He answered, “Yes, right now. It just happened.”

I started asking him some questions, and he said, “No more questions please, I just said I’m retired.”

It seems funny now, but it actually wasn’t funny at that time. It was a very grave moment, a very solemn moment, because we all knew what it meant for him to release those responsibilities. He was saying that his life was, in a sense, over—it was complete. After that, he moved into the final stages of his life, and into his dying process.

What is it to wear the mourning clothes? It is like painting eyebrows on empty space, to identify with all that we feel, think and experience as “me, myself.” How is it when the mourning clothes are not worn? What kind of activity is this? What kind of “not wearing” is the monk talking about? Who is the one that does not wear the mourning clothes? This is the fundamental matter. This is how we attain peace in the family.

Donshan Asked Yunju, “A great incorrigible kills his father and mother. Where is the filial care?”

Yunju said, “This for the first time fulfills filial care.” He’s not talking about an ordinary death, of course. He’s speaking about spiritual death—of dropping off the body that we received from our parents and realizing our original body—to “kill” all the bonds of attachment that hold us in confinement to the projected self. It means realizing that the mind that was nurtured by our families, that was conditioned by our friends and our culture, is empty. Then we can finally fulfill our filial obligation, to our teacher, and to all beings.

When we realize that our nature is the nature of all things, we realize our mutual identity; the mutually interpenetrating truth which has no name or form. How could we not be obligated to one another? No one stands alone. No one arrives at this place solely by his or her own power. Life is a gift that is a result of mutual causes and conditions. Everything that we accomplish is a result of the gifts of others. The myth of the “self-made person” is a very powerful and romantic story in our country. But it’s also dangerous. From that place of independence—of isolation—we can come to the great illusion that we don’t owe anything to anyone. That’s an inherently painful and unsustainable place. In cutting ourselves off from others, we cut ourselves off from everything.

No one in this room could be here today, practicing this dharma without the help of others. Without the selfless efforts of my teacher I would never have had this life. So many efforts—ten thousand actions— brought us this food, brought us to this very moment; we should know how it comes to us and consider whether our virtue and practice deserve it. We should repay our debts of gratitude with our own selfless efforts.