The Basic Practice of Stillness and SilenceĀ 

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I'm going to show you what it looks like when you put it in the oven. I'm going to show you what it looks like when you put it in the oven. Very basic is what I wish to speak of. In a way, the practice that I'm devoted to is sometimes called being still and silent.


I got the impression before I came to practice at the San Francisco Zen Center that there was a practice of great compassionate beings. A practice they did leading to their becoming great compassionate beings and a practice they continued after they realized great compassion and wisdom. And the practice was the practice of sitting still and silent. I was attracted to learn how to become a great compassionate being


and then I found out that the people who seemed to be amazingly compassionate I got the impression they didn't become that way just by good luck that they actually had a training program. And then again I found out the training program involved being still. Silent. Shakyamuni. I didn't know early on. Muni means sage but actually it means silent one. There seems to be some talking going on now. But I'm committed to this talking being in touch with silence.


I'm committed to a talking which comes from silence and stillness. I saw this training program of sitting still particularly in the Zen school so I thought I would try the training program. And one of the things I liked about it was I thought among the various training programs available this is one that you could do when you're young, middle-aged, old age and even right up to the threshold of death you could practice being still and silent. You might not be able to sit up at the threshold of death but you can practice being still and silent in a reclining posture. Some ancient masters grabbed the branch of a tree and hung by it at the point of death.


Many are sitting, some are reclining. The historical Buddha was reclining. And I imagine the historical Buddha was still and silent at the moment of passing over into nirvana. So there's been quite a bit of talk going on and yet the basic thing is being still. And as I often quote a Mahayana Sutra called the non-activity of all things in that Sutra Manjushri Bodhisattva says


for a living being to be enlightenment is just not to move. And not moving has something to do with being still. When a sentient being is just a sentient being that is, of course, not moving from being a sentient being and that is enlightenment. Yesterday love was such an easy game to play


so I noticed that my sole of my foot, I mean of my shoe was coming loose. The rubber was coming off the shoe and I was at a swimming club called the Dolphin Club and I went to a man there who repairs the boats and asked him if he had any glue to glue the rubber back on the bottom of my shoes and he said the best thing would be this contact cement but if you put this on you really have to firmly clamp the rubber onto the shoe for like 24 hours. I said what about if I wear the shoe


after I put the cement on? He said well then you'd have to be very Zen like and just really keep your feet down on the foot all the time and not move. I thought, yeah, people in San Francisco know what Zen is. I meet people quite frequently lately who are experiencing dying and death. Lots of death. It's going on in January this year and February is now happening. We continue to have dying and people are talking about things falling apart. Once again I thought, oh, this reminds me of the basics.


A practice we can do when things are falling apart. A practice of being still when things are falling apart and you can practice this it can be practiced in this world where things are falling apart. Where there's lots of vitality and things are falling apart but also when the vitality starts falling apart we can practice stillness and silence. There's also like, so things fall apart. I know quite a few people who are close to old people who are becoming demented. There's Alzheimer's but there's other kinds of dementia and then there's just plain old forgetfulness and there's just plain old sickness.


Now I can remember that there's a practice of being still. And I can think, oh, I want to do that practice and I can actually like give myself to the practice. And I can think, oh, I want to do that practice. And ritually sit still and be quiet. And I can also think when I'm sitting there or sitting here, being still, I can think this is good. From this place I can deal with everything. But what if my body changes so that my brain can't even remember English? Or so I think I'm, you know, some place where nobody else thinks I am. What if I can't remember that


being still is a practice that bodhisattvas do when everything's swirling around and where there's waves of dementia and insanity. Whatever is washing over the body and mind. What if I can't even remember? Be still, this is a time for stillness. And also be quiet, don't talk about it when you're... Be quiet. What if I can't remember? Well, I have this thought. Maybe if I practice being still for 40 or 50 years even if you cut my head off, I'll still be still. And that stillness will be the same stillness as somebody with a head practices. But a lot of people with heads, especially heads that have brains that aren't demented think that there's something else to do besides being still.


Therefore they're not enlightened. Plus also, they're not necessarily training at what will work for them after their head's removed. Or after their head is on, but doing all kinds of strange things. This is a practice you can do now, which you can do later. But if you don't do it now, you might not be able to do it later. You can do it later. And there are examples of people who did it right up through all that stuff that might happen. The practice continued, supposedly, for some people even though they went through big changes. They couldn't even tell anyone they were doing it, but it was happening. And it was happening because they trained themselves


when they thought there was an alternative to being still. As we just read, some people give up worldly affairs and maintain the Buddhadharma. Right now, if you give up worldly affairs, you can maintain the Buddhadharma. And if you train yourself right now, giving up worldly affairs and maintaining the Buddhadharma, you might be the person who follows you after you go away. The person who has your same name, but is older than you. The person who people say is you. This new person you become later, who is demented. That person might be also able to do the practice. Now, at that time, this old demented person, this person with Alzheimer's, doesn't have any thought of


I'm not very interesting. I'm not very entertaining just sitting here quiet and still. Not being able to remember who is in front of me, or recognize anybody. This isn't much fun. They're not thinking that. They might be thinking very, very different kinds of things than any of us have ever thought. And the things they think about, maybe nobody agrees with what they're thinking. Their stories about what's going on, nobody agrees with. Not even the other demented people. And yet, I propose that they might be sitting there, renouncing worldly affairs. Right in the middle of all the stuff that's going on in their head, or not going on in their head. And they're renouncing worldly affairs by being still and silent.


The same practice they did when they were young, and their stories were such that people agreed with them somewhat. Like, it's Saturday. Yes, that's right. Now on Saturday they think it's Tuesday. Or they don't even know the names of the weeks anymore. But they've trained so that they're sitting still and silent. And they're emanating a great light and benefiting beings. And they have no thought of what day it is, who they're talking to, who they are, helping people, they don't know anything. And yet, they are the same stillness that was there when they could remember the scriptures and lecture on them, brilliantly. The same stillness.


It's just that now, there's no speech coming up. They're just drool. And yet, the enlightenment is still there. Maybe. They can't do anything. But they're still practicing the essential Buddhadharma. And they never could do anything, and now everybody can see it. But because they trained, they can still be still and quiet. They're alive, they're still and they're quiet. But... Who gets to do this practice when they have no mind anymore? Who gets to do the practice


of being there when everything's changing so rapidly that they can't even take care of themselves anymore? And if they could take care of themselves, that's all they could do, would be to take care of themselves. Like, you know, feed themselves. That's all they could do. Or get across from one position in the room to the other. That would take their total concentration. That would be a super feat. And yet, some people do that and don't move while they do it. And when they're not moving, they're also not moving. Who can do that? It's the people who trained that can do it. And the people who don't train, even though they're demented, they still are moving. They still are thinking they're moving.


They're still caught by the terror of not knowing what's going on or not understanding why no one agrees with them. And no one sees what they see. Or dreaming that everyone sees exactly like they see. All kinds of strange thoughts. We can train now. You understand me, what I'm saying. I'm speaking English, you get it. You can train yourself at being still and silent all day long, all night through. And if you train yourself this way, you will notice that somehow you can continue to train yourself. Even though your training is not perfect, you can be still and unmoving with the imperfection of your current practice. If your practice ever became perfect,


you could even be still with that. That's called dementia. But I wasn't attracted to being still just for the radiance of being still. I was attracted to stillness and its radiance because of what the light can do. How the light can, you know, respond to cruelty with kindness. How the light can dance with dementia. How the light can open to and embrace terror. That's what I was attracted to. But then I found out, again,


this is all coming from stillness. These amazing abilities are coming from stillness. From the radiance of a being, of a living being, being just herself. Of giving up worldly affairs. And as I think about this, the thought arises, as I contemplate such a practice, the thought arises of what a boring person such a practitioner might be. Because they're just sitting silent and still. They're not necessarily entertaining and interesting in being still. Someone might think they're entertaining, but it's possible that most people would not think this person who is sitting still is that entertaining. And the person sitting still might be a little worried, people won't find me entertaining anymore.


They might think I'm really not entertaining and they wouldn't necessarily come to my talks if I didn't move or talk. But I'm willing to give up popularity and people thinking I'm a people thinking I'm a fun guy. I'm willing to give that up for the sake of a practice which, if done regularly now, will take me and everybody else through, you know, the gates of heaven and hell, through the straits of dementia, Alzheimer's,


all kinds of illness that will take me through these difficult places and and beyond into other difficult situations. And this stillness allows all kinds of all kinds of activities. Yeah, it allows all kinds of states, all kinds of activities, it allows all kinds of difficulty and it allows all kinds of amazing performances of skill. From the stillness you can study the scriptures and enter deeply into their their message. And from the stillness you can enter into a mind that can't read the scriptures. Either way.


And if you enter into a mind that can't read or understand the words of the teachings, with this stillness and silence, you are realizing the meaning of the teachings while you don't understand the words. You're looking at the words and not knowing what they're saying and you're actually demonstrating what they're talking about. And then your body changes and you have a mind that can read the scriptures and can understand the words and then you continue to demonstrate what the words are talking about while you actually also happen to understand what they mean and so on. However, some people actually read the scriptures and kind of understand the words but they aren't still so they're not manifesting


what the scriptures are pointing to or about. All that's necessary is to be completely still and silent. But again, that means that you give up being interesting entertaining a fun person to be around. Now, by the way, when you give up being interesting being a fun person when you give up trying to avoid being boring and useless, when you give that up it doesn't mean that you actually do become boring and not fun. You might actually be lots of fun. It's possible. If you give up trying to be fun, if you give up trying to be entertaining you might become super entertaining. It's possible.


What's the likelihood? Maybe not too great. I noticed that a lot of people think I'm not very interesting and kind of boring. And pass me by to some more interesting area. I can accept that when I'm still. But at the same time, when I'm practicing stillness I still might reach for a hat and put it on my head and people might think I look very funny. So what? How entertaining that he put that hat on. Like, look at that guy. He's got a funny hat on too. I don't know how he got it on his head, but I can do things that people think are really ridiculous even though I wasn't really trying to be entertaining. The important thing is


I'm willing to give up being entertaining. I'm willing to allow myself to be perceived as boring, of no interest and so on. For the sake of what? For the sake of being still and maintaining Buddhadharma and benefiting all beings. That's what it's for. But basically I'm suggesting to myself and you witness me I think it's absolutely necessary for me not to move and for me to be quiet. Absolutely necessary and also I think it's necessary in that stillness and quiet includes that I'm not attached to what's absolutely necessary. If I'm the slightest bit attached to being still, I'm not yet still. There's still a little bit of vibration there


if I'm attached to being still. So in a way I'm talking myself into being silent and still and there are conflicting messages coming up around that effort like this is not interesting and so on. But I'm familiar with these conflicting comments so I welcome them. The stillness welcomes all the conflicting comments. All the conflicting intentions besides being still are welcomed by the stillness when it's real. Stillness welcomes all rebellion against stillness.


The stillness welcomes being boring and it welcomes the fear of being boring. I still love you. Even if you are boring. You still love me even though you never met me before that's very nice of you. You're still practicing love of whatever whatever comes by the name of rib. Now if you practice stillness yourself


then even when you can't remember what my name is or who I am or that you love me you will love me. If you practice stillness you will love all the people that you don't know who are your children and spouses and stuff. All these strangers come to visit you you'll love them all if you're completely still and silent. You might be able to love a lot of them even if you don't practice stillness and silence you might be able to love them but you might not because you might have a story about them that they're monsters and they want to eat you up and steal your money and poison you. Which people do think sometimes. A lot of old people think that about their caregivers that their caregivers are trying to kill them steal from them and so on. Or they also sometimes think they should give all their money to this person right here and then their children say no, no, don't give it all to them


and then their children are robbers. If you practice stillness that stuff won't touch your enlightenment. You'll be totally deluded totally demented but you won't move with it and you won't say anything about it and your dementia will not hurt you. So now it's time to consider placing your bets. Are you going to bet on stillness today? Now? Are you going to bet on it for the rest of the day?


Now if you do bet on it now and for the rest of the day you might get some good returns on your investment. You might think that was a great day. But also there's a teaching which says you won't necessarily be able to tell how great silence and stillness is so quickly but it's possible you will. And even so are you going to continue to bet on stillness? Are you going to bet on the teaching that the training of bodhisattvas involves not moving? Are you going to bet on that? I'm looking at myself and I'm continuing to bet on it and as I get older I keep coming back to this is my bet and it was my bet when I was in my early twenties. Same bet. But the more I see


the tremendous challenges that can come to a living being the tremendous disorientations that can happen the more my conviction of being still deepens. . [...] In a way you can also tell the story that everybody gets to this place at the moment of death. Everybody stops moving at the moment of death.


Stops wiggling. Stops talking and just is right there. So in a sense everybody at the moment of death realizes enlightenment. And a great light is there at the moment of death. So I'm just talking about how about all the years before that how about all the trouble that you go through on your travels to death and how about having that same light of enlightenment for many years or for many moments before the time of death. So that you can help people between now and that moment of enlightenment. So that your enlightenment can start from now up until that point and beyond. That all the new people we become somehow, even though they can't remember


to be still, they are they practice that way because we practice that way today. That your practice today can influence the possibility that you'll be still tomorrow. That you'll be enlightened tomorrow. The way you are today. And again today we're sitting still not to get anything in the future and yet we understand that this will influence the future and we want that. We're not moving from now with perhaps the confidence that not moving from now not speaking about anything other than this promotes the next moment of similar practice. Giving up trying to control it too. Just betting on it. My cup


emptieth. It runneth over not. Actually there's one drop left which I drinketh. Do you have any responses? Yeseth? Seemeth. Even though I don't move I'm still silly. My response is how can we be able to not see ourself other than stillness? So the fact that I see myself as unstill By practicing stillness. By giving yourself to stillness you will come to see that you never move. You will see that someday. You'll understand that. In fact movement is an illusion.


We don't really move. We change and when we change we're gone and somebody else is our successor. And there's no movement there. Just the whole universe without moving changes. And the more you practice stillness the more you'll understand that you're always not moving. In other words you're always who you are at this moment. You're never somebody else. And nobody else is ever anybody else. And then everybody changes and we have all those people are gone and we have a whole new set. And the new set is unmovingly who they are. You could say all of that is in the understanding but you can also say the understanding is in all of that. In the midst of change


in the stillness in the midst of change all the understanding is there. And in the understanding there's all the stillness. And all the change. The stillness is totally dynamic. Dynamic means changing. The stillness is dynamic but not moving. We're enlightening each other right now without moving a particle of dust. You're enlightening me. I'm enlightening you right now. But we don't have to change anything right now. We're just supporting each other to be still and enlightened. Everything changes but there's no movement. And then we're again supporting each other without moving anything. And we're supporting each other to perform the illusory drama of movement and of speech. We're supporting each other to do that. In stillness we accept all the illusions of movement


and speech. And accepting all that in stillness can take on these amazing feats of compassion. Any other response or feedback? Yes? So I see how if we practice now we can still do this when we're old. But what about young children who haven't had a chance to practice it yet but they still don't have a clear mind? But still don't have a clear mind? Yeah. Well, if possible, we practice stillness with them. And then from that stillness we change their diapers and wash their butts and put ointment


on their diaper rash so that they can grow up and be even more unclear than they were when they were kids. And then take care of them in that state from the stillness. What's the word? What's the word? It's the word about attending to them, ministering to them from this stillness. And at some point, probably around in their twenties if they get this kind of ministration of kindness coming from stillness they'll start to think, oh, I would like to try the kindness thing. That's what happened to me. I was like really unclear and trying some pretty wild stuff


and some people just ministered to me and made me interested in their ministrations. I said, I would like to learn that. I would like to learn how to come back with kindness to insult and attack. I knew how to fight and defend but to come back with kindness for cruelty that seemed like a trick I hadn't learned yet and I would like to learn it, I thought. Because I saw some people who could do it. Maybe in stories, but still. Then I find out, when I get attracted to that I find out, where does this come from? I find it comes from stillness. The idea of I want to help people actually comes from stillness. It comes from being yourself. It comes from enlightenment. At first the child will not see that's where it's coming from. They'll just see that they like it. And as they start to practice it, they notice how difficult


and then they notice, oh, I guess I have to practice stillness in order to be able to do this. I'm not going to be able to be kind without having my feet on the ground. Because that's where they are. I'm not going to be able to practice kindness just from some idea. I have to get my body settled. That's not the first thing that attracts most people. Although I did see a picture around the same time that I was attracted to these ministrations. I did see a picture, which is in the interview with Rumi Gringold of a person sitting Zazen. And I thought, that's really beautiful. That way of having a body. That way of thinking. So little by little people who are setting examples will draw the children when they're ready into the practice. Which then takes them to the practice of stillness


from which the kindness will come from them when they're eventually, after they practice stillness for a long time, they will also start ministering to people in such a way as to draw other people into the practice of being themselves. To draw people into the practice of being themselves. Because they see the fruits of the practice of being themselves are so lovely. Are so attractive. But if they just try to be kind it's really hard. You sort of train yourself to ground yourself from where the kindness comes from. Although you can try to be kind and be somewhat successful if you're moving and not being yourself you keep slipping. So that's how we take care of the children. And protect their lives so they can grow up. But as long as they're alive anyway


there's a chance of transmitting this to them to some extent. So even babies who only live for a little while you can still transmit this to them. And then the next time they try I hope somebody will hopefully transmit it again and again until finally they can start practicing it. Do you want some of my tea? Not right now, thank you. Do you want some? No, I can wait. Me too. Yes? In the interest of conservation can we turn off the lamp behind you? The light bulb is on and it doesn't seem to be necessary. Yes. And I had a question about going back to everything changing rather than moving. And that just brought to me the question


is that one part of looking at ultimate reality it's more like a film script and we see movement No, that's not ultimate reality. But by opening to that illusion if you open to the illusory quality of that that opening to that can be part of opening to ultimate truth. But the illusion the stillness itself is not ultimate reality. You know, if you can see the individual pictures in the film strip and then see that one picture changes into another picture, that's still conventional truth. But when we first look at conventional truth we think oh, it's like this. And we're not opening to it also being like


not this. Namely that this is not really movement, this is just a bunch of different still photographs which our mind converts into movement. But actually we're doing that all day long our brain is doing that with everything in front of us things are changing and we're reinterpreting change as movement. And there's some benefit for our biological success around being able to convert still photographs into movement. Our own brain is doing that. So photography is just an elaboration of what our brain is doing all the time. Our brain has little pixels in it too, right? To open to what's going on with ourselves is part of, if we can't open to what's going on with ourselves in the conventional world, then we shouldn't be looking at the ultimate truth. Because if we look at the ultimate truth before we open into the conventional


truth, it can be quite harmful. So to be able to open to how we're looking at change rather than looking at movement and be able to like stay calm and still if we open up to that more dynamic version of what's going on here if you can do that you can open to enlightenment to the insubstantiality of things. But we're talking, this is not ultimate truth you're opening to, this is like the dynamism impermanence is not ultimate truth. Ultimate truth is that even the impermanence is insubstantial. Permanence is insubstantial as impermanence, but impermanence is also


insubstantial. At some level of us believes that life moves, therefore we want to experience ourselves as being alive, so we move things or we go into the movement rather than maybe the idea or the thought that being still is not alive versus life. I think that's right, that's part of the part of what makes it difficult to be still to practice stillness and realize stillness is the thought that this is not alive. When people are sitting still sometimes people look at them and sometimes think that they look like they're dead. Sometimes people do. Sometimes children get frightened if their mother sits still. They get frightened.


They think she's dead. So then I think people are somewhat afraid of being still. But that's pretty much the same as people, the thing that people are most afraid of in life is being themselves. Just flat out, which is the same as being afraid of being still. In the giving up of worldly affairs in that relationship, what is being given up? Well, you're giving up


distraction from reality. You're giving up being interesting. You're giving up being alive. You're giving up being dead. You're giving up being good. You're giving up being bad. You're giving up everything. So anything there is, you give it up. Worldly affairs is holding on to anything, including enlightenment. Holding on to enlightenment is impossible, of course, but to try to hold on to it is a worldly affair. Holding on to good is a worldly affair. You can't hold on to good, but if you try, it's a worldly affair, so you give up trying to hold on to good. Holding on to evil is a worldly affair. Holding on to laziness is a worldly affair. Anything you're trying to hold on to, that's what should be given up. So it's the holding up, the clinging to.


The clinging to, yeah. Or the moving, you know. Rather than being still with your desires, you move to maintain them or avoid them. Rather than just be still with them. Or you make comments on them, rather than just be quiet with them. So if you're still, you do give up your attachment to everything. In giving up your attachment to things, they didn't move, but they can change now. But before they change, while they're still present, you're just present with them, you're not trying to fix them. But when you can be that way with things, you save everything. You don't hold anything, you save everything. The stillness saves all the things that you're not attached to. When you're attached to things, you promote bondage and congestion. Yes?


This seems especially tricky when we look at our own understanding of stillness at any point. In one way, I like the idea that my understanding is evolving, that it's moving. But from what you're saying, it seems more instructive to understand that any understanding I have at this particular time is limited. Yeah. And being still with your understanding, allows it to change, which it will. Well, let's just take one part there. You said the experience of stillness. The experience of stillness is not the stillness. So, if you think you're experiencing stillness now, your experience is welcomed by stillness.


Stillness will allow you to have the experience of it. But some people might not have an experience of stillness. They might be having an experience of the blue sky. They're not experiencing their stillness, they're experiencing the blue. And they're not moving with it. But somebody else might say, oh, my God, there's stillness here. That's okay. But that's not the stillness. That's the experience of it. Or somebody else might be doing a ritual of stillness, like sitting still in a meditation hall. They're doing the ritual. They're kind of sitting still. But that's not the actual stillness. Because there can be stillness when you're doing other rituals, too. Where people might think, oh, you're moving. But in the present, you cannot move in the present. You don't move in the present. And you can experience that or not. But the experience or the recognition of the stillness


is not the stillness itself. But there can be recognition of stillness. The same for enlightenment. There can be a recognition of you being yourself. But that's not the same as you being yourself. There can be a recognition of enlightenment. That's not the same as enlightenment itself. So you don't need to recognize that you're still. But you do need to practice and realize that you're still. That's why we should practice and realize stillness now. Because the time is coming when we won't be able to recognize anything. Not to mention Zen practice. But if we practice now, we don't need to recognize it. We'll just do the practice. So the Buddha sees this person completely enlightened, completely still. And this person has been practicing stillness a long time.


They're with the Buddha on that. The Buddha sees another person who is completely still and sees their enlightenment. But the person has not been practicing it. So they think what's going on is what's in their head. And they recognize that they're not still. They are still. But their recognition is, I'm moving. I'm tormented. I'm frightened. I cannot stand to be this. Another person can stand to be this, but they don't think, I can stand to be this. But they have for a long time practiced, I can stand to be this. I can sit here. Or rather, I give myself to being this person who's got this problem right now. I've got this problem and this is my job and I'm practicing the ritual of not moving. They're thinking that. That's their experience. They're practicing not moving. Next moment they're practicing not moving, but they're not thinking they're practicing not moving. But they're practicing it. And they're realizing it.


And then if you dial in the most horrible story, the practice can go on. Because the person has been trained. And they can show other people this example. Like I've often told the story of going to visit a Zen master. One of the noted Zen masters of Japan. And his disciples put his robes on him and put him in a nice chair in front of me. And there he sat, you know, drooling. And his disciples, his attendants saying, Roshi, look who's come to visit you from America. Remember him from the San Francisco Zen Center? And he's just like glazed over, watery eyes, no sign of recognition. Unless I would consider his drooling


as a recognition of me. And I look at him and say, where's the Zen master? Is this a Zen master? What is the Zen master there? A couple years before when he was doing that beautiful calligraphy, was that the Zen master? Oh, there's a Zen master doing this great calligraphy. Where was the Zen master then? Was it the calligraphy? Was it the arm moving? Was it the people there with him? Where's the Zen master? Where's the Buddha? So, somehow him training all those years, he winds up having people who put robes on him and put him out, you know, in his room so that Zen priests from America come and meet him and wonder, what is a Zen master?


So his practice was still working because I was, in some ways, better than before. Before, I thought, oh, this is a Zen master. Look at him. But that was actually kind of superficial of me. It was more profound, really, when I was wondering, well, who is he and what is a Zen master? We don't like Zen masters that make us think, what is a Zen master? We like Zen masters who make us think, this is a Zen master. I came for a Zen master and I got a Zen master. So this is like, this is cool, right? I travel all the way across the ocean and here's a Zen master. Great. That's what I came to meet. And they got the temple around him and the disciples. It's all perfect. How lovely. And the little garden out the back. It's raining or whatever. It's beautiful. But to go all that distance to say, who is this and what is a Zen master? I mean, like, is there no Zen master left? Or is there still a little bit of Zen master there?


It's the same for yourself. Where is the Zen master? Is this a Zen master? Is this stillness? Oh, I think it is. I got experience of that. Stillness. I love it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You can taste it, but that's not it. It is itself. It's not your taste of it. But you tasting it and being that person, that's it. That's the Zen master. But what is that? Where did it go? Where is the Zen master? Where is the Buddha? Where is the radiance of us being us? And if you're still, you can wonder about this now. And if you practice that way, you can keep wondering right through Alzheimer's. And the wondering will go on even while you don't... even while you slip into the demented state


of thinking you know what's going on. That's coming to us. You're going to get in that state eventually. If you keep living, you're going to wind up in a place where I know what's going on, you know. And all your relatives are going to be like, and your students are going to be going, is this a Zen master? Oh my God. Yes? Is that any different than now? Hopefully, you're wondering that right now. Hopefully, even before I'm drooling excessively, I'm drooling a little bit now, but most of the saliva is staying in my mouth. So hopefully right now you're wondering, what is a Zen master? And who does he think he is to be making me think that? Why didn't he just shut up and be a Zen master


and let me not have to worry about it anymore? Why didn't he just be a Zen master that I can think of as a Zen master, rather than being whatever he is, which makes me wonder what Zen masters are? I don't need this. I came here to find out about Zen, not to have what I thought Zen was kind of like put into question. I'd like to know what Zen is, rather than wonder what Zen is. But you may have heard that that's not actually recommended in this tradition, to know what it is. It's recommended that you wonder what it is. That you wonder what practice is, rather than know it. That you realize it, without attaching to your knowledge. You realize it without supposing that your knowledge is the realization. But you do have knowledge, and your knowledge is such that at a certain point, even more than now,


you might wonder, what is a Zen master? Is it a person who doesn't rule, and can do calligraphy? Or is it somebody who makes you wonder who you're looking at, and who you are? And I'm not going to tell you which one, but you think you know which one it is. This seems to me to be very basic, and very simple, and perhaps, perhaps, not that interesting. So you might want to move on to some more interesting things, other than just being still. But I am suggesting to myself, in your presence, that this is the basic practice of the Buddha way. Not just Zen, but Zen's quite well known


for saying stillness and silence is really fundamental. And you can do this, you can give yourself to this practice, you can bet on this practice, moment after moment, for the rest of your life, and then, I'm betting that if you do bet on this, that when I talk to you later, you'll be glad you bet on it. And if you don't bet on it, I think you'll be sorry that you didn't. I think you'll be sorry that you wasted the opportunity to be yourself, which is your basic job.


And nobody can do it for you. And you can't do it by yourself. So we're here to root for you doing the job of being yourself. So please go ahead and do it, even though we won't like it. Yes, ma'am? Sir, what if in your worldly affairs, in the smaller sense, in your being of yourself out in the world, you are called upon, and there is an expectation that you will be interesting and or entertaining. How do you come from a place of stillness, or bring the stillness into that period or series of moments in which there is to give to others, you wish to respond fully to those expectations?


You wish to respond fully to those expectations? Now that's what most people think a Zen Master's job is, is to respond fully to people's expectations by affronting their expectations, which they will find very interesting. And also maybe they won't like it. So people do have expectations and you should meet those expectations with great compassion, which involves meeting the expectations without any concern with what's going to happen to you when you meet their expectations of you. And, you know, it could involve something like, do you have any expectations of me? I'd like to know what they are. And you could take notes, you know, say, are these the expectations you have of me? And they say, yes. And was one of your expectations that I would not be taking notes on your expectations of me? And they'd say, yeah, I didn't think you were going to ask me what my expectations were.


I thought you were just going to fulfill them. Well, anyway, I've got your expectations now. Have I fulfilled them? And they say, no. And you might say, well, I've decided I'm going to not make an endeavor to fulfill all your expectations, even though I understand I have not done so so far by doing this inventory of what they are. But I'm now going to be devoted to fulfilling your expectations. You might feel that way. That might be who you are. And that might be not moving. And they might say, you know, this isn't very interesting that you're going to go on this trip of fulfilling my expectations. I think it would be more interesting if you didn't fulfill my expectations. You'd say, hey, guess what? I'm up for that too. So now I'm going to abandon my project of fulfilling your expectations or working to fulfill your expectations, which I knew I would totally fail at. It's impossible for me to fulfill them, but I was willing to try the impossible just for you. But now that you see how ridiculous it is with me,


now I'm going to not fulfill your expectations from now on. Here we go. And they might say, this is even more boring than before. Or they might say, you know, I'm going to call this boring because this is actually not boring. It's terrifying that we would be doing this together. And you say, well, fortunately for you, I'm totally here for you and totally with all this fear and I'm with you on this. Beyond interesting and not interesting. And they might say, okay, you're fired. I fire you from your job, which was a job of entertaining me, but now I'm hiring you as my teacher of how to live through the ocean of boredom. How to devote yourself to be still in the ocean of boredom. This is what will take us through


the oceans of dementia with great compassion. May our intention equally extend to every being and place with the true merit of Buddha's way. Beings are endless. I vow to save them. Divisions are inexhaustible. I vow to end them. Dharma gates are boundless. I vow to enter them. Buddha's way is


unsurpassable. I vow to become it.