In the Prajnaparamita Sutra

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5pm lecture begins this side


Transcript updated SDH 1/22. Ten minutes was missing from previous versions of this recording.

David Chadwick's notes:

Source: digital audio archive from DC. Problem set. - newly uploaded version: Some distortion, clear overall

Thanks to audio work by Angus Atwell, transcribed March 2012 by Judy Gilbert. Work in progress. Further preparation to post by DC

File name: 66-01-21-BN: In the Prajnaparamita Sutra (titled by dc) Transcript in progress. Needs further work, checking. Words bracketed like ( word ??) in doubt. 11-23-14 removed 66-01-21-A part from transcript. It's still at the beginning of the older audio files. Changed "giggles" to "laughs" 1-5-2017, dc. Added title, 7-6-2017.; #improved-audio


In the Prajnaparamita Sutra, which we recite every morning and evening, it says, “No mind.” It says, “No form, no sensation, no thought, no active substance, no consciousness, no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue.” And so on. No. This negative, no, means liberation.

When you do something, you know, it doesn't mean that you have no nose or no eyes. You have eyes; you have nose. But when we say, “no nose”, it means you think, you know, that your faces consist of your nose and eyes and mouth and hairs and ears. But this kind of understanding will lose the reality of your face. Even though you have, it is just not just an accumulation of nose -- your face is not just an accumulation of nose and eyes and ears and mouth. If nose is fixed upside down, that is not your nose, because it fixed in vertical, as Dogen Zenji says, “nose is nose”.

So “no nose” means nose is not just nose. Nose is something more than your nose. If you have this kind of misunderstanding of nose, it means that you have understanding of many things – a part of a whole one existence. But when you say "a part of it," a part is not a part any more. It includes actually everything, A part cannot be separated from the rest of the part.

So when you say, “This is nose,” you lose your reality of the nose. So we have -- when we want to express what is actually nose, the best way is “That is not your nose.” [Laughs] That is maybe the best way. When you think, “Oh, this is not just nose, something more than that," then you realize the reality of the nose. So we say, “no nose.” No, that is not nose or no nose. When we say, “no nose” we realize what is actually nose.

So “no nose” means … “no nose” point at actual understanding or reality -- reality of nose. So no -- it is the same thing to say “no nose,” or “no ears,” or “no eyes”. When we say “no eyes,” it points at the reality. When we say “no nose” we point at the reality. When we say, “no mouth”, we point at the reality.

So “no” means sometimes to put emphasis on some -- on something. “No nose” means “that is nose.” The same thing. When you -- when I say, “no nose” this is stronger expression of your nose. When I say, “you have nose”, you will "of course I have nose!" That's all [laughs]. When I say, “You have no nose”, you will be surprised, “Oh, is it really so? I have nose.” Then you will realize what is your nose in its true sense. So, “no nose” means “you have nose.” “No ears” means “You have ears.” So find out what is your ears or what is your nose. That means “no”.

So in Buddhism, “no” means reality, and sometimes “no” means -- when we put emphasis on something, we say, “no nose”. When we want to say “This cake is sweet,” we say sometimes, “This cake is not sweet.” “Not sweet” means “very sweet” – in Chinese [laughter]. Also, in Buddhism also.

Sometimes you when you see the scroll, some saying written on scroll, you will -- you may wonder what does it mean. For instance, “Water runs at the foot of mountain, and" -- no, no, excuse me, "Cloud hang on the mountain, and it is not calm.” “Not calm” means very calm. When the cloud is on the foot of the mountain, it is -- express the same calm feeling, but in the poem it says, “not calm.” “Not calm” means it is a kind of rhetorical negation.

Sometimes you put, you know, when we want to say something in strong way, we -- you put it in negative form. “Isn't it?” means “it is”. Instead of you say “it is”, you say “isn't it?” That is stronger expression than “it is.”

This is a kind of rhetoric, but in those sutra, “no” means liberation. Sometimes it is literally negative, but most of the time, it means stronger affirmation. This understanding rooted (?) from our practice.

When you drink tea, you should not listen to lecture [laughs]. I'm sorry, but it is true. When you listen to lecture, you should listen, just listen to lecture. That is our way. When we talk, we should not take tea like this. We cannot do two things at one time, because each activity includes everything. When you take tea, it means -- that you take tea, is all of your activity, and it covers everything. This our practice.

So when we say -- at the same time, when we say, “nose,” nose covers everything. When we say, “eyes,” eyes covers everything. And this is the true understanding of the way to understand things in its true sense. When you understand something as a part of something, you lose the reality. You lose the relationship between things, and you just get a dead idea of something.

So, everything -- our understanding of everything is not everything as a part of something. Everything includes the rest of the things. That is the true understanding of everything. When we say, “mind,” mind includes everything. That is true understanding of your mind. Mind include everything. So, in your practice, if you have mind, which is related to something else, that is not true understanding of your mind.

When you say, “mind” mind should include everything. Everything which will happen to your mind is not a part of your experience. Each of the -- each of your images or function is mind which includes everything. And so, each experience is independent experience from other experience. And each experience -- when each experience include everything, every experience, that is Zen practice. That is -- that means you have independent practice, one whole practice which include everything.

So, you do not attain enlightenment after Buddha, or before Buddha. When you attain enlightenment, Buddha attains enlightenment and the rest of other patriarchs attains enlightenment at the same time. This is right understanding of enlightenment. It is not before -- after you practice zazen, that you attain enlightenment. So enlightenment include practice, and practice include enlightenment. This is right understanding of our practice. And right understanding of reality.

So, this “no” is very important. So, here, also in this Sutra says, “form is -- form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” Form is emptiness. Emptiness is to point at the form itself. Form is emptiness -- when we say, “Form is emptiness” it means form is form, through and through. “Emptiness is form”, it means emptiness, through and through. So, form is nothing but the emptiness. Emptiness is nothing but the form.

So, when you practice, the way -- true practice is not to attain enlightenment. Anyway, you should do -- you should sit through and through without having any idea. You should not be concerned about enlightenment [laughs]. You should just sit.

Don't be concerned about what your teacher may say about your practice. He may say, “Your practice is not good!” He may say so, but it's all right. You have to do it, you have to sit with all your strength. You have -- you have to do your best.

Usually, you know, we say even though your zazen is not good, that is true zazen. "Don't be worried," [laughs] we may say, but this is, you know, rather -- this is -- it may give you some encouragement [laughs], but in its true sense, when we say so -- the teacher, we are not so kind. When I want to be kind to you I should say "No, that's no good!" [laughs]. That may be better, you know, you will be encouraged. You will find out [laughter] what does it mean? If I say, "That is good," then you will give up your effort, "Oh, this is good, that's all." Nothing will come out from the -- your practice. But when we say, "That's -- that is not good," then something will come up from that "no good." So no good is very important.

"No good" is not actually no good. "No good" is very good [laughs]. But you should not accept it in term of good and bad. You should accept it as a real slap [mimics slap] - "No good!" Then you will, you know, realize yourself in its true sense. This is no -- form is emptiness, emptiness is form. If so form is form and emptiness is emptiness, whatever you say. So when you just -- when you do your best, there is emptiness, there is enlightenment. When you are practicing Zen in between good practice and bad practice, between enlightenment and practice, that is not our practice. When you just concentrate on your practice, that is enlightenment.

So there is no need -- actually there is no need to talk about the merit of Zen practice. To talk about merit of -- merit of Zen means to encourage the wrong understanding of practice. When you do it -- just do it, you have enlightenment. So until you find out your own practice under various circumstances is how we practice zazen, how we study Zen. So sometime we will have difficulties, sometime we will have joy of practice, but those -- each of those experience is Zen practice.

That is why you should have transmission -- transmitted spirit from Buddha. Because you cannot understand your practice just by sutra or teaching. Without spirit to continue your effort, you cannot be a Buddhist. This is what do we mean by "no" or "not."

So in this sutra it says, "form is emptiness and emptiness is form." And "sensation, thought, and our active substance, consciousness also are emptiness." It means we have to have actual understanding of our forms and sensations, and thought, and consciousness. It means we must have actual -- we must have true practice, and we have to find out the reality in various things in our activity of our mind, or in our physical activity. Whatever you do, at that moment, you should realize our way.

[Long pause]

When you say, "form is emptiness," I think you understand that. You will understand in this way: forms is emptiness, it means detachment, you know. Form -- if form is emptiness, we should not be attached to some certain form. That is true. But you have idea of detachment, you know [laughs], so that detachment bothers [laughs] your true understanding. Detachment.

It is same thing to put notice on bitter persimmon or sweet persimmon. If you put some notice on the persimmon tree, you know, they will be interested in that tree [laughs], and they will try it, if it is sweet or not. So the best way is not to say anything about the tree [laughs], then no mischievous boys come. No-one will come. No-one will be interested in it [laughs, laughter]. If you say this is not sweet, or bitter, you will be interested in.

So "form is emptiness" is not, you know, not. So "emptiness is form," we say. Then you will -- you can get rid of the idea of emptiness too. You see? So it means to have direct experience of your life, without having "no" or "yes" -- idea of "no" or "yes." This point is very important. When you become you through and through -- we say, when stone is stone through and through, that is -- that is real stone. That is not just stone.

So when, you know, we say "form," period, that is all. When we say "emptiness," that's -- that is all. There is no comment for us. "I," that's all [laughs]. No "you" [laughs]. When I say "you," that's all. No "I." It is not after communicating "I" and "you," true intimate understanding between us. When I become just "I," you become "me." When you become just "you" -- when you become just "you," you know, I become "you."

When there's no need to say anything about the relationship, there is reality. But usually, we arrange many teachings in some system, you know. This teaching is for baby [laughs]. This teaching is for adult, or for boys. And this teaching is for girls, and this teaching is for men. This teaching is for beginners; this teaching is for advanced students [laughs, laughter]. To arrange the teaching in this way is not true way. Each teaching is independent teaching. We should understand in this way. You should not compare the teaching you have with someone other's teaching. This is for me, you know, for me, advanced student [laughs], this is the teaching for some beginners, not for me. This kind of understanding is very poor understanding.
Whatever the teaching may be, the teaching you have heard is your teaching.

So it is not through -- it is not after you advance step by step to attain enlightenment. You cannot arrange your steps to the enlightenment. Each step is independent practice, and on each step there must be enlightenment. When you devote yourself only one step you have, there is true understanding of that teaching. So it means you have enlightenment. When you arrange it, you know, you will lose the essence of the teaching.

Sengai's picture -- do you know Sengai's picture? When I went to Fields Bookstore, the old master hanged the Sengai's picture -- picture of frog -- a frog. And it says, "If we can obtain by sitting zazen," [laughs] it says -- just it says, "If I -- if it is possible to attain enlightenment by sitting posture" [laughs], frog says [laughs, laughter]. You will be very much amused by this statement. Frog has enlightenment, you know [laughter]. But you may laugh at the frog [laughs] who may think "I can attain enlightenment by sitting posture" [laughs, laughter]. But you are laughing at him, but he may laugh at you, you know. "Of course I have [laughter] enlightenment, don't you know that?" [laughter], he may say. But you may say, "Just by sitting, how is it possible to [laughter] attain enlightenment?" [Laughs] I don't know which is laughing (at) which [laughs]. So even the frog, when he sits like this, he has enlightenment. We cannot laugh at him. But if we practice zazen in cross-legged position to attain enlightenment, that is worse. [Laughs] You are worse than a frog.

This kind of -- this point is very important. This is the wisdom of Prajna Paramita. The wisdom to cross this shore to the other shore. So in this shore, there's the other shore. The other shore, there is this shore. So to have this -- when you have this wisdom - this shore is the other shore, and the other shore is this shore - so this is called perfect wisdom. This wisdom is -- so it says, this is "supreme mantra," supreme wisdom. And so -- so the most important point of the Prajna Paramita Sutra is emptiness, or "not," or "no." If you understand this "no," or "not," you will have prajna paramita, the wisdom to cross this shore to the other shore.

And, we will finish our sesshin by reciting sutra, as usual. It may be better -- I thought it may be better to recite sutra at the end of sesshin. Before, we practice zazen, pretty -- until pretty late, seven or seven thirty, but it is not possible because of the noise of the movie. So we stop our practice before the movie starts. [Aside] Pretty good answer (?).

Tape operator (Richard Baker): This completes the five o'clock lecture at the end of the one-day sesshin in January, I think the 21st. [Tape stops and restarts] This entire side of the tape is that lecture.