24. Thursday, August 2, 1973
KOBUN: Monastic life is very sensitive what world condition is. A boat is resting in the water. Monastic life has that kind of relation with actual society. It cannot be separated. The basic idea is not hermitage. It goes along with the society of the time. It is anchored in the society. If the anchor disappears or breaks, the boat loses direction. It can go everywhere.
We started talking about original sin. The other day I went to the doctor's, and waiting in the office I saw children's book – Bible story for children. This book didn't use that term, “original sin,” instead it was “mistake.” If it's just a mistake, it has also very big meaning. Someone made big mistake there and now we have its result. What shall we do? Like a misstep made a big difference. Like beginning of straying... very slight difference.
STUDENT: In the Bible it talks about Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I assume this is what is original sin.
KOBUN: Religion and ethics have a very clear division, without separation. Eating the apple was actually nothing. What was important was they did it against God. When they went against God they had to die. They thought they could separate from God.
STUDENT: And they thought they could become like God. They could become God.
KOBUN: Um hmm. It is like the relation of generations. When you see daughter become adult, there is very interesting period – protest, suffer – even she has fantastic mother, it happens. Unfortunately Eve didn't have a mother!
STUDENT: She wouldn't have had to eat the apple. She'd just be busy separating from mother. My daughter is 13 now and both of us know the sadness in it. I tell her, “I'll see you again when you're grown up.” But you have to come apart. You have to go through it even though you know what's going on.
KOBUN: Children feel a very sinful feeling to parents. If parents feel very deep sorry, “I made this children without asking them,” children will feel same way. My feeling is, was God just playing... with what kind of mind did human appear? I don't think God had a sinful feeling in the beginning. He always said, “This is fine,” how do you say?
STUDENT: “It is good”
KOBUN: “It is good.... Fine job!”
I don't think Adam and Eve had to leave Eden. If they stayed there they wouldn't die.... They want the ability to become old and die. Like the snow of the Himalaya, Everest, almost eternal. Almost no change. Nowaday, to realize Heaven, to actualize heavenly world is through art... infinity of beauty. Religion is also a very strong meaning – go beyond Heaven, through Heaven. Science and most cultural activity, too. What is sin, the whole moral sense of the Christians.... Adam and Eve, my feeling is, are the birth of spiritual man on this earth. Each step from Eden is each instantaneous step of the Christ toward God. My understanding is that a very mythological sense made that Bible story.
STUDENT: Adam and Eve, before the fall, before they ate the apple, what was that state? At first I thought it was something like enlightenment, and then I thought, “No, enlightenment has more to do with the life of pain and suffering.” If people are “saved,” is that more like enlightenment or is it more like going back to where they were? Where were Adam and Eve?
KOBUN: It's like a beautiful insane person! .... Things are very dreamy when I speak about this. I get very high when I start to speak, probably because of very certain center from which everything appear. If you don't admit that center everything completely changes. The whole thing is very miraculous, even if it is a story of a mistake. In Buddhism there is very, very close idea. There is no such example like Adam and Eve, but there is very heavy idea from which you cannot be free. It is karma, Samsara, the flow or current of the deed. As long as you keep form, life, you are not free from Samsara. If you want to be freed from the River of Samsara, you have to evaporate or die. Within Samsara, within the current of Samsara, it is possible to realize peace. Samsara is not only suffering.
STUDENT: What kind of dharma is preached in Heaven? Because change is not so fast, and suffering is not felt so much. Sometimes it seems to me my world is like that. There's a funny little visionary thing that flashes through my mind, a picture of a monk, and he just sits. Sometimes when I'm seeing things in a very heavenly way he flashes through my mind, “Oh, I have to remember to sit.” It's not easy to remember when the world is heavenly...
KOBUN: Eden was like that. No need to use brain, no developing of brain. No need to suffer. For a long, long time humans had fighting history.... Then in some spots on the earth a very heavenly world started to appear, the heavenly world appears like a glimpse, and disappears, glimpse and disappear. What the Jehovah's Witnesses are talking about is to bring that heavenly world on this earth. Looks like going back to Eden all together. But the important thing is, haven't we already left Eden? A very interesting thing happened. The question is, what kind of spirit made this Bible? They may say this is the word of God.... Even though the whole thing is not true – The OldTestament and New Testament. What they speak doesn't happen, yet there is some truth. What kind of spirit made this whole history?
Then what happened was corruption of the moral sense of Christianity. By the beginning of the 20 th Century it was already clarified – the death of the imitation God, not the true one. What is left is very important for humankind. In a real sense existentialists tried very hard to find the real relation of the real God and man. And in oriental religion, especially Buddhism, appeared Nembutsu, a recitation of the Buddha's name. Recitation of the Buddha's name is like man is calling the name of God or God is calling the straying man. What Zen is emphasizing is wherever a man is straying, wherever you are, you find yourself. It's okay if it is very, very, very far from God. To know where you are is the place to reunite. Until the 19 th Century people didn't have this strong recognition. They always measured from the God, so whoever speak of God, everyone said, “Right, right!” So what happened was not the death of God. “Death of God” is very symbolic. It was the death of imitation, like, “that shadow is not me.” When your self-recognition.... “The reflection in the mirror is me, but it's not me.... The form of this body is not me, the mind of this body is not me.” When the understanding, “God is dead” has such meaning, all misunderstanding scatters.
When something is hidden, and then all hindrances, obstacles, are taken off, it has to appear. This century, next century, is mostly that effort. To recover, discover.... The whole structure of society is – when you see what's really happening on this earth – naturally you see a shadow of hidden thing in the real happening. As long as human has a sense of perfection, the ultimate, everything is imperfect. Because of that sense of the ultimate, we cannot breathe without so many problems. So if you see many problems, everyone's very similar problems, you can see there is something missing, something separating from the ultimate. Even if you don't say it is “God,” or “ultimate truth,” or “perfect enlightenment,” it is the very intuitive recognition of the ultimate in reality. Usually we say the human realized “ultimate truth.” The same thing has to be said, that “ultimate truth” knows imperfectness. Imperfectness never knows the imperfectness of itself, and imperfectness never knows perfection.
In my feeling, Adam and Eve... I mustn't say “insane,” but they were very healthy, insanely healthy. They were very beautiful people, but they started to suffer....
STUDENT: In the Garden of Eden they started to suffer?
KOBUN: Um hum.
STUDENT: Before they ate of the tree?
KOBUN: My understanding is, their step is the advance of Eden. They are not pushed out of Eden. I get a nice feeling from them. Whatever they do... very nice.
My strong feeling is that cultural differences don't make any difference in the essential.... Nature, how you feel nature.... Do you put the sad clothes onto your true nature or do you just let it wear it's own clothes? To say human nature, the nature of living beings is sin, tainted or helpless, in the beginning you already have some idea. Like a mother thinks, “This baby is bad baby.” But in the beginning you cannot say, “good” or “bad.”
My understanding of whole Bible... it is not a book of truths, not a book of reality, not a book of history, it is a book of faith.... My understanding... “commandments” and the precepts, very different sense. [But] there is historical meeting of Christian and Buddhism about the precept “Do not kill.” And monastic life too. There will be opportunity for influence of each other, Christianity and Buddhism.
Basic nature – at the intellectual level it is called “emptiness.” We cannot do anything with it. And it can also be said of the realm of death. This death is just a mere concept of death – we cannot do anything with it. But emptiness, which is penetrating in real life, you cannot do anything with it. You cannot judge it too, “This is good” or “This is bad,” or pure or tainted, or big or small, or triangle or square! Sounds like spirit now, eternal spirit, never changing. Sounds like Atman, when I speak in that way. And if you cannot do anything with it from your side, it's like no communication. Sounds like you cannot communicate with it. Sounds like real God is there and everywhere. You are just sharing some part of it, and that part is not the whole. A part never becomes whole, never takes the whole. Like creator and creature, relation is just the idea. It is not the ontological term.
STUDENT: What did you mean just then?
KOBUN: The opportunity which held your question, “What do you mean?” Now you shake your head! Opportunity is very important, more than my talk. Always, not tainted, without judgment of anybody, it appear and come too fast.
STUDENT: If you do not think you have that opportunity, how can take it? It seems to me there's a premise, a thought, a memory, that I have to have before I understand what you say. If I can't remember, I'll have some interposing thought, like maybe, the idea of original sin, that will prevent me from being able to take that opportunity.
KOBUN: Ya. It's like the whole thing, not just Adam and Eve and Jesus Christ, the whole thing, from original sin to salvation, as your flesh and blood. It's the discipline of your life, how to live. If you don't take it, maybe the Christian will say you are not a Christian, not the son or daughter of God. Maybe nowaday that possibility is also a truth. It means, like Herman Hesse says somewhere, “The Bible is half of the Word.”
STUDENT: Maybe the original sin was ignorance. The original sin of Adam and Eve was their ignorance in the Garden. That aspiration is the awareness of my own imperfection, and that my imperfection is my sin. If Adam and Eve didn't know they were imperfect until they ate of the apple, then they were sinning before they ate the apple, and eating the apple was the beginning of an aspiration toward perfection, a human aspiration. So that would be, to me, the first step out of original sin.
STUDENT: Where is the temptation provided from? God provided the tree, or the Devil. I can't see it as being anything separate, so it was in the plan, it's the game, it's the trick that God plays on us. I just always wonder, “What's the big idea?” Nothing would be happening if they didn't, so He wanted them to, and then they had to suffer for it.
STUDENT: Are you angry?
STUDENT: Yeah, that's the way I feel! They say God and the Devil are something very different, but it seems like you can't know that. You have to have the leap of faith. But isn't that moment, isn't faith something abstract, too. My question is right now and any kind of faith is just a little bit separate from the moment, so it's always not real.
STUDENT: It isn't separate.
KOBUN: It's like even if you do not put your faith in God, He is giving you time.... Even if we don't know grandfather, grandmother, they are there now. Ignorance, original sin... very interesting.
STUDENT: To me, if ignorance is the same thing as original sin, it is original sin without that horrible guilt, that horrible condemnation of myself.
STUDENT: That's where the burden lies, somehow. You're not sure what you've done, but you feel guilty about it.
STUDENT: Sometimes you don't even notice you're feeling it....
STUDENT: It's never been a problem for me. There's a very strong feeling I have of support, all the unseen support, like your grandfather that you haven't seen. But it's not that you don't see that you're always making mistakes, with best intentions.
KOBUN: We actualize our practice with gratitude. If gratitude appear, we have to do something with it. Gratitude and guilt are different, but gratitude comes through the feeling of guilt. I have spoken of repentance. If repentance doesn't reach to gratitude, repentance is not succeeding. And another side of the repentance is purification. Purification and guilt are together. It's like the inside of the Cross... inside of the Cross, outside of the Cross. They have to come together. The gratitude is basic, basic.... In the beginning of beginning is love of something you call God. To that you return gratitude. This the origin of all religion. Maybe compassion existed in the beginning. Everything begun from it. What the contents of compassion are is very, very clear. We do not analyze what compassion is, but respond to it immediately. This is the most direct, simple way. Like, we don't know why we come together like this.... But you can say hundred thousand reason, “... because of this and this and this.” Coincidentally we came together. That is a very logical, intellectual attempt to know what made it possible for us to come together. The simplest way is, “... this has to happen, without my interpretation of it.”
STUDENT: Sensei, is there an element of choice – you can choose to feel the burden of ignorance and original sin or, like (other student), you can feel gratitude for all the wonderful things? I mean they're both there.
KOBUN: Both there. My feeling is, there is no such two ways. There is no such possibility to choose one of two. You are the one who can feel your original sin. The one who did it is not you. Who can feel it is you. Whether you say, “I deny it, I deny it... there wasn't any such thing,” it is just a little memory, a mosquito bite somewhere. You can feel that way. Or when you can really say, “Thank you. I have known you, Christ, but I am different from you,” you can be a new Adam.
Christianity is not magic. It sounds like everyone has to become Christ-like, offer your whole life to suffering, and dying in a very bad way. It has the certain feeling that because of that, that happened, and because of this, this happened. Very dogmatic. You have doctrinal guidance when you really think, “I did it. It's not Adam or Eve, it was my job.” It means that Adam and Eve are not separated bodies from Christ. Looks like three individual bodies, like two bodies is one body, and lifted.... Christ's body and the Virgin Mary... like a part of Adam became woman; a part of Virgin Mary became Christ. They are opposite stories. From that time people started to count human history. How do you say, “before Christ, after Christ?” I don't mean this counting is wrong, but the whole thing, how each human express ourself, themselves... the sin and forgiveness. Christ said, “Forgive them, they don't know what they are doing. Forgive them.” Sounds like he is talking as God. Christ is seeing himself and what comes from his mouth is, “They don't know.” If He is talking and walking in the street, that is, maybe, preaching. In the last moment of His death He is talking, “Forgive them.” The whole thing becomes, instead of “forgive them,” it becomes “forgive me.” That is the activity of the repentance. When it is forgiven, what happens is, very new life begins from it.
The whole thing is dogmatic, how do you say, doctrinal. It can be expressed in very mathematical way, how our emotional structure is. If it is just personal religion, the whole thing is like a dream. Why it is not just a dream is communication with people. You feel the same way. If you do something to someone, naturally, to keep the relationship, you have to continue the same process. “I don't know what I have done, but this means I have done that. I am sorry now. Can you forgive me?” If you say, “No, I'll never forgive you,” that means you start to depart from this relation. “I forgive you,” means you reunite with this mistake and in recognition of the mistake you reunite with people. A human is a very, very interesting, mysterious being. A little difficult to kill off all humans. Like water, when you see water go through fire, even when a hot day comes, it disappears from the house but it went somewhere. Human life is very strong. Life is very strong.
The beginning of the Buddhist concept is, mind and life is identical. Mind and life is unseen. Body, this actual form, is one expression of life. This “mind” is a very interesting Buddhist idea. So when (student) speaks about choice, my feeling is, there are no two possibilities of choice. There is only one choice, but how you think of it is free. How you remember it is free. Whether you separate from your thing, meaning whether you stand as the God side, not the human side, or whether you follow to the human side, not the God side – this makes sense if it is forgiven in recent time. It was forgiven in the beginning.
STUDENT: From the very beginning.
KOBUN: Um hum. That trust of God in Adam begins the incarnated body... incarnated body of Christ, if I follow the Christian idea. Trust – it's like two persons who are straying very, very far place and that makes a very big journey.
Christ is like the messenger to take care of all of them. Looks like all are interesting game of God, and very serious enjoyment of God. What we learn from it is important. The story is not important. What was happening? Is that just a development of the human mind, imagining absoluteness and having pretty hard reality? Is that just big imagination? Or maybe reality is like a dream and actually the truth is not yet seen, truth is not yet seen.... (Tape ends)