Buddha statue quiet lake
The Year of the Snake
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The Year of the Snake (57 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
February 9, 2013 - Houston Zen Center - Houston, Texas

Okay. So, this is going to be a Year of the Snake, and the snake moves directly on the earth in direct contact. It has no legs or anything, just its whole body, its whole belly is touching the earth. So the snake represents the power of the earth and also of the feminine, and also there are images of the circle where the snake bites its own tail. It swallows its own tail. So it represents the cycle of birth and death and of the hope of rebirth and of new beginnings. And also, snakes tend to shed their skin so that their new skin can manifest, and so it is also a wonderful representation of change and of shedding the old to make room for the new.

So this is going to be a very wonderful year, because this is the year right after the Year of the Dragon. The Year of the Dragon basically helped us to start again anew and burn up all that is unnecessary and fire up the energy that we need to do what we need to do in this next generation, and now the Year of the Snake encourages us to start making the change, making the movement, start awakening and uncoiling and unfolding that wonderful fire that is within us.

And so we will continue to move on and through all the different years, and I believe that we are in one of the most magnificent generations in human history. I believe that this 21st century will see more changes in humanity than any other previous years. It is going to be so dramatic by the 22nd century. The planet earth will be very, very different. That is what I think. We will see. We will see what happens. Well, actually, we probably will not see, but maybe in our next life. Okay.

So, everyone has the Medicine Buddha of healing mantra. I'm going to share today about three Buddhas of wisdom, love, and healing that have been very meaningful to me. And if I have time, I may talk a little bit about the teaching that came into my heart a few months ago very profoundly. You know, from time to time, as you practice, wisdom just blossoms in your heart all of a sudden. It is a wisdom that is from your true nature. It is always there, but at certain times in our life, suddenly it just blossoms. And so there was a teaching called seeking, finding, preserving, and sharing. If I have time or maybe if there is a question/answer afterwards, we can also go over those. But it is a very profound teaching that just opened up within me.

None of the individual teachings are original to me, but just the way it came to me in this order as seeking, finding, preserving, sharing, that is personalized. It is dharma, which is universal, but personalized. That is what we do as we practice. There is nothing new under the sun. Dharma is dharma. It is all universal, but the way we uniquely understand and express it is personal, and so there may be one Buddha nature, but that one Buddha nature is channeled through the prism of our experience of this existence, a form. Emptiness is channeled through form so that there is a multifaceted rainbow of colors, not just one Buddha nature white light, but manifesting in all these array of colors. In other words, there's one Buddha nature, but many Buddhas expressing one nature always.

So, I am Chinese, and I've been falling more and more in love with Chinese philosophy and my heritage. In fact, 13 years ago when I turned 30 years old, I invited a few friends of mine in California to join me at the beach for a ceremony of reclaiming my Chinese name. So before, I was going by my English name, and now ever since I was 30, 13 years ago, I'm going more by my Chinese name, ChiSing. "Chi" means wisdom, and "Sing" means overflowing or abundance. And so, abundant wisdom I guess is one way of translating it. Also another name given to me by Thich Nhat Hanh is Pure Wonderful Happiness, and I love that name also. So I am falling more in love with my Chinese heritage, and the more I study it, the more I love it. There's so much wisdom in ancient Chinese philosophy, and I hope that we continue to unpack it and unfold it.

One of the wonderful teachings in Chinese philosophy is the idea of the harmony between heaven and earth and humanity, these three aspects of reality. The reality of heaven and the reality of earth in harmony with the reality of humanity. And originally it was just translated heaven, earth, and man, but obviously we know that man and woman kind of go together. So we will say humanity. It is a little bit longer word, but it is important. So heaven, earth, and humanity.

Now, in Japanese flower arranging, called ikebana, we use this principle of heaven, earth, and humanity even in the flower arranging. So perhaps the tallest flower represents the principle of heaven. The lower leaves may represent the principle of earth, and the middle flowers represent the principle of humanity. And when humanity is in harmony with itself and heaven and earth, there is beauty, and there is a flowing with the Tao, rather than a resistance to the Tao. Now ultimately, of course, you can never really resist the Tao, but in our human experience, we can feel somewhat of a dissonance.

Okay. So, principle of heaven helps us to get in touch with that which is transcendent, that which is our ideals, the principles and spiritual laws of the universe. The earth principle helps us to be in touch with the practical, the here and now, and the meeting of our real human and physical needs. And the principle of humanity opens us to our heart, to our relationships, to love, to forgiveness, to justice, to right livelihood and right relationship.

So as China developed all of this, there have been three particular religious traditions that have been very strong in China. The first two of course were Confucianism and Taoism, which have greatly shaped Chinese history and culture. And then along came Buddhism as well. It took a little while for Buddhism to assimilate. At first it was considered a barbaric religion, but eventually, the very wise monks translated the text into Chinese and used vocabulary words from the Confucian Taoist philosophy so that it would relate to the Chinese people and the Chinese people could know that it was relevant to them and it was very, very wise. So eventually you have Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, the three great religions of China all having a wonderful influence in China.

Now as I look at these three religions and how they developed, I see how they also correspond to these three principles in Chinese philosophy. To me, Buddhism represents the heaven aspect because Buddhism helps us to realize emptiness and realize the infinite and realize transcendence, as well as other things, too. And Confucianism is represented by the humanity, because Confucianism was strongly emphasizing right relationship, right order, right benefit, right ritual, just basically the way we operate in human society. So he did not emphasize so much too much about the gods or the God, but rather emphasized much more of being practical here and now.

Then the Taoism seems to represent the earth principle very well because the Taoism always has been encouraging us to be in touch with nature, to flow with the Tao, the way of nature and not be too caught up in human rules and regulations and not be too idealistic but really be present here and now on the earth, in touch with the earth. And in fact, in Taoism, many different practices developed in the martial arts, such as certain forms of qi gong, to understand the energy of the earth, energy of life, and the energy in the body, that they're all in harmony with each other. We call it qi.

So all of these did not have to be in conflict. The Chinese people have much more of an inclusivistic mindset. And that is true, I think, in Vietnam and Korea as well. Now in Japan, it is a little bit slightly different. The Japanese culture tends to like to focus on one thing and kind of separate things out. I'm talking just in generalities. You can see it in the cuisine. In Chinese cuisine, you have fried rice. You put it all in a wok and stir it up together, and in Japanese, you have the bento boxes and everything in little dishes separately. So you can see this cultural difference. In China, in the religion of Buddhism, for example, many temples and monasteries would just have many different traditions and practices of Buddhism all in one temple to be practical so some monks could choose to practice certain sutra studies or certain chanting practices or certain meditation techniques or whatever. Maybe they were just in charge of serving in the temple, and that was their main practice, and that was fine. In Japan, there has been somewhat of a tendency to separate out some traditions. In China, there is the Pure Land and the Zen traditions, which for many centuries had a very friendly complementary relationship, whereas in Japan for whatever reason, they have become quite separated and very distinct.

So, now I would like to talk a little bit more personally about my experience of three wonderful Buddhas. So, I grew up Christian, specifically Southern Baptist, and that was an interesting experience. I still appreciate all the wonderful teachings on God and the love of God and Jesus as an expression of love. I still appreciate that. That will always resonate in my heart. That will always be a part of me. That is a part of my upbringing. And I believe whether or not you grew up Christian or not, in Western culture, especially in America, Jesus as a spiritual teacher will always be an important part of the general consciousness, even if indirectly. And I think we as Buddhists in America have to come to terms with that in our practice, and just like when Buddhism came into China and adapted itself, I think Buddhism in America needs to do the same thing, you know, in a Christian context or a Jewish context or a Muslim context or a secular context, as America is becoming more and more secular.

So, about 14 years ago, I had a breakup, a relationship breakup that really broke my heart, and I was very sad and depressed and cried every day for several days. Somehow—I don't remember if it was a friend that just gave this book to me. I don't know how I came across it, but a book by Thich Nhat Hanh came across my way, Peace is Every Step. And I read the book over and over and over again, and I felt the power of relief touching my heart, even though I was in the midst of grief. And then I turned the radio on one day, and it was a public independent radio station, and they were airing a talk by Thich Nhat Hanh. They were talking about, "And now we're about to listen to Thich Nhat Hanh give his talk at the Berkeley Community Theater."

So I immediately tried to find a blank tape cassette and put it into record it, and that is how ancient I was, 14 years ago. So I did. I recorded onto tape cassette, and I still have that tape cassette to this day, although I have transferred it to a CD now. I listened to that talk, which was basically on the three Dharma Seals of impermanence, nonself, and Nirvana. That is the Mahayana version. There is the Theravada version, which is impermanence, nonself, and suffering, but in the Mahayana tradition, we say the three Dharma Seals are impermanence, nonself, and nirvana. The Tibetans try to be more inclusive, just take all of it, so they have four Dharma Seals: impermanence, nonself, suffering, and nirvana. But anyway, I listened to the dharma talk, and it just completely changed my life.

I remember the most profound thing he said on that dharma talk was, "Imagine waves in the water. If we are only focused on our human ego's perspective, we are identified as the wave, and life goes up, and life goes down. Some waves seem more beautiful or less beautiful. Some waves seem bigger. Some seem smaller. Some seem calmer. Some might seem more chaotic. But if we are caught only in our human perspective, we are always going to be going up and down with our circumstances of human life. But if we awaken to our true nature, which is the water, because the wave is the water—if we identify with that, then all fear just vanishes." And I just remember when I heard that teaching of the Buddha that Thich Nhat Hanh was sharing, it just touched my heart so deeply, and it really helped me through my grief process.

So I listened to that tape cassette every day for at least 30 days. I needed to because I was so much in grief, because this breakup was not just about the breakup. It was pushing all of my buttons about rejection and abandonment and feeling that I would never find someone and it is so hard to find someone in this crazy world and all of these things. It may have pushed buttons even earlier into my childhood or past lives or whatever. So it started to bring up a healing process in me, and then my friend Jennifer invited me to come to a Thich Nhat Hanh retreat. He was actually going to be in California, in Santa Barbara. It was like 1998 or 1999. I can't remember. And I said, "I guess I will go. If you are going to go, let's go. It will be fun."

So I went to a five-day retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, and I just remember a lot of different things, but one thing I remember was doing walking meditation every morning on the beach by the ocean. The sun was rising on the other side, but it was still beautiful. I just remember it was so beautiful and peaceful, just being in touch with the earth literally right there on the sand. I would take my shoes off and walk with about 800 people, but it didn't feel crowded at all because everyone had so much spaciousness through the practice.

And I remember hearing a dharma talk by his niece, Anh-Huong Ngyuen, and I am going to go see her in a couple of weeks in the DC area as she gives a weekend retreat there. I love her. She's my favorite lay dharma teacher. She is Thich Nhat Hanh's niece. Thich Nhat Hanh was trying to push her to be less shy and speak more publicly because she is a good dharma teacher. She is just shy, so he is like, "Okay. You give the dharma talk today." She was like, "Oh my gosh." So she started the dharma talk with, "Breathing in and breathing out, I know that I am sitting here in front of 800 people looking at me. Breathing in and breathing out, I know I am supposed to say something, and I'm very, very nervous." So she is so honest, and her honesty is what I remember the most about her dharma talk. It just touched my heart.

She began to talk about her relationship with her son, her little son, and now he is in his teen years, but he was, I guess, a small child at the time. He was three years old. She was talking about how she was teaching him the dharma, but not with dharma words, but simple acts of mother-child communication. And so she would hold his hand and point to the moon, and she would point to the flowers, and she would just sit in silence with him just to appreciate the wonder all around in nature. Anyway, something broke inside of me. It really touched my heart, and I began to cry and cry and cry and sob, and I was so loud. I was kind of embarrassed, because I was like, oh gosh. I hope no one is bothered by this. But I just sobbed for maybe up to 30 minutes, and I could not stop. I tried to stop. Every time I tried to stop, someone gave me a Kleenex. I was like, okay. I can stop. But I would just break again.

I didn't notice what was happening around me, but someone told me later that I started making everyone else around me cry, and then the entire auditorium of 800 people, half the people were crying for the rest of the talk. But it is hard to express why I cried in words, but I think it was because I saw someone who is a mother, a true mother, and so I think it touched all of my seeds of suffering in myself, and then I started to see the suffering of my mother and of her mother and of all of my ancestors and all the generations of suffering that had been transmitted for so many centuries up to my life. And I saw that my suffering is not just my suffering, but it is connected deeply with the suffering of all of my ancestors and my parents and of all beings, and so I am not alone in my suffering. Sorry. And so at that retreat, the healing of my heart began. It did not get completed there. It started there because I started doing a lot more crying at other retreats and practice centers for a few more years after this point.

Now, I do not cry as often. But it is a healing kind of crying. It is not the kind of crying feeling sorry for yourself or feeling that there is no hope. It is a different kind of crying. It is the kind of crying of opening your heart and knowing that there is a deep love at the center of existence, and it is the core of who you really are and it is always around us, always supporting us. We call it Buddhas and bodhisattvas, or we can call it the Pure Land, we can call it God or the angels or heaven—whatever. It does not matter what you call it. It is real, and we get in touch with it when we open our hearts through mindfulness.

And so that began my journey of getting in touch with Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddha of 2,600 years ago. Now I was not able to get in touch with the Buddha directly. I guess none of us do, but we get in touch with Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, through our present-day teachers, through our present-day practice, and for me the dharma door was Thich Nhat Hanh. So I got in touch with Shakyamuni Buddha across time and space in the here and now through this beautiful monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Anh-Huong Ngyuen, who opened my heart to profound wisdom teachings of this Buddha, the teachings of mindfulness and meditation, the teachings of compassion and wisdom and enlightenment and awakening here and now.

And so for the last several years, I've been practicing these wisdom teachings, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and have had so many wonderful experiences of openings in my heart, and I'm so grateful for this experience and the opportunity to really touch deeply these teachings of the Buddha through my teachers here and now.

And then a few years ago, another Buddha began to become more a light in my heart and consciousness, Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of infinite light. Amitabha had several different names, but they all relate to the word infinite, so that gives you a clue that Amitabha Buddha points us in the direction of the infinite, and Amitabha means infinite light. Amitayus means infinite life. And in Tibetan Buddhism, there is also the name Amideva. It literally means infinite radiance, but it refers to the infinite love aspect. So you have infinite light, infinite love, and infinite life as the three main qualities that Amitabha Buddha symbolizes. And lo and behold, these correspond to heaven, the heart of humanity, and earth. Infinite life, infinite love, infinite life.

And also, these three Buddhas that I'll be sharing with you today also correspond because Shakyamuni Buddha I think of as the wisdom aspect, the wisdom teachings, the profound teachings of mindfulness and meditation, the basics, the fundamentals of the practice and of enlightenment. And then Amitabha began to be more alive in practitioner's consciousness about 500 years after the Shakyamuni Buddha at the very beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism. And so Amitabha Buddha was not meant to supplant Shakyamuni Buddha, but rather just re-emphasize something that may have been slightly neglected after the first 500 years of Buddhism, and that is the heart aspect, the compassion aspect, to always remind us to never forget that. So don't just meditate, but also open your heart.

And I don't necessarily take the sutras on Amitabha literally. I think of them more as metaphorical templates for my practice. The story of Amitabha is that of a monk before he became enlightened, he was learning from a particular other Buddha in another cosmos in another lifetime and then with permission, he left that Buddha to explore other Buddha lands, Buddha fields, Buddha worlds in the universe because he made a vow. He wanted to learn from all the different Buddhas and how they create a Pure Land. You see, every enlightened being radiates a field of energy of love and of wisdom and of healing, and we call that a Buddha-kshetra, the Buddha field.

Now, in the development of Mahayana Buddhism, they started to call it in China the Pure Land. Rather than the Buddha field, they called it the Pure Land in Chinese, but the original Sanskrit is Buddha-kshetra, Buddha field, which I like because it is a much better word. It is a field of influence, the field of compassion, a field of wisdom, a field of light, and a field of energy. And so every Buddha has a Pure Land, every Buddha, not just Amitabha Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, to come, Vairochana Buddha. Of course, Vairochana Buddha's Pure Land is the whole entire universe. But anyway, that gives you a clue that it is not just something out there, far away. It is everywhere and right here and now.

So, Dharmakara, which means dharma storehouse, which reminds me of dharmakara, the storehouse consciousness, so it might be a clue also that it is a metaphor. But anyway, let's not get into all of that. Dharmakara, who became Amitabha Buddha, learned from all the different Pure Lands of all these Buddhas, because what he wanted to do was pick out the best qualities of the Pure Lands and then create a Pure Land himself when he became a Buddha that would have all the best qualities of all the Pure Lands so that it would bring as much benefit to all the beings as possible, and his other vow was that he wanted to make it as easy as possible to come into his Pure Land, to come into his sphere of influence. In other words, not to make it too difficult, but easy enough so that many, many beings could enjoy the practice.

Now, this is to me a template, and as I have been following the template of Amitabha Buddha, I have been practicing that. I am deeply rooted in one tradition. Thich Nhat Hanh is my main teacher and always will be my root teacher, but I have been going around to Soto Zen practice centers, Renzai Zen practice centers, Korean, Japanese, Chinese centers, Theravada-type centers, and other places, and even Korean [inaudible; 30:29] centers for weeklong practices, not just one day. I want to go for a week or longer so I can really get at least a good taste of the practice, and Tibetan places as well, to learn and to see the nuances of the practices and how they all relate in unity as well as diversity. And that is what I have been doing, and my practice now, you can get a taste of that, sort of that multiculturalism in my own practice, in my teaching, and the way I present dharma.

So that has been my template, and I'm trying to make it as easy as possible, so at our Center, we have a children's program every Sunday so that the children can enjoy the practice, too, as well as the adults and the parents. And we have songs, dharma songs. We have offerings and very easy meditations. Some are guided. Some are silent, and then we also have the longer, 45-minute meditations as well for those who want to do longer practices, and we have these in formats as well. And then we have the easy format without all the ritual, too. So I'm trying to make it broad enough so that many different kinds of beings can enjoy it. We have had Jewish meditation workshops there and Christian meditation retreats there also, with just different kinds of offerings, just so that we can help as many different beings as possible to come through the dharma door and enjoy this Buddha-field of practice.

See, to me, the Pure Land is the sangha, it is the practice centers that we create. This is the Pure Land. This is the manifestation of the Pure Land. You know, you may think there is only one—perhaps you might think there is only one Pure Land. This is one of the branch centers, you know? It's like maybe there is only one national post office, but it has many post office branches. So there's really only one Pure Land, but it is manifesting in many different ways.

So this is how I have been practicing, and it's really because that is actually how my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh practices. He is actually a Zen Buddhist who is also a Pure Land Buddhist. Because in the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition, there is a synthesis of Zen and Pure Land and also of Theravada Buddhism, so all three of these traditions have unified in a cooperative sense. That is why Thich Nhat Hanh teaches not only from Mahayana Zen texts but also from Theravada texts, because he wants to show the unity of the Buddha dharma and not just the separations. But you always hear him talk about the Pure Land. He is not a Pure Land Buddhist per se, not like the way the Japanese Pure Land Buddhism has developed so separately from Zen, but he has a Pure Land spirit in the way he speaks about Zen. So he speaks about Zen from a very open-hearted, Pure Land perspective.

And he has created a Pure Land called Plum Village. And he is Amitabha Buddha to me. He's an example, the manifestation body of Amitabha Buddha, because he is based in Zen, but he brings in many different wonderful practices from modern practice and blends them just like you do here and in many other centers to make it more relevant to the Western consciousness, and he tries to make the practices as easy as possible so that during the summer retreat when 1,000 people come, even children are invited. Teenagers are invited. The whole family is invited to practice together, and it's able to spread widely across the world because of how easy the practice is.

And then last year—oh, and by the way, one way of practicing Amitabha is to chant the name Amitabha, "Namo Amitabha." "Namo," gratitude, "Amitabha," infinite light, infinite love, infinite life. And as I have been practicing with this, I have developed certain insights into this personally, and that is what happens when you practice. You gain personal insights into the practice, like, for example, one time at a Zen center, I was like, why in the world do we keep brushing this mat? It is clean enough already, especially when we clean it every time we sit. It's like, it is already clean. Why do we have to go through the motions of cleaning? But I had an insight at one point about it that just opened my heart in tears. How you do one thing is how you do everything. How you treat the smallest particle of dust is how you treat all beings. There is no separation. It is a deep connection. Okay. Better stop before I cry again.

Audience Member: We need to at some point stop for a little break.

ChiSing: Oh no. Oh dear. Oh gosh. I have not even gotten to my main point.

Audience Member: In a few minutes, we need a little break.

ChiSing: Okay. How about five minutes? Is that—

Audience Member: Oh yes.

ChiSing: Great.

Audience Member: I just wanted to alert you.

ChiSing: Thank you. Thank you. Because I do not have a clock with me. I get carried away. All right.

So, Namo Amitabha. As I've been practicing with that, I realized it is as if it is a dialogue. When I chant, "Namo," I now hear it as Amitabha Buddha or Amitabha Buddha, however you want to visualize it—Amitabha Buddha chanting my name, "Namo." So, "Namo" represents my human nature. So the Buddha is chanting, "Namo," calling me, "Namo." "Namo." Just like my Spanish friends when they call their children, "Mijo. Mijo." My child. My child. "Namo. Namo." And then I respond, "Amitabha." "Namo." "Amitabha." "Namo." "Amitabha." "Namo." "Amitabha." The human nature and the Buddha nature in relational dialogical communication, that intimacy, it is so beautiful when you can feel that form is emptiness, emptiness is form, but not just merely identical, but in relational, intimate communion.

So for me, it is a beautiful practice, and a few years ago, while I was meditating on Namo Amitabha, suddenly I felt this breeze of the Pure Land wash over my whole body and mind, and all of my struggles and self criticisms and feeling unworthy and like it is going to take me so many lifetimes to get enlightened, and I don't think I'm doing this right. I'm not sure if I'm doing this right. All of that washed away in an instant in that moment of pure grace as I realized what is Amitabha, what is the Pure Land, truly, deeply in reality. And I woke to just a glimpse to that reality, and I felt immense love and peace and contentment because I realized it is not my human "I" that is going to get me enlightened anyway and that nothing that I do is really from myself. It is pure grace and pure gift. The fact that I can breathe and focus on my breathing, that doesn't come from me. It comes from the trees and the oxygen around me. This mat that I am sitting on does not come from me; somebody else made it. And the fact that I even know about enlightenment in the past, it is a gift. It comes from my lineage of teachers. So everything is a gift.

And then very recently in this past year, I have encountered Bhaisajyaguru, healing Buddha, which I will talk about during the question and answer. I really hope all of you will stay because we're going to learn the chant. I will sing it for you. And Shakyamuni Buddha for me represents wisdom. Amitabha Buddha is the love aspect, and Bhaisajyaguru reminds me that it's very practical, very real, my practical needs and healing needs—people's real, human real needs are met also through this practice. So these are three reminders. So I will end with that, and also say that a mantra came to me from these three Buddhas: I am safe, I am loved, I am free. I am safe, I am loved, I am free. And if you use affirmation as part of your practice, like lojong, it will be very transformative for you.

So I will close with the Medicine Buddha mantra hoping that you will stay for just a few more minutes as I conclude my talk.

Om Namo Bhagavate Bhaisajya-guru
Tathāgatāya Arhate

Tadyathā: Om
Bhaisajye Bhaisajye
Samud-gate Svāhā

(Music plays) Please repeat after me. 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: Wonderful. Okay. So I will just quickly finish my talk now, going to the Medicine Buddha and just sharing a little about the meaning for me so far. By the way, I've just started reading Norman Fischer's book Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong, and one of the lojong slogans is—let's see if I can find it—well, one of the seven training points is transform bad circumstances into the path. I think that really sums up all of the Buddha's work, including the Medicine Buddha. I have a bumper sticker phrase that I have created that goes along with the same idea: turn your karma into dharma. All right. And I'm so happy to see that you had a book in the bookstore upstairs by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a wonderful Tibetan Buddhist teacher and monk, Ultimate Healing, The Power of Compassion, and it is a book all about the Medicine Buddha. So I am going to buy it and enjoy it, but maybe you can order more copies if you like.

Okay. Now I still consider myself primarily Zen Buddhist, the even though I may be learning about some of these Pure Land practices or Vajrayana practices, such as Medicine Buddha of healing, which is not just really Vajrayana. It is Mahayana, too, but I still do it in a Zen way. I practice it in a Zen way, so I practice it as simplified understanding rather than—because I don't like to get too complicated. I like to keep it simple, because I am stupid. You know, K-I-S-S, keep it simple, stupid, right? Or if you want to make it less abrasive, keep it simple, sangha.

So the Medicine Buddha, I hope everyone has a copy. Raise your hand if you don't, and someone can share with you. We have plenty. There are several. So the literal meaning I will go over first, and then I will talk about the two divisions of the mantra, the dharani, and the meaning of why I think they are divided into two parts. "Om" is the sacred sound, and it represents the enlightenment body, speech, and mind because it is actually ah-oh-oom, three sounds, representing enlightened thinking, enlightened speech, and enlightened action, and it is just pointing to the infinite.

"Namo" means to bow or to honor or to be grateful to, just to recognize, because "namo" comes from a Sanskrit root word that has the same meaning as our English word name, to name. In other words, you name it and recognize that. So I name in recognition. So I recognize you. You know, when you call someone's name, you recognize them, right? So we recognize. We honor by recognition and awareness, bhagavate, the Blessed One, bhaisajya-guru. "Guru" means darkness/light. So it means from darkness to light, but if you want to take a Zen spin on it, it means the whole existence including the darkness and the light. But "bhaisajya" means healing, so the teacher or the guru of healing who brings us from the darkness of suffering to the light of healing.

Vaidurya-prabha-rajaya, is lapis lazuli or azure radiance. And so, lapis lazuli as a stone, which I have in my hand in a sphere form, which I carry with me everywhere now to remind me of healing energy. It is a bluish stone with some white and gold speckles in it. It is beautiful. I love it. So I also have a wrist mala that I made. I designed it. I did not actually make it. I had someone else make it, but I designed it with lapis lazuli and other stones. Maybe I should get into the jewelry business. I think it is a wonderful design. But anyway, it is made of lapis lazuli, and another friend of mine just made me a necklace of lapis lazuli. But I'm not wearing it right now. So lapis lazuli represents healing energy, and "rajaya" just simply means king or royal one. Is there another word for it, so I don't have to genderize it? But anyway, basically the king or queen or royalty of lapis lazuli radiant, healing radiance.

Tathagataya, I like to translate it as the one who has gone beyond, and I know there are other literal translations, but I like to think of it that way because I like to think of the Buddha as the one who goes beyond suffering, goes beyond delusion, goes beyond duality. But anyway, maybe you can have a better translation for it, thus come one or something like.

Audience Member: That works.

ChiSing: Okay. Arhate is referring to arhat, so when you are enlightened, you become an arhat, and it refers to one who is enlightened. It also refers to one who is worthy of offerings because they have realized liberation compare worthy of our offerings.

Samyak-sam-buddhaya I like to translate as fully enlightened Buddha, fully enlightened one. So this is basically—the first part is just simply the recognition of the Buddha and the qualities of the Buddha, but not just that. It is a recognition that enlightenment itself is real and that there are beings in the universe that have fully realized it, and the third point, that it is my nature also, that I have the potential to become fully Buddha as well, so when you praise Buddha like this, there are three praises going on: praising enlightenment itself is real, there are beings who have fully realized it, and I can also.

So that is what you are affirming when you chant this, and the second part of the chant, Tadyatha: Om Bhaishajye Bhaishajye Maha-bhaishajye-raja Samud-gate Svaha.

Tadyatha, sort of like when Jesus said, "Verily, verily I say unto you," is almost like the same idea, but what it means is because of this truth, therefore—I like to translate Tadyatha as therefore, thus, now we can do this. So therefore Om, the sacred sound, healing, great healing, king of great healing, going beyond suffering, going beyond samsara basically—the Samud has a sacred word of samsara—going beyond the suffering and then Svaha, yoo-hoo, yee-haw!

So the first part is the foundation truth that makes the second part possible for manifestation. The first part is the principle of healing and enlightenment, and the second part is the actualization and expression of that enlightenment. Because there is healing, because there are realized ones, and because I have that also, therefore there can be healing, in light and healing of body. There can be healing enlightenment, enlightened healing of mind. There can be enlightened healing of consciousness and spirit or whatever you want to call it, healing at all levels, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, planetary, cosmic. Going beyond the suffering into yee-haw.

So when I think of these sounds, these words, more like a transistor radio or whatever or a TV set. It is not so important that we focus on the literal sound or the literal translation of the words. That would be like getting all involved in the parts of the TV set and not actually turning the TV on and watching the program. What really matters is the energy field that it helps you get in touch with, that helps you enter into the Pure Land of Medicine Buddha, which is that field through the mantra, through the practice. And what matters is the TV program that comes with the TV, not all the different parts.

What matters is turning it on and turning the channel to the right channel and getting the message. And so the power is not really in the literal sounds and the meanings. The power is in the practice of it, and as you practice it, you start to channel from within yourself and within all existence the power of what does this come to, the healing power of our awakening. And it reminds us that enlightenment is not just mental and theoretical and philosophical. It is very, very, very real, like helping people, opening hospitals. Like in Taiwan, the Buddhists in Taiwan have opened free hospitals for those who cannot afford healthcare.

So these are the actions of Medicine Buddha through us: opening hospitals, helping people, clothing those who are poor and sheltering those who are homeless. And when I read about the vows of Buddhas, such as Medicine Buddha, these are my vows, too, and it encourages me to make my own vows. Amitabha Buddha had 48 vows, I think, or 42 vows. I can't remember. Forty-something vows. Some Buddhas have eight vows. Some Buddhas have other vows. The Medicine Buddha has 12 vows. What are your vows? As you are awakening to who you really are, what is your vow?

I know one of my vows is, I want to make practice easier for people to enter through the dharma door, and my other vow is that as I lead people I want them never to forget our connection to the earth and the healing energy of being on planet earth. You can't practice enlightenment and also destroy the forest. It is a complete contradiction. Some Zen masters in Japan a long time ago, they were promoting enlightenment and also promoting World War II and supporting anti-Semitism and supporting Hitler. That is a contradiction of our practice. So Medicine Buddha reminds me to really be careful of the contradictions in our practice and to heal them. And also another vow of mine is that I want to incorporate music and joy into the practice always.

So those are my vows, and here's the Medicine Buddha's vows, and you can read them yourself. I don't have time to go over all of them. You can read them yourself, and I guess I need to close. I really have a lot to say today. I have not talked to your group in like nine months, and a lot can happen in nine months, so I will conclude with chanting this three times, and please feel free to chant along or listen, and let's—please, can we do something that is interactive? Can you all just say out loud right now just someone that you want to send healing support to, including yourself? Just say that out loud right now.

Audience Members: (A few say names)

ChiSing: Come on, Buddhists. All right. Well, Norman Fischer will straighten you out tomorrow. You've got to be more explicit in your compassion. All right. (Plays shruti box) Please place your palms together at the heart. Take a deep breath. Get in touch with the healing blue light of the Medicine Buddha, which is a symbol of your own enlightened nature and the potential of healing in all of us.

Om Namo Bhagavate Bhaisajya-guru
Tathāgatāya Arhate

Tadyathā: Om
Bhaisajye Bhaisajye
Samud-gate Svāhā

Namo Amitabha.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch