Compassion with the Controlling Impulse

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Emphasizing compassion and de-emphasizing trying to control. Compassion with the impulse to try to control. Being careful without trying to control. Impartiality towards the outcome; for example, shooting basketballs at the hoop as an exercise in impartiality.  Impartiality is non-grasping. Impartiality towards a vows promotes the vow.  Being impartial promotes compassion that liberates beings. Having confidence in liberating compassion. Bodhidharma is a bodhisattva of compassion. Confidence in the ritual of sitting in silence and stillness. The three wheels of awakening to the intimacy of giver, receiver and gift. Openhanded giving and receiving, impartiality, loving-kindness and great compassion. Avalokiteshvara's love. Being compassionate to something we don't want, e.g. with cancer and with health. Story about Suzuki Roshi, "When I see this other person, I do it for you." Great compassion is unlimited and impartial. Partiality limits our compassion. Relaxation with suffering is compassionate when we are fully engaged and upright with the suffering. 

A Dharma talk for the sangha gathered at No Abode Hermitage


AI Summary: 



So, with all due respect, I'm offering the emphasis on compassion and de-emphasis on control. I wouldn't go so far as to say compassion rather than control, because compassion is not rather than anything. I would say, or maybe I'd say, compassion, emphasizing compassion and de-emphasizing trying to control. If there was any control, fine. If anybody's in control of this universe, okay. But human beings trying to control, I'm not beating the drum for that.


I'm beating the drum for let go of trying to control, not don't, because that would be another controlling message. Be compassionate to the human impulses to try to control. What came to my mind was a memory of this little boy who calls me granddaddy, who I watched him pile up tiny little blocks, blocks, you know, less than an inch on each side, or quite a bit less. I watched him pile them up with his little tiny fingers into a really high tower of blocks. And he was really careful. And I don't know if he was trying to control


the blocks, but he was careful. We can do things carefully without trying to control. And when he got the, I guess, all the blocks that he could get into this tower of little tiny blocks, then he would knock the tower over and start over. So I was impressed by his care. I didn't really notice that he was trying to control the world, but he was making this pile. So I just want to say I'm emphasizing compassion towards trying to control, not encouraging trying to control or discouraging it. Not encouraging it or discouraging it. I would like to encourage compassion towards all human impulses to try to control life.


Even though I feel, although I want to do compassion, I do feel, and I actually think, that trying to control is rather disrespectful. But I'm not trying to get rid of the attempt to control. I'm not. And even if I was, it wouldn't, it's not under my control to get rid of it. But it's not under my control to remember my vow to be compassionate towards my and other people's attempt to control. I'm betting on compassion as the greatest happiness. And illusions of control


as also kind of happiness if you ever succeed. It's kind of fun. Like, you know, making a pile of blocks, throwing a ball up and having to go through a hoop from quite a ways away. But again, it is possible to throw the ball up without trying to control it, but just trying to get it to go through the hoop. But, you know, that's not because I'm controlling it, it's just what I'd like to see happen. But also, if I'm not trying to control, could I really be as interested when it doesn't go through the hoop? And that's something you can try out. Throw the ball up to go through the hoop and try to get it to go through the hoop and see if you feel as good


about it going through the hoop as when it doesn't. Is that too advanced? I don't think so. It's not too advanced to look to see. It might be too advanced to feel what you call impartial towards it going through or not. But one of the best ways to test the impartiality is to really try to get it to go through the hoop. Then you can see if you're impartial towards going through or not going through. Impartiality is really good for happiness in this world. Then you could apply it to people. Impartial towards people. Impartial towards this person and that person. Not favoring the people who are nice to you over the people who are not. So maybe shooting baskets is kind


of a warm-up for some more important work. But then some people say, why should you shoot baskets if you don't care about it? You do care about it. You shoot baskets as a bodhisattva, as an exercise in impartiality. Why would you be enthusiastic about shooting baskets if you weren't trying to get them to go in? You are trying to get it to go in as an opportunity to be impartial about whether they go in or not. And there's lots of other opportunities, too, for training in impartiality, which sets the stage for compassion. Being, working on impartiality, I call upon you. Not because I'm impartial. I'm just working on


being impartial. Maybe I am impartial. But anyway, hello. You understand what? You understand that I'm not something to my vow? Oh, you think that I'm not impartial towards my vow? Oh, I want to be impartial towards my vow. I do. That will help me be more wholehearted about it. That will help me be whole. If I'm impartial towards my vow and I don't follow it, I might give up on it. I don't want to give up on it. Now you say, well, are you impartial towards not giving up on it? I want to be, because not being impartial towards giving up on my vow will promote my vow. That's the kind of vow I have.


It lives on not grasping. Partiality is grasping. So, I'm not saying I'm not. I aspire to be impartial towards my vow. I aspire to that for the sake of my vow. I am the servant of my vow. I also wish to be impartial towards living beings because I want to serve them. I'm saying I'll be a better servant to you if I'm impartial towards you. And you may say, well, I don't care. I still would rather you be partial to me. You can be impartial towards other people if that makes you a good servant to them. But I'd rather have you, even though you wouldn't be as good a servant, I'd still have you be not as good if you're partial to me. And I'm sorry, that's not my thing. I'm not saying I don't do that. I'm saying that's not my vow. My vow is to learn, is to be impartial towards all beings for the


sake, not just of being impartial, but for the sake of compassion, which liberates them. Many people are compassionate towards people with partiality. That's okay. It's still compassion. It's just not liberating compassion. Where does it come from? I do not know. I can tell you, we could go back over my whole life, no? And say, you know, well, I read some books. I heard some talks. You know, I heard a strong emphasis on compassion from very many bodhisattvas told me that. And I've thought about it, and I've meditated on it. I've become more and more convinced. Conviction and confidence are kind of related sometimes. I have the conviction of, some conviction, some confidence in compassion. However, sometimes my confidence isn't strong enough to meet the situation. And then if I notice


that, I'm sorry. I want to have so much confidence in compassion that I always come up compassionate. They have this, you know, this bodhisattva of compassion. We have bodhisattvas of compassion on both sides of the altar here. On that side is kind of like a female-looking bodhisattva. Does it look kind of female or feminine? Avalokiteshvara, right? On the right is Avalokiteshvara as a kind of intense dude. Bodhidharma, right? Bodhidharma. Bodhisattva of compassion. Without that confidence and dedication, stillness and silence is unattainable?


Stillness and silence is not attainable. However, if you have confidence, you might also have confidence in stillness and silence. Confidence in stillness and silence. It's already here. But is that where you put your chips down? When you sit, you actually go and do a ritual, for example, occasionally, of sitting still, which you do, to help you remember stillness, which you don't do. And the answer might be, yeah, I do. I actually do that. I go and sit there, I do that ritual, as an opportunity to remember that I have confidence in silence and stillness, which Bodhidharma compassionately transmitted. Abin. Yeah, if you're wholehearted when you receive a gift, you're able more and more quickly to let go of it after you receive it.


Really, you know, we have this teaching called the three wheels, giver, receiver and gift. If you're wholehearted, you see those three wheels. And yeah, you understand, you realize those three wheels. So when you're the receiver, you're immediately then also let go of being the receiver and become the giver. If you're the giver, you also let go of being the giver and become the receiver. So in a way, receiving a gift and immediately giving it is very close to receiving a gift and realizing you're a giver, or receiving a gift and realizing you're a gift. In the wholeheartedness of the giving process, we awaken to the reality of the intimacy of giver and receiver and gift. You know, that's one of our little treasures, the purity of the


three wheels, not getting stuck in any position in the process. But sometimes you do seem to be like, giving me a gift. Okay. Now can I give it away right away? Could you just give it back to you? Then you give it to me again. Anyway, in the process of wholeheartedly participating in giving, we awaken to not holding on to gifts, and also not holding on to the position of being a giver. So as soon as you give a gift, realize you just received a gift. Open your hand and realize, as you open your hand to give the gift, your hand gets filled with the gift. That kind of practice. Does that make some sense? Like being a mother. You receive a baby because you give your motherhood to the baby. The baby gives itself to you and makes you a mother. The baby gives you a gift and also the baby receives a mother. Everything's kind of like that. Yes?


Are intimacy, great compassion, and love all the same thing? Well, the way I would use love would be yes. But sometimes, you know, we have these two terms in the Buddha way. One is loving-kindness and one is compassion. And they live together and loving-kindness is usually listed first. So it's like impartiality, then loving-kindness, then compassion. Compassion, in a way, is especially great loving-kindness and great compassion. In a sense, it needs the other one. You can practice loving-kindness without great compassion. So loving-kindness is like really, when it's mature loving-kindness, is really wishing a being to be happy and at ease and free. That wish, really, that's loving-kindness. But some people do actually have loving-kindness but they haven't yet entered into the practice of intimacy. They still may think that those beings are wishing to be happy. They don't understand that they're intimate with them yet. However, it's hard to practice compassion if you don't have the loving-kindness first. So the compassion makes the loving-kindness intimate.


So if that's what you mean by love, either the loving-kindness and or both, what you mean by love is impartiality, loving-kindness and compassion, all three of those could be called love. It's possible to really pretty wholeheartedly have loving-kindness towards someone and still have some attachment to them. That's why the impartiality helps to make the loving-kindness mature. Does that make some sense? I think so. I think I was connecting love with the idea of avalokiteshvara. So your definition of avalokiteshvara would be avalokiteshvara is the bodhisattva of compassion. We don't usually mention that avalokiteshvara also practices loving-kindness, but avalokiteshvara does wish for everybody to be happy and free.


But also avalokiteshvara just is intimate with everybody. The intimacy is what does the work. The wish is really good, but the intimacy finishes the job. The intimacy fulfills the wish of loving-kindness. Loving-kindness we wish, we wish for everybody to be at ease. But as long as there is some duality, that ease is somewhat postponed, is partial. Compassion brings the wish to completion. It not only brings the wish that people will be happy and free to completion, it even takes people beyond being free. So that they are willing to hang out in prison. So, yeah, I think you can call avalokiteshvara as compassion and love. That would be fine.


I'm going to Chinatown, and as you know, if you've been to Chinatown in San Francisco, many of the stores in Chinatown have avalokiteshvara in the store, as on an altar or in the window. And it's often avalokiteshvara in the form of a female figure or a feminine figure in white flowing robes. I think we have one of those up in the Conner and Hall upstairs. Anyway, in English, the word on the streets is that this is the Goddess of Mercy. I don't disagree with that. Goddess of Mercy. That's one of the ways avalokiteshvara can manifest. But also, avalokiteshvara can manifest as an intense nude, who really is impartial. But somehow it doesn't necessarily look like it sometimes.


So compassion can manifest in the form of being quite strict. Like if somebody wants to study with Bodhidharma, he gives them a chance to demonstrate that they're really wholehearted about it. And if they're not, he says, Mm-mm. That's the way his compassion could manifest. Sonya? My question is in terms of compassion and in terms of the concept of taking and receiving. Did you say taking and receiving? Giving and receiving. Giving and receiving. Oh, giving and receiving. Okay. I thought you said taking and receiving. Giving and receiving, yes.


So, in terms of giving and receiving, how can thinking about giving and receiving, because whether it has happened yet, you see, whether we call it a blessing or a disease, in a lot of cases it's a blessing that you did something. And then there's a lot of evasion in that. How can we teach people to be compassionate to something they don't want? Yes. That's a good example. I don't want to have cancer. I don't want to. I'm not wishing that for myself or you, but I do vow to be compassionate if I find out that I have cancer.


I want to practice compassion with that information or the actual symptoms and the actual prognosis that I'm going to die from this disease. I would like to be compassionate towards the message, towards the symptoms, and towards the diagnosis. So, that's the energy that you give. You believe that energy. Even if you can't give, you should believe that energy. But also, I want to receive compassion. And I want to receive compassion so I can give compassion. And the cancer wants compassion. The cancer actually does not want to be killed. It wants compassion.


So, my body wants compassion and the diseases of my body want compassion. Everything wants compassion. So, if I'm sick and I'm giving and receiving compassion, then I may continue to be sick, but if I'm practicing it, I'm fine. If I don't have cancer, I don't have the diagnosis of cancer, and I don't feel the symptoms of cancer, and I don't practice compassion with my health, I'm not fine. I'm not fine. I'm not doing my job. Because my job is to practice compassion, even with healthy people, like me. They go to remission with cancer, and they go back to the same lifestyle as they had.


That could happen, right. Because they haven't become compassionate themselves. What do you think? Maybe so. But, where I have more confidence is practicing compassion with whatever. And I will be fine if that practice is living in me. Plus, that will help everybody else. It will help healthy people, and it will help my co-sufferers. If they see me being compassionate to my illness, that will help them. But even if they don't see me, my confidence is it helps all beings everywhere if I practice compassion with my illness.


And it helps not just you if I practice compassion with your illness, it helps everybody. Like what comes to my mind, which I've mentioned to somebody before, Suzuki Roshi, towards the end of his life, before he told us he had cancer, he said, now Zen Center is getting rather large, lots of students, so people have appointments to see me, and like wait while I'm seeing other people before they can see me. But you should understand when I'm seeing this person, I'm seeing this person for you. So for me to practice compassion with myself, I do that for you. And for me to practice compassion with you, I do that for me. And for me to practice compassion for you, I do for everybody. And some people don't like that. They don't mind me being compassionate towards them, they just want me to be doing it for everybody.


That does happen, and they know that that's silly. They know it's silly that they'd rather not have me be compassionate to everybody but just for them. Does compassion have any limitations? Great compassion has no limitations, but there are compassions which do have limitations. That's the sort of beginner's compassion, where I'm compassionate to you, but not Nushi, because I like you more than Nushi. So I have, that's the limit of my compassion. I let my partiality block me being as wholehearted towards you and Nushi and Betsy and Karen. I don't want to do that, but my partiality might interfere with my compassion. It can happen, but then I have a practice for that. I acknowledge, I want to give that person compassion more than that person.


That partiality is calling for compassion. But before I get that impartiality, my compassion is limited. It's immature compassion, sentimental compassion. And it has drawbacks which spur us to get over it and move on. So, compassion is not love? Compassion can be love? Compassion is love. It's just that it can be impartial. I mean, it can be partial. It can have favorites. These are my favorite people to be compassionate towards, rather than, I really have affection for these people, for these people I don't feel so much affection for, but I'm not partial. Or some people I don't even feel affection towards or not, but some people I'm allergic to. Some people are allergic to some people.


They get sick when they get near them. But I vow to practice compassion with people even if I'm allergic to them. And I'm not in control over my allergies. I had a friend one time. She was a very nice person. But I was allergic to her. I couldn't get near her. I started sneezing. Something about her, something came off of her that I was allergic to. It was very sad. I mean, I was still friends with her, but I just had to stay at quite a distance. And she wanted to be closer, but I couldn't. Anything else this afternoon? Before I go to the big parade. Yes, Christiane.


I can't help going to the bridge and talk about it. I hear and I've heard for many years about compassion as an antidote to suffering, to grasping, to healing. Bring compassion to this. Yes, I think some people see it as an antidote. What does that look like? I have many situations where I'm feeling It happens where I feel like I'm tightened up in a situation and that's because I want to control something, I think. Usually, grasping something. And in that moment, I just have no idea. Because I feel like it's really hard.


It's hard to be in that situation. And relax. Breathing, I think, is probably good. Breathing is good, yeah. Heart-circulating blood is good. Yeah, so this is where my mind is like, What do I do when I'm tightening up, breathing? Sometimes I'll invoke Avalokiteshvara that sometimes helps. I'll just say, help me. Say, help me, without trying to get her to help you. Right. Just say, help! Help! Anyway. When painful things stimulate us, we have this, what do you call it, this biological habit of moving away from pain. Or trying to get it to go away.


Either, like, get rid of it or get away from it. That's part of our situation. So, there it is. And the pain can be in my body or it can be in the body of someone that I really want them to be free of pain. And now they've got pain. So then my body can, instead of, yeah, my body can tense up and try to control it. That can happen. It does quite a bit. So compassion, you could call it an antidote, but also you could also call it medicine for tensing up. And so when we're compassionate towards tensing up, we more and more are ready to relax. And a lot of times people are not necessarily, what do you say, they're tense chronically. They just walk around tense. Even when they're, what do you call it, when they're not in pain, even in the middle of a strong, pleasant sensation,


they're still tense. Like they're trying to hold on to it or whatever. But they're just generally tense and subconsciously afraid even when they're in positive sensation. So it would be good, in order to be free of this situation, whatever it is, in this case, a situation of being tense, but also it could be a situation where there's some pain in addition to being tense, we need to relax to get going. But we can't relax before we're compassionate. And in some ways maybe we shouldn't relax. Maybe it's irresponsible to relax if you're not taking care of something compassionately. Or at least we certainly feel that way. We don't feel permission to relax with a terrible situation. A lot of people think it's immoral, it's cruel to be so relaxed in this terrible situation.


So some bodhisattvas come into a terrible situation and they're relaxed and some people don't like that. And I say, no, I'm tense too. But actually they're relaxed because they want to teach the other people how to relax with the suffering. But they realize they have to teach them some other stuff first before they would dare to relax. They need to teach them patience and generosity and carefulness and enthusiasm. And now, okay, and their compassion will teach that. Okay, now are you ready to relax? Yeah. And then when we can relax, then we can move on and be playful with the pain and creative and understand it and be free. But relaxation is a key point where we shift from being compassionate to the suffering to starting to work on understanding it by being relaxed and playful with it.


But again, it is kind of not very kind to be relaxed with suffering of others or self if you're not grounded in it. And some people hear about suffering and they tell people, well, that's nothing. And they're quite relaxed with it. But they downplay the suffering rather than fully engaging it and then, okay, now we're in it up to our something or other. We're in it together, right? Now we can relax. Or, you know, am I in it enough so I can relax? Yes. Am I in it enough so I can relax? No, you've got to get more into it. You've got to open to it more. Okay, now you can relax. That's in ourselves and in our partner. We're suffering together. We need to wholeheartedly open to the suffering and then we can relax with it and then we can be playful and creative


and wise about it. But, yeah, tension naturally comes up and you can give the compassion right to the tension but you can also then move back from the tension to see what the tension's about, what the gripping's about and then give compassion to that and then move forward again and you may find the tension's gone. But that relaxation came just... Whoa! The relaxation came without anybody trying to relax because there was total immersion in the suffering but not like sticking your head into it but being upright in it and balanced and open and patient. But bodhisattvas want to teach people how to play in this world of suffering so they can be free. But they're like in it.


They're not, you know, floating above it. They come down in it. Okay, I'm right here with you and are you ready to play? No. Okay. Are you ready to relax? No. Okay. And then they play with the people who aren't ready to play. That make sense to you now? It's not easy. Especially right when you get slapped with a big chunk of pain. You're welcome. Okay. Anything else this afternoon for our first one day sitting of 2023? Okay. Well. Wonderful. Marvelous.


Thanks for taking care of me. Thanks for inviting me to continue with you for another year.