I want to open up with a poem by my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, "Our True Heritage" —
The cosmos is filled with precious gems.
I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.
Each moment you are alive is a gem,
shining through and containing earth and sky,
water and clouds.
It needs you to breathe gently
for the miracles to be displayed.
Suddenly you hear the birds singing,
the pines chanting,
see the flowers blooming,
the blue sky,
the white clouds,
the smile and the marvelous look
of your beloved.
You, the richest person on Earth,
who have been going around begging for a living,
stop being that destitute child.
Come back and claim your heritage.
We can enjoy our happiness
and offer it to everyone.
Cherish this very moment.
Let go of the stream of distress
and embrace life fully in your arms.
Today, I'd like to share with you a little bit about my life and my practice. Hopefully, I will touch on the topic of Jesus, Buddha, and New Earth Spirituality [laughs].
But if you have other topics you'd rather hear about, just please, raise your hand and let me know. [Congregation: laughter]
I am, actually, much more of a teacher than a preacher, and I prefer "question and answer" much more, it's much more fun for me, so feel free.
As I was driving over here, this morning, I was asking Spirit: "What, really, should I speak about today?" Actually, it did (sort of) touch on the topic that was advertised [ChiSing and Congregation: laughter]. A little bit!
I remembered, last year, speaking at the Unity Church in Denton, and I was very inspired that day, and I felt this sort of revelatory feeling come over me. Have you ever had that, where inspiration came over you right before you write a poem, a song, or something? Well, it happened to me too.
I realized what is going on in the world today—that there is a major shift in consciousness, a really wonderful, new, movement taking place among everyone in the world. Some are still, a little bit, um, "sleepy" about it. [Congregation: laughter] Some of us are more AWAKE to it! But there is a shift in consciousness happening. I believe one of the things that's happening—and this is what was revealed to me—is that there is going to be more and more people practicing more than one tradition at a time. There's going to be more and more people practicing at least, maybe, two major spiritual practices. [Congregation: applause]
Does that make sense for you? It really resonates for me.
The reason why—the image that came to me as I was driving over here this morning was—it just makes total sense. We all have two eyes. Right? Not just one eye, thank goodness! [Laughter] We have two eyes, and they both see from slightly different angles. Now Asians, we don't have as many blocks as some of you European people [Laughter]. You have these giant nose bridges, and I don't see how you can have one eye look over to the other side. [Laughter] We don't have that [Loud Laughter] we can see much more…broadly. [ChiSing: Laughs]
The reality is each eye has a blind spot. A part where it can't see…but when both eyes are working together, it cancels out the blind spot of the other—and I believe that's what is happening today. Some of us, like me, grew up in the Christian tradition and I appreciate everything that's positive from the Christian tradition. Especially the love of God as taught through Jesus and other wonderful teachers in the Christian tradition—it's a wonderful thing, and I wouldn't want to give it up.
But at the same time, I learned so much when I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh about Buddhist meditation and mindfulness, and enlightenment, spirituality—it's something I wouldn't want to give up either.
By having both traditions at work in my life, in varying degrees, it has helped me so much to cancel out the blind spots of both traditions. And it has helped me to develop a greater understanding and vision that transcends both traditions. What I might call a "New Earth Spirituality". So, in a sense, I guess I will talk a little bit about "Buddha, Jesus, and New Earth Spirituality."
What I want to say, first of all, is that in my understanding of Chinese philosophy (which I love, I think Chinese philosophy is one of the best things in the whole world—I hope more people study it) we have things that have developed from that such as flower arranging. For example…and I know that this is not a flower arrangement based on Chinese principles necessarily, but if you want to look at it from a Chinese perspective—in Japan they call it Ikebana, the Art of Flower Arranging. We have three principles going on. We have Heaven, and Earth, and Humanity.
Now, if we were to look at it from that perspective, this part of the plant pointing up to the sky might represent the principle of Heaven, and these leaves down below might represent the principle of Earth, and all these wonderful flowers in the middle can represent the principle of Humanity. In Chinese philosophy the harmony of life comes when Heaven, and Earth, and Humanity are all working together. Flowing together; rather than in resistance to each other.
If you apply these principles of Heaven, Humanity, and Earth to the major religions that developed in China you have Buddhism, which represents the transcendent vision; Confucianism that represents human relationships, and order, and proper etiquette, custom, ritual; and you have Taoism, which represents being in touch with the Earth, and the flow of "the way of things" of the Universe. But you can also apply this to other traditions as well.
In the Christian tradition, you may think of the Heaven aspect as referring to the aspect of the Divine as God the Father, or Mother; the Humanity aspect, as the Heart aspect of the Logos, or the Word, which was incarnate in Jesus, who is full of the "Christ Consciousness". Then the lower aspect, you might think of the Holy Spirit as being in touch with, uniting all of us as One; the Spirit of the Earth, the Spirit of the Universe helping to unite everything together.
In Buddhism you can also see these represented in different ways as well. For example, in Mahayana Buddhism, we think of the Buddha as having three aspects, or three bodies. The Dharmakāya is that aspect of the Buddha which is the Buddha-Nature, which is transcendent and universal. The Sambhogakāya is the Buddha's manifest body ("body of bliss") as seen in celestial visions; for example, when you have a vision of the Buddha, you might see the Buddha full of infinite light. Then you have the earthly incarnate Buddha, who came 2,600 years ago, Siddhārtha Gautama the Shakyamuni Buddha in his physical form [Nirmanakāya].
I'm sure you can find these examples in every tradition. In Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Native American spirituality—you can see all of this; it's, for the most part, a universal reality that the Chinese looked at.
In my life, and in our current situation in America, I see that there are three kinds of spiritualities that are going to be very important in this New Earth vision that we are creating together. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's confined to three different traditions, I'm just going to give you three different traditions that are personally meaningful to me.
For me, the Heaven aspect, the upper chakras aspect of spirituality is represented by Buddhism. Buddhism has helped me in transcending so much clutter in my life, confusion and ignorance, and so much suffering. It's provided great insight and wisdom.
Jesus and the Christ Consciousness, and all that we learn from our wonderful Western traditions, has really helped me be in touch with my Heart [Chakra]. The love, the forgiveness, kindness and compassion aspect; Jesus helps me to get in touch with my heart.
The lower chakras aspect, represented in past traditions and current movements, help me to get in touch with the importance of the Earth. Sometimes we get so caught up in wisdom and love that we forget that wisdom and love have to happen in a body, on the Earth. We can't be destroying our planet and polluting our planet while we are also philosophizing about Enlightenment, and saying that we want to love one another—it's a contradiction. [Congregation: applause]
Boy, I didn't know this flower was going to give a sermon! [ChiSing and Congregation: laughter]
There's a story in Zen Buddhism. The Buddha was going to give a very important talk to all of his students, so everyone was eagerly waiting. They said, "Okay the Buddha is going to give a very important talk, one of his most important talks!" And what did he do? He just held up a flower…and that's all he did for several minutes. The students all wondered, "Okay, when is he going to say something?!" [Congregation: laughter] And then, someone in the back, a monk named Mahākāśyapa smiled; then the Buddha smiled and said "Ah, Mahākāśyapa, he understands."
So, what is the meaning of this story? (It may not have been a literal story, but you know Zen Buddhist's don't need everything to be literal). [ChiSing and Congregation: Laughs] It means that there is a Truth that is transmitted mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart, spirit-to-spirit—beyond just human words.
One time, when I was meditating, I had an experience of that. I was just doing my meditation, following my breath: "Breathing in, breathing out", "Breathing in, breathing out", ("When is lunch going to happen?"), "Breathing in, breathing out", ("Okay, how many more minutes is this?"), "Breathing in, breathing out", ("This is so boring"), "Breathing in, breathing out. [ChiSing and Congregation: Laughs].
As I allowed myself to just continue to practice mindfulness, in the here and now, through the method of just being aware of the breath (which opens the gate to so much more)—suddenly it was like a bubble "popped". It was as if my awareness wasn't inside my body, inside these eyes, inside this construct of self. It was as if I was looking at everything from behind my head almost. My awareness was just simply that, "Oh…Duh!" [Congregation: laughter] "How could I have forgotten? This is who I am! I am simply pure BEING-ness." Of course I didn't say any of those words, and I certainly didn't say "I" while I was having this experience—but I'm just trying to relate it to you in language. I looked inside this body and inside this mind, "Okay, where is the self?"…and I couldn't find it! I realized the reason why there is no "self" in this body-mind construct is because the True Self is everywhere and everything.
It's as if the True Self, if you want to use the word "self", is all of existence. And all of existence is the only True Nature that there is. It expresses and embodies and experiences Itself through various body-mind constructs. There's not a "self" in this, and a "self" in that, and so forth. There is only One Self, expressing in and through and as many, many beings.
That's my translation/interpretation of the experience—but the experience itself is beyond words. If I were a Theravadin Buddhist, I'd probably say it in a very different way—but I am a Mahayana Buddhist so I am going to say it this way.
My experience was as if the bubble popped—because, see, all my life I had thought I was this "bubble" and I thought that my mind and body were contained within this bubble; but when the bubble popped, "Pop!" I realized that there is no separation between what's "in here" and what's "out there". It's all One.
I won't ever forget that experience because from then on I realized that — even when I get caught in "self" and in thinking that I am a separate being from everyone else, that I have nothing to do with anything else — there is still a part of me that remembers that is not true....that what you do to others, you are doing to your self, and what you do to your self, you are doing to others....because there's no separation, because we all "inter-are".
Another way of understanding this principle of "Non-Self" in Buddhism is to take, for example, Ingrid [a church member]. Let's just take a look at Ingrid, okay? [Congregation: laughter] So Ingrid here, we call her a "self" and we name her self "Ingrid"—but in actuality, Ingrid is made completely of non-Ingrid elements [Congregation: laughter] okay?
Alright, so let's analyze Ingrid here. If we took away the existence of her mother and father, would Ingrid exist in this form in front of us right now? Well, she wouldn't exist at all. If we took away the existence of the sun, would she be here, alive, in this form? No, none of us would be. If we took away the existence of all vegetation on the planet, all of the chlorophyll, of all green plants, can Ingrid be in existence? [ChiSing and Audience: No] If we took away all of her education and upbringing, would she be as we understand her today? She might have the same body, but her mind would be completely different, her understanding of things would be completely different.
What we think of as Ingrid is made of all of these non-Ingrid elements. What we think of as this self is made up of all these non-self elements. And yet without all of these non-self elements there is no self and so, therefore, the reality is self is only made of non-self elements. What you think of as not your self is really a part of your true self. So if you think that you are different from the person sitting right next to you—think again. [Congregation: laughter] If you think that you don't have anything to do with your mother or father, even though you may not have a very good relationship with them—think again! [Congregation: laughter] All of their genes are inside your body, and you cannot escape that.
So in reality, in my experience and in the teachings of the Buddha, the teachings of enlightened beings point to the same Reality and Truth (maybe from different angles)—that we are not separate; that we are One. Our True Self is not this small, little, confined, human ego and body-mind construct, but our True Self is everything. Think of the whole Universe as your True Self.
Of course I know that in other traditions, we don't like to say that word: the True "Self". It's okay, we will just use that as a tool and eventually you have to let go of even that tool. For now let's say the whole Universe is your True Self and this body-mind construct is just a vehicle through which the One True Self experiences Itself.
These are not "selves" sitting in this room; these are "reference points" of this One True Self experiencing and seeing through your eyes, through your ears, through your heart and through your mind.
There's a book that Thich Nhat Hanh wrote called "The Sun My Heart". I love that—it's a wonderful way of expressing it poetically. The whole universe, the whole of existence, and the whole of reality, the whole of Heaven and Earth, the whole of Humanity is my True Self. Once we can live and act from that Truth we can make a major difference in the world. Right now most people are operating from the delusion of wrong perception, thinking that they are a separate self and therefore acting out of that delusion; meaning that they do everything that they can to protect this self, even at the expense of other selves—right?
I'm not just talking about human-to-human relationships. I'm also talking about human, and animal, and planetary relationships. Humans are acting as if we have to accumulate more and more, and consume more and more, and develop economically more and more—but at the expense of what? The whole planet is at the expense right now; the whole planet. We can't keep consuming and building, and trying to uplift humanity at the expense of all the other species on the planet; because, really, what we are doing is destroying ourselves.
This is just one insight in Buddhism, which of course is a universal truth. The Buddha never said that he saw things that are different from other people. He called them Noble Truths not because the truths themselves were noble, but because anyone of noble consciousness can see this. When we uplift our consciousness through meditation and through spiritual practice, what we are going to see is the same Truth that the Buddha saw. The Buddha saw and understood our delusions. Our delusions consist of our delusions about the self, about permanence and impermanence, suffering, and reality itself.
This is really the bottom line of the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha's bottom line was simply to help us transform our suffering by transforming our delusions—that's the Buddha's bottom line.
Jesus had a bottom line too and guess what? Jesus' bottom line was not discrimination, hatred, war, self-righteousness….No—you know that! What is Jesus' bottom line?
[Congregation answers: "Love"]
Love! See how easy that was?
Why did it take two thousand years to get that? [ChiSing and Congregation: Laughs]
We're still working on it, huh?
It's so obvious to everyone who just has a simple child-like heart, that love is Jesus' bottom line. So let's encourage everyone, who follows Jesus, to practice that; follow Jesus' bottom line: Love. And measure everything else around that bottom line.
This is the same with the Buddhist teachings. Buddhism has developed for 2,600 years and there's a lot of extra teachings that have developed, and some of them are great, some of them maybe "not so interesting", but what matters is not whether it was the original teachings of the Buddha, or additional understandings after the Buddha—but rather: Is the teaching relevant to the Buddha's bottom line of transforming suffering, and transforming our delusions?
That's what matters. So I don't really care about Dharmakaya, or Sambhogakaya, or Nirmanakaya, or any other teaching if it doesn't help me transform suffering and transform my delusions that lead to suffering. That's really the bottom line.
Sometimes people came to the Buddha and asked him questions. "How old is the universe?" "What is the nature of God?" and all these other kinds of questions, and the Buddha was silent. The Buddha was silent when people asked questions that had nothing to do with his bottom line of transforming suffering and transforming our delusions.
One time the Buddha went to the forest with his students and he picked up a handful of leaves from the ground and he pointed to all the leaves and the trees in the forest. He said "Students, what is greater, the leaves in my hand or the leaves on all the trees in the forest?" And they said "Teacher, of course all the leaves in the forest outnumber the leaves in your hand". The Buddha said, "Well, the leaves in my hand are what I have taught you, and the leaves in the forest are all that I know. I have only taught you what you need to know, to transform suffering and delusion."
So the Buddha knows a lot more than what he shared about the nature of reality. Maybe he knew a whole lot about the metaphysics of the whole universe. Who knows—but he didn't share any of that, at least in human words. All he shared were the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, etc., and everything else revolved around that. He shared the truth of suffering, the causes, and the cessation, and the path to the end of suffering.
I really feel at home here today, because as I was looking at the order of service [ChiSing opens sheet to read it]…I saw my name on there. [Congregation and ChiSing: laughs] I also felt at home, because John Sullivan played the flute today to accompany the meditation and John and I—we've done something together a couple of years ago—I remember. And I saw my friend Michael Gott's name on here too; he is coming here in a few weeks. That's wonderful. Please tell him I said hello, and give him a hug for me. I saw Daniel Nahmod's name, who wrote these wonderful songs that we are going to sing later, today. I actually bumped into him a long time ago, about twelve years ago, in Santa Monica, California—he was playing the piano in sort of the mall area in Santa Monica, and I just thought I'd buy one of his CDs (I had no idea who he was, and then years later I hear about his name in all these New Thought churches). I'm just sharing that because, you never know; have you heard of that term "six degrees of separation"?
We're actually all interconnected in some way; directly and indirectly. So be careful what you say [ChiSing and Congregation: Laughs] and what you do—especially on the highway and who you cut off. [Congregation: Laughs] That may be someone that's going to be important in your life in this lifetime, or another one.
There's a saying in Tibetan Buddhism that every being has or will be your mother at some point. [ChiSing and Congregation: Laughs] So be nice to them! By the way, don't think of this as a sermon or what we call a dharma talk in Buddhism, but think of this as more of a Dharma Collage.
Does anyone have any questions about anything?
[Question from an audience member:] In Buddhism, how do you view the existence of evil people, or people that basically are in a very bad place; where they are not exercising their "true self" …
ChiSing: Well, we're all here to learn, and to grow. One of the things that we are here to learn is that certain choices have certain consequences. It's not that there is anyone who is evil, it's just that they are ignorant and deluded, and that they are learning how to make choices and to see the consequences of those choices. That's all. So there is no one that's evil. It's just that they haven't quite fully awakened yet.
And you know what? Really, we all have the same disease—we're all "mentally ill". [Congregation and then ChiSing: laughs] Some more than others—but we all have a mental illness, and that's really what the Buddha taught: that we are all insane, that we are all deluded. So we need to follow the prescription toward wholeness and mental health, and that's really what the Buddha was—he was sort of a mental health practitioner. He's one of the first psychotherapists in history. You know? The Buddha taught us to not just rely on external, divine beings, to help us. He said if you really want to get better, you need to look within where the problem is and to look at the mind; because that's where it starts.
Buddhism was one of the first spiritual traditions that really emphasized that, instead of trying to placate external divine entities, let's go within and transform the mind. That's where the problem lies.
[Question from an audience member:] When you first started you had referred to a change of consciousness happening. But there is so much killing, and shooting, and violence—is that a purgation, or it needs to happen?
ChiSing: I don't really know what's going on exactly—because I can't rely on the news anymore to tell me what's really going on, because they tend to skew things. There may be more and more people actually getting better and loving people more and acting better—but I don't really know because the news never tells me. So I don't really know, but my sense is that before things get better things can sometimes get worse. Sometimes there is the storm before the calm.
[Question from an audience member:] I wonder if you could recommend for someone, who may want to begin studying Buddhism, a good way to start.
ChiSing: Well that reminds me of another reason why I felt really at home, is that Venerable Subhuti is here, in the back, a wonderful Buddhist monk who teaches Insight meditation. So, I highly recommend that you come on Wednesday and learn from him, it's a wonderful opportunity and you are very blessed to have him, so please talk with Venerable.
[Question from an audience member:] Yes, what is on your CD?
ChiSing: My CD is twelve songs that I've written. They are sort of like KLTY, but the Buddhist version. [Congregation: Laughs] That sort of thing; it's sort of Buddhist rock and roll. [Congregation: Laughs] But peaceful Buddhist rock and roll—and I know I am joking right now, but it really is good. At least, that's what everyone else says, so. [Congregation: Laughter]
[Question from an audience member:]Would you sing us a song?
ChiSing: Would I sing a song? Sure! I just happen to have my musical instrument right here. (I'll give you the twenty dollars later). [Congregation: laughter]
Alright, I'd like to do a call and response with everyone.
[Congregation member:] Be careful, don't fall off the stage.
ChiSing: Oh, and by the way, if I did fall off — if I just took a misstep, and I hurt my toe ("ouch") — that is pain. But, if I start saying things in my mind like: "Oh my gosh, I don't know if I'm going to have time to go to the hospital today, they're probably closed today, so I'll have to wait tomorrow. And by the time I go tomorrow, there will be gangrene. They're going to have to operate on my foot. They're probably going to have to cut off the entire leg [Congregation: Laughter] and then I'll be a one-legged person for the rest of my life [Congregation: Laughter]. If I ever decide to get married, no one will want me, and I'll die on my death bed all alone." That's suffering! [Congregation: Laughter]
So there's a modern Buddhist teaching that goes like this: "Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional." Repeat after me, "Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional." Wonderful, and so this is a Buddhist teaching, and maybe the Buddha didn't actually say it that way—but, you know what?, what the Buddha said was just a start and we have to develop our understanding over time. That's one of the wonderful teachings that have developed since the Buddha's time. That pain is inevitable; suffering is optional—and that's what meditation helps us do. We create that suffering constantly in our mind. Things just happen, but we don't have to make such a big deal out of it—but we do, and we create so much suffering for ourselves. It's called "drama", but I want to give you "Dharma" [Congregation: Laughter] rather than drama.
Dharma is the Truth, the teachings of the Buddha and of enlightenment. So create Dharma; not drama. Ok? I wish I had a bumper sticker. [Congregation: Laughter]. "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional" is also a good bumper sticker—does anyone have that business of making bumper stickers? [Congregation: Laughter]
I just wanted to share that with you as another teaching—but do you know the reason why meditation is so important? We make split second judgments in our mind that are based on habits that go back years into our childhood. We don't realize how we judge things, and label things because it happens so quickly in our mind—but through meditation we're able to refine our ability to see more clearly and to catch ourselves much quicker. Now you can do it without meditation, but it's going to take you maybe twenty or thirty million lifetimes [Congregation: Laughter]. I don't know—but through meditation, you can wake up in just one lifetime—or that's what they tell me [Congregation: Laughter].
OK, so here we go.
[Musical instrument plays] This is a shruti box, it is from India. I use it for chanting.
So let me chant for you the Healing Buddha Mantra. Just feel all your healing "angels" within and all around you, bringing healing to your life and to all your loved ones. Then after that we'll sing something in English.
Om Namo Bhagavate Bhaisajya-guru
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free.
May all beings be joyful.
May all beings be at peace.
Shanti shanti shanti.
One form of meditation is walking meditation, and also eating meditation; but there's also writing meditation. So sometimes after I meditate, when I feel inspired, I will write something. [In conclusion] I would like to read something I wrote from the Buddha to me to you: "Begin Anew" —
It has been a long time since last we spoke.
It does not need to be so long.
In every moment
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 a 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 awaken,
I invite you now to let that go.
Let there be a moment of awakening,
let there be several moments of awakening,
every time you rest into this Great 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,
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 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:
You can do it…