9. Thursday, March 29, 1973
Teacher

STUDENT: We regard you as our teacher, at least I do. What does that mean?

KOBUN: I mean I am not teacher. I learn many things from you, so you are teacher, when I say so. It's ok if something like teaching happen, at that time maybe it is so. Many of you are just my friends, that's my most favorite relation. Putting high ... no necessity to do this game. But in a phenomenal sense it happens. Someone is invited to speak, he becomes teacher.

STUDENT: I notice, Kobun, in the Platform Sutra the term used is “good and learned friend,” rather than “teacher.” The Sixth Patriarch addresses the people who are listening to him as “good and learned friends,” and he says that when you need help you turn to a good and learned friend. I had the feeling from that, that the teacher was kind of, everybody.

KOBUN: No. He just stands as the teacher. When he speak, he becomes a student of himself, too.

STUDENT: Kobun, you can say you're not a teacher but I feel in my heart you're a teacher. And I feel that without you my practice would be very different.

KOBUN: Thank you. Without you I would be dried up. Teaching – I don't have any sense of teaching. I just speak. You think, “he is something very important? It's not so good attitude to hear. You just hear and ... whether you feel it or not. Like, "I hear your opinion but I don't judge. If I have no experience of what you are speaking I have to keep it in my mind, remember it.... Oh, he spoke about this ten years ago.”

KOBUN: Mumon Yamada is calling me today or tomorrow. He's seventy-four years old. Yamada is family name. Mumon is Buddhist name. He is pure Rinzai. His lineage is very pure. From Sixth Patriarch he is 82 nd dharma transmission.... This Mumon Yamada Roshi, when I first heard his talk, it was the memorial service, Tokyo, for the 600 th anniversary of the Sixth Patriarch. I was sitting very behind. I remember what Mumon Yamada Roshi said, fifteen years ago. Still in my mind, it's echoing what he spoke about zazen, how he felt his zazen. A long, long tunnel, dark tunnel; water is flowing. I felt the same way at that time. “Oh, he speaks this way, I feel same way!” So... if you don't see the teacher, you are not a student. If you don't see the disciple, you are not a teacher.

STUDENT: Do you have to be a disciple to learn from someone?

KOBUN: Ya. Essentially, it happens, even there is no title. It's like the phenomenon of receiving, even if you don't call it giver and receiver.

STUDENT: Also, you said that Mumon Yamada is number 82. I can't get any feeling of that among us, of some sort of specific transmission of a specific teaching, or even of a general teaching, taking place.

KOBUN: He doesn't, “Number One,” he doesn't care about it. Vairochana Buddha comes behind, so it's very hard to say whether he is 73 years old. To speak that way is like picking up the leaves of the tree, what he is. When he appears we can gather around him, 83. Do you understand?

STUDENT: Not the last sentence. We talk about the teachers. What is the teaching that we're talking about? You know, like you teach someone how to cook.... What is the dharma, that it could be transmitted? I kept asking [at Tassajara], “Is a teacher necessary? Or does life just teach you if you're open to it?” And every teacher I spoke to said that you must at some point make contact with a teacher. But what is it that is carried only by other men and not just by experience? It's directed, it seems, toward emptiness.... If you kind of experience it in some differentiated way, it's only after great, long experience with it.... but if you put your face like someone else's, right away it's so different from what's usual that you'll know, then....

STUDENT: I feel that there are some people who already have knowledge.... I don't know if “enlightened” would be a right word for it. And for a person like that, to be in ignorance is charming. That is a path too, to get to ignorance.

KOBUN: Right. Avidya is the original term. Are “ignorance” and “enlightenment” opposite concepts? Abidya is light. When there is no light and no darkness ... light represents a really ignorant state. Avidya is no understanding of things. Bidya is total understanding of everything. That is ignorance.... Bidya way ... clear, clearness. Abidya is negation of it. We experience both. The state of bidya , when you stick to it, or when you cling to it, it becomes total ignorance. So things are not so simple.

STUDENT: Is it possible, instead of clinging, to be created new every instant? Is it possible?

KOBUN: That is our practice.

STUDENT: Is it possible that you can live in such a way that you never do an unkind thing?

KOBUN: Oh, this question is big! When you do an unkind thing to others, for others it is just unkind, but for yourself it is most unkind. So not to do unkind things is very important. We cannot actually manage it ....

STUDENT: But for me, unkindness is a state of ignorance. There come times when everything's clear; maybe it's impossible to do a bad thing. But then other times things aren't as clear; it's impossible to do a kind thing. I was wondering if it always had to be that way, alternating, or if there is a way where every instant this fresh state can be created where unkindness is impossible.

KOBUN: “Kindness” is a very practical word. Many feel a more ethical meaning, moment by moment. Like beating with the kyosaku during dokusan sounds very terrible, but maybe for a Rinzai master shouting with a big voice is the only way to show kindness. Not always or otherwise he has to always shout!

STUDENT: What I learned about unkindness is that it's not what I was taught as a child. It's very different. When things are very clear for me, I'm surprised at how many times I'll get angry and shout.

KOBUN: The form and expression of kindness varies. Sometimes to close the door and not to let him come in is most kind.

STUDENT: Lately I've had the idea not to put myself in a situation where I feel bad, because I can see that when I feel bad I create so much more bad feeling. I've always had this idea I should stay with a bad situation and work it out but it never worked out very well. Somehow it seems like a kind thing if I just get out of a bad situation. I have an idea that my knowledge of kindness is very elementary.

KOBUN: Knowledge of kindness is nothing ‘til you practice it, develop it. It's very, very difficult. To speak only truth is real kindness. If we speak a mistake or a useless thing, that useless thing goes on and on. When you advise something to a friend or close relative, good advice always has a bitter taste, as we know. It has lots of pain because it hits you strongly. Sometimes the whole day you suffer with it. The speaker too. If you advise someone “One time you did this, you think it is a good thing but it is not a good thing.” Then what is left is splitting of this by bitter hate, taste of wood. After one month, two months, both start to feel, “Wait a minute, he said so ... wait a minute, I said so... and that was really true.” Then again, naturally, the relation comes back.

Many times this kind of thing happens. Kind word is not always sweet, sometime becomes really strong. Maybe this is the same as when lions grow babies, they kick them over the cliff and wait until they can climb up again. It's a very extreme kind of example: Like Japanese parents, when the child falls in the street, mother or father go and pick him, pick her up, and stand. This country, mother is standing there, “Stand up, stand up!” An awful mother, she is! But when you see which is real kind, both tell different kind of kindness. We cannot say this is best or that is best. If this boy cannot stand up, to simply stand beside him and wait one hour, two hour, is very foolish. To help is best way.

Since I heard coming of Yamada Roshi.... Without him I have learned a lot. Maybe when he arrives there will be nothing to learn, but I hope it will be nice time.... Basic thing is, your zazen, each of your zazen, is calling him.

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