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Now I'm mic'd. So apparently I'm the inaugural speaker in this new central stage. Is that right? So if I had known that I would have prepared a lecture, but ... As it is, I'll just give a talk. Today I want to talk about wisdom, wisdom in the Buddhist tradition, various aspects of wisdom. But I want to start with a story, which is, at least on the surface, a little bit more


about sincerity. When I was cooking at Tassara back in the 60s, and we had started Tassara, we got some aluminum teapots. They were shiny. Some of them were golden, a kind of golden colored. And when they were new, they were shiny. And I don't know if you know those Japanese teapots, they're kind of round. And round has a kind of charm, unlike sleek and stylish and spelt, or there's a lot of other things that teapots can be, or appear to be. These teapots appeared to be plump and round, and kind of, for that reason, cheery, kind


of cheery. And they had a little spout. And then they had big handles, and the handles had some bamboo stripping braided across the top for the handle. And we used these teapots every day to serve water in the meditation hall for the meals, to clean the bowls, and also at tea time. And when we were done with them, we just poured the extra water out, or the tea out, and rinsed them out, and put them in the dish rack. And then they went back on the shelves. And they had a little place in the kitchen, the teapot shelf. And as the months went by, you know, those teapots didn't appear to be so cheery anymore. They'd gotten dented. They had big dents and little dents, and they were also kind of tarnished. They were no longer shiny and bright and sparkling.


They developed, you know, as these things do, a kind of patina of dirt and oil, because they weren't really washed, you know. They're just rinsed out. And they got banged up. You know, in our tradition, you carry, traditionally, you know, one is encouraged to carry one thing with two hands. So when we serve the tea, you know, we carry the teapot and then pour the tea or the water. And we had a little, we had a little pad, you know, so that you could hold it, the teapot with the pad on the handle, and then you could take the pad and put it on the teapot, and you could kind of lever the teapot with the bottom of the spout to pour, because it was hot, you need a little pad there. Then when we took them back to the kitchen, you know, one person could carry two teapots


in each hand. And, you know, it's good to get to your break a little bit sooner. So one person can carry four teapots, and then that's two teapots in each hand, and then the teapots can bang into each other, and they can get dented. And then when you rinse them out and put them in the tearack, and you put the next one in, it can bang into the first one. So, you know, as the months went by, the teapots got a darker and darker kind of patina and more and more dense. And every so often I found myself looking at these teapots there on the shelf. They were pretty banged up. And I thought, but there was something about them that seemed very honest, very sincere, very forthright.


We're still going to go on being a teapot. And some of the wrapping of the bamboo across the handle came loose. So some of them just had metal handles instead of with the bamboo wrapping. So sometimes, you know, feeling tarnished and banged up myself, I would look to the teapots for some encouragement. And they sat there on the shelf, even though they were dented and tarnished, you know, they sat there on the shelf ready to pour water and serve tea. So I think, you know, if they can do it, I can do it.


Those teapots now are, you know, probably in a landfill someplace. And some of us are still carrying on as though, you know, knowing that, you know, we aren't bright and shiny any longer. But as they say, still, I go on, you know. So now, wisdom. You know, so part of wisdom, you know, right away when you think about teapots is how wise would it be to be attached to those teapots? Or to be attached to your own shiny, you know, undented. You know, it's interesting because we're all, you know, shiny and undented, and at the same time, you know, we're rather tarnished human beings.


But you know, at least in the literal sense, how wise would it be to think, I will never, you know, make a mistake. I will be, you know, perfect. I will be the best. I will be better than the others. I will be, you know, those of us who practice spiritual, you can be interested instead of, you know, being more wealthy than others, you can be interested in being wiser than others. So how wise would that be? Anyway, so I want to tell you about some of the traditional concepts of wisdom. First of all, you know, one of the most basic concepts of wisdom is to see the nature of life is impermanent. There's actually three marks to so-called conditioned existence, you know, the arising


and disappearing of things, the things that appear and disappear, which includes people, places, things. Many people have tried to go back, you know, home and they can't find it, or it's, you know, it's really different. My street in San Rafael used to have woods past the neighbors, you know, several acres of woods, now it's apartment buildings. So our home and, you know, things change and then our minds and bodies are always, things are appearing and disappearing. So of these, the nature of things, appearing and disappearing, the three marks are impermanence


and then there's traditionally called suffering or dukkha, and then the third mark, of course, is no self, that there's no self to be established or kept. Or certainly then, you know, would it be wise to attach to a self? And many people have pointed out, you know, that one way of describing the fact that life is difficult for us is that we have addictive personalities and we want to control things and we want things to be the way that we decide. And it's as if, as you said, if you can't control it, kill it, destroy it. As you know, it works very well with foreign policy. So there's no reason it shouldn't work in your personal life. If you can't control yourself, your partner or your kids, you know, punish them for it.


Or as, of course, Marsha Rosenberg said, you know, in teaching nonviolent communication, he said, I've often made my children do something that they didn't want to and they've always made me regret it. So how wise is this, you see? And yet somehow the wisdom of seeing whether it's wise or not, you know, we don't always notice whether it's wise or not, certainly at the time. And it's very important to us somehow to control the other, the object of our awareness, and make it do what we want. This is control. And, you know, our self-esteem and, you know, various things depend on this. We don't want to feel helpless.


We want to feel like we have some power to affect our life. So, you know, I want the sponge to stay on the counter. I don't want it falling into the sink. So sometimes if it falls into the sink, I just toss it across the room. I'll go over there then if you don't want it to stay on the counter. So it's pretty innocent with sponges, but boy, you know, when you do this to yourself, you know, this is called in Buddhist terms, you know, abandonment. You abandon yourself. You toss yourself away. Because yourself is not behaving according to the standards that have come your way. So this is the truth of suffering.


You know, we suffer because we want to control things. We want them to be a certain way. You know, we want things to be pleasant and not unpleasant. We want to be happy and not be sad. And so, you know, in a simple way, often instead of saying, oh, you're sad, we say, what's wrong with you? You're sad. What's wrong? Like it's wrong to be sad. It would be good to be happy. It would be right to be happy. There's something wrong if you're sad. And there's a myth then that you could actually be, you know, happy like that. If you just knew how to handle all of these things like sad and disappointed and upset, if you just knew how to handle them more skillfully, you wouldn't have to feel these things. So if you were a really good, savvy, skillful, you know, person, you wouldn't have to have any of those unpleasant things, would you?


So how wise would it be now to think that sort of thing? But we think these things, even though it's not very wise, that I really ought to be a more understanding, skillful, competent, capable, wise person who knows what to do with these difficulties and problems so that I could just wave them away. And I could get myself and others to behave differently. And if everybody did what they should, it would all be a lot better. And let's find out, you know, and blame the person who didn't do what they should have, according to my standards. Tarnished, dented. Still, we go on. And then, of course, this suffering is also related to the fact that pleasant things don't last.


Things that are pleasant come to an end. You can't depend on them being pleasant. You can't depend on them having them. Unless it comes out of a bottle or a cigarette, then you can depend on it. Right? So this is, you can see very quickly, you know, we have problems with addiction or looking for things that we can depend on and count on to provide, you know, to make things a certain way. How do we get them to be the way we want them to, to make them that way? And that again is a kind of self-abandonment, you know. And we're going to make ourselves happy by alcohol or caffeine or smoking, watching television. We have various habits. You could, of course, have the habit of sitting Zazen. This one might be a little bit better.


So the pleasant can't, although there is such thing as pleasant and it is possible to have pleasant experiences, they don't last, they can't be counted on. The thing that made you happy yesterday doesn't make you happy today. You used to make me happy, now you don't. You know, can't you behave better because now you're upsetting me. And we tell this to, you know, people close to us, especially because they're the ones who affect us the most. And we also tell it to ourselves. You know, there's no secrets. You tell yourself the same thing you tell others. So I'm striving to be anyway, you know, a good teapot. And then all this you can see relates to the fact that there's no self. There's no self who is, you know, consistently any particular way.


There's many, seems to be many selves, many voices. You know, there's one person who has desire and then there's another person who tells that person it's wrong. The Rumi poem is about the four men who go into the mosque and one of them says it's really quiet in here. And the second one says, you're not supposed to talk. And the third one says, what's wrong with you two anyway? And the fourth one says, it's a good thing that I haven't said anything. So, you know, these voices keep going on in our head, you know, who knows what the self is? You know, and then if you think, I'm going to establish which one is really in charge here. This is called in Zen, you know, the disease of the mind. The disease of the mind is to set one mind against another mind. And say which one is right and which one you're going to side with.


And then try to defeat the other minds. And, you know, and then beat them into submission. Make them do what you tell them. Because you're right and they're not. So how well does this work for you? How wise would it be to continue to do this? So, you know, to sit in meditation is to have all these people, voices, characters show up and hang out together. And not be siding with one against the other. How do I get rid of you? You know, how do I get rid of this thinking obsessively? And so forth, you know. How do I get rid of my anger? And do you think these things don't know that you want to get rid of them? And that they're not, you know, planning to get back at you.


Or trying, you know, going to make sure that you don't get rid of them. And they're going to be all the more hanging out and then watchful. And everybody's going to be on edge. So it's going to be useful actually to kind of hang out and see if they can find something to do together like meditate. A while back I was remembering a story about manners. I originally, it was originally in the Sun Magazine, you know, somebody wrote in them about manners. No, this one wasn't. This was in Alice Miller's, one of Alice Miller's books. You know, she studied a lot about how childhood affects adults. You know, and written a number of pretty interesting books about that. And one of her clients said that she was going to go away for the weekend. So she thought about leaving her three-year-old with her mother.


And she was a little worried because her mother, she knew, had been very, very strict about manners. So she was a little concerned about leaving her three-year-old with the mother for the weekend. But she finally decided to go ahead. And she survived after all and was only for a weekend. And she came back after the weekend and picked up her three-year-old. And he said, they got out to the car and the three-year-old said, I don't want to stay with grandmother anymore. She hurt me. And little by little the mother found out the story. And it turned out that the first night, Friday night, they had a dinner. And then the grandmother had made a souffle for dessert. And after finishing his souffle, the little three-year-old reached out to help himself to seconds, which is something that he was used to doing at home. And the grandmother reached out, put her hand on his and said, you have to ask the others if it's okay. And he looked around and said, where are the others? And then he got very upset because he was used to at home helping himself and he didn't understand.


And she couldn't calm him down for a while. And then he cried and finally he calmed down and he said, at home I can help myself. And the grandmother said, yes, but you need good manners. And he said, what for? And she said, so others will like you. And then he said, well, when I'm at home, I can eat when I'm hungry. This, you know, is a classic Zen expression, you know, what is Zen? Eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired. This is true unless you're doing Zen practice. Then you follow the schedule and eat when it's served and, you know, sleep when you're scheduled. So this story, when I first read this story, I thought, oh, the poor three-year-old.


And I thought everybody could relate to the three-year-old. But I told this story to a number of people and many people have said, oh, that grandmother did the right thing. Kids need good manners. They need to be taught manners. There's so many kids these days who don't have good manners. And then one woman told me, you know, when you first told me that story, I right away related to the three-year-old. And in fact, you know, some tears came to my eyes. I felt touched, you know, that we are so hard on ourselves sometimes unnecessarily. And in situations where it doesn't necessarily make sense. But she said, you know, we were doing a one-day sitting and as the day went on, you know, there were several people in the room who weren't behaving the way I wanted them to and I wanted to correct them.


And get them to behave properly. You know, we do have forms here. And there were several people wearing down jackets and it was a cold day and they would move a little bit and fidget. And it wasn't quiet enough for her. And how can you get things to be, you know, quiet? In the meditation hall, you're not in charge. Even the people in charge can't, you know, make it perfect. And she said, the more I wanted to correct them, the more claustrophobic I felt. So when you, you know, when we want to correct others, we start to feel also we're correcting ourselves and we're feeling smaller and more tight. So she said, finally, in that situation, she hit on a strategy.


She decided that to pretend that she was on a train in a foreign land where they had unusual customs and she didn't know the language. And she wasn't going to be able to say anything. And she started to feel very happy. Trains going along, people have their strange customs, nothing to say to them, don't know the language. But, you know, so we all have a grandmother, we all have a three-year-old, you know, and we're also the parent. We're someone who's trying to fix ourselves and correct ourselves. And we're someone who's acting out and, you know, doesn't behave. And if the, you know, if the, when the seniors, the grandmothers, you know, and grandfathers get, you know, if you side with them, pretty soon, you know, your life becomes pretty stuffy.


And little three-year-olds don't want to hang out with you. Because they don't get it. And then where does your spontaneity and exuberance and vitality go? Because everybody, everything needs to be a certain way. If you side with a three-year-old and you start acting out, then pretty soon, you know, people are having meetings. What are we going to do with Edward? This story was, of course, especially poignant for me because three years old, my birth mother died and I was in an orphanage three days later and being taught how to behave. So I know this story firsthand. And three years old, you know, and with, you know, any place like that is bound to be understaffed. And, you know, the, the nurses and, you know, directors and caretakers are all overwhelmed and just want you to behave.


And do the, you know, do what you're supposed to do and not, don't cause trouble. My dean in high school said that the school was built on one principle, boredom. Keep the kids bored and then they'll have less energy, you know, for misbehaving. So this is very interesting, you see. How do you get, you know, how do you have exuberance and vitality and spontaneity, creativity and not get in trouble? And this is where, you know, you can't side with one or the other. They, they learn to get along and not get in each other's way and help each other out. I don't know if this makes sense to you, but, and, you know, there's, this is something we keep sort of feeling our way along. There's no obvious way to do it.


But if you catch yourself, sometimes you can catch yourself, you know, doing one or the other and you were wise to notice. And then you can remind yourself not to side with the grandmother or the three-year-old and that they need each other. They depend on each other. They're going to enlighten each other. So this is something about, you know, early Buddhist wisdom. Wisdom is saying these three characteristics or marks of conditioned existence, impermanence, suffering, no self. Okay. And this is related to what's called, you know, they oftentimes translated the perverted views or inverted views. You know, that it would be wise, you know, not to try to establish permanence when permanence cannot be established. So to try to establish permanence is an inverted or upside down view. To try to establish ease and permanent pleasure, ongoing pleasure and to have, you know, reliable sources and, you know, to be, you know, to have addictions is not wise.


To try to establish a self that is impermeable, you know, to the vicissitudes of life is not wise. These are upside down or perverted views. And the Buddhists added the fourth one, you know, to, oh, it had something to do with, you know, to seek for the lovely and what is essentially repulsive. Because they had the idea, you know, that bodies are repulsive and they wanted monks to be sure that they understood that. You know, celibate order. Nothing attractive there. So I want to spend a few minutes anyway and talk to you a little bit about the perfection of what's called the perfection of wisdom. I don't want to go on that long, so I'll just say a little bit about the perfection of wisdom. But, you know, there's at least at an initial level, there's six so-called perfections or paramitas.


And wisdom is the sixth. There's generosity and then conduct or practice of precepts, patience, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. Or is it vigor, concentration and wisdom? Vigor, concentration and wisdom. And what makes things paramita or perfection is that you're not keeping track when you give. I gave you that. And give me credit for how good I am because of what I did. So what makes it a perfection is not keeping track. Not, you know, keeping a bank account, a little account for yourself where you stand on whether you're generous or not generous, whether you're patient or not patient. And when you're patient, you don't check it off. I was just patient. This is great. Good for me. And then when you're not patient, not patient.


Once again, what's wrong with you? You idiot. Haven't you learned by now? How badly do I have to mistreat you so you'll start being patient? So, you know, paramita is translated as perfection. It's also translated as, you know, gone beyond. Patience gone beyond patience or wisdom gone beyond wisdom. So it's gone beyond because it's also considered to be the practice that takes you from this shore or across the ocean of samsara, you know, to the other shore, nirvana. So it's what carries you across or takes you beyond, helps you go beyond the ocean of samsara. So this is very interesting when it comes to wisdom because in the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, it says that a bodhisattva who is, they contrast a bodhisattva who is unskilled and a bodhisattva who is skilled,


which right there I thought is rather skillful because they don't say foolish common people and bodhisattvas. Everybody's a bodhisattva, just some bodhisattvas are unskilled. But you'll see in a minute that even this, you know, is a little hard to keep track of. Because what it says is a bodhisattva who is unskilled courses or keeps track of all the experiences they're having and where they stand based on those experiences. You know, I'm seeing something pleasant, unpleasant. I'm hearing, tasting, smelling. Somebody's insulting me. Somebody's saying this. They're doing that. And I'm having these kind of feelings or those kind of feelings. And what does it all mean? They keep track of, an unskilled bodhisattva keeps track of what that's a sign of or an indication of. You know, it indicates that I'm doing well. I'm doing poorly. I'm doing better. I'm doing worse. I'm good. I'm bad. They're good. They're bad.


What does it all mean? And what's it a sign of? You know, this temporary phenomenon, it's appearing and disappearing. What does it all mean? And usually it has some meaning about me and how well I'm handling all this phenomenon that's changing and impermanent and can't be controlled. And where I can't establish myself. But what does it all mean? You know, what's it a sign of? So usually it's a sign that, you know, something personal. They don't like me. I like them. They don't know how to behave themselves. I know how to behave myself. I'm angry because they're so depressed. I'm sad that they don't appreciate what I have to say. They don't realize how much I love them. You know, it's on and on. So the unskilled bodhisattva keeps track of all of this and then keeps track of what that means.


And keeps track of whether I keep track or I don't keep track. Oh, I forgot to keep track. I better keep track. Do you understand how this is what we do? We keep track of all these things and what our experience is and what it means and how I'm doing. I'm still just as confused as I ever was. I'm getting more concentrated. I'm becoming more mindful. I'm becoming less this. Oh, I'm falling apart. I'm having a senior moment. This morning I was looking for a glass that I sometimes have in my car in the little cup holder because it's a glass that fits in the cup holder. And I went out to the car twice looking for it and I couldn't find it. And then I thought I'd use another glass so I went out to the car to see if that glass would fit in the cup holder and there was the glass in the cup holder.


That's a new one, looking right at it and not seeing it. I'm getting old. What does it mean? I'm such an idiot. I'm so unobservant. I can't even see something when I'm looking right at it. So the skilled bodhisattva, the bodhisattva who is skilled doesn't keep track, doesn't keep track and course in and keep track of the skandhas, form, feeling, perceptions, formations and consciousness. Which one is appearing? Which one is disappearing? Doesn't keep track of that. And then what that's a sign of. And then doesn't keep track of whether I keep track or I don't keep track. It's a little bit like Suzuki Roshi's story in one of his lectures in Not Always So where he says, in olden days there must have been people who carried honey in a big jar on their heads


and sometimes they must have spilled it. It must have fallen on their head and broke. He says if you just keep walking and don't stop, that's wise. Or that's letting go. That's not getting caught. Oh no, I made a mistake. Oh how horrible. What will people think of me? Oh gosh, I am such a klutz. I am such an idiot. And you can go on and on about all these things. Is this wise? No, this is an unskilled bodhisattva. But then if you're getting skilled then you can't even say like, I don't do that. I don't know whether I do that or I don't do that. And so then you have a little question at some point. How is this being wise and not keeping track of any of this, you know, different than somebody who is completely unwise? Who is like an idiot and doesn't, you know, like Forrest Gump or something.


How do you know whether you're the one who is wise or the one who just doesn't pay any attention and just doesn't have a clue about what's going on? Well, I want to mention one other concept about wisdom. Which is very interesting because it's related to this, you know. Because we usually have the idea I could become wiser. And then I would have some indications that I'm wiser based on my performance in controlling all these various phenomena in my own world and out there in the wider world. Wouldn't that be a good indication of whether or not I'm becoming wiser? You know, that things go better now. My bank account is increasing. And, you know, whatever. So, you know, for instance, you know,


and there's this whole myth about wisdom in our culture, you know, like the Yoga Journal had a column called Eating Wisely. And the idea of eating wisely is that there are people out there who know what wise eating is and they can tell you. And then you could do what you're told. So how wise is that? To just do what you're told. And to not pay any attention really to your own experience or what you notice or sense or observe or you discover for yourself. How wise is this? To just abandon your capacity to find things out and attempt to impose somebody else's scheme on your behavior. Because it's wise. So, this is not very wise to do this, you know. It's exemplified by the woman who said that she had, because she couldn't find any studies done on people who had lost weight and kept the weight off,


she did her own study and identified people, some number, not a, you know, I don't know, it was only 20 or 30 probably, but people who'd lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for five years or more. And she discovered that they had one thing in common. They'd each figured out for themselves how to do it. Now, you see, so that would be wise. But who wants to figure anything out for themselves? So she tried to do a book about this and she got turned down by 13 New York publishers who said, write a book about dieting, people want to be told what to do. So it's wise actually to notice what your experience is and to, you know, and to let your experience inform you and to let your, you know, your behavior come out, you know, come out of your, you know, experience which has informed you. But, so there's no such thing as somebody who knows the wise thing for you to do


and can tell you and you just do what you're told. That's making yourself indefinitely a child. Just do what I tell you. And it never works. You know, and then we blame ourselves or we blame the plan. I guess that wasn't a good plan. It's not that the basic way of turning my own, you know, responsibility for my own life over to others wasn't a good plan. It's that the plan that they gave me wasn't a good plan. And if I just found the person to turn my life over to that had the good plan for me, I could turn my life over and it would work. And then I'm not very good at following, doing what I'm supposed to. See, it's not wise to think this. What would be wise is to be, you know, as Suzuki Roshi said, find out for yourself. Whatever happens, see what you can find out. This is wise. And it's not that, you know, and sometimes things work well and sometimes they don't. See what you can find out. So wisdom is, you know, and so we can also say, you know, of course,


beginner's mind. This is wise to be finding out and to be seeing, you know, keep studying how to do something. Or Suzuki Roshi said, you know, whether you're a good husband or a bad husband, if you're studying and interested in how to be a good husband and you're still finding out how to be a good husband, that's a good husband. You're not being criticized. That's a good wife who's studying how to do this, who keeps finding out. This is how to be a parent, how to be, you know, in any situation to be finding out and to see what you can come up with to do. And there's no wise thing that you can do that somebody can tell you and then you just do what you're told. That's not wise. So wisdom at some point, you know, we finally say, you know, wisdom is the nature of mind. Wisdom is the nature of your mind. Rather than saying, my mind, I'm not wise.


I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do. It's pretty good. Because if you knew what to do, you would limit yourself to doing what you're told. But you knew. And what could you find out? This is a new situation. This is just today. This is now. Well, one more short story, okay, about the manners. This is an alternative story, you know, to the first one. And this is the one that was in the Sun Magazine. A woman wrote in and said that when she was eight years old their mother was teaching them manners and they would have a special dinner on Sunday afternoons and practice their manners. And they'd put out the tablecloth and the good dishes and the silverware and the crystal and they would practice wiping their mouths with their napkins instead of the back of their sleeves and saying, please pass and thank you. So after they'd done this for some weeks,


their mother worked at a college and so she invited some visiting deans to come to dinner and she said, now I want you to be on your best behavior and this is a chance to practice your good manners. And their mother was, their mother's family had been Danish. This is a little background to the story. Anyway, so the visiting, they set the table and they get it all nice and they have their flower arrangements and water for everybody and the whole thing. And the woman said, I don't remember what was served or what that meal was except for one thing, the sauce was to die for. So I waited until I thought no one was looking and I licked my plate. There was an audible kind of shared gasp in the room and she heard her mother saying, if you're going to lick your plate like a dog,


get under the table. So she did. She didn't realize that that was, you know, intended to be a kind of ironic expression of don't do that. She got under the table and her two sisters did too. So then she heard her mother's voice saying to those left at the table. Oh, don't worry. It's an old Danish custom. It's an old Danish custom.


The next thing she knew, she looked up and there was her mother under the table winking at her. So that seems like somebody who was finding out, you know, interested in, you know, there's no, there's nothing wrong with being interested in manners and what works, you know, what is gracious and polite and friendly and takes care of, you know, yourself and other people in this situation. And, you know, but it's not necessary to. And there's somebody who, you know, was able to, you know, play with that. And in a sense has, you know, in a larger sense, very good manners because she's intending to make everything OK for everybody in the room. And, you know, not just sticking to what's right and what's wrong. So this is, to me,


all very interesting. And, you know, in my dented, tarnished way, you know, working on all of this. So thank you for being here this morning. It's always a great pleasure for me to be in this room with all of you and your wonderful way-seeking mind. And, you know, your bright attention and interest in all of this. And in, you know, your own and others' well-being. So I appreciate very much being in your good company. Blessings.