Sunday Lecture

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To speak and listen to, to remember and accept, I vow to taste the truth of the Tathagata's words. Good morning everybody. When we had the opening of our practice period, our annual one-month retreat began the other day.


And as I was telling the people who are here in residence for that retreat how much I enjoyed the opening ceremony, we always have a ceremony to open the retreat. We actually have a lot of ceremonies. Some of you have never experienced. We're very ceremony intensive in Soto Zen. Even though Zen is supposed to be beyond rituals and so forth, we have enormous numbers of rituals. And I really enjoyed that particular one. As I was telling people, it was very emotional for me. I felt very moved and powerful emotions as we walked around to the different altars. We have a procession with a little Japanese bell. And we slowly walk to the different altars everywhere.


At Gringotts there's an altar. There's even an altar for the toilet, an altar for the bath, an altar for the office, an altar for the garden, an altar for the maintenance department. So since work is an important part of our practice, we go around to all the places where we will be working. And at each one of those places, the head of the department offers a stick of incense to the local maintenance Buddha or bathroom Buddha. And we all bow. And this all happens in the pre-dawn time. So it's dark outside while we're doing this. And then dawn is coming. So by the time we finish, the first light is coming. So I was very moved by the ceremony.


I thought it was really beautiful. And walking around in the pre-dawn light, I thought, Gringotts is so beautiful. What a lucky stroke that we can be here in this place. And every time I gave a stick of incense to one of the crew heads, I thought, what a perfect person. Suki, how could you find a better person to be in charge of the garden? It would be impossible. How could you find a better person to be in charge of the guest program than Emila? She's the perfect person. Then Arlene was in charge of the maintenance. How could you find a better person to be in charge of the maintenance than Arlene? How could you find a better head cook, a better tenzo than Lee? I was feeling, you know, as we were going through the ceremony.


And the trees walking down to the garden, very fuzzy up into the sky. And as I shared with the people in the practice period, as I was feeling all that, I was thinking, boy, that's corny. Everything's so perfect, everything's so beautiful. What a stupid, corny thing. But still I felt it, even though it is kind of stupid. And of course I also knew, well, these people aren't that perfect, really. I'm sure we could get a better maintenance person if we advertised in the paper, I'm sure. And the perfect Green Gulch has many problems, and I'm probably as aware of all those problems


as anybody on the planet. And yet, even though I knew that, still I couldn't deny the strong emotional feeling I had inside that these people were all really perfect, and that Green Gulch is the perfect place, and to live in this way, in the Dharma, here is the perfect life. I really felt that. So this feeling, this emotion that I felt was like a big, wide net that was somehow big enough to include also the fact that people aren't so perfect and there's a lot of problems. It wasn't as if those two things were contradictory, you see. The emotion that I felt was big enough to include this other side, and it didn't feel like a contradiction or a problem, that there are problems and that things aren't perfect.


There didn't feel like a conflict. It seemed as if whatever the problems were, whatever the shortcomings were, including, of course, my own shortcomings, these were the shortcomings that we needed. These were exactly the problems, exactly the shortcomings that made the perfection of things perfect. In other words, it wasn't that things were perfect because they fit some kind of a standard or ideal of perfection. It was just that the way they were, as they were, was perfect. That was a feeling that I had. That perfection was the very nature of things, the very nature of them.


That the very quality of their existence, as they were, was a kind of a perfection. Just right. You wouldn't have wanted it to be somehow better. It was just right. So I felt really happy and fortunate, very lucky, very, very lucky and grateful to be right where I am now. So my mind thinks about things, so when I was feeling that I was thinking, gee, isn't it amazing how emotional our practice really is, how much it's about feeling and emotion. I realize that when you read Buddhist sutras, or especially if you read Zen koans and Zen literature, you might not get that idea. You might not notice how much


the practice is so powerfully emotional, especially Zen. Zen doesn't seem like it's sort of about this sweet, warm, fuzzy feeling. Mostly people don't think. I notice if I go around some far place and we announce a Zen retreat, a few people come. A lot of people are scared away. They think, Zen, oh man, they beat you up with a stick, they shout, they yell, very severe, very hard. But if you go and you say, now we're having a Vipassana retreat, people come from far and wide. You can't have enough spaces in the hall to fit them all in because they think Vipassana is loving kindness, sweet, nice. So maybe I'll change the words, the terms, because people think Zen has that kind of reputation. But actually I think it's very emotional, just on the surface it looks that way.


But once you enter into it, you find that the emotion is very, very deep, right in the middle of our practice. So I was thinking about this, and I would like to talk a little bit about this today, the kind of quality of emotion in Dharma practice. What kind of emotion is it? What's the source of this kind of emotion that we feel in practicing Dharma? And how is that different from the kind of emotion that we usually feel in our lives that so often appears to us as a big problem, difficulty? And I guess the main emotion that we feel in our practice is this feeling of love. And love, I think, means that we feel a connection,


a warm connection with everything. We feel identity, in identity with everything. We don't feel a separate identity. We feel somehow that our life is swimming with everything in a big ocean of love, like when you're in the water, you just sort of float around. I was recently in the water, in the ocean, and you don't do anything. You're just floating around. The water is, the current is gently moving you this way and that way, and you don't feel like you're doing auto locomotion. You feel like you're just being carried along, weightless somehow. And so I'm feeling that way, but it's kind of hard to explain. If I say, me, and everything,


I am in identity with everything, it sounds like there's me, and then there's everything, which is something else besides me, and somehow me and this everything are related. But that's not the feeling that I have. I don't feel that there is me and there is you. Did you ever think about me and you? If I say, me, then me is me, which means that you is you, right? But if you say, me, then you is me, right?


And me is you. Is that so? So, this is how things are. You and me are designations. They're labels that fly back and forth depending on who's talking and what the perspective is. And when we say, me and you, we think there's me and you. But there isn't. There's just designations. There is no real me, and there is no real you. Me and you are concepts that we have, designations that we use. And when we deeply know this and don't forget about it, then really we don't have anything to worry about. Think of how much fear and worry we have about me.


I'm worrying about me all the time, and you're also worrying about me, but the me that you're worrying about is you. Although, to me it's you. To you it's me. This is mostly what we worry about, right? What else is there to worry about except me? Except for me. Is me healthy? Does me have good well-being? Is me respected enough? Is me being cared for? Is me getting what me needs, wants, deserves? And lately I've been feeling a great sorrow over friends who are suffering greatly over me, who is not respected enough or not thought of highly enough, or me who doesn't have good enough health,


and so on. But when we are really clear that me and you are designations, that there is no me and you really, but just this big ocean of connection and the different currents in that ocean, then everything is swimming around in this big space of everything, and everything seems to be just exactly perfect the way it is, even when there are big problems. These big problems are part of the perfection of things. And in Buddhadharma we call the source of this feeling, what I would call love, a very emotional feeling. The source of it is the realization of the empty nature of phenomena.


To see things in this way is to see things as empty. I thought of a poem that expresses for me this feeling of emptiness by Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish-American poet who lives across the bay, in the East Bay in Berkeley. This poem is called Gift. Maybe some of you know it. A day so happy Fog lifted early I worked in the garden Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers There was nothing on earth that I wanted to possess I knew no one worth my envying him


Whatever evil I had suffered I forgot To think that I was once the same man did not embarrass me In my body I felt no pain When straightening up I saw the blue sea and sails It means like sails on a boat, not Macy's sails. So maybe you have had a kind of experience of looking at something and seeing all of a sudden that what you're looking at


isn't what you thought it was. Maybe once you were walking in the woods this has happened to me more than once and you were walking on the trail and you see a snake on the trail and all of a sudden your heart starts going fast and then in the next minute you see, oh, it's a stick. And then you're relieved and you relax, immediately your whole body relaxes. Or maybe once you saw a cloud in the sky and you thought, oh, there's a cloud in the sky but then you stopped thinking, oh, there's a cloud in the sky and you just actually looked at the cloud in the sky and then you just felt deeply the miracle of


light and movement and you realized, well, it's not really a cloud. A cloud is just a word that distances the mind from experience. The experience that we have of our life, of this world that we all live in, is an experience that comes from inside of our body and mind. It's made up of six streams of consciousness. The consciousness of eye, ears, nose, tongue, body, and thinking. And out of these six consciousnesses we construct with our brain and nervous system, a world. And it's very persuasive,


wouldn't you say, this world that we have constructed. It's extremely convincing. But the thing about it is, it's a very small world. And as a consequence of its smallness, there's a lot of suffering in it. In this world, there is me and there is you. And immediately with this me and you, there's always a problem because the me and you usually oppose one another in some way. In this world, there isn't much love possible in the way that I'm speaking of it. There's just need, desire, longing, some bursts of enthusiasm once in a while, but nothing that I would call a real love.


This world is a snake. And we feel at any moment we're going to be bitten by it, so we have to watch out and be wary. But if we can look deeply and closely at this world, we will see to our great relief that it isn't really a snake and it isn't even a stick. The actual world is empty, empty of all of these designations. To be empty means to be free. To be empty means to be always and everywhere connected. To be empty means to be absolutely perfect. Not perfect according to a standard, but absolutely perfect. Empty means


spacious, not small, not confined. So I don't know how this sounds to you. Maybe it sounds good to you, this emptiness idea. It's an attractive idea, I think. Anyway, I find it very attractive, very pleasant, very glorious thing to think about. This empty, spacious, perfect nature of things. But these are just thoughts that I'm telling you about. The real emptiness of things is much larger than anything that we could think about. And it's much larger than our thoughts of something being pleasant or not pleasant. Emptiness phenomena, the actual experience and reality of the emptiness of phenomena includes what we would call, both what we would call pleasant and what we would call


unpleasant. With the realization of emptiness, there is peacefulness, a deep peacefulness about life. There is acceptance and trust, and there is as I say, love. But this doesn't mean that you can depend on anything in the usual sense of the word. You can love everything and you can see everything's perfection. But it doesn't mean that people will always be reliable, or that the world will be kind to you and give you what you need in terms of what you think you need. Actually, we don't have any idea what reliability is, or what kindness actually is. Everything is already reliable and kind, just as it is.


Although it might not be reliable and kind according to the way we would like it to be. The weather is extremely reliable. Still, part of that reliability is that somebody has their house wiped out by a tornado every now and then. And people are always very, very kind. Nevertheless, somebody might steal your car. They might even take your life. Emptiness includes all of that. But that's not a snake biting you. Because if you appreciate emptiness, you know from the beginning that your car and your life already is, themselves, snakes. In other words,


they're not really there to begin with in the way that you might imagine that they are. You never had your car anyway. So, when it's gone, what's the difference? And you know that when you suffer loss, when you grieve over what has happened, when you feel wronged or beset by something or someone, which we all do feel, it's human, but you know when you feel those things in that way that you forgot. At that time, you have forgotten the empty nature of phenomena. You are tricked again by the very persuasive six consciousnesses. But when you can remember emptiness, and this is a matter of training, really.


This is the whole point of why we have the word practice. It's a kind of training. First, there is the seeing of emptiness, the understanding of emptiness as it is, which is a kind of a gift. But then, beyond that, there is the everyday training with each and every thought and each and every emotion of our lives, reminding ourselves over and over again of the empty nature of things, reminding ourselves over and over again not to get caught by our minds, seeing how we get caught, and untangling and letting go over and over again until we train ourselves in this view of emptiness. So when we train like that over time, we will feel more and more this big, spacious, loving feeling, this big, spacious, emotional feeling


of practice that I'm talking about. And it's possible almost all the time to feel some acceptance and perfection and freedom with everything that happens. And when we don't, to quickly let go and return to that feeling. It's possible. And this is the only way. Having this kind of love at the center of our lives is the only way that we could really feel that we're ready for our life. Ready, moment after moment, for our life. And then nothing that happens is surprising. We would never have the feeling that shouldn't have happened. We're always ready, always free and easy for what happens. So this is a very tender, emotional feeling, it seems to me.


You see the sweetness and preciousness of life all the time. And this doesn't have to be some big spectacular thing. It's just an everyday, ordinary thing. I've always been struck by Suzuki Roshi's use of the word sincerity. Which at first seemed to me very weird the way he used that word. But over the years I've come to appreciate how he uses the word sincerity. And you go around all day long with your heart broken to see the sincerity of each and every thing and each and every person. Yesterday I came out of the zendo and outside between the zendo and my room. There's an apple tree and I looked on the ground and there was one of its apples. That apple tree is doing such a beautiful job


of producing these little hard green apples without any intention or desire or asking for any credit. Just naturally doing it. Just unfolding naturally in the middle of the empty world. In the middle of this world of freedom. And I was so amazed by this apple. So this is not some spectacular thing like some great miraculous aura in the sky or something. This is like a little apple probably not a very good tasting apple. But there it is. The product of the sincerity of this apple tree. Just like Czeslaw Milosz's poem. Just


straightening up and looking out on the bay and seeing the sails in the blue sky. And everything is like that all the time. Just opening out like that. Moving on. Everything doing its work sincerely. And when you see that it just breaks your heart. It's a big emotion. You don't know whether to cry or laugh. You don't even know if you're happy or sad. You can't really tell the difference. The usual happiness that we feel has right in the middle of it the seed of grief. This kind of feeling you can't tell whether it's happy or sad. In the sutras


and there are volumes and volumes and volumes of sutras on emptiness. These are called the Prajnaparamita Sutras. There's the Prajnaparamita Sutra in one word. That's it. There's the Prajnaparamita Sutra of one page. The Heart Sutra. There's the Prajnaparamita Sutra of 8,000 lines. There's the Prajnaparamita Sutra of 25,000 lines. There's 100,000 line Prajnaparamita Sutra. Anyway, lots of Prajnaparamita Sutras. And often in the sutras over and over again the metaphor of space or spaciousness is applied to the idea of emptiness. And it's a pretty good metaphor because space is emptiness itself. Space is empty.


That's what space means. There's nothing in it. Space is empty space, right? Space is a kind of absence. But without the absence of space there wouldn't be the presence of the world. It's like the absence of space is the container for the presence of things in the world. Thanks to empty space there's the possibility that things of the world could fill up the empty space. And if there weren't any empty space, it's unimaginable that there could be no empty space, then there wouldn't be anything. But then of course, if we were to look closely at that which fills up the empty space like with an electron microscope or something we would see that in the middle of that something that's filling up the empty space is also empty space right in the middle of it. Without the empty space in the middle of it, it wouldn't


be able to exist. So all that's present has absence in the middle of it. Space inside of it. So science the study of the physical world is always trying to see what's in the middle of everything and they keep not finding anything. The more acute they are at looking into the middle of things the more they find there's nothing there. Just space. And nobody knows what space is. It's not possible to conceptualize space. And yet in the end everything is space. And space is never crowded. This is the nature of space. It's never crowded in space. There's always plenty of room and so no problems. We don't have to bump into


one another in the middle of space. And this is the nature of our heart and the nature of our mind. Now what we ordinarily experience as emotion seems pretty different from this. Emotion as we usually experience it seems quite crowded and confining. Even what we call love which we think of as something really positive can be a big problem. Very problematic. Very crowding us. Very much. Sometimes what we call love can have more to do with need and control and identity and self clinging than with spaciousness. In the western tradition we have the word passion which means love and loving concern and enthusiasm but also passion as you all know


means suffering. When there's passion there's always the unmistakable feeling of the tragedy of our life. And if you think of the western literature on love it's always something tragic. The tragedy right in the middle of our passion. In the beginning of the story you already know this can't last. Macbeth's ambition is going to pull him down. Romeo and Juliet are not going to be able to escape their social familial circumstances. The space is too small. Everything can't fit. There's going to be a problem. Now there's a great nobility in this kind of passion because it's human


to suffer in this way and the spaciousness of emptiness is big enough to include this kind of noble human suffering. And although our practice doesn't emphasize this kind of passion it's certainly big enough to include it and big enough to appreciate it because Romeo and Juliet are like those apples, so sincere in doing what it is that they must do. But for us appreciating the empty nature of phenomena is appreciating that moment by moment whatever we think we're doing we are always letting go of that which we never had and that which we never could have. Things just are not subject to being possessed including ourself. Everything we think we have we're only


taking care of temporarily. The whole world is just a big swirling ocean and that's why we know in our hearts it's precious. Anyway, why I'm talking about all this about emptiness is because this is what we're studying in the practice period. We're taking up one of the texts of Prajnaparamita which is called the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra or usually known as the Diamond Sutra. So the other day I spoke for one and a half hours and I got as far as discussing the title of the sutra which I won't repeat my discussion of the title but now I would like to discuss one or two paragraphs of the beginning of the sutra so that this part of the


all the people I think in the practice period are here this morning so this talk this morning is part of the series that I'm giving in the practice period so I would like now to begin even though you think that you're tired and I should probably stop now which is true, I should but nevertheless I didn't get to the part that I wanted to, this is the part that I wanted to talk about the Diamond Sutra, the beginning of the Diamond Sutra so sorry about that but are you all comfortable? If you feel uncomfortable why don't you like stretch a little bit relax so that you don't, I don't want your legs to hurt too much or anything so this is the beginning of the Diamond Sutra, the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra and I'm reading now, there's many translations I'm reading now from


Thich Nhat Hanh's very readable translation, I think from the Kumarajiva's Chinese translation of the Sanskrit text this is what I heard one time when the Buddha was staying in the monastery in Anadapindika's Park in the Jada Grove near Srivasti with a community of 1250 bhikshus, fully ordained monks that's the beginning of the sutra so as everybody here I'm sure knows all the sutras begin with, this is what I heard because all the sutras are spoken by Ananda who was a Buddha's cousin, younger than Buddha but his cousin and also his loyal attendant and traveling companion for many many years, whenever Buddha gave a talk, Ananda was there listening to Buddha's talk and he had a great memory he had a prodigious memory, he remembered


all of the Buddha's talks exactly as he said them so if anybody ever said, you know, what did the Buddha say, you know, such and such a day, Ananda would tell you exactly what the Buddha had said at that time and after the Buddha died, Ananda would go around repeating the various Dharma talks that the Buddha gave in various places and other people would memorize them as well and so the teachings of the Buddha got disseminated in that way and that's why all the sutras begin, thus have I heard or I heard this at that time and so forth I wonder if you believe that this is really true do you believe it? that Ananda actually memorized 45 years worth of Dharma talks have you memorized what I've said so far? so is it really true? well, first you have to think, you know


what do I mean by true? do you really know what you mean by true? what is it that one means when you say something is true? actually, I would find it very difficult to say what I mean exactly by something is true or not true I think it's true that Ananda did memorize all the Buddha's talks it's interesting as a footnote that Ananda was a very emotional person he's the most warm hearted and emotional of Buddha's disciples and he had various attachments and problems many, there's a whole seven volume sutra called the Shurangama sutra that was taught to Ananda because Ananda had problems with attachment and the Buddha said ok Ananda, I'm going to have to straighten you out now


and he went on and on about Shurangama sutra which Ananda then memorized and repeated but the funny thing is that because of his emotional nature and all of his attachments, it was very hard for him to let go and become enlightened, so it was this funny problem that Ananda was the only one who memorized all the Buddha's teachings but he wasn't enlightened so he couldn't be invited to the Buddha's council where they were going to go over the Buddha's teachings after the Buddha died so this was a big problem nobody else knew the teachings but Ananda but he couldn't go to the council because he was excluded because of his lack of enlightenment, so they really had to sort of rush him through the enlightenment course and he did get enlightened just at the eleventh hour, just in time to get in there and repeat the teachings so that we have them today and there's a famous Zen story about how how Ananda got enlightened


which I won't repeat now but look it up, it's a very good story anyway, if you ask a historical scholar any historical scholar will tell you that the words of the Diamond Sutra were certainly written down long after the Buddha and Ananda both died and yet I still think that it's true that Buddha said them and Ananda memorized them and repeated them so the story begins like that, I heard this at one time and then Buddha was teaching in Anadapindika's garden in the Jada Grove Anadapindika was a very famous wealthy lay person who was an important student of the Buddha and once Anadapindika was staying at some friend's house


and the friend was doing all this stuff like making these elaborate preparations and Anadapindika was really impressed he said, wow, you know, this biggest king in the neighborhood must be coming that you're doing all this stuff and the guy said, no, no, it's not a king that's coming it's Buddha so Anadapindika, even before he met Buddha was really impressed with Buddha and he had the feeling I really want to make a beautiful offering to Buddha and then he thought I'm going to give him, what I'll do is I'll give him a beautiful place for teaching kind of like Green Gulch a place with beautiful so that people would hear the Dharma in this gorgeous setting and it would really be able to sink in so I'll get a place like that and he saw this place that was owned by Prince Jada a beautiful grove and he went to Prince Jada he said, I want to buy this grove I want to give it to Buddha and Prince Jada was thinking are you kidding? Sell Green Gulch?


this is like you can't sell a place like this so he kind of kidded him and he said, well, you want to buy it? how much will I sell it for? well, I'll tell you what I'll do this is like a huge place kind of like Green Gulch, a hundred and some acres he said, if you will cover the entire acreage with gold coins that's how much it'll cost thinking, you know, this is an absurdity but Anadapindika did it he covered the whole thing with gold coins and Prince Jada was flabbergasted, you know because he thought it was a joke and he said, well, I don't want to sell it that's why I said that but Anadapindika said, you know princes don't go back on their word if you should be known throughout northern India as a prince who promised something and didn't make good on the promise you know, your name is mud


around here so Prince Jada had to do it, so he sold the land to Anadapindika, and Anadapindika gave it to Buddha and so many, many was in the town of as the sutra says, in the town of Sravasti and the Buddha spent probably more than any other place where he taught, and he spent more time there than anywhere else and so many sutras begin that the Buddha taught this at Anadapindika's garden in the Jada Grove, Anadapindika knowing how much Jada loved this place always used his name, so the place always includes both Anadapindika and Prince Jada's name so then it says there were 1250 monks there and Buddha in those days in India, if you would go what you would do is you would go to a famous teacher


and you would have a debate with him and you would show that you understood reality more correctly than they did and then all their disciples and that person would all join your band so this is what the Buddha did he got 1250 disciples rather quickly because he went first he went to the Kashyapa brothers, who each had about 500 disciples and he immediately got them on his side and so then he had 1000 disciples immediately then he went to Shariputra and Maudgalyana also were teachers and he brought them into the fold so very quickly he had a lot of disciples anyway there he is in Anadapindika's grove with the Kashyapa brothers and Shariputra and Maudgalyana and all their disciples which are now his disciples and then it says that day when it was time to make the round for alms, the Buddha put on his Sangati robe and holding his bowl


went to the city of Shravasti to seek alms food going from house to house when the alms round was completed he returned to the monastery to eat the midday meal then he put away his Sangati robe and his bowl, washed his feet arranged his cushion and sat down that's the next paragraph of the sutra so Buddha went out every day this was his way he lived, every day he went out and begged for his food and we're all eating fast food like who has time to eat? but in Buddhist practice eating a meal is like a big thing it's not just something that we have to take care of to get through the day eating a meal is a very big deal in Buddhist practice especially in those days in the order that the Buddha


started where you were only eating one meal a day it was really a big thing then you really were glad to eat that meal and appreciative of it it was a big occasion, a big ceremony and first of all you didn't have any food because it was against the rules to keep food so every day you had to go out and get some food and hope that you would get some so Buddha with the monks and nuns would go out begging and this meant that every day you had to relate to a lot of people with kindness if you were going to get fed and this of course everybody was well reminded that it's not automatic that you are going to be fed every day this is a good thing to remember I think of this all the time sometimes we run out of food rarely but it happens occasionally, you go to the dining room and you are a little late and all the food is gone and people


get very disappointed like damn why didn't they make more food they should plan ahead, there should be more food here but I always think it's amazing that usually I get food when there is no food there I think well that's normal why should I get any think of all the days so far that I have gotten fed and it's like that it's a miracle that you would get fed today that the food would be there it's precious so because Buddha had to go out and beg every day it reminded him and everyone in his group that food is not automatic it's precious and it's a miracle that we get fed it's a gift from the world then when you got the food you had to think about where did this food come from and what are you going to do with it why are you eating this food what is your life about you have to think about it


not just eat for the fun of it or eat to sustain your life without even thinking about the point of your life this is how the Buddha lived every day that he ate the meal he thought what am I doing so that's what he did he would go out and beg for his food come back, wash his bowls wash his feet, settle down so that collecting getting the food and eating the food was a big ceremony every single day they had the ceremony of eating the meal they called it the meal it's like a big thing, the meal it's time for the meal and it says in the sutra that he wore his sangati robe when he went out begging in the Vinaya in the Buddhist rules it's clear that a very important part of Buddhist practice this seems odd to us from our perspective


it's interesting our perspective is humanistic materialism and yet it seems strange that one of the important Buddhist practices is the wearing of the robe so in the Vinaya it says wearing the robe is a very important practice to put on the robe and wear the robe it has many regulations and stuff about the robe and there's three kinds of robes there's the robe which has five panels the robe which has seven panels and then there's a robe that has more than seven panels up to 108 panels and that's the one that's called the sangati robe it's the most formal robe and that's the robe that the Buddha would put on when he went begging because it was such an important function and ceremony to beg for food so that was what he wore when he begged and we think of begging as something pathetic, if we see somebody on the street


begging we think it's kind of shameful and pathetic that they would be begging because we believe that we should earn what we get things don't come to us as a gift we earned them we earned them, we deserve it we earn it but the Buddha thought that begging was very noble and that it was the best way to live because if you're begging then every day of your life you are dependent on the kindness of strangers you are eliciting kindness no kindness, you don't eat so the Buddha dressed up most formally for this occasion of begging and this is the scene of the sutra every day the Buddha put on this robe and went out begging and then he, after he cleaned up it was time for contemplation of the Dharma so when he sits down this means he sat down


formally in meditation pose ready to share Dharma and then the sutra says at that time the venerable Subhuti stood up bared his right shoulder put his knee on the ground and folding his palms respectfully said to the Buddha and this was the respectful ceremony of addressing the Buddha in this way by bearing the shoulder and putting the knee on the ground and so on that was the way to approach the Buddha in respect not only the Buddha but any spiritual teacher of that time and then he said to the Buddha world honored one it is rare to find someone like you you always support and show special confidence in the Bodhisattvas world honored one if sons and daughters of good families want to give rise to the highest most fulfilled awakened mind what should they rely on


how should they master their thinking the Buddha replied well said Subhuti what you have said is absolutely correct the Buddha always supports and shows special confidence in the Bodhisattvas please listen with all of your attention and I will respond to your question if daughters and sons of good families want to give rise to the highest most fulfilled awakened mind they should rely on the following and master their thinking in the following way and the venerable Subhuti said Lord we are happy to hear your teaching so yesterday and whenever it was the other day in my talk to the practice period I explained about Bodhisattvas which I won't go into now Bodhisattvas are basically practitioners who enthusiastically are practicing forever and ever to benefit others and Buddha supported the practice of Bodhisattvas so Subhuti's question


then is we are all committed to being Bodhisattvas, how should we view the world how should we understand and see the world in order to fulfill that commitment to be Bodhisattvas and live in that way and you know it seems like again to us an odd question, how should we understand the world how should we see the world because mostly we think of the world as something given we think about we have this phrase the real world like we know what that is well in the real world as if we knew what the real world was because it's self evident everybody knows what the real world is we think but as I said earlier what we call the real world, what we think of as the real world isn't the world it's just the trick world created by the six consciousnesses the very convincing persuasive world that is pretty much unexamined by us in this world there are


enormous chances all the time for misperception and in fact mostly that is what the world is is a series of misperceptions there are many worlds, many possible ways to view the world even though we're convinced that the world is a certain way maybe it's many ways that it could be, so how should we look at it Subuddhi is asking the Buddha, how should we understand the world in order to fulfill our commitment as Bodhisattvas this is Subuddhi's question I know I'm going on too long I'll finish with Buddha's answer to Subuddhi's question because this at the very beginning of the sutra is the crux of the matter and the whole point of the sutra this is the question, how should we view, think organize our mind our heart in order to live


in this way and the Buddha replies like this the Buddha said to Subuddhi this is how the Bodhisattva should see the world should master her thinking however many and the Buddha then says this is how, he's quoting there's a quotation marks around this next part this is how you should view the world however many species of living beings there are whether born from eggs, from the womb from moisture or spontaneously and this is traditionally all categories of beings fall under these four categories either womb born or moisture born egg born or spontaneously born, this is before biology class whether they have form or do not have form whether they have perceptions or do not have perceptions or whether it cannot be said of them that they have perceptions or that they do not have perceptions


whatever kind of being it is, all those beings we must lead to the ultimate nirvana so that they can be liberated and when this innumerable, immeasurable infinite number of beings has become liberated we do not in truth think that a single being has been liberated why is this so? subhuti, if a Bodhisattva holds on to the idea that a self, a person a living being or a life span exists then that person is not an authentic Bodhisattva so this the Buddha says is how you should think, this is how you should view the world and how you should think now we have to be careful here because it sort of sounds like the Buddha saying this is how you should brainwash yourself you should cram this thought into your brain regardless of what else you're thinking, forget about it you should think like this but it isn't quite the idea


one thing in Buddhism, if there's a cardinal rule of Buddhist practice, I would say it is that Buddhist practice always starts from where you are not elsewhere there isn't any fixed teaching in Buddhism in the abstract the teaching is always according to where you are so you always have to be very honest and start from where you are, because where you are is always the perfect place to begin you don't begin from some ideal place or some other place so it's necessary for you to be aware of what you're actually thinking, what's actually going on how karma actually is manifesting through your body and mind, for you that's where you have to begin so it's not a matter of brainwashing yourself to think in a certain way but if you start from where you are and if you continue the practice starting from there, at any moment eventually


your view will accord with the Buddha's view and so the Buddha here is saying this is the view that you will eventually accord with starting from where you are here's how it looks to me and here's how it will look to you, the Buddha says when you continue with your practice and what he's saying amounts to this just like I was saying in the beginning the whole world is nothing but love a big swirling ocean of love and naturally because of that it's very natural and ordinary for you to be concerned with beings and their well-being of all creatures and naturally your life will be a question of helping those beings and helping them in the most fundamental of all ways helping them to find for themselves the truth of how their life is so that they can truly and fundamentally end the suffering in their lives then comes


the most important point and the most important point especially for the Prajna Paramita Sutras and the Diamond Sutra you must see that all the beings are just like you and me in other words all the beings are designations that there are no separate beings they're just designations the poet Ann Waldman has a poem I think maybe it could be a book of poems or a poem which is called Putting Makeup on Empty Space and that's what sentient beings are makeup on empty space this doesn't mean that they don't exist it just means that they don't exist as isolated atomized entities the way we think that they do according to the six consciousnesses so the suffering beings


are not suffering beings they are already perfect even in the midst of their imperfection and it would be really incorrect to see them as some unfortunate souls other than yourself who are out there suffering in a way that you are not suffering life is just life to be alive really alive is to be in love all the time with the whole world and this love is the same thing as suffering and when you see that then suffering is alright it's not something tragic and you're always helping naturally and your activity is just spontaneous ordinary loving activity and you don't make a big deal out of it or think of it as look at me I'm doing all this loving activity


see how I'm helping everyone you understand that loving activity, helping everyone all these words are words terminology and most fundamentally one is just living and feeling a strong and positive spacious emotion that rises up out of your seeing the empty nature of phenomena now throughout the Diamond Sutra the language is extremely as it is here extremely paradoxical save all the beings but then don't think that there is a single being that is saved the language is literally paradoxical but it's paradoxical on purpose not that the teaching being referred to is paradoxical because it isn't it makes perfect sense as you see doesn't what I'm saying make sense oh yes, it all makes sense


anyway I think it makes sense and the Diamond Sutra paradoxical language is not because the teaching is supposed to be baffling or something like that it's because the paradoxical language brings us up short and startles us and shows us that no matter how smart we think we are we are always confused by our own concepts and it's so easy to forget how things are and to believe in our designations even though we know better we become literally mesmerized by our ideas about things and we have to let go of that and just find the spaciousness of our lives that's what the Buddha is pointing to here and that is what he is saying in many many ways throughout the Diamond Sutra and that's what I wanted to tell you about today so I've been away a long time I guess I saved up three months worth of Dharma talks


to unload it all this morning and I apologize for going on longer than our social agreement calls for but only a few people left so we're in good shape thank you thank you very much and please think about this and bring it into your life find a way for you to be inspired by the emptiness of all Dharmas thank you