Wisdom Verifies Wisdom
When Wisdom Verifies Wisdom
Tenshin Reb Anderson
No Abode August 11, 2012 Early afternoon
Transcribed by Karen Mueller
TThank you for supporting me to go to the City and pay my respects and contribute to the on-going process of reconciliation between people of our sangha.
For a few of our meetings here, maybe for a month or two and longer, I have been bringing up a story about a student of the Buddha’s teaching, or Buddha Dharma, who met the great teacher Baizhang. Then Baizhang died and he studied with one of Baizhang’s major students, major successors named Guishan. While he was studying with Guishan, at a certain point, Guishan said, “I don’t want you to talk to me anymore about what you’ve read or what you think about the Buddha’s teaching. I just want you… You MUST say something from the place before you were born.” From the place before your mind discriminated objects. You must say something from there.” And he was unable to do so. He tried and Guishan said, “No, that’s not what I mean”. And he tried and Guishan said, “No”. Then he burned all his notebooks and study materials and decided just to go and live a simple life, and I would say, basically meditate on that instruction. The instruction of saying something from the place before, or the time before, the self was born.
I was struck by a comment on this case that this person, this very wholehearted practitioner of meditation and meditation on Buddha’s teaching, he had the problem of mind, the comment was. It didn’t say he had a problem mind or that something was wrong with his mind. He had the problem of mind. Mind was his problem. I was struck by that a long time ago.
So he was studying the Buddha Dharma from the perspective of mind. From the perspective of mind he worked really hard studying the teaching and discussing the teaching with his teachers. And finally one of his teachers said, “I don’t want to hear any more of you commenting on these teachings from the point of view of your mind, from the standpoint of your mind. I want you to say something from before your mind, from before the mind that’s born, I want you to say something from before the mind that’s deals with birth and death. I want you to say something.”
So at one point, he’s doing some yardwork around a memorial site. As he’s sweeping, he dislodges a pebble. The pebble flies through the air and hits a stalk of bamboo and goes “pop!”. He hears this sound or sees this sight, but he hears it from the place of being free from the mind. He still hears but he doesn’t hear it from the point of view of mind. He understands the place he was instructed to go to and then he speaks from that place. He writes a poem or two and sends them, via monk-mail, back to his teacher. His teacher reads the poem and he feels that this poem is coming from the place that is free of the standpoint of mind.
One of the teacher’s other more senior students said, “I don’t know about that. I’m going to test him next time I see him.” The next time they meet, he does test him. This monk, whose name was Xiangyan, his first response to be tested was to say that verse again. His Dharma Brother, Yangshan, says, “Again that could have come from what you learned from the standpoint of mind”. He felt that. Or I should say that was his response. So he asked him to give another poem and he did give another poem. That poem goes something like, “Last year’s poverty was not genuine poverty. This year’s poverty is real poverty. Last year I had a place to plant my hoe. This year, there is no place and no hoe to plant.” And his Elder Brother said, “Mmmm that’s pretty good, but still you don’t really understand.” And then he gave another verse something like, “I am here. This is what’s happening with me. If you don’t understand, that’s your problem.” And then his Elder Brother said, “Ok”.
Later he became a noted teacher. He wrote a verse, which I mentioned before, which goes something like, “The chick pecks from inside the shell. The hen pecks from outside. The chick breaks free from the shell. Then chick and hen are forgotten. They sing the same song together solo”. Something like that.
So I have been talking about this process of pecking from inside and pecking from outside. Pecking from inside the mind and when we peck from inside the mind something pecks from outside the mind. And I proposed that we are always pecking. As long as we have mind, as long as we’re living from the standpoint of mind, which is the case for most living beings, we are actually pecking on that mind surface all day long. We say, “It’s a good day.” “It’s a bad day.” “This is good.” “This is bad”. “What’s going on?” “Please help.” “May I help you?” Every thing we do is actually pecking on the surface of our mind. That which is free of mind, pecks back and encourages us to keep pecking. When we peck, it pecks back.
So in this story, this monk was pecking on the surface of his mind. He was hearing Buddha’s teaching which was a response to his pecking. Then he pecked back on the Buddha’s teaching, but when he pecked back, but he pecked back on his mind’s version of the Buddha’s teachings. The teachings are actually coming all the time, but they are not inside the shell of mind. These teachings are directed to beings who are living within the shell of mind. Those beings sometimes sense that something is pecking from the outside and they peck back. One of the main ways they peck back is to start reading Buddha’s teachings, Buddha’s scriptures, with their eyes or saying them out loud.
Something led a teaching to be put into these words on the surface of our mind and we look at them. When we look at them, we are pecking back at the place this teaching came from and then more teachings come. The enclosure, the seeing of other people and buildings and trees and stuff (in a way that we know them), the seeing of other living beings (in a way that we know them), is not the way there are; it’s the way we know them. It’s the way we construct them into appearances.
So now we are practicing with these appearances in such a way as to become free of these appearances, these mentally-constructed appearances. That which is free of these appearances is (if you will excuse me for saying so) egging us on.
I just heard that punning is the lowest form of rhetoric and that James Joyce was very much into punning. That’s what somebody said. It’s the lowest form of rhetoric. And James Joyce was really into it. He made this comment by saying, “Well isn’t the Holy Roman Catholic Church based on a pun?” The pun is “I found this church upon Peter. Peter you are the Church. Peter you are a rock. I found this church upon this peter”. So the Catholic Church is based on a pun according to James Joyce. Which it is! It’s founded on peter and peter means rock. And so Jesus plays with Peter and rock in his founding of the church. And so James Joyce is trying to get some slack on his punning.
Q. In what language is that a pun?
A. Latin. Or is it Greek? Might be both Latin and Greek. Greek, yeh.
Q. Is it a pun in Greek?
A. The guy whose name is Peter; the name “Peter” is not a pun. It’s just his name. But he says, “I found my church on you, upon this rock”. That’s where the pun is. The rock is a rock to make a church on but it’s also Peter. They sound the same.
Also somebody said Joyce didn’t like psychoanalysts but he enjoyed the pun that the English translation of Freud’s name is Joy(ce). Sounds like his name. Freud means joy which sounds like Joyce. That’s the one good thing about psychoanalysis. It’s an opportunity for the lowest form of rhetoric.
So the Buddha’s are egging us on to keep pecking and break free of our mind. Pecking on our mind, but pecking on it in such a way that it will be broken rather than reinforced. If you peck on your mind in an unkind way, it gets tougher. It gets tanned. It gets cured. It gets stronger. The more you are unkind to your mind the stronger it gets. The kinder you are to it, the weaker its enclosing function becomes. When you break free, you are free of the mind. The problem, our problem is the mind, our mind. That’s our problem. But without destroying the mind, we can become free of it because it’s not really enclosing us. It just looks like that. It’s just constructed in a way that says, “This is not your mind’. Your mind says to you, “This is not your mind; this is really Karen and she is not your mind.” “All these beings are not your mind.” That’s what your mind says to you. It’s makes everybody into something knowable and says, “I didn’t do that. That’s the way they really are”.
Somebody said to me, how did the teacher know when the student breaks out? It’s not exactly that the teacher knows, like the teacher knows in the realm of mind that somebody is out of mind. The freedom from mind doesn’t really know anything, because the freedom of mind is free of the mind by which we know stuff. Somebody said that you test water or measure the depth of water with a pole. You measure the depth of the mind with words. So the mind which encloses it is the mind of words. So words test to see if the mind of words has been liberated, free of the mind of words. And you find out by words so you are supposed to say something from being free of the mind of words to demonstrate the freedom from the mind of words by the words. And then there will be a response from freedom from words to those words.
But it isn’t like the teacher thinks the person is free or not free. It’s that the teacher talks back. But it’s not exactly the teacher. It’s the freedom that talks back. It might say stuff like “Uh-uh. Nope. Uh-uh. No way. Sorry.”
So the teacher is saying, “Say something from before you were born. “ The student says, “Blah, Blah.” And then there’s “Uh-uh”. So someone says how does the teacher know the student is still enclosed? The teacher doesn’t need to know. Even when the student is enclosed, there’s a peck and the teacher pecks back. The freedom pecks back whether they are inside the enclosure or outside the enclosure. But the way the pecking back from inside the enclosure, is different from the way you peck back when the mind is free when the mind has been dropped. It’s a different kind of back and forth. It’s the pecking back and forth that is the knowing of whether there is freedom or not. It’s not like the teacher is sitting over here thinking in the way that we think, noticing that we are or free of our minds. The freedom from mind interacts with not being free and interacts with being free. And the interacting with not being free encourages further pecking on the surface of the apparent imprisonment. The freedom from mind is no longer pecking the shell but it’s functioning and it’s saying something so that something, somebody can talk back to it. And then they start talking to each other outside of mind to demonstrate and enact freedom from mind. They are mutually measuring each other’s depth of freedom by the conversation. Before that they were mutually measuring the freedom that was there and the bondage that was there.
So one could imagine that all the Zen stories are about, perhaps, two beings inside of two eggs. One is pecking from the inside of this egg and sort of falls over and bumps into the other one. The other one pecks back. That peck resonates through that shell into the other shell. That’s one possibility. The other one is somebody is free of the shell and somebody else is pecking and the one who is free naturally responds to the way to the pecking resonates from the shell. So our bondage is not really bondage. It’s a sounding board, like a guitar. So when we bang on our container, we actually make a sound which resonates beyond the containment and the beings who are beyond the containment resonate back. We just keep doing that, hopefully, until we notice that there’s a hole in the guitar and we fly out and catch our neck on the string and fall back in.
All the while, the resonance is going on. It’s always been going on. We missed it. It’s not just the resonance of the plucking of the string or the banging on the guitar case, but the way the sound goes out from the guitar touches other things which bounce back to the guitar. What do you think a guitar sounds like in space? I don’t think it makes any sound, does it? No. Sounds are mechanical waves. So if you peck on a guitar from the inside, that pecking, if there is some material outside the guitar case, it will hit that material, that gas and set up a mechanical wave in the gas, right? Which is… That can touch somebody and they call it a sound. I think that’s basically some similar thing between freedom and bondage. Bondage hits something and freedom picks up on it and resonates back. But the back-resonance from the freedom, it seems reasonable that it would be more subtle, but enough to encourage more pecking. Hopefully.
So here we are. I just wanted to mention that the freedom is not inside or outside of any enclosure. The freedom is not outside any enclosure. The freedom is not outside the enclosure. That wouldn’t be real good freedom. Of course, the freedom is not inside the enclosure either. Freedom includes the one who imagines that she is inside pecking. It totally embraces and includes that.
So we have a possibility here now to peck and hear and peck back.
Q. I can’t resist. Why did the little chick, just out of the egg, cross the road?
A. Why did the little chick, just out of the egg, cross the road?
Q. The road and the river.
A. Why did the chick cross the road? What was that? Did you hear it?
A. Anybody else who can’t resist?
Q. We need the eggs.
A. We need the eggs. We’ve got the eggs. We have got the eggs. Are we kind to the eggs? Our eggs? His eggs? Her eggs? Are we kind to them?
Q. Only when they’re scrambled.
A. Only when they are scrambled? Are we kind to that limited kindness?
Q. Can’t make omelets without cracking a few eggs.
A. Yes? No pecking from you, hey? Ok. You moved a little bit though. He is pecking at his chest.
Q. So you said, use a pole to measure water and you said you use words to measure what?
A. Mind. Or you could say, living beings.
Q. So when I was thinking about practice being silent as a respite from words and that maybe words are a the vehicle through which we try to control by establishing the meanings of things and establish our sense of reality. That the words are the, not the outer line, but inside the egg, the security. And that in the stillness of sitting where we are dropping away body and mind, mind tends to be a lot of words, that the interior of the shell has less to obstruct one from pecking at it. That the stillness is a form of motivation for direct pecking.
A. You’re saying the stillness is a form of motivation for direct pecking? Ok. Or you could say stillness is a form of compassion towards the shell and the shell is covered by words. To the extent that we know the shell, it is words. So stillness with words is a fundamental part of being compassionate with words. If we are compassionate towards the words, keep bringing and giving compassion to the words, which are the way we know the shell, the shell will reveal it’s emptiness to us. The shell will say, this is not something to believe. It will tell the secrets that it’s been magically hiding, the secrets of freedom. So stillness and silence with words is a basic part of the way of working with them to become free of the mind of words, the mind of knowing things as appearances and imagining the appearances are what things are.
Our actual life experience is not an appearance but all we know about our actual life experience is appearances—words. So somehow through the world of appearances, an appearance has come to us to tell to be kind to the appearances as a way of to become free of the believing that the appearances are something more than that, which we naturally do. When we are born, we are born to appearances. Our actual experience is not birth and death. Birth and death is our life of appearances. There is the appearance of birth. So when we are born we are born into appearances. Or we say, we are born exiles---when we are born we are exiled. From what? From our life experience which is not in a shell. When we’re born, we are born into a shell. The shell of birth. Birth is a trap that is constructed upon a life-experience which is not a birth and therefore not a death. So stillness and silence with all these appearances is proposed as a path to freedom from appearances. A freedom from knowing, from our addiction to know, which is our addiction to appearances because we can know them. We think,.. We feel a little insecure with not knowing. We feel a little insecure with just being our life experience because in the past we have also not been with our life experience. That discomfort motivates us to make an appearance so we can know something. Then we have other problems. We would like to go back to our life experience. We really want that. That’s what we want and the stress of our life is reminding us of that.
Q. So the compassion that you are suggesting to the words is the opposite of something like aggression or whatever, is that attachment and therefore not being able to experience the freedom but that compassion toward it is a form of letting go.
A. It’s a form of letting go and it also leads to the wisdom which lets go. So to be compassionate towards knowable things like appearances and then to be compassionate toward the attachment to the appearances. Being compassionate to both leads to a wisdom that there’s nothing to get a hold of in appearances. They have not, there’s absolutely no place to get a hold. There actually isn’t a shell. But the way of pecking on the shell, it’s not a mean pecking. It’s a related pecking which lets the shell break open rather than hardening it by trying to control the shell of trying to control. Rather than fighting and trying to defeat and get control of our impulse to control, we accept our impulse to control really generously, generously accept that like you accept a child whose trying to control their fruit salad.
Any other pecks?
Q. In my mind I am combining two stories. One is a story of pecking and one is a story about the storehouse that we talked about some time ago. And I am thinking that all that pecking is information that we give the storehouse and that at some point, which is not in our control, something else emerges out of that.
A. All the pecking we do is based on the effects, the consequences of past pecking. When somehow the shell resonates back to us and suggests to us that we peck in a generous and compassionate and careful, ethical, patient way… when the shell resonates back and says, “practice tranquility”, and we practice that way with the shell, that transforms the basis of the construction of the shell. It makes the shell construction more and more likely to have a sign on it saying, “This shell is just, is only mind”. Which again encourages us to… It looks like the shell is now telling us, “Be kind to me, and be kind to this”. We keep giving compassion to it and finally we realize “Oh! It’s not actually out there, that shell. Or in here.” And we realize that the shell is completely ungraspable and so it really isn’t there. The ability to relate to the shell in this way, which is wisdom and which is also called being free of the shell, doesn’t get rid of the shell. Because you can’t get rid of something which is not actually there. If it actually was there we should just get used to being in prison. But it’s not. We are not actually in prison. We just like to be in prison because we know it.
Whereas being free, we don’t get to know anything. So I’ve told you the story about releasing the chickens, right? Have you all heard that story about releasing the chickens?
Let’s see if I can tell it quickly. I was in Japan where they were going to do an animal releasing ceremony. It is a traditional thing to do in Asian Buddhism, in East Asian Buddhism. I don’t know if they did this practice in India. They probably did. Anyway the practice is that if you have any animals that are in captivity, you let them free. You let them go. If you have any fish that are in bowls, you put them in a lake or in the ocean. If you have fowl that are in cages, you open the cages and let them go. So I was at the ceremony. They brought in these cages of chickens, these crates of chickens. We did some chanting and offered some incense. At the climax of the ceremony we opened the cages and the chickens flew out. This ceremony was held at the edge of a golf course, so the chickens flew into a golf course. They were released from captivity and they went into a golf course. Then the humans who attended the ceremony were offered a lovely vegetarian feast in the temple so they went into the temple. I was helping with the ceremony so I was cleaning up the altar and so on. I noticed the chickens who were on the greens and fairways and sand traps, the chickens were gradually, they didn’t know what to do with the freedom. They didn’t know where they were! They don’t know what a golf course is, right? They weren’t golfers. They didn’t have caddies or membership in the golf course. They didn’t know what was going on. So the chickens gradually started walking back towards me. Me and their cages. They crawled back into their cages where they knew where they were. Although in captivity, they knew where they were. In the freedom of the golf course, they didn’t know. Whereas golfers, when they are in the golf course, they know where they are so they are in the cage of the golf course. But there are trees and stuff like that so they feel pretty happy. Temporarily.
Q, So those chickens were doing their job?
A. Those chickens were doing their job of teaching me the Dharma. That was their job. These are Dharma Chickens, right? They work for the Dharma Company. They go around and get released at various,.. They release them again. Everybody is happy. They have their snacks. And then one or more priests, realize what’s going on in this world. Oh! When you release beings, they can’t stand it. When they are released, they are released from knowing. But we don’t like to be released from knowing so we crawl back into knowing. Which is fine, because we are not really imprisoned unless we know we’re imprisoned. But we don’t know we’re imprisoned if we’re kind to being in prison.
Everybody is doing their job. Pecking.
Q. So I have a story and I heard you say a little bit ago that freedom is not inside or outside. Ok?
A. Yes, freedom is not stuck outside of the enclosure. To be free of an enclosure doesn’t mean you have to be outside of it.
Q. Ok, so when I am struggling, I am in a situation where I can hardly stand it.
A. Right. You can hardly be patient with it.
Q. I can hardly, hardly be patient with it. Yes.
A. You can hardly be generous with it. You can hardly be ethical with it. You can hardly be calm with it. So you feel trapped by it.
Q. Yes, and this thought arises. “There is freedom!” “Angela, there is freedom!”
A. Yeah. You’re screaming inside, “I can hardly stand it!” And then something pecks back and you say, “Freedom?” “Where did that come from?
Q. Ok. So my mind says that there is suffering and I am suffering and within that suffering is freedom. So can you help me?
A. Well, in a way, you could say when you hear “There is suffering”, that may be the response to you saying, “I’m suffering”. So you say, “I’m suffering” and then you hear (quietly) “I’m suffering” or “There is suffering” or “I’m suffering!” And the response back is, “I’m not saying you are suffering. You just said that. And I’m not saying that there is suffering” I am just saying what is the truth of your suffering?” And then you say, “I don’t know”. Then the response is, “If you would be kind to your suffering, you will know the truth of your suffering.” And you say, “Well, I can hardly be kind to my suffering.” And then the response is, “That’s normal.” It’s normal having a hard time being kind to suffering. Suffering is because we haven’t been kind to suffering in the past. The original suffering was the suffering of “It’s kind of uncomfortable not knowing what’s going on”. I don’t know if that was even the original suffering but anyway… that was the suffering. It’s not comfortable not knowing. “Maybe if I knew I feel a little more comfortable. I’m a little uncomfortable. Maybe if I knew more or had a little more control, I would be less uncomfortable.” Rather than, “Before I get into less uncomfortable, let’s just be kind to the discomfort I’ve got.” So, there we go.
That’s the pecking back and forth, right there in that example. “I can hardly be kind to my suffering”. I would say that the free person doesn’t usually peck back to you that “There is suffering”. It’s more like, “I am suffering” and it pecks back, “You are suffering”. “There is suffering” and it pecks back, “You say there is suffering”. And then you peck back, “You mean there might not be?” “No I am not saying that either.” “What are you saying?” “I’m saying be kind to the suffering you’ve got.” That ‘s your gift to work with. And if you’re kind to it, you will realize the truth of it. The Buddha didn’t say, “There is suffering”. People say the Buddha taught, “There is suffering”. Buddha did not teach that. Buddha said, “I teach the truth of suffering”. Of course, everybody knows there is suffering. Buddha didn’t say that. Buddha says, “I teach you the truth of suffering. That’s what I’m here to teach you about”. And the truth of suffering is the truth of its origination. The truth of the origination is the cessation of suffering.
Q. It’s the freedom.
A. When you understand the origination of suffering, you are free of suffering. The way to understand the origination of suffering is by being kind to the suffering. When you understand the origination, you become free. When you are free, you understand the truth of suffering. The truth of suffering is the freedom of suffering. The truth of suffering is the origination of suffering and the freedom of suffering (which is free of suffering) is based on being kind to the truth of suffering and the origination of suffering.
Sometimes, it’s kind to be honest. When you’re suffering, it’s kind to be honest and say, “I am suffering” and then listen to somebody saying, “I hear you say you’re suffering.” Or I say, “I’m suffering” and I hear myself say, “I’m suffering”.
Upstairs we have a room where the figures in the room are the ones who listen to the cries of the world. The compassionate Bodhisattvas listen to people say, “I’m suffering”. Sometimes they might say, “I heard you say you’re suffering. Is that correct?” “Yes! Yes!” But sometimes we have trouble listening and just saying, “I hear you.” “I hear you.” “I hear you say you’re suffering.”
Q. I would like to explore the anxiety I feel in my belly. I feel the anxiety comes from..
A. Could I say something? Exploring anxiety could be an act of kindness. So I think exploring could be an act of kindness, could be compassionate response to the anxiety in the belly. “I hear you.” It could be. Another way to put it is... That was a positive way to put it. Another way to put it would be to caution you “Don’t explore to try to get something, to get control of this anxiety. Don’t do that kind of exploration.” Don’t try to explore the anxiety into annihilation.
Q. Couldn’t hear… so I could be free of the pain that I feel
A. Yeah. So don’t explore trying to get freedom.
Q I want to be free.
A. I know you do. It’s ok to want to be free. It’s actually pretty good to want to be free because that’s an opportunity for you to be honest and say, “I want to be free.” So then, free of what? “Free of this anxiety in my gut.” Ok, if you want to be free of the anxiety in your gut, then be kind to the anxiety in the gut. But kindness doesn’t mean, “I’m going to be kind to you if you go away. And if you don’t go away, I’m going to switch from being kind to you know what. So you have a little bit of time between my initial kindness and how long you have before you go. And I will tell you approximately how long you are going to get.” “I’m going to be kind to you and I’m getting tired of being kind to you. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to keep it up but right now I’m being honest with you. I’m telling you the truth. I am getting tired of this. I’m tired of this anxiety. I’m tired of being kind. Right now I’m still being kind but I’m just warning you that I’m feeling fatigue in the kindness department. “
Q. I just want to fly.
A. Yeah. “I just want to fly”, that’s another thing to be kind to. “But I’m getting tired of hearing that I want to fly so I might even be mean to ‘I wanna fly’, You know, shut up! Don’t talk about wanting to fly. You say that all the time. Stop that”
No. It’s like “You want to fly. I hear you.”
“Yeah, I want to fly. I want to fly NOW!”
“I hear you.”
“I’m impatient about when this flight is going to be enacted”
“I hear you.” “I hear you.” “I hear you.” “I hear you.” “I hear you.”
“I’m getting tired of just listening”
“I hear you.”
Avalokiteshvara does not get tired and she hears people who are saying they are getting tired of listening. But she keeps listening and keeps listening. Honestly speaking, if she lost her patience, she should say, “I lost my patience”. But we have an ideal figure who just keeps listening and doesn’t get tired of listening. Do we aspire to be that ideal person? Maybe we do. Because that’s actually necessary. You have finally get to the point where you’re not arguing anymore but you get to the place where you’re not arguing anymore by being kind to all the arguments.
Right now to some extent we are still arguing. We’re still in a hurry for the anxiety to go and when we want to fly away from the anxiety we sometimes do not practice kindness towards the wish to fly. Then we get into trying to fly rather than being kind to wish to fly.
Avalokiteshvara doesn’t fly. She listens to the cries of those who wish to take off. And if they watch this response they say, “I want to fly but I see this person is just listening to me say I want to fly and they look really happy being with me who wants to fly, being with me who doesn’t feel free and wants to get away from bondage. She doesn’t seem to be trying to get away. And she looks really, really… that looks really good the way she’s not trying to get away. I want to be like that.”
Q. But she can tolerate the pain. I cannot tolerate it.
A. That’s why we have to practice patience. So we can tolerate the pain. We can learn, we can become more skillful at tolerating pain. We can become more skillful at experiencing the pain in the present moment only. Not the past moment or the past five minutes, or the future moment or the future five minutes. But really learn to be present. We train and train and train. We feel like “I’m pretty present and now I can be present and I can bear pain I didn’t used to be able to bear” And then your reward for that will be more pain, greater pain, which will force you into a more radical presence.
We must be able..we must be very good at patience to be Buddha. The historical Buddha said, “I really got good at patience”. She told some stories about her patience practice. Astounding practices of patience. So the Buddha could be., so the bodhisattva leading to the Buddha, could be subjected to extreme pain without hating the source, the cause of the pain. It takes a lot of training. We have to learn that. And we should be honest when we feel like, “I’m reaching the limit of my ability to be present. That will be so great I wouldn’t be able to be present enough to bear it. So please don’t put me in that pain.”
I’ve been in situations like that where I thought this pain is beyond my level of patience at this point. Like when this leg got broken. My leg was broken and my knee was bent. It was was broken and my knee was in a bent position and they wanted to straighten my leg to do the x-ray. And I said, “You know I just can’t go along with that. I just can’t let you straighten my leg” because it was broken. The femur was broken so I had these two shards in my thigh. So if they straightened, if they would move the lower part of the leg at all, the shards would be moving around in the thigh, right? Two little swords moving in my thigh. I said, “That’s just too much for my patience-practice. Please don’t put me through that. Please do not try to straighten the leg.” And they didn’t. They took the x-ray with my leg bent. That was good enough for them to find out that it was broken. And how it was broken. It wasn’t the way they wanted to do it but they respected my wish to not put me into a place beyond what I could allow them to do. I wasn’t… maybe I could have stood it, but I didn’t think so. And then, they gave me a sedative and then they straightened it. They took me out of the picture. And my inability to be patient was temporarily not an issue. Then they straightened it and lined up the shards and got them ready for the operation. But my conscious mind could not allow that pain.
But there are some pains I can, and I am working on my ability to extend more and more pain. I am working on that. That’s a practice I am doing, not by inflicting pain upon myself, but trying to be more and more present with the pain that is given to me. Try to keep remembering the gifts of pain are given to me to be more and more completely present and less and less in to the past and future of my pain.
If someone insults you, that’s enough. You don’t have to think about the fact that they insulted you yesterday too. And that they’ve been doing that over and over for weeks that they’ve been insulting you. No. Just deal with this one. This is enough, isn’t it? It is. It’s enough. Now if you want I guess you could test your patience level by thinking about how long they’ve been doing it because that would increase the pain. I wouldn’t recommend it. Don’t do it. Don’t try to get more pain by being not present with the pain you’ve got. If you’re not present with the pain you’ve got, it will get more painful but don’t do it that way. Just try and be more and more present with the pains that are given to you and you will be given, you will be given more pain.
The people who are given more and more pain are the people who are more and more present. The people who are not present, they pull pain toward them by their lack of presence. And then they said, “I didn’t want this. I don’t need this.” So stop saying, try to give up saying, “I don’t need this pain.” You don’t have to get into that at all. You got enough to deal with, don’t you? If anybody thinks they don’t have enough pain let me know.
Q. I am trying to understand. I understand being present but I don’t understand patience.
A. Kind of the same.
Q. Yeah. But where do hope and faith fit in? It doesn’t.
A. Faith for me fits in that I believe in patience. I trust patience.
However I’m not too much into hope because the English word hope has two parts. One is a wish and the other is an expectation. I’m patiently, generously relating to the expectations, but I’m also encouraging myself and others to let go of expectations in this life. The word hope is, excuse me for saying, “infected” with expectation. So I feel fine about wishing for everybody to be at ease and at peace but I don’t expect it. If I expected it, I don’t know if I could have kept living to this point if I really expected it. But I don’t expect it so I can stand to live in this world where everybody is not at peace and keep wishing for it. I trust, I have faith in wishing for it but I don’t have trust in expecting it. So I don’t trust hope; I trust wishing.
As I said to somebody just this morning, bodhisattvas are aspirational. They are wishing beings. They are wishers. They are aspirerers. They are aspirants. They are not expectational beings. They don’t expect the world to be free. They want it to be and they believe it is. But they also believe the teaching which says we can’t see how it is until we are kind to how it looks like it isn’t. If you’re kind to how the world looks like a sea of misery… Again, Avalokiteshvara looks at the sea of living beings where there appears to be, it sounds like, there is lots of suffering. Listen to that with eyes of compassion. With ears of compassion. With fingers and noses and tongues of compassion. Listen to the appearance of suffering. This assembles an ocean of blessing and happiness. Avalokiteshvara does not fix the world of suffering; she listens to it with and looks at it with eyes of compassion. She doesn’t hope. She doesn’t expect an ocean of happiness. The observing the ocean of suffering with eyes of compassion creates an ocean of happiness.
Q. Believing in bondage..
A. Yes, believing in bondage, that is bondage.
Q. May I… I wish to joyfully receive the yoke.
A. You wish to joyfully receive the yoke. You wish to joyfully receive bondage while believing in it. Yes. That’s a compassionate response to the belief in bondage, to the appearance of bondage which we know.
May you continue to joyfully receive bondage. This is the path to freedom, I believe, but I don’t expect. So if we don’t all become free in the next hour or two, I’ll just keep hoping.
I just said that so you could correct me.