This is the third day of this July 2023 seven-day sesshin. And we will return to text of the preceding days, just the teachings of 12th/13th century Chan Master Ta Hui. And we'll be reading from the book titled "Swampland Flowers: The Lectures and the Letters of Zen Master Ta Hui."
He begins another letter, A monk asked Joe Joe, does a dog have Buddha nature or not? Tao Joe said Mu. Most of you know that in ancient China $1 was considered a low lowest of creatures. And there may not have changed much in the century since then saw a lot of disrespect toward toward dogs and I was there. So the monkey is picking out what he sees as the lowliest of creatures and says even a dog, dog have Buddha nature. And he probably since the let's assume that the Mark had done some reading of sutras and he's probably waiting for confirmation from Joe Joe that yes, well of course all, all creatures of things are endowed with Buddha nature. But instead, Zhao Zhao said, Mu now Mu, is often translated as no or not. The one the translation I like the most is from from Mu is, it's not what you think.
Whenever you think Buddha nature is, can't be it.
There's a verse in the Mumonkan collection of koans. Where Mulan says you describe it in vain you picture it to no avail. Beyond beyond thoughts, beyond anything we can imagine this essential nature of ours. And this became probably the most famous koan ever and Zen. Ciao Joe said Mu. And then Dawei comments this one word Mu is a knife to sunder the doubting mind of birth and death. It is the mind of attachment to things, ideas. of attachment to life. The handle of this knife is in one's own hand alone. You can't have anyone else wield it for you. To succeed, you must take hold of it yourself. You consent to take hold of it yourself only if you can abandon your life
it's a provocative phrase abandon your life. I used to think when I was when I was working on mo used to think this means to be ready to die. in the ordinary sense, the conventional sense of die, just be ready to jump over a cliff. That's not what he's talking about. You don't have to jump over the cliff. If you just let go your hold on the cliff of your mental attachments is especially these deep seated ideas about yourself. That's first and foremost ideas about ourself as being this or that ideas about others D is about the nature of reality about the way things are, this is the way things out, we just absorb this. And under the course of our socialization and our our education is just the way things are. How can we possibly abandon heart deep seated attachments to our understanding of, of life or knowledge by losing ourselves so thoroughly, in our practice, whatever it is, that such such thoughts, such concepts disappear
if you cannot abandon your life, just keep to where your doubt remains unbroken for a while, suddenly, your consent to abandon your life, and then there'll be done. So, the last thing we want is to have this in our mind abandoned, I got unbanned in my life I got abandoned my life. There's no need for any of that. If your practice is Mu, it's just Mu, the abandonment so called will happen through absorption and Mu.
So when he says suddenly your consent to abandon your life, this means it just happens on its own, this attachment to our thoughts? Only then he says, Will you believe that when quiet it's the same as when noisy, when noisy is the same as when quiet when speaking is the same as when silent and when silent? It's the same as when speaking.
He's pointing here to this realm that is beyond things beyond all dichotomies speech silence, speaking silence there is there is something beyond what all these words are pointing to.
And we access that realm. It's beyond such dichotomies, we access that through absorption in our practice beyond time, beyond space beyond distance, beyond self and other I'll send them
the chant we do the long chant affirming faith in mind is full of these kinds of reminders if there's something beyond these dualities.
When now, when my wife and I were in Mexico recently, was that kind of a town or large town? Maybe your city I don't know small city that had a so many Mexican cities and so many cities all over the world had a central plaza that face the main cathedral. And then this central plaza was sort of the gathering place for the for the city or the town. It's very nicely kept up. There was a gazebo in the middle of a bandstand, where they would occasionally have the local band. Mexican bands play mariachi It would be there at any given evening or even during the day, sometimes there'll be 234 Different mariachi bands. And that is a lot of just general kind of foot traffic, people walking promenading around. There were vendors selling ice cream and balloons and different kinds of things for kids, lots of kids running around chasing one another. People on people taking photos in front of the big cathedral, picturesque cathedral. Selfies for the first time. It's first time in Mexico many, many years ago in New Mexico that I've seen so many people taking selfies, so many young woman posing for their Instagram accounts in front of the Cathedral of warehouse. A lot of a lot of people of all ages, older people sitting on benches, just watching this whole quiet circus of movement and life. No doubt very much how it's been for decades and decades and decades. And I remember one time I said, I said to my wife, it's like, everything's happening. And nothing's happening.
There's within all of this dynamism, all of this movement and life and laughing and music and everything there is there is that which is unmoving, unchanging that which is eternal, beyond time.
The next letter, he begins, all the layman, your actions and behavior are in subtle accord with the path with the way but you have not been able to get the burst of power. In words, you haven't been able to break through your discriminating mind. If in your daily activities responding to circumstances, you do not stray from your past footsteps. Even though you haven't gotten the burst of power still, on the last day of your life, the king of death will have to fold his hands and submit how much the more so if you reach the moment of realization for those of you who don't know the king of death as a reference to popular Buddhism, where Yama Raja but the Lord of Death awaits us when, after we die, and we come before Him with our karmic record. And it says this personification of how we consign ourselves to our next rebirth, through our karma, everything we've we've done and said and thought throughout our life, the king of death and now, this is no doubt good news for the recipient of this letter yet. The even though you haven't broken through Yama, Roger will have to fold his hands and submit so he's very promising, you know, a lifetime of practice that we're going to we're gonna go out in good shape
and he says how much the more so if you reach the moment of realization so upholding the precepts practicing daily for many, many years
This is most service well in terms of a felicitous rebirth. All the more so though, to see through this whole matter of rebirth, see beyond it, the bat which is beyond birth and death
he goes on that way, though I haven't seen you in person, as I consider the things you do, I find that you strike a balance between great and small, without any excess or insufficiency. This is where you accord with the way at this point, don't have any thoughts of affliction, and don't have any thoughts of the Buddha Dharma either. Both the Buddha Dharma and afflictions are extraneous matters. Yet don't think of them as extraneous matters either. So it sounds like this, this layman who had written to Dawei is facing his, in his old age, he's facing the the uncertainty of the time of his death, as many of us are facing that. In the doorway, saying it doesn't help to be dwelling in thoughts of the Buddha Dharma. Much less thoughts of particular afflictions that we have our defilements forms of our greed, anger and delusion, thinking about them maybe from time to time reflecting on these stains and our character and personality, these can be of some value, but even more so, is to refrain from thinking about ourself and our karma. Very, very Zen emphasis. Other Other forms of Buddhism might talk about having, I don't know thoughts about our death, reflecting on death, contemplating death, or in even in non Buddhist terms, having positive thoughts and, and all, but send us that this is really pointing to that which is beyond all this. The present day being present, fully present, and not trying to create an effect in our meditation. This is really a quite a distinction about Zen meditation is compared to many other kinds. We're not trying to create any effect doesn't mean that there is value to that with metta meditation. For example. metta means loving kindness, we endeavor to radiate loving kindness. That's our that's our intent to radiate loving kindness toward this person, that person. Often it starts with oneself. Because we can't really love others if we hate ourselves. But it's just not orthodox Zen.
Then the emphasis is on is emptying the mind. So that our innate lovingness will emerge will flow. Emptying the mind through just breath practice, or koan practice. And in that way, we do find if we stick with it long enough that we do become more loving
doesn't mean there can't be along this journey. There can't be times when we go through rough spots. We, we find this in sesshin. Everything is condensed in sesshin in the week of sesshin, we can find ourselves Going through anger, through sadness, sorrow, irritation, all kinds of things. But but in the in the long terms, there is this emergence of this body nature, which includes compassion and love. Never happens as fast as we'd like it to happen. This embodiment of our true nature, but that's where a patient's comes in and faith.
And next paragraph. He says, He quotes a sutra, sentient beings are inverted. They lose themselves and pursue objects. This was made into a koan. It's it's a koan in the Blue Cliff Record. That's how it starts the monk ass, know that master is the monk What's that sound outside? And the monk says, well, it's thrane. And then the master says, sentient beings are inverted, they lose themselves and pursue objects. And then it goes on from there, the koan. This is our basic delusion is, is believing in objects as separate from oneself. That's the rain out there. Someone who's seen beyond subject and object could very well make the same reply while it's the rain. But in this case, no doubt that the master knew that the monk hadn't seen beyond subject and object. And so he's reminding himself quoting from the sutra, sentient beings, that is, those who are have not yet experienced awakening have got things upside down. Instead of seeing into this true self, they pursue objects, grasping at objects, things, possessions, goals, achievements. And then Dawei, after quoting the sutra, he says, addicted to their taste for petty desires, they willingly receive immeasurable suffering.
And so, potently describes the average person, addicted to our tastes for petty desires and that, that addiction, that attachment to grasping leads to suffering. It's not, it's not a moral issue. If we are spend our lives craving more money and, and houses and cars and clothes and everything else. It's not a moral issue. It's just a causal issue. That's we set up caught the the effects of pain by being so obsessed with these things by devoting our lives to accumulating things
some marvelous thing about the Dharma it's it isn't basically in fundamentally moral system. It's, it's just, it's just recognizing what causes suffering and what doesn't cause suffering there. If you need to say, make that into good right and wrong, okay, but it's just basically causation.
And hear this next part we heard yesterday from him, day out To date, even before they've opened their eyes and gotten out of bed, while they're half awake and half asleep, their minds are already flying around and confusion, pursuing a torrent of vain thoughts. Although their good and bad doings are not yet manifest, before they've gotten out of bed, Heaven and Hell have already instantly formed within their hearts. And when their actions do come forth, they've already fallen into the storehouse mind. storehouse mind refers to what in Buddhist psychology is this it's called the Elia vision on the storehouse consciousness of the storehouse mind, where everything we, we do, and say and even think, our actions, our words, and our thoughts are deposited in this deep realm of consciousness, where they lie all of these things moment by moment, until through causes and conditions they flower into effects. It's a chain of cause and effect
some of these things can be parked there in the storehouse consciousness for the longest time. And now we don't aren't even aware of it. There is in another nother kind of Buddhism. They talk about the different kinds of afflictions the three kinds of afflictions there are the the grossest of afflictions and then there's the lesser afflictions This is afflictions meaning the ways that greed anger and and delusion how they play out and then the third kind as are those called latent afflictions these are the scariest ones because they can lie there dormant for the longest time years maybe lifetimes until under certain stressful circumstances cert probably crisis kind of situation they can erupt in murder or reckless behavior, infidelity drunkenness and other such things so they're there they're just kind of waiting as it were for the circumstances that conditions to come forth
in See you can see evidence of this these latent afflictions and just reading newspapers reading the media, what goes on with people who seem more or less normal until they snap even people described as good people churchgoers.
He goes on didn't the Buddha say that all the senses are manifestations of one's own mind. That the physical body and organs are the appearances of one's own false thoughts.
That is the non dual nature of body and mind
he established ways to show this likening them to river occurrence seeds, lamp light that is the light of a lamp that just with one gust of breeze can blow out wind and clouds changing and decaying from moment to normal moment. unsettled as monkey's insatiable as flames fan by the wind, turning like a waterwheel from the habit energy of beginningless falsity and so on. This is almost chilling. This passage is talking about karma Like us, turning like a water wheel from the habit energy of beginningless falsity ignorance
if you can understand thoroughly like this than it's called the knowledge that there's neither self nor others. Heaven and hell are nowhere else but in the heart of the person while she's half awake and half asleep before she's gotten out of bed. They don't come from outside when you're getting started, but are not yet underway, when you're awakening, but are not yet awake, it's a nice phrase, your awakening but not yet awake. Okay, maybe he means it literally in bed. But we could also use it in terms of the way you could say that, really, as long as we're sitting regularly and all the more so if we attend sushi now and then that we are, we are awakening is it? Is it continuous, a continuous process happening? Even if we haven't yet, come to Kensho. You must diligently reflect back on this but without struggling with it. As you reflect back. He struggle you waste power. And then he refers to firming faith in mind. Didn't the third ancestor Son Son, say so. And then he quotes that line from affirming faith in mind. When you try to stop motion to return to stillness, the stopping causes further commotion. So we have our own, our own, our own version is seek rest and no rest comes instead.
And he quotes one of his predecessors. Now the Chan master young chair famous one, walking is also meditation. Sitting is also meditation, speaking or silent, moving or still, the body is at rest. And then Dawei comments these are not empty words. Please act according to them without ever changing them then although you have not yet witnessed the scenery of your own fundamental state fully seeing into your true nature. Though you're not yet you're not yet seeing your own your own original face clearly. What was raw will become ripe, and what was stale will become fresh. Be sure to remember where you save power is where you gain power.
This catches my attention, this phrase what was stale will become fresh. Probably we all have had periods where we feel stale in our practice. Even in the sesshin now, I've heard from several people who very sincerely honestly say that they feel their practice has gotten stale flat. It can't stay stale in a seven day sesshin. And the fact that even though when one is felt one's practices stale, that one still comes to a seven day sesshin means that one's one's true nature, one's body mind is alive and well. Regardless of the temporary feeling of staleness means that one is also this one's faith mind once faith is there. It's It's strong underneath the staleness or maybe discouragement, to be willing to commit to a seven day sesshin or even a shorter session. This is very promising. means really, you're not taking yourself so serious So your take not taking your, your temporary flatness as that flatness of your practice is that something that is essential to your nature, there's a knowing at some level, that this is just a temporary state, then you can find your way through that. And there's no better way to do that, than sitting 10 or 12 or more hours a day with, in this case 60 Other people tremendous power, they can come from that, even if you start out flat. We get swept along in a session. It's almost like in spite of our resistance, in spite of our begrudging pneus, there may be a times we're going to be carried along into a clear state.
This is the faith that we have to sometimes we have to rest in this faith to get through the first half of a session, when it can be quite a slog, let's face it. But if we can hang in there, just do our best without sitting and feeling sorry for oneself. giving way to discouragement but just keep have enough faith in the practice one is working on that it will carry you forth into deeper states. States of going from what he says going from what a stale will become fresh
there's no one who can go through a seven day sesshin and not come out the other end feeling fresh and inspired.
He then it just adds every time I say this to people, it always seems that I've said it over and over. By the way, that's that's how pretty much how well the speaking for myself how you feel as a teacher, you're saying pretty much the same things year after year. And you see it also, in these texts that we read from in teisho. There is a certain repetition. Each of us every I think probably every teacher has certain patterns, we return to certain favorite ways of of presenting our understanding of the Dharma, certain phrases, vocabulary. And all you see this in even these these great masters that we read from. And he's aware of it, it always seems like I've said it over and over. Actually. Repetition is as always been recognized in, in Buddhist teaching, as something that has value in itself. Just the sheer repetition of things can enable it to sink in more. Some people if you're if you're maybe in that stale state, you get annoyed hearing the same thing over and over. But that we can get free of ours as well. And the Dharma is pretty simple. Really. Don't dwell on your thoughts. That's that's a good start right there that covers about 88% of it. Don't don't have more faith in your thoughts then in your practice that you're working on.
Take the the character the fact of impermanence seriously
but back to his words. It seems I've always said it over and over most take it lightly and won't consent to make it their task. Here too, it's I have to say that the first two or three days of sesshin I think a teacher recognizes that. A lot of our words just ricochet off people As compared to later in sesshin, when there's so much when is done so much sitting, and thoughts have settled so much. But still, we got to say it because it's true. Don't dwell on your thoughts. If you must see want to incur suffering. Most take it lightly and won't consent to make it their task, you should try to work like this for only 10 days or so. Okay for him, it's 10. And then you will see for yourself, whether you are saving power or not saving power, whether you are gaining power or not gaining power. I'm not sure about this, this these phrases, because to know, Chinese saving power, gaining power one way, certainly one way to take it is what the Japanese called Joe rekey. This, this, this energy, this this concentrated energy that comes from concentration. This is what we see. Develop. When we're sitting day after day a lot is we acquire we gather more Joel Ricky Samadhi power is another word for it
is that what he means by gaining power? Certainly by by not dwelling in our thoughts, we conserve energy. So I said that earlier, I don't know this morning or last night. And that builds that power. So it's not just power for the sake of power energy for the sake of energy, but energy for the sake of having the energy to not linger in our thoughts. But to redirect the attention back to the practice that we find we're better able to do sitting for hours a day, day after day.
Then one final short paragraph, he again addressing he says aggressive addressing the old layman, low layman by nature you are near the path near the way you are present determined actions and conduct do not need any change. In comparison with other people, you've already gotten 9999 parts out of 10,000 You just lack that final burst of power. The final breakthrough closing the deal. Closing the Gap the imagined gap between oneself and one's practice.