I would like to ask you to ask questions and let them come from your heart, and let us see if there are any answers that come through.
Audience Member: I have a question that has been on my mind. When I first heard about karma about 15 years ago, once I read about karma and I started believing in karma, and I started to see my karma come back to me, so I realized it was always there. I was just never aware before, and now that I am aware, I am actually seeing it. But there is one part that I do not understand. You see some people who seem to be doing bad things and they have what seems to be a good life, and you see some people who are very good people that seem to have bad things come to them. And I understand that it is from previous lifetimes they have built up so much merit that that merit is still playing out in this lifetime. It has to come to pass.
But what I wonder is if life is a spiral, an evolution, then don't you get better each lifetime? I mean, would these people be doing bad things to the environment and other people but yet bad things don't happen to them because they have good merit stored? Isn't life an evolution where you get better each time?
ChiSing: In our practice, we try not to guess someone's past or our own past. We try not to worry too much about our future or someone else's future, but we practice with being here and now because the present contains the past and all the seeds of the future. So if we can just work with our present karma, our present situation, that is enough. We don't have to worry about past or future. Also, it is almost impossible for the small human ego mind to understand these things, and it is an endless loop in the mind to try to wrap our head around it.
So a better way of approaching it is on one level it may be true that some people's fruition of their actions occurs immediately or delayed. We see that in nature. Something you plant doesn't always come to fruition right away. So, on one level, that is true. On one level, karma is being played out, but at a deeper level, all is well. At a deeper level, whatever is happening, whatever someone else is doing to you is happening for you. At a deeper level, it all works out.
And you can't say, "Oh, that poor person. They are born into a deformed body. They are in a poor country, and it is because of the bad things in their past lives. I don't think we can really say that because you don't know if it is not because they're actually a highly enlightened being coming into the world in a condition to teach someone else about compassion. And actually at the deepest level of reality, all of us are highly enlightened beings who come in the form to play our roles to help each other to learn certain lessons.
So, guess, on one level, there's the good karma, the bad karma, and it is just working itself out. But at a deeper level, we are all Buddha. We are all divine nature, and we're just willingly at some deep level allowing ourselves to come into manifestation to help each other, to learn about wisdom and compassion, to express the infinite informed. So really at the deepest level, we don't need to worry about karma. At the deepest level, all is well.
Audience Member: I have a question. What is karma?
ChiSing: Karma literally means action, but in this sense, it can mean two things: action and the fruit of action, so the cause and consequence. So usually when we say karma, you might either be talking about someone's action or you might be talking about the results of their action coming back at them.
Audience Member: So the bottom line is kind of like everything [inaudible]?
ChiSing: You could say it that way.
Audience Member: Because I don't know if I believe [inaudible].
ChiSing: I didn't either.
Audience Member: Especially lately with all the shootings.
Audience Member: It seems like people are getting meaner.
ChiSing: Yeah. Yeah. But you know, from my perspective, we learn from the good experiences and we learn from the negative experiences. As long as we are learning, then it still is a positive thing. And I don't really want to go into all of that, because—
Audience Member: Yeah. I just wanted to [inaudible].
ChiSing: Yeah. Yeah. Uh-huh?
Audience Member: Quick question. All is well. Sometimes I find it easy to be in that reality, to be more unified with that truth. Sometimes I find it very difficult to be unified with that truth, particularly in situations where I seem to have a lot of personal involvement in a group of people or a particular circumstance. And even when my attention is drawn by someone close to me, if my attention is drawn to the fact that all is well, even in the situation, I find almost a resistance to be in that truth, to be in the truth of all is well rather than whatever is my particular circumstance. Do you have any advice? Other than practice.
ChiSing: Well, there's all is well, and then there is all is well. So we can say the words in our minds or with our mouth, but we don't really—we are not really expressing the deepest manifestation of that truth except as we continue to practice and let go and be with reality just as it is deeply. Then there comes a point when you don't have to say all is well. Something deeper is saying all is well, and you simply flow with that. So, in the Buddhist teachings, there is this teaching of two truths, and that is why it is confusing sometimes depending on whether the teacher is speaking from one type of truth or the other.
One truth is called relative truth, and the other kind of truth is called—you could use the word, say, absolute truth, although I don't like the word absolute. But one is the kind of truth that you deal with in just everyday life, right? You know, yes. Some things are good, some things are bad, some things are high, some things are low, some things seem ugly, some things seem beautiful. You're just working with the relative world of comparisons, so when a teacher speaks to truth in those realms, they might say, "This is good. This is bad. Don't do this. Do that," because they're working with people who are only at the level of understanding that kind of truth.
But then at a deeper level—or you could say higher level or whatever—there is the other kind of truth, which is ultimate truth. I like that better than absolute. Ultimate truth. You know, there is the truth of yes, you know, killing is not so good, and giving and helping the poor is good, right? Bad and good. But then at the ultimate level, it is all good. All is well because everything plays its part to create Buddha, Buddhas. Because without some kinds of difficulties and sufferings, we don't really grow. We don't really have wisdom or compassion without these kinds of circumstances, so this is actually the perfect kind of environment to mold baby Buddhas into mature Buddhas.
So, that is two truths. So whenever you hear teaching, just think to yourself, is that teacher speaking at the level of relative truth or ultimate truth? Because sometimes, they will sound like they contradict each other. Karma is only a teaching on the level of relative truth. At the level of ultimate truth, there is no karma. There is no karma. But they are not opposed to each other. The ultimate truth is expressed in the relative truth, and the relative truth is an expression of ultimate truth. So even in the midst of the karma, there is that depth of no karma, and even in the infinite reality of no karma, it is always being expressed as karma. So just be mindful when you hear a teaching. Okay. Are they speaking at relative level of truth or ultimate level of truth? And they are not opposed. They're just two perspectives. Yes?
Audience Member: [inaudible] My life's going great, but sometimes I don't see it that way. Yeah. I get that. I was thinking that sometimes things that happened really upset me and I get really angry, but I don't really get angry. Something is going on, and this person said this. They must be having a bad day or—I usually don't get—I rarely ever get attached to anything really negative like that. I just let it go. I just move on. But at the same time, I feel like maybe detachment from the whole anger thing is healthy for me anyway. I just don't invest a lot of myself in it. But at the same time if things are really happy and joyous, I also don't attach and get really invested in that too. And I think that maybe that presents itself. That is just me being me, but sometimes I think people see he has got no feelings or he's got no emotions. And they get really, really angry. What is going on?
ChiSing: In an ultimate level, there is this being, but at the relative level, there's this human body and mind learning about emotions. And in a way, it is okay that we have this range of emotions. In a way, we are evolving the capacity to express through emotions. Yes. When things evolve, we kind of experiment, right? You kind of overdo certain things. But that is all part of the experimentation of the evolutionary process. So from the larger perspective, it is all good because you're learning as you make all kinds of goof-ups and mistakes, right? So on the relative level, there are mistakes, but on the ultimate level, there are no mistakes, because they're all helping us learn as a whole.
But as far as on a relative, practical level, I would talk to this emotion thing. We have emotions, and in our practice, there is also the aspect of us that is simply beingness and awareness. So part of our practice is to be able to give space to these human emotions in a safe space awareness and being. And eventually, when we give it that safe, gentle container, they actually start to transform. We don't have to do too much to them. We just allow them to transform. Every emotion—there is something that came to me once when I was talking with someone. Actually, she is in this room. It just came to me from my Buddha mind.
Every feeling has the right to be heard. The flipside of the truth is no feeling has the right to control your life. So every feeling has the right to be heard, because there is a message underneath every emotion, no matter how negative you label that emotion, like anger or depression or whatever. There is a deep message there, something to learn from. So our practice is to make a safe enough container so that that deeper message can be heard deeply in our very being. And of course, as we hear the message, automatically the emotion then shifts and changes. Why? Because no emotion is just an emotion. Like, there is no such thing as solid anger or solid sadness. It is just energy. Sometimes the energy molds itself to something that feels like anger, and then it changes and molds itself into something that feels more like sadness or molds itself and feels something like peaceful joy or something else. It's just all energy.
And this points to the truth of emptiness. When the Buddha taught about emptiness, that is the best word in English we could come up with to try to translate that word sunyata, but empty does not mean the same empty as like your car is empty of gas or you have this empty, sad feeling inside of you. Right? It is not the kind of emptiness. It is empty meaning more like flexible, malleable. In other words, nothing is a discrete, solid entity. It is empty of that because it can change to something else. Because actually everything is simply energy, and even at a deeper level, that energy is simply consciousness or mind manifesting as energy, manifesting as matter, etcetera, etcetera. So, nothing is solid.
That is why the Buddha taught about nonself. There is no solid self. It is so much more flexible and spacious. And that is true of you, and it is true of me, and it is true of everything in the universe. The whole universe is simply a play of energy and consciousness so that we have the privilege of learning and evolving from baby Buddhas to mature Buddhas. That is why from the ultimate perspective, all is well, because everything is here for our growth and learning. Everything. And that is why that word all, it takes practice to actually get it. We can say all is well, all is well, all is well, but that doesn't really mean anything. Only when that deep place opens, then you really see the all. The all. The whole picture is well, despite the particulars of it that is not quite positive, it is not quite well, and that doesn't feel very good. Yeah. In the world of the relative, all is not well.
Audience Member: Yeah, I've noticed that.
ChiSing: Yeah. There are all kinds of awful things happening, but from the larger perspective, it is all simply energy, and all is well. Don't believe me. Don't believe anything I said. Practice. Find out for yourself. Yes?
Audience Member: ChiSing, could you talk a little about—well, the only way I can put this is I am on my path. I'm learning what I am learning and experiencing what I am experiencing, having more wellbeing, for example, or facing issues, and my practice is helping me. How does that work in a love relationship when two people are on different paths? Do you have anything to share about the kind of energy exchange that happens between people and so on?
ChiSing: Right. See, that is one of the other geniuses of this practice. It helps us to be with the changing and malleable, flexible nature of everything, including relationships. It is only when we hold on to something and try to make it solid that we suffer even more. Obviously, there is this normal everyday reality that there is pain and difficult feelings, but we add onto that our mental pain, mental suffering on top of just the normal pain that happens in life. It is because we have in our mind, I'm supposed to have my one and only prince or princess charming, and they're supposed to look like this, and it is supposed to be like this. It will last this many years, and we have these concepts. Whether they are conscious or unconscious, we have them, and whether they come from our own individual thinking or the collective thinking, they are there. When we do our practice, we deal with them. We have to practice with well, it is not so solid, and it is not really that way. You know?
I mean, I know married people who are miserable, and I know single people who are very happy. I know single people who are miserable, and I know married people who are happy. You know? It is not about whether you are single or in a relationship. It is about whatever life is presenting to you at this moment, are you able to work with it? You see? And if you have this belief that I'm supposed to have this, well, guess what is going to happen?
Audience Member: [inaudible]
ChiSing: Yeah. Yeah. And that is why it is a practice for most of us, because the practice is just like that sutra we read a few weeks ago, this is the greatest happiness. Can we be happy in this moment as a single person? Can we be happy in this moment as a married person or a person and relationship of whatever sort? Can we just allow someone else to be their flexible, malleable changing nature and allow ourselves the same?
One thing I have learned about relationships is I used to actually look down on my father because he was very materially oriented, always working very hard, making money, and he wasn't that interested in spirituality other than just doing his dues by going to church once a week. And I grew up very religious, and I always wished that he would be more the head of the family and those kinds of ideas. But a few years ago, that all shifted when I realized the truth of inter-being. At least one level I realized it. Because my father was the way he was, making money and working very hard for the family, I didn't have to worry so much about working hard and making money, and I could take classes in things like religion and philosophy and other useless things, as my mom puts it. And I can go to retreats often. Because he was the way he was, I can be the way I am. There is not the separation at all. So really, I can only be talking in front of you and practicing with you because of my father.
So before understanding inter-being, I judged and I criticized and I saw things separately, like that was good and that was bad. But after understanding a little bit of inter-being, I realized, no. He can be who he is because that allows me to be who I am. So even though you may be looking for a partner who is perfect or who practices the same meditation style as you or has the same taste in movies or whatever, let that all go because maybe your perfect partner is just whoever is right there in front of you, whatever you're learning and growing through with them. That is wonderful.
And partner doesn't just mean romantic. It can be friend, teacher, all kinds of people. We have many, many partners. We are just simply being together in all these different partnerships to help each other learn the true meaning of all is well. And we are creating that moment to moment. All is well. And even in the relative truth where all is not well, we are working to create the kingdom of heaven on earth, the Pure Land of the Buddha on earth until that day when we can all say—of all races, all colors, all orientations, all religions, all cultures, all languages—all is well.