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Nomon Tim Burnett : The One Who's Not Busy talk 3

Wednesday, August 01, 2018 8:36 AM | Nomon Tim Burnett (Administrator)


Tim's talk notes:

Opening with a poem:

Rosemerry Trommer - One Morning

 One morning

 we will wake up

 and forget to build

that wall we’ve been building,


 the one between us

the one we’ve been building

 for years, perhaps

 out of some sense

 of right and boundary,

 perhaps out of habit.


 One morning

 we will wake up

 and let our empty hands

 hang empty at our sides.


 Perhaps they will rise,

 as empty things

 sometimes do

 when blown

 by the wind.


 Perhaps they simply

will not remember

 how to grasp, how to rage.


 We will wake up

 that morning

 and we will have

 misplaced all our theories

about why and how

 and who did what

 to whom, we will have mislaid

 all our timelines

 of when and plans of what

and we will not scramble

to write the plans and theories anew.


 On that morning,

not much else

 will have changed.


Whatever is blooming

will still be in bloom.


 Whatever is wilting

 will wilt. There will be fields

to plow and trains

 to load and children

 to feed and work to do.


 And in every moment,

 in every action, we will

 feel the urge to say thank you,

 we will follow the urge to bow.



  • Usual when introducing a koan formally to introduce the players
  • Yunyan 780-841
  • Daowu was 11 years older 769-835
  • Both were students, together, of Yaoshan 751-834 who was himself  a student of Shitou
  • Shitou author of Merging of Difference and Unity wihich we chanted on Monday morning
  • You may remember we also chanted Dogen's great meditation manual Fuzanzazengi which means "A universal recommendation for zazen" or something like that.
    • details about posture
    • which mean pay attention to how you arrange your body not that you should really be sitting in full  or half lotus
    • And then the briefest mention of what to do with the thinking mind (this is embodied practice!)
    • "Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Non-thinking."
    • This is a reference to a story about Yaoshan, Yunyan and Daowu's teacher:

When Priest Yaoshan was sitting in meditation a monk asked,
”What do you think about, sitting in steadfast composure?”


Yaoshan said, “I think not thinking.”


The monk said, “How do you think not thinking?”


Yaoshan said, “Non-thinking

  • If our chant book not-thinking and non-thinking are hyphenated which is a kind of clue that these are special words and ideas not just "don't think"
  • The word used for thinking is shiryō (思量) in Japanese.
  • Not-thinking is fu-shiryō (不思量)
  • and non-thinking is hi-shiryō (非思量)
  • (source https://nyoho.com/2013/06/06/thoughts-on-not-thinking-about-non-thinking/)
  • I don't read Japanese or Chinese really I looked this up in a talk by a colleague and i can put the referene into the notes for this talk on our website if you're interested in this stuff.
  • So fu and hi in fushiryo and hishiryo are just ordinary negations. Like the not and non in our English translations. The important bit according to my source is that there are multiple words for thinking and this particular one, shiryo, is actually not that common and means evaluative thinking, the ryo at the end means "to measure".
  • So the monk asks Yaoshan how he stabilizes  his mind and he  says "I think not thinking" meaning something like "I engage the mind in NOT measuring and evaluating. So it's not turning off the mind it's not "no thinking" is not-evaluative-thinking and it's an active engagement not a cutting off or a shutting down.
  • The rest is more or less word play I guess, the monk asking how do you DO that: how do you think not thinking. And Yaoshan just gives a synonym to emphasize and encourage the monk to investigate.
  • And that Dogen quotes this more or less verbatim is a sign of great approval. Usually he comments or deliberately mis-quotes something to either show how wrong it is or to bring it up to snuff.
  • So in zazen engaged in the gentle act of releasing from evaluative thinking is what is seems to be saying. How do you work with the mind? Pay attention closely, notice when the thinking that compares or judges arises and release it. Free it to drift away like a cloud.
  • Or you could read it: "I direct my thoughts awah from directive thinking"- think non-thinking.
  • Every great master's "record" includes their enlightenment story
  • Yunyan's - Zen's Chinese Heritage p 142-43 - note that Yunyan earlier studies with Baizhang who is one of the super famous teachers, the Zen Monastic Rule is attributed to him, famous for "day of no working is a day of no eating."
  • I don't have an enlightenment story for Daowu
  • Daowu is featured in a wonderful koan that's a meditation on life and death
    • BCR case 55, Cleary p. 365
  • and Yunyan and Daowu are together again in a wonderful koan on compassion, one of few Zen writings that speaks directly about compassion (mostly implied in Zen literature)
    • SYR case 54, Cleary p. 229
    • Naturalness of this kind of compassion
    • Compassion is a willingness to feel the suffering of others and try to help
    • The great bodhisattva of compassion - one of her names (Kanzeon in Japanese) meaning she who hears the cries of the world.
    • Are we willing to hear the cries of the world?
  • Koans are also called "encounter dialogs" - dialogs that emerge from encounter between sincere practitioners. This afternoon we'll close our formal sesshin time with a ceremony in which we'll create our own encounter dialogs - explain shosan ceremony and afternoon schedule
    • (lunch break pack of your stuff in the cabin/tent zone)
    • 2pm work period, bell to stop at 3pm or switch as soon as John's tasks are done
    • 3pm clean up cabins (incl. e-cabins, camp bathroom) listen for han or watch  the time for
    • 4pm shosan ceremony (you might drive your car around)
    • Then we'll clean up the zendo as Bob and crew gets our dinner finished up. Also move the pews and table back in.
    • 5:30pm informal dinner - paper plates
    • 6:30 clean up church bathrooms, kitchen, reset dining hall.
    • 7pm s/b all done.
    • What to remember - on the hour:
      • 2pm communal work
      • 3pm clean cabins and camp bathroom
      • 4pm shosan ceremony (3:50 han please Reamick)
  • One last Zen story

A monk asked Master Zhaozhou, "How is it when a man brings nothing with him?"

Zhaozhou replied, "Throw it away!"

The monk inquired, "Since I have nothing on me, what could I throw away?"

Master Zhaozhou said, "Well, then go on carrying it!"

  • A good answer to the "how do I take this with me" question about intensive practice - throw it away! But I know there's nothing, I know it's empty. Ok, then go on carrying it!



  • Wednesday, August 08, 2018 2:08 PM | Linda Mariz
    Oh, boo.
    I can't get Tim's third Samish "Too Busy" talk to play audio.
    Certainly enjoyed the first two...
    Link  •  Reply
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