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Lectures on the Heart Sutra
Hakuin's Daruma

Sojun Weitsman, Roshi
Sesshin talk given October, 1994 Camp New Hope, NC
original source

On the Heart Sutra

The full title for the Heart Sutra is the Great Wisdom Beyond Wisdom Heart Sutra. Wisdom here is not our ordinary knowledge; it is innate knowledge, or our innate, intuitive connection with the fundamental principle which is called prajna in Sanskrit. In the prologue, Shariputra asks Buddha how one courses in perfect wisdom, and Buddha, in turn, asks Avalokitesvara to explain it for him. Avalokitesvara is practicing deeply, one of the translations says "coursing," actually...coursing deeply in the prajna paramita. So practicing is a good word for coursing. He is not just thinking about it, he is actually one with it. When we sit zazen we are practicing deeply prajna paramita, and, hopefully, when we leave the cushion, we are still practicing deeply prajna paramita. So, there are two aspects of this. One is that there is an Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva who is doing all this, and we are watching the scene.

But, actually, each one of us is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, and each one of us is Shariputra as well. This is the kind of dialogue between two aspects of ourselves. The one who inquires and the one who responds. "Practicing deeply" means to be able to see beneath the surface.
In Sanskrit, the five skandhas are forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. These are called the five streams of existence. ...Usually, when we talk about "me" and "mine," and when we talk about "myself" and "who I am," we are talking about some idea we have, some concept of "a being." When we look at ourselves, our mind creates some image through either hearing or seeing–through one of the five senses–and then we decide what that is that we see or hear, etc. We have a kind of partial view of what this person is. But, really, do we see something in its total reality? In Buddha Dharma we say there is no self, no permanent self nature. This being that we encounter as ourselves, or someone else, is a "confection," something "put together," consisting of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations (which means thoughts of various kinds), and consciousness or awareness. Within these five categories, what we call a human being is to be found. But there is no permanent self, or no inherent self, within the five skandhas.

"Avalokitesvara Bodhi-sattva, when practicing deeply the prajna paramita, perceived that all five skandhas in their own being are empty, and was saved from all suffering." The important word or phrase here is "own being." Nothing, no entity, has its own being. Emptiness means interdependence. It means other things too, but, for this purpose, it means nothing stands by itself. If we make a cake, we have flour, eggs, sugar and salt, etc. We beat them all up and we bake it, and then we say we have a cake. We eat the cake and it is a real cake eaten by a real mouth. But the cake is empty and the mouth is empty of its own being. What makes the cake is the mouth, and what makes the mouth is the cake. What makes the cake are all the ingredients. So we have a real cake, but the cake is illusory. It looks like a real cake. Today it is a real cake, but, if you leave it on the table until tomorrow, or next week, it’s not a real cake anymore. So it only has momentary existence as a cake. Not only the ingredients, but the oven makes the cake, the table makes the cake, the spoon makes the cake, the sky makes the cake. The cake is dependent on everything in the universe for its existence, and it is one expression of universal life. In the same way, a human being is one expression of life.
We can use the analogy of the water and the wave. The water is life itself, and the wave is an expression of the water. The wave is no other than the water, and the water is no other than the wave, but the wave doesn’t have own being: its own being is the water. A wave is dependent on wind and weather conditions for its existence, and, of course, it is dependent on a great body of water. So, each wave is an expression of a body of water just like each one of us is an expression of life itself. This is called "being empty," and "being empty" also means being full. I think it is important to remember that, whenever we say something in Buddhism, its opposite is also included. This is called the non-duality of duality. If you say, "I am alive," "I am dead" is also included. If you say, "I am dead," "I am alive" is also included. Otherwise, you fall into duality and you only see in a partial way.

To see things as they are completely is to end suffering. Not that there is not some pain; life is painful. Even though we may be saved from suffering, it doesn’t mean that there is no suffering, or that we won’t suffer, but we should know how to accept that suffering and know how to accept our pain, and know how to accept our joy. Whatever arises, this is our life. True life is more important than any one aspect of life. Fundamental life is more important than any one aspect of life. If we understand this, then we can appreciate our life no matter what happens. This is maturity and this is what we experience in zazen. In zazen we say, well what was it like? Well, it was painful, and it was joyful, and it was whatever you want to say. But each one of those aspects we accept equally. This is what zazen is. Whatever comes up, this is it. When it is painful, it is just painful. When it is joyful, it is just joyful. We just accept each moment as it is, with what it is, with deep appreciation. This view is the aspect of enlightenment. So we say zazen is enlightenment/practice. The practice is not discriminating, not picking and choosing.

"O Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form; that which is form is emptiness, that which is emptiness form." Whatever form arises is empty of its own being even though there it is. You may have a glass of water and, when the glass is full, you say, the glass is full. After you drink the water, the glass is empty. Actually, the glass is empty whether it is full or not. The glass gives form to the water. Water has no special shape. When it drops from the sky we call it a drop; and when it hits the earth, it falls in rivulets and pools and puddles; and rivers and streams flow to the ocean. When we drink it, its form takes shape within our bodies. It takes shapes within bottles and myriads of "containers." It is in everything, but it has no special shape; whatever form it encounters, it takes that shape. This is the secret of zazen. Even though we have the most confining form for zazen, our feelings come up, consciousness comes up, thoughts come up, perceptions come up. Whatever comes up, takes that shape. Our body takes that shape, our consciousness takes that shape. Our zazen is quite empty, quite open, just like water.

"The same is true of feelings, perceptions, formations, consciousness." You apply the same formula: feelings do not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from feelings; that which is feeling is emptiness, and that which is emptiness is feelings. The same is true of mental formations and consciousness. In the sutra he first uses form as an example, but the others conform to the same formula. Consciousness does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from consciousness. Each one of the skandhas is explained in the same way, and each one of them is empty in its own being. Then the sutra goes on the talk about dharmas: "All dharmas are marked with emptiness." Not only are all skandhas marked with emptiness, but all dharmas are marked with emptiness. "Dharmas" means things or objects. Technically, dharmas means thought formations like greed, anger, and delusion or happiness; all the thoughts and feelings and emotions that are associated with the mind and feelings. But, in a wider sense, "dharmas" means "all things." This is with a small "d." Dharma with a capital "D" means "Buddhist teaching," the "truth" or "law." "Marks" means their characteristics. For example, the characteristic of fire is heat; so, the mark of fire is heat. The mark of water is wetness, and the mark of dharmas is emptiness. The true mark of all things is emptiness.

"All dharmas are marked with emptiness, they do not appear nor disappear, are not tainted nor pure, do not increase nor decrease." Although everything has an appearance, there is nothing that appears or disappears. That’s the point. What appears and disappears is empty. With all dharmas, although they seem to appear and disappear, there is no real "thing" that appears and no real "thing" that disappears. If something could appear and disappear, it couldn’t be real in that sense. So all things that appear are real, but their reality is their emptiness. If we understand that all dharmas and all skandhas are empty of their own being, then we can call them real in the sense of non-substantial. Substantiality is an aspect of non-substantiality; substantiality only exists within non-substantiality. Everything only exits because of its opposite. Everything is dependent on something else. Although things seem to appear and disappear, ultimately, nothing has appeared or disappeared because things don’t come and go. We talk about waves in the water, "Oh that wave was a great roller and it smashed on the beach." But, actually, waves just go up and down. I think this is a scientific fact. Energy moves. When we see things on the surface, we say, "Oh this is moving and that is moving," but energy is moving, and even energy is empty of its own being.
Tainted and pure—people are always looking for the form of purity. We look at garbage, and, then, when we look at food we say, "this is pure." It does have a certain kind of purity. When we look at garbage we say, "that’s impure," and, compared with what is pure, it is impure, but only by comparison. Ultimately, everything is garbage. Sorry to say so, but, as you know, everything is garbage and everything is pure. There is nothing that is not really pure, and there is nothing that is not really garbage because everything is decomposing and everything is coming to life and decomposing. It’s composing and decomposing at the same time.

We are always measuring in terms of more or less. But more or less aren’t just comparative terms. We say a mouse is small and an elephant is big, but an ant is even smaller than a mouse. So, we can say a mouse is small and an elephant is big, but it is not necessarily so. It is just a comparative way of speaking about things because of our position. So we are always looking at things in terms of our position, and we are trying to figure everything out from the point of view of our position. The only way we can really know is to get off our position. It is very difficult to get off our position. As soon as we start to think, then the mind starts to discriminate and to discriminate is to separate and to "dualize." We are continually confronted with discriminating and dualizing our world. The duality is important, but we also have to be able to see the other side.
The sutra is talking from the other side, that is why it seems so strange.

The Heart Sutra Part 2

In Zen practice our understanding should be through our whole being. We say that we understand when we get Zen through our pores. But even though we may know what the Heart Sutra is talking about, complete understanding is always a little out of reach, which is OK. If Buddhism is something that we can understand completely, then we would not need to study it. So, understanding through our pores is to chant the sutra with our whole body and mind. What the sutra is really talking about is how to be completely present in reality moment by moment.
The Prajna Paramita Sutras appeared between 200 B.C.E and 400 C.E., and they are the beginning of the Mahayana literature. There are 600 volumes in the Prajna Paramita and the Heart Sutra is the condensation, or the "heart," of all the Prajna Paramita literature.
This succinct document touches on all aspects of Buddhism. It is a doctrine of emptiness and non-duality which is the basis for all the koans. This is what koans are about, the non-duality of form and emptiness.
Duality is important, but we also have to be able to see the other side. The Heart Sutra is talking from the other side. This is why it seems so strange, saying things like, "Therefore in emptiness, no form, no feelings, no perceptions, no formations, no consciousness." This is the sutra of "no," the sutra of negation. It puts forth the negative in order to point out the positive. It takes everything away in order to show you what there is.

Whenever we use a term in Buddhism, its opposite is also included. If you don’t realize this, you will always get confused and think that Buddhism is nihilistic or screwy, always saying something to shock you. We have to use dualistic terms in order to express non-duality. You can’t express non-duality in discriminating terms. The student has to understand the non-discriminating intention behind a discriminating term.
In a famous koan a monk asked, "Does a dog have Buddha Nature?" Joshu replied, "Mu" This means "No." But Joshu uses a discriminating term in a non-discriminating way. Another time, another monk asked Joshu, "Does the dog have Buddha nature?" and he replied "Yes." He can say anything he wants. Sometimes he just says "yes," sometimes he just says "no." But in his "yes," "no" is included; and in his "no," "yes" is included.

The Heart Sutra goes through the five skandhas: "Therefore in emptiness, no form, no feelings, no perceptions, no formations, no consciousness." Then the sutra goes through the senses: "No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind." In emptiness, there is no qualification which means noses are noses. A nose is only a nose because of the face. Without the face, there is no nose; without the face, there is no ear; without the face, there is no eye. Without an object, the eye doesn’t work, and without consciousness, the eyes doesn’t work. So in order to have awareness or consciousness, there needs to be an organ and an object, and all three are interdependent. The eye organ, the object of sight, and the consciousness all together create this book, and the book and consciousness are not separate. Although we call it an object, there are no objects. An object is not an object. An object is part of consciousness because consciousness creates the object. An ant crawling on this book does not cognize it is a book. Only human beings cognize it as a book. A dog comes up and licks your face. He doesn’t read the words or even know it is a book. The cat crawls upon the book. For some reason cats always do that. You are reading a book, and to the cat that book is a bed. So consciousness creates objects.

I want to go back to the beginning of the sutra where it says, "Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva when practicing deeply perceived that all five skandhas in their own being are empty and was saved from all suffering." The five skandhas, form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousnsess, are the five categories that constitute a human being. We call them the five streams because they are always changing. They are like running streams continually transforming. The Diamond Sutra says, "Past mind, future mind and present mind cannot be grasped." The past cannot be grasped, the future cannot be grasped, and actually the present also cannot be grasped. As soon as we say "now", it is already gone. Except that we can continuously say, "now." We are always saying "now," but the "now," as soon as we say "now," is already not-now. Another now takes the place of that now. So now is always now. Now is always now because all of our lives we have said "now," and it was right now, but all those "nows" are no longer now. So there is a now which is constant and a now which is ephemeral.

The ephemeral now, which we call our experience and which we mistake for the whole of our life, causes us a problem. When we say, "be present," that has no different meaning than just our experience. In Zen we say "present yourself." But what is myself? Just the sum of my experience. What is my "real" self? How do we express that—the Self which is always the Self, which we call Buddha Nature. So the self of experience is called the realm of delusion, and the now which is always the now, is called the realm of enlightenment. But these two are not different. What the sutra is talking about is that the eternal now and the ephemeral now are not two different things. "Empty" here means empty of own being. "Own being" means something like inherent existence. "Emptiness" means that things do not have a basis, they do not have a true basis, for existence, but only arise depending on perceptions, mental formation, and consciousness. They are always producing conditions for further causes, and the combination of causes and conditions plot a direction.

In Buddhism it is said that there is no beginning or end to the stream of life. It is continuous because, according to Buddha Dharma, life doesn’t start here and end there. Rather, it is circular. In a circle you can pick out a beginning, and you can pick out an end, but it is arbitrary. If you say this is the beginning of the circle and this is the end of the circle, it is just arbitrary. We can do that and we do do that. In our life we say, I was born at such and such a time and I will die at such and such a time. This is picking out points on a circle or a cycle. We tend to think in a linear way because we see our birth and death from beginning to end in a kind of horizontal way. Infinity is way down there in the beginning or end. Actually, there is just constant change and constant transformation. This body-and-mind is called the transformation body, the body which is always transforming. This is how in Buddhism people can talk about rebirth. They also talk about reincarnation, which is open to all kinds of theorizing, and I won’t talk about this.

If you think about energy, which is continually traveling, so to speak, and creating effects from a cause, we can see how rebirth is not an unusual idea. But reincarnation doesn’t necessarily mean that this particular body-and-mind become reborn again in the same way. It means the transformation of energy into other forms, and I don’t know how that happens. Sometimes it is explained as lighting one candle from another. When you light one candle from another candle, it looks like the same light, but it is not the same light. It is the same and not the same. There is a range of understanding or beliefs in Buddhism. There is something there in the fact that life is cyclical rather than linear. It is a continuous transformation in which nothing can really be grasped. Nothing can be solid in this ephemeral, non-repetitive world. We say nothing is really lost and nothing is really gained.

For example,the ocean is one big body and the waves are its expressions. Each one of us is an expression of Buddha Nature or Big Mind. But there is nothing constant about this process: it is constant transformation, rising and falling. If one understands this, then one is never lost because, even though the shapes change, one is never separate from Big Mind or Buddha Nature. No matter what is happening, one is always Buddha Nature. So enlightenment means to understand, or to be one with, Buddha Nature, to not feel separate from our true nature which is the eternal present.

We don’t sit zazen to gain enlightenment. The reason we sit zazen is because we are enlightened. We sit zazen in order to enjoy Buddha Nature, even though it may be very painful to allow Buddha Nature to express itself in this way. We say "I am breathing," but actually "breathing" is breathing "I." We are being breathed. If you think about it, we really don't have much to do with it. Breathing just happens. It's a universal activity. To pay attention to breath is just being one with universal activity, enjoying breath. We say "I walk down the road," but, actually, we are walked just as much as we walk. The road is walking me. So we always look at everything from the point of view of I.
"Emptiness" also means being empty. "All five skandhas in their own being are empty," means that there is no person as such, that what we call our "self" is the five skandhas: forms, this body; my feelings, whether they are mental or physical; perceptions; mental formations, which is the various thoughts which lead to karmic activity; and consciousness, the various levels of consciousness. "Self" is a transformation. I was here last year, and I spoke and I said something, but this is not the same person. And yet it is the same person. It is the same person but not the same person at the same time.

The cause of suffering is the desire to hold on to something or to put something away. Suffering comes from desiring something too much. Of course we have to desire; desire is part of being human, but it also causes suffering because we want something to stay the way it is when it is changing. We don't want something to intrude because it is going to upset what we have. These are two forces we are dealing with constantly, and this is what we experience in zazen. We sit here and we may get a nice feeling, a pleasant feeling. We say, "this must be it...this is why are sitting here—I knew there must be a reason why I was sitting here!" And, as soon as we like it, it starts to fade into something we don't like, and then we start to suffer, or we have a very painful feeling, and we start to say, "I don't like this, I don't want it. This is not what I came here for." As soon as we assent to doing that, we start suffering. It's very easy to fall into suffering, really easy. All we have to do is discriminate. All we have to do is say, "I like this and I don't like that." In our usual life, there is plenty of leeway, but in zazen there is no leeway. It's very strict. Zazen itself is very strict. It is like the laws of aerodynamics: you make a little mistake and pohhh!

That is why zazen is a great teacher. Zazen, itself, is our teacher. It is life without pulling any punches. What we learn from zazen is that if we discriminate on the basis self-centeredness we suffer. It is possible to sit through a sesshin without suffering. That is possible, but it means that we have to immediately accept what is present. If we hesitate too long, then we fall into discrimination. But there is something that keeps us sitting even it is very painful, very difficult. There is something we keep coming back to. We say, "Surprising...I don't even remember the last sesshin." It's like having a baby: you know, you want another one because you forgot what it was like having the last one, fortunately. Our life is the same way. We can't get rid of bad things, and we can't always cultivate good things. So practice involves dealing with the difficulties of our lives, that's the heart of practice, not trying to get rid of the difficulties, but dealing with the difficulties right there. Wherever it comes up as a problem is where our practice is. That's zazen with nonselfcentered, nondiscriminating mind.

The Heart Sutra Part 3

Buddha’s first sermon was called the Turning of the Wheel and it included the Four Noble Truths and conditioned co-arising which was exemplified by the twelve-fold chain of causation. The Heart Sutra is called the Second Turning of the Wheel and it is a kind of criticism of so-called Hinayana Buddhism. Hinayana ["lesser vehicle"] Buddhism is not an appellation directed to any particular sect or school of Buddhism, it criticizes Buddhists who think in a dualistic way. There were Buddhists who thought that, in order to be pure, they had to take all the bad things and get rid of them and cultivate all the good things. In doing so, they were going to the extreme of cutting off life and live in a very rarefied atmosphere which is a dualistic way of thinking or acting.

Some people think this is what Buddhism is. There are a lot of monks who practice this way, cultivating a kind of cult to purity. After four or five hundred years, Buddhists realized that this is not the right way and that, actually, purity is also to be found in the impure, they are not two separate things. In Hinayana Buddhism, there is an attempt to cultivate nirvana by denying samara. Samara is the undulation of life, the way it moves, the ephemeral present. Hinayanists try to cultivate the eternal present by cutting off the ephemeral present. Then Mahayana Buddhism came along and said the ephemeral present is the eternal present, and the eternal present is the ephemeral present. We cannot separate them.
The Heart Sutra says, Oh Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form, that which is form is emptiness and that which is emptiness form. In other words, the eternal present does not differ from the ephemeral present. Emptiness, which is the basis of life, does not differ from form, which is its manifestation. So all forms are the form of emptiness. If you want to know what emptiness is you cannot take away the form in order to see it. It does not work that way. If you want to know what emptiness is, just take care of the form. Look for emptiness in its manifestation rather than by looking for something called emptiness.

You will find an emptiness. Sometimes Buddhism uses the sky or space as a metaphor for emptiness. Space is like that in which everything can move—things move in space; without space, nothing can move. Space is like a matrix, a metaphor for the matrix of life from which everything can rise. People always look for the essence of life. What is the essence of life? Some people call it God, some people call it Buddha Nature, we have various names and various ways of looking at it. Buddhists say "emptiness," but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need or want something. Emptiness is form, form is emptiness.
The sutra goes on to say that the same is true of our feelings, our feelings are empty. The same for perceptions. Perceptions are empty. Mental formations are empty. Consciousness is empty; because of emptiness it can exist. Things cannot exist without emptiness, without being empty. It is unfortunate that people sometimes say, "Well, everything is changing and that is unfortunate because I am alive now and I will die sometime. Isn’t that terrible?" Actually, it is quite wonderful. We have this kind of feeling that we don’t want to die and we don’t want to get any older. But it happens. Without having to do anything, it happens. Is that bad? Is that good? We can figure it as bad; we can figure it as good. Maybe it is neither good or bad, maybe it is just the way it is. If it is just the way it is, there must be something going on. One thing stops and another thing begins.

The problem we have is that we think that, when we were born, that was the beginning and, when our life is over, that is the end. We may think, if we are good, we will go to heaven, or, if we are bad, we will go to hell. There is something to that, too. There is some reason for thinking that way. But heaven and hell are right here, and the way we think and act creates a heaven and hell right where we are. If life is continuous, and, really, we do have something to do with it, you know, there is a problem. Is life willful or is it predetermined? These are questions which Buddha had to deal with. "Predetermined" means that it just goes along and nothing you can do is going to change it. "Willful" means that whatever you do has some effect. Our life is not exactly willful—will plays a big part—but there are always cooperating causes for everything. So, yes, I create my own destiny through my actions, and I can change the direction of my destiny, but only through cooperating with causes.

For example, you can say, "I want to be a movie actor." But you cannot just go and become a movie actor. You cannot just get up there in front of a camera and be a movie actor. You have to go through various causes and conditions and channels. We create our own destiny, but in cooperation with the rest of the world. We are not singular. We only exist in cooperation with everything around us. That’s life. If we give ourselves to life, we realize that we don’t exist as a separate self, there is no "own being," no inherent existence in this person.

Our life is cooperative, no doubt about it. The more we try to be individualistic and act only by ourselves, the more trouble we get into and the more suffering we have. I don’t mean that we aren’t individuals, but only as much as we cooperate with the universe do we live a life of freedom. We always know where we are and we don’t get lost. There are two types of people: one type is a faith type and the other is a doubt type. (There must be some people in between.) The faith type just knows this since childhood. They don’t really doubt that they are part of the universe and they know how to work together with it. The doubt type isn’t quite sure and needs it to be proven. Something always needs to be proven to the doubter. Someone wrote a book about these two types in relation to zen practice and said that Dogen and Suzuki Roshi were faith types, and that someone like Rinzai or Hakuin were doubt types. The doubt types need something like a koan in order to have something to chew on, you know, so that they can have a big breakthrough and come to realize their faith in their own nature. Whereas the faith types always have it and it is not such problem. The doubting types need to be beaten or pushed, and the faith types need some encouragement.

This is the third day of sesshin and just about the midpoint. I know that everybody’s legs are [sore]...just a fact of life in sesshin. I really feel that, although everyone has a problem, that the feeling here is very strong and becoming more settled. On the first day of sesshin we are still caryying all the baggage that we came with. Little by little, although a lot of the baggage is still there, it is more in the background and we can just settle into our calm mind. Sesshin has a way of taking care of us, and, in that, something will drop away by itself and clarity will come. Even though there may be some confusion in our mind, there is also clarity.

The Heart Sutra  Part 4

Well, this is the third day of sesshin. Sesshin has a way of taking care of us in that something will drop away by itself and clarity will come by itself; and even though there may be some confusion in our mind, there is also clarity. So I am going to go on talking about the Heart Sutra.
"Oh Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness." Before the first century, we count eighteen schools of Buddhism, and there were probably more; the eighteen are what is recorded. These eighteen schools each took a different position on various issues of doctrine, and there were controversies between them as to what was the correct attitude toward life, and other matters.

One of the arguments was about dharmas. It was pretty much the case that all of the schools agreed that there was no "self" (that what we call a self was not a self). There was a school of so-called Pudgalavadins who leaned toward believing that there actually was some permanent soul-like substance, or spirit, which actually transmigrated from life to life, but that was the only school of Buddhism which had that idea. All the other schools of Buddhism said there was no self. There were just form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness [the five skandhas], and those didn’t constitute a soul.

Then there was a controversy over dharmas. Some schools thought that there may be no soul, but that dharmas actually did exist. Dharmas are like the elements that make up everything, but here we are speaking of them as making up a person. They thought that, even though there is no substantial person, at least the elements, the dharmas, exist. Then the Mahayana school came along and said that even the dharmas are empty, so, there is no self, and there are also no dharmas that have their own substantial existence.

Anyway, in the Sutra Avalokitesvara says, "Oh Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness," and the skandhas are as well. "They do not appear nor disappear." Now, this is a strange statement! Things "appear" and "disappear." But here we are talking about the phrase "in emptiness." In the sutra everything is referred to as being "in emptiness." So, in emptiness things do not appear nor disappear: although something comes along, its true nature doesn’t come or go. There is only transformation, and, in the realm of transformation, things appear and disappear, but the true form of things doesn’t appear or disappear. True form is no form, no special form, and, out of this "no special form," all of the special forms take shape.

Then the Sutra says, "...they are not tainted nor pure." They are neither tainted nor pure….As I said the other day, we are always dividing things into pure and impure, tainted and pure; the pure life, the dissolute life, the pure dharmas, and the impure dharmas. Pure dharmas are the good dharmas, all the things that we do that lead to wholesomeness, and the impure dharmas are all the bad things that we do. Yet, there is nothing that is really tainted or pure in itself. Something is only tainted in relation to something that is good, and not tainted; and something is not tainted in relation to something that is tainted. In themselves they are not tainted or pure. If you were to ask the decaying grapefruit rind, "Are you tainted or pure?" It would say, "What are you talking about? I am just myself. I am just this old, rotting grapefruit rind. I am neither tainted nor pure." It’s just your perception that makes tainted or pure.

In reality things are not tainted nor pure, yet we live in a world of purity and defilement, and we have to pay attention to purity and defilement. So we discriminate and say, "this is good and this is bad; this is right and this is wrong." That’s okay, but we have to realize that, in an absolute sense, it’s not right or wrong, and it’s not tainted or pure. So how should we discriminate? It’s all based on whether or not we are self-centered. Our discriminations are usually based on selfcenteredness. I like this, and I don’t like that. This is good, and that’s not so good, according to what I like. That is self-centered. But if we get off of the self as a center and take Buddha as the center, then, instead of being self-centered, we are Buddha-centered or Buddha-centric. Then we can see from the point of view of Buddha rather than from the point of view of myself or our self. From the point of view of Buddha, there is no duality, or the duality exists within the nonduality. So we would have to base our decisions, and our distinctions, on non-distinctions, or base our discriminations on non-discrimination.

This process is actually called "the discrimination of non-discrimination," a kind of contradictory thing if you are looking at it in a dualistic way, but it is not dualistic from a Buddhist point of view. When we take ourselves out of what it is that satisfies this person and look at the bigger picture of how does something work, then our discriminations are based more on what is taking place within the situation, rather than being based on our being in the center of the situation. For example, when you are having a meeting with ten people and a subject comes up, some people are discussing the subject and are speaking from the point of view of their own desire. Someone else may be speaking from the point of view, not of their own desire, but of how the situation could be made to work, whether it does them any good or not, or whether it pleases them or not. This is discriminating on the basis of nondiscrimination. Suppose you are in this discussion with these people and it turns out that your vote will put you in a position "out in Siberia" because it’s the best thing for everyone else, however you vote. If your decision is based on nondiscrimination, if your discriminating decision is based on not-self or non-discrimination, then you will see what is best for everyone else, and, even if it puts you off by yourself somewhere, that’s the way you will vote. But we don’t usually do that. Most people will vote to put themselves in the best position. So the Bodhisattva always take the correct position according to the situation rather than putting himself into the center of things.

Then the sutra says dharmas "do not increase nor decrease." Everything is just what it is. Things change and develop; development is constant. Dogen says, "Firewood does not turn into ash." Firewood is firewood, and it has it’s "before" and "after." Next there is ash, and ash is the result of firewood in some way, but firewood is firewood and ash is ash. If you ask ash, if you could say to ash, "Once you were firewood, did you know that?" The ash would say, "What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about firewood." So everything, all of us, have a past, an evolutionary past, but, actually, we don’t think about that. We just think about what is happening now, and if someone told us about what we were in the past (maybe we were a rock in a forest), you would say, "Oh, come on! How could that be?" But ash says, "What do you mean I was a piece of firewood? What are you talking about?" So, in that sense, everything is just what it is. But, on the other hand, there is development from causes and conditions of one thing into another. So both views are necessary, both that things appear the way they are, and that, at the same time, there is constant evolution.

"Therefore in emptiness, no form, no feelings, no perceptions, no formations, no consciousness." These are the skandhas. "No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of eyes, until no realm of mind consciousness." As I said before, these are the eighteen elements with which we perceive the world. We perceive through the eye, we perceive through the ears, the nose, the tongue (the "body" means touch), and these are the doorways of perception. Then, there is no object of mind, which is the thing you are seeing; no color, which is the object of the eyes; no sound, which is the object of the ears; no smell, which is the object of the nose; and no taste, which is the object of the tongue; and no touch, which is the object of the body. No object of the mind. Then comes "no realm of eyes," and "no realm of mind consciousness."

In order to see, there has to be an eye, something seen, and there has to be consciousness. The same is true for hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking. There has to be an object for thinking before there is thought and a consciousness. Master Tozan, when he was a little boy, said to his teacher after reciting the Heart Sutra, "But I have a nose, I have eyes." This is a question that comes up for most people after reading the sutra. "I have a nose, why does the sutra say no nose?" His teacher said, "You are pretty smart boy, you should go see a Zen master." Soon he started studying Zen. What the Sutra means is that the nose doesn’t exist independently. The point that the sutra is trying to make is that the phrase "in emptiness" means "in interdependence." Everything depends on everything else. The nose is a nose, but the nose is also the whole universe. The ear is the ear, but the ear actually is the whole universe. The ear does not exist independently from the whole universe. It takes a whole universe to create an ear. Therefore in emptiness, in interdependence, there is "no ear," but "no ear" means that, at the same time, there is an ear. The ear is not an ear. What is it? That’s a koan. The ear is not an ear, what is it? "You" are not a "you." What are you? So there’s one basic koan, "Who are you?" Not "what is your job?" or "who is your mother?" but, "what are you? who are you?" You only know who you are when you can forget yourself completely.

"...no taste, no touch, no object of mind, no realm of eyes, until no real of mind consciousness." This line refers to going beyond consciousness…"and no realm of mind consciousness." In Mahayana Buddhism we speak of eight levels of consciousness. There are the consciousnesses of the five senses, and the sixth one is mind consciousness, manuvijñana. "Vijñana" means consciousness. Mind consciousness is the thinking mind, but, in particular, it is the discriminating mind, mind which discriminates between the realms of sense and says, "this is seen, this is heard, I hear this, I see this, I taste this," and so forth. Otherwise, if we didn’t have the discriminating mind, we would eat something and we would say, "Oh, this apple hears really well or... I see this apple crunch."

You know, we should be able to do that, we should be able to see through the ear. But I don’t know anything about that. There is something else that Master Tozan said, "Only when you can see it through the ear and hear it through the eye will you know it intimately." So, there is the sixth consciousness, which is the thinking mind, and, then there is the seventh consciousness which is called manas. I willtalk about that after I talk about the eighth one. The eighth consciousness is called alaya-vijñana, the storehouse consciousness, which stores all the memories and knows everything that we have ever done or thought. It’s the storehouse of the seeds of our actions and thoughts, and it doesn’t have a mind of its own; it doesn’t discriminate good and bad. It just collects everything. The impressions of all of our actions and thoughts are stored there, and every time we do something a seed is deposited in the alayavijñana. When the seeds are watered, they sprout and produce another action or another thought of a like kind. So this is the source of our "habit energy" or habitual way of doing things.

When certain conditions come about, these conditions awaken the seeds and then we do something over again. So this alayavijñana islike a constant turning, continually producing new results (the seeds are continually sprouting), directing our activities along with our thinking mind. Because of our karma, our volitional actions, we think and act in a certain way. The sprouting of the seeds that are stored, according to the conditions we meet, causes us to have a certain kind of personality and to think a certain way and act a certain way over and over again. It is hard to get out of that cycle.

The seventh consciousness is called manas, and the function of that consciousness is to send messages between the alayavijñana and the thinking mind or consciousness. It takes over and becomes the center. It can become inflated, and is called the ego-consciousness because it mistakes the alayavijñana for itself and creates the idea of a separate existence instead of sending messages, instead of just performing its function of seeing everything as it is. It creates a scenario about what life is about and sees itself as a separate being, and that’s called "ego."
When we talked about getting rid of ego, what we were talking about was transforming the manas consciousness, the seventh consciousness, into wisdom. In the practice of Mahayana Buddhism, when the consciousnesses are turned, they are called "wisdoms," and before they are turned they are called Ignorance. When manas is turnedinto a wisdom, it is called the Great Mirror Wisdom which sees everything just as it is, without distortions. Ego, by way of contrast, is always distorting and seeing the world from a perverted and partial point of view. So we can say that ego is partiality. It is a distorted view, and it takes itself as the center. I think of it sometimes like the office boy who goes into the boss’ office and opens the cigar box, takes out a cigar, sits in the boss’ seat and puts his feet up on the desk. He answers the telephone when the boss is out, and locks the door so the boss can’t get back in. Mind consciousness is a big subject in Buddhism....(to be continued)

The Heart Sutra  Part 5

I may never finish with the Heart Sutra but I think you should continue to study it on your own. I recommend the Tiger’s Cave (ed. Trevor Leggett) which has a commentary by Abbot Obora who takes the Heart Sutra phrase by phrase, not as a technical commentary, but based on life itself so it’s talking about how to live Prajña Paramita from a point of view of a Soto Zen abbot.

"...no ignorance and also no extinction of it, until no age and death and also no extinction of it." Within that sentence lies the twelve-fold chain of causation which is a cycle, a circle, called the circle of conditioned co-production or conditioned arising. It means that one thing gives rise to another, which is Buddhist philosophy in a nut shell.

Because everything is dependent on something for its existence, and nothing exists independently, there is no magical or sudden appearance of things without a cause. There are no miracles in Buddhism. Life itself is miraculous, but there is nothing that happens out of the realm of causes and conditions. For whatever happens, there’s got to be a cause and it’s cause sets up other conditions, and it’s also a condition for something else. So each thing, being the result of causes and conditions, is, itself, another cause or another condition for something else. Everything is bound together through causes and conditions, and everything is always affecting everything else. Whatever we do has both close effects and far reaching effects. We say that, in some way, the energy of an action continues endlessly. Energy is intercepted by causes and conditions and takes various forms. The phrase quoted above describes the cycle of the twelve conditions leading to rebirth. On this cycle you can pick out a beginning anywhere, but the beginning here is ignorance.

The twelve-fold chain starts out with ignorance, ignorance being the cause of our karmic life. Birth in the womb begins with ignorance, but ignorance has two meanings depending on how you look at it. Next is the formation of the embryo; and then there is feeling or awareness; and then there is individuation; and then there are the six sense fields; and from all this comes contact with the world; and from contact with the world sensation arises; and from sensation comes the thirst for life...thirst, desire, lust, and craving. Then from that comes clinging or attachment, hanging on to what our desires focuses on. Desire is called the basis of suffering because it leads to clinging to that which cannot be clung to. Then comes the growth and continuation of what we call a self or an ego. Through desire, clinging, craving, an ego is formed, and this individuation (actually, individuation is a separate issue which we call the ego and a false sense of self.) All of these lead to another birth, old age and death, and then the cycle continues over and over again. So this is a short, very succinct explication of the twelve-fold chain.

The earlier Buddhists, the Hinayanas, felt that in order to get free from this round, or this chain, of suffering, you had to eliminate the causes of it, and that makes sense. If something hurts you eliminate the cause of the pain; it is very logical. If you are sitting in zazen, that’s a lot of pain. Well, the logical thing to do is to get up and walk around. The early Buddhists said the thing to do is to let go of clinging; and in order to let go of clinging, you have to let go of thirst. In order to let go of thirst, you have to let go of sensation. In order to let go of sensation you have to let go of contact; and the rest, until you finally get down to ignorance which is the cause of all delusion. Ignorance and delusion are actually synonyms and can be used as synonyms. They tried to eliminate all causes of suffering until they eliminated life itself, and for them nirvana was extinction—extinction of all the causes of suffering—because, if you have life, you are bound to have suffering. So, for them, nirvana was to extinguish all the causes which lead to suffering, and end rebirth on the cycle.

But later, Mahayana, Buddhists didn’t buy this idea because, for them, the causes of suffering and the problems of life itself will never go away. To eliminate life itself in order to be free of suffering is a kind of life-denying goal. When the Western scholars started studying Buddhism in the 19th century, before the discovery of the Mahayana’s texts, they read the Hinayana scriptures. To them Buddhism was a very pessimistic religion. For Mahayana Buddhists, the path is to find nirvana within our life of suffering. In other words, we are not trying to eliminate all the causes of suffering. Of course, one should not do something foolish in order to create suffering, but no matter how much we try to avoid the cause of suffering, we are always in the midst of it anyway. Life is not just suffering; it’s also joy. If you have suffering then you also have joy. So the Mahayana way is to find the joy of life within the suffering. And within our passions is also our salvation. So instead of escaping from life, in Mahayana, and in Zen, especially, you face life completely and become one with it completely. This is Dogen’s way, which is to be one, completely one, with our activity. Not to try to escape from life, but to be completely one with life. Actually, there is no birth and death; this is the Mahayana understanding.

"Old age and death"...birth, old age and death is a continuum, and the end of old age and death is a new birth, which is not to be avoided. We can look at old age, and the cycle of birth, old age, and death as the cycle of life. But we can also see it as the cycle of life from moment to moment, the cycle of birth and death from moment to moment. So each that each moment is a moment of birth and death, and within all that is a whole lifetime. Within each moment there is a whole lifetime, and the death of this moment is the birth of the next moment. In zazen we live our life from moment to moment. We get to the point where life is just being lived from moment to moment on each breath. When you inhale, that's coming to life, and when you exhale, that's letting go of life. Each breath is a moment of birth and death, and birth and death is continuous, moment to moment.

So, when we talk about birth and death, there are two levels of birth and death. One is the level when we say, "I was born in such and such a time and I will die in such and such a time." That's one cycle. Another cycle is birth and death as happening on each moment, continuously, in a never ending cycle. Rather than eliminating all of the causes of suffering, our way is to find our true nature, or our true grounding, or our eternal momentariness, within our activity, whether that is suffering, or joy, or any activity.

This is why we do zazen. In zazen we don't discriminate between suffering and joy. Within our suffering, or within our pain, is joy. And within our joy is pain. But, underneath, or in the center, is complete stillness. The ground of being. That's why we sit zazen: in order to settle on this ground of being, which is equanimity, or non-discriminating and settled mind. If we know how to experience and settle on clear mind, Big Mind, Buddha Nature, this continuous moment, then we can extend that into our daily life. That's what we practice in our daily life.

The Heart Sutra  Part 6

We say, "How do I practice in my daily life?" It’s one thing to go to a zendo. A zendo has an atmosphere. You walk into the zendo and the first thing you do is to put your hands together and bow. Then there are all of these black cushions, and a clean floor, an altar and incense; you sit down and you know this is Zen practice. But then, when you turn around and go out into the road, it’s all something else. So these are the forms of Zen practice. Formality is important because the formality brings our consciousness to attention: this is the practice. But then we go out and all the forms are not the forms of practice. The task of the Zen student is to make, or turn, all the forms in which you find yourself into the forms of practice. Here the form is given to you. Out there, you have to create it.

How do you turn all the forms that you find outside into a form of practice so that when you leave the zendo the zendo is extended to wherever you are? That’s why it’s important to have Sangha. Each one of us is Buddha. The teaching is the Dharma. But our foundation is the Sangha. It’s easy to go out into the world and get lost: "I don’t know how to practice out of here, you know." So sangha is really important because together we give each other a sense of what practice is, and we support each other’s practice as sangha. Sangha is a touchstone for support and understanding, and for acknowledgement. That’s why it’s important to have a temple or some place where you come together and interact with each other, work together, discuss together, sit together.

I think it would be very good to have a meeting of the sangha, some kind of...I don’t want to call it, a seminar...a day that you come together and discuss how to practice in the world, how to extend your practice into the world. Sit a few periods of zazen and then spend the morning discussing, "how does everybody do this? What are our problems?" Then you have lunch, and in the afternoon you continue. You get some close feeling and intimacy, and you know that if you are having some problems you can contact somebody. There is a mutual feeling, and you know that you are not alone when you are out there by yourself. I think this is very important. I think that when I come back here, whenever that is, that’s what I would like to do. You know, when I come, we mostly sit zazen, and then I go away. But I think the next time I come I would like to do something more like that. More like discussing with you what practice is in the world and your daily life.

Keeping the same kind of equanimity and settled mind that you have in zazen in your daily life is really the basis. We can talk about various activities that help you to realize you’re practicing in your daily life, but, basically, the point is to maintain that deep settled mind, that mind which is egoless, actually. In zazen, and especially in sesshin, day after day, the ego diminishes. Self-delusion diminishes, self-belief diminishes, self-arrogance diminishes, and self-infatuation diminishes. Buddha is sitting zazen. If you say "I am sitting zazen," that’s egotistical. "My legs hurt": that’s egotistical. I remember Suzuki Roshi always used to say, "is just painful legs sitting on a black cushion." Painful legs. Not, "my legs hurt." Just, there is pain in these legs. Just let go of "I" and "mine," "me" and "my." We need some way to refer to it, so we say "me" and "my" and "I." But we have to be careful not to believe in it. In our daily life, how do we act in a non-egotistical way? That’s what we should be always looking at...that’s our koan. It’s important to be aware. We talk about mindfulness, and mindfulness has many aspects. We think sometimes of mindfulness as the way we set the table or the way we take care of certain things, which is mindfulness. But the most important aspect of mindfulness is not forgetting to be aware when we are being self centered, when we are being selfish.

The main reading of the sutra is that everything exists interdependently, and that we must find our way within the problems of our life, not by avoiding them. And to let go, release, or renunciation, actually. Renunciation sometimes means to put something down. But what renunciation means here is to let go of our ego and to let go of self centeredness in the midst of our problems, of our life, in the midst of our suffering. Knowing that we will continue to have suffering, and continue to make mistakes, and continue to have problems. Sometimes we think, "Oh, when I get enlightened, I won’t have any more problems." "When I get enlightened I won’t have any more pain." That’s the way the Hinayanists used to think: eliminate all the causes of pain and suffering. In the Lotus Sutra, Buddha gave a sermon and there were five hundred Pratyetka-buddhas [solitary or self-enlightened Buddhas] in the audience. He said, "Your nirvana is not the true nirvana." They were very much insulted, and they all got up and walked out. Anyway, that’s the Lotus Sutra.

Sometimes we worry about our practice. You know, "I can’t practice because I am such a bad person, and I have so many obstacles, and I have so many problems, and I am not a very good Zen student" and so forth. We think to ourselves, "as soon as I get rid of all of these problems, and as soon as I get rid of all of these obstacles, then I can start practicing" and that ain’t it. When we come to practice we bring all our problems and all our obstacles, and all our bullshit with us, and within that is where we have to find our renunciation. So it’s a struggle. Sometimes people come and look around Zen Center and say, "I don’t see any enlightened people here. All I see is a bunch of people with problems. These people have been studying for years and they still have all of these problems." Yes, that’s true. Great Zen students full of problems, and suffering, and pain, but there is still something else besides that.


The Heart Sutra  Part 7

I want to talk about the lines, "With nothing to attain a Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and the mind is no hindrance. Without any hindrance no fears exists. Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in nirvana. In the three worlds [past, present, and future] all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita and attain unsurpassed, complete perfect enlightenment." Then it talks about the mantra, "...therefore know the Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, the great bright mantra, is the utmost mantra, the supreme mantra which is able to relieve all suffering and is true not false."

"With nothing to attain a Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and the mind is no hindrance." We call this practice the practice of no gaining. When Suzuki Roshi was teaching, that was one of his mantras: "no gaining mind."

He used to talk about it all the time as the fundamental aspect of our practice. It was his shtick, actually. Whenever a student became egotistical, or asked, "What about getting enlightenment?" he hit him with that shtick: no gaining mind. It’s not that there is not enlightenment, but it is as Dogen says, "Practice-Enlightenment." Without practice, we don’t talk about enlightenment. Enlightenment doesn’t appear without practice, so practice and enlightenment go together. Suzuki Roshi never talked about getting enlightened, and during the period when he was teaching there were a lot of teachers, both Soto and Rinzai teachers, who were driving the students to gain enlightenment during sesshin. You know, someone is going to get kensho. But Suzuki Roshi didn’t believe in it. Instead of emphasizing kensho or enlightenment, he always emphasized practice. Enlightenment is this thing, the Grand Prize, that thing that people kind of want as the reason for practicing.

Buddha says, "You take the raft and go to the other shore, and, when you are on the other shore, you don’t need the raft anymore, so you let go of it," which is very logical. It means you practice in order to get enlightenment, and then, when you have enlightenment, you don’t practice anymore. Practice is just a vehicle for gaining enlightenment, or a means to enlightenment. Actually, though, practice is not just a means to enlightenment. Practice is a vehicle for expressing enlightenment. So instead of emphasizing the carrot, we emphasize the run to reach it. The activity itself is the important thing, not the final result of the activity.

When we say "no goal," it doesn’t mean that we have no objectives or goal. In order to move in life, there’s got to be an objective. You are born, and then you go to school, and you go to school to learn enough to go to college. Then you go to college in order to learn enough to get a good job, and to have a career, and raise a family, and make a lot of money, and live happily ever after. But it’s not so happy. This is a goal oriented way of life, and is very usual. In practice, on the other hand, the goal is to come to where you are. It’s not like there is some place that you are going. The goal is to be where you are and allow enlightenment to express itself. We all have goals. For instance someone has to cook our meals for us during sesshin, so that person has to have some objectives, some goal, and the timing has to be just right. Every meal has to come out just on time. All the ingredients have to be right, and you can’t burn something. But within that goal of getting out a meal there is also every step of the meal, and in each step is concentrated activity. In other words, the practice of the cook is to be completely one with every activity, moment by moment. Even though there is some place to go, where the cook is, is right here doing just this.

So there is no one step that is any more important than any other step. Each step, each activity, has the same quality, and the same concentration, and is given the same action as every other step. Our life is being led moment by moment, just like sitting on the cushion. That is why the cook’s activity during sesshin is all in the kitchen, but is still sesshin. It’s exactly the same as sitting on the cushion, even though the activity is different. It’s like dropping self, dropping ego, and just being one with activity moment by moment, except that there is some different orientation. This is how we should live our daily lives as practice. We get so caught up in the goal of activity that we don’t pay attention to where we actually are because we want to get somewhere. So we are always getting somewhere and we get lost in the getting somewhere, and forget the being inside.

There is the "doing" side and there is the "being" side. The being side is just pure activity without any idea of accomplishment or goal. Within our goal, our activity is just being, but with no goal. But we always have to do something. Even when we are sitting on the cushion we have to do something. So there is doing and being in that activity. When we sit, we should put all of our whole body and mind on the cushion. Whole body and mind being present in great dynamic activity. That’s why we need a certain posture, good posture, and with a lot of energy, and at the same time we let go of the tenseness in our body. There is a certain amount of tension that is necessary for any structure to have integrity, but what is extra is all that tension that builds up. Sometimes I see it as a kind of fountain. The energy is going up and is also falling down without any effort. It’s a cycle of energy: the energy is moving up very strongly and falling down very gently. There is this effort, but it is just pure effort, pure existence...just experiencing pure existence. No desire, no self, actually, just letting go of self and allowing the universe in. I think of zazen as an offering: presenting ourselves to the universe. This is our complete, total offering to the universe. Zazen is presenting ourselves with our best posture, and our best energy, and nothing held back. The universe penetrates and permeates our whole being. There is no gap.

"With nothing to attain..." There is no attainment here. Enlightenment, light emanates from this activity, but it doesn’t have any special color or shape. Komyo, Komyo-zo. Komyo means"radiant light," and Komyo-zo is "samadhi of radiant light," which is zazen, enlightenment. This is why we can say we begin practice from enlightenment. We don’t practice in order to get enlightenment; practice starts from enlightenment. Practice proceeds from enlightenment, and in our daily lives is a kind of gradual practice. From enlightenment our life proceeds with gradual practice forever. There is no hindrance. "With nothing to attain, a Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita," depends on the "perfection of wisdom," depends on this source of light, depends on emptiness, which is depending on nothing. Depending on nothing means depending on everything because emptiness is interdependence. Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. What do we depend on? What do I depend on? That’s the big question. What do we all depend on? If we realize that everything is everything, no fears exist even though you may get scared. Of course, we get scared, but, ultimately, there is no need to fear because, whether you like it or not, whether you are good or bad, what is going to happen to you is inevitable. How can we fear the inevitable? You just open to it. That is the ultimate zazen.

"With nothing to attain a Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and the mind is no hindrance. Without any hindrance no fears exist. Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in nirvana." I can’t remember exactly what the Perverted Views are, but "perverted view" is to think that there is a self when there is no self, and to think that you are in a happy state, or something like safe state, when it is not safe at all. Mistaking what is for what isn’t, and mistaking what isn’t for what is. It’s called upside down views.

Then, at the end of the Sutra, it talks about the mantra. "In the three worlds [past, present, and future] all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita and attain unsurpassed, complete, perfect enlightenment. Therefore know the Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra...." So, what is a mantra? We think of a mantra as a few words that you repeat over and over, but mantra is like our activity. A true mantra is not just repeating some words over and over, but the way we actually move in our lives is our mantra. Our practice is our practice. The Prajna Paramita mantra is the mantra of practice. In a narrow sense, it’s how we enter the zendo every morning and sit on the cushion, chant the sutra, and bow, and move. This way is actually "mantra," the mantra which induces prajna. When we offer incense we invite prajna to permeate our activity, and we invite Buddha to join our practice. If you look at the rhythm of our life, no matter how rough or smooth our life is, there is always a rhythm, some kind of rhythm, and the rhythm of our life is the mantra that we are always reciting. So, what kind of mantra do we want to recite? How can we recite this mantra which induces prajna through our activity day after day?

I used to watch Suzuki Roshi’s activity, you know. When I first started to practice, I remember that I was amazed because my life was so loose and I came to the zendo and I saw this little guy who would come out his office every morning, offer incense and bow, and sit on the cushion, and do zazen, and all the things that you do, and then go back to his office. At the end of zazen, we would file out and bow to him on the way out, and he will always look at us and bow. Every time I went to the zendo he was there, and he did that. I thought, "Well, he does this two times every day and he doesn’t seem to get tired of it." His activity was so different from mine. In my activity, I never wanted it to repeat more than once or twice, but his life was this life of continuously doing the same thing over and over again, and bringing something extra to doing it, too, you know. I realized that the way he lived his life was like a mantra. The activity of his life was very narrow, but, within that narrow parameter of his life, his life was very rich and satisfying. He didn’t need to occupy himself with other things to entertain himself. He had complete satisfaction from doing what he did completely. It was very impressive. That is our mantra, our practice. "So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra..." through our activity. We don’t chant this mantra very much, except during service when we recite the sutra, but the mantra goes on in our life day after day.

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