Introduction to the Flower Adornment Scripture Meditations for Online Assemblies

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In the Dharma talk held at No Abode Hermitage, the commencement of studying the Avatamsaka Sutra was discussed, focusing on its integration with Zen practice. The talk included examination of how Zen ancestors in China and India used stories to enact the teachings of the sutra, emphasizing the concept of everyday activities and interactions as practices of the sutra’s teachings.

- **Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Ornament Scripture)**: Underscored as a core text, having started the group study on June 24th, termed as the commencement ceremony.
- **Book of Serenity**: Connected to the Avatamsaka Sutra, helping illustrate the embodiment of its teachings through Zen stories.

The dialogue highlighted how Zen tradition and practice can be viewed as dramatic enactments of the sutra, using both historical and everyday examples to illustrate the points. The discussion also covered the practical aspect of these enactments in daily life and communal gatherings, inviting deeper reflection and understanding.

AI Suggested Title: "Zen and the Dramatic Enactment of the Avatamsaka Sutra"


So I'm at no abode and behind me is the altar. And so I was thinking of this meeting as a kind of, in a way, a get-acquainted assembly. Because we haven't, some of us haven't seen each other for quite a long time. Some of us have seen each other in person fairly recently. As COVID evolved and we were able to have in-person meetings here at Noah Boad Hermitage, at that time, in order to promote the in-person, I took a break from the online offerings. And now the in-person meetings at Noah Boad have been pretty much recovered from COVID, and we have nice groups forming here at least once a month.


So I thought I could also now try to see if we can also have an online assembly. So here we are. And so it's kind of reacquainting, but also to give some introduction to what's been going on in terms of the teachings that are offered. In June, June 24th, actually, here at Noah Bode, we had an in-person meeting. And I called the meeting a commencement ceremony. And many of you were actually at that commencement ceremony. And it was commencing the study of the Avatamsaka Sutra. As I approached the so-called 80th birthday,


I thought, what project should I take on for the next period of time? And I thought of, particularly I thought of things that I have not yet studied in the group setting. And one of the main things that I have never really studied together with the Sangha is the flower adornment scripture. The Flower Splendor scripture, the Avatamsaka Sutra. There are many other things which we have not yet studied together. But I thought that one is very important among them all. So there was a ceremony to commence the study of the sutra, but also to commence contemplating how our Zen tradition is actually woven together with the teachings of the scripture.


And in that way, by looking at the scripture and relating it to our practice, we can see how much our practice is influenced or comes forth from the concept and the teachings and images of the Great Sutra. And also use our practice and the stories of our ancestors to help us understand the Sutra. In a way, I would say today that our Zen tradition and our Zen practice is kind of a dramatic enactment, a theatrical performance of the sutra. And the sutra, what's the word, affirms and supports our daily practice.


And I mentioned at the last session we had here at Noah Bode that one of our main collections of Zen stories, which is called the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is called the Book of Serenity, I think it seems to me that basically I might be able to show or point to how all those stories are actually bringing forth the teaching of the Sutra. There are innovative, creative ways that the Zen ancestors in China, because the Book of Serenity is about Chinese stories and Indian stories, there are ways to to see how the ancestors of India and China actually, again, just like we do in our daily life, performed and enacted and embodied in practical daily life situations this sutra.


And I see one person who showed up more than one who have shown up later. And I would now say, welcome, Kimberly. Thank you, Reb. Next to Kimberly is another Kim, Kim Webster. Welcome, Kim. And next to Kim is Barry. Welcome, Barry. And welcome to Barry and Kim is Green. Welcome, Green. So for many of you, some of the things I would say today will be new, but for many of you they will be a review. And I'm not going to go through all 100 stories of the Book of Serenity today, but for review and for introduction,


to this assembly, I will, I think, point out a few stories of our ancestors in the Book of Serenity that are closely related and perform the sutra. Does that sound okay for me to do that for a little while? You up for that? Okay. So, the first scene in the Sutra is the Buddha sitting just after realizing Buddhahood. The Buddha is sitting. at the center of a more or less infinite assembly of living beings, a wide diversity of living beings, the Buddha sits in the middle of them and awakens.


And now the awakening has been realized And the Great Assembly surrounds the Buddha, and then the Great Assembly, empowered by this awakening, tells us about the Buddha's body. And one of the beings in the assembly, one of the leaders of the assembly, The assembly has, in the first chapter of the Book of Serenity, excuse me, the flower dormer's scripture, in the first chapter, there are innumerable beings mentioned, but also specifically four, yeah, 400 leaders are mentioned in the first chapter, 400 leaders.


And each leader of these leaders has some particular view of the Buddha which the Buddha has given them through the power of the awakening. And we hear about what these 400 great beings are seeing as the Buddha in the assembly. And on page 129 of the Sutra, one of the great beings, who is a thunderbolt holder, that great being tells us, kind of announces to us, to clearly observe the king of the dharma.


And then the king of the dharma, the teaching of the king of the dharma is thus. So again, this great being says, clearly observe the king of dharma. The dharma of the king of dharma is thus. So the Buddha's sitting, thus. And the teaching of the Buddha is thus. This is the central, often repeated, teaching of Buddha dharma. The dharma of the Buddha is thus. That's in the Avatamsaka Sutra. And that statement is made a number of times in the scripture. The first case of the Book of Serenity, we have the Buddha also coming on the scene, and in this case, getting up on the Buddha's seat and sitting.


And then after the Buddha is seated, sitting in silence, the bodhisattva of great perfect wisdom announces, after hitting the gavel, and announces, clearly observe the king of the dharma. The dharma of the King of Dharma is thus. So the first case in our collection of 100 stories called the Book of Serenity is a performance of this verse in the first chapter of the Sutra. So the ancestor, the Chinese ancestor, who compiled the Book of Serenity, chose to make the first story, the first Zen story, basically taken from the Avatamsaka Sutra, taken from the precious splendor, flower, adornment scripture.


the compiler, the Zen teacher who compiled the Book of Serenity, after every story he offers a verse. And the verse he offers, after quoting this scene of the Buddha sitting and a great being telling us that the teaching of the sitting Buddha is thus, then the The compiler gives us a verse, and the verse is... The unique breeze, the one breeze of reality. Do you see it? The Buddha is sitting, the teacher of the dharma is sitting, and the dharma of the teacher of dharma is thus.


And then the poet says, this one unique breeze, do you see it? This is the beginning of the sutra. This is the beginning of the Zen story collection. Clearly observe the dharma of the king of dharma. The dharma of the king of dharma is thus. The unique breeze of reality. Do you see it? we are being encouraged to clearly observe the Buddha, to clearly observe the teaching of the Buddha. We are observing the unique breeze of reality.


Do you see it? Then the verse goes on to say, the mother principle, creation, constantly works her loom and shuttle, incorporating the patterns of spring into the ancient brocade. But nothing can be done about Manjushri's leaking. In other words, nothing can be done about Manjushri pointing at the Buddha and saying, telling us to observe. The teaching is right in front of us, but somebody has to tell us that it's right in front of us, which is kind of misleading, because it's also to the right of us, and the left of us, and behind us, and underneath us, and on top of us.


But for our sake, The great Bodhisattva says, tells us to observe it. Tells us what's in front of us. What's in front of us all day long? The teaching of thus. Thus is always before us and all around us. The sutra says it. The book of Serenity reminds us of it. And Manjushri, again, points at it. Somebody has to tell us that this teaching is right in front of us, even though it is already. So now I'm kind of like, I'm kind of doing the same thing that Manjushri did, sorry. And I see some people I didn't call on.


I didn't call on and welcome Dawu. Welcome, Dawu. And I didn't welcome Tim. Welcome, Tim. And earlier I didn't see Linda, but now I see Linda. Welcome, Linda. And today, my kind of defiling activity of telling you how this thusness is right in front of you, that is incorporated into the ancient brocade of the Buddha Dharma. This morning's words are now woven into the ancient tradition. And in a way, I'm weaving in a defilement, because This thusness is not this.


The teaching of thus, or the teaching which is thus, is not this. It pervades this, but this is not it. However, the sutra also tells us that every little thing that we do all day long and everything that everybody else does moment by moment in our life. They all contain this entire teaching. So that's one example of how the sutra is woven into the tradition of the stories of our ancestors. Now, I'm kind of wondering, should I tell you another story?


Or would it be good to give an overview of the sutra? Maybe one more short story and then a little bit of a survey of what we have covered in the Sutra so far. How about that? Okay, so I told you about the first story in the Zen collection called the Book of Serenity and how that is basically a literal and creative performance or drama about The Sutra. And actually the story itself is a kind of creative weaving of the spring of China in the 12th century. So at that time, the ancestor took the Sutra and wove it into his koan collection.


So today we did that too. And then what comes to mind is the fourth story in the Book of Serenity. The fourth story in the Book of Serenity is... I think the name of the story is the World Honored One, this Buddha who woke up in the middle of the Great Assembly. After that, the Buddha was walking along with the Great Assembly, And the Buddha stopped and pointed to the earth. The Buddha pointed to the earth. The name of the story is The World Honored One Points to the Ground. The World Honored One pointed to the earth and said, this is a good place to build a sanctuary. This again is a dramatic enactment.


This story is not in the sutra. This is a dramatic enactment in the Zen tradition of the sutra. Because the sutra says that every spot of earth is a good place to build a sanctuary. All of nature, every particle of nature is a good place to build a sanctuary. And we have the opportunity to devote ourselves to being mindful that every moment and every place, every time and every place is a good place to build a sanctuary. Now I'm on the second floor of this temple And I just thought, when I walk down the stairs, when I leave this temple, I will walk down the stairs, and every step is a good place to build a sanctuary.


This is what our Zen story says, this is what all of our Zen stories say, and this is also the teaching of the Sutra. that every particle of dust contains innumerable Buddhas with innumerable bodhisattvas practicing the way. The challenge for us is to be mindful of that, to appreciate every step. And then again, and again, and again, to appreciate every word that we say and every word that we speak. So, this is again a dramatic rendition of the sutra in our tradition, case number four of the Book of Serenity.


Now, for a sweeping overview of the sutra, let me just say that the first thing about the sutra, I already said, the Buddha is sitting in this great assembly, surrounded by 40 different varieties of beings. And each variety in the assembly of the 40 has many, many, more or less, almost infinite members. And each of the 40 has 10 leaders. And these 10 leaders are empowered by the Buddha to see the Buddha in like 400 different ways, 400 different views of the body of the Buddha.


That's the first chapter. So, in the first chapter, these 40 groups are going through, and from each group, 10 leaders are mentioned, and then those 10 leaders the ten ways they see the Buddha are mentioned. So we have these 400 views of the Buddha in the first chapter. So we get to know quite a bit about the Buddha. And again, this vision of the Buddha comes to us through the Buddha's awakening. And the first view, which is the first verse, of the sutra is the Buddha body pervades all the great assemblies, filling the realm of dharma without end, quiescent


without any nature, ungraspable. It appears for the sake of the welfare and liberation of all living beings. That's the first verse of the Sutra. And so That verse is saying that the body of the Buddha pervades this assembly. This is one of the infinite assemblies. And the Buddha body pervades this assembly, pervades every person in this assembly, and pervades entirely the body and the mind of each of us. This body cannot be grasped.


The way it's pervading us cannot be grasped. And because it cannot be grasped, it can pervade us entirely. But it appears for the welfare of beings. In this sutra, the Buddha body appears. And then it tells us, we see the appearance of the body, but the body cannot be grasped. Do not grasp this appearance that has been given to you as the Buddha. It is a gift from the Buddha, it's not the Buddha. However, the Buddha pervades this appearance. That's the first chapter. At the end of the first chapter, all the beings in all these different assemblies, all the different types of beings, and particularly the bodhisattvas in this assembly, make oceans, offer oceans


of wonderful offerings to the Buddhas. The oceans of beings offer oceans of offerings, and the oceans of offering turn into abundant clouds of offerings. which rise up into the sky and then rain down offerings on the whole assembly, including the Buddha and all of us. That's how the first book, the first chapter ends. In this great weather system, this great system of offering and raining of gifts in honor of awakening. Perfect, world-liberating awakening. And in that environment, the second chapter starts.


And in this environment of offerings raining down in the midst of this wonderful generosity raining down. All the bodhisattvas at the same time have many thoughts, which are questions. Even though they've heard 400 verses about the Buddha, they still have many other questions. And all of them share these questions and think these questions, and we're told what their questions are. And then with all these questions, they pray that the Buddha will respond to and explain the questions they have about the Buddha. And then they have some more questions. And again, they pray that the Buddha will teach them about what they're inquiring about.


And then this dialogue starts between all these beings who have made these offerings and have these questions. A dialogue starts between them and the Buddha, wherein the Buddha gives off these lights in response to what the people are asking. The Buddha doesn't actually speak with her mouth yet. The Buddha just gives off light from her forehead. and gives off light from her teeth. And in these lights, these lights have songs and have speech, and the lights answer the question that the bodhisattvas are asking. So in the second first chapter, the Buddha is just sitting and then everybody's telling us about the Buddha. In the second chapter, there starts to be a dialogue between the Buddha and the questions of the assembly.


The conversation starts to be developed in the second chapter. And then at the end of the second chapter, the Great Assembly of Bodhisattvas asked one of their members... No, no. Take it back. At the end of that chapter we're led into the next chapter, and the next chapter, chapter 3, is called the samadhi, the concentration of Samantabhadra. So now in the next chapter, this great bodhisattva who is sort of the main bodhisattva of the sutra, Samantabhadra, which means universally good or universally worthy, that samadhi at the beginning of the next chapter


sits in the presence of the Buddha, sits in front of the Buddha. Everybody is with the Buddha, but this one bodhisattva is sitting there too, in the presence of the Buddha, and in the presence of the Buddha, offers herself to the Buddha. And in this presence, in this offering, by the power of the Buddha, which comes in response to offering ourselves to the Buddha, which comes in response to this bodhisattva offering herself to the Buddha, thus the bodhisattva enters into this great samadhi, which is the samadhi wherein this teaching of thusness is revealed. So again, the third chapter starts with the great bodhisattva, Samantabhadra, sitting in the presence of the Buddha, offering herself to the Buddha in sitting, And the Buddha responds by allowing and welcoming and guiding this bodhisattva into this great samadhi, the samadhi in which the teaching of thusness is illuminated, revealed and transmitted.


So again that third chapter, the samadhi of the bodhisattva is closely related to this teaching of thus. and the teaching of thus is revealed and transmitted to the Bodhisattva in that samadhi. And then Buddhas from the ten directions throughout the universe come to the Bodhisattva who is sitting in the presence of the Buddha and they praise They praise that bodhisattva who has entered the samadhi and received this teaching of thus. And they all pat this bodhisattva on the head. It doesn't say specifically in the sutra whether they all pat the bodhisattva on the head at the same moment or one after another. Most people I've talked to think it's probably better if it's at the same moment.


Because if it's moment after moment, it would take eons for them all to pat the head. So all the Buddhas together, with their right hand by the way, it specifically says they put their right hand on the Bodhisattva. And they say, good job, you're sitting in Samadhi really well and you have now received the teaching of thus. So again, the bodhisattva enters the samadhi, receives the teaching of thus, and receiving the teaching of thus, you receive all the oceans of teachings at the same time, because all the teachings are thus. And then the bodhisattva arises from this samadhi, And when the bodhisattva rises from the samadhi, the bodhisattva rises through all the teachings, all the channels, all the media by which the bodhisattva received all these teachings, which are all thus.


And so then the bodhisattva has arisen from the samadhi and the bodhisattvas say to Samantabhadra, okay, now please tell us, please teach us about how the worlds, all the worlds in the universe are formed and appear and disappear. And Samantabhadra doesn't say anything. He just, Samantabhadra who has emerged from this samadhi receives the request and then we move to the next chapter which is chapter four, book four. and at the beginning of Book Four, after having been asked to give this teaching about how all the worlds in the universe are formed, maintained and disappear, Samantabhadra says... Samantabhadra starts talking.


And Samantabhadra talks about the formation of worlds. So in the fourth chapter then, Samantabhadra tells about how the formations of the worlds in all the different ways are all inconceivable. And then after telling us that the formations are not inconceivable, the Buddha's knowledge of how all the worlds are formed, and are maintained and disappear. That knowledge has many aspects, and all of the aspects are inconceivable. And then after telling us that the Buddha's knowledge about all these worlds, how they're formed, which you've asked me to tell you about, are inconceivable, and now I will explain to you how all these inconceivable all these knowledges, I will explain to you about all of them."


And then he goes through and explains ten different ways, ten different teachings about how the worlds are formed, how they're the same, how they're different, how they look, how long they last, and so on. So the rest of the chapter is explaining how our karma, how our actions and how our aspirations and vows, together with the aspirations and the karma of all beings, how we all together create the worlds. And how we create different worlds by our different karma and different vows. That's chapter four. And then chapter five tells us about the world we're living in.


And it tells us that the Buddha in the past has done many, many virtuous deeds together in all forms of existence, together with infinite Buddhas, And as a result of doing all these practices, the Buddha has received a radiance, a light, like all precious jewels. And the Buddha has also received a pure land. And then chapter five describes the pure land. And then chapter six is called Vairocana Buddha, which is the name of the Buddha in this sutra. So in this sutra, the Buddha is Shakyamuni Buddha, who has become Vairochana Buddha. So the Buddha of this sutra is the historical Buddha. We usually hear about Shakyamuni, but it's the historical Buddha after that Buddha has been teaching for a long time, and the teaching of that Buddha has become universal, and has become a universal radiance.


And then Shakyamuni Buddha gets the name Vairocana Buddha. And then in Chapter 6, after describing this pure land of Vairocana, it then tells us about all the great deeds of Vairocana. Not all of them. It gives us a very extensive sampling of all the practices of Vairocana which have come to fruit as Vairocana's pure land. That's Chapter 6. And then chapter 7 tells us... It's called The Names of Buddha. And then it tells us... It also gives us a sampling, an extensive sampling of names of Buddha. And the names of Buddha are given so that we can see the Buddha in many different ways. So that's a kind of broad overview of what we have been doing and studying for the last 10 months in terms of the sutra.


And so I'm intending to continue to share the sutra itself, but also keep relating the sutra to our history, our Zen history, our Zen stories, and also relate it to our Zen practice. So again, one way it relates to our Zen practice is that The Zazen of our school is a Zazen that's done, that's practiced in the presence of Buddhas. This is one practical aspect of the Sutra which we practice. We practice sitting wherever we are in the United States or Germany or Finland or Sweden. Wherever we are, we sit. at the center of all beings in the presence of Buddhas. This is the zazen practice of this school, which is described in the sutra and which is the samadhi of the sutra.


So, again, the sutra is helping us appreciate every moment as a moment that builds or has the opportunity to build a sanctuary. Every action has an opportunity to build a sanctuary. And every moment is an opportunity to sit or stand or walk at the center of all beings in this samadhi. So that's my kind of Again, review for many, an introduction to those who have not been attending these assemblies for the last ten months. And I hope that I can continue to offer this teaching and make offerings to this teaching together with you for the unending future.


May this teaching be offered without end. Just like the Buddha body fills the dharma realm without end, may our practice fill the dharma realm without end. And now the Great Assembly is offered an opportunity to bring forth offerings in whatever form you'd like to try to offer at this time. I see Pam's hand is raised. Good morning, Reb. Can you tell us about this sanctuary that we endeavor to build in every place that we are? If it's a sanctuary, there's something holy, something sacred, something reverent... Yeah.


So the sanctuary... One thing the sanctuary could be devoted to is complete perfect awakening. It's a sanctuary for perfect awakening which brings light and freedom and peace to all beings. And so every moment could be devoted to being a place, giving a time in every place, a place for the honoring, the worshiping, the making offerings to, and the practicing of awakening, perfect awakening, together with all beings, in the presence of all Buddhas. Every moment could be thus. And the teachings and the sutra is saying every moment is thus, actually. So, since every moment is thus, this is a good time to build a sanctuary to thus.


And this is a good place. Where I am is a good place, where you are is a good place. Now is a good time for both of us to build a sanctuary. And now again, and again. I have a follow-up question, if I might. The Buddha shows himself differently to everybody. Is this the Buddha, is he like, intentionally showing what he thinks somebody needs to see, or is it also just that everyone sees it differently because of who they are? It seems like, in a way, the sutra seems to emphasize, first of all, that the Buddha is thus, and beings see Buddha according to their


inclinations and their dispositions. It's not so much that the Buddha changes her face for this person, but because the Buddha is thus, the Buddha can be transformed according to beings' intentions, wishes, inclinations, perceptions. So the Buddha is basically not doing anything other than just radiating awakening. But the nature of this awakening is that it allows itself to be made into whatever people need for their own education about it. Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you for the questions. Okay. Kim and Barry. Good morning, Will. Thank you. Good morning.


I love the image of the weaver, the weaving and the idea of sanctuary in every piece of ground. Can I just mention that the weaver is the process of creation? Everything in the world is doing this weaving. Yes. We, together with all beings, are doing this weaving. Yes. And so I also thought, well, you mentioned the word defilement that you said that teaching the teach your teaching of vastness was somehow a defilement. And I had a hard time with that thinking of that. And, but it also made me think of this weaving as the twisted ancient twisted karma that we talked about. So I don't know if you're being particularly hard on yourself saying that your teaching is a defilement of that's the teaching of vastness. I'm saying that when I point at something particular, rather than pointing at everything at the same time, in some sense I'm defiling, I'm reducing.


But Manjushri had to point, had to say, hey, look, observe, it's thus. He said it's thus. But he also did it now for this Buddha. So there's a little bit of pointing. And that's just to think that what I'm pointing at is the Buddha. That kind of misses the point. To say that this is the Buddha misses the point, but I sort of have to say it. And it's not so much being hard on myself, it's being hard on what I'm saying. Because it looks like what I'm saying is saying like this is what I'm saying. But it's not. It's thus, it's not this. So the thisness of what I'm saying is a kind of defilement. But the thusness is ungraspable. So in our attempts to make a sanctuary, perhaps, it's kind of the same thing, that we're kind of not able to conceive the whole thing, we're only able to conceive what our little attempt is.


This place, to say this place kind of misses it, to say this time kind of misses it, and yet this place, without saying that this place is it, this place is a good place to honor it, which is not this. So this is a good place for thus. The sanctuary is for the teaching of thus, not the teaching of this. So this place is a sanctuary for thus. And this is a good place to build a sanctuary for what goes beyond thus. This is a good place to build a sanctuary for what is not limited by this place. And all the this places are equally good this places to build a sanctuary to what transcends this place. Thank you.


Thank you for your question. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. What edition or book are you using when you're talking about the Flower Ornament Sutra? You mean which translation? Yes. Well, I'm using both the translation by Thomas Cleary And there's another translation by Dharmamitra that I also use. But the quotes I gave today were from Cleary. Okay. Thank you. But there's another translation from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas by Dharmamitra that's also good.


Good. Thank you. You're welcome. Thank you for the question. Hi, Rep. It's evening here, so good evening. Good evening, Josh. I was very appreciative of Pam's question, the first question we had about the nature of this sanctuary that every place is a good place to build. And she said something about it being a place of reverence and sacredness. And then to me, came to mind that the word sanctuary can also mean a place of safety. And I wondered if that's also part of it and if you could say something about that. You could say safety or you could also say freedom. You know, freedom and peace.


Freedom from all harm and all suffering. Not exactly safe, in a way, because it's still there, but freedom with it. And again, to say that the sanctuary is a place, a particular place, to pay reverence and pay homage to what is not limited to this. where the sanctuary is. But the advantage of the place of the sanctuary is we can pay attention to that place and pay reverence at that place. We can pay our respects and our devotion at a place to what's not limited to the place. So places are... So it's the very...


not limitedness of the particular place that makes that particular place a sanctuary? No. No? Or that can be a sanctuary? The limitedness makes it a sanctuary. But it can be a sanctuary to what is unlimited, because this unlimited thing applies to all the places. But we need a place to pay our respects. So when we choose this place to pay our respects, then the place becomes sacred because we're respecting what is not limited to that place and what doesn't come and go. The place comes and goes. We use what comes and goes to pay our respects to what doesn't come and go. And any place is a good place to pay our respects to what doesn't come and go. And in doing so, it becomes a place of freedom. It becomes a place of freedom.


And it becomes a place of freedom from the sanctuary too. So we don't have to stay at the sanctuary, we can walk someplace else and build another sanctuary. Thank you. You're welcome. And I forgot to tell the whole story, I'm sorry. The Buddha pointed to the ground, and said, this is a good place to build a sanctuary. And then the leader of the gods who were in the assembly, like in that first assembly of the sutra, there's lots of divine beings in that assembly. And the leader of them took a blade of grass and put it in the ground and said, the sanctuary is built. So you can build a sanctuary with a stone, a blade of grass, your sitting cushion, or just you put your body on the earth. Good morning.


Welcome, Darren. I would bow, but I'm holding a phone, so one-handed bow. Welcome. Thank you. I wanted to share an experience I had right before this talk. I think somebody is unmuted who should not be. Okay, so actually it sounded just like that, this experience. I had the coughing. So I was running and I passed a man who was coughing violently, I thought. And I said, do you need help? And he gave me a hand like this. And I was like, okay, all right. And I just took a few steps and then he started coughing, perhaps groaning, perhaps a psychotic episode of sorts. But he was managing it himself, and he was okay with that. And so I looked back again, and I said, Are you sure? And he gave me a nice smile. And not so much of this, you know, welcoming it.


And so I left. And, you know, I took him as perhaps troubled, perhaps mentally ill, and he took it as this is my moment that I'm dealing with at this moment and seemed to be okay with it. So then I come to this beautiful Dharma talk and some of the imagery and literary devices are something that if I were to talk to somebody on the bus and just started talking about that, they would think I was psychotic, right? numerous beings are out there, bro," or something like that. They're like, okay, don't tell me about that. So, context, but also, what is mental illness? I mean, somebody who found themselves to be enlightened, many people today would say, you're not enlightened, you're crazy. So, I'm just curious, where is this line and I mean, if Jesus or Buddha were to come back today and started saying what they were saying, many people would say, get them some medication and an institution ASAP.


So this is going to rest there. Thank you. So I'm not saying that the things in the sutra are happening. I'm not saying that they're true. I'm just contemplating them. And in the sutra, we're just being told a description of a situation. And this description of the situation is for us to look at. to contemplate. And our tradition has contemplated this description and been influenced by such a contemplation and become the tradition it is by contemplating this picture.


But in fact, everybody here has come to this contemplation. We have not brought this contemplation to anybody. Everybody's invited to come to the assembly, and in the assembly, the assembly's looking at another assembly. But the assembly we're looking at is for our sake. And I'm not saying that the assembly we're looking at is true, And I'm not saying we should tell other people about this assembly. But maybe we should invite people to come and look at it with us, so that we're not imposing it on anybody. It's just we're finding out who wants to look at this teaching. And the teaching... If I were to apply the teaching to the story you said, it seemed like


Your running was a good situation to build a sanctuary. Your meeting this person was a good place to meet a sanctuary. And your speaking to him was a good action in which to build a sanctuary. To what? To awakening. Your running is a good place a good time to build a sanctuary to awakening. You're stopping and noticing this person. Being with this person is a good situation, a good place, a good time to build a sanctuary. You're speaking to him. It's a good opportunity to build a sanctuary. You're listening to him and observing him put his hand up. It's a good time to build a sanctuary. So, in fact, you could have been building sanctuaries with him through that whole interaction.


Some people might say, yeah, you built several sanctuaries by running, by seeing, by talking, by listening, and by moving on. That that whole situation could have been a moment and a place to honor and make offerings to awakening. Without you saying anything more than you did, or him saying anything more than he did. We don't know him, we don't know you. But whatever you are, and whatever he is, and whatever the meeting between you are, it's a good place and a good time to build a sanctuary. And hearing the story, I thought that whole story was many moments and many places to build sanctuaries. You didn't have to say anything about the sutra to build a sanctuary. But the sutra does say to you that every moment of that story was a good place to build a sanctuary.


And that seems like a really good way to appreciate that story in retrospect and at the time. Whoopi. I felt whoopi after I walked away and I saw this... I'm sorry. I saw this teacher once and she said, she was speaking to my class actually, so it's all these students who don't know anything about Buddhism at all. And she said, I don't know who the Buddha in the room is, who am I to say, right? So I felt like that moment, I thought, oh, wow, this guy is really gonna be in a troubled spot. But he smiled at me and I felt like, wait, maybe he is the Buddha in the room. I don't know, who am I to? I don't know. The sutra is not so much saying that he's the Buddha in the room. It's saying that the Buddha completely pervades him and you. It completely fills you and fills him.


And your interactions with him were each moment and each gesture and each thought were moments to build sanctuaries to this Buddha that completely pervades both of us. And it sounds like you did. You built several sanctuaries, and that was great. Several sanctuaries to an ungraspable Buddha body. which pervades that person and yourself and the land you are both sitting on. May we be mindful of this. May we contemplate this. So I have a question, Rev, about the building of sanctuary.


And the question is, are sanctuaries built as a result of realizations of suchness in all moments? Or can sanctuaries be built as a result of a desire wanting to build a sanctuary? And if it comes from the desire would it be defiled? So, partly remembering this story, so the leader of the gods is with the Buddha, and the Buddha says, this is a good place. So the Buddha gives a teaching that this is a good place. And this divine being hears that teaching, and I think that wants to build a sanctuary at this place. The Buddha just said, this is a good place. And the being hears the teaching and says, OK, great.


I would like to build a sanctuary. So it's both hearing that this is a good place, and it's wishing to. And then he actually took an action and planted a blade of grass. Building was encouraged by the teaching, this is a good place, this is a good time. And then based on that teaching, oh, I would like to, I would like to. And then, okay, so I'm going to, and what am I gonna do? I'm gonna use what's right here. So there's both hearing the teaching, finding the teaching very appealing, we're gonna build a sanctuary here right now, okay, and I want to. And now I'm going to do it. And right now I'm doing it by talking to you, and you're doing it by nodding your head. Yeah, so I can see from what... Yeah, and what I heard from you is... It appears to me it's first the realization, the realization of suchness, and then the determination that, yes, I do want to bring that into...


I think even if you hadn't fully realized thus, you could still want to, and you could still offer yourself to it. So the Buddha has realized it, and the Buddha is saying, come and practice with me, and build a sanctuary right here. So there could be realization or not, but there definitely was, I want to enact this teaching of thus right here. And maybe when the blade of grass is put in, maybe then the dust is realized. Thank you. I think Karen, what's next? What shall we do?


I need myself. So. Go to Karen or me, I don't care. Please go ahead. OK. Thank you. First of all, I appreciate very much the gathering and I. Was wondering if everything Everybody, anytime, is both this and thus. You know, not either or. I'm at this place at this time. This place is a good place to build a sanctuary to thus. I do this to celebrate thus. Okay, so... I can use this graspable time and place to celebrate the ungraspable body of awakening.


Yes. So, it's the wisdom of knowing, it's both, that makes it sacred, or a sanctuary, but if you don't have the wisdom to know that it's both this and thus, then are you, if you think it's only this, are you defiling? If you think it's only this, that's a defilement. Okay, so... But you don't have to think it's just this. You can just say, I'm using this to honor thus. Well, yes, but... And I don't think this exhausts thus.


Well, before I had some measure of realizing that this is the way it is, when I would overvalue thisness and forget or not know about the reality of thusness. So that's really my twisted ancient karma, so to speak. Okay. Yeah. Because of our ancient karma we sometimes overvalue this, overrate this, rather than use this to celebrate thus. Well, can you overrate and overvalue thusness to the exclusion of thisness?


No, you couldn't. You could overvalue thusness to the exclusion of thisness by not noticing that we need this to practice thus. Yes. Okay. Without overvaluing thusness might undermine our ordinary daily life. Okay. That would be overvaluing. It would be all-pervasive to not take care of the particular. Right. So that would be one of the signs that somebody's overvaluing the teaching of thus, that they're not willing to take care of all the thises. Yes. And so, when Darian had that experience, I think I got his name right, if people are so-called psychotic, there is either an overvaluing of thusness,


or thinking thisness, which is the reality going on in my mind, is a reality for everybody. Is that sort of being crazy? Or like he said, Jesus or Buddha realized it was a particular and the universal. They weren't saying, Well, I don't know. That you must believe what I am saying as absolute truth. Well, they were. Yeah, but maybe they didn't say... Maybe they say, what I'm saying is the ultimate truth, what I'm saying is the teaching of thusness. However, I'll still talk to you even if you don't believe me.


Yeah, okay. But if I say, what I'm saying is the teaching of thusness, and if you don't agree with me, I'm not going to talk to you anymore, then I'm a psychotic. Yeah. Or off with your head or something. What? Or off with your head. Yeah, off with your head. You're an enemy. I'm willing to talk to you. If I find some way to talk to you, then when I start talking to you, I'm not going to overemphasize the thus. But if I say that you have to agree with me or I won't talk to you, that's where we say the person's got problems. And that's where Buddha would have a problem too, if Buddha wouldn't just talk to us about teaching. Buddha would be a psychotic if Buddha wouldn't pop it over. Thank you. Thank you.


You're welcome. Rev, just to let you know, it's 11.29. Would you like to take one more question? I'll take two more questions. Thank you for being here with us this morning this way. You're welcome. I want to explore this notion of the activity that the sanctuary creating activity a little more. Because I think my confusion has to do with how much of the dedication is to enlightenment is consciousness in the activity is conscious.


And I'm thinking about, you know, the example of the Bodhisattva who just moves the pillow in the night without thinking. And I wonder how that kind of plays into the sanctuary building activity. If I think that I'm building a sanctuary as I'm doing an activity, it seems to me like I'm adding something extra. So I don't quite know how to resolve that. I think if I'm talking, that's an action. And then if I think I'm building a sanctuary, that's another action. Yeah. However, the talking can be... The talking is a good place to build a sanctuary. And then the thought that I'm building a sanctuary is another place to build a sanctuary. It's another thought. But you don't have to think that you're building a sanctuary when you're talking in order to build a sanctuary. You can just want your talking to be the building of a sanctuary.


I wish my... Right now I'm talking to you, and I wish this talking would be building a sanctuary. But I'm not thinking that I am building a sanctuary. I just want everything I do to build a sanctuary. And that's not two separate activities. The wanting and the doing are not two separate activities. Yeah, I think... wishing to build a sanctuary isn't really... Well, I guess it's kind of mental karma. I wish to build a sanctuary. And I wish to build a sanctuary here. But the here is not an action. So, I'm here wishing to build a sanctuary. That's an action that I wish to... And then now talking to you, I make my speech building the sanctuary. But I could also think, I just built a sanctuary.


And that thought now is also building a sanctuary. But I don't have to think that. I can just say, I'm here and I want to build a sanctuary here. I'm talking to Karen and I want my speech to be building a sanctuary here. And I do, I actually am here wishing that this dog is building a sanctuary here for you there. Yes. And if we were just talking without that wish being conscious, would that still be us building a sanctuary? I think I would be missing a chance. Okay. If I'm talking to people and I forget that I want my talk to be sanctuary building, I'm kind of forgetting what I want to be doing. Okay. I want my every action to be for the welfare of beings. That's what I want. And any action could be what I'm doing right now for that purpose.


If I forget that that's why I'm talking to you, I'm kind of forgetting what I'm what I'm up to. Thank you. If I walk down the stairs over right over there and miss the chance of this step, this step, this step, I'm kind of missing out of the sacredness of my walking. However, the Buddha's body still pervades my every step. But if I don't celebrate it, I kind of miss out that the Buddha's pervading every step I take. I missed the chance. I missed the party. Which is always going on. Thank you. That helps a lot. And through the Zoom thing, I'm getting to see more and more of your house. Yes. Yeah. Linda.


Hi, there's something in the middle of my screen. Yeah, I see you. Yeah, hi. I'm in San Diego traveling around with the Kabir Singers. I wonder where you were. Yeah, we're still on the Kabir Singers tour. Wonderful. You cited the Book of Serenity, the first case and about the breeze, the unique breeze. So this question has been hovering in my mind since then, which is, does the breeze come and go? I think it is the unique breeze of no coming and going. Jeez. So it's this thing that it's a breeze that pervades everywhere, and it doesn't come or go. So it pervades without going anyplace.


Well, I can't say anything. The Buddha pervades you, but it doesn't really move. It doesn't have to go someplace to pervade you. A breeze has a feeling of movement, doesn't it? It does, yeah. Yeah, it does. So... He could have said the unique light, but it said breeze, it did. Just so that we could both move and not come and go, and you could leave me with this same question. Yeah. I often wonder about the breeze, because sometimes you might say, can you feel it? The unique breeze, can you feel it? Or can you hear it? We don't usually talk about seeing a breeze. Feeling, hearing is a kind of moment of perception. Yeah. And yet.


Yeah, but the unique breeze, the one breeze, the Chinese character, the one breeze doesn't come or go. The way I heard the unique breeze is that it's this moment's breeze and it's not that previous or following moment. That's right, exactly. Yeah. So, but the poet called it a breeze. Yeah. Yeah. A breeze in the present. How could there be a breeze in the unmoving presence? How can there be a breeze in stillness? Yeah. But there is a tremendous activity in stillness. There's this great activity in stillness. Okay. Thank you everybody for coming to this great assembly.