Making Peace: the World as One Body, a 2012 Dharma Talk by Roshi Bernie Glassman
Roshi Bernie Glassman at Upaya
Roshi Bernie Glassman gave this series of dharma talks during a workshop atÂ the Upaya Zen Center in August 2012 on non-duality, non-separateness, and the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers.
So, I woke up this morning and took my morning bath, which I really enjoy because I have arthritis in all my joints. And a hot bathâa Jacuzzi is the bestâbut a hot bath is good. And a lot of things come up when I take my baths. So, I want to share this morning.
I started to think aboutâI was picturingâmy daughter and her husband, and their new baby. They adopted a baby about six weeks ago now. And the child, his name is Milo. Milo had a urinary infection, and they kept him in the hospital to do some checking and things. And my daughter and son-in-law stayed in the hospital with him. Then I went to be with them. He was about ten days old. And they both had taken off from work for about three months. Heâs a teacher, so for him it was time-off anyway.
And the whole scene was so beautiful. They were really bonding. You know, a new baby gets hungry, and you feed it. Then itâs got a little gas, so you help him burpâget rid of some of the gas. And then he has bowel movements or somethingâyou change the diapers.
And of course when you have a newâitâs their first childâand you donât know (some parents do know) whatâs the right thing to do. And of course thereâs been many books written about whatâs the right way of bringing up children. Iâve had two children of my own, and theyâre now in their mid-forties. But when we had them, we had our bible books on how to raise children. Everybody has their bible books. And thereâs always new books being written.
And youâd think that after our children have been born now for a long, long time, right? And youâd think by now thereâs probably a book, the way to bring up children. And of course parentsâeven before the child arrivesâare reading all these books, and figuring out which is the best way, and the right way, and whatever. But we really donât know, huh?
And to watch them, at first, thereâs very deep listening. They wouldnât say theyâre deep listening, but youâre really paying attention to the child and reacting. And it was an intense time of bearing witness. Youâre justâyou and the child, as I described yesterdayâthere was one body, the three of them, and automatically, actions come up. Hereâs a bottle. Time to burp. Time to clean. And things happen. Like, itâs a boy, and during the initial first few times of cleaning, after he dropped his load you know, there was a time when he peed all over them. You donât get angry. You automatically sort of figure out whatâs a better way of holding? Whatâs a better position so Iâm not in the way of the stream of consciousness (or whatever stream)? And it struck me this morning that that is another way of talking about bearing witnessâthat bonding that arises.
When my wife and I moved here in â97 or â98âJoan says itâs â97, I know it was Marchâand she died. My wife died unexpectedly. And Joanâs father died. And Joan and I went through a bonding timeâI think. We spent a lot of time together. We were bearing witness. I was certainly bearing witness to my wife passing. And I never met Joanâs father, but we talked and shared. And it was more not the words, but thereâs a bonding that goes on, thereâs a bearing witness.
And out of that comes actions. And you can call those actions âloving actions.â I call any actions that arise out of the state of deep listening. In the Zen Peacemakers we have three tenets. The first one, not knowing, which literally does not mean ignorance. It does not mean not having knowledge. It means deep listeningânot being attached to any of the ideas you have. We have many ideas, and many concepts, and a lot of knowledge. And I for one feel that the more we have, the better, but the attachments to any of those create problems. So when I talk about not knowing, I mean not being attached to any of those. Viewing themâif I want to label themâI would label them as âopinions.â And our second tenet is bearing witness. And in a technical sense, thatâs non-duality. But, I think bonding is a beautiful word.
And the state of bearing witness, for those who know science fiction, I use the word âgroking.â Thatâs from the book Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Bonding has a sense of practice. To be bonded, then youâre in that state of non-dualityâthat state of bearing witness.
And in Zen koan study, thereâs a structure that a man named Hakuin (a Japanese Zen teacher) created. And at first, youâre trying to experience the state of emptiness, and then the state of what we call the source of what is there before we even have a label called emptiness. And thatâs what I call the not-knowing state. And bearing witness, we have a term in sitting we call shikantazaâjust sitting. That is a state of bearing witness to the wholeness of lifeâif itâs done right.
And koan study takes you into different situations where youâre supposed to become the situation. Again, bear witness to the situation, and then express that situation. And thatâs the loving actions. They arise out of those two.
And the word loving is a judgmental thing, so an action arises. For some it might be loving, and for some it might be terrible, you know? But the action that arises, I call loving actions (Iâm not fully happy with that term).
But I canât think of a better metaphor than being in the presence of my kids and my grandchild, and seeing what was going on. There was no fixed idea of âoh, this is what weâve gotta do.â And there was a total bearing witness to this young little infant. And out of the situation, things arose. Feeding, bathing, holding, smiling. So, in a way itâs so simple, huh? Itâs so simple.
And a question that comes up is âwhat do I mean by practice?â or âwhatâs my opinion on practice?â Thereâs a Japanese termâitâs actually a Chinese character, kyo, and a sutra thatâs chanted a lot in the Zen world called the Heart Sutra, and it starts off Kanzeon Bosa. So Kanzeon Bosa is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, or Kanzeon Bodhisattva. Bosa is bodhisattva. And kyo âitâs a very common wordâit means to walk. Itâs a simple word, so it appears everywhere, you know? I believe when the light goes green it says kyo âto walk. Just the way we use walk.
But in the Buddhist world, kyo means practice. So when you take the Heart Sutraâand youâll see many different translations, Iâm always curious to see what word people use to translate that kyo. Sometimes itâs translated as practice. Very rarely is it translated as walking. But, my English translation for that word, kyo, is keep on trucking. So that has the flavor of the walking, but also as a practice. As a practice, itâs a very simple thing.
And in a more technical way, when I think of practice, thereâs two sensesâtwo ways. If I say in the common English thing, âweâre practicing things.â And also the practice as an absolute for me is a non-dual state. So if I say âwork/practice,â itâs doing work in a non-dual way. If I say âzazen,â I would think zazen is seated meditation. And if I, doing it in a non-dual way, then itâs what Dogen would say zazenâor somebody would sayââZazen is the teacher.â Its non-duality is the teacher. Â You can do seated meditation in a very dualistic way. And most of us do do it that way. Itâs not so simple to be in a non-dual way. And at the same time, it is simple. Everything that we do is really in a non-dual way. But, because of our way of thinking, we think itâs dual.
So for me, when I talk about socially engaged Buddhism, what that means to me is things we do out of that state of bearing witnessâout of that state of not knowing and bearing witness. So thatâs pretty inclusive.
When my kids are taking care of their son, they would not say, âOh, Iâm helping him.â They wouldnât say, âIâm serving him.â Theyâre just doing. Thatâs socially engaged Buddhism for me. So for me, socially engaged Buddhism is doing things out of thatâout of the interconnectedness of life. If Iâm not doing it out of that, but Iâm doing it because, âOh thereâs something wrong and Iâve got to fix it,â that I would call social engagement, but I wouldnât call it socially engaged Buddhism. Because the way I define Buddhismâitâs the awakening to the oneness of life. So itâs social engagement out of that interconnectedness.
Now, weâre all in some path, and Koba Daishi could tell you where you are in terms of your enlightened state, depending what you are, and many of you (especially since youâre here) many people want to experienceârealize and experienceâthat interconnectedness of life. So they do upayas. So if you work with me in socially engaged Buddhism, itâs not just to do things that society would call social engagement. Itâs to do it out of that. And so I would come up with upayas to help learn how to do that. Just in the same way as if you studied being with dying here, itâs going to be different than some other formal ways of dealing with dyingâwhere itâs a separate person, thereâs no bearing witness to whatâs happening, thereâs no being in that space. Itâs very dualistic. It doesnât mean that we can do that so simply, but we can certainly go and study and learn ways to do that. And many of us want to do that.
So for me, socially engaged Buddhism is also a way of life, and itâs an upaya. Itâs a way of doing the practice, as we were talking about yesterdayâso many different ways. I could do a practice of getting to experience the oneness of life. My practice could be koan studying. It could be psychological studies. It could be philosophical studies. Tendai sect is a sect thatâs more on the psychological and philosophical ways. It could be Shingonâesoteric waysâall kinds of ways, all kinds of ways, all kinds of upayas.
And so the three tenets of not knowing, bearing witness and loving actions, they all need upayas. Itâs not so easy to lead your life without attachments to your ideas. And in fact, zazen is one of those ways of helping let go of those attachments, let those attachments dissolve, fall away. But there are many ways of doing that. And Iâve created some of my own. I call one of them plungesâwhere I bring folks into a situation where the rational brain doesnât think so well, it canât comprehend whatâs happening. Itâs a scene where that doesnât work. Koan study is another thing of that. And of course in Zen there have been different people that have come up with simple âaaahhh!â like screaming. Thatâs a way of getting rid of some of that kind of attachment. Thereâs hitting with sticks. I take people into the streets. I take people into the streets, not as a protest. I take people into the streets as a plunge, as a way of experiencing something which the brain canât rationalize. And I keep you there, so thatâs the bearing witness.
There are some things, some plunges that we take where bearing witness is easier to happen than others. Being with somebody whoâs dyingâthatâs a plunge. Our brain does not know whatâs going on. And especially if the person is close, but if youâre doing it as a practice, bearing witness happens very easily. And then what you do arises out of the situation. Maybe wiping the brow, maybe chanting, who knows? But itâs not premeditated like, âI learned these techniques, and this is what Iâm gonna do in that situation.â If weâre doing it with these three tenets as a practice, then itâs what comes up, what arises out of that state of bearing witness. Even if you havenât reached the state of non-duality, still things will arise.
So for me, practiceâyou could have sitting practice, you could have work practice, you could have social action practice, you could have chanting practice. If I put the word practice after something with a hyphen, I mean doing it in a non-dual state. And then the other way of looking at practice is âwhat are upayas so that I can experience that in a non-dual way?â
Let me see if thereâs some questions about that because this is important.
Questioner 1: When you talk about the non-dual state, are you talking about that state of not knowing? Is that one and the same? Are you talking about more than that, sort of mind and action before thought? Can you say a little bit more about non-dual state?
Bernie: Yeah. What I call not knowing is a non-dual state. And we can practice, we can be aware of our dualities, as weâre practicing, trying to learn oneâs non-duality. So I mentioned before that in koan study we try to get you to experience the state of emptiness. You call that non-dual, but if itâs got the label âemptiness,â itâs dual. The same way not knowing, if youâre calling it ânot knowing,â itâs dual. And then we try to get you to experience the state before we give it that label of emptiness. In the world of physics the non-dual state is the state before the Big Bang. In the Kabbalah in Jewish mysticism, thereâs a state before God. God is already into a dual state. So, shifting to physics, the Big Bang happens. That could be looked at as God, and then everything becomes a manifestation of that. It sort of all evolves. But thereâs a state before that, before the Big Bang happened. So, same with not knowingâthereâs a state where we canât call it not knowing. Thatâs the real non-dual state. Once I call it not knowing, Iâm now working in the wrong relativity and duality and stuff. Does that make sense to you?
Questioner 2: I just wanted to continue with this. So I understand the mother analogy. Iâve been a mother.
Bernie: You are, probably still are.
Questioner 2: I am a mother.
Bernie: And that relates to somebody else who said, âDoes it last foreverâthat particular state?â It lasts forever, and yet itâs different.
Questioner 2: Yes. It evolves constantly. You know, Iâm trying to get a feeling sense of this non-dual. And so I can refer back to an infant, and that feeling sense of being an infant. And yet when I go into the world, and practice that non-dual . . .
Bernie: Letâs stop for one second, and look a little closer at that sentence, âWhen I go into the world,â and where are you leaving?
Questioner 2: Thatâs true.
Bernie: Where are you exiting from?
Questioner 2: OK.
Bernie: So really, weâre in to some kind of ideas, right? You have a notion of something thatâs not the world, and something that is the world.
Questioner 2: So I have a memory. I have a memory of a sensation, a memory of a feeling.
Bernie: Of not being in the world?
Questioner 2: No, of non-duality in taking care of an infant. Weâre using thatâIâm using that analogy. So, I have that sensation, that feeling. Thatâs a memory, but itâs still living in me. And Iâm trying to understandâIâm pushing this non-duality understanding a little bit more. Thereâs a sense inâIâve been trying to practice these three tenetsâand how Iâve been working with the not knowing is by being open. When Iâm in a situation, when I go into hospice and I donât know what Iâm going to meet, Iâll use that example. Iâm going into hospice and Iâm meeting someone newâI practice just being open. And then bearing witness to whatâs actually there, and seeing sometimes I say something, sometimes I donât say something. When the healing arises out of it Iâm really tryingâmy practice is trying to just be open. Thatâs how Iâve translated not knowing. And when youâve got a newborn baby, thatâs what youâre doing, youâre being totally open to it. And responding to justâyouâre just open. Thereâs no conditions, youâre just total response. So in the practice, in developing the practice of not knowing, when youâre working with, letâs say going into a hospice situation, or your working with a child, itâs very poignant, itâs very you know, up front, real. Theyâre present. You canât help but be there. In the daily practice of going to work, you know, dealing with the landlord, whatever, whatever, whatever, thatâs what I mean by, âgoing into the world,â itâs not as clear-cut. The practice is not as clear-cut.
Bernie: OK. So Iâm still a little confused. Iâm confused about the terminology of âgoing into the world.â So Iâm trying to grok what it is that you mean by âgoing into the world.â
Questioner 2: And Iâm trying to grok what you mean by ânot knowing.â
Bernie: Yeah. And also, when you talk about not knowing, I want to differentiate the two phases, because you talk about the practice of not knowing. So when you gave birth, you didnât worry about the practice of not knowing. You were just there. So, then you were in that state of not knowing. You werenât practicing to get into the state of not knowing. And then later with the hospice work, you were talking about practicing to get into that state of not knowing.
Questioner 2: Well the practice comes from not . . .
Bernie: Being in it.
Questioner 2: Shifting my action from wanting to go in to help, or fixâand taking a step back.
Bernie: Yeah. But did you have any of that when you gave birth?
Questioner 2: No.
Bernie: OK. So Iâm just differentiating between the state of not knowing, and doing upayas or ways to get into a state of not knowing. And then what Iâm hearing when you talk about going into the worldâand correct me because these are subtle little words, termsâwhat Iâm hearing is when you say, âgoing into the world,â is dealing with situations youâre familiar with.
Questioner 2: Yeah, thereâs habitual response.
Bernie: Well, you think thereâs habitual response. As our bossâmy boss, I donât know if heâs your boss, but I have a boss, his name is Shakyamuni Buddhaâand he said, âEverything is change.â Everything is change. So what we call âhabitual,â turns out to be in our head. This moment is completely new. Completely new! So, is this the world? That is extra to the moment arising. The moment arises, and I can label it âthe world,â or ânot the world,â I could label it in all kinds of ways. And I can say, âOh, it came up in the old habitual way,â but thatâs me creating those labels, that kind of thinking process. Thereâs an expressionâI donât know if itâs Japanese or Japanese Buddhistâthat says, âIf you meet someone you havenât seen for two seconds, donât think itâs the same person.â If you meet a sunrise, donât think itâs the same. You know? Immediately we say, âOh, thatâs a sunrise.â But can you greet every moment as brand new? Not so simple. Not so simple. But is there something that happens thatâs not of this world? I donât know what that would be. I donât know what that would be. Itâs our way of thinking that this is the world and thatâs not the world. If I go to a monastery, Iâm getting out of the world. Why? A monasteryâs not the world, you know? Itâs a different scene. Some of them have tatamis, black cushions. Some have red cushions. Itâs a different scene, but is it not the world? Whatâs the world and whatâs not the world? I donât know. For me, every moment, itâs the whole thing, man. Itâs the whole thing. Whatâs memories? You talk about memories . . .
Questioner 2: Is that continual practice? That process, is that continual practice?
Bernie: When I talk about continuous practice, itâs very similar to when I talk about keep on trucking, so itâs always the two senses. One sense is that you just keep doing, and another sense is that youâve got all these questions about whatâs going on, and so youâre seeking new practices, new upayas, new ways of doing. So when you say, âyou,â if youâre referring to me, Iâve become this simple Brooklyn guy that just, I just wake up. I smoke my cigar. I drink my coffee if some bodhisattva comes along and offers me coffee. And everywhere I go there seems to be beautiful bodhisattvas appearing, bringing coffee, and if the altitudeâs high, telling me I gotta drink water. And I drink water, you know? And Iâve been involved in Zen for more than fifty-five years, and for many of those years I was seeking particular practices to try toâwell I donât want to be too flip butânow, I just enjoy my coffee, if it occurs, you know? But, it is endless.
And so I do think we are on this path of continuous practice. Later weâll talk aboutâsomebody asked aboutâafter death I think. Weâll talk a little about that. That I donât think could ever stop. I did want to also just question the word âmemories.â You talked about memories of when you gave birth. And memories seem to have a sense of past, huh? So, a memoryâsee I think everything is just now, and I think things come up and we label it as memories. So, I donât think itâs out of your system. I donât think any of this is out of the system. Of course, I think itâs all interconnected. And whatâs fascinating is weâll have something we could call a dream or a memory. But theyâre now. Right? Itâs now. So a memory is like remembering a piece of oneâs self that we might have forgotten. And something occurs, and now we remember it, but itâs all now. Weâre just remembering something thatâs a part of us, even if it seems to be on another continent, or even in another galaxy, or a different universe. Weâre just getting flashes of something thatâs usâthat we had forgotten, maybe had never even remembered before. So all of a sudden, we could label it a visionâitâs all us. Thatâs how I see it, in my opinion.
Questioner 3: So, Iâm a young practitioner/beginner.
Bernie: Me too.
Questioner 3: Cool. So I used to feel like spaciousness was like, you know, so great. And you know, some times Iâm like, âOh, Iâm feeling so spacious, this must be a really goodâI must be doing well.â And then when Iâm walking around in that state, I feel like I canât see the other person. I can only see my âspaciousness.â So Iâm beginning to feel like that is a hindrance in my own practice. You know, I used to feel like this must be the non-dual state. You know, obviously Iâm mistaken, I think. So Iâm wondering what to do with that. You know, like it arises, and it fades. But sometimes it doesnât fade, and Iâm speaking with somebody, and Iâm like, Iâm so present right now, but really Iâm not present, because I can only see my own spaciousness, and I can hardly even see the other person, even though I feel like, you know, Iâm doing such a great job. So Iâm wondering how to like, work with that.
Bernie: How to work with being spacious?
Questioner 3: Well I feel like itâs a hindrance when it comes to likeânow the whole non-dual state, you know Iâm kind of like, it will happen. If it happens, it happens. If not, Iâll just keep on truckinâ like you said. But I feel like zazen piousness is a hindrance to realizing non-duality for me.
Bernie: Yeah. So, in my opinion, man, the hindrance is the attachment to that spaciousness. Spaciousness itself isâitâs spaciousness, you know. Then you label it âgreat,â or âbad,â just like any other experience. And the ones that you label âgreat/wonderful,â youâve got an attachment to. You want to recreate it. You want to be in that. Thatâs the hindranceâthe attachment. If you havenât experiencedâwe have a term, makyo, objects of the devil, ma is devil, kyo, objectsâobjects of the devil. And what are they? Anything that we attach to. So sometimes a makyo could be just beautiful, âaaahhh! Man, Iâm in bliss, and Iâve got to recreate that.â That happens a lot with drugs. You can get into some beautiful states, âand Iâve got to get back there, man!â You know, itâs the attachment thatâs the problem, not the state. And some things we say, âThatâs awful! I got to get rid of that.â And that of course, our boss talks about, right? He said that weâve got problems, right here in River City. And some of the problems arise because we want things that we donât have. And some of the problems arise because we want to get rid of things that we do have. And what causes those problems? The attachmentsânot the thing itself. The thing itself is the thing itself. Some moments of spaciousness are fantastic.
Questioner 3: But my thing is, I canât see, you know. When Iâm sitting all day and I walk and I need to like engage with a person on a real level, on a real human level, not like a transcendental level, and Iâm still spacious you know? I canât see the other person. And Iâm not attached to it; the spaciousness is just like clouding my vision. I canât let it go.
Bernie: The only reason that you canât see that person is because youâre attached. You canât say youâre not attached.
Questioner 3: I feel like I need to snap out of it is the thing.
Bernie: Snap out of what?
Questioner 3: Snap out of like being all spaced out.
Bernie: Yeah. In my opinion itâs got to do with the attachments. So, what do you do with it, because we have attachments? So what I hear you saying is that you have a strong attachment to this idea of spaciousness. You had to label it âspaciousness,â right? And youâre attached to it, and you meet somebody and you canât meet that person without being in that state of spaciousness.
Questioner 3: Or being zonked out.
Bernie: âZonked out.â So, what youâre asking is âI need some help man, in letting go of that attachment to spaciousness.â Youâre putting it a different way. Iâm putting it that the issue is âHow do I let go of that?â
Let me give you an example. OK, so my name is Bernie, and Iâve wanted to be a great carpenter. And so I went and I studied carpentry. And I heard of these different places where you could study carpentry. And I went to Sweden, and I studied carpentry. And I knew I wanted to collect knowledge of the Swedish way of doing carpentry. So I got to Sweden and I study all the Swedish carpentry, and I buy all the toolsâthey have special tools. And I put the tools in my bag. And I put the manuals in my bag, so Iâve got all this stuff in my bag. Then I go to Japan. Theyâve got another way of doing carpentry. And I study their ways, and I put the manuals in my bag. And I buy all the tools, and I put the tools in my bag. And then I go back to where I came from. And Iâm from New York, so I go to upstate New York. Thereâs a group that used to live there called the Shakers, and they did another kind of carpentry. And I studied their way of carpentry. And bought the tools and I put them in. And I went around and around, man. And I really know carpentry.
OK, so now Iâm gonna have Bernie and Bernie. The first Bernie is attached to one of the thingsâone of the tools. And his handâwhat does it mean to be attachedâhis hand is holding one of the tools. And heâs going around like this, see, when heâs doing his job. And somebody calls up and says, âHey Bernie, I got a door thatâs not functioning right. Can you fix it?â âOh sure I can fix it. Iâve got all the knowledge. Iâve got the tools, and Iâve got a special tool, man.â And I go, and I take the door, and I take out my special tool that Iâm attached to and Iâm banging, banging, banging, banging . . . and I break the door. Â âSorry, Iâll buy you a new door.â There, I fix it, by buying a new door.
The other Bernie has the same bag, but heâs not attached to it, to any of those tools. Theyâre all there. And so he goes. The same person calls, âCan you fix my door?â âI can try. Iâ donât know if Iâll fix it, but Iâll go try.â And I go, and I move the door. I try to grok the door. âOh yeah, yeah,â and I reach in, and I pull out some oil, and I oil the hinges. âAh yeah, oh, I feel a lot better,â and I get some sandpaper and I do a little sanding. âAh, oh that feels good.â
So in your case, youâre filling up a bag of tools of wisdomâtools of non-dualityâtools of the Buddha way. You happen to be attached to one of them, and the question really is how to let go of that? Thereâs nothing wrong with those tools. Thereâs nothing wrong with spaciousness, or with non-duality, or with zazen, or with chanting. Thereâs nothing wrong with any of those things. But you, in your studies, somehow you got attached to something. And you could say âOh no, I didnât get attached, it just happened.â Well, who are you blaming, man? Are you blaming the thingâthe tool? The tool causes the attachment? It came up. What you donât know is how to get rid of itâthat attachment. But thatâs the only way of getting out of that. Once you do, you can walk in your spacious way, âHiya! Hey! Kenzo, man, I havenât seen you in along time!â So, whateverâs coming up, you canât blame it on whatâs coming upâI think.
In my opinion, our issues are all around the attachments to our opinions of whatâs coming upâor ideas. If it were really opinions, youâd be free. Opinions have no rights or wrongs, theyâre just opinions. But we have lots of rights and wrongs. And things that we think are good all of the sudden become trapsâwe think.
The state is not the trap. Our attachment to that state is the trapâin my opinion.
Questioner 4: So, it leads me to a question that I had last night after the sesshin. I was thinking Iâm very opinionated. And I notice that I have like preferences for exampleâpreferences and opinions. And then I was just thinking, âoh I need to kind of work on it to be a little bit free.â And then I guess that was my question. That you know, like when you believe in something and you realize that youâre tangled in your own opinions, so that you can not really experience what is. And then Iâm either tangled up to the opinion, and then whatever my action is so tangled up. So what comes up for me as an action is either very reactionary, or like coming out from my head. So it just basically feels like thereâs a gap in between. But Iâm just wondering that my thinking aboutâOK I have to work on my opinion to be free from opinions itselfâor my preference.
Bernie: Iâm glad you brought that up. In my opinion thereâs no problem with preferences. So again, itâs the attachment to that preference. So I prefer vanilla ice cream over chocolate ice cream. If Iâm attached to that preference, means I would never even taste chocolate ice cream. But if I taste vanilla and chocolate, and I prefer vanillaâthereâs nothing wrong with that. Thatâs my preference. Iâm not saying one is right, and one is wrong. So I would not tell, âGenjo, you should eat vanilla ice cream, because thatâs better than chocolate ice cream.â My own preferenceâI would never tell you that you should start smoking cigars, but I like to smoke cigars. Iâm not attached to it. So a preference is an opinion. And you can have opinions and you can get attached to your opinions. You can get attached to your preferences. And that creates the problemâitâs always in the attachmentsânot in the thing itself. Things always arise, and you donât have to like them. And you can do things around it.
Iâm gonna talk a little about our Auschwitz retreat. Because when I decided to organize the retreat at Auschwitz, I spent about a year and half trying to get as many different opinions to come there. And there are a lot of attachments to those particular opinions. That happens when we have a diverse group. So for me it becameâthere were a number of themes, but the most important theme for me of that retreat is how we deal with diversity. So there was a lot of suffering in the room. The first retreat was about 150 people. And every morning we do councilâmany of you know what council is. And during the day weâll sit on the tracks by Birkenau, near the selection site where Dr. Mengele chose some people to go to the gas chambers directly, and some to go to slave labor. If you looked like you couldnât workâyou were too weak to workâor if you were a child, too young to work, you went right to the gas chambers. If you look like you could do some work, you go to slave labor. And in the evening we formed a pleniary. We all came together and we chose different people to talk. The teacher at Auschwitz is what I would call non-duality. None of us are the teachers there. Itâs the place is the teacher. And the place in and of itself is just the place.
So we divide the group into small groups for council, and we do it so that each group has a bit of diversity. So in my group last year, thereâs a womanâthe first day we did some introductionsâand she said sheâs been thinking of coming to this retreat for ten years. Sheâs German, and her grandfather was S.S. and worked in the camps. And she was afraid to come because she was afraid she would meet a Polish person, or a Jewish person. And then thereâs a man in the group, he said heâd been thinking of coming for eight years, but he was afraid. He was a Polish person, and he was afraid he would meet a German person.
So, they had preferences. The German woman had a preference of not wanting to meet a Jewish person or a Polish person. And she was attached to that preference. And because of that attachment, she couldnât comeâcouldnât come. And that Polish guy had a preference. He didnât want to meet a German person. But he was attached to that. Because of the attachment, he wouldnât come. Somehow they let go of that attachment enough to come, but still that attachment was somewhat there. But they came, and they bore witness to each other. And by the third day, loving actions arose. They were hugging each other. Their attachments had fallen away.
Audience member: Maybe even their preferences.
Bernie: Maybe even their preferences. Maybe those preferences, once the attachment was gone, also fell away. That is, everything is constant change. And when the attachments fall away, opinions and preferences can also fall awayâbut not always. But they arenât the problem. Itâs the attachments that are the problem. And thereâs not one of us in this roomâin my opinionânone of us have a set of opinions thatâs exactly the same even for a few minutes. So I do this kind of talking, and weâre doing this kind of dialog, and a lot of our opinions and preferencesânot preferences so much, but opinions start shifting. Preferences is we do something, we like it, you know? But the attachment is a bit extra.
So I prefer zazen overâI prefer Zen kind of practice over Tibetan practice. But Iâll do Tibetan practices. You know, itâs not strong enough. Iâm not attached, but itâs my preference. I like to sit still. I like simple things. I like to sit on the porch here and smoke my cigar, you know? But Iâm not going to tell somebody else to do that thatâs the right way of doing things. Thatâs the way I like it, you know. For me, life has become so much simplerâto be able to accept all of the different ways of different people. And I explore, I mean Iâve done a lot of interfaith work. Iâve lived in Catholic monasteries. Iâve studied Jewish Hasidic ways and Kabalistic ways. I took Mantra Vedanta. And this simple sitting is my preference. But why do religions go to war with each other? Why do we think that somebody is a heathen if theyâre not in our religion? Itâs not the religion, itâs the attachments.
Questioner 5: Whatâs the connection between attachments and fear? Because when you told the story about the two people in Auschwitz, one of the things that occurred to me that they were afraid ofâmeeting that other person and the repercussions from that.
Bernie: Yeah. Fear is a very important term. You know Kaz just did calligraphyâKaz Tanahashi was here and just left, he was here a long time. And he did the Buddhist term for compassion is jihi. And the first term ji is what he did, for compassion, and thatâs sort of the commonâthatâs the word we think of as compassion. The second part, hi, I would like him to do hi for me. Because hi meansâBuddhist compassion is the combination of those twoâhi means to remove fear. So somehow in my own case, for a long time now, many of the practices that I do for myself is Iâm drawn into places where thereâs some sense of fear. I donât want to go there. Or I get nervous, you know. And when that happens, I go. And I sit there and to bear witness to why that fear is arising. And thatâs how I see myself growing in a long time. So at the same time that I like to say I just sit on the deck and smoke my cigar and whatever, Iâm also drawn into places where I donât know whatâs happening here, man.
So in my opinionâI mean Iâve never thoughtâyour questionâs a good one for me, it touches my own practiceâI know that (I know?)âIn my opinion fear arises out of a touching of the unknown. And why does it arise? Maybe somebody could tell me. I donât know.
Roshi Joan just became seventy, and Zalman Schachter is somebody we both knowâIâm very close with him. Heâs now about eighty-six. And a long time ago he told me that every ten yearsâand thatâs why I mentioned years, seventyâevery ten years (and of course, this is his opinion) things will arise that are beckoning to take you into a space you donât knowâinto the unknown. And fear will arise. And thereâs energy forces that are keeping you in what youâve been doing. Because you know it, even if you hate it, you know it. And itâs much more comfortable to be in something that you think you know. And in the realm of the unknown, thereâs a fear that arises. Why? Iâm not sure. And for me, that fear is a fantastic place to practice. And thatâs why I like it in jihiâjihi, no hiâthat aspect. And can we remove fear?
A lot of people are afraid of people dying. So if youâre doing your work as hospice workersâmany people, my father (my mother died when I was seven) my father wouldnât be in the same bedroom as her. When she was in the hospital for a little while, and then they released her because she was going to die, he was terribly afraid of death. When his sister died, he went into denial. He wouldnâtâhe said she didnât die. So things that we donât know somehow can produce fear, it seems to me.
I donât know whatâs the instrument to make that happen. Iâm sure one can analyze. What I knowâI mean in my opinionâthatâs a fantastic place to practice. To practice in those places whereâanother way of saying it is âitâs a fantastic practice in the realm of the unknown.â
There are people when they first started doing zazen, they canât do it. Because they experienceâthey donât know whatâs happening. Iâll tell you about myself. I was sitting every day. This was before starting to practice on a regular basis with Maezumi Roshi. I didnât start practicing on a regular basis with him until 1966. But I started to do zazen in â62 on my own. I had my own little zendo, and my own little place. And Iâd do retreats, and whatever. Before that I was just reading about Zen, in â58. And then one day, I had this experience of everything disappearing, and I was terrified. And in fact, I went to bed. I told my wife I have to leave the lights on. I was terrified. And I stopped doing zazenâfor about two years. And then I started again.
It was a totally unknown kind of thing. Why? For some people, that happens and itâs so bliss and âman, this is great,â whatever. I had this huge fear of the totally unknown. Why? I donât know. In some sense it doesnât matter too much. But if youâre with somebody that can encourage you to go into that state, thatâsâI think thatâsâquite wonderful. Thatâs my own opinion.
Questioner 6: My question in reference to non-duality is a relationship that I have with my brother. And I was brought up Reformed Jew, and he became a Lubavitcher. As an adult heâs a Lubavitcher. And even to the point where he tried to physically attack me, and verbally abuse me when my father died, because I was in charge of the will. And I wouldnât move my father to another graveâit was going back and forth. Anyhow, I had the bravery to visit him in Florida, in April. And his wife started up, right before I left the house, again about, you know, itâs just, itâs a hard relationship.
Bernie: Itâs a shanda man.
Questioner 6: So, I do my best. Yet I walk away with the opinion of Iâll never visit him again. I donât want to see him again. Itâs fraught with duality.
Bernie: Yeah. And the question is?
Questioner 6: Well, I know in bearing witness, as I become a chaplain, that I will be put in various situations that will be fraught with duality, and that I have to hold a neutral position, or hold my seat in that. And I guess my question would be is how to build that strength and resiliency in situationsâespecially family, you know heâs my only blood family left. It is fraught with sort of judgment and pain. Weâre so far apart from one another in our lifestyles.
Bernie: Yeah. In my opinion, itâs to enter into the situation. Thatâs just what I was describing, that situations arise where, âI donât know what to do,â âI said Iâm afraid of it,â or âbut I may not like it,â or whatever. And as a practice, I try to enter and bear witness. Itâs the only way I know of dealing with anything. Itâs to try to enter from the state of deep listening. You know, not-knowing, and try to bear witness.
I work in the Middle East. I just started again. My wife is Israeliâall her family is in Israel. Theyâre all Orthodoxâwell, some of them have sort of moved away from that. And there was a time, I got a phone call from Richard Gereâhe wanted to work in the Middle East. He actually wanted to work in Iraq, but I convinced him to first see about the Israel/Palestine situation. And I asked him if he would first just go and listen. And we wentâand itâs all very privateâbut we went, and we met with all kinds of people. We met with, you know, the musicians, the politicians, the heads of newspapers, and we met with the settlersâOrthodox settlers, and we met with a man in charge of suicide bombing. We met with as manyâwe took him to as many voices as we couldâto hear. And some were very hard to listen to. Itâs the same thing that happens at Auschwitz. We have survivors, we have children of S.S., we have Gypsies, we have many different nations, many different religions. We have Palestinians and Israelis at this point, we have Native Americansâitâs quite a mix. And no matter how progressive you are, youâll run into somebody who in your opinion is all screwed up, man. And their opinion, they think youâre all screwed up. And it even could be within one family. But we purposely create that kind of container. Because I think if we can bear witness within such a container, we can grow. So, you know it gets worse when itâs your own brother perhaps. But, my mother-in-law who I love, and she loves me, and sheâs gone to jail for the settlers. At any rate, so the only thing that I know is to try to enter as much as possible those places where thereâs a difficulty. And if itâs in your family, thatâs even better because thatâs so much harder.
Anybody here that doesnât know of Leonard Cohen? Everybody knows Leonard Cohen? So, I thought of himâtwo thingsâone when This Way, The Bell [Anthem]. You know that famous song of his?
Ring the bells
The bells that still can ring
There is no perfect offering
There is a crack
A crack in everything
Thatâs how the light gets in
I think that sums up our practice.
But also, somebody asked about mystery. âWhatâs the mystery?â I forget who it was. . . . Because Iâm gonna give the answer to âWhat is the mystery?â He does that in his concert in England. He says, âThis morning [he] realized the answer to the mystery of life.â And he then said, âDo you want to know what it is?â And they said âYeah!â And he said, âYou really want to know what it is?â And âYeah!â And he gave the answer, which you know. âThe answer to the mystery of life is . . . do dum do dum do dum dum.â
Now, are you happy?
OK, so two important things came up when I was taking my break. One was alongside generally, maybe always; with fear (Iâm not sure) is a sense of vulnerabilityâas why the fear might ariseâa sense of vulnerability. And our practice is about becoming vulnerableâtaking off the armor. Removing the armor. I believe thatâs in one of The Eight Awarenessâs of the Enlightened Person, that Dogen talks on. That Shakyamuni Buddha first talked on before he died, and Dogen talks on. The Eight Awarenessâs of the Enlightened Person, and one of them is dealing with taking off the armor.
Iâm not sure if this fully answers why the fear arises, but when we are in those situations itâs like thereâs a chink in our armor. And itâs fascinating, this notion of armor, because we all have it, and we create clothing, or an armor, for the world, or for the space that we tend to inhabit. And the same armor in one space could be disaster in another space.
Thereâs a man thatâPrimo LeviâPrimo Levi was an Italian guy who went to Auschwitz, and a fantastic writer, and a wonderful chemist. And because he was such a great chemist, he wound up in what was called Auschwitz III, which was really a chemical factory, making Cyanideâmaking the gas, the main product. After a while it became the gas for the chambers. And he went back to Italy after release from Auschwitz. And in one of his books he talks about how many of the people he knew wound up committing suicide afterwards. And it was because of their guiltâtheyâre feeling that they survived. Anybody who survived Auschwitz saw many people die, and saw many people, and saw many cases where they lived because somebody died. At any rate, he talks about that, and then a year later he committed suicide.
And he writes about this guy that he met in Auschwitz who was a dwarfâa very powerful dwarf. And he said that he had built a set of armorâthis dwarfâto where he had no problems in Auschwitz. No problems, he was quite amazing. After the war he wound up in an insane asylum. Because the armor he had developed in Auschwitz was not appropriate outside of Auschwitz. He was looked at as abnormal. We do that all the time, right? Somebody that doesnât fit our world, theyâre not normal. Letâs get rid of them.
So Iâll talk a little bit about my notion of clubs. Itâs important. I use the word club a lot. And I think I talked a little last night. So my opinion is that we all create clubsâclubs that we belong to. And thereâs nothing wrong about that. Thatâs just the way it is. We all have our clubs. And generally the way club is definedâor one of the ways that club is definedâis by who doesnât fit in the club. So we all define our clubs, or we donât necessarily define them.
My son, when he was very young, would take his plate and push all of the food he didnât like into piles. And heâd call them âthe yucky piles.â And then heâd have the food that he does [like]. Recentlyâthis is like forty years ago, or thirty-five, between thirty-five and forty years agoâand recently we talked about it. And now he still does the same thing, but he calls it âgood piles.â But at any rate, once you create the yucky piles, the issue is what do you do with them? His mother would say, âyou gotta eat,â or âyou should eat.â We werenât that tough. And so he would come up with devious things. He would sneak it down to our dogs, or underneath the table, or whatever.
But those people that donât fit our clubs, we gotta figure out what to do with them. What do you do with all those yucky piles? The most common thing we doâand we all do thisâis we ignore them. So there are folks that we ignore. And what does that mean to ignore? It could be as simple as we would never read their books, or never watch them on TV, or listen to them on a tape. We certainly wouldnât invite them to our house for dinner. We wouldnât call them. We ignore them. In some cases, we cross the street. So there are many people that will pass a homeless person and not look at that homeless personâturn their eyes around, or even cross the street to avoid walking past them. Thatâs the ignoring.
There was a time in the United States (Weâre in the United States, now? Yep.), there was a time here where if you were gay; there was a good possibility of gay bashing. That was another thing we did with people that didnât fit. We beat âem up. Even going back a little ways, we lynched them. We lynched a lot of people that didnât fit our club. Of course we also have prisons. Weâve created a huge prison system for people that donât fit our club one way or another. And Auschwitz, anybody who wasnât Aryan could be killed there. Gays were killed there, the Gypsies were killed there, Polish intellectuals were killed there. Of course the Jews were killed there. Thereâs so many, if you werenât Aryanâhandicapped children were killed there. So we have all of these different ways of dealing with people who donât fit our club.
Thereâs a practice that Iâm particularly fondâa liturgyâthat Iâm particularly fond of. Itâs called The Gate of Sweet Nectar. And I got attracted to it when I was training at the Zen Center Los Angeles. We chanted it every evening in Japanese. Somehow I got attracted to itâI didnât know what it meant. But it deals with the five Buddha families. That I knew. But we never had translated it. And before I moved to New York, which was December of â79 to start the Zen Community of New York, I translated that. I had done a lot of translation work with my teacher, and I translated that with him. And then he encouraged me to modify it.
Itâs a particular liturgy that goes back to the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. It was rather short at that point, so it wound up in both Soto and Rinzai traditions. D.T. Suzuki has it in the Manual of Zen, but itâs rather short. In the 1800s somebody in Japan, Minzai, modified it and put in a lot of Shingonâesotericâelements. Five Buddha families, and even the precepts of Koba Daishi are in there. Thereâs a part where we chant, and thereâs bells, and all things, the climax of that liturgy, which says, âNow I have raised the Bodhi mind! I am the Buddhas, and they are me.â Thatâs the precept that Koba Daishi used for the Shingon sect. âNow I have raised the bodhi mind. I am the Buddhas, and they are me.â And that comes after a climax. The beginning of it is inviting all of the hungry spirits to come enter my mandala practice. And so itâs giving the precepts to all of these hungry spirits after the teachings, and after a bunch of stuff.
Iâm not sure how I got here. Weâre on clubs. Well, not knowing where I started, Iâll meander around.
So, this particular liturgy, it was used for inviting ones ancestors, feeding them, teaching them, and giving the precepts. And itâs done in all of the homes in Japan during a time called Obon. The priest will go to all of the peopleâs homes, and do it at their homes, for all their ancestors. And then youâve probably seen pictures, theyâll send the ancestors home on little boats with candles down the river. âGo back home! Weâve had enough.â
But it also was used for all those who nobody was doing services forânobody was taking care of. So for example, in the old days, before Internet, somebody could die in a war and their family might not know for a couple years because the war was so far away, and communication was not that great. So the service would be for those people, you know, that died and nobody knew they died, or sometimes homeless people who die and nobody is doing anything for. And so I expanded it to be a service for all those aspects of oneself and society that are not being taken care of. And thatâs the service.
Oh, I see where I was coming from.
I do this on every Street Retreat that Iâve been on. Not the first one, the first street retreat that I did was about twenty, well it was twenty-one years ago this April, because last year was the twentieth anniversary that I went on the streets (in the Bowery). It was a closed Street Retreat. I invited people that were leading Street Retreats around the world, and they came, a group of us. There was a Rabbi from Israel, who leads Streetâheâs our Rabbi now at Auschwitz. The last six years heâs doing Koan study with me. Heâs five generations Israeli. And on Yom Kippurâfor those who know Yom Kippur, itâs the holiest day in Judaismâhe does a Street Retreat in Tel Aviv, in the poorest part of that town, which is now full of a lot of black Africans. A lot of discrimination going on, itâs a very poor area. And this year Iâll be in Brazil during Yom Kippur. Next year Iâll join him on that. But anyway, it was a group of people from Israel, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium. Pannavati came on that Street Retreat. Sheâs an African American Theraveda Nun working with the homeless down south.
And the first time I did it, each day during the Street Retreats, weâd gather once or twice a day in a circle and share whatâs coming up. And people would tell me things, or would share what was coming up. And I was just shockedâor I donât know if that was the right wordâbut several people said things that are straight out of that liturgy. And they didnât know that liturgy. So I realized that that liturgy is a liturgy of the streets, and so every Street Retreat I did afterwards, each day we would chant that liturgy. And of course we chanted at Auschwitz.
We also say Kaddish in eight to ten different languages. Weâve translated it into all of the different languages of the groups that have come. We have it in Polish and German of course, but we also have it in Arabicâcan you imagine that weâre chanting the Kaddish in ArabicâIf youâre Jewish that has more meaning than if youâre not Jewishâbecause we have Palestinians come each year to that retreat?
And some of the centers associated with me have taken that on as a practice that they do. And Zen Center Los Angeles, where I trained originally, does that. This is where I was coming from. And once, a wonderful guyâheâs a beautiful guy, heâs a beautiful priest at Zen Center Los Angelesâthey were chanting this Gate of Sweet Nectar, which is inviting all the hungry spirits. And heâs had the training. We train in that liturgy of how thatâs inviting all aspects of oneself and society that arenât being dealt with. So that was what was going on. And a homeless person came in to open the door, and started entering the zendo. And he didnât allow that person in. And the person said, âBut Father, I took my shoes off?â And he said, âYou canât come in.â A beautiful man, and our conditioning goes so deep. Iâll never forget that. âBut Father, I took my shoes off?â
OK, letâs get back to questions. Or maybe we can have answers, and Iâll give questions.
Questioner 7: Actually Iâm searching for the answer. I want to go back to what you mentioned earlier today, and that was the fear that you experienced that stuck to you from practicing for two years. I was wondering if you could share your process of recovering from that fear, and getting past it so you could practice again.
Bernie: Yeah, well in later years I attributed it to the fact that I was practicing without a teacher or somebody to talk to. I had nobody toâat that timeâI had no one to talk to. I thought I was losing my mind, which I might have been. But it wasâusing the language of vulnerabilityâI was losing that which I thought was meâtotally. And I wasnât ready to do that. So I shut down all systems, and didnât want to go there again, until I had somebody that I could talk to. Now with time, that fear receded, and I started to practice again. But also around that time, I did start practicing with a teacher. You know, so with hindsight, and having the opinions that I have now, that was a very important time. And if I had somebody to relate to it might have been . . . but here we are. Here we are.
Questioner 8: I would like you to talk a little bit more about what it means to you to go on the street.
Bernie: OK. So, Iâll give you the history first.
When I graduatedâgot my bachelorâs degreeâmy undergraduate work was in aeronautical engineering, and I worked in the space industry. My graduate work was in mathematicsâmy PHD is in mathematics. My graduate work was at UCLA in Los Angeles. My undergraduate was in Brooklyn. And when I finished, I was with a friend of mine sitting in a pizza place. You know, pizza places in New York are still the best in the world. And whenever Iâm in New York I will always end up in some pizza place. But at any rate, so we were sitting in a pizza place, and he said, âSo Bernie, what are you gonna do with your life?â Thatâs what you do when you are graduating undergraduate. And I said, âI want to do three things. I want to live on a kibbutz in Israel. I want to live in a Zen monastery. And I want to live on the streets.â
Now, before that I had run intoânot run into, but there were two things that influenced me. Oneâa book that became a play, and I think a movie also, yeah definitely a movie also, The Iceman Cometh by Eugene OâNeil. I was very impressed by that, and it deals with homeless people. And the second thing was, rather young at a cafeteria on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, with my father and his second wife, and next table were four homeless guys. And they were discussing the philosophy of the comics in the Sunday newspaper. And I said, âWow, what wisdom! Iâve got to experience that.â That sort of led me to that. And then twenty years after graduatingâaround twenty years laterâby then I had lived on a kibbutz in Israel, I had been a long time in a Zen monastery, and I was going to start working for the homeless in New York. And I remembered, hey, I was supposed to live on the streets. So this is a good time to do it, so I can experience what street life is. Not homelessâI make a big point of that, that I could not bear witness to homelessness because I had a home to go back to. I could bear witness to what it was to live on the streets. So I went to live on the streets. And I invited some people to join me. And we lived in the streets. We didnât go there to teach anybody anything. We went there to bear witness to living on the streets.
For me it was a very important week. We went for a weekâit was Holy Week, which means April. Itâs the time when Passover and Easter come together, and Buddhaâs Birthdayâso, in the same time period. It rained the full seven days. And I made a point of sleeping in different venues, to experience the different ways of sleeping in the streets. You know, gathering cardboard bedding, on the sidewalk, sleeping in trains and bus terminals, and different things like that. In New York we did not sleep in any of the shelters. I was told beforehand that thereâs a lot of tuberculosis in the shelters, and [itâs] not safe in New York. Especially at that time, there was a lot of tuberculosis going around. And we ate in a lot of venues.
And that gave me a very good feeling of how to do the work I was going to do, which in September thereâs going to be a thirty-fifth anniversary. At any rate, that work has been very important.
But joining me were some very interesting people. There were people that had been practicing Buddhism for like twenty years or so. And there were people that had never done any meditation. It was about twenty of us. Peter Matthiessen was on that first retreat. Ann Wallman was on that first retreat. Ann Wallman was sort of close with Allen Ginsberg. And she and Ginsberg started the School of Poetics at Naropa. It was different kind of people, and people that like I said, never meditated. And all of us had a very deep experience. And I think part of it was because you really wind up living moment to moment. Where am I gonna pee next? Where am I gonna rest? You donât check the Stock Market, or things of that nature.
The first year, I had certain rules. You could bring a dollar for every day that you were going to be on the street with me. You had to beg. You had to aimlessly meander. If you took your shoes off to sleep, you had to put them under your head or somewhere so they wouldnât be stolen. You couldnât have a change of clothes. For a week before the retreat you werenât supposed to shave or shower. I think thatâs about it.
And the next year I met a wonderful guy who was the head of a little village under a highway called the F.D.R. Highway in New York. And he said to me, âDo you allow people to bring money?â And I said, âYeah, they can bring a dollar for every day theyâre going to be.â And he saidâthis is very important for meâhe said, âThatâs no good. They canât bring any money. Even a dollar allows them to make a hook to what you call âthe worldâ.â And so from that year-on, the rule was no money, but you could beg.
And many people when they firstâwhen they decidedâto come, had certain fears. And they wound up coming because they felt a little bit safetyâthat I would take care of them in those fears, you know. I imagine. But the fears they had were generallyâand like I said, Iâve been doing it for twenty years, and I have students that have made this their main practice, and there are people around the world doing this. And in fact, thereâs a group in San Francisco that started doing it after reading about my Street Retreats that Iâm very close with. The group is called the Faithful Fools. And itâs led by a Carmelite Nun/Sister and a U.U. Minister. And their whole practice, they work in the Tenderloin, the poor area in San Francisco. And their whole work is working with the homeless. And anybody who works with them, anybody on the board, has to do the Street Retreats. And they have trained Ministers, and in fact there is now a Street Ministry in the U.U. Movement, the interior movement, with people being trained in leading these Street Retreats.
Anyway, so the nervousness, or the fear was that they wouldnât have enough food, also a fear of being abused, and maybe raped. None of that has ever happened, in all of the Street Retreats that I know ofâand thatâs hundreds of retreats. Certainly more than a thousand peopleâmuch more. I think Faithful Fools alone has taken thousands of people out. Thatâs every week. But, what do you think the biggest thing that people feel? It should be obvious, but it probably isnât. Loss of dignity.
And whatâs the transformation that happens, for the people that go and live on the streets? They cannot treat somebody else as if theyâre not humanâas if they donât existâbecause theyâve experienced people doing that to them. So thereâs an actress, Ellen Burstyn, Iâd like to tell her story. She came on the streets with meâwhen I think it was her seventieth birthday, or around that time. And I may be all confused, it may have been her sixtiethâcanât be. Sheâs about ten years older than me, so it had to be about her seventieth. And this is a story that she put in her book. She has an autobiography. And when she talks about herself, she still tells this storyâten years later.
She approached some people sitting near Tompkins Park in lower Manhattan. And there were some women having coffee or tea. And she went up to them and asked for some money. And a woman gave her a dollar. And she started to cross the street, and she was so happy she had this dollar. She was full of joy. And then she started to cry. And she said, âWhy am I crying?â And then she realized that she cried because the woman that gave her the dollar did it like this [demonstrates giving without looking]. And she had never experienced that in her life.
So she bore witness to being ignoredâto being thought of as less-than-me, somebody thatâs not in my club, that I canât even look at. And the transformation was huge.
Questioner 8: And can I share something that happened to me? Iâll cut to the chase. Iâd been married thirty-one years, and I was in San Francisco, trying to help my son. And anyway, I ended up staying there, and my former husband filed for divorce while I was there. I ended up living right next to the Tenderloin. And I had a place to stay, but I didnâtâIâd been, shall we say, âremoved from the club.â And I didnât have a new club. And gradually, in some ways the street people kind of becameâI didnât realize it till later onâbut, these were the people I began to identify with, as I didnât have my regular life anymore. And so I would just wander around, pretty much like I was homeless. I had an apartment, but I didnât have a plan.
And one day, because I was a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, I decided that maybe what I could doâbecause there were so many homeless people thereâthat I would try to look them in the eyes and smile at them, because he recommends smiling as a practice. And it was a really interesting experience. I was a little afraid at first. But one day, I was walking throughâwhatâs the square, down from Post Street? The big square. Anyway, I looked at this guyâhe was all huddled upâand I smiled at him, walked on down the street. And all the sudden he said, âHey lady, thanks for the smile.â And this voice appeared in my ear. And it said, âGo back, and ask him if he wants to be in the paper flower business with you.â Iâd always had this fantasy that somehowâIâm an artist, and all I was doing there was making paper flowers. That was one thing I was doing. And so I just followed the voice. And I went back, and I got down, and I said, âExcuse me, but I was wondering if youâd like to be in the paper businessâpaper flower business with me?â And he kind of came out, and he said, âWell. . .â And I said, âI make paper flowers, and I just live up the street. Iâll bring them down, and you can sell them, and then weâll split it.â I thought it would be better to have it be quid pro quo. So he said, âOK.â So I went back to my apartment, came down with the paper flowers. This storyâs just amazing to me. He had taken his box, and he said, âI want you to make the signs, because your handwritingâs going to be better than me, and we need to really market this.â And Iâm like, âman, I need this guy!â
And it was like; you know my world was just changing, because I had no idea who this person was. And so we had a little paper flower business for a day. I went off. We agreed to meet again at 4 oâclock. And I went back, and he said, âWell, I sold two. I gave away one, and I think somebody stole one.â You know, I said, âOK.â So it was starting to get night, and we walked up the streetâI was on one side, he was on the other. And he said to me something like, âYou know, you really made a difference in my day.â And I realized at that time that I was so lonely, and I had been thrown out of my club. And here was somebody who was giving me exactly what I needed. He acknowledged my being.
And so, it was one of those moments in your life that was just such a gift to me.
Bernie: Thank you. Thank you for sharing that.
We have time for one more before our break.
Questioner 9: So, when we look at people that are human beings, that are experiencing life on the streets, or homelessnessânot âstreet peopleââwe have an assumption to be surprised when theyâre smart, or something. And I think that is like completely inaccurate. Because any one of us, you know, except for the fact that weâre all like, most of us are like probably experiencing great privilege in our lives, could be homelessâcould experience homelessness, could experience life on the streets. So you know, if somebody is like intelligent and theyâre living on the streets, that shouldnât be a cause for alarm, or surprise. So I just want to mention that.
Questioner 9: So, how might we use that approach with the larger ecological environmental issues facing us right now?
Bernie: Uh huh. Whew. Yeah. So, Iâm this simple guy. And I always fall back to those three that you said. And the first one, I try to approach by deep listening, right? And I donât know, Iâm not pulling out any of the stuff yet. I donât know the worldâs falling apart. I donât know, the worldâs in great shape. I donât know all that stuff. Iâm entering. And then, I try to bear witness. Now this is not only to the whole world falling apart, itâs to myself as an individual; itâs to my work with my sangha, with my kids, wherever I go. Itâs always just that simple. I listen. I feel whatâs happening, and I let the actions arise. So whenever somebody asks me a question about anything, thatâs what I do. I have noâI donât know how to do anything. You know, I really donât.
And, my experience is things will arise. What can be simpler than that? But, maybe not soâwhatâs the right?âsatisfying. Itâs nice to know some things we could do, right? I do thisâpshhewwâeverythingâs good, you know. I donât know. I donât know any things like that.
Remember when yesterdayâI think it was yesterdayâwe were talking about, I was talking about the one body of Bernie. So I really donât know whatâs going on in Bernie, but I read some stuff. Like I read Iâm basically a pacifist. And Iâve read that Iâve gotâand as well as all, everybody in this roomâcancer cells that are always popping up. And Iâve got white cells that are attacking those cancer cells. So whatâs a pacifist gonna do, man? How can I get those white cells to stop attacking and killing other parts of my body? Those cancer cells are coming! These guys are battling them and destroying them. Iâm sitting here as a pacifist, and this fight is going on in my body. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? And then this hand startsâsomething cuts it, it starts bleeding. This hand, the cigar falls on it and burns it, and itâs burning up. What am I gonna do? Whichâwhat do I do first?
Isnât it frustratingâeverything that weâve got to do? You know, I gotta breath, I gotta eat, I gotta shit. Iâve got so much work to do! What do I do first? What do I do second?
So, luckily somewhere along the line I learned about these three tenets. Or they popped up while I was taking a bathâeverything important in my life pops up while Iâm taking a bath. It popped upâoh, not knowing: try to just approach everything with deep listening, feeling whatâs going on, man, and then groking, bearing witness. Oh, I can see what occurs. I took care of this hand, washed off this thing. OK white cells, go ahead, do it.
So thatâs how I function. Now, I also happen to beâI was a space engineer. If you asked me how do I fly something to Mars, I could tell you how to do it, you know. So, I knew a few things, and I do what I can in everything that I do.
I donât know a time when the world wasnât falling apart. Of course I donât know whatâwe have a koan, howâs it go?
Daizui was asked, âWhen the worldâwhen the fire kulpa comes, when the world is all disappearing, falling apart . . .â because in Buddhistâshould I say theology, we donât have theologyâcosmology, Buddhist cosmology, thereâs different periods where you, where everything is growing, then itâs sort of neutral, then itâs falling apart. And then some of these things go on for different kalpas. They all go on for different kalpas. You know what a kalpa is? So a kalpaâhow many people know what a kalpa is? So, thereâs different definitions for a kalpa. The common definition I use for a kalpa is if you take a marble granite . . . Is marble granite? Does that make sense? No. So if you take a piece of marble, or a piece of graniteâI donât care which, whichever you preferâif you take a piece thatâs ten million miles high and tenâOK, cubedâten million miles in each direction, every hundred years, an angel comes down from heaven and her wing brushes this cube of marble. When the cube is completely gone, thatâs one kalpa.
So, our planning, our work, is in terms of kalpas, you know. Weâve got to make sure everything is OK for a kalpa. So if youâre in the kalpa where itâs all being destroyed, what do you do? What do you do? In that kalpa where itâs all been destroyed, then what do you do? After itâs destroyed, what do you do? Itâs an important koan.
OK. So, whatâs fascinating is that each of us, if we just listen to the momentâwe bear witness to whatâs going onâthat different things will arise. I call them ingredients. And we all have different ingredients that arise. And weâll take those ingredients and make the best meal possible. And weâll find that you might be in the world of environmental work, and I might be in the world of cigar making, and somebody else in the worldâhomelessness. Itâs a beautiful garden of people within these different worlds doing beautiful thingsâdoing beautiful things. And sometimes we worryâcan we do the things that will save the universe? Well, you can try. I donât know what to do about that. I donât know. But what I do know is that I can take the ingredients that are coming up in me and do the best thing I canâand not blame myself for not doing better than the best I can. I mean it. So I really believe in befriending the self.
And someone was talking about how theyâre doing all of these wonderful things, and at the same theyâre criticizing themselves. Theyâre not doing good enough, you know. Recently I put some thoughts on a koan called The Tortoise Wipes Her TracksâHis Tracks. You know that little story? Big tortoisesâyouâve seen them, somewhere. Peter Matthiessen wrote this beautiful book, Â Far Tortugaâhard to read, itâs in the dialect of the . . . itâs beautiful. Giant tortoises thereâand theyâll come on the beach, and they wipe theyâre tracks. To get rid of their tracks, they wipe it with their tail. But of course the tail leaves some tracks. So we do the best we can. And then, we make excuses. Thatâs what I call âwiping.â We sort of wipe what weâve done to hide it, because weâre ashamed of what we did, it wasnât good enough. And we want to get rid of our tracks. So we apologize. And we feel bad, âOh, if only I had done better.â
Those tracksâthe wipingâleaves new tracks. Leaves new tracks. So maybe the best thing that we can do is just make excuses. Oh the best thing I just did was so terrible. Oh, if only I could do better than the best I can do! Some day, one day, one day, one day, one day . . . I will do better than the best.
So I really believe in befriending the self. Take whatâs coming up, and do it! Thatâs the best we can do, man.
Roshi Joan Halifax: You know, as youâve been talking today I remembered this koan Kyoganâs Man in the Tree. And thereâs this guy hanging in a tree, and his teeth are wrapped around a branch, and he canât touch the tree with his hands or his feet. And this other guy walks underneath, and he says, âHey, why did Bodhidharma come from the West?â So if the man in the tree answers, heâll fall to his death. But if he doesnât answer, he doesnât help the guy who asked the question.
So, one of the things that I think is so powerful about the three tenets is that they donât provide a solutionâthat they actually create a context where uncertainty, and your capacity to live with the power of uncertainty can increase when we practice them.
So I think, you know, most people who hear that koan are looking for a solution. You know, theyâre like, âWait a minute. Thereâs a solution here. Whatâs the solution?â But for me what is so powerful about the practice, but also . . . The first time you shared the three tenets with me, I thought about this work that I did in the prison system, and all of the concepts that I went into the prison system with, you know. Just looking at that building, which was so imposing and ugly. And then all the ideas about working with men on Death Row and in Maximum Security. And then carrying in the three tenetsâjust realizing if Iâm attached to my opinions about this place, thereâs no way Iâll survive. And coming into this process of going upstream and finding uncertainty is my ally.
You know, of living in this sort of spirit of interest, curiosity, inquiry, surpriseâBrother David calls it âsurprise,â just that surprise. Yeah there are incredible equations out there in the world with regards to the tipping point that we have, you know, drifted past in our consumerism. And, you know, weâve had a few surprises in the past few weeks. What about this Algal Bloom, you know, in the Arctic. I mean we justâthis is a self-organizing system. And thereâs all these responses that are completely out of the realm that we knowâthat are presenting themselves. Just being that interestâOh!
So for me, thatâs one side of the equation. But the other side has to do with a sense of conscientiousness. You know, of really endeavoring to do your best intentionally. You know, in the sort of way of compassion that has an objectâthatâs preferential. You know, recognizing thereâs suffering in the world. But I can sayâI was saying to Bernieâwe take people to the Himalayas every year, many clinicians. And the hardest thing is to watch the clinicians help people, instead of really being able to be penetrated by the world that they find themselves in. And the curiosity isnât there when youâre helping per se, because you have a kind of solution.
So I wanted to thank you for, many years ago of, you know, sharing the three tenetsâalso working with dying people. I used to do lots of hands-on work with people who were dying, and it was the same thing. If I walked in prescriptively, there was no chance for intimacy. But when not knowing was there, the possibility for intimacy and surprise, always present.
Bernie: Yeah. Thank you. ItâsâI think, my opinion isâalso the way to have a successful marriage. There were a couple of questions about how do you make marriage sustainable? As a male, I was extremely used to fixing everything. So if my wife came up with a problem, I would fix it.Â And then, little by little, I learned, what about not jumping in to fix the problem that she thinks exists? What if I could just listen, bear witness to what is going on, and see what arises? And our marriage got so much better. Our marriage got so much better.
So for me itâs sort of funny, almost all questions come back to the same principleâthat whatever the relationship, whoever youâre dealing withâas a Zen teacher for I donât know how many years, people would come in dokusan, and I was ready to fix it. Iâd say for twenty years everyâI was chanting, âcreations are numberless, I vow to save them.â And that became a part of my being. I knew how to save you. I could push you into enlightenment. I could fix everything. The first day I was here, Shinzan picked me up at the airport. And along the way he saidâheâs doing dokusan, or daison, or whatever youâre calling itâand he said, âDo [you] have any advice?â And I said, âDonât worry about fixing things. Just listen.â People want to be listened to. They may say they want solutions. Or they want . . . but thatâsâIâve never found that to be true, in my years. The key thing is to be listened to.
And then, if we could bear witness to each other, what a beautiful thing could happen in that interview room, or in the relationship, or in anything weâre doing. And let what arises arise. Itâs also so wonderful because new things will come up. And you could be excited by the new stuff thatâs coming up, instead of âOh yeah, I know thatâs the way to do it, man.â Itâs a little boring.
I never know what Iâm going to say. So it becomes exciting. Every once in a while I âOh, thatâs interesting. Thatâs a nice way of saying it.â
This last week I was somewhereâand again, I guess because in the ingredients in my being right now is my new grandson . . . Somebody was talking about âfixingâ â I donât know, a solution somewhere you know, doing something so it doesnât happen again. And I thought of wiping the rear end of my grandson. Imagine if I approach you. Iâm going to wipe this away so that it will never happen again. Yeah, what am I setting myself up for? But does that mean that I donât wipe it away? You know?
Yeah. And then somebody said to me, âWhy are you doing what youâre doing?â And the only thing I can think of is because it needs to be done. So the same with my grandsonâwouldnât that be a silly question if Iâm cleaning him and somebody says, âWhy are you doing that? Donât you know itâs gonna happen again?â Isnât it a silly question? You do it because it needs to be done. And if it needs to be done billions of times, you do it billions of times. You know, you do what needs to be done.
Questioner 10: So, if we come to that kind of a freedom I think, when if we can accept the not knowing, and the spontaneity of caring or loving actions coming out of the moment of intimacy, whatâyou know Iâm a psychotherapist and a Zen priest, I get to fall in love with a lot of peopleâwhat stops me from making a move sexually because Iâm feeling so close to you?
Bernie: So, weâve moved into another field. There are questions about vowsâgreat vow. One question was . . . as you notice, I tend to put a lot of these things into metaphors, but let me get the question. Most essentials living great vowsâwhat does it mean to live by vows? You know about that guy, Buckyâhe did big domes. Buckminster Fuller, and he talked about trim tabs. I talk about rudders. I think of vows as rudders. And he talked about trim tabs in relation to big ocean linersâI mean theyâre huge. And can you imagine trying to move them? So thereâs things called rudders, but then thereâs little trim tabs that can move the rudders. And I think of vows in that way.
When my previous wife, Jishu, passed awayâthereâs a picture of her on that alter in the hall, with all thoseâI think sheâs the only woman, with all those deceased men. But we have a lot of women ancestors also. But anyway, thatâs true. Why did I bring . . .Â Oh. When we cofounded the Zen Peacemakers, and we talked about what we wantedâand one of the things we wanted is for it really toâfor the Precepts to be an important part of it.
So we have precepts in Zen. And I call those rudders, or trim tabs. The rudders might be, for me the rudders might be the Three Tenets. And then the Preceptsâtrim tabs. It doesnât matter; you can call them all rudders if you want. And I study them; we study them in koan system. When I study them, we study them from different perspectivesâfrom Mahayana perspective, which means itâs relative. How do you work with them based on the time, the place, the position, the people involved, stuff like that. With Theravada, a literal sense, but also from a Buddha-nature sense, and the stress is put on that. Thereâs no subject, no object, and basically when we studied it that way, we were given the license to do anything. We were super human. We could do anything.
So I had a man that I had installed as Zen Abbotânot as a Provisional Abbotâwho after my teacher died, I was in charge of the places we had, the City Center in Los Angeles, the Mountain Center. But I also had this big center in New York that was occupying myself reallyâit was too much. And I was looking, at that time nobody wanted to take over those, be in charge of those centers. There was a lot of karma around them. And the first thing I did was divide them, because we had nobody who could handle both. And finally, somebodyâI wanted Enkyo to be in charge of the cityâshe didnât want to do that. She moved to New York and was working with me there. [I] put somebody in charge.
And I got a call one night, and he said, âI want you to be the first to hear. I was in bed last night with two naked women, (He was naked too) and one of the women (they were both his major students, as it normally is), and one of them has raised a ruckus! And I want you to hear first, before you . . .â So, I flew out, and I talked with him, created processesâcouncil processes, sangha processes, stuff like that. But the interesting thing is that he told me that as a Zen Master, if he tells three women to jump into bed naked with him, they have to do it, because heâs the Zen Master. And this was based on his study of the Precepts.
So it felt like something was wrong there, in terms of is that a training that weâre doing to creating rudders that give that kind of thing? And when I look back, we were creating those kind of rudders.
So my wife and I talked about putting emphasisâand we then worked for quite a while with a group of people that we called the founding teachers of the Zen Peacemakersâto come up with the Zen Peacemakers Precepts, and to make that something you took in the beginning, not that you studied at the end, after you thought that you were now this wonderful teacher, and that you studied in a way which made you become a little arrogant even.
And I consider those, the rudders. And we then created a day of reflection. So to make it an important part of the life, those kind of vowsâand theyâre a bit general, but they do not include having naked women jumping into bed with you and itâs all OK, manâor naked men jumping into bed with you.
So itâs still subjective, but the Precepts, for me, you got to listen to whatâs going on, and you for one know, youâve been involved in Dai Bosatsu, everybody knows. If you listen, you hear a lot of stuff thatâs going on, you bear witness to whatâs happening, and you do the best you can. And along the way you create vehicles that can help. And I call those vehicles, ârudders.â You know, and you should always, I feel, one should constantly be reevaluating the rudders. And how do we reevaluate? I listen to what happens because of that. I bear witness to whatâs going on. And then, well, time to change this one, or that one, you know.
So thatâs how I approach it. I do feel itâs very important. There is something called âBeat Zen.â I had friends in that movement. Iâm old enough to have had friends in that movement. And I think what they refer to as âSquare Zen,â was because Square Zen had those rudders. Beat Zen didnât believe in those rudders. Anything can go. And so my opinion is itâs good to have those rudders. And itâs good to look at âem.
What are the rudders for our life?
Boy, weâre going to get through the whole process of spirituality, you know.
Questioner 11: So the question is that you kind of notice that maybe thereâs no problem.
Bernie: Maybe thereâs no problem?
Questioner 11: Yeah.
Bernie: In some sense, but thereâs a lot to do. Thereâs a lot to do.
So, you know, again I take my grandsonâhe pisses all over you, you know and he craps, and his rear end is all full of this sort of liquid type brown stuff. You could call it a problem. Or you could say itâs not a problem, but thereâs something to do. Right? We donât have to add to . . . weâve got global warming; weâve got all kinds of stuff happening. So thereâs lots to do. Why do we need the extra thing of calling it a problem?
But we do. I mean, thatâs the way we talk. Thatâs a problem thatâs not a problem. I donât know whatâs not a problem. You know, Roshi Joan, I was just, where was I? Oh, I just officiated a wedding, for Shishin and Shinko, and we were going over things. So, part of the wedding ceremony, there wasâwe were going to do the Gatha of Atonement. And they were using the exact same version youâre using, All Twisted Karma. And that word, twisted, when we first started chanting that we had, I think it was probably Aikensâ translationâone that we were using in Los Angeles. And it had âall the evil karma ever committed by since of old . . .â and San Francisco moved it to âtwisted karma.â And I sort of like that.
And in my new, as I got older, I started to wonder, evil karma/good karma, problem/not a problem, is that intrinsic in whatâs going on, or is that me subjectively saying, âThatâs a problem. Thatâs not a problem. Thatâs evil. Thatâs not.â Is twisting, what does it really mean? Which of the karma? Weâre constantly, right? Every second weâre creating karma! This whole one bodyâs creating karma. Weâre all interconnected! This karma happened. So which of it is twisted, which isnât twisted?
As I began to think, I couldnât come up with a word that I liked, so I wound up using all karma. Cause itâs yeah weâre creating karma. So all actions, and then we create actions (karmaâs a little different than actions, but it also has that kind of implication). And then somehow weâll call certain of that âproblems,â and certain of it ânot problems.â But I think thatâs extra. But it does not stop us from needing to do the actions. And if we could really approach the situation in listening and bearing witness, the actions will arise.
And to help, to help that whole processâespecially the last partâstudy as much as you can. Learn all the schemes, and techniques, and languages, you know. Have it all in that bag like that carpenter guy. So the choices are immense, but no attachments to them. And now I approach, and something pops up, and my choice of what to do is so much bigger if I could fill that bag. But if Iâm attached, my choice is so limited. And one of the attachments is âThis part of the bag are problem stuff, and that part of the bag is the good stuff.â Then all of a sudden, I can only go to the good stuff, cause this is the problem stuff. Why is it problem stuff? Because somewhere, sometime, I went there, and I didnât like what happened. So now, forever itâs a problem, and I canât go there anymore. Man, I just cut myself off from a whole part of my bag of stuff. I want everything in there. And the truth of the matter is thereâs no way for it not to be.
And now we have a hand in the back. We need a mic. Oh, but why donât you give him the mic, and heâll be next, and heâll be quite readyâeven though his name is not mike. Heâs a Roshi. The room is full of Roshis, man. Watch out.
Questioner 12: Can you say more about bearing witness? Because actions arise from how deeply weâre able to bear witness, but bearing witness comes with all of our own conditioning and lenses. So, if you could say more about the process of deepening that?
Bernie: Yeah. So my opinion is that we are all conditioned. What does that mean? We have various attachments. Weâll never get rid of all our attachments and our conditionings. For example, my DNA is conditioning me in certain ways, and the fact that I was born in Brooklyn. Whew, thatâs a big oneâcompared to being born in say Tokyo or India. How I grew upâeven my thinking, you know. I was really deeply caught by Aristotelian logic, but luckily I studied, and I got into Quantum physics, and probabilities, and also Eastern logic. A equals A, and A doesnât equal A at the same time, and stuff like that.
And yes, thatâs all part of me. So when Iâm bearing witness, that doesnât go away. Itâs all part of me. Iâm notâin that bearing witnessâIâm not hoping, hopefully we can train, and we can be put into situations where our attachments are minimized.
I came up with the word âbearing witnessâ and itâs a troublesome word. I mean it has many different implications in English. But if youâre German, itâs even harder. We couldnât get a good translation for bearing witness. How many people here are from Germany, or speak German language? We use âZeugnis Ablegen,â and Iâve never met anyone who thinks itâs a good word to use. But the same is somewhat true in English. Thereâs a whole Christian sense to the word bearing witness. So we have to talk about what does it mean?
So, I like to use the word âgrok.â Who knows what grok means? Thatâs also somewhat of an issue. The removal of subject/object dichotomy. Thatâs a little easier to get, I guess. But thatâs why koan studyâs not so simple. To really do the koans, you have to become the situation. A famous koan, a simple one, Stop the Fighting Across the River. There are different approaches that one does with something like that. One approach is to go into deep samadhi. We call that denial. Thatâs not the way you stop stuff, but for yourself itâs pretty good. And we all do that, right? Weâll go into denial about some stuff that gets rid of it. And in koan study, what we want you to do is become the fighting across the river! You know, to bear witness, to really become whatever the situationâto become it. And then, out of that will arise the stuff.
So the best way of sort of describing bearing witness is to demonstrate it, you know, and to point out places where that happens. And thatâs why I created these plunges. Thereâs no way if you come on the streets, that you will not bear witness to being on the streets. Thereâs no way. And once youâve done that, youâll experience it. And people that have been on the streetsâthey can talk to each other about it.
Iâll give you another example. I donât know. Did I talk in this group aboutâIâm gonna repeat it I guess. So, my wife Jishu, years before we moved here, before she passed away, had a pretty horrendous stroke, which paralyzed her right side, and lost sense of communication, the ability to communicate. We happened to be near a hospital when it happened.
So we got to the hospital maybe ten/fifteen minutes after the stroke occurred. And then she was in for quite a while. And then physical therapy, but she pretty much regained all ofâyou know, she was not a good typer anymoreâbut pretty much regained everything. And her speech became regular. You know when you have that kind of stroke, you âyeâŠ yeâŠ yeâŠ yeâŠ,â talk sort of like that.
And Iâve been close with Ram Dass for a long, long time, and he was around when that happened. And then he had the same stroke, but he didnât get to the hospital very quick. He was on theâhe had the stroke. Nobody was around. Somebody, call it a friend, a student, Jai was going to be doing a radio show with him, called him. And there was noâRam Dass crawled across the floor and got the phone, but he couldnât talk.
And Jai said, âIs there something wrong?â They had been in India together. And one of the things that they had done is at different periods taken a vow of silence. Thatâs something Hindus like to do. I should do that some time. But at any rate, and while they had done that, they had come up with a little code. If they tapped once, it meant âno,â twice; it meant, âyes.â
So Jai said, âDid something happen?â And he [knock knock], âYes.â âDo you want help?â [knock] âNo.â
They conversed withâJai with voice, and R.D., Ram Dass with taps for about a half hour. And Jai lives not so far from here. And he was actually scheduled, he was calling because he was scheduled to fly out to California, where Ram Dass was and they were gonna do a radio show together.
So after a half hour he was quite beside himself. Because Ram Dass kept tapping, âNo. I want no help. I donât want a doctor. I donât want an ambulance. I donât . . .â Everything was âNo help.â
They had also talked in their years together that they would honor the otherâs request to die if they wanted to die. So he was caught a little. And he finally decidedâhe was in the midst of bearing witness to all this, rightâand what came up for him, he had to call somebody. So he went to another phone, and called a mutual friend that lived not too far away. Told them, âGet an ambulance over there. Somethingâs happened to Ram Dass.â And they did. So he got to the hospital pretty late in the scheme of things. And he still is in a wheelchair and itâs been quite a while.
So my wife and I visited him. I saw him pretty soon after it happened. And then, I canât remember when, the two of us went to see him. And the two of them were talking, because they had the same experience. And itâs just so vivid in my head. They were talking. Her language was now prettyâit was regular. His was still very choppy. But they were talking about how they could understand what was going on, but they couldnât communicate. There was no way that they could say anything. And how it had been frustrating, until at some point all that frustration left. And they both lit up. Because they had both born witness to that same experience of where we can communicate and be together without communication. They got to that where they were fully functioning, but there was no communicationâthat we call âcommunication.â There was no verbal communication. They couldnât even write. There was noâbut there was a direct one to one communication, you know.
And that came out of bearing witness to the same thing. And there was no way that anybody who hadnât born witness to that, could feel exactly that same thing. You could talk about it. You could write about it.
And over and over, youâve been there. There are different things that come up in our life that create, thatâs bearing witness. And based on that, things arise and we do stuff. So Iâve tried to make a practice of how do we help create that? That is Iâve looked at different upayas. Zen as a school, I would say is about helping us to bear witness. Zazen is bearing witness to the wholeness of life. All I did in these three tenets is put in a sort of a simpler language the ways I was trained in Zen. Thatâs nothing thatâs radically new, but itâs a little easier to follow the language I think.
Roshi Joan made very popular in this country, the Way of Council. And whatâs some of the principles of the Way of Council? To speak from the heart, and listen from the heart. Right?
Thereâs a chant which I know is done here, Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, and thereâs a word in there in the Japanese, Nen. And you know the character, what it looks like, the Chinese character for Nen? Itâs got two radicals. Shin: Mind, and Ima: Here. The mind of this momentâthatâs the way I tend to translate it. And for me, the circleâthe Way of Council, the circle we formâwhere the voices are coming up, where weâre listening from the heart, and speaking from the heartâthatâs an expression of Nen. The mind of this moment. The mind of the circle.
But that could also be just with two of us, even though our opinions may be very different. If we can just share, you know, speak from the heart, listen from the heart, thatâs the mind at this moment. And that again, is another way for me to define bearing witness.
In the largest sense, Kanzeon, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, in the Chinese and Japanese literally means concentrating on the sounds of the earth. Kan is contemplation. On is sounds, and Ze is the earth. So, to be open to the whole, all the sounds of the earth and the planetsâthatâs Kanzeon Bodhisattva. Thatâs compassion, but itâs bearing witness, see.
The actions of Kanzeon is what we call compassion. But that only happens because itâs contemplation on all the sounds of the whole earth. But we concil with just two of us.
So, if you and Sherry can just do council, and listen from the heart, speak from the heart, and without any idea of resolution, council should not have any sense of resolution. Weâre speaking from the heart and listening from the heart. Thatâs a form of bearing witness, and actions will arise out of it. And most of you have trained in council. And you know, thatâs trueâvery powerful.
Questioner 13: I wanted to thank you, Bernie Roshi, for coming and meeting with us. Iâm deeply appreciative of your mannerâof handling this wonderful group. I have two questions/comments that Iâd like to hear your opinion of. And I think theyâre germane to the discussion weâre just having. Iâm wondering how your precepts translate into organizational responsibility.
You know, I have a sangha, and Iâm wondering how not-knowing translates to organization principles, like organizational goals, maybe filling out corporate papers, grant proposals. I mean I canât, just now, not knowingâthat wonât work. But, Iâm honestly interested in your response.
And the second thing was, I went to Vietnam in 1966, as a nineteen year-old, and got shot in the head, and was partially paralyzed. Now, I say that because at the time I went to Vietnam, there was a definition of the moral situation in the United States that was very much supportive of that behavior. Thatâs what men did as an ethical obligation, I guess. But then some time after Tet, 1968, the definition of the moral situation seemed to change.
Iâm wondering, I guess my question has to do with what do we do with social morays as they change, relative to precept development? I find that to be a very challenging thing myself. And Iâll stop now. Thank you.
Bernie: I mentioned that in the Zen Peacemakers we had a group that spent time working on the wording of the precepts. And I remember, at the time we wrote down that they should be reevaluated periodically. We havenât done that.
But, as individualsâthe people that use those preceptsâthe various teachers have done that as individuals. But we actually did write down that it was very important to re-look at this every so often.
Now, Iâm an extremist, so I re-look at everything every moment. Wherever I go, I try to grok whatâs happening, and let stuff come up from this moment. So Iâm constantly reevaluating, if you will.
I also was a systems engineer. Iâm very systematic. Iâve been criticized for being too much of an organization freak. But, my mind works that way. Itâs a little bit of a funny kind of a mind. Iâm a sort of a mathematician, and my head starts running off in these, something called Markov Chains. I donât know if you know that, thatâs a certain probability that this will happen, if that happens, thereâs a certain probability this will happen, and you get chains going, and all these probabilities. And oh boy, youâve got a mind full of probabilities of scenariosâwhatever. And, so those are all probabilities.
And at this moment, what comes up is what comes up. I have not seen it cause any problem in my not being a system freakâor filling out proposals, or doing any of that kind of stuff. I found it quite freeing. So I would have all the forms, the way Iâve done things, but it also allows one to be very creative. So filling the bag up with all of the stuff, all of the various kinds of organizational methods, you know. As you know, thereâs been many different great schemes for organization theory. I mean, you can specialize in organization theory, get a PhD in it. So you can learn a lot.
And if you canâin my opinionâuse the three tenets in whatever youâre doing, you will be more creative. Itâs almost by definitionâyouâve gotta be more creative, because youâre not bound to something. But it does not mean that you donât have all that knowledge, you know. Yeah.
And keep reevaluating. So, I mean Shakyamuni said that, right? Our boss said that. Everything is change. Iâm doing a book with The Dude, a guy named Jeff Bridges. Itâll be out this fall, The Dude and the Zen Master. And I have a whole set of koans based on The Dudeâs life in The Big Lebowski movie. So there is an expression in a chapter in the book thatâs called New Shit Has Come to Light. What that means is that everything is change. Itâs always new stuff coming to light. Always. Isnât that fun? Itâs exciting, man.
Oh. Say more. Genjo sayâs I didnât finish something. You and I are doing council, and we have different opinions.
Genjo: And theyâre radically opposed.
Bernie: Radically opposed.
Genjo: And weâre at a stalemate, because youâre listening to me, and Iâm listening to you . . .
Bernie: A stalemate shouldnât be there. If Iâm just speaking from my heart, and youâre listening from the heart, thereâs no space for a stalemate. The stalemate is in your mind because youâre not listening from the heart. Youâre wanting me to say something different.
Genjo: Well, Iâm wanting you to sayâhow did youâhowâyou were in the position . . .
Bernie: All you could want from me is for me to speak my heart.
Genjo: I understand thatâs council. Now youâre the person whoâs in sort of authority over this situation that is messy. And you have somebody who youâve appointed who has a radically different opinion than yours. How would you resolve?
Bernie: OK. Iâm in council with this guy who says, âI can screw anybody that I want.â
Genjo: Thatâs right.
Bernie: And we finish. We listen. Weâre both talking from the heart.
Genjo: Thatâs right.
Bernie: And then weâre through. And in my position, the loving action that comes up is, âYouâre fired.â Cause Iâm in that position. I can do that. But I listened to him from my heart. I bore witness to everything that was going on. And the thing that came up was, âYouâre fired. Get the hell out of here.â
Genjo: And if the hierarchical role were reversed?
Bernie: Iâd have to get the hell out of there.
Genjo: Thank you.
Audience member: Exactly! Sorry. Itâs good you heard it from a man.
Bernie: Yeah. I donât know what else one can do. One can try to hang on to that thing. But thatâs gonna give you a headache if youâre prone towards headaches. Or thatâs life, thatâsâfor meâthe way life should flow. Anyway, OK.
Questioner 14: Whatâs your opinion on the noble lie?
Bernie: The noble . . .?
Questioner 14: The noble lie. What Plato talked about is that itâsâhe said itâs necessary, sometimes. I guess another way to call it would be benevolent manipulation. To tell somebody something that youâin order to get a positive result.
Bernie: Well, first off, I have a problem because I donât have the sense of truth. I have the sense of opinions. So if you donât have the sense of truth, youâre somewhat stuck into what a lie is.
In the precepts, when we worked on them, we say, âWe will speak what we feel to be the truth.â Now I would sort of revise that. In this era of my life, everything that I look at that has the sense of dualism, for example the three precepts that come down from our preceptsâdo good, donât do evil. I would get rid of anything that has that kind of flavor. Cause thatâs a dual system, man. Weâre trying to work in aâhow do we say this in a non-dual way?
So, the implication of the noble lie is that itâs something being said thatâs going to improve the situation, depending on somebodyâsâ thinking. Right? So you first have to have somebody who thinks what the situation should be. Now I will bet you that my sense of what the situation should be is different than Russ Lindbergsâ sense of what the situation should be.
So if we were using that dualistic terminology of the noble lie, we would probably come up with very different things.
Questioner 14: Well, yesterday you were speaking about upayaâskillful means. So would there be any situations in which a noble lie would qualify?
Bernie: I donât have that terminology. Again, I come to a situation not knowing. I try to bear witness to whatâs happening, and I see what arises. I donât have a sense of what is true, what is a lie. So, somebody may look at what is arising from me and say, âOh youâre trying toâyouâre manipulating, youâre doing some . . .â Thatâs their subjective view of it. Plato was a subject/object when he talks about noble lies. Iâm just not in that terminology, or I donât have that sense.
Questioner 14: Could I rephrase it as a motivational strategy?
Bernie: So hereâs the closestâsee if Iâm getting what youâre saying. Letâs say I approach the situation. Iâm totally open. I listen. I bear witness. And something is starting to arise, and I stop it and say, âUh oh. I donât want that to arise because I think that if something else is done, I would beâIâd get a better result,â or âit would be better for them, so Iâm not going to allow whatâs coming up to happen.â
I donât do that. Is that what you mean?
Questioner 14: I was thinking more ofâOK; Iâll give you an example. Recyclingâletâs say I have a neighbor who doesnât recycle. He throws everything to the trash.
Questioner 14: This person could even be me. Maybe Iâm just too lazy, empathetic. But one way I could motivate myself to start recycling is I could say, âWell, if everybody did this, we could make a difference.â Even though I would basicallyâI guess I would knowâor maybe I guess this is where the mistake isâthat whether I individually recycle or not is a drop in the ocean. But, if I could motivate myself to do it, by coming up with this motivational strategy, this story, then it would result in a positive action.
Bernie: Yeah. I just donât live in that world. So, again itâsâIâm just this simple guy. Iâm sort of attached to these three tenets. You know, maybe if I could get unattached to those, thatâs my next, maybe I have to work on that.
My feeling is if I approach it without all concepts, and I bear witness to whatâs going on the best thing will arise. I have faith in thatâthat that will happen. And if recycling is the thing that should arise, it will arise. And if itâs not, it wonât. Iâm not going to get into labeling what Iâm doing as good or bad, or try to figure out how to motivate myself.
Iâm always going to go into that situation and just try to grok it, man. And one of the situations is the planet. Iâm the planet, so I donât use too much water. It just comes up. I have faith that what will come up are the best I can do. The best meal I can do.
It may sound very simplistic, but the truth of the matter is it is very simplistic. Itâs like that first line of Fukanzengi, by Dogen Zenji. âAfter years and years and years of practice, I finally realized it was right there from the beginning.â So, Iâve practiced years, and years, and years, and years. And at this point, it feels very simple. And it doesnât mean that any of the practice has gone away. Itâs just part of the daily life. But itâs not so complicated. The brain is a beautiful thing for complicating stuff.
All kinds of theoriesâI enjoy reading all kinds of theories and stuff, but I donât get stuck in all that.
Questioner 15: You just mentioned after years and years of practice, youâve come back to what was there at the beginning. Iâd be curious to hear how you think about the years of really disciplined practice, and the role of, kind of preserving a lineage of practiceâthe value of preserving a lineage of practice, as American Zen evolves.
Bernie: Sure. Thatâs an important thing for me. So we have to first really unpack what you just said. Because one phrase thatâs very important is âpreserve a tradition of practice.â Right? Did I hear you right?
Questioner 15: A lineage . . .
Bernie: âPreserve a lineage of practice.â OK. Then, my sense is that youâre using âpracticeâ different than the way that I described âpractice.â So I need to know what you mean by practice. Cause I told you what I meant by practice, and youâre not using it in that way. So we donât want to confuse ourselves. Iâve got to know what you mean by âpractice.â
Questioner 15: Yeah. I mean practice in the other sense of . . .
Bernie: Thereâs no other sense. I want you to define what you mean by âpractice.â
Questioner 15: Yeah. You know you have spent a lot of your life studying the historic texts, practicing . . . you know, studying liturgy, staying true to something that youâve inherited from previous generations. And yet, you found a kind of freedom in it. And so Iâm intrigued by this. You know thereâs something in our Zen world that, you know we hold on to Dogen, we hold on to ritual, we hold on to many of these things. And itâs important that we transmit them with some integrity from one generation to the next. We seem to believe thatâthat thatâs an important kind of integrity.
And yet you find a lot ofâit seems that you are very free of it all, and yet loyal to itâwhat youâve inherited.
Bernie: OK. So what I want to make as a shift, and youâve got to agree whether youâll allow me, instead of âpractice,â perhaps you mean âupayas.â
Questioner 15: Yeah. I can go there.
B: You can go there. And Iâm gonna say to you that the upayas of my teacher, Maezumi Roshi, were not the upayas that he was trained in. And that he created his own forms and his own upayas. So, if we talk about tradition of lineage, you wonât find the upayas of my teacher, Maezumi Roshi, going to some kind of lineage.
If we want to talk about lineage, you almost have to defineâfirst weâve got upayas and we have lineage. So we can create lines, but even that is an upaya, because in the days of Shakyamuni there were no lineagesâhe didnât think that way. That arises in China because of Confucius model. They need lineages.
Maezumi has twelve Dharma Successors. If you look at their upayas, theyâre almost all different. So if you look at students of mine, they might go back to me as a tradition, or theyâve created their own tradition.
So at Upaya, the tradition here is not my tradition, and itâs not my teacherâs tradition, and itâs not any of his teacherâs traditions. Itâs the tradition of Upaya.
So thatâs one of the phenomena in the West. I hear the word tradition a lot, and usually when I try to pin it down, it goes as far as the particular teacher in that place. And what theyâve done is combined a lot of the stuff that theyâve learned or studied, and they created their own schema.
Now, is that new here? No, if you go to Japan, or you go to China, youâll find the same thing. And so we have Han Shanâheâs a hermit. Or we have Ryokanâheâs this drunken poet. We have Rinzai, we haveâheâs Chinese. We have the sixth patriarch and his rival that starts the sudden and the gradual schools of Zen.
So it becomes complicated to sayâto meâto talk about tradition. Whatâs important to me, that is basic to Buddhism as far as Iâm concerned, is the awakening to the interconnectedness of life.
Everything else is upaya. Everything.
There are Buddhist groups that donât meditate. And in my Yiddish way of thinking, itâs a shanda! Itâs a pity! Can you imagine Buddhist groups that donât meditate? But there are, you know. And probably when you talk to them, they have found some way that they think is better.
Now Iâm very involved in social engagement. But that doesnât mean that Iâm not very involved in meditation. I donât know anybody thatâs just meditating. There are people that are just meditating.
One of my teachers, a guy named Yasutani Roshi, said that you can look in the window of doll shops, and you can see people doing Zazen. That does not mean that theyâve awakened to the oneness of lifeâjust because theyâre doing Zazen all the time. The important thing is the awakening to the interdependence of life.
And a role of a teacher in Zen is to figure out what upayas are right. My teacher said that to me. Maezumi Roshi, over and over, said to me that what I have to do is swallow the teachings that heâs doingâone-to-one teachingsâand spit out (thatâs the terminology he used) spit out what doesnât work for your culture and time and place. He said, âI canât do it. Iâm Japanese.â Heâs through and through Japanese. He says, âI canât do that. You have to create the American Zen,â and it has to be appropriate.
Thereâs another way ofâanother metaphor thatâs used a lot, at least in the Soto sect, and that is the egg. Which is theâthe white is the part that the yellow eats, gives the nourishment? Whatâs the nourishment.
Audience member: The yellow.
Bernie: The nourishment is the yellow?
Audience member: Yeah.
Bernie: And the white becomes the chicken? No. The yellow becomes the chicken, and the white is the nourishment. And so the metaphor is that the transmission of the Dharma is like movingâtaking that egg, and bringing it to another place. If you want that chicken to be born, the nourishment has to fit the cultureâwhere itâs going. If you keep the same white in the new place, the chicken will die. It will not last. So itâs critical that the yellow move, which is the awakening to the interdependence of life. Thatâs the critical piece.
And the job of the teachers andâIâm gonna say teachersâis whatâs the appropriate white in this new environmentâin the environment where they find themselves?
So, I think thatâs dealing with the question of tradition. See, if we want to just keep that white, it will die.
Now, does that say that everything that one studied and learned gets thrown out? No! Itâs the role of that teacher to say, âWhat pieces am I gonna keep, and what pieces Iâm not gonna keep?â And luckily we have so many different teachers, so we have many different styles, and weâre all very different. So different people will go to different places. Theyâll go to the place, which jives with them. Thatâs natural.
We canât have any sense of, âWell, they shouldnât go there. They should come to me.â Well, if we donât fit, why should they come to me? They should go toânot everybody in this room wants to go live on the streets with me. Or do you? We can all go right now.
No, I mean itâs aâdoes that go to the question? So, just to say it once more, cause you will hearâI guarantee all of you will hearâpeople talking about the tradition, and preserving the tradition. And when you hear it, stop for a second, and ask the person, âWhat tradition are we preserving?â
Iâll give you an exampleâone of my favorite examples. I donât think I said it yet here. Stop me if youâve heard this one.
So, we were in Dharamsalaâa group of Western teachers, Western Buddhist teachers. And each day we had different themes that we were talking about. And once a day we would meet with His Holiness at his place, the Dalai Lama. And in this particular week it turned out he was doing some other teachings and the heads of the four schools were there too. And one day, we had this long discussion. And part of it was what tradition do you maintain, or what teaching do you maintain? Something on that order. And he said, âWhen that question is posed to me, I think back to Shakyamuni Buddha, and say, âWhat would he do?ââ Thatâs how he would answer. OK. Heâd be lost here. You know, if weâre talking about Buddhist tradition, man, do you know that most Theravadans feel that Zen is not Buddhist, and whatâs going on in Japan is not Buddhist? Why? You donât live by the Vinaya, man. I mean thatâs a non-starter. If youâre not going to live by the Vinaya, how are you calling yourself a Buddhist?
I talk about what, to me, what a Buddhist is, and for me itâs rather simple. A Buddhist is someone on a path of trying to realize and abide in the oneness of life. I asked Bob Thurman what heâd call a Buddhist. He said, âA Buddhist has to believe in reincarnation. If you donât believe in reincarnation, you canât call yourself a Buddhist.â Thatâs another tradition.
So anyway, His Holiness said that âI would go back to Shakyamuni.â And then he excused himself, because he had a bad cold and we had been talking for about an hour. And one of the teachers, a guy named Lama Surya Dasâa Brooklyn Jew, actually more Long Island, but started off in Brooklynâsaid to the four heads of the four lineages, âWe just heard His Holiness say that if we want to look for what the correct tradition is, if it something that Shakyamuni Buddha would do, what about Guru Yoga?â And one of the heads said, âWell, what you donât know Surya Das, is that the night before Shakyamuni died, he had a dream in which he saw that Guru Yoga was part of the tradition.â So tradition has a funny way of becomingâwhatâs the tradition?
And as we know, in that famous movie, Fiddler on the Roof, Tradition! (sung), thatâs beautiful. My teacher, Maezumi Roshi, loved that movie. And I think as a Japanese, that thing about tradition. And he was radical. My teacher was radical, in the early years. And then in later years, he became less radical. That sometimes happens. But in the early years, the Soto sect would say, âYouâre not part of us, man. Youâre not part of us.â Deshimaru would not talk with him until much later on. He was doing koans. Unheard ofâhe was doing all kinds of things that were just not part of the tradition. And Yasutani Roshi criticized the tradition of the Soto sect as not being in the tradition of Buddhismâof not worrying about awakening, but worrying about other stuff.
Questioner 16: Itâs not that important.
Bernie: No? Everything is very important.
Questioner 16: But, in the spirit of chess, I just want to return to the nobility lie.
Bernie: To noble lie?
Questioner 16: The noble lie, and . . .
Bernie: I have to get some of those.
Questioner 16: Try and use your language maybe to bring a little clarity.
Bernie: Maybe what?
Questioner 16: To bring a little more clarity. So it your metaphor about Bernieâs body, and Mary I believe was on the right, and Johnnyâs on your left arm. And back when Johnny gets a cut on his left arm. And youâve been at the Zen center. And youâve been practicing your precepts, and even the three tenets. And so youâre bearing witness to whatâs happening. And instead of just initially covering up the cut, you realize that Bernie is terrified of blood, and it would be much better if you maybe waited and did something else instead of just initially cover up the cut. The truth is that youâre cut. But the action that follows thatâif the big picture and the bearing witness says, âWell maybe I should wait until Bernie falls asleep, and before I fix it, itâs going to terrify him. We would rather have Bernie not terrified.â Am I making sense?
Bernie: Well Iâm gonna be a little radical, cause I donât use the word truth.
Questioner 16: Maybe fact. Maybe fact is the word.
Questioner 16: OK.
Bernie: I canât even go there.
Questioner 16: OK.
Questioner 16: See how radical I am?
Questioner 16: Dig it.
Bernie: So, maybe this Bernie, and maybe also this arm, to it, itâs bleeding and itâs cut. And this may really feel itâs not cut. I donât call one truth, and one a lie. Now thatâs pretty radical, right? Because you know itâs a fact. And I tell you that the world knows what the facts are. Itâs so obvious. And we will go to war over those facts. I am so radical that I donât know what the facts are. I try to bear witness and I let what comes up come up. And if this thing is trying to bear witness and it comes up that thereâs nothing going on there, man, and walks away, thatâs itâsâif you want to use that wordâtruth. Thatâs its truth.
Everything for me is subjective. There is no objective truth. Nothing to me is objective truth. You know, I start off with what is basically there, is the situation prior to the Big Bang. Thatâs called the source of one hand, itâs called the source of Mu, itâs called what I call not-knowing. Everything else is afterwards. Itsâ a label thatâs put on. I just put up a little writing I sometimes talk about; I call it At Play in the Field of the Pure Land. You know in the Bible thereâs a phrase, âat play in the fields of the Lord.â Peter Matthiesson wrote a book, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, and so I talk about at play in the field of the pure land. But the fields is prior to any perception. Perception then goes in, and something coalesces. And that instrumentationâthat coalescingâis dependent on the subject. Another subject, the same field, will coalesce differently.
So, in the Diamond Sutra, where it says, âeverything is a dream,â thatâs . . . yeah. The cut on the arm, for me, is my perception. And if itâs not, itâs not my perception.
Questioner 16: Mmm hmmm. Itâs so radical.
Questioner 16: Itâs so radical. Itâs good for me to hear it. You know, part of my . . .
Bernie: Well youâve heard it over and over in Buddhism that everything is delusion. Youâve heard that. Iâm just saying it in a non-Buddhist way. Iâm saying it in regular language, but youâve heard it in Buddhism over and over. Itâs all delusion. And then you hear Dogen say, âWell, delusion is enlightenment.â So itâs all enlightenment. But, that thereâs no fixed thing. I mean that comes up over and over in Buddhism. Iâm just saying it in a very concrete way to make that bridge from where you were reading it as theory intoâyeah, this high end is dangling off and you think thatâs real, man.
Questioner 16: But, it seems like the edge of that is like paralysis. Like if everything is . . .
Bernie: It may seem that way, but for me the edge of that is total freedom.
Questioner 16: Uh huh.
Bernie:Huge freedom. I mean, itâs creativity, itâs everything is possible. Why? Because thereâs nothing fixed. Everything is possible. Once you have anything thrown in there, youâre limiting the creativity.
Thatâs how I see it. And man, Iâm ready to do anything. I see it as very, very freeing. But, you know, thatâs my opinion. Thatâs just my opinion, and you can have another opinion. You do. I mean we all have different opinions. Iâm not trying to convert anybody to my opinions. That would be horrible, from my standpoint.
Bernie: Who asked about âbeing a householder?â And what did you mean by âhouseholderâ?
Questioner 17: Well, it is around what Iâm thinking, and practicing, and being confused about right now, which is ordinariness. You know, how do you bring all this intoâI mean I understand what Karen meant about the âreal world.â And I understand what youâre saying about âitâs all the same world.â But you know, when we leave the zendo, and when we leave the lovely container where we all know what council is, and we all have some sort of understanding, and we go out to our work places and that sort of thingâand yeah, Iâm really interested in how I can keep bringing what Iâm learning here, and what Iâm practicing here, into that environment.
Bernie: And thatâs the householder environment?
Questioner 17: Well, I mean thatâs a label I put on it. As you knowânot a monastic.
Bernie: Not a monastic?
Questioner 17: Not monastic.
Bernie: So, when youâre here, youâre a monastic?
Questioner 17: People would say, âabsolutely not.â
Bernie: They would say what?
Questioner 17: âAbsolutely not.â No. I mean, but itâs a little bit safe.
Bernie: Uh huh.
Questioner 17: You know, because in the sense that weâre all in the same club, and we kind of know the rules a little bit. We kind of share the same vocabulary.
Bernie: Uh huh.
Questioner 17: So for instance, when I was once talking to my staff, and they were having some problems, and I suggested to them that they could change their perceptions about thingsâI thought, you know, just as an exercise. You know, what is it about this client that you really hate, that you really like? And they got really, really pissed off. You know, that was difficult. And I struggled with having the skills to know how to help myself, and help them through that situation.
Bernie: Uh huh.
Questioner 17: [Is] that making any kind of sense to you?
Bernie: Some kind. Yeah. Who else has a notion of what it means to be a householder? What does it mean? If you have a notion, you gotta share a notion, right? Sometimes a notion.
Questioner 18: Well, I guess my notion is similarâjust being in the world.
Bernie: Being in the world.
Questioner 18: Yeah. Like outside of this container.
Bernie: Outside of . . .
Questioner 18: . . . of a practice containerâof a supportive, practice container.
Bernie: Yeah. Why do you go outside of a practice container?
Questioner 18: Well, not like . . . I donât know. Itâs just the world can be a little bit more bigger than my practice container at times.
Bernie: Uh huh. Peggy wants to say something.
Questioner 19 (Peggy): Whatâs coming up for me is Iâm wondering if theyâreâwhatâs really being asked here is âWhere do I find sangha?â
Bernie: âWhere do I find sangha?â
Questioner 19: And that thereâs a kind of ready-made sangha here, in a senseâor what people think of as ready-made sangha.
Bernie: Ready-made sangha?
Questioner 19: In other words, a group of people who share in a particular kind of practice, who are all on the sameâall have the same interest in awakening, and seek to support that same kind of work in one another.
Bernie: Uh huh.
Questioner 20: I actually think of householder as family. So, the people who have known me, and loved me my whole life, or not loved me my whole life. And you know, kids and husbands and neighbors, and you know, people who know me outside of this container. And thereâs familiarity, thereâs old patterns, thereâs ways that we have relating with each other that you know, are pretty entrenchedâsome of them. And itâs easy toâif itâs a beginning practiceâitâs easy to get to go back to those old patterns without the support.
Bernie: Uh huh. Now Iâm getting confused.
Questioner 21: Iâm wondering also if part of whatâs coming up too is the idea that you know, weâre among a very small minority of people, as Buddhist practitioners. And when we go outside of our sangha, and we enter the work place, or could be even members of our family, the work we do here, the practice that we do, the discussions we have, the things we are learning about our mind, and about the connectedness of things is very different from what most people talk about over a couple beers. And so, how do we find a sense of belonging perhaps? And how do we interact with people who have no idea what it is weâre doing? Iâm just a Buddhist freak.
Bernie: Uh huh.
Questioner 22: I can relate to suffering that a long timeâfeeling that somehow that I was separate from, somehow the path was over there, somehow the practice was over there, somehow I was . . . And then, you know it just became actually grist for the mill. It became letting go of the biggest attachment, which was my original teaching group. You know so it was reallyâit was walking through a desert to actually allow myself to actually experience what it is Iâd been studying I guess. So, actually it was perfect, even though I kept saying it wasnât. So, I remember thinking, âIâm a householder,â and the whole idea of a walker in two worldsâas if there were two worlds. But it was always that separation, as if I had to be a walker in two worlds. Or also this idea of a differentâa fourth-way school is a school where we do the work in the world. So that was another way that I would explain it to myselfâthat it was OK to be . . . You know, and then it got to where it didnât make that much of a difference. Although I enjoy being with like-minded people just as much as people who like football enjoy being with other people who like football. But then it became all the same thing anyway. But that took a long time.
Bernie: You have the mike.
Questioner 23: I think it is about like, you know here itâs clear that itâs the practice is the main purpose, but I feel that itâs you know the bills to be paid. There are situations that can easily trigger a habitual way. I guess it is a separation, but I do feel Iâm in this kind of environment for quite a long time. But I do feel that, so what do I do? You know, can I stay in this container forever, or am I going to somehow get something and start working? Something that, I was educated, or like trained for my entire childhood. Like, one day you are going to be a member of society, and then maybe have a family, and then get the job, and then you know, kind of that thing. And then being hereâI came here because I question about those things. Iâm interested learning aboutâso OK that is just my whatever I believe. And I came here to really see truth. But it kind of challenges to so-called mainstream. I donât know if it really exists, or in my mind. But it just, like I still carry that somehow I have to make my way through it. And then, whatever I understand as a household, or outside world is that something, you know people have an opinion about it. And then somehow, the practice like this is like a little smaller bubble that we kind of train. And then some people will find a way. And some people kind of come here to get some kind of understanding, but go back. But now Iâm kind of questioning about is it just illusion itself too?
Bernie: And sangha, what do you mean by âsanghaâ? Yeah, you said, âIt had something to do with sangha.â Everybody knows the word âsangha,â right?
Questioner 24: I think for me personally, that the community that lives here at Upaya is not my sole sangha. But I think thatâwhat I was bringing upâwas that I think thatâs a perception in peopleâs mind that somehow, you know, I think that you can find sangha everywhere. But I think what is often thought of, when you think of the term âsangha,â is somebody who practices in the same tradition as you, or who practices, you know, Buddhist practices, like meditation, walking meditation, sitting meditation. They meet once a week, they, you know, ascribe to a certain set of precepts, and you know, the kind of tradition that Brian was speaking about before. You know, the kinds of things that fit into that kind of idea about, you know, Buddhist practice.
Bernie: OK. He wants to say something.
Questioner 25: So, Iâm wondering if sangha would be wherever Buddha isâwherever Buddha-nature is. And I donât know where Buddha-nature is. I donât know where Buddha is, but Iâve heard that itâs unobstructed. So if thatâs the case, I feel like sangha is unobstructed also.
Bernie: Itâs all becoming clear, right?
Questioner 26: I think itâs that whole notion of club that youâve brought up, and itâs all different ways of talking about the clubâextension of the club. Iâd like to hear more about that.
Questioner 27: I remember something you said in one of your books that was a plunge for meâwhere youâre talking about the Heart SutraâMaha Prajna, and you saidâI was kind of going along with it just fine, you know. And then all the sudden you said, you know, âPrajna is, you know, when you step in dog crap, and your shoe smells, and you know, when the sun risesâthatâs prajna. And even when a Nazi puts a young child into a gas chamber is prajna.â And it shook me up, and out of a conception I had of outside and inside the circle. And Iâm reminded of that in this conversation.
Questioner 28: Yeah, I think it isâpeople are primarily asking how to bring what we might be learning or gaining in the clubâthis club, weâre in the clubhouseâout into other avenues of living life. And I think youâre all about that. Youâre the plunge, and going to Auschwitz, and living on the streets is all about how to bring what we might be able to explore or investigate in the safety of the club and the clubroom out into a wider venue that we call, âlife and death.â
Bernie: Yeah. There was another question, which Iâm sort of in my head relating to this, but it may not be. Somebody saidâor I wrote down at any rateâI wrote down, âHow did I become me?â Does anybody remember? You asked that?
OK. So letâs clarify some terms. âSanghaâ is used in many different way, right? Shakyamuni Buddha used âsanghaâ very specifically to meanâand Theravada tradition keeps that very specific meaning of sangha as, âthe monks and nuns.â I donât think itâs the four classesâthereâs monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. But I think sangha is just the monks and nuns, and originally just the monks. But then sangha, I believe pre-existed that.
When I studied in the koan system with my teacher, we looked at sangha in three ways. That was one definition. Another definition of sangha was those folks that were on the path of wanting to realize and actualize the interdependence of life. Now that goes beyond Buddhism, right? Buddhists donât have a lock on that notion of the interconnectedness of life. Youâll find that in mostâin manyâtraditions, usually among the mystics in those traditions. And then, we also talked about sangha as being everyone. So those are sort of three ways of talking about sangha.
And another thing that I think of when I think of sangha is community. There are different traditions where the emphasis is practicing by yourself. You know, going off into a cave and doing a long time by yourself. And in fact when I was ready to leave the Zen Center Los Angelesâthis was in â79âand I told my teacher that Iâm not gonna set up a Zen Center in New York. Iâm just gonna go and start doing things, and relating to people, and whatever. And he says, âOh no! No sir. I didnât spend all this time training you!â And I said, âWell, look at Dhola. You had all these wonderful people in China that went off an lived under bridges, and whatever.â And he said, âNo. You have to create a center, because thatâs where youâre gonna learn. Youâre gonna interact with people.â Youâre gonna interact with people wherever you go. But for him and for many people, he quoted Yasutani Roshi, saying, âYou have to have a club.â He didnât say club. âYou have to start a place, with a sangha.â
In the Jewish tradition, if you go to pray in a synagogue, you need ten people. Thatâs called a minyanâbut itâs a sangha. If you donât have ten, then theoreticallyâI shouldnât say theoreticallyâif you donât have the ten, God is not there. If you have nine, not enough, man. Youâve got to get that tenth. And in the Reformedâyou said youâre in the Reformed movementâthey even now, include in that movement women as part of a minyan. But in the Orthodox, no, no, itâs got to be ten men. Otherwise God aint there, man.
So, personally I think sangha is extremely important. And we talk about three treasures being Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. And Buddha as the awakened one, the stress is on associating with folks that we think of as awakened. And as you know now, my opinion is we can grade those persons depending on how they serve others. And Dharma is the giving of talks, and doing this kind of stuff. And then thereâs Sangha. And youâll find different places that stressâwhere the upayas are stressing one or the other of those three. And sanghaâs the hardest, because itâs dealing with relationshipâand relationship is the hardest.
Itâs not so hard to listen to a talk, like weâre doing now, right? Itâs not so hard to be an awakened one, because Shakyamuni Buddha said, âweâre all awakened.â And Iâthatâs not so difficult. But sangha, where we gotta interrelate, and deal withâboy, thatâs tough.
For many years I was a fierce monkâIâm gonna say âmonkâ but I donât like the word monk âcause I was not celibate. I was married. I had children. So we use the word Priest, because I was ordained, I was a Priest. And for many years, my desire was that we would all stay togetherâthe people that were training at Zen Center Los Angeles. We grew into a very large sangha. We owned most of a block, and there was probably 200 people living right on that block, and people around, and it was a large sangha. And I wanted to keep us all together. There were some people who were becoming teachers and they wanted to go out and set up places around. And I had this thoughtâto create like a pressure cooker where weâd all stay there, and weâd all train, and whatever.
And then I had an experienceâthis is after I had finished my studies with Maezumi Roshi. I had an experience going to work. I worked at McDonnell Douglas. I had a parallel life, working at McDonnell Douglas, and sort of helping my teacher run this big Zen Center. And in a carpool on the way to work, I had this experience of the hungry spirits of the world. It was immense. And it was an experience of suffering, that is, of needing, of wanting thingsâand wanting power, wanting enlightenment, wanting money, wanting food, wanting shelter, wanting love. It was an experience of all these hungry ghosts, which appear in the literatureâin our Buddhist literature, you knowâbig stomachs and thin throats. I had this experience, and at the same time that I experienced this, I experienced it all as manifestations of me. And immediately what popped up is a vow to feed all of this, to work with all that.
And out of that came the sense that I had to change my venue. The venue had been the Zen Center of Los Angeles. And I had to change it to where the venue was going to be the worldâsociety. And I went and moved to New York. I created a Zen center. Itâs called the Zen Community New York. And at the same time I was working in the business world. And I started to do social action.
I put a lot of thought into what does it mean in those venues? Whatâs the equivalent of Sesshin in the business world, in social action, in theater? Whatâs the equivalent of Zazen in those? I looked at all of the upayas that we had, and I started to think about whatâand the upayas, again, were for helping us to realize and actualize the interconnectedness of life, so, how is thatâwhat would be upayas in these different spheres?
And then after a while, I stopped thinking about them as different spheres. It was just, you know, wherever I went, thatâs where I was. So when I was in the Zen center in my Priest robes, my house was the zendo, and the liturgy hall. I did a lot of training in various liturgies. When I was in the business world, my household was the business world. When I was doing social engagement, that was my household.
So the house was where I was, and in reality thatâs true for all of us. Wherever we are, itâs our house. Now, sometimes it doesnât feel comfortable. We can choose among all of the various households that we meander in. So when you go on the streets with me, one of the things you have to do is aimlessly meander. And in life, we do that; we meander from place to place. And sometimes one thing feels more comfortable than another. For some, the sun feels very comfortable. For some, the snow. Like if youâre at Auschwitz with me, and itâs snowing, thatâs a lot better than when itâs raining. It feels much more comfortable to be warmed by the snow than to be in the rain, and you know.
But at any rate, different things are more comfortable than others. And thatâs good. There are times when, you know, if I want to learn to swim, itâs nice to have a teacher that knows how to swim, knows the right kind of forms to instruct me, so that I can learn to swim. But I wouldnât go to him if I wanted to learn about carpentry. So to come to a place thatâs teaching meditation and liturgy, thatâs great when I want to learn meditation. The trap is when one begins to think thatâs all of life, or that thereâs an in and an out. Because what we emphasize in the world of Zen is that itâs got to be your full life.
If itâs not youâve just created a new trap for yourself. Youâve found a place thatâs comfortable, and you want to stay in that space of comfort, and you wonât grow. I mean, youâll grow to a certain place. Thereâs got to be more. Thereâs got to be more, I think.
It doesnât have to be more. I mean most of us do stay in what we feel is the comfort zone, right? But youâve got to deal with the Lubavitcher brother. Itâs not comfortable, but you grow. You let the Lubavitcher part of yourself manifest.
Audience member: Iâll wear a wig.
Bernie: Yeah, those are the forms; itâs not the spirit. You could be in a monastic setting and have a shaved head, and thatâs a form, itâs not the spirit. In any of these venues that you go to, thereâs usually a form. If you go bowling, we put on bowling shoes. If you go with me to refugee camps, you put on a red nose. Those are forms, and the point of forms, of course, thereâs a certain comfort. Itâs reassuring to have a sense that you know whatâs going on. Itâs not necessarily the best way to grow, if you stay in the places where you think you know whatâs going on. But to do it for periods of time, and the period of time might be a lifetime. Iâm not saying how short or long the period is. So for me, Bodhidharma facing a wall in a caveâthat is a household, his house happened to be a cave. And for those here, youâre householders, and your house happens to be Upaya.
Now we do also use the term, âhouseholderâ vs. âmonastic.â So thatâs why I wanted to know what you all meant, because thereâs not one right or wrong definition. Whatâs important is that we know what we meanâwhat is it that weâre talking about? And what do we mean by thatâbeing a monastic?
So when I joined the Zen Center of Los Angeles, I (and my wife), we had been exploring joining a commune or creating a commune. We had meetings with people. We were going to . . . and instead we joined my teacher. At that time there was just one house. And in my head it was sort of a commune. We didnât know that much. And we didnât have many forms. I started teaching with my teacher Maezumi Roshi full-timeâthat means every dayâaround 1966. 1973 was when forms were introduced. So for those first seven years, we didnât know about Oryoki. We didnât know about many of these forms. In â73 we had our first three-month training period. In Japanese [itâs] called AngoâPeriod of Peace. And he brought his brother from Japan to train me. I was the first sort of head of that training period. And all these forms start getting introduced.
And a lot of people that were practicing there wanted to split, because they thought that they were practicing Zen, and that Zen didnât have forms, all that stuff. Itâs early days, see. We were doing meditation. He was giving talks, and doing interviews. But it was a somewhat a freer spirit. He was sort of a radical guy.
And then we start introducing forms. We introduced Jukai, and a lot of people said, âHey, youâre starting to make differentiations among people!â The Jukai people started to feel better, stronger, more important than the non-Jukai people. And little by little those things all got worked through.
And it wasnât until I left, many years later, that I realized that as we started to do that, we became a monastic form. My teacherâs Japanese, and even though he didnât bring many forms, it was still a monastic scene that he brought. He grew up in that kind of scene. His father was married. It was a family scene. But what I mean by monastic, in those days what that meant was that family did not countâwas not important. They were called householders, and it was negative.
So I had kids. But I could not have done what my daughter and son-in-law are doingâbonding with the kids. My kids were bornâI had to be in the Zendo when they were waking up. And then as they got older, and they were going to school, I was in the Zendo when they were leaving to go to school. I was in the Zendo every evening when they were going to bed. So I was an absentee parent, because I was being formed as a monastic, even though we were in a family scene. And that was correct.
My teacherâs kids didnât know him. And there was a lot of resentment. There was a lot of resentment with my children and me. We worked it out over the years, but they remember their early days when I was not there. I was in the Zendo. And I believed what my teacher told me, which was that the Dharma is forever, marriage and family is just one lifetime. Itâs not important. Not important.
So as I sort of developed, for me after that experience of the hungry ghosts of the world, everything was important. I couldnât think of a realm that was not important. And wherever I went, that was my house. And for me, throughout all those years I felt like my missionâor extremely importantâthat I . . . to realize the oneness of life. So that never changed. But how to do that changed depending on where I was. And certain forms were appropriate in certain places, and certain forms appropriate in other places.
And so little by little that distinction for me disappeared. And so there were people in black clothes, and people inâI remember when we first moved to New York, and I was always interested in interfaith work. So the meditation hall had no images, so anybody could come and meditate. And in fact the first code of the Zen monasteryâback in China, it was written into the codeâyou couldnât have any images in the monastery.
Now of course Shakyamuni Buddha said the same thing. He said, âNo images.â Because why? âIf you have images, theyâll start worshipping me as a God.â Probably ninety percent of the Buddhists in the worldâthere are a lot of Buddhists in the worldâand they donât all do what youâre doing. Most of them are praying to Buddha for rain, for fertility, for end my illness, you know. But at any rate, he said, âNo.â And most Theravadins do not have images. And the first Zen rule developed in China by Hyakujo said also âno images.â Because if you have them, all of the sudden what youâre going to find is that the Emperors, and the Lords, and the Daimios, all these people are gonna come around and ask to have services so that we can win the war against such and such, or we can have rain because, you know. Itâll change, and he said, âWe want the monastery to remain as a training ground for realizing the oneness of life, not for that other stuff.â But as people we want all that other stuff.
And in the Zen world, thereâs a wonderful guy you all know about, Dogen. You probably all know Keizan Zenji. Is that name familiar? He comes a couple of generations later. Heâs called the mother of the Soto sect. Dogen is the father of the Soto sect. If Keizan Zenji didnât come, the Soto sect would have probably disappeared. Dogen was a very strict monastic kind of guy, although in a certain phase of his life he writes Fukanzazengi, where heâs talking about everybody doing Zazen, not just the small group.
But any rate, Keizan enlarges, and creates temples all over the place, and creates liturgy, and Priests. The Priests go way up in numbers, and the big role is to pray for the health, and pray for different things. And thatâs how it grows, âcause thatâs what most people want.
I donât know how I got there. Do you know, Brian, how I got there?
Brian: It was making sense to me.
Audience member: You were talking about your life . . .
Bernie: I was talking about how I became me.
So before that experience, the only form that made any sense to me was the Zendo. I had dedicated my life to being in that Zendo. And those who came into the Zendo were walking into my sphere of influence in terms of my figuring out how toâin those days, it was how to save them by beating them into having realizations.
Itâs a little bit likeâI was an organic gardener, and chemical gardening, itâs a little bit like chemical gardening vs. organic gardening. In chemical gardening youâre pushing things to sprout, but itâs not so healthy. And I was pushing things to happen, and I feel it wasnât such a healthy life. But it was my life, and it took a long time for me to work through all that conditioning. A long time, and I donât know if Iâve worked it all through. Iâm sure thereâs remnants there. Yeah.
Questioner 29: Iâd like to finish a thread that you started before we broke for dinner. You were talking about the three tenants. And what Iâve been wondering is, you come in with donât-know mind, not knowing. And then you pay attention, do your deep listening, your witnessing. And then what I hear you saying is that the loving action emerges. And my question, what touchstone or compass do you use to make sure that the loving action is indeed a loving action?
Bernie: OK, you didnât emphasize too much the bearing witness. You talk mostly about not knowing, deep listening. And then for me itâs extremely important, that bearing witness period where youâre really just being . . .
Questioner 29: . . . being there and groking it.
Bernie: . . . and groking. And the third, I just have faith that loving actions will arise. Or I have faith that the actions that arise are the best actions that can arise out of that situation. I donât particularly like to say âlovingâ or âoriginally the word I had for that third tenant, it was a Hebrew word and I was looking for a translation, âTikkun Olam.â Tikkun Olam isâOlam is the world. Tikkun is the hard one to translate. Sometimes itâs called healing. Sometimes itâs called repairing. Because it comes from a sense that the light of God fills this cup, and itâs so intense that the cup scatters into millions and millions of pieces. Itâs a little bit like what happened to Avalokiteshvara. And then the role of the righteous one, or the Tzadik, is to bring those pieces back together. Itâs very similar to what weâre talking about of realizing the interconnectedness of life. So itâs sort of like repairing that fragmented thing.
So anyway, I came up with loving actions, but the critical thing for me was thatâit was my feeling thatâif you could do this not knowing, and bearing witness, that what would come up would be those kinds of actions. Now, thatâs an ideal case, because none of us are going to enter a situation really not knowing and totally open. And none of us can fully bear witnessâget into a non-dual state with what the situation is. So Iâve developed upayas for each, and also for the third. So hereâs actions one can do, and a way of doing it that will help to realize the interconnectedness of life.
Thatâs the practice part of it all. And the absolute part of it all is that I have this faith that that will occur.
Questioner 29: The key is that really bearing witness to the deepest extent possible.
Bernie: Theyâre all key. I mean you canât fully bear witness if youâre attached to some kind of notion. So the not knowing is extremely important. But you can create practices to help let go of these attachments. You can create practices to experience, to taste whatâs meant by bearing witness. Theyâre all key. I wouldnât say one is more than the other. And if I had to say one thing is more important than the other, itâs the loving actions.
Questioner 29: And your faith is that if the first are consciously thoroughly done, then the third will emerge?
Questioner 29: OK. Thank you.
Bernie: Right. And then, different people will look at those actions and say, âThatâs evil.â And other people will look at those actions and say, âThatâs wonderful.â So people will judge the actions depending on their own attachments, and their own conditioning. So thatâs why itâs hard to give it a name.
Questioner 29: Part of whatâs in the back of my mind is that a few years ago I did some study about the question of evil, and there was this guy named Becker (I think). Do you know him? His book was basically showing how so much of the evil is done in the world because people are trying to squash out evil. I mean, Hitler was trying to get rid ofâby his lights, you know, as horrible as it was, he was trying to get rid of the vermin in the world.
Questioner 29: So, thatâs what brings up for me the question of whatâs the touchstone? How can we keep from deluding ourselves?
Bernie: You canât. I donât think so. I think, being human, we can do continuous practice. Itâs like if youâre in AA, and youâre doing the path, youâre doing the steps. There are some people that say, âIâve reached the goal.â Those people have a problem. Thereâs just the path. And . . . thereâs just the path.
Now I will sayâbut I donât believe this, but I will sayâI mean I do, in a way, believe thisâI will say that if you do things like that, you will minimize the suffering around youânot get rid of itâminimize. How do you prove such a thing? I donât know. But thatâs my opinion, that by working in this way, you will minimize suffering. So as Roshi Joan said, bringing doctors to do all this wonderful work.
When I went on the streetsâIâll keep it to my experienceâwhen I went on the streets, there were people giving us food. And it was wonderful that they were giving us food. We were hungry. And you know that they meant well. But most people that were giving us food, we could feel that they felt superior to us, and that was horribleâworse than the food. We can get food somewhere.
So that fed into the work that Iâve done. So Iâm starting what I call cafĂ©s. These are soup kitchens. But when you walk into our cafĂ©, you canât tell whoâs homeless, whoâs poor, whoâs rich. It feels like a cafĂ©. Weâve got music. Weâve got wonderful food. Weâve got servers, but you donât know, the servers could be homeless, they could be wealthy.
Iâve tried, based on my experience of living on the streets, Iâve tried to create an environment where thereâs dignity. The environments I went into, there was love, but not dignity. I could feel the love of the people, but I also could feel that they were helping us. They were better than us, you know. They were not appreciating who we were, our life. But they were taking care.
And thatâs the sense I had from some of the issues that Roshi Joan was talking about. Some of the doctors, theyâre doing wonderful things. They mean well, and theyâre helping. But the people theyâre helping get that sense that theyâre being helped rather than what we want. We want love and dignity. And we want to be listened to, much more than being helped.
And thatâs what I thought . . . in terms of what I call a sustainable marriage, or the dokusan room, or whatever. People want to be heard. And they want there to be dignity, not necessarily that the person that theyâre talking to is better than them in any kind of wayâin any kind of way.
Questioner 30: You mentioned faith.
Questioner 30: Yeah. Do you pray?
Bernie: Do I pray?
Questioner 30: And where does faith come into your practice?
Bernie: Uh huh. So, have you read Dogenâs Shobogenzo? Dogen Zenji?
Questioner 30: A little bit.
Bernie: OK. He has a whole chapter on faith, and he said itâs the most important thing. Did you know that? So, what is faith? Do I pray? I donât pray to an exterior being. I donât necessarily use the prayer, but if somebodyâs not feeling well, I pray that they feel better, you know. Iâm not praying though to some other . . . You probably chant vows every day here. Are they prayers? What does it all mean?
So, in the Hassidic tradition, the founder was a guy that went by name Baal Shem TovâMan of Good Name. And he introduced a form of prayer in which you become one. Itâs called bearing witness. Itâs a total unification with the universe. And so itâs like changing the energy of the universe by adding your vibes to the scene.
Most times when we say âpray,â right, we mean to something external. And I would say that most Buddhists in the worldâbecause most Buddhists in the world are Asian Buddhists that are prayingâthat are praying to something external. Itâs not what we do.
So when youâre doing liturgy, and youâre having these dedications, it shouldnât be that (it shouldnât be)âmy opinion is that it should not be that itâs some external being to have to make it all work. But it should be a full merging into the feeling that this should happen. War should end! Peace on earth! We could have those feelings. Clean air! We can have those feelings.
And what happens if we do, they create trim tabs in us so that we work towards that. So that becomes part of our path. At least thatâs how I look at it.
Questioner 31 (Brian): I have a question I know Iâve asked many times in my life before. Itâs a little bit like this. Itâs back to this infinite circle concept that is part of your dharmaâthe notion of an absolute right or wrong. Iâve struggled with this concept, and I get it in some way. And then you look at something in the world, and you know it is absolutely wrong.
Bernie: Yeah. Itâs a hard practice, man. Infinite circleâheâs talking about what I call maha. Itâs not maha prajna para, but itâs maha, it means big. But it means so big that thereâs nothing outside of it. And that creates . . . because there are things that we donât want to say theyâre part of us. I mean if I have realized and experienced the oneness of the whole world, then all that stuff is me? Hitlerâs me? Famine is me? Thatâs a horrendous thought. So thereâs a couple of options. We can say, âNo, itâs not me,â and therefore I donât want to realize the interconnectedness of all life. Now, Shakyamuni Buddha said, âTough. We are one body, and itâs only our thinking that prevents us from seeingâour delusions, our attachments to thoughtsâthat prevents us from seeing that.â
So thatâs what Buddhism is about. And it does bring that dilemma. So for example, it doesnât mean just because this is all you, you donât do things about it. So if we go back to the simpler thing, where youâBrian has realized the interconnectedness of Brian. And seeing that, he says, âWell, is that cancer in me, me? I donât want that to be part of me. I donât like cancer.â But itâs you. Does that mean you have to like it? No. Does that mean you can figure out what to do? Yes.
So even though itâs you, you might decide to remove itâsurgically. You might decide to attack it with radiation, or harsh chemicals, depending on who you are.Â In Christian Science, you couldnât do those things. You could die, but you wouldnât be combating yourself. Itâs just like Gandhi, who itâs all me, and if somebodyâs going to kill me, then theyâre going to kill me. But you could also realize the interconnectedness of life, and take different actions. You canât say which actions are right or wrong. Theyâre very dependent on the particular environment.
So Iâve been asked at different talks if I had the opportunity to kill Hitler, would I, in the midst of all that? And I said, âYes.â And I call myself a pacifist, and people got really pissed at me. âHow could you do that?â And in the same way I wouldâfor example, if my hand starts getting gangrened, I would gut it off, to save the other part, you know. But some people wouldnât. It doesnât change the fact that weâre all oneâthat itâs all interconnected. It doesnât mean just because itâs all interconnected, that we have to likeâwe can have preferences. And it doesnât necessarily determine what those actions are going to be. In my way of thinking, theyâll be to minimize the suffering. So cutting off my gangrene arm is minimizing the suffering of this one body. But the arm certainly doesnât think so.
And my sense is thatâs probably the hardest part of thisâthat we are all interconnected. The fact that thereâs pieces of us, whether itâs you or the whole world, thereâs pieces that we donât like, man. And we donât want to admit thatâs also us. Cause no thereâs a little bit of a responsibility, âWhat do I do, now that thatâs me? How do I function? What do I do?â
Oops, there has to be a mike. And weâre almost over, so weâll have one more, after you, which will bring us over the limit.
Questioner 32: I was just wondering about what you were talking about, right here isnât that like when you would say the differences are relative nature vs. absolute? I mean we, everything that arises, our psycheâwe all have all of it. All of it in the container is us. But itâs the relative nature, where as the absolute is that which is the consciousness from which all arises. So when weâreâthatâs the simple way to understand that. What do you think? Is that, would you say . . .
Bernie: Iâd say thatâs a nice way of putting it. It works for you. I donât know if it works for everybody else. But absolute and relative are both relative terms. Thatâs a dualistic concept, absolute and relative.
Questioner 32: The concept of absolute . . .
Bernie: . . . is a relative term.
Questioner 32: But that would be . . .
Bernie: You canât have the concept of absolute without the other thing . . .
Questioner 32: Yeah, right. But just for our general, working in our . . . Oh, I hear, wait. Just as your life evolved, your life, when I hear your story, Iâm hearing like a psychological and spiritual change. Do you think we, as humanity is also doing that?
Bernie: Well certainly I think weâre all changing. I think everything is change. Now, it is also my opinion, you know Intela Desjardin, and The Evolution ofÂ Consciousness, to where at some point it evolves to where itâs all interconnected and whatever. So thatâs a process of evolving. What he also talks about is that itâs evolving to God. And God is the one who started that process, so itâs all one thing, but itâs evolving.
Yeah I like that theory. I mean, I like a lot of theories. And theyâre all theories. Iâm such a simple guy that we could talk about various theories, and the bottom line is that moment after moment what I do is try to approach this moment, from a standpoint of not-knowing, and try to bear witness to whatâs happening now, and see the actions that arise.
And then we can write theories about it, and talk about it in different ways. And I do. After all, Iâm an engineer, a mathematician, and all these different things, but thatâs not how I live my life. For me those are all just theories and whatever. But thatâs one that I like.
When I first got involved in Zen, the whole notion that weâre all interconnected was considered a cult. Zen was considered a cult. And now, thatâs what you see on TV. Weâre all interconnected. So somethingâs changed in the consciousness of the planet. I mean itâs like you say, âWeâre all interconnected,â and people say, âSo, big deal. Everybody knows that.âÂ So somethingâs evolved for sure. That doesnât mean just because we can talk about it that weâve experienced it. And how can we tell? You all know. We can tell how deeply weâve experienced it, how we serve others.
Roshi Joan: I wanted to say a few things before Bernie talks. When Bernie and I met, I had been practicing since â65. I then had a wonderful Korean teacher I began with, then in â75âvery strong practice.Â He was a radical, but strict, crazyâI learned a lot practicing with him. I became a teacher in his community, but he wasnât so involved in social action. That really wasnât his interest. You know, Iâm not sure what his main interest was. It was probably everything. But, the sort of feeling that I had from the 1960s, being in the civil rights and anti-war movementâit wasnât quite a fit.
And so when I met Thich Nhat Hanh more intimatelyâI met him in â66âthat definitely was a game-changer for me, in terms of the relationship between Buddhism and social action. But it was in â85 that I met him again, and went to Plum Village. And it was just Thich Nhat Hanh, myself, Sister Chung Kang, and Baker Roshi, who was in a sort of crushed state. And I remember it was in very early springâthe daffodils were just coming up, and that Thay really had a vision that was more integrated in terms of what I felt practice for me was about. It was not only the deep practice of meditation, but also being deeply socially engaged.
And so I spent a decadeâyou know, received the Lamp Transmission, the blessing so to speak, became a teacher in his lineage. And I appreciated so much what Thich Nhat had to offer. But I have to say between the cultural difference, the gender differenceâhe was so nice, in a way. And I always felt like I was a bull in a china shop. You know, I was kind of robust, and out thereâI never felt quiteâyou know, I couldnât talk to himâitâs just this sort of Buddha field. And we actually spent a lot of intimate time together, the two of us, or John Connolly, and him. But it was never this kind of straight across the pipe feeling.
And I met Bernie over the years, and when he and I reencountered each other, it was like yeah, hereâs somebodyâI mean for me a teacherâs not somebody whoâs up there, itâs someone whoâs accompanying youâwhoâs a friend. I realized this is somebody I could talk to. His ethics, and the ethos really fit with me, practice was great. Our sesshins were not in a beautiful place like this. They were in Schoolhouse Six, which was an abandoned, wrecked schoolhouse. Samu, we put on gloves, and picked up condoms, and syringes. We didnât have zafus. We were in the outdoors, sitting in broken concrete weeds. We were sitting on top of concrete blocks and old tires. We were living this lifeâit was totally different, OK.
Yeah, this is great. I didnât have to do a twelve-month year. I spent a lot of time in Yonkers, working with Bernie. And I was ordained in an AIDS clinic, which just felt right, you know, for the kind of person I was.
I also realized that we need refugesâthat, you know, Bernie needs to come here. I need to come here, because Iâm all over the worldâand many places in really rough circumstances. You know, sitting in Northern Thailand on a platformâJuliaâs been thereâwith all these women who are H.I.V.âwho are now their sort of village leaders, doing things that are really tough. Then itâs great to have a place where you can practice where thereâs peace and beauty.
And the sense of inside and outside doesnât exist for me. I was saying to Bernie when we were walking down here, we have this young resident, he said, âI really want to do social action.â I said, âGreat. Everybody who comes through the door of this temple is suffering.â
So often we want to identify with some super-tragic place, or some really heroic activity, but one of the beauties of what Bernie shared with us last night is that being a householder means that the whole world is your house. The whole world is your house. You know, itâs the airport, itâs here, itâs Rwanda, New York City, itâs downtown Santa Fe.
And this kind of inside/outsideâIâm so glad you said it, poor thing got picked on for a couple of daysâbut anyway, because a lot of us have this, âthereâs this, and then thereâs that.â Thereâs no this and that. Itâs the whole thing. And the virtue of being in a place like this is that you can realize it. The non-virtue is you can forget it. Itâs so easy to forget in the privilege of our situation. But here also you can build capacity. But there, which is the same place, you also build capacity.
So I know that many of us have expectations of how teachers should be. And as youâve seen in this time with Bernie, some of the teachers that look the greatest have the biggest feed at play. You know, they got the best outfits, the best looking monasteries, you know, theyâve got the most interesting expression on their face, but theyâre not right. Theyâre deluded.
And sometimes our idea of what a teacher is, is not met until you get older and you recognize that what you want is not something that pours down . . . you want a relationship that is characterized by authenticity. Itâs just honest, transparent, unfiltered.
So I know Bernieâs schedule is just so dense, itâs kind of like mine. To get him to come here is like a lift, but you know, weâre Dharma buddies, so itâs really a joy for me that he took time, not only to be with us in this wayâto share his heart and mindâand to kind of help us to see things in a different way.
I love this quote that Aiken Roshi sent me. He translated, or shared one time, it says, âThe Vegetable Root SutraâWater that is too pure has no fish.â You know, the Dharma includes everything. Itâs everything. Itâs not here, special. Itâs everything. And Bernie has carried this his whole Dharma life. He gave away a place much more beautiful than this to go live in the slums. And I choose to travel in really rugged situations, and serve in really unpleasant situations a good part of the time. But at the same time, Iâm lucky enough to maintain and nurse this beautiful place that I can come back toâthat you practice in.
So I wanted to say those few words to you, because I think my heartâs gratitude is really so great for, you know, everything weâve been through together. Weâre Dharma friends, but also you taking the time to be here, so thank you.
Â Bernie: Our last session togetherâI just want to say a couple of words, and then I want to go around like we did at the beginning, but this time asking you to say what the one thing that you think youâre taking away with you from our time together.
As Roshi Joan said, when we were walking down, she mentioned going to special spots for socially engaged work, and how it reminded me of a time I was at an event at Tricycle. They used to put on every yearâI donât think they do it anymoreâChange Your Mind Day. And I have a hard time at some of those kinds of wonderful talks. At any rate, so I gave my talk, and the presenter normally sits up on the stage. And thereâs a fairly large group, and I took the mike off of the wire, and start walking around with it, and put my nose on and started talking. And then there was one woman who said, âHow do I do social action? Itâs too complicated. What do I do? Can you give me any advice?â
So, I went over to her. I said, âCould you please stand up? Whatâs your name?â
âGenjo, why donât you say âhelloâ to this nice young lady next to you?â
[Bernie in Genjoâs voice]: âHello.â
Audience member (Karen): Hi Genjo.
[Bernie in Genjoâs voice]: âWhatâs your name?â
Karen: Iâm Karen.
[Bernie in Genjoâs voice]: âHi Karen.â
Bernie: And could you ask her, is there any way you could serve her?
[Bernie in Genjoâs voice]: âIs there any way I could be of service to you today?â
Bernie: And then I sat down.
So, Itâs about that simple. You know, you donât have to look for any particular worlds. Itâs right here, right now.
OK. Also at breakfast, Genjo mentioned that heâd like to come to Auschwitz, and I couldnât even remember if I taught anythingâI never even remember what I say. So I asked Joan, âDid I mention Auschwitz?â âYes you did.â
So I just wanted to offer the invitation. If any of you have nothing to do the first week of Novemberâor if you want the experience of your lifeâyou can come. We still have space. Itâs quite . . . I have neverâI havenât stopped learning from Auschwitz. I stopped going around the eighth year. And then I went back on the tenth year, because there was a tenth anniversary. And it was just amazing for me. So I kept going. And then I stopped again.
As part of what I like to do when Iâm teaching, or doing things is to hand it over, so that thereâs a next generation. I particularly, from the very first year, wanted our Polish contingentâwe have groups all around, and thereâs a Polish Peacemaker community, led by a wonderful guy, AndrĂ©. AndrĂ©âs been to every one, and helped me organizeâI could never have organized it the way I did without his help. He was in the Underground, and in the Solidarity Movement, actually had to flee Poland, took me to meet leaders of the Solidarity Movement. Heâs an amazing guy. And I wanted him to take it over, but heâs not that kind of style.
So at any rate, I stopped again. And then a student, Peter Matthiessen . . . Peter Matthiessen came the first retreat, and started to write. Heâs a writer. Heâs many things, but one of them is a writer. And he started to write about the retreatânot so much about the retreatâabout the anger, the guilt, the blame, all the stuff that comes up. So thatâs seventeen years ago, he started. And he came back the second or third timeâcanât rememberâand then a couple of years ago, I had stopped coming. He called me, and said, âI need to go back.â Heâs still working on the manuscript, seventeen years. He said, âI have some unresolved things. I need to go back. Are you going?â I said, âWell, Iâve stopped.â Someone else, actually Steve Moore was now running it. And he said, âWell, would you go once more with me?â So, I was going to do a very sort of secretive retreatâinvite about ten people, because for me, that retreat doesnât work unless you have a diversity. I need people from different aspects of life. So I said, âIâll invite some people, but Iâll keep it secret, because Fleetâs organizing one.â And so I told Fleet, and he said, âWell, nobody signed up yet, and if youâre gonna do it, word will leek out.â I said, âIt wonât.â He said, âWord will leek out. Itâd be too complicated.â So he didnât do it that year, and a lot of people cameâabout 160. Itâs the most we could house. We stopped it at 160. It filled up in about two months. We started a year before, but it filled up right away.
And Peter came. He finished one manuscript, which was more non-fiction, which my wife and I read. Heâs very meticulous, Peter, and also very cautious. Heâs nervousâheâs such an amazing guy. But heâs nervous, because heâs not Jewishâto publish something around Auschwitz. And one of the issues was his friend, William Styron, who many of you know wrote Sophieâs Choice, and was criticized by Jews all over the place. âHow could you write something?â Itâs such a weird world we live in. But Peterâs very sensitive, and itâs complicated. So itâs going to be a wonderful book, because the issues are complicated, you know. Itâs very easy to get mad, or to think âOh, this is how weâre going to resolve it.â But we as humans are very complicated beings. And heâs dealing with all of that kind of stuff.
So heâs decided to do it as a fiction. And he has rewritten it. And Eve and I are supposed to get the manuscript soon. And he doesnât know if heâll ever publish it. You know, heâs been working seventeen years, this is a major work for him, but heâs not sure if heâll publish it. But both Eve and I encourage him to publish it, but heâs a stubborn guy. You know, heâs like Roshi Joan. All these old people get set in their ways. So, I went back with him, and itâs now something I have to do each year. Auschwitz is not done with me. Itâs the only way I can say it.
Let me give you one other thing.
AboutâIâm gonna make up a number, because I canât remember yearsâabout eight years ago, we have Spirit Holders. So as I say, the teacher is Auschwitz. But we have a set of Spirit Holdersâa German man, a Polish man, myself, my wife, Israeliâthe Rabbi, Swissâsome people that have been to almost all of the retreats. And we meet each day to get a sense of how it feelsâlike how it feels. And then we might shift the schedule, or change things.
So about eight years ago, I wasnât there, and our German Spirit Holder, who was Heinz Jurgen who some people here know, saidâwhen we sit, we sit in the morning three periods, in the afternoon three periods, and during some of those periods we chant names of people that have died thereâand he said/suggested the idea of chanting names of the S.S.âthe so called perpetrators. And about half to three quarters of the retreat almost left. It was . . . the suggestion of that was . . . so, I heard about it when the retreat ended. The next year I went back, and I made that the theme of the retreat.
And there was a woman that was coming each year; she was trained by Marshall Rosenberg in Non-Violent Communication, an Israeli. She had been a police detective before becoming a trainer of N.V.C. in Israelâworked with Israelis and Palestinians, a beautiful woman. And during one of the councils, we did Spiral, and she came up to me, and she said, âYou have to hold me, because Iâm ready to kill Heinz Jurgen.â And she meant it.
So thereâs a woman trained in teaching, and being a trainer of N.V.C., and she was ready to kill this guy for his bringing this thing up. Well, the Rabbi, whoâs five generations Israeli, Ohad Ezrahi, created a service, or a process around the aggressor within us. And thatâs been happening for the last five years. And for me, itâs been an extremely informative piece of that retreat.
So Iâm just giving you a flavor of . . . thereâs many things that go on at that particular retreat, and theyâre allâI thinkârather important.
OK, So Iâm just inviting. If you have it in mind, itâs five days, Monday through Friday. It ends with a Sabbath meal. And then after the Sabbath mealâthatâs optionalâthen thereâs an ending group, people share, and entertain. You have magicians, all kinds of people come. The weekend before we have a two-day training in Council work, because we do Council every morning. But also thereâs particular energies at Auschwitz, so we offer Council training for those who want to have it. Fleet does that. Fleet Maull does it, and we also, if youâve been, if itâs the first time that youâve been there, we donât allow you to take any roles. We want you just to bear witness to the retreat. So even if youâre a trained Council Facilitator, you canât be in that role. First year, nobodyâs in a role, just bearing witness. But if youâve been there before, and you go through the training that we do, you can be a Co-Facilitator, and then little by little, a Facilitator. All the Facilitators have been to probably at least ten retreats, you know. So itâs a very experienced staff.
You wanted to say something?
Audience member: Something similar happened to what you were saying, chanting the names of S.S. people. In Holland we have liberation day on May 5th, and Memorial Day on May 4th. And in a village close to the German border, the national committee that was organizing, you know, the particular day, wanted to include the German soldiers that were buried in the cemetery in that village. And they asked the Major if he agreed, and he did. So they included, you know, everybody that suffered from the war. And it was a big, very intense reaction, especially from the Jewish community, but also from all of the people. And also a lot of support of, you know, including, just seeing that thereâs been so much suffering. And in the suffering, thereâs no difference also.
Bernie: Yeah, weâre amazing people. I mean the club effect, we talked about clubs, the club effect is huge.
Two years ago we had a youth program there. We invited youth from 16 to 24, I think was the age groupâI canât remember. And we had youth from Palestine, from Israel, from Switzerland, from Poland, from Germany, from the U.S., Belgium, quite a number. And the coordinator for the Palestinian youth is a beautiful man who now comes each year. Heâs an Israeli Palestinian Imam. A beautiful voice, and his wife is Jewish, and teaches turning, Haron Zalikha. We introduced Zalikha to people in Palestine. You didnât necessarily see Zalikha, but she was here for Joanieâs party. But anyway, heâs a beautiful man, and I asked him to talk at one of the preliminaries. Depending on whatâs happening, we sort of choose how weâre going to do that night. Weâve done an evening with this man who died. Did I mention a man, August, who died? He just died this week, we started a hospice, and he died in the hospice. He was a . . . I said I was going to let you guys talk, but . . .
So, August was one of the few to escape from Auschwitz. He was a Polish prisoner. He was in Auschwitz I, thatâs where most of the Polish people were interned, but he escapedâit was early on. A group of about thirty planned an escape, maybe fifty planned it. About thirty escaped, and about six of them actually escaped. The others were all caught and killed. But also for each of the six that escaped, I think 200 or 300 people were killed, for each person. So itâs a heavy thing to escape.
At any rate, heâs one that escaped, and he came to our second retreat, the second year. And at the end we had in those early days, we had a thing where we invited people to join the Zen Peacemakers. Wherever they were, whatever sangha, they could join the Zen Peacemakers, thereâs an international movement. And he jumped in to the circle of people wanting to join the Zen Peacemakers, and I said to AndrĂ©, âAndrĂ©, does he [because August does not speak English], does he know what heâs jumping into?â So AndrĂ© explained, he says, âOh, he wants to become a Peacemaker.â So he then came to all our retreats from then onâbecame very close with AndrĂ©.
And then about ten years ago, he wanted to meet with AndrĂ© and myself. And he said he wants to do something for the survivors, because theyâre all dying, you know, of age. And we decided to do a hospice. And in the year 2000, there was a groundbreaking forâit was the 55th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which is in January, very cold. And it was a big deal, and there was a big interfaith thing, and the Rabbi from Berlin came, all kinds of people, and I was a Buddhist representative. But then the President of Poland was there, and members from their Parliament, and all the survivorsâit was a huge thing.
And then about ten minutes away was the place where the hospice was going to be built. And there was a groundbreaking, and the President, myself, and August, this man, August, you know, dug the hole, and put the thing inâa tube in the ground. And in that tube was the flag of Poland, the flag of Auschwitzim, the logo of the survivors, Auschwitz survivors, and the Zen Peacemakers logo. And the President of Poland said that our retreat has caused more peace, more healing than anything heâs seen around Auschwitz. And thatâs why he had invited me to come.
But at any rate, the hospice was built. Its opening day was on the seventieth anniversary of August escaping from Auschwitz. And he just died about three days ago, in the hospice.
And I donât know why I got on that track. Oh, the Imam! Yeah.
So, I asked the Imam to talk. We do things in different places, and a couple of years we did an evening in a torture room, in Auschwitz I, you know, above where the firings wall is, where the cells were. In the attic thereâs a torture room, and August was tortured in there. So we met there once, twice, with him and a woman that was tortured there.
We always meet one evening in the barracks, late at night. We always meet in the childrenâs barrack, and in something thatâs called the womenâs barrack. Normally thereâs a vigil, an overnight vigil in the womenâs barrack. Whatâs called the womenâs barrack is a barrack where women got to a place where they couldnât work. They were put thereânot given any foodâthey were just put there to die. It might take days, or whatever. So we had the vigil there.
Krishna Das came last year. And we always have a service there, Kaddish there, and different kinds of things. And then he went back and sang to the women. And he spoke to me after. He said he first apologized that he wasnât singing in their language, but he just felt the place filling up with people.
And then for months after that, I mean people would tell me they would be at a Kirtan concertâhe does concert, Kirtanâand he was still talking about how thatâs the largest audience heâs ever sang to. That he has sang to, you know, thousands in different places, whatever, but it was extremely transformative for himâto be able to sing to all those women.
So, I asked the Imam to speak, and before the retreat I was sitting in this square called Kazimierz, it was the old Jewish center in KrakĂłw. And I had lunch with a progressive Jewish family from Californiaâa husband, wife, and two children that were coming to the retreat. And I asked the Imam to talk one evening. And after he did, that night, this guy came up to me and said, âHow dare you allow a Palestinian to talk here!?â The first night I talk about the usual clubs, and what this retreat is all about. And I said, âOh, thatâs a problem, huh?â
And so, I introduced him to Ihab, and I said, âWhy donât you tell him what the problem is?â And they spoke until about one or two in the morning. He was a little bit more cordial. But at the end of the retreat, his family thought it was very, very important, whatever. He came up to me, and he said, âYou should never allow Palestinians here.â So, he went home angry. I donât know what else went on, but he was still angry about that.
So you may come and get angry. Or you may come and feel some other things. It was very important for Ihab. His wife is Jewish Israeli. And they were married ten years at that point, with two children, beautiful children. And he called her that second night, and she told him that for the first time in their relationship that most of her family died there. She had never talked to him aboutâeven though for a year he was organizing bringing youth there, so it was a topicâbut she couldnât share, couldnât talk about that. And she didnât come. It was his coming, and her hearing the effect on him of comingâthis opened her up. So their relationship became much stronger.
Audience Member 1: So, what Iâll take away isâhaving spent lots of last night awake, and thinking about things. And thinking, well, what I would ask Bernie Roshi is . . . and then I think, well, you know what heâs going to say. Heâs going to say, âGo back to the three preceptsânot knowing, bearing witness, and loving action.â So, Iâll try to remember that, and do it.
Audience Member 2: Yeah, I share thatâjust the simplicity of that. So the take-away for me is the Keep on Truckin.
Audience Member 3: First of all, thank you so much. Being in your presence has been a gift to me. And I think my take-away is the incredible power of listening.
Audience Member 4: I realize that Iâve met a dharma companion, and I think there will be a long association between myself and Roshi Bernie. And I just wrote my wife, inviting her to the Auschwitzâto come with me, saying that I was committed to go for my fifty-eighth birthdayâon my fifty-eighth birthday. And Iâve always known I wanted to go to Auschwitz, and now I know why Iâve waitedâto be able to go with Bernie. Two things: One, there was a massacre in Seattle a couple years ago, where we were sitting in Sesshin and we heard the shots. We didnât quite know what it was, but later found out that seven people (I think it was seven people) had been shot and killed in one house. And there was a multiface service a week or ten days later, and one of the things that I was sure to do for my part of representing the Buddhist community was to read all of the names, including the shooter who had killed himself. And there was a big sigh in my part of the audience that was present. But I knew it had to be done. And another one; I was at a retreat at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, just after 9/11, and in New York state. And the Sesshin was so close to the retreat; I could barely get a flight. The flights had just come back on. And everyone at the retreatâI donât know if everyone felt it, but I certainly felt itâthat we were breathing the breaths that couldnât be breathed by those who died so suddenly.
Audience Member 5: I feel like Iâm continuously, you know, this is the second time Iâve heard you speak. And the first time it took me six months to even write my paper for the chaplaincyâbecause, just to digest what Bearing Witness meant. And so I feel like Iâve gotten some . . . there are tears coming up . . . Iâve gotten a deeper understanding about it. And Iâve got a sensation that I canât articulate about the non-duality, that Iâm just going to sit with. And . . . the vulnerability of being able to bear witness, and doing nothing action, and that itâs an internalâresiliency is an internal process as well as an external process, and it doesnât happen over night. Itâs hitting the edge of capacity, and coming back, and coming back out again. But itâs coming back out again, and each time being able to bear witness deeper, and deeper. The necessity of that in todayâs world, the loving action.
Audience Member 6: Iâm also feeling emotionalâtalk about the oneness. I think I got a lot of pearls from the last three days. One big one is the ingredient of faith, in addition to the first two tenetsâthe having faith that loving action will arise. And yesterday Roshi, in the kitchen, shared that you are our dharma grandfather. And excuse my language, but I feel really grateful to be standing on the shoulders of such a compassionate bad ass. Thank you.
Audience Member 7: I too am very grateful to be in your presence. Iâve followed your work for a long time. Youâve really underlined for me that impermanence is not something to be afraid ofâthat itâs a great gift. Itâs the dharma field in which we play and create. And the importance of groking before you start playing.
Audience Member 8: Thank you very much for coming. And what I enjoyed the most was to see the dharma. And itâs inspiring to me. Thank you.
Audience Member 9: This weekend I really enjoyed your ordinariness. And I like your snowy white mane, your lovely warm eyes. Thereâs so much loveâitâs very nourishing to be in your presence. And I enjoy how engaged everyone is in your presence. And also, I really appreciated hearing about your lifeâs work.
Audience Member 10: I think Iâm taking away a deeper sense of the liberating potential of leaning into fearâand sitting in fearâand also surrendering, and letting go. Thank you.
Audience Member 11: I spent a lot of the weekend actually thinking about my father, whoâs alive, and whoâs really been in many ways the most important person in my lifeâand a very, very powerful moral compass for me, and a lot of heart. And weâre Jewish. So when I was young, we lived overseas, and my dad was working in East Africa. And then we traveled for a long time. And the one country that we completely avoided was Germany. And it was always so strange for me to watch my father, who was so loving, and so open, step into this place of real anger and hatred. And itâs kind of ironic, because we actually bought a VW camper. We went to Germany to do that, and then left. But Iâve also been spending a lot of the weekend really contemplating the power of going into the places that scare me. We talked about that some, and recognizing that karmically thereâs a hard edge for me thereâaround the Holocaust, and around Germans. And that fear is always in the places where I bump into the places where the heart is closed. And Iâve done a number of my own types of plunges over the year, because I at some level have recognized the power of going into places that Iâm afraid of. And last night I actuallyâI drove home to Albuquerque. I was exhausted, and decided I wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed. And I dreamed. In my dream I was in the Middle East with my father. And Iâve actually lived in Israel, and spent time in the Middle East as well. But in my dream, my father and I were waiting for the rest of the family, and we were somewhere in the Middle East. And at some point I realized the rest of the family were gone. Theyâd been taken, and put in prison or killed. And I woke up with a start, and just this incredible immense sense ofâsome mix of love and sadness. And so, I think whatâs next is Iâm going to see if my father will come with me to Auschwitz. Thank you.
Audience Member 12: First I just want to say thank you. Itâs hard for me to come up with just one thing, because thereâs so many things that Iâm taking away. Just a coupleâI read your book on Bearing Witness a couple years ago. And at that time, I knew I wanted to meet you. So, I realized that. But I hadnât really taken in the practice of the tenets at that time. This past year, when my brother was diagnosed with leukemia, we pulled out Joanâs book on being with dying. And I feel like that was a huge plunge for our family. And we reallyâwe did live those tenets through that process. Itâs all kind of coming together for me hereâhow much that was true. So thatâs one thingâitâs just kind of reflecting back on what that was, and having a way of speaking about it. One of my questions when I came here had to do with the environment. And thereâs something in your conversation about that, where you said all you know, in your opinion, is to follow those tenets. And the piece that was really helpful to me is to know that youâre doing your best. And sort of the forgiveness of all those other things that I think I should be doing, and thatâs not good enough. So, thatâs a really important piece for me, that Iâm doing my best.
Audience Member 13: I want to continue with this work, and learn more of the upayas of how you go through thoseâthe Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and the Loving Action. And I believe you have a group in Boulder. Is that right? Bernie: Outside Lafayette. Audience Member 13: In Lafayette. OK. Bernie: Not that I have a group. Theyâre my family, my wifeâs family; theyâre all very different. But there is a group in Lafayette. Audience Member 13: But there is a Zen Peacemaker group? Bernie: Yeah. Itâs part of the family. That particular group is led by a man that Iâve made a Roshi, but he was a dharma successor of my teacher. So, part of the White Plumâthatâs the family of my familyâa little bit complicated. But they are . . . and his wife runs a country place. I just installed her as Abbot at that place. So thereâs a male teacher, and a female teacher. And theyâre part of our family. Audience Member 13: OK. So there, is that possibility. Bernie: But youâre part of the family. Audience Member 13: All right. So, thank you.
Audience Member 14: Thank you very much. This has been very rich for me. You asked about take-aways, and two of the most important for me was number one; you can tell the quality of a personâs enlightenment by how they serve others. And the other is the importance of the essential nature of recognizing and experiencing the interdependence of all thingsâthe connectedness of all things. Thank you very much.
Audience Member 15: Takeawaysâsomething you said at dinner the other night, which was how often Zen can cultivate arrogance. And I really appreciated how you, for all of the study that youâve done, kind of stripped it down, stripped down all of those texts and translations, and forms, to just being. And so thatâs inspiration to see. And the otherâI run an organization, and so often, you know, my board, and all the people who depend on us, and that stuff, reward me for having answers. You know, you get compensated better, all those things, because you have good answers. And it was good to be reminded that the reward is in sitting with the questions. So, thank you.
Audience Member 16: Thank you. I think what youâve allowed me to really touch in with is that whole simple thing of keeping things simple. Iâve been really touched by that spaciousness that youâve created here. Itâs actually one of the things I really, really engaged with. Itâs simply witnessing others, and otherâs stories. Just now, just listening to people has been very heart opening. You talked yesterday about the kind of tussle with cancer cells, and white blood cells in a story. Iâm not quite sure why Iâm sharing this, but I mean several years ago I had cancer. And the G.P. told me something about lymphocytes, white blood cells. And actually, they donât have to battle. Because actually, the nucleus of the lymphocyte canât change. And actually that really allowed me to sit with myself in a much more simple way, that I actually just embrace. You donât have to fight.
Audience Member 17: I think the impact of this weekend was really huge. There were many things that I feel the seed was planted. I received a seed that I can just now . . . to take care. So, thank you so much. Thank you so much.
Audience Member 18: I want to thank Roshi Joan for asking that I attend this. And Iâm a student here, and new in the chaplaincy program. And Iâve been practicing for the last eight years in Kagyu Nima Buddhism. So itâs . . . You know, many years ago I was in San Francisco. I stopped in at the Zen Center. And they were allâhad to sit againstâyou know, had to face the wall. And I thought this is too intense. So I got up and left. I went out, and smoked a joint. And that was the end of it. I was like I canât do this, itâs too much! Many, many years ago. And itâs interesting to come back into Zen in this particular lineage, and I appreciate it very much. And to see that really, the only club that causes any sense of duality is within myself. Clubs are important, but the duality aspect is something that I can disengage from, as I become more interconnected. And another thing that I appreciate in this workshop is that you are a demonstration of interconnectedness. This whole workshop has been the heart opening of everybody. From the moment you sat down and asked us to engage, it is truly our workshop. So, thank you.
Audience Member 19: Iâm also in the chaplaincy programâjust started earlier this year. And thereâs so many avenues I know that can come from participating in that. But one of the things that Iâm most interested in is getting to the edge of my own deathâpreparing for my own deathâand keeping that in the forefront of everything I do, and everything I bring to any situation. And what Iâve been finding is that I can sit with it. I can wrap my mind around it. I can think about it, plan for it. But when I let it go into my body, when I really start thinking aboutâthat this flesh/form is going to end, and imagining the decay, and imagining just itâs nonexistence, my body has this astonishing reaction. It fights back. My heart starts beating. My breath shallows. Itâs a very much fight and flight reaction. And I havenât quite known what to do with that, except sit with it, and bear witness to what comes up for myself. But your statement that you touched onâthat fear may arise from the touching of the unknown brought I guess a sense ofâIâm not sure what the word isâthat made so much sense to me. That made a lot of sense to me. Because I think this edge that Iâm pushing to is my body understanding that itâs self-preservation mode will not go on forever. And again, the statement you made, I think is allowing me to continue to sit with what comes up, and bear witness to what Iâm experiencing. And Iâll see where else that takes me. So thank you.
Audience Member 20: I always think I know what Iâm going to say, but then when I get the microphone, I have no idea. Thereâs so much that Iâm still digesting. And I guess part of it is, living in South Korea, Iâm surrounded by, and sometimes involved with a Buddhist community, which does not emphasize social engagementânot so much. And it seems to focus a lot on finding your true self, and once you do, you will automatically become more interconnected and engaged. But I donât see that happening. And I see so much suffering, and corruption actually, as a result of that. And in my heart I have never been able to detach myself from the suffering of others, and the suffering of the world. And so, even though I live in a place where thereâs a much larger Buddhist community than here, I keep coming back for my teaching, my learning, and my progression. And Iâm so grateful to be able to come here, and learn in a lineage from someone like yourself, who has opened up so many ways of waking upâwhether itâs in a bath tub, whether itâs through immersion, immersing yourself in the suffering, and bearing witness to that. And I pray that I may also have the courage and the strength to be so radical. And I thank you for that.
Audience Member 21: I woke up to a dream this morning, of receiving a package. And when I opened it, it was a parasolâa golden parasol. And I was thrilled to get it. And I didnât really understand it, but sitting here on this reflective time, it kind of came together for me. And the parasol is to be able to hold in front of me, the parasol was actually bearing witness, which is your gift to me. And that parasol protects me so that my heart can stay open. And whatever comes at me, I donât have to put on any armor. So, thank you very much.
Audience Member 22: I think that what Iâm taking away isânot sure if Iâm grateful for it yet butâI feel really uncomfortable in some ways. And I think thatâs good. That not in an agitated way, but just in a sense that I think, you know, some of my little assumptions have been turned around, or upside-down, or sideways. And thatâs not necessarily a bad thing, but I can feel certain uncomfortability. And I think that new shit is coming to light.
Audience Member 23: Well, I feel very grateful to be here, and learn from you. And I am taking many things, but one is about no attachment to the skills. And also the picture of the carpenter with his big bag. And also to open, open, open to everything. Everything is includedânot just the good things. And the way how you explain the Dharma, itâs so simple. Thatâs what I leave with. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Audience Member 24: Well thank you for being here, Roshi. Thank you, also, Roshi. I definitely feel like the bull in the china shop. I spent about five years living on the streets, in my early twenties. And I actually felt more comfortable there than I do here. And I think thatâs because, you know, here everybody is so gentle, and nice. And I personally find that pretty off-putting, because thatâs not my experience essentially, you know. And I feel like itâs authentic, you know. People are generally nice here, and itâs authentic. And thatâs fine. Yeah, well, the bull within me is definitely breaking things. And I think thatâs because, you know, I keep on saying that bull needs to go away, or Iâm going to end up back in the streets. But, you know I realized how am I gonna tame the bull, or tame the ox if I donât let it in? So, Iâm prepared now to let it in. And, you know, the Keep on Truckinâ thing is definitely . . . because I was just about ready to say, âYou know what, Iâm over it.â Like just this past week, but Iâm not over it. And I refuse to be over it, because you know, continuous practice is Truckinâ. And who am I to just give up? So, definitely Iâm taking away the Keep on Truckinâ, without a doubt. Thank you.
Audience Member 25: Thanks for being here. What Iâm going to take away is the three tenetsâand to see them differently than before. And the other thing is the opinionsâI really like that. Thank you.
Audience Member 26: I think I realizedâwell, of course, only to some extentâhow much I didnât understand the three tenets. So I did find the question I was seeking, in that now when I want to think, Iâm thinking about how to learn, experience something, not-knowing, with a mind that is constantly secreting knowing. And that itâs only when I get there, that Iâll actually be able to bear witness. That I didnât realize the depth it takes to bear witness. Thank you.
Audience Member 27: I thank you, Roshi Bernie Glassman, and Roshi Joan Halifax, and all the residents that make this place possible. I loved being here. Iâll take away a lot. This morning has been very emotional. So I loved the part about the opinions, and the egg, and the egg needing to have an awakening in the centerânot just that form. All the nutrition is great, but you know, without that egg, you know, the chicken wonât be born. And I think Iâm getting that this thing of bearing witness is like, you know, the spiritual bypass that can happen in our own life, when we get into the teachings early. And then, you know, for me there was like a big crash. And then it seemed like that culture thingâwhich was my question early on, as I started this little trip that Iâm on currently, by going to the grandmotherâs council meeting. And so that was sitting with me, the intergenerational healingâand that you spoke so much about it, regarding Auschwitz. And so Iâm grateful for that awakening. And I remembered even a very young experience of that when I was a very young child in Puerto Rico. And so getting out of the teachings, and doing a very personal biographical healing, and working with people doing their addictions recovery, and all the personal stuff. Now it feels like thatâs now merging into this intergenerational kind of thing. And Iâm glad to kind of maybe be seeing that that may be where this, at least now this journey has repeated itself a lot. And I had a visit in the middle, in Colorado, with my sister, whoâs husband is like total . . . you know, the fear of mine was I didnât want anyone to be attached to any of their thoughts, or any of this identifying with culture at all. I wanted us all to just kind of make it transparent, and you know, sitting with him, it was like, âAhh, youâre so kumbaya, and blah blah.â And he was just like, âYouâre crazy.â You know, and itâs not gonna happen that way. And so I have to not be afraid to step in to it all. And I sat across the table with him, and we usually avoid those conversations. But now that my mother is gone, in these last five years, walking the end of her path with her, which has been a huge experience, I donât know. Things are new. And I appreciate this very much.
Audience Member 28: Some of the best things that have happened to me in my life have been just pure accident. When I came to Upaya six years ago, as a resident, Roshi Joan asked me why I chose this place. And I said, âWell, Upayaâs geographically midpoint between Houston and San Francisco.â [Audience laughs] She was affronted. But in the same way, I kind of stumbled across this retreatâalso by pure accident. And in the same way, itâs been tremendously enriching. What Iâll take away from it is the possibility of doing a Street Retreatâbecause it scares the living hell out of me. I think about doing it. It sounds even worse than Roshiâs Wilderness Fast. So, I think thatâs a sign that I probably should do this at some point. Yeah, thank you.
Audience Member 29: Thank you very much for your teachings. Iâm very grateful, especially for Not-Knowing. I feel that Iâm all the time in my head, and thinking, and trying to find solutions, and answers. And, Iâm honest to myself that there are not so many answers that I can find to many problems. So I think not knowing is very honest. And I hope I find the strength to go to places where Iâll leave my comfort zone. Thank you.
Audience Member 30: Thank you so much. Thereâs a lot lot things that Iâm going to be taking with meâbut of course the three tenets. And, how do I say this? When you were going through the tenets, I had a big, I guess, realization that itâs really at the crux of communicating and being in the world. And also, that there is not such a thing as being in this world and out of this world. So I choose the world. And, I was thinking that in my relationship with my partner, when, as I embody the three tenets, I donât need to be Mr. Fix-it. And, thank you for that. And that I need to be really, really listeningâand I need to be listening in all areas of my lifeânot only to my partner. Because I come to realize that . . . when you hold council, like you speak from the heart, that we can agree to disagree, and thatâs OK. And that the loving action will come up. Thank you.
Audience Member 31: Thank you very much for your teachings. So, while trying to be as present as possible for the teachings this weekend, I canât help but notice my mind racing ahead to how Iâm going to apply this to my work. So, Iâm a professor. My semester starts two weeks from tomorrow. I listened closely to your teachings about the role of opinion, and subjectivity, and non-dualism, and trying to understand how Iâm going to integrate those into my work. Againâmind racing ahead. And so Iâve noticed, in Zazen this weekend, Iâve noticed a very interesting thing happening. Whatâs been arising while Iâve been sitting is thoughts about how often Iâm dualistic, oppositional with colleagues and students, people I work with. And itâs been most interesting. Instead of, in my usual way would be to see that as one more proof about my usual way of beingânon-acceptance of them. This weekend in Zazen, what Iâve noticed is a general turning towards thatâacceptance of that, compassion towards that part of myself. So I donât know exactly where thatâs going to take me, but it feels like a real gift. Thank you.
Audience Member 32: So, I want to thank everybody, everybody who shared. I have the benefit of being at the end, so I can say thatâalmost the end. Also to the Roshis, also to my fellow residents, and whoeverâs cooking in the kitchen right now, it smells delicious. Or maybe thatâs leftover, I donât know. I think Iâm coming away from this time with a lot of glimpses of things, and a lot of curiosity. I sort of grew myself up Christian Evangelical. And, then I kind of changed from that, still remained Christian, but was liberal, progressive, wanting to change the world. And it wasnât coming from a good place. It wasnât coming from a sustainable place. There werenât good upayas for developing a desire to change the world. And so, there was just a lot of use of anger, and frustration, and guilt of privilege, and these other things that could get short-term results, but were just not good for me actually. So I have a bit of exhaustion, residual from that training. The talk about social issues, because it seems like itâs asking people to sacrifice themselves in ways it doesnât contribute beneficially to the whole ultimately. So I never would read something like this. And Iâm really glad that this came to meâthis retreat came to me. And it just gives me new ways to start approaching serving people. So thanks everyone.
Audience Member 33: I have just a very strong sense of appreciation. So, thank you very much. I feel sort of astonished by life, and both the complexity and simplicity, which is so well seen by you. And, what was the word that you translated as loving actions? Bernie: Itâs a Hebrew word, Tikkun Olam. Audience Member 33: Tikkun Olam? Bernie: Olam means Earth. Tikkun is a repair or a healing. Audience Member 33: I really appreciate having that word. And you know, just having a word that names something that I have searched for, for my life. And then to be given skills to actually see that, or do that, or bring that togetherâitâs really beyond what I expected in my life at a certain point. So, thank you very much.
Audience Member 34: Youâre Grandpa. Thank you so much for your teaching here, also for all that you are bringing into our world day, after day, after day, without stopping. And thank you, my Roshi, as well. Iâm so grateful that you are in my life. And when I first started calling you Grandpa, I was holding if that would be OK to say so. But it felt so right. And being a Grandma myself of nine, I thought I could do that. And I really feel like a granddaughterâyou know, being happy to be with you, and enjoying that, and so honored to learn from you. And I met you before I went to Auschwitz, when I met Roshi Joan, and your children were there, Kaz was there. And the first council, we were asked, âWhy are you here?â And I said, âI really donât know why Iâm here.â Not knowing that was really quite a good answer in your terminology. And gradually, Iâve come to see what a life changing experience that was, and what fortunate karma to be there. So, what Iâve learned is a deeper understanding of the three tenets, and looking at my opinions as opinionsâjust opinions, and really a deeper commitment, and understanding of serving as continuous practice. And youâre such a great inspiration to do so, and so is my Roshi. And I will encourage many more people to come to Auschwitz. Thank you.
Bernie: Two things popped up as we were going around. I just want to share them, even though theoretically we should end. One is when Shinzan, you brought up the carpenterâs bag. You may have gotten the reference, but if you didnât, I just want to make sure you doâthat the figure in the tenth Ox Herding picture, Hotei, has this big bag. So Hotei isâthatâs the tenth Ox Herding picture, so that means itâs where weâre supposed to wind up. You know, thatâs the epitome, back to the market place. And in that bag, is everything. And wherever he winds up, the right thing comes out. You know, wherever it is. So thatâs just a beautiful way, for me. Hotei is also considered a Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha To Comeâthe Messiah in a different terminology. And then the club thingâso, we all have clubs, and thatâs just the way life is I think. One thing that we could do is try to see if we can have some passageways between our club and other clubs. Itâs not . . . I donât think it makes sense to try to eliminate clubs, because they exist. And if you can make passagewaysâthereâs even a . . . when the scientific analysis of connectivity started to happenâremember the early days, all these books about stuffâand one of the interesting phenomenaâs for web people, was that if you only sent out your messages to groups that are like you, you were creating a small island. That you shouldâthis is a mathematical theoryâyou should send your messages to those that are nothing like you, because then you start winding up with an interconnected world. You know, the Internet is just another expression of Indraâs Net, which is the expression of the interconnectedness of life. So, the same with these clubsâcreate passageways, no matter how subtle, and all of the sudden, the life becomes broader. And then, and sometimes it happens that you connect bridges. So recently, I posted an article on my opinion page, it was a two-part article, the two-part discussion I had with Zalman Schachter. I donât remember when, I think it was probably at Naropaâit doesnât matterâbut it was called Torah DharmaâTorah and Dharma. And he brought up at that time the hyphen. So, itâs like, you know there are Ju-Buâs. Theyâre Jews, hyphen, Buddhist. So he brought up the importance of the hyphen, which I look at as a bridge between clubs. So it turns out that he and I, we do have a bridge. Iâm his Buddhist teacher, heâs my Rabbi, and so thatâs a little bit more work. But the passageway, thatâs important. And the wildest passageway, the better. My friend, Jeff Bridges, heâs very involved in hunger projects. And he wants to go on the Rush Limbaugh Show. He will be at both Republican and Democratic conventions. Now heâs a very progressive Democrat, heâll be playing at the Democratic Convention. But there are many Republican governors and people that are part of, have joined the End Hunger. Theyâve got a theme, No Child Hungry. But that thing ofâmaybe think of that place you would never go, and maybe make a little bit of an open door between your club, and that club. And I think we definitely, we have to grow that way. If we just stay in our club, we can only grow within our club, you know. It just makes sense. Especially if it makes sense to a kid from Brooklyn, man, itâs gotta make sense to anybody. OK, so thank you all. And thank Roshi Joan for inviting me here.
Prayers on the Plum Tree: Sensei Engu Dobbs’s Reflection on the Zen Peacemakers Native American Plunge August 2017
February 20, 2018