Buddha statue quiet lake
HAPPY - Healthy, Holy & High...the Enlightened Way!
Lunar New Year Celebration 2013
Listen to this talk:
Brother ChiSing and Ven. Tashi Nyima: HAPPY - Healthy, Holy & High...the Enlightened Way! (15 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
February 17, 2013 - Dallas, Texas

ChiSing: You know, in Western spiritual traditions, the snake has a bad rap. But in the East, this snake is a wondrous creature, a very honored creature, and I'm going to give you an interpretation of the snake based on my own intuitive understanding. It is not something you will read in a fortune cookie necessarily, but it does come from my heart, and I think it may resonate with you.

This last year was the beginning of a 12-year cycle. Last year was the Year of the Dragon, and the dragon begins the 12-year cycle. And the dragon is a wondrous creature and a mystical creature, a creature that is a blend of earthly and heavenly energies and also in some traditions, the dragon breathes fire. And I feel that last year was sort of a new beginning for many of us in our spiritual practice, and the fire represents a burning away all of that which we don't need in our lives. And also the fire represents the fire of energy that can fuel us into the next step.

And this year is that next step, the second year in that 12-year cycle, the Year of the Snake. And for me, this is an opportunity for us to really move through change. You know, the snake, when it moves, it moves and it is like in this really wonderful motion, right? And also, the snake represents honoring our connection to the earth as well. The snake is always moving on the earth directly. There are no legs. It is directly, its whole body is on the earth, and so it represents being in touch with the earth and also the feminine energy as well.

And there is some symbolism in certain cultures where you see a snake in a circle with its mouth opening and devouring its tail. This represents a cycle of life, and the cycle of birth and death over and over and over again. So in a sense, it also represents eternal cycles of time. And, I'm not sure if all snakes do this, but I know certain snakes shed their skin, their old skin, so that their fresh skin can come out and so they shed the old. That can represent this year also, to continue to shed the old and to walk into our newness of life.

And in certain Indian spiritual traditions, there is something called kundalini, which is usually represented by a snake spiraled at the bottom of the spine that uncoils itself through all of its chakras into its full manifestation or liberation or awakening or whatever it represents for them. So again, the snake represents energy moving and awakening also.

So this can be a year for you, an opportunity to take last year's energy and now move through change. Now, change is an interesting thing, but it has 2 sides to it, doesn't it? Change can be very positive, and change can be very difficult also. But sometimes change is both positive and difficult at the same time. Not every positive change is easy, and so part of our practice is to be willing to be okay with that which may not be easy and not to run away from that which may feel a little difficult because the results may be quite positive if we can stick to it.

Just like if a cake batter complains all the time every time it is about to go into the oven, we would never have a nice cake. But while the cake batter is in the oven, it doesn't always feel so pleasant. We are all cake batter. Some are tastier than others, but we are all cake batter in the oven of practice to produce the cake of enlightenment. Okay. Maybe it is time for Tashi to speak now. Anyway.

Tashi: It sounds like Hansel and Gretel.

ChiSing: Oh, good. Well, it is almost going to be your turn to speak. So anyway, we're going to keep the message short tonight because we want to have a blessing ceremony, and the children are going to do a performance for us tonight as well. I think some sort of snake skit or dance. So anyway, Year of the Dragon. Year of the Snake. Move through the change this year. Be okay with it not always being easy making changes, and next year, the Year of the Horse, all that you do this year will help you to be that horse of strength and power and run with life rather than to feel stifled in that.

So what you do today is very important and what you did last year made today possible, and what you do this year makes tomorrow possible, you see? This is actually the principle of karma also. If you want to know what your past life, whether this life or past lives, what kinds of things were involved, just look at your life today because everything you did in the past has made today possible. If you want to know what you're going to be like in your next life, look at your life today. Because what you do now is the very foundation of everything tomorrow. So yesterday created today, and today creates tomorrow.

Our practice is just to be mindful of all of that, to be mindful of all of our choices and all of our actions, to make sure that we are continually following and disciplining ourselves and giving our whole heart to the path of practice and enlightenment, the path of wisdom and compassion.

And one last thing I will share is don't think enlightenment is all glorious. Like I said last time, enlightenment is messy. Have you ever tried to make cake? It is messy. At least when I do it, it is messy. There is powder everywhere, egg shells everywhere. It is just messy. I am sorry for the vegans. I will use vegan eggs next time. But anyway, it is messy. So enlightenment is messy. Enlightenment does not just happen once and poof, okay, I am all glorious and I am a radiant being of light. You know?

You look at the Buddha. He was so wondrous a being, but did it happen in one night? Well, yes and no, depending on your perspective, but there were many, many days and years of searching and wondering and practice, and maybe lifetimes before that to get to this point in that life of enlightenment. So enlightenment is messy. And look at me. I am not fully enlightened. I mean, hopefully I am not totally unenlightened either. I'm kind of in between, kind of like a sophomore. And if you aren't always happy with me as a director here or a facilitator, just remember, you are going to have to go through what I went through at some point. We all have to go through the messiness of our journey. It is not like you go from unenlightened, completely unenlightened, to fully enlightened. No. No. No. There is a whole in between process, and I am in the middle of it, just like all of you are. So we are all in this together.

One last thing. I'm sorry. I do want to share. It is really cute. You know, Namo Amitabha means gratitude to the infinite light. It is my main mantra practice. In Japanese, it is Namo Amita Butsu, which means gratitude to the infinite light, Buddha. And a friend of mine has an iPhone 5 with this voice thing. I don't know what it is called.

Audience: Siri.

ChiSing: Siri. Anyway, he can actually speak into it, and it translates it into text immediately pretty accurately. So I took his phone, and I was trying to test it, and I said, "Namo Amita Butsu," and the text came, "I am all I need." Wow. Message from the Buddha. So anyway, Namo Amita Butsu. Namo Amitabha.

Tashi: I'm not going to do the cake thing. (Laughter) I just wanted to perhaps remind you as well about something in conjunction with the symbolism of the snake. Most of you have probably seen representations of the Buddha Shakyamuni sitting in meditation protected by a snake. Have you seen that?

Audience: Yes.

Tashi: Sitting and the very, very big cobra is behind him, spreading the hood so that he will not be disturbed. And that to me is perhaps something that we can think of as we move into this Year of the Snake, that all of us have this Buddha nature. All of us have this perfect peace and perfect clarity that is our nature, but we have to protect it. We have to protect that from wrong views. We have to protect it from afflicted emotions. We have to protect that from excessive stimulation, of which we have plenty. Wouldn't you agree? So this protective snake, this protective serpent, we need to raise it.

There is a beautiful story of a Buddhist monk who was traveling to the countryside and came to this village where everyone was scared. Everyone was in their homes and would not go out, and he asked what was going on. They said, "There is a very, very aggressive snake, a very aggressive cobra in the vicinity, and that has killed many people and many animals." So the monk went out to meet the snake, and of course, bear with me. In this story, snakes speak and all of that stuff. So the monk approaches the snake and says, "People are scared of you. Why are you doing this?" So he engaged the snake in conversation, and by the purity of this monk, the snake little by little became convinced that his previous actions were not the best, right?

So he took a vow before that monk not to hurt any sentient beings. The monk went back to the village and said, "The snake will not bother you any more." So little by little, the people lost their fear, and they started going out, and when they saw the snake, at first, they would approach it very cautiously. Then when they realized the snake was not dangerous anymore, they started approaching the snake and throwing stones at the snake, hitting it with sticks. Even the children would pick up the snake and hit it against the ground, and the snake was not doing very well.

So the monk comes back to the village and finds the snake in this deplorable condition and says, "What is happening?" He says, "I took your advice and I am following the vows. No matter what they do to me, I will not strike." And the monk said something that I think should be very instructive for us. "I told you not to bite. I did not tell you not to hiss." Because part of true dharma cultivation is we need to have the capacity to defend our practice, not to go along. Going along sounds very nice. By going along, think of where it will lead you, just going along.

So we have to have the capacity to do like a cobra does, rise up, open the hood, and hiss when the vast majority is going somewhere where we do not want to go. That is also part of the practice. If you notice the dharma is always about what to accept and what to reject. It is not all take, take, take. Actually, it is mostly giving up stuff, right? So we need to have a capacity to stand our ground and defend our Buddha nature, right? Raise that hood over your own illumined nature, over your own internal Buddha, and protect it from afflicted emotions and wrong views and excessive stimulation of our society. Perhaps this is something that we can focus on this year, how to protect our peace, how to protect our clarity.

Thank you.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch