Stuart (1922–1990) was one of a select group of students on the leading edge of Buddhism in America: a woman who became a Zen master. In this book, she draws on down-to-earth Zen stories, her friendships with Japanese Zen teachers,
and her experiences as a concert pianist to apply the inner meanings of
Buddhism to practicing the ...

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Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart

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Stuart (1922–1990) was one of a select group of students on the leading edge of Buddhism in America: a woman who became a Zen master. In this book, she draws on down-to-earth Zen stories, her friendships with Japanese Zen teachers,
and her experiences as a concert pianist to apply the inner meanings of
Buddhism to practicing the basic ethics of daily living—nowness,
unselfishness, compassion, and good will toward every living being. She emphasizes that inner growth comes through our own efforts and intuition,
especially as we cultivate them through meditation practice. We can then take what we have learned in meditation and use it to respond to our daily lives in a straightforward and creative way, guided not by concepts or dogma, but by direct insight into the reality of the present moment.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834829435
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/18/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,197,396
  • File size: 477 KB

Meet the Author

Edward Espe Brown began cooking and practicing Zen in 1965. He was the first head resident cook at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center from 1967 to 1970. He later worked at the celebrated Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, serving as busboy, waiter, floor manager, wine buyer, cashier, host, and manager. Ordained a priest by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, he has taught meditation retreats and vegetarian cooking classes throughout North America and Europe. He is the author of several cookbooks and the editor of Not Always So, a book of lectures by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. He is the subject of the critically acclaimed 2007 film How to Cook Your Life.

Roko Sherry Chayat, Dharma Teacher at the Zen Center of Syracuse, New York, is a student of Eido Roshi and also studies with Soen Roshi. She is the author of Life Lessons: The Art of Jerome Witkin.

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Read an Excerpt

1: The Illusion of "I"

Buddha taught many wonderful things, and he taught them according to the circumstances. He spoke according to the profession, the understanding, and the experiences of the person with whom he was speaking. When he talked to a poet, he spoke in and of poetry. When he talked to a mother, he talked about her children. Above all, he spoke of the unity of life everywhere, and of compassion for every living being. His teaching came from his own experience of the human condition, from his intuitive understanding of its essential character.

Buddhism embraces all religions, all traditions. We Buddhists have deep respect for every one of them, and realize that fundamentally, we are all one. We may use different phrases at different times, but we are all one.

This practice that we are engaged in is very down to earth and pragmatic. At the same time, it is preeminently of the spirit. It is a balanced and satisfying way of life, with feet firmly planted on the ground and heart open to the whole universe. This practice does not impose any creeds or dogmas upon us. It demands no blind faith, no submission to any separate deity or person or thing.
This is an essential matter.

In Buddhism, all beings, without exception, are seen in the beauty and dignity of their original perfection, not their original sin. By our own efforts and intuitive insights we may uncover this perfection, which is our real and intrinsic Buddha-nature. This is enlightenment. Our Buddhist practice,
deep and simple, is a way of life. It is a lifelong study and practice—not only for this life, but for the next life, and the next, and so on. It can be a profound study, with inner meanings and depths endlessly expanding before us,
and it can also be extremely simple, just teaching the basic ethical practices of daily living, practices of unselfishness, compassion, and good will toward every living being.

Buddhism emphasizes the transiency of all material things, and the illusory and impermanent nature of what we think of as our own personal ego. It also teaches the unity and kinship of all life. This practice involves mindfulness in every aspect of our lives. So it is, as Mumon says, like walking on the edge of a sword, over the ridge of an iceberg, with no steps, no ladders, climbing the cliffs without hands. There is no deviation from this path, this sword's edge, this ridge of the iceberg. We must be mindfully present with whatever difficult part of the path comes along.

Everything we do in the zendo—the arrangement of each object, the sitting in this wonderful posture, the walking with mindfulness—is exceedingly important. Not just in the zendo, but wherever we are, this mindfulness is important. Not to step on insects; to see if there is an impediment in the road and take care of it so somebody else doesn't fall; all of this is an extremely important part of our practice.

of course, there is our meditation, our zazen. In awakening this intuitive mind, we awaken a deep compassion for all living creatures not as beings separate from ourselves, but as part of our own being, as we are of theirs.
This, too, we feel in the zendo. We don't talk to one another, we don't gossip about things, we don't chat about the weather. We are sitting in deep silence,
sensing what it is that belongs to every human being, animal, plant, tree,
stone, the whole universe. And it makes us very compassionate and openhearted to one another, if we permit it. This is living practice.

Books are beautiful and inspiring. Lectures may help us. Scriptures are also important, but these are not enough. It's living practice that is most essential. Buddhism is not based on blind faith in anything that is written in any book, however holy. Even the preaching of Buddha himself is not to be treated in this way. The Buddha said, put no other head above your own. If it doesn't fit, don't do it.

What our practice is based on is right understanding. This is the first step on the Eightfold Path, obtained through reasoning, study, devotion, zazen,
and the practice of selflessness and love. Some people think that Buddhism doesn't have much to do with love. It has everything to do with love. It just doesn't sentimentalize it. It doesn't get icky, or gushy, or oozy. It's very practical, this selflessness and love practice. Don't give me a long speech about love, but show me by your action what is in your heart. Don't weep sentimentally about something and the next minute crush an insect.

With deep practice, with more and more understanding, we come to realize that we are not punished for our sins. This is not part of our way of being. We are not punished for our sins, but by them. Whatever we do that is not loving,
that is selfish, that is egocentric, that is grabby, comes home to roost. If we are in pain, if we suffer, we need to examine where it comes from. Probably it issues from some activity that is not unselfish, that is selfishly motivated.
We suffer because we want so much, because we think that situations should be different from the way they are.

When we are chanting the Three Refuges—when we take refuge in the
Buddha, in the Dharma, and in the Sangha—what are we doing? We take refuge in the Buddha: the Buddha was a great teacher. The historical Buddha may not ever have lived, but the presence that we think of as the Buddha, or Buddha, without the article, is a great teaching. We have not found somebody or something to make us feel secure. It's not a refuge in that sense. We are not hiding in the
Buddha. Refuge is used as an example. The idea is that an ordinary human being came to an awakened state of mind by realigning himself to the situations around him. This is available to every single one of us. This human being disciplined himself by working on his own mind, which is the source of our chaos and confusion. We can't blame it on somebody else. We can't hide in something. We have to take full responsibility for this chaos and confusion,
and if we really want to do something about it, we will.

When someone comes to me and says, "I don't really know how to integrate my practice into my work," I tell that person, "Don't try. Practice and work go together. If you feel that they are separate, you are bringing about a state of confusion. Whatever kind of practice you are able to engage in, however much or little, the quantity of it is not so essential. This extends itself into your work, and the quality of your work extends itself into your practice. There is no way to separate them. If you try to separate them, then you have chaos and confusion. Whatever you are doing, do it. Just do it."

Someone who practices archery told me, "I can stand up; I can do all the wonderful preparations; but when it comes to letting the arrow go, I can't do it." I said, "Stop the 'I' from doing it; just shoot." Thoughts of making a mistake, not hitting the target, being embarrassed in front of the teacher,
these are what cause chaos and confusion. Let the "I" go and just shoot. Let the "I" go and just work. Let the "I" go and just sit.

We take refuge in the Dharma. The Dharma is our path. Everything in our life is a constant process of learning and discovering. Everything in our life is to be related to fully. Everything is the path, constantly changing,
constantly becoming something else. There is absolutely nothing that remains the same even for one minute. So we have many ups and downs, many waves in the ocean of our life. Taking refuge in the Dharma means that we relate fully to every single thing that happens.

We take refuge in the Sangha. We know how much it means to us to sit together. The atmosphere is created here by all of us. With our sincere attitude, we strengthen one another. We sit down here together and share a sense of trust. Somebody said, "But what if I cry in the zendo?" Then cry.
You're in wonderful company. We all understand this feeling. "What if I laugh?"
Laugh. You're in wonderful company. It may lighten all our hearts. We're not here to judge you, to say that's bad, you don't do that in the zendo. We trust one another, and we have a large-scale friendship. I may not see you for months at a time, but when I do see you, it's as if we just said hello five minutes ago, good-bye five minutes ago, and we're back again. We have this trust and this friendship, but at the same time we have to stand on our own two feet. We are working together, sitting together, helping each other, but not in a way that we become dependent on each other's help. That would be taking away something very important. We become independent, and then we can really depend on one another. We have a clean, clear friendship, without expectations and without demands.

Every day we chant the Four Great Vows. In chanting them, we are reminded again and again of what our work is. It is an impossible task. How can we sincerely vow to do what we cannot do? These vows are Buddhist vows, and in
Buddhism there is the understanding that the "I" of "I vow," this intentional
"I," is an illusion. So the first realization with these vows is that "I"
cannot undertake anything. And with this, the first step in our path is actualized. "I" is the obstacle; we get rid of it.

So now we put our palms together with a different attitude: not "I"
vowing, but giving myself up to the carrying out of the vow. If this attitude of giving ourselves wholeheartedly and completely is truly practiced in whatever we are doing, the touchiness of "I," the stiffness of the ego, is softened. Just as we experience in sesshin, there is no thought of "I" doing anything. And in this softening, our suffering is decreased.

This softening is also the preparation for the working through of our passions, which we all have. Our emotional reactions, great or small, are aptly called in Buddhism "the fires"—the fire of sadness, the fire of loneliness,
the fire of anger. With the attitude of giving ourselves, we can also give ourselves to the fires, rather than avoiding or refusing them or being carried away by them. Usually we refuse to come into contact with those fires, or we give in and are carried away by them, swept away. We are not willing to suffer their irrational force, and so it remains wild, and in need of humanizing.
Neither refusing nor letting it rip: this is compassion for ourselves. Giving ourselves into the fires again, again, and again. They will consume "me," which is a real purification. They will consume the ego. With the absence of that ego, the fuel is gone, and the fires revert to what they have ever been: our own true Buddha-nature.

The central core of Buddhist practice is
no "I." With this illusion of "I" gone, everything can be seen as it really is:
different, but not separate. There is no clinging, no alienation; just a warm connection with what is. Buddha's teaching began with suffering and the way out of suffering. And he taught us through his own life, his birth, his awakening,
and his death, the way out of loneliness, separation, and the fear of death. If there is no "I," if the shell of "I" is cracked, the liberation of the heart naturally shines forth, and acts in peace and joy for all beings.

This path, so clearly shown to us, is a way out of the illusion of "I,"
a way out of loneliness, separation, and fear of death. Only "I" can fear.
Without "I," there is no fear. It says in the
"No hindrance in the mind, therefore no fear." When that ego-shell is cracked,
the wonderful warmth of the human heart is released. It is liberated; it shines, flows, acts. True Buddhist compassion warms and inspires us on the Way.
True Buddhist wisdom lights our dark places and helps us out of our suffering;
it helps us to feel peace and joy for all beings. At the end of the
Bodhisattva's Vow, we chant, "May we extend this mind over the whole universe,
so that we and all beings together may attain maturity in Buddha's wisdom."
What is our Zen practice, if not this?

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Edward Espe Brown

Acknowledgments xiv

Introduction xvii

The Illusion of "I"
Ordinary Mind
Nothing Extraneous
There Are No Repetitions 16

Giving It Away
Our One and Only Commandment
Breathing In, Breathing Out
Close Attention
Depending on Nothing
The Circumstance Is the Teaching
Building a Temple
Taking It Home
The Taste of Zen
Sesshin Mind, Universal Mind
Peace of Mind
No Big Deal
Daily Life Practice Is the Way
Asking Why
Who Is the Real You?
The Naked Truth
Our Own Light

Time Unfolds
Listening to the Mind
True Seeing
One Act
Not Yet
Forgetting Everything
The Most Intimate Connection
The Last Word

Glossary 147

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