Three Kinds of Compassion 

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Transcribed by Karen Mueller


I think I said something this morning like, if we try to help other beings with a sense of separation between helping and helped, or helper and helped, that it leads to getting really tired, I might have said. Or it give rise to what are called outflows. And I thought maybe “tired” isn’t the right word; maybe discouragement is a better word. There might be some need to rest because of the work.  The work of benefiting beings might include resting. The story I have heard about the Buddha Shakyamuni is that there were rest periods. In the evening, he rested. The body that was made available to give teachings, in the process of moving around, eating and talking and so on, that included rest periods often in the evening time.  But even while resting, the Buddha still was doing the Buddha-work. 

So the story I had was that although the Buddha was interacting with other living beings, the Buddha did not believe that there was a separation between living beings or between the teacher and the student. Some of the students understood that and then became teachers.  

So although the Buddha’s body needed to rest and eat, because of not believing in a separation, for example, between self and other or student and teacher, there were no outflows. The Buddha’s understanding, the Buddha’s wisdom has no outflows. So the body needs rest. Outflows actually disturb the wisdom process and could even lead to, for example, thinking I don’t want to practice or I don’t want to help people. It’s killing me. Thoughts like that could arise due to outflows, due to believing in the appearance of separation. 

So the beings who have ended outflows, might still need rest if they had a body. And they would have a body if it was helpful to have a body for people to look at and relate to. That’s one of the kind of bodies that Buddha’s have is a body that people can see and touch and it can touch people and speak in a way that people can make into words. But the liberation from the belief in separation and duality ends outflows. And ending outflows, one never becomes discouraged in the work of benefiting beings. But with outflows, some beings who are trying to help beings, because of the outflows, might become so disoriented that they think not only is it hard and challenging to benefit beings but also “I don’t want to do it anymore”, or something like that. Or “I am not suited for it so I should give up practicing”. 

So I thought I would point out the difference. In other words I think it’s possible to rest as part of helping people. Matter of fact show, to people how to rest. Some people actually have asked me to teach them how to rest, literally.  The little girl I take care of, named Frankie Ling, she actually doesn’t say to me, “Would you teach me how to rest”, but in fact I do sometimes teach her how to rest and he way I teach her is by putting her in the pack in front of me and then we take a walk. By walking with me, she finds a way to rest usually quite quickly usually, unless she’s not tired. But particularly when she’s starting to get uncomfortable and wiggly and struggling for comfort, it’s often when she’s fatigued and resting would be good. She, however, her outflows are not disturbing her vow to benefit all beings because her vow to benefit all beings is not yet, as far as I can tell, I don’t see that it’s living.. I can’t see that it’s manifested in her karmic consciousness yet. It may someday, but I don’t see her thinking about benefiting beings, or committing to helping beings. That may happen someday.  But she does seem to be struggling for rest frequently. So I show her how. And so far it’s been 100% successful of her catching on getting rest and then after getting the rest she rests for half and hour, forty minutes, an hour, she wakes up and she’s ready to enjoy life.  


Any feedback on today’s teachings or today’s meditation I should say? The meditation I gave you. Have you been contemplating it? Have you been enjoying contemplating these teachings?


Q. Based on what you just said..(Voice from upstairs)


A. Oh, Are you a heavenly being? 


Q.  Based on what you just said, is the normal state of humans that they are born to have outflows and perhaps trained to not do so?

A. That’s my understanding that as beings start to discriminate objects, that it appears as though they are out there separate from themselves. The children who are here today are fifteen months old and Frankie Ling is about twelve months old and she now is able to.. I hold out a little piece of banana and she reaches up and takes it into her mouth. And just last time I held out the banana, she wanted to take the banana and then she was holding it and I reached to take off a little piece for her and she pulled it away from me. Like, “No I’m taking care of this banana. This is going to be over here and I’ve got it.”  So it looks like she thinks I’m separate from her. Like, “You’re over there and sometimes you help me eat bananas but sometimes I have them and I don’t need your help and I am not talking to myself.” Looks like she thinks, “You are not me”.  However I also think that little babies often think that little babies think the thing they are looking at which they think is separate from them, that they own it. So although they have a sense of separation, they also think that a lot of things that are separate from them they own them. So that’s why some people say they think the baby identifies with the world but I would say it’s more like they think they own it, especially certain parts of it like their care-givers. When it manifests.., I’m not sure at what point they start discriminating objects. I think more or less by the time they are born they just about do it. But I think the objects are so foggy or diffuse so it’s hard to say that diffuseness is separate from me. It’s hard to see how articulated that diffuseness is for them. 

I’ve often told the story here of the Zen Master Guishan teaching his younger brother and student Xiangyan, “You have to say something from before you were born”.. “From before you could distinguish objects.” And I think one translation says, “Before you can distinguish east and west”. So I’m not sure at what point this ability comes up but the ability is innate, I think, and pre-verbal I would say.  There is a kind of sentimental view of children that they are perfectly enlightened Buddhas. Because they are so beautiful one might think that.  And they do sometimes act like Buddhas but also Buddhas act like children.  If somebody says “hello” and you say “hello” you’ve just acted like a Buddha probably. Buddha probably would just answer the question. So I think children maybe look like Buddhas but right after they look like Buddhas then a moment later they act like somebody who is really frightened of somebody and really unable to cope with their process and really possessive and things like that. Even Shakyamuni Buddha wasn’t born a Buddha. He had to do a little bit more work before becoming a Buddha. Not much. Just twenty-nine years of work. Then he served as Buddha for the next forty-five. No, no. At thirty-five is when he, he worked for thirty-five years to enter Buddhahood, to finish his evolution to Buddhahood. Before that he manifested some of the characteristics of sentient beings. In his life, in the same lifetime he did things which showed some separation, like he felt some uneasiness with old sick people he said.  I’m not sure it was in that lifetime but there was some sense of separation from beings, which he recognized as silly, but still that illusion was still there. I’m not absolutely sure that he was referring to his present life but it seems like he was.

Ok, thank you.


Q. One time we were talking and you were talking about cultivating energy, I didn’t ask you how to cultivate energy and I was wondering if I could ask you now. 

A. Sure. Among the six basic types of bodhisattva practice, the fourth one is called energy or effort or enthusiasm. It an effort and it includes a cultivation of energy. It’s an effort to cultivate energy for effort. The root of that, the root of energy and the root of the cultivation and generation or growing of the energy is aspiration. So if you aspire to something.. For example if you aspire to be upright or calm or generous, that aspiration, if you look at the aspiration and think about that aspiration over and over, energy starts to develop just by thinking about it. “Yeah, I actually would like to do that”  And you think about it in way that’s possible because you have just practiced generosity, ethics and patience with your life situation. So you think about that but in a generous way, like yeah, I am not forcing myself to do this. I actually aspire to it and think about it.  Think about it and the aspiration starts to get stronger and the energy starts to develop.  And you get more and more enthusiastic the more you think about doing good things and you start to feel more and more good about how good those good things would be. The energy can become quite intense.  You can also think about the aspiration to now, after practicing these first four, now to practice concentration. And you can concentrate on many meditations. One basic meditation is meditation on benefiting others. In other words, developing a concentrated mindfulness and steadiness and flexibility with that meditation topic. But since our mind is our karmic consciousness... Bodhisattvas have karmic consciousness too. Karmic consciousness is,.. one of its characteristics is, and you have heard me say, one of its characteristics is to be giddy. Karmic consciousness is very alive but it’s alive to such a point that it’s giddy. It tends to be excited to the point of disorientation. So you have the aspiration to benefit beings, and you also have heard that, even this aspiration to benefit beings occurs in karmic consciousness. So this aspiration occurs in a situation where being disoriented from that aspiration is quite possible. So then you might say, well is there something to do to protect against the disorienting power of this consciousness? The answer is after practicing generosity and ethical discipline and patience, now you can generate the aspiration. If you have the aspiration to develop something that will protect it further. The thing that will protect it further is to be concentrated, to be focused. A focus that’s flexible, because a rigid focus will get pushed around by the giddiness but with an open, flexible focus you can get spun around by the turbulence of karmic consciousness and still stay upright. Or you can get flipped around and land on your feet again. So I often use the image of surfing. You can get so that this board can be rapidly changing and moving and things are flying all around you and you can be open to all that information and relating to it and still, because you are open and flexible, you can still be upright.  And we need energy. We have to really want to do that, because it is very challenging to be tranquil, focused, flexible, and open in the midst of the turbulence of our mind. If you think about how good that would be you might think “I really aspire to that” and then you think, “Yeah that would be good” and then you feel better and better about it and you give yourself to that cultivation.  

But then again, after you have been doing the previous three practices and now that you’re doing concentration, that energy doesn’t go on forever. You actually have to on a daily basis, or almost like, a period of meditation basis, you have to.. you don’t have to but it helps to say, “the bell rung for meditation, now what was my aspiration again?” Because you say the last period but then maybe you forgot your aspiration. If you forget your aspiration, maybe your enthusiasm for practicing may not be so strong.  So you say, “Oh yeah, a few hours ago I thought it would be a good idea to sit in meditation” So some of you maybe come to No Abode and think it would be nice to come to No Abode and sit quietly and then sometimes you’re at No Abode and you sit quietly and you think “This is actually good. I like this. This is great and I think I would like to do the rest of this period actually. And if there’s another one, I think I would be up for it” And then it ends and the bell rings and you do walking meditation and you think, “Oh yeah. I also like to practice meditation while I am walking” But if you don’t remind yourself, sometimes because of karmic consciousness, you can... Sometimes people get in these meditation retreats and they say, “How did I get here? What am I doing here?”  Some young people say, “I got a life. What am I doing just sitting here?” And some old people say, “I don’t have much time left. What am I doing sitting here?”  People, their karmic consciousness can question any kind of good by basically re-orienting the whole set-up. I have often thought, now looking back I have often thought that it’s amazing that a man in his early 20’s would want to spend his time sitting, with all the other things that a young man can do. Or a young woman. It’s just amazing that I would do that.  How did that happen? I wasn’t really forcing myself most of the time. I would sit often and then often after sitting I would think, “Wow, another period and I actually kind of want to do another one”. But sometimes when the bell rang, I thought, “Well, I don’t know.” I wasn’t working on my aspiration when the bell rang so when the bell rang I thought, “Well maybe later or maybe not. I have other things to do.”  But if you’re working on your aspiration, when the bell rings you think, “Oh yeah, now it’s time to do what I want to do. Now I have a chance to do this.”  

I recently retold the story of going swimming at Ocean beach in 1968 and then I had trouble getting back. I tried to get back and I tried to get back and finally I realized that trying to get back was just going to kill me. I was just going to probably drown if I kept fighting to try to get in.  And I wasn’t making, I wasn’t getting in.  So I kind of gave up some how. I don’t know how that happened but I think that’s what happened and I got moved on the beach and brought in.  At some point I felt my body hit the sand under the water. I was getting turned around. Somehow I wasn’t drinking water much, I guess. I was doing that without inhaling water but I was getting put under the water and some body intelligence protected me from swallowing salt water or inhaling it. When my body hit the sand under the water, I kind of woke up. I thought, “Oh. Sand.” And then I thought, “If that happens again, if I hit..”  I didn’t go immediately from “sand” to I’m going to try to get back to shore. I didn’t think that. I just thought, “Well, that was a gift”.. Some sand, you know. Where I was before there was no sand that I knew about. It was just this big ocean. I thought, “If my body hits the sand again I am going to push with my legs.” forgot about swimming. “I’m just going to push with my legs.” And then I did hit the sand again and I pushed. I did that several times. But the aspiration arose. I lost it and it was in some ways good that I lost the aspiration to swim. But then I got the aspiration to push with my legs and I kept doing that and got in shallow water and crawled out of the water. My aspiration was re-discovered. 

But in the turbulence of life, we sometimes forget our aspirations. And then suddenly we get a gift, a little touch and we go, “Oh, where am I?”  Oh yeah. Right. I’m in the water and I remember that before I went in to this, not exactly unconscious, but very relaxed surrender to the ocean, I had the thought, “Maybe I’m going to die and I can’t really do anything about it.” But I have a feeling like maybe I have something more to do in this life. So when I hit the sand, I thought, “Well maybe I’ll make the effort”. So I did. And I rediscovered my interest to try to live. To do something which I couldn’t remember what it was but I felt that it was something. I didn’t think.. Actually I did think about my funeral ceremony. I thought what are they going to say about me at my funeral ceremony. I guess I thought probably I should live long enough for them to have something to say because right now there wouldn’t be much point in having a ceremony.  And I still feel like that some. I am still pushing on the sand, when it’s available.  


So I actually do go back and check my aspiration and when I do, I always feel, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” Then I feel I would like to make some effort in that regard. And then sometimes I do it quite a bit and get really worked up. Almost as worked up as karmic consciousness is worked up. And then you can practice. 


But you need to do it over and over. You need to refresh it. You need to recreate it. And the way you create it is by contemplating your aspiration. Now if you loose your aspiration, then you do what I do.. You say, “I had an aspiration once. I remember I had one but I don’t remember what it was”. And then you just be patient with that and say, “Yeah, probably be good if I remembered it? Yeah. What would be good about it? Oh because then I would have some energy and also remember what I want to use my energy for. And if I don’t remember it, probably I’ll just be kind of disoriented and that probably wouldn’t be so good. So what I aspire to is to find some orientation in this disorienting mind. Oh yeah, there it is. I wish to ­ be present and upright. Oh yeah. I do! I actually would like. Oh yeah, that’s what I thought a while ago. I thought that many times and every time I practiced that way, I really felt good about it and I never regretted it. I’m back on board.”  The being-upright ship, the happy ship of concentration and focus on the aspiration to be upright and present with all beings. And then …oops  Forget it again. And then maybe sometimes you remember really quickly. 


If your energy is really strong, at that point you don’t forget so easily. When it’s weak, you lose it but you can re-discover it and replenish it. It’s an on-going practice in the bodhisattva repertoire.  We shouldn’t expect that we’re going to be enthusiastic without re-igniting that flame.  Doesn’t mean it went all the way out. It just means it’s kind of flickering in the wind. Almost blown out. Sometimes it gets blown out and you have to wait quite a while to find it again. When it gets really strong sometimes, just your life circumstances make it keep it flaring up. Some situations, like very challenging situations, like people calling for help sometimes that makes it really easy to be present. Sometimes people say in these situations where somebody is.. Like I just read that Walt Whitman, when he was in the hospital with all these suffering guys, he said he was never so present as that time. He said it was really easy to really be totally present with all that suffering around him. That became a resource for the rest of his life he said. And the poems he wrote when he was working in the hospital, I heard, were the only poems he didn’t revise. They were so bright and clear that after he got out of the hospital he couldn’t do any better. So I think he was in a state of really great concentration so that the poetry that he wrote from this care-giving, the care-giving was calling so strongly that he didn’t get distracted. Sometimes we don’t hear the care-giving clear enough and we get disoriented again. 


Karmic consciousness doesn’t say to us, “Would you please, please, please be upright. We need you to do this.”  But you can imagine that if people were standing around you all the time saying, “Would you please be upright”, you would say, “Oh, ok”. And then again people say when I’m in this place where everybody around is sitting around me, they are silently saying, “Please be upright” by them trying to sit upright, I can remember being upright and then when people go away, I sometimes have trouble remembering. But I think when he was in the hospital, the call was very clear and he was very concentrated.  When women are giving birth to children, also, that’s a case where, if they don’t take any.. or don’t take much pain medication, they usually don’t get real distracted, especially during the …what do you call it? … Don’t tell me… Transition?   (Yes)  During that time particularly, they are not daydreaming too much usually.  So during that time some of them experience the clearest, most concentrated time of their life. It’s very painful but the pain is also not letting them get distracted so they really are concentrated and also you could say they really are flexible. Some part of them is being extremely flexible and that’s why it’s so painful. Because they are stretching and that stretch is bringing their attention to it. And it’s a great moment. Birth and death are right there.   So they are like really paying attention to karmic consciousness and that’s a great moment in their life, even though it’s very difficult. Sometimes afterwards they don’t really feel like, “Can we do that again?”  But then, I guess after a certain period of time they think, “Oh the baby is so cute, I want another one.”  


So we have to work on energy cultivation. It is a very important aspect of the path to Buddhahood. 


Thank you for your question. Thank you all for taking care of this practice place and for using it to contemplate various meditations. May we meet again on the path to freedom and peace. 


I feel so fortunate to be able to thank you. Somehow at Green Gulch I don’t feel like I can go to work meeting and say thank you to everybody. I mean I probably should but people are busy and want to go to work. They don’t want to hear me taking up any more time. But it’s nice to be in a situation where you are allowed to say, “Thank you very much for taking care of this place.”  But to say it at Green Gulch, “Thank you very much “ to all those people taking care of Green Gulch. But it’s not set up so easy to thank everybody because people are so busy working. But.. Thank you and I’ll try to thank people back at Green Gulch. (You’re welcome.)