"Heart of the Quietness"
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen as you can see from my attire I believe in Buddhism and I believe in the teachings of Zen and I am practicing asceticism. Now every year in August I go to France to a Catholic Zazen Center. We have the center for Zazen or sitting in Zen meditation. Every year 35 members come to attend a Zazen session for a full week. As you may know in France there are restaurants, perfumes and tobaccos with the brand of Zen. Now last year one member told me that in France doing or practicing Zen is a phrase that is frequently used. Zen is suppose to be a noun but it is used in France as something to do. And how are they using it? It doesn't mean that they actually do sit Zen meditation or do Zazen. It just means they spend a quiet time or they want to spend a quiet time. But it gives you an idea. People speaking about Zen. There must be a reason.
In modern times in everyday lives we are pushed by a bulldozer called civilization. The bulldozer destroys nature, pollutes environment and confuses us with excess information. On top of that we have a strange human relationship. And all that stress is built up. Human beings need relief from that. It is a physiological, psychological defense.
Unfortunately, I haven't been to Finland yet. According to what I hear it is a beautiful country of waters, snow, forests, and the midnight sun. So you would not have to worry about the quietness in the environment. Now here we are talking about the design of quietness. And terms of the form and other external factors you are the experts. So today I would like to focus on the internal side the quietness in the mind.
For human beings to live we need water. Water springs out from the ground flows into the rivers and farther into the sea to the ocean evaporates creates clouds and then becomes rain and comes back to the earth. There the circulation that keeps human beings and other living creatures alike living. But purification function associated with the circulation is recently being damaged. Civilization has been the name of the game but it has created a man made hell. Mass productions and mass consumption has made it impossible for the natural cycle to keep up.
Think about air. Again we are always breathing. We cannot live for a second without air. See, many people we have here. The air that we inhale the air that we exhale they are all shared. You can't say I don't like this person I don't want to share the air with him. What does it tell you? It's not just as fellow humans. We are in the same boat. We share a common destiny together with nature.
Now, individual human acts can be modified by will but natural cycle is not that simple. You can't simply stop it you can't simply change it or correct it in a natural, in a moment. Human beings have been trying to conquer nature over history. But I can tell you nature will most certainly strike back against us. So our greatest challenge for mankind in the 21st century would be how to overcome that back fire.
Look at Tokyo every year the spaces providing quietness to us have been retreating. Civilization has become a synonym for noise. Now if you look at design I believe there are a civilization element and culture element. If so the modern design may have, maybe said to have proceeded only effectiveness practicality and functionality while forgetting and leaving the factor of cultural sensitivity behind.
And that brings me to the theme of the form of quietness. I would like to analyze what a form of quietness maybe through Zen culture.
As you may know the origin of Zen can be traced to India where Buddha discovered his truth off and the state of enlightenment satori in Japanese. Zen in India used to be something static, very quiet tranquil meditation under a tree. And then Bodhidharma introduced it into China where it was influenced by Confucianism and Taoism and became something more dynamic and part of daily life. Further on when introduced to Japan it was combined with the native Japanese spiritual climate and developed to something more of our culture. That was manifested in the tea ceremony the Noh play the Haiku and the Samurai code. Various fields have been designed based on the religious experience of Zazen. Zen has made Japanese spiritual backbone in their daily lives and well lived even today.
You would drink coffee or tea everyday. Japanese drink green tea. Green tea actually came from China and was introduced by a Zen master Eisai. He brought the green tea from China to Japan and grew it. It was originally a medication. We have an episode about tea. When Bodhidharma, who introduced Zen from India to China, was doing Zazen, he was so sleepy and he thought his eyes were disturbing his concentration that he scooped out his eye balls and threw them to the ground. What is being told is that the eyes sprouted into a tea plant.
It is said that since then tea has been served as an eye opener in the morning, and in a Zen temple as a ceremony.
Sennorikyu was taught Zazen under a Zen master, and he had very keen sense of aesthetics.
He designed every necessary utensil for the tea ceremony range from tea house, garden, tea cup to scoop. Each utensil he created has aesthetic factors unique to Japan. A tea room is a highly leveled world that completely shut out disturbance from outside. It is said that its structure is designed to shut out noise same as a Christian church.
Sennorikyu created four fundamentals for the way of the tea ceremony. Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku, that is. I would like to explain the gist of the fundamentals.
First is Wa which could be translated as harmony. Harmony could be harmony in the touch light, sound and the colors. They need all to attain a state of harmony within that tea room. And there exists a rule as a way of life.
Second element Kei means the denial of human conflicts as a result of ego centric insistence. We need respect for individuality each other. Japan is blessed with distinct four seasons and for each season there is distinct charms and food and others and you share all those feelings in just as simple flowers or the moon or just a drop of water. They lead you to realize nature as a whole and feel reverence that you are living under the rules of nature.
The third is Sei that means clean and good order and things are being in the way they should. The opposite of Sei is filthiness. This is how I tell the French people who come to Zazen. If your body is filthy what would you do? They all answer to take a shower. But what about spiritual filth? They don't have the answer. But there is an answer. I tell them that Zazen is a cleaning process of your mind. However people come in with greedy eyes like a predator, their expressions change so much and they look like so divine and calm like the Virgin Mary after practice Zazen. You arrange flowers, light incense, sprinkle water to stage a pure world.
The fourth element is Jaku or tranquility or quietness which is connected to today's theme. But Jaku is not just quietness. I know it is difficult to translate into English or French but it is connected with aesthetics called Yugen or Wabi or Sabi unique to Japan.
And it also connected with a Buddhist notion of Satori or enlightenment. It is a peace of mind relieved of all sufferings, agonies, anxieties. And otherwise the first 3 elements Wa, Kei and Sei are just processes to lead you to Jaku tranquility. So Sennorikyu led you tea ceremony to Satori enlightenment.
As I have been speaking I have spoken on Zazen or Zen meditation which belongs to a secret space and then I talked about the tea ceremony which is designing of an aesthetic space. And when you think about Zen meditation or Zazen as designing of the mind there are categories of elements of quietness such as calmness, harmony, peace and liberty, and you need practice. So I have to give you the basics of Zazen practice.
Currently there are 13 sects or denominations of Buddhism in Japan including Rinzai sect, Sodo sect, Tendai sect, Shingon sect, Jyoudo sect Nichiren sect and so forth. Now these 13 represent 13 different interpretations regarding the relationship between Buddha and humans and whether paradise is to be found after death or while living. So these 13 sects have different interpretations regarding those issues. And as a means of achieving their goals they try to entering to samadhi and in order to do that there are basically two methodologies. One is shyoumyou in Japanese which is chanting the Buddhist terms and the second one is keeping silence.
So regarding Soumyou or chanting in the case of Jodo sect it will repeatedly chant, repeat the name of Amidabuddha or Amitabha. They say Namuami Namuami many many times repeatedly to get into the perfect state of spiritual concentration. And Honen the monk is said to have said Namuami a million times a day, nobody has really kept count on that, however he has been keeping chanting while he was in the bathroom or while he was drinking water or whatever he was doing.
This is a very famous statue of saint Kuya, an Amitabha ascetic. And you can see that the invocation actually what is spoken comes out in a sculpture image. So I believe this is a best artistic form of invocation or Nenbutsu. And what also important about the sculpture is who made this image, his name was Kensho, a Buddhism sculptor, and he himself was repeatedly invoking Nenbutsu and therefore this image is the crystal of his own religious experience.
Nichiren sect repeatedly mention the title of Hokke sutra called Hokke-kyo they believe in the sutra and just chant Nanmyohorengekyo (the Daimoku) for and then go into concentration. Chants of both Hokke and Jyodo sects differ to each other. Just listen to me please.
Listen, the former has downward tone and the latter has upward tone. So if you repeat Namuami then your spirit become tranquil, however, when you say Nanmyohorengekyo your spirit become more active and dynamic. Surprisingly enough, an Amitabha ascetic like Honen has a very gentle impression but on the other hand a Daimoku ascetic Nichiren rather has more aggressive looking, with slant-eyes? So the training has no meaning unless one practice till it affects oneﾕs expression. This in not limited to a religionist. Any field has its own expression like artists have their own.
So my suggestion is that when you are really full of stress and feeling down recite the Nanmyohorengekyo the strong Daimoku samadhi. On the other hand when you are irritated or you are not calm then recite the Namuamidabutsu or Nanmaida. You will then calm your mind and can maintain the balance of your mind. And this is much better than taking some medicine for manic depression causes no side effect. You have to be careful not to prescribe in the wrong direction. Otherwise you will make the symptoms even worse.
Opposite to the training of Shyomyo the training of silence is Zazen.
This is famous Ganjin Wajo sculpture doing Zazen.
Zazen is to enter into Zenjo samadhi and so that you can experience the same working of the mind and heart as Buddha did.
So let me explain the actual method of Zazen. And the basic of Zazen is to set your physical posture, breathing and also the mind.
At first, set your physical posture. This is, of course, Mt. Fuji. Every year from Narita air port I fly to Paris by Japan Airlines. I buy postcards of Mt. Fuji and I deriver the post cards to the people, who practice Zazen because Mt. Fuji would explain very well how you should set your physical posture when you practice Zazen. I think it's much easier to show this than explaining by words. Like Mt. Fuji you shouldn't move your body. If you move physically your mind and heart also be swayed. So you need to sit straight up, up right and as if you are trying to reach the sky. You shouldn't eat too much. Of course don't smoke or drink. Too much sleep or a little amount sleep is neither good. What's important is where you look at, where your eyes should be set.
You suppose to keep your eyes keep half open. That's the proper way of Zazen. The basics is to keep your eyes half open and then where you should focus actually about one meter in front of you but look downward. Because if you open your eyes in the full you might distracted by the visual images. You keep your eyes half closed. So that the light entering will be not so strong. As if it was dusk before sun set. Think about a hospital room where there are ill person is lying you shouldn't open the curtain too wide because it's too bright too much luminous. However if you close the curtain completely it's too dark and that would frighten the person's fear of or worries therefore you should keep it not too bright but not too dark. So, that's most appropriate.
Another point is breathing. A healthy person would breath maybe 15 or 16 times a minute. But when you practice zazen that will be reduced to maybe 10... 5 toward longer interval of breathing. And when you inhale you should do as if you are inhaling everything in this entire universe in your stomach. And then when you exhale, feel as If you are melting into the universe. And just breath naturally.
Now next is to set your mind in an appropriate state that's rather difficult. Zazen is not a time for thinking. It is the time for no judgment no thinking your mind and heart go blank. It will become zero. That's a lesson you should practice. Think about a glass of muddy water. It may be mixed at the beginning but after a while the mud will settle at the bottom and then the top portion of the water will become clear. And the clear part is the heart of Buddha and God that you need to try to pursue. So let me summarize Zazen now. In a philosophical sense, subjectivity and objectivity become one. Therefore it is not I that is doing Zazen but Zazen is doing Zazen by itself. Descartes once said, "I think therefore I am." However, in Zen, not like what Descartes said, "I think therefore I am, it says I do not think therefore I am." Think about the stratosphere free from clouds that you flew through when you were flying from Finland to Japan.
Psychologically speaking, you will feel that your body is really light and your mind will be so clear and your head will be cool and your feet will be warm, and that condition will be good for your health.
Now, in terms of political sense Zazen is free of political ideologies. And it is free of any religious bias. And it is a very pure form of a training.
Economically speaking it doesnﾕt require any special tools and therefore there's no cost involved and anytime anywhere anyone can practice Zazen.
However when as look at various religions of the world, in any religion a meditation is listed as one of the forms of a practice. And of course Zazen is also categorized as a part of these meditations. However, when you look closely into them there are so many different interpretations of meditations.
But in Rinzai sect we have a system called Dokusan. Dokusan is a system of Zen master's checking the individual contents of Zazen of any person practicing it. I assume that Rinzai sect is very unique among worldwide religions in this respect. It is a system for persons practicing Zazen, by giving a question book, to guide them to the same experience of Buddha's Zazen. In other words this is to avoid the person's religious experience falling into the pitholes of narcissism of self complacency fanaticism but rather to confirm that the person's experience stays universal.
But even having set that... Zazen is not something that means that you have to remain still motionless just like trees and stones. Some people take an experience of nothingness in Zen as something mystic and nihilistic world. But that is not what Zen is all about. Zen is not mysticism. In stead it is the teaching that something can be realized in the real world.
There is a story... Zen master by the name of Isan who was taking a nap and then he woke up. 3 monks walked by then and he stopped them and said, "I was taking a nap, but guess what kind of dream I was dreaming." And one monk went to the bathroom and brought back a basin full of water with a towel and the Zen master received this and then the other monk went out of the room and brought back some sweets and tea and the third monk went to the back of the Zen master and started massage the Zen master. The Zen master said, ﾓYou guessed my dream and you fully understood the teachings of Zen.ﾓ This was one episode. Well, the Zen master took a nap, woke up, washed his face, ate some sweets, drank tea and received the massage. This is an extremely rational life style. And this is what Zen is all about. There's nothing mystic at all about Zen.
Zazen is said to be a religion of silence and a religion of breading.
And this brings me to this theme of today "quietness". I believe that Zazen is the ultimate form of "quietness."
Now, Zazen is a religion of silence. But maintaining silence is very difficult. There were 4 monks in the past and they decided to remain silent from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am. This was part of their training. So they sat in a circle and put a candle in the center and one hourﾉtwo hour is passed and then the candle burn out. And the room became dark. Then one monk said, "Someone! Bring a new candle." He spoke out so he was disqualified. Then the monk next to him said, "Be quiet!" Well he was too just disqualified on the spot. The third monk said, "You are the one who spoke." And the third monk was also disqualified. Then the last monk, the forth monk said, "I was the only one who remains silent till the end." And he was also disqualified for the speaking out. Well, this is something that was written in The Sasekisyu a book written 700 years ago.
This is not a story about a training to be silent, but this is something related to human nature.
Humans understand very well about other people. But they really don't know anything about themselves. It is the teaching that we should look into ourselves but not look outward. So Zazen is normally done in a very quiet environment. And therefore generally Zen meditation halls are situated in mountains. But when you are doing Zazen, there are artificial sounds; television, cars and human voices which are very disturbing. This is a hindrance to entering into a stable state of mind called "samadhi." But if it's a natural sound, sound of flowers birds winds moon... it's very refreshing. And it becomes a power for you to enter into a "samadhi."
This is a photograph... of Saint Myoue. And there's a bird up on the top. It was nature that triggered experiences of self-identification in Zen history. Buddha found himself by looking at stars, and Reiun is said to have a realize self- identification by looking at a plum blossoms. Also Kogen identified himself while listened to the sound of pebbles hitting bamboos. So Zen master Dogen left this poem.
Shape of mountain peaks, sound of rapids,
all is seen and heard as our Buddha's figure and sermon.
He likened the scene of the mountains as the body of Buddha and the sound of the river of the valley as the preaching of Buddha. Buddha was born some 2500 years ago and died at the age of 84 and yet he continues to preach through such natural sounds. It was Dogen's confession as well of his experience of self-identification that he took sound of rapids as Buddha's ceaseless sermon continued even to his time.
And in Japanese literature there is the Haiku poems which are constituted by 17 syllables. This is something unique to Japanese literature.
There was a poet named Basho Matsuo. Basho was also training Zen under the Zen master. And he traveled to many parts of Japan and he left many well-known poems. I assume that there is an awareness of a Zen type universe in foundation of his poems. At the temple Risshaku he left a poem
The silence the voice of the cicada seeps into the rocks.
"Sizukesaya Iwanisimiiru seminokoe" (in Japanese).
I don't know if there are cicadas in Finland but we take off their sound as MIN MIN MIN in Japanese.
Risshaku temple is at very high altitude in the mountains in dead silence and maybe it was around June the cicadas were singing, breaking the silent and filling the universe with the sound of their singing. Now, sound is the antonym of quietness, yet, this MIN MIN singing of the cicadas make micro particles and seep into the universe. Although this is a very expression of the contrast between micro cosmos idea of the silence and cicadas sound resonating in ears, cicadas singing seep into peoples' hearts but not into the rocks. What's interesting is that this cawing sound of the cicadas evokes deeper feeling of the silence.
Quietness and sound are harmonious contrasting concepts and yet they emphasize one another.
Let's think about micro and macro relationship. For example, I'm sure that you vacuum your room everyday. If we take a microscopic perspective, it's just having the dust collected into the bag of the vacuum cleaner. If it is taken from macro view, scattered dust just has been collected at a spot, not the volume of dust is reduced. But yet you continue to clean your room and this has a very important mental effect and it's very an important action. It's not wasteful, at all when it comes to our mental life.
There are number of bed-towns situated around the big cities and there are these gigantic housing complexes in these bed-town cities. Now from a microscopic perspective you would think that people living in a high rise buildings but from a macroscopic perspective as a bird's eyes view from altitude of some three thousand meters it's just like a cemetery. So it's just a matter of time with you live in the housings which appear to be a head stone or you live under the stone in the ground. But we don't realize these things in our daily lives.
Now there is a book called Hekiganroku a textbook of Zen. And there is a saying expressing self-identification in it: Heaven and earth and I of the same route, all things and I of one substance. So what this means is that first of all you have to break away from being yourself and break away from this world of phenomena and into an absolute world and eternal world. So you have to listen to things and look at things from a very subjective perspective. Now such interaction between yourself and nature is the very way living up to universal dispensation.
Japanese were very romantic people in the past. When our ancestors they were drinking sake they would reflect the moon in the cup of sake that they were drinking. And they would drink the moon and put it into their stomach. Now if you drink wine you will go into intoxication. But if you practice Zazen then you can enter into the world of piety toward nature, and the Buddha world.
So Zen is nothing special. This is something that is very much related in a real daily life. Now in Zen there is the saying that all answers exist in the questions. Zen terminology in Japanese "Tousyo kotaewa monsyoniari" means that answers for what you ask are all in your question. So I think this formula will give you a clue as to how to resolve the many problems that exist here today in the present world.
Now in the 21st. Century some people say that there is an era of religion. But if religions which we regarded as just an inheritance of the past, something forgotten, then it will not be able to fulfill its mission.
I personally think that religion is designing of the mind. Whatever it be Buddhism, Christianity, Muslim teachings... they all are teaching the people designing how to live and die. But when we are talking about the relationship between God and humans, nature and humans, spiritual and materials subsistences. We tend to think of them as too contrastive things. Yet, in Buddhism we think of it as relationship between water and waves. Water cannot exist without waves and waves cannot exist without water. So it is fundamentally a sort of dualism. Thus the lesson going back to self-identification is Zazen. So Zen is the prototype of internal serenity, peace of mind. I would like to close my lecture in hoping that in the 21st. Century we will be able to build the design of both internal and external world. Thank you for your kind attention.
Commemorative Speech, April 2001
Japan Finland Design Association (Japan)
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