The Teaching of the Buddha’s Whole Lifetime

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Coming to Zen Center to receive training; extensive discussion and planting rice fields can both be appropriate response;

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Once again, I want to say that when instruction is given about how to enter and live in Buddha's wisdom, sometimes people think that the instruction is telling people to do nothing about the world. So, the instruction of, in the scene there will be just the scene, in the herd there will be just the herd. And again, those first two could be spelled different ways, right? So, like, in the political scene there will be just the political scene, In the herd activity of humans, there will be just the herd activity.


So this training in letting things be, sometimes people think that's like not doing anything in response to the world. But it is an instruction. in perfect wisdom, it is an instruction in relieving suffering and distress. And from this place of relieving suffering and distress, responses to the world will arise from this wisdom. For example, you might speak a sutra, you might speak a teaching, But you also might just say to somebody, do you think it's okay to pet on a first date? A lot of possibilities arise from, infinite possibilities are there at this pivot of your life.


It can respond in any way that's appropriate. But before that response comes, there is a very energetic training program to enter into Buddha's wisdom. And that training program is a lot of work. It is working hard in relationship to the world prior to understanding it. Once you understand it, you will continue to respond to the world. When you're in training, you're responding to the world by training. Like you're sensing, I need training. So I came to Zen Center because I thought I needed training. I wanted to be a certain way, but I felt like it wasn't just a matter of waiting for good luck to be the way I wanted to be. I heard that there was a training program.


And by doing this training program, I would join the other people who entered into this way of being. But when you hear the training program, it may sound like, well, it's like not doing anything. Like sitting up in the mountains, hours and hours on end, just sitting still. It seems like not doing anything, but the young man who's doing that is in training. He's sitting there thinking how strange it is that a young man is sitting in the mountains. How strange. But he kept sitting. And a young man, out in the rain, in the winter, digging in the mud, When his friends are back in the city, drinking delicious coffee and reading the Sunday paper, what's he doing there?


He's training. He's training his way into Buddha's wisdom. But he also looks at himself and says, how strange that I'm living like this. He's training himself to let things be. He's training himself to let plastic water pipes be plastic water pipes. Now you maybe don't understand what I'm referring to, so I'll tell you. One of my first work assignments in the monastery was to repair the water lines, which are made of plastic pipe. and the water line broke in a storm. So I was asked to go with another person to repair the water lines. So we repaired the first break, and then we went to fix the second break, because we knew there were several.


And when we got to the second break, I said to my partner, let's go back and fix the break. And he didn't say, what do you mean? We already fixed it. He knew we didn't really fix it. We sort of fixed it. We didn't really let the break be the break. We were kind of interested in getting the job done rather than letting the break be the break and addressing that break appropriately. We didn't address it appropriately because we were half-heartedly repairing it. So we got to train at fixing a pipe appropriately, which means fixing it the way we knew it could be fixed. And so we went back and fixed it. And then we went to the next one. This is training in being thorough, in being intimate, in letting things be the way that they're calling to be let to be.


We train at this and we become the person who enters into wisdom. And then if we keep entering it, we respond appropriately. But there continues to be this, how strange that we're doing this rather than really do something. Again, when I went to study, I thought of various things that I thought I might be good at to help the world. but I sensed that I would be better at doing those things if I trained my senses so that I could see what's going on more clearly than I could see. I knew what I wanted to do in various realms. I saw various ways to be helpful. I thought it would be good if I actually could sense what's going on before I went to work. So I thought Zen might help me train myself.


So I went to Zen center to train so that I could make the appropriate response in some area or other. So someday maybe I'll make an appropriate response after I get trained. Again, about a thousand years ago in China there was a Zen teacher whose name was Ditsan, which in Japanese is pronounced Jizo. His temple was a monastery named after the Bodhisattva Jizo, which means Earth Store Bodhisattva. So they called him Earth Store Zen Master. One of his former students came to visit him And he asked the former student who had left him, partly because he wasn't entertaining enough for that former student, who became a Zen master.


But anyway, he just couldn't appreciate this nitsang, this earth-storm bodhisattva Zen master. But still he came back to visit, and the teacher said, where have you been? He said, in the south. And he said, what kind of Buddhism is going on in the South? And he says, there's extensive discussion. And I might say, yeah, extensive discussion or extensive doing stuff. And then Ditsang said, how does that compare to me here planting the fields and making rice balls? And the monk said, well, what are you going to do about the world? What about the world? And Ditsan says, well, what do you mean by the world? And I said, well, I think that's pretty much the end of the story.


But there might have been one more thing that the monk might have bowed. Nope. Just what do you call the world? Twelve is called Ditsan plants the fields or Ditsan plants rice. But the monk might have answered the question and then the conversation would have gone on. So I've been proposing to you that the path of peace is the path of conversation. Wholehearted, fully responsible conversation is the path of peace. It's the path of face-to-face transmission of peace. You can be in the South having extensive discussions.


You can be in the North planting rice fields. But the realization of peace has come from meeting each thing face to face, fully. And that's hard to trust. We think there's something more. than meeting what's coming to us in the situation fully. We have trouble believing that the universe pivots on this meeting right now, that this is our assignment right now. And it's hard to fully give my face to you and receive your face given to me. and for you to receive my face given to you and give your face to me. That's a training opportunity which we work at and there's no end to the training.


And so that's something other people can join and witness and learn and it also is the place where the appropriate response is entered and expressed, entered and expressed. And the appropriate response, the possible appropriate response is unlimited, but we have to bring our limited face to meet another limited face. in order to meet and realize the unlimited face. Yes? at least I can speak for myself, I lack enthusiasm, or there's something in me that I'm missing, because it appears if I face this correctly, the meaning is energetic itself, it empties, it's energizing.


But if I am not meeting correctly, it's like I go in and out, and it's kind of If I feel like I'm not meeting correctly, if I feel that way, then I can say, I can confess, I feel like I'm not meeting correctly. If I feel like I'm not giving my face to you completely, I can feel like, you know, I felt like I didn't really give my face to you completely. I'm sorry. I can say that. And I can also invite all the Buddhas and ancestors to come and witness my saying to you that I feel like I really didn't give my face to you wholeheartedly. I was holding back a little bit, and I'm sorry.


I can say that. Or I can feel like, okay, hello, here's my face, and you can look at me like, When are you going to give me your face?" And I can go, oops, didn't I give you my face? And you say, well, I'm not sure. I'm wondering, did you? You seem to be looking around the room, not at me. That's why I don't like to go to cocktail parties. Not that I get invited anymore. But if I got invited, maybe I should go. But they don't invite me because I have some call. When people are in front of me and they're looking someplace else, I say, hello. But usually when people meet me at hot cocktail parties, they aren't looking at me, they're looking for somebody interesting to talk to. And I'm not that interesting to talk to. But they don't confess to me, you know, I'm really sorry, I'm not paying attention to you.


They don't even notice that I'm kind of uncomfortable. So again, I meet two pieces of plastic pipe and I don't give them my face and I put them together without giving them my face and then I say, I'm sorry, I'm going to come back now and try again and try again to fully give myself. This process will lead to being able to fully give myself with no giving up my resistance to this limited faith being fully given to another limited faith. This is the training. Yeah, so anyway, now that you don't believe that confession and you're saying that, when you said that, did you feel like that was like fully meeting me at that moment? Yeah, okay, but what about me?


Yeah, well, I'm here by the way. Hello. You can't do it by yourself, that's what I'm saying. you can find in yourself that you did pretty well. And I'm over here thinking, I have some questions for you. You cannot fully address your confession by yourself. And so you're saying, I don't believe in the power of confession. That's a perfectly good confession, which you say you don't believe in. But again, if you do that wholeheartedly and you're looking at me, Things may change. You may wake up to some things which you cannot wake up to unless you look into my face and look into these eyes which are looking back at you and saying, really? Or whatever. You cannot do this by yourself. You cannot wholeheartedly be yourself by yourself. You can only do it with the help of others because others are you. And you can also say, I don't believe in this practice of meeting face-to-face.


And you cannot do that, express that you don't believe it fully, without saying it to somebody else. You say, well, I don't believe in saying it to somebody else. Okay, okay, I got it. But still, you're talking to me still, and I'm telling you, you need somebody else to call that into question. Maybe things could be different. And if you open yourself to that, you start to become more fully responsible. Yes? about doing that is the conversation which wouldn't be able to happen without the Versailles Sutra?


You might start thinking that you're not having a conversation and as you get more into the recitation and you start to notice, for example, that you didn't turn this page carefully so you go back and turn it again and you tell one of your friends that you didn't turn it fully and they know what you mean. If you really get into reciting, you'll realize that you're talking to the scripture and the scripture is calling to you to be read and you're calling to the sutra to reveal itself to you. Conversation is reality, but sometimes we don't understand it. And even if we think it's a conversation, sometimes somebody says to us, did you want this to be a monologue? And we go, well, no, could I say something? And so on. So really, conversation, there's no sutras without people reading them. And there's no reading them without the sutras.


There is a conversation, but if we're not concentrated enough, we don't necessarily realize it. Like, I studied various scriptures which I thought were important, and they were like, I thought, the deadest things I ever read. So I wouldn't force myself, I'd close them and then I'd open them again, because I heard that they're really important. And as I became more concentrated, they came alive, the lights went on. But it's me not bringing myself to them so they can't They can't call to me. I call to them. As the concentration builds somehow, the book takes its mask off and shows you what it really is. The world takes its mask off, but there needs to be this dialogue and we need to be there for it. I'm referring to Prajnaparamita Sutra, Case 3.


Yeah, well he's already successful at it. He's following his breathing and his breathing is saying sutras to him. He doesn't need to read the perfect wisdom scriptures because when he follows his breathing and he's fully present for that, the breathing takes its mask off and starts singing these sutras to him. If people are reading sutras and they read them with that same presence, the sutras will take their mask off and show that they're actually breath and so on. So it's like the world is trying to reveal itself to us. Everybody's trying to show themselves to us. We have to give ourselves to the meeting. Yes, John and Paul? At the beginning of the afternoon, you raised the issue about the perception of this training being passive in terms of responding to the world, or perceived that way.


You're not even passive, doing nothing. Being passive is something anyway. You're receiving things, but you're not doing anything. You're not giving anything. You're just receiving. But it's even worse than that. It's doing nothing. Yes. So I was reflecting when you said that on the Oxford pictures and the tenth picture, the monk, after going through the training, re-entering the marketplace with open hands. Yes. And I want to confess here that when I think of myself doing something, especially when I'm confronting what I perceive as injustice, I usually go out with hunched fists. Yeah. Yeah, and I came to Zen to learn how to open my clenched fist. I mean, I knew how to do it under certain circumstances, but under certain circumstances my fists don't open, like when I'm being attacked, they stay clenched and ready to punch.


But how about when you're being attacked, have the fist open? I wanted to learn how to do that. Yeah. So, we're training at this, so we can do something which we already know how to do, but we sometimes pass on the opportunity, for whatever reason. How about opening to the situation, no matter what it is? How about that? Well, that takes training. That's why I came to Zen, I wanted to learn how to be like that. I sensed I could. I heard about Jesus and I thought, well, I like Jesus's teaching, but I couldn't relate to walking on the water and stuff like that. But I can relate to opening my hand when I'm attacked, rather than defending. I already knew how to defend. What I didn't know how to do was welcome an attacker with gift-bestowing hands, welcome aggression.


and realize peace. I wanted to learn that. I sensed I needed training to do this rather than this. Or even to do this, too, sometimes. One usually would go like this. I wanted to learn how to be flexible under all circumstances. I thought that was cooler than any particular thing. And I still do. So this is cool and that's cool, but not being stuck in either one is super cool. That's this place. This place is not this or that. This place is not abiding in this or that. That's what I thought was really cool. And I still do. That's the Buddha's activity. Somebody said, the teaching is not inevitable. It's like just for this person, the Buddha teaches this. And for this person, something else. Because the Buddha's there and ready to meet appropriately. Yes, Paul? I was just going to make a comment on the sutra and the exact thing that John was talking about.


It's the first time I've really heard that sutra. And that is the critical point of it. Setting it up of the world is consciousness or whatever. It's not a very good translation. And when it's really bad, in some aspect of it, you can all think of politics right now. I can very easily. humbly bow, but doesn't say, don't do anything, or don't be involved. You know, which I translate to what you're saying is, be completely present. Bow to the reality of what's there. Yeah. And respond appropriately. Bow to the reality and realize that this thing is saying to you, be a bodhisattva. It's an avatar coming to you to say, please, let's come up with some compassion here. And isn't it hard? Let's come up with some respect here. Isn't it hard? You can sense if somebody is lying and still be willing to give your life for that person.


So we have a lot of lying going on, it looks like. But I have a granddaughter who I often mention who lies to me. But I in no way demean her by saying that. She is my leader. She leads me to compassion. so I can lie down in green pastures and so on. She's leading me. She's my guide to Buddha's wisdom and compassion. And so these things are, everything, not necessarily especially, but monsters are guiding us to great compassion. And now we say this to remember that. Everything's guiding us to it, but also, not necessarily more, also monsters are calling us to come back with tenderness and give our whole life and face to the meeting.


And in the meeting, we wake up and the appropriate response comes. But before that, the appropriate response is listen, and look, and welcome, and respect. And again, that looks like not doing anything. But it's the way you enter the wisdom where what you do will be wisdom acting, rather than wait for practicing wisdom until after you do this thing. Do the wisdom practice first, and then from wisdom the appropriate response. And that's hard for us to believe in. So I recognize it's hard. but I still want to believe it and practice it. And when I do practice it, I've never regretted it. I never felt like, well, I wish I had blah-blah-ed instead of respecting.


Instead of being kind, I wish I had been cruel. Or I wish I'd tried to control, rather than be there for this person. Fortunately, unfortunately, I'm pretty well convinced that I cannot control anybody. So, it's not that difficult for me not to try. Except by habit, I try sometimes. But I didn't control you into laughing just now, even though I really wanted you to.