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Lions Roar : January 2009
56 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 Things changed on Friday, as newcomers joined us for the final three days of sesshin. Among them was Paul Karsten, a stu- dent of Roshi’s since 1973 and the president of a Seattle acu- puncture school. Karsten sees his study with Joshu Roshi as the practice of making relationship with others. “My studies have made me a more effective health care practitioner,” he says. “I’ve trusted Roshi to help point me to what’s important.” Roshi took a long time with people in sanzen that evening, and I felt I was having a more freewheeling encounter with him, letting go of some of myself. I felt energized as we left the zendo that evening, and for a while, sleep wouldn’t come. Despite getting no more than four hours of sleep, I felt pretty good on Saturday, day six. The city around us was quiet, and it occurred to me that people were thinking about going to the beach. During teisho, Roshi told the famous story of how, as he grew old, Hyakujo’s students stole his gardening tools so he’d have to rest from his labors around the monastery, and how Hyakujo stopped eating in protest. A good bit older than Hyakujo himself, Roshi told us he’d been suffering from sciatica for twelve years. “Now, if I sit for more than fifteen minutes, it and prolonged sitting in a fixed posture. The genius of sesshin, I reflected, is that it offers many different ways to squeeze you and make you uncomfortable. You’re stuck in a hot, sweaty, aching body with no escape: what do you do? I’ve learned that the only thing that works is to unify with the discomfort. And one way or another, unification is what Roshi always teaches. In sanzen the next morning Roshi sized up my response. “Ego,” he spat, and rang the bell. Later, in teisho, he talked about the old man in the koan who approached Hyakujo and begged to be released from a particular error he had made, which had caused him to be reborn 500 times as a fox. The old man in the story was a “monster,” Roshi said, because he couldn’t manifest unity with his students. I was feeling a bit monstrous myself. On Thursday we reached the sesshin’s halfway point, and fewer and fewer people were making enthusiastic sprints for the door at the start of sanzen. Maybe I wasn’t the only one confounded by my koan. More than once, the head monk had to bark, “Sanzen!” to get people to leave the zendo. Stuck though I was, in afternoon sanzen that day something I did seemed to resonate with Roshi; at last I felt I was moving in the right direction. True Love, Ultimate Zero A grueling seven-day Zen retreat takes its toll on everyone— including the teacher. Joshu Sasaki Roshi says that at 101 it takes him a few days to regain his energy, but when I met with him following the July sesshin in Los Angeles, he was in an expansive mood, talking for an hour about his teaching of Tathagata Zen. Here is an excerpt. — MICHAEL HAEDERLE THE ACTIVITY OF MOVEMENT contains two different na- tures: difference and discrimination. The single activity of “go- ing” includes “coming,” and the single activity of “coming” in- cludes “going.” The activity of going and coming is encompassed by the activity of equality. The whole universe is one: equality holds difference and dis- crimination within it. The activity of equality includes plus and minus. Therefore, it is zero. You can only experience the state of equality; you cannot de- scribe it. If someone demands an explanation of it from me, all I can do is kiss the person. Or I could hit him. Do you understand this? Have you got it? Generally people say, “We love equality, we love equality.” Rather than simply mouthing those words, you must come to understand this principle. When the state of equality is mani- fested, it is the state of zero. This is the state where you no longer need to insist on or claim your own self. If you understand this important point, then fine. There is no need to make any remarks. For example, if the child calls to her fa- ther, “Daddy!”, what comment can he make? If the father does not respond to this call, the child would lightly nudge him and remind him, “Look at me.” Then, if he looks at her, she’ll say, “I love you, Daddy.” The ancient Indians called this the activity of karma. Today, we don’t know if the ancient Indians prior to Buddha understood this as Buddha did, as they simply used the term “karma.” They did not define the activity of karma, but Buddha made it clear that karma is the activity of “Thus coming” and “Thus going.” Buddha defined it clearly and then he realized that none of us can escape from the activity of karma. The Chinese translated “Thus coming” and “Thus going” as nyorai and nyokyo. The term nyo—“thus”—is a very philosophi- cal, important word. Nyorai also implies God, or dharmakaya. The male activity and female activity are completely separate and op- posed to each other. The Chinese character for nyo includes within it the symbol for “woman,” but in the context of Buddhism, while male presence exists in nyo, at the same time the natures of male and female are viewed as difference. As indicated before, nyo also means “Thus.” Man and woman are not as one. Nyo is nyo. Things are as they are, in their own essence. But once you start to talk about this totality as “object,” unification breaks and separation of the states of female-ness and male-ness are manifested. In the uni- fied state, complete tranquility takes place, and there, the self does not exist. You don’t need to say anything. When the daughter and father are completely separated, there is no need for them to say anything. Although she is with her father in a clearly separated state, she has no need to call him. She is manifest-