The Unceasing Effort to Free All Beings

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I got two new injuries this morning. My leader calls these boo-boos. Usually when I go downstairs, I watch my feet go down the stairs. But this morning I was going down the stairs to say hello to Debra. I was so happy to see her I didn't look at the stairs. And then I found myself on top of a Buddha. And the Buddha fell over. And I got these little boo-boos. So I accept the practice of walking downstairs carefully.


And I'm not looking up and saying hi to people when I'm going downstairs. Sometimes when I'm going downstairs, people are coming towards me, and I think they probably want me to say hi to them. But I say, well, you know, I've got this job to do, and I'll say hi to you later. Sometimes I stop halfway down the stairs, stop walking down and just stand there, and then I look at the person and bow, you know, say hello. And then when I start walking again, I just concentrate on watching my feet go down the stairs. Or if not watching, stepping very carefully without looking. But to be stepping and also saying hi to people and bowing and stuff like that has become too advanced. So I'm starting out.


This is not so difficult to understand, right? Did I tell you the story about my leader and the strawberries? So, I went to the California Academy of Sciences with my leader and we're sitting there and she's having her snack which is part of her snack is strawberries. So she's eating these strawberries and she comes to a strawberry that's kind of quite wrinkled and she says, this is for you. She gives it to me. She says, an old strawberry for an old man. Did she say that part or was that implied?


She said, an old strawberry for an old man. She didn't say an old wrinkled strawberry. But as you may know, some strawberries, you know, the whole surface is kind of unwrinkled, just plump and no indentations. But it was delicious, even so. As I often mention, the name of this temple is Noa Bod, and that name pays homage to the mind of Bodhisattvas. So in the diamond of perfect wisdom scripture, the Buddha recommends that bodhisattvas give life to a mind that doesn't abide anywhere.


It doesn't abide in anything. So there's an endless possibilities of things not to abide in. Bodhisattvas need such a mind in order to do their work. Now what's their work? Their work is to make an unceasing effort to free all beings so they may dwell in peace. That's their work. And they do that work by practicing compassion, welfare of all these beings which they wish to liberate and bring to peace.


to practice compassion in their daily life with all beings, to practice for the welfare of all beings, and to practice with all beings compassionately. That's their job. That's their work. this mind of no abode is necessary in order to do the work consistently and fully.


So one can attempt to practice compassion towards oneself and towards others But in order for the compassion to be fully functional, to the point where the compassion becomes wisdom and therefore liberates beings so they can dwell in peace, the compassion needs this mind of no abode. The mind of Noah Bode makes it possible to let go, to abandon, to give away fear of personal suffering, which for most of us is


almost like an instinct. And if there is an instinct to be afraid of personal suffering, if there is an instinct like that, then it would be appropriate to be compassionate towards that instinct to fear of pain, of personal pain. And that compassion then would promote the possibility of discovering the mind of no abode. And when the mind of no abode is with the fear of suffering, the fear of suffering can be given away. And then there is the compassion and this mind of no abode and no fear of personal suffering.


And then the compassion is, you could say, unimpeded by the fear of what will happen to us if we practice compassion. For example, the fear that it might be painful to practice compassion. that sometimes would make us hesitate to practice compassion. The mind of no abode is therefore necessary in order to fully liberate the liberating function. The discussions about how to develop this mind of no abode don't necessarily sound like compassion practice. So, if I start talking to you about how to develop this mind of no abode, please remember that what we're talking about is a mind that lives in the context of compassion in order to make compassion fully functional.


So it's the The mind of Nobod is a wisdom mind. In order to have this wisdom mind, this wisdom mind is a type of wisdom mind which is specifically recommended for those who wish to engage with all beings so that they may be free and dwell in peace. It's not a wisdom which is necessary for someone who just wants to liberate themselves and dwell in peace themselves. It's a wisdom that's necessary for someone who wishes to free all beings so that all beings may dwell in peace. A clock, please.


In the history of the San Francisco Zen Center, we have used a word called Zazen. We've used that a lot. It literally means sitting Zen, or Zen sitting, sometimes called Zen meditation. So I would say that there's many kinds of sitting meditation, but the sitting meditation of the bodhisattvas is the meditation of or on this mind of no abode, the mind of non-dwelling. That's the practice. of the Bodhisattva school.


And again, we say Zazen at the San Francisco Zen Center. And the last few times we've met here, I've been bringing up a text which We may look at it again soon. And the name of the text is Zazen Shin. Do some of you remember that text? Zazen Shin. Shin means needle. And it means like an acupuncture needle. a medicinal needle. So it's the needle, the name of the text is The Needle of Zazen.


So now today I would say it's the needle, it's a text about the needle or the point of the mind of no abode. It's the point of the bodhisattva mind. It's a text about this point. But also maybe like a needle that touches the life in order to express this non-abiding heart. The non-abiding heart which releases the bodhisattva compassion into full function. The text starts out by saying something like, the pivotal function or the pivotal activity of all Buddhas


the active pivot of all ancestors. That's how it starts. The pivotal function of the Buddhas is this mind of no abode. So in the text, the name of the text is the point of Zazen. So the Zazen practice of this school is the pivotal function of all Buddhas. So this text is trying to help us understand what this mind of no-abode is, or what the pivotal activity of Buddhas is. This is the pivotal activity which naturally lets go of the causes and conditions of fear, of personal suffering, which once again, if I'm afraid of personal suffering, that fear may hinder me in being compassionate towards something.


towards some of my own problems, or towards the way I see other people. So right now in America, right now on this planet, a lot of people are feeling some obstruction, some hindrance to feeling and practicing compassion towards some people. Thank you. So there's this text which is a... Could you give me a copy of that text?


There's a text which is a poem. The name of the text is The Point of Zazen. And there's a poem which... This text is a poem. And there's two versions of this text. And they're both in Chinese. And one is written by a Chinese bodhisattva. and another one's written by a Japanese Bodhisattva. And this one here is written by a Japanese Bodhisattva. This one here. And he wrote his poem about this pivotal activity of all Buddhas. What's the pivotal activity of all Buddhas? Zazen? Zazen? Compassion?


Non-abiding? It is the unceasing effort to free all beings so they may dwell in peace. That's Buddha's pivotal activity. Okay? Is that clear? Buddha's activity is a pivotal activity. The Buddhas are pivoting with something. What are the Buddhas pivoting with? They're pivoting with delusion, everything, all beings, which includes Buddhas are pivoting with not-Buddhas. Buddhas are pivoting with not-Buddhas. Does that make sense? Buddhas are pivoting with all beings. Buddhas are pivoting with everything. And this pivotal activity is an effort to free all beings so they may dwell in peace.


So this text about Zazen starts off by addressing this pivotal activity. And in this pivotal activity, there's no abiding. And all Buddhas are involved in this pivotal activity. And then the next line is, the active pivot of all ancestors. So it's a pivot that's active. and all the ancestors are engaged in that active pivot, which is an effort to free all beings so they may dwell in peace. If there is abiding, one could still be wishing to make the effort to free all beings so they may dwell in peace. But the abiding stresses the process almost like hinders it, almost like blocks it.


The Buddhas are involved in an unhindered effort to free beings from dwelling. Now, the next line starts to deal with, yeah, starts to deal with the investigation or the exploration of the non-abiding. First I'm going to do the Chinese poem, written by a Chinese master named Tiantong Hangzhi, who lived like 50 years before the author of


the other poem, who is also the author of the verse which we chant at the beginning of our talks. Ehei Dogen. His picture is up there behind the altar. The person who is the first ancestor of our tradition in Japan. So he wrote a poem about this pivotal activity. But before him, a Chinese master wrote the poem. That's the poem I'm going to talk about first. And I'll probably be talking about this poem for quite a while. So after introducing the idea that what our Zazen practice is, is this pivotal activity of all Buddhas. In other words, our sitting practice, which we've been practicing here, our sitting practice is an unceasing effort to free all beings so they may dwell in peace.


Now, I don't know if you noticed that when you were sitting, you were involved in an unceasing effort to free all beings so they may dwell in peace. But that's what this temple's devoted to. For us to come and join that practice. Sitting together, walking together, working together. Yes? The word dwell is in there. The word dwell? Yeah. But we talk a lot about non-dwelling. So what's up with dwelling in peace? Sorry about that. When you dwell in peace, you give away the peace. So you don't really dwell in it. So, I'm going to make things simple for you. Unceasing effort to free all beings so they may realize peace.


And let it go. So this non-dwelling mind does not abide even in peace, even in nirvana. To free all beings so they may realize nirvana, not dwell even in nirvana. Okay? And you may say, it's okay now, but when I get to nirvana, I don't know if I will be up for letting go of it. Say, well, you can't come into nirvana unless you vow to let go of it once you enter. Okay, I'll let go of it after I enter. Okay, come on in. Our Zazen practice has been described by A. A. Dogen


It's been described as the Dharma gate, or you could say the true gate to repose and bliss. Our Zazen practice is the true gate to repose and bliss. Repose and bliss is one of the ways of describing nirvana. Our Zazen practice is the true gate to nirvana. And it's the true gate because it's the gate which when you go through into nirvana, you keep going. You don't stop. There's a false gate to nirvana where you go in and you stay. That's not the one that this school is. This school is the way to enter nirvana and give it away. And enter nirvana and give it away.


Enter repose and bliss and pivot. Enter repose and bliss and pivot with not repose and not bliss. This is the process. Bliss and not bliss. Repose and not repose. This pivotal activity is what liberates beings. Not going into bliss and staying there. Here's the next line. After the functioning pivot of all ancestors. It knows without touching things. or knows without touching phenomena. This, yeah, well the mind of no abode, maybe you wouldn't be surprised to hear that the mind of no abode is a kind of knowing.


When you say pivotal activity, you might be surprised to hear that this is an activity which is a knowing. It's a pivotal activity that is a knowing. It's a kind of knowing. But it's not the kind of knowing which is our ordinary consciousness. Because ordinary consciousness touches the phenomena that are known. This is a knowing which doesn't touch the phenomena. The next line is, illumines without facing conditions. So, I said it, but really there's no it.


So the essential, the pivotal function of all Buddhas knowing without touching things. Or knows, pivotal function knows without touching phenomena. Pivotal function illumines without confronting conditions. This is the first two dimensions of describing the mind that in which the unceasing effort to free all beings is living. It's a mind, it's a knowing, it's a mind of non-abiding, it's a mind of not dwelling, that knows.


without touching things. There are things living with this mind, and this mind knows things, but doesn't touch them. And also this pivotal activity is a light. It's an illumination. But it's not an illumination, a light which is confronting the things that are illuminated. When there is a knowing and touching things, we have now the setup for what? Delusion. Grasping. Grasping. Fear.


Fear. Yeah. The mind is actually, even consciousness is illumined. It illuminates things. There's light in consciousness. It lights up objects, but it confronts them. It faces them. It opposes them. And it grasps them. That's ordinary consciousness. This is not touching that ordinary consciousness, but it's another kind of illumination of this consciousness, which illumines the situation in such a way that the conditions of the moment of experience are not opposed, and therefore are not apprehended. When there is opposition, when there's a here and a there, and a grasping, But there's fear.


And then the bodhisattva practice is not fully functioning. But there is another possibility which is knowing and illuminating without touching and without opposing and without grasping. This is some more details about what the mind of an oboe is like. The unceasing effort is to live in such a way as to not grasp what seems to be out there on its own. So I think that may be enough for you to begin asking questions. Yes?


So it doesn't touch and it doesn't illumine because it knows there's no separation. It does illumine. It does illumine without confronting because there's no It's not that there's no self and object. Because in consciousness there is a sense of self. If there's not a sense of self, there's no consciousness. So this knowing illumines and therefore liberates consciousness. So in consciousness there is a self and an other. If there's not a self and an other from self, It's not consciousness. In consciousness there is a knowing and a known. And the known seems to be out in front of the knower, or the knowing. That's ordinary consciousness. Knowing and out in front of it is the known. Now we're talking about illuminating that.


This pivotal activity illuminates that. And it shows that this is not actually out in front. This is the knowing, this is the known, but the known is not out in front of the knowing. And the knowing is not out in front of the known. Usually we don't have to tell people that they're not out in front of what looks out in front to them. So we don't say that usually, but today I said it. Usually we start with telling people, which they can see, is they think that the people they know, and the places they're going, are out in front of them. And we're saying, okay, now that's the way it looks, now let's see if you can illuminate that so you see that, well there's something, and here's something, and this is not out in front of this. So, it's an illumination which can illuminate many things, and one of the things that's very important to illuminate is consciousness.


And again, it's a way of knowing where the knowing doesn't, like, touch the things. The knowing that doesn't touch the known. But isn't it that it doesn't touch it because of the awareness of the... there's the separation but it's the non-separation, isn't that the not touching? You could say that what might make the non-touching possible is an awareness of the non-separation of the knowing and the known. Or you could say awareness, you could say understanding that the knowing is not separate from the known. If we understand that the knowing is not separate from the known, then we wouldn't think that something that's not separate from something can touch something.


You can only have the knowing touch the known if they're separate. But this is a pivotal activity, and the pivotal activity is you start to see how the knowing is pivoting on the known. So the known could also know the knowing. And therefore, if you see if you can pivot, then there's not this touching that. Which is another way to say to understand to know in such a way that you know that the knowing and the known are not separate. Because when knowing and known are separate, when they're separate and we agree to that, we have delusion and we have fear. And we have bondage. And we're stuck in that setup of knower, known, and they're separate.


That's our basic trap. The pivotal activity is like switching sides, and when you switch sides, there's no way to dwell, and also there's no apprehending. Yes? Did you have your hand raised a while ago? I did. Does it still count? I don't know. Maybe I was stuck on confronting, the word confronting. Yeah, so the character is face, or meet, confront, oppose, all of them work to some extent. So it's an illumination without confronting or meeting. And again, this is hard to catch, but when things meet,


By the very nature of talking about meeting, meeting is impossible. So, in the illuminated mind, the mind of no abode, there is no confronting? There's no confronting. Well, yeah, there's no confronting, except there can be confronting, but no confronting confronting. Because of the pivoting. I miss that meeting. Yeah, it's hard to get, isn't it? Things can't meet unless they're separate. If they're separate, they can't meet. Like these two are separate, right? So they have the potential to meet. Okay, all right, okay, here they go.


Now they're not separate anymore. So we say they meet, but if they're not separate, they couldn't meet. Only when they're separate do we see the possibility of them meeting. But when they actually meet, they're not separate. So in non-separation, there's no meeting. And in fact, knowing, if knowing is separate from known, you've got like zero knowing. And yet we think that I can know something that's separate from the knowing. Well, that doesn't hold up in reality. But we fall for that, and then we're fearful and stressed. And we not only fall for it, but we fall for it and we think we actually stay there. And then more stress.


But actually they're pivoting. The pivoting of everything is the way all things are pivoting. All things are pivots. Everything is pivoting with not that thing. Every man is pivoting with not-man. Every woman is pivoting with not-woman. Every good is pivoting with not-good. Every evil is pivoting with not-evil. That pivoting is the Buddha's activity and in that activity there can be an unceasing effort. In other words, nothing will stop it. It's unhindered, unthinkable, unnameable, unstoppable, unhindered, because it is tuned into the reality that everything, every coherent phenomena, every moment of experience is a pivot.


And to join that pivoting is the practice of Buddhas. Buddhas are doing that pivot with not Buddhas, with sentient beings. Buddhas enlightenment is pivoting with delusion. Buddhas enlightenment is not over in enlightenment. It doesn't abide in enlightenment. And of course it doesn't abide in delusion. It is the pivotal relationship between the two. Therein the freedom is alive. Therein fear has no foothold. And also therein fear is not pushed away. And if fear should come, it welcomes fear. And it welcomes fear in the pivot of fear and not fear. It isn't dwelling in not-fear. It isn't dwelling in fear. It is the life of fear dancing with not-fear.


This is the way things are. They're pivoting. Everything is a pivot, and every pivot is pivoting. And in that situation, we're now being told, what's it like there? Well, there's a knowing. It's not just, you know, the way things are is non-dwelling, and non-dwelling is a mind. But it's not consciousness. It's the way consciousness really is. Consciousness seems to be, I know that. I'm going to meet her. But I'm going to meet her means she's separate from me. And when I meet her, then I won't be separate from her. But I'm saying you won't be able to meet her if you're not separate from her. You're just going to be, sorry, all you got is not separate from her. You don't get to have not separate and meeting her.


You want to meet her? Fine. Then you're in the separation camp, which is a suffering camp. Like Charlie said a while ago, bodhisattvas can eat their cake and not have it too. Is that right? So you can eat your cake and not have it. You can have non-separation, you can eat it, but you also can't have it. Can't have non-separation. But you can eat it. You can be it. You are it. That's who you are. You are non-separation. Lois? So, is the fear both fear of separation and fear of not separation? Yeah. But it's mostly something that arises from believing separation. Once you believe in separation, then you can be afraid of separation, like children are afraid of separation, right?


Because they believe there is separation. They believe they can be separated from their mother, so they're afraid of it. But they're also afraid of non-separation, they're also afraid of meeting, right? Trying to meet a child, they're afraid of that too. So basically, if you believe in non-separation and don't dwell in it, you won't be afraid of anything. But if you believe in separation, then you'll be afraid of separation and non-separation. So we have to investigate the illusion of separation and that's what this text is doing. It's okay, let's get in there and look at what it's like. Let's investigate separation, okay? Where it's like knowing of knowing which touches, or illumination which faces things, which meets things. Let's get in there and look at how that works. By investigating this process of consciousness, we realize this new information which is not meeting, not facing, and not grasping, and not touching.


Not touching because There can only be touching if there's separation, and there's no separation. This mind realizes that. But you realize it, like today, by investigating touching. We think there's touching? Well, look at it, and you'll find there really isn't. You think there's grasping? Well, look at it, and you'll realize there isn't. We have to investigate it. thoroughly in order to realize that it's an illusion, but it's an illusion which has the power, if you believe it, to give rise to fear and hesitation to embrace sentient beings because you might get hurt. Yes. Just a second.


There's a baby down there. Oh my God. That baby has long curly hair. Come on up here. Make yourself at home. We're into non-separation up here. We're into embracing what we're not separate from. Look at this big girl. How old is she? Oh my god, well that's a big girl. Alright. Make yourself at home. Do whatever you want. If you want to walk in here, but you don't have to stay down in the pit. In a way it sounds like the relationship between sunlight and everything. inherently separate, it reflects on everything.


And perhaps likewise, how, let's say, an illusion or a lie, when it is brought into the open, the open is somewhat like the non-dwellingness. the lie begins to lose its power because it sees itself as someone in a separate state. So that's a lie. So lie is one word, another word is deception. So the way consciousness works is that it produces deceptions. It has things, it comes up and says, hello, I'm not mind. Consciousness says, I'm not consciousness.


I'm something that's not consciousness. I'm a person who's not you. Consciousness produces things which it has a sign on top of it which says, this thing that's there is outside the thing. that it is. But we're trying to put another sign on it which says, this is a deception. The things in consciousness are deceptions. So other people that you meet, everybody you meet is a deceptive version of your mind. And I'd like to also mention that your mind is a deceptive version of everybody you meet, just to turn it the other way. So this knowing, this pivotal activity, illumines the deceptiveness of consciousness. So it illumines the deception of separation and makes possible to know things and to illumine them without separation, without the illusion of meeting what is yourself.


So this is getting into investigating what the mind of the Buddha is, what the knowing of the Buddha is, what the illumination of the Buddha is, to get into, and you can look into your consciousness and see what you find, and we can do more of that for the rest of our lives. Thank you very much.