2022-03-13 Actions that Bring Peace
5:01AM Mar 16, 2022
So. So the war in Ukraine is very much on my mind and seems that one of the interesting or important topics is how does our Buddhist practice relate to such national international events that have such a big impact on all of us. And we're all, all many of us are trying to figure out how to relate to it and live in a world that both is unfolding in front of our eyes, a new world, a new home, kind of maybe era in human history that people would write about, for centuries to come. And then we're living it then how do we live in this change? And how do we relate to it? So I want to begin by to go back to the time of the Buddha, that the Buddha was sometimes referred to as a teacher of action. The Pali word is kāma, abadan. And so of all the different ways that he could be represented, as you know, his stance, his approach, there were times when he was called a teacher of action. And, and why is that and what's so important about action that he that sees his teachings and is associated with action as being so important. And I would like to say that probably action is one of the core aspects of what the Buddha had to teach. And so to understand why action is so important, and why I think it's to understand the kind of that kind of the essence of the Buddhist practice than how we practice it. And given the war in the Ukraine, and given this emphasis on action, I want to tell a little story, that from the 1950s that is kind of circled around Western dharma circles have to do with early Western kind of at DARPA teacher named Paul reps, you wrote this book Zen, Zen bones and flesh and flesh and bones. It's a collection ever done in 1939, a collection of wonderful little zen stories that had been quite evocative for many people. And they probably introduced blood, many people to Zen in the 50s, and 60s. And there's many, there's many versions of this story. I'm sure it has some basis in truth, but exactly what the, you know, the version that's accurate, I don't know. But it has to do with Paul reps going to the consulate to consulate in Japan, to the 1950s during the Korean War, to get a visa, apparently a visa to be able to stay in Japan for another year. And he was told that there was problems getting a visa yet either wait a long time and or could be they couldn't get one because of the Korean War. And that was a difficult time for East Asia and and so it was given the application, but you know, it's not gonna, you're not gonna hear back anytime soon, it'll be a month or months or something. But he needed visa. And so he filled out the application. And he sat there and they're kind of like waiting room. And maybe he took the apparently the thermos with him and he had some green tea. And then he handed back the application, but with a note on it. And the note said, drinking a cup of green tea, I stopped the war. And he was getting a haiku which he was used to the new Japanese, he wrote in Japanese, and then maybe a haiku. And I was kind of, you know, mean a lot in Japan. So. So he handed the application back for the visa with that poem. And that person looked at it and said, Okay, come back tomorrow. And tomorrow, and the next day, he got the visa. And this is this little became has come I think a little saying that the many I've heard it quoted recently, with people saying drinking this cup of tea, I stopped the war. Do you really stop the war with drinking a cup of tea? Is it isn't this ridiculous to say that? Isn't this somehow diminishing the horror of what's happening to your comfort of your own kind of life drinking, you know, a nice cup of tea and saying that I stopped the war. How could that you know, wonder what is this? What's going on? So, partly this talk will be kind of an exploration of this very topic. So action
is has to do with what we do with our bodies, the activities of our bodies, activities of speech, or we say and also in Buddhism, it's what we think and and all These are consequential, they have meaning and they can be done in different ways we can act in ways that are stressful. And we can act in ways that are peaceful, that are non stressful, calm, we can act in ways that express anger and hostility or greed. And we can, we can act in ways that express our generosity and our love and our care. And, and this can be done in the, as the medium or the, the way in which we do things. And so we learn through practice to pay attention to how we do things. So something as simple as sweeping the kitchen floor. If it's one more thing, in a long list of things that have to be done for the day, one more thing that interferes with being anxious about tomorrow, when whatever's going on. Sweet, sweeping the kitchen floor might seem like just something to get over quickly and finish and just grab the broom really tight and just, you know, speed through it. And don't don't do don't worry about the corners, no one sees it anyway. And just get it over with. And, and then when it's over, if you paid attention, you pump, that person might notice that it was actually kind of tiring, it was kind of stressful to do it, because the tension in the hurry. And one more thing, one more thing. But you might not notice it because that was stressful, because you have one more thing to do, and you're already on to the next thing or four things later, and you're so distracted by your distractions, you don't notice the impact of how you do things is. But if you start being mindful, you might discover that there are different ways of sweeping the kitchen floor. You might do it in a way that's stressful, that adds the stress of the continuous stress of the day. There might be resistance, there might be resentment, why do I have to clean the floor, and the resentment is stressful. At the might be conceit Look at me, I hope everyone notices that I'm the best kitchen floor sweeper in the world. And they better know it though, you know, and so there's no you know, figuring out ways maybe put a, you put a you know, now camcorder a camera on your video camera in your kitchen. So you can kind of broadcast it on YouTube. So people can see how good you are. And just like all this kind of strategies and things by itself, it's stressful. Or you could do the sweep the floor and just sweep the floor in a simple, direct, peaceful way. So that the only thing that you're really doing at that moment, is physically sweeping the floor, engaged in it wholeheartedly. Maybe that's what your thoughts are about your thoughts are organized in in harmony, so that they're actually involved with that too, as opposed to being someplace else. And, and so you start to gather yourself around the sweeping, and you discover that there's ways of doing at gripping the broom, your posture, the speed at which you do it, there's ways of doing it that feel just lovely to do feel harmonious, feel peaceful. And there are ways to do it adds a little stress in how you do it, how you grip the broom and how quick you do it and all kinds of things. Maybe there's resistance, it was corners, you know, you can feel you get close to the corners, there's just like, like pulling back and like while navigating and negotiating and bargaining and bargaining and like, Okay, I don't have to do everything. And it just doesn't feel peaceful doesn't feel nice. And so as we can kind of notice the impact of how we do things is on ourselves, we might learn that there is a peaceful way you're doing it so that at the end of doing it, we actually feel more settled and more calm more present than we were before it feels good. And, and we learned that how we do things, not just what we do, but how we do things is actually consequential. And so when people say, you know, Buddhism is about action, some people get exhausted just hearing it. Like one more thing to do, you know, give me a break. I thought Buddhism was just being and you know, I just sit down to meditate and and just kind of like finally don't have to be racing around doing things. I could just be in it. But it gives me permission just to be
but that's not what Buddhism is really at the heart about that Maybe it's closer to this idea of how learning how to do. So in the doing, we've enter a kind of harmony or peacefulness or non conflict or non stressful pneus. So the very doing we do is nourishing is supportive, creates a kind of a beautiful environment, internally for ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally. So how we do things? So how do we learn this? For some of us, certainly, for me, one of the primary ways of having learned something like this had to do through meditation, where it looks like you're doing nothing sitting there still. But sitting in, in a in a good meditative posture is a kind of doing is an activity is an action itself. And then while I'm not doing anything, I'm just being present. But being mindful is an activity of the mind. We're acting. As we start paying attention, noticing how it is and what happens to us as we meditate as we get more settled and calm, and we see more. One of the things, it isn't just about becoming calm, what's more important than become a calm, is beginning to discover and track the different ways we are in meditation. To notice when we are, for example, calm and when we're agitated, or where we are in that spectrum. And began feeling well being agitated is kind of stressful. being calm is better. So maybe by accident, you find yourself calm and meditation one day. And you're very familiar with your agitation that comes out of thinking about certain things. And so you start noticing yourself starting to think about those things. In leaving the calm. And at some point, in practice, as the practice matures, it gets you get to the situation where you see that transition happening. And you're able to say, No, thank you. Because you see that you're better off being calm, than being agitated, be observed distress out, it's clearly it's better that way. As we settled in and become more present, with mindfulness and mindfulness, at some point, mindfulness, you're staying in the present moment with present moment experience. And we start seeing that the mind leaves to they're thinking about something else. Maybe something really important. Maybe the war in Ukraine, from your meditation spot in California. And you can feel as you do that, that you're getting angry. And then becomes so is this really, am I better off being angry? Or am I better off being present with mindfully with what's happening here? Where's where am I taking up residency? Am I taking up residency in the anger or residency in my peaceful state of mindfulness of being mindful? At some point, what we begin to discover that mindfulness and presence, peacefulness, calm, especially mindfulness is one of the best alternatives going. If someone asked me, you know, when should I be mindful? I would respond when it's the best alternative available. And I what I know is that as people become mindfulness get stronger. It's really clear that staying mindful is the better alternative to any state of being non mindful. Because tends tendency, when we're not mindful is it's a stressful state. To be distracted, caught up in thoughts preoccupied is not a really a healthy state to be in. And so we start seeing that we have mental actions that we have some choice over. We have a choice about whether to stay with the action of being mindful, or going along with the actions of being stressful, being agitated, being worried, being anxious, being angry, being greedy and wanting.
And it's fascinating to watch the impact. Different states of mind different trade chain trains of thought have on us to see and feel it physically, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, that some activities of the mind are clearly not so beneficial for us. There may be stressful bhava even harmful, they perpetuate harmful ways of being it habits of being. And that there are other ways that are clearly beneficial. That clearly bring sense of harmony, peacefulness, that wholeness, that helps us be connected to the best parts of who we are, rather than disconnected from it. But then the lawyers of the mind come into play. And some one of the lawyers will say, you're not being responsible for the world situation unless you get angry. Or how can you take care of yourself without being greedy for the next thing or wanting something? You're supposed to want things? I mean, that's what all the advertisements have been telling us. Some of them say you deserve. So I'm supposed to go off there. And so in one way or the other, some of us will have very strong ideas, beliefs that were supposed to be, or it's a good to be angry, anxious, greedy. Conceited with what we do, I deserve it. You know, it's all about me how you know, it's about, of course, I'm supposed to be the best kitchen sweeper on my block. And I bet you know, it's I've made sure people know that, because if they don't know that, then how will I get my just desserts about? Food, people don't know how important I am as a sweeper. So what so we have to contend with his lawyers, his beliefs we have. But the beliefs we have, which are subtle, sometimes subconscious, can become known. And it's possible to recognize the impact those bullet just having those beliefs have on Avernus. Chances are those beliefs are not just kind of floating through peacefully, like, gentle cloud and empty sky and just kind of like, you know, coming and going, they're a dime a dozen, no, no problem. They come with a force, they come with a grip, they come with an insistence that's kind of stressful. If we're having some choice about the actions we've engaged in, do we have a choice about whether to go along with those beliefs? Allow them to take over, allow them to influence us, participate in them? Or do we have the choice to be mindful that they're happening? Look at that there is a belief. Wow, it's just another cloud is a dark one. But it's just a belief but on mindful of believing. And then seeing what the impact is of that mindfulness. And learning how to be mindful. So the mindfulness itself doesn't add to the stress. The mindfulness itself adds to a kind of peacefulness, a kind of a kind of filming it feels nourishing and pleasant. Sometimes the Buddhist tradition talks about the states of mind that are beautiful. So it creates beauty inside. But isn't that self indulgent?
Well, the alternative is worse. The alternative of being caught up in these things and preoccupied and listening to the lawyers that say that you have to be certain way and have to be anxious and upset and angry or you have to let go let people know about you know, how right you are and all kinds of things. Why sacrifice your peace? Why sacrifice the best alternative available? So as we sit and meditate, part of the advantages we start learning have a reference point for a healthier and healthier way of being in the world. And at some point realize it's the best alternative going why why diminish yourself, undermine yourself in the old habits may be what how you usually be it's a navigation for many people negotiation or kind of to discover that it's okay to have an inner life that's peaceful. Sometimes our society doesn't doesn't appreciate it. You're supposed to be a worried you know, if you're if you're not worrying, you don't love me. If you're supposed to be angry, if you're not angry, then you're not really concerned with justice. The more angry you are, the more you're proving yourself interested in, you know, justice in the world or, and the more angry you are about what's going on, the more you're showing that you're one of the people who is believing the right things or doing the right things. So there's all these reasons why people feel feel like they're supposed to be angry or they are not okay to be peaceful and quiet presence. But as we start learning this, this new reference point through through some like meditation or mindfulness, that new reference point becomes a teacher for us, and shows us what is healthy to do and what is not healthy to do. And then we keep choosing in Buddhism to keep choosing either a healthy alternative. And then, this teachings of action that the Buddha has, is sometimes encapsulated in four kinds of action. That is the four, four ways of acting, everything can fit into these four categories. So, it's a mix action simple, it's more has to do with how you do things and what you do. But it could be what you do, too. And they're summarized, like, four words, little bit my own version of these four. It's to prevent, to stop, to start and to protect, prevent, stop, start protect. So the first is prevention, an ounce of prevention is better than anything else. So live a life that prevents sets up the conditions. So you avoid getting caught up in states of mind, habits, thoughts, activities, which are unhealthy for you detrimental. As we have a stronger and stronger reference point of peace within AI becomes more and more subtle. Understanding how to prevent. So if we are living stressfully, it's very easy to not pay enough attention and have old habits takeover. One way to prevent getting lost and unhealthy states of mind and help activities is to be is to stay calm and not don't allow yourself to get stressed out. Easier said than done. But that's the game. That's the That's what we're trying to do here. To prevent maybe there's things you should avoid doing entirely. Maybe you should avoid drinking alcohol. That seems innocent enough, I can do it. have problems. But it turns out that whenever you're doing alcohol the next day, you're not quite up to your usual self to your full self for in a good way, you tend to say things you later regret. Because you get more casual, or you're kind of tired or something. And so there's a lot of things we can pay attention to what can we do to make it less likely be succumb to some of these unhealthy tendencies. So for example, one of the great preventive preventive moves activities for meditators is to meditate.
To have the kind of presence of mind the attention, the calm, that comes from meditation, sometimes has a lingering effect through the day if you meditate in the morning. And maybe you're less likely to get stressed out or get caught in preoccupations or less likely to do something mindlessly or you're more in a frame of mind frame of heart, where you're connected to what's the best in you. So meditation is preventative. You know, just like brushing your teeth every day. meditate every day just as a good preventive mech mechanism from getting cavities, mental cavities, mind cavities. So, that prevent prevention. The second so is to prevent yourself. So prevent yourself from getting involved with things which are unhealthy for you in body speech in mind. The second is to stop and learning to stop is fantastic. What it means here is if you find yourself doing something which is unhealthy stop, if you have a train of thought, which is not going anywhere useful, especially going some detrimental way. Learn the capacity, a healthy capacity to stop doing it, to avoid it, to drop it, to let go of it. But to stop but you know in my mind, it's just what it's doing. And it's that's repression if I stop it or that's kind of like not allowing things to be That means that I, you know, I deserve I'm supposed to think that way. And I'm supposed to include all of who I am. And what's just Buddhism that says, I can't do this kind of stuff. Yeah, I mean, if you argue like that, I just probably just get quiet. But we'd be kind of like saying that, yeah, when I have a cut in my finger, I should still be able to do whatever I do, and, you know, put my hands into the compost pile and clean the sewer and not have to worry about anything and putting a bandaid over it or keeping it clean or putting a glove on my to do those activities. That just seems like I'm being limited. And I want to just be myself fully and, and I happen to have this cut on my hand, and I just want to you know, okay, well, if you say that, okay, well, you know, maybe I'll take you to the emergency when your hand gets infected. Let me know. So to start learning how to stop, but the stopping stop itself, to do it in a peaceful way, the stopping itself is an activity. So how do you do that activity, so that it supports the best in you. So it supports harmony, beauty, peacefulness, calm. If you I've had I've had, you know, there's a, there's an expression to whack a mole, there's applied to meditation, which is kind of like, every time something like a thought arises, or some kind of negative thought arises, and kind of like hit it over the head to knock it down, you know, knock it down, like, kind of this angry, aggressive form of mindfulness. And when I was in New meditator, or sometimes imagined, I was playing pinball machine. You know, it's like, knock that thought out of the way. And, but how to stop in a way that feels peaceful and not repressive, not angry, not attacking anything, just kind of like, it's enough? No, thank you. I don't have to do that anymore. And how does mindfulness clear recognition of what's happening? How is that a kind of a stopping. And it's a kind of a stopping if your life energy goes into the mindfulness. So it's not so much available to continue trains of thoughts and ideas and motivations that don't serve you. Stop. to the third is to start, there are things you can do which are healthy, that are beneficial supportive. You could start your mindfulness practice, you can start kindness, you can start generosity, you can start looking more closely what's going on here, investigate. Sometimes you can start joy. You can start.
calmness, you can kind of take a deep breath and relax, relax your body, you can take a couple of moments, you know, to take a little walk, maybe just maybe just 20 paces enough to get a little more settled and calm and connected. Start being to get involved and start doing the things that you've learned, are supportive and helpful. There to how you do it is important. If you're desperately doing it holding on for dear life, maybe that's not the most conducive to being, you know, get the best out of it. If you do it in a greedy way. You know, like I'm going to get these really good states of mind. That's what I want to have. And then I can go be the best meditator on my block and kind of let everyone know. Or you can do it as a way of avoiding it can be actually be a form of anger or aversion. hostility, I'm going to get rid of that bad states of mind, but getting those good states of mind here and overcoming it. Those are all actions of the mind. Always in Buddhism, we're looking at the actions of the mind the actions of mind, body and speech, we're looking at those actions. And evaluating them is the way that I do anything. The way that I respond to anything happening in the moment or anytime is the way I'm responding beneficial, or not beneficial. And then we have the fourth one, which is protect. Some things are worth protecting some states of mind some ways of being some activities. Mind, they're worth protecting. If you finally after a lifetime of being anxious, you're finally calm or settled or at rest, then it's maybe that's good to protect. But how do you protect it? Not by resistance, not by stressfully holding everything at bay, but maybe valuing it, taking time for it, not rushing off to all the other index things we could do. So we forget about it. Protect what's good, protect what's coming along. The beauty, all of you have tremendous potential for inner beauty. All kinds of ways in which there's something really a treasure inside of you. As you get hints of it, that sense of it through practice or other ways. It it's worth protecting. Protecting it is another action. The question is how you do that action. So it is beneficial, it's healthy, it's brings harmony to a situation. Well, you protect it by preventing unhealthy ways of protecting, stopping unhealthy ways of protecting, initiating healthy ways of protecting. And protecting yourself that doing that is always a self referencing back. And as practice deepens, and deepens and matures for people, there's a stronger and stronger and stronger reference point of well-being, of ease of peace of happiness, that gives us a clearer and clearer understanding of how valuable these four efforts are, these four actions are preventing, stopping, starting and protecting. As we go along with this, then when we encounter the world and all the horrible and beautiful things that can happen in the world, that reference point is available. So if we encounter the horrific war in Ukraine
why sacrifice your own inner well being at that, in relationship to the war, why sacrifice, your peace, your Harmony, so that you can be angry, so that you can be distressed, so that you can be afraid, you know, so all these things we do, that we in choosing to do those. And we do choose, this is the kind of the the challenge of Buddhism, you don't necessarily see the choice being done, but we choose. Why choose these stressful ways of being? Why not stay with our peace. One of the reasons people choose to let go of their peace is they feel like then they won't be able to be responsibly involved in making a difference in the world. For those of us here in California, is you're being angry, you're being despairing. Going to help anything. Why give into despair, when you're sitting quietly and you see that moving into despair is a choice. It comes with beliefs that are evoking the despair, why give into it. And this teaching I'm giving here I think is most suitable for people who do something like mindfulness meditation, and who really be able to settle in See, there's this choice, there's a reference points for some kind of place of being. It's okay. And in fact, not when it's okay. The world needs people who know how not to get into despair, how not to give into anger, how not to give into fear, how not to get into greed. Because if there's going to be any chance for world peace it has to come matter that that somehow world peace is a greatest, wonderful goal that is, begins with each of you. I can't take it for you it can't begin anywhere else. Can't begin anywhere else. If you're wanting to do something for the Ukraine stop the war in your heart. Find peace be that way. Does that mean that you ignore what's happening you create? No. My my trust is that if you're fine, the healthy peaceful freedom that's within the heart will respond as as appropriate. And there's many ways of a bit of responding, some very local, some indirect, some direct, all depends on our circumstances. But Buddhism is about action. So how will you act? Don't be a couch potato. That's that's not a healthy action. How do you act? So that the very acting, responding feels nourishing and beneficial for you? How do maybe change your lifestyle? Like I can imagine there's gonna be a call for us to change our lifestyle. Because it seems to me that it's been pretty beneficial for the world, for those of us all over the world, but in this country, to consume less gasoline, for all kinds of reasons it would be beneficial. But this is exact religious idea United States. So way of getting voted out of office, if you if you say it. But how to do that. change how we live and live in a way that's contributes to the world rather than detracts from it? How do we do it? So we feel nourished, inspired, gladdened by the very doing. That's the art of this. Not so that we feel diminished, we actually feel enhanced. We feel more beautiful, we feel more happy. How do we make a donation to save the children? Not because you know, you know, Gil's expecting it of us.
I know that it's kind of be diminishing, that's kind of undermines you for that kind of motivation. But what is their motivation that comes out of a subtle, peaceful place that's inspire that's makes you sing. This is great to do that. It's tragic. It's heartbreaking what's happening in the Ukraine. But here is a beautiful activity that I can participate in, it feels good to do this.
And then my hope is that as we learned how to stop the war, drinking a cup of tea, sweeping the floor, talking to her neighbors, whatever we're doing, that will set up the conditions that when what we have to offer the world to save the world. Come comes in front of us will act accordingly. That way when we understand what's needed, and we understand the situation and what we have to offer, that we will be people who contribute to a better world. Not just because we're peaceful, because that peaceful place is empowering, action, empowering engagement in a way that's appropriate for each of us in our own way. So that that engagement is beneficial for us. Not harmful to us. It enhances us. Does it add to our stress and our burdens and diminishes us? The Buddha taught action was a teacher of action. And how do we act in such a way that the heart can live in this world actively fully participating in this world? So the heart is at peace. So the heart, the heart of the heart is sweetly, still sweetly On agitated unmoving and here is where Buddhism emphasizes not doing. The place where the hardest, sweetly not doing peaceful still, while we act and speak and think, in beneficial ways for ourselves and for a whole world. May this practice that we do give us the inner reference point of peace of stillness, non agitation that allows the best of us to come forth into the world. That's for our own benefit and the benefit of the whole world. May this practice? Help us be peacemakers for this world.