Thank you, dear friends, for your beautiful practice tonight. It felt nicely deep. Perhaps the mantra Ami Deva is very powerful.
So, tonight I would like for us to reflect on some of the slogans from the chapter on the mind training, "Transform bad circumstances into the path." I will not talk about all of them, but let me at least mention what they are: "Turn all mishaps into the path," "Drive all blames into one," "Be grateful to everyone," "See confusion as Buddha," and "Practice emptiness." "Do good." "Avoid all evil." "Appreciate your lunacy." "Pray for help." And, "Whatever you meet is the path."
I talked about this with a few of other groups already from a more standard approach, but tonight I feel like speaking more from a different angle. There is a bumper sticker slogan I created a few years ago, and it was "Turn your karma into dharma." So I would like to talk about that actually a little bit more.
I could talk about a few different laws in the universe: the law of attraction or manifestation, the law of karma, law of punya (or merit), the law of dharma (or lessons), the law of seva (or service), and the law of grace, which relates to punya (or merit).
So, this is probably the third time I have spoken on this topic. The first time I spoke was in answer to a question, and it was just a spontaneous insight wisdom arising in the moment of opening my mouth, and that sometimes happens, especially when you're in a very awakened state of being and together. As we collectively create that energy field of awakening together, many times I will just simply--it is almost like it is channeling, just speaking from the deeper place in the moment.
Well, I happened to speak on this when Bobbie happened to be here, and that was what convinced her to keep coming back, and so she has been a wonderful part of our community, making sure everything runs smoothly. It is just a blessing. Let us keep praying for Bobbie every day and every week to help uplift her energy so that she can stay as healthy and happy as possible.
Now I am going to share about it again. Some of you may be repeating this, but many times when we hear something that is similar, we always hear it on a deeper level. Anyone who teaches it a second or third or fourth time, it is always at a different level for them as well.
So there is the law of attraction and manifestation, which is to create an intention in the mind and to focus all your energy there mentally and emotionally and with your willpower send it forth into the universe for fruition. There are different ways that people have come up with to do this process. There is creative visualization. There is affirmative prayer. There is the five-step spiritual mind treatment that Ernest Holmes came up with. There is Jesus' Lord's Prayer, which is actually a kind of a process for manifestation. There is also utilizing the seven chakras to help you with your focus on manifestation. There are all kinds of different ways to activate the law of attraction and manifestation.
However, if you think that is the only law that is in operation in the universe, then you may find very quickly that just making an intention does not necessarily attract what you're wanting and does not necessarily manifest what you are intending. There are a lot of other laws going on at the same time as we co-create this reality together.
There is also the law of karma, which means action, which means cause and consequence. When we say the word karma, many times we usually mean the effect of karma, the effect of that action, but it actually literally means the actual action. So to create an action through your thoughts, speech, or body action is to create karma.
But when we use the word karma, we also mean not only the action but the consequence, the energetic imprints, if you will, that are now reverberating in the universe because of the action. So the technical term is Karma Phala, which means the fruit of that action, the fruit of karma. But for shorthand, we will use karma to mean both the action and the fruit of action. That is how we usually use that anyway these days, karma.
So as you are making an intention, you have to realize that the force of the habit of your energy based on actions also has weight in the way you are manifesting. So in fact, if you make a positive intention but many of your actions of speech and thought and body—if the habitual energy imprint you are creating to reverberate is of a negative quality, that can block the positive intention that you are making. So sometimes they cancel each other out, you see. It just depends on how it mixes together.
That is why we need to meditate to look at our mind and see what energetic imprints are in there from our past, from our inheritance of ancestral karma—or, if you believe in past lives, your personal ancestral karma from your actual past lives. But if you do not believe in reincarnation, you can just think of it as ancestral karma from your ancestors, your great-grandparents, grandparents, etcetera that you have inherited in this life from them, and now you are dealing with all of these family patterns that have carried on the present moment. That has a major effect on your minds and how you create your reality.
So there is not just the law of attraction. There is also the law of karma, and we have to deal with the karma and transform it. That is where merit comes in, and merit is a special kind of karma if you will. It is specifically a kind of action that you do that specifically will go toward spiritual awakening and enlightenment, whether directly or indirectly. So any action of yours, any kind of karmic action of yours that is more for awakening, we call that punya, or merit.
It is a positive kind of karma, but a specific kind. There is also positive karma for other things. For example, you could have some sort of positive karma in the area of physical beauty, and maybe because of that particular karma, you tend to have physical beauty. That is great, but that does not necessarily lead to enlightenment, so even though it is a positive kind of karma, it is not necessarily the kind of karma that is called merit or punya. The only kind of action that is called punya is anything that actually adds toward or supports you and others toward enlightenment or awakening.
So, what are some of these kinds of actions? Well, the act of giving food to a monk or a nun, the act of supporting financially dharma centers, the act of meditation, the act of chanting, the act of bowing, the act of lighting incense with a sincere heart, the act of helping clean the center, watering flowers. These actions, even though they might not necessarily seem like spiritual actions, because they are being done in a spiritual center and to support the spiritual center, they then become merit. It becomes punya.
So anything that you do that supports either your own awakening or a center that is helping other people awaken or supporting a monk and a nun or a spiritual person who is on that path or the community, then automatically that ordinary kind of karma becomes a special kind of karma, which is punya or merit--and we need merit. We need that kind of positive energy.
Think of punya or merit as sort of your powerhouse, your storehouse of power and energy, like a battery, a spiritual battery. You need to create a powerful energy in your practice because otherwise you may make an intention to co-create your reality, but there is no umph to it. There is no spiritual energy to it.
And this is true even with teachers, for example. I have seen this many times. I have seen it slowly develop in my own life. I have seen teachers who have a lot of knowledge and give a good presentation, but I have also seen other teachers who maybe don't speak as well or speak as much, and maybe they don't speak any more eloquently about this particular topic, and yet there is so much spiritual energy just being in the same room as that person. You know what I'm talking about?
So, teachers, for example, if they are wise not only will train themselves in how to speak well and how to talk on certain teachings, but will develop their spiritual energy so that they do not have to say that much, and yet so much energy is radiated. You see? It is their being that now teaches, and not just their words. I have seen that, especially with Thich Nhat Hanh and others, and last week I could fill that with Brother Chan Huy, could you?
And once in a while I feel like I sort of radiate that also, but not always. I am still like a sophomore. Sometimes I radiate it and sometimes I don't. It is okay. We're all growing and radiating together. But I have noticed there is spiritual energy, and so that is why I try my best to meditate before I give a talk or lead a meditation. I want to put lots of spiritual energy into whatever is going on here, you see. So that is important.
And I felt your spiritual energy collectively tonight. Did you notice that by chanting that om amideva hrih several times for several minutes, that really had a powerful positive effect on your meditation? Did you notice? And then of course by meditating together, we are having a powerful effect. As you listen to this talk and as we go out from here tonight into our lives, you will carry that energy out as well.
So there are many ways to cultivate and carry that positive spiritual energy. Yoga is another way. Tai chi, Chi gong, and all kinds of things that support our spiritual practice and awakening in others like enlightenment is punya.
So, law of attraction, law of karma, with the law of punya as part of that, and now also the law of dharma. Dharma means truth. It means teaching. It means practices. It means the way things are. It means a lot of things. In this case what I mean is your lessons, the lessons that you're meant to learn in this lifetime. So what is your dharma for this lifetime?
You know, many times we find ourselves in difficult situations in this life. Some of it might be because we are attracting it through our intentional or unintentional thought patterns. We attract what we think. It is true. Sometimes we do that, and sometimes we are attracting these difficult sort of situations just because of karma. This is the fruit and consequence that's something from the past, whether your personal past, past life, or your ancestral past—however you want to conceive of it.
So the life you're living now is the result of some of the carrying over from the past. That may be true also. However, many times it has nothing to do necessarily with you attracting that necessarily or that you did something so you deserve it now, almost like retribution. Many times it is just simply this is what is necessary for you to learn the lesson that you came to learn.
Imagine as if you as the soul, if you want to use that term, decided on certain lessons that you wanted to learn in this particular lifetime, and so these were the particular possible scenarios that were mapped out for you, and so some of these scenarios include certain difficulties and challenges, because that is the only way you're going to be able to learn those lessons.
For example, what if your lesson is about compassion? Well, I can guarantee you if you're learning lessons about compassion in this lifetime, you are not going to have always an easy life. There is no way you can learn compassion without going through some difficulty or being surrounded by others who have some difficulties and learning to have compassion.
So you have to be aware that instead of whining about what is going on, reframe it in your mind. Maybe there is some lesson here. Instead of just suffering, why not make something good out of it? Try to see if there's something you can learn and grow through this experience, because if you don't, it is just suffering, you know? But if you add the mindful openness to seeing a lesson here, then it is no longer just suffering. It is now useful suffering, and that is so much better than just suffering.
Julie: It may not even be named suffering.
ChiSing: That is right. Everything shape shifts.
Julie: And just the experience of it. Can I give an example?
Julie: Everybody at one time or another finds someone who misunderstands them and gets angry, and I've had experiences where someone had come at me in an angry way, assigning motives to me that were not mine, and seeing me as trying to harm them, and when I was able to respond without reacting angrily and bring some clarity into the situation, I had people completely transform. The anger falls away, and they suddenly realize that you are giving them love when they were giving you hate. I had a person at my work say, "I have been really bad to you, and you always respond like a Christian, someone who is very deeply Christian," and it made a shift. Some trust developed that was not there before. So I no longer felt on edge when I thought of her in the building. I felt like I had a refuge inside of me that can create a good space.
ChiSing: That is a wonderful example of how we can reframe any situation into dharma, and that is what I meant by the bumper sticker phrase, "Turn your karma into dharma." Don't just think of it in the sense of, oh, this is just my punishment. Rather, what is the lesson but you can take out of it, the wisdom you can gain from it? So from victim mentality to having more empowered mentality.
The law of dharma—think about what lessons you may be able to gain from any experience and don't just wallow or whine in it. This morning I spoke at Agape Center for Spiritual Living in the Plano/Frisco area. Sometimes my spiritual guides--I don't know what to call them, but they whisper things into my ear once in a while, and this one was so funny. Winners can't be whiners, and whiners can't be winners. I like that. Next time you whine, realize that by doing that, it is hard to win in the situation, but if you want to be a true spiritual winner, then you do not want to practice whining. It's either whining or winning. They do not go together. You can only do one or the other.
So, we have the law of attraction, the law of karma and punya, and the law of dharma. Is that it? No. There are one or two more laws that co-create our reality. There is the law of seva, or service. Because sometimes, not that you are just attracting something, a difficult situation in your life, it may not be that it's karmic, a consequence. It may not even be about what lesson are you supposed to learn out of this. It may just be purely service that you are going through this difficult situation on behalf of others, to be a light in their darkness. And obviously, you happen to be in the darkness with them, so it feels not so easy for you, but you are the light in that situation.
Think about so many times when you have been in a difficult situation, if you have not been in that part of the situation, imagine how much less light there would have been in that situation. So what a blessing that you happen to be there and be a part of that family, be a relative, be a part of that situation because they needed you. They were going through whatever they were going through for whatever reason, and you were light. You were light in the situation.
So, I am going to use the word soul, and I know this is not a Buddhist way of saying it, but oh well. In terms of looking at people's soul ages, the maturity of their souls, the youngest souls usually are just dealing with their karma, just on the level of learning about karma and, oh, when I do this, this is what happens, but when I do that, that is what happens. It is very, very basic stuff for many, many lifetimes.
And then, as a soul progresses, it might start dealing with the law of attraction, learning how to actually take charge of their life and not just be almost like overwhelmed by all their karma, but now start to change things through their mind and attract something different. As they progress, it becomes more about the lessons that they are here to learn, and so they can choose more carefully what lessons they learn.
Eventually, after beings are more enlightened, more awakened, then it mostly has nothing to do with any of the previous things. They have mostly balanced out their karma. They have learned how to attract what they need to. They know how to control their minds, they know how to create positive merit, and they also have learned most of the lessons that they're going to need to learn on the earth plane. But, they keep coming back because they just want to serve. Those are the higher-level souls that are here just to serve.
Now, most of us are a mixture, because we are working through all of the different areas, the karma, the attraction, the dharma, the seva. We are all working on those, but have you noticed that certain times in your life there is one theme more predominant than another? And maybe in a particular situation, there might be one particular law more at work than another, you see? And most of the time you may not even know which law is really predominant, and that is okay. You do not need to know. Just do what you need to do and do what you know to do in mindfulness, moment by moment. That is what matters.
So remember, next time you wonder why you are going through a difficult situation, do not whine about it, but just see that there are many factors happening simultaneously better co-creating this reality, and one of them is that you are there to be a light, that you are there to serve, that you are there to be a bodhisattva.
Then one last law, which is actually the law related to service and to merit, is not really a separate law, but I will talk about it as the law of grace. Because of the positive energy of others—well, before I say that, I want to say this. In Buddhism, we have the teaching of the truth of nonself. There are many understandings of this teaching and many layers of meaning, but the one I want to present tonight is the meaning of nonself meaning that because we are not a separate self with hard, rigid boundaries of self—in other words, our selfness is permeable, and therefore, we are connected to all other selves.
There is a part of every single being in me, and there is a part of me in every single one of you. This is one of the meanings of nonself. We are actually one entire fullness and beingness, and because of that, individuals are not just stuck with their own individual karma or merit. We can actually share our merit with others, and we can receive the merit of others. This is what I mean by the law of grace.
So, fully enlightened brothers and sisters in the universe who are fully matured on the path, they just offer all of their merit to all others, all of the younger brothers and sisters. This is the truth that is seen in the story of Jesus and Buddha and many others, and specifically in Buddha's story, the Buddha practiced all these wonderful practices, creating good merit. That supported him in his enlightenment at age 35. He meditated for several years and then finally was enlightened. Guess what? Now that he was enlightened, did he stop doing spiritual practice? No. He kept right on going for 45 more years, meditating and doing spiritual practices.
Why? If spiritual practice is just for yourself, it seems kind of pointless. Why is the Buddha still practicing and meditating? Because spiritual practice and meditation is not just for yourself. It is to create that punya, extra merit, not only for yourself but to overflow for others. That is why even on days when I do not feel like meditating or practicing, I still try my best to do it, because is it is not just for me. I am trying to do more than enough so that I can offer the overflow to others. If you practice with that attitude it just makes it easier to keep practicing because it's not just for yourself but for your whole family.
Female: That is good, ChiSing.
ChiSing: You can receive that from the enlightened ones. They offer it. So, have you ever noticed sometimes when you are just depressed or sad or just down, and maybe it does not seem like any of the other laws are helping you, and all of a sudden out of the blue it does not even feel like you deserve it, but you just start feeling better. Or someone does something nice to you or for you out of the blue. That is an example of the law of grace because there is always the surprise of life coming to you. It is always available. Amen.
So, always be open to receiving the merit of others, the merit of those in this room, the merit of the spiritual teachers, the merit of the enlightened ones, and ultimately the merit of what you might call God or source or the spirit of all. Also, it has two sides, the law of grace. It is not just the grace that you receive. It is the grace that you can give to others. This is what we mean by merit and service. So the law of grace is actually another way that's talking about merit and service--to take that spiritual energy that you've cultivated and just give it away to others.
In fact, there is one teaching in Buddhism which I totally love, whether you want to think of it as literal or just metaphorical. I love this teaching. It is the teaching that you do not have to do anything for your own enlightenment. Others who have gone before you have done everything for you, so now your enlightenment is because of their merit. Anything that you do in this life is not for yourself. It is just for someone else. It is almost like a cosmic pay it forward. So whether you take that literally or not, I think it is a beautiful idea, and if you practice with that kind of attitude, believe me, it will transform the way you act in the way you practice and the way you meditate.
So instead of trying to meditate to get something out of it, know that everything is already given to you. There is nothing that you need to do to be enlightened. You already have the gift of enlightenment right there within you, as you, so anything that you do is an expression of gratitude for the enlightenment that is already your birthright, your inheritance. That you give and cultivate good merit and service, and you just meditate because you want to offer it to others.
Maybe there are some people in this world that are definitely not at the stage where they can even meditate, and they need a lot of help. So you meditate for them. Do not do it just for yourself. That will make it a lot easier for you to meditate even on days when you do not feel like it and it is hard. You are not just doing it for yourself. It is for others, especially those who will never meditate in this lifetime, who just do not have that kind of karma yet. That is just not going on in their lessons. They are just not at that stage yet. So you do it for them.
We practice for all of these baby Buddhas—some of these crying, screaming toddler baby Buddhas. We practice for them. Maybe some of us here are like the teenage Buddhas and our teachers are more mature Buddhas, but all of us are in it together. This is why we practice. So let us co-create a new reality moment to moment. Let us create heaven on earth, the Pure Land of the Buddha.