneath all the egotism is this mind of kinome. This wanting to help others in whatever way we can.
And then, from the same book, still wild IV just a little bit more, these are now this is rod of the introduction, these are Hakuin zone words, in his own autobiography, after his, after his first of his first awakening, he was eight settle down and was really enjoying the,
bliss of having awakened, but then he writes here, I decided I would be far better off if I follow the parting advice showed you had given me to devote my energy to liberating the countless suffering beings of the world by imparting the great gift of the Dharma. To assemble a few select monks capable of passing through the barrier into genuine kensho to strive diligently toward creating conditions for the realization of a Buddha Land on Earth and in the process, carry into practice Bodhisattva vows and then he adds, when I resolve to embark on this grand and far reaching program, and send a handful of genuine monks out into the world, it was because As I wanted to repay the immense debt I owed to the Buddhas and patriarchs, just a reminder, you hear Buddha's and patriarchs, he really means his enlightened predecessors. Buddha's in plural Buddha Buddha Buddha's, with an S, we can just understand as enlightened ones. This is someone who is drunk already drunk deeply from the wealth of the Dharma, that he would feel this kind of gratitude and yes debt debt to those who helped him in his practice.
Now we're turning back to yesterday's text. And maybe in the another hacohen book, maybe it was. Maybe it was the day before as well. This is the essential teachings of Zen Master hacohen, also translated by Norman Waddell. Here too, it's just such a immense amount of material and how koans teachings I'm just without apology, I'm just plucking out passages from these, these two books, and there's another one Hakuin invade against those who after, after some insight into their true nature, or none at all, who knows, then became puffed up with pride as he remember, as he had them, after his first kensho, puffed up, and thinking that you've reached some kind of crowning experience and then you're done. He does a lot of that in his writings, he must have done it. Well, he did it first of all, because he remembered having made that mistake himself. Having having thought that he was he was done, he had arrived. But also he must guess he must have seen it in other other monks, senior monks during his his time. So here's, here's an example where he gets his his fires stoked up. Unfortunately, however, we have another species of teacher in our Zen school. By the way, this is a chapter of the book called The true and and transmittable dharma. The kind who puffs up self importantly, when he's able to round up seven or eight monks. He stalks like a tiger with a mean glint in his eye. parades around like an elephant with his nose stuck proudly in the air. You know, I think of, of our own time. We, as far as far as I know, in North America, we haven't really had to deal with these misfit monks who go around just wreaking havoc out of their immaturity, we read about them a couple of days ago, but there are teachers or even people who are not yet teachers, who they sort of pose as enlightened ones. They learn a certain kind of bunch of theatrical that they think define, you know, distinguishes them as teachers shouting, or slamming their fists, their their palm on the floor, striking with a stick. I know without a doubt that some of these people's haven't had haven't. If they've seen into their true nature at all, it's very much of a grazing insight. And yet they carry on as though they're no rinzai or talks on. reborn. Again, back to hacohen parades around like an elephant with his nose stuck proudly in the air. He delivers smug judgments and then here's here's Hakuin. Speaking in the voice of these proud teachers, Master so and so is an excellent monk. his poems are reminiscent of Li Yulin writes pote lights prose like one Chong long in the ample fair you get an his temple cannot matched as food cannot be matched anywhere else in the country. There was a morning meal, a midday meal, tea and cakes three times a day. Before the afternoon tea break is even over the board sounds announcing the evening meal. That sounds all right to me. The master teaches the Dharma of direct pointing itself and ushers students into enlightenment with no more effort that it takes to pick up a clod of dirt at the roadside. Mr. Kobayashi, his third son went to him and was immediately enlightened. He's just tack on here is just is pulling out some common Japanese names. Mr. Suzuki's fourth son went in grasp of Dharma right off samurais and farmers, artisans and merchants, even butchers
innkeepers peddlers and everyone else who passes through the gates of his temple, he lays them all straight into the realm of truth. I don't know of a training Hall in the world to compare with it. Any monk on pilgrimage who fails to enter so and so's gate is making the mistake of a lifetime is throwing a search for search for Satori. right out the window. Yeah, and there there are even respected teachers in North America and Europe, who will just run people through their first call on in no time. And then others imagine that because they mistake, quantity or number on the one hand, for quality. We'll get back to this later recover. Hakuin just rages about this, passing people too easily. But first, he comments here after, after using the voice of one of these proud teachers that he says what graveyard? Did you pillage for those old leftover offerings? Who did you? Who did you get that line about direct pointing from? How can you say that enlightenment comes as effortless effortlessly as picking up a clod of dirt? Are you really talking about the secret transmission of the sixth patriarch? The essential matter that Lynch he transmitted? If it was as easy as you say it is, and it was enough for a student merely to receive an accepted teaching after his teacher explained it to him. Why does Zen people speak of the quote wondrous Dharma that the Buddha's and patriarchs do not transmit? I can resist another anecdote, I think I've told at least once before, about a student of mine in Europe. This was 20 years ago, who we've had many, many sessions first here, and then in Sweden, and
he could no longer fly make these transatlantic flights to come to sesshin here. And so he asked about going to machine with a certain Yeah, German teacher, and nothing. There's not any our lineage at all, no relation, but who had was probably the most prominent Zen teacher in Europe. I said, Sure, give it a try. And what he reported this is a student who had been working on subsequent koans with me. What he reported is that when he would go in and present a demonstration of the koan he was working on. If it wasn't just right. The teacher would say, No, here's how it's done. Every time No, here's how it is.
Roshi Kapleau used to quote his teacher, yes, Kenny Roshi. In saying, The job of a teacher is not only to reveal the truth, but to expose the false Roshi Kapleau was much more inclined than I am to rage himself in the in the fashion of Hakuin. About false teachers. I just doesn't quite go with my own grain. So I don't do much of that. But I had to mention just an example a specific example of someone who in his recently is 20 years ago was making the same mistake
Hakuin goes on to tell the story of Chinese Zen Master Sheng Yen, who in Japanese is known as Cogan. We know this keogan from the fifth koan in the thickets of fifth, the fifth koan in the momon con. Man up a tree. But here's here's his own very short story. In ha koans words, one day long ago when Zen Master Sheng Yen Cogan, was studying under way, Shawn, that's Yep. This the master address the following question, too. I'm trying to avoid cluttering this up with too many names. I heard I've heard you have a brilliant mind. They say you're so perceptive that when you were with your late teacher, beau, John, you gave answers of 10, when he asked about one, and answers of 100, when he asked about 10. But that intellectual sharpness, and perceptiveness is the very source of birth and death. What I want from you right now is a single phrase that comes from a time, priority or birth. He's pointing out what what a handicap it can be, to have a very high IQ basically, a or at least, maybe a take that back it's not so much the IQ as, as the tendency to traffic in words and concepts. How much of a handicap it can be to be highly educated with a lot of verbal ability. That's what this gilgen was. So, what I want from you right now is a single phrase that comes from a time prior to your birth. Sheng Yen, let's kill him, utterly confused, returned to the monks quarters in a daze. He took out the writings he had been studying and began to comb them for a phrase he could take back to the master. But he was unable to come up with a single one. Well, that's to his credit that none of them he realized none of them would do the trick. He sighed to himself. You can't satisfy hunger with a painting a painting of a rice cake. He went back and beg the master front for some clue that would help him answer. And then the Master said if I told you something now, later you would curse me to your dying day. Whenever I said would be mine, it would have nothing to do with you. You and your questioning and then goes on Cogan, ended up taking all his writings and study notes and tossing them into the fire. So far, so good at that point. I mean, sutras and other texts have their place. Well, no doubt, but at that point, he was probably his This was his innate wisdom that prompted him to do this. He tossed them straight into the fire and he said, I'll never practice them again in this lifetime. I think I'll go on an extended pilgrimage. I can beg my way as a mendicant mug. At least I can avoid wearing myself out like I'm doing now. So this is discouragement. This is massive discouragement. He reminds me of how koans own story where he quit Zen. For a year I think out of discouragement depression we is the word that was used earlier in this session. And make this point because discouragement is not a deal breaker. Get on the other side of it. But it is a awfully painful scene here that that Hakuin paints he took Leave of the master with tears in his eyes and made straight for the Sheng Yen temple to pay homage at the memorial tower of national master Wade Joan. When he got there, he decided to stay for a while and rest up from his long journey.
There are other there are other sources that say he just was content to just tend to the grave of this national great National Teacher. One day he was clearing away some brush and weeds. They didn't have weed whackers then I see Yeah, he had a sickle. His sickle struck a pebble, throwing it against the trunk of a bamboo with a sharp drop. At that instant, he attained enlightenment. He hurried back to the monks quarters and wash to purify himself. Then he lit some incense and bowed deeply in the direction of the temple, where his master resided. And then he said, the gratitude I owe you for your great compassion is far greater than that I owe my own parents. And then he added, if you had given into my please that day and said something to help me, give me the answer, this moment would never have arrived. And then hacohen comments, do you see, the masters of our school have never been part of one shred of Dharma to their students, not because they were worried about protecting the Dharma. But because they were worried about protecting their students.
We can be sure of one thing, that when he came to that came to awakening with that sharp report of the pebble against the bamboo trunk, he could have had nothing in his mind. No thoughts about himself. And what a poor humble monkey was that he had to sell for just tending the grave. How inadequate I know, it could not have been anything like that in his mind. No thought at all. Awakening occurs from mind free of thoughts. Any kind of thoughts? Maybe especially the thought of awakening, that's the big one that we can squeeze out of the mind through questioning the call on or through complete absorption and whatever are practically even breath practice.
So of course, the point Hakuin is made just to summarize, is what a disservice a teacher is causing when she or he helps the student too much. tries to explain, explain the answers to koans or, or just explains too much.
Really. When when a student presents an answer to a colon but is not it. The teachers bell that handbell that we rang to dismiss the student dismiss their answer. This is a a a signal of the teachers faith in the student. I wish I had been more clear about that when I was working on koans I would sometimes get mad at Roshi Kapleau. I go in there so sure of my my demonstration and get a bell and be leaving the dose sound room. Just exasperated, angry. Every time a teacher rings that bell. It's a testimony of faith of the student. You can do this. You can do This, you don't need my answers. You don't need as much help as you think you do. Stick with it. Stay with it. Don't minimize your own innate wisdom. Don't deny it.
Here's another passage. From the chapter, same book, The essential teachings of them Master hacohen chapter called repaying the Buddhas and patriarchs. He writes, if a single person have superior capacity at superior capacity, let's just put a footnote there. It because we Americans so easily underestimate our serve are divided into those with superior capacity, those with inferior capacity, it becomes such a such an obstacle in the mind. We so easily judge ourselves and others, but for sure ourselves. So when he says superior capacity, it just means someone who has got to the point where they're willing to trust, the practice, they're working on more than the thoughts. That's pretty much what it is. Which do you trust more your thoughts that keep rolling in? Or this practice? That is the realm of Nope, no thought? No mind? That's really what it comes down to? Do you want to keep environment, when you discover that your mind has wandered? Do you want to linger in there and go on chewing on your thoughts? Even if they can be very interesting? Do you really want to do that? Are you ready? Are you ready to pivot back to the practice, that's, that's what he means by superior really. And that means it's not any kind of final judgment. If you're if you're not doing that, if you're spending too much time in your thoughts, if you still think your thoughts or your friends, and you're going to get something out of thinking, when you're on the mat, then you still can go beyond that. Every everyone can do that.
Back to his words, if a single person of superior capacity, commits himself to the authentic pursuit of the way and through sustained effort under the guidance of a true teacher fills with the power of sheer single mindedness, that his normal processes of thought, perception, consciousness and emotion will cease. And he will reach the limits of words and reason. Other words, this is reaching, reaching our width and width is a word that used to mean intellectual prowess, more or less. And that's what the that's what we want to do. Regardless of what practice we're working on. Whether it's koan or another practice is to, to exhaust our wit, our intellectual machinations, he will reach the limits of words and reason he will resemble an utter fool as everything, including his erstwhile determination to pursue the way disappears and his breath itself hangs almost suspended. At that point, what a pity that a Dharma teacher one who is supposed to act as his great and good friend, should be unaware that this is the occasion when the tortoise shell is about to crack the Phoenix about to break free of its egg. If such a teacher should not know that these are all favorable signs seen in those poise, and the threshold of enlightenment, that such a teacher should be stirred by grandmotherly kindness and immediately give in to tender feelings of compassion for the student. misguided Of course he's talking about misguided pay Maybe you'll be a better word and begin straight off explaining to him the reason for this and the principle for that, drawing him down to the abode of delusory. surmise, pushing him over into the cave of intellectual understanding. And then taking a phone a winter melon seal, and certifying is enlightenment. With a pronouncement, you are like this, I am like this to preserve it carefully. Ah, it's up to them if they want to preserve it. The trouble is, they are still as far from the patriarch or groves as Earth is from heaven. What are to all appearances acts of kindness on the part of a teacher helping a student are in fact doings that will bring about his doom. For his part, the student nodding with satisfaction, and without an inkling of the mortal injury, he has incurred prances and frisks about wagging his tail, proud in the knowledge. Now I have grasped the secret of body garments coming from the west. Here, here's Hakuin, hitting full stride, warning out of his compassion, warning about those who would mistakenly think that they're done.
Now, for sure, many of us when we were passed in our first con, we're pretty dissatisfied. I was. I mean, there was a difference. I knew that something I crossed something. But still, as a, as a one of my peers at the time in the mid 60s, mid 70s said, there was nothing to write home about.
But that doesn't mean that it's a mistake. for the teacher to pass the student to have to have passed the student. There is so much that will enrich one's practice through the koan collections, the subsequent koans doesn't mean that you've attained what we really could call enlightenment. It means that you've seen just enough into this world of formless form. You've just seen enough into the fact that form is only emptiness, emptiness only form form is no other than emptiness, emptiness, no other than form. You've seen just enough that you could benefit from going on to cubs koans subsequent to your first one, that's all there's no reason to be prancing about wagging your tail, when you get to that point. And and the very real change that that should have happened is that even to a slight degree, now, you see, above all, you see the insubstantiality of thoughts. And this is a big asset to have seen that, then you're you're never going to be quite as deceived by thoughts again. You'll see what they seem for what they are just noise in the mind dust to be ignored. So yes, in modern times, and this is this is certainly true in Japan too, in modern times, most people when they're passed on their first koan, it's it's a very slight, little peek into this original mind. But that doesn't mean that teach, I feel and disorder, Roshi Kapleau and his teacher that you don't have to wait for the student has deeply enlightened to have them start working their way through subsequent koans. The thing that a teacher prays for Don't take me literally, but praise for is that the student while working through these, these koans will, will make maintain the kind of aspiration to go further go beyond that same aspiration that enabled them to have that initial breakthrough. That joke Continue for years and years or the rest of their life.
Here's another passage about that very thing.
Here again hacohen is, this is a chapter, in the same book called, The chapter is called poisonous leavings, of past masters. You know, these, these, this language is violent language of how koans understand poison, poison, from how koans perspective is the greatest gift to the student it's, it's, it's poisoning the mind of egoistic delusion, poisoning the, the, the workings of the intellect that block us from seeing beyond the intellect.
Harry begins, he quoting another predecessor, Chinese Master, said master non dawn said, You must see your own nature as clearly and unmistakably, as you see the palm of your hand. At the fundamental ground of your being, there must be an undisturbed tranquility. This is this. Now in my words, this is different this the fundamental ground of your being there must be an undisturbed tranquility is very different from the kind of superficial tranquility, the the dead sitting and silent illumination, but hacohen often referred to as someone who hasn't come to awakening. Another phrase in Zen texts about this fundamental tranquility is that great searcys the great rest.
He continues, I want to impress all patricians, who probe the secret depths, great people all with the need to put your innate power to work for you as vigorously and relentlessly as you can. The moment you're kensho is perfectly clear, throw it aside and dedicate yourself to boring through the difficult to pass koans. Once you are beyond those barriers, you will understand exactly what the Buddha meant when he said that a Buddha can see the Buddha nature with his own eyes, as distinctly as you see a fruit line in the palm of your hand. Once you penetrate to see the ultimate meaning of the patriarchal teachers, you will be armed for the first time with a fangs and claws of the Dharma cave. He will sport the divine excuse me, you will sport the divine life usurping talisman, you will enter into the realm of the Buddha's stroll leisurely through the realms where evil demons dwell. You can imagine demons to mean. troubling mind states frightening mind states, the realms where evil demons dwell, pulling out nails, wrenching, free wedges, dispersing great clouds of compassion as you go, practicing the great Dharma giving and rendering immense benefit to the monks who come to you from the four quarters. But you will still be the same old monk you always were. You won't be doing anything out of the ordinary. You will your eyes will stare out from your face from the same location as before. Your nose will be where it always was. Yet now you will be the genuine article. An authentic descendant of the Buddhas and patriarchs, to whom you will have fully repaid that incalculable debt of gratitude, which you owe them. Here he's he's pointing to the fact that after awakening everything is everything is the same while also different. When want to want to know what that refers to Find out.
He goes up you will be at liberty to spend your days free from the clutches of circumstance. You will drink tea when it is given. eat rice when it is served. Doing and non doing will be firmly in your grasp that even the Buddha patriarchs will be able to touch you, you'll be a true monk worth alms of millions in gold.
If on the other hand you follow the trend of the times, when you enter the dark cave of Unknowing in the ape consciousness, you will start bragging about what you have achieved. Other words just sinking into this deep stillness, quietude, you will go around telling everyone how enlightened you are, you will accept under false pretenses, the veneration and charity of others, and wind up being one of those arrogant creatures who declares he has attained realization when he is not.
All of a sudden this corn and the blue Cliff record is just sprang to mind. I'll see if I can retrieve it by memory, where the mug comes to the master and the Master says, Where have you come from? And he said, from the the foot of Mount let's say mega whiteface mountain that's here in the northeast United States, where we come from from whiteface mountain. Did you did you? Did you climb the mountain? Yes, I did. Did you see the summit? No. Then you don't know mountains.