Buddha Sitting as Us; Us Sitting as Buddha 

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Earlier I spoke to you about sitting as Buddha sitting, and Buddha sitting as us sitting. Another way to speak would be to say, sitting which fills the whole universe, and sitting the whole universe fills, walking that fills the whole universe, walking that is filled


by the whole universe, conversation which fills the whole universe, and conversation which is filled by the whole universe, conversation which is conversing Buddha, or Buddha conversing. Someone asked me today about something like, what's the relationship between meditation


and the rest of your life, or something like that, and I said, well, for me meditation is living our life fully, or the fullness of our life, that's meditation, sitting meditation, walking meditation, conversing meditation, a sitting that fully is the fullness of the life of sitting, when sitting, and a walking which is the fullness of life when walking. And of course, whenever you're sitting there is a fullness of life, there can't be less


than a fullness of life when you're sitting, but if we don't do the ceremony, the ritual of sitting, we may miss the fullness of our sitting. People sit all over the world, but if they don't make their sitting a ritual, they may not understand that their sitting, they may not understand the fullness of their sitting, they may not understand that the And it doesn't mean that as soon as you sit intending that it's a ritual, that you will experience or you will understand the fullness. Nevertheless, if you give your sitting for


that purpose, you do realize the fullness of your life. Someone asked, how can a mundane ceremony give rise to enlightenment? And I thought, the ceremony doesn't give rise to enlightenment, the ceremony is it. And I wrote down this thing about that story, you know, at the end of the Ganga Koan,


there it is, so the Zen master Bao Che was fanning himself, and a monk approached and said, teacher, the nature of wind is permanent, and there's no place it does not reach, why do you fan yourself? And Bao Che replied, although you understand that the nature of wind is permanent, you do not yet understand the meaning of it reaching everywhere. And the monk said, what's the meaning of it reaching everywhere? And the teacher kept fanning himself. The teacher just kept fanning. I would say the teacher kept doing the ceremony


of fanning. This ritual he's doing is his way of demonstrating and embodying the nature of wind, and demonstrating the nature of all things. The monk bowed deeply. He did a ritual to express and embody the Buddhadharma. And the same thing, I could expand this then for


other things, like the nature, if you see a Zen teacher practicing giving, you could say the nature of giving is eternal and all-pervading, so why do you practice giving? And the teacher says, you understand that the giving and receiving is eternal and all-pervading, but you don't yet understand the meaning of the giving reaching everywhere. What's the meaning of it reaching everywhere? The master kept practicing giving. So giving and receiving is always going on.


It's naturally happening. But if we don't do the ritual of giving, we won't realize. If you say that you do not need to do the ritual of giving because the nature of giving is eternal and you can have giving without the ritual of giving, you will not understand either the permanence nor the nature of giving, nor will you understand the permanence or nature of wind. So fanning is fine and giving is fine, but we must do the ritual, otherwise we'll miss the fanning, we'll misunderstand the fanning, the wind, the giving, whatever. Q. Is ceremony always an activity?


A. Is it always an activity? Do you have some ceremony that wouldn't be an activity in mind? Can you think of a ceremony that wouldn't be an action? I can't think of one. Q. Open presence meditation that you just not do. A. Open presence isn't a ceremony, it's just reality. But if you want to realize open presence, you have to do the ceremony of open presence. Open presence doesn't come and go. Open presence is like the nature of wind. It's permanent and all-pervading. Nothing


can stop. There's no limit to open presence. But if you think you can have this eternal open presence without doing the ritual of open presence, you won't understand. You must bring it into your body, speech and mind. It already is, but you have to perform it. The way is perfect and all-pervading. Why do we have to perform it? Because performing it is it. That's all there is to the way, is performing it. Q. It's practice, right? Practice is liberation? A. Practice is liberation, but also practice is the Buddha way. The Buddha way is all-pervading, but also the Buddha way is performing the Buddha way.


Q. But you're saying there can be no understanding unless there is action in the Buddha way? A. You could say there's no understanding unless there is action, but you can say the action is the understanding. That's the only kind of understanding there is. The rest of it is just your imagination. Q. Would you say expressing is to be alive? A. It expresses to be alive, and we must perform being alive in order to realize being alive. Of course we're always alive, but we don't get it unless we perform it. Of course there's open awareness. Who could limit open awareness? Who can measure the wind that circles the earth? But you can realize it by making your body, speech and mind the enactment of it.


Q. Is thought an action? Can thought be an action? A. There's two kinds of thought, basically. One kind of thought, which sometimes people use thought as synonymous with consciousness. Basic cognition is not an action, just knowing the presence of something. Awareness itself is not an action. But awareness arises with mental construction, action, mental action. Just awareness itself, we don't call that action. We call action the power that awareness has to construct, and that's the basic kind of karma. And karma has consequences, and one of the consequences of karma is to obstruct


the truth. So we kind of have to engage with the karma in such a way that the karma comes in service of the way, so that the karma no longer obstructs the truth. Otherwise the karma is just creating more obstruction, unless we engage with it, unless we make all of our karma a mindful enactment of the Buddha way, a mindful enactment of, for example, open awareness, a mindful enactment of, for example, giving and receiving, a mindful enactment of supporting all beings, a mindful enactment of walking as a Buddha, a mindful enactment of walking and enacting Buddha's teaching, a mindful enactment of walking for the welfare


of all beings. Without putting our mental constructions in that way, they could do something else. And there's consequences of whatever kind of thought constructions are going on. We're trying to line up the consequential thought constructions, we'll line them up with enacting the Buddha way, performing the Buddha way, making them a ceremony, so that our body, speech and mind, the personhood, becomes united with and immersed in the Buddha way, the truth, which it always is. The human beings are not permanent, but the nature of human beings is permanent. The nature


of wind is permanent. The nature of human beings is that they're dependent co-arisings and that they cannot be found. The nature of human beings is permanent. No human being can ever be found. That's our nature. And we can never be found, and that way we can't be found pervades everything. It's permanent and all-pervasive, that's our nature. But we, human beings, because we're dependent co-arisings, we exist just for a fleeting moment and this existence becomes a condition for another existence of some other human being who might have the same name and the same social security number or something. But it's a new person, always a new person, and if we don't do a ritual, performing the


new personhood, we'll miss the new personhood. And performing the ritual of new personhood is the same as performing a ritual to enact our nature, our permanent nature, which includes our impermanence. If we don't do a ritual to enact the way we're constantly turning, we'll miss how we're constantly turning. The Buddha way is basically turning and leaping. So if we don't ritually turn and leap, we'll miss the turning and leaping. But when we do ritually practice turning and leaping, at that moment we realize turning and leaping. It's just our little ritual version of turning and leaping, but little ritual versions of turning and leaping realize the all-pervasive turning and leaping. Because the all-pervasive


turning and leaping pervades all the little turnings and leapings of all the little ritual beings. So we use limited forms to embody and enact unlimited truth. And there's no other way to realize it, but in limited ways. Because it's already realized in unlimited ways. That's already been taken care of every moment. But in the limited ways, we need to make all our limits in service of all beings, all Buddhas, the entire universe, because it is. So let's get with the program and make everything we do, you could say not exactly a big act, but a little act, to manifest the big act. The way I understand you speaking of this ritual, see if this is correct, it seems to


me, at least this is my understanding, this is a version I can comprehend, superimposing the view that Buddha has taught of our unlimited nature or eternal nature. You're saying, sir, if any act we do which you call a ceremony, it's superimposed, it's a view that Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, or whatever, three jewels, or in basic, the teachings of Dharma, superimpose that into any action, then you got the ceremony. Is that correct? Is my assumption correct? For example, if I speak, if I superimpose the view of Buddha, the way I'm learning from Buddhism, that is in service of others, and not being selfish and limited, then it's a


ritual. Otherwise, if I go to a store for a very limited aim, then you miss the boat. Karma just keeps rolling, but if you superimpose a view, you go to a store, there's a bigger picture. Yeah, you have to go buy food and cook it for your family and what have you, but there is another dance or ritual going on, so keep that in mind, be mindful of it. Do I get it correct? I don't want to say you didn't get it correct, but I also don't want to encourage you to get it correct. I don't want to encourage you to get it correct, and I don't want to tell you you didn't get it correct. But you don't want to limit it. Well, I think you and I have to limit it, and the way we limit it is by going to the


Buddha. Say, now I'm willing to do a limited thing, but I'm not doing a limited thing to get something. I'm not doing a limited thing to control things. I'm doing a limited thing to enact the Buddha way. I offer this limited thing to the Buddha way. And so in that way, when I do limited things, I want all my limited activities to be rituals. If I realize everything I do, all my limited activities are empty, then I might actually think, well, I'm not going to do anything anymore since all my activities are empty. Some people do that.


That's not a very good understanding of emptiness. All my activities are vast and ungraspable, and therefore I'm not going to do anything anymore because I realize the emptiness. No. When you realize the emptiness of your activity, and if you understand it correctly, you still want to do the things you're doing, you realize you have to, when you're alive, you have to be active, but you don't have to waste the opportunity of your action. You can make it a ritual. You can make it a performance of the Buddha way, which you would do if you understood the emptiness of all your actions. And then I say this, but I don't say it, but I say this without trying to control me getting


it right. I'm just offering this now, but really I can't find getting it right. And yet I'm willing to be limited, I'm willing to participate in limited things. Yes, John? Can I respond to this? Yeah, you can respond to this one. Is this one different from that one? Is that one? Yeah. I heard something very similar in my interpretation of what you were saying, too, and you used the word superimpose, and I'm troubled by that. I think because I'm hearing that, for those of us who haven't realized emptiness, that practicing ritual is an awareness training, a mindfulness training, but rather than going to the supermarket, I'm in a little trouble with the idea now, I'm going to go out into the world with this idea that I'm practicing


rituals everywhere I go and be in that mindset, as opposed to being in the supermarket and suddenly being aware of my presence in the supermarket and realizing an opportunity for practicing mindfulness and making my experience there a ritual of turning and leaving. What's the difference between the two cases? Walking out this door and saying everything I'm about to do is a ritual. Or rather, you could also walk out the door and say, I want to make everything I do a ritual, rather than everything is a ritual. To say that everything is, it would be the same as saying everything is because I always understand emptiness. That would be too much. But to say I'm going to go out and I intend to make everything I do a ritual, that's different. It's possible that you would be going out the door and I'd say, John, where are you going?


And you would say, well, I'm going to the grocery store. And I would say, what's the point of that? What's the reason for going? And you'd say, well, I want to go to perform the Buddha way. I'd say, okay, fine. But if you didn't say that, I might keep questioning you about why move? Why go anywhere unless you're going to do something like perform the Buddha way and save all sentient beings and guide beings in the grocery store? If you just want to guide beings, you don't have to go anywhere. You can do it right here without moving. But you may say, I want to go guide beings in the grocery store because my wife wants me to get something at the grocery store. So I'm going to go there to guide beings. That's my intention. I don't know if I'll be able to remember to do it, but I would like to. So what's the difference between that and what you were talking about that you did feel good about? I think the difference is I'm a little fearful that I'll walk out the door with a mindset of what that ritual is going to be.


Of how I'm going to be in the grocery store before I show up in the grocery store. I'm kind of locked into this. That's one of the dangers in practicing ritual is that you might have a fixed idea of what the ritual would be. That's one of the dangers of ritual. I had this experience. I left Shishin one Sunday and I went to Whole Foods in Mill Valley. And immediately from Shishin I entered the store with the grocery cart and as I passed people I stopped and bowed. And I did that at least five or six times. Just because that's the form I had been practicing. And it was very awkward in the store. And I was in this other mindset. I wasn't being with what was going on in the store in a sense. I was almost a robot in a sense. Thinking I was practicing the Buddha Way of Life. Okay, so that's your story. And when I heard it I thought, I thought, well that sounds like somebody acting like in a way that you wouldn't expect the ceremony to be in the grocery store.


This is true. The fact that you bowed kind of surprised me actually. The fact that you bowed sounds different from, I went to the store and I thought that the way to do ritual in the store was to go and bow to the people. I didn't feel like you were saying that. I thought it came kind of spontaneously that you bowed. Did it? It did, but I felt a little programmed I think. I wasn't really aware of what was going on in the store. Programmed is okay. Programmed is okay as long as you don't expect beforehand that programming. But you are programmed, you know. Like you went in the front door. You didn't go in the back door. You didn't crawl in. You're programmed to walk in. So the programming is okay. There's a certain idea of what it means to go shopping at Whole Foods, and you accept that or you don't.


You may say, I'm not going to shop the way I usually shop. I'm going to shop a different way. Okay, fine. How do you make that a ritual? And then if you think, oh, I'm going to make it a ritual by such a way of doing it. Okay, fine. You can have this idea that this is the way you're going to do the ritual. And go try it. But if you think that that's the only way to do the ritual, then that would be an opportunity for you to learn about the function of rituals. Namely, if you fixate around a ritual, then it's not a ritual anymore, really. Because the ritual is trying to enact the truth. Namely, that you can't grasp anything. So really, if you're doing a ritual, you're not trying to get anything or control anything. Now, a lot of people tell me that the way I'm talking about it is different than the way a lot of people speak of ritual and ceremony.


That a lot of people do rituals to get some result. But I'm talking about the ritual enactment of the Buddha way, which is the ritual enactment of the truth, which requires surrender, which requires giving up trying to control, which requires being gracious. So if you walked in the door of Whole Foods and you thought, I'm going to do such and such a ritual, when I go in there, I'm going to do a ritual of making everything I do, all my actions, a ritual of serving all the beings here. That could be what occurs to you. It could have been before you walked in. You could have had an idea of what it was going to be. Now, if you then think that that's going to control the situation, then the ritual would help you see that you think that.


And you would experience what that was like. But to go in there and say, I'm going to make my shopping a ritual, and I don't know what that's going to look like, that's another way to do it. But you could say, I'm going to go shopping and I'm going to do it differently than usual. I'm going to go slower than usual. I just want to do that and I want to make this slow-moving a ritual. Or you could go faster than usual. And someone might say, well, but that's not a good ritual because you might run over people. And someone might say, well, going slower isn't a ritual because you might inhibit people's movement. But you could make going faster or slower a ritual. And now, would you be mindful of the ritual? Would that go with it? Well, I would think so. Are you fixed on the idea that you should be mindful? Yes, I am. Okay, so now this is something funny now,


because you're now being rigid about being mindful. So that wouldn't be the kind of mindfulness that would go to this kind of ceremony. There would be mindfulness without any fixed idea of what mindfulness was. You have various ideas of what it is, but you don't know what mindfulness is. You have various ideas of what the ceremony would be, but you don't have any fixed idea. You've heard that when Bodhisattvas go shopping at Whole Foods, they are mindful of following the path of Buddha when they're in Whole Foods. They're mindful of that. And they walk the path of Buddha in Whole Foods in order to guide all beings. They actually think of that, but they don't know what that would be. But they use something for that purpose. They use a shopping cart, or they don't. They walk on the earth, or they don't. They do use a limited form, and they're doing it for this purpose.


And they understand, probably, that whether they think this or not, in fact, they are doing what I call a ritual enactment of reality when they are there for the welfare of beings, which is reality. We are here for the welfare of beings. That's the reality of the Buddha. That's what we're doing here in Buddha's world. And in order to fulfill this, we must understand the emptiness of all beings, and then we do a ceremony in order to enact the emptiness of all beings, in order to help all beings understand emptiness. We do a ritual for that purpose. And we can have ideas about how to do the ritual, but there would be no fixed way of doing that. So, again, back here we are at Noah Bode. So the Bodhisattva goes to the Whole Foods to do the ritual to realize the Buddha Way, and they know they must take a limited form,


and taking a limited form to realize the Buddha Way makes that form a ritual. And they do that with a mind of Noah Bode. They do not take up an abode in that mind, which is using this form to enact the Buddha Way. And everything they do, these advanced practitioners, everything they do is an act of mindfulness of the Buddha Way. It's an act of walking this path for the welfare of others. It's an act of guiding beings. And their mind does not abide in or depend on the thought, which they have, of, I wish to guide all beings. Their mind does not abide in the posture that they use to do the ritual of walking on the path with all beings.


But they use these forms with this mind of Noah Bode for the welfare of all beings. And that's the way they manifest the mind of Noah Bode, their great vow to live for the welfare of beings. That's the way they realize it and manifest it in the world of limited forms, all of which are marked by emptiness. So, because they have a mind of Noah Bode, there'll be no attachment to the ritual form which they will use. They could walk in and do pretty much shop seemingly in a way that's indistinguishable from the way they shopped before they realized the mind of Noah Bode. Before they were practicing the mind of Noah Bode in a shopping center, they maybe shopped physically and verbally, looked quite the same as possible. How do you feel about that?


Much better. Good. I feel much worse. You want to tell us about it? I'm thoroughly confused. Ok, ok, wait a second, now you're confused. So, what are we going to do with the confusion? Run away. Run away. What are we going to do with the running away? Come back to it. Ok, now we're back to the running away. Now somebody's home. Got some mindfulness, got some running here, but somebody's present with the mindfulness. Now, do you want to run away for the welfare of all beings? Yeah, I don't want to pick on my wife. You want to be kind to your wife? Yeah. So, you want to make your running a kindness to your wife. When I get home I want to get my attitude on, so that I can be nice to be around.


You want to go home and practice being kind to your wife. Yes. So, this is how we related to your confusion. We expressed it, then we came to meet, we engaged with it, and in the process of engaging with it, there was a moment of trying to run away from it, and then we engaged with the running away, and pretty soon we're back now with the confusion, and then we engaged with it again, and then we found out how you want to practice with confusion. You want to practice being kind with your wife, even when you're confused. Then the confusion is a ritual opportunity to practice kindness to your wife. And kindness to me, too. Because you talk to me, and listen to me, and so on. So, do you want to be kind to me also?


Yes. Yeah. Yes, Anne? Can you talk about the relationship between the precepts and ritual, for example, the precept of right speech, and, say, the ritual of the Dharma talk? Well, the ritual of a Dharma talk, okay? So, and then, for example, the precept... Well, in our school we have 16 Bodhisattva precepts, and the first one is going for refuge in Buddha. So now we have a Dharma talk, and I can make this with you, this Dharma talk, a ritual. Okay? And what kind of a ritual comes to my mind? Well, how about making this Dharma talk a ritual of going for refuge in Buddha?


I'm talking, I'm talking to you, but I'm not just talking to you, I want my talking to be a performance of going for refuge in Buddha. So then, this Dharma talk, which is a ceremony, and in particular, it's a ceremony to embody and manifest the Bodhisattva precepts. For example, the first one. So, I think of that precept, so then I want my talk with you to be going for refuge in Buddha. So, the precepts and this ritual of this Dharma talk are exactly the same. I also, for example, wish... The first three Bodhisattva precepts are going for refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. The next three, the first one is to embrace and sustain forms and ceremonies. So, if we do a Dharma talk, and it's a ceremonial Dharma talk,


then we have just literally practiced the first of the three pure precepts. But, if I do a Dharma talk to try to control things, then my Dharma talk is based on the idea that things can be controlled. So, my Dharma talk is not based on the Dharma. It's based on delusion. So, then my Dharma talk is not a ceremony. It's a human manipulation. But, if I do a Dharma talk understanding that this is a ritual, an enactment of what cannot be grasped, of a Buddha that cannot be grasped, that cannot be limited, this is a limited form, a limited ceremony, this is a ceremony to manifest the Buddha in the world, then literally this ceremony is practicing one of the Bodhisattva precepts.


Move on to the other ones. How is this ceremony of giving a Dharma talk practicing the precept of not killing? Is it me saying, well, I'm not killing anybody? Is it this ceremony is for the welfare of all beings? This ceremony is to guide all beings. And guiding all beings and living for the welfare of all beings is the precept of not killing. And for me to do this as a ritual, which means I'm just doing this little thing now,


to celebrate my relationship with all beings and my commitment to the welfare of all beings, this is my practice of the precept of not killing. And so on. Endlessly bringing all the Dharma together with our little human acts, if we're human. Yes? It's what you're saying is acknowledging your relationship. Where's that coherence? Acknowledging your relationship? It's the ceremony with whatever's... or inconceivability of the relationship. In a way, a ceremony is a limited form to manifest an unlimited relationship.


And not just any old unlimited relationship, but a relationship of unlimited harmony and peace between yourself and all beings. Now, of course, there would be a way then to sort of check, to see if your limited form seemed to be really sincerely dedicated to the ungraspability, unlimitedness of your relationships. And one way to test would be, do you have any kind of fixation around the performance of this limited form? Is there flexibility? Is there openness? Is there welcoming? And so that would be something you'd look at to see if you're really doing a ritual, or if actually you're doing something which, in some sense, contradicts the inconceivable harmonious relationship with all beings. And maybe you can catch a little bit of grasping there.


And then how do you practice with a little bit of grasping? Well, you do a ceremony of, for example, confessing. I think there's a little grasping here in my mind around this. But this little ceremony of confessing this is another example of a ceremony. I'm not trying to control myself out of making mistakes. I'm just doing a ceremony of admitting, I think I found a little error there. And this, again, manifests your infinite relationship with all beings. Because everybody's in on this. How are you doing? Good. I was thinking about a funeral. A funeral? And how that... Is there a goal in that funeral? Is there a goal? There is a point. There's a goal, there's a point.


The point is, the point of the funeral is to help all beings. When I say the point of the funeral, I mean the point of the Buddha's funeral ceremony. The ceremony of Buddha Dharma funeral ceremony is to help all beings. That's the point of it. Which is similar to, the point of the ceremony is to realize the emptiness of the ceremony, the emptiness of the people there, the emptiness of birth and death, and also to realize that in emptiness there is no birth and death. The point is to realize emptiness and help all beings. Or the point of the ceremony is to help all beings by realizing emptiness. Or to use the understanding of emptiness to facilitate helping all beings. That's the point of the Buddha's ceremony. If a Buddha does a ceremony, that's what the Buddha does it for. That's the point, that's the goal. And it also includes teaching other people how to do things in that same way.


So people watch you do a funeral ceremony, they're attracted to the funeral ceremony because their husband just died, and then they see the Bodhisattva perform the funeral ceremony, and they get a glimpse of this mind of no abode. And when they see that, that really has helped them. It helps them deal with this change in their life of their spouse dying, but it also helps them actually maybe right then see the truth in this thing called the death of their spouse. The Bodhisattva shows the kind of mind which, if they enter that mind with the Bodhisattva, they will see the truth in the funeral ceremony. And then they may say, that was great, where can I get more of this? And then they start practicing themselves to more and more cultivate this mind


through which they saw the truth in the ceremony by watching somebody else who did the ceremony in this way of, this is just this little thing I'm doing here to manifest the inconceivable, boundless Buddha way. And the person is mindful of that while they're doing this, of the wonderful opportunity of doing the ceremony for the welfare of everybody, and not just to help them out, but to help them see the truth. Plus the person had no attachment to the whole process because they understand that they couldn't, they're totally not in control of this complex ceremony. And they did a complex ceremony. Somehow this complex ceremony happened, and they knew during the whole time that they weren't in control. So you get to see somebody who does some fancy thing, who knows they're not in control and isn't trying to control. So you get to see, because of this thing, you get to see a mind of no abode.


Now some people come and do something really sloppily, and they're not trying to control, it's harder for you to see the mind of no abode. But if they do something complex, and they're not trying to control it, then it's easier for you to see, wow, there's something funny about the way they did that thing. It's different from other people who do complicated things. They were totally out of it. And yet this ceremony happened, and I got benefited, and my spouse got benefited, and all beings are benefited. I want to learn this. I did learn it, but I want to learn more. Then the person is really being helped, and the dead people are being helped, and the Bodhisattva who demonstrated is being helped. That's the point of ceremony. And it's the point of sitting in meditation too,


is to sit in such a way that people say, wow, he's making a big effort to sit that way. He's sitting quite still for quite a long time now, kind of relaxed, and doesn't seem to be attached to this amazing thing she's doing. What is this? How can you do something so wholeheartedly without trying to control how you're doing it? Well, actually it's the same thing. When you do it wholeheartedly, you're not controlling. When you're not controlling and being devoted to it, that's wholehearted. So not trying to control something you don't care about doesn't count. Something you really care about, and then don't control, or don't try to control. So now we're going to do a ceremony tomorrow, and we're making some effort to do things in a certain way, and get things organized. We do care, and we're not going to be in control. And it may all be just a big mess. And, you know, that may be really wonderful.


But not a big mess because we don't care. A big mess because a ceremonial earthquake happened right in the middle of the ceremony. And we're totally surprised. And, you know, nobody's got showing. There's no God Shows. There's evaporation. You know, we lost all the God Shows. No bowing occurred. And the offerings were just flying in ten directions. And the Buddha was there. And everybody got to see it. But our little ceremony didn't happen the way we kind of thought it might. That's the point. May our intention equally extend to everybody.