Studying the Flower Adornment Scripture Together

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

AI Suggested Keywords:


A Dharma talk by Tenshin Roshi for a gathering of the No Abode community

AI Summary: 

In a Dharma talk for the No Abode community, Tenshin Roshi explores the intersection of suffering, redemption, and spiritual practice through the lens of Buddhist teachings and the civil rights activism of Martin Luther King Jr. The discussion centers on grappling with the appropriate response to persecution and the transformative power of suffering as reflected in several Buddhist texts and vows. The Flower Adornment Scripture and a vow from Tore Zengi regarding the treatment of enemies as avatars of Buddha form the backbone of this inquiry. Participants debate the moral and spiritual implications of responding to abuse with humility and kindness, pondering if such actions constitute true compassion or enforced subservience.

- **Martin Luther King Jr.**: Reference to his views on the redemptive power of suffering.
- **Flower Adornment Scripture**: Used as a guiding text for the discussion.
- **Tore Zengi's vow**: Central to the debate on responding to persecution with humility.
- **"The Archeology of Silence" exhibition by Kehinde Wiley**: Mentioned in relation to witnessing and acknowledging suffering.

AI Suggested Title: "Suffering and Redemption: Buddhist Paths and Civil Rights"


Which, I think he was thinking about the suffering that black people receive in this country, which they don't really deserve. But he was over and over mentioning the redemptive power of such suffering. And when I heard him say that, or when I heard this person who was impersonating him say that, I thought of this Tore Zengi's vow, which speaks of, in a sense, what Martin Luther King might... Yes? Thank you for saying his name. Sorry, the recording hadn't started. Thank you for saying Martin Luther King's name, because the recording hadn't started. Yeah. So, yeah. And this one particular section of this vow by Tore Zengi,


maybe we could look at today, the part which says, who uses devices to emancipate us from our sinful karma that has been produced and accumulated upon ourselves by our own egoistic delusion and attachment through countless cycles of kalpas. So, just, you know, as a possibility, how would it work to just stop that sentence early and say something like, if by any chance such a person should turn against us and become a sworn enemy and abuse and persecute us,


we should sincerely bow down to them with humble language in the reverent belief that he or she is a merciful avatar of Buddha. What about if we stopped there? How would that be? Any comments on that? I think that's good. I think that's a good place to stop. I think it omits something that's not necessarily those other words, but actually the experience of suffering to be served or to serve can help to emancipate us. So maybe it could be worked in there some other way. What do you think Martin Luther King meant by redemptive power? I think that by practicing his religion


in response to this persecution and this unjust cruelty, that by practicing our religion with that, we are redeemed. And I didn't hear him speak about, but of course he probably would, of practicing the religion with suffering that maybe naturally comes with being a human or suffering that we want to receive some negative feedback from. Like sometimes we do things and we want somebody to call us on it and it's maybe very painful, but we don't feel it's undeserved. As a matter of fact, we may feel like we're requesting it. But sometimes we feel like it's just totally inappropriate and everyone else does too, practically. But he mentioned that, which is kind of more like this.


And this also speaks of how, in a way, the Buddha body inhabits all the beings we relate to. So some people might, I don't know, anyway, whoever we're talking to, the Buddha body pervades them. And even though they're being cruel, the Buddha is not cruel, but the Buddha is right there while they're being cruel to us. And for us to remember that, we're receiving the avatar. Maybe also like Christ's being persecuted unjustly, is that a kind of redemption in Christianity? Yeah, yeah. How it also strikes me as a kind of regenerative compassion that comes up. And that, in turn, strengthens one's resolve to not harm others.


Linda and Oscar? So, taking for example, the kind of suffering that African-American people were experiencing, that brought them into movement in the 1950s and earlier. Let's just imagine some of the things that were happening, the terrible, undeserved suffering of children being raped and men having parts of their bodies cut off and being burned alive. Do you think Martin Luther King would have advised those people who have suffered these terrible injuries and degradations to bow down before their abusers and thank them and tell them, I think you're an incarnation of God sent to redeem me from my own sin? Would he have advised them? Would he have said that? Do you think? Would you? I don't think I would tell anybody anything like that.


But I might practice it myself, if I was in a situation like that. I might do that, but I wouldn't tell anybody else to do that. Thank you. Because when you have us reading this, you are telling people to do this. It's not just your own practice. Well, I'm talking about not reading that. I was talking about skipping that part of it and just stopping with trying to actually understand that the Buddha is here when people are being cruel to us, taking away the part that I deserve it or I caused it. Rather, this is a gift to me. No, no, I'm not saying take that out. What I'm talking about taking out, for your consideration,


is who uses devices to emancipate us from our sinful karma and our own egoistic delusions. So, I wondered if that could be taken out as a step towards considering that whatever is coming to us is a Dharma door. This is for me to practice, it's not for me to tell you. For example, if I'm being rude to you, it's a Dharma door. I don't tell you that. But if somebody is being cruel to me, I want to, if somebody is being cruel to me, somebody is irritating me, somebody is taking up more space than I'm giving them, whatever, to try to look at them as someone who is pervaded by the Buddha


and respect them as a way to discover the Buddha in the situation. That part is what I'm bringing up. But the other language seems to be slipping into blaming somebody or putting the responsibility on them more than the rest of the universe. And I wondered how would it be to leave that part out. That's my question. Oscar? I resonate with the same concern that Linda expressed. I'm not sure about removing the last half of the sentence. Because it follows, it's implied in the first part, the merciful avatar of Buddha. And it only applies to us if we have any sinful karma, which maybe everyone has.


But it's a tough pivot, a tough conundrum there. But I think, for me, the way through is to consider Martin Luther King and his life. Because I think he was subscribed to this. That's what redemption is. You're redeemed from something, you know, sinful karma of some kind. So he lived this out. But he did it in a reactive way. It didn't emasculate him or make him ineffective. It inspired him, I guess. So I think you have to look at it in two ways.


One, yes, this person who's persecuting me has something I need to examine. This is a lesson for me. But at the same time, it might be appropriate to take arms against the sea of troubles from that space. In other words, in his case, non-violently protest. Amanda? Amanda? Another thing I wanted to bring up was that I went to an exhibit at the De Young yesterday, and the name of the exhibit is The Archeology of Silence. And I thought, hmm, that sort of resonates with something. And, yeah, so the exhibit is paintings and sculptures


of mostly black people lying down and silent. Some may be dying, some may be wounded, and some may be asleep. But they're almost, I think they're all reclining, and they're silent. And, yeah, it's sort of, it's, and then archaeology maybe is to, I don't know if the word is, explore what these bodies are telling us. They're not saying anything, but to explore what they're saying. And the artist, Kehinde Wiley, is saying, they're saying, what is it, see us, see us, and let us live.


Or, we want to be seen, and we want to live. But they're not saying it, but that's their message. That's his message. And some people experience these, this thing as a very heavy, kind of a heavy experience. Lovely people, beautiful people, beautiful artwork, but there's something really heavy there in this silence. Yes? First, I highly recommend that exhibit to everyone, Kehinde Wiley. Second, for me, the passage is, could be improved by giving equal respect


and agency to the person bowing down with humility, and the person who is the aggressor, or the person who is being seen as a potential source of teaching. I think, for me, the problem comes where it seems like an imbalance in respect. Oh, I see. That the person who is being bowed to is not respecting the one who is bowing? Oh, yeah. I didn't see them not respecting themselves. I saw them seeing themselves as a bodhisattva, bowing to somebody who's acting kind of against being a bodhisattva. That's implied by your practice, not in the words necessarily.


Yeah. Yeah, so again, he, Martin Luther King Jr., he was able to be nonviolent without feeling like he was not respecting himself. He was not saying, Oh, we're nonviolent because we're not worthy of respect. That's why we're not fighting back. I thought he was saying, Because out of respect for our own dignity and our own righteousness, we're acting nonviolently. He made that explicit. This does not make that explicit. It's only from your practice and your understanding that that's why, potentially, if you're entering from at this moment, it's a bit possible to... Right, but, yeah, so it's hard because this is not somebody telling you what to do. It's somebody who's... This is a bodhisattva vow of this person.


This is what he wants to do as an act of asserting his own dignity as a bodhisattva, his own courage, his own virtue. This is the virtue through nonviolence rather than virtue through fighting back. But it is a protest. You could see bowing to somebody as a protest to any cruelty that they're... That's hard to get from these words. Maybe hard to get, yeah. Just with the emphasis on, you know, the humility. I think the word humility is a difficult word that implies at times, you know, subservience.


I think your abuser is even more problematic. Okay, so there's lots of hands raised. Homa and Justin? And Norbert? It's not necessarily super literal, but it's symbolic. It's also like an attitude of viewing the situation. Not necessarily really literal. I don't think it's saying you should necessarily physically bow down


and say maybe you can, but I don't think to behave in the spirit of this is not necessarily to literally do that. Nor is it to necessarily invite more. I mean the stillness that is invoked with that attitude can be very powerful and a strong message. Thank you. Thank you. Homa? I can speak from my own experience and that is I have come across many great beings that it was not because of them practicing what is balanced to me. I would have not seen the truth of what is. So I can say for those who are practicing it, truly practicing it, their vows to us have this power.


It transforms, it really changes our way of looking at things. So yes, it was his vow, but I agree. This is the vow of a being who had been bodied. The body that most of us are not even in touch with. We are not in touch with that part of being humble. The heart that vows. I can say from my own experience, before I really was in touch, my body was a mental, it was like a head body. But when I realized what I am vowing to, so I do wish for myself, upon myself,


to be able to vow more often. More often, including the difficult conditions that causes more resistance to violence. So I do wish that upon myself, that my vowing to have that impact of change. Thank you. Thank you. I just think that there's a seeing, if you use the word seeing, there's a seeing in there, and then this person takes the action of vowing down to the humble language. But there's a seeing going on. This person sees something and there's a power in that. So, to me, that illuminates what it is.


And we have this, also we have this chapter in the Lotus Sutra of the bodhisattva never disparaging, who also always said to people, I will not disrespect you. I will not disrespect you. And then people persecuted him for saying that. So that's also part of the mix, that bodhisattva never disparaging, never disrespecting anybody. So how do we integrate that with, and in a way I could see that bodhisattva never disparaging as non-violent protest, as a protest against disrespect and violence. And whether people were being violent towards him or not,


he would not disparage them. That was his practice. And that bodhisattva became Shakyamuni. So, where do we get off? Where do we get off in our response to cruelty? We're trying to protect beings. That's what we're trying to do here. That's our agenda. And what's the way to really protect them? That's the question. And help everybody wake up. Taylor? For me, by just looking at that sentence being talked about, what comes up for me is how it's important to take it in the context of the entire vow altogether. Instead of talking about relative individual things,


it's about me as a whole speaking about a much more universal love, like loving-kindness metta. And it's just important that where the words might cause discomfort, when viewed in a relative way, when viewed in this absolute loving-kindness towards all things, including beasts and birds and clothing, every object around us, it makes the sentence work better. Thank you for that. Timothy and Oscar. I take this passage in a deeply personal way. In my practice, I take it as he's talking to someone who has been persecuted,


who has been abused. And where is the path of liberation for him is the question. He's offering a way to liberate from the effects of that relationship. I totally agree with Linda in terms of finding yourself in an active situation when that's going on. It's a different set of things going on. But having been experienced that kind of deep level of abuse and persecution, I found I've been bound to it most of my life in various kinds of ways. And what he's talking about, it seems to me, is the way that I have found myself to be released from that and have some freedom with that. And to realize that it's very difficult because what my anger and wanting to react and stay just and righteous about,


no, you abused me and that was wrong, and all that keeps me trapped in that, those compass and millions of years of gobbles. And the experience of letting go of that and dropping into what an actual being intimate, completely intimate with the experience of that relationship frees me to experience the suffering of the world and enables me to be present to the other suffering in the world that's like that and be with it. And that's what I'm trying to do, is to not attack all the people who are doing suffering, but feel into the suffering and be there with it and be present with it. And in a way that redeems my persecutors, my abusers as well.


I feel that because they were my parents. And they loved me. This was, they did it so incredibly unskillfully, but my resistance to the horror of the abuse has kept me from seeing their love for me and releases me from bondage to the persecution, to the abuse. I couldn't ask for a greater gift from my practice than that. Thank you. Oscar? It occurs to me that bowing down to someone who abuses and persecutes us is a pretty high bar. And I could ease into it by thinking,


even though such a fool might cut us off on the free run, it's a little easier to edge into something like that. Such a person is using skillful means to provide an opportunity to consider our reactivity to such an event. And the other thing that just occurred to me is, like Buddha talked about this in the Dhammapada, didn't he? We are what we think. If we think, look how he beat us down and persecuted us, robbed us, threw us down. This is followed like the cart beat a fox with unhappiness.


That's not quite the quote, but something along those lines. This is put in really strong language by a really strong practitioner. So we don't have to jump right in at that level of what's going on right now. But we can edge into it, can't we? Linda? I would like to clarify something that I am feeling maybe. Some people might be thinking in objecting to this language, I'm not standing up for disparaging, for anger, rage, violence, disrespecting, losing sight of the Buddha in everyone,


including the abuser and the persecutor. I'm not speaking for that. I'm speaking really for the power of language and skill in language. And of course I get propulsion, I get energy from lifelong anger that I've had. I practice Zen and Buddhism because I'm healing from greed, hate and delusion. That's what I'm here for. I'm not failing to hear what you're all saying about the value of this. I wanted to say to you, do you know what abuse of a child is, or a person who doesn't have a power? I watched a documentary the other day which showed children being abused in a fundamentalist set. And while they were being spanked and punished in public with horrible punishment,


they were forced to give a hug to the person who whipped them. And on one occasion the person who whipped them said, that wasn't a good enough hug, and he hit him again. He said, give me a better hug now. That's what I'm saying is that it's not good language. In these abusive situations they force you to somehow say you love the abuser, or thank the abuser. We don't want to use language like that. But at the same time I 100% vow to free myself of violence, anger, hatred, vengeance. I totally devote myself to that vow. I wish for that. I ask for your help for that. I still say don't read out loud. I won't do it, that you bow down and thank your abuser.


It will not help people. You can thank them maybe inside. No, I'm done. I think that was clear. And so, some people might not think, some people might not think that Tori Zenji is telling you that you should do this when you don't feel this. That you should hug the abuser when the hug isn't coming from you. But the language may be mixed. It sounds like we're teaching these children to hug the abuser. We're telling them to do it. And I don't think we agree with that. But to learn how to do that from your own heart, how to talk about that without telling other people what they should do, or to look inside ourselves to see,


can I do that? Can I actually respect this person who's being cruel to me? Do I want to learn how to do that? I do want to learn how to do that. That's part of what I came to Zen to learn how to do, was not just how to be kind to people who are being kind to me, but be kind to people who are abusing me. I wanted to learn that. But I haven't told anybody else that they should be kind to somebody who's being cruel to them. I have not told people that. And I think it seems like this language seems like Tori Zenji is telling us that we should be kind to people who abuse us rather than we should find within ourselves that person who can do this. You're using a different language. Being kind to them is not what we're getting ourselves.


The words in this translation give it, perhaps. Well, I would like to say thank you everybody for tolerating this difficult topic. And I would like to now go back to this commencement of exploration. And I use the word exploration rather than the word teach. I would like to teach. And I would like you to teach by exploring, by experimenting, by being creative, by investigating, by finding new and creative paths into life with the support and edification that we may realize from this huge, challenging sutra. So again, I want to like search for a way


that we can do this together. Not me give a talk which maybe puts me ahead of you and then you try to keep up with me, but rather to give a talk that encourages you to join and lead in your own way on this great Mahayana path. And one little exercise that was suggested earlier, which you might try, is just go to, and I would suggest start at the beginning of the book, not jump to the end, because if you jump to the end it will be harder, and I shouldn't say it will be harder, but I'd like to promote us finding a way that we can all walk together through the book rather than go find easier parts of the book. And one way I suggest starting the book is in the first chapter, picking a gatha or more than one gatha,


memorizing it, and then looking at your life through the gatha that you chose. So again, someone asked me a few days ago, what's your frame of mind now? The person was talking to me, and they asked me, what's your frame of mind? I said, my frame of mind? I don't even know if I said my, I just said, the Buddha body extends throughout all the great assemblies. That's my frame of mind. I have that frame of mind. And it fills the Dharma realm without end. That's my frame of mind. And it's quiescent. And it's free of any nature. And it's ungraspable. And it appears in the world. So when I'm sitting in the zendo, that's my frame of mind that I got from the sutra, that I'm sitting there, quiescent, free of any nature, and ungraspable. And I'm appearing,


sitting there in the room, and I'm appearing for this world. So that's one frame of mind. But there's so many other frames of mind you can choose, and you can use them walking around, but also when you're sitting. You can sit with these frames of mind. Just like the frame of mind of being aware of inhale and exhale, that's another frame of mind, which many of you are doing. And those are fine frames of mind too. But I'm now talking about exploring this sutra and using some of the teachings of the sutra as experimental modes of exploration of your own being, your own life, using them. And then, if you do that, and when we get together again, we can share what it's like to try that experiment. And some of you might have information so we try some other experiments. These experimental, creative exploration and so on,


that's what I'd like to do. And I would like to see if this type of configuration can do that. I don't want to just give this to you. I want you to join in entering it. Okay? So that's what I'd like us to start now. And I feel quite a bit of enthusiasm. And let's see what happens. We'll meet again in July. And many of you may be able to come. Some of you won't be able to. But you could still join us by doing that assignment. And if you're in England or India, you can still join us by taking one of those teachings and holding it as a frame of reference for your life. And then when you do come rejoin us,


you'll bring that back and enrich our process by what you've learned from bringing these teachings into your heart and then living from them and finding out how life is when you remember them. I find it, it's a different perspective. And there's so many of them. So how about that for a starter? Okay? So again, thank you. As I mentioned before, Amanda gives me a whole piece, a sheet of paper with many different responsibilities to organize the One Day Sitting. So much goes into organizing it, to making it go as it did today. Thank you to all of you who supported it and thank you to all of you who have practiced and received all this kindness. May we continue for ten more years. Thank you so much


for expressing yourself.