Zen Meditation as Bodhisattva Vow

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During this course, we will study the bodhisattva vow, to see how the compassionate intentions of enlightening beings generate, work, and play with the mind of enlightenment to promote peace and harmony among all beings. We will explore ways to reinterpret and reinvigorate these timeless vows to meet the problems of our contemporary society in a beneficial way.


Sitting is canceled due to my wife's 60th birthday party, but we will have a sitting this weekend at Noah Boad if you want to come.
And also, some effort is being made to put these talks on a website, so you can, if you want to, I guess, listen to them, huh?
So that hasn't quite happened yet, but maybe by next week you'll be able to listen to these talks with your computer.
On your website?
I think on the Noel Bode website or on the Rev.
Anderson website, at Zen Center.
I don't know which one it's going to be on.
Do you know?
putting on this machine, which then can go on to the computers.
Is this your first class tonight, Jennifer?
Your first, yeah.
Who else is the first class tonight?
Were you here?
Is this your first class?
Who else is first class tonight?
And some people missed last week.
You missed last week, right?
And Marjorie?
You missed last week.
And Anne, I thought you looked familiar.
Do you work at the library?
I saw her at the library today and thought, hmm.
So, you know, there's this practical situation of we've had two classes and some of you haven't been here and some of you missed last week.
And some of you who went to the two classes don't remember anything.
And some of you remember everything verbatim.
So we have a variety of situations here, different types of living beings in the room.
And this is a typical situation, right?
Having different kinds of people come together.
And what are we going to do with all that?
I could say that there are these beings, these enlightening beings called bodhisattvas, and they are beings who, well, in their nature, they are open to all the different beings, all the different beings who have all the different levels of understanding of the Dharma, and all the different levels and types of suffering.
Bodhisattvas are open to that, all that.
And also they want to be open.
They want to be more and more open.
And they commit to be open to all beings.
They commit to learn to be open to all beings.
And they also want, desire, vow to be responsible to and with all beings.
They vow to work with everybody.
They want to learn to work with everyone.
They want to understand how to work with everyone.
They want to understand how everyone is working with everyone.
And I'm speaking so that you can hear me.
I'm speaking somewhat loudly so you can hear me.
And when I speak loudly, I can say things like I just said.
If I just think about it myself, I think, wow, open to everybody, responsible to everyone and with everyone, it's kind of like awesome.
Can my mind, can my heart dare to open to everyone and be open to working with everyone and be responsible to everyone?
If I'm quiet in my own heart, I think, hmm, I wonder if I can.
Would I like to learn that?
Yes, I would like to learn that.
Am I there?
In the quietness of my mind, maybe I'm not so sure I'm really that way.
Maybe I'm not sure that bodhisattva is alive in me.
But when I bring this issue up loud enough so you can hear me, I feel like, yeah!
When I say it loud, when I sing it, I feel like, okay, yeah!
And responsible, as I talked to you about before, has for me two... One meaning which is commonly understood is that you're responsible for someone or for something in the sense that... Well, maybe there's three meanings.
You're responsible in the sense that you have done something to contribute to the person's existence.
Like, I don't know what, if you tell someone that you're going to meet them someplace, you're responsible, you contributed to them maybe thinking you're going to be there.
You've contributed to them expecting you or coming to meet you.
Or if you're somebody's parent,
you might feel responsible for the child, because you've contributed to their existence.
Or if you build a house, you feel like you contribute to the existence of the house, and you feel responsible.
If it falls down, you feel that you contributed to it.
And if the house stands up strong and protects people from bad weather, you feel responsible for this nice sturdy building.
So one meaning of responsible is you've contributed to it.
Another meaning of responsible is that if you feel responsible for something, maybe you're willing to take care of it.
So some things you maybe don't feel you contributed to very much, but you're willing to be responsible for them.
Like some people are willing to be responsible for other people's children.
Some teachers are willing to be responsible for other teachers' students.
Some people are willing to be responsible for messes which seem like other people contributed to more than you did.
You don't feel like you contributed too much to it.
But you still may say, well, I'm still willing to take care of it or be responsible for this mess.
But part of the bodhisattva's responsibility is willing to take care of things where they cannot see that they've contributed to it, and also willing to accept that you have contributed to things even though you can't see that you have.
to the fact that you have contributed in some way to everything that exists.
And also open to other people, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not, whether they think it or not, they also have contributed to what's going on.
And then the other meaning of responsibility is just a play on the word.
Bodhisattvas are aware and accept they have the ability to respond.
And they do respond.
They accept that they do respond to everybody.
There's nobody that they don't respond to.
But they also understand that everybody's that way.
Everybody responds to everybody.
Nobody doesn't respond to anybody.
However, the bodhisattva is the spirit of accepting that we're responding to each other.
Or the spirit, yeah, the spirit of accepting or the spirit of learning to accept that we are responding to each other.
And responding to each other, another way to say we're working together.
Other people are not going to do our practice for us, but we can't do the Bodhisattva practice alone.
Other people are not going to accept our responsibility to them, but they are working with us, and they have a responsibility to us.
And we cannot have a responsibility to them aside from their responsibility to us.
I, as a bodhisattva spirit, want to learn to accept my responsibility to all of you, and also to open to your responsibility to me.
Not necessarily to remind you of it, but maybe to remind you of it.
Like here, I'm this situation.
I either remind you of it or tell you about it for the first time, to tell you that you are responsible for me.
Some of you may already feel like, oh yeah, that's right.
Some of you may be shocked to hear that.
But I propose that you are responsible to me, and I would say, even go a little further and say, you are completely responsible to me, not partially responsible.
In other words, each of you is completely responsible to me and for me, but none of you are all by yourself responsible for me.
You're all contributing to me, you're all responsible to me, and you all can respond to me, you have the ability to respond to me, and you do, in many ways.
And you respond 100%.
If you resist that, if you don't accept that, that is part of your response.
If you don't accept that, that's part of your response.
If you do accept it, that's part of your response.
To fully accept this means to accept the totality, the fullness of yourself.
And if you're not ready to do that, you can wish to learn that.
You can make a vow.
You can make a commitment.
You can have a desire to find that spirit of 100% responsiveness to all beings.
which opens the door into the awareness of other beings also being 100% responsive to each other.
So this situation is, if you meditate on it, you might be horrified by it, but also see how
It's rich to the extreme.
It's an extremely rich situation, that everyone is 100% responsible to you and you to them.
This is a very vital situation of the Bodhi Spirit, of the Spirit of Enlightenment, of the full vitality of our life together and our relationship with each other, including
karmic patterns which make us resist it is also part and parcel of the vitality, and part and parcel of our fear of it and desire for it.
Fear of it because it might overwhelm some of our ideas about ourselves, and desire it because we think it's separate from us.
We could even be embarrassed
and what a rich situation it is.
And we could even be jealous if we hear about bodhisattvas, about this incredibly rich and juicy life they have.
We could be jealous of them.
So we can be jealous and horrified about the same thing.
We can want it and be embarrassed to want it.
We could have it and feel embarrassed to have it.
But it's possible to work this out so that you can more and more appreciate this.
Any feedback for me at this point?
Any feedback for me or any feedback period, even if it's not for me?
Yes, Kathleen?
What about how does one keep a balance in
being responsible to others and not losing oneself in that process?
Actually, I've heard that this machine picks up people's questions, too.
So maybe I don't have to repeat her question, but I will anyway.
How do you be balanced in accepting responsibility, did you say?
being like a person that's tending to be compassionate towards all others, but maybe not paying attention to yourself.
So, last week I brought up the verse from the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 16, where the Buddha says,
are flexible and relaxed and soft and harmonious and upright and honest, will see the Buddha right now.
And again, I mentioned that practicing all virtues means, I would say that what that means is that you are open,
and responsible to all the different kinds of suffering beings.
I also said last week, I suggest to you that you are living right now together with and in the midst of all different kinds of suffering beings.
That's where we already are.
And then to practice virtues means to open to and accept responsibility for all these relationships with all the different types of suffering beings.
So then Kathleen's saying, well, how do you be balanced in that situation?
Well, those are the four suggestions.
Starting with honest, that you're honest about the way you are.
Next, working backwards, upright, you're upright.
You don't lean into your responsibility towards people.
You don't lean into your compassion.
You don't shrink back from your compassion.
You don't move to the right or the left.
You're upright with your compassion.
You feel open to being suffering.
You feel responsible to them, but also you're open to them being responsible to you.
You're open to supporting them and taking care of them, but you're also open to them taking care of you.
If you keep being generous to people and you don't see that they're being generous to you, you're probably leaning some way.
But also being honest about, I feel like I'm being generous to them and they're not being generous to me, or I feel like I'm taking care of them and I'm not taking care of myself.
That would be part of the honesty, is to admit that.
or to recognize that problem, and that's part of how to be there.
That's part of how not to be there in a way that's not the way that will be helpful to you and others.
And also, if we're not upright in this situation, or put it positively, if we are upright, we will then receive more and more guidance
and enlightened awareness will come to us more and more, which will again support us to be in this situation in the proper way.
And then flexible is the other way, and harmonizing is another way.
And it's not very harmonious for you to be giving but not receiving.
It's not really harmonic.
It's just a draining situation, or a burnout situation.
So if you keep those four instructions from the Lotus Sutra, tell us how to be in the midst of all beings in an open and responsible way.
And we keep track of those, be aware of those, and being aware of them is part of them.
Being upright means... Being upright isn't just automatic.
It comes because you're paying attention to your posture.
And you're aware of your leanings.
And you're honest about your leanings.
And you feel them.
But you're also flexible about them.
So you can adjust to the circumstances.
I have two comments.
First, please repeat the question, just in case.
Repeat the questions.
Please repeat the questions she said.
And the comments.
And the comments.
And I just want to share that I find your message to bring a lot of relief for me personally.
I feel
I feel really supported by what you say.
I feel like I can actually relax and not hold on so much.
It feels good.
So your comment was that this talking about the Bodhisattva Spirit gives her relief and ease.
I agree, it gives me that too.
At the same time, I recognize that if you think about it, you might become shocked at what you're opening to.
But in fact, even when it comes to simple Zen meditation of people sitting upright and following their breathing, because they think of it as something they're doing by themselves,
I'm going to sit here, and I'm going to sit still, and I'm going to be quiet, and I'm going to follow my breathing.
Because they think about it that way, they often feel very stressed, and they even feel sort of upset with themselves because things are not going the way they planned for them to go.
What they're doing is not what they planned to do.
What they're doing is not what they want to do.
They're orienting towards what they're doing.
And that approach, without being supplemented,
by the bodhisattva spirit is a very lonely and tragic way of practicing, although sometimes people are somewhat successful at it for a while.
But your success then, that becomes a problem too, because if you're practicing by yourself, you might lose it, and then it might be your fault that you lost it.
So then you might be really stupid to have accomplished something and then blown it.
But this other way of sitting as a vow
it shifts the center away from the ego to what?
To openness, and responsibility, and compassion, and appreciation of other beings supporting you, and how you're not practicing by yourself, and how other people aren't going to do it for you.
All that seems to be a relief from the egocentric approach to meditation and practice in general.
But still, along with that is the awesomeness of opening up.
And also with the awesomeness of opening up is the shame of closing down.
Some people meditate in this very narrow,
self-centered way, so they're not so ashamed that they're so closed down and not helping everybody else as their primary motivation for sitting in meditation.
But if you're sitting in meditation as an expression of the expansive vow
to open and support, and be opened and supported by all beings, if you're practicing that way, and then you close down, then you have the shame of going against that bodhisattva vow, which is part of the practices that you would feel some pain, some sorrow, if you don't live the life of the vow.
If you contract, if there's a contraction, you feel ashamed because you vowed to practice for the welfare of all, and then you start to notice that you're making some exceptions
to those you're practicing for, and you feel some sorrow.
But that sorrow is also part of the process of confession and repentance, which is part of compassion is to feel sorrow when you're not compassionate.
And one of the dangers of compassion is depression.
getting depressed, because you open to all the different kinds of suffering.
There's a danger there that if you're not upright, you can get depressed.
You get burned out and depressed if you're open, and you don't stay upright and flexible and honest and so on.
It's a danger.
Another danger is you can get attached or lustful towards the beings that you're so open with and so feel so responsible for.
So those are two dangers around this.
But in some ways, even though there's dangers around this way, this way is still a big relief from a self-centered approach to meditative achievement.
But this doesn't mean that bodhisattvas don't do various kinds of meditation practice where they get concentrated and calm and things like that.
It's just that their exercises to become calm
are connected to the vow to do this to help people, to become calm to help people.
So you have some calm to give away.
You have some calm to show people you're not attached to.
And also it helps people appreciate some calm in the neighborhood.
So they like you to be calm, and they like you not to be attached to it.
Does that make sense?
How can I be responsible for you?
How can you?
Well, you are already.
So just open to it and see how you're responsible for me.
See how you respond to me.
Did you see how you just responded to me?
Did you see again how you responded to me?
Are you seeing that?
Just be aware of your response.
You're very responsive to me.
You know, very.
Be aware.
Be upright and notice that you are, and watch how it's going.
You don't have to be some other way than you are, actually.
That's what I say.
Even if I close my eyes?
You can close your heart to me, and that is the way you will respond to me someday.
Some of you will close your heart to me someday, for many reasons.
But that is the way you respond to me at that time.
And you are responsible, even though you didn't do it all by yourself.
All the little responses you make to me, you don't do by yourself.
I help you.
If I go like this, you respond to me.
But you can't respond to me the way you just did without me going like that.
I contribute to all your responses.
And the more you watch that, the more you'll see that.
And the more you watch that, the more you're open to that.
And the more you're open to that, the more you'll see that.
And one of the ways you're going to respond to me and other people sometimes is you're going to close your heart.
I should say, your heart's going to close.
You don't do it.
However, even though you don't do it, you're responsible for it.
Even though you didn't do it by yourself, you're responsible for it.
In other words, when your heart closes down in relationship to someone, as soon as it closes, you will respond.
It won't stop there.
You'll close, and you'll respond.
You'll close, and you'll feel, boy, I'm glad I closed.
Or it'll close.
Your heart will close, and you'll say, whew, what a relief.
I don't have to feel any more of that.
Or you'll feel, oh, oh, I feel terrible that my heart closed for this person.
They call for my help, and I said, not today.
Not today.
I can't.
It ain't happening today.
Today is close down on you day.
And I feel terrible about that because I'm in a class about bodhisattva vow, and this bodhisattva vow has just closed down.
Openness, shot.
Responsibility, no way.
But that still is a response.
And you can still open to that and be ashamed.
I don't like this.
OK, fine.
Or I do like it.
OK, fine.
Did you see that you responded?
And again, the more you see that you do respond, and you do respond, and you do respond, you'll start to notice other people are responding to you all the time, too.
We are working together.
It's a question of enlightenment, of waking up to.
So the Bodhisattva spirit is actually about entering into the way of reality.
It's not just entering into being nice and being a good guy.
It's entering into reality, which has something to do with the fact that we're working together.
Nancy, and then Charlie.
What did you say?
You've been aware recently what?
I've intensified recently my being impatient.
Oh, you're aware of impatience in yourself?
Kind of a constant sense of being stopped.
You know, that I want to go forward, but something's blocking me.
Oh, you're feeling frustrated and you're impatient with the frustrations?
So I'm just aware of it.
I mean, like an anointing of light.
You know, I'm trying to think of something
Okay, I hear you.
Well, so the frustration arises, and then in response to that there's impatience, and then in response to the impatience is
I want to do something not to be impatient.
That's another response.
Another response could be, OK, so we've got this picture here, and I'm responding by being aware of this, and you are aware of it, so you can tell me this.
This is a form of suffering, it sounds like.
Frustration, impatience, and trying to work your way out of the impatience.
Patience is not trying to work its way out of impatience.
Patience is actually an antidote to mental agitation.
So if you're in pain and you start writhing and wiggling to get away from it, that could be called impatience.
But impatience has this character of, before it turns into hatred and anger, it has this thing of wiggling away from the pain, from the frustration.
Patience is about dropping that agitation.
So if you notice impatience, in other words, if you notice mental agitation, to try to mess with that isn't sort of in the spirit of patience.
Patience is more like, first of all, let the frustration be frustration, but if you can't and you start wiggling, then stop, don't fight the wiggling.
That would be a gesture towards patience.
But then if you don't do that and you start to do something not to be
If you wiggle to try to not wiggle, then it's just exacerbating the impatience.
But when you notice that, then you have a chance to stop and be still and face these three different layers on this particular discomfort.
And as you face the outer layers, they start to drop away and you come back to the frustration.
Now you're with the frustration, and you can just like, okay, here's the frustration, and I'm right here with it.
This is like being upright with it.
So it's still somewhat painful, but you're upright with it.
And it's so-called your pain, but your pain or my pains are also like beings.
So, you know, all your own personal sufferings are like living beings themselves.
which you can be compassionate towards.
But again, be upright.
First, be honest, too.
OK, I'm frustrated.
Upright with it.
Honest and upright.
Now also try to harmonize with it, and also
Be soft and gentle with it.
Now, if you can do that with the frustration right off, you won't get into the agitation.
But if you get into agitation, then you have two beings to work with, two suffering beings.
Then also you turn to other people who are frustrated, other people who have the same kind of suffering, and you put the same practice with them.
And then show them how to do it with themselves.
Oh, excuse me.
Charlie was next.
So today I decided that it was in my best interest and in this other person's best interest that I not work with them any longer.
And I was worried that I would accidentally be closing my heart to them, like you were saying.
Because that's what I think many people would do in that situation.
They get frustrated and they say, I'm going to choose not to work with this particular person on a professional basis.
And they would say, that person sucks.
I hate that guy.
I'm not going to work with him.
Whereas really, I just think it was a waste of time and both of our time.
And so my question is, how do we avoid slipping into closing our heart to someone?
And is there a graceful way to extract yourself from situations that you feel you need to extract yourself from without not caring about them?
There is a graceful way.
And the graceful way is not really about extracting yourself from any situation.
That's the graceful way, is not to extract yourself from situations.
However, being in situations and working with them gracefully, like, for example, this class.
You can be in this class and work with this class gracefully, and then when the class is over, you can leave without extracting yourself from any situations.
Or you can think, OK, now I'm going to extract myself from this class.
I would just suggest to you that to speak about the situation that you're going to extract yourself from this could be called graceful, but it also could be called, I don't know, camp, or perverted, or weird, or something that you're going to extract yourself from this class.
Are you following that?
Wouldn't it be kind of strange at the end of the class to say, I'm going to extract myself from class?
Yeah, but it's not the end of this.
It's a band that I've been playing in, and I want to quit.
And so it goes on forever, and it doesn't end.
So at some point, I have to say, I'm out of here.
Oh, I see.
So you think if you would leave the class early, then you would extract yourself from the class?
If you left in the middle, like right now?
If you kept going all night, at some point I'd have to get up.
Oh, you wouldn't necessarily have to get up and go out of here, it depends.
If you were really doing it with me, you might want to stay.
But anyway, you could leave now or you could leave later, right?
And you can think of extracting yourself, all right?
But there's another way which is more gracious, you use the word gracious, I think it's a good word, where you don't feel like you're extracting yourself, where you feel like you're doing it with people.
And when you're working with two people, you're working with somebody, and you can both be wasting your time, and you could both see that you're wasting your time, but one of you could initiate changing the situation or offering a gift of you leaving as a gift, as an act of graciousness.
And as you say, not thinking badly of the person, but as a kindness to them.
and feel responsible to them by leaving and feeling they're supporting you to leave, and you're open to their suffering when you're with them, and you're open to their suffering when you leave.
If you leave and feel, as a result of leaving, that your heart closes to them, then that would be something you could be aware of.
But this often comes up
very often comes up in discussions of Dharma practice that people talk about, how do you get out of harmful, abusive situations?
Because it sounds like we're saying you should stay with the situation, you make a commitment to beings, and you should stay with them.
Yes, right.
Stay with them.
But also, you can take a walk as a gift.
you can suggest doing things differently as a gift.
And sometimes people say, great, and sometimes they say, no, thank you, and you still have given the gift.
And you don't give the gift as a manipulation or with expectation.
So part of this practice is that you're practicing in the midst, you're practicing with suffering people in a band.
You have a band of suffering people, you're practicing with them, and you're upright with them, which means you don't have some expectation of your contribution.
You make your contribution, you make your contribution.
you respond to the rest of the people in the band, you respond to them, you respond to them, you respond to them, and you're noticing, I'm responding, I'm giving myself to these people, and they're giving themselves to me.
This is a gracious situation.
I'm not expecting anything.
I'm not expecting good music.
I'm not expecting to get famous.
I'm not expecting to be the best person in the band or the worst person in the band.
This is the way to be with them.
And from that, you can say, I am out of here.
Bye bye.
But not with a sense of the end.
The band goes on, and your life goes on together with these people, even though you're not going to be playing the same way you did before with them.
That's your gift to them.
And they may accept it, and there'll be a really warm, kind feeling.
But also, you can stay in the band and have your heart closed, too, right?
that maybe part of why you want to leave is because you feel your heart's closing.
I don't know.
And you may feel like, I would like to generously, graciously move into a different situation as a gift to these people and as a gift to myself.
So you started by saying the antithesis of what I was talking about.
You phrased it that way.
I was not going to work with this person anymore.
He used that way of language.
But I could say, I'm not going to work with somebody as a way of working with somebody.
The Bodhisattva says to people sometimes, I'm not going to work with you.
That's the way they work with the person.
And there are many Zen stories like that.
The teacher saying, Get out of here!
That's the way the teacher is intimately.
graciously, lovingly training the student by saying, get out.
They don't do that to get the student out.
And sometimes the student doesn't leave.
And then they say, get out!
And the student doesn't leave.
And they say, get out!
And the student doesn't leave.
And the student wakes up.
And then the teacher doesn't say get out anymore.
the gift came to fruition.
This is literally one of the stories of Linji's enlightenment.
He goes to see this guy, and the guy says, Get out!
Get out!
And he goes back and tells his other teacher, and the teacher says, Well, how come you came back empty-handed?
Is that clear?
He went to see this teacher, and the teacher says, Get out!
And he goes and tells this other teacher, and the teacher says, Well, how come you came back... That trip was in vain.
You're nowhere.
So he goes back again, the guy says, get out.
And he comes back to the teacher and says, he told me to get out again, but it wasn't in vain this time.
When he said, get out, I was with all the Buddhas.
So being open and responsive means being gracious.
It means not doing things to get something.
It means when you're responsive, in your responsiveness, in your responsibility, you don't do things to get something.
And your ability to respond is given to you.
You have this, what do you call it, it is a Buddha-given quality of you that you are a responsible being, and you give that, and you give that, and you give that.
And you enter bands and leave bands.
You enter classes and leave classes.
You enter relationships and leave relationships.
But it's always responsive and open.
And it's always working with people, no matter what.
It's always working together.
There's no way to get away from it.
That's the view of the Bodhisattva.
There's no way to extract yourself from the universe.
But normal human beings think that they have successfully extracted themselves from the universe, which they visit on a regular basis.
Most people think that way.
There's a universe plus somebody.
And everybody thinks that somebody is them, and they don't think that somebody is the other people.
They think they're in the universe.
The Bodhisattva is opening their heart to the non-extraction of their life from other lives.
They're opening to living together with everybody.
gradually, carefully, graciously opening to living together with everybody, and opening to this incredible, not incredible, credible, extremely credible, inconceivable but credible working together.
I was very glad
I had to be patient waiting to say this because I got the message that I was going to ask you somewhat.
About 1965 or 67, I saw a photograph which I saved from the New York Times of a Buddhist monk immolating himself.
And it scared me.
And I know the reaction that I had was distancing,
but I don't remember exactly who I was distancing myself from.
You wanted to distance yourself from something.
I didn't want, I did.
Oh, you did.
Emotionally, but I kept it.
I kept the photograph.
And I have buried it in my various things.
It's not framed, it's not anywhere, but I know it's in there.
And as you've been talking tonight, I kept seeing this photograph, and seeing this photograph.
And I think the alarm
that went off, and I guess I'm asking that, was, is that what it takes?
And there was something about what you said at the very beginning.
I was very reluctant to feel open this evening, at this moment, having been too open today.
I was closing down.
And the process of your questions and answering has led me back over and over to this picture.
And it feels like the stretch that I
I was so separate from that picture, but it branded me.
And tonight, I'm feeling that.
I'm feeling that.
I don't know exactly what I'm feeling, but it's very strong.
You're opening to some strong feelings and some strong images as a result of this discussion of opening.
And you're also reporting that earlier today you experienced some closing.
And again, I'm not saying you are in control of your opening and closing.
The opening tonight has something to do with me ranting about opening.
That's probably one of the conditions for the opening.
And during the day, people were doing something else around you, beings were doing something else around you, and that kind of stimulated a closing.
Lotus is the great lotus, right?
The lotus, it opens in the daytime and closes at night.
It isn't open all the time.
And hearts also are not always open.
They open and close, open and close.
So flowers open and close.
Hearts open and close.
Our consciousness opens and close.
Our compassion opens and close.
And so this image, it's a multidimensional image.
I will just say that when I saw actually a film of a monk burning himself, I saw him on fire, you know, and I thought, oh, he's on fire and he looked like a charred mound there in the flames, but then it fell over.
which I thought, that makes sense, it would fall over.
But then it sat up again.
And I thought, hmm, what's that about?
So it made me wonder.
So you said, is that what it takes?
And I thought, somewhat related to that, how can a person do that?
How can a person sit up again?
What does it take?
to be able to sit in the flames, and then when you fall over to get back up again.
What does that take?
What kind of presence is that?
It feels like openness, actually, contrary to what I think I originally felt long ago.
But it feels like something that I feel, maybe not this moment, but generally very far from,
because I feel so fearful and I'm going to wrap myself up.
But it feels like, actually, I think, in the course of this discussion, I feel like that is the distance you can travel.
And it's very impressive and very deep.
That was very impressive, and it's also impressive to see somebody sitting among other people and see them open to the suffering of other people, or to see someone who doesn't choose to set themselves on fire, but who has a disease which is like burning up.
And yet, even though they're in a burning body,
with some burning disease, they exhibit this uprightness and this presence and honesty and flexibility with their own illness and or with other people's illnesses.
And this is also impressive.
And you could say this is what it takes, but you can also say this is how bodhisattvas want to be.
Because this is also
this openness to all this suffering is part and parcel of them caring for all the suffering beings, that they're born from compassion, and they have the ability to stand the pain of other beings.
But in particular, they also experience the pain that comes from loving other beings.
But that pain is also called the greatest pleasure.
Not pleasure, but the greatest happiness.
because there's no fearlessness and there's no fear.
And from that place, graciousness, from that place of that happiness which comes from feeling pain or suffering because you love people, that happiness then grows into generosity, which grows into all kinds of resources.
So you get the happiness from
loving feeling pain because you love people, then you get the happiness of being gracious with that, then you get the happiness of the consequences of the graciousness, which is all kinds of resources to help people with.
So you get these three kinds of happiness, all born of compassion, which then gives rise to this pain, compassion-driven pain, which you also can apply to yourself, too.
So you can say, is this what it takes?
Or you can also say, is this what is possible?
This is possible.
This is not commenting on somebody else.
This is commenting on what's possible for you, that you could be this way.
But you don't have to go looking for anything.
You're completely surrounded already.
All you've got to do is just
check out is, you know, are you willing to work with everybody?
And working with everybody includes, are you willing to notice that they have a job to do with you too?
And part of working with them is to say, do you feel like you're working with me?
Do you want to work with me?
I want to work with you.
Do you want to work with me?
I need to work with you.
I need you to work with me.
Do you need to work with me?
Do you need me to work with you?"
Check it out with them.
That's part of working with them.
Because sometimes it seems like they don't want to.
But you have a response to that.
What is it?
You do have a response.
What is it?
What is it?
What is it?
It's there.
And are you upright with that response?
And are you honest about it?
I have a response to you telling me you don't want to work with me.
But not to manipulate you, but just to give you my response.
And here it is.
Which is an upright way of delivering your response.
You've got a response, and you can lean into it.
Or you can just say, here it is.
It's a gift.
It really is a gift, which my upright presence with my response.
I give it as a gift, not as a manipulation.
I have no expectation.
Being upright means I give gifts, I give my response, but no expectation.
We can learn this.
People can learn this.
Humans can learn this.
You can learn this.
Bodhisattvas want to learn this, and some of them do.
Wanting to learn it is the start.
Then start practicing it.
In the first practice, after you desire
to be open and work with all beings, the first practice is being gracious, is giving.
It's the first practice.
Then comes ethics.
Then comes patience.
Then comes enthusiasm or exertion.
Then comes concentration and finally wisdom.
And they're not necessarily in that order.
But it's usually good to start with giving, which is very close to the being upright,
If you're upright, you'll start to notice you're giving things to people.
Namely, you're giving your response to everybody.
And if you're upright, you're giving with no expectation.
Giving, no expectation.
Having your daughter what?
I would say she's deluded and you don't see it.
But when you look at her, you can see how responsive she is, and you can see how she shows you how responsive you are to her.
So infants,
They themselves do not understand how responsive they are.
They are, and you can see it.
They demonstrate it perfectly, but they're not aware of it.
They have to grow up and be trained to be aware of being like they used to be.
And everybody is actually like an infant, but we have to rediscover that.
We have to discover how we change.
Infants, you know, as you know, they go from agony to ecstasy, back to agony, back to ecstasy, constantly.
Tremendous changes all the time.
And then that continues for a while, and gradually gets damped down, so that we go through a day, sometimes we go through a day where we're in agony all day, but we don't switch back and forth.
Actually, we do.
We just don't notice it.
Whereas infant, you can see it.
But they're not aware, I don't think, except these rare ones.
Baby bodhisattvas are actually aware.
There are some people who, as children, know this.
But most children demonstrate this responsiveness just incredibly beautifully.
I mean, it's easy for a lot of people to see this amazing responsiveness and this amazing responsibility they have.
And amazing openness.
And part of what they have to learn, actually, part of what you have to learn in order for certain neural development to occur, is you have to learn to modulate your openness.
And there's this very important interaction that starts happening
I think around six months, where the baby starts to notice the, well, basically, you could say it's actually the dilation of the caregiver's eyes, that when the caregiver looks at the child with a sense of, you're just the most wonderful thing, when the baby sees that kind of attention, that kind of light coming through the eye,
they become positively aroused.
And in response to that, they smile, and also their eyes dilate.
And then when the caregiver sees that, the caregiver smiles more too, and their eyes dilate more, and the baby sees more of this light.
And then they become more excited, and the caregiver's more, and they get more and more and more and more excited.
And in that state of high expectation, certain neural processes are triggered.
And they only get triggered in this very intense positive affect.
However, the baby has to also at some point stop that.
And when they get to a certain maximum level, they have to learn how to turn it off.
So what they do is they look away from this intensely interested adult person looking at them with all that warmth.
They turn away.
And they learn to modulate it in that way.
So they know how to, together with the other person, get in this state of tremendously highly positive affect, which is necessary for neural development, but also going with that is they have to learn how to self-regulate it, and the sense of self develops with this.
So they have to go through this, but they're not aware of this, usually.
Yes, Reid?
The difference between the openness and the responsiveness that a baby demonstrates and the responsiveness of a bodhisattva is the baby can't act skillfully.
Maybe that's because the baby doesn't have that development of awareness you're talking about.
I think babies can act skillfully.
I think when babies cry out when they're too hot or too cold, I think that's skillful.
Well, I have a two-year-old, and if I say to her, come to dinner, and her response is, I hate you.
No, I hate you.
She's acting responsibly.
She's responding to you.
She's responding in what's real for her, but that's not skillful, that's very hurtful.
She doesn't know that.
I'm not sure Bodhisattva would respond in the same way.
I don't know either.
I'm not sure Bodhisattva would respond in that way.
But I'm not sure they wouldn't respond in that way.
They might say the same thing, but with different... I mean, I think Bodhisattva would be able to see the consequences of his or her actions.
The Bodhisattva would say it as a gift to her father, which it is actually, a gift to her father, which her father may or may not be able to see as a gift.
But the Bodhisattva would understand it was a gift.
She would not be trying to manipulate her father, she would just be giving him a gift for him to enjoy in the form of,
Now, if the father was a bodhisattva, he also would realize that this was a gift, even if the child was not a bodhisattva.
So bodhisattvas are those who are aware that what they're doing is giving, and bodhisattvas are aware of what is given as a gift, or what they're receiving as a gift.
So it's possible that the child bodhisattva would be saying, I hate you, Daddy, and the parent bodhisattva would say, thank you.
And the child would say, you're pretty good, Dad.
But I'd have to do further investigation to find out what your daughter's up to.
Open, right?
to how you and she are doing this inconceivably wonderful dance together.
Open to that.
And in order to be open to that and receive this, because you're practicing all virtues with her, you're definitely in the mud with her, and she's there with you.
Are you upright?
flexible, harmonious, and honest with her.
If you are, you'll be able to see that this is a baby Buddha.
Even though she doesn't realize it, you will see it.
But if she can learn this from you, because she may need you to teach her that, she will be able to see that, too, someday.
Easy for me to say.
I just want to mention that, I don't think I did before, in the Samyanirmochana Sutra, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara asked the Buddha, for what reason do you say that among all living beings, the birth of a Bodhisattva is most sublime?
You know, I use the word sublime.
I like the word sublime rather than the word excellent, because sublime means high, but sublime also means uplifting.
The birth of Bodhisattva is most uplifting.
So why do you say that among all living beings the birth of Bodhisattva is most uplifting?
And the Buddha says, for four reasons.
One is Bodhisattvas establish exceedingly pure roots of virtue.
Two, they intentionally choose with conscious discernment.
Their birth is intentionally chosen by conscious discernment.
They intentionally choose to be born in the world of suffering
because of penetrating insight.
It's by insight, actually, that they decide to be born in the mud.
And also, in the past and in their birth, they develop good roots.
Also, the third reason that their birth is good is that their compassion protects sentient beings.
And the fourth reason
is that because of these previous three, because they are free of affliction and they can help other beings become free of affliction.
So this issue of how do we find the spirit that's willing to be born into such situations as being a two-year-old and living with a two-year-old.
or being a three-year-old and living with a three-year-old, or being a 10-year-old and living with a 10-year-old, or being a 50-year-old and living with a 50-year-old, and so on.
The birth that comes from consciously choosing that, not just sort of like, well, that sounds like fun, but by actually seeing what's going on and saying, yes, I want to live there and practice there.
Such a birth is most sublime.
This is the Bodhisattva birth.
Is that enough for tonight?
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.
I vow to become it.