Embracing Mind | Excerpts

The Zen Talks of Kobun Chino Otogawa
By Kobun Chino Otogawa

Section II: Denko-e Sesshin - Assembly on the Transmission of Light

Chapter One: Light ... "denko," transmission of light ... sometimes externally, sometimes internally.

Sensing the Light Within You ... you touch your body, you feel warmth. Something is burning, and connected with this thing that's burning, there is a light.

Practice Alone ... sometimes it feels fine to be always alone, but most of the time we feel loneliness instead of confidence. It's like, "Nobody knows me and I do not know myself."

Chapter Two: Listen to the Truth ... Long, deep silence, which contains everything in each person, is very important, even though it contains a bundle of problems inside.

Sanchi Manpo and Dokusan ... whole world is waiting and waiting and waiting for you, for your complete, perfect enlightenment.

Even when there are no words, there is teaching. ... To learn how you are is the most direct teaching.

Kyoju ... no separation, directly, you hand something down to another existence.

Chapter Three: Menju, Face-to-Face Transmission ... you are one of two existences, and you meet and receive something, you do not just receive it, you also accept yourself ... It has to be done by yourself before it is done

Dogen Zenji and Menju "menju," ... refers to succession of spirit ... face giving, face receiving ... face giving is to face your own face, with joy, with pleasure, with faith, to actively receive it.

Dogen's Four Stages of Way-Seeking Mind ... Way-seeking mind is thirsty mind, or unfulfilled mind ... Before way-seeking mind appears, intellect guides your existence. the four stages: Arising mind, practice, awakening, nirvana. ...very blind, but it can feel "right way" or "wrong way."

Menju and Way-Seeking Mind ... to put this relation of face-to-face transmission into one's everyday practice. ... With your body you understand, ... If one strives hard and reaches the final destination, one has to find that everyone is already there.

Tozan's Experience of Menju ... putting Tathagata's eye into your eye. You become yourself. It is mutual.

Prostration, Gassho, and Bow ... Prostration is completely without any hestitation or question, even if you have a bundle of doubts and questions, you throw that doubt in front.

Chapter Four: Many Kinds of Transmission ... in the broader sense of menju we are within it

The Origin of Menju ... And to Mahakashyapa, the cognition appeared, "This is my teacher, I am his follower."

Other Traditional Transmissions ... The important thing is what is happening in the people's minds. ... Imagination, even fantastic imagination, cannot reach to the actual experience.

Chapter Five: Menju is Internal ... Menju is the result of unseen communication of abilities. The abilities come first, then menju. ... Menju, real meeting, goes beyond forms

Menju and Two Moons ... Transmission, face to face, body to body, mind to mind, is often called two moons

Seeing the Existence Next to You ... our central concern is to find another existence to meet without any hindrance. ... Wiping away hindrances, you meet with such existences.

Why am I here? ... This basic question which arises from our body and mind is the same question as why Truth exists ... The answer which is acted by you is the real answer to this question.

Chapter Six: Facing the World ... What is important is that you do what you really want to do. ... A new future begins in the present and it has to start, obviously, deep inside of you.

Chapter Seven: Bodhisattva's Vow ... how to see each being in its essential nature, not how it appears and not how it should change ... It is very important not to judge. 

Section III: Rohatsu Sesshin - Assembly on the Enlightenment of the Buddha

Chapter One: Sitting Practice: ... "Not to feel that the importance of your life is as important as the historical Buddha, that is a conceit ... The most important thing is not zazen, but the person doing it ... Also, mind sits when life sits, so you observe it as it is. Do not be caught by valuing or evaluating."

Silence ... Persons are all carrying a concentrated, invisible force. When people gather, these different kinds of vibrations come close and merge.

Kinhin ... and maybe the last step will be toward where you sat, toward where you really can be

Facing the Wall ... face the wall to forget this small self and forgetting the self the whole universe appears.

Posture ... Your physical posture, year after year, becomes polished, and with repeated sitting, muscles become very refined ... Your muscles become very balanced so you are able to feel that almost nothing is there ... The way to find your right posture is to focus your attention on your inner feeling ... Obviously, perfect posture is not the aim. More important is continuous effort and alertness.

Chapter Two: Problems, Pain ... You have to drop all conceptions about yourself

Problems ... I feel I am so bad! ... It is ceaseless self-clinging.

Pain ... Then you discover there is incredible pain in there. Not being able to get out of it causes lots of pain again. ... It seems that zazen, sitting in a cross-legged position, unmovable, is prepared for us to feel pain. ... One important thing is to stretch your spine, not building it up from the tail bone, but you stretch by the muscle of your neck. At the same time your chest is opened up, not sunken. ... The problem is not because of the pain in your body. The pain in the undissolved suffering in your mind remains undissolved, and yet that is what you've got. ... The nervous system is like a perfect message ... "

Chapter Three: Dogen's Teaching ... the receiving mind in the silent space/time is a great treasure, because we know mind is not just staying inside of this body. It goes everywhere. ... if you touch the core of the whole thing, you can start to study from there. How you are is the basic point, and how you can be in the future is all up to you, not up to me. ... Dogen believed that the most precious jewel mankind has discovered is the opportunity to do zazen

Dogen's Advice for Sitting ... you give up self-notion, human agency, and thinking.

Chapter Four (A): Body, Mind, and Breath Sit ... The stillness of the physical position becomes a standard to measure things from, in a kind of creative process of understanding.

Mind Sits ... you open all doors and entrances of this storage room and let the sunlight in. ... It shines into the dark corners and puts things in order. Sitting is like that. ... We are always in the present, but we need to really observe what the present is, and how the past has been, to know how the future can be. ... When sesshin gets so intense, on the third or fourth day, sleep becomes so shallow and short, you can call it a "heated up" state. ...

Breath Sits ... Let your mind ride on good breathing, smooth, deep, even breathing, coming in and going out, which keeps you from slipping out of the present moment.

Chapter Four (B): Different Practices

Contemplation ... many contemplative practices: Moonlight sitting, sunlight sitting, snow sitting, rain sitting ..

Vipassana and Shamatha ... in alaya vijnana, you have no words to say "I and thou, I and you, I and that," or "they, he or she." ... in deep shamatha, balanced, still, ready to receive, or act

Koans ... The religious spirit of each person, no matter what tradition you have come from, will carry you through this time of questioning

Soto Zen ... you cannot call this "Zen" or "Buddhism.

Shikantaza ... Utter trust in your sitting appears as the continuous effort of keeping the finest posture you can make. ... Unstained. Shikantaza isn't the name of a religion, but it is a very religious way to live.

Chapter Five: Where, When, to do Zazen ... When you sit, you set aside the idea of you, yourself, as sitting. ... I find myself sitting very often for short times, all alone. ... To tell the truth, everyone sits alone. ... The important point is, when sitting takes place in life, often it is very short. ... It should be natural, not ritualized.

You have to start from the very inside of you. ... something is burning inside you which carries you around. You cannot think too much about sitting and what it is. Just do it.

Chapter Six: Forgetting the Self ... your personal existence is not sitting, but is included in sitting ... Facing the wall means to shoulder the world and forget yourself. ... Each of us discovers our best way. ... you let yourself be free to see yourself among ..."No-self" is not a doctrine, it simply describes how things are. all things ...

Sambogha Samadhi ... Something is going on, and that something has clearly achieved itself as what it is. ... You return and melt into it when you sit.

Competition and Compassion ... The Godhead, God, and yourself is one piece of existence. ... keep every moment as a treasure to do something with it.

Chapter Seven: Thoughts on Kensho, Faith, Life and Death

You relive, over and over again, something that sank into your subconscious, and is newly revealed in sitting. At work, or at home, you experience it again and again. It's like taking hundreds of photographs in your body. Each of these points of awareness is like a shutter opening and closing. You take the picture and it sinks into your subconscious feelings. Maybe one or two shots are especially impressive to you, sometimes fearful, sometimes joyful. It is like undeveloped film in your closet. When we come to sesshin and sit many times a day, all those are developed. The relationships of these perceptions become clear. We call this pratitya samutpada, "co-depending origination." You see the relationship of all things, from past to future, from high to low. You are able to look at things in all directions, in different dimensions. And your existence is part of it, your own perseverance is part of it. During sitting time this truth of how things are existing and how you are existing as a person in this world is revealed more and more clearly to you. If you push against the movement, the direction of how things are existing, you have pain. If you flow with the movement, you feel freedom.

Our Faith ... You see the law of all existence, the truth of all existences, as they are, as they are able to exist. That is what Dharma is. ...

Life and Death ... while we don't call it "life and death" each breath is new, and each breath is separate. ... You don't know if your life is eternal, or even shorter than a moment. The length doesn't matter, but the quality of it, how you experience it, is the point. ... If you wish to live longer, you will, because you have something to do...

Does God exist? ... Whether we can deal with our reality accurately, immediately, properly, that is the very immediate subject. ... From mythological times, we have believed God existed. (The last quote, about God, was in reference to Japanese culture.)...

Section IV: Nehan-e - Assembly Upon the Parinirvana of Buddha

Chapter One: Buddha's Enlightenment and Humankind

... As they began to recognize the importance of law, humankind rediscovered the way of meditation. ... Through the Precepts, the transmission of the Precepts, we understand what awakening is, what are the contents of awakening. ... When we are in the muddy road, to hate being in the muddy road doesn't do anything. The first thing is to step out of it, or find out how to walk in the muddy road. Hatred is extra. If there is some problem, kindly deal with it, take care of it yourself, in the right way. ... In primitive Buddhist orders, Precepts, meditation, and wisdom or sutra, together, are called sangaku, three learnings, and one always contains the other two.

Jukai, Receiving the Precepts

... With jukai, it is not yet achieved; but for Buddha, it is achieved, so he can say, "You're on the track."

Chapter Two: Sange

... this enormous energy of desire, this life strength, this desire to survive, causes fear. ... Seeing, hearing, sensing, intuiting the nature of utter truth are the functioning of our eyes, ears, and sense of touch. So we repent. ... Actually, when repentence, self-acknowledgement, is completed, all qualities of Buddha nature, all Precepts, are already accomplished in the existence of our avowal. ... Now I cannot do it without giving zazen deep respect. Physically, it is almost nothing, like brushing your teeth or going to bed, but it is hard to really let it arise and let me do it ...

Chapter Three: Triple Treasure

... "Buddha, Dharma, Sangha" means "ultimate awakening, truth, all beings." ... totally admit you are as you are, and totally trust in being ... We came from Truth, we are in Truth, and we will go back to Truth ... Seeing yourself as an enormous, long life is what this repentence is ... Sangha means the whole of existence

Chapter Four: Three Pure Precepts and Prohibitory Precepts

Three Pure Precepts

First, to embrace and sustain right conduct.

Second, to embrace and sustain every good.

Third, to embrace and sustain all beings.

Prohibitory Precepts

.. It doesn't matter whether you realize it or not. Bodily participation in zazen, itself, is the proof. Zazen is the concrete form of the utter belief in who you are, and there is no thinking about it, or about anything. ... Whether we exist alone or among all, these Precepts express extremely kind concern, letting us know what truth is.

Chapter Five: No Killing Life, No Stealing, No Attaching to Fulfillment ... Precepts exist to cause a dilemma for us, and a deeper understanding of what this giving/taking life is.

First Precept: No Killing Life ... If we take this Precept literally, the only way to keep it is to die without food.

Second Precept: No Stealing ... The basic recognition of this Precept contains the dilemma of possessing everything and anything, and possessing nothing. This is the human contradiction.

Third Precept: No Attaching to Fulfillment ... There is only you and Absolute Being, so there is basic confusion in having two objects as the Absolute. Yet, the ethical meaning of this Precept is quite obvious. Adultery is a confused state.

... "Self nature is mysteriously profound. Truth of no attachment. Not to give birth to attaching to loving is called 'no desiring,' 'fu in yoku,' 'no wrong, no scattered desiring.'

Chapter Six: No Illusory Words, No Selling the Wine of Delusion, No Dwelling on Past Mistakes, No Praise or Blame, No Hoarding Materials or Teachings

Fourth Precept: No Illusory Words ... We lie, tentatively, and then we get into more problems. ... It has to be worked out.

Fifth Precept: No Selling the Wine of Delusion ... The unity of energy with other existences is very delicate, and if we are intoxicated, we lose the opportunity to unite with them.

Sixth Precept: No Dwelling on Past Mistakes ... The true loving quality which appears with words is necessary if we wish to relate with other people.

Seventh Precept: No Praise or Blame ... Like a scale, always the mind acts to put yourself high and others low. In Buddha mind there is no such activity.

Eighth Precept: No Hoarding Materials or Teachings ... Even yourself doesn't belong to you! You are everything. This means you actually have no self to limit.

Chapter Seven: No Being Angry, No Abusing the Triple Treasure ... When we study the Precepts we are studying our life in a very clear way. You come to it with an empty mind.

Ninth Precept: No Being Angry ... To turn the contents of anger into wisdom, you live it and learn something from it. ...

Tenth Precept: No Abusing the Triple Treasure - Buddha, Dharma, Sangha ... To think of the Triple Treasure somewhere outside of you is the beginning of abusing, departing, from it. You are keeping yourself from it. ... From the very beginning, utter belief that you are Buddha, is required. 

Section I: Tanjo-e Sesshin - Assembly on Buddha's Birth

Chapter One: Something Brought You Here.

Avidya ... This conceptual, knowledge-based self is nothing but a game of created self-consciousness, an image of ignorance, so to speak. Life has to be freed and lived, instead of being known.

Buddha Nature ... Trusting your whole presence as Buddha nature is the first step to walk in the Buddha's way.

Silence ... Holy silence is the space where your psyche can be totally free, without hindrance.

Tapas ... In spite of living in this suffering world I continue to believe that nothing can stain the purity of each existence.

Chapter Two: Why Buddha Left Home. ... This refers to the awakening nature of our life, or the alertness required in the insecurity of constant, daily change.

Transiency ... with this awareness of the transiency of life you are driven to seek for what is called enlightenment. You want to recover that feeling of perfection.

Bodhicitta ... This way mind includes an almost painful recognition of independence.

Buddha's Birth ... it is clear he was a very unusual person, a genius, ... still he is unknown to me, full of mystery.

Buddha and Others' Suffering ... in each country, even in Japan, I started to think very similarly, how absurd life is.

Chapter Three: Mara

"All Beings are Nothing but Pain." ... this kind of sitting practice is like the root of a tree, or foundation of a building, very invisible. ... life, itself, is in pain

Personal Problems ... Basically, we have no problem, but having the right attitude to carry on our life is very important ... Even if our highest, deepest intellect reaches to the essence of our life, alas, we feel we cannot reach life, itself.

Dualism ... the recognition of our reality at the same time as we long for perfection ... with purity, dry simplicity comes, where there is almost no life ... "yes or no" and go beyond it, "right or wrong" and go beyond them, that is how to solve the dilemma of two truths.

The Armies of Mara ... Mara dwells in the unknowing being which is you ... The more we try hard, striving toward perfection, or toward a goal, the more the opposite force occurs.

Chapter Four: Finding Yourself ... the fourth day of sesshin. At the same time, you feel kind of lost, and sort of too much loosened up.

Discover Your-Own-Self ... Take absolute refuge in your own self. Depend on your own self.

Dualism as Skillful Means ... it's best to keep light-bodied, light-minded, very close to zero, but before that we want to have everything ... You will never be satisfied until you say, "yes" to yourself.

Sitting Still ... does nothing to you, but it reflects everything you have, not just a shadow of you but what you are. ... Sitting is returning to what you are, actually, and what you are is discovered in sitting by you, nobody else.

Chapter Five: Limitless Trust ... for what purpose our existence is shaped as a human body and mind. Trusting your own self, as well as giving full trust to others, is really, really hard.

Trust ... To forget oneself is, with knowledge, to give up your human way of perceiving things ... When you forget your small self the whole universe appears. ... Trust is certain knowledge, without listening to others, an intuitive field. Without speech you understand others, empathize with others. ... It is immediate understanding of others.

Faith and Confidence ... the first way you identify yourself as a Buddhist is to believe in yourself, utterly. That is the first step. If that doesn't exist, nothing can work out. ... Faith in oneself occurs even in total confusion.

Chapter Six: Buddha Tathagata. ... refers to the one who accomplished the purpose, the one who has ... "thus come and thus gone," at the same time

Tathagata ... The contents of the enlightenment experience are the same as this "Tathagata." ... means it is complete in itself, and no words are able to describe what it is. "Tatha" means "thus," "as," "it," "as a thing is," "as things are."

Buddha is nobody else but each of us. ...

Life Force ... All beings have inborn Buddha nature.

Chapter Seven: Sesshin ... My greatest, most exciting experience is to sense this practice here as something utterly new to me.

Coming Together ... when we sit and live together for a few days, without question we accept each other.

Kensho ... You don't go anywhere from kensho. Seeking to know yourself ends, and time starts. ... But along with that awareness, one's own self, body and mind, and others' own selves, bodies and minds, are cast off.

Embracing Mind ... Whoever is sitting, that person's mind embraces the whole situation, centered in that person. ... Like a treasure box you open, and start to dump out the treasure.

Goodbye ... if you become very proud of yourself without any reason, that's the biggest pit you can fall into ... . If practice doesn't touch the key point, the core, this can be an illusory enjoyment ... The key point is confidence within you about your true nature. 

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