Issue 30;

Dharma Talk

Going for Refuge, Practising with Fear - Sunday Morning Public Lecture Green Gulch Farm June 2008

By Tenshin Reb Anderson transcribed by Bev Eatwell

Sunday Morning Public Lecture Green Gulch Farm June 2008Tenshin Roshi Reb AndersonGoing for refuge, practising with fear
May I mention that today in some people's calendar is fathers day. It's a good day to tell your father that you love him, even if your father is not alive. And it's a good day for fathers to feel ashamed at their short comings. But even an ashamed father, and an ashamed grandfather, still might want to talk with you about something. Last time I spoke I think I talked about the very basic Buddhist practice, the very basic ritual in the Buddha way, of going for refuge in Buddha. The basic ritual of returning to Buddha, and during that talk I think I mentioned that if one wishes to practice going for refuge in Buddha then maybe it would be good to consider what Buddha is. And I talked about what Buddha is in the tradition of the great vehicle of the bodhisattva, the universal vehicle of the being who is devoted to the welfare of all beings. And I would just mention briefly again that in the Mahayana, the Buddha is a being which is always not thinking and a being which is always thinking, simultaneously. A being who is completely free of thinking, or thought construction, and of the world of suffering that arises from thought construction. Completely free: completely giving up all world-constructing thought. Simultaneously the Buddha is always thinking: always involved in world-constructing thinking. Buddha is always thinking about how to make a world where all beings can enter the Buddha way and quickly attain Buddhahood and freedom. Buddha is always not thinking and always thinking. Buddha doesn't abide in either, and embraces both. This is the Buddha. Limitlessly free and limitlessly involved to help all beings and it's this Buddha that in Mahayana we return to by the practice of refuge.Today I'd like to talk about the practice of refuge and also just to say that I would use the word 'practice' synonymously in this situation with 'ritual' or 'ceremony'. And I am also just offering you the statement that not everyone who performs rituals understands the ultimate truth. But I would say that a person or a being who understands the ultimate truth, that for such a being all of her actions are rituals. When you understand ultimate truth, you understand that every action of your body, speech and mind is a ritual. Your whole life becomes a ritual, your whole life becomes a ceremony. Everything you do, everything you think, everything you say, every bodily posture you make, is a ceremony which puts the ultimate truth as a form. Every form, you understand, is the ultimate truth, and ultimate truth is every form. If we don't understand that, we may think that some forms are truths and some are not. Also if we don't understand ultimate truth, we think ultimate truth is something. We might think that the ultimate truth of all things is another thing. So the basic definition of ritual is that it's synonymous with ceremony. This can be a religious ceremony, religious rituals, or just solemn rituals. They are dignified forms of behaviour within religion or not. Coming back to the ceremony of going for refuge in Buddha. I go for refuge in Buddha. I say that with my voice. I can sit here with you and try to sit upright and still and make my upright stillness and posture and sitting a physical ritual. This sitting is returning to Buddha. I return to Buddha's posture. I give my posture to Buddha and thereby I return to Buddha by this posture. I think that I am returning to Buddha and my thinking is returning to Buddha. I spoke about this last weekend and a woman came up to me at the end and asked "why a ritual? Why do we have to do ritual?". She said ritual, but she could also have said "why do we have to do a practice?" She said "The Buddha is totally pervading our lives, is never separate from us, so why do we have to do the practice, why do we have to do the ritual of returning to Buddha?". And I simply would suggest that although that is true, that Buddhas are with us always, unless we do the ritual, unless we perform the ceremony of making our actions, or our thought, speech and posture, actions of returning to Buddha, we will not realise Buddha. All Buddhas who have realised Buddhahood have done the ritual of returning to Buddha. None who do not return to Buddha realise Buddha even though we are already there with Buddha. We are already surrounded by the understanding of the Dharma, which Buddhas are. Buddhas are the understanding of the truth. We live in the same truth, but unless we practice the ritual, the ceremony of returning to the truth, returning to the Buddha, we do not realise the Buddha or the truth which Buddha realises. We are always living in the midst of the great assembly of practitioners doing the ceremony of returning to Buddha, but unless we return to Buddha we do not realise that we live in this community. My thoughts, my speech and my posture does not reach what the Buddha is. But they realise what the Buddha is. My thoughts, your thoughts, my actions, your actions, are not separate from Buddha, therefore we cannot reach what we are not separate from. But we can confuse what we are not separate from. We can think that we are separate from it and try to reach it. This is a distraction, which is fine. Just give that distraction to the Buddha. While I was talking to this woman I stumbled upon her being herself. That she is who she is, that you are who you are. You are yourself, but if you don't practice returning to yourself, you will not realise yourself. Buddha is our true home, but if we don't do the ritual of returning to Buddha, we do not realise Buddha, we do not realise our true home. We exile ourselves by not practicing returning to our home. It seems kind of unfair in a way that we exile ourselves by not practicing being home. But actually I think that that is necessary. You can't just be an innocent bystander and not practice and be left at home. To forgo celebrating your home, to forgo celebrating your intimate relationship with the Buddhas, is to eject yourself from your home by neglecting the performance of your relationship. Just like a father needs to perform his relationship to his daughter or his son. Without performing it, it is not realised. It is a sorrow. "I love you" "Yes" "I love you dearly" "Yes", but without practicing that, somebody does not realise it. For me ritual is always thinking 'what is my action in the context of relationship'. One meaning of ritual is something that you do on a regular basis: invariably. So brushing your teeth could be a ritual. But with me I don't always brush my teeth. But when I brush my teeth, I brush them together with all Buddhas and all living beings. Then my tooth brushing is a ritual. It is also going for refuge in Buddha when I brush my teeth in relationship to all beings. And it is possible to learn to brush your teeth in relationship with all beings every time you brush. This is to realise Buddha's way while brushing your teeth.Excuse me for mentioning this, but I thought about this in the process of urinating and I remembered a zen teacher whose teacher told him. "When you urinate, always sit down". Most people sit down when they do number two. Not all people, but most do and not all women sit down when they do a number 1 and number 2 but most women do sit down. I think. I don't know, I haven't really watched (laughter), but I get that impression that mostly they sit down, whereas men sometimes stand. It's convenient and some women are jealous of men being able to stand. But I thought 'if it's a ritual. If bodily functions like that are rituals of going for refuge in Buddha, then I felt it seems better to sit down. It seems more solemn rather than saying 'ok I'll just do it the easy way'. I'm not saying that you can't take refuge standing but if you really meant this as a ritual, then wouldn't you take a dignified posture and say 'ok: here we go'? So I suggested to this women: "you are who you are, right now before me, but if you don't practice the ritual of being who you are then you miss who you are". And I say that to myself and I say that to you. If you don't practice being who you are you will miss out on something called being you and that will be something which will be a great sorrow to the whole world because that is your job moment by moment to be who you are and you are only the way you are right now once. And now is the time for you to be this person. But if you don't practice being you then you miss it. And if you don't practice being you then you also miss going to refuge in Buddha. So I stumbled upon the something: that being yourself and returning to Buddha are synonymous. If you really return to yourself you will return to Buddha and you will realise that. If you really return to Buddha you will realise that you return to yourself. And returning to yourself, maybe some people feel ok about that. It's non-sectarian: it's not really Buddhist. But I propose to you to consider that if you really return to yourself you will realise that you are returning to Buddha and vice versa. But if you don't yet want to return to Buddha, start with yourself. If you return to the place where you are right now, if you practice that ritual of being where you are right now in this place, the practice of the Buddha will occur. And it will realise the truth. Realising the truth will help you return to the practice of being where you are and finding your place moment by moment. Just after the woman I mentioned before came and asked her question last week, a man came up and said that he felt dread being with me. He was a really tall man, maybe 7 feet tall (laughs). He said that when he came up and felt himself being with me, he felt afraid. It was very difficult for him to actually be there with me. And then I thought of this story which connects these things. The name of the story is 'Fear and Dread'. It's the name of a scripture. In this scripture the Buddha is approached by a Brahmin, Jāṇussoṇi. The Brahmin paid his respects to the Buddha and then asked the Buddha "Are you the leader, the teacher and the guide for all of these people here? Do they follow your example?" and the Buddha said "Yes I am their teacher, I am their guide and they do follow my example" and then the Brahmin said, " but don't you go out into the jungle thickets of the forest and practice meditation out there? Don't you go into solitude in the dense jungle. And when you get there doesn't that place give rise to fear and dread and disturb your mind and make it difficult to enjoy solitude and be at peace and make it difficult to be concentrated? And if you do that and go out into the forest like that, don't these people follow you and isn't that a bad example. If they follow they will be scared and their mind can't calm down?" and the Buddha said " Well you are right, when people go out into the forest they do become frightened and it is hard for them to enjoy solitude, but that is because their minds are not yet settled and purified. Before my mind was settled, when I went out into the forest my mind was actually full of dread and fear and I couldn't enjoy solitude in the forest retreats but my mind is no longer like that. My mind is purified and therefore for me the jungle thickets are a place of joyful resort and peace. Before I realised the purified mind when I went into the jungle and I became frightened, I discovered a practice. If I was walking, and fear and dread arose in me, I would continue to walk until the fear and dread passed away. If I was sitting in the forest and fear and dread arose in me I would just continue to sit. If I was standing in the forest and fear and dread arose in me I would continue to stand until they passed away. If I was reclining in the forest and fear and dread arose in my I would continue to recline until they passed away". The next bit is a little different to how the Buddha spoke. "In this way I found my place in the forest. I returned to where I was and found my place, and the practice occurred and fear and dread were relieved and I also found something else there. I found the Buddha". The Buddha, before being Buddha, returned to Buddha and realised Buddha. The Buddha took refuge in Buddha and realised Buddha. The Buddha returned to where he was in the jungle. A dreadful situation. A situation well worthy to be frightened. Poisonous snakes and insects. Wild carnivorous giants inhabited those Indian jungles and he was out there with them. Not to mention demons and all kinds of disturbed spirits untamed by the oppression of civilisation. He went into that place and he found where he was and he found Buddha and he became Buddha, he realised Buddha by going for refuge in Buddha. The Buddha goes for refuge in Buddha. All Buddhas have gone for refuge in Buddha over and over and thereby realised Buddhahood. They did the ritual, which is the same as returning to where you are and whatever comes up, do not move. If you are walking do not move, which means keep walking as a ritual. Every moment is an opportunity to find your place right where you are, to return to where Buddha is realised, which is here. We must practice being who we are, where we are now, in order to realise who we are, where we are now. At the end of this discourse on fear and dread and how to become free of them, Jāṇussoṇi says "Thank you so much Lord Buddha, may I take refuge in you? May I become your disciple? And the Buddha says "You may. Come. Come home" and Jāṇussoṇi becomes the Buddha's disciple. And then the Buddha says "One may think that since I still do the practice of going into the forest that I'm dependent or attached to it, that I am not free of the rituals that I performed to realise Buddhahood. But that would not be true Buddhahood if I was attached to the forms. But I am Buddha and I'm not attached to the forms that I used to realised Buddhahood. I continue to do these forms for two reasons. 1: because I like to and 2: to set an example for the future generations"We do need ritual to realise Buddha, but when we realise Buddha, we don't need to return to Buddha anymore. We realise where we are. We no longer need the ritual. The ritual has served its purpose. However, once we don't need it anymore, now we practice it just for fun and to show other people an example, a form, that they can use to find themselves. Or to show them the form for finding themselves so that they can find Buddha. Also, recently, an older person came to me and said that she was feeling some aversion to ageing. She didn't say it, but you can elaborate on that: dislike, hatred. Some people hate getting old. Some people do all types of anti-ageing activity. There are all kinds of anti-ageing products that people can buy. Anyway, she said she was feeling some aversion to ageing, kind of like a dread. A dread is more basic than aversion. Once you have the dread you can find some way to avoid it or slow it down of go to some kind of resort or spa. And she mentioned this to me in the context of our community where lots of people are sick and aging and dying. So many sick people in our community. So many people who are ageing and dying. She admitted that she is not really that challenged right now, but she still felt some dread and I thought again of this sutra and I said "it's like: we don't have to go into the jungle where there are tigers and huge venomous snakes and elephants and poisonous insects and malaria. We don't have to go. Our body is good enough (laughter). Our body is a good enough place to have fear and dread come up". But in this story Jāṇussoṇi didn't come up to the Buddha and say "Are you the example and teacher to these people" "Yes" "Well, how come you inhabit a human body. Isn't it difficult to be at peace in a human body? Isn't it hard to be calm and joyful in a human body? You are setting a bad example". But he could have! And the Buddha could have said "Yeah it is dreadful and frightening to be in a human body and it was for me too before my mind was purified. But now my mind is purified so now a human body is a place of joy. A human body that is always in danger of being ripped to shreds and becoming sick is a place of joyful solitude because I found my place in my human body. And I stay in my human body even though I don't need to because I like to practice in a human body. I like to practice with my ageing, with my illness, with my injuries, with my brokeness. I love to practice here, and I also want to show other people a form so that they can practice the Buddha way in a human body with all of its problems, all its impermanence". And again when fear and dread arise in this body: don't move. If you are walking, keep walking. Don't move from the place that you are and you will find yourself, you will find Buddha. You will be practicing going for refuge which all Buddhas have done in whatever body they have. I don't want to sell Buddhism. I don't like selling Buddhism, but I'm happy to give Buddhism, I'm happy to give you the tradition. But sometimes when I give it, it sounds like a sales pitch because some of the things that are given are so wonderful. So I caution you now. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware. But this is more like receiver beware. You are being given the Buddha's gifts. Now, the Buddha's gifts that I am going to tell you about are the gifts that you receive when you go for refuge. Going for refuge is the super simple, basic practice of being where you are, but it has extraordinary benefits and blessings. I can think of eight of them (laughs). Some people like numbers, some people don't. Here's eight virtues, eight merits, or going for refuge in Buddha. You become a disciple of BuddhaYou have a foundation in the precepts because the first precept of our tradition is going for refuge in Buddha. When you go for refuge you set your foundation in the number one preceptKarmic obstructions are reducedAn ocean of blessing and merit is assembledYou do not fall into terrible destinies anymore. However, you happily visit those who are in terrible destinies without fear. You can enter any destiny fearlesslyYou will not be disturbed by human beings any more (laughter). Also you will not be disturbed by non human beingsYou will accomplish good deeds easilyYou will receive the ability to become BuddhaIf we can always be mindful of these extraordinary merits of going for refuge and practice, the ritual of going for refuge, we will easily enter the Buddha way and live it. So simple, so basic: going for refuge in the Buddha. Doing the ritual of being who you are right now, or finding your place right now. And again, I think Suzuki Roshi used to recommend finding it on your exhale. On each exhale, come back to where you are. Now he might also say you can find you place where you are on inhale and exhale too. While inhaling and exhale come back to where you are. Come back to Buddha. And if I forget to come back here, to come back to Buddha, I confess and repent. I'm ashamed that I have not been present. That is one of the main things that I think that I am ashamed of as a father. Of not being present. I loved my children, but I sometimes neglected to be present. And the same as a disciple of Buddha- as Buddha's child. I do not like missing the opportunity of being here, of taking refuge in Buddha. In practicing the ritual of returning here to Buddha, the merit of this is fully realised when you realise that you are not going for refuge by yourself, you are doing it with the Buddha. Together with the Buddha. A few days ago, some of us were up with Michael Sawyer who had just died, and we were up sitting with him and I asked if I could sing a song, and the living people said 'ok'. The song I sang was Ol' Man River, and after singing it, his brother said that that was their father's favourite song and so they grew up on that song and their father used to sing it to them and play the organ while he sang. So shall we sing it? It seems like a fathers day song.

Everyone sings

"Ol' man river

Dat ol' man river

He mus'know sumpin'

But don't say nuthin'

He jes'keeps rollin'

He keeps on rollin' along.

He don' plant taters

He don't plant cotton

An' dem dat plants 'em

Is soon forgotten

But ol'man river

He jes keeps rollin'along.

You an'me, we sweat an' strain

Body all achin' an' racket wid pain

Tote dat barge!Lif' dat bale!

Git a little drunkAn' you land in jail

Ah gits wearyAn' sick of tryin'

Ah'm tired of livin'An' skeered of dyin'

But ol' man river

He jes'keeps rolling' along.

"One more thing that I wanted to mention is that sometimes the way that we say it is that 'I go for refuge in Buddha as the most honoured one of bipeds, the most honoured two footed one'. That is one way that Buddha is described. But another way it can be translated is 'I go for refuge in Buddha the most honoured one of the two perfections'. The perfections can also be called feet, the foot, or the foundations. And the two perfections of Buddha are the perfections of merit and the perfections of wisdom. So we go for refuge in Buddha, the world honoured one of the merit and wisdom. Buddha's wisdom is 'always not thinking' and the Buddha's merit is 'always thinking'. Always thinking of the welfare of beings and generating a world of merit and always not thinking and generating the world of wisdom. These two feet of Buddha, the most honoured one, and we return to these two feet, these two perfections.

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