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Manas: Spontaneous, Perpetual, Homogeneous
June 20, 1987 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi
Transcribed by Kikan Michael Howard
This transcript is still in rough draft form.
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… Objects exist. How your objects are structured. You have to inquire into this family style. The qualities of seas and mountains beyond seeming square or round, are endlessly numerous. So, until you can see this numerous qualities in the ocean, in the object, in the mountains, in the trees, you see now. Anyway, we have to train our six senses, constantly. By what? Well, meditation is (the) best way.
We should realize there exists world everywhere. Those qualities, all qualities of seas and mountains, what you cannot see, is not something far from us. They exist right in front of us, and within them, within us. So, we should realize there exists a world everywhere.
It’s not only that; in out of the way places, know that even a single drop right before us is also vast. Even a single dew, thing exists exactly like this. That’s why in the sutras of the mountains and waters mentioned by Dogen Zenji, he says, “Instant moment, instant present of the mountains of water are total manifestation of buddhas’ ancestors.” He says as a first sentence. That means, we always see the mountains as mountains; but, according to Dogen and ancestors, who realized myriad, myriad qualities of mountains and rivers we cannot see. Anyway, suggest as to see the mountains as ancestors and buddhas, means something more than concept of the mountains and seas you have believed. So, don’t act quickly on the concept of the mountain according to your understanding.
So even though you don’t struggle for it, but sit in zazen, calm the six senses and go deeply into you. And then, naturally, depths of the self is exactly the same as the depths of the world.
There are two important points here. In the beginning I mentioned, one point is that there is no space for you to, what would you say, to understand, or to touch, something true. No space. No space, no room for you. That’s why I mentioned the more you try to research, you try to inquire into the true meaning of the self, the more you feel unsatisfactory. No matter how long you try to get it, you can’t get it. It means, no space for you to try to get it with your hands. This is one aspect.
Second: If so, should we give up? The idea of giving up means, is already one of your understanding. So, it’s not right. So, completely… second point is, in the realm of no space for you to poke your head into the truth, you have to seek for it. In other words, on the foundation of nothing - no space, no room - you have to build up your house. This is the Buddhistic way; no, not Buddhistic way. This is true way of human life, wherever you may go.
So let’s see… I think the other day I mentioned manas, seventh consciousness. One of the unconsciousness(es). Manas is the self or attachment consciousness. In other words, ego consciousness. Very deep; it is unconscious.
So in Buddhist psychology, it’s set up seventh consciousness among the eight consciousnesses. Six consciousnesses and manas, and Alayavijñāna. Eight consciousnesses in all. Manas is a very basic sort of ego consciousness, which is unconscious. It has three characteristics. Buddhist psychology mentions like this, manas always accompanied by satkaya-drishti, which means congenital concept of ‘I’. Congenital means inborn concept of ‘I’. Manas, always accompanied by the congenital concept of ‘I’, continues spontaneously in a perpetual and homogeneous series.
So, three points. One is, manas is spontaneous. Second, manas is perpetual. Third, manas is homogeneous.
Those three points are the point of the difference between the six consciousnesses and seventh consciousness, manas. Six consciousnesses are, you know, eye consciousness, nose consciousness, ear consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness, and conscious mind. Those are (the) six consciousnesses. The seventh consciousness is quite different from those six consciousnesses, because it is very basic state of ego consciousness, very strong ego consciousness. It appears very spontaneously. Spontaneously means very unconscious; it’s alive very unconsciously, unintentionally, or ‘inborn’. Not automatic. Automatic is still a sense of dichotomy. But, very unintentionally … it is very (un)intentionally or unconsciously and inborn way.
That is one point. Because the manas itself doesn’t create ego, but with manas there is some function of, some quality of manas. That quality of manas is called satkaya-drishti: congenital concept of the ‘I’. Before you are born, you have this kind of function, subtly, of your consciousness. That is simultaneously, something of the habits(?) That is one point.
Second is, homogeneous means, manas perceives no dichotomy of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, but always ‘I’ only. The six consciousnesses always dichotomize subject and object, and then we say ‘I’ or ‘mine’, dichotomies. But this, manas, always perceives the ‘I’ only. So, always the same. Manas remains in the same state of its own existence. Do you understand? Practically, you experience.
You always struggle, under all circumstances, because - why? Because, in an unconscious level, there is a consciousness which remains in the same, always same, in one state of its own existence. That is, energy to live. Do you understand? If your circumstances are very bad, you are really struggling, crying - this is also energy to live. And if you feel happy, that is also energy to live. Very unconsciously, it’s always going.
With your head, always you say, “I am ready to die,” or “I am ready to do this, or to do that.” “I understand; I am ready to accept you, or not” - whatever you say, it’s always nothing but the world of conceptualization. But beyond this one, there is a great energy to live. Under all circumstances, you know? This is called manas. Manas remains in the same, one state of existence. So-called, the inborn concept of the “I”. So, no “I and mine,” but six consciousness always say “I” and “mine,” “You” and “yours.” Means, dichotomies.
That is the second. And, perpetual. Manas is constantly going. Constantly going means, six consciousness doesn’t go constantly. For instance, I and you are separate. But you cannot always remain in the same state of “I” and “you”. Always changing. Sometimes, you become I, and I become you. So, always changing. You are right, I am wrong; this is a dichotomy, but it doesn’t go constantly. Next moment, it turns over; so you are wrong, I am right. So it’s not perpetual. But, seventh consciousness is perpetual. Perpetual means, completely beyond your understanding. It’s always going.
So, if you study and practice Buddhism through meditation and zazen, then you can go deeply. If you feel, if you understand even intellectually about manas, which has three characteristics: it is spontaneous, and perpetual, and homogeneous; if you understand these characteristics of manas, even intellectually, you can go deep, you can touch something deep, about you. So through the practice, through the meditation, not only understanding with your head, but practice - you touch, you feel directly, this one - that is called deep understanding, profound understanding of the self.
And then, if you really feel the state of manas, how it is going, spontaneously, and homogeneously, and perpetually, that means completely no concept. You cannot put any concept on it, because it’s perpetual; it’s vast.
So … understand manas is kind of a “dead end” of your life. But on the other hand, manas is not dead end; that is a start point. You can go any place.
So that’s why, if you practice zazen, in the beginning, you can feel good. You can feel very satisfactory. But if you go deeply, you come to the terminal stations, so you don’t know - really don’t know. The more you practice zazen, the more you see there’s something confused.
But, I think you cannot stop. So you have to go deep, and deep, going through and through. Then, naturally, you can see, you can touch, very deeply and directly, that manas, which is spontaneous, and perpetual, and homogeneous. Then, manas becomes very vast.
So finally, what you have to do is, give up. Give up means, let go of your head. It means, let go of your thoughts.
We see always self, through the head. That self is something fabricated by thinking process; subject and object. So very naturally, it is always changeable. But we don’t know what it is. We always believe that as the self, and also believe it fully, and jump into it, and live with it. And then finally, completely confused. That always happens.
I think finally, “give up” means let go of all thoughts. Because the more you try to get it, the more you feel unsatisfactory. So I always mention that the partition between dead end and also eternity. There’s something spontaneous, perpetual and homogeneous; the other side is something like that. This side is human world. There is no space to poke your head into it; this is human world. Then if you practice deeply, then you can cut this partition. That partition is, I always mention, just like a curtain. It’s not (like a) board; it’s not sharp. It’s very soft, very soft. It’s not cardboard, it’s not a piece of paper; it’s very thin curtain. If you touch it, it moves. If you touch, and then finally immediately you can go this way. You can participate in eternal, and something vast.
But, what we want to know is, something about this partition. I say curtain, but actually there is no curtain there. But I have to say “curtain,” because you can transmit your life into something vast. In other words, you can turn; turn over a new life. If so, if you go deeply, and then attach something, and then turn over. Then something you have touched, is what? We want to know. And then, what is it? What kind of power is it? How can we transmute or transform our life into something vast? We want to know.
That is, I say, curtain. If I said curtain, that is kind of a very thin, small crack, between human world and eternity. But actually, nothing to know. Nothing.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, nothing. Fortunately means if you do it, you can turn, naturally. You can do it. You can experience it. But unfortunately means, if you try to know, the more you can’t know it. So even though you touch it, and then you don’t know it, you don’t know what it is. Because, consciousness always tries to know. So we don’t know how vast the human world is. So that’s why shikantaza you do is completely throw away your thoughts and just sit down. That’s all you can. That is called enlightenment; but we don’t believe it. But this is nothing else, nothing else. So, this is the best way. We can do it.
So that’s why there is no space, no room for you to poke your head, but on this kind of foundation, we have to practice. But we always do something on the foundation of expectation. “If I do this, then I can get A, or B.” Then, I want to do. That means, already there is something you can expect in front of you, and then we do it. And that is, the more you try to do, you cannot get it, because always changing. So that’s why Buddhism always tries to present (to) you (that) there is no foundation particularly. Because it’s vast. And then, in the vast state of existence, you have to build up a house. Intellectually, it’s impossible; but spiritually, we can do it. This is our practice.
So just sitting is nonsense; but on the foundation of nonsense, you … then, you can view zazen as useful. What is that? This is perfect peace and harmony. That, Dogen Zenji mentions here.
Dogen Zenji also mentions another paragraph, he says, “When the people first seek the dharma, they are far from the bounds of the dharma. Once the dharma is always conveyed in oneself, immediately original nature of the self is manifested.” So that means, there is no space for you to poke your head, because it is nothing but delusion. But if you go deeply into the delusion, fabricated by your effort, that end, terminal station of the delusion, is big scale of delusion. So you can participate in something vast.
That’s why buddha is what? Buddha is person who enlightens, attains, realizes very deeply what delusion is. That is called buddha. That is, buddhist psychology mentions as manas. Manas is kind of abyss of the human life, darkness. Because, no space to do something good by your effort. This is manas. This is energy to live. But if you use it; if you go deeply and if you understand, contemplate deeply about this one, that energy of your life can be used in big scale.
That is very important for us. That’s why we have to train our intellectual understanding, six consciousnesses; anyway, calming down constantly, and touch this manas. And then, if you touch the manas, still we’re there in the world of conceptualization, so called concept of the manas. So still we have to go through, practice again and again. And then, taste, very deeply and directly, what the manas is. Then, you can see something vast.
At that time, you can just sit down. When you do, that’s it. But it doesn’t mean, take sleep; it doesn’t mean sleep there. Your eyes are always open, to see what’s going on there. And nevertheless, you are not tossed away by. And, being constantly present, from day to day, from moment to moment, with straight posture. This is zazen posture. This is zazen. Whatever you do - kinhin, walking, and working at the office; whatever you do, you should do in that way. Otherwise, you never feel peaceful. There is no foundation, no space for you to poke your head, what it is I want to get, I want to satisfying myself - no way. And the foundation of no space for you, but, you have to practice there. Then, you can develop your personality, your life, with all sentient beings.
It’s very difficult to practice this in our everyday life; that’s why particularly, we have these kind of particular sesshin situations, and then practice. That is zazen. If you do on a daily basis, again and again, then it’s manifest, it penetrates into everyday life, unconsciously.
If you don’t practice zazen like this, it’s very difficult to deal with human life. Even the happiness, even the unhappiness. Very difficult. That’s why, day by day, we have to practice this one. Because in a sense, we are stubborn, very stubborn.
So, everyone very stubborn. But we don’t know how stubborn we are. But bodhisattvas, ancestors in the history, know clearly how stubborn we are. That is, at that time, you become bodhisattva. But we don’t know. We don’t know how stubborn we are.
Next talk: 1987-06-27: A, B, and C Worlds