[By Genpo Roshi, excerpted from a live video conference, November 22, 2020]
. . . If there’s a koan — “How do you stop suffering?” — of course many of us can pass the koan, we just be suffering. That’s passing it, but between that and doing it completely, it’s the difference between a kensho and dai-kensho. You know, I sometimes feel the only thing that’s going to take care of this for many people is dai-kensho. And I come back to our roots, which is what the great masters say. There’s all this fiddling around with the leaves and the branches of the tree, but until we get to the root of the problem — uprooting, that is the dai-kensho, the great opening — until we do that we’re just going to keep fiddling around with the branches and the leaves.
Sometimes it feels almost like — too much. Because I know what it takes to have dai-kensho. . . .
(Genpo Roshi recorded during the “Masters & Mensches II” Retreat, August 4, 2020) Let me say something about what you brought up, about idealizing, because I do feel it is something we work through. We do do that, we project on our teachers a certain greatness and a certain way of being, and when they don’t live up to that of course we’re disappointed. Now how we take,…
(Genpo Roshi recorded during the “Masters & Mensches” Retreat, June 8, 2020) I remember over and over again when Maezumi Roshi was going through his hard times like back in the end of 83, he said to me, “If, if, everything falls apart, I lose everything, if you get it, if you learn from this what you’re supposed to learn, it will be worth it. It will be worth…
(Genpo Roshi recorded during the “Masters & Mensches” Retreat, June 9, 2020) I think it is really important that we realize we are a part of a lineage. I don’t really know or understand how it all works. I don’t think anybody does, but there’s something very real, and you hear it. You heard it in Genno Roshi’s comments; you hear it in others, like Chris sensei’s comment. There’s something…
The way I look at it is, we talk about the Middle Way or the Middle Path, right? And I think for years I saw and thought the Middle Way was a fine line between ‘this’ and ‘that.’ And at some point I realized, no that’s too narrow. The Middle Way is everything between ‘this’ and ‘that.’ I mean you embrace ‘this’ and you embrace ‘that’ completely, and then when…
One of the things that I think is so obvious, though it seems we miss it growing up, is that basically everything we do and every decision we’ve made is to protect ourself from pain. We distance ourself from pain, and this creates suffering for ourself and also for others. Seeking to protect ourself, we imprison ourself in painful conditions, all to avoid our pain, to avoid being our pain. This is the cause of suffering.
Our suffering is not caused by pain itself; it’s caused by our trying to avoid or escape from pain. That’s where the suffering comes into effect. So what Buddhism teaches is the cause of suffering is our self. We form this ego-self, this façade, in order to protect our self from our pain. What Zen says is, you don’t have to go through all these steps, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and so on; you can do it all suddenly, at one time. Be one, be one with your pain….
Excerpt from a Workshop, August 2019
Maybe the most important thing that we can learn is the ability to let go, and trust that it’s all OK, to relinquish, to let go.
There are certain things that are harder to let go of, of course, than others, and one of them is our mind. Somehow we’re very attached to our mind, and most of us don’t really like the idea of losing our mind. But that’s the problem, because — what mind? . . .
— Genpo Roshi, August 2019 retreat
“ … Just recognizing a fear as it arises, noticing it’s a fear, labeling it as a fear, letting it go: that’s mindfulness practice. In fact that was the Buddha’s original practice … Basically what he came up with was mindfulness practice. I think it’s moved on from that, but that was his original practice. It just means noticing an emotion or a feeling or a sensation or a thought. Noticing it, seeing ‘oh, fear’ or ‘thought’ or ‘emotion’ – letting go. It’s that simple. The moment you notice it like that, it empties it out. It no longer has a content to it, no longer has substantiality to it, it’s empty. I call it bubbles. You notice the bubble arising called fear, and it pops. … At some point it’s not even mindfulness, as I said. It just becomes a pure awareness and you just let it go. You just let it go … The willingness to face our fear is what we call fearlessness. Most of us have fear about fear. We fear our fear, and that’s the problem.”
— Excerpt from Retreat with Genpo Roshi, September 2019