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Emptiness, Bring It On!
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Emptiness, Bring It On! (13 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
May 1, 2011 - Dallas, Texas

You know, I started my practice probably before I was born. I remember my mother telling me that she would go to this nearby church when she was pregnant with me in her womb, and she would pray for me and put her hands on her womb. My mother would put her hands on her womb and pray for me, just asking for God's grace to fill me even before I was born. And I believe that that is why ever since I was a very young child I have been very spiritually oriented, always interested spiritual things, always asking questions at church--sometimes too many questions.

But even though there are a lot of conflicts from time to time over the last several years between me and my mother, when I think about the positive things--because I know many of us have had mixed relationships with our parents, right? Some are good and some are not good. There's some that are really, really not so good. But if we meditate, we can still find something positive that they gave to us, and it is important that we find that positive thing in the midst of all the terrible things that may have occurred or still occur, because if we cannot do that, we are denying ourselves a precious gift.

At the very least, they gave you life and existence in this form, which makes it possible for you to be sitting in this room right here and right now chanting, meditating, singing, opening your heart--because of your parents, because of your mother and father. And so part of the ceremony that we are going to do tonight is to recognize gratitude for our parents, our ancestors--both our physical and spiritual parents and ancestors. This act of affirming something positive in gratitude is a powerful energy.

And so, even if most of your life your parents were not so good for you, maybe while you were in the womb, maybe your mother had even one minute of thought thinking, I really would love to be a good mother to this child. Even if she turned out not to be such a good mother, maybe while you were in her room, she had the thought, the intention, I really want to be a good mother and I really want this child to be healthy and happy. And so you can think on that, meditate on that, allow that thought to grow. So this is part of our meditation practice.

There is a kind of meditation practice that we do which is letting go and not thinking about anything and just being, of course, but there is another kind of meditation we do which is lovingkindness and gratitude and contemplating on something and letting the positive grow and then letting the negative diminish. We need to practice like this. The world needs us to practice this. If we get too caught up in the negative--revenge, bitterness, resentment, jealousy--we are only hurting ourselves. Yeah.

Sure, maybe other people in our past might have hurt us, but if we keep dwelling on it, they are not even around anymore. Who is doing the hurting now? Your own mind. So we need to transform our minds, transform our hearts. We have to do that. So part of our practice, as Thich Nhat Hanh, our teacher, says is to transform suffering. But we do not do that first right away. Why? Because if we try to tackle the suffering in our lives, in our minds, in our hearts, in our deep inner shadows and closets that maybe we have locked up from childhood, it will overwhelm us because we are not strong enough yet in mindfulness.

So what is the first practice before trying to confront and heal the suffering? Before we do that, the first practice is to find what is positive, find what is good, find what is notable and true and concentrate on that. Gratitude practice comes first before healing practice. So, cultivate your ability to touch peace. Cultivate your ability to touch joy. Cultivate your ability to touch love. Do that for several months. And then you will be strong enough to then contemplate on the suffering and the negativity and the wounds and the hurts, and by the time you do that, you will realize that you are much greater than what you thought you were. You are much stronger than what you thought you were. You are not small at all. But you identify as small. But who you really are is vast.

The Buddha taught a story. If you take a cup of salt and pour it into a bowl of water and mix it up, you cannot drink it. It is undrinkable. The salt represents suffering, and the bowl of water represents your identification with a small heart. But that is not really who you are. That is just what you have identified as. You are identifying who you are by this belief that you're small, vulnerable, fragile. And so when suffering comes into your life, my goodness. You cannot handle it. It is unbearable.

But the truth is that who you really are, your true heart is actually more like a vast mighty river, and if you put a cup of salt in the vast mighty river and mix it up, wade in the waters, wash up, you can still drink from the river. That one cup of salt is the same cup of salt, and yet the difference of experience is vast, isn't it? A cup of salt in a small bowl of water and a cup of salt in a mighty river. It is the same suffering, and yet your response to it is different.

When you are identified with the small salt, with ego, with each fragile, vulnerable heart, then whenever suffering comes your way becomes very, very overpowering. But when you awaken to who you really are through meditation and spiritual practice, through the Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha, enlightenment, truth, the teachings, the practice, and the community--when you realize and awaken to your vast mighty river heart, then your mantra is, bring it on, right?

I remember being very heartbroken by a relationship where someone broke up with me about six years ago now. Wow. I can't believe it's been that long, because only up until two years ago I felt it was very, very recent. But finally I let that go. I remember feeling so much pain and anger and hurt, and I was at a retreat, and I was feeling good of the retreat, and then I got a voicemail from the ex. And my heart, which was so open and fresh from the retreats sank to below the depths, and I felt so angry that I wasted my money on this retreat. Just one voicemail could take away the whole results and benefits from this retreat. I could not believe it, and then I was angry at the ex. But anyway.

So I practiced and breathed while going to the airport, thinking I just totally wasted my time and my money. It was like a week and it was like $300, and I opened a book, a Dharma book, and while we were going up into the air, I read this one line, and I don't even remember what the line exactly was, but it is something to do with emptiness. And I got it in the depths of my heart, and all of a sudden I felt--and by the way, right before this, I felt all these knots in my stomach. I felt nauseous for several hours. I felt my heart beating and a vice in my head, a headache that wouldn't go away.

And in that moment, all of a sudden, you know, thousands of feet in the air, I felt high, literally and metaphorically. I felt uplifted. I felt free and spacious, and the headache just completely washed away, and the knots in his stomach completely relieved, and I began to laugh, realizing that I am empty, my ex is empty, meaning that I am not this solid entity of anger and suffering, and the ex is not the solid entity of enemy because who we really are is spaciousness, freedom, Buddha nature, vast and free, and only our mind confines us into the prisons, but who we really are is unconfined. That is what empty means--unconfined, spacious, free.

And I just laughed, and I wrote this letter to the ex, "Dear Buddha in disguise," and I just wrote this wonderful letter of love and peace and joy and let go. I said, "I do not need you to say the right words to me anymore. I don't need you to make the right phone calls. I don't need you to apologize. It is okay. I bow to you, Buddha in disguise. How clever you are. How tricky you are." And I realized that I, Buddha, am bowing to Buddha, and if Buddha bows to Buddha, where's the problem? I realize that I can handle it. Buddha can handle anything. I am strong, and I can handle it.

And the ex is not always going to be the enemy. The ex one day will become enlightened, because the ex is Buddha, too. I am too, and I can handle anything and so really, literally, the mantra came to me on the airplane, bring it on, and I used that. Bring it on, because I can handle it, because I am strong enough. I am the mighty river, and I am Buddha. I am empty, spacious, fast, and free, unconfined.

There is no prison except in the mind of my own making. And so free the mind. Change comes through the mind. It's not change someone else. Not wait for someone else to fix it or apologize or change their ways. That is not the solution. The solution is right here.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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