Wherever You Stand

Dharma Talks by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Commentaries on Shodoka by Yongjia (Yoka daishi, d. 713)

translated by Anzan Hoshin roshi and Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi

Wherever You Stand 1: Who?

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, November 3rd, 2012

Welcome aboard!
Please stay in your seats until we've come to a complete and full stop.

I'll let you know.

Today we will start looking into the "Shodoka", The Song of Liberation,
which was written a long time ago,
somewhere around 713
by Yoka Daishi.

Now who was Yoka Daishi?

Actually, he died in 713, so he wasn't really writing then, so it had to have been before...
He was 48 years old when he died,
in the same year as his Teacher, Huineng,
who was the sixth Chinese Ancestor.

Yoka Daishi was regarded by many as being a fine Teacher.
He has been considered a student of Huineng's,
even though according to various stories,
Huineng was actually the person who recognized,
gave recognition to the fact that Yoka Daishi had woken up.

Yoka Daishi studied a lot on his own.
He apparently studied all the important teachings that were available to him
and this led him to the understanding that
without zazen,
they were all empty words,
they were nothing.

He built a hermitage, the stories go, spent many years there,
and is said to have perfectly realized zazen
in walking, standing, sitting, or lying down.

He was said to have become enlightened when reading the Vimalakirtinirdesha-sutra.
He heard of Huineng and sought him out at Shaolin monastery
and stayed only one night,
according to the stories,
and was referred to as
"Master of Enlightenment Attained in One Night".

Well, of course the enlightenment,
as it were,
was not attained in one night,
but apparently was recognized and certified by Huineng,
and Yoka Daishi stayed only one night.

Now the "Shodoka",
"Song of Enlightenment",
"Song of Immediate Satori",
"Song of Realization of the Way",
"Ode on Enlightenment",
has 64 verses
and there are many different ways of translating it.

Yoka Daishi, also known as Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh or Yung Chan Ching Chueh
was one of the most gifted Teachers of Chan in the Tang Dynasty.
As I said, he was a Dharma heir of Huineng,
the sixth Patriarch or Ancestor

we have changed the language,
but you will come
across "Patriarch" in many many texts that you may read,
and Anzan Hoshin roshi has changed,
(and this started twenty-some years ago,)
changed "Patriarch" to "Ancestor"

for obvious reasons.

Now, Yoka Daishi was recognized by Huineng.
Huineng was the sixth Chan Ancestor
and he had been taught by Hongren
who was the fifth Chinese Ancestor.
The fourth was Daoxin,
the third Sengcan,
the second, Huike.
The first Chan Ancestor was Bodhidharma.

I think it's important to have some context
so I'll do my best to provide an overview of what was going on
in the world,
in the world of Buddhism
and practice
in the sixth and seventh centuries.

I find it more interesting to be able to place these different characters,
and when they're placed in time and space,
and we start to see how people were living,
what they were up to,
what was going on,
the characters start to fill out.

There are not many records that are available that can say and agree upon dates and times,
so if we say sixth and seventh century—pretty close.
Dates are given, for example, of when Bodhidharma arrived in China.
Some say that it was in 528, others say 527, others suggest it was before 479 c.e..

One of the things that's very interesting is that,
apparently Zen had been in China,
Chan in China,
before it took root in Japan
and for some 700 years that was the case.

The Chan, or Zen word,
was regarded as cool and hip,
hard to define,
and "imparted and attracted an enigmatic air to anyone believed to understand it".

So, even then,
1500 years ago,
there was this mystique
around the practice,
because as we know,
most people would rather believe something
than actually practise something.

Now Bodhidharma is sort of the granddaddy,
the great-granddaddy
who gave birth,
as it were
to the six Zen Ancestors, the six Chan Ancestors.

Bodhidharma was an Indian, and no one knows exactly where he was born, the rumour is that he was actually from a fairly well-off family, a Brahmin family. For whatever reason, he was familiar with and had come across the Buddhadharma and had decided to take off and see the world. He apparently spent years on the Ocean Silk Road, which was of course the ocean through which travellers would sail, and they would end up in Guangzhou or Canton, which was rapidly becoming a very, very busy port.

Now, words that you will come across,
and have come across in the texts about practice, such as
"the Way"
"attaining the Way"
were already used in China to describe Daoist and Confucian ideals,
talking about an exalted path
of philosophical
aesthetic insight and practice.

So, as is the case today,
language is picked up and it is used in different ways.
We may think we are talking about and understanding the same thing,
but that may not necessarily be the case,
so it's worthwhile looking into it.

Apparently, one of the reasons why Zen or Chan spread throughout Chinese culture
was because its literature coincided with
the development of wood block printing.
So just as we're doing today,
Zen and texts about Zen were riding a technological wave.

The next bit of technology that happened in China was
the invention of moveable type,
so this is why,
it's one of the reasons why,
we have texts that have survived.

Why was it that Bodhidharma came to be regarded as the First Chan Ancestor?

Well some say because
he was the first to emphasize directly observing
the actual nature of body and mind,
the actual nature of experiencing.
Some scholars say that
that approach was already evident in China,
so part of his attraction may have been
a certain charisma.
We know stories about Bodhidharma,
but there was a flavour around this particular Teacher
that had an impact on the culture
and drew to him,
over time,
and to his Teachings,
other Teachers,

other people who became Teachers, such as the other five Chan Ancestors.

We've all heard,
and I'm sure you will remember the story,
particularly when you do kinhin and walk past Anzan Hoshin's zenga of Bodhidharma,
his interactions with Emperor Wu,
so we won't go there,
but we'll mention: "Vast emptiness. Nothing Holy"
because there are other mentions of it.

There are other stories of Bodhidharma,
one of which was that when he arrived in the port of Guangzhou,
he struck the ground and said: "There is a treasure here".
Some guys heard the words,
and they were from a foreign holy man!
so apparently they went and started digging
and they found water, fresh water
in this brackish tidal area,
and apparently the well continued to be used until 1953,
when pipes were put in to carry water to homes.
Is that true?
I don't know, it's another story and it's interesting that such a story
has survived for say, 1300 years.

A book written in 650, "The Continued Biography of Eminent Monks", by monk Daoshuan,
talks about the second generation of the disciples of Bodhidharma,
and this book, "The Continued Biography of Eminent Monks",
is the one that suggests Bodhidharma arrived before 479,
and it does mention that he taught "samadhi", or "mindfulness" meditation.

Bodhidharma taught two ways: entering through the principle, and entering through practice.
The principle that he spoke of was accepting that all beings possessed the same true nature which is obstructed or conditioned by worldly attachments.
Second, entering through practice: you put your butt down and face the wall. We would recognize this as we are doing the same thing right here right now.

The dates are not to be taken as if written in stone,
because apparently
they are not written in stone
but the general consensus is that
there was such a character as Bodhidharma and
as "The Continued Biography of Eminent Monks" states,
there were his students who woke up,
became Teachers,
transmitted to other students
who became Teachers,
and accepted students
and confirmed people's waking up
as was done by Huineng
for Yoka Daishi, who wrote the "Shodoka".

"Wherever You Stand",
which is the title of this series,
is a big clue.

Take it literally.
Wherever you stand,
lie down,
go shopping,
wherever you are
is always now,

and you have at that moment
everything that you need
to practise.

Feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
feel the feet on the floor,
moment after moment after moment.

Practise what was taught
and what has been taught
and talked about
for centuries.

Now, we have historically, and today,
we have Chinese Buddhism,
we have Tibetan Buddhism,
we have Japanese Buddhism,
Korean Buddhism,
there are differences and
I'm hoping that some of you will perhaps become interested in exploring...

I mean in olden days you had to get on a ship or a donkey,
or you had to move your own ass along
footstep by footstep.
Now what do you do?
You can do exactly as I did, sit down in front of your computer and Google,
and follow those trails that open out.

You will find many interesting things.

Now one of the differences was
in Chinese monastic practice the monks
did not get married,
did not have families,
did not earn money.
Major difference from Japanese.

This affected Dogen in the 1200s,
causing him to head back to China,
to go back to the source to find out what's going on

and in fact in the 1980s there was a saying
when some Chinese monks went to Japan: "One went, three came back",
meaning that in the course of whatever visit, the person got married, and had a family.

So we're covering as much as we can to provide a context for the writing of the "Shodoka." We're not going to get there today.

I'm going to stop talking right now,
we're at Bodhidharma,
we'll go further,
the next time we'll explore a bit of the sixth and seventh centuries more thoroughly,
then we'll look at the text.

radical practice
right here
right now
wherever you stand,
this is it.

Why waste time?

You're doing something that's been done by a lot of people,
there are remarkable similarities,
factual similarities to what's happening here
and what happened in the 600s and 700s:
technological innovation, making possible the spread of texts,
people travelling to seek out what is true...

and all ending up with their butt on a round cushion.

Isn't that wonderful?

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 2: Who: Bodhidharma, Part 1

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, November 17th, 2012

Thank you for traveling to the sitting this morning.

Oh, some of you may have come, what, ten miles?
Twenty miles?
Down the stairs?

Anyway, you traveled to get here
and before that
you traveled
to actually come to a workshop
to actually look into
what Zen practice might be.

Today, we're in the second Dharma Talk of "Wherever You Stand", looking into the Shodoka.

We are looking at who again?
The first Chinese Ancestor
the first Chan Ancestor,
the first Zen Ancestor:

"What? Again? How much can we say about this old fellow?"

Well quite a lot because with modern technology, more and more information is actually being made available.

Why is it worth looking into?

Well without this fellow and his rather rough life,
there's a good possibility
that none of us would be sitting here today
doing this practice,

this bare boned practice of
facing the wall,

looking into moment to moment experiencing,
recognizing that none of the patterns that come up,
none of the thoughts and feelings that come up
are YOU.

You're the Knowing of them.

When you notice anything,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind.

So as I say, we're looking into this fellow, Bodhidharma,
Anzan roshi has referred to him as
"Bodhidharma, that sleazy old fart who washes dirt with mud."

Apparently he was quite a character—
and that of course is said with love and respect,
the reference to him,
that's why we have him up on the wall,
the zenga
in the Hatto and
downstairs in the Zendo.

It looks as if as things are uncovered, that this person really did exist.
Of course there are many stories which are apocryphal or false because why?
Because people make up stories, that's why.
There's no problem with that, but we do like to know what is true and what is fabrication.

What's true is what is taught,
and what Bodhidharma taught was that all objects,
forms of experience,
are manifestations of mind,
or we could say,
are all knowns.
Does that sound familiar?

Well this caused him a lot of trouble when he was in China,
trouble to the point
where some say he may have been poisoned
by teachers from other schools
who did not agree with what he was teaching,
and one quote which comes from a recent book,
we don't know where he got his source, actually,
but a quote which is in a book "All is Change", written by a fellow named Lawrence Sutin,
attributed to Bodhidharma which is:

"I don't talk about precepts, devotions, or ascetic practices, such as immersing yourself in fire or water, treading on a wheel of knives, eating one meal a day or never lying down, these are fanatical, provisional teachings. Once you recognize your moving, miraculously aware nature, yours is the mind of all Buddhas." —all those who have woken up.

This of course was very much in opposition to what many people, many masters were interested in, such as the Tripitaka, the Three Baskets, the Sutra-pitaka. (The Teachings and sermons of Buddha are originally written in Sanskrit or Pali.)

It's important to remember:
nothing, the Buddha wrote nothing down.
Gautama Siddhartha, apparently, wrote nothing down
that survived
and writing seemed to have started some
maybe 200 years after he died,
so a lot of it may have been what
other people were told that
this figure
may have said.

The others were the Vinaya-pitaka, the Second Basket, the rules and regulations of monastic life ranging from dress code and dietary rules to prohibitions in personal conduct.

Then the Abhidharma, we've all heard that word: philosophical and psychological discourse and interpretation of Buddhist doctrine.

So the people involved in the Vinaya-pitaka, apparently developed quite a jealousy if not hatred for Bodhidharma when he was teaching in China.

Where did this fellow come from?
Well, rumour has it that he was born October 5th in South India, son of an Indian king, and the Indian king was a Pallava king, Simhavarman and he was in the capital Kancheepuram.

This king had three sons. The youngest one was named Bodhitara, the king himself was a Buddhist and thus it would explain the name Bodhitara. The two elder sons, apparently, were fearful that the youngest son would in fact inherit, so they gave him grief.

Now often in families, you need no reason for giving a younger sibling grief, it just seems to be something that does happen...

But they gave him grief throughout his life. The son of one of the sons who became a king after his father died, was of great help to Bodhidharma later in his journey, literally his journey.

So Bodhidharma, Bodhitara at the time, made a choice: he wanted to become a monk. His leanings were along that line. He wanted to know what was going on. There was a wandering Teacher named Prajnatara who showed up in the capital city.

Bodhitara's father contacted him or her to come and teach his youngest son. This happened. Bodhitara took monastic vows and was named Bodhidharma.

So yes, it would seem that there may be a chance that Prajanatara was in fact a female and Zen histories transmitted to Korea in the 7th century portray this Dharma Ancestor as a woman. It's not surprising that reference to gender may have been lost in China because in classical Chinese, gender is often inferred from context and not stated explicitly. So it wouldn't be surprising if that information were lost.

One day Bodhidharma said to her, when India was experiencing a lot of invasions from Huns who were sweeping in through northern India in the 5th century and down, that was one of the reasons why the person who became Prajnatara actually arrived in southern India, trying to escape the chaos and killing that was going on as a result of various invasions in the north. So Bodhidharma said to her:

"What should I do when you die? Where should I go?"

And she said: "The Dharma is dead in India."

That sounds familiar because a similar thing was said by Daiji Tenku, our great-grandfather in Dharma, to Joshu roshi, our grandfather in Dharma.

"The Dharma is dead here: get out of town."

So that apparently was the cause for Bodhidharma leaving after Prajnatara died at 67, leaving to go to China.

Now there are rumours that in the process of getting to China that Bodhidharma stopped in Indonesia and Malaysia and spread the Buddhadharma there, but I don't know for sure, no one seems to know for sure, but what we do know, and apparently it is quite sure, this person did arrive in China, most likely around 470 C.E.

He was aided by his brother's son who was now a king of India. This king was very fond of his uncle, the monk Bodhidharma, and wanted to make amends for the bad treatment that "BD" had received at the hands of his brothers, one of which was the father of the man who was now king. So he sent a message to the pigeon men, the guys in charge of carrier pigeons, and told them to send messages to China that there was a monk coming and that they should take care of him when he arrived.

Is this true?
Is it not true?
I don't know.
Could happen...

And so when Bodhidharma did arrive in China after roughly a three year journey, a lot of it by sea, there was prior knowledge and people were wondering: "What is special about this guy that pigeons were sent? That we know about him? What is special about him?"

So he caused I guess a little bit of sensation.

Now one of the things they say is special about Bodhidharma is that he was born with a breathing disorder and from an early age was trained in breathing exercises and eventually in combat, Dravidian warfare arts.

Now, if that's true it would help to understand why and how certain exercises which have now been subsumed by the martial arts would have been apparently taught by Bodhidharma at Shaolin Temple when he arrived there.

Now, Bodhidharma apparently arrived in China in 470, maybe, the dates are difficult, they can't be nailed down, but the earlier one seems like the better one in light of later information as to when Bodhidharma arrived at Shaolin Temple and when he established a temple himself of which there is a record in village records, which apparently in China are kept meticulously.

When he was asked why he came to China,
Bodhidharma said it was to transmit the instantaneous Teachings of the Mahayana.
Previously I read that quote saying that what he did not do was talk about "precepts, devotions, or ascetic practices".
His was the action of sitting down and looking at the wall.

So people had heard about this monk that was quite special and
they wanted to hear from him
because let's remember,

there wasn't TV,
there wasn't the internet,
there wasn't movies,
there wasn't radio,
and so on,

so when someone new arrived in the area and
they were from a foreign country,
you certainly wanted to hear what they had to say.

So there was a gathering and Bodhidharma showed up, the people were there, waiting for wise words from this Indian monk. This was in Nanjing, a famous place.

He walked in,
he sat down,
doing what we call "zazen"
for many hours.

The crowd of course grew restless.

"What's he...?"
"Did he say anything?"
"What's going on?"

"Oh gee, come on guy!"
"Come on"
"Say something!"
"...Say something!"



So they were quite upset.

Not all.

There were some who were actually impressed.

So he got up and walked away.

Needless to say this did not cause people to stop talking about him.

He had another encounter at Flower Rain Pavilion in Nanjing. There was a monk, Shenguang, and I mentioned him before, and he was a renowned speaker and lecturer in Buddhism. Bodhidharma showed up there to listen to this monk lecture in Buddhism. He's sitting there not saying anything, he's nodding, yes yes, no no, nodding in disagreement but not saying anything. Apparently this infuriated the speaker who was quite a violent man and he ended up picking up his mala, word has it, threw it at Bodhidharma, hit him in the teeth, knocked out his two front teeth.

He started to bleed.
Bodhidharma wiped it away and

walked away.

He did not respond in kind.
He did not seem to get upset.
He just went about his business.

In the "Shodoka, the Song of Freedom " by Yoka Daishi, who wrote the "Song of Freedom"
190 years after Bodhidharma arrived in China,
there are a few quotes that when you hear them again
in the context of the whole poem,
you may remember and
it will give you a sense of the times and
the Teachings and this history,
and the ground that was broken
so that we have the understanding of practice
that we have right here right now.

If folks argue and slander you, let them:
they are playing with fire, trying to burn the sky.

Another quote:

Abusive words are disguised blessings
and my abusers good teachers.

Another one:

This mind has room for slander and abuse
and is itself unborn compassion and patience.

There's more when we look at the other five Chan or Zen Chinese Ancestors, so we can see how the Teachings developed and how they have been passed on.

After the encounter with Emperor Wu, the famous encounter with Emperor Wu, Bodhidharma went and walked, traveled and ended up in Shaolin Temple,
"BD"—as I affectionately call him now
after all this information,
I'm convinced now that
he was a real person and
it's interesting to see how
echoing through the ages
there are still popular remnants and appearances of this character.

Not only are there the zenga that we see here,
not only are there the many zenga or sho portraying Bodhidharma,
but there's even an action figure of Bodhidharma,
12 inches tall with several sets of hands
so that the different postures can be demonstrated for kung fu.

(And remember, we,
each morning at formal sittings
do the Daruma Kata Chi Kung)

but as somebody said:

"There is no zafu, there is no sitting tool with this action figure."

But it's a great figure,
and also
my spies,
my eyes
have told me that on a popular television series called "Boardwalk Empire"
there appears a portrait of Bodhidharma
in a brothel in early 20th century American Atlantic City.

So this character and
what he taught is still resounding and
that's pretty interesting.

I think I'll end here and we'll pick up with "Who: Bodhidharma, Part 2" during the next Dharma Talk on the Shodoka, "Wherever You Stand".

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 3: Who: Bodhidharma, Part 2

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 1st, 2012

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

We looked at Bodhidharma Part 1, Bodhidharma, the first of the Chinese Ancestors.

Why are we looking at him again?

Well because we look at him and he looks at us
each time we come to the Hatto,
each time we come to the Zendo,
each time we walk kinhin around the Hatto or the Zendo
and why is that?

Because this was a very influential individual,
and although through the chaotic times of history
this person was reduced to, in some cases,
a little doll with a round bottom,
a little daruma doll;
you push it over and
fwoop! It pops right up again...

So it was quite easy to make only a cartoon out of this character,
yet the more one looks,
the more one studies,
the more one reads things such as
"Bodhidharma's Eyes" by Anzan Hoshin roshi,
the more the character fleshes itself out,
and this is definitely,
this person is definitely part of the history of Zen
and part of the history of the practice
that you are doing right now as you sit
facing the wall,
knowing more and more clearly
that you are the Knowing,
and that everything that is known
is known by the bodymind.

To refresh your memory:
Bodhidharma was born a prince in southern India,
studied with Dharma Ancestor Prajnatara,
was told to go to China,
arrived approximately 479
Buddhism had already been in China since about 80 C.E.

He traveled, the voyage itself taking about three years.

He ended up at a place called Loyang, which was an active centre of Buddhist scholarship. Many Indian monks came there and they were busying themselves with the sutras, translating them into Chinese.

Now, as we've gathered, Bodhidharma was not particularly, let's say, devoted only to the study of sutras, and in fact there is a sentence which you have come across before which is attributed to Bodhidharma:

A special transmission outside of the sutras, not depending upon words or letters, direct pointing to the human mind, seeing into one's nature, becoming Buddha.

Now it is said that this understanding was not viewed in a kindly light by many of the teachers who were engaged in the study of the sutras, and it may be that he was forced to leave that particular location and travel, begging, just to get away to a safe place.

He was very controversial, the subject of much debate.
Many stories were created after he lived
and both Japanese and Western scholars have downplayed his importance,
both when he was alive and after he died,
and there are some who even deny that he existed.

Many records of course were lost because in that area of the world
as in a lot of areas of the world,
history could be described with one word:

I mean let's face it,
we've been at each other in various combinations
trying to kill each other off
for centuries.
So records would get lost.

So we have Bodhidharma leaving to Loyang,
the active centre of Buddhist studies,
where he had made himself unpopular.
[O-sensei laughs]

Let's say it's a good thing being a Zen Teacher is not a popularity contest...
[O-sensei and students laugh]

So, he ended up at Shaolin Temple, which had been founded in 495,
well we're not quite sure of the date,
scholars still argue over the dates of the arrival of Bodhidharma,
some going so far as to say that he was 100 years old when he arrived in the country,
but maybe that's just because people of different ethnicities age differently than other people...
who knows?

But he ended up in Shaolin Temple where it is said he sat for nine years.

The monks at Shaolin, according to some stories, were quite worried about him sitting out there in a cave in a mountain called, according to some, Breast Mountain. [O-sensei laughs] Apparently in front of Shaolin there are five mountains named for their shape: Bell, Drum, Sword, Stamp, and Flag, and behind the temple there are five Breast Mountains.

So Bodhidharma went into a cave in one of the Breast Mountains and sat there for nine years, legend has it, and legend also has it that so intense was his practice that his image was engraved on the wall in front of him. So please don't do that this morning. [students laugh]

And outside watching over him was Shenguang who we've run across before.
He kept guard, periodically asking Bodhidharma to teach him.
Bodhidharma emerged from the cave after nine years,
went to a room in the temple which had been prepared for him by the monks there,
and guess what?

Sat down, practised zazen for another four years.

Shenguang kept asking to be taught.
One story has it the response was:
"When red snow falls."
We'll hear more about that later.

So after, it would seem, after this 13 or 15 years at Shaolin may have been the time when Bodhidharma met Emperor Wu Dai of Liang who reigned from 502 to 549. Emperor Wu embraced and promoted Buddhism. He was a monk several times and he forced his court to purchase him back from time to time with handsome offerings. [O-sensei and students laugh] Then around 517 he ordered the destruction of the Daoist temples.

He disallowed corporal punishment and animal sacrifices. Some compare him to King Ashoka whom of course you all remember from amongst other places, the "Every Breath You Take" series. Some historians and scholars refers to Emperor Wu's reign as the Golden Age of Chinese Buddhism.

Bodhidharma is said to have encountered Emperor Wu around 520 and this matches with records recently found which indicate that Bodhidharma built or had built for him True Victory Temple in Tianchang in 522. It seems most likely, or it seems very likely in my opinion, that that would have been with the blessing of Emperor Wu.

Remember the story that Bodhidharma had been summoned to the court sometime, the records aren't clear or the writings aren't clear and this very story was written only around 758 in an appendix of a text by Shenhui, a disciple of Huineng, the sixth and last Chinese Ancestor, so the story really cannot be said to be historically accurate...

But he was summoned to meet with Emperor Wu
who told him of all the temples he had built
and the money and support he had given to the monastic community
and asked Bodhidharma:
"What merit have I gained?"

Bodhidharma looked out from under his apparently somewhat substantial eyebrows
with those big eyes
—which of course had generated other stories,
you all know about the tea bush—
but he looked out at the Emperor and said:

"None whatsoever."

And the Emperor said: "Who are you to tell me these things?"

And Bodhidharma said: "I don't know."

So the story of their meeting as I said was recorded some 230 years later, so who knows exactly what was said? But obviously since we're still talking about it here today, 2012, we have a picture of him on the wall, obviously something substantial occurred that caused a lot of people to flap their lips through the centuries and even to write it down, and to use this as an example of the clarity and "cut-throughingness" of Zen practice.

We do know by the very fact that we're sitting here that what Bodhidharma taught is still resounding. That's pretty good.

This temple, True Victory Temple, built in 522, apparently according to "Tracking Buddhism" a new book that's out, is 60 miles north of Nanjing. Places that have been mentioned that Bodhidharma traveled, mentioned in different talks and stories, and the record there showing that this temple was founded by or Bodhidharma was the Abbot of, the records are still alive today.

The temple is gone, there is nothing left of True Victory Temple. The only artifact left is a well head in front of an appliance store that's 1 metre across—not the store, the well head—1 metre across and a few inches high.

So this person, Bodhidharma, this rogue monk who just wanted to sit and who taught those who wanted to sit how to sit, menpek-kunin, menpeki, biguan, pikuan, or wall-gazing.

Those who were interested might like to read "Bodhidharma's Eyes" by Anzan roshi.

So Bodhidharma taught, he practised, he taught.
Some say he had lots of followers.
Some say no one wanted to do the practice,
but don't we feel like that often?
Yet we keep showing up...

And apparently some people did keep showing up.

Bodhidharma is known to have had four Dharma heirs, and there is a story which you have heard before:

One day Bodhidharma asked his four disciples what they had attained.

Daofu said: "My present view is without being attached to the written word or being detached from the written word, one still engages in the work of the Way."

So you do it.

Bodhidharma said: "You have my skin."

Zongchi said (and she was the nun who had come to study with him): "It's like Ananda seeing the land of the Buddha Akshovia, seen once, it isn't seen again."

Bodhidharma said: "You have my flesh."

Daoyu said: "The four elements are originally empty, the five aggregates are non-existent, there is not a single dharma to attain."

Bodhidharma said: "You have my bones."

Huike made three bows and stood still.

Bodhidharma said: "You have my marrow."

He said that because Huike had the deepest understanding. And Huike would become the second Chinese Ancestor.

Next time, on "Wherever You Stand", we will look more deeply at the second Chinese Ancestor Huike.

All of this is so that we gain more of an understanding of the times in which these people lived and practised, which will enable us to provide more context around Yoka Daishi's "Shodoka, The Song of Freedom".

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 4: Who: Dazu Huike

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 8th, 2012

Previously in "Wherever You Stand";
we left Bodhidharma standing with his four disciples,
four students and he had asked the question:
"What have you understood?"
and the fourth disciple made three bows and stood still.

Bodhidharma looked at him with those eyes and those eyebrows,
which you can see on the zenga hanging on the Hatto wall,
and said: "You have my marrow"
meaning you are the closest to me in your understanding
and that fourth disciple became Huike,
the Second Chinese Ancestor.

Now there are stories that differ somewhat as to who this person was and where he came from. The dates are pretty well 487 birth to his death around 593, but what he did for the first 40 years of his life is not exactly clear because as we know by now, many of the records that may have been kept had been wiped out as there was conflict in the areas.

So stories are passed down, people wrote books, they kept records, like "The Stories of Imminent Monks"...then there was--
...Emminent, not Imminent! [students and Sensei laugh]
Do we have any imminent monks in the room? [more laughter]

Okay, Keizan zenji wrote about Huike, along with the other Ancestors, in the Denkoroku, but that was written 1268-ish to 1325-ish, somewhere in there. Now we all know about stories, about how they get started: there is an incident, something happens, someone's there, a lot of people aren't there, but they may hear bits and pieces and then they fill in the blanks according to what they think might have happened. I'm sure we've all had direct experience of this type of thing occurring, but since I'm the one talking, I'll tell you one.

About 35 years ago, I was working in a small African country as a communications consultant. I was working for a foreign government, and I was "up country", meaning I was away from almost everybody. One morning, for some reason or another, the radio that I was supposed to have on all the time, which was connected to the project centre, wasn't working. So, no problem, I fed the mongoose, fed the kitten, fed myself, got in my project jeep and headed up this rutted, muddy road towards the radio station to meet the indigenous producers and technicians and I had barely left my driveway when a hand reached into my jeep, grabbed my keys from me, pulled me out of the jeep, threw me in the ditch and took off with my jeep and some money and there I was left...kind of bemused, let's say, and finally I made my way by foot up to the radio station where the guys had been wondering what had gone on with me because there was an alleged coup occurring and we were living in the area which was the home area of the head of state.

I also found out later that my next door neighbour, who was known as "the Leopard" was apparently the only man in the country that the head of state was afraid of.

The project did not know this when they put me in that particular house. [laughter] People, huh? People! [laughter]

So then I was taken by motorcycle to a safe house and waited a couple of days for the one jet in the country to be sent up to pick me up, and finally I heard it, the guys came, put me on the motorcycle, whoosh through the red dust, down to the airfield, two gigantic guys basically almost dragged me by my elbows, with my toes trailing through the dust, into the jet, into the capital city, and I was whisked off to the ambassador's residence. I spent a good length of time staying at the ambassador's residence. In the daytime I would go to the embassy grounds, sit around the pool, drink, smoke cigarettes, I was having a whale of a time. [laughter]

And there were rumours, rumours and stories... "There was this consultant who had been up country who had been raped by a battalion of people and who had been very badly beaten up..."
I thought: "My god, that's terrible!" Didn't take very long for me to find out they were talking about me. [more laughter]

None of those things had happened, but people filled in bits and pieces so I have a great deal of tolerance and understanding for stories.

So we have Huike, who apparently was born "Shenguang", and Anzan roshi in the Denkoroku says that Huike was of the Ji clan, and as often happens, before he was born, apparently, his parents being childless, used to wonder, "how come we don't have any children?" Well one night there was...guess what? A big light, a strange light brightening the room and the wife conceived and the child was born who was named Shenguang, or "Light". This is what he was known as growing up. He received ordination as a Buddhist monk from meditation Master Baojing, and then went travelling to hear lectures and studied the principles of both the Hinayana and Mahayana.

Now, another story has it that he was a general, that he had been a general and let's say he'd been responsible for the loss of life of many people. Is that true? I don't know.

Another story has it that he, as a monk was lecturing in a square of a temple, and I've mentioned this before in previous Dharma Talks; he was lecturing and Bodhidharma was sitting listening, nodding when he agreed, and nodding when he didn't agree, and the "didn't agree" may have in fact been more prevalent than the agreeing because for some reason or other the story has it that Shenguang took his iron mala and knocked out Bodhidharma's teeth, his two front teeth, and Bodhidharma being a nice guy, apparently, swallowed them, and kind of walked away rather than becoming confrontational, and this in fact, really affected Shenguang to the point where he wanted to study with this person.

Another story has it that Shenguang met Bodhidharma only at Shaolin Temple, that for around 40 years he had been a scholar in Luoyang and he went to Shaolin to ask this learned monk from India to teach him so he could master the depths of the Dharma. Whenever he asked a question he received only silence until one day in December, he had been standing all night in the cold in front of BD's window, Bodhidharma said:

"Why have you been standing in the snow?"

And he said: "I want to study with you."

And Bodhidharma may or may not have said something to the effect of, "well that will happen when the snow is red" according to some stories, at which point Shenguang hacked off his left arm.

Now there are various commentaries, including Joshu roshi's commentary on whether this did or didn't happen. Apparently when Anzan Hoshin roshi asked him whether this had actually happened, he said:

"Don't be asshole!" [O-sensei and students laugh]

Another story has it, a middle aged monk named Shenguang had been told by divine spirits that Bodhidharma could liberate him from confusion. He stands outside the cave, Bodhidharma is sitting, he stands there for days in the snow to demonstrate his resolve. Bodhidharma scolds him but he won't leave. He asks Bodhidharma to pacify his mind.

Bodhidharma says: "Show me this mind."

Shenguang says: "I look for it but I cannot find it."

Bodhidharma says: "I have pacified your mind"

Shenguang was accepted by Bodhidharma and receives the Dharma name Huike.

Now, which one of these are true? Well there's the essence of truth in all of them. There was this person who at some point met Bodhidharma, he had already been studying a lot of the sutras and so on, the different schools, he was already quite learned, but apparently there wasn't a lot of practice going on, there wasn't a lot of wall gazing happening.

So Bodhidharma did take him on as a student and at 40, it is said, he received transmission. That's one story. He was told by Bodhidharma to go into hiding because certain Vinaya masters and sutras masters who had made six attempts on the life of Bodhidharma wanted to kill his students. So it's said he went into hiding for 40 years, Huike did, but during that time, he did have students and he did, according to some, give transmission. Some say that he only began teaching at 80. Whatever the actual facts may be, which we most probably will never know, he did teach and he did eventually pass on the robe and bowl which he had received in transmission from Bodhidharma to Sengcan.

Then, it is said, he went drinking, carousing like a wild man, visiting brothels. When asked how he could do such things, he said: "What business is it of yours?" and this attitude, this understanding that we can basically only mind our own business seems to have been passed along, and there are records of Dogen zenji when he came to China meeting the old monk drying mushrooms:

Dogen said: "Let me find a younger monk to help you do that."

The old dude said: "Others are not me, I heard that you came to China for the purpose of the Great Way. You should thoroughly investigate the self. The moment you looked at me, you were already looking the other way, delusioning yourself, losing sight of yourself by worrying about others is foolish. You don't understand the significance of seeing. Without engaging the self, just look! That is what shugyo is, you can't see that I'm simply doing this, so don't say foolish things. Another person's practice is their own business."

Well, now it is said with Huike, he sometimes feigned insanity to lessen the jealousy of these rivals who were the disciples of Bodhirushin vinaya master Tiongquan but he still taught anyone willing to be taught. Many people trusted him but there were many rivals still jealous and they reported him to the governor of that particular area, accusing him of being weird and inhuman and confusing people. Huike was arrested and locked up and questioned.

"Are you human or a freak?" asked the magistrate.

"I'm a freak!" Huike said, according to some.

The magistrate knew he was saying that to avoid creating more jealousy, however, the magistrate implored him: "Tell me the truth."

He said: "I'm a freak!" and he would not step back from that assertion, basically that he was not going to change his ways.

Now apparently a lot of this type of story were from a biography of Bodhidharma written in the late Tang or early Sung period, that's 800 to 1100.

So again, stories, stories, they get told and they get embroidered but they can often give the essence of a particular approach.

Huike was sentenced to die. He wept when he told his disciples, sad that the Buddhadharma as taught by Bodhidharma was not understood in his lifetime and wouldn't flourish until the time of the fourth Chan Ancestor. So he had already given transmission to the Third Chan Ancestor.

"Come and kill me," he said to the executioner who raised his axe and swung. It is said that white fluid flowed onto the chopping block. Probably not, but mythologies say that when a sage enters the white yang realm, there's no yin left. This was a definite influence of Daoist beliefs that had been around at the time.

Now, some of you have heard mention of that white fluid instead of blood in the teisho during the O-sesshin about Sri Simha. So stories can travel. Something sounds like something and it makes sense, but whatever happened, after the Emperor saw his face which hadn't changed in death, he is said to have remembered Sri Simha who when beheaded didn't bleed, no outflows. The belief: when one has no ignorance, one may attain a state without outflows, enter the white yang realm.

Now people say how could Huike attain yang if he was so angry? Huike's anger was not a petty anger, his anger was wisdom, great patience, great knowledge, great courage, great wisdom.

Now the Emperor felt shame, realizing he had killed a Bodhisattva and even though Huike was dead, the Emperor ordered his officials to take refuge, he had been so impressed with Huike and the manner of his death.

So we will leave Huike dead, the Emperor and the populace impressed, and we will return in the next Dharma Talk, bring Huike alive again so he can give transmission to the Third Chinese Ancestor

And remember: another person's practice is their own business. When you're pointing your finger, three other fingers are pointing back at you.

Have fun and thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 5: Who: Jianzhi Sengcan

Dharma Talk by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 22nd, 2012

Thank you, thank you very much
for coming to your seat today,
for sitting on your zafu in front of that wall
being breathed in and out
like so many have done before you
to uncover who you are
before all your stupid stories about who you are...

They're just thoughts,
contractions of self-image
into a belief about how you are
and how the world is.

The antidote?
Feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind,
notice the other 99% of reality
that happens to be happening at that moment.

This is what this Lineage taught.
It's very simple.
It's very elegant
but it's not easy
so thank you again for showing up today.

Previously, on "Wherever You Stand",
we were looking at the stories of the Chinese Ancestors
starting with Bodhidharma
who was born around 440 C.E. and died 534, 536
and then Huike, his Dharma heir, 487 to 593 C.E.,
and today:
Jianzhi Sengcan.

Why am I doing it this way?
Because as with any historical situation,
as with anything that has a lineage, a track,
what went before influences what comes today.

So far we've seen that a common factor is that these individuals, they were really living breathing people who wanted to find out what was going on...

They traveled around, then entered into situations, they left situations because they weren't satisfied with what they were seeing and hearing, what was being taught to them. So that is some sort of common factor.

They were influenced by what was going on in the culture around them, and during this period of time, I'm sure you'll be fascinated to know, that backgammon was invented in another part of the world, and toilet paper was invented in China. [O-sensei and students laugh]

Which is more important? Well... [more laughter]

Now Jianzhi Sengcan, there are few details about this individual. His birth name, apparently, is not known, he died around 606 A.D. or C.E. and he was the Third Chinese Ancestor in this Lineage, that would be the 30th after Gautama Siddartha, the Buddha, but again this Lineage, tracing right back to Gautama Siddartha may or may not be accurate. Who can tell? Nobody can tell. There are no databases to go to to check it out.

We do know that he was a lay man and that he was interested in the Dharma. Some say that he showed up and met Huike, who was very impressed with this layman's knowledge and capacity for the Dharma, so that he shaved his head and took him on as a student.

There are stories, as there always are, it seems... He may have been 40 years old, he may have met Huike in 536 or 551, he may have studied with him for two or six or nine years, but the length of time doesn't really matter. A prevailing story that has gone on, that he met Huike and he said:

"I am riddled with sickness, please absolve me of my sins."

Huike said: "Bring your sin here and I will absolve you."

Sengcan: "When I look for my sin, I cannot find it."

Huike: "I have absolved you. You should live by the Three Jewels."

Now, we've heard that story before, haven't we? Different people.

In the Denkoroku as put forth by Zen Master Anzan Hoshin, the koan is:

The Thirtieth Ancestor was Great Master Jianzhi. Sengcan says to the Twenty-ninth Ancestor Huike, "I am being stricken with illness by heaven. Please Master, absolve me of my defilement."

The Ancestor says, "Bring me your defilement and I will absolve you of it."

After a long pause, Sengcan says, "When I look for my defilement, there is nothing that can be found."

The Ancestor replies, "I have absolved you of defilement. You should live by the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha."

In another story, it was referred to as "sins". In any case, he had a problem and some say that his problem was leprosy, that he suffered from leprosy and it is said that after Huike, impressed by his capacity shaved his head and gave him the name Sengcan, which means "Jewel of the Sangha", he practised, he studied and after two years or six years or nine years, he was transmitted the precepts on the 18th day of the third month. He was given by Huike the robe, which had been given to Huike by Bodhidharma, and that not long after his illness abated.

Did that actually happen? Well who knows?

Certainly it could have because as we all know,
when the fact of the reality of experience becomes more and more apparent to us,
in that we're not the bodymind,
we're the Knowing of the bodymind,
bodymind is how anything at all is known,
also we've all experienced the fact that when we focus on what's wrong with us,
guess what kids?
It gets bigger,
it gets worse
and it makes it impossible for us to do what we need to do.

Now, I'm not saying that this is about healing,
because we certainly don't want that kind of word to get out,
but when we notice that we're obsessed by our sore knee,
when we're obsessed by the fact that we have a cold or a cough,
well we notice that this golden opportunity to practise,
shows us that when attention goes into any aspect of experiencing,
it seems to get bigger,
it seems to get worse.

When we remember that that is a known,
a dharma,
a moment of experience,
something being experienced by the bodymind,
and we, the Knowing of that experience
feel the breath
open the eye gaze
feel the whole bodymind,
there's an opening
in that that moment of experiencing is less obstructed by that contraction.

That's reality.

And as I've said numerous times (so I hope it's true) the medical community seems to be picking up on that mindfulness is a good thing. Mindfulness helps people be more fully who they are and helps them release contraction and abstraction and obsession on stupid moments of experiencing like who they are and what's going on in the world.

So here you are at the epicentre, that's it.

Now, back to Sengcan;
because we're looking at that also,
we're looking at how these Ancestors were,
how they were thinking,
they were thinking,
what type of people they were,

so that when we come to Yoka daishi
who wrote the "Shodoka", "The Song of Freedom",
you will have some idea of the richness
of the Lineage which informed that long poem.

This is a Lineage of, basically, poets and artists, people who are interested and interesting and not fooled by prevailing wisdom as to what's going on, and seem to have each one, in their own way, confronted persecution.

Sengcan himself, it is said, after being given Transmission by Huike, was told to go and live in the mountains because at that time there was a persecution of Buddhists, that's around 574. Rumour is that Sengcan feigned mental illness to escape execution and he went into hiding for ten years on Mount Wangong and eventually during that time, around 592 or 594, he met Daoxin who became his Dharma heir.

It's also said that Jianzhi Sengcan in his wanderings was able to calm wild tigers by his presence. This impressed local people who had been caused a lot of fear by wild tigers coming into their villages. Is that true? Don't know.

It's said now that Sengcan met Daoxin, who studied with him for nine years, we won't go into that too much, otherwise I'll have nothing to say next week. He taught Daoxin, then he spent two years at Mount Luofu in Canton, returned to Wangong mountain and died in 606 while sitting under a tree at a Dharma Assembly.

I wish! [O-sensei laughs]

His grave was found in Shu-chou in 746 and he received honors from the emperor, the Tang dynasty emperor Xuan Zong.

It is said that Jianzhi Sengcan wrote the "Xinxin Ming", it has been attributed to him, but again scholars have all kinds of thing to say about that. Anzan roshi translated that title as "Words on Mind" and for those who are interested there is material available by Anzan Hoshin roshi about the "Xinxiin Ming", Sengcan said:

"The Vast Way is without difficulty, just don't accept or reject."

Now he was influenced by the cultures around him and Daoist culture was prevalent at the time. This travels over the years from Teacher to student, person to person, and in the "Shodoka: The Song of Freedom" written by Yoka daishi in 713, the opening is this:

Have you ever seen one of the Way?

Beyond action and beyond learning,
one is at ease,

not struggling against delusion
or grasping after the truth.

One sees the nature of ignorance
to be itself Essential Awareness,

and the illusion of one's own body
is the Realm of Reality.

So, there you are.

Here you are,
right now,
sitting in front of that white wall,

You're not struggling against delusion,
or you're not grasping after the truth,
but you're recognizing those moments
when that occurs,
be it on the zafu,
or be it when you're standing having coffee,
or be it when you're driving your car,
or be it when you're waiting to be called in the waiting room,
or be it when you're wondering what you're going to wear...

any time whatsoever you have this moment
when a known,
a dharma,
a moment of experiencing is recognized
that shows you that it is happening right now,
that it is happening where it is always happening,
where it has happened ever since
and where it will happen:
right now
this moment,
it's always this moment.

Feel the breath
sit up straight,

this moment.

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 6: Who: Dayi Daoxin

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 29th, 2012

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

We've looked at Bodhidharma,
who came from the West to China and sat,
gave transmission to
who practised and studied and sat,
who gave transmission to
Jianzhi Sengcan,
who sat,
who apparently died sitting.

Now, I know a lot of us may have thought from time to time
that we were going to die if that gong didn't sound,
but that's not what I'm talking about,
I'm talking about actually sitting down
and dying in that posture,
under a tree, it is said,
during a Dharma Assembly.

Before that happened, he gave transmission to Dayi Daoxin,
the Fourth Chan Ancestor in our Lineage.

The earliest mention of Daoxin was in "Further Biographies of Emminent Monks",
the accuracy of historical records is somewhat questionable,
but we do know that he was a Dharma heir of Jianzhi Sengcan.

His family name was Zima or Ssu-ma. Anzan Hoshin's translation of the Denkoroku Case 32 calls it Zima.

He was born in or close to Huai-ning, north of the Yellow River and at seven, he started studying Buddhism. It is said that his teacher at the time, no name was given, was a man of immoral or impure conduct, whatever that might mean, but Daoxin maintained his understanding of Buddhist morality on his own, without the knowledge of his teacher for five or six years. So obviously he managed to settle for himself, even at that tender age, questions that come up as to how people are and what he should do.

Daoxin met Sengcan when he was fourteen.

One story:
Daoxin said: "I asked the Master's compassion, instruct me on how to achieve release."

Sengcan said: "There is someone who constrains or binds you?"

Daoxin: "No."

Sengcan: "Why seek release when there is no one constraining you?"

In the Denkoroku translation by Anzan Hoshin roshi, the koan is written thus:

The Thirty-First Ancestor was Zen Master Dayi. He bows and says to Great Master Sengcan, "Please, Master, out of your great compassion, teach me how to become liberated."

Sengcan asks, "Who put you into bondage?"

Daoxin answers, "No one has bound me."

The Ancestor says, "Then what liberation are you looking for?"

Hearing these words, Daoxin greatly awakened.

So at a very simple level, we can look and see how there is not one word that is going to describe one thing for everybody at all times, but the stories do have a similarity.

Now, it's said that Dayi studied and attended to Sengcan for nine years. Then, when Sengcan when to Mount Luofu, he told Daoxin not to follow him, saying: "The Dharma has been transmitted from Bodhidharma to Huike, to me. I am going south. You stay here and protect the Dharma."

For ten years he studied with Zhikai at Great Woods Temple on Mount Lu, and he studied the Three Treatises School.

"All phenomena, including ideas and thoughts are fundamentally empty of a permanent, static existence."

This is also described as sunyata.

Now the Three Treatises School is coming from the Madhyamaka Doctrine, first transmitted to China in the 5th century by a monk named Kumarajiva who was born in India 334 C.E., died in 413 C.E. Now Kumarajiva had quite an impact on the development of the understanding of practice, and the understanding of the literature of practice because he was a translator and in his translation, he made his style very clear and overcame the concept of "matching style" which had been what was accepted. This means comparing what was said by the Buddhist Teachers to similar things in Confucian or Daoist terms to try and convey the meaning.

You can see how this could be very confusing to people wanting to study the Buddhist Teachings, so to have clarity of expression freed from previous concepts was quite useful.

Kumarajiva, amongst other important texts,
the Diamond sutra,
the Lotus sutra,
the Vimalakirtinirdesha sutra,
the Mulamadyamikakarika and
the Mahaprajnaparamita sutra.

There was a saying of Kumarajiva's which has come down to us:

"Where there is form, already there is emptiness.
Where there is emptiness, already there is form."

Daoxin was studying these texts, studying this approach with Zhikai at Great Woods Temple so he was quite well educated. It is said he received ordination as a monk in 607 C.E.

In 617, Daoxin and some of his disciples traveled to a place that is called Ji'an City today and entered the town which was besieged by bandits. He is said to have taught the residents the Mahaprajnaparamity sutra, or "Discourse on the Heart of Vast and Perfect Knowing", and the bandits when hearing this abandoned their siege.

Well we don't really know why they did that.
Was the chanting that bad? [laughter]
I know some mornings...
no we won't go there. [more laughter]

And in the Denkoroku as translated by the Roshi, there is:

A large gang of bandits had been holding the city under siege for seventy days and terrorized the people. Daoxin felt pity for them and so he taught them to chant the "Great Transcendent Wisdom". When the bandits were scouting over the wall of the city, the people appeared to them to be like war-gods. They said to each other that there was something very strange about the people of this city and that perhaps they would be better off to just leave them alone. They gradually withdrew.

Now what this brings to mind is, oh, bagpipes and how these were used to scare the enemy and so on, loud noises... But that's neither here nor there because we don't know what was actually said.

Now, Dayi Daoxin eventually settled at East Mountain Temple and he taught Chan, or Zen for 30 years, apparently attracting lots of practitioners. Some records say there were over 500 lay persons and monks.

In 643, the Emperor Tai Zong visited Daoxin,
invited Daoxin to the capital but
Daoxin refused.
He was asked to come to the capital three times
but refused.
The last time, the emperor instructed his emissary to bring back Daoxin or his head and
the emissary told this to Daoxin,
who stuck his head forward,
bared his neck and
indicated something like:
"Bring it!"

The emissary was so shocked he reported this to the emperor who was impressed and honoured Daoxin as an exemplary Buddhist monk, thus the phrase: "Dare to be a monk like me". [O-sensei laughs quietly]

In August 651, Daoxin ordered his students to build a stupa because he was going to die, and he was asked: "Who is your heir?"
In some records it's said that he replied by saying: "I've given many transmissions during my life," and he died.

Posthumously the emperor honoured him with the name Dayi "Great Healer", or as the Roshi says in the Denkoroku, "Great Healing Zen Master Dayi Daoxin".

Daoxin's Teachings and those of his successor Hongren are known as the East Mountain Teachings, the precursor to the flowering of Chan on a national scale some 75 years later at the beginning of the 8th century.

Daoxin was the first Chan Master to settle permanently
for an extended period of time in one place.
As you will remember;
Bodhidharma, Huike, Sengcan wandered from place to place, but
Daoxin settled and established a monastic community,
which seems to have worked so well that it led
to many monastic Chan communities across China.

Now at this stage, with people established in community, alms begging wasn't viable as a way to keep people nourished whilst on the zafu, so all the monks had to work, do administration and practise and study. So 1400 years ago, Daoxin started what we're doing right now.

Practice can't, shouldn't be, won't be confined to practice halls.
It cannot be because the bodymind that's sitting on that zafu is the same bodymind
that walks out of the Hatto or
out of the Zendo,
that shovels snow,
that cooks,
that eats,
that goes to the toilet,
that feeds the cat.
It's the same bodymind
so practice is available as long as that bodymind is breathing in and out.
It's not something that you put on like a costume when you enter into the Dharma Halls.

So listen up and learn.

You can practise anywhere
and you can recognize
through your own experience of what happens
when you notice anything
any moment of experiencing
and you feel the breath and
feel the whole bodymind
how everything loosens up,
how there is more ease for you
no matter what's going on.

You can recognize the real
necessity of practice
in all aspects of one's life,
and that of course is the central theme of
Chan Zen Teachings.

The record of Daoxin's Teaching "Five Gates of Daoxin's Teachings", didn't appear until the second decade of the 8th century, after his student's record, after Hongren's record appeared, so the historical accuracy of Daoxin's Teachings, like many of the events and texts that we've been talking about, may not be, well let's say the historical accuracy may be in doubt.

But scholars agree that he taught what was called and is still called in some places, "meditation", what we call "practice", what we call "sitting". He died sitting at ease.

It is also said that Daoxin never lay down to sleep for 60 years.

One Zen scholar says the expression "samadhi of one's practice" was the heart of Dayi Daoxin's practice.

The Five Gates quotes him as saying: "Buddha is the mind, outside of the mind there is no Buddha."

So if we say "Buddha is the bodymind, outside of the bodymind there is no Buddha" we have another means of expressing that.

Daoxin is quoted in a later chronicle, some 150 years after he died, as saying to students: "Sit earnestly in meditation, sitting basic to all else. Don't read the sutras. Discuss with no one."

On his death bed, he is said to have said: "All of the myriad dharmas of the world are to be dropped away. Each of you, protect this understanding and carry it into the future."

And then he died.

From the "Shodoka: Song of Freedom":

Completely realizing
the Realm of Reality to be objectless,

one finds oneself the source of all things
and one's own nature to be Awake Awareness.

The five aggregates arise and decay like
aimless clouds,
the three distorted orientations come and go
like bubbles on water.

Realizing Suchness, neither self nor things exist;
in one moment cause and effect are liberated.

This was written some hundred plus years later by Yoka daishi.

So I think you can see the thread of understanding of what Buddhism was actually teaching, outside of the sutras, the importance of sitting, sitting, sitting, whether walking, standing, or lying down, sitting, practising the whole bodymind in this whole moment.

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 7: Who: Daman Hongren

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, January 5th, 2013

Previously in "Wherever You Stand"...

We were looking at the four Chinese Ancestors,
starting with Bodhidharma,

and now, today:
Daman Hongren,
who was born in 601 C.E.,
died in 674 C.E.

Now, as with all the other Chan Ancestors, reports vary as to the circumstance of birth, and stories of the early life. It's interesting that throughout history, there has always been all sorts of stories going around about who was the mother. How did that happen? Who was responsible for it? And what happened to the child?

So Daman Hongren is not exempt from this. It is said about him that when he was older he supported his mother when the father abandoned the family. There is conjecture that his family may have been wealthy. Some say the family home may have been converted into a monastery, and the mention of Hongren as doing manual labour as if it were unusual may have been significant because he was a person of high or upper class birth.

Well, another story says that in a previous life Hongren was a Daoist who planted trees on the Twin Peaks.
He asked the Fourth Ancestor to explain the Dharma to him.

Daoxin said:

"You are already old.
If I were to explain it to you,
you couldn't use it to save beings.
But if you come here again in the next life,
I'll be waiting for you."

The old man left, walking to the river bank, he saw a young woman washing cloths or clothes.

Bowing he asked:
"May I spend the night in this place?"

The young woman said:
"You'll have to ask my father and brother."

The old man said: "
Well give me your answer and I'll be on my way."

She nodded okay and the old man walked away.

The young woman returned home and was found to be pregnant. She was driven out of the house by her father and brother and to support herself she made garments during the day and found guest houses to stay in. Eventually she gave birth to a son and, blaming him for everything that was going on, she deemed him to be unlucky and left him in a pool of amniotic fluid on the floor and wouldn't care for him.

But the next day, lo and behold, the child had removed himself so she started to care for him.

The child, who was apparently Hongren, followed his mother when she begged for food. People called him the "No Name Child".

A wise man encountered the mother and child and said: "
This child lacks only seven of the distinguishing marks of a Buddha.
Only the Tathagata surpasses him."

And Hongren eventually encountered Daoxin, becoming his heir and expounding his Teachings at Mount Putuo. It is said that Hongren didn't write anything down but he taught and his talks were written down later on.

Another story about Daoxin meeting Hongren is based in the fact that the young man's family name is pronounced the same as that name for "nature". So Daoxin asked the young man his family name. Hongren answered as thought it had been, "What is your nature?" So he was deliberately, it is said by this source, misinterpreting the word.

Hongren said:
"My nature is not ordinary, it is Buddhanature."

Daoxin said:
"Don't you have a family name?"

"No, for the Teachings say our nature is empty."

So a little bit of play on words there.

In the "Denkoroko" as translated by Anzan Hoshin roshi, in the Chapter on Daman Hongren, the koan is this:

The Thirty-Second Ancestor, Zen Master Daman Hongren meets the Thirty-First Ancestor on a street in Huangmei:

The Ancestor asks, "What is your family name [xing]?"

Hongren says, "I have a nature [xing], but it is not the usual name [xing]."

The Ancestor asks again, "What family name do you have?"

He says, "My nature is Buddha Nature [fa-xing]."

The Ancestor asks, "Do you have no name?" He answers, "My nature is emptiness."

The Ancestor, recognizing his capacity as a vessel of the Dharma, transmits the Teachings and the robe to him.

Now it is said that Hongren was maybe seven or twelve when he met Daoxin, started to study with him. He stayed with him until Daoxin's death in 651 and as we remember from the last talk on Daoxin, there was established by Daoxin a large community, or a community of monks which were staying in one place and which became quite large.

During the time when Hongren was there there were apparently over 1000 monks and when Daoxin died, Hongren became Abbott. The Teachings of Daoxin and Hongren became known as the East Mountain Teachings.

Hongren was significant in the development of early Chinese Chan and it is said that 8 or 9 out of 10 monks and lay students had studied with him, so this approach that he taught apparently became very popular. And again, these Teachings were called the East Mountain Teachings. Daoxin started it but Hongren became more prominent in the East Mountain Teachings.

It is said in later traditional stories that after Daoxin died, Hongren moved the community of monks to Mount Dong-shan "East Mountain", easterly of the "Twin Peaks". The East Mountain Teachings have been seen as the most authentic Chan Teachings.

A compilation of Hongren's work was put together shortly after his death, a treatise on the essentials of cultivating the mind and this was, according to some sources, the earliest compilation of Chan Teachings.

Hongren taught meditation practice as we would understand it. Hongren's students included Vinaya specialists, sutra translators, Lotus sutra and Pureland devotees. Hongren taught that Pure Mind, Essential Awareness was there all the time, even when it was obscured by discriminating thoughts, false thoughts and ascriptive views. By eliminating false thoughts and stabilizing Awareness, it would be assured that Nirvana would naturally arise.

One translation of a portion of his Teachings, a statement of his thought was:

View your own consciousness tranquilly and attentively, so that you can see how it is always moving, like flowing water or a glittering mirage. …until its fluctuations dissolve into peaceful stability. This flowing consciousness will disappear like a gust of wind. When this consciousness disappears, all one's illusions will disappear along with it.

Another translation of his thought, and bearing in mind these were different people doing translations with different understandings, I'm sure sticking as close as they possibly could, and were interpreting words as best they could. So what we can do is read what they say and recognize through our own experience what is being talked about. And again, Hongren was a very important Chan Ancestor because of teaching, basically, practice as we would understand it.

The key to cultivating the Way is knowing that your own mind is originally pure, that it is neither created nor destroyed and that it is free of discrimination. The mind whose nature is perfectly pure is your true Teacher and superior to any of the Buddhas of the Ten Directions you might call upon. If you concentrate on guarding the mind, delusions will no longer arise and the Reality of Nirvana will spontaneously arise, thus you should know that your mind is originally pure.

Hongren did give transmission to a number of people. The most prominent of which, or the person who became the most prominent was Huineng, the Sixth and the last founding Chan/Chinese Ancestor.

Now there were numerous schools of thought around, schools of approaches to practice, and there were factional splits which of course will colour the interpretation of the life of people who came previous to those factional splits.

A split was between the Gradual or Sudden Enlightenment schools. They mean exactly what it says: There was the Sudden Enlightenment school and the Gradual Enlightenment school.

Now one way of looking at that which I like, is to recognize, as has been spoken of in various texts: sudden enlightenment, gradual practice.

So the Sudden Enlightenment is recognizing that it's a good idea to practise your life.
You have this moment when you wake up and think:
"Is this all there is? Is this what's going on?"
Or there's a moment when you wake up to Reality
and see the luminosity of experiencing
when it is unclouded by obstructions of any sort.
Then comes the gradual practice part,
which is "upski downski"
isn't it?... [students and Sensei laugh]

But you put one foot in front of the other,
you do what has to be done,
your bum goes down on that zafu,
you watch your "mind running down that wall"
and you wake up to
the actual nature of experiencing.

So this is something that has been going on for 1300-some years.

I encourage you to keep on doing what you're doing.
You've recognized the need to practise
because here you are,
right here
right now,
actually practising,
when you notice anything at all
about experience.

Feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind in this moment
and recognize
how important it is
to keep this information
to verify it through your own experience of it
and should you find yourself in such a situation,
having recognized the truth of the practice,
that you will practise,
and some of you teach
beyond convenience.

It's really important.

Next time we'll look at the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng.

Before closing, I will read a few verses from the "Shodoka: Song of Freedom", written by Yoka daishi before 713, and you'll start to see how the understanding of the Teachers that we've spoken of, the five Chan Ancestors, the Sixth who was the Teacher of Yoka daishi, affected his understanding and what he wrote.

The Realm of Reality of all Buddhas is my own nature,
my own nature is all the Thus Come Ones.

One stage of practice contains all stages,
without form, without thought or action.

In a finger snap eighty thousand doors are open
and three great eons vanish in an instant.

Names and categories and being without them
have nothing to do with Perfect Knowing.

It is without praise or blame,
It is without boundaries, like space.

It is wherever you stand.

It is free of struggle and searching.

It cannot be held or released.

Give up the search.
It is here.

Thank you for listening.

Have fun!

Wherever You Stand 8: Who: Dajian Huineng Part 1

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, January 19th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

We've been introduced to the "Shodoka" by Yoka daishi, the verses that we're looking into by looking into the six Chinese Chan Ancestors, their ways of thinking, their travels, what they were looking for.

So we've looked at Bodhidharma,
and the snow today coming down softly
reminded me of Huike,
who it is said waited outside
Bodhidharma's cave
to be accepted as a student
after travelling goodness knows how far.

We have

Now these people, like you, were looking for a true Teacher.
They travelled many miles, great distances
like some of you have.

Bodhidharma came from India to China so that he could teach.
Huike followed Bodhidharma.

Some of you have travelled great distances
literally and metaphorically.
Some monks have immigrated from distant lands.
Sounds strange, doesn't it,
to refer to Britain as a "distant land",
to refer to India as a "distant land",
to refer to Turkey as a "distant land"?

The language may be different,
but the fact of the matter is,
even though it may be easier to go back and forth,
we can still quite accurately call these lands
"distant lands".

People were looking to find out what is true
about experiencing.

Today we're going to look at Dajian Huineng, Part 1.

He is the 33rd Dharma Ancestor and the Sixth and last of the founding Ancestors of Chan.
He is considered by many scholars to be the most important
but how do you determine that?
Was he more important than the people that came before?
Did he come up with innovative ideas on his own?
he was fed by that stream,
he was fed by the stream of the people who came before.

He was born in 638 C.E., died in 713 and was mummified.

"Hmm hmmm." [students laugh]

Most modern scholars, or many, or some
doubt the historicity of the traditional biographies and works about Huineng.

Now, one story:
he was born into the poor Lu family in 638, the father died when he was young and the family was so poor that he had no opportunity to learn to read or write and was illiterate his whole life.

In Keizan zenji's "Denkoroku", as translated by Joshu roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi, the father was a government appointee who lost his job and the family was sent to the wilds of the south.

In any case, Huineng chopped wood, hulled rice, milled rice. He was a worker and apparently illiterate his whole life.

The "Platform Sutra" of the Sixth Ancestor is attributed to Huineng.
That's interesting.
You think, well how could he come up with this sutra if he couldn't read or write?

A very important thing to remember
is that many people couldn't read or write
but there were very strong oral traditions,
stories were told,
those who learned sutras would recite them,
people around would listen.

So as with many of the Teachings, they were heard and written down by disciples.
Here's where the problem comes in;
sometimes the people who wrote them down,
as with the Buddha,
were writing them down like 200 years later,
so they've gone through many minds
and many mouths.

Now, this is a quote from John McRae, written in 2003, "Seeing Through Zen" was the book:

The Platform sutra was a melange of early Chan teachings, a virtual repository of the entire tradition up to the second half of the 8th century. At the heart of the sermon—

...is the same understanding of the Buddhanature that we have seen attributed to Bodhidharma and Hongren, including the idea that the fundamental Buddhanature is only made invisible to ordinary humans by their illusions.

So, Buddhanature,
something every human being has,
only seems to be hidden
because of the illusions,
the patterns,
the obsessions,
the fixations
we have propagated
with the bodymind
about Reality.

Not just those of long ago, but you sitting here right now, have encoded in the cells of the bodymind various patterns and habits, which if you take them seriously, and by "taking them seriously" I'm saying if you allow attention to go into them and to feed them, you are propagating illusions and delusions which cut you off from the actual Nature of experiencing, cut you off from Buddhanature.

What can you do about it?

Oh it's easy:

You sit with your legs folded,
your hands neatly in the mudra,
eyes open looking at a wall,
noticing when you notice,
(because you cannot notice what you're not noticing)
which does not mean that you do not have the capacity to eventually notice,

so you notice what you notice

at that moment of clear seeing:
"Oh, that's a thought"
Feel the breath
sit up straight
and that interrupts that pattern
and eventually, over time,
the structures, the neural networks change
and the actual Buddhanature is seen
more and more clearly.

Now we all know,
we've all heard,
and of course we all remember in this moment:
dukkha, bad space.

So when we are allowing attention to go into these patterns, these habits,
and I'm saying "allowing" because
sometimes we do allow it,
self-image will come up and say:

"Oh this is really this way or that way... This is boring, why doesn't she shut up?... What I'm going to do is I'm going to picture what it's going to be like when I go skiing later today..."

And so we may make a decision to consciously engage ourself in that thought about something that's not going on right now.

As soon as you see it:
feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind.

You won't lose the thought. If it's a good idea, you won't lose that good idea, it'll come back again.

So as we practise zazen, which this whole Chan Lineage did, we get a chance to see more and more clearly the actual nature of experiencing.

When we make the decision to practise at the moment of seeing anything whatsoever,
we're snatching that teat of attention
out of the mouth of self-image,
we're not feeding it,
we're not propagating it,
we're cutting through those habits and delusions and patterns
that get in our way
that cause the fundamental Buddhanature to be obscured.

All of you have had a hint of this,
a way long time ago,
that was that hint of this,
that hint of the clarity that's possible through practice
and that's spoken of
that ended up with you sitting your butts down on a zafu
in this room
in this Hatto,
right here right now,
noticing moments of experiencing,
or knowns, dharma,
and remembering when you remember
to feel the breath and to sit up straight,
to practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment.

You're practising what
actually taught.

Now back to Huineng:
In the "Denkoroku" it's said that Huineng had a realization listening to someone reciting the "Diamond sutra",
a customer in the store where he was chopping wood,
or where wood was being sold that he had chopped.
He heard a customer reciting the Diamond sutra and
he experienced an awakening.

In the "Denkoroku" it says that there was the recognition: "Give rise to the mind that dwells nowhere."

Now, that phrase is on a banner, a rubbing in the hallway that goes to the Shuryo, "Give rise to the mind that dwells nowhere."

So Huineng heard a customer reciting the "Diamond sutra" and experienced an awakening.
He decided to seek out a Teacher and
he had heard about the Fifth Ancestor Hongren at Huangmei Mountain.
So he made up his mind to go there,
he made up his mind to travel so that
he could find out what's really going on.

Now, some later stories say that a customer gave him money to travel, which was nice, and he walked for a month to find Hongren on Huangmei Mountain.

Sometimes we get, you know, a little concerned about walking down the block to get to the... [laughter]
And here we are, it's nice and warm.

Now these guys, these old guys,
they didn't have a furnace in the monastery.
They didn't have lights in the monastery.
They didn't have hot water in the monastery.

Picture it:
no light, no heat, and the wind blowing through.
This is luxury.

Now in the "Denkoroku", Keizan zenji's account, written, and then translated by Anzan Hoshin roshi and Joshu roshi, it's said that on Huineng's search for a true Teacher, he met an educated man whose mother-in-law was a nun, Wujin Cang, and she was devoted to continually chanting the "Nirvana Discourse". After Huineng listened to it, he began to talk about its meaning. The nun took up the text and asked him about certain words.

Huineng it is said, replied:
"I can't read, but I know the meaning."

The nun said:
"If you can't read, how can you understand what it means?"

"The Buddha's subtle principles are not bound within written words."

This is something that resounds through Bodhidharma's Lineage.

Dongshan Liangjie daosho in the "Hokyo Zanmai" wrote:

Its meaning is not in words
but it answers sincere questioning.

This was written in 850 C.E., about a hundred and some years after the death of Huineng.

In Yoka daishi's "Shodoka":

Its silence speaks, its speech is silent.
Its great giving opens the door wide.

If you ask me what doctrine I teach
I'll tell you it's Vast Awareness.

So we can start to see the streams of information that flow through the Lineage,
right up to this very day.

So Huineng kept on travelling after meeting the nun, and he met another meditation teacher, some stories have it, who because Huineng seemed unusually clear, sent him on to Hongren whose Lineage was Bodhidharma's.

This is from the "Denkoroku":
Huineng went and found Hongren who asked where he came from.
Huineng said: "From the south.'

The Master:
"What is it you seek?"

"I'm just looking for Buddhahood."

Master Hongren:
"Those in the south have no Buddha Nature, how could you become a Buddha?" [quiet laughs]

Huineng said:
"While we can talk about 'north' or 'south' in terms of people, how can that apply to Buddha Nature?"

Now, a little sidebar here: in the "Sandokai", and those of you who have been present for Sesshin and chanted through the "Sandoka" will recognize this:

Whether wise or dull may be found
still in this Way there is no north or south.

This of course refers to the North School and the South School, refers to beliefs.

The Master, Hongren, saw that Huineng was not of the usual crowd and set him to work in the monastery mill, hulling rice. Huineng worked there diligently, pounding rice for eight months.

Another translation, which is of the first chapter of the Ming Canon version of the "Platform sutra" gives a description of the introduction of Huineng to Hongren.

The Patriarch...

Sidebar: Anzan roshi changed the word 'Patriarch' to 'Ancestor' in the 1980s, reasons for which should be obvious.

The Patriarch asked me,
Who are you and what do you seek?"

I replied,
"Your disciple is a commoner from Xinzhou of Lingnan. I have travelled far to pay homage to you and seek nothing other than Buddhahood."

"So you're from Lingnan, and a barbarian! How can you expect to become a Buddha?" asked the Patriarch.

I replied,
"Although people exist as northerners and southerners, in the Buddha-nature there is neither north nor south. A barbarian differs from Your Holiness physically, but what difference is there in our Buddha-nature?

Now, I've said frequently in daisan and in Dharma Talks:
the process of being a human being is the same for all human beings.

Oh of course there are minor aesthetic or mechanical differences, but the process is the same:
Whoosh! down the shoot
in some cases reproducing
then dying at a certain point.

The process is the same.

The meaning we make depends on individual history:
when we were born,
what point in history we were born,
where we were born,
into what circumstances.
The meaning we make varies,
but the process is the same,
always has been.

Back to Huineng:
he became a labourer in the monastery, doing chores in the rice mill, chopping wood and pounding rice for the next eight months.

Now we get to the exciting part, the successor of Hongren. The "Platform sutra", the "Denkoroku" contain the stories of the succession of Huineng, his Transmission from Hongren.

There is some controversy there
and there was at the time.
There was a poetry contest and
it's said that Huineng won the contest,
received Transmission
but had to run to avoid the rage of the followers of his rival.
We'll look into that further next time.

We'll also look into where is the mummified body of Huineng today?

Stay tuned...

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 9: Who: Dajian Huineng Part 2

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, February 2nd, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

We've begun looking into Huineng,
the Sixth and last of the founding Chan, Chinese Zen, Ancestors.

He was of the stream which came from Bodhidharma,

Huineng, as you will remember, was an illiterate labourer when he came upon the Dharma. Apparently, according to some sources, he was poor, born poor. Some sources say his father was a government official, lost his job and then became poor, regardless, he seems to have remained illiterate his whole life, but yet the "Platform sutra" is attributed to him. It's traditionally regarded as a lecture recorded by his disciple Fahai.

The earliest extant copy of the "Platform sutra" was found among papers from Dunhuang Caves, dating to about a century after Huineng lived, 783 to 813.

Now, this is an interesting point, we may hear "813" and think:
"Oh my, that's so long ago, I think I'll just have a snooze now..." [laughter] "...because it has nothing to do with me."

Here's another way of looking at it:

Picture the beginning of the universe, or even the beginning of the earth according to some sources, the globe as we know it, as having happened in a twenty-four hour clock timeframe. You with me so far?
Alright, human beings, according to some sources,
appear in the last 30 seconds
of that 24 hour clock.

So, from 713 in the case of Huineng, 713...
in the case of the papers being found that were recorded
about a hundred years after Huineng lived, in 813...
that's only 1300 years, it is not an eye blink,
it is less than a heartbeat
on that 24 hour clock.

So these people are closer than we are accustomed to think about.
That's reality.

These are people who sat in China in weather, in some cases, almost like this, snow flying.
Guess what?
Did they have central heating?
Did they have electric lights?
Did they have cars to drive themselves around if they had to go to the monastery to sit?
But they went anyway and
that is the reason why
you are sitting and doing what you're doing
in front of that wall
right now.

And of course what you're doing is
recognizing that there is only this moment,
there is this bodymind wrapped around the breath
which is breathing that bodymind in and out,
there's seeing
there's everything that's going on
and when is it going on?

[O-sensei strikes the floor with a Teaching stick]

Right now.

You hear that and what happens?
Well if you were involved in a thought
you might have noticed that it kind of shattered.
Your job is to take that information and use it.

When you notice anything whatsoever,
notice everything else that's going on
without naming it.
No need to name it.
Learn to be really lazy
just sit there and notice
and there's noticing,
there's no "knower".

And this came from these people,
this came from Huineng.

Now, as happens everywhere, even here...
Huineng was the subject of some political struggles,
or in retrospect was seen to have been on one side with certain information and
there was another monk on another side with other information.

Shenxiu, 606 to 706, was also a student of Hongren's. The word is that factions formed.
There was the Huineng faction and there was the Shenxiu faction,
and don't think for a minute that it doesn't happen right here right now but
we don't let it get too far because we clean up misunderstandings
that different things are being taught by different people.

We're all teaching the same thing.
Some of us have different ways of expressing it,
but it's all the same thing,
it's all about practising the only thing that's going on,
this moment.

So, Huineng and the events of his life were "central to political intrigues and factional struggles that occurred between the Northern and Southern schools of Zen during the eighth century"1
which was of course after
Huineng had died,
after Shenxiu had died.

So we know how people are,
they will go:
"this one was right, this is how it was, this is the 'sudden enlightenment, gradual practice school' and the other one is the study of sutras, the study of different rituals," the study of basically, probably, anything that doesn't involved sitting zazen, although I'm sure they did sit zazen.

Zazen is the central practice for practising this moment right now.

So we left Huineng, who had travelled from his home,
he had travelled and found Hongren as his Master,
after having involved himself in different situations, and
Hongren recognized him as being capable or having the capacity for great understanding and put him to work in the rice mill.

So Hongren recognized that Huineng did have a great understanding
that was not based, as Shenxiu's was,
maybe not necessarily "based",
but was not obscured by the different studies.

Shenxiu had been educated in the Chinese classics and Daoism.
He became a Buddhist at 13 when there was a famine and
he went apparently to plead to government officials to give grain to the starving populace,
and he, in 651 began to study with Hongren,

Now there are some scholars that say there's a possibility that
Huineng and Shenxiu were not together at the same time studying with Hongren,
so that could present some difficulty as there is a story of Transmission...

Apparently Hongren asked the monk Shenxiu to come up with a poem
that would express his understanding.
Now remember, Shenxiu,
and what became eventually the Northern School,
emphasized the reading of sutras,
the chanting of the Buddha's name as essential to maintain "original pure mind",
so in this sense there's this distraction going on,
people are focussing on chanting,
focussing on reading the sutras,
focussing to maintain "original pure mind".

The other side, the Huineng side, is
Bodhidharma's direct pointing at mind,
that this moment and everything in it is this moment with everything in it
and there's nothing really that needs to be done.

So Hongren asked the monks to write a verse expressing their understanding.
Shenxiu, the head monk wrote:

The body is the tree of wisdom
The mind but a bright mirror.
At all times, diligently polish it
to remain untainted by the dust.

So Abbott Hongren said:
"Oh, that's not bad you know, but I tell you what, maybe you could try again."

So the story is that he did try again and Hongren said:
"Not bad..."

Now again, recognize, these are different stories, nobody knows for sure.

And so Hongren said:
"Listen, tell you what, I'm going to tell this stuff to other monks, it's so good."

One story said that he had the other monks chanting that verse, or as it was expressed in other texts, and remember these are the words of translators, another way of translating that was:

Like the Bodhi tree is body,
Like a bright mirror on a chest, the mind,
Constantly and diligently rub it clean
So it cannot gather dust.

Now, Huineng we remember was illiterate.
As it turns out, Shenxiu wrote his verse upon the wall of a corridor in the monastery.
Huineng who according to some stories was not yet a monk but was still illiterate,
heard the monks chanting the verse and he thought:

"Hmmm. Hmmmm...."

And he got someone to write on the wall for him, and for the first translation of the verse I read from Shenxiu:

The body is the tree of wisdom
The mind but a bright mirror.
At all times, diligently polish it
to remain untainted by the dust.

Huineng wrote:

The tree of wisdom fundamentally does not exist,
Nor is there a stand for the mirror,
Originally there is not a single thing
So where would dust alight?

Hongren saw this and said:
"Well that's very good, that cuts through the material aspect, that cuts through metaphor that people might want to hang onto, that's really good."

For the other translation, the second translation I read:

Like the Bodhi tree is body,
Like a bright mirror on a chest, the mind,
Constantly and diligently rub it clean
So it cannot gather dust.

The translators wrote this, this is from "Chan and Zen Teachings" by Charles Luck.

In essence Bodhi has no tree
And the bright mirror has no chest,
In essence there is not a thing.
On what can then dust gather?

So again, with this translation, Hongren says:
"Pretty good, pretty good."

And there's another one, another set of translated verses, this is from the "Denkoroku", Keizan zenji's, as translated by Joshu Dainen roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi.

Shenxiu, who had tried to present the verse verbally 13 times, decided to write it in a corridor:

The body is like a bodhi tree, the mind like a clear standing mirror.
Wipe it carefully again and again, never letting dust alight.

And along comes that spoiler, Huineng heard the verse when he was working in the rice mill. "Nice, but not quite right", it kind of nagged him, so he found someone who wrote on the wall in the corridor:

Enlightenment is not a tree and the clear mirror has no stand. From the beginning there is not one thing; where can dust alight?

Hongren once again recognized Huineng's profound understanding.
It's very interesting,
we can never really know exactly because we have these different translations,
we weren't there, what has changed in the language, but
it's obvious that Huineng's understanding cut through anything that self-image likes to hang onto: metaphors.

Self-image loves metaphors and they can be useful for pointing to, but once we hang onto them, we have a belief system.
Huineng cut through that.

So, the story is that Huineng was in the rice mill and had around his waist a stone because this would increase the weight of the person and give more heft to their milling. After the verses, and some say the day after, Hongren came to the mill where Huineng was working.

Now, this part of the story is said to be from the "Platform sutra" so we will of course at some point be exploring that.

So, Hongren came to Huineng and
seeing the stone attached around the waist (the increase in weight helped the worker put extra heft on the pedal of the rice mill),
Hongren said:
"Should a seeker of the truth risk his life for the Dharma is such a manner?"

And then Hongren said:
"Is the rice ripe?"

Huineng replied:
"Ripe long ago, but still waiting for the sieve."

Then Hongren knocked the pestle three times with his staff and left. This is a quote from "Chan and Zen Teachings" which apparently is a quote from, as he calls it, the "Dharma Treasure of the Altar sutra", Huineng says:

I immediately grasped his idea and that night in the third watch, I went to his room. He used a robe as a screen so that no one could see us from outside and expounded the "Diamond sutra" to me.

The "Diamond sutra" was apparently the sutra that Huineng heard when he was chopping wood at the beginning of his journey. Is that true or not? We don't know.

When he came to the sentence:
"One should develop a mind which does not abide anywhere,"
suddenly I was completely enlightened and realized that nothing existed outside the self nature.

I then said to Hongren:
"Who would have expected that the self nature is fundamentally pure and clean?
Who would have expected that the self nature is fundamentally beyond birth and death?
Who would have expected that the self nature is fundamentally complete in itself?
Who would have expected that the self nature is fundamentally immutable?
Who would have expected that the self nature can create all things?"

So Hongren knowing now without a doubt that Huineng really understood, said:
"I'm going to transmit the robe and the bowl to you. We're going to have to do it in secret because what are people going to think? People could get upset. Here you are, illiterate, you have Shenxiu who is not illiterate, he's a very educated monk. Some people might get really upset."

Now, in the Denkoroku we can read:

Zen Master Hongren said, "When Bodhidharma came to China a long time ago, people knew nothing about Zen and so he passed on the robe as a visible sign of attainment. Now people trust Zen, but the robe has become something to dispute over. Just let it stop with you and don't pass it on. Now you should leave and conceal yourself far from here until the time is ripe for you to begin to teach. Your life will be in as much danger while you carry this robe as if it hung from a thread"

So the Transmission, Hongren said, would be in dispute.

Huineng apparently did get out of town. Shenxiu we won't pursue at this moment.
But what we have here, it seems, is Bodhidharma's Teachings of direct pointing, which had become covered up somewhat in some areas, being uncovered again.

Is this something that we can recognize today? Indeed it is. As we say, there's the Sudden Enlightenment School. I like to think of that as being Sudden Enlightenment, Gradual Practice School. The "sudden enlightenment" is the recognizing that you want to find out what's going on, really. Once you taken that on, there comes the ups and downs, there comes the tears and the smiles, there comes the desperation, in some cases... as you have to sit there... [laughter]

until all the things that cause you problems are seen for what they are,
the rumblings of what the Roshi has called self-image:

a contraction into a sense of a self,
with a belief about how it is and how the world is,
and it is not one thing
it's many moments,

but the antidote?

As soon as you notice anything
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind in this whole moment
and keep on trucking.

So there we go,
sudden enlightenment,
gradual practice,
that has obviously not been forgotten.

In the "Shodoka", which was written it says, in 713 by Yoka daishi, which was just after Huineng died:

The teachings about twenty emptinesses
are intended to disentangle you;
All are the display of this one body
of the Thus Come.

Mind arises with experiences as its objects.
Subject and object are dust on a mirror.

Free of dust, the mirror shines.
The Actual Nature is known
when mind and things do not arise.

In this Age of Ending and this sad world
suffering beings resist the truth.

We of course will, as we go through the "Shodoka", reprise sources and so forth,
but "suffering beings resist the truth"
and the suffering comes because we believe our stories.

So frak it!
Feel the breath,
sit up straight
and recognize this moment as it really is.

Do what those people did
over 1300 years,
which as I hoped to show at the beginning of this Talk,
is not even a blink in the overall scheme of things.

Another three verses from the "Shodoka: The Song of Freedom":

The radical Direct Teaching is beyond sentiment;
there is no room for doubt or hesitation.

This monk doesn't say this to create divisions;
its just that you should know
about the trap of permanence and its opposite.

Right isn't "right," wrong isn't "wrong;"
yet an inch of deviation leads a thousand miles off.

So we've all become embroiled in our stories to a greater or lesser degree.
Because essentially until we start to notice that a story is a thought...

How simple is that?

If it's a story, it's gotta be a thought.

So have fun with that and we'll get back to this,
we'll have to come back and look at Huineng again because he was terribly influential in that many people came to be taught by him and much was written about what he said.

So, with that,

thank you for listening.

A lot of words to remind you that:

Its meaning is not in words
But it answers sincere questioning

So feel the breath
sit up straight...

  • 1. Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and their Teachings, by Andy Ferguson

Wherever You Stand 10: Who: Dajian Huineng Part 3

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, March 2nd, 2013

"Wherever You Stand" is a phrase from Yoka daishi's "Shodoka",
and what we're doing is looking into the history,
looking into what was taught
by the five preceding Chan Ancestors,
the five preceding

Now as a student said, there were Chinese Ancestors, there were Chinese Masters after Huineng, but the six that are referred to as the Founding Chan Ancestors were deemed so because there may be or there is a direct connection to Bodhidharma's pointing, the direct pointing to mind.

We have Huineng, again traditionally referred to as the last of the Six Chan Ancestors, the sixth and last of the Chan ancestral founders.

Now, all surviving schools, of which there were five main ones, regarded Huineng as their Founder.

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

we left Huineng having received Transmission in the third watch of the night,
Transmission of the Teachings
and of the robe and bowl of Bodhidharma
from Hongren.

Now one story says that Hongren, who had told Huineng that he should leave because there were going to be monks that would be upset that he had received Transmission, rather than one more accomplished in the Classics and in studying, a more accomplished monk, Shenxiu.

So what we have here, in a way, is sort of a node in the Transmission where things may get, did get, and are a little shady. Some say that Huineng was the Sixth Chan Ancestor because one of his students, after his death, lobbied to have him declared so, but there may have been, and there were factions that regarded other people, including Shenxiu, as the Sixth Ancestor, that he should have been the Sixth Ancestor...

But it's pretty well accepted that Huineng is the Sixth in the group.

So in the night, Hongren had come to visit Huineng and gave him the robe and bowl. The story is Hongren accompanied Huineng to a river and there's a quote attributed to Huineng:

When one is infatuated, one's Master ferries one across, but when one is enlightened, one should appropriately ferry myself across.

This is from Huineng, saying that yes, he can make it on his own from now on.

Hongren went back to the monastery, but he didn't come to the Monk's Hall for several days and monks came to check, asking him if he were indisposed.

He said:
"I'm not indisposed, but the robe and bowl have gone to the south."

ZOOOOOOOT!!!! What's this? [laughter]

So, several hundred monks, it is said in some stories, led by one Huiming, set out to snatch away the robe and bowl from Huineng. They were basically confusing, it would seem, these material objects as being the Transmission.

And remember, Hongren had warned Huineng that this would happen, there would be confusion around the robe and bowl.

So chased by several hundred monks led by Huiming, who had been according to some sources a military commander, in a chase that went on apparently for some two months. At one point Huineng threw the robe and bowl on a rock saying:

"This robe is a token of faith, can it be taken by force?"

And this is Huineng that's speaking in the "Platform sutra", apparently,

"Then I hid in the bushes. Huiming tried to pick up the robe and bowl but couldn't move them."

Huiming said:
"I came for the Dharma and not the robe."

Again there's confusion around this historically because there were two Huimings. Some say that Huiming and Huineng studied together under Hongren. Other sources say that this would be impossible because Huiming only received the precepts in 719. Huineng died in 713, so I think what we can take from this is, as with a lot of it, is the general intent, the general message which is that Bodhidharma's direct pointing to the human mind was being passed on, but there was confusion, people started to factionalize, to form alliances and belief systems around different people.

So back to the story, Huiming after his two months of chasing Huineng, had caught up with him. Huineng sat cross-legged on a rock,
and said to Huiming who had asked for the Dharma:

"Since you come for the Dharma, you should first banish all feelings and should not give rise to a single thought."

And I refer you to the verse which was read in the last Dharma Talk, from the "Shodoka":

The radical Direct Teaching is beyond sentiment;
there is no room for doubt or hesitation.

And an aside to modern day students:
in daisan and practice interviews,
sit quietly in the posture of practice.

Drop your prepared responses
and listen to the instruction that is given.

This doesn't mean that you cannot say anything,
this does mean that when you present your little prepared speech
about how wonderful all of this is,
how much you enjoy it,
how indispensable it is to your current appreciation of your life
when it's pointed out to you that that's thought,
those are thoughts,
they're prepared
that you can look and recognize the truth of that.

Use that moment of recognition to
feel the breath
to sit up straight,
to practise that moment of clear seeing
because remember:
this is too intimate to be personal.

The Teacher or the practice advisor is not criticizing you,
they are pointing out to you that self-image,
that contraction into a sense of self
that has beliefs about how it is
and how the world is
has been operating for a little while,
preparing that speech,
because we all know, we've all experienced it,
we don't want to be seen for who we really are,
which a lot of the time is just an idiot...[O-sensei and students laugh]
when we're acting out our thoughts and feelings,
it can be a little embarassing
but that too is just a pattern,
it's something bodymind has learned to do.

So when you notice it,
feel the breath,
sit up straight,
practise the whole bodymind
wrapped around the breath
in this whole moment.

So back to Huineng and Huiming on the rock...

So the two of them sat for a while, after Huiming had asked Huineng for the Dharma.

Then Huineng said:
"Do not think of either good or evil. At the very moment there is no thought in your mind. What is the Venerable Huiming's fundamental face?"

Here it comes:
Huiming was enlightened. Then Huiming wanted to talk about it and said—

(now I don't know who is sitting there, taking all of this down, I think it was storytelling again, people saying "well I heard that...")

but the essence is quite true and
it is the essence that is important.

Huiming wanted to talk about what he'd understood:
"Is there any other hidden meaning besides the esoteric expressing and Teaching handed down by the Ancestors?"

Huineng said:
"What I've said is not esoteric if you look inward.
What you call 'esoteric' or 'mysterious' is within you,
is your own experience."

Huiming said:
"I hadn't realized my own nature until you taught me.
Now you've taught me
I'm like a drinker of water
who alone knows
it is hot or cold."

Huiming went back down the mountain and told the others who had been pursuing Huineng: "Hey, guys, we're on the wrong track" and they took off leaving Huineng alone.

In the "Denkoroku" Keizan zenji's discourses, Joshu Dainen roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi have written that:

Huiming approached and tried to grab up the robe and bowl but, although he strained with all his might, he was unable to lift them. Huiming began to tremble and said, "I have come for the Dharma, not a robe."

Huineng came out and sat down on the stone.

Huiming bowed and said, "Please, reveal the essential Dharma."

Huineng said, "Without thinking of good or bad, what is your Original Face?"

Hearing this, Huiming had great awakening. He asked, "Is there any further mystery you have to tell me?"
Huineng said, "What I have to tell you is no mystery. Turning the movement of thought, the mystery is within this."

Huiming said, "Although I studied with Hongren at Huangmei, I never truly knew my own Face. Now, receiving your Teaching I feel like someone who drinks water and knows first hand whether it is cool or warm.You are my Teacher."

Huineng said, "So it is, but Hongren is the Teacher of us both."

Huiming bowed and thanked him and set off. In later years he became an abbot and changed his name to Daoming, not using "Hui" out of respect for Huineng.

And there's another story about Huineng which you've heard, it is that Huineng went down to Faxing monastery where there was a master expounding the "Mahaparinirvana sutra" and when Huineng arrived there were two monks arguing over a banner streaming in the wind. There was a dispute. One monk said and insisted that the wind was moving, the other insisted that the banner was moving.

Huineng said: "Neither the wind nor the banner moves. The minds of the Venerables move."

And this impressed the Master, Dharma Master Yinzong who said:
"I've heard of you, do you not have the Dharma and the robe of Hongren?"

Huineng said: "I dare not (claim to be)" and in Chinese this was a very polite way of saying "Yes, I am".

Now the very matter of the robe and bowl, again is up for some dispute. Hongren had said to Huineng that the robe of Transmission "has become something to dispute over. Just let it stop with you and don't pass it on."

Dharma Master Yinzong was impressed and asked Huineng to expound on how Hongren taught, and Huineng said: "Well really there was no teaching, the Ancestor, the Master taught looking into self-nature. He didn't postulate meditation."

Now I take that to mean the focussing on and creating of states,
and so Huineng is saying that Hongren did not teach focussing and the creation of states,
and he did not teach deliverance,
which, again I take to mean some sort of merit that would be gained,
assuring that if you accumulated enough merit—

(when I hear 'merit' it makes me think of hell money of which there was a tradition of offering it to dead people, putting it in their coffin by family and friends so that they could buy their way out of hell when they got there—)

so apparently Huineng is saying that he didn't get taught focussing,
he didn't get taught the creation of states
and he did not get taught about that desolate marketplace
of gaining merit through doing things that other people should be doing for themselves,
such as sitting zazen.

Yinzong said, "well why not? Why were meditation and deliverance not taught?"

"Well," Huineng said, "that's a dual Dharma, that's two things that seem to be in opposition. Buddhadharma is not dual, it's all at once in this moment."

Sound familiar? This moment is the only thing that is going on, wherever you stand...

Now we'll just fast forward a few years and we have the "Shodoka" which was written around 713, shortly after Huineng had died and Yoka daishi, who was one of the disciples of Huineng, wrote.

In my youth I collected knowledge,
reading the Discourses and commentaries.

I fell into name and form, which makes as much sense
as trying to count the sands on the ocean floor.

The Buddha was speaking about me when he said,
"What gain is there in counting another's treasure?"

I realized how for many years I had gone astray
and wandered lost.

Due to crooked inclinations and wrong views
the Thus Come's Direct Perfection is misunderstood.

Men of the Narrow Path practise without compassion,
worldly scholars have knowledge but no wisdom.
Foolish, with wrong interpretations,
they miss the pointing finger of the empty hand.

Now next time we'll look into Huineng as Abbot of Baolin monastery, with according to some 26 disciples including Yoka daishi, and we'll meet very briefly someone called Faru who some say was up for being the Seventh Ancestor. He had been a student of Shenxiu and Faru is, in some texts, given credit for developing and studying and presenting the concept of Lineage.

Huineng, some say, rose to prominence after his death through an extensive campaign by one of his students.

And then there's that mummy....

So in this moment
wherever you
lie down
buy gas
shovel snow

wherever your little feet take you
you have an opportunity
to practise this moment
the only thing going on
by feeling the whole bodymind
wrapped around the breath.

Any dharma that's noticed is a moment to practise,
to wake up to the reality
of this moment.

How cool is that?

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 11: Who: Dajian Huineng Part 4

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, March 16th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

we were looking into the life of Huineng.

Now remember Huineng:
he was born of a poor family,
he was illiterate,
he woke up upon hearing the "Diamond sutra"
and somehow, in spite of being illiterate,
he gave rise to "the mind that dwells nowhere"
which is of course in the Lineage of Bodhidharma.

So, after receiving Transmission from Hongren, Huineng became Abbott of Baolin monastery which was founded by an Indian monk in 502, and the name was changed to Nanhua Temple. So in some texts you'll see "Baolin", in some texts you'll see "Nanhua".

Now, Huineng had, it is said, up to a thousand monks, nuns, lay women, lay men who were studying with him. He did not, however, some say, formally present the Dharma and the robe to any specific successor and that is why he is referred to as the Sixth and last of the Chan Ancestors.

So, Huineng went to Baolin Temple in Canton with the thousand people. The governor of the province actually received the formless precepts of the mind ground from him and invited him to teach at Ta-fan Temple.

Here is a quote from a translation of the "Platform sutra" which is attributed the talks and teachings of Huineng, but he being illiterate did not write it, so his students did. We can imagine as well that amongst those students there was Yoka daishi who wrote the "Shodoka" which is the reason why, in case you've forgotten [laughter] we are actually looking into all of this, to show how the ideas were passed on.

You should know that the Buddha Nature of the ignorant and the enlightened are the same. The only difference: the former are deluded, the latter awakened to it. Today I will expound the Mahaprajnaparamita Dharma so that each of you will acquire wisdom.

It is through teachings such as this that Huineng was understood and came to represent Zen's most essential insights. "Mahaprajnaparamita" is the Sanskrit word which means "the great wisdom which enables one to reach the other shore".

Chan, of which Huineng was the Sixth Ancestor, original Ancestor, Chan grew to be the largest sect in Chinese Buddhism. The Teachers branched out and each school that developed with its own special emphasis, all kept the same basic focus on meditational or mindfulness practice, personal instruction, and personal experience. So this is why Huineng has been credited with being such an important influence in Chan and Zen and he was said to have said that the "great wisdom which enables one to reach the other shore" should be done by the mind, the mindbody and this has nothing to do with verbal repetitions. So some schools, some approaches would be repeating a mantra over and over again to the exclusion of everything else, which of course we know as a form of focussing.

The capacity of the mind is broad and great like space, no boundaries, neither square nor round, neither great nor small, neither blue nor yellow, neither red nor white, neither above nor below, neither long nor short, neither anger nor joy, neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad, it has neither head nor tail.

So this moment of waking up to the actual nature of experience, this sudden enlightenment which has grown to be called the Southern Chan school of Buddhism, the Sudden Enlightenment School, which advocated an immediate and direct approach to Buddhist practice and enlightenment was from the Bodhidharma/Huineng Lineage.

The "Platform sutra" is credited with being one of the most influential texts in East Asian meditational practice.

So we have the Southern or Sudden Enlightenment school which was credited to Huineng, and the Northern or Gradual Enlightenment which was credited to Shenxiu who you'll remember was the very literate and educated monk who also studied with Hongren.

So Hongren gave birth, as it were, to these two Teachers. Now who knows exactly what the differences or the samenesses were because as we know, over time, stories change. Stories change with the tellers of the stories and these people are not around so that we can ask them. There are writings that are being uncovered and have been uncovered but interestingly enough, the writings, even in the original, differ and of course the translations differ, totally dependent upon the people who do the writing and the translating,

but what we do know:
that there is the fact of waking up
THIS moment of experience,

wherever you
lie down,
play music,
watch television...

ANY activity that the bodymind engages in
is the activity that this very bodymind
that has its ass sitting on the cushion
is engaged in.

THIS bodymind is the same bodymind
that stands, walks, goes to the washroom, drives its car
IT doesn't change,
the activity changes,
the activity engaged in changes,
so in formal practice,
in which you are engaged in this moment,
you are sitting in a formal practice environment
with many of the usual distractions removed,
which makes it easier for you to actually train,
this is what you are doing
this is called Zen training,
the instruction:

whenever you notice anything—
now this is a word that seems to be very difficult to comprehend:
that is meaning
ANY and EVERYthing that is noticed
that is perceived by the bodymind
is a moment when you can practise
at the moment of noticing it.

You are the Knowing.
Knowing does not stop when you close the door of the monastery behind you.
Sometimes we act like such idiots that it can seem that it does,
but it doesn't.
We make these artificial distinctions,
there's the Me who sits here in this Hatto,
then there's the Me who is called for daisan,
and the momentary relief of being on the stairs [laughter]
and being off the cushion,
and then there's the distraction of hearing our name called,
which we believe until we don't believe it anymore
until we see it as the action of self-image,
trying to come up with the good story.

"Well, when she says 'How is your practice?' I will say: 'Just like Huineng!'"

[more laughter from the Sensei and students]

We do this actually all the time,
and that's how beings,
not just human beings,
beings learn by mimicking.

The problem that practice presents is this simple word: anything.
When anything at all is noticed,
practise at that moment of noticing
by feeling the breath,
feeling the whole bodymind.

So, when you notice a thought going:
"Yes, I could say: 'I did practise at the moment of noticing'. Wait, no, I better use some other word... Practice is wonderful!"

And the stories go on...

"I hate practice. Practice makes me sick. Practice makes me feel like an idiot because when I sit here in front of you, I can't come up with anything to say."

Well this is something that self-image has experienced since the beginning of practice.
There is a traditional descriptive phrase:

"The tongue develops a bone."

[O-sensei garbles some words, speaking as though the tongue were indeed a large bone, everyone laughs.]

And it's kind of a bullshit detector, once that starts to happen, you know you've been tied up by thoughts about what it is supposed to be doing. This is classic self-image.
a phrase or a couple of words with a little stick in between,
that are used to describe this contraction into a sense of a self
that has a belief about how it is
and how the world is.

So, the name is called,
self-image goes:
"Ooh, I've got to come up with something really good, something I've never said before, something that she's never heard before. No, no, wait, I'll say something classic."

That is self-image at work.
As soon as you notice it, it falls into,
well it actually falls into the ANYTHING category before you notice it,
but definitely when you notice these stories,
you can recognize that these are thoughts.
The instruction is when you notice anything,
feel the breath, feel the whole bodymind, feel the whole moment.

It's that simple but we don't like simple, no we like to make things complicated.
Because bodymind actually feels comfortable with it in a way
because that's what it's used to.

Don't be fooled!
The basic message of self-image
and its stories is that
you're unsatisfactory.

What you're going to say is unsatisfactory.
The thought that you're having is unsatisfactory.
Whatever you do is unsatisfactory.

And of course that might be a slight exaggeration but
the bottom line is one of unsatisfactoriness
or dissatisfaction with what's actually going on,
and this is a clue:

Self-image says what is going on should not be going on.
This stuff can drive you crazy.

When you recognize those are thoughts,
and actually take a big leap of faith
feel the breath
sit up straight
feel the whole bodymind
(and it takes much longer to talk about it
than it does to...)
[O-sensei claps hands]
DO it.

You notice that whatever thought was present,
whatever little state was forming
drops away in that moment,
and that's a moment of
Sudden Enlightenment,
Waking Up to Reality.

You keep doing that
any time you notice anything
and those successions of moments
which you are practising
become more and more
more and more
of the time
how you are
and who you are.

You don't need the stories,
surely by now you've recognized that the stories are bullshit.
[O-sensei laughs]
Or maybe you haven't...
[students laugh]
some of them are really kind of interesting.

"Oh poor me..."

You know, it covers the gamut
(credit to Dorothy Parker)
"the gamut from A to B".

So the stories of self-image
on the whole
are very similar and
very boring,
but they are thoughts.

Notice a thought,
feel the whole bodymind

So back to Huineng.

There he was, in Nanhua Temple, or Baolin, where apparently he died after teaching for quite some time. He was around 73, he died in 713 C.E., and his mummified body was kept at Nanhua or Baolin Temple. These mummified remains apparently were seen by a Jesuit, Matteo Ricci, who visited the temple in 1589, the remains were in the Ancestors Hall. Apparently they were kept a Nanhua Temple until, according to some stories, they were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Another story:
some say the remains were saved from the destruction of the Cultural Revolution by an Abbot Fuyuan of Yunmen Temple.

Huineng was said to have died while sitting in zazen and the mummy was sitting in zazen. There are, for those of you who are interested, there are numbers of descriptions and images of mummified monks that if you're into this kind of thing you can access on the Web. It's kind of interesting.

In Japan there was a practice of self-mummification.

"Hmm, what's that?" you might say.

Well, three years of eating only nuts and seeds, another three years bark and roots, another of drinking poisonous tea until finally what was left was put in the ground with a little bell and the bell had to be rung every day until it wasn't rung anymore and someone would come and check it out and there would be this mummy.

Mummification was practised in China as well and some say still is. So often monks would leave instructions, especially abbots, especially people who were perceived to have some sort of influence or power by those who came after, because they're the ones who have to do the mummifying if it wasn't self-mummified. Often instructions would be left that they be buried in lotus posture, put in a vessel with drying agents, coal, wood, paper, lyme, surrounded by bricks and exhumed after three years, then decorated with paint and adorned with gold.

Numbers of monks, including Daoxin the Fourth Ancestor were apparently treated in this way. And I say "apparently", there were just little whiffs and hints.

Huineng, Yunmen, again, supposedly mummified.

Scholars suggest that these important monks were intentionally mummified for a number of reasons:
maintenance of a sense of continuity with the past for monastic communities,
enhancement of a monastery's indications of the presence of divinity, spirituality,
to be awe inspiring,
to increase claims of authority and qualifications of a pilgrimage site—
tourism, money! Face it!

So there are bits and pieces just scattered around of mummified monks. Does Huineng's mummy still exist? Who knows? There are so many sites in China that claim to have been, for example, where Bodhidharma was (much like the George Washington thing, "George Washington slept here"). It's good for business to have these signs and so on around saying so-and-so was here. These people were definitely real people, they definitely lived, they definitely studied, they definitely transmitted what it is that you're practising right now, but where, when, how, can be a little shifty. Why? Because people make up stories, and we've all had stories made up about us and we've all made up stories, perhaps not intentionally, but we've done it.

So we leave Huineng. He was a nice mummy, it's worth having a look at.

A couple of verses from the "Shodoka: the Song of Freedom"

Mistaking the finger for the moon
their practice is confused
and they fabricate complexity with senses and objects.

When not one thing is seen, this
is the Realm of Reality as a Continual Presencing
and one is truly the Sovereign Seer.

Understand the truth, and all conditional hindrances
are nowhere to be found;
not knowing true emptiness you worry
about debits and credits.

This is like a starving man turning down a
feast for a king,
or someone ill refusing the physician's prescription.

Practise Zen in this world of desires
like a lotus blossoming in the midst of flames.

So, next time we will look into Yoka daishi, Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh, who born 665, and apparently died in 713, just after writing the "Shodoka". He, as well as Dogen, started young. Yoka daishi was eight when he became a monk in the Tien-tai school, as was Dogen some years later.

So these are our Ancestors.
Each time we sit,
lie down,
notice a moment of Waking Up to Reality
and feel the breath and
feel the whole bodymind,
we are doing what they did.
Key word:

Have fun with that!

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 12: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Freedom part 1

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, March 30th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

...we've followed the flow of Teachings from
to Huike
to Sengcan
to Daoxin
to Hongren
to Huineng...

and to Yoka daishi, which is Japanese for Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh or
Great Master Chen-chio
also known as, in Japanese, Yoka Gengaku,
who was a scholar and a monk
who was born in 665 and apparently died in 713, the same year as his Teacher Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor.

Just for a moment,
picture the spring wind and
picture in that spring wind
a page of a calendar with a whole year on it...

2013 floating away in the wind
and they flip back and back and back

1300 of them,

and we reach the year 713.

It's really not so long ago,
and without the work,
without the Teachings of the six Chan Ancestors, and
without the practice and study of Yoka daishi,
we would not have the "Shodoka",
the song or poem about practice,
of instructions about practice,
which was written by Yoka daishi in the late 600s or early 700s,
definitely we can make the assumption it was written before he died in 713.

Yoka daishi became a monk within the Tendai or Tien-tai school when he was eight years old.

Now it's not unusual to come across accounts of people who became monks or who started practising, or who ruled countries before they were teenagers. There was a totally different understanding of children and adults in years past than there is today where they are kids until they're 47 years old and crawl out of their parents' basements. So at eight, nine, ten, if the capacity was there, if the inclination was there, young people often ended up becoming monks, so to regard them as the same as the same age young people today is definitely a limitation in your understanding. The cult of childhood is something that's happened only within the last 100 years or so.

So he became a monk within the Tendai or Tien-tai school when he was eight years old. Studying the Teachings, studying the sutras and the commentaries made him realize that he actually had to practise, he actually had to put his tiny pre-teen bum down on a cushion. Apparently he built himself a hermitage and shut himself up there for many years, practising chi kuan, the union of shamatha and vipashyana, and hearing rumours and stories of the Teachings of Chan, probably when he went to get food or perhaps when people stopped by his hermitage, he took up Chan sitting or zazen.

Sound familiar?
Recall a story of Joshu roshi, Anzan Hoshin roshi's Teacher who was sent off or went off to study and who ran away and then was followed by his Teacher who praised him for running off to do a hermitage and that apparently led to the great capacity of Joshu roshi for understanding how human beings are, how they can actually practise, how zazen and the practice of the forms are absolutely essential to this process of, as Dogen phrased it, "studying the self" and waking up to;

THIS moment
the only thing that is going on.

Now, there's an excerpt from "The Transmission of the Lamp, the Record of the Lives and Sayings of the Great Chan Masters in China", which was made available by Anzan Hoshin roshi:

The Great Master Ch'en Chui, (Yoka daishi), arrived at Tsao Ch'i carrying a gourd and wearing a bamboo hat. He circumambulated three times the master's seat. Striking his monk's staff down once, he stood proudly before him.

The Sixth Ancestor, (Huineng) said,
"Monks must keep the three thousand deportments and eighty thousand rules of minor conduct. Where does this venerable one come from that he is so proud?"

Ch'en Chui said,
"The matter of Birth and Death is great, impermanence is closing in fast."

The Ancestor said,
"Why don't you experience no-arising and understand that which does not move?"

Ch'en Chui replied,
"Experiencing is the non-arising state, understanding is originally unmoving."

The Ancestor said,
"Right, that's how it is."

After a moment Ch'en Chui moved to leave, and the Ancestor asked,
"Aren't you leaving a bit too fast."

Ch'en Chui answered,
"Originally I am unmoving, how can it be too fast?"

The Ancestor asked,
"Who is it who knows this not-moving?"

Ch'en Chui answered,
"You're the one giving rise to discrimination."

The Ancestor said,
"You understand the meaning of the Unborn. Stay over for one night."

And so Yoka daishi stayed at Tsao Chi, Huineng's monastery, overnight. This was the only meeting with the Master who gave him Transmission but it was all that was needed. This one night, this one moment of Transmission, this one moment of true entry, was based on the moment to moment practice that Yoka daishi had made in the hermitage, walking, reading, meeting various Teachers, practising, practising. Moment to moment practice until his practice was just this moment.

Now we all understand through our own experience that it is difficult
to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning,
to take a shower,
to push our hair out of our eyes,
to brush those teeth,
to towel off.

Who wants to do all of that?
If we'd rather just sleep,
if we'd rather just read about practice,
just read about mystical bullshit,
well the forms,
the discipline of the schedule which we have committed to,
will point out the arising of these thoughts about what we "would rather do".

That is pointing to what we call in our technical language of practice,
a contraction into a sense of self with
a story about how it is and
how the world is.

The basic propaganda? The basic storyline?:

"I would rather be doing THIS than that."
"I would rather practise my own understanding, which of course is better than THEIR understanding, because I am wiser, smarter, more all-knowing than they are."

Who are "they"? Well, anyone else who presents anything.

We learn to see this process of self-image,
contraction into a sense of self with a storyline and
we have something that we can do,
we have the antidote:
the moment of noticing
anywhere in that process,
feel the breath,
feel the bodymind wrapped around that breath
feel this whole moment
in the only place it is happening and
ever has happened
[O-sensei strikes the floor]

We make all sorts of stories up that try to seduce us
into believing that "now",
this moment,
the only thing going on is

Isn't that sad?

This means
when we take it to its logical point that
everything we do
is simply wrong and
something else should be happening.
That is insanity.

So here you sit on your little grindstone,
your little round zafu,
grinding away at these stories that come up,
at this process of the formation of a self by
simply noticing what's going on in this moment,
noticing what has always been going on, and
that which was always going on,

and out of that comes freedom
from conditioned experiencing.

So Yoka daishi,
having sat,
having experienced the truth
of the fact that
there is only this moment,
had learned to pay attention,
had learned to simplify attention,
had learned to notice the strategies of self-image,

was practising the Way,
just letting each breath breathe itself,
just noticing this moment,
knowing what to do without effort,
allowing the knots of self-image to just
fall away of their own accord.

There really is nothing to do.

We're not used to that.
We are used to complexity.
If a situation is not complex,
we have many ways
that we can make it so.

There's breathing in and out.
Self-image will go:
"but it's not deep enough, I've got to breathe more deeply, I'm not breathing properly, maybe I'll go and take one of those breathalist courses that works with the breath, yes, that's what I'll do, that will affect the nervous system."

Well, we really don't have to do that
while we're sitting on the zafu in formal practice,
and formal practice,
the word itself gives it away,
formal means zazen,
sitting Zen in a certain specific way that is simplified,
that is down to the bare bones of it
so that
we can see the way
we make things complex.

Learning to see those moments,
we remember,
or the bodymind reminds us that
there's breathing, that
there is seeing and
hearing and
tasting and
touching and
feeling and
the fact that
there is only this moment is

Just imagine...

We uncover that which has always been the case
sitting in this moment
and practising,
through walking with hands in shashu,
feeling the feet
on the floor,
the stairs,
feeling the change in temperature and texture from
wood to linoleum,
to shoes,
to outdoors,
to feeling the hand as we open or close the door,
to bringing the feet together,
to feeling the whole bodymind,
to raising the arms to bring the hands together in gassho,
to bow...

By using the forms,
we are given the opportunity to see
how we are in each moment,
to see the reluctance and recoil and
the stories we make up,
to learn to recognize them,
to bring forth the capacity to
simply notice the breath and the bodymind
in this moment,
wherever we stand,
lie down,
go to the washroom,
have a shower,
push our hair out of our eyes,
cut our toenails,
wash our clothes,
breathe the changing air from inside to outside,
all of the activities of the bodymind
moment to moment
give an opportunity to practise.

Take it!

What do you have to lose?

Well, if you don't take the opportunity
to notice your life,
you might die having never known that
you were actually alive
but were rather
living some sort of

The Great Matter is birth and death,
life does slip by and time is gone.
Right now...
Wake up!
Wake up!
Do not waste time.

Practice is nowhere else but here,
and it was ever thus.

Your life is nowhere else but here,
and it was ever thus.

You, who you really are, is nowhere else but here
and it was ever thus.

Uncover it!
Practise it!
Have some fun with it!
Open up to Reality,
to what is really going on.

Just sit,
no matter what arises,
just sit,
just walk,
just eat,
just enter into your life.

So. Back to 713 C.E. Yoka daishi has written the "Shodoka", the Song of Waking Up to Reality, of instruction about practice.

Have you ever seen one of the Way?

Beyond action and beyond learning,
one is at ease,

not struggling against delusion
or grasping after the truth.

One sees the nature of ignorance
to be itself Essential Awareness,

and the illusion of one's own body
is the Realm of Reality.

Now the main point of the whole text is that "the nature of ignorance is itself Essential Awareness and the illusion of this body is the Dharmakaya, the body of Realization, the Realm of Reality.

Even the mind of liking and disliking, the mind of confusion, the mind of fabrication is itself Essential Awareness or Buddhanature.

Noticing this breath,
this thought,
this sound
is the gate of
True Entry to the Way of Awake Awareness.

Thoughts arise, dwell, and decay
thoughts self-liberate into their own essencelessness.

When you wake up from the thought,
where has that thought gone?

You hear these sounds and they're gone.
What is this experience?
What is this hearing?
What is this seeing?
What is this coming and going?
It is this moment itself.

Whether you are confused or clear,
it is this moment itself,
there is no place else to go
and there is no need to go anywhere else.

Working with this, one opens to Buddhanature or Awake Awareness or Essential Awareness and finds one's own body to be the root of all worlds, which means that everything you are experiencing is experienced with and as this bodymind.

Now, a moment,
this is self-evident is it not?

How could you experience anything without
experiencing it
with this bodymind?

The wall arises in the seeing of it in Awareness itself,
the wall is Awareness itself,
looking at the wall,
looking at the floor,
looking at your hands,
this moment is Awareness itself.

Simply practise in this moment,
and that's the key word:

Keep it simple.

The eMirror that comes out today has in it a continuing of teisho 2: "Mr. Daruma" in the series "Bodhidharma's Eyes".

During his nine years of zazen Bodhidharma taught by his practice. Whenever anyone approached this monk from the land of the Buddha to enquire about the Way, they would find him sitting. They would ask their questions and he would answer by continuing to sit. Bodhidharma knew that these sutras, these questions and any answers he could give would be worse than useless if they were approached on the basis of already deluded views. So he tested these potential students in this way. All that they had to do was to sit down next to him. But instead, after a few minutes, they would just shake their sleeves and shrug and wander off again to find some Teacher who would quote the Diamond sutra or the Heart sutra or the Pure Land sutra to them.

Sound familiar?

Really, we do like to chat it up,
we like to chat it up
under the name of "spirituality"

Well, if you do that here
you'll be told to just sit down,
face that wall, and
at the moment of noticing anything at all,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind.

Wherever you stand,
you can do this.

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 13: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Freedom part 2

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, April 6th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

We've looked at and followed in the footsteps of

to end up
looking at the "Shodoka: The Song of Freedom",
written by Yoka daishi,
somewhere around 713 C.E., Common Era,
the translation we are using
which appears in "The Treasury of Luminosity", a Great Matter Publication,
the translation
is by Yasuda Joshu roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi.

Last week—or was it last week? Yes it was—we looked at the first few verses.

Have you ever seen one of the Way?

Beyond action and beyond learning,
one is at ease,

not struggling against delusion
or grasping after the truth.

One sees the nature of ignorance
to be itself Essential Awareness,

and the illusion of one's own body
is the Realm of Reality.

And in looking at this we are being told
over and over and over again
through these words
that all experiences come and go
everything that is
experienced is
the bodymind.

That's how it's always been,
and what you are doing
right now is
looking into the experiencing of
the bodymind
moment to moment.

Without the bodymind,
there is no experiencing.

The bodymind is how anything at all is known,
how any dharma,
or moment of experience
is experienced.


that's self-evident

just as it is self-evident
each of you manage
to see thoughts as thoughts,
to feel the breath and feel the whole bodymind
and put one foot in front of the other
so that you could arrive here
in this moment
feeling your gluteus maximus on the zafu
seeing the wall in front of you
feeling the breath
feeling the experiences,
the dharma,
experienced by
the bodymind.

It's self-evident
that you saw some
of the whining of self-image,
some of the reluctance
some of the recoil...
otherwise you wouldn't be here,
you'd be in your bed,
perhaps trying to grab another few minutes of z's
or reading a book
or reading a magazine
or just goofing off
because it's Saturday morning and it's spring!

So congrats!

Props to each one of you!

Keep on doing what you're doing,
which is basically
following through.

To review the first few verses...

You can realize the Realm of Reality, the Dharmakaya to be objectless.
All we have is the experience or the dharma of objects:

"Awareness IS the only condition"
as the first line of the "Three Jewels" states

"All that is arises as the display of Awareness"
as the second line says

"This is the seamless expanse of all that is"
as the third line says.

There's nothing to be done about it
but to see the various ways in which
we human beings can confuse ourselves,

and that we do confuse ourselves is self-evident.

Experience the zafu.
The zafu does not exist as an object in your bodymind,
it exists only as an experience,
something experienced by the bodymind,
through the feeling of the bones and muscles contacting that zafu.
That indeed is again self-evident.

So we continue on with the verses:

Completely realizing
the Realm of Reality to be objectless,

...does not have objects in it.
The zafu, an object, can only be experienced.

Completely realizing
the Realm of Reality to be objectless,

one finds oneself the source of all things
and one's own nature to be Awake Awareness.

The five aggregates arise and decay like
aimless clouds,
the three distorted orientations come and go
like bubbles on water.

So, Realm of Reality: Dharmakaya,
still with me?

one finds oneself the source of all things

...of all dharma,
the bodymind is what experiences.
We are the Knowing of those experiences.
That is what is being practised.

The five aggregates,
what we are talking about here are the skandhas,
what are called skandhas:
form, basic reactivity, habitual patterning, symbolization, and consciousnesses.

I am not going to go into a great deal of detail about these because a lot has already been spoken and written about these skandhas or aggregates.

What is important to remember is:
experience comes first,
and whether we call it a skandha, a klesha,
whether we call it Jennifer or Peter,
the experience comes first,
the language comes second,
and that is how it has always been since the beginning of human beings...
I'm not even going to say "primates",
we'll say "human beings",
that's enough to deal with.

So, first of all, experience
and then language to describe it.

So a long time ago, and probably it was someone who was fed up with actually sitting, and so they decided to write about it, they said: "Okay, this will be really useful. Rather than sitting, I'm going to take it all apart, give it names and write treatises on what it is."

Don't confuse the experience with the language about the experience.
Experience first,
language second.

And be careful,
I'm not saying language is not a good thing,
language is a great thing

and it's best when it's spoken out loud,
particularly to another person... [laughter]

... because if you are talking to yourself
with your half-baked theories
that you've picked up
on goodness knows what street corner,
you're wasting time,

so sit up straight,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind
feel those experiences,
those dharma,

So then we get into:

The five aggregates arise and decay like
aimless clouds,

...they come, they go,
form, basic reactivity, habitual patterning, symbolization, and consciousnesses...

These words describing experiences help us to see
that these experiences rise and fall,
they come and go
like clouds in the sky.

the three distorted orientations come and go
like bubbles on water.

The "distorted orientations" are the three kleshas
of passion, aggression, and stupidity,
which, again,
are words to describe experiences.
These do not exist as objects somewhere,
and it is said in some texts that the combination of the five aggregates is called a "being".

Well that in my view is kind of backwards.
There's a being that is experiencing the five aggregates and the three kleshas,
and that words are used to describe what is being experienced.
Do not confuse experiences with words about experiences.

Realizing Suchness...


... neither self nor things exist;
in one moment cause and effect are liberated.

"The Song of Freedom".

Your job, the one that you've taken on willingly,
is to sit and look into the process of being a human being,
being you.

What do you have to do about it?

Nothing really,
but when you do notice anything,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
you as the Knowing of the experiencing of the bodymind,
are practising that moment of clear seeing,
and out of that
more clear seeing arises.

That just makes sense because that's what you're practising,
and as with anything that is practised,
done over and over again,
you get better at it.

The bodymind gets better at self-liberating
because the self,
the thing we think of as "me"
is seen for what it is:
a distortion,
a contraction into a sense of self with a story about how it is and how the world is,
and the story is
a thought.

If anything I say is untrue
may my tongue be pulled out for countless eons.


In a single moment of direct awakening
to the Zen of Reality as a continuous presencing,
the six perfections and countless skillful means
are complete.

Once again, the six perfections, the six paramitas, are things that you have heard about before, read about before, and if you want to read about them further, what can you do?
Little g, double o, little g, l, e.
You don't even have to walk to get a book.

The six paramitas or perfections are
not stages,
not techniques,
they're descriptions,
again descriptions of facets of the mind of practice.

The six perfections:

Dana paramita:
giving, generosity,

Shila paramita:
having to do with morality or ethics or doing the right thing, thinking about what we're doing and making sure that what we do does not harm,

Kshanti paramita:
patience, seeing how we can get all worked up when things don't go our way and various and sundry facets of that,

Virya paramita:
energy, bringing energy to your practice, pulling yourself together so that you can actually sit up straight when you notice something, so you can actually feel the breath, so you can actually open the eyes, even if you're very tired.
The moment you notice that the eyes might be shutting down a bit,
you can open them
there's nothing saying they're not going to close down again, but for that moment of clear seeing,
for that moment of seeing clearly that the eyelids have shut down,
you can practise a little virya, a little energy.

Dhyana paramita:
actually doing something, actually sitting down to look into moment to moment experiencing,

Prajna paramita:
the paramita of wisdom.

Out of this come skillful means,
countless skillful means,
and this arises from the ability to work with situations in order to liberate beings.
And how is that learned?

It's learned by practising and working with being in situations where the stated objective is to liberate beings,
and as you know through the chanting of the Samu chant, for example,
each one, each student, each monk
is offering up what they do,
what they are going to do
for the benefit of all beings.

"May all beings be happy, may they be peaceful, may they be free."

So you can see that as Yoka daishi in the "Shodoka: The Song of Freedom"
is stating over and over again
this practice is about

THIS moment of experiencing,
THIS moment

which is the only thing going on.

When you notice anything,
practise mindfulness of breath and bodymind,
and out of this,
and at that very MOMENT
there is freedom from whatever was occupying attention.

That is also self-evident.

I'm going to read these verses once again without interruption.

Shodoka: Song of Freedom

Beyond action and beyond learning,
one is at ease,

not struggling against delusion
or grasping after the truth.

One sees the nature of ignorance
to be itself Essential Awareness,

and the illusion of one's own body
is the Realm of Reality.

Completely realizing
the Realm of Reality to be objectless,

one finds oneself the source of all things
and one's own nature to be Awake Awareness.

The five aggregates arise and decay like
aimless clouds,
the three distorted orientations come and go
like bubbles on water.

Realizing Suchness, neither self nor things exist;
in one moment cause and effect are liberated.

If anything I say is untrue
may my tongue be pulled out for countless eons.

In a single moment of direct awakening
to the Zen of Reality as a continuous presencing,
the six perfections and countless skillful means
are complete.

Next time:

The six realms of existence are a dream...

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 14: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Freedom part 3

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, April 13th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...

we looked into the verses of the "Shodoka: Song of Freedom",
which was written 1300 years ago by Yoka daishi.

Freedom from what?

Freedom from the
of self-image,

those random stories of habitual patterning that,
let's face it,
do get human beings into all sorts of trouble,
not just sleeping in
but all sorts of devastation
blowing up,
rampant bad behaviour
and it is that contraction
into a sense of self
with its story about how it is
and how the world is
that is the cause of all these problems.

In the "Shodoka", Yoka daishi lays out quite clearly the history of the practice of this particular Lineage as was taught to him by his Teacher Huineng.

I'll open with a quote from Anzan Hoshin roshi:

You're brought face to face with the difference between the view of the Tatagathas and your own conventional view of being a lump of red flesh filled with cravings that has to struggle its way in the world and has to own as much as possible and has to try to fight for the respect of other lumps of meat. This is the conventional view.

The view of the Tatagathas, the Thus Come,
is the mind is complete freedom,
the mind is limitless compassion,
this moment experienced by the bodymind is
boundless wealth.

Why not pay attention?
Why not remember to practise when you notice anything at all about experiencing?
That is what you're here for.
And that is what this monastery is here for.

That's the only thing it's here for.

So sit up straight,
feel the breath,
and don't look for some special way of being which would be okay,
when you notice you're doing that
you've noticed a moment to practise:
feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind,
free yourself from
the shackles of
your own patterns.

The verse:

The six realms of existence are a dream,
in waking they are nowhere to be found.

"The six realms of existence" are describing mental states rather than places that exist outside or on some other level, although this view has been adapted and adopted by all sorts of people. You do something wrong, you might end up in a Hell Realm, but if you do something else wrong, you might end up as a Hungry Ghost. People talk about being reborn and so on, but to the best of my knowledge, there is absolutely no proof that anyone has actually been, in the conventional sense, most commonly understood sense of the word, reincarnated. No one has been put back in the meat, because we are such arrogant types that had this happened for real, it would be blabbed all over. [laughter]

So let's just not count on it.

So the first of the six realms of existence is the hell realm, and in the hell realm, oh my, depending upon what you read and where you read it from and the graphics and drawings and so on and so forth that you see, there are some representations of very unpleasant states of being.

We ourselves have experienced those states of being,
contraction into a sense of a self that has a view about how it is
and it's roasting itself on its own BBQ,
it is sautéing that belief that it has with all sorts of juices
and it's really getting a lot out of it.

But when it ceases for a moment,
or when it is seen and practised,
we can realize how fracking pointless it is
and how we are causing ourselves those problems
even though we do like to do "pointy finger" at everybody else around
and say it's their fault.

They have nothing to do with it!
It's all about you.

So we have classically, some 18 hells:
hot hells,
cold hells,
occasional hells,
neighbouring hells,
reviving hell...

Now in "reviving hell", people are tied together to fight to the death and when they are dead, a cold wind comes along and revives them so the whole thing starts all over again.
Now, when we fall prey to our states that believe that we have to fight to be someone, and take it out on everyone around us and ourselves, that's a bit like that isn't it?

So we can start to see the Wheel of Becoming is describing mental states that come and go, and if we don't see them for what they are...
(and if we do practise by feeling the breath, feeling the whole bodymind, they will wear out)...
if we don't do that,
we'll be doomed to repeat them because
they are patterned in the bodymind.

There's "black thread hell", bodies are marked with black lines and flaming torches cut along those lines and when they're all cut up—bit like a butcher shop really—when they're all cut up and in pieces, the bodies reassemble, and what happens? It starts all over again.

In the "crushing hell", crushed between mountains or metal plates...

There are other hells;
the "hot hells": burnt with molten metal, pierced with spikes—(sounds so religious).

the "cold hell": blisters form, chattering teeth, skin splitting open—oh my: Ottawa!! [laughter]

Then there are the delusions in the "neighbourly hell".
When these are laid out graphically, graphic depictions of these realms, the "neighbouring realms" which we must pass through on our way out; a pit of hot embers appears to be a shady trench, a swamp full of corpses appears to be a cool river, a pleasant meadow is really a plane of razors, a protective grove of trees is really a forest of swords.

People always have been quite inventive in their storytelling, haven't they?
And the interesting thing about these stories, they can become more predominant, they turn very quickly into belief systems, so then any question or possibility of practice is out the door. We live in a world of delusion, stories abound...

So first of all,
see your own
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
actually do the practice.

The next realm is the realm of the hungry ghosts, strange and pathetic creatures consumed with hunger and thirst. And remember, these are descriptions of states that any human being can pass through in the course of a day, in the course of an hour, we've seen that flipping back and forth and it's nice to recognize that this has been recognized and described for thousands of years.

There are three types of hungry ghosts, those with external obstacles, those with internal obstacles, and those with specific obstacles. The external obstacles: they can never find food and drink they seek. They don't hear the news of food and drink for centuries, when finally they do hear it and get to where the food and drink is supposed to be, it's taken them such a long time because they're so fragile, that it's all dried up.

"Nothing ever goes my way."

"I can never get what I want."

"Everybody else is there first..."

Sound familiar?

... No of course not... [laughter]

Or, another external obstacle: we see an abundance of food and drink BUT as we, no no no, as THEY approach, (archly-this has nothing to do with us), as THEY approach, they're attacked by men with weapons. Everything is agony for the hungry ghosts. If a traveller comes near them, they produce a fire in the traveller, so beware of hungry ghosts.

Ghosts with internal obstacles have gigantic bellies, their necks are thin as a hair, they have mouths no bigger than the eye of a needle. If they find water, by the time it gets down their teeny tiny throats, the heat of their body has evaporated it. They can't force enough food down and if they do force some down that thin as a hair neck, it bursts into flame. These hungry ghosts can hardly move their bellies are so huge and their limbs are like grass.

Specific obstacles... and there's a variety of stories around these, so I'll just briefly get into one...
Four ghosts were chained to the legs of a throne which belonged to a, of course, beautiful woman. A traveller came along, she offered him food and said: "Don't give any to these people chained to my chair" and then she went off to do whatever she was going to do, maybe nails or hair or who knows? The ghosts begged. One ghost was in such straits that any food that he ate turned to chaff, another, food would turn into a lump of iron, the third, food would turn into a lump of flesh, the fourth, food would turn into pus mixed with blood.

The traveller felt sorry for them so of course gave them some food,
and it happened...

The woman came back: "What are you doing? These were people I knew in my past life, they're all here because of their stinginess and greed. Number one was my husband. I was giving food to one of the Buddha's disciples, a monk, and I thought my husband would like to share in the opportunity. My husband yelled: 'What are you doing offering food to a worthless monk? You should save it. Stuff his mouth with chaff.'

"Number two was my son. He agreed with my husband. 'You shouldn't give that bald-headed old man anything, shouldn't give him any food, just stuff his mouth with a lump of iron.' Look what happened to him.

"Later, my parents sent some delicacies for me to eat. My daughter-in-law ate the best parts and then lied to me, saying: 'I'd rather eat a lump of flesh than eat something meant for you.' so there she is, chained to the chair leg, doomed to eat lumps of flesh."

(You have to be careful what you wish for.)

"Number four was my servant who ate a meal that I was sending to my family and when I questioned her said: 'I would rather eat pus and blood than steal from you.' Fourth leg of the chair."

"Why are you there?" the traveller asked the woman.

She said: "I vowed to be reborn where I could see what fate awaited these four as a result of their actions."

Now that seems to be to be just nasty. I cannot for the life of me see her as some sort of heroic character.

So people who were selfish and greedy and feverish and passionate and desperately unsatisfied would end up in the realm of the hungry ghosts, but we can use this to recognize when these states come up in ourselves.

The next realm depicted, and this is a touchy one, is the animal or beast realm, which overlaps with the human realm, definitely far more now as we know more about other species, 13, 1400 years later than when these were originally written. The animals or beasts, driven by instinct, simple physical needs, base emotions like fear, aggression, and sex.

Now, the human animal has written about the world in such a way that it makes itself superior and more intelligent than any of the other species and we know that's just not true. Anyway, that's an aside.

In the archetypical animal realm, the beasts must always worry about being eaten or catching some other animal to eat. They can also get caught and enslaved by humans.

Aside: we're really good at enslaving other humans and anything else that can come in contact with us, so when we see those tendencies in ourselves, tendency to want to enslave, to want to by whatever means bend others to what we think is the right thing, we've recognized a moment when we can practise.

So in the animal or beast realm, the being is caught in a cycle of basic instinctual self-maintenance and there's no choice because they're at the mercy of their needs.

Next we have the human realm, a mixed bag; some aspects of the other realms, and this is the traditional way of viewing it as something external, these are like little lands we go to, but in our understanding of it these are descriptions of how we are moment to moment, how we can recognize different states. They're like signposts. They're like maps to help us practise with our own bullshit, the stuff that enslaves us, helps us see the way we wrap our hands around our own neck, put pressure on it and wonder why we're not feeling so good.

Recognize anything:
you don't even have to think about it,
there's this moment of recognition,
feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind.

So human realms are a mixed bag carrying with them some aspects of all the other realms as described:
sorrow at losing pleasure,

and that can happen [O-sensei snaps fingers]

really quickly,
just see it,
it's not a defining factor,
it's not who you are
unless you let it be so.

There is said to be eight—I love the lists, as you know, the eight of this, the 2009 of that, the 64,000... but anyway, somebody said "I think I'm going to make a list, that will make it easier for people to understand."

There is said to be eight unique kinds of human suffering:
any beginning of anything which is often marked by awkwardness and stress
old age
being separated from loved ones
meeting those not dear to us
having to guard our possessions.

The human realm is also said to be one of the most fortunate to be born in.


Because the human realm gives you a chance to get off the Wheel.

So here we are,
all sitting in this Hatto,
to the best of our knowledge fully human,
with the capacity to recognize knows or dharma,
moments of experience,
and at the moment of noticing
to practise,
to feel the breath
to feel the whole bodymind,
to get off the Wheel of Becoming.

This is not giving up self-determination,
it's not giving up "free will",
what it is
is completely releasing any tendencies, habits, or patterns
that get in our own way
causing us discomfort
to a greater or lesser degree
and perhaps pissing off people around.

It's a good thing.

So practise.

The next realm is the realm of the asuras or jealous gods. They're jealous. They're suspicious of each other. It's almost as good as the heaven realm, but not quite.

The realm of the jealous gods has beings that value justice, wisdom, and faith, but they desire to be superior to others. A wish-fulfilling tree grows in the asura land, but it grows so tall that it only bears fruit in the heaven realm for the devas. Beings are born in this realm when they live a life of devotion as a priest, monk, nun, or lay practitioner, while secretly harbouring hatred and jealousy. Or, they live a fairly virtuous life but with a propensity for envy, fighting, ambition, and corruption.

Then, the deva or heaven realm. Devas live for countless ages, according to some descriptions. They're seven times larger than humans, their bodies shine with a brilliant light (probably you can read by them). Everything around them stays fresh and beautiful. Some reign over celestial kingdoms, most live in delightful happiness and splendour. Devas have a mastery of desire, control of themselves, joy, and contentment. They experience progressively deeper states of (air quotes) "meditation". But beware, they haven't yet attained liberation, they still have a concept of self, and self is saying "things are good, I don't have to practise because I'm feeling kind of a contentment, I don't have to practise because I know better than anybody else what's going on."

But the merit that they may have gained from past deeds wears out, understanding that they had acquired wears out and disappears. They begin to descend from the heaven realm, the clothes they were wearing which in the heaven realm never got dirty, never had to be cleaned, start to get dirty. They start to smell, they're engulfed with sorrow because they're losing heaven.

What to do?

Well, as I hope I've made clear, these descriptions are just descriptions of states that people can get into. They've been embellished. There are lots of stories. I hope in a way I've piqued a little interest in you so that you can yourself read about and track down different depictions and look at the art work that this has generated. It's really interesting.

What can you do?

When you notice anything about experiencing,
anything whatsoever,
practise mindfulness of breath and bodymind
in this moment.

Wake up!
See the delusion of "self" and "other".
See the delusion of stories.

No error, no happiness, no loss, no gain;
you won't find these in the Actual Nature.

Why won't you find these in the Actual Nature? Because they don't exist as things. They are descriptions of moments of experience. They are descriptions. These is a difference between the dharma and a description of same.

The Actual Nature or True Nature or First Nature is the Reality of the experiencing of the bodymind, not the stories about it.

I'll end with a quote from "Begin Here: Five Styles of Zen" by Anzan Hoshin roshi:

Experiences and states arise freely as the activity of primordial Awareness itself. Awareness is effulgent with forms but is always formless. Nothing that arises, dwells or decays can, in itself, invite or provoke any confusion, or separation, or identification. In shikantaza, all worlds and all beings are always sitting as their own True Natures.

The two verses looked at today:

The six realms of existence are a dream,
in waking they are nowhere to be found.

No error, no happiness, no loss, no gain;
you won't find these in the Actual Nature.

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 15: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Freedom part 4

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, May 4th, 2013

Here we sit,
in and as the evidence of life,
around us...
birds tweeting,
setting up their little estates,
building their little families.

In the corner of the Hatto the pussy willows are sending out leaves and if we planted them in the ground, they would over time turn into trees.

The persistence of life.
Hair growing,
insides digesting breakfast,
it's truly amazing
the Magic of Reality.

Last time in "Wherever You Stand", we took a little romp through the six realms: hell, hungry ghosts, animal, human, jealous gods, and devas. That was a lot of fun, I hope, maybe some of you might have had memories of that when you were going about your day to day business, seeing thoughts and feelings and states and situations arise, because that's what this is all for, it's so that you can open more and more to the richness of Reality.

The "Shodoka", by Yoka daishi, Master of Enlightenment Attained in One Night.

[in a whiny voice:] "Oh I wish that would happen for me..."


Little thoughts come and go,
not a problem,
they're the manure for
the fruit of your gradually maturing practice.

So as soon as you notice anything at all,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind.

The next verse:

Having given up wiping dust from the mirror,
its brilliance is completely seen.

Bear in mind: Yoka daishi recieved transmission from Huineng. They were alive at the same time, both died in 713. So Huineng, as you remember, wrote in response to Shenxiu's verse:

The body is like a bodhi tree, the mind like a clear standing mirror.
Wipe it carefully again and again, never letting dust alight.

Then Huineng the illiterate had someone write on the wall for him:

Enlightenment is not a tree and the clear mirror has no stand.
Right from the beginning there is not one thing; where can dust alight?

So, different points of view, different understandings of the metaphor, the metaphor of wiping dust from the mirror occurs again and we can picture how it was that Yoka daishi, having recognized the truth of the Teachings as transmitted by Huineng, was able to and wanted to write a song, the "Song of Freedom", containing in it what he considered to be the most valuable points of practice.

Now one interpretation of the verse is that wiping dust from the mirror means to have polished the mirror, or polished Awareness so thoroughly, means to see things as they really are.

the growing realization
or understanding
and practice of what you really are:
or Awareness itself.

As Anzan roshi said in his presentation on the "Shodoka", which took place in 1988 during the January sesshin:

It means to see what you actually see, to hear what you actually hear in the same way that if you hold up a flower before a mirror it shows the flower, if you hold up an empty hand, it shows an empty hand, hold up two hands and spread the fingers, the mirror shows all of this without hesitation, without adding anything of its own and without being stained by what it shows.

So Awareness is the only condition,
all that is arises as the display of Awareness,

you're using all that is,
anything that is noticed by you as
the Knowing of the knowns,
to practise with,

polishing the mirror
until there's nothing left.

Opinions arise,
thoughts arise,
states arise,
they're not a problem,
opinions and thoughts are not a problem,
sometimes they can be kind of useful,
sometimes they can be kind of interesting,
sometimes they can propel us into projects to express something about our understanding of experiencing
that we think is worthwhile,
so they're not the problems,
they're things that people do,
bodyminds do this.

Problems are when patterns occur,
which means certain ideas,
certain thoughts,
certain states
they arise in Awareness again and again,
and we fall for them,
we are convinced that they are descriptions
of who we are in that moment,
rather than just being dust on the mirror.

You know what to do:
use the breath,
what do you do with dust on the mirror with the breath?

[O-sensei blows out sharply as though blowing away dust]


So you're feeling the breath in the bodymind,
you're feeling the whole bodymind,
and remember this is information that has been passed down through generations
of students and Teachers.

I find it really easy to understand why Yoka daishi decided to write the "Shodoka".
You think: "Okay, this is good stuff, this is important, this is literally vital, this is information that everyone should have..."

because there are a lot of byways around,
there are a lot of instances of people taking a little bit of what's spoken of,
a little bit of Reality and making a whole meal out of it,

so people spend lots of time,
they put lots of resources into something that just further enslaves them,
rather than recognizing the simplicity of actual freedom,
the simplicity of being free in this moment,
no matter where you are,
even in prison.

The next verse:

Who is it that thinks of
not-thinking and non-existence?
The Unborn is realized
within the born.

Now sometimes when we first read something like this, what happens? Our brains can curdle. [laughter]

"Oh no...."

And if we're the type that can become so compressed that juices are squeezed from our eyes, that can happen too.

We might put a label on it of "frustration", whatever, no problem.
As soon as you notice anything,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind.

Now, let's just say it's impossible to think of not thinking.
In order to think of not thinking,
you have to think,
so I'll say it another way:
It's impossible to think of not thinking without thinking.

Three opportunities right there as thoughts come up to notice them as thoughts regardless of the content, and feel the breath, feel the whole bodymind.

We can spend time thinking about how great it will be when
we're not thinking.
We can come up with lots of ways
and lots of plans
and lots of concepts about what
it's going to be like
we're not thinking,

and eventually it will occur to us that that is a moment to practise,
so we do it,
then we do it again,
and after we've congratulated ourselves, perhaps,
we do it again,
and we start to understand what is being spoken of.

Roshi spoke, again during a teisho in the January 1988 sesshin, about this verse in the "Shodoka":

Suppressing thoughts and feelings, wrapping ourselves up in a shroud of holiness, none of this has anything to do with true practice. The unborn is realized within the born. The moment of awakening to the Tatagatha's Zen is this moment, this sound.

That's how it is right now, and that's how it has always been.

when you notice anything—
and I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm sure I've expressed to some of you—
that "anything"
seems to be amongst the most difficult words for us to understand.
We think that "anything" might mean
things that we think are moments to practise,
things that we don't like and so therefore will practise,
and that we have to sort through experiencing,
putting them into little bags:
practise with this one,
not necessary with this one,
this one's cool, I'll put it over here...

Anything means ANYTHING,
not just a thought,
not just a feeling,
the sound of whatever engine that was,
the sound of the sputtering of a candle,
the air on your head from the fans,
the birds,
noticing the pussy willows growing in the corner as you walk by in kinhin,
ANY moment of noticing anything at all.

How simple is that?

It's simple but it's not easy,
and we learn over time how
we can practise more and more completely
with in fact
less and less

The next verse:

Can a wooden puppet attain Buddhahood
by its practice of not-thinking?

Duh! [laughter]

But, sitting like a wooden puppet can mean sitting holding thoughts at bay, with a very rigid posture, and going along with that rigid posture, very rigid ideas about what you are doing. Or sitting very rigid and holding, trying to hold thoughts away so that you don't slip into them. That's not practice.

Setting ourselves up to exist in some sort of blank space
is not practice.

Sitting and ruminating
and chewing at our cheeks
as we go over our ideas about what practice is
is not practice...

...but when noticed,
it is a golden opportunity
to practise.

The reality is,
thoughts come and go,
regardless of the content,
we can practise with them.

See them,
practise at the moment of noticing
things as they are.

It does take bravery and honesty,
it does take ruthlessness sometimes,
sometimes it takes gentleness
but do what it takes to actually open fully and completely
to who you are in
THIS moment.

The next verse:

Without grasping at the four elements of this body,
drink and eat aligned with the Actual Nature.

Now. The four elements:
referred to as the mahabhuta.

Apparently the earliest Buddhist texts explained that the four elements were taught as the four sensory qualities, originally:

So we can see where the Buddha, who is attributed to have taught these, but there's no actual written records, taught them so that people could learn to notice more about experiencing,
notice the bodymind,
feel the flowing of energy,
feel the flowing of blood,
of the juices in the bodymind,
notice temperature,
notice how things move as you sit,
as you breathe,
as you do kinhin.

But of course then it turns into something else over time and the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air have come up in almost every culture. Hindu culture, medieval culture, the field of alchemy, people getting busy to see if they could take these elements and mix them in a certain way to produce, in the case of alchemy, gold, precious metals. So they became a source of study in Greece, in Babylonia, in Egypt...

Now apparently the Buddha's teaching of the four elements predates that of the Greeks and some say, or rumour has it that the Buddha sent out some 60 arhats to scatter and teach the Dharma. I find—who knows? Who knows? It's obvious that people travelled and it's obvious that people talked. If they were sent out as dharmic missionaries I haven't run across any record of something like that, which is not to say that it could not have happened, I'm sure there were people travelling, talking, and passing on the words that they had heard from others.

There's a difference between pointing out experiencing and then taking the thoughts about experiencing and existence and turning them into something to be thought about more, to be talked about more, rather than point to the direct experiencing of this moment.

As I said, the Buddha and those who recorded him seemed to be pointing
to one's own experience,
that makes sense,
instructions on how to notice.
Like all of the Dharma,
this is not a philosophy, but is a
pointing to what is
around the breath,
breathing the bodymind in and out.

The next verse:

Appearances are empty, all is impermanent;
this is the complete view of the Those Gone Into Thusness.

Or, Tatagatha.

All is impermanent,
things are born,
they live, they die.

As a true monk I speak the truth.
If you don't agree with me, let's discuss it;

but remember that the Way of Awake Awareness
aims for the root
and is not tangled in branches and leaves.

So if "branches" and "leaves" and "entangling" appeals to you,
look in Roshi's "Before Thinking"
have a little look at "The Little Book of Stopping and Looking"
for a very short couple of paragraphs about roots and tangling.

The Way of Awake Awareness, the Buddhadharma aims to the root of the Reality of this moment,
and is not tangled in branches and leaves of interpretation.

Remember that while you are actually sitting in front of that wall.

When you notice anything...
you know what I'm going to say
so just DO it.

That is the Way.

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 16: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Freedom part 5

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, May 11th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand",
this investigation into Yoka daishi's "Shodoka",
we ended with a statement basically and
basic to practice:

The Buddha seems to have been pointing to one's own experience,
instructing how to notice,
saying that
practice is not a philosophy,
but it is what is
in this moment
of YOUR experiencing.

It is interesting to realize that although self-image wants everything to be about it,
me, me me me,
me, me, I
the Centre of the Universe,
although that is what self-image wants, here we have a situation where
practice is all about YOU
and you and you and you and you,
it's all about each and every one of you
in THIS moment
of YOUR experiencing.

This is what you build on.
The bodymind is how anything at all is known.
Self-evident, a no-brainer, really,
and you're the Knowing
of the experiencing of
the bodymind.

So, sit with that,
recognize moment to moment to moment
the experiences.

So we'll pick up the "Shodoka" at:

The wish-fulfilling pearl is not recognized by beings
but here it is
within the matrix of Reality as a continual presencing.

Now this "wish-fulfilling pearl" or
sometimes a "jewel", it's sometimes spoken of as "jewel"
is actually referring to Reality.
Awareness itself.

Dogen zenji states in the "Fukanzazengi" that "the doors of the treasure house will fall open for you to do with as you will".

So as habits and patterns
and as those pieces of gristly knots that have been formed out of stories
about who you are and how the world is
start to open,
Awareness itself,
that "in" within which everything arises,
becomes more and more apparent,
more and more who you really are
in this moment
and this moment
and the next moment.

The next verse:

The functioning of the six senses are neither
"is" nor "not",
and come from luminosity neither
formed nor formless.

The six senses are of course
the eye: for vision,
the ear: sound and hearing,
three: the nose - odor, smelling,
four: the tongue and taste,
five: bodymind, touch,
and six: the mind.

Clarifying the obstructions through the practice of
when anything at all is noticed,
feeling the breath,
sitting up straight,
opening the eye gaze,
practising this moment,
does indeed allow the senses,
it does allow the functioning of the bodymind to be more clear
to be more open
to reach its actual extent
rather than to have it limited by
absurd fascinations on things that might not ever happen
or what may have happened in the past but are poorly remembered.

So we're not very good at noticing Reality,
but we're getting better and better
each moment that we do notice a dharma,
a moment of experience,
and actually practise it

THIS now.
THIS now.

The Roshi has said, about this verse in the "Shodoka":

The six sense bases and the fields and the six sense fields arise together, functioning clearly. You hear this sound. How do you do that? A thought comes up. How do you do that? You look at the wall and there it is. How do you do that?
This functioning is not based on strategies, it has no ease nor knot within it, it doesn't deviate. Clearly seeing, clearly hearing. The six sense bases and the six sense fields both arise within awareness, within luminosity. Objects of awareness arise continuously, this teisho, that itch on the elbow, this breath, thoughts, feelings. All that you experience is the unobstructed nature of mind itself. But Awareness is not any of these objects, it is not contained within them. It is not trapped by them, it is not obstructed by them. And yet, although it has no content or form, it is not dead, it is not static. There are these sounds. There is the grain of the wood on the floor. There is your stomach burbling and doing its work digesting miso soup. This luminosity itself, Tathagatagharba, this awareness, this mind.

And literally:
you can't get away from it!

Awareness IS the only condition.
All that is arises AS the Display of Awareness.

"Well of course, I knew THAT."

" How come I don't know it all the time?"

Well, keep on doing as you are doing
and one day there will be no need for the "knowing" of it,
there will just be
being it.

The next verse:

Clarifying the five kinds of vision
brings the five powers.

Whoaoooohhhh.... [laughter]

"Five kinds of vision"
traditionally referred to

1: The eye of ordinary people
2: The heavenly eye, the divine eye, which perceives things in the darkness, at a distance, or 'beyond physical limits' (whatever that means)
3: The Wisdom eye, ability to see that nothing has an existence of its own (separate from everything else)
4: The Dharma eye, sees Reality
5: The Buddha eye, perceives the true nature of life; past, present, and future.

"Oogledy-boogledy, I want some of that!" [giggles]

And we can see how stories of remarkable powers were developed almost by themselves and were developed and nurtured by people, when actually, what is being talked about is Reality. We've all, I'm sure, had the experience which may increase in number of occurrences, of knowing who was walking down the hall, without seeing them, but just feeling into the cadence of the steps, the rhythm.

We've all been quite surprised, perhaps, by that sense of knowing what's going to happen before something happens...

Well, really,
all sorts of senses, and sensory information have been picked up by the bodymind and processed before self-image could get in there and muck around, try to control.

So yeah, we tend to see more clearly, literally,
we start to notice things
that perhaps have always been around us,
but we just never noticed before
because we were so busy
listening to self-image
with its "gimme gimme gimmes"
its "gets gets gets"
its "wants wants wants".

And as that, and those occurrences are practised with,
they open up,
we're not fooled by them any longer,
they wear out.

Now the "five powers"
or "five strengths"
in Sanskrit and Pali: panca bala.

Panca means five, and you remember that:
prapanca means something going on five times longer than necessary.

Panca bala.
Bala: power, strength, force,
The five strengths;
energy, effort, or persistence-virya
Wisdom, discernment-prajna.

So we have faith, an antidote to doubt.
No problem having doubt.
And what are you going to have faith in?
Faith in your own experience.

Everyone in this room has woken up from a thought
and noticed
and known
that they've woken up from that thought.

What happens when there's a waking up from any thought whatsoever,
regardless of the content?
Everything brightens.

We like to say "the room got brighter".
No, the room is as it was,
your perception of the room changed because
with that opening
with that practising of that moment,
that moment of waking up,
the bodymind opened,
seeing was more clear,
hearing was literally more clear.
That moment, and those many moments like that
are what you build your practice on.

Learn to have faith in your own experience.

Again, the antidote to doubt.
Doubt comes up,
doubt HAS to be thoughts,
it has to be.

When things like that come up,
raise them during practice interviews or daisan.

Faith: antidote to doubt,
energy, persistence, effort (virya): antidote to laziness! [O-sensei and students laugh]

Now laziness, what is that?
Well a lot of the time, what it is is just...

"Ugh, I don't feel like it... If I uh, you know, hear, I can see, there's like an eighth of an inch of milk in the bottom of the milk bottle. Well, never mind, I didn't really see it. I'll just open another milk bottle, because if I have to empty that eighth of an inch out of that bottle, I will have to wash it. Didn't see a thing...." [laughter]

When in reality, it takes longer to think about that than to pick up the bottle, do the thing, run it under the water—done.

So we start to notice all of these little [whispered] "shortcuts" that we take.
Well they're not really shortcuts.
What they really are is self-image being allowed to run away with a lot of your energy actually, and it's also causing the people who come after problems,
but self-image often has an attitude of:

"Well, frak them... It's all about me!!"

We learn to stand with our feet together,
we learn to stand balanced,
we learn to pay attention.

It's laziness slumping around,
and a lot of the time we say:
"Well I just didn't know...that.."

Which of course is a lie,
we just didn't do it.

an antidote to heedlessness.

just not paying attention,
self-image just blundering around
with its elbows out
strewing its crap all over the place,
both mental, so to speak,
and physical.

Well, concentration, we're not talking about focussing here,
words really are kind of shifty.

So let's say what we're talking about is open attention.
We're noticing what's going on.
We start to notice when we become distracted,
so concentration,
or samadhi: antidote to distraction,
and wisdom: antidote to ignorance.

So, there we have them all laid out.

Isn't that nice?

And, these are not burdens,
you don't have to memorize the lists,
although it is certainly nice,
over time,
as you become familiar with what is taught,
to pick up some of the words,
even in Japanese,
about what is being talked about,
even in Pali,
even in Sanskrit,
just a few,
you're not being asked to study Japanese,
or Sanskrit or Pali,
but as your vocabulary of practice widens,
you start to understand that it really is multinational.

Oh I'm sorry I said that word "national",
it's all-pervasive,
it includes so much,
it's travelled so much
over so many centuries,
and you can have fun with it.

Another verse:

When you experience the truth
you are without speculation.

When you experience the truth over and over again,
the truth of what's being taught,
speculation may drop away.

speculation is a thought,
it's not a bad thing,
it's just a thought,
so no matter what
theories or
whatever we call them,
come up,
they're all thoughts,
and they never can contain or encompass Awareness

because they arise within it.

They are dharma,
moments of experience,

and when you notice any moment of experience,
you of course practise mindfulness of breath
and bodymind
THIS moment.

Knowing is free of knowns and known.
Knowner and knowns
all arise within Knowing,
just a different way of saying:

Awareness is the only condition.

Knowing cannot be contained,
it need not be disturbed by any known
or any concept of a knower.

You can see your reflection in a mirror
but can you grasp the moon
reflected in the water?

Questions, questions, questions...

Are you looking at YOUR face in the mirror?
Is THAT who you are?
Is THIS who you are?

you can never
have never
and will never
see yourself.

It's impossible.

That's at a very basic level.

You look in a mirror:
you see a reflection.

It's backwards.
It's reversed.
That's not what you look like to others.

You see a photograph.
That is a moment in time
that has been captured,
and is affected by
or electronics...

You don't look like that.
You have never looked like that
and you will never look like that.
It is just what it is in that moment.

So if you are prone to hanging your identity on what you think you look like...
you're hanging it on something that does not exist.

Wake up!

You can never see yourself.

You see the moon,
you see the reflection in the water.

Can you grasp them as well?

Well you can grasp them about as efficiently as you can grasp that reflection of yourself.

What we can do is appreciate what we are noticing
in this moment,
appreciate the fact that we are noticing something.
If that's going on,
you're alive in this moment,
so feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
open to the basic intelligence,
the luminosity of this moment.

And actually, you know,
you can see the moon more clearly and accurately
than you have ever seen,
can ever see,
or will ever see

And, when you think about it,
we have a world,
a social system,
a culture
that is based on,
in many cases,

We always walk alone;
yet those who have attained all tread
the same Way of liberation.

Recognize that,
it's true.

We can be surrounded by people
we can create webs of relationships
—nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong at all—
however, the fact is,
we are always alone.

So it might be nice to get acquainted with what's actually happening
in this moment

Now, we can notice patterns of always looking for company,
always looking around for
the "One"
seeking out
"like-minded" people...
all to get rid of the nattering of self-image
and the pain of contraction.

We seek comfort,
we seek solace,
we seek to be "understood"
we seek to impress... oh, everybody...
we seek to be the master of our domain.

Well, good luck.

When you are actually practising, you're in fact freeing yourself from these shackles and chains.
It doesn't mean that you're removing yourself—not at all—from day to day activities.
You're not removing yourself from "the world".

It's impossible to do,
I mean if you're alive...

What you're doing is actually learning to experience and appreciate,
and understand through your own experiencing
what's actually going on...

unconditional freedom

Another verse:

Following this ancient Way, have a light heart.
Wild looking, bones hardened,
no one will notice you.

The word used is "ancient" and bear in mind, the original text was written some 1300 years ago, so it's actually 1300 years older now than when Yoka daishi wrote about it in the 8th century, but yet it was "this ancient Way", this way of practice which had been going on for quite some time.

"Wild looking"...

Think of Bodhidharma,
be reminded of those eyes...

Now, you do not want to go around "wild-looking"
that would just be an affectation,
just meaningless slothful behaviour.

Take care of yourself,
recognize that you need not adapt any stance or strategy whatsoever.

Literally: be yourself in this moment!
Notice what's going on in
THIS moment.

At the moment of noticing:
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
feel this whole moment.

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 17: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 6

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, May 18th, 2013

So this bright, very sunny, bird-filled morning,
we will continue looking into
this treasure box written by Yoka daishi,
the "Shodoka: Song of Liberation"
"The Song of Freedom".

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"
we have looked at
the six senses,
the five kinds of vision,
the five strengths or powers,
and been assured that following this ancient Way,
bones hardened,
no one will notice you."

But of course that's not what self-image wants,
is it?
It wants to be noticed,
to be praised,
to be the best,
to be the worst,
to be perfect,
to be the only one who never makes mistakes,
but I guess that doesn't sound familiar to you...
[laughter from students and the Sensei]

Ok now...

Back to the "Shodoka":

The poverty of a child of the Buddha is obvious,
but this poverty doesn't include her Zen.

Patched robes show one's poverty
but the mind of Zen is beyond all value.

So look around you,
look at the monks.

Now, we're not necessarily mendicants,
we don't go with our big begging bowl to the neighbours
and beg for some rice,
or whatever it is they're having to eat,
a Harvey's burger, [laughter]
slice of pizza...
(but I have noticed in this neighbourhood there is a lot of food lying around on the street...)

So, look around,
it's too cold, for example,
for us to be mendicants,
it's too cold
for us to be wandering around
most of the year,
except for those three or four months that we've just entered into.

So everything that we have has been given to the Dharma.
That's just a fact.
Crazy as it might sound,
that's what has happened,
so we can't say we're poor
because we're practising.

We notice that words lose their meaning,
descriptions lose their meaning,
there just is what is,
but the mind of Zen,
the mind of practice
is priceless,
it can't be bought or sold.

You sit and you sit
and you sit...
You wear out zafus
grinding away at those patterns
and then one day
you recognize fully and completely,
and for all the time,
that there is only this vast spaciousness,
there is only the spaciousness of Reality.

So throw all your crap into that, okay?
While you're sitting here
you notice a pattern,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
get rid of it,
you don't need it.


This priceless jewel can be used without hesitation
in caring for beings and ripening potentials.

So what happens with this priceless jewel
that at a certain point
people such as all the individuals in the Lineage,
including Yoka daishi,
each and every one of the Lineage Ancestors
have used the meat
the bones
the marrow
the blood
the breathing in and out
to teach whoever shows up
and wants to be taught
tries their very best to follow the instructions,
maybe impeded by obstructions of patterns,
but then they show up again
sometimes not knowing why they're actually showing up again...
and self-image going: "No! No!"

It's a good audience this morning!

So people show up
and we do our best to pass on
what's been given to us
the priceless jewel of the Dharma.

The vow is to practise and teach beyond convenience.

Anyone who shows up,
as long as they answer yes to the first question
after an introductory workshop which is:

"Did you sit?"

And that's one of those questions that's either

yes or no.

[more laughter]

There is no wiggle room.

The three facets of Experiencing and four wisdoms are complete
in this treasure;
the six subtle perceptions and eight liberations are marks
from this seal.

So this is a drawer in that treasure chest or box that
as soon as it's pulled open
releases all sorts of information
that's been packed in there,
and it releases it like an over-packed suitcase,
or even a drawer
when it's pulled open and the garments within want to spring loose.

"The three faces of Experiencing"...
now, hmm...
There are a lot of threes...
Could it be Buddha, Dharma, Sangha?

Could it be past, present, and future that's being referred to?

No, actually it's the Trikaya in Sanskrit,
the three bodies,
the three facets of Experiencing.

You've heard these words before:
the Dharmakaya,
it's described variously as "the truth body"
as "one's mind"
as "Reality"
and "The Total Field"
as "Awareness itself".

It knows no limits and it embodies Awake Awareness.

So one who has completely and truly woken up
oh, what...?
there are no limitations
living as Awake Awareness,
a Buddha.

The Sambhogakaya.
Some describe this as being mental powers,
some describe it as the ability to communicate,
some say "the body of enjoyment",
so there's an interaction between bodymind and world,
world and bodymind.

This is the aspect of a Buddha,
according to some,
that one meets in visions and deep meditation.

So here we start to be maybe a little off...

But since these are descriptions,
they are as Lin-ji said in "The Zen Teachings of Rinzai":
they're not to be taken as absolutes...

The scholars of sutras and treatises take the Three Bodies as absolutes. As I see it, this is not so. These Three Bodies are merely names or props.

So what they are according to me...
they point to the
process of practice.

There's the Nirmanakaya,
the physical body of the Buddha,
or a Buddha,
one who has woken up.

The Nirmanakaya, the Sambhogakaya, the Dharmakaya,
and there is lots of information available
if you care to read more on these topics.

Then we get into "the four wisdoms".

The Theravadin School say this refers to the realization of the Four Noble Truths.
The Yogacharya School of Mahayana Buddhism says that
bodhisattvas strive to attain the four wisdoms in order to save sentient beings.

That's the job:
"All beings without number, I vow to liberate".

And the four wisdoms are:
.the great perfect mirror wisdom: the ability to see Reality, to see all things as they actually are.

.the universal nature wisdom: the ability to see that all things are undifferentiated and equal, leading to the compassion of a bodhisattva—

and remember,
the process of being a human being is the same for all human beings.
The process of being a being is the same for all beings,
beings are born, they live, they die.
The process is the same.

The third:
.the ability to see and evaluate the needs of beings, of all sentient beings.
And out of this comes the ability to teach the Dharma as appropriate with upaya or skillful means. It means appropriate to person, place, appropriateness, and amount.

Number four:
.the perfection of action wisdom: the ability of a Buddha, one who has woken up, to take on any physical form necessary to instruct sentient beings.

"Well what would I like to be?"

Now here we get into storytelling territory. However, perhaps what is being spoken of, perhaps what really happened and perhaps what was noticed was that Teachers like Bodhidharma and Huike travelled around, eyes glaring, raggedy robes, hanging out in various places, including taverns, brothels, palaces...
So this ability to be present and do what needs to be done in circumstances that were not one type, speaks of an ability to take on different physical forms.

So in a way, we can say we all do it to a greater or lesser degree,
we go here, we come here, and we have on the clothing of a Zen student.
We may go to work dressed differently,
but there really is no difference in the individual.
How they are perceived by those around is what differs.

Since the perception is there of those around us,
there is no need for us to go to the effort to pretend
to be anything other than what we actually are.

That's a great freedom,
we don't have to dance,
we don't have to let those little puppet strings
move our mouth and our arms and legs
in ways that we figure are appropriate for the situation we're in...

Let the others do the job
of seeing you however they want to,
there's nothing you can do about that,
and we've all
—or maybe we haven't all
—we may have been surprised at times
to have people tell us things about ourselves
that don't resonate at all with us,

but it's their view,
and it's as if they're talking about an entirely different person,
which of course
they are!

It has nothing to do with you!
It's all about them.

So perhaps this ability to take on any physical form,
perhaps this description of the perfection of action wisdom
perhaps the stories that grew out of that
stem from situations where people did things differently.

Next we have the "six subtle perceptions".

Uh huh.

"Attributed to a person at the level of an arhat".

First one: clairvoyance.

Oh yeah, we can jones a little bit after that...

What is it?
It's clear seeing,
that's what it is:
clear seeing.
And we may think:
"Okay, I can clearly see what's going on around me..."

Bear with me,
close your eyes for a moment,
get a picture of the front hallway...
of the monastery...

What do you see?

Take a second or so,
and after the sitting,
go down and compare what you remember
with what's actually there.

When we are wrapped up
in the stories of self-image,
the ability to see clearly what's going on
can escape us.

We've all had experiences of that type of thing,
ending up in the wrong place,
wondering why we're in the Zendo
doing kinhin,
and there's no one else there...

Things like this can happen.

.clear seeing,
seeing clearly,

hearing clearly.

Now this one is a big one, really,
we all think we hear clearly,
unless we think we're losing our hearing,
but think about how many times
each one of us has misunderstood instructions we were given about something.


Well, we weren't listening...
That's why!
Listening is a skill.

We may be standing there in front of whoever is talking to us
and we might to the unskilled eye appear to be listening
but if the top of your head were lifted off,
there would be a whole other conversation going on.

So the ability to hear clearly
is one that is cultivated and polished
quite effortlessly
as you're practising with those thoughts,
those habits
of paying attention to self-image
and what it is saying
rather than listening to what's actually going on
in the environment.

Then we have number three:

Well, I'm not sure exactly what is meant by this one,
because it's slippery...

It could mean making better choices
because you have more information available
and so it can appear to others
that you might have some sort of
"sixth sense",
or "seventh sense" I should say
because there are six subtle perceptions.

That you have something
is totally ridiculous
because nothing is "extra-sensory",
anything we perceive is perceived
with the senses.

It's a no-brainer.

It could be
knowing where to find things.

It could be
able to have a grasp of a political situation
and make a comment that actually happens to come true...

It's one of those areas that
as I said
is actually very slippery.

"Super feeling"

And we've all noticed that,
we've all noticed that as we practise,
and as our habits and tendencies get worn out,
we start to notice that we can actually
feel someone moving by,
we can actually feel
the air on our face,
we actually feel
the feet on the floor,
the clothes on the body,
we can actually start to feel
the difference in textures...

"Super taste"
Yes! We start to notice that we are actually eating,
we are able to taste more completely
the many subtle flavours that go into dishes.
This is just true,
and you've all experienced it.

"Super smell":
Same thing.
You start to know who's been in a room.
They're no longer there
but you know
because little molecules let you know.

So this all comes about through practice
and waking up to the Reality
of the experiencing of the bodymind.

But of course as soon as an individual hears

"I want it! And I want it now! I don't want to do any work for it...
I'd rather have an 'Iron Man' magic suit!"

Ka-dang! Ka-dang! Ka-dang! (evoking the "Iron Man" suit clanging onto our hero)

And then you could go off flying through the air
doing wondrous deeds...

So people really are very keen on wondrous deeds,
they want instant miracles.

There are folkloric tales about flying through the air,
being impervious to heat and cold,
changing size,
well we've all done that haven't we?

But from teeny weeny to giant...??

That would be fun,
to be weightless...

.getting anything you want...

.controlling others,
these are biggies...

they are very appealing to people;
getting everything you want,
and controlling others.

Now, vast industries have been built up
on selling the means that people can achieve these things.
Well, it just doesn't work.

That should be obvious,
and it is folklore.

That should be obvious as well.

Now, the "eight liberations"...

I'm going to quote from "The Eightfold Path" by Anzan roshi:

The Eightfold Path is often pictured as a wheel, the Dharmachakra, the Wheel of the Dharma with eight spokes. So the eight parts of this path are integral to each other but they don't exactly follow a developmental sequence. The eight parts of this path, the eight factors of this path are:

(—an aside from me:
I have chosen to leave out the Sanskrit and Japanese terms here...)

Number one:
complete view

Number two:
complete thought

Number three:
complete speech

Number four:
complete activity

Number five:
complete livelihood

Number six:
complete effort

Number seven:
complete mindfulness

Number eight:
complete practice.

Here, "complete" is how I prefer to translate this word "sama" which has also been translated as"right" or "true".

So Right View, Right Thought, Right speech.

But it is characteristic of our practice to realize that what is needed is not to be "right"
but to be "complete" and to look into how we might realize this completeness, this wholeness,
through seeing and developing insight into how we scatter and break this wholeness into fragments of hope and fear.

And so we say "complete", which means, unbiased, thorough, whole.

I encourage you
to go to the website
and read "The Eightfold Path" part 1,
"Complete View"
by Anzan Hoshin roshi,
it was presented at Daijozan February 27th, 1989.
I think you will enjoy it,
and I think you will be quite amazed by how much you understand,
and how much you have learned over the time that you've been practising.

Back to the verse:

Excellent students go right to the source.
Fair and poor are hesitant to reveal
and give up their soiled veils,
and are proud of their external struggling.

The "fair and poor students" really are reluctant
to give up their veils...
the curtains,
the obscurations,
the strategies, and struggles, and patterns
and all that gets in the way of experiencing
the actual Nature of Experiencing.

There are stories about "free will",
there are stories about how
"everything's been okay for me up to now Jack
what are you talking about?"

There are stories about:
"There's nothing wrong with me!"
"Why are you saying this to me, I'm doing the form perfectly!"

And it goes on and on and on and on...

So we want to hold onto—
the "fair and poor students"
—onto these things,
rather than releasing them into the vast expanse!
Rather than actually practising when actually noticing them...

And an interesting thing is that, this is,
this struggle is often a source of pride!

And this has sort of gone into the general culture too,
this "struggle",
so we have "Boot Camp This.."
and "Boot Camp That..."

You know,
we're going to make is as
fucking difficult for you as we possibly can,
because that is our job!

The more you suffer,
the better it's going to be for you!!!!

Got it!!!!!!!!

Jeez, well,
this is NOT what Yoka daishi's talking about!
[lots of laughter!!]

And in fact,
it's exactly the opposite!

And again, I'll quote Anzan Hoshin:

It's interesting that Yoka daishi points out that complete practice, thorough and sincere practice, has nothing to do with having an attitude of "no pain no gain". I have heard these words used by some contemporary Teachers to describe the kind of practice that they teach as part of a "boot camp" style of Zen. We must be completely dedicated to our practice and to the Four Great Vows of the Bodhisattva if we are going to practise Zen, but this has nothing to do with gritting our teeth and bearing it, or counting up the hours of zazen, or the number of sesshin that we have sat, it has nothing to do with showing off our battle scars or with congratulating ourselves for being such heroes because we have survived training under Anzan roshi. It is true that facing ourselves as we are, without barriers and without convenience and without strategy is the most difficult thing that any of us has ever done. In fact, no one on the earth right now, and no one throughout all of the history of life on this planet, has ever done or will ever do anything more difficult than to take up the practice of Buddhadharma. But so what? What choice do we have if we want to realize our own limitless freedom as Buddha, beyond all the apparent arising of body and mind, self and other, time and space? What else is there to do?

There is only this moment,
this bodymind,
this breath...

I mean
this is it...


So practise any time you notice anything at all,
release anything that arises
into the spaciousness
of experiencing...

[loudly, forcefully:]
"Or we'll talk about it later!!!!"

Just joking...

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 18: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 7

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, May 25th, 2013

Thank you for showing up today,
it speaks to your understanding of practice
and the strength of your practice
because I'm sure there might have been one or two little thoughts saying:
"Ach... Why?... It's too hot..."

But you saw them for what they are:
moments of experience,

You may or may not have actually remembered
feeling the breath
feeling the whole bodymind

but something happened,
you cut through it
and step after step after step
here you are.

And I do appreciate it.

We will continue on with our look into, our study of the "Shodoka" by Yoka daishi.

The "Shodoka" is variously called:
"The Song of Liberation"
"The Song of Freedom"
"The Song of Enlightenment".

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"
we have looked into how this song or doka came about.

The Teachings that were transmitted,
that were passed on through different generations,
reaching Yoka daishi, who in 713 came up with this statement,
this expression of the Teachings as he had learned them...

If folks argue and slander you, let them:
they are playing with fire, trying to burn the sky.

Well, the sky can't be burnt can it?
And playing with fire, inevitably, we will burn
most likely,

So the advice here:
don't get involved in the arguments,
don't argue with...

If people slander you,
if people say nasty, malicious things,
let them.
You don't have to respond.
It is all about them,
it's not about you.

All you can do is practise at the moment that you notice
the dharma that you do notice,
that moment of experience
that reactivity.

feel the whole bodymind,
feel the breath,
release everything into the open space of experiencing.

When I hear them, their words are drops of nectar
and show me that this moment is free from conception.

What is going on in any moment
is what's going on in any moment.

There is no need to try and figure out what it is that's going on.
There is no need to say
this person is saying this to you
because they are so enormously fucked up that they
have to vent somewhere...

You have no idea...
none of us have any real idea
what is going on with another person.
It's mind-reading,
it's speculation,
it's a cheap carnival side show.

So forget it!
It doesn't really matter!
What is going on with other people
is what is going on with other people.
It is their responsibility.

So when you notice
and hear
what may be being said to you or about you,
use what is seen and heard
to actually practise.

You can see the effect that it has on you
and this can give you some insight
into the effect that you have on other people
when you're acting out your stupidities.

Over time, it stops.
There's no need to do anything
and as a side bar here:

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everybody in the whole world did that?
Right now, as I speak,
all over the world in this moment,
there are people being shot,
there are animals being tortured,
some in the supposed service of feeding humanity
some just because people see a poor puppy and decide to cut its paws off
just because...

These things do happen.

There's no reason for them
except people are
focussed in
on random thoughts about
what they're doing.

So if everyone were practising,
we could have a thought about cutting the paws off a puppy,
but we WOULDN'T DO IT!

We'd see if for what it is,
we would not wear itchy fuzzy hats and
go out and beat up women
just because they're women.

And that happens in well—
the warm fuzzy hats, the itchy fuzzy hats happen only in a certain part of the world—
but the beating up of women,
the beating up of the defenseless,
the beating up and mutilation and raping of...
six months old babies
not just in some other place, some other time,
but right here right now on this continent.
These things have happened and will continue to happen.

But imagine if everyone practised
and saw thoughts as thoughts...

Imagine the difference it would make?

But there's no point in getting all dreamy-eyed
and living in a "Well what if...? Wouldn't it be wonderful if?..."

You can just say "yeah, it would be great"
and do your own practice
because every little bit helps.

Abusive words are disguised blessings
and my abusers good teachers.

Now you remember Bodhidharma, he's right up on the wall
(referring to a zenga by the Roshi on the wall in both the Hatto and the Zendo),
you remember the stories about Bodhidharma when various people are said to have reviled him. One of his rivals who became a Dharma brother is said to have hit him in the teeth with iron beads and knocked out his front teeth. Bleeding from the mouth, Bodhidharma just turned and walked away.

This so impressed the person who had inflicted the wound that he eventually followed and studied with Bodhidharma.

So when everything's nicey-nicey
and everybody's minding their own business
and smiling
and we have forgotten to say:
"well they don't really mean that smile"
so we just accept it for what it is,
that's terrific.

But when tough times come,
when there's a rough patch,
that's where a lot can be learned.
About who?
About YOU.

We can see how we are.
And we can practise at that moment.

This mind has room for slander and abuse
and is itself unborn compassion and patience.

There's lot of room for everything.
Everything that is happening is accomodated
in the space of Open Reality.

That is just a fact.

Penetrate both the Transmission and the teachings,
practise harmonization and radical insight with brilliance,
unclouded by notions of "voidness".

Now "voidness" is another misunderstood word.
Sanskrit's "shunyata" or "emptiness".
And people make various misinterpretations of this word.
Some think emptiness means sitting as an empty vessel,
like nothing is happening at all...

maybe that's dead...

It's certainly not being a living human being in this moment
and whatever is going on,
goes on.
Thoughts come and go,
come and go.

That's experiencing.
That is Reality.

In the third century, Nagarjuna, a Buddhist master taught that (and he of course said it in most likely Pali or Sanskrit):

Emptiness wrongly grasped is like picking up a poisonous snake by the wrong end.

Misunderstanding will bite you.
Misunderstanding will poison your practice.

As the Roshi has said: "If we misunderstand our practice, we will practise our misunderstanding."

So when we misunderstand what is meant by "voidness" or "emptiness",
we may sit practising like
some crazed housewife
with magic sponges
trying to wipe out every thought
every feeling
every moment of experience
so we're sitting there in blankness...

Well that is not what is meant.
Thoughts are not the problem.

Believing that their content is true
and should push you into action
can be a problem.

Seeing a thought as a moment of experience,
seeing a feeling as a dharma or moment of experience
is an opportunity to practise
that moment of clear seeing
that moment of seeing Reality as it actually is,
which alive and fluid,
with many moments of experience,
moments as myriad as the sands of the River Ganges,
to use an old saw...

Now nothing that we hear,
any experience
any dharma,
not one of these stands alone and separate from experiencing.
Nothing exists outside of Awareness itself,
as we chant in "The Three Jewels":

All that is arises as the Display of Awareness

So you cannot take things apart,
problems arise when we try and isolate
and take experiencing apart from experience.

Nothing stands alone,
all is flux,
all is fluid and ever-changing.

Once we start to understand that,
with the whole bodymind,
just sitting,
experiencing experiences,
we realize we don't have to do anything,
we don't have to move towards them,
we don't have to get rid of them.

Practise at the moment of noticing.

I am not alone in this attainment
which Buddhas numberless as grains of sand
have displayed.

Yoka daishi continues...

I'll freely speak the lion's Roar of Reality
which strikes fear into the hearts of beasts.

As the elephant flees, forgetting his pride
the heavenly dragon listens silent and joyful.

Now we hear of elephants and dragons being mentioned as descriptions of practitioners and their style of practice.

An elephant fleeing,
well that could be pretty awesome don't you think?
This great big beast,
one of the largest mammals on our planet,
forgetting his pride and fleeing from
"the lion's Roar of Reality".

Many of us have
moment to moment
fled from Reality
because as we start to see
the not too subtle machinations of self-image,
the contraction into a sense of self
with its beliefs about how it is and how the world is,
with its futile attempt to create a self that is apart from everything else going on,
this can cause us to try and flee from
what we are noticing through practice,
but an amusing thing is:
you can't get away from you!
[O-sensei laughs]

That's what we try to do!
That's why people drug and drink
and carry on and carouse
and do stuff like rabbits do, apparently... [laughter]
... to try and shut up
to try and quiet the voices of self-image
that are trying to do something that is

And fleeing from that "Roar of Reality"
can make an awful mess,
can make an awful lot of noise.

We've all experienced that,
we've all had our flare ups
and breakdowns,
but because we inherently or intrinsically,
or because there's been a recognition that it's important to practise with these things,
we stay,
we carry on,
and that's the way it has to be.

So the elephant, you remember that, the elephant practitioner is someone that moves kind of slowly perhaps, moves kind of slowly perhaps thoughtfully, takes a long time.

The dragon can be quick...

But again, this is an aside because we're talking about the "heavenly dragon" which
"listens silent and joyful".

So we can learn that we can be reacting like crazy
we remember to practise and
even though reactivities do produce responses in the bodymind
which can be very powerful
we may stand or sit wherever we are
and actually practise with that
rather than wasting the energy that's involved,
we can practise with it.

Back to the verse:

In the past I've crossed mountains and rivers
searching for masters and teachings in Zen.

So that was Yoka daishi's experience.

Now I know the path of Caoxi and
my realization is beyond birth and death.

Now, Caoxi is a town in Guandong and originally there was the Baolin Temple, constructed during the Tang Dynasty around 618. Huineng, the 6th Ancestor, became the Abbott of Baolin Monastery. Some say that the monastery was founded in 502 by an Indian monk...

Maybe, perhaps, this is pure speculation on my part, I'm just, originally, a country girl so what do I know? Maybe that was Bodhidharma... Could have been...

And Bodhidharma came to be remembered, as did Huineng, who was of his Lineage, came to be remembered for and understood as representing Zen's most essential insights.

The story which was told when we were looking into Bodhidharma, and I'll bring it again, Master Yin Tsung of Fa Hsin Monastery, impressed by Huineng, asked him to talk about how his Teacher, Hongren taught. Huineng said: "There was no teaching. The Master taught looking into self nature, the actual nature of experiencing. He did not teach focussing, concentration, or deliverance."

"Why not?" Yin Tsung asked.

Huineng said: "That is dual Dharma. The Buddhadharma is not dual. There is nothing separate from this moment.

So there was a view that the teaching of concentration practices,
the teaching of focussing was teaching something that would impede the actual noticing of Reality,
was introducing something extra,
and that the practice that was taught in the Buddhadharma
was to sit,
to look at what arises within experiencing
and to practise at the moment of noticing it.

Now Nanhuan Temple was, as I said, originally Baolin, and it was near the town of Caoxi. Huineng taught there for 37 years. Apparently, according to a recent tourist guide, the body of Huineng is still preserved there. So mummy arises again...

And in Caoxi there's a Buddhist Academy to this day near the Temple which teaches Chan Buddhism, Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism. This is near a famous hot spring. So you can go and study Buddhism and have apparently a good time at a spa.

And this, as we know, has been going on, this Teaching of how to practise, has been going on for 2600 years. That is a long time, it's surprising that anything at all, any records actually exist.

But they do, and more and more is presenting itself, is being uncovered, as scholars and archeologists continue their work.

So the last verse for today, a reminder:

Don't lose your Zen whether walking or sitting,
be at ease in speech or silence, moving or staying,

So remember:
you can practise
wherever you are
wherever you stand.

You know what to do
it won't hurt you
it does however,
tend to wear out the stories you have
about who you are and how the world is.

That can be pretty scary
because if you're not who you think you are...
with all your little props,
with all your little views...

Who are you?

Isn't that just the question?

Have fun with it!

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 19: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 8

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, June 8th, 2013

Good morning,
and welcome
to THIS moment,
the only moment that's going on in your life.

THIS moment.

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...
I left you with a verse from Yoka daishi's "Shodoka":

Don't lose your Zen whether walking or sitting,
be at ease in speech or silence, moving or staying,

Very important:
don't lose your practice,
there's no need to lose your practice.
Thoughts come up
thoughts that have ideas about what practice is
and how it should be
and you would be
if your practice were good,
really good...

Well, of course you would be all-knowing,
Crowds would part as you walked along
people would bask in the glory of

It's not going to happen.
[more laughter]

that contraction into a sense of self
with a story about how it is and how the world is,
about what's going on,
has a multiplicity of these kinds of beliefs
that come up when you're walking or sitting,
speaking or silent,
moving or staying,
that come up on all sorts of occasions in all sorts of moments,
but you,
the Knowing of experiencing,
know what to do:
the moment you notice anything,
practise that moment of noticing.

this is very difficult
because we are sucking away on our old stories about what's going on
how we would be
how we should be
where we should be going
where practice should be taking us.

It's very common for students to ask questions similar to this:



"Sensei, it's not going anywhere!"

"What? What's not going anywhere?"

"My practice!"

"Oh. Where do you think it should be going?"

"Uh... Uh... Well, I don't really know..."

There is only this moment,
look how rich it is!
Look at what you've actually noticed.
You noticed a thought,
the comment about
"it's not going anywhere"
is a thought.


At that moment,
the moment of seeing it,
regardless of the content,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
whether you are walking,
lying down,


See clearly in this moment,
you practise
and the obstruction of that belief
is released.

So it is easy to see in moments like that
how the belief that
"it's not going anywhere"
if followed,
can take you further and further away from actually practising,
but when through their great benevolence,
the Teachers and Practice Advisors go:
"Hold on, wait, what are you doing?"
and point out what is happening,
you can practise at that moment
you can learn...

Oh well, sometimes self-image will offer up other things to practise with,
such as:
"That bitch! Constantly criticizing me! I'm doing the best I can!"

Which of course are all lies... [laughter]

But regardless of the content,
they're thoughts,
so when that gets pointed out,
practise with them.

The title of this series,
"Wherever YOU Stand"
is exactly directed at YOU,
and the maturing of YOUR practice.

Be calm even when facing a sword
and your clarity will never be poisoned.

Interesting, remember, many monks, some Dharma Ancestors have faced the sword and been beheaded.

Huike, the Second Chan Ancestor was beheaded around 593, which means that he died only 120 years before Yoka daishi. So when Yoka daishi was 40 Huike's death would only have been 80 years before. That's not long before.

So these are moments that were very vivid, most likely, to people practising and studying around the time of Yoka daishi.

What happened 80 years ago from today, which would have been in 1933? Now, only some of us were alive anywhere close to 1933 [giggles] but it's easy, we can go to our computer, if you want to have a little fun when you get home and if you have the time, look up what happened in 1933 and see how much you might actually remember from stories about what happened in 19331.

Same process, except for the computer part, would have gone on amongst Yoka daishi and his contemporaries as they talked about Huike and possibly Bodhidharma...faced the sword.

There is a story you may remember from this series, that Bodhidharma may have in fact been killed during a massacre. It's highly unlikely but it's a possibility.

But the fact is monks and practitioners have "faced the sword", so:

Be calm even when facing a sword
and your clarity will never be poisoned.

Our Teacher Sakyamuni met his Teacher Dipamkara
only after practising patience through countless eons.

Dipamkara, in Sanskrit and Pali, means "The Lamp Bearer", and there are slightly different names but they crop up in Tibet, Nepal, Vietnam, Mongolia.
So we can see how widespread practice and Buddhism actually was.

A Buddha, an Awakened One of the past, Dipamkara, was said to have lived on earth 100,000 years and was one of a thousand Buddhas before Sakyamuni, and was said to have reached enlightenment eons prior to Gautama Siddartha.

It is said that one of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001—and I did refer to that in "Every Breath You Take"—was said to have been Dipamkara.

In Chinese Buddhism, Dipamkara, Gautama Siddartha, and Maitreya are referred to as the "Three Buddhas of the Three Times":
The Three Buddhas of
the past: Dipamkara,
the present: Gautama Siddartha,
and the future: Maitreya.

Another verse:

Birth and death follow each other ceaselessly.
Awaken directly to Unborn Reality

Unborn Reality: the Reality of THIS moment of experiencing.
Whose experiencing?
YOUR experiencing,
and YOUR experiencing,
and YOUR experiencing,
and YOUR experiencing,
and YOUR experiencing,
the experiencing of each and every one of us.

Here we sit in the same room,
but each and every one of us have in this moment
a different experience,
a different perspective,
a different orientation to this room in this moment.
That's just a fact.

and be free from joy about fame
or sorrow over loss.

There's no need to be concerned about fame,
about something that may be achieved in the future.
If people know your name,
so what?
(Especially if it's on a cheque, that's nice,
it can help support your practice.)

But to get caught up in how you are perceived by other people
is a fool's game.

The phrase "or sorrow over loss"
does not mean that you are not going to feel sad,
that you are not going to be touched by experiencing,
that the fact of birth and death
of thoughts in this moment
of people
of fish
of dogs, cats, squirrels, friends, relatives...
horses, cows, chickens,
and on and on...
are facts of life.

We can and may be more or less touched by these events,
but there is certainly, again,
no need to wear our
[in an overly 'sentimental' tone:]
"profound sorrow about the cruelty of death"
around our neck like an albatross,
stinking as it rots.

That's just silly.

Why bother chaining yourself
and describing yourself
by events
by moments
that have long passed?

Reality is:
you never know what thought might drift through,
you never know when there might be a thought about a loved one,
long dead,
that passes through,
and you get that little salty feeling around the nose.
That's being human,
that's joyful,
the capacity to have memory of,
to be reminded of
the lives of other beings,
it can be a joy,
it can remind us of the capacities of the bodymind
it can remind us of what it is to be human,
but we don't need to carry it all around and accumulate it
like a giant trash bag until it just gets too heavy to bear.

Put it down!

Feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind,
wherever you stand.

Stay in hermitages
in mountains and valleys amongst the pines.

Practise joyfully in vacant cabins.
Live free from complexity.

Understand Reality and your actions are without effort
unlike the actions of the usual person.

Yes, now, self-image will latch onto the simplest things,
it will say:
"Oh well, Yoka daishi says that we should stay in mountains and valleys amongst the pines because that's where we can really practise."

Well, that's not what's being said,
we can really practise wherever we are.
It is not circumscribed by geography,
by weather—
and by that I mean rain, shine, not wondering "whether" I should sit or not—
it need not be dictated to by any situation that is occurring,
wherever you are,
you can practise.

Notice the many ways in which habits of thought,
habits of understanding that the usual mind,
the mind that is not practising,
tends to carry on.

The usual mind,
the mind that is not practising,
has boxes of thought,
or boxes that thought can be put into:
the box of how you are when you're at home,
open the lid:
a certain set of ways of being,
close the lid:
How you are when you're at work
another set of ways of being.
Next box:
how you are when you are at the monastery,
and this, often, in the beginning of practice,
will happen when the door opens, or when you open the door
and there's a snap into being another person,
being a very "Zen" person.

So you learn to see these things,
this putting on different ways of appearing,
to whom?
To others, it's being done for others,
and the sad thing is that mostly, in the world,
they don't notice.


Because they're just like you,
that's why.
The usual mind is one that is concerned mostly with what
IT is doing,
there's very little, often, concern for what others are doing,
unless of course it can make YOU feel good.

So you start to see that
and you start to understand that
there's no need to have these little boxes, little boxes, little boxes,
because they are figments of your imagination,
they are thoughts.

So when you notice it:
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind.

This does not mean that you can or should,
as some have done,
adopt a kind of "California" attitude of
"Oh man, I'm just going with the flow, it's like a very 'Zen' way to be. Nothing's going to disturb my Zen."

That's just another little box
and another way of showing a lack of understanding
of actually practising
because practice is something
that you DO
it is not a belief that you have about yourself
or about anyone else.

Now, the word "usual" as in "usual person";
"usual" is a way of describing the mind of a person who is not practising.
It does not indicate that they are better than you are
or less than you are,
it's just a way of saying
"yeah, well, that's the usual mind",
the mind of social culture,
the mind whose assumptions are unquestioned.

The mind that is practising is "ordinary mind",
the mind that is very ordinary
in that it is as it is
in this moment
which is uncluttered by
and feelings
and beliefs
and patterns.

Now sometimes it can seem like an incredibly difficult task
to sit there doing nothing,
[O-sensei laughs]
doing nothing at all,
except noticing how you are.

But because we have these beliefs
that have been accumulated through the years
about what we think should have happened,
sometimes sitting there doing nothing facing the wall,
in comfort
(birdsong in the background
nice temperature...)
can seem like the most arduous, awful thing in the world.
As soon as you notice that, you've noticed a thought.

Feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
open to the vast expanse
of the experiencing of this moment
as it actually is.

So practise wherever you
lie down
watch TV
listen to music
play music
write poems

You CAN practise
wherever you are
and whatever you're doing,
but this is not to be confused with formal practice
which you are doing right now
sitting on the zafu
facing the wall
in the "lab"
looking into the moment to moment experiencing of the bodymind.

You as the Knowing of the experiencing of the bodymind
practise HERE
so that you can practise joyfully,
so that your actions will be without effort,
so that you will be having fun
wherever you are
and whatever you're doing.

It's just true.

That is how it is.

So welcome
to THIS moment...

and this moment...

Yadda yadda yadda...

Thank you for listening.

  • 1. I was encouraged as suggested to do a search on events that happened in 1933 and found the following: Hitler became German Chancellor, Roosevelt was inaugurated; he said: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and launched the New Deal, Prohibition was repealed in the United States, the original King Kong movie was shown, the board game "Monopoly" was invented, Erwin Shrödinger won the Nobel Prize in Physics, and Michael Caine, Roman Polanski, Yoko Ono, Joan Collins, and Willie Nelson were born. --Ryoshin

Wherever You Stand 20: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 9

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, June 29th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"...
we were looking into Yoka Daishi's "Shodoka: Song of Liberation"
and the point that he has been making over and over again
is that
you can practise
wherever you are
whatever it is
that's going on.

It's the same bodymind
that sits
that walks
that stands
that has a drink of water
the same bodymind
that plays a musical instrument
that plays with a cat
that walks the dog
that cooks
that drives...

there are myriad moments of experiencing
that can be noticed
and can be practised,

wherever you stand,
you CAN practise.

Now students, in their keenness, fall for statements of self-image,
that contraction into a sense of self
with a belief about how it is
and how the world is,
and they say:

"I want to deepen my practice, what can I do when I'm not sitting on the zafu? What can I incorporate? What complexity can I bring into my life that is going to actually mature my practice faster?"

And the answer is simply,
when you notice
you've set up this strategy,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
practise that moment of noticing
this drive to incorporate more
towards a goal.

All you can do,
all anyone can do
all anyone has been able to do
since the beginning of practice
practise at the moment of noticing anything at all.

Of course there can be reminders,
you may choose to wear a small jizu or wrist mala
which can remind you for a certain period of time
that you're practising,
but we forget very quickly what that thing is doing on our wrist.

We could have a few rocks on our office desk,
and for the first little while,
however long that little while might be,
those rocks might remind us to practise
but then we just don't see them anymore,
before you know it,
there's a paperclip in the space where the rocks are,
and then there's a couple of rubber bands that have been placed around one of the rocks
and it's just become part of the usual office detritus
because that's the way human beings are.

At the moment of noticing it:
first thing, feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind
and do whatever it is you do next.

Now picture Yoka daishi 1300 years ago
and he is sitting, one assumes,
perhaps in his room or in the shuryo or study of the monastery,
a monastery or a temple, if that's where he was,
and he has his ink and his brush
and he's gone through the full preparation
of scraping the material to make ink into a powder,
mixing it with water,
charging his brush,
and writing.

1300 years ago there was no electrical light,
there was no gas light,
there were no computers,
no typewriters,
so this would have been done by the flickering of a candle
if the sun had gone down,
but he felt it was so important to pass on,
to leave a record
or just,
and this may very well be the case,
he felt it so important to write down what he had understood,
without necessarily any view in mind
that 1300 years later in Ottawa, Ontario,
on a rainy June morning
that we would be studying an English translation of his words.

The first verse for today:

Charity given within conditions for heavenly reward
is like shooting arrows into the sky.

When its force is spent, the arrow falls
just as beings go up, then down.

The realm of conditionless action is not like that:
it is a direct leap into the realm of Those Gone Into Thusness.

Go to the root, leaving the branches.
It is like the bright moon reflected in a crystal.

So many times,
and we've all done it...
well, okay I can't say all of you have done it,
but I've done it,
I've done something and with the best of intentions:

"Okay, I'll do this thing for this person or this situation"
and it's done in a heartfelt way,
yet a while later,
and that while can be days, weeks, months,
self-image has a peculiarly long memory,
it will go:

"But but, I did this for you! Why are you treating me like this? I've been so generous to you!"

Well this is the kind of thing that's being talked about.
You cannot do things with the idea of getting a reward for them,
that's—what should we call it?
—that's merchant mind,
that's bartering and trading in the desolate marketplace,
and it just doesn't pay off.

Remember Bodhidharma?
Remember when he was summoned to meet Emperor Wu.
Emperor Wu told him with great pride all that he,
the Emperor, had done:
building temples,
giving money and support for the monastic community,
and he asked Bodhidharma:

"What merit have I gained?"

Bodhidharma looked out from under his big bushy eyebrows and said:

"None whatsoever."

Well the Emperor wasn't necessarily pleased at that moment,
but that's how it works
or doesn't work.
Doing things for a reward is really very, very self-concerned,
it really takes no account of the actual situation
and of others involved in it,
it's just greedy.

And we're asked by Yoka daishi
and all of the Ancestors in this particular Lineage
leading up to this "Shodoka"
we're asked to notice how we are
moment to moment,
we're asked to notice patterns that we've acquired as they arise,
they need not define who we are.

The moment of noticing them
is the moment when we can practise,
no matter what we're doing.

We could be standing talking to someone
having a let's say spirited discussion,
but as the Roshi has said,
if you're not feeling your feet
you don't have a leg to stand on.

So if you're not feeling your feet,
if you're not feeling the whole bodymind,
if you're not feeling the breath
you are in that instance given, having a heated discussion,
you're totally involved in thoughts,
you're totally being pulled by old patterns.

That doesn't need to happen
and it will wear out.

You can be in mid breath,
you can be in mid rant
and the moment you notice it,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,

You just stop whatever you're doing.

If you happen to be with a Practice Advisor or a Teacher,
there's nothing to stop you from saying:

"I'm seeing it"


"I'm practising now, I just saw it."

That's appropriate because we've seen it,
we know what's going on
but your willingness to see is there.

Understand the jewel of liberation
and use it to benefit yourself and all others.

The moon rises over the river,
wind moves in the pines

Things are as they are.

all through the night. Purity. Calm.

Yaza is coming up when we do sit all through the night,
starting at 10 pm and ending at 8 in the morning,
so I do hope those of you who haven't participated in Yaza as yet
will do that
because that particular period of sitting
presents limitless possibilities for practising.

We have to see over and over again,
and you will see as you sit during Yaza,
that thoughts are there:

"Oh it's the middle of the night."
"Oh, I'm so tired."
"Oh I'll be a wreck tomorrow."

The main point of seeing those things is to recognize
that they are spinning futures that are not assured.

you don't know whether you're actually going to make it through the night,
I mean your heart could stop, let's face it,
it's going to happen to all of us at one point or another...
That could be quite dramatic.

You don't know whether you're going to be tired in the morning,
and what often happens,
students have reported, and in my own experience:
the morning comes
[O-sensei sings:] "Morning has broken...."
and there's energy!!
Much to their surprise...

And there could be tendency to fall into some kind of "new agey":
"It was so powerful..."

That's another story,
but it's a thought,
it's words,
it's a moment of experience,
it's a moment to practise.

And gradually,
and this doesn't mean that we're stupid people,
but it takes as long as it takes
to start to recognize
that the stories that we tell ourselves,
those thoughts that rocket around
have no basis in Reality,
they are fabrications,
they are illusions.

They can affect us
when they're left to run riot.

We've all had the experience of saying:
"Oh, I'm so tired, I'm SOOO tired..."
and we notice that guess what?
Our little eyes start to close,
and we start to shut down,
creating a trance for ourselves.

So we do respond to self instruction.
So you don't want to do that,
as soon as you see it
[O-sensei snaps fingers]
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
practise that moment of clear seeing.

Back to Yoka daishi:

What does this calm mean?

Vividly see the precepts of Essential Awareness
and the seal of the mind-ground.

Dew, fog, clouds, mists
are the true robes of our bodies.

Now here the "precepts of Essential Awareness"
started with "The Three Jewels"
which are the first set of precepts
that students take or are given,
and we chant "The Three Jewels" at the beginning of sitting rounds
as we did today.

I'm going to read a bit from the Roshi's treatise on receiving the precepts: "Kyojukaimon"
which was originally written by Eihei Dogen Kigen zenji
and Keizan Jokin zenji
and what I'm going to read was presented at the River Road Zendo
by Anzan Hoshin roshi in 1986
and has subsequently been revised several times.

To completely penetrate the Precepts is to completely penetrate one's habits and limits and to enter into the whole moment, leaving behind what is already behind. The Precepts remind us of the basicness of this amazing world when we have complicated it with our fabrications. As delusion arises, it does so against the background of the Precepts and so can be clearly seen. This seeing is already wisdom. Thus delusion and wisdom can arise together, providing some freedom from the claustrophobic density of a confused bodymind. At this point we can provide ourselves with the opportunity to choose how we are. This choice can than further wisdom or deepen confusion depending on our choice. The more that delusion arises, the more that wisdom is triggered. When wisdom displays itself fully, there is only wisdom with no room for delusion.

The vast blue of the sky
a thousand birds
a thousand clouds.

The darkening sky.
A thousand stars
a thousand clouds.

In all of this

Back to Yoka daishi's verses:

The monk's bowl that subdued dragons,
the staff that calmed fighting tigers
with the sound of its hanging rings

are not just relics from some old fable
but symbols of the Thus Come One's precious Teachings.

Now you remember the story of the monk's bowl and the robe
that Bodhidharma gave to Huike
and the staff that's referred to
"that calmed fighting tigers"
is a staff that had rings on it
that monks would have with them as they went through the forests
and the rattling of the rings
would let people and all other beings know
that they were coming.

Point being here
that these were not fables
we still have and use these symbols of the Teachings
in recognition of the Lineage of Ancestors
that have transmitted these Teachings.

Don't seek truth or avoid delusion:
both are wholly empty, without form.

Neither empty nor formless,
this is the body of the Buddha.

So I'll leave you with those thoughts.

When you notice anything
there's no need to decide whether it is
truth or delusion,
it's the noticing
THAT's where you practise,
you don't need to sort through
to determine if this is a place to practise,
and this is not.

But it can be interesting to see
that often these choices are made,
and now you're starting to see them
you don't even know that you've made choices.

So wherever you are
whatever you're doing
the moment you notice anything:
feel the breath
feel those feet,
feel the arms and legs
feel the tip of your nose
feel your ears
feel the hairs growing
feel the breath moving in and out

and have a good time!

Sing that Song of Liberation
in your own way,
and have fun with it!

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 21: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 10

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 6th, 2013

Good morning
and thank you
to each and every one of you
for arriving at
the zafu
to practise
this practice of Luminosity
which has been taught for
2600 years
passed down through Bodhidharma
and today we're looking at Yoka daishi's "Shodoka: Song of Liberation".

Last time, we finished with the Three Jewels,
looking into the precepts.

Awareness is the Only Condition.
All that is arises as the Display of Awareness.
This is the Seamless Expanse of all that is.

Recognize it?

we just chanted it.

We chanted it at the beginning of this sitting

we chant it at the beginning of every formal sitting
as a reminder of the practice
and of how to practise.

Once again, I recommend to each and every one of you
with the Mind that Seeks the Way
to go to our website
and look at what is and has been presented on the Three Jewels.
You'll be surprised, because the Three Jewels contain,
as we examine them,
all of the Teachings.

Today's verse:

The luminous mirror of Knowing reflects all shown it,
its vast brilliance pervades numberless worlds.

That's pretty well self-explanatory.

Awareness IS the Only Condition,

...everything that is reflected in the mirror
is reflected in that mirror of Awareness.

You're the Knowing of experiences.

You're not a knower,
but you are the Knowing of dharma
or moments of experience of the bodymind.

You are the Knowing of knowns.

There is no knower.

If a sense of a knower is noticed,
you have a moment
a very clear moment
where you can recognize you've noticed something,
you can feel the breath
you can feel the whole bodymind
you can practise that moment of clear seeing,
that moment of Knowing.

All that is arises as the Display of Awareness.





there is no thing
there is no moment of experience
that is excluded,
this is all-inclusive

This is the Seamless Expanse of all that is.


Sometimes it can be a little difficult to comprehend that
because the usual world,
the world of social interaction
the world that is outside of,
as it were,
the world that practises,
although it cannot really be outside of it,
but the usual way of looking at things is to divide,
to segment
basically everything.

We can start with "good" and "bad"
we can start with "like" and "dislike"
and it goes on from there
until the self,
this contraction into a sense of self,
which occurs many many many many times
has divided up experiencing
basically into:
that which can be accepted,
that which can be ignored,
and that which can be killed.

Now that is a gross simplification
but it happens to be true.

And when we see that sense of self come into being
with its likes and dislikes,
at that moment of clear seeing,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
actually practise.

You've seen something clearly.
That is not "you,"
it is an experience,
it is a dharma,
it's something that's going on,
and through your practice you understand
you need not be compelled to act out these random thoughts and feelings,
you can see them clearly.

You can also see
as you start to see more and more clearly
that there are more subtle aspects of the self
which can come up
about having had such a thought,
about having had such a thought...

It's a bit like a cat in a litter box,
we scrabble and try to cover up those pieces of shit
so that no one else will see them.

We realize we need not cover them up,
there is nothing to be covered up,
they are just moments of experience
and the more you see them,
the more opportunity you have to actually
practise at that moment of clear seeing.

So there's nothing to cover up,
there's nothing to be hidden.

And then we start to understand
that this is the same for everybody
to a greater or lesser degree,
we are all experiencing the same thing.
The content might be different
but the process is remarkably the same.

So what Yoka daishi is writing about here
is what he realized 1300 years ago
and what he realized,
what he understood,
and what he spent his time writing down
is as true today as it was 1300 years ago.

Isn't that interesting?

"Yes, it is interesting, yes, Sensei, you're right."
[giggles around the room]

All that is, the ten thousand experiences,
arise as this luminosity beyond within or without.

So, why ten thousand?
Well that just means like a whole lot,
the uncountable,
the "so many",
they all arise within Awareness.

"Beyond within or without"?
There is no "within" or "without",
there is no "inside" or "outside",
these are convenient descriptions,
they're shortcuts
but they're not the truth.

Don't grasp at "voidness" and ignore cause and effect;
such reckless confusion leads only to suffering.

Well we have understanding,
self-image likes to believe that it's working towards a goal,
so one of the goals that has come up over the years has been this word
so somehow people came to the conclusion
that what they're doing is sitting to rid themselves
of any experiencing whatsoever.

So they can work quite diligently to block out
the knowledge of other thoughts
of other feelings
of other sensations
by focussing on just one thing.

I'm not going to name names of different practices
but I'm sure you've all come across those type of practices
through reading or through actual involvement in them,
and what Yoka daishi is saying is:
Don't do it, don't just grasp at some concept
and then try and work yourself towards something that isn't even happening,
so with "voidness",
trying to grasp at a state of emptiness or stillness.

Cause and effect,
or karma,
the word "karma" does mean cause and effect,
we're talking cause and effect
we're talking about knowns.

We can know as we start to sit that certain situations
certain contexts
certain thoughts
may trigger certain effects,
we can know that through the clear seeing of it
and we start to uncover—
without focussing in on a search for a seminal event
that caused us such aggravation,
we can just see the coming and going
of random thoughts and feelings
and recognize that

"Oh, this is what causes this to arise...
I don't have to do anything about it
except feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
except practise."

There's nothing to fix,
there's nothing to grab onto,
all there is is this fluidity of dharma,
the fluidity of moments of experience rising and falling
in this moment,
they're always arising and falling
in THIS moment
and we can see them
and we see more of them
and more of them,
and sometimes self-image will put in an appearance and go:

"Wait a minute! Just hold on here,
I'm having more thoughts about what's going on,
I'm having more more thoughts about the condition of my life,
I'm having more thoughts that bug me than ever before,
so it's got to be the fault of practice."

what this clearly points to,
and you've probably recognized it already,
is that lots and lots of moments of experience passed us by
without even being recognized
because we were so focussed on our "favourite" one, two, or three things
that we didn't notice the rest.

So now we're just noticing more and more
so the fact that there may be more and more thoughts is good,
it's like having more manure for the roses.

The more you notice,
the more you can practise,
the more things will open up.

That's just true.

Rejecting the truth and grasping at entities is
also a mistake,
it's like jumping into a fire to avoid drowning.

The "truth", what's the truth?
Well, we're talking about the truth of Reality,
the truth of this moment,
the truth of perhaps that bead of sweat that's rolling down your back,
the truth of hearing the fan in this moment,
we're talking about direct experience.

Whose experience?

Your experience
in this moment.

No point in rejecting it
by making it someone else's business to take care of.

We human beings, it would seem, would really rather do nothing.
We'd rather put it on something else,
some other rupa,
or statue or form,
to take care of us,
we'd rather say:
"Oh, I'll make a lot of offerings and then the Buddha will do it."

I'm not going to take that thought any further because I think it's like so obvious...
who will do what we ourselves are too lazy to do
because it is easier
it would seem
to believe something
than to actually do something.

So don't grasp on to entities
it's obvious to anyone with a brain in their head
that grasping on to entities has not worked in the course of human history.
Oh sorry, it's worked, but not in a way that is useful to any beings whatsoever.

And "jumping into a fire to avoid drowning"
that's quite cute, I like that,
so trying to grasp onto something or someone else that doesn't exist
to correct what you perceive as going wrong for you?
Well, burn baby burn! [laughter]

To reject delusion and grasp at the truth
suits perfectly the mind of like and dislike.

So yes, then we can spend our time figuring what's a delusion and should be practised with,
and what is the truth—that we like...
So there you have usual mind doing its usual stuff.
Self-image loves that,
it gives it something to do
rather than to sit facing that blank wall
seeing moments of experience rise and fall
and doing something as arduous as
feeling the breath
sitting up straight
feeling the whole bodymind.
[O-sensei and students laugh]


Students who practise this way,
it's like mistaking a thief as your own son.

So we have that sense of not seeing clearly whatsoever
because we're so busy with figuring out
what we like
what we don't like
that we forget that it doesn't matter what we like or don't like
when we're sitting in front of that wall,
we can practise.

And then we start to understand
since this practice can be done
wherever you
lie down
any time you notice anything,
you can feel the breath...

It's there,
you might as well notice it,
and it takes no effort whatsoever

... and you start to understand
that once this thought of noticing the breath comes up,
it's because you've actually noticed it
it's actually there
but somehow we're so used to believing that nothing has happened
until we've talked to ourselves about it,
so we start to notice that we've noticed the breath;
it presented itself,
we've noticed the bodymind;
it presented itself to Knowing,
we noticed a thought about it;
it presented itself to Knowing.

Guess what? A dream come true,
we don't have to do anything!
We just have to notice what's there.

How easy is that?

... How difficult do you make it? ...

Ignoring the treasure of Reality and losing the merit
to Awaken self and others
is due to the eighth, seventh and sixth consciousnesses.

Now the eight consciousnesses are a development of the Yogacara school of Buddhism and all of the schools of Buddhism have in common the five senses. We have seeing and hearing and tasting and touching and feeling and smelling because there are six there. The feeling falls into thinking and thoughts, falls into mind, so all the schools seem to have in common the five senses and the mind.

Then the Yogacara school took it a little further and started to include the obscurations of the mind, or the manas and then came up with, and this is attributed to Vasubandhu, (NOTE: did you mean Vasubandhu?yes) the storehouse-consciousnesses, alayavijnana, and the Chan and Zen schools, some of them were saying this is Buddha-nature.

What Yoka daishi is saying here,
is that the eighth, seventh, and sixth consciousnesses
are getting into descriptions
of what's going on
rather than the actual experiencing of the five senses.
When that happens,
many can fall into believing that that is what is more important,
"so let's just forget about the seeing,
and the hearing,
and the tasting,
and the touching,
and the smelling,
because it's so mundane,
it has no 'intellectual'—
oh what shall we call it?
'merit' let's say,
it's base,
it has to do with the physical body.
How disgusting!
So let's move it up into something that's more
yes, yes,
more spiritual!"

So we can see where that kind of approach could lead.

A caveat here:
I am not saying that it isn't worthwhile to study and read about all these different approaches and practices, all the things that people have done. I think it is very important because if we don't do that, we could end up in some sort of "19841"ish world where there is one way of thinking about something. That's the problem.

We don't want to fall into that type of understanding, we want to know, to experience, and to practice what works.

We want to wake up!

And here Yoka daishi has a final verse for us today:

With direct insight into these,

(the senses, sense bases)

...practise Zen
and realise the Unborn with Radiant Intelligence.

Why not?
I'll say it again:

With direct insight into these, practise Zen
and realise the Unborn with Radiant Intelligence.

Now, is there anyone in this room,
in this Hatto,
who would like to refuse the offer of "Radiant Intelligence"?

Do I see any hands?
Not a one!

So feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
open to the Radiance of this moment.

Have a good time,
you cannot help but have a good time, actually...


Thank you for listening.

  • 1. "1984" is a dystopian novel by George Orwell about omnipresent government surveillance, mind control, and the persecution of individualism and independent thinking.

Wherever You Stand 22: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 11

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 13th, 2013

Last time we closed with the verse:

...direct insight into these, practise Zen
and realise the Unborn with Radiant Intelligence.

...which I'm sure of course you all have been doing...

and it's simple, isn't it?

As we've discussed previously,
on "Wherever You Stand",
wherever you stand,
lie down,
is where you practise

at the moment of noticing



We'll continue with Yoka daishi's "Shodoka":

Be strong and use the sword of insight.
Its blade is sharp and bright as the vajra,

it severs confusion
and the pride of shining beings and demons.

Now, I'm sure some of you have seen a vajra,
and I believe in the W5, or "Who, What, Where, When, and Why"
about monastery objects, we covered a vajra.

A vajra is an instrument or a tool,
it can be of various sizes,
it's made of metal,
and it's held in the hands during certain practices.

Vajra is a Sanskrit word
and it means "thunderbolt" and "diamond".

A thunderbolt:
irresistible force
a diamond signifying indestructibility,
so a very powerful,
irresistible force and indestructibility.

These objects have on each end spokes or fingers,
some are three-spoked, some five, some nine-spoked.
The five-spoked vajra has these five spokes
signifying the antidotes,
as it were,
the wisdoms
which can counteract
the so-called "poisons" of,
for example,
anger and hatred.

We have the spoke of the mirror-like wisdom,
when all obscurations have been opened,
so that when anger and hatred should happen to arise,
it's seen just as a harmless yet powerful force
to be used,
we can use the energy of that
to do what has to be done.

We have the wisdom of equanimity
which defuses greed and
goodness knows there's a lot of that around...
it's a quality,
this quality of greed
is something that's very strong and is a big driving force in social culture,
but when these energies are simply seen
as energies
rather than as energies that are pointing toward acquisition,
pointing toward anger,
pointing toward hatred,
those energies are available
to each individual
to do what they need to do.

Then we have the wisdom of individual analysis
which works against desire,
discrimination is purified
and each gets what is needed.

The all-accomplishing wisdom
which has been described as the antidote to envy,
the sphere of Reality,
the wisdom of Reality,
the wisdom of understanding completely
what is happening in each moment,
which cuts through delusion
cuts through the separation into self and other
that is such a major cause of major problems.

The second two lines of that verse:

it severs confusion
and the pride of shining beings and demons.

...and we have experienced the pride
pride in who we think we are
pride in where we think we came from
and fail to recognize it
as being simply another way
of separating ourselves
into some individual node
that can look out and
see everything else
as other
to it.

So the vajra is symbolic of practices
that can help cut through that bullshit
and the main practice
is the one you're doing right now,
with THIS breath.

So when you notice


feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
cut through it.

The verse:

The thunder of the Reality rolls:
beat the drum of the Teachings,

spread clouds of compassion
and loose the rain of nectar.

We can get very confused,
you know,
because we think Reality,
Reality is very much what self-image
would like to adapt,
would like to pull
and make stories about
that fit its own ideas
of what's going on.

So it wants to prop up,
it wants to take its stories
and use all sorts of means
to give them validity
so that it can be seen
to be a self
that is superior to the other selves,
it knows what's going on!
It knows what is real and what isn't,
it can act out in all sorts of very insulting manners
because it believes that it's dealing with the truth.

All you have to do
is see those things,
see those attitudes,
see them for what they are,
they're not who you are,
they're patterns that have been picked up on
many many
nasty street corners...
[students giggle]

... so use the moment of clear seeing
to open them
and actually
hear the beat of the drum
of the Teachings.

People can feel that when they're corrected,
when they're given information
that can bring them in line with the Teachings,
that they're being picked on,
that they're being taken aside and made a special case of,
rather than recognizing
that's just self-image acting out in another way.

Get rid of it!
It's done you no good up to now!

Just let it go
and then out of that,
out of your own experience
of seeing how you have distorted moments of Reality,
how you have distorted moments of compassion
into afflictions,
you can start to understand more and more clearly
what's going on with others in many situations.

Back to the verses:

"Dragons" and "elephants" arise to benefit countless beings
and lead the five types of students through
the Three Aspects of the Teachings.

We've touched on dragons and elephants,
mentioned they are signifiers,
they are descriptions of certain personal styles.

Dragons can be fiery and quick.
Elephants: they're biiiiiig....
they may move more slowly
but BOTH types of personal styles
can presence even in one individual
in different moments,
as they work with students,
so that countless beings can be benefited
"lead the five types of students through
the Three Aspects of the Teachings."

Well, I'm sure you're all familiar with,
or perhaps you're not,
with "Begin Here: Five Styles of Zen"
from Anzan Hoshin roshi's book "Before Thinking".
This was delivered at Zazenji in October of 1989,
and in it there are these five descriptions
of five styles or five approaches to Zen,
and this was originally taught in China
in the Tang Dynasty by Tsung-mi, a Chan master,
the fifth Ancestor of the Hua Yen tradition.

He spoke of five different kinds of Zen:
bompu zen, or "usual zen",
gedo Zen, or "Outside Way zen",
shojo zen or "Hinayana practice,"
daijo zen or "Great Practice zen"
and saijojo zen or "Easy and perfect" zen.

In this sense, we could say that zen with a small "z"
means simply a form of practising.

In bompu zen, or usual zen,
people engage in a meditation practice
to procure the same kinds of things
that they've always been looking for:
some sense of well-being,
and there's nothing wrong with that,
but it's certainly not the place where you want to stop.

Now I'm not going to read the whole text
because the Roshi has presented it,
you can listen to it,
and you can read it,
and I recommend that you do so,
especially if you're engaged in some kind of thought patterns
about Daoist thought,
about pyramids,
about this thing and that thing and the other thing...
If you're seeking those other areas,
you might enjoy reading this
and it might help you clarify some of what you're going through.

But bompu zen basically is concerned mainly with the issues of health and well-being,
a fine place to start
you don't want to stop there,
you don't need to stop there.

The next is gedo zen,
it means "Outside Way",
a practice that isn't Buddhist practice as such.

Gedo zen puts us outside of our life,

...giving us a way to feel "spiritual", a way to try to get something that is going to make us into a big S Self, something that cannot be assailed, something that cannot be brought into question, a big cosmic Self-Image.1

don't want to stop there.
You may have moments like that...
What do you do?
At the moment of seeing that,
because it's a thought,
Feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind.

"Gedo zen is religious in intents and methods."

Well, it can be an intoxication as well
like alcohol or drugs,
transporting you out of your own experience and life
into a temporary state of ease.

So this can happen when students sit retreat.
They can convince themselves that they are enjoying a blissful little state
of something or other
that they've self-created,
and not recognize it until a Practice Advisor or a Teacher comes along
and interrupts their "peaceful, blissful" state.

So that's what they're marinating in at that point.
See it,
no problem,
feel the breath,
sit up straight,
shut up,
just practise.

Shojo zen:

...means "Hinayana", or "Small Vehicle" zen. This is actually concerned with trying to realize Buddhadharma. It is beginning to actually work with life as it is, and to examine our own "self", our own suffering and confusion in order to not only relieve us of the symptoms but to cure the cause. It is a profoundly vital investigation into perception and cognition.2

Starting to recognize

...the Teachings tell us things like "just pay attention to what's going on"... But it also says things like "right from the beginning, not one thing" or "form is emptiness, emptiness is form". What does that mean?3

We can only understand these things through our own practice,
only the mind of practice can understand what practice is,
and if your thoughts are telling you that you understand,
that's a thought,
practise at that moment
you will end up practising your misunderstanding.

No problem,
it will get cleared up over time.

Daijo zen:

..."Great Practice Zen" which is the practice of the Mahayana or the "Great and Open Way."

It embraces everything in our life.

The whole of the Mahayana is embodied in the Shi Gu Sei Gan, the "Four Great Vows"
that are chanted after the formal sittings.4

All beings without number I vow to liberate.
Endless obsessions I vow to release.
Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to penetrate.
Limitless Awakening I vow to unfold.

So your practice is not just for you,
it is for the benefit of all beings.

The Mahayana has taken many forms, from the Shin-shu and Tendai to the Vajrayana practices of Shingon in Tibetan Buddhism.5

So it is quite widespread.

When we speak of styles of zen as such, daijo zen is traditionally associated with the Rinzai style which concentrates on koan practice and which, at the end, opens into the practice of shikantaza or just sitting. Shikantaza is the starting point within Soto zen practice, which is the practice of our Lineage as Transmitted to us by Dogen zenji.

The fifth kind of zen is Saijojo zen, which means "Great and Perfect Practice." It is great and perfect because it is not based on trying to realize anything, It is based on practising practice. It is based on sitting the sitting. It is based on seeing what you see, hearing what you hear, not looking for Buddha in any way, but simply realizing one's own looking to be Buddha.6

So there you have it,
in brief form,
five styles of zen,
and I encourage you to read through it.

In fact, if it were me,
if I were you,
sitting there looking at the wall,
the first thing I would do when I got out of here is read that
because it can help clarify your understanding
even further.

Twenty minutes well spent.

Now we come to the "Three Aspects of the Teachings",
now what's being talked about here?

Three Aspects of the Teachings,
there's a lot of threes...

There are the "Three Pure Precepts":

Wrong action does not arise.
There is only the arising of benefit.
There is only the benefit of all beings.

That's not what they're talking about.

Another set of three, similar:

"Do good,
Avoid evil,
Benefit beings."


Another three:

"Practice is good at the beginning, at the middle, and at the end."

No, what's being talked about here is the Pratyekavada, the Sravakavada, and the Mahayana or the Vast Path, which are approaches to practice.

The Pratyekavada is basically people who might have had realization but either couldn't or wouldn't teach.

The Sravakavada, you've heard this before, are people who have a "hearsay knowledge of practice".

The Mahayana is the Vast and Perfect Path.

And again, much has been written about these in other areas,
and you can continue your research and your study
by taking a few minutes and looking into these.

The Pratyekavada is doctrinal and basically the Narrow Path, along with the Sravakavada, and into Hinayana.

The next verse:

The milk from the Himalayas is pure and rich,
it makes the ghee that I enjoy.

So here, Yoka daiji is recognizing the contribution that has been made
by many areas and many people
in different parts of the world
from the China
in which he was writing,
and the attribution,
the recognition
that he's gained a lot
is quite clearly presented.

One nature pervades all natures.
One thing holds all things.

Awareness is the Only Condition.

One moon is reflected in all waters,
all these reflections are one moon.

All that is arises as the Display of Awareness.
This is the Seamless Expanse of all that is.

Have fun today,
and thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 23: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 12

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 20th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"
looking into the "Shodoka", Yoka daishi's "Song of Liberation"
we ended with these two little verses:

One nature pervades all natures.
One thing holds all things.

One moon is reflected in all waters,
all these reflections are one moon.

Awareness IS the Only Condition.
All that is arises as the Display of Awareness.
This IS the Seamless Expanse of all that is.

So here you sit
and this Reality
is of course
what you are

Dharma with a big "D"
the Teachings of Reality
the Teachings of How Things Really Are.

With a little "d"
a moment of experience
any moment of experience that is experienced by the bodymind
that is known by the bodymind
can be practised by you
as the Knowing of these dharma.

How easy is that, huh?
How easy?

Not simple...
Or, simple but not easy.


Because we complicate, we complexify.

Why do we do that?

Because it is what we are used to doing.

We come to practice believing that we are our thoughts and feelings,
that they are the most important things about who we are and what is going on
and it's big shock when we get told:
"Oh fuck your thoughts and feelings."
Or something similar...

That's not what you are,
they are dharma
moments of experience.

And what do we do at the moment of noticing a dharma?
What do we do?

STUDENT: "Sit up straight, feel the breath".


What do you do over here?

Come on, take a chance!

A DIFFERENT STUDENT: "Sit up straight!"

Feel the breath!
Yes indeed!
So there's been sort of,...a word that's come up a lot...recently is "spiritual", right?
Is this "spiritual"?
Is this a "spiritual" practice?
Well the word itself, "spiritual", comes from spiritus: the breath.

So, spiritual...
If you're alive, you're breathing.
If you're breathing, you're alive,
so you can do whatever it is you're going to do,
and in this case,
at the moment of noticing anything whatsoever,
feel the breath,
sit up straight,
open peripheral vision,
practise that moment of clear seeing.

Isn't that fun?

Now, new verses by Yoka daishi,
written some 1300 years ago,
and why did he write them?

Because it was a compilation of what he understood the Teachings to be
and obviously they made such an impression on him
that he wanted to pass on
he wanted to write,
he wanted to exclaim
he wanted to sing the
Song of Liberation.

The Realm of Reality of all Buddhas is my own nature,
my own nature is all the Thus Come Ones.

Here he's simply saying Tatagatha, Suchness, Thus Come,
this is who we are,
we are Awareness itself,
we are the Knowing of knowns.

One stage of practice contains all stages,
without form, without thought or action.

That is just how things are.
That is Reality.
And no matter how much we get in there and entangle ourselves
in the seaweed of our beliefs about who we are
and how the world is and so on...
no matter how much we do that,
there is an opportunity that will present itself for you to see what's going on
and at that moment of clear seeing,
feel the breath,
sit up straight,
open the eye gaze.

You know what to do,

you just have to do it.

And showing up is how you do it.

It's not a matter of setting up a strategy
that will get you to some dream you might have
about how you will be when you wake up,
that's a thought,
that's a belief,
so when you see that, actually do the practice:
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
sit up straight
and see what happens.

That is what you do.

There is no magic formula or equation
that you will find
if you think about it a lot.

What you're doing if you're thinking about it a lot
is allowing that seaweed that's trapped you
to wrap itself more tightly around you
so that you really do feel like one ball of contraction
living out some nightmarish kind of dream.

Well, see it!
Feel the breath,
allow those things just to drop away,
which is what they will do
on their own...
when you practise...

In a finger snap eighty thousand doors are open
and three great eons vanish in an instant.

So "eighty thousand doors",
"dharma gates beyond measure":
a lot.
Each moment of experience is a dharma,
each moment of recognizing it shows you very clearly it's a gate.
What do you have to do to open that gate?
Well, you don't really have to do anything,
the gate is already open
but by practising
at that moment of clear seeing,
you are actually doing what the instructions tell you to do,
and these instructions have been going on for some 2600 years
and they've been written about for some 1300,
well more than that, but
Yoka daishi's "Shodoka" was written in 713, 1300 years ago.

In this stage, in these verses of the "Shodoka",
Yoka daishi is bringing forward what he learned from his Teachers,
and in this case from Hongren,
who was the Fifth Chan Ancestor,
very significant in the history of Chan.
It is said that at the monastery which his Teacher had founded,
his Teacher Daoxin had founded,
there were a thousand monks.

At that time in the history of Chan, it's also said that Hongren had taught or his Teachings had been heard and understood and practised by eight or nine out of ten monks. It's kind of vague, it doesn't really say in the piece that I was reading whether they were part of that thousand or whether there had been a spreading of the Teachings.

So he's very significant. Hongren and Daoxin had, as you may remember, founded the East Mountain Teachings, what became known as the East Mountain Teachings, the Teachings of Pure Mind or of Awareness Itself, which is something that you can recognize right here right now as what you are doing.

Names and categories and being without them
have nothing to do with Perfect Knowing.

So some may, because they have a liking for it,
study the history of practice,
study the different schools,
remember them,
put them together,
and this is important,
but it is not necessary for you to do it
in order for you to wake up.

What you have to do
do the practice.

If you're interested in studying the history,
by all means, it's encouraged.

It is without praise or blame,
It is without boundaries, like space.

It is wherever you stand.

It is free of struggle and searching.

It cannot be held or released.

Give up the search.
It is here.

And "here" means
right here
right now.

What is being written of
is what was explained
which was transmitted by
the Ancestors
right up to Joshu Dainen roshi,
Anzan Hoshi roshi,
Jinmyo sensei,
and all of you.

You have everything you need to do the practice.

Back to the verse again:

Its silence speaks, its speech is silent.
Its great giving opens the door wide.

If you ask me what doctrine I teach
I'll tell you it's Vast Awareness.

So here we have reference to Yoka daishi's Teacher, Huineng,
who was the Sixth and last of the founding Chan Ancestors.

And remember, Huineng was, apparently, an illiterate,
from his works, from his Teachings, was compiled, some say,
"The Platform sutra"
which, some say, was a repository of Chan Teachings
up to the second half of the eighth century
and was fundamentally about Awareness itself.

No one can agree or disagree with this
and even the shining beings can only speculate.

Having practised this for many years,
I have no choice but to tell you the truth.

So Yoka daishi practised with his Teacher, Huineng for a number of years,
and, apparently, he was doing such a practice before he came across Huineng.
Huineng recognized that he had an understanding that was realized
and gave acknowledgment to that fact.
As Yoka daishi says in these words exactly:

Having practised this for many years,
I have no choice but to tell you the truth.

Because it can help people to understand what it is that they are doing
and how they can notice when they're getting lost in their strategies of achievement,
and by "strategies of achievement"
I mean wanting to collect things,
wanting to collect, oh, let's say, koan,
wanting to collect something that seems more difficult or more challenging.

Well there's nothing more challenging
than actually sitting zazen.

The other things, the other forms and aspects of practice are great,
but zazen in the basic practice
and out of that comes the realization,
Dogen called it "studying the self",
the realization
of who you really are.

Back to the verses again:

"Raise the banner of the Teachings,
proclaim the Teachings of the Lineage."

Such was the Buddha's command to Caoxi.

In the Indian records, Mahakasyapa was the first
to receive and transmit the Lamp
and then down through twenty eight Ancestors.

Through the First Ancestor Bodhidharma
the Teachings of Reality came east to the Middle Kingdom,

through Six Ancestors who received the robe,
and then to countless who have realized the Way.

So, to refresh your memory,
the Six Ancestors Yoka daishi is recognizing are:
Bodhidharma, the first one,
and Huineng.

Truth does not stand alone, the false doesn't exist alone.
When ideas of 'being ' and 'non-being' vanish
all is empty.

The teachings about twenty emptinesses
are intended to disentangle you;
All are the display of this one body
of the Thus Come.

Mind arises with experiences as its objects.
Subject and object are dust on a mirror.

Free of dust, the mirror shines.
The Actual Nature is known
when mind and things do not arise.

In this Age of Ending and this sad world
suffering beings resist the truth.

So we'll stop here for today
and next time we'll pick up at exactly this spot.

Just in case you might be encouraged to do a little research and reading on your own,
I'll read the last three verses.

They'll trigger something in you
and you might want to go do a little search
and see what you come up with.

Mind arises with experiences as its objects.
Subject and object are dust on a mirror.

Free of dust, the mirror shines.

Sound familiar?

The Actual Nature is known
when mind and things do not arise.

In this Age of Ending and this sad world
suffering beings resist the truth.

Have fun with this,
and as this evening is Yaza,
some of you are attending.

There's a possibility there could be thoughts during the day
about what it's going to be like,
and I'm willing,
from my own experience over the years
to say that most of your thoughts are going to be about how difficult it might be.

Most important this is:
they're thoughts.

A thought is a dharma,
a moment of experience,
a known.

You are the Knowing.

When you notice it, what do you do?

STUDENT: "Feel the breath, feel the bodymind."



So we'll give it that old Bodhidharma "oomph", okay?

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 24: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 13

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 27th, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand",
we looked into more verses from
the "Shodoka: Song of Liberation" by Yoka daishi
in which he talked about the Indian records, starting with Mahakasyapa
the "Transmission of the Lamp"
and down through the 28 Ancestors
to the first Chinese Ancestor, Bodhidharma
who brought the Teachings of Reality to the Middle Kingdom.

The Six Ancestors received the robe.

One verse:

One does not stand alone
The false doesn't exist alone.
When ideas and non-being vanish, all is empty


Yoka Daishi points to the fact that
we human beings really have very strong tendencies
to entangle ourselves
in all sorts of beliefs
in all sorts of teachings
which we may not understand
but they're so complex that we think they must have an inherent meaning
that if we just study them,
well, we're going to wake up
and we will understand.

He spoke of the Teachings about twenty emptinesses
the twenty emptinesses,
which are intended to disentangle you
these twenty emptinesses
were written about by an Indian scholar,
born in 600, died in 650
and he was an Indian scholar at Nalanda University.
He was a disciple of Nagarjuna
and a commentator on his works
and those of his main disciple.

He was born into a Brahmin family in Samanta in South India.

He was quite famous for his approach to his interpretation of the Madhyamika
(and you've heard that word before),
and in his writings, Chandrakurti defended Teachings of the Buddha
and he also offered refutations of a number of early Buddhist views,
and he came up with the Twenty Emptinesses,
which were in verse form and he put forward as entrance to the Middle Way.

There's "Emptiness of the Inner":
refers to dharmas belonging to the subject.

Since it has no inherent nature,
The eye is empty of being an eye.
The ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind are the same way.
They are all described in a similar way.

They are not stable nor forever lasting,
Nor do they remain for a short time and decay.
The eye and the rest that are the six inner ones
Are things that have no essential nature at all.
This is what is meant by "emptiness of the inner."

"Emptiness of the Outer":
refers to object-related dharmas.
So dharmas Emptiness of the Inner seems to be talking about
dharmas which are the experience of the bodymind.
Emptiness of the Outer:
dharmas or moments of experience which are outside the bodymind.

For these reasons, form's nature is emptiness;
Therefore form is empty of being form.
Sounds, odours, things that are tasted, and what the body feels too,
All these phenomena are exactly the same.

Form and so forth have no essential nature:
This very lack of essence is called "emptiness of the outer."

The third:
"Emptiness of the Inner and the Outer".

The fourth
"Emptiness of Emptiness"

All phenomena lack the essential nature, and
The wisest of all call this "emptiness."

The emptiness of what is called "emptiness"
Is the "emptiness of emptiness."
The Buddha taught it to counteract
The mind's tendency to think of emptiness as something truly existent.

We are such jerks, really, we human beings. We want to make things out of everything.

"Emptiness of the Great".

The "great" is what the ten directions encompass:
All sentient beings and the entire universe.
The "immeasurables" prove the directions' infiniteness:
They pervade the limitless directions, so they cannot be measured in extent.

That all ten directions in their whole vast extent
are empty of essence is the "emptiness of the great."
The Buddha taught about its emptiness
to reverse our conception of the vast as being real.

So we do and may notice moments of experience,
and recognize that they are transitory,
but somehow or other when we look at the so called "larger picture"
we can start to make things seem to be very concrete,
we come up with cosmologies
and take them to be real.

"Emptiness of the Ultimate":

Nirvana, the Truth Body, is empty of itself,
And this is what the emptiness of the ultimate is.

So we want to make objects,
(this is me talking, not Chandrakirti),
we want to make everything into a thing
so that we can conquer it,
so that we can have it,
so that we can own,
so that we can hang onto it.

Well, there is nothing
nothing, kids,
that you can hang onto.

Basically, this of course,
includes the very bodymind that's sitting there

"Emptiness of the Composite of the Conditions"
"Emptiness of the Uncomposite".

"Emptiness of That Which is Beyond Extreme":

That to which extremes do not apply
Is expressed as being beyond extremes.
Its emptiness of its very self
Is explained as the "emptiness of that which is beyond extremes."

"Emptiness of That Which Has Neither Beginning nor End".

"Emptiness of What Should not be Discarded":

To "discard" something means
To throw it away or to abandon it.
What should not be discarded is
What one should never cast away from oneself
"the great vehicle".

So don't discard your practice.
Don't discard this activity of the bodymind in this moment
of noticing anything whatsoever,
practising that moment of noticing the Reality,
this activity
is very important.
This activity points to the Reality of experiencing.

"Emptiness of the True Nature".
"Emptiness of All Phenomena".
"Emptiness of Defining Characteristics".
"Emptiness of the Imperceptible".

The present does not remain;
The past and future do not exist.

Ain't that the truth?
And somehow or other we want to make the present extend,
we want to believe the truth exists,
that the truth of the past exists somewhere,
that our memories,
these thoughts that come up about something that happened in the past,
are true,
that we can create a future
by thinking about it.

Now there's vast industries built on that.

"Think the future that you want to have and it shall happen."

You have to DO something.

"You can be anything that you think you want to be."

Not true.
But these are fairy tales upon which we make decisions.

"Emptiness that is the Absence of Entities".

Now these sixteen Emptinesses are condensed into four.
These four are a summary of the previous sixteen.

1. Emptiness of Entities.

In short, "entities" are
everything included in the five aggregates.
Entities are empty of being entities,
And this is the "emptiness of entities."

2. Emptiness of Non-Entities.
3. Emptiness of the Nature.
4. Emptiness of the Entity that is Other:

Whether or not buddhas appear in the world,
The natural emptiness of all entities
Is proclaimed to be
The "entity that is other."

Other names for this are the "genuine limit" and "suchness."
They are empty of themselves and this is the "emptiness of the entity that is other."

all experiences,
all dharma,
all moments of experience
rise and fall.

That's a fact.
And that is what you are practising.

This is history that we're listening to
and that I'm presenting,
it's the history of the influences
that have led to much discovery
much confusion.

So let's view this as ways to clear confusion
just as Huineng spoke of cleaning dust from the mirror.
Actually, he said "there's no dust, there's no mirror, all is empty".

So you can remember this at the noticing
of each moment of experience.
There's nothing there to get involved with,
and when you're feeding attention into experiences,
you are making them bigger than they actually are
and this is unfortunate,
this is sad
because we cause ourselves a lot of grief when we do this.

Now onto new verses...

The time of the Buddha is long gone and confusion is deep.
Delusion is strong, practice is weak,
fear and hatred increase.

Sound familiar?

Well that was written 1300 years ago
and Yoka daishi wrote that 1300 years after the Buddha was alive
so we're sort of kind of in the middle with his writing,
in the middle of that 2600 year expanse in which practice,
in which the process of waking up to Reality
has been practised
and passed on
from Ancestor to Ancestor to Ancestor.

Hearing the Direct Way of the Thus Come,
some regret not being able to smash it to pieces.

Now we've come across, in the course of the "Shodoka"
many instances, many mentions
of the animosity that was occasioned by those who were practising Bodhidharma's practice,
who were practising just sitting
and may have said things
that may have been construed by some
to be critical of what they were doing.

Scholars and so forth may not have been necessarily happy
and may have in fact engaged in witch hunts of those who were speaking of
actual practice
actual zazen.

Chandrakirti did come up, apparently,
with a very nice quote:

If, by trying to understand the truth, you dispel the misunderstandings of some people and thereby some philosophies are damaged--that cannot be taken as criticizing the views of others.

Nicely said.

Craving gives rise to suffering.
Don't blame others for your own actions.

We do like to do that
because self-image,
this contraction into a sense of self
that has beliefs about how it is and how the world is
ALWAYS wants to be right,
will push
to maintain its essential rightness
after all,

"if I'm right,
then everybody else is wrong
and it is their fault if I'm not feeling so terrific
because in my vast wisdom
and shining luminosity
I would just be happy all the fracking time
except for these others who get in my way!"

Of course
not any of you,
have EVER had any thoughts like that...

If you don't want to live in suffering
do not slander the Teachings turned by the Thus Come.

So, the Teachings of Reality,
the Buddhadharma,
which is very simple,
practise at the moment you notice anything at all,
feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind
sit up straight.

What's to slander?
Just because you may not like it
just because you feel uncomfortable
is no reason to point the finger at the Teachers and the Lineage
because when you do practise
you will notice that
what is bothering you,
be it physical discomfort
or the anguish of roasting yourself on your own spit
will open.

That's just true
and each one of you have experienced moments of this
or why would you even bother showing up?

So the truth is that
the Teachings of Reality are true,
they do what they deliver.

It takes time, though,
and you have to actually do it
because there's nothing to believe in.

Only sandalwood
grows with sandalwood.

Lions rest in dark groves, wander alone and at ease
where no other birds or animals are found.

Lion cubs follow the elders
and even a three year old can give the roar.

So it doesn't matter how long you've been practising
or how little,
a moment of Reality presents itself
and there can be that "lion's roar"
of feeling the breath
sitting up straight
opening the eye gaze and practising what is true
and as you do that
as you continue to do that
you will find that
more and more often
you are actually saying what needs to be said
saying what you mean
meaning what you say
and being a real human being
rather than a fabrication
assembled from the hopes and dreams of self-image.

The radical Direct Teaching is beyond sentiment;
there is no room for doubt or hesitation.

This monk doesn't say this to create divisions;
it's just that you should know
about the trap of permanence and its opposite.

Right isn't "right", wrong isn't "wrong";
yet an inch of deviation leads a thousand miles off.

A girl of the dragon people who didn't stray from the source,
at once realized Buddha,
while Sunaksatra was reborn in the hells.

Now, the dragon king's daughter,
a girl of the dragon people or the naga girl,
was apparently the eight-year-old daughter of Sagara,
one of the eight dragon kings--
and here we're into mythology of course--
said to dwell in the palace at the bottom of the sea.

In a chapter of "The Lotus Sutra",
the dragon girl decided she wanted to become enlightened
when she heard Manjusri preach "The Lotus Sutra".

Manjusri said that she's capable of quickly attaining Buddha-wisdom.
Manjusri was challenged,
saying that even Sakyamuni attained enlightenment
only after fulfilling the bodhisattva practice for many kalpas--
(for a long long time, that's what a kalpa is)--
and that she cannot become a Buddha so easily.

Just then the dragon girl appears in front of the assembly and praises Sakyamuni Buddha. Sariputra then speaks to her, saying that women are subject to the five obstacles and are incapable of attaining Buddhahood. At that moment, she offers a jewel to the Buddha, transforms herself into a male, and instantaneously perfects the bodhisattva practice. She then appears in a land to the south called Spotless World and manifests the state of Buddhahood without changing her dragon form. She preaches the Lotus Sutra to all living beings there. The dragon girl's enlightenment has important implications. First, it refutes the idea of the time that women could never attain enlightenment.1

Somehow, conveniently, it seems to have been overlooked
in the space of a few sentences
that she turned herself into a male...
but we can ignore that
we can recognize that this description came from the Soka Gakkai International Library.

Soka Gakkai is a lay sect
which practises their practice based on the teachings of Nichiren
who was born in 1222.
Dogen was 22 at the time,
and Nichiren devolved practice into only study of "The Lotus Sutra".
It devolved even further until
one chanting of "Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo"
one line of "The Lotus Sutra"
was "guaranteed" to bring enlightenment.

So it's kind of suspect,
but 1222,
it was obvious as Yoka daishi was writing in 713
that he had not heard the teachings
or the story of the dragon king's daughter from Nichiren
because Nichiren wasn't born yet,
so obviously it was a much older story
than that which Nichiren was using,
apparently from "The Lotus Sutra".

Then we have Sunaksatra.
Now who is that?
Sunaksatra was the Buddha's half-brother
who apparently served him for 24 years.
He saw the Buddha as deceitful

...No different than I am except for the six-foot-wide light around the body.

[O-sensei and students laugh]

He left and that's when, apparently, Ananda became the Buddha's attendant.
Sunaksatra died within a week and was reborn as a preta or hungry ghost.

Karma's a bitch. [laughing]

This is from "The Words of My Perfect Teacher" by Patrul Rinpoche.

So what we have is all sorts of stories
that are mentioned by Yoka daishi.

Now we will close today with the verse which we will look at next time
where Yoka daishi says

In my youth I collected knowledge,
reading the Discourses and commentaries.

So have fun with all of this!

There's certainly a lot available
if you look.

Certainly a lot of information that will help you
(if you're interested)
expand your knowledge of the history of Dharma,
expand your knowledge of how people are and how they've always been,
and might provide you with some entertainment.

Thank you for listening.

  • 1. The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism

Wherever You Stand 25: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 14

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, August 10th, 2013

Previously "Wherever You Stand" looked at Chandrakirti's "Twenty Emptinesses",
that would be two Dharma Talks ago,
you remember that:
"Entrance to the Middle Way"
you remember:
"Emptiness of the Inner"
"Emptiness of the Outer"
"Emptiness of the Inner and Outer"
"Emptiness of Emptiness"
and so on...

Well, I'm raising this question again
so we can look at
how, in fact,
for Yoka daishi when he was writing the "Shodoka",
these occurrences were within living memory.

These Teachings were delivered roughly 63 years
before Yoka daishi was writing the "Shodoka".

Now, in 1950,
63 years ago from this year,
the first modern credit card was introduced,
there was the first organ transplant,
the first "Peanuts" cartoon strip,
the Korean War began,
Senator Joseph McCarthy began the Communist witch hunt in the US,
China invaded Tibet...

Now, even those of you who were not yet born at that time
have some knowledge, or hearsay knowledge,
or actual experience
from hearing these on the news
or from study of these events.

So of course we could call it "recent memory"
but given that human beings are essentially
the same
we can assume that Yoka daishi's knowledge
which had come down through the different experiences he had experienced
on his way to writing the "Shodoka"
that memory of events that occurred would be actually quite clear,
probably more clear than they may be for us
because there would not have been
the bombardment of information about events.

So previously also in the "Shodoka"
we met the girl of the dragon people
and the Buddha's half-brother...
How much is true?
Who knows?
How much is fabrication?
Who knows?
Because after all we all know that right in this present day
fabrication and distortion of the truth arises
under the most simple conditions.

That's just what people without integrity do.
Or maybe they have integrity
but perhaps they may have
oh, distorted that too,
so it becomes:

"I'm going to say what I think I want people to know..."

rather than an as honest as possible description of events.

But that's what we work with, isn't it?
In our practice?
We start to see our habits and patterns,
we notice them,
we remember to feel the breath
and to sit up straight,
we make effort and change things
that do not reflect well on our integrity.

So, a little refresher on Yoka daishi:

According to the "Jingde Chuandenglu, the Transmission of the Lamp",
he was born in 664 C.E.
left home at a young age to study the Tientai School's Teachings.

So we'll start with today's verses:

In my youth I collected knowledge,
reading the Discourses and commentaries.

Yoka daishi studied sutras or discourses
and their commentaries or shastras
and he apparently became adept
at understanding intricate systems of categorizations
and cross-referencing.

The next verse:

I fell into name and form, which makes as much sense
as trying to count the sands on the ocean floor.

And here a quote from research material provided by Anzan Hoshin roshi:

One day while reading a sutra, he (Yoka daishi) came upon a passage in which the Buddha spoke to his disciple Ananda, criticizing him as being someone who was only counting another's treasure. The words struck out at Yoka daishi and he felt the Buddha was criticizing him directly.

"What good is it to count and niggle over the fine details of the Teachings if one doesn't apply them?"

The next verse:

The Buddha was speaking about me when he said,
"What gain is there in counting another's treasure?"

What gain is there in counting another's treasure?
We're so used to,
social culture is so used to
defining itself
so used to hanging around with others it considers to be like-minded
so that it can reflect in their glory
or maybe be a quote on the back of their book.

We forget that no one else can do your practice for you.
No one else can breathe the breath that you're breathing right now for you.

You, the bodymind is breathing that breath.
That's a known.
You are the Knowing
that is why you can practise,

no one else can do that for you.

The Teachers,
the practice advisors,
oh they can do a little dance
a little song
a little soda down your pants...
they can do SOMETHING...

(Mary Tyler Moore, cultural reference)

...they can do all sorts of things to get your attention
to point to what you are doing
what you are seeing
to point to the patterns that attention will fall into...

but they cannot
do the practice for you.

Many times, I've wished that I could be like Tinkerbell
a little fairy with a wand,
I wish the Teaching stick could be a wand
and I could go around
or just sit there and shake it in front of people
and go "ting ting ting ting ting ting"
There! You've woken up!

That would be great.
Wouldn't that be great?
You can bet your ass that I'd be traveling around the world
to as many places as I possibly could go
to China where there are people right now eating puppies--
that's the least of the things that go on but I just happened to see a picture of some rescued dogs on their way to the slaughterhouse--
to Afghanistan where horrible things are happening,
to South Africa to stop the killing of endangered species
in hunts for pleasure.
I would wave that wand and people would go:
"Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!" rubbing their eyes
and changing their habitual patterns and behaviours immediately.

But guess what?
That is not going to happen.
It doesn't work like that.

The waking up of your Teachers
can only show you that it is possible
for YOU
to wake up
for YOU
to complete the Path

but YOU have to do it.

Everything about the environment of practice:
the grounds,
the cooking,
the art,
the poetry,
the Talks,
the chants,
the Teacher's gestures,
are all means to point out to YOU
your Awareness in this moment

and this moment

and THIS moment.


the Buddha's enlightenment
and the Transmission of the entire Lineage of Dharma Ancestors
is meaningless
unless you sit
and unless you realize your own
Actual Nature.

and that's a quote from Anzan roshi's research material.

Back to the verses,
Yoka daishi says:

I realized how for many years I had gone astray
and wandered lost.

Due to crooked inclinations and wrong views
the Thus Come's Direct Perfection is misunderstood.

Men of the Narrow Path practise without compassion,
worldly scholars have knowledge but no wisdom.

Foolish, with wrong interpretations,
they miss the pointing finger of the empty hand.

Now again, remember the transmission of information,
the passing on of information
through verse
through art
through storytelling.

Some 500 years later,
Dogen zenji,
when he returned from China
having studied and woken up with Tiantong Rujing
was asked what he had learned
and he said:

Ears over the shoulders, nose over the navel, empty hands.

He learned to sit zazen.

Without sitting zazen there is no practice.

Without following the instructions as to what to do
when you sit zazen,
there is no practice.

Yoka daishi,
500 years before Dogen zenji,
after understanding that he had, in his own words
"wandered lost"
devoted himself to shiguan or shikan
shamatha and vipasyana
developed by Zhiyi
who was alive from 538 to 597.

Shi or stopping
is the practice of developing concentration
to the point where all thoughts cease.
It's a state,
it's the creation of a state.
It may bring some relief as the flood of deluded thoughts and concepts ceases.

Guan or seeing or looking was the next phase,
seeing what arises and falls from the state produced by stopping.

Now I've talked about stopping and looking
in "The Tiny Book of Stopping and Looking".
It will take you about 15 minutes to read the whole thing,
so you might like it as a refresher.

I'm a very simple person,
it's a very simple little book
and you might find it useful.

Now Yoka daishi followed guidelines also
for retreats from the "Mahaparinirvana sutra"
and lived the solitary life of a hermit for many years,
trying to practise with what he knew
the practice that he would eventually come to practise.

When he wasn't doing that,
he traveled throughout the countryside,
practising at different monasteries,
listening to various contemporary Masters and Teachers.

During that time, the study of the Vimlikirti sutra
and contact with various Chan Masters
led him to take up zazen.

the practice you are being taught,
is not the cultivation of any state whatsoever,
it is the practice of direct insight
into the mind.

Anzan Hoshin roshi says:

Thoughts, conceptions, all mental and perceptual activity are not considered to be obstacles to be overcome but are simply released into the sheer act of sitting with the whole bodymind itself.

So that is what you do.

You sit.

When you notice anything
and that can be a tendency to want to sort things,
a tendency to want to argue with yourself
about what's going on,
a tendency to try and distance yourself
from the sensations of the bodymind,
ANY tendency,
that is noticed
that is known,
is a known,
a dharma,
a moment of experiencing
nothing outside of that...

you are the Knowing of those dharma
or knowns
or moments of experiencing.

At the moment of knowing,
of waking up to the Reality of the presencing of that known,

feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind
in the whole moment,

practise what has been taught.

Now here's an interesting thing,
there are lots of sutras,
there are lots of Teachings,
we're used to studying,
we're used to reading and memorizing
and coming up with arguments for and against,

that is not what this practice is.

This does not mean that you cannot read and study and ask questions,
but when you're sitting facing that wall
and there's an argument going on,
unless you're speaking it out loud,
in which case someone might come and ask you to
come with them outside the room
because obviously you might have--
how can we phrase it nicely?
Forgotten yourself...

If you're not doing it out loud,
you're doing it to yourself,
that's discursiveness:
a thought,
a response,
as soon as you notice it,

feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind
actually practise.

Here's a question for you:
did the Buddha study a lot of sutras about the Buddhadharma?
What do you think?

[STUDENT]: No, Sensei.

And why would that be?

[STUDENT]: There weren't any.

That's right! [laughter]

Right on! There weren't those sutras
because people started only about 200 years after the Buddha had died
to record what they thought might have been said.
So there could be gaps.

Keep the practice simple:
read and study according to your inclination
because it can be fun,
you can understand a lot of things,
but recognize:

without sitting zazen,
without feeling the breath and the bodymind,
without sitting up straight and opening the eye gaze,
all at once,
wherEVER you stand,
you're not practising,
you're fooling yourself.

Why do you want to do that?
Well, because you're used to it, that's why.
So that can be helpful to know.
There is no problem.

Keep it simple.

Have fun with it,
release yourself into the vast expanse.

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 26: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 15

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, August 31st, 2013

Previously on "Wherever You Stand"
the commentary on Yoka daishi's "Shodoka",
we had the verse:

Men of the Narrow Path practise without compassion,
worldly scholars have knowledge but no wisdom.

Foolish, with wrong interpretations,
they miss the pointing finger of the empty hand.

Now you'll remember Yoka daishi wrote this verse
this series of verses
in roughly 712, 713,
it was an accumulation of what he had learned
over his years of pursuing study and practice
and various methods
and in the course of that
it is said that he did manage to
realize Awakened Nature
and this was confirmed when he came across his Teacher

The "Shodoka" was published in 713
which was the same year that Huineng died
and Yoka daishi was compiling
for future generations,
for future practitioners
what he had learned.

Roughly 500 years after Yoka daishi wrote the "Shodoka",
Eihei Dogen zenji came back to Japan from China
after practising, studying, and waking up
with his Teacher Tiantong Rujing,
and when he was asked by people what he had learned
and what he had brought back
he said:

Eyes horizontal, nose vertical, empty hands.

So again we have a reference from what was a future time
to Yoka daishi's "empty hand"
and "pointing finger".

It's interesting that even today
and maybe even today
students ask,
or even
for "something to deepen my practice,
like give me SOMETHING so that I can deepen my practice faster,
what have you got?
What can you give me?
What can you say?
Are we there yet?"

And the reality is,
now and ever has been
and ever will be...
that all students need to do to deepen their practice
is to... guess what?

[STUDENT]: Feel the breath, feel the whole bodymind.

To practise,
you're right,
to feel the breath,
to feel the whole bodymind,
open the peripheral vision,
feel the whole bodymind
wrapped around the breath in this moment.

So all you need to do
to deepen and mature your practice

No one can give you anything
that is going to do that for you.

Today's verse:

Mistaking the finger for the moon
their practice is confused
and they fabricate complexity with senses and objects.

So rather than noticing what's actually going on,
the Reality of this moment,
complete as it is
as it always has been
and as it always will be,
they confuse the pointers,
they confuse the teisho, the Dharma Talks, the instruction
with what is to be practised with that instruction.

We even go so far as to memorize quaint sayings
that when said
might make us appear to others to be very

Well, there's no such thing as "Zen-like",
this is from outside observers,
I mean my goodness,
there's such a growth of references
and they refer to everything
from recipes to decor to basketball playing,
it's everywhere, it's everywhere
and none of it is talking actually about practice.

points to
this moment
and what you can do
to practise
yourself in this moment
fully and completely.

You may be lost in something.
This is not a problem.

There may be thoughts.
Thoughts aren't the problem.

Nowhere does it say:
"erase all of these things, then you'll be able to practise".

At the moment of noticing,
of waking up from a thought
Feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
you're actually practising
that moment of waking up
and we all know that when we practise anything,
we get better at it.

So at the moment of noticing
anything at all,
practise that moment of noticing.

The "anything at all"
really can be
and you don't have to decide
whether this is an appropriate moment to practise or not
there are no inappropriate moments to practise.
You can do it in public!
[more laughter]
Around the dinner table,
on the toilet...
you notice
notice what's already there,
the breath and the bodymind.

So rather than paying attention,
attending to experiencing this moment,
we make up stories,
and referring back to the verse,
we want to accumulate objects
because THAT is really going to show what a great practitioner we are
because we have this bobble and this bit
and this piece of verse
and ooh ooh ooh look at that, a shoji screen,
well obviously, huh, obviously, we're very "Zen-like"...

We want to look at what is experienced and deconstruct it,
and make meaning out of it,
failing to notice that when we're doing that,
we're having a blossoming forth of
many many many thoughts,
it's so obvious when you actually notice it,
but we're used to taking our thoughts
very very seriously
and we're not used to looking at them
as fabrications of complexity when they're followed.

Yoka daishi is reminding us of that.

So all of the teisho, Dharma Talks, sho, oryoki, chanting,
all of them are fingers
at your practice
in that moment.

And only you can do your practice.

That's it.

It's up to you.

It's your life in this moment,
and it's kind of backwards to think that
if you memorize the pointings
that you are doing the practice.
Not so.

Remember: "painted cakes..."

Another verse:

When not one thing is seen, this
is the Realm of Reality as a Continual Presencing
and one is truly the Sovereign Seer.

So "when not one thing"
is focussed on
so that it becomes the "all"
we see that whatever it is
that one thing
that dharma
and we don't need to categorize
dharma are moments of experience
and that covers everything

and we see Reality
as this "Continual Presencing"
that is experienced by the whole bodymind.

And we are the Knowing of that
we are the Knowing of the experiencing of the bodymind.

And in that instance
the "Sovereign Seer"
of that moment of experiencing.

Another verse:

Understand the truth, and all conditional hindrances
are nowhere to be found;
not knowing true emptiness you worry
about debits and credits.

This is like a starving man turning down a
feast for a king,
or someone ill refusing the physician's prescription.

So we understand the truth of experience
and of experiencing
by experiencing it

we might as well,
it's going on

and we need do nothing
there is no effort required
there's just this open attention

and at the moment of noticing a movement of attention
towards one thing
feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind
practise that moment.

Now the mention of the "physician's prescription"
is an apt time for a reminder of the Four Noble Truths.

Why are they noble?
Well they're noble because they are true.

Why are there four of them?
There are four because in the time of the Buddha
doctors used a four-part formula for treating people
or four-part questioning.

What's the disease?

What's the cause?

Is there a cure?

What is the cure?

Now Yoka daishi would have been familiar with the Four Noble Truths,
of course,
they are basic
and the Four Noble Truths,
in our practice, are:

Experiencing that is conditioned causes suffering or dukkha or bad space,
basic unsatisfactoriness,
the "conditioned hindrances" referred to in the verse.

What's the cause of these conditioned hindrances?
grasping after a self,
moving attention toward arisings of experiencing
and grabbing onto them
and saying

"I need more of this, what's going on right now is basically unsatisfactory. If only... or when... THEN I'll REALLY be able to practise."

Is there a cure for this suffering,
for these conditioned hindrances?

Yes, there can be a cure,
there can be an end to it.

What's the cure?
Mindfulness practice.

Because when we practise at the moment of noticing anything
without discrimination
without saying
"well this is not so nice, so I'll practise here. THIS I like, so I'll just sort of sit with this for a while"

when we can accept that
ANY moment of experiencing
ANY moment
ANY dharma is a moment when we can practise.

The conditioned hindrances,
this tendency to want to grab onto basically anything
as if it were a lifesaver
wears out.

This takes as long as it takes
because it's a living bodymind
it's a very complex arrangement
of atoms into cells
and these are what transmit
or cause
or what the bodymind has learned to do
and it takes a while
for these neural networks and so on to change.

So change takes a while.
There's no magic potion that can accomplish this.

There is persistence
which in a way, these days,
is kind of a magic potion
you know people come two or three times,
they sit two or three times
and it's not all better,
so fuck it.

That's not how it works,
it's the persistence,
the zafu and your bum
have been referred to as a grindstone.

You sit there, grinding away
at patterns and habits
so it does take a while.

Another verse:

Practise Zen in this world of desires
like a lotus blossoming in the midst of flames.

Even Pradhanasura, although he broke the grave precepts
woke up to the Unborn and achieved his realization of the Buddha.

So we practise in this world
of passion, aggression, and stupidity,
that of ourselves
and that of others
and like the lotus,
which is a traditional reference to
the fact that practice can occur
no matter what is going on.

The lotus is rooted in mud
and it grows up through the water
and it blooms
regardless of what's going on,
it's a very sturdy plant
in fact, it's so magically mystical in a way,
that its leaves which float on top of the water
have a structure that sheds dirt,
keeps sort of self-cleaning
and this capacity has been picked up on,
studied by scientists,
and they're using it for material that is to be used in space
and so on and other uses.
That's interesting.

So it's revered as kind of an indestructible
or kind of a symbol of something indestructible.

So there you are practising
in the midst of the flames
of passion, aggression, and stupidity,
and sometimes it literally feels like that
when we're in a heavily contracted state.

Use it,
don't let it use you.

Now, who is Pradhanasura?
Well, it is said by some that a long, long, loooong, incalculably long time ago, he was a Bodhisattva, he was a monk. It's said he became the 133rd Bodhisattva in the Lotus Sutra.

Now, the story as recounted in the Sutra of Purifying Karmic Hindrances, was the Pradhanasura was a very handsome monk, very handsome. The daughter of a wealthy home fell madly in love with him and grew lovesick, pining away for him, in spite of having, or maybe because of having a fiance.

[O-sensei and students laugh loudly]

Thank you for listening.

Her mother, in desperation, sought out Pradhanasura and brought him secretly to the daughter and they were secretly married. Well the fiance found out, and enraged, said he would kill the monk.

Well, bad situation, so of course let's make it worse.

Pradhanasura passed poison to the girl and the story is that she did in her ex, soon to be late fiance. Pradhanasura because consumed with guilt about what he had done and was at his wits end.

Another Bodhisattva, Vikyaktala, told him "Don't worry, dude, I'll help you."

So, this Bodhisattva used mysterious powers to assemble a myriad of Buddhas who came together and chanted:

"All phenomena are like images in a mirror.
They are like the reflection of the moon in the water.
The confused minds of ordinary persons discriminate among delusion, anger and

Pradhanasura was deeply moved,
recognized he was not condemned by his past actions,
and needed to practise strongly and continuously.

It is said that he woke up,
achieved completely the "patience of the unborn",
the realization at all times
that our essential nature is empty
and intrinsically unstained and unborn.

So this was not like confession,
but rather he had, apparently,
a recognition that just because we've done something
does not mean that we are doomed to repeat it

and this is a very practical thing because
how many of us are faced with obstacles,
faced with things that we would like to do
and when the time approaches to do it,
"I don't know what happens, but I always do the opposite of this thing that I want to do!"

...as if there were some sort of mystical powers operating
pushing us towards whatever it might be.

That could be changing eating habits,
it could be studying,
it could be going for a walk
it could be doing the dishes.

"I want to do those dishes but when I look at them, something just pulls me away and I just can't"

...and it's become so prevalent,
this idea that we have to want to do something to do it,
that it's encoded in our DNA
and we have absolutely no way of overcoming it.

Well that's a crock.

We can learn to see clearly these patterns,
and although it might take a little effort,
a little willpower,
a little shamata,
the bodymind learns.

So, we CAN wear out these karmic
(as in cause and effect)
or "conditioned hindrances"
they can be

Having heard the Lion's Roar, the fearless teaching,
what will become of those who obstinately waver?

Breaking their precepts, losing their wisdom,
they ignore the open door to the Thus Come.

Once two monks, one who had committed sexual misconduct,
the other had taken life,
were condemned by Upali's flickering wisdom.

The great being Vimalakirti erased their doubts
like the sun melting frost and snow.

The inconceivable power to liberate beings
has activities numberless as the sands of the Ganges.

And that is where we will pick up next time,
number 27 in the "Wherever You Stand" series.

And wherever you stand,
lie down,
wherever you are
whatever you are doing
when you notice anything

feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind.

Takes no effort,
you don't have to think about doing it
it just starts to happen.

So thank you for coming today,
and thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 27: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 16

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, September 7th, 2013

Last time on "Wherever You Stand"
we had three verses for the closing:

Having heard the Lion's Roar, the fearless teaching,
what will become of those who obstinately waver?

Breaking their precepts, losing their wisdom,
they ignore the open door to the Thus Come.

Once two monks, one who had committed sexual misconduct,
the other had taken life,
were condemned by Upali's flickering wisdom.

Well, I did make the mistake of promising you details of sex and violence...

So, I couldn't find any,
well there's lots of sex and violence, let's face it...
but I couldn't find any explicit references to "two monks"
who had committed sexual misconduct
and murder.

The conclusion I came to, as a result of this investigation,
which would not hold up in any court,
is that perhaps,
it MAY be that what's being talked about
or who is being talked about is that monk,
Pradhanasura, that we met the last time.

He was the one who became the object of affection
of a lovesick girl
and the mother, you remember it,
the mother brought him in secret
and married him to the lovesick girl, etc., etc., etc....
so perhaps that is being referred to.
Could be.

Now who is Upali with his "flickering wisdom"?
Upali was another monk
and one of the ten chief disciples of the Buddha.
Apparently he was born into a family of the lowest caste
and he was destined to be a slave.

Outcasts at that time in ancient India
were not allowed to receive any education.
(It seems that, although change may be happening,
that on the whole may still be the case...)

When he grew up his parents asked him to learn the skill of cutting hair
to support himself,
so he became the barber of the princes in the palace.

Now that in itself is a little suspect,
but nevertheless,
the story is that Upali was 20 years old
when the Buddha returned to his home town, Kapilavastu.

Upali was recommended to give the Buddha a haircut.
The next day,
Upali's mother knelt before the Buddha and asked:
"Lord Buddha, what do you think of his skill?"

"He bows too low," replied the Buddha.

Upali straightened his back when he heard this.
It is said that by the mere fact of straightening his back
he attained the first stage of meditation.

After a while, his mother knelt down and asked the Lord Buddha:
"What do you think now?

"His body seems to be too straight," replied the Buddha.

When Upali heard this,
he concentrated his attention and it is said
that he attained the second stage of meditation.

After a while his mother asked Buddha again:
"Lord Buddha, what do you think of his skill now?"

"He breathes in too fast."

When Upali heard this, he concentrated his mind
on breathing in and breathing out.
It is said he attained the third stage of meditation then.

His mother asked the Buddha again:
"What do you think now?"

"Ah, he breathes out too fast," replied the Buddha.
[O-sensei is laughing]

Now some of you may have little flickers of recognition or memory
of perhaps practice interviews or daisan
when you felt like Upali;
nothing you could do would be right.

that's self-image that's coming up,
notice something like that,
it's a contraction into a sense of self
with a belief about how it is and how the world is.

What do you do?

Well, with this all-inclusive practice,
it falls into the category of ANYTHING:

feel the breath,
sit up straight.

Back to Upali, who now was mindful of breathing in and out.
It is said he attained the fourth stage of meditation.

We could learn from here that Upali was very attentive in his work,
he was strict with himself
and could listen to people's criticism with an open mind,
he was preeminent among those who knew the disciplinary rules by heart.

Upali observed every rule set by the Buddha.

Now are we talking about forms
or are we talking about rules?

Well, the way the story is set,
we're talking about rules.

So, this is not actually reflective of this particular practice,
where there are no rules,
we have forms.

Upali had his eye on all the practitioners,
all the monks,
and he knew all the disciplinary rules by heart.

For those who were careless in observing the rules;
Upali was the thorn in their flesh.
They even made things difficult for him.

The Buddha was very concerned and scolded them.
He gathered the people and told them the value of precepts.

The Buddha said that one who observed the precepts
was like a bright lamp,
those with pure mind would like the brightness,
whereas those with evil mind pervert darkness,
they didn't want their little habits and patterns to be seen,
even by themselves.

The Buddha told them they should have respect for people such as Upali,
who observed the precepts well.

Whenever anyone had a problem with what was going on,
or how something should be done,
they consulted with Upali.

When the Buddha died, Upali was in his 70s.
In the First Great Buddhist Council,
he was selected to summarize the rules of the order.

He humbly declined,
but Venerable Mahakasyapa insisted that he must participate in the Council.

He said to Upali:
"Venerable Upali, please do not decline our offer. The Lord Buddha had imparted the Fourteen Rules to you and you are preeminent among those who know the disciplinary rules by heart. Please recite the rules of the order now."

Upali accepted the offer.

When he recited the rules of the order,
he was able to say where, when, to whom, and why the rules were set.
His good memory was greatly admired by the participants
and I'm sure was a thorn in the side of many.

Upali was an outcast but enjoyed high prestige in the community of monks.
His success was a stimulus to people in distress.
His success symbolized the glory of equality in the Buddhist community.

So Upali was quite important, really,
if for no other reason than symbolizing the fact that
it didn't matter what you were born into,
you could practise,
it didn't matter what you had done,

when the past comes up it comes up as a memory,
which happens only and ever
in the present
and can be practised with.

So we can all remember that,
and as Dogen writes in the Fukanzazengi:

"It doesn't matter whether you're clever or stupid..."
... you can practise.

Going on to say:
It doesn't matter whether you are a man or a woman
or anything in between
it doesn't matter
ANYONE can practise,
regardless of the views they have of themselves
because a view comes up:
that's a moment when you can practise
and you MUST practise.

Now, Vimalakirti is mentioned in the next verse.

Vimalakirti is the central figure in the Vimalakirti Nirdesa sutra
which presents him as a great lay practitioner
and a contemporary of Gautama Siddartha.

There's no mention of him in Buddhist texts until after Nagarjuna.
It's argued that the Vimalakirti sutra was likely composed in India
in approximately 100 C.E.

So Vimalikirti has had a large influence.

The verse:

The great being Vimalakirti erased their doubts
like the sun melting frost and snow.

So Vimalakirti, this contemporary of Gautama Siddartha and Upali,
erased the doubts of the two monks
or the one monk
(who had committed two breaking of the precepts)
they were assured that the sun melting frost and snow
is a good metaphor for their doubts
melting like the frost and snow
with the Teachings.

The next verse:

The inconceivable power to liberate beings
has activities numberless as the sands of the Ganges.

You've often heard, I'm sure, "the sands of the Ganges"
as a representation of something that is so numberless
there are so many numbers of it
that it couldn't possibly be counted.

So anything that human beings do;
any activities that those who have liberated themselves
from the burning flames of passion, aggression, and stupidity,
and woken up to Reality as it actually is,
can and will and may engage in many activities
but whatever it is,
the activity can be used to practise the Way and liberate beings.

The next verse:

Making the four kinds of offerings,
even a thousand gold pieces would not be enough;

So donation, or dana, has played a large part in practice
since the beginning of practice.

The four kinds of offerings referred to are:
clothing, food and drink, bedding, and medicine.

Now offering food is one of the oldest and most common rituals of Buddhism.
Food is given to monks during alms rounds
and also offered ritually to tantric deities and hungry ghosts.

Offering food is a meritorious act
that also reminds us not to be greedy or selfish.

Now the first Buddhist monks did not build monasteries,
as we know, they were called "home-leavers"
because they left home
and they left all concepts of home behind,
home being defined as someplace where you could sit yourself down
on your ass basically
and have things done for you
or just do nothing,
where you can set up a little nest.

They were homeless mendicants who begged for all their food,
and that still goes on today in some communities,
particularly in Asia.
Their only possessions were their robe and begging bowl.

Today in many Theravadin countries like Thailand,
monks still rely on receiving alms for most of their food.
They leave the monastery early in the morning,
walk single file,
oldest first,
carrying their begging bowls in front of them.

Lay people wait for them,
sometimes kneeling
and place food, flowers, or incense sticks in the bowls.

Women must be careful not to touch the monks.

The monks don't speak
even to say "thank you".

The giving of alms is not thought of as charity.
The giving and receiving of alms creates a spiritual connection
between the monastic and lay communities.

Lay people have a responsibility to support the monks physically
and the monks have a responsibility to support the community spiritually.

The practice of begging for alms has mostly disappeared in Mahayana countries,
although in Japan monks periodically do takuhatsu.
Request: taku
Eating bowls: hatsu.

Sometimes monks recite sutras in exchange for donations.

Zen monks might go out in small groups chanting "ho"
which we all know is "dharma",
signifying that they are bringing the Dharma.

Monks practising takuhatsu wear large straw hats that partly obscure their faces.
The hats also prevent them from seeing the faces of those giving them alms.
There is no giver and no receiver,
just giving and receiving.
This purifies the act of giving and receiving.

Ceremonial offerings of food are a common practice.
The precise rituals and doctrines behind them differ from one school to another.
Food may be simply and silently left on an altar with a small bow,
or the offering might be accompanied by elaborate chants and full prostrations.

However it is done,
as with the alms given to monks,
offering food on an altar is an act of connecting with the spiritual world,
it also means to release selfishness
and open the heart to the needs of others...

And we've addressed that word "spiritual":
spiritual coming from the latin "spiritus"
coming from "the breath",
so we can say the practice of mindfulness,
feeling the breath,
feeling the whole bodymind
and opening to the infinite possibilities of reality
is what is being offered too,
because as that is done,
the mundane bullshit of passion, aggression, and stupidity,
and the habitual habits and patterns
that we human beings fall into can be
opened, and

And out of this can come the desire and the action
of opening the heart to the needs of others,
the recognition that we are not different from anyone else,
anyone else is not different from us,
the process of being a human being is the same for all human beings.

Not all human beings will take the responsibility
for looking into the moment to moment arising of experiences
or "dharma"
and, using the practice of mindfulness, practise,
feeling the breath
feeling the whole bodymind
opening to the full moment of Reality.

It's a common practice in Zen,
and we do it here,
to make offerings to the hungry ghosts,
and we've looked into,
in this series,
"hungry ghosts",
this depiction of the individual
who is consumed by grasping,
grasping after what?
Well grasping after anything other than what is going on for that person in this moment.

And you remember hungry ghosts:
big eyes,
big bellies,
long arms,
spindly fingers that can reach out for the impossible dreams
and a mouth so tiny
that nothing that it tries to grab onto
can be taken in.

An impossible situation,
but have we not all done it in one way or another?
Seeking to be different from how we are in this moment?

And that's the basic mechanism of self-image:
contraction into a sense of self
a belief about how we are
and the baseline story,
the common thread:
how we are in this moment needs to be some other way.

We get fooled by it over and over again,
we may even see the impossibility of it
but we fall for the dream
we've seen it so often
we've managed to feel the breath,
we've managed to open the whole bodymind to this moment
and we no longer believe whatever the story might be.
We see it as a flickering of a moment of experience
in the vast expanse.

So we do make offerings of rice or something from the meal
from oryoki,
we do that during sesshin and O-sesshin.
A small offering is placed in bowls
and taken out to the rupa on the front veranda.

Now again,
hungry ghosts represent all of our greed and thirst and clinging
the stuff that increases our hope,
our desperation,
our disappointments,
our sorrow,
our suffering...

We LOVE them!
We get juice from it!
Until we get so fed up,
we don't want to have juice from these things anymore.

It's not as if we went to the pattern store
and said:
"I'm going to take a gross of that desperate longing to be something other than what I am... And oh yeah, here, gimme two grosses of this where I know for sure that everyone else is doing better than I am. Oh and a few of those 'I'm the best there is' and an equal amount—well actually in reality, probably it's I don't know how many times more--'I'm worse at whatever it is than anybody else'"

So we stack these on our shelves,
and for the longest time
or the shortest time,
it depends
we identify with them.

What does 'identify with them' mean?
We allow them to control the choices that we make.

Now that's just stupid.

We are allowing the choices we make
to be determined by fantasies.

Back to hungry ghosts...

We can remember then,
big bellies,
long graspy fingers,
huge eyes,
tiny mouths

[in a whiny voice]
"Why does everybody else have...
If only I could...
Whine whine whine..."

Eventually we see it.
We feel the breath,
we feel the whole bodymind
and the power of that can just dissipate.

It's like putting a drop of ink in an ocean,
it disappears.
But if that drop of ink is put into one container
which is the size of a thimble,
it's going to be really black and dark.

So open to the Ocean of Reality,
open to the vast expanse,
let it go,
you don't need it.

Ask yourself when these things come up
and yes you're entitled to have a thought that asks something like:
"Do I really want to be this whiny desperate person?"

If you answer yes,
that's your business,
don't be surprised if when you call people to come out with you and do something,
they say "I'm sorry, I'm busy".
[O-sensei and students laugh]

And with the offering to the hungry ghosts;
it's left outside
and other beings will eat it up.

Here we feed other beings,
we have some of the fattest squirrels in the city, I'm sure,
fat, shiny,
we have birds that are fat and shiny,
so it's nice to see
that we can benefit beings,
and we can do that over and over and over again
in as many ways,
ways as numberless as the sands of the river Ganges.

reducing bones and body to dust could not repay
words ensuring a leap over numberless eons.

This is the supreme Sovereign Reality,
the experience of countless Thus Come Ones.

This is what Yoka daishi has offered up to us
with the Shodoka: The Song of Liberation,
a way of understanding the history of this particular Lineage,
a way of delving deeper into what is meant
and a way of actually simplifying practice.

Simplification is damn hard
we are so used to making things complicated.

We're so used to taking something we have heard or read,
some instruction about how to practise,
and then trying to turn it this way and that
with what we know already,
which of course reduces it
and believing that if we can have something
"in our own words"
that it is more true
"for me"
because after all
"I am separate from everything else".

That's what self-image does.
It says "I need to know in my own words what this means"
as if it is the only person in the whole history of practice
that has experienced what it is experiencing.

That is the essence of self-image.

It's not a problem;
it's a moment of experience
a dharma,
practise with it.

Next time, we will finish the verses,
and of course the emphasis will be on

So have fun with that!

Thank you for listening.

Wherever You Stand 28: Yoka daishi's (Yongjia) Shodoka: Song of Liberation part 17

by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

September 28th, 2013, Dainen-ji

Understanding what this precious jewel of mind is
I now transmit it to any who will receive it.

So Yoka daishi,
through his own experience,
through years of studying,
sometimes on his own,
through years of living in hermitage
until finally he met his Teacher,
who confirmed the fact that he had woken up to
the Reality of experiencing,
the understanding of what "this precious jewel of mind",
this precious jewel of bodymind actually is.

Now I mentioned briefly last time
a little statement that was made by Thomas Nagel
a university professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Law
at New York University,
the author of "Mortal Questions",
"The View from Nowhere"
"The Last Word"
and other books.

His statement: "Mind, I suspect, is not an inexplicable accident or a divine and anomalous gift but a basic aspect of nature".

So, what we've learned
and what we are practising
is the Reality
that bodymind is how anything at all is experienced
and what you are
and you
and you
what all of us are
are the Knowing of that experiencing.

At the moment of recognizing that Reality,
we can practise basic mindfulness,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
until eventually
that practice is who you are
and there is just
this moment
arising and falling
as this bodymind.

The next verse:

Seeing clearly, there is not one thing,
not man, not Buddha.

Simplify your practice.
Simplify yourself from struggle, complexity, and fabrication.
Practise this moment itself.

THIS moment.

Whatever arises within this moment:
getting caught up
in thoughts
and feelings,
feeling bad because you got caught up
and think,
well self-image thinks that:
"You shouldn't have..."

All dharma,
all moments of experience,
all moments to practise,
so it doesn't matter what the content is,
they're all dharma,
or moments of experience,
experienced by the bodymind.

You're the Knowing of them.

At that moment,
the clear seeing
that is self-evident in that moment.

Over time, the tendencies to get caught up,
and to describe ourselves
and limit ourselves and our experiencing
by random and chaotic moments of content,
does wear out.

Questioning with the whole bodymind into this moment
and over
and over
and over
and over
and over
one realizes
things as they are.

Your own bodymind,
his own bodymind,
her own bodymind,
is what experiences all dharma,
all moments of experience.

The bodymind,
body and mind
as one seamless moment of experiencing,
and there is a Knowing of each dharma.

At that moment of Knowing,
or Clear Seeing,
or Awareness,

...until all tendencies to move toward or away
from moments of experience,
from dharma,
and there is just Clear Seeing,
just Awareness itself
and you are freed from the bonds
of passion, aggression, and stupidity.

Who wouldn't want that?

Anyone here want that?
The passion, aggression, and stupidity, I'm talking about....

The worlds of the universe are like froth on the sea,
sages and wise men appear like lightening.

Even with a hot iron wheel burning on one's head,
great realized-practice will not be stirred.

If our practice is true practice,
complete practice,
moment-to-moment practice
with an open heart,
an open mind,
then we are practising with the whole bodymind,
practising with whatever is seen,
whatever is arising,
including expectations
that IF you were "worthy"
IF you were good at this,
then none of the uncomfortable or unsatisfactory feelings and thoughts
would be happening....

They are just part of the display of Awareness itself,
they are not who you are.

When you notice contraction occurring,
recognize that following
or allowing attention to follow
will only breed further contraction.

Just let it go.

It doesn't mean that there is going to be an instant switch
from feeling uncomfortable to a greater or lesser degree
to feeling all pollyannaish:
"This is great! The world's a wonderful place! Everything's so nice..."

Many awful things happen
and they can bite us and make us feel horrible.

The heart can be broken over and over and over again
by things that we see,
things that we experience,
and in that experience can sometimes be things that we do
that we regret.

No problem,
the moment you notice anything,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
practise this moment.

Practising the whole moment for just one moment,
and that moment is Buddha.

When your moment-to-moment practice
penetrates all moments,
when the whole bodymind is gyoji,
or continuous practice,
then at that moment,
all moments are THIS moment,
you will not,
be moved,
be stirred.

Even if demons can cool the sun and heat the moon,
they cannot obstruct the truth of these words.

Now it can seem as if there are demons sometimes,
you get into states,
get into worry,
get into worry about obsessiveness,
get into obsessiveness about worrying,
of judging and loving and hating...

Now it is interesting that the word "demon"
is often encountered in popular culture
as people deal with the things they are going through.

"She's just dealing with her demons."

That's not so bad,
but we can also recognize that in certain areas,
there's a devastatingly nasty reality to that
when people are treated for their "demons",
they are acted upon by others
with medieval rituals
to help them get rid of their demons,
and often serious injury or even death results from these things.

We're so antiquated...
but even today actual exorcisms are performed.

We're a pretty stupid species
and prone to believe the most unbelievable, unprovable things.

And that's no joke!

It's funny
but it's no joke.

Cause and effect arise moment to moment.
Karma: cause and effect,
is the continual shaping of who and what we are
based on our choices,
based on our localization,
based on our tendency to grasp,
to identify,
to live only part of our lives.

We wind up often severing ourselves into many pieces:
the social self,
the self we are when we are alone,
the bored self,
the hungry self,
the sleeping self,
the dreaming self,
all of these bits and pieces moment to moment.

Cause and effect
are created through and as this grasping
to have a solid and permanent self.

As soon as we see that,
feel the breath,
feel the whole bodymind,
practise that moment of clear seeing
and the tendencies will wear out.

As Anzan Hoshin roshi said,
and I've quoted before:
"If our practice is true practice, complete practice, moment-to-moment practice with an open heart, an open mind, then we are practising with the whole bodymind."

Back to Yoka daishi's verse:

When an elephant-drawn carriage moves
can a praying mantis block its passing?


Elephants cannot fit into a rabbit's tracks,
enlightenment cannot be circumscribed.

Don't abuse the ultimate with narrow views.

Now this doesn't mean that you cannot have views, thoughts,
whatever the content,
it's a thought.

There's no instruction given that says:
"don't have thoughts"
but sometimes students have said:
"I'm having thoughts, this isn't working, I don't know how to practise."

Those are thoughts.

Feel the breath, feel the whole bodymind.
Nowhere does it say
"don't have thoughts".

Thoughts are the fuel for practice,
they're dharma,
they fall in with all the other dharma experienced by the bodymind,
breathing in and out,
they're the fuel,
they are all the fuel of practice.

When you notice anything
ANY experience of the bodymind whatsoever,
Moment of clear seeing!
Practise at that moment.

The last line from Yoka daishi:

If you are not yet clear, this Song gives the key.

All of this instruction was packed in a doka or song,
"The Song of Liberation"
"The Song of Freedom" by Yoka daishi.

He was born in 665
and died in 713.
He was only 48 years old.
He died in the same year as his Teacher Huineng.
Huineng was the Teacher who recognized
that through years of effort and study,
Yoka daishi had woken up.

He met Huineng and received Transmission,
received confirmation that that was indeed the case.

Yoka daishi became a Tendai monk at eight,
he studied the Teachings, the sutras, the commentaries,
all of which led him to the necessity of actually practising
actually sitting zazen.

He built himself a hermitage,
he practised alone for many years,
practising shi guan, the union of shamata and vipasyana,
and he took up Chan sitting:

Yoka daishi took to wandering,
as did many,
he stayed overnight,
met Huineng,
and the Master gave him Transmission.

One night,
one moment of Transmission,
one moment of true entry
based on the moment-to-moment practice
that Yoka daishi had made in hermitage,
walking, reading, meeting various Teachers,
moment-to-moment practice
until his practice was

He gives it to you now.

Best advice:
keep it simple.

Any time you notice
anything at all,

feel the breath
feel the whole bodymind

Thank you for listening.