Serving All Buddhas with No Expectation of Gain

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A virtual Dharma talk by Tenshin Roshi for an online gathering of the No Abode community

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The Lotus Sutra, as I often have mentioned, in chapter 25 at the end, it says, speaking of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, it says, observing sentient beings with eyes of compassion. Eyes of compassion, observing sentient beings. Assembling an ocean of blessing beyond measure. Listening to the cries of all suffering beings. Assembles an ocean of blessing beyond measure. It seems to me, I believe that this great assembly has been listening to the cries of the world.


And listening to the cries of the world has gathered this great assembly. And this great assembly, in the midst of the world of suffering, this great assembly is an ocean of blessing. An ocean of blessing in the midst of terrible suffering. And we all listen to it and continue to assemble the ocean of blessing by this practice of listening to the cries, opening our hearts to them. This has an effect, and the effect is to assemble an ocean of blessing. This is the Lotus Sutra. I bet on this teaching. I sit and I practice listening to the cries of the world


with confidence that this assembles an ocean of blessing. And I see it right now in this wonderful assembly, which is a great blessing. Thank you, cause and effect for working in this way. Again, the Lotus Sutra teaches in chapter 16, it teaches that Buddhas are right here, right now with us. And they join this assembly right here, right now.


And if we can't see them, this is quite common. But the sutra says, if we listen to the cries of the world, if we are gentle and open and harmonious with these cries, if we're upright and honest, in the midst of these cries, we will see that the Buddhas are with us right now. This is an amazing and perhaps difficult to completely believe teaching of the Lotus Sutra and of our family. This is also teaching of our Japanese founder.


It is also a teaching of our American founder. And I also join this teaching and pay homage and make offerings to this teaching. The teaching that Buddhas exist right now. And that if we are caring for our body and mind by being, oh, I'm wearing the rock suit again that has those characters on it. By being flexible, soft, gentle, harmonious, upright, and honest, we will see the Buddha teaching right now.


So not only do we have the teaching that Buddhas exist now, they also exist in the past and they exist in the future. And we have another teaching which is, please do not say that Buddhas have a beginning. And also do not say that Buddhas do not have a beginning. Please do not say that Buddhas have an end or that Buddhas do not have an end. To get involved in supposing that Buddhas have a beginning or end, we are not studying Buddhadharma.


But with faith that Buddhas exist without saying they begin or end, we will realize the Buddhadharma. And also today, I want to suggest to you that those who make offerings to buddhas and follow the buddha's teaching will inevitably become buddhas. Those who make offerings to buddhas


will inevitably become Buddhists. And those who do not make offerings to Buddhists will not become Buddhists. by virtue of, by the merit of serving Buddhas, of making our life moment by moment, you know, a service and offering to Buddhas. By practicing that way, we will become Buddhas and all Buddhas have served all Buddhas. All Buddhas have served all Buddhas.


In my view, the members of this great assembly have made offerings to all Buddhas. You may not have thought you did, but I think you did. And I think you're going to continue. And if you continue, you will become Buddha. That's what I think. If I have made and continue to make offerings to Buddhas, this will realize Buddhahood. Not so much that I'll become Buddha, but this practice becomes Buddha. This is Buddha's practice, to make offerings to Buddhas. Listening to the cries of the world as an offering to Buddha.


Observing living beings as an offering to Buddha. Making eggs and toast for a granddaughter is making offerings to Buddha. Offering incense in the zendo. Offering incense in your own home can be an offering to all Buddhas. Offering tea, offering your sitting, offering your coughing and sneezing, offering every moment of your life. To all Buddhas, you will inevitably, you will certainly be part of the process of realizing Buddha. in discussing this practice, this, I don't know what to say, this awesome, amazing practice of making offerings to Buddha.


This I don't know what to say practice of making offerings to Buddha. Dogen Zenji brings up various Mahayana Sutras, which teach making offerings to all Buddhas. One of the sutras that he brings up is, has three characters. First character is Buddha. Second character could be translated as treasury, but I like to translate it as womb. That third character is sutra. In Japanese, it's Butsu Zou Kyo. And again, it's often translated as Buddha treasury.


But I feel I like Buddha womb. What is the womb of the Buddhas? It is the practice of venerating Buddhas, of serving Buddhas, of making offerings to Buddha. This sutra is about making offerings to Buddha. And in the Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha is telling a story about himself in the past when she was a Bodhisattva. Did you get that? Shakyamuni Buddha is telling stories, history. He's telling historical stories. of when he was a bodhisattva, and when she made offerings to all Buddhas. And in this process of making offerings to all Buddhas, in order to facilitate the offering, she became a wheel turning,


sovereign, a wheel-turning king or queen. This is a great king or queen who has available immense resources for making offerings. So the Bodhisattva, with these immense resources, made immense offerings for an immense amount of time to various Buddhas. And the sutra goes through. And all these Buddhas in the sutra are called Shakya. And then all these Buddhas have also other names. So the Buddhas go through Buddha after [...] Buddha that that she made offerings to great offerings to. Do you get the picture? And so in each case, after proclaiming that she made these great offerings, at the end, she says, however, that Buddha did not affirm me.


That Buddha did not predict me. by saying, in the future, you will become a Buddha. And then again, the Buddha describes when she was a Bodhisattva, making great offerings to another Buddha. And then saying, but this Buddha did not affirm me by saying, in the future, You will become a Buddha. Over and over, that's said. And then over and over, it's said, well, why? How come when I made all these offerings, when I served these Buddhas so immensely, why didn't they affirm my practice and predict me to Buddhahood?


Didn't I say before? If you make offerings, you will inevitably become Buddha. Why didn't they affirm the Buddha? And the answer is, because I was expecting some gain. bodhisattva made great offerings to the Buddha. And the Buddha did not affirm her because she expected some gain. The bodhisattva made great offerings to some Buddhas. But they did not affirm him because he expected some gain over and over, over and over. And then finally, after going through all this inconceivably great process of serving all Buddhas, making all offerings and not being affirmed because of trying to gain something by this.


The Buddha met finally Dipankara Buddha, burning lamp Buddha. And then finally, the Buddha made offerings to that Buddha without trying to gain anything. Finally, the Buddha saw that there is no gain or loss, that there is no coming or going. that there is no increase or decrease. And the Buddha accept the bodhisattva accepted that it's the bodhisattva, the bodhisattva accepted that things do not arise and cease, that there's not beginning and end, really, that there's no gain or loss. and the bodhisattva came to see this by making offerings for such a long time and not being affirmed because she was trying to get something.


Sincere bodhisattva, however, misguided bodhisattva. She's sincere, she's devoted to the Buddha. Yes, that's good, so good, so good. But she thinks there's something to gain and therefore she tries to get something. And over and over she does this. But finally, she gives it up. She continues to make offerings. She continues to make offerings and she continues to make offerings. but not expecting to gain anything. And then she receives affirmation that she will become a Buddha, in this case, named Shakyamuni. I don't know.


I can't see you all at once, but how many of you have seen the movie Groundhog Day? Raise your hands, please. Not all of you. Anyway, it's a story about somebody who, it's about a man who serves a woman, but he's trying to gain something. And he serves her, and then she sees that he's trying to gain something, so she slaps him. And that's the end of their meeting. And then the next morning he wakes up and it's the same day as the day before. And then he meets this woman again and he really wants to be devoted to her. He can see she's worthy of devotion. He serves her. He takes her to dinner. He's really into serving her. but he's trying to get something.


And when she sees that he's trying to get something, she slaps him and that's the end. And then he goes to sleep and he wakes up the next day and it's the same day again. It's Groundhog Day. And then again, he meets her. And again, we see him being very devoted to her, but trying to get something. Have you ever seen that happen that somebody is trying to get something from somebody else? They're big, you know, they're giving them gifts. They're giving them devotion. They're giving them attention. They're giving them praise, you know, and they mean it. They mean it, but they're trying to get something. And when she, and she, and she really enjoys receiving all these gifts. Thanks. [...] And she's like really enchanted by his service. And then she sees he's trying to get something and she slaps him. So in the movie, they go through this about, I don't know, maybe five or 10 times, we see five or 10 dates where, you know, he's getting better and better at making offerings.


But he's still trying to get something and she still sees it and she still slaps him. And then after showing these dates, then they just show a sequence of the end of several dates. They show her, they show a slap, [...] slap. Get the picture. Just like Shakyamuni, those Buddhas slapped him. These Buddhas slapped her, because he was trying to get something. You know, how disrespectful to go see the Buddha and trying to get something from the Buddha. But anyway, Shakyamuni Buddha did that. He was devoted to the Buddhas, but disrespectful. He tried to get something because he was ignorant. He thought there was something to get. And finally, in the Groundhog Day movie, he gives up trying to get something. And she doesn't slap him.


And she predicts that he's gonna have another day, that tomorrow's not gonna be the same day again. And it's not. And they live happily ever after. And we will too, if we make offerings to all Buddhas, Yes, if we make offerings to all Buddhas, we will eventually we will inevitably become Buddhas. But in the process, we will not become Buddhas if we're trying to get something but in the process, we will stop trying to get something and then we will receive prediction from the Buddhas who have been serving and now are serving without trying to get anything, we will be predicted. And then after we predicted, we will continue to serve Buddhas. But now, from then on, now that we're predicted, now that we're affirmed, we don't need to get anything, but we continue to serve Buddhas. And Buddhas are, what do you call it, a placeholder for all living beings.


So if we serve Buddhas, the ancestors, the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha Womb Sutra, and many other sutras about making offers to Buddhas say, you will inevitably become Buddha. But in the process, we have to stop trying to get something from this offering. So we sit Zazen as a service to the Buddhas. We assemble here as a service to Buddhas. Great! And we're learning to make this offering of gathering here in service of all beings and all Buddhas. We learn to come here to become free of expecting any gain. Yeah, isn't that an amazing teaching? If you make offerings, you will inevitably become Buddha.


But by the way, you have to make the offerings, learn eventually to make the offerings without expecting any gain, without trying to get anything. Just make the offering wholeheartedly and without any expectation of gain. And you will, actually at that moment, you will be affirmed. And anyway, even if you or I are still making offerings with some expectation, we're still going to continue. We are going to inevitably become Buddha. But maybe today there's still a little expectation. I don't know. That's for you to look and see. I'm not going to go through this assembly one by one and say, you're expecting gain, you're expecting gain, you're expecting... I'm not going to do that. But you can look at yourself.


You can look in your heart and see if there's a little bit of trying to get something from your devotion to this practice. Oh, hello, two new people came. Bert, welcome Bert. Welcome Joe. All right, well, that's my basic, and to me, it seems like an amazing teaching, which I'm happy to share with you. And I hope you're not too shocked by it. I hope you can stay on your meditation cushion. So you may have some comments on the teaching that Buddhas are, here with us right now, and that serving them will inevitably come to fruit as Buddhahood.


And we have to learn to do that without trying to gain anything. Maybe have some comments on these teachings. Our first offering is from Gail. I read. Yeah. Um, I have two questions if we have time. Uh, the first is referring to what you said earlier about not saying that Buddhas have a beginning and not saying that Buddhas do not have a beginning. And to me that that is the middle way. Um, yeah. And it's also not trying to get something from the Buddhists, it seems to me. And so I was wondering if that... Now we could say, if we make offerings in the middle way to all Buddhists.


And I thought, and I wonder if this is correct, that that makes one a Buddha. Yeah, that's the teaching that that practice makes one a Buddha or makes to a Buddha. Anyway, that practice makes Buddhas. And then I also wanted to confess something before you and the Great Assembly, which causes me some shame. And I'd like to get some clarity on it. When I get really afraid or angry or disappointed. I curse what feels like the fates, which I believe is my own karma, but I curse. And it feels to me like... What do you mean by curse? Actually, swear. Oh, you swear? What do you swear? You curse the shortcoming?


Yeah, well, you know, I guess really in my mind in those moments I feel like something is happening to me by a force outside of me and I curse that force. You curse that force. Yeah, and I worry that I'm cursing the Buddhas and ancestors and I'm gonna like burn in hell for a long time. And I just, so I figure you're gonna... Well, I think if we curse, if we curse living beings or Buddhas, we do kind of burn in hell for a while. I mean, cursing, disrespecting beings is kind of hell. That's what hell is in a sense of hating living beings and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and hating Jesus and whatever. Hating is hell. Yeah. Hating is how you get to hell. Yeah. And you can worry, you can worry, and it's a justified worry because hating is really, fast track to hell.


Yeah, when you're hating, you might you might worry a little bit. I'm gonna get in trouble for this. Well, so I figure also your prescription would be to be compassionate to it. As you've said before, be compassionate to any thought or feeling that. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Be compassionate to it. Definitely. Listen to it. Listen to it, observe it with eyes of compassion. So if cursing comes up, that's a sentient being to be observed with eyes of compassion. Observing an ocean of cursing with eyes of compassion assembles an ocean of blessing in the middle of the ocean of cursing. You could say we live in an right now we're living in an ocean of cursing, right? A lot of cursing going on. And kind of in a vast amount of cursing is around us right now. And listening to that cursing, compassionately observing it compassionately assembles blessing in the middle of the ocean of cursing.


And there in that blessing realm, like here, in this blessing assembly, we can make offerings to Buddha. They can become Buddha in the middle of an ocean of cursing. And again, cursing bad stuff, right? But we can also love bad stuff. We can also observe bad stuff. There is bad stuff. We can observe it with eyes of compassion. I'm not saying it's easy, but there it is. That's the practice that's being offered this day to this great assembly. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Very helpful. Our next offering is from Dennis. Good morning, Reb.


Good morning, Dennis. How are you? Good to see you. Good to see you. So I love this, I guess it's sort of a Jataka story, this Groundhog Day, at least I interpret it as such. Before Bill Murray was Buddha, he was this being that His girlfriend being sort of a Bodhisattva, staying around and slapping him, hitting him with the stick and waking him up each time. I love that. It's such a great Jataka story. So you may know that when I first married Terry, her daughter, whom you know, Chrissy, was my stepdaughter. And I wanted nothing more than to have a family.


And she wanted nothing more than to have me out of her life. So every time I'd make this effort to try to get her to love me and accept me, she would slap me. She would wake me up. I don't want you, I don't want this. And when I finally gave the aspiration of this seeking, and I just began to love her and accept her and have compassion for what she was going through, she gave up hitting me. And we have this today, this really, she's one of my best friends. She's such a sweet, lovely lady. and our grandchildren are so sweet. So it's a great Jataka story. So what I guess I take from that is one cannot simultaneously express Buddhahood and also at the same time try to get something.


That's right. Buddha is not trying to get anything. Buddha wishes us all well without trying to get anything. Congratulations, that was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful story. Thank you. And wonderful, wonderful life that you finally served that young lady without trying to get anything. Teenagers are very smart and they can tell if you're trying to get anything and they do not like that. They don't mind you serving them. But if you're trying to get something, they do not like it. And in that way, they're great. They're great teachers. And you receive the teaching and you woke up. Congratulations, Dennis. May this spread to all aspects. In 10 directions. Yeah. Thank you. Our next offering is from Samir.


Hello, Reb. Hello, Samir. And hello to the great assembly. The first time I practiced Zazen was because I heard a sentence from Kodosawa Kiroshi, practice and expect nothing from the practice and it became a mantra for me. Great. Just practicing for practicing and then many years later I discovered the Paramitas and I I can say that today, really, daily, in the daily practice, remember those six parameters and try to express them in many situations.


Today, something happened since a few days back. I'm practicing Zazen, I'm practicing Shikantaza, and I'm praying. And I hope that my prayer will give some strength with other people praying to stop this crazy war, but not just here in Europe, but everywhere. And I see myself that, okay, I practice, I pray, and there is an expectation that those prayers will support, will give possibility to something to grow, something beneficial for.


So I feel like on the age I'm practicing and there is an expectation, even though it's a positive expectation, but it's still an expectation. Yeah, it's very subtle. It's very subtle, yeah, exactly. So could you please gave me some feedback. Thank you so much for bringing this up. So I would propose to the Great Assembly that the Buddha does wish, the Buddha wishes for peace. The Buddha wishes for all beings to be free. The Buddha wishes for all beings to enter the Buddha way. And the Buddha has no expectation. So your wish is like Buddha's wish.


But Buddha has no expectation in the wish. And the English word being hopes of popular word these days, and it has been off and on for a long time. The English word hope has a little catch in it. It means not only to wish but also to expect. So again, I just, I said earlier, the teaching is, if we make offerings to all Buddhas, and then brackets, without expectation, we will become Buddha. And we wish to become Buddha. And if we make offerings to all Buddhas, we will become Buddhas. But if we expect to become Buddhas, then that forced alls, blocks the realization. So I wish with you for peace in Europe, and all over I wish for it, I wish for it.


And I listened to the sufferings that are now in the midst of war. And I wish for peace. I wish for enlightenment. And I have to watch out for any expectation that interferes with my with the wish. And again, I don't I don't say I hope for peace. I wish for peace. I want peace. And I don't expect it. And I've said this to you before, not you some years only, but other people. If I wish and expect and don't get what I wish for, I might be disappointed and give up. If I wish that beings will practice the bodhisattva precepts, and I do, I wish all beings will practice bodhisattva precepts. I wish all beings will practice not killing, not stealing, and so on.


I wish for it, but I don't expect it. And then if I see beings not practicing these precepts, even those who said they wanted to, I'm not disappointed. I'm pained. not disappointed. But if I expect it, I might give up on the beings. I might abandon them because I expect it. So I really watch out for expectation. I try to make my wish stronger and stronger and also with letting go of any expectation for my wish. Yes, at the same time, for me, with my background, expectation doesn't exist because there is devotion. It's a natural part of myself. When you have devotion, you're not expecting, because you can give your life completely.


Here and now, completely. When your devotion is wholehearted? Yeah. But Shakyamuni Buddha, in his story, he was devoted to Buddhas, but it wasn't yet wholehearted. The Buddha is telling us, I practice devotion to these Buddhas, but it wasn't wholehearted. I was expecting something. If we expect something from our devotion, it's not wholehearted. But who measure, who measure the, the, the... You can say, you said who, you know, and who, is an acronym for World Honored One. So the Buddha's measuring, or you could say enlightenment is measuring, and enlightenment's saying, mm-mm. Enlightenment is saying, there's no expectation in this house. In the house of a perfect awakening, there's no expectation. So enlightenment is saying, mm-mm, not yet. Enlightenment's going, whack.


Enlightenment's going whack, stomach expectations still whack. So enlightenment, which is all around us, it will tell us when our devotion is a little off or way off, but a little off is enough. And a little expectation, a little bit of trying to get something from our devotion is enough to create, you know, a big gap. So yeah, we want our devotion to be so wholehearted that there's no expectation. There's just devotion. There's just sitting with no expectation. There's just devotion. There's just paying attention. There's just being generous. There's just being careful. There's just being patient. no expectation. And if there is an expectation, then then like Shakyamuni Buddha, we confess it, he confessed it, our Buddha confessed, I repeatedly tried to get something by being devoted to Buddhas.


So we we probably will be repeatedly confessing, we discover some gaining motivation, some grasping in our devotion. Yeah, yeah. And okay, I will end now and I will say one thing to you that I love you and you are in my heart and I'm not expecting anything from you. No, nothing. Wonderful. And I'm looking forward to see you in the deep forest in Sweden. Me too. You're so welcome. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. And I love you too, but I confess I have a little expectation. Okay, please. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Our next offering is from Lori Zentu.


mute myself. Okay. Hi, rep. Now, I suppose you can hear me. Okay. So I have twofold question. And the first part is, if I'm studying the Buddha way, and I'm doing that, to become a wiser, more compassionate person, that is a gaining mind, right? No, you you will become what you say you will. And you want that. Yes. But you can want something without trying to get it. Oh, but I am practicing the Buddha way or trying to practice to get that thing. Yeah, but if you're trying to practice to get it, that's off. If you're trying to practice because you want it, that's not. Oh, get it. So the difference is get it or want it. Yeah, the difference is to gain it, or want it, versus to gain it.


It's not a game. It's who you are. I want to be who I am, but becoming who I am is not a game. It's Buddhahood. Okay. Thank you for that. The second part is, and this also goes to expectations. I have a friend who has heart problems, and I've asked him, please do not eat potato chips. And I'm expecting him to not do that, but he does. Yeah. I don't know how to handle this. Yeah. We'll just confess. You just did. You just confessed that you want him not to eat potato chips. That's what you want. And you also, and that's, that's a confession of something good. You want him to be healthy. You want him to be happy. That's fine. That's what Buddhists do. They want this person to be healthy. but they don't expect that the person will. So if you are expecting, then confess it again and again.


Confess, I screwed it up by expecting. Wishing him well is fine, but then I defiled it by expecting it, by trying to make my wish turn into a manipulative exercise. I confess it. If you keep confessing it, just like Shakyamuni Buddha, you'll eventually give it up, you'll stop expecting, and you'll just be devoted to your friends. So once I've said this, drop it. It's their choice. Well, once you said, confess it. And if you confess it and confess it and say you're sorry, that you're trying to get something. You can keep asking him to stop eating potato chips. And you can finally as a service, you're asking him to not eat potato chips as a service, you're serving him. Yes. And if you notice you're gaining, if you confess that and say you're sorry to the Buddha is not to him. That that will melt away the root of this.


Like I said, this is the pure and simple color of true practice. This melts away the root of trying to get something. By confessing that we're trying to get something and saying we're sorry, that melts the root of trying to get something. So we all have, like Shakyamuni Buddha, we've all been sometimes trying to get something. By confessing that and saying we're sorry, we will give it up. It'll melt the root of that trying to get something. Trying to get something is a transgression. of the Buddha way, confessing and repenting it melts the root of the transgression into gaining grasping. Oh, that's the pure and simple color of true practice. Okay. Yeah. Thank you so much, rep. So welcome. Thank you teaching. Our next offering is from Betsy.


Hi, Reb. Hello. Um, so I, I, I so see the wisdom in what you're teaching. It's such a big practice for me of being generous and giving, and I found so much joy through that. And recently, I have some new health problems and a lot of pain. And on top of that, some difficult life circumstances. And I'm feeling very overwhelmed. And I confess that I don't want this. And I can't even, it's very hard for me to even find my way to practice with all of this happening. And I feel like, you know, as a human being, we're so hardwired to avoid pain. So I wonder if you have any words of wisdom for how do I find my way back to practice in the middle of so much hardship and pain?


I'm not saying I have words of wisdom, but I do have some words. And I guess the first thing I'm gonna say is practice is not necessarily easy. It's sometimes really hard to practice. Even when we're comfortable and in good health and it's a beautiful day and everybody's being nice to us and we're great and we're just really happy, we still might have trouble practicing. Like we might have trouble not expecting this to go on, this good day. So practice is not necessarily easy. So the practice that comes to my mind is to listen to these cries that you just told us about, to listen to them and to observe them.


with eyes of compassion and listen to them with compassion. Listen to them with compassion. Listen to the pain with compassion. Listen to the pain with compassion. Observe the pain with compassion. And if it's hard, I told you beforehand, It's not only hard to be in pain, it's hard to observe it with compassion. But although it's hard, that is the practice of the Bodhisattva. In the midst of the pain, observe the pain with eyes of compassion. And that's not easy. It's hard even to remember the teaching. when we're in a lot of pain. But that's the first thing that comes to mind. Observe these pains that you're telling us about with eyes of compassion.


Listen to them. Listen to them. That's the practice. The practice is not trying to get rid of them. The practice is to listen to them. Of course, we wish that they would go, you know, take a walk. That's fine. We wish for freedom. We wish for peace. We wish for ease. That's fine. But we're not going to be at peace if we don't listen to the cries with compassion. And we are going to be free. We are going to be in an ocean of blessing in the middle of all this pain. If we practice listening to it and observing with compassion. That will bring blessings in the middle of the suffering. If the suffering goes away, fine, but even if the suffering is still present, if we really wholeheartedly observe it, there's blessing, there's happiness in the middle of the suffering.


Okay, I'll practice with that. Thank you. You're welcome. I pray for it and I don't expect it. Our next offering is from Darren. Hello to everybody. I wanted to go back to Groundhog Day, because there are many, many layers of Dharma teaching in there. I just peeled some back showing my kids the movie after years of not watching it. And actually, the first time I saw that was in high school philosophy class. And the teacher said, this is existentialism. In a nutshell, and specifically John Paul Sartre, who basically said life is meaningless until you realize that you have an obligation to others.


And that's when he stops the loop in the movies. He takes on this responsibility to other people. And it's not just that he gives the woman what she wants. He also, there's an old lady in the movie who's having trouble getting across the street. He helps her. There's like all these different things he does that finally gets him out of the loop. And there's also this really interesting thing that I realized at the beginning. So the whole reason that he's in Punxsutawney, Philadelphia, or Pennsylvania, I believe, is because they're all watching this little, the groundhog come out. And the groundhog comes out and basically determines, like, is it going to be good or bad? You know, more winter or no winter, less winter, right? And the groundhog's name is Phil, right? So, Bill Murray's name is Phil, right, he is Phil and he's also a weatherman himself, and his whole thing in life is that he always determines the weather, and he's very in real life in his personal life he's very negative.


He's very very cynical he's seen it all and he's trying to get to a bigger market he doesn't like where he's. Working and he's also kind of sleazy. He's hitting on his his new boss, you know, as a woman, he's hitting on her. He's kind of sleazy. And so he's cured of all that by this. But basically, I think one of the teachings is that, you know, it's the whole good and bad thing where you where you look at the sky and you're like, oh, it's going to be bad. you know, and therefore it's bad, you know, and he has to get beyond one of the things he has to get beyond is that preference thing, you know, oh, this is good or this is bad. He thinks his life is terrible because he's stuck in some small market. He wants to go to New York or something. But it's all it's all about the gaining stuff. That movie has got so many levels of stuff going on. And apparently they made into a play that was playing in San Francisco recently. Yeah. But anyway, it's there's a lot going on there. uh, really, really cool. One of the best probably Western movies for, you know, some of this stuff I've ever seen.


So thanks for bringing that up. I hadn't thought about the, his date aspect of it too, but that's, yeah, it's great. Thank you, Darren. Our next offering is from Sarah. Thank you. Hello, Sarah. I didn't see you. Welcome. I popped in a little late. I apologize for that. I just want to say two things. One is I just came back from New York City and met Bill Murray. And my friend that I was with. Said to him, you know, my birthday is February 2nd. Groundhog's Day. And we were in a Bemelman's bar, it was a very kind of chaotic. And he turned to her and he said, oh, then you have a lot of work to do.


I just thought that was sort of interesting, kind of a funny. The other thing I just wanted to say, Rob, is for the last, gosh, I don't know, year and a half or two years, thanks to Karen Yuki Mueller and Pam Walton, I've been participating on zoom with some groups of students reading your books, reading some of your books. We started with the precepts and we are now working on third turning of the wheel. Wow. And it has been after all these years of. of a sort of being, I've never been in a situation with other students discussing their understanding of this material. And it has been personally really rich to have that support. And it has been fantastic to have to discuss and, and has been one of the most valuable.


It's been wonderful also during the pandemic and the isolation to come together in a little mini sangha and friends and check in personally as well. It's just been fantastic. And I am so grateful for it. Your books have been sitting on my shelf. I've read them, but this is a much, you know, we'll read two or three pages and then everybody will kind of filter it through their understanding and discuss it a little bit. It's just been a wonderful, wonderful gift. And I wanted to express my gratitude for the incredible books themselves and also for this group of people. It's really been wonderful. And of course, Rev, you're invited. to join anytime you might want to listen to what we're saying. I think it's just very interesting to hear how this material plays in people's lives.


And as a teacher, you're probably hearing more about this, but as a fellow student, I have not. And so it's really deepened my... my experience of the material and my practice. I'm really grateful. I just wanted to say that. Well, that's a wonder. Thank you for that wonderful report. I'm so happy to hear it. And may I say to the Great Assembly, that there are these groups, there's more than one. And if you if you wish to join one of those groups, or if you wish to start a group, I think that that That would be great if we had many, which might call cells of the Great Assembly into groups of three, four, five, six, whatever. If you're interested in starting a group or hosting a group, joining a group that's already going on,


I really would, I would be so happy to hear that more groups are starting, because I think they, those, you get something there that you can't get in the big group. Or you get more along with the big group. And so I see Amanda's face and I asked Amanda, can people contact you and tell you if they're interested in hosting or being a member of a group. Could you could you help with that? And we can use the know about sangha at gmail address to express your interest. That would be the return email on the announcement that you receive for these events. We can also, in our next announcement, send out the website that holds a lot of these offerings as well.


So please feel invited and encouraged and supported to join or start more cells for Dharma discussion. And of course, it doesn't need to be about books with my name on them. It can be about the Lotus Sutra or whatever. And I think people are studying also other things like the Lotus Sutra. So I just think the key is to get together, you know, more than once a month, hopefully. Once a month in addition to the big meeting. So we have the big church and then we have the cells. So please, if you'd like, express your interest. Thank you, Sarah, for bringing that up. Did I just say one more thing? Yeah. Just one of the things that I was a little concerned about was what it would be like to not have a teacher or a priest present as a sort of reference point.


And it's actually been really wonderful in some ways to simply as practitioners here, everyone's understanding. And to hear it also play through what's actually happening in people's lives as, as things do, you know, uh, relationship problems, parenting issues, um, death of parent, you know, all the things. And to, to let people report that and discuss that as well. With regard to these ideas, it was really kind of interesting how it feels not to have a priest. and not to have an authority in the circle. It's been a really wonderful thing. Thank you, sir. Thank you. Our next offering will be from Angela. Hello, Rev.


Hello, community. Hello. My question is, well, first, I'd like to say the gaining idea is very subtle. And oftentimes, I'm not sure if I'm having a gaining idea. So my question is, can you have a situation and you're contemplating it and you see gaining idea arise, can you in the next moment, be free of gaining idea, not have gaining idea.


It could happen, that it could arise in your consciousness, and then the next moment it's not there. It's possible. And then the next moment, you might say, well, you might notice, hey, the last moment, I don't think there was a gaining idea, but the one before there was. I'm sorry, and I confess that. But I also felt a little breath of fresh air there in between. And as you said, yeah, so what you said can happen. It can happen that we have gaining idea, and then we don't. And when we don't, our practice is purified. Also, because the gaining idea can be quite subtle, sometimes it's really gross, but sometimes it's very subtle, and so we don't notice it.


So because it's subtle, we should be open to the possibility that what we're doing, for example, that our devotion to practice is, you know, infected by gaining idea. by trying to get something, by expectation of gain. Even though we don't see it, it's good to be open to maybe it's there in a very subtle form. Yes. So that if people say to us, that was really good what you just did. Were you expecting anything, any gain from what you just did, that good you did? Then you might say, well, maybe, rather than how dare you ask me. I never I'm my my offerings are completely free of any expectation of gain. I'm like, you know, no, maybe they're not. Maybe we're trying to gain something. Yeah. And be open to that. And then in the openness, you may sometimes get a break from it.


But also in the openness, you may say, Oh, yeah, there is a little bit there. Yeah. Yeah. Which tends to be the As a human, there is. Yep. We can't develop, you know, it seems like it's part of our, our natural organic development to try to get stuff. Otherwise we, you know, children would just sit in bed all day and would never like run around the house. They run around the house cause they think they're going to get something. Thank you. Thank you. Our next offering is from Houma. Good morning, Rep. Good morning. Good morning, Assembly. I can clearly see


And first, I would like to thank Laura for her beautiful questions of her pain, the expression of the pain that she was expressing. And actually, her question brought the question to me, which was, I can see myself in pain, I can see myself in suffering, and I can also see myself in immense beauty. I can see the blue sky, I can see the sun, I can see the trees and the animals and the whole beauty. And then the question that rose in me when you talked about compassion. Compassion is what sees the beauty and what sees the pain and suffering.


and the power of its freedom from both sides. There, my question is that me or I in this body, which is constantly, constantly attached to pain and suffering and beauty cannot see, is not capable of seeing, or it's not even capable of realizing what compassion is, where we are constantly talking about it. So it's compassion, compassion as I speak it, it's something beyond the, the duality, and while I am the duality, how can I also be beyond it?


That's the question. How can the duality at the same time be beyond itself? I see that duality is actually also beyond duality. But how that is, I really have nothing to say. But I think that duality is also beyond duality. Okay, thank you. I can't really say how. Okay, so thank you. You did answer my question. Then my real question is, that is not a fact for me. Pardon? It is not a fact for me. It may be a fact for you, but it's not a fact for me. I don't know if it's a fact or a truth for me. It's not a truth for me.


So that's why I keep going back and forth, back and forth. So the question is that I can see it's not the truth for me. And then the question would be more of a is it is it possible for a mind that does not see that as the truth that becomes the truth is that is that that possibility a mind that does not see duality as the fact as the truth is there possibly for that mind the mind that does not see that Duality is beyond duality. The mind that does not see that, okay, that mind also is transcended, is beyond, that mind is beyond that mind.


The mind of duality is also beyond duality. Yes, but what you're saying must become the fact. It becomes a truth by being compassionate to the mind of duality. By being compassionate to the mind of duality, there is the seeing that duality is beyond duality. Okay, at this point I'm going to let go because I don't see that compassion. in the mind of duality. It's not so much that the compassion is in the mind, it's more like compassion embraces that mind. Compassion observes the mind of duality. Yes, but I'm still lingering because if that mind of duality does not dissolve, if that mind of duality does not melt,


in compassion is still going to linger as the mind of duality is separate? It may linger, that's fine, but the compassion is not trying to melt it. The compassion for it is embracing it as it is and in that embrace it will be seen that this lingering duality is actually beyond duality. I don't buy that. I just don't buy it. I just feel like everything must, everything, all the lingering, all the none, everything must... You're just expressing now the mind of duality. There it is, right there. Yeah, that mind of duality... Yeah, so that's fine. And so that mind which you just expressed is beyond that mind. And in order to realize that, there needs to be compassion for this, I don't buy it.


I don't buy it is a dualistic mind. I'm trying. Compassion, compassion for the, I don't buy it. Yeah, thank you for giving me abundance to sit on. I love to sit on it. Yes, I will sit, I will sit in this, in this mind of duality without, without thinking there is a compassion, without thinking, without thinking about compassion. I would like to just sit in this mind of duality without, without anything. Well, may your sitting be compassion. Yes. Thank you. Thank you. Our next offering is from Farnoosh. Hi, Reb.


Hi, Great Assembly. Thank you so much, everyone. I put my hand up and then I took it down and I put it up and I took it down. I think it's vulnerable for me to share that about a week ago today, I learned that my mom has unexpectedly. She has a serious cancer. And, um, I, I'm going to see her next week in California. I'm currently in New York. And one of the things that being away from her has allowed me to do is, you know, when I get off the phone to take care of my own suffering, and I do feel like I have a lot of spaciousness to


be with the strong emotions and be compassionate to them. And I noticed, you know, a lot of wishing, wishing for her health, wishing for her well-being. And I noticed some wanting this not to be true and having an expectation. And, you know, I noticed that trying to be kind to it. And I guess my concern is when I'm going to see her, I sense that I have this, you know, great desire to help her, great desire to be there for her. And I, I'm familiar with that part of me, and I know that it has a strong desire for, it's not gain, but I just, I feel the great effort. And I want to try to, envision the possibility in which I could be in her presence and hold space for myself and also hold space for her without trying to change anything.


And I'm just anticipating the difficulty of that. Being able to be with her would be a great blessing. That's a great blessing. That's a great happiness. It's a great happiness to be able to be with her wholeheartedly, openheartedly, and open to her suffering and yours. That's a great blessing. And that great, great blessing is created by listening to the cries that you have told us about. Listening to all these cries with compassion will bring the blessing of being able to be with her in the way you really want to be with her.


And you don't have to be with her to work on this. But if you work on this when you're not with her, then the blessing will come to be able to be with her just the way you both really want to be. Does that mean just the way that I am? Just the way you are and just the way she is. At the end of one of our most famous dialogues in our tradition, the teacher says to the student, You are now thus, I am thus too. And also, what comes to my mind is, there was a... Yeah, I think he was... I think he was a Frenchman named... What's his name? Michelet? Anyway, he was a great writer and he had a friend and people were inspired by their friendship.


And they asked him, how could you love him the way you do? Where did this great love come from? And he said, when we were together, I was like me and he was like him. Our next offering is from Linda. Thank you. I think Barbara was ahead of me, but thank you. And thank you.


I want to just speak. to Firmouche actually, because I'm on the other side of the coin. I'm the mother who found out three weeks ago that a cancer I thought I was finished with is back. And I have a son who's 32 and we are learning to be real with each other and just to be who we are. And it's hard sometimes and it's beautiful sometimes. So just be ready, and I'm sorry. Be real. If that's what you are right now, you don't have to say you're sorry for being who you are. We want this. We want who you are. We can still laugh together. I can still enjoy my grandson. What I'm working with now is trying to get rid of the gaining mind of how much time I have left and just be here now and do what I have to do.


So I wish you the best. How's your writing project going? It's going. and you gave me a lot of stuff to talk about today. Thank you. You're welcome. Our next offering is from Barbara. Hi, Red. Hello, Assembly. Nice to meet you all. again. And I just wanted to tell you that I guess I want to acknowledge something that was happening for me and the synchronicity of your talk today.


Recently, I've been munching on the thought that maybe I should just be done with this Zen thing. Because I don't seem that I'm not trying to gain anything from it anymore. I don't hope to learn anything new that is going to save me or enlighten me or change my life. It's like, so why should I bother? So I was hanging in this no man's land for quite a while. And I kept going through the motions of going to this practice group and that practice group, just showing up and hating the feeling of not belonging and not really knowing why I'm showing up there. So I thought maybe I'll just say goodbye and be done with it because life has already been giving me all these lessons. I don't need to show up in a special place to find practice.


It happens pretty well in every moment of life. So, but there was this, I think it was actually yesterday when I was still tossing like, should I show up at this group? And then finally there was this thought that just show up just because. There's no reason to do that, but just do it. And today you're saying, I think I heard you say that this is when it really becomes the offering to all Buddhas when we don't try to get anything. So I guess you kind of confirmed the message that I received from Buddhas, I guess. And I guess I will just keep showing up wherever I will show up. So I guess I have a new direction now.


And I wanted also to share that my mother just died beginning of of the year, beginning of January. And it was a culmination of her life in a very unexpected way. And her latter part of her life was very strong practice material for me because of the intensification of her pain. and my resolve to free her from that pain, because I felt that if I meet her in the way she is, there will be, I will give her the love that she needed to receive as a child that she didn't get. So I was really committed to that practice, but, and I was, it was getting closer, but still some of the pains, buttons that were in me,


sometimes just prevent me from being fully there yet. And I would not meet her. But, and her death, and I was really ready. I was promising that we would meet her and celebrate her 80th birthday, that I would show up in Poland and make a big party for her. but it didn't happen. So actually my grieving about my mother was not so much about her departure because that's just part of life, I understand that. But the fact that I just couldn't give her the love that I was hoping to give her, that death beat me to it, to that race. But in the grieving process, There was so much connection to her pain and my grandmother's pain, her mother's pain, the generational traumas, everything that was possibly blocking me from meeting her when she was alive, it all came to healing and fruition and changed my life.


And I think it changed her departure or moving on, whatever is going to happen to her. So it was a beautiful process, very tiring. I was exhausted after grieving intensely for a week or two, but it was very beautiful. So it's all meaningful and wonderful if we can meet it that way. So just my offering to you that Now, I really don't have much regrets. I'm just, sometimes I still have this little pain. Oh, if I could only have a little bit more time to give her more love, but it just didn't happen. Thank you. The next offering is from Anu.


Hello Rep. Hello Assembly. Hello. I wanted to take my turn to somehow voice out or express the shock I'm feeling right now about the war in Ukraine, Russian invasion there. It's just so shocking and I'm feeling so terribly sad for all those people there in the war zone. The Ukrainian people and maybe also those Russian soldiers that might not have known where they were going and then found themselves there in the middle of the war, killing. And it's also so helpless feeling that what can I do for them? Of course to feel compassion but it's somehow I feel it's just a feeling, it doesn't do anything.


They would need something concrete there right now. Of course I can give them money and hope that it reaches out those who need it. But yeah, it's just such a shock. And it also puts me to think through my own values, how I have thought about military service, about taking guns and defending your country. I think almost always been against military service and thought that it's better to like to do dialogue and peace work like non-violent work against that any war would ever come about. But then it puts me to think that, well, I'm living in Finland, in Helsinki, and we are not under attack.


But it still puts me to think that, what about if it was us, what would I do? because it's so easy to say that I won't take a gun, I won't kill anyone if there are others who take up the guns and go there on the borderline and defend us against like the invasion, those taking the war against us. So how to practice this way in those circumstances is not to kill. Does it apply in those circumstances also? Am I not Buddhist anymore if I defend my country, my neighbors, my family, myself by guns? So I would really love to hear what you think about this issue.


Thank you. Well, Buddha is completely devoted to protecting living beings. So the question is, what protects beings? And do you see something that will protect beings? And yeah, we don't have an example of the Buddha killing someone to protect beings, but there is a story. There's at least one story of, when the Buddha was a Bodhisattva maybe, there was a, a murderer who was going to kill all the people in a boat. I forgot how he was going to accomplish this, but there were 500 people in the boat. And the bodhisattva could see that this person was going to have a way of killing them all.


And that bodhisattva in that story, killed that person to protect those beings, and also to protect that person from becoming a murderer. So this bodhisattva could see and had the intention to protect the murderer from being a murderer and also protect all the potential people that the murderer was going to kill. And so the bodhisattva killed the murderer. And the bodhisattva experienced terrible consequences for that, but was willing to do so in order to protect the murderer from becoming a murderer. I should say protecting the person who was intending on murder and prevented them from becoming a murderer and protecting those people.


So there is a possibility that a bodhisattva would, if they could see that. But usually we can't see that. It's not so often that you can actually see that you're gonna, to shoot one person doesn't necessarily mean you're protecting other people. And as you, I think, as you know, a lot of people, a lot of Ukrainians are non-violently confronting Russian soldiers. And I think that's very inspiring that they courageously walk up to those soldiers and say, please go home. Please leave us alone. Please don't do this. And you can't do that from Finland, but maybe you can do that from Finland. Maybe we can do that from the United States to somehow find a way to request with no expectation that Russia leaves that people stop harming each other.


We can work on that. We can wish for that. And wish for it while we listen to all the cries. And that doesn't mean we know that we would never kill. But I guess I would say, some people, some bodhisattvas can basically say they would never kill. They would only kill in some extreme situation. Like somebody, you know, pushed the Dalai Lama into a corner and said, if you were standing next to someone who could press a button, which would cause a nuclear explosion and kill millions of thousands of people, if there was no other way to stop them, She couldn't just take their hand away. If there's no other way to stop them than to kill them, would you kill them? And the Dalai Lama said, I guess I would.


Just like to protect them from being a murderer, a mass murderer, and to protect those people. So there is the possibility that a bodhisattva, if it would help people, really, if you could see that it would help people, you would violate the precepts. You would violate the precepts if it helps people and would hurt you to violate them. So there are extreme examples, but in practical life, I've almost never seen them, that we can actually see some situation where we can see that if this person doesn't do this, it protects many beings and there's no other way to stop them. I already talked to them. I asked them to stop, they wouldn't. I tried to stop them, they wouldn't. There may be some example like that. That's a possibility. But for most of us, we can't see that joining the army is gonna be helpful.


We can't see that that's gonna protect beings. It might cause, you know, if we kill, what's trying to kill, it may cause, we don't know that that will be helpful. But if we could see, if you could see that it was helpful, maybe so. So I'm not, I can't say never, but basically never. Basically, I want to give up my life rather than kill anything. And I would give my life to protect. I would want to, I wish I could give my life to protect other beings in danger, if that would be helpful. But I have not yet been asked to give my life to protect beings.


I don't see that situation yet. But if, you know, If your life was in danger and I could give my life to protect you, I would want to do that. I would like to get between you and the danger. That's what I would want to do. But that's not the same as killing the danger. To give my life to protect you, I think that would be good. But to kill someone to protect you, I don't know if that's good. But again, I can't be completely sure about it. There could be some possibility. And do you say that it's also about the intention you have? The intention is to protect, to kill to protect. But again, usually in war, it's not clear that to kill will protect.


Like I thought of this example in the Battle of Waterloo. There was a French officer was in retreat, was in retreat, not fighting anymore, in retreat. And that officer stopped and got off his horse to help a fallen comrade. And an English soldier was gonna shoot that officer. And his his comrade said, don't shoot him. He's not a danger to us anymore. And in fact, he's a hero. He's stopping and endangering himself to help a wounded soldier. They're not going to fight us anymore. There's no point to shoot a noble person. That doesn't help. So that's a case where to shoot somebody who's like to shoot a medic is cruelty. It's not protecting anybody. It's just murder. And to shoot that officer who is basically a medical person at the moment is just cruelty.


It's not necessary. He was no longer a danger. But people do shoot medics in the war. They shoot people who are trying to help people, even though the person they're shooting isn't a danger. So we can see that killing people is sometimes just cruelty. It's not helpful. When is it helpful? I would say extremely rare that it's helpful to kill people. But I can't close the door on that possibility. And I guess it's really, really difficult to guard yourself against the hate. Like to keep your heart somehow about the intention. Yeah, and that's what we're trying to learn. Is to learn how to receive the danger without hating it. and then hopefully respond in a way that effectively protects beings.


Thank you for that. Thank you. May we send our intention to protect the people in Ukraine and the people who are fighting Yes, let's send our intention to protect the people of Ukraine, and to protect the Russian soldiers, to protect all beings from violence and cruelty. Let's pray for that. Let's send our wish for that. And may this intention equally extend to every being in and place with the true merit of Buddha's way. Beings are numberless. We vow to save them. Afflictions are inexhaustible.


We vow to find a way through. Dharma gates are boundless. We vow to enter them. Buddha way is unsurpassable. We vow to become it. Thank you, Great Assembly. Thank you. Please take care of all beings.