Shodo Harada Roshi's Newsletter
January, 2004
Issue #63

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New Years 2004

We have now welcomed a new year. According to the almanac the year is new, but we are still wrapped up in the same circumstances of this world. There is not only no 'newness' here, instead a continual pain and misery. Taking last year's Iraq war, as the beginning of this current misery there was not only the war in Iraq there are now the attacks of the suicide bombers from every direction. People are so insecure and it gets worse and worse. Also in Palestine, with the ongoing terrorist suicide bomber attacks, the people have no peace. Added to this we have the economic state of the whole world, with no light in sight at all. In each person's mind there is only insecurity and instability, and with this continuing insecurity our mind becomes heavier and heavier. For people today there is no one who can lead them. Nor is there any leader in whom people believe to lead them into peace. Everyone is sunk into profound insecurity.


Right now this country (USA) is in hands that we cannot reach and is being moved around in a way that we cannot affect and we cannot know where it will go from here. It used to be that our opinions and ways of thinking were at least considered, but where has this way of governing gone? This is what many people are feeling and this loss of contact has become today's way of governing. People who do Zazen and are influenced by the Buddha's teaching must not fall into this insecurity. As Rinzai said, "In this five foot lump of red flesh there is a true person of no rank always coming in and going out, if you have not seen it yet, See it NOW See it NOW!"


Everyone has this red bleeding body, that in which we live from morning until night. There is no one who leaves the body aside and goes out of it. This body is given great life through that 'true person of no rank', and that person of no rank is in the very 'middle' of the body but without being it, grasping at it, or clutching onto it. Without being caught on the usual values of society of fame, wealth and knowledge, there are those who go beyond the physical body and ordinary ideas of being healthy or not healthy, rich or poor. This physical body is given life by that very root of our awareness and this root is not dependent on our physical body. While using it abundantly and coming and going freely in and out of it, there is a true master there.


Everyone is so tossed and turned by the things in this world, by that which is going on around all of us. Thrown around by these the circumstances and the situations we set the true master aside. There are many who have not even encountered it yet, and we would like everyone to know it and realize it. It is always coming and going in and out of our body, through our eyes and ears and feelings it is always coming and going freely. When it goes out, if we see a flower it becomes a flower, we hear a beautiful bird's song and we become a singing bird. When we go within, we are hungry, sleepy, hot and cold. We can receive this whole universe, or if we land on Mars, we can receive that and perceive it exactly as it is. Yet while saying that, whatever today's good health and our state of mind, we can see through it and adjust. There is this true person that freely comes and goes in and out. It is not caught, not stuck, nor fixed in our body. It is both one with the heavens and earth and one with the body. There is a true master like that within each of us.


We hear the insect chirping and within that insect's cry is a true being of no rank


"Hearing the insect's cry I become the insect"


We see the mountain and we become that high firm soaring state of mind and we see the river and we are flowing without pause - life energy's flow. We see the sky full of stars and throughout the universe to its far, far past we become it all, not stuck on some personal attachments. We dive into all the suffering of all people, into society's most miserable layer. Within this is a true person of no rank.


Everyone has this true person of no rank, but everyone puts it aside and is insecure and depressed. To know this, but not just with mental understanding, we have to experience it and realize it directly and in its fullest tautness. Daily doing Zazen and working on this inventively, isn't this our truth? It is this state of mind that is no different at all from that of the Buddha and Daruma. Rinzai is urging us along and giving us energy.


Then there is the Sixth Patriarch who said, 'to not put any thoughts at all onto what we perceive externally, and internally to not have thoughts of winning and losing, good and bad'. All of these thoughts are from dualistic words and the world of good and bad. Smart and stupid people exist, as do healthy and sick people, young people and old people, but that is the way of looking at things from the point of view of society. We ask how can I live in the world like this? But that is not the point. We have to look at this world right smack in front of us and not see it in a small personal way but as a reality. See it directly like a mirror that precisely reflects things as they are and don't add anything onto it whatsoever. Then there is no good and evil, profit and loss, our mind will not be moved around the slightest bit by being praised or criticized .If we do Zazen everyday we become able to remember these occasions or else, we have to start again in each day. I do Zazen every day and if it is for being confused in the world it is of no use.


To see that which is in the mirror yet to not be moved around by it at all - to taste this is the 'za' of Zazen. The Zen of 'Zazen' is to look within and not be moved around by anything.


"Zen is the name of the mind and the mind is the body of Zen" Eno Zenji said. In our mind "from the origin there is not one single thing." In this way no matter what is brought to us we are moved around by none of it. In our mind there is this true and actual nature and we have to see and establish clearly this original nature so our mind is not moved around by anything. In this the truth of Zazen is found. Zazen is not sitting in the dark and becoming unconscious or not thinking or not being. Although it is about the body sitting, just that alone is not true living Zazen. This body in this world of phenomena - how should we be in this world? This is the truth of our Zazen. Again and again our world is always changing and within that we sit and see it. We receive it in every moment and are moved around by nothing at all. We throw a stone into the water and ripples occur but our mind is not of some form like that of 'throwing in a stone' or throwing in anything. There is no wind, nor waves aroused, this mind of not being moved around is how we have to realize the truth within. This is the "zen" of Zazen.


Zazen is that within our state of mind when we are beyond all dualism. We are given the realization of that which is beyond dualism. This is the truth of Zazen. Even if God comes into this world that is something that is within our awareness. It is only something reflected in our mirror mind. If something that is said to be absolute, if we are aware of it, it is only in the mind or our mirror-like awareness. Whether it is a God or a Buddha, in our mind there is this way of reflecting everything yet not being moved around by anything that we are reflecting. It is not that some superior person in the society comes along and we get excited, or if someone of no status or position comes along neither do we get suddenly superior and look down on them. That is being moved around, and is not our mind's true nature. What kind of world is this? To reflect all changes and establish them equally in our awareness is Zazen. No matter what a huge sunshine or deep relationship, our mind is greater in size than any of those. In this world everything can be placed inside our mind.


No matter what a crisis or catastrophe, it all is within our Mind. Of course it cannot be only settled in our own mind, there are things in this world that we have to actively address. Yet we cannot be moved around or it is all blind action. We have to have the hugeness of mind that is not moved around or affected by anything. If that state of mind is realized we can say we have done a little Zazen, maybe.


In our mind there are all of the events of the limitless past and all of the vows of the future, the hopes, the plans, all of them are there, and yet with all of them within we never feel our mind as narrow. This huge mind is what we all are endowed with. Having this huge mind we cannot put it aside and be moved around by all of the varying changes and events. The outside world is always changing. There are sometimes good times, sometimes difficult times, terrible times and peaceful times. It moves always and continuously and this is today's world full of conflict, challenges, and confusing circumstances. All of that has a source and is not made by some devil. If we look to the source it is all coming forth from cause and effect, but in our mind there is no source for any of that, that is all only the external world. In our mind there is no beginning and no end. In our mind there is no fixed thing called a 'me', that which is nothing at all reflects everything.


This mind of nothing at all is what is absolute. If a man comes in front of it, it reflects a man, if an old person comes in front of it, it reflects an old person, if a woman comes, a woman is reflected, if a child comes, a child is reflected. And when they leave there is nothing there whatsoever. This is the way our mind is. If there is something that lingers, that is the confusion of our awareness. We do Zazen to see well the confusion of our mind, and to let go of that confusion and be born with each actuality. To clarify this is Zazen and further to not encounter the world with a confused mind and not be moved around and confused with the phenomena around us. We become able to see clearly how to relate to each moment. There are things we cannot meet with strong reactions of rejection, but to always see in this way of peace and harmony and be able to respond in that way and without hesitation, not with confusion and being moved around.


In the Tang dynasty in China there was a time when the country was in terrible crisis and confusion and there were many civil wars. Master Zuigan came forth at that time. Master Zuigan was always practicing and doing Zazen. He was always addressing himself, "True Master?" "Yes!" "Are you awake?" "Yes" "Don't be deceived by people!" "Yes yes!" He was always saying this to himself, giving himself this koan over and over again, and answering it himself. If you look at it from the outside he looks foolish and crazy but when we are fooled by what we see and hear, and look at this from the inside, Master Zuigan was one we have much to learn from. "True Master!" No one knows where that true master is, and if we don't know that, we are the slave. This question has to be answered with a "Yes" and we have to do that kind of Zazen. "Are you all awake?" You may have that kind of a face, and like to appear as if you are awake, but even if you look awake if you don't know the true source it is of no use. Everybody sitting sleepily in Zazen, it has to be the eye of the whole universe wide open and with that eye and that ear of the universe, to see and to hear, only with those can you possibly say it is the truth. If we are being pushed and pulled around we can never hear and see truthfully and we will constantly misunderstand. In every single thing and every moment if we see the phenomena only, and get caught on ideas of good and of bad, then we are deceived by it as if it were the reality. We have to open the clearly seeing eye that can see through all the temporary phenomena, or else we think we are awake but we are blind. "Are you awake?" "Don't be deceived by people!"


Everyone is hearing someone else's words and that makes them feel so thankful yet so often we are actually being deceived. "That is such a wonderful person, oh such a wonderful person!" We wander here and wander there and leave aside that which sees the truth. Everyone is fooled continually. The true Dharma has no form yet it extends in all the ten directions. Our mind, the mind of each of us, extends throughout the whole universe; we cannot leave that aside and only see the shadow, only see that which is partial. This is what Rinzai is grieving about out loud.


Another monk went to Master Baso Doitsu and said, "Who is the one who is one with all of the ten thousand things?" All the ten thousand things, putting them all over there and then reflecting all of them, who is doing that?


The ten thousand things are always in flux and transient. These are always changing but that eye which sees these changing things -what is that? In the spring all of the flowers that are blooming, in the summer the woods full of green trees, in autumn, the colored falling leaves, in the winter the snow covering everything with white: that which reflects these, that reflects everything, and reflects throughout infinite time, there is this deeply seeing eye. What eye is that?


"Who is the one who is one with all of the ten thousand things?"" This is how the monk questioned Master Baso Doitsu and Baso Doitsu answered, "When you have drunk down the Yangtze River I will tell you!"


This whole universe! Drink it down. Our Zazen is just like that, it can't be done in one small corner of the world, sitting scared of all the changes and wandering around in some personal despair. To hold on to grief and sit, Zazen is not about that! While not ignoring it, it is reflecting it, but is not moved around by it.


Everyone has been caught for such a long time in the current framework of economics and politics and the recent circumstances and the world's situations. While making a living and a life in society, everyone thought these were real. We are continually planning within this framework, planning what we should do-and putting physical death in the center, we then lose our true center and become a slave to the world. We have to see this clearly and to realize this true master within, our true essence.


In the society or, for each of us, on our home ground, people who are on their home ground are always thinking about who is doing what, and complaining about it, but that is all irrelevant. Whether it is good or not is of no meaning. The only thing of importance is that we are doing it with our whole body and being. Even on our home ground we have to work and become it in the best possible way and in that is our joy. And even if we can do it on our home ground and then we leave the base and can't do it anywhere and everywhere, it is still insufficient. We have to be able to do it in our everyday life and then Zazen gives life to our everyday living. We can do everything better and more efficiently. We can work better and discover all kinds of creative inventions. That is Zazen. This is not a Zazen of form but of our true mind. Today that Zazen of our true mind is so rare and so everyone is moved around. If even doing Zazen we are still being pushed and moved around by things, that is a disappointment.


In this world there are enough people doing Zazen to throw up on, but those who are doing the form of Zazen are in the hundreds of millions but they are all doing it for their own private attached Zazen. Zazen holding on to personal problems, there is no awakening in that. Zazen is not private, it is not about our character or our private concerns but is about throwing all of those away, this is the same in the Nembutsu, or the practice of chanting the Buddha's name. In the old days the disciples of Honen Shonin were having a discussion when there were many doubts. Is our true nature and our chanting of the Buddha's name the same as that of our teacher or different? Their eldest disciple Shinran Shonin said, "Of course, they are the same." But the doubting students protested and said, "no you have an awakened mind and that means it cannot be the same chanting! We are not awakened yet--it can't be so disrespectful!� They could not find the conclusion so they asked their teacher, Honen Shonin and he said that his deep mind is not his own but one that is the whole universe, that he was endowed with this mind and that Shinran was the same and it is one and the same for all people. If there is anyone who says it is different, that is not true.


Our Zazen is the same, it cannot be a Zazen that is personal, but that which is the same as the Buddha and then we are seeing with the same eyes as the Buddha and the Patriarchs and hearing with the same ears as the Buddha and the Patriarchs. If the Buddha or Daruma Daishi were here there would be no difference whatsoever. It has to be that kind of Zazen. When we sit there cannot be the slightest bit of any emotion or attachment inserted in our Zazen whatsoever. It has to be this kind of Zazen and if that does not come forth it is not real. In that there is the truth of our daily life and this is why our state of mind becomes a state of mind that is no different at all from the Buddha and Daruma Daishi. We realize this with great wonder and amazement.


Please, those of you who are doing Zazen, in today's world and times, it has to be living Zazen. Please have this deep faith and realize this truth and awaken to our true nature and then not to be moved around by the things that are happening in the world today in such a way that we lose our clearly hearing ears and our clearly seeing eyes. We should not be confused and tossed around, but instead be able to see clearly and correctly and to hear and see the actuality directly. Actively work in this world, seeing clearly what should be done, and with bravery and courage make diligent efforts and go forward. Each person has this truth from birth. We have to realize this and in each day in one's Zazen and diligent activity to give it life. Cultivate this deep faith and this universe sized energy and potential and bring deep peace to people all around you, do this kind of Zazen.

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copyright 2004, Shodo Harada Roshi, all rights reserved