Ask Harada Roshi a question
Read latest question and answers
All general enquiries: secretary@onedropzen.org

Subscribe to our Newsletter
There is nothing real to seek 'out there'...
Harada Roshi

Teisho day 7, September OSesshin in Sogenji

When you enter a dojo, first of all, anyone is asked to do susokan. One aspect of this susokan is to settle one’s breath. In society we learn at school, the subjects that have been chosen, yet those children of high mental ability will get good grades and move ahead. This is all about gathering and sorting data in the outside, yet at the same time not knowing oneself. From school on, actually from the time before even our ability is turned towards gathering data outside. Some children will match the system well, yet from the point of Zen, those children who are weak at this are further ahead. We do not understand that which has been taught to us when we put ourselves outside, but rather we take that which comes towards us, whether it is a river or a mountain or bird, that is not really of such great importance, that is not the point. But to have the ability to perceive this, that is what is important. But the ability is rather used for searching for more data. We use our time on that which is in the outside. Children being brought up like this, they're able to analyze and to judge. Yet while this huge world exists, this huge mind is not realized, the head is being busy always looking for something noisy inside. We have the ability to perceive from birth; through our eyes, we see the world, through our ears we hear, through our nose, we smell, through our mouths, we taste. Through our whole body, we perceive and feel. That is just how it is. When something comes towards us, we simply reflect that and not try to grasp that. Putting our mind outside though, grasping onto that which is of meaning and value to us, then we cannot perceive the whole huge picture. While we have this huge mind we make it narrow. A child is born with a huge mind. And then it becomes hardened like ice, only receiving that which is of meaning to us. And from there problems arise. So we say; ‘let's do some zazen’. And so again, we enter with this state of mind zazen and again looking for some but some value in our zazen and that is not zazen. Zazen is about original mind starting to come forth, to become this huge mind that is zazen. Yet looking for some meaning in our zazen, there might be some aspect of that which might be working well. But since we only look for something of value in the practice, or intention weakens, it becomes complicated. And we give up. In Buddhism, in Zen, it is not about searching for meaning, but to simply receive the scenery, receive the phenomena and perceive all of them as passing by. That there is no huge meaning in them, to guide our mind back towards itself. So that we try this susokan. Don't search in the outside, but receive that which is coming towards you. And then this mind which is starting to face inside, slowly and slowly turns back onto itself. It might take three to five years. Yet we should stay with this. If we start looking inside, from there, we can start to also use a koan. Before that we will use a koan like a subject at school and that is not what the koan is about. A koan expresses our original mind, putting the phenomena outside and then looking at this world perceived from the experience of original mind. And from there our awareness can settle within. That is what is asked in the question, ‘What is it that moves in accordance with all the myriads of things?’ That absolute Being, not being in control of everything, some developing, some high ability, some human being. That is how we easily, mistakenly believe. But to let these things come towards us, not looking for them outside. But look at these unending stars in the sky. They're all gathered in our huge mind. We have the five senses, the six abilities and passing through them we can perceive the outside world Yet if we go out towards them, we follow along those shadows, and we then again get moved around by them.

So we do zazen to experience that we're all the mirrored things are being experienced from. We have to have it to move along. So we put this habit aside. If we stop for one minute our breathing, our 6 trillion cells will die. So we use the breath to realize our life energy. We use the breath we use the susokan, and then it is that, which does the breathing that becomes the breathing.

We look at that, which has the pain, we look at that, which does the breathing, which feels tight. And that is how we realize, more and more, that where everything is coming forth from. So we sit to become aware of that. We see yet are not being seen. We hear yet are not being heard. We are aware, yet are not being perceived from the outside. That is the mind we can awaken to. Letting go of all concepts which we have learned at school. And while we have this huge mind, we have lost the perception of that. So we need to ignore all these ideas that we have learned. Not getting moved around by the outside and slowly we become aware of the source. Doing zazen we understand nothing. And then from there, this judgmental mind becomes quiet, we when we sit and receive the world, and this huge mind is starting to come forth again. Speaking about this from experience, it at least takes six months for this kind of experience to be possible. If we sit and do practice with a limited time, this is how it develops. From his own experience the roshi says we do need to give ourselves six months, and then this difficult mind becomes quiet. And then from there, we can see it in the face. At the beginning, someone who has left a life in society has a hardened face because they are still searching for something, trying to fill that, which seems to be lacking. And then, after six months, those sharp edges of our face become softer. As long as we have this sad state of mind, which still needs to search, we cannot start to do koan work. They will only be used as a quiz, and we still try to understand something through them. But once our mind has become more quiet, we can start to use the koans, and then they are not a quiz anymore, but our mirror. If we look at a mirror, we see the outside, yet these koans  then start to become a mirror of our own state of mind. Joshu says that, no matter what we're doing, whether we are standing or sitting, to only repeat this MU. And if you truly do this, you become the state of mind. Honestly said though, we simply sit, and maybe for five minutes we can stay with it. But the rest of the time is not coming forth from this essence, because we do not know this huge mind yet.

Koans are a mirror of our true mind. They are not about gaining something, but about huge mind, expressing itself. And then this koan is our reflection. It is not about understanding anything. And from there, for the first time, they truly start to work.

Thus he can hear this in the answers, whether the koans.. where the answer of the koan is given through some mental combination, or whether it is really coming forth from experience, it can easily be heard. Yet, what should we take as most important? This true insight is what is most important. That is what Rinzai is teaching us here. This mirror that simply reflects the world, this huge mirror, that is, everyone’s space. And that is the one which is hearing the talk. So, you say, you hear it is about the one who listens to this talk, and you think there is someone inside you, who is doing the listening, making it complicated again, but that is not how it is. To see and not see, to hear and not hear, to smell and not smell, to perceive and not perceive; that is the functioning of a huge state of mind and slowly slowly we become aware of it. We are aware of the outside, but only taking that in which comes towards us, because we search. That is why we do not know, but from morning until night, from night until morning to only be with his mind, that perceives that, which comes towards us. That is how we can continue our zazen and then these thoughts stop coming up. If we stop searching in the outside, thoughts don’t come up anymore because there is no need for them, like a fool. Looking at it from the point of society we are a fool, because we are not efficient and useless. But living according to that which is of gain in society, that makes our life complicated. Returning to our source of mind, we may be useless in society, but we are doing something of great value. We can be useless in society but as long as we have this ability that we know that everything is coming forth from our true mind, and that is the greatest value for us as human being.

But from this habit of looking for values in the outside, from there we lose our true base. Maybe we are of value to society. And as long as we have abilities that might be fine. But how about when we get older and these abilities weaken. What then is our value in society?

So we do this creative work in our zazen, not looking for any outer value. That is how we continue our practice, and this is how our mind can deepen. We may seem useless from the outside, but that is what is most important in the inside. Yet not knowing this experience, we sit. Having believed that there is some experience, some great heavenly experience, in our zazen we sit and get angry, the legs hurt, our body becomes tight, we get hit. It is not what we expected this experience would be like, because we had ideas about what zazen should be like, that it should be rather wonderful, but that wonderfulness does not exist. All there is, is only ourselves. And that is what we start to realize, slowly, we see that all there  is, is just our selves, the awareness starts to fall back onto itself and then our face becomes softer. Once we stop creating a searching for something, once we stop judging, we become wider in our mind and that is the important point. And from there we can truly receive a koan. When we do not try to understand anymore. We simply become the koan. We sit, and it's MU, we stand and it's MU, we feel and it's MU. And from there, the koans truly can reveal our life energy. It may be the oak tree in the garden, whatever the koan might be, it is all an expression of our own life energy. It is our life energy, becoming itself. There is no other meaning to that. And that is how we realize the truth in each koan. That is what each koan shows us. Because we do not think, that is why it can reveal itself. And that is why we can become the koan. It is so obvious. The truth of the koan shows itself, if we stop searching for it. Because this seeing ability has nothing to do with thinking. That is why we follow the MU in our seeing, in our hearing, in our perception, and if we place this koan in our head, there is only utter darkness, and from there we cannot understand anything. We might give a huge MU, but then a blood vessel in our brain might burst. That is not how to go about it, to simply receive that koan and receive that which comes towards us. That is the experience of true mind.

Then, when we are being asked, ‘what is this experience of true mind?’, and then the answer is ‘the eastern mountain is walking on the water’ it might seem silly to us, thinking about this, but simply entrusting this question, the answer becomes obvious. Subject and object, having melted into oneness. And then when being asked, ‘How about where does the light go when the candle has been extinguished?’ When the candle in the sanzen room is turned off, it does not burn forever. Where does this light go? And that is, again, pointing to the very source of our true mind. There are 1700 koans. And if you stop using them to try to understand something, then they will all become your huge mind. And from there, no possible conflicts can arise. Rinzai says, as long as you try to be clever, you make the other seem like a fool. Making your abilities seem higher than the other, you always will create some outer conflict but that is not how is. That is not true insight. True insight is that mind, which is the same for all of us, which is the same for all of humanity. And then simply becoming that which is right in front of you, the flower in the garden, not thinking about it but simply becoming the bird song, singing, and that might seem like a fool, but that is only when you add on concepts. Because you are searching for some meaning in your head, you're putting yourself aside, but simply taking that outer scenery and decorating your mind with that, you perceive this beautiful flower. Our mind cannot decorate the world in the outside, but perceiving simply the beautiful song, that is not some imagination, but that is our true mind at work, which is at work from morning until night, from night, until morning. Even when you are sleeping and hearing a sound, or when you want to go to the toilet, your mind will still be able to function. This is not some spiritual imagination but this is true insight in actual obvious working

Where does the light go when the candle is being extinguished? It goes back to original darkness. It is not about the candle, but about your own awareness. This candle is not always burning. But once, having let go of the concept, you will know where the light has gone. From original mind, we can in each moment, receive the truth in all the phenomena. Rinzai does not say something special here, but just the obvious. It appears out there and will be simply reflected. Then we understand, and that is what our zazen is. That is what is important. We do not need to look for some true insight somewhere, but simply let things being reflected by this mind. Do not make a mistake here.

We have lived in society, a life based on gain, and being involved in the outside. And if asked to show our original mind we have no clue how to do this. So we need to sit until no more thoughts arise. We have thoughts, and from there true insight cannot be experienced, which is too bad, but we need to sit until at least once, we can experience this; however long it might take. We need to let go of these concepts, at least once or this rebirth of mind is not possible. Yet then we regret spending so much time in training, so we don't become it completely. Rinzai speaks from his own experience that we need to let go of it all, which is not easy. It is not easy to experience the state of mind, it might take one or two years. As long as we stay attached to that which arises, we cannot move ahead. Rinzai says, Don't waste your time. Don't sit with a blank state of mind. Wasting time being used by this habit to think. Don't use your time meaninglessly. You need to let go of all of this, simply seeing and hearing without stopping your efforts, only becoming one with this MU and entering complete darkness. To enter this route of awareness for that this great cleaning needs to be done from morning until night, from nine until morning. We need to remain only with us focus on MU.

if we add on ideas of this is that, and this is this; we need to let go of all these habits, and then become like a fool. No matter what is going on in the outside, that is not of great importance, but purify your own mind. And then from there true insight is possible. You do not know whether this is existing anymore, whether it is morning or night, whether you have eaten or not. We use nothing that comes forth in our mind. Does it exist or not? We have no clue.

Everyone still has this melancholic state of mind, saying, I understand something. It is so difficult to let go of this mental habit, but we need to go to that place where nothing remains, without stopping our efforts. We need to stop dividing not being moved around by the scenery, but simply perceiving that, which is right in front of us, like a white blank movie, not adding judgment to that which we perceive but simply taking all, reflecting it from a pure state of mind, not knowing whether the world exists or not.

Rinzai is saying that we cannot add on any thoughts to that which we perceive. And if we do not go through this place once, we stay in hardened, conceptual mind. And from there, it cannot open up. Rinzai has had this experience, Boddhidharma went through this place as well. It is like a candle, which has a pattern around itself, and it will create a scenery by the candle light, but we can see this just being the scenery that is passing by, staying in pure awareness, only. From there, everything is being brought forth from. Yet if we get busy with that scenery outside, we again get moved far away from our true base. Zazen is the opposite of how society works. In zazen our awareness is sharp, yet we have no clue, whether the outside world exists or not, this pure awareness, which does not add on any ideas to the outside. We don't know when it will be touched by the outside, being completely filled within, taut, filled with energy, perceiving that which is right in front of it. The world is different. In the world we know all about the scenery. We match the outer situation well, we do great work in our life. Yet we do not know about our awareness, because, actually, pure mind is sleeping. There's no sharpness to be found there. In zazen we become the opposite. Our focus is sharp, but we have no clue about the outside. We are like drawn sword, sharp, whatever we are encountering, but not adding on ideas about that. And then the Buddha saw the morning star. And from that he received complete certainty, and how clean with by seeing the morning by hearing the model received complete certainty. And Hakuin, by hearing the morning bell, received complete certainty. This needs to be experienced once, which is not possible in society where our mind stays dull, experiencing all the outer phenomenon. If our radar is rusted, it cannot work. It is just a habit. It is just a habit to add on ideas and knowledge to our perception, and that habit has to stop. We need to again bring this focus back onto ourselves. And from there we can move in accordance with whatever appears right in front of us. Rinzai tells us here to not get moved around by words, to not get moved around by the world in the outside, but to rather keep polishing pure awareness. Do not make a mistake here.


Due to Roshi's busy schedule this year, we are currently not accepting any new questions at this time

Your question to Harada Roshi

Characters remaining 1000

Please check previous questions before submitting to avoid duplication

Submit question