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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly SPRING 2 0 09 78 “Hai!” communicates more than just agreement; it conveys enthusiasm as well. As you know, we all carry various kinds of emotional, psy- chological, and intellectual pride, which feeds our resistance, preventing us from simply saying “Hai” from the bottom of our hearts. Your practice may be accompanied by pain, drows- iness, scattered thoughts, and your breath may not reach very deeply. Equally difficult may be for you to simply say “Hai.” But as long as you came here for Zen practice, to improve your state of mind, and to be made less fearful, less irritated, more openhearted, less anxious, and to ultimately become better human beings, why don’t you start by saying, “Hai!” Sitting on the cushion and digging into your koan all by yourself is perhaps easier for most of you. But if someone corrects you, or some mis- take is mentioned publicly, to accept it and plainly say “Hai” is not at all easy. Yet this is where our practice starts. Without this, even if you read the entire Tripitaka ten times, even if you attend Rohatsu sesshin fifty times, nothing will change! There was a dharma sister who was sitting at Shobo-Ji in New York, and she made a vow. That vow was to attend fifty seven-day sesshins at Dai Bosatsu Zendo. I thought that was a great vow. And she thought that if she attended sesshin fifty times, she would be able to open her heart to a new dharma vista, or point of view. She followed her vow faithfully. It took her about eight or nine years. Throughout that time, she sat very faithfully with the koan I had given her. Quite impressive. But unfortunately, some kind of karmic hindrance prevented her from opening her dharma eyes. So before the fiftieth ses- shin started, she said to me, “If I can’t pass my koan during this sesshin, I shall never come back to Dai Bosatsu Zendo.” On her fiftieth sesshin, she really did her best, but she could not realize that she was buddhanature to begin with. She was constantly searching outside, like most of us. It is not that we have buddhanature. We are buddhanature itself. In her case, she searched for fifty consecutive sesshins, which quite impressed me, but then she suddenly gave up. Our practice is not a matter of quantity. It has something to do with karmic hindrances, or our internal attitudes. It is a matter of learning to say “Hai” without replying, “But, but.” It is fear of being driven this way and that by others. But the truth is we are beautifully guided when we open the gates of our hearts. Going back to that dharma sister, who knows, maybe a wonderful realization would have awaited her during her fifty-first sesshin! About two months ago, at New York Zendo Shobo-Ji, I was asked to instruct a few students on how to do jikijitsu (lead zazen sessions), including how to strike the gongs and the inkin bell, particularly when we are leading everyone to do sampai (three prostrations). I also taught them how to strike students with keisaku (warning stick), how to be ino (sutra leader), and how to strike the mokugyo (wooden drum). All these, “how to, how to...” elegantly and efficiently. I spent about three hours with all of the students. At the end, every- body put their palms together and thanked me profusely. Not only that, but as I was leaving, they waited outside the zendo and put their palms together and saw me off on East 67th Street. I must admit, this had never happened before. At the time, I thought, “They think that these simple instructions on how to do this and that is a pro- found teaching.” Yet while learning these responsibilities is certainly one of the impor- tant aspects of what we are doing here, the essence of Zen practice—which I have been repeating for far more than fifty sesshins: “Sit unconditionally with Mu! Just say Hai!”— is not appreciated as much, and certainly not as heeded as my instructions on how to ring bells and strike clappers. In the evening the monk came to Nansen’s quarters, and Nansen asked, “What’s up?” The monk said, “Venerable Water Buffalo, the bath is ready.” Evidently, that monk knew conceptually that there is no difference, no separation between Nansen and a water buf- falo. Nansen had to ask,“Did you bring a leash or not?” The monk did not bring a leash and was certainly taken by surprise by this question. His conceptual understanding came to an end. The monk had no reply. When Master Joshu came later to greet his teacher, Nansen mentioned what had happened. Joshu said, “I have something to say!” Nansen said, “Fine, but have you brought a leash with you?” Instead of saying, “Yes” or “No,” or keeping silent, Joshu dashed forward and grabbed Nansen by the nose. When Joshu turned more than one hundred years old, his teachings, such as “Mu,” became so pure and concise that people would say his lips emitted light. When he was young, he was full of vitality. He would dash forward and grab Nansen by the nose. A leash is not necessary—superfluous! Nansen remarked, “Okay, but it is a bit too coarse.” This reminds me of the episode when Fuke and Rinzai were invited by a patron to have dinner, and while debating over the dharma, Fuke overturned a table loaded with dishes and food. Rinzai remarked, “Okay, but it is too coarse.” Zen koans are not so difficult to understand, as long as the essence is clear. So whether sitting, walking, doing yoga, or whatever you are engaged in—including sleeping—the top priority must not be forgotten. If someone corrects you, or some mistake is mentioned publicly, accepting it and plainly saying “Hai” is not at all easy. Yet this is where our practice starts. ➤ continued from page 29