2023-01-05-Gil-What is the Dharma? (4 of 5) Dharma as Teachings
4:53AM Jan 10, 2023
Warm greetings for fourth talk on what is the dharma. And so one of the meanings of dharma is the teachings of the Buddha, what He taught. And it's interesting then to look at, because there's there's the volumes and volumes of texts that purport to be his recorded teachings. They find these many of these quite inspiring, and then really delight in swimming in those those ancient teachings. But the, but what specifically is the dharma. And the analogy I'd like to use maybe a poor analogy is that say there's a modern teacher that that has wonderful Buddhist teachings. And the person to use it often talks about some as a metaphor, or similarly for their traffic lights driving down the road, and, and when this teacher talks about traffic lights, mentions that green means go and red means stop. So then, over the centuries, people recognize that this is in the teachings of this teacher. And so, sure enough, maybe at some point, society changed, besides better colors for Go and stop. But that teacher said, you know, just get used to referring to, you know, the colors that we have in the modern world for Go and stop. And so the people who are into that person's teachings was a way No, no, we believe that green means go, and red means stop. And that's the way it is. And that's our religion. And that's our faith. And we have to believe that because that's what our teacher said. And now that's a misunderstanding of what the teachings were really about that that was just a metaphor, or an example, just using something in the modern world. And it wasn't necessarily that the teacher kind of held Absolutely, this is the truth that has to be this way. So in the same way, the Buddha taught a lot. And, and is all of it really what, you know, he was about really his teachings, how much of it was just using unfolding in teachings of his times and ideas of his times and concepts of his times? And we find people coming to the Buddha to ask questions in a particular paradigm particular framework. And, and then the Buddha just accommodates that framework. But he twists it, or transforms it into his own teachings, what he wants to teach, but he uses that person's framework. And is that framework, you know, the dharma? Or is it a little bit different? It's kind of it's a vehicle for the dharma. But maybe it's not exactly the his core teachings, what's really essential to carry on from generation to generation. So what we can do to find the kind of answer this question, what is the teachings of the Buddha is to go back and look specifically the places where it said, these are the teachings, this is the dharma, and where it's that specific, that exact which sipping said, and what we find is remarkable thing. That over and over again, predominantly, the message is as to do with some direct contact experience with the present moment. Something right here that we can do. And, and very much what's pointing to is not only direct experience, but more than 14 and experience, the actions that lead somewhere. So we've been talking about dharma means actions, where and then that these actions can have consequences and so we want to kind of choose the actions that have the beneficial consequences. So for example, the Buddha says in one place, a very famous simile, the simile of the raft that the Buddha says, so I have shown to you how the dhamma dharma is similar to a raft, being for the purpose of crossing over a river, not for the purpose of grasping. So he says that I get the simile is that you come to person comes to edge of a river and has no way of getting across big, big river except by making a smaller raft, that getting getting wood and reeds and different things and constructing a raft, and then paddling the raft across the other side, when they get to the other side, the purpose of the rasp is not grayed out the raft is not then to carry it in your back into the forest and down, wherever you go next, it serves this purpose. So don't grasp it, leave it behind. So one of the teachings here is a dharma something provisional, it's something contextual, that is useful for a particular purpose. And beyond that, we don't look for it, to understand what color traffic light should be. The and it has to do with not grasping. And so then it goes up was would have gone on to say, when you know that dhamma is similar to our raft, you should abandon even the teachings, how much more the teachings are things that are contrary to the teachings. So there's tremendous importance on not grasping, don't even grasp the dharma, the teachings of the Buddha, let alone other teachings don't grasp on, you know, ideas about traffic lights, don't grasp to anything. So this idea the centrality of not grasping, and this little passage represents what I'm trying to say today that these teachings are so about the immediacy of now the imminence of now, how we live now, something that we can experienced just as well, 2500 years ago, as we can experience today, these are very modern teachings except we don't build rafts but but the so much, but the grasping here, so the death of the dharma has something to do with the heart of it about not not grasping. And here's a fascinating description of the purpose of the dharma, that dharma is for the elimination of all standpoints, all obsessions, all adherence is all underlying tendencies all decisiveness around teachings, this is a true teaching, for the stilling of all reactivity, for the relinquishment of all attachments, for the ending of all craving, for cessation for nirvāna. So this, so whatever the dharma is, it's for this purpose and this purpose. It's kind of a lofty purpose. It's not exactly you know, something you experience in the moment. But it is something that's part of the moment part of our direct experience. There's nothing here about future lives, nothing here. But you know, fantastic ultimate communion with a cosmos or some deeper insight into the true nature of reality. It's mostly about releasing and freeing, and in particular, around teachings earlier said, don't even grasp the teachings. The Buddha says here, all kinds of opinions, viewpoints, standpoints that we hold on to, and this is how it should be. He teaches so we don't do that. Somewhere else he teaches very eloquently. That what he's teaching is not a view, is not a philosophy is not a doctrine. What he's teaching is the is the letting go of all that. And something deeper, something more valuable, and is the stilling of all reactivity. So the relaxation we did in the last meditation could be called rather than relaxation could be called stilling of all reactivity, bodily, mentally and emotionally, that when we relaxed, it's always relaxing our reactivity that somehow was built up within us. A monk once came to the Buddha and said, I can you teach me the dharma and brief so I can remember it and go into the forest and practice on my own. And so this is, you know, that's a kind of an important, you know, now he's going to give you know that now that buddho is going to give that pithy a short version of this is what the dharma is. And in this case, he said, You should let go of desire
to anything which is impermanent, anything which is in constant, let go of clinging to it. That's all he says. That's the heart. That's the one of the very simple key ways he wants to say it, we can protest, we can have our doubts about it, what about Wait a minute, but something here is pointing to something very deep. And the important thing I want to say here is that it's, it's an action, the action of letting go. It's letting go for a, for a particular consequence, the consequence of becoming free. And this is kind of the domain, the ariya what dharma is about, and earlier talked about not grasping, here, it's up for not having desire for anything impermanent, anything's gonna hold on to anything which is going to change, you'll suffer, what's the alternative way to be with it. And and we find a good number of times to suit that, that someone comes to the Buddha and says, Teach me the dharma and brief and repeatedly, it's about, it's something very immediate, something very practical, almost in modern terms can be psychological, that doesn't really have any recourse to metaphysics to supernatural to anything beyond what's possible to experience in our direct experience. So last thing I want to read, when he says, when you know that dharma for yourself, that's the point, he's talking about some ego know, for yourself, not a teaching that you have to take on faith, but a teaching that you can experience. And, you know, this is why we're practicing this mindfulness, to really be able to have some deep experience of this for ourselves. And here is a another pithy way, he says, how you know that what the dharma is for yourself. When you know, there is greed, hatred and delusion within you. And when you know, there is no greed, hatred and delusion within you, then, you know, the dharma is visible here and now immediate, inviting to be seen for oneself, onward leading, and to be personally realized by the wise. So here, you again, we, maybe it diminishes it in some people's minds to call this psychological. But I use that as an alternative to supernatural or metaphysical lore, or something kind of beyond the kind of what our everyday experience is like that. That, to know, greed, hate and delusion of all its different forms. And to know that it's its absence, then, you know, the dharma, the dharma is about seeing what's happening, knowing suffering, knowing the cause of suffering, and knowing the end of it. And that end of greed, hate and delusion, or it can be temporary. But the Buddha says here, even if it's temporary, you have a qualitative experience of really free of greed, hate and delusion, maybe you just accidentally in a very good day had good sleep. Appreciate that there's something about that, that you're experiencing, you're knowing the dharma directly, oh, this is what it's about. This is the dharma, this is possible. This is what I have a relationship to. This is what the actions can be about how I live my lives in accord with or supportive for this movement towards this kind of freedom. And so the dharma as a teaching is what supports or points to or highlights what I've been teaching the first three days of this week about what the dharma is, it's the relatedness that we can live in. It's the actions that have an effect on that relatedness. And it's the actions that transform that relatedness to one of freedom, of goodwill of care of compassion. This is this is the dharma. And so So if you'd like to do some homework there on this, do this relaxation thing. Relax, open up the present. See what's here. And see if you could have some taste, some experience of non grasping of non clinging of non reactivity That gives you a feel for all the dharma, this is valuable. Maybe you have a small experience. But then if you extrapolate if this became complete, became full Oh, this is good dharma. So thank you and look forward to the last talk on this topic.