By Zoketsu Norman Fischer | December 3, 1996
Summary: 3 December 1996 Green Gulch Rohatsu Sesshin Lecture
3 December 1996 Green Gulch Rohatsu Sesshin Lecture
So yesterday-just to remind you in case you forgot what I said yesterday-yesterday I talked a bit about our intention, a kind of intention that would be useful for sesshin. Also, I talked about the intensity of sesshin. These things are difficult things to talk about, because, as I said, it sounds a little crazy. It's easy to misunderstand. It might sound like I'm asking everyone to run around being very intense somehow- eyes bugging out, being very intense. So it's difficult to speak of these things without being misunderstood. Actually, it's difficult to speak about anything without being misunderstood, because it's so easy to be misunderstood, whatever we say. In fact, probably most of the time we are all misunderstood because everyone is so used to seeing everything through the filter of self-clinging. And when we look at everything through the filter of our own point of view it's almost impossible for things not to get at least a little bit distorted. Still, knowing this, we try to say something and we try to understand something. And even though we might not understand something, that's OK because if we stay with our misunderstanding with complete sincerity, not judging it too much or wobbling in our body and mind too much, then eventually we will understand something. As Suki said last night, we will allow something to be understood nearby where we are. We will find ourselves at home somehow. It's important, 'though, to be ready at all times to be surprised, to learn something completely new and to be ready to change course.
Also, yesterday, I went over various points of posture from Suzuki-roshi, and these are really important practical points for how to work with our zazen during sesshin, so I want, just very briefly, to mention some of them again. First of all the mudra--holding your mudra with a sense of great delicacy as if you were holding something precious in your hands. You might imagine that you're holding the entire world, the whole planet in your hands, or all the cosmos resting in your hands, or as I said yesterday, a beautiful bird, maybe a warbler. Teah and I saw a beautiful warbler the other day, with bright yellow eye-patches. Or a nuthatch like the ones we have around here which have black eye-patches and run up and down the trees upside down. You could imagine holding a bird like that in your hands. And the mudra you hold up against your belly, which is hard because it wants to fall away. And the position of your head- the back of your head is sort of reaching for the ceiling. And Suzuki-roshi mentions sitting as if your head were holding up the sky. So there's a sense of lifting up, being lifted from the back part of your head with your chin tucked in. Often you sit this way, which can get dreamy, so you tuck your chin in. And when you lift your head up that way your spine will be lengthened. So your shoulders come back and this, down right here, which is called the sternum, is lifted up. So there's a great feeling of being lifted up. So in zazen we're quite balanced between gravity, which prevents us from flying up, bumping our heads on the ceiling-which could happen if we were in space-we would all be-imagine. I think I might have mentioned before I have a friend who's a science fiction writer and once they called me up to consult about how you would do zazen at zero G's in outer space. So I guess that would happen-we would all be sort of bouncing. You know gravity doesn't exist everywhere-just happens to be here. But because of gravity we stay in our seats, more of less. But because of our Buddha nature we don't. Gravity could pull us right through the seat to the center of the earth, and we would all clump up there in one big mess. But we don't do that because our Buddha nature holds us up. So when we're sitting there's this balance between the gravity that keeps us earthbound and our nature that lifts us up. And this is all in the upper part of the body-in the sternum and the back of the head.
This posture is a very alert and royal posture. They used to call all the disciples of the Buddha royalty or nobility-that was the epithet used for the Buddha and his disciples. So this posture is like being a king or queen, sitting this way, that kind of dignity and beauty. Being a king or queen in this posture doesn't mean that you're a king or queen and the other guy isn't. This is a very open and ready and flexible posture, a royal and noble posture that understands that each and every thing is also a king and a queen. I want to be clear that-don't think that I'm talking about the right posture and that you should let go of the wrong posture and find the right posture. It's not exactly a right posture and a wrong posture. It's just that we make an effort in this posture and making this kind of effort, we will be able to be aware of our body in a radically new way. And when we can be with our body in this way our true nature can shine through. So without thinking right or wrong, good or bad, just make an effort with these points of posture.
So sesshin is a process. Many things happen, many changes happen. During sesshin there's one period of zazen only and that's this one. And we settle into sesshin. It takes some time. Maybe right now you're beginning to get the feeling for it, maybe having some moments or periods of zazen in which you can almost taste the concentration. As we practice in sesshin, little by little our natural self-clinging will loosen up somewhat and the body and mind will soften somewhat and then in the midst of that we'll feel concentration, thickness, or underwater-like sense of how things are. The world of concentration is a pure world.The bumps and bruises of the ordinary world are eliminated. In the world of concentration there is a wonderful flow to things, and there is a great beauty. This world is not something that only Buddhas know about. All over the world people have a way of indicating or speaking of it.
I said yesterday that I was reading the Odyssey, and in the Odyssey this world of concentration is pure as the world of the gods and the goddesses. Plato called this the world of form, abstracted from the world of everyday bumps and bruises. And strangely, in Buddhist thought, it's also called the world of form--literally the Rupadhatu means the world of form, the meditation world, as distinguished from the ordinary world, which is called the Kamadhatu, the world of desire. So the world of form is purified--a purification of the world of desire. So in sesshin, as concentration develops our sense of desire and clinging smoothes out a bit and things feel cleaner and purer. And you can really get a feeling for this when you look at these wonderful helping Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that we have with us in the zendo on the altars--these figures whose iconography comes from centuries of contemplation of this realm. Manjushri, the figure of Shakyamuni Buddha himself, Jizo Bodhisattva, and now also Tara, who in one world is a Bodhisattva and in another world is a Buddha. All of these figures shine beautifully and smile. Every one of them has a little smile, a peaceful smile. And every one of them has a relaxed, an arrogant, smooth body without any kinks or aches--just sitting peacefully.
So I was thinking about all this and it reminded me of a poem of Wallace Stevens about this. Wallace Stevens knew all about this stuff somehow. That's what selling insurance in Hartford Connecticut will do for you. This is a short poem called 'The Indigo Glass in the Grass.' Maybe you know this poem:
Which is real--
This bottle of indigo glass in the grass,
Or the bench with the pot of geraniums, the stained
mattress and the washed overalls drying in the sun?
Which of these truly contains the world?
Neither one, nor the two together.
Stevens was quite fond of images like the indigo glass in the grass, which for him was this world of Rupadhatu, the pure world of, in his terminology, the imagination. And the stained mattress and the overalls drying in the sun are the ordinary world of ordinary stuff--things that go wrong, things that aren't smooth, aren't beautiful. So Stevens' point of view here is really interesting. We would want to say--some people say--the world of the mattress, that's the real world. What are you people doing sitting here, you know, navel-gazing? But a pure Zen monk might say, Oh no, the world of concentration, that's the real world. That's truer, more real than the messy, ordinary everyday world. And then we'd really want to say both--we like everything. It's all real. But Stevens says neither one, neither one contains the world, nor the two together. So these days please enjoy yourself-sometimes in Kamadhatu, sometimes in Rupadhatu-maybe later on we'll talk about Arupadhatu, the formless realm, but not today. So wherever you are--sometimes you zip in and out quite quickly--enjoy yourself and don't wish for another realm or don't think that you have arrived in some realm that's somehow better or worse than any other realm. Just stay open to whatever realm you're in and don't dwell on anything. Better realms and worse realms, in fact any kind of judgment, which we see with some shock is so frequent in our mind, is just a trick way we have, from the beginningless past, of distancing ourself from ourself. And you realize in sesshin that to distance ourself in that way is painful, literally can be painful. So it's hard to survive sesshin being distant. We need to get close--very, very close.
I've been trying to meditate with you a little bit on Buddha's enlightenment, the story of Buddha, which we are recreating in our sesshin. So to continue with that I want to bring up today an old case, number thirty in the Mumonkan. Here's the case:
Ta-mei asked Ma-tsu, 'What is Buddha?'
Ma-tsu said, 'This very mind is Buddha.'
That's the case. Ta-mei asked what is Buddha. Ma-tsu said this very mind is Buddha. So I'm sure all of you know about Ma-tsu. He was one of the great Zen ancestors in the two generations after the sixth ancestor. He was one of the people who was responsible for the efflorescence of this new teaching of Zen in China. Zen, you know, eventually took over all the other schools of Buddhism in China. They all collapsed into Zen, which was very strong, and Ma-tsu was one of the pillars of that efflorescence. He supposedly had one hundred and thirty-nine enlightened disciples, or something like that, who went far and wide spreading the teachings.
And it's impossible to talk about Ma-tsu and to be in sesshin doing zazen without remembering the story that I told many times about when Ma-tsu was in sesshin as a student under his teacher, Nan-yueh, or Nangaku, which is the Japanese way of reading Nan-yueh. So once upon a time Ma-tsu was in sesshin and it was late at night and he was doing night-sitting, sitting on the porch of the zendo in the middle of the night, maybe, because he was a really diligent student, intent on his zazen. Night and day zazen zazen zazen, you know. So he's sitting there and Nangaku was strolling around in the moonlight checking out the scene, seeing what was going on around the temple. And there he sees Ma-tsu sitting on the porch doing zazen. I mean, he's doing zazen--pretty obvious he's doing zazen, right. But still Nangaku says, Oh, what are you doing? And Ma-tsu says, Zazen. And Nangaku says, Oh, why are you doing that? And Ma-tsu says, Well, I'm trying to become a Buddha. They must have been doing a roofing job on the temple because there were some roof tiles lying around outside. Nangaku picked one up, whipped a handkerchief out of his pocket and started rubbing the tile. And, you know, Ma-tsu's probably sitting there getting annoyed at the distraction and he said, What are you doing? And Nangaku said, Oh, I'm just rubbing this tile, getting it really nice. And Ma-tsu said, Why are you doing that? And Nangaku said, Well, I'm going to make this tile into a mirror. If I rub it enough it will be a mirror. And Ma-tsu said, You can't make a tile into a mirror. And Nangaku said, You can't make a Buddha by sitting. Which, of course, blew Ma-tsu's mind. You know, What?
So in this very open state Nangaku gave Ma-tsu some good teaching. He said, If you hitch an ox to a cart and you want to go somewhere what are you going to hit--the ox or the cart? Zazen, he continued, is not a matter of sitting or lying down. Buddha has no fixed form. In the midst of transitory things, don't grasp or reject. If you keep the Buddha seated, this is murdering the Buddha. If you cling to the form of sitting, this is to misunderstand sitting. So this is a very famous story, which was used for many years by Alan Watts to explain why zazen was unnecessary, and was not really part of Zen practice, which worked great for Alan Watts up to a point. So, what are we going to hit, the ox or the cart? What's going to work? Well, you know, we could whip the cart quite a bit, but we're just going to wear our arms out and nothing's going to move. If we sit with will and determination, this is whipping the cart. And if we don't sit with will and determination we feel critical of ourselves and this is also whipping the cart. And either way we're stuck on 'I'.
'I'. 'I' is the cart, see. 'I' is the cart. And the cart needs to be pulled along, but it's not the cart that drives our life. So that's what Nangaku was trying to say. 'I' can't become. 'I' can't improve. Because 'I' is the whole difficulty to begin with. If you ever have the experience of coming over and over again, nose up, to a very thick and impenetrable and impossible wall, you might try lots of different things. You might try to climb over it. You might try to get a hammer and break it down. You might try to hit your head against it for a while. None of those things will work. But if you open your eyes and have some perspective, all of a sudden you can notice that this big wall is standing there in the middle of a wide, empty field. So there's no need to break it down or leap over it somehow. All you need to do is walk around.
That's what we have to do. Ma-tsu, I think, got this point, so he asked a further question. How shall I do zazen, then? And Nan-yueh said, Your practice is like planting seeds. My teaching is like moisture from the sky. Circumstances come together this way. You will see the path and become awakened. So it's very, very important for us to understand that fundamentally it is not necessary for us to do anything. We just need to be attentive and give ourselves fully to each moment of our practice.We don't need to try hard to do something, like we try to do something all of our lives. Because there's absolutely nothing that we need to accomplish. We never know what any moment of our lives will bring. If we're distracted and confused and completely spaced out, that's OK. And we need to be attentive and give ourselves fully to that state of mind if that's what arises. Giving ourselves fully and being attentive to whatever state of mind arises is like planting seeds. And that's our job in sesshin--to plant seeds, to be present, to be aware, regardless of Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu, distraction, concentration, just to give ourselves to our experience and be attentive. That's planting seeds. The Buddhas and the ancestors from the past have prepared the soil, and that's why we chant and remember them every day, all of the enlightened men and women of the past and the present who have made this strong effort on our behalf. They prepared the soil, which is great, but if we don't plant the seed absolutely nothing will grow. So we plant seeds with our mindfulness and our effort and our sincerity. And then definitely, by and by, teaching comes. It may come from words, it may come from all the objects of the six senses--something we hear or smell or see may teach us--or it may even be a thought arising within our own minds, or some feeling that we can't name. But something comes in, like rain, and the seeds sprout. And then it's very easy to simply stroll around that wall, maybe without even knowing we're doing it. No one in this wide universe, no matter how smart they are, can force a seed to sprout. And no one in this wide universe, no matter how scientific they are, can explain exactly how it is that a seed sprouts. A sprouting seed is a miracle. All we know is that when conditions are right this miracle happens.
So, getting back to the main case, Ma-tsu now is teaching, himself, and Ta-mei is a student of his and says, What is Buddha? Ta-mei says, What is Buddha? And Ma-tsu says, This very mind is Buddha. Not I am Buddha or You are Buddha. These things are true but they may be a little harder to practice with than This very mind is Buddha. One detail about Ta-mei that you might be interested in is that, at the time of this story, he was a thoroughly new student but was a middle-aged person, because he came to practice well into his middle years. He had, before that, been a student of philosophy. That was not at all unusual. Many of the Zen stories are about people who had spent a long time doing something else, in or out of Buddhism, and came through their life experience of many years to Buddha Dharma. So those of you who are starting practice or have started practice in your later years, don't think that you have wasted your time and that you are coming to it too late. Because some of the greatest teachers also started later in life and brought everything in their lives to the Dharma and enriched it quite a bit that way.
So this is Ta-mei, and he asks, What is Buddha? And Ma-tsu says, This very mind is Buddha. And Ta-mei thinks, What a good idea. This very mind is Buddha. Right. So off he goes with this precious gift, This very mind is Buddha, and he sits with it. He takes it as his practice. He grinds his whole life into it. He eats it, he sleeps it, he goes to the toilet with it, until he knows personally, in a very direct way, that every single thing that comes up in his life is just this, just now. It's not me, it's not I, it's not good, it's not bad, it's not better than someone else's. It's just Buddha. And practicing this way for a long time Ta-mei feels some ease and joy in his life and he says, I'm going to go off by myself now. So he goes off and lives in a little hermitage and most of the time Ta-mei is in a little hut somewhere enjoying himself, not too far away from the monastery. There's a further story. A while later, when he's still living in his hut, one of Ma-tsu's disciples chances on him, realizes who he is and greets him. And Ta-mei says, How's the old teacher, how's he doing, what's he teaching these days? And the monk says, Well now he teaches Not mind, not Buddha. And Ta-mei says, That old teacher is just confused. This very mind Is Buddha! The student goes running back to tell Ma-tsu about this. And Ma-tsu says, The great plum is ripening. Ta-mei means great plum. The great plum is ripening.
So it sounds like disagreement, no? Ta-mei is disagreeing with his teacher. But I don't know if he's disagreeing. Normally if Ta-mei had said, Oh? OK. Not mind not Buddha? OK. Good. I'll practice that. Maybe then he would have been defiling his great teacher. Let me give you Master Mumon's comment on this famous case:
'If you can grasp the point directly, you wear Buddha's robes, eat Buddha's food, speak Buddha's words, take Buddha's role. That is, you yourself are Buddha. Ta-mei, however, misled quite a few people into trusting a broken scale. don't you know you should rinse out your mouth for three days when you utter the name Buddha? If you are genuine, you'll run away holding your ears upon just hearing the words, This very mind is Buddha.'
So again, this could sound like master Mumon is castigating poor Ta-mei. But I don't know. I think Ta-mei would get a great chuckle out of Master Mumon's comment because he holds This very mind Is Buddha very delicately and with humor . Understanding words are just words Master Ta-mei is not propounding a doctrine here. He's just being Ta-mei, he's just singing his song, he's just playing his part, expressing his life in the best way that he can. Mumon's poem on the case:
The blue sky and bright day-
no more searching around.
'What is Buddha?' you ask.
Hiding loot, you declare your innocence.
So we really are Buddha, just the way we are right now. With all our judgment and fear and confusion and distraction and wisdom and samadhi power, we are just Buddha. We can't declare our innocence-the loot is too obvious. The sky is blue, the cloud is white, the cushion is black, sweet taste sweet, salty tastes salty, life is just life. We can let go of our struggles and just appreciate something very, very simple for our life.
In order to do sesshin and to live as a human being it is necessary to be flexible--very, very flexible and soft. Which means that we have to stop holding on to our notions and views, stop holding on to our sense of identity--who we think we are and what we think is what and what we like and what we don't like-- and just allow our life to take place. When we exercise our body we have to be flexible and in order to be flexible we have to warm up--you actually have to get your muscles warm. Muscles are stiff if you don't warm them up. And it's the same way emotionally and spiritually, too. You have to warm up in order to become flexible. When we cling to a self as a fixed entity that we love or hate, a self that needs to be protected and justified then we're cold. Even if carrying this self in front of us we run around all the time being with other people and thinking about other people and trying to help other people, really all we're trying to do is get more food for our self, which is cold and wants to warm up. When we can relax and let the self go, just let it come and go, then we can warm up. And when we warm up we can have real warmth in our relations with others and with our world. I always think of the path of Shakyamuni Buddha as a path of true warmth.
You know, Buddha started out practicing a very harsh and cold practice. For six years he literally almost killed himself practicing ascetic practices and being a good ascetic. He was definitely willing to sacrifice his life for the truth. Well, after a while he realized that this was not going to work. He ran out of ways to practice. He saw that nothing would work. He had studied with different teachers. He tried this, he tried that, and he finally said, It's none of it's gonna work. And all of a sudden he had this flash of a memory of being a little boy and his father was doing a ceremony for the spring planting for opening up the fields, or maybe it was a harvest festival in the fall. And his father was like (sometimes we do this, you know) Let the kids go play somewhere while we do this. So he was off playing somewhere and he didn't have anybody to play with so he kind of just sat down under an apple tree, under a rose apple tree. He just sat down and very naturally and spontaneously fell into a kind of meditation practice, just being aware, just being present, inside and outside. And now, as a grown man seeking his path he suddenly remembered that moment and he said, I'll try that. I've given up on everything else, maybe that will work--just that very simple natural meditation practice of sitting up in awareness. And just then--having resolved to give up his austerities, give up his cold way of life and find this natural and easy style of meditation--just at that moment a beautiful maiden appeared, smiling. And this is a guy who had been looking at a bunch of grubby ascetics, you know, for years. This beautiful maiden appeared in front of him, mistaking him for the river god, the fertility god, and offered him some delicious rice pudding. Sweet tasting rice pudding. This is a guy who'd been living on one sesame seed and one grain of rice for some time. So she says, Here--she makes an offering to the person she thinks is the god--please-you know- accept this offering of rice pudding. So, I mean, it must have tasted awfully good. He must have really enjoyed that rice pudding. He may not have let her know that he wasn't a river god. So he eats the rice pudding and he says, Now I'm ready. I'm feeling much better now. I'm gonna sit under this tree and I'm not gonna look back.
The Buddha had some trials and tribulations under that tree. He had to face and work through many, many things that weren't so easy. Still, he had faith in his warm and natural, easy-going meditation practice, and he returned over and over again to that. And in the end he was liberated. What did the Buddha learn in the morning star? What did he awaken to? He let go once and for all of the coldness of self-clinging and opened himself to the warmth of the whole wide world. He saw that the self that he had been holding on to is no self at all. That self is many, many things coming and going and not a single one of those things can be possessed or judged in any way. He saw that he was like this, that his life had been like this for many, many lifetimes, and that you and I and everything in this wide world are also like this. So his experience was not, Oh, I'm awakened now, terrific. That wasn't his experience. His experience was how warm and free this wide world is. Nowhere can I see anyone or anything that is not already awakened.
So today I have a few more little suggestions for how you could practice. If you'd like to take them up I offer them to you. But only if you really feel like they're your own. It's no good to practice someone else's practice. If some of these things that I'm offering you don't feel like your own, just let them go and find another way to practice. But here are some little practical things that you could do that I think would be beneficial: One thing is the hot drink. At night there's a big pot in the kitchen with some delicious hot drink. And if you like you can have some hot drink before you go to bed, and, you know, maybe prepare yourself for bed in some way. But then I would invite you to come back into the zendo before you actually go to sleep, and do a practice of nine bows to one of these Bodhisattvas of the Rupadhatu--Jizo or Tara or Manjushri or Shakyamuni. Nine bows, offering your whole life with each bow, and then go to bed. You could do that if you want, if that strikes you as something you'd like to try. It's quite beautiful at night. It's dark in the zendo. So you could do that. Another thing you could do is to take up the practice, religiously, so to speak, of washing your face and hands and your feet every time you return to the zendo after a break. And when you do this you wash your face and hands and feet very, very mindfully as though you were washing the face and hands and feet of Buddha or Tara or Manjushri or Jizo. That kind of delicacy and loving kindness. And as you do that you can recite a verse to yourself. There are many verses you can use but one is something like, As I wash these hands--or as I wash this face or as I wash these feet--I vow with all beings to attain the pure teaching and be free from obstructions. As I wash these hands I vow with all beings to attain the pure teaching and be free from obstructions. As I wash these feet I vow with all beings to attain the pure teaching and be free from obstructions. As I wash this face I vow with all beings to attain the pure teaching and be free from obstructions. And then when you come to the zendo you'll come with a very fresh and refreshed spirit, really brand new, for the next session of zazen or kinhin. You'll be surprised what a difference it makes it you do that after each break. So those are some things you could do if you like.
And today I would also like to suggest that you begin practicing very strongly with your breath, really giving yourself to each and every breath, making each breath big and strong inside of you, pressing down on your diaphragm and feeling the feeling of the breath strong in your belly. Just breathing in and breathing out. Even if you're caught in thinking or judgment or confusion, if you can come back to the breath, if you don't lose the feeling of the breath in your belly you won't be so caught. Thinking can be fine, judgment is even fine. Even that painful judgment where you feel so oh god you know get me out of here. If you can really be in touch with your breath, judgment just floats by. Not a problem. And to help you, you can count. Every time you exhale you count, one. The next exhale, two. Up to ten. If you lose count, one. When you get to ten, one. And, you know, this is not a contest. We're not keeping track. You don't have one of those little counters. So if you lose count it doesn't make any difference whatsoever. You just start again at one. Don't worry about it. The important thing is that the breath is there for you and that you invest everything in your whole life in that breath, so that the breath is bigger than you and bigger than the whole world. And this is going to take everything you've got, all your energy and creativity. And it is creative because you really have to create that breath with your awareness. If you can do this, really establish yourself with the breath, then the breath will become alive and vivid and it will give you energy and you will find that the whole world is operating through you. And then you'll be able to practice in ways that you never imagined you could. And if you count for a while and you feel that counting is getting too much like a kind of pain, you can just forget about the counting and just stay with the feeling of the breath without counting, just following the breath in the belly. So you have to develop this. Please think about developing this, working on it. The breath is a precious treasure and a really beautiful thing.
I want to encourage you some more about the breath. I want to read a wonderful passage from a book that just came in the mail to me the other day. It's a book of Zen teachings of Maurine Stuart, who is a dear friend and teacher of ours. It's a great loss to us that she's not with us any more. Her teaching was always bright and clear. So I would like to read you what she says about working with the breath:
'Someone came to me and said in disbelief, 'This is spiritual practice, sitting on a cushion and counting from one to ten?''
It is kind of stupid, you know. Someone asks, What did you do for a week? And you say, Well I sat there and counted from one to ten over and over again on my breath. And you paid for that? Sounds kind of stupid. So somebody came to her and said, Really? That's what you call spiritual practice?
'Those of you who are doing this strange spiritual practice of counting your breaths are discovering that it's exceedingly wonderful; it is incomparably the best way to take us into the ocean of samadhi .... Just counting: it's difficult to do, to count from one to ten, again and again. To reach a unified, single-minded state, this method has been used for generation after generation after generation. When you begin counting, there are many thoughts. Thoughts come in and thoughts go out, and eventually, the counting takes over and you are deeply engaged in vast-what? [That's what it says: in vast-what?] And then, just naturally, counting stops. And you're just watching the breath, breathing the in-breath, breathing the out-breath. And then even that falls off, and you're just purely being. The thought of practicing Zen is gone. The thought of successful practice is gone. Scattered mind is gone.There's just simply one-mindedness, and then no- mindedness: Mu-shin. Nothing seeking, or striving, or getting; just counting. Just breathing. Just being. Just this.
'Whatever else we do--and we may very well do all kinds of things besides counting our breaths as our practice goes on--the best way to begin each sitting is just this way. A dynamically still process, a simple, unaffected trust is what occurs.
'Last night I was dreaming; it was a very vivid dream. I woke myself up saying, 'Yes, yes, yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes! Say yes to it. Neither approving nor rejecting, whatever it is. Through the intensive practice of sesshin, we can face things more calmly. With our hearts full of strength and energy, we have a new sureness in our lives. We feel lifted out of the ego-self that says 'I, me, my, I, me, my' all the time. We feel freer to live in wholeness, not some split, childish self.
'This is what we mean by compassion. Being really present with everything, giving ourselves up completely, is compassion. Doing our work as we are asked to do it cleanly, quietly, inconspicuously, is compassion.'
So that's Maurine's wonderful way and you can almost hear her strong, clear voice urging us on. So, I have come to the end of my lecture, and I just want to close with a poem, a short poem of Ryokan:
Buddha is your mind
And the Way goes nowhere.
Don't look for anything but this.
If you point your cart North
When you want to go South,
How will you arrive?
Well, thank you very much for your kind attention today.