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One Divine Nature Manifesting in Many Forms
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Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
January 13, 2013 - Dallas, Texas

Thank you dear friends for your beautiful practice tonight. As I was driving over here, I had all of this energy come over me and it was all about "Namo Amitabha" and "I am safe. I am loved. I am free." So I contemplated that and thought I would share this practice with you tonight.

So there is only one Buddha-nature but that one Buddha-nature manifests in many different ways. Historically, that one Buddha-nature manifested through Shakyamuni Buddha, 2,600 years ago, when he became fully awakened to his true nature; then Buddha-nature shown very directly through him—through his words, his actions, his life, his teachings, his energy and thus the wheel of the dharma was set in motion historically on the earth and we call it the Buddhadharma or Buddhism; whatever you want to call it—the way of practice, of mindfulness, and enlightenment.

A few centuries later, as practitioners continued to practice and gain insight and wisdom, they encountered, in the depth of their heart and in realms of consciousness, the aspect of Buddha-nature as manifested through Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light, the Buddha of Infinite Love; the Buddha of Infinite Life.

And then, a few centuries after that: As practitioners continued to practice, in their heart, and in their consciousness there came into their awareness the Bhaishajya-guru Buddha, the Medicine Buddha of Healing. And of course, through the centuries practitioners have become aware of many different kinds of qualities of the Buddha-nature and they express it artistically, or metaphorically, through these different Buddhas or bodhisattvas. Enlightened teachers and enlightened beings.

But they are just simply expressions of one Buddha-nature. But because practitioners are allowed to have human creativity and imagination and diverse ways of practice—different communities, based on their practice, can devote themselves to certain kinds of expressions of this one Buddha-nature manifest in different ways.

In China, the three most common expressions of Buddha-nature have been, historically, Shakyamuni Buddha (of course), our historical teacher, and Amitabha Buddha (the most popular expression of Buddha-nature) and also a medicine Buddha, Bhaishajya-guru Buddha, the Buddha of Healing.

Now if you go to other countries like Korea, or Japan, our Vietnam, or other places—they may have different Buddhas, or bodhisattvas, that they have an affinity with. And different temples, of course, can have different affinities--for example some people are very devoted to the bodhisattvas--such as Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, or Mañjuśrī, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, or perhaps, Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Great Vows/Great Action.

But as you notice, if you have devotion to these three bodhisattvas, they also correspond to the same qualities of Buddha-nature that Shakyamuni, Amitabha, and Bhaishajya-guru also illuminate because Shakyamuni Buddha represents Wisdom, the teachings that set us on the path of enlightenment, and Amitabha represents Infinite Love and Compassion, and Medicine Buddha represents the power of our true nature to heal.

Well, these are also expressed in the bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara, which is Compassion, and Mañjuśrī, which is Wisdom, and Samantabhadra, which is Great Action. And in every religion, we have the same thing going on. Well, there is only one, divine, true reality. One infinite universal reality—whatever you want to call it. God, Buddha-nature, universal reality, the Infinite, the Ultimate, that which cannot be spoken, the Tao that cannot be named; whatever you want to call it, it is only one nature—but, we can express that, or illustrate it, in its different qualities and in different ways.

You have the same thing going on in Christianity, and Islam, and Judaism, and Hinduism. Some more than others, you know? For example, in Judaism, there's more of a tendency (in Judaism and Islam) to want to symbolize the Divine as the One, as oneness. And in Christianity there's a tendency to want to emphasize the one, divine, reality in three modes. You know, very similar to Buddhism—these three modes of expression. And then in Hinduism, [ChiSing: laughs] there is a tendency to want to express it in hundreds and thousands of ways [audience: laughs]. Lots and lots of divine expressions.

And in Christianity, you have Catholicism and Orthodoxy which tends to want to express the divine in many different iconic ways, different expressions. But in Protestant Christianity, there's a tendency to want to not go overboard with all these different ways, and to just try to simplify things, into the Oneness.

But you know, it doesn't really matter to the divine, to the Buddhas, to the Bodhisattvas, to our true nature; because our nature is one, but if we feel that we want to express it metaphorically, in a variety of ways, to help us to relate to the qualities of the one—that's fine, that's fine.

There's no need to create wars around it. There's no need to have jihads about it, there's no need to make holy wars against each other. We should have the freedom, as human beings, to relate to the one divine in whatever way we wish; in its unity, in its diversity, in its multiplicity—however. It should be our freedom, our right, as humans to relate in whatever way we wish.

So, as I've been practicing with the mantra "Namo Amitabha", I've been realizing that the "Namo", which means "to bow", or "to reverence", or "to be grateful for". And then "Amitabha", which means "The Buddha of Infinite Light"—but deeper than the literal meaning, it really refers to our human nature and our divine nature. And the fact, that they are spoken in the same breathe, "Namo Amitabha"—means that there is an intimacy there; a deep intimacy and interrelationship.

It's as if our Buddha-nature calls to us, "Namo" with a deep love, and a deep compassion, and a deep understanding, and a deep acceptance. It's as if our Buddha-nature calls to us, to our human nature, "Namo", as if, "dear one", or "precious one". Or like my Spanish friends when they say "mi hijo", "my child". [Audience: laughter] [ChiSing: whispers] "Namo".

And then when we say "Amitabha", it's as if from the depth of our human vulnerability, we simply entrust ourselves, to the infinite reality of our true nature, [ChiSing: whispers] "Amitabha". It's as if the depth of our human frailty and vulnerability—our just naked rawness, calls out in faith and trust: "Amitabha".

And so, our human frailty, and our divine reality, are always constantly, in an intimate relationship, calling to one another: "Namo?", "Amitabha". "Namo?", "Amitabha". And this is expressed beyond words just with the in breathe, and the out breathe. And it is expressed in the universe with the expansion of the universe, and the contraction of the universe. And the whole universe breathes too: "Namo?", "Amitabha". "Namo?", "Amitabha"; and this intimacy connects us with that intimate reality that exists between physical embodiment and infinite consciousness or spirit; and it connects our mind and our heart; and it connects heaven and earth; it connects our masculine and feminine aspects; it connects the infinitely small subatomic particle to the infinitely large super galaxies, and super universes; it connects the human and the divine. And it's all a reality always, but we can artistically/metaphorically express it in human words and, in the historical development of Buddhism, one way of expressing it (and there are many ways of course), but one way of expressing it, is in the mantra, Namo Amitabha.

And you don't have to use this practice, but if you do it will bring a light, and a love, and a force field of support that you may not have experienced before in your practice of mindfulness. So it's sort of like an "icing on the cake", you don't need it—you already have the cake, which is simply mindfulness, meditation, enlightenment—you already have that. But, I don't know about you, but I'm not content with just "the cake". [Audience: Laughter] I like my icing. You know, I don't just want to have a nice house—I want to decorate the house, I want to paint the walls, I want to furnish it with beautiful things.

So, it's good to have your basic mindfulness practice, your basic shamatha, basic vipassana, your basic path of dharma. But, it's also okay to add a little spice to it, add a little color to it, to add a little bit of Amitabha to it, a little Pure Land to it.

You see, all those that have practiced before us have created a force field of support, so that those who practice after them can have that support along with their own practice; because we never practice alone, I mean think about it, do you practice alone? When you practice meditation, is it just you meditating? No, because the fact that you know about meditation came from someone else practicing and passing it onto you. And think about everything that you experience in modern life right now: Your clothing, your car, your house, your electric and heat, and all these different things—you wouldn't have them if someone else hadn't done certain things and invented certain things, before you, right?

So we exist in a force field, network of the creative endeavors of others who have gone before us on a physical level and on a spiritual level. So when we say "Pure Land" it's just a metaphor pointing to the force field that others have created. A force field of spiritual energy through their practice and so when we practice now—we are practicing because of their force field of energy that they have created, and as we practice we add to that force field of energy. And that's really the meaning of Sangha. So you can call it Sangha, you can call it Pure Land, you can call it force field or energy field. In Buddhism we say "Buddhakshetra", which means "buddha-field", a "field of enlightenment". In Christianity, you can call it the "Kingdom of Heaven". In all the different other religions, you can call it different things.

But it's pointing to the same reality, which is that we are co-creators. That we receive what has been created before us and that we add to it, through our own practice. And we are creating the "Pure Land on Earth"; we are creating the "Kingdom of Heaven on Earth"; we are creating "The Beloved Community" as Martin Luther King Jr. once called it—and it starts with those that have gone before us, and it continues with us, and it goes on beyond us.

And as you keep practicing the basic mindfulness, and if you add the icing of "Amitabha", "Namo Amitabha"—whatever you want to, or maybe Medicine Buddha, you know, all the Sanskrit chanting I have been doing all evening, you know, before and after the practices is the full Medicine Buddha mantra, which I hope, if you like, memorize—I find it very helpful.

And as I've been practicing that, I have found that additional "icing" keeps coming up, too. A couple months ago the affirmations "I am safe", "I am loved", "I am free" came to me—and that's not different from Namo Amitabha, and that's not different from Medicine Buddha's Mantra, and it's not different from Shakyamuni's basic teachings on Mindfulness. They're all the same but just in various, different, forms.

It's one nature, and it's one dharma, it's one practice—but, it expresses itself in a different variety of ways. So—whether you are practicing just awareness of sensation, awareness of the breath; practicing just simply letting go and letting be; or practicing Namo Amitabha; or practicing "I am safe, I am loved, I am free" —it's the same, one, practice—just "with a little bit of a twist".

So whether you are practicing just living your life in Mindfulness (you might call it Mindfulness if you have Buddhist tendencies); you might call it "practicing the presence of God" if you have some Christian tendencies; you might call it something else if you're Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever, but you're really practicing the same thing—just with a little bit of a different angle, a little bit of a different twist. Because there isn't more than just one True Nature; there is only one Nature, and you can call it whatever you wish. But by whatever names you may call it—it is still only one Nature—and that one Nature has many qualities. And three primary qualities that I have shared with you, is the quality of wisdom, and truth, and understanding and knowledge; and also the quality of love, and compassion, and forgiveness, and of the heart; and also the quality of power, action, vitality, and healing.

So as you're practicing, notice if you are gaining more wisdom. Notice if your heart is opening more to love. Notice if there's more energy in your life to serve others. If these qualities are not expanding through your practice then you might want to look at your practice again. To see if there needs to be some little bit of a "tweak" to your practice. If your practice is becoming dry—then add a little bit of "icing" and "frosting" to it.

One last teaching I'd like to share, because, actually another topic that I was thinking of sharing was the five hindrances to our practice. So I'll just mention them briefly.

There are five hindrances to our practice and I like to visualize it as four arrows, pointing right and left, up and down, and then a spiraling arrow in the center. So, one hindrance to our practice is when we crave for things, and we obsess about things, and we can't let go of things, and we cling.

Another hindrance is when we push things away, we resist things and we don't like things, and we feel aversive to things.

And another hindrance is when our mind is restless and worrying a lot (the energy is kind of going upward). And another hindrance is when our energy is kind of being very, very sleepy, lazy, slothful, and just kind of "zoning out" (and that's sort of a downward movement).

And then there's also the part of the hindrances where we are just sort of spiraling in confusion and doubt—we're just not really sure what we're doing, why we are doing it, or if we are even doing it correctly. We have a doubt about our practice, or doubt about the teachings themselves.

So these can be hindrances on our path—but they're not problems, they're just indicators for us to look at; new ways to tweak our practice. When we are craving in our practice, one antidote is to simply come to a place of deep equanimity and letting go—just letting go.

I'm not going to give you details about any of these, tonight, because of time. Maybe I will expand on it next time I speak—but the practice of just letting go, letting be, can help you with your craving. And with your aversion—when you push things away, and you don't like things, and you're always just not satisfied, you're unhappy all the time—one antidote for that, is to just simply, deeply, accept. Just come to a place of acceptance and appreciation. Think of what you are grateful for, rather than just what you don't like. So gratitude and acceptance can be an antidote to that kind of aversive sensation.

When you're feeling restlessness and worry... "do yoga". [ChiSing and Audience: laughter] Do something with your body, because there is a lot of energy in your body—so you need to do something with your body. Perhaps just take a walk outside. Hug a tree. Just do something to help calm your energy.

And then, if your energy is very sleepy and tired, [and you are] feeling lazy. Then some really helpful practices are chanting, out loud, so that the vibration creates energy, and also, movement, such as bowing, maybe 108 times. If you are sleepy and you bow 108 times, I guarantee that you won't be sleepy after that. So just bowing, and just offering yourself to the Universe—in gratitude and love; this is a very ancient practice. Chanting and bowing can energize your practice.

Then if your experiencing doubt, and confusion, and lack of faith in yourself, or lack of faith in the enlightened ones. Then I would suggest that you let go of trying so hard, and perhaps come back to the simplicity of practice. Because maybe you're judging yourself [that] you should be at this certain level "[you know] after all this time"; but you know what? It still comes back to breathing in and breathing out.

Find something that you do, do well, and appreciate that about yourself. And that will bring faith in yourself, and make it easier for you to have confidence in yourself again. Just do one thing. Find one thing that's simple, that you do well. Think of things that you do, do well: and focus on that.

And then if it's a doubt about the practice itself—well, the only thing I can say is "hang around an enlightened person". Just find someone that you know, who is more enlightened than you are, and hang out with them for a few hours. Maybe go to a monastery.

[Female voice:] Come to Sangha.

[ChiSing:] Come to Sangha. That will encourage you—that there is a power to this practice.

Well, I know in my own life, I've been experiencing all five hindrances [Audience and ChiSing: laughs]. Including doubt: doubt about myself, doubt about my practice, and yet, no matter what happens, there's still a Pure Land available; there's still a force field, a Buddha-field available; there's still this practice available; there's still the Sangha available. And all I have to do is just take a step, mindfully; take a breath, mindfully and come back. Come back. Come back to the practice. And lo and behold it's all there, it's still there. It hasn't gotten away.

The Kingdom of Heaven never goes away, the Pure Land of the Buddha never goes away—it's we who go away. It's we who take vacations away from our reality—but reality itself never goes away, it's always there. So all of us are Buddhas, but we act like Buddhas only part-time; because we take so many vacations away from our Buddha-nature. And yet, Buddha-nature never takes a vacation from us. Our reality is always there, but in our mind we may go off into a daydream, fantasy world, where we may think we are separate, we may think that we are lost; we may think that things have gone wrong, and yet, it's just a dream in our mind because the reality is still there.

The reality is "I am safe, I am loved, I am free". The reality is Namo Amitabha.

Transcribed by Mark Edwards

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