September 14th, 2002, Serial No. 00210, Side A

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Good morning. Andrew, would you be so kind as to take the clock and place it in front of the bill so I can see how our time is going? Great, thank you. Well, for those of you who don't know my name, my name is Ross, Ross Blum, and I've been practicing for 18 years. I started in New York City, and I came out here back in 87. The Abbot of our temple, Sojin Mel Weitzman, is over in Japan now, part of an international delegation of Buddhists celebrating the anniversary of Dogen Zenji's death.


Dogen Zenji, who's depicted over here, brought our style of Buddhist practice from China back to Japan in the 13th century. So he's a very important figure to our lineage. A friend of mine clipped out from the New York Times a collection of commencement speeches that were presented at graduation this past year. And one of them really struck me, and I thought about talking about it, making a lecture around it. And while one could do that, it pretty much speaks for itself. So I'm just going to read it, and then I'm going to talk about something else. This is Fred Rogers, who some of you may know as Mr. Rogers from Mr. Rogers neighborhood.


And he was speaking at Chatham College, a college in Pittsburgh. Some of you may have read this, so please, for the benefit of those who haven't heard it, have you heard the story that came out of the Seattle Special Olympics? For the 100-yard dash, there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and at the sound of the gun, they took off. But one little boy didn't get very far. He stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard the boy crying. They slowed down, turned around, and ran back to him. Every one of them ran back to him. One little girl with Down syndrome bent down and kissed the boy and said, this will make you better. The little boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line.


They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in the stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long time. People who were there are still telling this story with obvious delight. And you know why? Because deep down, we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Rogers. About a month or so ago, one of the last Japanese teachers who came to this country died unexpectedly in a tragic accident.


His name was Kobin Chino. And there have been a number of talks around his life and practice and passing. I have a dear friend who was ordained by him in 1980 and has some wonderful stories to tell. And a few weeks ago, a gentleman recounted one story of Coburn's that was heard here on a Saturday. And he said that someone asked Coburn Chino, Can you give Zaza an instruction? Can you give Zaza an instruction? And as best as I can remember, the man here said, what Copen said was, take a bath, put on your best clothes, and write your will. and there was a fair amount of laughter and nervous laughter what was that about after you said that and it really struck me as simple instruction for Zazen those three things when we offer Zazen instruction here we talk about the physical side of practice and a posture something like this and variations on that sitting in a chair or lying down


and a mental posture attitude and following the breath. Kaban Chino's teachings are a little offbeat and if you look closely at them, they really hit the mark. So something about that instruction struck me and I kept thinking about it and I put some thoughts together that I want to share with you of what I think he was talking about. When we come here for Zazen instruction and to practice Buddhism, there are many reasons why we do so, some of which are clear, some are unclear, but the most important thing is being here and being present about waking up, about undoing


what's been done in a way which acknowledges what has been done and trying a better course of action to see more clearly the root of our suffering and to lessen it somewhat and as that happens we gain the benefit of that and quite naturally we start helping others which is the Bodhisattva vow of saving all beings or waking up with all beings. So this first part of Copenhagen instruction, take a bath, I started thinking about what is a bath? And a bath is a place where one can be purified, cleaning away the so-called defilements. In Japan, baths are very, very important. It's a sacred place. There's altars established to maintain the sanctity of that space. At Tassajara, of course, the baths are renowned, and anyone who's been down there has felt the effects of the bath.


So we purify ourselves, it's somewhat like the Bodhisattva ceremony where we make public our transgressions, our mistakes, our hindrances, the places where we're stuck. So in the act of cleansing or purifying yourself, we're looking at our past, what we've done, egregious or not, and are making an effort to be present and to be so-called better at it. So that's the past. And then putting on your best clothes feels like the present to me. And being present, making a presentation of yourself, Making a present of yourself the so-called self Some of us wear robes Some of us wear blue jeans. In Berkeley here, we're fairly open and accepting.


We try to wear clothes that are muted and subdued, that don't draw too much attention. And a lot of people come from work or other situations where they can't really change, so there's a variety of colors and textures here, which I find quite beautiful. And I feel that people are really presenting themselves and making an effort to present themselves as best they can. And so without judging whether they're fine robes from Japan or blue jeans made in some other country to save money by the manufacturer, people are wearing some article clothing to cover themselves and come here and sit and be present and present their self, present themselves up And the third part of Copeland's teaching is to make your will. Back in 98, I went to Japan with Sojin and a number of other students on a pilgrimage, and that was the first time that I thought about writing up a will.


And when I sat down, I thought about, well, what's important in my life? What's the value in my life? What do I want to share with other people after I pass away? So I was looking around my little apartment and saying, well, would someone want this? Or would they want that? Or would this person feel bad if I gave this to that person? And that sort of thing. And I tripped out a little bit on that for a while. And then I realized, well, I'll just make the best effort to include people who would appreciate the things that I think would make them feel like a part of what my life was about. And the rest of the stuff would just be sold off or donated and whatever. Somebody else's problem. But I was trying to make it as little a problem as possible for those who would survive me. So I still have this will and I keep it in my drawer and I usually pull it out and put it on my desk when I go on a vacation in case I don't come back.


So the particulars of what I wrote down are not so important. What felt important to me was taking stock of my life and thinking about the future of these things and how they would affect other people's lives and really what I had accumulated. and was letting go of voluntarily as best I could and in a way returning back to that first step of taking a bath and purifying oneself and letting go of the things or the attachments and defilements or what have you that have become a part of me. like Zazen, where we return back to breath and posture in the formal way that we describe Zazen here. Another thing about making one's will while there's aspects to it where you're giving things away or willing things away, there's also an opportunity to apologize.


Write down apologies or expressions of sorrow or not meeting people in a particular way so there's some kind of record of your life for the next generation. So there's this death, and then a rebirth, as Sojin often talks about, there's no death, no birth, that this form just transforms into something new. And in Zazen, in fact, that's what happens. There's this death of the self, and something else emerges. There's a rebirth, moment by moment. So that pretty much covers the basis. We have past, taking a bath, present, being present, and future, making a will, and planning, if you will, the next moment.


And if you look a little more closely at those three times, you can see how they relate to one another, and the past, present, future goes back and forth. Actually, it's more like this, it's not so linear as we have been accustomed to think. On Thursday evening, Norman Fisher began his series of classes on the Pali Suttas, or teachings of the old way. And the first class was focused on the Buddha's first sermon after he woke up, called Turning the Real, the Dharma, or Revealing the Four Noble Truths, an Eightfold Path. So we talked a little bit about the contents of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. And Norman, who's extremely articulate, and I feel very inspired being around him and have a lot of confidence that our teaching here is fallen into very capable hands for the next generation.


Actually, there are a number of successors of Sojin Roshi who are carrying on the teaching. And I've always been fond of Norman. Just a little personal anecdote. He and his wife and two children lived at the Zen Center of New York in 85 when there was some changes going on in the Bay Area Zen Centers. And that's where I met him. And when I thought about leaving New York, I came out and spent a week at Green Gulch Farm. And Norman and his wife Kathy kept a fairly low profile at Design Center New York. And I didn't know what their position was when I came out here to visit. And when I came out here, I realized that he still has kind of a low-key, low-profile manner, but his understanding is very deep and very wide. So I really encourage anyone here to take classes and hear his lectures. There's some information on the patio shelf there about his group, Everyday Zen.


So Norman was talking about how we practice with these Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. And he said the first part was getting into view, getting the teaching into view. And if you don't have a view of something, it's hard to bring it into your consciousness and actually have a relationship with it. So it's very, very important to get it into view. and when you get into view your own suffering you get to see that there's a problem and there is the opportunity to do something about it or not do something about it. In either case, the most important thing is to accept that I have a little discomfort here and then we see what happens next. And the next step is stating an intention.


And that's part of the Bodhisattva practice, intending to wake up, making the vow to wake up with all beings. In our tradition, it's called Bodhicitta, raising the thought of enlightenment. And lastly, there's realization or understanding. and realization is an understanding is seeing and being really what the Buddha was talking about when he spoke of suffering and the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the eightfold path which will lead to that cessation or at least lessening of that suffering. And getting into view is the first fold of the Eightfold Path, which is right view, clearly seeing.


The second part of right intention is essentially right intention or thought, the thought of waking up, the thought of intending to practice, either alone or with a Sangha. And then the realization or understanding are the remaining six folds of the Eightfold Path, which is right speech, right livelihood, right meditation, right concentration, right effort, and so on. So, since Kobin's passing and Norman's teaching the other night, I see that our practice, while it's very difficult, is also very simple. There are these triads that seem to relate to one another and go in circles. And as we sit, we continue to unfold and see how these circles relate to one another.


One thing you have to be careful about, however, is mixing metaphors and going too far afield. And so it's always important to stop talking and sit sasan and be upright. And then when we have our little glimpses and little realizations about our our life and how we're creating more suffering for ourselves and others, we will have greater understanding of what the Buddha is teaching. And thinking about those children who came back to help this little boy who had fallen,


I think about my competitiveness and my wanting to be seen or be first or be second somewhere in some position. And how we often talk about our practice as being somewhat innocent, somewhat childlike. And when we label people as disabled, I wonder, well, how disabled are they? And it feels more like at times we're more disabled. We actually are filled with things that disable us. And continuing to sit, we become more abled to help ourselves and to help others. There's so much pain and suffering in the world, especially around now with these anniversaries of the tragic events of last year.


It's nice to read in the newspaper something inspiring. So I hope that Mr. Rogers' neighborhood will permeate to other neighborhoods. around the world and we all can help each other. And while I feel, to some degree, people are here voluntarily and it's kind of like preaching to the choir, we all could, including myself, use the help to remember to help others. And to take a bath and put on our best clothes. Right, I will. So there's about 10 minutes or so left if anyone has any question or comment, please. Ann? Thank you. That was a very nice talk and the comments by Mr. Rogers and your elaboration on them were wonderful.


Thank you. It made me think about the difference between winning and excelling, and our country's fascination, all of our, I like to think sometimes, recovering competitive person. Winning, in winning, it's easy to measure who's winning. You pick a standard, and it's external. and so on, and excelling is something very different. And I think it was a lot of food for thought in your talk, and I really appreciate it. Thank you. You're welcome, Anne. Thank you. Anne is our president of Berkeley's N Center, so we all should know that for those who, and her picture will be up soon in our election poster that's going to be appearing shortly.


Thank you, Anne. today. When you talked about going to Japan before you did that, you made out a will. My wife and I have also talked about doing this sort of thing before we go on long trips, and I thought I should share this with you. This summer, before we went on our long trip, we did not make out our will. However, I wrote a note to my sister-in-law at the bottom of our itinerary that if we were not to return to please call Ross. I took off my cardigan sweater and changed it to a tie.


Just for that. I was thinking about the word will when you were talking. About will. And will not only means the will that you leave things behind. being present and just being in your breath is an act of will to be at that point, I think, in a way we write ourselves into history or into time, history, by just being present to ourselves. Yeah, that's a really good point. It's a really serious thing, sitting up there and writing out. It's like, there's lots of things I write, but really, what's the most important thing? And if we're with a partner, if we have children, I mean, these things obviously rise right up to the top.


And it's taking stock or taking account of what, who am I? What am I? It's very revealing. Well, what I got from that was write your will because Zazen will kill you. And then I was thinking about what Norman said the other night which is life will kill you and waking up to life will kill you. cancer, it's not the cancer that kills them, it's life that kills them before being born, actually. So in any case, I'm not sure why, but I have this association with it. I was wondering, you know, when we come to practice and we have Zazen instruction, nobody ever says, you know, or maybe some people do, this could be kind of hard.


And so I was wondering if you have Because I think one of the reasons why you say you came to practice was to find somebody to be with. And so I was wondering if you have found it hard. Or if there is some... Found practice hard? Yeah. Firstly, I did say the death of the self, and then there's a rebirth, so there is that, but Norman, in typical fashion, really hammered that reality home. So thanks for reiterating that. Practice has been hard at times. Life has been hard at times.


I think the reason why we don't talk about the difficulties at Zazen Instruction, which is the first time many people have come to a place like this, is that they know that life is hard. And this is just something else that will be a part of their life. We could also say it will be joyful. So rather than saying one way or another, we let people find out for themselves that it's no different inside the gate than outside the gate. However, here there's the opportunity to really be really joyful. or really in despair and be supported in both those situations as I was and have been and hope to continue to be as I go through the various changes that take place in my life.


Yes, David. confronting suffering, disease, old age, and death. I was thumbing through in Cody's The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. And he says, he suggests that it's wise and necessary to pay attention before these things occur. develop a useful attitude towards the realities of all that's suffering. And a while back I had a little bit of an insight about the word attitude. It's not only a psychological term about how you see the world through yourself.


It's an aeronautical term. and pitch. It has to do with a person's position when you're in a flying vehicle. Specifically, attitude relates to your position in terms of the horizon. Death can be seen as one horizon line within one's life. So when you begin to write your will, paying attention to something that most people don't pay attention to. They live their life in the busyness of the world and deliberately avoid paying attention to painful things that relate to suffering. So, if you pay attention to writing your will and the things that do


where you're heading. I think that's what he meant about writing a new world. Yeah, it feels right. Thank you, David. Um, I thought of that Colvin's death, you know, he jumped in a lake with his robes on to save his daughter.


So all at once he pulled together all those things. Yeah. Yeah. Just, you know, it's pretty amazing and one wonders I mean, one can see it as this complete sin expression, and yet these two beings died, which is just terrible. So this is the great mystery and great tension. Yeah. I think he was thinking what those kids were thinking. Yeah.


Thanks for that demonstration of past, present, and future as now. That's good. That's good. David, and then Charlie, and then tea time. In a lecture. Unlimited Standard. And many of these stories we've heard today sound like they were inspired And what was mentioned again and again toward the end of the tape was the man and woman who left from the tower, South Tower, hand in hand.


And Ian Forster's, I think it's his, advice, only connect. But Charlie, The wills and the writing of wills and the not writing of wills is sort of like practice. If you don't have a practice, you have a practice anyway, but it's different from a practice that you sit down and attempt to follow.


And the same is true with the will. If you don't write your will, the state of California has already written one for you. So take your pick. I agree with the second part about the will in California, but I think if you don't have a practice, you don't have a practice. That's no practice. I think it's no practice in the small no sense, not the big no sense. Thank you.