Meditation on Pride
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Chapter Four, Afternoon
No Abode 8/15/09 PM
Trans: Karen Mueller
Reb: Those who are overcome by pride and conceit are ordinary beings. While those who are not overcome by pride and conceit are unusual.
This reminds me of.. or the teacher Eihei Dogen says, Buddhas are those who are greatly enlightened about delusion; for example, conceit. Buddhas are those who are greatly enlightened about conceit and other delusions. Sentient beings are those who are greatly deluded about enlightenment.
That’s lovely but also I would say that some sentient beings are not greatly deluded about enlightenment. Some sentient beings have some ideas about enlightenment but they don’t… they’re not proud of them. They’re not proud of them. They just have ideas about sentient beings. But they don’t approve of their understanding. But they do have some understanding. They don’t approve of their understanding of enlightenment but they do have such a thing. One time I was at Tassajara and Suzuki Roshi was giving a talk and he said something like, “My disciples,.. [blah, blah].” And when he said it I thought, I wonder if I’m one of his disciples. He was saying something about his disciples and I wondered if I was one of them. So afterwards I said, “Roshi, who are your disciples?” I didn’t say “am I?”. I said, “Who are your disciples?” And he said, “I don’t like it that I think this way, but I do”. In other words he had a,.. an understanding of who his disciples were. He said, “I don’t like it that I think this way but I do. There are two kinds of students at Tassajara. I think that way. One kind of student is here for themselves. They’re here practicing for themselves; maybe for their own enlightenment. Other students are here to help others. The ones who are here to help others are my disciples”. So, I can see whether I was his disciple then. If I’m there to help other people, then I’m his disciple. If I’m there practicing to help myself, I’m not his disciple. And if he’s practicing for himself, he’s not his own disciple. I’m bringing this story up also to say he was thinking this way about the students at Tassajara, but he didn’t approve of himself for thinking about them that way. But he did. And it was quite useful to me that he was thinking about them that way because then I could look to see if I was a disciple. Which reminds me of the previous chapter, where it says, “the character of the compounded realm and the ultimate is the character devoid of sameness and difference. Those who impute sameness and difference are improperly oriented”. So Suzuki Roshi was sorry that he was imputing this categories onto the students at Tassajara; he was sorry to be improperly oriented but it was helpful to me. I think. I also wanted to say something I think that’s related to this. What I meant to say some time ago was that there’s a basic practice of being silent and still. And the practice of this ceremony of being silent and still is a way to realize silence and stillness. So you can have an understanding about phenomena and that understanding can be an opportunity to realize an understanding which is beyond your understanding, if you’re not conceited about your understanding. Your understanding, my understanding. My understanding is my consciousness. Your understanding is your consciousness with its understanding. But your understanding, your conscious and my understanding, my consciousness, do not reach the understanding of the Buddhas. And the understanding of the Buddhas is also not reached by the consciousness of the Buddhas. No consciousness reaches the Buddha’s illumination, but that illumination can illuminate our consciousnesses. If we do not think that our consciousness is the illumination or that our consciousness reaches it. In other words, if we’re not conceited about our understanding the correct understanding can illuminate us. And if we practice the ceremony of sitting, the ceremony of being still, and the ceremony of being silent, which we do practice here, and we realize that that’s a ceremony. My sitting still is not stillness. There is a stillness which your being still and my being still can realize, but our sitting still is not stillness. Stillness is beyond our human ceremony of stillness. But our human.. or limited human ceremony can realize actual stillness of the Buddha. But we must be not proud of our sitting still. We must realize I’m just pretending to be sitting still, I’m pretending to be quiet. I’m pretending to be a Buddha. And my pretending doesn’t reach Buddha, silence or stillness, but this is the only way to realize it in this limited world. And not only is it the only way, but it does work. And the working of it is the practice of pretending to be a Buddha, or pretending to be a bodhisattva, of pretending to be kind, of pretending to be calm, of pretending to be still, of pretending to be silent ,of pretending to be open, pretending to be open, we let in the actual openness. So we must realize that we’re just pretending to be practicing the Buddha way. Rather than be proud and say ‘I am actually practicing the Buddha way, this is what.. What I am doing is the Buddha way. It just turns out that it is because it is, because I am,.. etc’. ‘No I’m just pretending to practice the Buddha way and that’s a delusion. And I know it’s a delusion and I don’t think it’s anything more than that’. Or at least right now I don’t. So this is.. this is part of the antidote. I’m trying to work on developing the antidote to the pride. The actual view that we’re doing this or that, we don’t need an antidote to that. We just need an antidote for being proud of it and making too much out of it. Whatever little thing we’re doing, if we’re not conceited about it, it can be a landing pad or a launching pad for the Buddha way. Because the ultimate, which is the object of purification of the phenomena, the object of observation for the purification of phenomena, is everywhere the same. Whatever we’re doing, it has this character which is the same as the character of all phenomena. It’s right there in whatever we’re doing. What we’re doing is fine if we’re not.. and we just gotta be careful not to be conceited about it. Which includes being careful to admit that we’re being conceited about it. So I invite you to help me understand, without conceit, what the one taste of all phenomena is. And how the ultimate is that one taste of all phenomena. Please help me. Yes? Even you, I guess, huh? Even you can help me.
Huoma: I don’t know if I can help.
Reb: Cause the one taste must have something to do with you too.
Huoma: I just like to express myself; I don’t know if I can help. But you mentioned about the pretending of stillness… of people sitting in the form of pretending stillness.
Reb: Yeah. We’ve been doing that today.
Huoma: I don’t think so. I think stillness like any other, like any other.. like grace. Stillness is a grace that comes.
Reb: No, I’m not saying you pretend to be stillness. You shouldn’t do that. You should just pretend to be still. Because you can’t. Your consciousness cannot know stillness. All your consciousness can know is your view of being still. Like you think you’re being still or you think you’re moving. You can know that. I’m not suggesting that you pretend to be stillness. That would be.. what do you call it? That would just be too.. that would be.. I’ not asking you to be a lunatic. I’m just asking you to be a normal deluded person who thinks they’re like, being still or that thinks they’re being quiet. That’s all.
Huoma: But do you think you’re quiet? Or do you think the quietness inside. You don’t think it. It just comes. It’s.. it’s.
Reb: Well, do you think you’re being quiet when you’re talking?
Reb: Well, that’s what I mean. It’s like that. You don’t think you’re quiet when you’re talking. And when you stop talking, you might think well, I’m at least doing the ceremony of not.. of being quiet, because I’m not talking. So I’m just doing a little ceremony. Or like if you.. if I join my hands and “palm” to you, I’m doing the ceremony of being respectful to you. If I make some other gestures toward you, I don’t think I’m doing the ceremony of being respectful. I’d think that was a disrespectful gesture, you know. Like, I don’t know what.. I won’t demonstrate. But there are certain gestures which I think are disrespectful.
Huoma: But you’re thinking in that moment. You’re not being it.
Reb: It’s not really true that it’s disrespectful. It’s just that I think so. Or somebody else thinks so. Or I think this mudra is respectful. In other words I’m pretending to be respectful. And also when I’m being disrespectful, it’s good for me to realize I’m pretending to be disrespectful. I’m not really disrespectful. I’m not ultimately, absolutely, truly disrespectful. I just think I’m being disrespectful and maybe other people think so too. But sometimes I think I’m being respectful and other people agree with me or don’t. But we’re thinking.
This is our deluded version of what’s going on. I think I’m being respectful. I think I’m being quiet. I think I’m being still. And I’m actually intending to do the ceremony of being quiet and do the ceremony of being still and do the ceremony of being seated Buddha. But it’s just a ceremony. I don’t want to be conceited about this and think that I’m actually a seated Buddha and I’m actually being silent and I’m actually being still. That I’m actually silence and stillness of the Buddha. I don’t want to go that far because then I’ll be closed to the silence and stillness of Buddha. So I just do the little ceremony of being silent and still and then in that humble pretense, I’m open to the silence and stillness of the Buddha. That’s my proposal. My action cannot reach it. But it can reach me if I allow it by not making too much out of myself. But I should make something out of myself, like a person who’s practicing being silent.
So now we start sesshin tomorrow night at Green Gulch and we’re going to practice the ceremony of sitting silent and still. And some people might make too much out of that and that will be too bad because they’ll be practicing but because of making too much out of it, because of being conceited about their sitting one way or another, like conceited about this is really lousy or this is really great. If they apprehend their sitting as being the way they think it is, that will interfere with their ability to realize the ultimate. But if they’re not, then they’re like the people who are open to it.
Huoma: And can this ceremony and the experience, is there a delay in the ceremony and the experience?
Reb: No, there’s no delay. As soon as you do the ceremony, that realizes the ultimate. But if you do the ceremony which realizes the ultimate and you think the ceremony is the ultimate then you’re being conceited about your ceremony. You don’t think it’s a ceremony. You think it’s the ultimate; that’s conceit. That’s approving of your understanding. Like, I do think it’s a ceremony but I don’t approve of that. I admit I think I’m doing the ceremony. I think I’m sitting here with you guys. I think I’m being quiet with you guys. But I don’t approve of that. I don’t want to approve of that. And if I do, I welcome your feedback. ‘You look like you approve of the idea that you’re sitting there.’ ‘Oops! Sorry. Sorry. Let me try again. Hmm. How’s that?’ ‘That was much better. That time you really looked like you understood the joke of sitting still.’
Breck: And to a certain extent is it now also a conceit to think I am sitting or I am doing sitting?
Reb: Again if you think I am sitting and you apprehend that and think that that’s true, then you’re conceited about that thought. Mmm-hmm. You’re welcome
So, Huoma didn’t want to help me. So does anyone else want to help me?
Yes, helper? It must be you cause you’re the example of the one taste, right?
Elena: So today as I was sitting..
Reb: Were you sitting?
Elena: Well, I was sitting down ..
Reb: Were you sitting down or were you think you were sitting down?
Elena: Well I think I was sitting down.
Reb: Yeah, so today when you thought you were sitting down?
Elena: There were certain sensations in my body indicated I was on the floor…(Laughter.) But in
Reb: You mean certain sensations indicated that you thought you were on the floor?
Elena: Sure. I thought I was on the floor. I was thinking..
Elena: Yeah, I was thinking I was on the floor.
Reb: Yeah, right. You thought that, yeah?
Elena: And I .. I was.. I must admit..
Reb: Ok, here comes an admission.
Elena: A great doubt about whether what I was sitting was sitting. I was just…
Reb: Yeah, that great doubt, that’s good, that’s very good. A great doubt about whether the sitting that I’m doing is actual sitting. And that doubt might open you to let the actual sitting in, which is not you’re thinking that you’re sitting but the actual sitting of the Buddhas.
So great doubt means, big open vast doubt about ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, but I think I’m sitting here. I do think I’m sitting here but I don’t know what I’m doing’. And not.. and ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ doesn’t mean ‘well maybe I’m actually the sitting of the Buddha’. No. But maybe I’m allowing the actual sitting of Buddha. So I’m realizing the actual sitting of Buddha. ‘I don’t know if I’m the sitting of the Buddha.’ ‘I don’t know if I’m a falcon’. ‘I don’t know if I’m a song, a great song.’ ‘I don’t know if I’m a storm.’ I don’t know what I am and I doubt, for example, that I’m any of those things which I might be.
And in that I call on Susan. Yes?
Susan: Are there conditions that are more conducive to the conceit falling away?
Reb: Yeah, there are conditions that are conducive.
Susan: Can you say?
Reb: No, but I can talk.
Noticing that you’re conceited is really helpful. It seems to be one of the traditional things, that the unconceited ones have spent quite a bit of time noticing. The Buddhas have.. they study delusion. They are very knowledgeable about delusion. They don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their enlightenment. They don’t spend a lot of time thinking that what they’re thinking is enlightenment. They don’t spend a lot of time thinking that their understanding is to be approved. But they do notice if they do think that and then they say ‘oh that’s a delusion’.
Susan: So is the ceremony of sitting still also a conducive condition?
Reb: I think the ceremony.. if you sit still as a ceremony, I think that’s kind of like sitting still knowing that you have a.. you’re enacting your idea of sitting still. So realizing that you’re doing a ceremony of sitting still, I think, is conducive to realizing the actual stillness. And in the realization of actual stillness also surfaces any other kinds of conceits that are around. The stillness helps you become aware of other conceits. And so when you notice the conceit, that’s good. I wonder if there’s anybody here who hasn’t seen any conceits in your neighborhood lately? John?
John: I propose that one taste of all phenomena is realization of non-separation from others.
Reb: Realization of non-separation? Mmm-hmmm.
Reb: Realization of non-separation is kind of like realization of the ultimate which is of one taste. Mmm-hmmm. Norbert?
Norbert: When Suzuki Roshi said to you that he didn’t approve thinking that way..
Reb: He didn’t say he didn’t approve of it. He said, “I don’t like it”. I felt like he was saying, ‘I don’t like that my mind categorizes these students here. I don’t like that my mind does this; but it does into these two types of Tassajara students’. He didn’t like it but he confessed that he did. He had this kind of thing that like his mind did to the poor students. And then, the disciples were on one side and the non-disciples were in the other part. So when he was saying, “my disciples”, that’s what he was talking about. And he kinda didn’t like that. But he told me something about himself that he didn’t like too much. He was not proud that his mind did this. He wasn’t saying that this was really true. I didn’t feel like he was saying that this was really true. It was more like his mind was playing with this. And I would that add from my perspective, he descended into delusion to help me, to help us. But he didn’t like.. he was a little bit queasy about being deluded that way. This is kinda like how I feel today.
John: I wanted to offer that this teaching disturbs me, makes me agitated. I’m not able to practice silence and stillness with it. There’s a set-up in it that makes me very dissatisfied with my analytical understanding of anything that’s being said. I just wanted to offer that up.
Reb: You’re having trouble being satisfied with your understanding?
Reb: So,.. and you’re uncomfortable with this new way of life?
Reb: Yeah. When you’re not satisfied with your understanding, you’re not overwhelmed by conceit. Congratulations!
John: But it’s not an easy place to be then.
Reb: No, not being prideful is not comfortable is not comfortable for us. We’re not used to it. We’re used to being proud. ‘My understanding may not be perfect but it’s…. I’m satisfied with it.’
(Anon speaker): ‘And it’s mine!’
Reb: ‘And it’s mine.’ So not being satisfied is again, kind of unfamiliar and uncomfortable in the unfamiliarness. And even if you get more familiar with it you still might be somewhat uncomfortable. Sorry. But that’s normal I think to be somewhat uncomfortable with.. For example, when you’re proud you might think that you’re going to be able to control things, right? With your understanding. And when you’re not satisfied with your understanding, things start getting loosened up a little bit. So, that sounds pretty good. And I’m not really sorry that you’re uncomfortable. I’m not really sorry because I think it’s.. it’s a discomfort that comes with something really good. So I think it’s a good price for something really good. But it does takes some getting used to. You get seasick at first with this being out in the big ocean.
Johnnie: At first I heard on page 59, the Bhagavan saying “I have perfectly and completely realized the ultimate”. This sounds awfully conceited.
Reb: Yeah, yeah.
Johnnie: And so I ..
Reb: Yeah, so that’s why most of us say, ‘well I understand a little bit’. Cause really we think.. but we don’t want to say that cause we know that sounds conceited. So we say it in a way that we are pretty sure doesn’t sound conceited. We’re proud that we know how not to sound so conceited. The Buddha, the Buddha just puts it out there and he’s saying, ‘I completely understand something with no conceit’.. with no pride.
Carolyn: That’s the only circumstances.. selfless conceit.
Reb: There’s not conceit though. It’s selfless no conceit. It’s selfless statement of perfection.
Johnnie: So I struggled with how can this not be conceited? I thought maybe it one simply has openness and finds something and doesn’t attribute the finding as a result of seeking then maybe he could just say, ‘this is what I found’. But to believe that..
Reb: did you say “defining”?
Johnnie: He finds, basically he found…
Reb: Yeah, but also he didn’t find anything. ‘When I attained complete perfect understanding of the ultimate, I didn’t find anything.’ He also says that. But not here. But he says that before. When he attained complete nirvana, complete enlightenment there was nothing at all he attained and there was no means by which he attained it. And then he says, ‘because I didn’t attain anything and because there was no means by which I attained it, that’s why it’s complete perfect enlightenment and that’s why I’m not conceited because I don’t have anything to be conceited about.’
Johnnie: So seeking is not such a good deal. I mean.
Reb: Seeking is not such a good deal. No it’s not such a good deal.
Johnnie: Cause maybe many people, maybe the other students at Tassajara were seeking and that’s not such a good deal. Was that..?
Reb: Well or even.. it’s also possible that some of the people who were there to help others were seeking too, but maybe they got to be in is his disciple camp because they were seeking to help others. Those who were seeking, but not only seeking to help themselves, they got put in that category.
Anyway it’s wonderful to talk to you today and if you’d like to do a little ceremony. Those of you who can stay, we’ll clean up the room bit and do a little ceremony or maybe even we’ll do a huge ceremony for some huge beings who we may be responsible for cutting down. For the sake… Hopefully for their own welfare.
Is there anything you want to say before we stop?
Speaker: Reb, who are your disciples?
Reb: I, unlike Suzuki Roshi, am not able to talk at this time about this. But when I do, I’ll be sorry.