In the first session last night, I was making two principle points about the nature of Buddhism. Number one, that it’s a dharma, or method. And it’s method is a dialogue or what is sometimes called dialectic. It is basically a conversation. A dialogue. The beginning of which is not necessarily at all the same thing as the end. The reason is that the discovery which constitutes the foundation of Buddhism the experience of awakening can’t be stated. Or at least, if it can be stated it can’t be stated in such a way that the mere statement will communicate the experience to somebody else. The experience itself is the culmination of an adventure. And one has to go through that adventure in order to come to it. I’ve sometimes tried to describe this adventure as a reductio ad absurdum of one’s own false views, through a process wherein the teacher makes you act consistently upon your false views so that you come to find out experimentally that they are false. And indeed one might say, Buddhism has nothing to teach. Nothing whatever. All it has to do is to get rid of illusions. And then the content of the experience happens when the illusions are gone just like the sun comes out when the clouds go away. But if you try to manufacture the Sun before the clouds have gone away you see what I mean? And you paint the sun on the side of the clouds it’s not the real fun so in this way the speculation as such ideation as such, does not lead to the awakening experience.
So then, that this is this was the first point then that it’s a dialogue and from the statements about Buddhism that you can read in books. You will discover only the opening phases of the dialogue. One of the methods that’s used in this respect… People say, now Buddhism teaches that all things are subject to change nothing is permanent. Now that isn’t exactly what Buddhism teaches. A more subtle scholar will tell you that the Buddha taught that the world is impermanent. In order to counteract. The wrong view that it’s permanent. And Buddhist teachers always work in oppositions. If a person asks you a question about philosophical matters, you should reply in terms of everyday matters. What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism? I have just finished washing the saucepans. Or the other way around, if a person asks you a worldly question you answer with a philosophical one. Please will you pass me the knife. And so the teacher passes it blade first. Please I want the other end. And what would you do with the other end. You see here, the metaphysics comes in in answer to the practical question. And so if once when our RH Blythe was a great Zen student was asked by some students do you believe in God He replied If you do I don’t if you don’t I do. So. When anything then is taught it’s taught in order to counteract something muesli the Buddha taught that there was no self. And scholars have debated eternally whether he meant there was no ego. In the sense of the superficial. I centered on consciousness alone. Or whether he taught that there is no self in the more classical Hindu sense of the Atman. That is to say, the ultimate self, the divine final reality which is in everybody, which is the root and ground of all consciousness everywhere. And some people who see of thought that he denied that well he may very well have done so. But with the idea you see of correcting something. If you see a person believes that his basic self is divine and eternal and beyond all vices to. He may be leaving that for the very he may be believing that the very wrong reason. He may be believing in it as something to cling to. To give him a sense of security but so long as you have a sense of security and you feel safe you haven’t got the point because it means you are still relying on something. And a Buddha is a man who doesn’t depend on anything not because he’s so tough and he’s so strong. When you get a tough guy who says I’m not afraid of anything you try him out and you’ll soon find he has limits. Everybody has his price. If you try hard enough. It doesn’t you see a question of being strong. In the sense of tough. It’s a question of knowing very clearly that there isn’t anything to depend on. So you don’t depend on things anymore. The only thing to depend on is what you really are but that’s not something you can hang onto you see you can’t catch hold of that you don’t need to. The sun doesn’t need to shine a light on the sun. So, by the exploration of the dialectic, the teacher, by talking this way, and talking that way, completely undermines you. That is to say, he digs out all the dirt from underneath you. And you drop or think you do, because you’re used to having your out there but when you are in fully in empty space there’s nowhere to drop. That’s why people get such a marvelous feeling when they go skin-diving and they get down below thirty feet or so and start to lose all sense of weight. Or when astronauts go out and start to lose weight in the middle of the space bubbles. You know what’s going to happen? All those boys are going to get out there and then I want to come back. This is just great that’s what happens to skin divers You see they don’t have automatic controls on those things they’re not too certain of getting the man back because when people go down skin diving and they stay down too long so you have to have a watch with you and or someone with a string on your foot something to know exactly when you’ve got to make the trip back you may have oxygen to last you a long time but you’re going to go out of your mind because you will suddenly realize that nothing matters that everything is OK. I mean so what, supposing I do die, and the people take off their oxygen masks and presented to a fish. They have a drag. And they’re so happy.
So you know the famous story when Suzuki was asked what is it like to have Satori, he said well it’s just like ordinary everyday experience except about two inches off the ground. So. There is this peculiar thing a sense of you might say weightlessness, but you mustn’t interpret that too literally. Some people interpret it so literally that they believe great mystics levitate. I remember when I was a little boy there was a famous Dean in England his name was Ralph W. Inge ING I think it’s pronounced. And he wrote many books on Plotinus and mysticism, and one day he came to kind of preconceived rule and was sitting in the choir stall and I was sitting right near him and I noticed that all the time he was doing this. Other stick you know. But people said it was because he was always Bach to live it. To keep you stuck down. So, that levitation you see, just as if something in mystical experience. Like a sense of luminosity. Or a sense of transparency. It’s very common there are two visions of the world to see that painters have had in history is the vision of let’s say in our own western history the vision of JATO of Jericho and the vision of Rembrandt, but you see Rembrandt is full of shadows. Whereas the other painters are full of luminosity. And then you can get some painters who are not only full of shadows. But their paintings look as if they were all. Drawn just outside of Foster’s freeze you know what a Foster freeze is? I don’t know if you have them on the East Coast but you probably have the equivalent of the places where they sell ice cream custard. And they sell them from a from a glass box which is all it inside with fluorescent light it’s absolutely blue and coat and the customers all stand outside the glass box and on a chilly night we have there you see them all under this ghastly blue light, eating ice cream cones, and the men serve it to them through little windows like a theater ticket box and how people can go that’s the idea of one of the cold Hells. But they do, and so what are some paintings some visions of the world that look as if they’re seen under that light so that there is no light within things. Now, when you see the other painter who sees light in everything. Even shadows are full of color you notice with you because those work how full of light it is. And that’s because the vision of the world, of the mystic, is always full of light. Only it isn’t quite literal light it isn’t as if. Everything was blazing or you may say that everything is transparent and it doesn’t mean that he can see through your body or to the wall of the other person behind. It means that things are transparent because they’re clear it has become clear a problem has disappeared that I thought was a real problem and now it is clear I can’t tell you how it’s clear but it is and that’s what we’re going to get to in finding out what vastness is when things are seen in the state of vastness all such that they are clear there is no further problem about them they are what they are and they do what they do. And if you can really penetrate that as we should go into it you will see the mystery cleared up. The mystery clears up when you get to the point that you don’t know what questions to ask him all. The questions of vanished the problem has vanished. Now aside from the fact that Buddhism is a method, is a dialogue. I explain to you that it’s a transformation of one state of consciousness. That’s what awakening means. That is to say, it is a transformation of the way you see things. Almost I could say, the way you sense them. And in this respect I’ve often thought that the process of Buddhism is much more like ophthalmology than it’s like religion. An opthamologist as a person who corrects field. Vision so that you see clearly. And so in exactly the same way awakening is to see clearly. A transformation of consciousness. Be careful of the implications that that word may have. Because it doesn’t mean necessarily an ecstatic state of affairs, and it doesn’t mean an unnatural or even strange state of affairs. I mean, you could imagine that if you put on blue glasses, you would for a while see everything looking blue. It isn’t something like that at all. Or it isn’t as if you saw everything in a different way like you suddenly put on the eyes of a fly you see, and suddenly everything became multiple .You saw all this room of the people in it hundreds of times all at once it isn’t something like that.
It’s just that everything is the way it always was except it has a completely different meaning. And there is a curious connection between the experience of this and the understanding of it. First of all, there are really three steps in this kind of understanding. You might say there is in the first place, an intellectual comprehension of the getting of an idea. And what sort of idea do I mean? Let’s take for example, the idea of a third dimension. To be aware of depth. If you look at things with one eye only, you see, you don’t see depth. But if you look with two eyes then the dimension of depth appears. And once you, though have understood depth though you can see depths for example I don’t look at things with two eyes at once I look either with my left eye or with my right eye and I don’t have binocular vision, but I still see depth, because I understand it to be there and as a result of understanding it to be that I see it. If I understand clearly. I couldn’t understand the nature of depth if I was just told looking at things that they have two dimensions but if I make an exploration and I handle the thing, and I understand what the third dimension is then I understand it more thoroughly I’m quite clear about it, and then as a result of being clear about it I see it. Now in the same way, people did at one time actually see believe it or not the crystal spheres in which the planets were supported. We would say, How did they see it if it was transparent? Well they saw it they knew it was up there. And it was there for all to see because naturally you can always see through crystal clear. To see people really think like that. And they see things if they’re hypnotized into seeing them. Now then if you take the suggestion away. Then they won’t. Or conversely, if you have the idea of a number system which is only one two three many. Nobody can see four things. They will see something that other people call fall but they won’t see far they want to see many and four will be as many as five. They might begin then to have a concept of a little many in a big many. And a middle many. That’s three again. They won’t be able to get a little many. Not so little many, rather large many, very big Many You see they won’t be able to do that so long as their number system is one two three many. So then it can never be a fact for such a person that a room has four corners. It has many corners are all three. But once you’ve got the idea of four then you can see that it has four corners. When I see the sun rising I know that the sun isn’t moving but the earth is turning. One has traveled enough in airplanes to see that for oneself and the the question then now is this if someone believes that the sun is rising and the earth is still when he looks at the sunrise is he seeing the same thing I’m seeing. I don’t think he is. Because my seeing, has an entirely different interpretation on it than his seeing.
So, what you understand also determines what you see. So that’s what’s meant by a yana in yoga in India method of awakening through intellectual mind, through intellectual understanding. People say you can’t get it intellectually that’s partly true but only partly true. That means first of all. Well for example, the old Hindu saying that you cannot get wisdom through books is as I explained because. It’s a dialogue but also it’s because the books that exist are only notes. In other words all the sacred books are nothing more than memoranda just like the notation of Hindu music or it is only a memorandum it’s not something you follow it’s a reminder of a certain rock graph or theme and then you play it and improvise on it. So in the same way, all the aphorisms in the yoga sutras or the verses of the of the gate and so on, they’re notes. Little jottings, and then the teacher will explain them. So when the something is understood, very subtly by the thinking mind it will eventually become a sensation because you really understand it you see. So that, I’m saying all this as a basis for seeing. That when Buddhism in visage is the character and the consciousness of the highest form of man, which it calls Bodhisattva. It is not somebody who’s out of this world. It’s not somebody who is in a state of some weird ecstasy, or somebody who sees. Everything kind of full of angels as we might expect in the ordinary way or things like that. Real Angels, Gods and so on are very different from what you might suppose in the imagery. You can find out for example that the dust is full of gods. If you really look at dust. And that the paws of your skin contain many universes. And that’s marvelous, you see. That’s to see that things are full of gods but you’re still not seeing anything different. From the ordinary things you see but you got a different understanding. So having a different understanding you was never the less the same world same everyday life same everything going on that everybody else has. The understanding in other words is not away from this everyday kind of experience we’re having now so there’s the bodhisattva. And this is an extraordinarily important vision for the whole of Asia. Why? Because there was always a tendency in Asian spirituality to want to go away. That’s very understandable, because when life is rough and there are terrible plagues and wars and hunger and diseases, a lot of people would think oh enough is enough is enough and if this is going to go on and on if we’re going to be reincarnated back and back into this mess, isn’t there some way of getting out? So in that way you can lose all interest in everyday life. For example, supposing you are a drunk. A really serious dedicated drunk and lots of people are they want out. And they couldn’t care less whether they have no money whether they’re going to die or whether they’re dead just so long as they can stay out. Now you might say as we look at people like that well that’s very sad. It’s terrible. Well, look at them, they’re wasting their lives but from their point of view they’re not. They’re living the real life, they want to live. Or a person may be an opium addict you see and he would be in his special paradise. And you say Well isn’t that terrible. Or he wants out. And from his point of view as he looks at it it’s perfectly all right because he thinks that people who are pursuing those ends which are considered virtuous. And practical he thinks they’re out of their minds. Why do all that? Why do you have to go on struggling and struggling and struggling to keep alive? What do you think that that’s going to give you to see so he feels it doesn’t matter if it ends soon or if it ends later time is an illusion. In his state of consciousness he can make a tiny little bit of time into a long long time. He can experience one hundred years in an afternoon or longer. And some people think you see, that you might have immortality through the fact that in the moment of your death. Your sense of time gets longer and longer and longer and longer and longer and longer. So that although from the standpoint of an outside observer who is not in your state of consciousness, it looks as if you are having your head cut off in a hurry. From your standpoint that lasts forever. Because of the alteration of your time rhythm. See how slippery philosophy can be. And so people can think all these things and they can get lost and there was always a tendency in Oriental culture to do that and from our point of view, that’s a bad thing.
Well from a say the Chinese point of view also, it was a bad thing the Chinese are very practical and like they believed in in the family and in having children and husbands and wives and in industriousness and in the building and in arts and in cultivating the soil by very ingenious methods. And so, it was a special appeal to them in the idea of the bodhisattva. Bodhisattva you see it doesn’t is not like the extremely contemplative. Private Buddha. You won’t find a bodhisattva sitting all day under a tree in a state of rapt absorption. So that anybody who comes up and knocks on him won’t get an answer. He’ll be like everybody else or he will look like everybody else because he will see that this everyday world too is it. This no special, nothing special world. Misty rain on Mount Lu, waves surging on River Che. Waves, when you have not been there no rest from the pain of longing but you go there and come back it was nothing special misty rain on Mt Lu, surging waves Che-Chiang. This isn’t meant to see to debunk it and say well after all. You know that it was a nasty baby any. Now, I don’t know who died this but it is it isn’t does it doesn’t. It doesn’t the kind of thing it was nothing like that. In the idea of nothing special or boogy. There is a way of saying. But look at ordinariness. Look, what you miss every moment. And you see that sort of attitude underlies tea ceremony well. Very. Great appreciation exists all of the very simplest kinds of utensils rooms architecture and so on. There was a very great sage who lived far off in the mountains behind Kyoto. And an American student had a great desire to see him. And he made all sorts of inquiries to find this man at last found the way to the Hermitage but then it was very difficult to get up. And but he did finally find the old man out and came and said How do you do? And they talked and the old man was delighted that the foreign student should have taken all that trouble and should show such [a] good understanding of these things, that he served him tea ceremony with nothing but hot water. No tea. And the American student was delighted he realized that this man had paid him a real compliment. So. That’s buji you see that’s nothing special. Now then. Generally speaking as we look at the whole field of Buddhism. The idea of the bodhisattva that is to say the idea of realising the enlightened state in terms of everyday life is characteristic of the Mahayana School of the North. North Asia. Whereas, the Theravada are sometimes when a young a school of South Asia still has its emphasis on the idea of getting away. Still very much concentrates on the ideal of the monkish life, which is celibate and away from every dayness all attachment, all kinds of worldly responsibility. And so those monks their yellow robes are very much a people apart. In the Marianna on the other hand. Although there are monks. They aren’t monks quite in the sense of the Southern school I mean it’s like a Roman Catholic priest is not supposed to marry but in a piece of paper and priest may.
So in that sense the southern monks are like Roman Catholic monks and the Northern monks are like Anglican clergy or something like that except that they have a rule that if they do live in a monastery they mayn’t take wives in there and likewise the nuns mayn’t have husbands in their. But if they live apart into a temple a priest may have a wife. Because they see no fundamental inconsistency between the state of deeply illuminated consciousness and living in some kind of affectionate human community and society. So therefore, for that reason, through Mahayana through the idea of the bodhisattva Buddhism was able to exercise an enormous influence upon the everyday life of the Far East. To express itself through art forms that were by no means Styria typed. Not merely iconographic and stylized. Buddhism in the Far East expressed itself through naturalistic art forms. And so, it’s an extraordinary thing but you see, the religious painting of China in so far as it is influenced by Zen Buddhism very rarely has a religious subject. When you would say, What is Christian art? Well, you wouldn’t recognise that certain great schools and styles you would say you would associate Romanesque architecture with Christianity certainly Gothic architecture you would associate early Italian painting or a great deal of Russian painting with Christianity peculiar. But Christian art you see always seems to have for its subject matter. The the Christ the saints the angels the incidents in the lives of the saints that martyrdoms, and so on and so forth. But it’s inconceivable, to get the idea isn’t it, that a still life. Which might have been painted by a Christian is a form of Christian art. When all it is in it is a few apples on the table. That a case could be made for that idea but it hasn’t been made it’s never really occurred to someone to express Christianity through that sort of method Oh it’s true that there has been a symbolism of the grapes and the wheat represent the sacrament the mass, that limb is represent something and so on and so forth but this is purely symbolic. It wouldn’t occur for Christian art that. If the fine painting of a used ashtray, with a piece of tong paper beside it could possibly be Christian art. Unless it was propaganda against being dirty or something like that. But, for the Far East, a painting of an old rock with some grass growing beside it. Can most definitely be Buddhist art. Because that painting of the rock is concerned with such ness. And just as much so as any painting of borders and their halos and golden. Duras and flowers and lotuses and all like kind of thing. So likewise, when this cool of painting paints Buddhas and bodhisattvas it makes them look like ordinary people. Even a little bit to get the point a little bit more than ordinary that is to say tramps, bums, clowns. You know, this fellow. This it Hotai, in Chinese and he is a fat slob. But he goes around with an enormous bag, patched and so on and he collects trash. He collects everything that nobody wants to see there are all new people are always up for precious things but put tires up for rubbish. And he collects all this rubbish and he gives it away to children who love it. Well this is the way you see this is true this man is sometimes called the Fat or laughing buddha and he has a fat Buddha. But, the only clue that he is a Buddha is a big ears. Because that means he can hear. Right through everything see. He can hear the ultimate sound in everybody’s voice. Now that’s a very important trick. If you listen to me talking, you may try to make sense of the words. But actually, in the sense of the words that I’m saying isn’t the content of what I’m trying to explain. The content of what I’m trying to explain can be heard in the sound of my voice. And in order to listen to that properly you have to go beyond its meaning. For example, if you say the word yes, and then say it again yes yes yes yes yes, it becomes a very funny word. And you think why did we use that funny noise yes to mean yes. Or are you might see somebody sitting like this you know say I imagine this is on a movie. And the man just sitting there for a while and suddenly goes. He shrugs his shoulders. That’s a normal enough gesture and I mean it was puzzled. But as he’s going on saying that he does. And you want to know what’s the matter to go to Dick. Suddenly you see the gesture begins to lose meaning you come upon something. Well, that’s what you have to have big ears to get that you see. So it through that you know he he hears all sounds as being just songs. Of course, [he] can hear meaning in them too. When they have meaning but fundamentally underlying the meaning he hears just the sound. And this is something you get to if you go to a foreign country and you don’t understand the language and you see all the people talking and you notice things that they don’t notice about themselves because they get absorbed in the meaning of what they’re saying. And so they don’t notice. The fascinating aspect of the perfectly meaningless side of their behavior. But at any rate, the, a whole approach of the whole result of the bodhisattva doctrine in the art of the Far East is to create what the Speigelberg has called the religion of non-religion. Where the religion became so perfect that it left no trace. It’s like when you build a house you erect scaffolding when you finish you take the scaffolding away. And you wonder if you had never seen a house being built how on earth the builders got up so high.
So in the same way, the ancient idea of Buddhism is that the Buddhism is a ferryboat. And it’s designed to take you across the stream from this shore, which is Samsara, the Rat Race, to the other shore which is nirvana when you get on the other side you get off the ferry see a ferry boat goes back to bring the next party over. But if you stay on the ferry boat, that means you see you’re in love with the ferry boat. And you’re in danger of becoming a religious maniac. And, you people do that you see you know how it is you’ve probably had that experience people who join a church and then become fascinated with all the things that go with church they like Bibles not just for what’s in them but the smell of a Bible, the appearance of the Bible has something something holy and numinous about it and they like crucifixes. Now, a crucifix is a pretty grisly object. A corpse nailed on beams, but they get jeweled crucifix it’s beautiful works of art in natural gorgeous things and people with a great. Religious feeling love to think of those things easy and Buddhists to do that they like their rosaries and there. Are images and the smell of incense and they get a kind of church if occasion. The French have a wonderful word for those goods they call the bon years early. I know and it’s a little difficult to translate. Literally, good God guttery. That lived long here you know everybody’s on this sentimental because all of the born year though lady is always talking about the bond years and so people say you know people who’ve got church on the brain the born the year it’s all these stores sell bronze years only.
Now while this you see is this just in its own way understandable. The whole point is that the in the Supremes state of understanding you get rid of volunteers or the altogether that’s the religion of no religion see you don’t even have any beliefs. The whole creed everything is utterly. Past surpassed that man’s You left the ferryboat and you’ve gone on on the other shore you don’t carry the ferryboat with you. And so, this religion of no religion, is very pure are very transparent it’s called like the salt in water like the glue in color or in ink and you see it sticking that the Chinese make has glue in it to hold it together but you can’t see the glue. It’s all solid black all the way through and the glue isn’t observable. So the salt isn’t observable in water. In this way you see religion is being used as a medicine and not as a diet the Dharma is, to use a Zen expression it’s like picking up a brick to knock at somebody’s door. And when the door opens, you don’t carry the brick into the house. So a person who see who has much religion has what is called In Zen is instinct. And that’s considered rather bad. Or rather special a bad smell and one of the Zen poem says to know your original mind your essential nature that is the great disease of our religion of our school see so people who have this thing who have zen and you can say well that fellow’s a Buddhist. And he has this special thing he has you know it’s like. Those of us who have the disadvantage of our eyes not being quite good we have to wear spectacles look new since we’ve got around with you all over the place gadgets you have to fix on you. Or people who belong like clergy to a religious order have to go around in funny clothes and at the rabbi who has a beautiful beard but he will wear a beastly black homburg at which is so unnatural. And, so, they have to separate us in a way that people with artificial legs crutches and so on so it isn’t something that’s worked it isn’t working like a medicine because if the medicine works you get rid of it if a doctor successful, he gets rid of his patients.
And so in exactly this way, suchness is an attempt to say something which can’t be said. It is trying to say. There is the world that just as it is you see that that’s what we’re trying to show you to look at we’re not trying to drag in some fancy operators from about. Some special system which has got to be imposed on you some all kinds of gods and complicated people you’ve got to believe in. We’re not going to fill your brains with a lot of new stuff. But instead come to the clarity of seeing things just the way they are. The trouble is, when when somebody said to a Zen master, the lines of the hills and the clouds are not all the is the body of Buddha he said yes but it’s a pity to say so. And so even to have to say, look, that, see, it’s just a little bit too much. Just a little bit too much. It would be more admirable if I didn’t have to say anything didn’t have to point out a thing, but after all, one does have to make some concessions to follow.