Sunday Lecture

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Good morning. And a good morning it is. Beautiful weather, paradise in California. And it's Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day. There's a long list of people that give guest lectures here, of which I'm one, but somehow I seem to always get picked to come on Mother's Day. I've done it before, so I'm kind of a Mother's Day expert. And the other time it wasn't Mother's Day, it was the week that the war in Iraq began, so I got to talk about that. Today, however, Green Gulch has been kind enough to let me talk about my new book, All Life's Work, Living Passionately, Growing Spiritually. I've been wandering around the country talking about it, so forgive me if some of the things


I say kind of roll off my tongue, but I've been talking about it a little too much, I'm getting tired of it. I actually won't just talk about it, I'll talk about some of the larger themes in it, and then afterwards, I guess they have some books set up. If you want to have me sign them, I can. As some of you may know, I lived here for many years and left in 1983. I can't say why, but I returned to the world at large and became a corporate executive, and then a software developer. I have my own software business, so I'm a half-monastic, half-worldly sort of creature. My books tend to be about that.


I'm very interested in what I call householder Zen, the quality that in the 21st century we can practice Zen in a variety of ways. We can practice Zen in the traditional way in a monastery like here or Tassajara, or we can practice it out in the world as householders with families, children, jobs, and I did both. And I can say that while the traditional Buddhist outlook is that you can't really, really practice Zen unless you're in some kind of monastery, I would say that you can, but there are strong and weak points either way. I won't go into the strong and weak points of monastic life, since most of you aren't monastics, but the strong and weak points of householder life are kind of obvious. The weak point is you don't have any time for practice.


You're busy and you have many things to do. And the strong point is that you're busy and you have many things to do, so you get to confront the actual difficulties of life in their raw form. A monastery is more like an incubator. It's very well designed so that there aren't many distractions, but you don't get to confront distractions so much. So it's a koan either way, and my books have been designed really for all of you, people who live in the world and have many things to do, and how is it possible to penetrate Dharma, to penetrate the way of the Buddha in that environment. I think that this is the great moment of Buddhism after twenty-five years, twenty-five hundred years, twenty-five, twenty-five hundred, it's all the same, to figure that out. And historically, Buddhism has been a monastic tradition.


The monks, generation after generation, have carried the tradition, but now it's a new world. We have internet, we have cell phones, we have retreat centers where you can be a temporary monk, and all over the country, all over the West, all over the world, people are practicing Buddhism in a new way. And so this book is another effort on my part to write about how to practice with the attitude that life itself is the great monastery, life itself is the great monastery, which it is, which it is. We haven't been doing monastic practice long enough in this country to understand that the big moment of monastic practice is to leave it, to go out into the world, to be a pilgrim, to bang around in the stresses and strains of the world where there are bandits,


where there is hunger, where there is wind and the rain, where there is war and famine. The world today is unfortunately little different than the world of the Buddha in that respect. I didn't want you to miss my words there. It's hard to talk about this book because it's full of many things, and it's really about how to practice Dharma in the main arenas of life, your livelihood, your job, your family, or with your children, as a parent, as a student, which is one of the main things we do in life, particularly when we're young, as an elder or teacher when we're old and sick and coming to the end of our life, as a monk. Everyone these days can be a temporary monk, at least for a day or a week, as a caregiver or a person who is ill.


I have eight of them. They're on this. This is one book. You can tell what it's about by its cover. It's got eight pictures of different kinds of work that you do in your whole life and how Dharma can affect each of them. But the overarching idea is the idea of vow. The one thing that unites monks and lay people and always have in the history of Buddhism and before Buddhism is the great vow, the great vow to liberate beings. However many beings there are in the world, I vow to liberate them all. This vow is not actually something you say or something you take. It's something that you are. This vow is a description of what it means to be human. The vow is there the day we're born. The vow is there the day we die. And whether we're Buddhists or not,


that vow is active. When you come to the point in your life where you're actually willing to say it, to live that way, that's already a late stage. You've already been percolating the vow. So one thing you could say, that the title means, a whole life's work means that vow. That's our whole life. That's our real work. Let me just read. I'm not going to read a lot from the book because the book is the book. You can buy it and read it if you want. But I'll read a few things. When we ask, what is the work, work of a human being, which definition should we use? At the beginning here, I go through the various meanings of the word work. Is our life working? Is it rather than fun, work? Are we working our life like Gordian knots that we don't know how to untie, working a knot? Are we worked up about our life, excited? Or do we just go about it day by day, hoping for the best? Or suppose we go deeper and ask, of all the


kinds of work we do, what is our most important work? What are we doing here in this world anyway, where each of us arrives, naked and helpless, with no map or compass, like a trainee in some cosmic, outward-bound program? As we struggle to get our arms around these questions, there are two things we know for certain. Today we are here, and someday, sometime, we will be gone. During our time on this planet, what will we do? What is our responsibility to ourselves, to our family and friends, to our community, our nation, to all people, and the innumerable creatures that inhabit the earth, the sea, and the sky? What do we say? How will we act? In other words, what is our whole life's work? As some of you know, there's a slogan in Zen, which is on the board that we hit to mark time, that says, birth and death is the great matter. That's just what I said there. Birth


and death. We're born, and then we die. That's all we know for sure. We're here. Oh, we're here. That's the third thing. We're born, we're here, and then we die. These are certainties. Oh, yes, well, it depends. If you're rich enough, you don't pay any. They're trying with that, but they haven't figured out death yet. That seems to still be there. So, what do we do? I think that that is the koan before all the koans. This is the koan of being alive, of being here at all. Our deep work as human beings is to figure that out for ourselves and for everyone. That's the meaning of the vow. One of the first things we understand when we sit is we don't sit in the terrain of our individual, separate self. The realm


of zazen, or sitting, is a realm that everyone inhabits. We're already in it. I tried to use non-technical terms in this book, so instead of talking about the bodhisattva vow, which is a very Buddhist thing, however many beings there are in the world, I vow to liberate them all. I call it the consciousness project. The consciousness project means the great work millennia after millennia to learn how to be human beings. It's very slow. We know this. Today's world suddenly seems like a world we read about in ancient history where people are full of hate and killing each other for beliefs and ideologies and land and different


ideas of what God is. We may think here in the comfort of America, Marin County, that we've left that world behind. We've moved on, but we really haven't. And even if we do move on, then we slip back. So this is the consciousness project. Some people in their own lives are very far along, some people are not, but we're all involved in it. This is how I describe it. Remember, since I'm speaking to a Buddhist audience, this is really the bodhisattva vow I'm talking about, the consciousness project. This timeless journey is known by many names. In Buddhism, it is known as the bodhisattva path, or simply the path, the path. It may interest you to know that the word Buddhism doesn't exist in Buddhism. Scholars made that word up because everything has to have an ism in the world of academia, but the Buddha simply talked about marga, or the path, the path. But for this book, I have chosen to


call it the consciousness project. The consciousness project is both individual and collective, both individual and collective. So you're working on your consciousness project, but all of humanity is working on its consciousness project. It's all of a piece. The consciousness project is the individual's discovery of how to live his or her life in fullness, in maturity and harmony with others, as well as the collective discovery of all the generations that have come before us and will come after. Shunryu Suzuki, my teacher, once said, I am waiting for the island off the coast of Los Angeles to come to San Francisco. Now, this is from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Do you recognize this? It's very famous, he said this, very mysterious. I am waiting for the island off the coast of Los Angeles to come to San Francisco. From one of his students, he had learned that geologically Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles is moving


slowly north a few centimeters a year and will eventually reach San Francisco. As a Buddhist priest, Suzuki certainly would have felt a kinship with that kind of time frame. Buddhist literature often speaks of thousands of lifetimes and cycles of millions of years. The Buddhist world view accepts the vastness of time and space, as well as the gradualness of human change. Our species has been on this planet for a few hundred thousand years, little more than an instant in the life of our planet and our galaxy. Science tells us these things, but they are inconceivably abstract. What does it really mean for our present life? For one thing, it means that learning to be fully human takes a long time. Learning to be fully human, fully human is a translation of the word Buddha. Learning to be Buddha takes a long time. It may seem from the perspective of this century that many frightful things have happened, but from another view, we are all slowly learning generation after generation


what it is to be human and how to live together in harmony and mutual respect. From the standpoint of one or even a few generations, this is a slow process, one that can seem to take a step back for everyone forward. So this is the Great Vow. This is the Consciousness Project, and we're all doing it. You're all doing it. And the rest of the book is really about describing how you're already doing it in eight different aspects of your life. So, livelihood, parenting, studentship, the creative life, hobbies. I have a whole section on hobbies in here, and you'd be surprised to see how important hobbies really are. Caregiving and illness, the monk, what I call the monk's work, and finally the elder's work or the work of old age. I've discovered in trying


to talk about this book that it's impossible to talk about them all. So in the spirit of Mother's Day, I'm going to concentrate on two of the inner virtues or paramitas that are associated with these aspects of our life. Parenting and receptivity, or receptivity the inner work of which is generosity and giving, or of patience. But before I do that, I'll turn on my tape recorder, which I forgot to do. So I'll rely on GreenGhost to have recorded it properly. As I say, I'm very interested in really spending my energy as a teacher now, figuring out how to authentically practice Buddha's way in


the lives that all of you lead. In my group, which is called the Vimala Sangha, named after Vimalakirti, the great layman, wise layman of ancient Buddhist literature. Our slogan is the Awakening Path of Householder Zen. It's a little clever in that the awakening path is a pun. It's both a path of awakening, but it's also a path that's waking up. It's not a path that's been fully worked out at all. We don't have, as it says in the book, parent sutras to guide us to be parents. All the sutras are about celestial beings, or about monks. Really the only important sutra in Buddhism that's about family life is the Vimalakirti Sutra, which I don't talk about here, but it's important. Vimalakirti is kind of the patron saint of our group. You can find out more about our group out on the table there, the Vimala Sangha, after the lecture. But our basic point is that I think


there are many places in America now that are replicating and recreating the traditional monastic forms and ways of practice of Buddhism that have been passed down through the centuries. So I don't feel it's my strong point to try to replicate that. What really interests me is most people can't do that, and now we have an opportunity in the modern age to live more flexible, complicated lives so we can practice Zen in the midst of our ordinary life. Many of you may not know that the founder of Zen Center, Suzuki Roshi, spent most of his priest career in Japan as a parish priest for a group of people very much like you, ordinary householders. He didn't lead a monastery. He didn't have very many monk disciples. He spent 30 years taking care of a lay congregation. And I think one of the reasons he was so successful


in conveying Dharma to us as Americans was he had a lot of experience in the kind of lives that we all live. Another famous statement he made in Zen Mind Beginner's Mind is that he could see that we American Zen students were really neither lay people nor monks. We were some special hybrid. And that fascinated him tremendously. He thought that was very exciting, and he admitted that he really didn't know what that meant. He didn't know what kind of practice would work for all of us. But he felt that that's what our challenge was, is to find a way, what he called, to find some appropriate way of life. Suzuki Roshi was only modestly ambitious. What he wanted to do was convert all of the West to Buddhism and then change all of Japanese Buddhism as a consequence. That was his ambition.


Unfortunately he didn't live long enough to see that happen, and I don't think he expected to. But it behooves all of us to try to carry that on. So that's a lot of what this book and also the emphasis of my teaching locally here is, to carry that questioning and that vision forward. Because if we're going to transform America, and I would like to transform America. That's my ambition. I admit it. America is my country, and I'm an American, and I know it well, and I think that together with a lot of other like-minded people, we have a chance. But to do that, we have to develop forms of Dharma, forms of practice that will reach mainstream individuals, people who aren't inclined to give up their family and livelihood and live as monks. So with that as a prelude, let me just read a few things. I talk about what I call the


parent's work. The parent's work is actually, it's so common and so ordinary in a certain way that we forget that that's really what we're here to do as human beings. You know, is to have children, have more human beings. That's what all creatures are here to do. And the work of caring for those human beings is the most, it's the part of our life that's the most like Dharma, actually. We're teachers to those little beings, and they rely on us like we rely on Buddha. And everything we do in that exercise is so important, so valuable. And we know that if that work goes wrong, how much suffering it produces. Let me read you what I say about it. The parent's work as spiritual work. The parent's work is more than just the exterior


task of raising children. It has a spiritual dimension, too. Being a parent is an unparalleled opportunity to develop the traditional spiritual virtues of love and generosity, as well as to be our children's first and most intimate spiritual mentor, teaching them by example and by instruction the basics of an ethical and compassionate life. One would think that parents ought to be lauded and showcased in every spiritual tradition as true spiritual heroes. The reality is that until recently there has often been a tendency to see the parent's work as incompatible with serious spiritual life. The Hindu sadhu, or world-renouncing ascetic, which the Buddha was, abjured sexuality as a distraction and a drain on the psychic energy needed for spiritual liberation. The priests of some cults in ancient Greece castrated themselves as a sacrifice to their god, and I go through various other religions. Over the last century things have changed. These days there are movements afoot in all these


traditions to re-examine this alienation between family life and spirituality. Catholics are questioning the value and psychological effect of priestly celibacy, while many of the best priests leave the priesthood to marry and raise families. Most Western Buddhist teachers have families and children and are doing their best to integrate the demands of traditional Buddhist spiritual life, such as meditation retreats, with job and family. All this is most welcome. The recognition that the parent's work can itself be a spiritual path is long overdue and is consistent with the wider re-examination of old beliefs that is going on throughout our society. We now understand much more clearly how important it is to begin life in the care of adults who love us and treat us with kindness and respect, and we understand how many of society's ills can be traced to poor parenting. To love and be loved, is this not the essence of all spiritual traditions? What better time to learn this than at the beginning of life,


and what better time to practice these virtues than when we are parents ourselves? As for Buddhism, its fresh challenge in the West is to see the family not as a distraction from the spiritual path, but as an integral part of it. This is not inconsistent with the life of traditional Buddhist societies. Anyone who has spent time in a Buddhist country such as Thailand or Vietnam knows that traditional family life there is full of warmth and love. Buddhist temples often abound with youngsters playing their games while their parents worship within, and Buddhist priests genuinely enjoy the company of these children. In these Asian countries the Buddhist values of patience and compassion are well integrated into family life. And why should it be otherwise, is not the ability to sustain a marriage or other intimate relationship over a long period of time an important test of personal and spiritual maturity? Is not the challenge of sustaining an intimate loving relationship


with another person as important as the quest for enlightenment in fact a part of that quest? There are no parent sutras in Buddhism's core literature, no spiritual heroes whose great accomplishment was that they remained committed to a long-term relationship and raised a happy loving family. If we consider the Bodhisattva vow, the consciousness project, to care for and save all beings as the linchpin of the Buddhist worldview, then this lack of parent sutras seems odd. What better practice for a Bodhisattva in training than caring for one's own children? In that sense, the Bodhisattva vow is an extension of the love and compassion we feel for our own children, the Bodhisattva as transcendental parent. If we can find no parent sutras in the Buddhist literature, then it becomes our responsibility to write them. So, as they say, you can see where I'm coming from. The whole book is really organized


around those kinds of ideas and it's full of stories about people I've interviewed and practical hints for how to integrate the traditional qualities of Zen practice and Buddhist practice into our family life, our livelihood, our making a living, our avocations, our hobbies. And I've tied each one of those what I call modes of work to one of the traditional spiritual virtues of Mahayana Buddhism, Great Vehicle Buddhism, the paramitas, the perfections, the great perfections of ethics, of generosity, of patience, of energy, of meditation and of wisdom. And I've also added humility and equanimity, which are less common perfections in the tradition but very important for lay life. I feel that from my own experience and


I think from the emerging experience of American Buddhists, I think that we're on, probably it'll take many decades or many generations to refashion, reintegrate, reimagine the path of the Buddha to include how we actually live today. So, one of the things I like to talk about, I have a whole series of lectures I'm doing on the Dharma as it relates to things like driving a car, talking on a cell phone, going to a restaurant, eating food the way we do. All the qualities of modern life, there are these probably pop books that say, how would Buddha talk on a cell phone? How would Buddha drive a car? There's one Zen teacher who actually has made a koan, where is Buddha when you're driving a car? Well, I think those are important questions. I think that it's not enough to have the Dharma be something


that comes from elsewhere and it tells us what it thinks and what it feels and we're kind of hostage to that. Dharma doesn't come from somewhere else. Dharma comes from inside and goes out somewhere else. It actually comes in both directions, but Zen practice, which is really the heart of Buddhist practice, the challenge really is to find Dharma inside your own life, not to simply accept Dharma as something that comes from elsewhere. So, I'm convinced that in 50 or 100 years, what we see as American Buddhism will not be Japanese or Tibetan or any of those things. It will be American and hopefully, if it's authentic, it will still also be authentically Buddhist. The longer I go, the more decades I go since the death of my teacher, Suzuki Roshi, the more I realize how much he really was an American.


He made himself into an American and he understood America in a way that I've rarely met in other Buddhist teachers, Asian teachers, and that's an extraordinary thing. I think it's reflective. Whenever I come here, I look at this beautiful place and these buildings and all of this and I realize that all of this came out of this vision of this 95 pound, 5 foot tall Japanese man who showed up in robes one day and from this it all came and he's not by any means the only one. It's extraordinary and we're still all part of it. You're all part of it. And I'm still trying in my own small way to carry forward that integrative, progressive, revolutionary vision. Because in the end, the Dharma began for the Buddha when he saw


how the world really was. He came out of his palace, which is kind of a metaphor for innocence or for being protected, and faced the way people actually are and the way people treat each other. And he said to himself, why? Why? Why is it this way? Why are people doing this? And he went to all the spiritual teachers to hear the received wisdom from elsewhere, and that was part of the story. And it's probably true because that's how you do it when your spiritual eye opens up. You look for guidance and you ask, why? Of everyone you meet, why? And in the end, as we all have to do, he had to set aside what he was told, all those other spiritual teachers, and discover his own answers, his own truth. And so he sat


down under a tree and started over. And that story is our story. Each one of us are telling the story of the Buddha in our own lives. I've kind of mixed in, in the book, material that would be accessible to any general audience reader, someone who doesn't know a lot about Buddhism. But there's also a lot of my teacher's teaching in there, a lot of Suzuki Roshi. And I want to read you a couple of passages because since you're all sitting in this hall, you're all, in a sense, connected to Suzuki Roshi, to that way of teaching. So I talk a good bit in the book about the virtue


of patience and how we practice patience in various ways. And then I say, Shunryu Suzuki talked about patience, too, but he did not use traditional Buddhist texts or terminology. Instead, he talked about frogs. Suzuki loved frogs. Even as a boy, he seemed to have a natural sympathy for these creatures. In his biography, Crooked Cucumber, by my good friend David Chadwick, is this story. The young Suzuki overheard some older boys talking about going to a nearby creek and capturing and tormenting the frogs there. Suzuki quickly ran to the place and splashed all around, frightening all the frogs away so they would be safe from the older boys. Once in a lecture, Suzuki vividly imitated the way a frog waits for a meal. "'It sits utterly still,' Suzuki said, demonstrating by showing us his most immobile meditation


posture, until a little insect flies by and then, zap! Suzuki lunged forward on his meditation cushion, his tongue protruding, becoming for the moment a hungry frog snapping up the morsel on its long tongue. And then he laughed quietly to himself for what seemed a long time." This is the way he was. I'm not going to try to imitate him. It would be silly, but you don't get the feeling. This is a very characteristically Zen way of teaching. There's lots and lots of technical literature about shantiparamita, about patience, about receptivity, but Suzuki Roshi, maybe he thought we weren't ready for that, but anyway, he preferred frogs. In Not Always So, his book of lectures, Suzuki has this to say about frogs. "'I always admire their practice. They never get sleepy. Their eyes are always open and they do things intuitively in an appropriate way. When something to eat comes by, they


go like this. They never miss anything. They are always calm and still. I wish I could be a frog.'" So Suzuki Roshi's frog story is charming until we dig deeper and see the story from the point of view of the frog. The frog, motionless and with full attention, does that sound familiar to anyone? Motionless and with full attention, is not performing a circus trick for our benefit nor is it there as the subject of some spiritual homily. It is there because it is hungry. That is why it is willing to stay there until the fly comes along. When the fly does come, what happiness? All the waiting and the wind and the rain is redeemed at that moment. This is the breakthrough, the inspiration that makes the long wait worthwhile. The frog brings life to the dynamic tension between patience and inspiration, the connection between the


waiting and the reward. Without the waiting, there is no fly, but without the hope of a fly, why wait? The point of this story is to make the connection between the frog and each of us, to help us see that the frog's patience is connected with the inescapable conditions of the frog's life, with every creature's life, with our life. For the frog to get the fly, it needs to cultivate two qualities. First, it must have unshakeable confidence that the fly will eventually come. Without this confidence, it will despair. How can it even go on living? The frog will wait forever, if necessary, in the hope of that fly. The second quality it needs is alertness, tongue coiled and ready to strike for as long as it takes the fly to come. If the frog grows tired, if it decides to take a nap, it might miss the fly and all the tedious waiting will have been for naught. If the frog goes


away thinking, well, there will be no flies today, this relieves its tension but leaves the frog no less hungry than when it began. So the frog's patience and our patience is no ordinary waiting, it's hard work. And even if the fly comes, the work does not end. Soon the frog will again be hungry, the entire process will repeat itself. This is the frog's life, our life. This is Suzuki Roshi's point in telling us the story. His story was also a lesson in how to do Zazen. The experience of Zazen, Zen meditation, can be a sense of nothing going on. Nothing is happening, we're just sitting there. We may not notice at first that this itself is something special. How else can we have such an experience? Such practices are very old and may have had their origins sometime in the Neolithic when the daily life of prehistoric man and woman was connected with the slow rhythm of the sun,


the stars, the weather and the seasons. Zazen is not something unusual. If anything, it is the rest of our life that is unusual. And yet Zazen is not just waiting either. We think again of Suzuki's frog sitting, waiting, seemingly doing nothing until the insect buzzes by and the full energy of the frog's being suddenly comes to life as in a flash the insect is instantly transformed into a meal that contributes to the frog's survival. One of my weekly sessions with my group, a woman who is actually dying said to the group to me, I think we need to suffer more. I understood what she meant. I've been ill a lot too in


my life and part of the problem of practicing Dharma in America is that it's very comfortable here seemingly. And we've lost our frogness. We're not living like frogs for the most part but to dig down beneath the surface of that and realize that we're all frogs and that we're all ultimately waiting, watching, hungry, frightened. I think that beneath the surface of our wonderful country there's so much fear. So Dharma is kind of serious and I said to the woman later, I thanked her for coming to the group and I said, you know, it's very


helpful when you come because to just talk about Buddhism off the cuff it's hard to get it across but when you're there in your life situation it's much easier. I can explain it much better. I want to mention before we end and now's as good time as any, a kind of announcement but it's actually connected to what I'm saying. At the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, people from Green Gulch had a weekly vigil in downtown Mill Valley for some time. Do any of you remember that? Do any of you participate? Yeah, a few people. Last week I just found


myself calling up Linda Ruth who's the Abbess here and saying, I think we should do it again. I think we should do it now. Maybe from now until November. And she immediately said, okay, let's do it. So we're planning something. We're planning to maybe resume that. We haven't quite got it organized yet and I'd like to see several of the sanghas connected to Suzuki Roshi's teaching in Southern Marin participate and maybe all of you. I'm inviting you. I wish I could say definitively when we're going to start but typically last time it was Friday from noon to one on Fridays, a silent vigil. Not a protest exactly but a vigil and some other occasion I'd like to talk to some audience about what that really means. After I hung up the phone and thought about it a little more, I thought to myself, well, you know, you could translate the word Buddha as vigil. The word Buddha just means awake or awakened


but it also means awakened like the frog, like that, you know, watching, watching. So I think that the vigil is a very, it's a Buddha activity. So anyway, we're thinking about it so maybe you can stay in touch with Green Gulch to see when it starts and how it's going but I think it would be good to do. I think if Suzuki Roshi were alive he would come is what I think and be a frog with all of us. Of course the frog makes it kind of charming. We can think of a frog and it's funny how rare it is to see a frog these days. You know, frogs are dying out because of what we're doing to the world and so it's not so common to see a frog. But if you think about that as a metaphor for our life, our vow, our effort


and realize that underneath the surface of all of our activity, all of our work in life, all of the stuff that engages us and keeps us so busy, there's an inner frog sitting there, like that. Is it a serious frog or a casual frog? We don't know what the frog's mood is but it's there and it's watching always. And my conviction is that you can't say that a monastic frog is doing better as a frog than a householder frog. I think it's just different. Maybe different kinds of flies that you have to look for. Maybe the flies in householder life buzz faster or they fly in a more difficult way to catch. But maybe


they're tastier too. I don't know. I don't know how to extend the metaphor in an appropriate way. I really wrote this book for all of you and for people like you all over to find some encouragement and to be connected to the spirit and vision of my teacher, of all of our teacher. I was looking at his picture out in the hallway. He's kind of an icon now, a legend. He's been gone for 30 years and I'm not sure how many people who pass that picture have the reaction that I do. But when I pass it, I see a friend. Oh, hi. Because he was alive for me and I was with him as many of us were. Some people say, well, don't talk about it so much. It makes you seem like you're special. So I'm sorry if it feels that way. It's just my feeling when I saw the picture was, oh, there he is, you know, watching me. I feel a little ashamed


when I see it too. So in every chapter I talk about the Consciousness Project, this great work that we're on. And I paint a vision. I use that image of the island moving northward from Santa Catalina Island. And I envision all of us on it, six billion or so. Maybe it's more. Is it six and a half billion? Every year it gets more. Everybody's on it and we're all working with the island. But, you know, we're not pushing in the same direction. There's a lot of confusion about it. Some people want to push it south. Some people want to blow it up. Some people want everybody on the island to be their religion. Some people want us to live according to their way of life. Some people want to get rid of half the people


on the island, and so on and so forth. There's a tremendous ... I have this picture of how it is, you know. That island is a metaphor for the inner life. The island moves mysteriously. And those of us who awaken to that process, who understand our full responsibility to make that happen, that's the awakening of the vow. That's the vow body that begins to take shape. And we look around like a frog who suddenly wakes up on a lily pad and sees where he is or where she is. And you realize what you need to do and how you need to change your life so that you're one of the people on that island who's kind of like a monitor or a ... I don't know. When I used to go to peace demonstrations back during the Vietnam era, there were monitors


with the white arm bands, and they were the ones that were making sure we all walked in the right direction. So maybe I'm thinking of monitors, you know. The bodhisattvas are like monitors. They're wandering around on the island, mostly invisible, maybe their parents, maybe their corporate executives, maybe their monks, helping the island to move, knowing that it's only three centimeters a year. It's not going to be quick. And even after it gets to San Francisco, it keeps moving. There's no ultimate destination. This is what we're all really doing here. When I was ... you know, in the early days of Zen Center, we were all very young, and we didn't really know what we were doing. I'm not sure we still know, but anyway, maybe we know a little bit more. The vastness of the project, the dignity of it, the tragedy


of it, the poignancy of it, the seeming futility of it. One reason we sit is simply to have the strength to continue, to understand how to walk in the right direction. I look back to those early days when I was in my 20s and trying to learn Zazen and realize that I had no idea what I was doing. But something in me had an idea what I was doing. Sometimes we say Buddha nature, but I'm not sure I like those technical terms that much. But each of us, each of you, in the midst of whatever life you have, have that beacon within. And it's there. You don't need to create it or manufacture it. You just need to see it.


And it's there in your family life. It's there in your day job. It's there in your night job. It's there in your avocations. It's there when you're sailing on the bay or hang gliding or whatever it is that you do. That's how we in Buddhism have faith and it's how we have hope. But it's not a hope that has some conditions attached to it that can turn into despair if it doesn't come true. It's just hope for its own sake. It's like the frog. The frog doesn't say, okay, I'm going to do 90 minutes on the lily pad and if I don't have success, that's it. I'm going home. It's not like that. It's lily pad all the time. Lily pad is your life. You settle in it and you learn to love it and you realize you look


around and there are lily pads everywhere. And that's the big lily pad, the big project. The big vow, the big beacon that we're all tuned into, the big radio station. It's the only way to look at the way the world is and not despair. So there's two things that the Buddha did that are really important. One thing is that he actually saw how it really is. This is enlightenment. The second thing is it's okay. How can it be okay? That's the hard part. How can it be okay? It's not so hard to see how the world is actually. We can open our eyes in various ways, but what's really hard is for it to be okay in some very deep, transcendental,


inconceivable sense. These days I like to talk about Buddhism since I'm talking to various kinds of audience that Buddhism has three big ideas. The idea of Buddha, the idea of Bodhisattva, which is what this book is really about. The third idea is the inconceivability of everything. It's inconceivable that it can be okay, but if we try to narrow it down and make it conceivable then it's not okay anymore. It's only when it's ungraspable that it can in some larger sense be okay and that we can continue and that we can not despair. It's terribly important that the island has some supervision. All of you are here on this bright sunny day, Mother's Day, Buddha's Day. Buddha is a kind of mother for all of us. It's funny, Suzuki Roshi said in Not Always So that, if you're not always so, then you


are. Maybe he was talking about dying. He said, resting in emptiness is like being at your mother's bosom and knowing that she will take care of you. Very odd statement unless you're a Buddhist and you had some experience of practice. But we rest as Buddhists in inconceivability. Somehow we come to a sense that that's the only place to rest. And that's what gives us courage and what gives us hope. And that's our vigil. In the end, Buddhists aren't protestors. They're not revolutionaries. They're not visionaries. I just realized the noun form of vigil is vigilante. I don't mean that. Vigil people, not vigilantes, not like John Wayne, but more like Buddha. So thank you for coming today, listening to me rattle on. And I look forward


to talking with you more informally later on. What happens now? Oh, okay. So listen to the Eno. He will tell you everything. And I'm going to stop. So thank you very much.