Baizhang's Fox

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Being clear about cause and effect, intention, karma.

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meditation, maybe you should stay with feelings for a long time until you really see the karmic conditioning pattern. You can't always see feeling, though, because it's not the only thing that's happening. You don't just go around having feelings. You have to have other feelings, you have to have other experiences to get up and down those stairs. But you can have quite a few feelings going up and down a set of stairs, because there turns out to be quite a bit of moments from the bottom of the stairs to the top of the stairs, unless you go very fast. So there will be some feelings probably going up and down a set of stairs, but a lot of other experiences, too. So you can't just focus on ... I shouldn't say you can't, but we're not recommending you only focus on feelings, because then you'd be skipping over a lot of other stuff in your life. But you do get a lot of chance to be aware of your feelings. Often they're strong enough so that they do come up and you do notice.


But some people, although they're having feelings, they don't even notice them. If you ask them, are you having a positive, negative or neutral sensation, they can't answer the question. Not because they're not having them, but because they haven't learned how to spot them. So when you're having a feeling, hey, you don't have to go out of your way to have it. When you're conscious of pain, it's no skin off your nose to be conscious of having pain. And while you're there, you might also practice a little meditation on karma, just in case you have any obstruction to the Buddha way. You might as well check out that thing, because there's where the obstruction occurs, that's where the obstruction production is exposed around that thread of feeling. Okay? There's a lot of other stuff to do, but don't miss those chances, because that's the place to tune into the process of karmic hindrance


and find the pivotal experience there. For example, the sound of an airplane, or a sound, which I call the sound of an airplane, a color, a touch, a smell, a taste, a conceptual cognition, all these could be called sensations. In this case, you could call a thought a sensation. And then you have feelings about these sensations. Every time you have a sensation, you have a feeling about it. The feeling is not always


right up in front, like when sometimes you look at a color and you aren't aware that you have a positive sensation. Sometimes you are, but even if you're not aware, there is a positive sensation there. So, there's five aggregates, and you're going to be aware of, well, basically you're going to be aware of all five, sometimes, but in a given moment, the one that you're actually conscious of as the object of your main consciousness is going to be one of the four. And so, you're going to be aware of body, so if it's aware... I say not aware of body, you're going to be aware of the things that the body is sensitive to, like color. At that time, the second aggregate is operating, too, so there's a sense of pleasure, pain, or neutral when you look at all colors. Every color you look at, there's a positive negative and neutral sensation. But at that very moment, when you're first registering


the color, you aren't consciously looking at the sensation of pain or pleasure. But then the mind can go and look directly at the sense of pain or pleasure, and you can have pain or pleasure about looking at the pain or pleasure, because the mind now knows the pain or pleasure, and you can have pain about that, too. You can have pain about pleasure, and you can have pleasure about pleasure, and you can have a neutral sensation about pleasure. Maybe you know something about this. So, going throughout Wednesday, I'm noticing pain, pleasure, or neutral. So, if I were to notice, if I say there's aversion, aversion, I'm noticing aversion, I'm noticing aversion,


aversion is not the same, no. That's the conditioning process. Aversion is not pain, it's just that we are often conditioned to avoid pain. The aversion, or the moving away, is part of the conditioning process. If a pain arises and you move away, the consequence of moving away, the consequence of wishing to move away, or intending to move away, is going to be that next time pain arises, it's going to be conditioned by that past conditioning. But the pain, pleasure, neutral, just observing them, those are not the conditioning. Those are the maturing of conditioning to some extent, but they're not conditioning themselves. However, when pain arises, which means when you evaluate the situation as painful, again due to past conditioning, that's the second skanda, it's accompanied by the fourth skanda,


and in the fourth skanda there's all kinds of conditioning factors which can now operate on that feeling, or not. But there's probably a tendency to operate on that feeling because in the past the opportunities here to operate on it were activated, so there's some tendency to do it again. But if you can actually train yourself both to catch that the conditioning is continuing, or emerging again, but sometimes not do it. Sometimes just deal with it, and the conditioning is cut. And that of course tends to promote tranquility. However, noticing the karmic conditioning arising with the feeling is also transformative, because now you're not just cutting the conditioning, you're observing the conditioning, and you're starting to see how it works, so that's also useful. So having moments where it's cut are


useful, it calms you down, and when you're calm, to observe how it works is in some sense even more ultimately useful than cutting it out. Because then you get to see that actually there's a way to neither fall into it or not fall into it. But to see it clearly is really what is living in the world with all kinds of causation and freedom. I was thinking of the seven types of suchnesses. There's the last four, which are tied to the four number six. I can't remember what the first three are, but would the first three


be more of the insight work? I think you should show me the text. Let's look at the text together. And after we figure it out, we can tell the rest of the group what the answer to the question is. So find that text and show it to me. Yes? Where are we here? Every moment for the foreseeable future, when consciousness arises, it arises


with an intention. It's a normal, very important mental factor that arises with all cognition, is an intention. In other words, mental karma arises with almost all states of cognition. What might it be? It might be an intention to do something skillfully, or it might be an intention to not particularly care about doing things skillfully, which doesn't really matter whether you do them skillfully or not. So that's kind of an unwholesome environment, where you don't think it matters whether you pay attention or not. So then there might be an intention which is kind of like, I don't really care about paying attention or attention or anything, I'm just going to go with the flow of my inertia in karmic consciousness. Penetration camps. That's kind of an unwholesome intention. But still, that would be quite


an unwholesome intention. Now, not too many people in this room think that way ever, except when they're really upset, maybe, and trying to take revenge on the universe. But that would be an example of an unwholesome intention. And then the new intention, I think you said, you do this, and then a new intention might arise, a different intention, which is a break from the chain, or maybe a misunderstanding. Well, at a certain point, yeah, there's the intention to study karma, which is different from the intention to do wholesome things. Like you might want to sit in a skillful way, and you have this intention to sit in a skillful way, or eat lunch mindfully and carefully, or clean the temple carefully and skillfully, which would, in such a way as to bring benefit


to all beings. This could have that intention. And you could have some understanding, like this activity falls into karma causation, or doesn't, or something like that. That could be part of the environment of this intention. But there could be another intention, which is really not about cleaning the temple or sitting up straight, but the intention to study the intention. That intention is an intention which can cause a pivot, a transformation of this enclosing, entrapping process, this samsaric process of even wholesome activities have consequence, which tend to drive, in this case somewhat more happily, tend to drive intentions to do more wholesome things, and have more wholesome consequences. But it's still this kind of enclosing, cognitive, karmic world, which doesn't actually see the whole


picture of causation, because it's mostly seeing causation in terms of what you think of doing, not what you're doing with all beings beyond your cognitive grasp. We're actually working together in a bigger way than our mind can grasp. But one of the ways we work together is as beings who live in cognitive realms. That's one of the ways we work together. That is important. But the mind tends to create an impression that the way the mind sees the world is the way it is. The way the mind sees causation is the way it is. And we tell stories of causation within the cognitive realm, and say that that's the way things are actually happening. So again, the New Yorker, of course, is always struggling with these things, right? People are in court, like in courthouses, but people are also in court up at St. Peter's Gate, and people are in court down in hell. You notice


that in New Yorkers? A lot of people are going to heaven or hell, and in the regular judicial system in the United States, mostly they're U.S. courts, where people are speaking English, American English. You notice that? All these judgments coming down, right? And so hopefully if you do good, you're going to get a good judgment. If you do bad, you're going to get a bad judgment. But to study the process, even that is in the New Yorker, where people say, we're all responsible, but the defendant is guilty. So in some sense, we're all responsible, not just we're all responsible, but everything is responsible for what happens. But in a certain realm, did I say the defendant is guilty? Yes. But in some realm, we say, in this realm, this is the way it looks, like this person is guilty, although we know we're all responsible beyond the way we can see it. If we can see


how we're responsible, then we're guilty, too. The more you can see, you have a story about it, and prove that that story is going to reign supreme in the court, then those who are implicated are more or less guilty. Studying that process opens up to see the bigger-than-huge causal situation. So the intention to study intention is more liberating than just the intention to do good. The intention to do good, however, is pretty good, because in order to do good, you have to pay attention to your attention to some extent. You have to pay some attention to what you're doing in order to do good. And usually, if you wouldn't do good, if you didn't think there was some cause and effect. However, it is possible to do good not because of believing in cause and effect, but to do good just for good, without


dealing with it in terms of cause and effect. And that way of doing good in some sense expresses the person who is not falling into cause and effect or not falling into cause and effect. They just do good, but not because of intention and not because of belief in causation. They do good because they have understood causation. So Dogen's fascicle where he brings this up is deep faith in causation. We believe in it before we understand it. And if you believe in it, that means you believe it's worthy of study, it's worthy of focusing on it. So, of course, it's good to do good because of causation. You should believe that it's good, but the main thing about doing good is that it sets up the possibility of meditating on the process of doing good, to become free of doing good in a cause and effect way, and do good from a wisdom way, where you know cause and effect rather than believing in


it. So maybe that's the kind of new intention that you thought I was referring to, the intention to study intention. And then there's another thing which is not even intention, because still intention is a cognitive thing, in a way. Unless you say the intention of the whole cosmos for all beings to be doing Buddha's work, that could be another intention, which is not your cognitive intention, but the intention you share with all beings, which is inconceivable, that could be another intention. But that's stretching the word a little bit far, because now I'm using intention as a cognitive element. So the vector or the intention of the whole universe is not just cognitive, I would say. It includes the intention of phlegm and bile. I was lost there for a second. I was going to go back just to when you used the example


of the, I just want to ground myself in your dissection of where you could look at causation. Yes. When I heard the airplane, I didn't notice a feeling, but very quickly my first association was, it sounds like mosquito. And then from there I kind of worked back, it's kind of irritating. I don't think I had a feeling, but was that meddling? I was kind of meddling, I was having some discursive associations with it? Yes, I think that was getting more discursive than I would recommend. Just listen to the sound, and if you can't notice a feeling, fine, that's what I'm saying. Sometimes what you're cognizing is actually the sound, and you're not actually cognizing the feeling at that time. Even though there is a cognitive element accompanying your awareness of that sound, which is a feeling, and it might have been... Well, I'm saying I don't think I, I think I went right past the feeling.


Well, I'm just saying, at the moment that you heard the sound, that you couldn't maybe, at that time, be conscious of the feeling you had, but there was a feeling, I'm saying. So there's five aggregates, right? When you're actually cognizing a sound at that moment, the object of that moment of consciousness is the sound, but there's a feeling there. However, the feeling is not the object of the cognition. However, it is the cognition, it is a cognitive element, and it does affect the moment. Simultaneously with that feeling, even though you're not conscious of it, it's possible that conditioning elements that are present with that feeling are operating on it, conditioned by past ways. But sometimes, actually quite frequently, because there's so many moments in a day, sometimes the object of cognition is the, this is the first skanda, second skanda, third skanda, fourth skanda, these are the five aggregates. This fifth one is knowing one of the other, the fifth one


knows one of the other four. Use the thumb, this is the fifth. So the fifth can know sense data, it can know feelings, it can know conceptions, and it can know all kinds of other conditioning factors, like intention is in the fourth aggregate. So, when you're knowing the color, at that time, the knowing is the color and the knowing doesn't know the feeling, but there's a feeling there. The elements in the fourth aggregate, which can manipulate and mess around with the feeling, they could be operating there, but not consciously in the sense that they're what's known in the main cognition, but they're still doing that by past action. But sometimes what happens is you notice the feeling, and while you notice the feeling, you can more sense these conditioning factors playing there. Or sometimes you notice the conditioning factors


and you know that they're operating on the feeling. You can watch the conditioning factors work with the feeling. And you can also sense that they're coming from, you've seen this pattern before. And you can see intentions. So sometimes you see the sound, and at that time I wouldn't go around looking for something else because you actually are completely denying this, but understand that most of what's going on at that moment, in terms of what your mind is doing, other than knowing, is unconscious. But other moments we can start getting access to what's going on other than just sensation, because any of the other three can be directly perceived. And so sometimes you do have a feeling. Now when you have a feeling, can you be very simple with it? If you can't, then notice, oh, well I'm not being simple with it, which is the way I would develop tranquility. I am getting a hint of the conditioning process


and the intention. So although I actually was trying to practice tranquility, I'm actually getting to study karma because my karma is so strong, it's saying, you can't just have that feeling, you've got to do this. Well, okay, fine, now I get to see karma. Well that's what I was thinking, the associations feel like the pattern. Yeah, the associations, right. But don't go looking for the associations, let them intrude and abuse you, and watch how they just come in there and force their way in. Not because it's your program, but because it's the force of their own… Well, that's how it felt actually. It wasn't probably very fast, but it seemed like that's the first thing I noticed. Because I was a couple of steps off. Yes? I just wondered, when you were describing intention in this other sense, it's not about the cognitive moment, if that was the use of intention in the chant, may our intention


equally penetrate? So again, you're saying, what? Intention? Yeah. Yes? In the chant, may our intention equally extend to every being in place with the true merit of Buddha's will? That chant. That chant. Seems different from the studied intention moment by moment in relation to karma. And I thought that was what you had just been describing. Okay, so she's asking about the intention in the dedication of merit chant, okay. This is kind of a big topic to bring up, but I'll just say briefly, and we can talk about this more after lunch. And that is that the basic text is, negawaku wa kono kudoku wo omote, yamanekui saini wo yoboshi, warera to shijo to mina tomo ni butsudo jozen koto, that's the original, right?


And it's basically saying, we pray that the merit of what we've just been doing would be turned over to the welfare of all beings so that they can attain the Buddha way. The intention is, in this chant, originally, it's not our intention exactly, but we're saying our intention is that this merit be given over. Now, that intention goes, you could say, well that's the intention to hope that everything we do will be for people's welfare, and our intention is that what we do will help people attain the Buddha way. Now, that intention, for each of us, could be different. But we could also say, no, what we mean is that the intention that everything we do, any merit of what we do, be turned over to people becoming free, once again,


that there is an intention, and we want to join the intention that whatever merit we contribute to, we want to give this merit over to people becoming free of merit, because the Buddha way is to be free of merit and demerit, and use merit to help people become free of merit and demerit. So you could understand it that way. And that way seemed closer. But it's not that we're saying, may all of our different intentions extend. We don't want some of our intentions to extend any further than they've already gone. But you just did describe that the intention in the Buddha way is to liberate, not my intention and your intention. Is that the use of intention that when you were describing something, kind of the intention of the universe? Is that the intention of the universe?


That's the intention of the universe. Yeah. And the intention of the universe completely embraces all of our sort of limited intentions. All of our cognitive inclinations are totally embraced by that. I was thinking about the idea of removing obstacle to doing good. And there's an image in the story of one person punching the other in the face. Slapping. Or slapping, as a response. He was too big to punch him. Being hit in the face is a particular kind of... can often make a lot of heat come up with someone. Right. It can. And the idea of, when you're examining these feelings that come up, maybe breaking the pattern


a bit by not acting the same, trying it differently. Yeah, that's possible. But even if you don't break the pattern, for most people, noticing the feeling and noticing the pattern, that awareness is quite unusual in this world. That's a big step. Even to look for the feeling is a big step. To find the feeling is another big step. To notice that there's some conditioned behavior around the feeling is another big step. So even while it's still going on, a lot of change has occurred in the meditation process already. You're actually quite successful on three accounts if you get that far. While the conditioning process is still going on, this is really good that you're that much involved in studying and becoming clearer about cause and effect. I just want to make that point before you go on to the next step in your discourse.


Well, I do have a point. Yes, I can see it coming. You know, that you could also see that and make the choice to do it, and even maybe do it more. Yes, you could. As an experiment, maybe. And there's something about that image of the slap in the face and the heat that comes from contact with another person like that. And noticing that sometimes, particularly in groups of people, in an intentional community, where there is some common desire to do good, at least that's a value. Well, it's like the price of admission. You have to promise to try to do good when you come in the room. I'm not talking nonsense. What? I do have a group in mind, but I'm not specifically referring to that. Something can happen, and often does happen, where in fact there's a huge shadow that's kind of created with that intention that can cause a tremendous amount of damage.


Right. Even though, and when you're a member of the group, you are having to respond to that in some way. Either participate, or fight, or make different choices, or do nothing, or watch. And I'm just wondering, in terms of cultivating this sense of cause and effect and deepening your understanding and wisdom about what it is to do good, how those kind of active choices, in the heat of intense emotion or intense interaction, can teach you about how you... I think I got it. Does anybody else need to hear more about what she's saying before we answer it?


I think it's pretty clear. And this story is an example of that. The story has a guy getting slapped in the face. And he's very happy about it. It doesn't do him any damage. Matter of fact, he's saying, your slap was coming from the best place. You know, you're a master, he's saying to the guy who slapped him. He was very happy to receive the slap. And the monks got to watch that. In the previous part also, he did something very unusual. He did a funeral ceremony for a dead fox. The monks could have said, what's going on here? Are you wrecking the tradition here? Being that creative? So this story has... Actually, in the first story too, there's this thing where a teacher is being asked a question and he gives an answer, and there's a big strong consequence. So there's various things which have big consequences in this story, which we can look at. The point is that underlying the whole process,


which has potential, like people going to amazing trips to be fox for 500 years, and then getting to go to Zen masters even while they're still a fox, people doing unusual ceremonies and participating in them, and teachers giving talks and students coming forward and interacting and slapping them, and the teacher being very happy. But sometimes the teacher says, you know, it's not really that harmful, actually, in the stories often, but the teacher says, you know, you're off track. You're missing the point here, slapping me today. Today the slap is not really... You're just copying... This is old stuff, this is not fun today. But these are stories where there's enough wholesomeness in the environment so that when people get off track, they can either be put back on track or just called disqualified temporarily. But this is part of what we're dealing with here.


But the ongoing thing is that we don't give up the meditation on karma as we go through these processes. It isn't like we're meditating on karma and then, when things get intense and somebody gets really creative or crazy, we then stop meditating on karma. We try to stay in the meditation, even when it gets intense, and hopefully, with a group, we can actually deal with all these potentially very, in some sense, creative opportunities where somebody is really getting off track. But if people aren't looking at their own stuff, then the causal processes still go on, but it can get very unconscious, and people start getting swept up in group phenomena and stuff like that. And so this is part of the danger. And so, as you're making a choice about how you participate...


You can say, as the appearance of choice is happening, that you may see, that you think, I'm making the choice. You notice, that's the way you view this. This is your way of seeing it. And you notice how it works when you think that you make decisions by yourself. You see how that works. And if you hang out with other people who are watching how they think that way, you can converse about how a group of people all think that they're doing things by themselves, and the suffering they experience as a result of that. And then you can also maybe sometimes not see your decisions as something that you're doing by yourself. Have some new perspective on that. Because again, you do not actually decide. Your decisions are determined not by you, but by your past karma, and lots of other factors that you can't see. But you can tap into the past karma, which is driving your present decisions. But they aren't decisions you're making.


They're decisions which are sponsored by or driven by past actions. And this decision you're making now will be a condition for future decisions, which also you won't be making by yourself, even though you're responsible for everything. So try to tune into this, is what I think these people who are trying to help us become free of karmic effects, this is the way they're trying to help us. Not to exclude anything you're looking at, but to notice that there's karma in the process. It isn't just, oh, I'm just sitting here making a decision. No. This decision that's being made is driven by past action. It's not just like a fresh Sarah doing it by herself. It's Sarah being made in a very important way by past action and other things. But you can't see the other things as clearly as you can see the past action, because the past action is manifesting as your feelings and your intentions,


which you can see, and you can see better than anybody else. But you can tell people about it, and the way you speak about it, and you can get feedback on whether it sounds like the way you're talking about it is also driven by past action, or whether the way you're talking about it is expressing present awareness. So you can develop more present awareness of the past action rather than the past action doing the talking. And it sounds differently, depending on who's talking, whether it's the meditator talking or the karmically driven person that's talking. Or both. Actually, it's both, actually. For the foreseeable future, it's going to be at least two. In concert with who knows what. Anyway, this is another opportunity to let those who have attained the Buddha away,


free us from karmic effects. Wouldn't that be fine? And it's now 12.30. I thought maybe we could have a little lunch break. I also wanted to do noon service, but... What do you think? Should we do noon service and have lunch, or should we just have lunch? How many people would like to have noon service? How many people want to have lunch immediately? Okay. You get a special thing. You're not pregnant again, are you? So you can start your lunch right away, or you can do noon service with us. I made that decision for you. I made the decision that you can do either one, and we'll all sponsor you, whichever way you go. We're going to do a short service, okay? Should we do a short one? Yeah, let's do one of our short ones.


And then we'll have lunch after that. Okay, ready? May our intention Please extend To every being and place That you may love and praise