January 11th, 2006, Serial No. 04358

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Good morning.
I want to begin by reading the Dharma Hall Discourse by Ehei Dogen, a 13th century Japanese monk who brought Soto Zen from China to Japan, the style of practice that we do here.
This is from
a new book that I translated, Dogen's Extensive Record, which will be out in the stores within the next month.
There's a display copy in the bookstore here.
And it includes many short talks that he gave to his monks at Eheji, to his students at Eheji,
settled far away from the capital when he left the capital to go into the mountains from the last 10 years of his teaching in his life.
So this one's from 1251.
And he said, the family style of all Buddhas and ancestors is to first arouse the vow to save all living beings by removing suffering and providing joy.
Only this family style is inexhaustibly bright and clear.
In the lofty mountains, we see the moon for a long time.
As clouds clear, we first recognize the sky.
Cast loose down the precipice, the moonlight shares itself within the 10,000 forms.
Even when climbing up the bird's path,
taking good care of yourself is spiritual power.
So I want to talk about this issue.
How do we take good care of ourselves at the same time that we first arouse the vow to save all living beings by removing suffering and providing joy?
How do we do this today?
So I want to speak today about American Buddhism and Buddhist values and enlightened patriotism.
So I feel that Buddhism has a great deal to offer to our national security, to our true national security.
And I also feel that foundational American values have a great deal to offer for the development and unfolding of American Buddhism.
And there are a great many ways in which they are very close together.
So American principles of liberty and justice for all, the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These resonate very strongly with this
basic vow of the Bodhisattva way to save all living beings, to remove suffering and provide joy.
So the starting point of our Buddhist life involves meditative awareness.
So the basic meditation instruction in this suttas and practice we do here could be described as turning the light within to focus on illuminating this conditioned self.
We settle into uprightness.
We are aware of sensations, thoughts, feelings.
We don't turn away from our own confusion.
our own grasping, our own aversions and desires, we sit and find our deeper connection with wholeness and calm.
So this inner balance is the point of our practice.
We emphasize posture because we find our center in uprightness in the meditation hall and elsewhere.
This is about, as Dogen says kindly, taking care of yourselves.
It's true spiritual power.
And through this practice, there is the transformative function of awareness, which allows us to become more at home and centered in ourselves.
But I have to say that if Buddhism were only about finding inner peace, it would not have survived for 2,500 years.
If Buddhism was only about
finding inner peace, it would not deserve to survive today in the West.
So the three realms which we could see our Buddhist practice applying to first is just this body and mind, the being or beings on your own cushion or chair right now.
So we have to bring our awareness to our own confusion and grasping and habits and the ways in which we each have been damaged by our life in this world or have found joy in the life in this world or some combination of that.
We have to find our own inner forgiveness and face our confusion and fear and sorrow right in this conditioned skin bag here and now.
So that's the part of taking care of ourselves, or the most obvious part of taking care of ourselves.
The second realm in which meditative awareness applies is when we get up from formal sitting practice, when we go out from the temple, when we go out and interact in our life with the world.
families, friends, co-workers.
Right in that context of the people we see through the week, there is this challenge also to remove suffering and provide joy, to at least try to be helpful, to express our awareness and intention towards kindness with helpful responsiveness and dignity.
And then there's the third realm in which Buddhist values and Buddhist awareness also must be expressed, and that's the realm of the society around us.
So I would love to read a lot more and talk a lot more about Dogen's extensive record, but given that this is September 2004 in North America, I feel I must talk about this third realm here today.
So we find our way to express the heart of awareness and of awakening through precepts.
So we have these bodhisattva precepts as guidelines helping us find helpful activity, helping us find how to respond to the world.
So in terms of how, which of these guidelines are relevant to
how we relate to the society around us now.
One that I would start with is non-harming.
In Sanskrit, it's called ahimsa, just to try to be helpful or to try to not cause harm ourselves.
This is very challenging.
This is very difficult.
And the more we are aware of our own habits and patterns and conditioning, the more we're aware of that.
Closely related to that is the precept, the first of the 10 grave precepts, disciple of Buddha does not kill.
But both non-harming and not killing don't only mean that we don't harm others or kill, but that we try to stop others from harming or killing others.
And all of these precepts also have a positive
expression as well as the negative expression.
So part of the precept of not killing is that we try to support life.
We try to promote helpfulness and vitality for ourselves and for our friends and family and also in the world around us.
We try to support livelihood and growth for everyone in our society and cultural forms and expressions that are beneficial.
So one of the most important precepts, especially in terms of applying this awareness to the world, is just to benefit all beings.
This is the inclusiveness of universal liberation, the ideal and goal in the Bodhisattva way.
It's also the fundamental wish of all of Buddhism, going back to the early Buddhism too, in the Metta Sutra, the scripture of loving kindness, it says,
May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety.
This is our fundamental wish, which we come back to again and again, and it unfolds as we face ourselves in our practice.
And this is where I feel like American principles and values have a lot to offer to Buddhism.
The ideal of liberty and justice for all, of equal justice under the law, of equal opportunity,
These guidelines from the founding fathers of our country, and I want to note that there were founding mothers too.
We can appreciate the influence of Abigail Adams and Dolly Madison and others.
But these democratic principles actually show how to practice the way in the world.
So another Buddhist precept that's relevant to how we express ourselves in the world is that a disciple of Buddha does not lie.
And again, there's a positive side of this.
This implies speaking the truth.
It also implies realizing that the truth from a Buddhist perspective is vast and wide.
and that we can't know the whole truth from any particular vantage point.
So sometimes we have to speak truth to power, but also we have to listen.
This is part of the precept about speaking the truth.
We have to be willing to listen to others, to hear the fears and the concerns and the insights of others.
So the commitment to speaking the truth is the basis of Gandhi's work in India in the 20th century.
He called it Satyagraha, truth power.
So of course I'm speaking about this today because I feel that the very concept of the truth is very much in danger in our country today.
So when Thomas Jefferson initiated the principle of separation of church and state for the United States, he never intended that we should not apply spiritual values to public life.
Of course, we have to look at our spiritual values.
We have to look at the truth as best we can see it.
And what is it that is of value?
And apply that to what's going on in the world and in our society and in our government.
When Jefferson talked about separation of church and state, what he meant is that there should not be one official version of how to approach the sacred, how to approach the spiritual.
No one person speaks to God for everyone, even the president.
No one person speaks for Buddha or to Buddha for everyone.
So Buddha said to his disciples, be a light unto yourselves.
And this is actually very much the principle of separation of church and state.
Jefferson was very concerned that each person have a right to find the truth and their own spiritual truth and their own way to finding and expressing the sacred as they saw fit.
And that we need to keep questioning this.
So again, this principle of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is very much in accord with basic Buddhist principles and gives voice to basic Buddhist principles.
Whether or not Jefferson and Madison and Adams and those guys heard anything about Buddhism, that's not important.
And Jefferson's writings particularly, I feel, are a touchstone for seeing how to apply that in the world, even though, of course, we must acknowledge his own personal deplorable shortcomings.
Of course, he was a slave owner.
And now it seems that he probably even fathered some children with one of his slaves.
Still,
There are principles, even if they haven't been followed through the course of American history so well, there are principles that Jefferson and other founding fathers gave us that can help us to see how to apply meditative awareness and the principles of awakening and the bodhisattva way in our society, in our world.
So I'm finding great resource in some of the sayings of those people back 230 years ago.
Patrick Henry in his famous speech in 1775, in which he said, give me liberty or give me death, also said, in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of debate
It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at the truth and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold.
Whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I'm willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst, and to provide for it.
This is a very strong statement of commitment to truth, of commitment to the precept about not lying, of about searching for the truth, about commitment to the truth.
So, of course, we're living in this critical time, and this experiment in bodhisattva governance that these people started 230 years ago, more or less, may go away in six weeks.
So I think we have to consider what it means to be American Buddhists.
Dogen, living in the 13th century, lived in a society, and actually all Asian Buddhists up till the present time, lived in societies that were ruled by feudal warlords.
And many Buddhist teachers went off to the mountains, as Dogen did, to keep alive some alternative, some counterculture, some way of expressing the truth, some way of acting and living out the truth in daily activities, in the monastic practices, in the ordinary everyday activities.
There was no way for them to
They didn't have things like the vote or even the idea of it.
So many of them did actually try to influence society.
And all along by having exemplary communities like this one.
They did influence all of society around them.
And many Buddhist teachers and leaders became friends with the rulers and influenced them and mitigated their harshness in some way.
So they were concerned about what was going on.
But there wasn't this, even the idea, even the principle, even the thought of participatory democracy or equal justice under the law or
every vote counts or equal opportunity.
That wasn't even an idea.
But it is here.
Or it has been here.
So one of my favorite sayings by Jefferson is the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
And I think that's a wonderful Buddhist motto.
I change it a little bit to the price of liberation is eternal vigilance.
So on all levels, the practice of mindfulness, the practice of meditative awareness, the practice of precepts is about eternal vigilance, ongoing vigilance, continuing to pay attention to how we are in the world, to our own inner intentions and our habit patterns, to our own possibilities of creating harm and to what's going on in the world around us and how do we act in a helpful way.
and also then to forgive ourselves and others and try to be helpful to recognize our own humanity, the recurrence of our personal shortcomings.
Again, this is all eternal vigilance.
We have to continue to pay attention to what it is, how it is that we are
enacting this vow to save all living beings.
How are we helping to remove suffering and provide joy or not for ourselves and our friends and for everyone in the world?
So one of the most fundamental principles in Buddhism is not, we could say non separation.
the understanding that we are all deeply, deeply interconnected.
This is kind of the flip side of the teaching of emptiness.
It's a very important teaching in Buddhism.
Everything is connected.
So if I hold up this stick, can you see the rain clouds?
the nitrogen in the soil, the person who cut down the tree, the person who shaped it and what they had for breakfast.
Anything we point to is, is completely dynamically interconnected with everything else.
And in our world today, with all of our sources of information and access to the vast internet and so forth, we see very clearly how connected we are to people all over the world.
What happens to people in the Mideast has a tremendous effect on what happens to people in California and elsewhere.
So patriotism from the point of view of an enlightened or Buddhist patriotism is inclusive patriotism.
It's dedicated to universal freedom, to benefiting all beings, to liberty and justice for all, not just to one limited group.
and that we should not make some group of people into the evil other.
So there is evil in Buddhism.
There are evil actions.
And the perpetrators are accountable and should be held accountable.
But when we start calling some group of people evildoers,
we violate this principle of interconnectedness and non-separation.
If some group of people are evildoers, then we can feel that they deserve to be bombed or tortured.
And it's really important to recognize our own very human tendency to actually want some evil other, to want somebody out there to call the evil other.
This is something we do as human beings.
If those guys out there are the evil doers, then we're the good guys.
Whichever way you want to divide it.
This is a very available human tendency.
So we need to pay attention, not just to the evil people who are making others evil, but how does it, how does this work for us too?
So since we've seen now the pictures from Abu Ghraib, we know that even Americans, even for Americans, torturers are us.
Americans, too, can become torturers.
So we may not want to think that.
And we might want to think, oh, it's just, you know, kids from, I don't know, where are they from, Virginia or Pennsylvania?
Californians wouldn't do that.
But actually, there was an experiment at Stanford that showed that
People who are designated for the points for the purposes of the experiment as the guards were willing to do really brutal horrible things to the people who were Designated as the prisoners and they had to stop the experiment early So we shouldn't be too sure about ourselves Depending on the combination of circumstances
including, I must say, the current documented encouragement of torture by people high in the government.
In the right or in the wrong circumstances, we all share this human capacity to commit torture, to humiliate others, to humiliate innocent detainees even.
The flip side of this, of course, is that we share the human potential to be considerate and kind and selfless.
We share the human capacity to be torturers and we share the human capacity to be as selfless as Mother Teresa.
This is the range of what human beings can be.
This is the range of what is in us.
So I'm not saying that any of you, if you were enlisted in the National Guard and went over to Iraq and were in the Guard at Abu Ghraib would have done that.
people there who didn't, who blew the whistle.
But we should look at this.
We shouldn't make those people evil others, or either.
So again, this Buddhist ideal of universal awakening, I feel is very supported by the American democratic principle of liberty and justice for all, equal justice under the law.
the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These are ways to express, may all beings be happy.
So, another reason I like Jefferson is that he insisted on changing the Declaration of Independence.
There was an earlier draft that talked about life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.
And he changed it.
So what is this pursuit of happiness?
Is it just about accumulating more property?
So part of what Buddhist teachings have to offer to our true national security is to find a deeper meaning to happiness, to find the contentment beyond just acquiring consumer goods and commodities.
How can we find the joy and gratitude in appreciating what we have?
Just this.
A cup of water is so wonderful.
And I have to say that our government now seems to pursue not happiness for all people, but extremist ideologies and profits for its own corporate sponsors.
This is the truth I see.
And I feel it's important to say it in the next six weeks.
But I have to say that my concern with our national situation is not to me at all about politics.
It's the responsibility I feel to spiritual precepts and values.
It's certainly not about Republicans or Democrats.
I feel like the current government is
massively corrupt and reckless, but there are many Democrats who've been quietly going along with it, and there are many good Republicans who are speaking out strongly against it.
It's certainly not about conservative and liberal.
I don't know what those words mean anymore.
What are conservative values?
What are liberal values?
I actually usually identify myself as a conservative.
After all, I do spend a lot of time in the 13th century.
But also I want to conserve American principles like equal justice under the law and the Bill of Rights and our environment and the multiplicity of species of beings.
And of course, to help conserve all the, well, I'm involved with the Soto Zen tradition, but I hope others also will conserve all the worthy spiritual traditions, ancient traditions.
But we've got a problem, and so this is what I really want to talk about today.
And I saw it first in, I was watching one program with some of the pundits on television a while ago.
I try not to watch those things, but occasionally I see them.
And this conservative commentator, Patrick Buchanan, you may know of, he said something I really agree with.
He expressed sincere, deep concern
that Americans now have a fundamental disagreement about the very nature of morality and truth.
I agree.
Now maybe here in the Bay Area there's not such a big split.
And my cousins in North Carolina tease me about living on the left coast.
But there is a split.
There is this strong disagreement about the nature of morality and truth.
So I've traveled this country to Illinois, this summer to Illinois and Virginia and Ohio and New York.
And people are confused.
I think we're all confused, even in the Bay Area.
What are basic values and principles?
What does our
What does our practice and our meditative awareness teach us?
And the Buddhist precepts teach us about true value.
So I could state it crassly that one version of the split is whether immorality in our country should be defined by
either a singer exposing her breast to the Super Bowl or by a president lying about weapons of mass destruction to start a war for the sake of his friend's massive war profiteering and extremist ideologies.
You know, that's one way to state it.
And that's kind of provocative.
And of course, values and morality are complicated.
so we can see many levels of values.
And we see in this country very clearly that there are different values.
So I think what we need is to talk together.
But I want to just give you a few more quotes from great Americans of the past, just to point up the problem a little more.
So Thomas Jefferson in 1791 said, if there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.
This is a foundational American value.
In the same year, in 1791,
Thomas Paine wrote that there are men in all countries who get their living by war and by keeping up the quarrels of nations is as shocking as it is true.
But when those who are concerned in the government of a country make it their study to sow discord and cultivate prejudices between nations, it becomes more unpardonable.
So Thomas Paine said that in 1791.
In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote, I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
More recently, a good Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, said in 1961, the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry
is new in the American experience.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
The potential for disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
we must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
We should take nothing for granted."
So, again, he was echoing Thomas Jefferson's statement, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and the price of liberation is eternal vigilance.
So as American Buddhists who have a lot to learn from the Founding Fathers, how do we speak our truth in this context?
how can we practice in this world and bring forth the discussion that needs to happen about this dialogue.
So, of course, there's this practice, this traditional Buddhist practice of voting, which I hope you will all engage in in six weeks.
And there are other things that people can do, getting out the vote and helping people register to vote and calling your friends in swing states and so forth.
But what really we need to do, beyond whatever happens in November, is to be willing to bring forth
in our lives, this dialogue, our country needs a long-term dialogue about the nature of spiritual values.
We need to talk to each other.
So we need to talk to our friends and family who feel differently than us, who may live in other parts of the country or may live nearby.
We need to learn how to talk together.
We need to actually hear each other.
So an open discussion, a real dialogue is not about trying to convert the other.
We may want to do that.
We may feel like our values are, um, anyway, more in accord with principles like benefiting all beings or all beings be happy being happy.
But we can't really, um, people won't listen to us until we're, we're willing to listen to them.
How do we actually hear each other?
This is the challenge and this is the basic Buddhist practice of compassion.
the bodhisattva of compassion.
Her name means to listen to the suffering of others, to listen to the cries of the world.
So the Buddhist practice of compassion is very much in accord with this deep need in our nation now, which is to talk about values.
Not just Buddhists, Christians too.
All the different kinds of Christians need to be willing to say what their values are, not just fundamentalists from any religion.
God is not only on our side.
Buddha is not only on our side.
So in Buddhism, there's this idea of a pure land or a Buddha field that's constellated when someone awakens.
And, you know, we can feel this a little bit with how wonderful and beautiful green gulch is.
This is a kind of Buddha field.
So our practice, again, is not just about taking care of ourselves, although, as Dogen says, we should take care of ourselves.
But also, how do we help to create a Buddha field?
How do we help make this a land of the free and a home of the brave, rather than a land of the fearful and a home of torturers?
This is a challenge to our Buddhist practice.
and American Buddhism can't ignore it.
So one of the most important Buddhist precepts to pay attention to in this whole process is, we say, to not harbor ill will, to not hold onto anger.
Sometimes it's translated as not to get angry.
But that's just very, very quick not harboring.
So attraction and aversion arise naturally.
There are positive and negative and neutral feelings and responses that we have to the things in the world and the things in ourselves.
So it's maybe impossible to not have some anger sometimes.
And how does the bumper sticker go?
If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.
And there's one Buddhist Bodhisattva commentary that says it's a violation of the precept if you don't express anger when it's appropriate.
But how do we not turn it into grudge?
How do we not make a harbor for anger when we feel like some people on whatever side are causing tremendous harm?
How do we not make it into,
make them into evil others.
How do we not turn it into grudge?
So this is this kind of anger that we hold onto is self corrosive and harmful and is not productive.
It's from such grudges that we have endless cycles of violence, vengeance and religious wars.
Instead, we need to try to learn and to share the true values of kindness, cooperation, non-separation.
So for example, I don't think there will be peace in the Mideast until the Israelis and Palestinians can really hear each other's pain, really hear each other's fear and suffering, can talk to each other and really listen to each other.
So anger arises, so what do we do?
How do we take care of it without strongly speaking the truth when we need to?
Doing practices like getting out the vote that might seem important to us at certain times.
But how do we do this without grudge, without becoming, succumbing to rage?
without chanting strident slogans and feeling self-righteous, recognizing that we are capable of making evil others too.
So part of this is going back to this basic Buddhist practice, and this is really what I want to call enlightened patriotism, that we return to the inner work,
right in the middle of whatever work we're doing in the world, whatever so-called political work we might be doing, we need to return again and again to find our own inner dignity and calm, our own wholeness.
Then we can actually be helpful and have dialogue and try to listen to others and express something that maybe others can hear.
So enlightened patriotism includes all beings and means that we have to be fearless and open to the truth.
And being fearless means that we have to face the fears we have.
So there are many reasons to be afraid.
It's okay to be afraid.
It's maybe sane to be afraid.
But you don't have to be afraid to be afraid.
I think Roosevelt said that or something like it.
So our practice, you know, with ourselves too, on our own cushion or chair facing the wall, facing ourselves, facing the reality of our life in front of us is to face our fears, to face our anger, to be willing to be the person we are, to question what are our values?
How do they apply to the situation we're in now in the world?
in our life with our friends and family, but also in our country, and in the critical events of the next six weeks.
So again, I feel like as Buddhists, we have something to offer to our true national security.
and that as Buddhism grows in America, it will change and become more helpful and deeper and can actually
grow beyond what it has been up till now.
This is happening in Asia too, I'm not being kind of patriotic in a pro-American sense.
But I think we have these foundational values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, of liberty and justice for all.
of a patriotism that doesn't exclude somebody we're going to call the evil others so we'll feel better about ourselves.
We don't have to do that.
Of course, this means then cooperation and sharing.
So this is very challenging, but this is the opportunity we've been given.
So this is a very good time to practice.
This is a very good time to be alive.
Everything that you do can make a huge difference in the next six weeks.
And beyond, of course.
Because whatever happens in the next six weeks, the struggle will continue.
How do we speak for liberty and justice for all?
How do we maintain the Bill of Rights?
How do we maintain equal opportunity?
So I want to close by, again, reading what Dogen said in 1251.
The family style of all Buddhas and ancestors is to first arouse the vow to save all living beings by removing suffering and providing joy.
Only this family style is inexhaustibly bright and clear in the lofty mountains.
We see the moon for a long time.
It's true.
When you're up in the mountains, the moon looks closer.
all of the distractions of the lights of the city are gone.
And the moon is right in front of us.
And of course the moon is an image for awakening, for wholeness, for our ability to express kindness and clarity in the world.
So he says, in the lofty mountains we see the moon for a long time.
As clouds clear, we first recognize the sky.
So as the clouds of our confusion and grasping and anger and so forth, as they clear, we begin to see the wholeness of all beings.
So this character, this Chinese character that here is, we translate it as sky, and here it means sky clearly, but also it's the same character for emptiness.
So all of the striving and vanities of the world we see as the clouds clear away, that the wholeness and the emptiness.
Cast loose down the precipice, the moonlight shares itself within the 10,000 forms.
This is true.
As the river streams float down to the ocean, there's moonlight reflected in each part of the stream.
if you look at it from the right place.
This is our practice.
So when we are committed to arousing the vow to save all living beings and to remove suffering and provide joy naturally, we express this in various ways in our life, in the world.
So there's no one right way to take care of our national problems now.
It may be that the most effective way for some people to help bring peace to the world is by sitting up in the mountains.
For some other people, it might be going and trying to get out the vote.
There's no one right response.
We each have our own way of sharing the moonlight.
So I say it happens naturally, but it doesn't happen automatically.
This is the realm of precepts.
We have to continue to pay eternal vigilance, to give our attention to how is it that we're sharing this wonderful moonlight, which I firmly believe all of you have some
some sense of.
You wouldn't be here otherwise.
Each of you, even if you're here for the very first time, something brought you to consider going to a Zen center, going to hear about meditation, finding some way to practice with your life and pay attention and take care of your own life.
So cast loose down the precipice, the moonlight does share itself within the 10,000 forms.
Then Dogen says, even when climbing up the bird's path, taking good care of yourself is spiritual power.
The bird's path is an old, so does an image of leaving no traces, flying clear.
It's an image of enlightened activity.
So we don't have to make a fuss about it.
Our society and express true spiritual values can be done very quietly sometimes.
Maybe those of us who are less skillful have to sit up here and babble about it.
Anyway, just in our everyday life, how are we helping to change the nature of our society to make it more inclusive?
How are we helping to relieve suffering of the people around us?
Even when climbing up the birds to path, taking good care of yourself is spiritual power.
So please don't forget also to take good care of yourself, to come back to your own inner wholeness, to forgive yourself,
for being the person you are and to see how you can proceed to help the rest of us because we need it.
So thank you all very much.
Please take good care of yourself and please help in the next six weeks and through the rest of your life and many lifetimes to bring liberty and justice for all.
Thank you.