2021-07-25-Carring for Self and Others
6:02PM Jul 25, 2021
So Good day everyone. And as an announcement for before, before the talk, you know, we're getting to the point where IMC seriously considering opening for our doors here are physical doors so people can come here together and meditate and engage in the Dharma. And we were planning to open in a week from today on August 1. So I think it's prudent for us to delay that opening. And continue online the way we have the and the and part of the reason for that is that this delta variant that is spreading and we don't quite understand the implications of it and the impact it has, and that the degree to which even people who maybe have been vaccinated, can be asymptomatic carriers of it, and what it means for us to come together here and, you know, somewhat close confines. And as it's still kind of growing the Delta variant, and the cases are growing here in our county here in California, I think that the prudent thing to do is to wait. And ideally, we would wait than I think until the local county health department rescinds the requests that people who even vaccinated people when they come together, indoors that they would wear masks. So I don't know if that's the standard you want to keep, but at least for now, that's the request. And with a Delta variant, I think it's just better to wait. And so I think we'll just keep it open or, you know, undefined. When will open and probably will have at least a week's notice that we can announce it here and, or other online or their online offerings. And also, we'll we'll update the calendar will update also on the IMC website about what's happening. So, hopefully, to keep it keep track of these things, you'll know, those of you who are interested in coming locally, and being here in person.
So, you know, we've gone through many of us, all of us, I guess, many, many months now of this pandemic of COVID-19 era. And and, you know, when it first started here, and we went into shelter in place in California, back in March or April, I gave a talk about this being a time for kind of the shelter in place was kind of like a retreat and the many the dinette dynamics and nectar and the patterns that have been on retreat would probably unfold for people on this enforced retreat of the shelter in place. And now we're coming to a different phase of it, it's not clear exactly what phase it's premature to say that we're completely open again, and it's over here in California, at least in parts of the country and parts of the definitely parts of the world. It's raging and surging, and, you know, tremendous suffering that's continuing with this virus. And but to have some reflection, what are the lessons from this? What are the how do we grow and develop and when to the impact of this powerful event that's happening to us all. And so that's a little bit inspires this talk today. And I want to before I specify what the theme is, I want to say that one of the first things that really impressed me about this circumstance of the beginning of that pandemic beginning of shelter in place, is that the same behavior, looking life outside of can look exactly the same could be behavior, which the main motivation is for individuals to protect themselves. And the same behavior looks exactly the same would be to behave in such a way as to protect to others. So what I mean by that is that we're all, you know, subject to being maybe getting sick from the virus. And so we might want to stay away from people who have the virus we want to shelter in place we might want to live apart. And that's what many of us have done now for many months, and somewhat, many people somewhat isolated existences for this time. And so it can be motivated by protecting oneself. However, all of us are capable of being a vector for it, that transmitter of the illness Do we know that people could have the virus and be asymptomatic, they have no idea that they're carrying it. And they're just walking, walking transmitters. And, and so one way to protect people are neighbors, or friends or family and others is to not walk into public, not walk into their situation, not go to a wedding, not go to visit grandchildren, or visit grandparents or not to go into two places where we might be a transmitter. So both behaviors look exactly the same. And what struck me at the beginning of the pandemic, is that, if we could, if we, motive are motivated by care for others, rather than only protecting ourselves, that I think that caring for others is, is really good for the heart is really a wonderful kind of medicine and support. There's a kind of a radiance or goodness that comes from that. And of course, protecting ourselves is not wrong. And some people have a higher need to do that than others, for many different reasons. And that needs to be the focus. But even there, it's possible to both protect oneself, and at the same time do it for the sake of protecting others. And, and so this idea of being able to do both. We don't have to choose one or the other. And that's kind of the theme of what I like to say here is that
the Buddhist practice is a practice that I'm hoping, and I very much have staked my career in practice and teaching on this, that as we develop in the practice, that it becomes a natural thing, to want to care for others or to be friendly or to be supportive, or have live in the world in a compassionate and a world of suffering in a compassionate way. And, and not to do it in a way that is oppressive not to do it in a way that is stressful. But really from the abundance of the heart from a sense of the peacefulness, the openness, the heightened kind of 360 degree radiance of awareness and the heart of compassion, that meets the world with our sensitivity, and responds to it in some way. And that, and that this is an integral part of Buddhist practices this growing to become someone who will help us in one way or the other, particular for each person, how it's done, live for the welfare and happiness of others. And for some people, it's caring for their family. That's what for some people, it's caring for family and neighbors. For some people, it's offering whatever they have to offer that brings joy and happiness to the world. Some people it's to do, to be actively involved in service roles where we're helping others and involve others. And some people are activists and involved in social action. And some people humanitarian efforts is all this whole range of things that people will choose. That's a lot depends on their karma and their disposition and their circumstance, what's the right way. But it's always of somehow having a heart that cares for the world. So when the Buddha after the Buddha was first awakened, and soon thereafter, he set forth out into the world to teach what he had learned. And after some period, he had gathered around him 60 people 60 hero, who, who had been transformed by his teachings in the practice, you start and a became fully enlightened, fully liberated. And at that point, he told them and this is a quote, this is a passive passage is quoted off and it's kind of Beautiful. He instructed them, it gave him the final instruction, it's kind of like, after all the instructions and all the practice, they all end up here as a final instruction. And that is to go for, for the welfare of the world welfare of the beings, that people of the world go forth, for the happiness of this world of beings. Go forth, out of care for this world of beings and people. No two of you have you go in the same direction spread out, and live for the in practice and teach for the welfare and happiness of all people. And all gods. The word Gods here it's possible it means sometimes the word Deb Deva means kings. So go for the for, for the welfare of all beings, all humans, ordinary humans and those who are in ruling position, who sometimes need greater, greater remedial support for learning how to be free and really understand what freedom from suffering really is. And so I love this little passage that, that the instructions are to go forth for the welfare and happiness of the world. That that's, that's kind of like, it's like the North Star of what Buddhist practice is aiming towards. This is the final instructions. And, and then if we go up to a whole different set of teachings, which is also emphasizes this care for others, and care for oneself. And this is the Buddha's teachings to his son. So he had a son who spent much of his growing up under the guidance of his father, from what they think about from the age seven onwards.
And at some point, the Buddha gave them this instructions, that's it could be seen some people say, Well, this is kind of a child appropriate kind of teaching. But because it's so simple, and so to the heart of the matter, it may be easier to understand. And all the rest of Buddhism can be seen as an expansion of this particular teaching. It's, it seems the way the story is go, I was told that his young son, maybe 789 years old, was caught the telling a lie. And, and so the Buddha addresses him about this and says, you know, that if a, someone on the spiritual path tells a lie, it kind of undermines the value of their practice and can really empties the kind of reservoirs of goodness or Dharma inside of a person that really would allow a person to grow and develop. So he kind of kind of little bits throw strong language like this, like that. There's not really that someone who's on the path should never lie. And, and after he does that, he says this. He says, What's the purpose of a mirror. And his son says, oh, the purpose of mirror is for reflection to see yourself in the mirror. And the Buddha said, in the same way, that Dharma is like a mirror, the purpose is to see yourself and to reflect yourself more clearly. And this is how you do it. Before you say something, before you do something, and before you intentionally think about something you should reflect, you should look at that. Take a good look at yourself with these criteria, is what I'm about to say. Will it cause affliction? Will it cause harm to yourself, to others, or to both self and others? If you say it, if you do it or even if you think it, will it cause harm. And if it does, don't do it. If it doesn't cause harm, if it's for the benefit of others, then please go ahead and do it. While you're doing something or saying something or even while you're reflecting and thinking about something. Also use that Dharma mirror Look at yourself and ask yourself the question, as I'm doing this, is it for my own harm for the harm of others, or for the harm of both self and others. And if it's harmful, stop doing it. If it's not harmful, if it's for the benefit of others and self, then keep doing it. And then he says, after you've done something, after you said something, after you finished, some action that you've done, after you've spent some time thinking about someone or someone something, you should also use a Dharma mirror to be reflective, reflective life, questioning yourself looking at yourself, considering the impact the consequences of your behavior. And and did it cause harm to yourself? Did it cause harm to others? Did it cause harm to self and others? If it did, then go find someone that you respect a lot. They're ancient languages is a wise person, find a wise person, and let them know. There's the alchemy, that chemistry of the inner life is such that if you if you've caused harm, and usually, like not exactly a confession, but just kind of make it acknowledged, in the presence of something else, it changes the some inner relationship to it all, it's easier for you to kind of not succumb to the same thing, again, is, is more likely to be if you're accountable in some healthy way. And, and you're not, you're a little not public to everyone, but you share it with someone else, then you're a little bit more accountable to that person to yourself, it's a bit more like a fuller recognition that the creates the conditions that you're more likely to be careful in the future. So he's the Buddha said, Go tell someone.
And then but if it's after you've done something, and it's has not been harmful to anyone for self or others, has been beneficial, then just go about your business. happily. That's, that's great. So what we find here it at the his teaching his son when his son was just a kid, is kind of like the most beginning level of Dharma practice. So Dharma teaching, that here also, we find a concern, emphasis of a concern of being care careful for the welfare of others, to not cause harm in the world, to anyone including oneself. And it wasn't only about not harming harming oneself, only doing things beneficial for oneself. It's equal concern for self for others. And then the third category, self and others, which I understand it's, that includes kind of, we as this, as a community we as a, as a group, as a dynamic of people who work together the relationship between us. And so one way so we see here in these two examples, how integral it is to the teachings of the Buddha, the concern for the welfare of others and well being of others, and the concern would not causing harm to others, or and to ourselves. And that all along from between the beginning instructions to the final instructions to go forth for the welfare of others. We see over and over again, that we come back to this idea that that the Dharma has a lot dumber, practice maturing, and the Dharma has a lot to do with how we care for others as well. And with the example that I what I was inspired by at the beginning of the pandemic, perhaps also we begin discovering a way of having this care and sensitivity and carefulness for the welfare of others and not cause harm, that doesn't feel punitive, that doesn't feel constricting and doesn't feel limiting, but actually is opposite. that as we go forward, that and consider others that we're doing so from this openness, this you know, inclusiveness this unreconstructed place, unlimited place, on the way that we're not our concerns are not narrowed and tight. But our concerns come out of an openness and a wideness and receptivity all the way around. And that and there's a way in which when we're excessively concern with ourselves, our own concern, you know, our own well being our own, you know, protecting ourselves or benefiting ourselves. As I said earlier, sometimes that's completely appropriate that necessary and should be appreciated as such. But human beings also have a tremendous capacity for being selfish, for having conceit. And when that happens, then this self concern feels like a narrowing a tightening, a shutting down. And this is one of the great advantages of meditation is we can have experienced experiential, a felt sense experience of what it feels like to be sort closing down, constricting, tightening, the tension and the stress, of selfishness, that tension and stress of conceit, of excessive self preoccupation. And, and an NFL sense experience, that when we open up, there's a way of caring for the world. That is absence of stress, absence of a kind of tension, that feels as a kind of a rightness to at the nourishing to it, a, a freedom to it, even if what we're encountering in the world of suffering in the world is quite uncomfortable. And this kind of the goodness of the support of that. And so I think that that kind of inherent in the Dharma practice is a learning is perhaps a slow learning, of the disadvantages of shutting down, closing down are having this very strong
division, divisiveness, boundaries between self and others, that actually kind of harmful to oneself. And it leads to ways easy ways of harming others, that that those begin to dissolve begin to soften and open. And it isn't that the boundaries completely dissolve Exactly. Between self and other that distinction doesn't completely disappear. But it becomes one that is there's a sensitivity and an openness and intimacy. Without this Strong Reference to me, myself and I here and openness, relaxation, freedom. And, and then, one more teachings of the Buddha around this, it's such a, I think, a very important topic to think carefully about. And that is that the Buddha gave this teachings about four different ways in which people might orient themselves towards others or to benefiting others. The first one is to have no interest in the welfare of either oneself or others. The second is to be interested in the welfare and happiness of others, but not oneself. The third is to be concerned for the welfare and happiness of oneself, but not be involved in benefiting others. And the fourth is to be concerned for the welfare and happiness of oneself of others and of the whole world. And then he goes on to say that the last of these is the foremost is the best. And that he says it's kind of like, if you take milk and it gets into you, it could be they could he gets curdled into curds. And then from the curds, you can make ghee, and from ghee, apparently, you can get the cream of the ghee, like the, the, the best parts of the GI if you separated maybe or something. And they said translation that I have says that, then the finally you get to the cream of the GI and, and the last category, that person is concerned for both self and the whole world. That's kind of the equivalent of the cream of the GI kind of person, the foremost person. But what's interesting is that there's a hierarchy here there between these and and we're caring only for others or caring only for ourself fits into these categories is fascinating, I think because the second best is to care for oneself without caring for others. third best is caring for others but not oneself. And this I think is a little bit jarring. It was a little bit jarring for me when I first saw it for some people is jarring because there's sometimes there's a message that we should really care about others first before ourselves. We shouldn't be selfish and caring for others is really the highest kind of virtue. We can have. But I think in the Buddhist analysis, that if we care for others before, we have developed ourselves, develop their own capacity and an understanding, of liberation of freedom, before we've kind of freed ourselves of some of our capital capacity for attachments for clinging for hostility and irritation and cynicism, and, and resentment, and that then it's all too easy to cause harm when we're involved in supporting other people. But if we practice for our own benefit first, then we learn at some point, what the highest benefit is, we learn what the human capacity is for real, deep thoroughgoing, fully embodied, heartfelt well being and peace and happiness. That's what the Dharma is moving towards. And then when we want to support and help others, we have a reference point of how deeply and fully this is possible for people that we can point to that or we can support that or we have a Northstar of what we're trying to do for them. And, and so,
but the best of it all, is if we live our lives, caring for ourselves, caring for others, and caring for the whole world. And so here we see three different examples of the Buddhist teachings, were caring for the world, is integral to it. And in the last one, I told first about sending people off to fully mature people to care for the world. There's the idea that when you're fully liberated, you you've experiencing for yourself the best possible way of living in this world, the greatest happiness, the greatest peace. So there's no need to kind of focus on oneself in the same way anymore, to attain that what's been attained. And then what's next is to care for others. So whether one is beginning in practice, or in the middle of practice, or the end of the whole cycle of practice, that in the Buddhist teachings, at least, that this inclusion of the well being of others is important. And, and in the first beginning teachings to a son, act of tremendous care about the consequences of our actions. What's the impact that we our lives, how we live, hasn't the world around us. And one of the things that that Coronavirus teaches us is that that impact might be invisible to us how we buy consumer goods. You know, we don't see the impact of the on the people who mined the resources, we don't see the impact on their countries and the peoples from who's made it. In fact, your sweat, sweat houses or in factories, we don't see the impact of pollution and an environment in the communities that are impacted by that. And so to be concerned about the impact, the consequences of our actions on others, can also start involve a care and sensitivity to the unseen ways that we impact the world. Because it would be nice if we could live in the world without any harm caused to this world, both seen and unseen, known and unknown. What a great thing it would be, and what a great thing is to meet people and know there are people in this world who are living with this kind of care and this kind of sensitivity. Because they're free, because they matured and developed and they know how to do this in a way that nourishes the best in our hearts. So as we come to the end, I know the end we've come to this this phase of the pandemic. I think it's a wonderful time to reflect a little bit about how how beneficial it is for self and for others to include in our practice, the welfare and happiness of others as well. So thank you very much.