Buddha statue quiet lake
A Heart-Centered Approach to Zen Living
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A Heart-Centered Approach to Zen Living (69 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
November 7, 2009 - Austin Zen Center - Austin, Texas

Good morning, everyone. Whenever I give a talk for the first time someplace, I always feel a little bit nervous. But over the years of practice, I have realized that being nervous or feeling nervous is not a problem. It is not a problem at all. It is just what is going on in the body and the mind.

I remember the first time I went to a retreat with my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, in California about 10 years ago. In the middle of the 5- or 6-day retreat, he was not feeling well, and so he asked his niece, who is also a dharma teacher, to give the talk that day in front of 900 people. And this was her first time to talk in front of so many people. So the first thing she did when she spoke was she said, "Breathing in, I am aware that 800 people are looking up in. Breathing out, I am nervous."

I just love that. And she gave such a wonderful talk which was so sincere from her heart, and that actually was the moment in the retreat where I had a breakthrough, and I cried for the first time during that retreat, just letting everything out, just letting everything empty.

Well, this morning, I would like to start my talk with a poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, and by the way, today is just a little bit different than what we normally do. So if you're here for the first time, please come again next week. I think it will be more normal. But today, just enjoy the flow and the spontaneity. And I am actually not quite exactly sure what I am going to be talking about today. I did not have as much time to prepare as I had wanted to because of various circumstances this week. But that is okay also. That is not a problem. The only time something is a problem is when we make it a problem, and every moment we can just be ourselves.

So I have a few things here and some notes that I wrote down last night and this morning, but I do not know if I will use them or not. I'm just going to see what happens. So instead of calling this a dharma talk this morning, let us call it a dharma collage or maybe dharma potpourri. I will start out the collage this morning with a poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, "Our True Heritage."

So why don't you just take a moment to just—and you can read along if you want to. Does everyone have a copy? Raise your hand if you don't. I want you to have one. We have a few more copies. All right. And you can just close your eyes, too, while I read the poem. Let us just take a deep breath right now, feeling the breath, feeling the body, feeling this room, present with each other, knowing that we are supported by life with each breath, that the whole universe embraces us here and now. The cosmos is filled with precious gems too. I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.

Each moment you are alive is a gem shining through and containing earth and sky, water and clouds. It needs you to breathe gently for the miracles to be displayed. Suddenly you hear the birds singing, the pines chanting. See the flowers blooming, the blue sky, the white clouds, smile at the marvelous look of your beloved. You, the richest person on earth, who has been going around begging for a living, stop being that destitute child. Come back and claim your heritage. We can enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone. So cherish this very moment. Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms.

So, dear friends, this morning, I'm going to offer a handful of gems to you from my practice and my life, and of course I want to dedicate this dharma talk to all of my teachers personally in my life as well as all the ones I have never really met in person. I want to say a thank you to Blanche Hartman, because I first met her at a pro-peace/antiwar rally in San Francisco. The Buddhists were doing a sit for peace, and so I saw her there. Someone had told me who she was, so I bowed to her, and she bowed to me. That was my first meeting with her several years ago.

Then a few years later, I met her again because someone I was in a relationship with, that was their teacher, and so I met her once again. And then a couple of years later, I was invited to participate in a ceremony for someone to receive the precepts who was both a Soto Zen practitioner and a practitioner in Thich Nhat Hanh's community. So there were representatives from both communities at the ceremony, and so I got to sit right next to Blanche, and again I was able to say hello to her.

And here I am in Austin rather than San Francisco and lo and behold, the Temple that this place is dedicated to her, the name is her name, and also the teacher Kosho, who is presently here, who is actually ill right now, but he is here across the way. Blanche is his teacher. So I don't know what it is about my connection with Blanche karmically, but I must say thank you to her because of her I get to be here in this room with all of you at this particular time. So thank you.

I also want to say thank you to Kosho of course and also to Lyn Fine, who is my dharma teacher who trained me in my preparation to enter the Order of Interbeing, and of course to my beloved teacher, Thay, Thich Nhat Hanh, who is my teacher in this tradition.

I want to start off with a story that Thich Nhat Hanh told about going to the forest and needing to pee. And so he went over to this tree because there was no restroom nearby, and he really needed to go pee, and so he went to this tree, and as he was about to pee, he realized that this tree was sacred and it was a beautiful being and how could he possibly pee on the tree? And so he bowed to the tree, and then he went over to a bush near by. As he was about to pee, again he had that thought, this tree is just as sacred and beautiful as that tree. I couldn't possibly desecrate the bush by peeing on it. So then he went over to a rock, and the same thing happens. He realized this rock is a beautiful expression of the dharma, Buddha nature. How can he pee on the rock? But then as he meditated deeply while really having the urge to pee, he realized that his pee is sacred also, and he let go with grace and ease.

Well, that is something that I have been experiencing in my own practice. As I practice with the various forms of the different traditions that I practice with, in the Vietnamese tradition, the Chinese tradition, the Korean tradition, the Japanese tradition, secular meditation traditions, they all have different forms, and I try to learn them and honor them and flow with them. But sometimes we can get a little bit stuck in a form or a ritual or a rule. And the Buddha offered us various different ways to help us practice but also with the warning, do not be caught in anything. And so, as I have been practicing, I have been practicing with that, being respectful of all the forms and also to know that all those forms are there to help me and all beings.

It is kind of like what Jesus said in another tradition, that the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath. So, the rules and regulations, the rituals and forms are there to benefit us. But we also need to be careful not to get caught in any of them to realize that we ourselves are Buddha nature in expression. We ourselves are dharma, beautiful and radiant.

One of the things that I've come across in my own life is seeing different practitioners in the various traditions, some of them after several years, they become so heartful, so mindful, so gentle, and so loving. But there is always a couple here and there in each tradition that I have observed that for some reason, they turn out more rigid. They have more suffering. They feel more miserable. Their heart is more closed. And I've been meditating with that—why is that—over the years. And at first I thought, well, it is because their tradition is not up to par or something, but that is not the case.

By the way, as I've studied each tradition, they all have one thing in common. They all say they are the correct way. Well, I think they are all correct in some different ways. I kind of find that all the traditions are like all light, but maybe they are like a prism being refracted with different colors of light. It is just a different variation of the one light of Buddha nature.

So in my own observation and reflection, I think I'm coming across the answer to what makes the difference in the practice for those who after years of practice become more light and free and those who seem to become more rigid and miserable. And I think it has to do with the heart.

And so one possible title of my talk this morning is a heart-centered approach to Zen living. And of course, if some of you are from other traditions, you can just say a heart-centered approach to mindful living or a heart-centered approach to yogic living or whatever your tradition is. I really feel like the heart has a special place, and that does not mean that the heart is the only aspect of our practice. Of course we have major energy centers in our body that represent different aspects of consciousness, and one very important one is right here in the abdomen. That is very important also, but I do not think we can neglect the heart in our practice.

In one scientific study, speaking of the heart on a literal level, they are finding out that 60% of the heart is neural cells, just like the brain, and it emits an electromagnetic field. The brain also emits an electromagnetic field, but the heart does also, and the heart's field is 1,000 times stronger than the field that the brain produces. And so, they are beginning to realize that the heart also has a function of consciousness, just like the brain, and of course every organ and every cell of the body has the function of consciousness. But the heart definitely does, and it radiates and emits this field of energy.

In Buddhism, a word that we use to indicate the heart is chitta, or consciousness, or mind. But I really prefer to transmit this heart. When Asians point to their mind—Westerners usually point up here to the head. But when Asians point their minds, they put their finger to the heart. So it is this understanding of the mind as the heart. A word in Mahayana Buddhism that speaks about a heart-centered approach to life is the term bodhichitta. Bodhi means enlightened. Chitta means heart. Enlightened heart or awakening heart. And what this means is the heart is a mind that is living life to the benefit of all beings. It is this attitude that my practice is for others, and that I believe is the secret to our practice being more heartful and able to generate and express gentleness and kindness in our practice.

Another way of expressing this word bodhichitta is through the term brahmaviharas. Brahmavihara literally means divine dwelling. There are four qualities of the heart that are said to be the divine dwelling. There are these Hindu Brahmin priests in India a long time ago who asked the Buddha, "How do we live with Brahma when we die? How can we be assured that we will be reborn in his realm?" And the Buddha being very interfaith did not argue with them about these afterlife questions. He simply said, "If you want to dwell in the divine, then you need to dwell where the divine dwells, and where does the divine dwell? In lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Maitri, karuna, mudita, upeksha.

And so of course, the deeper meaning of this is that we do not have to die to go to heaven to be with the divine, but if we can live our lives in the quality of the heart which is the love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, that is itself already dwelling in that divine heart, which you can call bodhichitta.

p> So in that spirit, I would like to invite us to sing and chant a song that is based on the brahmaviharas. I call it Buddhist prayer, and I am going to sing it once through and then my friend Sam will sing it with me. And then on the third and fourth and maybe fifth time, I would love for us all to sing it together. And before we chant this and sing this, I would love for you all to say the word Buddha. Say it one time.

Audience: Buddha.

ChiSing: Now say it with no energy and no enthusiasm.

Audience: Buddha.

ChiSing: Now say it with the full energy of your heart and all of your energy centers and your whole presence.

Audience: Buddha.

ChiSing: All right. Now as we sing and chant, that is how we sing and that is how we chant, with our whole being in the heart.

(Sings) May all beings be happy and free. May all beings transform their suffering. May all beings rejoice in all joys. May all beings be at peace.

May all beings be happy and free. May all beings transform their suffering. May all beings rejoice in all joys. May all beings be at peace.

ChiSing: All together.

Audience: May all beings be happy and free. May all beings transform their suffering. May all beings rejoice in all joys. May all beings be at peace.

May all beings be happy and free. May all beings transform their suffering. May all beings rejoice in all joys. May all beings be at peace.

May all beings be happy and free. May all beings transform their suffering. May all beings rejoice in all joys. May all beings be at peace.

Some of you may be wondering what in the world is the singing doing in the Soto Zen Center. And it is true that in early Buddhism for the monastic community and possibly for the lay community as well, the practice was to refrain from singing and dancing, as these were entertainment that would distract us from the steadiness of just being here and now, not being attached to beauty, not being aversive to what feels challenging and negative, but being even with everything.

But of course, every tradition evolves and grows, and in the Mahayana movement, which began about 400 or 500 years after Buddhism began, there was this idea of incorporating the art and anything that would be a skillful means or upaya that can help all beings to enter through the doorway of dharma and to begin the practice of transformation and liberation. And so there was a heavy emphasis on bodhisattvas, awakening beings who vowed with a bodhichitta heart that in their enlightenment, they will serve all beings, that they will in their path always have the attitude of, for the benefit of others.

And so many bodhisattvas began to appear in the literature of Mahayana Buddhism, such as wonderful sound bodhisattva, who uses music to draw in and attract beings who are lost in ignorance, craving, and aversion to bring them to the practice of dharma. So, since Zen Buddhism and Soto Zen Buddhism are part of Mahayana Buddhism, it is okay. In fact, in China and Korea and Vietnam, music is used quite frequently as part of dharma practice in the Zen temples there.

In the bramavihara maitri, also called metta practice, which you may have heard of, there is a meditation practice of first of all sending love to yourself: May I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be free. And then when you feel very solid in the practice of sending yourself metta, lovingkindness, the next part of the meditation exercise is to then send somebody easy love. So you think of that person, visualize them, and then from your heart with words or with the feeling or with the visualization of lights, just offer them, may you be happy. May you be free. May you be peaceful, etc. Once you feel strong and established in that love, then after few minutes or hours or days or weeks or months or however long it takes, you can send it to someone neutral. May you be happy, free, peaceful, joyful, healthy, whole. And then, after a while, you can send it to someone a little difficult, then the more difficult. Eventually in your practice, you can send equanimous love to all beings in all directions everywhere, May all beings be happy and free.

But as I have shared some of those practices in different cities where I've run retreats, I've noticed something. This sequence is supposed to be done from the easiest to most difficult, and yet for many of us Westerners, the first one, sending love to ourselves, is so difficult. There is so much psychological baggage in our culture, so much self-hatred, a lot of low self-esteem. Many of us have not just a monkey mind but a critic mind going on 24/7, 365.

So I've come up with a new practice to augment this practice. And I only say that half jokingly, because actually, I am sure it occurred to the Buddha and others to do this in different ways, and today there are many teachers that also do this. But before sending lovingkindness to myself, I practice the practice of gratitude to realize the lovingkindness that I have already received from all beings, from others, the universe, from life, the love that is already there. And I let that seep in deeply as I practice.

So before I even start trying to send love, I just deeply sit in the love that is already there for me: the fact that I have breath, the fact that my heart is beating, that the sun is shining, that through centuries of transmission, I have received dharma that I can practice here and now, that I have food to eat every day, that I have so much love in my life. And I sometimes forget that, because my mind is so focused on the negative, so focused on what is not right.

And there's a mantra in our tradition which is, what is right? It's the question. What is right right now? Because we're so used to going to the negative, especially with ourselves. What is right? What is beautiful? What is good? What is true? So, I think that this is one of the secrets to that heart practice I was talking about earlier, the practice of gratitude. And one time a couple of years ago, this hit home really deeply as I was sitting there practicing and focusing on my heart, bodhichitta, breathing in and breathing out.

For many years before that, my practice was, okay I've got to sit. It is my duty. I must sit. I've got to meditate in the morning. I have to get enlightened. I really want to transform my suffering. But all of a sudden in the middle of my meditation in the morning, everything just got released: all of this trouble, all of the strain, all of the trying just suddenly melted into this peaceful awareness and realization that nothing was coming from me. The fact that I could sit and practice came from other causes and conditions. Even this body that I was sitting in did not come from me. It came from the food that I ate, which came from the universe, my parents, my ancestors. The fact that I even wanted to sit, that desire did not even come from me. It came from all of the causes and conditions that conspired for my good, all of these spiritual experiences and teachers and life circumstances that led me to this here and now.

And in that moment, I just let go and I realized that everything is a gift and that my practice is a gift and when I commit myself and dedicate myself every day to this practice, that is a gift because that comes from the heart of bodhichitta, the enlightened mind, which does not come from me. It is the heart of the universe expressing in, through, and as this body, this mind, this moment.

So now as I sit and as I walk mindfully and as I live my life from the heart, it is no longer trying to get something, trying to struggle, trying to stride, at least not all the time. It is more sitting with gratitude. I get to just sit and receive and be aware of this gift of life. And that has shifted my practice greatly, and maybe it can help shift your practice also. Maybe your practice has already shifted in that direction of the awakening heart.

One time I was at a monastery in California, and in the morning the monks were doing their vows and chanting and practice, and I was practicing with them. And they began chanting some things in English, and then they began chanting something in Vietnamese, and I am Chinese, so I didn't understand what they were chanting, and as I sat there listening to their chanting, my heart began to glow and radiate, and I had this inner mental picture in my mind of this mountain with the sun just beginning to rise and the Buddha and hundreds of monks and nuns and lay people with the pulsing and the chanting, and with a gentle smile on the face. This hopeful, victorious chant, as if yes, all beings are included, no longer excluded. Everyone together enlightened. And in that moment, I thought, this must be the Heart Sutra that they are chanting. And when I had that thought, the moment I had that thought, a second later, they started doing, "Gate gate paramgate, parasamgate, bodhi swaha." The heart knows, but the mind may not always understand.

I am not going to go into great detail on that beautiful mantra, but one of the deep meanings is that: Gone, gone, gone all the way. Everyone gone all the way, enlightenment. Yahoo! It is this overwhelming positive joyful truth. It is already done. It is already the fact. Enlightenment is who we are, and it does not exclude anyone. Everyone is included. That is cause for celebration in our life, and that is cause to live a life that is centered from the heart for all beings.

I would like for us to chant another song together. The brahmaviharas, which I will accompany with my sruti box. So you do not have to look at the paper. You can just listen, and it is a kirtan style. So just repeat after me. And let us place our palms together at the heart to really get in touch with that bodhichitta, that vow for all beings. And if you prefer, you can also have your hands open. It is up to you. We will chant from our full being and our bodhichitta.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara maitri.
Audience: Brahmavihara maitri.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara karuna.
Audience: Brahmavihara karuna.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara mudita.
Audience: Brahmavihara mudita.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara upeksha.
Audience: Brahmavihara upeksha.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara maitri.
Audience: Brahmavihara maitri.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara karuna.
Audience: Brahmavihara karuna.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara mudita.
Audience: Brahmavihara mudita.

ChiSing: Brahmavihara upeksha.
Audience: Brahmavihara upeksha.

ChiSing: May all beings be happy.
Audience: May all beings be happy.

ChiSing: May all beings be free.
Audience: May all beings be free.

ChiSing: May all beings be joyful.
Audience: May all beings be joyful.

ChiSing: May all beings be at peace.
Audience: May all beings be at peace.

ChiSing: Over the years of my practice, there has been a particular tradition in Buddhism that has meant a lot to me. And I appreciate all the different traditions of Buddhism. I just think of them as different prismatic refractions of the one light, truth. There is of course the Zen tradition, which I love to practice, and there is the Theravada tradition, which I love as well. The brahmaviharas are practiced very strongly in that tradition. And the Tibetan tradition. But also the Pure Land tradition, which actually is the largest branch of Buddhism in the world. It is not so well known in this particular country, but the total number of Pure Land Buddhists outnumber all the other Buddhists in the world.

And their particular practice is entrusting their hearts to the Buddha Amitabha of infinite light, who has created a realm, a Pure Land of infinite light, so that when you're reborn there, you can practice in such a way that it is easier to be enlightened in just one lifetime. To me, that is a mythological story to point to a deeper truth, and I really believe that it is just a skillful means, an upaya, of a presentation of the Mahayana concept of bodhichitta, the awakening heart for all beings, the heart of love.

Because even though some who are at the beginning stages of practice are trying to entrust themselves to an external Buddha in a faraway land in the West, whatever that means, in this realm, yet as they deepen in that practice, almost all of them will say that in fact who they truly are, their true nature is Amitabha and the Pure Land is right here.

And so I have been practicing with that beautiful word Amitabha as I sit, as I walk, as I breathe, as I eat, as I greet others, as I hug others. Amitabha is just singing in my heart throughout the day, and I use that as a reminder that I am always being supported by all Buddhas and bodhisattvas. I believe that Amitabha, it's not just one word but represents—it is just a shorthand for all Buddhas and bodhisattvas, all the support of the universe. And so I practice in that gratitude that I am always being supported in every moment, that everything in my life is conspiring for liberation. Even when it doesn't feel like it.

You know one time in my meditation group in Dallas, while we were sitting, a little beetle started to come across the room and went underneath the mats, and so the brother there tried to hold the beetle in, but it just kept running around and got scared or whatever. He tried to get him gently without hurting him and then finally got him and put him in his hand. And probably the beetle was thinking, oh my gosh. I am trapped. But he put him outside into freedom.

And maybe in your life, you might be wondering, what the heck is the universe doing? What is going on? This doesn't feel like all the support of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Maybe it is. Because the story is not finished. It is not over yet. From our limited human perspective, it does not always feel like we are being supported, but we have to realize that there is a larger picture over time and space, and I do believe in my heart of hearts that everything is conspiring toward our liberation, even when we don't feel it.

But that word Amitabha is just my reminder, and you could use another word, any word really. It just reminds me that I am always being supported in walking in that infinite love and light that supports me in every breath. But deeper than that realization is this realization, that my life is for all beings, that this mythological story of Amitabha and the Pure Land is actually a profound blueprint of our mission on earth to realize our true nature as infinite light and love and life, that we are here to realize that here is the Pure Land and also to manifest that tangibly through our words, through our actions, through our livelihood, through our work in the world.

You know, some of you have jobs, and some of you may be in between jobs like me. But we have only one true job behind our job. We have the career of the bodhisattva, the career of bodhichitta, the career of Amitabha. This is our mission. This is the blueprint for why we are here. So I find shorthand mantras very helpful. I have a very major monkey mind, and that is not a problem either. But it does help me when I can just use the shorthand, because every time I come back to my breath, to my body, to this present moment and to that heart of Amitabha or bodhichitta, it is an instantaneous shorthand reminder to me of all that support.

So please, I encourage you, there is no need to struggle and strive in the practice. Let the Buddha breathe. Let the Buddha walk. Let the Buddha work. Let the Buddha hug. Let the Buddha shine through that infinite light of bodhichitta, of Amitabha.

My teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a poem after he was in Korea. He led a walking meditation. There were thousands of people, reporters, flash cameras, and he was supposed to lead this public walking meditation. It was so crowded. So he took a deep breath, and he said in his heart, "Okay. I cannot walk. Buddha in me, please walk for me." And so he just let go of any human struggle and allowed true nature just to manifest in that moment as him, as his very own body, and he took a step, and the Red Sea parted, and everyone quieted down. He led one of the most beautiful historic walking meditations in Korea.

And so he wrote this beautiful poem in Vietnamese: "Let the Buddha breathe. Let the Buddha walk. I don't have to breathe. I don't have to walk. The Buddha is breathing. The Buddha is walking. I enjoy the breathing. I enjoy the walking. Buddha is the breathing. Buddha is the walking. I am breathing. I am the walking. There is just breathing. There is just walking. There is no breather. There is no walker. Peace and joy while breathing. Peace and joy while walking. Peace and joy the breathing. Peace and joy the walking."

This is a very profound poem, deep practice, and realization. I put it to music, and I would like everybody to sing together. And again you do not have to even look at the words. You can just repeat after me. And as we think this, really allow yourself to let go into that vast, infinite power that already is who you are, that you do not need to struggle and just let it be.

ChiSing: Let the Buddha breathe.
Audience: Let the Buddha breathe.

ChiSing: Let the Buddha walk.
Audience: Let the Buddha walk.

ChiSing: I don't have to breathe.
Audience: I don't have to breathe.

ChiSing: I don't have to walk.
Audience: I don't have to walk.

ChiSing: The Buddha is breathing.
Audience: The Buddha is breathing.

ChiSing: The Buddha is walking.
Audience: The Buddha is walking.

ChiSing: I enjoy the breathing.
Audience: I enjoy the breathing.

ChiSing: I enjoy the walking.
Audience: I enjoy the walking.

ChiSing: Buddha is the breathing.
Audience: Buddha is the breathing.

ChiSing: Buddha is the walking.
Audience: Buddha is the walking.

ChiSing: I am the breathing.
Audience: I am the breathing.

ChiSing: I am the walking.
Audience: I am the walking.

ChiSing: There is just the breathing.
Audience: There is just the breathing.

ChiSing: There is just the walking.
Audience: There is just the walking.

ChiSing: There is no breather.
Audience: There is no breather.

ChiSing: There is no walker.
Audience: There is no walker.

ChiSing: Peace and joy while breathing.
Audience: Peace and joy while breathing.

ChiSing: Peace and joy while walking.
Audience: Peace and joy while walking.

ChiSing: Peace and joy the breathing.
Audience: Peace and joy the breathing.

ChiSing: Peace and joy the walking.
Audience: Peace and joy the walking.

ChiSing: Breathing, walking.
Audience: Breathing, walking.

ChiSing: Sitting, chanting.
Audience: Sitting, chanting.

ChiSing: Working, playing.
Audience: Working, playing.

ChiSing: Breathing, walking.
Audience: Breathing, walking.

ChiSing: Well, there's a lot more I could share. As we get to closing the talk, there are some other poems that my teacher has written and also that I wrote on the sheet of paper. So everyone is welcome to take this home with you. If you would like to have more information or read more poems by my teacher, you can go to my website awakeningheart.org.

Many times in our practice, we might want to just do what is easiest, just do what relieves our suffering. In Buddhism, according to the Mahayana perspective, this is called the Hinayana way, the little vehicle. But then there are those of us that want only the ultimate truth. We want only the absolute truth, only the best practice, only the errorless way. I think that that can be a trap, too, because what happens is what is called spiritual bypass. And many times we are bypassing the heart. You want to go right to the aura or you just want to focus on the third eye or whatever your terminology is and symbolism.

But all of it is Buddha nature, the ultimate truth and the relative truth, the Samadhi of Zazen and the Pure Land of Amitabha. All of it is all part of the package. In Japan, the Pure Land schools and the Zen schools are somewhat opposed, unlike in China and Vietnam and possibly Korea where the Pure Land and Zen schools have cooperated over the centuries. And I suppose it is kind of like it is maybe a cultural thing.

You know, in Chinese culture, in cuisine for instance, you throw everything into a wok and stir it up and mix in some fried rice. But in Japan, it is like everything is in Bento boxes all separately. And the same thing with schools of Buddhism, very separate. But in China, many times you'll find because of practical reasons, you've got one monastery with all these different practitioners of different traditions. It is just practical.

But there is sometimes war between one power and another power. The Zen Buddhists say it is all about self power, because no one can get enlightened for you. You must practice for you. No one else can breathe for you or walk for you. You must do it. And then the Pure Land Buddhism, it is like, that is all ego. That is all ego, and that is just ego and karma. You need to trust your heart to the Buddha of infinite light who can liberate us all.

But in my practice, I have discovered there is no opposition between self power and other power, because as I practice in self power, I realize that the self is nonself, and it is all supporting me. This thing I call self is made up of everything else, of all others, and is supported by the other power of all of you bodhisattvas and all the Buddhas of the universe. And as I entrust myself to other power, as in the Pure Land tradition, as I deepen in the practice, I discover that other power is not separate from myself. That other power is simply a mirror, just like the Buddha statue, Manjushri here. They are not idols. They are 3-D mirrors reflecting back to us who we are, our true nature. Other power, self power, no separation, no difference.

So please practice with the heart of Amitabha, bodhichitta, lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Practice knowing that you have the support of the whole universe, that your mission here in life is to let the light shine, to create the Pure Land here on earth, and in doing that, you won't commit the tragic path of spiritual bypass. Let's not bypass the heart in our practice.

I would like to ask Sam to sing a song for us, and then we will close with a closing chant. Thank you so much for listening and sitting, being very focused.

Sam: I would just like to say, ChiSing, that was a beautiful talk. Thank you very much from the heart. Yeah. [Inaudible] participate pretty quickly. Oh, am I nervous. All right. This is a song I wrote. It is called, "Realize."

(Plays guitar and sings)

ChiSing: Thank you.

Sam: You are very welcome.

ChiSing: We are going to close with a chant, Amitabha. It is very simple, so you probably do not even need to look at your sheet. I just want to mention that my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has a new book called "Happiness," which is a wonderful book, and I think every practitioner ought to have a copy and also share with someone, especially if you have a family and a spouse or children or if you are a teacher. It is just a wonderful book with mindfulness practices to help you in your daily life. I have several copies if you would like to get one afterwards.

And so I do want to just do one quote to preface this chant. Suzuki Roshi, who founded this particular branch of Soto Zen here in America, he said this in the book "Not Always So." "When people say ‘Namo amida butsu'"—which means gratitude to Amitabha Buddha—"they want to be Amitabha Buddha's children. That is why they practice repeating Amitabha Buddha's name. The same is true with our Zazen practice. If we know how to practice shikantaza, just sitting, and if they know how to chant Amitabha's name, it cannot be different." So let us chant together in the spirit of Zazen, with our palms together at the heart and repeating after me the first couple of times, and then we can chant together.

ChiSing: Amitabha.
Audience: Amitabha.

ChiSing: Amitabha.
Audience: Amitabha.

ChiSing: Amitabha.
Audience: Amitabha.

ChiSing: Amitabha.
Audience: Amitabha.

ChiSing: All together now.

Audience: Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha.

ChiSing: May we realize that we are always supported by beings of light and love. May we and all beings be happy and free. May we and all beings transform our suffering. May we and all beings rejoice in all joys. May we and all beings be at peace, awakening to the truth of who we are.

Audience: Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha. Amitabha.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch