This is day five of this July 2023, seven-day sesshin and I'll return to our text from yesterday, which is anthology a collection of different short pieces by some of the greatest of the especially the Tang Dynasty masters Chinese masters. The book is called "Zen Essence" and is translated and edited by Thomas Cleary.
Zen students today are - this is this is Master Lin-chi - Zen students today are totally unaware of truth. You can say that they're yet to experience the essential - the essential formlessness of form that - the no thingness of the world of the world of thingness. They're like foraging goats that pick up whatever they bump into. They do not distinguish between the servant and the master or between the guest and the host - meaning, this is ninth century language - meaning that distinguish between the essential mind and the ordinary mind. You might say the mind of phenomena everything that comes and goes emotions, feelings, thoughts and so forth. Between that and that which is beyond phenomena.
People like this enter Zen with distorted minds and are unable to enter effectively into dynamic situations is I would see that as not able to function in Yeah, complicated circumstances, things as they are changing. They may be called True initiates. But actually they are really mundane people.
Those who really leave attachments must master real true perception to distinguish the Enlightened from the obsessed, the genuine from the artificial. The unregenerate from the sage. And he says, professional Buddhist clergy who cannot tell obsession from enlightenment have just left one social group and entered another social group. They cannot really be said to be independent. The translator Thomas Clary when he says professional Buddhist clergy this was sure that originally this was monks celibate monks. The translator broadened that to monks and priests who can marry but he said these are those who cannot tell obsession. fixation I would say my understanding well one understanding of the word obsession here is it's a fixation on right and wrong on structure having everything in place according to rules and and having a very simple life where everything is ordered. And you have a nice hierarchy you can rely on. There is there is among more than a few Zen priests I've I've met there is an element of obsessiveness of fuzziness about detail and getting doing things the right way, which usually means just the way they're used to the way their particular school. And this is very pointed, and they've this left one social group and entered another social group. The social group of a, of a temple or a monastery or Zen Center, is very much a little social group doesn't it has the promise of being much more than a social group. But there is That danger of cultism. There's a saying in Mexico, small town big hell. And I think a lot of people who've spent time in monasteries temples, can really appreciate this is the kind of snarled social interactions that can crop up when people who are living in very close quarters and they're rubbing up against one another. There's great there is great potential for living in close quarters like that, and sharing the same aspiration. And then inevitably, there will be friction. And then one can work with that. In Zen, there is the analogy of river stones that become very, very smooth from being tumbling over one another, and, and becoming smoothed out that way. Well, that's the that's the, the promise of living close together as we have our, our sharp edges and our rough corners, sanded down.
He says Now there is an obsession with Buddhism, that is mixed in with the real thing. Those with clear eyes cut through both obsession and Buddhism. And the words cutting through the attachment to Buddhism as a label, mentioned that yesterday about labels, and how dangerous they are, if we become attached to them, and we've made them part of our identity. And then he says it, if you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.
Zen very much admires the ordinary. There's a famous, famous admonition in Zen just be ordinary which means Be yourself.
Nothing Nothing may be sacred.
When we see through these to these distinctions, then the ordinary is the sacred or sacred is the ordinary.
Here's another little entry. Lin-chi says there are blind baldies who after they have eaten their fill. Do Zen and practice meditation, shunning clamor and seeking quiet. This is a deviated form of Zen and is to reject the world of activity and one to withdraw into a nice, controlled environment where everything is is quiet and sublime and want to be we don't want to rely on on the environment, the conditions that we create to that Appreciate the the stillness at the heart of everything
is famous words of Chinese master Jung Jia said those who claim to vacancy neglecting the world of things escaped drowning, but leap into the fire nothing we want to reject
why I think it's, it's somewhat similar as to why we keep the eyes open. In Zen practice, we're not trying to close off, close ourselves off from the world. Trying to, to become one with the world and overcome these, these divisions of the inner and the outer or the private in the public. It's, it's a pretty, pretty tenuous state to be able to quiet the mind as long as your eyes are closed. And you just invite drowsiness with the eyes closed. So going back centuries and centuries, the, the instructions the method and Zen has been to keep the eyes open, the eyes are out of focus, you're not taking in, you're not visually watching things with the eyes open, you're really not seeing much of anything, that at least they're open so you are partaking of the world around you and not rejecting it, not slinking in to try to shut out the world.
And she said, the six supernormal faculties of the enlightened and this is a phrase, this is a category that I guess was out there. In in China, the super six supernormal faculties I didn't I don't even care enough to to cite them, you know, the different kinds of paranormal abilities, psychic powers and all. But he was Zen has never put much stock in psychic ability. So what Lin-chi says is there the six supernormal faculties of enlightened are the ability to enter the realm of form. Then enter the realm of form without being confused by form to enter the realm of sound without being confused by sound to enter the realm of scent, or fragrance without being confused by scent, to enter the realm of flavor, without being confused by flavor, to enter the realm of feeling without being confused by feeling and to enter the realm of phenomena without being confused by phenomena. And how to read how do we avoid being confused by the senses, the sense experiences will ultimately by seeing the emptiness the non substantiality of them all.
This, this word emptiness, it's not we can understand it in more than one way. But here I think what would be especially suitable here is to see it as is a form of impermanence or rather impermanence as a form of emptiness. That when we hear a sound we know the sound is not going to continue forever. Same with smell, taste, feeling, any phenomena form physical form what isn't? Subject to decay tu impermanence. But when he says the the Enlightened the city supranormal faculties enlightened, this goes beyond just as a kind of a minder, oh, there's, there's a sound of a helicopter. Oh, yeah, it's impermanent, they won't be around forever, it'll, it's nothing conscious like that. It's nothing that requires self talk, it's just through the experience of seeing into the formlessness of form. Again, the, the no thickness of this world of thickness, to having experienced that oneself, then there is, there is less attachment, I'd say less less attachment to the sense experiences. And, and so less confusion, less, less bondage to the senses
that we go through this in session, also outside sesshin, but especially in sesshin, with pain, pain is a feeling he mentions feeling here. Too, enter the realm of feeling without being confused by feeling as though we're in pain. And what we discover is that pain passes sooner or later. And if we're not dwelling in our thoughts about the pain, then it's not a big problem. And how do we avoid dwelling in our thoughts about the pain through absorption in the practice we're working on? We don't have to think, Alright, don't be thinking about the pain. No, we just go to the practice. Mu breath, what is this who am I?
Here's a very short one. Lin-chi says, I have no doctrine to give people I just cure ailments and unlock fetters.
In books about Buddhism and Zen, you're come across statements that about the Buddha's refusal to state how things are out there. How things are, what is what is the nature of things?
It's more practical than that. He directed us to see for ourselves how things are not to come up with a doctrine.
Sometimes the introductory workshops, I've heard the question, why are we deluded? Where is our ignorance come from? And while I'm there, sure read books that have gone into that but from a Zen, not just Buddhism, but as Zen point of view, it doesn't matter where it came from. It's we got a problem with our delusion, and how do you resolve a problem and that's where we focus on the practical, the method.
Buddha was, was was sometimes called the great physician. This looking at the illness, the illness of, of suffering, and then going from there, recognizing that suffering ultimately comes from egoistic attachment and delusion that there is a way out of that. And that the way is, for those of us practicing Zen is the way is to non attachment to our thoughts.
This is his Zen master Jung Shan
and now, he is talking about distinguishing between the root and the branches just get the root Don't worry about the branches for some day you will come to have them naturally the branches as we said earlier in sesshin I think it's worth repeating is all the stuff that goes along with our tradition the the ceremonies, the rituals, the bowing, even teisho wearing robes sesshin itself is you could say, as a structure is the branches. The root is beyond all of these things. The root is seeing the non substantiality of all these things doesn't mean rejecting these leaves and branches. There's there's no healthy tree without leaves and branches, but the emphasis in Zen is seeing the source of all this the source of mind.
leaves and branches would also among those would be psychic powers. Even more subtle things like calmness. Yeah, calmness is good. It's not the root energy, strong energy Joy Riki a refined personality, more branches
and there's all the isn't the whole matter of Buddhist philosophy and psychology, the sutras themselves leaves and branches
since the time of Bodhidharma in the sixth century, Zen has been known the teaching beyond words without reliance on the sutras.
And so, then he says if you have not attained the basis or the route, even if you consciously study you cannot attain the outgrowths either.
I've come to feel that one can't really understand the real essence of the sutras until having had a breakthrough having seen into the formlessness of form. Having seen through form seeing through words it can it can inspire one it can it can help us any leaves and branches can help. But you can't really get the gist of it the the essence the essence of the Buddha's words without having experience to some even to a small degree what he experienced
he goes on you should turn your attention within don't memorize my words. You know in, in China, certainly in the time of the Tang Dynasty, the Sung Dynasty and problem maybe even today I don't know. There's great great appreciation of memorizing. Learning the words of, of the Masters Once ancestors as part of the worship of ancestors. I think I mentioned this a couple of days ago and teisho. How became a problem is that as the Masters understood it when their students felt that it was a substitute for the direct experience to memorize a memorized koans.
And here, this young Shawn is reminding us don't memorize my words, I say the same, about teisho I really don't want people to be thinking about what I say in teisho Afterward, you really have to just let it go and trust that, that it's all it's all going in somewhere. You're you're absorbing it somehow. And you don't have to hold it into your conscious mind. When teisho ends, it's over. It's no longer the present, we want to always be present doesn't mean that some things that I read from here don't spring to mind while you're sitting. Some of these things can can be inspirational but not to try to hold on to them very different from so much of Buddhism before Zen which was to study and memorize don't memorize my words you've been turning from light to darkness since before you can remember. So, the roots of your subjective ideas are deep and hard to uproot all at once.
Strictly speaking, we can say that, that fleeing into into words is from direct experience is turning from a light into darkness what is here now that our direct experience is complete.
Wonder how many how many of you have had the experience I have, right after coming out of a seven day sesshin reading something even something about Zen. How this say my own experience have tasteless it is to see compared to what we've been doing here day after day is business to be completely present wide open to direct experience. And then you see these little kink scribbles on a piece of paper. It's so flat and beside the point. I mean, doesn't doesn't last long. And then I can you know later, after more time has passed after sesshin it's it's different. But right away. It's just casting a kind of a gray grayness to two things. And it's just me, maybe other people, right after sesshin you can open a book, especially a book about the Dharma and and be really inspired.
Now we're going down to another famous master file in ninth to 10th century. China, of course. He says the purpose of Zen is to enable people to immediately transcend the ordinary and the holy. Just getting people to awaken on their own, forever cutting off the root of doubt.
Root of doubt
Awakening is the only way to really get free of doubt. Or, to the degree the awakening doesn't mean you can't have doubts after awakening, but you see them differently. You see them for what they are. They're just thoughts, thoughts, thoughts? There is you can't have a doubt except as a thought it's good thing to remember because as we go on in this deeper section of sesshin a doubt can suddenly roar up and really derail one if you pay attention to it must be clear that if you have a doubt about yourself your ability and doubt about the teaching about the teacher, whatever doubts you may have is I thought we have no truck with thoughts in Zen shake it off, redirect your attention to what is beyond doubt.
Many people in modern times disregard this, they may join Zen groups, but they are lazy about Zen practice. Without having understood senses and objects, as soon as they possess themselves of some false interpretation, they become captivated by it and lose the correct basis completely. They are only interested in becoming leaders and being known as teachers while they vet they value an empty reputation in the world that is why but even as they crave to be famous, they bring ill on themselves not only do they make their successors blind and deaf they also cause the influence of Zen to degenerate.
You have to go back to this this matter of doubt you know in Zen often when we say doubt we mean questioning but this is this is the corrosive kind of doubt we're just don't quite believe the teaching and in this is where we can employ especially at this stage of sesshin we can start shifting into more of a do it yourself mode rather than bringing everything to the teacher and doxa I'm aware that with this this many people in sesshin I feel I need to start moving things along more in Duck son so if you if you have the thought that you're you're not capable of this practice, not capable of coming away. You don't need to bring that to me. Come on, see it as a thought nothing but a thought Shake It Off
think we just have to start to narrow the parameters of what what is necessary for ducks on with this many people. It's just more at stake now than there was three days ago. Now awakening is within reach of everyone. And as much as I would like to chat and ducks on I would. I think this is something that I've noticed as I've aged is just the pleasure of chatting with my students. But can't do that in sesshin
This is a do it yourself practice. There are things that the teacher can help with. And so yes, do come to Doxon. But consider whether it's really necessary to show up to hear what you already know.
Next section by fi N. Zen is not founded or sustained on the premise that there is a doctrine to be transmitted. No. So this is echoing what Lin-chi said earlier in this teisho.
Now I could hear people say wait a minute, we do hear Buddhist doctrine from time to time in in sesshin. The doctrine of impermanence, for example of no self, but it's always understood that one has to has to experience that for oneself. It's by itself as a doctrine. It's it's not much value to it. As he says, he says, it is just a matter of direct guidance to the human mind to the perception of its essence, and the achievement of awakening. So there's something for example, very distinctly Zen about Joe shoes, Joe Joe's reply. When he's asked, is there any is there any teaching in the distant mountains where no one is present? And he said, large rocks are large, small rocks or small.
grasses, green crows are black. What doctrine is there in those statements? Yes, doctrine has its place. But the direct experience always comes first. The direct experience confirms the doctrine.
And then he warns about different different sectarian styles. He says, there were differences in the modes of teaching setup by leaders and teachers. And there were both tradition and change. Tradition and transition is the title of very, very good book by the late Ken craft member, who was a member here for many years. The methods employed by a number of famous Zen masters came to be continued as traditions, we can say as lineages to the point where their descendants became sectarians and did not get to the original reality. Eventually, they made many digressions contradicting and attacking each other. They do not distinguish the profound from the superficial and do not know that the great way has no sides. And the streams of truth have the same flavor. Such a human human tendency to break into divisions in which was just ALRIGHT in itself. We have different religions in the world because people are have different temperaments and different religions appeal differently to different people. And the same within a within a religion. zanla Say practice like Zen, there are different emphases different styles that some of which can appeal to some people more than others. But the key thing here that fi n is talking about is not to mistake the differences from that which is beyond difference the original the essence
it was a story that are told by one of the original American Vipassana teachers. Maybe it was in a book that they co authored Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. About a Master who ordered his disciples to tie up a cat that was getting in the way and disrupting things and put it on a leash. And and then as time passed, this became a sacred part of the tradition. Yes, yes, we must tie up the cat find a cat to tie up.
I don't know much about the Judeo Christian tradition. But I've heard there's a lot of that in there a lot of old, old old stuff that has been clung to just because it was done 2000 years ago old rituals that make no sense today.
One more here short, Zen teachers need first to distinguish false and true, then they must clearly understand the time is a lot packed in that one sentence distinguishing the false from the true we touched on this earlier the was it
distinguishing between the, the essential and the temporal but what is passing passing
hosting guest that's right host and guest host of course being that which is was unchanging, the eternal and guests being that which is conventional. And that's where he warns they must first distinguish false and true then they must clearly understand the time. In other words, adapt the essence of a teaching to the time and the place
accommodating the essence of the essence is nothing no thickness. So as long as we place that as the priority, then it doesn't matter so much what the form is within limits the sitting posture is not the essence it's just a posture. But it's worth preserving because it reveals more easily than any other posture reveals the essence not so the use of chopsticks there are there are plenty of Zen centers that I respect that insist on using Oreo cookie it's called the nesting bowls and chopsticks. Really do we need to import that? It does have a wonderful simplicity to it. I know having used Oreo key for six months in Japan. It's all very nifty, and and all it's beautiful in its own way. But it can be another barrier for beginners who face enough barriers and Zen learning the culture. What's wrong with plates and bowls and spoons and forks and knives We wouldn't expect the Japanese or the Chinese to switch to plates and spoons and forks and so forth. Chopsticks what they use, they've always used. This is this is such a peripheral thing. All right, our time is up. So we'll stop and recite to Four Vows.