Bodhisattva Initiation 

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Tenshin Reb Anderson
Teachings on Bodhisattva Precepts
Sunday November 11, 2008
Green Gulch Zen Farm
Sunday Dharma Talk with Q & A


Transcribed by: Karen Mueller


This afternoon we’re planning to have a ceremony. It’s an initiation ceremony for entering into the path of a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva, I would say this morning, is somebody who, it’s a kind of, it’s a being, it’s a way of being. It’s a way of being generous; it’s a generous way of being. And it’s a wholehearted, generous way of being. It’s so generous that it’s also fearless. It’s so completely generous that it/s fearless. And it wants to give completely in all directions to everyone. And it’s so happy to be that way it’s not afraid to be that way if we’re that generous. And of course it is totally about peace because it’s spreading generosity and fearlessness and non-violence. A bodhisattva literally means awakening being or enlightening being and this way of generosity and fearlessness and non-violence is the way of awakening. And today nine people for the first time will enter into a ceremony, a formal ceremony to receive bodhisattva vows, bodhisattva precepts; to receive them and to commit their life to the practice of bodhisattva vows, bodhisattva precepts. They will be asked if they would like to receive these vows, and they probably will say, “yes I do”. (Laughter) After they receive them, we will ask them, from now on and even after realizing the body of a Buddha, will you continue to practice these precepts of compassion, and they probably will say, “Yes I will”. And we do that three times, so they really promise. It doesn’t mean they will, because they’re human beings like all of us. It means they commit. “I commit to be a good friend, I don’t know if I will be, but I want to be and if I don’t I definitely will be sorry. I commit to being 100% wholeheartedly generous and if I don’t I’ll be sorry” This kind of commitment will probably happen this afternoon. Before I go further I just want to say that it is my view, my happy view, that all of you are generous beings. But, I know that we don’t fully realize that sometimes. That’s why we have to practice these vows. So we realize that we’re generous and we realize other people are generous too. It is my happy view that we are already intimate with each other. This is a happy view of mine, which I am not attached to but which I express, again and again. But if we don’t practice intimacy, we sometimes don’t realize it. Bodhisattvas are those who promise and who realize intimacy with all living beings, even those they completely disagree with. Bodhisattvas are nourished by their vows; they are lifted up by their vows. They progress by means of their vows. They make vows. They live vows. Great Vows. Auspicious Vows. Expansive, vast, unlimited vows. This is how they live, by these vows. So in the ceremony today, such vows will be offered, received and committed to. Out of love for all beings, out of love for peace for all beings, to become committed wholeheartedly to work for peace for all beings. These forms, these ceremonies, these precepts help us, we hope. 
We try to do the ceremony well. We try to give ourselves to doing it wholeheartedly, completely present and concentrated and tender. We begin the ceremony by making offerings to the enlightened beings, to the enlightening beings. We make offerings to the way of being generous and intimate with all beings. We make offerings. We pay homage to this way of being. We invoke the presence. We request this kind of being to enter the room and be with us. We say, “Please come great compassion, great generosity, great fearlessness, great non-violence. Please come and be with us and help us make this commitment.” We call their famous names. We call the various names of the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas of wisdom and compassion and the bodhisattva of vows. We invite them to come. And then we practice repentance. And we cut a little hair as a symbol of cutting worldly affairs. But “worldly affairs”, sometimes people hear that and they say “Wait a minute. I have to go shopping for my children this afternoon”. "Worldly affairs" means trying to get something out of this life. At the beginning of this ceremony we renounce the way of trying to get. We renounce, we give away, we make our deep ingrained habit of trying to get something, moment after moment “What can I get?” “For me and my friends, what can I get what can I gain, how can I avoid losing, or what can I lose that I’d like to get rid of” This attitude is the worldly affair that we renounce. But not in a mean way. We make it a gift. We say, “Oh, worldly affairs. Here. I give it to the Buddhas. Would you please take a hair from me? Would you please take care of my worldly affairs? Here they are yours. You know what to do with them”. (Laughter) They do know what to do with them. They receive them as gifts and they graciously thank us for handing over our distractions from giving, from intimacy. “I renounce my veering away from being close friends with all beings.” “I have a tendency to not be friends, close friends, with all beings. A tendency to not be close friends with all beings. It’s just a tendency. But it’s strong. I give it away; I make it a gift to the Buddhas.” I say, “Here Buddhas”. They say “Thank you”. I renounce distractions. I renounce deviating from the path of compassion. I give it away. I make everything a gift and I give away the tendency to be distracted from giving and to slip into getting for me and mine. Then we confess that we have a long history of doing things to get things. We confess it. And we confess it. And we confess it. (Chuckles) Three times. Three times. That stands for quite a few. We recognize that this tendency to be oriented towards acquiring stuff, getting stuff, comes from greed, hate and delusion. It comes from ignorance. We wish to give up this tendency, which comes from ignorance, and admit that we have been involved in it for a long time and get ready for the path of wisdom. Once we have wisdom it will be easy to see that there is giving all the time. So now we give it away, we renounce it. We renounce taking. We confess that we have been thinking about taking for a long time. And then we receive a water initiation. We are sprinkled by the water of wisdom of the Buddhas. And then we’re ready to receive the precepts and commit to the precepts. And then the nine people will come forward and they will offer incense and bow as a formal way of saying “Please, give me the Bodhisattva Precepts”. Please make a gift of the Bodhisattva Precepts, from the Buddhas down through the centuries, and I will commit to them. And now they are ready. And now the first, in this tradition, the first three bodhisattva vows of sixteen bodhisattva precepts that we will receive today. The first three are actually, going going for refuge. Or you could say “going back”, because refuge means to fly back etymologically, and in Sanskrit and Pali it says “Go back and rely on” “Return and rely on” “Go back to Buddha, go back to enlightenment, go back to the teaching of enlightenment and go back to the community of beings committed to the path of the bodhisattva. Go back.” Now we have a tendency, it’s an English expression “to take refuge” like take refuge in shelter or take refuge in a church or take refuge in a group. I have a problem with the word “take” refuge (chuckle) when the refuge we’re taking, when the thing we’re taking refuge in is to give. We’re taking refuge in the generous ones. In the teaching of generosity, so it’s a little funny to “take” it. I don’t know if I will be forced to say it differently today, but this morning I would say that the first three precepts are going for refuge in Buddha, going for refuge in dharma, going for refuge in sangha. Returning to Buddha, returning to truth, returning to the great community. Those are the first three refuge vows we say, bodhisattva refuge vows. But they are actually refuge vows of ALL disciples of Buddhas. All Buddha’s disciples are people who go to Buddhas to receive the teaching to practice the Buddha way. So the bodhisattvas and other disciples who may not wish to be bodhisattvas and wish to study with Buddha in a different way, they also do the same first three precepts. Refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. 
And the next three are the vow to practice the forms and ceremonies which are conducive to enlightenment. For example, the ceremony that you’re in the middle of right now. Or in the ceremony of this discussion here. You come in here and you sit in your place. You feel some commitment to it. You’re sitting upright. You’re paying attention. We have a beginning and an end. It’s a form. And it’s a ceremony. This is a Sunday morning ceremony in the valley of the jolly green dragon. (Laughter) So there’s a commitment to practice those forms which help people be enlightened. Because we need some forms, we human beings do. Just like we need some forms to go shopping. We need a door to find how to get into the grocery store. There’s forms in the world and there’s forms in the bodhisattva way. And we vow to practice these forms for the welfare of all beings. The next precept is the precept of vowing to embrace and sustain all wholesome activities. And the next one is to vow to embrace and sustain all beings, to be intimate and generous with all beings. So those are called the three Pure Precepts. So that’s six. The next ten are the ten major precepts and they are phrased negatively. They can be phrased positively, but the negative brings out something that the positive doesn’t. 

The precept of not killing, the teaching of not killing.
The teaching of not taking what is not given.
The teaching of not misusing sexuality.
The teaching of not lying.
The teaching of not intoxicating others or self.
The teaching of and the practice of not slandering anything.
The teaching of not putting yourself up at the expense of others.
The teaching and the practice of not being possessive.
And the teaching of not holding onto ill will, actually having no ill will.
And the teaching of not speaking in a disparaging way about Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.
These are the sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts of this tradition. Before this tradition started in Japan, the bodhisattva precepts that were more commonly given and received were these last ten of this group, plus 48 minor precepts. So a total of 58. These ten major ones, which I just said, plus 48 more. But the Ancestor of this temple, named Eihei Dogen, made this new form of taking the ten major, the three pure precepts and the three refuge vow and making sixteen. So that’s what we practice here. Of course we know about the other 48 and we make some effort to study them and understand them but they’re not formally part of the ceremony. (Long Silence.) We can and some of us have received and committed to these precepts. And made vows and promises about these precepts. These are precepts, you could say, precepts of, people don’t usually say this, but you could say these are precepts of fearlessness. These are precepts of non-violence. They are precepts of compassion. That’s commonly said. They are precepts of intimacy. They are instructions for all those things. They are instructions for compassion, for non-violence, for fearlessness and for intimacy. The first precept going back to Buddha, is going back to the one who has, who is, who has realized, who realizes and demonstrates intimacy with all of us. The Buddha is intimacy, is the intimacy of all of us. That is the Buddha. “We go back to Buddha” means you go back to the intimacy of all of us. Buddha is the non-violence of all of us. To go for refuge in Buddha means you go back to the non-violence among us. You return to the non-violence here, right now. Buddha is the fearlessness among us. There’s fear among us too. There’s fear among us, there’s violence among us, and there’s a lack of intimacy among us. But also among us is intimacy, non-violence and fearlessness. The Boddhisatvas have vowed to return to this compassion that lives among us all the time. Fearlessness does not mean there is no fear. Like in this room, there may be some fear. There probably is some fear here (laughs). Various types of fear could be in this room. Fearlessness is here too. Fearlessness lives with fear. Fearlessness is willing to be generous and open and not try to get rid of any fear in this room. Fearlessness is to be intimate with fear. Being intimate with fear is fearlessness. And Buddha is intimate with all frightened beings. Buddha is also intimate with all non-frightened beings. Buddha is intimate with all fearless beings and frightened beings. I wish to and I promise to be mindful of returning to such fearlessness such intimacy such graciousness. In intimacy and fearlessness and generosity, there is no ill will in that. However the graciousness can relate to ill will graciously. The graciousness doesn’t like ill will and it doesn’t dislike it. It graciously welcomes it. It’s gracious with all the varieties of ill will that might come. And being gracious and welcoming all kinds of ill will, it is giving and it also is welcoming enlightenment. If we don’t welcome ill will, the non-welcoming of ill will closes the door on the Buddha’s wisdom. The graciousness with ill will, the graciousness with fear, opens the door to Buddha’s wisdom. Bodhisattvas vow to open and be welcome to all beings. And if ill will arises in the bodhisattva towards anyone, that is a being in the bodhisattva (Not sure of this sentence; couldn’t get the grammar of it. It’s @ 28 minutes into the recording) is gracious with ill will in their own heart. If fear arises in the bodhisattva’s heart, they are gracious with the fear in their own heart, in their own mind; just as they are gracious with the ill will in other people’s minds, in other people’s heart. (Long Silence) The nine people, nine is an auspicious number in some people’s view. It’s like almost ten. So it’s like really full but not quite perfect; it’s almost better than ten. I was kind of hoping for eleven because today is 11/11, but nine’s nice, a nice number of people. And today is Veteran’s Day, traditionally, Nov 11th. A day to honor people who fought, who loved this beautiful country and loved the people who live here and wanted to, they thought it would be helpful if they went to war. Maybe some of these people went to war as an act of non-violence and generosity. I don’t know. It’s possible that there were bodhisattvas among the veterans who died. There may be bodhisattvas among the Armed Forces of the U.S. and there may be bodhisattvas among the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. There may be bodhisattvas among the Taliban. There may be. And this is, I’m really sincere when I say that there may be bodhisattvas in the Armed Forces who are totally committed to non-violence and who will not cause harm. They are totally committed to that. And they are in that situation to help others learn this path. There may be such bodhisattvas. And of course, no problem honoring them if they are veterans, if they died in the past. But even those who had other motivations in entering the Armed Services, the military, we honor them. The bodhisattva path is to honor all beings as our children, as our brothers and sisters, because they are. Honor beings so much, so wholeheartedly that they dare to open their hearts to non-violence: that they dare to live so generously that there is no fear. So again, it’s very auspicious, in a way, that it’s a beautiful day, that you all came here, that we have nine people, that’s it’s veterans day. It’s a great day for making these great vows. To deeply consider in our hearts, how we are. Is there fearlessness here? Is there generosity here? Is there intimacy with all beings here? And if I don’t feel that it’s there, do I wish to learn? Is there desire to learn to be intimate with all beings, to find compassion with all beings, to find fearlessness and generosity with all beings? A good day to look; a good moment to look. What time is it? (Owl: Three minutes to eleven.) Eleven. I could stop at eleven and the next possibility would be eleven, eleven. (Laughter).Of course you know that in Zen we would always say that “now” is an auspicious time, “now” is a really good time to open your hearts to all beings. Now is a good time to look and see, do you want to be good friends to all beings? Now is a good time to look and see. If there is this bright open, warm, tender, courageous heart living in you and if not, do you wish to cultivate it? Nine people today will say “ I wish to cultivate it and I promise to cultivate it from now on”. And it will be beautiful. And at that moment, they will mean it. And then they have to watch and see how things go as they move out from this sheltered environment into the stresses of daily life. Yesterday I was involved in some talking here in the zendo and afterwards someone said, “Thank you very much for your stern and kind talk”. (Chuckles) Was it stern? Do you think it was stern? How many people who were here yesterday thought it was stern? (Pause)…(Laughs) “Stern and what else? Stern. Stern. Was today stern? (No) Kind of? (Kinda), Got kind of stern here. (Serious) Serious, yeah. Sincere? (Yes). Sincere, serious kindness and stern. (?/couldn’t hear)
It’s a lovely day today,
And whatever you’ve got to do
Well it’s a lovely day for doing it by two
But if whatever you got to do
Is something that cannot be done by two
Well it’s a lovely day anyway
Sooooo….. (Laughs) It’s a lovely day today any way.
(Speaking) That’s one. And then there’s another one.
I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you.
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue
And 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.

What time is it now? (Laughter) Was that stern? No?


Reb: Any questions? Yes? What is your name?

Reva: My name is Reva.

Reb: Reva.

Reva: I want to thank you for …

Reb: You’re welcome.

Reva: And I also have a question,

Reb: Yes

Reva; When you talked about participants, the nine participants to please invite the Buddhas here during the ceremony, I’m wondering why this asking seems to be asking them to be present opposed to maybe thanking them for being present and then take the responsibility to open to their presence. It’s just a fine…

Reb: Thank you for your presence is really nice too. Yeah. Thank you for your presence. So we, and I thank you for adding the dimension of thanking for presence. And inviting and thanking for being here. So we acknowledge their presence AND invite them both. Acknowledge and express thanks for their presence already and invite them to stay in case they might be thinking of leaving. (Laughter) That’s one bodhisattva vow actually is if you feel like the Buddhas are going to go away, ask them to stay longer. Cause sometimes they do seem to be on the verge of going somewhere.

Reva: I guess I don’t think of it as that they’re here or whoever leads me to a higher way
of being

Reb: Right.

Reva: But it’s us that have to keep recognizing that they’re always here.

Reb: Right. Yes. That’s one of the practices. One practice is to keep recognizing and remember that they are with us, that we’re not practicing alone. And also that they’re not going to do it for us but they do it with us. So being mindful of that is definitely part of the practice and also promising to be mindful of it is a vow, the vow to be mindful of the presence of great support. Yeah. Thank you.

Reb: Yes? Yuki.

Yuki: Yes. You talked about when here or other make it as a present gift and we give it away to Buddha. Could you talk about how to make it as a present? Especially as a Buddha is an internal Buddha. I don’t want those kinds of things so I don’t want to keep it. Anyway, give it away. Give to the Buddha inside or give it outside? Or how do you deal with the present?

Reb: So if anger arises I can say, make it a gift. Make it a gift by feeling gracious towards it. So say, “welcome” to the anger. Not “I want the anger” and not “I want to get rid of the anger”, but “welcome”. So the graciousness towards the anger, the generous feeling towards the anger, the letting the anger be anger is giving. To let a person be themselves is an act of giving. To let your lunch be your lunch is an act of giving. To let anger be anger is generous. To let anger be anger, just the way it is, without making it smaller or bigger, just let it be as it is, is giving. And then if you practice giving towards the anger, you will see the anger will become a gift. And also you practice generosity towards it but you don’t, once you realize it’s a gift, you don’t hold on to it. The anger is given away when you really let it be anger. It’s being given away and you also are practicing giving towards it.

Yuki: You also said, to give it to Buddha.

Reb: Yeah. I was saying like..As anger is… it’s ok but I was also talking about to strip any kind of distraction from the path of compassion. Make that a gift and give it to Buddhas because then they can take care of this. They will help you by taking care of all your distractions which you are now giving away. And they will appreciate you making these distractions into sacred things by giving them, making them offerings to Buddhas.

Yuki: So we are giving to the external Buddha? Is it some kind of metaphor?

Reb: No. Buddhas are not external to us. Buddhas are, Buddha is our actual relationship with each other. But our relationship with each other is not external to us. My relationship with you is not external to me, or to you. It’s how we actually give each other life. That’s Buddha. But not just you and me, but you and everybody and you, and everybody and me. That’s Buddha.

Yuki: So when I’m giving to them, we are giving to ..

Reb: You’re giving to your relationship with all beings. Which is not here or there or in between. You’re giving to everywhere, including here when you give to Buddha.

Yuki: I have to think about it. (Laughter)

Reb: Yes?

Speaker #1: To me that term, giving. Like giving something away, like anger has a kind of sound of casting away. And I’m doubting if that’s what’s really meant. I’m wondering if it’s more like releasing or allowing it to leave as opposed to casting out.

Reb: Well first of all, it’s not a matter of it leaving. Giving away, the way I’m saying it, doesn’t mean it’s going away. If I have this muffin here and I give it away it’s not going anyplace. And also if I don’t give it away, it still will change. (Chokes) See. It’s changing. (Laughter) Yeah, so “give away” doesn’t mean putting it someplace else. It means making it valuable by having it be part of a process of reality. Giving away means being intimate with it as a matter of fact, when I say, “Give away”. I’m recommending giving away which is the same as being intimate with the thing. Give away the anger; be intimate with the anger. Be generous with the anger; be intimate with the anger. Give away your fear in the sense of being intimate with your fear. So maybe “give away” is not a good word for you. Maybe just be generous and gracious with your anger. But when you’re gracious with things you’re also not holding on to them. So your guest comes in. You’re graciously welcoming your guest. But then you don’t hold your guest. You let them leave if they want to, you let them go. You’re not pushing them away; you’re not holding onto them You’re saying “welcome” So maybe welcoming, be gracious with, making a gift of all that. Does that work better?

#1: Been there.

Reb: Those vows that you chanted at the end, you know, where you say first of all “Beings are numberless; I vow to save them.” And the next one, “Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them”. I accept that translation but the actual character in Chinese is “to cut through”. So another translation would be “Delusions are inexhaustible: I vow to cut through”. But cut through doesn’t mean to slash and hurt them. It means to find a way through the delusions. And actually the word is actually “affliction” is another translation. To find a way through the affliction. To find a way of dancing with and being intimate with affliction so that you can pass through it so that affliction doesn’t become an obstacle to the path.

Reb: Yes, Bret? .

Bret. It seems easier to understand the concept of giving away your anger or offering up your anger. If you substitute the word “Love” for anger, at least in our culture or at least for me personally, it’s a lot easier to think of giving away love because you’re not really losing anything.

Reb: Yes.

Bret. It’s not going away.

Reb: Right.

Bret. And it feels like there’s a spin on anger when I think about giving, sharing my anger with whoever. Sharing my anger with another person. And if I think about sharing love with someone, it feels like the same process.

Reb: It’s the same process. But you’re more familiar, you feel more familiar and comfortable with sharing your love with Buddha. Or sharing your love with me. That’s kind of you’re familiar with that. But really we should share our, did you say, hate or anger?

Bret. Anger.

Reb: Anger. We should share our anger with Buddha. We should share our hate with Buddha. We should share our confusion with Buddha. We should share our greed with Buddha. That’s what confession is. “All my ancient twisted karma, from beginningless greed, anger and delusion”. At that moment you are sharing that with the Buddhas. You’re generously offering, “I wish to return to my relationship with you and I admit my history of greed and hate, I share this with you as a tribute to our intimacy. I’m working towards not hiding anything from somebody I want to be intimate with and it’s easier for me to share my love for you with you than to share my hatred of you with you.” But still, sharing my hatred or sharing my love or sharing my greed or sharing my aversion, it’s the same process of intimacy that I’m sharing myself with you. I’m giving myself to you. And of course, it’s nice to start with Buddhas because they can handle whatever you give because they’re already totally up for you no matter how you are. They don’t like your greed; they don’t like my hate. They don’t dislike my greed; and they don’t dislike my hate. They love me and they love my hate and they love my delusion and they love everything about me. Which means not like or dislike, it means they’re gracious with whatever I am and the more I extend my offerings the more intimate I feel with them. And so if I feel like “this I can offer to Buddhas, this I can share with Buddhas”, I would say well “good”. Now open it up a little bit over here. Let’s let this stuff out. Give this to Buddha. Share this too. And that’s a growth experience in your intimacy with Buddha; in your intimacy then with all your friends too. It isn’t that you try to hurt people but that you share yourself completely.

Reb: Phelan?

Phelan: Yes. You said that looking at the word “give” from a slightly different angle. Whereas someone hurt you or bitterly disappointed you would say it was highly virtuous to FORgive the person.

Reb: To forgive them?

Phelan: Yeah right. To forgive. The “for” is more like an intensifying of giving. It’s like a high form of giving. A high from of giving.

Reb: Yes. And bodhisattvas vow, if they meet someone who is confused or whatever they vow to regard the person with loving-kindness and if the person hurts them then they vow to even more intensely say “this is coming to me to like really help me open up beyond my usual. I mean I could be kind, I could feel kind towards this person when I saw how confused they were but now they are attacking me and now I am really getting pushed to open up”. This is the next step. To push me beyond my usual idea of who I can be generous with. So that’s a tougher challenge is to be generous towards those who are hurting us and people who are saying “Yes, I am trying to hurt you. You’re right. I am.” No debate here.

Reb, Yes, Rafael? Is it Rafael?

Rafael: Oh wow what a memory. I haven’t seen you for fifteen years.

Reb: Yeah. It’s been quite a while.

Rafael: Oh my goodness. (Chuckles)

Reb: Yeah so if you come back here in fifteen years, we’ll see. Yeah so come back in fifteen years. (Laughter) I’ll be about 80 then so you can see if I can still remember. And then one more time, ok? (Laughs)

Rafael: Ok. I will do it. (Laughs. Laughter) I enjoy very much visiting with you. But right now I’m having a little trouble dealing with this. It seems to me a little bit abstracted. I recently….And I wanted to connect it to an experience that I had recently. I was parked in a position that it was difficult for me to get out and there was some a space and there was nobody.

Reb: He’s talking about a difficulty and he started to move his hands and I thought sounds like he’s talking about some traffic situation. And he is! (Laughter).

So we have you, you’re in your car and somebody else in your car? No? A different car?

Rafael: A different car. But right in front of me. And I tell him, "You are not allowed to park there." Besides you are doing to make it pretty difficult for me to get out without hurting your car”. And he said to me “I don’t care. And don’t you even touch my car”. I thought, oh, you are making it very difficult. So I start to maneuver and I say to him, “Look why don’t you move, I am going to hurt your car”. And he says, “I don’t care.” So I feel anger come inside me and I thought what I am going to do with this anger. If I keep it, it’s going to hurt me and I don’t feel too good about it and I thought, eh I’m going to share it with him. (Laughter). “I hope you are expletive, arrogant and expletive inconsiderate” and he opens to door and he was bigger than me. So I thought I may have to share more than this. Fortunately he thought about it and he went back in but I was left very confused with the whole thing that happened. Because if he had got out and attacked me, I at that moment would have stopped thinking, you know and counter-attacked. So the whole thing would escalate. And yet if I had not done anything, would that have been the thing to do?

Reb: Could you hear his example?

Group: No.

Reb: So he’s in the car. And somebody else is in another car and the other person is, is behaving in such a way that he starts to feel anger towards him. He’s talking to the other person and the other person speaks in a away so he thinks maybe I should express my anger, share my anger with him. And actually, I would agree, generally speaking. It’s good to share your anger, but I would share it as a gift. And I feel from your story that you didn’t share it as a gift.

Rafael. Nope. (Laughter)

Reb: So, that’ what I mean is that.. And then to call him arrogant is not sharing your anger. It’s..I shouldn’t say it’s not sharing the anger, but it’s, it doesn’t sound like you were feeling like you were giving him a gift.

Rafael: No

Reb: No. But it would be good for me if I felt anger to say now I feel anger. Can I, can I share this anger with the person I feel this anger in relationship with, as a gift. Can I do that? And if I can’t, then I think I should go someplace where I can feel like I am practicing giving. Or do something else where I’m practicing giving.

Rafael: Yeah, I think (2-3 words that I can’t hear)….

Reb: But it is possible to tell someone, people do tell me quite frequently that they are angry and I feel like they are giving me a gift when they tell me that they are angry. They may or may not themselves feel at that time that they’re giving me a gift. But sometimes they do. Sometimes they feel that they are giving me a gift and I do too. And the gift they are giving me is to say, “I am or I was angry at you”. I feel it’s a gift and they think it’s a gift. And this is like, this is a close relationship where they tell me that kind of thing and then sometimes they tell me again and they say “I’m still feeling this anger; I want to tell you again.” And then we try to like be gracious with each other. They try to graciously, generously tell me that they’re angry with me or someone. And then I try to practice being gracious with them, telling me that they’re angry at me or someone.

Many people of course also tell me they’re angry at themselves and I try to be gracious with them so that they can be gracious with themselves feeling angry with themselves. Even when you feel angry with yourself, or someone else, reality is that there is giving going on. Giving is a reality. And, but if we don’t practice giving in situations where we don’t see it, then we probably, it’ll postpone the time for our eyes to open to the reality of generosity. It’s unhindered, actually. But we have to practice it to see it.

Not always. Sometimes it’s just so strong that it just overwhelms us and we just “ok, ok. I see, I see it’s giving. I see you’re being generous with me. I see that this anger is is generosity. Finally I see it.” Or I see you being different from me. Or I see your attempt to be generous with me. Where before you were trying to be generous but I didn’t really think it was generous, but now I see it is.

Enlightenment is to see generosity and not be fooled by the opposite or the deviations from it. I should say there’s not really an opposite. There’s just all kinds of veerings away from the intensity of it. Like anger, resentment and those are gifts too, but when you veer away from giving, you don’t think those are gifts.

But everything that comes to you is poking at you to wake you up. The universe has made you into a conscious being and now it’s poking you to wake up. From a consciousness which has problems. From a consciousness which imagines itself as being a separate consciousness from other consciousnesses. A consciousness that imagines your body as separate from other bodies. A consciousness which imagines you can be separate from Buddhas. We have consciousness like that.

If we’re generous with them, we’ll realize that all consciousnesses are in a generous relationship with each other. And all beings who are conscious are in a generous relationship with each other. In other words, we’ll wake up to the Buddha.

But it’s hard when someone is, is being unkind to us. In that form of “I don’t care about you. I don’t care about you. You’re not my friend. I don’t care about you. You’re nothing to me” It’s hard to be gracious to that, but not impossible. Not impossible. Just really difficult sometimes.

So now I have this young man who’s growing up with me, called my grandson, and he sometimes is difficult, because he sometimes says to me “I don’t care about you. I don’t care”. You know. He’s doing something to me and I say, “You know that hurts” and he says, “I don’t care”. Or like the other day I was with him at the breakfast table, or he was at the breakfast table, and I walked over and I said “hi” and he said “hi” and I sat down across from him and looked at him and he frowned. He went “rrr”. Cause I was looking at him and then he said, “would you please stop staring at me”. And it kind of hurt. You know. But I said, “ok”. Tried to be gracious with him and I could see he’s trying to have breakfast and he doesn’t want this person coming to adore him while he’s eating. …. “Get outta here”. So he,,but that hurt me, you know. So I didn’t tell him. But if I had told him that hurt me, which I didn’t. I just felt like to tell him that was more than enough. You know, I had already bothered him by staring at him and then to tell him that it hurt me when he told me to stop looking at him, I thought that was just more of a gift than he was up for at that moment. (Laughter) But I do sometimes tell him” that hurts” or “I feel uncomfortable when you do that’. And then he sometimes says “I don’t care” and then I try to be gracious with it and sometimes it happens that I actually can be gracious.

So when I’m in a car I try to think of everyone in the other cars as my grandchildren, who are you know, playing in cars doing various things like parking where they want to park. Parking their car where they want to park it and saying “I don’t care about anybody else”. Like a child. “I don’t care about anybody. Nobody else matters but me”. My grandson could talk like that. But try to remember that and be gracious to him. “Oh you don’t care” These are real wonderful challenges to extend the path to these kinds of situations. To accommodate to deluded people and then when they push you even harder, try accommodating to that. But accommodate doesn’t mean you don’t say, “Would you please stop?” It doesn’t mean you don’t look at them adoringly. There’s lots of possibilities here.

Reb: Let’s see. May I ask somebody? Yes? What’s your name again?

Andrea: Andrea

Reb: Andrea.

Andrea: I want to thank you for your talk this morning. I’m needing some guidance with equanimity.
Reb: With what?

Andrea: Equanimity.

Reb: Yes, guidance with equanimity.

Andrea: And the way I interpret it at my stage, Reb, is that in order to maintain equanimity or at least try, I need to consciously be aware of non-attachment. And so I’m working on, kinda like meditating, letting things come into my life, not getting attached to them, not labeling them, not judging them and let them go out. And I wonder if you could comment on that please?

Reb: Well, it sounds pretty good, but there’s certain misunderstandings of what that language is expressing. Or rather there’s various understandings of what you just said and some of those understandings I don’t think would be conducive to equanimity.

So one thing you said was “letting things come and letting them go”. That sounds pretty good to me. Just let them come; and let them go. Let them come and let them go. And then you said, “without labeling” but even if labeling happens then I would also…if labeling doesn’t happen, that’s fine. If an unlabeled thing comes and an unlabeled thing goes, fine. But if something comes and labeling happens, then I would let the labeling come and the labeling go. I wouldn’t prohibit the labeling. That trying to stop labeling might actually not be in accord with developing tranquility, I mean, equanimity. And also you said, “in order to have equanimity I need non-attachment”. I think that’s true but be careful not to,.. if something comes and some attachment arises, non-attachment would be not trying to eliminate the attachment.

Andrea: Can you say that again?

Reb: If something comes and you feel attachment to it, that could be, uhh, that could be kind of something that would make you feel not equanimous. So you’re saying you feel like you need to feel, or you need to be non-attached, in order to be equainimous. Well, in a sense, I would agree, but at the same time be careful that if something comes and you feel attachment that you are gracious with the attachment.

Andrea Ok.

Reb: And if you’re gracious with the attachment which could be a problems, which has a potential to disturb equanimity. That gracious with the attachment will take care of the attachment and promote equanimity.

Reb: Yes?

Speaker #3: Umm. My question is from what I see, from what I see is, somehow it looks like from undefined to defined that as I see things. So when I am defined with something there comes my feelings and resistances and all that stuff.

Reb: When you say “defined with” do you mean identified?

Speaker #3: Identified. Exactly.

Reb: Yeah. If you’re identified…

Speaker #3: Yes, if I’m identified with it, then I’m stuck in it. I feel stuck. I feel. I have a belief. I feel stuck in it.

Reb: That’s often the case, that when we’re identified with something you feel stuck in it.

Speaker #3:: Right

Reb: And also when you’re dis-identified with things, you’re stuck in it too.

Speaker #3: But I…there is not dis-identified..

Reb: I’m just saying, I just want you to add to that picture..

Speaker #3: Yeah, if I DIS-identify

Reb; If you identify with Republicans, you’re stuck in Republicans.

Speaker #3:: Yes, if I dis-identify..

Reb: You’re stuck in Republicans.

Speaker #3: Yeah, I’m stuck with dis-identifying.

Reb: Yeah, so he’s away, you get stuck when you identify or dis-identify.

Speaker #3: Ok. Then I like to stay in this space of freedom that it’s ok to stay in this space of freedom that it’s ok.

Reb: Staying in a place of freedom, trying to stay in a place of freedom, you’ll get stuck.

Speaker #3: Laughter, I don’t like to be stuck! It’s ok.

Reb: Huh. What did you say

Speaker #3: (Laughing) It’s ok

Reb: Right. There you go. It’s ok. Keep that up.


Reb: There you go! That’s a good hummingbird!

Reb: Yes?

Speaker #4: I would like to ask when circumstances in your life start to radically improve through hard work and you don’t quite recognize where you find yourself.

Reb; You have this story arising that things are improving?

Speaker #4: Yes, I do.

Reb: Yes, and then what?

Speaker #4: And it’s difficult.

Reb; You have a story that things improving is difficult?

Speaker #4: It just….it…well, it feels difficult.

Reb: Yeah. You have a story that things are improving and you have a story that it’s difficult that they are improving? Yeah. Ok. Now what?

Speaker #4: Is there something that you might recommend I could meditate on?

Reb: I would recommend being gracious with this story that you just told us.

Speaker #4: Could you say a little more.

Reb: Well, like welcome it. Let the story be. Let the story have a place in your life. Have a gracious act like “please come and sit down or go do your thing” story of radical improvement along with difficulty in adjusting. Ok? And also be careful not to believe this story. You know? In other words, don’t identify with this story. And be careful not to lean away and try to disbelieve this story. Don’t believe or disbelieve it. Don’t identify or dis-identify. Try to be upright with it and gracious with it. But honest. Like you’re honestly telling us that here’s this story. This is the story. But I’m not saying this is a true situation. It’s just that this is the story I happen to have. I honestly... It’s not another one; it’s this one. And if you’re gracious with it and upright with it and also be peaceful with it and tender with it. Ok? You’ll survive the story. And you will see the truth of the story. You will understand the story and understanding the story, understanding the story, is not believing the story and it’s not disbelieving the story. It’s understanding the story. It’s understanding the truth through the story. So you have the story, and other ones my came, but the same practice with all stories. Ok?

Speaker #4: Graciously welcome the story.

Reb: Yes.

Speaker #4: Thank you so much.

Reb: You’re welcome.

Reb: Yes, Jerry…Charlie I mean.

Charlie: Charlie

Reb: Charlie?

Charlie: I find your teachings to be stern.

Reb: Stern (chuckles)

Charlie: Yes, and I laughed when you said that because even your singing felt stern (Lots of laugher) and maybe I’m meaning something different by stern that what you had in mind when you asked us this morning.

REB: What do you mean by stern, Charlie?

Charlie: Well it seems like it’s really generous way of being. I try to bring up images of when have people been stern with me or when have I felt that others were being stern. And it’s always been, you know, a teacher or a father or someone very firmly guiding my, you know, my learning or my experience. Whether they were right or not. Very strongly encouraging me or someone else to be a certain way and so my question is what do you mean by stern? Because it seems like it’s a good thing at times.

Reb: Did you hear what he said? Could you hear it in the back?

General: Yes

Reb: Wow. Good acoustics. (laughter). Actually you know I don’t know what I mean by stern and I think I will go and google it. (laughter) or whatever you do to it. I’ll go google it. (laughter). Anyway I will study the word “stern” and afterwards I will be a different person. But I just was surprised to hear the word stern applied to the way I was talking yesterday, because I felt like I was this sweet little granddaddy feeding people these delicious little Dharma treats (laughter) and I just didn’t associate that with sternness but at the same time I was delighted, I’m kind of delighted that people have these wide variety of opinions of me. It’s kind of wonderful for me that not everybody thinks I’m blah blah.

Charlie: I think your grandson..

Reb: A lot of people think I’m blah-blah, but SOME people think I’m da-da. (Laughter)

Charlie: I think your grandson might think that you’re stern.

Reb: He might think I’m stern? Yeah. He might.

Charlie: And it’s a way of teaching

Reb: But he also might think I’m his slave. (Laughter)..which he does think that. (laughter) and I don’t dis-abuse him of that. I am honored to be his slave. But there are slave rights. (Laugher) And I can say, you know, this is, it’s really hard today. Would you lighten up on me a little or you know can I take a nap please or (laughs). It’s a wonderful job being a slave. (laughs)

Reb: Yes Jill?

Jill: Well I really liked what Charlie said and it prompted me to speak up because I wanted to say I thought your talk this morning, I did think your talk yesterday was stern. But, I wouldn’t put that word to it, but today I was struck by when these other words were being applied to your talk today, I thought that it was whole-hearted.

Reb; Wholehearted? Well, that’s..

Jill: Whole-hearted. And I really LIKED that and I don’t …

Reb: I do too. I’m totally aspiring to that.

Jill: I wanted to ask but…what is that, I mean, how do you feel, I mean what is it like for you when you’re in…when you reveal more of yourself. When you’re talking whole-heartedly. If there’s a rightness.

Reb: Well, I’m not saying that I whattayoucallit, that I have arrived at whole-heartedness. But it is my understanding that wholeheartedness is the Way in the Buddha Way. That that’s what the Way is. It’s whole-heartedness.

And that when we’re wholehearted we’re equanimous, attachments drop away and we’re fearless and we’re generous and yeah, we’re you know. And so as I approach being more whole-hearted, I feel more and more fearless, more and more ready for people to make a slave of me. You know. Make a granddaddy of me. Make a girl out of me, make an idiot of me. I don’t care what you do with me when I’m not afraid of what you’ll do with me. And people will do pretty much whatever they do with me. People do have their way with me. And they don’t like the results. (Laughter) Sometimes. Sometimes they don’t like the results and sometimes they do. That’s part of the deal.

And when I’m whole-hearted, I’m not afraid of what people make me into and out of me. So, yeah, I never regret wholeheartedness, except sometimes. When I get attacked in my wholeheartedness, then sometimes I go, “oooh well I’m not going to be wholehearted anymore” for a little while anyway. Limp over to the sidelines and collapse until the next attack. (Laughs) But that’s part of it. But it doesn’t mean necessarily I get afraid. I just get sort of wounded for a while and have to rest and then, ok let’s go again. Here we go. (Laughs).

Some people look like “WHAT are you talking about”?.

Reb: Yes, what is your name?

Michael: Can you say something more about honoring those among us who have gone to war?

Reb: Honoring those among us who what?

Michael: Honoring those among us who have gone to war.

Reb: Yeah. Well, just when you said that I thought of my father. He went to war. He got drafted and then he went down to Alabama to get trained and took me, uh took my mother with him and then while she was there I was born. And then he went off to England and Germany. He was over there. And he was a medic. So he took care of all these dying boys who were crying out for their mother. So I honor my father for going over there, ah, and helping those boys and sharing their suffering with them. I honor that. That’s what I thought of just then, you know.

And, I just, I want to honor people who acting out of delusion too. I want to honor them; I want to love them. Again like grandchildren are sometimes fully full-scale delusion. Like my grandson really wants to go to Burger King. And the reason he wants to go there is he has been enchanted by the advertising. You know they give kids toys at Burger King. Toys which are totally pollution to the environment. You know they just take them, they get the toy and then play with it for 10 seconds and throw it away and it’s in the garbage. But that attracts them. And they have the advertising that, you know, “if you go to Burger King basically you’re going to be happy. It’s going to be heaven if you go to Burger King. Just get in the door there and life will be very, very good for you little people.” So they all want to go in there. You know, the Pied Piper. (Laughter). And he’s susceptible to this skillful enchantment. So the little guy wants to go there and I say, well, I’m not going to take you because of various reasons. That this food is not good for people’s health and so on. And he says to me “actually Burger King is only 20% junk food. It’s 80% good food and 20% good food”. He made that up you know (Laughter)
He’s just a little deluded guy, you know. But I still honor him as this living creature. This beautiful little boy. I honor him. I respect, I vow to honor him, I vow to respect him. I vow to do that. But he is deluded. And if other boys and girls go, think “this is a great country and it would be good if I do my duty and it would be good if I went over there and participated”. And then they get over there and they say “oh, this is not good” “This is terrible. This isn’t helping America. This isn’t helping anybody” You know. But that’s, so that’s of course it’s easy to honor them then cause they’re waking up. But honor them even before they wake up.

Buddha honors us before we’re awake, during awakening and afterwards. Buddha honors all things all the time and still guides people how not to fall into delusion. How to see it for what it is. And some of the people who are in the military are not really acting out of delusion. They’re acting out of trying to help the situation as best they can. Like medics. But I don’t honor them more than the deluded children.

Reb: Yes?

Speaker #5: Ok I’ve not done what you have done. I have not done what you have just said about your grandson.

Reb: You have not what?

Speaker #5: Done what you just said about honoring your grandson. Honoring your grandson. I have been harsh with one of my family members. My daughter. And at this point I feel very angry with myself, and very hurt and guilty. And, I don’t know how to make up for it. I’m stuck in this position where I’m just..

Reb: Ok, yeah. So know you’ve confessed this. Ok?

Speaker #5: I’m confessing this.

Reb: Yeah, and I hear you’ve confessed this. And I want to be gracious towards you who’s telling me that she’s been harsh towards her child. I want to be gracious to you. I don’t want to be harsh with you about that. And if you, not only being harsh with your not only being harsh with your child but also being harsh with yourself about being harsh than that just more harshness. Ok?

So you do TWO confessions. One is “I was not kind to this person”. And” I was not kind to myself about my unkindness”. So I’m recommending now start being kind to yourself about this unkindness. Be gracious to yourself about your ungraciousness. And if you’re not gracious with yourself, after I just suggested you be gracious, I will be gracious with you not accepting my suggestion. That will be my vow. And if you again do not start practicing graciousness towards yourself, I vow to be gracious with you as you continuously refuse to be gracious, I will continue to practice graciousness toward you unless me being harsh with you would get you to be gracious with yourself. But usually it doesn’t But once in awhile, you know, or I might be gracious by falling on the ground and pounding my head and saying “I don’t know why I can’t get you to gracious”. But many people think it’s not appropriate to be gracious with cruelty and it looks like you might think that that’s very strange to be gracious with yourself when you’re not being kind.

Do you?

Speaker #5: Uh, yeah.

Reb: Yeah. So I’m saying try this new thing called being gracious with yourself when you’re not being kind. But gracious together with honesty. That’s…my story is “I was not kind” and I’m gracious with that. And being gracious with my unskillful ness helps me learn to be more skillful. But being harsh with my unskillfullness, it makes it harder to learn to be more skillful. And part of gracious is be tender with yourself about your lack of tenderness. And then all kinds of wonderful things can happen. You know, you might go to your daughter and say, graciously say, “I confess to you I feel that I have not been kind to you”. And you can maybe do that in a way which is a gift where you give that without expecting anything for telling her that. And she might not see it as a gift. But you aren’t expecting her to see it as a gift. You’re just enjoying giving her the gift of telling her that you have become able to tell her that you’re sorry and that you want to practice being generous and gracious with her for the rest of your life. And you really mean that. And if she doesn’t accept it you feel it again and you mean it again and you just keep practicing that way until you and she are totally converted to generosity and graciousness. Eventually no one can resist it.

Speaker #5: Tell her over and over…

Reb: Over and over, but not to get her to believe.

Speaker #5: Right.

Reb: Just as a gift after gift after gift. Cause gifts expecting something are not gifts in a spiritual sense. And even if you are not yet gracious you can give the gift of saying “you know I’m feeling not very gracious towards you right now” and you can be gracious, you can graciously give the gift of not feeling gracious.

Because, no matter what happens, graciousness is here with us. The Buddhas are with us. The graciousness doesn’t belong to me; it’s reality. So no matter how bad you are, there’s still graciousness completely surrounding and penetrating everything. Everything else as, what is her name? Her name is, don’t tell me. Carole King. everything else is illusion. Love is all that’s real. Everything else is illusion.

Speaker #6: Why do you have to tell her that you’re going to be gracious? Can’t you just be gracious?

Reb: Oh, you don’t have to tell her that you’re gong to be gracious. No you don’t have to tell that. I thought she was going to say “I haven’t been gracious” I’ve been harsh. I’ve been harsh and I now want to now commit myself to graciousness in our relationship. I commit myself to giving up trying to control our relationship. I’m going to receive and give to our relationship; not trying to control it. Giving to a relationship doesn’t control it. I renounce trying to control and I enter the channel of giving and I tell you I’m making this commitment. So in the future if you feel I’m not being generous and gracious with you, I invite you to tell me “hey mom, I thought you committed to being gracious and non-manipulative. I’m not feeling that right now. But I when I said that you received that graciously and now I’m feeling it. You didn’t argue with me saying oh yeah I am being gracious. You said I hear you and you’re checking on my commitment and you don’t see, you didn’t see how I was behaving in accord with it and I really appreciate the feedback.”

Speaker #6: So making the vow is part of it.

Reb: Yeah, so these people today are making the vows so all their friends can see that so that then in the future if their friends have any questions about how they’re behaving in accord with those vows, they’ve invited their friends cause they did it in public, they’ve invited their friends to say “oh, how is what you’re doing now taking refuge in Buddha, how is this right now you know, not praising yourself at the expense of others, it sounds like you’re praising, it sounds like you’re saying your way is better than their way. It sounds like that. Do you really mean that?” And the person might say “Oh, yeah I think you got me. Thank you.” Or “I didn’t really mean it that I meant it this way” “Ok” So we help each other.

That’s why we have a ceremony in public to put it out there so people can help us. If you don’t commit to kindness and then you act kind and people see you acting…excuse me if you don’t commit to kindness and you act unkindly people may see you act unkindly but they say “well she didn’t say she was going to be kind so she probably doesn’t want to hear anything about it”. But if you say “I wish to be kind to al beings and then someone looks at you and says I don’t see how that’s kind” then I might say, then he might like me to come and ask him about that. I might say “I heard you wanted to be kind. Is that right?” “Yes”. “Could I ask you a question about something you did recently?” “Sure” “Well when you said that, I thought that wasn’t very kind” “Ok, ok. Well thank you for that”. “Do you think it was kind?” You can look and say, “Well I’m not sure but I appreciate your feedback”. But sometimes you might say “I think there was some unkindness there. Thank you. I think you’re right” Or “I still don’t see it but I, I still really appreciate you’re telling me that. Cause I need this kind of feedback. Even when I don’t quite see it, I still need it”. And sometimes I do see it. Which is great. So I want to practice these Bodhisattva Precepts so if you see me behaving in a way that I’m not practicing them, I welcome your feedback.

Any feedback?


Speaker #6: It’s just that I have gone to many meeting for people who have lost children to drug addiction.

Reb: Yes

Speaker #6: And the particular meeting format that I go to recommends that such parents carefully establish boundaries and stop feeding behavior that allows the child to continue with the addiction. Which means cutting them off from parental support, say if they’re 22 or 24 years old or something like that. Basically squandering the family inheritance in the streets. 

Reb. Uh-hum.

Speaker #6: And as I go to those. As I remember those meetings, they made as much sense to me as you’re making now. But I feel there’s, I feel, my story is that I have a little conflict in here, in my mind, between these two.

Reb: Uh-huh. Well what I’m saying is that if you set boundaries in your relationship with people, I’m saying, try to learn to see that as giving. In other words, set boundaries not to get something but to give. Like to say, “Please stop doing that” or “I don’t, I won’t, I don’t want to go any farther than this.” But say that as a gift, not as a manipulation.

That’s what I’m saying.

Speaker #6: Thank you

Reb: Say “if you don’t get a job by Friday, I want you to move out” but not as a manipulation but as a gift of letting the person know what you want and for them to deal with that, have that information about you. You give yourself and reveal yourself to the person as a gift. Because even if you don’t draw the boundary of not giving the person money so that they can buy poison, they still may get the poison. I mean they still may get the money some way and buy poison. I mean you can’t control them. But you want to show them generosity because generosity has the power to help people become free of addiction.

But trying to control people who are, who have addiction it may not be helpful to them. It might be; it’s possible. But to give them clear boundaries and clear requests as gifts, they may be able to feel the difference between the same language and the same suggestion, the same request as a manipulation and your way of doing it which is “this is what I’m giving you now” and then “this is what I’m giving you now” and then.

So setting up boundaries, boundaries, limits and forms are very important gifts in our relationship with each other. They are very important gifts. But, if you don’t offer them as gifts if you offer them as manipulations, you miss the giving. You miss how precious they are, or you might miss it. You won’t absolutely for sure miss it, but you might miss it. Because they are actually gifts. Boundaries are gifts, limits are gifts, forms are gifts. But we have to practice them as gifts because we may miss that. 

Does that help you somewhat with that?

Speaker #6: A great deal.

Reb; Thank you. Is it time for lunch?