2021-10-03-Serving What is Wholesome
6:07PM Oct 3, 2021
Today I'm going to talk a little bit about a discourse of the Buddha that I find kind of inspiring and its simplicity. It's very repetitive. So in years past I would have I just kind of glossed over it and didn't really read it carefully. But and now lately, I find it very meaningful, and it's repetition and its simplicity. And, and the context we're giving it is kind of how I how my I'm feeling after a very full week of all kinds of input from this world around me. I did a retreat, I taught a two week retreat that ended last Sunday, a wonderful experience of being absorbed kind of in the world with Dharma, and in a sense, kind of came out of it into the wider world, again, to experience many things that are difficult and wonderful, in this world of ours. And, and then the big one that had a big impact on me was reading about and the, the COVID-19 situation in the United States and in the wider world. And, and we're also talking to people who work in hospitals, and their experience their what's happening there and around the hospital, and reading, you know, reading about these things. And it's so tragic, how many people are dying and sick and impacted from the illness. But the tremendous strain on the hospital systems and hospitals in various states overflowing and people not being able to find hospitals, they'll take them because they're all full. And, but I'm also struck by that tremendous faultlines of tension that exists in this country, are exacerbated through this whole COVID-19 crisis, and the level of animosity and hate and all directions. That is being spread and, and, and acted on is kind of astounding for what is an illness, that illness, which many people are dying. And, and, you know, beginning of the pandemic, there was, you know, a fair amount of this last year, a fair amount of discussion about superheroes, the medical, first responders and hospitals and nurses and doctors and staff, and then who were not vaccinated, and we're kind of showing up to support and to help and try to offer medical care to people who were sick and dying of COVID. So doing their own risk of their own life. And there's that still happening, and it's kind of frustrating for them that with the vaccine available that they still have, you know, they're probably vaccinated, most of them, but still, it's dangerous for them, and they have to experience so much death. And, you know, some of these people in the hospital, doctors, nurses, chaplains, staff are witnessing multiple deaths a day and day after day, day after day, where they go to work. But also that there are some hospitals there are demonstrations outside the hospitals, where people are angry at the medical staff, for treating COVID for the whole divide between the the anti backs and the probax people and anti Vax people coming in, denying there's even COVID and then I read about the nurses who will take off their uniform and have no medical and, you know, badges or uniforms at all, if they go into a stores, local stores because they do people hate them, they get get attacked, at least verbally. And it's like don't feel safe. I heard a story of people who are going to work to try to help people from dying from COVID, who had to go through a gauntlet of protesters who were yelling and hitting at them to do their medical care. So it felt so painful to read, and know and learn about these experiences that are going on and so on so many fronts. And I wanted to what do I say, out of my talk, I felt like I had to talk say something about it in a Dharma talk and what do you what do I What do I say? And then other other experiences during the week that are still very much on my heart that also led me to what do I say here? So I decided to talk about this particular discourse discourse which I think many people would read and not find it inspiring by Did
you know soporific Lee repetitive and dull somehow but I don't think that was the case when we originally composed was composed in oral culture and the repetition was part of the song The rhythm though there was a rhythm there was a tune and there was a lyricism to it, and the chanting in unison and in the monastic communities and it was kind of like a song which repeats its lines over and over again and and has kind of rhythm of way it affects the heart and washes through us and and makes it you know, these really great Dharma points are just washing through and and they didn't have quitting right back then either. So if you wanted to have you know, remember something, you You didn't write it out and then check it out later. You had to really memorize it. And so to memorizing this rhythmic kind of way of repeating the same kind of thing with slight switches changes was probably very effective in an oral culture and maybe not effective in a written one. So this text is what is number 114 in the middle length discourses and it's that it's, it's Sabir savy taba suta the discourse on the word Sebby taba means the word save or some of you know, a save as kind of a Indic word that it means to serve or to help someone. There's an organization that ROM das started called Sabre that is doing humanitarian work and in India and other places. And so it's just this word, and the word means to serve. It also means to or to attend to, it also means to practice. And so I love this idea that the word means both, that somehow we practice in order to serve, it's a way of serving. One translation, the most common translation, translate is what should be cultivated. And but with cultivated that misses the idea that net there's a kind of little little bit of a devotional quality to it, of serving of helping them What should we serve? Well, you know, what do we give ourselves to win in a nice way. And it is practices is talking about so. And this teaching is, is the Buddha gives a very simple teaching. And then without any explanation, and then the Buddha's disciples, sorry, Buddha follows up with explanation, the explanation of what it means. The Buddha then approves of that and doesn't more simple teaching. Sorry, Twitter explains in the third round, the same thing, at the end of which the Buddha says, if it is to summarize it, if lay people listen to this, and apply this in their lives, it'll be for their long term, happiness and welfare. And, and it's interesting, he specifies lay people. And in a sense, it's a little bit like secular Buddhism, there's nothing about rebirth, there's nothing about all kinds of liberation, anything that makes it more complicated or more kind of religious, for some people, it's, here are some things you can do that, that is beneficial for you how you can live your ordinary life, if you pay attention to this, and, and nothing religiously really is asked to people. It's kind of secular practices that way. However, it also points to the heart of what of the Buddha's message and something very central to how we orient orient himself. And how he would have starts he talks about what should be done, and what should not be done or what's what one since should serve, and what one should not serve, what one should practice and what one should not practice. And, and then he goes through a list of things. So it's, you know, there's this dichotomy that's put up, put up there. And in that, you know, we're always doing something, whether we're thinking or using our body for something or speaking in some way. What criteria do we use for what we do with our body, what we do with our speech, and also what we do with our mind and how we think. And don't just leave it to chance, don't let it kind of go a market by itself, but have some presence of mine to notice what we're doing and then to make a choice. between different things, what do we serve.
And so the Buddha goes through this list, he says, There is conduct of body, that one should serve and contact to the conduct of the body that one should not serve. There's conduct of voice of speech that one should serve and conduct with one should not serve, there's conduct of mind, that one should serve and conduct of mind which would not serve. Then he goes on says, There are dispositions of mind, that one should serve dispositions of mind that one should not serve. There are perceptions Here we are, kind of conceptions of the world conceptions of things that we should serve and conceptions that we should not serve. There are views, opinions, stories of the world and ourselves that we should serve, and once we should not serve. And then there are, this is an interesting one, for many people struggle with Buddhist ideas, there are identities that we should serve and identities we should not serve. And this kind of way of thinking is kind of central to the Buddhist teaching, which means that it's avoiding of categorical teachings about what one should do categorical teachings about what kind of views perceptions, conceptions, dispositions, and even identity identities that one should have or shouldn't have. And some Buddha's have this categorical idea that you should have no identities, you should let go of all identities when you're practicing. But here, the Buddha doesn't want to reject everything in some category, or accept everything in some category. And he's always asking a question, looking at Well, there's some that you should some way you should do it in some way you shouldn't do it. And, and, and so that's how the Buddha says, and then the his disciples sorry, Buddha says, Well, let me explain further, Buddha says, Sure. And third, Buddho says, What when, if what you're doing is unwholesome, don't do it. If what you're serving is wholesome, keep doing it. If what your, your disposition is unwholesome, then don't do it. If it's wholesome, do it. If the identity you're holding on to your living with is unwholesome, and he explains it as unwholesome, leading to affliction, it's unwholesome and it's harming you don't do it. But if it's wholesome, leading to non affliction, then it's fine to do it. So there's always further sorry, put this this is your evaluation for what to do and not to do is based on this idea of wholesomeness and unwholesomeness, which sometimes is translated as skillfulness, and not skillfulness. Which is points to the it's consequential it's considering in doing this one of the consequences. And if it's skillful consequences, beneficial conflict consequences that are useful for you then do it. And, and that, if not, then don't do it. And so here, there's an evaluation process that each person can do for themselves. These are not categorical teachings of anything. And about how to behave about ethics, necessarily. It's a little more nuanced than that, but or about views, you know, and some people will not like this that tax because it's so dualistic, they'll say, what should be done, what shouldn't be done? There's two things there standing opposition, it's binary, and like there's doesn't leave any other room for something. And, and, but that's a view. And so, you know, what about non dualism and the Buddha would say, there is a way to serve non dualism that's one should do, and a way of serving non dualism when one should not do and how, if it's wholesome to do it, do it if it's not wholesome, don't do it. And so, having this to kind of guide this perspective, we each person becomes their own teacher, their own guide their own person finding our way forward. And because the word for skillful also can mean very close to the English word for ethical, it's how we become our own ethical guide.
And it's been You know what's wholesome and unwholesome. And this is so crucial to the Buddhist teachings that we would be have our own ability to recognize this quality of all the things that we're going to do in body speech in mind, and to track it. And so when it's unwholesome, it feels painful, it has an ouch in it, there's an ache, there's a contraction, there's tension, there's stress, there's a closing down, there's the unwholesome undermines the person who has it. So things like anger, hostility, delusion, greed, are their primary representations of what's unwholesome, that undermine the person who does it. The engine language you're talking about these things, greed, hatred, delusion, burn, the person who has them. So they might be outwardly directed, wanting something or being hostile to someone else. But we're harming ourselves and when we do it, so it isn't always so like major like the heart, but there's a feeling of tension, stress, even sometimes, something gets lost from a self alienation. When things are done wholesomely there's the whole other way of feeling. It feels it doesn't feel differently deflating or diminishing or, or doesn't have an ouch it has more of an awe. It has more of a feeling of, of yes to it. There's a feeling of opening of relaxing of, of a delight or warmth. A feeling of wholesomeness, not everyone associates in English. The word wholesomeness is something that CPL so good, but the when I was a kid that advertisements for bread, talked about wholesome bread, that's my biggest association with a word and these advert commercials on TV. And and I think the idea was that there was nutritious we've been more than nutritious has kind of felt, you know, comfortable. Like maybe some of food that we grew up with at home that parents made that just felt like more than just tasted with felt like the parents love came with it and was so nourishing in a psychological way, is kind of what I associate wholesome with. So we do things that have this beneficial effect. And for some people, this is a new idea that we could be tracking ourselves carefully with mindfulness, and make simple choices, away from what is unwholesome to what is wholesome. hour away from what has kind of, not as an Ouch, and towards what has an Aw, as nurture and nourishing for us, away from what is the nourishing and nourishing us. And that and to be sensitive to part of the purposes of mindfulness is develop a heightened sensitivity to that very difference. So that we can choose to be nourished. And so it isn't just simply being mindful in the present moment. And just that's enough of it. But it's doing being mindful the present moment. So we can make these simple choices, as they're obvious of how to do something. And it could be as simple as how we make a meal, if we do it, tense in a hurry. resentful, if we do it, afraid about you know, will they like my food or not, that's a very, that's kind of not that's has a little bit of an ouch to it. But if we do it with an inspiration and joy and love and generosity as part of it, just delighted that we have people we can feed that has a very different feeling for it done from love.
So to kind of track this, to know it, and then to kind of begin to know, kind of smell the direction must second nature, that's the way to go to what's wholesome. And this is the way that hopefully we can find our way, in a fractured society, a society that has a lot of tension in it and a lot of hatred in it. And a lot of greed in it. That we don't want to contribute to that. We want to contribute to not do that to the unwholesome, but to the wholesome unwholesomeness produces more unwholesomeness is a teaching of the Buddha. wholesomeness produces more wholesomeness for oneself and also into the world. So unfailingly dedicatedly committed Lee Living a life that's committed to the wholesome, that are the beneficial that which is nourishing that's which is inspiring that which is for the greater welfare and happiness of all beings. We don't always know what that means, like in terms of actual things in the world, should we vote for a different kind of taxes or not? What kind of tax systems do we have? What kind of electoral systems do we have? And so all these big questions that are difficult to, you know, agree on, let alone really have answers for but be very careful not to lose sight of the wholesome in discussing these don't sacrifice the wholesome because of views and stories and opinions. Remember what the Buddha said, there are some views that one should serve, and some use when should not serve. And, and those of us that are wholesome and wholesome consequences, those should be served, but those which are unwholesome not to be served. And it isn't just the views, but it's how we hold views, how we use us how we speak of our views, there's a way of speaking about them, and the way of not speaking about them. And how do we know the one that's speak the ones that speak in a way that's awesome. Don't speak in a way that's unwholesome. So it goes on and on. And this idea, of wholesome and this way in the text, but that's the you get the general idea of it. And, and that's my, what I felt most since felt inspired to talk about, in the wake of so many challenges that exists in our society, and may it be that we are a wholesome, contribute to the wholesomeness of our society, the nourishment of our society. So that what is really good and beneficial for the welfare and happiness of every single person in our society, including the people who are so often forgotten and marginalized, or that we don't include in our hearts. Let us include everyone in our hearts, even the people we disagree with, so that our attitude towards them is wholesome, even if we disagree with them. So thank you all very much.