Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kyudo Roshi's teisho

Frank, an old-time Zen buddy, sent along a transcript of a transcript of a 1983 teisho by my teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi. Maybe an OK definition of a teisho is:

A teisho is a formal presentation of Dharma [truth/phenomena] by a Zen master, usually during a sesshin [Zen retreat]. A teisho may appear to be a lecture, but the master is not trying to convey concepts or knowledge. Instead, through the teisho the master presents his or her realization.
And as I read the teisho over, thinking about adding it to a collection of stuff from Kyudo, it crossed my mind that the dead deserve to be left in peace. By trying to collect stuff that gives some of the flavor, some of the smell, of Kyudo, I am guilty of perpetuating a lie. I don't think Kyudo would mind if I lied about him, but the lie reaches out and affects others seeking some peace and stability in their lives -- perhaps with a Zen practice. I console myself with "all spiritual encouragements are a lie in the end. The object of spiritual practice is to get through the lies, to quit toying with trinkets." But the truth is, I don't like it when I lie. I'd rather tell the truth. And the truth is, I lie.

Reading that teisho took me back to a time when listening to teishos was part of the tapestry. Over time I had learned not to listen really, but to allow the teisho to enter and stick at its own pace. Linear thinking was out the window. Just wallow and enjoy. And reading the teisho today (I'll retype it later from its pdf format and ask to have it tacked on to the Kyudo collection), I felt myself drawn back to a time of wallowing and enjoying.

It also made me think wryly about how teishos, which generally begin with a koan or story from the past, never stay on topic ... at least to the linear mind. They always are a little like a group of kids standing around a dead snake in the road, each one daring the other to touch it ... and no one quite daring. When you are talking about the truth -- the actualization of the truth, the experience of the truth -- the best anyone can do is to point at something that appears to be something else -- away from the stated topic of conversation and yet utterly about the topic of conversation. No one can tell the truth. Everyone lies. But the fact is like the movie title: "True Lies." The linear mind boggles at the exercise. The true mind lounges in some Lay-Z-Boy chair and chuckles.

In the midst of all this, there can be a sense that if someone is giving what others call a teisho, that person must have a handle on things. Woo-hoo -- a "Zen Master." Talk about shock and awe. I have miles to go before I can be that wise. What a wise person s/he is! What a putz I am! But I can throw myself at the feet of the master and beg for instruction, offer my credulity, beg to have my doubts and fears assuaged. Seldom does anyone remember (as I do in a half-assed fashion) the words of the sorrowing master who told his monks more or less, "I sit here in vain, praying that someone will step forward and slap my face."

Kyudo was a man I liked and admired. Not a perfect man, but a man who did work I think is worth doing. The best that can be said for him -- as it might be for anyone -- is that it is nice he didn't fuck up worse than he did. By collecting bits and pieces of the words he spoke, I am perpetuating, fabricating, and to a certain extent dishonoring his memory. He too, I imagine, would have laughed like a delighted bandit if someone had stepped forward and slapped his face. What the hell does anyone think he was in business for?

Let the dead rest in peace. There's nothing you can do about them anyway ... nothing except lie.

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