2021-01-10 What is Important
6:36PM Jan 10, 2021
So for this Sunday morning Dharma talk, I would like to talk about what is important. And I first want to say, as a introduction, a prelude to what I'm going to say: that in my understanding of Buddhist teachings, Buddhist practice, in my understanding of what's important in this world -- that each of you is important, that each of you is valuable. Each of you is precious and lovable, and each of you is important. And that Buddhist practice is predicated on the idea that we do, in fact, take ourselves as valuable, significant, important for our care and our attention. And, and because we are so important, each of us, each of us valuable, it's also important to trust something that's more important than ourselves. So we are so important that we don't want to be limited by ourselves, but learn to trust something that's greater than ourselves or something which is not in the whole self system. And so it can seem like a little bit of a paradox, to say it this way. And, but it's a way of both appreciating ourselves. And in a certain kind of way, not being so caught in the self preoccupied with itself. And to discover something that's trustable. That's different than the usual ways in which we self identify the usual ways we preoccupied ourselves or measure ourselves or contrast ourselves or hold on to ourselves. And we're too important. We, it's so easy to care for ourselves, and our well being and our happiness is so important that we are more important, we're so important, that we don't want to hold on to the self and cling to the self. Because it diminishes us, it limits us. And so there's this kind of wonderful dual kind of aspect of really do caring about ourselves. And because we do, we almost at times, forget about ourselves. And that's where kind of the greater good can reside. So it's not all or nothing. Oh, it is, this is not a dismissing of ourselves. It's not really a total forgetting, always forgetting about ourselves. But it's putting ourselves in a context where we actually trust something, in a sense, different than the self that we're preoccupied with. And for Buddhists, to Buddhist practitioners, a wonderful place to trust is to trust the practice more than we trust ourselves. And so in what do we mean by practice, to trust mindfulness, to trust the engagement with the Buddhist values, to trust our capacity for attention, goodness, concentration, love, the engagement, the practice of those things, more than we would trust our minds, kind of preoccupation concern. Caught in a labyrinth of self caught in the wind drag of self caught in the ways in which self preoccupation, concerns, slows us down, closes us down, contracts us, separates us all kinds of things that a certain kind of self preoccupation, will kind of often you know, do So to trust the practice more
than we trust ourselves. And the practice, of course, comes out of ourselves as part of ourselves. So in a sense, we are trusting ourselves when we trust the practice. But it can be helpful sometimes to not see that as the self. It's like stepping out of the hole, self game and self concern. So the trust the practice, but to understand how this works, maybe we can define what practice means in any kind of in some basic way. I think one of the basic ways what practice means is to live ethically, and to live in such a way that we don't knowingly or intentionally, cause harm for others. And this is a really, it's central to this, do not cause harm. The second aspect of what practice is, is to live in such a way to practice in such a way to engage in the practice of discovering and finding a way not to harm ourselves. And, and one of the ways that we harm ourselves is through clinging to contraction, the tightness of holding on tight, to hold not, and to not hold on. And one of the things we hold on to is self identity and self ideas, concepts of conceit, being better than others worse than others, needing to be equal to others. All these kind of ways in which we have the self, we want to assert themselves in the situation in life. And it's not necessarily wrong to do that. But it's if there's an ouch if there's a sting, in this selfing, if it limits us, then it's rather unfortunate. And so to not have the clinging to self, which is a way we harm ourselves. So first, we don't want to harm others. And I like to put that first. The second is not harming ourselves. But whether which one should be first is a wonderful topic of conversation and exploration with others, you know, what should be first? Do you first put on the air mask in on the airplane for yourself or first put it on for someone person sitting next to you? Where does it go? What's most important, and perhaps there's no final answer to that, because the two are closely connected that to when we harm ourselves, it's often self harm, which sometimes perpetuates the ouch the hurt the the hurt of self harm, of clinging and resisting and closing down and that that somehow has its genesis and something we're doing that all hurt is that but what we responsible for, cannot can be the jet replace the Genesis to source from what motivates harming others. And harming others, is often the source for certain kind of harming ourselves closing down and tightening from that. So it's maybe it's a chicken and egg thing. The third aspect of practice is using our attention to be in the present moment in some higher quality way than usual, to be in the present moment. So we're not caught up in our thoughts are caught up in self preoccupation. So to practice mindfulness, to have mindfulness be strong enough, that we see where the clinging is, we see where the ouch is, the sting is in what we're doing. So that we can realistically find a way beyond that. And, and in doing that, in doing this practice, engage in this practice that we have here is to, to trust that more than we trust our self concerns, not because we're unimportant or not, because we're unconcerned with ourselves. We're so concerned with ourselves, that we devote ourselves to the practice. Now in certain situations, like in meditation, or certain activities, where we can give ourselves fully mindfully over to the activity, there can be delightful sense of forgetting the self. And, and we see that and sometimes in sports or in doing their
craft or playing games or, you know, there's different activities that we do, where we're so fully involved in it. That it's part of the pleasure of it is a kind of self forgetting. reading a novel, maybe you're even watching TV show or certain conversations with certain friends, maybe there's a completely kind of forgetting of self that just feels like a relief. And it's so nice. And finally, this kind of kind of the, the spiral of getting wound up in self is no longer going on. And, and it's really one of the great things in life is to watch someone who's really skilled and activity dancer, athlete or someone who's really, really good, that you feel that they're really embodying and entering into, in a full way that, you know, the self kind of disappears. Someone playing a championship game of something of you know, that's been their life training for it. And, and then the middle of the game before they're going to do their most crucial part of the sport, maybe. And they suddenly start having thoughts about, am I am I not? Why am I here? What's the purpose of my life are people watching are people appreciating me when I'm doing this? I wonder if I you know, stand up straighter, whether people will like me even more as I play the game. And as soon as you start thinking that way, probably, this, the athlete will begin kind of tripping over themselves and not really being absorbed in what's happening. So sometimes in meditation, that same way, sometimes we're completely involved in meditation, the practice of mindfulness, the practice of really being present with a breathing or present with our even loving kindness, practice, whatever it might be, to be absorbed, be absorbed and adore, really, and there's a delightful forgetting of self. And that's part of the pleasure of it is a freedom from self self concern. And even from some of that, concern with identity, who I who I am, some identities we have a natural and appropriate to have and not something we can do away with. But it's the preoccupation the concern with it, where it's so good to have, it just got to drop away for a while and just to be just to be alive just to breathe, just to be present fully for what's here. Without that self reflective movement of self preoccupation. That kind of forgetting of yourself, to whatever degree it can happen is a reference point that helps us become more sensitive, when self is operating. And, and in many circumstances of life, self concern is an important part of it, we have to take care of ourselves. You know, recently I had surgery for my eye. And I had to remember to do these eyedrops multiple times through the day. And I couldn't just expect someone else to do that. For me, I had to be self aware enough and self caring enough. And this was not the time to kind of be absorbed in other activities. So that I wouldn't notice was time to take my medication, it was appropriate to have that kind of presence of mind, take care of myself. And in all kinds of ways it's appropriate, to not forget about ourselves and to care for ourselves. But to have learned what it is to forget the self. And to learn to track ourselves and be mindful of it all. We can start noticing a difference between you know, just putting the eyedrops in caring for ourselves that way, versus needing to be the very best eye dropping person, you know, medicine, eyedropper person in the world, most skilled and wanting all our friends to recognize how great we are in putting the drops in her eyes and, and make sure we place ourselves someplace in the public view. So everyone can see how good I am at putting the drops in my eyes. And or afraid to let anybody see me do it, because maybe I'm not doing it perfectly just right. And there must be a perfect exactly the right way. And I don't know what that is, but I can't let other people see me doing it in an awkward way. So we start noticing all the little extras that go on that have to do with self and proving ourselves defending ourselves hiding ourselves in the relationship to the world and others. And we see that and we see the ouch of it, the sting of it and not add more stings.
If anything with practice with practice is more important than ourselves in this way I'm talking about today. What the practice of seeing the selfing the self preoccupation is self definition that we're holding on to around self We see it. And rather than being dismayed by it, if we can see it clearly enough, it could even give birth, give birth to a certain degree of humor, we can kind of smile. And there it is, again, or for, if it hurts a lot to do it, maybe you can give, give birth to compassion, or love or forgiveness for ourselves. All these things are valuable. But the reference point, the place that we trust, is the practices that we do, not the self. And so practice does involve a shift of the locus of trust. And the locus of trust, switches from self, to practice, from self, to being mindful. And it's safe to do that, because we're not totally abandoning ourselves and being mindful. And being mindful, there's actually a heightened sensitivity and awareness of ourselves or thinking or feelings or emotions, how we suffer where the sting is, and the vouchers are, and where they are, or the The pleasure is to delight the freedom is. So we'll fight figure out how we could and convenient we can then unconventional ways, better take care of ourselves. But that caring of ourselves, comes from a different place than selfish care. If there's a kindness comes from a place of selflessness, a place where just trusting the practice, and trusting how the practice supports us and unfolds us and develops in us. So to take refuge in the practice, some people will call that taking refuge in the Dharma. And, and to take refuge in the Dharma, more than we would, in this conventional self, the way we usually live based on kind of self concern and ideas. And this is a very unconventional idea in our society. And maybe for some of you, it's actually a little bit challenging to hear me say this, because maybe you've taken a long time in your life, to find a very confident, strong, self caring self, that you managed to navigate through the world. And, and so certainly, that's probably a good thing. But there are people who find a strong sense of self, that if you really pay attention, it's tiring. It's extra, it's, it's limiting. And it limits the greater possibility of real freedom. where there isn't this bounded locus, this bounded, clear, central kind of location that's a little bit tight or contracted, that's working. And there can be a greater place of this effortless place of being the effortless, free location of life that is not bounded. So I'm not sure if what I'm talking about today, how articulate I can be and how well it works for some of you and your way you understand yourself and your language. And so I ask of you maybe, to not exactly give what I'm saying the benefit of the doubt, but to upper to maybe consider what I'm saying? And says is there a different way of saying it that works for you, that helps you differentiate between the self involvement self concern, self ideation, self definition, that might have an ouch in it for you. And that way of being, that that kind of self has been put to rest or not operating so strongly, in your own language, maybe is trusting of the Dharma of the Dharma trusting practices, not quite, you know how you would say it, you would say it's some different way. But that distinction still holds a place where a certain kind of self forgetting has an opportunity from time to time to operate. A place where there's a, there's a possibility of holding lightly and maybe with humor or
with freedom, certain ways in which we take things personally. That is not really helpful for us is not to kind of have something free. And so I say again, that each This is important. You're all important and valuable and appreciate the ball. lovable, no doubt about it. And all of you are worthy of being appreciated and loved by yourself. Each of you, I hope will take yourself as being important. And with that importance of it with a sense of that importance, appreciate there's something more important, because you're so important, it's can be important, something even more important. And that is the practice. That is a that is this movement that takes us beyond the limited ways in which we get caught and self. And, and so I kind of delight in this idea that we're so important, that we trust, we want to trust something else, besides that small self. And trust the practice, trust the mindfulness, trust our navigating through the world, where we're dedicated to not causing harm, trust, we're navigating through the world, where we're caring for ourselves to not cause harm for ourselves, to not cling to anything. Trust the practice, trust, mindfulness, trust, awareness of the present moment. And I hope that each of you will have from time to time, some experience of forgetting yourself in a healthy and wonderful way, not because you're so thoroughly distracted, that you don't notice yourself, but rather, because you're so thoroughly involved with what's happening, so fully present for here, what's here, that somehow something drops away of self concern and self preoccupation, self, being self conscious, and being selfish, and that you delight in that you learn from that potential for how to live. And it becomes a reference point for you, to be able to move in that direction more and more. And more and more, provide yourself with some of the greatest joy and freedom that a human being can experience, to provide yourself with the greatest good a human being can have. And so, to let go of the self, to experience the greatest thing, that you can experience, freedom and profound experience of care for yourself and others. So thank you very much. And I, I appreciate. I can say, I appreciate you all, I think, some of you who haven't met. But I think that this path of the Dharma teaches us how to see something in everyone where everyone is appreciated. Everyone can be loved everyone, we can see everyone as important. And may it be that as we see ourselves as being important, our ability to see each person we meet as important, supports us to discover how to meet without the barriers of self. And that we create by having a strong self and also how that strong self creates the barriers that happen when we create the other as the other selfing and othering are these unfortunate ways in which we create separation. May we be free of that we bring ourselves the greatest benefit. Thank you.