Paddling a raft Ocean sunset
Listen to this talk:
A Raft of Refuge for All Beings (20 min.) MP3
"A Raft of Refuge for All Beings"
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
Awakening Heart (Community of Mindful Living)
May 23, 2010 - Dallas, Texas

Buddha's Birthday Celebration 2010
Dallas Meditation Center Open House Weekend

You know as I was sitting in meditation with you tonight, inevitably there is always going to be someone shuffling, moving their legs or coughing or sneezing or something, and that's all part of the practice. Those are actually a good part of the meditation because when they happen it gives you the opportunity to just still breathe. And just, can you still be aware of your breathing as the sound is happening. It's almost like here's my breath and here's the sound, it's like --- breath --- sound ---, but I'm still aware of the breath even as there's a sound. And even as I'm having a thought, I'm still aware of the breath. It's almost as if when you're breathing in, you're breathing in awareness of the entire universe; and when you're breathing out, you're breathing out awareness of the entire universe. So no matter what's happening, it's happening within the space of the in-breath, within the infinite space of the out-breath. You see it's not like either or. It's not like either you're having a thought, hearing a sound or having an itch in your body or you're mindful of the breath and the body. It's not like either or; it's like simultaneous, you see? And one thing that really helped me as I was a beginning meditator was to kind of visualize myself like a blank white screen - a movie screen. And that all the thoughts and all the sounds and all the body twitches and irritations I was feeling during meditation where just like a light projector projecting onto the screen. But instead of focusing on the movie, I focus on the screen. And I realized that the screen (as I'm breathing in) is just kind of rolling up and down in and out - breathing in, breathing out. And the light is doing that, but the light is not affecting the screen. The light is not affecting the screen. It is still a pure screen untouched by whatever thoughts, or sounds or irritations you're feeling. It's still there and that's what we do in meditation. We're not getting rid of our thoughts, we're not getting rid of sounds, we're not getting rid of feelings. We are simply coming back to that original pure nature of who we really are - vast and free. And it's always there simultaneous with those projected lights onto our screen. But instead of focusing and getting all caught up in the drama of our thinking mind, we relax into that vast pure mind that's always there. Breathing in, breathing out - here and now. But inevitably as I sat here I thought of when I used to be a substitute teacher in a preschool, you know there's nap time. (…laughing) All of you are like baby Buddhas taking a nap with me, but some are squirming, some are not quite getting asleep, but that's ok. But it was just a cute image. (…more laughing)

Well, this morning, I went to a bible church with a couple friends from Austin who came up for this occasion. So thank you to my friends for coming all the way up from Austin. We decided to go to the nearest church because by the time we were going to get to a church that I actually like we were going to be very late. So we ended up going to this church that's only three minutes away that's a bible church and actually it's a branch off of a church that excommunicated me twenty years ago for my liberal views and ways. But you know what, I realized that now it is different. In each moment everything's different, everything's fresh and I was going to give them one more chance. Because they're not the same as they were twenty years ago, it's all different now. So anyway, it was really beautiful music and some of the songs were so uplifting because I could tell that everyone there really, really sincerely felt like praising the One with their whole heart. And it made me happy to see that. That even in a church that excommunicated me twenty years ago - any of the religious traditions - there are people that are just opening their hearts to the infinite light whatever they call it. And that made me very happy. Even if I didn't agree with some of the words in the songs which you know it doesn't really matter. I knew what they were really meaning in their heart beyond words. And then during the sermon it was interesting to hear what the minister had to say. He was talking about how Christianity (in this particular case it was a Christian church) grew from a small little band of a few disciples to a whole worldwide movement. And he said it's because of love. And yes I do believe that that is a very crucial ingredient in the popularity of Christianity; however, if you look at the history another reason why Christianity exploded and was able to spread so much was also because of militarism and government support by the emperor and persecuting anyone who didn't agree with the particular church. So yes there was love and also this other side. (…laughter)

He also said something about -oh, by the way I've been having short term memory loss the last couple of months and it's getting worse and worse I don't know why. I'm just breathing with it. But I've lost my keys like every day this week, and it takes me a while to find out. But anyway, so I'm having that moment again. But you know this reminds me of another teacher who had Alzheimer's but was still teaching meditation. But he was such a beautiful teacher and one time he suddenly forgot everything for a few minutes. Like he didn't even know where he was. He didn't know why he was sitting in front of all these people. And so all he did was he did what he knew intuitively from his heart which you can't forget whatever you intuitively know from your heart. So he just sat there and breathed in and breathed out and he just spoke what his experience was:

"Breathing in, breathing out. Feeling a little nervous, feeling a little scared. Feeling uncertain why I'm here. Feeling uncertain why these people are sitting here looking at me. My heart is racing, but it's starting to slow down. Feeling some sweat, breathing in,breathing out, feeling calmer. Breathing in, breathing out, feeling more at peace. Breathing in, breathing out, feeling grateful."
And there was not a dry eye in the room. He did this for twenty minutes until his memory came back and he understood why he was there and what the talk was he was going to give.

That is the power of this practice to me. It's not about words, it's not about whether you're the best speaker or the best singer or the best person with the best memory. It's about allowing yourself to just go back to the heart which knows beyond the thinking mind. Just go back to the heart and be from there, act from there. Just be yourself - just breathe. You know those of you who know me very well, right before, I was frantic trying to… Because I've been really like trying to set up everything and this was a lot of stuff I've never done before with creating a center and it's taken a toll on me mentally and physically. But I do it out of love and happiness and joy. But I was kind of running around right before but everyone said, "have you meditated yet, have you meditated yet?" I said, "Ok, ok." So I sat for 40 minutes before we started and that really was so beautiful. And I had one friend from Austin sit with me and then another friend from the Sangha came in the room and sat the last few minutes with us. And it wasn't sitting to prepare for something else, it was just sitting to enjoy sitting. It was sitting just to enjoy being with just a couple of friends. And whether you're in a room with one friend or a thousand friends, it really doesn't matter because there's only one of us. And that's why I meditate, I think, because it is the most powerful way I know of just sinking in to the remembrance, melting into the oneness. It just helps me to touch those moments once again when I'd really deeply remember who I am (as Robin sang earlier) and to feel the reality of the oneness that there's really only one of us here. There's only one of us here expressing itself through many, many bodies, many minds, many personality types. Each tradition is so beautiful. Each tradition is a different expression of that oneness. And I have found such beauty in the Christian tradition that I grew up in and I've also found such great beauty in the Buddhist tradition which I am now practicing because of the beautiful ways they teach meditation to help me melt into that oneness effortlessly, easily, gracefully. Relaxing and resting into that true reality.

One of the things I love about the Buddhist teachings is that in the Buddha's time he said this. He said, what if there's a shore across a river and on that shore there are beautiful trees and flowers and a beautiful mansion and lots of beautiful food. And on your side of the shore there's impoverishment and it's not a very happy shore. Do you simply just put your palms together and chant and pray, "Oh shore - come to me, please! I need you, I worship you, I love you, please come to me!" The Buddha said that is so foolish. A wise person does not pray and chant and beg for the other shore to come to them. A wise person gets a raft and rows over to the other side. That's one of the things I love about the Buddha's teachings, it's not about blind faith and begging some external power. It's about having enough wisdom to practice the teachings of those who have already gone to the other shore and have come back with good advice. None of those enlightened ones can do it for us. We have to do it ourselves. But even as we're doing it ourselves, we don't have to do it alone because they're right there showing us how to build a raft, or showing us how to swim, or any of the various methods that all the enlightened ones give us. They're always there and if we feel weak and we're trying to swim they'll be right there with us helping us swim. But we still have to swim. And you know the neat thing about the practice of Amitabha(infinite light)is that it is like a raft that was already built and so we just have to be willing to get on the raft and row. So there has already been a beautiful energy field created for us by all those who have come before us.

This is what is meant by Amitabha - that infinite light energy that can carry us to the other shore. By chanting and being mindful of Amitabha(that infinite light within us) we suddenly connect to the infinite light within all those who have become enlightened, all those who are on the path of enlightenment. And we feel their supportive energy. And so we're not having to reinvent the wheel. We can actually ride on the raft that's already been created and we can make it bigger for all beings. We can contribute to the raft, but it's already been made so why not take the raft instead of just swimming. That's ok if you want to swim. That's the very tough way, and that's ok, because those who do that know how to make big, big rafts in the future for other beings. So they have a place in the path as well, but for those of us who feel really lazy like me, a raft that's already been made is really nice. So take advantage of that raft; take advantage of the fact that this is a Buddha field being created right here and right now.

This Dallas Meditation Center is a place of refuge that can help carry us all together and that we don't have to do it alone, but we do have to do something. We don't do it alone but we do have to do something. We do have to make the choice, make the commitment. This place is the result of many generations before us who made commitments, who made choices to help create this raft. And if we are to let this raft continue on in the future to reach out to more people in the Dallas area, we too are called to make that same choice and that same commitment - the choice to practice for ourselves and for others, and the commitment to support this refuge- this raft. This is the result of thousands of dollars being poured forth into making this space available. And miraculously the four thousand dollars that we spent has already been given and we just need one more thousand dollars this week to finish what we started on the outside to make it look inviting because right now it's really boring. We want our raft to look pretty so people know that this is a good raft. (…laughter) So today is a fund raising celebration to celebrate the Buddha's birthday which is your birthday. And you know Buddha doesn't mean a particular religion because Buddha just means enlightened. So there are Buddhas in Christianity, there are Buddhas in Judaism, there are Buddhas in Hinduism, and there are Buddhas in Islam. There are Buddhas everywhere, in all traditions all around the world. That's what we're about. We're not about trying to be "isms," we just want to be "is."(…laughter) I don't know where that came from!

Well, anyway, I love Jesus, I love all enlightened teachers, I love the Buddha. And you know another thing that the preacher said this morning, he said the early church was the first community to really love people in that radical way and to accept people from different social castes, and to invite both men and women equally into the community. And I kind of smiled because I realized 500 years before Jesus there was Buddha who did the same thing, you know. And any true enlightened teachers are going to do the same thing. This is a beautiful tradition; these are beautiful teachings that go beyond all religious walls. Let us take care of this gift. Let us nurture it the way we would water a plant and care and tend to it. Let us nurture this gift the way the mothers in this room take care of your children because this is our baby. So don't mess with my baby! (…laughter) This is my baby, ok?!

If you would like to listen to more mindful dharma talks go to the website. (…more laughter) If anyone who is standing would like to sit please feel free to sit here, but you're also welcome to do standing meditation as well.

(short pause)

One last thing I love about this practice is if I don't have anything more to say I can just be silent and everyone's ok with it. "Oh, he must be going into some great Samadhi, he's so still!" (…laughter) Yeah, think that thought.

Thank you very much. Amitabha.

Transcribed by Jennifer Baquero

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