Now, investigating the way things are, we observe. What I have been doing so far this evening is reflecting out loud. What it is that we all have to bear with is having to accept the sensory world for what it is, from whatever extremes it manifests, the best and the worst of it. And reflecting on it means that we have a perspective on it. We suddenly see that this is what life is all about; it’s being sensitive, and having to bear with this whole experience of being born, growing up, getting old, and dying. This is what we are all involved with. This is what life is for us at this time. We are all alive now, living within the restrictions of our bodies and minds. Whether you like it, approve of it, or whatever, it doesn’t matter. We are not saying it’s good or it’s bad — just reflecting that this is the way it is. We are not judging it. Continue reading
Short talk of around 3 minutes.
Extract from a talk given at the Buddhist Publishing Group 2002 Summer School.
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Sometimes people criticize Buddhism because they say it’s pessimistic — we just talk about suffering; why not talk about love? Love is much more inspiring than suffering, isn’t it? Talking about universal love is a very inspiring subject. There is nothing wrong with contemplating universal love, either. But if that’s all we are doing, then it can be merely a whitewash over inner pain and anguish. We might want to love all beings and live in a world of unity and total love. That might be a very appealing idea. What is it that prevents us from that unity? If we trace it back, we will find it’s the ignorance that we have about ourselves. The suffering that we create in life is always the tendency to divide and separate, compare, accept and reject. So the Buddha emphasized the Noble Truth of suffering — not as an absolute, pessimistic view, but as a truth that we can be free from. The Buddha said, ‘I teach only two things — suffering and the end of suffering’. Continue reading
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Is there any object we can really trust forever and take refuge in? Is there another person we can feel completely happy with all the time? Is there a place, a book, a picture, a flower, beautiful scenery that we can enjoy all the while? Flowers are beautiful creations of nature, but how long can we sit and look at one without feeling bored? Most of us have to go from one flower to the next because one beautiful flower is not enough. People who do gardening, their minds are always creating something new, some new kind of arrangement, something that will be even nicer. No matter how beautiful anything is, it is never truly satisfying. There is always a snake in the grass, a worm in the apple, a fly in the ointment. Continue reading
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Tathata means ‘Suchness’, or ‘as-is-ness of the moment’. When I first came across this word ‘Suchness’ in Zen literature, I thought, ‘What the heck is Suchness? Suchness! That’s nonsense! Can’t figure that one out.’ If we hold perceptions to be reality, then in order for our world to be real, we have to perceive it as something. It can’t be just what it is. We have to interpret it, or give it a name, or describe it in some way. We perceive the world through words, through ideas. This obsession with cameras and photography now, is just wanting to capture things, capture moments on film, petrify them in time, and make them fixed because everything is moving and changing. But Suchness, or Tathata, the Tathagata, is right now. This is the way it is. But sometimes, when I say, ‘This is the way it is,’ somebody will say, ‘You mean this is the way it is forever?’ No! RIGHT NOW — this is the way it is. The only way it can be is the way it is right now! It’s changing, but at this moment, the Suchness of this moment, is just this way. The thinking mind has to stop. Otherwise you will want to ask, ‘Where is it? What is he saying?’ You just have to stop your mind and listen, or watch. Then you will be relating to Suchness, the Suchness of the moment, the as-is-ness.
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The Buddha pointed to an existential truth. It’s about existence. Suffering (dukkha) is about our human existence. And the actual meaning of `exist’ is to `stand forth’. What stands forth for us in our lives is suffering, isn’t it? We suffer a lot. We have a lot of existential suffering on this journey that we’re involved in from birth to death. And this suffering is common to every human being. It’s not just certain ones — it’s not just the poor, or just men or just women, or just Europeans or Africans or Asians — it’s everyone from the beginning of the human race, and will be to the end of it. As long as there’s ignorance, there’s going to be suffering. So this is a common experience we all share. When we talk about suffering, we don’t say, `I believe in it,’ or `I don’t believe in it.’ We know it because we suffer. You don’t have to believe in it — you already know you suffer. You have to believe in things you don’t quite know yet. Continue reading
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