Buddhism, Christianity, War and Peace

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SF-00939
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Sunday Lecture: Two types of training: compassion and wisdom (wisdom: the entire universe is the true human body); US history; Christianity (is evil 'outside' or not); Mara compared with Devil; Review of "Passion of the Christ"

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Good morning. The entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body. The entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body.

[01:03]

So I was imagining that all of us are probably pretty upset by the terrible news that keeps coming into our homes through televisions and radios and newspapers, internets, all the portals of information about the entire universe in the ten directions, this true human body. And at the very same moments, birds are singing, frogs are frogging, flowers are blooming. You know, it's a great thing to live on the coast of California in the spring.

[02:10]

So, what I've noticed in this contrast, emotional contrast, in my heart is a splitting between the conjoined twins of great joy and great sorrow. And the Buddha said that hearts don't come in any other way. To have a heart is to love things. And what we love, when they're gone, we terribly suffer. So I would like to sit for just a moment or two silently with you and ask you to listen to your own hearts, and perhaps if you're lucky, if I'm lucky, quiet the incessant chattering

[03:21]

of the human mind. I was sitting in the lecture here one day when Ed Brown suggested this silent moment

[04:30]

and there was an earthquake at that time. So... The teachings of the Buddha come in basically two types, two categories. One category are the teachings of compassion, like the precepts, don't harm other beings, don't lie, don't steal, you know, pretty basic stuff. Be nice, be kind. And the other type of teaching are the wisdom teachings, like the Heart Sutra. No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind. These two teachings are understood to be like the wings of a bird.

[05:30]

Without two wings, a bird can't fly. Or if one wing is a lot stronger than the other, then the bird is pretty lopsided or, you know, can't get off the ground. When compassion is too strong, it can become a kind of ineffectual and even harmful sentimentality. And when wisdom is too strong, it can become a kind of intellectual exercise, just spinning round and round in our heads, cold, out of touch with our feelings. So, the bird has to have two strong wings in order to fly. And looking at and listening to the world these days, for me mostly NPR, I drive around in my car, it seems that the standards of compassion in the world are pretty much the

[06:37]

same all around, you know. It's to be polite and kind and to not torture people or not blow them up, and so on. This is pretty much the standard among human beings. But when we talk about the wisdom teachings, I think I start to notice an appearance of difference in the great spiritual traditions of the world. And I wonder if that's a real difference. I don't think so, but it kind of looks that way. So that's what I want to talk about today. This line from Zen Master Dogen, The Entire World in the Ten Directions is the True Human Body, is an example from the Buddhist tradition of a wisdom teaching.

[07:41]

It's deceptively simple, just one sentence, maybe eight words or so, but embedded in that one sentence are the two major principles of Buddhist philosophy. And those principles are called the two principles. The first principle is the ultimate truth. The ultimate truth. The ultimate truth is reality itself. The entire universe in the ten directions is the ultimate truth. Kind of hard to play with. Not much to say. Whatever we say is incomplete, including the entire world in the ten directions is the true human body.

[08:44]

Just words. So words are a second principle. Everything we say, everything we do is second principle, relative truth. It's partial, it's not complete. But we need the relative truth, like we need a finger, in order to point at the whole works, the entirety, the ineffable truth, the ultimate truth. So we use words to point at the big truth. So words can come in two forms. There are words that are useful and beneficial. Those are karmically good words to use. And there are words that are harmful and destructive, and those are karmically bad words to use. And I think we all know the difference. And the outcomes in our choice of words are usually pretty clear.

[09:51]

So although we can't state the ultimate truth in words, we can realize it, we can awaken to it, because, in fact, it's what we are. We are reality itself, the entire universe, and the ten directions is the true human body. You know, what else could we be? The only alternative is that there's me and the rest of the universe, and I'm left out. Well, I don't think that's fair, so I choose not to believe that. And I'm suggesting that you do the same. When the Buddha awakened, he said, I and all things, like one word, I and all things am the truth of reality.

[10:58]

I and all things together is the truth of reality. This was his enlightenment, there's not much more to it than that. He was sitting under a tree, he'd been struggling for almost a week, grumbling, complaining, why me? So on, incessant chatter of the human mind, just like the rest of us. And then all of a sudden, he woke up. He was sitting there, looking at a star, and he became filled with the great love for all things. And as you all know, if you've ever been in love, and I'm sure you have, when you're in love, the whole world is aglow. Nothing's left out. Everything's beautiful. Nothing outside, nothing inside. But true human body, complete, it's called love.

[12:02]

The opposite is called hate. And when we hate, when we're afraid, then we have enemies, and even our friends are enemies. Nothing is okay. So, Zen training is concerned entirely with trying to help all of us to wake up to the true human body, one by one by one. There's a great story I heard from a Tibetan tantric dancer who will be visiting here hopefully in June to demonstrate his beautiful craft. I hope you can all come. He told a story that I don't know how many of you have seen the Wheel of Life, or the Buddhist Tantra that has the whole world, the whole universe, painted in states of mind and hell realms and hungry ghosts and so on. It's a big circle. And holding the circle is this angry-looking demon.

[13:10]

And this man, this dancer, told us that that angry demon was Avalokiteshvara, who is the Bodhisattva of compassion, of all things. And he said what happened was Avalokiteshvara knew that he was supposed to help people wake up one by one by one, but he got kind of tired of doing it that way. So he decided to take the whole universe and wake everybody up at the same time. But he got stuck, and it didn't work. So that's why he's so mad. He can't put it down. So one by one by one, it's the only way. So when we wake up to non-separation, to nothing outside and nothing inside, no separate self, as the Buddha did in that morning under the tree, then it's very quiet, except for the

[14:17]

bees buzzing and the birds singing, the flowers blooming. It's a very nice place to be, Moraine County, in the spring. What the Buddha discovered at the time of his enlightenment was that the problem he'd been having was a problem of the mind, a problem of thinking. And I often use the example of my daughter. I know when she gets older she's going to tell me to stop doing that. All of the kids here do. Stop talking about me. But anyway, whenever she's asking for or demanding anything, I remind her, the problem is not with the cookie, Sabrina, it's in your noodle. And then she says, stop giving me that Buddha stuff, Mom.

[15:17]

I'm getting tired of it. So we have a problem and the problem is how we think. This is what the Buddha taught and knew. But that's the good news, because if it's how we think, then we can actually change the way we think. We can. We already have many times since you were children. We can do it again and again and again. We can even stop thinking for a while. This is called shamatha, tranquility. Put the mind at rest, relax, take a break. It's wonderful. It's the highest form of ecstatic joy. It's what Mr. Emerson said, tranquility, nothing better. And the other way we can think is to think rationally and accurately about the problems

[16:19]

of the world. This is called vipassana, or insight. So first we calm the mind and then we think clearly, what are we going to do? The entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body. So all of us know about the workings of the human mind and we've all been working with a human mind for all of our lives. And we do know that when we're angry, when we're upset, our mind and our body contract. We pull back. And we also know that when we're open and loving, the mind and body open and expand and welcome, welcome the world. So this is from the Dhammapada.

[17:20]

It's a very important verse. I've shared it here many times. It's very important to me. It's a very, very old sutra, several thousand years ago. He beat me. He robbed me. They cheated me. Those who think such thoughts will not be free from hate. He beat me. She robbed me. They cheated me. Those who think not such thoughts will be free from hate. For hate does not conquer hate. Hate does not conquer hate. Hate is conquered by love. This is the eternal law. Many do not know that we are here in this world to live in harmony with one another. Those who know this do not fight against each other. Recently, I was invited to join a panel by the Marin Interfaith Council to discuss the

[18:27]

movie, The Passion of the Christ. I'm curious how many of you actually saw this movie. Anybody? Anybody? When this panel gathered, no one but the people on the panel had seen the movie, so we could say anything. So I'd been a little nervous about seeing the film. I'd heard how violent it was and it was kind of hard for me to get those images out of my mind, so I tend to not go too far. But I wanted to be on the panel, so I got some friends to go with me and we went. And when I got to the church where the panel was going to take place, there were three

[19:28]

of us, and on my left was a young, nice-looking male Catholic priest, and on my right was a young, nice-looking female rabbi. And I said to the moderator, when he showed me where I was going to be sitting, I said, am I the referee? And he said, kind of soberly, we don't like to think like that. And I felt embarrassed, because I do think like that all the time. So I want to share some of the ideas that I brought up at the panel with you, and a few other ideas as well. I'm afraid I have almost the kitchen sink in this talk today, so I'm sorry.

[20:30]

Anyway, it's hard to cover the whole history of the world in forty minutes, is what I've discovered, but I'm going to try. So, what inspired me to study and look into Christianity, which is the faith of my parents and grandparents, I think, although we're not so sure anymore. My grandmother's maiden name was Gould. So, anyway, something happened there, but I grew up in the Episcopal church, which I liked very much. And then I became a teenager. Something changed. I don't know what happened, but I was crazy for a while. So that was part of it, but the other part of it was really taking to heart what the

[21:40]

Dalai Lama said to us after 9-11. I don't know if any of you read his lecture or heard him talk, but he said, don't look for blame, look for causes. What are the causes of this terrible suffering? I was really touched by that, and so I've been doing that. I've been reading a lot about American history, world history, and I'm going to recommend a few books to you that probably you've already read, but very important to me. What modern scholarship is allowing us to see in deeply into our own past. So, these are old conflicts, all of them. They're ancient. We've been fighting since the first cells, of course, started to figure out how they could eat each other. And on its go, on its goes, you know, there were the tyrannosauruses, that didn't work

[22:45]

very well, and the mammals, and as Jared Diamond describes us in the book The Third Chimpanzee, for a long time we just lived on the earth, very like the chimpanzees do today. We traveled around in little groups, eating whatever we could find, and mating. That was about it. And then at some point, maybe 13,000 years ago, we started to form larger bands, and then tribes, and then we domesticated plants and animals, and we made villages, and kingdoms, and empires, all within 13,000 years. That's pretty fast. That's pretty fast. And we have been in conflict with each other, as our populations grew, and we came in more contact with each other, and those conflicts have been over food, territory, ideas, morality,

[23:50]

resources, you know. But basically, it all comes down to valuing myself, my family, and my ideas over yours, which is not hard to do, if you notice. So, these are the workings of self-centeredness and of hatred, and this is what the Buddha has taught us to look at and to come to understand. It's the cause and the source of our suffering, and will be till the end of time, if we don't stop. So, along with Jared Diamond's wonderful book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which talks about these 13,000 years, in a very lucid, wonderful way, I also bought the new Oxford Annotated

[24:53]

Bible, Elaine Pagel's Gnostic Gospels, and her latest book called Beyond Belief, which gives a remarkable history of Christianity, and how certain Gospels were chosen for the New Testament, and others were left out, and why. It's very interesting, very interesting, very important. So, this curiosity about the history of Christianity, which of course has had an obviously enormous impact on the globe, as has Islamic faith, as has Buddhism. These are the great traditions of the human species, great traditions of ideas and of beliefs. So, the history of Christianity, for me, dovetailed very nicely with the studies I did last year around the American Revolution, which is also very fascinating.

[25:56]

And, you probably know these two books, I'll just throw them out. The Founding Brothers, by Joseph Ellis, and John Adams, by David McCullough. Extraordinary, fascinating. These were real people. Jefferson was a real guy. You know, not just a picture in my third grade classroom. They were real people, and they had their weaknesses, and their strengths, and their beauty, and their courage, and all kinds of qualities that were remarkable and very human. Mr. Jefferson was an atheist. I didn't know that. Nobody told me that. Wow. He believed in the principles of the French Revolution, and of the Roman Republic. He'd read Cicero in the Latin, and of the Greek democracies. That was his faith, and reason, the European Enlightenment.

[27:00]

Mr. Adams, a lovely man, brilliant man, and his wonderful wife, Abigail, were devout Christians. And he didn't understand Mr. Jefferson, even though they worked together for their whole making this nation in an image of, you know, liberty, and of equality, and all those values that we've heard since we were children. They really believed those things, and they wrote them down. They embedded them in our Constitution, as we know. And the most amazing thing that I learned, of all the things I learned in reading these books, was that Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Adams, very old men, at the end of their lives, living hundreds of miles apart from each other, no telephones, no internet, both died on the same day. Do you know what day that was? Somebody does, I'm sure.

[28:02]

July 4th, 1826, 50 years, the anniversary, 50th anniversary of the American Revolution. Amazing! There's something magical there, you know? Something sacred, perhaps. So these ideas, liberty and equality, fraternity and sorority, are very old ideas. They've been in human society for centuries, for millennia, since the beginning of time perhaps, because they're within the human heart. They're alive in us today. The entire universe, in the ten directions, is the true human body. So I'm planning to continue to study.

[29:05]

I want to learn more about the Muslims and the Islamic societies, another great human formation that I know very little about. And I want to get all the puzzle pieces, if I can, within my lifetime, around me, on the floor. And I have this deep wish that just for a second someone would let me look at the box top, you know, just for a little reassurance that the pieces all fit together and that there is a possibility of harmony on this earth. So, as far as the interfaith panel and our discussion there, the first thing I had to say was that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, as far as I knew at that time, was a very

[30:07]

tiny slice of an enormous and complex puzzle. And it was a slice that I didn't really fully understand. Why, among all the terrible violence on the earth, was that one so important and has become so important in the history of the world? I didn't understand. So I asked a dear friend, one of the men who lives here, his name is Emmanuel, his taken name, his Christian name, who lived for many years in a monastery, why is this such an important story? Tell me, please tell me. And he did, and I was amazed. And I'll give you the shorthand. So, in ancient days, in Jerusalem, there was a temple, and in the temple was a stone altar. And the Jewish people, who were nomadic and herding, they were herding people, they had

[31:13]

animals that were precious to them, animals were the source of life, they were sacred. They would sacrifice animals on the stone altar, and the blood of those sacrifices was sprinkled on the people to free them of their sins. So there was a sect of the Jewish people whose young rabbi was named Jesus. And he said many lovely things, as we all know, and was much loved by his disciples. And he got in trouble with the authorities. The authorities in those days were an occupying power called the Roman Empire. And they crucified him, and above his cross they put the words, King of the Jews. So, the people who loved this man, who were Jews themselves, were heartbroken, and they

[32:27]

believed sincerely that this man had been a child of God, and indeed he was, as are we all. And that the child of God, this blood sacrifice, had cleansed the entire world of its sins. That's a beautiful thought, and it's a beautiful blessing that we could, by such sacrifice, cleanse ourselves of such sin that we continue to perpetrate against one another. So, I didn't know any of this, and I didn't know that when the Jewish people were thrown out of Jerusalem several centuries later, a hundred years later, maybe, by the Romans

[33:28]

for defiling the Jewish people, that the Jewish people were being persecuted. By defying Roman authority, they tore down their temple, leaving only a wall, a wailing wall, for them to cry at. The loss of their country, their culture, their tradition. And they had to travel forever on the roads of the world. And among them were the Christians, the sect of Jews called the Christians, who got in trouble with the main body of the people, because they kept insisting that their teacher was the child of God, the son of God, the one son of God. So they were exiled as well, and they traveled on the roads. Perhaps they had good fortune, I don't know, but they converted the Roman Empire, which

[34:32]

became the Holy Roman Empire, and we know the rest, a great, strong, powerful empire centered in Rome to this day, an empire of faith. So I didn't know any of this, you know, any of it. I didn't know as a child, raised a Christian, that Jesus was Jewish, or that he was a rabbi. All I knew is that, you know, we celebrated with symbols, very special days, which I still celebrate, Christmas, Easter, we had Easter baskets and Christmas trees, and communion, Holy Communion, that's all I knew, really. And I loved those things, I still love those things. But this story has had a big impact on my understanding of the great forces of hatred

[35:39]

and revenge that have plagued humankind for centuries. These are family feuds, and every nation, not just the Christian world, every nation of the world has engaged in family feuds throughout our history. And these feuds are fed by long-held and unquestioned beliefs. And for some, there's a belief in a jealous God who had taken sides against his own children in the outer fringes of the Roman Empire long, long ago. But I believe that that sounds a lot more like human behavior. That's the way humans are. I don't believe that the great ultimate truth behaves in that way. Ultimate truth is the love for all things, without exception.

[36:46]

So the second major concern that I raised during the panel concerning this film was the depiction of evil and good as coming from outside. You know, in the eyes of Jesus, as he appears in the film, who, you know, Mel Gibson sincerely professes to love this Jesus, the devil is shown to be the sinister, gender-bending creature that lurks at the periphery of the crowds as Jesus is being tortured, kind of leering and laughing, smirking, with maggot coming out of his nose every once in a while. That's the devil out there. And at the end of the film, there's an enormous tear that drops out of the sky

[37:52]

as the young Messiah is dying, you know, from heaven, up in the sky. And I know, as children, that we think that way, you know. Heaven is up in the sky, and the devil is down in the dirt near it. But where is devil? Where is the devil? Where is the sacred? Where can we find it? So I want to propose that this depiction of good and evil as external creates a mean-spiritedness in a human being, as though we can actually separate out or eliminate from our lives things which offend us, or which make us uncomfortable or afraid.

[38:54]

Like homosexuals, for example. You know, Mel Gibson goes so far as to depict Herod as a very badly dressed and overly made-up homosexual who's kissing other men and making fun of the Messiah. And Jesus is shown not looking at this man or talking to him when he speaks to him, not responding. He shuns him. And I thought, that's mean. That's mean, you know, Mel. He also shows Jesus, this saintly man, stomping on the head of a snake. The snake is representing evil, you know, but he steps on a snake. You know, that's not nice. I can't imagine a saintly person doing such a thing. They protect the snake. So, to my eyes, there was something really off about this gentle saint

[40:12]

harming or shunning anyone. Great love connects us to all things. Only hatred and fear cause us to turn away. In the story of the Buddha's own awakening, which is parallel to the time in the garden, Gethsemane, there's a very similar depiction of Satan or the devil, what's called Mara, the evil one, in the Buddhist tradition. And Mara is also lurking on the edge of the crowd. In this case, Buddha is sitting under a tree. And Mara appears and says to the Buddha, I will destroy you if you don't get up from this place. And Buddha doesn't move. And so Mara sends an army of angry, hateful beings to attack the Buddha.

[41:15]

And still the Buddha doesn't move. So the army vanishes. Just like that. And then Mara says to the Buddha, Okay, I'm now going to send my greatest force, lust, desire, and boredom. So out come the dancing girls and the dancing boys, smoking cigarettes. And again, the Buddha doesn't move. And again, they vanish. So finally, the Buddha is faced by Mara herself, himself, hard to tell. Just a foggy apparition. And Mara says, I've had it with you. I will now destroy you.

[42:19]

And Buddha said, No, you won't, because I know who you are. And Mara gets a little nervous, says, No, you don't. You don't know who I am. And Buddha says, Yes, I do know who you are. You are myself. And with that, Mara vanishes. And the Buddha is sitting quietly under the tree. The birds are singing, bees are buzzing. Buddha's basic insight was that violence, hatred, lust, theft, and lies are the natural consequences of a belief in a separate self. A self with a God-sized whole, rather than one whole God-sized self. Super-sized. Just like us. So the last point I want to make about the film

[43:23]

has to do with the encounter between Jesus and Pontius Pilate that takes place at the top of a long flight of stone steps. Pilate is depicted as a very handsome, white, heterosexual male. Kind of a younger version of Mr. Gibson. And he appears to be torn by the weight of his responsibilities and his moral uncertainty. So Jesus, who has already been severely beaten, is called to the top of the stone stairs to stand beside Barabbas, a mass murderer, so that the people might choose which of these will be crucified. And the mob yells out, Give us Barabbas. Save Barabbas. Crucify the rabbi. Troublemaker.

[44:24]

So Pilate makes one last effort to talk to Jesus, to try to understand who he is. And this is the most interesting moment of the film. For me, anyway. Mr. Pilate invites Jesus into his chamber, and he faces him. This is like doksa, face-to-face with the teacher. And he says to Jesus, Who are you? And Jesus said, I teach the truth. And Pilate says, What is the truth? What is the truth? And right at that moment, Mel Gibson cuts to another scene. So when I left the film, I thought, Mel Gibson doesn't know.

[45:29]

He doesn't understand the wisdom teachings of his own tradition, so he can't teach them. The bird of his impassioned craft is without a wing, and perhaps without two wings. There's a parallel story in the Zen tradition, and a famous encounter between Emperor Wu, the Emperor of China, and Bodhidharma, the Indian master, who came to China to teach Zen. So Emperor Wu, like Mel Gibson, was a devoutly religious man, but like our political leaders today, he also had a lot of power over other people's lives. He built many temples, ordained lots of monks, and won many wars.

[46:36]

When Bodhidharma arrived in India, from the Buddha's hometown, the Emperor asked him for a meeting. And the Emperor said to Bodhidharma, What is the highest meaning of the holy truth? What is the truth? Same question. Bodhidharma replied, Vast emptiness. Nothing holy. Vast emptiness. The entire universe in the ten directions is the true human body. This is the first principle, pointing at the ineffable. And then the Emperor said, Who are you facing me? And at that moment, perhaps the Emperor is the one who was externalizing evil and good. Who are you facing me?

[47:40]

And Bodhidharma replied, Don't know. Pretty brave. Don't know. Again, pointing at the ineffable. The ungraspable truth of being itself. The word Bodhidharma means the teaching of awakening, of non-separation. And actually, the Emperor was talking to himself. Just like the young Indian prince in the garden. I know who you are. You are myself. Had he seen that, Bodhidharma would never have left in the first place. They could have had a party, a great celebration. So the very last thing I have to say is that for me personally,

[48:42]

the great gift of the experience of reconsidering the spiritual traditions of my family and of my ancestors has been the realization that I am not a Buddhist. I am a Soto Zen priest trained in the Buddhist teaching, but those teachings are not Buddhist. They're universal. They belong to all human beings, the teachings of wisdom, the teachings of compassion, and they come from all the spiritual traditions. You have to look for them very carefully. And when both sides are strong, then the bird will fly. But when one side dominates over another, then for all of us, it's going to be a very, very long walk.

[49:45]

Of all the articles that I read criticizing the film and Mel Gibson for making it, only one of them actually surprised me, and it was in the Reader's Digest. The interviewer asked Mel Gibson this question, What did you hope would be in the headlines of the biggest newspaper in America the day after The Passion was released? And Mel Gibson replied, War ends. War ends. I can certainly join him in that intention, and I can only hope that all of us can help him and each other to find the missing pieces of skillful means and universal wisdom in order to make such a dream come true. Thank you very much.

[50:50]

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