A Lotus Sutra Narrative of the Bodhisattva Path

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I was looking forward joyfully to discuss some teachings about our practice with you, but something has come up urgently that I think I'll talk about instead. And I want to talk about this and give, I'll say a little bit about the the background of this is that some people have been working on gathering teachings together on the training of bodhisattvas, on the training of heroes of enlightenment, from talks I've given over many years. And as I contemplated the large field of these teachings, I was thinking now what structure would hold all these teachings, because otherwise they might look like, it might be hard to see, understand the field, because there's quite a variety of teachings being offered about training in the Zen tradition.


training in bodhisattvas in the Zen tradition. And so I contemplated that, and yesterday, no, yesterday? No, the day before yesterday. No, yesterday. This wonderful insight came of a structure which could hold all these teachings and in which they could be placed in some appropriate spot. And the structure that came to my mind was a story, which I have enjoyed thinking about for many years. It's a story, approximately 2,000 year old story, I guess, from a scripture, a great vehicle scripture, a Bodhisattva vehicle scripture, called the Lotus Sutra. and it's from the chapter called Faith and Understanding.


It's a story about the Bodhisattva path. And so I want to tell you this story, which I think is going to serve as a as a structure for these teachings that we're going to try to make into a book. I can tell you more about the details later, if you want. So here's the story. I'm just going to tell you the story for starters. The story is, I'm told by students of the Buddha Shakyamuni. So the Buddha Shakyamuni has taught his students something, and they're very happy with what they've been taught, and to explain to the Buddha how they feel about this teaching which they have received now.


This teaching which is something they never heard before. They tell the Buddha this parable. It's actually a parable, they say. So it's like this child, and in the scripture it says a son who has a father. All sons have fathers. But I don't know, maybe I'll say son, maybe I'll say daughter, maybe I'll say parents. I don't know which I should say. Anyway, in the book, in the scripture it says, there was a son who lived with his father. But he also lived with his mother, I think. So, I think it was a son who lived with his mother and father. Or a daughter who lived with her mother and father.


Okay, that's the basic situation. A child is living with her parents. That's the basic situation of this story. And then this child wanders off from her home with her parents. She wanders off from her daddy And she wanders and wanders and wanders. And she went from land to land. And the older she became, the poorer and more needy she became.


She wandered around in every direction, looking for clothing and food. Until, finally, by chance, she started heading to her homeland. Meanwhile, This daughter, by the way, this son, has wandered for about 50 years. Wandered a long time. And the longer she wandered, the poorer and more needy she became. And by chance, she wandered back towards her own homeland. Meanwhile, back at home, Her father and mother were searching for their child unsuccessfully, and now lived in another city from where they originally lived.


Their household had become very wealthy. Very, very wealthy. Inconceivably, incalculably wealthy. At this time, the child is now wandering back towards home, the poor child wandering through village after village and passing through various lands and cities, at last reached the city where his father was living. Although this child had been away for more than 50 years, the father always thought about him,


but had never spoken of it to anyone, only pondering to himself, his heart full of remorse and regret. He thought, old and worn out, I have great wealth, gold, silver, and rare treasures overflowing my storehouses. And yet, I have a child. Excuse me, I have no child. Someday, my end will come. and my wealth will be scattered and lost, for there is no one to whom I can leave it."


This is why he always earnestly thought of his child. If I could only get him back and entrust my wealth to him, he thought. How contented, how happy I would be with no more anxiety. And then they go on and say, meanwhile, World Honored One, meanwhile, Lord Buddha, they're talking to the Buddha, this poor child, drifting from one job to another, accidentally arrived at his father's house. Standing by the gate, he saw his father from a distance.


seated on a lion throne. His father's feet were resting on jewel pedestals and he was wearing fine clothing with strings of pearls worth tens of millions adorning his body. To make a long story short, with such trappings, he looked majestic and distinguished. The poor child, seeing his own father, seeing his own mother, with such great power, was seized by fear. and regretted that he had come to this place.


He secretly thought to himself, that person must be a king, or something like a king. This is no place for me to try to make a living. I better go to some poorer town where I can be paid for my labor and where food and clothing will be easier to get. If I stay here, I may be captured and forced to work as a slave." Having these thoughts of this kind, he ran away quickly. the elderly gentleman on the lion throne recognized his son at first sight. Filled with joy he thought, at last I have the one whom my stories of wealth are to be entrusted.


I've always been thinking of my son, but had no way to see him. Now suddenly he has come by himself. My hope is completely fulfilled." Olden warned out, I yearned for him. I yearned for an heir. Then he sent messengers after his son to bring him back. And they took hold of him firmly. And he thought they were coming to capture him, either to put him into slavery or kill him. And he fainted. The father seeing this realized what was going on and called his messengers back.


The father saw that what was going on, and there was no need for... And then he told the messengers, there's no need for this, man. Let him go. Don't force him to come. Sprinkle some water on his face, and wake him up, and say nothing more about this. So they did. The son woke up, and was very happy to escape, capture. And then the father got an idea of sending some people to him in, you know, not big powerful messengers, like angels probably.


but this humble old gentleman wearing rags, dirty rags. He sent them to his son. They caught up with him and they offered him a job, a humble job of shoveling dung, probably elephant dung. And the son was happy at this offer and asked for an advance on his pay and went to work. And so he worked in this way for quite a long time. And after a while, his father actually put on dirty, ragged clothes and went to see him. and praised his work and encouraged him to continue to work.


And after he did this for some time, the father went to him and told him, now probably in his normal clothing, that he wanted him to come up to the house and learn the business of the house, the comings and goings of the house. He wanted him to become familiar and knowledgeable about this realm of great wealth. And the son could accept this position. His confidence had gradually grown by shoveling the dung and receiving food and clothing for it. He now had the confidence that he could go up to the house that previously he was afraid to be near. and he came to the house, and he learned the ways of the house, and he became close to his father, but didn't know that it was his father still.


Finally, the time came for his father to say, My passing will be soon. You are like a son to me. and I entrust all the workings of this vast realm of wealth to you." And then he gathered together kings and leaders of the country and all his acquaintances to come and he made an announcement and said, this man is actually my son and I entrust everything to him. So, now I would comment on that story.


Well, actually, the comment is that the people who told the Buddha the story said that this parable was the way they were. His students who had received this teaching, they said, this is the way we are. And I would say that this parable is the way we are. We may not yet realize it, but this is the way we are. We are basically living in a house with our parents. Our parents in the house we're living in are the Buddhas. But we don't realize that we're living in the house of the Buddhas, and that we are the Buddhas' successors.


Or we haven't, up until now maybe, realized this. And because we did not realize that we're in this house, we have wandered away. We have become distracted from our basic situation. And the longer we've wandered, the more poor and needy we have become. Or the longer we wandered, the longer we were distracted from our basic situation. which is that we are living with the Buddhas, and the Buddhas are living with us. The longer we've been distracted from that, the poorer and needier we had become. But we will, or have, by chance, wandered back to our


original situation. We have, by chance, wandered back into our original home. But when we saw it, we didn't necessarily know that it was our original home. and that the original situation was our original situation. But then our original situation offered us some chance to train, offered us a job, which sometimes is called Zen training, or Bodhisattva training. And by doing this practice, by doing this training, we have, or will realize, our basic situation.


Which we never left, really. We just got distracted. We went into a dream of wandering away from our basic home. But in this story and in our lives, we have to train for quite a while. We have to shovel dung for quite a while, and then we have to graduate from shoveling dung to learning the business of the house. And we will do that, and we are doing that. We are shoveling dung, we have shoveled dung, and we will shovel dung. We are learning the business of the house. Right now I am showing you the business of the house. Right now I am showing you dung shoveling. But I'm also telling you that this is all just to develop confidence.


that you're always in this house, and you never really leave. You only get distracted. So with this confidence, this faith, there will be understanding. At the end, the son understands, oh, I'm not just like a son, I am your actual son, and I've always been your son. I am your actual daughter, and I've always been your daughter. But I was distracted there for about 70 years. 50 years of wandering and 50 years of training. When I was wandering, my confidence that this was my fundamental situation went down and down and down. So when I saw my original situation, I was deeply frightened that it would kill me. Now, by training with you, I now see that I am worthy of living in this family with all Buddhas.


Most of the Zen stories we have are about the time of dung shoveling and learning the business of the house. We don't usually tell the story of all the monks, all the students who came to Zen, we don't usually tell the story that they started out in Buddha's house and got distracted from it. And then went on a long wandering, which actually was a pilgrimage. back home. We leave home and we go on a pilgrimage back home. When we're at home, we are supported by everything. That's our basic situation. We are supported by everything. We include everything.


And we support everything. And we are included in everything. But being children, we do not understand this. And we have no faith in it, because we're too young to understand. So we don't have understanding and we don't have faith, even though in reality we are always including everything and supporting everything. supported by and supporting. And at some point, by wandering long enough, by being distracted long enough from this basic situation, we come to a situation where we're told that this is our situation. Like today, you are being told this. And now, You're being told that we need to train in order to have confidence that this is our basic situation.


We are Buddha's life now. We are the life of Buddha now. And we always have been. And the Buddhists have been longing for us to come home and train and have the confidence to understand that we are and always have been on this path of Buddhahood. That's the urgent business, the urgent story. That's the story I felt urgent to tell you. Basic situation, intimate communion.


Next situation, intimate communion, which we do not understand. Which we do not perceive. But it's our basic reality. That's the beginning, in a way, or the basis, and at the end, we will understand it again. We will understand it anew. So part of this, one of the reiterated statements is, we now have something we never had before. But really, now we have something, and what we have is we're being told that we've always had it. Now we have the information that we've always been on the path of Buddhahood, and we never had this information, we never had this understanding before.


The joy of hearing that we've always been on this path, and we always will be on this path. Are you afraid?


Are you feeling afraid? You are? It's a statement of faith and it's really scary to step into that. It's scary to step into faith that this is your true home? It's scary to step into faith that Buddha's longing for his children to come home? It's a religious statement, it's not a rational statement. So you're feeling some fear? There's training and then there's training.


And I was wondering if you could talk about training. Talk about training? Well, part of what this story is about is that when we're being supported by all things and supporting all things, we don't necessarily know or understand that. So in order to understand that, in order to realize that, we have to train. So the first part of the path that this parable describes, it's training, it's also training, but is training in the form of us not understanding that we're training. It's training by us not understanding what we're being trained in. So we're being supported, but we don't understand that we're in a process of understanding that we're being supported.


And we're supporting, and we're in the phase of not understanding that we're supporting. But that's actually part of the training, is to not understand. And to not understand that we're in training to understand. The next phase is we had enough of that. We had enough of what? Of this wonderful situation of being supported and supporting. And we go away from it. We walk away or run away from home. But that is also part of the training. However, it's a training in the form of having nobody training us. Nobody's training us. I didn't sign up for any training. I'm a teenager. I'm wandering around looking for employment of my life energy.


I'm not in training. I have no agreements with anyone. I'm not trying to understand what my home is. I'm leaving my home. I don't want my home. And also, if anybody asked me, maybe I would tell them that I do understand what my home is or that I don't. And what I do understand my home is, is my home is a place I don't want to be. That's how I understand my home. Or I do understand my home as a place where everybody was supportive of me, but I don't want to be there. Or I do understand my home and people did not support me and I don't want to be there. Anyway, I'm leaving home and I'm on my own. And the longer we wander about in that form of training, where we have nobody who's agreeing on the training with us, the more we forget our home. But it's part of the training.


So this picture is the whole thing is a training. Then at a certain point we get so poor, that when someone offers us a training opportunity, we say, yes, thank you. And also, would you give me an advance? So finally, we get back to actually coming home now. By chance, we find our way home. But when we first come home, we're not ready to actually jump back into everything supporting me. We're not ready for that. That's like we pass out. Or I'm supporting everyone. Here's this rich person and I'm supporting him and he's supporting me. No. I shouldn't be around here. But this is another step in the training. We give a message to the Buddhas that we're not ready for the Buddhas to give us everything.


So the Buddhas say, well, how about a job shoveling? Or how about a one day sitting at no abode. And we say, okay, can I have an advance? So did you get your advance? And then you do it, and you do it, and gradually the place which was too much, like, would you like to come into the house, into the house where everything supports you? and learn how that goes. Would you like to come into the house where you can see how you support everything? Are you ready to come into the house? And you say, yeah. That's training too. And what you need... Would you like to come into the house of receiving these precepts? Of how you respect everybody? and how everybody respects you.


Do you want to come and receive those precepts? I'm not ready for the precepts of I respect everybody. No. And also, not everybody respects me, so I'm not ready for that precept. Okay, let's just use this other word first. Where some people respect you and some people don't. And where you respect some things and some things you don't. Like you respect the food you get, but you don't respect the dung. and you support the food and the clothing but you don't support the whatever anyway. You work with that long enough and finally you're ready to go into the real treasure house where everything is supporting you and you're supporting everybody. Everything. And then when you practice that way for a while you realize that everything you went through up to that point was actually the same practice you're doing now. Everybody's doing the same practice and everybody's enjoying the same enlightenment.


That's our basic situation according to the Lotus Sutra. But it also tells a story that we do not understand that and have no confidence in that at the beginning of the story. And in order to have, finally, full faith and full confidence, we have to wander away from reality and experience the consequences of it. And then we will start the training in another way. But the wandering away and getting poorer and poorer is part of the training. The child is not going to sign up for full appreciation of her parents until she's been away from her parents and experiencing the consequences of that for a while. And the child is not going to accept how she supports her parents until she's been away from feeling like, I'm not supporting them.


They're not around. I'm not taking care of them. So that's part of the training. But that part of the training, we have already done, I think, enough to wind up now, at least we're back shoveling dung here. And getting ready to take care of the temple. So we're both shoveling dung here and taking care of the temple. We're both shoveling dung here and supporting the other people here. And we're also seeing how they're supporting us. This is the wealth of our family. And if we keep doing this, we will eventually understand that we are actually in this basic situation of being actually the Buddha's successor. And this whole thing we've gone through is the normal process of making a Buddha.


So the material that I was referring to is mostly stories about the dung shoveling and learning the ways of the house stories. Those are the ones that are usually recorded. But I feel like this parable gives a structure that makes the stories coherent, and also the stories are coherent because of a background, an inconceivable, incoherent background. Yes? The analogy of the parent-child really works for me because rather than saying this is bad behavior, it's more immature behavior.


And there's a maturing in that process. Yes? I was wondering what precipitated the sense of urgency for you to tell this story today. Because yesterday I had an insight. That's a story. Yesterday I had this insight of this structure of the path and I saw... I saw it before, but I saw how that gives a coherence to an ocean of teachings, which is incoherent. There's so much material that's been accumulated to make this book that it's just like incoherent. And it's hard to see how you could do anything with it.


But when I saw this, I thought, oh, here's a way that we can make a coherent picture of this ocean, this incoherent ocean, which is included in the story, and which includes the story. And that was yesterday, and this is today. If I was scheduled to give a talk last night, I would have done it last night. If I was scheduled to give a talk, not today, but next week, then the urgency would have lasted a whole week. I would have been waiting. But it just turns out that today is the day. So this coherent picture of the path preempted another coherent picture of the path.


But the other picture of the path was again more a picture of the fundamental situation. The fundamental situation is our practice. is our enlightenment. And that's what I was planning to talk about, is the actual dynamic function of our practice enlightenment. But this structure appeared as a context in which to understand this fundamental. Would you give me, there's a document up there called the Lancet of Zazen or the Point of Zazen.


Just a second, John. Yes, did you have your hand raised? Would you want to say something? Yes. It strikes me as an interesting twist on the traditional architectural hero's journey. returns with the booms of their wanderings and their travels and a sense of confidence out there. And in this case, the wandering results in increasing poverty and impoverishment, in a sense, and sort of hitting raffata when you come back to Shambhala Dham, and then having to build back up through the Shambhala Dham. So there's an interesting twist there about the purpose of the wandering that you usually find in the hero's realm. Well, here's another hero's journey. It's the hero's journey in the story of Amor and Psyche. So Psyche is kind of a hero. It's a female, right?


So it's a heroine. And she is in this basic situation. This is a Greek hero's journey of Psyche. She's in this basic situation where she's supporting her lover, and her lover is supporting her. They're having a very nice time. But she doesn't trust it. So she wanders away from that too. She doesn't trust it, so she brings a light. She wants to bring a light to her lover to see who he really is. But that's going away from her relationship with him. He told her, do not do that. So, you know the story of Amor and Psyche? No. So, Psyche is... I don't know, what's Psyche? The human mind.


Amor is love, or Cupid. Anyway, they got together. That's the basic situation. You can't find it? That's the basic situation. Love and the mind are living together. You can't find it? I found it there just a couple of days ago. So this is a hero's journey John's referring to. They're together and he says, and they're in the dark. They're in the dark. She does not understand this love. She doesn't understand it. She's enjoying it, but she doesn't understand it. And not understanding it, She thinks she wants to put some light on it, but he tells her, don't do that. So she puts light on it and then she loses it.


Now she sort of knows it, but she loses it. And then she's like bereft of her home, her really nice home. So then she goes on a journey where she has to do certain work, her own, her kind of dung shoveling, to get back together. And every one of those things she tries to do, she tries to do on her own, and she collapses. So this story, however, does not require... The hero in this story is not trying to do it on his own. Actually, he didn't try to do it on his own, and he collapsed. And after he collapsed... So that's a similarity. He tried to do it on his own, and basically he collapsed, and then he was given help. She tried to do it on her own and she collapsed and got help. So she did these labors and he did these labors after collapsing. Then she succeeded in the labors. To do them on our own, we will not succeed.


But we need to try to do it on our own. That's part of leaving home. Where at home we're not doing things by ourselves, we're doing things together. At home, our basic situation is we're doing this together. This is our happiness. But we don't know it. So we have to go away and do it on our own. Strike out, as we say, on our own. And we will fail at that. And at some point we will receive help. And the help will be hard work. But we won't. And if we try to do it on our own, we're striking out again from our home. And people do that. It's part of Zen practices. You come, you're given some work, and if you try to do it on your own, you're going away from home again. So part of the practice is to come and receive the work and learn that you're not doing it alone. Which takes you back to realize you never were alone, but now you gradually have confidence in that.


It sounds like, too, in the story of Psyche, and a little bit in the story of the Lotus Sutra, there's a parable of gaining mind, too. That plays into not just doing it alone, but there's a gaining mind that arises, and the wandering sets the gaining mind off, in a sense. Yeah, there's a gaining mind, and in our basic situation, we are supported to have a gaining mind. children are supported to have a gaining mind. And the gaining mind, it could be one of the conditions which hinders us from understanding that we already have everything and we already give everything. Everything we have is given to us and we give everything we have. That's our basic situation. And we turn away from that into like, I'm going to get something. I'm going to get something. I had enough of this situation. It's part of our evolution.


We understand maybe a tiny bit that we are giving ourselves which we have received. That we receive ourselves which we give. That's our basic situation. We want to understand it more or at least a little bit. So in order to understand it, we have to go away from it and get something. And we keep trying to get something on our own, and we get more and more poor and needy, and finally collapse. And then we go to a place that says, we have a practice which you can do, and then in parentheses, and you'll probably think you're doing it by yourself, because that's what you've been thinking for a long time. But you do this practice, and you'll find out, as you do it, that you're really doing it together with everybody. So when you first start doing it, you're thinking you're doing it by yourself, but actually in the story of Lotus Sutra, he didn't get that job by himself, he got that job because his father gave it to him. And he didn't know it was his father that gave it to him. And all that, but his father who gives him everything, or his mother who gives him everything, had to kind of like downplay how generous they really are.


I want to give you everything, but you don't want everything, so I'm going to give you a little job of shoveling dung. Maybe you can accept that. And then when you first take the job, you may think you're doing this shoveling on your own power. But the more you do it, the more you realize that you're doing it because we're all supporting you to do it. So the disease of gaining mind is part of what will facilitate us understanding our original situation. Somehow we have to go away from our perfection in order to understand it. It's part of the ironic nature of human existence. And we are on this path. And we are, in a way, we're in the fundamental situation all the way through.


But most of us also can remember some time when we've wandered away from that. And now some of us can realize we've wandered away from it enough so we can train at being compassionate with the wandering away, which is how we will return. We must wander away, according to the story, but we can practice compassion towards the wandering, and that's our job. Which at first is really messy, and then it gets more subtle, after we develop confidence in dealing with the messiness together. And then we can deal with the majesty together. We cannot deal with the majesty on our own.


Just like in our original situation, we could not deal with supporting the whole universe on our own. The whole universe supports us to support it. But how can a little kid understand that? Well, they can't. And so then they have to actually go against it in order to finally understand it. And they have to go against it until they realize that they have to give up. They don't exactly know what they're going against, because they're going against their fundamental situation, they don't understand it, but they do know that what they're doing is not working, and something else maybe would be good. But in this story also, you can't show them the fundamental situation flat out, right away. You have to give them something that they will originally, even though they've had enough of this mistaken path, they're going to use their mistaken ways at the beginning of the path, the new step.


They're going to probably approach it dualistically and self-centeredly and gainingly at the beginning. But they have given up, to some extent, their attempt to make this work, but they still have the habits. And there's a sense of surrender. Yeah. So he ran away from home, and then when he got back home, he ran away from home. Right? But when he came back the second time, he could see what a fabulous home he had. When he first ran away, he didn't realize, wow, what a home I have! He just knew he had to get away, because his deep wisdom knows that he has to go away in order to understand. But then when he came home, after getting the consequences of leaving home, then you realize how good your home was. Something that pops in my mind was, and I've heard this from other people too, but anyway, once upon a time I was the father of a daughter, and I still am.


So once upon a time is now, but a while ago, when it was also the case, my daughter became pregnant and she had a baby, a baby boy. And after she had the baby boy, she called her parents and said, Now I realize how much you loved me. And I didn't know it until I was a mother. Children love their parents as much as their parents love the children, but the children don't know it. And the parents say to the children, I love you, and the children say, Yeah, right. I love you too, Mommy. But they don't know what the mother is talking about, really. And then they become a mother and they go, Oh my God, now I know what she meant. And they call their parents and they say, Wow, I didn't realize how much you loved me.


But they have to go away from their parents and get together with somebody to become a parent, and then they realize their home. And it's definitely, becoming a parent is bung-shoveling at least. It's a labor of love. which makes you understand where you came from, which you couldn't see when you were a little kid. And you couldn't see when you were a teenager. So you had to go away on your own and do your thing, my thing, and have your own room, too, before you left. First of all, you need your own room. In whose house? So you're living in your parents' house. and you're being supported by the whole universe and then you say, I want my own room and you put a sign on, stay out. And then finally you break out of the room and your parents are sorry to see you go and they keep waiting for you to come back to be there, inherit their love and transmit it.


But they know you have to go and find out that you don't know how to practice. So I thought this parable would make an ocean of teachings about this training coherent. Otherwise you might think that the training just starts when you start shoveling dung. But it doesn't start just then. You start shoveling dung because when you come home again, which is part of your training thing, training thing, go away and come back. Part of the training is when you first come back you're not ready for Dharma transmission. You're not ready to become a guru the moment you come back to meet the Buddha. So they don't make you a guru at the beginning. They make you a beginning student. And then if you think you can be a beginning student by yourself, they say, in more or less skillful ways, you cannot do this beginning student thing by yourself.


That's incorrect understanding of beginning student. Beginning student means beginning to understand that you're not living alone. That everybody's supporting you to be a student. And your being a student supports the entire universe. You're beginning to understand that. But we're not going to actually show you how that is. That you will run away from. So we, you know, as a matter of fact, Yeah, so usually the story is not the Lotus Sutra story. Usually when a student comes to the teacher, the teacher does not say, usually the teacher does not say, I've been waiting for you for a hundred years. You are actually my flesh and blood. They don't usually do that. There's a few stories where they do, and say, well those people, they were special pre-training to be able to tolerate that information. Yes?


Is the return the working of the vow? Is the return the working of the vow? The return is the working of the vow. Yes. But what this story is saying is that the leaving home, the going away from your home, is the working of the vow. The vow is to realize the truth that you are living together with all the Buddhas. The vow isn't just the reality. that you live in Buddha's house day and night. That's not the vow. The vow is what makes you leave home so you can understand it. So the vow arises in the fundamental situation, and the vow sends you on this pilgrimage to go away from home so you can come back. That's the vow.


And then, when you first go away, your vow is driving you away from reality so you can realize it. Not so you can not realize it, so you can realize it. You already don't realize it. So sentient beings are born together with all Buddhas, and in that womb, the vow to realize this relationship arises, but it looks like going away. And then they find out that now it should look like coming back. And then they come back, and then when they come back, then they actually stumble upon actually saying the vow in their conscious mind. So I would say that going away, the vow is unconscious, and when you come back, you discover the vow consciously, and then you practice it consciously. In the dung shoveling, you probably find the vow consciously. The vow to save all beings will arise either in the dung-shoveling phase, I would say.


I don't think the vow to save all beings happens just at the collapse of your egocentric trip. I don't think it goes right there and then, boom, the vow to save all beings and become Buddha in order to do so. I think you collapse and then you call out for help and the Buddha comes and you don't know you asked and they say, They don't come with their regular robes on, they come with dirty robes on. They say, you want a job shoveling dung? And you say, yes. And in that relationship now, in this relationship, after the time of poverty, now in the relationship, the vow, the conscious vow arises, the thought, the thinking arises. And that together with the unconscious vow, they both carry you forward. Yes? What determines how long you wander, whether it's 10 years, 50 years, or whatever, before you get back home?


I don't know. I don't know what determines how long. If you've been traveling for 49 years, then what determines 49 years is you could say 48 years makes 49 years. But when you'll run into your home again, I don't know how that all works. It says in the sutra, by accident. I don't think it's by accident. I think it's by an incoherent karmic causation process. I don't know how it happens though. But I just have this thought that it has happened for all of us. We have now all basically come back home and we're dealing with our home in a way that we can stand to deal with it. We're opening enough to the majesty of our basic home in the way we can open up to it. Like I often say, you know,


Like 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, I said to myself, I would not be, when I first came, so 30 years ago was like about, I came to Zen Center almost, I came to Zen Center 49 years ago. So after being at Zen Center for like 10 years, or 15 years, I thought to myself, I would not be able to stand the place I'm in right now when I first came. Does that make sense? I thought to myself, after being a Zen Master for one year, if I had been moved from that position into my position at 15 years, I would not be able to tolerate it. And then I could say, now, If I would move from my position at 15 years into this position that I'm in now, I would not be able to tolerate it.


So I'm not forcing you into my position right now. I'm not saying, okay, this is for you, come on in. So we are all dealing with our situation and hopefully just about the right place, but a little bit of a challenge, right? But not too much. But even if we do run away or veer off, that will be part of the practice, that will be part of the path. There's no way we're going to get off. So you all may go away today, and I'll never see you for a long time. I won't see you for like 10 years, or 15 years, or 20 years. You may go away a long time, but you will come back to, I could say me, or I could say us. You will come back to us, because us is you, and you is us.


And you will come back to you is us, and us is you. You will come back. But you may go away for quite a while, and us will be here when you come back. Us is not moving at all. Yes, us. Yes, you can. Excuse me, when the son was wandering he didn't realize he needed his father? Do you mean that the story doesn't mention what you just said?


Yeah. That's why I told this story, because if the story doesn't go into the details, the story is a structure for understanding all that you just said. Even as it was, I stopped going into the details of the story, because I wanted you to see the structure. But the structure is all the details, the infinite details of all the other substories of training fit into this basic pattern. So there's a lot of things missing. And so what are the key points? I think you got the key points. And then you can see if there's any stories that don't get included within this. I think they all fit. Because every story of your life, every story of my life, they're all stories of this path of realizing our true home, our true nature.


That's what this story is saying. It's a true nature story. Yes. So the way you tell this emphasizes the loving part of family life. Yet my model has always been that when one moves to the spiritual path, you let go of what holds you down And in trying to make it come out right, it's like you're saying embrace your karma at some level. Not all families are happy families. Not all families give you a good start.


And I'm struggling with that. You're referring to some families that are not happy families. So I would say the unhappy families are situations where the family members are in the process of having wandered away from their true home. The unhappy families are families where some people are unhappy. The unhappy people are people who have wandered away from their home, where they're happy. But their happiness is not completely fulfilled


Because they don't understand their happiness. They don't understand their happiness is because of the wealth of support of the entire universe for their life. And they don't understand that they are a jewel in the crown of the universe. That they are supporting the whole universe. People who do not understand this can still be happily existing in this place. But at some point, they have to go away from it, because there's something in their nature that wants to understand their true home. And when they go away, they feel like they're not in that place. So they're starting to learn that going away from this place is suffering. And so, when someone does that, then they are unhappy.


But sickness? What? Sickness? [...] Sickness is like a situation that a living being can be in and they can understand, or not, that their sickness is supported by the entire universe, and that their sickness supports the whole universe. They can understand that, or not. If they understand it, the proposal of the story is, they will be at peace, they will be joyful. If they don't understand it, the longer they don't understand it, the more unhappy they will become. But eventually they may find their way back to their home and when they get home they'll get instruction about how to realize that their sickness is supported by the whole universe.


And their universe is supported by their sickness. Understanding that is understanding our true home. And we have examples of people who train so that when they're sick they actually have faith and understanding that their sickness is supported by the whole universe and the whole universe supports their sickness. It's not like you take their sickness away and then they're happy. It's like they're sick but their understanding is that they're in this house of majestic resource for enlightenment. The sickness doesn't have to change at all for them to be full of fearlessness and compassion and wisdom.


You just have to dig deeper. It seems. It seems part of the path of realizing your true home, where you are going, where you are happy. You are happy in your true home. Again, we are happy in our true home. We are happy in our true home. This story is saying we have been in our true home. And we were happy there. But we left. We wandered away. Part of the path is that we leave our home. Our happy home. Because even though we're in a happy home, we don't understand it necessarily unless we have trained. And many living beings are in their happy home. That is our life. Our life is our happy home. But we need to understand it.


And the way we understand it starts by leaving it. And, for example, visiting unhappy homes. Going from one happy home to another. That's the path. to understanding our happy home. It's to visit all the unhappy homes. Or, you know, as many as we have time for. So if you've got 50 years, you've got 50 years to visit unhappy homes. If you've got 7 years, whatever. At some point you've visited enough unhappy homes, so you start to realize, oh, I'm on the path home and I need to train at returning home. And so you start training at going home. To the place where we will be happy when we're sick. Where we will be at peace when we're old. We're heading... We're on that path.


And it isn't that when you get old, and you realize this true home, that you become young, it's more like you realize peace and freedom when you're old and sick. Now, if you're not old and sick, it's okay. You can realize peace and freedom when you're not old and sick, too. But then, when you do become old and sick, you can also realize it. So the realization of peace and freedom is simultaneous with sickness and bondage. Simultaneous with that. Not afterwards. Yes? So I've been sort of in this from the beginning.


Yes, you have. It's a little messy. Messy? It finally came out with the last person to share. I love the story and I have a little bit of discord with a part and that is that it's easy to hear the going home in a conventional, concrete way, as in Family of Origin or Zen Center, and that that may or may not be part of the coming home, and the coming home is coming home to that place that needs no place and no person it's whatever is occurring. So it may not look like that story that you quoted, because it may not be going home to any place or people.


It may be going home to that deeper home with whoever we're with at that moment. Yes. But whatever way it is, it will have some coherence. It will be very specific. What do you mean by coherence? You won't come home to all places, you'll come home to a particular place. It can be any place. It doesn't have to be... It's a feeling tone, to me it's like... It can be a feeling tone, but it doesn't have to be a feeling tone. It could be a rock. It could be a temple. And again, in the story, he didn't come back to the same city, he came back to another city, his parents moved. And of course it wasn't his same parents, it was a different set of parents. His father had become much wealthier while he had been away.


It wasn't the same situation, but it was some particular situation and he could have done something besides shoveling elephant dung. But he had to do something specific, so it could be anything, but it has to be something coherent in order to understand the incoherence of our fundamental situation. Our fundamental situation is locally coherent and globally incoherent. I would have said it would be globally coherent. The way you're supporting the whole universe is not coherent. And the way the universe supports you is not coherent. But that's the background of the coherence called you. And you have to be a particular you. And at some point, you're going to have enough, or you have had enough, of being you on your own.


and you're going to open up to how you're supported by the whole universe. And where you are, what you're doing, when you start to remember that, not remember it, but go back to it and work with it in a particular form, we don't know what that particular form will be. It can be anything. And so usually it's not you know, in the Buddha stories, usually it's not going back to your hometown. It's usually finding a teacher and training with, and then going back home and realizing what you couldn't realize before. So, the thing I was going to talk to you about starts out, it's a poem, and it starts out, the essential function of all Buddhas the functioning essence of all ancestors.


That's how it starts. That's what I was going to talk to you about. But another way to translate it is, the pivotal function of all Buddhas, the functioning pivot of all ancestors. This is addressing the fundamental situation. where we are pivoting. Our fundamental situation is we pivot between you support the whole universe, and the whole universe supports you. That's the pivot. You include the whole universe, and the whole universe includes you, that pivot. All Buddhas, that's our fundamental home. The story gives a context for that home, which is the beginning and the end of the story.


And in the middle, between the two, pivotal functions and functioning pivot between those beginning and end, we train at realizing that. And the training is our practice. Thank you very much. May our intention equally extend to every being and place with the true merit of the