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Wednesday talk.
Ecopsychology; desires, needs, narcissism; nurturing through zazen.

AI Summary: 



Good evening. After the bows just now and getting the robes arranged neatly and sitting down, as I was getting my robes folded up, I thought, oh, there's going to be a Dharma talk tonight. I wonder who's giving it. Everybody was sitting down, you know, for the talk. So this Dharma talk is the last Wednesday night Dharma talk of the practice period. Next Wednesday we'll be hearing from the Shuso in the morning. We'll have a Dharma talk in the morning, and in the evening we'll sit, and then there'll be a precept ceremony


for the Shuso, which is, it's traditional for the Shuso, it's a kind of ordination, this whole practice period for the Shuso, like a two-month ceremony, or 90-day ceremony, a tathsara. And it's traditional that the person leading the practice period, if they haven't received the precepts from that person, that they receive it sometime during the practice period, the precepts. So we'll be doing that next week. So this is our last Wednesday night talk for a while. And I want to continue to talk about karma and also some other points, some other


issues, some other practice practices that I want to bring up with you tonight. So, a couple of people have mentioned to me that they've experienced some feeling that's unusual for them, of not feeling competent, not feeling competent. And I think that's an interesting point to bring up, and I realized I didn't know what the word competent meant. What does that really mean? So I looked it up, and it comes from the word


compete, to compete. And to compete is to strive or contend with another or others as for profit or a prize. That's to compete. And competent has four different meanings. Properly or well-qualified, capable is competent, adequate for the purpose, suitable, sufficient, and in the law, to be competent means legally qualified or admissible. Competent witness is admissible. Rightly or properly belonging or permissible. And it comes from


the Latin competere which means to strive together. The com is together and the petere is to seek or to strive. And then looking further into the origins of the word, the root is pet, p-e-t, which means to rush or fly. And it's associated with the word feather in Old English and penna is feather in Latin, so there's a connection there. And petere in Latin, to go towards, to seek, and other words that are in this cluster are petition, petulant, appetite, impetus, perpetual, repeat, So,


in reflecting about what it is to not feel competent or to feel competent, and what this is turning on became of interest to me, and it began, I like to feel that this feeling of not being competent is associated with beginner's mind, just actually not being the expert, not, really not knowing, and then, and the associated feelings that sometimes come along with not knowing, it may not be awe and wonder and isn't this great, but there's some pain involved in that, and especially if we're pretty capable, usually, seem to be, lots of different places, lots of different parts of our life, so,


so how come we're not competent in every aspect of our life, you know? Why isn't it true, if we're in one, that we can just have that ... just draw on our competency and just in all areas? But I think what we find is our our practice life is is so deep, actually, that it touches our most, just the deepest parts of our life, which may not have been touched in a long time, which may not have been honored or listened to or given any space


while we've been very assiduously being competent, you know, and capable and following through in a lot of different areas of our life. So, just leaving that hanging, and I'll see if I can tie this all together at the end. There's a lot of work being done on the visioning of Zen Center right now, and one of the committees that I'm on, aside from the vision committee itself and the Abbots Council


and Emerging Sanghas Group, I'm also on the Environmental Committee, and we're looking at that one of our goals has to do with environmental health and bringing the principles of environmental health and stewardship, I think we said, embedding that in all areas of Zen Center's life. Let's see, I wrote it down. Establishing environmental health and stewardship as a fundamental principle of Zen Center and ensuring environmental health is a primary value that's involved in all sorts of decisions of, you know, decisions we make about the institution, you know, buildings and choices, all sorts of choices, having environmental health be


a value that's in the forefront. So I happen to read this essay in a book called Eco-Psychology. Eco-Psychology, Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. There's a number of psychologists, many from the Bay Area actually, who are ecologists and psychologists and work with those issues in kind of one integrated way. And this article I was reading about was bringing up the enormous degradation and destroying of the earth


through consumerism. And this right now is, this is, these two months right now that we're in, the next coming months are, you know, this enormous holiday season time which many people have a great deal of concern about. A great deal of difficulty with a lot of, all sorts of things go on for people, feeling, you know, left out, feeling, people get very depressed during these times. And in looking at the connection between our own states of mind and difficulties and the kind of religion of consumerism that we are surrounded by so thoroughly and so pervasively


that it is very confusing. Part of this article was saying that after World War I, I think, it was, there wasn't this big push for consuming goods. People were satisfied with making do, you know, they were kind of kind of settled, you know, values about making do, using what's old, and those kinds of things. And so industry felt like, well, this will never do because how are we going to make money? People are using old things, patching what they've got, you know, not getting new stuff. So they kind of, the advertising world was born, it was kind of born in order to, you know, for corporate profits and so forth. And then the creation of needs


and wants and desires had to be very assiduously put forth, you know. And now we're so used to it, we're numb to this pervasive selling being directed at us at all times, in all places. Wow. But I found that very interesting, that it wasn't, that wasn't a kind of shared understanding that you needed to get the latest and the newest, and it was a different ethos, maybe. Value. I've been talking with a number of people, I have a friend who's reading The Little House on the Prairie books to her daughter, and those of you who read those books, either out loud to a child or read them as a young person yourself, might remember that those books, like at this time of year, Christmas time, holiday time,


they would make their gifts, you know, and it was described, maybe they would make a hanky, you know, and hem the edges and maybe embroider a little flower on it for Mama, you know. That would be the gift, and it was done over time and hiding it so nobody would know, and then, or, you know, they got one piece of candy, you know, and an orange. And, and it was a joyful, happy time, you know. This, it's very hard, you know, to be in the tide of this onslaught, you know, of and pressure to give what you don't have the means to give,


or don't want to, and yet there's family and friends that would feel thus and so if you didn't, and, and all of it doesn't actually meet our true self, you know, doesn't actually satisfy the whole, there can be a gift that is accepted, that's true, that's a true, I'm not saying, please, I'm not making a pitch for no gifts, or not expressing your generosity, but to be able to sort through this, this morass and swirl that we're in. Those of you who are not leaving the valley, you know, right now, you don't feel it, maybe, quite strongly. So this invention of


desires and needs that we don't necessarily generate on our own, I remember this at Tassajara, one could get by and be very happy, in fact, the happiest, maybe, of my entire life, living very, very simply. And then, the L.L. Bean catalogue would come, and I would take a look at it, and all of a sudden, I had all these needs, you know, all these desires would be from the conditions of looking at the pictures, and, oh, you can get it in both avocado and aubergine. I think I need an aubergine turtleneck, you know, mine's getting a little old. But you could go for weeks and months without necessarily feeling you needed a new turtleneck. And everybody else down at Tassajara also, you know, you dress warmly, you dress for the season,


you wore your robes, mended your robes, and happiness or joy was not dependent on having the latest gadget or technology or it just occurred to me now, then, if you went to the city, I remember wearing my best Tassajara day-off dinner outfit, and the closer I got to San Francisco, the shabbier and stained and strange it was, you know. This is our conceptual, you know, this is our story. So this advertising world and the this is playing on samsara, you know. This is playing up and using samsara,


meaning desires are inexhaustible, but forgetting about I vow to put an end to them, just desires are inexhaustible. Okay, let's see what we can do. And there's, I heard a statistic, there were like 12,000 new products put into a year, put into just supermarkets and drugstores and, you know, like a Walgreens, drugstores alone. And they weren't all that new, new packaging, new different label or cinnamon flavor or, you know, desires are inexhaustible. But for us, what is it that gets caught by that? That is actually drawn to it and intrigued by it and actually can fool ourselves into thinking we do, we certainly do need this, that and the other. in this article


it was talking about the false self and narcissism and I wanted to just look at this a little bit with you because I found it quite fascinating. Narcissism comes from the Greek myth about Narcissus, right? And just to remind you, you may know the story, but the Narcissus flower in Greek, in Greece, is different from what we call Narcissus. It's a kind of purple flower with silver and Persephone, when she went down into the underworld, if you know that story, she was gathering flowers and she saw this flower and it was the Narcissus. So it's very beautiful, I guess. I actually don't know exactly what it looks like. And that's the one that she grabbed and then the chasm opened up in one version, in the post-Hellenic version where she was, you know, enticed to go down


into the underworld by Hades. The pre-Hellenic version, she goes on her own. She decides to go down into the dark for her own reasons. So that Narcissus flower, and it comes from the story of Narcissus. And Narcissus was a most beautiful young man. He was extraordinarily beautiful and all the young ladies and probably young gentlemen, too, that he knew fell in love with him. But he would have nothing to do with anybody. He would spurn anybody's attentions. And the young ladies that mostly they tell about in the story tried to get his attention, but he just had nothing to do with them. One of the young ladies who was very interested in him was named Echo. And she


had fallen into disfavor with Hera, the wife of Zeus, who was always on the lookout for who Zeus might be chasing after. And she thought Echo was the one, so she made a kind of, she made Echo not be able to speak first. Echo could only speak and say what somebody else said. So Echo was very interested in Narcissus, but she couldn't speak first, so she followed him into the forest. And she heard him say, oh yeah. So Narcissus was by himself in the forest and he was called out, is anyone here? And she said, here, here, here. And then he said,


well come. And she said, come, come. And she came. And then he spurned her again. It's like, oh, I don't want to spend time with you. And this hurt her so much that she kind of just went into a cave and just kind of curled up and that's where she is all the time. You can find her there, you know, if you call into a cave, right? And then one of the goddesses, Nemesis, and the name of that goddess, as you know, means righteous anger. The great goddess Nemesis got really annoyed and really angry at Narcissus for doing this, for being so mean to everybody. So she cursed him or changed him so that he would only fall in love with his own,


with himself and nobody else. But he wouldn't be able to get himself, right? So, what happened was Narcissus was going to go for a drink in the pond and he put his face down and he saw this beautiful himself, how beautiful he was. And yet, he couldn't get himself and he gazed and gazed and gazed and couldn't leave himself. Didn't want to leave this image. He was so captivated by his own self. And he realized that he could only be free from this captivation through death. And he died there leaning perpetually over the pool, fixed with one long gaze. He couldn't do anything but that. And Echo kind of watched from the sidelines and he said


farewell to himself and she called farewell, farewell. That's Narcissus. So, we have this term narcissism and narcissism as a kind of a psychological concept refers to I can say this clearly, narcissism is born of the fact that our own needs, our own authentic self and what we truly are interested in and need is not reflected back to us. And the needs of others, parents or other caretakers are what's important and our own needs are disregarded.


And so pretty soon our own feelings and needs and wants and desires, because they're not taken care of or honored or acknowledged, they begin to be in order to receive approval and love from others, parents, those get buried, you know. Our true self gets buried and we create what's called a false self that's doing what others want to see us do and pleasing others and then of course we get their approval and their love, so it has some kind of advantage there, but the damage or the loss of one's own true, it gets so buried that we don't even know what our


authentic self might be, because we've completely identified as our own what others want from us. We actually can't distinguish. So we're constantly in narcissism striving to meet the standards of others and it's endless, of course. And then the false self takes on others standards and then it doesn't matter what the external. We have so incorporated it and internalized it that we have our own high standards that are often impossibly high that we


can't ever meet and so there's this enormously painful situation of our own false self demanding of us something, our inability to meet it and the authentic or our true self is, we don't even know what it is. And there's often along with this false self, true self is a feeling of unworthiness and incompetency maybe or that has to be kept from anybody's view. so to compensate for that, compensate and competency, there's often along with narcissism is a kind of overblown entitlement, demand, wanting our wishes fulfilled exactly and feeling the world owes us. This is


very complicated from this kind of internal not feeling worthy, compensating by demanding and the whole thing being unsatisfying and so you take a person like that or a nation like that, that's been inculcated and you know propagandized to believe that what we have already and who we are is inadequate, is not beautiful enough and not smells good enough and not smart enough and not you know we get that from all sides and then part of this little vicious circle is but we've got the answer for you, we've got the


if you just get this or buy that or keep up on this and so this so the consumerism and the needing to have things, external things, to take care of this part that can't be taken care of in that way and the pressure to do it that way in order to feel okay about ourselves. So along with this often our feelings of depression and not


being with willing to look at this but just on the wheel you know the thing about samsara is that's why I say advertising and consumerism is like it uses the law of samsara because samsara built in is if this didn't work just try harder or try this one if only you know that's part of samsara so using that. So when we begin to dismantle this false self we actually


see through that this isn't working this isn't helping this doesn't actually meet my true self when we have some we can't even put it in words sometimes but something has met our true self. For me it was zazen you know I couldn't have said it in that kind of language but I felt it was something I could have confidence in something I could that wasn't about you're not okay so let me give you this so you'll be okay it was you are okay you're completely okay and now you can realize that this is you know basic basic Buddhist teaching that you know it comes as it's like the good news you know in the swirl of how much we aren't okay and smart enough and beautiful enough


but along with that is this pain of kind of looking at all our edifices all my edifices that I constructed about what what's going to be okay what's going to get approval what's going to keep me safe and part of it was being you know things like competition you know like being the one who I remember I told somebody this going into a class in college and looking around and saying I can I can beat all these people yeah well that that kind of thought has nothing to do with you know friendship interconnectedness harmony joining hands to you know learn together or something no it was you know if it's on if the grading's on a curve well I can I'll beat


them and I did you know I did whatever it took with my coffee pot and my cigarettes you know so this is very painful but dismantling it is also painful you know and there's painful feelings that arise remorse regrets great sadness you know can arise as we there's a lot of pain in looking at all those parts of ourselves that haven't been included you know that have been shunned pushed aside suppressed and all that stuff and then how do we nourish that part


of ourselves or our true selves and I think our practice nourishes our true self what it's uh and many other things nourish our true self as well like uh being in nature for example and good conversation and being closer to uh objects of the world you know handling things with care this is all very nourishing but the competere is to strive together to and I think uh you know there's nothing to matter with being competent and we


are competent it's what is true competence what is true striving together rather than competing or against with rivals you know and also this um what I said about there had to be a fostering of desires you know because there was and in many cultures uh I remember when I went to Italy when I was um 21 and I what I found out is that Italian women had like one outfit you know one very nice suit and they would wear that out you know they would wear that daily and it was kept clean and and I brought this trunk you know I was going


for a year you gotta have a trunk full of clothes but I ended up not wearing them I wanted to do the Italian way you have a few things so um and Buddhist you know Buddhist order the monks and nuns had you know it was very prescribed you had a needle medicine and a certain number of under robes and an over robe I don't remember exactly maybe it changed through the years but there was just one to wash and one to wear you know so there is you know models for this and I'm not saying that we necessarily um have one needle and three three outfits or something but to to actually look at what satisfies and


study it you know so that's so um I wanted to read something from Suzuki Roshi about karma and about I feel this ties in because it has to do with this thriving and gaining ideas about so much and also Bodhidharma in the four ways to enter practice the first is enduring the fruits of our actions enduring our the effects of our karmic actions enduring fruits of past actions the second is according according with causes and conditions the third is not seeking


and he says the sutras say not to seek is bitterness not seeking is joy so to kind of turn that you know in all areas of our life you know holiday time and on the cushion seeking is bitterness not seeking is joy and finding out what that means so in Zen my beginner's mind um let's see where do I want to start before Bodhidharma people thought that after a long preparation sudden enlightenment would come thus Zen practice was a kind of training to gain enlightenment


actually many people today are practicing Zazen with this idea but this is not the traditional understanding of Zen the understanding passed down from Buddha to our time is that when you start Zazen there is enlightenment even without any preparation whether you practice Zazen or not you have Buddha nature because you have it there is enlightenment in your practice the points we emphasize are not the stage we attain but the strong confidence we have in our original nature and the sincerity of our practice we should practice Zen with the same sincerity as Buddha if originally


we have Buddha nature the reason we practice Zazen is that we must behave like Buddha according to the traditional Buddhist understanding our human nature is without ego when we have no idea of ego we have Buddha's view of life our egoistic ideas are delusion covering our Buddha nature we are always creating and following them and in repeating this process over and over again our life becomes completely occupied by ego centered ideas this is called karmic life or karma the Buddhist life should not be karmic life the purpose of our practice is to cut off the karma the karmic spinning mind


if you're trying to attain enlightenment that is part of karma you are creating and being driven by karma and you are waiting and you are wasting your time on your black cushion according to Bodhidharma's understanding practice based on any gaining idea is just a repetition of your karma and then later you may think Buddha attained some stage where he was free from karmic life but it is not so many stories were told by Buddha about his experiences after he gained enlightenment so this is the you know the fruit of our karmic life is even after realizing we still we see the fruits


of our life before we while we were still creating karma those fruits will ripen so this spinning mind and gaining idea and gaining enlightenment and trying to attain enlightenment that is part of karma and you're creating and being driven by karma and you're wasting your time in your black cushion so getting back to competent being competent this teaching that we are all completely competent you know buddhas and ancestors were the same as we we in the future will be buddhas and ancestors and nobody is excluded from that there's nobody


who's not capable of that or we're not part of that teaching so i think those were the points i wanted to bring up and also um to encourage us all during this um i have one more thing i wanted to bring up but but let i i want wanted to leave some time for questions tonight uh anyway encourage us all during this time to remain um you know


eyes open during this with all the pressures that there are um internally and externally so is there anything anyone would like to bring up um we do daniel and noah i can't think of enough times where i only had the refrigerator because the stuff was big anytime i go out in the middle of the time i need that refrigerator you know it's coming away there it's stuff that i need I'm not going to start talking about the reason why I grew up. It's very much how I feel when I see that. It's one of the things that makes a technical question mark in my mind.


There's such a classic example, quintessential example of consumerism. Why are we eating refrigerated food in this day? It's actually sort of a funny thing. You know, it's like my benchmark. Just thought I'd mention it. Yes. I've never heard of a refrigerator that's only this big. That actually works. I mean... They're cool. Only the coolest kids have been. Noah. I was wondering if you could speak to the work that you're actually doing in giving ourselves permission to be who we want to be.


In simplifying our life? Do you feel there's a connection there? What would you say? There it is. And that we have some extreme practice. I mean, there are religious groups and religious holy people who go into ascetic practices. I don't think it's about asceticism.


I think it's about understanding and responding. What is just enough? In all our... It's a koan. What's enough food? What's enough conversation? What's enough sleep? What's a simplified life if you're Vimalakirti? Are you going to food class? Vimalakirti had lots of stuff. But I think he lived a simple life, actually. I... You know, malls and supermarkets are becoming these places of... or have for a while, that are safe for people to go and kind of be with people, and yet not be with people.


For... This is something I read. For women and older people and adolescents, the mall is a kind of environment... that's chosen, you know, as a kind of social space. And I think it's hard to simplify in the mall. You know? So we can even... You know, having confidence in our Buddha nature, still we can create causes and conditions for our own liberation. We can make choices. We can decide to spend more time outside. You know, we can make choices. Yes? Um...


I guess the thing that's coming to my mind is now... like... when I think about consumerism, I mean, I can feel that there's... that it's not the way that I thought it was. And that, like, to have some idea of, like, oh, this is a consumer culture. I mean, it's a useful idea, because it sort of takes different parts of our culture and sort of shows a unifying theme. But, like... um... how did you not get into sort of an us-and-them attitude about, like, oh, all of those mall people are, like... just, like... how did you sort of hold that this is my culture,


this is how I want to live, but, like, not be oppositional or unchangeable? Well, first, I would start out by recognizing that I'm a mall person myself, you know? And I understand. I remember at a women in Buddhism celebration conference, there was this... you could choose different tracks to go to, and one was, I think it was ritual and ceremony or something, and we did this whole ritual thing. And then after that, the leader of it, whose teacher, said, let's go shopping, because there was a whole gift thing that was being set out. And everybody understood, you know, what that is. Let's go see the stuff, you know? So I think to start out by understanding ourselves, it's not about those consumers.


To me, our effort to live free, you know, to actually see how much we are caught, you know? And then how do we help others, or be an example, or have an alternative? I mean, I always have felt that Zen Center residential places are kind of alternative, you know? But, you know, this vision thing and having this particular objective of establishing these principles all throughout, are we losing that? Are we forgetting? So how to be an example for the world, for each other, without denigrating anybody,


without being angry at anybody. Everybody is caught. This is where compassion for the whole wheel, you know? Everybody on the wheel. There's no... Anger doesn't quite reach it, you know? Despair, maybe. But compassion, I think, from knowing pretty thoroughly how it all works, you know? And how it doesn't work. I just spoke with a relative of mine who had just gotten three pairs of shoes, and the last time I was with her, she got three pairs of shoes. And I had this sad feeling arise, because I know what those shoes are about. They're about loneliness, they're about fear of growing old,


they're about not feeling attractive, they're about all that stuff. That's what it's about. And it... Anyway... Yeah? That's kind of what the whole consumerist trip is about, is filling up a black hole with pretty, so we can, like, feel fulfilled. I got a package today, it was filled with clothes. I was fulfilled for about two hours. And I wondered, where am I going to put this stuff? You know, because we don't have that much room. But it seems to me that when we go out and shop, or to get something, we're trying to fill up a hole for that, and we just keep putting stuff in there constantly, and that hole never fills up. So the tendency to go out and get more stuff. And whether that stuff is education, people, friendships, relationships, whatever,


we're still trying to fill up that hole. Exactly. And the hole is the building of the karma, as you spoke about. So that acquiring, or that desiring, is filling a hole, which is subsequently building... More of the same, yeah. It'd be interesting if we could take narcissists to the shopping mall, and how that would work. Would you be shunning all these things, and saying, no, I don't need this, it's not good enough for me, and getting back to your other point about sense center and the ecological situation that this consumerism is a mess, would narcissists even like to be able to find a pond to be able to stare at himself in? And is there a narcissist's flower growing by the... As one of the wildflowers in amongst the reeds by a living body of water.


I think it's all these questions, and the ecological notion, which, going back to the original Latin version of competent, that it's for all of us, that it is a sort of planetary situation that's going on. So the karma that we're building for ourselves by desiring things, we're also building karma for the planet. Yes, well, karma... And I think that's where the despair comes in, to sort of... What are we... What is the effect? What is the consequence of this? And actually to see and to feel that... Yeah. Well...


Well... Yes, if we don't recognize the pain of this right now, then we'll just want to fill it up quick. Well, let's make fudge. How about fudge? But we could sit. Let's sit. Let's chant. Actually, there's lots of practices that are some expression of our... Our desires are inexhaustible. I vow to put an end to them, all of our vows. But are you in despair? Do you feel in despair now? Was that a depressing thing, Nancy? Let's hear it. Yes.


Yes. Yes. Yes. Well, I think, you know, this charm that we... I read this statistic that if you've been a kid who's watched TV since you've been little, you have seen... I can't remember what it was like, how many millions of advertisements, you know? So by the time you're a certain age, it's just like phenomenal, you know? So we've kind of been spun around and to be in a place where...


Like in a practice period, for example, or at Tassara, I remember this thing about clothes and going to a store after being at Tassara for a year. And I remember I didn't know what was in fashion, I didn't know what was cool. I had my kind of zendo clothes and I tried something on. I had to go home and had to wear something and the store lady said, Oh, honey, you've got to shorten that, you know? I had no idea they could be... I didn't know what the length was, you know? It could have been the 1800s, you know? I just... And it was very refreshing to actually drop out of that kind of tracking. So that's one of the beauties, you know, of being in the practice period and not leaving the valley. You kind of break the spell, you know? Same with going to a supermarket. I remember I looked and I thought there's nothing to eat in this whole place. Anyway, I feel like the spell can be broken, you know?


But thank you for the tip. Go to Garage Sales, go to the Goodwill here. Make gifts. Knit. Some knitters here. Okay. May our attention...