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Good evening, everybody. I'm quite astonished to see so many people here on Friday night. But I guess I was clever. I put, you know, the topic, relationship, then you could bring a date and have a pretty cheap date, you know, for Friday night. Well, what I would like to do is talk for a while and then open up the floor for discussion. And maybe somewhere in the middle, take a break and just be quiet for a little while. A number of years ago, I was at Gethsemane Abbey, the monastery where Thomas Merton lived


and practiced for many years. Blanche and I were there with a whole bunch of other people. And we would go to the daily office, something I had never experienced. And that's when I discovered something many of you probably have always known or known for many years, which is that the main practice in Catholic monasticism is the recitation of the Psalms. So I was amazed by this because the first thing that impressed me was how terrible and violent and awful the Psalms are. I couldn't believe that this could be somebody's spiritual practice to chant these things. So that startled me and that made me become interested and intrigued. And then as I read the Psalms and looked at them and thought about them and became more


familiar with them, I realized that what they really were was love poems. They're a series of love poems. They remind me of Shakespeare's sonnets. They're poems that chronicle a very troubled and difficult, passionate, deeply passionate relationship between the speaker of the Psalms and God, although because of our not-so-great relationship to the word God, which becomes something like some sort of a public official. God is some sort of public official in the sky, in a very large bureaucracy. So when you read the word God in the Psalms, it tends to obscure the fact that they really are love poems. So when I began fooling around with them, I made my own versions and I hardly ever used


the word God. Instead of the word God, I used the word you, which is the word in our language that most evokes the feeling of relationship. So the Psalms, when you use the word you instead of the word God, become quite different. So I really got into this and I began doodling around and making more and more versions until I had almost a hundred Psalms, a hundred love poems. So I want to read a few of them to give you a flavor, and then I'll go on from there. This is my version of Psalm number 36, not 36, 16. Protect me from fear, for I place my trust only in you. My soul has said, you are my guardian, sole foundation of my happiness, and I will find


my delight in all that is yours on earth. As for all that shuts you out, great will be their sorrow. I will not pour out their offerings, nor call their names, even in my dreams. You, you, only you are my share and my cup. You have drawn my lot and it has fallen out agreeably. Lovely indeed is my estate, my heritage is pleasant to me. I bless you who brought me to this day, and even at night, in the trying times, my trembling body is tethered to you. Your presence is always before me, in all the deeds of my hand. I will not be shaken from it, so my heart rejoices. My spirit is glad and my body rests secure, for you will not abandon my soul to darkness.


You will not suffer me to be overwhelmed in terror. You will teach me the path toward life. Your presence is my sweetest joy. Your right hand, my chief delight, always. Sounds like a love poem, doesn't it? Psalm 19. The heavens express your fire, the night sky is the work of your hands. Day after day is your spoken language, night after night your perfect knowing. There is no speech, there are no words, their voice falls silent, yet the music plays everywhere. To the end of the earth, its clear notes float out. To the end of the world, the words pronounced become a tabernacle for the sun that comes


out like a bridegroom from his chamber, a robust runner to run his day's course. To the end of the heavens he races, and back again he returns, and there is nothing hidden from his heat. Your pattern is perfection. It quiets the soul that knows it, and its eloquent expression makes everything clear, so that even the simple are wise. Your ways are upright, making the heart glad. Your distances are clear, washing out the eyes. Your awesomeness is pure and endures constantly. What you require is just, for it is nothing but the truth, and it is more durable than the finest gold, sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb.


Who serves you is inspired, and following you finds reward. Who is free from all error? You take hold of it and turn it right, and where there is confusion, let me not become entangled, and I will be blameless, clear of any misdirection. May these words of my mouth and these meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, my rock, my release. So, I got very interested in these poems, and really spent a lot of time with them, reading them in the Hebrew, which is very different, the sound of Hebrew. I'm not a Hebraist, so I can't translate them fluently from the Hebrew, but I can hear


the sound of Hebrew, and I know some Hebrew words. So, I could hear how different they seemed in Hebrew from the typical English translations that we have. And they sound, in Hebrew, to me, they have an echo of the feeling of prayer. So, the Catholic monastics say, they say, today I prayed the Psalms. They don't say, recite the Psalms. They say, I prayed the Psalms. And the Psalms, the same Psalms, are one of the main elements of also the Jewish liturgy. There's only one set of Psalms, you know, not the Christian Psalms and the Jewish Psalms. It's just the Psalms. A lot of people don't know that, you know. Psalms, and Christians and Jews both use them in the Jewish prayer service. They're generally chanted in Hebrew, and some of them have gorgeous, gorgeous, heartbreaking melodies.


So, it got me interested in the idea of prayer then, which is a kind of calling out. Prayer is words that are sort of sent out to the universe. The implication is that you're sending out your words to a trusted and utterly reliable other. Maybe they don't answer. Maybe they don't hear. But the nature of them, whoever it is that we're sending our words out, is a trusted and utterly reliable other. And I began to feel that this is something that all human beings really need, somehow, is to call out, to reach out to another who will hear. And somehow, even just in hearing, there's already a comfort. And already something important has happened, even if nobody's fixing anything for you or doing anything in particular.


Just to call out to another and to be heard, to be somehow received, I think that's a real human need. And to me, it completely has to do with the whole language-making faculty that we have. We're speaking to someone, always, even when we're alone. There's that feeling that words are formed because there is an other. And we're reaching out to another with our words, speaking our feeling, our sorrow, our pain, our happiness. And then it occurred to me that this is exactly the source and the root of poetry, too, which I do. I write poetry, and I realize that it's the same feeling, the same thing. Why does anybody, especially with poetry that very few people are interested in or read, why would you bother?


But you have to do it because you need to. Just the same way, why would you say a prayer, really, if you don't get results, why would you do it? Well, because you need to do it. So I realized that, and the obvious fact, I never really thought of it before, the obvious fact that the psalms are the source of Western poetry, along with early Greek poems, the psalms are the earliest source of the lyric in Western culture. This is a poem I wrote today. It Takes Peace and Quiet is the name of the poem. It takes peace and quiet sometimes to learn one thing so it can be forgotten. Nearly dimmer than later, a stupor sets in whenever I toll this bell that lingers.


And is limber, I can touch the runners as they course by carrying something too hot to touch. But you can't not wonder, for you need the food. How they make their rounds upon lilting numbers, their words abstract upon their hearths. I do not know and cannot count, only reconcile their books and plunder, and call out on high for help. Really? All right, it's short. It takes peace and quiet sometimes to learn one thing so it can be forgotten. Nearly dimmer than later, a stupor sets in whenever I toll this bell that lingers.


And is limber, I can touch the runners as they course by carrying something too hot to touch. But you can't not wonder, for you need the food. How they make their rounds upon lilting numbers, their words abstract upon their hearths. I do not know and cannot count, only reconcile their books and plunder, and call out on high for help. So this is, you know, words reaching out to the beyond. Not to a person, particularly. Not to a person. But still, in a way, the amazing thing is that we do exactly the same thing with human beings in our human relationships. The model of the relationship of the psalms, reaching out with words to a reliable other,


is exactly what we do in our personal relationships as well. So I began to think about that, about how, in a way, all our speech, speaking to one another, is perhaps, at least seems to us, to be a less exalted and yet similar kind of thing that we also need to do. So, you know, the relationship to God that we see in the psalms is kind of the ultimate, perfect, theoretically perfect human relationship. Because God is by definition that which is not corrupt, unreliable. You know, people are very corrupt and unreliable. Literally, they become corrupt, they grow old, they decay, their bodies get saggy and everything. They might change their feelings, they might be out to lunch when you call them.


You know what I mean? People are really unreliable. But God is by definition that which is utterly and totally trustworthy and reliable. God doesn't change or grow old or go away or divorce you or something. So anyway, but it occurred to me that the same feeling that one finds in the psalms is also the sort of rock bottom, at the bottom, the feeling and essence of our human relationships. And then, so this is, I'm thinking about all this, I'm sort of summarizing, you know, three years maybe of study and thinking and musing. And then in the midst of all that, I somehow stumbled again into the work of Martin Buber, who I'd read and was influenced by when I was a college student a long time ago. And he's, I think, pretty out of style.


I don't think anybody reads Martin Buber anymore. Although if you probably use bookstores, you find many copies of his works because people read them a long time ago and they got rid of the books and they're hanging around in the bookstore because nobody's buying them. But I found some copies of I and Thou and began reading it and I was completely astonished at how beautiful it was and how relevant it was and how true it was. So I began studying and going into much thinking about Buber. And many of you are aware of his fundamental idea, his relationship. The fundamental idea is that there's a certain kind of relationship between one and another in which the two cease to be objects to each other, fulfilling each other's needs or negotiating something between them, but they actually encounter each other.


And in encountering each other, something transcendent happens. And he has a beautiful way of speaking of this in I and Thou. And he says that this encounter, regardless of what it is one encounters, whether it could be a person, it could be, he mentions like nature, you could see a tree or have a relationship with a cloud or an art object. And I would add to that even a feeling within oneself, a feeling within the body or a thought. That kind of encounter and relationship is the essence of the spiritual, whether you're relating to a person or God, it makes no difference. When the relationship goes that deep, that's what is really spiritual. His life was a life of the emphasis of relationship, dialogue, conversation, encounter.


And his works are really pretty terrific. And I recommend, you know, that everybody, this is my idea, I'm going to campaign to everybody to rediscover Martin Buber and reissue his books, of which there are many, many books. So I wrote a talk from all of that that I would now like to, I wasn't planning to give you this talk, but I was trying to figure out what I was going to speak about tonight. And I found this talk and I thought it seemed interesting to me, so I thought, why not? It saved me a lot of trouble, you know. So I'm going to share with you this talk. The title of it is, All Real Living is Meeting. All Real Living is Meeting, which is a line from I and Thou. So a lot of it says what I, some of it, it begins with just what I'm saying,


that how I recently reread I and Thou and how much it meant to me. I was surprised by it. And also I was surprised by how much the ideas of the book, although I had totally forgotten them, had influenced my life and shaped my life. I wouldn't have said that if you asked me, but rereading it I felt that way, because I must have somehow so thoroughly absorbed its message that I completely forgot about it and I kind of became it, you know, which happens. And that probably explains why, although I've spent most of my life, most of my adult life, in the essentially monastic life of Zen practice, without batting an eyelash I got married and we had a family right away and it never struck me as contradictory or problematic or anything. It just seems quite natural. So, to summarize again, the essential notion in Buber's I and Thou,


he says, and I'm going to follow relatively closely his argument, although you should read it because it's very beautiful. He was, they say that if you could read Buber in German, he's a wonderful stylist in German, one of his great works is a translation of the Bible into German, which is supposed to be one of the great literary works in German. Anyway, he says that human beings exist in one of two modes, one of two basic attitudes. One of them is called, actually he calls them, interestingly enough, words. We speak two words, one of two words on any given occasion. And the two words are, one word is, I, it, even though it's two words, he just calls it a word, I, it,


and the other word is, I, you, or I, thou, I, you. He says, now apart from these two words, I, it, I, you, there is no I, there's only I, there's only the I of I, it, or I, you. Alone, there is no I. So, when we say I, it's always either really I, it, or I, you. Every moment of our lives, it's one or the other. So, what is this, I, it, and I, you? I, it is relationship at arm's length. Two objects, separate and isolated, come together across the divide between them for the purpose of accomplishing something, getting something. From my own standpoint, everything that I meet is it, other. I have to deal with it, and I have to find my place in relation to it,


and I try to absorb it, use it, make sure I'm not used by it, win the contest. So, I, it is the usual way that we relate to everything and everyone, sometimes even to ourselves, in this world. It's a relationship based on separation and fear, on distance and manipulation. I, it is a bordered, cramped encounter, and it's always partial. One line in I, Thou is, I, it, Boomer says, can never be said with one's whole being, only partially, only part of your being can say I, it. So, that's what I, it is. I, you, on the other hand, he says, is borderless, limitless relationship, a relationship that can only be said, a word that can only be said,


by contrast, with one's whole being. Therefore, wherever there's I, you, there's a profound encounter, and everything is called into question. So, there are no objects or no experiences in the instance of I, you. There's no instrumentality, there's no time, no space, he says all these things. There's only the connection itself, only the relation itself. And this is a quote from the book, whoever says you, does not have something. He has nothing, but he stands in relation. So, as I said earlier, for Boomer, this I, you relation is the realm of religion, a realm so ineffable, it's beyond experience. He makes a big point of this, it's not an experience, he says, not even a mystical experience, kind of anti-mystical,


he doesn't believe in mystical experience, only in relation. Because this I, you is not an experience at all, it's a relation, it's a realm of ultimate truth and ultimate responsibility, it's not some fantastic experience that we have, it's a kind of, calls us into question and into relationship and into responsibility. With I, you, any sense of one's isolated separateness falls away, there is only the I as constituted and created, co-created by the you. So Boomer points out that, so we could all hear this and say, oh boy, I want to live in the I, you realm. But he says, you can't do that. You can't, I mean, you can't only live there. Life has to have its instrumental, practical dimension. In order to live in the world as we know it,


all of us, once in a while, sometimes, maybe many hours of the day, have to live in the I, it world. Because without the I, it relationship, without the I, it word, without speaking that word, there's no way to get through the day, pay the bills, advance in learning, negotiate arrangements, and so forth. But if we only live in I, it, then we're not fulfilling our destiny as human beings. Our lives are hollow and complete. So we can't not live in I, it, but if we only live in I, it, then we really live lives that are hollow and unhappy. So that's Buber. Now in the meditation traditions, we seem to be dealing with something quite different from this. We seem to be plunging ourselves into ourselves, sitting on our cushions, emphasizing my own feelings and thoughts, which are unique and different from everyone else's.


Any question of relationship seems like way beside the point. When we're sitting down on our cushions, when we're emphasizing our meditation practice. And I think that it's really true. You could say that in general, Buddhism in general and Zen in particular, while they're strong on inner cultivation, tend to be a little on the weak side when it comes to relationships. And I remember one of the Buber classes I gave, John Wellwood, who's a psychologist and a Buddhist teacher. I was talking to him and he was saying that he was also reading Buber and finding it very interesting. So we met together and he came to one of my Buber classes and we had a very interesting discussion about this. Because he's writing about this, about how Buddhism is weak on relationship.


And other traditions, psychology or even Judeo-Christian religion is much stronger on the question of relationships. After all, in Buddhism the model practitioner is the Buddha, who lived his life as a wandering monk and preached constantly the virtues of silence, solitude and celibacy. So it seems like, you know, pretty different. Kettle of fish. However, if you really look a little more closely at the actual process of meditation, especially as we understand it in our own Zen tradition, and at the same time, if you think through more deeply and more carefully the nature of relationship, I think the picture is a little different. For many years, like many of you,


I've contemplated the stories of the enlightenment of many of the great Zen masters. And it is a curious but very noticeable fact that none of the moments of transcendence occur in silent meditation. They always occur in a moment of encounter, in a moment of relation. When consciousness is impacted by an object that appears to be outside, and then all of a sudden it's revealed not to be a separate thing outside, that is the moment of awakening in these stories. Then you see with thundering clarity that there are no separate things, that that which appeared to be and has always been seen as absolutely separate is not separate. That is the sort of typical trope of enlightenment in the Zen stories.


These moments in the stories usually happen in relation to people. Somebody says something, or somebody hears something said by someone else. Typically a teacher says something, a disciple becomes awakened by those words. But sometimes it's not really in relation to another person, sometimes it's in relation to a sound or a visual object, even sometimes a mental object as the sixth ancestor is awakened hearing a sound of the sutra and thinking about the sutra. In any case, whatever the relationship is, it's something that appears to be outside is seen not to be outside. It is this sudden merging of outside and inside as one that actually is the content of the enlightenment experience. So in a sense then, if you think about this,


the Zen enlightenment experience isn't an experience of the absolute. It's instead the collapse of the absolute into the relative and vice versa, which sounds a whole lot like Buber's I.U. philosophy. And also, in my own life, it's been my personal experience that meditation practice doesn't isolate or remove someone from warm relations with the world around. Quite the contrary, if you practice for a long time, what we can call in terms of my talk tonight, the I.U. relationship with the breath, with one's own thoughts, with the sensations in one's own body, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables,


if you practice that way, which I think really is our instruction in Zazen, then eventually this leads to a tremendous feeling of intimacy with the whole world and with all the creatures that are in it, who are now no longer seen as threatening, but rather as constituting one's own reality. This is myself. So in Zen, the word intimacy, literally the word intimacy, is given as a synonym for enlightenment. And that's why in Mahayana Buddhism, bodhicitta, or the spontaneous vow to practice endlessly and solely for the benefit of others, with a warm and affectionate feeling, is the essence of the practice, taking precedence over any personal quest for liberation.


And I'm convinced, from my own experience and of many people that I've seen over the years, that the practice of meditation, carried out with sincerity and simplicity over time, does make a person softer, warmer, and more capable of the kind of relationship that Buber spoke of. Still, it's not that simple, of course, as any of us who are in intimate relationships realize. While meditation practice does provide a way toward the possibility of closeness with the world and with other people, human relationships are never simple. They're always difficult and fraught with peril. It may be wonderful to see a cherry blossom in bloom


and become that cherry blossom. It may also be wonderful to gaze into the eyes of one's lover and become him or her. But to remain in relationship to that lover over a period of time, day in and day out, through thick and thin, then things get a little more difficult. Which is why I think that difficulty is very fruitful for spiritual practice. One of the things that I really find an endlessly happy experience is looking at a baby. Especially if it's your own baby, but any baby will do, actually. You see the perfect fingers. Astonishing, you know, little tiny fingers.


Absolutely perfect. And the little toes, so perfect with their precise nails. And the intense expression on the face. Soulful, without any posturing or defensiveness. The soft, round little body, always moving somehow. Or if not moving somehow, then totally in repose. A picture of pristine humanness that I think is delightful to every human being who would take the trouble to look, to really look. And, you know, the favorite sport of new parents is sitting there and watching. Hours on end. This little creature. Where did it come from? How could such a gorgeous thing exist in this world? How come it looks just like Uncle Harry this moment and the next moment,


just like Aunt Rose, and they're on different sides of the family? How can that be? How can it already have such a clear personality, two minutes after he or she is born, and at the same time be so completely unformed as a person? So you see, spend time with a little baby, and you really could get very confused quickly about what our life is all about, how it is. And everything that one does during the day seems quite pale by comparison with this little person's tremendous impulse just to exist, which is all it's doing, 24 hours a day. And when you look at a baby like that, you feel, I think, the feeling of love, which is such a healing, beautiful feeling,


and it melts your heart, and you lose yourself in it, in wonder, because the baby evokes an experience of pure human possibility. She, this little baby, just came up a few months ago out of the empty era and bears still the marks of it, the pure skin, the soft limbs, the perfect features, clear and unadulterated karma before the formation of a complicated sense of self with all the messy anxieties and complicated desires that we all inevitably develop sooner or later. And a very similar feeling to that comes upon us when we fall in love, which is a rare and special event in human life. At that time, the person who we're in love with,


at that first blush of being in love, doesn't look like just another person in this world. She's a little brighter, he's a little brighter and a little more present than that which is surrounding. The person then becomes the occasion of, the actual location of something unlimited, some feeling of connection and destiny that has the power to dissolve our habitual loneliness and isolation. And we just cannot get around the powerful feeling that we feel at that time and that distracts us day and night. We can go without sleep even sometimes when we're in the throes of such feelings. We're existing in a special zone of delight as a result of this encounter with the unexpected force of love.


Which is the subject of almost all songs, most stories, and in a little bit twisted way, soap operas too. They all sell copies because they feed on our, either our memory of this moment or our longing for it. So we want to hear the song, we want to read the novel, we want to see the movie. So you could say in a way, and I don't think it would be too far-fetched, that these powerful and yet temporary experiences are flashes of enlightenment, flashes of bodhicitta, the oceanic impulse toward enlightenment. Not only for oneself but for others, for all beings that I mentioned earlier.


Unlike everything else in our lives, bodhicitta is not a creation of ego. We don't decide we're going to fall in love with someone or we don't decide we're going to have this feeling when we look at a child. It happens willy-nilly. It's a force of nature. We can't even say it exists in the ordinary sense of the word. It's something that lifts us up, releases us from all that holds us to earth. It just happens. Although we don't know what it is, we can only feel ourselves being overcome by it. In Buddhism, they say that love is generated by two equally powerful impulses called emptiness and compassion. We could also call them wonder and warmth.


Emptiness points to the miraculous nature of phenomena, that things are not what they appear to be. That they are, rather than separate, connected. That they are, rather than fixed in heavy fluid and light. And when we see a baby, when we look into the face of our beloved, we know that the way we've been conditioned to perceive the world isn't right. That the world actually isn't a problematic, fearful challenge. It's actually a beautiful gift. And we're at the center of it. Right in the middle of it. All the time. The world is an IU world. And this is a physical experience. So compelling that we are overcome with an urge to just throw ourselves into another person.


And then through that person, to the whole world. We want to pour ourselves out of ourselves and into the other person. As if our body was water. So love is naturally connected with the sexual. We don't love with our minds, not even with our hearts, because these things are abstractions. Whole bodies love. Naturally, we want to cuddle, kiss, touch, hold, feel the literal warmth of the other person penetrating our body. So you really want to hold your child next to you. Next to your cheek, next to your breast. You want to lie down with your child at bedtime or naptime. Kiss goodnight, maybe together fall asleep.


That's a wonderful thing. And the parents love this, the child loves it. It's an important experience, this big feeling of peaceful security, of belonging and feeling warmth. And you can spend your life wishing to return to that feeling and missing it your whole life through. And in the same way, it's utterly relieving and necessary to fall into the sexual embrace with the beloved, to enter each other with warmth and delight and finally peaceful release. And it takes a lot of trust to give yourself in this way without holding anything back. It's a form of liberation. No sense of control or reserve or separateness.


No feeling that there's somebody there who could stand aloof and somehow manipulate this thing. So, I think all that I'm saying is true to life, and I think you know that. But I think you also would have to admit that it's not what most of us experience most of the time. Maybe sexuality is the natural expression of a pure and selfless love, but also, in the deep economy of human emotion, it becomes different things according to conditions. And the body only seldom operates in the pure service of selflessness or often the liberative signals that are always potentially present because we can at any moment fall in love with the whole world,


get distorted by confusion of ego, and we become conditioned to see sexuality as a replacement for so much else in our lives that we need but we're unable to get. So, sexuality becomes a way. Probably nothing in this life produces more self-deception than sexuality. And when sexuality becomes deeply self-deception, self-deceiving, it becomes dark, and nothing can cause more suffering than sexuality. I think the Buddha had an enormous respect for sexuality. He really understood its power in human life. And he saw how disastrous it could be


if it was operating under the power of our confusion and attachment. And I'm sure that he felt that although the spiritual path naturally and beautifully contains an erotic element, the chances for perversion of the erotic are tremendous. And that's why he taught the practice of celibacy as a path toward love. And I would say that celibacy has to be a path toward love. And if it's not a loving and warm practice, then I think it's misguided celibacy. Then it's just a justification for a coldness or distance that we naturally feel. Maybe because we're afraid of others, so we choose to be celibate. But the true celibate practitioner is someone free because he or she is not attached to one person or a particular set of persons


to develop a universal love and warmth that includes self and everyone, all held in the way. For those of us who don't choose the path of celibacy, the challenge becomes to include our significant other or our families as a part of our practice, as exactly a path for the development of a wider and broader love not just for these people, but for everything. Because the fact of the matter is that there's no way that actual love, as it grows and develops and matures, can remain exclusive in that way. There's a tendency to see love in a limited way. In other words, if we love or are loyal to one person or group,


then we can't love or be loyal to another. But this is a perversion of love's real nature. Because its salient characteristic is its limitlessness. That's the salient characteristic of love, its limitlessness. And it starts local, but it becomes universal. Finding through the local, the universal. If that natural process becomes subverted, then love becomes something small and narrow. It has to grow or it falls. It can't be reduced or hemmed in. Rilke writes of this tragic narrowing that love of another person can become. In the Eighth Duino Elegy, in that elegy he's talking about this term he calls the open.


Which is very similar, I think, to what Buber meant by I-U. The open, the expansive. He's talking about that. He says, Lovers, if the beloved were not there blocking the view, are close to it and marvel. As if by some mistake it opens for them behind each other. The lovers are blocking the view and it's opening behind the lover. But neither can move past the other. And it changes back to world. So that's mostly what happens. Love opens us up enormously, but then the door inside soon shuts. And the initial impulse, limitless impulse becomes reduced.


And we find ourselves somehow needing to domesticate the beloved. As if we could make them known and predictable, subject to our needs, possessible. Then there's jealousy, selfishness, disappointment, desire to control, fear of change. What was in the beginning powerful love becomes a kind of conspiracy of smallness. And nothing is more common among long-lasting and seemingly successful relationships than this embattled holding on to the past in a way that is usually quite unhappy. And it's debatable whether this is preferable to the endless seeking for the perfect mate that goes on among those who see divorce or breakup or never making a commitment as a better remedy for the inner restlessness. So this is usually what happens.


And yet, given despite the terrible odds, we're all out there trying to get this thing worked out. You'd think that people would say, this is too hard, it's nearly impossible, why try? And yet, everybody's always trying to make this thing work. One more try, let's try, I'm so lonesome, let's go out. I know I'm 78, I know I'm 90, but still, you never know. Never too late. Hope springs eternal. But I think that the way around all this is to conceive of oneself as practicing renunciation within the context of a loving relationship. In other words, within our own feeling, making up our mind that our love is such that we are willing if it were necessary, to give up the beloved,


to recognize that we will never be able to really understand or know him or her, or in any sort of absolute sense, be able to depend on him or her any more than we can depend on our own body or on the weather. The beloved is absolutely a mystery and as such is unpossessable. So to give up him or her is not a matter of sacrifice. If we had our eyes open from the start, we would have seen that the real vision of love was showing us this all along, that things are fleeting, that they're created fresh every moment, and then they're gone. So the miracle of love between two people or within a family is something precious and very brief. Any human relationship just lasts a moment,


and we're together for some time, and then inevitably we part. And to really love someone is to never forget this every single day, to see the preciousness of the beloved and of the time we have together, to renounce any clinging need for or dependency on the other, and to make the effort to open up our hands so that instead of holding on, we're nurturing and supporting. Sometimes people think, well, in the face of this fleeting nature of feelings, how could you ever make a commitment to something? How could you ever commit yourself in a relationship if that's all true? And it seems logical that you either deny impermanence and assert an undying vow, or you accept impermanence and you move on when everything's changed.


But it's exactly impermanence that inspires commitment. Exactly because things always change, and we cannot stop that from happening, we give rise to a vow to remain faithful to love, because love is the only thing that is in harmony with change, because love is change. It's the movement and color of the world. It's a feeling of constancy, openness and appreciation for the wonder of the world, a feeling that we can be true to no matter what circumstances may bring. So this might sound impossibly idealistic, but I actually think it's the most practical thing, and there really isn't any other way, that's what I think. To respect the beloved, to give and ask for nothing in return,


in the faith that what we need will be provided without our insisting on it too much. To do that may seem like the work of a saint, but really I think it's the only way. And in order to do that we have to condition our ego, to soften its edges, so it's more pliable and more fearless, fearless enough to be open to whatever comes, and to be permissive, in the best sense of that word, for another. And I think that describes, to me, basic spiritual practice. So I think for most of us, because most people don't have the talent or ability to make a commitment to celibacy, so for most of us, the journey of a loving relationship,


although it's very difficult, is our best chance to develop bodhicitta. In Mahayana Buddhism this seemingly impossible and unlimited aspiration for the enlightenment of all is the heart of the practice, the beginning and the end of the practice. And it seems only logical that if you want to develop a limitless love for all beings you should start small and work your way up. Take one being and go from there. Doesn't that make sense? You've got to start somewhere. You've got to have somebody to practice on. If you want to love all sentient beings, try loving one, or two or three. To really find a way, despite all the things that life brings, to actually love your lover or your husband, your wife, your child. And taking that on, not as something one takes for granted,


but as one of life's most worthwhile and challenging projects, is a noble thing, and it is possible. We know it's possible because we have all felt one time or another in our lives the power of the force of love, even if we might have forgotten it. Well, that's the end of my talk. And you're very patient to sit there all this time. It's a little bit longer than I thought it was. So I think now what we should all do is get up and stretch and sort of move around for a moment and then we can sit down again and talk. Where's the wine and cheese?


Thank you.