June 7th, 2003, Serial No. 01107

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Good morning, everyone. Can you all hear? Is this loud enough? Okay. I just want to look around and see who's here. Good. Thank you all for coming. I'm very pleased that there are so many faces here that I don't know because I wanted to talk this morning. My talk this morning will be particularly directed towards people who are new. And some people are not only new to Zen Center, but relatively new to the world. And this is the first Saturday of the month, as you probably know, but what that means is that there's the children's program. So the first few minutes of this talk will be devoted to the kids. That's you, you, you. And our friend who left. You know, a friend of mine just got a puppy, and I was visiting yesterday, and the puppy is about a couple months old, and she's not much bigger than this, but she reminded me


a lot of that little girl who was just sort of jumping around, looking too adorable. So anyhow, I wanted to tell you guys a story, if that's okay. You know, most of what we do here is tell each other stories. So this one is a story, and this is a true story because this one happened to me, okay? And this one was a long time ago, okay? This one was a really long time ago when I lived in a different place. And one day, I was coming home, and I can't remember whether I was coming home from work or from school, but I was really in a bad mood. I don't know if I was sad or if I was angry or I don't know what it was, but I was really, really in a bad mood. And I got off the bus, and I couldn't decide how to get out of my bad mood. So I decided, well, I can't think of anything to do, so maybe I'll just walk down a different street. Because, you know, when you go home, you usually go the same way all the time. So I decided to walk down a different street going home. And the street where I lived, in the part of town where I lived, there were lots of trees, like really big giant trees, you know, as tall as the buildings, taller than giants.


And it was a nice thing about this place, that there were a lot of trees. But anyhow, I was walking down this street, and all of a sudden, I happened to look up, which we don't do enough, by the way, because if you look up, you'll see things that you might not normally see. And one of the trees, this is true, was completely covered with tennis shoes. It's true. Some of the branches had like a tennis shoe tied to it. Some of the branches had like tennis shoes tied together, dangling tennis shoes. The whole thing was covered with tennis shoes. And it made me so happy. You know, it was such a surprise. I just laughed and laughed and laughed. And I completely forgot about why I was in a bad mood. So I kept going by this tree, you know, every time I would walk that way. And one day, there was a man out front near the tree, and he was, you know, doing his garden or whatever. And I asked him about it. I said, so, what's with the tennis shoe tree? And he said, well, the kids in the neighborhood, whenever they get a new pair of shoes, they take their old ones, and they tie them to the tennis shoe tree. And they've been doing it for years and years and years.


Now, I had lived like just a block away for quite a long time and had never taken the turn around the block to see the tennis shoe tree. And so, it was a wonderful surprise, and it completely got me out of my bad mood. So, you know, what that kind of reminds me, if I remember, which I don't very often, is that there's often really cool things that if we look up or if we go around the block or if we just look at things slightly differently, that will help us get out of bad moods. And you know, there are tennis shoe trees all over the world, you know. And so, it's a good thing to look for them. And that's all I have to say to you guys today. So, thank you for being here. Okay, now for the rest of you.


Okay. So, as some of you know... Oh, first of all, can I see like a show of hands, please? Who's here for the first time? Oh, good. Good, good, good. Who did Zazen and who had Zazen instruction today? Okay, great. Good, good. You know, this is called Beginner's Mind Temple, so you guys are especially welcome, as always. So, the theme of this practice period that's being led by Michael is way-seeking mind. And most of the people who have been giving lectures for the practice period have been giving what we call way-seeking mind talks, which is what encouraged them to come to practice here. And being somewhat perverse, I'm not going to do that. Sorry. I told Michael I wasn't, so he forgives me. But I would like to talk about way-seeking mind in the sense that, you know, what is this mind seeking?


You know, what is the way that this mind is seeking? And that, perhaps, I think, is more important than my story. You know, we offer our stories to each other as encouragement and as gifts. And this is a very important thing that we do, and it's a loving and wonderful thing that we do. But actually, I've heard many stories over many years, and one of the things that touches me about them is how similar we all are. You know, just as we sort of are similar physically more so than not. I mean, we all have the sort of same organs, generally speaking, and we all need to eat and we all need to sleep and things like that. So we're much more similar than we are different. And our stories are the same, you know. You know, leave out such minor variations as gender, ethnicity, country, generation. And pretty much what we experience is the same.


And so the mind is seeking a way, and what the mind is seeking, the way the mind is seeking, is the way out of suffering. The way to live at ease with itself, to feel comfortable with itself, to feel comfortable in the world. So the real answer to who I am, or who you are, is perhaps not so much in the details of where I grew up or what my lousy childhood was like. But I presume everybody had a lousy childhood, right? In all the years that I've been here, I've met exactly one person who told me she came here because her life was going well. You know. She didn't stay long. I read recently a quote from a Tibetan teacher who said that to understand one phenomena is to understand all phenomena.


So as we understand ourselves, we understand each other. And this is a corollary of the teaching of emptiness, which I may have some time to get to in a little bit. Okay. So what I would like to talk about today is that since we all have the same needs and we are all more similar than dissimilar, what I'd like to talk about is practice, the essentials of practice. So we've all come here, presumably, with some... No, let's back up a little bit. I think that most of you, particularly those of you who are new today, or somewhat new over the past few months or year or so, probably don't really know why you're here. You may have come today for the first time because, you know, your boyfriend or your girlfriend dragged you, or because you read a book, or because you've been walking by the building and wondered what was going on, or, you know, any of those things. And whatever those things are, are probably true.


But I think really the reason that we are all here, whether we are here for a long time or a short time, beginning our old timers, so to speak, is because we've had some glimpse of possibility, some moment of insight or some moment of grace about how our lives could be, some understanding of how our lives... not even understanding, some vision, however briefly seen or however fleeting, of what our lives could be like, you know, if they were transformed in ways that we don't even really know how they could be. But for today, since you are here, and you may never come back, or you may not come back for a long, long time, or you may find some other path that suits you better. But today you're here at Zen Center, and we're going to talk about Buddhism.


We're going to talk about Soto Zen particularly. But, you know, what I have to say about Soto Zen, about this practice, is actually the essentials for this practice are pretty much the essentials for any spiritual practice, because there are only a few things that work for human beings, you know, and they work across the broad spectrum. Now, this is not to ignore differences, the basic differences between spiritual paths, because there are, and different is different, and mixing and matching is perhaps not the best idea. But on a broad way of speaking, in a broad spectrum, just as we are similar, so the ways of spiritual development are similar. So the first thing, the first essential, the first thing you need is suffering. So, got suffering? Yeah? Okay. Now, suffering is actually not enough. We need to be aware of our suffering.


And this sounds like pretty easy, right? You know, like if you step on a nail or something, or if somebody punches you in the nose, or, you know, if your canary dies. You're aware of suffering. But not always. You know, I remember when I was at Tassajara at our monastery, I was talking to somebody, and we were in a situation that was uncomfortable and easily remedied. I don't know, maybe we were in a cold room with the window open or something. And I said to this fellow, I said, why don't you close the window? And he said, oh, I guess I'm so used to suffering that I don't notice that I can do anything about it. So, you know, just having suffering is not enough. But if you are aware of your suffering, that's a pretty good thing. That's the first step, because our entire culture mitigates against awareness of suffering. You know, we are constantly being fed anodynes against suffering. Knowing that you are suffering is not good for the market economy. It's true. Now, the downside of this, of knowing you're suffering, of course, is that it gets worse.


You know, there's a metaphor in Buddhism that to the unawakened, suffering is like an eyelash on the palm of your hand. You may feel it, but it doesn't hurt so much. To the awakened, suffering is like an eyelash caught in your eye. It hurts a lot more. So, you know, we have to have some willingness to wake up to our own suffering and to accept our own suffering as suffering. And, you know, the Buddha said, I teach suffering and I teach the end of suffering. And that was basically what he said. And in his own words, he said, something like his own words, we presume, What is the truth of suffering? Birth is suffering. Aging is suffering. Sickness is suffering. Death is suffering. Sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering. Associating with the loathed is suffering. Dissociation from the loved is suffering.


Not to get what one wants is suffering. I will hear him prove upon the Buddha in saying, Getting what one wants is suffering. In short, check it out. In short, the five aggregates affected by clinging are suffering. So, we do have suffering. And it's not enough to have suffering and it's not enough even to be aware of suffering. What we need to understand is how we participate in the creation of our own suffering. This is really important. Because if we do not understand how we participate in the creation of our own suffering, there's no way out. We remain passive victims of a malevolent universe. So, we have to understand that we have some, I was going to say responsibility, which is a good word, but another word is, well, maybe responsibility is good. That we do help to create our own suffering.


We are not entirely passive victims. I mean, obviously, there are some things that we can't do about, but most of our suffering, I think, has at least a component of our own ignorance or our own willfulness involved. And once again, the Buddha, in the second Noble Truth, said, What is the Noble Truth of the origin of suffering? It is craving which renews being and is accompanied by relish and lust. Relishing this and that, in other words, craving for sensual desires, craving for being, craving for non-being. And whereupon does this craving arise and flourish? Wherever there is that which seems lovable and gratifying, thereupon it arises and flourishes. So, the actual word that the Buddha used, tanha, for craving, means thirst. So, imagine working outside on a really, really hot day and that tremendous thirst you have. So, like this thirst, we go grabbing for things, things that will quench our thirst, things that will satisfy us.


If only I had X, Y, and Z, I would be happy. If only I could fill in the crossword puzzle of my life, it would stay that way and all the answers would be that way. And so we keep, you know, if it's not this thing, it's the next thing. It's a person, it's a place, it's a thing, it's an object, it's a whatever, you know. So, once we realize that our suffering is driven by our cravings, we have some ability to affect that through practice. So, suffering, I think, is the first essential and realizing our suffering and realizing that we have some part in our suffering is one of the essentials of practice. Another essential of practice is faith. So, faith has a pretty rad rap with a lot of people. Faith means believing something that you don't want to believe, believing something that they told you in Sunday school.


Faith means, you know, having to put up with all the things that you were told as a child that you couldn't relate to, blah, blah, blah. But I don't think that that's what faith is really, or it doesn't have to be what faith is. So, the questions, of course, are what should we have faith in? What is faith and how can we get it? So, I'd like, once again, to quote the Buddha on the subject of faith. So, this is a teaching that he gave. The Buddha was an itinerant pure preacher. He sort of wandered around India for 40 plus years after his enlightenment, speaking to whomever wanted to listen. And he was going through a town that was populated by the Kalama clan. And this was a town, I guess in India, there was a tremendous amount of spiritual ferment at the time. So, there were lots of teachers coming and going, and they all had their various practices and things like that. So, the Buddha came to this town, and the Kalamas wanted to know, well, they said,


Lord, some ascetics and Brahmins come here. They expound and explain their own views, but they cast dispersion on, despise, treat with contempt, and impair the views of others. We have doubt and uncertainty about them. Who indeed among these venerable ascetics speak the truth, and who speak falsehood? So, in other words, what can we believe, what can we have faith, and how do we determine? The Buddha said, Come, O Kalamas, don't accept anything from mere hearsay, or from what you have been told, or because it is mentioned in sacred teachings, or because of logic merely, or because of its method, or in consideration of plausible reasoning, or by tolerating views based on speculation, or because of its appearance of possibility, or because the teacher is venerable. But when you realize by yourselves that some views are unwholesome, faulty, censured by the wise, and that they lead to harm and misery when practiced and observed, then you should reject them. So, the Buddha here is speaking about what we have faith in is that which we can prove in our own lives.


That if somebody says something to me, I will take it and I will look at it, and I can try it in my own life. So, the faith, the basic faith of Buddhism then, is that the world is to some extent rational, in that cause and effect apply. That if we do something, there will be an effect. And that we do have, if not control, at least practice is possible. So, what that means is we are not, once again, hapless victims of a malevolent universe. We have some power, we have some responsibility. If we can mess up our lives, then the possibility exists that we can improve the quality of our lives as well. That our actions matter, that there is cause and effect consequence. This is the teaching of karma. Karma, by the way, means volitional activity. So, things that we do out of volition.


So, why and how? This problem of faith still continues. Sharon Salzberg, the Buddhist teacher who teaches out at Spirit Rock, recently wrote a book on faith and Buddhist teachings. I'd like to read a little bit from what she has said. The Buddha once told this story about faith. A herd of cows arrives at the bank of a wide stream. The mature ones see the stream and simply wait across it. The Buddha likened them to fully enlightened beings who have crossed the stream of ignorance and suffering. The younger cows, less mature in their wisdom, stumble apprehensively around the shore, but eventually they go forward and cross the stream. Last come the calves, trembling with fear, some just learning how to stand. But these vulnerable, tender calves also get to the other side, the Buddha said. They cross the stream simply by following the lowing of their mother's voices. The calves trust their mothers and, anticipating the safety of reunion, follow their voices and cross the stream.


That, the Buddha said, is the power of faith. So, in other words, we can have faith not only in the teaching and in our own experience, but if we look at other people who are following the teaching and we like what we see in them, then we can have some faith. You know, if you see somebody who has a pretty good life and he or she is happy and available to others and seems to be free from the most egregious forms of selfishness and suffering, and they say, you know, this is from my practice, then maybe you can have faith in that. Salzburg continues. In Buddhism, the process of examining in a critical and discriminating way the teacher or teaching that awakened faith is called verifying faith. This is a crucial process of verifying or validating through our own experience what we previously have only heard or seen outside of ourselves. The Buddha likened this process of investigation to the method for analyzing gold. In this way, we learn to trust our own experience of the truth rather than an abstract tradition or authority.


And further, for faith to be alive and to deepen, we need to use our power to inquire, to wonder, to explore a truth intensely for ourselves. This requires us to approach the practice with an inquisitive, eager, self-confident capacity to probe and question. It requires us to examine where we place our faith and why, to see if it makes us more aware and loving people. To develop a verified faith, we need to be open to the messiness, the discordance, the ambivalence, and above all, the vital force of questioning. If we don't, our faith can wither. If we don't, our faith will always remain in the hands of someone else as something we can borrow or abjure, but not as something we can claim fully as our own. So, you know, both the Buddha and Sharon Salzberg, a Buddhist teacher, tell us how deeply important it is for us not to take anything on faith, but rather to have faith in our own experience. You see, practice is a little bit like, it has the same sort of burden of proof on it that a scientific hypothesis does.


A scientific hypothesis, I believe, needs not only to explain the phenomena, but to have a predictive power and to be repeatable. So this is what practice is. And if it's not, it's not practice. Our faith, then, is that practice, the way leading to liberation, is teachable, learnable, practicable, and practical. And you can check this out for yourself. The other means for having faith is noticing that, and I'll talk a little bit more about this later, is through the consistency, intellectually, of the structure of the teaching and how it relates to my own experience. You know, when I was very young, I remember standing outside the house where I lived and looking at it from the lawn and realizing, this isn't a house, we just call this a house. You know, it's boards and bricks and glass and nails and they all come from someplace else


and we just put it together and call it a house. And, you know, it was quite an amazing thing for a young child to realize. And, of course, I couldn't go anywhere with that because I didn't have the intellectual equipment. But years later, when I started reading Buddhism and the careful deconstruction of the self and of objects as having intrinsic existence, it was like, whoa, you know, that's what they're talking about. And as I read Buddhism, more and more, I had this, what do you call it, shock of recognition. This is how I experienced the world and nobody's been talking about it in any way to me until I read or heard this. You know, another thing I remember, somewhat later when I was, I don't know, in my early 20s, bicycling to work and there was a tree that I always loved. It was a deciduous tree of some sort. I lived in the Midwest and I would pass it almost every day. And it was beautiful in the spring because it was just coming into, and it was beautiful in the summer and it was beautiful in the fall with all the colors. And it was even beautiful in the winter with its sort of sculptural purity.


And I remember, so I always looked for it every day. It was a little moment of pleasure on my ride to work. And I remember riding past it one day on my bike and having a sudden realization that my observation of the tree was as much a part of the total reality of the tree as its leaves or its roots or its branches. And this, of course, is the teaching of the interconnectedness of all dharmas, of all phenomena. So, you know, I had these little insights which are later confirmed through my reading of Buddhism. So this is what I mean by certain intellectual consistency or an intellectual feeding. Okay, so another way we acquire faith is by becoming faithful. If we are men and women of good faith, we acquire faith. If we show up when we say we're going to do what we say we're going to, if we are faithful in our affairs with others and tell the truth, we become men and women of faith.


Okay, so that segues neatly into another essential for practice, which is ethical behavior. So ethical behavior in Buddhism, the ethics and morality of Buddhism, is not really about good or bad. It's about training, training the mind and training the entire person. It's about calming the mind and calming our lives and having a relatively calm life so that we can proceed on the path. You know, if you've got your hand in the till at work a lot, it's hard to feel calm in your life. You're worried whether the boss is going to catch you or whatever. If you're cheating on your spouse, you're not going to feel real calm. If you've told so many lies to so many people and have so many different identities that you can't figure out who you told what to, this does not make for calmness and concentration in your meditation. Okay, it's true. So the formulation of the basic ethical principles that we talk about in this school is in the so-called grave precepts.


I'll read them without going into them greatly. I vow not to kill. I vow not to take what is not given. I vow not to misuse sexuality. I vow to refrain from false speech. I vow to refrain from intoxicants. I vow not to slander. I vow not to praise self at the expense of others. I vow not to be avaricious. I vow not to harbor ill will. And I vow not to abuse the three treasures. Now what's interesting about this formulation to me is that although they're written and spoken as statements, they're actually questions. When I say I vow not to kill, what does that mean? I mean, obviously it means that I'm not going to take a gun and blow your head off. What does it mean about eating meat? What does it mean about swatting flies, wearing leather shoes, abortion, the just war? And these are formulated, I believe, as questions because as we question our behavior of body, speech, and mind with these as the basic guidelines,


we become more informed and reformed. If all of my behavior is sort of, I have to question it constantly, and I don't mean obsessive, I mean just asking myself what am I doing constantly, then little by little my behavior is going to be informed and reformed by the precepts. So the other reason for having some sort of ethical behavior is to promote the practice of meditation. Meditation is often spoken of as comprising both concentration and insight. And concentration implies that the mind is calm enough and your life is calm enough that you can actually sit down for a while and pay attention to what's going on. As I said, if you're constantly in a turmoil, if you've created great chaos in your life, that's not going to happen. So the next essential of practice, and these by the way are not in any particular order, is meditation, zazen.


The word zen, some of you know I'm sure, means meditation. It's a Japanese transliteration of a Chinese transliteration of a Sanskrit word. It means basically meditation. So it's our basic tool of practice, and of course it's also not a tool, it's also the goal. Dogen Zenji, who founded this particular school of zen in Japan in the 13th century, talks about practice realization as one thing. In other words, we practice out of our realization, out of our innate enlightenment. So we can see, it's like one of those weird pictures, is it a vase or is it two profiles? It's both a tool and not a tool. It's both the path and the result is zazen, is meditation. Dogen Zenji calls it the Dharmagate of Repose and Bliss. Suzuki Roshi, who founded Zen Center, has this to say about zen, and I think it's very pertinent for people who are here for the first time.


Zen is not something to get excited about. Some people start to practice zen just out of curiosity and they only make themselves busier. If your practice makes you worse, it is ridiculous. I think that if you try to do zazen once a week, that will make you busy enough. Do not be too interested in zen. Just continue in your calm, ordinary practice and your character will be built up. If your mind is always busy, there will be no time to build and you will not be successful, particularly if you work too hard on it. Building character is like making bread. You have to mix it little by little, step by step, and moderate temperature is needed. You know yourself quite well and you know how much temperature you need. You know exactly what you need. But if you get too excited, you will forget how much temperature is good for you and you will lose your way. This is very dangerous. Our unexciting way of practice may appear to be very negative. That is not so. It is a wise and effective way to work on ourselves. It is just very plain. I find this point very difficult for people, especially young people, to understand.


On the other hand, it may seem as if I am speaking about gradual attainment. This is not so either. In fact, this is the sudden way, because when your practice is calm and ordinary, everyday life itself is enlightenment. When we have arranged our lives so that we can sit zazen, sit meditation... Let me back up a little bit. For you beginners, Suzuki Roshi is right. Don't get too busy. Don't make zazen another possession. When I talk to people who are trying to start a practice, most of them have very busy lives. So what I suggest is, if you decide you want to try and practice zazen, if you say to yourself, I will sit 15 minutes, 3 days a week, for 2 weeks and see what happens, that is a good way to start. It is consistent, it is doable, and it is time limited. So this is a good way to start. Just start a little bit at a time.


And if you can, it is also good to practice with people, maybe once a week. So if you can sit by yourself for 15 minutes, 3 times a week, it is also good to do it at the same time every day, like 15 minutes before I go to work, 15 minutes when I come home from work. 3 times a week for 2 or 3 weeks. And then at the end of that, you can decide whether that is what you want to do. I could say a lot more about meditation, but I won't. Because we are running out of time. Other essential is study. Faith is not enough. We need to have some intellectual background to understand how it works. I have read from several things that the Buddha said and that other teachers have said. So we inform ourselves, we increase our faith in practice by understanding how it works. You may be able to drive a car, but it is really important to know how it works. You feel so much more comfortable if you know how the car works, right?


My friend Kate is going to automotive class, so she knows that. So it gives you some sense of knowing what is going on and being able to take charge. So if I understand the teaching, and the better I understand the teaching, the more available it is to me. So this is a very important thing, too, to study. And it is useful to study with somebody who knows what is going on. And one of the things that study gives us is that it helps us in right view. Let's see. Let me just read a little tiny bit. Views condition action. They lie behind our goals and choices and our efforts to turn these goals from ideas into actuality. The actions themselves might determine consequences, but the actions along with their consequences hinge on the views from which they spring.


If we hold a wrong view, even if that view is vague, it will lead us toward courses of action that eventuate in suffering. On the other hand, if we develop a right view, that view will steer us toward right action and thereby towards freedom from suffering. Though our conceptual orientation towards the world might seem innocuous and inconsequential, when looked at closely, it reveals itself to be the decisive determinant of our whole course of future development. So we become, as we teach ourselves, as we learn more about the teaching, we can develop right view. We can have, little by little, we learn how to experience the world in a different way. We learn a different language to describe ourselves to ourselves, others to ourselves, the world to ourselves, our relationship to others and to the world to ourselves. And other essentials of practice are a teacher. A teacher or a good spiritual friend, a kalyana mitra,


is not necessarily somebody to whom you turn yourself over, but it's somebody with whom you examine your life. In the Lotus Sutra, an important Buddhist text, it says only a Buddha together with a Buddha can fathom the reality of all existence. So it takes a Buddha and a Buddha, it takes you and me, because we can't really see ourselves very clearly, you know. And we have to have another person, or persons in our lives, to whom we give permission to speak to us honestly, without trying to save our feelings. Somebody who we are willing to have know us and to be known by. And somebody who knows and has practiced perhaps longer than we have and who knows more about the path than we do. If you want to learn to play the violin, you go to a violin teacher. If you want to learn to speak Spanish, if you want to learn how to work on computers, you go to a geek. We need Dharma geeks, okay?


And then Sangha. Sangha means community. Originally it meant, in Buddhist teaching, the community of monks and nuns who were supported by the lay community. And this was to engender merit for the people who supported them. Over time, the lay community came to be included in the understanding of Sangha, which means gathering or group. And you know, Sangha, community, is a basic human need. It's a basic human need that is not only ignored by our culture, but is actively destroyed by our culture. Once again, it's not good for market economy. If you're alone and afraid, you tend to buy more. I'm not kidding. So I've been practicing in this particular Sangha for almost 26 years. It'll be 26 years this month. I was very young when I came. I was abandoned in a basket on the steps, all right? And some days I walk into the building and I think,


what have I done to be worthy of being able to practice in this wonderful community? And some days I walk in and I think, how did I find myself in the midst of this miserable bunch of losers? And they're both true, right? Okay? Depends on the way I look at it. But community is essential. We need to be embedded in a community or we're lost and alone. And in Buddhism we talk about the three treasures, the three refuges, which are Buddha, Dharma, which is the teaching, and Sangha. And you know what? It doesn't go Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, right? It goes Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Okay? All the same. Or at least all of equal value, all needing to be in place at once. And the greatest, perhaps, we take refuge in Sangha. And the most, to me, moving symbol of this taking refuge of Sangha is what we call the Bodhisattva vow.


The Bodhisattva vow is the vow that one takes not to achieve full liberation for him or herself until all beings are liberated. And in Buddhist mythology this means being willing to be reborn a gazillion, gazillion, gazillion times in all the realms of hell and in all the various places of existence. But I think that the idea of literal rebirth is not important. Some people believe in it, some people don't. What is important for the idea of taking refuge in Sangha and the Bodhisattva vow is that we are willing that it be so. We are willing to, should the Bodhisattva vow be real and should it mean that I am to be reborn many, many, many countless times for the benefit of others, to be of service, that I am willing for that. And that's what counts. It doesn't matter whether it's true or not. The willingness is what counts. The willingness to be with and not abandon.


I'm almost done. Another essential of practice... You didn't know there were so many, did you? ...is stability, I believe. Stability in a place and in a practice. Dogen Zenji says, In the practice enlightenment of the Buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it, doing one practice is practicing completely. This ability to stay with one practice gives us gravitas, seriousness, roots. And it's important, I think, at the beginning of a spiritual practice to look around and to decide what's right for you. But at some time, you have to abandon the spiritual cafeteria. It doesn't work. You know, I want a little bit of this, and, oh, the Sufi stuff looks good over there, and a little bit of Christianity, and I haven't been to a Quaker meeting for a while, and it doesn't work, essentially, because it makes us dilettantes of spirituality. If you really want to practice the way, practice it wholeheartedly and give yourself to it. This is the Dharma, according to Jeffrey, you may disagree.


So this settling into one practice is also akin to the vow. And the vow is to stay with something. It's like the Bodhisattva vow, but there are humbler vows as well. Here we follow a schedule, and we take on the schedule as a sort of vow. And when we take on something like a schedule, or like a vow, it means that we are practicing beyond our particular personality, beyond our preferences, and beyond our own psychology. We are practicing with and for, and in the midst of something that is greater than all of that. It's a power higher than our own preferences. And you can take on vows for a very short time. You can take on vows for a week. I talked about sitting zazen 15 minutes three days a week. You can do that for a week, and that's a vow. It's kind of like giving up candy for Lent. The vow is essentially a decision,


and the etymology of the word decision is to cut away. So we cut away everything that is extraneous. We cut away everything that doesn't work, and we focus on what is important. Okay? So to recap, the things that I've suggested as essentials for practice are suffering, understanding that we have suffering, understanding our complicity in our own suffering, faith, ethical practice, meditation, study, a teacher, stability in the vow. And perhaps the most important is patience. Patience with ourself, patience with our progress, patience with our lack of progress. And I think it was G.K. Chesterton, the English author, who said something that has always been tremendously encouraging to me. He said, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. And I think that that's important. I think that that's very important.


And patience is also forgiveness. You know, we can forgive ourselves for our shortcomings. We can forgive our friends and hopefully our enemies for their shortcomings. The Diamond Sutra says the patient acceptance of those dharmas which fails to be produced, which is all of them. And the other important thing, I think, to have forgiveness for and patience with is the way things are. You know, I read a book once, a novel, and in it there's an old lady who's dying, who's been severely handicapped. Her whole life. And she's making her final confession to her priest. And she says, Oh, Father, there's one more thing. And he says, Yes. She says, I want to be able to forgive God for making me the way I am. So, you know, we don't talk about God in Buddhism and certainly not in Zen. But to forgive things for being the way they are, to have patience with things as they are. You know, Suzuki Roshi talks about things as it is.


And to have patience and forgiveness for things as it is is pretty important. And when we do that, we see that things as it is are transient, empty, and inherently liberated. So that's kind of my spiel on practice today. I want to thank you all very much for coming. You know, it's tremendously important for me and for anybody I think who practices to be able to share their practice with others. And to be able to speak this way is a great gift for me because it encourages me in my own practice. I just have one little housekeeping kind of thing. You know, after this we have tea and sort of an informal discussion in the back of the dining room. And that usually goes until 12. Sadly enough, I have to go to a funeral today. And I need to leave somewhat early. So I'll be there for a while, but if you did want to come and like hang out for a little bit,


we should probably do it sooner rather than later. So with that, I thank you all very much for coming. If I have said anything that is of use to you, please accept it as my loving gift. And if I've said anything that has confused, upset, or irritated you, which is not impossible, please forgive me and come back and listen to somebody else. Thank you.