Watch the Set-Up Carefully

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Listening to each others' stories; Scheherazade and the Thousand and One Nights;

AI Summary: 



Is this all we've got? This number of... Are there extra copies of this back there? No extra copies? We don't have enough? What? Oh, okay. So, it says... Something about... What is that business about avatar? The avatar. So avatars are like masks in a way. The avatar is like a mask of this thing that's coming to you.


It's a form that you can see, you know, of something that's invisible. Let's see, where are we? We're at the end of the day. And is there anything you'd like to discuss at the end of the day? Yes? I'd just like to share, at the end of our last sitting, how we were doing is, in my meditation, I was able to see this whole one mask as this whole one mind.


literally like when you were talking about the universe supporting you and everybody, everybody supporting you and the universe supporting, and I was just holding this one mask, one big mask, in such an intimate, I mean just like that, and it felt so I forgot quite where we were at the end of lecture, but you were having a conversation with Sonia about not wasting time, and I was thinking that we were over here sitting under this sign that says, Wake Up, Don't Waste Time, and I wanted you to pull those two.


Maybe they're pivoting, but how does that work? The Wake Up and the Don't Waste Time? Are you giving me a temptation there? So, we don't have much time left, so each moment is a precious opportunity to not waste that moment. Each moment is an opportunity to be thoroughly present. So let's not waste the chance of being present with this moment and this moment.


I don't know how many more chances there's going to be, but appreciating each moment, each experience, It's the universe meeting itself, giving rise to itself. You said good stories help families together. So what do you think are the elements of a good story? Well, one of the main elements that comes to my mind is it has a punchline. It's funny. I think, yeah, funny stories about our family, I think they really help our families stay together.


So we have these stories of people in our family, they were going through something and it was not funny, it was really serious. And then, boom! We saw how funny it was. And then we tell that story about our family and our family's difficulties, and then somebody in the family woke up to how funny it was. And maybe then when we run into other difficulties that do not seem funny, maybe because we know that our family is kind of like a really funny family, that any minute we may get the joke of this current very serious situation, like mommy has cancer. It's not funny. But when mommy was being really neurotic last week, we saw how funny that was.


So he tells stories to encourage us. We tell stories which encourage us to see that this story, which is not yet a very good story, is going to maybe any minute be one. So again, I've been telling this story a lot at Tassajara, because it's about Tassajara. My grandson came to visit me there when he was like maybe more than 10 years ago. And it was going to be the longest time he had ever been away from his mother, like four days. And we were close enough, so he dared to leave his mom and be with me for four days. After two days, he said, I want my mom. [...] faster than that, though, with that little mouth.


And his grandfather, being somewhat trained, listened to him. Didn't tell him to shut up. Didn't tell him it's not a problem. Just said, OK, you can go home early. We can go home. We can go back tomorrow. And he stopped. I just listened to him. That's part of the story. And the next day, when we were getting ready to leave, he said, remember yesterday when I was saying, I want my mom, [...] I want my mom? I said, mm-hmm. He said, wasn't that silly? I didn't tell him to shut up. I didn't tell him it was silly. He just did that. with somebody listening to him, so he could listen too. And then the next day, he could see how funny he is. We have stories like that in our family. We do. Find the stories that are funny.


That's a big part of it. Every story really is a setup for a joke. And when they're about the family, then that holds the family together. Or about the sangha, that holds the sangha together. So that's one way to talk about it. Another story is about this guy. He is a source of stories about the family of man, but also the family of African-Americans. He's a story about... Yeah, he's a source of stories that hold African-American families together. So, I think Vernon Jordan was just starting to work with him.


I think they just started working together, and there was this young African-American who was accused by this woman of raping him. And he was going to be executed, I think. Is that possible? No, he was going to be executed for this, I think. He's going to be executed for raping this woman who said he raped her. Anyway, I think Malcolm Gladwell tells a story. He tells a story this way. A woman was raped. I may be mixing the stories up.


Sorry. I may be mixing the story up. So I'm going to shorten the story and just tell you that this guy was going to be executed in 24 hours from the time that Donald and Vernon found out about it. And so they went to try to save his life to get a stay of execution and another trial. And so they went to the circuit court judge, they went to the attorney general, they went to something else, and they also went to the parole board to try to get a stay of execution. They talked to the guy and they could see, they had confidence that there was a miscarriage of justice was about to happen. And they failed. They did not succeed and he was executed. And later this woman went around to various African American churches and begged the people in those churches for forgiveness for her saying that he raped her because he didn't.


But, and then after all that, after they went to all these places and all got turned down, Vernon Jordan said to Mr. Holloway, told him, well, I think, can I have the rest of the day off? And he had this new suit on, which he had just gotten after graduating from law school. And he's walking home in the heat, and he wet his pants of his new suit. But his teacher just kept going for the rest of his life. He didn't let these kinds of things stop him from his work. He just kept going. His stories are stories which hold that family together.


Everybody who hears that story says, I want to be in this guy's family. And even though we have trouble with each other, we've got stories, and we're going to stay together even though we really have a lot of problems with each other. We got some bad people in our family, and I don't want to be with these people, but the stories keep me in this community. So, inspiring stories in the face that have not yet become funny, in the face of difficulty. I haven't yet got the joke, but there are some jokes in the stories about Mr. Hollowell. One of the main jokes is, Mr. Holowell doesn't like that. If you watch the career of Mr. Holowell and then you hear the expression, Mr. Holowell doesn't like that, you realize that's kind of funny.


Because that means Mr. Holowell is going to go and start working on something. That's what that expression means. It means, here he comes. And he's not going to freak out. He's just going to go step by careful step. And he's going to show that way. And it's really kind of funny that, you know. OK? We need these kinds of stories to stay together with people who do not want to be at the table with us, who want to play with their toys instead. And if you don't let them play with their toys, they're going to run away from the family. But before you go, I have a story to tell, just a second. That's the story of Scheherazade, right? You know that story, Catherine? A Thousand and One Nights? So Scheherazade's a slave woman, and I think after having sex with the sultan, he says, you know, after I have sex with the beautiful ladies, I kill them.


You know that story? Oh, well, here it comes. Just one of them. And she says, well, before you kill me, I have a very interesting story to tell you. And so she tells him the story. And I think she doesn't tell him the punchline. She says, I'll tell you tomorrow. Is that right? And then tomorrow, the next day, she tells him the punchline, and he likes the punchline. And then he says, OK, thanks. Now I'm going to kill you. She says, I've got another story. And so they stay together because she's got good stories, this lady. So she breaks through this sick pattern he has with her stories. Is there actually a thousand and one? That's what we're here for, Breck, to hear your stories.


I've worked with a man named Phil for a number of years. And he's in some ways pretty rough, a little bit hard to get close to. But over the years, I've always admired what he did, the quality of what he did. And I've gotten to know him as a person and admire him as a person as well. Very dedicated to his sons and his wife. And he and I both found out a couple of weeks ago that our work had run out. And he was looking for other things to do. And the only thing he could come up with was going to cause him to be away from home for a year. And he came by my desk the other day and said, well, I just talked to Kathy, his wife, just talked to Kathy. I hope you make a whole lot of money on that assignment. You're going to need it to pay for the divorce.


Could you hear that? So his friend just lost his job, and he got a new offer, but the offer required he be away from his family for a year. And she said to him, I hope that the job pays a lot, because you're going to need a lot of money to pay for the divorce. It's not the end of the story. It's not the end of the story. But we already got the punchline. And now we're going to get another one, maybe. So Phil and I were both in Annapolis working. And yesterday, he flew to Seattle to go home. And I flew over to Sacramento to go home. And the first thing that came to mind when I got the message this morning was, don't waste time. I don't think Phil ever wasted time.


Yeah, and maybe when his wife said that to him, he didn't waste time. Maybe he listened to her. Because when your wife's talking to you, it's a waste of time not to listen. So maybe he listened to her so he could tell you that story. He heard her, and he didn't just dismiss it, he thought, this is a good story. Yeah, so he shared that story, and now that story is being shared with us, and this holds the family together. I went to a Jungian analyst, when I was Abbot of Zen Center, I went to a Jungian analyst to tell him about the problems I was having with the people at Zen Center. I couldn't talk to the people in Zen Center about the problems I had with Zen Center, because they would tell each other, and then it would be not so good. So I told him about how mean everybody was to me.


And he was always like, you know, I couldn't believe how supportive he was. He always took my side. Anyway, he said to me, When people are on their deathbed, they almost never wish they worked more and spent less time with their family. You can waste time overworking. It's a waste of time. It's a wasted opportunity to not listen to somebody who's talking to you. It's a wasted opportunity. So, don't waste the opportunity of every face you meet. Every face you meet is calling for your eyes of compassion to observe them.


Don't miss that. Everybody that you meet is calling to you for compassion. Don't miss that. Wake up. See the great opportunity. Every moment, it's there. Don't miss it. Okay? This morning, driving here, I was about 10 minutes from my home, and I was almost in a head-on collision, because somebody came around the corner, and they were in my lane. I don't know how they didn't see me. I don't know how I didn't wind up in a ditch. But that's what happened. I was kind of shaking, and my mouth was dry, and my heart was pounding. But then, 20 minutes later, I was thinking about Thanksgiving dinner.


And it just made me laugh. We laughed, too. You could die any minute. Yeah, and each one is a great opportunity to be there for the great meeting. Well, I watched him in my mirror, and I saw that he pulled off the rope. If he hadn't pulled off the rope, I think he might have done something. But I'm not sure what. Because he's not a very brave person. You know, if he had a gun or something. But I think I would have had to do something. Because, I mean, obviously, whoever, he, she, that person shouldn't have been on the rope.


You know, I think him pulling over might have meant that he realized that he endangered your life and his. And maybe he should stop and see if you're okay and reconsider how he drives. Maybe that's what it meant. I don't know. Well, and it sounds like you were there for those thoughts. I'm glad you listened to those thoughts, whatever they were. Those thoughts, too, are calling for us to listen. Yes, Chris? I'd like to share a story where there was tragedy, but we could also see the humor in it.


So my daughter, at 10 years old, was diagnosed with cancer. And at the very end, she was in a lot of pain. So we had to have her on pain medication. But we wanted to reduce the pain medication to see if we could have any more communication with her. So we reduced the pain medication. And she came to, and we're like, Carmen. And she's like, can you please stop being such a moaning parent? That's such a typical 11-year-old words. And then she went back in her van and put her back on the medications. And those were the last words she said. And, you know. So, yeah. Yes. Just to follow on your story, I wanted to tell a story that... I was recently driving down to Francis Drake, so it's a two-lane road, and I was on one lane, and then there was the opposite lane.


Somebody came along, right in front of the yellow stoplight, and I was stopped there. But it was a crosswalk, so there were yellow lights flashing, and there was somebody who was trying to cross the road, and he was actually crossing in front of me, and he was halfway through the other lane... Pedestrian or car? It was a pedestrian. So then a car came along and came very, very close to hitting a person. She didn't see him, and then she slammed on her brakes and she started yelling at the pedestrian who had jumped out of the way or he might have been dead. It was very, very close. Everybody was, you know, like, a lot of attention on everybody in the situation. But the problem was that the woman, for me, the problem was that the woman starts yelling at the pedestrian. She had clearly, you know, all kinds of signs to stop. but she blamed the person who was watching. So, what's the punchline to that story? I don't see it yet. There it is. There was the punchline right there.


I had to say, I don't see it, so you could laugh. I don't see that that's funny, and then you laugh. Well, the story wasn't complete. You had to tell me the story and I said I don't see it, then it was funny. You have to tell, sometimes you have to work at the setup a little longer, which we don't want to do. And if you don't work the setup far enough, you don't get the punchline. And the same with each one of us. If you don't work the setup of you all the way, you're not going to understand that you are a punchline. So I had to point out to the woman the yellow lights flashing, and she just rolled her eyes and kept driving. So I still don't see it.


But the situation was ridiculous, I guess. When I found out I was coming home, there was a big crowd of people around this company. If you don't take care of your shit, you're going to create a lot more shit.


Also, if you do take care of your shit, you're going to create a lot more shit. I was thinking about punchlines. You not getting it was the setup. She laughed. Did you see her laugh? The punchline was what I said. And that was another punchline. I just said the punchline is what I said, and it was a punchline. It was a punchline for the setup of you not getting it.


So Sonia's not getting it. I'd say what I said was a punchline. Did you get that one? Everybody, a lot of other people got it. Wait a second, you saw one there. Did you see what you saw? You're laughing. You're laughing. Do you not see what the punchline is here? Well, you don't have to see what the punchline is when you're laughing. There was one. There was one, and you missed it. Wait, there was another one. Did you see that one, Sonia? So, getting the punchline doesn't mean you overlook the setup.


It doesn't mean that. But everything is a setup. And everything can pivot. Everything is an opportunity to listen and observe and wake up. And being awake to that is recommended. Be awake to that possibility. Including the setup of you don't believe. everything's an opportunity. That's another big setup. That's a, you know, to a really big joke, which is you don't think certain things are opportunities for becoming free. That's a super big joke, which I'm not going to say that too many more times, just to get you to, like, roll in the aisles. Yes? I was wondering if you could speak to coming face-to-face and meeting face-to-face with someone who is not considerate of you.


For example, like Kuan Yin facing one of those protective spirits, you know, those Tibetan god-looking guys that are kind of angry. Let's say one of those guys came into contact with Kuan Yin. What would she do? Because if she was nice, he's just going to cut her head off. She's talking about some fierce, aggressive energy, maybe personified aggressive energy. She's wondering what would Guanyin do if she met such an energy. And she said the person might cut her head off. If she was nice. And they might cut her head off if she wasn't nice. skillful means, like what would be the perfect? Like the perfect, compassionate? I don't know about perfect, but those figures are usually standing in front of Guanyin.


That's where they're stationed in the monastery. As you approach Guanyin, you meet these fierce figures first. They're part of the setup for Guanyin. That's what they're there for, is for you to like go, and then Ganya's like, hello. They're her servants. They're masks on her face. So at first you look at them, and if you really like meet them, suddenly you see their face drop away in this totally sweet and profound compassion that's right behind That fierceness. So they're her set-up guys. They're setting up for the joke of, you know, Oh my God, I thought they were fierce, but actually they're just avatars of Avalokiteshvara. At Tathagata somebody said, Well, you talk about including your enemies.


Well, what about Bodhidharma? He doesn't look like Avalokiteshvara. See, there's Bodhidharma, and over there is Avalokiteshvara. Okay? And this is not the fiercest looking of Bodhidharma. He said, that guy doesn't look like Avalokiteshvara. He's supposed to be... And he's one of the avatars of Avalokiteshvara. He's one of the masks of Avalokiteshvara. Our founder in China. Doesn't look like a... He looks like kind of a grumpy, a grumpy old man. So, when you actually get it, it's very funny that you don't understand that everybody's your friend. When you see all these people aren't your friend, they set you up for getting the punchline, Oh my God, all these enemies are my friend.


I'll let you know what I find out. I hope you find out. I'm sure I will. See, that was a punchline. I'm sure I will is a punchline for this setup that we just went through. It's about release from being trapped in this world of overly simplified stories like monsters, good guys. Somebody told me about watching the old version of Blade Runner with the grandson, and the grandson says, you know, I couldn't tell who the good guys and the bad guys were. It's kind of like all fuzzy. Well, you know, that's already funny. But when you can tell who the good guys are and the bad guys are, that's something to wake up from and realize, oh, what a fool I am.


Did you see how silly I was yesterday? I thought this was a terrible situation, and I wanted my mommy. They're pivoting all the time. And we have the opportunity to be present with it. And if we can be, we can go on with the work of taking care of things. So, again, as usual, thank you for the meeting. Thank you for coming. Thank you for taking care of this place, this practice, this community. May our intention equally extend to every being and place with the true merit of Buddha's way.


Beings are numberless. I vow to save them. Delusions are inexhaustible. I vow to end them. Dharma gates are boundless. I vow to enter them. Buddha's way is unsurpassable.