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Walking meditation at Blue Cliff Monastery
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"Wisdom of the Heart"
Transcript of a talk delivered by Br. ChiSing
May 13, 2007 (Mother's Day)
GBF, San Francisco, CA

You know, the Buddha once held up a single flower in front of an audience of many disciples, according to the Zen tradition. And this was an unusual dharma talk for the Buddha, who was always very eloquent. If you read alone just the Pali version of the canon, of the text, it's quite huge: much bigger than the Judeo-Christian Bible. And yet, in this dharma talk, according to the Zen tradition, he just simply held up a flower. And for a very long time his disciples were wondering, "What's going on? Why isn't he saying anything?" But after quite a long time, maybe an hour or more, a disciple far in the back, Mahakashyapa, smiled. And the Buddha confirmed that this particular disciple understood the message.

Chelsea, our transcriber, notes:

As with the Chinese and Indian languages, Japanese does not differentiate between "heart" and "mind." Kokorokokoro, Japanese ), sometimes pronounced shin, means "heart" (in the spiritual sense, never the organ), "mind" or "spirit." — not to be confused with the homonymic Japanese word meaning "truth" or "true" (spelled shin, Japanese ), the shin of Shin Buddhism.

In Chinese the word for "heart", "mind" or "spirit" is xin (also written as  xin,
Chinese ), and in Sanskrit the equivalent word is hridaya.

In the Indian language and also in the Chinese language, the word for "mind" also means "heart". And this kind of story is about mind to mind transmission, but I like to translate it as heart to heart understanding, heart to heart resonance, heart to heart attunement.

I was once at a retreat at Deer Park Monastery near San Diego, California. And I was just spending an informal time there, for about a week. There wasn't some sort of formal retreat there. I just wanted to spend a week at the monastery. And I just spent time with the monks. There were just about three lay brothers and all of the rest were monks. So it was kind of nice just to hang out with the monks, and to do the chores with them and meditate with them, converse with them, play volleyball with them.

I remember one morning the chanting and meditation service was a little bit different. Instead of doing it in English they decided to do some of the chanting in Vietnamese. So as they began to chant. I did not know what they were chanting, because I am Chinese and I don't understand Vietnamese. And I just listened. And it was about the third or fourth day of the retreat so I was very present and very openhearted. And as I began to listen to the chant, I closed my eyes and this very powerful image of a mountainside came to my mind, with the sun just beginning to rise, and the Buddha and all the disciples in their robes, with this very gentle half-smile, with their palms together, chanting, with this full, confident, peaceful joy, radiating across the mountain.

And then I began to visualize that there were lay disciples, all in their white robes, also around the mountain. And then they began to chant. And as the chanting continued the whole planet was filled with people chanting, with this joyful, peaceful confidence. And in that moment I thought to myself, "This must be the Heart Sutra they are chanting." And in that moment they ended the chant, switching from Vietnamese to Sanskrit:

"Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodisvaha."

And so that clued me in: this was the Heart Sutra. I like to translate that mantra as, "Gone, gone, gone all the way, everyone gone all the way: enlightenment. Yahoo!" I love it because it's confident. It's not "going, going;" it's "gone, gone, all the way, everyone gone all the way: enlightenment. Yahoo!" and so it's this confidence that the dharma is powerful, and that every being is already enlightenment itself. And that we, everyone, no one excluded, are going to wake up, realize this.

And that's why that mountainside with the Buddha and the disciples and the whole world is filled with this confident joy. It is not… It's so different from the way I grew up as a Southern Baptist, where if we didn't preach and give our testimony, people are going to die and go to hell. And it's like it's going to be really hard to get people saved. In fact, most people aren't to be going to heaven. And it's this fear and this struggle and this striving they want to save the world. But, this kind of feeling is completely opposite. It is absolute peaceful confident joy — a knowing that all beings are included. No being is excluded from the great heart of the universe.

Today is Mother's Day. And mothers are usually associated with the heart. Of course not every mother is able to be in touch with that quality. But those that are — it's a wonderful gift to all of us. Not only to the actual biological children, but to all people everywhere. Whenever there's a man or woman that embodies the quality of true compassionate nurturing sacrificial caring motherhood, it is a gift to the whole world.

flower I remember, a couple of months ago, my mother came over to me while I was in the computer room typing. And she just said she's just so fed up with work and how much stress it is. And she needs help. And she doesn't have enough help. And I thought to myself, "Why is she telling me this? She knows I'm completely inept at real estate business. Let me do a Dharma talk instead." But she just kept going on and on and I wasn't sure what she was saying. But then, as I walked away from the computer room to get a glass of orange juice. I just stopped. And I listened to my heart and I checked in. And I realized what my mother was really asking for was not help at business. But help in her spiritual heart. The stress and the need to just feel heard and cared for by someone that loves her. So instead of getting my orange juice, I walked back to the computer room. I took my mother's hand and I took her outside to the backyard. We have a beautiful large backyard with a pond, grass, trees, and ducks. And so, even though we have this beautiful paradise right in our backyard, our family members rarely ever enjoy it because they are so busy with their "real" life, so-called. So I took her out and I said, "Get your walking shoes out. Walk out, enjoy the grass and we're just going to walk slowly. We're going to look at the ducks, look at the trees, look at the flowers and just breathe."

And I told… asked her maybe on your in-breath just say "Dear God…" and on your out breath "Thank You…" Since she's Christian, I wanted to speak to her in terms that she could understand. So "Dear God… Thank You…" as we walked. So, we're doing this, and then "Dear God… Thank You… Dear God… Thank You… Oh you know, those weeds that need to be pulled… Dear God… Thank You… That tree needs to be trimmed… Dear God… Thank You…" Like, "How come all the ducks are not where they're supposed to be?" You know just something… "Oh, we need to pick up that trash over there."

Well that was as good as she could do. And so, I thought to myself. "Well, maybe, she can't do the breathing in, breathing out thing. Maybe we'll just sing a song that she… she knows." The spiritual practice that she loved growing up in church was to sing hymns. So we just sang the song "God's eyes on the sparrow and I know God watches me." So we just sang that… outside and just… really just enjoyed the walk. Because the important thing is, even if she couldn't completely engage in the mindfulness practice of breathing, walking and mindfulness, yet if she could just touch the reality of the heart of the universe, which is already enlightenment itself, in just even one moment of just letting go and being present, through whatever spiritual practice she understands, that's enough. And even just holding hands with my mother, walking with her, giving her support — the real support she was really asking for — that is enough.

So that day I wrote something in my journal. And I'd like to share it with you

Begin Anew
inspired by the Buddha in you,
as written through Br. ChiSing
(March 16, 2007)

Begin anew. . . .
It has been a long time since last we spoke.
It does not need to be so long.

In every moment,
the here and now —
the eternal and timeless —
is always present.

It does not take a special feat
to touch the here and now.
You only need to awaken to
this very breath, this very step.

In just one moment of mindfulness,
everything is made new,
moment to moment.

Enlightenment, peace, wisdom, joy —
these are only one breath away,
one step away.

But the question is:
Are you really there, my dear?
Are you really there in your breath, in your step?
Or are you only daydreaming, sleepwalking?

Whatever you think you've done wrong,
whatever penance you believe you must perform
before you can awaken,
I invite you now to let that go.

Take a slow, deep breath.
And remember the Greater Reality
which holds you,
which supports you,
which nurtures you.

Let there be a moment of awakening,
let there be several moments of awakening,
every time you rest into this Greater Reality,
the Buddha Nature, your True Self.

And as you begin to rest in your true vastness,
a healing takes place
organically and naturally —
forgiveness takes place,
understanding takes place,
reconciliation takes place —
effortlessly.

In the eternal and timeless
here and now,
you can always begin anew.

You can always find refreshment and rejuvenation
for your earthly body and human mind
as you awaken to
your Universal body and Divine mind.

Yes,
you can do it.
It is your birthless birthright.
It is your deathless inheritance.

So, my beloved,
can you drop the story,
drop the delusions?
Can you let go of
self-hate, shame and unworthiness?
Are you willing to relax your hold
on control and manipulation?
Are you willing to loosen your grasp
on false securities from false fears?

It only takes one breath,
one step,
in mindfulness,
my dear.

In just one moment of enlightenment,
you can awaken from the illusions of time,
pressure, guilt, failure and regret.

You can awaken to
the eternal and timeless
here and now —
to peace and love and wisdom,
to true strength and true joy and true beauty,
to the Buddha that I am in you and in all beings,
to the Ultimate dimension of all things —
the Divine All in all:

Dew drops on a spring leaf . . .

~ Br. ChiSing

You can do it! Because you are it. So what's stopping you from letting go of all the layers that prevent you from expressing the pure vast light that you are? It is in every cell of your body. It is in your very own heart.

You know according to the neuroscientists these days, they are finding all sorts of interesting things about the mind and about the heart as a physical organ of perception. The brain emits an electro-magnetic field. And the heart also emits an electro-magnetic field 5000 times stronger than the brain. There are many different neural cells connecting the brain to the heart that they are finding, As if the heart is also an extension of the brain. A different… just like there's different parts of the brain — the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, etc. — there's also the heart functioning as a kind of brain. 60% of the cells of the heart are neural cells just like the brain. And so, some of the neuroscientists are interpreting this data with the hypothesis that it's possible that this field of energy that's being radiated so strongly is a form of… of the mind engaging with other fields to process energy and information in that way. So that, it's a way of knowing from the heart… a way of being with the energy of knowing in this heart way. Perhaps that is one of the meanings of heart to heart transmission. Maybe that's what it truly means to awaken to the mind of enlightenment, the heart of enlightenment… to remember there are other ways of knowing besides the small bandwidth of intellectual rational thinking and to come down to this heart knowingness and wisdom is one way to continually opening to that vastness. And of course, we just don't stop with the physical heart. It's just another physical organ. But it can clue us into a knowing and a connection… an energy field that connects us and reminds us that we are like the story of the stems connecting to all aspects of the cosmos.

At my first retreat at Plum Village in France, I remember trying to engage in all the practices there… like sitting meditation, walking meditation, eating meditation, hugging meditation, singing meditation. And I remember the practice I really did not like the most was eating meditation. I was too used to growing up with my parents working late hours, trying to make a life for the family in this new country, and my brother and I would just make our own food and watch cartoons. So it was very difficult for me to break this habit of watching TV and eating, or conversing and eating, or doing anything else but just eating.

And yet, through this practice, I remember one day at lunch, about third or fourth day of the retreat. I just simply eating my tofu, broccoli, and rice, chewing slowly… getting one with the texture, taste, temperature of the food… just really being with it. And then I just stopped, and I looked up at the people around my table and they were just so peaceful and happy, eating slowly. And that was the first time that I really looked up. I was kind of just like doing my own thing and I just looked up. They were all so happy and peaceful — so mindful. And I felt this little smile come to my face, just looking at them. And I looked outside the window, and the sun was shining through the tree, and the leaves were rustling in the wind. It was very beautiful. And the children, with their parents outside, were laughing and playing a little bit during lunch. And then my heart just melted and opened and expanded. And tears came down my eyes, as I just felt the reality of the intervening nature of the whole universe. And instead of just being an intellectual concept, it was real in my own body and the whole universe.

And I realized what eating meditation was all about. It is as if the whole universe was eating meditation. Just like I'd be eating the food, receiving nourishment. I'd be giving nourishment as I went to the bathroom later, to give to microorganisms. And also, as my friends around me were eating so mindfully, they were nourishing me. And I hope I was also nourishing them with my mindfulness and smile. And the trees outside were giving us oxygen, nourishing us with oxygen. And we human and animals were nourishing the trees outside with our carbon dioxide. And the adults with their very stable mindfulness and kindness were nourishing the children with a safe environment. And the children were nourishing the adults with their playful energy, reminding us not to take anything too, too seriously — to remember the inner child, that needs nurturing as well. Everything in the whole universe is eating meditation, giving and receiving nourishment. And my heart just opened. Itwasn't something that I hadn't felt before. But through mindfulness practice, it deepens and widens and it stays longer. And the more glimpses you get, the wider the glimpses are until one day you're a full-time Buddha instead of just a part-time Buddha.

You know a few years before I even entered in mindfulness practice, I did actually have a mystical experience. I didn't really share it very often because I was a little embarrassed, because it happened during sex. (Is this being recorded?) I was with this very beautiful person. And, it was so playful and so free and so joyful and uninhibited. All of a sudden, it was as if the walls were permeable and expanded. And I could feel the whole universe and all the galaxies and the stars. As if all the galaxies were dancing around each other — lovers dancing with each other. And all the molecules, all the atoms were lovers, dancing with each other as I and this person were a dance of lovers too.

Everything is this divine love, making love to itself in myriad ways. And the interesting thing about that experience is, I didn't need it to last forever. In that experience, I knew that the possibility was that I would not stay in this state of consciousness and that it was OK. Because I knew the truth now — in every moment, we're all a dance of divine love, Buddhas making love to Buddhas, from the smallest subatomic particle to the vast mega-galaxies of the universe. You know, it was such an unexpected experience that I actually asked the person I was with if there was like something put in my drink or something. Because I wasn't sure why I was experiencing this. And… But it was just a glass of water. That was all it was.

But that same reality was glimpsed in a retreat setting… a different aspect of that same reality, but that same reality nonetheless. In the first experience, I experienced the vast reality from the angle of love. In the second experience, I experienced that same reality from the angle of nurture. So, we all can experience the same reality in different kinds of ways, in different openings. And whatever you call it, and whatever angle it is that you experienced it, it's the same vast spacious clear purity of awareness. The same Buddha nature, manifested refracted like pure light into different rainbows of experiences.

Transcribed by Chelsea and Hal German

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