Ground of Being and the Buddha's Teachings
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Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
February 15, 2009 - Dallas, Texas

I would like to invite all of you just to place your palms upward on your lap and take a deep breath. Repeat after me. I am being.

Audience: I am being.

ChiSing: And placing your hands at your forehead, repeating I am peace.

Audience: I am peace.

ChiSing: And bringing the hands to the heart, I am love.

Audience: I am love.

ChiSing: And placing the hands on the abdomen, I am joy.

Audience: I am joy.

ChiSing: And once more palms upwards on the lap. I am being.

Audience: I am being.

ChiSing: So in life, we practice meditation and spirituality and just living because we have this inherent, innate impulse toward peace of mind, and overflowing heart of love and devotion, and joy of life and energy. But as we are living our lives, it is not always going to be feeling like peace and love and joy. There are going to be times when there is a feeling of disturbance and of anger or fear and of sadness.

And that is why in our practice we realize that even as we are trying to express that innate peace and love and joy in life, that is our true inheritance, our true birthright, that we need to remember and come back to the ground of being, which encompasses all of it, which is a source of love and peace and joy and is also the ground of being which is able to navigate through all of the chaos, the fear, anger, sadness of life.

And so there are actually two kinds of peace, two kinds of love, two kinds of joy. There's a kind of peace, love, and joy that is conditional and dependent on feelings and circumstances, and it is not necessarily a very deep kind of peace, love, and joy. It fluctuates constantly, always impermanent. But if we can come back to the ground of our being, our true nature, simply beingness itself, simply awareness itself, simply ahh, then we remember that peace that passes all understanding. We remember that love which is infinite and overflowing, and we remember that joy that is not conditioned by circumstances. And that is the second kind, the true kind of peace, love, and joy. That is actually a manifestation of who we already and always are, beingness itself. That is the truth and the goodness and beauty of peace and love and joy. That is the ground of our practice.

So, you can actually still emanate, radiate peace even in situations of chaos and disharmony. You can emanate a heart of love even when there is fear or anger in a situation, and you can still be in that grounded joy that is beyond ups and downs of emotion. And so, that is what our practice is about, to remember and realize that truth of our beingness so that this human mind and body can begin to work with that truth and express it in form. We are always already that, and we are also learning and growing and expressing through the ups and downs and the trials and errors of life to more fully express that in the human realm.

Suzuki Roshi, a very famous Japanese Zen master once said it in a very wonderful way. You're perfect just as you are, and you could use a little improvement. Okay. So that is my spontaneous dharma talk for this evening. For the next few minutes, I would like to share just a sort of dharma potpourri or dharma collage of some teachings that I think might be helpful for you and practical for you. All right.

So, the Buddha's teachings are very practical, and it is based on a medical model. So 2,600 years ago, these teachings were somewhat radical because instead of just being religiously oriented, they were more scientifically and psychologically oriented teachings, and so the first truth—and they're called Four Noble Truths not because they are noble and there are other truths that are not so noble. It is rather that when someone refines their consciousness and awakens to that highest consciousness, that is a noble consciousness, a noble mind, and when you are deeply in touch with that noble mind, then these are the truths you just naturally seek.

It wasn't like the Buddha was trying to tell us something that we have to believe in this, but rather, well, this is actually what you will see. This is what I saw, and if you practice and open your mind to that refined, noble consciousness, this is what you will see too. Don't just take my word for it. You do it and see for yourself. And many people have. So the first truth is the truth about suffering, and the second, the causes of suffering, and the cessation of suffering or sometimes they say the transformation of suffering or maybe even that state of being which is beyond suffering, okay? And then the fourth is the path to the cessation of suffering.

So you've got the illness like a doctor would look at it. And okay. So what is causing the illness? And is it curable? Yes, it is. Okay. What is the prescription? But as practitioners have looked at the Four Noble Truths deeply over the centuries, we have gained more insight into that nice skeleton that the Buddha gave us, this model. And one of the insights is that the difference between pain and suffering, which is something you heard me speak just recently—you know, I was trying to think about how I could possibly come up with something to teach that.

That is pain. And oh my gosh, I just broke my leg, and I better go to the hospital. I don't have enough money, and going to have gangrene, and they're going to have to cut my leg off, and no one is going to want to marry me because I will be a one-legged person. Then I will grow old and die alone and miserable. Okay. That is suffering. Pain is inevitable. It is a part of life. When we resist that truth, we create suffering. And suffering is also all the mental layers we add on top of just normal existence, the normal everyday ups and downs and feelings of life. Some sensations are pleasant. Some are unpleasant, but when we label, categorize, make stories about it, that is suffering.

The Buddha did not come to eliminate pain because that is it just a part of life. That is actually one aspect of the first Noble Truth. There is pain in life. If you can't accept that, then you are creating suffering, and so the Buddha did not come to take away pain, but to transform suffering. So as one teacher once said, pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Now, the causes of suffering, you could say that is based on wrong or deluded or misperceptions of reality, deluded thinking, but within that realm of the illusion, we have craving for things that we don't need to be craving, and we have aversion to life being the way it is instead of accepting and flowing with life. Based on delusion—so delusion gives rise to craving and aversion, so these three are said to be the three main causes of suffering. And of course there are many causes because they start to like have babies. There are all kinds of modern ways of creating suffering. It is just an art form, you know? Yeah. That is what drama is all about.

So, now, the delusions that we have around life are said to be fourfold. Sometimes three, sometimes four. I will just do all four. One is impermanence, nonself, nirvana, and suffering. We are deluded about the nature of life in these four aspects, and because we are deluded, it causes us to crave and be averse, pull and push life instead of flowing with life, and based on these four aspects of life, we are deluded about.

Number one, impermanence, well, everything is impermanent in this realm, but we would sometimes like the world is supposed to be permanent. Yeah. Everything changes, but not this. This shouldn't change, you know? The perfect example is as we age, we start to lose some hair. We have some grays. We have some wrinkles, and so many of us just are so depressed about it as if this hasn't been happening for thousands of years. Right? It is just natural. It is the normal course of life. But why do we suffer about it? Because either society or we come up with this idea or maybe both, a mixture, that well, we are supposed to stay young looking forever or at least as long as we can until we die. And so we suffer about that. When we resist the reality of life, which is impermanence, and then crave that fantasy that doesn't exist, that creates suffering.

Nonself. This has a lot of deep meanings, so I can't go into all the meanings of that, especially the deepest meaning of nonself can only be experienced and known by direct awakening. So don't really want to talk too much about that except to say one easy meaning to explore the meaning of nonself is the fact that for instance, hope we—well, would look at this thing but I'm going to call and give a name, a clock. And it is doing something. It is blinking, and it is telling time. So it is doing things. It has a function and has intricate parts. But it has no self. It has no self, no separate self outside of the fact that many different parts came together because there is also intelligent humans that invented this and different ideas and everything that made this into this.

So when we say nonself, we do not mean nonexistence, because it is existing, right? It is right here. When we say nonself, we are saying it exists, but it is not its own separate being. You see? But we say, well, that is a clock, but I am a human being. I am much more complex. Well, we are a very complex clock. We are a very complex machine. We are a very complex organism, but the same truth applies to us. We do not have a self. We do not have a separate self. That does not mean we don't exist. We do. We exist. You exist, you exist, we exist. But what's happening is that there is breathing. There is blood circulating. There is DNA. There are molecules, organs doing their work. There is brain activity. There are thoughts. There are memories. There is consciousness, all working together, functioning like a clock has function.

So we have the function of the body and mind, but there is no separate self like well, I have myself and you have your self and there is that self. There is no self because there is only one self. There is only one life, and there is only one spirit expressing in, through, and as each of these different bodies and minds, but not separate. Now each body-mind has its own function, and it creates the necessary functional sense of self to operate in the world, but the true self is just the one, and when we awaken—sorry. I kind of went into the deeper meaning of that one. Okay. Let me go back. When you awaken, you will see, and when I awaken, I will see even more, too.

But the easy meaning is basically another meaning of nonself is interbeing. Interbeing. That would be the easy way to understand nonself at a most basic level. And that is simply to say if the sun were to stop shining, my existence cannot be. If the moon wasn't in a certain place around the earth, much of life on earth would not be able to exist the way it does right now. If I didn't have a mother and father that came together and produced me, I would not be in this form right now. If I didn't grow up in America the way I did and the education, I would not be speaking in English to you in this way. If I did not eat food for the last several weeks, I would not be here either.

So interbeing is one very simple way of understanding nonself. We are not a separate self. The nonself does not mean we do not exist. It means that you're not a separate entity that has nothing to do with everything else, that you are made of everything else. Even your mind and your thoughts and your beliefs are shaped and influenced by everything else. You see? You didn't just come up with the English language all by yourself. You did not just come up with the idea of let's meditate all by yourself. See? Everything comes from everything else, so everything is interbeing. Everything interconnects, and that is the simple meaning of nonself.

But we tend to treat others as if they are not a part of our life, a part of this one life. It is kind of like when you see nations warring against each other, they are just killing themselves. They are just hurting themselves. It's like if your pinky got in a quarrel with your right hand because it nailed something and I still hit it. I mean, how silly is that? If the left hand got angry at the right hand and picked up a hammer, right, to take revenge, how silly is that? You see? That is the delusion that we have when we think that we are a separate self when in fact we are one body, we are one spirit, we are one life living as this.

And then nirvana. Now this is a little bit deeper. The truth of nirvana is that there is already in existence your ground of being which is a state that is beyond suffering and non-suffering and all those different categories. It is just being. It is just being with whatever is, and it is already there. So everything has the nature of non-suffering, of nirvana, but we are deluded in our thinking, and so we can't see that. We don't see it right now because of our deluded thinking. We don't see that we are precious and not we are divine and that we are nirvana itself, you see? Because we don't see that, but it is true. In the very essence of each person, as each atom, of each everything of the universe is nirvana, is enlightenment, is Buddha nature were divine consciousness, whatever you want to call it. It is that. That is our true nature, true self. We just don't see it right now because we are so caught up in our suffering and our deluded thinking, our craving and aversion.

So the fourth one, I already talked about, which is the aspect—well, when I put the word suffering here, what I mean really is pain in this instance, that there is pain in life, that things break apart, things—you know, even the taste of good ice cream will go away or whatever. Things just change. Unpleasant situations arise. That is just the way human life. And so maybe I should put that instead of suffering. But when we crave the state free from all pain, that is delusion, and that creates suffering. When we are averse to life being the way it is, it's like when we think people should not get sick and die or people should not change their minds or whatever. We are creating suffering with more suffering over that pain, that normal pain of life.

And of course the third truth of its cessation relates to this right here, that yes, the reason why it is possible to transform our suffering is because we are made of that which is beyond suffering and therefore we can awaken to that reality. It is not something foreign to us, and the path to that is the eight-fold path of right view or understanding, right thinking and intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort or diligence, right mindfulness or awareness, and right concentration, being right here and right now.

Now this actually can be divided into three categories to help you remember. The first two, right view and right thinking, is wisdom, the practice of wisdom, and the next three, speech, action, and livelihood, is the practice of ethical living and effort, mindfulness, and concentration have to do with the practice of mindful living and meditation, meditation and mindful living.

I used to think now why are there two here and three everywhere else? I kind of came up with my own solution, because I like to have everything with symmetry, but that's my thing because I'm a Virgo. But you start off with basic right view, like okay. Yes, I see that the Four Noble Truths makes sense and that maybe I am a little deluded about reality and that I shouldn't be doing this aversion and craving so much, and maybe I should follow the noble eightfold path. That is right view or right understanding of the nature of life that just the basic level.

Then as you do that, you practice that, you come into right-thinking and intention, so with that in mind, you then make the intention to practice these teachings and to align your thinking with that truth, and therefore then you express that in the way you speak and the way you act and the way you make a living, and with that as a good base of your life, a mindful life, then as you practice meditation, it has a solid ground in which to grow. Now if we try to meditate without having a strong foundation, it is going to be a bit rocky, okay? Now you can do it that way, and many people do. I did it that way. That's how I started. I didn't know any better. No one told me.

But now I realize it is really important to have a solid foundation of right view, thinking, speech, action, and livelihood as you are practicing your meditation and after meditating, then you can transform your consciousness and awaken to your true nature. And when you do that, when you awaken, you awaken right for you once again and wisdom, insight, true understanding at the deeper level. That is how I kind of did three. You start off with basic right view, but you end up with great understanding, great wisdom and insight. That comes from the practice itself and from mindful living itself. Okay. So that is just the simple outline of the Buddha's teachings on the transformation of suffering through wisdom, ethics, and meditation. All three are important.

In the religious background I grew up in, we only learned mostly about ethics. Maybe a little bit about wisdom, but not too much as it pertains to psychological transformative wisdom. They were more concerned with dogma than wisdom, but you know, they tried. But the thing that I was really missing was meditation, and so I was really happy when I finally found this balance. Now, I have also met some Buddhists in America who are trying to practice meditation because they want the pure teachings without all the other trappings, so they just want to meditate. That is all they do, just meditate, but without the ethics and the wisdom and the spiritual education part, the meditation is not going to be as full as it can be.

Audience Member: When you talk about true nature, what would you say is kind of the underlying understanding of what the true nature is? And do you think the idea is that true nature for all human beings is identical?

ChiSing: Well, this is a slippery slope, because once you talk about it, it is not true nature because we are not talking about it thing that we can think about. It is the very ability to think about that is stemming from true nature. You cannot see the seer because it is the seeing, and so it is tricky. That is why we try to get people to practice because it is only by direct experience but you can experience that. So true nature is simply the one reality of existence, if you want to put it into some words, which is very limited. It is simply the one. It is just the one. And even using the word the one is an adequate, because one implies not one or two or three or whatever, so sometimes in this tradition, we say the not two. But what is important is to practice and to experience and have direct insight into that. And I think your question stems from my talking about human nature, but I'm not. Human nature is an aspect of the universe, but what I am talking about is the one nature, which is the nature of the stars, of space and time, of humans, of animals, of grass, of everything, of energy and matter, of emptiness itself. Yeah?

Audience Member: But, when you say that it is equal to each person on the planet, in the universe? Every person has that?

ChiSing: Every person is the universe in expression. Yeah. Yeah. So, okay. Just briefly, I wanted to share with you that in practical practice, I discovered that my take on the teachings—and I know everybody has their own take, but my take is really to come back to the simple path, and that is to breathe with the mantra Amitabha, infinite light. To visualize it, breathe with it, chant it, whatever you want to do, but in every moment realize that reality that is your true nature, that is upholding you, that is who you are, and that is expressing in, through, and as you. Amitabha.

Now when I say Amitabha, I don't necessarily mean this literal pronunciation Amitabha because you could also say Maranatha or any other mantra, but it is the same meaning. It is like Jesus had a finger pointing to the moon, and the Buddha had another finger pointing to the moon, and the finger is not what matters. It is the moon that is pointing to that reality.

So whether you use Amitabha or Jesus Christ, I don't care, but for me the meaning that it is pointing to is infinite light of your true nature, and that is a simple path. Just coming back to that over and over and over again. You don't need to get all complex. You don't need to do this, this, and that. Just that simple path. And this is what I realize I have to offer to you. That is what I offer to you as a general practice, but if you want to have what I call the gradual path—or that is not the best word. The progressive path, then the only way I can really offer that to you is one-on-one in a teacher-student relationship, and I haven't had the inclination to do that yet until now, and I think I am more open to that at this point in my life, but I also realize I do not have a lot of time with all of my schedules to do a lot of that, but if there's someone who really feels that they really need that and want that, I am willing to at least dialogue with you about that because perhaps that is what you need to go deeper.

And in the progressive path, beyond just Amitabha, I can offer you different methods better tailored just for what you need, and then it can change whenever you are ready for the next part of your journey, etc. But I can't do that with a whole group, so with the whole group, I just offer Amitabha, and for many of you, that is enough because Amitabha is always teaching you that infinite light of our true nature, the divine nature, the Buddha nature it is always the true teacher and as who you are. But if you feel called to the one-on-one with me, then I can offer you a progressive path.

Now if Amitabha as a general message doesn't call to your heart, and you know, I don't have time to do a one-on-one with you on the progressive path, then let me offer you a third path, which I call the sneaky path. So there is the simple path of enlightenment, the progressive path of enlightenment, and the sneaky path of enlightenment. And the sneaky path is one I encourage you to go to a big mind, big hearts weekend or weeklong retreat, or maybe do a retreat with Byron Katie and The Work or go to a retreat with Eckhart Tolle or Ramaji or especially Adyashanti.

But there are certain modalities that exist today that can give you a quick awakening experience to awaken you to who you are, even if just for a few seconds to glimpse it, and I think today it is important for many of us to have that glimpse collectively in many numbers to help change the course of history. Before, it was not so urgent. You know, you could take a few different lifetimes or whatever to get enlightened. It is okay. But today, if we don't have a major mass awakening on the planet, the course of history is going to go down a very, very difficult time. I think that is why the universe is now offering the sneaky path.

Now if any of you choose to the sneaky path, let me warn you the quick awakenings do not excuse you from doing the homework of living a mindful life. The quick awakening will open you up to that reality, but you still have to do the homework making it real in your life, okay? It does not excuse you from that. So what it does do is give you a quick encouragement, a very energizing boost that will set you on the path. So you meditate at home this week and you ask yourself which is calling you the most? Just a simple path which is pure love, pure light or the progressive path that you can do with the teacher, so you'll have to be disciplined and faithful to it. Or the sneaky path if you're really lazy and you need to have something to just like awaken you enough to give you the encouragement you need to not be so lazy.

So all that is good, and I've done all three, mainly because I am meant to help people of all different kinds of personality types. And I also meditate now an hour in the morning and an hour at night. Do I think that is necessary? No. Not for the average person. Just 20 minutes every day is probably good enough. But every minute I meditate beyond 20 minutes is not for myself. It is for all beings so that I can be a better channel for serving others, and we all our servers in different ways. Some of us need to do lots of meditations to serve, but that is not required—just to know who you are meant to be in this form and just say yes, and let the true nature do it through you, and in you, as you. That's all.


Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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