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Thread: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

  1. #1

    5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    We come to the TWELFTH and final talk on the Sandokai (with one additional talk to be posted next week)..

    .. "Do Not Pass Your Days and Nights in Vain", pages 163 to 175.

    Please read once more the entire Sandokai ...
    Harmony of Sameness and Difference
    by Sekito Kisen (700-790)


    The mind of the great sage of India
    is intimately transmitted from west to east.
    While human faculties are sharp or dull,
    the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.

    The spiritual source shines clear in the light;
    the branching streams flow on in the dark.
    Grasping at things is surely delusion;
    according with sameness is still not enlightenment.

    All the objects of the senses interact and yet do not.
    Interacting brings involvement.
    Otherwise, each keeps its place.

    Sights vary in quality and form,
    sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.
    Refined and common speech come together
    in the dark, clear and murky phrases are
    distinguished in the light.

    The four elements return to their natures
    just as a child turns to its mother;
    Fire heats, wind moves, water wets, earth is solid.

    Eye and sights, ear and sounds, nose and smells, tongue and tastes;
    Thus with each and every thing,
    depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.
    Trunk and branches share the essence;
    revered and common, each has its speech.

    In the light there is darkness,
    but don't take it as darkness;
    In the dark there is light, but don't see it as light.
    Light and dark oppose one another
    like the front and back foot in walking.

    Each of the myriad things has its merit,
    expressed according to function and place.
    Phenomena exist; box and lid fit;
    principle responds; arrow points meet.

    Hearing the words, understand the meaning;
    don't set up standards of your own.
    If you don't understand the Way right before you,
    how will you know the path as you walk?

    Progress is not a matter of far or near,
    but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.
    I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,
    do not pass your days and nights in vain.
    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Howdy all

    When you practice zazen without any idea of attainment, there is actually enlightenment.
    okay that sounds easy enough, but sometimes its easy to forget too. Im still learning.

    You shouldn't do things just because you feel good, or stop doing things just because you feel bad. Wether you feel good or bad, there is something you should do
    .
    hmmm I do this sometimes

    Don't sacrifice actual practice for idealistic practice, trying to attain some kind of perfection, or trying to find the traditional understanding as taught by the Sixth Ancestor.
    Okay now this makes sense to me. to me this is like "trying" to sit zazen. If i try then Im leaning towards some end. Im trying to fit some made up idea of what zazen, zen, this practice should be in the eyes of ... who?

    the student and teacher talks at the end where the student gets a bit upset because he cant understand how he can make a promise to uphold vows that dont make sense or are impossible to keep.
    Student: When i promise to do something it has to have some meaning...
    Suzuki Roshi says "that is your ignorance".

    The student is sticking to his own rule to much and Suzuki roshi was trying to show him this. The students pride or ego was holding him back from seeing the beyond the words. This practice has not end goal so to save all sentient beings is and endless process and you may never ever save a sentient being. because its hard or you say impossible doesnt mean you shouldn't keep practicing.

    Well that is how i understood it.

    Gassho, Shohei

  3. #3

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Quote Originally Posted by Dirk

    the student and teacher talks at the end where the student gets a bit upset because he cant understand how he can make a promise to uphold vows that dont make sense or are impossible to keep.
    Student: When i promise to do something it has to have some meaning...
    Suzuki Roshi says "that is your ignorance".

    The student is sticking to his own rule to much and Suzuki roshi was trying to show him this. The students pride or ego was holding him back from seeing the beyond the words. This practice has not end goal so to save all sentient beings is and endless process and you may never ever save a sentient being. because its hard or you say impossible doesnt mean you shouldn't keep practicing.

    Well that is how i understood it.

    Gassho, Shohei
    Me too.

  4. #4

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    The student is sticking to his own rule to much and Suzuki roshi was trying to show him this. The students pride or ego was holding him back from seeing the beyond the words. This practice has not end goal so to save all sentient beings is and endless process and you may never ever save a sentient being. because its hard or you say impossible doesnt mean you shouldn't keep practicing.
    That's the thing Shohei.

    Sometimes we think that we are not good enough for this practice, but this practice was designed specifically for us (warts and all). If we sway too much this way, we end up in a bog that we have to pull our self out of.

    "Not too hot.
    Not to cold.
    Just right."

    As Goldilocks says. Of course, Goldilocks made a big deal out of the porridge being hot, when she probably should have just shut up and ate it.

    Gassho

    Will

  5. #5

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Shohei,

    Thanks for your posting on the discussion between the student and Suzuki Roshi. I was struggling with this as I saw the student feeling they couldn't accept something w/o belief yet Roshi said 'believe.' To me, that contradicted last chapter where we should understand the background before just accepting something.

    But, you're comments helped me to understand the issue at hand in this chapter.

    For me this final chapter has really helped to come full circle w/ the Sandokai. Very insightful chapter and enjoyable.

    I think Nike really had it all figured out with their "Just Do It" advertising campaign in the 90s.

    Jeff

  6. #6

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Hi,

    I liked the
    I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,
    do not pass your days and nights in vain.
    bit.

    If we don't study the mystery most of the time then what are we doing here?

    Cheers,

    Paul

  7. #7

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Hi

    "Do not pass your days and nights in vain" reminded me of Henry Thoreau's quote about people living lives of "quiet desperation". Given the context of the Sandokai, I assumed that Sekito was writing about wasting time in arguments about the rights and wrongs of different schools (which reminds me of eSangha!). S Suzuki widens the meaning when he talks about "goofing off" and I guess that he means doing things with the wrong attitude (and, in particular, a 'what's in it for me' attitude).

    The term "self-centered" strikes an immediate chord because most people are self-centered in one way or another. I can easily identify with the doubting student asking rational questions at the end of the talk. "It doesn't make sense! How can I ... ? Why should I ... ?" (How many times have I said that?)

    I read in a Zen book somewhere that, instead of asking, "Should I do this?", we should ask, "Should this be done?" (ie. take the "I" out of the question). So instead of asking, "Should I vow to save numberless sentient beings?', we should ask, "Should numberless sentient beings be saved?"

    In my case the question is often much simpler. Rather than grumbling about having to clean up the mess in the kitchen, I (usually, not always) ask, "Should the mess be cleaned up?" and then get on with it.

    Since we're talking about self-centered, here's a favourite definition to ponder:
    An egotist is a person of poor taste who's more interested in themselves than in me!

    JohnH

  8. #8

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    An egotist is a person of poor taste who's more interested in themselves than in me!
    Hi.

    I always thought it was just "me , me, me!"...

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    I read in a Zen book somewhere that, instead of asking, "Should I do this?", we should ask, "Should this be done?" (ie. take the "I" out of the question). So instead of asking, "Should I vow to save numberless sentient beings?', we should ask, "Should numberless sentient beings be saved?
    Ah thats nice, Thank you for sharing that!

    Gassho, Shohei

  10. #10

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    I've just been rereading Cheri Huber's There Is Nothing Wrong With You, in which Cheri talks about one's "ego" that has constructed this unwinnable game designed to perpetuate its own existence, which involves perpetuating self-hate. I've been feeling low lately and I fall prey to self-hate quite often. For me, I see what Shunryu Suzuki is saying when he states:

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunryu Suzuki
    Even though you work very hard sometimes, you may be spending your valuable time without actually doing anything. If you don't know what you are doing, we may say, 'Oh, you are passing your time in vain.' You may say, 'No, I'm striving very hard to put ten thousand dollars into my savings account,' but to us that may not make much sense.
    There's nothing wrong with saving ten thousand dollars and there's nothing wrong with working hard. I'm quite sure Suzuki is not condemning these activities in and of themselves. However, the way we approach an activity, regardless of what it is, makes a world of difference:

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunryu Suzuki
    When you do something with a purpose based on some evaluation of what is useful or useless, good or bad, more of less valuable, your understanding is not perfect. If you do things that need to be done regardless of whether the results are good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, that is real practice.
    Self-hate is constantly working from a position of judgment, judging ourselves or others as good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, and compelling us to strive very hard to achieve some mythical state of perfection. No matter how hard we work at this, this is "goofing off". This is spending our time in vain (an expression which has a meaningful connection with that other use of the word "vain", which alludes to the self-centered nature of this type of activity). Yes, perhaps we do need to clean the house a bit more often, perhaps we do need to get out there and pull the weeds in the parking strip, perhaps we do need to change the way we relate to our loved ones. These are things that need to be done. But, constantly judging our progress as good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, is wasteful. This is a tool of self-hate.

    Cheri Huber makes a point not to condemn self-hate (which condemnation would be just another form of self-hate), but to accept it without judgment, much as one accepts a thought that comes up during Zazen, then lets it drift off again. Accept without attachment. Jundo speaks often of "acceptance without acceptance", which I sometimes think of as "acceptance without resignation", though that doesn't quite capture the feeling of non-attachment that is included. It is this problem that I find so sticky with my own self-hate. I've lived with it so long and become so attached to it, it's hard to let go of self-hate even when I can see what it's doing. When I'm feeling low, it's almost like I'd rather stay that way than muster the energy to release the effort required to keep myself in a position of self-hate. That is, rising to a perspective that Suzuki describes is much more natural, more effortless than staying mired in self-hate, yet the familiarity and stickiness of self-hate often tempts me into perpetuating that self-hate, even when it requires a great deal of effort and energy to do so.

    Gassho,
    Kevin

  11. #11

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    As with Jeff, Paul, and JohnH, I enjoyed the ending passage and a number of associations popped into my head as I thought about the meaning.

    I respectfully urge you to study the mystery,
    Don’t pass your nights and days in vain.
    Mystery indeed! In line with our previous discussion on the 11th talk, the source, emptiness, Buddha Nature, is indescribable with words. Nevertheless, I feel that the study of the Sandokai has given me some perspective on “the mystery." Study of works such as the Sandokai gives you one vantage point, perhaps one of an infinite number of possible vantage points.

    “Not passing your nights and days in vain” stimulated me to think about the Genjo Koan’s title (i.e., “Actualize the Fundamental Point”) To actualize or make real what is the fundamental point. As Suzuki Roshi stated, it is possible to be busy, but still wasting your time. Thus, it is imperative not to get bogged down in the meaningless aspects of our lives that we often fall into as thinking are so important. As in the Bendowa it is stated:

    “Passing through the barrier and dropping off limitations, how could you be hindered by nodes in bamboo or knots in wood?”
    Gassho,
    BrianW

  12. #12

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Good posts. The student also highlighted something that has been niggling me lately:

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzuki
    Your Buddha nature brought you here to Tassajara. I don't think it was your choice completely. Maybe 20 or 30% is your choice. But most of the reason for your being here is beyond that.
    If we have no self, if there is no "I", there would seem to be no one there to actually make any choice. There is just an entity performing actions that have already been predetermined by its previous conditioning. In other words we have no free will. But then again, this collection of mental and physical processes is aware and therefore still capable of making choices, isn't it? The idea of free will seems to presuppose that there is some "I" making the choices, though. There is also the question of moral responsibility. If there is no "I, " who can be held accountable for any misdemeanours committed? Okay, I suppose this is only metaphysical speculation, but it seems quite important to me,

    Gassho,
    Doshin

  13. #13

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Quote Originally Posted by John
    Good posts. The student also highlighted something that has been niggling me lately:

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzuki
    Your Buddha nature brought you here to Tassajara. I don't think it was your choice completely. Maybe 20 or 30% is your choice. But most of the reason for your being here is beyond that.
    If we have no self, if there is no "I", there would seem to be no one there to actually make any choice. There is just an entity performing actions that have already been predetermined by its previous conditioning. In other words we have no free will. But then again, this collection of mental and physical processes is aware and therefore still capable of making choices, isn't it? The idea of free will seems to presuppose that there is some "I" making the choices, though. There is also the question of moral responsibility. If there is no "I, " who can be held accountable for any misdemeanours committed? Okay, I suppose this is only metaphysical speculation, but it seems quite important to me,

    Gassho,
    Doshin
    Hi John,

    We have had a couple of very rich threads on the topic of "free will" and "no self" recently.

    You are free to read them. :wink:

    viewtopic.php?p=22867#p22867

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14

    Re: 5/8 - Branching Streams: 12th Talk - Do Not Pass in Vain

    Oh - thanks Jundo - didn't notice those ops:

    Gassho,
    Doshin

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