Tea Ladies and Their Mind-Refreshing Teaching

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Sesshin Open Aspects of Practice


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time thank you so today is the first day of our fall practice period aspects of practice and i'm during this period were some of us are very excited to be a
taking our a teaching inspiration from the book for hidden lamp
a stories of stories and of women ah and commentaries by women ah that make up a very important part of ours and heritage
so we will be having talks classes on thursday nights and lectures all the way through the month and hopefully everybody will be participating as much as they can and should be fun eh
so my ah
i decided
that my favorite stories were about anonymous tea ladies
it's been really have to always figure out these days which way is better with my glasses or without my glasses
it's only been about thirty years or so that women have emerged in the world as then priests and teachers with the same training and more recently the same status his men
during that time
many women of scholars and our priests have been interested in looking at the roles women played in the history of buddhism throughout the world and throughout the history and in a particular traditions
in grey shirts at sheer since two thousand and nine books and women which was one of the first ones that kind of ushered yeah a whole rush of of books about women she provides one of the first overviews
and in one section have of her book entitled women who you a monks
i loved that one
that was my favorite
now i have she discusses stereotypes of women who appear in the cohens
one type is the kind of iron maiden
ah who takes on a more male persona kind of kind of out tufts the men
these are people we've we've read about nuns like motion and leo tmo is also called iron grinder lou she was actually a very much of a stereotype of the kind of woman who was in your face with the mailbox these women often
and lead and lead
monasteries for nuns
and they had admit you know administrative positions so they were in power they they manage to get into powerful positions as women
and they did not ah hide their lights they they felt that is that the way to get a heard was to directly challenge the patriarchy
but there were these other women and
as discussed in both ebook and the hidden lamp and
and very common in many chinese and japanese stories these women or nameless name nameless anonymous old women selling tea or cakes by the road working in the fields or cleaning monks huts carrying water these figures lack power education
social status and are without men
they're outsiders not anybody to take notice of they represent more the mother or grandmother stereotype
feminine caretakers and yet these women surprise us and the monks fortunate are not fortunate enough to encounter them by manifesting as powerful teachers surprising and humbling mumps who don't expect to be challenged
this usually results in the monks recognize the limitations of their own understanding and ability to directly experienced their essence of mind so today i want to bring forth to of these t ladies
oh whose stories appear in the hidden lamp
the first story is dumb sean and the old ladies water buckets and the other one is the old woman's rice cakes
i'll talk about the story separately and then out at the and all kind of talk about this themes or the underlying a teachings i think or the underlying questions and issues that are raised by these for me

so the first the first one i'm going to talk about his dung sean out and the old ladies water buckets
danke schon the angie was a zen master who lived and taught in the golden age of zen in china and the tang dynasty he was the founder of our of the soto school or the john the chan school and the then then school and and so he he's considered one of our fathers of soto zen
he took a long time to be enlightened and in the story week we clearly see that he probably was not enlightened at the time of this encounter with the women in the water buckets
a lot of times in those days and dunk shot was one of the people they
they spent a lot of their time
on pilgrimage
they they were they were there wasn't a internet or and easy access to high breweries so people went to talk from two to go from mountain to mountain traveling hundreds of miles to read to get the real truth
and they never expected to get the real truth from old ladies
so when dong sean this this story is about under a pilgrimage that dog chance to set out on he went to said he was setting out on a pilgrim chrome pilgrimage to find the essence of mind
and he encountered an old woman carrying water
the master asked for some water to drink the old woman said i will not stop you from drinking but i have a question i must ask first tell me how dirty is the water
go away and don't contaminate my water buckets replied the old woman
on one level you could say that the women was simply asking
about dirt that might be contaminating the water on another level the question might be directed to the problem of spiritual impurity and pollution danke schon
we're still caught in the world of phenomenon he was still caught the world of the duality in the woman pointed it out to him in a very skillful way
the heart sutra teaches not stay not pure no discrimination the zen i have not to does not say either dirty or clean water don't please don't she was saying don't pollute my water bucket with duality don't place labels on anything including me
she might have added for women in those days were often considered impure
and she was challenging that notion
don't buy into that the woman saying i am not pure or ai the women says in her in her answer i am not pure or if or impure the water is not dirty or clean too bad you didn't answer it correctly
how am i didn't awakened dung sean and answered the old woman
he could have just taken out his bowl scooped out some water and taken a drink and bowed
but he was not awakened so had to go to waste thirsty
so in some of the commentaries
on this story
they read they rethink refer to our sixth ancestor went in ah the sixth the sixth patriarch in china
because he had a story
that was not dissimilar
in terms of him being a poor uneducated
person of was illiterate
and he
his story was that he was in a town square and a sense scholar cut a buddhist scholar came and started expounding the teachings of the diamond sutra
and he had no knowledge of buddhism no knowledge of reading
but just by hearing the words of the scholar
he had a powerful experience
and that powerful experience haven't found out that the person was a zen scholar and he went off to find the fifth patriarch
to really learn about this and to really he had the the aspiration for enlightenment he developed bodhicitta from just hearing those words without any context without any previous knowledge
and when he went to the monastery it is said that the
the head of them are the ahead of the monastery the fifth patriarch recognized that he had something special but that he was a diamond in the raw so he sent him to clean rice and in this particular a part of a story that
is referred to in terms of being relevant to this particular story about the woman
he was he was there doing rice and he wasn't really good included in the teachings of the monks or of experiences with amongst that they had
and then one day the the head monk
asked all of the monks
in in the monastery
i am i would like you all to compose a gotta have four line poem expression expressing your understanding of essence of mind
so the head monk there
shinshu a very famous ah
monk he was the head of all the monks he felt i'd better do this because he said that if the person who wrote the with the best gotta would become might be the next patriarch the sixth patriarch
that most senior monk wrote a poem and the poem is our body
is the bodhi tree for the tree of enlightenment or mind is a mirror a bright carefully we wiped them hour by hour and let not desk does delight
we knew
the uneducated monk hadn't heard the request for writing a poem but he wandered by the wall one day and noticed noticed this poem and so he went up to another monk there and he said what what's going on and and and could you read me this poem because i i can't read so them
anke read him the poem and he thought a minute and he said would you please i haven't i have a poem i'd like to write on there
ah and the monk said
you're gonna write a poem he said well i can't write it i'll have to ask you to write it because i can do it but but don't despise a beginner he said if you are a seeker of supreme enlightenment you should know that the lowest class they have the sharpest wit
while the highest may be in want of intelligence the monk then agreed to write down the gotcha
that waning had been composed in his mind without a pencil or paper compose it in his mind and said it
he said there is no bodhi tree nor stand of mirror of right since all is void where can dust delight
which is
showing the emptiness side because the other mom monk had had given his his poem which really which really contained the form side
but as as the heart sutra tells us form as form emptiness emptiness emptiness is form and so that the sixth ancestors thought again
and then he thought of another poem
the mind is a tree
which is meaning all things are manifestations of the essence of mind the body is the mirror stand
the body is the temple of the spirit or the container of our
consciousness the mirror itself is so clean dust had no place to land
so after seeing this the other monks were greatly surprised how wonderful no doubt we should not judge people by appearance this is the true bodhisattva
the next day the fifth patriarch called waiting to his room and expanded the diamond sutra when he said the phrase keep your mind alive and free without abiding in anything or anywhere he was enlightened
so here was another case of
ah supposedly elitist monks very very studious spending years and years studying
and here's this illiterate guy
so illiterate guys an anonymous tea ladies
well end up being the teachers
someone to talk about that more at the end but of that whole a concept of kind of how we see things and how we how how we judge what we hear by who we hear it from
and how we
with her wisdom can be hiding ah
ha in the most unlikely places and that especially as it has affected women and their history in many many ways but certainly in buddhism so the second story
ah the old ladies rice cakes or deshawn and the old t lady whichever you prefer
deshawn was the famous scholar in northern china who lived and taught during also during the golden age of zen and as a youth he studied classical precepts he wasn't an initially he was a practitioner he was a scholar and he
completely as a as they say in one of the commenters soaked himself and the diamond sutra this sutra teaches that the realization of buddhahood occurs to concentrated study of the company conduct practices and and buddha over countless iranians and that right conduct must come from unselfish and helping others
but if the teaching that he got was more you have to work really hard you have to study you have to put in great effort
and that that's the only way you reach understanding and enlightenment
so this was consistent with the northern school of buddhism which was called the school of gradual enlightenment that encouraged sutra study chanting precept study
but one day dijon heard about the southern school oh terrible were waning was oh and the southern school was teaching that book that that the that buddha's that the buddha
buddha and realization was a sudden direct experience
so he was so upset with that concept after his years and years of spending his life studying that he decided to take a pilgrimage to up to the south and enlighten of
dot and and to confront the southern school and correct their misunderstanding
so he piled his diamond commentaries on his back
and may his way south
when it was traveling cells he came across an old woman by the roadside selling tea and rice cakes
he asked who are you
she responded i'm an old lady selling tea cakes when he asked if he could buy some refreshments from her she inquired venerable priest what are you carrying on your back he said i'm a scholar at the diamond sutra and here i have all my notes and commentaries he was really proud
hearing this the old woman said i have heard that according to the diamond sutra
past mind is ungraspable present mind is ungraspable and future mind is ungraspable so where is the mind you wish to refresh with rice cakes
oh scholar
if you can answer this you can buy a rice cake from me if not you'll have to go elsewhere for refreshment
dijon was startled he was unable to reply
why didn't they just pick up a rice cake and eat it
the old woman then directed him to the great zen master long time who was nearby
and perhaps her teacher
and and as gracious and describes she sent him to long town for more ego annihilation
the dijon burned his notes and commentaries the next day and after his study with long sean was enlightened and became a great zen master
so joan joan halifax commented on this story and the hidden lamp and i'm just going to read a couple of her comments an old nameless woman on the road helps the smarty deja and get free from his load of conceptual detritus she is the
diamond sutra itself sightless and aimless she is nobody we know and at the same time she is an intimate manifestation of some kind of wild and cranky freedom through her there is no abiding and no attachment
so here is day sean hauling around his ideas about the sutra
among other interesting burdens he encounters an old woman who cuss him free from the conceptual mind with the diamond of her mind
thus i have heard or the first words in the diamond sutra thus day shown heard from an old woman for sure his mind for a rice cake and he was a stale rice cake
as he could not reveal his own mind when confronted with her fierce reality
this this nameless old crone i love that
this nameless all com became nations catalyst to awakening challenging his ego based confidence shattering his ideas structure introducing him to an ungraspable moment in a moment of absolute freedom from glosses commentaries and secondary
need to have to have to travel any further
here it is
safe when i said when i was reading these i just thought about dogan of teaching and from cancer saying gay so i just put it in here
this big hit the as a is is about practicing awesome
he says the dharma vehicle is free and untrammeled what need is there for concentrated effort indeed the whole body is far beyond the world's dust who could believe in a means to brush it clean it has never apart from one right where one is what is the use of going off here and there
to practice and yet if there's the slightest discrepancy the ways as distant as heaven and earth
from earth
it's the least like or dislike or rises the mind is lost in confusion why leave behind the see that exists in your home and go aimlessly off to dusty realms of other lands if you make one misstep if you go astray from the way directly before you your last so
so that's some that's kind of are based at teaching right as we
ah these people were going off with the idea of finding enlightenment or attainment and they were
they they were using effort but their effort was with goal
they were
they were taking a kind of have left brain right brain left brain i mean left rain approach when so much of zen is direct experience
so i was what it was very interested in when i was reading about these i was interested in the context of these stories the context of this time this this golden age of
then supposedly golden age of china
the tang dynasty
so i i've got share with you
apparently this this golden age in this golden age it was greater prosperity that at any other time there were significant developments and culture literature and technology and poetry and during the tang dynasty women had independence and opportunity unmatched previously
they were able to stay were included in study but this was very class connected obviously because there were a lot of a dynasties there were a lot of a not dynasties but there are a lot of noblemen and and noble people who rule certain areas of china they became very rich and prosperous they were able to
get information from all over the world because the information was being translated now or from sanskrit and and people were coming through this the silk road and bringing all sorts of knowledge and of it reached some women it reached the women who were in who is a noblewoman as and
likely to reach the women who were necessarily tea ladies
at least not easily
and woot here a woozy at the tn became the only female in chinese history to be empress during the tang tang dynasty so it was also known as the golden age of zen and and that was because again all of the mahayana sutras coming from in
dia had started to come in and be translated somewhere around the fifth century and bodhidharma also arrived
ah in the sixth century so this was a time when ideas of all sorts of were
coming around and people were so excited about those ideas that they were traveling about to try to find out you know where they are and they were talking about it and certain and and also that was the money to support a zen monasteries so a lot of the nobleman
ah became patrons of of zen teachers
so in this in this context i wondered if it was a time when women were being more appreciated where some women were getting an educated why were these women anonymous
i thought well you know it could be just a ruse that the people of the stories are are vara including
that they may have they may well have no names of these people and they were just using these women as kind of foils for it
humbling them in for making a point about the right weight of to practice about the focus on on sincere practice
ah so because and i'm
maybe maybe this up
this use of a anonymous all tea lady was kind of like a shock therapy
this is just my thinking right could be anything but i was thinking about it because because it was
in in some schools of psychology now they think that people are stuck in their ways stuck in patterns of behavior or thinking the way to have behavior change is called dramatic relief so these ladies provided dramatic relief they they chose not to be the i
iron maiden lady who confronts but they sought so so they were thumb
they were just where they really unknown for the or where they are or where they unknown in the story with a when they wrote the story down
that's the i wondered about that because it was a time when women were more valued
that's one thing but what if but what if they were just
what if they were just regular
average chinese women doing going about their business and there was all of these monks traveling all around there were people giving talks to the squares there were other was opportunity to listen in on on big talks of they were not given formal education but they were
around you know they were around it they overheard things i mean some of these stories about women who clean the monks hut you know they move the books around maybe they look at the books when they read them
maybe these ladies were actually very very limited self taught or or florida
absorbed from the amongst that they they came it encountered with are absorbed from the talks they heard
and maybe maybe they were using skillful means or maybe they were really disguising themselves maybe these were nuns and they knew and they this was the way they weren't allowed to teach and they just went down to serve the tea and the tea cakes and thought
maybe this is a way for me to transmit the way
oh i'll just sit here i have to have a job i have to make money but i'm really a scholar maybe i'm really maybe that person is a diamond these these these these concepts in these stories are not beginnings in
your these talks about the nature of mind about emptiness about all of these concepts that were being transferred the these are sophisticated concepts so how would an old lady
fit in there
where she so so so really it's kind of a challenging thing to think about that for me
these are actually maybe our ancestors that we just that they just didn't bother to ask their name
what about that what about if these what about if they're a lot of people for that we encounter all the time who we take for granted
and we don't pay attention we're not mindful
people that we
fire coffee from
like ross ross was a barista
and they had no idea they had as a scholar but ross had his little conversations with people who bought coffee and i'm sure many of them had a ha moments after talking to run getting the coffee from ross ah
so maybe these old maybe these ladies were just they you know they they they didn't have money they weren't able to have a formal education they weren't allowed in the monasteries
ah some of them later became nuns but
that was hard or maybe they were nuns but they weren't allowed to teach
the mail much the mail monks even if they were smarter they had to defer to the mail monks
so perhaps ah
you know perhaps they these were dime that truly in one of the commenters they weren't little diamonds floating around and you had to notice them so it's interesting to me because i was dumb i was thinking about
ah how much we
that don't see
how much we make assumptions about when we meet somebody
maybe it's race maybe it's gender maybe as
i don't know where somebody's from and so we don't bother to talk to them or maybe it's just we don't we're not paying attention we're so involved in our own life and our own of self centredness that if somebody's not gonna give us something that we want
if we don't think it's worth spending our time
and yet here where these women who had these pearls of wisdom or diamonds whatever
and it was only if you took the time to pay attention to them
so i think that's really an interesting lesson to me from this you know how many times do a and and so much of a

we know we hear talk of we we talk here about take the preaching of incense beings and sentient beings preaching the dharma and i'll listen to the trees ah listen listen to the birds
but what about the other people
what about their voices
so it seemed to me from from fit from seeing these women that they were very
whit wise
and they weren't being used by anybody for anything they just happened to be an end these were chance encounters
but maybe they weren't maybe the women place themselves in places where they would have encounters
so as i find that that to be very interesting


well yeah i mean
how many of these how many of these
oh ladies were there
maybe young ladies to

is it

that was never brit partly some of them were illiterate so they couldn't write about it because they weren't allowed

breyer's is that he had to be very careful
had to be very careful about it because he was threatening
the hierarchy he was getting the social norms so it had to be quiet
and and so they there were many people who has his teaching so in a dogan and enum dogan has a fast school where he talks a lot about women and the role and the role of women and he quotes ah shock your money somewhere
ah yes when you meet a teacher who speaks of supreme enlightenment you must not consider the teachers cast you must not look to see whether the features of the teachers face or pleasing you must not scorn the teachers shortcomings you must not be
think about the teacher's behavior and then later on he's a token says
however those ignoramuses who do not listen to the teachings of the buddha say i am a senior monk and not and should not do obeisance before a younger monk who was acquired dharma i am the one who is practice for a long time and should not do obeisance before one who began his studies late in life oh
but has acquired the dharma
i have assigned the title master
and and should not do obeisance before one who had to does not have the title master
in pondering that elitist behavior of some monks he later says why are men special
emptiness is emptiness for great elements are for great elements five scandals or five qantas women are just like that both men and women attain a way you should not honor the attainment of the with you you should honor the attainment of the way do not discriminate between men and women this is the most
wondrous principal in the boot away that's from a festival called right i totally
and of and he says that and yet
these things were still happening in japan
i'm sure there are stories of women in japan as well
that that had the same experience of not being seen or heard despite the fact that they were wise ah
and yet the basic teaching i think of the buddha or the baseboard or duncan is that there is no difference and we need to notice ah and if will you know and here we are if i'm
we spent all as i say we spend more time talking about in sentient beings pressing the dharma than about a lot of sentient being sprucing the dharma
yes i think we're not death

by women or what
wise women are getting hurt sometimes yeah
i think i mean i i i think the issue is with a what people have to do to be heard
you don't you have to become a politician and raise your voice and act like a man being an aggressive in that way or can you just talk quietly like we talk here and be heard i think that is true here i think women are heard here
were all given opportunities for positions were all given opportunities to learn and study and share the dharma so ah
so i think we're working on it is to work in progress

this is

yeah so they they have they appear if you just look at them right
as a poor person maybe doesn't have a man so they're out working in those days women stayed home and whatever but these women had to be working they were out there doing that
and and it was only a few stopped and paid attention to them that you've got the idea that there was something really important that these were these were people to be be heard
well in it and and but they get mind refreshment
and the the rice cakes are called mind refreshers so they get more than they bargained for
yeah raaga

but they weren't they were pointing out both you know that they were actually
challenging these people not by saying they were challenging these people by saying good meet you don't give me the answer is if there were a as if they were a scholarly answer they were fooled should they sucked the men
and the answer was a direct response
meet the woman
and have the situation have a stimulus have a question and respond
by drinking the water or eating the cake
cause that's the direct response
it's just right here right now this is what essence of mind as right now and these women do that

well i don't know if it depends on if you're too much in your mind
they might get you
beware of little ladies looking harmless


sure and that's one way to look at it that's one side right that anybody can be enlightened and anybody can share their their wisdom and can help and can be a bodhisattva and share and wake some help someone wake up
that's one side but the other side is if that anonymous smith that that kind of under anonymity is focused on certain people and not others disproportionately distributed so that one gets the idea that the real scholars are named and
these other people don't have anything to offer that's the that's the
yes sir andrew


is it

ff ff ff

well you know that that was like the that the other disagreement between the northern and southern schools you know if you if you believed in you could just live your life and if you were totally present and mindful and actually got
what's that what what it is you can do that
but then he went the like the the six patriarchal went to the fifth pager he said that's great
you know i know you've got a kind of but let's not tell anybody because they'll be be be jealous
you have to kind of study and proof you know kind of perfect perfect it so that so it's it's not either or
but it's true that you know if you can hear and you can see and you have experience of paying attention
ah you can have you can get you can become wise
so ah so so well and these these people obviously obviously are examples of that they were illiterate mostly yeah

this is




yeah i think we can't ignore it and and i think it it makes a difference too when we used to just chant the men and so i've been around long enough fruit for that phenomenon when we used to just chant the men
we all wondered what you know we had no role models
l who are are role models these were male archetypes and mail you know very much male stereotypes the that having real women who we can tell stories about and know about their life and where they were born and
you know what their families were like and and that kind of thing makes them real to us and a make us feel like we have some ancestors of our own that we can actually we can actually honor

they never got that they never chant the women

do they chant them at the at at the monasteries for nuns
now that yeah i mean by the day
it would be very interesting to find out and who they check and whose names they chant
to this

that she had
after that then
the officer scott
yeah well i mean we we don't have to look far for that sort of behavior

it's hard not to conclude those things in the talk but you know we have enough induced in that area
yeah well it's not you know because it's our history our legacy so to change something like that that has thousands of years of of history it takes time and where we're working on it
we're all here working on it
i don't think you'd get away with that too quickly here and you'd hear about it
hopefully we are worth
anything else just last question common yes