2020-01-20: Introduction to Buddhism Part 2: The Essence of Liberation, within ourselves and around us
2:25PM Jun 21, 2020
martin luther king
Good evening, everyone and welcome to IMC. And now I was here. Two weeks ago we began I began a series of talks. Probably I'll do another eight of them or so, kind of an introduction to Buddhism. And it's a grand thing to say you're going to introduce Buddhism. What it means for someone who's a Buddhist teacher, is you're going to introduce I'm going to introduce the Buddhism of our tradition. What it really means is me introduce you to the Buddhism of IMC. What it really means is I'm going to introduce you to the Buddhism that I have. And you know, in the end, that's really what you have. You know, the tendency is to kind of believe sometimes that a Buddhist teacher knows what Buddhism is and what they say Buddhism is that's what it is. But there are so many different lineages, denominations, schools, traditions, variations in Buddhism. And then once you kind of get under the hood of Buddhist teachings, see what's really going on rather than having this abstract, perfect, prime, primordial, unchanged teachings from the Buddha that have been handed down, perfectly intact, no variation right down to the present moment. And you'll get it you'll get you get what you get. He really what you're getting always is you're getting the synthesis, the interpretation, the adaptation, the application of Buddhist teachings that people have heard and studied, through their own practice through their own experience, and through their own background and dispositions and all kinds of things. It's always getting reformulated and redone. The, of course, Buddhist teachers seldom admit this. Because then your teachings don't have as much authority. And you have more authority, if you say, this is what the Buddha teaches, this is Buddhism. You know, and, and you better this is it. But, you know, there really is no Buddhism. It's abstraction. It's a vague idea. And you're always getting it through the interpretation of someone I think it's probably fair to say, to tell you a little bit to emphasize this, you have care you need to do you know, the care you need in listening to these people who present Buddhism to you, whether it's like me teaching or in books. And that is for most of these 2500 years that Buddhism has been taught. It's mostly been taught by men. And, you know, it's probably a good thing that anybody teaches. But some men have a certain, you know, I don't know what they have.
You know, maybe some men have certain peculiarities that influence how they teach and what they say and what they want to present than what they think is important. And so So anyway, it thinks actually a very important idea to keep in mind it's discouraging to people to hear this, that there is no pristine, perfect Buddhism. What there is your interpretation that someone's presenting to you. It's rare that people admit that and I'm admitting it to you, that's what you're getting. Some of you will never come back. Because down the street, you can get the pristine purpose of Buddhism because the teacher there says, This is what it is. No blah, have lengthy introductions that builds up the case. It's just like okay, here you're going to hear the truth here. From and so I think it's a little bit unusual to be so frank about it, but it's you know, I I've spent a lot of study of this. I've studied with people teach. I've studied the variations I've studied. I've been on this thing for a long time and trying to tease out what's going on. And one of the wonderful expressions that I first heard in Zen is that how Buddhism is passed down through the generations is warm hand to warm hand. And, and that's actually very important that the books and the so called, you know, teachings and what Buddhism is, it might get for a book or something. That's not really what we're Buddha, really the essence of Buddhism is found. It's found in the relationship between the generations of people, you know, passing it down from one generation to the next. It's, it's a living tradition, where they live in connection. And that, ideally, that the people who are passing it on don't necessarily have the perfect pristine formulation of what Buddhism is, but rather that they've somehow been transformed by their contact with Buddhism and Buddhist practice. And they know something About what some people consider the essence of Buddhism, some interpretations, they know something about liberation, and about freedom. They know something about the end of suffering. They know something about awakening, to use a big word, it's also kind of abstract and, and they know it for themselves. And that and that essence or that what they know somehow is passed on. But then, you know, you get into this world of Buddhism and you start talking to people about what they think awakening is or liberation is and then Believe it or not, people will argue about what liberation is what what liberation is there in arguing about liberation. But still this idea that they're you know, there's something that has passed on something's understood something here. That's it. That's one of the theories one of the hideous it's, this is where it's found. Maybe where Buddhism is found is around this principle of liberation from suffering. And it's found in each individual practitioner, grappling with that, finding that looking for it, practicing for it, discovering what that means for themselves, and discovering it a new and deeper and fuller ways as they go on with the practice. And I would say that's true for me that I've been doing this now for well over 40 years. And, and I'm just delighted and amazed at the continued opening for me the continued discovery, the continual kind of expansion, and, you know, after doing for 10 years, and then I look back, so it's different than what I thought and then do for 20 years is Wow, it's kind of different than I thought. Then do it. 30 years in Wow, there's more here. This is like, oh, maybe Now I'm getting the hang of it, and do another 40 years. And wow, it's like he keeps opening up, keep learning and discovering and well, I must be getting to the end now. So we'll see in 10 years. But the pattern is it just keeps growing and developing new dimensions of this freedom, this freedom thing. So at the heart of it, one of the hearts, you can say is that, because, you know, to use the authority of the Buddha and reference the Buddha, what he taught, he made a very powerful statement long time ago. And the fact that this person who founded Buddhism, and many of us look back to with a degree of reverence and respect
in wanting to encapsulate what he teaches in this little statement, you know, it's kind of noteworthy, it's, it kind of stands in contrast, maybe to a lot of other religious traditions who make a short statement and what their religions really is The essence, it kind of expresses the flavor of what the span was about. He said that what I teach is suffering and the end of suffering. He points people to understand in a deep way, the nature of suffering or he points to people to take a good deep honest look at how you have the stress your fear you have, you have you know that you have you're troubled in some way you have anxiety, you have distress, you know, something with Buddhism, we tend to use the word suffering, really take an honest look at that, but not so that you just suffer better. But rather so that you can look through see through it, and they sometimes use the word penetrated to the other side, to the place where you're free from suffering. And, and that's what really kind of is 44 plus years I've been doing is I keep discovering new dimensions of this new ways. And this works. And, and I find, you know phenomenally grateful for my teachers. And the place where I've discovered the most freedom is in doing this Vipassana practice. So this is one of the reasons I teach Vipassana because I found in my travels through Buddhism, that this seemed to open the door to a deeper and deeper discovery of in the heart and the mind within of what freedom is this liberation. And, and so I like teaching in this tradition, a lot of that has to do with the tremendous power of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice of being honest, mindfulness, that practice of really stopping to be present. First learning to be present, which is no small task, and stay present in your experience and then learning to be phenomenally honest about what's here. And that just keeps opening up, you start discovering and seeing more and more different aspects of your life and how your mind works. And, and then if you're lucky if you do that, or that to work really, really deeply, to really look and be still focused and clear and develop a certain degree of capacity for really concentrated, looking deep into this, your mind and heart. If you're lucky enough, you get a new operating system. Isn't that nice? You know, you get an upgrade. But, you know, many people don't get a new operating system. Many people just have the same operating system and they adjusted a little bit, then they patch it a little bit and they learn how to work with the kinks in it. And, you know, they could maybe they get passively buying their life but to to really Do this practice to discover the ability to get very, very clear in the mind. So the agitations and the preoccupations, the bias, the fears, the you know, the attachments of the mind, or not kind of crowding or filtering or clouding over our ability to see. But to be able to be mindful enough, there's clarity happens in the mind, space in the mind, quiet in the mind, openness in the mind, to really, really sounds like you really see deep inside the metaphor the Buddha used for this kind of deep seeing into the mind, I think is a beautiful metaphor. He uses the metaphor of a Clear Lake, completely clear, and you're standing on the edge of the lake, and maybe there's no wind or anything. So it's a clear surface and You're able to look into the water. And you can see what's there. You see the little rocks on the ground and the lake bottom you see the, the shell fish, the sheepish shell animals that are going around their shells. I think there's some translators call it oysters are three shells in the water and fish swimming around. I always imagined the swish The fish in this metaphor swimming slowly around. And and so this idea of that mind becomes so clear that you really see what's there as you're looking into a completely clear body of water and you go right down to the bottom and everything is so evident.
And the mind is that is the water. And so often the mind is agitated the mind is there's mud that's been stirred up and cloudy, but to be able to learn how to mindfulness concert on the mind and really clear away You know all these concepts and ideas and preoccupations and fears and future thinking and past thinking and planning, and then entertainment that goes on in there, and have it really be peaceful and clear. That's not a teaching. That's not like you're not to believe Buddhism for that. That's why I can confidently talk about Buddhism is interpretation by teacher, because it's actually not that important, believe it or not, in contrast to this amazing clarity of the heart and the mind, that's possible. That's where it's kind of that's, that's like a human capacity that's kind of in your birthright, to be able to come to that capacity to touch into that to be there to have that kind of calm and subtleness. That just, that's an experience. That's a path of practice. That's a clearing away. You don't have to have a religion to tell you that You should clean your windshield wipers once in a while. You know, it's just you know, you just clear your windshield wiper wipers, you know, you know your wiper windshield to clear your windshield, clean your windshield. It's you know, you clean your windshields, then you see clearly you want to build a religion around that. You know, my religion is better than than yours because I have a better way of cleaning my windshield than you do after you clean your windshield. That's ridiculous, right? So So Buddhism, the heart of it is this capacity for this Cleary. Imagine this clarity that we're capable of experiencing of being there's a lot of letting go that has to happen to get there. A lot of discovery of how we get our conceited caught up in self. We create divisions in our minds between self and other self in the world. We hold onto these precious ideas hold on to ideas of identity of status of pleasure, fear, our wounds, our resentments. There's all this kind of layers and layers stuff that produces the cloudiness of the mind that doesn't see clearly. And so to settle the mind down deeply to quiet it deeply, and then have this clarity. Wow. Imagine that you're getting the sense of the contrast between a religion and clarity of mind. So that's your birthright. Wow, that's great. If you did that, what do you see? You start seeing if you if you clean your windshield a little bit. Then you notice when there's a bird dropping on it, you know splat but wait If the windshield is really, really dirty is full of bird splats he wouldn't see it the next one. If it's really pristinely clear, and there's no dust or any smudges on your windshield whatsoever, you'll notice the little little smudge that comes up that appears. And yes, it's really obvious. And if you've never had a clean windshield, and you've been driving around for decades and dirty windshield, it's like a revelation. Wow, it's possible to have a clean windshield and not only straining to kind of look out the window. Wow, this is amazing. So as people do this practice, it's kind of like that kind of amazement. Wow, I first of all, I didn't know I had smudges. I didn't know that I was kind of going along with a mind that was so cloudy or so caught up in concerns and fears and I thought it was just built into the fabric of the universe that I was supposed to always be thinking at 10,000 miles an hour. I'm always supposed to be you The more thinking about multitasking doing thinking all kinds of things are jumping around from one thought to another and concern or planning tomorrow forever. You know, whatever it is, I always thought I
just took it for granted. That's how it is. One of the things that people take for granted that they don't even know they're doing it is how much self preoccupation there is. It's phenomenal for some people, not for the few Of course, but it just phenomenal how much self concern preoccupations, conceit, there is about me, myself and mine and all this kind of stuff about me and I and turns out without doing any kind of disrespect for beam myself in mind without any disrespect for even conceit that goes on. Without saying anything about it, it's bad or that's good or anything. Just let it be happy to evaluate. Don't show it in any way. But discover what it's like to not have it. Discover what it's like to go through a day or a minute, complete that part of the windshield completely cleared out. And then you'll see, well, wait a minute, why should I bring it back in? It's so much better without it. I seem to function better I take care of myself fine. I see more clearly, I see myself more clearly. I'm more peaceful and more ease. And if you have a choice about whether or not to bring the self back in the self concern ideas and conceit, why would you do it? It's so good without it. Is that a religion? Is that an obligation? Is that saying you should is that saying that the self is bad. I would like to suggest you don't have to see it that way. You just know that's better to have the windshield clean. us better to have a mind that's not caught up in these things. So if you're able to use the practices Settle deep enough into this into this inner world to clean it out or settle or be open. And then at some point the there is something that Buddhism calls liberation. And that's the point that the thing about liberation is actually discovered has been happening all along. The word is the mu T. And the mu T is often used for full liberation, but it's also used for a lot of the small Liberation's along the way. If you get a little bit of concentrated and so you're no longer thinking about what happened to work today. Then you have the moody from work. And for some of you who were sitting in meditation today or yesterday, there wasn't much job work for some of us. It's a holiday but but you know, if you're caught up in something that troubled you and it was kind of a headache are stressful to be thinking about it. It's really nice to sit and settle and have that kind of settle away and not have it bothering you anymore when you're sitting here, and that's a B mu T, that's a small liberation, maybe temporary. If you are impatient for something to happen that you have no control over, and you see you're impatient. You're impatience and then somehow able to just let go of it. That's a liberation to temporary liberation. If you were hoping to go home and have you know, carrot salad for supper, and you go forward to carrot salad and couldn't wait to make it even like making carrot salad and you'd like bring raisins in it. And you know, you can't wait to hear just fantasizing all day but carrot salad and and you open the refrigerator and there's no carrots. And you're so disappointed and you're disappointed in yourself. How could you waste the whole day thinking about carrots When you count on a character at home, so you kind of beat yourself up, and then you cursed, you'd be mindful. And you say, wait a minute, I have to think this way. I can just accept there's no carrots and figure out what else to have for dinner. There's a letting go. I'm trying to use simple everyday examples. But we have this kind of this letting go this liberation, in many, many small ways. The Buddhist path is to take that idea of liberation that's accessible to all of us. And do it more and more thoroughly, more fully, more deeply. And to do it more deeply and more thoroughly. We need help. Help, meaning that we need to kind of develop ourselves cultivate our capacity for meditation, for mindfulness, for honesty, for stillness for non distractibility, to create the conditions within us, that we can read They bring this mindfulness into the corners and nooks and crannies of our minds into the roots of it and really when they get down,
and, and it's kind of phenomenal how far you can do this work. And that is what I like to believe the Buddha discovered for us. He didn't discover liberation, everyone has some, some idea what that is letting go or stopping. If you think about it, you have to you can't get through life without having to let go of something. But to really understand how fully and thoroughly you can clean the windshield, fully and thoroughly you can let go of this and be liberated from what goes on deep inside is so dramatic, so clear and so thorough. It's kind of like you get rebooted within the operating system. And I used to that kind of language, because the operating system of many people who operate is is based on it's programmed with greed, hate delusion with a certain kind of greediness or wanting or getting or or an aversion of pushing away. Or sometimes operating system is a lot of fear, or delusion. And these strong compulsions to want to have and to get are the strong compulsion to push things away or be aversive or angry or hateful, is a huge part of human life. And that also happens in small degrees. People who seem perfectly nice people will have small movements of it, or it's the underlying depth of their operating system. I've seen in myself times where I thought I was compassionate. And at some degree, maybe I was when I really got under it deeply. I saw that I was I had a desire, craving and clinging to an idea of I wanted to be a good person. And I hoped a lot of people saw how compassionate I was. Maybe it's okay, I was still got the compassion thing done, I helped someone. So I, you know, I don't want to make it to be too upset about it. But, but it's to discover that underneath that compassion, there was still a clinging to self to being seen a certain way and a concept of who I want it to be a good person or something to see that and clear that from the windshield is a fantastic thing. Wow, that's fantastic. And so you do this deep, deep work of clearing out greed, hate and delusion. And then the new operating system is one that knows we can go through our life and take care of ourselves in the world without being motivated by greed, hate and delusion. That's the new operating system that Buddhism offers or points to and it's pointing to something which is you Find out and discover for yourself. If there's not enough like you have to believe it. It's not that you have to kind of compare it to other religions. It's really, it's Buddhism, all the teachings of Buddhism are really meant to be a mirror, or a pointing into yourself, that you have the capacity to clean your window, clean your mind, and so much good comes out of that. One of the forms of liberation and freedom, that the theme with these that the Buddha talked about, is the liberation that comes from loving kindness. The liberation that comes from compassion, the liberation that comes with sympathetic joy, appreciative joy, and this and liberation that comes from equanimity, that somehow to be liberated, be freed, in a way that brings forth your hearts capacity for compassion and Love, and that that's connected to liberation. So what do you have to let go of, to have love? What do you have to let go of to have compassion, not a duty to be loving, not a duty, be compassionate. But it's the nature of the heart to be that way. And so one of the ways to one of the forms of liberation that ancient texts talk about is the liberation through love above liberation through compassion. That's pretty cool. And then to discover that capacity, it is not just a capacity of being free from dirty windshield. But it's free to be able to know maybe that if this metaphor works, but that you have a lot of seats in your car, and you can bring everyone along. You know, you don't have to be a lonely driver and you can just, you know, share it with everyone or participate with everyone in some deeper way. So Introduction to Buddhism series, I felt it was important. Last week last time I talked, I talked about the life of the Buddha.
And but what make the Buddha the Buddha was his very deep, thorough experience of liberation. Exactly what that experience was. Maybe we'll never quite know, we have lots of texts and lots of teachings that point to what it might be. But we don't have to be completely clear that we know what it is. We don't have to know the results. To to understand that this mindfulness practice the meditation practices that Buddhism offers, the ethical practices offers the wisdom practices or teachings and teaches that they are all useful for us to discover liberation from beauty in small ways, and then middling ways, and then bigger ways and then the biggest kind of possible way that this is a this possibility that's that's what we're finding Buddhism. You are becoming the Buddha or you're becoming the repository, the warm hand to warm hand that can demonstrate to express what it is. If you keep going to books to find Buddhism, you're looking in the wrong direction. You want to unless those books are functioning as a mirror that you use to look back at yourself to do the work to do the clearing, the cleaning and the work that is so here we are today is Martin Luther King Day. And it happens to be my favorite Buddhist holiday. A Buddhist holiday. Yes. And also the favorite holiday here in the United States. Because of what the work of Martin Luther King, we're not celebrating a war. We're not celebrating fighting. We're not failing. But we're celebrating someone who was a someone who was a champion of freedom. And, and he understood inner freedom. He called it sometimes you call the spiritual freedom because he had to be transformed to have the courage and the ability to do what he did. You know, he had death threats and he you know, their story goes he wrote about that he was about to give up his work for civil rights because of the daily death threats he and his family were getting. You know, how many people because you know, Miss reasonable, right, your own family, you know, death threats and people in the south are getting bombed in their bombs thrown, they're living in the through the window and people being killed and lynched. And it's only you know, it's within the general you know, in my lifetime that this was going on. And, and, and then he had a spiritual transformation, something happened and then where something has Clear something got emptied, something got opened in his heart that he then decided no, he was going to give it up. And he stepped into this dangerous world with his courage by his inner transformation and what do you do with it? He focused on the liberation of all human beings. Economic liberation, indivisible end of his life in the last few years he was working in economic liberation, he felt that was fundamental problem of this country maybe more fundamental than, than the civil rights or the Vietnam War and all that, that he was thinks that he was supposed to. But economic liberation for all people. He wrote this. He said this. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds. Education and Culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. Nice dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. So he knew they knew something about that. And so he was actually kind of beautifully, I think, wonderfully inspiring to me, all encompassing in his vision of freedom, of inner freedom and outer Freedom, freedom in our society. And to have someone who represent both of those, someone who worked as hard as he did, someone who pointed to the inequities our society, their prejudice or society, and, and did so this way. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness And hatred, we must forever conduct our struggle
on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest our creative political protest, to degenerate into physical violence. And again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. So, maybe what will happen if we take Buddhism, Buddhist practice and combine it with Canyon action, Canyon view of the world? What a nice combination that would be. The I think that Martin Luther King Jr. was a wonderful partner for Buddhist practice, to encourage Buddhists to look for freedom Within, but to really use it also, and especially the more free free we are inside, to use it to really not just to use it to look at the ground in it happy for your way, but to look around and look at our society understand it and look at the inequities and oppressions that go on and still to this day, and be concerned about that. Look for freedom support the freedom movement, wherever there's oppression wherever people are caught, and whether it's in the heart or whether it's in the world around us. And, and this last quote I gave and with sole force, and sometimes called power, so force people call it and in this wonderful way in which these things come together, that it's almost certain that this is his translation of, of a word by Mahatma Gandhi and such graha in such a, such a means truth in our tradition, it's Indian language we use for our texts. It's such a and the graha is to hold hold to the truth. And he calls it power force. Maybe that's grok I mean that as well and in Sanskrit but Satyagraha that Martin Luther King got this from, from Indian tradition and Mothma Gandhi, where did he get it from? I'm not saying he got it from Buddhism, but maybe to the Indian so deeply embedded in the Indian culture. But one of the resolves one of the dedications that the Buddha taught, is dedication and resolve on truth. And so this combination, bringing together these wonderful, seemingly very distant movements towards freedom where the word freedom is liberation is at the heart of their whole enterprise. Seeing that they have something in common. And one of the things I'd like to emphasize today is, is a dedication to holding to a resolve on truth. And how do we discover the truth for ourselves? I would suggest that one of the ways we do that, when once we can do that is to clear the windshield. And if you clear the windshield Enough of your heart, in your mind, you will see the truth with great clarity. And then, maybe you will appreciate everyone in the world who is working towards freedom everywhere, wherever it might be, your heart will appreciate that. The clearing away of oppression the clearing away of inequities clearing away of heartlessness that exists in this world. And may on this day of Martin Luther King, Jr. May we kind of really reflect a little bit and think deeply about our beautiful capacity to support each other as human beings in this world, to do this word, work together, to clear hearts clear and clear our minds and clear society, of all the things that keep us from being free. They all beings be free. Thank you