Wednesday Lecture

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Good evening. Today we have the full moon ceremony this morning, and this ceremony is the oldest Buddhist ceremony. Maybe many of you know this already, but it's actually, it predates Buddhism, where in India wandering religious people who are new in the full moon, and so when the Buddha established the order of monks and nuns, he continued this practice of having the wandering monks and nuns come together on the new and the full moon. So to think about our ceremony as an abbreviated version, but the origins of it go back thousands

[01:09]

of years, 2,500 for sure and more. So it's wonderful to feel this connection in doing this ceremony back in time, and also with the natural world, with the moon, and the seasons, and the rhythm. And in our version of the ceremony, the precepts, the 16 Bodhisattva precepts are recited as part of the more complicated chanting, the three refuges are taken or recited, I take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and then the three pure precepts, and the ten grave precepts, and those are the 16 altogether.

[02:10]

And in Buddhist time, the precepts were 250 precepts for the monks and over 300 or 338 for the women, and these precepts were at these new and full moon times, they gathered and just practiced meditation together, and the laity came, and they wanted to hear teachings, and so what they ended up doing was recite the precepts at that time, and also it became a chance to work together in terms of observing the precepts, and a chance to confess if one wasn't observing, so it had this aspect to it as well. So the abbreviated version is taking the Bodhisattva vows, then homages to all the Buddhas and

[03:19]

Bodhisattvas, or not all of them, but Shakyamuni Buddha and Maitreya Buddha, the future Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and invoking them in that kind of chanting that has a lot of ups and downs and trills, which is different from our regular mono-tone type of chanting, we usually do, and it has a kind of, I always feel sort of celebratory, doing all the homages, and then starting out with the repentance, all my ancient twisted karma, then calling forth the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, taking the four Bodhisattva vows, and then the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts. So all summer long here, we've been working on the precepts. Those of you who have been living here, we've taken each one of the ten grave precepts, also the refuges as well, and the three pure precepts, did we talk about them too?

[04:24]

I'm not sure. We've been taking each precept and turning it around in small groups and looking at how we can practice with this, what does this mean in our life? And so our Tanto had an idea for these six weeks between now and the practice period and we're beginning to continue with our practice of the precepts but to bring our discussion out into the world more, not so much the work on our meditation cushion or in our own workplace or community or our own intra-psychic work, but what about manifesting these precepts in a wider way or in activity. So I want to talk a little bit about that and also say something about what the next

[05:25]

five weeks might look like. So, in some ways it's very easy to make a kind of dichotomy in our mind between action, doing things, helping others in an active way, and sitting meditation as if those two were very kind of separate activities and I think it's possible to emphasize one or the other in your life, to emphasize sitting and really working on one's own difficulties and emotions and physical manifestations of ignorance and greed and hate and so forth and to really center on that and feel like there's no way I can go out and help somebody, I'm too distraught, I'm too unhappy, I'm too angry, I can't do it.

[06:25]

And so one might emphasize just taking care of a more individual practice, it may seem that way. Or someone may also say there is so much going on in this world that needs my attention, that needs my help, wherever I look, homelessness, overpopulation, the environment, globalization, poverty, famine, you name it, there's work to be done wherever I look, how could I not go and do something so you can make a very strong case for that and what am I doing wasting my time sitting on my cushion when all these people need help and I want to help. So I think our tendency or the human mind maybe tendency to put those two things, separate

[07:29]

those two ways, we do have a tendency to do that and because there can be such a strong case made for either one, you can justify very nicely whatever you want to do. So what is it that puts those two together and I think engaged Buddhism is this term that's been coined in the last, I don't know how long, 20 years or so, that puts these two together, it's meditation practice that informs work in the world or informs social activism or environmental work, where it's informed by one's own clarity, awareness, stability, calmness, rather than being informed by anger and rage and blaming and divisive

[08:40]

thinking separating them and us. So engaged Buddhism puts the two together and for me it puts precepts and active work and precepts, puts those two together too. And each person I think has to find their way in this regard and I've heard it said that, and this is true in communities and couples and families, if one person kind of stakes out a territory, it's very hard for another person in that group or family or couple to be equally involved. It's hard, you feel like, well I need my own sphere of activity and if so and so is really, really strong in this, well they're taking care of it for me. The fact that they're planting redwoods and going to these conferences and demonstrating

[09:45]

that somehow because they're my friend and I care about them and I know them well, they're holding it for me too. One might think that way. Or if someone is working in hospice and that you might think, gee, I'm really glad Zen Center is doing hospice, I personally don't want to do it, but I want Zen Center to do it and they'll take care of it for me in some way. So when that shifts, if Zen Center stopped doing hospice or someone who we know who's holding a prison, working with prisoners or meditation in the prisons, if someone you know is not doing that, you may find, oh, I want to do that, this is coming up for me. So there's, I think, a natural shift in flow in terms of where we feel drawn to, where

[10:50]

we really feel called to act. And when I say act, I mean bringing the precepts into the world, into our activity, in the social active way that I'm talking about. So I think sometimes what happens is we have an ideal and we feel like I want to be like them. Like I've heard a story about Mother Teresa where you might think, that may be very inspiring. She is very inspiring, but I could never be a Mother Teresa. And the story, one story about Mother Teresa is someone said, well, you can do this kind of work with the poor because you're not married, you don't have a family, so you're free to do this. And Mother Teresa held up her ring and said, what do you mean? I am married. And he can be very difficult. This

[11:54]

is Jesus, right? Because I guess the nuns are married to Jesus, right? Is that true? Yeah. So she said, and he can be very difficult. So we can't copy another person's way. It has to come from us. What is our response? What is our unique response? What are we drawn to? Does anything call us? And maybe this is not the time to be called. Maybe we don't hear that voice that's calling us. Maybe now is the time to turn inward. So this has been, I feel like I've been wrestling with this over the years at Zen Center because I kind of missed the women's movement and I missed the, I did a little nuclear protesting for nuclear power and so forth, but I felt like I was basically devoted to sitting or at Tassajara

[13:00]

and it was fine for demonstrations to happen and people to be active, but I had my work that I needed to do. I had to do it. It was like life or death. So, but more recently I feel more called. So in Buddhism, the balancing of wisdom and compassion is maybe the culmination of our practices. Wisdom and compassion together and one without the other is skewed or unbalanced. So what is it that uniquely calls to you? Is there anything? And this is something I just want to share with you that came up for me. I heard this program on the radio about women's prison. I think, I don't know what percentage is that, a very high percentage

[14:08]

of women in prison are also mothers and so the children of these mothers, often single mothers, are in great, great, great distress and are very at risk for all sorts of problems. So this program is that library books, story books are brought to the prison for various ages and the mothers and tape recorders and the mothers choose a story and then they read it into the tape and then the child gets the book, I guess they're not library books, I guess they must be bought, because the child gets the book and gets the tape of their mother reading a goodnight story. And in interviewing the mothers, they said, you know, often when they talk with their children on the phone, they haven't spoken with them for weeks and it's very hard to know what to say and it's been so long, they don't know what's going

[15:08]

on in their lives and it's very awkward and stilted and more painful than maybe not even speaking to them. So this book project allows them, when they talk to, if it's a chapter book that they've been doing installments for or to talk about the book, plus the child has this tape they can play every night with their mother's words saying, you know, whatever they also, they read the book but they also say goodnight and various things. So you can imagine what that might feel like if your mother's been incarcerated and will be for years, you know. And I heard this on the radio and I felt an immediate kind of resonance with that would be wonderful to do and to support and to create and I actually felt really called to do this particular project, it's so minor really, you know, it's such

[16:12]

a small kind of a thing, but I actually felt myself responding in a very deep way, different way. So I realized that, you know, in my attempt to kind of look around for a cause, that may not be my, that may not work for me, may not work for you, you may have to feel, feel it in your bones, in your stomach, that this is what you want to respond to. You are responding, you can't help it. So what might that be? And I know that for many people who come here the environment is that way, without a doubt, is an unequivocal gut response and other things as

[17:13]

well, hospice work. So during these next six weeks we're going to be having Dharma discussions and some speakers come who are working in this way. Next week there's a man named Eric Mood, I believe is his name, who's been working with the death penalties from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and he'll be coming to speak, I believe, is that true? Two weeks. And next week I'm not sure what's going to happen. But some of the ideas were to, taking the precept of disciple of the Buddha does not kill, what about the death penalty? What do we understand about, how do we understand this? What is there, how can we respond? I was just, as I said that, I was thinking about the fact that I just visited my mother, who's in a kind of assisted living residence, and I was just

[18:21]

hearing in my head this woman, an older woman like in her 80s, saying to one of her friends about the death penalty that she completely believed in it, and this was the only way, and she never voted against it, and really, really strong. And you know, coming from the kind of Bay Area bubble, the Zen Center bubble, it's unusual for me to meet somebody who's vehemently pro-death penalty. You know, I realized that as I listened to this woman. Some of the other possibilities will be looking at the AIDS epidemic, which is almost beyond belief what's happening, I'm sure many of you know, in Africa, Asia, in our country, in Western countries as well, but what's happening, and perhaps having speakers who are working with this issue now, and you know, you could say, well

[19:32]

what precept does that come under? And there's so many ways to look at it, you know, slander, Disciples of Buddha does not slander Disciples of Buddha, because often there's a lot of fear connected with people with AIDS, and fear, and ignorance, and misunderstanding, and so to actually inform ourselves, educate ourselves, and see, you know, Disciple of the Buddha does not lie, Disciple of the Buddha, looking at the origins of this epidemic, and what it's come out of, ignorance, divisiveness, greed, in terms of, you know, the beginnings of it, disturbing areas of the world that were undisturbed, and so on, so looking at it from different angles. Also, we have Tony

[20:35]

Patchell, who's a priest in the city, who's been working with the homeless for years, and perhaps inviting him to come, talking about his work on the streets, maybe some of you have read his writings in Turning Wheel, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and having us have a chance to look at, in a kind of extended meditation, our attitudes and way we separate, this person is different than me, I'm here, they're there, and we're in other worlds, when the world we're in is the human world. So, getting down to, without the divisions of sickness, and material possessions, and languages, and so forth, to get down to our shared human life. So, I don't think we've done this exactly here before,

[21:48]

we've had classes on, we haven't done this in this particular format, we've had classes on engaged Buddhism, and social activism, and environmentalism, and so forth, but taking the Wednesday night to do it, we actually haven't done before. So, I hope it, I hope it is engaging, to use that word, again, and that there's some fruitful discussion and understanding that comes from it. Just possibly, some of the other topics might be alcoholism and addiction, which is also epidemic, and affects our own community, in all levels, new students and old students, meaning people have just walked in the door, and people have been here for a long time. This is something that's, I think, pretty important we understand, and know how to work with, and how to help each other, and perhaps diversity, we've been, this is a

[22:57]

theme for the year, or more than a year, that the board has wanted us to look at, so bringing up the issues of diversity in our communities. So, if there's something in particular you would like brought up, or a speaker about, maybe you could talk with Phu, to see what we can respond to that. So, the virtues, or the practices of love, compassion, and equanimity, they have what's called near enemies. Maybe you're familiar with this, so the near enemy of love is attachment. I love you, and I want you, and it may have to do with a kind of closing in and

[23:59]

grasping mind, but we use the word love, so it's near enemy, because it's hard to distinguish sometimes what is going on, but love, in this way of talking, is not a closing down and a grasping, but a letting go, and an opening feeling, different kinds of feelings, bodily feelings, you might say as well. Compassion, the near enemy of compassion is pity, and pity is, oh, I feel so sorry for them, for that person. It's setting it up in a separating way, a divisive way, I feel sorry for them, and part of the underlying structure, I think, of pity is that in some way the person, or we, or I, need them to be

[25:01]

other, and in less circumstances than me, for me to feel okay, or safe, or complete, or this may be under praise self at the expense of others, a kind of, a need that I have to be in a better circumstance, so there's pity, whereas compassion is shared suffering, suffering with, so it's not feeling sorry for, it's you feel the suffering along with, it may not be the same suffering, you may not be starving around the streets, but you feel your humanity, your shared human life, and you suffer with, rather than the separating of feeling sorry for. Equanimity, the practice of equanimity, the near enemy of equanimity is indifference, and indifference sounds like, who cares, I don't care, I don't give a,

[26:10]

about anything, you know, that's fine, do what you want, da-da-da, that's the kind of, might look like equanimity, you know, nothing bothers me, nothing ruffles me, but it actually is based on withdrawing and removing yourself from the situation, go ahead, I don't care, rather than being in the middle, finding composure, as Suzuki Roshi says, finding composure in the middle of what's going on, so equanimity is this balance right in the middle of your activity, rather than, who cares, so, but they're close, you know, that's why it's called near enemy, because it's almost the same language can be used for both, but it's, one is pulling in, withdrawing, separating, the other is opening right there, smack down in the middle, so, in all of our activity, our work activity, our formal practice, our informal practice,

[27:24]

our engaged, supposedly helping others, you know, this helping others in and of itself, just even the term helping others is problematical, you know, with the teachings of non-attachment, no-self, how do we make peace with helping others, what others, we're supposed to, the teaching of no-self is there are no others out there, so, so what are we doing, you know, and I think these are the teachings that have to be wrestled with, because those can be used to just justify not doing anything, and a kind of indifference, or, it's okay, bad, we're all one, there's no self in others, so, you know, there's nobody out there I need to help, in the ultimate sense, yes, that's true, that's the Diamond Sutra, that's self and other are not different, and when, excuse me, my allergies, when we understand the emptiness of the three wheels, right, giver, receiver, and gift, there is no other, it's just responding to the world, just responding, whatever's in front of you responding,

[28:42]

but we have to grapple with the attachment to being a helper, but if we are aware of our attachment to being a helper, then we are kind of wisely, or with clarity, attached to being a helper, we see it, we're not kidding ourselves, we're, I guess, a kind of, not realizing how attached we are to being a helper, or we, what is that called, holier than thou, or we all know people who are do-gooders, or, and you can see, it's for, they're doing it for themselves, you feel like this is more about them than about the people they're helping, so, we may, if we can see that about ourselves, where this happens for ourselves, then we can, in the middle of that, in the middle of that, bring our attention there and have some clarity, have some clarity about what actually is going on, and hopefully refrain, you know, refrain meaning, refrain has to do with the, a horse, the bridle in a horse's mouth, you pull on it, you know, so you can guide it,

[30:05]

you can guide it properly, anyway, that, the root of the word comes from, is pulling back on the horse with the bridle and the reins, and, you know, the slightest touch with a well-trained horse, actually I'm not a rider, this is what I've heard, you can just slightly, you know, and they respond, right, they respond to the shadow of the whip, but also to the bridle in the mouth, so, when you're, when you're studying yourself in that way, you can refrain. Or a big touch, or a big woe back if you need it, whatever is needed, so, so bringing into action our love and kindness, our compassion and our equanimity, and testing ourselves almost, of course we get tested all the time, we get tested, you know, every day, we don't have to go very far, we just step out the door, this morning, you know, it was 80 degrees, I have a temperature, what is it called, a thermometer, right outside my window, and it was so hot this morning, it was 80, and I thought, 1989, when there was the earthquake, it was hot like this, it was this oppressive kind of heat, and two other people said that to me, oh, it's earthquake weather, it's earthquake weather,

[31:28]

so we do have our earthquakes, whether the San Andreas Fault is giving us a shake, or our own internal San Andreas Fault, and all the people we encounter and work we encounter throughout the day, we have our own earthquakes, we don't have to go too far, and maybe that's, that's exactly right, right now, to just work in that way, but let's not close down from the world, and what is impacting us all the time, whether we know it or not, as people come in through our gate, the garden gate, the front gate, the Zendo gate, and these are, these very things I've talked about, you know, homelessness, AIDS, prison, poverty, those come right in our door, so, to just bring some attention to it, in light of a disciple of the Buddha does not kill, does not take what is not given, does not lie,

[32:47]

does not slander, is not possessive, and so on. So, I wanted to read something from A Guide to a Bodhisattva's Way of Life, which is, oh, actually, I have two things to read, one is a poem that someone sent me, which, that came, it's called Unlearning to Not Speak, and I just found it really helpful, in terms of finding our way in our work life. Blizzards, this is by Marge Percy, Unlearning to Not Speak. Blizzards of paper in slow motion sift through her. In nightmares, she suddenly recalls a class she signed up for, but forgot to attend. Now it's too late, now it is time for finals, losers will be shot.

[33:50]

Phrases of men who lectured her drift and rustle in piles. Why don't you speak up? Why are you shouting? You have the wrong answer, wrong line, wrong face. They tell her she's a womb man, baby machine, mirror image, toy, earth mother, and penis poor, a dish of synthetic strawberry ice cream, rapidly melting. She grunts to a halt. She must learn again to speak, starting with I, starting with we, starting, as the infant does, with her own true hunger, and pleasure, and rage. So starting with her own true hunger.

[34:54]

I was going to comment on that, but I think I'll just leave that. The other thing I wanted to read was from Shantideva. This is the 8th century Indian passionate, passionate poet and teacher. And in this chapter where he's talking about full acceptance of the awakening mind, meaning full acceptance of bodhicitta, bodhicitta is the thought, sometimes translated as the thought of enlightenment, and it means the thought that arises in a psychophysical mind stream, body mind stream, that one wants to live in the world in such a way that all beings, one wants all beings to attain enlightenment, and you want to help all beings to attain enlightenment before you. So it's altruistic, an altruistic idea, concept, vow that arises, and you can't, I don't think it's possible to force oneself.

[36:03]

You can study it, you can repeat it, you can want to bring this into your body, but I think when it comes, it comes, bodhicitta, and this is the mark, maybe it's not a mark, it's what bodhisattvas share, is bodhicitta, the thought of enlightenment. So in this chapter, Shantideva is, in a very, as I say, passionate way, wanting to help other beings in any way possible, in whatever way they need, and so he just begins to, he really gets going about how he could possibly help people, and he wishes for it, he's like praying for it. May I be the doctor and the medicine, and may I be the nurse for all sick beings in the world until everyone is healed.

[37:07]

May a rain of food and drink descend to clear away the pain of thirst and hunger, and during the eon of famine, may I myself change with food. May I myself change into food and drink. May I become an inexhaustible treasure for those who are poor and destitute. May I turn into all things they could need, and may these be placed close beside them. Without any sense of loss, I shall give up my body and enjoyments, as well as all my virtues of the three times, for the sake of benefiting all. By giving up all, sorrow is transcended, and my mind will realize the sorrowless state. It is best that I now give everything to all beings, in the same way as I shall at death." And it goes on, this kind of meditation of,

[38:14]

may I be, may I fulfill the needs of others in any way possible, it's a way of, it's a meditation of the mind. Right now, unless, you know, I, just like in the Jataka tales, when the Buddha gave himself to the hungry tigress, you may know that story where the hungry tigress was starving, and her cubs were starving, and so the Buddha realized that, and realized she had been, you know, and this, she would have to eat her cubs, perhaps, anyway, and he lies down, and this is before the Buddha was the Buddha in a past life, and for her to eat him up, and then he slits his wrists, so that she can come closer and smell the blood, and then she feasts on him. So this is one of these Jataka tales of the ultimate gift,

[39:18]

you know, of one's own body for others. But one may not be ready to do that, and may never be ready, or this is one of those teaching tales, but in one's mind to say, may I be food and drink, may I be, I love this, which I picture the homeless people, and it says, may I become an inexhaustible treasure for those who are poor and destitute, may I turn into all things they could need, and may these be placed close beside them. So not only may I be what they need, but, you know, put it right there so they can just, you know, reach over, they don't have to do much. This is kind of a wish, you know, it's for me to read this, someone creating this thought, you know, this thought, may I be whatever they need, and place it close beside them. So this is a guide to the Bodhisattva's way of life,

[40:21]

this is the Bodhisattva ideal, you might say, and, you know, it may speak to you or it may not, or may speak to you at some time, and other times it may not. Right now it's speaking to me. So I just wanted to say, let me see what time it is. Oh, we're doing okay. Of those of you who may not know that in a couple weeks I'll be going to China for three weeks, and actually the 24th or the 26th of September. So I'll be not able to attend these evenings, and I hope it is a way that we can meet in a new way

[41:26]

around these topics. Thank you very much.

[41:34]

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