From a talk given by Denkyo Kyozan Joshu Roshi at Bodhi Manda Zen Center on Nov. 14, 2008, in observance of the Albuquerque Zen Center’s 19th anniversary.
Time flies very fast. Today marks the 19th year since the Zen center was established. Congratulations. It is as if we are compacting 19 years into one or two hours, and then doing this celebration today. This is truly a day to be congratulated.
Seiju and myself dearly love this center, but when we pass away, there will be nobody to really celebrate it. So I feel strong emotions about this celebration day. In the past I made sure I attended all the receptions and celebrations. But this year, due to my health, I don’t think I will be able to attend. Therefore I’m communicating with you using this recording to celebrate this occasion. I remember the day, 19 years ago, when we had a ceremony here. I will speak about the things I have considered on how to celebrate this occasion.
The teaching of Buddhism appeared in ancient India 2,600 years ago. On this occasion, I would like to talk about what Buddha taught. In Buddhism, we call this great universe that we live in Shumisen. But who thinks of this Shumisen? It goes without saying that we are the only ones to think or recognize this. We practitioners convey that Buddha was the one to name it, to define this great universe as Shumisen.
Buddhism teaches us that in this Shumisen all sentient beings appeared. It is said that the Buddha – young Siddhartha was believed to be the founder of Buddhism – brought this term, “Shumisen,” to our attention. Buddha was the first person to see Shumisen as object. The Buddha named all the beings born in this Shumisen “Bodaiju.” Bodaiju means “Bodhi tree,” but without these Bodhi-tree beings, there exists no universe. Buddhism teaches us that when Bodhi-tree beings appear, Shumisen also appears. Buddhism teaches us that other than this Bodhi tree, there exists no “I am” – “I am” is the Bodhi tree.
Another way to explain this is that the Bodhi tree is still growing today. It is in the process of growing with you. This strong, thriving Bodhi tree of Albuquerque Zen Center is growing in this great universe, Shumisen. I’m sure you hear this term “Bodhi tree” everywhere all the time, but I want you to understand that this Bodhi tree is the one that grows and thrives and exists in Shumisen.
Buddha clearly tells us that at the ultimate place, this Bodhi tree becomes the universe, and then the great universe will become the Bodhi tree – they will become one. The Buddha taught us that this Bodhi tree is a living thing and in its activity is the Buddhist temple. Buddha taught us that the ultimate manifestation of the Bodhi tree is that every sentient being and the great universe, Shumisen, will become one. Then, subject and object disappear and dissolve into this great cosmos and into this great Bodhi tree and sentient beings. Buddha taught us the manifestation of the ultimate state is the perfect state where there exists no subject or object and where subject and object have both disappeared. There are not two things there, just one.
If the ultimate state of Bodhi tree is Shumisen, what is Buddhism teaching us about the goal of human life? This final goal is the manifestation of perfect Bodhi tree. Buddha teaches us that if we look at this Bodhi tree precisely, we see it is the state where you no longer need to live. This is the ultimate state of the Bodhi tree.
Buddha taught us that the ultimate state for all sentient beings is the state that they no longer need to live. When you hear this explanation, if you haven’t studied Buddhism, perhaps you have no clue about this. All sentient beings, including humans, need some goal or ideal to live, to go through the path, and Buddhism teaches us that this goal is the state where you no longer need to manifest any activity of life. This state where you no longer need to live is the manifestation of perfect death. This is the ultimate expansion state where you no longer need to live any further.
With this Bodhi tree, together, we will manifest the ultimate state where we no longer need to do the activity of life. Here, you must understand what our ideal of life is. Buddha taught us the new concept that by looking at this principle of life and death activities, we can see how our life is based on these activities. Buddha and Buddhism teach that two different states exist. One is where you no longer need to conduct the activity of life and the other state is where you no longer need to conduct the activity of death.
Time is passing quickly, so I must talk about this clearly and simply. As I said, Buddhism teaches us that unless we recognize these activities of life and death, the perfect state is not understandable. Life is the activity of living perfectly. This life can be explained as Plus, and then Minus is death, and when you attain the state where you no longer need to live, that is the state where Plus and Minus are unified. The Buddha taught us that Plus and Minus reach the state where they no longer need to activate as Plus and Minus. That is the state of unification, one.
It may become difficult to follow, but when someone is insisting “I am a man,” then this person is insisting on the activity of man. When someone says, “I am a woman,” this woman is insisting on her Minus state. All sentient beings have the “I am” self, even weeds, and trees and plants. When the “I am” state is appearing and disappearing, this is the activity of sentient beings. We cannot deny the fact that “I am” is appearing. This “I am” self appears, but “I am” self also appears and disappears. Then perfect being is manifested. In this state, this being has no need to live further. Buddha’s teaching teaches us that this “I am” self, which is life activity, unifies with the death activity, and then the perfect state appears where no life or death exists.
Buddhism teaches us that the state where you no longer need to claim your “I am” self, is the manifestation of perfect self. The state where you no longer need to claim, “I am a man,” “I am Plus,” or “I am a woman,” “I am Minus,” is the perfect state. This state is the one where you no longer need to insist or claim your “I am” self. The state where you no longer need to claim “I am” self is the true state and the true world, the world of truth. Buddhism teaches us that this state is the perfect state and perfect self – the state of Zero. If the perfect state, as such, exists, this is the state where Plus and Minus are unified, and there is no other perfect state than this.
It is very difficult to understand this principle. When I talk about this sort of thing, some wise person will say right away, “Yes, I understand what you are talking about.” You might say, “I understand this,“ but your understanding is based on the activity of conventional consciousness. When you say you understand this, yes, that is one step toward the advanced state, but from the Buddhist viewpoint, it is not yet true understanding.
Buddhism teaches us that the state of true understanding does not exist without experiencing the unification of Plus/Minus and the Zero state. Buddha taught us that the unified state is the true manifestation of Bodhi tree and this is the state where you experience true understanding. This perfect state is the state where Plus and Minus – you could also call it virtue and sin – both are unified and both have disappeared. Buddhism insists that our goal be the state where both Plus and Minus have disappeared. This is the perfect state and the perfect life where the Bodhi tree is manifested.
There are two activities, life and death, and when you experience the manifestation of these two as unified, then you no longer need to live any further, and likewise, you’d experience the state where you no longer need to further die. Buddhism teaches us that the true manifestation of True Love is the perfect, unified state of life activity and death activity, and our life is based on these activities.
Buddhism teaches us that the manifestation of True Love is the manifestation of perfect self, where Plus and Minus have both disappeared, where you no longer need to claim, “I am a Plus,” “I am a Minus.” Buddhism teaches us that there are two kinds of “I am” selves. One is the complete self and the other is the incomplete self. When life and death are completely, perfectly unified, then the perfect “I am” self is manifested.
I have only been speaking for about half an hour. Lately, when I speak this much, my voice tends to get weak and because of that, I am actually feeling very sorry for you. Sanzen is the place where I teach the experience of true self. Sanzen is fine for my voice, but whenever I do teisho, if I speak for half an hour or so, my voice tends to disappear. When I was asked to speak for this occasion, I felt so happy, but now my voice is going, and then I will have Rohatsusoon, so I could not attend this very happy occasion. I couldn’t really speak about our human life to you directly.
We will manifest, without failing, the state where we no longer need to claim our life. At the same time, without failing, we will manifest the state where we no longer need to insist on the activity of death. There are two principles. These principles are the oppositions.
I would actually like to speak about these two principles much more precisely, but my voice is getting weak, so I am coming to the point that I may have to stop. It is a great pity that I have to stop my talk here, but it can’t be helped. Yesterday, a doctor looked at me and he claimed that I don’t have to worry about my health. It looks like I will continue to live. Upon your request, upon people’s request, and upon Abbott Seiju’s request, if my health condition permits, then I may hold a sesshin there in Albuquerque.
The state where one has no need to insist on the activity of death – that is such a beautiful state! Mothers, generally speaking, come to understand the state where they no longer need to do the activity of death, which is the state of True Love. Women are much faster to understand this than men. My observation is that when children get sick, mothers do their best to look after their children. Some mothers even think they would give their own lives to save their children. This feeling is much stronger than men’s. Fathers, I’m sure, have the same feeling that they too would give their lives to save their children, but mothers, in this world, have much more direct contact with their children, so it is quite natural for them to have this feeling
The more society develops, the poorer and more separated become fathers’ and mothers’ situations. This is because, in this human world, fathers have to go out and work and mothers stay inside the home, and their given situations become opposite. As societies, called “seiken” in Japanese, in this world develop, there is a greater the separation of males’ and females’ situations.
It is definitely clear that civilization is advancing. But no matter how much our civilization advances, our life is influenced by these activities of death and life. No matter how much we get ruled by these two oppositions, the manifestation of True Love bears no difference and is the Truth. As I said, in Buddhism, we state that the manifestation of True Love is the state where you no longer need to insist on living, and then you no longer need to claim the activity of death.
In the United States right now, we are facing great changes. A new America is about to be born with a new president. No matter how much the society develops or a new world appears, our activities are all based on this activity of True Love and these two activities. Only True Love is the manifestation of the new forthcoming democracy. Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs and Albuquerque Center have appeared here to manifest True Love.
I assume some people might have questions about what I am talking about or might not clearly understand what I have said. So if you have any questions for Seiju, I am very happy to reply to these questions. Of course, I cannot directly answer all the questions, but Abbott Seiju can do so.
Thanks to Kazumi Tanaka for translating Joshu Roshi’s talk and to Julie Sprott for transcribing it.