Our Time Together

Kusen by Robert Livingston Roshi

The time we have together as a sangha is very short. We don't know what will happen in the future. Our future may not even exist. But our future can exist here and now. The time we spend practicing together - zazen, samu, ceremony, eating, sesshin, sleeping, all our lives - will have a deep influence.

I hope each and every one of you realizes this: our practice here, now will effect and determine our future. The karma, the actions that we take here and now, during this period of our lives have a very deep, determining effect on our future.

This applies to all of us. You must take advantage, put your total energy, determination, concentration into your life here and now.

It's very hard for people (especially young people) to understand the great importance and deep effect that our actions in our practice at the temple, with the sangha, will have throughout our lives. Some people will remain in the sangha a long time, some people will be here not so long. Lives change, sometimes things happen.

We don't know how long we're going to exist. In the dojo's first five years, we lost three young people, all in their twenties. They thought they had long lives ahead of them. Nothing is sure: mujo, change.

But if we concentrate, apply ourselves, with determination, energy; if we make our practice with the sangha, in the dojo, the temple, our highest priority; then it won't matter how long we're here on earth, how long we're here with the sangha. We will be able to create new karma, new life, new body-mind, which will influence and determine all the rest of our lives. And not only our lives, but the lives of all those around us. And not only people, but all existences.

The effect, merit of zazen is infinite. We cannot imagine how great an effect our determined, concentrated practice has.

So don't dream your life away, fritter it away in childish idle pastimes. Make use of this time, change your life. You can have a great internal revolution which will radiate in an unlimited manner.

After all these years I can understand. When I first started, I didn't truly understand, I didn't always put my total energy in. Sometimes I let the distractions of the world (personal distractions, emotional distractions) influence, take me away. Fortunately, I was able to always return quickly, change my life, change my habits, change my whole life-style in order to help me to follow the Way.

I didn't plan to be an Abbot of a temple, plan to be a Zen Master. My mind was quite mushotoku. This was not my goal, object or aim. It just happened. It's not necessary to have any goal in mind, object. Just concentrate on the practice here and now. Everything will unfold naturally, unconsciously, automatically.

When we follow the cosmic order (instead of our own ideas, our own ego, our own ambition) when we follow the cosmic order with mushotoku mind, everything unfolds the way it should, in the best of all possible ways. Put aside worldly ambitions. Don't have a particular or fixed idea of what your future life should be.

People work hard, very hard, to try to be this, that or the other; to gain, obtain money, or happiness, or comfort, pleasure. What they get is always quite different. Then they feel deceived. Even though they may actually become famous, or very wealthy, they are still deceived. We substitute one pain or problem for another pain or problem. We go on and on like that.

If we concentrate on our practice (zazen, samu, in our work, in our school, whatever our job is, whatever our occupation is, our life here and now), there is no need for any ambition or goal or object. Everything will come to us naturally. We will follow the cosmic order, find true happiness, deep within. And our life will truly be fulfilled.

Please remember this. This is the most important thing you can ever learn, ever experience throughout your entire life: this practice, sangha, this time of your life, here and now.

So here and now, concentrate on posture, concentrate on exhalation. Let go of your thoughts, let them pass. Let the mind quiet, let the body-mind drop off, unconsciously, naturally. Here and now.

Transcribed from kusen given January 11, 1997.

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