March 18th, 2007, Serial No. 01426

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Good morning. It's nice to see you all here this morning. It's nice to sit. If you didn't know, Sojan Roshi is in North Carolina and Virginia this week visiting the sanghas there that are led by Taitaku Pat feeling that he goes most every year for a time so that's where he is and we're here. This is the, today is kind of the close for the time being of about six weeks or so of work that we've been doing of talks and trainings on issues of


ethics in the community, ethics in ourselves, and boundaries, various related questions. We've had a whole series of trainings and I really want to thank the people on the committee. Most of you are actually here. There's Terry Oliva, who's the new chair, right? And Susan Marvin isn't here. Her father is ill in the hospital. Bob Rosenbaum is, I'm sorry to say he's out trekking in Asia. But Marty Kovach is here. And Peter Overton has been helping with this. And Marie Hopper, who is walking right there. She is right there. She cooks. She deals with ethics. She takes care of babies. And I work with this group also closely and in a sort of ex-officio way.


Anyway, everybody's been working really hard, so today we'll have this talk and then in the afternoon we'll We'll have a discussion, a kind of free discussion, but probably we'll do it in the community room, because I think it's a more intimate space. Intimate is one word. Crowded is perhaps another, if we get 25 of us in there. But I think it'll be nicer, and we won't have, it's like I won't be sitting up in the front of the room. It's like we'll be sitting in a circle. So what I'd like to talk about today is refuge, looking at that as the basis, the fundamental act of our Buddhist practice, the mark of Buddhism all around the world, and also as the ground on which our


ethical principles as they manifest in our lives and as they manifest particularly in our guidelines and procedures, refuge is the root and ground of it. So I thought actually it'd be nice to start by doing a little singing. I think in Zen Center they do the Pali refuges. Is that right? Do people know those? Do I need to go over the melody? They have their own melody. Buddham, Sarnam, Gacchami. Sarnam means refuge and Gacchami means go to or take, return to. So it's Buddham, Sarnam, Gacchami and Sangham, Sarnam, Gacchami.


No, Dhammam Saranam Gacchami, Sangham Saranam Gacchami, and then they go through it three times, and the second time it's Duttyampi, which means second time, and then the third time it's Tatyampi. So those are the words. And the melody is something like, that they use, and this is, I'm not quite sure where it comes from. I think it comes from Ananda Dahlenberg, but I don't know where he got it. Buddham sarnam gacchami. Dhammam sarnam gacchami. Sangham sarnam gacchami. So let's do these. Buddham sarnam gacchami. Dharmaṁ sarvaṁ gacchami saṅgaṁ sarvaṁ gacchami nityaṁ vibhūdam sarvaṁ gacchami


Dhūtyāṁ hi jāmāṁ sārṇaṁ gacchāmi adhyāṁ hi jāngaṁ sārṇaṁ gacchāmi Tatyampi buddham sarvam gacchami. Tatyampi dhammam sarvam gacchami. Tatyampi sangham sarvam You know this other song came to mind while we were doing this southern gospel song.


There's no hiding place down here which is perhaps another way of looking at So the beginning of our ethics statement has this little preamble. It says, the intimacy of Zen practice, teachers and students, Dharma friend and Dharma friend, is a source of great joy in the Berkeley Zen Center Sangha. The Bodhisattva precepts serve as our guide along the path of right speech, right conduct, and relationships. Practice is based on trust, safety, respect, and true communication. The Sangha tool is formed of such relationships. We offer the following to nurture an atmosphere where people can practice without fear or distraction, where Dharma comes first. It may actually be


impossible to practice without fear or distraction. And the idea that we can get rid of this is a foolish notion. But we all want refuge. We all want to find a safe harbor. It occurs to me that just today The Seshin is taking place on essentially the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. And there are people who are out in demonstrations. There were yesterday. There are going to be street corner demonstrations all over the country tomorrow. I was amazed I heard a news piece on the radio from Nashville. It's like, boy, you don't get many street demonstrations in Nashville that I know of.


But this is the kind of sentiment that people are feeling because they are practicing with fear. And because that fear is for themselves, for their children, for some of them it's for the people of Iraq. And so, with that in mind, I think, where is refuge? Where can refuge be found for the people living in Iraq? Where's refuge for our soldiers who are there? Where's refuge for ourselves? These are ethical, moral questions. And they're also, if you like, boundary issues.


It seems like we have, as a nation, we have some big boundary issues. And they're very difficult to deal with because these boundary issues are rooted in fear. I wrote a little book, some of you know this, for BPF called Safe Harbor on these things. And in the beginning, in the introduction, what I wrote was, wherever liberation may be found, the journey towards it is always marked with dangers. There are dangers of our mind with its powerful tides of feelings, emotions, and habits, the dangers of our cultures, whether we are Western, Asian, or otherwise, the dangers of our all-too-human relationship to authority,


how often we yearn to give over our suffering to put our fate into another's hands. And other rocks and choles mark the passage. So we're looking for this safe harbor, and yet there's this, this is one of my favorite quotations from Suzuki Roshi. I have a notebook that I keep, a personal analog assistant, and I've been keeping this. These are laboratory notebooks, just notes, things that I have to do every day, things that occur to me. I copy over from notebook to notebook the same from Suzuki Roshi. Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink. Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.


So maybe the true refuge that we seek is not the other shore, but it's the bottom of the ocean. If we just let ourselves sink, and can we walk there? You know, bottom of the ocean, I don't think it's so turbulent, but there's a lot of pressure, it's cold, it's dark, and if our body reaches up to the very top, you know, then we're buffeted by wind and waves, And if we can keep our head above water, we can breathe this clean ocean air. So I don't know. The Dhammapada says about refuge, these are verses 188 to 192, driven only by fear do men go for refuge to many places.


to hills, woods, groves, trees, and shrines. Such indeed is no safe refuge. Such is not the refuge supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one released from all suffering. He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the teaching, and his community, penetrates with transcendental wisdom the four noble truths, suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the noble eightfold path leading to the cessation of suffering. This indeed is a safe refuge. This is the refuge supreme. Having gone to such a refuge, one is released from all suffering. So these refuge, these refuges, the three refuges, taking refuge in the three treasures in Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, are not about something external.


They're about how we work with ourselves. but it's ourselves as big mind, ourselves as big self, which is not the individual clinging self, but it's the self of the Buddha body, the self of the Dharma body, and the self of the Sangha body. and they all refer to each other. They're all completely interdependent. Suzuki Roshi writes about taking refuge. He says, taking refuge is not a good translation. Taking refuge is to protect yourself in Buddha's home, maybe like that.


If you know how to protect yourself, that translation may work. But to take refuge in Buddha looks like to escape from this world and to go to Buddha. But it is not actually so. To be one with Buddha is to take refuge in Buddha. Or to be Buddha is to take refuge in Buddha. There is no special home for Buddha or for us. The home is always within ourselves. So it is not to go to Buddha. To find out Buddha nature within ourselves is to take refuge in Buddha. Then he talks about bowing, which is the expression, taking refuge. To bow to Buddha is the same thing, you know. To bow to the Buddha on the altar is not the actual meaning of to bow to Buddha. To find ourselves as a disciple of Buddha is to bow to Buddha. So Buddha is rather behind you, not in front of you.


He says, may I help you? If you have something to do, I will do it. Actually, that's wrong. These are, I think I misinterpreted. Okay, so Buddha is rather behind you, not in front of you. I am your children, or may I help you? He laughs. If you have something to do, I will do it. That feeling is to bow to Buddha, to find ourselves a disciple of Buddha. In other words, I will help you, Buddha, do this. Then he goes on and also says, and the Buddha will help you. So this may I help you is a mutual kind of expression. So even though Buddha passed away so many years ago, we are Buddha and we are disciples of Buddha.


We should not lose his way, so we have to behave. This is his words, not mine. And we should know what he would tell us when he was with us right now. With this kind of attitude, we should bow to Buddha as if you help your mother or father, as if you serve something to your parents. That's how you bow to Buddha. Bowing is just one of the many ways of expressing our sincerity as if he is alive and he is with us. We have all of these, so we have, when we have an ordination ceremony or we have a bodhisattva ceremony, the first thing we do is we have repentance. We repent all of our harmful acts, acts of thoughts, speech, and action.


And then we take the refuges, the three refuges, and then we take the pure precepts, And then we take the grave precepts. So talking with Lori last night, you know, well the refuges, whenever in all these texts, when they talk about the refuges, they're always, they include the precepts. So the precepts, the conduct is included within the refuges. And yet, then they go ahead and spell out these three broad precepts to avoid all wrong, to do all good, to save the many beings, and that includes everything. And then we have the ten grave precepts which talk about thoughts, speech, and action in more detail.


and then you have in traditionally in the Buddhist monasteries where you have different sets in the Theravada tradition you would have anywhere between 250 and 325 rules, Vinaya rules, which are precepts, In the Mayan tradition, in the Zen tradition, you have monastic rules, you have these shingyi, the A.H. shingyi or Baizhang's shingyi, these very detailed rules for how you do things, how you conduct yourselves. And in a sense, we have, we've created a kind of shingy in our ethics statements for BCC.


It's something that's suited to our time. it's a way for us to take care of each other. So these, you know, it's interesting. So you have the refuges, that should be enough. You have the pure precepts, that should be enough. You have the grave precepts, that should be enough. And then you have, you know, we've got a few pages, you know, if you were a Theravadin, you'd have several hundred rules which you'd have to memorize and live by. And if you were a Mahayana monk, you know, or a Zen monk, you'd have, you know, these thick volume of regulations for how to conduct yourselves in the monastery. So evidently, we seem to, the powers that be, or the ancestors, seem to think these things need to be spelled out for us in great detail. Why do they do that? Why do we need this?


Do we need it? If we all could manifest our enlightened nature right now, if we all had unshakable faith, and somewhere we do have unshakable faith, otherwise we wouldn't be here on a beautiful Sunday. we wouldn't need to have these things parsed out. But because we have fears, because we are easily distracted, because we have habits, we need some rules. The forms that we practice are rules. I'm sure I've talked about this before. It's one of those, for me, archetypal Zen moments. It must have been about at least 15, 16 years ago here in the Zendo on an evening Master Sheng Yan


who's a Chan teacher, he's Chinese. He has a place in New York, places in New York and then places in China. He came and he gave a talk here and then there was question and answer. And Lori asked this typical Zen question. It's like, what's the most important thing? Which is, that's kind of a cliche question you would think, but actually how she asked it, It was not cliched, it was a real question. And he looked directly at her and he said, the most important thing is to regulate your life. That word is an interesting word, regulate. Its root is Latin, regula, which is what we translate as rules.


So it's rules and regulations. But it means, in one sense, to create a rule for yourself, to be able to, in a sense, to be able to measure yourself. It also, we think of a regulator, a valve, or something that keeps bringing us back to center. And all of these, all of these precepts, the Vinaya, the Shingi, and our ethics statements are, you can think of them as trainings. This is how Thich Nhat Hanh has retranslated the, he's retranslated the word precept as mindfulness trainings.


And I think that that's pretty good. Because training our mind, the essence of this practice, training our mind and body, not making the distinction between mind and body, but how we train ourselves is how we manifest, how we become Training is what we do, just like practicing any kind of instrument or developing as an athlete. You have to create wholesome habits, habits that are inclined in the direction that you want to go. These habits replace


more destructive habits that we have and we do them in faith. I don't want to go too far into the question of faith because I think you're just about to have a whole class in it that Andrea and Karen are going to lead and then I think that Sojin is actually during the practice period, but that's the ground for the refuges. And so when we take these refuges, it's like when we take the precepts, sometimes people don't want to take the precepts because they say, well, I can't keep that. I'm not ready to do that. And as if they think that they can be kept, which is actually my own precept.


I think it's safe to say it's impossible. But this is our vow. We take them, we take the precepts so that they transform our being. I use the word ontological been sort of gravitating towards that, which means kind of ontological means sort of essential being. We take these precepts to work an ontological shift in ourselves so that we transform ourselves. It's a simple way of saying it. And we let the precepts work on us. rather than us thinking we've got to work them, settle them, get them all together before we can actually receive them. This is the way it is with everything that we vow.


You take a vow to marry. You really have the slightest idea what you're doing, and you don't know where it's gonna go, but it's a vow, and it shapes your life. we take vows in other ways. So taking the precepts is a way of allowing the precepts to work on us. And in the same way, taking refuge is allowing the refuges, allowing the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha to work on us. So that we, and we sit, in the same way we sit on the one hand to express our enlightened nature and the other hand to cultivate a way of living so that we're not pushed around by our feelings, our likes and dislikes, or our desires, and we're actually, I mean, I don't know about you, I have to keep adjusting my posture.


It wants to, by habit, it wants to slump, and I have to sit up, extend my sternum, feel my breath. I have to remind myself return to mindfulness, remind myself to resume that intention and that's transformative in this mysterious way over years and years. I see that it changes, it changes my life, it changes lives of people that I see here around the room and I could, you know, sometimes it's hard to see it in yourself but you So this is the ground, this is the function of taking refuge. And I would say it's also the function of having the kind of ethical guidelines that we have.


They're not so comfortable. And actually, one of the things I wanna, I'm curious to discuss this afternoon is for people to, if people were willing to share, where are they uncomfortable? Where are they personally uncomfortable? Where are they comfortable about how we think of the community or what we're doing here? so that's something you can think about that maybe we can talk about this afternoon but precisely in that discomfort in the fears that we may have in the distractions we may have precisely there is the element of training and that training is both


Because there is no clear distinction between self and other, finally, there is no clear distinction. Practically, there is. So we have to train ourselves as individuals. But while we're training ourselves as individuals, we are training ourselves as a Sangha. Sangha in this new modern way that we have Sangha, people who go out and do jobs and raise children, do all kinds of things in the world. and who don't wear, as you know, as Bhante was saying yesterday, you know, sitting up there in a, I'm sitting there in a brown robe. He was sitting up there in a bright yellow robe. We're like, this is like stealth sangha. No robes when we go out there in the world.


Only we know who we are. And, you know, our friends know. So how do we train ourselves that setting. So to me that's a way to look at these ethical guidelines. They're really about how each of us trains ourselves, what kinds of habits we cultivate. If you have a rule this is in the context of regulating your life you have a rule naturally you look at yourself in relation to that rule and then you have to decide is this one I want to keep is this one I not want to keep you actually have to decide as well is this wholesome or is it not and that I think is a is a big issue


Collectively, there's been an effort to try to find a wholesome path for the Sangha, standards that fit our culture more or less, and then ways of dealing with questions that arise about that. At the same time, there's no absolute. and they may not be completely right. They may be somewhat abstract. How abstract in the sense that if you look at the Shingi or you look at the Vinaya, all those rules aren't precisely rooted in something that you can call right as opposed to something that you can call wrong.


They're just our agreements. So these are agreements as to how we want to conduct ourselves. And we also have to, you know, we may agree as a community and we may have our doubts and questions as individuals. How do we deal with those? That's our practice. That's our practice in community. How do we deal with places that we don't quite understand, places that we don't quite see, places that we don't quite agree with? The answer in this setting is not maybe what it would be in a Japanese monastery. The answer is not necessarily, sit down and shut up. The answer is not rooted in some final authority.


The answer is rooted in community, in discourse, and in we have to as the Buddha said we have to find we have to be a lamp unto ourselves and we have to as he talked about in the Kalama Sutta we have to decide not take anything at face value but see whether it tends to wholesomeness or unwholesomeness Last night, before we were going to bed, I don't know what she was thinking, but Lori came in, she had gone out to see some music with Alexander for St. Patrick's Day, and she said, seemingly out of the blue, but I guess we had been carrying on a discussion for the last two or three days with gaps of about


You know, it could be a gap of about 17 hours, you know, and then the discussion would pick up. She said, well, you know, in the class last week that she takes at Rev, Rev said, as you become more and more intimate with non-duality, if what you find is that your activity is not in keeping with the precepts, then there's some problem there. In other words, well, and then I think, I can't, I'm paraphrasing her, paraphrasing him. In other words, as you course in non-duality, What one finds, at least in a lot of the Buddhist literature, is that your behavior just naturally is in accord with the precepts.


The preceptual action just arises. And this fits with what my friend Santi Caro translated the Pali word shila as natural normalness or normal naturalness. So it's like as you course in non-duality and you let these incrustations of habits and belief fall away, then you find yourself aligned with the precepts. If you find something else going on, then it's good to examine what you think is non-duality. This is maybe a large digression at the moment, but it leaves us with a challenge.


So I don't feel like I've, I feel like I've raised a lot of questions here. And my inclination was not to resolve anything, but to leave these questions with you, because it's the questions, how is it? How am I with my community? How am I with myself? That is the driving wheel of our practice. And we need, each of us needs as individuals to be working with those questions. And I think that we really need it as community. I think the more that we can actually share those questions, bring them out, the open, willingly share our our doubts, our discomforts, and our pleasures and joys and satisfactions, then we get beyond this kind of encapsulated self that we think we're living in.


We let go of it. Just letting go. That's the essence of refuge is throw yourself into the house of Buddha. It may not be safe there. It may not be comfortable there. But I think it's how we vow to live. So I think I'm going to end there, leave time for a few comments, questions, and then we'll have a a longer but freer discussion this afternoon, but if there's anything anyone wants to bring up now. Richard. Yeah, well safe, I'm talking about safe in sort of a conventional, sense of life.


If what safety means is, you know, oh everything's going to feel good and I won't have any fears, you may still have fears and you may have physical concerns, you know, that's what I mean by safe. I think ultimately it is safe, but in our sort of conventional life, our notion of safety, it may not appear so. But Mr. Shin, you haven't chosen a word, right? Maybe, I just think they're two different, they're two not contradictory responses.


Sometimes, what regulate means is you have to be strict with yourself and that's not a surprising comment from a monk. But I don't think it's just applicable to the monks and nuns. Yeah, except for the fact that there's no internal and no external. That's really the way it is. Or the other way, another way to express it, I mean that's kind of a cliche as it is, but you can work from the inside out or you can work from the outside in, because we do have these notions of inside and out.


If you put yourself, if you're sincerely practicing, you know, and you put yourself, and your practice is to provide social services on the streets for the homeless, and you see that as your practice, so that's going to be working from the outside in. That's going to change you. And if you If you're practicing sincerely someplace like here and working from the inside, theoretically, when you go out into the wider world, and all of us have this experience, you meet the world in a different way. So that's working from the inside out. It doesn't matter so long as the sincerity of practice is there, I think. Well, for myself, I don't know myself.


I don't know. I think that, yeah, I don't know myself. Having some idea that I do, whenever I have that idea, it's a confusion. It's quite amazing to me. And I guess regulate can also mean to me, the image that comes to mind is more kind of like a thermostat. That's one. Yeah, I think of it somewhat as a thermostat, but I also think in a thermostat, this happens right here.


It's like, well, should we open the windows more? What's the temperature in here? So I think none of us knows ourselves really clearly. although we know we can know a lot about ourselves, but there's also always the part that other people see about us that we don't, and so the whole context for the context for taking refuge, the context for the guidelines, the context for regulate your life is an interactional social context, so it's a Sangha context, so we need We need to see ourselves reflected in others. We need to get actual reflections. tell us what they see, not so much, they can tell us what they see.


It's helpful sometimes if they don't interpret why they think they see that, but to just see a behavior, to see an action and share that with someone. So we're not just sitting alone in a cave. There's an awful lot that I miss about myself. Yeah. I'd like to introduce myself. Please. May I? My name is Rosemary. I'm from Sacramento, and I had been meaning to come, and yesterday was an opportunity to sit, and I was afforded the opportunity to do it today because I'm so in need. I can't be alone with my pain. And what you were saying resonated so profoundly for me. that as I'm exploring and self-training and dabbling, certain things are falling away.


And I'm like, oh yeah, that feels better. I'm not reading the paper. I haven't cancelled the subscription yet, but I know that I don't want to read that paper right now. And so I'm watching things happen in my life, manifestations, in my professional family teacher, third grade, profound changes. It needed profound changes within 3-6 months of just minimal sitting practice and picking up tidbits of information. And so I'm here because I need a trainer and I need a group and as soon as my own resistance and difficulties dropped away enough for me to really be here yesterday, and be here late today, I have been receiving more than I could even say what I needed. And I just want to tell you thank you.


Thank you, thank you, thank you. And if I'm that thank you, if I can be included in this conversation, because I am brand new and an outsider, and I don't feel like I'm an outsider at all, So that's where I put it. Great. Well, welcome. And since there's no inside and no outside, your perspective, say, this afternoon, when we talk about these things more and more horizontally, is welcome. One more? I just wanted to share my observations at the workshop. At the beginning of the workshop, we did a role play and showed a video, and the first remarks were kind of, I can understand that for the priests, and I can understand that for the senior students.


What does this have to do with me? And as that kind of interaction went on, by the end of the workshop, people were looking at the boat and recognizing that, oh, I see, I have to know about my own boundaries. I have to know about my own power. I have to know about my own behavior. So people started to see that there wasn't any separation. And even after the workshop, I got a long email from somebody who kind of had an awareness of that, of the fact that this whole thing's not about Yeah, we take refuge together. We're always doing that. Well, we'll have more time to talk later. Thank you very much. Kings are number...