Sunday Lecture

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Which is the truth of the Tathāgata's words. Morning. To all of you fathers, daddies, dads, papas, and pops, this is for you. There is an old saying in the East, that a painted rice cake, a painted rice cake cannot satisfy our hunger. A painted rice cake cannot satisfy our hunger.


We could say maybe a painted cupcake in this country. A painted piece of bread, a painted ice cream sundae, doesn't assuage this sweet tooth. But that's only one point of view. There's another point of view, that says we are nothing but painted rice cakes. That from the beginning, from as long as back as you and I can remember, we have been involved in the activity of nothing else but painting rice cakes. Of course this is a metaphor, the way our mind works, the way it pictures the world. Another way of saying the way the world pictures itself as our ideas of it.


The chambers of our heart, the chambers of our mind, are nothing other than a huge exhibition hall, full of these paintings. We have all kinds of names for the paintings. They're colored with the bright pigments of our emotional life. And we put them up, we make them up, together with the world, and put them out in front of us. We hang them on the wall and we look at them, and we judge them. It's true that, for the most part, they don't seem to hold up very well in the changing light. Some of the pictures do.


Some of the paintings of rice cakes called love, called practice, called devotion, called satisfaction, called happiness. Those paintings sometimes we feel hold up in the changing light. Sometimes even as the pigments run. But whatever painting we put up and put out in front of us, whatever painting we grasp onto and hold onto, sooner or later it seems that those paintings are covered up with new layers of rice cakes. Rice cake after rice cake after rice cake after rice cake. The rice cake of grief. The rice cake of sorrow. The rice cake of disillusionment.


The rice cake of I'm not lovable. The rice cake of you don't love me. The rice cake of the world being imperfect. The rice cake that demands we change. Something. So this morning, for a little while, we're making a new rice cake, you and I. Of course, I'm making rice cakes with you right now. You may have different names for the rice cake I'm making. Maybe I wouldn't want to look at the picture. But the rice cake I suggest we make for a little while is called the rice cake of total flop. The rice cake of being for a little while, while we're sitting here, total flops.


All of those pictures that we have made for ourselves of the world that we are going to improve, the pictures that we have made of the self that is going to get better, become more in tune, become enlightened. For a little while, let's admit it. Let's put it down. We're total flops when it comes to that. Let's get into our floppiness for a while and accept exactly, precisely whatever paintings are hanging around inside of the exhibition hall of our mind-heart right now, right here. Call that a perfect, perfect exhibition. If you prefer a different metaphor, a perfect movie


where everything, every drop of blood shed every tear that we have over the millennia together, endlessly shed and filled the ocean with. The blood that we have soaked the earth with. All of those things that we have grown together and stridden so hard to reach. At this moment, let's put it down. And for a while, call this world exactly as it is, exactly as we are, exactly as the picture presents itself, perfection. It's just another rice cake. Dogen Zinji, who is the, as you know, some of you know at least, Dogen Zinji, the 13th century Zen master that is the founder of our school,


in writing about this said that every moment is a painted rice cake. Now this one, and now this one, and now this one, and now this one. And that if those rice cakes that we are painting and that are being painted by us in the world together are not the Buddhadharma, if they are not real, then the Buddhadharma itself is not real. To the extent that the Buddhadharma is also a painted rice cake, it is real. To the extent that the Buddhadharma is what is arising right now in our minds in this place and time, in this once-in-a-moment gathering,


a painted rice cake, it is real. Another way to look at this is to drop the metaphor for a moment and bring up another picture, another painting, another rice cake, which is called the words of the Buddha himself. Whoever understands dependent, co-arising, understands my teaching. Whoever understands dependent co-arising or dependent origination understands the Buddhadharma. And what is dependent co-arising? It is you and the world painting rice cakes together.


Originally, dependent co-arising was a way of describing suffering in a world of time, space, and causation, of causality, of painting rice cakes. It works something like this. In the beginning, or the beginningless beginning, there is ignorance. This ignorance is the ignorance of our natural, original birthright, the birthright of our happiness, the birthright of our radiance. But because of the conditions over time, we have forgotten that. It's called karma in this tradition, karma. And what is karma?


This is the second link of the chain of causation. I heard it recently, I watched a video with Robert Thurman and Deepak Chopra talking about Buddhism and Vedanta and the wisdom traditions of the East. And Chopra was saying that he had recently seen, another painted picture, on 60 Minutes, the author of the recent biography of President Reagan, and that he had gone to visit the Reagans, and while he was visiting them, Mr. Reagan came in from a therapy session clutching in one hand a model, small plastic model of a White House, of the White House, which somebody had left on a fish stand in the living room. And he was holding on to it very, very tightly.


And Nancy tried to pry his fingers, according to the story, off of it, and he would not let go. And she said, What is that you're holding in your hand, Ronnie? And he looked at it and he said, I don't know, but I think it has something to do with me. I don't know, but I think it has something to do with me. This I don't know, I think it has something to do with me, is like waking from a dream that we've had at night, and having the residue of that dream influence our behavior for the rest of that day. Maybe it was a happy dream, a sad dream, a violent dream, whatever. The influence, the residue of that dream, of those experiences of that dream, the dream of sleep in this case, influences our life. And accordingly, the dream of this life, the dream of this experience that is happening now that we take for real,


but which in the wisdom traditions is said to be illusory and insubstantial and fleeting and transitory, that it dependently co-arises, that the consciousness of the unawareness of this, together with the senses by which we apprehend the world, the sight, the smell, the taste, the touch, the consciousness of our senses, creates liking and dislike, and accordingly, if we like something, we grasp it, and if we dislike it, we push it away. And thus we begin to create a world of formations, a story in short, a painted rice cake, a gallery of painted rice cakes made up of views and opinions and ideas and emotions.


Which we project upon the experience and react accordingly. And by grasping that, by hanging on to some aspects of that and rejecting other aspects, we bring forth a world of karma, the world of the gallery, the world of the movie in which we are playing out our melodramas. In which we are playing out the story of our rice cakes to one another. Constantly becoming a new version of that cake, a new model, a new understanding, a new dimension, a new view, which in turn passes away in a world of manifest change and existence, passes in to something else, changes into something else,


becomes something else, and we are born again. We paint a new picture of ourselves, or we think the world does. This was the idea of dependent co-origination that the Buddha put forth. And by the undoing of that part by which the objects of our desire are seen through as transient, insubstantial, dreamlike, a painted rice cake in short, by seeing through that whole ceremony, that whole dimension, we begin to get free. We begin to find our freedom. That form is empty of any identity or self that can be held on to. And that by the undoing of that whole affair


through practice, in the beginning the aesthetic practices that were practiced and still practiced in the traditions of the elders, in the Vipassana and Samatha traditions, the practices of concentration, the practices of mind control, the practices of samadhi, the little by little we can unbind ourselves and this unbinding is called nirvana. And in that dimension we begin to paint new pictures or allow the world with ourselves to paint new pictures. But later another picture was painted by somebody whose name was Nargajuna. And Nargajuna added a very interesting dimension to this affair of dependent co-arising. He was a 3rd century Indian


practitioner, philosopher, Buddhist, Indian Buddhist teacher and profoundly learned and educated human being and evolved human being. He said, not only whatever is arising is dependent on everything else, there is another dimension in this and that is called technically the concept designation. That whatever is dependently co-arising is said to be empty of any self that we can get hold of in this chain of change. But furthermore, that whatever we consider to be our identity, the pictures we have of ourselves are nothing more or less than verbal. Verbal. Conventions.


And that verbal conventions are made up of reference to other verbal conventions. So we paint in our minds with words picture after picture after picture of reality. And instead of understanding those conventions as being empty of any intrinsic self or meaning that we can hold on to, we take some part of that verbal convention as real. And they are real as verbal conventions as our day-to-day life is conventionally led. Those rice cakes that we paint, those stories that we tell each other, the stories of our suffering as well as the stories of our liberation, are according to this aspect of emptiness mere convention. And in that mereness is where we do the dance of life.


It's where we meet ourselves, what we call ourselves. Do you follow that? So as mere flops, as total flops, as ones who cannot grasp any aspect and hold on to this dimension we call reality, we allow from moment to moment our minds and our hearts and the world as our minds and our hearts to paint pictures of ourselves in the world, the pictures of our rice cake, the pictures that we are constantly feeding upon. Be satisfied, says Dogen, be satisfied in eating those rice cakes because that's all we have. Karmic consciousness is what we have to work with. To the extent that we tell ourselves


this is not enough, and believe it, to that extent we suffer. To the extent we tell ourselves this is enough, I will go no farther, we suffer. So rice cake after rice cake after rice cake means blue mountain after blue mountain after blue mountain to infinity. Here's a picture. I'm too fat.


I'm too thin. I'm too old. I'm too cold. I'm too weak. You're too strong. This is too confusing. You are not amusing. Those are not mere words. Those are words that are loaded with the pigments of our, as I said earlier, of all of our conditioning since time out of mind. We come here today to recognize that. We come here today to celebrate that. We come here today to bow to that, that mystery. We come to pay homage to that, that rice cake that we pay homage to


in the pain of homage to that ineffable picture. I call Buddha. But when I paint these pictures I tell myself the one I paint tomorrow is going to be the best one. What picture, what story is going to be the best one? The one I'm about to do. Is that how you paint your pictures too? For this hour this picture is enough. When I take off this robe and I leave this room a whole other painted picture will arise


because you came here today and confer upon me the lightning rod of some connection. I come up with something to bring back to you which I didn't even know I was going to say until I got here thanks to you. This is called dependent co-arising. Because I put on these robes and carry this stick that's a symbol of this ineffable thing I'm trying to talk about you are willing to listen to me and paint your own pictures in terms of what you hear me say. And because you sit there looking at me a hundred pairs of eyes, a hundred pairs of Buddha eyes watching me I paint these pictures for you.


I ask you, can you remember a time that we haven't been doing that with each other? Or will there perhaps ever be a time that we are not doing this with each other? What time is it, Tayo? Now. Paint me a picture. Now. Now is also called 1045. That's true. Morning is called the smell of coffee and the sound of milk filling your glass. 12 noon is called the oomphan somebody banging on a piece of metal. Evening is called a yawn, a stretch and a long wait in a line of cars. These are painted rice cakes.


We will have discussion about this and do some more of these painted rice cakes in a little while. I'll quote you a poem even though I think I did it the last time I was here because it's the only poem at the moment I can think of. And it's the poem by Wallace Stevens called Snowman. And it's kind of the instructions of how to work with painted pictures. And it goes like this. One must have a mind of winter. One must have a mind of winter to regard the frost and the boughs of the pine trees crusted with snow


and have been cold a long time to behold the junipers shagged with ice. The spruces rough in the distant glitter of the January sun and not, and not, and not to think of any misery in the sound of the wind in the sound of a few leaves in the sound of the land full of the same wind blowing in the same bare place for the listener who listens in the snow and nothing herself beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is beholds the nothing that is not there and the painted rice cake that is.


Thank you.