Continuous Practice

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Shuso talk

AI Summary: 



Good morning. Can you hear me in the back? No. The light says on. Can you hear me? Better now? Yes, yes, there we go. We have lift off? Thank you. Yeah, there? Okay, thank you very much. First, I want to thank everyone for making the added effort to help me accommodate my body a little bit in the practice here. So, thank you very much. So, this is day three of our five-day session to end our practice period. And it's been a particularly marvelous practice period, obviously for me, but I think the energy in this practice period has been very strong.


To come and sit in the mornings and evenings and have 30 or so people there through the entire practice period has been marvelous. And you can feel our energy here as we've reached the midpoint of this machine. I think during this practice period from having talked with you all during TEAS that there's been a lot of questions that have been raised and answered. I think maybe we'll leave practice period with more unanswered questions and our own koans than what we came into it with, which is, I think, a marvelous practice period. The question, though, is what happens on Monday when practice period is over? How do we continue our practice when we go back to our regular schedules and the usual feeling that we have here, which is so wonderful, but it's different. So, that's what I


wanted to talk about today. The title of this talk is something like Continuous Practice Living in Vow in the Three Minds of Practice. There's an actual Dogen writing on the idea of continuous practice called Gyoji. It's actually two facsibles of the Shobo Gensan. It's the longest piece of work that he did. It's very accessible and pragmatic. Gyo means continuous and ji means to practice or to maintain. To maintain or to protect. The way of maintenance is talked about somewhat, and actually both are, but maintenance, we can get an idea for these stories. What Gyoji is, is really a series of stories about the ancestors' lives and their fortitude in the way in which they continued practice.


I'd like to read one of them and comment on it slightly. The first ancestor in China came from the West as directed by Master Prajnatara. It took him three years to reach China by sea. He surely experienced innumerable hardships, including storms and blizzards, and faced great dangers sailing on the wide open ocean. Despite those difficulties, he managed to arrive in an unknown country. Ordinary people who hold their lives dear can't even imagine doing such a thing. To stop here for a minute, this may seem quite extraordinary, something quite outside of our own lives, to travel the sea of China for three years through blizzards and storms, but I'd posit that in our own way, we all practice like this. We all face great difficulty, that which seems insurmountable. Whether it's losing a job or going through a divorce,


facing difficult health issues for yourself, expecting a new child, all of these are great difficulties that we come across in our life, and yet we're called to continue in our practice. So we're not so different from the ancestors. Dogen continues, this way of protecting and maintaining practice, Gyoji, stemmed from his great compassion and his vow to transmit the Dharma and save deluded beings. He was able to do it because he himself was the Dharma self of transmission, and for him the whole universe was the world of transmitting Dharma. He did it because he understood that the whole ten direction world is nothing but self, and the whole ten direction world is nothing but the whole ten direction world. Well that sounds a little bit like Dogen, and maybe it seems a little bit different than our lives too, but I want to go back to where he says


he was, he, his vow to transmit the Dharma and save deluded beings. Now we may think that that's something that really is only what people like Sojin and Hozon do, but actually everyone here in this room does that. If you've settled into practice for a little while, you find the way in which you live your life and you interact with other people is different. The way in which you take care of things is different. And people notice it. People notice it. One of my patients said to me last week, we were talking about how I wasn't going to be at work this week, and I said something about where I actually was. And she said, Oh, I always knew you were different. That too is true. But she meant it in a positive sense. So that's true for all of you.


I would say that everyone knows that something's a little bit different. So that everyone here in their own way transmits the Dharma to save deluded living beings. Well, those are the four bodhisattva vows that we take. And they seem really rather enormous and kind of impossible. And they have, for me, seem like there's something kind of outside of myself. How could I possibly do that? But when you look at them, when I look at them, the four bodhisattva vows are really about ourselves first. Beings are numerous, I vow to save them. Those are, as Huey Nung said, the sentient beings of our own mind, our own deluded nature, our own karmic tendencies as they arise over and over again. The delusions are endless. Well, there we are. And the Dharma gates are just


the enlightenment that comes by entering in, by being willing to face that. And we vow to live Buddha's path. So in a way, as we enter into that more deeply, we see self and other as not separate. The personal life becomes the universal life. And we are able to extend out and see the way in which our lives are a part of everything. Much as Bodhidharma did. Sojin says that the maintaining, said a couple of days ago, that maintaining practice or continuous practice is doing it moment in time, moment by moment by moment. This is the continuous time of just doing what's in front of us. But we're reminded when we go out of the schedule of sushin that we actually also live in discontinuous time. The past, the present, and the future all at once. And how do we maintain that? Kagiri Roshi says it in a


lovely way. He says that the four bodhisattva vows and the vow to practice is simply to live each moment wholeheartedly. I think they can be summarized that way. This living our personal life as a universal life is to live each moment completely. If the alarm goes off, you get in, get out, walk across the floor and go to the bathroom. Flush the toilet and brush your teeth. To do each of those activities with awareness in a wholehearted way. This is the ordinary mind of non-sense. Slowly by paying attention, this becomes a healthy habit. A healthy habit is to leave sushin. Now we think about going back to leaving our protected container here and going back into our lives and getting re-submerged in the habits of


our lives. The habits mean, habit by definition means unconscious patterns of behavior or established mind or character. So it's our karmic mind really. It's that which we're pulled around by. That we have some insight into. Maybe if we sit here still enough or long enough, we see those things. When we get on the outside again and our lives start speeding up, we may not be so aware. The one that's most active for me that I think about a lot these days is how I am in relationship to my computer. Those of you who interact with me as a coordinator know that I'm always on the computer. And when I'm at work, I have a little screen in the bottom of it that says, my Gmail tells me how many messages I have in my inbox. And I go back to my desk between patients and I see how many messages. And out of some combination of anxiety


and longing, I'm always tempted to open up that inbox and see which of you has written me. And what do they want? Right? So this is a habit. It's an unconscious behavior and not one that I have complete control over. Or not even always the intention of relating to differently. I don't think that's what category means when he talks about doing each thing wholeheartedly, moment after moment. But he may be talking... Yeah, he has something else. But we do have our routines. And routines are a necessary part of life, just as memory


is a necessary part of life. You have to have a memory to know who you're waking up to in the morning and where you're going to when you head to work and how you'll take care of things. Routines are a necessary part of life, too. And they're not a necessary evil. They're actually a really quite helpful way to structure our lives, to be able to take care of things. It helps me take my medications when I'm supposed to and to get to the gym. When you set your alarm at 4.50 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or whatever days you intend to come here, it helps you get to the Zenda. So routines are actually really worthwhile. Category says if you want to change your life, form routines and keep them small. Pay attention to one little thing after another. I think of it a little bit like Groundhog Day. You know, you get to


do it over and over and over again. Not because you're wanting to get it right, but because as you get over and over again, you see it in different ways. You appreciate what it is that you're doing. You understand how a certain coloring of your mind on one day or another has an impact on how you do. When you screw the toothpaste cap back on at an awkward angle, or when you left it on the sink all together, you have a different feel for the way that toothpaste lays in your hand. On to those details of life, you have some sense of your relationship of yourself to other things and to other people. You pay closer attention. Living in vow isn't to satisfy our individual desires. Often, those are habits, but they can be routines of a sort, too, to act out of our own


personal wants. But actually, when you begin to pay attention to the small things, and the small things manifest themselves to you, your personal life becomes more of a universal life. You see yourself in a larger context. New desires we see, they don't become as prominent. At least that's the experience that I have of things. You notice how life changes and how you, I can say for myself, become a peaceful and more harmonious and easier to get along with person. And as the habits cease, the bad habits aren't watered so much, you find that new routines and new habits take over. Not so many months ago, I began darning my socks again. That's something that I did a long time ago and I did in part out of necessity and in part because I don't like throwing away


things. So, darning socks, repairing my underwear, patching holey pants and t-shirts has become a regular part of what I do. And I can't tell you how good it feels to me. It feels, I don't need so much when I keep the things I have around longer. I don't yearn for so much. I don't find my mind distracted by wanting things unless I want them the same way. And in some way, you may think this is a little bit of a stretch, but I realized as I was preparing this talk that in some way I feel closer to the polar bears. I'm moved greatly by the suffering of animals, I think because animals are so pure in their way in which they live and suffer so greatly as an impact on human behavior. And the images of the polar bears


becoming threatened because of the greed and delusion of humans really moves me. But when I need a little bit less because I take care of what I have and my desire energy is damped down, I feel more intimate with them. It's similar when I resist a negative attitude or feeling that I have, a kind of crankiness of mind or irritation when someone cuts me off in a freeway or I have three people huddle all around me all asking things of me at once at work. When I resist that kind of negative reaction but just open to it, to not know what's really happening, to just respond instead of react to what's really happening. I somehow feel like I'm creating less discord in the world and that has some small impact you might even say on world peace.


It certainly does in my immediate environment. And as Suzuki Roshi says, really our practice is to polish one small corner of the world and if we all do that something very tangible shifts. So the feeling of having enough and the feeling of being more generous is also what happens. I eat only what I need to eat. I don't buy all the little extra things that I like all the time and I keep my portions moderate so I have a little extra money left over from my food bills at the end of the month and I can write a small check to give away to charity of some kind. And that feels really good. I have less, I have a little less, but I feel like I have a whole lot more and I feel more connected with things just by paying attention to what it is that I really


have and what I really need. Another experience that we have in Zendo is the feeling of intimacy. It's funny how you can practice next to someone for ten years and never know that they used to body build and get into their black leather pants and sequin tops and go out to the bars and go dancing. But we all have I don't know if you can hear me. But we all have that part of ourselves that really none of us know so we don't know so well about each other but we in another way know each other very well. One meaning of intimate or intimate is to make subtly or indirectly known and when we practice


next to each other we know each other very well. We know the people who tend to be angry or irritated the people who tend to try too hard to be too nice the people who are sleepy for whom it's coming to practice and showing up. We know a lot about each other really and it's extremely intimate and one of the things that we miss sometimes when we leave an intense Sachine experience or we leave for practice period and go back to the regular rhythms of practice here is that kind of intimate connection that essential innermost connection that relating in a way that's indicative of our deepest nature. It's interesting that the kanji or the character for intimate is parent or as in parental as in parental mind which along with magnanimous


mind is one of the three minds of practice. Parental mind is the mind that essentially knows what to do. That's available in a wholehearted complete way without asking. That responds without anything extra added that any effortless effort that was instructing about. That's parental mind. I think the heart of our work is becoming intimate with that parental mind. It's being willingness it's being willing to get to know all of our own feelings as they arise through the six gandhas and to not turn away from them. That's the genjo koan to study the self and to allow the ten thousand myriad things to come forward. It's also in our metta prayer that we recite on Wednesday after dance and I saw this again for the first time


as I was preparing this talk because I think it's so essential so to say may I know and be intimate with body, mind, whatever it's feeling or mood, calm or agitated, tired or energetic, irritated or friendly, breathing in and out, in and out, aware moment by moment of the risings and passings. May I be attentive and gentle towards my own discomfort and suffering. May I be attentive and grateful for my own joy and well being. May I be attentive and gentle towards my own discomfort and suffering. I think that's really what we're called to do when we sit here together in sashi. Whether it's the pain in the knee or the back, the con of the crows and the heavy breathing of the person next to you. Whether it's the incessant thoughts or worries that keep creeping into your mind. Whatever


that suffering is, it's being willing to open up to it completely and be willing to meet it. There are times you might not be able to go through it but you can meet it and you can examine the edge of where you intersect with that opening. I'm reminded of there are two really good stories here but maybe the easiest one is a time when I was driving along some years ago and I had the radio on in my car and there was a story about all the people who were starving to death in the Sudan at that point and I saw my hand reach to the radio volume and to turn it off. And I thought what's that? Oh, oh that. Oh that. I can't bear that much suffering in the world right now. I just can't take another news broadcast like that and I wanted


to keep it outside. Well that's what I could do and that's still all I can do sometimes but I'm aware and I'm willing to ask what? What is that? What's happening right now that I'm open? Sometimes I'm not. Another friend talked about a retreat that he was on at the Insight Meditation Society. They do a 90 day retreat and they did it during a time of year that was very rainy. The walking meditation there is an outdoor walking meditation you do by yourself. So you walk back and forth over the same say 20 feet mindfully. And when it was raining on this concrete path he was walking on, all the earthworms would come out. And there were so many, many earthworms there was no way to walk his walking meditation without stepping on them. It was important to him.


And so he would take a tiny step and pick up one and move it. Take another tiny step and pick up the next one and move it. And continue on like that. But at some point he found he just couldn't do it anymore. He just couldn't keep bending over and picking up those earthworms. He didn't judge himself. I'm sure he'd go walking on them. But he didn't judge himself. He just said, oh, this is what I can do now. And just allowed himself to open, to hold that possibility that he couldn't and the same possibility that he could. Suffering never goes away. Perhaps we come to practice hoping that it will, but actually it never goes away. In fact the deeper into practice I go the more I see my egocentric self and in a way how


inevitable it is that I am who I am. But as I soften to that and accepted it, I don't mean to be complacent but I mean see it for what it is. I can see the suffering of others. I can see how intimate my problems are with the problems of others are and how intimate my karmic tendency is with theirs. There's a way in which I become more porous to the suffering of others and I think that that's part of what happens when you develop a tender heart the longer that you practice. I don't mean porous in the way of being not boundary to put it in psychological terms. I certainly have had that as a difficulty in my life but I don't think it is as much at least as it used to be. But there's a kind of porousness that both allows my suffering


to come and go and allows the suffering of others to pass through and pass out to be completely accepted for what it is and to allow completely to leave but not unattended to. That's the kind of porousness that as you deeper into practice and you first your heart open that you can allow in. The secret in this and I don't think it's a secret to anyone here is that that's the same way the joy comes. That the great impersonal joy, the great joy of the world comes and goes in the way that suffering does as well. It used to be that I had a great deal of sadness and I'd say angst about being single and I would envy couples when I would see them together in couples with families or coming from large families. But something's changed over


the last few years and that's not really true for me anymore. I still miss companionship but I don't suffer. Instead I see people together and I feel enormous joy. I have some sense of the intimacy and happiness and it's my happiness as well. I think maybe many of you, all of you have some experience like that and know that suffering and joy really turn on the same thing. It's the opening of our parental mind and the joyful mind of our practice that comes through living with vow. I think this is why we bow. I know it's what helps me to bow. It's a sense of humility that I am the limited and vast person that I am and that I live in the same world that is filled with suffering and filled with joy.


We bow to surrender. I know not everyone likes that word but I'm really very fond of it. Surrender means a complete giving oneself up. It's not so different from the word commit. Commit can mean to give oneself up to another for safe keeping. Surrender is to give oneself up and if we practice we give ourselves up to the safe keeping of the triple treasure. This is what we do together when we bow. We bow to each other and we bow fear and in our heart line we bow to others as we walk down the street and take care of the world. I'd like to end with a favorite poem of mine. Kosho Uchiyama, after he retired as Abbot of Taiji, spent the last ten years or so of his life writing about and studying life and death and wrote several poems about life and death.


This is the last one he wrote from the day that he died. It's called Just Bow. Putting my right and left hand together, I just bow. Just bow to become one with Buddha and God. Just bow to become one with everything I encounter. Just bow to become one with the myriad things. Just bow as life becomes life. So I think that's what it is that we do here in Tsushima and what we do here when we practice wholeheartedly. Just bow as life becomes life. So I'd like to end by saying this is the last time that I'll speak up here in this way and holding the position of shuso. It's been a real pleasure. I want to thank people for sharing so intimately


and the tease and for practicing so sincerely and so hard. I've had a wonderful time. Before I open it up to questions in the few minutes that we have, I wonder if Sojin Roshi has anything he would like to add. Thank you for your talk. In the beginning of your talk, you talked about maintenance and maintaining. I think they're two different things. I mean, I think of them as two different things. Maintenance is like a janitor. That's good. Maintaining is like taking care of something and maintaining it so that it never stops. But if a janitor does what he does fully taking care of things, care for them completely, isn't he maintaining them? That's right. When I first came to the Berkeley window, I


thought I was a janitor. So I worked my way up. So we should start as janitors also. But I do want to say that there will be a shuso ceremony Sunday and all of the people in the back rooms are required to come and ask the shuso a question. The shuso will respond to your question, which doesn't mean that you should expect an answer. This is not like inquiring about something that you know who gave this to me. It's coming together, just mind your own, and see what happens.


So, prepare a nice question for the shuso. Give her a challenge that will create a challenge. Who asked you to talk? Ding. Well, I want to say I thoroughly enjoyed you being the shuso. I've been waiting for it. Glad you finally got it together on that one there. I've been waiting for it, so I'm really glad. I've really, really enjoyed it. And now, your talk, you started off where you talked about being different and how we are different when we start practicing. I'm kind of wondering, well, we're different because we're different every day. We're always just different than we were whenever. But I'm wondering if, I mean, I'm kind of not sure


how much of it is that if, for example, if I or you or anyone, if I have a more tender heart now than I did ten years ago as opposed to, I feel like what this practice has done has given me the means, methods, whatever, of how to live with the tender heart or how to manage all the stuff. So I don't, I think I've become more of who I am. I don't know that I've changed except that we're always changing. So I kind of feel like I've become more of who I am because this practice has given me a really big vehicle to be that and not be devastated by whatever it is. I actually think that's exactly right. That through practice we become more of who we really are and we have, not the skills, but you just have the stability. You have the self-confidence to know yourself.


To be able to accept the circumstances that come up in life and not be blown around by them. So that you can hold your own internal ground and open to everything in a different kind of way. Kind of like the idea of not being too different than I used to be. Don't change, please. Catherine, hi. Thank you for this talk. I found it really moving and disappointing. I'm like, so just yesterday, yesterday has been very hopeful and healing. I've been having some heavy grief and I've noticed what you were saying about routines and how valuable they are, which I appreciate. And wholeheartedness, which is very much a part of my life. And maintaining this kind of constant awareness, which is very much a part of my life. And I've noticed a distinction that's happening, or that happens constantly. Let's just go back to the cap of the toothpaste.


I think it's possible both in practice, sitting in the window, and also when you're trying to maintain practice in life, to use that fine attention to detail and that sort of just focus in, that same point of focus, to block out statements. And I noticed this morning, fixing my breakfast, knowing that I was coming here, which is, like a letter from Jesus says, we awaken not simply. That I was aware I was going through the motions which is a very routine thing that I do every day during my spring break. And I was that much more aware that I was hugely anxious. And I stopped and I inquired. I didn't just close it out, or let it go, or no, I stopped, because I was facing anxiety.


And it comes from the loss that I suffered, and that sense that grabs you, that, how could this have happened if I had done things right? You go back into a sort of childhood, if I could just get it right, you know, and somehow I didn't get it right, and so I lost my daughter-in-law, and I broke up with a lover, whatever, you know. So, knowing, just stopping and really investigating and knowing what that feeling was, was very important and very great, and it seems to me that that's what Maria's saying, and she's saying that we tend to, so I think we always have to be careful what we're doing in our routines, mindfully, that we don't get the notion that mindfully we're already paying attention to this thing that we're tasting our whole being in this moment. I think that's really beautifully put, and I quite agree with you.


It's really rather, the small attention to detail, like with the toothpaste cap, is really rather like breath. When you sit soz in, sometimes when your mind is so active, or you have so much severe pain, you know, the only way you can round yourself so you can stay still is to come back to the breath and be entirely in the breath. Sometimes our routines clean your house in troubled times. Sometimes the routines are just very grounding, and you can use them skillfully as a way just to stabilize yourself, but it's not to stay there. It's to let everything in, and that's the other side of being intimate with what's happening. So, if you know that you're ungrounded, you're putting the toothpaste cap on carefully, aware of, this is helping me ground, not blind, excuse me, in a different way this practice period, but not absentmindedly, or


not intentionally as a way of excluding, but with awareness about what you're doing. Denise? I love the intimacy that you express about the feelings of the polar bears. I really have some of those shared feelings. One of the things that has just emerged for me around practicing here has to do with a bigger picture of Buddhism. When I was in Asia one time I was watching the sun set and the moon rise, and I remember really getting that all of sudden practice was about people becoming really good mothers. And what I mean by that is that compassion, and I don't mean that it's a gender specific


thing really, but love and compassion, and that is really what a really great mother has. And I'm not saying that men don't have that. And I've noticed that we're all in a spectrum of gender role, where we end up on the spectrum of gender, and that's not about gender preference, but the whole issue of gender. And the issue that seems to be kind of up for me right now is this one of how in some practices places, there's a masculinization of women in the practice. The men are not asked to shave their heads and, I mean, grow their hair and put on earrings. The women are asked to shave their heads and take off their earrings. And it's not about the external thing, it's about the


masculinization in general. And I'm really being kind of triggered by that right now. I want to become more of who I am as a feminine creator. And less of a masculine. I've been a masculine my whole life. I've been done my shoe work, I've gone trees, I've done my airplane skis, water skis, everything. You know, I've done those things. I want to be more of the feminine. And I notice that in this particular place, and not only this place, there's a masculinization of women and a sort of sublimation of that while at the same time trying to aspire to the same qualities that actually the feminine has routinely had. So I asked you about this, and I don't really expect it to be the whole end of a question. And I'm sorry if I bother anybody, because at the same time I hope I stimulate you. You know, this is really what's up for me. May I ask you a question to clarify for myself?


So, I appreciate the question, and it may very well be something that we talk about in an open discussion or something like that. But I'm curious, you said it's not so much about the hair, shaving heads, it's not so much the external, but it's more the internal. Did I hear that correctly, or what did you mean by that? I said that, and I don't mean it absolutely. In some ways I am. I shave my head for months and months in Asia. For me, it's something about the culture has a level of hatred towards women. At least when I was growing up, it was more obvious. It's not as obvious now. And it's like, in some way, we use our same practice to still equilimate that part of our personality as women. And I'm just having a really strong discomfort around that. I don't want to run the other way. I'm trying to understand the part of the personality that needs to be


sublimated. It's that culturally in this practice, we're taking on and making sure there's no semblance of us being feminine or female. That's the way I see it. I mean, that's oversimplification. I like to use the word, and nothing I'm going to say through my mouth is going to exactly hit upon it. But I'm trying to say that it's something that's up for me. It's just part of who I am. It is something maybe that we'd like to talk. I'd certainly like to have a longer conversation than what we can have here. But I understand about hair, and I understand about clothing. I don't understand about some of the other feminine qualities. I feel like I just gave a talk that was very womanly, if you will. There's a lot of emotion and feeling and heart and intimacy in it. That was just one small experience


right here, right now. I would be very interested in a conversation to hear what the different features are to understand better, because I've noticed some heads nodding in agreement as you were talking, so I think that there's more room for conversation. Okay. [...]