This week Tesshin Roshi continued exploring the Diamond Sutra. The sutra contains a question-and-answer session between the historical Buddha and a senior monk named Subhuti. Roshi noted that before the mondo began, Subhuti performed a number of rituals to show respect to the Buddha. This includes walking around him and touching his feet. Some of these practices are still observed in Asia today. Another interesting practice from ancient times is how the teacher reciprocates respect back to the students. In ancient India teachers would expose one of their shoulders. As Buddhism traveled to colder climates over time, this tradition was preserved in how teachers wear their formal robes while teaching. Specifically, the outer robe never covers one of the shoulders. We can still see this today in the way Roshi wears his robes when delivering a Dharma talk. It is said that this tradition conveys openness of the teacher to the truth of the Dharma.
Roshi next described how the sutra opens with Subhuti proclaiming that all Bodhisattvas are perfect and can be trusted in all things. In other words, as they are already perfect and that they have nothing to prove with regards to their true nature. He then asks the Buddha his opinion on that statement. The Buddha responds that he totally agrees with this. Subhuti then asks how is a perfect being supposed to live if they have nothing to prove? The Buddha responds that the best thing to do is simply to listen.
Just listen? Sounds very simple. Roshi asked the group, “Listen to what??” Everything, of course. When we sit Zazen we are listening to reality. All the lessons of life can be learned by simply being present. Can you listen to your body? Can you listen to your mind? Can you listen to others? Can you listen to nature? However, we are not talking about ‘hearing’ here – rather we are talking about being deeply present. This is the purpose of our Zazen. We want to stop controlling everything. Can we simply listen to the ‘this and that’ of life and be with it?
This sounds simple, but it is a practice which never really ends. This is why the practice of Zazen is endless. This is why we vow to save every being. We save others, we save ourselves, we saved the ‘unformed.’ Beings are numberless – we vow to save them all. Saving them all is really putting aside a defined goal and dealing with everything as it arises. There is no end, so there is no goal. Our focus turns to what is right in front of us instead of some abstract goal. We begin to listen!
Tesshin Roshi wrapped up the talk be reminding us that listening to the reality of all beings sounds simple, but it is infinitely deep and is the work of a lifetime. This is why, regardless of any accomplishment we may find along the path; our work never really ends. The path stretches out in front of us to infinity.