4. Thursday, January 11, 1973
Fear, sickness, anger

STUDENT: A surfer told me part of the pleasure of surfing was overcoming fear of the surf... and the sutra says, “And his mind is no hindrance. Without any hindrance no fears exist.”

STUDENT: It seems like when you're really into whatever it is you're not afraid. It's either before or after.

KOBUN: It's a very good feeling, “...mind is no hindrance.” It's a little strange in English. I think this translation is very literal translation from Sanskrit original. Chinese translation is very strong character, “... far apart from perverted view he dwells in nirvana.” This “he” little funny feeling. Bodhisattva lives in nirvana because of no perverted view, no fear. Because his mind, “its” mind, has no hindrance.... You started to speak everything we think and everything we see is hindrance. Did you not say so?

STUDENT: Well, I was wondering...

KOBUN: You can see them as hindrances and at the same time you can perceive them as not hindrance at all. Like visions, dreams. Because they appear you think they exist. When you are walking down dark street and flashlight make white figure, ghost appear! If you have fear in the very beginning whatever you see makes more strange world. You hinder yourself. They aren't hindrance at all but you, yourself, make perverted, unreal understanding of what is happening. All thoughts can be hindrances and I think that when we stick to an idea it makes no acceptance of other aspects.

It's like grasping half of something and saying “This is all.” If you grasp something and say, “this is part of whole” then you can say ”yes” as the answer. If you say 100% “yes,” that is what we do, but if you say 50% “yes,” knowing that there is exactly the same percentage of “no” then it will work. Your attitude can be very positive when you say “yes,” and then when something different happens which cannot be “yes” you can deal with it in the right way. A good example is when someone stands up and says, “You're not so wise.” Then you feel angry, “No, I am very wise!” If you are really wise you don't say, “No, I am wise,” you say, “I am not so wise.”

STUDENT: Carlos Castenada wrote, in the words of Don Juan, “All paths are equal, ... they're all equal, the executioner and the victim, the oppressor and the oppressed, they are all equal.” The only difference is that you choose a path with heart.

STUDENT: Yeah. I've thought a lot about that heart, whatever it means.

STUDENT: I think we could probably feel it, a path with heart. But it probably doesn't have any specific outward pattern. I look for an outward pattern to my life and I never find it. I try very hard to pull things together... but it's not going anywhere. But from that point of view I think you can never satisfy yourself ... but to feel your way. The path of heart is not historical.

STUDENT: My life can just fall all apart, which it has recently. But I still feel I'm on the right path.

STUDENT: You have to! That's where all that faith comes in. And it's like, the more you sit, the more you get that feeling that you don't have anything.


STUDENT: Sensei, I'm starting to get a cold again. Could you say a little about the attitude to take toward sickness? The last three months I've been getting sick and I felt that was done with, and this morning I woke up and felt like it was happening again, like fighting and wanting to be healthy, and the other voice saying, “No, you're sick. Go to bed for a while.”

KOBUN: I'm studying too! It's very hard. Your partner is invisible, especially if it's flu. It's like the wind. When you think of it as the enemy, fight it. What we feel is that feeling of fighting. It's terrible. Especially when your mind is saying, “I have to do this, but now I have to be here in bed.” So besides sickness you have another reason to struggle. The way to find the best attitude is to take care of sick people when you are healthy.... Yesterday I had the chance to see a sick person in San Francisco. Many people are sick in bed by English flu. Dan Welch is a strong guy, lying in bed with a pale face. “What caused this sickness? I don't know if I'm going to wake up tomorrow. “

How many of you are like Dan, very strong until you get sick? I saw him in exhaustion, but his eyes were very clear. Sunk quite deep, and he was watching quite a deep thing, actually. He was probably wondering how his work was going, feeling that he mustn't sleep, must wake up! Physical sickness is communication of this body and some other element, and you have so many new kinds of sickness that ancient people never experienced. This is the biggest suffering of us. You face to death and old age, and in between an unbalanced condition, which is sickness. In Tendai school there is a very interesting test to find out the sick part of our body by samadhi.

If there is pain it is quite easy where it is wrong, and if there is no pain, in a very beginning state, we can still find out. You lie down and meditate, feel something unclear, kind of heavy feeling. You feel, “This part, not so good.” Usually when our attention is focused on something we forget that unclear part. The attention of meditation is like an x-ray through our body.... If the reason is found before it reaches to our body, it is also very useful, too. You don't prepare the condition of sickness, don't get too tired, don't get unregular sleep or eating. Sickness likes some rooms. Especially, it is my experience, at nighttime, emotionally we are high, don't feel tiredness.

But physically we are very weak, mostly at that time we give sickness a chance to come in.... I think that to get sick is a great opportunity to feel what it is. If you are getting sick again, you'd better think “Oh, one more thing....” It's very strange. When I was sick I couldn't stand to just sleep and of course I had too high a fever to think. Many strange visions came. I read Dostoyevsky at that time and found many interesting things, how those people actually felt. It's really crazy when you read it in ordinary mind. Dostoyevskys writing is formed of various desires, wishes, beliefs. It's about society, people's relations and how, when his characters get sick they go into their unconscious world. You can find out how your unconscious world can be seen.

It rises up and let's you see it. This is you! Many strange things happen. You don't need to trust them. Just watch until you get tired of it. That's about time to stand up and go to join people. Sickness is holding you, keeping you from society. It allows you to withdraw. Sometimes you become angry when you are sick. It gives you a chance to withdraw from people. It is good for you and good for them, too....

STUDENT: Kobun, one of many difficulties I seem to have is deciding when to accept something and when to fight against it. Some times I think it's my Christian upbringing that says I should keep on going, even in a very bad situation. Other times I should just quit it and, like you say, especially with anger, and withdraw. Especially when I'm not getting along with someone, I want to get away from it, and then I feel bad that I've done that. I think I should work it out in some special way.

KOBUN: Anger is very strange, if you really see it. When I get anger it's like a person who is in a huge field and suddenly jump up and down without partner. When sadness leads to an extreme point, action by anger is like scratching yourself very, very hard. It's not scratching others. When you speak about the badness of others that means you are talking to yourself. It's very clear, the same thing will come back to you. The object of your anger will return the same word to you. You don't remember whet you said, usually. The one to whom you express anger, you expect him to accept your anger. That is basically a very sweet attitude, very deep trust. And such person does not feel anger, the sadness comes first. This person takes care of the root of your anger. And when you express anger at the beginning you solve it. That is the solution of the root. Usually when we say, “short temper, hot temper,” that is not real anger. It's a kind of reaction, like the filament of the electric bulb. When something quickly gets hot, then it quickly becomes cool.

STUDENT: That's not real anger? That's just a reaction? I feel like I know what real anger is. I can see it destroying me as well as being bad for the people around me.

KOBUN: You call that anger but it's more. It is also awareness of life energy. If it is just an emotional, unbalanced state of close relations with people it can be solved quite easily. But when you have built your whole life in one direction, and it takes over, that unbalanced condition makes it hard to move. In international struggles of ideals and systems, when there is unbalanced timing for meetings, the meeting cannot go, despite great effort from both sides.... In the beginning of this discussion today, about hindrance and fear, if we still keep the enemy-like feeling between communism and democracy, like black bean and red bean, forgetting that they are the same kind of bean, same kind. Fears come first and ignorance is produced by this fear.

In the beginning you feel fear and the expression of it does not go away. You bark at each other, like mad dogs. And when the enemy is a little too strong, you start to turn and run away! My feeling is, this is a very blind part, very unclear part of our character. It is kind of an ancient tree with ancient fruit, within us. And I, myself, don't have any material like knife or gun because holding it I don't feel secure at all. When the frightened person holds a gun, he looks like he feels secure. Actually the basic feeling is quite unsecure, so he holds it. In the same way we have to see the ancient tree which produced the elements of a huge system in a country. Almost all systems are ancient.

Thus we say that in modern times, at the present stage of the human race, we are quite insecure. Most of the time the energy which functions is expressing man's power, not a solution of the struggles between people. On the other hand there is a theory that love solves, or love produces, peace. Not that one hundred persons will agree. I believe that it conquers a problem, especially if this character of love has both a divine and earthly, personal element....

STUDENT: It's like fear of heights has something to do with spiritual things. I was never impressed with mountains but after I meditated for two years, one day I came outside and from that day they are my favorites. The depth, you know, I can see that's my depth. That aspect of myself I had always overlooked.

KOBUN: I was interested in mountain climbing, but I was so scared to go in the water. Especially in a deep place, that really scares me. Mountains are my favorite place. I used to go mountain climbing alone, not with other people. That's a very hard thing to do. But the same enjoyment of aloneness I cannot get in the water. That scares me.

STUDENT: Oh, I find it in the water, in the ocean. It's me and the ocean, that's all.

KOBUN: To look at the ocean is fantastic, but to go very deep in it with limited breath is... first of all it's beautiful, but a very, very strange feeling. I am dying in this place. Dying doesn't make any sense in that place. That silence, so deep silence, and no communication. Lately I feel more complete aloneness in the water....

STUDENT: It seems like a very powerful place to stand on top of a mountain.

KOBUN: When you stand on top of a high place the wind is strong, very strong. A kind of lonely feeling.

STUDENT: I don't want anyone to touch me.

KOBUN: Oh, depths. My feeling is that the realm your mind can reach is you. It's quite big.

STUDENT: It's like you can see it all ways at any moment....

KOBUN: One time, after the flood of the river.... Two or three days later I saw really clear, clean water. I used to chase the fish. Usually the height was to here (thighs). After the big flood the water was this high (chest) and the speed of the water was quite fast. You could not chase the fish. One day I floated down the river and when I passed the temple gate I thought it was the place to stand up. I sank and sank and sank. I thought, “What shall I do?” I was so scared. “This is the end of me!” Whatever happens, the feeling of peacefulness, and the uncertainty of it, we can see. With effort you can feel it, but when you stop the effort the peaceful feeling starts to melt and many strange feelings start to happen. If we are strong we don't feel that way. We feel, “I am very well. Things flow very well without feeling much effort. But when we feel, “I am getting a little weak,” that is a signal to pay attention to.

STUDENT: Even if it's like that almost all the time? It feels like that for days and days?

KOBUN: Many people are not weak. But many people have the feeling of weakness. There is something gnawing and taking their energy. Maybe they have too many problems and their energy is exhausted by just thinking and not doing.

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