On the Eve of Going for Refuge in the Triple Treasure 

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We're talking about the first great Bodhisattva precept of going for refuge in Buddha, and the second going for refuge in Dharma, and the third going for refuge in Sangha. And I'm mentioning that the Dalai Lama said something like, you don't have to be religious in order to be happy or in order to be a good person. He said something like that. And I agree. In other words, you can devote your life to the welfare of others, and that will be the path of happiness for you. And you probably will become a good person if you really are devoted to that. And if you expand your devotion to include all beings, I think that will even be more


likely that you will have a happy life, and have a good life, and that you will be a good person. Are you taking pity on me? Not yet. Maybe later you'll take pity on me. And, I don't know if the Dalai Lama would say that he was a religious person.


I don't know if he would say, yes, I'm a religious person. I don't know if he would say that. But if you were devoted to the welfare of all beings, and you found out that some religious people needed your help, and in order to help them you had to be religious, you might say, okay, if being religious will help you, I'll be religious. I mean, I give myself to religion if that would help you. And many religious people seem to be having a lot of really hard time, and the way they


practice religion seems to really be a problem for them and others, and if you wish to help all beings, then dealing with religion in whatever way is helpful would be what you would want to do. The English word refuge means, the root, I mean the etymology of the English word refuge


means, to fly back. Refuge means to fly back. So, there's a sense in the English word refuge, in the etymology of it, that you're going back someplace. In the meaning of refuge, it means sort of maybe where you go for protection or safety, but also where you want to align yourself. In a way I would say, you know, that for me the idea of refuge means to go back to the truth, to return to the truth, or even to return to my home, my true home, or to return


to my home in truth. So, is there something which is my true home, or is there something which is my home in truth? And is Buddha a reasonable word to use for that? And is the teaching of the Buddha a reasonable word to use for that? And is the community of the Buddha a reasonable word to use for that? My home, my true home, my home in truth. And do I wish to return to this home in truth? From a certain perspective, it looks like the fundamental precept of the tradition is


Buddha. And Buddha can mean the person, the historical person. It can mean enlightenment itself, unsurpassed, complete, perfect enlightenment, that can be Buddha. That enlightenment appearing in a historical context as a person in human history or history of other beings, that's another meaning of Buddha. And the third meaning of Buddha is the transformation of beings, the actual function of beings being liberated and educated about truth. That's also Buddha. So those are three main meanings of the Buddha. Enlightenment, perfect enlightenment, the historical appearance of the enlightenment in a way that people who live in history can see, and the transformation of beings who meet the Buddha.


So those three dimensions of Buddha. And returning to that means making some effort to go back to your home of Buddha. But also going for refuge means a commitment, a commitment to do this. I go for refuge and I commit to this home, and I recognize this is my home. This is what I am actually going to make my central or really only home. I'm not going to have two homes. Just supreme enlightenment, just the transformation and liberation of beings, that's going to be my home.


I commit to that, I recognize that, this is my home. And this, of course, includes all beings. I completely include it here, but this is my home and I commit to that. Is this religious? Somebody might say it is. And it is possible, I think, to commit to live for the welfare of others, perhaps without committing to return to the Buddha. That may be possible. Some people do have this commitment to the welfare of all beings, but they don't somehow think of themselves as committed to live in supreme enlightenment. They are kind of committed, however, to live in the agenda of transforming beings.


They want to live for the welfare of beings. They are actually living in the third aspect of Buddha, the beneficial transformation of beings. So it may be that some people, even though they don't say Buddha, if they are actually committed to that, they are actually going for refuge in that, they actually recognize that as their home. In a sense, they are committing to one-third of the Buddha body, or one-third, yeah, one-third of the Buddha body. And maybe they don't like the historical part, that they have some cultural or historical problem with the historical Buddha, but they are okay with the third aspect of the Buddha. These three aspects are called the single-bodied aspect of the Buddha, the manifested aspect of the Buddha, and the maintaining aspect of the Buddha. So I think a lot of people maybe would be okay with the maintaining aspect of the Buddha,


which is the third one, constantly adjusting their circumstances and entering into the process of transforming beings. But they have a problem with the historical Buddha, and they maybe are not interested in supreme perfect enlightenment. There can be going for refuge, returning home, could be returning home in a worldly way, or a world-transcending way. So there could be a worldly way of going for refuge,


maybe even in Buddha. Dharma and Sangha, possibly, a worldly way. In other words, the person might be returning to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for the sake of being happy and being a good person. But they may not be interested in returning to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in a world-transcending way. And among the world-transcending ways, there are traditionally two different styles. One style is called the individual vehicle, where you wish to enter into and go for refuge in the triple treasure in order to be personally liberated


from the misery of birth and death. And you wish to realize supreme perfect peace of nirvana. And the Buddha allows, the Buddhas allow their teaching to be used for that purpose. And if you look at the historical Buddha, the historical Buddha's first historical students were people who could receive his teaching, practice it, and attain personal liberation. Which they were very happy about, and they continued to be liberated, happy beings for the rest of their lives, and be very beneficial in this world. The other world-transcending way of going for refuge is called the Mahayana,


the universal or great vehicle, where we go for refuge in order to help self and others, and actually always putting others first. But of course, in order to help others, we have to help ourselves, and we have to, in order to help others fully, we have to aspire to and realize Buddhahood. So the Mahayana is actually to aspire, not to aspire to Buddhahood, to realizing Buddhahood in order to help all beings. It's world-transcending,


just like the individual vehicle is world-transcending, but it's world-transcending in a different way. It's world-transcending by totally engaging all beings in the world, whereas the other path is not the same kind of commitment to totally engage with all beings in the world. It's more like study your own delusion, become free of delusion and enter Nirvana. In other words, understand your own samsaric existence thoroughly, and by understanding it, realize that it actually was Nirvana all along, which is like good news. Bodhisattvas realize the same thing, but all along, while they're realizing this, they're totally devoted to be whatever people need them to be. They would even, you know, not be a monk,


or not practice their precepts if that would help people, whereas the individual vehicle, they always stay with their precepts. Why not? There's no reason not to, unless it would help someone, but they don't commit to help others primarily, and nobody asks them, really, to not do it, because they know that's not their path, but bodhisattvas are asked to demonstrate their non-attachment to their path of liberation, and to totally engage with all beings. The people on individual vehicle, generally speaking, I think probably want all beings to be happy, too. As a matter of fact, individual vehicle teachings are often wishing for the happiness of others, and meditating on the happiness of others, hoping happiness for others. So that practice is in the early teachings.


But the bodhisattva vehicle is a little different, and it might be helpful to mention that sometimes it's seen as having two aspects, the going for refuge and the Mahayana. The first aspect is like the causal, the causal aspect of going for refuge. The second aspect is the ultimate. The causal or preliminary, and then the second one is the fruit or the ultimate. So the preliminary, in the preliminary, even in the Mahayana, you go for refuge in Buddha, you go back home to your truth, to the truth of your life, to the truth of life, which we call Buddha, which we call enlightenment. You go back there. And you also go back maybe to the historical Buddha,


and the teachings of the historical Buddha, and the teachings of the historical ancestors, and you go back to the Sangha. But you do this with some sense of separation, which you do have. You kind of acknowledge your sense of separation from the supremely enlightened state, from the supremely enlightened historical manifestation. You acknowledge some sense of separation from the actual process of liberating beings. You acknowledge some sense of separation from the truth, there's you and the truth. You acknowledge some separation from the great Sangha of Bodhisattvas. You start going for refuge in something you see as not yourself. This is a causal refuge, which sets up the ultimate refuge, the fruit refuge, the ultimate refuge,


where you're no longer going for refuge in these things as other than yourself. And the first one, you humbly admit that you still do live in a world where you feel there's some separation between yourself and others. And also that you wish to go to the great beings, which you actually do feel some sense you have not yet attained that state of being


as the great ones. And you aspire to become like the great ones, you aspire to do the practices of the great ones. So, for example, I was just talking to someone who said, well, I don't know what this person said, but anyway, what came up in the conversation was that one might aspire, one might be called upon and wish to respond, one might feel called upon and wish to endeavor to practice all virtues for the welfare of all beings. One might wish to do that, and one might try. One might wish to. One might want to live for the welfare of all beings, and one might try. And at the beginning of the practice,


I usually suggest try to practice all virtues for the welfare of others without any expectation that you will be able to practice them or that it will be beneficial to others. I wish you all the best. What I'm saying now, I want what I'm saying to be beneficial to others, and I want to have no expectation that it will be beneficial to others. And I want to be even more enthusiastic about offering this because I don't expect that it will be beneficial. And if I find out, or if it seems like it's not beneficial, because I don't have an expectation that it will be, I still want to continue to live for the welfare and benefit of others. But if I expect that what I'm saying now is beneficial,


and you tell me, one of you tell me, or all of you tell me that it's not beneficial, that I really am not helping you, that what I'm saying is really unskillful and harmful, well, since I didn't expect that it wasn't any of those bad things, when I find out that it is, I say thank you. Now I want to try again. I still want to try, even though it looks like I'm not successful. It looks like I'm not successful. It looks like I'm not successful. But I didn't expect that I would be. I just want to be. Or I just want what I'm doing to be helpful. Now I find out it's not, I want to try again. I'm not discouraged. The path of helping others is a path upon which we do not really want to be discouraged to do this practice. We want to be encouraged to help others. not expecting to be helpful


will help us. Now if you don't want to try it, then maybe you should expect to do it. You should expect yourself to live for the welfare of others if you don't want to. But actually, that doesn't seem to work, so I forget that. But if you want to live for the welfare of others, if you want to be happy, and you want others to be happy, if you want to be free and you want others to be free, then live your life, express that desire with no expectation that you are going to be the helper, that what you're doing is going to be helping, and that there's some helped, that there's some helpees. Don't expect it. And again, the great vehicle is to be devoted to the welfare of others without, you know,


without clinging to helper, helper, helped, or helping. And not having an expectation goes along with not clinging to any part of the process, being totally immersed in the process, throwing yourself into the Buddha, throwing yourself into the process of benefiting beings without any clinging to any particular position in the picture, embracing all the different positions with no attachment, being devoted to all the different positions in all the different relationships with no attachment and no expectation. And this should be extremely joyful. And if it's not, we should try to find a way for it to be extremely joyful without any attachment. Without expecting that it will be joyful. Just realize it needs to be, just like you would realize


being the need to be helped, being the need to be benefited, and I don't expect that there will be. And I still want to do this thing which I know, which I feel the need for. I'm totally devoted to this thing I feel the need for without any expectation that I'm going to get my needs met. And therefore, I feel it again, and [...] again. I'm rewarded for feeling the wish to help others with no expectation by having the feeling again. But if I wish for the welfare of others and I'm not careful to make sure I'm not expecting anything, then I may wish in the next moment, I may wish to punish them because they didn't say thank you. But if I offer my life and be careful about the way I offer it, I'm offering it, but I don't expect anything.


I want this to help you, but I'm not attaching to you being helped. And you say, that was really unhelpful. I say, may I try again? They say, no. May I try again? No. Would you shut up? Yes. No. Now, we have this ceremony coming up tomorrow where people could potentially leap into this amazing commitment To be totally devoted to all beings, commit to total devotion to all beings with no expectation. And as part of that commitment to Buddha, commitment to all beings, we also commit to these precepts


to help us actually be devoted with no expectation. And another part of the ceremony is that in the ceremony we practice confession and repentance and then after practicing it, we ask the ordinands, those who are plunging into this path, we ask them if they will continue this practice of confession and repentance from now on and even after realizing the ultimate fruit. And they usually say yes. So I deduce from this over and over that in practicing the precepts of compassion, part of the practice of the precepts of compassion is the practice of confession and repentance.


And what might we be practicing confession and repentance of? Not practicing the precepts which we've committed to, slipping up. But there's no need to practice confession and repentance unless you continue to be committed to these precepts. So if I forget, if I get distracted from returning to my true home, if I forget to return to the transformation of all beings into happy beings, if I forget that, then I confess it and I'm sorry. And I try again. If I tried, if I didn't forget but I just was, maybe didn't forget but I wasn't careful in the way I was trying to help beings, I was trying to help, I didn't forget, I'm trying to help people but I wasn't careful. Or I was trying to help beings but I thought I was a little better than the beings I was helping.


I thought, well, I'm the helper and you're the helped and I'm just, what can I say, I'm better than you. I'm the helper, you're the... I thought that I was trying to be helpful but then I also went against that precept. I didn't forget being helpful, I forgot that precept. So I confess, I was putting myself up. I thought I was superior to you. Or I was trying to be helpful and then I lied in the middle of trying to be helpful. I thought it would be helpful to lie. And now I find out... I didn't even know I was lying actually at the time. Now I find out I was lying and I'm sorry. Or I did lie, I knew I was lying and I did it because I thought it would be helpful and now I find out it wasn't and I'm sorry. Or I was lying and I was lying because I thought it would be helpful


and now you tell me it's helpful and I hear you and I want to try again. And again, and I'm not saying that when you tell me I am helpful that I think I am. I don't expect that when people tell me I'm helpful that that means I'm helpful. I don't expect that. I know there's always something lacking in my understanding. Once again, if you feel called to live for the welfare of all beings and you wish to respond in the affirmative, if you wish to commit yourself to that call, and then you practice that way and you can't tell if you're becoming any more skillful,


do you still want to try even though you haven't gotten any better? I think the Bodhisattva says yes. It seems like I haven't gotten any better at practicing the Bodhisattva path and I still want to try. Again, I use the image of I want to climb the mountain of the Bodhisattva path but I don't seem to have... I seem to be at the same altitude I was at the beginning. However, every step I've taken, which has led me not to move up the mountain at all, I did with no expectation. I did just as a gift to all beings. I took many steps. I haven't made any progress and I still want to keep walking. I've gotten nowhere and I'm full of joy and I want to continue, not necessarily continue to get nowhere. If I happen to get up at the top of the mountain, that would be cool.


But it's cool down here at the bottom too because every step I take and every step I don't take, when I take a step, I take it for this wonderful purpose and when I don't take a step, it's for the same reason, with no expectation. And if I spend my whole life and make no progress, I will be very happy because I was happy every moment of my life because I was always giving my life to others and getting feedback from them that I had made no progress and that I was really totally unhelpful. And one of the ways I made no progress was the thought crossed my mind that I must be really some kind of a superior person because nobody else gets that much negative feedback as me. So I must be kind of, in some way, very outstanding. Which is another sign that I haven't made any progress.


And what comes to my mind is one of the, I don't know what to call them, but anyway, one of the Zen teachers who lived in Japan during that last century we had, he also lived in the previous one for a little while. He lived in the 1920th century. He died in 1965. His name was Sawaki Kodo and Roshi, they called him. And when he died, there was a newspaper article about him and it says, you know, blah-de-blah, Zen master wastes life practicing Zazen. And I heard about that newspaper article from Katagiri Roshi. Japanese newspaper, right.


And I heard about that from Katagiri Roshi and Katagiri Roshi said, that's pretty good. And what's Zazen? Zazen is to live in the present, right, for the welfare of all beings. That's what Zazen is. Our practice is to be present and unmoving and make this present, unmoving person a gift offered for the welfare of all beings. That's our practice. And he wasted his whole life doing that. And a lot of people appreciated him just wasting his life practicing Zazen, practice living for their welfare. A lot of people appreciated, so he got a big newspaper article written about him. And he has, you know, a lot of the people who are practicing Zazen in this world today look to him as their ancestor.


And they're also, I hope, are practicing the same way he did. Just giving their life, throwing their life away for the welfare of others without accomplishing anything. Just the welfare of others, that's it. Without any expectation of what that would look like and trying again and again, moment by moment, living that way. And when you're that way, without expecting this, without expecting that you're going to get feedback, you will get feedback. You don't have to expect to get feedback to get it. If you expect feedback, you'll also get it. However, if you don't expect feedback and you get it, you have a good chance of welcoming it. If you do expect it, it makes it harder. It doesn't mean you can't... Yeah, if you expect positive feedback and you get it, you probably say, well, thanks, that's fine.


But if you have no expectation of feedback, you will get... that will help you get feedback, that will help you get a wider selection, that will help you be joyful for the welfare of all beings. Not joyful for yourself, joyful for them without any expectation that you'll be joyful for them. So this is a path we can give ourselves to. Which, you know, starts with going for refuge for the welfare of all beings. Going back home for the welfare of all beings. And committing to that place, to that way. And recognizing and honoring that way of being. So committing to it, but also kind of like admitting and recognizing that you've committed to it. Don't keep it a secret. Let people know what's most important to you. So again, they can give you feedback


on how unhelpful you are. Because you, you know, you told them you want to be helpful, so they want to... Well, you want to be helpful? Well, you're not. Because you want to know that, right? Yes, thank you. Since you want to help people, I thought you might want to know that you're not. That's right. Theoretically. In this particular case, you're not welcome to say so, but... Usually that's the case. With most people it's the case, but not with you. You don't give it the right way. Just kidding, just kidding. I hope that was helpful. Yeah, so you're welcome to give negative feedback. You're welcome to give positive feedback in the form of me not being helpful. Yes.


Yeah, joy is kind of a homing signal, right. Yeah, uh-huh, yeah. But one detail about that is joy is a homing signal for bodhisattvas in the middle of tremendous suffering. So they live in this huge world of suffering beings and they feel a lot of pain and joy is their homing signal about how to be in the middle of the ocean of suffering beings. So in the midst of impermanence and disease, and suffering, which they feel, and which they feel tremendous compassion for, joy is part of the compassion that kind of keeps them in the right... with the compassion. It's possible to have compassion, I think,


without joy. I think it still qualifies, you know, if you feel sympathy with people and want to live for their welfare and want to be devoted to them. That still counts as compassion. But you're a little off if you don't feel joy. I, again, I did some etymological study of the Tibetan word, I mean the Sanskrit word for compassion and mostly the Sanskrit word has to do with, you know, pity and pain and passion and, you know, sharing pain, feeling pain. I think maybe the Tibetan translation of it that the Dalai Lama, again, pointed to, the etymology of the Tibetan is dented happiness. Compassion is basically, well, it's basically, I mean, it is truly the greatest joy. Compassion is the greatest joy. It's much greater than any worldly joy.


Worldly joy is not... there is worldly joy, like people speaking well of you, people telling you that you're helpful, people telling other people that you're helpful, you know, getting things you want, you know. These are joy. But the joy of compassion is incomparably greater. But it's got lots of dents in it. The dents are the suffering of all beings. And even in the individual vehicle texts about practicing compassion, like in the Visuddhi Magga, when they're talking about developing loving-kindness and compassion and sympathetic joy and equanimity, when talking about compassion, I think the near... well, I think there's a near and a far enemy. And I can't remember which one is near,


but I think the near enemy of compassion is attachment. Or pity. And the... the translation I have is the far enemy, or whatever, is depression. So again, when you're practicing compassion, you're not supposed to get discouraged. If you're doing it right, it should be joyful, even though you feel pain. It doesn't help people for you to become despondent. Unless you're being despondent to help them. Okay, I'll put the despondent thing on and see if I can find joy there. If you're despondent, I'll try on despondent for you. Joyfully, I'll be despondent with you. Try to feel it, try to empathize. Okay, I got here. Okay, now I'm with you and I'm feeling joy. Would you like to learn how to do it? So... I'll check out the thing about whether...


but I thought it was attachment and depression. So back to you. Yeah, well, that's one of the... that's one of the things about being a Zen student. You're just not supposed to move. So we practice compassion. First of all, we sit still. We don't move. And then without moving, we find it. We don't go someplace else to find it. So again, I was... I was quoting Edward Kansa to somebody this morning that he talked about the way that a bodhisattva can be devoted to the welfare of all beings while understanding that there's no beings... being devoted to the welfare of all beings and vowing to take them all to nirvana


and also understanding that there's no beings... no, how to say it... and although I take innumerable beings to nirvana, I understand that there's no beings taken to nirvana. And Kansa called that the Mahayana miracle, that bodhisattvas make this vow to save all beings without grasping any beings that they're devoted to. That's the Mahayana miracle. Another thing he said was... He said... This is what he said. I'm not saying this is true, but he said the Tibetan monks sit and chant Om Mani Padme Hum to manifest the compassion of Avalokiteshvara. The Zen monks sit and they just sit to manifest the compassion of Avalokiteshvara. They don't do anything. They don't do anything to bring it and they don't go to it. They just sit and open to it and let it fill them. So don't move to find compassion. It's right here. It's right here with us.


Don't go find some other people to help. Help us, because we're here. But when we're not here, don't... When you're with some other people, don't go and say, well, I've got to help those people over in Obod. No. Help the people you're with. Help the people in your face. Help yourself for the welfare of all beings. Don't move. I was wondering if you can talk about encouragement and where the ways that one finds encouragement when there is a sense of failure and lack of wisdom. Well, they might find failure in the sense of, I heard all these Zen masters were failures, so maybe I'm not so bad. Or, I'm glad I feel failure because now, if I can find some joyful way to deal with my failure,


I can be of assistance to all the other people who are feeling failure, who are downtrodden by it, and crushed by it. So if I can actually feel this, like I really failed, and if I can find some way to not move with that, and be at peace with that, and relax with that, then now I will be able to help other people who feel that. If I have no problems to test my practice with, and also to show other people how to do it, well, that will limit. So, if you feel like a failure, that's something to welcome, to be patient with, to be relaxed with, to be gentle with, to not try to control, like not trade it in for success, just, this is what's happening now, a sense of failure. At being a bodhisattva, for example,


or a friend. And then if you can be that way with this, with this sense of failure, you won't dwell in it.