I prepare these postings in the hope that they will encourage you to listen to the teishos they are taken from. The voice holds so much more than the written word. All members can now listen to teishos free of charge so that costs do not cause you to hesitate in taking full advantage of these spoken words. Albert is no longer physically with us, but his voice is.
teisho 1190 – 2009
In answer to the question: ‘what is the experience that is nearest to the Supreme?’ Nisargadatta said, “Immense peace and boundless love.”
When people hear this answer, they tend to feel this is the way to awakening, that they must somehow induce this peace and love in themselves, that this is the practice.
Harada roshi started his workshops by showing four pictures: one of a cat sleeping in front of a fire, the second a moon rising over a mountain, the third a mountain stream, and the fourth two drunks fighting. And he would ask, which of these pictures comes nearest to what Zen is about? And the answer was, two drunks fighting. This is the other side of peace and love because this openness includes being open to the eternal conflict, the struggle. To feel there must be a way out of the struggle, out of this cosmic conflict, is to feel that in some way we can withdraw ourselves from all that is. On the contrary, the practice leads to the realization that one is all that there is, wherein all is included, nothing rejected.
Nisargadatta goes on to say, “realize that whatever there is that is true, noble and beautiful in the universe comes from you. You are at the source of it all.” But the all includes conflict and struggle.
When we ask ‘who am I?’ or ‘what is Mu?’ we are not looking for boundless peace and immense love. As long as we do that we turn our back on our true nature. Conflict and struggle are as much you as all that is true, noble and beautiful.
The questioner asks, “how does one reach the supreme state?” He is asking “What is the way?” And this question is what must underlie all of our practice. When you ask ‘What is Mu?’ or ‘Who am I?’ are you doing it because that is practicing Zen or because it is a question that comes up from within yourself? As long as we think there is a way, we are looking outside ourselves. To say there is no way is to miss the point, but to say that there is a way is to suggest that there is something fixed: sitting in zazen, working with koans, following the breath; and this is not the way of Zen.
Nisargadatta answers the question by saying, “by renouncing all lesser desires.” People ask, “Why is it so difficult to come to awakening? Why does it take so long?” And the answer is that something in your life is more important to you than coming to awakening, than seeing into your true nature and realizing fundamentally what it is you are.
Ouspensky writes of the ability Gurdjieff had to hypnotize people in such a way that the personality was put to sleep and the more basic desires of the person allowed to come to the surface. And how he hypnotized one young man who was always talking about how important spiritual work was in his life and asked him what he really wanted, and the young man replied: ‘a spoonful of strawberry jam.’
As long as you are satisfied with the lesser you cannot have the higher. As long as you are pleased with what you find around you, as long as your desire is for comfort, security, certainty, peace, then you might get a certain amount of this from the practice; but is this really what you want? Do you really want to use the sword of Excalibur to sharpen a pencil?
Ummon said, “Even a good thing is not as good as no thing.” Our practice requires a total renunciation. This does not mean we have to become an ascetic, give up eating and all the various desires in life. The asceticism that is required is to see that fundamentally one is not a thing, that from the beginning not a thing is. This is the real sacrifice.
When you are working with the question ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What is Mu?’ this is the direction you must go. As long as you are clinging to something, no matter what it is, that something is an immense barrier. Whatever pleases you keeps you back. It is not a question of giving it up, but of seeing how you are entranced by it, how you are held captive by it. Each of us has our own compensation, the constant self-manipulation that we do to reassure ourselves that everything is OK. Nisargadatta says, “until you realize the unsatisfactoriness of everything and collect your energies into one great longing, even the first step is not taken.”
If you are honest with yourself, everything is unsatisfactory. Achievement becomes unsatisfactory almost as soon as it is achieved. It takes honesty to see this. The very fact of achieving makes us thirsty for more.
Nisargadatta: “The integrity of the desire for the Supreme itself is a call from the Supreme.” The Supreme is always calling. It cannot do anything else but call. You see that what you are doing is a fantasy because you are the Supreme. Everything in the light of the Supreme is a mere shadow.
“Nothing physical or mental can give you freedom.” No experience can give you freedom. Dwell on this. “You are free once you understand that your bondage is of your own making, and you cease forging the chains that bind you.” This is the ultimate realization. First, must come the realization that I suffer because I am human. As long as you feel something outside yourself causes you to suffer, you must always look outside yourself for the resolution, something that will give relief. It is the search outside yourself for the ultimate which is the ultimate agony. “It is enough if you do not imagine yourself to be something. It is the ‘I am something’ idea that is so calamitous.” This is what must be surrendered. The time when you have the greatest opportunity to realize that you are not something is when someone insults you, when you feel humiliated by the situation. Nisargadatta is asked: “How does one find faith in a teacher?” and he replies: “To find a teacher, and to trust him or her, is rare. It does not happen very often.”