2005.08.15-serial.00041

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Ready to go. Wow. So tonight I wanted to speak with you about what's called the Perfection of Wisdom. And before I speak with you about the Perfection of Wisdom though, I'd like to kind of help us be in a good space to hear it. Not that that'll help, but maybe it will. And for this I was thinking of my friend Eric Schiffman's instructions for meditation. Eric was here in June with me to teach yoga. So he has some fairly simple instructions for meditation which I wanted to share with you tonight, and you can try them out. So the instructions go, snuggle down. Snuggle down is short for, you know, snuggle your weight

[01:09]

down onto the cushion or chair. Got that? Let yourself grow tall inside. Open the top of your head. That's it. And then he says, you know, if you have your eyes closed and you open them, open your eyes without becoming small. If you get too involved with your eyes open in the world outside and all the people and things, it might be that you start to feel small. So snuggle down, let your weight settle onto the cushion or chair. Grow tall inside. Open the top

[02:10]

of your head. This is of course the point where in the old Gann Wilson cartoon there's a grizzled faced old monk and a fresh faced novice. And the caption of the cartoon is, nothing happens next, this is it. So you might not have noticed anything just yet that you would consider it. But this is it. This is the perfection of wisdom. You are, you know, the perfection of wisdom. Now, of course, usually a little doubt creeps in. If I had more of the perfection of wisdom, wouldn't things be working a little better in my life? And wouldn't I have somewhat fewer problems and painful feelings and difficult experiences? And if I was already embodying

[03:20]

the perfection of wisdom, wouldn't it all be going a lot better than it is now? So this is one of the basic delusions that the perfection of wisdom can see through. This is about as good as it's going to work. This is real close to about as good as it's going to get. So, let me tell you a little bit about the perfection of wisdom. It seems like it would be a nice thing to, you know, have. So, I feel like I'm in good company in this case, because in the perfection of wisdom sutra in 8,000 lines, the Buddha asked the Bodhisattva, his disciple Subuddhi, Subuddhi, please, would you instruct the Bodhisattvas here

[04:21]

ensembled in the perfection of wisdom, how to stand in the perfection of wisdom, how to be instructed in the perfection of wisdom, how to go forward in the perfection of wisdom? And Subuddhi says, I would love to, Lord Buddha, but when I look really carefully, I can't find a Dharma or, you know, an entity to put the designation Bodhisattva on, nor can I find a Dharma to call the perfection of wisdom. So, which Bodhisattva would I instruct in what perfection of wisdom? However, if someone hears this and they do not cower or tremble, they are not frightened or dismayed, they do not despair or despond, then that's a Bodhisattva and that's the perfection of wisdom. You got that? So, you know, from your astounded silence, I'm guessing that I can go on with my talk.

[05:44]

I wasn't feeling like you got so much there. A little later in this sutra, another one of the disciples, Sariputra, says, Subuddhi, is this perfection of wisdom something that is? You know, that actually, is it something that actually exists, you know, that one could have or get hold of or acquire or, you know, is it something that is? And Subuddhi says, Sariputra, in the absence of there is or there is not, could there be such a thing as there is or there is not? And Sariputra says, no, not that. And Subuddhi says, was that such a good question that you asked then?

[06:51]

A little Buddhist humor here. Sariputra is the one they make fun of in these sutras and then Subuddhi is the one who gets to be the good guy. So, let's go back just a little bit and look at what wisdom traditionally is in Buddhism and then we can, you know, go on and talk again about the perfection of wisdom. Wisdom, as I said, is something that actually exists. Traditionally, wisdom is said to be the insight, insight into the three marks of conditioned existence. Conditioned existence being all the things that appear and disappear in our life.

[07:55]

Thoughts and feelings, physical sensations, things come and go, arise and disappear based on their, the conditions that bring forth their arising and disappearing. People are, we're born, we grow, we age, there's sickness, old age and death. So, all of this world that we live in is conditioned existence. And again, the basic delusion here that we have is, if I had more of this wisdom, couldn't I get this conditioned existence to work better? To be more the way I'd like it to be, to have more pleasant and less unpleasant, to have, you know, more pleasure, less pain. And if I finally got it to work better, wouldn't I get all the love I've ever wanted?

[09:02]

How do I do that? So, the three marks of conditioned existence, most of you know, are mentioned as being suffering or unsatisfaction, impermanence and no self. This is shorthand. So, I want to say a little bit about these. And the sense of suffering here is that, you know, we tend to have rather, you know, in a sense, addictive personalities, or we want to control our experience and have it be a certain way. And the amount of control we can have over our experience is very limited. Can you tell yourself what to feel and not feel? Can you tell yourself what to think and not think?

[10:05]

Can you tell yourself what to do and not do? Maybe slightly better than the thoughts and feelings, but there's a lot of times you find yourself doing things you weren't going to. So, how in charge are you? This ends up being rather frustrating and painful and kind of annoying and aggravating. Aren't you listening to me? You know, can't you behave a little more like I'm asking you to? So, most of us have noticed how we're not in charge and we're not even the proprietor, or, you know, we have very little, you know, we don't really have any ownership over our own body and mind even. And because we want things to be, we have this desire or wish for things to be a certain way, that we think would make us happy and bring us joy and well-being and happiness. If things were just the way I told them to be, well, I could be happy then.

[11:08]

So, this is suffering, this is unsatisfying, it's painful. So, wisdom sees, you know, pleasure as pleasure, but that pleasure comes to an end. And pleasure can't be relied on. You can't have it whenever you want it, except that, you know, there's the possibility of substance abuse. There's the possibility of, you know, the possibility of, you know, alcohol and drugs and things, so that you can have pleasant when you want pleasant. You pop a pill, you know, take your drug of choice. So, the pleasure is not to say there's not pleasure, but it comes to an end, and it can't be depended on, and it can't be called forth whenever you want it. You can't, and if it can, then you end up having problems with addiction,

[12:12]

if that's what you find yourself involved in. And the second mark or characteristic, of course, impermanence, things come to an end, and impermanence, transiency, people that we love go away. Our parents or our children or close friends or family, people die. We have divorce, separation, things come to an end. And the third one, there's no self, there's no way to establish me in such a way that I'm happy with me. And there's a me here that I really like. You know, Trungpa Rinpoche said that ego is the paranoid suspicion that you might exist.

[13:22]

And if you start to think that you exist, then you might start to think that it would be a good idea to have a good one, have a good me or a me that people like and that people appreciate and people approve of, and that I could like, I could have a me that... Of course, once you start to believe that there's me, then you start to worry about protecting and defending the kinds of understandings you have about who you are. And other people keep poking holes in that, of course. No, I don't think you're that kind. I don't find you that wise. I know you're a Zen student and you're very sincere, but I don't like your attitude. So, people will find reality, the world will find various ways to let you know that you

[14:43]

aren't the person you thought you were. So, there's no self to be established and kept around and relied on. So, wisdom is to see all of this, and the wisdom of seeing this is that then one would not get involved in all of this, and the wisdom of seeing this is that then one would not get involved in what's called the inverted or perverted or upside-down views that... You know, to seek for permanence in a world where there's only impermanence to be found, and to seek for ease in a world... You know, to seek for a kind of permanent ease when it's a world of suffering, and to seek for a self that could be relied on when this self is always changing and appearing differently moment after moment. So, seeing, with having some wisdom, one would not endeavor to...

[15:48]

And in the sense of the, you know, in terms of the phenomenal world, one would not endeavor to make them be just the way that you think you need them to be in order to have your ease and permanence and security and well-being that you can count on. So, since we can't do any of those things, what are we going to do? Recently, I was visiting with a friend of mine who's getting divorced. And he's noticing that when something like a divorce happens, and a relationship that you counted on is coming apart, it brings up all the old griefs. So, he's also, you know, thinking of his mother. He said, my mother is like the...

[16:51]

Do you know that story he said about the Jewish mother who gave her son two neckties? And the next time the son was seeing the mother, he wore one of the neckties, thinking to make her happy. She took one look at him and she said, what's the matter? You didn't like the other one? So, this could be kind of depressing. You know, this is the kind of thing that if you have a background like this, it's kind of depressing. And even now, you know, his mother's getting elderly. And he said, for years now, she's really ready to die. She would just as soon not be here any longer. And she's even asked me, he said, to help her die. I said, mom, you know, I'm a physician. I can't really ethically do this, helping you to die.

[17:52]

It, you know, as your son, doesn't really seem appropriate. And his mother said, well, I wouldn't want you to do anything to jeopardize your license, but can't you help me? So, some things in our life are pretty, you know, irresolvable. There's no way to, you know, make it all come out the way it should, or in some clear, simple fashion. So, this is some sense about Buddhism at, you know, the sense of wisdom, to have some insight into these marks. And you could also say that wisdom recognizes delusions. In other words, wisdom recognizes that we have a basic delusion.

[18:56]

The most basic kind of delusion we have is, if I just had more skill and knowledge and knew how to handle things better, it would all work out all right. It would all be okay. Things would be better. Really, you know, mom would get it. Well, maybe, maybe not. But it may or may not have anything to do with what you do or say or how you are. And this seems especially true of the ones we love. You know, how do we, and ourself, how do we, how do we finally help ourself? Are we ever going to change? Are we ever going to become like a better person or a wiser person? And then, you know, I found it very depressing that the United States went to war in Iraq.

[19:59]

I thought, I've been meditating for more than 30 years. I guess no one's paying attention. I think it's sweet and wonderful and heroic that the, that there's the woman now, the mother whose son died in Iraq and has gone to, and was very upset and hurt by the way President Bush behaved at the funeral for her son, and disregarded her pain and suffering, and at some point made the comment, apparently, that, well, I wouldn't want to be there. And I think it's, [...] in Iraq. And so now she's, you know, gone to Crawford, Texas, and is going to stay outside the entrance to his ranch until he'll see her. And other people apparently are going to join her. So it's pretty amazing. And that may be, you know, that may or may not lead to some change, but it's,

[21:03]

it's a definite, you know, stand and commitment. Very touching. So coming back to the perfection of wisdom. You know, the perfection of wisdom is the sixth of the perfections, or paramitas, they're called in Sanskrit. Paramita is, and there's, the six are generosity, conduct, patience, vigor, concentration, and wisdom. And paramita is sometimes translated perfection. It's also translated, you know, that which carries you across the shore, the ocean of samsara to the other shore of nirvana. It's also sometimes translated as, you know, gone beyond, wisdom gone beyond, or generous, generosity gone beyond.

[22:04]

And what characterizes the paramita is that there's not actually a keeping track of, I gave this to you, and keeping track of the I, the gift, and the recipient. So there's being generous without keeping track of it. And there's being patient without keeping track. In other words, you're not keeping a scorecard. I am developing greater patience now. I'm getting someplace. And this is true also then with wisdom, that the perfection of wisdom is the insight or clarity in one's life, but the not keeping track of how you're doing. So again, to come back to the perfection of wisdom sutra, it says that, sabuddhi explains that a bodhisattva who is unskilled

[23:09]

will keep track of and settle down in course and keep track of thoughts, physical sensations, form, sight, sound, smells, taste, touch, the five skandhas, feelings, pleasant, unpleasant, perceptions of what I'm seeing, what's what, formations, aspects of consciousness, and consciousness. We'll keep track and course in these and then endeavor to stop certain ones and produce others. And we'll keep track of which ones should I be producing and which ones should I be stopping. And then keep track of and course in what that's a sign of how well you're doing that and which ones are happening and which ones aren't happening. And the unskilled bodhisattva will keep track of that and what it means and what that's a sign of. I guess I'm doing better. I guess I'm doing worse. This isn't working out as well as I thought.

[24:12]

I like this. I don't like this. I guess I'm really not so good at any of this. I guess I'm very clever now. I'm not so clever. This is working out well. It's not working out well. I'm doing better, you know, and we keep keeping track of based on, you know, you're only as good as your last meal, right? Your last performance. You're only as good as your appearance. So keep it up. Keep up your appearance. Keep up your performance. So the unskilled bodhisattva keeps track of all this and keeps track of what things are a sign of. This shows that they don't understand. This shows that I understand and they don't. Or, you know, what does it indicate? And then keeps track of whether I'm keeping track or not keeping track. Oh, I'm keeping track. This isn't so good. I guess I'm not very wise.

[25:14]

I guess I'm an unskilled bodhisattva. I guess I haven't gotten this Buddhism thing yet. I'm not getting anywhere. Nothing's happening. Nothing's happening. Or, you know, is this it? This? So the skilled bodhisattva, on the other hand, doesn't keep track. And doesn't course in, you know, sights and sounds and smells and tastes. And endeavoring to have certain ones and not have other ones. Make sure that the pleasant ones appear, the unpleasant ones don't. How can you do that? But we try to do that, you know. But the skilled bodhisattva doesn't do that any longer. Feelings, pleasant and unpleasant. The skilled bodhisattva doesn't course in which ones are happening and which ones aren't happening.

[26:19]

And endeavoring to produce the pleasant and stop the unpleasant. In other words, you know, fighting with reality, struggling with the way things are. To try to make it better and more likable, more pleasing for you. And perceptions and then aspects of consciousness. Trust, faith, you know, wisdom or lack of wisdom. Energy, vigor, buoyancy. How am I doing? How's my state of mind? I guess I can't get rid of this boredom I have or this irritation. Oh, no. And what does this mean? What is this a sign of? Gosh, I've been practicing meditation now for 35 years and look at me. I'm still. Getting irritated with these people in my cooking class. So the unskilled bodhisattva would keep careful track of these things, you know.

[27:21]

But the skilled bodhisattva doesn't keep track. Doesn't course in this, doesn't. And what is it a sign of? And doesn't worry about what it's a sign of. So you start to and then doesn't keep track of whether I keep track or I don't keep track. So the person who is a skilled bodhisattva, who's coursing in the perfection of wisdom, has no idea that they're coursing in the perfection of wisdom. This is very excellent then. This is kind of a big relief. You don't have to worry about whether you're wise or not. And you begin to, you begin to see that perhaps there's not that much difference between wisdom and delusion and you could relax and not worry so much about how you're doing. Are you getting any place? And then you might just kind of

[28:24]

be with everything and everyone. Snuggle down, let yourself grow tall, open the top of your head, see what happens. How's it going? We ask ourselves these trick questions all the time. How's it going? How are you doing at this production and stopping of various phenomena that you've set out to do so that your life would be pleasant, enjoyable, worthwhile, important, skillful? So it also, we say in the Heart Sutra, a bodhisattva depends on the perfection of wisdom.

[29:29]

A Buddha relies on the perfection of wisdom. You know, Suzuki Roshi said, anything you point to, in this case the perfection of wisdom, is another name for the one reality. We might call it the perfection of wisdom or you or me or a mountain, the altar, the creek. It's another name for the one reality. So to rely on the perfection of wisdom is to rely on, you know, everything. You know, to trust everything. It's to give up, you know, one's limited, small sense of control that one inspires and wishes

[30:35]

was so much better and to turn it over to the perfection of wisdom. But this is also, you know, our own resourcefulness, our own inspiration, our own curiosity, interest, our own capacity of our own being to respond. So, you know, letting things come home to your heart, letting your heart respond. And of course, this is different than, you know, the idea that our nature in some way needs to be squashed or controlled or contained or it will do something evil. This is more the feeling that our nature is inherently worthy, wise, and compassionate. And as we learn to trust our nature, our own being,

[31:40]

the perfection of wisdom, our capacity to respond to life out of our good-heartedness, our fundamental basic nature, you know, we can trust that. And it's not something, you know, that we just have. And, you know, at ready, sometimes we're going to be at a loss. And then, of course, we consider that a kind of wisdom not to know and to see what comes up, you know, from your deep nature in response to the present moment and to encourage yourself in that way, to let something, let your effort and your love and your generosity, patience, wisdom, let it come up from your being

[32:43]

in response to the circumstances. So, and again, of course, this is, you know, different than following a recipe. You can follow a recipe and get it right. But in Zen, we don't have so many recipes. Even though we have many forms to get you in and out of the meditation hall and into the Zendo, into meditation posture, we don't really tell you what to do. And we're encouraging, you know, each of us was being encouraged to rely on the perfection of

[33:49]

wisdom, our own capacity to find our way in our life. And so, you know, the Zen teacher, again, you know, Nyogen Senzaki said his last words and apparently actually tape recorded them for his students. Don't put another head over your head. You know, your head, your heart is good enough. I probably talked long enough, huh? Oh, yes. So I'll save the rest of my talk for my next talk. Come back again.

[34:55]

Thank you very much. Have a wonderful evening and blessings.

[35:01]