May 28th, 2005, Serial No. 01115

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good morning everyone morning
welcome to send center and thank you for coming
this saturday

so my name is jeffrey schneider i would like to start by saying that because many of you of course don't know me and i don't know many of you i imagine that some of you will be here at zen center for your first time today if that's so could you raise your hands to just curious how many of your
okay great and some of you have had meditation instruction today
yeah okay great good well welcome knocking so first of all i want to say thank you to christina the tanto who invited me to speak today
i am it's always honored to be able to dress the assembly
so usually when i when i give a lecture these days
ah i asked michael what i should lecture sure about
and i do this for a couple of reasons one because well right now he's leading the practice period and to because he often has ideas that are better than mine
and three because when i when i lecture on somebody else's topic it's almost always something that i wouldn't think about luxury know on myself and therefore it sort of stretches me it makes me think about things i wouldn't normally think about and
so that's very that's very useful you know in in monastic practice for instance we give ourselves over to a schedule which is something we wouldn't normally think about doing
very rarely on our own do we think about getting up before five o'clock and going down to the basement
and you know this is this is pretty good this is actually a good thing to do because
if i take suggestions if i practice with a schedule that is suggested to me by somebody else what i'm effectively doing is practicing beyond the realm of my own preference my own personality and my own neuroses hopefully family so so
anyhow before i came over today at home i offered a stick of incense at my altar and i prayed to get out of my own way to speak the dharma and that somebody in the assembly today would find something that i said of use so you might be the lucky one
you never know
kind of like you to think the euro prize
you know it might go might be suggested that as buddhists we don't pray i think it will be more accurate to say that as a buddhist
my prayer is a complete action in itself it doesn't require that i believe that there is somebody hearing it it is enough to a it is enough to make the prayer there's a famous co on a famous than story and i can't remember the whole thing but you know the on the the earnest young monk i'm imagining some of the
this comes up to the bitwise old master and says know this long question been a while while probably india with and what is buddha and the teacher says it is enough to have raised the question bow and withdraw so it's kind of its kind of like that with our prayer you know it is enough to erase the question is enough to have made the request bow
and withdraw
so i read michael asked me to speak about today was our inspiration the role of inspiration in practice and
so this is not something that i think about a great deal or thought about a great deal so it required me to do a little thinking and of course as you will know i'm sure all of you are most of you at least that the word inspiration comes from the word to breathe so we are inspired we breathe respir
that sort of thing it's pretty common knowledge so i looked it up in my dictionary and some of the
definitions that i found were inspire as a dup inspire the verb to breathe or blow into to infuse with life by breathing into sort of like we find in genesis right god makes an amount of a bunch of dust and breathes life into him
to be guided by divine or supernatural inspiration and to exert an animating are exalting influence on so i'd like to examine some of the furious
understandings of inspiration
first of all i'd like to examine what good what inspiration is not in buddhist understanding and what good is what it is not his divine or supernatural intervention so you know in buddhism in the scriptures
there is often talk of the gods so but interestingly enough the gods are portrayed as you know in rather more radiant circumstances than we are but they are also subject to karma they are not eternal they have not created the world and
they don't really have all that much to do with us
anyhow in order to achieve final awakening the teaching is we need to be born into the human realm you know the long lived gods are much too caught up in the pleasures of the of the data realms in already in in order to practice so what we are given in this human birth
screen to get us going and not too much that we can't do anything else but suffer
so in general you know the idea of the supernatural is not so much found in buddhism as it is in the west in the west we have inherited a long tradition going back at least as far as the greeks and certainly beyond that of dualism you know
flesh and spirit light and dark good and evil it's better in our basic assumptions about the world whether we make it explicit or not and so there's always this sense i think for many of us that what is real is someplace else and that were trying to get through this in order
to get what is real but actually in buddhist teaching
reality is seamless and non dual you know in a sense it's all surface like a mobius strip you know what a mobius strip is it's one of those long things you give it a half turn and it's all surface now some parts of this of reality may be turned away from us at any given moment and we may be turn
away from some part of reality at given at any given moment but reality is
have a whole
there is nothing of a fundamentally different nature in reality there's no split between the real or the mundane and the supernatural and i'd like to read just a little
quotation that i i very much enjoy this is from dogan dobyns instruction to the head cook and dogan was a thirteenth century monk who is considered the founder of this lineage of then he went to japan as a very young man and study there and had an a
awakening and returned to japan to teach as a monk and anyhow so when he was when he was in japan or china excuse me he had recently arrived there and he met a monk and the and a conversation and they didn't have time to talk but some months later dogan was pleased to meet the monk again
and they had another conversation he said dogan says i was indeed happy to see him and received him cordially we talked about various things and finally came to the matter he had touched upon aboard the ship concerning the practice and study of characters now in some in this translation it's as
characters in other translations it says words so bear that in mind
he said a person who studies characters must know just what characters are and one intending to practice the way must understand what practice is i asked him once again what are characters one two three four five he said what is practice
there is nothing in the world that is hidden
so this is a buddhist understanding of the nature of
of our lives that nothing is hidden and i think sometimes our difficulty lies in looking for the secret for the hidden meaning and not paying attention significant attention to what presents itself immediately before us it's sort of a conspiracy theory of reality if you know what i mean
and this is the function of the mind that sees the world as something to be acquired found out interrogated until it renders up it's supposed secrets so we often i think torture our lives looking for a confession when the truth of things is hidden in plain sight sort of like the purloined letter
and so in this sense inspiration spirit spiritual etc is something that doesn't really seem that doesn't really apply to buddhism spirit spiritual what have you unfortunately it's a word we're stuck with because there's no other good way in english at lee
east or an american to describe what it is we're doing particular since so many people are allergic to the word and concept of religion
to some extent i think that sort of explains what inspiration in buddhism is not
so i'd like to axe to talk about a little bit about my understanding of what inspiration might be a by by what shall we be inspired
i'm a first of all i think we are inspired initially by are suffering
you know whether are suffering is a cute and dramatic or whether it's an ongoing low level disease you know it is always there this is what is called the first noble truth of buddhism you know buddha himself said are were told he said what i teach is suffering and the end of suffering
however in order to get to the end of suffering of course we have to
see are suffering as it is and we see are suffering as it is and if we're lucky we get a glimpse of our part in creating it and this of course if we're lucky can lead to the impulse to explore the means of ending it you know when buddha was talking about suffering as i said he wasn't necessarily talk
talking about you know a gracias dramatic traumatic you know painful things all the time
he was talking about what happens when we try to attach to the nature of what we think is going to make us happy you know what is going to
what we can nail in place as it were or i like to think about it sometimes i think of my life as though it were a crossword puzzle if i fill in all the blocks with the write letters which will lead to the right words then it will be done and i'll be happy forever you know this is where the buddha met by suffering you know it's basically a delay
it seems to be a particularly persistent delusion considering how often i certainly go for it and i see people around me going for it so on each of us i believe is here because he or she his head at some point in our lives a moment of clarity about suffer
ring and about the possibility of living a different sort of life which leads away from suffering and into something else that perhaps we can't even imagine so this moment of clarity if you like is a moment of sort of stopping have been halted in our tracks in some way by the vision
have a different life
and for some of this it can be quite dramatic you know i was i was listening to a tape of somebody giving a lecture actually some of you probably heard vicky's mind seeking were seeking mine talk the other day when she was talking about coming to an abrupt realization that her life was not what she thought it was when she was in a automobile accident you know
so for some people it's something of a catastrophic nature that teaches us that our lives are different and we're sort of brought to a dead halt and we get to see that things are quite different than we thought they were and in that moment if we're lucky enough are skillful enough are grateful enough to seize it or to let it sees us
we can see the possibility for something else for a different sort of life a different sort of behavior so this is the this is inspiration through are suffering and i think we should be grateful for this recognition of suffering otherwise we would not be inspired to investigate it thoroughly and rigorous
finally you know i often note that in my own life something that i am aware is sort of in the background or sort of vaguely painful will at some point in my life sort of erupt into something that's acutely painful kind like a pimple and sort of a psychic temple and you know in a
realize that it only you know if it doesn't erupt it just lies under the surface for a really long time and it can for very long time for some people for some of us all all of our lives so i become grateful for my suffering particularly when it gets to the point where i have to do something about it
so we were also are we can be inspired both positively or negatively by other people are seen others and identifying with them searching out the inherent similarities rather than the obvious differences so we can make this if we
choose you know a practice a very deliberate practice when we meet somebody will we see somebody when we hear somebody speak we can make the decision that we are always going to look for what is similar between us you know even i have found even if the story that the person is telling me is quite different
from my experience even if the person is quite different from who i am if i pay attention the emotional content is almost always the same you know everybody wants to be happy and everybody wants to avoid suffering
so on that level we're all pretty much the same here we're all pretty much the same anyway you know we got the same organs we got the same eyes knowing we all know we all have you know livers and kidneys and stomachs and things like that so it's not surprising that were so similar in our emotional lives
one of the things that i often think about and i looked this up to find out where it came from so was he was actually the quote is slightly different than i thought it was in the sixteenth century in england a man named john bradford
who had been convicted being led off to the scaffold and his comment was there before the grace of god goes john bradford
which is course has come down to us as their but for the grace of god go i
winston churchill speaking of one of his colleagues in government said their bid for the grace of god goes god
i've always liked that
at any rate you know john bradford was right because he was later burned at the stake as a heretic so he got a little bit of a reprieve
so you're leaving out the bit about the grace of god are translating it into terms that seeing a little bit more familiar and comfortable to me i can see that my life in my life it is only something like circumstance our luck or chance or whatever you know separates me from the guy in the doorway
lay on the street or the victim of disease or disaster and sometimes that separation is not so much of kind but of time you know it's not yet for me i not yet have a debilitating disease you know i do i am not yet
the disabled i am not yet
obviously dying i am not yet in a place where i need somebody else to help me with the basic activities of life
not yet
and we can also see in others i believe if we choose to look carefully how uninformed choices can lead to the states of whoa you know choices made as the result of generational karma poverty early trauma you know we talk about the cycle of ignorance and poverty and
and people as they said everybody wants to be happy and everybody wants to avoid suffering and we all do with the best we can to achieve those goals the problem is that many of us perhaps most of us even are not given very good tools to achieve those goals you know
people often like to i'm sure nobody in this room blame their parents for their suffering
that you know if you think about it if i think about it you know i realized that if my parents had known how to have happy fulfilling creative lives you know they probably would have done it and avoided the mistakes they made and they probably would have shown me it's not about the you and they were holding out you know
they did the best they could with what they had and so are we are so even some of us you know who have perhaps had access to education or more or less stable economic and family ties lives and the benefit of hearing the dharma even though we can still make choices which lead us into torment
so we can learn or be inspired by the suffering of others as well as ourselves and this of course this identity this understanding of the identity of our own suffering and the suffering of others is what ultimately leads us to compassion and it is from compassion that wisdom springs
i once heard the dalai lama say that many years ago when he was visiting here and i was very confused i thought it was the other way around you know i do like all this really hard work and instead of my question and then i get enlightenment that it could be compassionate towards you guys you know from from our period where i was no longer suffering unfortunately doesn't work that way but wouldn't it be
nice of the ted
we can also be of course inspired positively by other people and over twenty five years ago in this room i heard something say someone say something that has sort of stayed with me for all their time and what he said was it is by observing the virtue of others that our own virtue grows
is by observing the virtue of others that our own virtue gross i really liked that you know i'm really convinced that you know some of this has been here for a while and we've gone to lots and lots of dharma talks and we've read lots of books on buddhism and we spent lots of time in the zendo but actually i really believe that the way we learn is by single sentences you know every now and again so
body will say something that penetrates and we carry that in in our heart as a way of as a way of learning
so you know if we cultivate our ability to see the virtue of others we are by definition of course cultivating our own because it is virtue that sees virtue you know it is virtue that recognizes virtue and it is our lack of virtue my lack of
virtue that sees only the faults of others you know we always have their choice if we're attentive we always have the choice of what we see the other virtue or the lack of virtue it's kind of like
some people can go into a beautiful room that is clean and well appointed and full of beautiful objects and the first thing that they'll notice is that you know on the far wall there's a picture that's askew you know
other people who go into a huddle and noticed it on the table somebody has taken the care to put a jelly jar full of wild flowers on the table you know we we cultivate what we see and we can make deliberate decisions about what we see
and also you know the the virtue of others can inspire in us the desire to become more virtuous ourselves especially people we really admire you know living historical region fictional people you know i really believe that fiction has a moral function in that way you know those is
thinking about this and you know historical figures who inspires to virtual was thinking about the autobiography of benjamin franklin and as a young man he was he wrote you know sort of a list of through the pro and con list of his virtues in his lack of virtues and what he needed to cultivate and at the bottom of the someplace he put
be more humble like jesus and socrates if the and i like to think the movie as as an average man he realize the irony
february sort of enjoy that
so know men and women of decency and courage and compassion can inspire us to take over action however limited our own lives in a sense emulation emulation of virtue is what we're doing in zazen you know we assume to the best of our ability here
the posture of enlightenment you know the posture of enlightenment whether we are sitting on a chair whether you're sitting on a cushion whether we're sitting in you know perfect for lotus were there were sitting in you know the best we can do we assume the posture of enlightenment we are emulating we are inspired by the buddhist
and you know it's not only the people of great achievement you know the saints and the artists and the leaders and the creators who inspire us but those who humble and unacknowledged lives and even those that the world considers his failures
i have a as i was thinking of this i was thinking of a i like very much by william butler yeats the problem of course with reading built william butler yeats this it's rather like trying to eat one peanut however i shall confine myself to a single poem
the name of it is is to a friend whose work has come to nothing
now all the truth is out be secret and take defeat from any brazen throat for how can you compete being honor bread with one who were it proves he lies were neither shamed and his own or in his neighbors eyes bread to a harder thing than triumph turn away and like a laughing string whereupon mad
fingers play and that a place of stone be secret and exult because of all things known that is most difficult you know to fail in the eyes of the world and to accept that with ah humility and decency and to live a
a life of compassion and decency you know is not so easy you know we all want the cash prizes you know what's behind door number three are you know the perfect bachelor whatever they're doing on television these days
you know another poem that i think that's been very very important to me over the years has won by a man named qaddafi who is a early twentieth century greek poet and it goes like this for some people there comes the day when they must come out with the great yes or the great know it is cleared once
it's who has the yes in him and saying that he goes on to find honor strong and his conviction he who refuses never repents and yet that know the right answer defeats the whole of his life
so can we find inspiration from people who have made the right answer which defeats them the whole of their life can we find inspiration in the
economic failure who is reached said no to making the fast buck at the expense of others or to the person who says no to success based built upon the backs of others or
know any of this you know can we find inspiration in the person who lives a quiet life with nothing to distinguish him or her obviously from their neighbor
so you know what is admirable and inspiring i think is not judge a bull a by objective standards you know by how much money by how much fame by the kind of car where you live etc etc and you know it's certainly not judge a bull i believe by the skewed and
our culture in which acquisition is everything and one is judged by what one can acquire and keep pretty much regardless of the way it's acquired
so we're also i believe inspired or can be if we choose by the dharma by the teaching by the buddhist teaching
and in this happens in various ways how we come how we come to study dharma i know that for me one of the things that happened is that when i first became interested in buddhism i would read things have a buddhist literature and go yes that's the way i see the world and nobody's ever explained it to me that way before you know it was like a show
shock of recognition i remember is a very young child
probably ten or less standing outside of our our house and looking at the house and realizing oh there's no such thing as a house you know there's just boards and bricks and glass and screws and nails and furniture and we just car the house you know and it's true of course but you know it
he was like wow and then later on when i read about
dependent arising and the lack of substantial self and the lack of ongoing concrete entities in the world which is what buddhism talks about of course i went oh wow you know i saw i was inspired i was inspired by somebody who talked about the world away i saw it
and you know it's funny how we're inspired i remember once when knows about in seventh grade i was looking through the encyclopedia and i saw the article and buddhism and there was a picture of a monk sitting in meditation and i thought that's what i wanna be when i grow up
when most kids want to be baseball players are cowboys are i to you know and when i wrote to and i thought oh i can't do that on that asian you know
but i was inspired you know and it it awoken me it inspired me
you know an aspiration that ultimately came to fruit in my life today
and yes sometimes the dharma teaches us in pictures and images and sometimes it teaches us in words you know sometimes we can be an inspired by its rationality or it's moral beauty are the range of its vision and healing of the range of its vision of healing and awakening you know during this practice
period many of us are studying the lotus sutra and the lotus sutra is sort of famous in buddhist literature is heaviness this vast vision of sort of universal salvation you know something something very beautiful and inspiring you know
and you know sometimes the dharma comes to us and images in art you know the the images of buddha which is i've noticed you know over the past many years is that even enough among non buddhists yeah it's people would never describe themselves as buddhist it's very popular you know you look through the architectural digest
asked and you see pictures of buddha's in people's houses are you see buddhists little booties everywhere and food is everywhere and it's rather nice you know it's like so whether whether people know what it represents or whether they have you know word one about you know the four noble truths or what have you know there's something in the image of
a human being at rest within himself
and available to others that's incredibly inspiring whatever your religious tradition might be or even whatever your non religious tradition might be
so it speaks these images speak to our own potential and we can be inspired by them in that way and he has a world itself inspires us to change our lives if we look closely through the lens of the teaching there's a sane and i can't remember and i forgot to look it up but it's in some of the
zen literature and says all inanimate things teach the dharma all inanimate things teach the dharma and what this means or one of the me means one of the things that means of course is said all inanimate things as all animate things are governed by the law of cause and effect you know things happened because of cause and effect
and because of this if we examine this steeply we can come to realize that our lives are not simply the random mess they sometimes seeing and we're not the hapless victims of a malevolent universe you know if we pay attention you know with the sense of experiment we will learn how much we have to do with
shaping our own lives this is karma this is the law of karma this is the law of cause and effect and so it goes to go it goes it stands to reason of course that if we can mess up our own lives through our actions through cause and effect there should be some hope of recreating our lives
in a finer mold
through those same actions
so we can we can take lessons from the world of cause and effect of course unfortunately the lessons that we are given are the ones we almost always least want to learn you know it's least i found it works that way
sony how on
you know the last thing and want to say are close to the last thing
is that are you know our final finally you know our great source of inspiration is zazen itself
meditation itself because literally inspiration is cells themselves and his inspiration breathing in breathing out breathing in breathing out you know we are inspired as we stay with the in breath and the out press you know the mind rides the breath we tend the breath and together in the meditate
ation how we literally conspire together we breathed together conspire that's what that means so our breath as our life and in meditation we do nothing more than simply allow the breath and our lives to be as they are
suzuki roshi the founder of this temple has this to say
when we practices and or mind always follows are breathing when we inhale the air comes into the inner world when we exhale the air goes to the outer world the inner world is limitless and the outer world is also limitless we sent in a rural or outer world they actually there is just one whole world in
this limitless world our throat is like a swinging door the or comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door if you think i breeze the i is extra there is no you to say i what we call i is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale it just moves
that is all when your mind is pure and common or to found this movement there is nothing know i know world no mind nobody just a swinging door
so when we practices and all that exists is the movement of the breathing but we are aware of this movement you should not be absent minded but to be aware of the movement does not mean to be aware of your small self but rather have your universal nature or buddha nature this kind of awareness is very important because we are usually so
so one sided our usual understanding of life is dualistic you and i isn't that good and bad but actually these discriminations or themselves the awareness of the universal existence you means to be aware of the universe in the form of you and i means to be aware of it in the form of i you and i are just swinging doors
this kind of understanding is necessary this should not even be called understanding it is actually the true experience of life through zen practice
when we truly become ourselves we just become a swinging door and we are purely independent of and at the same time dependent upon everything without air we cannot breathe each one of us is in the midst of myriads of worlds we are in the center of the world always moment after moment so we were completely die
pendant and independent if you have this kind of experienced this kind of existence you have absolute independence you will not be bothered by anything so when you practice zazen your mind should be concentrated on your breathing this kind of activities the fundamental activity of the universal being
without this experience this practice is impossible to attain absolute freedom so this is only had prepared and i was going to stop here and i will stuff and just a moment but yesterday was talking to michael and he asked me if i i'd prepared the election i said yes and i said well you know inspiration was kind of a interesting that
look at a hard thing to think about and he said ones just say what you're inspired by i said rob too late already been in the lecture

so i do want to just end with some of the things i'm inspired by you know first of all i'm i'm inspired by all of you i'm inspired of all of you who come on a saturday morning when you could be doing so many other things to ah
share the dharma with each other and with with me and to common perhaps sit with us and to search into your own lives i'm very inspired by that and i'm very grateful for that you know i've always inspired when i go down to the zendo in the morning by the people who get up before dawn and and sit together
either you know i'm inspired by my friends who are in recovery because when i look around those rooms i see incredible courage and incredible openness and incredible willingness to be changed to change you know and i'm inspired by everybody if i notice if they trained myself to notice
some decency and compassion without an expectation of reward
you know and i'm also very inspired by michael
constant kindness and patience
and because it's the memorial day weekend
you know i want to say that i'm also inspired very much

oh by all those men and women who have put their bodies between their loved ones and the desolation of the war
even when as it is more often than not the case
they've been dying only to protect the the lives and investments of on the class that doesn't care about them this does not take away from their achievement or their sacrifice
so that really is all i have to say except on
i do want to thank you all for being here and if i have said anything that is of used to you if you're the if you've got the door prize please accept it with my
with my gratitude and if you didn't hear anything well there's another lecture next week
and maybe the person who's luxury next week will be able to say something that ah that informs you so thank you all for coming and done
that's all