Tick Tock Teisho

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Nothing within your mind is more important than focusing upon this moment, posture, breath, and the open and receptive mind - Zen Mind, empty mind. Even during day-to-day activities this focus is important.

When you come to the Temple, everything you do here is important, designed to reinforce your attention to this focus, to your Zen Mind. Coming in the door, bowing to the altar, removing your shoes, washing your hands, chanting, more bowing, finally sitting still. All these actions are guides to the focus of empty mind. In the day-to-day world, this clear vision, unobstructed by distracting thoughts and illusions, makes life easier, more appropriate, in fact may even save your life.

Nothing in the mind is more important than focusing on this moment. That’s a speed bump that is a little hard to get over. No matter how exciting and thrilling the events of yesterday may have been, reliving them is impossible; yesterday is gone. And now you have to plan an important event, a party for tomorrow. Okay, when you finish zazen, devote yourself 100% to that. With paper and pencil you make your list, you check off your activities and do your planning. Zazen = no thought, no thinking; observe the mental activity with empty mind. Returning to Zen Mind is where we’re at; whatever trick you use, whatever method you have developed, or that I may have suggested, to return to Zen Mind throughout the day, whether it be focusing on the breath, repeating a mantra, anything to cut off those wandering thoughts.

During instruction we say, "Just allow the thoughts to pass unhindered." This is true, but may not be good enough, effective enough. Sometimes those thoughts cling to you as much as you cling to them. They may need a little push. Cut off the thoughts, say your mantra, and draw into tanden. Looking at the world outside from this state of mind is like -- the sun coming up in the morning, burning off the night mist, clearing away the shadows; objects become more defined, colors become brighter, more brilliant and gleaming. It’s like looking with a new eye, a third eye, one you haven’t used before; an eye that does not see in the same way as our physical eyes....Because it is not clouded by thoughts and illusions that are constantly pursuing us, or that we are pursuing.

I remember back in the '60s, when I was a hippy; we thought that there were certain drugs that could create enlightenment. (Please continue doing zazen, this is important information for your Zen Mind, and sitting still reinforces that condition of the mind.) Drugs that we thought would induce enlightenment did in fact give us a new vision, a third eye, we saw things in a different light, but enlightenment itself requires more than just a new way of looking. It requires discipline and practice, wisdom; all things that develop during the process of zazen. These are the things that we are training ourselves to do by the rituals that we perform at the Temple. But this clear vision, enlightened seeing, is perhaps what they mean when they talk about satori, or kensho, a way of seeing directly to the heart of what is going on. It is refreshing, stimulating, it’s exciting, but it doesn’t hang around man, after the (laughs out loud) after the drug of zazen wears off. We’re right back to muddled thinking, clinging to feelings and ideas. It behooves us to be Buddhas at all times, when we’re not practicing zazen, maintaining that Zen Mind, that clarity throughout the day.

With the third eye you can see the little subtle indications that something is about to happen. Things that we ignore when we’re involved in our thoughts, things that you can see, when you’re driving that someone is about to do something dangerous, and will allow you to avoid the close calls, the accidents that occur when we’re engaged in such a dangerous occupation. This is a good illustration, driving a car becomes second nature to most of us, it becomes automatic; we don’t even have to think about it anymore. We just do what we need to do to get where we’re going. We make the car go and most often arrive where we intend to ... But things happen. Because we don’t have to think about the driving, we don’t. We think about the party we’re planning, about the exciting date we had the night before. We think about the great book we’re going to write. Personally, I’m a writer, and I spend a good deal of time in fantasy, in order to create my characters and situations. Actually I create the characters, they create their own situations. But I have learned to distinguish between my fantasies and the reality of the present moment. Though these fanciful thoughts are more entertaining than the mundane thoughts required by my driving job, indulging in them is certainly not as important as focusing on the present in order to avoid a dangerous or possibly hazardous situation... "Nothing in the mind is more important than focusing on the present moment."

There is always a good reason for occupying the mind. But there is a very good reason for not occupying the mind. Being involved in thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow is being involved in illusion. We only have this moment; we cannot live in the past or the future. Now is the only reality. You must be focused upon this moment. It is all you have. Certainly, you can’t do zazen all the time, but you can return to Zen Mind at any time. Zazen teaches us how to achieve Zen Mind; it shows us the way. During our daily activities, we sometimes lose the way; we lose our focus on the moment. We allow our thoughts and illusions to distract us, to cloud our vision. Use those tricks like cutting off thoughts, focusing on breath for a moment, retreating into tanden. Shake off the illusion, return to the present; enter into Zen Mind once again. But keep practicing zazen so that you will always know how to find your way.

Oops, I almost forgot to identify this tape. It’s Sunday morning, October 5, 2003. Please continue with zazen.

(Five minutes later.) Here’s a little test, a clue....When the traffic stops outside, can you hear the clock ticking?

(At the end of the service, after announcements.) Please plan to attend the three-day sesshin starting on October 30th and ending at noon on Sunday. In the meantime, keep listening for the clock.