Okay, so hello. So today I want to talk about perfection and imperfection in relationship to this practice that we do. And one of the little take homes I hope to take with you because it's all a slogan is the idea that it's better to be righted than it is to be right. And this is a nautical reference, sailboats. Maybe Maybe most of you know that all of you know it may be but sailboats that have a keel. A strong Tempest the wind can come and push the sailboat over towards the side tipitaka tippet quite far, but it's because the keel is quite heavy, the more it gets tipped the more that keel kind of is heavy in a sense, and counters the the force of the wind or the waves and then the boat in a keel writes the boat and boat comes to standing righted boats who understands more or less the Masters vertical again. And in boats are being tossed around in the sea sailboats. And they're constantly being you know, righted. And, and therefore they don't capsize usually. And so this is wonderful expression to be righted is to come back into balance to come back into being upright. So the this little slogan is better to be righted than to be right. Where being right means that you know, that you you are right with your opinions, you're right with what you do, you kind of justified you defend yourself, you have an opinion that you feel is the true opinion, and everyone else should know it, or you're going to defend it at all costs. And so one has to do with the second one has to do with a kind of some idea. And ideas come and goes. And the first the first has to do with your, your disposition, how you actually are as opposed to what you believe, and what you think. So it's better to be righted than to be right. And so the practice is to help right us practice provides a keel, a ballast that can helps to keep us combat back up, and will get tossed around by the waves of life all the time. And, but if we have a keel, something like that will will get will become righted. And that's part of the function of mindfulness is that it's partly we functions as a keel just to know clear the clarity of knowing what's happening, begins that movement to be righted, and to be come back up straight, straight, upright or something. So that's kind of a little bit the, one of the takeaways I'm hoping you'll understand why this talk. So but the theme perfection and imperfection is that the Buddhist tradition, if you listen to teachers, and read about it, and the ancient texts, is that it lends itself or has a kind of a shadow side or lends itself to this idea of perfection. And that there's some you're trying to attain something perfectly. And I think it's most represented by the, by the idea that someone is fully enlightened. And here we have the word fully enlightened. There's partially on there's a fully enlightened, or perfectly enlightened, the Buddha was said to be perfectly enlightened. That if somebody gets fully enlightened, they have overcome all suffering, they freed themselves from all suffering. You know, there's no room for suffering, then that's perfect, perfectly free of suffering. They've someone who's perfectly freed themselves from all their defilements all their attachments. And then well short of this kind of idea of perfection is the idea that there's like perfect meditation experiences. For mindfulness practitioners, you can be completely in the present moment without the mind wavering whatsoever, perfectly present. Or people who do concentration practice, you can enter into a deep state of concentration, where the mind does not waver, does not get distracted into any kind of distraction, and you can be perfectly there.
All these things I believe are true that it's possible to attain all these things. But it sets up a big shadow side or downside where people then are measuring themselves against the perfect standard. And, you know, I'm supposed to be perfect. I'm supposed to manage us, you know, not have to have any problems here and I'm not supposed to waver I'm not supposed to be distracted, I'm not supposed to have any attachment. And heaven forbid that I come to Buddha center and show anger. Because anger is like one of our, you know, like, that's not being kind. And so the shadow side of Buddhist organizations like ours, is that people sometimes are kind of hold in, check their anger, because you're not supposed to be kind here. And so people don't, you know, like, admit that they're angry, or they hold it back or they something. And so the shadow side is we have these imperfect side, that then we deny we hide, we push away. And we're trying to hold it up perfectly. When I was a Zen student, there was this idea that that there was something to some way of being there was an IT, there was never defined. But if you knew it, that everything was good, and some people knew it. And some people didn't, you know, but you know, you know, I never knew it so. And so there was this, there was this kind of strange kind of mythic thing going on, that was kind of being held in the community, that I don't know if how many people even the teachers who understood how much this mythic idea, which was the undefined was kind of people are measuring themselves again, and hope against and holding himself up, but this is supposed to attain. Some people have felt the same thing with the Vipassana tradition that we're in, that there's this mythic idea of nibbāna, this great attainment, and but did not invent it never quite understand what is this, what did they keep talking about, but you know, I don't have it, and so I'm not, you know, really up to snuff, you know, somehow I'm kind of lesser then. And then there's the projection, when there's this ideal of perfection, that the, then there's a projection of perfection on others. There, certainly that person, that teacher, that practitioner must have it all together, and you know, that that's the perfect example how it's supposed to be, and, or maybe close to perfect, or something. And so, yeah, the teacher picks his nose, but, you know, it's, it's mostly it's like, you know, pretty good. And, and so, this whole perfection thing can be a headache can be a problem, it can also be inspiring, and people who people are motivated as a kind of North Star, or this is possible, and this is the direction of going. The so it's part of a part and parcel of this Buddhist tradition, that we're part of this ideal of perfection, we can't get around it. And the Buddha was, were in the centuries after he lived, his perfection kept growing. And if you watch the growth, you know, the historical literature that was produced in ancient India, relating describing the Buddha, you'll see how he began more or less as a human being. And he slowly became more and more something was closer to a deified being a perfect being, and with greater and greater powers and abilities. And part of my interpretation of it of this is that, in that culture of ancient India, where he was at, it was kind of required that a spiritual leader or spiritual founder, that no one could be, he couldn't be it was usually he right? It couldn't be no one could be second best to him. So if there was an other teacher, I had some ability that was greater than the Buddha than the Buddha wasn't so great. And so whenever there was some new person in town who had some ability, the Buddhist texts were always described how the Buddha was even better. And so it just grew and grew. This grandiosity of the Buddha, you know, like until, you know, he would visit heavens and fly through the air and you know, you all kinds of the wind, my favorite little story that from 1000 years after the Buddha is written into famous text called the path of purification. Is there are ancient, ancient texts that talk about the Buddha going into the river debate. Well, this is a big problem. Because a Buddha by the nature of being a Buddha never gets dirty.
is always clean. That's impossible for Buddha be dirty. So why is the Buddha going into the bathing got to explain it now? And, and so they're explaining Well, it just for the sake of other people to understand that it's useful to bathe something like that. And so, you know, Buddha wasn't even allowed to be human, you know, dusty India walking around and Nazism and getting dirty, because that's not just us and how happened to someone as perfect as a Buddha. So so we have that ideal also that's at play and going on. And then on the other end of the spectrum, I guess, or we have imperfection, which is kind of us. It's a few of us that I don't want to speak for all of you. But you know, there's a little bit of, you know, you know, what, there's a famous story of Suzuki Roshi, the teacher of the founder of San Francisco Zen Center, who said, when I he told to talk to his students, well, when I look upon you, I see all of you as perfect, but there's room for improvement. And so that was, you know, very generous kind of way of looking at people, then there's room for improvement. So and so we have ways in which we're wounded psychologically, in our hearts, ways in which we have attachments and fears and desires that catch us. We're caught in resentments. There's ways in which our minds function in many diverse ways. And now that we call peeps, some people neuro diverse, rather than calling them having an illness or some kind of deficiency, we have now recognized people in neuro diverse, they have all these different ways of operating, which is a much more generous than how it used to be when people were seen as being somehow deficient. Because of their ways their brain was constructed. And, and I really saw this wonderfully in my kids, elementary school classes. And so I got to see all these diverse kids in the way I'd never seen human beings before that kind of stood out and their differences and their sensitivities and their uniquenesses. And, and how luckily, in that school, they all had a place where we're kind of well cared for, when I was growing up, they would have been sent to detention or, I don't know, been expelled from the school or something, because people had no idea what was going on 4050 years ago. So So rather than seeing so that, you know, used to be things where people were imperfect, now we see there's more perfectionist more different ways of being a human being, which is kind of wonderful. And maybe you're more perfect than you realize. Maybe you're kind of unique and your ways and your way you will how things operate for you. And what are the ways of rather than thinking of yourself as being imperfect against some external standard, you get to just be yourself? And isn't wouldn't that be nice? The so the practice, we have these, but we have still we have shortcomings. And that was my favorite word when I was a new practitioner, you don't have these shortcomings. And, and one of the challenges when I was a Zen student, for me, personally, was that the practice was being presented as a practice of just being present in the moment, radical acceptance of this moment without trying to attain anything, or any goal or anything you're trying to do except be here. In some ways, it was a wonderful practice. I loved it. At the same time, I saw I had the shortcomings. And at some point, I became the gardener of the monastery. And I would walk around, I would as a gardener, I would pull out the weeds so that sir, that things could grow. And I looked at that I thought, wait a minute, if I do this for the garden, isn't it natural to do that, from my mind is well, don't have weeds in my mind. And isn't that a normal natural thing to take those weeds out? And, and so I struggled with that because of the Zen teaching seemed to not make room for that until it came to a kind of the understanding that removing weeds was not really was an unnatural thing to do. It wasn't like, because I was so focused on a goals or attainments was just like a weed you take it out to kind of more if you have a weed in the mind. It's fine to take it out. And for me the primary one that was a big issue was anger.
And so I would have to be no work with you know, I saw there's that anger and do I just let it simmer and be there or do I find a way to work with it and practice with it. And, and so what I came to was to appreciate that I had actually a lot of shortcomings. And I got to see that all every time I noticed a shortcoming. I would be happy Not because I had it. But because I had a practice to meet it. This was just part of this was the compost, this was the fertilizer for doing the practice. If I had been perfect with no shortcomings, I wouldn't have had any fertilizer for the practice. And so I started I learned to be happy kind of to recognize I wasn't content wasn't a happiness, okay, now I'm just going to have a shortcoming of this world has to deal with it now. And because, you know, I'm just going to accept myself and, you know, go out into the world and do my funny things my mind wants to do. It wasn't that it was about this emphasis on practice. And this idea that I take refuge in the practice, sometimes my shortcomings were difficult my attachments, my fears, whatever it was, but I had, I knew I had this practice. And I took refuge in that practice, okay, I don't know how to do it, or know how we're gonna get through this. But I have a practice, I trust this practice. And so this idea of, of appreciating shortcomings, rather than being embarrassed by them, or shamed by them. And many people are shamed, many people are embarrassed, many people hide them, even from themselves. Because somehow you're not perfect. You're not like living up to some ideal. They're ideal that I would like us to live in, which may be is dangerous to say, because maybe they shouldn't be ideals like this. But the ideal is that it's okay to have a shortcoming if you practice with it. And it's okay to admit you have a shortcoming if you practice with it. And now that was one of the wonderful experiences I had in this outer hall here. Many years ago, we had a meeting here of the most senior Zen teachers here in the San Francisco Bay Area, some of them been practicing for 40 years or something. And it was just kind of a personal time together. I don't know how many of you were 50 to them, or so sitting in a circle. And, and so they went around, at some point, the question was, what are your challenges these days? And they went around, and they had all these ordinary challenges that beginner beginning meditators would have, like, you can probably guess what they were, you know, some of them had fear. They talked about being nervous and afraid or anxious about certain things. And they just, they, you know, had, they're all they all had their thing. But what was remarkable that I've ever seen in such a collection of people, they were completely at ease, and relaxed about having their shortcoming. It was was clear that they were practicing with it and being sincere with it and trying to do their best, but they were so at ease. Least but you know, oh, you know, when I give dharma talks, I'm so anxious. You know, like, they were smiling, you know, oh, you know, whatever from so. So the Buddha, partly the inspiration for this talk was that I read recently SUTA discourse, ancient discourse of the Buddha, when he has this teaching. He distinguishes two kinds of people, the awful people, and excellent people. And exactly how these two Pāli words supposed to be translated is, is controversial, but one translator does, inferior and superior people. But that doesn't work very well for me, or for much of the modern audience, I think. But the word kind of means more like awful. And excellent. That's more like closer to the literal meaning. So and then it is it's gonna describe how that works. Who are the awful people who are the excellent people? And it has to do with whether or not they have a blemish, or shortcoming a fault or some kind. So you might think that it'd be that the people who have the fault, the blemish, they're the awful people, and the people who have no blemish, they're the excellent people. But that's not what the Buddha says. Instead, he says, It's the people who have a blemish
and don't know it. They're the awful people. The people who have a blemish and know they have it, are the excellent people. And he goes on to say, and the people who don't have a blemish and don't know it are awful. And the people who don't have a blemish and know it They're wonderful, they're excellent. So probably each of you should retranslate those two words into words that work better for you than awful at Excellent. So don't take them too serious, though. But there's a distinction here. And clearly the ideal is not to be free of blemish. But rather to know how it is how you are. That's what's Excellent. And so here, you're allowed to have a blemish by the Buddha, if you know it. And because if you know it, then you can practice. If you don't have a blemish, and don't know it, then you can easily slip off into delusion into attachments again. But if you know you don't have a blemish, then you can little bit appreciate that state and practice with that, then grow in it and develop it. So I was just delighted by this idea of knowing that you have blemishes knowing that you're imperfect, knowing perhaps in some ways that you failed. And now we come to one of the central pieces of the culture of the United States that some of you may be gonna appreciate. And that's baseball. At the center of American culture, is a sport that mostly involves failure. Someone who, who fails only two thirds of the time when they're at bat is an excellent player. And they're mostly failing. And they just come up to bat again and again and again. So failure, blemishes, maybe we don't have to take them so seriously. Maybe it's okay to have shortcomings and faults. And if we practice with it, if we engage in it, and one of the ways to practice with it, is to know that it's present to know our shortcomings. And the knowing is mindfulness. And the knowing is how we write the ship, how the ship writes itself. Whether we think about a sailboat is that the sailor doesn't do it usually doesn't do the writing. It's, you know, big sailboat can tip over, but then say, you know, everyone holds on and then the boat writes itself. can usually and, and so the so the knowing. So what is it about knowing that helps, right, our ship. And one of the things is that the clarity of knowing means that in the clear time of knowing we're not participating in their shortcoming. We have it, but we're not engaged in it. They're not identified with it. We're not barreling ahead with it. So if we're angry, and so Oh, I am angry right now. There's anger here right now. That's very different than continuing ruminating about all the reasons you're angry with some situation and planning revenge, then you're really kind of, even if you kind of know that you're angry, but you're really kind of sunk into it. versus kind of stepping back say, Oh, this is anger. It's kind of like now you're making space for something else to operate. That writes the ship. You making space that there's more, more of you there. There's breathing room, there's, there's space to expand into, to relax into, oh, it's like this for me. As soon as you then say, well, I guess I'm imperfect and I got to get perfect quickly. This is wrong. I'm the bad person because I'm angry. Then we're adding piling wins upon wins upon the sales of to keep keep we keep pushing it over. We're adding second arrows or third arrows as we say, in Buddhism. We are just adding more suffering.
The way to add not add suffering is to appreciate and learn the simplicity of knowing just be mindful, clear. Oh, this is how it is. And then to have a practice that works with it. That could be as simply as now that I know it's there. Let me know it again. Let me feel it. Let me really see how it's like. Let me kind of name it and and so that there's an honesty self honesty Eat Oh, it's like this. It's part a lot of people are not honest with themselves about what's going on. And we're trying Buddhism, we're trying to be honest. Oh, that's how it is. Maybe we practice relaxation, maybe it's time to practice breath meditation. So we're not so caught in the grip of something. But it's not with the idea that we're doing something wrong exactly that we're bad. There's no bad people. There might be bad thoughts, bad impulses, you know, they're harmful. But we don't have to bury ourselves in shame or regrets or upset criticism of ourselves. We because we have a practice. Oh, I see it. This is how it is. Let me practice with this. Now. Let me find a way with it. Let me see if there's another way of holding this than holding it with resentment. or shame? Can I hold it with kindness? Can I have kind of a generous attitude towards this challenge that I have? Can I just see it as this is, this is part of me, but it's not who I am. It's a part of me that that certainly I'd like to address and work with and find some freedom from, but I'm not going to give it the and that can be held hostage by it. I'm not going to be trapped by it. But I'm going to be untrap myself through the practice of mindfulness. Some of these shortcomings we have might remain. But it with time, they don't hinder us, they don't grab us, they don't take over they don't possess us. So there might be fear, there might be strong desires that might be anger, that's kind of accompanies us. There's a theory there you are of anger. I know you're there that. But you're not going to. I'm not going to say anything, I'm not going to do anything based on it. I'm free enough to not live my life, unhindered by it. But I know it's there. The attitude that immediately sees a shortcoming of faulty we have as being terrible wrong to identify I'm that terrible person, because I'm angry means that we've kind of put that anger center stage and become beset possessed by it. The mindfulness practice can put it in its right place, which is just a piece of the whole picture. And just a piece of it means that we don't have to be maybe caught by it or limited by it. So the very fact that we have a shortcoming doesn't have to be a big deal. It becomes oftentimes a bigger deal than it actually is. Because we're reacting to it or judging yourself because of it. Instead of judging ourselves or defining ourselves by the shortcoming, just smile and say, Hey, today, I have a shortcoming. Isn't that great? Someone asked you Why are you happy? You're smiling a lot today? Oh, because I'm so anxious. What? You're anxious and you're smiling? Oh, yes. Because I know I'm anxious. And I have this practice. It's not easy to be with anxiety. But I'm so glad I have this practice. Isn't this crazy? Yes, somebody's nodding. It's a kind of a shift of perspective, how we hold ourselves and see ourselves. So the last thing I'll say is that this practice that we do, that practice of mindfulness is so valuable. It's even valuable. When we just do it partially. It's so valuable. It's even valuable when we do it in perfectly.
And I suspect that a few of us occasionally will do it imperfectly. I mean, I had this as a family joke that I had that saying that's kind of like a relation family job used to go skiing when I was a kid. And simple. My father used to joke and he said, like, well, I almost fell today on the ski slopes and of course he fell. But he was like, Oh, you So you know you're almost had a shortcoming but, so to practice with it, to admit it to see it to not be weighed down by all these uniqueness and foibles that we have. So you might consider if you if you understand what I'm saying here you might consider what nice word you have for your own oddities. For me when I was younger, I call it my shortcomings. You might call it foibles you might call it oddities might call it your friends, what do you want to call it? That that is little bit kinder and more supportive for you then call it a foul to our problem you have a word mistake mistakes mistakes Okay, so call it a mistake rather than calling it wrong idiosyncrasies you have some of those many what other good words are there illusion or delusion? The illusion some people like that greatest illusion Yeah. My way my way. Yes, habits habits. My habits
do you mind Roberta
wabi sabi. Letter please eccentricities, and I still eccentricity and eccentricities, eccentricities. All of the above all of the above life, this is life, the full catastrophe. So, it's a wonderful thing to have a practice. And it allows us to have a whole different perspective on the challenges of our life. And there are other challenges in life besides our foibles, or shortcomings. Life itself is a challenge the tragedies of life, there's the losses of life that we all live with. Life is not perfect. Some of you some of us are aging, some New Yorker who haven't gotten around to it yet. But at least to recognize that, but aging is not an accident. You know, it's just this is how we were built age. That's what that's how human beings are created. It's not a mistake. So we have these tragedies, we have these challenges. We have all kinds of things that come besides our shortcomings. And we have our practice. And we meet everything with practice and take refuge in the practice is to find your freedom. In the midst of everything. It's a fantastic thing to have. And if you have a refuge, we have that kind of refuge. There's no need to complain about anything. Because you can just practice with it instead. So may you take refuge in the practice. If that's too high a bar, maybe for some of you is to take refuge in Your sincerity your sincere your sincere effort to practice because maybe your practice can't be perfect, but maybe your sincerity can be sincere. Do your best. So thank you, everyone for today. And for some of you if you'd like we can go now and meet in the parking lots cydnus are going to have a little discussion about this or anything at all. And take off our masks out in the parking lot if you'd like you don't have to. If you'd like to do that there's folding chairs that are out in the cabinet. They're just outside the other room. Bring a folding chair if you can or someone else will bring couple and we'll make a circle out there in the parking lot and a few minutes and a half. Build discussion and I look forward to being with any of you that you start to stay Thank you