Do You Hear the Waterfall?

A Dharma talk given on February 9, 1982 at the Ojai Foundation in California.

Zen mind means everyday mind. Everyday mind means only-do-it mind. It's very simple, so it's very hard for some of us to accept. It's too simple. Only do-it mind. Nobody understands what that really means - actually there is nothing to understand.

In the interviews, most of you only do it. (Hits floor.) Right? Only this. (Hits floor.) Only do it. Just hit. (Hits floor.) It has no meaning to ask, "What does this mean?" Don't check it. Only do it. If you only do it, constantly, over and over again, it's like - you've heard Soen Sa Nim say this already - it's like pushing the clear button on this computer. Then 1 plus 2 equals what? Three. Push the clear button again. 9 times 9 equals 81. That's only do it. Pretty soon, this only do it (hits floor) becomes habit. Then when any situation, any condition, anything appears before us, automatically this button is pushed, and everything becomes clear. Then we respond.

When red comes to this computer, or to this clear mirror, then only red. Bird sound comes, then automatically, automatically, the clear button is pushed. Bird sound comes, then only "Cheep, cheep, cheep." That's all!

If you attain this point (hits floor), then you have complete freedom over life and death. If you don't know this point, then only go straight, don't know. Then this point will become stronger, stronger, stronger. It will become part of you.

Words seem to be not necessary. But they're really necessary. Whenever anybody said, "What is Buddha?" Gu Ji Zen Master only held up one finger. No words. Only held up one finger. Whenever anybody asked Lin Chi Zen Master, "What is Buddha?" he only shouted, "KATZ!" That's all. Whenever anybody asked Dok Sahn Zen Master, "What is Buddha?" he only hit them. If you ask Soen Sa Nim, "What is Buddha?" - (hits floor). All the same. Everybody's pointing to the same point, primary point and don't know. If you don't know, then only go straight, don't know. Don't check it.

About seventeen years ago, I was rooming with a friend of mine. This friend said to me, "See Hoy, there is a Zen Master here, and tonight there will be meditation."

I grew up in a very small community in Hawaii, which was maybe 95% Japanese, and there were temples around. Soto Zen temples. So I had heard something about Zen, but I never knew what it was. I used to play in the temples and go there to eat, and that was all.

And my friend said, "There's this Zen Master in town and he's only going to be here for this weekend." They were having a sesshin, same as our Yong Maeng Jong Jin, for three days.

And I said, "OK, I will try that with you."

So I went - I think it was on a Friday night - and there were maybe twelve people or so sitting in some woman's family room down in her basement. They had turned it into a Zendo. It was really nice. Outside, there was a Japanese garden and waterfall, really beautiful. We sat for two periods, and then everybody was allowed to have an interview.

I went in to my interview, and I introduced myself, and the Zen Master said, "Is this your first time sitting?"

And I said, "Yes, it is."

And he said to me, "Do you know God?"

I said, "I don't know."

He said, "Do you know Buddha?"

And I said, "I don't know."

And then he said to me, "Do you hear the waterfall outside?"

And I said, "Yes, I do."

And he said, "Just that."

That was the end of our interview. Japanese style is very fast.

Soen Sa Nim says that same thing. I wish this Zen Master had told me at that time. Just don't know is it. Only don't know. Yeah, that's correct. Don't know. That's it, buddy. He should have told me that then. But he didn't. So I suffered for seventeen years.

I left that. I never practiced after that. I never went back after that night. They had refreshments, I went home, and I said, "That ain't for me." And I went home.

But, one day, maybe one year later, the words crept up, just appeared. "Do you know God? Do you know Buddha? Don't know. What does this guy mean, do I know God, do I know Buddha? I was living in Los Angeles, and I thought, gee, there has to be some kind of alternative to this life. Something more. There must be something more than all of this struggling, all this competition, all this arguing with my friends and my wife and ... What is it? In this life there must be something more. There must be some easier way for me to live. So I decided the easier way was to go to some mountain and live there natural style. Only grow my own garden and live there simply.

So I went to Hawaii and found a piece of land. And it was similar to what you have here. Really beautiful, nice mountains, the nearest neighbor was quite far away. Very quiet and peaceful. I found a little lean-to garage that had only two half-walls and a roof, so I set up my house there.

All I did was garden most of the time. That took really a lot of time, because I had to cut lots of trees to make my garden and dig out the roots. But soon that was over and then, "Now what?"

And then these questions - What is God? What is Buddha? What is my life? - came again. While I was occupied with my garden, these questions didn't appear. But as soon as my gardening stopped and all my vegetables were in and there wasn't much work to do, when my house was just the way I wanted it, then these questions appeared again. So you did all this. But so what? What did you do?

At that time many, many hippies were moving into Hawaii. It was becoming infested. I met one fellow who seemed like a really interesting guy. He had no hair. He was being eccentric. I was hitchhiking home one day, because my car had broken, and he said, "What are you doing here?"

And I said, "Oh..." I couldn't answer.

"What are you doing?" Simple question. He meant, "Where are you going on this road?", you know?

But I kept thinking, "What is my purpose? What is the direction of my life? What is my life?" Don't know.

So he said, "You read this," and he gave me the Bhagavad Gita.

So I started to read that. Too confusing. "I have to understand this? Is that the purpose of my life? If I want freedom from life and death, if I want to find my correct direction, if I want peace in myself, then I must understand this book?" It was a really complex book for me at that time. Even now it would probably be complex for me. So I thought I would find an easier book.

I always used to carry this book around with me and read it any time. One day I met someone at the beach and he said, "What are you reading?"

And I said, "Oh, this book, Bhagavad Gita."

And he said, "Do you understand that book?"

And I said, "I don't understand it. It's a really hard book."

He said, "Yeah, that's a hard book. Here's another one." And this book's name was The Upanishads. And I started reading that.

I was so confused most of the time, I was nauseous. Here I was in this beautiful, simple environment - it cost me something like $7 a week to live - and these two books, and I was always just confused. And I said, "Oh, no. If I have to understand these two books in order to understand my True Self - I didn't know the words 'understand my True Self' yet - if I must understand these two books, to get some kind of relief from suffering, I'd just as soon shoot myself." Because those two books were giving me more suffering than I started with.

One day it dawned on me - when you keep busy, no problem. When you're doing your garden and fixing up your little house, no problem. You're just busy working and doing something. Maybe that's what I want. That's what I should do. I should only find some kind of work. But I couldn't find anything to work at. My garden was finished. My house was finished. I didn't want to go work at a regular job, because I thought that's where the problems started anyway. Before that, I had been an artist. So I thought maybe I should do some work, but already I had given that up. So I said, "Even that is the wrong direction for me. Even that causes me pain and suffering."

When I was an artist, I was getting up in the middle of the night, doing drawings. It was really terrible - I could never sleep, I always had headaches. But I thought, "Maybe I'll do this for fun." And I really liked calligraphy.

I had heard about people who just practiced one kind of thing all the time and soon they understood everything. In other words, if you just made one stroke with calligraphy, just one stroke, one stroke, one stroke, then pretty soon, when you attain that one stroke, you would attain everything, all the strokes. So I went to the library. In Hawaii, lots of people like calligraphy. The library had a big collection on calligraphy, really a lot of books on different periods and how to go about doing it. They were really well-done books. So I thought, "This is really complex, but I know what I'll do. I like these dots." There are something like eleven dots, different kinds of dots, in calligraphy. They all have different names. So I thought I'd just do those dots. I got some paper and a brush. All I would do for maybe three or four hours a day was make these funny little dots. And time would go by really fast. No problem.

There was one guy's calligraphy that I really, really loved. His name was Su Shi. I really liked this guy. The caption on him said that if you attain this man's style, you will attain the bone of calligraphy. Later I was looking at some other calligraphy by someone named Su T'ung Po, and I said, "Well, these two guys' pieces of work look the same." And then I found out they were the same. Su Shi was also known as Su T'ung Po.

Long way of leading up to this story.

Su T'ung Po turned out to be one of the greatest masters of all time. When he was young, he was really smart and he was one of the greatest poets of the Sung dynasty. When he was 20 years old, he passed all the civil service exams and got a high-ranking position. He was assigned four provinces in China and he would go around and check each one of them, how they were doing, whether or not they were corrupt, how they could be improved. And in the course of his travels, he came into contact with lots of Taoists and Confucianists and Zen Masters also. His name at that time was Cheng - I don't know how that works into Su Shi and Su T'ung Po, but anyway, it was Cheng - and one day he met a Zen Master and the Zen Master said, "Oh, welcome here. How are you? What is your name?"

And he said, "Mr. Cheng."

Then the Zen Master, whose name was Fo Yin, said, "What can I do for you?"

He said, "Please open my eyes to the Dharma."

Then Fo Yin said to him, "Your name is Mr. Cheng. Why do you have such a name as Mr. Cheng?" (Cheng means scales, weighing scales.)

"My name is Mr. Cheng because I go around and weigh the quality of all spiritual teachers."

Su T'ung Po had memorized all the Sutras. He knew, for example, what the last sentence of the 22nd paragraph of the Heart Sutra was, and he would check everybody in that way. Lots of people had read the Heart Sutra, but they never memorized the specific locations. So, he thought, all these monks, all these scholars, are all worthless. They don't even know the last line of the 22nd paragraph of the Heart Sutra.

"My name is Mr. Scales. I only go around and measure everyone's quality."

So Fo Yin said to him, "Oh, Mr. Scales," and let out this really ear-splitting "KATZ!"

"How much does that weigh?"

Su T'ung Po couldn't speak. Don't know. He only kept that. "How much does this weigh?" In none of the Sutras was this described. Don't know. So that became a question for him. Up until that time he knew everything - everything. He completely understood Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, he understood everything about life. But this KATZ! How much does it weigh? Don't know.

After that, he got transferred to a different province, and as he went along, he asked people, "Is there some Zen Master around here? I want to study with him."

And somebody said, "If you go to Jade Springs, on that mountain is a Zen Master."

So Su T'ung Po went there and said, "Zen Master, how are you?" At that time, Su T'ung was a very high official, so he wore very beautifully colored and embroidered Chinese gowns - really outstanding. And he had a big jade belt which signified his position, which said, "I am this and this and this - this is my official position." Very high class.

When the Zen Master saw Su T'ung Po come, he said, "Oh, sir, I'm sorry to welcome you to my humble place. I have no chair for you to sit on."

Then Su T'ung Po said to him, "Oh, that's no problem. I'll just sit on you."

So the Zen Master said to him, "OK, I will make a deal with you. If you can answer me one question, you can use me for a chair. If you cannot answer this question, then you must give me your jade belt."

Su T'ung Po thought, "I already understand everything, so why not?" His confidence had already been built back up after not being able to weigh KATZ! He said, "OK, I'll try that. No problem. What do you want to ask me, Zen Master?"

And the Zen Master said, "In the Heart Sutra, it says form is emptiness, emptiness is form. If you use me as a chair, you are attached to form. If you don't use me for a chair, how do you explain this emptiness?"

Stuck. Don't know. Couldn't understand. So from that time on, he read a lot of books and traveled around and around and around to many teachers. And he came upon another teacher on ascending Dragon Mountain, and said, "Teacher, please open my eyes to the Dharma. Please. I know this and this and this."

Then the Master said, "How dare you come here with the dead words of men? You must open your eyes to nature. How can I teach you, you who understand so much about Zen? How can I teach you? Get out of here! Just get out of here! I don't want to have anything to do with you! Go away!"

And Su T'ung Po thought, "This Zen Master is supposed to be compassionate. Why is he chasing me away?"

"Get out!"

So he went outside and he got on his horse. He was in a complete trance. Why? Why? Why did he throw me out? Don't know. So he just got on his horse. It was late at night and very deep in the mountains, and he just let the horse find its way down the mountain. He just sat on the horse, bouncing along. Why? Don't know. He was complete don't know. Complete stuck mind.

And then, all of a sudden, he heard the sound of a waterfall.


And he got Enlightenment, understood.

And he wrote this poem:

The roaring waterfall is Buddha's golden mouth,
The mountains in the distance are his pure and luminous body.
How many thousands of poems float through me tonight?
And tomorrow I won't be able to repeat even one word.

Not repeat one word. Buddha said after preaching for 49 years, just before he was going to die, "I have preached for 49 years and I have not uttered a single word."

I have already talked for thirty minutes. Thank you.