The Power of Ten

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The silence of 'don't know'; outer space Vimalakirti Sutra; radiant vision of alternate universes. Motivation for literary inventiveness - world is not only what we think; first calm the mind, then open the sutras; ... (?) the Buddha experience. We call sudden change in perspective - death. Alison's death, reach into the heart beyond the wall of fear; God is not in the spangles - but is clear.

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good morning
hey on the inhalation the world arise his
on the exhalation the world descends
like a bright green turtle on the open ocean
a month or so ago
i told my daughter that if she wanted to watch videos on a school night they would have to be educational videos
and after enduring a some what of what we call her attitude
she finally agreed that you'd watch one of my old favorites it's called the powers of ten
and this film was made in the nineteen seventies by charles and ray eames
and this husband and wife team were quite infrared influential in our culture and are perhaps best known for their very stylish molded plywood chairs which i think all of you have probably sat on whether
are you know it or not
and among many things that they influenced architecture design they also did a great deal of experimental film
so this film called powers of ten was created to illustrate the relative size of things in the universe
charles eames has been taught by his mentor that one way to open new insights and to solve design problems was by changing your point of view
in particular to look at a thing from its next smallest or it's next largest perspective
so in powers of ten the film starts with a blanket and a picnic at a couple are on a blanket having a picnic and the scene as one metre square
viewed from one metre distance away
and then every ten seconds
they would
multiply the distance by ten and the width of the frame by ten
so in the first ten seconds we've seen the picnickers are on a blanket in a park by a lake
and ten seconds later it's the city of chicago
in ten seconds after that the continental united states
after a minute we're looking at the entire planet earth filling the frame
had tend to the ninth the orbit of the moon is visible
tend to the thirteenth the solar system
tend to the seventeen the nearest star
and tend to the twenty first the milky way galaxy
and at this point we are moving very fast
multiple times the speed of light
by tend to the twenty third our own galaxy is visible as a tiny speck of dust in a dusting of light of galactic light
and finally at one hundred million light years away from home the dusting itself has vanished
and we are left only to our imaginations
well we can't stand that for too long so the camera begins moving back toward home again at powers of ten until we're on the picnic blanket in the park by the lake
but not stopping there the camera continues to move inward this time he powers of magnification and like tiny alice's in wonderland we start entering the hand of the now sleeping picnic or
and that journey ends at tend to the minus twelve where we are all packed inside a vibrating proton in the nucleus of a carbon atom within india and a molecule of a single white blood cell coursing through a capillary
of the hand
and once again we are left with the utter silence that surrounds and permeates our imaginal universe
the silence of don't know
at that point the credits began to roll and we were back in the living room where my daughter turned to me and said
somewhat incredulously mom are we in outer space
and you know i thought well at age ten you imagine you've told your children most of the facts of life you know but it never occurred to me i hadn't mentioned that we are indeed in outer space
and where might that be
outer space
i don't think we have much more of a clue than those tiny little arrows like you see at the mall on the maps you are here
had a picnic in the park
so this is what i want to talk about today about the surprises that we encounter with sudden shifts and our perspective in our point of view
when we think of the unthinkable
when we stretch past familiar boundaries into the world of wonderment
into the world of imagination
so in this regard for many years i have been pondering just what was going on and all china and old india
when the my piano or the great vehicle teachings of the buddha fully flowered into a literary form
i think most of you have been exposed to the my hand and teachings whether you know it or not it's a lot like the aims chair every sunday our speakers here at green gulch been students of zen are also offspring of the mahayana tradition so you've often heard quotations from
the heart sutra the vimalakirti sutra arboretum soccer sutra
the lotus sutra and so on
a recently finished teaching a six week class on the vimalakirti sutra so i was struck again by the power within these verses to induce a radiant vision of alternate universes
and then at once to snap us back to ordinary perceptions of reality if by no other method than simply closing the book
so i wanted to give you a small example of these texts from the vimalakirti sutra
this is a verse called the inconceivable liberation
and in this chapter
lima cure t who is a very wise and nicely dressed layman
has just imported thirty two hundred thousand and jewel thrones which have arranged themselves neatly in his small house without causing any crowding so that he might provide seating for his thirty two hundred thousand guests who have come to listen to him expound the dharma
i am

then the venerable sherry putra said to the liturgy imola acuity toby is his tribal name from the the toby tried noble sir it is astonishing that these thousands of thrones so big and so high should fit into such a small house and that
the great city of by szalai the villages cities kingdoms capitals of jumbled weeper the other three continents the abodes of the gods the nagas the yorkshire's the gandhara buzz the osher as they've got ru does the cameras and the maharajas that all of these should appear without any obstacle
all just as they were before
the law tavi them of the cure replied reverend shy putra for the to target has in the body thought was there is a liberation called inconceivable
the body sought for who lives in the inconceivable liberation can put the king of mountains cymru which is so high so great so noble and so vast into a mustard seed
without enlarging and a mustard seed and without shrinking mount subaru
and the deities of the assembly of the for maharaja's and of the heavens do not even know where they are
only those beings who are destined to be disciplined by miracles see and understand the pudding of the king of mountains cymru into the mustard seed that reverend try putra is an entrance to the domain of the inconceivable liberation of the body suffers
such a bodhisattva can pick up with her right hand this billion world galactic universe as if it were a potter's wheel and spinning it around throw it beyond universes as numerous as the sounds of the ganges without living beings therein
knowing their motion or its origin
and she can catch it and put it back in its place without the living beings suspecting they're coming and going and yet the whole operation is visible

so i would like to propose that what was going on back down in the ancient buddhist world at the level of literary art and craft was a shifting of perspectives not unlike in the powers of ten
and these shifts we also are familiar with nowadays through other films obvious examples like the matrix harry potter
the six cents
jacob's ladder
but the motivation for those literary inventions of long ago was not simply intellectual or artistic playfulness
those things are fine of course to but i think it was a real inspiration of the deep compassion that flowered in the heart of shock humor many buddha on the occasion of his enlightenment
what the buddhist saw as he sat under the bodhi tree was that he not unlike my daughter had mistakenly believed that the world was simply what he saw and what he thought
and even more importantly what he liked and what he didn't like and how he was going to get things to go the way he wanted
if we imagine ourselves under the base of that tree day after day after day with no other resolve than to watch the antics of our thoughts and our perceptions
as they arise and as they fall in the mental gymnasiums of our own minds
soon we would see that all of them eventually will curl up into our laps and take a snooze
this is the innate talent of the human mind for tranquility for perfect peace
once the tiger has been tranquilized you can wash out its ears open it's eyes and check in its mouth for cavities
but most importantly with a calm mind we conceive virtue in ourselves and and others and we can begin the reconstructive activities that breakdown the ceaseless and unpleasant habits of speech thought and action which are the plague of our life
lives and of the lives of those that we love
or perhaps would love if they can get close enough to us
calming the mind again and again it's the most basic practice to of the buddhist path
with a calm mind we opened the sutras to receive the guidance of the ancestors teaching
and not only are we lead to an understanding of the teaching a buddhist theory but most importantly to a really maddening a reenactment of the buddhist experience itself
toward that end the mahayana tradition has intentionally invoked in us the extreme grounders and extreme plasticity of our imaginal worlds
on the inhalation the world arises on the exhalation the world descends
like a bright green turtle on the open ocean
one problem is that we have so much going on in our minds that we've become accustomed to
and we've hardly noticed that the conjugations
that we create throughout the day or how we make the world the world that we live in the world that we inhabit
the buddha called this ignoring of how the mind works and of what it's doing throughout the day the fundamental affliction of ignorance
unlike children that we once were we have forgotten for the most part to simply be in awe of these durations
stories about ourselves about our neighbors or friends or colleagues and those alien nations
grow very large in our minds until they result in destructive and violent behaviors
or unwholesome attachments that
and yet we are deeply afraid of what might be left of us without our convictions or opinions and our righteous indignation
but like it or not the day will come for each of us without exception
when those stories and all the props with which we have given ourselves the illusions of safety
and self control will be taken away
for some it will be very sudden
and for others it will be a long wait
we call this sudden change in perspective death
and we think of it if at all as the most unwelcome guest in our house
so for that reason i wanted to tell you another story about our dear brother death
and this story is free of fear and is marked by beauty grace joy love and humor
over the past few months i have been privileged to be among a rather large gathering of family and friends have a woman named allison rudy
who not unlike the eames chair has been a part of your lives whether you know it or not
she has through her many community services
brought great benefit to the community that we live in marine county both as a council member and as the mayor of mill valley
she was the mother of a wonderful son a sculptor an interior designer and a serious student of philosophy of art and of spirit
she also shared her deep affections with two very distinct communities in the bay area one being glide memorial methodist church in the tender line and the other being green gulch farms and center
at the beginning of her remarkable journey i don't think it was so different for her than it is for the rest of us when we consider the matter of our own dime
it is inconceivable to us how it might be not to be
and it's scary
not so scary
and yet much of our poetry or love songs are humor art or music reach into the heart past the wall of fear and draw on that special relationship we have with our own mortality
my own mother is one to joke about these things often times she'll complain about some new acre pain and then knock on wood she looks up to the heavens sane not that i'm complaining you understand
so we would rather be here with our pains and our eggs then be we don't know where
in some spiritual traditions as you will no reassurances are given there are pearly gates st peter angels music white gowns
i was raised as a christian child and unfortunately i lost my faith
but i wound up here with the buddhists and what i got in turn were philosophical teachings and some stress reduction exercises to reduce my anxiety my lust and my anger
that alice who has given me something more she's brought the teachings to life
and i'm deeply deeply grateful
she gave me access to her work as she continued living right up until the very last moment and the very last breath
and the words of the master dogan and birth there is nothing but birth and in death there is nothing but death accordingly when birth comes face and actualized birth when death comes face an actual
lies death do not avoid them
and do not desire them
so i went to see her every few weeks as the changes with in her body that were brought on by the cancer became more obvious
she said it it didn't hurt but pretty soon she could no longer eat and eventually she could no longer drink so she was starving to death
but she could think and she could feel and we all saw how she used her reasoning and her feelings
to quit clear the way of remorse hostility grief and despair
and she turned her with her awareness towards the clear lights of her life
and that light shone in her eyes and then the sweet tender kisses that she gave each of us when we arrived and when we parted
and it showed in her love for her son her siblings her old friends for the rain the lagoon and for holding in her hand a glass of clear water
i'd like to read a poem that was crafted from her words by a friend and it begins with the friends speaking
i am thankful to have ears to hear tonight the words i heard last from my friend to hear her say she has found her life in what she's lost let go i who have been living in the glitter year on spangly year now
know god is not in what's called once bright god is in what's clear
i had to give up eating drinking live on sugar dripping in my vein to see all beauty in this glass i raised to light before i tip it to my dry lips to see all joy in what comes through this gift of water water
a simple clear
as the time went on and allison grew weaker she invited are sitting group to come and join her on a friday morning and she sat on the couch on she was in the arms of her son and we did our usual
morning routine of sitting together ringing the bell talking about the teaching and in this case her offering to talk with us about what it was like to be dying

the intimacy directness clarity and fearlessness of that conversation was like giving the tiger a bath
a week later alison was even closer to death and it reminded me of the way all of us are close to our pillows at night
on the last night of her life another smaller meditation group came that met on wednesdays and sat with her and one of the members suggested that maybe allison would like to ring the bell even though she hadn't moved or a registered a perception of there being there
air and then suddenly she reached out her arm and took hold the bell
within a few minutes of the ending of that period of meditation alison's brother tom came upstairs where the ladies had gathered after the sitting to say that they had done their work and that his hers his sister had been able to take her final breath
meanwhile back at my house we were getting ready for bed when the phone rang to say that alison had just died
i was willing to wait until the next morning to go and see her in the family but my daughter began putting on her shoes and crying and she said we have to go now
she's our family
and so we did
and again how grateful to have gone to a place where i might imagine it would be sad or scary but instead found it to be only beautiful loving and filled with gratitude
it took sabrina few minutes to go into the house because she was afraid
but finally she overcame her fear and went inside to the room where alison's body was lame
and then we all went inside
and we touched her and we talk sweetly to her about our love and our gratitude and i respect
sabrina then asked are we going to give her a bath
alison son chris and her brother tom had made her very beautiful there on her four poster bed surrounded by long-stemmed white roses
so we all agreed to wash her body together and to dress her in such finery as only her closet would allow
a burgundy silk blouse golden pants and a beaded scarf
with the last brushing rose petals we all stood back and proclaimed her one metre square
at that moment the most gorgeous and beloved spot on the earth
thank you very much
me or intention equally