2022-05-08 Deep As the Ocean: Not Clinging to Divisions
7:00PM May 8, 2022
So good morning. And welcome. Those of you here to IMC, thank you for coming. And thank you for coming and wear your masks. Now that I think the two places close closest to us two counties now have the one of the fastest surging of COVID. In maybe in the country, even San Francisco and Santa Cruz, I'm going to Santa Cruz today, like Santa Cruz has the highest, at least in California. So I'm going down there for the next two weeks to teacher retreat. And the retreat topic is on my mind. Recently, our our our our retreats have themes that we make up just before the retreat starts to kind of tie the teachings the practice together. And, and so I kind of want to do it, maybe for my sake, a trial run, it's kind of what's on my mind. And so I'm going to talk a little bit about this and tell you in a few minutes what the actual theme is. But first, I would like to tell the story from my life when I was a Zen student, and that will be illustrative of what I'm going to say more of the so I lived at a green Gulch Zen Center in Greene County for a while. And as a new student there. So I would go in many times a day into the meditation hall, it was a big, very big, it used to be a very big barn that they converted high ceiling and big rectangular building. And the way it was laid out, you'd kind of go in from kind of from the back back door. And, and you would go into the room and down some steps. And you come at the back of the altar. And then you'd either go left and right and go sit in the main part of the room. And so there was an aisle and behind the altar. And if you were on the left side of the room, and you wanted to go to the right side of the room, you would always walk behind the altar, the rule was you never walked across the middle of the room in front of the altar, I think the idea that the Buddha was in the altar, and it was disrespectful to walk in front of the Buddha. And so you'd always walk around. And if you were in the deepest end of the meditation hall, and you wanted to get to the others, you know, just two to three feet, the other side of that magical invisible line, you have to walk all the way around to get there. And as I was there, sometimes they're good reasons, variety of reasons to doing things, whatever we did there in the room, that I would get close to that, that line midline, right down in the middle of the Buddhist body, you know, and I could feel my body would feel I was approaching like a magnetic field or this force field, as I approach that line. And my body with these little micro muscles in my body would be pulling me away or be activated. And so that inner, it wasn't conscious all this but it was kind of subconscious that was doing this and and so this feelings I had my body's micro muscles and excited excited energy that would come or something. As I approached that line, it kind of contributed the sense of there's a forcefield here. And so I would, the closer I got that field more of this force field, and then I would pull back. And so that went on for a long time. But I didn't think about it too much. I just was and and then one day I was doing I think was cleaning. And the back behind the altar was cleaning. And there were some tourists who came. There's people who just wandered off off the street and we just kind of walking around to see what is that center was like and they wandered into the meditation hall and and they just wandered in and walked around and walked right through that line. And nothing happened. No lightning struck. They didn't they get electrocuted. Nothing happened. And at that moment,
I realized that that line was just a figment of my imagination, meaning that I was told not to cross the midline. But the sense of a forcefield the sense of this, you know, the whole my whole relationship to this line was just didn't exist. You know what I mean? Line didn't exist in, in my relationship with something imaginary. To this, it just of all was made up by the mind and, and I'd lived MIT was made up in my mind, as a thing didn't really exist and buddho had an impact on me, I behaved accordingly. So that was kind of fascinating to see, you know, how the mind can project onto reality and things that are out there, and live as if it's there. And, to some degree, we do that with people, we project power sometimes are qualities onto people that may or may not be there, sometimes we, up the amplitude may be if some of these qualities in people and make them bigger than they are, and, and it's not uncommon to, for people to go spend time with a spiritual teacher, to you know, especially if a teacher has if they really you know, elevated importance in people's minds. And then just being in the presence of the teachers like, Wow, man, this wonderful field is forcefield, it was wonderful field, the teacher. And there might be some, some, a few things coming from a teacher, but it's elevated because of the same phenomenon. The mind is projecting and imagining and living as if this is real, rather than understanding and appreciating how much the mind is contributing to it and, and assigning it to the teacher, for example. It's all kinds of things. So so this idea that the mind will contribute to the into its imagination, to project onto reality, things that are not there are not there. And the way that we're living them, is a very important principle to understand Buddhist, the Buddha's teachings in relationship to ourselves. Because we do it to ourselves in different ways. And that's that kind of the theme of this retreat we're going to do with the Buddha talked about five different ways, which we create this. These things, these, we divide ourselves into five different ways. And each of those divisions by dividing us, we're dividing the wholeness of who we are. And then we get attached to those divisions. And we put sometimes you put a lot of value and importance into these divisions. Some people put more important than one of the divisions or some of the divisions more than other people do. But that projection, this idea of this is where it's at this is important, this is where the forcefield is, this is where I am, this is where I sense of who I am. And sometimes a sense of I Am I exist, sometimes is another forcefield or another something that's kind of the mind has projected onto reality, this case, the reality of this being here. And we live in that projection in all kinds of complicated ways. And we like it we don't like it, we we don't want you know, we pull away from it, we hold on to it, we cling and so began to appreciate how the mind does that is part of the function of mindfulness practice. The simplest way to in the Buddhist teachings to understand this is that he talked about this as being five areas where people cling, they get attached and these things are the word for this hidden Pāli They should languages Kanda K h a n dA, which I think unfortunately the most common English translation is aggregates. So, if you aggregates like, you know, they make cement with aggregates and stuff. And so, you know, that doesn't sound very appealing, you have five aggregates and you get attached to them. You know, they can for some of you probably as soon as you hear that, the mind goes a little bit numb, what is what are they talking about here? The word Kanda also means branches of a tree. So, these are five branches.
It also means the trunk has both meanings the trunk of a tree and the branches of a tree. So, which which is really the tree is it the trunk? Is it the branch that goes off to the right or the branch it goes off to the left which is the really the tree and and always little leaves at the end of the branches. No, no, really? What's the tree is what you can see. It's the roots underneath that's really the tree. What's really the tree? If we have five different opinions here of which is the really the tree, you could have a war. This is the truth. No, no, not century. And then why decide that any one thing is the tree, why be attached to this has to be the tree? Why not let the tree just be a tree. So we have these branches, or we make these branches within the wholeness of who we are. And we can live in relationship to those, and we can get attached. So the first one the Buddha talks about is our appearance. The word is Rupa, our UPA and Pāli, which often is translated as the body or, but the word more literally means appearance. It's what the one of the meanings is what the eye sees, like so by looked at this bell, the bell is the Rupa because it's the sight object, the object of sight, what, what the what. But the fascinating thing about the word appearance is that this appears to be a bell. Is it really a bell? Well, it's functionally it's a bell. But you know, it could also be a begging bowl, you know, Buddhist monastic could go around like this in the streets, and people will recognize, oh, that's a begging bowl. It could be a spittoon, some Buddhist teachers in Asia had these things about this size right next to them. And it was kind of, you know, fascinating to hear them middle of a dharma talk, kind of clear their throat, the loudest possible way to go, you know, and spit into this spittoon. I don't know, if I could I get away with that here. And so this, this is an appearance. And so that our appearance that we have our physical appearance, for example, is a big part of it, how our body appears to us. And this is very important to understand how our body appears to us about how the instead of how our body actually is, because how it appears to us has a lot to do with the choices the mind makes select, selects about what's important about ourselves, what we're focusing on. For some people, like when I was a teenager, probably one of the most important appearances that I had that I was attached to, was my hair. I had very long hair, I had to worry about tech split ends. And, and this was like a big thing, you know, like the, my here and this and that. And probably that probably during the day, if I, if I was thinking about my appearance that was mostly thinking about my, my hair. And that's changed over the years. And so the so some people get very attached to their appearance. And some people their life is based on their appearance. And because a lot of their life energy goes into doing that. So I don't know if this is fair it is but you know, for example, body builders. Some people have professional Baltic bodybuilders. And that has a lot to do with appearance. That's maybe other reasons to be a bodybuilder. But there are people who are very focused on their physical appearance, some people are more focused on their beauty, or lack of beauty than they are about the words they speak. It's been a lot of time preparing, you know, going out so that we can be beautiful or nice and
going to salons and having the hair made up or this and that. They have beauty contests and some people I think make it their full time thing for a while to go to beauty contests. Some of this thing about appearance is very painful because our society makes definitions of what's the right way to be impure, appearance wise and all kinds of ways in physical appearance and skin color, race, height, size, all kinds of things. And so the preoccupation with appearance is not just because people have an inner disposition that way A society reinforces it with a lot of suffering. But we're still it's just a, we ended up with this, you know, societally society participating and creating these force fields in the middle of the meditation hall force fields in the middle of our lives that now have heightened importance and value. And all kinds of dysfunctional activity can exist around this kind of thing around appearance. Some of this concern with appearance is a mind creation, sometimes a collective creation of many people in our society. And then people get attached to it. And then there's the second thing that the Buddha said that people select out of the hole, and they choose to highlight. And that is, what in English and Buddhist English is called feelings. But it's not the emotions, it's the whether things are pleasant or unpleasant. And some people are very focused on pleasure, very focused on pain, and what's not an unpleasant. And, within reason, it's a reasonable thing for human beings to be concerned with. But, you know, to sit in a chair and be uncomfortable and adjust it, that's, that seems fine. But to, but to, it's possible to select this thing about comfort and pleasure, and make it a primary orientation around how we live our lives. Some people spend much of their day pursuing pleasure, all kinds of different types, or much of their day, activated around feeling pain, in some way, pain is an unfortunate part of life. But to what degree is it selected out by the mind, given more importance than it actually is because of all the associations of what pain means and what's going to happen to me and the imagination into the future. And so pleasure and pain become for some people, their oriented approach, even a primary orientation, their life. And that's, you know, what, and so, that becomes their forcefield, that becomes their, what they cling to. And so, then there's the third one has to do with our perceptions of things, our recognition of things, our ideas of what is, and this is a very, the simplest ideas of, of things that the mind makes. In some people, their opinions, their stories, their ideas of how things are becomes what's most interesting for them are most what they're focusing on simple ideas of right and wrong. Simple ideas of beauty and ugliness, simple ideas of roles, we have, identities we have. And so having the right ideas, being able to recognize what's happening in terms of the world around us, and organizing, according to the ideas we have, is how some people feel safe, some people find their way. And so some people are very focused on perceptions and ideas and concepts. Because concepts is what kind of, you need to have in place to be safe or get out, get out and get around. So some people that are very attached to ideas, to concepts, like a concept of roles, concepts of identity, the concepts of, you know, what should be in society and how other people should be. The fourth fourth area that Buddha talked about, is the mental the world in our mental world, that
that does all this constructing that does all this imagining, that does all this prioritization. So when I was in that meditation hall, there was the mind was imagining this line, the mind was imagining what would happen if I got zapped by walking, getting close to it. And so I was living a deliberate life, in relationship to something my mind had created. And so the fourth area was a scary of kind of deliberate construction stories, ideas, intentions, plans, memories and stuff that, you know, complicated inner world that we construct. So the inner constructions that we make spending stories is a nice way of seeing it don't the inner stories we make and live in and some people get it attached to that they attach to their memories attached to ideas of the future. And these loom are really big. And for some people, that's where they get kind of bogged down, or they're just kind of the the gets things get narrowed into that world. And then the fifth one that Buddha talked about the this division of the whole is the consciousness that is aware of at all all the rest of it, that which knows that this is happening. That red nose, this is this is hearing this is seeing this is smelling, this is tasting, this is tactile sensations, this is the mind activity that I see. And for some people, that's what they get attached to. And people who do a lot of meditation, sometimes that gets really attached to consciousness. Because that everything else falls away, everything else, you begin to see is arising and passing coming and going quiets down. And it doesn't seem like something to be so attached to. But for some people, consciousness seems to be the ultimate thing. The final thing, I you know, I'm not, I'm not all these things. I'm not the world, I'm not my body, I'm not my thoughts, I'm not my beliefs. But we'll select consciousness as a thing to be, this is who I am. And that begins having the projection that has people orient around that as being important. And it's hard. Some people are the very sense of being existing, is invested into consciousness. So consciousness will continue after I die. So it's okay, I'm safe. And so I need to know who I am. And I know that I'm consciousness, and it's very comforting, because consciousness is not the world, not the things in the world. So it's a place of safety and can't be touched. Something like that. So I'm not saying that all ideas like that are wrong with the point I'm trying to make today is the way in which the whole who we are gets divided into these different realms. And at once that once that division is made, each of these five branches can be a place of attachment of clinging. And for the Buddha, it's not that we're supposed to not make these branches, necessarily, the Buddha was interested in how we over make them have too much focus on them, and then get attached to them. And he's and, and so there was, and for the Buddha said, that way, the way people are identified for the, you know, the way people are apprehended the way people are observed, is based on where their mind dwells. And if it dwells, on any one of these five areas, then people are reckoned or measured or understood, by that way. So if, if you spend a lot of time with your physical appearance, then you're, you're kind of recognized, you're measured by that, because I've seen people where Wow, that person's really put a lot of work and effort into it. Day after day work, you know, that's, you know, this, this, that's the person who's really puts a lot of care into their appearance. So that understood that, almost like that becomes their identity. And with each of the other four, when there's a really attached to that, then people, the Buddha said people are reckoned to or understood through that category. So it's not just that we understand ourselves that way. But that's how other people end up understanding them, as well.
So then we come to this wonderful little teaching, in relationship to all this. And then now that I've prepared the ground, the Buddha had a friend who was a king, King vicinity. And one day the king wanted to hear some teachings from some really wise person. And the Buddha wasn't around and some of the other monks weren't around. And so he was asking, Who do you know, who should I go listen to? And one of his advisors said, oh, there's this very wise nun, Buddhist nine, name came up. And herbal came up. And she is really Why'd she go visit her? And he said, Great, I'll go visit kamma. So he did, and he asked her a question gin, which I think was a big preoccupation for some other people in ancient India. It's a proxy preoccupation that maybe some of people here in the modern West have as well. is what happens when we die? Do we get? Or do we somehow get reborn? Do we go to heaven? There's there any kind of content content, continuity, continuity, continuation of us after we die? Or is this life the only thing we have? And we know and we we die? You know, it's all over done, what is going on here? So people would come to the Buddha and ask him questions like this. And so the Buddha came to came, this king came to kamma. And she asked this common question you see in the sutras.
So he starts, does the Buddha exist after death? Will the Buddha exist after that, I think to ask about the Buddha, because the Buddha was kind of the one of the most respected spiritual teachers of his time, not just because he had a lot of knowledge, but he had attained something very important to attain the highest states of humanity that they knew of back in ancient India. And so, what happens to the Buddha maybe, you know, if the Buddha exists after life that tells me something about what I can expect or something. So does the Buddha exist after death? And the nun she said, the Buddha has not declared this. The Buddha has not claimed that he exists after death. Then, Reverend lady, does the Buddha not exist after death? Great King, the Buddha has not declared this either. Then, Reverend lady, does the Buddha both exist and not exist after death? Great King, the Buddha has not declared this. Then remember, lady there said that Therigatha Neither exist nor not exist after death. Great King, the Blessed One has not declared this. The King is a little bit exasperated, like, like, that's all the possibilities that are. So you know, what do how does this work? What's going on here? And so she says to the king, well, I will ask you a question. About the same matter, answered as you see fit. What do you think, great king? Do you have an accountant, or a calculator or mathematician? Who can count the grains of sand in the river Ganges, thus, there are so many grains of sand, there's so many hundreds of grains of sand. There are so many hundreds of 1000s of grains of sand. And the king says, No, I don't have anyone who can count all the grains of sand. Do you have an accountant or calculator a mathematician who can count the water in the great ocean Thus, there are so many gallons of water. There's so many hundreds of 1000s of gallons of water. No, Reverend lady, for what reason? Because the great ocean is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom. So to great king that form, that appearance by which one describing the Buddha might describe him has been abandoned by the Buddha, cut off it cut off at the root, made like a palm stump, obliterated so that there's no more subject to future arising. That the Therigatha Great King is liberated from reckoning in terms of appearance. He is deep immeasurable, hard to fathom like the great ocean. And he does the same thing these other five branches that the people will people will measure or we see that Buddha by appearance by feelings by perceptions by mental constructs constructions and consciousness, but that the Buddha has cut off. Now if we understand that these are really parts of who we are, what do you mean and you know cut off Parents cut off feelings, cut off perceptions construct me that's who we are, isn't it. So that just didn't you don't exist? I think I understand this is the Buddha has let go of any clinging and any constructing of these forcefields of these lines in the meditation hall, in relationship to ourselves, the Buddha is not creating a sense of self idea, through what we will call appearances is not involved in the world of appearances in an ordinary way. Nothing that involved in creating importance and creating a world around feelings, around perceptions around stories and mental constructions, in even about consciousness.
There's some dramatic ways in which that tendency of human beings have has been let go, put aside. And in doing so, what is the Buddha and she says, He is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean. So maybe that's your who you are hard to fathom, like the deep ocean. Like, you know, with climate change and drought here in California, as technology improves, and they're learning to harvest electricity from the tides and the waves. At some point, we might move underwater, that's the only place we'll survive. And then what we'll do is we'll, you know, we have, you know, we divide a property here, Bay Area, you know, people have, you know, live in properties, and some people live on properties that are 500 square feet, some bigger, you know, so imagine that everyone will divide up the ocean, into maybe one acre blocks, square, one acre Square, in wall by squares in the ocean. And we'll go have our underwater home in our square. And people in the future will say, what's the ocean or the ocean just place? It's built by all these blocks of properties. And how these have these lines in them in those lines, if people fight over the lines, and they if they get surveyors to come and get the right line? And how could you have crossed my line? And above me, there's people below there's people, you know, because they have these blocks, right? We've divided up the ocean is that what the ocean is blocks of property owned. Right now, we have this beautiful nearby for us here at the Pacific. The immeasurable I go to the ocean, sometimes the edge of it and watch and I marvel that it's been there for a long time. Humans come and go, civilizations come and go, and. And those waves been lapping up and the shore kind of the waves have been crossing the ocean for billion year, billions of years. And the depth of it has been there for a long time. It's deep, it's immeasurable. What a sad thing it'd be is if we divided up into these lines and blocks and think that that's real, and fight over it. What if our lives that want to allow our lives to be immeasurable and divided, not attached to these things? For the Buddha, his freedom was to no longer live in these branches, like with one branch being at the tree. But maybe being just the whole tree, or maybe not even the tree. Is the tree separate? From the soil from the other trees? The birds that come to it, the nest that grow in it? Is it separate from the clouds and the rain that comes down and the temperature and the sun? Is it necessary to divide the world before humans came along? Was it divided?
Certainly, functionally, it makes sense to divide and I think human human minds will divide, find their food and eat Eat and find the toilet. Because if you don't, it's a mess. But the but so it has some usefulness. But do we claim to it? Do we add more that's needed? Is there a way of living in an undivided world where we are undivided with it as well immeasurable deep, where we cannot be reckoned. Because to reckon who we are, is to make a invisible, constructed line down the middle of something. So is there another way of living, that being to one of the functions of this meditation practice is to help us put to rest, at least temporarily. Some of the divisions we live under some of the ideas and constructs and prioritizations and choices we make this is important, this is what it's about. Add to have an experience of I want to say ourselves, but even not even of ourselves, just the experience of being alive. That doesn't have to be defined by anything, doesn't have to select anything from the suchness, the fullness, the wholeness of whatever the whatever it's here. And what it big difference it is to know that that's possible. To know that this too, is a is a refuge, it puts a little question mark behind the way we normally live our lives. So that we don't give too much importance to it. It's important our lives important. We care for others through some of these divisions, but to not to reify them, not solidify them. Not that it has to be this way. But to be fluid and free and to pick up them pick up some of the divisions, some of the ideas pragmatically, functionally when they're useful and be ready to drop them in. And when they're not useful to live a life. So this division, these five divisions is is one of the very important teachings of the Buddha. Because this is for the Buddha, this is the areas where people cling. And if we want to be free, we let go that clinging and what? And who are you when you've let go of clinging like that? That the Buddha doesn't declare? He's not going to tell you who you are. Isn't that great? Just like he doesn't tell people who he is. And maybe if you're allowed me to tell you a little bit who you are. Maybe then your whole and whole whole with what whole with a hole what is the hole? I don't know. But we find out by not making it into anything. So may you be roughly reflected on that about this teaching and and maybe there are ways that you also live with Imagine lines down the middle of your life that have had some influence on you or forcefield on you or something that may be you know, someone will snap the fingers and poof, you realize, wait a minute, that doesn't really exist. And maybe you can be can be you can be free. So thank you very much. And one announcement I have is that next week, because I'm on retreat for the next two weeks. We have a guest teacher coming. A Vanessa Abel is her name. She's
a wonderful Zen teachers and teach priests from the local Zen Center and condo in Mountain View. And she's gotten to know her because she has been very much involved with and supporting and kind of almost like colleague with the trainings that my involvement with Buddhist chaplaincy. I trained people in Buddha's chaplaincy and she has been involved in this world and so she's a wonderful person that I think you're in for a treat when she comes next week. If you're here