In this talk, Meido Roshi discusses common misconceptions about Susokukan, or breath counting meditation in the Zen Buddhist tradition. He also describes what Koan and Wato practice is, and how it relates to Susokukan.
- Pronunciation of the word “susokukan” (breath counting)
- Misconception #1: It’s only a beginner’s method
- Misconception #2: We do it only on the cushion
- Misconception #3: It’s primarily a psychological or mental activity
- Counting in different languages
- What are Koans and Watos? How are they related to Susokukan?
- What are the signs that samadhi has come to fruition during daily activities?
- Why do we have different Watos? If we don’t work with them intellectually, then are we just working with the different sounds they bring?
- In order to bring samadhi into daily activity, should we change conditions that are conducive to practice or adapt to current conditions?
Meido Roshi is the abbot of Korinji, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monastery in Wisconsin, and the guiding teacher of the international Korinji Rinzai Zen Community. Meido Roshi began Zen practice in 1988 and trained under three teachers in the line of the great 20th century Rinzai master Omori Sogen Roshi.
He has completed the koan curriculum of this lineage, and in 2008 received inka shomei: recognition as an 86th-generation Zen lineage holder empowered to transmit the full range of Rinzai Zen practices. Aside from Zen, Meido is also ordained in the Mt. Koshikidake tradition of Shugendo.
He is the author of two books: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice and Hidden Zen: Practices for Sudden Awakening and Embodied Realization
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Speaker 0 00:01:01 So that that might be something to talk about. And I have come across some students who have come to, to ji, for example, who may have trained with other groups where they were, for example, given the koan method as their first method, right, the beginning of the, of their practice, which from our standpoint, it, uh, is usually not something that’s very productive or possible to do. So I like to explain why that is, for example. So that’s the topic for today. Um,
Speaker 0 00:01:52 But that in saku, uh, can sometimes be kind of dropped. We see this a lot in, in Japanese. We see it in, for example,
Speaker 0 00:02:58 Now, I just said that it’s the method we most often give to people first. So in that sense, we can call it foundational for many people, but I would never call it basic. It’s an extremely profound method. It’s a method that’s profound enough that even if you never did any method in Zan, but that, uh, again, depending on the person, it could be sufficient for your whole life. It’s not necessary always to use another method is famous for Coan practice. I know not everyone is suited to or needs to do coan practice. Certainly not everyone needs to do the full curriculum of coan practice that we have, but something like SoCon for many people could be sufficient for their whole lives. Um, Sogan, the great teacher in my lineage, uh, wrote that people can become enlightened. Basically, he said quite nicely
Speaker 0 00:03:55 So I always want, uh, especially folks who may be beginners or have not yet connected to a teacher, have not yet begun something like quan practice to understand that if you receive instruction in breath counting
Speaker 0 00:04:44 Tied to that, I think also is this idea that, uh, birth counting is something that’s only done or taken up as a practice on the cushion. I want to talk about that. Um, we don’t, it’s true off the cushion, usually direct you to be counting your respirations through the day. Within daily activity. Our usual instruction is on the cushion, put into practice the instruction you rec you receive for SoCon, for birth, counting one pointedly with your whole being, which we’ll talk about off the cushion. We ask you remain uncompromisingly present. You take whatever condition you are able to cultivate through
Speaker 0 00:05:51 You can do that. But the point is that, uh, when suso starts to come to fruition, this state of meditative absorption we call somadi, uh, has to be something that you recognize and then has to be something that you put great effort into sustaining from the moment you start to stand up from the cushion, that’s where you start the moment, you start to stand up to the cushion, you practice not letting that condition dissipate or fall away, not falling immediately back into usual discursive chatter and habit of fixation and so on. Uh, you may in the beginning find that you were able to enter relative state of clarity in one pointed concentration on in this condition called samati, which he learned to recognize what the teacher’s help, that you’re able to sustain that for a few moments or minutes after you stand up from the cushion.
Speaker 0 00:06:47 Then it falls away. But with a, with some effort, slowly over time, you find I can sustain it. As I stand up and walk to the kitchen, then I can sustain it as I stand up, walk to the kitchen and start to make coffee or tea and something remains or, or is again, the face of it is sustained, uh, and then it falls away. Or I can sustain it as I get up, go to the kitchen, make coffee, go out to my car, drive to work, and then I start to think about stuff that’s stressing me out, and then I lose it. We start to finally can sustain it longer and longer and longer. That effort is part of SoCon. SoCon is not just the action of counting your breaths on the cushion, it’s the after practice, uh, is encompassed within that method. It’s very important to understand that that effort is absolutely crucial, not just absolutely crucial. It’s it, it’s, it is the method. It’s as much the method as what you’re doing when you’re sitting in the cushion.
Speaker 0 00:07:44 Certainly in, uh, formal zendo way of methodology or, or the way we practice in a formal zendo, we have this, uh, walking meditation we call
Speaker 0 00:09:06 Okay? So those are, I guess, are two main misconceptions that it’s somehow basic or a beginner’s practice only. And second, that it’s something that happens only on the Christian. If you can drop those ideas, you’ll be well situated to get the most out of that practice. The third real misconception, and this is the one that I I harp on constantly, so you’ve probably heard me talk about this before, and I guess it’s a misconception, not just about, but about meditation in general, is that it’s primarily a psychological or mental activity. Of course, you’re sitting in Zaza posture, so we know there’s a physical element to it, but you sit, you sit in some uncomfortable position and you told not to move. And then with your mind, you observe your breathing and you attach a number to it, and you count your breath count object of your breath as one pointedly as you can.
Speaker 0 00:09:58 That’s the general way that s is conceived of or even taught. And I would say that’s the third and biggest misconception. It’s a completely wrong way of understanding, and from my standpoint, it’s a completely wrong way of teaching it. Now, of course, common way of speaking, we say, what is GaN? Oh, it’s breath counting. You count your breaths, but this is not the right way to conceive of it. This is really not a skillful way to describe it. We have to know right from the beginning that our practice is completely embodied. I know embodied is a hip term these days, and everyone wants to talk about embodied practice. And many of the descriptions of embodied practice I hear are not so embodied, actually
Speaker 0 00:10:52 It’s body, speech and mind. Or if we talk from the standpoint of zaen, that means the physical posture is the body. Speech is means breath, and it also means subtle energetics of the body. So all of those have to be engaged in and harnessed within the method. And then mind is the last one, mind is the so-called method that you’re using in unity with the manner of using the body in unity with the particular way of being. If those three things are, are fully engaged, fully harnessed. Now body speech mind, in other words means your whole being, not just your mental activity. Then we can call it genuine practice. So that third misconception of so Soko Khan, uh, is to understand it or to speak of it as if it is not that, um, to, to speak of it in a manner that doesn’t encompass the whole being.
Speaker 0 00:11:50 It is not at all a practice of counting your breaths. If I sit in Xin posture perfectly still, and I set myself up as a subject counting the object of my breath, that is already inherently dualistic. It’s already reinforcing the habitual delusive way of seeing rather than challenging it. It’s a way of doubling down on the habit of your fundamental obscuration, okay? And there are people who practice that way their whole lives, and it’s the fault of the teacher. It’s not their fault. What we have to understand is that I’m not counting some object actually. And as I usually I try to give the sense of it this way. We are not counting the breath at all. We are breathing the count. That different way of saying it, it least gives us a chance to understand that the, the method itself is not a subject object observation, it’s a whole body or whole being process in the rhythm of the respiration.
Speaker 0 00:12:56 But it’s not, again, a solely mental activity. It’s not observing something as a object. Okay? So you receive your instruction, sit posture, set up the breathing in the manner you’ve been instructed to do, which the very least is that you’re breathing abdominally your breathing deep into your core. Your belly breather is normal, normal, relaxed human. Boom. And then using those things, breathe account with your whole will, with your whole existence as if each exhalation was your last one. If you practice that way. And when it starts to come to fruition, you cannot say at all that you are, that there’s a you, there’s that, there’s an eye counting something. You cannot say that there’s something being counted. There’s, there’s no separation between body, breath, subtle energetics, and the, the single mental activity of so-called breathing account or counting the breath. You will not be able to say that you’re experiencing it as I’m counting something, what all the most you could say somehow is my whole existence is breathing the count, or the room is breathing the count or the so whole so-called universe is breathing the count, or perhaps most accurately there is only breathing the count and that we cannot say anything about it.
Speaker 0 00:14:23 If you start to have that feeling that you cannot really say there’s an eye in it, or you cannot really say that there’s something being counted, then that means you understood what suso C is, that you’re, again, breathing the count instead of counting the breath as an object you’ve set up. It’s hard to get the feeling of this across people. Um, those of you who are practitioners, you understand, but, uh, I always want to stress that point as the biggest misconception that counting the breath is counting the breath
Speaker 0 00:15:02 There’s a practice in, uh, mic called
Speaker 0 00:16:02 You cannot separate so-called I and fu those distinctions become meaningless. The most you could say is this, is this is that is the, uh, experience. We can describe the context of that practice. So SoCon is no different. You know, the, the, the single object of the breath or the exhalation is not like a deity, but we have to have that same experience of non-separation between body, speech, mind, so-called method. What we usually experience as inside and outside self and other subject object, those distinctions drop away doesn’t mean we melt away into some kind of oneness. That is not the Buddhist teaching. It means there was not separation to begin with. It’s not twoness is what we could say. Sue Soko is a very profound direct method. You can have that experience, you have to have that experience with the simple object of the respiration. The experience is not different from Ganon. It just doesn’t take a dity or Buddha body suffer as an object.
Speaker 0 00:17:17 If you can experience that during suku con, and then you start to sustain that condition as you rise from sa as I mentioned, you go into daily activity, you start to have that experience with all the so-called phenomena that at that moment we can say is not just the cultivation of Somali, it’s a cultivation of wisdom. Your Somali. That is the way in which, uh, sok, because it can cause us to cut or transcend the dualistic habit, the habit of dualistic seeing can itself be a sufficient method. You can, you know, clearly recognize that state and then sustain it. What is, what is lacking? Nothing lacking. Of course, there’s no end how profoundly we can cultivate that, but we cannot say that the method lacks.
Speaker 0 00:18:15 Okay? So I hope all of that, um, serves to, I don’t know, get you excited
Speaker 0 00:19:06 You have no problem to penetrate it. So please, um, be proud to do Sushan
Speaker 0 00:20:32 Okay? So that’s the first thing. And uh, what I want to talk about, oh, I have a note here to talk about this one point. This is a little bit of a tangent, but why don’t I give this to you Now before we move on to the second point of this talk. Um, you can count in any language when you do suko, if, if your native language not English, no problem. What one of my teachers told me who he was Japanese, of course, um, that to count in the Japanese way might have an advantage. And the reason is some of you speak or have some training in Japanese. You know that there’s different ways of counting depending on what you’re counting. But when you count the breaths, uh, he told that use that counting system and that counting system, each of the words he told has this sound soup at the end. Why might that be a useful system to use if you care to? Because as my teacher described that soup, because it’s a sharp sound, it has a, a, a supportive function of clarifying or, or helping you to enter the state of clarity right at the end of the exhalation. And if your mind start to fall into its discussive habit, the sharpness of the sound helps to, that was, that was his his point. So you could,
Speaker 0 00:22:25 Which is different then one, one kind of just peters off, right? Two kind of peters off. We told Sue, Sue, Sue. Anyway, I I, I had in my notes to share that bit of advice with you. And then I’m gonna tell you, I never, I never did that
Speaker 0 00:23:42 Experiential awareness becomes the, it’s not an observation of something and there’s no eye observing a thing. If you can do that, that’s the true embodied practice. It’s the posture of zen, which helps to set that up. Course the posture is also tied to the breathing, which helps to unify the so-called mind and body and allows us to enter into that kind of state. And then naturally the one pointed effort, mental effort to integrate yourself with that activity, labored by the urgency of your aspiration, your body, thoughtful vows, your real desire to bring it to fruition for the sake of all beings and so on. All of that in unity is what we call the true embodied practice. What you need to understand about that, these are the koan or wato training, is that that is exactly the same way we work on the first koan or wa. So sok is not just a foundation practice that you have to do so that you can show you’re ready for quant practice. It’s what teaches you how to do koan practice. That’s just this point struggling enough. Um, by the way, do you all know that those two terms, koan and wato, there’s a little distinction between them.
Speaker 0 00:25:08 Koan is the, those, those famous cases for dog as to Joe Shoe or a dog
Speaker 0 00:26:07 So those are, those are fine distinctions. Some koan are worked on as wato. So that koan
Speaker 0 00:27:00 We don’t sit in Zaza and repeat to ourselves three pounds up. It doesn’t make sense,
Speaker 0 00:27:51 Okay? But back to our topic, whether it’s wato or corn in renza, we tend to just call it our corn practice. We don’t make that distinction. So, uh, uh, decisively as maybe they do in Chinese chan. Okay? We just, our, our usual habit is just to refer to all of it as corn records, but the manner I’ve working on the first K is wato, for example, the method of
Speaker 0 00:28:41 That is precisely exactly the embodied way to work on the first co-op, so-called wato. Whether it’s Joe shoes move, or whether it’s the question, who am I? We breathe it. We don’t look at it as we’re breathing and mull it over in our minds tied to the exhalation. We breathe it with the exhalation to the point that we become that question. So if my first con, for example, is the phrase, who am I? Or what am I? Or what is this? Or whatever, I will not try to analyze the question at all, but in the same manner I was doing SoCon, I will breathe
Speaker 0 00:29:35 Breathing that question again. If, when that comes to fruition and taking what I learned from Suso as the foundation when I’m doing that, I cannot say that I am asking a question. I cannot say there’s a question that I’m observing or analyzing or mulling over. We start to feel that the question itself riding the energetic winds of the body, so to speak, not so to speak, it’s true, literally penetrates my very flesh. I can, I cannot feel that there is any part of my body that is not vibrating with the question and the line between the inside, outside subject object, self, other somehow becomes more permeable or even drops away. I cannot say there’s any place that is not the question or anything. That is not the question. There’s no, i there’s only the question that is when we start to have that kinda experience, we go into that more deep, profound state more and more as time goes on, uh, then that is the sign that the quan method, that especially that first corn or Waco, is starting to cook.
Speaker 0 00:30:42 That precisely in that state is where we really, we double our efforts and drill down into the lotto or into the quad, into the question of that quo. But by now, I hope you can see it’s only because we did Soko Khan that we could understand how to do that. Soko is what teaches us how to do that. Soko KK is a count. It’s kind of a neutral word or, or concept. It’s not something necessarily tied to a great inquiry or, uh, our body aspiration. It’s just a number. But still, we learn to unify ourselves with that in the embodied manner that uses body speech and mind body breath method, and we start to experience the fruition of soman. That is the precise way and place that we work on the first call. So if a SoCon has come to fruition, it means someone is ready to use that first call.
Speaker 0 00:31:42 They will be able to understand how to do it. And that’s why typically I would say on average, if someone’s really applying themselves to SoCon, we usually say it takes about two years for most people to arrive at the place where that initial method has started to really pop, and then they could take up the call. Doesn’t mean they’ve exhausted su SoCon at all. Doesn’t mean they won’t return to it again and again in their training. We can never exhaust it, but they could be ready to use the first call on. Why, again, because it’s what teaches us how to use the first one. It’s exactly the same, very, very important thing to understand.
Speaker 0 00:32:31 It’s a big problem in Western Zen. So I say western zen, uh, only because that’s what I’m most familiar with. I don’t know what’s going on in Japan these days, so maybe a problem everywhere, but, uh, it’s very common for people to be given the first corn too soon before they have established that foundation, that foundation of somebody, and learn how to practice or become the corn in the embodied manner. I’ve been discussing. If we give a person a call too soon, it’s very likely that they will be engaging with it primarily in a psychological or mental manner, a discussive manner. They’ll be analyzing it even in a subtle way, whether they realize it or not. They will not have the tools to, to unify the body, the physical flesh.
Speaker 0 00:33:23 And that means that, uh, any answer that comes out will of course be shallow, not sufficient. If the teacher then approves that answer and, and gives the person the next call and continues their training, then that person’s path has, can be ruined, can go off in a mistaken direction that it’s hard to recover with them. So it’s very important not to give the first call on too soon. That being said, it’s as important, that is as important as not passing the person on the first too soon and be with the teacher, being able to recognize from their own experiential knowledge that what the students experiencing may be somadi might be some shallow psychological insight, but is not actually the breakthrough of the court. That’s another subject for all that being said, sometimes I will give a student a call before they’re ready because the coin itself can be, can be used to develop the same qualities as su.
Speaker 0 00:34:22 So if there’s a student who is very eager, uh, maybe sometimes impatient, um, I believe that, uh, su SoCon is not going to be, not going to be enough to keep them engaged. It’s, I cannot say it’s the fault of the training, it’s the, the student’s aspiration may too shallow, but of course that can deepen over time and we hope it will. So I’ll sometimes give a student the first call on and direct them to use it in the same way they’ve been practicing scon and they can often use in the ko, and now they’re excited, of course, cause they’re doing koan training and they get all, they got know I’m Z person. Now they get very inspired, they can start to develop or they will develop the same foundation, and then the ko itself will start to mature, and over time they can penetrate it.
Speaker 0 00:35:10 So, so there’s no fixed rule, but I, I, I want to bring your attention, the dangers of being too excited about a koan too soon, or thinking that Suso Khan is not sufficient. Thinking that suso is something you can jump over quickly or that somehow, if you’re doing Suko Khan for two years, five years, even 10 years that you’re behind, not the case at all. But then you get the, okay, then you do get the first call and you are excited, and then you find out, wait a minute, this is really hard and just as boring as
Speaker 0 00:36:02 So the un un un unintended more of this story perhaps don’t be in a rush with anything, but that’s what I wanted to say about Suso Con. I hope you can appreciate, um, a little bit more about the method, although the conj themselves are breath count or counting breath meditation, I like to say in English, breathed count. And there has to be a method that engages the whole being. Always think in terms of the, of
Speaker 3 00:37:40 Well, I don’t think I come up with good names. I can up with very uncreative names, but something else, Suko, uh, maybe
Speaker 0 00:37:50 Su misconceptions. I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t wanna stress just misconceptions. Let’s think of something inspiring, please and tie. I’ll come with something on practice. That would be great.
Speaker 3 00:38:02 Yeah, for sure. I was thinking probably to upload this section of the talk to YouTube or something since it’s very foundational for anyone.
Speaker 0 00:38:10 Uh, no problem, no problem. Yeah. Okay, so, uh, it’s a little shorter talk than usual, but, uh, we have about 20 minutes left so we can take any questions, we can talk about anything. Of course, it doesn’t have to be only tied to today’s talk. Yeah, Catherine.
Speaker 4 00:38:27 Hi. Um, you talked about, uh, maintaining samati and being completely present, uh, throughout daily activities. And I wanted to ask about, um, what are the signs that that Samati has continued and, um, essentially, uh, whether there’s fruit from the, uh, zaman,
Speaker 0 00:38:51 You know, the way that we describe Samati, I always recommend from the Renzo standpoint that people read the, uh, work by Tawan Tawan soho famous called Fuku. It has been translated as the unfettered Mind. I do not know how great the translation is, but if you look up Tako, t a k u a N, you’ll find that writing. Um, in that writing, which was actually a, a letter or a series of letters written to a famous swordsman Yagi, he describes zen somadi, uh, using examples from Swordsmanship because it’s easy for his audience to understand. So we don’t need to go hung up on that part. But as an example, he talks about the, the state of mind, the, the state of meditative absorption that comes up from Zen training as not being static, still unable to function. It’s not a, uh, uh, um, a frozen unmoving quality.
Speaker 0 00:40:00 It’s rather a state of complete non fixation, non abiding, which means that whatever phenomena we encounter, so-called inner or outer, includes our thoughts, emotions, activities, whatever the mind can freely flow with them, can function like a canon thousand armed canon. Each arm holds a different implement, implement moving freely, but there’s complete clarity, non fixation, always at the center of it. That is how we should view somebody in, in activity. So in Zaza, we may go into kind of somebody that’s quite profound, even to the point that time and space drop away, and we, we cannot actually function what one writer has called absolute Somali, somebody of, of propelled stillness. But the way to sustain that or practice that in activity is to throw yourself into the so-called phenomena, situations, encounters, encounters with people, activities that you’re doing with your body, with your mind, and so on.
Speaker 0 00:41:04 And to practice maintaining the one pointedness that doesn’t fixate on anything. How we can or how we experience that is that thoughts, emotions, experiences, situations arise and pass away. We engage with them as we need to, but it’s, as has been described, it’s like the tracks of birds in the sky. There’s nothing remaining as they pass whatever activity we’re doing, we are throwing our whole body, the whole body mind into it, and in the next moment, completely free to throw into the next moment or the next activity or the next situation. There’s nothing that sticks. It’s not even a question of remaining present. We, I know we talked that way somehow, staying in the present, it’s a transcending. Even this idea of there being a present, just each fresh moment that arises moment by moment, we’re freely engaging with it, with no attachment, no fixation, no sticking.
Speaker 0 00:42:07 And that also means, of course, no arising of fear. No, a, you know, the three poisons are themselves bono or are themselves fixations. They’re instances of the mind stopping upon something. As tawan describes, if the mine moves freely, doesn’t stop on anything, that itself is the transcending of the glaciers. That itself is the samati inactivity. So we can describe it more, maybe more prozaically as being like surfing the conditions as they arise and pass away, rather than being hit by the waves of them. Uh, taka one describes it as a five or six swordsmen attack you at one time. You may have perfect technique, you block one, but if your mind stops at that moment, oh, that was a great block, or, oh, I have, you know, I’m scared. Whatever, whatever the fixation or stopping of the mind is, of course the next sword will get you.
Speaker 0 00:43:02 So the true swordman is the one who can flow freely in those situations using the technique with no stopping, no abiding, no fixation. Ta one says clearly to, for the mind to stop in that way means the body also will be frozen. And that itself is what we call glacier. So you can call that a active samati, if you like. I don’t like to differentiate absolute samari, active samma as some writers have done, but we can say that inactivity, that’s what we’re striving for, the non abiding, non fixation freedom within the activity. Uh, tawan again describes a fu the famous figure. The name fuo means immovable. Uh, clarifying. It’s not the, IM moveability again, of something that never moves immovable. A true Im moveability of wisdom means something that moves so freely that it’s stable, cannot be disturbed. So it’s like a gyroscope or a top spinning so rapidly. And so one pointedly on its axis that it appears still, but it’s moving so freely and even a gyroscope as you know, you can tilt it and it doesn’t, it’s not disturbed. So I think that’s not a bad, bad
Speaker 4 00:44:32 Yes, absolutely. That, that’s tremendously helpful. Thank you.
Speaker 0 00:44:36 Oh, good, good. And you know, talking about swordsmanship, I have a martial arts background. Um, I don’t tell people they have to do martial arts or anything, but that kind of physical activity where there’s something happening quickly with a little bit of pressure or a lot of pressure, like a couple people attacking you at one time, practicing that kind of physical form or discipline and experiencing the state of mind that can flow within that without stopping. It’s, it’s really wonderful.
Speaker 4 00:45:04 Like Aikido.
Speaker 0 00:45:05 Yeah, like taquito, likedo has a practice, as you may know, Rondo, uh, as we used to practice up to six people attacking you at once, and they can do any attack they like, and you experience quickly that if I view them as individuals or if my mind stops at any moment in that situation, I’m done for, I’m taken down. But if I can experience them or, or view them as one, one flow, one phenomena rather than individuals, somehow the movement comes out in a less, uh, a hindered manner and spontaneously, without knowing we find ourselves moving to the correct place or, you know, sidestepping a blow that’s coming. And it’s really quite, quite remarkable experience. But that is the, what we call no or wondrous activity. The mind has the capacity spontaneously to do what is required without fixating, without stopping, without fearing, without craving of this,
Speaker 4 00:46:03 This, this raises, uh, for me, uh, the, uh, the concept I’ve heard in zen frequently is oneness. Um, sometimes it’s, it’s easy to think of oneness as like one thingness. Um, but it sounds like it’s more like what you’re talking about where it’s seeing everything as sort of one flow. Is that right?
Speaker 0 00:46:26 Yeah, and I don’t know what, what word from the sank or Japanese whatever, uh, folks intend when they use the word oneness. I suspect it’s more a, something borrowed from a beta or new age kind of teaching. There’s no oneness, there’s no separation either. But the non-separation, non abiding, non-i non-self doesn’t mean that everything combines, or I should try to combine everything into kind of a unified soup oneness from a stem point of Buddhist teaching, as you know, simply means. Uh, it’s another way of saying emptiness. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 4 00:48:13 Okay, thank you. We’ve taken enough, enough time, but thank you so much.
Speaker 0 00:48:17 No, that’s okay.
Speaker 5 00:48:30 Uh, well, I know that Lilian raised her hand before me, but then she ticked it away, so I don’t know. Uh,
Speaker 0 00:48:36 I’m back. Oh, go, go, go ahead, Lily. I know Lillian will always chime in at some point, so don’t worry.
Speaker 5 00:48:43 Uh, yeah, thank you for the talk. I mainly had a question about the wato. So as, as you have made, uh, very clear already, um, throughout, is that in the wato, you’re not supposed to grapple with it in a conceptual or intellectual manner at all, right? But then I’m wondering, I guess what stays then is the sound of the watto, or maybe that’s, I’m, I’m mistaken in that maybe that’s too simplistic, but my further up question would then be, if we just use the sound, what is then the difference between using mu between using wa am what am I between using one two, like, yeah, so I, is, is there something to just using the sounds that actually still retains something of the meaning and makes it penetrate your body? Or I, it’s maybe a bit of a vague question, but, uh, I was wondering if you could shed some more light on that.
Speaker 0 00:49:39 It’s a, it’s a subtle thing. Uh, you know, obviously some sounds have a, a mantra character or, or the sounds themselves have a kind particular effect on the body mind. So if you were to do nothing, this is a practice of just in tone, ah, sanscript, ah, or
Speaker 0 00:50:43 We have to work on it with the body. That’s our usual way of speaking. But with that is a, a mood or feeling of the coin that we have to be carrying. You know, we’ve read the Quon again and again, we’re trying to penetrate what, what is his meaning, not just what is his meaning, symbolically, analytically, conceptually. But what I mean by that is what was his experience? What was his state at the moment? He said that, what is the enlightenment of Joshua? Such that that word came out. That’s what we are trying to penetrate. We ourselves have to become shu in that sense. It unlike, or similar to Mico, it’s very much a GaN practice. You have to become Shu at the moment. He said, move, you have to become body dharma at the moment. He said, epk, no holiness.
Speaker 0 00:51:29 We have to understand where that answer, how that answer came up. So somehow in the process of what we call cfu or, or grappling with working with digesting the corn, there’s the feeling of the mood of the ko or the situation of the ko. Uh, there’s, we’re, we’re looking in Joshua’s eyes, trying to figure this guy out.
Speaker 0 00:52:34 All of that has to be in it. I guess I could say it’s more of a mood or flavor. It’s, it’s, it’s what I mean when I say the feeling of deep inquiry has to be present as we breathe, unify ourselves with mood. I don’t know if that’s helpful, but, uh, it, I guess I have to say it’s certainly more than just the sound of that character move. And, you know, the other very common first
Speaker 5 00:53:38 Hmm. Right?
Speaker 0 00:53:39 So that, that, that first call Wato doesn’t have an anecdote behind it. It’s not found in any collection, but it’s just, it’s the core question of our search, right? It’s the, it’s the essential human question. So we can bring that mood or flavor that again, that deep inquiry into it. Then the words come alive, moves like that too.
Speaker 5 00:54:03 Yeah, that’s interesting. And yeah, that’s, that helps. Uh, I mean I’m, I, I will for sure not to use, uh, WATO yet for a long time. I, I’m sure I still have a lot, um, to do with, uh, that can, that breath counting can do for me. So, um, but uh, yeah, that’s, thank you for the answer.
Speaker 0 00:54:19 You’re very welcome. Breath counting sk and the daily recitation or chanting practice, some of those things we chant, of course have a profound meaning and translation, which one should study. For example, the translation of the hard suture. One has to know when one recites the four vows, what we’re saying and so on. But then also to just recite in the original language with the feeling, again, with the feeling of the four vows. As I recite the four vows, I’m, even though I’m not reciting them in English, I’m doing it with an understanding of the meaning and the, and the deep, uh, joyful urgency that goes with that. The flavor, the mood. We can learn to do that in, in many practices. S con chanting, um, yeah, there’s so much to practice in the beginning that’s not koto, but which is all still amazingly deep and sufficient.
Speaker 5 00:55:17 I see. Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. Thank you.
Speaker 0 00:55:22 Thank you. Good question.
Speaker 3 00:55:26 Would you like to ask a question, Illian, before we move to Clay?
Speaker 0 00:55:30
Speaker 6 00:55:34 Please move to Clay. Thank you.
Speaker 0 00:55:38 Thanks, Lillian.
Speaker 7 00:55:40 Hi, Mayo.
Speaker 0 00:55:42 Okay.
Speaker 7 00:55:43 Yeah, I, I just, I don’t, it’s a, it’s a question and a comment, I guess. Um, it’s very clarifying your talk with, um, it just reminded me of sometimes getting too caught up in, you know, Zen can be so complex and it was just a nice reminder of the kind of in to use a martial larger or bud term, just the kujo, the keun, the basics where just focusing on the breath and just focusing on the posture is enough. And I, I guess I’m just commenting in a sense that sometimes it feels that zen study is so very overwhelming in terms of there’s so much to learn that it was just refreshing to hear. Um, sometimes it’s just a very not necessarily simple, a very basic foundational practice is enough to get there, not to get there, but to do, to practice. Wanted to comment on, on that was very refreshing to hear that. Um, it seems like the more I read about zen, the less I know about Zen, and sometimes, um, it can be a little disheartening. So to just hear the foundational basic practice is enough, is it’s very refreshing. I know if there’s a question there, it’s just more that that thought really sprung up and reminded me that sometimes just a single sort punch in a block, simple throw is enough to get there. Thank you for that.
Speaker 0 00:57:16 Welcome. You know, again, you’re a martial artist, you know, martial arts originally, how many kata did most sword schools have?
Speaker 7 00:57:27 6, 4, 8, 6. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:57:30 Right? Simple, simple stuff. Hard one from someone’s experience. And then during the later time, as, as of course, people’s level became quite profound, but, uh, over time, over the centuries, you have more elaboration on those. You have more kata come out, different situa, you know, in other words, more tools in the toolbox. I think Buddhist training is not unlike that. We have such a richness of toolbox across all the different schools, but it all goes back to the basics. So I don’t, I don’t want anyone to feel overwhelmed by zen study Buddhist Buddhism 1 0 1, find a good Buddhism 1 0 1 book, just become familiar with the basic Buddhist concepts. Enter into a basic practice like Su Soko Khan, which is not so basic. As I said, it’s quite profound. Do a simple daily recitation, which also has elements of affirming one’s refuge and vowels and devotional aspect.
Speaker 0 00:58:24 Nope, set up a small butsudan altar in your home, Buddhist statue, candle, flower, incense, whatever. All of that, that, that’s a rich practice right there. We don’t need, we don’t really need more than that. If we can penetrate those things, and then you interested to do something like koan practice, more elaborate practice methods or, you know, practices of other schools, we can do those things eventually and learn very, learn more about the incredible richness of methodology that developed over the centuries, but it’s all gonna rest on the same foundation. And if we lack that foundation, we’re in a hurry to jump into the flashy stuff. It’s not gonna serve us well either. I, I think your observation’s spot on. I would, I think it bears repeating.
Speaker 7 00:59:13 Thank you. It was refreshing reading the book, reading the Blue book and some other books. And I, I picked up, I forget the name of the Monk turned or the Samurai turned Monk, um, showin maybe, or, uh, you know, the so many concepts. Oh, su
Speaker 0 00:59:29 Suzuki.
Speaker 7 00:59:31 Yes. Well, while that’s intellectually stimulating, like you talk about cons sometimes, it’s just so bizarre, you know? So read that stuff that I put it down and go, I don’t even know what I just read
Speaker 0 00:59:47 I don’t, I would never tell people they need to read koan literature. It’s, it’s very difficult to penetrate. And a and certainly it’s a danger if someone reads koan literature analytically to try and puzzle out the meanings intellectually. Uh, that’s not our approach at all. That’s not, it’s not how we use that stuff. That’s practice literature, not, uh, academic literature. Um, so I, I never tell people, people ask me, oh, should I read a Coan collections or something? I say, when, when you start coan training, if you start coan training, you need to have a copy of that stuff cuz you’re gonna use it in your practice. But no, it’s, you don’t need to read that at all. Don’t worry about it. If you want to, it’s fine, but don’t try to puzzle out the meanings.
Speaker 7 01:00:31 Well, and thank you. And I meant sometimes just even the foundational renzy texts, when you read them, you know, some, sometimes even just what is being portrayed in by the author as, uh, you know, just like the, um, lamp. Did
Speaker 0 01:00:50 You one in particular you had in
Speaker 7 01:00:51 Mind? No, no. And it’s not as particular Cohen, I’m just saying. Sometimes the reading for me is so very obscure that it’s just refresh, it’s just refreshing to hear foundational basics is, is, is enough. So that’s all I have to say.
Speaker 0 01:01:06 Thank you. I don’t want anyone to be discouraged that way. And then I guess the theme of this talk is that foundational basics are not basics. It’s the entirety of the path. The rest of this stuff is just icing on the cake. So
Speaker 3 01:01:25 I have, uh, one last question if we have some. Uh, it’s about keeping or trying to maintain somebody in daily activity. So as you mentioned, things like maybe discoursive thought thinking, especially when you are at early stages of practice that can lead to interrupted, let’s say or disrupt in this Somali, uh, then instructions that we have in daily life, right? Like our phones or emails, checking email or things that make our mind fixate more and stop more. Let’s say. All of these things I feel that are not very conductive, uh, for, for practice. And that’s, I guess why I haven’t been to Corgi yet, but, uh, I know you guys have a schedule, for example. There’s no much need to think about what you need to do during the day. You just do and jump from one activity to another. Maybe I’m mistaken, but that’s, that’s my understanding and maybe that’s why the schedule is so important.
Speaker 3 01:02:38 And then distractions. Yeah, there are little distractions, right? I don’t think you guys have phones or, or computers or whatever. So my question is, as lay practitioners, should we try to really minimize as many distractions as possible and to have a, a schedule as tight as possible or, I mean, the answer seems obvious at to some degrees, yeah, of course you should do it. Try your best. But then also I always hear about trying to just work with the conditions as they are, right? And navigate those. And in difficult conditions is where we can actually practice more and practice better. So what should we do? Uh, should we, yeah, I, I I hope it’s clear.
Speaker 0 01:03:30 Yeah. Well, first of all, work with the conditions as they are. Doesn’t mean that you’re not part of those conditions. You have a power to direct and change conditions too. But work with the conditions as they are also means try to create the conditions which are wholesome and supportive for practice. So it doesn’t mean we just have to passively deal with whatever arises, so we have to not forget that part. So certainly establishing a practice schedule, consistent practice schedule that’s working with the conditions. Now how you do that, when you do that, that’s also working with the conditions, but having the will, the wholesome desire to do so, that is creating our conditions, future conditions, conditions are not something fixed that passively, that we passively accept or that just act on us. We’re participating in making them, and especially making the conditions for the future.
Speaker 0 01:04:17 So that’s important to understand. Um, the other thing is, I, I cannot tell anyone how they should live their life. You know, I can, and also everyone’s different, so I cannot say you should or should not do this or this, but I think we all know that there are times when our schedule, our functioning seems to be working well. You know, we, we go through the day in kind of a flow state. We’re getting a lot done. Um, you know, we know that experience. You can start to play with your schedule, with your life, your daily life, your conditions in such a way to see what supports that kind of experience coming out more often. You know, if my practice outside of the cushion is to throw myself this whole body mind into every activity I’m doing and with non abiding, non fixation with my whole being joyfully and so on, uh, moments where we are experiencing that way, try to reproduce them and try to understand, well, what are the conditions that supported that?
Speaker 0 01:05:24 And then you have lots of practical things coming out for you. You know, for me, for example, okay, I have, I spend a lot of time doing work online, dealing with email, all that kind of stuff. My phone cannot be in the bedroom. There’s that, there’s a particular time for practice that I have to make a priority. And when that’s the case, I have to turn the phone off, close the computer. There’s that very sim simple stuff. It sounds like just common sense. But to remember to do that, to get into the habit of doing those kinds of simple things that is changing your conditions and it’s, it’s a change of something as simple as one of those things can be so dramatic, it can change the course of your path. So I don’t know if I’m answering your question really, but um, you know, you’re right in the monastery, they don’t have to think about anything and the schedule’s set up such that they have to live the whole day as if it’s one breath, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. So there’s no room for the, uh, sort of self-referential way of thinking and fixation to creep in. If they’re really throwing themselves the schedule, of course they’re exhausted too. Uh, but the whole day it just flows by and they learn to unify themselves with that. Of course, the many changing conditions, some right now it’s cold in snowy in summer it’s hot and so on. So within all the changes they learn to establish the one pointed, you know, how to cruise, how to cruise or surf through the conditions.
Speaker 0 01:06:56 As a layperson, you don’t have that kind of thing enforced on you in the environment or from the outside, but you can make your own in some way, including all the responsibilities you have, throwing yourself into those. And then a time for practice, throw yourself into that and you start to realize that there’s not much separation between so-called practice and activities. And again, within all that, what are the small tweaks, changes you can make, like turning off your phone or making a strict rule that this is the time for practice and having a communication with your family, maybe that you know, I need this time, so during this time, please give me that aloneness so I can do my practice and then come back from that and dive back into the family situation. I cannot say what’s right for you, but those are the kinds of things which come to mind.
Speaker 0 01:07:50 We are making our conditions as much as dealing with them. So start to bring those two, uh, ways of seeing into unity. This is what I have, these are my responsibilities. This is what I have to surf for myself into give my best clarity to this is also kind of life I like to have. So I’m gonna change this, change this, change this. And slowly you start to make like that way. And eventually tho those two ways of seeing or ways of living the line between them is gone waste. There are no limitations for lay people at all. Just there’s just different limitations or different obstacles or different challenges. But you know, you can live in a monastery. It’s an ideal situation for practice. And it’s such a difficult life that many people are in the midst of this amazing ideal situation and still have trouble giving themselves to it, resist it, fight it. And the practice is constantly a mirror showing them all of their fixations and their self-referential ways of acting and seeing and thinking. And they don’t like that. No one wants to face that. It’s horrible
Speaker 0 01:09:18 So it’s possible to be a lay person in the midst of all your responsibilities and activities and be bringing the way or the path to complete fruition in a way. That’s the mo person the monastery is not doing. So I, I would encourage anyone to, um, don’t stand on those lines. Practice non-practice, ideal life, lay life or you know, monastery life, lay life and not to think that conditions are something I have to deal with. You become the conditions you make, the conditions you become the conditions. Same way. We don’t count the breath, we breathe the count. That’s what that’s teaching you. And as we say, often in Zen, the ignorant person follows after the conditions, the enlightened person is followed by them. That’s a different way of experiencing, it’s talking about a different way of experiencing. If you can bring what I’m talking about, you know, get a cooking, you feel like, oh, the conditions are following me or there’s no, there’s no conflict between so-called conditions and me, there’s no separation and there’s nothing lacking in them at all. Again, just like when you breathe each count, if there’s separation between you and the count, that’s not
Speaker 0 01:11:15 Hey guys, maybe that’s, uh, we’re 15 minutes over, so why don’t we end there. Thank you so much.
Speaker 3 01:11:21 Thank you so much.
Speaker 0 01:11:24 Pleasure. See you guys. Wishing you all great holidays and um, uh, hopefully you have some family time or whatever it is you may do during these holidays. I hope you enjoy. And, uh, we have at Corgie, uh, new Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, we have the traditional observances we do there. Of course, if any of you are in the area, come join us, be there with us. But, um, I didn’t announce this, but we have in the past live streamed our New Year’s Eve ritual, which starts around 11:00 PM or shortly, shortly after central time USA time. And we ring the KSU large bell 108 times over the course of that hour. And then just after midnight we have a brief ceremony. So we start the new, basically we start the new year with practice and then with a chanting with the recitation. Um, I, we’ll probably live stream this, so if anyone would like to join with us from a distance, I can never guarantee that the satellite internet at quarantine’s gonna work, especially if the weathers rough. But, uh, we’ll, we’ll put that link on Facebook or we’ll send it out to our quarantine mailing list if you’d like to get nothing to do in New Year’s Eve. It’s a good way to spend it. And then after that ceremony, we have a, um, new Year’s Eve gathering. We have a small party at the monastery, so you can’t be present for that, but you can have your own and mirror our activities. So just let you know about that. Maybe we’ll see some of your faces on New Year’s Eve.
Speaker 3 01:12:58 Awesome. Thank you so much, mayor. Thanks everyone. See you next time.
Speaker 0 01:13:03 Thanks.