THREE STEPS, ONE BOW
THE DAILY RECORD
Continued from issue #56
Nov. 26 – Dharma Master Heng Shoou, Upasaka Kuo Kuei, Upasaka Kuo Hui, together with the Klein family, made a meal offering. We were told that the Master had requested our presence at Gold Mountain for a day to help in the transmission of the novice precepts, so we returned with Heng Shoou. Six people had their heads shaved and formally left the home life to cultivate the Buddha path. Hung Yo’s old friends, the Leibmans, happened to come and visit on the one-day that we were there. “Now that you have shaved your heads, shave your minds,” Hung Ju told the new sramaneras and sramanerikas.
Nov. 29 – Approaching the town of Albion, we were invited to spend the evening at a Christian Commune. Not sure if it was the wises thing to do, we accepted because it was raining. They gave us each a bunk in the men’s dorm. Then they started in. Several of them surrounded each of us, working very hard to convert us. They were like high-pressure salesmen; we couldn’t even talk to them. A few months back they had a book burning in which anything that was not strictly Christian was destroyed. Thank God they have a rule that says lights out at 10 o’clock. We got up early in the morning and split.
Nov. 30 – Gert & Bill Dailey put us up for a night and filled our cart with provisions. Several years ago the Bhiksus and Bhiksunis of Gold Mountain attended the formal Dharma transmission at a large Zen temple in the area. The old Roshi, in transmitting the Dharma, very solemnly pointed to the ceiling, then to the floor, and mysteriously traced a circle in the air with his finger. Later, upon our return, someone asked what this meant. Without a moment’s hesitation another person answered, "Suddenly in the heavens, suddenly in the hells: see you in the turning wheel."
Dec. 1 – Passing through Little River, we accepted an invitation to stay at the Little River Zen Farm. It’s a small country Zendo in the Japanese-American tradition. Their Ch’an Hall has a big stereo in it.
Many people, when they hear the world Buddhism, think of Zen because of its increasing popularity in the West at present. The full world is Zenna, which is the Japanese pronunciation of the world Ch’an No. Ch’an No, or Ch’an, is in turn the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit word dhyana. Dhyana means “stilling the mind,” and is the process undertaken in Buddhist meditation. Sakyamuni Buddha once silently held up a flower. His disciple, the Venerable Mahakasyapa, smiled slightly, indicating that he understood the Buddha’s meaning. The essence of this mind-to-mind transmission of the Dharma has been passed on from patriarch to patriarch, right up to the present day. The Ch’an or Dhyana school allows no particular characteristics by which it can be pinned down. In general, however, four descriptive statements are traditionally ascribed to it. They are: 1) A direct pointing to the mind of man. 2) Seeing the nature and becoming a Buddha. 3) A special transmission outside the teaching. 4) A lack of dependence on language.
Dec. 2 – We had an interview with the editor of the local newspaper, and Kuo Tun came up with lunch and a SVEA stove from Kuo Tsong and K’uei.
OUTFLOWS. Morality, samadhi, and wisdom are called the three non-outflow studies. They are the core of loss. Common people every day waste and scatter their energies, thus slowly depleting their vital life force. A cultivator learns how to re-circulate and develop this energy. In the practice of morality the aspirant undertakes certain mental and physical disciplines. For example, there are the five very basic ones such as no killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and not taking intoxicants. The power that comes from diverting these habits is awesome and can be put to all manner of constructive use. Vows, rules, and precepts should not be thought of as restrictions; they are controls, which yield beneficial power. When a person cuts off the flow of bad karma, this energy can be used to build, create, learn, and teach. In the non-outflow study of samadhi it becomes more subtle. Sexual activity is the biggest outflow, and by diverting it, one can enter extremely far-out states of mind. Careful watch must be maintained over the six senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind), as the bottled up energy seeks to escape. For instance, the essence of the self-nature may want to run out the eyes and indulge in form, but then samadhi is lost. Non-outflow wisdom arises with the perfection of morality and samadhi. When the mind becomes calm the inherent Buddha-nature can be perceived.
Dec. 3 - In the Vajra Sutra there is a line, which says: "Even the dharma must be given up, how much the more what is not dharma." This means that certain dharmas, that is, methods of practice, are used to take the common person into the realm of the sage. In order to arrive at this state of true understanding, one must not be attached to anything, including the methods used to get there. For example, after crossing the river, it would be useless to carry a canoe around at all times. So the Buddha says that even his dharma must be ultimately given up. What is not dharma should also be given up, for it is useless to practice something, which does not bring about understanding. The effect of the Buddha's statement here is to sever attachments to the idea that there is actually something called the Way according to which one must cultivate, or that there is a self which does so. There is no Way and no cultivator in reality. On the other hand, the Buddha admonishes us even more not to become enamored of the idea that something, which is not dharma, is also existent.
Dec. 4 - In Fort Bragg the local priest came out and asked me, "Where are you going in such a slow and painful manner?"
I think people fail to realize that bowing is not painful at all. In fact it is good exercise, both physical and mental. What is difficult is trying to explain it. Physically, we have never been in better shape. The muscles have become strong and flexible, and we haven't been sick, even with all this foul weather. We just bow at a steady pace, not so fast as to work up a sweat. Mentally, it is good discipline and an exercise in concentration. It affords real opportunities to practice being unmoved by the eight winds, which constantly blow in the world. These eight winds are: happiness and sadness; benefit and decay; profit and loss; praise and slander. If a person can learn to be calm and a still while these winds blow, then his samadhi power and wisdom will grow stronger every day.
Another good point in bowing is that it can help remove karmic obstacles. Karmic obstacles are those forces, which prevent one from making progress in cultivation of the Way, such as Old Black Habit Energy. This energy of old habits is sometimes difficult to break, but if one can take all that energy and turn it around, then it can become highly beneficial. For example, when people are young they have no fear of death; they romp and stomp and run around without the slightest care. Now if this energy can be turned into cultivation, with no fear of suffering or even death, then the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will smile in approval, and the Way can be quickly accomplished.
To be continued
Bhiksus Heng Ju and Heng Yo bow through a bitter Pacific Northwest winter.
MEDICINE: ITS NATURE AND APPLICATION
Everything has a nature. If you understand the nature of a thing you can interact with it in an appropriate manner without upsetting the balance of natural laws. Failure to understand can create disharmony; you may bring Injury, unrest, or even destruction to yourself and your surroundings. If you wish to look more deeply Into this principle, you will find the weekend classes on "Medicine: Its Nature and Application" of interest. The classes will be held on Saturday or Sunday afternoon at Gold Mountain during the 1975 summer study and practice workshop. For registration information call or write Gold Mountain Monastery—soon!