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Map of the Mind (Talk 4 of 4)

By: Zoketsu Norman Fischer | 06/11/2004
Location: Samish Island
In Topics: Buddhist Psychology, Emotion

Zoketsu talks the mind and emotions from the point of view of Buddhist psychology, as it is formulated in the Abhidharma.


(unabridged transcription by Ruth Ozeki)

Tonight it’s quiet
or in the quiet
or at least the quiet is all around us.
What is it I’m worried about
when I worry about anything?
What is it I tangle up in
wanting to go home.
From down here
I look up at myself
in the little bright square of window,
staring down at me in bemusement,
querying, “what’s it worth?”
But that’s a question
snaps shut on itself.
Thoughts with teeth or claws,
to scrape away to the very core.
What cares contains its value,
a half-life,
mixed no doubt, yet fair.
It’s always fair, or anyway,
it’s always what’s there,
and it’s not our fault.

I’m reading that again because I have a feeling that some of you didn’t really believe me yesterday when I said that it’s not your fault. [Laughter] And when I said yesterday that the person who did those things that caused this moment to arise isn’t here anymore, many of you laughed as though I were playing a cute trick of logic.

But it’s not a cute trick of logic. It’s really true. This moment of our life arises as a given, no matter how good or bad it is. It’s not your fault, nor can you take credit for it. But you are responsible now. What will you do?

And, definitely, you are going to do something, and that which you do is really going to matter, not only to yourself but to the whole world.

Whatever possible remorse you have about the past has its place. It’s an experience that you have now that helps to humanize you. Thoughts with teeth and claws that scrape away to the very core. But if you carry that remorse all the way to self-blame and self-denigration, which is perfectly understandable and perfectly normal in our world, then I’m telling you it’s just not true. It’s just not an accurate thing. It’s a mistake. ‘Cause it really isn’t your fault.

So I’m repeating this point again because it’s really important, and because I know you don’t really believe it. I’m saying it again, hoping that repetition perhaps will have some effect, and the next time when your strong fierceness against yourself arises, remember my words and repeat them to yourself. It’s not my fault. And let these words melt away the afflictions of this moment. And maybe you can meet the moment with some patience and clarity, even if it’s difficult. No matter what’s going on, you can always do that. That’s always possible. Even if you can’t do it, the person down there in the dark looking up at you in that little bright square of window can do it, so let her do it. Or let him do it.

In every moment of consciousness we find ourselves, as I say, through no fault of our own, in the midst of the five omnipresent mental factors. Feeling, discrimination, attitude, contact, and mental engagement, appear on each moment, and these factors shape the present mind and are fruition of causes from the past. Not only causes coming from within our own mental continuum, but literally, inspiringly and beautifully, the Abhidharma texts say, that the entire world’s history from the past has conspired to produce this present moment in your life. Not just your own actions, but all of actions, have produced this moment. Here it is. Here we are.

Next in our map of mind there are Five Determining Factors. And they’re called determining factors because these factors determine at least in part, anyway, what will unfold next in our lives. What virtuous minds or afflicted minds will arise in subsequent moments. Now these five determining factors, like all the factors that I mentioned before and that I will mention today—and I’m hoping to mention lots of factors today, one after the other—we name them as different factors, as though they were different factors, but they’re not really separate factors. They’re all linked together, mutually causing each other, and in a way maybe there are only a few factors in various colors and shades of those different factors that are given different names. But the point of giving them different names is to maybe help us to understand ourselves more, in our process. So the five determining factors are: aspiration, belief, mindfulness, stabilization, and knowledge.

The text says, “Aspiration observes a contemplated phenomenon and seeks it. It is the basis for the initiation of effort.” And effort, as we’ll see in a moment, is one of the virtuous factors, so on the heels of aspiration there’s effort.

So we all are pretty aware and understand and manifest aspiration pretty well. The evidence of that is that you’re here. You came on the first day and you’re still here. So this is clear evidence of the presence of aspiration in your mental continuum. Probably, somehow, there are wholesome roots in your past, virtuous roots that have produced in you this factor of aspiration. And the proximate causes of aspiration are either some really strong teeth and claws in your life, some really nasty, powerful suffering, or maybe for some others of you, just a kind of innate human curiosity about what is real. What is right in this world. Or usually it’s a combination of both of these things. Those are the proximate causes of aspiration.

And it also may be that there’s a little luck involved, too. Like, as often happens, you were driving along and your car ran out of gas, and you stopped right in front of the zendo… [Laughter] And there was nowhere else to get any help and you came in, and they were doing zazen, and the next thing you knew, you end up like Kelly, your hair fell off…[Laughter] So there’s often a little luck involved, too, although what is luck, you know? Luck, you know, the word “luck” comes from the word “hap.” “Hap” is luck. Hap, happy. Luck, lucky. Hap, happen, is where luck comes from. I remember my friend Lewis Hyde, who writes about things like this, was thinking about luck, and he was hiking on Mount Tam, and he stopped at a picnic—he told me this and it’s quite unbelievable—but he stopped at a picnic bench and sat down, and somebody sat down next to him at the picnic bench, and they got to talking, and he was talking about this thing, he was thinking about this word, “hap,” and luck, and what is luck and so on, and this was a person who was writing her Ph.D. thesis on the word, “hap.” [Laughter] Something like that. And then he got really good information to use for his book called, “Trickster Makes This World,” where he talks a lot about luck and happenstance. So when I say luck, I understand that luck is a complicated thing. Anyway, so that’s aspiration.

Belief, here’s the definition of belief. “Belief holds…” This is wonderful, the way they write this stuff. “Belief holds an ascertained object to be just as it was ascertained.” That’s what belief is. So this is, you know, in our culture, belief has all these sort of religious connotations. Belief is the opposite of reason. Belief is some sort of asserting of the irrational faith in the teeth of reason, which might be giving you opposite information. There’s no reason, you know, I just believe. Or I don’t believe because I’m a reasonable person, and I’m skeptical, and I don’t believe. Are you a believer, you know, or not? But by this definition, the truth is that we all have many, many beliefs, because otherwise we would need to reconfirm and reinvestigate everything all the time. It would be very time consuming. It would be hard to like get out of your front door and go to work in the morning. Because you would have to say, now, “Is this really a coffee maker?” Let me take it apart and see. [Laughter]

So belief is that factor that enables our mind, once we have seen that something is so, belief will hold that in mind, so that tomorrow we will still believe that it is so. And it does happen sometimes that we do lose our belief. And people then, literally, come to the place where they can’t get out of bed in the morning. They don’t believe in their coffee maker, or the universe, or themselves, or anything. And then they have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. The whole world seems purposeless and without any belief at all. So belief is actually an important, everyday factor, but here, in particular belief, is assumed to relate to our practice and our effort in practice , that we hold the practice we are doing to be effective and useful and important to us, because we have ascertained that it is effective in the past. And with belief, we hold that in mind and we continue with our practice, making effort without the need to constantly ascertain all over again that it is so. Doubt is when we don’t believe that any more and we constantly need reassurance and we need to ascertain all over again that it’s so.

So there has to be belief in order to do practice. And again, your sitting in your seat right now is evidence of your belief. I have been, I realize, very conditioned to coming to sesshin and finding that you are here, too. Now I think about this, and I realize that why would I expect that you would be here, and it’s entirely possible that the next time I come many, or even all of you, won’t be here. Why not? Why would you be here? So I expect it. And every now and then I interrupt my expectation and remind myself how marvelous it is that you are here. Because I know that even though sesshin is really wonderful, and maybe one of the most wonderful possibilities, as many of you have expressed to me, how wonderful it is to be in sesshin especially here in this place, as beautiful as it is. It is wonderful, sesshin, but it is also not easy to be in sesshin. And it’s even harder to get here. It’s actually easier once you’re here. It’s quite easy in a way, even though there might be pain and suffering and difficulty, it’s actually quite easy. The hard part is getting here in the first place, when there’s so many really great reasons not to come. [Laughter] And I understand that sometimes in people’s lives those great reasons become more compelling than the belief that you may have in the practice, and that does happen. But despite these really good reasons and all the difficulty of coming, you come, because your belief that sesshin is valuable and important is a strong determining factor that makes you come here. And then many things, many virtuous factors arise because of the power of that determining factor.

“Mindfulness is,” and I’m again quoting from our text, “non-forgetfulness with respect to a familiar phenomenon. Non-forgetfulness with respect to a familiar phenomenon. It has the function of causing non-distraction.” So mindfulness is a really crucial determining factor. Maybe it’s the most crucial. Mindfulness is…actually the Sanskrit word also means to remember. So to re-member yourself. To grow a new arm and a new leg. To remember yourself. To come back, not forget to come back, return. Mindfulness is actually returning over and over again, coming back to the present, to where you are, to whatever object you are looking at. Mindfulness is a kind of determined willingness to see. To be with what’s there. Not to glance away, or run away, or think up lots of great excuses not to be present with your life. But to be willing over and over again to come back to what you are deeply feeling, as I’ve been stressing this week. Coming back over and over again to what you’re deeply feeling or deeply experiencing, coming back to being present with your life.

It’s very interesting, don’t you think, that mindfulness requires a familiar object. It’s almost impossible to be mindful of an object with which you’re not familiar, and the more familiar you are with the object, the easier it is to become mindful of it. So this is really important because our habit of running away or having aversion toward things is a way of shielding ourselves from those things, so that we have no familiarity with them. So those qualities in ourselves that we’re always running away from, which we think we’re so familiar with, we’re actually not familiar with, because we’ve created a shield between that factor and our awareness of our aversion. And so what we need to do is…at first it’s really difficult because the aversion habit is so strong that we don’t want to be with the object, our fear, for instance. So mindfulness is very difficult. But once we take that first step and just let ourselves be there, the object has a little bit of familiarity and so mindfulness can establish itself further. And when we really allow ourselves to become familiar with what arises, mindfulness becomes more and more possible, and with increased mindfulness the object loses its sting, and even qualities that formerly we felt to be very negative we can bear, and we can relax with them, and they can transform in our view of them with mindfulness.

So mindfulness has the quality of developing non-distraction, and stabilization is the fruit of mindfulness. Stabilization is defined as “one-pointedness of mind with respect to an imputed object. One-pointedness of mind with respect to an imputed object. It has the function of serving as the basis of knowledge. It in turn depends on ethics.” Interesting, huh? So stabilization is concentration. Samadhi. Deep concentration. When the mind is quiet and fixed on an object. So in a way, stabilization is mindfulness. It’s just intensification of mindfulness. Mindfulness, that is staying with the object, not needing to remember to come back to it, but staying with it, with brightness and with intensity. And so in a way, stabilization is fulfilling that function of mindfulness, which is to produce non-distraction. So if mindfulness is returning over and over again to whatever is coming into view, stabilization is never leaving the object. Keeping it constantly in view.

Now maybe you noticed that it says, “one-pointedness with respect to an imputed object.” It’s interesting that it says an imputed object. That’s because with stabilization, the gaze is strong enough that you can see that the object is not actually there. With complete stabilization, the object and the observer more or less dissolve, and that’s why it says “imputed object.” Because there’s not actually an object to be observed. The object and the observer are both imputed. This is just suchness. Things just are. Things just arise. There’s not even anybody there to say, “Oh look! Things just arose.” In fact that’s how you can tell, when you kind of…like a bar of soap, you know, slips…when you say, “Oh, I’m in Samadhi now,” that’s when the bar of soap slipped out of your hand, and now you’re no longer in a stabilized state. It slipped out of your hands and now you’re saying, “Oh look, I’m in a stabilized state….oops!” [Laughter] It is funny, and a lot of the Zen stories are about this, where somebody is in a stabilized state and opens their mouth and…whoops.

So here, stabilization is then…it’s why stabilization is the basis of knowledge. Because of this. So it’s more than merely having a calm mind, or a still mind. It’s a mind that recognizes things as they really are. As the Prajnaparamita sutra in a hundred thousand lines says, the boddhisatva who understands this point is “patient with dharmas that fail to be produced.” She has patience with dharmas that fail to be produced. That means with the world, as it actually is, which on every occasion fails to be actually produced. It’s only imputedly produced. So this is not only a calm mind, but a mind that is full of patience and full of love. Never unstable or knocked over. Not dismayed, shocked or disappointed.

So these are the five determining factors, including knowledge, which is the result of stabilization, seeing things as they are, and taken together, the five determining factors are actually just a way of talking about zazen. These really describe meditation practice, when you think about it. Aspiration, belief, mindfulness, stabilization, knowledge. Isn’t that just really our practice? Isn’t that just really what we do in sesshin. The way we say it is we say “just sit.” Just breathe. Just do your best. Just keep on practicing. But this is just a folksy way of saying develop the five determining factors of mind, the mental factors, which will then foster the virtuous mental factors and help you to identify and purify yourself of the afflictive mental factors. We don’t say that but that’s more or less the process.

Eleven virtuous factors. Are you ready for the eleven virtuous factors? Faith, shame, embarrassment, non-attachment, non-hatred, non-ignorance, effort, pliancy, conscientiousness, equanimity, and non-harmfulness. Those are the eleven virtuous factors. Faith, shame, embarrassment, non-attachment, non-hatred, non-ignorance, effort, pliancy, conscientiousness, equanimity, and non-harmfulness.

So faith, the text says, has the aspect of clarity, conviction and the wish to attain. Faith is confidence. A strong confidence with clarity in the process of practice. And not only in the process of practice, but in one’s own ability, just by virtue of being an ordinary person, to achieve exactly what it is necessary to achieve in the practice. That’s faith. And of course it’s very closely linked to belief and aspiration, as determining factors. And it’s also linked to effort, which is a virtuous factor. And these four factors are kind of hard to tell one from another, but all together they reinforce each other, and they’re really maybe varieties of one thing, the confidence and the sense of…because you can see how important it is, and how much we assume…we don’t practice without it. There’s a lot that goes into just beginning, right? Think about that. There’s a lot that goes into just beginning and continuing. This all says that if you begin and you continue already so much of the work is done. So many of the factors are already present just to get you that far. We don’t think that way. We’re sort of focused on the big results we’re expecting, you know? And we’re not focused on the fact that just doing what we’re doing already requires a huge amount of beneficial dharmas in our mental continuum.

Then maybe you were surprised to find shame and embarrassment on the list of virtuous factors. This always is surprising. And these factors might not strike you as particularly virtuous, and we could spend a long time discussing various aspects of these factors, and the…complexities of how we receive them with a background of our Judeo-Christian Western culture. And then one could go on at length about what the real meaning of these Sanskrit words, “hri” and “apatrapya,” which in our text are translated as “shame” and “embarrassment,” but is it shame, or is it guilt, and what’s the difference between shame and guilt, and what’s remorse, and you know all these things get very complicated and I want to avoid… I mean I understand these issues, and that they’re important, but I don’t want to go into them too much here, other than to say that the point here is that some kind of remorse, both internally with respect to how one feels about one’s self, and externally with respect to how you feel about how others are affected by your conduct, that some remorse both internally and externally, some feeling badly about a harmful or non-virtuous action in yourself in relation to others, is important. Is a very important virtuous dharma.

It’s not pleasant. The feeling is a bad feeling. It’s actually an unpleasant feeling. But it’s virtuous. It’s important that we have these unpleasant feelings, because if you don’t have these unpleasant feelings, if you can do non-virtuous or harmful acts and not feel badly about them, then there’s something wrong with your internal equipment for developing virtue, other virtuous qualities. You’re lacking something. And maybe even though you’re lacking that something, you can still go through the motions of practice, [but] if you don’t have that feeling, your practice is actually not effective. Because the belief here is that this is a human thing. That any human being who is really in touch with their mind will feel these things in relation to these kinds of actions, and if they don’t, they need to find that.

And I am very interested or familiar with this factor right now, because I am suffering a lot from this exact thing, right now. All on account of Tim. [Laughter] I mean I could have suffered later from it, but I happen to be suffering it now because Tim just reminded me, just barged in on my nice little dharma talk preparation, and said, “Where are the oryoki bowls for this evening’s ceremony?”

In all my preparations for the ceremony, I never thought about the oryoki bowls. I forgot them. Aagh. I feel terrible about it. And the reason I was late for the talk was I was sitting in my little room there, quietly crying, upset with myself that I forgot the oryoki. [Someone says something] Oh really? Well I have various strategies about how we can take care of this, but still and all, I feel awful about it. Awful about it. And then, as I was bowing before the dharma talk, I thought to myself, I’m so glad I feel awful about this. [Laughter]

I’m serious. I mean, this was a very strange thing, but I was literally happy that I was feeling bad, because one of the things that I’m not happy with myself about is my lack of conscientiousness in relation to things like this. So whenever I have evidence that ah, actually I’m more conscientious than I thought I was, because I feel badly about this, I was happy, you know? [Laughter] Because I mean I figured out a while ago that the only way that I can actually get through the rest of my life with some small degree of happiness is to not be too conscientious. Because if I worried about the things that I’m supposed to be taking care of that I’m not doing that well I would be in a constant state of embarrassment and remorse. So I realized that this is too much, so I have to… So then I worry sometimes that I’m so casual about it, I mean, you know, when people do ordination ceremonies they freak out for weeks in advance, you know, and I barely even think about it. [Laughter] Which is why I forgot the oryoki bowls!

But that’s no good, you know? You should, it’s good to freak out for weeks in advance. But I just …people who freak out for weeks in advance usually have assistants to help them, to freak out with them. I don’t have any assistants, and to freak out all by myself is too hard, you know? [Laughter] But it’s good to freak out about something important, you know? However, and here’s the point, to take the next step and say, therefore, I am a bad person, I’m a terrible person, I should be shot, I’m completely unworthy, and oh no no no no no, I’m horrible, I’m a sinner, my soul is forever stained and so forth and so on, this is going too far. [Laughter]

Hri and apatrapya don’t mean that. We do that. It’s very common for us. But that’s not what these qualities mean. And if we ever get around to the end of the list, there’s another factor that indicates that this is so. So when you say, I’m a bad person, I always do this, maybe you do always do this…I mean, I do always do this, but I don’t need to say I always do this, what’s the matter with me… No. I did it. Or, I didn’t do it, in this case. I forgot something, and that’s right, I feel bad about it.

But it’s not right to say I always forget things, and I’m not this, and I’m this, and so on. When you get into that kind of thing then you have left behind the virtuous dharmas of ahri and apatrapya, and now you’ve produced the unwholesome dharmas of arrogance and ignorance. Because when you start thinking like that, what you are actually saying is “All conditioned phenomena are empty. I alone…[laughter]…I alone really truly exist. And I am bad.” [Laughter]

Now that is funny, but that is exactly what you’re saying when you go on and on about how bad you really are, and how you always do this and how you always do that, and how, why is it, and how come, and all this…that’s what you’re really saying. You’re saying “All phenomena are empty except for me. I alone truly exist, and I am really bad.” [Laughter]

So when you find yourself caught in this trap, which is very convincing, I know, please apply my by now famous saying, “It’s not my fault.”

Okay, so then there’s non-attachment, non-hatred and non-greed. And these are just the opposite of three of the six non-virtuous factors, which are greed, hate and delusion. These are the absence of these. So this just means that it’s virtuous when there’s a non-arising of these things in the mind, which happens sometimes. Not that often, but now and then. And without…I’m covering a lot of things in one talk because I was too long-winded before, but basically, without saying much more than this, what’s being pointed to here is the question of our reactions to what arises. Whether or not we can allow what’s there, whatever it is, to be there with gentleness, even if it’s something unpleasant. Or whether we won’t allow that and we have to struggle with something either by having to snatch it and make it be something it’s not, or by pushing it away, and also making it be something it’s not.

Effort—we already discussed a little about effort, but it’s worth noting here that in the text, effort is defined as “delight in virtue.” Think about that. Effort is actually delight. So this is really an important point. Effort is not struggling and asserting willpower over ourselves, making ourselves do something. Effort is when you enjoy your practice. When there’s some sense of ease and delight in your practice. That’s effort. And in discussing effort, the text points out that when you work really, really hard, people who work twenty-nine hours a day, for things of the world, or for spiritual accomplishments that they use as substitutes for things in the world, in other words, various virtuous factors that they hope to acquire so that they can become more wonderful and admired by others, that this tremendous effort that’s put into this kind of thing, is not called effort, it’s called laziness. They actually call it laziness. Do you see? Because it’s actually an avoidance mechanism. It’s a way of avoiding actually looking and being with your life. So effort is delight in your practice as it really is.

And now I want to go back to something that we noticed earlier that I haven’t talked about. Remember earlier, ethics is the basis of stabilization. Which seems initially quite counterintuitive in our Western view of life, these are two completely…what is meditation and ethics, completely, what could they possibly have to do with each other? They’re in totally different spheres. But what the text is telling us, and not just this text but it’s commonplace in all Buddhist maps of mind, ethics is the basis for strong concentration. And there’s a mutual relationship between these two. Precepts practice and zazen mutually depend on each other. If you sit, eventually beautiful conduct will become something that more and more you spontaneously want to practice. You will see that it becomes jarring not to practice beautiful conduct, the more you sit. And the more you practice beautiful conduct, the more your sitting becomes calm.

But there’s a finer point, a more important point, that I’d like to make here, and it’s connected with the virtuous factor of effort. Ethical practice in the dharma is not, as we are conditioned to believe in the West, a matter of will. Doing the right thing. Asserting, through will, which is connected to some sort of intelligence or relationship to divine righteousness, asserting right over our messy desires and emotions. This is not at all how the practice of ethical conduct is understood in Buddhism. It’s not a matter of self-conquest. And this is really what I’ve been talking about all week. That our path is the path of feelings. Working with our feelings. Taming, smoothing, lovingly handling and observing, working with our feelings and our emotions and transforming our lives through the flow of our human feeling.

So this involves all these things: effort, aspiration, belief, faith, mindfulness and so on. But there’s no sense of an assertion of a will over ourselves. This is a very gentle and a natural process, and in Buddhism, ethical conduct is not the assertion of will. Or the assertion of right conduct over our messiness. Ethical conduct is the spontaneous, gentle, natural, joyful conduct of someone who has worked with their practice in this way. So we don’t have to lay a number on ourselves in order to do ethical conduct. In fact laying a number on ourselves is exactly not ethical conduct. That’s really important.

I’m going to polish off the rest of the virtuous factors in short order. Conscientiousness, equanimity, non-harmfulness, pliancy. And they are what they sound like. You know, conscientiousness is a guardian of effort. Equanimity means an evenness of mind, so that the mind is no longer leaping up to the…and leaping down, but is gently rolling along. It has troughs and peaks but not so strong. And there’s an equanimity of feeling for what arises, pleasant or unpleasant. Various things that arise to mind are not so…there’s not such a strong sense of liking or disliking, more a sense of meeting things with a more even interest.

Non-harmfulness we could understand simply as kindness toward ourselves and others. And pliancy of mind is flexibility of mind, so the mind doesn’t get stuck, you know like a lot of times, the mind feels like a broken record, you know? Same thing going over and over, and that’s when our, we have no pliancy of mind. We might have scratchy place, but instead of scratching over and over and over and over again until we’re dizzy, you know, we just like the needle goes on, you know? Some flexibility.

I already mentioned greed, hate, and delusion, the root afflictions. There are six of them besides those three. There’s pride, doubt, and afflictive views, and again I won’t say much about these because these three are really further discussion of greed, hate, and delusion. Pride is a kind of delusion, actually. The definition of pride is delicious in the text, you know. It says pride is “viewing the transitory collection as a real I.” That’s the definition of pride. “Viewing the transitory collection as a real I.” I, you know, the letter I, like “me”? And thinking you know, I’m great, or it’s all my fault. So that’s what pride is. “Viewing the transitory collection as a real I.”

Doubt is basically the absence of belief, aspiration, faith and so on. And afflictive view is just sort of a refinement of the idea of ignorance. Which really comes down to not seeing the nature of the self, not seeing the empty nature of phenomena.

Now, you might think with some dismay, my god, I have all those afflictions. Most of the time. Oh no.

Yes, it’s normal. That’s the point. If we didn’t have all those afflictions most of the time, we wouldn't be here, on the planet. [Laughter] That’s the point. There’s work to be done. Why would you think that there’s no work to be done. If there was no work to be done, you would literally disappear, you’d evaporate into air. Pfft! You’d be gone! [Laughter]

So yes, that’s right. You have afflictions arising. We all have afflictions arising all the time. And the point is not that we would suddenly become perfect, without afflictions, because like I say that would be literally to disappear. The question is do we wholeheartedly enter into a process of honoring and recognizing our states of mind and working with them, or do we refuse to do that, because we find it unacceptable. And if that is how we feel, then, as Trungpa Rimpoche used to say, Good luck to you, sir! [Laughter]

Because you know where’s that going to get you? You know? So yes, afflictions are…delusions are inexhaustible. I vow to—what does it say?—overcome them. End them. Right. So this is our job. Afflictions are inexhaustible, I mean delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them. Absolutely impossible, but that’s our job.

So then there are numerous…those are the root afflictions, and there are numerous secondary afflictions, which I will not mention any of, because there’s lots of them and really this level of afflictions are…there’s a lot of cultural determinism here, and the list of afflictions that would come up in Indian or Tibetan Buddhism would be different from the list that would come up in Chinese or Japanese Buddhism. So I invite all of you to go home after the sesshin and make a list of your secondary afflictions, your favorites, because you have your own set that’s unique to you and that would be good to make a list of. What is it…jealousy, anger, hatred, confusion, distraction, addiction, and whatever it is, make your own list, and maybe calligraph it very beautifully, make a little drawing around it. [Laughter] Put it on your altar and enjoy it, because this is your treasure, what you have to work with. And working with the root afflictions of course is going to change the secondary afflictions, and being able to identify the secondary afflictions with friendliness is going to help you go to the root afflictions. And this practice I’ve been giving you this week, of what am I really feeling, is a great way of working with non-virtuous dharmas.

The last thing on our list is the changeable factors. These are factors that could be productive of virtuous or non-virtuous minds. And the four changeable factors are sleep, contrition, investigation and analysis.

So sleep, you know, the thing is in monastic life, sleep is one of the great factors. In other words because, since you’re not operating heavy machinery usually or conducting complicated business transactions, you can pretty much sleep through the entire experience of monastic life. [Laughter] And I’ve known plenty of monks who have done just this. Basically snoozed through the whole thing. But of course sometimes you need sleep. Obviously sleep is important. So that’s why sleep is a changeable factor. To be sleepy all the time could be really laziness. And a lot of times it’s very, absolutely difficult thing, if you…sometimes sleepiness is a way of avoiding your life. And this is very common in monastic practice, where someone is literally kind of sleepy. Every time they sit down in zazen, they start sleeping, you know? Happens all the time. And it’s because often, something is being avoided. But then also sometimes you can be sleepy. You need sleep. And maybe people need more sleep than they think. So what is sleep? Is it a positive or a negative thing.

And contrition is, this is acknowledgment that…it’s being listed here as an acknowledgement of what I was saying before. That “hri” and “apatrapya,” shame and embarrassment, could also be a negative factor, if it’s carried to the extent I was saying before. And that’s what this essentially means. It’s inclusion on this list is an acknowledgement that that factor, which is virtuous dharma, can become an un-virtuous dharma if taken to that extent.

And then investigation and analysis is basically our whole intellectual skills. And it’s an acknowledgement that our intellectual skills can be either useful, as I was saying the other day, thinking has its place, it can be useful, or it can be counterproductive. It’s not sufficient for transformation, but it can be useful. Or not. So it’s listed among the changeable factors.

So that’s what…I feel like I had a job to do there, to tell you all that. And I feel like I did it, more or less. At least I got through it, and we got through it together. Thank you for your patience.

Now, one more thing I want to say is that many of you have reported to me, and I’ve been delighted to hear, the extent to which this practice of coming back to this question, “what am I really feeling? What’s my deep experience here?” Many of you have reported to me that this has been helpful. That this can really help you to become less a victim of your mental states and have more ability to be aware and work with your mental states. So actually the most important time to work with this practice…there are three really important days to work with it. And those days are tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. Because some practices—for instance like in sesshins I’ve often spoken about practices that are more particular to sesshin, like breathing practice. And working closely with the breath is…you know, you can be mindful of the breath when you’re not in sesshin, but to work in the kind of detail with your breath that I’ve sometimes discussed is not possible outside of sesshin. But this practice is very valuable and useful to be established in your life outside of sesshin. So insofar as you’ve been able to work with it in sesshin, you’ve got a leg up. So that’s why the next three days after this sesshin is over for you to establish that this is not just something that you do in sesshin, but it’s something that you can have and use at other times would be very important. So for the next three days after today, and then on-going, but especially in the next days…


Just, literally, those words, “What am I really feeling now?” “What’s my deep experience now?” Being cued to go to that whenever you notice a roughness of mind, or a disturbance of mind, and we all know what it feels like to have that…whatever it is that happens to us when we feel we’ve lost ourselves. We all know what that feeling is. And as soon as we get that feeling, we come back to that question, and we ask ourselves, and use that question to investigate…And remember, the investigation is not discursive. It’s not that we’re asking ourselves for reasons or explanations. We’re asking ourselves to be more immediate with what we’re experiencing. To see what’s behind in terms of what we actually feel, immediately. What’s behind this train of thought, or this emotional state that we seem to be tangled up in. And it’s not a matter of solving something. Ah! It’s not like that. This is an on-going practice that you do forever, for the rest of your life. And through the practice you become gradually less a victim of your mental states, which have lots of habit behind them, so they come back. But with this kind of work, they become less troublesome and eventually their power dissipates.

So I hope that everybody will think about this and anyway, those of you who have found the practice of benefit during the days of sesshin, that you’ll think about continuing it.

Well, I got over it. My remorse. I feel a little bit better now. [Laughter] And I did think of several possible ways of getting out of this problem of not having oryoki bowls…and then you’ve just told me that the bowls might be coming. So there’s ways around this. We’ll work it out.

Anyway, this should be our biggest problem, right? That we don’t know…I would wish, my wish would be that this is the biggest problem in the world, that we don’t have a bunch of stupid oryoki bowls for our ceremony. [Laughter]

Well, thank you very much for listening to our talks this week and for your practice. It’s been a very intimate, quiet sesshin. I think the idea of the passing of the notes seems like it’s been good.

On behalf of all of us, I pray to the Buddha that whatever evil karma may have been accrued by the swatting of many mosquitoes [laughter] will be hopefully light, and that each and every one of those mosquitoes will go to a much better rebirth [laughter] in which they’ll have a chance, which instead of going around and biting people and animals, they’ll have a chance to practice the dharma. [Laughter]

Perhaps it’s good karma to be a mosquito and be swatted by a monk in sesshin. [Laughter] Maybe you’re born as a mosquito for that purpose…I don’t know.

Anyway, thank you.

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