I Have Long Heard of Dragon Pond
I Have Long Heard of Dragon Pond
Tenshin Reb Anderson
April 13, 2013 AM
Transcribed by Karen Mueller
I’ve heard that appears to be often lots of stress and dynamic activity in family life. Like, a family gets together for a meal and some kids are balancing spoons on their nose and some other kids these days are texting and then some adults may ask the kids to stop texting and then things evolve into such a situation that almost everybody leaves the table and goes and hides in their rooms if they have rooms. Have you heard stories like that? There’s a wide variety of stories about families have lots of stress or difficulties about getting along with each other. Recently my daughter sent me an article about the challenge of (excuse the expression) keeping a family together… about the question of how do families stay together. And the reason she sent it was because the answer was the families that stay together often have strong family narratives. They have family stories. Strong ones. The reason she sent it to me was because I was going to, I told her I thought it would be good for her older boy, who is 13, and his memory is good of course.. I thought it would be good for him and I to take walks and for me to tell him stories about his family. [Because I won’t be around anymore]. She doesn’t want me to say that to him because she says, “If you say that to him, he’s mainly going to be thinking about your dying and it will be harder for him to concentrate”. So I am not going to mention that part. Because a lot of times you may notice that if your parents and grandparents are gone, you have questions but you can’t ask them. A lot of the questions you have for them are questions about when they were young, and they can remember all that stuff. If my grandparents were around, I could ask them questions about things that happened in the 19th century that they would vividly remember. I neglected to ask my grandmother some questions that I wish I had. So anyway I was going to, I told my daughter that I thought I could offer to tell him stories about his family. Not so much that his family is great, but just I thought it would be good. So she sent me this article and I thought that was the reason that she sent it. But then I also thought that is so much true about the Zen family. One of the reasons why the Zen people can stay together is because of our family stories. Currently, the Zen family has quite a bit of stress. Have you noticed? If you go to Green Gulch, there is stress there among people in the family. They feel stress with each other. It’s hard. So why stay with those people? Why not go someplace else and be with people you don’t have stress with? Well, part of the reason we can stay together is cause we have these stories, these great stories. I gave a Zen stories class last fall at Green Dragon Zen Center last fall. It was about the Blue Cliff record stories. The first story is about Bodhidharma; the next one is about Jiao-Jo. These are family members in our tradition. And to tell you the truth I had some problems about offering the class. Remind me a little later, not too much later, just keep reminding me until I tell you what my problem was because my problem relates to something that I will mention quite soon. The problem I had relates to the Perfection of Wisdom, which is something I think you all want me to have a problem with, right? It’s one of my main problems. The Perfection of Wisdom: how to work with it; how to practice it; how to share it. So Zen stories keep the Zen family together even when there is stress. And right now there is lots of stress in the larger Zen family. People are very upset about what’s going on at other Zen Centers. Have you heard about that? Scandals are going on. People are saying, “I feel disgusted”. People are upset and need; people in our Zen center need help dealing with what’s going on at other Zen centers because it’s in the New York Times and stuff. How can we use the stories, not to deny the problems, but to stay together and work together, have a sangha? This is the stories. Strong stories. Beautiful stories. One of the stories about Zen that we often say is that Zen, or Chan in China, is a special transmission outside the scriptures not depending on words, directly pointing to the human mind, recognizing its nature, becoming Buddha. That’s a statement which has often become..Which actually some Zen people bring it up. Also some scholars who study Zen also bring it up. They say this is one of the main slogans of Zen. “A special transmission outside the scriptures, not depending on words and phrases”, A special transmission. This transmission directly points to the human mind and in that process the nature of the mind is recognized and one becomes Buddha. And sometimes people even translate it with the brackets [Buddha-nature] is recognized and become Buddha. That’s almost a story in itself. Another story is that statement is originally attributed to an ancient practitioner named Nanchuan, an ancient Zen teacher named Nanchuan. Some other people say that Bodhidharma said it. I think the last time we met here, I pointed out that I hung on the wall this beautifully mounted, calligraphed version of the Maha Prajna Paramita Hrydaya Sutra, the great Heart of Perfect Wisdom Scripture. It’s written in what’s called seedam characters which is a special way of writing Sanskrit. I put it up there and also told people I am now going to be offering teachings on the Perfection of Wisdom, the Great Perfection of Wisdom, Maha Prajna Paramita. But I also said then, and I will say it again, that if Zen is a special transmission outside the scriptures, how come Zen teachers sometimes offer scriptures? Well I would say they offer scriptures partly because of the stories in the tradition. The people who are taking care of the special transmission outside the scriptures often present scriptures. They read scriptures to their students. They chant scriptures within the tradition. Within the special transmission outside the scriptures there is a lot of care of scriptures. In order to realize this special transmission which doesn’t rely on words,.. the only way to get to this special transmission which doesn’t rely on words is by using words. The special transmission which doesn’t rely on words, it’s like gamma rays going through us all day long. Nothing stops it. It’s passing through our bodies, this special transmission, this indestructible mind of enlightenment, there is no place it doesn’t reach. But because we don’t understand words properly, because we don’t work with words properly, our words make us not notice the perfect wisdom which is passing through us all day long. So we need words to bring us to see the nature of mind and realize Buddha. Part of the stories of our tradition is that if you look at the lives of many Zen teacher is that they taught scriptures. A lot of them taught Perfect Wisdom Scriptures. So partly I am sort of enacting the stories of our tradition by offering teachings on the perfection of wisdom. It’s partly that. But again the teachings on Perfect Wisdom are not necessarily being offered by Zen teachers. They are being offered by the whole universe. One of our stories is that the Sixth Ancestor of Zen, before he was the Sixth Ancestor, when he was heading towards being the Sixth Ancestor, he was selling wood. He was a wood salesman. A fire-wood salesman. He was walking through a marketplace in Guang-jo, which used to be called Can-ton. (I went to Guang-jo with a bunch of practitioners one time and went to one of the Sixth Ancestors temples there). Anyway before he was the Sixth Ancestor he was a layman and his name was Layman Lu., or Workman Lu. He was selling firewood. He walked by a fortune-teller’s stall. The fortune-teller was chanting the Vajra-Cutter, or the Cutting Vajra of Perfect Wisdom Scripture. (One might stop there and say… this doesn’t say in the story… but how come a fortune-teller is chanting this Mahayana Scripture? This is my idea that popped up here. I think the fortuneteller was chanting the Scripture if you chant the Scripture the merit of chanting the Scripture makes you a really good fortuneteller.) He was chanting what is called the Diamond Sutra or the Vajra Sutra, the Diamond which cuts through the language which distracts us from Perfect Wisdom. The Perfect Wisdom of the Buddhas which doesn’t depend on words, which is available to us all the time, but which cannot be apprehended and that is why it is Perfect Wisdom. We need something to engage our words so that we become open to wisdom. Somehow this Sixth Ancestor was tender enough so that when he heard (chuckles) Section 10-C of the Diamond Sutra, he woke up from his words. He received the transmission which doesn’t depend on words and woke up from the dream of his words, from the word-dream. That’s one of the stories of our tradition. So he says to the fortune-teller (more chuckles) “Thank you. Thank you for reciting this Scripture which has awoken me to the special transmission outside the Scriptures.” And then I think the fortune-teller says, “You know if you want to hear more about this Diamond Sutra, this Vajra Sutra, there’s a person called Hung-Ren. He’s the Fifth Ancestor of the Zen School. He lives up north. If you go and visit him, he can tell you more about this Sutra.” This Sutra which sets up this special transmission outside the sutra. This Sutra which sets up the Vajra Mind of Buddha which does not rely on words. The words that help us not rely on words. So the Sixth Ancestor said good-bye to his mom. (I don’t know how that worked out). Anyway he started going north. That’s the story. He started going north to see the Fifth Ancestor. The story that follows is one of our big stories. It’s one of the things that.. It’s such a good story. It has been holding Zen together for about 1400 years. It’s one of the big ones. I’m not going to finish it now but if you want me to, I will finish it later. So tell me if you want to hear the rest and I will tell you. But I don’t want to go any farther (right now). I just want to give you an example of how our stories keep us together to study scriptures, even though what the school is really about is a special transmission that doesn’t depend on them. But still it uses them. It uses them. We have stories that tell us we use the Scriptures to realize the transmission that’s outside them or that is free of them. Isn’t that something? Ha.-ha! It isn’t really. What I’m saying is just words. It’s not something. And the fact that it’s just words and not something, that is Perfect Wisdom. The fact that these words lack any basis for apprehension, that’s what we call Perfect Wisdom. But we must use words so I will continue. The Buddha used words. I wrote down someplace.. Don’t know if I can remember it.. What I wrote down was, “I have long heard”… and I was going to tell you about something which I have long heard, but when I said, “long heard” that reminds me of another story and I remembered what the other story was. I have long heard “x” but I’m not going to tell you x right now. First I’m going to tell you what the other thing was. Which is that once upon a time there was another ancestor in our tradition. He was the guy who was an expert. Ha ha! This is funny to me. Because what I had long heard is something that this guy said. This guy’s name is Du-shan. Du-shan means Virtue Mountain. He went to see a Zen teacher and the Zen teacher’s name was..what? What was the teacher’s name? Dragon Pond! And when he went to see Dragon Pond, he said, “I have long heard of Dragon Pond’. That was the echo that I heard.. of Du-shan saying, “I have long heard of Dragon Pond.” So I was, in anticipating talking to you, I was thinking of something I had long heard that I wanted to tell you about which I will tell you in a little while. But I was interested in this echo, “I have long heard”. What was that? Oh yeah, it was Du-shan saying, “I have long heard of Dragon Pond.” What I laughed at is that Du-shan, before he said, “I have long heard of Dragon Pond”, Du-shan was an expert on the Vajra Sutra. And he was carrying in his backpack, the Vajra Sutra and lots of commentaries on it. Words about the words of the scriptures. He had a big load of them on his back and he was going to the mountains, on his way from where he used to live, to destroy the Zen school. And what I am laughing it is how synchronistic this whole thing is. It didn’t even occur to me how perfectly this story fits!
So here was this scholar, this Buddhist scholar, a very smart guy. A very gifted human being who really was good with words, like we all are really. But he was above average. He was a teacher of other monks and his specialty was the Diamond Sutra (which also turned the Sixth Ancestor on to Buddha’s Mind). And he heard.. What did he hear? He heard about he Zen school. What did he hear about the Zen school? Guess. Guess what he heard about the Zen school? (Special transmission) Yeah, exactly. He lived up in Northern China and he heard that the Zen people said that there is special transmission outside the Scriptures. He is a Master of scripture and they say they got a transmission that’s outside his scriptures, that doesn’t rely on all his words, that directly points to the mind, the human mind, so that we can recognize its nature and become Buddha. He thought that was heresy. And it was a heresy that was becoming very popular. The Zen school was thriving! And he was upset about it because they said his business was more-or-less obsolete. That was his understanding. It wasn’t. He wasn’t. Obsessed. This Zen teaching was setting him up for enlightenment. So he’s heading south from his Buddha-dharma castle to destroy the Zen heathens, the Zen infidels, the heretics. And as he’s going though a mountain pass, he’s feeling a little hungry and he comes to a little pastry shop where they sell what they call in the South “dim sum”. It the North they called it “ten shin” which means “dot heart”. Where they sell these nice little treats. So he said, “May I have some of these refreshments?” Actually “dot heart” means, “hit the spot”, it means “refresh yourself”. So he said, “May I have some refreshments?” And the woman who was selling them said to him, “What’s on your back?” He said, “Well this backpack has Diamond Sutra and commentaries on the Diamond Sutra.” She said, “Wow! This is a good opportunity for me to learn more about the Diamond Sutra. There’s a part of the Sutra where it says, ‘Past mind cannot be apprehended. Future mind cannot be apprehended. Present mind cannot be apprehended’. With what mind will you apprehend this refreshment?” And he couldn’t answer. Oh, before she said that, she said, “If you can answer, I’ll give you the refreshment. If you can’t, you’re not going to get one.” And he couldn’t. And she said, “You’re not going to get a refreshment from me. If you want refreshments, I think you need to go a little further and visit.” Who? Dragon Pond. “You should go visit Dragon Pond. I think he’ll give you some refreshment”. (Comment.. Yeah for old ladies.) Yeah for old ladies and yeah for young ladies if you ever run into one. Yeah to little baby girls who.. I know this little baby girl who when you say to her, “Niy ho ma” she says “how”. And her grandmother is very happy. “Niy how ma” means ‘how are you feeling?’ And ‘how” means good. “How guay” means “how good”. Anyway he heads off. He goes to see Dragon Pond. He goes in to the temple. He goes into the main hall looking for Dragon Pond. Dragon Pond is the name of the temple and it’s also the name of the teachers. She said, “Go to Dragon Pond”. She meant, “Go to Dragon Pond and visit the teacher.” I guess he might have even known that Dragon Pond was one of these people who had the special transmission outside the scriptures. So maybe he was starting to feel some conflict between getting some refreshment and destroying this guy. I dunno. It doesn’t say. Anyway he goes into the hall and Dragon Pond sees him coming and hides behind a folding screen. We have some folding screens here too if you want to hide behind them. We can put them out later. So he comes in to the room and he says.. What does he say? “I’ve long heard of Dragon Pond. And now that I have arrived, there is no pond and no dragon.” And then Dragon Pond steps out from behind the screen and says, “Thus you have arrived at Dragon Pond.” Now I would just say that this is the Perfection of Wisdom. “I have long heard of the Perfection of Wisdom. And now that I have arrived at the Perfection of Wisdom, there is no Perfection of Wisdom or both or neither. Thus, have we arrived at Perfection of Wisdom!” So we have this teaching so that..It’s nice that you sat this morning because now you are tender from sitting. Your bodies and minds are open so I can say this to you and you’re not going to attach to anything I say, right? It’s just going to pass right through you like gamma rays. Gamma rays are nice. They don’t cause damage like x-rays. X-rays don’t actually just pass through. They cause a little bit of damage. Right? So, gamma rays though, no problem. Same with the Dharma. It doesn’t hurt you at all. It’s what gives you life. It’s what made life. That’s why life is so precious. It’s because Dharma is passing through it. We should take care of life. That’s another on of our stories. So when we’re having trouble with each other, we try to remember that this person we’re having trouble with, over there, or the person over here that we’re having trouble with is very precious. That’s one of our stories. And we have a story about Dragon Pond and the old lady and Du-shan to help us study this teaching, which is really a difficulty teaching and we might give up. So we have these stories to hold us together so we can help each other continue to study the Perfection of Wisdom. You didn’t remind me and it’s ok that you didn’t, but now I will go back to the problem I had about teaching these Zen stories. Refreshing my study of the Prajna Paramita has encouraged me to offer another class on the Zen stories at Green Gulch. And the encouragement came because the problem I had with the class was my sense that there was an attempt in discussing the stories, the words of the stories, there was an attempt to get at what the stories were about. To get at the THING that the stories were about, and I just wasn’t in the mood to be like some of my Ancestors were. Namely to tell these people to get out of Green Gulch; to stop that! But I felt uncomfortable with that. But now I feel I can help them stop that. I can help them realize that the words of these stories are not about anything and to the extent that you can listen to these stories, which hold our family together, part of the reason that they are here is to hold our family together. A family of weirdoes. A family of weirdoes who deal with words as words and understand that the words don’t refer to anything. This is dealing with words as Perfect Wisdom. But our habit is, our compulsion, our addiction, our reflex is that the meaning of words comes from their object, their referent. We think if we follow the word to its referent, we will find its meaning. This is incorrect. This is a mistake, which we are reflexively addicted to. The teaching of Wisdom is that the meaning of the word comes from the way you use the word. The meaning of “pain” comes from the way you use the word pain. Sometimes you use the word pain this way and it means, because you use it this way, it means this. Sometimes you use this way and it means that. Sometimes… It’s a happy story the way you use it. Sometimes it’s an unhappy story. But the meaning is not because the pain refers to something. Pain comes from thinking that pain refers to something. So I am encouraged to offer the class and see if we can discuss this stories and watch to see that we can discuss them and use the stories to keep us where the difficult practice is going on of Prajna Paramita. The room where we realize these stories do not have objective basis. So this is the Prajna Paramita in 8000 Lines and the pagination of the English translation is not the same as the pagination of the Sanskrit original. So the translator, the wonderful translator Edward Conze, he has Sanskrit pagination in brackets inside the English translation. So on page 200 of the Sanskrit, the Buddha’s student, Subhuti (who was also the Buddha’s student in the Vajra Sutra. He was also the Buddha’s student to whom Buddha was speaking when he said “section 10 c” Are you following me? I went back to the Diamond Sutra. The student the Buddha is speaking to there is Subhuti and in Section 10 c, the Buddha says to Subhuti, again sort of synchronistic ally, the Buddha says that the bodhisattva should produce a mind that has No Abode. So the name of this practice place comes from that Section 10 c, which is the section that woke up the Sixth Ancestor. The Bodhisattva should produce a mind which has no abode, which doesn’t abide in anything, which doesn’t abide in colors or sounds or smells and so on. This is the mind a Bodhisattva needs in order to work for the welfare of beings. Then later, Subhuti becomes a continuing student.. You know, a continuing education guy with the Buddha, and now in the 8000 Lines, Subhuti has become the Buddha’s teaching assistant. So now the Buddha actually tells Subhuti, “Would you please teach the bodhisattvas about the Perfection of Wisdom”. Right? Remember I brought that up before. So in this Sutra, Subhuti is actually assistant teacher so the Buddha tells Subhuti, “Would you please teach the bodhisattvas about how to practice the Perfection of Wisdom?” And Subhiti says what? “I don’t see any bodhisattvas and I don’t see any Perfection of Wisdom, so how can I teach that to them?” And the Buddha says, “Just so. Just so.” This is how you teach the Perfection of Wisdom to bodhisattvas. And we need stories to be able to stay together and tolerate such stories, such teachings. We need to stay together and watch each other and see that nobody is getting discouraged. Because these teachings can be frightening. How are you doing, M? See watching her face I want to make sure she’s still here with me. How are you doing up there? Ok? We need to be in a family so we can watch how people are doing. So we see somebody who says, “Well then I don’t need to practice ethics anymore.” Whoa! Wait a minute! We should take a break now from Perfect Wisdom teachings if you feel that way. Let’s forget about it. Let’s just set that aside for now until you again.. “If there’s no bodhisattvas, I don’t care about bodhisattvas.” No, no, no. That’s not what Subhuti said. He said, “I care about bodhisattvas but I can’t find any.” That’s how I teach Perfect Wisdom. So part of the Zen tradition seems to be that we use stories about our tradition in order to tolerate our tradition. Because our tradition deals with the difficulties of family life, the difficulties of living together. But also, the difficulties of living together is the path. As somebody said, “Practicing alone is difficult; and practicing together is difficult too.” But practicing alone will not lead you to Perfect Wisdom. Practicing together will. Both ways are difficult. But the difficulties of this way is the difficulty of living together. But it also has a way to catch each other and support each other if we get distracted from the teaching. (Q..You said “tolerate” do you mean..? Yeah, you have to tolerate in being opened hearted. You have to open your heart. If pain comes and you don’t tolerate it, you tense up. (Q tolerating like stopping for a moment and then checking in with my heart?) Yeah, tolerate. The main ingredient of tolerate is being present. So this teaching is very elusive. It’s elusive and it says you can’t grasp this teaching. That’s the teaching. And you can’t grasp that either. That’s just words. This teaching is, for some people, it’s kind of scary because we have to take care of each other to make sure we aren’t loosing the integrity of our personality while we are studying this. We have to be able to come on time to the sitting and when the period is over get up and do walking meditation with the other people. And then when walking meditation is over, it’s not to control the people.. It’s just to keep the person from drifting off from being connected to the family program. So we need stories that say even great masters were able to sit down and get up when the bell rings. It also says (which I read last time) when you hear this teaching and you don’t become afraid, that’s the Perfection of Wisdom. When this teaching gets to you and you can tolerate the ungraspability of all phenomenon, including this teaching, and you are not afraid, the Perfection of Wisdom is working. But it is hard to tolerate sometimes. The elusiveness of it. Like it’s hard to tolerate giving up our addictions. Our addictions help; we use them to tolerate. So when we set them aside, it’s hard to find a new way to tolerate our life, or tolerate words.(Q Also hearing “staying with”) Yeah patience is to be in the present with what is happening, particularly with something uncomfortable, like fear. Ungraspability could be quite uncomfortable. To be present with the discomfort is necessary. But also generosity, you need to welcome the teaching and welcome what comes with it. There is another section near-by here which, I think it’s called “the effects..” Yeah it’s right after the section I have been reading to you. The section I have been reading to you is “The Perfection of Wisdom is Perfectly Pure”. The next section is called “The effects of Perfect Wisdom”. And I’ll just mention that now, in terms of toleration, it says that whenever there is something precious, there is often some aggression, or turbulence around it. Like diamonds, gold, the gold we had in the hills around here a while ago. There was a lot of aggression around that gold you maybe heard about. Now there’s diamond mines and there’s lot of aggression around it. There’s oil. There’s lots of aggression about that. Natural gas. You see the aggression around those things? They are precious to human beings and then human beings do aggressive things to the earth. They dig it up. They pollute it in order to get this thing that is precious. They dig in the ground. Right? And they even fight with each other while they are digging because that’s what happens around precious things. The same with the Perfection of Wisdom and it’s much more precious than any diamond. It brings people what they think diamonds will bring them. So it’s part of the situation that there is turbulence and fear and greed. It all comes up around the Perfection of Wisdom. So we need to be able to tolerate all that so we can be tender and receive it. That’s the next section. The thing I wanted to read you is that, “Subhuti says to the Buddha, ‘To call it the Perfection of Wisdom, O Bhaghavate, is merely giving it a name. And what that name corresponds to..” (What name? The Perfection of Wisdom)..”What that name corresponds to cannot be got at. One speaks of a name with reference to a merely nominal entity. Even this Perfection of Wisdom cannot be found or got at. Insofar as it is a word, so it is so far the Perfection of Wisdom”. Insofar as it (the Perfection of Wisdom) is a word, insofar is it the Perfection of Wisdom. ” Insofar as the Perfection of Wisdom is a word, insofar is it the Perfection of Wisdom. As soon as the Perfection of Wisdom is more than a word, it is not the Perfection of Wisdom. And I don’t know what it is because it cannot be got at in any case. Even if you don’t say “Perfection of Wisdom” that doesn’t mean that then you can get a hold of it. It cannot be apprehended and it is the way everything is. So I hope we can study these stories and use the words to realize special transmission which doesn’t depend on the words of the stories. And when we try..When we are using the stories and we start to reach for what the story is connected to rather than watch how the stories work, that we allow ourselves to be brought back to the story whose object cannot be apprehended. So now I feel encouraged to study Zen stories again which some people will be happy to hear and some people will be not happy to hear. That’s another story! Fortunately this talk started at 11 and it’s still 11 so we have plenty of time if there’s anything you want to bring up. (Q. I have a comment. The word that keeps coming through me is magic. That this is magic, a magical process) It’s a magical process and to the extent that the word ‘magical process’ is just a word, it is a magical process. If you think ‘magical process’ refers to something that is quite normal and it’s not magical. It’s just habitual. And as you know, the word ‘habitual’ and the word magic start with the same letter. Ha. Ha. Also as you know, the first word in the Heart Sutra is ‘Look’ or ‘Listen’. Observe. In Chinese, gyuan. Observe what? Listen to what? Observe the cries of the world. Observe the cries of the world. Observing the cries of the world. Observing the cries of all sentient beings, assembles an Ocean of Virtue. And with that Ocean of Virtue, we can practice the Perfection of Wisdom. But the basis of this practice is observing all this suffering. To observe the pain and suffering of the world and to realize the teaching that the suffering of the world, when it exists, is nothing more than a word. And to not think that there is something that word refers to, then we can liberate beings from that word, that suffering that exists. So this is a possibility. And the historical Buddha said that some people have been successful at the practice and we need to keep ourselves in a state of tenderness, we need to be generous and diligent and ethically respectful of all life and patient with all beings in order to be able to deal with the word ‘pain’ and the word ‘injustice’ and the word ‘misery’. We need to deal with this words in such a way that we realize Perfection of Wisdom with these words, with this apparently existing things, which are true because of the way language works, but they are not true because the refer to something. They are true because they have meaning. This pain has meaning because of the way we use our language. That is meaningful and true. But it is not true that the word refers to something. That’s the false part. That’s the mistake. And if we come back to that, these words, these conventional designations are opportunities for Perfect Wisdom. (Q. I once met an old Tibetan lama who had been in a Chinese prison for 30 years, and he was released. But things happened to him in that prison. His body was bent. And he would talk about that he was grateful to the Chinese because they taught him to really extend his compassion. But he didn’t talk about it in terms that things didn’t happen. Things happened to him. He didn’t talk about this in terms of wisdom. He talked about it in terms of compassion. So I’m just wondering about that.) His words were about compassion. But the wisdom might have been there. (Q It might.) It wasn’t that things weren’t happening. It’s just that maybe he understood that the things that were happening, when they came to be existent, that they were merely words. He may have understood that. And by understanding that he could practice compassion in situations where he couldn’t previously practice compassion. So all of us, I think, are practicing compassion somewhat. And I think most of us, maybe all of us, would like to practice compassion in a great way. But without wisdom, we sometimes draw a line and say, “Not in this case, because this suffering really does have an object.” And then we can’t practice compassion there. I mean we can.. We sometimes will not practice compassion.
(Q. So, I am confused. It seemed like something happened. And whether.. Something happened to him. And whether we call it torture or imprisonment or we don’t put those names on it, something still happened.) I’m not saying that something is not happening. I just saying that when things happen they cannot happen apart from our giving words to them. That’s the only way they can happen. That’s the first statement. It’s not to say they are not happening. It’s the way they happen. The way we meet.. The meaning of suffering, the way it has meaning is the way we think about it, the way we talk about it. And that’s how things happen. They do happen and that’s the way they happen. The meaning of them, the meaning of it, is how the words work with each other, the way we use them. That’s what some people tell this story and they have this meaning. Some people tell another story and they have another meaning. And the way the meaning comes is about the way they use the words. So if you follow the way that you are using the words when something is happening, this is the path to wisdom. If you think that the words are referring to something, this is our normal ignorance. So if you think being in prison refers to something other than the story of being in prison (which is normal) then that will make it more difficult for you to practice compassion. You can still practice compassion somewhat. You can still be patient with the pain of thinking that being in prison or being bent and tortured..You can still be kind to that by practicing generosity and ethics and patience. But if you think, that what’s happening refers to something other than the way you are thinking about it, then you might actually stop being compassionate because it’s so undermining to be deluded. But you can be compassionate even while you’re deluded. But it’s impure because you think that something other than words, that the word not just words, that the words refer to something. This is the normal problem. (Q. Right. I think there’s an event and then I call it a name. But you are saying..) Yeah, exactly. You think there’s an event and you call it a name. But things are not necessarily something that arises and ceases. Things are, maybe, ungraspable. So then onto the ungraspable we put a word so we can grasp it. And that’s ok because the grasping of the word that we put on something that’s ungraspable can guide us to the ungraspable. Matter of fact, we need to use words about the ungraspable. We need to use words about Perfect Wisdom to get to Perfect Wisdom. But Perfect Wisdom is not grasped by the words. We need to use words about suffering in order to get to Perfect Wisdom of the suffering. To get to the lack of a basis in the suffering for apprehension, that’s the Perfect Wisdom in the suffering. It’s there all the time, but because we are using words in other ways… What’s the way we use words…we usually use them as “here’s the words and they are meaningful and they refer to something”. That distracts us from the process where the meaning is and adds delusion into it which doesn’t destroy and stop compassion entirely, but it undermines it. Does that make more sense to you now? (Q You said that an event is ungraspable. Can you elaborate?) Well, I said that all phenomenon actually lack a basis for grasping. The only way we can grasp things is by putting a word on them and then we grasp the image of the word. But things themselves dependently co-arise. Everything depends on causes and conditions; things don’t depend on themselves to exist. They depend on causes and conditions to exist. If you try to grasp something, if you look deeply you realize you never get the thing. All you can get is the causes and conditions of the thing. So if you look deeply you would be able to see that nothing can be found. And the reason that nothing can be found is that everything is the result of causes and conditions. Nothing is the result of itself. That was an elaboration which I just gave you. Ok? (Q. Causes and effects of that event, originated who knows when and they are inconceivable to think that it came together..) That’s right. It’s inconceivable. The actual causes and conditions of any event is inconceivable. So what we need to do is we need to be able to tolerate inconceivability, which is the ultimate truth. So Perfect Wisdom can look at the inconceivable and tolerate it. And we get to tolerate the inconceivable by using the conceivable. By using words which are conceivable, we get to the inconceivable. By using conventional truth, which is expressionable, we can go to what is inexpressible. Which is actually the way things are. Which is actually the way our life is. Actually the way our life is is Perfect Wisdom. But we need training to be able to tolerate Perfect Wisdom which means that we tolerate inconceivability, we tolerate inexpressibility. But the way to get there, is through conceivability and expressibility which we are doing here in this situation. We are using expression in the service of all beings and we are trying to develop Perfect Wisdom in service of all beings. (Q. Can that be simultaneous?)
Can conceivable and inconceivable be simultaneous? They always are simultaneous and there is not the slightest difference between them. From the point of view of the inconceivable, there is not the slightest bit of difference between delusion and Perfect Wisdom. There is not the slightest bit of difference between the world of birth and death and all its miseries and the world of nirvana. They are not the slightest bit different. And they are also both… and samasara only exists by giving it a name. Same with nirvana. It only exists by giving it a name. But the Buddha doesn’t teach that they do exist. The Buddha says this is how they exist. And then when you see them existing, then understand that they do exist not apart from giving them a name. In other words, they don’t have another existence over here apart from existence by giving them a name. They don’t have a referent that’s sitting over there saying, ‘well, you’re talking about me but I’m over here.’ There’s not a thing over there. The thing that you are creating is because of the words. (Q. What happens that people appear separate?) That you gave a word to their relationship, called ‘separation’. (Q Sometimes I don’t use the word and I feel separation. Sometimes I do use the word and I don’t feel separation.) Did you say sometimes you don’t use the word and you feel separation? I’m not saying every time you use the word you get the thing. (Q. What is that?) That’s called the way you use the word. How you put it… The path to wisdom is to watch how you put it, to watch how you use the word. Watch how you use the word. Watch how she uses the word. Watch that. It’s the way you use it is where the meaning is. And switching to look for the meaning in that way will take you to wisdom. But trying to follow the word to its object will take you away from wisdom. If you want to know why did I choose this word and why does this word work this way this time, don’t look for the object over there for the reason. The reason is because of the way you used it. Like I mentioned the other night, people said to Suzuki Roshi, “Why do we have seven day sesshins?” And he said, “Because we go one, two, three, four, five, six, seven.” We have these sesshins. They are meaningful because of the way we use words. Q. I was thinking about aggression around precious things and I was thinking as you were talking, “when presented with a jewel, you will not raise your sword” and I was always kind of puzzled by that and as you were talking I was thinking maybe there’s aggression around precious things, even precious teachings, because there’s separating it out and this thing is more precious than that instead of saying everything is precious.) Even if you say everything is precious, and you think that refers to something, you will raise your sword. Perfect Wisdom is the most precious thing. All of these Sutras start out, “Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, the Lovely, the Blessed, the Holy” and the Perfection of Wisdom is worthless. (Q. I want to mention chanting which seems like a special case of words…Dai Shin Dharani.. but the words don’t actually mean anything to me. They evoke a certain devotion or expression of feeling but those are words that really don’t mean anything.) Maybe. But the existence of the Dai Shin Dharani, I’m saying for you it doesn’t exist aside from words. So although you say the words of the Dai Shin Dharani don’t make any sense for you, don’t have meaning for you, there is a meaning of you chanting the Dai Shin Dharani. That’s a meaningful thing that exists in your life. Because you just told us you have this story that you chant the Dai Shin Dharani. The existence of that for you, there’s no existence of that process of chanting that aside from the words you gave to that process. Now the path of wisdom is to watch how this thing called ‘Chanting the Dai Shin Dharani’ occurred. So the Dai Shin Dharani is an opportunity for you to practice Perfect Wisdom. But maybe the meaning is not in the words of the Dai Shin Dharani. The meaning is in the words ‘we are chanting the Dai Shin Dharani’. Or the words that ‘these words don’t have meaning for me’. That’s a meaningful statement. I understood what you were saying and that wasn’t only your way of talking. But that doesn’t refer to anything. And that’s the hard part is that this ‘me chanting the Dai Shin Dharani’ doesn’t have an object or a referent. That’s the part that we have trouble learning. (When we chant, I wonder if because its done at a certain time and .. I’m wondering if people are even thinking ‘I am chanting the Dai Shin Dharani’. It’s almost like words bypassing words. I love to chant. That’s what it feels like.)
That’s the point, is to use words not to by-pass words, not to by-pass them, to use them to realize what is wordless. To realize what doesn’t depend on them. But we use them. So somebody can be chanting the Dai Shin Dharani, understanding it or not understanding it, using the words and it’s possible to use these words in such a way as to understand the special transmission which doesn’t depend on these words or any words. And if we’re fighting about what words to use to realize this, it’s probably going to be difficult, but not impossible, to realize wisdom with those words. We should be generous towards this. (Q. So this addiction/compulsion..To make sense of things by naming them (Q. To get at the ungraspable so in our sitting practice, when we see that, the best thing to do is…? Well, practice generosity with it. Try to be ethical with it. Don’t blame the people who set the schedule with it and say they are creeps and torturers. Don’t slander yourself for being better than the people around you, or worse. And so on. Practice the precepts with this situation and be patient. This sets a stage for you now to think, how does this thing exist? It has not existence separate from the word ‘pain’ or ‘sitting’ or ‘posture’. The pain has no existence separate from the naming of it. But you have to sort of set the stage. That’s why Suzuki Roshi said zazen, our sitting together especially for a long time, is a great tenderizer. If you just sit there and you don’t…for a while we fight it maybe. We fight for one or two days and three days we fight a little less and by four days we’re not fighting much at all and fifth day we are not fighting any more. Discomfort or the boringness or waste of my life or withdrawal from technologies, it’s just the same but I’m not fighting it anymore. I am tender. And now I can accept that I have to get up and leave the sesshin. And I can also notice that the body doesn’t exist apart from the word ‘body’ and Perfect Wisdom can arise but I have to be tender with these other hassles to be able to be open to this teaching. And it can happen.
So we are chanting the Heart Sutra every day. We’re having lectures on the Heart Sutra. We’re being told, don’t try to grasp these lectures about the Heart Sutra. But we still think there’s something besides the words of the Heart Sutra to grasp as the meaning of the Heart Sutra. But the meaning of the Heart Sutra is not separate from the words. It’s in how the words are being used. That’s where the meaning is. Not in the words and not separate from the words. So a little people can say, “I believe the meaning is not in the words” but they think the meaning is someplace else. Dogen says, “The Buddha Way is like performing your daily life”. Have lunch. Sit. Walk. Talk. Do these things as the Buddha Way and understand that there is not another Buddha Way besides the talk about the Buddha Way that you are involved with. The Buddha Way that you are living is the Buddha Way that exists not apart from the words “Buddha Way’, ‘sitting’ and so on. It’s very hard for people to understand, to be convinced that that is so. Some of Dogen’s greatest students could not accept..They didn’t believe their great teacher. They thought that performing the Buddha Way, performing their daily tasks of Buddhist practice of monastic life, they thought ‘that’s fine’ and they did it but they thought there was another Buddha Way, a shadow Buddha Way, that was the real Buddha Way. That was the BIG Buddha Way. But the Big Buddha Way is not separate. And the same thing would apply to that. There’s no Buddha Way separate from the Big Buddha Way. That’s how we have to train ourselves, so that when you are sitting, you may notice the mind going and of thinking there’s something more to Buddhism besides you sitting here with your hands on your knees, shaking your head and blinking your eyes. That there is some other Buddhism than that. (Q. I would like to ask,..In relation to preciousness and aggression and behavior…when it comes to fracking… Yeah, fracking and also raping. Fracking and raping. (Q> So you can make it what you want by how you hold it. But it’s wrong. Because that’s the meaning you make. Then you do something about it or you don’t do something about it?) Well, you will do something about it. We always do something about it. The question is will you be acting from wisdom? Or will you be acting from thinking that the word ‘wrong’ refers to something. If you think something is wrong, you can just say.. You can use your words. As they say now when kids are screaming, we say ‘use your words’ so you see violence and you scream maybe. But also maybe you should use some words like, the scream is not very clear. IT might get people’s attention but when you get their attention, you can say ‘would you please stop’, but is that ‘stop’ coming from wisdom or is it coming from belief that your sense of wrong is coming from some real thing called ‘wrong’. Most people, when they use a word get distracted from the word and think the word refers to something and then their compassionate activity is somewhat undermined. But if you can say, “I think that’s wrong. I want you to stop.” And you can say it compassionately, that’s good. But the compassion could look very extremely intense and people might not think it was compassionate but that wouldn’t be the point. The point is it’s coming from wisdom and you say, “Please stop” or just “Stop” “I need you to stop”. And if you have wisdom you can keep saying that forever for the welfare of all beings. If you think that it refers to something, your draining yourself by that understanding and you will eventually disable yourself from doing the work of opposing things that you think are evil. It’s a service to give your words, “I think this is evil. I want you to stop.” It’s a service that we should perform. But to perform it in the best way it needs to be accompanied by Perfect Wisdom and Perfect Wisdom understands that there’s no basis for grasping ‘please stop harming him’. I can say, “Please stop harming him” more wholeheartedly if I don’t grasp that there’s a basis to me saying that. It’s called the Lion’s Roar!. That’s the Buddha’s Lion’s Roar. People will listen because it’s not saying that there’s something out there separate from the roar and it doesn’t tire the lion to roar it. But if you are roaring and you think there it refers to something, pretty soon you will sound like a mouse. Because it drains you to think that you’ve got the truth and it’s true because it’s not just what you think. It refers to something. That’s what we are being asked to give up. But in order to.. These go together. In order to give it up, you need to practice compassion a lot because you can’t tolerate that truth of giving up You can’t tolerate the truth that comes when you give up that your words have reference unless you practice compassion. When you practice compassion and give up that your words refer to something, then your compassion really blossoms. So you need compassion to get to Perfect Wisdom and when you get there, then all your compassion practices are unhindered by thinking that your words have references and that your words are talking about things that can be grasped. Bodhisattvas are social workers. They work with people. They get in there and they can get in there because they know there are no beings to work with. They vow to work with all beings, all sufferings. They vow that. They also have to remember that there are no beings to help. You can’t get a hold of any beings. They need that in order to do this amazing work. So we are here..We are not fully enlightened. We are on the path.) It does seem that way. (Q. So we are coming here and the teachings you are sharing with us, we are coming to get close to them to learn..In between that I am feeling that there is a space between us and the knowledge…almost floating where there’s no attachment but we still stay connected to the teaching and try to be compassionate and practice. Yes. With the conventional things which words create for us. We continue taking care of the conventional truth because if you don’t take care of the conventional truth, the ultimate truth is not appropriate. Once you realize ultimate truth, it’s not that you stop taking care of the conventional truth after that. It’s that you take care of it better. (Q. Wondering how to understand modern science) You’re wondering about how to understand modern science? Me too. (Q. Scientists send rockets to Mars, create nanno technology.. they are thinking that their words have a referent.) Some of them do. Maybe most of them think that. But the ones who don’t, are more effective I would say. And I think some of them do not think what you just said. Some scientists have wisdom and some don’t. And the ones that do have wisdom are the ones who do not think that what that appears for them have an objective referent. I would say the same with great artists. They create these great things. And the greatness of their art is when they understand their art does not, is not referring to something. And people who look at the art who are still addicted to thinking that this image refers to something, the artist is conveying to them in some way, to the extent that they have wisdom, they are conveying the message that this think doesn’t refer to anything. And it’s a pleasant way, sometimes, for people to open to (the idea that) these things, these images, do not have referents. This is what I think the greatest art is doing. This is what I think the greatest music is doing. It’s being offered and then people give it a name and then it exists for them but there’s a message inside. Like these sutras, there’s a message inside the words which is saying, these words do not refer to anything. Perfect Wisdom is being given to you. Thank you very much for the Perfect Wisdom!. And by the way, what I just gave you has no way of being gotten at. Music does that too. It says, here’s this thing, please accept it. And you say thank you. And the music says, ‘by the way, you can’t get a hold of this music’ and you say ‘ok, I can deal with that’. Because you have just done this great…you’ve made my body and mind able to accept that I can’t get at this music. So the music, it conveys to us the ability to accept that the music cannot be grasped. Some scientists are doing that too. They are not all deluded in that way of thinking that what they are doing has an objective referent. They have.. Even scientists can be wise. Etc. Even x can be wise if x will do this practice. But this practice is difficult. It is called “deep”. Deep means difficult. They both start with the same letter. So when you’re studying something deep, don’t be discouraged. That also starts with the same letter. Deep, don’t, delve, into being discouraged. Ok? It’s normal that it’s difficult. (Q. This thought had never occurred to me so I have to ask.. Is it ok? (Is it still 11? No it’s getting close to 12. (Q. What was triggered in me. stillness is ungraspable, but what I see is that when there’s this movement, like in art, it’s not the picture of the art, it’s the feeling of the movement of the art which makes us try to make the ungraspable graspable. Yeah, so maybe that’s part of the art is for the artist to show us at what point we can’t tolerate not grasping anymore. So partly the artists goes, ’ok you’re now you are able to not grasp so now I do this’ the artists starts doing this so, oh, now here’s the grasping. So part of the art, part of the teaching is to offer you something so you can taste not grasping and then to offer you something so you can notice here comes the grasping again. So that’s part of the process, to reveal the more subtle forms of grasping after getting a taste of ‘wow, got a little break from grasping there, how nice’ and then the teacher says. … you know that story Rumplestillskin. Maybe you didn’t grow up with Rumplestillskin. Well anyway. This girl was supposed to spin straw into gold. Which is difficult. She cried and cried and cried and a little guy popped out and said, “I’ll help you”. And so he helped her spin straw into gold. Then the person who was forcing her to do it, the king of the country, said, “That’s very good. Now you can spin twice as much straw into gold.” And the little guy appeared again and helped her. But then the first time he helped her he gave it as a gift. “Yeah, I’ll spin this straw into gold”. But the second time his greed came out. He said, “I’ll do this one into gold too but you have to give me something.” So sometimes you can be generous and think you’re not trying to get anything and then the thing gets more precious. You say, “This is too good to pass up. I’m going to get this one.” This things comes by and you say, “Oh, hello. Nice to meet you. Bye-bye. That’s nice.” Or “Hello. This is terrible. Ok. Ok. That’s not good but I’m not going to attach to It.”. But when something else comes in a more subtle form of grasping comes up. So I think you are noticing that sometimes you are able to practice the teaching of things are ungraspable. And stillness is sometimes a really nice opportunity to say, “wow. Nothing can be grasped and I’m ok with that.” “Oh Yeah! How about this?” “Oh no. That is real. So I am going back to grasping if you’re going to do that.” We reach our limit of how much ungraspability we can stand and we start grasping again. And that is not the end of the story. Ok? We get more chances. And the idea is eventually, through many, many more cases of remembering the teaching, we get consistent. It takes an incalculable number of trials to get to that point. That is normal! That’s normal for this practice to transform a being into what it can become is a long process of training.
Is that enough for now?