Buddhism says that the position in meditation, the bodily position, the mudra, is important. The meditation effect varies, according to the position. Zen, in particular, stresses keeping the back stiff in the cross-legged sitting position. There’s a fellow who walks around with a stick on his shoulder ready to hit a person who has fallen out of position. You have to keep that position. Sometimes Zen meditators will request to be hit, to reenergize their sitting. Zen practice can bring insight into the fact that, within, there is no self that acts, and outside there is no self affected by the action. Very hard to believe. There is suffering, but there is nobody who is suffering. There is no individual who is suffering.

The government of Burma (now called Myanmar), unlike any other government in the world, has built meditation centers. My friend, Dr. George Than, whose family came originally from Burma, went back occasionally to the centers in Burma. It was Burma who had the first Satipatthana meditation center. Burma was built a good deal on meditation.

The Buddha asked a very interesting question of some of his disciples. He said, “The foot walks on the ground, and goes along, would you describe it to me?” One disciple said, “Well, the ground is hard.” Another disciple said, “The ground is wet and soft; the earth is round.” The Buddha said, “What, nothing about the foot?” Everybody described the object, the ground, and none talked about the subject, the foot. There is deep meaning to that.

Buddhist meditation has two parts: tranquility and insight, in Sanskrit known as Samatha Samapatti. The basis of Vipassana practice is Samatha Samapatti, tranquility and insight. Buddhism says that if the body is unmastered, the mind is unmastered. If the body is mastered, the mind is mastered. Buddhism is completely different from the ways of thought that just decry the body, and say, “Oh, I wish I didn’t have a body.” The body must be mastered. This has to do with breath and prana.

True Absorption

A true Buddhist meditator will see that a single breath has extension in time: beginning, middle, and end. After a while, the end in turn turning to the next breath will become clear. You will become aware of it. Then an experience of an after image, like a star, may be realized. My experience is that the image will be a shimmering light blue, which is the color of prana. This shows true absorption. Many people talk about the vision, and I know some who have painted the visions they had in meditation. Visions are not the sign of absorption. That’s not the sign of enlightenment. That’s a sick mind. You’re having a dream. When there is abstraction, and just this feeling of blue, then you are in true absorption. Have any of you done the Nei Kung (Nai Kan in Japanese) that I write about in my meditation books?

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I’ve already told you the five hindrances in meditation. It’s interesting that the fifth one, doubt, in Zen, is encouraged. In Zen, particularly Rinzai Zen, they say, “The bigger the doubt, the bigger the enlightenment.” When the doubt finally bursts, that’s the moment of enlightenment. When that happens, then there is a big enlightenment.

Sense Bases

Buddhism says there are six internal and six external sense bases. There is the “I” and there are visible forms. Remember, I talked about the senses and the field of the senses, and that Indian pratyahara had to do with withdrawing the senses from the field of the senses. Yogis who can do that can turn off pain. You can drill right through the tooth and they’ll never feel it. Pratyahara. We have the senses but we have the field of the senses. In the ear, the field of the senses is the sounds. Tongue and flavor. Nose and odor. Body and tactile objects. Here’s one that you probably didn’t think about – which is included in Satipatthana – mind and mind objects. Mind and mind objects, the objects of thought.

Mind is Constantly Renewing Itself

Here’s something else that will be strange to you: In Buddhism, life lasts one thought moment. Sariputra, one of the great disciples of the Buddha, did a lot of work on that topic. He found that we have a continuous stream of concentration. It’s like a reciprocating engine, which is constantly giving off sparks. It appears to be flowing smoothly but really there’s a succession of explosions. The mind is constantly renewing it. Life lasts as long as one thought. The way to illustrate that is to take a torch or fire and circle it. From a distance, it looks as though there’s a complete circle of fire. You’ve probably seen something like that. But, in actuality, we know it can’t be.

The beginning of mindfulness lies in bare attention without labeling something, without reacting. A good deal of this occurs in the heightened awareness seminars that I’ve given where we started with bare attention. It is hard not to say, “That noise is annoying,” or “I like this,” or “I like that.” Just be aware without any verdict about it. But that is the beginning of mindfulness. It is said about mindfulness, “In what is seen, there should be only the seen; in what is heard, only the heard; in what is sensed, only the sensed,” and so on with smell, taste, and touch. When you think only the thought (having nothing to do with attitude and judgment), this is mindfulness. Have any of you read Krishnamurti? His thought is very much like Zen thought. Mindfulness is very similar to Krishnamurti’s “choiceless awareness.” That is what Krishnamurti is saying, “Awareness without choice.” Remember the earlier story about the fire engine siren and the people running home to see if something had happened to the baby. That example is the opposite of mindfulness.

Dependent Origination

The Buddhist teaching of “Dependent origination” is absolutely new insight. “When this arises, that arises.” The seed does not sprout by itself. You must have the sunshine; you must have the rain; you must have the right weather conditions. And this is so. Karma sprouts when the conditions are right. This is dependent origination. Also, in regard to dependent origination, consider this business of Void (Shunyata). They talk about a shunyata personality. This is emptiness. But emptiness does not mean deprivation. Those of you who’ve studied philosophy know what that means. It doesn’t mean being without anything. It means void of self-nature. The mountain is there but it doesn’t have its own self-nature. It is the product of other things. You are here but you are the product of other things. You will not always be here. So Void is void of self-nature. But within this Void there are the mountains, streams, people, grasses, and everything else.

My own opinion is that failure to accept impermanence and resentment seem to me to be the great causes of suffering. “I’m growing older and infirm, and I resent it. I don’t accept it; I resent it.” Impermanence: you must come to grips with impermanence to find out who and what you are.

The teaching of dependent origination, the middle way (neither cause nor uncaused, neither eternal nor temporary), transcends all concepts, monism, and all the other ideas of philosophy. For example, when the Buddha was asked about fasting, and about the type of food to eat he said, “Fasting is giving up greed, anger, and delusion.” If you don’t give up greed, anger, and delusion, it doesn’t matter what you eat. You’ll still suffer. The cause must be eliminated or you will not realize the Void (Shunyata). But if you do give up greed, anger, and delusion, then it doesn’t matter what you eat. There is no more suffering. There’s a trick there. You’re not going to be able to do certain things if you give up greed, anger, and delusion. If you could completely give up greed, anger, and delusion, you would not be here.

Who Says That?

When the King asked Bodhidharma, “Who is it that says these things?” He replied, “I know not, Your Majesty.” That is the important thing: “Who says that?” Never mind the thought itself. This is an important case, especially emphasized by Zen Buddhism. Intellect and emotion must be harmonized. When we harmonize these two elements, we harmonize the world. Very few people have intellect and emotion in harmony. I know many people on campuses who are all intellect, all brain, and yet emotionally very unstable. I’ve known a few people, a few are here, who are swayed mostly by emotion. Their intellect might tell them something, but their emotion is much stronger. There will be suffering. Meditation should bring harmony to the intellect and emotion.

Hinayana, Mahayana, & Vajrayana Buddhism

There are three types of Buddhism, which I hinted at before. Hinayana Buddhism is called the lesser vehicle, but not by the people of Hinayana. It is the Buddhism of the Buddha’s teaching. The ideal of Hinayana is the Arhat. In Hinayana Buddhism, Buddha is called the Great Arhat. The Arhat is the one who has reached complete realization, nirvana.

Mahayana Buddhism looks down on the Arhat because the practitioner is only doing his practice for himself. He’s not saving all grasses and beings. His work is entirely to save himself. But in truth, if it is understood, saving yourself is the saving of the world. Your enlightenment is everything’s enlightenment. Ramana Maharshi talked about that in a rather amusing way. He said, “When you awake from a dream, do you ask if the other people in the dream awoke?” Your awakening is the awakening of all things. The dream ends. The ideal of Mahayana, the reigning Buddhism in the world now, is the Bodhisattva, the one who takes a vow to save all sentient beings before he achieves perfection, nirvana.

The newest Yana is Vajrayana, which is Tantric Buddhism. Vajra refers to the diamond vehicle that cuts through to ultimate reality and enlightenment. Vajrayana teaches that the adept, through a combination of rites, is reinstated into his true diamond nature, takes possession of a diamond body, and is transformed into a diamond being, Vajrasattva. As it is known today, the system developed from 600 A.D. onward.

Tibetan Buddhism

The greatest of the Tibetan yogis was Milarepa who wrote the Mila Grubum, or the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. This Tibetan literary masterpiece, translated by Garma C.C. Chang, can be bought in the bookstore. Milarepa’s life is very interesting. Milarepa, born A.D. 1052, saw a great injustice done to his mother when his father died and relatives robbed her of her husband’s estate at the time of his death. The two of them were left in abject poverty. Milarepa’s mother sent him out to become a black magician in order to seek revenge on her relatives. When he had become a black magician, Milarepa came back and worked out a spell that killed the offending relatives and thousands of others along with them. He said, “Well, I’ll go to hell for this evil deed unless I can become a Buddha in this lifetime.”

Milarepa was first initiated into the dharma practices by an enlightened lama who, after seeing that Milarepa’s pride and past evil deeds prevented him from making any spiritual progress, sent him to the famous guru, Marpa, who put him through numerous hardships in order to clear away all obstacles to his spiritual growth. Many said, “How can Marpa be so cruel?” The teacher was trying to get the bad karma out of the way as quickly as possible so Milarepa could go on and teach. Milarepa became the greatest saint that Tibet has known. He went off with one follower into the highest Himalayas and stayed in caves. Milarepa lived for a while on just nettles and green plant growth. When he was found by one sent to dig him out, his skin was green. Read his poems. They are really something. I tend to think that much of Tibetan Buddhism is a new religion and is not a carry over from the Buddhist teaching.

Levels Of Enlightenment

There are different levels of enlightenment, having to do with the absence of self as opposed to the presence of Self. When all dharmas and phenomena (birth, death, sentient beings, Buddhas) are experienced as the Buddha Dharma, there is enlightenment or realization. You would think that’s the highest level. But it is not.

When myriad dharmas are without self, and there is no illusion, no enlightenment, no Buddhas nor sentient beings, no generation or extinction, that level of enlightenment is higher. The Buddha way is beyond fullness and lack. For this reason, there is no generation and extinction, illusion and enlightenment, sentient beings or Buddhas. In spite of this truth, flowers fall and weeds flourish (to our chagrin). To practice and confirm all things by conveying oneself to them is true practice.

To reach the highest level of enlightenment, there is no Buddha, no enlightenment, and no purity. In other words, to practice and experience things as illusory is to confirm the Self. That is enlightenment.

Those who greatly enlighten illusion are Buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about enlightenment are sentient beings. There are people who gain enlightenment beyond enlightenment, and there are people who are deluded even in the midst of their delusion. I don’t expect you to grasp that. I believe Pai Chang wrote it. I could read that statement five times. When there is a Buddha enlightening you, when there is purity, when there is enlightenment, that state is not the highest. It is the absence of self as opposed to the presence of Self. In other words, where there is no self, this absence is the true Self.

As I mentioned earlier, one time my Zen Roshi asked me to give some laymen a talk about certain things, and I started to give it. One of the things I mentioned was suffering, and I started to illustrate. (You could talk for weeks about different kinds of suffering.)

Roshi stopped me and said, “No! Just suffering enough.” Someone asked Roshi, “Why don’t you let Justin build a bridge for us?” No, just suffering enough.

Questioner: This isn’t a question on philosophical differences. I was just curious about a comment you made about the Zen man, the Master, when he got angry, and another comment saying that when one got angry, one still has self left. Does that mean that the Zen Master still had self rather than no self when he got angry?

Justin: At the time of anger? Yes, that’s a good question. Obviously there is the experience of self at the time of anger. The Roshi’s anger wasn’t really a personal anger, in the ordinary sense. My Zen teacher used to hit me and do various other things. If he hadn’t, I would have known I was hopeless. This was not personal, nor was he punishing me for anything. Neither is the hitting a punishment when you’re sitting Zazen (some people request it) in order to keep you awake. The noise awakens everybody nearby. You need to be awake to sit Zazen.

When Roshi was angry, it was not a personal anger. It didn’t change his aim at bringing salvation to this young man. But he was angry at the deed; he didn’t just shrug it off. That would be an interesting question for a Zen Roshi: “Where is the self at such a time?” One time I came into the Zazen room to bow to my teacher. (You make a certain bow at the entrance and then again when you get close to him.) As I bowed again when I got close to him, he hit me on the back with a stick.

He knows what he’s doing, or he could hurt you. He hit me hard and said, “Quick, where is Stone-san at this moment?” Meaning, where is the self at this moment? My answer was “Itai,” in Japanese “In pain, painful.” At that moment (it was unexpected), there was only pain. At the moment of anger, there was only anger. There’s no “you”; there’s only anger. Some people lose themselves so in anger, become attached to it, that they really don’t know what they’re doing. They would do anything. Then they look back later and can’t believe they did what they did. Roshi hit me on the back asking, “And where is Stone now?” “Where is the self now?” And I said, “Itai.” There’s only pain in the moment. He accepted that. It would be interesting to ask Roshi, “At the time you got angry, where was the self?” How did the self enter into that?

Questioner: In the readings I’ve done on Indian masters, particularly Sai Baba, people have seen him get angry, and in the descriptions, the person thinks it is a personal anger – which it isn’t.

Justin: Sai Baba is a unique case. There’s never been a similar case in the history of India. People think they’re looking at a person. What was the rest of your question?

Questioner: It sounds like Sai Baba’s anger is similar to the story about your Zen Roshi’s anger. There isn’t a real person there who is acting out in anger. There is no self there. I suspect it’s the same thing with the Roshi.

Justin: There’s a very great difference between Sai Baba and Roshi. Sai Baba is not a guru, he’s not a teacher. I knew about Sai Baba from the beginning because my friend Dick Bock became the head of the Sai Baba Society in America and went to India frequently to make films of Sai Baba. Have you seen any of them? You see miracles being done right before your eyes. In India, that’s looked down on. But Sai Baba said, “I give people what they want, in order for them to come to want what I have to give.” In other words, he did it as a way of proselytizing.

Sai Baba

I’ve never heard a false statement by Sai Baba. Dick Bock used to beg me to go meet him. I had no interest in what he was doing. Sai Baba, from the very moment he was born (he was born when Shirdi Sai Baba died), remembered everything about Shirdi Sai Baba. Later, when Osborne (who wrote so many wonderful books about India) came to see Sai Baba and disprove him, Sai Baba said to him (Sai Baba was just a child then), “Remember when we (Osborne and Shirdi Sai Baba) walked in the garden and talked about so and so?” Osborne thought, “How can Sai Baba know of that experience? That conversation took place about fifteen years before Sai Baba was born.” Sai Baba was born with complete remembrance of being Shirdi Sai Baba. Moreover, Sai Baba has told others that in his next identity he will be Prema Sai Baba – when he will come and when he’ll die. I’ll tell you a few stories about Sai Baba.

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One time, Sai Baba had two heart attacks and his hair turned gray. You might ask, “How can Sai Baba have heart attacks?” Dick asked him about it. He replied, very matter of fact, that he had promised Shiva that one day he would take on the karma, the suffering, that was going to go to someone else. Very often teachers do that. They take on the karma of the student. After the two heart attacks that turned his hair gray, one of the women said, “You should not have gray hair, Sai Baba.” He said, “Okay.” When he came down next day, his hair was dark again. He got through the heart attacks. He had taken on the karma of others.

An Invitation

There are many stories about Sai Baba. The first time T’ai Chi Chih was taught, not in its entirety, was at Indra Devi’s ashram in Mexico. She invited me down to teach. She had an urn on the altar, which Sai Baba had picked out of the air and given to her. The urn was silver and held the healing ashes (vibhuti) he’d given her in India. She had brought it back to her home. One day, she came in to the room and noticed it wasn’t on the altar. She thought, “I wonder where it’s gone?” No one, no stranger, had come to the ashram. She looked everywhere. After a few days, she got on a plane and flew back to India. She said, “Baba, why did you take that urn away from me?” He said, “If I hadn’t, would you be here now?”

Pulling a Watch Out of the Air

The most mind-boggling story is this one. Sometimes people received gifts from Sai Baba; I’ve seen some of the gifts. Frequently, the recipients would have them assayed by a jeweler. One time Sai Baba picked something out of the air (it looked quite valuable) and he handed it to a man. I think he was a German man. The man wondered how Sai Baba did such things. He looked on the bottom of the watch and said, “Oh, now I see.” The company name and the item number were printed on the back of the watch. The man thought, “It’s all a fake; this was manmade.” He wrote to the company in Germany and said, “I have one of your watches here with its identifying number on the bottom.” The company wrote back and said, “We are astounded by your letter. Sure, the watch is our item but we haven’t started to make them yet.” That is a mind-boggling story.

Questioner: I have a story about Jack Hislop.

Justin: Jack was originally the Head for Maharishi.

Questioner: Jack told me a story. When he was traveling by cab from Bangalore to Whitefield, his cab driver was driving at a high rate of speed at night on a narrow road. The cab went to pass a bus and he couldn’t see around it very well. As he got into the other lane, there were lights coming toward the cab. In an instant there was going to be a head-on collision. Instead, the car passed through the cab. Hislop looked back and saw the other car going on. When he saw Sai Baba the next day, he said, “What about the accident?” Sai Baba said, “Yes, yes, that was a close shave wasn’t it? You didn’t even ask for my help, but I went ahead and saved you anyway.”

Justin: I’ve had experiences almost like that in the narrow alleys of Kyoto. I used to stay at a temple up a very narrow alley. There’d be a cab coming this way (they’re all kamakazi drivers), and one going in the opposite direction, and there’d be a group of girls in the center, walking arm in arm, and a guy on a bicycle carrying tea on his head. I’d close my eyes, expecting the worst, but then open them and nothing had happened. I could never figure it out. There was no room at all. They’d never slow down.

Not Supposed to Die Yet

There are so many stories that others have told me. A man from Tustan, California, who went to India with Dick, died. He went to the hospital in Bangalore because he was ill, and he died. Right after his death, he found himself accompanied by Sai Baba. They went into a hall of judgment and the books reflecting the man’s life were brought out. Sai Baba said, “This man isn’t supposed to die now, send him back.” Then the man woke up in the hospital. You can imagine. Has anyone else had an experience like that before?

More Miracles

Dick photographed many of these miracles. One, I saw. Sai Baba took a little jar with holy ashes (vibhuti) in it. He turned it over, put his hand in it, and started to pour it out. Pretty soon there were ashes taller than he was. Right out of this little jar. When he took his hand out, the ashes stopped flowing. But as soon as he put his hand in, the vibhuti started pouring out again. I sat there watching. How did all those ashes come out of that little jar?

Another time, Sai Baba was photographed while traveling with his devotees to a distant place. That night they walked along a beach about a hundred yards wide. They walked and walked and walked. All of a sudden Sai Baba stopped, and they all stopped. He reached down, dug up a little sand, and pulled out a statue of Shiva, with jewels on it. Everyone watching it tried to figure out how he could have known the statue was there. It was pitch dark. There was no way that he could have seen anything. Even in the middle of the day, how could you mark a spot on that huge beach and successfully return and find the statue? He just picked it out of the sand. I don’t think it was of any importance, but here I saw it on the video before my eyes. There are many other things he did along those lines.

Sai Baba is unique in the history of India. The Buddha went through six years of austerity to reach his enlightenment. When Sai Baba was born, he was born with all of this. He’d play with the little children. If they wanted some candy, he’d go like that (gestures pulling candy out of the air) and he’d hand it to them. One time in the village, his father took him to a temple and said, “You wait outside right here. I’m going inside.” Sai Baba’s father went inside and saw a statue of Shiva on the altar. Then Shiva turned into his son. The father was angry. He’d told Sai Baba to wait outside. The father went outside and there was his son sitting on the wall. People, such as Osbourne, a very well known writer, tried to punch holes in all of these miracles but were never successful. Sai Baba was born at this level and with a memory of who he’d been before.

These stories are of no interest to me because you’re still going to have to do your own work and you’re still going to have to work out your own karma. As far as I can see, these stories are just amusement. About twenty-five thousand people a day sometimes came to Sai Baba’s little ashram. I asked Dick, “How do they feed all these people?” Dick said, “Well, they have a kitchen.” “One kitchen for twenty-five thousand people?” Dick replied, “Well, Baba walks around and hands them food out of a basket. He keeps going until all twenty-five thousand are fed.”

There has been much discussion about Sai Baba coming to this country, but I doubt that he ever will because his message and his goal are to bring back the Vedic ways in India. India has strayed from the Vedic ways and consequently there is poverty and suffering. Sai Baba aims to bring back the Vedic ways.

Bringing back the Vedic ways is also Maharishi’s aim. Maharishi started a city outside of New Delhi to train young people in the Vedic ways. Jack Hislop was the emissary for Maharishi to Sai Baba. Maharishi told us that when he saw a picture of Sai Baba he said, “He is God.” Maharishi wanted to go see him. When he asked for an appointment (Jack Hislop asked for him), Sai Baba said, “Let him wait out in the sun with all the others.” There are some other stories I won’t repeat about how he characterized Maharishi. But both Maharishi and Sai Baba had the same aim: to restore the Vedic purity of India. Sai Baba is not a yogi nor did he ever practice Yoga. Nor is he a guru; he doesn’t have disciples.

The Buddha, Rama Krishna, Yogi Vashista, and Vishramitri all went through long periods of austerity, penance, tapas, to reach their later level. Those who go there have to do the work themselves.

It was a very strange experience to be with Sai Baba. One moment you’re talking to a man who knew very little English, talking to him about every day matters, when suddenly you realize whom you’re talking to. To the Indians, Sai Baba is an Avatar. He is the incarnation, on earth, of Vishnu, one of the trilogy of main Indian gods, the sustaining force. It is said that when there is too much degradation on the earth, the Avatar will come.

You Can’t Get Away with Anything

So when someone says to me, “What do you make of all this with Sai Baba?” I have no answer to it except to say that everything I have ever read that he has said was right on. Sai Baba said, “Don’t give me your hard luck stories. Don’t forget: I can see your past and I know your future.” In other words, he can see your karma. You can’t get away with anything.

You remember the story I told you about the man who named his sons after God? He thought he could get away with something. As he lay dying, he thought he would be mentioning the names of his sons (purposefully named after God) so he’d be uttering the names of God when he died. In the Indian tradition, your last thought on earth is thought to affect your next incarnation. Actually Buddhism speaks of transmigration not reincarnation. There’s no guarantee that you’ll come back as a human. There are six forms of reincarnated life. You may come back as an animal, particularly if you’ve suffered from gluttony, from overeating, which the Buddha said is the hardest thing to get rid of.

I have a friend who is a Jungian psychiatrist – a very brilliant man. He’s a glutton. He tells me that. These are the words he uses. Gluttony is going to be the hardest thing for him to get over. There’s a chance that he’ll be reincarnated as a pig or a hog or something like that. Overeating is one of the hardest vashanas (habit energies) to overcome. But if you don’t overcome gluttony, you’re going to have it for many life times. That samskara, that tendency, will bug you through many life times. If you drink, and you drink to excess, then you may find that that habit follows you for many life times. Some people I know who are heavy drinkers, who are alcoholics, don’t like the taste of alcohol. They just want to get the first drink down. They don’t know why they drink. They came into this life with that tendency.

When you let yourself be attached to habits, to addictions, you’re playing havoc with your future. If you smoke, that’s an attachment; if you have to have coffee to wake up, that’s an attachment. There are many of them. And I’m sure I’m hitting a lot of people hard when I say this. You may say, “Oh, what’s the difference if I do a little bit of this or a little bit of that.” But habits form a vashana, a habit energy, and that in turn will create a tendency. This will form your future life. It will help determine your future birth, what you will be and what you will do, and the misery that you will suffer.

A Story: What Will You Be When You Come Back?

I know a woman on the Monterey Peninsula, a very social woman, who went to a lot of parties. She’s in her 70’s now. She’s had a wonderful life because her father had money, and she’s gone to parties all her life. She thinks she’s better than other people because of her social position. She said to me once: “I want to come back in my next life beautiful!” I didn’t say to her (it would have crushed her) “How do you know you’re going to come back as a woman? How do you know you’re going to come back as a human?”

This group of wealthy people on the Monterey Peninsula is incredible. When I was helping a man named Charlie Moore (a Catholic priest) to feed people who were not eating and had no shelter, I would ask these wealthy people from Pebble Beach, “How about giving me $15 to give to Father Charlie to feed these people?” Their response, “They don’t want to work.” “What do you mean they don’t want to work? Are you talking about the six-year-old child who isn’t eating regularly?” Those people would not give me $15, although they easily spent $25,000 on a party with an orchestra. I got out of going to their party by saying I had to leave town. I did. (I didn’t know where I was going to go, and I wound up in Portland, Oregon.) I didn’t want to be at that party. We were trying to feed people.

There’s another place called Outreach, which is feeding people in the African American section of the Monterey Peninsula. One wealthy man, when I asked him for money to feed these people, asked, “Do any Black people come there to eat?” I said, “Gray people come, Green people come, but they’re all hungry.” He didn’t like that.

Once I asked the minister in charge of Outreach, “Suppose a man pulls up in a Rolls Royce?” The minister said, “If he’s hungry, we’ll feed him.” They don’t ask any qualifying questions. That’s the only way to serve the needy. I donated some items to Outreach and bought some supplies for them. I used to wait on tables until there were too many helpers – we were competing with each other.

How does this woman know she’s going to come back as a woman? She wants to come back as a beautiful woman. She wants to have the same life over again but with the advantage of being beautiful.

That was like the story I told you about Maharishi when he used to have you sit there and listen to people who would come to see him. Remember the man who wanted to have beautiful experiences with all these women that came to him in dreams? But when, in his dream, he found his consciousness became that of a dead body in a cemetery, he wanted to eliminate that component. Maharishi said, “If you start to meditate all this nonsense will go away.” Well, the man didn’t want it all to go away. He wanted up without down, which is a very hard thing to get.

People have seen me pull a spider out of the bathtub before I run the water. It’s only an insect. But the life of that insect is just as precious to that insect as my life is to me. Someone can say that the belt you’re wearing came from an animal that was killed to make the belt. This is true. If I wash my mouth out, this act kills life, too, as the bacteria are eliminated. That’s a puzzle. This is what bothered Albert Schweitzer the most on becoming a doctor. He had to kill life in order to save life. Yet his whole creed was based on reverence for life. You’re killing life to save life. It’s a tough puzzle.

This is why Zen teaching – which is so full of so many paradoxes that are never explained – is so akin to our every day life. Zen teaching is a very practical teaching. There are paradoxes in life. I told you the story about one woman who asked my Roshi, “Why are there English people and French people, and Germans and Chinese. Why are there wars?” And he held up his hand and said, “I have five fingers. Why do I have five fingers?” She asked me later, “Why didn’t he answer me?” I said, “He gave you the only possible answer!” He didn’t have six fingers; he had five fingers. I went up and counted them. So Zen is very practical teaching, very different from many spiritual traditions.

Questions & Answers

Questioner: Can you elaborate on “no abiding self” and the soul. My concept of self is very much different.

Justin: Everybody’s concept of the self is different. Everybody brought up in most other religions has the concept of a soul, which is pure and not tainted by earthly things. Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch, the illiterate one, got his enlightenment when he heard, “That abode which is nowhere, that is the true abode” This is the basis of Zen, the basis of Buddhist thinking. The Buddha’s great realization is that we are made up of five skandhas, which I told you about, the five heaps. When you take these away, there is no self.

You might ask, what is it then that goes to Hell and suffers? What is it that transmigrates? If there is no soul, what is it that reincarnates? Buddhism teaches that you come back, although not necessarily to this world. There have been so many books written on that. What is it that comes back if there is no soul? Zen talks about standing on the shoulders of another – giving your seat to another. The deeds, really the energies that you’re putting into motion (remember Buddhism says that all energy is eventually thought) continue after your death. Sure, matter is energy but energy is thought. What you have thought is what you are. These thoughts, every action, must have a similar reaction. That is physics. I fire a rifle – there has to be recoil. Every action has an equal reaction, an effect. So every action, which is every thought done by you, will have an equal reaction. That reaction is what comes to life. So reincarnation is karma.

Recently I’ve been experimenting and applying this theory to the field of economics and the field of history. I’m convinced that history and economics have a dynamic growth, karma, of their own. This is why economists and historians have such a difficult time interpreting the economy’s movements or historical developments. They are puzzled all the time. That’s because there’s nobody doing the influencing. There is pain being suffered but there is no identity that is suffering that pain.

Questioner: The Noble Eight Fold Path (right speech, right action, etc.) seems to me to be a reflection of self.

Justin: No, the Eight Fold Path is the way, the path, to realize that there is no self. Remember Dogen said, “The way to realize the Self is by forgetting the self.” I’ll give you a personal instance of something like this. I went to see Paul Reps, the Zen writer, in Seattle. He said, “Well, Justin, you’ve been on a spiritual path for thirty-five years, what have you realized?” I said, “Paul, I realize there’s nothing to be done.” He said, “Ah, but if you hadn’t been on a spiritual path for thirty-five years, you wouldn’t know there’s nothing to be done.” What you are doing is like seeing the point of a joke. Someone tells a joke and you don’t get it at all. But the next day, you’re walking along the street and all of a sudden you start laughing. Nothing has changed but suddenly you see the point of the joke. The spiritual teacher is giving you the tools so that you can see the point. Dogen tells you to follow the Buddha Dharma – do what you’re supposed to do, be faithful, and yet nobody is doing anything. Pai Ch’ang said, “The Buddha is helping you to enlightenment. Where there is enlightenment, there is a Buddha. This is not the highest form. Where there is no Buddha, where there is no enlightenment, this is the higher form.” It is very paradoxical, very difficult to understand. It can only be realized through practice. It is not an intellectual matter. It isn’t yes, it isn’t no. It isn’t a combination of yes and no. And it isn’t an absence of yes and no. What is it? It can only be experienced.

Questioner: You said, “Right thought.” Now, “right” is subjective, a judgment. Something to me that is “right ” to the next person isn’t.

Justin: “Right” is a translation, remember. The Buddha spoke in Pali. What if we said “appropriate” thought. That might be better because as soon as you get into “right” and “wrong, ” you’re going to have problems.

Questioner: “Appropriate” is also a… I can’t say judgmental thought, but it has some value as to whether it’s appropriate or not appropriate.

Justin: Well, the Buddha could have enjoyed enlightenment and been in ecstasy from then on. He didn’t have to pass it along. But he had to put it in concepts in order to get it across to people and help them. The Buddha decided that he would try and help humanity. He told those who were close to him, “It’s almost an impossible task.” That which people think is pleasure is going to cause pain. What people think is good is clinging to life. We all take it for granted. There are many books on Buddhism where you can read what Buddha said. A very good book is Edward Conze’s Buddhism: Its Essence and Development. It’s written from a scholarly standpoint so it is easy to understand. Conze, in my opinion, never practiced Buddhist precepts. He heard about them and he’s a great scholar. But I found many things in there that he didn’t understand because he’d never practiced them.

Whereas, if I gave you the writings of Pai Ch’ang, copied them out, and gave them to a few people that I felt should have them, the writings would be difficult to understand. The average person wouldn’t make anything out of Pai Ch’ang. It’s the deepest of the deep, and it gets right to the point. So I think it’s easier to read about Buddhism through the scholar rather than through the one who has actually realized it. The one who has realized it (unless he’s a Buddha) will probably be deaf and dumb about it, and not try to explain it at all. You can’t explain the experience but you can experience it very clearly.


Everybody knows that impermanence is true, although you may not live as though you know it’s true. Very few people live as if they know they’re going to die. (Everybody else is going to die but I’m not going to die.) The truth of suffering is so obvious. Just pick up a newspaper. Read what’s going on in various parts of the world. We are fortunate. We are in an area where there is not a great deal of suffering, but maybe in the Native American community there is suffering. Throughout the world there is the suffering caused by starvation and wars. A man would have to be a fool not to know there is suffering in the world. The Buddha said this is the basic fact of existence: Beings suffer. “I am going to show them the way to end suffering,” he said. Then along comes someone who says, “I don’t want to end suffering. I love my suffering. I want to go on with it. My neuroses make me what I am. I like to watch television, drink a cup of tea, and that’s what my life is.” But that person is going to suffer. Birth is suffering, death is suffering, growing old is suffering. Not getting what you want is great suffering. “I desire that and I can’t get it. I love someone and I can’t win over that person.” Terrible suffering. “I am successful and I capture that person, but I become jealous and afraid someone will take her away.” That is suffering. All these things lead to suffering.

Now you may stick your head in the sand and say, “I don’t want to think that. I don’t want to think negatively.” This is why I think the Zen way is much easier, more practical, for most people than Indian Buddhism. To me, the practice of Indian Buddhism is only for those who live as monks or like them, who have given up the world and live apart from humanity.

In contrast, Zen honors the layman just as much as the monk. Many businessmen in Japan get up early in the morning and go to the temple and sit zazen for half an hour. Maybe, once in a while, they take a week off to do a sesshin, a seven-day meditation retreat in which the practitioners live at a temple or zendo. The lay people combine their work with a certain amount of spiritual background. This is very common in Japan where people at least give lip service – not only to whatever Buddhist sect they affiliate with, but also to their new religion and, in addition, invariably to Shinto.

Zen is for those who have to know the truth. Remember the story I told you about the priest who came to Ruth Sasaki and said he’d do anything to know the truth. She said, “Suppose you’re given a koan: Meeting Jesus on the road, knock Jesus down.” He gasped! This is against everything he had ever stood for! He left and she never saw him again. This is exactly what she wanted because she had told him to go back and be a good priest. That is what he was supposed to do. It’s very hard to give up everything.

Do You Want to Know the Truth?

It is very difficult to follow Indian teaching. I would not advise anybody living in the world to try and follow the way of the Buddha. But you can meditate; you can think properly; you can see that your way of livelihood, your speech, and your thought do not hurt others. And you can study the Buddhist precepts. He gave the unalloyed truth. Most people will exclaim, “But I don’t want the truth. I want to live in my illusion, my suffering.” That’s okay, but Buddha gave the truth to those who want it. Believe me, no one else (in my opinion) has seen the truth the way the Buddha has. And no one else has ever been called Buddha.

Most religions come from an entirely different standpoint. They try to present it at a social, agreeable level. For example, the big argument in the Catholic Church now is about abortion and about women and celibacy. Those are very important questions, but are they dealing with ultimate truth? Are they dealing with the six philosophies that you originally learned about here? No, churches are becoming more socially oriented and oriented toward solving everyday problems. I’m not sure if that is a bad thing at all. But there are some who have to have ultimate answers, and who have to know truth. Some have given their lives for truth.

My Zen Roshi said to a group of people (he really surprised me when he said this), “A little wine, a little women, a little song, and a little religion, all, in proper amounts, is all right.” In other words, it’s all right to drink a little, and it’s all right to have some fun and to participate in your religion. But don’t get too serious about it. Of course, that isn’t the way he talks to the monks. He says to the monks, “Out there, you must be a social human being. You have to deal with others in a considerate way. Here you must see with religious eyes.” If you don’t see with religious eyes (which, in the sense of Buddhism, means non-duality, not two), he’s going to bang you around a little bit. Very few people seem to know it, but Zen Buddhism was never in the ascendancy in Japan as far as numbers go. It was always for a few. Yet the influence of Zen Buddhism has been so strong on Japanese culture.

Roshi will meet you in the outside world; he’ll go to someone’s house. One time, a friend of mine in Los Angeles said, “Could you invite Roshi to come for an evening? I have some friends who are coming.” I said I would ask him. Well, Roshi came with one of his close students and he arrived in his robes. It turned out these were very worldly people, and the hostess served a roast beef dinner with beer. (A Buddhist doesn’t touch alcohol.) But Roshi ate the roast beef, enjoyed it, and drank the beer. After dinner, when somebody said, “Roshi, what is Zen?” He said, “Line up opposite your wife. Now, I want you to laugh.” And he leaned back and laughed uproariously. It’s hard to do, but not for him. He said, “Now, you lean back and laugh.” So they leaned back and each one laughed uproariously. Then he said, “Now, every morning when you wake up – first thing – I want the man to face the woman and put your heads back and laugh.” He said, “That’s Zen.” Roshi was tailoring his teaching to the situation. This method is called “expedient means.” If he’d gone into a long technical description, they’d be yawning. I’ve seen him use expedient means many times. It’s hard for me to do. If I’m asked questions, I’m going to try to answer them truthfully. But Roshi will tailor it to the level there. Sometimes, he will get with the monks or very close students, and he’ll go into very deep subjects that are wonderful. I’ll stay there all night and listen to it. Suddenly, he’ll say, “I can see in your faces that you don’t understand any of what I’m saying.” And he’ll stand up and walk away. And that’s the end of it.

One night, Roshi said, “There are really two worlds. There’s the Buddha world and there’s the outside social world.” I said, “Roshi, there are two worlds? Which one is the benjo in?” (Benjo is a rather vulgar Japanese word for toilet.) “Which world is the benjo in?” Roshi laughed. (Everyone thought I was being very rude. How could I talk to Roshi that way?) But that’s the way he would have talked to you. It means you knock the concept out. He’s giving you the dualistic concept that there are two worlds (which is a lot of nonsense), so I’m saying, “Which one has the toilet?” He wasn’t angry about it. He thought it was good. He is looking for independence on the part of his student. Acting very holy is not the way.

A Story: Independence

Remember the story of Rinzai who, before he had his enlightenment, was so pious and shy. But right after his enlightenment, he cracked his Master across the face. Their dialogue went as follows: the Master said, “When I see that guy, I’ll give him thirty blows!” Rinzai answered, “Why wait? Now’s the time for hitting.” And he cracked the Master across the face! The others thought it was terrible! But the Master knew right away that this was the genuine article.

So I asked Roshi, “Which world is the benjo in?” If I had said, “There are two worlds, aren’t there Roshi?” he would have said something to pull the rug out from under me. I’ve seen him do it to people to the point where they cried.

You Can’t Escape Yourself

A woman announced that since every day was such nonsense, she was going to leave her children and husband and go off to India and be with a Master. She couldn’t stand this rat race anymore. “Have you ever met a Master?” I asked. “No,” she answered. “Before you leave,” I said, “you better meet a Master. I’ll take you to meet one.” When she met Roshi, every thing she said to him, he’d pull the rug out from under her. For example, she told Roshi that she went to the races and picked five winners. (She was sure it was some supernatural skill she had.) He knocked that down right away. Afterward, she was crying, and she went home and cooked dinner for her family, and there was no more nonsense of her going off to India. I think Zen training would be good for anybody of any religion. It will take that person deeper in one’s own religion and he or she will learn a lot from it.

To study Indian Buddhism, you’re going to have to be a member of a sangha, a spiritual community. You’re going to have to put on robes and take vows. You’re going to have to be able to give up your routine life, and I don’t see anybody here who wants to do that. But you can learn from studying Indian Buddhism, and I hope that you have learned from it here. What the Buddha was telling you is the truth. How

you apply it is going to be up to you. Maybe it’ll cause you to take a few steps in a different direction. For those of you who meditate, maybe it will strengthen your practice. Essentially, your karma will take you along the lines you’re supposed to follow.

This article is published in Gateway to Eastern Philosophy & Religion

Published On: February 14th, 2024Categories: Gateway to Eastern Philosophy & Religion

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