The Good Friendship of Shitou, Matsu and Yaoshan

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Okay. [...] I mentioned this morning that there is a proposal which I am betting on, that Buddhas are present in our life now. And someone who heard that said, are you saying that there's some Buddha external to us that's present in our life? I'm not saying that. that the Buddhas that are present are not external to our life. They're also not internal


to our life. They are our actual life, is Buddha. That's what we mean by Buddha, is the reality of life, and it's not external. And the suggestion that good friendship is the context of the life, the true life of peace and freedom. It goes with another teaching which people have heard from the Buddha, which is, be a light unto yourself. That statement is, a lot of people really like that statement, and they think it means, you know, you don't need a teacher. The Buddha said, independence on a good friendship, and in particular independence


on me, among your good friends, you will be able to practice the way. And the Buddha said, Buddha had teachers. Not in this particular life where he's the Buddha, but in many previous lifetimes he had teachers, he said. And many of his students used to practice with him when he was practicing with his other teachers. But anyway, Buddha did not say you don't need a teacher. And some of the places, you can go on the internet and see this phrase about be a light unto yourself, and some of the places, they think it means, you don't need a teacher to practice the Buddha way. But other ones, they point out, I think rightly, that be a light unto yourself can be interpreted as, do not go for an external refuge. Do not


go for the triple treasure as something external. I agree with that. We go for refuge in Buddha, but not as an external thing. There is some distinction between me and Buddha, or between a living being and a Buddha, or between a bodhisattva and Buddha. Bodhisattvas have a long career of honoring good friends, of honoring the Buddhas. But they do not abide in the difference. The expression be a light unto yourself is, I don't know if I'll pronounce it right, but it's apodipabhava. That's A-P-P-O, and then this is a romanization, D-E-E-P-A-V-A. B-H-A-V-A-H, apodipabhava, be a light unto yourself. And it sounds maybe like in contradiction


to we proceed on the path by spiritual friendship. It's just actually a guiding principle in our practice together. And Athena, were you going to ask a question? Q. We were talking about Suzuki Goshi and him requesting me to see teachers in Japan. Suzuki Goshi, like I said, he hired a tutor for me in Japanese, and he told me the names


of a couple of teachers he wanted me to study with in Japan. And then after I'd been studying for quite a while, he said, I want you to go to Japan, and I think he said it in kind of a funny way. He said, like, in not more than a month, or something like that. He didn't say in less than a month, he said in not more than a month. So I said okay, and I went over to the Japan consulate and went in there and got some forms to fill out for sponsors, so I could stay longer than just a tourist visa. And I brought back the papers, and I said, I got these papers from the Japan consulate. He said, what is it? I explained, he said, oh, okay. And then he just took the papers and walked away. And


that was the end of that. So I got the impression like I went a bit too quickly at the bait or whatever, at the offer. From then on, when people offer me things, I usually just say, okay, I see, and I wait for them to give it to me before I reach for it. Not always, but generally speaking. So that's what happened. Who were the teachers? His name was Noiri Roshi, and so Suzuki Roshi studied with his first teacher he grew up with, and became his Dharma successor. But after his first teacher died, he studied with a noted Zen teacher named Kishizawa Ion. And the three senior disciples of Kishizawa


Ion were Suzuki Roshi, Noiri Roshi, and Nippon Nishikawa. Niwa Renpo Roshi, who was Abbot of Eheji later, Niwa Roshi actually performed Suzuki Roshi's funeral in San Francisco. So those three were the main students of Kishizawa Ion. So Suzuki Roshi wanted me to go to Japan and study with actually his younger Dharma brother, and that Noiri Roshi sort of took over Kishizawa Ion's temple. And that's the person, one of the


people Suzuki Roshi wanted me to go study with. And one time I was in Japan visiting Suzuki Roshi's son after Suzuki Roshi died, and I asked, could I go visit him? And Suzuki Roshi's son looked scared at the prospect. He sort of said, if you call Noiri Roshi on the telephone, you call and say hello, and there's no answer on the other end. Kind of an awesome teacher. Anyway, that was the name, and the other one was Kamatani Roshi, who was one of the main disciples of Hashimoto Eiko Roshi. So those were the two people that Suzuki Roshi mentioned, but I did not study with either one of them. And I was very happy that I didn't in a way, because at the time Suzuki Roshi was talking


about that, I didn't know that he wasn't going to be around much longer. So I'm happy that I was with him at the last period of his life, not in Japan. Were there any other questions dangling in the Sangha from this morning? Okay, so I thought I might continue the story of Yagasan Igen. When we last saw Yagasan Igen, he was with who? Who was he with? He was with Ma. He was still with Ma. So Shirto had sent him to Matsu, the great Master Ma. He was still with Master Ma after the awakenings. So again, when I was at Shirto's place, I was like a mosquito trying to mount an iron


bull. And Matsu says, since you are thus, uphold and care for this well. And then Yagasan served Matsu as attendant for three years. And one day Matsu asked him, what have you seen lately? And Yagasan said, shedding the skin completely, leaving only the skin. And the true body. Matsu said, your attainment can be said to be in accord with the body-mind, spreading through its four limbs. Since you are like this, you should gird your loins and go traveling to other mountains. And Yagasan said, so Yagasan maybe thought he


was saying, you should go to some mountain and be available to start a community. And Yagasan said, who am I to speak of being the head of a Zen mountain? And Matsu said, that's not what I mean. He said, those who haven't gone on a long pilgrimage can't reside as an abbot. So he was actually telling them to go study with another teacher, to go on pilgrimage. And then he said, there's no advantage in seeking advantage. Nothing is accomplished by seeking something. You should go on a journey and not remain in this place. So Yagasan left Matsu and went back to Shirto.


So he awakens to the mind of no abode. He's enlightened about the mind of no abode. And somebody told me that mona in Sanskrit means silence. The mind of no abode is silent. It doesn't abide in silence, it doesn't abide in sound. It is silence and stillness. So having realized this, now he goes back to Shirto, and at one point he's sitting. And Shirto comes to him and says, what are you doing here? And he said, I'm not doing anything at all. And Yagasan said, well then are you idly sitting? And Yagasan said, if


I were idly sitting, I would be doing something. He's maturing. And Shirto says, you say you're not doing anything at all. What is this not doing anything at all? And Yagasan said, even the 10,000 sages don't know. And then Shirto says, we've been living together now for a long time, just going along according with conditions, practicing like this, and then we're going to die. Since ancient times, the 10,000 sages don't know who he is. How could


hasty, impatient people know him? And then Shirto said, I'm not doing anything at all. Words do not encroach upon it. And Yagasan said, no words do not encroach upon it. Shirto said, here, I can't stick a needle into it. Yagasan said, here, it's like I'm growing flowers on a bare rock. Shirto agreed. So, here's a Zen version of the pilgrimage of the Bodhisattva, working with good friends.


And here, I see a person who had deep faith in the Mahayana, listened to the teachings, and went to the teachers, and did the practice, and he matured, and he matured, and finally he was able to enter wisdom. And then he becomes the teacher of the next generation. And in his case, the next generation is a monk named Yunyen. And here, a kind of similar paradigm occurs. So you have Shirto and Matsu working with Yagasan, Shirto working with them, sending them over to Matsu, back from Matsu to Shirto,


and then he becomes now the successor, one of the successors of Shirto. The other one I'll talk to you about later. His name is Tianhuang Dawu. And then, the next generation of Yunyen, he starts over on the other side with the disciple of Matsu. So you have Matsu, he has a number of great disciples, one of his disciples is named Baijong Waihai. So Yunyen starts with Baijong Waihai, he starts over on the Matsu side, and he studies over on this side. And he studies with the other side of the sixth ancestor. So, Shirto side, Matsu side. This monk Yunyen starts over on the Matsu side


studying with Matsu's disciple Baijong, and he's his attendant. And they say he was his attendant for twenty years. So apparently he started when he was fourteen, and he was his attendant until Baijong died. But, he didn't mature enough. He was working with his good friend, but still, in twenty years of study, from fourteen to thirty-four, I guess, he still wasn't mature. And we hear that he understood that, and so he went from Baijong, after Baijong died, he went over to Yaoshan. And Yaoshan, happy to meet him, coming from the other side of the family, and they're working together. And so I'll


tell you the story about how Yunyen matures under Yaoshan. Now I'll show you how Yaoshan matured under Shirto, Matsu, and Shirto. Now I will tell you later the story of how Yunyen matured under Baijong, and how he matured under Yaoshan. And one of the ways he matured under Yaoshan is Yaoshan asked him about his practice with Baijong. So, he asked him about his practice with Baijong. When he was with Baijong, he didn't mature enough, but Baijong was giving him teachings. Now he brings those teachings with him, and the next teacher goes over the teachings with him, and as he goes over the teachings with him, he matures more. Should I do it next time, or should I do it this time? It's kind of getting to me. I'm getting late. Have you had enough to eat? Okay, I'll do it now.


When you say mature, you mean when they totally embody it? What's maturity? When you're able to physically and mentally enter the teaching and act from the teaching. He was a pretty young guy, 14 years old, so the first 20 years he couldn't really enter the teaching. Teaching couldn't fully enter him. But still, he's a good student, so he goes to see the other major teacher available, that he knows about, Yaoshan. And Yaoshan is very interested to hear from him about this other teacher. I guess he wants to know how the other teacher teaches, so he's happy to receive teachers from the other side. So we have these wonderful Bodhisattvas, and we have stories about them when they were


immature. We haven't covered over the careers of our ancestors, the parts where they didn't seem to understand. So here's a major figure in the history of Zen, who studied for 20 years with a great teacher, and the great teacher and he were not able to bring about his full understanding. But he did study for 20 years with him, and then he didn't stop. So then he goes over to Yaoshan. So again, as I said, Yaoshan, I mean Yunyan, his full name is Yunyan Tansheng, and his lay name was Wang, he left home, and he went to the at a young age, like I just told you, around apparently 14, and went to live at Ximei Mountain.


He studied under Baizhang Waihai for 20 years, but did not meet the source. After Baizhang died, he went to study with Yaoshan. Yaoshan said to him, where have you come from? And what did he say? Yeah, I came from Baizhang. Baizhang is the name of the teacher, and it's also the name of the place. It means a thousand feet high. That's the name of the monastery, Baizhang, and it's also the name of the teacher. So Yaoshan says to Yunyan, what did Baizhang teach to his disciples? And Yunyan said, he often said, I have a saying which is, quote, the hundred tastes are complete. That's what Baizhang taught his students, one of them


being Yunyan. Did you get that? I have a taste, the hundred tastes are complete. That's what Baizhang taught his disciples. The hundred tastes are complete. I have a teaching, the hundred tastes are complete. Don't ask me what that means. But Yaoshan asked Yunyan, sometimes salty tastes salty, sometimes bland tastes bland. What is neither salty nor bland is a normal state. What is meant by the phrase, one hundred tastes are complete? Yunyan couldn't answer. Yaoshan said, what did Baizhang say about life and death before our eyes? Yunyan


said, he said that there was no life and death before our eyes. Yaoshan said, how long were you at Baizhang's place? And Yunyan said, twenty years. And Yaoshan said, you spent twenty years with Baizhang, but you still haven't rid yourself of your immature ways. One day, Yunyan was serving Yaoshan as attendant. Yaoshan said to him, what else did Baizhang have to say? Yunyan said, once he said, go beyond three phrases and enlightenment is gone. But within the six phrases, there is comprehension. Yunyan said, he said once, go


beyond three phrases and enlightenment is gone. Within six phrases, there is comprehension. And Yaoshan said, three thousand miles distanced, the joy can't be felt. Then Yaoshan said, what else did Baizhang say? And Yunyan said, once Baizhang entered the hall to address the monks, everyone was standing. Then he took his staff and started swinging at everybody to drive them out of the hall. When the monks reached the door, he yelled to the monks and they looked back at him and he said, what is it? Yaoshan said, why didn't you tell me this before? Today, thanks to you, I finally see elder brother Baizhang Weihai. And Yunyan finally


understood his teacher, both of them at the same time. So, this is his process of maturity. You see how he really didn't understand, for years and years he didn't understand, and the teachers kept working with him, kept working with him. And finally, he tells the teacher about his other teacher's teaching, and the other teacher understands his teacher, and he joins the great teacher's understanding of his teacher. I often think of this story, it's like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Do you know Sherlock Holmes? So, Dr. Watson says various things and Sherlock Holmes has these insights, oh my God, and Dr. Watson doesn't know what he said. So, Yunyan comes from Baizhang and tells


Yaoshan about Baizhang, and Baizhang understands what he's conveying, and then when Baizhang understands, he understands, without in this case having to explain what he understood. He says, oh, I get it. And then he got it. He got what he had seen many times. He got all these teachings, they all came to him. This is how friends help each other. In this case, there are other ways. And by the way, we would be able to see also the way other students of Baizhang deal with that same teaching of swinging the stick. Some of his other students


did the same practice with theirs, some of his successors did the same thing with theirs. So driving the people out of the hall and then saying, what is it, gets transmitted, but not through Yunyan, through other people who understood it at the time. So now we have Yunyan, and then we have the next generation is Dongshan, and then across next to Yaoshan is Tianwang Dawu, who leads to Lengtang Chongxin, who leads to Deshan, who leads to Baizhang. He leads to two of the schools of Zen. He leads to two of the other great Zen masters in China. So I will continue next time with these stories,


filling in these stories of friendship, and you can start to see how the family works with different people in different ways, and how it's kind of all the same family style of bringing people to maturity and wisdom by guiding them to this place of no abode. Any things you'd like to say at this time? It's getting close to our closing time, but I welcome any comments. So if I understood or remember the story correctly, none of the monks that were chased out of the hall at Baizhang were enlightened at that time, is that right? But it was in the telling


of the story later that the realization occurred. It's not that none of them were enlightened, but our hero was not enlightened. Our pilgrim, he didn't get it. It may be that there was somebody else in the congregation whose name is Wong Bo, he was there too. And Wong Bo may have understood, because Wong Bo then transmitted that same practice to his students. So Baizhang has a student, Yun Yan, who was there that day and didn't understand, but then he went to study with Yao Shan, and with Yao Shan he understood. But on that same occasion, his elder brother Wong Bo was there, and he


may have understood. Who's elder brother? Yun Yan's elder brother. So Yao Shan has Baizhang, has Yun Yan as a student, but he also has Wong Bo and Gui Shan, these two great students. And Wong Bo may have been there, and he may have understood. Because when he became a teacher, he went into the hall, and when all the monks were assembled, he took his stick and went running after the monks. And when they got to the door, he said, what is it? And nobody could answer. And then he said, if you're like this, how will you have today? You're all dreg slurpers. In other words, you're


all living in the past. If you're like this, you can't be in the present with me. It's not that easy to be in the present when somebody, a big guy is chasing you with a big stick, swinging it at you. How could you be elsewhere? That's what I think. This is a big one, isn't it? And he says, don't you know that in all of China, there's no teachers of Zen? So here he was, the big guy with the big stick, chasing the people. And they freeze when he says, what is it? He said, don't you know there's no teachers of Zen? In other words, don't


you know there's no external good friend? Good friends, don't you know that the teacher is not external to you? That me here, swinging the stick to you, I'm not external to you? Don't you understand that? Yeah, what about all the Zen monasteries? I didn't say there's no Zen, I just said there's no external teacher. See how they're trying to guide them? Guide them to the place of no abode. There's no teachers of Zen, and realizing there's no teachers of Zen means you realize there's no external teacher, or internal teacher. And that's Zen, right there. And we're trying to help each other find that place. We have to have good friends to help us realize that the good friends are not external. We have to be good friends to realize that


good friends are not external. We're trying, aren't we? We're trying to be good friends. May our intention equally extend to every being and place, with the true merit of Buddha's way. Beings are numberless. I vow to save them, delude them, and destroy them. May we be free from delusions. Delusions 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.


This is kind of a Minnesota joke. This is John F. Kennedy. Thanks for coming. One of my friends, a very dear guy, his name is John Crook. He's one of the disciples of Shun Yen, the Chinese teacher who teaches, taught in New York and so on. Anyway, I met John Crook in England, and he came to visit us at Green Gulch a couple of times. And one of the times I went back to England, I visited him, and he told me that he paid his grandsons to sit meditation. He paid them 50p for each 15 minutes. So, I'm paying you to practice


the Bodhisattva way.