Buddha statue quiet lake
Levels of Commitment in Your Practice
Listen to this talk:
Levels of Commitment in Your Practice (29 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
June 15, 2014 - Dallas, Texas

Thank you, dear friends, for your practice tonight. Every time we practice collectively, we connect to a larger positive field of energy, as we are able to benefit, receive from that collective energy, and we also give to that collective energy.

That is why it is so important to practice collective spiritual gatherings as regularly as possible, at least once a week if you can. That may be coming every week the meditation group. It may also include church or synagogue or temple or mosque. It is just very important to have regular spiritual practice as a collective. This is because it reminds us that we are not doing this alone and that enlightenment is not just a solo activity. It is actually meant to be something that helps us with our solidarity with all people, all beings.

And also, the energy is amplified. You can meditate at home by yourself of course. That is good, and you need to do that, too, but when you do it as a community, it amplifies your practice because you're able to receive the support of everyone else practicing around you, and you get to support everyone else, too, through your practice. And what you give is amplified, you see? It is amplified. So it is important to not neglect community practice on a regular basis if you can help that.

It was advertised I was going to talk about the three bodies of the Buddha and the seven bodies of human beings, but that is pretty deep. I don't think I can cover that in 15 minutes, so just know that you have many, many dimensions to your reality and so does the Buddha and the divine, the universe, okay? Are there many levels of reality. You've got your physical reality, your mental, emotional, spiritual reality. There are all kinds of levels, they just realized that you are more than what you think you are. Okay. That's that. All right.

So, I think what I will talk about is some practical things about your practice. I would like to encourage you to commit to these practices, okay? I'm going to talk about different levels of commitment in your practice, and that doesn't mean that one is inferior and one is superior. It just means it depends on where you're at in your practice, okay? So I'm going to talk about four different levels of participation in this community. All right.

One level of participation, I'm going to call you the spiritual explorers, and we seem to have many of you in the room tonight. So, spiritual explorers, you come to the meditation group occasionally, maybe just visiting for the first time tonight, and you're just exploring. Maybe you read some books that home. Maybe you Google and do some research online. Maybe you even talk to Bobbie or someone else here who is a teacher just to kind of get some ideas about what it means to practice meditation and be on the path of enlightenment. Or maybe you even have specific questions on Buddhism specifically.

But I want you to know that even though most of our practice here is Buddhist-based, we are not just Buddhist. We are interfaith. We believe that the path of enlightenment includes everybody on whatever path you are on. For example, when we do refuges to the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha, well, you can translate that into Christian terminology. You take refuge in the Christ principle and the cultivation of a Christlike life and in the community or the church of Christ spirit. See? So Buddha, dharma, sangha. It basically is referring to the principle of enlightenment, the practice of enlightenment, and the people of enlightenment. So it doesn't matter which tradition you want to focus on. What matters is that you're practicing something, okay? Practice something.

All right. So, spiritual explorers. You're just exploring, and that is okay. We are totally beginner friendly here. We are very friendly to spiritual explorers. We want you to know that even if we never see you again, that you be blessed for the one or two times that you come, and we know that you will be blessed and that will ripple across, but maybe you will find a different community or a different path, and we don't need you to commit to only this one way. But if you find something positive here, please enjoy it and take it wherever you go. So we are very friendly to spiritual explorers.

But I want to encourage you to consider the possibility of becoming more than just a spiritual explorer here. So, a second level of participation, I'm going to call you the sangha students. And that means you are now ready to actually commit to regular practice. So, what does regular practice mean? I'm going to give you some definitions. There is no absolute truth to this, but it is a good suggestion. So what is regular practice? Regular practice means—so you're going to commit to a daily practice. Maybe that practice every day is going to be prayer or mantra chanting, like Amitabha. While you're driving the car, "Amitabha. Amitabha," or whatever. You can do it out loud or silently. And then of course mindful moments throughout the day.

So this is easy. It is easy to commit to the daily practice of a prayer. Maybe it means you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think of it is a prayer of thanks. Thank you, God, Buddha, Universe. Thank you, life for this brand-new day. May I live it the next 24 hours in mindfulness so that all beings will be benefited. You know, something like that. Prayer in the morning, prayer throughout the day, a prayer at night before you go to bed. It is very simple.

Now Buddhists, we like to do it a little bit more ritualistically, so we may not only just do the prayer. We also might light incense, like our candle, and do two or three bows of respect to our teachers and all those who show us the way of enlightenment and to connect to our inner divine teacher. So, you can do it in a formal way with ritual, which I love, or you don't have to. If you don't like ritual, you can just do it silently in your heart or in your bed.

Mantra chanting I highly recommend. You pick something, whether it is Sanskrit or English, such as, "All is well. I am home. I will be done. Amitabha. Om Mani Padme Hum." Whatever. Something simple that helps you to just come back to the goodness of reality, because sometimes we are so caught up in the stress of our everyday busy life that we need to have something to help us remember what is the goodness that we have in the here and now. So, mantra chanting is very helpful.

And of course, practice mindful moment throughout the day. Whenever you think of it, maybe at the stoplight, maybe when the telephone rings, or maybe you're just waiting in the grocery store line. Just take a moment to breathe in and out at least three vital breaths and remember that there is goodness in this moment even in the midst of the chaos. There is goodness in this moment. That is easy, isn't it? You can do that, right? So please commit to that and try to do the practice.

And then, at least three times a week—I would say at least three times, but even once will be good—is some sort of formal practice of meditation. Perhaps that would be sitting practice or walking or lying down meditation. So it could be one of those or all of them or some of them. I say if you can try to commit to it at least three times a week at home by yourself, that would be really good. But even once a week is okay too. The commitment is to at least one, 2, or three times a week. If you can do it every day, great. Awesome. More power to you. But don't try to make a commitment that you can't keep. I think one, 2, or three times a week is more doable for most people.

Then, I would like you to commit to weekly sangha practice, okay? So, weekly group meditation. Now, I know some of you have crazy schedules and you can't always make it every week, but at least just try to make a commitment to that ideal and, as often as you can, even once a month. Just because you can't do it every week doesn't mean you can't come at all. Come once a month. But you have to commit to looking at your calendar and finding that date you're going to commit to, okay?

And you know what? Find two or three meditation groups that you can commit to because when you can't come Sunday, you can come Monday instead. You can come Monday, you can come Wednesday instead. You see what I'm saying? We have meditations here every day of the week, so you have no excuses. But really commitment to that.

And honestly, this is one of the most important parts because if you can commit to the weekly group over several weeks and months of time, you're going to notice. It is a very powerful practice. It's going to have benefits greater than you realize. Because of that collective energy I talked about earlier.

And then commit to at least once per year go to a retreat if you have the time and money to do so. Go to a meditation or mindfulness retreat, a spiritual retreat. Maybe you only have time for a weekend or a whole week or even longer maybe. There are lots of different types of retreats. Some retreats focus on 10 days. If you can try to do that once a year for the rest of your life, it is going to make a major, profound difference in your practice. I guarantee it.

So another thing to commit to is—well, these are optional, okay? I'm going to give you some options. And I don't think you can read this anymore, but I'm going to write it down anyway. Meet with a dharma teacher maybe occasionally or whatever, just to have a little consultation with the dharma teacher about your practice. Meet some monks and nuns. In the Buddhist tradition, we have a tradition of giving food to the monks and nuns regularly remind us that we are going to support those who are intensively on the path of enlightenment, and we are grateful for what they do to us with their practice.

And then also prostration practice is another optional practice. This is like Buddhist yoga, because to bow to the floor over and over again however many times you can is really, really healing. That is a healing practice. I don't have time to go over the reasons why, but you can Google and look at the YouTube videos on this whole practice. People in Korea, thousands of them do this practice, and people actually get healed of mental and physical diseases by doing this practice over and over and over again. But anyway, it is good to really make that commitment to the energy in motion in our practice. So not just stillness, but also mindful movement.

But anyway, I call this you are a sangha student. If you can commit to some or all of this, I consider you a sangha student. Now, what is the next level? Sorry. I don't have room on this board, but I will just put it over here. I will call you dharma students if you make a formal commitment to these practices. So you are a sangha student if you just come and no one else—I might not even know that you made a commitment. You just come whenever you do regularly. Okay.

That's great, but if you want to be a dharma student under my care or someone else's care here like Bobbie or whoever else is a dharma teacher here, then you need to come to me or her or them specifically and make that commitment that you really want to be a formal student of this practice. So that means you will make a formal commitment. I will probably do a ritual with you, you know, three bows or something like that so that you will make that commitment.

Now I've never really done this before because I have always just relied on people just being sangha students, but I feel now that it is time for people to have the opportunity to make more formal commitment. So I am willing to take that role as long as you don't project all of your stuff on to me. You know how people project their father figure or their mother figure or their teacher figure or authority figure and in all of their stuff comes up? It is nothing to do with me, but they are just projecting it. Please don't do that. I don't have time for that, and I don't want to deal with that. But if you're willing to have a healthy, emotionally sane a relationship with me as your teacher, I am willing to be available to you in a formal way. So that means that you're going to commit even more to these practices, and I will keep up with you at least once a month personally one-on-one with you to see how you are doing and if you have questions or whatever, issues that come up.

Then, last but not least, fourth level of participation, I'm going to call you Buddha students or bodhisattva students. Maybe Buddhist students is too arrogant to say. So bodhisattvas students. But anyway. So if Buddha or bodhisattva student will be all of those who are dharma students who actually I feel that you have some good teaching capacities. I will ask you if you would like to become a Buddha student and be trained by me to become a meditation teacher or facilitator, sangha facilitator.

So I don't know when I will get to that point where I will be ready to do that. I think I have to have at least a year with you all as dharma students, and then I will see, and then I will talk to you personally if you feel like you're ready. I already actually know three people in the sangha but I would like to train as meditation facilitators. So this is basically you're doing all of this, that you are also adding on the responsibility of learning how to help others create spiritual groups, and then you can start your own spiritual group, too, if you like, to practice on how to facilitate spiritual community.

So, those are four levels of participation. There is not one inferior or superior to another. It is just a matter of where you at in your life and practice. What I want to encourage all of you if you're ready, go from the spiritual explorer phase to the sangha student phase, and if you've been coming to the sangha for a while, I encourage you to consider the possibility of becoming a more formal dharma student, and I will commit to being available to you in a sane and healthy way.

So, now, I also want to share with you something, a little small something, a little small tidbit of insight. So I was meditating at the retreat that I was at, and I was thinking about the past, and I was thinking about the future, and then I was of course also trying to be more present in the here and now. But when you go to a retreat where you have lots and lots of time to meditate and be alone and reflect, you reflect on things. So I was thinking about my past and my future and trying to stay present in the here and now, and I thought about, okay.

So in the past, most of us kind of go toward regret, resentment. Do you know what I am talking about? Am I the only one that ever does that in my mind? Okay. I start thinking about regrets and resentment and things I wish I could've done differently or things that I wish other people could've done differently. But that is not very helpful. Has anyone here ever found it very helpful? I haven't found it very helpful. So instead of dwelling on that, our spiritual practice is to dwell on the blessings in our lives, which leads then to the practice of gratitude.

So in relationship to the past, practice gratitude rather than resentment or regret. Gratitude. And in relation to the present, I thought of mindfulness and intention. Mindfulness and intention. So what I am saying is to be intentionally mindful in the here and now and to also be mindfully—make mindful intentions in the here and now. So that will be a whole dharma talk onto itself. In fact, if you want to learn more, you can talk to Bobbie. She is doing a Monday night series on this whole process of making mindful intentions and being intentionally grateful.

We really need both of these energies. Mindfulness is kind of a more feminine. Intention is more masculine. The combination of the two actually will produce the offspring of manifestation of what you want to create in your life. So mindfulness is just awareness and acceptance of the here and now. Intention is doing some focused desire to create something positive. So mindful intention and intentional mindfulness. Very, very important that this is what we practice in the present rather than worrying and stressing and being all crazy and everything.

And most of the time in the present moment, we feel like—we practice victim consciousness. "Oh, woe is me. Everyone is doing all this stuff to me." Well, you know what? You actually have power to be mindfully intentionful and to create something different right here and now. Does your power. So don't give away your power by "Oh, woe is me. I can't do anything about anything. It is all everyone else's fault." Don't do that. Don't be a victim. Be a victor. I like that. Not a victim, but a victor.

And then in relationship with the future, instead of worrying about the unknown future and all the disastrous things that could possibly happen to you, instead practice trust. Practice trust, practice faith, practice joyfully surrendering to the mystery of life, and enjoy the ride. Enjoy the ride. I really like that. So trust and enjoy the ride. Don't get all depressed over the bleakness of a possible future, but rather just trust that whatever happens, you are always taken care of, no matter what the outward circumstances.

I mean, take me for example. You know, I don't know if I'm going to live for 44 more years or if I'm going to die next year. I have a cancer tumor growing in my head, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down, so I have no idea. But I just trust that I have this day and I have the next day and however many extra days. I don't know, but I am trusting that it is all going to work out for my spiritual benefit and the benefit of others.

So I am looking forward to being a good example to all of you. I'm either going to be a really good example of somebody who knows how to heal themselves and live or I am going to be a good example of how to die gracefully and with dignity and with trust and gratitude and mindfulness. So either way, I hope that my life is of benefit to others. That is my goal.

So I am just enjoying the ride while I'm going through all of this. You know, why should I waste the present moment worrying? Because then I am not living it. Because if I only have a year to live, why am I wasting every single day worrying about death? Why don't I just live life today to the fullest with love and joy and peace? That is my goal. Now I'm not saying that I do that perfectly. I don't know. Maybe when I'm in a lot of pain, I am like, "Ah! I can't take any more pain." I don't know. I have no idea, but my plan is I'm going to practice everything that I've ever preached, practice what I preach, and then hopefully I will be able to receive the benefit of what I have to share.

I want to share one last thing. I know I am going to go over time, but I do. This is my last time to speak with you this summer, so please forgive me, but I'm going to share one last thing. I really want to encourage all of you to read the book Dying to Be Me, by Anita Moorjani. This is the story of an Indian woman. She is of Indian origin, but she grew up in Hong Kong, where my family grew up. And she had cancer, and she tried everything alternative and holistic to try to help heal, but somehow she was not able to stop the fear that was feeding the cancer, and so her whole body started to break down, and she was in the dying process, and she went into a coma, and then she died for a few minutes.

And in her near-death experience, she realized the wondrous reality of life, that there is really only love, this beautiful light that awaits us, and she had lots of other understandings and insights into reality. It was as if she just remembered these things. It wasn't like she learned them as if she never knew them. It was more like, oh yeah. Now I remember. Before I came to earth, this was our reality. We just forgot when we became human. So it is more like remembering that there is only love, that there is this infinite light that embraces us, and that we are not separate from all other souls. We are all interbeing with each other.

But when she was given the choice of continuing on in this infinite realm or to come back to her body, she thought, gosh, why would I want to come back to that body that is so suffering and has cancer in it? It was like, I don't want to be in the body. But then as she started reflecting, she had a knowing that if she did choose to come back to her body, the cancer would disappear within days and that she would have a very healthy body to work with for several more years to share the message that death is not the end and to encourage people to remember that they are beings of infinite light and we are not separate from each other or other people. We are all one with the divine and with each other. So when she thought of that, well, okay. Why not?

So instantly she came back into her body, and it is documented by the doctors at the hospital how within days—not months. Within days, all of the tumors and cancers within her body dissolved and disappeared without a trace. Within days. So now she wrote that book and now travels around to share her message, and I am reading the book right now. I listened twice to the audio version of the book because someone in the community—I don't remember who told me to do it—but she said, "I highly recommend that you get the audio version and listen to it. Let it just fill your mind and listen to her voice." So I did. Now I am on my second or third time listening to it, and it is what is keeping me from going into fear and despair.

It is just a wonderful way to remind myself that death is nothing really, and so whether I physically die or not right now, it doesn't matter, because eternal life is always our reality, whether we are in this physical body or outside this physical body. So I highly recommend that you read that book or listen to the audio version of that book. I believe it is a true story, and she does have documentation to prove her story. When your cancer tumors all disappear in a couple of days, how can you deny that something happened, right? Something really real happened to her, and so I believe in her story, and I'm very encouraged by her story, and I think it is really cool that she lives in Hong Kong, which is where my family is from.

So please read that book if you would like to encourage yourself or to recommend to someone who is facing some challenges with live or death. It will encourage them.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch