November 1st, 1987, Serial No. 00960

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SF-00960
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Last night I was greeting goblins at the door. We've had our first rain. We're nearly halfway between the cardinal points of the autumn equinox and winter solstice. So at times like this I mark the passing of the year. And it's a good time to deepen and intensify our commitment and our practice. Actually, there's a long tradition in the Buddhist community of a rainy season retreat.

[01:07]

In Chinese monasteries, even recently up until the revolution, in the autumn of the year after the harvests were in, they would sit longer and longer periods of meditation. Not that the periods themselves were longer, but the amount of time they devoted to sitting each day was longer as the days grew shorter. What comes to my mind is the nine-point simile which graces the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra. As stars, as a fault of vision, as a lamp, as a mock show, dew drops or bubbles floating on a stream,

[02:34]

as a dream, as lightning flash, or clouds. Thus should you view all conditioned things. I'd like, if you would, to take just a moment, a few minutes with me and quietly listen to the passage of time. Thank you. Thank you.

[04:16]

Thank you. When we're quiet like this, we almost have a sense of time itself. But time, of course, is something we can't know by itself. We don't know time apart from our experiences. So when we hear the voice of the child, that's child voice time. Imagine sitting on the bank of a river and the stream flowing in front of you. It's time. And if a leaf drips by, well, let's put a leaf, we'll put a leaf on the river and mark that point.

[05:57]

And immediately it begins to move away from us. We can say that leaf is a day. And we remember that day and we watch it and it passes. And we put another leaf for another day. And that leaf passes. And that day passes. But as we're involved in watching it go, we forget the river itself. Our attention turns to the past, which is downstream. We don't know what is coming from upstream. If it's a leaf that we particularly like, a very beautiful leaf,

[07:04]

we may feel a little twinge of regret seeing it grow smaller and smaller. And then pass out of sight. We may want to remember that leaf. Maybe a log drifts by, a big long redwood log. And we can say that's a whole year. We notice the beginning of it. We celebrate, aha, wonderful, a big log is beginning to pass by. Time to have a party. And along the way we notice, ah, here's a part where the bark has been torn off.

[08:09]

Here's an interesting branch. I particularly like this time. But even with something so big as a log or a year, eventually we come to the end of it. Now in our practice, we learn to note points of our awareness. And as we begin to do that, we realize that we have two experiences.

[09:11]

One is a kind of staccato experience. That something happens, and it's gone. The other kind of experience we have is a kind of continuity. I want to talk about it today as yogic continuity. There is a continuity in the river. And as we note the leaf, right at the moment that it's in front of us, at that moment we join with the continuity of the river. But as we stay with the leaf, and it moves into the past, we lose the moment of the river being immediately in front of us.

[10:13]

We lose continuity with the river. We may have a stream of thoughts. It may be very pleasing to us. But we have to be careful because we are separating ourselves from our continuity, from the river's continuity, from the moment of time. And actually there is immediate experience that's occurring all this while, that we have a stream of thoughts that we ignore, that we diminish in value, so that we can enjoy our fascination with the leaf that we particularly liked.

[11:18]

But all our relationships are like this. This morning I went into the kitchen and thought my daughter would like waffles. And I got out the mixing bowl, the eggs, the milk. I was all set. I plugged in the waffle iron. And I thought, I don't know why, but I thought, I'll ask. So I said, Hannah, would you like waffles for breakfast?

[12:23]

And she said, no thank you. At that moment I felt a little pain. I thought I was trying to be a good mother. And I think being a parent is like that. You anticipate your child's needs to a certain extent, and you feel that you get to know your child. I know Hannah likes waffles anytime. So it was a moment of experiencing this kind of feeling of things slipping away,

[13:29]

slip sliding away, as Paul Simon sings. Now there's a tendency for us to insist that we're right. Of course you like waffles. I'm all set up. I wanted to convince her, remind her that she likes waffles. But I immediately realized that she was right. She wasn't trying to play a trick on me. That was just how she felt. I realized I didn't want waffles either.

[14:32]

So I put it all away. So the Bodhisattva's vow to include all beings means recognizing them just as they are, and hearing their situation and their voice. I think people who do this kind of practice should make very good parents, and very good friends, because you don't insist that your child stay the way you are comfortable remembering them. You don't insist that your friend be completely known.

[15:37]

You're willing to hear a surprise. You're willing to let them grow. Because indeed this growing is a kind of death. There's a loss involved. Letting your friend change and grow, letting your spouse change and grow, letting your child change and grow, letting your parent change and grow, or perhaps not grow, if you want them to change and grow. It's a kind of willingness to experience a loss. Your world that you framed it, you've identified it,

[16:44]

is not there. So at that time the river is dark. Now in developing the sense of continuity, yogic continuity, it means that you completely take care of each moment. If this is a moment of some news, something arising, you greet it, you see it, you're there with it. This is awareness. This is the meaning of Buddha waking up. If it's a moment of something passing away,

[17:53]

you recognize that the bonds that you've established with it can only be temporary. And for you to live freely, and for your friend to live freely, you have to, let's let go, relinquish, and grieve, if necessary, so that you can have a new moment. And because we're human, we do form these attachments. And we do choose. As Dogen says, we choose flowers, but weeds grow anyway. And so to take care of ourselves,

[19:05]

we need to take the time to stop and listen, and hear the struggle going on, wanting to hang on to our past, wanting to hang on to our vision of the future, wanting to hang on to the familiar. We need to stop and look at all those, all those faces, make friends with them, recognize that we are already friends with them. And if they go, let them go. Now, as you do this consistently,

[20:07]

if you take care of all of your baggage in this fashion, very regularly, like brushing your teeth, you don't get big accumulations. For example, if I had not asked my daughter, and just served her waffles, and told myself, my daughter likes waffles, and she'll always like waffles, and we'll always have waffles on Sunday morning, and there are people who do this, and we all do this to a certain extent, and the extent makes a difference. If you quickly are alert, and find out, ah, I was getting off the track, and you're willing to say, oh, that hurts, you know,

[21:14]

I thought my daughter was always going to be ten years old, but she is, she's not always going to be ten years old. Her tastes are going to change. They have already changed. And see that clearly, and recognize that it's a part of the river that's already passed. Then you have a sense of being more in the moment, more in tune with the river, as it's immediately in front of you. And you have a sense of your own continuity. I just read yesterday that someone used green dots. They, ah, they could sit quietly in the morning, but then when they went to their office,

[22:16]

they realized that they completely lost the sense of centeredness and continuity that they had in the morning. So how to, how to bring that, how to recover that. So this person took, ah, these little, ah, you can get a whole sheet of little sticky dots, you peel off, and this person noticed that they were looking at the time, the office clock, looking at their watch. And, ah, so at these points they put a little green dot on the face of the watch, on the office clock, and for them that was a cue to take a breath. Now your breath is always in the present moment. Of course, thinking about your breath can be anywhere,

[23:18]

but actually returning to your immediate experience of your breath brings you to the present moment. So this person then put a dot on the telephone, put a dot on his, ah, appointment book. I think he was hoping to have enough green dots to make a continuous green line of life. But pretty soon we catch on, or it may take years, years of effort to catch on and remind ourselves, ah, yes, green, I can breathe. I wanted to read a poem.

[24:37]

This is Ryokan. He was living in Japan as a Soto Zen hermit monk about 200 years ago, about the time of the American Revolutionary War and the Constitution. One autumn night, unable to sleep, I leave my tiny cottage. Fall insects cry under the rocks, and the cold branches are sparsely covered. Far away from deep in the valley, the sound of water. The moon rises slowly over the highest peak. I stand there quietly for a long time.

[25:47]

And my robe becomes moist with dew. So Ryokan carried so much about the passing of an autumn night that he just had to wake up and hear the insects cry and stand for a long time, allowing himself to be covered and allowing himself to become saturated, just drinking it,

[26:53]

drinking it all in. As stars, as a fault of vision. You know, all these nine points in the Diamond Sutra, most of them are light, actually, and they all pass. Stars have to give up their life to the daylight

[27:54]

when the sun comes. In fact, the stars we see may be dead. The light has traveled a long, a long distance. Even our vision, as clear as we can see it, has its limits. What we see may be mistaken, may be inadequate. We're always blind to a certain extent. When you see the sunrise and you take a deep breath, you take it all in, you know that there's infrared light, ultraviolet light, there's more than you can fathom.

[28:55]

And it's gone. Well, this was written about oh, 300, 350 in this common era. The lamps they had were probably shakier affairs, more subject to be blown out by a breath of wind. But even our long-life light bulbs have fragile filaments. A mock show.

[30:03]

You know how sometimes you can be deceived by the magic? Recently I saw a performance by Jeffrey Hoyle, who's a marvelous mime and clown, and he did a scene called Two Waiters, where there's a dark panel on the stage, and he would emerge from one side as this ceremonious and very sophisticated waiter, standing tall, brandishing his towel with a flourish, and then he disappeared behind the stage and come out as this waiter who was two feet shorter, crippled and clumsy, and actually rather gross. And he'd move back and forth,

[31:08]

and you actually saw two different people, although you knew it was Jeff Hoyle. But you'd be lost in the scene and the drama between the two waiters. So what this sutra is telling us is that all of our experience is like that. Now some people make the mistake of thinking that because attachment causes problems, because clinging to things causes problems, we should avoid commitment. You may think you can save yourself some trouble.

[32:11]

And it's true, we can use our judgment but usually the choice we have is whether we get attached to something or not in the sense of exaggerating it, distorting it. As soon as we do that, we begin to cause problems for ourself. But sometimes we may think that we need to cut away our friendships, cut away our relationships. And there is that aspect of Buddhist training. Shakyamuni Buddha himself left his family, his temple, and his temple, he left his castle and his temple. That doesn't give us

[33:31]

license to neglect our families. When Buddha left his family, he had a small support system to take care of his wife and child, etc. At this time, in this country, there are many children who are neglected. So non-attachment does not mean neglect. A real commitment, a real love, is to be there and allow the fluidity, allow the person or the situation to change and evolve. And your commitment

[34:32]

is to be there is beyond any definition. This takes tremendous faith and trust. And it takes some stability that you can begin to develop in your sitting. So listen carefully, and you'll know. You'll know whether you're stuck or not.

[35:36]

Don't reject any of your situations because they're all, they're all workable. Like a lightning flash. This is our life. A lightning flashes from the dark river. The season passes. The day is gone. This moment is very precious. Thank you.

[36:46]

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