15. Thursday, May 24, 1973
STUDENT: Hearing Kaido-san (in Shuso Ceremony last year) deal with the questions that were asked him, I felt that those asking questions would sort of have blinders on, or be tying themselves in a knot, and the answers he gave cut through the ropes that a person ties himself up with, or opened the blinders. It was maybe a compression of our daily practice, of the kinds of things that happen ... and I realize it had a big impact on me. Could you talk about how we can integrate that kind of mindfulness with our daily practice?
KOBUN: Ya. It was very good mundo – question and answer. Characteristic of the question is most important thing. So even if you feel the questioner has blinders, is kind of tight, it becomes a major part of the answer. Important thing is sometimes the answer finishes the question. If the major point of the question is omitted, that isn't a good answer. To make the question develop, not as a mere question, that is a good answer. Actually mundo is always going on in the individual. What you heard at Shuso ceremony you have already understood. It publicly presented [the idea] so you noticed it was good. And sometimes you feel a different possibility of answer could be done.
Ebonmitchi , mind word, is a very interesting thing. It's before you speak there is a big, long conversation in your mind. It's like before you serve something, you make great effort to cook something. It's like when you hear some teaching you memorize the word and repeat it. When some conversation struck your mind you remember the conversation. You practice to make sure the teaching is right. It's like when a recipe is given you try to arrange something depending on what it explains. The recipe is not, itself, the cookie, or some food, but it is expressed when you prepare the food. When you try to follow the recipe, your action follows it and produces one realization. How to meditate, posture, how to concentrate, how to chant, those are examples of recipes.
STUDENT: I get the sense of the verbal teaching as a recipe. What about cooking in another way? Tasting the individual ingredients and standing at the refrigerator or at the counter, gradually you put them together, and at the end of it you have a recipe, which you throw away each time. Is that also the teaching?
KOBUN: It's a long, long way, not wrong. It's a long way.
KOBUN: It's like, without teacher, in the very beginning, you play musical instrument. It must be much much better to have wrong recipe. It was said that, “If you have wrong teacher, better way is not to practice.” It means, in hidden meaning, when you practice you better have right teacher.
STUDENT: Is no teacher the wrong teacher?
KOBUN: Ya. You are talking same thing. It's long way, long way. Many times you have to be at the bottom of the self-struggle. You cannot decide which is right. Usually, in a very revolutionary change of culture, two ways appear. One is to study tradition as close as possible, one is to not ignore, but to start with new, totally new, way.
STUDENT: They're harmonious, actually, even though they don't look like they are.
KOBUN: Um hmm.
STUDENT: They have to meet at some point.
KOBUN: Um hmm. They have to meet, and many times.
STUDENT: I wouldn't have said, “no teacher.” What I was saying was that the teaching is a struggle to make something that you can eat. The teaching isn't the recipe at the beginning. The teaching is the trial and error combination of ingredients, and the most important act, actually, is throwing it away at the end.
STUDENT: The recipe, not the cookie!
KOBUN: Then there is a possibility to not have teacher or recipe. But when once you've succeeded it make fantastic food. Throw the recipe away and eat it up and forget how you made it. And when someone asks, “How you made it?” “I won't tell you. Recipe is thrown away. I forgot it.” That is not maintenance of practice. You cut it off.
STUDENT: Maintenance from one person to another, or within one person?
KOBUN: One person. It's same thing.
STUDENT: There's another part of it too. You throw the recipe away because you know that if you give the recipe to someone, he'll follow it word for word and never get that same understanding that you got by having to know the taste of each thing.
KOBUN: Maybe in the beginning it needs a recipe....
STUDENT: Well, the great cooking goes by way of cookbooks.
STUDENT: Yeah, the great cooking is what everybody agrees is good, and that's what the recipe says.
KOBUN: Similar thing is mountain climbing. Especially very hard mountain climbing, need communication with other people. Usually map is very important, but map is not the mountain itself, so you have to know the difference. But ... you don't climb mountain without map; especially when you are with other people who are beginners. And of course you don't climb hard cliff with brand new beginner. You train and train and find out how to tie rope ... mountain top looks like it is goal, but when you come back to ground that is completion of mountain climbing.
STUDENT: Where is the teaching? Is the goal to climb the mountain? What if it doesn't matter?
KOBUN: What I was talking is about recipe, map – how they are produced and come to us.
STUDENT: Isn't it easier to talk about teaching if this is what we are talking about? It seems to me that it is, if you'll pardon me, a characteristic of youth to want to throw out everything and start on your own.
STUDENT: .... Where Shakyamuni Buddha founded his life and his practice was on his own body and his own mind. And that was his laboratory, his entire laboratory. And I really do feel that I don't have to go farther than that. This body and this mind... the wisdom that's in someone else ... that's not in me. I can only reach it by reaching into myself.... The words of wisdom don't give pleasure any more, they give some kind of aching bitterness... because they don't ring true all the way.
STUDENT: Perhaps you have tried to take the words too far ... over rely upon words, doing the opposite of what you say you want to do.
STUDENT: Well, yeah. I perhaps tried to use the map as if it was the mountain. So maybe the kind of balance that has to occur is to stumble around the mountain, in a way.
STUDENT: I think you've got a pocket full of maps!
STUDENT: It's true.... I guess the greatest fear I have about it, which makes me keep coming back to struggle about it, here, is the fear of disrespect of the teaching .... It's so much like separating from parents that you love. The separation occurs ... because, almost biologically, you must be transplanted into separate soil
KOBUN: When you see relation between a doctor and some patient – when you see the teacher and student in this sense, it is very wrong understanding.
STUDENT: But could it be like a parent and a child?
KOBUN: I don't think so.
STUDENT: I had the idea that a teacher is not someone who could teach you something, like Kobun isn't going to say “do this or that” but it's more like the carrying of a spirit. So it has nothing to do with Kobun, himself. We go through a process and this spirit comes out ... , but because of this living spirit, which I have myself, and everybody, it can rub off on you and you go in the right direction. It's nothing to do with the person, or the words, or even with Buddhism, or whatever ...
KOBUN: You have to express what you are really experiencing. It's not for yourself but for people. If you succeed to express it, the way will appear. How to do things, that is the way. It's a very difficult thing to go over tradition ... it's to cut off half your body and leave it behind.
STUDENT: Well, I feel like I've been swimming in tradition, primarily of the West. There's no way of cutting off tradition. I've tried.
STUDENT: If [tradition] was completely lost there wouldn't be people like St. John of the Cross, St. Francis of Assisi.
STUDENT: I have a feeling that they plunged into their own experience, and found Christ. They didn't go from the recipe. They looked at the recipe and then went off and cooked. Then they came back and said, “Ah, it tastes like ...”
STUDENT: St. John of the Cross was raised in the monastic tradition... and then took off, the second stage of the rocket.
STUDENT: In a way your tradition, or the recipe, is you. When you can really appreciate what it was that brought you up to this moment, then you face always to a new moment. The same thing is true with parents. The moment they become no problem is the moment when you can fully appreciate that archetype behind you. With that appreciation, you're always facing whatever the truth will be for this moment. There doesn't seem to be any conflict.... I don't know any way to do that except sitting zazen.
STUDENT: The feeling that I get from what you [other student] said is that at one point in your life you decided to devote yourself completely to zazen and dropped everything off, completely cut everything out.
STUDENT: It's true.
STUDENT: Is it disturbing to you that other people go to the zendo?
STUDENT: Frankly, it is. But I think that's just small-mindedness on my part.
KOBUN: Well, I am very agreeable with you. It's a sort of weighing, you know. Some times you make best effort to reach to zendo and whether zazen is good or not, that is not so big problem. To reach the zendo and sit on pillow is the aim. When people reach the zendo and at some point close eyes ... maybe five people close eyes and one person sleep! The whole feeling of the zendo turns very strange. It's like two lighted bulbs and five turned off bulbs. No vibration, just something sitting there.
STUDENT: It sounds to me as if you're saying that someone who doesn't feel like going to the zendo for a while should come to the zendo anyway.
KOBUN:. No. I didn't care whether he comes or not, because I know how he is doing.
STUDENT: There was another reason why I wanted to sit at home. Driving down to the zendo morning and evening felt extremely disruptive, even when, after a while, the Foothill Expressway was part of the walkway into the zendo. Still, there's a different feeling when you can get up, wash your face, sit down, get up and cook, and garden, everything in the same space, day after day. I guess it's a monastic feeling, in a way.
KOBUN: You have a nice spot, nice spot. Like, when you go to country temple, nobody comes to sit zazen. Everyone is doing their own job, raising rice, and once in a while, four times a year they come to the temple. “Hi, hojo (monk)”. “How are you doing?” “I'm fine.” “Why don't you sweep with me there?” Sangha is not like meeting of people itself. When you see from very high place, like bird's eye, people's spiritual life, and how people are thinking. Some people's mind covers whole world. Some people's mind... there are different levels of mind ... when he thinks of himself it means to think of other people. That kind of people exist. Some people's mind also covers whole unseen world, like seeing through binoculars, microscope.... Moody Road house is one of the Sangha, even nobody come to the zendo. I think that is one great place.... It's very interesting, many houses now, around zendo. Many families. Today the farthest is from San Jose. You cannot call it Los Altos Zendo now!
STUDENT: I think the more the sangha exists as a nonmaterial thing the stronger it is. And perhaps the more lasting.... Now, we don't have a temple, we don't have a monastery, and we don't even live in the same town, and it looks like we're very weak. But maybe that is a strength in that we have less to lose....
KOBUN: You cannot say we don't have monastery. My monastery is here and there. Tassajara is your monastery, even you are not inside of it. It doesn't belong to you, of course. When the Christ existed, it's your Christ. If Buddha exist somewhere, the historical Buddha exist, maybe corner of your brain, that is your figure of Shakyamuni Buddha.... the sangha, Los Altos Zendo, exists in a very interesting way. When [other student's] idea grows up and one big family is taken care of by this idea, some space will be produced from the agreement of people. That kind of possibility is in the near future. Los Altos Zendo is moving very fast toward the future, toward the past. It's crazy to say, but it's the very essential meaning why people gather and practice together. It is not a particular person's effort. It's people's zazen produced this condition. So when you sit in the zendo and feel there is no vibration from next person, send a signal like this (pokes next person's knee). “Would you wake up?” this kind of compassionate, very kind mind hits. To accept, “Oh, he is sleeping, was very tired last night, didn't sleep last night.” This is not real kindness. When someone starts to do zazen he should do zazen and not sleep. Otherwise he'd better go home and sleep in lying posture. When we do zazen toether, help each other. The Japanese word of this is “mosa”, a kind of slang. “Mosa” is not so good language, but it means, “the one who has real strong guts” Even if you beat him ten or twenty times he just feels itchy. That kind of strong practicer appears when you take care, yourself, “Don't sleep,” or “You think that's very fantastic idea but totally wrong!”
STUDENT: To yourself.
KOBUN: No, no. To others.
STUDENT: I say that to myself. I thought that developed strong guts.
KOBUN: When you are ready to hear, “You think that you lived very well twenty-seven years, but I don't think you lived very well....” Sometimes very strong conceit, self-satisfaction, self-admiration grows up without knowing. I, myself, become very surprised at what a person I am. You have to completely deny it, by yourself, by myself. It's a hard job to really gaze at yourself and do not permit that kind of sweetness. Mosa is, my feeling, growing in this zendo.
STUDENT: Complacency would be like that too. You get satisfied with your practice.
STUDENT: But you were saying that this “mosa” is the ability to criticize others straight forwardly. I would have felt that the more useful practice would be to criticize yourself that way.
KOBUN: Of course he does completely criticize himself too, but kindness cannot keep silent.
[Discussion of difficulties concerning household chores, whether or not to assign tasks.]
STUDENT: It feels like, “I don't want to be forced and I don't want to force anybody else... as though there's some kind of alternative which actually exists... to give something some kind of form. [Other student] is talking about something which doesn't exist. Trying to have form without having it. And to be so-called free. But it's a freedom that exists only in limbo. It has no... how you actually clean up the house.
STUDENT: It's funny that we come here to discuss our household problems.
KOBUN: It's not funny. We enjoy to hear.... Basic thing is how the individual person, the individuals under one roof mutually touch each other, learn from each other. Otherwise little house will be same as apartment or something. There is no particular room, but the air become the wall. That kind of situation will be prepared. So in the very beginning, if new person comes to become one of family, you don't say, “We have this rule.” Watching what you do, watching how people do, he will do. Do you understand this?
STUDENT: It also happens from the other direction.
KOBUN: Um hmm.
STUDENT: The person who comes in changes... [the family].
KOBUN: That should be....