Before I begin my dharma talk, let us sing a song one more time together. I'll do the motions so that you can remember the words. So let's sing together. [Sings with sangha] "Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out. I am blooming as a flower. I am fresh as the dew. I am solid as a mountain. I am firm as the earth. I am free. Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out. I am water reflecting what is real, what is true. And I feel there is space deep inside of me. I am free. I am free. I am free."
When I first heard this song, the dharma talk about our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh was giving was first for the children. It is the custom at Plum Village to give the first part of the dharma talk with all the children present and then after half an hour, they go into their mindful fun activities and then our teacher continues his talk with the adults, the older children. When I first heard this talk, Thich Nhat Hanh, or we call him Thay, which means teacher, was giving the children some suggestions for their practice.
So he told them to find at least four pebbles from the ground somewhere and then come back, and so they would take one pebble. They would put all the pebbles on their left side, and they would just take one and hold it and breathe with it for a little while, maybe just for a couple of minutes, and that first pebble could represent a flower and feeling fresh. So they were just reciting in their minds, Breathing in, flower. Breathing out, fresh. So they would hold it so that it would help them to remember that they are meditating, and as their mind wanders, they can just squeeze the rock in their hand to bring themselves back to the present moment.
And in a way, those of you who may have meditation beads, the ones with the 108 beads around the neck or maybe 27 beads around the wrist, you can do the same thing as you are breathing in, breathing out. If your concentration is not strong yet, use your beads. Just press on the beads and breathe with each one.
So then when they felt fresh like a flower, they just put that pebble to their right side and pick up the next pebble. Mountain, solid. Breathe with that for a while till they really felt solid like a mountain, then put that pebble to their right. Pick up the next one to the left. Still water reflecting. And then bring that on the right side after a while and pick up the last one from the left. Space, free. And then placing that on the right as well. And so depending on how deep they wanted to go, it could be a whole minute of meditation or maybe four minutes of meditation or maybe eight minutes of meditation. I enjoy it when we get a chance to spend at least five minutes with each feeling and each image so that then it can be at least a 20 minute meditation.
Well, a few years later after I had first learned that song and that meditation practice, I thought it was kind of funny that sometimes our teacher would teach this meditation to the adults and not just the children. I thought, come on. I want some deeper teachings. What is this flower fresh, mountain solid stuff? But a few years later, I was at a very austere Japanese Zen retreat for a week, and it was a lot of meditation, a lot stricter than Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition.
But in the middle of the retreat, maybe on the third day, as I was just sitting there, breathing and meditating and sitting here and now, this insight just struck me out of nowhere, and I saw in one instant that the path of enlightenment is actually contained in this simple children's meditation. So I don't know if our teacher meant it that way or if it just is a happy coincidence. Actually there are no coincidences in this very synchronous universe, but it was so amazing to me that in this simple children's meditation, that there is the whole path of enlightenment contained within it, the whole map of the path right there.
And that of course reminds me of something that another enlightened beings once said. You know, let the children come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven. Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter into the kingdom of paradise, which is that divine presence right here and right now. I'm going to have to erase this, so I hope you'll just kind of have it in your mind's eye right now, and I will just erase it.
The way I saw it is that in this simple meditation, it also corresponds to two particular chants, one from the Theravadan tradition, and one from the Mahayana tradition, which are the two main traditions that are existing today, and Vajrayana of course is a part of Mahayana as well. There is a chant that goes like this, Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhasa, and it is actually on the bottom of your program as one of the possible chants. We have not done it in a while. But Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammo Sambuddhasa. I would just do that. And that is from the Theravadan tradition. It is the most ancient chant in Buddhism.
And then in the Mahayana tradition, there is the Heart Sutra, which is chanted in many Zen temples every day, and the last line of the Heart Sutra is, Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. So I will put this right here. Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. Okay. Now, what is interesting to me is in that flash of insight, I thought that these two chants from two different traditions of Buddhism are corresponding to the exact same—it is like a map of the path.
So in the Theravadan tradition, we have Namo Tassa, which literally means to bow to the one, and there are two words here. And so I think of this as when we start the practice, at first there is good versus bad, right versus wrong. There are certain rules that are helpful, and also we bow to that which is more enlightened than us. So there is a duality. I am not enlightened, but there are teachers that are. And so there is that practice of duality, and that is where we start. And then as we practice deeply, we start to—our mind, as we discipline our body. This is devotional. We open our hearts and devotion to the path of enlightenment, and then we start to discipline our whole being, including our body, our ethics, and our meditation practice, our stillness and stability in the practice. And we reach a point of one-pointed mind called Samadhi, and that is a blessed state, because literally Bhagavato is blessed one. It is a divine state as well.
But then, when we become enlightened, then as our mind then opens to the wisdom of the universe, not just that we are stable and blissful in the one-pointed mind, but now that mind then sees the truth of duality. That is Arahato, and in ancient days, an arhat with someone who had attained enlightenment through the Buddha's teachings and gained wisdom and insight into reality. So that was enlightenment. And that is the mind letting go of our deluded mind and realizing the enlightened mind that is always been there.
But then, the full enlightenment of the Buddha, which goes even beyond just ordinary enlightenment, that would be like Samma Sambuddhasa, which literally means fully, fully enlightened one. So I bow to the one who is blessed, who is an arhat, an enlightened one. Which actually, this literally means worthy one, the fully enlightened one.
Now as far as that goes in the Mahayana tradition, we have got Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. It literally means gone, gone, gone all the way. Everyone gone all the way. Enlightenment. Yahoo. Now this also corresponds to this path. So Gate Gate is repeated twice, and that to me indicates the duality. We are still working with right versus wrong, good versus bad, I am not enlightened, that maybe these teachers are. So there is that duality. But then that duality starts to dissipate as you merge into oneness consciousness. Everyone gone all the way. And then as you become enlightened by the wisdom of the universe, by your true nature, everyone gone all the way, and then Bodhi Svaha, full enlightenment of the Buddha.
Now as I reflected on this and saw how this also corresponds, I saw that flower fresh is like when we first start the path, we open our hearts in devotion like a flower opening up to the light of truth, and so we start opening our hearts to that freshness. And then as we continue on the path with ethics and discipline of body and mind and our whole being through meditation, we become more solid and grounded and centered and one-pointed in our consciousness. Our body and our mind are becoming one rather than so separate and scattered.
And then you gain insight into the practice. Still water reflecting, that is like our mind then becomes so pure that then instead of reflecting delusion, having distortion in our perception of reality, it is pure and clear and still so that what we see is reflected clearly. We see reality clearly, rather than through our distorted perception, our distorted lens. It is clear. And so then we see the truth of the universe.
And then space free. Our spirit then realizes through enlightenment that who we really are is not finite, not bound, not this, not that. It is infinite freedom. Some Buddhists over history have called that infinite freedom emptiness. But the word emptiness is misunderstood by Westerners because we think of emptiness as though, we are so alone and that type of thing. But the word empty with the best word they could come up with because it is empty of all delusion and ignorance and suffering and concepts. It is empty of any object because it is infinite freedom. It is just that smooth clarity.
So, what I saw also was that as we were practicing, we think we are trying to become. That is how it feels. So we are striving or trying. We are climbing. We're doing everything we can, and sometimes we are hard on ourselves. Are you ever just like oh my goodness. When am I going to get enlightened? But the interesting thing is once we are enlightened, then we realize the whole time actually what is actually going on in this crazy oneness universe is that that infinite freedom—some call it the divine Buddha nature or whatever. It doesn't matter, but that infinite freedom and presence is actually trying to become us, trying to express in, through, and as all beings and all things, all time and space, matter, energy. So here we are trying to become Buddha, but actually, when we become enlightened, we realize actually today is trying to express in and through and as all of us in every stage and state possible in the universe.
So that is why I think this is very interesting, particular Mahayana chant, Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate—which is wonderful, because what it really means is no one is excluded. Everyone is going to make it. You see? Gone, gone, everyone gone. Everyone gone together to enlightenment. Yahoo. Now it is in the past tense. And it is already done. But you don't really get it until you get to this part, which is why you're saying yahoo. Because when you realize full enlightenment, Bodhi Svaha, you realize that you already are what you want to become. You already are that infinite freedom, and it is just simply being expressed through you in all the different ways, in all the different beings.
So both of these aspects of the practice are important to keep in mind. You know, yes, there is a part of us that does need to go through the gradual stages of the practice and, but keep in mind that through the heart, the whole time that you're trying to express these different states of consciousness, that in fact who you really are is always in there, and it is just simply expressing through you and through all your experiences.
So in the end, it doesn't really matter that this may express a progression, because in each moment, it is just perfection. Each moment is just simply divinity or Buddhaness, and so instead of looking at this as just a map, why don't you just look at a flower and see it smile? Why don't you take a look at the mountain and feel its majestic solidity? Maybe take a look at the water and enjoy the water as water and feel that freedom of spaciousness as you are truly here and now.
That is why it says in the Zen tradition when you first start practice, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers, and then as you deepen in the practice, mountains are not really mountains. Rivers are not really rivers. It is deeper than that. But then when you are more fully enlightened on that, mountains are mountains. Rivers are rivers. But the difference between the first statement and the last is that we only think of a mountain as a concept, but in the last, it is the reality of mountain. It is the divine expressing as mountain, and we can enjoy mountain. We can enjoy flower. We don't just utilize these things like, okay, what is the deeper meaning here? What is the map here? No. In the end, we just enjoy, this is the mountain. This is divinity expressing as a flower. This is Buddha nature expressing as a flower.
So maybe my teacher is much wiser than me. I'm sure he is. So here I am in the second stage kind of like analyzing and seeing oh, there is deeper meaning. But in the end, just breathe. Just enjoy life as it is. No need to think too hard about it.
I will share something a little more practical with you for a couple of minutes. There is something that I call the PEERS process, and I've never really shared this before. I came up with it several years ago before The Secret and Michael Beckwith were talking about the visioning stuff. And now I keep thinking if I said this two years ago, I could've been a best-selling author. But this is derived from what I learned from my Buddhist meditation practice as well as the Christian Quaker practice of sitting in the silence and listening and speaking forth the truth from the heart.
So in the first step, let's say you really need to make a major decision, and you don't think it is going to be easy for you just to come up with the right decision on your own. That is when you can rely on the help of your spiritual friends and of your sangha and your community. Since we are all made of each other, we are all aspects of the one. There is no reason why you have to try to figure it all out by your human self. You can rely on the whole self.
So the first part, I just call it pray. Meaning that when you gather a group of friends together to help make this decision, you come together and then you pray in the sense that you put forth the intention of what this gathering is about. So when I say pray, I don't mean like begging some outer force. I mean affirming what it is you are gathering for and stating your purpose. And if you don't like the word pray, you can just say purpose. It is very important to say clearly in everyone's consciousness what is the focus here. What are we affirming here? And for me, let's say I'm trying to decide about whether to move to Greenland. So we are all gathered. This is why we are gathered, because I'm trying to make the decision about whether or not to move to Greenland.
But then, the second part is empty everything or empty ego. I don't really care. Whatever you want. So the second part is actually these two E's. So empty the ego. Empty everything, or just empty empty. If you think of another E word, that is great. So basically that means meditation. So you sit for several minutes just to let go, to release all distraction, all scattered thoughts so you can come to a place of just presence and clarity, just clearing out your mind, clearing out your ego so that you can be open to a greater wisdom beyond just human egoism. Maybe that might take 20 minutes. I don't know. It just depends on your mood.
Then the third part is then to receive insight through revelation or impressions. So this is the part where you start to rely on intuition. So then now that you have cleared out stuff, and now you can just open and say, "Okay. Let me just see if there is some image or some thought or some feeling or someone ever that comes very clearly and strongly in this clear space of consciousness." So you just keep those things in mind. If you need, you can write it in a book or something or on a pad of paper beside you. And you know, you could spend maybe five to 20 minutes on this part. It just depends on your mood.
And in the last part is then you break the silence and thank everyone for meditating together, and then you go around the circle and share and see what came up for everyone and see what commonality, what common theme is occurring, and you may be very surprised at the community's wisdom and the inner wisdom that comes through. And sometimes there might not have even been insight that came from the receiving part, but as you are sharing it, then insight starts to arise spontaneously in the group consciousness.
So what is the difference between this and some other practices that are really popular these days, where people are making lots more money than I am? Well, the difference is that this part is definitely emphasized because that is what I learned from my Buddhist meditation practice. Many times people do spiritual mind treatment or visioning or visualization, and they jump to the other parts quickly and only spend like 30 seconds clearing or connecting. And I really think that if you can go deeper in your clearing and receptivity aspect in meditation, then what you receive is less distorted and it is more likely to come from a deeper wisdom other than just human ego making up something.
And then of course, what is different about this from just traditional Buddhist practice? Well, the traditional Buddhist practice usually would just include the first two, but then this third and fourth part is the part that is very helpful, too, that we can add on, which of course comes from the Quaker Christian practice of the Society of Friends where they just sit in the silence, and they also receive word from the spirit and they share it out loud in the community. So anyway, this isn't necessarily original to me. So that is probably why I don't need to make a lot of money off of this. I think putting it in this particular format with an easy to remember acronym, PEERS, together, I think that has been very helpful. So if anyone is really good at marketing, maybe I can make some money with it.
Anyway, I hope that is something you can take home that is a little bit practical. This whole month's theme is practical enlightenment, and maybe next week I can talk about the seven factors of enlightenment as well. But I hope this was helpful. And even if you don't have a group of friends, you can also do this on your own, by yourself. But I personally find it is much more powerful if you do it with others. Because sometimes we have blind spots, and when everyone's blind spots are put together, there are no blind spots left. Right? Okay.