It's an honor to be here. As I noted earlier, I am a little tired—more than a little tired, perhaps, I would say. Exhausted is the better word, but I am so glad to be here and breathing, so if I go around in circles and ramble, please condone that to my current condition. When I found Brother ChiSing a few days ago, asking, "What would you like me to talk about?" He mentions several things, and basically what I heard was, "Anything you want." So that is what I tried to prepare for, anything I wanted. So I have several things that I put in my pocket to check out which one I would bring out today.
So before coming or before entering, when I entered the hall and I thought everyone already beginning to meditate, I first went into the Lotus Room, and I was given the opportunity to sit there in silence for about 10 minutes or so, just to let the silence tell me what I can offer today. And what I heard was a refrain from a song. You can tell me where the song comes from. It is a well-known one, and it goes, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." That is what welled up in the silence. Where does that song come from, please? Remind me.
Audience Member: Oh gosh.
Ruben Habito: There is a movie theme, perhaps.
Audience Member: Moulin Rouge.
Ruben Habito: Okay. I think that is right. Thank you.
Audience Member: I think it was Moulin Rouge. I think it was the opening song.
Ruben Habito: Thank you. I'll have to see that movie again. Anyway, the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved.
Audience Member: Ooh. Nature Boy.
Ruben Habito: Nature Boy. Thank you.
Audience Member: That is an old, old, song.
Ruben Habito: Yeah. I think I will check it out on the Internet when I get back home. Anyway, that is what welled up, but with a twist. The way it came to me was, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is that you are already loved, and the only thing you can do in this life is to love in return." The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to know that you are already loved, and the only thing you can do in this life of yours is to love in return. How can we learn that, first of all?
So what we have as a shared practice is meditation. You have your own style of meditation here. We have our style of meditation at our Zen center in East Dallas, and there are different places where they offer meditation. There is centering prayer. There are different Indian types of meditation, yoga and so forth. So they have their different styles, but somehow if one enters into a path of meditation, whichever style or gateway or religious background you may come from, somehow something tells me that eventually you will end up in learning that fact, that you are already loved, and the only thing you can ever do with your life is to love in return.
So let me just share with you some of my own little background from my Christian tradition and then share what I have learned from the Zen practice that I have been into for about 30—gosh, it is about 40 years now since I came to Japan in 1970. I was born in the Philippines, and in my mid- to late teens, I had some basic questions about the meaning of it all and what does it mean. I wanted to go to the heart of it and not waste my time in peripherals, so somehow that led me to enter the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. I was given the opportunity to learn about meditation, to practice that and have all the benefits of just pursuing that path with everything provided for.
And basically, again, I can speak for hours about it, but rather than ramble on, let me just summarize what I learned from my years of practicing Christian meditation in the Jesuit approach in the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. The heart of that very intricate system of spiritual practice known as the spiritual exercises is really toward the end when Ignatius invites the practitioner who has gone through several stages of purification, illumination, and then finally going on to union is what he calls a contemplation on divine love.
That really is the center of the exercises, and one gets there as if it were the summit of the exercises, where one has to climb through rough paths, first of all seeing that when one begins, one sees how one is so unworthy because one is laden with things like greed, lust, gluttony, pride, envy, anger, sloth. I just named the seven cardinal sins for you. If you recognize any of them, then that tradition of naming what ails the human being from the Christian tradition—the so-called seven cardinal sins—must have its point. So that is the kind of thing that prevents us from really seeing what we are in the first place.
Anyway, to make a long story short, that is the summit, which is divine love, the realization that we are love. It is not really something that we have to cling to and put a lot of effort and in order to get there. Actually, it was right there from the start, when we began. Ignatius begins with the so-called principle and foundation, saying, "You, human being, are called only to give your life in praise, reference, and service to God because you are so beloved that that is what is wanted of you in this life, it just the love back. It is already there in the beginning. But we are not ready to hear that yet because we are still full of all of these things that are preventing us from seeing that. So again, anger, pride, jealousy, and so forth—all of that just blocks are way. This little ego of ours thinks, I want that. I want that. It is insecure, so if it doesn't get what it wants, it gets angry, and it gives others, "Why do they have what I don't have?" And so forth. And so it is envious. Anyway, the first part of the practice is purifying ourselves of all of that, examining what blocks one's way, the purgative stage.
And then one kind of sees through that and then now, tell me. I want to know how to live. And so then we are given the example of Jesus by reading Gospel passages about how Jesus lived, how Jesus related to his disciples and those around them, and learn from Jesus. The Gospels say that is the way God lives. That is God incarnate. If you want to see the face of God, will get Jesus because that is manifesting to us how to live in this very human body. That is God. So that is how we read the Gospels as showing us that is an illuminative stage, how to live according to love by looking at an example of love in this person who lived in that way.
And so as one progresses in that path, one gets little insights. Maybe I could live like that, too. So one is inspired, and then one goes about last part of it where one goes through the death to self, the third week, to die with Jesus on the cross and then live the new life. Once one has died to one's little self, there is a new life that comes in, and that new life is really the life, in Christian terms, of the Holy Spirit, the one that embraces all in love, that which from the beginning was already in creation, when if we look at Genesis, the opening lines, the Spirit of God, the breath of God hovered over the waters and over all the chaos and brought it to order and made it what it is, so it is that spirit of love that already verifies us, and then what happens? God saw that it was good. That is the message that you are good. You are. Just as you are, you are okay.
That reminds me of what Suzuki Shunryu Roshi always told his disciples: You're perfect just as you are. You're Buddha. But there is a lot of work to do. So those are the two things that we need to hear. You are okay. You're perfect just as you are, but there is a lot of work to do. So now how do we go forward? And that is where meditation can come in as a very, very good way to see through that and enable us to do our inner work so that we can really live just to love in return.
So those are the three stages that we see in the path of meditation: the forgetting stage. We have to see that there is a lot of baggage that we are carrying and that is preventing us from really living in love, and then as we sort through them, we get little insights and we get little inspirations, and we get ideas about connectedness with one another. And I'm sure those of you who have practiced meditation for some time or even just for a little time have gotten little glimpses that we are connected with everything. And so if I have the time for sharing, I am sure that most if not all of you will share something that came in your meditative silence that you have realized precisely that you are already that blessed state. So that is the invitation that meditation offers.
Now, let me now turn to the Zen tradition with that in the background, the purgative, the illuminative, and then the unitive stage are the three stages in the Christian way to God, as described in so many tracts. Now when I look at Zen meditation, it is a rather simple invitation to sit and be still. Again, that is not unfamiliar with the Christian tradition that I grew up in because Psalm 46 tells us, "Be still and know I am." So in sitting in stillness what comes through is really is it you ask for the end result, that reality, that I am, will hit us like a ton of bricks and will really transform us because we are not separate from that I am. What makes each of us who we are, what makes you who you are, what makes me who I am is that same I am. Timeless, boundless. Just I am.
So that is the Christian way of expressing what this meditative process can lead us to: be still and know I am. And to sit in that love, being in that I am, in the rest of our lives is just letting that I am just ooze to everything around you and everyone you meet. But again, the little self jumps in and needs to be loud again and needs to be sorted out again, or in any case, what does Zen meditation offer in that regard? We have the so-called three fruits of Zen, as described in Zen manuals, and these roughly corresponds to these three stages.
The purgative, the first fruit is when one continues in the same way in this path of practice, setting aside the time of silence in one's daily life, and also in one's daily activities, living in a mindful way. One then is somehow able to see through those things that are blocking one's clear mind. Namely, you see that your little mind, your monkey mind, always goes all over the place. You see how you are jealous of that person, or you see how you feel insecure, and you see how there is still so much that you need to do, and yet you don't know what it is and so forth. This little insecure self just comes forth. And so in seeing that, we just bring ourselves back to the breath, and little by little bring it into a place where we can be quelled and be brought into stillness.
So that is the first stage, when we purify ourselves of those little things that make us go all over the place and somehow get more centered. But there are perils it even not stage because we are born into this world and we are influenced by those around us, by our parents, by our siblings comment by those who we meet in our youth and so on, and we are funneled by different things that we get in our encounters with others. Maybe if our parents were not able to show us how much they loved us because they were busy or other things or maybe one or both parents were absent or there were issues. Somehow this lack of being loved is right there it continues to be in me, and so that is what I keep seeking from others. Will they love me? Will they love me? If I do this, will they love me? And so forth.
So there is that gap in us that is kind of a woundedness that influences the way we see others and the way we behave toward others in ways we are not fully conscious of. Or we may have had some childhood experiences that may be wounded us, so those childhood traumas are still there. We thought we had tried to forget them or put them under the rug, and so what happens is when we come to this place of stillness, we think we are in a good place, but then somehow those wounds are still there that are unhealed. That is the time when they can again be touched and exposed, and what can happen is if we are able to have a supportive community and a teacher who can guide us, and if somehow we feel that that is a secure place for us to continue, somehow we are able to recognize those wounds, and maybe it will hurt and we will have to struggle with it, but in a loving community and with a loving guide that can enable us to breathe through it, somehow we will be able to acknowledge them and be able to say, "Yes. I am wounded. So that is what I have to live with."
And some of those wounds can turn into wounds of compassion, the capacity to suffer with others because you know how you're suffered yourself. But if some of those wounds that are so deep that it is not something that you can easily managed by just being aware of them, they may cause some trouble and disruption, and in fact they may even reaggravate it if we are not ready to deal with them, if there's a childhood trauma like some kind of abuse, sexual or otherwise, that we have not recognized, and it comes out. Then it cannot just be dealt with by meditation, and meditation can even make that worse. So sometimes it is helpful to just—not just sometimes. In those cases, it might be better to stop meditation and then go to a professional who might be able to help you, and then maybe with that and then with meditation also as a guide, that might help him, enabling the person to recognize what he is really suffering with and enable that person to gradually find one's feet again. So I can happen, and something can be triggered in the process of going deep in your own psyche. So I would like to just mention that as one of the perils of this past. We can hit some nerves there or some veins that might explode and throw us out of control. And it does happen.
So what do we do when that happens? We may need some professional help in some cases, or again with a loving community or with someone who can guide us through, we might be able to gradually see through it and muster the pain and somehow be able to acknowledge it and then gradually live with it. What comes to mind as an image is like when we're just walking nonchalantly and all of a sudden there is a corner where there is the little desk like this, and our shin hits this corner, and if we hit it with some speed and with some intensity, it can be so unbearable. Ouch. Have you ever hit your shin on something? And if you do, then you can't help but recoil and even jump and then in the process, you tumble on the chair and you hit somebody and you hurt them. You didn't mean to, but because of that hurt that you felt, you behave uncontrollably to yourself and to others, and so that is what can happen in our own inner journey.
So when those things do happen, then we may need help from others that may be able to guide us through why those are, or even medication might be necessary at some point, and so in any case, I'm not saying that you should all go and do that. Just individual cases may need that kind of professional assistance, so I just kind of put that there as a caution. So if one is then able to muster the resources to be able to go deeper, realizing one's woundedness, one continues to realize it is endless. But yet at the same time as one does so, what can help? This breath that is really so powerful that it really is the source of life, and it is not just in the abstract sense.
As we breathe in, we are able to breathe in the gifts of the universe, and as we breathe out, we are able to breathe out in a way that is as if the burden that we have on our shoulders can be just put down and just entrusted upon the breath. So now we are no longer carrying them in our shoulders, but we give them back to the breath as if to give what we are carrying to our mother and to others who say, "Okay. I will take them for you now. Just run along." So that kind of way, the breath can treat us, namely to heal us from that sense of being alone and from being heard because in breathing in and breathing out, we know that we are connected with something that is more powerful than the universe, and we're also connected with something that also connects us with each and every other living being.
So with the breath, we know we're not alone. We are never alone. If you feel lonely or sad, just take a deep breath, and just listen to that breath, and something will tell you. You may even hear what Jesus heard when he went for baptism in Jordan and John the Baptist gave him the usual ritual of pouring water over his head. In those moments, he heard a voice that told him, "You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased." Maybe not in those words, but somehow you hear a voice of affirmation. You are okay just as you are. You were born as a human being. That is an infinite treasure. Accept that, and don't be afraid to acknowledge that you are who you are with all your wounds and all. You are okay just as you are. So that may be a voice in my ear in that silence. So that is why the silence draws us further, deeper.
So that is the invitation, to continue and hang on to that breath for dear life, because that is where you can find the life-giving source. Breathing in, breathing out. So that is the purification, and it continues. It is not something that we finish at some stage and then we go on to the next and we don't do it again. No. The purgative stage is a lifelong process. We have to keep on purifying whatever is in the way of that pure love that is really at the heart of who we are. So with that in mind, sometimes as we sit in silence, we get those little insights, illumination, and in Zen we call this seeing into our true nature, and in Zen, our true nature is called Buddha nature, that which is awakened right from the start.
But because there are all of these blockages of mind and so on in Buddhism, the three poisons are anger, greed, and ignorance. So those are the kinds of things that motivate our behavior, rather than the true pure mind. And so as we see through those things in that process of sitting in silence, somehow greed is a poison that can be overturned with its antidote. Greed is the direction of hoarding things, wanting things my way. I want this. I want that because I'm insecure, and if I don't have that, then I don't feel worthy. That direction is overturned by turning it around and making it the other way. Rather than hoarding, it is emptying out and giving. So greed is overturned by generosity.
Anger or ill will, all of those people are after me, or that person has more than I have, or that person doesn't like me. That kind of inimical attitude toward others, animosity comes from my own insecurity, but when I see that it is okay for me to be me, I am also able to see each and every one with their own struggles in with their own weaknesses, with their own wounds, and I begin to see them with a little more compassion, and I also see, oh, I wish they were also the best they could be. So their ill will is turned into goodwill, that sense of wanting the best of everyone. Earlier on, we just chanted, "May all beings be happy." It is easy enough to chant that, but to really let that be a wish that we could have with each person we meet is something that we have to cultivate. May all beings be happy.
And then so how can we express that? When you go to the grocery store to check out your stuff, you don't have to say it that way, "May you be happy," and so on. You don't have to say it that way. Just a little smile and a little greeting might express that without so many words, just being your natural self to everybody, the goodwill that is really inborn in all of us. Let that shine out, and don't let the ill will or the wrath or the sense of insecurity get in the way and make you behave in ways that may hurt others or hurt yourself. And that is why this path of going deeper into the silence can really be so healing in the way we relate to one another.
And then ignorance. Well, basically since we do not know that we are connected, then we behave in inimical ways to one another, but then we realize that each and every one of you is a very important part of who I am, and I can only give you the accord that the realization of that connectedness calls for, namely as someone who I recognize as my kin. So in that way, illumination, seeing one's true nature, and one's true nature, one's Buddha nature is realized precisely, that we are all interconnected.
So the third fruit of Zen, then, which corresponds with the third states in the path to the infinite and the Christian tradition, the unitive traditions, is the embodiment of this awakening in our day-to-day life and how can we embody that where we just return to the song that we turned around earlier. The only thing you'll ever learn is that you are already loved. So the only thing we can do in life is to love and be loved in return. So it is a daily practice. It is a daily renewal. How can I live today so that I won't be a block to this love that is really propelling my life and that I can give myself to really express that love in my own kind of unobtrusive simple way, as I am.
Nothing grand, nothing spectacular, but just live as you are then give that love in return in the small ways you are called to, in your family, in your work, in your dealings with one another. Or you may be called to something so different. You may have been doing something that you wonder whether you should continue, and in one moment, you realize, this is not what I want to do, so maybe you decide to take a whole new turn in life and go somewhere different and do something that might be more corresponding to that wish to live according to love. Who knows? It could be a turn of a new you, so that is what this gift of silence can also offer, a new horizon. You can be someone you never imagined you could be if you really listen to what your inner voice has been telling you right from the start.
So, there. I have rambled, but if there is anything that I hope I have conveyed, it is just that song turn-around that I said in the beginning, and it's not because I said it, but I hope that in the practice that you already have begun and have been on, for many of you, for some time now, the practice of silence, you will hear that word. You are beloved. You are okay just as you are. But there is a lot of work to do. So let us go on with that work.