The Boatman Does Not Use a Wooden Goose 

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Any questions? Yes? How can we experience the formlessness of the form? Or is it only formless? I'd like to experience the formlessness of the form. I'd like to experience the formlessness of the form and just be that. This comment derails your project. The way you realize the formlessness of form is by disciplining form.


Use the form in such a way that you have a disciplined relationship with it. So, for example, you practice the Bodhisattva disciplines with the form. You practice generosity towards the form. You receive the form, which has been given to you. That's why you wanted to know how to realize the formlessness of the forms that are given to you, right? Not the forms which you don't have anything to do with. So, a form is given to you. And so, in order to enter into a disciplined relationship with it, in other words, a relationship where you learn about the form. Discipline comes from the word dossiere, to learn. So, to enter into a learning relationship with a form, you start by receiving it.


Or, like a teaching is another form, you start by listening to it, or reading it, or seeing it. Then you practice ethics with the form. Be careful of it. Be non-violent with it. Don't be possessive of it, and so on. Practice the ethical precepts with the form. Then be patient with the form, any discomfort you have with it. Some forms may be uncomfortable, like for example, sitting. Your leg may become numb. Or, you may have some pain someplace in your body. And so, to learn how to be gracious and patient with the pain, would be part of developing a disciplined relationship with, for example, the form of sitting. And then, we move on from there, to develop other aspects of a disciplined relationship with the form, whatever the form is.


The form could also be a color, a perception of a color, or an emotion. But then there's also many traditional practice forms you can use. And teachings, all these things are forms. All these things are feelings, all these things are perceptions, and so on. So then you generate the aspiration to practice, to continue these practices, and also to practice developing a concentrated presence with the form. And so you discipline yourself in the concentration with the form. And then, you do the discipline of wisdom with the form. And then you understand the formlessness of the form, or you understand that form is not form. And then, you continue to do these practices so that you don't get attached to formlessness.


Even though, before you start this project, you may wish to attach to formlessness once you get it. But, you know, we accept if you want to do that, you're allowed to try. I think the part that I also like to learn is, which I don't know how to learn, I have no idea how that comes into place, is the concentration, to be concentrated with the form. That part I've never done, and I don't know what it's like. Well, it means that you're focused on it, and that you're, you know, not tight. You're focused on it in a relaxed and open way. So, like, I saw you working in the kitchen at Green Gulch making muffins. And so, I don't know what you were doing, but you looked like you were actually paying attention to the muffin-making activity.


And you weren't, like, jabbering away about other things. You seemed to be actually focused on the project of mixing the dough or whatever you were doing. So, you were kind of focused on muffin-making. But, again, the concentration that we're talking about is not a rigid thing. As a matter of fact, it has quality of... The standard of whether you're concentrated or not is that your body and mind are flexible and soft. If you're focused on something, but your body and mind are not flexible and soft and relaxed, then we say that's not concentration. That's an effort which looks like concentration in the sense that you're focused, but if the focus isn't relaxed and flexible, it's not concentration. Concentration is actually open. And that openness, together with the focus, or the openness without the distraction, is setting the stage for wisdom.


The focus with openness brings the mind to one point where you actually realize that the things we're aware of are not out there, that actually what we're aware of and our awareness are one point. So we actually, in concentration, give up the sense that what's out there is separate from us. Temporarily, we're relieved from the idea of being separate from what we're aware of, or that consciousness is separate from what we know. And in this undistractedness with this non-separation and openness, we actually enter into the reality of that, and then we become permanently free of that delusion. And permanently free of believing that a form is actually really a form,


by which we realize it's also not a form. Concentration is necessary for the deep entry into the reality of things. But also concentration has to be open, so that we can learn things about a thing that we haven't been open to before. Or even that we're open to, but we're too distracted to let the reality, the full reality of things, let them be as they are, and enter into the actual relationship we have with things. I see this impermanency of my practice about entering the reality as it is. So I kind of go in and out. Yeah, and that's something to be kind towards.


To be kind towards whatever you're working with, whatever form you're working with, but also be kind to the instability of the practice. Be generous towards it. Be careful of it. Don't have ill will towards inconsistency. And if you're ever consistent, don't be possessive of the consistency, because that will destabilize you too. And be patient with how long it's been that we have not been able to be perfectly consistent. And being patient partly involves being in the present with the practice, rather than think how long we've been doing it, and how long will we be able to do it. Or how long have we been suffering, and how long will we be suffering?


Just deal with the present suffering, rather than future and past suffering. So again, in concentration we're open to future and past suffering. But the best way to be open to future and past suffering is to be with the present suffering. When you're really with the present suffering and you relax with it, you're open to future and past suffering. I see when you were speaking, what I was seeing is that I have a goal in my mind, somewhere to reach. And that is maybe what's putting me in a state that I'm not here. Well, that's another form. The goal is another form. And if you practice these ways with that form of that goal, you can realize the goallessness of that, and be free of that goal. Because goals can be quite useful, and so can the sitting posture can be quite useful.


And many of the practices we use can be quite useful as opportunities to develop compassion and wisdom, including all the goals. Goals are quite useful. So like we just chanted a vow of an ancient teacher, or somewhat ancient teacher. That's his vow. That's his goal. He wants to be that way. He wants to see that way. He wants to be compassionate to all beings. This is his goal. But he also wants to be relaxed and kind to this goal so that he doesn't get trapped by not being kind to that goal. Any other questions tonight? Yes and yes? Could you tell us about the robe that you're wearing? The robe? This robe is a red robe, and it has a certain number of Buddhas on it.


Apparently, Buddhas are nothing but Buddhas. And a lot of these Buddhas are sitting on very fancy thrones. And I think this robe was discovered in China. And I think it was discovered by Reverend Kokyo? Yes, and others. And Reverend Setsuwan? Were you one of the discoverers? I was one of the appreciators of the discovery. And Reverend Luminous Forest? Who else discovered it? I think maybe that was us. So they discovered it, and then they gave some Chinese people money. Did you? In an antique store. Did you pay them money, or did they just give it to you? I think some money was exchanged. So they made a donation to the store people, and the store people said, here. And then they gave it to the Buddha Dharma.


And so now I'm wearing it for the Buddha Dharma. There's a certain amount of Luminous Forest sewing that went into making a Buddhas robe. Yes, Luminous Forest did a lot of sewing on it, and some other people did too. It was kind of falling apart, and it's on the verge, constantly, of falling apart further. I think it's a little small for me. It's more suited, I think, for someone even smaller than me. Maybe my granddaughter. Is that enough information about this for the time being? Sure. It's available for viewing if you'd like to come up closer at some point. Yes. I had the same question. Same question. Yes. I'd like to ask a question about this state of relaxation in this space that you're talking about.


And specifically from the stories we've been reading today, the space between teacher and student. And I just wanted to ask a question. I guess when I'm looking at those stories, I see a lot of tension there. And I'm wondering, one, it's not an emotional tension, but there's a creative tension occurring in the stories. And I'm wondering if you can remark upon maybe a distinction. In my mind, I'm seeing a distinction between the kind of emotional tension where you grasp the one side or the other. Thank you for that question. So, the human situation, in some sense inherently, has tension in it. It has duality, it has opposites as part of our nature. And there's a tension in that. So, concentration is necessary in order to be with that tension in a relaxed way. And to be aware of it, to face it, to face the tensions of life.


The courage to be concentrated is also the courage to face what's happening. The courage to be calm with major conflict of our nature. To be calm and undistracted with the tension between existence and non-existence. Between the tension of nothing and something. That things can't be grasped and that they can be grasped. Our life has those two things in it. To be in the tension between nihilism and hedonism. Between self-mortification and addiction to sense pleasure. Or addiction to self-mortification and addiction to sense pleasure. So, a lot of our addictions have tension in them. We are addicted.


So, concentration is to be undistracted and face these things and be relaxed and open. So that we can be open to the inherent tension between good and evil. And open to how understanding can arise about good and evil. But if we can't relax with them, we can't enter into their reality. Which they, in a sense, are covering. The reality of good and evil is being covered by the appearance of good separate from evil. Or good being something that exists by itself is in tension with the evil that exists by itself. If we can relax with these things and yet face them with complete presence, we can open to what they're hiding.


What they're concealing. Which is the emptiness of both of them. The insubstantiality of either. And the insubstantiality of the tension. So, we need to develop a relaxed body in order to face the tensions of our life. The tension, the contradictions, the stress. So, one way when I look at these stories, like the Lu Pu story today, I actually see they're playing with the tension. And the trap is to make the tension substantiated in some form. Which is what you're no longer playing with. Yeah, the trap is to try to eliminate the tension. Or to try to control it. Or find some way around it. Or negate one of the sides.


So, it's a nice story. I feel it's a good example of pushing and pulling each other. I think I said in the session that this is like they're practicing tango with the teaching of there's nothing out there. They're not just saying, okay, they're pushing on each other around this. The teacher is saying, my teacher taught that there's nothing out there in front of you. And I'm like in your face saying there's nothing out there in front of you. And you're in my face saying you don't understand. And I'm saying you should understand. And you're saying I really don't. We're going back and forth like that. Is this a dance? Or are we taking positions? Am I taking the position you really should understand? Or is that just my offering to you? Or is that just my following? I wouldn't be able to say you really should if you didn't just say that you couldn't.


And now since you say you really don't, I can say tough isn't it? Tough isn't it? And then tomorrow I have more to say if I make it through the night. And somebody asks me what we said today. And so I get to say now, the boat of compassion is not rowed over pure water. In precipitous straits, wooden gates are not really of any use. This is all made possible by this relaxed dance with opposition, pushing back and forth on each other. And I have the feeling like, maybe Liu Pu had a successor, maybe he didn't. Actually, some records say he had eleven successors.


And the question is whether the last night of his life was able to find another successor. And I like the word successor because successor isn't really exactly a student anymore. At the time that you have a successor, maybe the student is the teacher and the teacher is the student. Or the student is the living teacher and the teacher is the defunct teacher. And maybe all students are defunct teachers, coming to help their teacher be successful. By pretending to be a defunct teacher. Thank you for your question. Yes.


Comes from attention? Awareness of what is. An awareness of the tension enables one to deeply relax in the base of the tension. Well, the whole process kind of starts with some attention or some noticing of something, of some form. So, we can't really practice kindness until we notice the thing. And if we're human and we notice something, there is tension. For example, we notice something and we notice that it's not there or it is there. But if we notice that it is there, actually there's an implied tension that it's not there, it's there too. But we're emphasizing it is there. But that's a kind of a problem of emphasizing one side of the...


So, we notice that and then we practice generosity, ethics and patience with it. So attention is there throughout, but it's not just attention. It's compassionate attention. Because people can pay attention in a nasty way. And if they practice attention in a nasty way, they don't develop the kind of relaxation that's also undistracted. So, you can be nasty to somebody and be relaxed about it. Like, I'm nasty to you, but there's no problem. You can notice somebody being nasty and say, you know, they're worthless. It doesn't matter that I was nasty. That's not a kind relaxation. The relaxation that comes from being respectful and generous and careful and ethical with the thing, that's a relaxation where you're giving a lot of...


You're honoring the thing with kindness. Now, the relaxation that comes with focusing based on these kindnesses, that relaxation is based on all these different aspects of compassionate attention. I think that was... My question was the root to the deep relaxation of attention. It starts with paying attention to noticing the thing. And then being generous towards it and so on. And that leads to a relaxation that's based on kindness, rather than a relaxation based on discounting the thing. We can often relax with things that we think are inconsequential. But to relax with something that we think is very valuable and very precious, sometimes we have trouble relaxing.


But that relaxation is one where we actually think this is important, so we are paying attention. This is like something we really value, and we're really having a good opportunity to not get distracted from it, because we think it's important. We really want to stay focused on it, but also we want to be relaxed. So bodhisattvas are trying to develop a focus on the welfare of others, a steady focus on the welfare and happiness of others, and to be relaxed with that, and playful with that. Then they can enter into not only being compassionate and focused on beings, but playful and understanding them. But attention is going through the whole process. Including attention to any lack of compassion,


and then being compassionate with the lack of compassion. Yes? I'm hearing the word attention, and I'm thinking of the word awareness. And I'm thinking, when I am in a state of duality or choice, when I have a moment of awareness, I come out of that duality. I often think there's a field in just the state of awareness that's neutral. And so you were speaking to attention, which seems to take you down all these various steps. I think of awareness as a place where you come into neutrality, in the sense that you're no longer holding this view or that view. You're just becoming aware. And in that place, there isn't... You can't be mean, per se. Because it's like this field that we all step into,


that's available to all of us, and it's this neutrality that doesn't have an ability to be mean or kind. It just is. Probably. Probably. Did it make sense to you? A little bit, in the sense that the... The difference between awareness and attention. So would you say that attention is an aspect of awareness? I don't know. It's because it feels like it could have a lot more attached to it, like you just said. Whereas I feel like awareness doesn't have any more attached to it. You're just aware. You're just aware. Yeah. And you can't be mean there, either. Pardon? I guess when you were saying,


in attention you can be attentive and mean, I feel like in awareness you may not ever be mean. You're just aware. Like, okay, I'm aware that this isn't... Yeah, just basic awareness. Yeah. But awareness also can be accompanied by attention. And the attention then attends to something. And then there can be compassion towards that thing, or not. Okay, I see. But the basic awareness is pretty much the same as being alive. So the basic awareness is accompanied by attending to different possible objects of awareness. But the awareness itself, as you're saying, it's just awareness, but it comes up with mental factors, like attention. And then the attention is accompanied by compassion and wisdom, or not. You're welcome.


Or at least that's one story that's been told here today. So this is the last one-day sitting of no abode this year, probably. Unless somebody comes up with another one. But just in case we don't, thank you for coming to what might be the last one-day sitting of this year. This year dedicated to studying delusion. We did study delusion all year, didn't we? And I have this delusion that we had a wonderful time. And that we were very kind to our delusion a lot of the time. And that we might continue to study delusion, and be kind to delusion,


and become free of delusion for the welfare of all beings. I have that story, I have that dream, I have that intention, I have that vow. I join Torrey Zenji's vow to be really kind to all delusion. As though we were being kind to the Buddha. Thank you very much. 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. So sitting like this, do I look like a Christmas tree? Turn the lights on. I've been told I have elfin ears, especially when backlit. I accept my destiny.