November 2021 Sesshin, Day 6: Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui
8:46PM Nov 16, 2021
Today is the sixth day of this November 2021 seven day sesshin. And today I'm going to be reading from a book that Roshi has often read from. It's the it's entitled Swampland Flowers, The Letters and Lectures of Zen master Ta Hui, translated by JC Cleary.
I want to see a little bit about Ta Hui. But we don't have time to really thoroughly go into his biography. But just a few brief things.
He was born in 1088. And at an early age he showed an affinity, a preference for Buddhism, over worldly worldly studies. And by the age of 16, he had left home - that his he had decided to become a monk. And at 17 he dropped his hair. That is he had his head shaved and became to become a monk. Then at the age of 19, he began traveling in the traditional practice of Chan visiting different teachers and communities. And clearly says even at this early age Dawei would be taken for a later embodiment of previous Chan masters. From one he sought instructions on sway, Sway, sway toe sway dose 100, versus eulogizing the ancients, and this is what later became the blue Cliff record. Under the editing of doorways final teacher yacht what Yuanwu says the teacher would not offer a word of explanation, but may Dawei express his own view. In every case, Dawei completely comprehended the subtle meaning. The older master exclaimed you must be someone who's come again
he ended up studying with a master Chun of John Tong. And it says when he got there, his intellectualism was unrestrained. One day John Tong asked, why are your nostrils boundless today? Dawei replied, Because I'm at your place. And Tom said, You phony John may have
again, when Dawei was reading a scripture, John Tong asked, What scripture are you reading? He answered the Diamond Sutra. Thomas said this Dharma is everywhere equal without high or low. Why is Yunshu Mountain High and PAL fund mountain low? Dawei replied, This Dharma is everywhere equal without high or low. Tang said you could be a lecturers assistant
damning with faint praise.
One day Chan Tang said, Reverend cow that was his initial initiatory name. Somehow, you understood my Chan teaching here at what's what I had you explain you could explain. When I had you give informal talks or general lectures commenting on and extolling the ancients. You can do that too. It's just one thing that's not there. Do you know what Dawei answered what Don said, you only lack this one liberation, that's in the burst of power. If you don't get this one liberation, this channel I'm talking with you in private. But as soon as you leave the Doakes on room, there's not. There's Chan when you're awakened thinking, but as soon as you fall asleep, there's not if you're like this, how can you be a match for birth and death? And Dawei replied, This is precisely my point of doubt. Good answer.
After his first teacher die On the instruction of his first teacher, he found his way to Yuanwu and I
don't think I have time to get into everything that happened and save it for a later date. But at a certain point Yuanwu accepted him as as an equal and began dividing his teaching duties with Dawei. Says here that whenever a doorway entered Yuanwu teaching room, your Yuanwu would always listen to his words. Afterwards one day as they were going to their private quarters, Yuanwu said, if you were a Chan man like me, how would you if you if there were a Chan man like me? How would you deal with him? Dawei said, what unexpected good fortune if there were, as Tong po said, having been an executioner all my life, when I meet a fat fellow, I slice you on Yuanwu laughed loudly and said, rather, it's you who should enter the room with me and be my teacher. you've pinned me to the wall
just one other thing, really picking things at random here. He died in 1163. That says, On the ninth day of the eighth month after showing signs of illness.
He told the congregation of monks and nuns and laypeople tomorrow I'm going towards the pre Dawn hours after he'd written his last request, and a letter to the Emperor, monk who was his his attendant, as Dawei for a verse in a serious voice Dawei said without a verse, I couldn't die. He took up the brush and wrote birth is thus death is thus verse or no verse, what's the fuss then you let go of the writing brush and passed on the age of 75.
So this book, swamp land flowers, letters and lectures of Zen master Dalloway consists mostly of letters to what are mostly lay students. Presumably if one were a monk, you'd be there and and get the teaching in person.
So this first one is to lead gen champion. And please forgive by butchering of Chinese names. Buddha said, if you want to know the realm of Buddhahood, you must make your mind as clear as empty space and leave false thinking and all grasping fire behind causing your mind to be unobstructed wherever it may turn. Because it is thinking and grasping, that obstruct the mind of course. The realm of Buddhahood is not some external world where there is a formal Buddha. It is the realm of the wisdom of a self awakened sage. Once you are determined that you want to know this realm, you do not need adornment, cultivation or realization to attain it. Why is that? Why don't you need realization to attain that realm
because you already have that
says you must clear away the stains of afflictions from Alien sensations that have been on your mind since beginningless time so that your mind becomes as broad and open is empty space detached from all the cleaning of the discriminating intellect and your false unreal vain thoughts to our like empty A space then this wondrous effortless mind will be unimpeded, wherever it goes.
So is what we begin to do in sesshin. To clear the mind, of all the thoughts we carry around with us in our daily lives
even in daily life, we want to practice and seriously, we want to be aware of the tendency to dwell in thoughts. So habitual think people decide that there's just nothing that can be done about it. But there is there you can you can maybe not maybe not perfectly maybe not always. Maybe like Dawei there's no Zen when you leave the docks on room, but you can notice and drop. You can make your work your life's work, opening up to what's in front of you. What Joko Beck was calling, walking the razor's edge
another letter says an ancient worthy had a saying to look for the ox, one must seek out its tracks. The ox is our enlightened nature. To study the path, seek out mindlessness, where the tracks are so must the ox be the path of mindlessness is easy to seek out. So called mindlessness is not being inert and unknowing like Earth would tile or stone means the mind is settled in imperturbable when in contact with situations and meeting circumstances.
That it does not cling to anything, but it's clear in all places, without hindrance or obstruction, without being stained, yet without dwelling in the statelessness viewing body and mind like dreams or illusions, yet without remaining in the perspective of dreams and illusions, empty nothingness. As long as we're aware that the mind is empty, the mind is not really empty. In the end, what's called for is complete absorption
without being stained yet without dwelling in the statelessness. He says, only when one arrives in a realm like this. Can it be called True mindlessness? No, it's not lip service mindlessness. If you haven't attained true mindlessness, and just go by this verbal kind, how is this different from the perverted Chan of silent illumination? Now since many of us here are practicing shikantaza, which the Chinese term is silent illumination. This deserves a little bit of explanation. What Clary says is Dawei uses silent illumination in a pejorative way to criticize those who emphasize stillness and qui essence in themselves as the ultimate without making empowerment through enlightenment, the standard it's resting in peace, resting and quietness. It's easy to fall into this
but I think the term silent illumination talks about both sides of it. There's a silence silence It's so seductive and delicious. But there's illumination awareness
one master said is like your head is on fire. Blazing awareness. And just as a side note dynaway was very respectful and quite Close, close with the one of the great teachers have of silent elimination. Anyway, just get to the root. Don't worry about the branches. Emptying this mind is the root. Once you get the root, the fundamental, then all kinds of language and knowledge in all your daily activities as you respond to people and adapt to circumstances. Through the many upsets and downfalls whether joyous or angry, good or bad, favorable or adverse. These are all trivial matters, the branches. If you can be spontaneously aware and knowing as you're going along with circumstances, then there is neither lack nor access.
There's not only Zen when we're joyous, when things are good when conditions are favorable.
Also, when we're angry when we're sad, things go wrong when there's disaster.
Another letter, since you're studying this path, then at all times in your encounters with people and responses to circumstances, you must not let wrong thoughts continue. You cannot see through them, then the moment a wrong thought comes up, you should quickly concentrate your mental energy to pull yourself away. If you always follow those thoughts and let them continue without a break. Not only does this obstruct the path, it makes you out to be a man without wisdom. Sometimes thoughts are easy to drop, but there are others that are extremely difficult, especially thoughts about ourselves. Another real category of thoughts that are insidious is thoughts about practice. So easy to get confused and think that you can be on the mat thinking about your practice and that somehow that's the real thing. Devising techniques judging how it's going so easy not to be aware of how the mind is filled with thoughts
it does take mental energy to pull yourself away. He says in the old days quite Sean asked lazy on what work do you do during the 24 hours of the day? On said I tend to Knox quite Sean said how do you tend it unsaid whenever it gets into the grass? I pull it back by the nose? Quite Shawn said you're really tending the Ox. People who study the path in controlling wrong thoughts should be like lazy on tending his ox then gradually a wholesome ripening will take place of itself this ox metaphor for the mind is so apt think about huge lumbering beast big massive head moving off the path into the grass dipping down and munching not easy to pull that ox back
so fundamentally important said Master Rinzai Lin, she said learn how to cut successive Nan. So Japanese word that means more or less means thought forms. Initial arising of a thought. Learn how to cut success of none. And this is worth more than 10 years of pilgrimage Don't ever despair, that thoughts keep arising even though you keep dropping them. The value of dropping thoughts is is tremendous
we don't we don't make this effort, when will we ever find our way
another letter did not grasp and others Bo did not ride another's horse. Not Do not meddle in another's affairs. Though this is a commonplace, saying it can also be sustenance for entering the path. Just Examine yourself constantly from morning to night. What do you do to help others and help yourself? If you notice even the slightest partiality or insensitivity, you must admonish yourself, do not be careless about this. In the old days, Chan master towel Lin lived up in a tall pine tree on chin wild mountain. Peel people of the time called him the bird's nest mug. When a minister was a local minister made the trip to the mountain to visit him, the Minister of Post said it's very dangerous where you're sitting Chan Master, the Master said, My danger may be very great minister, but yours is even greater. Post said I am the commander of Chan Tom, what danger is there? The master said fuel and fire are joined. Consciousness and identity do not stay. How could you not be in danger? Fuel and fire are joined. This world is on fire. And the fire of impermanence. Consciousness and identity do not stay. We all will die.
poll also asked what is the overall meaning of the Buddhist teaching. The master said don't commit any evils. Practice the many virtues. Both said even a three year old child could say this. And the master said the three year old child can say it an 80 year old man cannot carry it out. Bow then bowed and departed.
Now if you want to save mental power, do not be concerned with whether or not a three year old child can say it, or whether or not an 80 year old man can carry it out. Just don't do any evil. And you will have mastered these words. They apply whether you believe or not. So please think it over.
Nowadays, the whole issue of right conduct not as front and center, I think is it was in those days. The video the study of the monastic precepts was a major school and many of the Masters began their careers with that
without that basis, you're just a spiritual athlete. You may develop the ability to respond quickly and be spontaneous. Have some insight. But how do you treat other people? How partial are you to yourself? In a way this is almost more important. He says if worldly people whose present conduct is without illumination would correct themselves and do good. Though the goodness is not yet perfect. Isn't this better than depravity and shamelessness? One who does evil on the pretext of doing good is called in the teachings one whose causal ground is not genuine. Bringing on crooked results. makes one think of some of the Zen teachers and scandals that have proliferated since then came to America. He says if with a straightforward mind and straightforward conduct, you're able to see supreme enlightenment directly. This can be called the act of a real man of power. The concerns that have come down from numberless ages are only in the present. If you can understand them right now, then the concerns of numberless ages will instantly disperse, like tiles being scattered, or ice melting. If you don't understand right now, you'll pass through countless aeons more, and it'll still be just as it is. The truth that it is, as it is, has been continuous since antiquity, without ever having varied so much as a hair's breadth.
Matters of worldly anxieties are like the links of a chain, joining together continuously without a break. If you can do away with them, do away with them immediately. Because you have become habituated to them since beginningless. Time to the point where they have become totally familiar. If you don't exert yourself to struggle with them. Then as time goes on and on, with you, unknowing and unawares, they will have entered deeply into you. Finally, on the last day of your life, you won't be able to do anything about it. If you want to be able to avoid going wrong when you face the end of your life, then from now on, whenever you do anything, don't let yourself slip. If you go wrong in your present doings, it will be impossible not to go wrong when you're facing death.
The Tibetan sage Milarepa said fairs and business will drag on forever. So lay them down and practice now the Dharma. If you think tomorrow is the time to practice, suddenly you find that your life has slipped away. Who can tell when death will come?
He goes on. There's a sort of person who reads scriptures recites the Buddha name and repents in the morning. But then then in the evening runs off at the mouth slandering and vilifying other people. The next day he does homage to the Buddha and repent says before all through the years till the end of his life, he takes this as daily ritual. This is extreme folly. Such people are far from realizing that the Sanskrit word Shama means to repent faults. This is called cutting off the continuing mind. Once you have cut it off, never continue it again. Once you've repented, do not commit wrongdoings again. This is the meaning of repentance according to the Buddha, which good people who study the path should not failed to know to repent without committing to avoid whatever evil action and harmful action was committed. What good is there in that?
Oh gee, I've done it again. What are you going to do?
The mind discriminating intellect and consciousness of students of the path should be quiet and still 24 hours a day. When you have nothing to do, you should sit quietly and keep the mind from slackening and the body from wavering is a really good point. Something I notice in myself, when you have a moment, what do you do? Nothing you have to do. Does the mind fall silent? Do you reflect? Do you bring up the practice? You reach for the phone
so much easier to do this To sit quietly after sesshin the mind has been scoured. We realize how wonderful it is just to sit quietly no need to pick up something to distract ourselves.
He says, If you practice to perfection over a long, long time, naturally body and mind will come to rest at ease and you will have some direction in the path. The perfection of the essence and stillness indeed, settles the scattered and confused false consciousness of sentient beings. But if you cling to quiescent stillness, and consider this the ultimate, then you're in the grip of perverted silent illumination Chan.
The Sanskrit word prajna means wisdom. Those who lack clear prajna and are greedy, wrathful, stupid and lustful, those who don't have clear prajna and harm sentient beings, those who do such things as these, they are running away from prajna. How can this be called wisdom? By keeping mindful of the matter of birth and death, your mental technique is already correct. Once the mental mental technique is correct, then you won't need to use effort to clear your mind as you respond to circumstances in your daily activities. When you don't actively try to clear out your mind, then you won't go wrong. Since you don't go wrong. Correct. Mindfulness stands out alone. When correct mindfulness stands out alone. inner truth adapts to phenomenon. When inner truth adapts to events and things, events and things come to fuse in inner truth. When phenomena fuse with their inner truth, you save power when you feel the saving. This is the empowerment of studying the path. In gaining power. You save unlimited power in saving power, you gain unlimited power
the foundation, the foundation of the precepts makes possible this quiet mind as long as we're running about chasing after what we want pushing people out of the way to get it, the mind can't be quiet.
He says this matter may be taken up by brilliant quick witted folks. But if you depend on your brilliance and quick wits, you won't be able to bear up. It's easy for keen and bright people to enter but hard for them to preserve it I think he said in part talking about himself. That's because generally their entry is not very deep, and their power is meager. When the intelligent and quick witted as soon as they hear a spiritual friend mentioned this matter. With the intelligent and quick witted as soon as they hear a spiritual friend mentioned this matter, their eyes immediately stir and they're already trying to gain understanding through their minds discriminating intellect. People like this are creating their own hindrances and will never have a moment of awakening. When devils from outside this is a quotation, when devils from outside rec wreak calamity, it can still be remedied.
Says but this reliance on intellectual discrimination amounts to when one's own family creates disaster, it cannot be averted. This is what young Ciana meant when he said the loss of the wealth of the Dharma and the demise of virtue all stem from the minds discriminating intellect.
Hammer this point home again in the next letter, much shorter the obstruction of the path by the mind and its conceptual discrimination is worse than poisonous snakes are fierce tigers. Why? Because poisonous snakes and fierce tigers can be avoided. Whereas intelligent people make the minds conceptual discrimination their home so that there's never a single incident, whether they're walking, standing, sitting or lying down, that they're not having dealings with it. As time goes on, unknowing it unawares, they become one piece piece with it. And not because they want to either, but because since beginningless time they have followed this one little road until it's become set and familiar. Though they may see through it for a moment and wish to detach from it, they still can't. Does it is said that poisonous snakes and fierce tigers can still be avoided, but the minds conceptual discrimination truly has no place for you to escape.
It's habits that we tolerate, just dig ruts, deep ruts in the mind. That's why our job is so immense. But one habit can be replaced with another we develop the habit of presence of awareness can begin bit by bit to empty out this garbage pit
next letter, gentlemen of affair is often take the mind which assumes there is something to attain to seek the Dharma, wherein there is nothing to attain. What do I mean by the mind which assumes there is something to attain? It's the intellectually clever one, the one that ponders and judges What do I mean by the Dharma wherein there is nothing to attain is the imponderable the incalculable, where there's no way to apply intelligence or cleverness.
The beginning of every workshop, Roshi makes the point of how impossible it is, to use words to explain Zen. What you're talking about, can't be expressed in words. This goes back to the beginnings of the Zen school, teaching beyond words and letters. All we can do with words is get the instruction of how to proceed where to look.
This imponderable and you'll count incalculable is always right here.
Ramana Maharshi said, There is no greater mystery than this, that we keep seeking reality, though, in fact, we are reality. We think that there is something hiding reality and this must be destroyed before reality is gained. How ridiculous. day will dawn when you will laugh at your past efforts. That which will be on the day you laugh is also here now.
That way, it continues, haven't you read of old Shakyamuni at the assembly of the lotus of the true dharma, three times sharp Putra earnestly entreated him to preach, but there was simply no way for him to begin. Afterwards using all his power. He managed to say that this Dharma is not something that can be understood by thought or discrimination. This was old Shakyamuni take This matter of its ultimate conclusion, opening the gateway of expedient means as a starting point for the teaching of the true nature of reality.
In the old days, shy away from the truly awakened Chan master was so earnest about this matter, that he went to Mount Doku three times, and climbed Mount Tong Shan nine times. circumstances were not met for him in those places. So later when he heard of the teaching of chow chow, master of the adamantine wisdom scripture on Tayshaun he went to his vote abode. One day he asked a shot in the custom of the school that has come down from high antiquity, what doctrine is used to instruct people Tayshaun said, our school has no verbal expression, nor does it have any doctrine to teach people. Later, we found also asked, Do I have any share in the business of the vehicle of this ancient school Tyshaun picked up the staff and immediately hit him, saying, What are you saying? Under this blow, chalet, Fung finally smashed the lacquer bucket of his ignorance. From this we observe that in this sect, intelligence and cleverness, thought and judgment are of no use at all.
An agent worthy had a singing. transcended wisdom is like a great mass of fire, approach it and it burns off your face. If you hesitate in thought and speculation, you immediately fall into conceptual discrimination. Jung Cheol said, loss of the wealth of the Dharma, and destruction of virtue all stems from the minds conceptual discrimination. Hence, we know that minds conceptual discrimination not only obstructs the path, but can also make people mistaken and confused. So they do all kinds of things that are no good.
Once you have the intent to investigate this path to the end, he must settle your resolve and vow to the end of your days not to retreat or fall back so long as you have not yet reached the great rest, the great surcease the great liberation. There's not much to the Buddha Dharma, but it's always been hard to find capable people. The concerns of worldly passions are like the links of a chain joining together without a break. Those whose resolve is weak and inferior time and time again become willingly involved with them. Unknowing and unawares, they are dragged along by them. Only if the person truly possesses the faculty of wisdom, and willpower, will he consent to step back and reflect?
It does take willpower. Of course, the thing about willpower is, the more we deploy it, the more we use it, the stronger it will get. We start off feeble like a newborn calf. But eventually we find more and more we can leave these thoughts behind. More and more we're willing willpower and willingness both increase.
He says settle your resolve and vowed to the end of your days not to retreat or fall back. Other teacher compared it to a stream that just keeps flowing, finding a way around obstacles. Maybe a thin stream may not be a rushing torrent, but if it continues, it will make its way.
We're at the end of our time here. And we'll stop now and recite the four vows