This is the first day of this October, November 2023 seven day sesshin. I'm going to be reading from a book entitled Subtle Sound. Zen Teachings of Maurine Stewart was edited by Roko Sherry Sherry Chayat
and there is some material in the beginning about her life about marine Stewart's life want to look into a little bit of it. It's pretty long and detailed more than we really want to get into here but in this is written by by Roco Sherry giant, the I think she's now the teacher at dipo Xatu. followed after Ito Roshi.
She says Maureen was born on March 3 1922. So if she was still with us, she would be 101 years old. The most influential figure in early childhood was her maternal grandfather, Sam Haight, who worked a 640 acre farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, with loving and meticulous care, the son of a wrathful preacher, he had little use for what he considered the platitudes and hypocrisy of organized religion. His own beliefs tended towards an idiosyncratic blend of pacifism and socialism. But he assured any and all platforms. What particularly struck marine was the way he treated every being sentient and insentient. alike with respect and appreciation.
Her immediate family lived in the small town of Keeler, where her father owned a bank and her mother ran a proper household and made sure that her three children were exposed to the important cultural refinements up there in Saskatchewan. Fortunately for marine, these included music lessons, she took to the piano avidly sensing its grandeur, its potential for taking her beyond the petty minded atmosphere of small town preoccupations. In addition to music, she was nourished by her frequent visits to his her grandparents farm, with its sod roofed house, and by her solitary forays into the prairie, where she would sit absolutely still for hours at a time infused with a feeling of intimacy with every blade of grass, every breeze. So two, really two or three really strong influences early in her life that put her on her path. So not that uncommon for young children. To find that stillness of just sitting especially back in the day when are the child's life wasn't filled by one activity after another one structured activity after another to be able to wander out into the prairie, as evidently she did. gift that not many get today.
At the age of 11, her life changed radically sponsored by friends of the family who were impressed with their talent and intelligence. Maureen was sent to Riverbend school, a boarding school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. From one huge, lonely Province of Canada to another. It was a period of aching loneliness. She felt out of place and terribly homesick. Once again, music provided solace and the chance to express them motions that were even more rigidly suppressed there than they had been at home. She stuck it out and did well in her academic subjects except religion which she failed because of her refusal to swallow biblical scripture unquestioningly. Good girl. She began giving piano lessons at the age of 12 and continue doing so for the rest of her life. After graduating, she stayed on at Riverbend to teach music. And it goes on she had quite a quite a musical career, performed in concerts throughout the western US and Canada, ended up studying with some eminent pianists in France at the full time blow.
When she was in France, at some point, she came upon a book called The Story of Oriental philosophy by Elle Adams back, and there was a reference there to medicate meditation in the last chapter, which was entitled The teachings of Zen. And marine said, I knew right away that this was it. But when I returned to the United States, there didn't seem to be any process through which I could learn more about Zen. She went on with a life living in New York City got married, said one day I was doing some housework. I turned on the television and there was a small man with bushy eyebrows. Talking about Zen. It was DT Suzuki, of course. And then later on in her wanderings around the west end of New York. She happened to pass a brownstone on the corner of West 81st Street that read Zen studies society, rang the bell, a young monk Tyson later, Ito Roshi, came to the door. I asked if I could come in and learn about Zen. He stuck a piece of paper with the sitting schedule in my hand, and close the door. Then a few days later, she was walking in Riverside Park, and she came across a small thin figure with large translucent ears and a shaved head. Who could that be wearing the black robes of the Zen monk and sneakers? It was she found out later, Hakuin Yasutani Roshi. I looked at him. He looked at me, and we moved on. So she went to workshops at the Zen study society, and went to the Zendo at one point and saw a sign up sheet for a week long session with Yasutani Roshi to be held a pumpkin hollow. The Theosophical Society is retreat center in Clarenville, New York. I put my name down immediately, she said, one of the senior students Silvan Bush called me up later and asked me if I knew what a sesshin was. He wanted to know if I could get up early in the morning. I told him I always did that. Anyway. He asked if I could sit still. Oh, yes. I said, Well then I guess you can go. The day came she boarded the train. Others in students all excited.
conductor came through and asked them all where they were off to. We're going to a place in the mountains someone explained. Will there be entertainment floor show? He asked. Not quite sure what she meant. Maureen found herself saying, Oh, yes, the floor show goes on all day.
So it was a tough introduction. To say sheen for her. The flies were terrible, just constant. No one told me anything about them any rituals, the bowing. At the end of the day, I decided it was just impossible to go on. I had made a mistake. I had had it with Zen stuff. She included barked commands and an atmosphere of general hysteria. This was the the nature of a lot of these early sessions with Yasutani Roshi Tice on often was the the go to the wielding the key Asako students were urged toward Kensho through shouting exhorting and the liberal use of the key Saku To make matters worse, the pain from an old skiing accident was making the 14 or so hours of sitting in the cross legged posture physically unbearable. She called her husband and told him she was ready to go home, reminding her of how much she had wanted to go. He encouraged her to try it for one more day. I stuck it out through nights of hideous laughter on the part of one of the students and through days of terrible pain, and things did get better. than one day and ducks on Yasutani Roshi hearing about her pain, told her she could sit anyway she she should just sit anyway she could. And she eventually found a posture, straddling two cushions that she could maintain. By the fifth day, she recalled that was that I was hooked. I knew I would go to every single session from then on. And she had developed a real appreciation for Yasutani Roshi said the most resistance student finally knew that he was there for them present with wholehearted effort to wake them up, that the boundless vow to save all beings was compressed into this small frail body. Of course, it's almost everyone knows Yasutani Roshi was Roshi Kapleau is teacher and the Dharma Heir of harder Roshi, with whom Kapleau Roshi trained for about three years
more detail that I'm going to skip over. Now that we've got her practicing Zen and going to say sheen.
She met Solon Nakagawa Roshi at the New York Zendo in 1968. Year I first came to Rochester, and she felt her remarkable connection when she likened to an open channel is his teaching style is quite different from that of Yasutani. So in Roshi preferred to allow students to ripen at their own rate is Zen was inspiring in his palpable profundity find a theater music and literature famous in Japan for his haiku. garota and Beethoven were among his favorite Western artists. At the conclusion of sesshin that summer, the participants were treated to the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
I went to think this was still maybe in the 60s, late 60s to seven day sesshin been at the graduate farm. And on the last night of says sheen, as sort of an experiment all the pressure on Roshi Kapleau, put on a LP a record of the Ode to Joy. And the entire Zendo broke down and sobbing. So moved. But after after it was over, just completely drained. It didn't have the intended effect and that was a one off experiment was amazing how it sounded there after seven days of sitting, so much longing.
Not sure about Maureen Stewart's relationship with Aido Roshi. I suspect that like many women and many men as well, she had some problems with his behavior. But she had this connection with so a Nakagawa and at
some point when she after she had left dipoles out Sue. She was back there visiting for some reason, and 807 Roshi was also there. You can find this
Yeah, it says here, although she no longer practiced with Adel Roshi. In 1982, she returned to dipo Zotz Zendo were in a private encounter at the old Lodge. So in Nakagawa, Roshi transmitted his Dharma to her, tell your students to call you Roshi said, and that was that, no ceremony, no authentication, no formal recognition, no lineage papers. He in fact said not a word about it to anyone else. It's Perhaps his greatest koan for her a transmission definitely outside the scriptures in keeping with his unconventional spirit and I guess it's caused something of a store a stir. But as for marine herself after dutifully communicating with someone Roshi had asked her to, she told her students, please just call me Maureen and went on with her same busy schedule of sesshin and daily practice piano recitals, lessons, time with their children and traveling.
One final thing about her life. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1987. And Roco says she never exhibited a moment of self pity or fear. Anything the level of intensity in which she customarily lived was raised several notches.
She never seemed to pace herself, despite the fretful expressions of concern on the part of many of her students, her family and her friends. She didn't discuss her condition, and she never complained even toward the end, when she was hiding little notes to herself regarding the effectiveness and timing of various pain medications.
And Roco writes here, in my journal notes made during that Rohatusu Please don't make Journal notes during sesshin. I wrote Maureen's talk seem to be preparing us for her death. During Doakes on last night, she told me, I've chosen a place under the birch trees in the backyard where I want my ashes spread. This morning, she talked of so in Roshi, pure, illuminating radiant childlike nature, and how it evolved through great struggle, and said something I never knew before, that he had once contemplated suicide. She talked about his way of speaking of no death, and that we take this form for a brief period, but that our energy continues as it had before our birth.
Finally, skipping ahead, a little bit. Health marine taught us during those last months, is not the opposite of sickness. Although our habitual way of thinking is dualistic. In reality, we are all living with good cells and bad cells simultaneously, in a condition of utter impermanence. You refer to the 17th century Japanese monk, taco and Soho, who wrote 100 poems he called Dream poems. At the end of his life, he summoned his students and said, after I've died, please bury my body in the mountain behind the temple, cover it with dirt and go home. Read no sutras hold no ceremony, receive no gifts from either monks or laity that the monks were their robes, eat their meals, and go on about their work as on normal days. Asked by his disciples for some last words, he said, I have no last word. And his final moment talk talk when took up his brush, wrote the Chinese character for Dream, put down the brush and died this one character dream Maureen commented in one of her talks, symbolized for taka one, the reality of the Dharma went beyond talking or not talking. Is it or isn't it? Just a dream, when we realize that we in the universe are just a dream, when alive, we are alive through and through, and everything around us is alive. Life is a dream, death is a dream, heaven and earth and all things under the sun are just a dream.
Now, I'm going to move on to some of her talks. Not sure who transcribed these. I assume that they've been edited by by Roco Sherry child. This one is, first one is entitled The illusion of AI. Shakyamuni Buddha taught many wonderful things and he taught them according to the circumstances. He spoke according to the profession, the understanding and the experiences of the person with whom he was speaking. When he talked to a poet he spoke in at about poetry. When he talked to a mother, he talked about her children. Above all, he spoke of the unity of life everywhere and of compassion for every living being is teaching came from his own experience of the human condition, from his intuitive understanding of his essential character. Buddhism embraces all religions, all traditions, we Buddhists have deep respect for every one of them, and realize that fundamentally, we are all one. We may use different phrases at different times, but we are all one. The practice that we are engaged in is very down to earth and pragmatic. At the same time, it's pre eminently of the spirit. It's a balanced and satisfying way of life, with feet firmly planted on the ground, and heart open to the whole universe. This practice, does not impose any creeds or dogmas upon us. It demands no blind faith, no submission to any separate deity or person or thing. This is an essential matter.
Practice, of course, it's a matter of discovering the truth for ourselves. The Buddha himself famously said take nothing on my authority, but test it as you would a coin biting, chewing, cutting. When you find it agrees with your experience that adopted
tremendous freedom, the practice like that.
And integrity. It's hours it's not taken because somebody else told us what to do or how to do it. Find out for ourselves. Of course, we need help. That's great. Somebody who's been there and can pass on some, but in the end, has to be our own.
When I was first when I first began to practice, was eager to convert others to tell people about Zen. I knew I'd found something and it just seemed like the best thing to do would be to spread it everywhere. But you find out pretty quickly that people need to come to this practice on their own. It's a big difference between being a being an example and being a preacher.
She goes on in Buddhism, all beings without exception, are seen in the beauty and dignity of their original perfection, not their original sin. This is a point that Boden Roshi likes to make and maybe capital Roshi before him. In Buddhism, the doctrine of original sin is turned upside down. Our doctrine is the doctrine of original perfection. From the very beginning, all beings are Buddha. She says by our own efforts and intuitive insights we may uncover this perfection, which is our real and intrinsic Buddha nature. This is enlightenment. Our Buddhist practice deep and simple is a way of life. It is a lifelong study and practice, not only for this life, but for the next life and the next and so on. It can be a profound study within our meanings and depths endlessly expanding before us. And it could also be extremely simple. Just teaching the basic ethical practices of daily living practices of unselfishness, compassion, and goodwill toward every living being.
remember being in New York City once and it's at a friend's house and the TV was on. And lo and behold, Sheng Yen was on TV. It was a program that I think was intended for Chinese people in America. And His teaching was just compassion, ethical behavior, concern for others.
Really morality, so called discipline, it's the foundation of practice. People may be may have some abilities may be able to get into a Samadhi like condition. But if they're not at peace with everyone else, if they're not, they're not doing it. For the sake of all beings, something missing. The results aren't the same. Of course, a lot of us come into Zen, ready for Kensho just wanting to get relief. But if we stay long enough, that begins to change. Suddenly, we start to feel our connection.
Down making a big deal about it. Love for others, begins to permeate our lives.
She goes on. Buddhism emphasizes the transiency of all material things, and the illusory and impermanent nature of what we think of as our own personal ego. It also teaches the unity and kinship of all life. This practice involves mindfulness in every aspect of our lives. As Mulan says, It's like walking on the edge of a sword over the ridge of an iceberg. With no steps, no ladders, climbing the cliffs without hands. There is no deviation from this path, the swords edge, this ridge of the iceberg, we must be mindfully present with whatever difficult part of the path comes along. It's always used to.me Hearing this sort of talk, because it seems so impossible. Walking the razor's edge. My feet are tender. But that edge is always there. Of course we fall, of course we fail. But over time, we realize that the way is always open. We can always be up on that ridge. mindful of every aspect of our lives
we take a moment, bring the mind back. She says everything we do in the Zendo the arrangement of each object sitting in this wonderful posture. The Walking with mindfulness is exceedingly important. not just in the Zendo. But wherever we are, this mindfulness is important not to step on insects, to see if there is an impediment of the road and take care of it so somebody else doesn't fall. All of this is an extremely important part of our practice is bored and Roshi says, notice and respond. Got to do both.
She says, then of course, there is our meditation Zen. In awakening this intuitive mind, we awaken a deep compassion for all living creatures. So as not, not as being separate from ourselves. But as part of our own being. As we are. There's this tool we feel is in the Zendo. We don't talk to one another. We don't gossip about things. We don't chat about the weather. We're sitting in deep silence, sensing what it is, that belongs to every human being animal, plant, tree stone, the whole universe. And it makes us very compassionate, compassionate, and open hearted to one another. If we permit it. This is a living practice.
If we permit it, if we open
this is interesting. She says books are beautiful and inspiring. Lectures may help us scriptures are also important, but these are not enough. It's living practice that is most essential. Buddhism is not based based on blind faith in anything that is written in any book, however holy. Even the preacher preaching of Buddha himself is not to be treated in this way. The Buddha said, put no head above your own. If it doesn't fit, don't do it.
A lot of people are uncertain about whether reading is helpful or not. things some people avoided completely but I agree with marine books are beautiful and inspiring. And they can help. course it's not enough. We have to do the work.
She says what our practice is based on his right understanding. This is the first step on the Eightfold Path obtained through reasoning, study devotion, Zen, and the practice of selflessness and love. Some people think that Buddhism doesn't have much to do with love. It has everything to do with love. It just doesn't sentimentalize it. It doesn't get achy or gushy or Uzi or trickly. It's very practical, this selflessness and love practice. Don't give me a long speech about love. But show me by your action what is in your heart. Don't weep sentimentally about something and the next minute crushing insect. With the practice with more and more understanding, we come to realize that we are not punished for our sins. This is not part of our way of being we are not punished for our sins but by them. Whatever we do that is not loving, that is selfish. That is ego centric, that is grabby comes home to roost. We are what we do
the idea of people who harm others and get away with it is ridiculous. Nobody gets away with it.
She says if we are in pain, if we suffer, we need to examine where it comes from. Probably at issues from some activity that is not unselfish, that is selfishly motivated. We suffer because we watched so much because we think that situations should be different from the way we are.
To be okay with things as they are such a challenge and such a fruitful direction to move in. How much of our dissatisfaction how much of our anxiety how much of our insomnia comes from our are complaining against the way things are. We don't have to pretend that we love it. But this idea that everything should be laid out for our convenience just won't work.
A little taste of it in sesshin, don't we? We find sesshin difficult, which most people do. I know for me can feel a tension in my chest. I still get that from time to time. And the initial doesn't feel good. And the initial reaction is to want to push it away. think our way out of it. Takes a long time to learn. No. Look at it, feel it. The minute you turn your attention to what your body is telling you. Everything has a chance to settle out. Suddenly, you find you can breathe.
Roshi Kapleau used to say everything we come on counter is grist for the mill. Here we all are in a retreat center on Grist Mill Road.
Going on a little more. She says, when someone comes to me and says, I don't really know how to integrate my practice into my work, I tell that person, don't try. Practice and work go together. If you feel that they are separate, you're bringing about a state of confusion. Whatever kind of practice, you are able to engage in a rematch or little, the quality of it is not so essential. This extends itself into your work. And the quality of your work extends itself into your practice. There's no way to separate them. If you try to separate them, then you just have chaos and confusion. Whatever you are doing, do it. Just do it. Practice really is what's in front of me in this moment, so how could practice and work? Be separate? When you're at work? That's what's in front of you. No need to split ourselves into two pieces.
She says someone who practices archery told me I can stand up. I can do all the wonderful preparations. But when it comes to letting the arrow go, I can't do it. I said stop the AI from doing it. Just shoot. Thoughts of making a mistake not hitting the target. being embarrassed in front of the teacher. These are what caused chaos and confusion. Let the AI go and just shoot. Let the eye go and just work. Let the eye go and just sit.
Minds me of a story of Tongan Roshi was Climbing a cliff I guess above his monastery. And he he lost his footing and fell probably would have died but on the way down he struck a branch and that broke his fall enough that he survived although with some permanent damage. Think perhaps to his hip. He said when he was falling I realized ego not necessary
little by little, we realize this small sense of myself that I carry with me everywhere. I don't need it. When I let it go, I'm larger, the world is larger, and I'm more connected. Everything flows this is the work that we're doing in sesshin. Just getting going so grateful to be back in sesshin been able to do this work. Time is up, stop now and recite the Four Vows