About the Lotus Sutra 

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I feel moved to tell you that I'm, or to warn you, that I'm feeling very joyful. Another way to put it is, I feel like a field of wildflowers, which could also be called weeds, and they're popping up all over the place, and I feel like that's me, or I'm them, the hundred grasses. I see trees of green, red roses too, they bloom for me, and they bloom for you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.


I see skies of blue, clouds of white, bright, blessed day, dark, sacred night, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world. The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of the people going by. I see friends shaking hands, saying, how do you do, they're really saying, I love you. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they'll learn much more than I'll ever know, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world. Yeah, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.


Yeah, I think to myself, what a wonderful world, I really do, and at the same time, which is somewhat different from when I was a boy, I hear people talking about the world collapsing, I hear about this wonderful world on the verge of collapse, at least for humans. They aren't talking yet about the planet splitting apart, or melting into a dew, but there are, there seems to be indications of a tremendous vulnerability and instability and potential difficult times for us coming up, with so much pollution and overpopulation and poverty. So, it's a wonderful world, and it's also a time of great difficulty.


And I'm, this morning, blessed with joy to be here in this world, to try to look after and assist innumerable suffering beings. And wondering if our day together, today, could be an opportunity to generate virtue, which we can, after we leave here, share with everyone we meet. We're blessed, you know, I see an ocean of blessing, beyond measure, I see it. And you're part of it, and I wonder if we can share these blessings when we leave here today.


I look forward to that, somehow. For the last year, as many of you know, I've been concentrating. Actually, I've been concentrating for a long time. The last year, I've been concentrating on the Bodhisattva vow. Particularly around June last year, I started to really concentrate on the Bodhisattva vow, and talk with you about this. And then, I could feel, as we got into this Bodhisattva vow, as it started to grow and grow, I felt the Lotus Sutra coming, somehow.


The great Mahayana teaching of the Dharma flower, of the wonderful lotus flower of the true, sublime, wondrous Dharma, wondrous truth. I felt it coming, and I still feel it coming. I think the last time we met at Nobodha, I kind of warned the people here about this Lotus Sutra coming, and how difficult it might be for some of us. It's a handful, to say the least. This great sutra, this Lotus Sutra. In India, I'm not sure exactly how important the Lotus Sutra was. It was born in India, around the time that Christianity was born, probably. With similar global energy, it gave rise to these two traditions.


And the Lotus Sutra then spread to China, and Tibet, and Mongolia, and Korea, and Japan, and now to the West. And in China, the Lotus Sutra became the most important and influential sutra, I would say. Certainly the most popular, and the most influential. And in Japan, also the most popular and influential sutra. As I was saying, in Berkeley the other night, we have a class in Berkeley on the Lotus Sutra. We're looking at Chapter 14, and there in Chapter 14, the Buddha is talking to Manjushri about how bodhisattvas can train themselves, so they'll be able to teach the true dharma, the wondrous truth. And one of the main things that bodhisattvas look at, once again, bodhisattvas, they have this vow. What's the vow? The vow is to hear the true dharma and teach the true dharma to help all beings.


They vow to help all beings. They live by vow. And what do they meditate on? Well, they meditate on the truth. So in this chapter, there's a little section there where it talks about what bodhisattvas are meditating on. And what they're meditating on is basically this Lotus Sutra version of the Heart Sutra. They meditate on how all things are empty, like space. They meditate on how things are unborn, unrestrained, unlimited, and so on. How they don't come or go or move. They meditate on how the birth of things depends on perverted thought. And when there's no perverted thought, things are unborn. Bodhisattvas meditate on emptiness. Their vow, their heart, is to help all beings by teaching them the dharma.


Their meditation is on the truth. The truth of the Lotus Sutra. Vast emptiness filled with love. That's what they meditate on. Vast emptiness filled with the one vehicle that unifies all beings on the path of peace. This is what they meditate on. And they're driven by and they work their vow. So they have this deep intention to help and they meditate on the truth. And the Lotus Sutra is this wonderful flower of the truth. So I feel, unless things change, but I feel this big force coming. This Lotus Sutra force.


This great vehicle sutra. This huge ship coming into port for us to board and go out into the ocean of blessings on this great ship and take everybody with us in this universal vehicle teaching. You've heard about Zen being a special transmission. A real, especially special transmission. Not outside the scriptures. Well that's true. But outside the scriptures doesn't mean no scriptures. It just means neither outside nor inside. That's what outside means. And our ancestor in Japan named Eihei Koso.


The person who wrote this verse that we just chanted. The Zen teacher, so called, Dogen. When he was about to die, I heard that he wrote on a pillar in his room, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha jewel. Or going for refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. He wrote that. And these are the first three Bodhisattva precepts in his tradition that he transmits. He transmits the sixteen great Bodhisattva precepts and the first three are these going for refuge in these Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. But then again I heard, he also didn't just have that on the pillar, but on another pillar he wrote a passage from chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra.


He wrote the passage, apparently not the whole chapter, but just a passage from the chapter. And he walked around that pillar reciting the passage which he wrote. And he named his death room the Lotus Flower Sutra, or the Lotus Flower Dharma Sutra Hermitage. So this place is called Nobod Hermitage. But since it's a Nobod Hermitage, it makes room for this to become the Lotus Flower of the true Dharma Hermitage also. The Lotus Sutra is moving into Nobod. I didn't know it was coming, but here it comes.


So, this chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra, this translation says, the supernatural powers of the thus-come-one. That's one of the epithets for the Buddha, the one who comes from the truth. And actually, it's one who goes to the truth and then comes back from the truth to teach. So, the chapter starts out, At that time, the Bodhisattva Mahasattvas,


who welled up out of the earth. Six chapters before, five chapters before, the Buddha was talking to a large assembly of Bodhisattvas who had come to visit the Buddha and they offered to help teach the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha died. And he said, don't worry, there's already innumerable Bodhisattvas here who will help me. And then, up out of the earth, actually up out of the space, the great space under the earth, welled up innumerable Bodhisattvas who are already living under the ground, in the space under the ground of the earth, welled up to offer to teach. So, referring back to that,


and they stayed around for a while, up to chapter one, they stayed around. So, that's another interesting thing for us to discuss, is these Bodhisattvas who live already in this earth. They're actually in the earth. This earth is full of Bodhisattvas according to the Lotus Sutra. It's packed with Bodhisattvas who are there for us to call up to help us take care of the earth. This will be a possible great resource for us to develop. So, these Bodhisattvas, who are equal in number to the atoms in a thousand worlds, all in the Buddha's presence, single-mindedly joined their palms, looked up at the august countenance, and addressed the Buddha saying, World Honored One,


after the Buddha's extinction, in those lands wherein the emanations of the Buddha and of the World Honored One are present, in those places where he has passed into extinction, we will broadly teach this scripture. For what reason? We also wish to gain this truly pure, great Dharma ourselves, to receive and keep it, read and recite it, to preach it, and to copy it, and to make offerings to it. That's the beginning of the chapter. Now I'm going to skip over this amazingly wonderful section in which the Buddha's supernatural powers are being demonstrated.


But I'll bring that up later. I wanted to go a little bit later in the chapter, to the part where Dogen, you know, the passage where he had on the wall. So I'm warming up to that part a little bit later. At that time the Buddha declared to the Bodhisattva superior conduct, and to the great multitude of other Bodhisattvas, the supernatural powers of the Buddha are incalculable, are as incalculable, as limited, as far beyond reckoning and discussion as this. This refers back to the thing I didn't tell you about, which is beyond reckoning, incalculable, amazing. Yet, if by means of these supernatural powers, which are incalculable and so on, if you use the supernatural powers,


which are incalculable, if by means of these supernatural powers I were to preach the merits of this scripture, of this Lotus scripture, for incalculable, limitless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of aksamkhayas, of eons, with the purpose of entrusting this sutra to others, I would not exhaust those merits. Is that clear? No? That wasn't clear? So the Buddha, there's just this huge, this inconceivable thing just happened, that I didn't tell you about, I'll tell you later. And then the Buddha said that supernatural events like this, supernatural powers of Buddha like this, are incalculable and so on, limitless.


And if I use those supernatural powers to try to elucidate the supernatural powers, I could not exhaust the merits of these powers. Does that make more sense? So then he says, he didn't say this, I would say, but, briefly stated, I'm not going to say them all, just a brief version of them, briefly stated, all the dharmas possessed by the thus come one, all the thus come one's supernatural powers of self-mastery, the treasure house of all the thus come one's secret teachings, all the thus come one's profound affairs, are entirely proclaimed, demonstrated, revealed and preached in this scripture. In brief. For this reason, after the extinction of the thus come one, you all must single-mindedly revere,


keep, read, recite, interpret, copy, and as you preach, so practice it. Okay. Now we're getting close to this thing that Dogen wrote. In any land, if there is anyone who accepts and keeps, reads and recites, interprets and copies, and as he preaches, practices this sutra, whether in a place, at the foot of a tree, this is the part he wrote, whether in a place, this is the part, whether in a place where the scriptures are stored, and this is where Dogen's thing starts, or in a garden, okay? So, if in any land, there's somebody who accepts this sutra,


is there a land like that you know of? Huh? Right here. Somebody is accepting the sutra right here, and keeping it, and reading it, and reciting it, and interpreting it, and copying it, and preaching it, and I hope practicing it, right here. If in any land there's such a situation, it's like right here, okay? Whether that place is a house in Mill Valley, whether it's in a place where scriptures are stored up, that's a place like this too, where the scriptures are stored up up there. Whether it's in a garden, or in a grove, or at the foot of a tree, or in a sangha cell, or a terrace cell, or in a home of a white-robed layman, or laywoman, or in a palace,


or on a mountain, or in a valley, or an open field, there, in every case, is to be erected a shrine, an altar, a stupa, to which offerings are to be made. This is a part of what Dogen had written. He was walking around that, okay? Did you get that part? Is that what that gold thing is outside? What? Is that what that gold thing is outside? That's part of the reason, you know. I didn't put this together. I'm not in control here. This section just popped up in my face. I had this thing years ago, but I didn't register that Dogen walked around the Lotus Sutra, the script passage when he was dying,


and named his death room the Dharma Flower Sutra Hermitage. I didn't get that until just during teaching this class. So that's the first part of this. If there's any place where someone receives and keeps and recites this sutra and talks about it and practices, such a place, there should be a shrine for this sutra, where beings can come and make offerings. Shrines to the sutra means a shrine to the true Dharma, a shrine to the lotus flower of the true Dharma, that we make offerings to the true Dharma at such a place. And then he says, how come? What's the reason that we should do that? And then Buddha says, be it known that that place, be it known that that place is a platform of the Buddha way,


of the path of the Buddha way. At that place, the Buddhas have achieved unsurpassed complete perfect enlightenment. At that place, they have turned the Dharma wheel, and that place they have achieved and entered into Parinirvana. Dogen is about to die. The place he's reciting the Lotus Sutra is the place where the Buddhas enter Parinirvana. He now will enter Parinirvana with the Buddhas. So, I'm aware of the possibility that people in a world that's on the verge of collapse, in some ways you would expect some people to start building altars. Like I saw this movie when I was 12,


it was called On the Beach. Anybody see that movie? It's about the end of the world, right? And the only people that are left are living in Australia. And they're still pretty healthy at the beginning of the movie. The polluting, deadly radiation from the bombs hasn't reached Australia yet. So they're partying a little bit. But then gradually, as things get deteriorated, lots of religious fanatics come forward. This often happens. As things are falling apart, some religions start thriving that weren't doing so well before. This Lotus Sutra is a sutra for a time in the future when things are falling apart, when things are tough. Like now. In the midst of a dangerous, threatened planet, would it help for us to concentrate on the truth?


Well, I think most people would say, yeah. Like scientific truth, at least. Maybe a truth that could help us see how to have clean energy, non-polluting energy of abundant amount to support our huge population of humans. How about an altar or a shrine to the truth? The Lotus Sutra says, if you receive the teaching of the truth and take care of it and practice it, then when you're that way, that place is a shrine and you should build a shrine in the place where you practice the wondrous Dharma. Dogen made a place like that in his death room. And then, by coincidence, coincidence, I get a call a month or so ago. Not a call, I get an email. And the email is being sent out to lots of Buddhists in the Bay Area. You probably got one.


And it's from the Jodo, it's headquarters of the Pure Land Buddhist group. And they say, we've got this altar. If anybody want it, we'd like you to take it. However, it's huge. Most people could not fit it into their house. But I think, nobody's got infinite amount of room. A nice high ceiling. Maybe we can accept it. So I went over and looked at it. And I thought, I think maybe it would fit. Barely. So now, there's this possibility of, we already have a lovely shrine here. But there's a bigger one downstairs. And so today, part of what we can do during work period is repair and prepare, repair and prepare this altar to enter this room.


And for us to, together, build a shrine to the Lotus Sutra. And build a shrine to the truth that can be a resource for the whole world. To focus on the truth as a resource to cope with our global threat of annihilation. But it's, you know, it's a big deal. And people go, whoa, what are we doing here? I thought Zen was simple. Well, anyway. Sometimes simple, sometimes spectacular. This doesn't belong to the Buddhists. The truth doesn't belong to anybody.


The truth is the truth. It is the truth. It's totally bottomless and topless and sideless and ungraspable and wondrous and inconceivable. Which is how we're all practicing together. It has nothing to do with any school. And it includes all the schools and unifies all the schools. It unifies the Republicans and the Democrats. It unifies George Bush and Bill Clinton and Hillary and Barack and John and etc. I heard a gay recovering alcoholic on radio the other day.


He's also an Episcopal bishop. And he said the thing that helped him become able to stop drinking in an abusive way actually stop drinking entirely was prayer. He said, as I get older, I find that I I need to say less and less in prayer. And many Zen students ask, have asked me, is there prayer in Zen? And I say, yeah, there is. Both verbal and silent prayer. And I remember I heard somebody say, well, no, it was a Russian, no, a Greek Orthodox abbot said that there's two kinds of prayer.


One is where you're wishing something, vowing something, requesting something, and the other is radical openness. So usually Zen meditation is radical openness, just to meditate on this vast emptiness which is open to all beings as one vehicle. And this bishop was, as he practiced his Christianity, he's now becoming, his practice is getting more quiet and more open, more quiet and more open. You could request radical openness. And you could request, I pray that radical openness will come here someday and take over my life, and that I will give my life to radical openness. So he says he comes home from work and he sits down


and lets God love him. And I thought, well, that's very similar to Soto Zen meditation. You sit upright, sit down and upright, sit downright up, sit downright erect and relaxed and open and let the Buddhas love you. You sit and you love the Buddhas, you love the Bodhisattvas and you let the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas love you. Without moving, without saying anything, but you can say something if you want to. You can say, OK, you can love me now and I'm going to love you. You can say that, it's no problem. I want to love you and I want you to love me and I know you do, so here I am. May you say one little yes, go right ahead. Yeah, gratefulness.


Yes, grateful to this earth. So grateful to this earth and let's take care of it, let's love it and let it love us. Today, I don't think we're going to put the altar together today, but we can do some work on this altar and I hope that this amazing altar that might manifest in this room will not discourage anybody. I'm not sure, it's going to be something. And the present altar which we have, which is very nice, I thought we could move that up to the room over there on the second floor and make that room into a, what do you call it, a hall for the Bodhisattva of Compassion, a Kanhando, and set up the altar there with Avalokiteshvara


enshrined there, and Shakyamuni here and Avalokiteshvara up there. Shakyamuni is the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra and Avalokiteshvara is the Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion. So we can have two shrines in this temple, this hermitage. What do you think non-radical openness is? Non-radical? I would say partial. But isn't open by definition not partial? I think you can be open part way, you can open part way like you can open part way to grief, right? You can be grieving and then you find out, there's more to open to. More, more, more. So, I think you can be open and it can not be all the way to the root. Radical means to the root, right? When I open to sadness, sometimes I open to it


and then I feel like, oh, it can go a little deeper. But, you know, there was opening at the beginning too, right? Just open all the way to the root of your being and where there's no root. So, I want to draw your attention to the word place. Okay? It says that place. First I wrote a place, but that place is a place. But it's that place, it's this place where we're discussing the Lotus Sutra, where we're trying to focus on the truth, meditate on the truth, realize the truth, teach the truth for all beings. Teach the truth which the Buddhas have taught.


And realize that Shakyamuni Buddha is, the sutra says, is here with us, but we have to practice the teaching in order to realize that the Buddhas are with us. And the Lotus Sutra, which contains innumerable sutras, like the Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra is saying you will become Buddha. All beings will become Buddha. And also, if you practice, you will start practicing. And when you practice, you will realize Buddha. And everybody will realize Buddha, and everybody will eventually start practicing. The universe is pushing us into practice. So, I welcome your, if anybody has any doubts or resistance about whether we should erect, assemble, build this altar,


I welcome your comments. How tall is it? I don't know. We won't know until it's finished. But it could be. It's not too tall for this room. I think this room is big enough for it. So it's really tall. There's lots of pieces. There's many pieces. Yes. But basically, there's... I'd like to see it. You will be able to see it. During work period today, some of you will be able to clean it and paint it, and repair it, if you wish. Erin and I have been working on it for a while. Have you been enjoying it, Erin? Yes. I have. And, you know, I saw this thing, and I just felt like... Well, first of all, when I heard about it, I thought, well, somebody should take care of these things. I went and saw it. I said, it would be... this should be taken care of.


This is a fine product of human wholesome activity, I feel, to make it. It was tremendous craftsmanship in building this thing. Wonderful. And it's old, you know. It's old. What's its history? Do you know where it was built? I'm not sure. I will try to find out. But I think it was originally in Bakersfield, and then it went to Sacramento, and then it came to Berkeley, to this place. But they built this new, beautiful new center, and it's on Durant. On Durant, between Shattuck and Oxford. Very nice Buddhist center. Very nice people. Wonderful. Very good people there. And by the way, the building that it was in used to be a car dealership. And it was a car dealership, I think, of a Buick. So Buicks. And the person who sold them was the person who owned Seabiscuit.


So if you ever saw the movie Seabiscuit, you see this guy's got these car dealerships in Berkeley. Now it's a Buddhist temple. Just, you know, I don't know how this all works out. So when I saw it, I just thought, well, we should take care of it. And a lot of other people would like to have it, but you've got to have a big room. And Zen Center, of course, you could never... the meetings it would take to decide to take this thing. It's like people go, oh, aye, aye. It would be very controversial. It would take, you know, it would take decades to decide to receive it. I don't know if they ever would receive it. We already have nice altars. You know, you can't really... The ones we've got are fine. The Green Gulch one is beautiful. Actually, the Green Gulch one is bigger than it. But not as tall. And this is... Anyway. So I thought, well, let's take it.


And nobody else asked for it, I guess. Because it's too big. So we have this nice big room for it. And so here it comes, I guess. As long as there's room for us, too. I think there will be room for you, too. Yeah, barely. If necessary, you go on the altar. There will be room for you on the altar. Yes. What was the unbelievable thing that happened earlier in the sutra? Could I tell you that this afternoon? Maybe... It's not unbelievable. It's just inconceivable. Incalculable. You know, just ungraspable. Amazing. Good. Please, stay right there. Unless you want to slip off. Yes? Jo? And if this isn't appropriate for now, I can ask you another time.


When you were talking about, you know, you open to something, say, grief. And then you realize that there's more of it. And there's more of it. There's not so much more of it. There's more. You can open more. That's what I mean. I mean that you... The grief may have... The grief doesn't necessarily have an end. Right. But your openness does have an end in a sense. I mean, you get to 100% and that's it. But what you're opening to doesn't have an end. Right. But since you're open, that's not a problem anymore. Right, because you've gone as far as you can go. Yeah, you've done your job. Now just let it love you. Yeah. So I differentiate between getting to the bottom of the grief and getting sort of to the bottom of the openness. You know, you can open all the way, but that doesn't mean you get to the bottom of your suffering or the bottom of your sadness.


It's just that you do your part. And I don't know how much sadness there is, but I'm like, OK, bring it on. 100% open. You can get 100% open to something that doesn't have a beginning or end. And nothing does. Grief doesn't have a beginning and end. Grief is not born, does not die. It's only by perverted thought that things are born and die. Yes? How do you do that? How do you do what? How do you... Open? Open to something that can sometimes feel so deeply overwhelming? Well, when you're open, it's not overwhelming anymore. There's nothing to get overwhelmed. But the way you do it is you just sit in your car, and don't turn the radio on, and you just keep your eyes open, and you watch for the parking space to open up. And while you're doing that, you don't do anything. And you just notice that you start to open. And you open, and you don't do anything.


People are often running around busy, with the radio on, driving their car, looking around. And they don't feel sad. And then they sit still, and they open up, and they start to feel sad. And they sit still some more, and they start to feel more sad. And then they start to sit... So you just gradually... You naturally open when you sit still and quiet. But not... If you try to open up... But you kind of get... With the flow of opening, you kind of feel the opening, kind of like... I don't know... What comes to mind is human females giving birth, you know, they just... They start to open. They don't really make themselves open, but there's forces at... There's forces at work which open them. And you can kind of feel, Oh yeah, it's happening. There's opening happening. Oh yeah. And you sort of don't resist it. Let it go. You don't yet realize how big the thing you're opening up to is. But since you're opening, you're developing your capacity... for it.


When you open all the way, there's nothing hindering it, so it's not going to hurt you anymore. If some huge thing comes to a person, to a being that has a small capacity, then you get knocked out of the way. Maybe this would be helpful, but... The difference between childbirth and emotions is that I think that childbirth, if you're not going to use medication, is just... Could you speak up, please? Okay, I'll try. The difference between childbirth is that there's not a coping mechanism that you have to divert you from it if you're not going to be using medication, which could be a diversion. So there's something else kind of pushing you through it. But my experience of emotions is that there's other realms where you can be diverted away and then not see what's happening.


And just recently, this week, it reminded me of what she was saying, is that I was trying to open to something, and I thought, well, there's realms in which I can try to open to, and that will help me kind of open to it, categorize it. So I reflected and thought, oh, I have thoughts that I need to open to, I have feelings I need to open to, and I have physical sensations. So it helped me, instead of being overwhelmed by the whole thing, which kind of put me into a state of catatonic-ness. Which is closing. Yeah. Catatonia, you close up, right? And it helped to at least start the process. Thank you. Yes? As I was walking today, in my walk, I felt every step is sacred. Then my tendency is,


when I feel something and I'm open to it, then I get stuck with it. If you feel something and you're open to it, you get stuck with it? No, at first, when I feel it, I'm open to it, I experience it. Then after that, then I get stuck in that experience. I want to go experience more of what I just experienced. So I get stuck in this loop of creating. So I get stuck after that. Yeah. I hear that so often. And what I just said to somebody a little while ago, the perfection of meditation comes through giving it away. So as soon as you have this openness and this wonderful meditation, then don't wait long before you give it away. Give it away. Give it away. And then when you give it away, another one comes. But if you're taking care of this meditation,


it's easy to slip into keeping it for a little while. Well then, that hurts it. But even if you don't keep it, even if you're just sort of letting it be, it actually perfects it by actively giving it. Make it a gift. Make it a gift. Always make everything a gift. Always make everything a gift. And if you miss, if you miss, then you reveal and disclose your lack of faith in practice. You know, okay, I didn't give. I didn't really believe in giving, or I didn't practice giving in that case, so I confess it. And I confess as a gift, not to get away from this slip-up, but I confess that I held on to this good thing.


And I confess it in the presence of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Do Buddhas come and go? No, they do not, and neither do you. I don't know, somehow I feel that they come and go. You feel that? Oh yeah, we feel that. And actually, they go along with that. Since we're still in the realm of coming and going, they, by their powers, appear to come and go. They let us see them in a coming and going way, so that we can generate virtue in relationship to something we see, because we don't see anything that doesn't come and go yet. So they say, okay, if you're seeing coming and going, I'll be a coming and going for you. But there are times I see them, they don't come and go, but then, after I see that, then they come and go. Okay. I don't either.


Yes. I like to confess and repent religious bigotry. When you said Pure Land, I started to think, wait, we're better than them. I want their vibes. Fabulous. You said disclose, I figured, okay, I better. Very good, thank you. Thank you so much. In a way, I think there was, what do you call it? There's probably some bigotry in me, because I was, well... But it's not so much bigotry between Zen and Pure Land Buddhism, but more like bigotry between me and other priests, whether they're Zen or Pure Land. Sometimes I'm still amazed to see a really good priest of any type. It just amazes me. And maybe I think,


well, maybe, do I expect not to see great priests wherever I go? I don't know, something like that. Anyway, this priest who showed me the altar, he was so... He was, you might say... His name was David, but his last name was a Japanese name, and he was a Japanese man, you might say. Probably his mother, parents or grandparents are from Japan. But he was very Japanese, the way he always had me go before him, and his body language was very gracious and formal. Very gracious and formal. Anyway, he was just a really good example of a bodhisattva, I thought. I wasn't exactly like, well, a Pure Land priest can be a great bodhisattva, but it more was like their practice, even though it's different from Zen, I think it really works to produce priests like him.


He was a really good guy. And he gave us this nice altar. And he was so happy. By the way, they also gave us his bell, and his bell stand. They had too many? They had too many. Too many bells. Can we hear the bell? No, I can't hear it. Okay, who wants to strike the bell? There's a bell striker. Okay, Erin, this is your big chance. Have you done this before with this bell? Yes. You have? Okay, ready? He wanted us to have this bell. He was very happy that we were going to have this bell. He was very happy that this altar... And I said, you can come and see. He said, I'd love to.


So, when we get it together, he can come here and be very happy to see it. Yes? Yes? I have this wish that when we have this altar and then we have the Shrine of the Lord, we say, Bábla Ki Deśvara, I have this strong wish that it's available to be related to, you know, that it's... Available to be related to? Yes. Your wish is granted. It's available to be related to. You may have to make an appointment, but... You may have to wait in line. Yes? In China, if you remember, Shakyamuni was on one side and Bábla Ki Deśvara was right behind him.


Yeah. That would be nice, except there's no space back there. Because of this big chimney. Yeah. Even up there, there might not be room, but we can look and see. Maybe it could fit up there on the second floor. It might be alright up there. That might be nice for it, too. We can check out maybe moving, having... But it's also nice to have a separate room for it, too. So, we'll experiment. But this place is, you know... This place is offering itself for wonderful things. Anything else you want to bring up before lunch? Yes? If there's a shrine to the Lotus Sutra, does the physical Lotus Sutra book get enshrined on such an altar? Well, I thought we could put a Lotus Sutra inside of Shakyamuni Buddha. That might be... That would be totally usual, actually,


to put scriptures inside of Buddha statues. This Buddha has not been empowered yet. So, we could put the Lotus Sutra inside. We could put it in English and Chinese. I don't have Sanskrit, but we could put the Lotus Sutra inside of it. And then we close up the bottom and empower the statue after the altar is set up. So, we could have a... We could have a sort of empowerment of the altar and of the statues. Would that be good for people to write out some small copies of the sutra? Yeah, but that would be kind of small if we get lots of people doing it. I wouldn't want to cram them in there, you know. Yes? I'm just wondering, all these events, I mean, all these conversations, everything that you're talking about the sutras,


is it by us giving attention to it, it becomes alive? Or are they alive and then our attention gets drawn to it? Both. They're alive and our attention gets drawn to it. But if we don't give our attention to it, we don't realize they're alive. And when we realize they're alive, in some sense, they're more alive. So their life can grow infinitely as we understand it. So the Dharma grows by people understanding it, but the Dharma is also calling us to pay attention. The truth is pressuring us to pay attention to it. And when we pay attention to it, it's more fully realized in our lives. Yes? You said earlier Buddhas don't come and go. I'm wondering if you could say something about relating to change,


because I can feel some aspect of me that wants to latch on to a quality, like, oh no, I've got the Buddha. Buddha's not coming or going. Yes. So Buddha gives us qualities when we're in a latching mood. So Buddha will give us a quality to latch on to. And then when we've got a hold of it, then Buddha says, do you love me? And you say, yes. Well, I have something to tell you. Actually, I'm not that way. I've always been with you. I was with you before you latched on to me. And I will be with you after you let go of me. Matter of fact, for some people, I will not actually pay attention to me unless I go. So that's in chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra. That's the eternal life of Buddha is taught there. And the Buddha is saying, I appear to come and go so that people can relate to me.


Because some people, once I go, they'll say, well, you know, I often use the example of, well, first of all, Moe's Allison. I used to love Moe's Allison, the jazz player. And if he came to my hometown once in a blue moon, I would go see him. Trudge through the snow to go to the club he was playing at. Then I moved to San Francisco and he lived up a block from Zen Center. Not lived there, but he performed just a few blocks from Zen Center on the same street as Zen Center. I never went because I thought, I'll go some other time. I never went to see him because he was always there. And with Suzuki Roshi too, I always felt, you know, a lot of people hung around with Suzuki Roshi and because they were near him, they felt real good. And they postponed their practice. You know, they had the teacher in there, a very nice teacher, but they walked two feet away and then they weren't practicing. So they just go hang out with Suzuki Roshi and feel good and then walk away from him and just, you know, bathe in the afterglow for a while


and then do lots of unwholesome things and then go back to Suzuki Roshi. He couldn't believe some of the things some of his dear students did when they were just a few feet away from him. Because when they were with him, they were fine. So the Buddha goes away so that we'll sober up and practice the Dharma. Some people will not practice if the Buddha is around. The coming and going Buddha, if that Buddha is around, they won't practice. So the Buddha gives the coming and going one to encourage some people, but those who won't practice, he takes it away or she takes it away. And then they start practicing and then realize, oh, never really went. So we play with this stuff. Yeah? Yes? How does that relate to saying how to alter in this place? It feels very specific. Well, this place being where the practice is. So, in some sense,


a simple thing is that where the practice is is the point that you should practice. And in some sense, even if you don't build an altar, you should. But you don't have time. Because every place you go, like you're under a tree, the altar should be built there. But you're only going to be in the tree there for an hour and a half and you're going to be meditating the whole time and then you go over to a garden. So then that place where you practice in the garden, there should be an altar there. There should be a shrine there. But then you move on and go live in a valley or you live in a sewer. So, actually, you don't have time to build altars each place you go other than realize a shrine should be built here because I'm practicing. Because the practice here, this is a holy place. So, Dogen didn't have the energy to build a shrine in his death room. But he did have the energy to have somebody write the calligraphy. So, he was just walking around remembering that every... And even the different places


he was standing in the room, each one of those places was the place where he was practicing and there is where the Buddha enters nirvana. So, if you're walking over to the bathroom when you die, you die halfway between the altar and the bathroom, the place you die if you're practicing, that's where Buddha enters parinirvana. So, the point is here. It's this place. This place and that place where the practice is happening. This is the sacred place in the world. And everybody that's practicing has that place. And you should build an altar there too. But sometimes you're not there very long, so you can't build an altar. But somehow this physical thing has come into our life, so we're just taking care of it. But every place we're practicing, taking care of it, is the altar. And then there's this thing for us to orient towards. But if we don't practice with the altar, then really the altar is dead. What's the purpose of an altar?


I think to concentrate on, to orient towards, to pay attention to. Like also case four of the Book of Serenity. The Buddha is walking along with his group. He stops, points to the earth, and says this is a good place to build a sanctuary, a shrine. Enter the king of the gods, picks up a blade of grass, sticks it in the ground, and says the altar is built. So it's this place that we're practicing together. An altar should be built here. Is there a difference between the blade of grass and an altar like that? Well the difference is that that one required the sovereign of the deities to put it in the ground. That was a different situation. If we had Indra here, I'm sure we'd find that blade of grass


incalculably wonderful. So there are different altars, I suppose. This is an old one, given as a gift to us to take care of. What would happen when you concentrate on it? Well you don't have so much concentrating on the altar. It's an altar for concentrating on the true Dharma. It's an altar to and for the true Dharma. That's the point of the altar. It's the place in the world for us to focus on the truth which will help this world. That's the point of it. But you can get distracted also by anything, including an altar to the truth. You can forget that the altar is there for the truth, for wisdom. Just like at Gringotts we have a beautiful altar, beautiful Manjushri. You can forget that Manjushri is there so we can remember


perfect wisdom. Pay homage to perfect wisdom. Right? You can forget that. Some people might forget that occasionally. Even though they go on the Zen Dojo day after day, they might occasionally forget, oh yeah, perfect wisdom. Right. But they might remember it too. Some people do remember now and then. Have you noticed? Yes. Yes, did you have your hand raised? Yes. It sounds to me like having altars everywhere. Basically, being in every place and I don't have time to build an altar it sounds to me like it's basically saying to the whole heart where I am. Yes, right. So then the altar is absolute and it's not relative anymore. Like there's always a gate.


Yes. The gate is upright and I'm all hearted. Right. In your car it's an altar. Wherever the Buddha is, it's an altar. And the Buddha is everywhere all the time. If you remember that, it's an altar. The truth is all pervaded. But if you don't remember it, you don't realize it. If you remember it, it's an altar. But then you might also, you know, some people might get these vanity license plates saying the altar, you know, or something. Or the Lotus, you know. Or SL. You know, you can decorate your altar. It's okay if you have time. Yes, Laura. Is there some sutra that talks about finding your place? Yeah. It's called the Genjo Koan. When you find your place right where you are, the practice occurs realizing the universe. So that's another way. When you find your place right where you are, it's an altar. And there you realize


the unifying truth of the universe. So, yeah. I think I'd like to stop now so we can build an altar. That's okay. Is that alright? Can we stop? And then this afternoon I will tell you, I will try to convey to you the wonders that led up to this passage which Dogen walked around when he was dying. And now we can say some Bodhisattva vows if you want. May our intention equally extend to every being and place with the true merit of Buddha's way Beings are numberless I vow to save them


Delusions are inexhaustible I vow to end them Dharma gates are boundless I vow to enter them Buddha's way is unsurpassable I vow to become it