Exploring Consciousness and Realizing Wisdom

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Exploring consciousness with the aid of Buddha's teachings is a path to discovering and realizing deep, liberating Wisdom. Consciousness may be experienced as confining and confusing; at the same time it offers opportunities for learning skills and making discoveries.

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Even Elizabeth, through illness, stayed with us. I deeply appreciate, but I don't abide in it. Someone might say that the greatest appreciation is one that you don't abide in. Someone might say that. And so thank you all for staying the whole time and thanks Eileen for organizing the retreat. And Karen for being here and taking care of the space before, after, and during. And again, for all of you, for your brilliant presence. Thank you.


I really appreciate doing this. This has been something new for everyone. Thank you. And thanks to the Mount Madana family for suggesting this idea. And one of the differences between this and usual Noah Bode Day and also Mount Madana Day is that usually I leave the room during meditation and go see people individually, which is nice. We like to meet individually. But this way we're in the room together, all of us, the whole time. So that has certain virtues, too. So, we don't attach to this style,


and we have demonstrated we're not attached to the other one. So we maybe try different styles. We can think of some other ones, too. So, thank you. And I kind of promised eventually to read you the poems that Xiangyan expressed when he found the place before his self was born. And he also said, the teacher also said, What did he say?


Oh, so, say something from the time before you were born and also before you could distinguish objects. And so he found that place and he expressed his thanks to Guishan and then he composed these, he wrote these verses. I guess he probably wrote them on paper. One stroke on bamboo and all knowledge is forgotten. No more mere pretense of practice. Transformed to uphold the ancient path, not sunk in idle devices. Far and wide, not a trace is left. The great purpose lies beyond sound and form. In every direction, the realized way.


Beyond all speech, the ultimate principle. So, it says he dispatched a monk to take these verses to Xiangyan. I don't know how that monk mail service worked, but anyway, he gave the poem, the monk poem, took it to Guishan. And when Guishan read it, he said, Ah, my student has penetrated. And Yangshan, his older brother, said, This is a good representation of mind function. But wait till I personally go and check out Xiangyan's realization. He thought this was a good representation, you know. But he wasn't convinced. And then later, Yangshan, the older disciple,


met Xiangyan and said, Master Guishan has praised the great matter of your awakening. What do you say in evidence for it? And Xiangyan recited those verses again as evidence. And Yangshan said, Yeah, but those verses could be composed from things you've studied earlier. If you have genuine awakening, then say something else to prove it. And then Xiangyan composed a poem, another one that said, Last year's poverty was not genuine poverty. Last year's, this year's poverty is finally real poverty.


Last year's poverty, there was still the ground where I could plant my hoe. This year's poverty, not even the hoe remains. Yangshan said, I grant you have realized the Zen of the Buddhas, but you don't yet know the Zen of the ancestors. You haven't seen it even in your dreams. And then Xiangyan composed another poem, I have a function. It's seen in the twinkling of the eye. If you don't see it, that's your problem. Heaven, I'm in heaven, and I seem to find the happiness I seek. No, that's not right.


Heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak, and I seem to find the happiness I seek when we're out together dancing cheek to cheek. Then Yangshan, when Yangshan heard these verses, he went back to Guishan and said, It's wonderful. Xiangyan has realized the Zen of cheek to cheek. And when Paul Page heard that some time ago, he thought about the cheeks that are on the seat, the meditation seat. So, I have this other story,


but I feel like it's a bit much to get into at this point. I'll bring it up later. I'll just tell you what it's about. It's case 32 of the Book of Serenity. It's about Yangshan, Yangshan's mind and environment. So Guishan and Yangshan are the founders of one of the five schools of Zen, and their school is called Guiyang, Guiyangzong. It's a school which the teacher and disciple are the founders of. And their teaching, as you can see from the previous story about... Well, actually, more than one previous story. The first story I told you about was Guishan and Yangshan. Remember? Remember it? This is like a review at the end, okay? What's the story of Guishan and Yangshan at the beginning? Hey you. Hey you, right. If a monk comes up to you and asks about all sentient beings just to have karmic consciousness


with no boundless and unclear and giddy, with no fundamental to rely on, how would you test that in experience? That's Guishan and Yangshan, okay? Then we have the story of Xiangyan studying with Guishan and Yangshan, also about consciousness and finding a way to not abide in consciousness. And then the next story I was going to bring up is about Yangshan, also teaching about the mind. It's called Yangshan's Mind and Environment, where he meets this monk and gives him instruction about studying the self. It's a great story, but I think it's a bit much to bring up at the end of the day. So I'll bring it up another day, and another day, and maybe we'll write a book about it. Right, Karin? Well, that's the book right here that you've been... So Katherine Gammon edited lots of talks on this case.


I've done many, many talks on Case 32 of the Book of Serenity, but I'm just now pointing out that this school, this Yangshan-Guishan school, they're very much into the teachings of mind and how to test to see if there's any abiding. And there are wonderful dialogues about whether they're testing each other. And the friendship between them, and you can see the conversations where Guishan's inquiring into Yangshan's consciousness, and Yangshan is responding to the questions and coming back, and Guishan's pointing out sticking points. But this Case 32 is not about Guishan and Yangshan, it's about Yangshan and a monk. But I'm not going to bring it up, is that okay? Maybe next time at Noah Board I'll bring it up.


Is there anything else you want to talk about this afternoon? Yes, Breck? Breck? After all these years of being around Zen, what? And me? Zen and me. But what has seemed to me for a long time has been a perplexing thought. And maybe it's because I have a deliberate or logical approach to things, even with life and disability as well. And it feels very good.


But I also feel like, I don't know where to start from here, but having a delicious 18-inch pizza is probably the best way to figure out where to start from. Probably the part closest to you. And I appreciate that you've been nibbling through whatever else you nibbled through to get to the pizza. I heard, I think it was Reggie Jackson, is it Reggie Jackson, the baseball player? I heard that he said that when he was concentrated, when the ball came, it looked like a pizza. Huh? Big as a pizza.


Yeah, as big as a pizza. That would make it easier to hit, right? Kind of, this is going to be easy. So, yeah, you still have to swing it at the right time. So anyway, I'm very grateful that you hung through all that perplexity to come to get close to the sniff of the pizza. Pizzas smell good, don't they? Anything else this afternoon? Yes. I read once that you really had, really believed in synchronicity. And I wondered if there were any teachings in the basis of what we were talking today about that experience, because I certainly have these amazing coincidences that feel like a sign. But I'm wondering, is that just pure delusion,


or is there a relationship maybe between, you see what you're looking for, maybe it's as simple as that. There's a lot of stuff out there, and you happen to see the thing that's going to be meaningful to you. But I wonder, for you, the secret is that relationship where something appears that's so amazing to what you were just thinking or saying. So, for Elizabeth... That's you, right? For you, synchronicity seems to be... A benefit. A benefit. Yes, encouraging. So, let's look at this. Give us an example of synchronicity. I had one. Okay. I was in Boulder, taking care of my niece, and I had a difficult family, a wonderful family,


and I was biking up the hill... Those are synchronistic, right? Yes, they are. They are. They are. They are. Biking up the hill, thinking, it was how painful to be misattuned with my family was, and I look over, and right there in the street I see something called... It was like a large mailbox, and I thought, it can't be. And it's part of a movement called the Free Little Library that I just got super interested in just because I'm a member of my Rotary Club, and it was a Rotarian who started it a few years ago, and it was the cover and article of the current Rotary magazine, and I'm wanting to start that. And so here I am in Boulder, having the very thought, I don't belong here, I'm kind of misattuned, where are my people? Boom! I see a beautiful little free library thing, which I go over to and take pictures of and open up. So they're like birdhouses for books,


and people put them in front of their house or somewhere, and you can take a book or put a book in. So that to me was an example of synchronicity. Just the moment I was thinking, feeling misattuned to the world, boom! No, this is one of your prime interests, and here's your very first one. I've never seen one before, but you've already read about it. So that kind of... So you call it synchronicity? That's what I call synchronicity. Okay. And if that's what you call by synchronicity, I would give it another name, not to contradict synchronicity, but the name I would give it would be inquiry and response. Okay. You were saying... What were you saying? I think it's so painful to be misattuned. You were saying it's so painful to be misattuned, but when you say it's so painful to be misattuned... I was looking for attunement. Yeah, I hear, Attunement, please! Yeah! I want attunement! Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what I hear. I please attunement, and then you see attunement. It was amazing.


Yeah. And so if that's what you call synchronicity, I would call that inquiry and response. And that's our relationship with the Buddha, is we say, I want attunement, I want peace, I want freedom, but the way you might say it is, I don't, I'm not free. That cry of I'm not free or I'm not attuned, the Buddha says, Oh, she's asking for help. She's putting it negatively, but positively speaking, she says, Please join me, please meet me. That is what we call good friendship, is that we call, and actually at the very moment we call, at the same moment, synchronistic, at the same moment we call, there is a response. So as you know, in the Jewel Mirror Samadhi of our school,


it says inquiry and response come up together. And it also says some other things there too, like if you're excited, it becomes a pitfall. So when you see this, if you get excited about it, or also if you don't see it and you get excited about not seeing it, if you get excited, it becomes a pitfall. The very thing you're concerned with, if you get excited about it, the thing that's most important to you if you get excited about it, it's a pitfall. And if you hesitate, you miss it, and you're really sad. This synchronicity, synchronicity of what? Of your request and the response. So, and Buddha says basically, this relationship is the whole of the path. So, we do various good things,


many of you do, I know, but the life of it, excuse the expression, the holy life of your life, is when you realize that the things you're doing are either a response to something that's been asked, or it's a request which is being met. Then your activity really becomes the way of enlightenment. If you think, I'm doing this, but nobody requested it, you're missing part of your life. If you think, I'm doing this, and nobody's responding, you're kind of missing it. But it does look like that sometimes. And there's many Zen stories, I was just in Texas telling stories of monks, sincere monks, great students of their teachers, who their teachers really appreciated, who thought they were asking their teacher for teaching


and the teacher wasn't giving it. And then finally, after feeling like they asked and asked, they finally said, I ask you and you never teach, and the teacher says, I'm always answering it. They said, how? And then they show them. So, sometimes we think we're asking and we don't get it, like sometimes you're walking in the hills of Mongolia and you think, why doesn't anybody help me? And you think nobody answers, but they do, you just don't see it. Other times, you're walking in the Mongolia hills and somebody says, did you ask for something? And you say, no. But you did. We're always walking around saying, either Buddha, please give me the Dharma, or Buddha, can I help you? Buddha, I want to be your friend. Buddha, be my friend. Everything we say is actually asking for enlightenment to meet us. All day long we're doing that. But the way we're doing it all day long, which is never interrupted, is inconceivable.


We cannot see how that could be the case. How every gesture we make is actually a request to meet enlightenment. And also, every gesture we make is met. In other words, we don't see how we're supporting the Buddhas and the Buddhas are supporting us. We don't see how non-stop we're supporting each other and everybody's supporting us. But that's the fundamental reality that the Buddhas realize. Then there's other cases of friendship where you think you're asking and you don't see an answer. Or you got an answer but you didn't think you asked. The example you used was one where you kind of saw you were asking and you got an answer. That's one of the four varieties, which is a happy one. But that one comes and goes. It's not like every moment you notice you're asking and answered. Like, okay, I asked and answered, the next moment I asked...


That's enough for me now. Like Breck said, okay, I got to this place, now what's next? Right? So, there's these four varieties and they're all part of the game. I asked the teacher, the teacher said she would teach me, I came to study and the teacher didn't teach me. And then you tell the teacher that and the teacher shows you that they did. Or, again, the teacher gives you a teaching, you say, no thank you, I don't need that one. And the teacher shows you, that's exactly the one you asked for. But sometimes, which is a happy story, you ask for teaching and they teach you and you get the answer. That's great, that's part of the story. And that actually is a conscious, that's in consciousness, in the conceivable realm of consciousness, that's a reflection of the way things really are. But the way things really are


cannot really be seen in consciousness, just you get a little reflection of it. Just like when you look in the mirror and you see your reflection, that's not you in the mirror. You're a little bit more fleshy than that thing in the mirror. But, you know, you can kind of, oh, who's that? And then from certain angles, who's that? But you're far beyond who's that and who's that or who's that? Much more than that. So synchronicity is really the nature of that relationship. Also, as I mentioned to you before, when I'm supposed to give a Dharma talk and I have nothing to say, that openness happens at the same time with an abundance of stuff being available, which is kind of nice. And sometimes, also,


if I have nothing to talk about, I just open a book and there it is. It's like, this is it. Just like I didn't plan today to give three stories about those two teachers. Even this... I did not intend to bring up any of them. Well, actually, the first one I did intend to bring up, but the other one just came out. This topic is about consciousness, so I didn't think that I was going to bring up... I had three stories about people who are focusing on consciousness, the study of consciousness as the path. Just by coincidence that that was the title of this topic, of this retreat, which most of you didn't know and didn't care about. Because you just came anyway, you know? And then you found out that was the topic. But I showed it to... Elizabeth knew about it. I showed it to her, and she gave me some feedback. Eileen saw it, right? Anybody else see it? Yeah, some people saw it. Yeah, and you forgot it.


And I kind of remembered it. But I didn't... But I also felt like, I'll just go there and it will come... I have a consciousness, so when I get there, I'll just look in there and there will be the... I'll study it, and then that will be what we're doing together. And then you joined me. You studied your consciousness, and there was something there. It wasn't there to study. Yeah, a lot there. So thank you. Yes? So you were saying that if there's a call, there's always a response. And if you miss the response, then you're missing half your life. Is that something? Or missing... Yeah, you're missing part... I don't know if it's half. You're missing the wholeness of your life, yes. And actually... But actually, you consciously are going to miss part of it, because this relationship is going on non-stop. And you're going to get distracted from that.


You may not distract... Consciousness is a distraction from the inconceivable life we have together. It's a distraction, you could say, or it's a reduction of it. So in the reduced version of your infinite relationships in the universe of where you're responding and requesting... Consciousness is a small version of that. So in consciousness, this process which doesn't miss a beat has a beat. And we're going to miss it somewhat. But you understand that that's just the way consciousness is. And we have to remember the teaching. And then we look and we see, I'm making a request and I don't see the response. And that is one type of friendship. Or if somebody is giving me a response that I don't think... Somebody is coming and giving me something which I didn't think I asked for. Okay, I definitely think I didn't ask for it, but Parinjanji said all these things that you don't think you asked for is the Buddha coming to give you what you asked for.


And you don't see it yet, you don't get it yet, but you hear the teaching. How did I ask for this? How could this be what I asked for? These various things that come. Exactly. Even that look on your face. And then sometimes, maybe often, you feel like I asked and there it was. That's great too. That's part of it. But there's the other ones. I was going to tell this story but I thought it was too long. But now I'm going to tell it. And Elizabeth looks at the clock and so did I. I'm going to not tell the whole thing, but basically it's a story from a book called The Kite Runner. How many people read it? Anyway, my wife said, I think you might like this book. It's kind of a boy's book in a way, because it's about boys, mostly. It's about these two boys.


And these two boys, one of the boys, they both have fathers and they don't know at the beginning of the book that they have the same father. But they do know that they love each other very much. And the narrator of the book really knows that this other boy who he lives with really loves him. He knows that. He knows this boy would give his life for him. And again, to make the story short, an occasion arises where the narrator's dear, dear friend in his vision is being raped by a gang of boys and he doesn't do anything to help him and runs away. And the way the guy wrote it, I kind of felt like, somehow it just made me feel like that's the worst thing I heard of anybody ever doing. I mean, it's worse,


it's almost like worse than... In a way, he was beating the guy up. He was participating in the rape, but worse than that, you know, he wasn't taking responsibility for it and this guy was his most beloved friend. I thought, I just thought, no, this is impossibly terrible. In other words, if I did that, I would really feel bad. So that's the story. And then, and then he does, and then because of that, he wants somebody to find out and punish him, but he's not going to tell anybody. But he wishes, you know, somebody would find out and he'd get the response. This is very difficult to see, how when you see somebody being brutalized and you don't help them, that you're not helping them is a request for a response. That you're not helping somebody


who needs help and you're not helping them, you're asking for a response. Guess what response you're asking for? You're asking for some super strong pain. That's what you're asking for. You're asking, would somebody please show me that this is really not the right idea. I'm doing this, I want, he couldn't confess and repent. And then because he couldn't confess and repent, the root of that kind of stuff was not melted away and he did other cruel things to this boy who continued after that because the boy didn't know he saw him and ran away. That boy continued to be kind to him and be devoted to him and he continued to do cruel things to that boy and not get any, and nobody finding out. And deepening and deepening and deepening


the root of that transgressions from kindness towards the person who most, he knew most he should give it to. It's just like, I was really like caught by that horror. And then they grow up, again to make a long story short, they grow up, this is taking place in Afghanistan, they grow up and they grow up into adulthood, into the era, the early era, the early years of the Taliban. And the boy who raped his best friend becomes a big wheel in the Taliban. And the narrator somehow has gone and come from Afghanistan a couple of times. Now he comes back into Afghanistan, he has no standing in this Taliban world and this guy who he knew as one of his people in his social world and he grew up with and spent time with


after this rape, this guy captures him as a whatever and takes him into custody and starts beating him and beats [...] him and he's just about dead and he understands that this is what he'd been asking for for twenty years and he starts laughing. How funny it is that being beaten to death is what I've been asking for and now I'm getting it finally. Thank you, thank you. And of course as soon as he gets it it's done its job and he starts laughing and when he starts laughing the guy's, you know, and he's free. Basically that's the reason. But he didn't quite...


At the beginning of the beating he didn't understand this is what I've been asking for. He didn't see it, that that was what he's requesting. But he got it finally and that was... And when you get that what's happening to you is something you requested and what you're doing is a response. This is friendship. This is friendship and when you get it you're fine, you're happy, you're free and even though the person's beating you or yelling at you when you get that it's like, Oh, I get the joke, how wonderful. That's happened to me sometimes, you know. I remember one time somebody turned into a... Not a person, I won't say exactly how tall, but anyway, they were not six feet tall but suddenly they were eight feet tall burning demon and I just looked at them and I said, Okay. Okay, thank you. I knew it was love.


I was enlightened in that regard. I wasn't abiding in this thing of being my enemy. It wasn't my enemy. It was love coming to me as a fierce flame and I accepted, I realized, I requested it and I got it. Sometimes you request the demon to come and shake you out of your laziness and it doesn't come and you're just keeping lazy. Sometimes you're being lazy like lazy like not telling the truth, lazy like not, you know, lazy and not giving your heart, you know, and people kind of let you just say, Okay. You don't want them to leave you alone. You want to say, You can't, if you're not being kind to people, you want them to say, You can't do that to me. You've got to give your heart to me. You want them to say that. You don't want them to get by with it and then when they don't let you get by with it at first you say, Oh, I didn't ask for that. But if it comes stronger and stronger, eventually you say, Oh, thanks.


Thank you. I was asking for it. Thank you. But it has to get pretty bad sometimes before you finally realize, Oh yeah, I did ask for it. You know, like a little bit of cancer I didn't ask for. A little bit more, no, no, no. But when it gets really bad you realize, Oh, I did ask for this. Yes, thank you. And then you're free. You still have cancer, but he still was beaten half to death, but he was free. Until the next lazy thing he does. Yes? I'm just feeling confused by the last part of saying the cancer, so like I get the tight runner who did something pretty awful so he was asking for something pretty awful, or the same level of intensity but then I think, Well, okay, if someone's cancerous, you know, every myriad of horrors that can happen to people in the world, like in New Orleans. Yeah, you're not supposed to look at other people and say this though.


You're not supposed to say they asked for it. It's only for yourself. So every horrible thing that's happened... Everything horrible that happens to me is because I asked for it. That's what Tore Zenji said, right? When these terrible things come, this is the Buddha coming to help me become free of my past karma. It's not like blaming yourself for it. It's not blaming yourself, I'm a bad person because it's happening to me. No, I asked for this so I can respond to it. I asked for this, this is the response, now I get to respond to that I remember that I asked for it. This is what the Zen master does when they get whatever it is, you name it. The likelihood of one of us being beaten to death I would say is less than one of us getting cancer. So I mentioned cancer like, okay, beat to death, fine, but how about cancer,


which is probably going to happen, or a heart attack. When I got my heart attack, I felt pretty good about it. I felt like, yeah, this is probably the way I'm going to go. If I get cancer, I'd think, well, that surprises me, I thought I was going to get a heart attack. So I don't know if the way I'm going to die is the way I think I probably will. But I do, whatever the way it comes is, I want to say thank you, welcome, I've been waiting for this opportunity. I've been training for this. Here it comes. This is what I've been waiting for. I want to say thank you, here we go. Now is the time. Rather than, no, no, no, not this one, I want that one. Later. So if you say okay to this, fine, okay to this, fine, this one is like, I didn't ask for this one. That's one type of friendship


is one type of communion is the ones where we don't think we invited the response. We don't think we asked for it. And the other one is I asked for X and I didn't get it. That's also a kind of relationship. There are such relationships. That's friendship too. It's friendship to say please help me and not get a response. I mean, I shouldn't say, it's friendship to ask for help and get help that you don't see. That's friendship. That's one type. Another type is you get help that you don't think you asked for. And the help you get sometimes that you don't think you asked for is a really strong negative feedback that you don't think you asked for. This is, you know. And the other one is you say give me some really strong teaching, give me some strong feedback, and you get it. And then sometimes after people get it they say, actually, I didn't want that strong. That's quite frequent.


Or that wasn't strong enough. Like people said to Suzuki Roshi, in the early days of Tathagata they said, Roshi, would you be more strict with us? And he said, Okay, when you store the brooms, do them with the head up. And that's a form which we're still trying to practice at Zen Center, and you can practice that in Oboe too, by the way. I found a broom with the head down out there. I put it up, head up. That's a little strictness around here. Put the brooms up. And that strictness did not cause all the monks at Tathagata to leave. And the broom down, last time I looked, in the garage here, the brooms were head up, and the shovels were head up. But if they're not, and I see somebody put them down, I might say, You want some feedback? And they might say, No, I didn't ask for any feedback. And they might say,


Yes. And I say, Would you put the head up? And they might say, Whatever, you know. But that's not too bad, right? Put the head of the broom up? And he said that because he thought the Americans probably could handle that. And we could. And then we said, Well, why aren't you more strict with us? He said, Well, because you'll leave. I don't want you to leave. I came here to be with you guys. But some teachers, you know, if there's a lot of teachers around, some teachers then push it a little bit further to see if the people can realize that they asked for it. Because if they run away from this teacher, then they can go to another teacher, which they have the other teachers set up waiting for them. So, there's quite a few stories of the Zen teacher giving the feedback to students saying, I've had it. And the teacher says, Well, okay, I know you've had it. I accept. But go see so-and-so. And they go see so-and-so. And so-and-so shows them how kind the other teacher was.


And they see it. They can't see it from the teacher, but they can see it from the teacher's friend. So the teacher, you know, sometimes you squeeze them and they can't stand him. Okay, okay, go see her. And they go see her and say, Oh, he did that? Wow. What a sweetheart. What? Oh. It's to wake up, right? It's to wake up from, No, that's too much. I didn't ask for this. This is not the life I asked for. You know that one? That's one type of friendship, the one where I didn't ask for this life. The other one is I asked for life and didn't get it. The other one is I asked for it and I got it. There's that. But they're all just derivatives of basic reality is we are living in peace and harmony and that's what we can wake up to. And today, we kind of woke up to it, didn't we? And then there was a pause and we wake up again and there's pause. It's got a rhythm. Okay?


So thank you so much. I don't want to keep you too late. Thank you. Thank you. You're welcome.