The Room, the Seat, and the RobeĀ 

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The Room, the Seat and the Robe
No Abode 4/14/12


(Edited by KM, approx. 3000 words

Quotations from:   Book of Serenity, Trans Thomas Cleary, Lindsfarne Press, 1988  (BS) Lotus Sutra, Trans. Gene Reeves, Wisdom Pub. 2008.  (LS)  and The Three-Fold Lotus Sutra, Trans. Kato, Tamura and Miyaska, Kosei Pub. 1975. (LSK) 



I  asked this morning if you wished to live this day for the welfare of all beings and I heard the answer was yes.  I didn’t hear anybody say “No”. Being devoted to the welfare of all beings and also wishing to understand the Dharma so that you can help them understand the Dharma which will bring them great welfare, this is way of living is called the Great Vehicle. And within this Great Vehicle one…. In this boundless Great Vehicle, one of the traditions is called “Zen” or “Chan” and within Zen there are many family styles. Different teachers teach different ways and different teachers have different ways of teaching for different students. All this teaching is in order to help beings understand the Dharma and be benefited and be happy and at ease in this challenging situation of being alive. 

One of the ancestors in this tradition called Zen was…his name was Yangshan. “Yangshan” I think means “Venerating Mountains” or Bowing to the Mountains.  That was his name. And he had a nickname. His nickname was Little Shakyamuni Buddha, or Little Shakyamuni for short. And there are many stories about him. 

I mentioned the other night in Berkeley that when I was a kid, there was a TV show called “The Naked City” and it was referring to New York City. I think at the beginning of the show, or definitely at the end, they would say, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them”.  The city is naked but the people in the city have stories. Moment by moment, they have stories. Now today I would say, in the naked world there are about seven billion stories….  More than seven billion, because there are also stories of people who have lived before.   


This is one of the stories of the more-than-seven billion. Of the infinite stories, in the ocean of beings, this is one of them.  It’s about Yangshan and how he worked with one of his students. This story appears in the book of Serenity. It is Number Thirty-Two. I studied this story with people for a long time. Many, many evenings have been spent studying this story.  Someone even tried to make a book out of it, which has not yet happened. Anyway, Case Thirty-Two of the Book of Serenity and the introduction to this case says, “The Ocean is the world of dragons ---disappearing and appearing, they sport serenely. The Sky is the home of cranes---they fly and call freely. Why does the exhausted fish stop in the shoals, and the sluggish bird rest in the reeds? Is there any way to figure gain and loss?”  (BS, p140)


And then there’s the story about Yangshan, Little Shakyamuni, a great compassionate bodhisattva.  


A monk comes to him and says, “Hello”. 


Yangshan says, “Where are you from?” 


And the monk says, “From Yu Province” 


Yangshan said, “Do you think of that place?” 


And the monk says, “I always think of it”. 


And Yangshan says, “The thinker is the mind and the thought-of is the environment. In the environment there are mountains and rivers and the landmass, buildings, towers, halls, chambers, people, animals and so forth.  Now, reverse your thought to think of the thinking-mind.  Are there so many things there?” (BS p 140)


Now some people say that in this story, the space between the instruction…What was the instruction?  The instruction was, ‘in the environment there’s all these things, now, reverse your thought and think of the thinking-mind’.   Yangshan gave that instruction and seven years later he said to the monk, “Are there so many things there?” 


The monk said, “ When I get here I don’t see any existence at all.”   


IT could have been that he gave the instruction, and paused a moment and the monk gave this answer.  But, I heard another story that there was quite a pause between when he gave this instruction and the occasion when he said to the monk, ‘when you look at the thinking-mind are there things there?’  And then the monk looked and at some point he asked the monk, “are there so many things there in that mind?” and the monk said, ‘I don’t find any thing, any existent things. I don’t see any existence at all. I don’t see any existence at all.’  He didn’t say there wasn’t anything. He just said he didn’t see anything. He didn’t say there is no existence. He said, “I don’t see any existence at all.”  


Then Yangshan said, “This is right for the stage of faith, but not yet right for the stage of person”.  


The monk said, “Do you have any other particular way of guidance for me”. 


And Yangshan said, “To say that I have anything in particular or not, would not be accurate. Based on your insight, you only get one mystery. ---(Now) you can take the seat and wear the robe. After this, see on your own.”  


What I want to talk about today, what I want to focus on today is when he said to the monk­, “After this, based on your insight, you can take the seat and wear the robe.” I want to talk about that part with you. 


And then maybe there will be more but I want to look at that one.  


This morning when we were sitting, I said to you, that if people want to teach the Dharma Flower of the inconceivably wonderful…the Inconcievably Wonderful Dharma Flower…  If they want to teach that for the welfare of beings, let them enter the room of the Buddha, let them wear the robe of the Buddha and let them sit on the seat of the Buddha. The room of the Buddha is the heart of great compassion for all living beings.  The robe of the Buddha is the mind of gentleness and flexibility and patience. The seat of the Buddha is the emptiness of all phenomena.  Being in the room, wearing the robe and sitting on the seat like this, the Dharma Flower of the Wondrous Dharma can be taught.  


We need to enter the room of the Buddha.  ‘We need to enter the room of the Buddha’ means we need to enter the heart of compassion for all beings if we want to teach the Dharma for the welfare of all beings. We must enter this heart.  And, we must put on the Buddha’s robe, which is the mind of gentleness, and patience.  And we must sit on the seat of emptiness. We must seat on the seat which is the.., the seat is the insubstantiality of all things. We must sit in, on the insubstantiality of all things. And then the Dharma can be taught. 


From that place then again, wearing the robe of gentleness and patience, we can offer the heart of great compassion. And then other beings can enter the room, can enter that heart, can put on that robe, can enter that mind of patience and gentleness and can sit on the seat. And then they too can enter, join the process of teaching the Dharma. Teaching the Dharma for the welfare of all beings is also for the welfare of the teaching of the Dharma. This teaching is offered in the Lotus of the Inconceivable Dharma Scripture, the Lotus Sutra for short. It’s in the chapter on teachers of Dharma.  (LS, Chapter 10)


15 Min.  

The Buddha, in the Chapter on the teachers of Dharma… “Teachers of Dharma” means bodhisattvas who help people by teaching them Dharma. In this chapter, the Buddha says,… The Buddha is speaking to the Bodhisattva Medicine King, and says, “My Sutras (my scriptures) are innumerable tens of millions of billions. Whether already taught, now being taught, or to be taught in the future, among all of them (these Scriptures) this Dharma Flower Sutra (the Lotus Scripture) is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand”. ( LS p229) 


Today, I wonder. It doesn’t seem too difficult maybe today to believe the Lotus Sutra when it says if you want to teach the Dharma, you’re allowed to enter the room of the Buddha, you’re allowed to wear the robe of Buddha and you’re allowed to sit on the seat of the Buddha. That doesn’t seem too difficult to understand today. In other words, to enter compassion and gentleness and patience. Oh! That last point IS difficult though. Oh yeah.  It is hard to understand how you sit on the seat. That is kind of difficult. How do you sit in the insubstantiality of all things? Maybe it is a difficult Sutra after all.  


Anyway, the Buddha in this Scripture says this is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand. And then he says, “Medicine King, this scripture is the storehouse of the hidden core of all the Buddhas.”  And then he says, “It must not be distributed or carelessly given to people.  It has been (has to be) protected by Buddhas and World-Honored Ones.  From ancient times up until now it has never been openly preached”.  (LS p 229) 


Am I going against this rule now? Am I openly preaching it?  Let’s say I’m not, ok?  I’m not openly teaching the Lotus Sutra because it’s not supposed to be openly taught.  This is not open teaching. This is not that. It may look like open teaching but really it’s not. I am saying these words but the actual Lotus Sutra, I am not openly teaching. But it might be somewhere around here being taught in an un-open way for any of you who would like to receive it. Because I do not want to go against this instruction. But at the same time I seem to be reading this scripture.  But I am not openly teaching it.  And I hope I’m not carelessly giving it to you. I am trying to carefully give it to you and not openly teach it to you.  I’m trying to teach it to you in a way that is not open, in other words, in a way that you can open it.   I’m offering it to you for you to open. I’m not doing all the work, ok?  That would not be appropriate. 


(20 min.)


“And since this Sutra has aroused so much resentment and envy while the Tatagathas (Buddhas) are still alive, how much more will it be aroused after his (the Buddha’s) passing”.  (LA p 229)


I think maybe that when this teaching was put out, maybe around the beginning of the Common Era in India, that when this teaching was put out, apparently people got really upset about it and felt resentment towards it and envy towards it. Why would people feel envy?  Well, it says, for example, it says that you will attain Buddhahood. Some people when they heard that felt envy perhaps, and attached the people who were offering such a great gift. So this is a teaching which I am offering to you in a not-open way, carefully, which at certain points when it was introduced, people got really riled up. Still, I wanted to offer it. One of the reasons I wanted to offer it is that I think it’s worth offering. I think it is a very good offering.  


And also because Yangshan said, “Based on your insight, you had the robe and the seat.” 


The Buddhas says, “Medicine King, in every place where this Sutra is taught or where it is read or where it is recited..” (LS p 229) (I just want to check if everybody has noticed one of the places where it’s being read. Do you notice one of the places it’s being read? Here. It’s being read here. Yeah.)   “Every place where this Sutra is being taught, where it is being read, where is being recited, or where it is being copied, or even where a roll (scroll) of it is kept.” (LS p 229) 


This Scripture is kept in this place and this Scripture actually is inside of that Buddha. When we empowered that Buddha, we put the Lotus Sutra inside of it. The Lotus Sutra is kept inside of the body of the Buddha statue in this place.  Is anybody here amazed by that? You are? You and me.  I’m amazed. I am amazed that I am involved in putting Lotus Sutras in Buddha statues.  Ok so anyplace where you have the Lotus Sutra, anyplace where it’s being read, one should, “Put up a stupa of seven precious materials, making it very high and spacious and well adorned”. (LS p 229-230)  And we did that!  We put up this stupa here around the Lotus Sutra. Somebody gave us this Stupa to put around the Lotus Sutra. And this whole building is a stupa around the Lotus Sutra. So, I didn’t realize it but we followed the instructions of the Sutra. 


And then it says, “But there’s no need to put remains in it”. (LS p 230)  Remains in what? In the Stupa. Usually stupas are places where you put the remains of great sages, male or female sages. But you don’t have to put any remains in. The reason is that, ‘The whole body of the Tatagatha, the Buddha, will already be in it,” (LS p 230) if you put the Lotus Sutra in the stupa.  Actually, you don’t even have to put the Lotus Sutra in the stupa. You can have the Lotus Sutra in somebody’s hands and their reading the Lotus Sutra and in that place where they are reading you put up the stupa and the Buddha is already in the stupa if the Lotus Sutra is being recited. That’s what the Lotus Sutra says.


“Such a stupa should be revered (venerated), honored and praised with all kinds of offerings of flowers (we have some flowers), incense (we did that), garlands (sort of), silk canopies (yeah, we got the silk canopies), banners (yeah, we got the banners), flags (we got the flags outside), music (Ok music.  Ready?  Was that musical laughter?), and hymns (we did a hymn at the beginning, didn’t we?)  (Himmmm, Herrrr, Prajna Paramita). “If anyone seeing such a stupa makes offerings to it, he should know that they will be nearer to supreme awakening. (LS p 230)


So now this is a place where the Lotus Sutra has been recited. And now this whole place can be an object of worship and if you can worship this place where the Lotus Sutra is read and taught indirectly, not openly, recited and kept both on the library shelf and inside the Buddha statue… If you can worship this place, you will come nearer to Supreme Awakening by your worship of this place where this teaching has been recited. That’s what the Lotus Sutra says. 


It also says, if you want to be rid of laziness and carelessness, and then listen to the Lotus Sutra.  I just said, “the Lotus Sutra”. Did you listen to it?  And were you rid at the moment of laziness and carelessness?  Maybe not. But keep listening to it. If you want to be free of laziness and carelessness, keep listening to the Lotus Sutra, the Lotus Sutra says.  


“Again, Medicine King, you should know that after the Tatagatha’s (the Buddha’s) extinction, those who are able to copy, embrace, read, recite, make offerings to and teach this Sutra for the sake of others, will be covered by the Tatagatha with his robe, and will be protected and kept in mind by all the Buddhas now and in other worlds. They will have great power of faith, great power of aspiration and the power of good character. You should know that they”… (Who are they? They are the people who listen to and copy and read and embrace and recite and make offerings to this Sutra these people,) ….“You should know they will live with the Tatagatha and the Tatagatha will touch their heads with her hand.” (LS p 229)

30 Min


“After the extinction of the Tatagatha” …After the extinction of the Buddha. Now Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha has gone away. But all the Buddhas may sometimes appear in bodies that appear and disappear. “After the disappearance of the Buddha, if there are good daughters and good sons who want to teach the Dharma Flower Scripture for the four groups” (monks, male and female monks, and male and female laypeople. If there are people who want to teach this Dharma).. “how should they teach it?  Good sons and good daughters should enter the room of the Tatagatha, put on the robe of the Tataghata, sit on the seat of the Tatagatha.” (Tatagatha means the “Thus Come one”. They should sit on the Buddha Tatagatha’s seat) “ and then teach the Sutra to the four groups. (LS p 231


“To enter the room of the Tatagatha is to have great compassion for all living beings. To wear the robe of the Tatagatha is to be gentle and patient.  To sit on the seat of the Tatagatha is to contemplate the emptiness of all things.  When one dwells in peace with these three”.  When one dwells in peace with the room and the robe and the seat. And then, “Never becoming lazy or careless, teach this Dharma Flower Sutra everywhere to the bodhisattvas of the four groups.” (LS p 231)   When we sit in this seat with this robe in this room, the teaching comes forth from this practice.


I just wanted to say that I was struck by another translation of the room, which is, “The Great Heart of Compassion Within All Living Beings”. (LSK, p 192).  That was another translation, I believe.  So this translation is the Great Heart of Compassion For All Living Beings and the other translation is “The room of the Tatagatha is the Great Compassionate Heart Within All Sentient Beings”.  So this heart is the Great Compassionate Heart for all beings and in all beings. 


Now back to the story. 


34 min.  


The teacher gave the monk an instruction. What was the instruction?  To reverse your thinking and think of the mind that thinks. The monk did that and when he did that he couldn’t find any existence at all. In other words he couldn’t find anything substantial at all. All he could see was the insubstantiality of everything. And then the teacher said, “Based on this insight, you have the robe and the seat”.  He didn’t say it this way, but I am saying, ‘But you don’t have the room.’ You have the robe and the seat. With this instruction, he realized, he realized the seat. And then when the teacher asked him, now that you’ve done this instruction, what do you see? And he told him (the teacher) what he saw from the seat. And he was still wearing the robe. He was gentle and patient with this robe that he was sitting in. But the teacher didn’t say that he had the room. 


In other words, he achieved the stage of faith. He followed the instructions and he realized the ultimate truth. He sat on the Buddha’s seat through by instruction. He received this instruction of looking at his mind that thinks and he saw that there’s no.. And he could see, he could realize that he couldn’t find any existence. And he didn’t even… I’ll just say, he could see, he got to the point that he could see that everything was insubstantial. The teacher says this IS insight; this is good. I’m adding this is good. So given this insight, you have the seat and the robe.


Now the teacher Yangshan had the room.  He had the room that this monk could enter. This monk entered the room and Yangshan showed him the room and this monk received the room and enjoyed the room. He joined this great compassion. He received it and joined it. Then he received the Buddha’s robe and he was gentle and patient. Because he accepted this great compassion for all living beings and this gentleness and patience he was able to reach the seat. He heard the teachings in this compassionate room. He was gentle and patient and he realized the teachings to the point that he realized that he couldn’t find any existence at all.  But even though he had received and entered the room, when he expressed his understanding, his understanding did not have the room. The way he said, “When I get here I don’t find any existence at all”, the teacher indirectly said, “you don’t have the room, but you’ve got the robe and you’ve got the seat’. And then the monk says, “Do you have any further instruction?” And the teacher says, “To say that I do or that I don’t would not be accurate”. 


In other words, you should not teach the Lotus Sutra openly. When he said, “To say that I do or that I don’t would not be accurate”, he was teaching the Lotus Sutra but not openly. When he said, based on your insight, you have the robe and the seat, he was teaching the Lotus Sutra, but not openly. And then he says, “From now on, see on your own.”  You have to find the room.  You have to find a way to express your understanding of what you see, which is correct. It is correct not to see any existences, but you have to not be stuck in that so you have a room.  


That’s what I wanted to offer you today. I wanted to offer you the story of the great Yangshan and his excellent student and I wanted to offer you the teachings of the Book of Serenity where that story appears. And I wanted to offer you the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, the scripture, the text, which teaches you that all language is empty. I wanted to teach you language which can guide you to the emptiness of language. I wanted to give you a story to free you from your stories so that you can benefit all beings without being hindered by any story, like for example, this person is an exception to the rule of compassion. I’m not going to be kind to this person. I’m not going to be stopped by that story. To be stopped by the story that this person is not worthy of utmost respect. To not be caught by that story. To use this story to not be caught by any story. 


And later today I will talk more about, not exactly alternative responses the monk could have had, but kind of.  For now I open up for your responses to this marvelous Lotus Sutra teaching. 


Q. I wonder if another way of saying, “not teaching this Sutra openly” is to say, not teaching it carelessly.  


A.  Yes. I think being very careful in teaching this teaching includes not over-doing it. In other words,  be careful not to do all the work for the listener. That’s part of being careful.  Don’t say too much. One of the things about the Lotus Sutra is at the beginning of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha says, now I’m going to teach this Lotus Sutra and I’m going to teach it in great detail and very explicitly and then he goes on to not teach it explicitly. Yet everyone is very happy.., everyone is extremely happy to hear that he’s going to do it and then he doesn’t do it explicitly. But the Sutra goes on and on with all kinds of amazing things, but he never does actually say what the Lotus Sutra is in the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra says you’re going to hear about the Lotus Sutra in the Lotus Sutra but doesn’t tell you what the Lotus Sutra is in the Lotus Sutra. So from the beginning, the Lotus Sutra…. But the Lotus Sutra says it’s going to so part of what the Lotus Sutra is is a teaching that doesn’t reveal itself.  It tells you that it’s going to and then doesn’t.  It’s amazing. It’s part of the carefulness of teaching.


Any there other comments this morning? It’s still morning. Wait a minute.  Actually according to this clock we have an hour and five minutes more of morning, but this clock is on Standard Time. Pacific Standard Time. PST.  Would it be disrespectful for me to try (to fix the clock)? I tried but it doesn’t work. Some people might say this watch, this clock, is broken.  Actually it’s still ticking away. It’s just that the time here is Pacific Standard Time. Maybe that’s another of the qualities of No Abode. It just gives standard time.  No Daylight Savings time on that watch.




Q. I was just thinking about the addition of compassion to the picture and is this compassion come out of the understanding of inter-connectedness, inter-dependency…?


A.  Yes!


Q…. that is not simply the insubstantiality but also understanding the arising and ceasing of these things.


One of the paths…. The path to understanding insubstantiality is the path of great compassion for all living beings, which includes the demonstration of the teaching of inter-dependence. So the teaching of inter-dependence is part of the compassion, which takes us to realize the Buddha’s seat. And then realizing the Buddha’s seat, the teaching of inter-dependence comes out of that. From out of insubstantiality comes the teaching of inter-dependence.  Kind of like, from the ashes arises the phoenix.


Q. I was reading about precepts and I read something that said, “the precepts are something like moat around the jewels of the Dharma” so I was thinking that the Lotus Sutra is closed, perhaps, by the extent to which you …(can’t hear) the precepts. Closed or open? Is that?  


A.  Yeah. Also I heard that the precepts are a theme park around the jewels of the Buddha’s Dharma. It’s a Buddhadharma theme park around the Buddha Dharma. Hopefully you’ll find this theme park of the Precepts less painful than Disneyland where you don’t have to wait in line for the rides. No wait for the rides. The rides are available except there’s one ride, which is called “waiting for the rides”.  That’s not one of the more popular rides but we do have that ride. Some of the rides, you don’t have to wait for. You can do them right now in this Dharma theme park.   


Q.  I thought I heard you say in the story of Yangshan that he said to his student, “You only get one mystery”.  What was that about?


A. Yeah. You only get one mystery. Well, I feel that… There are three mysteries. Do you want to hear the three mysteries?  Could you wait? I feel like if I say these three mysteries, it may be too much for this morning.  But there are three mysteries. He got one. I’ll tell you the other ones later, ok? He got three mysteries and he got two-thirds of what you need to teach the Dharma. Again, my picture of the stories is, he went through the three to get to insight but when he came out of his insight, he didn’t have all three yet. And the teacher told him so. The teacher said, now you have to find the Buddha’s room; you don’t have it yet.  And to say that I can help you or can’t help you is not right. You have to find the third aspect. When he finds the third aspect he will have all three mysteries. He will understand the whole story then. Or not. 


Anything else this morning? This noon?


50 min.


Q. So when Yangshan said, “reverse your thinking” that was similar to when Dogen saying ‘take the backward step’?  


A. Yes, it’s similar to that and it’s similar to the teaching that all phenomena are merely conscious constructions. It’s the same teaching. So­, we have the teaching ‘all phenomena are conscious construction’. We have the teaching ‘all phenomena, all compounded phenomena are impermanent, ill and not-self’. We have that in the early teaching. In the Mahayana teachings, we have ‘all phenomena are merely,.. are only conscious constructions’. That’s the same teaching as ‘look back and look at your mind that’s thinking’ and by looking at that you will realize that everything you are looking at is conscious construction and when you realize that everything is conscious construction, you may not be able to see anything existing but mere conscious construction. However, that understanding has to be further cultivated to the point where, even though everything is mere conscious construction, you have the robe and the room. And the monk didn’t have the room even though he understood, pretty well, two-thirds of the way in a sense…. or two of the aspects of the correct understanding that all phenomenon are conscious construction only.  


Q. Would that be like he saw that being is emptiness, but he didn’t see emptiness as being?


A. Yeah. Maybe you got it there (Oscar).


Could you say it again? Could you shout it, Oscar, from the highest hill? Even tell the golden daffodil? Just turn around and you maybe wouldn’t have to shout it quite as loud.


Q. Well, I was suggesting that the monk saw that form is emptiness, but not that emptiness is form.  Was that right?


A. Did you hear that? Yeah. So that’s a good hypothesis. Thank you. And not only did he not necessarily see that emptiness is form, or maybe he did understand that, but he didn’t know what form to offer so that people could enter that form. Whereas Yangshan could offer him a form. He came to Yangshan. Yangshan offered him a form. He said, “Where are you from?” And so on.   


Q. I saw a documentary where a scientist spoke about theories.. the theory is that you see only what you expect to see. And when the Spaniards arrived in their galleons in Cuba supposedly to discover America, the Indians simply could not see the ships because they have never seen a ship. Even though they were approaching the island. And supposedly there was a shaman who saw the waves in the water and he thought there is something strange and unique happening but they could not see the ships. 


A. Yeah and then the people came ashore and started interacting with them. And as they interacted with them, they learned to be able to see the ship by hanging out with people who could see ships.  They started to communicate with the invaders and through the interaction they finally could come to see the ship. Just like flies don’t see ships either. They just see whatever flies see. They don’t see ships. They don’t say, “Ship Ahoy!”


Q.  Spaniards didn’t see the Indians either.


A. Spaniards didn’t see the Indians? Well actually they did. They didn’t see whatever those people were and they called them Indians. They didn’t see what these people were. They called them Indians. And they thought, “Oh, these are people to conquer”.  Maybe. I don’t know what they thought.  But they thought in terms of their expectations and they couldn’t see certain things.


Q. They saw the gold. 


A. Yeah, they saw the gold. They had learned how to see gold and the Native Americans had learned how to see gold.  In that way they could communicate. They found something to communicate about and by that communication the Native Americans could learn to see the ships. 


Anything else this morning? This afternoon?


Q. About finding the room and maybe realizing the  (xxx, can’t hear) of the room and then forgetting it?


A. You wonder about finding the room? I think that one of the ways to find the room is that you think that there’s compassion. You think, ‘oh, there’s some compassion’. That’s one way to find the room.  Maybe you…, Like this monk went to a Zen temple because he thought there would be a compassionate teacher. And there’s a building that he could go into. And the teacher said, “Where are you from?” The way the teacher asked the question was such that he could respond and say ‘well, I’m from that place’. And then the teacher asks him, “Do you think of it?”  Saying ‘do you think of it’ was compassion for this person but not only compassion for this person. When Yangshan said to the monk, “Do you think of the place you’re from?”, that was compassion for us too. He wasn’t just concerned for that guy; he was concerned for us. But, that monk was experiencing this great compassion through those words. Or was in the midst of that room of great compassion while the Little Shakyamuni was saying, “Where are you from? Do you think of that place?” And then the monk said, “I always think of it”, which is quite a good answer. ‘I am always thinking of where I’m from.’  Ok?  ‘I don’t’ know who you are. I’m just thinking of where I am from. I am just thinking in terms of where I am from.  I see you entirely in terms of where I’m from’.  He confessed that.  “I don’t know who you are. I just think of where I’m from all the time”.  Pretty good. 


So then Yangshan said, ‘ok, now do this. Turn your mind around and look at your mind that’s thinking’. And the monk, eventually, in the story it looks like he did it like that (in a finger snap). But in other stories say it took him awhile to get the hang of that. If it took him a little while, then Yangshan’s offering of great compassion was very effective that he immediately could do that instruction. Most people cannot do that wholeheartedly right away and see what he say.  Maybe if compassion was so strong he could do it that quickly.  But again, in other stories, he had to offer compassion over and over and over in many conversations probably for that monk to actually feel that room.  But that monk, in order to hang in there, in this story is very short, but he if studied with him for seven years that monk would have to put on that robe of gentleness and patience with his learning process, of trying to understand what does it mean. ‘Are you talking about spending my time thinking about how my mind is thinking? Or thinking of the mind that’s thinking? That’s what I’m supposed to be giving my life energy to?’ You have to have the Buddha’s robe on to do that. You have to be patient and gentle with this life.  Some people maybe could do it in a few minutes. Most people are probably like this monk. It would take them many years to fully do this practice. 


At the beginning of compassion, it looks like your imagination of compassion. You use your imagination to actually enter the real room of compassion and put on the real robe and sit on the real seat of reality. So maybe, I hope, I wish that this is a place where you can feel the room, that you can imagine that this is the room.  “This” being the great heart here.. I hope you can feel the great heart of compassion here. I hope you can enter the great heart of compassion right now. I hope we all can enter the great heart of compassion for all beings right now.  If you wish to teach the Dharma for the welfare of beings, then you’re welcome to enter the room. And if you don’t want to, you are still welcome to enter the room.  If you don’t want to be a bodhisattva, you’re welcome to enter the room too. But if you do want to be a bodhisattva and teach the Dharma, then you need to enter that room.




Q. Should we enter this great heart of compassion even if we see as a murderous skunk.


A. You mean if you see a murderous situation?


Q.  My understanding is that all that’s been said this morning is a mental construction.


A. Yeah.


Q Then I may have a mental construction that this great heart of compassion that you’re talking about existing within this house and beyond possibly, I might see that as being a murderous torture. Then should I still then enter it, even if I see it like that?  Or should I wait till I see it as an open heart?


A. When there’s murder, you mean like murder of a living being?


Q. Or murder like compassion like teachers and ancestors have encouraged monks to hit each other in the past in order to teach the Dharma.


A. So you see someone encouraging someone to hit someone. You see that? You have that image?


Q.  If one does?


A. Yeah, I’m just checking now. You see an image of sentient beings hitting each other or you see an image of sentient beings killing each other?


Q. Yeah.


A. Ok. So it’s not that you think that that’s compassion. It’s that you enter the room of compassion towards these beings who are being cruel to each other.  It’s actually not called ‘the room of compassion’. It’s called the room of the Buddha. The room of the Buddha is the heart of compassion towards every situation no matter how terrible. It’s the heart that feels compassion for this terrible situation.


Q. I am asking if I see the room of the Buddha…. if the room of the Buddha is shown to me and the way that I perceive it…


A. That’s not the room of the Buddha. That’s a sentient being. What’s being shown to you is a sentient being.  You’re seeing a sentient being. You are constructing this sentient being as being in trouble. But that’s not your construction about a sentient being. You don’t think that people being cruel to each other is compassion for all beings. That’s not what you think, do you? 


Q. I am wondering in terms of ancestors, for my mental construction, which is what we’re talking about here, they were cruel to each other.


A.  You could have that story. We’re talking about being kind to that story that you just told me. But the story isn’t compassion. The story is your construction that you just said. 


Q.  Who says ‘the room of Buddha’ is my construction?


A. Well then you be compassionate to the story of the Buddha.  Be compassionate to all your stories. But the stories aren’t the compassion. But the stories aren’t the compassion. The stories are what you are compassionate towards. Including the stories of people not being compassionate. So most of us, most of us, sometimes are in situations where we think that what’s appearing is not compassion.  Most of us have seen situations like that.  


What this saying, ‘if you wish to teach the Dharma’…. 


So actually I didn’t tell you this but the Lotus Sutra, the context of this teaching is when we’re in situations in which people are really suffering and being unskillful and really cruel to each other. In an age where things are really bad, in situations like that, if you want to teach the Dharma in situations like that, then you need to enter this room. You need to enter this heart.  Because if you’re in a hellish situation, you’re not going to be able to teach the Dharma unless you have entered the room of compassion. 


It doesn’t mean you think that you’re in the room of compassion. It’s that you want to enter the heart which feels compassion for this terrible situation. If you can enter that compassion and then you can put on the robe and be gentle with this terrible situation and patient with it, then you can enter into the seat of the Buddha, the insubstantiality of it.  And if you can enter into the insubstantiality of it, then you can continue unhinderedly to be patient and compassionate towards this terrible situation and open the room to these beings. But you have to,…. if you want to help beings who are suffering you have to enter the room first and go to the seat. Then from the seat you come out and invite them to enter. 


Q.  I can see that room as anything as long as I’m compassionate to what I’m seeing, right?


A.  I think that’s not what I’m saying.  Not that you see the room as anything. You see anything as something to relate to from the room. The room is the place you relate to everything from. The room isn’t everything. Buddha’s compassion isn’t cruelty; Buddha’s compassion is towards all cruelty.  The cruelty isn’t Buddha’s compassion.  Buddha’s compassion embraces and sustains beings who are caught up in the illusion of cruelty. But we don’t say that the cruelty is Buddha’s compassion. The cruelty is not Buddha’s room. 


Q. Yeah. Now I understand that. Thank you.


A. You’re welcome.  Yes?


Q. Are there beings that are outside that room or is it that everybody’s inside and some people know it?


A. No beings are outside that room. That’s why it said actually in one of the translations, “The room of the Buddha is the heart of great compassion WITHIN all sentient beings”. 


So you see sentient beings who are being cruel. They do not realize the heart of compassion that is in them. So you need to enter that heart to help them awaken to that heart in them. That’s one of the translations mean. But if you don’t want to say it like that, they are within it.  Buddha’s compassion completely surrounds all living beings and leaves no one out. 


In order to teach people this Sutra, the Dharma, we need to enter that room.  We need to be in that room in order to help living beings who do not understand that they are in the room. We need to teach them that because things are insubstantial there’s nobody who can be inside or outside of that room. So I say ‘in the room’, but really you’re not even inside or outside. You are just completely embraced by it and there’s not inside or outside. There is not really any inclusion or exclusion. It’s just total embracement with the reality that is liberating from the story that we’re separate from each other.




Q. Is this what the Dalai Lama means when he speaks of compassion? He says compassion is not reaching down and helping lift somebody up. Compassion is lying down with them and rising up together. IS that it?


A. Yes. That’s the idea. Entering this room we can realize emptiness and realizing emptiness we don’t need to be above anybody. Matter of fact, we cannot find anything above or below. So then we’re not afraid to be apparently below or down, down, down. There’s no need to make any exceptions. 


Q. It sounds like a dance.


A. It sounds like a dance. Yeah. May it be a dance. Thank you very much.