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This document was originally distributed on Internet as a part of the Electronic Buddhist Archives, available via anonymous FTP and/or COOMBSQUEST gopher on the node COOMBS.ANU.EDU.AU The document's ftp filename and the full directory path are given in the coombspapers top level INDEX file. This version of the document has been reformatted by Barry Kapke and is being distributed, with permission, via the DharmaNet Buddhist File Distribution Network. [Last updated: 26 October 1993] ------------------------------------------------------------------------ "GOLDEN WIND" - a provisional title of an originally untitled teisho. This text addresses some of the most fundamental and delicate religious issues. Therefore, it should be read, quoted and analysed in a mindful way. All copyrights to this document belong to John Tarrant, California Diamond Sangha, Santa Rosa, Cal., USA Enquiries: The Editor, "Mind Moon Circle", Sydney Zen Centre, 251 Young St., Annandale, Sydney, NSW 2038, Australia. Tel: + 61 2 660 2993 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ ZAZENKAI TEISHO John Tarrant Roshi January 10, 1993 Oakland, California I'm going to begin today with one of the jewels of our tradition, an old koan from China spoken by a teacher called Yun-men (Jap. Unmon). A student of the way asked Yun-men: How is it when the tree withers and the leaves fall? Yun-men said: The golden wind is manifesting itself. Please sit comfortably. The golden wind is the poetic expression, locution for autumn in the old Chinese culture. Cleary, actually, has a very interesting, tough translation of this he says, "Body exposed in the golden wind." It's very much that sense of vulnerability and ruin about his translation. The student is coming out with, I think, one of the classic questions touching on the way everything changes in life. As soon as we think we've got something settled, something else changes. As a child I noticed this, when I noticed as soon as I did the dishes, they got dirty again. But there are other losses as well that are even worse than having to do the dishes again. We notice that our whole lives we're actually immersed in these losses and these changes. As we get wiser and cleverer, this immersion still remains constant so that it is the thing that doesn't change. Shakyamuni noticed this and, in fact, the discovery of this was a wonderful release for him when he realized. He let go and realized that life is suffering and that was the First Noble Truth. The student in this case when he says, "The leaves wither." There is also that sense of somebody who has already come onto the way. He knows that when you orient yourself, there is a kind of stripping away that happens often in a spiritual path. There are things that we cared about we know are no longer so important, really. Or, maybe we wish they were so important somehow. We lose some of the things that gave us meaning when we start pointing ourselves in a spiritual direction. Then we are in a darkness because when you get rid of the things you are hanging onto, something true doesn't always automatically appear. There's an intervening period of confusion and bewilderment, familiar and beloved. Familiar to and beloved by all of us. I think this student is talking about that kind of state. I think we all know that place. Before I go on to say more about that I want to tell a couple of stories about the Yun-men. Yun-men was a very notable figure. (R. H. Blyth, Aitken Roshi always refers to him as Mr. Blyth, who actually we owe our doing zazen in some ways to him because he taught Aitken Roshi about zen and poetry in prison camp in Japan during the war. All the trouble came from that. He thought of Yun-men as being one of those great figures like Shakespeare or Goethe in the West, an Eastern version of that only with an enlightened eye.) He was a very notable person and he always seemed gifted. As many of you know, the moment he was enlightened was rather odd because he broke his leg and screamed in pain when somebody slammed a heavy iron gate on his leg. At that moment he became enlightened. His teacher threw him out, actually, of an interview and he didn't get his leg out in time and the door slammed. So he always walked with a bit of a limp. He was one of those people who was in some way marked, I think, always. He eventually found his teacher, but he didn't inherit his teacher's temple. He inherited somebody else's temple, which was quite a common thing. He inherited the temple of a teacher called Ling-shu (sp???). For twenty years Ling-shu didn't have a head of his own temple. He would say things like, "The head of the temple was born today." Then he'd say, "The head of the temple is looking after the oxen in the fields today." Things like that. "The head of the temple is playing Nintendo in the Round Table Pizza Parlor today." He would go on like that for twenty years and his students got to figure this was some sort of elaborate joke or something or another. But then he would say things like, "The head of the temple is sitting zazen today." And he would go on like that. Then one day he said, "You must strike the big temple bell and announce that the head of the temple will be arriving today." Everybody after twenty years was rather dubious, of course. But along came Yun-men limping along. He wasn't asked any questions. He was immediately shown into the quarters of the head of the temple. So he had that sort of graced quality about him. The person whose temple he inherited had just been waiting for him to come and died soon after, voluntarily, actually, just gave up the ghost. One thing I get from this is that you don't know what might be coming down the road toward you always. Ling-shu did know that Yun-men was coming toward him, but you don't always. When we want something, it's typical for us to doubt our capacity. People always want something to do with wisdom or love or work or something like that. When we don't have something we want, there's a voice in almost everybody's head, I think, that goes, "Well, it's not right," and you're not meant to do it, and you're screwed up anyway. Another voice we know and love. But I think this story says, don't listen to that voice. You may unawares be walking toward your temple. Or something may be coming toward you that you don't understand properly. What you have to do is work on your wisdom. Prepare your heart, your inner life for what may arrive. That is always our task. If you're ever in doubt about what your task is, that is your task. Life is simple. After he broke his leg, his teacher was getting a bit old, he was getting to be about one hundred years old, he got too old to be braking people's legs any more, so he sent Yun-men off to Hsueh-feng, who was very different in style. He used humor a lot and didn't break anybody's leg. Hsueh-feng's story was completely different. He was the person who was not marked out as anything special. He was the person who was marked out as being rather dumber than everybody else. So he makes a wonderful contrast. I think all of us can identify, perhaps, with both these people because there are ways in which we've been enormously graced because we have been loved, we are alive, and we've found the dharma. And to find the dharma in itself is just an enormous gift, the incomparable gift dwarfing all others. Yet there are ways in which we surely feel stupid if we have any integrity and sincerity at all, we surely felt very foolish a lot of the time, rather like made of dense material that's difficult for light to penetrate. Hsueh-feng was exactly that sort of person. He had a buddy called Yen- t'ou. They were famous friends. Yen-t'ou was actually younger. Hsueh- feng was sort of getting along. Yen-t'ou was younger, but Yen-t'ou was really smart and quick and was running rings around Hsueh-feng and everybody else in the temple. But Yen-t'ou's great contribution was actually to help Hsueh-feng along. Hsueh-feng became the great master. They were good friends and when they were released from the temple at various times to go out into the world and do whatever they wanted, they were on pilgrimage together. They came to a village called Tortoise Mountain, a familiar story to some of you. It was just nowhere, really, some little place in the Sierras, and they got snowed in this little hut. Day after day Hsueh-feng would sit and do zazen very earnestly and Yen-t'ou, his friend, would sleep. So they had this perfect relationship really. Yen-t'ou slept and every now and again he would wake up and see his friend sitting very hard, meditating. He'd open an eye and then he'd go back to sleep again and snooze the time through. Then he sat up and said, "Won't you get some sleep? Every day you're sitting on the meditation cushion. You just look like a clay buddha. What's wrong with you?" He was getting his attention that way. Hsueh-feng said, "Well, I don't dare deceive myself. I am not yet at peace." So you can see that although he feels stupid and let's face it he is stupid in his own estimation, he has an integrity and a sincerity about him that makes you already like him. He says, "I can't fool myself. I'm not at peace and because I'm not at peace, I must do something about it. The only thing I know to do is meditate. Maybe it doesn't even work, but I can't think of anything else to do. What choice do I have?" He was in that place. So already all of the leaves have fallen for him. You have this tree with bare twigs and nothing green has shot out, although we don't know. Maybe the sap is moving below. His friend says, "Well, that's hard to believe. You've been around the scene a long time." And he says, "Well, it's true." His friend says, "Well, if you like . . ." So he asks permission. This is always very important if we're going to help a friend, to ask permission, I think. Friends don't always want to be helped. So he says, "If you like, you can bring your views forth one by one and where they're correct I'll approve them for you, and where their not I'll prove them away." Yen-t'ou was always very confident. Hsueh-feng said things like, "First of all, I saw my first teacher, Yen- kuan (sp???), up in the hall and he brought up the meaning of form and void, emptiness and somethingness and suddenly I gained an understanding. Yen-t'ou said, "Don't mention this for thirty more years." Then again he said, "When I saw Tung-shan's (sp???) verse about crossing the river, (The teacher, Tung-shan, saw his reflection in the river and was enlightened.) I had an insight then." Yen-t'ou said, "If you go on like this, you won't be able to save yourself at all." Feng went on. "Later when I got to Te-shan, I asked, `Do I have part in the affair of the vehicle of the most ancient school, or not?'" Do I have a part in the great matter, or not? The affair of the most ancient school, the eternal school, or not? "And Te-shan hit me with his staff and said, `What are you saying?' At that time it was like the bottom of a bucket dropping out for me." Yen-t'ou thereupon shouted. Yen-t'ou was famous for his shout. He said, "When I die, I will go with a great shout." When he died, in fact, his shout was heard for miles and miles around. People knew he had gone. So he shouted, but they were in this tiny little hut. They don't say anything about how deaf Hsueh-feng was afterwards, but he said, "Haven't you heard it said that what comes in through the gate is not the family treasure." Hsueh-feng said, "What should I do? Yen-t'ou said, "In future, if you want to propagate the great teaching let each point flow out from your own breast to come out and cover heaven and earth." At these words Hsueh-feng was greatly enlightened and he bowed down crying out again and again, "Today Tortoise Mountain has finally achieved the way. Today Tortoise Mountain has finally achieved the way." So even the mountain and the village and the hut got enlightened. It has nothing to do with the man there. Later he wrote a poem. He went and lived as a hermit for awhile before he became a famous teacher, he taught Yun-men, and said: Human life is so hectic and hurried. It is just a brief instant. How can you live for a long time in that fleeting world? At first I emerged from the mountains and now I return home. It's no use bringing up the faults of others. Our own mistakes must be cleared away continually. I humbly report to the nobles who fill the court; The king of death has no awe of the golden emblems of rank that you wear. He later became known for his humor and, I think, there's a sort of generosity and largeness of spirit about Hsueh-feng that anything you read about him will indicate. This came from his sincerity and his patience in the way. He was known as the person who was sincere and patient. He wasn't naturally brilliant. And yet his student, of course, was one of the great naturally brilliant people, Yun-men. Please bear this in mind. If you're not like Yun-men, be like Hsueh- feng. I think Yamada Roshi felt rather like this. He was roommates, as a very young man, with Soen Nakagawa Roshi. Soen Roshi went off to sit on Daibasatsu (sp???) Mountain and get enlightened as a very young man, and Yamada Roshi went off to make money in the world. Later on they came back, sort of full circle, and both became zen masters. He had trained with a number of very good teachers and had had various enlightenment experiences, but it wasn't enough. He was like Hsueh- feng. For many years he would go to dokusan time after time, hours out of his way, really to get rid of all of his doubts because getting rid of a few doubts isn't enough. He was old by the time he got enlightened and he didn't teach for very long, by the time he became fully enlightened he didn't teach for very long. But all that gathering of effort and all those years meant that then there was this strong burst when he did teach. One of the things I'm saying here is if you do the work sincerely from the inside, that is really all you need to worry about. The world will take care of itself. It will give you its gifts in whatever ways it chooses in terms of your career path and love and all those things. But all that is really the material of wisdom and the material of your own transformation into somebody who herself or himself can offer the way. Can have compassion on others. The vow we all take every time we chant the great vows is to enlighten other beings. It's very important and very precious. The I Ching talks about obstacles. In fact, there's a hexagram of obstruction, (instruction I said. That's a great slip.) the hexagram obstruction which is Number 39. It pictures a dangerous abyss lying before and a steep inaccessible mountain behind. (An abyss before and a cliff behind. A perfect zen situation.) The image is water on the mountain. (The image of obstruction.) Thus the superior person turns her attention to herself and molds her own character. The comment (This comment was cooked up by the translator in combination with a very early twentieth century Chinese master of this book.) Difficulties and obstructions throw a person back on herself. While the inferior person seeks to put blame on others bewailing fate, the superior person seeks the error within and through this introspection the external obstacle becomes an occasion for inner enrichment and education. But you see it is the same thing that is being said here. "You must come out from your own breast and cover heaven and earth," is what Yen- t'ou said to Hsueh-feng. Whenever we're sitting and whenever in life we feel like we really are unhappy, if we begin to attend, we'll notice that that action itself begins to bring us home. The strangest thing about the way is that turning toward the way brings us home, brings us, really, to the end of the way. It really doesn't matter where you are when you turn home. It is that turning itself has this marvelous value. So if you are unhappy and you begin to attend, suddenly you will find that your unhappiness has started to transform and open, become more spacious and cloudy, and you can find your way around in it. This is true for the most acute and persistent kinds of unhappiness. It is just your obstruction that in some way you must bless with your attention for it to transform. It is said in zen that you must keep your attention even if you are alone in a dark room when nobody can see you, because you can see you. That is the most important one. It really doesn't matter what your teacher thinks of you or your friends think of you. It's nice if they think well of you, but is not the crucial thing. The crucial thing is to go into your own heart and make the practice truly and deeply and utterly your own. Then, you see, sitting zazen is not an effort. It is just a sort of natural flow of things. It's not something separate from your ordinary life. Whether you are eating or drinking, that is all zazen. Even if you're nodding off, that is all zazen. I think one of the things that increases for us as we go on in time and gathers is our integrity. So we really do become less interested in impressing other people and we do become more interested in what is the true path for ourselves. Our integrity even makes us uncomfortable sometimes. The more delusion you have the more unhappy you and that is your integrity that is making you unhappy. So you follow that and trust that, and you immerse yourself even in that unhappiness, that discontent. That is called raising the doubt, the massive doubt in traditional zen. You immerse yourself in the discontent you have because you know you are not yet fully present. You know that you have gifts that you can give to the world, but you are not yet quite able to give, and that is a sorrow. I think, perhaps, one of the greatest sorrows is not to be able to give back to the world as well as we would love to. And I think that is true for all of us. So we immerse ourselves even in that sorrow and then we find it begins to open. When we turn home, we find home is here. Over and over again we must turn home, turn home, turn home. Just like that. When we do that, we'll find that we can take joy in what is already here. Just coming to dokusan and saying, "I really don't have a clue," is in itself turning home and is a great gift. To be able to do that, I discovered, was a wonderful thing. I would come into my teacher and say, "I just don't know," and that was perfectly all right with him. He would just ring his bell and I would bow and leave. To accept that was the beginning of the opening for me. I think it is for all of us. To accept where we are and to love where we are and to take joy in it and pleasure in it. What a wonderful thing that is. Here we have set aside this time to sit together. We have companionship like Hsueh-feng with Yen-t'ou up there sitting in the hut snowed in. So we're snowed in for the afternoon and we have our companionship and we have all the space in the world to do zazen. So let us enjoy it. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- end of record

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