In this teisho Albert was talking about the four noble truths of Buddha, the first one being that life is suffering, and he said it is only by seeing this thoroughly that we are going to really question, which is the essence of the work that needs to be done. He pointed out that hearing of someone suffering and about to die in Toronto, brings home to some people that life is suffering. With another person it takes someone suffering nearer to home, say in Montreal, to start them questioning. But with most people it takes a loved one suffering and dying, to make them get down to it. Perhaps in dying Albert gave us the final help we needed to do the work he urged us towards in his teishos and dokusans. So instead of looking on his death as the end, we should look on it as the beginning of work. People say, he is no longer here, how will I be able to carry on with the work. Everything that can be said he said over the years and it is all recorded; all it needs now is our side of it, our application. Perhaps it is not a question of carrying on with the work but starting it. ‘No one can purify another.’
The teisho was on the koan ‘a non Buddhist questions the Buddha.’ The non-Buddhist
says to Buddha that he doesn’t want words and he doesn’t want silence. This is all he says;
where is the question? what is the question? This is the essence: finding the question. It
is no good taking a question like ‘what is Mu?’ or ‘who am I?’ and reiterating it. These
questions are of no use unless we make them our own, unless they come out as a deep groan –beyond words and beyond silence. Unless they come out of our own perception of the truth that life is suffering.
Most of us cannot do what Buddha did, seeking out places that roused in him the fear
of death and a feeling of panic and horror, doing this again and again. Rather we do just
the opposite, shut our eyes, our ears at the slightest hint – turn on the television, get
out the iPhone, look up emails or Facebook, whatever distraction that we can grab at.
Buddha roused the fear in order to face it and deal with it. As long as we are running away
from fear we are running away from life. It says in the teisho that it is not a question of
steeling oneself, of fighting it, but rather of addressing it in a condition of humility. Thy
will be done. Facing this fear when it arises with an attitude of contrition in the heart, one
allows the fear to just be there. He adds that it is not an easy thing to do, but until we do
it we are not doing the work we want to do.
Buddha said, we need to think the unthinkable. The question, ‘Who am I?’, the question “Mu?”, is unthinkable. But it takes a long time working with these questions for this to finally come home to us. So many people, hearing that it is unthinkable, think that all they have to do is just sit passively and wait for the truth to appear; this of course is dead void sitting and it stultifies the mind. But Buddha says that his doctrine implies thinking of that which is beyond thought – arousing the mind without resting it on anything: without images, ideas concepts or words; but nevertheless there is thinking, the mind is active, but not in an agitated way; there is no grasping, the mind is simply open. One goes beyond any movement of the mind.