Two Paths to the Dharma

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Good evening. And it's my pleasure and honor to introduce Acharya Gawain Ferguson to you, to our sangha, both Zen students and I think some Shambhala students. Not sure, but I think so. We talked about what to do this evening and without quite planning it, we told each other our kind of dharma life stories and what we thought was maybe that was the place to start. We thought it was kind of interesting that we have an African American representing Tibetan Buddhism and an Irishman representing Japanese Zen Buddhism. I don't know whether we're telling our life stories as a way to explain ourselves or what. So we thought we'd


start there and maybe somehow that would illustrate something of the traditions that we have both come to adopt as practitioners. And then at that point, see what questions you have. And if you have no questions, we have other topics to talk about. So before we begin that part, if I could just express my appreciation for being here at Zen Center, since the founder of your sangha and the founder of my tradition were close dharma brothers. And in fact, it seems that Trung Rinpoche was inspired by Roshi's work in this country to feel that he could present the dharma completely. I don't know if you know, but the first center that he founded in the West was in Scotland, a place called Samye Ling. And he and the other Rinpoche who were there had a conflict that hardly


ever happens in Buddhist tradition, I know. But in this case, even though they'd both been tulkus in Tibet together and escaped and so forth, and now we're in Scotland, they had a conflict. And that's part of why Trung Rinpoche left. And part of what the conflict was about is that the other Rinpoche felt that you couldn't really trust non-Tibetans with the dharma. That you really had to keep the keys and everything close because, you know, these people are not like us, he said, and you can't really trust them. And Trung Rinpoche felt that you could trust. At the same time that he had a kind of x-ray vision, it seemed to me, into our neurotic patterns, samsara patterns, he also had tremendous confidence in us as vessels for receiving the dharma. And I feel like that confidence was in part inspired by seeing what Roshi had done already. By the time Trung Rinpoche came to this country, Roshi had already been, so 1970, how long? 11 years. So this


sangha was already quite much further along in terms of truly planting the authentic teachings of the Buddha in this country. And so I feel like that inspired Trung Rinpoche that yes, it would be possible. See, Roshi has actually done it in a genuine, authentic way and a sangha is growing up and people are actually practicing. So whether you know it or not, you actually gave us a great gift, those of you who have practiced in this tradition and encouraged our teacher to teach with a completely open hand, as it's said, not a closed-fisted approach, but to completely heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind transmit the teachings. So I'm very grateful to this sangha. Would you like to start by telling us a little bit about how you came to be a dharma practitioner, a dharma teacher? Can you hear okay? Is the amplification working? No.


My own story isn't particularly interesting. It involves reading Trung Rinpoche's book, Meditation in Action, and puzzling over what was meant there, what he was saying, and then eventually seeing in Boston and Cambridge a poster that he was giving summer seminars in Vermont. And so I began going up to those seminars. So there are parts of my personal history that are specific, but what I was actually more interested in was that many of his early students and later students first went to these seminars with him that were called intensive training sessions. And they would have been on topics like the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and many of them were on lineage figures, people in our tradition who are regarded as completely awakened. So stories of Naropa, Milarepa, and Marpa. So those are some of the earliest teaching sessions. And usually he would give a talk a day. There


would be a discussion group of that talk, and they would be sitting. And maybe if it went five, six, seven days, one of those days would be entirely silent and sitting, like a day-long session, I guess. So that was the earliest study and practice that many of us did with him. And then? Then I, for a while, was going back and forth between a city center and a country retreat center for these seminars. And in the city centers, people usually would begin to sit a one-day on the weekend, say all-day Sunday session, or Nientun as we call it, which means one-day meditation session, begin taking classes. Some of those classes would have been called things like Battle of Ego or Working with Emotions. And then eventually they would be based on books like Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism or Myth of Freedom.


And then probably the next step would be that a person would do a one-month group meditation retreat, largely in silence, eventually as the years go by, orioke meals. Many things borrowed from the tradition in those, walking meditation. Not that much study as part of that, mainly a meditation session. Then the next major step would be, in the early days, a three-month training session with Trungpa Rinpoche in which there would be two weeks devoted mainly to practice, and then two weeks of studying the early Buddhist tradition, Abhidharma, Four Noble Truths, things like that. Then two more weeks of sitting, and two weeks studying Mahayana, Buddha Nature, Awakened Heart, Compassion,


the Paramitas, and so forth. Then two more weeks of sitting, and then two weeks of studying the Tantric or Vajrayana teachings. So 12 weeks or three months. So that would have also been a part of... What's the process of becoming an Acharya? How does that come into being? You know, I don't know. One of the Acharyas before me, a senior elder, called me and said, Rinpoche would like to invite you to join the Acharya's group. And I said, what does that mean? And he said, well, you could meet with him and talk with him about what the responsibilities would be, which are primarily to teach.


But there isn't a, if you've done this, then... But certainly all the women and men who act as senior teachers in our tradition have done this three-month training program, and then gone on to do the other sequence of practice and study. At some point, did you ask Rinpoche if he was interested in doing another talk about this? Yes, yes. So that would... It is. So one of the things we thought we might talk about would be similarities and differences. So one similarity that stood out is that sitting practice. Zazen, or in our tradition, Shamatha Vipassana, is regarded as the heart of the tradition. It's where the mind of the lineage is. And that continues. It's not a beginning practice and then later whatever. But in the beginning, middle, and end, that's the main


thing. But as I think Hartman is reminding me, after the three-month training period, one could request to begin the preliminary Vajrayana practices, which are a hundred thousand prostrations, or bows. Is that what you call it? A full bow? And a hundred thousand recitations of a mantra that's connected with purity. A hundred thousand offerings of a mandala. And then a hundred thousand, or actually a million, I think it is. It's been a while since I did these. Recitations of a devotional formula. So the sense of guru devotion, or devotion to the guru. And so the preliminary practices are to rouse devotion and make that connection with the mind of the lineage. Well maybe I'll say a little bit and then we can go a little deeper into


exactly what we think we were trained, how we were trained. Well I ended up in Japan, and that's where I got introduced to Buddhism. I ended up living beside the Soto Zen University in Tokyo. I went there to teach English, and I was befriended by a Soto Zen trainee priest. And my Japanese was terrible, and his English wasn't very good. It was a lot better than my Japanese. But things like, I would ask him, what is karma? And this is one instance that sticks in my mind. I asked him, what is karma? And he tapped the table. And to this day, I don't know whether he simply didn't understand what I asked him, or whether that was a profound Zen answer. So I had a great Dharma education. It always was couched in a certain amount of uncertainty and mystery.


So I never held too tight to anything. And then I decided, someone told me that it was very difficult to go to a Japanese monastery. But if I went to Thailand, it was very simple. So I left Japan, and I went to Thailand, and I became a Thai monk. And well actually, first of all, I stayed in the monasteries, which was very amenable to that. It's a very easy process. You just walk up and say, can I stay here for a while? And they kind of look at you to see if you're sane, and they say, yeah, go over there. And then I became a monk, and I trained in the forest tradition up in the northwest. And mostly I trained in shamatha, a rigorous schedule, little sleep, eat once a day, and meditate a lot, a little bit with a group and a lot by yourself.


And sometimes a teacher would come around at night to see if you were sleeping or meditating. So, and I did that. All of that took a couple of years, and then I came to San Francisco Zen Center and just turned up in the doorstep. And in good Zen fashion, I was turned away. But in good Zen fashion, I came back. I practiced. Then I went to Tassajara for the summer, and then I practiced at Green Gulch. And at that time, at Green Gulch, we were doing what you might call sodo practice, which is you sleep in the zendo. And so much personal detail of my own life, so much had the


Thai tradition sort of imprinted on me that I kept many of the monk rules from that tradition, actually, for three years. And the first three years I was at Zen Center, like not even after noon and things like that. And so that was a period of intensive training. I shifted from the shamatha practice that I trained in in Thailand, concentration practice, to a more Zen style, just sitting practice. And then after three years, I went to Tassajara and did several more years. Let's see, what did I do? I did two more years, and then I left for six months, went back to Green Gulch. I had previously been an engineer, so I was recruited to do an engineering project at Green Gulch for six months, and then I went back and did another year


at Tassajara. So when I think of those as training, I would say that period of time was the exploration of shikantaza, what is that and what is it to bring the grinded attention of mindfulness into everyday activity. And then I moved to the city after that, and I've been here ever since. Just before I moved to the city, what, about a year or so before I moved to the city, I got married. I have had two children. They're now 24 and 22. And so I had that in parallel to family life, in parallel to being involved in the center.


And in those years, in the 80s, I worked, I managed a grocery store for Zen Center across the street for a couple of years. And at that point, we had several businesses. We had five. And in fact, for a couple of years, I would like to go to work at 2.30 in the morning or some mornings 2.30, some mornings 4. And so I would not go to Zazen. My practice became work. And then after that, I stopped working there and I worked back. I became the Ino, the person in charge of the meditation hall of Zen Do. And I became Ino, and then I became Tanto, and then I became Head of Outreach, and then I became Abbot. And here I am. So, would you like to say any more about what we were talking about the relationship between


meditation practice and formal Dharma study or informal Dharma study that you feel you have participated in or that you feel is now, as you were saying earlier, is now part of how your group trains people? I actually wrote a list of sort of this training sequence because I had to go back over. Well, there was that and this was what was fairly typical of what people did. And then once I'd written out those formal sessions of the month long or this class and so forth, I realized that there was a parallel training going on and what you mentioned reminded me of it. There was also some training in being in community. I think that was a part of it. Very valuable and encouraged that sense of Sangha as a training place. We do solitary retreats in my tradition, so two weeks, ten days, one month solitary, but mainly practicing in community


and living and working in community and that providing a lot of rich material, let's just put it that way, and likewise Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged many people to marry. I myself have never been married so either one, but many to partner, long-term partner commitments and that parenting and so forth would be part of a person's training, a very valuable part. So that's there. It's not the same thing as doing a week long or a month long, but lifelong. Lifelong, exactly. And he also encouraged many people to start businesses and that the real world would be a training ground or a monastery in that place. Learning to be generous and decent and have integrity in real world settings would be


tremendously valuable. I think that that part also is a key part. So regarding study, which is one of the topics that I was asking about, what people study here, do you study the Shogun Zo and early Buddhist teachings or when does that happen and so forth? In our tradition, the early topics that I mentioned, like the Tibetan Book of the Dead or these life stories, they're sort of biographies of so-and-so and this is how they began as a confused person and how they were trained and how they woke up. Those are kind of general topics, but the specific Dharma doctrine of three marks of existence, four old truths, five skandhas, six realms, eight types of consciousness, and in our tradition, nine yanas, nine vehicles.


That training in that, in studying the view of the classical Buddha Dharma as it was transmitted from India to Tibet, occurred in these three-month training sessions that I mentioned. And then those of us who didn't go to the earliest ones of those had the tapes from those and then in later years read the transcripts from those. So that becomes really, for many people, the first time of studying in a systematic way, in a somewhat rigorous way, the classical Buddha Dharma. Yeah, so the sequence of that then would be that a person would first probably be grounded in practice before doing the more, the study aspect, right? And in the tradition it's said that you could, within your practice, discover the view or discover the understanding. But then also in the tradition it's said the other way around, that you could study and within the


view you discover practice or meditation. So my sense is that in the early days it was more discovering the view within practice, within meditation, and that these days it seems to me in my sangha there's a little more emphasis on study and study early on. And you were saying that this is maybe a more orthodox strategy within your tradition? If you look in the Tibetan tradition, yes, that people go to monastic colleges. So this would have been monks and nuns who would have received that kind of training. And that would precede, in many traditions, doing long meditation retreats. On the other hand, there are people who mainly practiced and came to realization that way without going through the three this's and the four that's and so on. And maybe later on in some cases, as just part of their training and teaching, know that vocabulary and so forth, after already having some realization. Yes.


And what I had said with regard to study, and it'd be interesting to hear your response to how I've characterized it, was that we do offer classes in a non-systematic way, and that as a student you choose which class you'll take. And the notion is, the expectation is, that over a period of years these basic Buddhist teachings, that through the classes you've taken and through your own personal study, that you will have learned them. And that it will be informed or made relevant in your life through your Zazen practice. And certainly that's how I would characterize my own studies. And then at Tassajara in our formal monastery, there is a study period each day. And what do people study? Well,


within the formal practice period, there will be a theme of the practice period, the practice period leader will present. And often people study materials relevant to that, or complementary to that, but they can also study as they wish. And some people become quite learned and study quite a bit, and some people will study lectures from contemporary teachers, which might not have so much depth into formal Dharma teachings, but more relevance within the context of everyday life. So maybe that's enough, and you could give us some, through your questions, give us some indication as to why you would find it relevant and interesting to talk about.


I'd like to hear more about this notion of realization, that I've heard you say several times, in terms of the teachers, and how you characterize that, or map that. Hmm, okay. Well, it's rare, it's regarded as rare, complete liberation from conceptual fixation and conflicting emotions, but certainly going back in the lineage, yes, these are regarded as completely awakened women and men. And so studying their life stories, in Tibetan they're called namtars, which means complete liberation. And the inspiration is that they often start as fairly confused people, just wandering and searching, and is it this or is it that, and they often have done terrible things, in the case of Milarepa, who, you know, murder is included among the terrible


things he'd done. But in the whole Tibetan tradition, everyone accepts that Milarepa was completely awakened, right? If anybody was, you know, Milarepa was. After that, maybe this or that, or whatever, but definitely Milarepa. So there's a sense of that wherever one starts, one could make the journey of awakening, you know. So, in your tradition as well, yes? Certainly. Well, within the Soto tradition, and I would also say for the Renzai tradition, not that quite I have the authority to do that, there is the notion that each generation of people have a realization of practice. Now, to what extent that is, you know, whether that is as profound and extensive as Shakyamuni's, would be an interesting question.


Yes. But there is certainly that notion of Dharma transmission. Now, in my own case, I would say, you know, earlier, I trained, as I was saying, in Jhana practice, and that offers its own kind of illumination to the nature of mind and reality. And without any notions that, I mean, you know, in a way, Jhana practice is a science, you know? It's like your teacher lays out a map of consciousness, and sort of saying, well, see that cross-section there? That's where you are. You know, and I do this practice, and come back and we'll talk about it, exactly what happened. So, in a way, there's nothing mysterious about it. It's fairly straightforward and simple. Whereas my experience of the Soto tradition is that


any conceptualization, any gradation, any sense of accomplishment is looked at askance, and that, as this tradition is often characterized, it's like walking in a fine mist, that you just keep walking in the mist, and eventually you're soaked through. That this is a practice of everyday letting go of ego-centered self-cleaning, and then gradually that loosens up, and some things cast off. However, our very finder, Dogen Zenji, you know, does speak directly of himself as having breakthrough experiences. And I would say, personally, just to make the


whole thing confusing, in addition to practicing Soto Zen over the years, I've also included in my own life Rinzai Zen training, which has emphasized a more assertive relationship to the practice, in particular meditation, which does engender more of a notion of breaking through karmic constructs, breaking through fixed conceptualizations. And with regards to a formal study of the Dharma, I would say for myself, that when I started, I think through a mixture of stupidity and aversion, I wasn't inclined so much to study. And not that the stupidity and aversion have diminished so much,


but I do seem to be more inclined to study Buddhism. And I've just watched my own interest and enthusiasm for that, and I find myself more interested in studying the early texts, and more formal things, as well as Zen Kans. For some reason, in fact, those texts have fascinated me from the very day I started to practice. As I think maybe that's been the case for many of us who came to Zen. Something of the intrigue of Zen dialogue in Kans. So we were mentioning this book when we were talking, by Soko Morinaga Roshi, called Novice to Master. Do any people know this? The subtitle is, An Ongoing Lesson in the Extent of My Own Stupidity. That seemed like really good. There's a chapter called, Getting to Know My Own Idiocy.


There was a hand. You started off talking about your relative identity as an African-American man. And what came to mind, what I hadn't heard yet, what in your lives brought you to those paths? What was the very moment in these characters of your lives that turned you toward the path? Could you start? Well, I grew up in a society that had become violent for religious reasons. You know, Catholic versus Protestant. And I had to... Well, I simply couldn't identify with either Catholic or Protestant. And how I experienced that society was either one or the other. And since I didn't feel like I could identify with either, I left.


And I traveled. And as I traveled, I realized the world was a whole lot bigger than the mindsets that I had grown up in. And initially it stirred me in an existential way. You know, what is the world about? You know, what is life about? This sense of possibility. And in fact, as I was traveling, I was reading existential philosophers. And then I went to Japan to teach English. And that's where I got introduced to Buddhism. And I think I was just ripe for it. The first Buddhist book I opened, I just thought, this is it. This is what I've been searching for. This enormous sense of relief, confirmation, and appreciation. So when Nehat was telling me about growing up in Ireland and that conflict of Protestant and Catholic,


I mentioned that my own early life was in the segregated South of the United States in the early Civil Rights era. Which is a fairly tense and conflictual and in some cases violent time. So that's certainly part of my early life. I don't know. Do we find specific sufferings in our life that led us to the Dharma? You know, some of them in my own life would have been personal family tragedies, you know, and loss, death. That certainly made... I remember when I first heard Trungpa Rinpoche speak about suffering, I felt like this was this great secret that somebody had finally just said publicly. You know, life, yes. Suffering. There was a tremendous sense of relief and almost liberation of just hearing it said. And he would go on at length sometimes. Well, there's this kind of suffering and that kind of suffering and you felt that.


And even when things are going well and you're holding on. So all of that had a sense of maybe some taste or thirst for liberation or freedom. Having been in very confined, socially confined settings. You know, you can go here and you can't go here. You can drink from this water fountain, but not that one. And the absurdity of that. But nonetheless, if that's where you are, that's where you are. You're confined within that. I don't know. I don't know that there is a mullet of saying, well, yes, the Buddha Dharma is the way for me. And I was not particularly interested in the Buddha Dharma from Tibet. Before I went to my first seminar with Rinpoche, I have never read anything actually from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I remember because the seminar was on Milarepa,


I went to the library and got out the biography of Milarepa. But before that, I had read D.T. Suzuki on Zen and I had read Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. And Zen seemed like a great tradition to me. So, but then here was this person that I felt a connection with. So, yeah. Yes. Yes. Yes. Please. In Zen, we have doka-san, just like the teacher and student meeting and discussing intimate conversation about practice. Were you, did you, I mean, I'm directing this, did you have that with Trungpa Rinpoche?


And if you did, could you kind of describe what that was, what it was like, what the feeling was like? Oh, no, we can't talk about that. No, I did receive, in those days he gave personal meditation instruction, the initial instruction, the tradition would be from him. And I remember that I came into a room that was like living room sized and he was sitting in a chair like this one and I sat sort of over against the farthest wall. And he said, you know, go, go. You know, very bold and courageous approach there. And I think he asked a little bit about background or, you know, if I'd done other. And I don't remember him giving any specific instructions about, now go and do this, you know, that you will sit and say follow the breathing or anything. In fact, I'm almost certain there was no mention of anything like that.


And yet, when I left the room, I did, at least for a few days, know what it would be to be present as a practice. And so I could go and sit. So that was a kind of communication, somehow, through, in a sense, the person's presence. You know, they were very present and so it was kind of contagious in that way. Kind of all. Yeah. Would you share with us your relative meditation practices of the two traditions? Our relative meditation practices? What we personally do or what we think our traditions prescribe? What do you think your traditions prescribe? Okay. So as was mentioned, in my tradition, the sitting practice is called Samatha Vipassana, which is common to many Buddhist traditions,


a tradition of both stabilizing the mind and insight, and eventually the union of those two. So that's my main practice, Samatha Vipassana. That's the practice that I regard Trungpa Rinpoche as having shown that day, you know, when I sat there, without him saying, this is called Samatha Vipassana or whatever. But along with that, then there are various Mahayana practices in particular of opening the heart, of doing sending and taking, which I think Pema Chodron has taught quite widely and people are familiar with that, of contemplating the suffering of others, of Metta or Maitri practice, we do that as well, and then the Vajrayana practices that involve visualizing and saying the mantra of a particular, let's say, enlightened or awakened principle, principle of wisdom, let's say, embodied by Manjushri. There could be a sadhana, a particular liturgy or text


that involves connecting with the Manjushri within, let's say, so that one wakes up that prajna. So I have practices like that as well. But all of those come down to, in the end, Samatha Vipassana, and that's said within the tradition that it comes back to the mind of the very moment, that that's the essence of things. And to start right there, I would say that Soto Zen is to go directly to that mind of the very moment through the practice of just sitting. It's sitting to experience what's happening with sight and agenda to change it. And that in actualizing that activity, the meditator discovers for themselves the efficacy of Samatha Vipassana,


or to put it another way, that that requires two major attributes, one of them to be able to pay attention and one of them to be able to allow the coming and going of arising and falling away experience. And that those two attributes become a yogic exploration and that the attentive side is based on the capacity to sit upright, to be in the body, to embody concentration or to embody awareness. And similarly, to relate to the breath, to enable both concentration and this capacity to allow for the coming and going of arising and falling away experience. And that practice directly expresses,


or to be even more exotic, directly transmits the Dharma. And that as one does that, one ripens within oneself an inherent capacity to realize the true nature of all being. I would say that's the core of our meditation practice in the Soto Zen tradition. The question was, does the Soto Zen tradition have elements of Mahayana and Vajrayana? Well, I would say that Soto Zen is a Mahayana tradition. Maybe if Acharya described to me what he considers to be the essence of Vajrayana, I could comment on whether I thought there was any of that there too.


It's the same essence as what you were describing. That's the essence of it. Okay. There couldn't really be two different essences, could there? I mean, how things actually are, what's really true. The question was, does Zen practice other things such as visualizations? I think there's an obvious no. And then I think more subtly,


I think as we take on this practice of actualizing the nature of being, it brings into relief the karmic structures of our being. So as we come into relationship to the karmic structures of our being, and our greed, and that elicits within us an attraction to practices that will alleviate that. And then similarly, we will also find an affinity to the stories of dharma teachers who have taken on this heroic path, and then find within ourselves a deep appreciation and gratitude


for their practice, for what they've done, and what heritage they've given us. So whether you want to call that a visualization or not, I'm not sure. I think, correct me if I'm wrong in one answer, one answer would be no. And then in another way, maybe it gets to some aspect of what a visualization is about. Do you want to comment on that? No? Okay. Well, aside from that I do stupid things like I don't know the forms, it feels very familiar. Very familiar. Austere.


It's a little cool. But that's cool. I don't know. Tell her, please. I wonder, Charlie Ferguson, your teacher Trungpa died quite a while ago, and I wonder have you had another teacher since then, and I also wonder for Paul, do you have a series of teachers who you see as your teacher, because it seems that in Zen tradition, and perhaps in your tradition too, the teacher-student relationship is very important all along the way, and I imagine that no matter how much you've practiced, you know you're both teachers, but do you still feel the need for a teacher? Certainly I do, and I've studied with many other Rinpoches, including Nipam Rinpoche, the Dharma heir to Trungpa Rinpoche,


and other people within the lineage, Trungpa Rinpoche, Trela Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche. Yeah, yeah. So there are many of them who have committed themselves to continuing what Trungpa Rinpoche started in terms of training us and making that tradition available. What was your question to me, Thoma? Who have your teachers been? Who have they been? Yeah, and who do you still have to teach? Well, let's see. I studied briefly with Buddhadasa, and then Acharn Sim, another, that was the meditation teacher I studied with extensively in Thailand, and then I came to San Francisco Zen Center, and Richard Baker was my teacher,


and then Kategiri Roshi, and I studied for a while with Rev, and then Mel, and I would consider Mel still to be my teacher, and then in the meantime, I also studied with Suzuki Roshi, Aitken Roshi, and Harada Shodo Roshi, and I would also consider Harada Shodo Roshi to be a current teacher for me. Thank you. Please. I have a question for Paul. I was asking you earlier, how you can compare and contrast the Thailand experience and the Zen training experience, and how you benefit from both of them.


How do you say this again, today, this evening? The question is, and tonight you're still saying that you're kind of drawn to early Buddhist training in terms of its studies. To me, the early Buddhist training is more contemplative, and the Zen training is more functional. So I'm just wondering how you compare the traditional, the early Buddhist training teachings and the Zen training. They seem to be very different. The early ones are very meditative, and the Zen is very functional. The Chinese and Chinese Zen


emphasizes the functionality of the present moment rather than being meditative. Well, certainly, Jeremy, I would say my life is a lot more active than it was when I was a Theravadan monk living in the forest, and I spent a great deal less time meditating. So that does necessitate to try to have a mindfulness practice, an awareness practice, that functions through that act of life. I'm not quite sure what else to say. I mean, I would say, you know, here's my own opinion.


I feel like all the major Buddhist traditions have been practiced by wonderful, wise, creative human beings. And first of all, I think they're all wonderful. I think they all have a rich array of practical ways to help us engage the human condition and come to liberation. That's how I think of all the traditions. I think they all have a fullness. I don't think of early Buddhism as some narrow practice. I think it has a rich array of practices. I was also saying that the fruit of samatha and vipassana is very comfortable to extend meditation to that fruit. I experienced that practice in a particular context,


in the context of living in Thailand, and in living in seclusion, mostly. And I've experienced Zen practice living in community, and then living in San Francisco. I can't imagine what it would be like to try to be a forest monk while living in San Francisco. Maybe I should imagine that, and maybe even practice it. Why not? What's the difference? So I've practiced them in very different contexts. Maybe the most truthful thing I can say is I appreciate them both. I appreciate...


There's a quality of Zen practice that I find... It's formlessness that flows into the different forms of my life. I find myself... When I ran a grocery store and I went to the produce markets early in the morning, I could experience it as my practice. I was doing Zen practice when I was buying wholesale fruits and vegetables. That was how I experienced it. And when I was a monk in Thailand, going begging for food, I experienced that as Buddhist practice. So that's my response. Thank you. That voice comes from...


Please. Yeah. Excuse me, could you stand up and speak a little louder? We had a hard time hearing. Yes, I did. I didn't understand. Was that a question for Acharya to answer? Or... Was the question, has Acharya read Sherman Mao as a Tibetan practitioner?


Or... Well, first of all, have you ever been to a jail camp here? Have you ever been in a sentence? Or, you know... Have you ever counted? Not to me, but... No, that's just a presentation. So, what is the question? Have you? Not recently, no. But we started with Mao. How did we get from Mao to... Talking about revolution is what I'm talking about, using philosophy of revolution. Yes.


There have been many people inspired about making a better society and a better world. And that is something to honor. Yes, I encountered it in many ways before. I don't think we need violence. We ought to overthrow capitalism now. And let's get rid of it. Will violence overthrow violence? I can't see him. Why don't you stand up? John, it's over. Have you ever been arrested in the United States of America? I stand, I speak.


I speak. He wants to see you. Stand up. Who is he? He just wants to see you. Stand up. I don't see courage. I don't see revolution. I see cowardice here. I look up at capitalism. Forgive me, I'm just offering a student, a radical student voice. I apologize. I close my piece. Thank you. You're welcome. Any other questions? Not necessarily.


Sir, I don't have a Buddhist tradition. I take this as global control. Well, let me preface my answer by saying this. I'm not a Buddhist. I think it's important for us to remember that the majority of the Buddhists practicing in the world now do not consider meditation to be their fundamental practice. Maybe it would be very interesting for us to reflect on what is our, what do we all consider to be fundamental. And I would suggest that it is the practice of liberation through letting go of self-centered clinging.


And that we, in the Zen tradition and in this style of the Tibetan tradition, value the efficacy of meditation to enable that. But I think it's important for us to remember that we're probably, I don't know what percent we are, even in the United States. We're a minority in the United States and certainly in the Buddhist world we're a very significant minority. I think most people have a devotional chanting practice. Pure-line Buddhism. Would you comment on that? Well, it seems like on certain questions there's a kind of invitation that we would start to rank, sort of. And there's of course a temptation to think that the way we do things is the... But it seems to me that you cannot tell


based on the particular tradition that a person practices in what their realization is. It's not lined up that way. That a Theravadan practice wouldn't lead to a person having compassion and understanding of emptiness. Or that just because someone's practicing in a Mahayana tradition therefore they're kind. Well... To answer that, you know, I mean, it's sort of... I'm talking to a Theravada practitioner. You also said that the essential core of your practice is also shamatha and vipassana. However, I'm just wondering how you have to face, leap in faith from the practice of shamatha and vipassana to the rebirth into the emptiness of life. There's a great leap of faith.


I don't personally know, you know, with certainty or confidence about multiple lifetimes. I don't have any memory or anything like that. People that I respect a great deal point to that as a truth that they are certain of. Trungpa Rinpoche would always emphasize that birth and dying happen from moment to moment. That when we leave this situation, this situation dies and we'll be born into the situation of getting into our car. Lupa Rinpoche often says, why if the Buddha told the truth about so many things would he on that day lie? Did he just say, okay, let's just throw a joke in there? So there is that kind of plausibility. It's true, one can know something through direct experience, one can know something through inference,


and inferential knowledge is not as certain as direct experience. And then one relies in part on teachings that people have given that one trusts, and sort of, okay, well, this part has made sense or I've verified that, and then at least to leave open the possibility, without necessarily making a leap of faith, as you say, but leave open the possibility that we don't know all that there is to know. That kind of gesture of some kind of humility. Thank you. I'm curious about, since Choney has both touched upon the part of the practice that is internal and the new practice that is maybe about


the community or the sangha, and I'm interested in the sense in each tradition of how that touches on collective selfishness. Yeah. And maybe that's part of what you were mentioning, you said the topic of relevance, how is this relevant in the modern world or how is it engaged with where we actually are, we're not in... It happens. I was curious whether anybody would ask, does it say in a dialogue between Zen and Shambhala? Is that what it says? So what's Shambhala? We're supposed to ask you that. In the four main lineages of Tibet,


the oldest one is Nyingma, connected with Dzogchen and what are called the Ati teachings, and then the next oldest one is Kagyu, associated with Milarepa, and then the next oldest one is called Sakya, headed by Sakya Trizin, and then the youngest one is called Gelugpa, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the head of that particular lineage. So where is Shambhala in that? What would you say? Did you know already or do you have a... You're nodding, okay, so please, tell us. I was just curious, how do people think about that? So Zen and Shambhala. What's Shambhala? Aside from being the tradition that Thubar Rinpoche established, it was also a vision,


for lack of a better word, that he had from some teachings before he came here, already when he was a young man like that. Yes. So he saw it in his liver, his divination. Yes, it's true. And it's also part of the... We inherit, yes, from those first two that I mentioned, the oldest two lineages. No, no, that's exactly right on point. So we inherit in our so-called Shambhala tradition, and that is the right name for... I'm from the Shambhala tradition, and that inherits from those first two Tibetan lineages, and as well as a series of teachings that Thubar Rinpoche gave that are about society, of what would be a good society, what would be a sane society. So that's part of what we regard ourselves as building. So the head of Shambhala,


and he's in Australia at this point, a person named Richard Rehop, there was just an interview with him in Tricycle, I think, an issue or so back, worked for years for Amnesty International, and I feel like his coming into our community coincides with more efforts to have an engaged Buddhism. Those two kind of are happening at the same time. Twenty-five years ago, that wouldn't have been the focus of people in our community, but a sense of turning outward, and in the last sequence of practices that Mipham Rinpoche has developed, there's a period of, after doing certain formal practices, of something like a service. You would spend a year volunteering and helping in some way, in a soup kitchen or something like that, or hospice work, as part of your training.


So that kind of outward-turning engagement with the ills of our society, in a way. And from that, there are all different kinds of people, in terms of politics, within a sangha. So that's an issue, maybe here in Northern California, you all agree on exactly what needs to be done to address that, yes. So that's an issue, in terms of what kind of political mobilization, based on people's own inspiration, of what they identify as, that's the problem, or that's the problem I want to work on. That's what I'd like to see in my lifetime, some more justice about, or whatever. So I would say, in my community, that that's emerging, and not as fully developed. So the present out-of-our-sangha, who's turned in that way, it's Fleet Mall, who works with Present Dharma Network. I have a variety of comments,


a little bit scattershot. The first one I would say is that I think it's significant for us, and relevant for us, to remember the interconnectedness of all being. As we work individually, that through interconnectedness, we're working collectively. You walk out the door, and hopefully, your practice reflects in how you talk to the next person you talk to. Or how you relate to society, in whatever way you relate to it. Where you decide to go shopping, or what you decide to buy, or how you drive, or whatever. So that. And I think it's important for us to remember that, because it is a kind of empowerment. I think it's important for us to remember, as individuals, in a tangible, real, and practical way,


I influence the world. Because I think when we look at society, it's very easy to feel disempowered. It's very easy to feel there are these enormous forces out there that in no way reflect the values that I treasure. And there's nothing I can do about it. And I think that kind of individual empowerment is intrinsic in the practice of the Buddha Dharma, the practice of the Buddha way. Then I would say that because we do, to some degree, we do live in a fractured society. We live in a society that has a lot of pain, a lot of violence. I think it draws on us as Sanghas. I mean, I think within within the notion of us as


convert Buddhists, our Sanghas are basically 30, 40 years old, something in that range. We've settled into our heritage. And having done so, we're just arising within us. To me, it's a process of practice. Now, open up. Be of service. Look out. How will we engage samsara? What will that look like? And it does look like our collective psyche is to do that in a more active way. And certainly here at the Zen Center we have developed outreach programs, prison ministry, homeless ministry, hospice, chaplaincy program. These things are sort of coming out of us. To me,


the phrase that just came to mind is as we practice more, this ego-centered agenda diminishes and some other agenda comes forth. And I think it's still in its emergent stage. How do we relate to things such as politics? How do we write to issues of human injustice that happens on a local, a national, and an international level? I think my notion is we continue to practice these questions will become bigger for us. They'll become more potent. And I trust our Dharma. I trust our practice, that we will respond to them. As we're both saying,


I think we are somewhat in an emergent stage. And hopefully you'll help us figure out how to do it. Please. So that's very nice. I can go out into the world and I'm a little bit more stable. But I still feel that it's something that I'm not fully bringing to my community. Tomorrow morning, I would have a gift.


How do I bring how do I bring that to the children who might not necessarily be living in a Buddhist religious setting? And I'm also finding while our training is very it's a kind of a even though we live in a community but it's a solitary training it doesn't really give us tools to to immediately address life out in the marketplace. Communication, leadership in our own lives, accountability, relating with an institution, being in an institution. So I wonder if you have a comment. First of all, I have a comment about the kids. I don't think you have to teach the kids anything. I think they've got it. So in the discussion of the meanings of Shambhala


which is, as Rewan said, this legendary, maybe mythical kingdom the sense there in the legend is that there was some understanding in the society of what we call basic goodness as a human goodness. Qualities of human heartedness and so forth. And it's true that that might be what we call Buddha nature. But if it's a human nature and a human wisdom and so forth then we don't really have a patent on that. Or a copyright. So in that sense it isn't that the children are in communicating in any setting that it would be a matter of people meditating necessarily. if our training could open us into connecting with that kind of basic sanity


and also in the other part of what you mentioned then drawing on the wisdom that exists in traditions in the world rather than that everything must come from our spiritual tradition in terms of how to skillfully work with the world and accountability and all those things you mentioned, right? The world has its own wisdom, right? And why wouldn't we be open to that and make use of that as it helps us? So one last question. Tom? Well, Buddhism is really it's already 70 seeds in place. And now it's sort of like the roots now are growing. And now with the roots growing like a plant, we get hybrids, right? You can suddenly produce these hybrids. Now we don't know what's going to develop in the next 10, 20, 30 years. I mean, it's kind of nice to think that we got Tibetan


and then Theravadan. It's all sort of interplaying and it's all finding a place that's making something that might be really unique in this country. I don't know if this is a question or just a comment. But to see that there's a possibility that the Tibetans and then Theravadans are going to make something in this country that'll be very unique, that's a different democracy made. Made for a combination, yes. Unique. So Paul is mentioning that not only the cultural influences but then that come from our various traditions Japanese, Tibetan, whatever, but then the evolution in here, which is a kind of open question as to what will it be as people practice here, train here. I think it's inevitable. I mean, I think the Dharma teaches


that this is a codependent arising, that the causes and conditions that are prevalent and pervasive will bring forth the fruits of those conditions. So I do think... I mean, I notice myself that when I talk to someone who's practiced in the West, I feel a strong similarity in our practice that there seems to be some influences that are stronger than the tradition from which we came. I mean, I find that with both Tibetan teachers and Vipassana teachers. There's a commonality in how we've come to see the world, of how we've come to hold the trainings that we've been given. And I think already there's some expression.


But I do think it's also important for us to maintain the guidance of our heritage. I think we should remember that what was crafted was crafted over hundreds of years by wonderful, skilled and wise teachers. And we should acknowledge that and maybe a little hesitant to just sort of figure out... figure that we've got the new way to do it. I think some combination... I think you give yourself to the tradition and in some wonderful way something new arises. That's my notion. We don't actually have to worry too much about what's going to emerge as American Buddhism. We need to just keep giving over


and letting the Dharma pass through us. And it will take the shape and the form it does. So who was it who said, let a thousand flowers bloom? Okay. Thank you very much for coming.