10. Thursday, April 5, 1973
Merit, Guna, Gradual Enlightenment, No View

STUDENT: I have a question. Toward the end of the Prajna Paramita Sutra it states that we are going to accumulate merit. It sounds more Hinayana than Mahayana.

STUDENT: It is in the Eko part?

STUDENT: “May we gather its merit with the highest gratitude for....”

KOBUN: I don't know from where Hinayana and Mahayana is discriminated. There is confusion in that. Hina is small and Maha is large. Will you put Hina within Maha or do you split it and compare them? And I wonder whether Zen can be said just Mahayana, or if Zen doesn't have sense of Hinayana, too. From beginning we have to think of that.... Merit, or effort, comes along with daily practice. whatever we do with various ideas and methods and directions, that is called merit. STUDENT: Did some translator say “merit” whereas the person that originally wrote the sutra had something else in mind?

KOBUN: Ya. Guna is original term. Like guna of the sun is light and energy. Actually when we go more closer understanding, “source” is same thing. Guna is like that. If we lose it, we lose the essence of what is called “Kobun” or “Jerry,” the guna . Another expression of this guna is the “function” of one's real nature. When we say, the mother does mother's thing, that is the merit of mother. It relates with the very essential characteristic of a woman who expresses “mother's thing.” Every one of us actually aim our life toward that direction.... And so, doing various things we cannot satisfy ourselves. In deep place something is missing. What is this?

STUDENT: You say that each one of us is expressing, trying to express our own guna?

KOBUN: Umhmm.... For Theravadin the whole thing is the effort to express how guna can be formalized or directed in daily life. The precepts are written characters, like the law of the nation, of our country. When living people appear it makes sense. The law itself, the rule itself, is like the shape of the river bed. In Zen, the rule of monastic life, that is also one expression of how to direct guna best way. Also religious ritual can be considered as one example of how merit can be expressed. Like most dewdrops take quite similar form, some big, some small, but always round shape. We cannot artificially set it up; it naturally takes shape. That is true form.

STUDENT: I've been thinking about the question of whether we're changing by virtue of the practice. If I gather the merit of the sutra, there is a connotation that because I understood the sutra or in some way experienced the truth of it I would change or get better. That is the same problem as whether there is a gradual enlightenment. What is that? I can never get away from that, as I practice. Wanting so much to be better, feel better, and to change because of what I'm doing.

KOBUN: Usually merit appear when we get little sense of “I,” but there is no merit “gathered.” Don't you feel so? It looks like we are gathering merit, we see merit from the sutra. As long as we keep the sense of separation from what the sutra says and what “I” understand, it's impossible to let it work. We cannot relate with other beings. To understand the sutra is to see the sutra when you work, in your surroundings, within you, without you.

Like in the very beginning, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisatva appeared. Avalokiteshvara is a man of wisdom. Usually we understand that Avalokiteshvara is the compassionate one. It appears in the old, old people when they meet with difficulty. that means wisdom appears when you are in a difficult place. The Eko sounds like a very complicated feeling, but the simplest way to express it is to “make best effort.” Even if it is very small, I hope it will work out well for everything. That is the meaning.

STUDENT: My effort is very small, but the “everything” is – like I'm puny. What I'm getting from everything you are saying is that my understanding is nothing – totally irrelevant.

KOBUN: Sounds like an idea in your mind is, “Today I am one, tomorrow I am two, next day I am five!” That kind of progress...

STUDENT: Yes. I know I have it. I can see my whole life that way. There is behind it a feeling of continual progress, year by year.

KOBUN: That is a very natural thing. We experience that growth of everything, trees and animals, everything from small to large, from low to high; we see the change of things like that. It's like the sense of time, when you say, “Fifteen years of age she is better, forty years of age ... maybe that can be said in a sense, but it cannot always be said like that.

STUDENT: If that idea is in me, I just immediately say, “Well then, what can I do to get rid of that idea?”

KOBUN: You don't need to.

STUDENT: All right. I'm not supposed to do anything to get rid of it.

KOBUN: You got rid of it. So you can change. When you have some idea you think, “That is me,” but it is not at all. In this kind of sense you keep... (holding one palm above the other).

STUDENT: What do you mean, “this kind of sense,” do you mean this (lower palm) and this (upper palm) or the space in between?

KOBUN: Oh, you say, “This is I.” But the “I” who is speaking is not the real “I,” it is something which was expressed like that. Like when we speak “gradual enlightenment” and “sudden enlightenment,” ascetic practice and difficult practice, hard practice and easy practice, these conflict. If there is no sudden understanding there cannot be that gradual enlightenment. These are not mere opposite ideas. There is a sense of “no time” in “sudden enlightenment.” Practice and effect come together. When practice and effect come at different times, that is called “gradual.” It is the cognition, whether you think, “This is practice, effect comes next,” or “Zazen comes first, then the wisdom appears after it.” That is the sense of gradual enlightenment.

An example would be, when you steal something, you are not going to become a “stealer” afterwards. Stealing is the thief's job. That is sudden enlightenment. Many people thought that the lower realm of life's stages, like asuras, the fighter's world, anger's world, also hungry ghosts and hells, lower and more ignorant, harder to leave. When you do a good job, naturally you go a better way. In the next day, the next life, you get its effect. This is the idea of gradual. The idea of sudden enlightenment is in this moment, when you are enlightened there is no other time. That time is Buddha. When you are in deep jealousy, that is hell. So it appears in this life, in every deed.

STUDENT: When you're in deep jealousy, you're in hell?

KOBUN: Jealousy is hell itself.

STUDENT: Can you be enlightened and also be jealous?

KOBUN: Maybe, when your husband is jealous, you are in the same realm, even if you say, “I am enlightened one...” Man jealous to other man; woman have jealousy toward woman. Jealousy relates with comparison; the sense of jealousy is that you understand that “better one exists than me.” Because of someone's appearance you recognize, “I have very blank spot I ignored long time.”

In junior high school I really learned what jealousy is. When it became helpless, I had to work quickly, so now I don't feel it so often. The basic quality of jealousy or envy is ignorance. Maybe this awareness of separation plus ignorance makes that kind of jealousy and envy. Don't you think so? When ignorance is very dark how to do, you don't know how to become one with the objective which you really want.... What did we start with?


KOBUN: Merit? What kind of wall is it that merit cannot go through? When you are in a stuck condition your energy is enclosed. At that time merit cannot go through.

STUDENT: Could I say that is not my real self that is jealous? Would that be another way to say that?

KOBUN: Umhmm.

STUDENT: Talking about being stuck on jealousy and whether jealousy is something that will always recur as a kind of obstacle or whether there's a way of dissolving it.

STUDENT: I heard Kobun say that it was a sign of a blind spot, that something behind the jealousy was the problem.

KOBUN: Devadatta had a very good sense of practice. He was a cousin of the Buddha and because Shakyamuni Buddha's existence became very big, very strong.... Devadatta wasn't actually so bad one but he started to react to Buddha and Buddha's order in various ways. His biography says he tried to destroy Buddha's order. There was a very strange scandal. A beautiful woman appeared and put a round zafu underneath her sari.... “This is Shakyamuni's baby.” The idea was to destroy Buddhism. She told this story but Buddha used some mystic power which caused her body to become very tense and among all the people the zafu fell down on the ground! If it was treated as a joke, it's okay, but this became systematic teaching. Ideology attached to this idea and because of different ideas about it people started to argue.

STUDENT: Is that natural? A natural accompaniment of people having ideas. If you have a view of something, that's going to happen. If you have no view...

KOBUN: It's difficult to have no view.

STUDENT: Then we'd be vegetables.

KOBUN: We see in the sutra, “emptiness, emptiness.” That emptiness in a very practical sense is to keep always no certain standing point.

STUDENT: In that sense likes and dislikes are views.

STUDENT: Were you going to use Devadatta as an example of jealousy?

KOBUN: That is historical jealousy. At the time of the Lotus Sutra, this jealousy was solved. In Mahayana the work of the Lotus Sutra was how, what Devadatta's hope was. Before that they were ignored. They were just considered radicals. It was a forgotten spot of Buddhism.

STUDENT: That's interesting, what Mary said about being a vegetable. If you don't have any views you'd just be a vegetable. That's a fear I hear expressed a lot by people who are new to meditation. They think if you get rid of your sense of self, sense of ego, you would just be a potato – no individuality, big fears.

KOBUN: To keep no view is no greater effort than to keep one view.

STUDENT: Yeah, if you really look at it that way. You have to see both sides, then.

KOBUN: We cannot be like puppet.

STUDENT: I think of no view as just being lazy and not thinking about it.

KOBUN: Maybe “no view” is very near to literal sense. To keep no view, you negate yourself by stopping your view twenty times, twenty directions.

STUDENT: You stop your view?

KOBUN: No view. Tozan said, “What is no view – deep view of the mountain lake. That is no view.” Mountain lake. You can feel he express very poetic explanation. No view is not like desert.... When the water is too pure, no fish. Many, what is that animal.... This part is very red and ....


STUDENT: Salamander.

KOBUN: Looks like lizard.

KOBUN: No view.... Every sort of view point, that kind of no view exist .... Tozan say so. Ocean is good example.

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