The Practice of Morality in Buddhism

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Sunday Lecture


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I vow to taste the truth of the Tathagata's words. Nice to see you. This afternoon we have an important ceremony, a Juhkai ceremony for taking the precepts, entering the way. Juhkai. And so I thought that it would be a good chance for me to think about and to share my thoughts with you about the practice of morality in Buddhism. I started my own path in Buddhadharma when I was a pretty young man and the question


of morality was not something that interested me much. Restraint and decorum, which is how I understood morality, seemed a whole lot less interesting than adventure and truth. And I suppose I considered truth to be itself a kind of adventure. Questions of good or bad or right and wrong seemed somehow to me at the time of a lower order or even somehow beside the point. But the exploration of how things really are, that seemed a much more germane pathway for the kind of living that I wanted at that time. And these many years later, I suppose that I still think of truth as a kind of adventure,


but my view of morality and its place within the adventure of truth-seeking has changed considerably. We think of morality in this way, right and wrong, good and bad. In our Judeo-Christian heritage, these terms, you know, right and wrong, good and bad, get their weight from the fact that right and wrong and good and bad is ordained by God. And God is a mystery, an absolute, not subject to human understanding or questioning. As time goes on and I have more dialogue and discussion with adepts in the Judeo-Christian traditions, I realize that I don't really know how these things are understood in those


traditions and I expect that mostly they're misunderstood. But certainly, however they're understood or misunderstood, most of us do get the message filtered through that somehow somebody's in charge, decides what is good and what is bad and approves of us or disapproves of us based on our conduct. And so, naturally, being the kind of people that we are, we rebel. So there's rebellion. And this seems to be the scheme of things, rule, rebellion, fall, redemption. And that's about how it goes. And it's a fairly tough proposition.


And one feels in this way under a great weight somehow. And one can get fairly twisted out of shape by this weight. So like I say, who knows whether that's really the way it's understood in those traditions, but it seems like many of us kind of get this message and it comes to us that way. The sense of morality or moral practice in Buddhism is quite different from this. Buddhist practice in general begins with the insight or the understanding that the way we approach life is unworkable, just doesn't work. This comes as a shock to us to realize this. We don't particularly like it or know what to do about it, but events of our lives show


us that it's true, that the way we approach things is dysfunctional. Basically, one comes to see clearly and graphically in some, unfortunately, in some detail, that a life based on self-protection and holding on is just going to fail. Because finally you can't protect yourself, and finally whatever it is you hold on to, you will lose. And yet, what's to be done? What alternative is there really to fiercely taking care of yourself, standing against the world, defending yourself, and holding on for dear life in the teeth of a wind that won't stop blowing until it finally knocks you down? Well, Buddhist practice proposes that there is another possibility, that there is another


view, that it is possible to live without self-protection, without separation, without holding on and standing over against, based on the clear insight that what we are isn't something that can be held on to in the first place, or held separate or protected, that what we are is fluid and unexplainable, radically connected, quick, free, expansive, whole. Once we get used to this and settle into it and let go of it, because that's part of what it means to understand these things, then we can stop being frightened of everything and just relax. We can swim with things as they come and go. We can stop self-identifying with everything.


We can stop identifying at all and simply enter into our lives. That's the proposition that Buddhism advances. So that's a wonderful thing, right? It sounds good. It's a great idea. Of course, the question is, how do we go about living this? How do we go about really doing it? Because clearly, our problems are not going to be solved by simply believing something or repeating it over and over again to ourselves in the dark night. It's going to be a matter of going further than that, integrating something completely into our moment-by-moment living, kneading it in, saturating it into our lives so completely that it really becomes a part of who we are, and not only a part of who we are, but much more than that, that it is pervasively and at all points characteristic of who and what


we are. And here is where the genius, really, of Buddha and his successors comes in. Because Buddha had a program for how to settle into this alternative life and to realize it deeply. He had a path away. And the path, the program, begins with morality, with moral practices, which the Buddha understood not so much in terms of right or wrong, good or bad, good and evil, and so on, but simply as a cleaning up one's life. Like if you want to build something, you know, you'd better clean up the shop so you can find the tools. So Buddha understood morality as a question of cleaning up one's life, based on a commitment to caring about how one behaves, about how one manifests one's life in this world, and


then based on that commitment, observing, simply observing and being with exactly how one is behaving and what the causes and effects of that behavior are. So this has nothing to do with being a good boy or a bad girl, with gaining approval or disapproval. It doesn't have to do with rules or rebellion. It's simply that recognizing the unworkability of one's life and seeking a way to move toward happiness, one walks a path, and that path begins with cleaning up the shop, begins with morality. So with morality, we can practice meditation, and really meditation depends on morality.


Did you think of that? Really, if you want to practice meditation, you have to depend on moral conduct, because if conduct is mixed up, it will be hard for the unconscious mind to settle in meditation. Conduct that's off base produces shadows in the mind. I don't know why that is, but it's really true, you see from experience. And these shadows might not really be apparent at all in ordinary life. You might not notice them, other than sort of a subtle sense of dis-ease, which you might not think of anything other than normal life. But when you sit down in meditation, because everything else is quiet, the shadows appear


pretty powerfully, and they disturb you and agitate the mind. So in meditation, you're trying to look straight ahead and stay with your practice, but you won't be able to do it. Instead of being able to look straight ahead, your mind will glance from side to side, and you will be nervous and unsettled. So very quickly it is apparent when you sit down to meditate that you need a bigger space of light inside the mind, more light, less shadow. So, you need to work with moral conduct, so you can calm down a little bit. So it turns out that moral practice is really necessary for meditation practice. And if you don't believe that in the beginning, your experience of meditating will show you that it's true, and you'll have a strong motivation to do moral practices when you begin to notice


the effect of not doing so. And meditation practice itself is a necessity, because it is essential that the mind be accessed at a level deeper than the physical, intellectual, and psychological, since the root of our unworkable problems is there. As I said, it won't be enough to have good ideas and good intentions about how to live. We will need some real and some deep conviction and insight, and only meditation practice can touch us that deeply, give us that degree of conviction and insight. And once we have some conviction and insight, which is to say once we are clearer about


what our life is, naturally this is going to affect our behavior and our moral practice. We will develop our character and we will shift radically our life concerns. And it turns out that almost everything that has been hanging us up in our lives, we can just let go of, in exchange for which we will have a whole new set of concerns and problems. But these concerns and problems can lead us forward, can lead us deeper, rather than round and round and round. So these are workable concerns and problems. So that's how it goes. Moral conduct calms us down and makes meditation possible. Meditation, by and by, gives us conviction and insight, and conviction and insight cause


us to practice moral conduct as the expression of our conviction and insight. And then this moral conduct brings the mind more calm and then calmer, deeper mind, deeper meditation, deeper meditation, stronger insight, stronger insight, more accuracy and depth in conduct. So round and round like this, endlessly in this kind of a spiral. And this is a nice way to live, I think. It's very engaging, never boring. In the Maha Asapura Sutra, in the Majjhima Nikaya, the middle-length sayings, the Buddha lays out a course of practice, pretty much like the one I'm discussing here. And the sutra begins with the Buddha addressing the monks and nuns who were traveling with him, referring to them as recluses. He says to them, you think of yourself as recluses, that's who people understand you


to be, and if you're going to be worthy of the name recluse, this is how you need to practice, and then he says kind of what I was just saying. So I was interested in this idea of the recluse, as people who are concerned about our lives and what we are actually doing with those lives, people who don't want to take things merely at face value, we are all recluses. Recluses are people outside of society. They may look like they're in society, but really in their hearts, they are outside of society. They are people whose true aims and concerns are ultimate aims and concerns, people who


are willing to give up short-term goals and desires in favor of what is most lasting and deepest. That spirit, that kind of courage and determination seems necessary. The word recluse comes from the Latin, root cludere, which means to close or to close off, and the prefix re, which means to repeat or do again, is put in front of the word cludere to create the word recluse. When you add re, r-e, to the word to close, it becomes recluse. It becomes interesting and curious to close and then to reclose. And oddly, when you study the etymology of the word, somehow to reclose, to close and reclose somehow means, in other words, to close closing, which means to open, to unclose.


So, recluses give up the ordinary, give up attentiveness or attachment to the ordinary things in life in order to seek something else, and they probably don't know what it is that they're seeking. But they have a sense of it, and they are somehow given to, and there's an inner necessity for them to make the effort to find out what it is that they're looking for, and they have no choice but to make this effort. And so they close themselves off to the ordinary, and the ordinary is unworkable and already something very closed, something impossible. So in closing themselves off from the closed, they open. The word include is from the same root, you know, cludere plus in.


So include means to enclose or to close in. So to include something is to contain it within something. So the included is the imprisoned. The recluded doesn't have anything inside of it, it's just open. Anything can get in or out freely. So the content of the life of the recluse could be anything, see? Anything can get in or out freely, and nothing's included. In this same Maha-Asapura Sutra, Buddha speaks in some detail about moral practices, and he says that the recluses need to have a healthy spirit of being concerned about their conduct, and then he says that they need to clean up all of their acts of body, speech, and mind, and livelihood. He mentions livelihood in this sutra. And as these sutras go, there's much repetition, and after each of the points of moral conduct,


the Buddha repeats a formula that goes like this. He says, our bodily conduct, or verbal conduct, or whatever it is, our conduct should be purified, clear and open, flawless and restrained, and we will not praise ourselves and disparage others on account of that purified conduct. He says that with each one of the points of moral conduct. We will not praise ourselves or disparage others on account of that conduct. In other words, we don't congratulate ourselves for our goodness and get moralistic about it and put down others who we think aren't as good as we are. If we do that, that itself is to transgress moral conduct. It's a part of moral conduct to understand that congratulating ourselves or being judgmental of others is not useful, not possible, because, as I said a minute ago, there's nothing inside


morality. There's no content, really, to moral conduct. A moral conduct is just the natural conduct that comes from clarity and openness and unclosing of the closing. That is the essence of what self-centeredness is. So including has something inside, but recluding has nothing inside. So there's nothing to get self-righteous about, actually. If one were to get self-righteous, this would be a misunderstanding of what moral practice was all about. In Mahayana Buddhism, this is explained by using the well-known concept of emptiness. As the Heart Sutra says, there's no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind,


which seems like a strange thing to say, in a way. And it doesn't mean that there's no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind, because of course we all know that there are. It means simply that eyes and ears and nose and tongue and body and mind are unincluded, are open, unclosed, free. It means that there's no my eyes, my ears, my nose, my tongue, my body, my mind. There's just eyes and ears and nose and tongue and body and mind that are free and unincluded. So we don't have to hold on to anything or protect ourselves because there's nothing to hold on to that we have. There's nothing to protect. Now in Zen practice we understand morality to be ultimate and profound, ultimately profound. Of course there are many levels in our Zen approach to morality, many levels and aspects


to moral conduct, and it is really important to keep the various levels and aspects straight because it's dangerous to get mixed up about morality. But basically morality is about how the unspeakable depth of our living manifests very simply in everyday acts and choices. And so there's no end to the depth of the study of conduct in our practice. And in schools of Zen in which there is a systematic curriculum of koan study, always the moral precepts are presented at the very end not as rules but as koans to be penetrated through meditation, the toughest koans of all.


And in our school which does not have a systematic koan study in that particular way, the moral precepts and their deepest meanings are fully appreciated only at the time of dharma transmission when a student after many, many years of commitment and study is finally entrusted with the responsibility to teach and carry the dharma forward. So morality is actually the reverse, you know, instead of the beginning it's the end, it's the ultimate of all studies, and of course throughout. In a lecture about precepts and morality a long time ago, Suzuki Roshi said this, There is no special teaching which we should remember, which we should recite. There's no need to recite sutras.


When you pay homage, you should pay homage to yourself, and that means to pay homage to Buddha and dharma, and that is the structure of Buddhism. But because our mind is not so clear, in order to have a good understanding of Buddhism, we have precepts. So precepts is not something to observe literally. Through precepts we should know the structure of Buddhism, the points of Buddhism, the core of Buddhism, the spirit of Buddhism, and that is why we accept precepts. In another lecture given a few years earlier, at the end of the 60s, he was talking in Tassajara about the rules of training for Tassajara, and in Zen monasteries there's a very thorough-going


rule about almost everything, how to walk, how to eat, how to stand, how to sit, everything. It's regulated, and in speaking about those rules, which people had a great resistance to in 1969, he was trying to show them, explain to them why these things were important. He said at that time, having our own way of life will encourage people to have a more spiritual and adequate way of life for themselves. In other words, these rules are not just for ourselves. If we have a way of life, others can find their own way of life. So we must study, he says, we must study our way, not only for ourselves, but for all people. Then he said, I feel we should establish an American Shingi, means a monastic rule. We should establish an American monastic rule. I'm not saying this jokingly.


I'm pretty serious, but I don't want to be too serious. If you become too serious, you will lose your way. On the other hand, if we're playing games with it, we will lose our way. So little by little, with patience and endurance, we must find our way for ourselves. That was his comment on rules of conduct. Sometimes our Soto Zen way is called the dark way, because we're in the dark most of the time. We don't have a step-by-step way of practice. This can be a little frustrating, because we all like to feel like we're doing it right, like we're making progress, like we're training properly.


Sometimes we talk about training, and of course, we all need training. We need to study the teachings, and it's better to know what you're doing than be thoroughly confused, if possible. But really and truly, in Zen, there isn't any training, because no one ever understands Zen. No one ever masters it. I think the reason for this is that Zen is instant Buddhism. It's instant Buddhism. Instant Buddhism means there's no beginning, no middle, and no end, and no training at all. It's just instant, always beginning and ending right now. So in Zen, unlike in the Mahāsāpura Sutta, we don't start with morality and go from morality to mindfulness and go from mindfulness to meditation and from meditation to insight and insight to liberation. In Zen, morality is insight, and insight is morality, and training is training, and zazen


is training, and insight is zazen, and zazen is insight, and morality is insight, and insight is morality, and ... anyway, who knows? It's all instant. It's all happening at the same time. And Suzuki Roshi, I think, was right when he said, you know, you can't really take instant practice too seriously. Training you can take seriously, because you could do it right or not, and you could make progress or not, but instant practice you just can't take seriously. On the other hand, as he says, you can't fool around either. Just because everything is open and empty and unincluded doesn't mean that you can kid yourselves into ... we can kid ourselves into thinking that whatever we do is okay. Actually, a great deal of what we do isn't okay, because we're not really free.


We're still grossly or subtly self-centered, and we're kidding ourselves and messing up our lives. There's an old Tibetan Buddhist saying, we practice illusory practice in an illusory way in order to reach illusory enlightenment, and so we can deliver illusory beings from illusory suffering, which is about it, I think. And this is why our moral practice is never about approval or disapproval or about guilt and redemption, and why it's never an occasion for self-righteousness or judgment of others or of ourselves. Because since there isn't anything but illusion, you see, there's no other realm of reality outside of illusion that would render illusion trivial.


Illusion needs to be taken quite seriously, but not that seriously. And so today, as I mentioned at the beginning, we're going to do this ceremony at 4 o'clock, which I think you can certainly come to if you'd like. If you've never seen this ceremony, it's a beautiful thing to see. A number of people who have been preparing for some time will take the precepts. The ceremony begins with an invocation of the presence of the Buddhas and all the great teachers, the Bodhisattvas, to come and be with us and lend their support and power to our ceremony. Then there's confession and purification, which is an acknowledgment that our confusion


really is deep and really is quite ancient, and that we are willing to acknowledge that it is so and give it up, become free of it, stop holding on to it. And in a way, this may be the deepest and most troubling aspect of our human suffering. We don't want to give it up. We fool ourselves over and over again about our lives so that we don't have to give up our suffering. But in this ceremony, we actually acknowledge all of that and express a sincere willingness to really give up our suffering. Then after that, we receive the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts, beginning with taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, which, as Suzuki Roshi says, is taking refuge deeply in our


own real nature, in the openness of our lives, and letting go of the unworkability of our defined and circumscribed lives. And this act of taking refuge in the triple treasure of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is really the essence of all the precepts and the essence of all the moral practices in Mahayana Buddhism, the act of purifying ourselves and letting go of ourselves, of seeing that our real nature is letting go and throwing away our lives into the house of Buddha. So we do that, we take refuge. And as a consequence of this commitment and as an expression of it, we vow to study forever our conduct and try the best we can, without taking it too seriously, to make our conduct identical with Buddha's conduct, which means we undertake not to kill or steal or commit


sexual misconduct or lie or misuse drugs or slander or praise ourselves at the expense of others, and we undertake not to be possessive of anything, not even the Dharma, not to harbor ill will, and never to waver in our commitment to undertaking all of this the best we can. Then to help us follow this solemn path and follow it continuously, life after life, we receive a robe, which we've sewn, a robe that exemplifies, symbolizes all of these commitments and that carries the weight of these commitments and that will inspire us to remember the commitments that we have made. And since we are renouncing, on the deepest level, all of our ordinary approaches to life, all of our unworkable identities, and taking on a new robe to have a new non-identity,


we get a new name at the time in the ceremony also. We also get a birth certificate in the form of a lineage paper, which shows the lineage of all the teachers in our Dharma family, from Buddha through the sixth ancestor and Dogen Zenji up to the present ordination teacher, whose name is on the paper, and then the person receiving the precepts, his or her name, is also on the paper. This paper expresses that the precepts are taken in this line, in this family, and will be practiced and expressed by the person as a part of this Dharma family. So this is, very briefly, how the ceremony of entering the way goes, and this is the


sense of how morality is understood that stands behind it. Buddhism, of course, is much wider than this ceremony or any formal ritual, and the only reason why we can do a ritual like this is because we understand that this ritual of entering the way is happening on every moment of our lives. Still though, ritual is good. It's a nice way to express our appreciation for the hard and good work that Buddha has done on our behalf, and it's nice to have a way to express this, even though the expression is just something invented by people at a particular time. The fact that it's handed down and that so


many generations of people have participated in it is very comforting and moving. So, I just came here to tell you all that, and now that I'm done, I might as well leave. Thank you. May our intention equally... So, now we can discuss anything that might have come into your mind hearing the lecture or anything else that seems important about practice, and we can help each other go into these things a little more thoroughly. So, anybody have anything to raise?


Yes. I have a... I think it's a question. It's both about your talk about morality as awareness of behavior, and the ceremony this afternoon. A couple of months ago, Kathleen said to a group of us who were outside having lunch together, why don't we all take Galen's class and sew a ruckus out of it? And I reacted pretty strongly. I thought, I can't, because I think it's cool. I don't want Buddhism to be outfit-intensive for me. I can't sew it. So, she's raising... She's familiar with... This is the kind of a robe that you receive in the ceremony that I was speaking of this morning, and she's referring to, actually,


a fairly common feeling that people have, which is, you know, practice is a wonderful thing for our lives, and all of a sudden, we're introducing these things that make us cool and interesting, and now I'm going to want something out of it. So then, that's all the more reason why I don't want to undertake the ceremony and the ruckus and all that, because it's such a big... I don't want to get into that. So, yeah, I mean, this is... Many people experience this and speak of this. But, you know, I didn't mention this in the lecture, but the process of undertaking to sew a raksu and doing the ceremony and all that is not something that you just sign up for. In other words, you say, I think I want to do this, now I'm going to do it. You actually have to approach one of the teachers and discuss with them whether or not it's appropriate or whether or not...


So this is a kind of way of working with those questions. And, of course, if you wait until your motives are perfect, it might take, you know, a long time, which would be fine, because there's no need to do this. But it's not necessary to wait until one's motives are perfect. It's only necessary to be aware of the imperfections of one's motives. So as long as you're aware of your attachment and so on to all of this, and your attachment and there's a reasonable degree of self-awareness and ability to let go of those attachments from time to time, it's not necessary that you need to be perfect. And there are certainly people who could show up on the first day. This happens sometimes. Somebody shows up on the first day and says, I'm ready to be a priest and a Zen teacher. Sign me up. Where's


the rope? That does happen from time to time. And usually when that happens, we say, oh, that's interesting and that's probably a good idea, but maybe you go a little slower. And more often than not, in the process of discussing such things, the person may realize, oh, what I wanted wasn't really that. It was something else I wanted. Something, whatever it is, we don't know. So it's a process of discussion and self-knowledge to go to approach a teacher and say, even to say, this is my situation. What do you think? And then to discuss it. But I mean, we all suffer from that at every stage of practice. I mean, the practice really is about letting go, but of course we would be lying to say that many times we're motivated


by getting something else, you know, a new identity or being really feeling great because now we're Zen students or something like that. So we have to be real and honest about where we are, but don't wait for perfection. It takes too long. I think there's one sutra that talks about how long it would take to totally have pure motives. It's something like ten to the thirtieth power number, not of years, but of eons. That's how long it takes. And that is, of course, that is our project. We are trying to become perfect, but we recognize that it takes about that long. So there's no use rushing, and there's also no use being surprised at how imperfect we are. It's not surprising. With an attitude like that, we can go forward appropriately, and it's not too bad.


It's interesting what one person's cool is another person's funny. Do you think that you're James Dean or like James Dean like? Oh, gee, that's bad. And it was not so much the stages that you wrote about. It was where you talked about in the beginning about idealism, and talked about how idealism is like Joseph's can be poisoned, if I remember it correctly, how you framed it. And I said, oh, that's my problem. I'm being poisoned by idealism. And while when I hear idealism a lot, I still


don't always like it, but it's kind of easier to kind of take now. And when we talk about morality, I think nowhere do we get kind of more, have the problem of the question of idealism than there. I don't know if it's true, but it really comes up there. So we have questions about whether morality is absolute or relative, whether it's historical or ahistorical, these kinds of questions. It changes all the time. And so recently at the Jukai at the city center, I was talking to someone who was studying for lay ordination and said he was using the Ten Commandments was what he was doing. And he said, well, they're similar. They're like thou shalt not steal. And I said to him, well, you know, the anarchist Priya Pradhan said, you know, what is theft? He said, property is theft. You know, the same blind person said to me, that's bad karma, wanting to get away from me as fast as possible. So I'm not exactly sure what the question is here, but it's kind


of like... Well, yes, it would be hard to summarize that question, so I won't try. But well, one thing I can say in response is that, as I was saying in my talk, morality is understood as koan. In other words, it's not like morality is obvious and clear and we can say what's right or wrong in any given situation. It's really hard to know what to do sometimes. And one has to come to one's own understanding. And what you feel comfortable doing at one time, you don't feel comfortable doing later on because your condition has changed. What's positive conduct has a lot to do with the condition of the mind at the time. So it is a deep and complex issue, and I hope that in our practice we don't shortchange that


and we don't see them as if we have easy answers to things. There was something else I wanted to add to that. It was in my mind, but I forgot. I think it will come back later. Sorry. Yeah. I noticed, I think, a lot about perfection. I was in Rev's Tuesday night class in Berkeley and he gave us all these readings. So I went to the local Buddhist bookstore and started looking at all these Buddhist books. And I started reading the history of life in Buddha and how he did all this great stuff when he was young and how he studied really hard and all this. And I'm like, oh god, I wish I didn't study hard around here. So then I was looking at the Shogogenzo, or anyway, the introduction about the life of


and how he read everything about Buddhism twice when he was a little teenager and how hard he studied and all this. And it just got worse. I hear these two guys and I don't know how smart they were or how hard they were. It's just depressing. I was like, I don't want to come there. I'm glad I came because it always changes when I come. It's just awful. That's sort of like my life, how I wish I'd been more like that. Except I have my own version of what it's like. Anyway. Well, probably, you know, those stories are not true. I hope, because those guys are really exciting. Probably goofed off a certain amount. But later on, their followers, who thought they were so great, made it sound better than it was. Yeah, that's what I was going to say. Well, you could like, you could write down good advice for yourself, you know, and then


give it to one of your friends. And then when you, just like you said, when you need it, have them call you up and read it to you in a voice full of conviction. And give them permission to, you know, like, make you do things or something. I don't know. I have the same problem. I don't know what to do. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. You just reminded me of what I was trying to remember a minute ago. Yeah. What I was trying to remember a minute ago was that, basically, the fountainhead of morality is simple kindness, about which I think we can all agree. Now, of course, we don't agree as to what kindness really means or how you apply it in this situation or that situation. So this doesn't solve all our problems, for sure. But I think that most ordinary human beings who live normal lives, or more or less normal lives, would agree that kindness is a worthwhile focal point for morality.


So, anyway, that's the other thing I wanted to say to you. And so your question is similar, but a little different, about compassion. And I think you're right. I would agree that compassion is also a great point to come back to over and over again in working with morality, because, again, the source of morality is the heartfelt wish not to harm others, to be harmless. And compassion means feeling someone suffering. That's what compassion means. So when you feel someone suffering, your feeling is you don't want to increase that person's suffering. In fact, you would like to alleviate it. And if that's really your feeling, if you have the capacity to feel that way, and this is one of the great things about human beings, is that we have the possibility of actually feeling that way about another creature, then if you really have that feeling, I think moral


conduct is quite natural. It's not a question of rules. And there are very famous Mahayana texts that are very interesting, which talk about breaking the precepts on a literal level out of compassion. Like the famous example, this is not a Buddhist example, but often contemporary Buddhist teachers ... maybe it's just me, but anyway, some people use this example. Somebody uses it. I used it. Anyway, the example is, you know, you're living in Europe or something, and it's 1942 or three or something like that, and there's a knock on the door, and the Nazi person says, Are there any Jews in here? And you look him straight in the eye, and you say, No, there aren't. And the person goes, and you've got a family in the basement that you're hiding. Well, you broke the precept. You lied.


You did. You lied. But the compassion and courage to help these people justifies that transgression a hundred-fold, because of compassion. And I think we all know this. I mean, who would say you shouldn't lie? None of us here would say such a thing. It would be stupid, because we all understand this. And, of course, there are all sorts of, you know, we get into gray areas. That's a kind of black and white area, in a way. But we get into gray areas, and it's tricky. But clearly, this is the idea, is that compassion and feeling. This is the most important thing, kindness, compassion, and concern for others. This is what the precepts are all about. And so, then we are always faced with the problem, what is really kind in this situation? What is really compassionate? And am I sufficiently able to feel kindness and compassion? Well, I need to work on myself to feel that. And then, if I do feel it, what is going to be... And we get in many gray areas, like I say, where it's not clear, you know,


what is kind and compassionate in this situation. And the precepts are great guidelines for us, and they're really meditation practices, in a way. Ways for us to understand our conduct and work with it, and learn more deeply. So, conduct, based on our insight, and based on our study of the precepts, is always a challenge. And that's really our path. Especially in Western Buddhism, where, you know, if you live in a monastery, it's not so much of a problem, because everything is so... In a monastery, they really don't need to talk about the precepts, you know. Because the rules of the monastery are the embodiment of the precepts. All you have to do is do the thing you're supposed to do and the rules, and you don't really need to worry that much. But, in the lives that we lead, in Western Buddhism, mostly, we're confronted with very difficult choices and decisions, and we try to work with it as best as we can. Helping each other, and studying the precepts, and working on our meditation practice, and so on. So, thank you. That's really true about compassion.


Yes? In the commentaries to the precepts, as I said, I didn't really go into it in my talk, but there are various levels of understanding the precepts and working with them. From the relative to the absolute, it's all included in working with the precepts. And, one aspect of not to kill, and I'm not going to try to explain these things, because they're long and deep meditations, but one aspect of the precept of not to kill, as with all the precepts is, it's impossible to keep this precept. There's no way you could be alive and not kill. That's one aspect of keeping that precept, and all the precepts that we have to appreciate. Another aspect is, we cannot kill. No matter what we do, we cannot take life. It's impossible to take life. Life is eternal.


Life is always life, and you can't take life. It's another aspect we need to understand. The reason I'm bringing this up is because, yes, the precept not to kill does involve all kinds of killing. Psychological, physical, animals, insects, everything. But with all this range of understanding of it, how do we know right now? So Buddhists are not necessarily vegetarians. It depends on how people know. In Buddhist temples, this is the odd thing, Buddhist temples usually are vegetarian, except in Tibet, where it's hard to be vegetarian and survive because of the climate. But Buddhist temples are always vegetarian. But there also was an understanding in Buddhism that you receive what you're given. So some Buddhists interpret this to mean that if you're somewhere else


and they give you meat, or if you're in a restaurant, you can order meat, but you don't eat it in your temple. Some people understand this way. But of course, many, many Buddhists are vegetarians all the time. And then some people say, well, what about dairy products? Because cruelty to animals is involved in dairy products. And you can't have dairy without killing animals. It's impossible because nobody wants to pay for the price of cows that are not working to earn their living. So if you have a dairy, if you have a cow that is not producing anymore, you have to either yourself butcher the cow or give the cow to someone else to butcher. And so then some people say, well, no, we don't want to have any animal products. And many people, a lot of young people particularly, are making the decision that they don't want to do that. So it's hard to know. There aren't specific dietary rules in Buddhism except the vegetarian rule in temples.


So you have to see what you feel. I myself am a vegetarian, and I wasn't for a long time. And all of a sudden I thought, well, I shouldn't eat animals anymore. I don't want to do that. And I just stopped doing that. And it was very easy to stop doing that because I really didn't want to anymore. I don't know why. I just didn't. And I wouldn't say that that's right or wrong. That was a place that I came to sometimes. Who knows what I'll have for lunch tomorrow. But this is how I feel now. And this is my personal understanding of the precept of non-killing. And I try not to kill anything. Even bugs or something, I try. But what if mosquitoes are eating you up? It's hard. I try not to kill the mosquitoes, but it's a whole deal. I mean, really. I was recently at a Sashin, and there were a lot of mosquitoes around. I tried to brush them away.


If you brush them away, maybe you'll kill them. Well, you're going to kill them probably anyway. It's hard to be alive. It's just tough. It's tough. It is. I have a question about gratitude. About gratitude and idealism, yeah. Well, yes, I think gratitude is kind of a companion of the way. When we practice, I think gratitude is something that will well up within us with some regularity. Just gratitude to be alive. Gratitude to live on the planet with others. And it is a wonderful thing. Although, when you think about it, how often do we feel such things? Usually we're griping about something. Arrangements aren't quite right. So, yeah, gratitude is a part of it. Definitely a feeling that wells up as part of our practice. Earlier, Michael raised this issue of idealism as well.


To me, Buddhadharma is absolutely the opposite of idealism. It's absolutely the opposite of that. Awareness is the opposite of idealism. Idealism is when you have an ideal that you're trying to live up to and you're trying to shape and bend your life toward that direction and not honor or pay attention to that within you which does not want to go in that direction. That's what idealism is, and that's why idealism could be such a... I mean, when you think about it, I mean, Hitler was a great idealist. Stalin was a great idealist. These people were tremendous idealists. They were in favor of a kind of human perfectibility that they believed could be achieved, and their idealism told them that whatever stands in the way of this kind of perfection that they had kind of figured out was desirable,


they were just going to make sure that it didn't stand in the way. That's sort of the extreme case of idealism, and we do the same kind of things to ourselves when we are idealistic in that sense. But the path of the Buddha is absolutely the opposite of that. The path of the Buddha is about cultivating a good heart and looking and seeing what goes on with us, and by our own experience, being with what happens to us, and in the faith that the being with honesty and with some clarity and some kindness, that just being with what's actually going on with us, because we're good at heart, you see, this is the assumption, because we're Buddha at heart, just to be aware of what we're doing with clarity and some calmness and so on, we will clarify our lives and we will be kind and we will be compassionate. It's the opposite of idealism. And the precepts are not ideals. The precepts are not, you know, we should just run around and be idealistic about not killing, not stealing.


Really, not killing means we should study killing. That's what not killing means. Not lying means we should study lying. We should understand how we lie thoroughly, without judgment. So it's really the opposite of idealism. I'm speaking of gratitude, I'm speaking about the reason for being alive on the planet. I mean, of course, without that, there's nothing about having this way available. Having Buddhadharma to study, yeah. Yeah, yeah, sure. That's the kind of gratitude. I guess the question about idealism is just that when that gratitude somehow fades and we leave, and yeah, it's not there, then somehow, some idealism sort of substitutes. Oh, I see, yeah, yeah. Or skepticism and doubt substitute. One or the other of those two. And I guess it's a question of how one keeps that freshness of that sense of gratitude so that that would guide rather than the false idealism.


Yeah, yeah. So idealism or skepticism, doubt can be, you're saying, can be distortions of a gratitude that would be there if one was really centered. And when one isn't centered, these other things come up. That's a nice way to look at it, yeah. And I think that it would be, of course, idealistic to think that we could feel gratitude every minute because, in fact, causes and conditions change and the mind changes. So things are going to be different at different times. But it's universal, you know, in all paths, that there are many daily things that we do to keep it in our minds, what we're doing. And we do those things, we make an effort through the agency of those things that we do, whether it's sitting practice or prayer or making offerings or chanting or scripture reading, whatever it is, we try our best to bring those activities, raise the issue of gratitude in our practice,


and then we try to bring our best intention to those, and then they encourage us not to substitute or distort our gratitude. But some days, you know, anybody who's honest, even the great practitioners will tell you, some days it's great, other days I'm bored with it or it's not happening or I'm thinking about something else. But I do it anyway, and I find people who are really experienced and really developed in the Dharma can pretty easily let go of the mind that's doubting or the mind that's bored or whatever and return. But they always practice, they always have something that they're doing to help them with that. So we have to practice. The answer is we keep practicing and we have to be devoted to our practice and try our best to bring our intention and our freshness to the practice, and it's hard to do. But it helps to remember, as I often say, that there is no choice,


because if we don't do that, we see what happens, then our mind does become distorted in those ways and our behavior, based on our distorted mind, becomes crooked, and then our crooked behavior makes us more confused and pretty soon we have a lot of problems. And so we say, whoa, I better get back to the basics, I better center myself again. So we have to do it. It's hard work, but we have to do it. Yes? Well, trust is definitely a part of the practice of Buddhism. Sometimes I translate the word shraddha, which is sometimes translated as faith or confidence, sometimes I translate it as trust, which I think is very close to what it is. So I think one trusts many things, of course, but fundamentally one trusts the process of one's own life, that there is within oneself, as one's basic nature,


a strong tendency and constant possibility of healing and kindness, that this is actually our nature. And then when we say we trust the Sangha or the group or we trust Buddha or we trust Buddhism or we trust the teachings, these are all manifestations of that. Without this in us, there wouldn't be these other things. And so, starting with that, we go on in practice and by our own experience, come to realize that the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha, are a fairly reliable approach to accessing that in ourselves. But we don't trust that without testing it out. In other words, we trust it because we know by our experience that it really does work, it really does make sense. If there is a blind trust or a blind faith, it is in this possibility in ourselves.


In that we do trust. But even that, we assume and we discover that it is really true. In other words, in the beginning you have to assume, you've got to start somewhere. Because if you have total doubt, I don't trust anything, even myself, then of course one doesn't do anything. Everything that we do is based on a degree of trust, absolutely everything. And if you have no trust in anything, then you don't get up in the morning. I mean, you trust you're going to get your check at the end of the month, otherwise you don't go to work probably. But you do go to work because you really believe somehow that you're going to get that check and that you really believe that it's pleasant for you to live in your house and so on. So there is always a degree of trust and so you have to start somewhere. But even that, trusting in oneself, you come to see by virtue of your activity and practice that you do have this goodness inside of you, that it does manifest. And as you were saying, that when it does and when you feel it, you feel gratitude


and you feel a very positive and strong feeling in yourself. And you feel those feelings and you say, well, that's true. It's really true that I have this in myself. So now I'm going to go further. I don't understand. Is it the actual practice, because it seems to be very... I'm not sure how to say it... Disciplined practices, how to do them, how to walk them... So that is something that... I guess it's a discipline? Yeah. Well, there's many, many aspects to the practice. So since you're just coming for the first time, you can find out many, many things as time goes on. But the basic thing is, and this is the strange part, you know, the strange part. But the basic thing, particularly in Zen, as a school of Buddhism, there are many approaches to Buddhism and all that. But in Zen, the funny part is that the fountainhead of all of this,


all this trust in ourselves and all these teachings and everything, is the simple fact of sitting down in the present moment, letting go of any memories or thoughts or wishes or dreams, just sitting in the present moment and being aware of the breath. I mean, why would that be anything? But it is. It's amazing. This is the whole essence of our practice. Just to sit down, breathe in, and know you're breathing in. Breathe out, and know you're breathing out. If thoughts are in the mind or feelings, to be aware of them, but not get agitated about them or do anything with them, just come back to the breath, breathing in, breathing out. Just to be there in the present moment, aware of what's happening, and making that effort to let go of everything but awareness of the breath in


and awareness of the breath out. That is what is going to set us on our path and clarify our whole life, which doesn't seem to make any sense, really, but it's true. Practicing this very simple practice, and all these other things about you should bow this way, you should stand this way, this and that and the other thing, these are all only in support of that. Those things don't really matter. They're just in support of that. All you have to do is do that practice regularly, and it will lead you on this adventure that I was talking about in the beginning. And many, many things will take place in your life, just following the thread of that simple thing that you do 24 hours a day, every single day of your life, from the time you come out of your mother to the time you close your eyes and go away. You will be doing that. All you have to do is remember it and be aware of that.


That's a miracle thing. It's a miracle thing. This is just being human. But we, of course, know better, and we make all kinds of complicated things and think we need this, and think we need that, and do this, do that, and we make a truly prodigious and unbelievable mess out of our world. I mean, think of it. I mean, boy, oh boy. I was on America Online today, just to see what's going on. I mean, they're killing people in Ireland. They're killing each other in Hebron. We're killing each other, is what we're doing. We're killing each other in Hebron. We're killing each other almost everywhere. We're killing each other in San Francisco. We're putting each other on the street. We're disrespecting one another. We're misunderstanding one another. Individuals are miserable and unhappy. Children are suffering. I mean, this is everyday life. Where did that come from?


It came from us. It came from us because we just didn't think to stop and be with our life in that way. So, we have a lot of work to do. A lot of work. I'm sorry that you came today because now you're stuck. It's better not to start, really. It's better not to start. Because if you start, you've got a big job. So, maybe it's not too late. Maybe you go home and forget the whole thing. Pretend you never came and don't come anymore. Maybe it's better. Somebody over here, yeah. Thank you for that last comment. You're going home now, huh? I don't want to go home. That sort of helps in a way because what I'm feeling today is we're killing each other. I guess it all comes from the same source. Yesterday I had a situation that had to do with right to speech.


When I'm here today, it's not to say that I had right to speech, but that I didn't have right to speech. And I'm just beating myself up. So, it's like I guess perhaps I am doing a useless thing, which is thinking about it. Why I took this opportunity, which has happened before, to be critical. It all comes from somebody who talks not good about someone who isn't there. And I'm thinking of it. It seems that that happens because I'm not saying what I need to say. So, it sticks out. It comes out in a bad way. But it's a hard thing for me. It's one of my really hard places. I wonder if you could say something about right to speech. So, right speech and not keeping the precept of right speech and feeling terrible about it afterward and so on.


Yes, well, if we do this thing of just breathing and so on regularly, one of the things that happens is we become much more aware of our lives and of how we are inside and of our activity and what that activity causes in ourselves and in others. And when we do activity that is not compassionate, not kind, we feel bad about it. And it's good that we feel bad about it. Our feeling bad about it is a manifestation of that goodness in ourselves. So, it's actually a very positive thing that when we do something that's harmful to ourselves or others, we feel badly about it. But that's not the same as torturous guilt. And in fact, in a way, you could say that the root of all killing is this lack of ability to keep the precepts.


I wish you could say that. Still, you also have to say, it's different. I don't care what you said. It's different from killing somebody. It's not the same as killing somebody. And I don't think that you would kill somebody, even though you might have bad speech and even murderous thoughts from time to time. I don't think that you would act them out. So, we have to be clear about that. In other words, we don't need to beat ourselves up as if we were murderers when we have wrong speech or bad speech. And it's good, it's positive to feel badly about it, but only up to a point. Because if you just torture yourself about it, then you're paralyzing yourself. What we need to do is go forward in our lives and our practice. So, it's positive that when we break the precepts, breaking the precepts is part of following the precepts. That's how we learn. That's how we understand. That's not justification to say, well, since breaking the precepts is part of practicing the precepts, let's have a good time. No, that's overdoing it. But you know that you're going to break the precepts. It's going to happen.


And when it happens, you feel badly. And usually there are consequences, either subtle consequences in the mind, or sometimes horrendous consequences in the world at large. And we learn from that. And then, now we have a Dharma story in our lives that we can tell others and that we can tell ourselves, and that helps us to understand this point. Now you have such a story, and then you take that story and you redouble your efforts in practice, and you don't do that again, that particular thing, in that particular way. Now you know. You'll do something else. And then you'll learn from that. And that's how we learn. So, don't feel too badly about it. Just enough. Badly enough, but not too badly. And then, it's very necessary. That's why, like in the ceremony today, it begins with... There's a confession practice in Buddhism, which is different from the Catholic confession, where you go and confess to somebody. In Buddhism, there's a verse of confession that you recite.


And when you recite that verse of confession, you put your heart into it. You really mean it. And you really practice letting go of the residual effects of that activity. I really do let go of that thing that I said. I really do let go of the mind that needed to say that. And I really am going to resolve not to practice that way anymore. I really mean that. And in chanting that verse, you purify yourself. And then you can go on, the wiser for it, without having to continuously feel that you're... The whole thing about how I'm unworthy, I'm a bad person, and I can't do anything, and I'm so bad, I'm mean and nasty, all that's extra. You don't need any of that. It's just extra. And when all that comes into your mind, it's just necessary to notice that. I can't believe I'm still thinking that way, but look at that. That's amazing. Appreciate that. Wow, I can't believe that I can still have such dumb thoughts about how bad I am and this and that.


I'm impressed with how persistent these thoughts are. Even though they're totally ridiculous and only make more trouble for me, there they are again, and that's amazing. What a great thing a human being is, that against all intelligence and common sense, these things could come, kind of like that, and then let go of it. Because that doesn't really help you that much, to think all of that. You are Buddha, so get on with it. Yeah? It's great to see you again, Norman. Thanks for talking today. I was thinking about what you said, like, talk about morality. I just wanted to share something that immediately what popped into me was, oh, you know, he's going to tell me what to do. Yeah, people think you're going to tell them what to do. Unfortunately, I also was able to look at that response, talking about this whole thing with Kathleen, and it's just wonderful, that part of the practice, of just being able to see this insanity,


that we all seem to just constantly recreate, find all kinds of sneaky ways to find another angle. Yeah, nobody's going to ever tell you what to do. If they do, don't trust them. Because nobody knows what you should do. That's the wonderful thing, all of a sudden you realize you're free to write your own script. You have to. And then throw away the script, that's the main thing. Throw away the script. Rewrite and then throw it away. Okay, back there. Hi. Enlightenment, is it possible to achieve enlightenment and then lose it? Can you be enlightened for a few weeks? Well, of course, we have to. As you can imagine, in Buddhism and also in our own experience, there's much to be considered about this question of what is enlightenment to begin with.


So when you ask that question, of course the first thing I think of is, now what does she mean by enlightenment exactly? Now, in Zen, Zen is kind of famous for enlightenment. It's going out of style in Zen. But the earlier books had a big emphasis on enlightenment as being the thing that makes Zen so interesting and intriguing. You do these very intense retreats and then you get enlightened. And so there's a term in Zen to describe this kind of enlightenment, which is a very profound, serious and wonderful experience to have and a necessary experience. It is possible to have that Zen enlightened experience in a profound way and to really understand all that I was trying to say today about how we can't protect ourselves. We're not separate individuals in a box. We really are at one with everything in the universe and everything in the universe is at one with everything in the universe.


And we can really see that and understand that that's really how it is. We can have that experience powerfully in a retreat and it could make us completely free and open for two weeks or longer and we could forget about it and be miserable. That can happen. And how would it happen that that didn't make us miserable? The reason why it would happen that we would be enlightened like that and then forget about it and become miserable, the reason that would happen is that we didn't have enough experience, study and training behind us. If we had enough experience and training and study behind us, when we had that experience, we would have a context for it and we would integrate it into our practice and it would just be another thing of many, many things in our practice that were necessary. It would be wonderful and tremendous and we would just go on with our lives and integrate it. Whereas if we didn't have enough study and practice behind it


and we had that experience perhaps, maybe there are people who are very talented meditators who would have that experience rather soon in the practice and not continue with the practice. It could be confusing. And we might think, wow, we're so like a drug. Oh, I took this pill of enlightenment and now everything's perfect. I took my drug and now everything's perfect forever. I don't have to work on my life. But that's a fantasy. In reality, enlightenment isn't like that. True awakening that the Buddha spoke about is much more gradual, deep and thorough going and it includes or may include times like that when the mind is really opened. And those are great times and Zen students do experience those things and it's fantastic. And nothing is more fun than to listen to people tell me the things that they experience like that and I'm very happy for them. But of course, that's not enough.


And it can even be counterproductive if it's not backed up with real practice over time. So there is no substitute for just rolling up your sleeves and working on your practice. If you're looking for a way that in a very short amount of time you can cure all the problems of your life and really see everything as it is and not have to worry about it, if you're looking for that, you probably won't find it anywhere. So give that up and just forget the whole thing or make up your mind that you're going to have to spend your whole life working on your spiritual development. Sorry. You were better off not coming at all, like I was saying. Because now you probably have to practice. Sorry. Maybe you just have to make up your mind that you're going to have to have a spiritual practice in your life and really make it a priority.


Maybe pretty soon you'll be the abbot. That would be nice. I'm looking forward to that, actually. So please, think it over and figure out what to do. Good luck. Yeah. That's good. Fifteen would be better. Five is good. And come and practice. Come and do a retreat. See what happens. Gee, if you're just spending one day here and doing the full moon ceremony maybe it made you enlightened for three weeks. Maybe if you come and do a seven-day session you'll be enlightened for six months or a year. And so on. So, you know, we're always here. The thing keeps going on every day, you know. People come and go and here we are, so whenever you're ready, yeah, come along. Yeah, Tony. I have one thing that kind of summarizes some of the things. For me, that lady who came here for the first time today


I think a lot of us come from varying religious practices where they tell you what to do. Yeah. And we're used to that. It's hard to believe that something can come from within us and it's there. Yeah. You know, and like this fellow to my right who had a problem with two or two weeks deciding on his job he just didn't believe in himself because he didn't believe in himself it would come up. And it's just a question of the practice, of understanding it. Yeah. And we have it. We have it, yeah, we are it, right. But you know, the persistent notion that someone is going to tell us what to do or that somehow something outside of us is going to fix us or help us it's impressive how much we have that idea. It really is impressive. I often feel it because I feel like people would like me to tell them what to do or would like me to tell them what Zen is or something.


And I say, I don't know what Zen is. I'm just trying my best to get through the day. We all have to figure out. We all have to practice and look at ourselves and look at our own experience. And when we have confidence in that and that confidence doesn't mean that we're going to win because we might lose. It doesn't mean we're going to win and we're going to be right and we're going to be perfect. It just means that we're going to be ourselves moment after moment, authentically. So that's it. And it's surprising how strong our desire not to believe that is and how much we... It's a very radical teaching really, you know. Very radical. How are we doing? Are there any more comments? Yes. I have a question about the altar. The altar, yes. That what the Buddha is holding and what that means and that murti, how it's related to the Buddha's practice and the path of the murti.


This one? Yes. And what the Buddha is holding also. Uh-huh. Oh, how nice of you to ask. People look at these things for 25, 30 years and hardly anybody asks. She's asking about the iconography of the statues here. These are very beautiful statues, don't you think? Yeah. They're beautiful. And the standing statue is Jizo Bodhisattva and Jizo is a Bodhisattva whose commitment is to help others. And he travels everywhere that he can, including hell realms and all sorts of nasty places. In other words, places that we create and get ourselves into. He's willing to go to those places himself to help. And that's why he's got a traveling staff in his right hand. That's what he's holding. What is traveling?


A staff, like a walking stick. Oh. Yeah, a walking stick that he used. And the walking stick has a ring on the top of it because of this precept about non-killing. When you take a step and tap with your staff, it jingles, makes a sound, and all the creatures run away and then you don't step on them. So you don't hurt them. And he walks around like that throughout all the different realms trying to be of benefit. In his other hand, he has the Mani jewel. That's a jewel that is called the wish-fulfilling jewel. And that jewel has the power to fulfill all wishes. Ultimately, all wishes come down to one wish, which is to realize our Buddha nature and be free because nothing that we could accumulate or any inner or outer qualities could possibly satisfy us as that will satisfy us. That's the ultimate gift. But whatever gifts we might need, in order to reach the ultimate gift,


he can give us by virtue of the Mani jewel that he's carrying in his hand. So that's Jizo. He's also famous because of his traveling. He's a kind of traveler. People who are traveling depend on him. And also, in Japan, where he's a popular figure, he's associated with children who have died. So if children died, young children, the parents will pray to Jizo or make offerings to Jizo on their behalf. And there's a ceremony that we've taken to do here for unborn children who have died. We venerate Jizo and do a whole ritual around Jizo so that we can put to rest our feelings inside over children who have died and unborn children who have died in Jizo. You'll see if you walk in the garden, there'll be many figures of Jizo here and there in the garden


with red bibs on him. Each one of those bibs represents a child who has died. And the other figure down below we recently acquired. This was my great enthusiasm. I became extremely enthusiastic and agitated over the fact that we did not have in our meditation hall a figure of a woman practitioner. Again, after 25 years, it finally dawned on me. Naturally, a woman pointed it out to me because I hadn't noticed. I was in good company. Most of us hadn't noticed particularly that there wasn't a figure in the zendo of a woman practitioner and that therefore we were cheating ourselves and there was something missing. So, in my way that I do when I get agitated and excited, I start running around and, you know, talking about everything all the time.


Anyway, I managed to acquire this figure which is a figure of a green Tara. It's actually not a figure from the Zen school. It's from Tibetan Buddhism and Indian Buddhism. And the green Tara is a very powerful bodhisattva and Buddha who represents the energy of compassion and helping. That's why she's always ready to get up off her meditation seat. She has one foot ready to leap up and help you if you need it. And she's a really powerful figure for expressing the feminine side of our practice without which the practice is very dead. So, we also, at the same time we got this figure, we did something revolutionary in Zen. I don't know of any place else in the Zen world where this is done. In Zen, you know, there's a big emphasis, as I said in my talk, on lineage, how from the Buddha down to the present we receive the teachings.


It turns out, how wouldn't you know it, that every single person in that lineage is a lineage. It turns out, how wouldn't you know it,