Sunday Lecture

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See, quite a few remembered to set your clocks. People at GreenGolf here, though, told me that no one knew until about nine o'clock this morning. Oh, excuse me, a few knew. Well, it's Easter Sunday. It's interesting to me that if we look at the roots of the words for some of our holidays, we find out that they go back a long way.

[01:04]

And the root of the word for Easter comes from always, which means to shine or shining. And from that, the Teutonic people in North Central Europe named a goddess, Estron. And Estron was the goddess associated with the dawn, the time of the day when light came. And Estron's holiday, sacred or holy day, was at the vernal equinox, the spring equinox which has just passed.

[02:10]

So that is peculiar to our language group. I think we share the very deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the light and the energy associated with the light, with all the life forms on the planet. And probably most human cultural groups have some kind of a holiday marking this event, this time. The symbol of the egg also goes back very far. For me, the egg with its shell, of course, is associated with all life on the land.

[03:21]

Because it was only when reptiles and birds discovered how to make shells over their eggs that the entire life cycle of a species was able to be enacted on the land. Before that, it was in and out of the water. So I feel some gratitude towards the land itself at this time of year. I think it's wonderful that Green Gulch has a garden practice period that many of you are involved in. Actually, working with that direct contact with the earth, with the warming of the earth and the light. I want to talk about a myth that's related to Buddha's enlightenment.

[04:37]

The word Buddha itself means to awaken or to come into the light. At the time, Buddha decided to sit until he had resolved all of his questions and doubts. The story goes that this made the evil one, Mara, a little worried. Somehow, just the idea of someone resolving their doubts got the evil one stirred up. Some kind of a threat. So Mara first sent demons to frighten this wisdom being who was sitting with such sincerity.

[05:44]

To see if he could shake him. So the demons came and Shakya Muni, Shakya's family hermit, stayed there. So the demons gave up and left and then Mara sent his three daughters. One was named Desire. And one was named Distraction. And one was named Confusion. And they tried to disturb Shakya Muni's sitting. But he continued sitting, resolutely. He'd seen all this before.

[06:47]

And finally, Mara himself decided to come onto the scene and he brought his entire retinue. I think maybe the best contemporary image of Mara that I can think of right now would be Darth Vader. So you can imagine Darth Vader coming in with his cohorts. And the issue at hand was whether Shakya Muni had a right to be where he was. What gives you the right to be here? They challenged his very right to be sitting on that spot, on that wisdom seat. And Shakya Muni was all alone, it seemed.

[07:55]

And all of Darth Vader's cohorts made their statements about how great Darth Vader was. And when it was Shakya Muni's turn to respond, he had no one to speak for him. And so he quietly reached out and touched the earth. So this pose of touching the earth is actually quite common in Buddhist art, sculptures and paintings. Because there was a connection. The earth responded. The earth trembled, saying, oh yeah, this is my friend. And the earth remembered that for countless lifetimes, this Bodhisattva, Shakya Muni,

[09:07]

had given his life very compassionately to assist, to benefit all other beings. And this person had no separation, no distance between his own being and the lives of other beings, of the earth itself. So naturally, the earth responded. And at that, Mara, or Darth Vader, realized that this was too big. He felt like the odd man out, and had to go back into his background position. And then at that point, Shakya Muni was able to really settle deeply into his meditation, which continued through the night.

[10:12]

And the next morning, with the dawn, he woke up. He realized exactly where he was. So it's wonderful to see how we have this interconnection with our compassionate action, and our ability to be clear, to have a clear mind. To have wisdom. When each of us takes a seat, sitting on our cushion or on our chair, this is a wisdom seat. Wisdom in the sense of direct realization of being exactly there.

[11:20]

But oftentimes we experience some distance, some division from our wisdom seat. We're not sometimes sure that we do have a right to be there. A friend of mine had an experience recently, which demonstrates one aspect, anyway, of finding your way back to your wisdom position. And I'll call him, I don't want to use his real name, because I haven't asked him if I could tell a story on him. So I'll call him Jackson, Ben Jackson. And at one of our local universities, he wanted to get into the graduate program,

[12:29]

and part of the process of acceptance was to have an interview. And he'd gone through the preliminary steps. There was a meeting he had to go to, and then he went in for his interview. And he was immediately confronted by a very large woman, and he went up to the desk and he said, My name is Ben Jackson and I'm here for my interview. And she said, Oh, you're not the Ben Jackson that was at the meeting. You're not the Ben Jackson. I mean, I've got Ben Jackson on the list, but I know you're not the Ben Jackson that's done the preliminary stuff. And he said, Well, I was at the meeting. She said, I didn't see you. Well, Ben has kind of a thing about women, anyway. And he felt particularly intimidated.

[13:34]

He was just kind of stumbling around there, and he felt suddenly like the rug had been pulled out from under him. He began to doubt himself whether he was in the right place. So basically, he just kind of stumbled around and went out the door and started walking back to his car. And as he walked back to his car, he began to kind of listen more deeply to that exchange. And he suddenly realized that this person was actually insecure. The person who was confronting him was actually kind of nervous herself and defensive. And now she'd put herself in a position where it was very hard for her to back down. So he went to his car and he got a few papers that related to what he was doing

[14:43]

and went back in. He went back in with a whole different feeling, and this time he went right up to her and he said, Everything's going to be all right. And then he said a few other things, and she immediately changed her posture, although she, of course, couldn't admit that she'd been wrong. And he said, Well, I'll just go ahead and have the interview anyway. And she really couldn't say no to that, because he wasn't fighting her. So he went ahead and had his interview, and when he came out, at that point, enough time had elapsed, and she turned around and she said, You know, I remember you.

[15:43]

Sometimes we have... we have to make a bridge. And sometimes we need to find a way to return to our place. Return to ourselves. I think the first key is to stop and begin listening. One of the reasons that we're sometimes feeling separated is simply because things have changed. Last time we checked in, things were one way, and now suddenly they're different. Sometimes we're simply dreaming.

[17:09]

We're thinking of something else, and when suddenly something pulls us right back, we're not quite ready to be in the present. We wish it was a little different. For some of us, that happens every morning. We're not quite ready for today already. Sometimes we're involved in very elaborate ways of fooling ourselves or deceiving ourselves. We're playing some kind of a game, or we're involved, and we think we're going to win if we do this or we do that. I like the phrase that... Many of you probably saw the movie War Games, and I like the phrase at the conclusion of that film where the computer... Remember, this is a computer that's capable of learning. This computer finally runs through all the processes

[18:13]

and possibilities of the War Games scenario and comes up with the conclusion, Strange game, Professor. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess? But sometimes that's the case. We find in our lives that the only winning move is to stop playing the game. I'd like, if you would, to take a few minutes quietly with me to stop and listen. Just sit comfortably,

[19:20]

and then listen inwardly for a few minutes. Just start with hearing your own body, whether you have any joy, whether you have any pain. And then listen outside your body. Simply become aware of those around you. The sound of the birds.

[20:22]

The sound of the birds. The sound of the birds. See if you can hear the sound of the bird without even thinking bird. Simply hear the sound.

[21:24]

The sound of the birds. The sound of the birds. I just want you to realize how beautiful it is. Okay. So that was just a couple of minutes. You may have experienced something changed for you.

[22:56]

And it's not that you really did anything, except that you became aware. And this simple choice to become aware is one of the most fundamental factors of waking up of enlightenment. And you can choose to do this any time. You don't necessarily have to sit down. So, the first act is to stop and become aware, or maybe that's two, stop and listen.

[24:03]

And then you can begin to respond very directly and simply with some clarity. And this we call compassionate action. You respond simply because you hear, because you are here and because you hear. In the Zendo we have this figure of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva representing wisdom or clarity. And the rest of us are representing the counterpart to Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The two have to work together.

[25:09]

By your listening, by your compassionate response, you begin to feel at home and you begin to feel that you really have a right to be where you are. Sometimes it's a very simple thing like cleaning your room. If I don't clean my room, after a while there's really no room for me in it. I feel like the space isn't cared for and somehow I don't quite fit, I'm not quite happy. But as I begin to tend it, to take care of it, then I realize that I actually belong there. So if you're in a situation where you're not sure that you belong, you feel a little awkward,

[26:12]

consider stopping, listening, and seeing what you can do to take care of the immediate situation. Often it's some very simple thing that you can do. Sometimes you've already done it by stopping and listening. Then finally, compassionate action in its complete sense is completely integrated action, where you no longer have a sense of yourself as separate from the situation. You simply respond to the situation. If you respond without some feeling of doing anything good, it's also fine to have a feeling of doing something good.

[27:20]

In my driving workshop last weekend, someone said she liked to yield and let other people go ahead of her because she got to be the good guy. That's a good feeling. Sometimes that's quite helpful. However, if you always stop and let the other person go ahead, sometimes that gets awkward too. Sometimes you need to be ready to let the other person be the good guy. So with this in mind, I'd like to read a spring poem written by a ryokan.

[28:26]

It was a Soto Zen monk in Japan. Let's see, about... 200 years ago. So here it is. With no mind, blossoms invite the butterfly. With no mind, the butterfly visits the blossoms. When the flower blooms, the butterfly comes. When the butterfly comes, the flower blooms. I do not know others. Others do not know me. Not knowing each other, we naturally follow the way. So this not knowing each other,

[29:35]

it doesn't mean that you should try to be ignorant. It simply means that you shouldn't hang on to some idea, some mental conception of who someone is. So it's a very friendly not knowing. Even though you've been with someone maybe a long time, maybe in an intimate relationship you've been together for years, still it's the not knowing. If you're ready to admit that you really don't know, this person, then there's room for a fresh experience. Then there's room for that person to emerge. Maybe be complete in a way that they weren't before.

[30:43]

So then you're ready to do kind of unusual things, helping each other out. Like Laman Pong and his daughter. Laman Pong was an old Chinese Buddhist layman who had two children. One point he decided to give up everything, so he took his belongings out on a boat into the bay and sunk them. He said, these have caused me so much trouble, I don't want anyone else to have this misery. So he felt he was very free, just wandering around China and selling baskets, visiting Zen temples. And one day he was walking across a little bridge with his baskets and he stumbled and fell down flat on his face,

[32:01]

and his daughter who was coming along right behind him. Of course, Laman Pong knew this was kind of crazy, so he looked around and he said, I'm glad no one's watching us. Oh my goodness. Well, remember. Remember that compassionate action is the basis of your wisdom seat. Compassionate action means basic healthy responsiveness

[33:08]

to other people. It means being considerate. It means being ethical. If you have some doubt about your action, if you feel like, hmm, gee, if this gets audited, I don't know. Then, that's something to pay attention to. Because it all comes down to very small things. There are no big things, just many small things that we do. And when you take care of all the small things, when you take your seat, when you sit down, when you walk, you can just be there and meet anyone. You can meet the demons. You can meet Darth Vader.

[34:15]

And there's no enemy. There's no enemy. So be careful how you conceptualize. If you begin to say something about someone in your own mind that sets yourself apart from them, if you stop and look at that, you realize that you're creating a division. And then you become a little more restless and can't stay there on your wisdom seat. So enjoy this process. Butterflies, flowers, fog and mist, bird song,

[35:25]

have a beautiful day.

[35:33]

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