Gazing at a Tree for Ten Eons

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A virtual Dharma talk by Tenshin Roshi for an online gathering of the No Abode Community.

AI Summary: 



Okay, I have been invited to offer teachings at the time when we usually have a January intensive at Green Gulch in 19, excuse me, 21, and I said, okay, so we're gonna have a kind of teaching intensive. It will be very different from in the past when people came to Green Gulch, came down into the valley and sat through the storms and the cold and the dark together. So now we're gonna offer an online teaching intensive.


And the focus of the practice and study that I'm offering is the Lotus Sutra, the wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, Sadharma Pundarika Sutra. So since I am committing to that focus. I have been renewing my study and meditation and contemplation of the Lotus Sutra. In this process, I have come to consider chapter seven. of the Lotus Sutra. And today, I thought I might talk to you about some of the inspirations and perspectives that have arisen in my body and mind about chapter seven of the Lotus Sutra.


The name of the chapter in the translation from Sanskrit to Chinese to English is The Magical City or The Conjured City. And if I go through I could go through this beginning of this chapter and just go through and try not to comment on it as I do. But I'm thinking that would really be hard for me because I would be inspired to comment as I go. But I'm going to try to tell you the beginning of the chapter. And I'm going to not only try to tell you the beginning of the chapter, but I think I would recommend if you want to, you could start reading the Lotus Sutra if you'd like to participate in the January Teaching Intensive.


And, uh, Today, I don't think it's practical for me to go through the whole chapter seven. As a matter of fact, I don't think it's practical for me to even go through in detail the beginning. So I'm going to give you like a children's version of the beginning of chapter seven. The chant which we did at the beginning, as we were doing it, I thought, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, how relevant the chant that I chanted at the beginning, how relevant it is to the Lotus Sutra. So again, I'm not surprised because every time I chant that, it's always relevant to whatever I'm planning on talking about, and yet I'm still surprised how relevant it is to everything I'm going to talk about.


And now I feel like I should restrain myself. I'm getting kind of inspired now. And so now calm down, Reb. Don't get too inspired about this. But the beginning of the chant that I did earlier was, I vow from this life on through countless life to hear the true Dharma. Of course, that applies to the Lotus Sutra. I vow to hear the true Dharma of the Lotus Sutra. So here's chapter seven in the children's version. Okay, ready? Once upon a time, there was a Buddha named great penetrating wisdom excellence.


Since that Buddha passed into extinction, since that Buddha passed into complete nirvana, a very long time has passed. And then in the Sutra, it goes into great detail on how long ago it was that this Buddha passed into nirvana. So part of what the sutra starts out doing is inviting the reader or the writer or the chanter to go into, I don't know what to call it.


You could say mind boggling or mind expanding investigation of inconceivable time. So at the beginning of this Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha is talking, and this Shakyamuni is not the historical Shakyamuni, but you could say the bliss body Shakyamuni, which I'll talk about more later. also called sometimes the cosmic Shakyamuni Buddha, is telling us about this ancient Buddha named Great Penetrating Wisdom Excellence, who lived such a long time ago. Now that I'm telling you about this, I'm not going to go into the details of telling you how long ago, but basically,


almost infinite distance in the past this Buddha lived. And if you read the Sutra, reading it might help you sort of like, I mean, yeah, if you read it, you might have trouble. I would have trouble, and I did have trouble reading through the description of how long ago it was. And Some of us might even give up reading how long ago it was, because it takes so long to read how long ago it was. But that's part of what the sutra is doing, it's saying, initiate yourself by reading this inconceivable language, this language of the inconceivable. So then after describing this inconceivable time since this buddha lived then shakyamuni buddha says but he lived such a long time ago but so here's the kind of the in some sense the what do you call it the um the punch line he lived so long ago but this is the setup for shakyamuni buddha's little joke but


because I employ the great function of the Tathagata, when I look at this Buddha, it's as though I were witnessing this Buddha right now. Once again, he tells us it has been a virtually inconceivably long time since that Buddha passed into complete nirvana. But because I'm a Buddha, I use the Buddha's powers. And when I look, I can actually look at that Buddha who lived so long ago as though I'm witnessing him enter nirvana right now.


one of the qualities of the bodhisattva path is that it involves practicing in a way so that we can actually see the ancient buddhas as though they were here right now. And then Shakyamuni Buddha goes on to say that this Buddha, this ancient Buddha, who he can see right now, lived a very long time.


So he lived a very long time ago and he lived a very long time. And now it comes to the part of the suture that has recently inspired me so much, which is that it says, This Buddha originally sat on the place of enlightenment. And then it says, some translations say, after smashing the armies of Mara, And the word smashing is rather kind of violent.


We could say instead of smashing, delightment maybe a little bit and say after subduing the armies of Mara. So Mara is, sometimes considered the head of all the various deadening forces of our life. Mar is related to the word marana, death. So Mar is the leader of the deadening forces of life. all the ways that living beings, not just humans, but all the ways that living beings deaden their life. He had subdued them.


This Buddha had subdued them. And the chant I did earlier, I said, I said, I chanted that after meeting the true Dharma, we will renounce worldly affairs. Worldly affairs are the deadening influences of our life. They're the ways we distract ourselves from the practice. And in particular for this Buddha, they are the ways, the distractions from sitting on the seat of enlightenment. So again, this Buddha lived a really long time, a really long time ago, Shakyamuni Buddha tells us.


And he originally sat on the seat, the place of enlightenment, after subduing all distractions from sitting on the seat of enlightenment. Or another way to put it would be, This ancient Buddha just sat wholeheartedly at the place of enlightenment after subduing all distractions from sitting at that place. And again, another way to say it is he sat on that place


after turning all distractions from sitting at that place into opportunities to sit at that place. After turning distractions from the practice of sitting at the place of enlightenment into opportunities to remember and sit at the place of enlightenment. In this situation, worldly affairs, the deadening influences represented by Mara, are the ways we are distracted from sitting like this Buddha on the seat of enlightenment.


So in this Buddha's long life, this Buddha had managed to not be distracted anymore from where she was. And she sat there. but this isn't the end of the story. Here we have now the Buddha sitting undistractedly at this place of enlightenment. And then, celestial beings come and offer him a seat upgrade. Like he was sitting at the place of enlightenment, but it was kind of coach class, I guess.


So then they offered him a first class seat of enlightenment. and he accepted the gift and sat on the lion throne on the seat, on the place of awakening. Then another group of celestial beings started to rain celestial flowers down on him. And then another group started to play celestial drums, started beating celestial drums in honor of his sitting at this place of awakening. And they continued this, these flower offerings and these musical offerings for the rest of his existence, all the way to his complete perfect nirvana.


Now this Buddha sitting at the seat, he was sitting there and he had gotten over all kinds of distractions. He had given up all worldly affairs, supposedly. But the Buddhadharma had still not appeared to him. And because the Buddha Dharma did not appear to him, he, she did not realize unsurpassed, complete, perfect enlightenment. Anyutthaya samyak sambodhi. He did not realize it because the Dharma of the Buddhas did not appear, even though he had come this far and was sitting in the place he should sit. But he can, even though it hadn't appeared, he continued to practice.


And he practiced sitting there for 10, I don't know why they say it, but 10 minor kalpas. Now a kalpa is an eon, a very long time. but he sat for 10 minor eons, not 10 big ones. So 10 little eons, he sat there on this seat, upright, cross-legged, and unmoving. And I was talking to someone about this story who had read it, and he said, I think it took him so long I think he had to sit for 10 eons because these deities were distracting him and hassling him with all these offerings. And I thought, yeah, right.


After we sit on the seat of enlightenment and are not distracted by any worldly things, then we get a whole new set of distractions offered us by divine forces in the form of praising us and honoring us. So once we're sitting at this seat, totally dedicated to it, Then we enter into a long period of being tested by basically the whole universe offering us opportunities to continue to sit. And


I've just briefly mentioned that he did sit for 10 eons with these celestial distractions being poured upon him and sung to him and drummed to him. And after 10 eons, he did finally experience the Buddha Dharma appearing before him. And he did realize Anutara Samyak Sambodhi. And that was the abbreviated version of the first chapter, of the beginning of chapter seven. Now what I'd like to emphasize is now back at the seat to see how this seat is our practice right now.


This sutra, this story in this sutra, who is this story being told to? For whom is this story being told? I would suggest that this story is being told for us. to us and for us. What does this have to do with our life now? I guess what I'm suggesting to you at this point, to make a long story short, that I hear the Sutra telling us that there is not the slightest gap between that Buddha, inconceivably long ago, sitting on that seat, and each of us right now.


Our sitting right now is not the slightest bit separate from that ancient Buddha's sitting. And everything that comes to us sitting on this seat, we could understand as celestial flowers falling upon us to encourage us to sit with that Buddha and realize the Buddhadharma and Great Awakening. I see this beginning of this chapter telling us that we are sitting at that seat.


That the practice that this sutra is telling us is that we have the same practice and the same awakening as that Buddha and all Buddhas. and all living beings. We have the same practice as all the other living beings who are sitting at the place of awakening. And as we sit in this place of awakening, We are challenged by the celestial flowers falling on us. We are challenged by the drumbeat of this world.


Challenged to remember that we are on the same path and the same practice as all Buddhas. No matter what's happening, we are at this seat. No matter what we're doing, we are at this seat. No matter what we see, we are at this seat. No matter what we hear, we are at this seat. No matter what we are told, no matter what we are asked, we are at this seat. We are inspired to accept this seat, which is where we already are, and realize that everything that happens is reminding us to do the practice of the Buddhas, which is to sit like this, even for a long time.


Even though we are on the path, which is the same as the Buddha, the Buddha's path is to continue to sit there for a long time. But we are already sitting at the seat with the Buddhas. So that's the beginning of chapter seven. The story about the magical city is towards the end of the fascicle, and someday we may get there. And yeah, I could briefly mention that the magical city is kind of, offered to people who might feel tired at the prospect of sitting at this seat for 10 eons. In our chant, what's it called? The Precious Mirror Samadhi or the Jewel Mirror Samadhi.


In that chant, one of the lines says, when about to attain Buddhahood, one gazed at a tree for 10 eons. That's That's referring to this story. When about to attain Buddhahood, one gazed at a tree for 10 eons, like a tiger leaving part of its prey, like a horse with a white left leg. Another translation is like a wounded tiger, like a shoeless horse. Oops. Can you hear me? I think I made a boo-boo.


We can hear you. You can hear me. I accidentally pressed a button which made me There, now I'm back. So, I'm ready for you to respond to this story if you wish. Aileen, could you call on people if they wish to speak? Your phone is co-hosting and he will call on people. Linda, with an H at the end. Yeah, hello. I don't see myself. I see you.


There you are. Now I see you. Nice to see you, Linda. You disappeared for a while. Well, that's okay. That's interesting. to disappear happens too rarely. So I wanted to ask you if in our praise and adoration of you, we are distracting you from receiving the true Buddha Dharma. Well, I guess I would say, yeah, sometimes. But sometimes I don't fall for it and I don't get distracted. But if you praise me, being praised or blamed, both could be opportunities to remember your job, or you could fall into them and like say, oh, I don't deserve that, right? Or thank you. So praise is another thing which can make you, not make you, which you can miss as an opportunity to remember your real job.


And also from this story, I can check when I have an impulse to praise you or adore you or throw flowers at you or something like that. I can check actually, what am I actually doing? Yeah, I see. I think I'll throw some flowers at him and see how he does with them. Yeah, that would be just for fun. But I couldn't say I... Just now you asked me a question. Yeah. Your question is, I mean, that's like a high quality celestial flower for me. And then you can watch, how do I handle that? And I can watch, how do I handle your question? So all the questions that come to us, all the inquiries are coming to us sitting on this seat. And can we remember and say, basically, thanks for the question. You reminded me of my work.


Thank you. Yeah. Okay, that was fun. That was fun. And your questions are like, you know, you playing the Dharma drum to entertain yourself and all beings. All your questions are boom, boom, boom. Let's play the Dharma drum. Next is Grace Diamond. Okay, Grace. Hi, Reb. Hi, Grace. The way I look at entertainment, do you look at entertainment as being kind of candy to sustain us during what would otherwise be considered bleak times? I was just trying to get the sutra down. Well, thank you for that Dharma flower.


And in a way, the name of this chapter could be called Dharma Candy. Great. The magical city which is brought to Buddha Conjurers is like candy for the students who need to take a break. this magical city is to take a break. The Buddha does offer us break time sometimes in this incredibly challenging work. But he offers it when people are going like, oh, I just can't sit on the seat anymore. Say, okay. Then he makes his magical city and they go, ah, and then they rest and say, okay, you're rested. And then he wipes the magical city away. So sometimes we do need a break. We do need Dharma candy. That's part of the deal. That's part of what this chapter is about. So the chapter starts with telling us, this is our practice.


And then at the end, it starts, people start complaining, it's too hard. And then Buddha says, okay. Then he makes this fabulous city. Everybody goes in, rests and say, okay, you're rested, takes it away. And everybody goes back to work again. So I think your question anticipated finale of the chapter. Thank you. Next is Enrique Valdivia. Okay, Enrique. Good morning. Good morning. It's afternoon here. Oh, I couldn't see you earlier, Enrique, because your picture was Your name was blocked off and I couldn't see who, now I see who it is. You look like you're in the Colosseum in Rome. It's the background from a trip I took. Where is it, the background? It's at a temple in Bhutan.


Yeah, it looks like you're, yeah, in a temple. Okay, Enrique. and having trouble renouncing worldly affairs. And I've been kind of lost in distraction, which is strange, because, you know, due to COVID, and I've had some health issues, I'm not working. It seems like I don't, I shouldn't be distracted. You know, I don't, there's not a whole lot going on, but I find the opposite is happening. And In hearing this story, I was, I'm wondering, is it, am I on the seat anyway, even though I'm feeling distracted? I read this story as saying, we are all on the seat with the Buddha. There's not any separation between that Buddha and us right now. However, if when we feel distracted, that's why I said the chant at the beginning resonates here.


If we do feel distracted and we haven't yet, if we can't understand, we can't believe and understand that we're already at the seat, then we should confess and repent that we don't believe it. That we think we're distracted rather than this distraction is reminding us of where we are. Like I often tell the story, one of the popular stories I tell, which I'm allowed to tell, is my story of going to the DMV several years ago. And this is going to the DMV like the third time to get my new license because of various troubles I ran into of DMV losing my license in the mail, et cetera, et cetera. So my third trip to DMV, I'm waiting in line, and a woman way ahead of me in line calls out to me and says, Reb, hi.


And I say, oh, I see. Oh, hi. And she leaves her place in line ahead of me. And oh, no, first of all, she said, come on up. You can be behind me. I don't accept her gift. So she gives up her seat and comes to talk to me. And she says, how are you? And I say, fine, except I'm at DMV again. And she said, what do you mean? I said, well, and I tell her the story, which I, you know, it's almost as long as the Lotus Sutra, the story that I went through to, be at DMV this third time and everything between the three times that I went through. And now here I am again. And she said, and then she looked at me and she said, you're here in DMV for us. So I was distracted. I forgot that I was sitting at the seat. I thought I was being distracted by being in line at the DMV rather than sitting on the lion throne.


with all the Buddhas and with all beings. I got distracted and she reminded me. So, but I had to confess, I'm distracted. I'm not having a good time at DMV. I'm not sitting on the seat. I had to confess that so she could tell me. So the Buddha in the form of this woman could remind me what I'm at DMV for. When you're at the DMV, you're there to sit on that seat. when yesterday, when I was waiting in the drive-through at the pharmacy, and the person in front of me was sitting in their car at the window for 10 minor kalpas, I got a chance to remember what I'm sitting in that car for. The sutra came to me and said, You're sitting at the seat of awakening in this car waiting to pick up your prescription.


And I practiced sitting at that seat, waiting for the car to move and let me come and pick up the prescription. But in that case, I didn't, I didn't get distracted. I said, before I drove up there, I was already working on this because I was planning to talk to you about this practice. So as I was driving there, as I was driving there, it was the same. You drive to the pharmacy, sitting at the seat. You write your postcards to encourage people to vote. You're sitting at the seat while you write the postcards. You fill out your ballot, and you take it to the drop-off box. But as you're doing these things, you don't move from your seat. But if you do move from your seat, then you say, oh, I forgot my seat.


I forgot that I'm at the DMV for all beings, and I'm sorry. And then you're back. And then I was back. doing my job at the DMV. I was there for all the other people waiting in line. But I had to confess so she could remind me. And you're confessing so I can remind you that all these times when you're distracted, you're there for us. You're there to remember that you're there for us. So this practice is also about patience. This chapter is about patience. It's about generosity. It's about ethics and patience and enthusiasm and tranquility and wisdom. It's about all those practices. And that Buddha had been doing those practices and sat in that seat.


However, we are sitting in the same seat, even though sometimes we seem to have to apparently do remedial work, but it's not really remedial work. It's done at the seat. The Lotus Sutra is saying you don't have to wait to get on the seat. You're already on the seat. However, sometimes when some celestial flowers maybe are a little rotten, maybe sometimes feel like people are throwing compost on you. But you're sitting at the seat and your job is to continue sitting there no matter what's being offered to you. We all want you to do that. And if you say, no, thank you, I don't want any more flowers, that is another opportunity to sit at the seat. Thank you. Next is Homa.


Homa, please unmute yourself when you're ready to ask. Good morning. Good morning. Thank you for teaching. First, I said your teaching, but I took the your out and just teaching. Thank you for teaching. I have a hard time to bring my thoughts, my feelings, my emotion into words. Because I hear everything you say.


At the same time of hearing, I fidget to what I hear. I move to what I hear, as though what I hear is beyond my capacity of being. So the offering of the teaching, what I hear, is beyond me. And as long as I have a me, which I call that distraction, and the me is my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions, everything, everything you talk about it. So therefore, as long as there's a me, This enlightenment is not in the realm of possibility.


And I question that, why is this me, which sees impossibility... No, why is this me, which is impossibility, wants to see what is beyond its own self? That's the question. Why is the impossibility, okay, the impossibility is sitting at the seat of awakening. And that impossibility sitting at the seat of the awakening is not the least bit separate from the Buddha sitting at the seat of awakening. The impossibility is the same practice as the Buddha sitting at the inconceivable, impossible seat.


And the Lotus Sutra, I asked somebody to research for me, the Lotus Sutra says, I think 10 times in the sutra it says, this teaching is most difficult to believe and understand. And this very difficult to believe teaching, when you feel that difficulty or the impossibility of this teaching, when you feel it at that moment, you are the same practice and the same awakening as this inconceivable awakening. So that's there. And if you, if you fidget, you can confess your fidgeting, but also remember that the fidgeting is at the seat of awakening.


Can the fidgeting actually be the seat? The fidgeting itself, can that be the seat? You could say that it is the seat, yeah. You can sit, your seat can be the fidgeting, yes. Yeah, yeah. That, if I could... If you're fidgeting, that's you, and you're at the seat. Yep. That's what I feel, that's what I... I feel it helps my practice to be the fidgeting and be that seat of fidgeting, yes. Be the fidgeting and let that fidgeting sit at the seat, because it is the seat. Yes, yes. It is the opportunity to join that Buddhist practice. Thank you, thank you. Next is Anne Schulman. Please unmute yourself. But if you say something, your picture, oh, there you are, okay.


So I hear this with so much joy, the access to the awakened state, to the enlightenment as already here, not mine, but here. is just great because I have a lot of distraction in the world. And this meets that distraction better than anything because it has so much love and vibration and freedom. And so this is great. This is so great. And I'm startled by, The last practice we were going through together was about homage. We were paying so much homage to the Buddhas. And I'm just struck with these flowers raining down our own homage.


Like we, if it's non-dual, we are bowing to the Buddhas and the Buddhas are saying, and we're here with you. So it's a feeling of like arriving at where we've always been anyway. I don't know. I don't have any questions so much as just to tell you how important this teaching is to me. I hear you. And I just read that chapter and I got none of what you're telling me from it. So it's very clear to me that I need an interpreter in the form of a teacher to like sort of spoon feed. This is what this is saying. Are you hearing it? So thank you. I went to the University of Minnesota for quite a long time, not an eon, but pretty long. And I went to a humanities class taught by a poet named John Berryman, an amazing kind of like


Amazing being. He was so sensitive. At the end of each class, when the bell went off, he would almost die. He'd get so shocked by the bell. Anyway, we were reading Don Quixote. And so he actually opened the book and read it, And here's how I remember the beginning of Don Quixote. In the region of La Mancha, there lived a certain gentleman, rather over 40, and John Berryman screamed, did you hear that? Cervantes isn't telling us how old he is. And I thought, yeah, I didn't really notice that.


I didn't really notice that he wasn't going to tell us how old Don Quixote was. But the fact that he would see that as like, that was like being at the Dharma seat. How come I didn't stop and say, he's not telling us, he's not telling us how old he is. He's intentionally not telling us. And so, yeah, we do need somebody who's lived with the sutra for 40 years longer than we have, or 50 years longer. It does help to have somebody who struggled with some text for decades and decades. Their devotion to the text is a resource to us. So, yeah, and I will tell stories about my struggles with the Lotus Sutra. And I'm looking at Linda. I struggle with Linda in the Lotus Sutra too. We've worked with this sutra. We've had problems with this sutra, you know.


It's got a lot, it's a mess. And so is our life. And our life is not the least bit different from the Buddha sitting on this seat of awakening. Thank you. Next is Jeffrey Lewis. Please unmute yourself. I read, it's actually me, Barbara Joan. Barbara Joan, yes, Barbara Joan. So in the story, the Buddha is first faces Mara and subdues Mara. How do we know, because I feel like Mara is what I face being in the world. of whatever Mara may be, all that's presented.


What's the difference between Mara and the flowers of the deities? I mean, maybe one thought I had is maybe it's the, like accolades and praise that come with time and age and success in whatever it is we offer the world. But can you talk to that difference a little bit? Because I feel that I was so grateful to hear that these are opportunities that's so helpful to be reminded that the distractions which abound are opportunities to come back to recognize being in his seat. And so there's my question, if you would address that, please. Thank you for your question.


So I would say basically the forces of distraction are not really any different from the celestial flowers. It's just that after you relate to the distractions and subdue them with love and kindness and sit in the seat, then when the same thing comes, it's like celestial flowers. So before we can really meet all distractions with loving-kindness and compassion, that's what makes them distractions. If something comes, you know, if some deadening force comes to us and we meet it with loving-kindness, it's not a successful distraction. It was a stimulus for us to respond properly to.


However, if we feel that when something comes, we do not meet it with practice, then in a sense, it's a successful Mara. It's a successful distraction. However, even while we're still not recognizing that all the distractions are really opportunities, even though we miss some of them, I'm saying that the Sutra, I hear the Sutra saying, we're already sitting at the seat anyway, because we're not the least bit different from the ones who have worked through all these forces and met them with kindness and are no longer distracted by them. As soon as we're no longer distracted, we're sitting at the seat. But if we feel distracted, then we feel like we're not on the seat. However, Sutra is not only saying that when you are no longer distracted, you're sitting at the seat, but even while you're distracted, you're still not different from the one who is sitting on the seat.


And after you sit on the seat, then the same kind of stuff will keep coming. It just, now it's like celestial flowers because it's like, oh, here's another opportunity to not be distracted from the seat. Oh, lovely. Another opportunity to not be distracted. Another opportunity for compassion. Another opportunity for patience. Another opportunity for ethics. Another opportunity for justice. But before a certain level of training, we feel we can't, we can't do that. So then we practice with those. But even so, we're already on the seat. We just can't believe it because we haven't learned how to deal with this, with these visitors, these, these maras. So it's really not a difference, but. Yeah. The difference in how, how we interpret the distraction and how we respond.


That's the difference. Yes. But you can see that once you learn how to interpret it, then there's no difference. Right. But before you learn how, go sitting at the seat is what I'm saying. Yeah, thank you. And I really... The sutra does not make that point. The sutra does not say in the beginning of the chapter, you're sitting at that seat. But I'm saying it before it's too late. I'm saying it. You have the same practice as that Buddha who has done all that work of working through all those maras and coming to the seat. You're not the least bit different from that Buddha. One of the great things I learned from your teachings, Rev, is to include with it a sense of humor.


So thank you. It's not too late as far as I can feel. I'm learning a great deal. All these distractions are really just a setup for the punchline that they're not distractions. But yeah, if you skip over the setup, it's not going to be funny. It's just a setup. You have to feel the setup. The setup is not funny. And then suddenly you see, oh, it is funny. But you have to feel that it's not funny. This world, the situation we're in is not funny. We have to feel that right now. It's so not funny. It's so, you know, not funny. It's really serious. And we have to look at how serious it is in order to realize what it's here to help us realize. So we can show other people this. Next is Linda Cutts.


Thank you, Rev, for this morning's talk. I have a question about In the story, you said he sat for all those incalculable eons and didn't, and the Buddhadharma didn't come to him. Is that what you said? I don't understand what that means exactly. He was sitting in the seat. He was practicing. How was it that Buddhadharma, what was missing? Thank you, Linda. You just brought up a koan. Okay. So I'll be, uh, I just want to make one small point, Linda, which is that he didn't sit for incalculable eons. Oh, just small eons. Yes. I mean, even a small eons incalculable. but he only sat for 10 small incalculables.


So he's sitting there, okay? All right, so he's sitting there. And we have that story from the Lotus Sutra, okay? And then we have this country called China. And in China, there was this school called Zen, right? Or Chan. And in that, and so one day, and this is case number nine, of the gateless gate. A monk comes to the teacher and says, great penetrating wisdom, excellence, Tathagata, sat for 10 eons and the Dharma did not appear before him. What's going on with that? And the Zen teacher says, your question points directly at the point, it's right to the point. So thank you, Linda, you just enacted the first part of that koan.


How come, why didn't it? And the answer is, your question goes right to the point. Congratulations. Then the monk says again, say it again, Linda. How is it that he sat for 10 small eons and the Buddha Dharma didn't come to him, oh teacher? Yeah, that's the second line of the story. We just did it again, quite naturally, right? And the teacher says, because he sat for 10 eons and the Dharma did not manifest before him. That's the koan. That's it? That's it. And we will study that koan. But I feel like it's a little bit, so there it is.


You guys, you're welcome to look it up. And let's talk about that koan after you've studied the koan. Again, the koan is the monk comes and says, Great penetrating wisdom, excellence, Tathagata sat for 10 eons, but the Dharma did not appear to him. How come? Why not? And the teacher said, that's right to the point. And then he says again, that Buddha sat for 10 eons, but the Dharma didn't appear before him. How come? And the Buddha says, I mean, the teacher says, He didn't even say, I don't think he said it, even because he said that Buddha sat for 10 eons and the Dharma didn't appear to him. That's why. And that reminded me when I read that recently, people said to Suzuki Rishi, why do we have seven day sessions?


And Suzuki Rishi said, because we go one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Right now, I feel like the teacher's answer was to just sit at the seat and to accept the celestial flower of the students' questions and to respond twice to two questions. That's sitting at the seat. Is that why you don't, don't, answer why questions because it's not the point? Well, I've changed now. I'm answering why questions. It's a new eon. Now why questions are the point.


But if I hadn't spent eons not answering why questions, it wouldn't be funny now that I'm answering them again. Thank you, Linda. Thank you. You bring up why this story is a Zen koan. This is a Lotus Sutra story that it became a Zen koan. Thank you very much. You're very welcome. Thank you for bringing the Zenkoan. Without even knowing you're bringing the Zenkoan. Next is Angela Nielsen. Angela, please mute yourself when you're ready. Thank you, Yaron. Hello. Hello.


I guess I'm hearing a lot of gratitude with all the sharing today. And I'm feeling truly grateful. And it helps me to accept this seat and all the deadening forces that I'm encountering. I think I heard you say that in the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha says, but because I employ the great function of the Tathagata, it's as though I'm witnessing that. I'm witnessing that Buddha right now. And when I heard that, it was a relief. I felt an opening to this reoccurring feeling that I sit with of separateness, isolation, inferiority.


So thank you for sitting with me. Great song. And in chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha said, those who practice all virtues and are flexible, harmonious, honest, and upright will see me teaching right now. I draw our attention to the first part of that statement, which is, those who practice all virtues.


And I would expand that to say, those who practice virtues, all virtues, with what you just brought up. Practice all virtues with a feeling of isolation. Practice all virtues with a feeling of inferiority. Rogen Zenji, in referring to that statement, practice all virtues, he says, that means to enter the mud and water for the sake of all beings. So if you enter the mud and water of all your feelings, whatever they are, and you practice being flexible, harmonious, upright, and honest, you will see the Buddha right before you now, and you will realize you're at the seat.


But we don't skip over these feelings. We practice all virtues with all these difficult, muddy feelings. Thank you. Thank you. Next up are Tilman and Isabel. Yes, thank you, Ravi, for this talk. Do you understand me? I do. Good. Thanks for speaking English. So I have a question about another story which comes to my mind. And the story, I think, contains the line, I think by Zen teacher probably, who says something like, don't let the sutra upset you.


It should be you who upsets the sutra. Something like this. Well, that's an interesting translation. I appreciate that I hadn't heard that translation before. Another translation was, which could be, don't let the sutra turn you, you turn the sutra. And another translation is, when you're deluded, the sutra turns you. When you're awakened, you turn the sutra. So those are three different renditions of the story. It's from a Zen story. Yeah. So how does this... So I guess it applies also to the flowers and to all kinds of distractions. I don't know, that's sort of what at least I understood from that story that everything is sort of a sutra to us, or we can see it as that.


And so I wonder, I mean, the first part I kind of understand, we shouldn't sort of get really distracted by all those things. But I mean, that's what I hear you say today, or here's this Lotus Sutra saying that we shouldn't really get distracted by the distractions. So we shouldn't be upset or turned by them. But well, I don't understand the other part. Like, why do we then turn them or upset them instead? Okay, so may I say that your use of the word shouldn't is a Tillman variation on the story. However, when you say shouldn't, shouldn't is an opportunity for you and I to practice all virtues. Hmm.


Shouldn't's a perfectly good opportunity to remember our job to sit at the seat. Hmm. So another way to say it is not so much shouldn't, it's just kind of like the ancient teacher, the ancient Zen teacher didn't say shouldn't. He said, when you're deluded, you don't get, when you're deluded, you get turned by. So when you're deluded, you get turned by the word shouldn't. When you're deluded, you get turned by the words of the Lotus Sutra. They turn you. When you're deluded, you read chapter seven. And like, when I'm deluded and I read chapter seven, if the list of, if the description of how long has been going on, you know, if it turns me, if it pushes me around, if I get scared of, you know, I'm wasting my life reading about all this time, then I'm being turned. The Sutra's turning me. The Sutra's turning me.


The Sutra's teaching me that I'm deluded because it's turning me. I don't realize when I'm deluded that I'm turning the Sutra. I think it's turning me. I think it's bugging me. I think it's going on too long about how long it's been going on. So that's when I'm deluded. The Sutra turns me. But it doesn't say, the Zen teacher who said that, didn't say, don't be that way. Just realize that when the sutra's turning you, you're playing the delusion role. But it's not too late. You can go around and say, now I'm gonna turn the sutra. I'm gonna turn the dharma of the sutra. What does it mean? I don't know what that means, to turn the sutra. Well, I guess it means that you don't get turned by what you just said. You turn what you just said.


You don't get turned by what the Sutra said. You turn what the Sutra said. It's not it doing to you, it's you doing it. In other words, you turn. You change positions. You go from enlightenment, from delusion to enlightenment. you realize that the situation of being influenced and turned by the sutra is an opportunity to remember that you're at the seat. And when you remember that you're at the seat, you just turn the sutra because the sutra just told you that. But now you do it rather than having it being done to you. So I feel still turned by you, I guess, or by your words. Yeah, but I try to go with that, I guess. Well, you feel turned by my words, okay?


So that's delusion, that you're turned by my words. But that's not the end of the story. Now you can turn them. Go ahead, turn them. I can't, I can't turn them, or maybe I do, I don't know. Okay, let enlightenment turn them. Let enlightenment turn them. Okay, I'll do that. Enlightenment turns your being turned into an opportunity to remember that you're sitting at the seat right now. These words that are influencing you or turning you are now opportunities to realize that your practice right now is at the seat with the Buddhas. When that happens, that's enlightenment.


But they're turning on each other. It isn't like we shouldn't be the deluded It's that we sit on the seat with the delusion and we realize that the delusion is never separate from the enlightenment. And that's turning the sutra. That's turning the teaching. The teaching is supposed to be turned. Enlightenment turns it. But when it's turning, delusion can get pushed around. But when delusion gets pushed around, that's the turning of the dharma. So now, enlightenment's back on the job again. Thank you, that helped a lot. It really does, you're right. Next up is Tracy Apple.


Morning. I'm Dr. Good morning. From the muddy waters over here. When whenever there's going to be a talk, I'm so excited, you know, I kind of can't wait. And then it comes. And then you say things that I don't understand some, and then I feel embarrassed, ashamed. And then I it's like, I'm ashamed to ask the questions in public every single time, because I keep thinking, what's wrong with you that you have these basic lacks of understanding? So that's the confession part I just wanted to say. So far it's happened almost every single time, and it happened again today. Thinking I really shouldn't have such basic questions. So here's my basic question. As soon as we start talking and you mentioned the word submerged in the things of the world, I immediately, I don't know, do I freeze?


Do I think, uh-oh, I'm an imposter. I don't belong in Zen. I am engaged in the things of the world. I thought I was supposed to. I thought I'm supposed to be engaging with everything that's right here. Then I think, well, I didn't say I'm not a monastic, so aren't I supposed to engage in the things of the world? So then we went on with the talk today, and I hear you talk and everyone else talking about distractions. And I can understand distractions, or I think I can, and understand the flowers. I just don't know what to do with submerged by the things, or I don't know if it's by or in the things of the world. What does that mean? What is, yeah, that's my question. What is submerged by the things of the world mean as opposed to distraction? How do those two terms differ? I think they're basically the same. Really?


Well, no, really, I just think that they're basically the same. However, I, Just a moment ago, I quoted the Lotus Sutra and Dogen's comment, which is, in the Lotus Sutra when it says, those who practice all virtues, and Dogen's comment is, that means walking in the mud and water for the wealth, for the sake of living beings. So, submerged in worldly affairs, distractions, a field of distractions and worldly affairs. So, in some sense, we really should maybe not say distracted, rather than distractions, being distracted and being submerged in worldly affairs, okay? we should, those who walk into that distraction, those who walk into the muddy water of worldly affairs and practice virtue with those distractions, with being distracted, with being distracted, with being submerged, those who practice virtues with being submerged,


Okay, those people, those are the people who are sitting at the seat. So what I'm trying to inspire us to do is to sit at the seat and walk into being distracted, walk into being submerged in the world and see if we can remember that we're sitting at the seat as we are immersed, submerged in the worldly affairs. We are at the seat. Now let's see if we can remember it and practice at this seat, no matter what's happening. Well, that's a huge relief. That's a huge relief to hear, to understand that. That really is. Huge relief. And also it's a huge job assignment. Yeah. It's saying, this is where you are.


Try to remember that when you go into, you know, the muddy waters. Try to remember that you're at the seat. And what do you do at the seat? Well, you practice all virtues. Now the Buddhas have been, this Buddha, great penetrating wisdom, excellence, Tathagata, this Buddha did that. This Buddha walked in the mud up to her eyeballs for a long time and practiced virtues. And now can sit at that seat unmoving, never forgetting her job. No matter how high the mud gets, no matter how submerged, she remembers her job. And then this is all celestial flowers hassling her. Now she's submerged in celestial flowers, but she still has to deal with that stuff. That stuff is equally difficult or equally joyous to work with.


Thank you very much. You're very welcome. Thank you for your wonderful question. Next up is Gal Cohen. Thank you, Rob. I really appreciate, I think we all do these talks. And I wanted to express gratitude for something which was helpful to me and then ask a question, if that's okay. Yes. So the gratitude is, you know, during this talk and very often when I'm sitting, I find myself getting distracted and then I get attached to the distraction. I get distracted by that. And so I don't know if you noticed, but towards the end of the talk, you briefly fidgeted and scratched your cheek. And I was like, oh, thank God, he does that too. And that actually kind of helped release me. from that attachment. So thank you. I think that's kind of similar to your DMV story. And the question is, you know, I think I've heard you say, you know, today and other times that maybe our practice is non-separation, kind of within a conventional world where things


appear as being separated. And I guess the question is, are you saying that if we let go of an attachment of wanting something to appear, then we can be open to, you know, things as it is already being there? Is that kind of what the Lotus Sutra is saying? Yeah. But you have to practice all virtue with these separations. These separations, worldly affairs are separations. Being distracted is a separation. So all this stuff, we look at it, and we look at it, and we look at it, and then looking at it, and we listen to it, and we listen to it. And then we let go. without getting rid of it. And then all these things you're talking about, all these separations turn into celestial flowers and the beating of the dharma drum.


But we have to meet these myriad forms of the appearance of separation. We need to walk into them and practice virtue with them. But remember, we're doing it not to get to the seat, but being inseparable from the seat. We have the same practice as the Buddha, who doesn't fall into any of that anymore, because of practicing confession and repentance when she did fall in the past, and also in the past not falling too, many times not falling into these separations. But the teaching is we're not separate from the Buddha who's sitting at that seat. Thank you, yeah, it's hard for me to practice the non-grasping and I appreciate the guidance, thank you.


Again, the word hard to practice, hard to believe, hard to understand, it's in the Lotus Sutra over and over. Thank you. Next up is Karen. Good morning, Matt. Good morning. Thank you for this lovely conversation about the Lotus Sutra. When you and Linda were talking about the koan, I have this very strong kind of emotional response to it. And I'm kind of embarrassed, as Tracy said, I'm kind of embarrassed to bring it up. The response was, it was much like when I was a little girl and I would ask my parents thousands of why questions, you know, why this, why that? And they would try to answer some of them.


And at some point, they would say, I would say, why this? And they would say, because. somehow in that because was oddly satisfying. And so that was what came up in response to that story. And I've now forgotten the story. I just remember that feeling of That was a pretty good answer, or it was a relaxing answer. Thank you. Could you... Do you have any comment on that? I did, I said thank you.


Because. And that was the teacher's, that's the way the teacher's answers translated. The monk says, since he was sitting at the site of enlightenment, why was he unable to fulfill the way of Buddhahood? And the teacher said, because he did not fulfill the way of Buddhahood. Thank you. Thank you. Next up is Tilman and Isabel. Isabel. You changed the title of your picture. That makes it easier for me. And I hope you can hear me because last time it was not very easy.


Great. Well, I thought I have the idea that I understood something just now that I listened to all the conversations. I always thought it's about me doing something wrong when I'm distracted. I just had the thought now, oh, maybe it's just like that. It's just being distracted and nothing wrong. So that was a thought and I wanted to share it and ask if I can say that like that. Yes, you can say it like that. And also, if you were doing something wrong, that's just doing something wrong, and you can


and then you practice virtues with that mud of doing something wrong, and you be gracious towards it, and you be careful of it, and patient with it, and you admit it, and if you feel sorry, you say you're sorry. That's also sitting at the seat. That's relating to the, quote, doing something wrong, like that Buddha would relate to it. That's the practice. Something wrong, something right, distracted, undistracted, whatever it is, whatever the mud is, you're sitting at the seat with the Buddhas. And with every being? And with all beings, yeah. You're doing the same practice as me and all beings.


You're doing the same practice as you and all Buddhas. We're doing the same practice. However, if you don't remember it, maybe you forget that teaching. And then you feel really bad. And yeah, you feel really bad. And you're missing an opportunity to turn the wheel of dharma, to turn the flower sutra. But even though you missed the opportunity, you're still at the seat, and you're still doing the same practice as those who are happily turning the dharma and remembering the teaching. So some beings are remembering the teaching right now. And if I forget, I still have the same practice as them. But if I forget, I feel bad. And I'm sorry that I missed the opportunity to remember it. And life that way is not the way I want to live.


I want to live the way of remembering the practice. But even if I forget, I'm not separate from those who remember. Thank you. You're welcome. Next up is Steve. Okay, Rob, I think this is going to be related because you added with even if I forget, I'm not separate from those who remember. So we have non-separation and And then Shunryu Suzuki says, I think something like, when Zen is Zen, when Alan becomes Alan. So I guess what my question would be is the unity of self-effacement with self-expression.


Because if we have, You know, I think most Zen Buddhists would be pretty comfortable with Pablo Picasso and his self-expression, and they'd be far more uncomfortable with, you know, Adolf Hitler and his self-expression. But if you have seven and a half billion people self-expressing themselves, expressing themselves, it seems to me either the planet blows up or it doesn't blow up. I'm inclined to think it does blow up, but at any rate, falls in your court. When you first started talking about somebody who forgets where he is, and somebody who remembers. Again, I thought of that story in the DMV when I forgot where I was and somebody else reminded me of where I was.


I was at DMV and I forgot I was sitting with all Buddhas. I thought I'm a better place to be. And then somebody calls to me and reminds me of where I am and what I'm there for. I'm sitting at that place for all beings. That's my first response to what you said. My second response is that I think when Suzuki Roshi said, when Alan is Alan or Steve is Steve, Zen is Zen. But what I'm emphasizing is that we have a really hard time being ourselves, which means to sit at that seat. So I would say that people who have done, like us, like us, people who have done terrible things, when we did terrible things, when we expressed ourselves that way, we had not realized that we're sitting on the seat


together with all beings. We have not realized that. We are distracted from that. When we're distracted from that, we can do terrible things. Even though we're still not the least bit different from the Buddhas. If we don't realize that, we can do terrible things. And we will sometimes. But if we realize that, we have to realize it together with all beings. And if we don't realize it together with all beings, again, that means we don't realize it together with this moment. Thank you for your question. Next up is Carolyn Burke. Carolyn, you're muted.


There. Can you hear me now? Yes. Thank you. I said, first of all, thank you so much for this lovely talk this morning, Rev. It's so helpful and so good to be with everyone. Then, building on what Timon said a little while ago about the being turned and turning, that discussion, when you were answering A metaphor that I think you've used more than once came to me that may speak to this situation. That was the hinge of the swinging door. Am I right in remembering that? You were speaking about the kind of consciousness that we may enter in when we're in this place of being turned and turning. And I thought perhaps it can mean that we get out of our own way to some extent, that we don't think that it is we who are being turned and we who are doing the turning.


It's happening as the hinge of the swinging door lets the movement and the opening happen. Does that speak to what You meant when you used to tell us about the hinge of the swinging door? Yes. And does it help us to understand this, I don't know what to call it, metaphysical puzzle that Timon brought up of being turned and turning. If we're not in the way somehow, it can happen more of its own accord, perhaps. Yeah, and it could be phrased as when deluded, we are turned by, or maybe when deluded, turned.


When awakened, turning. You could phrase it that way without putting we or you. When deluded turned. Deluded being turned, awakened turning. All right, thank you. But also awakened turning means turning from delusion to enlightenment too. Yes. That also gets us out of the way. We just have a cat being turned here and there. Cats demonstrate this very well too. Thank you, Rep. You're welcome. Thank you. Next up is Stefan Nikola. Hi, Rep. Can you hear me? Yeah?


Okay. Yes. I can hear you. I also wanted to, I have a two-part question, I guess. I also wanted to talk about the thing that the man brought up. And so if turning and being turned is basically the same thing that is just going together. And it's just, if it's maybe just a question of the perspective, seen from the perspective of the deluded, it's being turned and seen from the perspective it's turning. Is that, did I understand that right? I would say yes, or another way to put it is instead of saying perspective, which is slightly different, it's seeing it this way and seeing it that way.


Talking about what's being seen in two different situations. Two different situations, not the situation. Illusion and enlightenment or being turned or turning. So the being turned, or the turning, is slightly different from saying, seeing it that way, or seeing it that way. Yes, I was wondering if I'm experiencing myself as deluded, separate, then being turned is for me something, maybe I completely misunderstood it.


I was thinking about that normally there's this protection that makes me separate from the world and if the protection is functioning, then those things would come, can turn me. So being turned as a deluded being is a very good thing. For me, it's like being turned is let the things come and don't protect myself from them or something like that. and letting them come is more like turning them. This part I don't experience like that, let's say. I would say, if you resist a thing, it turns you.


If you let it be, you turn it. Okay. So yeah, so when you're separate, then things move you around. Yeah. When you're not separate, you move them around. I should say they're moved around. When you allow them, you don't get spun about. But it's also sometimes the feeling of getting destroyed by something, and that's kind of a positive thing. First, there's the fear of getting destroyed, but then being destroyed is also, the delusion is also destroyed. Yeah, well, actually, the fear could be a positive thing too. The fear of being destroyed and the beings who are destroyed, they both could be positive, but they both kind of move you around.


Being destroyed kind of moves, turns you a little bit. And fear turns you a little bit. Or maybe just say, fear turns you and being destroyed turns you. But if you allow that, then you're turning right in the fear, and you're, I shouldn't say you're turning, then there's turning in the fear, and then there's turning in the being destroyed. And then the dharma is, then we have awakening. Awakening is being, is the turning, and the other ones are being turned. They're both good. They're inseparable. They're both part of the good dharma. Yes. Thank you. I don't know if I want to pose the second question. I think I'm done. Thank you. You're welcome. Thank you for your question. There are no more raised hands.


All right. Well, thank you so much again. And after a long saga with various technologies and companies who will not be mentioned, Noah Bode now has internet connection. So I think maybe next time we have a talk, I'll try to give it from Noah Bode. Thank you all for your wonderful questions. Thank you for all your wonderful flowers. Thank you for all the mud you threw at me, along with your flowers. It's been wonderful. I wish you well, and I hope we can meet again soon.