2021-2-07 The Long Game - TT
4:05PM Feb 11, 2021
Well, good morning, everyone. This is Sunday, February 7 2021. And for this Dharma talk, we'll be looking into the long game.
Or another word that came to mind a lot was steadfastness. I don't know, maybe I came up with the long game because today's Super Bowl Sunday. But yes, steadfastness in our practice and steadfastness in working with the teacher. And when I started thinking about this talk, I just found myself or remind, I remembered a Dharma talk that john gave a while back. We talked about this 10,000 rule, a 10,000 hour rule. I couldn't find that particular dharma talk, but John did point me in the right direction.
So we're going start by reading from a book by Malcolm Gladwell. It was published in 2008. And it's called Outliers, the story of success. And in chapter two, the the title of the chapter is the 10,000 hour rule. And there's a subtitle says, in Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours. And we'll get to that a little later on. So I'm just scrolling down here. All right.
So he begins, for almost a generation psychologists around the world have been engaged in a spirited debate over a question that most of us would consider to have been settled years ago. The question is this. Is there such a thing as innate talent? The obvious answer is yes.
All right, from the very beginning, I can say that when it comes to Zen practice, for using this 10,000 hour rule, or I should say, study, in terms of Zen practice, there really isn't an innate talent that we have. We are all we are all endowed with this Buddha nature. We all have it. There's not a single person in this world does that does not have this enlightened nature. So from that perspective, we're all on the same level field of playing playing level field, excuse me playing level field. Yes, when we come to this practice, there are some that may have more of an affinity with it in a way where they kind of just hit the ground running, and stick with it. But really, really, ultimately,we're all in this. I shouldn't say we're all in this together -- well we are all in this together -- but there is no innate talent, I should just leave it at that.
But anyway, he goes on not every hockey player born in January ends up playing at the professional level. He talks about this weird thing about hockey players and and it was I don't think I'll get into that I don't want to get too much into the weeds here.
Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role of innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role role preparation seems to play. Exhibit A: in the talent argument is a study done in the early 1990s by the psychologists, K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues in Berlin's elite Academy of Music. With the help of the Academy's professors, they divided the school's violinist into three groups. In the first group were the stars, the students with the potential to become world class soloists. And the second were those judged to be merely quote, good. And in the third were students who were unlikely to enter ever played professionally. They were unlikely ever to play professionally, professionally, and who intended to be music teachers in the public school system. All of the violinists were then asked the same question over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?
The striking thing about Erickson study is that he and his colleagues couldn't find any quotes naturals -- musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any quote grinds, people who work harder than everyone else yet just didn't have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it.
And what's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder, even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.
So basically, Gladwell here is just putting kind of talent in context, but I'll go on here. The emerging picture from such studies is that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert in anything, writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.
Of course, this doesn't address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that needs to know to achieve true mastery. Or perhaps in Zen practice, we could say this long to assimilate -- takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to not know to achieve true mastery. This is even this is true, even if people we think of as prodigies. And then he talks about Mozart briefly. So basically, this study talks about (I kind of skipped over), but basically study after study talks about how, as a guideline, 10,000 hours is really required to become a master in one's field.
This study, what Gladwell talks about from that study actually turns out to be problematic somewhat. And there was quite a bit of pushback when I was scoping around on the internet. And it is. Yeah, I'll be talking about that a little later on -- why it was problematic. That kind of generalization that he made about the 10,000 hours but, but for our purposes, I think it's still worth talking about in terms of just the long game in and doing this this practice every day.
Is the 10,000 hour rule a general rule of success, he goes on. If we scratch below the surface of every great achiever do we always find the equivalent of the Michigan Computer Center or the hockey All Star team? This is something that he wrote about earlier. Let's test the idea with two examples. And for the sake of simplicity, let's make them as familiar as possible. The Beatles, one of the most famous rock bands ever, and Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men.
All right, I thought I would cover the Beatles -- kind of fun to read about this, and to talk about it. And to just give you an idea about about dedication and hard work in practice, The Beatles, John lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They came to the United States in February of 1964, starting with the so called British invasion of the American music scene, and putting out a string of hit records that transformed the face of popular music. The first interesting thing, interesting thing about the Beatles for our purposes, is how long they had already been together by the time they reached the United States. Lennon and McCartney first started playing together in 1957, seven years prior to landing in America.
And if you look even more closely at those long years of preparation, you'll find an experience that in the context of hockey players and Bill Joy and world class violinists sounds awfully familiar. Bill Joy, by the way, is another computer person who who became very, very successful with a company I think, is called called sun micro something. In 1960 while they were -- this is back to the Beatles -- in 1960 while they were still just a struggling High School rock band they were invited to play in Hamburg Germany. Hamburg in those days did not have rock'n'roll music clubs. It had strip clubs said Philip Norman who wrote the Beatles biography Shout. There was one particular club owner called Bruno, who was originally a fairground showman. He had the idea of bringing in rock groups to play in various clubs. They had this formula, it was a huge nonstop show, hour after hour, with a lot of people lurching in and the other lot lurching out, and the bands would play all the time to catch the passing traffic. In an American Red Light District, they would call it non stop striptease. So many of these bands that played in Hamburg were from Liverpool, it turned out. It was an accident. Bruno went to London, this is this guy here in Hamburg. Bruno went to London to look for bands. But he happened to meet an entrepreneur from Liverpool and Soho, who was down in London by pure chance, and he arranged to send some bands over. That's how the connection was established. And eventually, The Beatles made a connection not just with Bruno, but with other club owners as well.
And what was so special about Hamburg? It wasn't that it paid well, it didn't, or that the acoustics were fantastic. They weren't or that the audiences were savvy and appreciative. They were anything but. It was the sheer amount -- it was the sheer amount of time the band was forced to play. Here's John Lennon in an interview after the Beatles disbanded, talking about the band's performances at Hamburg strip clubs called Hamburg strip club called the 100. We got better and more got more confidence. We couldn't help it with all the experience playing all night long. It was handy then being foreign. We had to try even harder, but our heart and soul put our heart and soul into it to get ourselves over. In Liverpool we'd only ever done one hour sessions. And we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones at every one. In Hamburg we had to play for eight hours. So we really had to find a new way of playing. Eight hours.
And Malcolm Gladwell goes, here is the -- so that long quote was by John Lennon -- but then Malcolm kicks in here. Eight hours. Here is Pete Best, the Beatles drummer at that time. Once the news got out about what we were making a show. No, once the news got out about that we were making a show the club started packing them in, we played seven nights a week. At first we played almost non stop till 12:30 when it closed. But as we got better the crowd stayed till 2:00 most mornings, seven days a week. Okay, almost done here.
The Beatles ended up traveling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, five or more hours a night. On their second trip, they played 92 times. On their third trip 48 times for a total of 172 hours on stage. And he goes on with all the number of performances that they played. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, in fact, they had performed live an estimated 1200 times. Do you know how extraordinary that is? Most bands today don't perform 1200 times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is one of the things that set the Beatles apart. They were no good on stage when they went went there. And they were very good when they came back, Norman went on -- this is the biographer. They learned not only stamina, they had to learn an enormous amount of numbers, cover sessions of everything you can think of not just rock and roll a bit of jazz too. They weren't disciplined on stage at all before that, but when they came back, they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.
Alright, so I read all this not to be a downer about practice, and about how hard one needs to work, though one does if one wants to really kind of get the benefits of daily Zen practice. It really is it's it's just really seeing this in terms of the long game -- to see it in terms of 10,000 hours. It reminds me of that famous saying from or at least in my mind, a famous saying from Uchiyama Roshi who once said, try that just try this practice for 10 years. And then after that, try it for 10 more years. So it's the same thing, we really need to take a long, long term approach to this practice -- making that commitment.
We're going move on to a little more about this persistence that I'm trying to get at with our practice. And I couldn't find a, it was just such an eloquent passage that from this book. The book we'll be reading from now is called Taking Our Places: the Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up, and it's by a Norman Fischer. And I'll just take a look. So Norman Fisher's, a Zen priest, teacher, poet, former Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, and founder, founder of the Everyday Zen foundation.
So, persistence, persistence, the ability to hang in there with something difficult without turning away, to be willing to simply wait when waiting is what's called for. This is not a throwaway virtue. And it's not simply a form of passivity. Persistence is a powerful and positive virtue that can be cultivated and developed. It's a key practice for nurturing all the qualities of maturity that we value, stability, responsibilities, self acceptance, a loving heart, they all require what we perceive that we persist with what we are up to, that we stick with steadfastly without glancing off or running away. I have had a lot of experience with the practice of persistence, and I have needed it. I am naturally an impatient person, in what and when I was young, I was given a great bouts of unbridled frustration at the way the world so often insisted on not cooperating with my needs and desires. So often insisted on not cooperating with my needs and desires.
You don't even have to look at the world outside us, just with our own practice. If we stick with this practice long enough, we're gonna get frustrated, we're gonna get impatient, we're gonna get angry. It's almost as though that progress, that kind of image of there are times where I felt like shaking my fist at the proverbial gods. And just like, why, why is this so difficult? But it's that it's those moments of frustration that one needs to just really, really remind themselves that this is the long game, it will pass these these moments of frustrations. And I often have this image now of these knots, these psychic or emotional knots in the mind, and what Zen practice really does do effectively, not on our own schedule, but what Zen practice will do is slowly loosen the knots. This is really, really important too. If one just persists and sits with that frustration, sits with that impatience, not not look away, but just keep returning your attention to the practice, the knots will start to loosen.
But it takes time.
When I -- back to Norman Fischer -- when I began Zen practice, I felt a good deal of frustration because the practice was so difficult. It was physically difficult to wake up early and sit long hours in meditation, especially during the week long retreats and monastic training periods, which went on for months at a time without relief. More than this, it was emotionally difficult, because it was impossible to be successful at it.
Not impossible. But it certainly does feel that way it does feel once we start to dip our feet into the waters of practice. And as we started to get further away from the shore, it does, we're not aware that we're getting further away from the shore. Because of this, it feels like it's impossible to be successful at it, it does feel that way. One of the things that helped me early on in my practice was Roshi, who said this a few times in his encouragement talks about this commitment to practice, which goes like this. I'm not very good at this. But I'm going to do it anyway.
We're often looking for results in practice. And no doubt those results will come we will experience those those results. But again, we won't experience them on our own schedule, our own perceived ideas of how we're doing. That's not that's not the way it works.
It's at -- let me see if I can find it here. There's just something recently that I wrote for Zen Bow. And it was it was the question was, how do I know if I'm making progress with my Zen practice? And one of the things that I write about this is I'll just read it out. Reassure yourself that because you've been practicing steadily, these instructions in the mind are the natural byproduct of the very progress we are making. So in the frustration, in the the impatience, that one experiences that that is in itself signs that we're we're making progress. It really feels like a moving target at that, especially at the start of practice, but not necessarily as we go on that frustration, what why can I do this? What is again, it's just another thought it's just another moving target. Just return your attention to the practice, and persevere, perseverance is really, really key to, to to this practice.
The harder you tried, the worse it got, the further the goal receded from you. There's a koan about this when the Masters asked, What is the Way -- capital W -- what is the Way? He replies, every mind is the way. The student says, If every mind is already the way how, how can I aim for it and the master replies, if you aim for it, you will be going in exactly the opposite direction. Patience wasn't my problem alone, compared to most kinds of training and study, Zen practice really is frustrating. This is part of the method. pressured by frustration, you have no choice but to develop persistence if you're going to continue. This is how it was for me. Besides being impatient, excuse me. Besides being impatient, I am also quite stubborn. So far from discouraging me, the difficulty and frustration of Zen practice only made me more determined to go on.
Stubbornness and persistence are not the same thing. Stubbornness has a meanness to it like a pit bull hanging on to a pant leg. It's reactive and often self destructive as it was in my case. Persistence, on the other hand, is not reactive or mean. It has a quality of faith and determination to continue. Whether results are apparent or not. Persistence bears you up and helps you to move forward against the odds. In fact, with the practice persistence, odds don't matter much one way or the other. Persistence doesn't wear you out by forcing you into a tight corner as stubbornness does. Persistence provides some calmness in the fate of -- face of adversity. It has been my job through the years of my Zen practice to massage my stubbornness, little by little into persistence. I'm still working on this.
So, stubbornness I, sometimes I, I see, or we can describe, we can describe Zen practice as a kind of alchemy. This stubbornness that one may have in practice actually is a good thing in a way even though it has its its, its dark sides, if we just... Norman Fischer here is distinguishing between stubborn and persistence. But if we're just stubborn by nature, at the beginning of practice, it's it's a good thing. It's a good thing because that stubbornness will turn into persistence. If we just stick with this practice long enough that those are it's the the knot of stubbornness, the knot of stubbornness will slowly but surely start to loosen. And that's the thing about practice that is, so life changing is that that stubbornness, as that knot loosens, we become more relaxed and the stubbornness is more becomes more persistence, this kind of determined, determined attitude attribute that we, we actually need to have if we want to, to, to pursue the persistence in sitting year after year after year, persistence.
In the shaping of our lives, we pay a fair amount of attention to skill and effort to intelligence, talent, good looks, technique, training, education, and so on. But it seems to me that a primary virtue is the simple ability to be persistent with what you do, to not look for quick fixes or miracle cures, to be able to go on with the good feeling. To be able to go on with a good feeling come what may. Again, I remember early on in, in my days of practice, I remember we, in the mornings, we have this, we have a work meeting, to start the day at 8am. And for whatever reason, Roshi just brought this very point up, he says, you know, people come to practice, or people are training at the center, living there, you know, we're not looking for good. This is what he said, we're not looking for good looking people. We're not we're not after clever people. We're not even after smart people. I mean, what, what we are after what I'm interested in is people who are sincere about their practice.
To practice persistence you have to have a long range view. If you expect to see results in a week, or a month or a year, it's easy to get impatient. And then here's the thought mind here, I expected that something would happen by now. You may think, and it didn't. Why not? And who's to blame? And Shouldn't I stop what I am doing now and go on to the next thing, which will surely bring me the rewards I am seeking?
When you expect a lot in a hurry, however, disappointment is guaranteed.
So I just hope that this these passages from from Norman Fischer. Yeah, I hope they help in terms of just seeing really seeing again, this this practice is not a short term affair. It really is a long, long term commitment to if as much as possible, to have a daily practice that just to sit every day, and persist, no matter and to persist, no matter how the so called perceived obstacles that will come up in the mind which are bound to happen, which again, is a good sign. It's a good sign that that things are starting to really progress.
So earlier on, I talked about how problematic that 10,000 hours rule can be in a way. And I'm going to use this really short article as a segue to, to go into this other topic that I want to discuss, which is about working with the teacher.
So this is an article I actually just kind of found on the internet. And it's actually by this, the original researcher and his two college colleagues who who did this study about the 10,000 hours. The name is Ericsson. So this article is written by Jeffrey Young, and research and this is the title research researcher behind 10,000 hour rule says good teaching matters, not just practice. And he begins. You've probably heard of the 10,000 hour rule, which was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell blockbuster book outliers. As Gladwell tells it, the rule goes like this. It takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials, like playing the violin or getting as good as Bill Gates computer programmer. Gladwell describes one central study in particular about which he writes, quote, their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. close quote. And then Jeffrey goes on. But that's not it. According to the researchers, it's a bit more complicated when you dig into it. In their 1993 paper, Ericsson and two colleagues described their research into the role of, quote, deliberate practice in the success of violin students. As Gladwell noted, they found that it took a remarkable amount of time of such practice some 10 years worth of 10,000 hours to gain mastery. But what Gladwell left out is a role of the deliberate practice meaning work under the guidance of a teacher.
What worked best for that says Ericsson is for students to receive a personal instruction with a teacher who is able to assess them individually and determine, quote, what would be the next step for them to actually develop and improve. Other otherwise students might stall out despite hours of practice.
All right, so that's my segue to move into this other really, really great interview with Pema Chödrön and the title of this this interview. It's from tricycle magazine in fall of 1999. And the title of this This interview is unconditionally steadfast. Pema Chödrön, Dharma Teacher and author of when things fall apart, speaks about roles and responsibilities within the teacher student relationship. Pema Chödrön, she is the resident teacher at gam Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton Nova Scotia.
Yeah, my, my family actually on my mom's side are actually from Halifax, Nova Scotia. And we I used to go quite frequently at least once a year. And one particular year I was actually intrigued and wanting to go there. But it is remote. It is in a really hard corner of Nova Scotia. And in fact, I think it to get there at a certain point you have to use a dirt road and I just realized as much as I wanted to go there during my vacation to check it out, it was just too remote and I'd had to rent the car and it was just would be too problematic. A student of the student of the late cub master chose Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche he received the novice organization in 1974 and was fully ordained in 1981. Pema Chödrön She's the author, She is the author of the wisdom of no escape start where you are and when things fall apart. This interview was conducted in April at Gampo Abbey.
Interviewer, you've described the teacher student relationship as one based on unconditional commitments, the teacher will never give up on the student and the student will never leave the teacher no matter what, how did you come to that understanding?
Chödrön, I'd like to back up a bit. There are different levels of the teacher student relationship, and not everyone's ready for or once an unconditional commitment. Most people read a book or hear the teachings of the specific teacher and it helps them. In fact, if it can dramatically change how they work with the difficulties of their lives, they may then ask if they can become that teachers student, by which they mean asking for guidance now, and then. This kind of relationship can be valuable and the student feels quite rightly, that's all that's needed. It's rare that a student wants to enter into an unconditional commitment with the teacher, because what this means is being willing to work at a very profound level on where you are holding back. So really, how many people are willing to unmask completely? That's the basic question.
Let me just say that we might not when when we start going to dokusan on we might not be aware of that kind of commitment. Roshi does talk about this commitment, at least from his perspective, as a teacher, what that means is he does really do does take it very seriously and sees it as a long time commitment. But most people when they come to practice, they don't they don't go right into dokusan. There is also obviously private instruction, which is perhaps less intimidating. In fact, a long time ago, it just reminded me that private instruction, which is with a senior student, used to actually be on the mat, eyebrow to eyebrow with the senior student, just way just the way dokusan was. But as time went on, I felt that it just didn't work. And this, of course, is something we inherited from from Japan, this eyebrow eyebrow, sitting on the mat facing the senior student or the teacher. So now we do them in chairs. And not only do we do them in chairs, but the chairs are actually angled. So you're not eyebrow eyebrow, you're kind of like angled eyebrows, angled eyebrow. I often joke when I introduced beginners to I showed them the private instruction room, that we don't want the chairs facing each other because it's not therapy, you know, that I often get laughter from that. It because it can be it can be intimidating. Even going starting with a senior student to start private instruction, and it can be even more so when when when starts with dokusan. One of the greatest advice I got early on when I started training here at the center was from from a senior student that that because I was kind of hemming and hawing about if I should go to dokusan, you know, once a week or regularly. And he just said just go Don't think about it. Don't worry about it. Even if you have nothing just go. And that was that was really great advice.
But back to Pema Chödrön here. She goes on working intimately with the teacher is the same thing as learning to stop shielding ourselves from the completely uncertain nature of reality. In other words, when we work closely with a teacher, all the ways that we hold back and shut down all the ways that we cling and grasp, all our habitual ways of limiting and solidifying our world become very clear to us, and it's unnerving. Just go back to that. In other words, when we were close, when we work closely with the teacher, all the ways that we hold back and shut down all the ways that we cling and grasp, all our habitual ways of limiting and solidifying our world become very clear to us, and it's unnerving.
Yeah, again, when we start entering into a relationship with with a teacher, or senior student, obviously, that's the furthest thing from our mind that it's not like we're thinking about this thinking this is this is a really big deal we can think it's we can feel and think it's a really big deal. But obviously, we don't think it in terms of those things. But But as time goes on, and as we deepen our practice, and stick with it and commit to it, and go to dokusan regularly, it does become the anxiety might very well start increasing for those very reasons that that that Pema Chödrön is talking about, how unnerving it can be.
At that painful point, we usually want to make the teacher wrong, or make ourselves wrong, make ourselves wrong. So many times so many times in one's minds, we may be thinking, why can't I do this. And so many times, we might blame ourselves. But that's where the perseverance kicks in. And we just need to just ignore those thoughts and just get back to our attention on the practice. And the, of course, the other extreme is blaming the teacher, he or she didn't say what I wanted to hear, he or she didn't. Yeah, you She didn't say what I wanted to hear or getting to do anything. They didn't do anything.
And of course, with practice, it's it's really up to us, it's really up to each one of us. To do it, to do the practice and, and to uncover what's there. The teacher is just there to, to, to, to be in a way that teachers, they're just a bear witness, and to guide one help one out with it with with these instructions, but we're the ones doing the work.
But when we make an unconditional commitment to hang in there, we do not run away from the pain of seeing ourselves. And this is a revolutionary thing to do. And it transform us. This is so important. as painful as as these insights might be. This is the progress this is this is this is really this is grist for the mill. This is the progress. And it's so hard to see this at the time. If we do see something painful in ourselves, some obstruction that that we were never aware of. I remember when I first came to practice and Roshi talking about most of us come to this practice because of pain or suffering or dukkha unsatisfactoriness and I remember thinking, I don't have a problem with with pain I don't have a problem with with anger. And I was I in for a surprise. Once once those knots started to unloosen it was it was just such a huge wake up call.
Interviewer, Are you talking about gradually developing the trust to surrender into the unknown? Yes, Pema says yes, but what I'm really pointing to here is developing steadfastness with yourself. steadfastness with your fears. This comes from developing clear seeing of all that arises in your heart and your mind without pushing away what you don't like or getting cozy with what you find attractive. And without disassociated or acting out. So yeah, two extremes, we cling to our fears, our thoughts, our anxieties, we cling to that, which is actually not likely we're more likely to try and suppress those things. To not suppress those things is a good thing. And on the other hand on the other extreme, dwelling clinging, attaching ourselves to I'm doing pretty good right now with my practice. I'm Wow, that was a good round. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Those are again are just thoughts. Just return your attention to the practice. And then also check in with your teacher once in a while.
So the teacher encourages you to be relaxed more and more with your own uneasy and secure energy and to stay with yourself through highs and lows. That's a commitment there. That implies Okay, so interviewer -- that implies a steadfast steadfastness with the teacher as well. Chödrön. Yes, that's it. steadfastness with one particular person translates into steadfastness with any situation that you could possibly encounter. There, that's, that's that alchemy, that that that we speak of. In Zen practice, it's this kind of really marvelous transmutation of, of our defilements, polishing and purifying, and it, it's at, well, here's an example. Our own suffering, experiencing our own suffering, that that by experiencing that not pushing it away, and not clinging to it by just experiencing it. And when we're following the breath, or working on a koan, when we do that, when we return our attention to it to the koan, or the breath, or the counting of the breath. And just experience whatever is going on in the mind, in this case, pain we're experiencing -- maybe some some childhood memory that was painful. That by by sticking by sticking with our attention, by sticking by devoting ourselves by committing ourselves by by persisting and returning our attention to the practice, that in itself will transmute itself over time, into experiencing more empathy and seeing the sufferings of others. Because really, who isn't in this world that doesn't suffer that. This is the fundamental reality of human existence is this suffering.
Well, I didn't think I was going to read from this. But since I did bring up suffering, there's this great interview that I found really captivating. So I am going to move over to something else, if I may. And this is an interview from Anderson Cooper, he's a journalist that works for CNN. He also works in 60 minutes. And Anderson Cooper is interviewing Stephen Colbert, Stephen Colbert has a late night show host very, very witty man who's Catholic, who had a terrible, terrible loss at the age of 10. He comes from a huge family, Stephen Colbert does comes from this huge family of 11 kids. And when he was 10, his father and two brothers perished in a plane accident, plane crash. And so that that obviously marked him for life. And, and Anderson Cooper, who is interviewing him, his own mother had just died about a couple of months ago. So they ended up having conversation about suffering.
And so, Anderson Cooper starts off with, he went on to say, what punishments of God are not gifts? Do you really believe that? Colbert: Yes, it's a gift. It's a gift to exist. And with existence comes suffering. There is no escaping that. I guess I'm either Catholic or Buddhist. When I say those things. I've heard those from both traditions. But I did not learn it. But I did not learn it, that I was grateful for the thing I most wished hadn't happened is that I realized it. And it is an oddly guilty feeling. Well, that's the Catholic part there. Cooper: it doesn't mean you're happy about it. Colbert: I don't want to have happened, I want it to not have happened. Sorry, that wasn't written very well. Let's just skip that line. But if you are grateful for your life, which I think is a positive thing to do, not everybody is and I'm not always, but it is the most positive thing to do, then you have to be grateful for all of it. You can't pick and choose what you're grateful for. And then so what do you get from loss, you get awareness of other people's loss, which allows you to it allows you connection with that other person which allows you to love more deeply and to understand what it is like to be a human being, if it is true that all humans suffer. And so at a young age, I suffered something so that by the time I was in serious relationships in my life with friends, or with my wife or with my children, is that I understand that everybody is suffering. And however imperfectly acknowledge their suffering, and to connect with them, and to love them in a deep way that not only accepts that all of us suffer, but also then makes you grateful for the fact that you have suffered, so that you can know that that about other people, and that's what I mean.
So again, it's this this the power of practice is, is this uncovering, and experiencing all the different pains or sufferings that we may have had in our lifetime. And to not, to not push that away, to just experience it. And yes, get to get the support and the help from others from the Sangha. And then of course, from from, from the teacher to, to, yeah, to just experience that and to talk about it. And, and through and through that experiencing of whatever may arise in the mind, by really, again, not clinging to it and not pushing it away, by really returning our attention to it, through perseverance, there's that word again, persevering through the thick and thin of it. That's where the practice really transmutes. There's that alchemy that occurs where we become open, more open, and we become softer. And we become more aware of what needs what we need to do to help others.
That is one of the many, many benefits of long term Zen practice. All right, I have no idea where I am here in this interview. But we do have a few more minutes. So I'll just go on. Actually flipping through here, see if there's anything outside this is a really a lengthy interview. There's a lot of great stuff in here. So I'm just flipping through to see if there's something I really want to convey before we leave.
All right, How about this? I'll just go right into Pema Chödrön talking here. And so the question. In a limited number of relationships when we work closely and the student is brave enough, that kind of cutting through of old habits and limited ways of seeing does happen. That can come in the form of the teachers feedback, as painful as that might be. And always remember that if the teacher gives you feedback, as painful as it can be, know that he or she is doing it in your interest. But curiously, she goes on Pema goes on here, but Curiously, it seems to have to do more with their own courage than anything that I do. Yes, that's the faith in the students.
Skipping through here, and maybe this will be the last thing I'll read. Before before we depart. Pema says for Western students, what needs to be communicated is that the mind of the teacher and student meet. Start again. For Western students what needs to be communicated is that the mind of the teacher and student meet, not by the student, making the teacher all pure or all evil, but in the ambiguity between those two in the capacity to sustain uncertainty. Otherwise, in the name of true devotion, you'll get a kind of worship that inevitably flips into the fast disillusionment, because sooner or later, the teacher does something that the student can't handle. We've seen many cases where that happens. What has to be emphasized is that students don't accept any anything without questionin.? This is a standard Buddhist teaching. Don't accept anything before you test it and test it and test it.
Right. Well, speaking of grasping, I'm trying to grasp at coming up with one last sentence from this interview before before we leave. But I do feel the time is is, is it's time to wrap things up. And I'm feeling a little frustrated because there's so much more to this interview. So perhaps some other time I'll I'll I'll talk more about this interview in some future Dharma talk. But I think I'm just going to have to let this go and we'll now recite the four vows