Stories of Enlightenment

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In our class this fall we will contemplate and converse about several stories of Zen practice and enlightenment. Our contemplation and conversations will naturally bring up questions and concerns about our daily life and how to meet the great and small challenges of our wonderful and troubled world in beneficial and liberating ways.

AI Summary: 



I'm going to, for the time being, skip over telling you what enlightenment is. I'll tell you later, but not now. I'm going to start by telling you a story. Not exactly a story about enlightenment, although you could say it's a story about enlightenment. I would say, where are you going, Joanne? I'm trying to be very discreet. I want to hear you and see you better. Okay. All the better to hear you. Are you a wolf? So, I'm going to tell a story of enlightenment, or an enlightenment story. And you could say it's a story about enlightenment.


So, the story is a story from about a thousand years ago or more in China. And one of the teachers said to one of the students, and the teacher's name was, Mi Hu. But usually the Hu is not, it's Chinese, right? Mi Hu. But the Hu is not usually Romanized. W-H-O. It's usually Romanized H-U. M-I-H-U. It's the name of a Zen teacher. And he had one of his students go ask a friend of his a question.


The question was, do people these days need enlightenment or not? Did you hear the question? Can you say it? Do people these days need enlightenment or not? So, the monk went to see another teacher whose name was Yang Shan. By the way, Yang means like to venerate or worship. And Shan means mountain. So, his name means venerating the mountains. So, the monk asked Yang Shan the question, do people these days need enlightenment or not? And Yang Shan said, it's not that there is no enlightenment.


But how can one not fall into the secondary? The secondary. So, one example of secondary is seeking enlightenment. It may already make sense to you that enlightenment is not seeking enlightenment. And that can turn. Enlightenment is not seeking enlightenment. Another way you could hear it was, seeking enlightenment is not enlightenment. Why are you frowning? What? Yeah.


So, how can you not fall into straining to understand? So, it's not that there's... The teacher says, it's not... Literally, it's like, it's not... Enlightenment is not non-existent. He doesn't say enlightenment does exist. He didn't say that. He's not saying, but he is saying, it's not non-existent. He could also say, it's not existent, but he didn't. Did you get that? He said, enlightenment is not non-existent. And by the way, I would just mention that that applies not only in China in those days, when there were lots of great Zen teachers, but it applies to now. Enlightenment is not non-existent.


And by the way, it also applies to here. It applied to then and there. And it applies to here and now. Enlightenment is not non-existent. And I just might mention, it also isn't existent. It doesn't fall into existence or non-existence. But given what he says next, maybe it's best that he says, enlightenment is not non-existent. Or it's not that there's no enlightenment. But how can one not fall into the secondary of seeking it? How can one not fall into the secondary of seeking enlightenment? That's kind of like what's called homework for Zen students.


We got enlightenment. No, we don't got it. We got a school, and in this school, enlightenment is not non-existent. We got a class here on enlightenment. And in this class, enlightenment is not non-existent. But how can we not fall into seeking it? I haven't even told you about how good it is. Before I say anything about how great it is, which might perk you up, make you perky, and make you think, I think maybe I'm going to go get some of that. By the way, Katie, could you move that way a little bit so that Tiffany could move that way a little bit? Because I can't see Tiffany. Great. Thank you.


So that's pretty simple, right? Enlightenment is not non-existent here. And the great teacher saying, how can we not fall into seeking it? Now, it's normal in this world that some people are seeking good things, that people are seeking enlightenment. That's part of the deal in this world. Some people are. Some people aren't. I mean, yeah, some people aren't. Maybe. Maybe some people aren't. But there's a possibility that even the people who are seeking enlightenment don't fall into that. They just seek it. But, you know, and then they just let it go. It's not not here.


And it's not here. However, it's the name of the game. And it can be realized. This enlightenment, which is not not here, and also not here, can be realized. And then, again, I'm not going to tell you all the good things that are possible then. It can be realized. And in order to realize it, the recommendation here is not to fall into the secondary. And one big secondary is to seek it. Because, again, given what I just said, it's kind of contradictory to seek something that's not not here. And also it's kind of even more subtly not appropriate


to seek something that's not here. That's not not here. So that's the story. That's the first story of enlightenment. And some people would say, and the people who are in the story have realized enlightenment and they're talking to each other about it. So someone might say now, do you think these days in the 21st century, do you think these days, do people need enlightenment or not? And some of you might say, yeah, they need it. We need a lot of it. But he didn't say, yes, they need it. He said, it's not that there isn't any. It's just the job is not falling into the secondary. And then there's a poem.


A poem, well, there's lots of poems, but there's a particular poem. This story, by the way, is story number 62 in the Book of Serenity. The Book of Serenity has 100 stories, main stories about enlightenment and then a whole bunch of sub-stories, too. But the 62nd main story is this one which is called Mihu's Enlightenment or Not. And then a later teacher wrote a poem about this case in Chinese. The secondary head, literally the number two head, distinguishes enlightenment


and breaks delusion. Quickly release one's hands to discard trap and net. Release your hand to discard nets and traps. Nets and traps. You know, like nets to catch fish and traps to catch rabbits. Release your hand to discard traps and snares and nets. Accomplishment before it's exhausted becomes an extra thumb.


Accomplishment before it's discarded becomes an extra thumb. That Chinese character which is translated tonight as thumb can also be translated as big toe. We have expression in English all thumbs, right? You know that term? You don't know that? He doesn't know it. That's great. Now you're like, you know an expression in English called all thumbs. It means you got too many thumbs, you can't get a hold of things. I feel he's all thumbs. In other words, you know, he can't pick up a glass of water without spilling it because he's all thumbs. We have this opposable thumb.


If you had all thumbs, you'd be, you wouldn't be able to, there'd be nothing to oppose. Just have a bunch of opposers. Having an extra thumb is too much and actually contraindicated for holding things. Accomplishment that isn't exhausted becomes an extra thumb. Now accomplishment could also be understood as enlightenment that isn't exhausted. There's also a thing about when you have a net and you catch a fish, you forget about the net. When you have a trap and you catch a rabbit, you forget about the rabbit. So release, release it and the enlightenment when it's exhausted or thorough, it doesn't get in the way.


But if you have enlightenment, which is pretty good stuff, right? If you have enlightenment and you don't exhaust it, it gets in the way, it trips you up or it thumbs you up. I thought that if you exhaust the secondary then you don't create a situation where you created more thumbs than you need. Once you've exhausted the secondary, the enlightenment is there and you are no longer creating extra thumbs. I agree. Maybe I shouldn't have said a thing about exhausting enlightenment. If you exhaust accomplishment, if you thoroughly accomplish, if you exhaustively accomplish the secondary, you let go of it.


You don't fall into it if you exhaust it. So this isn't saying get rid of the secondary. It isn't saying get rid of the people who are seeking enlightenment or don't be one of those people. It's actually saying, just saying don't fall into it. You can go ahead and be secondary all over the place but each secondary should be completely exhausted and then you won't fall into it. You won't have the energy to because your energy would be totally used up in the accomplishment. Wisdom can hardly know like you can't bite your own navel. The old rabbit,


the old rabbit, which you could also say the full moon. The old rabbit in literary Chinese means the full moon. It literally says old rabbit but they think people don't know that old rabbit means full moon so they translate it full moon. The full moon's icy disk and again there the Chinese characters are water and disk but usually when water's in the form of a disk it's ice or for example when water's in the form of a marlin it's ice. Do you know what I mean? A marlin is a fish. Have you ever seen an ice fish? You can sculpt ice into a fish


or into a woman. So a water woman is an ice woman usually. Anyway, it says water disk so you could say water disk if you want to but it's also translated as the full moon's icy disk. The full moon's icy disk. Got it? Is weeping in the autumn dew. Birds... No, it says birds are cold in the jade tree. Again literally it's cold birds in the great jade tree.


The dawn breeze is chill. Completely without flaw the white jade is valued or esteemed. That's the verse commenting on. I don't say oops, I think I said I think I forgot a line, sorry. This is a verse on I don't say there's no enlightenment but how can we not fall into the secondary? I think there's a couple more lines, I'm sorry. My book's in the car so but I think basically one of the lines is about


how great Yangshan is. In the view of the poet. How great Yangshan is. One of the last lines is how great Yangshan is. He can show us upright and leaning. And there's one more. But this is enough probably, right? And I welcome you to Yes? You're welcome. Thank you for controlling me. How it relates to the beginning line. I see this You know, I feel


I'd like to let you be that way for a while. Maybe later we can You know We can talk about it but I don't want to get into telling you how it applies to something how these images apply some place. Not yet. Just live with that imagery of the moon or the old rabbit. Have you ever felt like the moon is a little bit cold? No? Well, apparently I heard from people that it is actually quite cold up there. The temperature of the moon is What? I think it's cold on both sides. Does anybody know? Pardon? It has no atmosphere.


Yeah. But anyway, often times the moon looks cold to me. But often times I'm looking at it on a cold night. So we've got this cold moon up there. We've got the moon and it's seen as icy disk by the poet. And then we're being told that it's weeping. The moon is weeping in the autumn dew. Dew often happens when we have in the morning you have something cold and then it starts to warm up and then you have condensation, which is dew. So the moon is cold and then at the same time it's like weeping


along with the autumn dew. And then we have this bird, this cold bird in the jade tree. And the autumn breeze is chill. So I haven't done this before but I invite you to write a poem about this case. I invite you to write a poem about this case. Get yourself a little piece of paper or a large piece of paper and then write a poem on it. And you might even keep in mind that there's seven classes so you might get seven pieces of paper and get ready to write seven poems. Because I try to give you a story about enlightenment each week, at least one, maybe ten. So please, if you'd like to write a poem


you can give it to me or you can also read it in class. You can write the poem and you can give it to me or you can read it to the class. And also, these poems I'm not inviting you necessarily to write really long ones and read them in class. So if you want to write a short poem on this story and read it to the class. If you want to write a long poem, I'll read it. Yes? Yeah. Pardon? ... Yeah. Yes, right.


I'm having a little trouble here getting this on. Case sixty-two. ... You know, a terrible thing just happened. ... This is the first. Guess what just happened. Anybody know? Do you know? ... Well, in a sense, I put it in the wrong ear. In another sense, I put two hearing aids in one ear. ... It's the first time I did that and you are here. You witnessed the first time I actually succeeded


in getting them in and it was quite, you know, uncomfortable. ... And I couldn't hear so well. ... I think I broke this one anyway. ... ... Yeah. As Haley said, well, she sort of said, if you exhaust the secondary, you're in a really good position to welcome enlightenment. ...


Pardon? Yeah, you wouldn't need it because you would be enlightenment. If you exhaust the secondary, you are enlightenment. So you don't need it in a way. Just like you don't need yourself. ... If you seek it to the fullest extent you can, you won't have an extra thumb and your thumb won't get in the way of enlightenment. But if you seek it 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, not to mention 50%, 50%, if you seek almost completely, there's still some resistance to the enlightenment which is not not here. ... Yeah. Yes.


... It's about being thorough and wholehearted. And about the secondary. So by being thorough and wholehearted in the secondary, you don't fall into the secondary. But sometimes we're not thorough and wholehearted, some of us. So then we fall into what we're doing. ... No. It's like you thoroughly, if you happen to want enlightenment, if you do, do you? If you do that thoroughly, if you exhaust that wish, you won't fall into it. Yes. ... Running, running, more running,


how far can the mind run? The mind gets exhausted, stands still, the thing is here, right here. Yeah. And what Yangshan is saying is that the thing is already not not here. He doesn't want to say it's here, but he doesn't want to say it's not not here. Yeah, the place is the place. The place is the place. Yes. ... If you will excuse the expression,


are you ready? No? Well, let me know when you're ready and I'll talk to you. What? Okay, if you'll excuse the expression, now you're talking. ... So, in other words, now you're right up my alley. Do you know that expression, Eric? ... So some of these expressions haven't been used for 30 or 40 years. Eric doesn't know that. So anyway, when someone is completely enlightened, they don't necessarily think quotes, I'm enlightened. But they might, just they don't necessarily. Kind people do not necessarily walk around thinking, I'm kind. They don't necessarily do that.


But sometimes people come up to them and say, you're so kind, and they go, I'm so kind? Oh, well, maybe so. I heard the Dalai Lama say, when he was a little boy, they told him that he was the incarnation of, you know, great compassion. And he just kind of thought, well, gee, what are they talking about? And then when he was about 70, he said, now I'm kind of like, I think I know a little bit about what they mean. So, if you tell a Buddha that they're a Buddha, the Buddha might think, oh, I'm Buddha. Interesting. But they don't walk around thinking they're Buddha. So when one is thoroughly Buddha, one does not necessarily think you're Buddha. However, there are Buddhas, and the Buddhas


are so thoroughly Buddhas that they go beyond being Buddhas. They let go of being a Buddha. They don't grasp being a Buddha. I started with a short story so that it would be easy for you to remember it. You remember it, right? Also, if I tell you where you can find the story, nowadays you can find it online. Yes, hand raised. Who was it? Yes? Oh, Eric. The wish is inexhaustible? Did you say? Yeah.


So you don't know what it means to exhaust it? It feels not thorough, like not being momentary. I think not knowing what it means to exhaust it would, it seems like that would be part of exhausting it. If you were trying to exhaust the, did you say something for enlightenment? The wish. If you're trying to exhaust the wish for something, and it never occurs to you that, well, you don't know what it is or what exhausting it would mean, you haven't gone very far. Like, for example, if you want to be a doctor or a mother or a father or a Zen master, maybe you know that you're not yet,


or like if you're a little kid, maybe you know you're not yet a mother, but you wish to be one. But some little kids, some little girls, when they wish to be a mother and they know they're not yet a mother, they think they know what a mother is. That's because they're little girls, they don't understand yet that they don't know what they're talking about. But they do wish for that. As they become more mature, they realize, well, actually, I'm not so sure what a mother is. This is more mature. And then some mothers even, when they wish to be a mother and then they become a mother, they have a baby, and some of them think they know what a mother is. And they think they became a mother, and they know what it is, and they know that they're that. But then as they practice being a mother a little longer and a little longer, they become more mature. And the more mature they become,


the more they don't completely know what a mother is. That's part of the ironic quality of human existence. So not knowing what anything is completely, and wanting to be that anyway is a full life. It's a full life. It's more full. To want to be enlightened and think you know what it is is really kind of a dull enlightenment. Full enlightenment is full of wonder and infinite possibilities, but that's our life. I have a friend who is a Buddhist


who is fully convinced that she is enlightened. Oh, I thought you were going to say who you think is completely enlightened. I thought you were going to say, I have a friend who is completely enlightened. But you're saying that she thinks she is. I won't ask you her name. I won't ask you her name and her address. And I won't ask any of you in public if you think you're fully enlightened. But I do sometimes ask people in private if they think they're fully enlightened. Yes, Katie?


I'm recalling, and I could get this wrong, that Dogen said something like when you experience realization you will not think this is realization just like exactly like I thought it was. Right, he said something like that. And every time I hear that, I just crack up. I think it's like very... Wonderful, I'm so glad you crack up. Not enough people crack up when they read that guy. He's really quite funny. That's wonderful. So how many times... I don't think he's trying... I don't think he's trying to be funny. But I'm not sure. But a lot of people think he's really a serious dude. I'm glad you can see the humor in him. That's really good. He also doesn't talk about laughing very much.


He's kind of like his own straight man. Yeah, that statement that she just made, he said when you attain enlightenment it won't be like what you previously thought it would be. And I hadn't thought that that's like a statement of the irony involved in the process of awakening. That it keeps being something that you didn't expect. And then some people they resist that it wasn't what they expect. They say, I wanted it to be what I expected and it isn't. I'm enlightened. I'm enlightened and I'm depressed. I'm enlightened and I'm depressed.


That's fine. Yeah. When our idea, when we become free of our idea of ourselves we're more useful to the world. Yes? I guess I was just thinking about whether you could replace in that statement about seeking enlightenment you could just put anything in that in place of enlightenment. Yeah, pretty much anything. Like it says in another line it said the number two head


is to distinguish enlightenment and break delusion. But you could also make any other kind of distinction. And that would be secondary too. In this one it says to be making distinctions or distinguishing enlightenment in the English translation which I haven't checked the original but to distinguish enlightenment could be like to make it distinguished like to think it's good and then to try to break delusion. That's like the secondary. So seeking it or putting it up high and thinking it's better than things thinking that you're better than me is the secondary. But again, if you fall into it it's the problem. It's okay for you to think you're better than me but it's not good for you to fall into that. It's not me.


You could even think somebody is better than you. That's okay. The problem is to fall into it. But if you thoroughly get into thinking about how you're better than somebody or how you're not very good if you thoroughly do that there's no extra thumbs. You're ready to live. So you don't have to get rid of your distinctions and if you're trying to get rid of delusion that's okay. If that's what's happening, if you do it completely if you completely try to get rid of delusion you won't fall into it. And then enlightenment will not not be here. And also you'll be free of it being here too. Being here is kind of like grabbing it. Putting it in a trap. Yeah. No.


The secondary is just some kind of discrimination. Like enlightenment is this and delusion is that or delusion is this and I'm going to try to get rid of it is like falling into it. But just delusion itself, if you are completely compassionate towards it you don't fall into it. I mean an example of how to be in a situation situation like I don't know where I'm going right now Well if I thought I was better than you that one? That's the one I gave if you don't want it, give me one. Okay. Okay. Okay.


Okay, I'm confused. Yeah. Are you by the way confused? Right now? Yeah. Okay, so one of the basic principles is if you're confused and if you have by any chance fallen into being confused then the way to get out of falling into confusion is to have a conversation a genuine wholehearted conversation which you're doing right now. Conversation gets you more into the confusion you can't get into the confusion wholeheartedly all by yourself you can get into it enough to know that you're stuck and kind of constricted by it and you can know you want to get out of it but then you can also perhaps notice


I want to get out of it but I seem to be keep repeating it so I wonder if I really do want to get out of it the conversation is starting there and then you talk to somebody else so we have to have conversations with ourselves and others around for example confusion or certainty you could fall into certainty I'm certain I'm right okay, that's fine that you're certain you're right but are you by any chance fallen into that and you might say well actually, my god I am I'm actually trapped in my certainty and I feel bad about it, I really am arrogant I do think I know better than other people and I can't get out of that trap because I do think I am better than them and I feel terrible about that well, once you start talking to somebody about it now we're opening up and then also as you talk about your confusion you can open up to that you really don't know what confusion is


or you really don't know what arrogance is that's how to get into it and we cannot get fully into it without conversation with others wholehearted conversation with others yeah, definitely yes, definitely all day long do that but also involve other people in that conversation some people will really give you a hard time if they find out you're talking about that stuff you mean why are you telling me that you're not going to let me fool you


well, because I do get fooled by you are you saying that I'm trying to fool you? No, no, and so on yes okay, you can deliver it right now if you like just what is just what is thank you for your poem and while you were reading your poem a bunch of other ones came up in this room in people's minds yes yes


yes I was wondering if we could ask everyone in the room like what if they're motivated by seeking enlightenment I'm just really curious if that's like a core motivation for people to practice and part of my message is like I don't fully relate to it so I'm just trying to understand you don't fully relate to what? like being motivated to practice by the idea of enlightenment you don't? well, as I said at the beginning


I'm not going to talk about enlightenment right now too much, although I could I just want to go right to a story part of what you're bringing up now is that she said she did not feel much motivation to attain enlightenment right? but I think yeah so she is motivated to inquire about other people did you say curious? so does your curiosity motivate you? so she's motivated by her curiosity about you guys that's the way she is she's not one of these people who are in in the neighborhood of the non-existence of enlightenment she's not one of them who is seeking enlightenment very strongly anyway if it came you might let it in when I first was attracted to Zen I was not


motivated or interested in enlightenment I mean I didn't even I knew the word was in the neighborhood but that wasn't what attracted me what attracted me was beauty the beauty of the tradition and truth attracted me and the relationships I saw now I would say that the relationships I saw are enlightenment but I didn't even think that they were enlightenment and I wasn't trying to get those relationships I just wanted to live that way so a lot of people are not trying to get enlightenment but to be curious about people the question is does this person who's curious about people and wants to know


what their interest in enlightenment is this is one of these people these days does she need enlightenment or not that was the question does Katie these days need enlightenment or not that was the question a long time ago and the answer was not yes she does need it the answer was kind of I hope she doesn't fall into the secondary which is you know what you're into but again not falling into the secondary means I hope she doesn't half-heartedly be involved in the secondary I hope she wholeheartedly asks people about their relationship to enlightenment because I'm not interested in it but I'm interested in people who are are you also interested in people who aren't she's like I'm a people person I'm really interested about people and I'm trying to thoroughly be this person I am


so I won't fall into being Katie but doesn't Katie doesn't Katie want to be fully Katie though I guess I think she wants to be fully Katie right? but I'm open to not being Katie when it happens part of being fully Kim or Katie is to be open to not being fully Kim or Katie like I want to be fully Reb but nobody in this room better say that I'm not fully Reb no no that wouldn't be fully Reb fully Reb I need you to question me


about whether I am like did you think that was fully Reb just then you know I need that I need my full being Reb I need it to be called into question by you in order to be fully Reb which includes I don't think I was fully myself at that moment so I think she does not want to get stuck in being Katie but if she did want to be stuck in being Katie then the question is how can we help her be fully that way and not be stuck but we have to help her do that I didn't say that but where did you get that where did you get that she thinks she got it from me I thought yeah that's good we have to help Katie and guess who else we have to help


ourselves yeah we have to help ourselves but we also have to help Kim Kim needs help being fully Kim and we're here to help her be fully Kim right right so she won't get stuck in being Kim which of course we can't get stuck in who we are but sometimes it seems like we are and the way it seems like we are is that we're not fully ourselves and it's like it's the full life to be fully ourselves and we can't do it by ourselves other people have to help us and we need to help each other not to be enlightened because the enlightenment is already not here but not to fall into resisting it by being half-hearted about the secondary or half-hearted about wanting enlightenment


or half-hearted about being interested in people who do when you don't everybody has their perfect position to do this work their unique position I don't think I've heard the word secondaries before oh great I'm glad you came to the class and hear a new word I don't really some words just go this one I can't yeah this is a new one you're adjusting to it and then also the original Chinese I mentioned to you is number two and then number two brings up it just came up just now you didn't ask before what's primary what's primary at the end of this case commentary says and as for the primary


as for the primary it isn't it isn't but we think the secondary is secondary is what we think is like we think enlightenment is or isn't that's the secondary what's the primary well the primary doesn't get into that it doesn't even get into being primary so this is a little thing which is in case 62 of that book that you're getting to know yes over there I'm a secondary while being engaged in the exhaustion of the secondary almost compulsively there's a moment where I let go and that void of not being engaged in whatever aspect of that secondary is


is quite sublime it's like Zazen did you say like did you say like well take away the like yeah that's what Zazen is yeah it's not Zazen is actually not like Zazen yeah words are secondary let's use them I don't know what to do with is that your phone so that like is not non-existent and then other times you talk about how we're already enlightened so I'm having trouble mapping those two we're already enlightened and part of the reason we don't realize it


is because we discriminate between it is and it isn't but enlightenment enlightenment doesn't fall into it isn't it's not non-existent but it also doesn't fall into it is and it's already here in the way of not non-existing or existing and when we are open to it then that's it and we don't get to own it or disown it but we can live a life which lets it go, constantly lets it go and also lets go of the secondary but lets go of the secondary not by pushing it away but by taking really good care of it which we're learning that how to take care of the secondary so fully that we forget it yes


I was also just wondering what the secondary was and trying to dive deeper into that and I was wondering the concept of duality as well duality and secondary and by the way it also says the number two head the number two head distinguishes enlightenment and breaks delusion the number two head head is the character for head so that's like a head also in Zen we say put a head on top of your head got a head and then you put another one on top that makes these discriminations thank you


I'm no longer confused you tease her? oh great, does she laugh? and I say I don't know if I'm getting any better she's not completely sure and I think that she is sure that she's enlightened so I say, well, it's true did you wear clothes like that and she says well, you're enlightened too I just don't know and frankly it makes me sad that you're already enlightened? no, she said you are


and you're sad that you don't believe her? well, she knows I don't believe her I know, but I'm asking you, are you sad that you don't believe her? yes well, if you feel that sadness you don't have to fall into believing her but you can just accept that you're already enlightened and then you can not fall into that by the way, I told that your friend to come and tell you that I told her to tell you that okay, well again, I didn't give you background there's interesting background but I wanted to just actually start with a story and make it some more background on the different ways that we approach this issue this issue of enlightenment and also some background on what we're actually looking for


each of us but I'd like to give you a story every week too and I welcome you to write a poem on this one and again, it's nice and short so I think you can do that, thank you very much