Chick and Hen -- Inquiring and Responding 

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.


Chick and Hen -- Inquiring and Responding
Tenshin Reb Anderson
No Abode, July 1, 2012 Afternoon

Karmic consciousness. Living beings live in a story-telling world. That’s where problems occur. Zuigan: “Teacher!” “Yes!” “Are you awake?” “Yes!” “All day long, don’t be fooled by karmic consciousness.” Buddha’s are those who are enlightened about delusion. By caring for delusion we realize enlightenment.


Transcribed by Karen Mueller

(References: No Barrier by Thomas Cleary and Zen’s Chinese Heritage by Andy Ferguson)


So there is a teaching which I mentioned to you quite a few times, that living beings are, just have karmic consciousness. In other words, living beings live within a story-telling environment. Living beings are prone, you could even say addicted, to this story-telling and addicted to believing that the stories are not just stories. Our problems occur in that environment and ONLY in that environment. That’s where the problems are. Freedom from that situation is not like you go someplace else. It’s just that freedom from that belief is these stories is freedom from those stories which is freedom from the suffering of those stories. Some of you have heard… so I told you the story about a wonderful relationship between a teacher name Guishan and his student Xiangyan. There is another lineage of teacher-student relationships, or you could say, hen/chick relationships which I could share with you maybe next time at No Abode if you want. It’s like a … There is particularly four generations of hens and chicks. So you have a hen, a chick and then you have no-hen, no-chick. As a result of that you have a hen and a chick and then you have the chick gets out of the shell and you have no hen and no chick and then you have a hen and a chick and again the chick gets out of the shell and you have no hen or chick. In each one of these cases, each one of these three examples, the chick becomes a hen, the chick becomes a hen and a chick beomes a hen.
So I have a story particularly about three generations of this kind of hen/chick relationship coming to fruition, chickens and hens going beyond chickens and hens and then the next generation. Transmitting this teaching, that what we are dealing with from morning till night is our karmic consciousness. By the way, there is a zen teacher and the Japanese way of saying his name is Zuigan. Can you say Zuigan? So when Zuigan got up in the morning, he said? (“Zuigan!”). That’s pretty good. But that doesn’t apply to you. So it might be good to say when you get up in the morning, “Master!”. Or “Teacher!”. Teacher is better because master maybe sounds masculine. Does master sound masculine? So either say “master” if you’re comfortable with that or say “teacher” when you get up in the morning.. if your spouse is not sleeping. Go out of the room and say “teacher!” and then say, “Yes!”. And then, “Are you awake?”. And then say, “Yes”. And then say, “All day long, don’t be fooled by karmic consciousness”. “I won’t” or “Yes!” Not the way it’s usually said is “All day long don’t be fooled by other people”. In other words, don’t be fooled to think that other people are anything other than your karmic consciousness. All these lovely people, don’t be fooled by them into thinking that they are other than your mind. I would like actually to change the story. “All day long, don’t be fooled by karmic consciousness into thinking that it’s something other than karmic consciousness.” “I won’t.” Or “Yes!” So anyway this lineage of hens and chicks, I would like to go through with you, maybe next time. But I wanted to mention something, two things. Q. Could stories be a synonym for karmic consciousness in this context? Could you say, don’t be fooled by stories.A. Yeah, stories aren’t like solid objects in space. They are your mind. Like the story that this is (name), that’s my karmic consciousness for me. And for you, the story this is you, that is your karmic consciousness. “So all day long, don’t be fooled by stories”. “I won’t”. Being kind to stories will promote not being fooled. The two things I wanted to mention. I’ll mention number one first and number two second. Or I could reverse it if you want. Number one is part of understanding our mind in such a way that we’re not fooled by it, is to let other people edit our stories and to hang out with people who will let you edit theirs. That promotes not being fooled by your stories. If you are fooled by your stories, you probably are not going to be very receptive to people editing them because (to you) they are not stories; they are reality, right? So you’re not going to let them edit reality. So sometimes people tell m e their stories and they won’t let me and then I try again and they do let me. And when they do let me, it’s good. They feel somewhat liberated from the story. They tell me these stories like “blah, blah, blah” and they look pretty unhappy but they don’t want me to change the story that they are unhappy with because it’s reality so I can’t change it, because it’s “truth”. And sometimes I take a little break and come back and try again and they let me. And when they let me, it’s good. They feel relieved. So that’s part of becoming, that’s part of being generous and ethical with our stories, with our karmic consciousness. It’s to let other people have something to say about it and suggest some other version of our story and also return the favor. I want to tell a story about a TV show, a TV series. It was called “Deadwood”. It was about a story that occurred week after week. A story about Deadwood South Dakota that took place during the Gold Rush there. Or anyway, when they were mining gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I heard that, I think the person called, so-called the Creator. Not necessarily the writer. The creator. The person who thought of the program and maybe he did some of the writing but he had other people writing too. But he had the idea and then he worked with all the writers and actors and the cinematographers and the set builders, etc. And probably a lot of other things too. And one thing that struck me, when he said… I think he said this towards the end of the series or at the end of the series, he said that it was so wonderful to create an alternative world. When I first thought of telling this story, I was going to say “an alternative reality” but you’re not actually creating alternative reality. They aren’t actually alternative realities. There are alternative worlds. So they created this world of Deadwood, South Dakota together. And he said it was really wonderful creating this alternative world because when you make an alternative world, it has the potential to relieve you from believing your world. Even though it’s only maybe,.. In this case, of course, they worked all week each week on making this world. So they are spending quite a while in this alternative world, to conjure up this alternative world and a lot of people working together on it and I would say, and I think the person who was speaking also was saying, that a lot of generosity went into creating this alternative world. A lot of ethics and carefulness. A lot of patience. To take care of all these details and people doing things in many different ways. They were creating a chaotic world too. The world they were creating was really wild. It was a Gold Rush town where people were drinking a lot of alcohol and swearing a lot and shooting each other and making lots of money and stealing. It was a wild thing they created. But the main thing, it was an alternative world and lot of good energy had to go into making this alternative world in such a way that this world was produced and you could actually… and it was a program you could watch. But the thing that struck me was the happiness that comes when you consciously make a world. It’s not so much that you’re in that world and you’re happy to be in that world (cause that world is a pretty rough place in this case). But the happiness of being relieved from your ordinary world and the happiness of returning to your ordinarily world after creating an alternative world. So you work eight hours a day or whatever making this alternative world and then the rest of the day you go back to this other one, but you have this wonderful change of perspective and less belief in both, of course. As you get into creating an alternative world, it looks more and more real. But you stay conscious of the magic. Probably. But the more real that one gets, the more engaging it becomes, the more you become free, not of engaging in your world, but of being rigid about your world. So I thought that was really another way of saying, “Letting your world be edited”. And when we come to No Abode we create an alternative world too. Like during work period it’s kind of like a gold rush town out here. People are digging in the earth and finding a lot of gold, right? People are tempted to jump claims. People are scraping in the ground. People are repairing security systems. But in this particular gold rush town it’s very harmonious and everybody is very peaceful and loving. Which is nice, but don’t lose sight of the fact that not only is this a lovely alternative world that we’re creating here. But it’s just an alternative world. The point is not to attach to this one either. I wrote here that the people in the show found a liberating vitality and joy of a group of generous, careful, patient, enthusiastic, concentrated people repeatedly creating an alternative world together. Like us. We are doing that too. We get together and make this little Zen world.Once again I wanted to say, and ask you how you feel about it. In a way a sentient being might be somewhat insulted when they hear somebody say, all sentient beings have is karmic consciousness which is (did I mention) it’s giddy. All you got is a giddy consciousness. Did I say that? Some people might feel insulted. “Are you telling me that I’ve got a giddy consciousness”? Well I’m not exactly saying that. I would never accuse you of that. I am just saying the ancestor said that. Not me. The ancestor said we have a consciousness that’s quite excited and disorienting so that we keep forgetting sometimes what’s really important to us. Because we keep getting flipped around by our consciousness. So one could feel insulted by such a comment.
But the other side of it, the good news is…. This is not the good news. The whole story is that this giddy world where you forget what’s important, you feel a lot of regret and embarrassment that you keep forgetting what’s important. Right? You are sorry that you sometimes forget compassion. You sometimes forget being careful. You sometimes forget being patient. You sometimes forget being generous. You sometimes forget the teaching, right? That goes with being giddy. And you can’t get out of the situation and go someplace where you’re never going to forget this practices. So that could be considered to be an unhappy picture of our life. But the good news is that that’s the only place where we have problems. That’s where we have problems. That’s our human predicament. And if you study the situation you can become free of it. You don’t have to become free anyplace else. That is what the problem is. That’s where the Buddha said the problem is. In some ways this situation is simplified. This is where the problem is and this is where freedom will be found. By respecting the practice of ethics in this giddy world of consciousness, we will find freedom. And we need to bring it together with the teaching which is that we will be free, we will realize freedom. We will realize something which is impossible to know and grasp the reality of it. Which is part of the reason you can realize it. Because it’s not fixed. If it was fixed you couldn’t realize it because it would be done and we would be excluded right now or we would have already attained it. But it’s not done. We don’t know what it is. It’s impossible to know the reality of freedom therefore freedom is impossible to avoid because we don’t know where it is or what it is so we can’t get away from it. We can’t move towards it.What is it? “It’s so big, you can’t get over it. It’s so little you can’t get under it”.. Or something like that. “So wide you can’t get around it. So high you can’t get over it.” And it’s fits into spacelessness in its greatness it is utterly beyond location. A hairsbreadth’s deviation will fail to accord with it. So we have to train. Q. Can you meet it?A. No you can’t meet it. You can realize it. It’s not an object. But if you meet things that you can meet in the realm that you meet things, if you meeting things with compassion, you realize what cannot be met. Q. I really really…A. She needs help!
Q For some reason I keep seeing there’s more than the kindness. There’s this vigilance of in and out. A. There’s more than kindness? Yeah, there’s more than kindness in a way. There’s also wisdom. Q. So maybe I need to look at things in a different way. A. YES! Right. Yes. Always. Q. OK. A. Thank you. Q. So it seems like our mind, our consciousness is just non-stop, unless trained otherwise, non-stop in developing stories. Every visual event, every sound event… . A. Yup! The only way to stop it is to make the story of stopping. Q. Yes. However, the question is, is this something we’re born with? Is it something we learn? A. We were born with it. It’s innate.

Some people say babies are enlightened. This story is that babies are not enlightened. Their nervous system is in a different state of development when they come out of the womb usually if they are full term. And if come out earlier, it’s even more so that their nervous system isn’t fully developed, along with their digestive system which isn’t fully developed (humans), along with their respiratory system is not fully developed. Human beings seem to deliver their babies early because if you deliver them later, the head gets so big that the mother’s hips would have to be so wide that she couldn’t walk upright. So, evolution made a compromise to make the female’s hips wide enough to deliver a pretty big head, big enough for the baby to survive outside, but not waiting for the head to be fully developed because then that would make the pelvis have to be even wider and that would make upright posture difficult. So we deliver the babies before they are actually able to get up and walk around with a fully developed nervous system. But even so, they are deluded in the womb. Not the way they will be deluded in a year or so after coming out. Certain aspects of the delusional system will develop further but basically they have the concept of things being substantial in the womb. They have karmic consciousness in the womb. That’s the story. But it’s at a different stage of development than it will be at eighteen months or eighteen years or at seventy years. Q. In my bodhisattva practice I’ve been thinking a lot about karma. A. Yeah, one of the assignments of bodhisattva practice is to think about karma. Q. And it took a long time for me to realize this but I think I’ve realized that the karma through pre-dispositions, conditioning or whatever…what I’m realizing has become a gift to me. A. What’s the gift? Q The gift, the karma. That whatever true nature is presenting itself in my mind. A. You’re saying that karmic consciousness is a gift? Is that what you’re saying? Yes, that’s a good way to see it. If you’re generous to karmic consciousness, then karmic consciousness becomes a gift. Q. Yeah, what I realized is..That a lot of my life has been an insult. A. A lot of your life has been an insult and if you’re generous towards the insult, the insult will turn into a gift. Congratulations. It took a long time but it was worth it in my opinion. Q. So karmic consciousness and true nature and true expression are all kind of synonymous? A. You could say karmic consciousness is synonymous with true nature. Or you could say delusion is synonymous with enlightenment. But you could also say that although delusion is synonymous with enlightenment, delusion goes with suffering and enlightenment goes with freedom from suffering. But they are not really separate. And it’s through caring for delusion that we realize enlightenment. It’s through caring for delusion that we become free of delusion. Q. And caring for everyone as not being separate from ourselves is enlightenment. A. Caring for everyone as not separate from myself is enlightenment and caring for my delusion that people are separate at least realizes enlightenment because enlightenment is about… Buddha’s are those who are enlightened about delusion. So enlightenment about delusion helps other beings become enlightened about delusion. Being enlightened about karmic consciousness helps other beings be enlightened about karmic consciousness. Persons who study karmic consciousness in an enlightening way shows, in some way, other people how to do the same thing even though those people are watching them through their own story about the person still something can get through. What gets through is a way of practicing with karmic consciousness. Everybody’s got the karmic consciousness to practice with but not everybody has learned how to practice with it. If somebody has learned they can show somebody else how too. But it’s not so easy to show people all the time because people are circumscribed by their karmic consciousness. But still my karmic consciousness about you is based on you so if you’re practicing it can get through to me. Particularly, and the easiest way for you to start to get through to me is if you’re practicing generosity. Generosity is the easiest thing to penetrate my story system. It’s the first way to open me up to practicing generosity with my stories is if somebody else is practicing generosity with theirs; theirs about themselves and theirs about me. q. And there is always somebody practicing generosity? A. There always is somebody practicing generosity. Q. Whether I want to believe it or not? A. Whether you want to believe it or not. That’s the party line, that somebody is practicing generosity right now, whether I believe it or not. Even if I’m feeling like hell. Even if I’m feeling happy. Somebody is practicing. You can feel… some people are feeling happy in a way, but they don’t feel like their practicing generosity and they don’t think the happiness was a gift. They think they bought the happiness. “That wasn’t a gift. I paid for it.” But some people practice generosity and they realize that happiness is a gift and they also realize that feeling lousy is a gift when they practice generosity. So although they feel lousy they feel joyful that it was a gift. You can feel really sick and realize, be generous towards it and you can see other people who are sick and be generous towards them and they can learn to be generous towards their sickness and both of you can be very happy and very peaceful even though you are sick. So we have Sutra about that which we could start studying right now. Ready? It’s called the Vilmalakirti Sutra and it’s about a bodhisattva who was sick. And why was he sick? Because other people are sick. But he was very happy to be sick for the welfare of all beings. Very happy to be sick and also be at peace with his own sickness and other people’s sickness and happy to teach other people how to be with their sickness. And he was going to continue to be sick until everybody learned how to practice with their sickness. Yes?
Q. I was thinking about the time when I was young I had lots of stuffed animals. A. When you were young? Q. I mean when I was younger. A. Younger than you are now? Do you have any stuffed animals now? Q. No A. Would you like one? Q. Sure. A. Here I am. You can meet me tomorrow morning and make me some tea. I’ll be one of your stuffed animals. Q. Ok. Yeah, That’s what I was going to say.A. That’s what you were going to say? Yeah. When she was young, she used to have a lot of stuffed animals but now she has me. Q. I had lots of stuffed animals and I used to totally believe that they were real, you know. Or that the stories I had about them were real and I made a newspaper for them and I was really into them.
A. You had like a town newspaper? She made an alternative world which was kind of a relief wasn’t it?Q. Yeah. It was. And I went to my mom and I said, “Mom, are these stuffed animals real? Are these stories about these stuffed animals real?” And she said, “No” And I had a tantrum for a long time. A. Until recently?
Q. I think I’m still in that tantrum. And then she said, “Yes, they are real. A. After the tantrum? Q. Yeah. A. That was smart. Q. In the midst of it. A. They’re real! They’re real! Yeah so now, yeah now you still have stuffed animals and you can also realize that they are your creation and they are as real as the unstuffed animals. Both are simply conscious construction.
Q. So to clarify what you were talking about earlier about editing, this person when she was younger, resisted her mother editing her story about stuffed animals and later she got to the point, perhaps, of being able to edit her own story. A. Edit her own story and also let us edit her story.Q. And her mother allowed her to edit her mother’s story. A. Yeah. Right. Her mother was ready to let her edit her (mother’s) story, at least sort of. Maybe she didn’t believe it. But you can let people edit your story without believing that the edited version is real either.
Like that famous story of me and my wife. We’re driving along in San Francisco. I’m driving along in San Francisco and I see a traffic jam, so I turn left to avoid the traffic jam and get into a worse traffic jam. Then I say…well, that’s not the story…well, and then I say, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done”. That’s my story. And she says, “Even when you confess you give yourself a compliment.” Now the story I was thinking of is the story where we were having dinner over in Tiburon. (Can you imagine?) And the couple we were having dinner with, my wife says to the male member of the couple… It was a male-female couple. She says to the man, “Where do you work.” And he says, “I work at the University of California Irvine”. And my wife says to the guy, “What’s Irvine like?” And the guy says, “It’s beautiful”. And his wife says, “It’s ugly!” and my wife says, “You should learn that”. You left out a step! Oh, sorry! It's nice that I don’t have to remember. So, he says, “It’s beautiful”, and she says, “It’s ugly” and he says, “It’s ugly”. And my wife says, “You should learn that.” Did you learn it?
Well, I’ll say yes and she’ll say no. And I’ll say no. But in that example, it isn’t that I…it isn’t that he actually thought Irvine was ugly but he could just say it was ugly. And also it doesn’t mean he really believed it was beautiful still after he said it was ugly. It’s like the important thing is… What my wife wanted me to learn is not that Irvine was ugly but learn to be, to give up my story and let her edit it. Let HER edit my story. She didn’t want me to edit hers. So you say. So I say. Yeah. When she said that, I didn’t say, you should learn that. I didn’t say that. But I did think this is going to be a good story to tell people. And it was! (Whispers) Say it wasn’t. It wasn’t. Actually I wanted to say something else. It’s actually a question. Ok? A. Ok.
Q. Actually it doesn’t have to be ok. A. I’m glad it doesn’t have to be ok Q In the Genjo Koan where Dogen says “when you’re out in the midst of the ocean where no land is in sight view the four directions and the ocean looks circular and doesn’t look another way, but you should know that the ocean is neither round nor square. Its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel” A. But “to you it looks like a circle. It does not look any other way.” Q. Yeah. And then he also says something about when enlightenment.. A. When Dharma does not Q. “When Dharma does not fill your body and mind, you think it is already sufficient. But when Dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing.” So if everything is just conscious construction, what is he talking about that is missing? What is he talking about that’s beyond the ocean that we see? A. I don’t think he’s really talking about that there’s something beyond conscious construction. So what’s missing, when the Dharma does fill your body and mind, what you realize is missing is substantiality in what your seeing.
Q. Not your understanding? A. Or what’s missing is substantiality in your understanding. Your understanding of insubstantiality is also not substantial. So I think what’s missing is a self, or a substance to the circle of water. It’s not a substantial circle of water. Q. Because it is infinite in variety? “It’s just like a palace, it’s like a jewel”. That doesn’t sound like he’s saying “something that I’ve created”. A. Yeah, but I’m not saying that he’s saying, or that anybody is saying, all there is, is what you’ve created. There’s a difference between saying “nothing but mind” and saying there IS nothing but mind”. Q. Which one are you saying? A. I’m saying “nothing but mind”, not “there is nothing but mind”. “There is nothing but mind” would mean that that’s all there is so therefore there is no ocean in addition to the circle of water. But I am not saying there is or isn’t an ocean in addition to the water. Because the ocean which is the basis of the circle of water, although it is infinite in variety, it’s not really other than the circle of water. It’s the basis of the circle of water but the circle of water isn’t the ocean. But the ocean isn’t really beyond the circle of water. It’s not something in addition. If you make it in addition, you are just making another circle of water in addition to the ocean. But there is no circle of water without the ocean. And what’s going on in the circle of water depends on the ocean. Are you done for now? I have to think about it. It’s like a misty landscape. A. Ok, Yes? Q. Maybe what’s missing is conscious-construction-only is not realized? A. No. The example is when Dharma fills you, you realize that something is missing. So when conscious-construction-only fills you, you understand that conscious-construction-only is conscious-construction-only. In other words, what’s missing is something substantial called conscious-construction-only. When the Dharma fills your body and mind, you realize that what’s missing is a circle of water and ocean. They are both missing. Can’t find either one. But it’s not that something is missing. It’s just that there’s something in addition to what you’re experiencing. There’s not a reality in addition to your conceptual cognitive enclosure. There is not another reality. There is just freedom from this one. And that also doesn’t mean that this conscious construction is based on something. But what it’s based on is not something in addition because something in addition is another conscious-construction-only, but anyway the teaching is not “there is only conscious construction”. It is conscious-construction-only. Not there is nothing but mind. The teaching is “nothing but mind” so even if there is something that your current mind is based on, it also is nothing but mind. It’s not something. That’s not what’s missing. What’s missing is any substantiality anywhere. What’s missing is the possibility of knowing reality. In particular, knowing the reality of freedom. But it doesn’t say there is impossibility of realizing freedom. It doesn’t say that. It’s the impossibility of knowing the circle of water or knowing the ocean. Q. So the substantiality is missing and rightly so. Is that what it is? It’s not like it’s missing and we gotta go get it. Is that right? So we realize something is missing and… it oughta be. A. Yeah. It’s a good missing. It’s a liberating missing. It’s liberating absence and you realize it without knowing it. Because, it’s missing being available for knowing. If you know it, then you’re back in the circle of water again. Which is fine and then you start all over again. Yes? Q. It’s kind of what I meant. I think if you realize there’s no substantiality, then it’s not missing, is it? A. What you’re realizing is an absence. What you’re realizing is an impossibility. Q. That’s what she said…Are you saying “absence” would be a better word than missing? Missing seems to imply, that we lack…like my keys have gone missing and I need them. But not the substantiality.. It’s not something we… “Missing” seems to have implications that we need to get it back, right? Is that what you’re saying?... But I see missing as missing the point of the stillness. That being still with it seems to be what we’re missing. A. Another way to put it is, when the Dharma doesn’t fill your body and mind, you are complacent. You think you know enough. When the Dharma does fill your body and mind, you continue to study the Dharma. Which is.. In other words you continue to engage in phenomena for the welfare of all beings. Q. Is Dharma another story? A. Yes it is. Dharma is also nothing but mind.