2022-07-17 Life of Release and Vow
5:55PM Jul 17, 2022
So there's two things I want to talk about today. Two things I want to talk about, because I want to talk about the relationship between them. And the first simple language can be talking about freedom or liberation. That's kind of many people understand that that's really central to this Buddhist practice. But the one that is not mentioned very much is the idea of bow, kind of idea of a commitment. And these two go together, so, but Val has a very interesting kind of part of the unfolding of practice. For some people. When people first come to practice, they're interested. And the interest is what engages them and, and that interests might be driven by a need to or will hope that somehow this practice will make a difference for the need the suffering that people have. As people practice, at some point, there becomes something in the family of commitment that happens, that people say, or decisiveness, or a clarity that this is what I'm going to do, I'm going to do this meditate every day, I'm going to give myself over making somebody a priority for my life and exactly where that priority how strong that priority is, how strong that commitment is, or how big it is, is very individual. But at some point, it's like, okay, this is this is more than just an interest now. And for some people, it becomes a life. And then, but at some point, that commitment changes to something else, where it becomes something like a vow. And I'll talk more about what that means. But too many religions have vows, you know, people who are ordained have take vows people get married, have bows. A vow is something that is affirming an aspiration, a wish that arises from within, it's not something we take from the outside and put on like a coat. But rather, it's a recognition that now something is there's a call from the inside that recognition that now there's something that is flowing, animating us energizing us from the inside out. And the vow is the recognition that this is this is where I'd like to live, this is my orientation, this is my direction. And so this points to how with practice that practice changes over time we change over time with it. With a freedom. There's also a kind of a correspondingly I list, a three part step that goes on. The first is the beginning, a lot of the practice has to do with relaxing, relaxing, and for some people is not spiritual enough. So we can call it calming. Maybe that helps a settling a tranquilizing a calming of all the agitation, the busyness of the mind, the heart, calming and relaxing, has a lot to do with healing, healing that which is fragmented or hurt or wounded inside of us. And so, but there's a relaxing that goes on, as the relaxing deepens, at some point, there's a letting go, is that there's a clarity that some things that we've been doing are not something that we want to do anymore. And there's a letting go, that happens. And, and that letting go is a choice. Some point, there's come to a point, okay, enough of this, this, stop doing this, I stopped doing this. And, and then, but then with enough letting go, there is release. And release is a whole different animal than letting go. Because release is not something you can do, but rather something we allow for. So I want to talk about these two different things, or this freed up upside in this bow side. So in the freedom side,
the letting go is sooner or later becomes very important. Some of the letting go just happens. Some people are surprised as they meditate, how much of their ordinary life and concern just settle away and recede into the background. And if that's not clearly enough, strongly enough, there's people experience themselves being alive in a very different way than they've ever done before. Many people or many, you know, maybe for some people, it's like, Oh, I haven't felt that way since I was four or five. And that's one of the things that happened for me is that as I started sitting, meditating more Um, I started feel having sense of well being that I hadn't felt since I was a little kid. So Oh, I know this, I recognize this. And so it's kind of a was kinda a little bit of a homecoming. It was a little bit like the busyness of life, the challenges of life, though all the different preoccupations that I had slowly acquired and built up and made a whole, you know, complicated world for myself in to live in. It wasn't so dramatic, it wasn't like I even knew I was doing it. But as I meditated and got, it just simply kind of stayed with the breathing, let go of my thoughts came to the breathing set up quietly, slowly, these things receded far enough away, that I started to experience myself in a radically different way than I had before. And one of the consequences of that is that when some of the things came back, which they almost always did, the usual daily tendencies I had attachments I had, the selfishness, I had conceits I had stories I had about myself, and others and all that, that they said have come back. Some of them just didn't seem to be so important anymore, or valuable or even healthy to have. And there became a desire to let go of them not live by them anymore. And some of them, I was able to put down some of them, I changed the way I lived. So I wouldn't be caught in him as much as I had before, because of the very lifestyle that I was living, supported certain attachments. So I shifted my lifestyle, so there was attachment wouldn't be so easily supported. As his practice deepened, then for me, then the became not clear that the letting go that sometimes have been on its own without me trying to do it was something that I could also sometimes choose to do. And so I learned to let go of certain things. And some of the things were things of the world which were not healthy to do. But some of the what I learned more and more was, it wasn't about the world and anything in the world, it was really letting go of the clinging the holding in the mind. And that was a big revelation to realize that that's where the real issue is to let go of how he was holding on. And the advantage of seeing that is then you don't have to let go of things in the world unless they're unhealthy. Some people who are into this Buddhist practice and letting go, let go of things that shouldn't be like a hook. But what we can do is rather than clinging to them, some things we can keep, but we hold them with an open hand. And the advantage of hell holding things with kind of the equivalent of open hand is that some things are worth keeping are appropriate to care for and have in our lives, and there's no need to let go of them. They're valuable. But the reality is sometimes has other ideas. And sometimes, they go anyway. And then, if we're if we're not holding on tight, it's a lot easier when things go. And so it wasn't your choice to have them go, it wasn't because you wanted them to go. Maybe the opposite. You didn't want him to go. But still with his life that we live, sometimes they go, you know, people die. All kinds of things just happen. We don't know when the San Andreas Fault is going to blow here in California, right? And if it goes, there's a lot of changes coming about here in California. And I bet and, and so things are things will go away. But the freedom from clinging makes a huge difference how we navigate that then and how we work with the changes in life.
So we learn to let go. But we come to a point in this practice that we do Buddha's practice where it's clear that we have to stop doing the letting go. Because letting go is still can still be represent having control. You're in charge. I'm the one who's letting go. And that can only go so far because before we feel that doesn't make sense to do that anymore. Especially not possible anymore. One of the places kind of like one of the places of holding on is control And to let go of control is to stay in control. And paradox. So at some point you have to, so the letting go, becomes at some point in practice, it becomes letting be allowing. And this can feel like a very profound part of practice, especially when we practice is quite settled and strong, that there's a, there's a form of letting go, that involves no letting go at all. But just letting it be. It's kind of like stepping back and having a wide spacious perspective of the situation, or of ourselves what's going on and learning how not to be troubled or irritated by what's happening, even our clinging, we let it be, we allow it. Because to constantly be involved in letting go over clinging is to somehow be going in the wrong direction, which becomes clearer as we go along. It's kind of like sanding rough wood. You can you sand it with coarse sandpaper first, but then you have to stop using the coarse sandpaper to use finer and finer, finer sandpaper. And at some point, if you keep using sandpaper doesn't work, you have to use a cloth. And so the same thing, letting go letting go letting go. It can work for a period of time until it's no longer the right grain of sandpaper, the right grain of activity. And at some point, letting be allowing and letting go of control, then something that only then can release happen. Release is very different than freedom. We can take we can talk about fighting for our freedom, asserting for freedom demanding our freedom. release, you can't fight for release, for your own release, you can't fight for the release of the heart release. So the mind you can't lobby for it. You can't assert it. It involves it involves and allowing we let go enough to be and allow for something that's not in our control. And this point where different people in practice come to this place of letting go of control at different points. Some people really early they're struggling with this. Some people it's quite well advanced in their practice. But at some point, the idea of the controlling us person is trying to control so everything is safe controlling so that, you know, I get what I want to controlling so that I know certainty and trying to avoid uncertainties many things we're trying to avoid with control. Avoid feeling our fear or distress, we have to let go. And then that that makes room for something to happen. That's not our doing. All we have done is put the conditions in place for it a deeper release. In that the deeper this letting go happens, the deeper this release happens. It influences the other movement of practice, which is I referring to as interest commitment and vow that as we practice, there's interest in the beginning. And then somehow the practice begins to show that it works. Something begins shifting and changing and us. And for each person that shifts and changes a little bit different. It's very personal. But at some point, we recognize, oh, I'm different because of this. And one way to some people to recognize this, if they're if they're able to meditate every day for some time, maybe for a few years, or even six months. It to make it more maybe more of a manageable goal. And then stop for a week.
Stop for a month, and then see how life is different because of that. And some people say wow, you know, I didn't realize how important meditation was. Because without it, I tend to I'm not so calm or I don't see so clearly. I remember I was just suggesting to a longtime practitioner who done a lot of retreats. And that he just stopped meditating for a month. And he started crying. It was so important for him. And I think it was important that month to really see what was going on going deeper away. And it wasn't necessarily seeing something difficult. Maybe we're seeing something very profound and important within himself that he hadn't quite understood. And so there's a shift that happens. And so with that shift comes a commitment, maybe a commitment to let go of the things which are unhealthy that we do a commitment to do the things that are healthy for us, especially spiritually healthy. But then, you know, because that's, you know, that commitment has more to the world of what we do, where we have some control. As important as commitment is, it can only take us so far. And at some point when the release is deep enough, when the letting go is deep enough, and we're in touch with something very, very much in touch, very connected to what's happening here and ourselves and the world. There's a source for an aspiration for a wish for dedication, for doing something that is almost impersonal, and that it doesn't belong to that part of the mind or the ego where, where we kind of rationally think things out or trying to improve the self are doing if he's not, if it's not really about self anymore. But arises from some place, that's it may be inside. That's not exactly personal. It is personal, that sense that it's within us, but not in the usual way we think about ourselves. As there's some people talk about a calling, there's a calling, there's an I love the word aspiration because it's connected to the word breathing like respiration. So something deeper that dwells up there something that begins flowing, or rising, or some feeling of this is what is important, this is what my life is about. This is what I want to do. So for me, when I was a Zen practitioner in the monastery, I spent a year kind of living close to this junction, this place of the bow of this really what was most important for me, what was the most meaningful thing I could do with my life and trying to grapple with it and understand it, and I didn't do it continuously, I did it. Every five days, more or less, because the monastery had a five day week, and the fifth day was the day off, and then out to go for a hike in the mountains, most of those days. And that's where I was kind of checking in and grappling with this. What I was going to do with my life and what was important for me and and what arose was something that just surprised me, and that it a rose within and was like Oh, of course this is what I'll dedicate myself to. But the decision was made before my mind said that the decision had been in the heart something shifted and changed. And the decision was for me was dedicate my life a vow to work for the ending of suffering in this world. That's what that's what my system had come to, there was nothing else that was more important. And the vow was not something that I took on new. The vow was simply the expression of what was already happening to me. This movements dedication and, and partly the idea of bow was was came to me because it's at the Zen practice of ours a very important part of the tradition. And, and they're they have something called the Bodhisattva vows. Which is goes something like this is four of them. It's so the vow to says it's a beings are innumerable. I vow to save them all liberate them all.
desires, delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them all. dharma gates are boundless. I vow to enter them all. Buddha's way is unsurpassable I vow to become it. So it's like the impossible dream store song maybe. It's like you know, beings are numberless. I vow to save them all. It's ridiculous, right? I mean, how who's going to do that? We mean in some ways that can be seen as phenomenal egotistical. Dedication, like you know, you're a good choice a well being you're thinking if you have some kind of Messianic and complex And but it's not it's the it's the way where it was understood. Was that enough two different ways. One was, there was a certain way in which the, you're going to keep coming back to a mind that's liberated. And so we're freeing all beings in our minds to be the freeing them from our attachments. That was one understanding. The other understanding is that, yes, it is impossible to do this. But succeeding in this, that is not the point. What's the point is, this is what we're gonna do. This is the task. This is dedication, this is the life that we're dedicated to it without concern that, you know, we're not going to get to that many people before we die. And so the same thing with delusions are delusions are inexhaustible. It's very humbling to realize that, to have this idea that someday you'll come to the end of all your delusions is maybe a kind of a conceit or kind of a problem. But to always practice, always be looking at the ways that we have delusion. And those of us paying attention to our society these days, will appreciate how many delusions we live in that were unconscious, unconscious bias that we live in, in our society, and that, you know, we're beginning to kind of slowly get a handle love and but maybe there's no end to understanding them. And they're, they're endless. So but so the dedication, yes, I'm gonna keep looking, keep discovering my delusions keep working and willingness to look at these difficulties. That's the task. dharma gates means the dharma practices, dharma experiences, dharma openings that we can have are endless. The point is not to come to the final one, the point is just keep practicing. Just that's the dedication. And the Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I about to be continent, become the Buddha kind of, well, it's impossible, but that's what my life is about. So I don't know if this is satisfying to hear. But this idea that vow doesn't, is not about succeeding at anything. But the vow is orientation, the dedication of a lifetime, that what's most meaningful. And some people find something very clear. And it can be wide ranging anything, you know, it's for Buddhist teacher who made a commitment to this Buddhist practice the way I did, it can sound like maybe like, this is what everyone's supposed to do. But no, I mean, it could be that all kinds of ways of living a life many, many ways, some that are, that are kind of not so obvious, or very subtle, or very personal, in different shapes this room for all. But the point being that as we practice, we might discover more and more, what is most meaningful for us. Because what is less meaningful or unmeaning, not meaningful, begins to be shared, begins to settle out begins to recede. And when our distracted mind when our preoccupied mind when Our fear and our ambitions and desires, get quiet, tranquil, settled,
what is left in there, what is left here? What is left as being the most meaningful, the most important for us that we want to live by that we want to that's we want to do. I have his faith that this practice we do as much as involves a settling and letting go a connection. Showing up here in a very full way. Is does not lead people to be couch potatoes. That's not the point. Just to end up just being someone who can, now happily, peacefully, you know, has no desires, no wishes, and just you know, okay. You sit here on the couch and just smile and breathe. I think that too, is not possible. I think that as we connect and drop in deeper and deeper and deeper to what's here. The heart is set up the heart had been created for in ways that are very different than you probably would have imagined. If you're caught up in the social constructs and values that we inherited from our society and our families. And to discover what that is in your heart. What is most meaningful what is the most animating What brings you alive? What is it that gives your life the most meaning? That enduring that release, really sit makes you helps you sing or help something really come forth. And so that I call that the vow, the vow that we can live by the devote what we're devoted to are dedicated to. And for some people, it involves making choices between different things that are good things to do. I had to make that choice for myself, because I was dedicated my youth, my youth to go back to graduate school. To work on the issue of soil conservation in this world of ours. I had studied agriculture and soil science, and I knew that toward a huge, one of the huge challenges of our world was the amount of soil to that were being devastated, eroded. And we needed to do something about not too many people knew about this huge issue. And so that was what direction I was going. And that's still a very worthwhile thing to do. So I had to choose between this Buddhist path at some point and doing that. And I chose to Buddha's one, so that wasn't, that was part of the what I was doing that year reflection, what am i What's most important here. And then the advantage of having a vow, or even our commitment and dedication is that you wake up in the morning, and you know what you're doing, you know what you're about you there's a clarity in this world, it's very, very hard to know what to do sometimes. And sometimes it's hard to know what's meaningful, and what's important. It's hard to know what to choose to do. When there's a vow, it's like, this is what I'm about, this is what I do. This is what I'm dedicated to. It's a ballast, it's a foundation, it's a teacher, when it's difficult to live by the vow, then you have to look at it more deeply. It's a it's a protection. It's an inspiration. It's a it's a guide, for a life a purpose. And so to live the vow. And so the question is, you know, what is that for you? What might it be for you? Some of you might not be ready for that question in the way that I'm talking about about today, we're avow has to do you know, it really comes at the end of a series of practice and really developing. But at some point, you might come to the place, it might be a very natural stage that you come to, it's not like you have to rush ahead now, because I've talked about it. But you'll just feel and sense inside of you that something is moving you something is becoming so important for you that something is going to shift, some choice decisions can be made some dedication, and that some of that is not a choice, some of it is not you controlling the situation. But you're allowing something that maybe is a surprise to you to surface and call you or speak to you or animate you.
And you might it might have to make some you might if you want to listen to that it might call on you to make make big choices, that decisions are what you let go of what you stop doing and what you change and do differently. And and I think that that becomes for some people an important stage. And so what's important to keep in mind is the more deeply we go into this practice, that it's not just you doing a practice that helps us to cope, manage more effectively with the life that we're living. But really that helps us to question that life we're living in a deep way. And I probably most of you would consider that would be if it's not useful for you that if you look across the country across the world Now many people live their lives. Probably you wish a lot of people would question in some deep way what they're doing and how they're doing it and why they're doing it. You know, there is a fair number of things which are dysfunctional going on around us. But it's also probably true for ourselves in some way that we started questioning and what is the calling It is the new way of living that really has meaning and purpose. And is right here. The so I think this practice is that we do is not only stress reduction, it's also something sooner or later hopefully will challenge you in some very deep way. And, and that you're willing to be challenged by it because you're not being challenged by something external. That challenge really coming from the inside out, it's coming from yourself, some better part of you is beginning to, to flower come forth. And at that point, maybe it's not a matter of bringing your practice into your life. But rather bring your life into your practice. Rather than finding a way to live your life as it is, it's a way rather to live your life from this place. That's that's has been freed, released through this practice. So release and bow. So we have a few minutes if some of you would like to ask questions, clarifications, concerns you have about what I've talked about, or how this what I've said how this sits with you. Is it difficult to hear or is it inspiring or nice? So he bill every year, I think.
Okay. So Gil, the wall was a wonderful topic. In Sanskrit. It's called rotta. It's called Buddha in Sanskrit. Yeah, and
but in the Pāli, I'm using actually the word ID turnoff. In Pāli, Oddish, Donna, maybe it's
just jhāna. So I'd like to draw an analogy with yoga philosophy, where the first of the eight limbs in the button, the lease, sutras for the Yamas. It's a Ahimsa Satya, non violence, truth and all these things Brahmacharya. So Patanjali calls them the Mahabharata samsāra Brahma Mahabharata, which means irrespective of place, time, everything, it is universally valid. And there is a fact called Shabda. It is faith, but faith from a very deep source, which makes people take these walls. And the power of this is enormous. In this in Mahabharata, there is a character called Bheeshma is known as the one who made the terrible wall of celibacy. And the powers he gained are so much that he could give up his life when he chooses to that is the power of these Harvard tests. So he just wanted to bring the
vow is of power. No Great, thank you and Ganesh.
Talking about what goes on in these early Indian texts mean, it's so common in so many different religions that people come to a place where they already do something like a bow. And it's kind of interesting to reflect on how this is a common phenomenon religions relate earlier religious practice, at least if we would distinguish religion from the practices. And so it's certainly worth reflecting on and considering and understanding a little bit about what it what it points to in the heart, what it points to in our kind of in our nature that that people go in this direction Yes.
For me, this path has not involved so much of a commitment or a vow, but rather unknowing. So I can tell that Oh, yes. This Buddha's these teachings They are great. And they mean a lot to me. I think they're very beautiful. And they've made all the difference in the world, in my life. So just knowing that has been a great thing,
to the great thing. Yeah. So I would have, yes, but
my discipline, they weren't. But And yet, there's something resistant to turn up a little louder, please. There's something sort of resistant or stubborn in me, so that my discipline when it comes to practice, has been poor. So maybe I do need a little bit of that vow or commitment, quality has been missing. So there has been perhaps,
I can imagine that knowing is one thing. And deciding to live accordingly by that knowing is a different thing. And so maybe commitment intention, following would be important for you to look at. Yes, it could be. And, and, and ideally, at least, for the way I understand these things, is looking at it. It doesn't become a act of brute force to Okay, now I'm going to do it for both rather you recognize that there's a animating force within that is, of course, I'll do it now. I'm going to write I'm going to ride this wave of intention of commitment about. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you so much guilt. You helped me understand something about futility. With your dharma talk today. And I was think, utility or utility utility. Okay, but turning it actually into utility. And the image I had was of the cellist on the Titanic, actually. And your notion of, well, you know, is kind of crazy to go and try something that's obviously sort of futile, right, you know, you're sinking ship. And we often use that as an analogy of, well, that's something useless, right? Why would you go, you're going to, you're going to drown. But in some sense, what else would you do? If you were a cellist? You know, in the Titanic, you might as well go play. And those last moments are your way of organizing a little bit of the universe that, in every other sense, is quite chaotic, and even hostile. So I'm no longer going to use that as a, as a notion of futility. But rather, it is a little bit of a way of organizing your hostile world. And so I don't know if that's useful or not, but at least to me, that's the, it helped me really sort of rethink what we often think of as just, you know, futile attempts at at calming,
anyway, wonderful. I think what you're saying is actually quite important, and that the some of the ways in which we respond to crisis, are not that useful, actually, it might seem essential to panic, it might seem essential to get angry, and, and bark at someone that's like, we know what people do what has to happen this way. But if, if it's your last day alive, is that really the best thing you can do with your time is to be afraid or to bark at someone? Isn't there a better alternative, if you have a few hours left in his nest of time to really do something really different in your life than the usual anger and desire and fear? And isn't that a time to kind of play the cello or smile at your neighbor or do what you enjoy? Or, you know, or put your mind and heart at ease? Because now you don't have to? You don't have to prove yourself anymore? You don't have to accomplish anything. And so, you know, the one of the questions for us practitioners is, what's the best option that's available for us? And I think there's a lot of better options available for us and some of the ones we choose. And so choosing to play the cello might be the best option for that person, given the alternatives that were available. And, and so what's our best option? And it's an exercise of thinking, well, this might this isn't my last afternoon alive, what it really is the best option. If he then you can reflect well, actually, maybe I have a few years. Maybe that's still the best option. And so this call this being connected something deep inside to have released let go and deep way and really touch something that's really meaningful is to touch, higher quality of living higher quality of mind and heart, that then it becomes less and less interesting to succumb to other forces, where we lose something that's so meaningful and so important. So that's I appreciate your, your idea that what might seem futile, is sometimes has a lot of utility. And it could be very inspiring to see. I've been with a lot of people as they're dying. And it's, it's strikes me how much how much of an influence it has on the people who are there, they're their friends, their family who survive, how people die. And then some people die. It's beautiful to watch their peace. They're letting go and they're equanimity. It's like inspiring, like people go there for Darshan people go show up and want to be with them, because they haven't experienced so much peace and someone's and other people die afraid and anxious and all kinds of things. So this ability to this practice to discover the better option, the better alternative and really know it for oneself. And then choose choose to live by it is dispel. Okay, so maybe maybe one more, then we'll stop. And then what we'll do is, we can continue in the afterwards in the in the parking lot, we can take off our masks, we can just pick some chairs out there and sit anybody who'd like to stay and be more informal out there, we can continue. Yes.
Kayla, thank you for this I'm sitting thinking about the dichotomy between advocating for myself in situations where I see or experience, unfairness or not being in our I just experienced a week ago, a situation on the medical area where I felt that I was I had to really push for advocating for what was right for me, right. And, but I also recognize where you know that that was very much about survival, a sense of survival or sense of ego or sense of just wanting to have to survive. And I there's a lot of, there's a lot of continuing with that there's times where it's probably egoic, too, but but how to how to kind of like navigate through that sense of advocating for what you feel is right, for you, versus allowing things to let go?
Yeah, it's a good, it's a very good question. Because some things I said like earlier, you shouldn't let go up, some things need to happen. And so being an advocate and holding your ground and saying no, or insisting or staying present. And it is not, it's not a spectrum, it's not that go just arrange, it's more like these things can coexist. It's possible that part of our motivation is is clear, wise intention to care for our well being so we can care for our family or something. And some of it is pure egotism, that both can coexist. And, and then it's really a pity for us to know if there's, if part of it is a good intention. And part of it is unhealthy to sacrifice, the good intention, give it up, because there are some bad and bad, you know, intentions as part of it. So we have to weigh these things and the impact on them and the harm who might cause or the benefit or might cause it's, it's a it's a complicated world, what you're bringing up, I don't have a simple answer for you, except one. And the simple answer is learn how to be really mindful of yourself. So you can track all the different component parts of what's going on for you and recognize the tension, the stress, the clinging, the contractions, that are unnecessary. And generally, the physical tension, that stress that builds up in the system, you can bet generally take that as being unnecessary. And whatever is driving you that causes that stress. Is that probably is not useful to have. But if you can be motivated and activated, engaged in a strong way, without that tension or that contraction that bring you suffering, go for it if it's the right thing and my hope this practice has actually makes us more courageous, more willing to kind of stand up and fight for a good cause, not less, but to do so at ease to do so with peace. Okay, great. So thank you all very much for being here. So for those who would like to stay for a while and chat more, there's folding table chairs in the cabinet just outside the other hall there and grab one to add bring it out to the parking lot and it will sit in a circle there and we can take off our masks there when we get there. And and then, thank you so much.