Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Relevant Teisho

Dear all,

Here is full text of a teisho from March 2009 sesshin that Sandy has transcribed recently and relates perfectly to the discussion in the previous post on NY times article.

Excerpts from the teisho: "If I have had Satori, the Dai (Great) Kensho experience, isn’t it the case that I should go through life without any problems anymore? I’m always supposed to know the answer. I’m always supposed to be calm. I’m never supposed to be distressed if somebody hurts my feelings.....

Many people imagine enlightenment this way, but it’s quite false. Such people have a distorted view of awakened mind. When people come to our meditation hall for the first time, they imagine that Zen is all about bliss. They might suppose that they’re going to sit down on the cushion and be freed from their suffering. Perhaps they’re even going to be in a state of godlike happiness. Many people think of meditation this way. You’re supposed to be serene and happy and calm and safe and so on. Nothing will ever bother you again.

There’s a wonderful poem by a Chinese Zen master whose name was Shih-t’ou. The poem he wrote was called “An Inquiry into Matching Halves.” The “matching halves” are the two parts of ourselves. In the poem Shih-t’ou says that even if you have had Dai Kensho, that’s not complete enlightenment. Isn’t that interesting? He says that even if you have seen the Source face to face, that’s not complete enlightenment yet. Complete enlightenment is that radiant, boundless awareness plus the pain in your legs, your disappointments, your broken dreams. When those two aspects are completely integrated, that’s complete awakening."

“If you could just come into the zendo and sit down on the cushion and bliss out, zazen would be a drug.” It wouldn’t be helping you to live a better life. It wouldn’t be making you more aware. You might as well smoke opium. Somehow we have to work through our problems, not escape or “transcend” them.


  1. For anyone who is interested, the text of the poem "An Inquiry into Matching Halves" can be found here:

  2. Thanks for pointing that out Joe (pages 75-76)-KT

  3. Thank you, Sandy, for transcribing the teisho! Thank you, Kurt, for offering the teisho! It was great to be able to read it.