The Good Friendship of Shitou, Matsu and Yaoshan
It’s part of the friendship thing that you don’t decide all by yourself what you’re going to deal with. Like somebody comes to the teacher and says, “Give me these teachings.” “Not that one. This one”. Then the teacher in a friendly way, responds to that and sometimes it’s quite dramatic, the friendly response to the student instructing what teachings will be given. Sometimes it’s like… This is another funny story. I think it’s funny. You haven’t heard it yet. The Buddha was talking to one of his great disciples, Shariputra. Shariputra was asking about the Buddha’s before Buddha. The Buddha said there’s six before me. He told him a little bit about the six. He says all six when they met people they were able to interact with them and basically they were able to set the stage for the people to enter wisdom. They could all do that. Not necessarily instantly but anyway that’s what they could do. They could meet people and set the stage through the relationship for them entering into enlightenment. They could do that. They all could do that. They were Buddhas. They could do it. They could teach. But three of them, their dharma after they passed away, their Dharma didn’t last very long. And three of them, their Dharma lasted a long time. And Shariputra said to Shakyamuni Buddha, “Well, what was the difference between the ones that were short-lived after their departure and the ones that lived long?” And he said the ones that gave the ethical precepts lasted long. The ones that didn’t, didn’t last so long. They could enlighten people and some of their students then could enlighten others but the ones who could enlighten others who could enlighten others who could enlighten others, those more long-lasting transmissions of the wisdom teachings were together with the ethical precepts also being transmitted. And the Buddha said it’s like piling up stalks of wheat or stalks of rice. If you lean them together, they’ll stay up for awhile but eventually the wind will blow them down. But if you tie them together, they can stay up longer. It’s kind of like that. Then Shariputra said to the Buddha, “Well then, the Lord should give these precepts.” And the Buddha said, “I will decide when to give them.”. He didn’t say, “How dare you instruct me”. He said, “I will decide when to give them.” Then Shariputra says, “When are you going to give them”. And the Buddha says, “I will give them when the community gets so big that people can’t really be close to me anymore.” And when we get so many, develop so many facilities., when people give us so many retreat spots that it’s just too big for people to know what to do. Then we will set up procedures and regulations about how to behave. And when it did get big, and it did get big, then he started to establish some ethical precepts. When people are close to the great teacher they don’t veer off from ethics. The presence of compassion and wisdom make it very easy to be a good girl and a good boy. I saw that, you know. Suzuki Roshi wasn’t necessarily equal to Shakyamuni Buddha but he was good enough so that when we were near him we weren’t smoking dope, we weren’t abusing sexuality, we wouldn’t steal anything. We might try to steal his time actually, but then he would point out to us that that wouldn’t be good to steal his time. If we tried to get more attention than our neighbor he would kind of show us how silly that was, that actually we should help our fellow students get his attention rather than get it all for ourselves. Somehow that could get conveyed by his presence. But some of us, about fifty feet away from him would do things he would think we never would do because he only saw us when we were close. Right? And we were good girls and good boys when we were close. But some people, not too far away from him would do unwholesome things. So as the community gets bigger and people get farther from the teacher, they need some rules, like “no marijuana in the monastery, no alcohol, no heroin, no cocaine.. and if you get outside be careful too please.” And then other certain policies were necessary because it was a big community and when they weren’t in his presence they would kind of get disoriented. Same with the Buddha. In the presence of the Buddha there was very little.. Fortunately there are a few examples of people, even in the presence of the Buddha still wanted to do unwholesome things. Like somebody wanted to kill him. Two people wanted to kill him, at least. So even in the presence of the Buddha some people still do need some instruction in precepts. And he gave it. So nobody did kill him.
Q. I’m thinking we’re all cells in the body of Buddha. So many faces (etc.) reflecting the same vibration.
A. We’re all cells in the body of Buddha or you could say, we’re all in one cell in the body of Buddha and inside of our cells are many Buddhas. In each cell of our bodies, there are many Buddhas , many Buddhas in whom are the cells of innumerable beings and so on. That’s the situation. Inconceivably wonderful.
Q. I thought about our marrow and coming from that authentic place.
Q. You’ve been talking about friendship between people who are practicing the Way. What about.. how does that work with someone who is practicing the way and someone who is not.
A. Well, the person who is practicing the way offers good friendship and some people are not interested. Like I said before. I offered it to him and he wasn’t interested. I offered him good friendship. (Referring to an earlier story about a very good student who wanted an exception.) “Probably the best thing for you is to follow the same procedures as ordinary people do follow. Everybody else.. I followed that procedure. Why don’t you try it too?” Actually I didn’t follow that procedure because when I went to Tassajara there wasn’t that policy yet. That policy developed because people went to Tassajara and being unprepared they had a really hard time and quit. So at the time I went.. Anyway, I was trying to be a good friend to him and he wasn’t really interested in that kind of friendship. He wanted to be special and be treated differently from the ordinary students. For me to go along with that would not be good friendship. That’s not the friendship of someone who is practicing the Way. Someone who is practicing the Way does what is good for the person rather than what is good for their fame or something. That’s not good friendship. But that’s the friendship some people like. That’s not good friendship. That’s the friendship of somebody who is not practicing. And I often thought, how come.. I knew Suzuki Roshi was offering friendship to some people and I couldn’t understand why they weren’t there receiving it. I knew he wanted to give it to them. I said, “Why aren’t they here?” They were not availing themselves of his friendship as much as they could have. So, it’s offered but people who don’t want it, they don’t want it.
Q. I’m asking more about in my neighborhood, I seem to be around a lot of people who it seems to me like are not practicing the Way and I don’t want to separate myself from them.
A. No be friendly to them. don’t separate yourself from them. Be friendly to them. But not in a way that is not a good friend. A lot of people if you’re a friend to them in a way that’s not a good friend, they are not interested in you. And you accept that. You accept that you’ll be a very unpopular person in your neighborhood. Possibly. And you don’t do things so that you’ll be popular. You can do things to please people but sometimes you do things to please people but you don’t care if they like you for doing it. You can do things to please people and they don’t even know you did it. But you still wanted to please them. Not necessarily that you wanted to do something that they would find pleasing so that would like you better or even know you did it. Did you see that story in the NYT about the hundreds of people, or anyway lots and lots of people, who were involved in somebody getting a kidney transplant or something. Did you see that? This person needed a kidney transplant form someone but that person couldn’t give it to them. And it showed the line of people who gave donations that finally brought around the donation to this person. This person didn’t know all the people who made it possible for this final transmission to occur. So you may do things in your neighborhood that no one knows you’re doing. You’re totally devoted to people in your neighborhood but none of them know that they’ve got a good friend in you. And you are not concerned about that. If you’re this kind of good friend, you don’t care if nobody knows that you’re being a good friend. They will eventually need to know that they have a good friend. But actually it may be that they know somebody else is a good friend that you have enabled that person to be a good friend to them. Like you told… she told me a story about somebody else today so that I know through you the friendship I have with that person. Somebody else said to me.. I’ll just tell you the story. These people were getting married and I was going to perform the wedding ceremony. They went to a jeweler and they found the rings they wanted. And the jeweler told them the price and they just didn’t feel good about how much he wanted to get for the rings. They didn’t storm out of the shop. They just felt not quite right about the price. They noticed the jeweler had some Buddha statues in the shop. And they say,.. They didn’t say, “We see you have Buddhas. Don’t you think you should give us a better price? Wouldn’t the Buddha want you to give us a better price?” They didn’t do that. They said, “Oh I see the Buddhas. Do you practice Buddhism?” “Oh yeah”. Blah, blah, blah. “Oh, whose your teacher?” “Oh Reb Anderson” And they said, “He’s performing the ceremony.” And he said, “Oh really!” So then they told me “You don’t know the effect of your practice.” You don’t know how your practice is making some people be generous all around the world. You don’t know. We don’t know. And we should not be trying to find out about it. But we do sometimes find out about it and we go, “Hmm. That’s interesting.” We don’t know how it works. It actually works beyond any idea we have of good or bad.. It’s the actual process of liberation, which is not my idea of it. And they told me that story and I don’t really know how that worked. But when they said that I don't’ know how it works, I agree with it. In other words, I’m not saying the way it works is the story they told. That story shows that we don’t know. And the jeweler didn’t know either. He didn’t know that this was going to happen to him either. But it does. Somehow we move around and we open up and we let go and we change because the practice is working through us and we don’t know how. And that’s friendship. That process. Some people don’t appear to be interested and we keep working at it and eventually they will embrace it or it will embrace them. Is that enough?