Sunday Lecture

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Buddhist culture rooting in California, purpose of ZC, banana in his back pocket, Puccini, motherhood, livelihood, Buddhahood, statuary invoking our higher purpose, Bodhisattva hatchery, sitting on black cushions, Jizo, Tara, Manjushri, Shakyamuni, Bodhisattva precept ceremony, Bodhicitta, Bodhisattva vow, Sabrina, the Primates (?), necessity to belong, not one, not two, dying, Suzuki Sensei

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good morning

a little poem by duggan's mg
the dharma like an oyster washed a top a high cliff
even waves crashing against the refi coast like words may reach but cannot wash it away
what i am
believe that you are encountering by coming here to this valley today
is the beginnings of a buddhist culture
routing itself in soil and the fog on the coast of california
this culture has managed to endure for several decades
although as you all know it's bright beginnings were long ago among other people in other lands in china and india korea burma korea i said again with japan
and you'll also find within this tiny sampling here at gringotts farm
all the primary elements of human society
there's the humans and the land
technology ritual food and shelter sexual pairing children vegetables
and a purpose
a purpose for which we live together in this way
i don't know if anyone has asked you lately what your purpose is for living
but in the beginnings of zen center someone actually wrote something down
the purpose of the san francisco zen center is to embody express and make accessible but wisdom and compassion of the buddha
oh this is a pretty lofty purpose and humility rather naturally arises
however as students of the middle way we understand that were there is great humility pairs great arrogance
and therefore we can embrace this lofty purpose
last sunday senior dharma teacher rob anderson spoke from this seat about how these high ideals should be embraced and the way in which we may embrace
our lofty purpose
and for nearly two hours he suggested to us that
we learn how to utilize what we view is our foolishness awkwardness our mistakes as the very tools for shaping ourselves
and shaping this land into buddhas and into woodlands
and later that night reb gave the sixteen bodhisattva precepts to fourteen people who took his advice
and showed up and just that way
they chanted out of tune
they crowded themselves together so they had no room to about
they bowed when they shouldn't and they didn't when they should
and one of them who had traveled over thousand miles for this ceremony completely forgot that he had placed a banana and to his back pocket
and this banana was gently confiscated during the first moments of ceremony
this is true story
so all in all it was a glorious occasion second did perhaps only by the indelible memories i have of my own child's first steps
and i think that that's because
raising children and raising our spirits are really about the same few simple things
about courage love respect and faith
so in honor of these fourteen dear human beings i would like to read the libretto from the song of souls which was written in nineteen oh for
by the great italian operatic compose her puccini
under contract from the gramophone and typewriter company
the years the seats and illusions have fled flowers and hopes have fallen dead
my brief spring vanished in vain tortured longings
but in my heart's night an ideal still lives singing loud and alone as in the middle of the starlit night the nightingale raises her lonely him
sing sing you are the only loud voice my ideal boldly fly out of the mist to defy oblivion hatred and death were there are no shadows and all his sunlight all is sunlight

to celebrate are good choices in this life
high school was required and college anonymous
marriage for me anyway was brief
but the long term commitments required of motherhood livelihood and longing for put a hood have grown and deepened inside of me day by day by day
and this is what i want to talk about this morning about the hoods
about these qualities of being
and about the ideals for which the nightingale sings
as buddhists of the great vehicle tradition called the mahayana our ideals are partially represented by the statuary in this room
this tall handsome asian man is jesus' body sought for the
guardian of travellers and children
and the seated figure is the lovely tara and tibetan canon in a japanese korean and chinese of located far in sanskrit and she is the bodhisattva of compassion
and the large fellow there on the altar is manjushri the body sought for wisdom
each of these figures has been imbued by their makers with one or more of the most admirable qualities of the human being
their faces their clothing and their postures are intended to evoke in us knowledge of a higher purpose
and as nice as these statues are
it's really there are just placeholders waiting for the warm blooded mammals to arrive and take their place

as what these black cushions all around the room or really all about
their eggs
and this is a bodhisattva hatchery
which explains why we sit on them all or time
and it does happen
with a big loud cry
to the infinite patience magic and truth
of these archetypal parents
that's such a human child is born
and that through their own endeavors and through the support of all things they come to understand themselves and the universe from which they sprang
not one not too
one such human child was shakyamuni buddha
that's the smaller figure on the main altar the human being
who came to live in this world
and he is our founder because he found us huddled in the dark
afraid and listening for the nightingale to sing
when people came to understand what it was that the buddha had to offer they asked him if they could join him
and he said okay
from that time on a simple ceremony
like this bodhisattva precepts ceremony of last sunday night has marked the granting of that wish
like a light through a window this ceremony reveals
that visible purpose within the heart of each of those who claim the body saw for path

and as part of that ritual these fourteen people received a new name and a new robe which they had sewn my hand themselves
before giving them their name and robe the preceptor says to sustain and confirm the practice of the bodhisattva precepts for their meaning is in the living of them i will now give you put us name and buddhists robe to clothe you throughout
this life and in times to come
this will be your name true family and dress
and then the order knees take refuge in the buddha
in the buddhist teaching and in the family of those who have come to be taught
this is the tripled treasure buddha dharma sangha
next they make a number of promises in front of their teacher and in front of the great assembly of their friends and family
they promise to embrace and sustain such rituals and ceremonies
they promised to embrace and sustain all good and they promise to embrace and sustain all beings
these are the three pure precepts
they also promise
as disciples of the buddha not to kill steal lie
intoxicate themselves or others sexual eyes or slander others praise themselves at others' expense harbor ill will
be possessive of anything or abuse the triple treasure
these are the ten grave precepts
when we hear about such a ceremony
i wonder if we can see within ourselves the equal portion of courage and foolishness that it would take to say these things in front of witnesses
i've made these promises many times myself as a lay person as a priest and as a transmitter of the precepts
and still i am deeply and awe of the impulse on each occasion which brought me to say those words
in buddhist terms this impulse is called the bodhicitta the mind or the thought of enlightenment
and that thought most simply stated is a simple wish
to be awakened for the benefit of all being
this is the bodhisattva vow
the song of the nightingale
at each of us for the sake of one another enters the would away
as some of you know my daughter is named sabrina and she is a remarkable nine years of age this year
and as i learn more and more about her ways i began to see how clearly she and all of us have fallen out of the same family tree
the primates
i think it helps explain the banana
long before there was any talking going on around here there was among the primates from the moment of their birth the necessity to belong
to belong to their mothers to their fathers to their sisters and brothers
to their mothers sisters and brothers
to their tribe and to their land
this belonging was so deeply encoded into their cells that they're very very being
and into their period pain that without it they most surely would die

and then over many thousands of years
whatever advantage it led these primates stood up bright and allowed their arms and hands to be free for carrying things
caring carcasses and infants weapons and be did string
and apparently from from what i've read our ancestors did not begin to decorate themselves until there were so many of them
that they needed to be able to tell one family system apart from the other
the shell people from the iron people from the gold people
who belonged and who did not
and those who did not were often killed or driven off
a friend of mine many years ago adopted a baby girl from china
and she went to the orphanage in china to ah bring her daughter home and while she was there she went into the nursery where there were many baby girls line and rose on cots covered in brightly colored
and these baby girls were not been taught how to walk talk or feed themselves
they were visibly malnourished and in the process of dying
so my friend asked the people upstairs who were most of the day watching television
about these babies downstairs and the people said very kind people
ah those babies don't have any families nobody wants them
only you americans and some missionaries come by to ask about them every now and then

of course we don't have to visit china or any place else to find children who don't belong who are malnourished and i
in our culture is more likely to be from diabetes
suicide gunshot for a drug overdose
i think many of you saw the pictures of the good people of oakland marching to call all of our attention to the terrible killing that is taking their children from them
and these killings are not for food or for self defense
they are forbid strings
and for bliss inducing medications
and for ancient cultural longing
motherhood or fatherhood neighborhood
all around us families are separated from each other by names by streets by age color gender sexual preference styles of dress
and the ever growing privileges of wealth
class and education
and i think we all know which side of these tracks we are fortunate enough to belong

i don't really know what i'm asking of you or of myself in bringing up these matters today
maybe just that we don't forget
that we all humans around the world have the same needs the same longings
that we all one safety and love and respect
does not to forget because when we forget we kill with lie we steal a sexualized and we slander one another
those very beings that we're are born to love

i began working on this talk while i was listening to a cd of kiri te kanawa singing these puccini arias
they are so beautiful and so sad
in each of them as a high throated cry
to the heavens
have mercy and belonging
the buddha also learned to sing
wholeheartedly of the human condition
but for me i believed that his understanding was in the lower registers
in the place between where breath arises and falls
not one
not too
this libretto is called dying and it speaks of these two contrasting elements of our human life the cry the appeal and the response
dying and who knows what sort of life it is this one clear and bright blossoming to charm love and hope or that cooled to renunciation
is a timid quiet simplicity handed down like a warning like a secret of private virtue so that everyone achieves their goal
or is it not rather the vivid flash of new dreams replacing exhausted ones piece that is swept away and the endless wish to desire more
well i don't know
but you who are on the other bank on the immense sure where the flower of life blossoms
i am sure that you must know
we just had a visit this week from
suzuki sensei him
we call oak some she is the widow of suzuki roshi
we were all very excited at her visit town spend lot of time cleaning in putting on nice tablecloth candles
this is her eighty eighth year and we had a birthday party for a friday night and the wheelwright center
and she told us that when she's out and about in the streets of shizuoka which is the town and japan where she now lives when she runs into a teenager she says to them in english hello
you must live from your hora
and then she bows and walks on
yesterday she and suzuki roshi son who is to suzuki roshi
sat side by side in a tea house for several hours laughing telling stories and drinking tea
i knew at times that they were in pain as was i
so i tried my best to join them
to be upright and sincere and to live this life from my horror
at one point as i was taking myself and my task rather seriously
i glanced over at oak son who was looking at me
and i think i smiled rather chilly
and then that much loved face
gave me a wink
call forth as much as you can have love of respect and of faith
remove the obstructing defilements and clear away all your tanks listen to the perfect wisdom of the gentle buddha's taught for the wheel of the world for heroic spirits intended
thank you very much