Buddhas And Sentient Beings Are Not Two

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SF-01026
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One-day sitting lecture: positive encouragement; nirvana; five hindrances; preliminary practices; three worlds; jhanas - benefits and ptifalls; Four Noble Truths; Mahayana

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of the true mind of faith, of the true body of faith. Good morning. I just wanted to, not apologize, but ask you to excuse me from bowing. I am supposed to have a test to see what's going on, I've been getting a little faint. So I'm not worried, so please don't be worried either, I think it's fine. But I was asked not to do bows for a while. So I found this poem in a recent New Yorker, I usually at least read the cartoons and

[01:14]

poems, and this is by Megan O'Rourke called The Hunt, and as soon as I read it I thought, I think this woman might have some knowledge of meditation. The light of the mind is red, it is a red street, it never ends. It must be kept to like a schedule, when it is fine, it is fine. And the night's hounds flinch from it. Foxes run under dark cover of leaves, the glacier trapping everything unused melts. Everything natural to us must be learned, the broken laugh, the branching glance, the wood beneath the green embarking skin. The light of the mind is red, it is a red street, and a cold home stands at its darkening

[02:15]

end, toward which foxes run through clicking leaves. So I first of all wanted to welcome all of you to a day of sitting together here at the Zen Do. And I was thinking that as meditators there are two essential elements that we have to attend to, and the first is bodily posture. So I thought I would just mention a few points and join you in asking myself how am I doing. I thought perhaps that you might even imagine a friendly hand touching you in these places with a suggestion. So one place that you might consider is your lower back, you know, that some may be a deeper

[03:16]

curve in your lower back, and at the same time a hand on your sternum suggesting that you lift the sternum upward. And then you might imagine two hands taking your head and pulling toward the sky, and at the same time those hands resting on the shoulders and allowing you to relax. And finally the very same hands placed near the lap, just above the lap, with the thumbs gently touching. And the other major element of our practice is the composition of the mind. What is going on in your mind, in my mind? And I was thinking that if we were still the simple single-celled creatures from which

[04:23]

all life began, that a meditation instruction could perhaps be simple as well, you know, like just float. But I think we all know that we have grown in complexity, and as a result we often feel confused and frustrated and unnecessarily afraid. So the Buddha was a human student of human beings, of human complexity, and he offered various suggestions, simple suggestions, medicinal suggestions to help us as we struggle with our lives, with this body and with this mind. So I want to focus today on the teachings related to meditation practice that were given to us by the Buddha and by those inspired by the Buddha.

[05:26]

And I wanted to particularly bring up something that senior Dharma teacher Norman Fisher mentioned a few Sundays ago, when he spoke here. He talked about the five hindrances to meditative tranquility. So in the early teachings of Buddhism, the aspiring students of the way were taught a path of liberation that led to a resting place called Nirvana. Nirvana means blown out. So we human beings are perfectly capable of imagining such a place, and we really design it to our own liking. For some of us Nirvana would be dark and silent, and for others it would be a well-lit room

[06:33]

where the lights are never turned off. But regardless of what we imagine, as with all experience, we need to wait until we're actually there in order to say. And even then, apparently, when you're in Nirvana, there's nobody in Nirvana and nothing to say. So, be suspicious of any reports that you hear. But the Buddha did speak, and he used human language, common language, and his speech was a compassionate response to our confusion, our frustration, and our unnecessary pain. It was a skillful method for inducing in us an aspiration for freedom, for kindness and for clarity. And we could actually say that the Buddha himself is the teaching itself.

[07:42]

And it's simply been conveniently packaged in a human form for the sake of conveying these teachings to us. There's an old saying that there are no teachers of Chan in all of China, and by extension, there are no teachers of Zen in all of California. But there is the teaching itself, and we can all share from this one fragrant cup. There is only one cup. There is only one life, one truth, one precept, and that is that Buddhas and sentient beings are not two. And that's what the Buddha said. So what's the problem? Well, the problem is that we don't see it that way.

[08:48]

Our two eyes, and our two hands, and our two ears, and our mind, with its limitations of view, have split the universe in half. There's me, and there's everything else, and that's two. So this splitting is ignorance itself, and it's the source of our grievous suffering. The aspiration to awaken is the aspiration to end this seemingly infallible sense of separation between ourselves and everything else. The light of the mind is red. It is a red street. It never ends. It must be kept to like a schedule. In the Buddha's teaching, the red street is called the Kamadhatu, or the realm of desires,

[09:57]

and it's governed by Mara, the evil one, master of illusion. I have a feeling that Mara likes his job very, very much. I don't know if any of you saw or remember the movie Devil's Advocate, but Keanu Reeves plays a young attorney, and Robert De Niro plays an old attorney who's actually Satan himself. And in this role, De Niro seems to really be enjoying himself. He likes being the devil. He's having a great time, and he argues the case for evil over good as much more suitable to human nature. And I won't tell you how it ends, but it's a rather wonderful and convincing case, Devil's

[10:58]

Advocate. So this is the standoff on the red street between Mara and the Buddha, between awakening itself, true Dharma itself, and the constant production of non-existent phenomena. Phenomena which appear to be arriving at that place that we call by several names. We say it comes from outside, it comes from elsewhere, it comes from not me. No. So the five hindrances are five categories of these non-existent phenomena. Phenomena which arrive in a vast array of costumes and conveyances, somewhat like guests at a ball. They come, and they cloud the mind, because that's what they do. The mind of itself is

[12:05]

pure, just as it is. When it is fine, it is fine, and the night's hounds flinch from it. But the guests behave badly. They shout in anger, they chase each other around the house, and sometimes they stand in a drunken stupor on the porch. We can try throwing them out. I think we've all tried throwing out the guests. But another approach is to patiently wait until they regain their sobriety and leave all of their own free will. So this is the practice of meditation that we're doing today. We're waiting them out. So as Norman mentioned in his talk, it is very beneficial to know the names of the guests

[13:05]

in advance of their arrival. That way we can sort them into groups for the purposes of our study, because it's study itself that is the characteristic of our practice. We study the self, we study the guests, we study our anxiety. Study is what puts the guests to work. It gives them a job, and it treats them with respect and as responsible citizens of the town. One of them is asked to sweep, another to cook, another to read, or to take out the trash. The five hindrances to meditation are called Nivarana in Sanskrit. And they are covetousness, I like it. Animosity, I don't like it. Sloth and torpor, I can't be bothered. Restlessness

[14:16]

and regret, like where did I put my keys? And the last one is doubt, which I don't think is confusing to us. So it says in the introductory notes to a sutra I've recently been studying called the Shurangama Samadhi Sutra. This is a meditation sutra from the Mahayana tradition. And it means the concentration of heroic progress. It says that once we have freed ourselves from the five hindrances, then we consider them in various ways, such as the discharging of an old debt, a miraculous cure, the end of a prolonged detention, the return to freedom, and a home in a peaceful territory. The five hindrances are part of a set of prerequisites for engaging in meditation practice called

[15:33]

samadhi, one-pointed concentration. So in addition to the five hindrances, the other elements that are prerequisites to samadhi are observances of ethical virtue, the precepts. Mindful awareness, contentment, and simple living. Once we've accomplished these preliminary practices, which I think we all know take considerable time and devotion of our lives and our intention, then the mind is free from the excesses of greed, of hatred, of greed, and of confusion. And at that time, the meditator is able to see themselves as the host, as the host, and to have a refined relationship with the guests. They can sit down and attend

[16:39]

to each of the guests one by one, considering their needs and assisting them on their way. These guests are not invited, but they're not unwelcome. Buddhist cosmology posits that there are three worlds through which the host courses in their studies of the self, of self-reflection and of concentration. Three realms, these three realms are all elements of our mind, all parts of our mind. We could say these are states of consciousness. And these states of consciousness are completely natural to us. We are all familiar with them, some of us more so, depending on the state of consciousness

[17:41]

we're on, just time we've spent in quiet places. But we all know these states of mind. We've coursed in them, whether intentionally or accidentally, since we were small children. The lower world is called the Kamadhatu, the Red Street, and it's the realm of the five senses. The Kamadhatu is characterized by six well-known psychological states. There's hell, there's heaven, there's the animal world, hungry ghosts, fighting gods, and there's the humans. The Buddha also called the Kamadhatu samsara, meaning endless circling, so the round and around we go through these different destinations, sometimes in heaven, shortly thereafter in hell, sometimes a god, a demon, an animal, a ghost, over and over again.

[18:49]

So samsara, endless circling, for some people this is what we call human life, all we know of human life. But there is a door, there is a doorway, and that doorway is approached through meditative stabilization. And it's kind of like, I was trying to imagine what that doorway would be like, you know, and I thought about Harry going to Hogwarts. It looks like a wall, but you run at it, and all of a sudden you've entered into another world, another realm. So entry into the second world of the three worlds is through meditation. Through trances or meditative concentrations called jhanas. So the doorway from the Kamadhatu

[20:01]

to what's called the Rupadhatu, the next realm, is a jhana, first jhana. So the Rupadhatu is characterized by joy. Once you have exited the Kamadhatu, the Red Street, just leaving is a great relief, and the by-product of that relief is joy. These jhanas, or trances, were considered highly important in the early teachings and the practices of the monks. And when the Chinese monks went to India, they studied jhana, and they said chan, chan. And then the Japanese monks came to China to study, and they heard chan and

[21:03]

they said zen, zen. So jhana, chan, and zen are all referring to these meditative trances or concentration practices. These are meditative absorptions, and they allow the host to refine the relationship to the guests. As I said, the first jhana is characterized by joy, the joy that arises from overcoming the hindrances and exiting the Kamadhatu, the joy that comes with a life of virtue, mindfulness, simplicity, and contentment. This is from the text itself. From joy arises happiness. When the mind is happy, the body is calm. When the body is calm, the mind is absorbed. But even so, even at this lovely place, the mind is not perfectly

[22:11]

at ease. And the reason for this is that there is still thinking and deliberation going on in the first jhana. There are still ideas and considerations going on. And these are now viewed as hindrances, subtle hindrances. And these hindrances have the effect of anchoring the mind as though to a place. So I was thinking one image of practicing with the jhanas is like traveling in a hot air balloon. You need to throw off the ballast in order to go higher into the sky. So the ballast from the first jhana that has to be thrown off is this jhana that is discursive thinking, thinking and deliberation. Just throw that off and the balloon goes higher. So once reasoning and deliberation have been discarded, the host

[23:14]

attains and dwells in the second jhana, which is characterized by inward peace and one-pointedness of mind, samadhi. Now I found it hard to believe when I first read this some years ago, but the hindrance in the second jhana is joy itself. Has to go. But jettisoning the joy allows us to rise into the third jhana, which is characterized by equanimity, mindfulness and full awareness with a body that is very, very happy. So it's actually, joy is a low-grade form in this description of these practices. The fourth jhana is entered when not only

[24:15]

the happy body is deleted, the next hindrance, but also the body of suffering. In this state the host's entire body is described as permeated by utterly pure and utterly cleansed thought. For many of us I think that would seem quite enough, quite high enough. Utterly pure, utterly cleansed thought permeating our entire experience of being. But there are four more possibilities. Once you've reached the top of the rupadhatu, the world of subtle form, it's possible to enter the arupadhatu, the world, the third world of the triple world, where there is no form, the formless world. We're now in kind of a vaporousness of consciousness and

[25:17]

each of these jhanas is named for the state of mind that fills and occupies the experience of the meditator. Again from the text, having entirely gone beyond all notions of form, having banished all notions of resistance, having disregarded all notions of plurality, the meditator exclaims, infinite is space, and attains and dwells in the sphere of the infinity of space. This is the fifth jhana. Having entirely gone beyond the sphere of infinity of space, the meditator exclaims, infinite is consciousness, and attains and dwells in the sphere of the infinity of consciousness. Sixth jhana. Having entirely gone beyond the

[26:19]

sphere of the infinity of consciousness, the meditator exclaims, nothing exists, and attains and dwells in the sphere of nothingness. The seventh jhana. And then the eighth jhana. Having entirely gone beyond the sphere of nothingness, the meditator attains and dwells in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. And this jhana has sometimes been illustrated by the image of the razor's edge. It's so fine that you can't really see if it's sharper or there at all. So I think one of the reasons it's important to know about these meditative states, which are, as I said, natural to us, whether we

[27:26]

are familiar with them already or not, is that we ought not to be fooled by these appearances and forget that they too are illusory and transient, like all other phenomena. The danger of the trances is that they are terribly attractive and may disguise themselves as the goals of our spiritual life. But I think as any addict knows, or can tell you, once the trip is over the mind goes straight back to hell. Only we forget and we start in again, you know. Just one more time, one more hour, one more day of pleasure or bliss. The pursuit of bliss states can even result in the tragic stunting of a human being's

[28:30]

emotional and psychological growth. And I'm actually not exaggerating that. It's a real danger for those of us in the world of spiritual conversation and effort. When the Buddha was finding his own way among the perils of the Red Street, he also arrived at the seventh and eighth jhanas through the guidance of two skilled meditation teachers. But having mastered these trances, he determined for himself that these were not the goals that he was seeking. He was seeking the end of suffering, not a temporary respite. And so he declared that these jhanas are simply rest stops, very beneficial to our well-being, but simple rest stops on the path of freedom. And once we are rested, then we must continue

[29:38]

our journey of awakening, which requires the meditator to come down from the high states where there is no thinking and to re-engage with discursive thought, to begin once again to think and to feel. So at this point there's the convergence of two pathways, the pathway of meditation and the pathway of insight. Insight requiring us to think and to reason, and meditation allowing us to relax and to be calm. The convergence of these methods is culminated, or was for the Buddha, in a realization he called the Four Noble Truths. There is suffering, there is suffering, and there is a cause of that suffering, and there is a cessation of suffering. There is nirvana, respite, and

[30:39]

there's a cause for the cessation of suffering, and it's a way of life. So, basically, in the awakened eyes of the Buddha, all phenomena are impermanent, and therefore they're painful, they're transitory, nothing lasts, nothing. Whatever you try to hold eventually is gone, even the hand itself. And also, phenomena are not personal, it's not about me, and they don't pertain to a self, they don't create a self, they are not a self, there is no self. So, the elimination, through meditative insight, of a self, and of the desires by that self

[31:42]

for objects, is perfect peace, is nirvana, is blown out. There's no more fooling around, no more shopping. A cold home stands at its darkening end, toward which foxes run through clicking leaves. Several hundred years after the Buddha appeared to die, there came along a shift of perception and perspective, a widening of philosophical view called the Mahayana, the great vehicle, in which nirvana itself was viewed as another rest stop along the passageway to liberation. And the production credits of the Mahayana spectacle are, as you know, extraordinary in

[32:54]

scope and special effects. There are new heroic bodhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara of compassion and Manjushri of wisdom, Samantabhadra of great activity. They're strong and they're glowing, these heroes of the Mahayana. So, we are wowed and awed by the language of the Mahayana Sutras, and we are exhorted by them to the knowledge of all things, to omniscience. And we are asked to aspire to arouse the highest, most perfect and complete enlightenment, antara-samyak-sambodhi. The glacier trapping everything unused melts. If in the early teachings the concentration practices and the elimination of all worldly

[34:04]

desire seemed daunting for a human being, the Mahayana leaves us in a free fall of grandiosity and unfathomability. The hot air balloon is popped, and at first it seems like there is nothing that we can do but fall. But as it turns out, the great vehicle really isn't setting us up to fall, it is simply trying to help us to let go of any and all ideas we have about liberation for ourselves alone. In other words, the Mahayana is the great you know, all together now, everyone included, whether we're falling or standing still, we're holding hands. And if the Buddha's vision is correct, there is really no place to fall,

[35:11]

nor is there anywhere to stand. The core of the Mahayana vision can be said in this simple phrase, the entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body. The entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body. And from this core vision there arises quite naturally the intention to take care of that body as one's own, because they are identical and equivalent, because they are neither one nor the other. Neither of them existent at all. From the Diamond Sutra, beings, beings as no beings, therefore we say beings. So in the Buddha's wisdom there is nothing,

[36:20]

there is nothing, no thing, no thing to possess, no person to save, no object to possess, no place to retire, no path to walk, no ignorance to overcome, and especially no Buddha to be. However, in the Buddha's compassion there is the deepest regard for the suffering of living beings. So the Buddha first addresses the bleeding and the suffering of the world around and offers a variety of skillful means to help us to heal, including meditations in the jhanas, including orioke meals. These are skillful means. But once we've healed then the Buddha offers his vision, he reveals his vision, that the Red Street and nirvana

[37:25]

have never been anything other than the same, the one and the same, like Dorothy coming back from Oz. From the text on the concentration of heroic progress, since beings and things do not exist and have never existed, the only eloquence of any value is silence. True wisdom is the stopping of all thought. Faced with the universal emptiness that is itself not something, the mind of the bodhisattva does not fear, does not tremble, and does not take fright. The bodhisattva does, however, aspire to this supreme and perfect enlightenment, but only for the benefit of others, defining his or her intentions as exclusively altruistic. So I wanted to finish with this very lovely

[38:30]

statement of the bodhisattva's great resolve that comes from the Bodhisattva Pradimoksha Sutra. I, and you can put your own name in here, I, Furu Yudoshin, who have thus aroused the thought of Bodhi, adopt the infinite world of beings as my mother, father, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, relatives of whatever degree and kin. Having adopted them with all my power, with all my strength, with all my knowledge, I will implant good roots in them. Henceforth the gift that I shall give, the morality I observe, the patience I maintain, the vigor I exert, the absorption I practice, the wisdom I develop, all of this will be for the interest, the benefit, and the happiness of all beings.

[39:37]

This deep intention to live and to work for the benefit of others is the simple heart of our daily practice. With no other address, no other name, no other places to go, we care for the life of our planet as our home, of our neighbors as our self, and our language as compassion. Thank you very much.

[40:09]

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