23. Thursday, July 26, 1973
Mudra, Magic, Christ, God and Humans
KOBUN: ... usually this soft round mudra, not round, oval. (demonstrates) If you have some tension, only this hand you make straight, and naturally this one follow. You do not need to make square box. There is a difference between setting your mudra on the heel and just lifting it, resting it on heel. Different feeling. When you move mudra upwards and downwards, you feel different feeling. Yesterday there was a little talk about why we sit. If the sitting has reason why, it becomes a little impure, not pure. Like the mudra itself is pure, but an idea sticks to it. Like when you draw a picture and say, “I am enjoying it.”
There is something funny. When you are drawing, there is no sense of enjoyment. That is pure state. It is not for anything. It is only for itself. To say, “for itself” is also extra. So “just sit,” “shikan” has that kind of very pure.... Nothing can stick to it, even many things come to it. Most activities are like that. Hand position. When we are standing doing a special thing the hand is always involved in it. So we don't need to worry about hand, where we put it. And when we lie down and sleep and rest we don't care about hand, where it goes on the stomach or on the side. Most hard time is where hand is, sitting.
Very clearly awake and nothing to do. I have very bad habit (twiddles his thumbs). Several mudras are actually possible, but this is best. This form is kind of wisdom from ancient people.
KOBUN: Shassu is the same. It is for standing, walking meditation. Like this vajra mudra, diamond mudra. Looks like that. And you cover it with other hand. There are two ways to do this shassu. One is to keep this way, and one way is to carry the mudra like this and you have very good feeling. (demonstrates) When I began zazen, teachers told me like this, Kamazawa University. This is the Eiheiji way, monastic way. Whenever I do this, old monk come and point. Old way shassu was like this, the last finger come about this place, breastbone. About that height you keep this. Peter Schneider, now in Japan, he carries on the very bottom. Roshi always point. This is very interesting mudra. When you memorize something, little firmly you hold this thumb like this.
The more you want to clearly memorize you press it. This is my custom when I memorize.... “Rice Ball Nun,” I put the nickname because she had a face like a triangle rice ball. She was very kind, but I felt she was very mean nun. Always hit me by means of little bamboo stick when I mistake to memorize sutra. You memorize things not to think actively, but to get a clear impression of everything. In Tibetan Buddhism, in lama temples, the very first step is to learn and to hear, and to repeat the sound over and over again and memorize the sutra. No particular technique. It is like when you play guitar, your fingers work even you don't remember. Like cooking, driving, all sorts of duties has certain exact way. Memorization is like that. In elementary school, whenever some big meeting come, celebration, people appoint me, and I stand up and start to chant long, long sutra. Next step in lamist Buddhism is to discuss word by word, sound by sound. From older teacher they listen to meaning of it and discuss. So discussion is also like training. Discussion is also practice.
It has some sense like mondo in zen. Like shosan, dokusan. Discussion has meaning, but meeting itself has deeper meaning, in the sense of the dharma, in communication. Very shy person trembles like this. When one word comes tremble stops. When some [inferiority] complex comes, like in the sense, “I am bad man,” this is quickly solved when you come and have opportunity to communicate with people. There is no choice, you have to do it. You find out there is no reason to have that “self complex.” Question was...?
STUDENT: We were just talking about mudra.
KOBUN: Oh, mudra, ya. Many Rinzai people keep this... like this. When you go to Japanese formal tea ceremony, you sit Japanese style, and your hand same way, like this. Instead of mudra you sit like this. (demonstrates) This is a kind of stable but also relaxed feeling. Not relaxed, but some feeling of uniting. Don't you feel so? When you visit Japanese family, mostly the woman keeps this hand like this. Men keeps both hands... end of thigh. When it's not working it's just dangling. Sometimes hand can be busy and beautiful too. A kind of balanced feeling. At “monkey mountain” zoo I used to feel kind of funny feeling. Kind of old feeling. You become little blushing because they do very similar thing as you do! Especially when they walk like this... hand on the rock.
You may say, “That's monkey,” but when they stand up and start to do something, “Oh, he's imitating me!” Once we went to... (I should stop. I'm going to talk something funny now!) Gorilla was sitting. I think this was San Diego Zoo. It was very big, beautiful gorilla. He came and did kinhin from this way to this. Sometimes pee. Finally he sat corner of the cage, and I spoke to Harriet, “Looks like Tatsugame.” (Discussion of ESP and psychic powers by students...)
KOBUN: There is one way that science is the boss of magic. Don't you think so? When you show something to primitive people, they say, “This is fantastic!” “Magic” is a kind of mythological term, a comparative term. We have some emotional reaction to this word, “magic.” It's a kind of dead word, in a sense. Like miracles you see in the Bible, you can see very magical element of it. Actually, the occasions of miracles were brought by people, not by some particular person. So we cannot say how Golden Gate Bridge was built. If someone ask you to make same kind of bridge next to Golden Gate Bridge, you may say, “It's impossible. If I spent whole life from now, I cannot do it.” Then you can see how necessary it was to have many people involved in it, money in it. A bunch of peoples' energy came together in small place. That is Golden Bridge.
STUDENT: That's also magic.
STUDENT: And that happened with Christ, do you think?
KOBUN: Um hmm.
STUDENT: There seems to be such a strong feeling in Christ that He died for everyone else. He did it all for everyone else.
KOBUN: Ya. You can see He didn't, how can I say.... There is He and there is many people. He is extremely sensitive about this energy of people. And what I can say is, through their energy He saw God. Do you understand this? Otherwise you don't understand what was Christ... why he will end on the cross. He didn't die on the cross. This is very clear understanding. When you say He, personally, died, like a fish on the shore, it is not the way to see Him.
Like when you hear St. Paul, “I'm not living. Christ is living.” This kind of statement appears in living people through history. That is real Christ... a warm feeling, I feel always. It's like light is just beside you. You cannot communicate, but you are communicated with by Him. He is like an empty person. When He appeared among people, He would say, “This is to be.”
STUDENT: .... There is empty Christ, but then there is human being, Christ. One without the other doesn't seem to me to be the whole truth.
KOBUN: Of course, in that age many different ideologies came together so in a sociological sense to figure out how his steps toward the cross were, is very obvious. It is like chasing a very fast fish toward shore and finally it goes to the shore and dies. When you see very clear, cool sociological view, you can see like that. In the same way, two other persons were on the cross. What they did was very different but the process of chasing onto the cross was the same. Unhappy condition they had. They had crying kids so they had to steal things to feed them and finally they got to the cross. When you see with the eye of contemplation, everything can be expressed in that way.
But the matter doesn't end there. That is the problem. Things didn't finish by the death of Christ. Over and over again the same thing happens. So what He said is, “I am a Path. I am a Way.” It sounds very unusual in an ordinary sense, but it is true that He was just talking about an ordinary thing. When you jump in a fire, you burn. He knew if He jumped into it... it surely happened, it happened. There are many people who went to “Cross” in Japan. Similar social conditions set up there as in the time of Christ. Portuguese ministers came. Not legally, but “underground,” they arrived in Japan to spread Christianity. Of course, that age of Japan was quite rigid. It was scary thing to come. Put them in jail. When they figured out this is a foreign religion, they were frightened.
They didn't say, “I am frightened,” but.... “This is different way, different way!” There were many Japanese people who became devotees. They really understood the Christian spirit. When they were found, a picture of Christ was put on the floor by the officials and they were made to walk on it, to step on the picture. If you had faith in Christ, you could not step on His face, so this was a test: “This is real Christian; this is not real Christian.” One minister stepped on it, stepped on the Christ. It made him a “fallen priest.” When his bare, dusty foot stepped on the Christ figure it meant that he was against the Cross. So everyone said that it meant that he was a fallen priest. I, myself, have very big feeling that this man wasn't fallen. There was a way to do it.... When this message went to his home country, no one believed he was fallen.
This kind of history of religion, many, many cases we see. Politics involved, always, politics involved in Christianity.... To change red to green, to change color without touching it, that sounds impossible. But it is possible. Without touching it, make it yours. Like running, swimming fish, truly you possess it without touching it. It seems impossible, but it is possible. The word is tricky, but by using tricky word, this statement, “without touching it,” you can hold it. It is not magic at all. The more you understand what life is, you understand it. The trickiness of this word does not appear. You don't need to say, “It is there and I am here.” The tricky thing is that by speaking a word you immediately imagine you have to hold the fish in your hand. If you become the hand itself, you hold water, and when your whole body become hand your earth is your hand. Water is a pad, big pond is a pad, and fish is in there.
Most mystic word is this word, “God.” One of the biggest human discoveries, about 23 centuries, 24 centuries ago, all activity of human kind was about this. Nothing else, only this, to relate with God. And now it become similar age, similar condition like Christ was born and Buddha was living... Sonja: The condition is, usually there are many “ways” around....
STUDENT: On the question of talking to God, if emptiness does not exist without form, God does not exist without the man. If man is in God, also God is in man.
KOBUN: Unfortunately, God exists without man, without religion. That is what the problem is. If God exists because human or creature exists, that is very limited figure of God. The picture is very clear: The long hair, white beard and white clothes. Real God is more than that. I, myself... sounds like I am preaching you!
KOBUN: The trial is not about true or untrue. This is a very important point as to why we are in the 20 th century. If it is true [that there is God] it is better to begin new counting and not say 20 th century. There is a long, long history of the truth of God, but the reality is very, very obvious now. Human activity is like the building of a nest or web. The spider makes his web in space and when he flies from this tree to that tree, always that sticky string comes. It becomes hard and supports him. Humans have done that kind of job for a long time. It's like putting a bridge in space, walking on space, and more bridges, and walking on them. Very sarcastic job, especially the last five centuries. A few times of big, big war shows that if we go on and on this way, everyone will fall off the bridge!
It means humankind will be wiped off the earth. People want to know a really peaceful life. Like when you become a mother, father, you really feel this double sense. I, myself, was born in a nice place at best condition and when I became a father I thought, “Wait a minute, can I give what I had to my children, the next generation?” Why did this happen? People are involved in many things. They rearrange them and again break them and rearrange them. One of the biggest misunderstandings is about the next life. We say, “next life,” “...when I finish this life, I will have a new disguise prepared at the moment I die and I will go on in it.” That is the very basic sense in which people continue to write history. Reincarnation is the basic sense of history.
Many animals, plants, don't have that sense at all. It looks like there are many ways, forms, but the basic point is there is only one thing. People can take many ways to express it or reach to it. It is very simple. You can say there is no path at all, all paths are illusion. If you are on a path it is the beginning of straying, going off from it. When you set up some path or method, putting forth some image or object or destination, an ideal figure, it's impossible to walk on. Like a rainbow bridge, you don't feel it.
STUDENT: That's the way I feel about images or concepts of God. Any word is limiting. So just nothing should be said, nothing should be imagined or visualized or conceptualized.
KOBUN: My understanding is that people started to call Yahweh “God” because they were afraid to call His name. If they called Him something big would happen. God is like “Daddy.” It's like dead father, the father who finished things concerning you and never appears again. Virgin Mary got Christ like that. He finished His job, and yet He was alive. Every creature was like that in the very beginning, and every being is now like that, whether you can really appreciate it or not. It relates with the existence of God. You know God will never appear, never show His figure and will never tell you what to do.
The only way of existence is to feel yourself, feel your friend exist. That is the only unclear sense in which He exists. This is why people started to speak of God. The basic sense is that there is no Christianity, no Buddhism. If there are such different religions, spiritual paths, they are just phenomena. Scholars work on how theology can be performed. A single more serious problem is “how to do this,” every moment. If you say, “I expect next life,” that is very sweet idea. It's like, “Tomorrow will come. I didn't finish this job, I'll do it tomorrow.” That kind of very sweet, easy feeling exists. “That's okay, that's okay, tomorrow will come and I'll do it.” But with a very serious problem, if you leave it for tomorrow, it is too sweet about the present moment.
So the zen practicer's attitude is, “There is no future.” Always the opportunity is given to complete it this moment. This is what the practice is. If you expect some accomplishment one moment later, already it is too sweet an idea. In this sense enlightenment and death, death and enlightenment, is totally identical. Miracles are still going on. The miraculous thing, everyone's miracle, is the exact way it is happening. That is how we are living and how we are practicing. When a miracle is finished it is like breaking off from a nightmare. The whole thing will change and you'll find out, “That was a miracle!” A new miracle is started.
STUDENT: According to the Jewish conception, a miracle can be any kind of event, even the most mundane event, through which God's presence in the world is manifested. But when Christianity took over, combining that concept and the Greek idea of there being a natural order, the idea grew up of a miracle as something which went against the natural order.
KOBUN: The more you are aware of reality, the more you appreciate your presence in reality. There is a very big dilemma what to do because there are quite deep problems. Like children walking toward a lake without knowing how to swim, that kind of feeling all humans have. So let it go and all together have a difficult time and become wise, or gradually change direction and not cause self-extinction! This is what the next century will be about. Gradually the whole human energy will go in a very good direction, or it will go straight and self-extinction will appear. This trial is now given to us. I feel very positive when the young generation gets more familiar with nature, and trees and plants.
They become more themselves. People stress the animal part of the human condition, instead of the material, intellectual part of the human. Self-extinction includes war, mistakes of policy. That is the same as cancer... or humans are 20 centuries old, too old already! What I am talking about is whether you make it 2,000 years or 20 years, whether you make it very old or stay very young – that is our job. We are meeting a very important point – whether we take the suicide way or take the eternally significant way to live. Anyway, some day the whole galaxy, whole planet, will change and there will be no choice. Humans will leave from this earth. This is a very clear thing. There is no problem about it. Like a dewdrop, humankind will evaporate. Up to now, continuously, it has been like that. With full effort we are living and yet it was always like that.
It's a very, very interesting place we are living in. The size of the earth is the very same as in ancient times. By speed and various methods of knowledge (our knowing is like air which covers the earth...) it's like human intuition caught the light and wherever air exists the human mind can go into it. We enjoy the whole thing with a little radio, television. Miraculous things are going on and we become not so sharp, but doing miraculous things. When one artist appears and does some fantastic thing, everyone gets its merit. There are many ways to turn away from dangerous occasions.
STUDENT: First, you have to see clearly, because without seeing clearly, how can you know when there's a dangerous occasion?
KOBUN: People's sense of very, very intuitive knowing.... Even if you don't see, you feel, and if you don't understand you get frightened, and you get angry. Anger is not a bad thing at all. If it becomes clear the anger disappears and what to do is there. There are many, many ways – crying, anger, yelling, teaching – everything is involved in it. The whole thing is going in one direction, and yet whether it is the right way, the natural way, is our big job to see. Somehow, many unhappy people are still increasing. There are quite deeper problems which no individual can solve so well. The fire, kalpa fire, is the metaphor Indian people express.... There is a Japanese poem by a man who was a scientist and farmer, very religious person.
It said that to see humans is like dead jellyfish in blue water. You cannot tell whether they are dead or... millions, billions of jellyfish floating in the water.
That is how he saw humankind. Some are crying, some laughing.... When I read this my back got chilly. “By seeing, by calling Your holy name, sacred name,... [all of us got to a bad place].” “It takes a long time to reunite with You...” He said, “I am that bird who sits in that cold ice-frozen water, eyes burning red, praying for the appearance of million awakened people” This is like a prophet poem: Where he is, where we are, and what is expected. He was a great man. That little bird, cold night, his eyes burning....
STUDENT: Successful prayer, don't you think?
KOBUN: Very successful... “The dark sky is filled with flower petals of karma.” He sees stars but they are falling petals of karma. Very interesting poet.
STUDENT: Is he alive?
KOBUN: He died in 1935, about 50 years old. His death was like St. Francis – he didn't maintain eating. He lost appetite. His last gift was to make 10,000 copies of Lotus Sutra and give them away to people.
STUDENT: What was his name?
KOBUN: Kenji Miyazo. His biographical poem is called “Spring Asura.” Spring is, as you know, the enlightened world. Asha is the fighter in the enlightened world.... There is always the tension of the struggle. We humans have a very strong reflection of it. The dualistic way of thinking, seeing, judging is nothing but a reflection of it. Kenji, when he was very young, felt, “I am asura traveling in this world, never allowed to rest, fighting all the time, fight, fight, fight.” But when he speaks of “Spring Asura,” there is some very clear awareness of something. He sees himself.
KOBUN: Thank you.
STUDENT: Thank you.
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