Zen Buddhism Explained The Way of Zen Alan Watts

a lecture on Zen is always something in the nature of a hoax because it really does deal with a domain of experience that can't be talked about but one must remember at the same time that there's really nothing at all that can be talked about adequately and the whole art of poetry is to say what can't be said so every poet every artist feels when he gets to the end of his work that there's something absolutely essential that was left out so Zen has always described itself as a finger pointing at the moon in the sanskrit saying tattva masih that art thou zen is concerned with that that of course is the word which is used for Brahman the absolute reality in Hindu philosophy and you're it only in disguise and disguised so well that you've forgotten it but unfortunately ideas like the ultimate ground of being the self Rahman ultimate reality the great void all that is very very abstract talk and Zen is concerned with a much more direct way of coming to an understanding of that or that nests as its called tatata in sanskrit so Zen has been summed up in four statements a direct transmission outside scriptures and apart from tradition no dependence on words and letters direct pointing to the human mind and seeing into one's own nature and becoming Buddha that is becoming enlightened awakened from the normal hypnosis under way almost all of us go round like some ambulance it's extraordinary how much interest has existed in Zen in the United States especially in the years since the war with Japan and naturally I've often meditated on the reasons for this interest I think first of all the appeal of Xion lies in its unusual quality of humor religions aren't as a rule humorous in any way religions are serious and when one looks at Zen art and read Zen stories it is quite apparent that something is going on here which isn't serious in the ordinary sense however sincere it may be the next thing I think that has appealed to Westerners is that Zen has no doctrines there is nothing you have to believe and it doesn't moralize that you very much it's not particularly concerned with morals at all it's a field of inquiry rather like physics and you don't expect to physicist to discuss authoritative Lee about morals even though as a human being he has moral interests and problems but as a physicist he is not a moral authority or if you go to an oculist or ophthalmologist to have your eyes adjusted that is so you can see clearly and Zen is spiritual ophthalmology another thing that appeals very much to Western students about Zen is that they've read theirs end from Suzuki and from some of my writings and from our H Blythe and these people a rather different kind of Zen from that which you will find today in Japan they present what is essentially early Chinese Zen from the old writings ranging from about shortly before 700 AD to a thousand AD and that Zen has a very different flavor from modern Japanese Zen and so of course many of the people who go to study Zen in Japan disapprove of dr. Suzuki thoroughly and also naturally of my exposition of Zen because we don't make a great fetish of studying Zen by sitting in Japan today they sit and they sit and they sit RH Blythe asked a Zen master what would you do if you had had only one half hour left to live and he said I would do zazen which means he would sit like the Buddha here and practice meditation and apply that given him several choices would you like to listen to your favorite music would you have a dinner would you get drunk would you like the company of a beautiful woman would you take a walk what would you do or would you just go on with your daily business as if nothing was going to happen in other words would you wind up your watch so he was very disappointed in this answer and he said you know sitting is only one way of doing Zen Buddhism speaks of the four dignities of man walking standing sitting and lying and so zazen is simply the Japanese word for sitting Zen there must also be walking Zen standing Zen and lines in you should know for example how to sleep in a Zen way that means to sleep thoroughly then has been described as when hungry eat when tired sleep and when the student got that description he said well doesn't everybody do that and the master said they don't when hungry they don't just eat think of 10,000 things when tired they don't just sleep but dream innumerable dreams so in a sense this sounds like the old Western truism whatever you your hand finds to do do it with all your might but that's not the same thing as Zen a lot of people like to see if they could sum up Zen in that way in the Latin motto of the school I used to go to in England our gaydom Aggies act when you act or while you act there's a famous story which beautifully illustrates the current relationships between east and west Paul reps who wrote or rather drew a lovely book called Zen telegrams once asked a Zen master - sama Buddhism in one phrase and he said don't act but act so reps was simply delighted because he thought the master had said don't act but act and that of course would be the Taoist principle of Wu way of action in the spirit of not being separate from the world realizing so fully that you are the universe - that your action on it is not an interference but a an expression of the totality but the Masters English was very bad indeed and poor reps had misunderstood him he had said don't act bad act and you know that is the sort of attitude that all clergy developed over the centuries you know how it is when you go to church if you do so often the sermon boils down to my dear people you ought to be good and everybody knows that but hardly anybody knows how or even what good is the fascination of Zen to the west is that it promises a sudden insight into something that is always supposed to take years and years and years the psychoanalysts if you're mixed up they tell you the troubles you've got yourself into over all these years can't be undone in a day and therefore it will take many many sessions maybe twice a week for several years for you to get straightened out the Christians say that if you embark on a path of spiritual discipline you get yourself a spiritual director and submit yourself to the will of God but you may not get into the high states of contemplative prayer for very many years the Hindus the Vedanta society people the Buddhists also say will require many long years of meditation very hard concentration very difficult practice and Stern discipline and then maybe you will make enough progress in this life to become a monk in your next life and then you'll make enough progress to enter some of the preliminary stages leading to Buddhahood but it's all likely to take you many many incarnations but when this artist hasagawa was asked how does one see into Zen he said it may take you three seconds it may take you thirty years I mean that and so you see there is always the possibility that it may take only three seconds Zen literature abounds with stories you see in which there's in dialogue or what is called in Japanese mondo which means question answer between a Zen teacher and his student and these dialogues are Senay ting Li incomprehensible but it always seems to be that the end of this Swift interchange the student gets the point sometimes he doesn't I gave a book of these dialogues once to a friend of mine who was deeply interested in Eastern philosophy he said I haven't understood a word of it but it's cheered me up enormously so this book called the MU mongkhon which means the barrier with no gate or the gateless gate contains such stories as the student I say student rather than monk because Zen students are not monks in our sense of the word monk are monks take life vows of poverty chastity and obedience and to make the grade you're expected to spend your whole life in the monastic state but I called a Zen monk a student because he's more like a student in a Theological Seminary he may stay much longer than the usual three years he may stay thirty years or so but it's always possible for him to leave with dignity and to graduate and to be go in to lay life or become a regular priest who keeps charge of a temple can get married and have a family and only very few graduates of a Zen monastery become Roshi that Roshi means simply old teacher that is the man in charge of the spiritual development of the students so one of these students in the book says to the master Joe Xu I have been here in this monastery for some time and I've had no instruction from you the master said have you had breakfast yes then go wash your bowl and the monk was awakened now you may think that the moral of this story is do the work that's nearest though it's Dalit Wiles helping when you meet them lame dogs over style or that the bowl might be a symbol of the great void these all containing universe and probably the monk had washed it already because they immediately after eating in Japan and China in a monastery they would take tea and pour it into the bowl and swill it around wash it and wipe it out so maybe he'd already washed the bowl and in that case you might think that the master was saying don't gild the lily don't to use a real nice Zen phrase don't put legs on snake or a beard on a eunuch no the point of that story is so clear that that's what's difficult about it and all these stories resemble jokes in this sense a joke is told to make you laugh when you get the point of a joke you laugh spontaneously but if the point has to be explained to you you don't laugh so well you force a laugh there is some kind of sudden impact between the punchline on the laugh and so in exactly the same way with these stories there is expected to be something else than laughter which is suddenly insight into the nature of being nature of being that sounds they again very abstract but it was go washable so another story in this book concerns a master who said when a cow walks out of the enclosure the corral the horns and head the forelegs and the body all get through but not the tail how is it that the tail can't get through and nobody could answer this another story he tells of a certain master called by John who was so good that he had hundreds of students and they couldn't all be housed in one monastery so he had to fight one of the students who could also be a master and so he arranged a test he put down a pitcher in front of them all and said without making an assertion or without making an denial tell me what is this and the senior monk said it couldn't be called a piece of wood and the teacher didn't accept this answer but the monastery cook came forward and kicked the pitcher over and walked away and he got the job and the commentator remarks maybe he wasn't so smart after all for he gave up an easy job through a difficult one when an Enquirer about Zen came to a master often you know they approach a Zen master with a kind of key question what is the fundamental principle of Buddhism or why did the bearded barbarian come from the West because then is supposed to have been brought into China by a Hindu named Bodhi Dharma the Bodhi Dharma is always represented as having a huge bushy beard and very fierce eyes now Bodhi Dharma always insisted that he had nothing to teach and so why did he come that's one of the fundamental questions you might say to me I've often said when I'm giving a lecture I'm not trying to improve you I'm not trying to persuade you to a certain point of view that is to say like a preacher would convert somebody in fact I have nothing to tell you at all because we're I to presume that I had something to tell you I would be like a person who picked your pocket and so do your own watch so you might say then why do I talk you might ask the sky why are you blue the clouds why do you float around birds why do you sing and we've been busy trying to invent explanations for all this and so there's this great Zen saying one of the old masters said when I was a young man and knew nothing of Buddhism Mountains were mountains and waters were waters but when I began to understand a little Buddhism mountains were no longer mountains and waters no longer waters in other words when one starts scientific and philosophical inquiries everything gets explained away in terms of its causes or other things that go with it or one sees that all the things in the world what we think are separate things are as things illusions there is nothing separate so but he said at the end but when I had thoroughly understood Mountains were mountains and waters are waters so this is what's called direct pointing a Zen master was once talking with me and he said when water goes out of the wash basin down the drain does it go clockwise or anti-clockwise and this was all phrased in the middle of a very ordinary conversation and you know it just seemed like a speculative question and I said oh it might go either said no that's it now he said which came the first day go ahead I said doctor kid now he said that's the point now it is saying too much I warned you to say that Zen is trying to point to the physical universe so that you could look at it without forming ideas about it that is saying too much but it is the general idea it's in the direction of being the right idea Zen people speak of the virtue of what they call motion which means no mind on Moonen no thought that red lantern says Moonen on no thought this is not an anti-intellectual attitude the ordinary simple person is just as bamboozled by thinking as a university professor you can think intellectually in a no think way that's the art it doesn't mean not to have any thoughts at all it means not to be fooled by thoughts not to be hypnotized by the forms of speech and images that we have for the world not to be hypnotized by them into thinking that that is the way the world really is so if I say this is a fan it isn't to begin with fan is a noise and this doesn't make the noise fan but just whoosh but it can be many other things in a fan it could be a backscratcher very well all sorts of things don't let words limit the possibilities of life actually this fan has an inscription on it written by a Zen master who is a hundred years old and it says I don't understand I don't know anything about it so that goes back to the story of buddhadharma that when he first came to China sometime a little before 500 AD he was interviewed by the Emperor Wu of Liang the Emperor was a great patron of Buddhism and said we have caused many monasteries to be built monks and nuns to be ordained and the scriptures to be translated into Chinese what is the merit of this and Bodhidharma said no merit whatever well that really set the Emperor back because the popular understanding of Buddhism is that you do good things like that with religious things and you acquire merit and this leads you to better better lives in the future so that you will eventually become liberated and so his he was completely set back so he said but what is the first principle of the holy doctrine and Bodhi Dharma said vast emptiness and nothing holy or in vast emptiness there is nothing holy so the Empress said who is it then that stands before us the implication being aren't you supposed to be a holy man and Bodhidharma said I don't know so the poem says plucking flowers to which the butterflies come Bodhidharma says I don't know and another poem like it if you want to know where the flowers come from even the god of spring doesn't know so anybody who says that he knows what Zen is is a fraud nobody knows just like you don't know who you are all this business about your name and your accomplishments your certificates what your friends say about you you know very well that's not you about the problem to know who you are is the problem of smelling your own nose when the great Japanese master Dogen came back from China in about the year 1200 to bring his school of Zen into Japan they asked him what did you learn in China he said the eyes are horizontal the nose is perpendicular this man went on to write a tremendous book about Zen they're so contradictory these people don't expect consistency out of his n master big big book called the show begins oh I talked with a Zen master about this book in Japan and he said oh is that that's a terrible book it explains everything so clearly it gives the show away said you don't need any book for Zen so you see it is this kind of way of going about things this method of Zen that is so fascinated the West and everybody who reads about them wonders if somehow you see this understanding is right under your nose you know how it is sometimes and get a crowd of people to come into a room and you put something in the room that's absurd like suppose there was a balloon floating on the ceiling people could come in and not notice it at all or you know somebody puts on something weird some kind of a funny necktie or something and you say to a person well haven't you noticed a woman in a new dress you know I'm G no no it's right under your nose they're staring you in the face but you don't see it and Zen is exactly like that it is very obvious the master beaucoup Jew was asked we have to address and eat everyday and how do we escape from all that in other words how do we get out of routine and he said we dressed we eat he said I don't understand bo could you said if you don't understand put on your clothes and eat your food not a Zen master in quite recent times was interviewing a student you see all these stories I'm telling you were connected and what I want you to do is to grasp intuitively the connection I was interviewing a student Western student and he said get up and walk across the room he got up and walked and came back said where your footprints another monk asked Joe Xu what is the way down Chinese the DAO he said your everyday mind is the way how do you get into a chord with it he said when you try to record you deviate so here is this extraordinary phenomenon now let me say having presented you with all these fireworks let me say a few sober things about Zen as a historical phenomenon Zen is a subdivision of Mahayana Buddhism and as you know that is the school of Buddhism which is concerned with realizing Buddha nature in this world not necessarily by going off to the mountains or by renouncing family life everyday life etc etc as if that were an entanglement but realizing in the midst of life the possibility of becoming a Buddha and so the great ideal personality of Mahayana Buddhism is the Bodhisattva a word now applied to somebody who has attained a Nirvana but instead of disappearing comes back in many many guises there's a famous painting of one of the Bodhisattvas in the form of a prostitute and Bodhisattvas in Zen art are often represented as bums as the beautiful one over there created by Sangha of the bong hotae or poo tie in Chinese who's always immensely fat and he's saying Buddha is dead Maitreya who is supposed to be the next butter hasn't come yet I had a wonderful sleep and didn't even dream about Confucius and he's just stretching and yawning as Wiki as he wakes up so Zen is Mahayana Indian Mahayana Buddhism translated into Chinese and therefore deeply influenced by Taoism and Confucianism Zen monks brought Confucian ideas to Japan and the origins of Zen lie actually around the year 414 at which time a great Hindu scholar by the name of kumara deva was translating with a group of assistants the buddhist sutras into chinese one of his students taught that all beings whatsoever have the capacity to become Buddha to become enlightened even rocks and stones and that even heretics and evil doers have the buddha nature or buddha potentiality in them and everybody said he was a dreadful heretic but then a text called the nirvana sutra came from India which said precisely that so everybody had to admit that this man was right he also began to teach that awakening must be instantaneous it's a kind of all-or-nothing state I don't mean that there aren't degrees of its intensity but once you see the principle you see the whole thing as they say when the bottom falls out of the bucket all the water goes together those men then promulgated the way of sudden awakening Bodhi Dharma came later and he is supposed in legend to have been followed by a line of six patriarchs of which he was the first the second was named a car I'm using the Japanese pronunciation who was formerly a General of the army then the third was so son who wrote the Shin Jin Mei which is the most marvelous little summary of Buddhism in verse and so on till they came to a know the sixth patriarch you know perhaps more familiarly his Chinese name Kwai nun he died in 715 ad he's the real founder of Chinese Zen the man who synthesized the whole thing and was the at least his collected discourses are contained in what is called the platform Sutra and any student of Zen should read the platform Sutra but a no really fused Zen with the Chinese way of doing things and he emphasized very thoroughly do not think you are going to attain Buddhahood by sitting down all day and keeping your mind blank because a lot of those students who practiced gianna which is the Sanskrit for Chan which is the Chinese for Zen which is in turn Japanese means meditation or contemplation perhaps would be better translation in English and everybody thought that the proper way to contemplate was to be as still as possible but according to Zen that is to be a stone Buddha instead of a living Buddha now I can knock a stone Buddha on the head trunk and it has no feelings and so it's a stone Buddha there was a famous said master called Tonka who went to a little lonely temple on a freezing cold night and he took the Buddha image one of the Buddha is off the altar split it up and made a fire and when the attendant of the temple came in in the morning of horrified broke at the image and tongue cast took his stick started raking in the ashes and the temple priest said what are you looking for he said I'm looking for the Sally that is to say the jewels that are supposed to be found in the body of a genuine Buddha when he's cremated so the priest said you couldn't expect to find Sally from a wooden Buddha in that case said tanco let me have that other Buddha for my fire [Applause] that's you see the difference between living Buddha and stone Buddha but a person who thinks that in order to be awakened you will have to be heartless to have no emotions no feelings that you couldn't possibly lose your temper or get angry or feel annoyed or depressed if those people haven't got the right idea at all if that's your ideal said a no you might just as well be a block of wood or a piece of stone what he wanted you to understand is that your real mind while all those emotions are going on is imperturbable just like when you move your hand through the sky you don't leave a track the birds don't stay in the blue when they pass by and when the water reflects the image of the geese the reflection doesn't stick there so to be pure minded in the Zen way or clear minded is a better way of translating it is not to have no thoughts it's not a question of not thinking about dirty things one great master of the Tong dynasty when asked what is Buddha believe it or not answered they dried turd so it's not that kind of purity it is purity clarity in the sense that your mind isn't sticky you don't harbor grievances you don't be attached to the past you go with it with life life is flowing all the time that is the Tao the flow of life you are going along with it whether you want to or not you like people in a stream you can swim against the stream but you'll still be moved along by it and all you'll do is wear yourself out in futility but if you swim with the stream the whole strength of the stream is yours of course the difficulty that so many of us have is finding out which way the stream is going but suddenly as it goes all the past vanishes the future has not yet arrived and there is only one place to be which is here and now and there is no way of being anywhere else none whatever if you understand that thoroughly your task is finished you then become instantaneous and also momentous so this was a nose principle as I said he died in 715 and he left five very great disciples who taught substantially the same sort of thing but as things go then these disciples had disciples and those disciples had disciples and there's a genealogy and then broke into what are called five houses and these some of them didn't go on then went on in two main forms one is called by the Japanese Rin zai zen after the great master rinse I who lived towards the end of the ninth century and the Soto school comes from another line and they have a slightly different emphasis Soto is more serene in its approach Ren's I'm more gutsy RINs I people use the cone method in Zen study Soto people don't at least not in the same way but this period between the death of the sixth patriarch in oh and about the year 1000 is the Golden Age of Zen this were these were the really formative years and after that Zen began to decline in China it became mixed up with other forms of Buddhism and it suffered the fate of many many forms of meditation type or yoga type disciplined it got a little bit sidetracked into occult and psychic matters what are called in Buddhism City or the development of super normal powers for then this is completely beside the point but it got involved with Chinese alchemy with Taoist Academy and wal sorts of foolishness in that direction but a very strong strain of Zen went to Japan the first being in about eleven hundred and thirty the monk a sigh and then about twelve hundred the monk I told you about Duggan who founded the great beautiful gorgeous Colossus monastery at a Haji which exists to this day now in this Golden Age of Chinese Zen the main method of study was walking Zen rather than sitting Zen all monks were great travelers and they walked for miles and miles through fields and mountains visiting temples to see if they could find a master who would cause their spark to flash to get what is called in Mandarin whoo or in Japanese Satori or in Cantonese this always rather fascinates me the way this character is written the word i' in chinese is sometimes represented by this right-hand side of the character alone five mouths five senses this one means your mind or heart the heart mind shin now when we say was something very surprising happen my heart came into my mouth here it comes into all five so this character means awakening it's the same in a way as the Sanskrit Bodhi awakening from the illusion of being a separate ego locked up in a bag of skin discovering that you are the whole universe and of course if you do discover that and you do see into it all of a sudden it's a shock because your whole common sense is turned directly inside out everything is the same as you've always seen it but completely different because you know who you are you know that what the devil were you worrying about what was all that fuss what was all that to do well you see it was part of the game everything from one point of view is fast and to do to do do what is there to do but when you wake up you see and discover that all this to do wasn't you and what you thought was you that was the entire works which we could just call it the doer yet and it is it everything is it and it does all things that are done then that is a great surprise but it sounds tasteless it sounds empty it sounds void because if I say well you're all it that is a statement without the slightest logical sense because we don't know what is it unless there's something that isn't it but if it's both all is is and all isn't then we can't think about it nevertheless it is highly possible to see that that so in a way that's so vivid it brings your heart into all your five mouths out of your mind now continues with the next lecture from the world as just so lecture series [Music] in this morning's talk I was going into some of the fundamental features of Zen and today I want to concentrate on that aspect of Zen practice which is called in Chinese mowcher qu or going straight ahead a master who was once asked what is the Dao the way replied walk on actually go as we say go man go go go and it is this aspect of Zen which is what is truly understood by detachment or having a mind that isn't sticky and that isn't stopped at any point in its whole working to be stopped at a certain point is what is called having a doubt as when one fumbles or wobbles or hesitates about something trying to find the right solution for the circumstances by thinking it out in a situation where there really is no time to think it out so that when a Zen teacher asks his disciple a question he expects an immediate answer as it were without thought or premeditation they speak in Zen they use a phrase to have a mind of no deliberation and they also speak of a kind of person a man who doesn't depend on anything that is to say on a formula on a theory on a belief to govern his action and this person who doesn't stick anywhere is like Dante's image at the end of the Paradiso where he says in the presence of the vision of God but my volition now and my desires were moved as a wheel revolving evenly by love that moves the Sun and other stars and the image of the wheel which is not too tight on its axle and not too loose that is really with the axle is the Zen principle of not being attached not being sticky it's very difficult for us to function in that way because we've been brought up to believe that there are two sides to ourselves one the animal side and the other the human and civilized side and these are expressed in what Freud calls the pleasure principle which he cacif eyes with the animal side with the it'd and the other of the reality principle which he puts on the side of society and the super-ego and man is so split that he is in a constant fight between these two Theosophists sometimes speak of our having two selves the higher self which is spiritual and the lower self which is merely psychic the ego and therefore the problem of life is to make the one self the higher one take charge of the lower as a rider takes charge of a horse but the problem of that constantly arises is how do you know that what you think is your higher self isn't really your lower self in disguise when a thief is robbing a house and the police enter on the ground floor the thief goes up to the second floor and when the police follow up the stairs he goes higher and higher until at last he gets out to the rooftop and in the same way when one really feels oneself to be the lower self that is to say to be a separate ego and then the moralists come along they are of course the police and say you ought not to be selfish then the ego dissembles and tries to pretend that it's a he's a good person after all and therefore one of the ways of doing this is for the ego to say I believe I have a higher self and I would say why do you believe that do you know the higher self no if I knew it I would behave differently but I'm trying to get there well why are you trying to get there well then the police wouldn't come around then the moralists wouldn't pre-chat then I could feel that I was doing my duty behaving as a proper member of society but all this is a great phony front if you don't know that there is a higher self and you believe that there is one on whose authority do you believe this you say Oh such-and-such a teacher Buddha Jesus Shankara the Upanishads said that we have a higher self and I believe it Catholics sometimes say they believe their religion because they're told to and they have to be obedient the Catechism starts out I mean the Baltimore Catechism it starts out we are bound to believe that there is but one God the Father Almighty Creator of heaven and earth etc and they make jokes about the Protestants and say they don't have real authority in Protestant Church because everybody interprets the Bible according to his own opinion but we have an authoritative interpretation of the Bible but this always screens out the fact that it is fundamentally a matter of your own opinion that you accept the authority of the church to interpret the Bible you cannot escape in all matters of belief from opinion in other words it must become clear to you that you yourself create all the authorities you accept and if you create them in order to dissimulate in order to pretend that your motivations and your character are different that you would like them to be different this is the same old principle of the separate self trying to improve itself so that it will live longer or survive in the spiritual world or attain the riches and the progress of enlightenment and the whole thing is phony so in Zen a duality between higher self and lower self is not made because if you believe in the higher self this is a simple trick of the lower self if you believe that there is no really lower self there is only the higher self but that somehow or other the higher self has to shine through the very fact that you think that it has to try to shine through still gives validity to the existence of a lower self if you think you have a lower self or an ego to get rid of and then you fight against it nothing strengthens the delusion that it exists more than that so this tremendous schizophrenia in human beings of thinking that they are Rider and horse soul in command of body or will in command of passions wrestling with them all that kind of split thinking simply aggravates the problem and we get more and more split and so we have all sorts of people engaged in theoria conflict which they will never never resolve because the true-self either you know it or you don't if you do know it then you know it's the only one and the other so-called lower self just ceases to be a problem it becomes something like a mirage and you don't go around hitting at mirages with a stick or trying to put reins on them you just know that they're mirages and walk straight through them but if you were brought up to believe yourself split I remember my mother used to say to me when I did naughty things she said Alan that's not like you so I had you know some conception of what was like me in my better moments that is to say in the moments when I remembered what my mother would like me to do and so that split is implanted in us all and because of our being split minded we are always differing is the choice that I'm about to make of the higher self or of the lower self is it of the spirit or is it of the flesh is the word that I have received of the Lord or is it of the devil and nobody can decide because if you knew how to choose you wouldn't have to in the so called moral rearmament movement which is a very significant title you test your messages that you get from God in your quiet time by comparing them with standards of absolute honesty absolute purity absolute love and so on but of course if you knew what those things were you wouldn't have to test you would know immediately and do you know what those things are the more one thinks about the question what would absolute love be supposing I could set myself the ideal of being absolutely loving to everybody what would that imply in terms of conduct when you can think about that till all is blue because you could never get to the answer the problems of life are so subtle that to try to solve them with vague principles as if those vague principles were specific instructions is completely impossible so it is important to overcome split mindedness but what is the way where can you start from if you're already split a Daoist saying is that when the wrong man uses the right means the right means work in the wrong way so what are you to do how can you get off it and get moving fundamentally of course you have to be surprised into it Winthrop Sargent not so long ago interviewed a great Zen priest in Kyoto who posed to him the question who are you and he said well I'm Winthrop Sargent and the priest laughed now he said I don't mean that I mean who are you really well then he went into all sorts of abstractions about his being a particular human being and so on it was a journalist and so on and the priest is laughed he said now then the clerk he did the priest just tossed off the conversation and a little later made a joke and Sargent laughed and he said there you are there was an army officer who once came to his n Master and said I have heard a story about a man who kept a goose in a bottle and it was growing very rapidly and he didn't want to break the bottle and he didn't want to hurt the goose so how would he get it out Zen master didn't answer the question at all but simply say it changed the subject finally the officer got up to leave and he went over to the door and suddenly the Zen master called out oh officer and he turned around said yes the master said there it's out so in the same way if I say to you good morning you say good morning nice day isn't it yes or if I hit you you know boom you say ouch and you don't stop to hesitate to give these answers of these responses you don't think about it when I say good morning unless you are psychiatrist what could I be what could I be meaning so you respond so in exactly the same way that kind of response which doesn't have to be a deliberate response a response of a no deliberating mind is a response of a Buddha mind or an unattached mind but you must not imagine that this is necessarily a quick response because if you get hung up on the idea of responding quickly the idea of quickness will be itself a form of obstruction very often when dr. Suzuki is asked a question very complicated question by some philosophy major Columbia when he's giving vectra's there he's silent for a full minute and then says yes and this is exactly as spontaneously response as it would be if he had answered immediately because during the period of silence he is not fishing around to think of something to say he is not at all embarrassed at being silent or at not knowing the answer so if you don't know the answer you can be silent if nobody asks a question you can be silent there's no need to be embarrassed about it order to be stuck on it but you cannot overcome being stuck if you think that somehow you would be guilty if you were stuck when you are perfectly free to feel stuck or not stuck then you're unstuck because actually nothing can stick on the real mind and you will find this out if you watch the flow of your thoughts there is an expression in Chinese which means the flow of thoughts are what we call in literary criticism stream of consciousness and they put the character for thoughts three times yang yang Yang and so you will notice that thought follows thought follows thought when you are just ruminating and those thoughts arise and go like waves on the water all the time they come and go and when they go they are as if they had never been here so actually this shows your mind doesn't stick really you could get the illusion of it sticking by for example cycling the same succession of thoughts over and over again and that gives a sense of permanence in the same way as when you revolve a cigarette but in the dark you get the illusion of there being a solid circle although there is only the single point of fire and it is from this connecting of thoughts that we get the sensation that behind our thoughts there is a thinker who controls them and experiences them although the notion that there is a thinker is just one member in the stream of thoughts for example if you get a certain kind of rhythm that goes diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy diggy book the book is a part of the rhythm but it can be used as a cue so you get in relation to diggy diggy diggy diggy boop you get thought thought thought thought thinker sort thought thought thought thinker and if this happens regularly enough and long enough you get the illusion of there being someone who thinks apart from the stream of thoughts which come and go the stream of experiences and we use such absurd phrases not only as thinking our thoughts but feeling our feelings seeing sights and hearing sounds but you must understand it is perfectly obvious that seeing a sight is seeing hearing a sound is hearing feeling a feeling is feeling so in the same way thinking a thought is thinking but you get split minded you see and so you get I and me and the I who ought to or must control me as sensation of some real entity that stands aside from thoughts and chooses among them controls them regulates them and so on actually this is a way to have one's thoughts not control the more there is this duality of the separate thinker standing aside from the thoughts of the separate feeler watching or feeling the feelings the more the stream of feelings is coaxed into self-protective activity into getting more and more like a stuck record the purposes of which are to protect and to aggrandize and enlarge the status of the supposed thinker when Joshua who was a Tang Dynasty Zen master was asked he had made some reference to the enlightened mind being like a mind of a child and he said well what is the mind of a child and he said a ball in a mountain stream why thought follows thought instantaneously without interruption so the saying walk or sit as you will but whatever you do don't wobble now we can see this very clearly from confusions we can get into inactivity I have just said we can see this very clearly from confusions we get into inactivity what kind of a statement is that when I raise the question what kind of a statement was it that I just made I'm beginning to talk about talking and one can do that provided you don't try to do it while you're making the original statement if I want to say something about what I've just said then I must do it later mustn't I but not at the same time I cannot say you are a fool and at the same time say I'm giving you an insult in so many words I cannot say or in mathematics I cannot write down a certain equation and as I am writing it down simultaneously state what kind of an equation this is unless of course I invent an exceedingly complex language which talks about itself as it goes along but in the ordinary way people get completely mixed up by that in the middle of being about to say to somebody anything you start to think about whether this is the right thing to say and you start wobbling you get in other words too much feedback and too much feedback makes any mechanism go crazy so in the same way when you are very very aware of a difference between the deeds and the doer and the doer while doing the deeds is always sort of commenting on them the doer never really gets with it in other words you are about to strike a nail and you wonder as you are about to hit it is this the right place to put it and so you probably hit your thumbnail instead of the nail because you don't go right through with hitting that nail this is not saying let me mark this again it is not saying that there should be no criticism of thought but if you criticize thought while thinking as if there were a critic thinker standing aside from the stream of thought then you get all balled up and that is exactly what happens in the process of attachment or what are called in Buddhist pleasure which mean disturbing confusions of the mind and you see this kind of confusion is something which to which the human organism is peculiarly liable because the human organism has language has you see thinking is silent language and I mean language in the most intrusive sense of the word not only words but also images and numbers notation just because then we can talk about anything we can talk about talking we can talk about thinking we can talk about ourselves as if we could stand aside and say said i to myself said i or we are actually doing is making a can sort or thought stream which comments on the one that went before and then pretending that the second stream is a different stream than the first that's because there are built into our minds all kinds of phony images about memory we think for example of memory by analogy with engraving in order to remember something we write it down and so we have a flat and stable piece of paper and we make marks on it with a pencil and they stay there so we begin to think his mental memory something of the same kind is there something stable upon which the passage of thoughts makes an impression we say he impressed me very much this was a lasting impression on my mind as if we were tablets indeed the philosopher Locke used the expression tabula rasa or clean slate to describe the mind of a child this is a mind which has not yet collected any memories as if there were some sort of surface which accumulated these things and preserve them and that's me but you see this superstition is related to a much more ancient superstition that the world consists of two elements one of which is stuff and the other of which is form this is a myth based on a model of the world which is fundamentally ceramic God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and so there is a stuff and so there are forms engraved in it or imposed on it or stamped on it like a seal is stamped on wax what is stuff like apart from form what is form like apart from stuff all those problems which have bothered people for centuries are based on asking the question in the wrong way on having used the wrong image for the process actually since nobody ever saw a piece of shapeless stuff and nobody ever saw a piece of stuff less shape the whole thing really is saying that they are the same and there isn't any necessity even to think of a difference between them even the contrasting words form and substance or form and matter are in nuisance there is process there is the flow of thought and the flow of thought doesn't have to happen to anyone experience does not have to beat upon an experiencer there is all the time simply the one stream going on and we are convinced that we stand aside from it and observe it because we've been brought up that way but you know in your stream of thought and experience I am an object and a very fleeting and passing one and console also in my stream of experience you also are people who come and go we are all you see living in the same world we think there is me and there is an external world around me but I am in your external world and you are in my external world and if you think about that you see we are all in one world going along together there isn't really the internal in the external there is simply the process it's very important to get rid of that illusion of duality between the thinker and the thought so find out who is the thinker behind the thoughts who is the real genuine you and so one of the methods that is used is shouting the Zen master would say to a student now I want to hear you I want to hear you say the word mu and really mean it because I want to hear not just the sound but the person who says it now produce for me that this is mu and the Zen teacher says no no not yet mu and it says it's only coming from your throat I want to hear your belly no and always you see it'll never come while the person is trying to make a differentiation between a true mu and the false food to act with confidence you just do it but since people are not used to that it is necessary to set up protected situations in which it can be done if we just in the ordinary way of social intercourse acted without deliberation we would get into amazing confusions as when people say always speak the truth never tell a white lie and they say exactly what is true and what they think about other people well they can raise a great deal of trouble but the experience of Zen has been that there should be a kind of enclosure in which this kind of behavior can be done until the people are expert in it and know how to apply it in all situations [Music]