Thinking and Not Thinking 

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This practice place is devoted to the practice of the Bodhisattva precepts, the precepts of those beings who aspire to complete awakening in order to benefit all beings. And the first of these Bodhisattva precepts is called Going for Refuge in Buddha. And there is a ritual, a basic ritual of this temple, of this practice place, and of almost all Buddhist temples, a basic ritual of going for refuge in the Buddha, in Buddha. Of returning


to Buddha, going home to Buddha, relying on Buddha as a primary way of living together with all beings in birth and death. Birth and death. Someone just called me yesterday and told me about the birth of a grandchild. She was very happy. I was happy for her. And here in this temple, a number of our brothers and


sisters are teetering intimately on the interface between birth and death. And the whole community is aware of this, close to this, looking for a peaceful and harmonious way to be at the center of birth and death. Going for refuge in Buddha is a basic ritual in response to


birth and death. And the ritual doesn't reach the actuality, the actual source of Buddha. It doesn't reach it, but it realizes it. I want to say a little bit about what Buddha is. In the tradition called the Great Vehicle, the Mahayana, the Buddha is completely free of birth and death. Completely free of the


world of suffering of birth and death. And simultaneously, the Buddha is limitlessly, actively involved in the world of birth and death. In the Mahayana, there is a discussion of nirvana and samsara. Nirvana being peace or freedom. Samsara being cyclic existence of birth and death. In the Mahayana, the Buddha attains nirvana, which is completely free of birth and death and never abandons birth


and death. There is a challenge in the history of the thought of Buddha attaining nirvana, which was complete cessation of all suffering and complete cessation of participation in the world. But then later, the disciples of Buddha


experienced insights which led them to propose another nirvana, a nirvana which has no abode. A complete freedom that never abandons the world of suffering. A nirvana in which Buddha's work to liberate all beings and simultaneously understand that there are no beings at all who are saved. Understanding that there are no beings to save or not to save is part of the complete freedom of the Buddha. The other part of the complete freedom of Buddha is


to actively work in the world of birth and death. This understanding is not so simple as just that freedom is the cessation of involvement in the world and the cessation of involvement in all conditioned states of body and mind. Logically that's simple. It's more complex and logically intention that we have both involvement in creation and no involvement in creation. The Buddha mind is an unconstructedness in stillness. It doesn't construct anything.


It's completely free of construction, of any kind of construction, of world construction, and simultaneously is involved in construction of worlds. This is part of, I think, a confusion that many Buddhist meditators experience because there are some instructions which say Buddhas don't think. Meditation is not thinking. And then Buddhas in the scriptures say, I'm always thinking. Buddhas are always not thinking and Buddhas are always thinking. They're always not creating, not constructing, and always constructing. They're always constructing


thoughts like, how can I help all beings enter the supreme way and quickly attain Buddhahood? And they're always not thinking. And they're always realizing that there's no beings to save. They do both simultaneously. There's a ritual to return to such a state of awareness, such a state of being. And then there's practices. But for beings that are not yet fully realized Buddhas, it may be that we have to go back and forth between two kinds of practice. One kind of practice where we give up all construction, we give up thinking. The other kind of practice


where we're always thinking. Now most people are always thinking, but the kind of practice that the Buddha does is to always think of how to assist, to cause, to help beings enter the way. What can help beings? What can help beings enter the way? How can my life be given to help? They always think of that. That's one kind of thinking. That's the only kind of thinking that Buddhas do. And that kind of thinking makes worlds, constructs worlds, contributes to worlds. Just like thinking of my own welfare constructs worlds. But the


world thinking about myself and my own welfare, rather than the welfare of all beings, constructs the world of birth and death. The thinking, always thinking of how to help others, constructs Buddha worlds, where beings can learn to think like that, and where beings can learn to give up thinking, give up constructing, give up constructing past, present and future, give up constructing any idea of what practice is, give up constructing any idea or any world


of truth, give up all construction and enter the unconstructed stillness of the Buddha mind. And when from that world or with that world you start thinking, think like a Buddha. Always think, how can I help? I wish to help. I promise to help all beings enter the Buddha way. And I also recite the teaching that although countless beings are saved, not a single being is liberated. Think that way, when you think. That's how Buddhas think, that's how Buddhas


suggest we think. Other Buddhas also suggest and demonstrate not thinking. If you would consider opening to a practice, which is the practice of the Buddhas. The it is the same practice and the same enlightenment as all beings. This practice is not my thinking, it is not your thinking, it is the way each of us has the same practice and the same enlightenment as all beings. This is unconstructedness and stillness. To be present with not constructing


anything is to be present with the same practice and the same enlightenment as all beings. But honest people sometimes hearing of this kind of practice, I just recently heard some honest people say, but I feel like I have to plan for the future. If I don't plan for the future, I won't be able to make a living. Or even if I can make a living, my mother will be afraid that I won't be able to make a living. If I tell her I'm at a Zen center and I'm not planning for my future, she will become frightened that I won't be able to make a living. And even if she's not frightened, I'm a little frightened that I won't be able


to make a living. If I spend too much time not thinking of the future, not planning my education or my employment, I'm afraid I won't be able to make a living. My mother is afraid that if she doesn't think of the future, or of my future, that we won't be able to make a living. Of course, everyone makes a living their whole life. No one doesn't make a living until they're not living anymore. But most people lifetime, about their lifetime, about their livelihood. So, places like this set up special


opportunities where you can come and consider the possibility that for a certain period of time, you could actually let go of thinking about your future, thinking about how to make a living. For some period of time, you'd be in an environment where all the people in the room with you would say it's okay for you not to think of your future. And then notice that even then, you don't trust that you could give up trying to control how life goes. That's helpful to find out, that even if your future, even if everybody tells you, still somehow we have this habit of thinking, and


the habit of thinking is that we must continue to think, and that it wouldn't be safe to stop thinking, even for a short period of time. Now, I'm saying, Buddhas are always not thinking of the future. The Buddhas are always not thinking of the future. They are the ones who are showing us the way of life. Not thinking is an essential ingredient in making a living. That's really the way we make a living, is by not thinking. If we don't


know that, even though we're making a living, we're afraid. Another way we make a living is by thinking of the future. Because when we think of the future, we're also making a living, always. Anybody who's thinking of the future is making a living. But people who think of the future and make a living while they think of the future, who can't give up thinking of the future, are afraid. Those who can give up thinking of the future are not afraid. Including, of course, that you can think of the future and give it up. You don't have to stop thinking of the future to give up thinking of the future. You just have to make every time you think of the future a gift. You just have to stop using thinking


of the future as a way of making a living. If I stop thinking of the future, I might not be supported. I must keep thinking of the future because I do not believe that everyone supports me, whether I think of the future or not. I don't believe that I will be supported whether I think of the future or not. Thinking of the future, now I say, I am supported. Not thinking of the future, I am supported. I say that to you and I hear myself say it. When I think that, one hundred percent, I am not afraid. And I'm also not afraid, when


I think that one hundred percent, to say that whether I think of the future or not, I support everybody else, too. If I can't think one hundred percent that everyone is supporting me, that everyone, everything is supporting me, if I can't think it a hundred percent, then I must think a hundred percent that I'm supporting others. If I can see that I'm supporting others a hundred percent, I will see that they are supporting me a hundred percent. If I see that it's supporting me a hundred percent, I will be able to support them a hundred percent. Not support them one hundred percent, open to thinking that I do, and in opening that I'm supporting others a hundred percent and they're supporting me a hundred In that awareness, I can give up thinking of the future. I can give up thinking and worrying about people making a living.


I can see everybody making a living. And, I can think. How can I help them enter this path of making a living? By what? By being supported by all beings and supporting all beings. That's how we make a living. But, if we don't give up our thinking, we cannot see that. We must be like a Buddha. We must give up our thinking about the future. Make our thinking of the future and the past gifts. Never use them to control. Just make them gifts, along with every other kind of thinking. Making all thinking gifts is to give up all thinking. Is to give up constructing worlds of birth and death.


And it is to be fearless. And it is to be ready to enter the world of birth and death. Actively, fully participate in it to show others how to actively participate in it without constructing anything. I'm saying that there is this proposal that the Buddha is a simultaneous giving up of construction and fully participating in it. Giving up thinking and fully participating in thinking.


Simultaneous. Until Buddhahood, it seems that we have to go from one side to the other. So, in other words, to practice the Buddha way, we need to do both practices. We need to think. We need to think, think, think. We need to promise to think. We need to make vows. We need to make vows of thinking about how to benefit beings. All the time. And then, also, give ourselves to giving up thinking. Not getting rid of it. Just letting it go. We need to spend time opening to the Buddha's practice,


which is the same practice and the same enlightenment as all beings. When I would open to the same practice and the same enlightenment of all beings, I might not be thinking at that moment, how can I help beings enter the supreme way? I might not think that. My mind might be quiet. Or it might even be hearing the sound of a bird. But whatever is happening in my mind, I'm concentrating on making it a gift. I'm not creating anything. So that's one kind of practice where there's no construction going on. We're opening to no construction. And again, that part then, part of us resists it and says, but I have to do something. Okay. Confess that and let go of that. Make that a gift.


And return to unconstructedness and stillness. But when the mind starts constructing, then always have it constructing something which means, how can I help beings? So there's a going back and forth, perhaps, between these two ways of practice. And that would be each person's own style of practice. And both styles can be opportunities for resistance to arise because of our past thinking, which says, you know,


but how am I going to take care of this and that? And I would answer to that, well, you'll see how you do it. You'll see how you manage to walk in and out of buildings or drive cars if you practice this way. You'll see how you can actually make your thinking a gift. And you can see how you can do things, like brush your teeth, but brush your teeth as an expression of the question, how can my life, how can my tooth brushing encourage beings to enter the Supreme Way? Asking that question, thinking that way. And also noticing when I do not want my tooth brushing


to be an expression of wondering how I can help all beings. I'm resisting my life being devoted to the Buddha way. I don't want to practice the Buddha way. I want to have my way. My way, my future, my safety, my suffering. This Buddha way is really just very irritating. Or at least the way he's talking about it is. There's room for every form of pettiness.


It's all welcome and included. All of our smallness is welcomed into this way. But if I don't welcome it, I miss the way which welcomes it. The way which welcomes it is always going on. The Buddhas are always welcoming all beings. And always not constructing or thinking about all beings. No matter how petty we are, the Buddha mind welcomes us. And if we welcome, no matter how petty we are, this is the Buddha mind. If we welcome how petty other people appear to us, this is the Buddha mind.


If we make a gift of the discrimination between people of different levels of pettiness, this is the Buddha mind. Giving up discrimination among the open and the half-open beings, the devoted and the lazy beings, giving up that discrimination, making that discrimination a gift to all beings, this is the Buddha mind of giving up thinking. And also, I am devoted to all beings of all levels of development, is also the Buddha mind. I give my life to always thinking about that. But it's difficult to always be going for refuge in Buddha. But part of the tradition is to promise,


to continue, to return to Buddha. What Buddha? This amazing Buddha. This amazing unconstructedness. This amazing one practice and one enlightenment of all beings, which is constantly thinking of the welfare of all beings. This Buddha, to constantly return to it, is the central and basic practice. Which is available right now for all of us. And again, as we struggle with birth and death,


with all the changes that are coming into our life, into our community, with all the births and deaths, this is recommended as the basic practice, to benefit all beings. I've heard the recommendation, and now I join the recommendation to you and to me. Right now I say I'm completely convinced, but because of past karma, I sometimes can get distracted. But I've noticed, I've been able to notice the distraction and confess and repent it. But I haven't changed my conviction


that going for refuge in this great mind of unconstructed stillness, which is always thinking of the welfare of beings, I haven't changed my conviction, my conviction hasn't changed, that this is something to take care of in this world, for the welfare of the world. I can't imagine anything that's not included, anything good that's not included in this. I just can't. Anybody can tell me, I'll be happy to hear. But it seems like a really good path, called the path of going for refuge in Buddha. Thank you.


Thank you. And equally extend to every being.