Shodo Harada Roshi's Newsletter
November 5,2001
Issue #56A
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Very soon it will be the end of this year. In this year on the eleventh of September, the World Trade Center Building in New York City was destroyeed. Since then our peaceful security has been pulled out from under us. Now we experience conflict, attack, anthrax and fear, not only in America but in India, Pakistan and other countries, we see one victim after another confirmed positive. These victims are now dying, one after another.

Along with this, the weaking global economy brings a severe and serious insecurity to people all over the world, making it even worse. We cannot remain this insecure and continue in this way. People of wisdom have to think and consider the root of this, from where has this suffering that is covering the planet come? We have to correctly open our eyes and look clearly and with our correct judgment see this directly. This is not a problem which has has suddenly appeared in our time.

In the analects of Confucius we read how one time a disciple of Confucius asked him, "What is most important for protecting the country?"

Confucius answered, "Army and food and trust." Military and food and faith, if these three are not all aligned, the country will not be at peace.

But this was a very sturdy disciple and he then asked, ‘If these three are aligned, of course there is no problem, but to align all three of these is very difficult, even though it is the ideal. If you had to give up one of those which would it be?

And Confucius answered, "The military, if there was one that had to be given up, it would be the military. If there is enough food for the people to be fed and the government is trusted by the people, then it can work without the military, I would let go of the army.

The disciple then continued,"And if there was one more that you had to give up, which would you give up?"

Confucius said,"food."

The deep trust of people in their government and in each other, if there is not a deep faith there, then even if we live in the same country or home we will lose all of our trust in each other. Even if we have an army and food, if people lose trust in each other the other two have no meaning.

"Don't grieve for poverty, grieve for inequality", this is the basic principle of politics. This is the basic tenet for world peace. It is not about grieving about being impoverished. If people are not equal, that is the biggest problem. This is what he was saying. Even if there is not enough food, if we suffer and share with each other equally, we are all still in it together. With this the country will still be able to stand. But if people look at each other without trust and the country's way of being is not trusted by it's people, it cannot stand. Even though called it a country, it is still each and every person that makes a country stand. While we call it "the people" each and every one is a person. While we call it "religion", even if it is a religion for liberating all people, what supports that is each individual person.

If we call it trust or faith, what do we have faith and trust in? Today the religions and the countries and the people are all in conflict. In what should we have faith? If we leave each person's clear essence out of this, and get caught on the form of the individual only, then people will get continually confused. With the words "all sentient beings are from the origin Buddhas", Hakuin is expressing the very state of mind of the Buddha. Are we really, actually, able to recognize and accept everything and everyone? Our ego awareness is so often our base and we are full of greed, anger, jealousy, complaints, desires and attachments, unable to become that state of mind of the Buddha. We are all full of these delusions. For each of us, our essence is not completely that of the Buddha.

The Buddha was one who had cleared out these delusions and desires and impurities and that is why he was called Chogu Jobu, or Great Person of Complete Alignment. This Buddha, with well clarified eyes, saw all humans true essence and powerfully spoke about what he saw. "How wondrous, how wondrous! All beings are endowed from the origin with the very same clear mind to which I have just awakened! Only because of delusions and attachments, they don't realize that!"

We are all endowed with this clear mind, even though we are ignorant of it and full of impurities. We have never lost this clear mind. The Buddha said that we think these are impurities and insecurity and anger but they are only like a mist or smoke or clouds, they have only coincidentally come about. They come forth, and when their time has passed, they disappear. Our mind's true form is only wisdom and compassion and nothing else but those. The space inside a cup and the space of the whole universe, there is no difference between them whatsoever. The Buddha Nature of the Buddha and my Buddha Nature is no different, there are not two Buddha Natures! This world - there is only one, and there is only one universe! This one universe, we are born in it, live in it, embraced by it, and the life energy of that is me! But with everyone being prejudiced against someone else, caught on how only "I" am special, that state of mind is not the truth. "All sentient beings are from the origin Buddha!" This is how the Buddha taught the truth. The Buddha taught from his own experience about the liberation of all beings, so why can't we accept that?

Hakuin Zenji says it very simply, "As with water and ice, there is no ice without water." In this metaphor, the water is warm and the ice is is cold. Ice has a fixed shape. If it freezes inside a plate , it cannot change from being plate shaped, if it freezes inside of a cup it cannot change from being a cup shaped piece of ice. It cannot become round or square or triangular, once it has become a certain shape it cannot change that shape. The form of water can change and be in flux, but ice, once it is a certain shape cannot change into a different shape. Water can flow but ice cannot. Water goes from a high place to a low place and has a natural fluidity, but ice is stuck in one place and cannot move freely. It becomes one shape and cannot change and move. Water soaks in everywhere and becomes one with everything, but ice cannot soak in or mix or blend, Water gives life, even though it sometimes makes huge floods and destroys all in it's path, for the most part it gives life and growth to trees, plants and flowers. It gives life to all living things. Ice freezes and kills them. Water and ice have the same makeup, yet in this way their functions are so different.

In exactly this way, the Buddha has the wisdom to liberate all beings and the mind of great compassion and sympathy and has the great mind that embraces all beings and gives them life. The mind of the unawakened person has no place or time to think about any one else but themselves. They are only centered on thinking about themselves, only seeing from their own position. The mind of the Buddha does not get fixed and stuck on a certain way of thinking and is not colored by anything else. In the unawakened person's mind there is only" I, me, mine". Wanting to be special, the ego colors everything.

The Buddha Mind, like water flowing, is fluid and changing and flexible. It always accords freely with the moment, the place and the being. An unawakened person's mind is always attached to things, to ones own life, and to their position, caught on these and having to defend them, and willing to do anything to preserve oneself. Trapped by fame and always in bondage, they are without freedom and flexibility of mind.

Water soaks into everything and blends with everything, and the Buddha Mind mixes and becomes all people, even the poorest person, whatever the person it blends smoothly. The unawakened person conflicts with their own family and friends and even while living with them is resentful and doubtful and revengeful. The Buddha mind embraces everything and all people, the way water brings life to all things. It is the mind of liberating everything. But the mind of the unawakened person hurts others and even steps on others to improve it's own position and get what it wants. Even if they murder others, they don't care. This is the difference between Buddha Mind and ignorant mind. The ignorant mind cannot let in the Buddha mind and yet they are not completely different things, they are of the same makeup.

This is what astonished the Buddha. The same makeup, and why are they so very different? This actuality, seeing it clearly, he said, "Don't worry everybody! Even the most ignorant person who is always only thinking about themselves, all people, are not different in any way from the Buddha. We are all endowed with the same wisdom. Only, because we get caught by our ego and our delusion, we get attached and then that clear wisdom can't come forth. We have the wisdom from the beginning, yet we are not able to see from it. While always having it, we are not able to realize it.

For this reason we have to realize that state of mind which is prior to the delusions and mozo. If the ice melts our Buddha nature, like water, flows unceasingly and comes forth everywhere. Just as the light of the moon touches everything on which it radiates, our mind becomes quiet, and the quieter it becomes the more we resemble that moonlight. Our wisdom and compassion can then come forth and be manifested in all things and all ways. The way this works is like the metaphor of water and ice.

The Buddha's compassion and wisdom are not something we receive from the Buddha. If our mind is clarified we see we have the same compassion as that of the Buddha, right within us. God's love is not something we have to receive from outside, but when our mind opens the love of God is always and regularly surging up from within us. God's love and the Buddha mind, that was already born once within us, is not something that exists apart from sentient beings. Since it is not separate, sentient beings are, just as they are, God's love in action. This wisdom and compassion are the same as that of the Buddha and as we walk this essence, we realize that we are the compassion and wisdom which is not in any way different from that of the Buddha. That is our true character. The Love of God is already within us, and as it expresses, abundant mind and character are manifested.

God's Love and Buddha's wisdom, we can receive these just as they are, if our mind is transparent, quiet and clear. Otherwise, they cannot come through. We have to cut away all of our attachments and grasping for external phenomena, cut them away and let it all go. Then, when we return to that serene clear place, that great faith to which we are committed will be naturally present beyond any and all dualistic ideas. That is the Buddha Nature which is the same as that of awakening. And that Clear Mind is the Buddha nature and the pure state is Love.

Religion, all religions, leaving aside whether they have a God or Buddha inside or outside of our mind, all have some version of repentance. To knock at the door of a religion means we have felt our own failures and mistakes deeply. We have perceived ourselves as unable to live purely and that makes us so miserable that we are sure that there is no one as terrible as we are, no one as disgusting. We see ourselves on an awakened way and we enter the way of religion. Because of this we have to know repentance. Christ said "I am the most sinful of everyone". Shinran Shonin said that there was no one as bad as he was, that no one had as many desires as he did. He said that there was no one who was more guilty than he was. He very severely looked at himself and reviewed his actions and state of mind. We have this kind of integrity and from that our true and pure character is manifested. Our ability to see clearly and directly how we are is one of our valuable gifts of truth.

For artists as well, if anyone thinks their work is completely done and fulfilled then they are no longer able to develop. Dancers also say how it is not yet enough, not yet enough, that their real dance is not THIS yet. Those who are true dance masters still feel that it is not YET their real dancing.

In the olden days, the Japanese emperor in the times of crisis and famines and plagues, when they saw their people's suffering, they felt how they were insufficient and were unable to take care of these catatastrophe's. They would not only repent for their own behavior to themselves but to all the people of their country. In 668 the Emperor Tenmo began with his own repentance and also called all of his people to repent. In 744 Shomo Emperor also set up a Yakushi Nyorai and he repented all of his faults saying that he wanted to bring forth a very healthy era, and made a firm committed vow to do so, saying that everyone had to take responsibility. In 767, Emperor Shotoku said to all of the temples in the whole country that all of the people should repent. From that time on repentance ceremonies became very common and people all over the country participated. That great twisted karma that we have built up since the ancient past, all of it has no beginning, no start, coming from even before there was a past. That greed and ignorance and anger that has arisen, I have been guilty of all of these, with this body and with this mouth I have been guilty of all sins, and ignorant of the Buddha Way, and right now I repent for these things.

This kind of repentance ceremony is in all religions with each individual religion's particular way of expressing it. But most religions do it with a certain form. In the Japanese Shinto religion, a certain kind of tree branch is shaken and we purify our sins of mind, body and mouth with that gesture. In Christianity, we enter a confessional and tell the priest each and every one of our mistaken behaviors. Having told each of these, we repent for them and purify our mind in doing that.

In Buddhism there are precepts and when we receive them we always first do a deep repentance to all the thousand Buddhas of the past, the thousand Buddhas of the present and the thousand Buddhas of the future. We offer our repentance to them and repeat the name of all three thousand Buddhas and chant,

Repent, repent. All of the impurities of the six senses roots.
Cutting away all desires, Cutting away all ancient kharma.

In this way we offer the Buddhas names, one at a time, and then bow and stand and prostrate with each name. There is also a way of purification by water, or standing under a sacred waterfall, or copying a sutra. Some people have cut their fingers and with that blood have written a sutra. There is also this kind of repentance practice from the past.

That mind which has repented, how shall we then manifest it? This mind that does the repentance has to be looked at. There is the form of the repentance but there is also the repentance beyond the shape, form and ritual of doing repentance. More than the form of the repentance the mind of repentance is the real challenge. As we do the practice of repentance if our mind is not clear it has no meaning. Our mind is already clear from the origin and so we should not have committed mistakes and sins, but without our even knowing it we get twisted and off center and we do things which we are often not even aware of doing.

We do training and do zazen training, but the form of zazen, to just sit in that posture, to do only that, is a great mistake. Zazen is to always have a clear mind, to be and live in our original clear state of mind, to be clear in each and every mind moment. To be aware and live like that is training. To see our own mind and clarify it,there is no other zen that that. We do zazen in order to clarify our already pure mind and if we think we sit for any other reason, zazen becomes very confused and complex. To clarify our mind is the point and zazen is good for doing that. If we say that when we stop sitting our mind goes back to being just as confused as it always was, if that is the kind of zazen we are doing, that is a problem.

To clarify our mind is the point and if we don't also do that when we are not sitting it won't work. Even when we are riding on a train or walking along the road or at our jobs, no matter where we are, we clarify our mind so it is always clear. It is not only when we have time to sit we are making efforts to clarify our mind. It is the most necessary thing for us to do. This is why it is said that sitting is zen and action is also zen. From morning until night is Zen. To know our mind's ease, and not only on the cushion. It is that idea about zazen that causes problems. It is not for understanding others or solving external problems that we do zazen. To know that clear mind that we all are endowed with from the origin, this is zen. To realize this is to do practice. With our Mind we realize the Dharma Body. Since we are Buddha we are extending throughout the whole universe fully and completely and in that mind the Buddha is sitting firmly, we realize and experience that and this is true zazen. To put it a different way, our purified awareness is filling and surging through the whole universe, imagining and creating the whole universe. In this way we discover that the Buddha is our mind, not by thinking about that but by letting go of all of our thoughts. We don't to hold on to anything at all but we become the Universe as it is, the actualization of this is zazen. It is not for thinking with our heads about liberating ourselves but to let go of our stuck places and become one with the universe. This is how we actually liberate ourselves.

Zazen is the formless repentance. As it says in the sutra, if we want to repent completely, for doing this, zazen is best. We don't do it by thinking about it but by letting go of all of that thinking and of our own individual thoughts, freeing and releasing them so we become that huge expanse of the whole universe. We throw ourselves into becoming that completely. We let go of all of those mistaken behaviors that we have acquired and realize how they have no real existence at all, that because we thought they were actual we made our problems even greater. We do commit unskillful acts without even knowing or realizing it, and at that time we have to truly repent that which we have done. We have to liberate ourselves from doing it again in an actual, real way or we will deepen and make heavier those mistakes and even poison others with this. With our body and mind and mouth we will make more pain and suffering.

As the the 6th Patriarch has said, "All things are empty where could any bit of clutter land?" To know that mind of no murkiness whatsoever, we have to throw away everything to that final point. If we do this in a half baked way, we just increase the impurities exponentially, and make even more ego strength and mistakes. Repentance is about what we have already done in the past, to look at our behavior in the past and feel sorry about it. But in Buddhism it is not only a question of the past there is also the challenge of the future. Everything we do sends ripples to the future, everyone of our mind moments affects the future deeply.

Our way of living, in order to protect it we have made dioxin and freon gas, we have made so many poisons and committed so many sins against the environment. We have to not only repent but to make a firm commitment to not make the same mistakes again. For this reason repentance is not only for repenting the past but also for committing to to not doing the same thing in the future. To repent our past behaviour is important, but also of great importance is to say we will not continue this behavior. When we find ourselves repeating the same patterns, not to be vague, excusing ourselves, but to take our responsibility seriously. As it says in Buddhism, we can see clearly how our way of living each day is what builds the way the future becomes, we cannot live foolishly and carelessly for one single day.

Even we who are so full of faults, before those mistakes come forth, like a baby prior to its ego and dualistic perception, we have this mind which is prior to any sin,without the tiniest bit of clutter, truly empty of every single thing. Our clearest mind beyond any attachment to a small self, we pierce through to that and realize that always clear mind. This is true repentance, not just the form of repentace, rather to pierce down through the very root of our murkiness and impurity of mind. We realize this in actuality and this is what satori and kensho is. This is our responsibility as humans and repenting our behavior manifests this best. The ego and its attachments bring forth this mistaken behavior and we go to that place prior to even ego and pierce through it and throw it away realizing the source beyond it. This is prior to the birth of the ego,and here we realize our true home, that place of the Buddha mind, the true base of the Love of God. Manifesting that is true repentance.

We realize our true mind and this is actual repentance. Those great misdeeds that we have done, that we have invented, we cannot actually erase them. With this very body we do kill things and take away their life, we kill other people, and we steal with our body as well. We also act without clarity in our relationships with our partners,we hurt each other and confuse and delude. We also tell lies and twist the truth. We also speak in a meaningless way, we act unskillfully and doing this we confuse people and society. We also have greed, anger and complaining in our minds and with that mind we express it unskillfully. With our mouth and body we deceive people and cause problems for people in the world. Yet even if someone has killed another their true mind does not change. Even though we make problems for others that problem won't be changed by us realizing this true mind either. We are in fact beings of unskillful behavior, no matter how much we repent, we can not repent for all of what we have done, so we have to repent and look at what we do clearly and directly.

It is here that the Bodhisattva Mind comes in. As the actual manifestation and expression of that mind of repentance it comes forth. We clarify and purify our true state of mind, it brightens, and the now formless repentance becomes our actions. In this the actualization of the four vows is realized, we offer our whole life to all people, to the whole society. We throw away everything and offer it all up to society and with our deep vow, from our Bodhisattva nature we repent everything we have mistakenly done and with that repentance we then express the truth. To put our small self below everything else, below everyone else in society. We support others and don't put ourselves out in front, This is the most human way, to put ourselves at the bottom of all people in society and walk our path every day. In our mind we clarify our essence and then for the first time the words of repentance can be understood inwardly. This repentance of form and this formless repentance, when we understand these we can see this clearly for the first time.

In Buddhism from the olden days this month has been the month of repentance. In all the temples around Japan the scrolls of the past thousand Buddhas, the present thousand Buddhas and the future thousand Buddhas are put up and while chanting the Buddha's names, prostrations are done with the body laid out on the ground. With sweat we even purify our physical body, the best possible essence of repenting. When we experience this we decide to firm our new commitment and make it sturdy and then we welcome this month of repentance. Even for one week of this month, please designate it the week of repentance this month.

At Sogenji right now, one after another young people are gathering to train and do Rohatsu. Every single day they are throwing themselves into it and deepening their clear mind with vigorous efforts. For Tahoma and IttekiJi also, with Doyu Zenji guiding the many people of experience so they can join together and do a sesshin of Repentance, this is what I pray for deeply. In Europe, as well, for the One drop Zendo in Switzerland and for the One Drop Zendo is Hungary and for the Poland Zendo and Denmark Zendo and German Zendo, there are many who have experience doing Rohatsu. Please become the center of these efforts now, so we can all join together in this practice of repentance. In the zendos of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland and New Mexico and all of the places where we have karmic affiliations with people, for those with experience of Rohatsu to please gather and have a Rohatsu sesshin of repentance. This is the responsibility of each of us and the most important source of relief of this terrible pain of our present times. I pray for everyone to please vow for a new year full of fresh faith and trust and in our minds to please gather all of the vows of everyone and do a sesshin of full repentance.

In your busy lives, everyone is so busy and working so fully, we must take time in that busy life and do the true formless repentance and liberate our true mind by touching our actual source, then the true repentance naturally takes place.

Please relieve this great insecurity in society with our great vow and deep determination. This is my greatest vow. For everyone, please give life to your deep vow for peace by doing this.

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copyright 2001, Shodo Harada Roshi, all rights reserved