All things come together without our knowledge. Gien Inour Roshi

[The following is from an informal talk with four American students of Zen who had gone to Japan in May 1973 to participate in a five-day sesshin presided over by the Roshi.]

Roshi:

Gien Inoue Roshi.

All things come together without our knowledge. Phenomena occur whether people think they are going to or not. The arising of phenomena takes place without any person, any existence, behind it. For example, when a person expels breath and it hits the air, by the time the sound can be perceived, the person has already finished letting out his breath. People are deluded in that they see only what looks like their own self in operation, and fail to see their broad existence in which everything is simply coming together.

Doing zazen is taking the thing which, until now you thought in the above manner to be yourself, and to become aware of its insubstantiality. Separate yourself from opinion and give yourself up to the free movement of this thing (indicating his body). In so doing, you come to see that the natural working of the body and the environment together gives rise to various phenomena, and for the first time, you can understand how small the world of opinion is.

You take something that no longer exists and put it into your mind and compare it with what comes up. If you have a shadow of something, can you hold onto that shadow? All of your perceptions, as they arise like shadows, have nothing for you to hold on to.

Question:
What about contradictions that come up in one’s mind?

Roshi:
When you sit, you’re sitting and when you stand, you’re standing, and there is no contradiction. The contradiction takes place in your mind when you make a distinction applying the past to the present. Although when you sit, all of you is sitting and when you stand, all of you is standing, you think about the past or previous action and say: ‘That’s strange! First I was sitting and now I’m standing.’ Thus you split the actuality into two and even three parts and conclude that there is a contradiction. It is only by the process of formulating opinions based on comparison of past and present that a contradiction arises in the mind. But at any given moment there is absolutely no contradiction and no seed for contradiction to sprout from.

You take something that no longer exists and put it into your mind and compare it with what comes up. If you have a shadow of something, can you hold onto that shadow? All of your perceptions, as they arise like shadows, have nothing for you to hold on to.

Samantabhadra (Monju Bosatsu) seated upon an elephant. © The Trustees of the British Museum

If you do zazen, you get to see for yourself that things just arise in your perception; where they begin and where they end you cannot know.
When someone does something to you, you think there is a person behind it. If you get hit, for example, all there is is the perception. It hurts and then it’s over. But you bring it up into your mind, get furious at being hit, wonder what the motive behind it was and how to get even with the person who hit you. This is like a rooster who, when a mirror is held up to it, pecks away at the mirror thinking that there is a real bird there. Similarly, people peck away at what they think is a reality behind what is actually a perception of something which no longer exists. When you do zazen for awhile, you come to see that all there is is that little shadow of a perception which has nothing to do with your thoughts; and just being able to see that, you are brought to a point of freedom from suffering. However, this point is not yet the realisation of the truth, the arrival at total satisfaction.

You begin to let go of thought, you do not deal with it; you just let it arise.

Question:
Is the reason for sitting in zazen to eliminate flapping around so that your perceptions are freed?

Roshi:
The reason for the sitting posture of zazen is that it is a way of creating balance, stability. To sit lopsidedly is to produce insecurity, anxiety, uneasiness. You cannot stay in such a position for long. But the zazen posture is one that you can hold at length, in ease. It gives you the opportunity to see that until now you have been leading a life of opinion. And, seeing this, you begin to separate yourself from that world of opinion and see the great wide way of the body and environment moving together. You begin to let go of thought, you do not deal with it; you just let it arise.

However, everything I’ve just said – the seeing of the difference between fact and opinion, the ability to simply see everything arising, one thing after another – is only the first step.

Question:
Do you mean that you don’t interfere with the process by trying to arrange it?

Roshi:
The way thought is usually being used, it has no power at all! It doesn’t deal with reality. It is based on ‘I’. So, no matter what conclusion it comes to, it can’t fit, because it’s not dealing with reality. Once you let thought go, you see a bigger function, a bigger ‘I’ that has nothing to do with thought. Then, all of a sudden, thought itself begins to deal with reality. It arranges itself automatically. Now thought naturally follows from reality whereas before it was mere nonsense.
However, everything I’ve just said – the seeing of the difference between fact and opinion, the ability to simply see everything arising, one thing after another – is only the first step, not the basis, not the fundamental thing. The only time you get to the point where you can understand is when EVERYTHING GOES AWAY; when there is no you, no outside, no shadow; nothing at all. When everything disappears, then all of a sudden, from this real still point of nothingness, some little thing arises – you brush against something, perhaps – and see the origin of movement in your mind. Before that, you’re always arranging or correcting thought. But then, once thought is pacified and everything drops off, the next thing you get is the arising of a little fact and this moves your thought again. Unless this happens, you don’t really understand.
The Buddha realised, after going through all sorts of ascetic practices and being worshipped as a saint, that he still had his little self to contend with, that until then he’d been trying to build something in his mind, some little shape, and then trying to fit it into reality. He understood that you had to let go of this trying to fit things into reality, and let everything appear as it is. That is the point at which he overcame suffering, at which he realised the point at which suffering occurred. But, even just letting everything arise, he did not yet have the core of enlightenment. Whereas he was beyond suffering, he wasn’t totally satisfied. So after that, he sat for forty-eight days, and finally let everything go and let everything arise, and thus had the universe before he was born. The I, the you, the shadow, all went away and then from this place of nothing, he saw the morning star come up. In other words, he saw the creation of mind, the beginning, the first step. At this point you are satisfied, because you know where it is all coming from. That is awakening, enlightenment.

And then, all of a sudden, you have what is called an ‘enlightened person’. Before you had a confused person, now you have an enlightened person and it doesn’t help.

Question:
How did you experience this awakening?

Roshi:
The way it happened to me was that while attending a play, suddenly everything – the stage, the actors, the audience – all disappeared. Then, with the waving of a white kerchief in an actor’s hand, I saw the creation of the universe. But, even after I understood this, I brought it back up into my mind. One gets back into the old habits. I thought, ‘This is an experience. I’ll treat it like I’ve treated every other experience before.’ And then, all of a sudden, you have what is called an ‘enlightened person’. Before you had a confused person, now you have an enlightened person and it doesn’t help. (‘I’ know what everything is about.) Again, you have this little thing, this ‘I’ that obstructs everything from simply arising. At this point you have to let go of the ‘enlightened man’.

just realising that thought is the problem and then seeing the distinction between reality and thought, you reach a point at which suffering is taken away almost completely;

Question:
Is that what is meant by the stages of enlightenment?

Roshi:
In the experience I just recounted, I went all the way to the bottom; that is, I fell below the place where the universe is created. Some people do that in two stages. The universe is created with the movement of your mind, with the first little movement of consciousness. Unless you fall below that place you cannot see consciousness created.
Even if you don’t go that far, just realising that thought is the problem and then seeing the distinction between reality and thought, you reach a point at which suffering is taken away almost completely; the only suffering in that is that you are not satisfied; satisfaction only comes after the total experience.
To experience something before consciousness, is impossible to conceive. I myself didn’t consciously try to do so because I couldn’t even imagine what it was I was trying to do. Because everything within intent, within consciousness, can’t in any way point to that, it is only by going along letting everything just arise, that this thing happened.

The more you realise this, the more peaceful you will become, and the easier it will be to let go of everything.

Question:
Are there people to whom, despite their doing this thing for years and years, this experience never comes?

Roshi:
Yes, there is nothing that one can do about that. It’s not something you can make happen. You can’t say logically: ‘If this is done, it will appear.’ There are so many different people with different characteristics. It has nothing to do with your intent, with whether you are a ‘good’ boy or a ‘bad’ boy, or how long and how much you’ve been practising. At some point you would have to let go of the ‘I’ completely, let go of consciousness. If and when a you do that, depends on your ability to let go.
When you begin to use thought the way it ought to be used, you find it easier to let go of thought. But for the first step, you must recognise the fact that things just appear as they are without respect to you or your thought. The more you realise this, the more peaceful you will become, and the easier it will be to let go of everything. The things we talked about here this evening can become the basis for all of you.

This transcript was sent to us at Buddhism now from Hosshinji temple, Fushihara, Japan in the 1990s, and has been slightly adapted for publication.


Gien Inoue Roshi.
Gien Inoue Roshi

Gien Inoue Roshi (1894-1981)

He Ordained as a Zen monk at age of 13.

He devoted whole-heartedly in practice.  Even though he had the experience of being enlightened, he had a hard time to be free from grasping it. 

In 1931 He started to hold practice sessions in Ryusenji.

History from a translation by Sokan. S. Tatsuta and the image of Gien Inoue Roshi are from the jinenzazenのblog.


Images:

Samantabhadra (Monju Bosatsu) seated upon an elephant. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Samantabhadra (Monju Bosatsu)
seated upon an elephant.
© The Trustees of the British Museum


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