"Wisdom of the Heart"|
Transcript of a talk delivered by Br. ChiSing
May 13, 2007 (Mother's Day)
GBF, San Francisco, CA
You know, the Buddha once held up a single flower in front of an
audience of many disciples, according to the Zen tradition. And this
was an unusual dharma talk for the Buddha, who was always very
eloquent. If you read alone just the Pali version of the canon, of
the text, it's quite huge: much bigger than the Judeo-Christian
Bible. And yet, in this dharma talk, according to the Zen tradition,
he just simply held up a flower. And for a very long time his
disciples were wondering, "What's going on? Why isn't he saying
anything?" But after quite a long time, maybe an hour or more, a
disciple far in the back, Mahakashyapa, smiled. And the Buddha
confirmed that this particular disciple understood the message.
Chelsea, our transcriber, notes:|
As with the Chinese and Indian languages, Japanese does not
differentiate between "heart" and "mind." Kokoro ( ), sometimes
pronounced shin, means "heart" (in the spiritual sense, never
the organ), "mind" or "spirit." — not to be confused with the homonymic
Japanese word meaning "truth" or "true" (spelled ), the
shin of Shin Buddhism.
In Chinese the word for "heart", "mind" or "spirit" is xin
(also written as ), and in Sanskrit the equivalent word is
In the Indian language and also in the Chinese language, the word for
"mind" also means "heart". And this kind of story is about mind to
mind transmission, but I like to translate it as heart to heart
understanding, heart to heart resonance, heart to heart attunement.
I was once at a retreat at Deer Park Monastery near San Diego,
California. And I was just spending an informal time there, for about
a week. There wasn't some sort of formal retreat there. I just
wanted to spend a week at the monastery. And I just spent time with
the monks. There were just about three lay brothers and all of the
rest were monks. So it was kind of nice just to hang out with the
monks, and to do the chores with them and meditate with them, converse
with them, play volleyball with them.
I remember one morning the chanting and meditation service was a
little bit different. Instead of doing it in English they decided to
do some of the chanting in Vietnamese. So as they began to chant. I
did not know what they were chanting, because I am Chinese and I
don't understand Vietnamese. And I just listened. And it was about
the third or fourth day of the retreat so I was very present and very
openhearted. And as I began to listen to the chant, I closed my eyes
and this very powerful image of a mountainside came to my mind, with
the sun just beginning to rise, and the Buddha and all the disciples
in their robes, with this very gentle half-smile, with their palms
together, chanting, with this full, confident, peaceful joy, radiating
across the mountain.
And then I began to visualize that there were lay disciples, all in
their white robes, also around the mountain. And then they began to
chant. And as the chanting continued the whole planet was filled with
people chanting, with this joyful, peaceful confidence. And in that
moment I thought to myself, "This must be the Heart Sutra they are
chanting." And in that moment they ended the chant, switching from
Vietnamese to Sanskrit:
"Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodisvaha."
And so that clued me in: this was the Heart Sutra. I like to translate
that mantra as, "Gone, gone, gone all the way, everyone gone all the
way: enlightenment. Yahoo!" I love it because it's
confident. It's not "going, going;" it's "gone, gone, all the
way, everyone gone all the way: enlightenment. Yahoo!" and so
it's this confidence that the dharma is powerful, and that every
being is already enlightenment itself. And that we, everyone, no one
excluded, are going to wake up, realize this.
And that's why that mountainside with the Buddha and the disciples and
the whole world is filled with this confident joy. It is not…
It's so different from the way I grew up as a Southern Baptist, where
if we didn't preach and give our testimony, people are going to die
and go to hell. And it's like it's going to be really hard to get
people saved. In fact, most people aren't to be going to heaven. And
it's this fear and this struggle and this striving they want to save
the world. But, this kind of feeling is completely opposite. It is
absolute peaceful confident joy — a knowing that all beings are
included. No being is excluded from the great heart of the
Today is Mother's Day. And mothers are usually associated with the
heart. Of course not every mother is able to be in touch with that
quality. But those that are — it's a wonderful gift to all of
us. Not only to the actual biological children, but to all people
everywhere. Whenever there's a man or woman that embodies the
quality of true compassionate nurturing sacrificial caring motherhood,
it is a gift to the whole world.
I remember, a couple of months ago, my mother came over to me while I
was in the computer room – typing. And she just said she's just
so fed up with work and how much stress it is. And she needs help. And
she doesn't have enough help. And I thought to myself, "Why is
she telling me this? She knows I'm completely inept at real estate
business. Let me do a Dharma talk instead." But she just kept going
on and on and I wasn't sure what she was saying. But then, as I
walked away from the computer room to get a glass of orange juice. I
just stopped. And I listened to my heart and I checked in. And I
realized what my mother was really asking for was not help at
business. But help in her spiritual heart. The stress and the need to
just feel heard and cared for by someone that loves her. So instead of
getting my orange juice, I walked back to the computer room. I took my
mother's hand and I took her outside to the backyard. We have a
beautiful large backyard with a pond, grass, trees, and ducks. And so,
even though we have this beautiful paradise right in our backyard, our
family members rarely ever enjoy it because they are so busy with
their "real" life, so-called. So I took her out and I said, "Get
your walking shoes out. Walk out, enjoy the grass and we're just
going to walk slowly. We're going to look at the ducks, look at the
trees, look at the flowers and just breathe."
And I told… asked her maybe on your in-breath just say "Dear
God…" and on your out breath "Thank You…" Since she's
Christian, I wanted to speak to her in terms that she could
understand. So "Dear God… Thank You…" as we walked. So,
we're doing this, and then "Dear God… Thank You… Dear
God… Thank You… Oh you know, those weeds that need to be
pulled… Dear God… Thank You… That tree needs to
be trimmed… Dear God… Thank You…" Like, "How
come all the ducks are not where they're supposed to be?" You know
just something… "Oh, we need to pick up that trash over
Well that was as good as she could do. And so, I thought to
myself. "Well, maybe, she can't do the breathing in, breathing out
thing. Maybe we'll just sing a song that she… she knows." The
spiritual practice that she loved growing up in church was to sing
hymns. So we just sang the song "God's eyes on the sparrow and I know
God watches me." So we just sang that… outside and just…
really just enjoyed the walk. Because the important thing is, even if
she couldn't completely engage in the mindfulness practice of
breathing, walking and mindfulness, yet if she could just touch the
reality of the heart of the universe, which is already enlightenment
itself, in just even one moment of just letting go and being present,
through whatever spiritual practice she understands, that's
enough. And even just holding hands with my mother, walking with her,
giving her support — the real support she was really
asking for — that is enough.
So that day I wrote something in my journal. And I'd like to share
it with you
inspired by the Buddha in you,
as written through Br. ChiSing
(March 16, 2007)
Begin anew. . . .
In every moment,
It has been a long time since last we spoke.
It does not need to be so long.
the here and now —
the eternal and timeless —
is always present.
It does not take a special feat
to touch the here and now.
You only need to awaken to
this very breath, this very step.
In just one moment of mindfulness,
everything is made new,
moment to moment.
Enlightenment, peace, wisdom, joy —
these are only one breath away,
one step away.
But the question is:
Are you really there, my dear?
Are you really there in your breath, in your step?
Or are you only daydreaming, sleepwalking?
Whatever you think you've done wrong,
whatever penance you believe you must perform
before you can awaken,
I invite you now to let that go.
Take a slow, deep breath.
And remember the Greater Reality
which holds you,
which supports you,
which nurtures you.
Let there be a moment of awakening,
let there be several moments of awakening,
every time you rest into this Greater Reality,
the Buddha Nature, your True Self.
And as you begin to rest in your true vastness,
a healing takes place
organically and naturally —
forgiveness takes place,
understanding takes place,
reconciliation takes place —
In the eternal and timeless
here and now,
you can always begin anew.
You can always find refreshment and rejuvenation
for your earthly body and human mind
as you awaken to
your Universal body and Divine mind.
you can do it.
It is your birthless birthright.
It is your deathless inheritance.
So, my beloved,
can you drop the story,
drop the delusions?
Can you let go of
self-hate, shame and unworthiness?
Are you willing to relax your hold
on control and manipulation?
Are you willing to loosen your grasp
on false securities from false fears?
It only takes one breath,
In just one moment of enlightenment,
you can awaken from the illusions of time,
pressure, guilt, failure and regret.
You can awaken to
the eternal and timeless
here and now —
to peace and love and wisdom,
to true strength and true joy and true beauty,
to the Buddha that I am in you and in all beings,
to the Ultimate dimension of all things —
the Divine All in all:
Dew drops on a spring leaf . . .
~ Br. ChiSing
You can do it! Because you are it. So what's stopping you from letting
go of all the layers that prevent you from expressing the pure vast
light that you are? It is in every cell of your body. It is in your
very own heart.
You know according to the neuroscientists these days, they are finding
all sorts of interesting things about the mind and about the heart as
a physical organ of perception. The brain emits an electro-magnetic
field. And the heart also emits an electro-magnetic field 5000 times
stronger than the brain. There are many different neural cells
connecting the brain to the heart that they are finding, As if the
heart is also an extension of the brain. A different… just like
there's different parts of the brain — the reptilian brain, the
mammalian brain, etc. — there's also the heart functioning as a
kind of brain. 60% of the cells of the heart are neural cells just
like the brain. And so, some of the neuroscientists are interpreting
this data with the hypothesis that it's possible that this field of
energy that's being radiated so strongly is a form of… of the
mind engaging with other fields to process energy and information in
that way. So that, it's a way of knowing from the heart… a way
of being with the energy of knowing in this heart way. Perhaps that is
one of the meanings of heart to heart transmission. Maybe that's what
it truly means to awaken to the mind of enlightenment, the heart of
enlightenment… to remember there are other ways of knowing
besides the small bandwidth of intellectual rational thinking and to
come down to this heart knowingness and wisdom is one way to
continually opening to that vastness. And of course, we just don't
stop with the physical heart. It's just another physical organ. But it
can clue us into a knowing and a connection… an energy field
that connects us and reminds us that we are like the story of the
stems connecting to all aspects of the cosmos.
At my first retreat at Plum Village in France, I remember trying to
engage in all the practices there… like sitting meditation, walking
meditation, eating meditation, hugging meditation, singing
meditation. And I remember the practice I really did not like the most
was eating meditation. I was too used to growing up with my parents
working late hours, trying to make a life for the family in this new
country, and my brother and I would just make our own food and watch
cartoons. So it was very difficult for me to break this habit of
watching TV and eating, or conversing and eating, or doing anything
else but just eating.
And yet, through this practice, I remember one day at lunch, about
third or fourth day of the retreat. I just simply eating my tofu,
broccoli, and rice, chewing slowly… getting one with the texture,
taste, temperature of the food… just really being with it. And then
I just stopped, and I looked up at the people around my table and they
were just so peaceful and happy, eating slowly. And that was the first
time that I really looked up. I was kind of just like doing my own
thing and I just looked up. They were all so happy and peaceful — so
mindful. And I felt this little smile come to my face, just looking at
them. And I looked outside the window, and the sun was shining
through the tree, and the leaves were rustling in the wind. It was
very beautiful. And the children, with their parents outside, were
laughing and playing a little bit during lunch. And then my heart just
melted and opened and expanded. And tears came down my eyes, as I just
felt the reality of the intervening nature of the whole universe. And
instead of just being an intellectual concept, it was real in my own
body and the whole universe.
And I realized what eating meditation was all about. It is as if the
whole universe was eating meditation. Just like I'd be eating the
food, receiving nourishment. I'd be giving nourishment as I went to
the bathroom later, to give to microorganisms. And also, as my friends
around me were eating so mindfully, they were nourishing me. And I
hope I was also nourishing them with my mindfulness and smile. And the
trees outside were giving us oxygen, nourishing us with oxygen. And we
human and animals were nourishing the trees outside with our carbon
dioxide. And the adults with their very stable mindfulness and
kindness were nourishing the children with a safe environment. And the
children were nourishing the adults with their playful energy,
reminding us not to take anything too, too seriously — to remember
the inner child, that needs nurturing as well. Everything in the whole
universe is eating meditation, giving and receiving nourishment. And
my heart just opened. Itwasn't something that I hadn't felt
before. But through mindfulness practice, it deepens and widens and it
stays longer. And the more glimpses you get, the wider the glimpses
are until one day you're a full-time Buddha instead of just a
You know a few years before I even entered in mindfulness practice, I
did actually have a mystical experience. I didn't really share it
very often because I was a little embarrassed, because it happened
during sex. (Is this being recorded?) I was with this very beautiful
person. And, it was so playful and so free and so joyful and
uninhibited. All of a sudden, it was as if the walls were permeable
and expanded. And I could feel the whole universe and all the galaxies
and the stars. As if all the galaxies were dancing around each other
— lovers dancing with each other. And all the molecules, all the
atoms were lovers, dancing with each other as I and this person were a
dance of lovers too.
Everything is this divine love, making love to itself in myriad
ways. And the interesting thing about that experience is, I didn't
need it to last forever. In that experience, I knew that the
possibility was that I would not stay in this state of consciousness
and that it was OK. Because I knew the truth now — in every
moment, we're all a dance of divine love, Buddhas making love to
Buddhas, from the smallest subatomic particle to the vast
mega-galaxies of the universe. You know, it was such an unexpected
experience that I actually asked the person I was with if there was
like something put in my drink or something. Because I wasn't sure why
I was experiencing this. And… But it was just a glass of
water. That was all it was.
But that same reality was glimpsed in a retreat setting… a
different aspect of that same reality, but that same reality
nonetheless. In the first experience, I experienced the vast reality
from the angle of love. In the second experience, I experienced that
same reality from the angle of nurture. So, we all can experience the
same reality in different kinds of ways, in different openings. And
whatever you call it, and whatever angle it is that you experienced
it, it's the same vast spacious clear purity of awareness. The same
Buddha nature, manifested refracted like pure light into different
rainbows of experiences.
Chelsea and Hal German
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