2021-08-29-Practice as Capacity Building
5:36PM Aug 29, 2021
Warm greetings on this Sunday. And I would like to talk a little bit about patients or use that as, as a topic to talk about something which might even be more important in that is that how Buddhist practice, one of its functions is to develop our capacities to develop to cultivate and develop our abilities to that native natural abilities we have, so that we have greater capacity for being present for discomfort and challenges and greater capacity to be at peace, when things around us are difficult, not at peace. So patience is part of this task, we have a capacity for patients. And we can develop it. The word for the Pali word for patients is khunti, k h, a nti. And it's a rich word has many connotations that maybe are greater than the English word patience. It sometimes has the association with I mean, not enough for me, it has association with an openness, or willingness to be present for experience, a openness to be present for whatever is happening, including what's difficult. It also has the connotations of some kind of healthy, deep acceptance of what is true, even if what is true is difficult, or challenging to some of our cherished attachments that we have, that, that there's a country of patience, so willingness and acceptance, that is willing to work with us and stay present and find our way. And that capacity, those these capacities of openness, willingness, patients are, as I said, capacities that can be developed. And I have the impression new kind of very kind of generalized, and speaking very generally, that many people don't have enough appreciation for delayed gratification. That or that they want results, from their meditation from the Buddhist practice. That they want good results, rather than, than more than developing inner strengths. So sometimes people are searching for some having an experience of peace, experience of bliss, or happiness or something. And, but there's all kinds of ways we can fall into experiences of peace and happiness, that don't necessarily involve developing ourselves cultivating strengthening capacities that we have. And so if we always need to find refuge in places that are peaceful and quiet, and still, we might be able to relax and feel nice is good in those play safe places. But it hasn't helped us to feel at ease or feel a certain kind of inner peace, as we go into situations that are challenging, and maybe even sometimes threatening. And so to only kind of retreat into some kind of inner peace is not so helpful in the big picture. In the bigger picture, especially of the Buddhist path, what we really want to do is develop our capacity to be present for it's difficult for us present for our suffering and challenges. So we can go through them and find our way with them. Now, so we skirt around them or avoid them or, or hide from them. And it goes along with this principle that we have greater capacity, greater ability to have mastery of our own mind to adjust our minds to change our minds to to work with our mind, that we might have with changing the world or the circumstance around us. And if we think that we always have to change the circumstances around us to feel good to feel safe, then we're always going to be outwardly directed and constantly needing to change and fix things. And it also sets up a can set up a kind of unfortunate
tension between us in the world if we have to change the world so that we're safe, then the world has to accommodate us and we have to assert ourselves or there has to be a push in the pool. And of course that's appropriate at times. But but if that's all we Know how to do, then we actually make ourselves less safe, because we always need to have the world change for us. But Buddhist practice is about developing an inner safety, inner strength and inner capacity to be present. And so this capacity, Buddhism is a capacity building, practice. And that needs some delayed gratification that takes time to develop ourselves, it takes time to develop strengths of all kinds of different forms, it's that takes time to expand the capabilities we have. So they become strengths. So what you know, and as we do, so our relationship to the world around us shifts and changes. So, so the, so there's this little story or something from my book, The monastery within. And the Abbess once instructed the younger monks and nuns with the following. If a fly lands on the back of an ant, it's a big burden for the ant. If a fly lands in the back of an elephant, it is a very small thing for the elephant, you will have many challenges in life. It's up to you, whether you face them, like an ant, or an elephant. So this ability to develop ourselves, so that there is a kind of something as there's a large capacity, and that large us of our capacity to be patient, to be present, to be mindful, to be to let go to be nonreactive, to be generous, aka, we have a lot of capacities to be equanimous, as those become stronger, then we're not pushed around by the the events in the world and what people say and what people do so much, we carry our peace with us. And, and we take our choice, we you know, that we discover we have, as we develop our capacities, we discover we have more choice to choose mastery of our own mind, our own hearts, as opposed to giving away the power we have of our own minds to others, based on what they say or what they do. And, and we just kind of, you know, put out the wash out to see with the slightest little insult or difficulty that happens around us. And so slowly, slowly develop capacity. And it does involve some letting go. Not tell two stories, the one about letting go that develops capacity and one. No, it won't, I'll get one and then I'm going to read up a little poem kind of the There's a famous kind of Zen story that has to do with scholar, someone who's a erudite scholar, Buddhism, spent decades studying Buddhist texts, knows the ins and outs of Buddhist philosophy. And, and goes to visit Zen master. And, and wants to ask questions of the Zen master or be in a debate or discussion about these ariya diet kind of ideas and opinions about what Buddhism is. And so the Zen masters Oh, welcome, let's have tea first. And so the Zen master gets the tea ready and makes the tea and, and offers the scholar cup, and then starts pouring tea into the cup. And when the water gets to the top of the rim of the cup, then Mercer keeps pouring, the water ends. So it starts spilling over the top. And the scholar says stop, stop. It's already full. You won't take any more tea. And the scholar then the Zen master then stops pouring tea and says, well, in the same way, you're so full, full of yourself full of your ideas, that there's no space to take more of teaching more understanding of what I have to teach.
So sometimes we have to let go of our ideas or thoughts or projections or our our stories that get in the way of our ability to be patients that there's very reason maybe we can't be patient because we're caught up in the swirl of these predictions, predictive stories of what will happen or what what. And then as we develop these capacities like we become an elephant rather than an ant Is I wanted to read this wonderful essay. I don't know if it's a poem. It's either by this wonderful Zen master that I studied with in Japan, named shodo, Harada Roshi, or it's by his student, Hogan bays, so I apologize, I don't know which one it is the form I have here associated with the teacher nirodha rashie. In this passing moment, karma ripens, and all things come to be, I vow to choose what is if there is a cost, I choose to pay. If there is a need, I choose to give. If there is pain, I choose to feel if there is sorrow, I choose to grieve. When burning, I choose heat, when calm, I choose peace. When starving, I choose hunger. When happy, I choose joy, whom I encounter, I choose to meet. When I shoulder, I choose to bear when it is my death, I choose to die. where this takes me, I choose to go be being with what is I respond to what is. So, this certainly seems like this willingness to respond to what is and be present and kind of meet what is in such a full way. That's a testament of capacity, testament of culture, having cultivated one strengths and abilities, and cultivated enough letting go so that our strengths are not inhibited or held in check by our fears, or anxieties, or angers or desires. So, to cultivate and develop these capacities so we can face our challenges. And so, you know, it's all teaching that you should spend time with people who don't try to protect you from the challenges of life. But spend time with people who appropriately encourage you to face the challenges to be present for what's difficult in your life. Because sooner or later, things will be difficult. Sooner or later.
Buddhist practice will bring you into places of letting go and faces places of where where are the usual orientations, stability, place, ways in which we hold on to safety are no longer available. And some people will retract and pull away and won't take the path all the way. But to cultivate our ability to slowly steadily to to develop strengths that hold us present, allow us to be there present. So there's strengths. And one of the strengths that the meditators develop is the strength of being still not moving. In the middle of whatever is happening in meditation. Sometimes there can be a lot of restlessness, there can be fear, that can be anger, there can be strong desire, there can be a lot of agitation. And there's something very significant about not giving into it physically. Not getting up and pacing and running around or not giving up on the meditation are also not collapsing. The idea and meditation is to neither collapse, nor retract nor get up and run away. But to sit still in the middle of it ideally, sitting in some kind of posture that does express a little bit of strength and confidence. And over time, we're developing a confidence of physical strength of physical malleability to be able to stay present for all kinds of difficult energies that course through us. And that's but anything that's cultivated is cultivated gradually, by repetition. And so people who don't have capacity for delayed gratification, who are expecting instant results to have instant enlightenment or instant peace or, or to really have a wonderful experience in meditation, sometimes shortchange themselves in this gradual slow cultivation, development of these strengths, of confidence of strength of being able to sit still and not move, of letting go of the forces inside of us to react than to run away or to move or to collapse, especially today for collapsing. The wonderful thing about meditation and is that it can be a place where we can feel, the, the sorrow, the challenges, the grief, the angers, we have the difficulties we have. But to do it uprightly with this kind of dignified, confident posture, and we might feel like might be feeling like it's overwhelming, like, just too much, and we should collapse. But while we're meditating, the dedication is never collapse, unless it's impossible not to. But to really stay there. And that develops a capacity to be present, it's not rejecting the difficulty or the strong feelings, it's actually building the ability more room in space inside, to hold them. And so over time, we're developing this ability to hold more and more difficult things. And if you meditate every day, the wonderful thing about that is, then sooner or later, your whole life goes through that days, which are good days, which are difficult days, which are joyous days, days, which are sorrowful, they all get processed, they all have their chance to be experienced in this and in meditation practice. And so we're developing and doing so we're developing this greater and greater capacity to be with a range of experiences a range of what's happening for us. And in doing so, we're developing or cultivating ourselves, we're expanding our capacity. And eventually, maybe our capacity becomes so big and so huge, that most things that come along, don't agitate us, not because we're aloof from them or distant from them, that maybe we can feel them even better than we do than we did before. Because when there's a lot of reactivity and swirls of stories and ideas and judgments,
that's kind of a veil between us and ourselves, the US in our story. But as we get quieter and still are in less reactive and less swept away in the stories and judgments and commentary of what's happening, then we actually more present to be there. And maybe there's greater and greater capacity to hold it. And at some point will become to appreciate his or it kind of identify with his the strengths we have the capacities we have more than what our experiences, the experiences that come and go as we go through our life. And that gives a ballast to our life that gives stability to our life. Because then we're not so easily swayed and pushed around and and impacted by the vagaries of life that ups and downs in life and that are huge, like they don't want to dismiss or, or to diminish how huge the challenges we have, that we could have. But to but you know we learn to choose we learn to choose and attitude we learn not to give away our freedom. If someone criticizes us or treats us as somehow being inferior. We participate if we start feeling inferior because of that, then we are participating. We're actually choosing it ourselves and to let other people have that kind of influence on us. So that we are choosing to go along with it is really sad. And this ability to master mind see our minds what it's doing is one of the great skills of mindfulness meditation or Buddhist practice. There is a kind of self mastery we develop. So that we can choose how we are we can we can develop an ability to be present more widely, and then we have hopefully, with our wisdom and ability to respond appropriately We're not here just to be patient with things and accept things. And that's, that's the end of the story. I hope we're here also to make the world a better place and to stand up and speak up when necessary. And, and, and to change this world for the better and, and to speak up against injustice when we encounter it. We don't want to just simply be patient with injustice in the world, but we want to have develop patience, so that we are not coming from a reactive place, a place that where our capacity for difficulty has been diminished. We'd rather we want to come from capacity, place where capacities expanded so that we're have a level of ease or peace or, or non or non clinging in how we then respond and act in the world. I came across recently a quote by Viktor Frankl, who was he wrote the book The Man's Search for Meaning, and he spent time in German concentration camps in World War Two. And he lot of his philosophy and, and that he, that he developed in his teachings that he developed, developed, because he was inspired by the people in the camp and camps, who he said chose not to chose to respond to each thing with a mystery with not giving up not not abandoning their, their, their autonomy, or their ability to choose how they what they do with their minds, their hearts, with their speech, that somehow they would always choose not to collapse. But rather many of them chose to help and support the other prisoners. So this ability to develop capacities. And I probably I've said this enough now, but I just want to release, I finished this talk underscore that very important part of Buddhist practice, is cultivation. It's called in Pali it's called bhava, Na, ba, ba, Na. And it's sometimes the word for practice, or the English, we might say we have a spiritual practice. It's the word bhava. No, it's also sometimes used to further word for meditation. bhava No. But literally, what it means is cultivation or development. And so the idea we're cultivating something and developing something.
And for some people, this is a exhausting idea. For some people, it's a difficult one, because if it kind of gets entangled with ideas, I'm not good enough and have to prove myself or I have to now strain and try to get something beyond the present moment, then it can be you know, it can be quite a burden. But, but cultivating the ability to be patient, cultivating the ability to be open, cultivating the ability to be willing to experience what is here, this is a one way one thing to cultivate and develop, that goes along with not trying to change the world, not trying to change ourselves. So they hopefully Don't get so entangled with the cultivation part. Because we're we're cultivating as cultivating capacity to be present for what is and that is, I think, some ways the ultimate capacity we're developing in Buddhism. And, and hopefully, it'll support us, in times of difficulty in times of joy, sometimes, the capacity to hold joy is more difficult than the capacity to hold suffering. And, and both forms of holding both form forms of being present for without being caught in it leads to wisdom and to freedom. So may you cultivate and develop your native capacities. So your capacities grow and support you. And may you become like an elephant, or maybe have another animal, big strong animal that you prefer to be your your model. So thank you very much.