The Greatest Happiness
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The Greatest Happiness (21 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
June 28, 2009 - Dallas, Texas

The lake looked at the mountain and thought, oh fortunate mountain, rising so high, while I must lie so low. You look far out across the world and take part in many interesting happenings while I can only lie still. How I wish I were a mountain. The mountain looked at the lake and thought, oh fortunate late, lying so close to the warm-breasted earth, while I loom here craggy, cold, and uncomfortable. You are always so peaceful while I am constantly having to battle howling storm and blazing sun. How I wish I were a lake. All the time, quietly, the mountain was coming down in silver streams to run into the lake, and the lake was rising as silver mists to fall as snow upon the mountain.

You know, the grass always looks greener on the other side, doesn't it? So many times in my life, I have had a few different heroes, growing up and to the present. I remember one of my first heroes was Captain America, the Sha-zam guy — I can't remember his name — and Oh Mighty Isis. And then later on, the Lone Ranger and then Superman, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk. And then as I grew up, certain — well, you know actually Jimmy Carter was one of my heroes and Al Gore and eventually Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Theresa, and several others.

And of course, as I began to practice in the sanghas, I could see some of my brothers and sisters who were my peers who seemed to be able to concentrate better than me or were more happy and at peace with themselves than me, or who understood very complex ideas better than me. So, sometimes I would feel that — it depended on the person. Sometimes I felt this great admiration like, they're so wonderful. I wish I could be like that. Or sometimes there would be a feeling of jealousy. But both admiration and jealousy have their shadow sides — not just jealousy, but also admiration if the admiration prevents you from seeing your own worth, your own beauty, your own radiance.

The mountain wished it could be a lake. The lake wished it could be a mountain. Yet the mountain was coming down in silver streams to run into the lake, and the lake was rising as silver mist to fall as snow on the mountain. We interare, so what we admire in others is actually something that is pointing to a beauty that is also in us, and what we are so fond of in ourselves is also in others, whether in potential or manifestation.

A lot of the times in my own practice, I've gotten very judgmental and critical of myself. I'm not growing as fast as this person. I'm not gaining insight as fast as that person, and I still do that from time to time, but there was a moment when I had an awakening glimpse, experience of my true nature, when all that vanished, and I had a deep realization, not just in my head, but in my whole being that there will never be anyone in the whole universe that will be exactly like me, that my way of showing up in the world is absolutely unique, that this particular body/mind expression of Buddha nature is wondrously one of a kind. Not only me, but every single one of you, every being in the universe. And so if that's true, there's no place for comparison any more, because you're the only you there is, which means you are the best you there is. And no matter how convoluted or dramatic your story seems to be as it unfolds, that is the beauty of who you are.

The Buddha wasn't the Buddha in one night. The Buddha had his journey from a prince to a seeker to a meditator to enlightened one, and then to compassionate teacher, and so forth. And of course, if you believe in reincarnation, his path began much earlier in the many lives before, and even if you don't believe in reincarnation, we have past lives because all of our parents and our cultures and the evolution of our planet have taken place to make this life possible. If there was any one moment or day or month or year missing from the Buddha's journey of enlightenment, you take that away, there's no enlightenment. You see? You take away that, you chop it off, there's no way for him to journey forward on the path of enlightenment.

So, even in the same way, there may be days when we wish, oh, I just don't like my life right now. I don't like where I'm at right now. I don't like the way I am right now. My encouragement to you is on those days, remember what I'm saying today, that you are a beautiful being, radiant and unique, and those days are all part of the journey that makes you a Buddha. Don't take any of those — if you took any past lifetime away from the Buddha's journey or any day or month or year or even one moment, you're breaking the path. All of those events all added to the enriching manifestation of Siddhartha Gautama and his particular way of showing up as a Buddha, but you are also a Buddha on your path to Buddhahood. You're a baby Buddha on the path to becoming mature Buddha, and your path is beautiful and unique and special. It's your path. So, maybe your path doesn't look exactly like Buddha's story. That's OK. He's the only Buddha to look exactly like that, and you're the only Buddha to look exactly like that, and you're the only Buddha to look exactly like that, and your journey is the only journey to look exactly like that.

There's a wonderful sutra, which I think I may have read a few months ago, but I'd like to read it again tonight, that expresses this beautiful truth so clearly, I think. I heard these words of the Buddha one time when the Awakened One was living in the vicinity of [Savati] at the [Anika Pindika] Monastery in the Jetta Grove. Late at night, a luminous being appeared whose light made the whole Jetta Grove shine radiantly. After paying respects to the Buddha, she asked him a question in the form of a poem. Many great beings and humans are eager to know, what are the greatest blessings which can bring about a peaceful and happy life? Please, Awakened One, will you teach us?

This is the Buddha's answer: not to be associated with the foolish ones, to live in the company of wise people, honoring those who are worth honoring, this is the greatest happiness. To live in a good environment, to have planted good seeds and to realize that you are on the right path, this is the greatest happiness. To have a chance to learn and grow, to be skillful in your profession or craft, practicing the precepts and loving speech, this is the greatest happiness. To be able to serve and support your parents, to cherish your own family, to have a vocation that brings you joy, this is the greatest happiness. To live honestly, generous and giving, to offer support to relatives and friends, living a life of blameless conduct, this is the greatest happiness. To avoid unwholesome actions not caught by addictions and to be diligent in doing good things, this is the greatest happiness. To be humble and polite in manner, to be grateful and content with a simple life, not missing the occasion to learn the dharma, this is the greatest happiness. To persevere and be open to change, to have regular contact with monks and nuns, and to fully participate in dharma discussions, this is the greatest happiness. To live diligently and attentively, to perceive the noble truths, and to realize nirvana, this is the greatest happiness. To live in the world with your heart undisturbed by the world, with all sorrows ended, dwelling in peace, this is the greatest happiness. For he or she who accomplishes this, unvanquished wherever she goes, always she is safe and happy, for happiness lives within oneself.

I always find it interesting that instead of giving one answer, such as to realize nirvana, this is the greatest happiness — that's the classic answer. Nirvana means extinguishment, which means the extinguishment of all suffering and ignorance and attachment and all of that other stuff. To realize nirvana, this is the greatest happiness of course, but why are all these other things also the greatest happiness? You know, usually when you say greatest, it's just one, right? But if you say many, there's — you have to pick one out of those.

So, as I meditated on this sutra, I began to see that these ten stanzas were almost like someone's progression on the path. You see? And of course, ending in nirvana and all sorrows ended, dwelling in peace, but beginning with, well, not to be associated with foolish ones. You know, basically kind of pulling away from the negative influences and just trying to hang around with good people. That's kind of a good beginning for some people, and then it goes on and on, you know, mindful, kind living, and then listening to the dharma and hanging around with spiritual people, monks and nuns, having dharma discussions, being in sangha probably.

To me it looked like a progression of someone's path, but here's the point that the Buddha's making. Every part of that path, every leg of that journey, is the greatest happiness if — if — instead of rejecting it, instead of saying, "I don't like this phase in my life. I wish I could be the mountain or the lake. I wish I could be in the future already. I wish I could be like that person. I wish I could already be a Buddha, a fully mature Buddha." Instead of doing that, if you can just be right here and right now with whatever it is this moment, this phase, this lifetime, this body, this mind, and just do what is to be done in this phase. OK.

So, maybe you're not ready for two hours of meditation each day, but maybe that's not what you're supposed to do in this particular phase. Maybe this particular phase is not hanging around with the people that keep making you drink too much or do things that are harmful for you. Just kind of staying away from that crowd, going to 12-step meetings or something, that is what you are called to do, and that is your Buddha duty in this phase. Just do it, and do it with your whole heart, knowing that that is enough for right now, and if you can do that, that is the greatest happiness, just as much as the greatest happiness of when, in the future, you realize perfect nirvana.

You see? This is the greatest happiness, right here, right now, to appreciate the beauty of this crazy-looking body, the beauty of this warped kind of mind, the drama of this particular phase of your life.

I had a dream a few weeks ago where I was sitting in church, and I was meditating, and I asked God in the dream, "God, you who are the expression of perfection, you create perfectly a perfect creation, and I am your creation. I am your perfect creation. Why would you create me as a perfect creation and then let me mess up so many times in my life?" It just doesn't make any sense to me. And as I was meditating in my dream, I heard the voice of God in my heart, and it said, "It's because I have a sense of humor." I loved that answer. I really do believe that was a divine dream. That is so perfect of an answer. I love that. I think about that from time to time, if I'm taking myself too seriously or if I'm judging myself too much or if I'm too critical about where I'm at in my practice or my life.

And of course, as I've shared before, that reminds me of another dream I had many years ago when I saw the Dalai Lama in Tibet in this dream. I was in his monastery, and all these dignitaries were there, and we were waiting for the Dalai Lama to appear, and so I was told to bow all the way to the ground and not to look up until spoken to and not to speak unless spoken to, all of that, and so the gong went off, and everyone went to the floor, and I heard people coming in, and I started getting nervous, and I started thinking, oh my gosh. I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt and all these monks and dignitaries and high officials and government officials are here. What am I doing here?

And then I thought, what if the Dalai Lama really is the incarnation of a high bodhisattva, and he's developed through meditation practice many psychic abilities, and he can read my mind, and he can listen to me talking like this in my mind right now, and he can see how nervous I am and that even though I'm trying to be spiritual and trying to meditate, and I'm really not that great about it, and I think too much about sex and blah, blah, blah. I'm like, oh my gosh. He's going to see all of this. And I was so nervous and I began to sweat in the dream. And all of a sudden, I felt something touch my head, and liquid love poured through my body and washed away all of that into just peace, and I dared to look up, and it was the Dalai Lama as a five-year-old child, giggling, smiling, and he said, "Come. Play with me."

And with those words, I heard the voice of the Buddha, the voice of the divine, speak directly to me: "Come. Play with me." And my heart was pierced, and I began to cry and sob with love and joy and relief and laughter, so much so that I woke myself up because I was actually crying in real life, not just in the dream, and that was such a powerful breakthrough experience for me, and I still of course come to places of judging myself and forgetting that I am a beautiful Buddha, too — all of that — but when I do remember that dream, when I can remember that dream, it helps me to relax and remember, I'm just a baby Buddha.

The divine reality of the universe isn't judging me, isn't condemning me, isn't saying to this baby Buddha, "Oh, goodness. They're wobbling while they're trying to learn how to walk. How awful." No. Just like you as a parent or an uncle or an aunt or big brother or big sister, when you see a baby taking its first steps, and it falls, it's so cute. And that's the way we are held by reality. When we think we mess up, we're held in that love. We are so precious and cute, even in our falls. Come. Play with me. It's because I have a sense of humor. This is the greatest happiness.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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