Sunday Lecture

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

This talk will not appear in the main Search results:
Auto-Generated Transcript

in equally
i just was thinking that that isn't this morning
i got the most wonderful phone call just a few minutes ago before coming over here
one of our sons are called
we hadn't heard from him in a while he just moved to boston
and we chatted about different things and then he said but the real reason and call you
is because
this evening is yom kippur the day of atonement begins this evening and i wanted to call
and apologize
all the things i may have done and said during this last year that probably wear off or hurt fuller mean
so i'm just calling to apologize
and i thought that was really wonderful
and i didn't realize how much it affected me until just a minute ago i was putting on my robe i was in a tension roche's a little room
putting on my robe
and i saw the picture of suzuki roshi that he has hanging up in there
and i thought
the suzuki roshi i'm so sorry for hold the things that i'm sure i've done and said this year
on behalf of the buddha dharma that we're not measuring up
so i had to spread my bow and and make three
deeply felt bows to suzuki roshi
because i have no doubt that
not only in the last year but in the years before that
i have said and done many things
i didn't even realize were incorrect or
improper or hurtful or less then
they should have been
coming from the dharma seat
so shook me up a little bit
so i apologize to you also were
it's a it's a
we all when we practice trust the teaching and trust the teachers
it's in its
a big responsibility and and i'm sure that we all fall short of it so i apologize

well that has nothing to do with what i want to talk about today at all
ah but i was feeling that i want to just mentioned one of the just mentioned it today might talk has a title
in the title away talk is
social transformation
and the reason why might talk today has that title is because in a few days i'm going to or
dublin ireland and i'm going to do various things there and
there's this fellow in dublin who i've never met who's apparently quite a dharma impresario and he goes around he's sort of setting up all these things that i'm going to do in dublin and i have no idea what they are
and he but i got a call from him
that said and such and such a day you're going to give a talk at think trinity college dublin and the title of the talk is then consumerism and social transformation
so this is unusual you know very usually people say well wouldn't you like the what would you like to talk about or could you talk about this or would you how you know but he just a that's the talk click you know that's the end
so i actually admired the lunacy of the ideas
you had somebody that you never met you don't have no idea what they know anything about or don't know anything about in you put up a big public talk and you tell with the title is and you expect the person they show up and talk about that i thought that was actually pretty marvelous
so i thought that i better prepare myself you know for this so i actually wrote a talk with that title and i'm going to test it out on you
and afterward and the question and answer you're going to tell me whether or not it
you think that they'll buy it in dublin
so that's why talk to them so i will begin in a moment

well ah
so i have a friend some of you may know this i have a friend who is
kind of a famous businessman and he and his wife or kind of team and they're starting on a business here in the bay area
so from him from them i'm learning that
it's very difficult thing to do very difficult thing to do especially at this moment i had to start an e-commerce venture
and as i'm watching them do this i am flabbergasted with what it takes
to do something like this first you have to raise ten or twelve million dollars
then you have to gather together a team of highly trained and experienced professionals
and then you have to make deals with scores of partnering companies who are going to help you
with the skills and things that you need to design manufacture and market a product it's a huge undertaking
and very risky
now i grew up in a small town
and all the people in our community where small business owners
and in those days it was not that hard to have a small business
and the idea was that if you were honest and diligent and willing to work hard and you cared about the people that you served
chances were very good that you could stay in business barring any
l unforeseen disasters
but it would appear that this is no longer the case
as my friend who also came from a family of small business people said to me
that was fifty years ago
but today it's not fifty years later it's five hundred years later
and the pace of change in our world in business and the whole world is so rapid now that honesty diligence caring about people is not enough
to ensure our survival
because there's a lot of people lot of smart people out there trying to do the same thing you're doing
and there's a lot less of a social fabric a lot less civility
a lot less of a sense of social custom decency and fairness then there was fifty years ago
it's as though the world is getting a lot smaller and there's a huge number of people running full speed ahead trying to get into the same corner of the world that you're trying to get into and everybody's elbows are out there so it's it's lot more difficult
fifty years ago you could have a small business and you could little by little
or stay more or less the same
but now that's not possible nor to keep going you must grow
and if you start small and try to grow slowly and reasonably the chances are good that someone with more money and more connections will see the idea that you've got and will steal it and do it quicker and better and with more notoriety than you can
so then the alternative is that you should borrow money and grow the business quick quicker
and if you do that than you're so very quickly you lose control
over what you're doing and you are swept up in the inevitable swirl and power of the market and i have other friends who are experiencing this
so the whole thing the way things are now economically is very nervous making
very stressful people can make a lot of money but also it's makes you very nervous think
and it's not at all unusual these days for people to have a fifty million dollar in our business that closes even before they sell the first product this is happening pretty much at least one of these a week in in this silicon valley bay
and being in business seems to be more a matter of making deals and managing spin
then about the actual delivery of goods and services
so i have a lot of admiration for my friends for attentiveness and for keeping their balance in the midst of it
again when i was young and our little community the idea was that human beings naturally needed a certain amount of goods and services to live
and that if you could provide those goods and services and
to charge reasonable prices for them
then you will be fun
this is no longer the principal i think of our economy now as far as i can tell the principal seems to be
that there is an infinite number
of possible human desires
that can be exploited
and the person who can create and satisfy a desire that has not yet been thought up
it is the person who will do well
you know we're laughing but this is exactly what is going on you have to think of some human desire that no one has yet thought
and if you're the first want to think of that and you satisfied and you created as not a desire but as an absolute necessity you will be very successful
and the heroes in business and they are heroes when i was young the idea that the person who owned the dress shop where the shoe store was a hero was a kind of ridiculous idea of and now leaders of business are our heroes
the heroes of business are the ones who have done that we've created a desire that didn't exist before and if they succeeded in making that desire seem to be and actually be for us an absolute necessity
and with the piling up of desires and the products and services that will satisfy those desires
comes a whole new set of desires that didn't exist before
and on and on in other words if we now have a necessity and it is a necessity that we all have powerful computers
then it also becomes a necessity that we have
computer accessories computer furniture computer repair people computer consultants
computer magazines
and then it soon after that becomes a necessity that we need
personal services like personal trainers house cleaners gardeners nannies
the of that life that we don't have time to take care of because we're busy with our computers and all that goes with it
and then we need things like cell phones internet in facts to communicate with the various people who are taking care of those parts of our lives that we don't have time to take care of because we are doing the things that were doing with our computers
so desire begets desire in a proliferating an endless pile up
and the the actual a principle of the world economy the growing ever growing world economy is
although it's not exactly stated this clearly i think the principle is clearly to me that the expansion of desire must be literally infinite
there must be an ongoing expansion
our material growth without him
if not
and even if
it keeps expanding but the great of expansion would slow a little bit
so not only doesn't need to experiment the rate at which expands also must increase always
if the rate even decreases are certainly if the expansion decreases
then there's a a spreading panic
because it's this upward
movement of a feeling of power
an energy of desire
that keeps the whole thing going
and if we were to stop
going that way
things would suddenly deflate
and all of this economic upsurge that we're enjoying really depends in the end
on our faith or belief
and in the aimlessness of these various desires that are erupting in us like calistoga geysers
and if we stopped believing in them the water would dry up fast
so everybody is very enthusiastic very powerful very interested and all of our lives are very very full very full
we have you know a national dialogue going on in the presidential elections
and it's impressive to me that our candidates none of the candidates
the four major presidential vice presidential candidates are not complaining whatsoever about the present situation
and they are in complete agreement
that we are all in better shape happier and more fulfilled and we have ever been they say exactly this thing and we have ever been
in both are the candidates are promising us
that we can do better ever increasing expanding more
we can have more than we can create more
so if you listened to all this you would assume and you would believe that we must be in a happy situation that were what we must be more feel more fulfilled and we ever have
and that the average person must be really enjoying himself herself
and maybe it's true i don't really know
but in my little world people that i know it doesn't seem to be true
most of the people that i talked to are not feeling
they feel more uneasy
they feel burdened and stressed
by the pace of life by the feeling tone of their lives
and they even feel i think somewhat fearful because they there's a sort of anxiety underneath the surface of they're rushing and energetic days and weeks
there's a feeling that this is all extremely tenuous
that it wouldn't take much for it all to change quite suddenly
in the more they have and the more they're enjoying themselves and the more they want and the more they need
the more they feel good about all this the more underneath it
they feel
something's on edge
and they feel i think a sense that things are all but out of control
so in our society
breakdowns of various sorts are not at all uncommon
addictions various kinds are
the norm pretty much
and it is amazing
to me the numbers of people
that absolutely require
therapy or medication or both
just to get through their week
maybe who knows maybe many of us here are in that shape
the other day i saw
bill gates
interviewed on television is there anyone here who doesn't know who bill gates's
he was interviewed on television and i was impressed they seem to be an extremely cheerful person bill gates
an interviewer asked him after he you talked about all the wonderful things that were happening in the world and
they asked him did he see any downside to the technological
you know revolution then
he he's one of the main architects of and he said that yes he did see a downside to it and the interview so what is the downside
and he said the downside is that not everyone has the technology available to them
hope that there are some people who are not yet wired
and that and that we should make sure that everyone is wired
and as a friend of mine pointed out when i mentioned this is true that that's true that it is isn't it it people who don't have access to these machines
our at a great disadvantage and they should have access to them however the fact that this is the only downside that bill gates can see
really impressed me
and as we all know
come in now again when i was young and we were looking at the future and this sort of all these things that would happen
people were we used to write books about what were we going to do
with all the leisure time that we would have
because of all this technology that was going to make most of human activity gainful employment you know irrelevant so what we were going to do when we came to the to day work week and the one day workweek how are we going to handle that people wrote about this
it didn't turn out that way they did it
quite the opposite
ah it seems clear that people are working much more than they ever did
in a way in much less satisfying ways
so that's seems to be how it is then on top of that you have all these amazing advances in medical science with
yes gene splicing and super drugs and cloning and transplants and so on
and then you have in technology over the horizon artificial intelligence and micro computers that are going to get going to clouds of computers floating through the air and people can can download their entire consciousness into a chip
they say they said and that chip can be transplanted put into some sort of the machine
in other words at all thing is getting to the point where the whole notion of what it means to be human being
is in doubt
coming to the boundary of what we the basics of what it means to be human being like death and so forth are are somehow seem to be in doubt in the whole notion of a future that's looks anything like the present that we think we can understand
it's kind of out the window and features like a cloud of dark cloud maybe on the horizon and nobody knows what it looks like
so all that i'm sitting so far is the good news about the part of the world that's doing really well
the first world europe japan the u s it's really doing well that's how it looks there
in the third world
the underdeveloped world so called
but it's not as if the people in the world are escaping all this as if it doesn't exist for them in fact it does exist for them and even though they're not sharing and the prosperity their traditional ways of life are being
pushed out
come extinct
and this new economy seems to be exploited of the underdeveloped world
and there is no quarter of the world now there is no shangri-la no mountain kingdom somewhere
that is unaffected by this
in relation to this the dalai lama has said
this is a quote from him
economic inequality
especially that between developed and developing nations remains the greatest source of suffering on the planet
even though they will lose money in the short term large multinational corporations must curtail their exploitation of poor nations
tapping the few precious resources such countries possess simply to fuel consumerism in the developed world is disastrous
if it continues unchecked eventually we shall all suffer
this is troubling all of this is troubling whether your
living here in the bay area the most prosperous and forward looking
geographical location on the planet
whether you're living
somewhere in africa
the world seems troubling
whether it's more troubling than it has ever been in the past
i don't know seems to me it's impossible to say
maybe we are as a species better off then people everywhere in the past
maybe were much worse off
i don't know and i don't see how anybody could now
seems as if people have always felt that they were living in the crisis generation and crucial generation
in centuries gone by there were solutions it seemed to these problems at least for some people for many centuries
people thought that religion was the solution that there was a system of from and literal belief that would assure a certain kind of a future
that that's feeling among human beings lasted for a long time
and when it broke down to the last century and a half there was marxism
which really is a brilliant social analysis that presumes to know exactly where history is going
now we have the advantage if it is advantage of being free of these illusions
most of us realize that we really don't know where we're going
we can't believe in some literal vision of a future
everybody now knows that marx did not have history figured out
and even the most powerful
telescopes have so far not located heaven

so that's nice we have no illusions that this may not be entirely a happy situation
so i was a sign this topic excuse me i don't usually talking about stuff like this because i don't know how much about it tastes truth people know that thinks about it more than me but i wonder if anybody really knows anything about it to tell you the truth i'm very skeptical
because i think that when we talk about the world around us we're really talking about ourselves
and our friends and how we feel
that's what we're really talking about
so i'm not so sure that we are in crisis and that we need social transformation
it's not that we're not in crisis and that we don't need social transformation i mean i think we are and we do it's just that i'm not sure that this is any different from any other time in history when we always were in crisis and always needed
thorough social transformation
it may be just that now there's enough history that we recorded history that we can look at
to be clear on this point
in our practice of zen
we don't need to
have an analysis
of such a situation
regardless of what we think about it our practice is to say because we're not trying to know something
when i tried to control something we're not trying to
do anything
in a way if we want to
find the path
toward the social transformation necessary for our generation in our time
that kind of practice i really feel
is the basis of it

it's the soil on which the plants
of social transformation grow
and our method as you all know
is to sit down in the present moment of actual lived experience
in allow ourselves to be there a fully
centered on the fact of our being as we are rather than on our thoughts or our emotions or our sensations
just centered on are being here
letting things come and go
and therefore entering a wider and pure
world not a different world
nothing different from the world were always living in but usually we don't notice or acknowledge this pure wider world and the method is very simple it's not
exactly experiential
it's not mr goal it's not profound it's just sitting up straight
paying attention to the feeling of the body being sitting up straight
pay attention to the breathing breathing in and out
releasing yourself to the rhythm the breathing
using all your intelligence all your creativity and all your love
to gather yourself there
in the present moment of being a body and a being breathing
devoting yourself to this with all of your heart
in bodhidharma there are many many
useful techniques that can help you
to deal with your distractions various kinds of focusing methods
compassion methods insight methods
various ways of training yourself to appreciate basic facts of our lives that are so crucial for us to appreciate
like impermanence so on
and you know there's a million different schools of buddhism that specialize in these different techniques but whatever techniques we may use in the end
there is no technique
other than our being radically present with our lives as they actually are as they truly are rather than as we think they are
or wish they are or fear that they may be
so our practice and practice acknowledges the simplicity of this
we know it this is something than any child
i can do and does
and we also know now more than ever that it's something that we all need that we all desperately need to return to
if you are trying to practice this you know that although it is very simple it is not necessarily easy
that it takes effort and it takes discipline serious discipline
some people become interested in practice as a relief or escape from the anxiety of their lives but zazen practice is not a relief or an escape from suffering and anxiety in a way is just the opposite of that if you lose us in
it becomes easily and quickly
quite clear to you by your own experience that the only way to overcome suffering and anxiety is to turn toward the suffering and turn toward the anxiety and to see what it really is and what its sources
and when we do this we discover that the very running away from
what is
is what creates the suffering in the anxiety in the first place
when we can breathe with
be with
what is the suffering in the anxiety
then they
reduce they may even pass away
and even if not we lose our fear of them
and without fear of suffering and anxiety we find a way
to work with them
zazen practice
makes life workable
but as i say it takes discipline and discipline over in amount of time
zen practice involves
daily effort
daily practice and i really feel there is no other way
every day every day we have to come back
touch in with ourselves our truest deepest sense of ourselves
because every day
the power of the thought of the world and it's proliferating desire
pulls us away from ourself
and there's not a person here in this room was wise enough or strong enough
not to be lost in that world in its power
so we need every day to come back
to herself
and once in awhile we need to take a whole day to do nothing but that are a whole week you really need that and we need friends and teachers to help us find the discipline and the faith to make that possible
sometimes then there's the calls and mine know mind or the mind of not knowing
no mine are not knowing mind is open mind
a mind that recognizes that things are changing so constantly and so radically moment after moment
that they are truly
insubstantial at the core empty at the core
this is a mind that flows with things that is at one with things ready and alert without clinging desires and without compelling preconceptions
and it's a mind that can work with whatever comes up whether it's good or bad
a mind that knows that it is impossible to make a world be what we want it to be
and then even if we could make the world be what we wanted to be it would be
very pale
compared to the marvelous world than unexpectedly comes up a moment after moment without our control
to live with such a mind may seem
like an impossible ideal
but i do not believe that it's impossible
it may be an ideal
it may be that none of us
quite rich this ideal
but it is a true horizon for human life
and we like all human beings have the capacity if we make up our minds to do it to walk in the direction of that horizon
and to get closer to it with each step
and yet we never reach it and it is always exactly the same distance from us
as it is right now
so i believe you know my brilliant social analysis is that we're living in a time when spiritual practice is really necessary not in theology not believe
but actual practice is really necessary and furthermore that everybody knows this
everybody knows this now
but i also feel like we're living in a post religious time
after one hundred and fifty years of psychology
human beings are simply far too aware of the multiplicity of their inner and outer lives
to be able to squeeze themselves into any particular belief system or regimented way of practice
our great ancient religious traditions are still relevant i think maybe more relevant than the everywhere
every tradition is like a long conversation
over hundreds and hundreds and sometimes thousands of years between wise and passionately committed individuals a conversation using a coherent vocabulary that goes down through those many years
and in a conversation that's based on powerful experiential practices
it's a conversation about what matters most in the human heart and yet it's so difficult to talk about and so difficult to find access to that it requires something as extreme as a religion to try to get at it
so these traditions and i feel all of the traditions are really beautiful can really crucial
despite the fact that we have to be honest
every one of them has created harm
in human history and sometimes devastation in the lives of individuals
so these traditions are formidable
very powerful
but also we have to admit they're limiting
that's their nature that they're limiting
use every one of these traditional conversations has to take place in a particular language a language that in the end really makes sense on its own terms and eliminates other terms
so we could say religions are all monolingual
in all human beings are polyglot
and we need to learn how to communicate to ourselves and each other in many languages
and i feel that if religious traditions think
that they can know as they did in the past require people to let go of all the many languages that they speak and adapt only the one exclusive language of a particular tradition
then these traditions are going to die out and become irrelevant
instead these religious traditions need to go beyond themselves to step outside of their boundaries and to reach out to people as and where they are and to offer them their ancient debts enriches in new ways
this will be for the benefit of people as well as for the vitality and creativity of the traditions themselves
some of you may know that i used to be the abbot of sensitive one of the abbot's of zen center
and when i was elected abbot some years ago
i was chosen because a lot of people have the idea that one of the
men qualifications for the job of abba was that you didn't want to do it
i never said anything but i thought that was a not really true and as kind of stupid idea of what people thought that
so they were i had that qualification
that was my main qualification i really didn't want to do it
and people thought that i was an unambitious person
and i think that they felt safe to have a person who was not so ambitious as added
so i was elected and i served it did my duty
but i'm here to tell you this morning that they were wrong about me
i have to admit that i'm actually a very very ambitious person
it's just that my ambition is so big that being able to sense that are didn't
naked on the radar

cause what i really want my ambition really is
to totally transform the world
what i really want
is to save an infinite number of sentient beings
overcome an infinite number of desires and delusions
master an infinite number of truce and become utterly and totally completely nothing other than buddhist heart
so with an ambition like that you know who can worry about being abbot of zen center or not or anything like that what's the difference
now i know that sometimes
ordinary worldly ambitions enter my heart
and like all of you i suffer for this
but really those moments are nothing compared to this
persistent and tremendous ambition of mine
now i'm well aware of the fact that this ambition is impossible
and that no matter what i do i can never hope to achieve it
but to me
that's what makes it so wonderful
what's the use of undertaking something you have any reasonable chance of succeeding at what's the point of that
the only things really worth devoting a life too
i think that you know you can never complete
anything less than that i feel is to simply not worthy of our human passion
and our human imagination
the last few hundred years of our human journey have been heroic centuries
it's almost as if we started to really grow up as a species and feel our oats you know like we just turn we we we went from being ten years old about eighteen in the last couple hundred years
really feeling our adult power
but like an eighteen year old
male you know what you're feeling our oh it's a little too much
we think we're invincible
we have overestimated ourselves
we have become to boisterously arrogant i think
and maybe now is the time for us to ripen and mature
to recognize the limitations of being human and to be truly humble
to rest
and be nurtured
by our breath
by our animal skin and for
to rest and not knowing
and to rest in the faith that there is a wisdom and a power of goodness in each and every one of us
that we can absolutely rely on
even if we don't know what it is and we can't control it and we can understand it it's in us
sometimes sir social commentators who are far more astute than i could ever be
project the future based on the present
you know extrapolate if it's this way now it'll be this way then
but whatever you do that the results are always terrible
and no doubt in the long run regardless of what happens
our species than our planet are definitely doomed
with everything only last so long in a big scope of things
but there are always miracles
history is littered with miracles
and that's perfectly reasonable to kona a miracle
the fact that this is so is what makes life such a marvellous thing
so i'm here today to recruit all of you to join me in my impossible dream
of total transformation of the world
the creation in bob thurmond's words of a limitless buddha verse
why not why not
i think it's possible or impossible doesn't really matter
and i know that if we help each other by encouraging each other
to dream big dreams
by returning to the present moment and letting go of everything right there
we don't expect anything
i try to control anything but just make our best effort to do what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do
i am sure i am really sure that we will be successful some day i'm not saying when that someday
so this is my proposal for my talk in dublin see what you tell me later what you think irish are going to think of that
thank you very much for listening it's always a pleasure to speak with such a wonderful
the or in