Birth and Death

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Sunday Lecture - Children's Lecture: children's story - Amos and Boris; response to Hurrican Katrina; Story of king, knowing death is coming; vowing to live for the benefit of all; story of Buddha, a child's death and mustard seed; "life is like riding in a boat" (Dogen); birth and death


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our intention
there's three rows
very glad to see you here
and i brought a story for you that's my very favorite story and but i want to warn you first that in this story there's a couple of scary parts
so i wanted to tell you before we the story that everything turns out just fine
so as only scary for a few minutes okay
this story is about something that i think all of you've maybe heard a lot about these last few weeks and that is it a hurricane
and what happens to people we care about these big wins in the water come into their homes
so this story is called amos and boris do any of you know
linda good you guys are behind
you and boars william steig wrote this story and it was maybe he published at nineteen seventy one so little old now

amos a mouse lived by the ocean he loved the ocean he loved the smell of sea air he loved to hear the surf sounds the bursting breakers the back washes with rolling pebbles can you see little emissaries a mouse he's by the ocean and he loves it
their lot of people like to live by the ocean
kind of a problem
he thought a lot about the ocean and he wondered about faraway places on the other side of the water and one day he started building a boat on the beach he worked on it in the daytime while at night he studied navigation what's navigation and you know
have you know what navigation is navigating
while the ocean doesn't have any street signs
you know you don't know where you are so you have to find out a way to figure out where you are and usually they used the stars
a flashlight would be good
and actually i think he took one with him for night time travel
so when the boat was finished he loaded it with cheese biscuits acorns honey wheat germ two barrels of freshwater a compass a sextant a telescope a saw a hammer and nails and some wood and case repairs should be necessary a needle in
thread for the mending of torn sales and various other necessities such as bandages and iodine a yo-yo and playing cards
what else would you take if you went on a trip
where would you take
anything missing goodwin
nothing that's plenty plenty of stuff
now you know what would you take
a flashlight good another vote for a flashlight has good
marawi non page
not as maggot
and then on the sixth of september which is just a few days from now with a very calm sea he waited until the high tide had almost reached his boat and then using his most savage strength he just managed to push the boat into the water climb on board as
set sail
the rodent for that was the boat's name proved to be very well made and very well suited to the sea and amos after one miserable day of seasickness proved to be a natural sailor very well suited to his ship
he was enjoying his trip immensely it was beautiful weather day and night he moved up and down up and down on waves as biggest mountains and he was full of wonder full of enterprise and full of love for life
one night in a phosphorescent see phosphorescent means it glows like little lights a little flashlights
in a phosphorescent see he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water and later lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense starry sky the tiny mouse amos a little speck of a living thing and the vast living universe felt thoroughly akin to
at all
and overwhelmed by the beauty and mystery of everything he rolled over and over and right off the boat of is a deck of his boat and into the sea
this is called hoops
oops did you hear what happened he rolled off the boat into the sea
yeah okay
pitt next page
he squeaked as he grabbed desperately at the rodent but it evaded his grasp and went bowling along under full sail and he never saw it again
the boat
so where's amos now in the water
and there he was were in the middle of the immense ocean and thousand miles from the nearest shore with no one else inside as far as the i could see and not even so much as a stick of driftwood to hold on to
should i try to swim home amos wondered or should i just try to stay afloat
he might swim a mile but never a thousand he decided to just keep afloat treading water and hoping that something who knows what would turn up to save him
but what of a shark are some big fish like a horse mackerel turned up what was he supposed to do to protect himself he didn't know
ah you guessed it right which she did you hear what she said
shh don't tell him yet or can you know that that's right that's exactly morning came as it always does he was getting terribly tired he was a very small very cold very wet and worried mouse there was still nothing in sight but the empty c and then as if things weren't bad enough it began to
at last the rain stopped and the noonday sun gave him a bit of cheer and warmth and the vast loneliness but his strength was given out he began to wonder what it would be like to drown would it take very long would it feel just awful with his soul go to heaven would there be other mice there
as he was asking himself these dreadful questions a huge head burst up to the surface of the water and loomed up over him
what sort of fish are you the whale asked you must be one of a kind i'm not a fish said amos i'm a mouse which is a mammal the highest form of life
live on land
holy clam and cuttlefish said the whale i'm a mammal myself though i live in the see call me boris he said
while amos introduced himself and told boris how he came to be there in the middle of the ocean and the whale said he would be happy to take aim is to the ivory coast of africa where he happened to be headed any way to attend a meeting of wales from all over the seven seas but amos said he'd had enough adventure to last him a while and he wanted only to get back home
and he hoped the whale wouldn't mind going out of his way to drop him off
not only would i not mind said boris i would consider it a privilege what other whale in the whole world has ever had a chance to get to know such a strange creature as you
please climb aboard and amos got on boris his back are you sure you're a mammal amos asked you smell more like a fish then boris the whale went swimming along with amos the mouse on his back here they are
great her
boy was everyone should be so lucky him all the time
what a relief to be so safe and so secure again he must lay down in the sun and being warned to a frazzle he was soon sound asleep
swimming along sometimes at great speed sometimes slowly and leisurely sometimes resting and exchanging ideas sometimes stopping to sleep it took them a week to reach amos's home shore during that time they developed a deep admiration for one another boris admired the delicacy the quivering day
emptiness the light touch the small voice the gem like radiance of the mouse and amos admired the bulk the grandeur the power the purpose and the rich voice and the abounding friendliness of the whale they became the closest possible friends they told each other about their lives and
their ambitions they shared their deepest secrets with each other they should and the whale became very curious about life on land and was so sorry he would never experienced it amos was fascinated by the whales accounts of what went on deep under the ocean emma sometimes enjoyed running up and down on the whale's back
or exercise and when he was hungry he ate plankton and the only thing he really missed was fresh and salty water
the time came to say good bye they were at the shore i wish we could be friends forever said boris and we will be friends forever but we just can't be together you must live on land and i must live at sea and i'll never forget you
and you can be sure i'll never forget you said amos i will always be grateful to you for saving my life am i want you to remember that if you ever need my help i will be more than glad to give it
how he could ever possibly helped boris amos didn't know but he know how he knew how willing he was
the whale couldn't take em us all the way into land so they said their last good bye and amos dived off boris's back and swam to the sand from the top of a cliff he watched door boris spout twice in the distance and then disappear
boris laughed to himself how could that little mouse ever helped me little as he is he's all heart i love him and i'll miss him terribly boris went to the conference off the ivory coast of africa and then went back to a life of wailing about while amos returned to his life of mousing around and they were
very happy
many years after the incidences just described when amos was no longer a very young mouse and when boris was no longer a very young whale their occurred one of the worst storms of the century hurricane yetta and it just so happened that boris the whale was flung ashore
by a tidal wave and stranded on the very shore where amos happened to make his home
so here's the title way
poor boris is being just thrown around like he's a little fish that's with tidal waves are like it's hard to believe we can't hardly imagine
will it just so happened that when the storm had cleared up and boris was lying high and dry on the sand losing his moisture in the hot sun and eating desperately to be back in the water amos came down to the beach to see how much damage hurricane yet i had done of course boris and is recognized each other at once i
don't have to tell you how these old friends felt that meeting again and this desperate situation amos rush toward boris boris could only look at emma's years bourse on the beach near as amos looking at him and alborz can do his role as i down and look at his friend
amos help me said the mountain of a whale to the mode of a mouse i think i'll die if i don't get back in the water soon amos gazed at boris and an agony of pity he realized he had to do something very fast and he had to sink very fast about what he was going to do and suddenly
he was gone
i'm afraid he won't be able to help me said boris to himself much as he wants to do something what can such a little fellow do
we'll just as amos had once felt all alone in the middle of the ocean boris felt now line alone on the shore he was sure he would die and just as he was preparing to tie amos came racing back with to of the biggest elephants he could find
better than the national guard
without wasting time the to good hearted elephants got to pushing with all their might and boris's huge body until he began turning over breaded with sand and rolling down towards the sea aim standing on the head of one of the elephants yelled instructions but no one heard him
and a few minutes boris was already and water with waves washing at him and he was feeling the wonderful wetness you have to be out of the see really to know how good it is to be in it he said well that is if you're a whale and soon he was able to wiggle and wriggle into deeper water he looked back at amos on the elephant's heh
ed tears were rolling down the great whales cheeks the tiny mouse had tears in his eyes to goodbye dear friend squeaked amos goodbye dear friend rumbled boris and he disappeared in the waves they knew they might not ever meet again but they knew that they would never forget each other
now you all know the story of boris and ends well thank you guys for coming to the story and i i hear from sarah who's heading your program that you're going to make prayer flags today and i thought i was suggest you that may be one of include some images of meister
wales or storms and hearts to send our best wishes to people who need our help and then we're going to hang these flags every time there's a kids program so you can see your flag there and will add more and more flags and some day everyone in the whole world will have a good wish coming from us want that be good
we thank you you can all go out that way you're welcome you're welcome thank you

if anyone would like to come forward eric murphy in the front

it was just drinking this water and thinking in a waters amazing the glass of water so refreshing
when it covers a city
who is quite frightening
i've been watching the terrible news along with all of you but what's been happening in the american south
and it reminded me of another story from the buddhist tradition
that i haven't thought of for a while so i'll tell it to now
this is from the old wisdom teachings of buddha the pali canon
one fine day king present-day of casella paid a visit to the buddha
and the buddha said to the king where are you coming from at midday great king
the king replied having stabilised the country and conquered a wide stretch of the earth i am greatly involved in administration of those things done by warrior kings
when you before the buddha you tend to be very honest the king went on to say all the while drunk with my authority and obsessed with lust for sensual pleasures
and then the buddha said to the king if a trustworthy messenger arrived from the east and said great king a huge mountain as high as the heavens is advancing and crushing every living thing do as you will sire and another messenger arrived from the north and then one from
the south and from the west all with the same message with the impending destruction of your kingdom what should you do
and then the king replied at such a time as that lord buddha what else can i do but to law took but to walk in the law in righteousness and to cultivate with as what is a benefit to everyone
and the buddha said
well i tell you a great king aging and death are closing in upon you what should you do
the king said my elephants chariots horses and infantry or of no use when aging and death are closing in on me magic spells and gold are likewise have no use at such a time as this my lord what else can i do but walk in the law
in righteousness and to cultivate would what is of benefit to everyone
so i want to share my own personal anguish about what's been happening in the news
i'm particularly in the wake of this great storm katrina
i've been watching i finally was able to get near at television i do we don't have tv reception here so i was quite powerful to see the images of the city under water and the people trapped and to hear about the despair in the anger
the thirst and the heat
and it was also stunning as i'm sure it has been for all of you to see how many of these people are african americans who seemed to have been trapped and left behind in the city now how is that possible
he's or the great questions that we're all going to have to ask in the wake of his storm wasn't just a big wind blew through our nation
the great shame
and then of course there's the ongoing and haunting glare of the human made whores in africa columbia in middle eastern the east bay
every day we know we read me here and we see the moving pictures
the in fact there is nowhere to turn were some dreadful news isn't happening to the living beings on this fragile blue green earth
messengers are arriving from the west from east from the north and from the south and what should we do
but the dalai lama said to us after nine eleven was please don't look for blame look for causes look for causes
well right and middle of all of these terrible stories and terrible truths
i and my family spent oblivious three weeks on vacation in the pacific northwest
going from small village to small village living among people who can only complain of small town irritations you know somebody's goat got in my yard i left the sto something on the stove and went off to my yoga class
two hour wait for the ferry to the san juan islands you know
what a shame
but there's one tiny and common thread that runs through all of these contrasting stories and that is me and my point of view which of course is all i have to offer you today
my point of view
and i'm choosing to do that in the light of this story of amos boris
a story of differences of interdependency of fear of death and perhaps of the most basic miracle of all how we meet and when we meet how we take care of one another and take care of what needs to be done
for me meeting begins with a fundamental thou and vow comes from the same route as words to give our word
and the words that we use shape our lives they shape our intentions they create constancy and direction for us as that navigation on the open water we navigate by vow
but what do we say what are the right words how do we know them when we hear them
this is the tricky part for us
the other morning after returning from my vacation i went down to join my community in our last day of communal home which goes on throughout the summer
at six o'clock in the morning were all down there about fifty or so people and it's quite a wonderful thing if you've never worked didn't physical work with a large group of people it's one of the great mysteries and joys of living together
we all started one entered the fields in pairs and we start walking forward with these long handle pose kind of like weaving this great weaving back and forth and back and forth and then in under an hour
where at the other end of the field and all of the hyenas and done what would take one person perhaps a week is done by fifty people and under an hour it's kind of a miracle
but before beginning to whoa we all stood at the farm tool shed facing the altar
and that particular morning i was really struck
by the unlikelihood that i would be standing at a tool shed on a farm at six o'clock in the morning with fifty people if it weren't for the altar
the altar is a very simple thing it's just a piece of wood is seated human figure
piece of fresh flowers stick of incense
so the altar represents what i mean without words by vow
what is our vow for what will you stand and face the work of this world that needs to be done and for what will you come together
on the morning of the buddhist on awakening he was facing to the east to the altar of the night sky in the fading light of the morning star
his words on that occasion were wonderful wonderful i and all beings on earth together attain enlightenment at the same time
this is what's called the first principle it's the great truth of non separation of complete interdependence between ourselves and everything else around us
and it's the very truth that allows us to find the words that are right to find our vow
and to know whether those words are the correct words or not
in the buddhist tradition the correct words are always provisional
they're the ones that work right now but always we have to check and test or these the right words now are they right now are they right now this is what brings our vow to life to that small thread of life that i call me
my words my bow
we have some words in our community that we say over and over again i know you've heard them many times and i've heard them so many times that they have truly grown inside of me as my own personal vow and i know it when i said because i can feel it in my heart
we say i vow to live for the benefit of all beings
i vow to live for the benefit of all the
this has called the bodies time for that
and through words like that
as though joined by marriage we acknowledge our connection to the entirety of the universe this small thread like emmis connected to boris through the intimacy of our words and our love
in this way this connection replicates the awakening of the buddha a wonderful wonderful i and all beings together realize enlightenment at the same time congratulations great congratulations
here's another statement by the buddha that was reported to have been made shortly after his birth
and he said i alone am the world honored one
think a lot of us have had little trouble with that one know kind of a kid is that
hi alone and the world on at one
what i've come to understand as if you sit in the middle of this vow to live for the benefit of all beings than in doing so you also turn
from self to other
the buddha is not self and is not other he's the conjoining of self another that's what buddha is the meeting
so i alone and the world honored one becomes i alone and the world honoring one
and so are each of you and so are we are
through honoring and being honored through loving the world and being loved by the world
we'd be we come to embody vastness and the wholeness of our true identity
so this understanding of first principle is the subject matter of a very important text and buddhist literature called the lotus sutra
and it's especially the subject matter of chapter one
in chapter one the buddha is seated motionless lee in front of the congregation which is made up of humans gods and dragons
and they're all patiently waiting for the buddha to teach
and finally the earth begins to shake and flowers rained down from the heavens
and the buddhist sends forth from a circle of white hair between his eyebrows a vision
of one quarter of the entire universe
he was imagining these digital artists reproducing this scene
one quarter of the entire universe was visible to everyone in the congregation
within this vision appeared eighteen thousand worlds worlds of suffering and worlds of delight and the living beings in these worlds which are perpetually rotating among them and at the same time where all the buddhas and body suffers chanting and day
dancing and singing the songs of liberation the songs of freedom to these beings trap in cycles of pleasure and horror
come out come out wherever you are and see the fine lady who fell from a star
so as kind of like a galactic interfaith course they're no chanting their luminous intentions
and in the sutra it says they express these intentions with various discernment and faith and various appearances
after the buddha withdraws the vision back into his forehead and resumes his silent meditation the congregation pleads with manjushri the body sought for wisdom and stood large figure on our alter here and agenda
please explain to us what this vision means what does it mean
so this is exactly the place where we all find ourselves isn't it
what does it mean reality like a great river is continuously spreading itself out before us
and it's the only banks are the limits of our sense organs and our imagination
what does it mean
so over and over again we see it but what is it what is it we see does it even have ma
well some people say no doesn't have any
and some people say it's name as god
its name is allah
and some people say the emperor has no clothes
or the clothes have no emperor
you know how about you
well what the buddha says is don't worry about it
don't worry about it all just take care of it
with all your heart and with the skill of your hands and with the wisdom and clarity of your mind
devote yourself to its well being
and live your vow
just as a mother at the risk of her life watches over and protects her only child so with a boundless mine should one cherish all living beings suffusing love over the entire world above below and all around without limit so
so let one cultivate an infinite goodwill towards the whole world standing or walking sitting or lying down during all ones waking hours let one practice the way with gratitude
once you've decided to live by your vow then you'll need some tools and some skills in order to under undertake all the the much needed repairs
because it's now your world and it's now your responsibility
i heard of an extraordinarily wonderful story from a navajo elder who visited here in june with seven children we did a a small summer camp here some kids from mill valley this woman whose name is at a shirley
told us the story of spider-woman and the sky who created the earth and then every morning spider-woman like any good parent comes out and repairs all the damage that's done from the day before
so in chapter two of the lotus sutra the buddha teaches humans the skills of the spider woman so that they too can care for the world so chapter one here it is chapter two here's how you take care of it
so the skills that we need or skills of perception skills of communication skills of compassion and of wisdom
and the buddha teaches the four noble truths which are the very foundation for the study of causes don't seek for blame secret causes how did this come to be
because the messengers are all ready arriving from the east and from the west from the north and from the south with the impending destruction of humanity what should we do
so you know this is the really big question for us the question of mortality
whether it's personal or whether it's global
and you know i i don't have the big answers i don't think i've ever heard a big answer but the big questions or their cross
and i do have a deep faith and our ability to turn and face reality
and in particular this matter of birth and death
it's called in buddhism the great matter of birth and death
as it says on our hot outside and know if you've ever read it that the instrument we hit to call people to the meditation hall
consider the great matter of birth and death don't waste time
and in one of the things we learn when we consider the matter of great a birth and death is how strongly we cling
to life to this precious and temporary abiding
this blue green planet third out from the sun
my daughter last night was studying her science folder and i she had her page open to the big bang
and she said this is interesting
yeah this isn't it but she didn't apparently have any concern about transients see or fatality at least not yet mostly she's concerned about electronics as far as i can tell
but for me as over the years i've considered the matter of death ah the first approach i took was to basically ignore it and like maybe it would leave me alone i didn't pay much attention i avoided funerals
you know sometimes i wouldn't die
go toward people who i knew were are ending their lives i'd be afraid stairway
but as i've gotten older many things have happened and on i have had to against my earlier judgments or admit to myself how much i love and cling to this precious and transient life
falcons and sea lions stink weed and bunny rabbits like snowflakes falling for millions of years each one different and yet each one another name for buddha another name for snow
so zen practice for me is about remembering to be grateful for the gift
this gift of snow
and we all know that that's not always so easy because things don't go the way that i like and even when they do they don't last
so this is the first of the four noble truths there is suffering and it's the very foundation for the buddha's enlightened insight
birth is suffering
aging is suffering death is suffering sorrow and lamentation pain grief and despair are suffering
association with what one hates his suffering separation from what one loves his suffering not getting what one once he is suffering
so this is very familiar territory for all of us
not getting what we want
in fact suffering is the primary bond of our human life so it's a very good place to start
and no matter what happens in this world our practice is to open our eyes and to look and to open our hearts and to help
so that we all might live by this vow to benefit all beings because all beings is who we are
and why else would we care about what's happening in louisiana
or in baghdad
or in oakland
or next door
we do care we feel it all through our hearts those are our screens and those are our agonies those are our joys
i think many of you know the story from the buddhist tradition of the parable of the mustard seed but perhaps some who don't
there was a young woman whose child had died and who became insane with grief so people center to see the buddha still carrying the tiny corpse she pleaded with him to bring her child back to life
he told her that he would make some medicine for the baby if she brought him a mustard seed from a household in the village where no one had ever died
so she went door to door day after day after day and of course she found no such household
and finally she took the little body to the burning grounds regained her sanity and entered a life of practice a life of thou
compassion for the buddha was not in his ability to fix things to heal the sick and raised the dead but rather in how he helped people to see themselves in the suffering of others
this young mother was healed by the compassion in her own tender heart
when aging and death are closing in upon you what else can you do but to walk in the law in righteousness and to cultivate what is a benefit for everyone
so i have a lot of faith in the fact that human beings are basically virtuous and kind
it's not something we have to go out and find for ourselves it's in us all but we do need to grow and mature in our capacities for kindness for generosity and for virtue
because like the old king we can wander off drunk with our own authority and intoxicated by sensual pleasures know we know that about ourselves so we need good friends to call us back
to help us when we forget who we really are
the hair green gulch farm friends wake us up every morning about four three
doesn't sound like a very friendly
but after a while and gratitude starts to seep up through the floorboards as we sit here together in the chill and the dark
and when we sit like that it's kind of like amos riding on his beloved rodent we begin to see things more clearly
we begin to forget about the story lines for a while and to sink in to our senses the shifting sounds and the shifting lights the shifting emotions
full of wonder full of enterprise and full of love for life
as we become more aware of the fathom fathomless miss of our experience
and perhaps that that very moment when we roll off the deck and into the sea we begin to suspect that the very depth of our life is none other than what we've been calling our death
and that they're really not separate at all
as moment to moment aspects of reality both birth and death are boundless and all inclusive
like the rising and falling of the waves and the ocean each one makes way for the other
it's a facile by master dogan called undivided activity that talks about birth and death and just this way
they must have been a mouse of the temple
fond of the ocean he also uses the image of riding in a boat
birth is just like like riding in a boat you raise the sales and row with the oars and although you row the boat gives you a ride and without the boat no one could ride but you ride and you're writing makes the boat what it is investigate a moment such a
as this
when you ride in a boat your body and mind and the environment together or the undivided activity of the boat
the entire earth and the entire sky are both the undivided activity of the boat
thus birth is nothing but you you are nothing but birth
zen master seung woo said birth his undivided activity death his undivided activity
however it is not that one and the same entire earth and sky are fully manifested in birth and also fully manifested in death it's not the one in the same although not one not different although not different not the same
although not the same not many starting to sound like zero now isn't it
this being so the undivided activity of birth and death is like a young man bending and stretching his arm
the undivided activity of birth and death is like a young man bending and stretching his own
so whether our gestures are subtle or grand or whether they're conscious or unconscious we are included moment by moment in the vast net of causal conditions
and from our actions whether as individuals or taken together good and evil spread forth
so i would like to recommend that we choose from our small corner of the universe the part that we had intend to play in this great unfolding and if we say we want to play the part the buddha then this is what the buddha
has to say
there is a simple way to become a buddha
when you refrain from unwholesome actions are not attached to birth and death and are compassionate toward all sentient beings respectful to the elders and kind to the young not excluding or desiring anything with no
worries then you will be called a buddha
do not seek anything else
so i am i want to end by just thanking all of you for coming today to be here together and i know many of you are probably ah looking for ways to help what with what's been going on and in the south maybe you've already done your own
research and if you found some good possibilities please share them with us you could let the office know i asked around myself and was told that are some good places to help would be of course the american red cross but also the american friends service committee and this
another organization called america's second harvest and which is a food bank
so i i don't want you to believe that this is the end of story because this story is never ending
and as one of the christian mystics recently said god is real
buddha is real
a new and i are real and there are real problems that require real answers and real effort
and i think oh we need to do something together we need to end this war
we need to address the issues of
social and economic injustice in this country to say nothing of this county and this world we need to do this this is real
and the task i think has caused spider-woman to get a little behind so as we know one one spider can't make the repairs needed but fifty or a thousand or a million will be able to take care of it and
under an hour
so thank you all for whatever you can do to help
may our intention