Meditation on Pride 

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Tenshin Reb Anderson
Samdhinirmonchana Sutra (Part X),
Chapter Four, Morning Dharma Talk
Saturday August 15, 2009, A.M.

Notes: 

Transcribed by: Karen Mueller

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NB - date on transcript seems to be wrong

Transcript: 

(missing words)..fourth sitting in which we’ve been concentrating on the first four chapters of the Samdhinirmochana Sutra which deal with ultimate truth. This is the fourth and final chapter focusing on ultimate truth, on the character of ultimate truth. The rest of the Sutra, then, is about how to study the ultimate truth, the character of which has been discussed in the first four chapters. So here we are, living beings, and we’re given an opportunity now to open to the teachings about the character of the ultimate. “And [now] the Bhagavan [the Buddha], spoke to the Venerable Subhuti: [and said,] “Subhuti, in the realm of sentient beings how many sentient beings do you think there are who communicate their understanding under the influence of conceit? In the realm of sentient beings how many sentient beings do you think there are who communicate their understanding without conceit?” The world ‘conceit’ here, could also be translated as.. I mean the original word which is translated as ‘conceit’ could be translated as pride. This type of conceit is conceit about apprehending objects, conceit of apprehending subjects, and conceit of thoroughly differentiating character. Pride in apprehending objects, pride in apprehending subjects, and pride in thoroughly differentiating character. In the… in one of the traditional presentations of the path to sagehood in the Buddhist traditions, there are five paths. And one of the paths is the path of vision, where one sees the illusory nature of the belief in a substantial self. And then in the next path various latent tendencies which exist even in one who no longer believes in the substantiality of the self or the substantiality of the person, a person who does not believe that anymore, and therefore has entered into the path of sagehood, they still have lots of latent tendencies that were developed during the time when they did believe in the substantial existence of a person. And then this long path of purification, where the person has this insight and applies this insight to their conduct over and over, and then various.. and then these latent tendencies are eliminated. And the last latent tendency on this path of purification, which is called Arhatship, this last latent tendency is pride or conceit. The people who are that advanced, you know you could say, well they have.. it’s very tempting for them to be conceited or prideful because they’ve gone a long way. They are amazingly evolved beings. And when you’re amazingly evolved, you might be kind of conceited. Ordinary human beings are actually amazingly evolved creatures. 
I recently heard that the second most written about animal on the planet is bees. I guess the most written about animal on the planet is humans. And I guess the third most written [about] animal on the planet is ants, I guess, but I don’t know. But I thought about ants and bees are interesting because, for many reasons, but one of the reasons they’re interesting to me is that they’re … they don’t have much sense of substantial self of the person. Regarding their personhood, they are kind of selfless. And they we had to write more books about these highly evolved beings who are really,.. who haven’t got over that belief, I mean the humans. The ants and the bees are giving us some teachings. 
We tend to be proud and conceited. Excuse me Subhuti, for upstaging you. “Subhuti replied: “Bhagavan, I think in the realm of sentient beings, those who are..those who communicate their understanding without conceit are few”. [That’s how many. That’s how many I know of that communicate their understanding without conceit. I know just a few.] “Bhagavan I think that in the realm of sentient beings, sentient beings who communicate their understanding under the influence of conceit are immeasurable, countless and innumerable”. (text says: immeasurable, countless and inexpressibly (in number, p53) So, I .. I was struck by this expression, is it called ‘DUI”, driving under influence? Is that it? Driving under influence, it’s called DUI, right” It’s not called ‘D-U-I-T”. Driving under influence of intoxicants though is the point, right? So we have here, communicating under the influence of conceit, C-U-I-C. Or CUI, communicating our understanding under the influence of conceit. This is.. a lot of… Innumerable beings communicate their understanding under the influence of conceit. Understanding, in this case, of the traditional teachings of the Buddhas. And people also do it about others things, like what kind of day it is or how we’re behaving or how lunch tastes. So we’re talking about the ultimate truth. Supposedly this chapter is about the ultimate,.. the fourth chapter on the character of the ultimate truth. It starts by talking about conceit. That many sentient beings are.. they communicate their understanding under the influence of conceit. And then Subhuti says, “Bhagavan, one time I lived in a great forest hermitage [a great forest monastery]. Dwelling with me in this great forest hermitage were innumerable (text says: numerous) monks. At that time, they communicated their understanding by describing what they had manifestly realized through observing various (text says: forms of) phenomena” Kind of a big fat sentence but there it is. He lived with these monks and what did they do? “They communicated their understanding by describing how they manifestly realized through observing the various forms of phenomena.” So he lived with these monks, and they observed various phenomena. And then they communicated their understanding by describing what they realized when they observed phenomena. I might rephrase this by saying, “at that time those monks communicated their understanding under the influence of conceit by describing what they had manifestly realized through observing various forms of phenomena”. And now the Sutra goes on to describe the many different types of phenomena that these monks observed upon which they had some… and contemplated and had some understanding which they communicated. And each one of these categories, are basic categories of.. basically Buddha’s teaching about how to guide you, ourselves, our meditation in the contemplation of phenomena. So the first one is, “One communicated his understanding based on observing the five aggregates.” So the monk was doing a basic Buddhist meditation of observing the five aggregates, observing body, feelings, conceptions, various kinds of mental formations, and consciousness. Buddha taught monks to contemplate these things. These monks were contemplating these things and in the contemplation they had some understanding which they communicated. 
And then he goes into details about how they did it… the contemplating these five aggregates, these five categories of experience of psychophysical being. So, they observed the signs of the aggregates. They observed the arising of the aggregates. They observed the disintegration of the aggregates. They observed the cessation of the aggregates. And they observed the actualization of the cessation of the aggregates. And it goes on to discuss how another one did it based on another meditation topic like the sense fields. And another one did it based on the contemplation of dependent co-arising, the Buddha’s teaching of dependent co-arising. On and on. Finally coming to meditating on the eightfold path. So here’s these monks basically contemplating what,.. these contemplations which the Buddha offered them, very effectively contemplating them. And of course, since they’re able to contemplate, they are quite developed beings. And not only do they contemplate them, but some understanding came. And then they communicated their understanding of all these different wonderful modes of analytic wisdom. And after,.. Subhuti lists all these different areas where these monks communicated, expressed, communicated their understanding based on observing these various types of phenomena. Subhuti says, “Having seen them, I thought”,… what a wonderful world (laughter). No, he didn’t. He says, “After seeing them, I thought these venerable persons, communicating their understanding by describing their manifest realization of the various forms of phenomena, and in this way, they do not seek the ultimate whose character is of one taste.” So seeing them, seeing these people, I thought, these venerable people communicate their understanding by describing their manifest realization of various forms and in this way, the way that they communicate their understanding they do not seek the ultimate whose character is all one taste. Therefore, these venerable persons have conceit. They can only communicate their understanding under the influence of conceit. Seeing these monks I thought to myself, these venerable elders expounding various teachings, based on contemplations they have realized and approve their own understanding.. Obviously these venerable ones are all conceited because they are possessed by conceit, they are unable to understand the unity, the one taste of the ultimate which pervades all. So it’s something about the ultimate that we’re being told. The main thing we’re being told is that the ultimate has the character is that it’s everywhere of one taste. Now we’re being told about the character of the ultimate. 
But before we’re told about the character of the ultimate, we’re told that if we are possessed by conceit we will not open to it, we will not seek, we will not be able to understand the ultimate. In other words, ..yeah, in other words, what’s conceit? And how can we be with that in such a way that we can let it go so that we can open to the ultimate whose character is everywhere of one taste. And how is it that the one taste of everything is blocked by conceit? What is it about conceit and pride that go against receiving the one taste of everything? So maybe also this warning about conceit among these highly evolved beings is something for us to receive to heart as we then enter into the rest of this Sutra. To keep remembering that that’s a key factor that we have to watch out for when we’re studying Dharma. So maybe a little bit more before I open for your response. And I’ll just say that when I read this I’m surprised by.. I’m surprised by the language. It doesn’t flow necessarily the way I think it would, which leads me.. which helps me, actually. Actually maybe shows me my conceit. So after Subhuti says that what he saw is these beings possessed by conceit and therefore they are only able to communicate their understanding … When you’re …when I am possessed by conceit then I’m only able to present my understanding under the influence of conceit. And then I’m interested in my understanding rather than the ultimate, because I have a nice understanding. So I have my nice understanding which I communicate but that makes it hard for me to really want to open to the ultimate or really be able to understand the ultimate. And yet, here I go reading another paragraph. “Bhagavan, regarding what the Bhagavan has formerly said: ‘The ultimate is profound, and subtle [and] very difficult to realize. Supremely difficult to realize and is the character that it is all of one taste’. What the Bhagavan has said so eloquently in this way, is wondrous.” 
The ultimate is profound and difficult and subtle to understand. Supremely difficult to realize. And has the character that it is all of one taste. And Subhuti thinks this is really wondrous. And then Subhuti says, “Bhagavan regarding those who have entered into this very interesting [excuse me] very teaching,… (starts over) regarding those who have entered into this very teaching by the [Tatagatha] that the ultimate is of the character that is everywhere of one taste: Since those sentient beings who are monks have difficulty understanding this way, what need is there to mention [heretics] (text says: Tirthikas) who are outside this teaching?” There’s a question mark at the end of that but I think this is rhetorical. In other words, if your students have trouble understanding your teaching, how about people who aren’t even your students. 
“And the Bhagavan [says]: ‘So it is Subhuti! So it is! I have perfectly and completely realized the ultimate character… (starts over) I have (text says: perfectly and) completely realized the ultimate having a character that is all (text says: of) one taste”. Here’s the Buddha proclaiming his understanding of the ultimate. Does that mean the Buddha has no conceit? “…the ultimate having the character (text says: that is all) of one taste, which is subtle, supremely subtle, profound, supremely profound, difficult to realize, supremely difficult to realize. Having perfectly manifested this [ultimate], I have proclaimed it and made it clear, opened it up and systemized it and taught it comprehensively.” And the Buddha says, “Why is this so?” So that way of saying “why is it so”, I think “why is it so…why did I go to all this trouble? Why did I… why did I proclaim it a make it clear and proclaim and systematize and teach this thing? Why did I make all that effort about the ultimate? Why is it so, Subhuti? No.. “Why is this so? Subhuti, I teach that the object of observation for the purification of the aggregates is the ultimate.” Why did I go to the trouble of proclaiming the ultimate, opening it up and so on? It doesn’t say it in the text, but I would say, you could say,.. because the object of purification, the object of observation for the purification of the aggregates is the ultimate. I made this effort to teach the ultimate because this ultimate is the object, which when contemplated, purifies the aggregates. It doesn’t just purify you, the person, although it does purify you-the-person, it also purifies what you are made out of. It purifies your eyes and your ears and your nose. It purifies the colors and smells and tastes. It purifies your feelings. It purifies your perceptions and your concepts. It purifies your greed hate and delusion. It purifies your faith. It purifies your consciousness. It purifies all that makes you. And it purifies “you” and “me” from mistaking all that makes us as something substantial. And it purifies the things that make it,.. make us from being something substantial.
That’s why the Buddha makes this big effort to teach the ultimate, because the ultimate is what purifies all phenomena. It starts with the aggregates, but then it goes on to purify the sense fields; to purify dependent co-arising; to purify the four foundations of mindfulness; to purify the eightfold path. To purify all the different elements that Buddha’s analytic wisdom.. to purify the wisdom of all phenomena. To purify the wisdom of all phenomena. That’s why he teaches this when he says, “Why is this so?” But another way to say it is, ‘how is this so?’. Rather that ‘why’, ‘why do you do this?’ It’s ‘how do you… how is it so’? Actually Buddha says, “I proclaim this”. So, how is it so that I proclaim it? Why do I proclaim it? Because it’s so important in purification? How do I proclaim it? How do I teach it comprehensively? I teach it comprehensively by saying that the object of observation for purification of the aggregates is the ultimate. And then he goes on. And, and also, “I teach that the ultimate is the object of observation for the purification of the sense spheres, dependent [co-arising] (text says: origination), the substances, the truths, the constituents, the mindful establishments, the correct abandonings, the basis of magical abilities, the powers, the forces, the branches of enlightenment, and Subhuti, the eight branches of the path of the Aryans. That which is the object of observation for the purification of the aggregates is all of one taste; its character does not differ”. And it’s the same object of observation for the purification of all phenomena. So, yeah, so I’m just pointing out that one way to read it…, the Buddha says this and the Buddha rhetorically says, “why do I it?”. Another way to say it is, the Buddha says I teach this and asks, ‘how do I do it?’ How do I do it? And why do I do it?’ Same answer. The reason I do it is because the ultimate purifies all phenomena when it’s observed. And the reason is, ‘how I do it’, is by saying that the ultimate, when contemplated, purifies all phenomena. So we begin here with that. And this teaching.. so this teaching is partly to say that because of conceit we don’t really want to open to the ultimate. We’re more interested in what we already understand. What we understand is pretty hot stuff; it works pretty well. And almost everybody feels that way. But some people study for a long time and then what they understand is that what they understand is like much better than what I understood when I was a new monk. This is really good stuff. This is what I understand and. I won’t say that I don’t want to open to the ultimate. I would just say that actually I do understand the ultimate already! So I don’t have to open to the ultimate. And this is my understanding of the ultimate. So this, right here now we have the beginning of the antidote to the conceit is this teaching of the one taste that is everywhere. So maybe that’s enough for starters. Maybe it’s enough for finishers too. Yes, Timo? TImo: Would you say, you could say instead of ‘conceit’, ‘identification with a view’. Reb: Identification with a view? Yeah. You have a view of phenomena. You think it.. and you think and you identify with it could mean that actually ‘this works for me, I sign up for this view, I believe this and, you know, some pride about it. So identification with a view is similar to having pride in the view. So one of.. one kind of conceit is conceit in apprehending objects. So you apprehend the view. That’s kind of an attachment, but also even conceit in thoroughly differentiating the character of things. That’s another.. that another view. Kind of like, ‘I have an understanding of who I am. And that’s who I am.’ So yeah, these are identifications, attachments to views. That’s another way to say conceit. Timo: What I was just trying to get was, ‘pride’ means you put yourself above others. Is that true? Proud, proud of their own view? Reb: You wouldn’t have to put yourself above others who agreed with you. But anyway, you’re proud of your view. You have pride in your view. You’re giving your view too much. You’re being excessive about your belief so that you’re not open to the ultimate which is everywhere of one taste. So there’s something about.. this is what I think is going on and if you disagree with me, then I may be have trouble seeing that the ultimate has the same taste in what you think which disagrees with me as it does in what I think which does agree with me. So opening to that which is the character of everything everywhere is difficult. So the Buddha is trying to help us do this difficult thing by helping us develop an antidote to that which makes it so difficult, namely our pride in understanding. We’re walking around. Some people are kind of like, what do they call it?...hiding under a bushel. Is that the expression? Hide your light under a bushel. Is that right? Is that the expression? Hide your light under a bushel. In other words, hide the light, that you know what’s true. But you know, everybody actually is walking around… I shouldn’t say, not everybody. Countless beings are walking around with pride of understanding. And a few aren’t. A few are not actually proud of their understanding. And the Buddha is one of them who is not proud or her understanding. And therefore, comprehensively, thoroughly understands the ultimate and teaches it. Isn’t that funny that our leader, our founder would be not proud, would have gotten over pride and conceit about his understanding which is unsurpassable? And those of us who have understandings which are surpassable are conceited about them. Isn’t it amazing? Yes? Speaker A: I was just wondering.. you’ve gone part way there, but I was just wondering I’m not clear exactly what conceit means in this context? Is it synonymous with pride? Reb: Yeah. Synonymous with pride. So in the examples, he didn’t say ‘I went to the city and I went into a bar and there were a bunch of conceited people there’. But if he would have gone there, he would have found them there too probably. He’s saying even in a monastery where people are sincerely studying all these subtle topics of Buddha’s teaching and Buddha’s wisdom instruction; even there all these people were speaking with some conceit. And not.. I’m proposing that the Buddha has an understanding of various phenomena and the Buddha also has an understanding of the ultimate character of various phenomena and the Buddha is the one who is not proud, who is not prideful. But Buddha’s not the only one. Some other sentient beings, a few other sentient beings are also.. have an understanding but they’re not proud of it. And those who are not proud of their understanding, those people are ready to open to and seek the ultimate. The unproud ones, and you may say, ‘well, some unproud people… I saw an unproud person the other day and that person really should be unproud. That person is like really really stupid, and they agree with me. In that regard, they are not so stupid. ‘ But there’s some unproud people who are walking around who are not Buddha’s, but who are ready to receive Buddha’s teachings. But they are few. There are just a few unproud ones. And there are innumerable proud ones, according this Sutra. So it’s possible that I am one of them.. one of the proud ones. And this Sutra is saying to me, ‘well you should work with that because uhh, that’s going to make it hard for you to understand the ultimate. So work on your pride. Become aware of it. Learn what the pride is. Learn what your conceit is. Get in touch with it. Because if you can drop it, then you can open to the ultimate. Then you can open to the one taste of all things, which will then purify all phenomena of self-clinging. And it isn’t just that you’re going to get purified. You’re going to purify everything. So the Bodhisattva wants to learn to purify all phenomena, free all beings. And the ultimate is necessary for this. And in order to receive it, we have to find antidotes for our pride. Did you have one more comment? A: Just a follow-up. So it seems like at least one danger of pride is that it’s a way setting aside self and other. Reb: Yeah. Well one way of pride is to apprehend objects. Another is to apprehend subject. This apprehending way of relating to things, separates self and other, that’s a kind of pride. A: ‘I understand this; you don’t.’ Reb: Yeah, or just ‘I’m separate from you and that’s correct’. Or ‘I’m not separate from you and that’s correct’. All these kinds of distinctions, when we have pride in them, interfere with our realization of the one taste of all phenomena. Yes? Elena. Elena: Is doubt of your understanding a kind of pride too? Which impedes maybe.. Reb: You could have doubt about your understanding and be prideful about your doubt. In other words, ‘This is “Doubt”. I have doubt, but this is “Doubt”’. I know what doubt is’. And some people, there are people like this who are sure about their doubt. And they won’t move on that one. I should say they won’t move, I would mean they don’t move yet. But the Buddhas will teach them how to let go of their pride and their doubt. Like ‘I doubt that you’re right.’ ‘I doubt that you’re good.’ ‘I doubt that Buddha’s good.’ ‘I doubt Buddhism’s good.’ And they are proud of that. ‘I doubt that Islam is good.’ ‘I doubt that Judaism’s good’. ‘I doubt that I understand’. But they’re kind of arrogant about their doubt of their understanding. Can you imagine that we have that ability? We do. We’re highly evolved. (Laughs.) Yes? Elena: I was going to say, how do you find the Middle Way without being too sure, without being too unsure? Reb: Yeah. That’s it. That’s very good. The Middle Way is free of being too sure and too unsure. That’s what the Middle Way is. It’s free of those two. That’s a new rendition of “it exists and it does not exist”. So we’re emphasizing that not being in the middle way has to do with being prideful about our understanding. Yes, Karen? Karen: I was wondering, all the previous chapters are conversations with these Bodhisattvas with these kind of elaborate names and then this one is with Subhuti and why Subhuti in this conversation? Reb: Yeah. Subhuti is.. In this Sutra, Subhuti is a Bodhisattva Subhuti. But Subhuti is also one of the main,.. one of the main monks in the Prajna Paramita literature. So in the Heart Sutra, Shariputra is being addressed because Shariputra needs.. he doesn’t know about the teaching of the teaching of emptiness. Subhuti is actually the monk who is kind of… who actually is kind of.. has the understanding of a Bodhisattva. He… Interesting question. So Shariputra in a number of Perfect Wisdom texts is who the Buddha is talking to because Shariputra represents the wisdom of the early teaching. And so the Buddha is teaching Shariputra a new wisdom. But Subhuti doesn’t actually doesn’t represent.. he wasn’t well known as the teacher of wisdom as Shariputra was historically. He was known as foremost among those who relaxed after lunch. So in India, after lunch, you know… Because Buddhist monks didn’t eat much after lunch,.. like maybe they could.. there’s some debate about what they could eat. But anyway they didn’t eat solid food after lunch was the policy. But they often would eat a pretty big lunch if they were lucky. And then with the heat, after lunch was kind of like sleepy time. And Subhuti was kind of like you could say, best at handling the sleepytime. Maybe Subhuti was like the most unprideful of the disciples of the Buddha. And because he was unprideful he could stay awake during the sleepy time, because he was always kind of relaxed. Where Shariputra you know, the great wisdom disciple might have been in danger of being prideful, because he was very wise. The Buddha had him teaching these people all these practices that are in this thing. But Subhuti is the one who is like watching all these excellent monks. You know, he’s kind of like watching them and saying, “Hmmm, these guys are full of pride..and maybe I am too. I love your teaching Buddha. It’s so wonderful, this teaching about the ultimate. But I think these other great disciples of yours are not getting it because they are so proud.” So maybe that’s why he’s the one who’s the Prajna Paramita monk. (I didn’t understand this reference. Is Subhuti the Prajna Paramita monk or is it Shariputra? The rest seemed to refer to Subhuti.) Cause he’s not such a hotshot. He doesn’t have these great abilities. He’s just sort of able to… maybe you could say he’s a bullship spotter. Jo? Jo: I recently saw a news clipping from 1996 and, some of you might remember it. It had a photograph of an African-American woman putting her body between a white Klansman.. (See attached news clipping for photo and article that Jo is talking about) Reb: Between a white Klansman, uh-huh. Jo: Between a white Klansman and a group of people who were protesting the Klan having their rally or whatever somewhere, I don’t remember.. it doesn’t really matter. And I looked at the picture and sort of said, “Look at this!” and I sort of assumed in my head what was happening. That she was protecting somebody from the Klan. When actually she was protecting this Klansperson from her,.. her people. And the reason I thought about that now is I feel like that’s a moment without conceit. Reb: It might have been. Jo: Maybe not. But it reminds me, and I keep it. It reminds me to always aim for the ultimate truth. That it’s so easy to be so afraid of other human beings and get stuck there and it’s a really dangerous place to be stuck. And so, regardless of what was going on with her, I was so moved by that image of her.. Reb: Yeah.. Jo: .. and her willingness to see human life and to protect human life regardless of who it was. Reb: You could say that. But you could also say the ability to see the one taste in all human life. And to see the one taste in all phenomena. This is the great purifying vision. So maybe she could see the one taste in the Klansman and the one taste in the protestors and in that way, because she could see that, and maybe she could see that because she wasn’t proud of her understanding (that) these are the protestors and these are there’s the Klansman. Maybe she didn’t really strongly apprehend those visions. So then she could move into this position of protecting all beings. Jo: And in doing so it brings up.. Reb: Yeah, then and then she indirectly.. she shows you the ultimate. Indirectly, you’re being told about something that has one taste. And how can we practice that when people think there’s two tastes here. How can we practice that? How can we open to that? How can we be… how can we face our pride and antidote it? What’s the antidote of the pride? And then when the pride is antidoted, then we can open to the truth. And then we can serve beings as we’re observing this object of purification. And then, this.. and then we and all beings are purified by contemplating this object. Even if they’re not yet contemplating it. If we are, they gradually become drawn into it. Just like this woman, maybe, was contemplating and drew you into it. But also she drew some photographers into it. That’s why they published it, right? Yeah so somebody saw “Wow! this is something unusual here. This.. I think this woman is observing the ultimate which has the character of one taste. We should get a picture of this!” Jo: Well and I wonder, the consciousness of the man being protected. His.. who knows what was happening in some ways. It doesn’t matter in some ways but it does in others. And then when I looked on-line to see people’s responses who had written into the newspaper about this incident, she got completely slammed for doing it. Reb: She got slammed? Jo: She got slammed for doing it.. Reb: By some people. Jo: By many, I mean by whoever responded. I didn’t see a single, you know, wow. People were mad at her for protecting this person. They couldn’t wrap their heads around it. It was just interesting, that’s all. 
Reb: Is that all it was? (Chuckles) Jo: Totally devastating, moving and life-changing moment. That’s all it was. Reb: Huoma? Huoma: I lost my question. Reb: You lost your question? That’s a good sign. Huoma: Yeah. Some trace of it. And the … for the beings who have an understanding and they are very rigid or very right about their understanding. Reb: Everybody has an understanding. All beings have understanding. And understandings have a hierarchy. The thing is, are we prideful about our understanding? And most people, whatever kind of understanding they have, most people.. a lot of people, are proud of it. Houma: I wonder if the pride comes from not really understanding their understanding. Reb: Pride comes from not understanding the ultimate. Houma: If they really understand it, then there would be not pride. Reb: If you really understand the ultimate, then there would be no pride. But you can have a lot of other understandings that still allow pride. These are examples of people who are venerable elders. They wouldn’t be able to do the practices that are listed here unless they are quite highly evolved meditators. But they were actually doing these practices and they even go through the stages they were doing. So these are people who definitely have understanding of a quite high level. Human beings I think actually have wonderful understandings, you know. Little children, bigger children. It’s just wonderful to see the understandings people have. The key is how not to be proud of it. Now if you understand the ultimate, then that’s different. If you understand the ultimate, then you won’t have pride. Or if you don’t have any pride, then you’ll open to.. Not having pride isn’t the same as understanding the ultimate. It means you’re ready to understand it. So, you can have understanding.. good understanding but just not the understanding of the ultimate. So the Buddha is saying in this part of the Sutra, at the beginning of this Sutra, we need ultimate truth. That will, of course, cure pride but it also will purify phenomena of all things that need to be purified. Houma: Is there not enough attention given to that understanding that it does not allow it to open or what makes that understanding locked. What makes it closed or .. Reb: Pride. Huoma: Pride. Reb: Pride, yeah. Pride is… the tendency towards pride is blocking the opening to the ultimate truth. It doesn’t block.. there’s quite a bit of understanding in these elders, but their pride in their understanding blocks their opening to the ultimate. Their understanding is not the purification.. is not the object of purification of all phenomena. And pride is the last.. What is it called ‘pride before the fall’? The pride is.. these guys are really highly evolved and their pride blocks them from entering the ultimate truth and entering into purification of all phenomena. And we have a long history of pride. We don’t have to work at it. It comes to us naturally. We have to work at studying, studying and learning and, studying and learning. And also now that we’ve learned something, hopefully we know enough to start to identify our pride which is hindering our further progress into the deepest level of what we’re contemplating. James and then Elena: James: This phrase “all of one taste” seems to show up in this chapter and it seems kind of critical. Reb: Yeah. James: Could you comment a little bit more on what the meaning of ‘one taste’ is? Reb: Well, I hesitate to comment on what it means but rather to.. what do I say.. contemplate what it might mean. I’d like to.. this afternoon I’d like to open up and for us to look like, what is the significance of this instruction. What is it pointing to? What kind of attitude is this instruction encouraging us to have towards all phenomena. It’s saying that there’s something that’s everywhere. What is it that’s everywhere that’s of the same taste? Or what is it about everything that’s the same? How can we open our mind to that? So I’d like you to think about that today and we’ll go into that more.. in more detail. Or get more from you this afternoon, about what that’s about. Shoshana: It gets a little bit in line with this idea of attitude. Because when I hear “pride’, I’m curious about what it.. what it.. about the phenomenon of pride. Reb: I think curiosity is not so prideful. So now you’re looking at phenomena when you’re curious, you haven’t yet got understanding of it. So when you’re.. of course you could be prideful that you’re curious, but the curiosity itself is not so prideful. So to be curious about phenomena may be good. And when you start to see the curiosity deteriorate and you turn into apprehending things, then you see it’s shifted more from curiosity. ‘Oh there’s the pride!’ ‘I think there’s some pride there.’ Or ‘I’m curious about maybe that’s pride. There might be some pride here coming.’ ‘The curiosity seems to be waning. And now I’m enjoying the wonderful understanding that’s come to me by my virtuous practice of curiosity.’ So I think curiosity is in the realm of the type of study that might help us find an unconceited way of studying phenomena. Do you have more to say about that?
Shoshana: Yeah, what comes to mind is dependence. There seems to be a kind of.. with pride there seems to be some kind of phenomenon of dependence. Dependence on something that gives me the right maybe to exist, or something like that. It has a kind of, there’s a reason for the pride. So when I think about not.. So the question I sorta.. the attitude which may arise or … that it’s different from dependence on pride. It seems there’s a momentum that.. Reb: So there’s dependence on pride. Ok? But I think I also heard.. I didn’t exactly hear, but it occurred to me when you’re talking about dependence on pride that we might be using pride to protect ourselves from another kind of dependence which is more in line with the one taste. That we’re afraid of the one taste which is really our dependence on all beings and theirs on us. And because we’re afraid of it, we think maybe with some pride we can cope with it. Shoshana: Yeah. Reb: Yeah, so that’s good. So that’s a nice way to like.. And that.. being kind to that may help us wean ourselves, or antidote, this pride which we think we need in order to proceed in our studies. Otherwise, if we actually open to this thing, what would… then we’d really get into how dependent we are and that would be really dangerous. So if we bring a little pride with us maybe we can go in there.. yeah, thank you. Yes, Elena? Elena: Lunch? Reb: Yes, lunch and a lot of other things but go ahead. Elena: It occurs to me that no matter what I think I understand… Reb: No matter what you think you understand…yeah? Or not matter what you think of your understanding.. Elena: Yeah, yeah. That if I think it actually has changed something about the object of my understanding, then I am prideful. Reb: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Elena: and in a jam. Reb: Yeah, “subtle, profound, difficult to understand”. Yeah (Change of topic) I just wanted to mention something. First of all how happy I am to see this wonderful group of people. And I wanted to tell you about something that we’re just on the verge of doing here at No Abode. I wanted to include you in this and get your support. A while ago the fire department came and said, this is a pretty high-risk fire place right here. And they rate this place as having no defensible space. (laughter). In other words the eucalyptus are so close to the building that they have no place to be to fight the fire of the eucalyptus if they caught on fire. And, so, another way to put it is they won’t come, if there’s a fire around here, they won’t come because they would be in danger to come and try to protect this house. So they came and told us that. So with that warning we are, we are contemplating now making defensible space. In other words now, cutting down eucalyptus trees. Not cutting down, I’m happy to hear, live oaks. Among these eucalyptus around here, there are live oaks but basically they are not combustible. They are not fuel. It’s amazing but they’re not considered that way. The eucalyptus and also these pines trees over here are fuel trees. So we are now on the verge of contemplating a big expensive tree-cutting project. And then a lot of these eucalyptus will be cut down and covered. And then there will be…to save money we’re not going to take them away but just leave them on the ground and let them decompose. That’s the plan. So that if there is a fire, it might not burn the building down anyway but also the fire department will come and help us if there’s a fire around here. The park, GGNRA, wants to take out all the eucalyptus and I think they’re gonna do it but they won’t take out eucalyptus on private property necessarily. And they won’t pay, I don’t think they’ll pay people to cover the expense of cutting them down. So the private people, the non-governmental people are going to be paying for this expensive tree removal of the eucalyptus which will then.. we will have the fire department to help protect us if there’s a fire. Now, it turns out. This is kind of a big sad thing to spend all this money. And it’s also sad to cut down beautiful trees but these beautiful trees are basically… they will just keep growing and they will eventually destroy this building if we don’t cut them back. And they’ll also destroy a lot of other things so that’s sad.. the sad policy of the park is to take out the eucalyptus and let the native plants come back, so I’m going with this program myself and I hope you support it. Yes? Speaker B: .. .live oaks…? Reb: Well, that’s the next part. At first thing I thought was oh my god! But then now I feel like.. And one other thing I found out about.. It was brought to my attention, and now to yours, that the property.. the property of this parcel is much much bigger than I thought it was. The part that’s enclosed in the fence is only about a third of the property. So the property, it’s like a football field long, and it’s almost like a football field.. it’s almost like 300’ by 300’. It’s almost how big the property is so it’s a huge property here. And so people often think, well if we cleared those trees we could build more buildings here. Well I don’t know about that but one thing we could do, one of the wonderful things we could do here is once the trees are cleared we could make a wonderful garden here. We could plant native plants way beyond the fence and make a beautiful place here with native plants that turn out not to be so fire-dangery. So it’s a difficult transition and a lot of noise is going to be involved and money but I think the result might be a kind of a wonderful opportunity to take really good care of this fairly large parcel and I think that the park’s going to do the same thing from the other direction. That’s what they what to do; cut the trees and do the same thing of planting the native plants.

(There was no further discussion of Chapter Four in this session. The rest of this (another eighteen minutes) is a nice discussion of the tree-cutting project. Will complete transcribing it if you want but it didn’t seem to me to be something that would wanted for the book).