A Lotus Flower Blossoms on Each Thought 

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A Lotus Flower Blooms on Every Thought
Tenshin Reb Anderson
No Abode August 11, 2012 Late afternoon


Transcribed by Karen Mueller


So the Zen teacher, Tori, supposedly said, “When I a student of the Dharma look at the real form of the universe”.  I wonder what he means? I imagine that he means when he looks at the real form of the universe he is looking at ..  It’s not like him looking but, “looking at the real form” means the wisdom which understands that forms that we see, that we know, are appearances. The real form of the universe is not an appearance. We make appearances out of the real form. So “looking at the real form” doesn’t really mean you are looking at the real form. It means you have realized the real form. You have become yourself, the reality of which cannot be known but in fact it is lived every moment.  So he uses this language of “looking at the real form” but I give him the benefit of the doubt and understand him to say realizing the real form of the universe, realizing the way things are which are notappearances, then everything is “the never-failing manifestation of the mysterious truth of the Tatagatha”.

“Then on each moment’s­ flash of our thought”.. So, you know it’s like thought flashes and maybe thought is an appearance, but there’s a lotus in that thought.  A lotus is growing in that thought and on that lotus sits a Buddha.  Or on each petal of the lotus, sits a Buddha.  We don’t have to tamper with the appearances.  It’s just that understanding what appearances are, a lotus grows there. A lotus is revealed in each thought. And on the lotus is sitting a Buddha. 

“May we extend this mind”.. What mind? The mind which is revealing a lotus growing in it in each moment.  May we extend this mind, in which Buddha’s are sitting, to all beings.   

The transmission of Zen to the West did not usually come in this language in the first few generations. But now here we are hearing this kind of talk that this student of Dharma is wanting to realize a mind wherein the moment-to-moment appearances are simultaneously places, times for the growing of the lotus with the Buddha sitting in it. Which is freedom from mind.  So when we see appearances, we know appearances, we see sights, we hear sounds and these are objects of consciousness and when we are free of consciousness, then lotuses blossom in that freedom from consciousness which could be called No-mind, or No-Thought.  But it doesn’t mean there’s no thought. It means we are free of our thought.  


We have some thoughts which a lot of us would be perfect happy to be free from. But the freedom from these thoughts, the freedom in which the thoughts we do have are the thoughts we are free of and the thoughts we are free of are the thoughts where lotuses grow.  Lotuses don’t grow in mid-air. They grow on thoughts. What thoughts do they grow on? They grow on the thoughts we are free of. So we’re not trying to get rid of the thoughts because lotuses grow in thoughts.  That’s where they grow. These kind of lotuses, they grow in thoughts..  The thoughts are mud that the lotus grows in.  And so with compassion we put down roots in our thoughts and become free of our thoughts by that compassion and the wisdom flower grows up out of the thoughts with little Buddhas sitting on top.


Thank you very much for coming today and practicing here and adjusting to this unusual schedule today. I appreciate that you continue to take care of the practice while I went to San Francisco and that you stayed around all afternoon with me. Thank you so much.

Is there anything you care to say before..?


Q. Sometimes I tell myself to have compassion for my thoughts but I don’t think I am really having compassion for my thoughts.


A. Yeah. You could say… I don’t actually tell myself very often that I’m having compassion for my thoughts. I just have compassion for my thoughts. I don’t say, “Hey Reb, have compassion for your thoughts’. But I do actually practice compassion towards my thought but I don’t usually think that I am when I am doing it.  


Q. When I try to do it, I just try to be gentle and kind and flexible but...


A. That sounds good. That sounds like compassion.


Q. It doesn’t always work.


A. You mean you’re not always sincere about it?


Q. I can’t tell. I think I am.


A. Well thinking you are is a good place to start.  Even just try and then check to see, was that sincere?  And then, if  you say yes, then try again. Then you might try again and you might think that one wasn’t so sincere. Then try again.  That one was sincere.  If you keep trying, whether you think it’s sincere or not, it will become sincere. I predict it will become sincere!  But if you don’t try and also don’t try to reach sincerity, I never heard of anybody who got there without trying. 


Q. I try but sometimes the pain gets in the way.   


A. No the pain is what you are trying on. What gets in the way is your inability to be kind to the pain. The pain isn’t stopping you.  The pain is what you are compassionate towards. However if you’re not really skillful with your compassion sometimes the pain is so great that you think maybe something other than compassion would be good. Like blaming somebody for it, for example.  Or lie about it. Deny it. Kill it. Kill the pain. We have painkillers that you can buy legally.  You can legally buy painkillers. Right? But we’re not in this tradition; we are not into killing pain. We are into being kind to pain. 


However as I said to somebody earlier, being kind to pain is really generally speaking quite simple, but it is not easy.  So if you try to be compassionate that is basically really good. To try. Then if you think that you are compassionate… Sometimes people say to me, “I am trying to practice compassion but I’m not sure that I am.” I usually would say that being sure that you are compassionate is doesn’t go very well with being compassionate. Wondering.. I wonder if I am really compassionate, that’s ok. But saying that you are, and also saying that you aren’t, neither one of those is very kind. But saying, “I want to but I’m not sure if I am”, I would say just keep track of the “I-want-to”.  Bodhisattvas are I-want-to-be-compassionate beings. They are not I-KNOW-I-am-compassionate beings.   They don’t walk around thinking, “I am compassionate,” “I am compassionate”. They go around saying, “I want to be, I want to be, I want to be” And then they might think, “I wonder if I am?” and then they say, “We hear your question, that’s a perfectly good question. We welcome your question, “I wonder if I am?”.


I heard that the Dalai Lama, he heard when he was a kid that he was an emanation of Avalokitesvara. When he was a kid he thought that was kind of far out. Now he’s 75 or 76 or something and he says, “Maybe I am. It’s possible! I’ve been trying all my life.”


Suzuki Roshi, when he got old he said, “Now I’m old and I can’t sit up straight anymore. But I can try”. He kept trying. He didn’t think, “Oh, now I am sitting up straight.”  But he kept trying. And you can try. You can try. You can try. And if you keep trying, you will become sincere. And if you don’t think you are sincere, ok I would say.  “I said, may all beings be happy, but I didn’t really mean it. I didn’t really mean it. There were a few people that I didn’t really want to be happy. I didn’t really mean that.”  Well say it again.  “Well that time actually even less people that I wanted to be happy”.  Well then do it again. “Well that time actually there was only two people, there were only two exceptions to that” Try it again.  “Those people that I didn’t want to be happy before, now I actually want time to be happy too. I really do. I actually see that’s what I really want.” But you have to do it sometimes quite a few times before you actually feel like you mean NO exceptions to good wishes. Part of compassion is being honest. “May all beings be happy. May all beings be at peace. Honestly speaking, I don’t really mean that for all beings.”  That honesty is part of compassion and then being kind to yourself for making exceptions to being compassionate. is being compassionate.  The great teacher who is sitting next to you while you’re making exceptions to compassion is compassionate towards you who are not whole-hearted in your compassion. Isn’t the great teacher compassionate to you when you are not whole-heartedly compassionate? Isn’t that what you mean by a great compassionate teacher? Someone who is patient and generous to us when we are not compassionate.  Who might say to you, “Would you please be more compassionate?” but really appreciating us at the same time.


What’s your next question?


13 min.


Q Sometimes I’m not aware of the shell. Sometimes I’m not aware of something pecking back.


A. Right!  As I have often mentioned there are basically four patterns.  The basic one is we’re always pecking and we’re always being responded to.  Everything we do is asking enlightenment to come and play with us.  “Every little sound I make; every little bird in the tree” Everything is calling out, “Hey, great compassionate beings, come and play with me!” Everything is doing that all the time and there’s a response all the time.  That’s the basic situation, but the basic situation is you don’t know you’re asking and you don’t see the response. You don’t you’re saying “hey Buddha, help!” and Buddha is saying, “I’m right here”. Matter of fact we say enquiry and response come up together. When you say, “Help, Buddha!”  that is Buddha’s help. A lot of times you don’t even know you’re asking for help and you don’t know that you’re responded to but you always are. That’s one level.  


Next level is you think you asked but you didn’t see a response.  


Another level which is sort of parallel to it is that you get a response and you didn’t think you asked for it.  “I didn’t ask you for.. I didn’t ask you to tell me to be compassionate. Where did that come from?”  Buddha says, “I thought you did”.  


The other case is I asked and I got a response. I saw that I asked. I wanted help. I wanted guidance. I wanted wisdom and wisdom came.  Those are the four basic renditions of this relationship.  


This is the relationship between freedom and bondage. They are always working closely together­. According to this tradition, Buddhas are always practicing with us.  And if you don’t think they are, just keep thinking about that. Just think about that all the time, that Buddhas are always practicing with you and you will eventually understand that they are. Buddhas are sitting on a lotus in every thought you have. It’s a question of being kind to your thoughts so you can open to that kindness which is sitting in your thoughts.  


Ok?  And when the pain is really hard, it’s hard to be kind so.. It doesn’t mean when the pain is intense and you’re having a hard time being kind, it doesn’t mean that you can’t hear yourself call. You might be able to. And you might be able to hear the response.  It’s just that if you can’t hear the response, if you don’t feel that you’re getting the gift back, just give more and eventually you will hear it. 




Q. When you say to be sincere what do you mean?


A. Whole-hearted. So whole hearted that the enclosure is non-functional. That the enclosure of our mind is not really enclosing us anymore. Like Dogen says, “When you see sights and hear sounds, fully engaging body and mind, it’s not like the mirror and the reflection in the mirror”, or like the mirror and the thing reflected in the mirror. It’s not like that.  “When one side is illuminated, the other side is dark. When you fully engage”, there’s not you and objects out there. It’s just you.  If all there is is you, there’s nothing (out there) or there’s things but there is no you. There’s things but there’s no enclosing. There’s no you enclosing. You are everything. Or everything is you. There is no enclosure. You’re free. “When you find your place like this, the practice occurs”. When you’re whole-hearted, the practice occurs, realizing your life, realizing how your life actually is the truth. 


But we have to whole-heartedly and sincerely deal with these appearances in order to be free of them. Sincerely see a sight and hear a sound.  And we can’t do things sincerely unless we are compassionate. And we can be compassionate not completely sincerely, so we need to work on it. To really be sincerely compassionate, sincerely generous, sincerely ethical, sincerely patient and sincerely concentrated. 


Some Chinese characters for sincerity are also translated as concentration and vice versa.  To sincerely pound a nail, you are just pounding the nail. To sincerely cut vegetables, to sincerely listen to somebody, to sincerely cry, you’re concentrated. And in order to be concentrated you really need to be generous and careful and patient. Therein wisdom can flash on the thought.  


Lotuses can blossom in the mud of our dualistic thoughts. That’s the non-dual sprouting and flashing in the dual.  We don’t destroy duality. We realize non-duality simultaneous with duality. But we have to love duality in order to realize it is illusion.  


20 min.


Q. I get confused a little bit between the delusion and the truth. For some reason when the whole focus comes on non-duality, that’s the whole focus. Then the delusion part..


A.  We are devoted to non-duality but the non-duality cannot be separate from the delusion.  We use delusion to realize freedom from delusion. We use duality to transcend duality. We use delusion to transcend delusion. We cut through delusion with delusion. And we’ve got the tool, don’t we? We’ve got it. We’ve got the delusion. Now we just need to use it to transcend it. And the way you do that is by being kind to your delusions. And everything you know is a delusion.  


Q.  I’m trying but I cannot fit in there. I feel the non-duality is the present one. That’s the presence and the delusion is really.. I don’t know how to describe it.  I don’t know if we cut through the delusion.


A. You are describing it. You are describing delusion right now. You are doing a good job. You’re good at describing delusion. You’re doing it right now. 


Q.  I don’t see. Ok, let me see.  There’s nothing to be cut. 


A.  That’s right. There’s nothing to be cut. And if you’re kind to everything, you’ll realize there is nothing to be cut. But if you are not kind, you’re going to think there is something to be cut and you’re going to want to cut out of here. And that’s your usual thing. You want to cut out of here. Because you think there is something to be cut. But as you just said, there really isn’t anything to be cut. But that’s just talk until you’re kind to the things that you want to get away from.  Got it for a moment there?  Here we go.