Facing the Wall for Nine Years 

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We are, it seems to me, we are in some conventional way, we're rather fragile beings, we're subject to change. We exist for a moment and then we disappear and another person appears somewhere in the neighborhood of where the previous person was. And in this way, there is constant flow of beings and we get to be a being now, and again now. And because we're changing all the time, because we're a changing being, we tend maybe to become afraid of what


will happen when we change. Will we be pretty? Will we be fair? I wonder what will happen to me. Que sera, sera. And we're afraid, so in our fear we may wish to live, to be eternal, to last. In our fear we may think we'll be destroyed, but the Buddha said we don't last and we're not destroyed. We are constantly changing beings, leading to constantly changing beings. And yet, we also, even though we hear this and accept it to some extent, some part of us is afraid of this process of change and has difficulty and discomfort with it. This is natural for us. So I'm encouraging us, and myself included, to try to be intimate


with the fragility and instability of our being. And I wish to be intimate with my fragile impermanent self because I think that's a way to protect myself and to protect others. I wish to protect beings from harm. I can't protect beings from change, but I wish to protect beings from harm. And what I think the way to protect beings from harm is to be intimate with them. I think by being intimate with beings who are changing, we can protect beings from harm. Impermanent beings are also not only in danger of harm, but they're


in danger of fear. So caring for impermanent fragile beings means often to care for beings who are afraid. So if I'm afraid, or I meet you and you're afraid, I wish to be intimate with you and me in order to protect you and me from harm. And if I can be intimate with your fear and my fear, there can be fearlessness. And when there's fearlessness, fearlessness is part of what helps us protect beings. So we're not afraid to go where things are changing. There may be fear, but we're intimate with the fear, so we're fearless with the fear. Another thing we do in order to, another thing I wish to practice in order to protect beings


is to be careful of all my actions. And my actions are the way I'm with other beings. So be careful of other beings. Be careful. Be vigilant. Be alert. And so I'm saying that giving up trying to control this process of change, I feel, enhances the protection of beings. That if I try to control, that generally speaking, nourishes the fear. So when I say I try to give up trying to control this process of change, that goes with being careful. Being careful, but not careful to control, but careful because I think careful is good and


protective of beings. Some time ago there was an article in the New Yorker about emergency rooms that have checklists, and how much more successful they are if they have checklists. So I think it's good to have checklists. Like I think it's good that Nurbert tells you to be careful of the poison oak, and he puts little flags where the poison oak is, and suggests that you wash your hands afterwards. This is a checklist that he recommends, and not to put your hands on your face before you wash them after you're working out there. This is being careful of our bodies. This is trying to protect beings from harm. But it doesn't have to be that you're trying to control. Matter of fact, you know, I can't control these people. I can't even control myself. I can't control the poison oak. But I wish to be careful of poison oak, and I


wish to teach others to be careful of poison oak, and other things. And hornets, we have hornets too. But we also wish to be careful. We also wish to protect the hornets. So we're going to do some work out there, and in order to do certain work, the workers say that they have to either remove the hornets, or kill the hornets, in order to work near the hornets. So I will inquire whether we can move the hornets. Because I don't think cutting the trees down are that important, that we have to kill the hornets. And maybe we'll find out, well, we can't do the work now, and we can't move the hornets, but later in the year we can move the hornets, or something. So I will inquire about this to protect the workers, the trees, and the hornets. But I do not think I'm going to be able to control the situation.


I actually am very much focusing on that I cannot control this world. I cannot control my life. My life is heading on an uncontrolled path. Towards, I understand, what we call death. Soon I will be dead. But I hope that before I die, I have quite a few moments where I was caring for beings without trying to control them. Then my life would be somewhat worthwhile. If I was protecting beings without harming them, by trying to control them. Some people harm beings while trying to protect them, in the form of controlling them. It's so sad, because they want to protect the beings, but they don't understand that controlling them hurts them. I mean, trying to, you can't control them, but trying to control them hurts them, I say. Trying to control beings is an insult to them. And if they love you and respect you, when you insult them, they think


that they're insult worthy. Insult worthy. Because you're their daddy, or mommy, or teacher. You're their best friend. So if you think that they're worthy of insult, they must be not so good. I think, let's teach people that they're awesome. Let's teach people that they're vast. And no one can control them. Let's teach them that by treating them that way. By putting our hands together and bowing to them, and honoring them, and saying, I would like to protect you. I'm your protector. I'm not your controller. I'm the protector of a great being. I'm not the controller of a great being. But great beings need protection too. Great beings are impermanent and fragile. Great beings can be harmed. We can help. We can protect great beings. But if they're great beings, we're not going to


try to control them. We're not going to try to control Buddha. We're not going to try to control great Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas. We're going to honor them, and we're going to say, excuse me, dear master, but did you really want to turn left there? I think that's actually a dangerous direction to go. And then they maybe say, oh, thank you. I got disoriented. I'm a great being, but I got disoriented. Yes, you did, sir. You got disoriented. That's why I asked you if you wanted to go that way. I thought you were disoriented. But you weren't trying to control me, were you? No. How could anyone control you? Only the whole universe can control you. But if the whole universe is controlling you, you are equally controlling the whole universe. So, again, let's be careful. Let's learn to be careful and conscientious and vigilant with each other and with ourselves to protect ourselves without slipping into


grabbing and holding on and controlling, because that's impossible, really. It's disrespectful to think so, and then it's harmful to act on that disrespect. But when I say this, I say it at the same time. And also, if we're not careful with each other, or even if we turn the carefulness into trying to control them, even if we use our vigilance to try to control beings, this is called non-virtue in my book. In my little precept book, trying to control beings is non-virtue. The virtuous Buddhas do not try to control beings. If Buddhas could control beings, everyone would be Buddha, because that's what Buddhas want everybody to be. Buddhas want


all beings to be Buddhas, so if they're in control, they just make everybody Buddhas. But they can't. What they do is they show beings how to protect. They protect beings. They are careful with beings. They watch beings vigilantly. And they show beings, I'm totally here for you, but I can't control you. And if I can't control you, I'm a Buddha, how could anyone else? So if the great Buddhas can't control us, they don't mention about other people. But I can give you the teaching. I can show you how to protect beings, but I can't control you to practice what I teach you. But I can continue to offer this to you. Now, if I'm not a Buddha, I may forget, while I'm trying to benefit beings, while I'm trying to protect beings, I may forget and slip into trying to control them. I may slip into non-virtue. I may slip into abusing people by trying to control them.


And there's a lot of reasons why I might try to control. People may say, control your students! Get your students under control! Get them to line them up over there! Control your children! Control your dog! So when people are talking disrespectfully and rude to me like that, I might get frightened and say, okay, I guess I should control my dogs and my students and my spouses and my girlfriends and my boyfriends and get everybody under control so these people stop hassling me. No. I have to be careful of the people who are hassling me and say, oh, I want to be careful and gentle with the hasslers who are hassling me and who are insulting me to think that they can control me into controlling my people. I used to try to control my people. I found out I couldn't. So I said, no, I can't. I can't control them. So I'm not going to try anymore. And if you hassle me and threaten me, I'll try not to control you and make you stop threatening me.


But really, secretly, I'm not going to try to control anybody. I'm going to be stubborn about that, in a gentle way, in a not rigid way, I'm going to be stubborn and not try to control you guys. However, I may forget what I just said I'm going to do and slip into trying to control you into being excellent Zen masters. I might try to force you into being brilliant Buddhists. I might. And if I do that, then what I do is I confess and repent my non-virtue. And by confessing that, I did kind of slip into trying to control you into being happy. I did try to control you into being safe. I did try to control you into being wise and calm. When I said, would you please calm down? I didn't just say calm down. I was trying to control you into calming down when I said that.


I confess it. And that is said to be the supreme way to protect beings, is to confess when we're practicing non-virtue towards them. Because a lot of times, we slip. So, if we can be virtuous to beings, that means we can protect beings. If we forget and slip into disrespecting them and treating them like possessions, like shattles, like cattle, domesticated cattle. If we start treating beings like that, then we confess and repent. And this confession and repentance protects beings. Confession and repentance of non-virtue protects beings from non-virtue. And it also shows them the practice of confession. The virtuous practice of confession. I have a pretty heavy question to ask.


Okay. I'll try to get ready for it. I'm meeting with a friend for lunch tomorrow that is dying. And I met with her last week, and I have, I think, maybe one more opportunity to see her. She is dying of a liver... Sclerosis of the liver. Right. And her family has lied to her. They're not telling her that she's dying. They're saying, your liver has a chance of healing. But everybody's saying, no, she's dying. She will be dying. And I think she must know, because hospice is there. And last, I felt like my time with her wasn't authentic, because I played with the game of


pretending. But at the same time, I feel it's such a big topic that it's really not my place. I don't want to be harmful. I don't want to say anything that would be harmful. So do I just play with it? Or do I bring up the topic of death? Well, I think playing with it is a good thing to do with it. Go play with her. And just pretend? No, no. Oh yeah, and pretend you're playing with her. Pretend I don't know that she's dying? Yeah, you could pretend that. You could go and pretend. You could say, I don't know that you're dying. You could say that to her. That might be very helpful for you to say, I don't know if you're dying. You could also go and say, I don't know if I'm dying. Hi, my name is Jackie. I don't know if


I'm dying. I heard that I'm going to. But I don't know if I am. But actually, now that I said that, I think I'm going to. I feel like I'm dying. How about you? How do you feel? I think playing with her is a good time to start playing with her. When people are dying, it's a really good time to start playing. Whereas most people, when people are dying, they say, no, no, no, we can't play here. And people who are dying love for children to come and play with them. Granddaddy, what's that thing on your face, granddaddy? Can I touch it? Granddaddy, come and play with me. Don't leave him alone. He can't play anymore. Why not? I think playing with people is always a good thing to do. Pretending with people is good. But when you're pretending, you're pretending, but you're not asking them to believe that you're not


pretending. When children are pretending, like, I'm the doctor and you're the nurse now, I'm not expecting you to believe that I'm a doctor. So, yeah, go pretend with her. Go pretend that you're not dying and she's not dying. Tell her, today I want to play a game with you called, I'm never going to die. Want to play that game with me? And she may say, what are you talking about? Of course you're going to die. Well, I just want to play a game, that's all. That's not a fun game. It wasn't? Oh, sorry. And then try again until she starts to play with it herself and then starts playing with her own death. You don't know when she's going to die. I don't know when she's going to die. So if her family says you're not going to die, maybe they're right. Maybe she's not going to die this week or next week. I don't know. But I might die. So if I might die, maybe you would die. So let's play. And if we can start playing with this living and dying,


we can take care of it. We can be careful. When you're playing, you're not necessarily not careful. Playing baseball, playing cards, playing dolls. If you watch children play, they're very careful about the way they play. They very carefully cheat. And they very carefully want other people to follow the rules. They're very careful. They're very concentrated. They're very particular. But they also know that they're pretending. There's some play there. But they understand that this is a game. This is a pretense. So yeah, I would go play with her. And it isn't like, oh, here comes Jackie and she's going to tell the truth. You don't have to do that. You love this person. Do you? Yes. Yeah. Go and love her. And show her how to play. It's very easy for people who are visiting


their loved ones who are sick to tense up. And not be playful. They don't need anybody to do that with them. They already know how to be tense about their illness. They know how to be afraid. How about you going and being afraid with them and showing them how to play when we're afraid? Like, you know, when you're dancing, you know, you may be afraid that you're not dancing well. Fine. But let's now play with that fear. And then we can dance. There's not much time left for any of us. So let's play together and be creative together and be free together. That's what I would say to do with her. Not be the big law carrier with the tablets of truth. You are going to die, you know, soon. You should face this. You know, if your family doesn't want to do that, you don't have to do it. But they may not be able to be playful. But if they are, join the play. The point is for her to become enlightened as soon as possible.


That's what's important. For her to become free. That's what we want for her. And if she lives for two more weeks, great. If she's free. And if she lives for 20 more years and she's not free and doesn't know how to play, that's too bad. So teach her, learn yourself how to play as soon as possible and go play with her. Go have a good time with her. Have a beautiful visit. And be as truthful as you can without telling her what the truth is. Because that's not very polite to go around telling people what the truth is. It's not polite to tell people what the truth is. But I think it's polite to say, you know what I think is true? And she might say, what? And you say, I think it's true that I love you. I think it's true that I feel gratitude to have you as a friend all these years. I think it's true that I care about you and I want you to be happy. And are you? And that's your truth. Give her your truth, but that's not the truth.


I'm glad you're going to go see her tomorrow. When I asked you once when I was going to go see somebody who was dying and I was just all torn up, I didn't know what I could say to them. I just thought I needed some brilliant Buddhist enlightening thing to say. And you advised me to not say anything. I didn't need to say anything. You don't need to say anything. That was such a relief that it was fine to just go and be with them. Yeah, just go and be quiet. Yeah. Like a baby who can't even talk. Just go, you know, play with their face. Pull their cheeks. Touch their nose. Stroke their hair. Lick them. Just like, you know, get close. Touch them. Show them I'm not afraid to touch you. I'm okay to be with you. I'm not here to fix you. I'm here to be careful with you. I'm going to touch you carefully.


I'm going to touch you lovingly. You don't have to say anything. You don't have to fix anything. And yet, without fixing, we're careful, we're vigilant, we're gentle, we're not trying to control. This is a tremendous gift to give to people when they're in excellent health or really sick and everything in between. Whatever age. Little tiny babies, people who are on the verge of death. Well, little tiny babies are often on the verge of death. Very young people who are on the verge of death and very old people who are on the verge of death. Everybody's always on the verge of death. Everybody. Babies can drop dead like that. Old people can drop dead like that. We can drop dead like that. We're always on the verge of it. So let's love one another. And what's the next line?


Let's love one another right now. Right now, right. That's the part. Right now. Let's love one another right now. And again, and again. Carefully. Again, you can love someone and not be careful. Like a poem by Yeats. A mermaid found a swimming lad, picked him for her own, pressed her body to his body, laughed. And plunging down, forgot, in cruel happiness that even lovers can drown. Can drown. We have to be careful of our lovers. We have to be careful of them. Of course, we're happy to be


with them, but we have to be careful. I hope I was careful enough with you today. Because I did kind of press my body to your body and I was pretty happy. So I hope I didn't hurt you. I hope nobody drowned today. And this year, for good share this year, one of the, in a sense, you could say theme songs or theme stories of this year has been the story of our ancestor, ancestors, Dong An number two and Liang Shan. So Liang Shan was a Chinese


priest who was a student of another Chinese priest named Dong An. And one day when Liang Shan was handing Dong An his robe, Dong An said, what is the business under the patch robe? And so this says here, this calligraphy says, what is the business under the patch robe? Which I wrote in the back of your own Raksu. And who else is, anybody else here in that coordination group? So I wrote that in the back of the last group of coordinations. What is, what is the business under the patch robe? This character, this bottom character here means business. But it also means phenomena. What's the phenomena under the robe? What's the affair? What's going on under the robe of the Bodhisattva?


What's going on under the robe of the Bodhisattva? That was the question that the teacher asked the student and the student said nothing. And the teacher said, to practice the Buddha way and not reach this realm of this phenomena under the robe, that's the most painful thing. And the teacher said, now you ask me. And the student said, what is the business under the patch robe? So this says what, this says is, this says patch, this says robe, this says under. This is phenomena or affair or business. What is, what is the patch robe under business? What is the business beneath the patch robe?


The student asked the teacher and the teacher said, intimacy. And the student and the teacher were awakened together deeply. And the teacher said, maybe the teacher said, do you understand now? And the student said, yes sir. He said, can you prove it? And the student said, yes. Ask me the question again. And the teacher said to the student, what is the business under the patch robe? And the student said, intimacy. Intimacy. So now you, now you know. The business under the patch robe is intimacy.


The business under the patch robe is being intimate with your fear. The business under the patch robe is to be caring for and protecting beings intimately. The business under the patch robe is to be close to everybody and playful with everybody and not try to control anybody. Be devoted to everybody without trying to control them. Like I'm devoted to Alenia and Eileen without trying to control what they do here at Nobode. They've got a lot of projects in mind that they want to do. They tell me about their projects and I say, no thank you, I don't want to do that. But I don't try to control them, you know, by saying that. So they ask me again and again and I say, hello. They've got a lot of ideas on how to take care of this place and I'm not trying to control them.


I'm devoted to them, I'm careful of them, but they're not under my control. And I don't want them to be. And I don't want you to be. And you're not. That part we've got. You're not under my control. So I offer you these copies of this calligraphy if you'd like to take one home today. You can have one. And the circle in the middle is the triple jewel seal. And the writing on the left side is my name and my seal. And my name, this part of my name, can be translated as the whole works. You could also say the business under the patch robe is the whole works. The whole works is intimacy. That's what the whole works is. The whole works is you being authentically who you are,


whatever that is at the moment. And in order to be authentically who you are, you have to be playful with who you are. You have to be not too tight about who you are. Even if you're tight, you have to be relaxed about being tight. Then you'll be authentically tight. Totally tight. And when you're totally tight, you're not tight at all. So you all look very happy, so maybe we should stop before anybody gets depressed. May our intention equally extend to every being and place with the true merit of Buddha's way.


Beings are numberless. I vow to save them. Delusions are inexhaustible. I vow to end them. Dharma gates are boundless. I vow to enter them. Buddha's way is unsurpassable. I vow to become it. Could you put these over there, please? Oh, that story appears in the book, in the Transmission of Light, case number 41, I believe. The 41st ancestor in our 92 or 93 generation lineage was Liangshan, number 40.


Dengshan? No, Dengshan was more like about... 38? Dengshan was 38. This is 40 and 41, these two guys. 50 years later. Same country, different time. Good old China.