Chick and Hen -- Inquiring and Responding
Chick and Hen -- Inquiring and Responding
Tenshin Reb Anderson
No Abode, July 1, 2012 MORNING
Transcribed by Karen Mueller
Here is what seems to be a story. We are here together and I am talking to you and I suggest to you something I heard, something I read. It is that living beings just have consciousnesses which tell stories. Another way to say it is living beings just have karmic consciousness. You could say, you could almost say, living beings are story-telling minds. And right now I have a story that I am telling the story. Living beings are enclosed; they experience a kind of enclosure. They don’t necessarily think it’s an enclosure, but they are enclosed by their mental constructions. They can’t see outside them. The world of appearances is an enclosure, a cognitive enclosure. All the problems of birth and death, all the moral problems, all the ethical problems occur within this enclosure. Birth and death and the problems we have with that, aging and the problems we have with that, all occur within this enclosure. Only there. All the problems of human condition occur within this enclosure. The enclosure is not really our life. The enclosure is something to practice compassion towards, I would say. Our life isn’t really birth and death. But within the way our life appears, there is birth and death in that realm and there is suffering. All of our suffering occurs within this this story-telling consciousness, which is steadily making stories. “These are my friends”. “These are not my friends”. “These people have hurt me.” “These people have helped me.” “This story is much more painful that that story.” So there’s a teaching which says all this stuff, all the stories about this person not being my friend and all the stories about this person hurting me, all the stories about me hurting myself and me hurting others, are stories which our mind is constructing. They are ideas. They are not real. They are appearances. They are dreams. If we are kind to them, consistently and deeply, we will realize freedom from them without getting rid of them. If we are kind to the unreal, we will realize the real. And therefore realize freedom from this cognitive enclosure. A lot of Zen stories are about teachers working with students who are ready to see the unreality of this cognitive enclosure. These stories are about teachers working with students who are ready to realize that the story they have of what’s going on is just a story. Nothing more than a story. Some stories are sound nice. “This is an excellent, wonderful beneficent being I am looking at”. “This person is so helpful.” A person might feel that those are very pleasant stories. The person might also think it’s not just a story. “This person really is a beneficent person, and they are a beneficent person in the way I think they are a beneficent person. Other people might also think they are beneficent but I don’t agree with the way they see it. That’s my story about their story.” Sometimes it helps to prepare us to realize this enclosure is unreal by developing better and better stories within the enclosure. For example, we might have a story; “This person who is telling me to practice compassion towards my stories is a good person so I will try to practice compassion towards my stories.” This story might help you practice compassion. It’s kind of a happy story. “I’ve got a nice, helpful person here who is recommending I practice compassion and I think I will try it.” Such stories prepare people to have somebody say, “Are you ready to fully accept that your cognitive construction is just a cognitive construction?” A lot of Zen stories are for people who have been instructed to practice compassion towards their stories and they have done so for quite a while. By practicing compassion towards their stories and listening to the teaching that their stories are just stories, they are very calm and relaxed with their stories. They have heard the teaching that their stories are stories. They have heard the teaching, “Would you please go someplace where there’s no stories?” They have heard all this. Then a story that we may hear, a Zen story, is about the teacher and the student interacting in such a way that the student becomes free of the story. Then they sometimes say, “This is really good to be free of the story. The story I just came from was a very happy story and I’m free of it. Even though it was a very happy story, I’m even happier to be free of my story of happiness. I did have a story of happiness and in that story I was grateful for this happy situation. But being free of that is even better.” Another story might be, “I had a story that was a horrible story and I wasn’t grateful. So now you can easily understand how I would be happy to be free of that one.” There are not too many stories about the long process of encouragement between the student and the teacher, or between the student and the tradition, encouraging them, giving them this teaching over and over and encouraging them to be kind to the world of appearances in which they are enclosed. So I have a story that I want to also tell the story about what happens before the Zen stories of enlightenment. A lot of the stories are that the teacher goes “blah, blah” and the student doesn’t get it if they are not quite ready. A lot of other stories, the teacher goes “blah, blah” and the student is ready. Now in this situation of being enclosed in our mind is not something to complain about even though it’s where all of our problems are. As a matter of fact the instruction is, do NOT complain about being trapped in your mind where you suffer and encourage other people who are trapped in their minds to not complain about where they are suffering either. Instead, let’s practice all kinds of virtues towards this imprisonment. There are good days and bad days in prison. There are relatively comfortable days in prison. Sometimes right in the middle of those comfortable days, things get really uncomfortable all of a sudden. “It was so nice this morning and then “boom” it got really hard. And then it lightened up. And I’m getting kind of nauseated by this going back and forth between not so hard and harder and a little bit easier. That’s kind of nauseating. I’m feeling suffocated and strangled.” The root of the word ‘anxiety’ is to be choked or strangled. We are more or less strangled by this cognitive enclosure. Sometimes it’s not so bad and you can still breath pretty well. Sometimes it’s really hard to breath and it gets scary. This not something to complain about it. (You could complain about it.) But the instruction from the ones who have been kind to this enclosure in the past and then became free, are sending messages to those who are trapped about how to become free. Those people who have in the past been kind to when they were choked, they encourage other people to be kind to their current anxiety and suffocation and strangulation, because if they can be kind to it, they also will become free of it.
Sometimes the messages come and you don’t even know somebody is sending them. Sometimes they send you a message and they don’t know that a message is being sent to you. And example I’ve told often about is about this person who was put into a prison. Before he was put in a prison, he didn’t think he was in prison so the situation got set up so that he would understand he was in prison. They put him in a prison so he could understand because before that he thought he wasn’t in prison. But then he thought he was. He was right. What he didn’t realize is that everybody else, all the other living beings, were also in prison. That wan’t his concern. His concern was that he was in prison. Then somebody from outside of the prison sent him a present. This man was a Muslim, I think. Somebody sent him a CARE package which was a prayer rug. He was not too happy with this gift. He preferred a key to the cell or a saw or money to bribe the guards or something. But that’s not what he got. He got a prayer rug and he was not grateful for this gift which was coming from a good place. He put the prayer rug down anyway because it was softer than the hard floor of this cell. After a long time he just happened to look at it. And he looked at it again because there wasn’t anything that much more interesting to look at than the prayer rug. He just kept looking at it and looking at it. He finally noticed that it was, had an unusual pattern in it. By gradually giving attention and kindness to the prayer rug, he thought, “Well it’s a prayer rug and maybe I could start bowing on it.” When he started bowing on it. When he bowed on it he started to see it more clearly. He started to see patterns in the rug. He looked at it more and realized that it kind of looked like a diagram of something. And he realized it was a diagram of a lock. And maybe it was a diagram of the lock to his cell he thought, Perhaps. So he constructed a key to fit that lock and sure enough, he became free.
Here’s another a story about a person named Shan Yang. He was a Buddhist monk in China around eleven hundred years ago. He lived in a cognitive enclosure like all living beings. His enclosure was full all kinds of things including all kinds of Buddhist scriptures. The surface of his enclosure was all these Buddhist scriptures. Wonderful fabulous Buddhist teachings. He studied them. He read all those scriptures in addition to all the regular stuff that people read like, Monday, Tuesday, Weds, Thursday and yummy breakfast. He read all these Buddhist scriptures and he loved them. He understood them quite well. Then he happened to run into one of these people who had accepted the teaching of cognitive enclosure and practiced kindness towards cognitive enclosure and had become free of it. After becoming free of it, he invited other people to come and visit him in freedom, when they were ready. He didn’t invite everybody to come. Sometimes people aren’t ready for these teachings. This is a story about my grandson. We were in Santa Barbara, which is a city in California which is a state in the United States of America in a cognitive enclosure of Planet Earth, etc. So there we were, and I was giving a workshop. He came to see me with his mother and his stepfather and in his mother’s stomach was his future little sister. He came to see me because I brought him a brand-new bicycle from San Francisco California. That’s one of the cities on the surface of your cognitive enclosure probably. It’s a lovely city, generally speaking. For some people. Some people think San Francisco is horrible. Some people think it’s wonderful. So I brought him the bicycle and he came to get his bicycle. I said, “Do you like your bicycle?” and he said, “Uh-huh. And my sister is not going to get to ride it.” His little sister who hadn’t even been born yet; he was making clear, “She’s not going to ride my bicycle”. I said, “By the time she’s old enough to ride it, you’ll be away at college probably”. And he says, “I don’t care. I still don’t want her to ride it.” And I said, “But the person who will be there at that time won’t be you. It’ll be another person. It will be a college student who you aren’t right now. You won’t be here anymore. That person will be here. That person might ok with her riding the bicycle.” And he said, “That is totally incomprehensible!” So we live in this cognitive enclosure and sometimes people who have realized freedom from this cognitive enclosure, who are free of it because they understand it, those people send us messages sometimes. They somehow get through our cognitive enclosure. And sometimes we say, “That is totally incomprehensible”. But sometimes, because we have a story that this is a good person, we think about it a little more. So Shan Yan met this teacher and the teacher said, “I don’t want to hear any more about Buddhism from you… about all this stuff you learned. Don’t tell me about that. Don’t tell me about anything you’ve learned or studied. Would you please just say something from before your self was born, from before your mind discriminated objects.” In the cognitive enclosure, there’s a self that was born. Then sometimes it dies and is born and another one comes up. Anyway, before these selves were born, would you please say something to me from before that. Before we lived in a world where there was good people and bad people, Republicans and Democrats, before we got into that world, that consciously constructed world, would you please say something to me from before that? To make a long story short, this brilliant student of the cognitive enclosure of Buddha Dharma couldn’t say anything the teacher found acceptable and he was really sad about it and decided to leave the teacher. Not in anger but because the teacher was saying you can’t study.. I don’t want to hear about the other stuff you’ve been studying. And the new assignment he just couldn’t do. Are you following that? He couldn’t say something from this new place and the teacher say; I don’t want to hear about the old place. I don’t want to hear anything from.. I don’t want you to tell me what’s in your world. I want to tell something from freedom from your world. Say something from freedom from your world. Don’t tell me anymore about your world. Just tell me something about freedom from your world, would you please? And he couldn’t. He had already been kind enough to his world that the teacher was ready to say this to him. But he wasn’t quite kind enough. Basically he was thinking, this is totally incomprehensible to me. So he left the teacher and he went to a place where he thought he could continue to meditate on this strange instruction to speak from basically the time before this cognitive construction happened. The time before the mind encloses us. I imagine that he continued to practice kindness towards his enclosure where he didn’t understand what the teacher was telling him but he was still thinking about it and contemplating it and trying to be kind to that world. And then one day when he was cleaning the grounds around the monument to the National Teacher Jung, his broom or his scythe struck a stone and the stone flew through the air and hit a stalk of bamboo and went, “Pppkk”. When he heard the sound, he became free of the cognitive enclosure. And he was free. He was free of suffering and free of his mind and full of gratitude. He became free of his mind by being kind to his mind for a long time. He was also kind to the stories he had about the teachings that he had received to be kind. He was also kind to his cognitive enclosure, and to the instruction his teacher gave him to say something before it was constructed. He was kind to his mind and he was kind to those teachings and that got him ready to accept freedom from his mind. He wrote a poem about becoming free quite a while later. The poem goes like this:
The chick pecks from inside… (From inside the shell. The chick pecks from inside the shell)
The chick pecks from inside
The hen pecks from outside
The chick breaks free through the shell.
When the hen and chick are both forgotten
The Great Function has… all lined up.
Singing the same song,
The mystical voice
Goes on solo.
When Shan Yang met his teacher Guishan, he was sincere practitioner and he was pecking. He was pecking on the shell. He was pecking on the shell by reciting Buddhist Scriptures, by asking the teacher questions about what he had learned. He was really saying, “Would you please show me how to get out of this trap of my mind”. He was pecking. And the teacher heard the pecks, so the teacher pecked back and said, “Don’t’ tell me about anything in that shell anymore. Say something to me from before that shell was constructed”. And then he pecked back. And the teacher pecked back and said, “Uh-uh”. And he pecked back and the teacher pecked back and said, “No.” And he pecked back the teacher said, “No’. And he pecked back and said, “I’m going to go away now for a while and peck on this thing without you around”. And the teacher pecked back and said “ok”. And he went away and he pecked and he pecked and he pecked. And every time he pecked, even though his teacher wasn’t around, there was a peck back. And he pecked and he pecked and finally he broke through. He broke through the shell. When you break through the shell, you break free of the story of you and the teacher or the teacher and you or you and the student or the student and you. You break through those stories too. All those stories that are in this world, you break through those too. So you are also free of the stories of how you became free
which is part of why freedom is so cool. Now here’s something, which is a big thing to say, but I’m going to try it here. I’m going to offer you a practical side and a theoretical side of the Buddha Dharma, the Buddha’s teaching. The practical side is that devotion and respect for the way you want to be, devotion and respect for the way you really think you’re responsible to be, devotion and respect for being ethical is freedom. Ethical means the way you would really like to be. Devotion and respect for that. That’s the first layer of the practical side of the Buddha’s teaching. Respect for what you think is most important for you to devote your life to, that respect and that devotion is freedom. That’s the practical side of the practice.The theoretical side is the impossibility of knowing the reality of freedom. The theoretical side and the practical side meet in freedom. That’s where they meet. The practical side is this practice is freedom. The theoretical side is that freedom is ungraspable. You can’t get it. Devotion and respect is the practice to realize it. But if you don’t have the theoretical side to go with the practical side, you might think that when you are practicing compassionate ethics, you might think that this is freedom (which it is) and then you might also think that you know the reality of the freedom. That would not be good because that would be a cognitive enclosure of freedom. You would think that cognitive enclosure was freedom and it is not. Freedom is freedom from your idea of freedom. Your freedom from the idea of freedom could be simply that it’s impossible to know the reality of freedom. That’s freedom from the idea of freedom but that’s no good unless you also have a practice which is freedom. This is it. Those two together. This means I am devoted to compassion towards everything. I am devoted to the cognitive enclosure and if there is anything besides the enclosure I am devoted to that too. I am compassionate towards the cognitive enclosure, at least I want to be. I don’t know if I am. I don’t know if I am compassionate towards the cognitive enclosure. I don’t know if I am compassionate towards everything, but I want to be and I respect that I want to. But I don’t think the appearance of me being kind, is the practice. That’s just my view that this is compassion or this is cruelty. This is kindness; this is a crime. These thoughts are flowing around in this world. Crime and punishment. These are things I see; things that appear but I am not devoted to those things (because they are my stor4ies of compassion and kindness, crime and punishment. I am devoted to being respectful of ethics. My respect for this is not my respect for what I think I am doing or not doing which are is just how things appear to me. I see other people and think,” Oh they are good or they are not good.” That’s not my practice. Freedom is not to be thinking “Oh she is good and he is not”. That’s not the freedom. That’s not the practice. The practice isn’t judging “this is ethics and this is not”. The practice is devotion to ethics. Respect for ethics. Respect for ethics and respect for compassion. Not “this is compassion and this is not”. That those thoughts are just the mind that you practice compassion towards, hopefully. The mind which is judging compassion and not-compassion is the mind which you intend to practice compassion towards.. To keep you on the beam of freedom is the teaching that you do not know what freedom is. But you really don’t know what ethics is either. It is maybe a little easier to understand and accept that you do not know the reality of freedom. There are whole bunch of stories about chicks in shells and hens outside of shells which is stories about before enlightenment and afterI just told you one. It was the story of Shan Yang and his teacher, Guishan. Shan Yang was a chick; Guishan was a hen. Shan Yang didn’t know but he was asking for somebody to tell him how to get out the shell and the teacher heard him and pecked back. That’s one story of before and after enlightenment. Peck, peck, peck, peck and then freedom.
I think what I just gave you is enough to start with.
Q. May I ask a question? A. Peck away! The Buddhas will hear you.
Q. Thank you for today’s stories. A. You are welcome for the stories which you heard, which you made up in response to me. Q. A place where I continually get confused maybe has to do with the distinction between..A. Excuse me. May I say something? “A place where I continually get confused?” That’s karmic consciousness. The place that she is talking about is our mind. We get confused in our mind. So now you’re going to tell us about your mind. Q. Totally. So is the distinction between being kind to and being complacent about.? A. A distinction between being kind to and being complacent about. Yeah. Q. In my mind they merge together and I don’t, it’s not powerful and it’s not useful. But I’m thinking about this chick and I’m thinking was that chick being kind to being inside that egg. The chick wasn’t complacent about it. It seems like there some piece missing between being kind to and being complacent. There is something else like drive or desire or infinite spirit moving things forward or Buddha-nature. It’s good story but ..
A. Oh yeah. Sorry I.. So in this shell that we live in, in this cognitive enclosure it can happen. You know, we are saying “Ow! Ow! Ow!”. Something pecks back and we think, “oh I would like to be free of this suffering”. That can occur in this place of confusing. I would like to be free of suffering. Or, “Oh, if I would be that way, I think I would be free of suffering”. The thought might arise, “If I were kind to people I would be free of suffering.” The thought can occur in this realm of confusion. Or another thought is, “I would like to really become kind and I would like to be kind to the point of becoming completely enlightened in order to help all beings who are in such cognitive enclosures such as I am right now. I would like to develop enlightenment and Buddhahood in order to liberate all beings from this realm of confusion and suffering.” That thought can occur. And then, “I wish, I aspire to that”. And that is the thing that is driving the process. Q. Doesn’t that come from being kind to how things already are? A. It comes from pecking. Q. But why is the chick pecking? A. Cause they are suffering. If they languish, then they might die and then get another chance later when they might languish. But we are talking about cases where the chick is crying out in pain and then somebody is responding. Q. What about complacency? A. Well complacency doesn’t go to well. Complacency might come up in the mind of someone who aspires to enlightenment for the welfare of all beings. Complacency might come up in their minds. Q. So there you are trying not to attach to being some other way so..I’m saying I sometimes can’t tell if I’m being kind to something or complacent about it. And if I were a chick..A. If you saw something that looked like complacency, then you could be kind to that because your aspiration is. Because of your aspiration, If I see somebody who I thought said they aspired to realize great wisdom and compassion in order to help all beings. If I see, if I think I see somebody like that and then they are acting in a way that looks complacent, I might say, I might check in an say, “Am I correct that you would like to develop compassion and wisdom?” And if they say, “Yes”. Then I might say, “Well, would you like some feedback” and they would say, “Yes” and I might say, “Well, it sounds like you’re being kind of complacent. Sounds like you’re not really remembering to be caring about..” whatever it is that I think they are being complacent about. Q. That helps, because maybe in your own loop you can’t tell and so hence you have a teacher. A. Yeah, but sometimes you can tell yourself. You can spot it in yourself. “Oh I’m feeling stressed and I think maybe if I was complacent, that would give me a break.” What does complacency mean? It means, everything’s fine. There’s no problems. That’s not necessarily complacent but it might be. So somebody saying, “Everything’s fine. No problems..” Q. Then how do you get out of the egg if everything’s find and there’s no problems? A. If somebody said that to me, I might say that. How are you going to get out of the egg if everything is fine. But actually, probably what I would say to the person is, “I want to check with you again about what your aspiration in life is”. So if they are temporarily using “everything’s fine, no problem, don’t have to do anything with the situation”, if they said that to me, I might just check, “does this go with your aspiration for great wisdom and compassion?” And they might say, “Yeah!” And I’d say, “Wow!” And then I’d say, “Now you said everything’s fine and therefore you are totally enthusiastic about practicing generosity towards everything?” And they say, “Yeah”. And I say, “Oh, that doesn’t sound like complacency anymore. Are you wanting to all suffering beings into your heart”. “Totally”. Now it doesn’t sound like complacency anymore. But if they say, “You know I really don’t have to welcome all these suffering beings because everything is fine as it is”. I would go back and say, “Let me check what your aspiration is again. Is your aspiration to keep everybody away so that everything’s fine? Is your aspiration to put up a wall so that all those suffering beings don’t get in and then you can sit there and say ‘ok everything’s fine; no problem”. Is that what your aspiration is?” The person says, “No! I want to open up my heart to all beings for the welfare of all beings and I also want to have wisdom about what’s really going on with everybody and in that situation I say everything’s fine”. It’s fine that all the suffering is here. It’s fine because I know what to do with it. It’s fine because I have a practice to deal with all this misery. That’s what’s fine.” But when somebody sounds like they are not particularly interested in practicing generosity with all beings and welcoming all suffering into their lives and practicing ethics of compassion and patience with all the suffering. If they sound like they.. “I don’t’ want to do any of those practices. I just want to emphasize everything is fine”. They I would check their aspiration and if their aspiration is not to do the practice… like for example, “She cannot use my bicycle. She’s not going to ride my bicycle”… well then I’m not going to, maybe I’ll try a little bit like, “Well when she’s older you’re not going to be around anymore.” “Ehhh, that’s incomprehensible”. I will just let it go for a little while. And if I check with my grandson, “Are you aspiring to attain Buddhahood for the welfare of all beings.” He would say, “That’s totally incomprehensible.” He is not ready for this discussion yet. So I try to encourage him to be kind by being kind towards him telling me that he doesn’t want to share his bicycle with his sister. Q. You planted a seed. A. Yeah. I don’t say, you rotten grandson, not sharing your bicycle with your sister. I say, if you don’t want to share anything with anybody on the planet, there is somebody right here who loves you no matter what and who would give his life for you joyfully because he loves you so much. But it isn’t just that I would do that. I want to do that so that you see an example of compassion which you may not be interested in for a while. You’re just going to keep your bicycle for now. And maybe ten years from now he’ll say, “Ah, when I was all possessive of this, he accepted that. He accept me being totally possessive and not caring about my little sister. And I want to be that way. “. There’s the aspiration. But the grandfather might be gone before he realizes what he wants to do it this life. But really when he says, “I don’t want to share my bicycle” it’s kind of a peck. He pecked and then I said back to him, “But you won’t even be around” and then he says, “She can’t use it anyway”.. that’s another peck. “She can’t use it anyway” is a peck, is saying, “Help me! I’m selfish” And then I say, “The person who will be here then” And then there’s another peck, “This is totally incomprehensible”. In other words, “Leave.. that’s enough granddaddy. Lay off. No more Dharma talks right now” “Ok”. One time I was looking at him and like adoring him at breakfast and he frowned and I just kept adoring him and he said, “Would you stop looking at me”. So I started looking at the ceiling. Q. Adoringly? A. Actually I should have been. But I wasn’t. Thank you. And then when he got a little break, he said, “Do you think my cousin Gabe, has trouble following instruction.?” In other words, he started the conversation again once I gave him some space. So that’s where it comes from. We’re calling out all the time to the Buddhas and the other enlightened beings. We’re calling out to them, “Would you please help me deal with the situation of living in a karmic consciousness” . We don’t know we’re saying that but that’s what they understand we’re saying. Like we’re saying, “I don’t want to share my bicycle with anybody.” “I hate so and so” “I love so and so”. But what they hear is, “Please help me wake up”. That’s what they hear. So they go, “Tap”. And then we say something else. And then they go “Tap”. And then we hear, hmmm, did somebody say compassion. What’s that about? And we see somebody being kind and we say, “Hmm. That’s cool” We saw it before and we thought, “Why don’t they treat me that way? Why are they being kind to her instead of me.” We saw the compassion but we didn’t think, “I’d like to do that too.” We thought, “I want that for me”. And then we say, “Well if I want that for me maybe I’d like to do it actually”. Like some kids like to watch cartoons and at some point they realize you can actually draw cartoons for yourself.So, anyway, if I see somebody who is being complacent, then the thing to do in that story is to be kind to the story of complacency whether it’s somebody else or myself. And just keep being time to it until it’s time to say, “Is this what you really want? This complacency?” And the person might say, “Yes”. Then you practice compassion towards that. And then eventually perhaps they will say, “Well actually I would like to be complacent and also, compassionate. I would like to be complacent.. well, actually I don’t really want to be complacent. I want to be compassionate. I want to be alive rather than complacent.” So complacent is one side. Anxious is another. They both deserve compassion. “I am not strangled. There’s no problem. I can breathe freely” That’s one side. The other side, “I’m chocking”. Both of them deserve compassion. And with compassion towards both of them we can … They are both just two different renditions of the shell Q. Is compassion the same as attention? A. Attention is a key ingredient in compassion. It’s hard to welcome a difficult guest if you don’t notice them. It doesn’t really count if you welcome things without noticing because it doesn’t really mean anything to welcome, for example, pain and confusion if you don’t even notice it. There’s a joke I just thought of. It’s funny that we actually do welcome all of our confusion, but we miss it. Our consciousness actually does, is a host or hostess to the guest of our confusion. Our consciousness really is welcoming. It’s welcoming all this stuff that’s going on within it. But if you don’t pay attention to the welcoming process, then the welcoming process doesn’t count. So you miss it. But if you pay attention to something which you don’t notice that you’re welcoming and then you welcome it, then you feel like you’re welcoming. But actually you were welcoming before you practiced the welcome. You have to practice attention before you practice generosity. Then also you practice being careful of whatever is coming. Practice the precepts. Be vigilant and cautious and gentle with everything. And then be patient with difficult stuff and then be enthusiastic about this. And then calm down with this. This is all compassion practices. But they, it’s hard to calm down with things if you’re not paying attention to them. It’s hard to be patient with your pain if you’re not even noticing. Are the compassion practices different from the quality of compassion itself? For some reason I think…The practices are the quality of the compassion. So compassion has these qualities. It is generous. It is ethical. It is patient. It is enthusiastic. it really aspires to itself; compassion aspires to compassion, enthusiastically. Compassion has energy. Part of compassion is energy. “Yes I really do want to be compassionate. I really do want there to be a lot of compassion.” That is part of compassion. And to have that energy for compassion, we have to keep checking our aspiration. So when I see somebody who doesn’t seem to have much energy for compassion towards his or her own suffering. “Yeah, I’m suffering but I don’t feel much compassion toward it. Yeah”. Then I say, “What did you aspire to?” “I’m nauseated. I’m choking. I’m aggressive I’m confused.” “Are you feeling compassion towards all of this stuff?” “No” “What do you aspire to?” “Well, I don’t know. Well I kinda do aspire to be kind to this stuff.” We go back to the aspiration and crank that aspiration round and round. Dance with that aspiration till the energy starts coming off. “I actually would like to do this! I would like to be kind to this nauseating, strangulated situation.” Not rip the throat open, but be kind to it being constricted. If you’re kind to the constriction, it opens. If you’re mean to it, it tightens up more. But we have to get back to the aspiration. It’s in there somewhere. What you really want is there. So we have to go back to it. That’s where we get energy. By contemplating that wish over and over, we start to feel the energy. We have to do that over and over! Not just once and the energy keeps flowing. We have to keep going back to the roots. The roots of energy for compassion is in the aspiration to be compassionate. So you have to keep going back to it in the middle of this mess. “What was it that I was wanting again in this life? What was it? Don’t tell me? Ok, tell me. What was it?” “Well what you said last Tuesday was that you wanted to be compassionate towards everything”. “Oh yeah. Why do I keep forgetting that? Why do you have to remind me?” It’s karmic consciousness. One of the qualities of this karmic enclosure, one of the qualities of karmic consciousness is that it is giddy. Karmic consciousness, where we live, is the land of giddiness. What does giddy mean? It means agitated to the point of distraction. We live in the realm of cognitive enclosure. We are in a cognitive enclosure. We are in a trap. That’s where our problems occur and that situation is giddy. It’s very easy to get disoriented. “I want to practice compassion. Ok. What was it again that I wanted to do? What was it? Oh, I wanted to be aggressive and angry. No, no. That wasn’t it. What was it? What was it? What was it? What was it? What was it? What was it? What was it? What was it? What was it? What was it?” Tap, tap, tap. “IT was compassion, wasn’t it?” “Oh yeah, right. Why did I forget that?”
So I just got back from Europe. I got to these different places. People come to me and say, “Last year when you were here, I realized my aspiration and then a few weeks afterward I forgot it for a year! And now you’re back and I remember it!” We live in a realm of giddiness where we keep forgetting what’s most important, don’t we? We do. That’s normal. We should be kind to it when we forget. If you’re kind to it when you forget, you just remembered. “Oh yeah. That’s what I wanted to do. I don’t have time to beat myself up for forgetting. I just know I forgot now. Ok. Now that I forgot now. I forgot now. What is it again? What’s that telephone number? Just relax now.” As soon as you relax, you’re starting to remember. “I don’t remember yet but I’m just going to wait until it comes. Oh yeah, right! I respect compassionate ethics. That’s it. I don’t know what they are but I totally respect them” And that is freedom. “This is freedom and I don’t know what freedom is. I also heard a teaching that it’s impossible to know the reality of the freedom. But I don’t have to know the reality of the freedom to say, this is freedom.”
Q. So it’s similar to my carkeys then. I forget where I put them till I calm down enough to stop beating myself up and calm down enough to remember where I put them.
A. Yeah. Or even not necessarily remember where you put them but noticing that you feel kind towards being open to remembering. Q. I think you said, someone asked “where does the aspiration come from” and I think you said it comes from “suffering”
A. No I didn’t say that. It comes from.. the aspiration comes from crying out in suffering, which is a peck on the shell. When you cry out in suffering, somebody here’s it. Somebody here’s the shell go “peck!” and they peck back. And then you cry again and they peck back. Peck, Peck, Peck. And after you cry and there’s a response several times,.. I don’t know how many; the numbers vary.. in that communion between your cries and somebody who is hearing you and who has practiced in the past, somehow in the realm of giddy enclosure, cognitive enclosure, we think, “I would like to practice compassion”. It arises from that relationship between our cries of discomfort and.. Sometimes we do say “help!”, sometimes we just say “Ow!”. But somebody hears “ow” as you’re aware that something is off. You are kind of asking for help. “I hear you.” “Ow” “I hear you”“Ow” “I hear you” In that relationship, compassion is starting to manifest in the shell. It never was hindered by the shell but we have to call out to get a response. Then we realize we have to continue calling out and then we continue to hearing a response. So this thought of enlightenment, this thought of great enlightenment for the welfare of all beings, occurs through that relationship. Through that interaction. You don’t make it by yourself and somebody else doesn’t make happen to you. It happens through you asking and a response. You asking and a response. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. That’s how it happens. That’s the story of how it happens. That’s just a story of how it happens. That’s not actually how it happens. Q. You could play both roles? A. Yes, you could play both roles.Q. I have a story that everybody is suffering but not everybody enters into that relationship that you describe.
A. So one story “everybody is suffering, but not everybody is into the relationship” that I described. Ok. Everybody is suffering is not quite right. And not everybody is into the relationship is kind of right, in the sense that not everybody is aware that they are asking for help. Not everybody is aware that everything they do is asking for help. Some people are. Some people understand everything they are saying is “Help!” And some people who understand everything they say is help; also understand that help is met. Every time they say it; they feel a response. That is one possibility. But a lot of people are asking for help, they don’t know it, and they are getting a response and they don’t know it. In reality the relationship is going on all the time. There are basically four possibilities. We are asking for help but don’t know it and we’re receiving it and don’t know it. Another one is: we are asking for help and we know it and we don’t notice we’re receiving it. The other is we don’t think we’re asking for it but we think somebody is helping us. But we didn’t think we asked for it, like my grandson and me. I’m offering help and he said, “I don’t want any help.” And the other one is we think we’re asking for help and we’re receiving it. Those are four possibilities and they are all four going on all over the place. But not everybody is suffering. Buddhas are not really suffering. Buddhas feel the pain of all suffering beings but when they feel the pain it’s not really suffering; it’s happiness. They are not happy that beings are suffering; they are happy they feel the suffering of beings. So you see some people, you are not happy that they are suffering but you are very happy that their suffering touches you. That happiness in being touched by their suffering is Buddha’s compassion. It’s not suffering; it’s happiness. Compassion is happiness. So the compassionate beings, the great compassionate beings are not suffering. They are just feeling everybody’s pain and being generous towards everybody’s pain and being calm with everybody’s pain and teaching in response to everybody’s pain. This is happiness. But it is also total openness to pain which takes quite a bit of happiness to get to that point, right? But they are not suffering. And they are not feeling separate from the people who are suffering and they are happy about this non-separation and they are happy about the practice which they are trying to teach. Q. In the story you told, is the stone striking the bamboo a peck back. A. No, I think it’s the peck that broke the shell. It’s his. The way he hears the sound breaks the shell. The chick actually breaks the shell. The teacher doesn’t break the shell because the chick should be strong enough to break the shell. If the teacher breaks the shell, the chick might not be ready and if the feathers are too wet, it’s not good. So the teacher, as it’s getting closer to time for the shell to break, the teacher gets lighter and lighter. That’s better, you know. The teacher never hits really hard. When the chick gets strong the chick can break… The chick is the one who breaks the shell. Their final peck breaks the shell. So that means they are strong enough to tolerate freedom. The realization of freedom. And they are strong enough to tolerate the impossibility of knowing the reality of freedom. Before, when you first start practicing the way of freedom, you are practicing it but you are not yet ready to accept that you don’t know the reality of it. But the more you accept that you don’t know the reality of it, the more you’re willing to accept… the more you’re willing to accept the impossibility of knowing the reality of it, the more you’re willing to actually accept the reality of it with “knowing’ it. So we usually like to have things in the knowing box. When you break.. when you’re finally ready you break the shell of knowing and you open to freedom to the impossibility of knowing the freedom which is freedom not confined by our addiction to knowing. Q. How long does it take from a chick to a hen? A. It takes 3 1.2 weeks. Once the chick breaks out, the chick becomes in training to be a hen. They are not. I guess they have to grow up enough so that eggs are brought to them. SO there’s a period when they are free but eggs are not being brought to them. Actually I think actually eggs are brought to them right away actually. Because, they are not laying the eggs but now they hear… I think soon as they break out they are a hen because now when they hear people, they hear them crying from within their confinement. So I think as soon as you break out you are instantly a hen, but you can get to be a better and better hen. And some people actually .. there are some historical examples of people who have broken out and then they were hens and they heard the people crying from within and they knew the problem but they hit too hard. And that was a mistake.
Q. Or too much A Yeah. So there are examples of people who got hurt. Their shell got broken too early. In the short run, those are tragedies. Q. It seem like in the context of the story in this world there are innumerable chicks and very few hens. A. Yeah. That’s a story. Inside the shell there is that story. Somehow it’s true that the hens are rare. And at the same time that the hens are rare, there are innumerable rare hens. But they are rare. But there’s innumerable rare hens. Q. Not all chicks have hens available to them.
A. All chicks have hens available. Right now. What you’re doing right now, is you are pecking on the shell and the hen is pecking back. But as I said before, there is you’re pecking and you don’t know it. You’re pecking and you don’t know you are pecking; and every time you’re pecking there’s a response and you don’t know it. That’s one case. Everybody is pecking within their karmic consciousness, asking for somebody to peck back and bring them into the path of liberation, the path of freedom. Other people say I am asking for help; but I don’t hear anybody responding. I’ve been asking for help; I’ve been asking for the Dharma and I don’t hear any Dharma coming back. This is like, I’m getting frustrated here. But every time they are asking, there’s a response. They are just not calm enough to realize it. Another case is people say I didn’t ask for any teaching; and it’s being given to me. I don’t want it. The other case is I ask for it and I get it. I ask for it and I get it. I ask for it and I get it. But It’s not that that is better than the others. It’s just that it’s all going on. Everybody is really in communion with enlightenment; but not everybody knows it. So we are trying to learn this, right? But we are being responded to. Some hens… HA HA.. This is a joke: Some hens, rare hens that they are, are very busy like Santa Claus. When I was a kid I used to wonder how could Santa Claus possibly get to all those houses? How could he possibly deliver all those presents in six hours or whatever? How could he go to all those houses and go down the chimney and say hi to the guy and wink his eye and stuff like that. That takes two or three seconds minimum. IF you multiply that by a billion kids it’s impossible. I couldn’t understand how Santa Claus could deliver all those presents, especially if you imagined that he’s delivering it to all the Muslim kids and all the Jewish kids too. And all the adults too. The adults get presents too right? I just couldn’t figure it out. So some of these hens can deal with innumerable pecks at once. So even if there’s only one hen in this section of the universe, that hen can respond to billions of pecks at once, simultaneously. They may be rare but they are very very effective. So just keep pecking away. It’s inconceivable. This is called inconceivable mutual assistance. Our pecks assist the Buddha’s. The Buddha’s response assists us. It’s inconceivable how we are working together with each other and with all the enlightened beings. It’s inconceivable. Yes? Q. So, if a chick aspires to help all beings, how does the chick deal with that aspiration when it’s still inside the shell? Is it possible to relate to other chicks that are outside that shell inside other shells?
A. Before you get into that, he said “when the aspiration arises inside the shell” how do they deal with that aspiration? The aspiration, in order to be realized has to be protected. You have to train. Otherwise the aspiration will not develop and be realized. And the training, in the shell, of the aspiration, is the bodhisattva practices. Summarized by sitting meditation. Practice stillness. Got the aspiration to be still. Got the aspiration to be still. When the aspiration arises, don’t go jumping around and drop it. And then be generous with it and be ethical with it. And be patient with it. And be calm with it. And then listen to teachings about it. That’s how the chick takes care of the aspiration. Otherwise, the aspiration will be forgotten temporarily. But even if you take care of it, it takes a loooot of training to bring that aspiration to what it aspires to be. Buddhahood. And in that shell, you’ve got your story, your cognitive version of all the other beings who are in shells. Like you say to somebody, “Did I hear?.. Was that a peck I just heard? Was that a peck? Did you just ask for help” And the person goes, “Peck!” and it sounds like yes. And you say, “Did you say yes?” And they peck and it sounds like no. You say, “Oh I thought you wanted some help.” Peck. “No”. Ok. So everybody is in his or her own shell and yet everybody’s pecking touches my shell. And all my peckings resonate out and touch everybody else’s shell. So I hear your pecking. You hear my pecking. But I make my version of your pecking and you make your version of my pecking. But no matter what my version of your pecking is, even though you totally disagree, I practice the same way with whatever I think you sent me. I do the same practices of compassion. Like, “I thought you wanted help” “No, I don’t” And then I hear no you don’t. Ok. Whatever I think you said, I do the same practices with it. And those practices with what I think you said are the same practices that protect the aspiration. Q. So sometimes it feels like I want to start the hen practice while I’m still a chick. Another way to say it… Sometimes the bodhisattva training, training doesn’t feel like helping others. “I want to help everybody” “Ok, go practice training” “No, no I want to help other people”.
A. So that’s part of what we need to understand is that training ourselves in these practices is what will make us helpful eventually in ways beyond the ways that we are currently helpful. We are helpful right now too. When a beginner is practicing compassion, that helps other beginners and also it assists.. it’s mutual. The beginner’s practice assists the advanced people, the very advanced people. The students are help.. The beginner’s practice is the beginner’s pecks. So the beginner’s are helping the Buddhas. And as you evolve you help in new ways. And you evolve further and you help in new ways. So you’re helping all the way along. But you help in a different way when you’re free that you were helping all along. When you realize freedom, it’s a different kind of helpfulness. It’s in ways that were not yet possible. And all the previous ones are still available. You can still be stupid if that’s helpful. But you can also do things you never could do before. Like you can share your lunch with people that you didn’t…that you couldn’t share your lunch with before because you didn’t understand who they were and now you do so no problem. How wonderful.