Living The Good Life

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Sunday Lecture

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ah to chase the truth and the to dug into his words
the morning

well what i want to talk about today is the good life
what that might possibly be and how we will ever know if we've got it
or if we are it
i've been recently studying a bit about the western psychotherapeutic tradition
and particularly a book that i rather enjoyed by jeremy saffron called psychoanalysis and buddhism
and this book as a collection of essays by analysts who are also a long time practitioners and in some cases teachers a buddhism
some of the chapter titles are things like being somebody and being nobody a reexamination of the understanding of self in psychoanalysis and buddhism
the dissolving of dissolving itself
moments of truth a truth of moment
and to extraordinary pads to an ordinary mind
so for many years i have committed myself to a therapeutic relationship for which i am deeply grateful
so i was ah
inspired to see how these two wisdom traditions are finding in one another mutually supportive intelligence
and in both cases this intelligence is arising in as simplest sense out of our human suffering
and the pressing need for methods and medicine for healing
the buddha in his own time was called the great physician
and my own therapist as the title doctor of medicine
so first off i want to suggest that the good life is a life of good health
physical social ethical spiritual good health
and of course for all of us the good health of our planet
i don't know if any of you had a chance to read the recent and stunning issue of national geographic called a global warning
but something's going on here that we need to pay attention to all of us
our very lives are depending on that
so for me buddhism is not about buddhism and it's not about being buddhist either
even though it's a lot of fun being a buddhist you know maybe you can tell by our hair and are close
that we're having a good time
most importantly though is the privilege we have of living together in community with like minded and good hearted people
ah but buddhism is not about buddhism it's about human beings and the possibility of awakening into a life of ethics oh joy
and of sharing
together a good life
i heard a story that the dalai lama was giving some teachings to a group of clerics from various traditions
and one of them said how much he'd enjoyed the teachings but he thought it would be challenging to share buddhism with his conservative congregation back home and the dalai lama said well that's okay just tell them that it's christian teaching
buddhism is not about buddhism
it's about human life
it's about all of us
so i thought it was important to contrast this morning
with what i'm going to be talking about as a good life with the dominant cultural presentation that as all of you are aware can be seen on any bus in any magazine or newspaper and most spectacularly
on broadcast television
for those of you who have those one of those in your home
recently i spent a couple of weeks in a combination of vacationing and convalescing maybe the able to hear a little bit of my voice says still kind of absent
but i stayed in the home of a family member who lives in mill valley on a rather large least certainly to my point of view condominium and in the living room there is a an enormous television
kind of the size of our altar and in here and
same position in the room
so this was both a great entertainment for me you know the this summer olympics are on right now
but it was also
i don't want to exaggerate it was somewhat disturbing to see what is being sent to us from the creators of programs and their sponsors
through the fine art of channel surfing i actually got a glimpse of a number of programs such as the boardroom
fear factor
i'm but on the other side i did manage to see a monk marathon
boy meets world and sponge bob square pants
it wasn't a total loss by any means
but for me what was most fascinating was what will happen in between the shows
you know these great piston piston engines of our global economic empire
no advertising
truly amazing it's been awhile and i was dazzled by the irresistible presentation of products that the good life it depends on
you know
one thing that wasn't stated in any of these as was the fact that you have to buy these things
mostly they just kind of drop out at the sky or they appear suddenly like by magic in your toilet bowl or your washing machine there's a kind of glow suddenly
it was very clear that each of these is essential to our enhancement of our own self and our own well
we will not only be better dressed that are fed
better looking
but we will drive faster arrive sooner and die looking younger than anyone we know
this is guaranteed
that this is a lot of hooey
but i think what's really difficult is to see the absence of an alternative vision
have a good life depicted in the mass cultural media
a good life that isn't exclusive to those with great wealth or great bodies or great looks great social skills
and i'm wondering for all of us where is the solid ground
of true beauty
a virtue integrity
of meaningfulness
where are we going to look in our secular age for a wise and compassionate regard for the him may
or for all that lives
this used to be the job of god
but i i think that he or she may have resigned and dismay
so who is it that's doing this job for us now
and i i personally want to vote for the great wisdom traditions of the world
and it doesn't matter what denomination or sexual orientation or racial heritage
wisdom and compassion can be found in the tiniest gestures any day anywhere
in any one of us
when i was some in my twenties i took my great aunt edith out to lunch at greens restaurant
she was maybe in her nineties said the time very elegant tall lady of the old era
and as we were waiting for a table mother with a young child
suddenly jumped as her youngster when dashing into the restaurant headed right for the redwoods sculptures which look an awful lot like i'm a playground
and the mother grabbed the child by the arm and yanked him back to her and then he looked up at her and started to cry
and then she got angry at him for crying
and my aunt said to me in a quiet voice oh my dear she must learn patience with her little one
well this is the primary teaching of the buddha the teaching of patients
what do we do when we're afraid or when we're sad but when we are terrifyingly alone
now we practice patience
my aunt new this she's not a buddhist but as she is aged she's become more and more like a buddha
more gentle and kind and funny and wise
so i want to propose that a commitment to the cultivation of kindness and wisdom is the true gateway to the good life
in in bude buddhism we call this commitment our practice
it's in every day affair in which we look again and again at our own behavior our own thoughts and our own intentions for the future
to study the buddha way is to study this very self the one that we believe ourselves to be
and an order to study ourselves we are called on to ask for some help

when this is a fine old tradition that started with the early monks who wandered from town to town with begging bowls asking for support for their practice begging for help is an honorable and necessary step for our growth and maturation
according to both the buddhist and the psychotherapeutic traditions we are from birth as blind stubborn donkeys
and it's nobody's fault were just born that way were born with the capacity to perceive ourselves as separate an isolated from one another
we're born with a capacity for selfishness
now hopefully starting with her parents and continuing with our post parental education we have gotten some help in overcoming this notion that we are but one whether for good or for ill
without that help we are like narcissist
our neil western god
eternally enamored by our own image in the water
last spring i saw an exhibit of american indian culture at a state park on the coast near guatemala
and there were so
lovely set of baskets and some tools and
there was also a quotation from a pomo indian lawyer
and he said
a man is nothing
only a part of his family group within the group everything needed to live is done by everyone protection education food gathering a man is nothing
i think this message is not so clear in our post modern culture many of the people that were living in the condominiums where i was staying this summer live alone
they live in large rooms with large televisions
so i think we need to ask for help in order to me connect to one another
despite the brilliance and and temptation of this electronic mediation
one of my friends was telling me about netflix you know he knows i like movies and
he said you know you don't have to go out of the house you'd been just order them and they come into male you know i thought that was kind of neat but then i remembered that i really like coined and video troy you know in seen those young people all covered with tattoos who are really sweet and know a lot about movies so what would happen to me
where would they go my life would be that much poor
so i am personally grateful for those who responded to my asking for help when i was a young adult as far as i can see the world was an endless ocean materialism and personal gain
and it wasn't that i didn't want to play and i really did
but i was afraid and i also had alternate values as did many of my generation
i had some communal values
some from where i stood at that time it looked as though i would never be a fast enough smart enough you know are good enough to enter the arena of social change
but that was the wrong answer to the right questions
the questions or the questions are who am i
where do i belong and what am i here to do
the buddha said and mr young said
you are a wonder
and you are here to live a good and healthy life for the benefit of yourself and all living beings that surround and support you
the arena is everywhere
so this is precisely what we need help for
how to study and find our true life through the false traps of our beliefs and what we are we must learn how to stop and look at what is actually happening
in every given moment
what's happening really
and to be quite honest with you i experienced that most of you are too easily sidetracked by thoughts feelings by fantasies by sensations of pleasure for a pain
the you are pulled away time and again from noticing the actual experience that you're having in any given moment
i know this from my own personal experience
once we stop to look we begin to see just how full our minds are with planning daydream me with obsessing and worry
to say nothing of the show tunes
only now and then when a branch cracks in the dark woods do we wake up
eyes and ears
mind open and ready
what is it
but then all too soon may close down again back to our dreams and fantasies of of the good life for everybody you know
whether by george or by john
stopping to look is the greatest gift the buddhist tradition has to offer for the healing of this world
over and over again the analysts and mr saturns book
give credit to their meditation practice for helping them as the primary resource to opening their lives and giving them insight that allowed for transformation
we call this practice just sitting
and it really is nothing more than that
we get up rather early in the morning while it's still nice and quiet
while the birds are still asleep
and we sit together here in this room in the limitlessness of our being
limitless warmth limitless moisture
limitless gravity and comfort
limitless stress or pain
in this simple way and in in these quiet moments and we find out when we really are
and from it within that very one
a bird begins to sing
most monk sitting in silence understand one another pretty well
the most monks sitting in silence here the bird when it sings
the differences appear when we are called on to speak about our experience to explain what we are and how the world of our delusion comes into being
for example to give a sunday lecture in a buddhist temple
you know sometimes i just want to share knowledge that i've learned that has made me happy who want to tell you all about it the books the art of course
the inspirations
but other times i just want to encourage you to take up your own life
to break out and away from whatever it is that's holding you back
not in order to escape but in order to see
to see what's happening
the only methods that i know for breaking free of ideas of myself have been the to that i've mentioned so far sitting still together as i was instructed
and going along to see the teacher
as i was taught
these are what i'm calling begging for help
there's a very startling line in the diamond sutra that i was struck by one morning during service
it says that by this humiliation you shall be liberated
this humiliation you shall be liberated
you know and i think i must add that only if you're lucky enough to see how humiliation is the great sign post on the path to liberation
to the good life
humiliation comes from the word hummus
which means earth or ground
the buddha on the eve of his own enlightenment touched the ground with his hand begging for support in the face of tremendous seductive fantasies and demonic divisions of alternatives to the simple reality of sitting in a quiet spot and
or a tree
but i'm bored we cry
what that's a good thing you know boredom is the next step before enlightenment
whether we know it or not the good life is always right at hand
it's already here it's always been here
but as with the conjuring tricks we are always looking slightly somewhere else
recently my daughter who is perhaps the greatest fan of the material world of anyone in the western hemisphere
it was tolerating another one of my many lectures on alternate values
taking place while you're brushing our teeth the other morning
and i was saying to her you know well honey why would you say if someone asked you you know who is buddha what would you answer and i was being kind of casual
and she said am
yeah i've told her all her life that she's buddha everyone's buddha she's heard this so she said at first to my great delight she said
mom i believe the buddha is whatever i believe
and i smiled and then she said
and mom i believe that i am not buddha
and neither are you
she's really cute
so this leads me to the linchpin of the spiritual endeavor itself
and that is our attachment to views and feelings about things
he's are the great hooks of self identity and self concern
and there is no time that i am more aware of my attachment to my views than when my arms are locked with those of my delightful offspring and like those greco roman wrestlers neither one of us is going to hit the ground without a fight
and such times the words of my beloved aunt come back to haunt me
oh my dear you must learn patience with your little one
there's a wonderful story in the buddhist tradition of how the buddha attained a wild thing
that might apply for all of us trying to raise our children in this post modern age
so as you listen to this story you might also see how it applies to the small children who live inside of you when they're afraid
when they're angry
more frustrated
this is a story of meeting and of getting help from a good friend a good parent or a good teacher
now at that time the blessed one went to the hermitage of gossiper of move a lot of famous sharman of the fire cold and he said car shopper if you have no objection i should like to spend one night in your fire chamber
i have no objection great monk but there is a savage royal naga serpent there she has supernormal powers she's venomous fearfully poisonous and capable of killing you
the blessed one asked a second time in the third time and received the same reply and then he said
perhaps she will not destroy me keshava so grant me the fire chamber
then stay there as long as you like great monk
so the blessed one went into the fire chamber he spread out a rush matt and sat down folding his legs crosswise setting his body erect and establishing mindfulness in front of him
when the naga saw the blessed one come in she was angry and she produced smoke
then the blessed one thought suppose i counter her smoke by smoke without injuring her outer skin or inner skin or flesh or sinews or bones or marrow
he did so and he produced smoke
then the naga no longer restraining her fury produced flames
the fire element and produced flames to
the fire chamber seemed to burn and blaze and glow with their flames
the matted hair ascetics gathered around and they said the great monk who is so beautiful is being destroyed by the naga
when the night was over and the blessed one had countered the naga smoke by smoke and fire by fire without injuring her
he put her now tiny form into the palm of his hand and showed her to obey like a shopper this is your royal naga serpent keshava for fire has been countered by fire
for me and the characters in this story represent the major elements of our human life
the fire cult are attacked our attachments to our views are theories in our beliefs the leader of the cult kasha are false self with its limited mind and commanding control of our life
the naga are blind ignorance resistant to change and intimacy
and the buddha are awakened self are big mind observing misery and entering willingly to offer medicine and to orchestrate a cure
in this case the cure for suffering takes place through the mirror of the buddhist wisdom smoke to smoke fire to fire warm hand to warm hand transference counter transference and release
it takes a lot of courage for us to enter into the fire chamber of another's wisdom
to be shaken rattled enrolled
as we see how the views of ourself and of our world began to fall off like the great icebergs cabbie in the arctic spring
what's left when your therapist and your zen master is done with you is mostly a lot of space
room to grow room to think room to feel moved paint
learn to laugh and most of all want to love the great love for all beings
so to close i would like to share a couple of short poems that i wrote about going to see my teacher who first one's called the ancient mirror
what do you see when you look at me completely the same and perfect
completely different and scratched completely round eyes gazing hopefully into round eyes gazing completely
this one's called buddhist sutras
while headed down the trail to meet with the master of flowers and trees appeared as letters in the sutras how lovely she said how lovely just to be
suddenly a cold breeze scattered the petals and shook the branches how indeed she said valley deeply to the wind
he's take good care of yourselves and of each other thank you very much
me here in