19. Thursday, June 21, 1973
Talk, Concentration, Techniques, Koan, Teacher, Awakening

STUDENT: How are things going at your house?

KOBUN: Fine. I didn't know two close babies could go along so well. Teido is very good. Yesterday I was sanding the back part of the house with a sander – “shuu, shuu....” At noontime I was washing the dishes and I heard the baby crying in the room. She stop crying and then my mind went toward the dishes. Few minutes later Teido is carrying the baby! Baby is turned around backward... my eyes pop out! Like carrying kitty cat or something.... She was lying on the bed – Harriet's bed, on the floor like Japanese mat. Teido carried her out... so baby's head turned over. Last night was first night I asked Harriet to sleep with her. She wanted me to sleep, so I slept four hours straight. It was a hot night and across the street the old lady is losing her mind. She wanders around. Kind of a good kind of insane, like fairy. She speak with space and time. What she is doing is talking with shadow bush. “Are you there? I'm here.” One time I came back from Santa Cruz at 12:00. A car was parking right after I parked my car. Someone was calling to me. A young woman took her from the car.

This lady is always speaking to a huge dog, huge head and hair, almost no tail, funny dog, Charlie. This woman went very far place to a house where she have never visited. This housewife brought her back. She came to me, “Would you help me get her in the house?” Both of us went to find out if there was some way to get inside. Finally we opened a little window.... This woman went again somewhere last night, and her daughter, who lives very close, was searching about 1:00....

STUDENT: I'm very interested... someone said you sleep with Teido. Is that a Japanese custom?

KOBUN: Japanese custom is, until about elementary school, children used to sleep with parents. My family custom is not so rigid. You can make separate room for children sleep.

STUDENT: Is it boys with fathers and girls with mothers?

KOBUN: Um hmm. Not in same bed. There is separate bed right beside mine. Then you may feel, “Oh, that's terrible! You sleep in other room every night?” Isn't it custom that married couples sleep in same room?

STUDENT: Um hmm.


STUDENT: I have some friends who talk all the time when they're alone. In fact, I do quite a bit myself and I've often wondered what the real difference is between my friends and those who are sitting in an institution some place.

STUDENT: Well, what's the difference if there's somebody sitting there or not? I talk to myself when I'm alone – out loud. Especially doing housework...

KOBUN: How do you? I don't talk to myself. Is that fun?

STUDENT: Sometimes I wonder, when I talk to other people, if I'm just talking to myself.

STUDENT: It's hard to hold things in. If the kitchen's dirty I start talking to myself about it, or about something the cat does.... I'm trying to figure out a way not to say some of those things.

STUDENT: It's kind of flashings of nervous energy.

KOBUN: Ebon mitchi. (“ Ebon mitchi is very interesting thing. It's before you speak there is big long conversation in your mind. It's like before you serve things... great effort to cook something. Ebon mitchi is long effort, great effort to complete something.” Chino Sensei, May 21, 1973) The mind takes a form and unconsciously this form is expressed through words. Even you don't speak you are actually speaking in your mind, to make sure you are thinking. It's not unusual thing.

STUDENT: But you don't do it out loud.



KOBUN: Hearing exists when you are listening to others, or when you are not listening. It is just sound when you are paying no attention. But when you start listening, it's like the other's words are your talk, like you are talking!... You can say it is concentration. It's like there is a hole here and I am trying to fit my experiences into it. One by one you try. Nothing fits. "What is this?"

STUDENT: Some people talk a lot and what they're doing is, there's a hole and they're trying all these different pieces. And there are some people who just don't say anything. They just look at the hole. That's the way people do puzzles. They try pieces. Other people just wait. Then finally they get it.

KOBUN: Actually you do not say, “I have this experience. Which fits to this?” It's more unseen state.... I was thinking whether we have that “sword” or such intellect, which can cut everything? That feeling is more like when you see a situation, you cut and open it, and you go in. Sometimes I feel it's impossible to pierce, go through. Concentration is like that, like drips of water which make a big hole in rock. Rain come many times on some certain place, finally the hole go through. Repetition of our practice is also concentrated effort. One monk, I don't remember who, broke 30 pillows in 30 years. You can feel how he sat. Mend, sit, mend, and finally that cloth cannot be used!

STUDENT: And that is the drop, drop, drop of concentration?

KOBUN: Um hmm.

STUDENT: What is dropping and what is going to dissolve?

KOBUN: If that concentration is very conscious, you may say, “This is my practice.” It has purpose and a goal. You will know the beginning and end of it. Usually we do not know why we meditate. Probably a traditional Buddhist will say, “This is Buddha's activity, so we do it.” Unless you know what is Buddha, it is just mere doctrine. And when we understand what zazen is, we do not need to say, “This is Buddha's activity.” You just say, “I find I am doing zazen.” Zazen is not a cultural phenomenon. We do not say, “Zazen is now in this country.” That is just the phenomenal, visible part. When someone is not interested in meditation, zazen never occurs in this world for him. But for zazen, he is within it. He is in zazen, so you can see what is zazen. When you say, “zazen” my feeling is it has a very religious sense. It's not like practice. We do not do something with it.

STUDENT: Sensei, are the differences in zen schools a matter of technique?

KOBUN: Techniques appeared because different student practicers had different conditions. No one is educated in the same way. From various directions, various experiences, people come and when they speak, similar words have different meaning. The technique is that teacher's technique, and also for the student. For each student it was a way, a path, to depend on, work on. In Rinzai school, very strong faith in teacher, teacher's way, not other teachers' way, real teacher's way.

Many times in Buddhist history the word, “koan,” is sometimes respected and sometimes... “put it under your foot.”

STUDENT: “Denigrated.”

KOBUN: “Denigrated.” It's like shaking people. So when everyone is sleeping, one by one you wake them up. If everyone is waking up, “How about this?” is nonsense. Koan has the kind of character where you really enjoy how the skillful means works. It's like a fine drama which doesn't have any other way to express. If you do something a different way the whole drama will be ruined. It's kind of how people live together and practice. Without the experience, even when you read it, it has no meaning. When we study the Blue Cliff Record, if you do not have the ability of poetry, you cannot follow what they are speaking of. Rinzai and Soto are quite easy to understand and experience, but other schools of a little different character, like Issan, Eiyo, Ho Gen, and also Joshu's way ... the feeling is like a shooting star which is also one part of a galaxy. A tradition is of a particular time, with particular people but when the same kind of situation doesn't appear in the world, it doesn't appear. You cannot choose their way as you like. As you already know, genius is the production, the baby, of the whole world.

What is genius, what is a leader, what is a follower? You see there is essentially no such difference, just top and tail, this part sticking out, this part a different shape. It's a part of the whole thing. It's like the root complaining to the top of the tree, “I want to become like you,” or “I'm most highest place.” But the whole tree is actually one, working together.

STUDENT: That gives me an understanding of the question that was asked in Shosan. “Do we have to stand on our heads?”


STUDENT: All these techniques, Sensei; suppose someone studied the piano with different teachers. Would the accomplished pianist be the same from all these different techniques?

KOBUN: This word, “technique,” I don't feel a good feeling. But technique is not to teach something... you cannot change the length of finger by your technique! How you teach is to see the real condition and possibility of the student. When you cut something off, it's like scraping the hindrance from the student. So technique is to prepare the best condition, in the inward and the outward sense. When you say, “I didn't have a teacher,” it means, "I had a very difficult time to find out what is the best way to do." That is called mushi do ku bo , attainment without teacher. Shakyamuni Buddha was like that. What actually happened with him is mushi dokubo , awakening alone, without self. So mushi dokubo is without teacher, without self. It is the same thing as teaching from inner sense and outer sense, in essential sense and phenomenal sense.... Awakening without self happens for everyone. What will happen when it happens is the awakening alone, without self. So what it means is when you awake you let everything awake. Do you understand this?

STUDENT: You mean everything awakens with you?

KOBUN: Uh huh. What it is, you see, “Oh my gosh, I am the last one! What I was doing?”

STUDENT: Then when enlightenment occurs in a way that the whole world is filled with enlightenment, where is ignorance then?

KOBUN: When Buddha came out from the mountain, people saw a difference of themselves from him. They wanted to know what made this difference. Like when you move the candlelight from this dark to this dark, things around the candlelight appear. What he speak is all skillful means – to let all people know there is no difference between you and myself.

In a cosmic way, everything is appearing and disappearing. Everything is occurring to me, and to this particular place and particular spot. So full awakening is to live fully, fully. Full awakening is to really live it. There will be many, many losses, “Oh, I didn't pay attention.” This should be thought at that time. This kind of concentration of us doesn't have to take care of everything, but we must do it. So everyone is doing full effort, but many conditions are ignored. That is how our consciousness works. The formula 3 – 1 = 2 is just a symbol. But it never becomes just 2; it is this material and this material. You can see six people are in this room. If you are fooled by “dharma, law, truth,” you think there is six, but there is no such number six.

What exists is that person, this person, this person, and when you come to the sixth it makes six. Teaching is not to learn how to teach. Teaching is to see what was taught, then you understand what you can teach. You are always teaching. “Awakening” is, I think, the best word for so-called satori. I cannot give you satori. When you really see what I'm talking, then you understand what satori is. You say, “I do it,” then I say, “Yes!” Enlightenment cannot be shown. Let me say it's like life. Can you show me your life? If you want to see my life, you better see me. If you want to feel your life.... Enlightenment is like that. Am I awake or are you awake?

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