Dear friends, thank you for your practice. If you brought your book with you, feel free to go to chapter—well, to page 17. I would like to encourage everyone to bring your book with you to the Center whenever we are teaching through this so that you can have an easier time looking at the different slogans if you like. But do please put your name in the book because since there are 90 people with the same book as you, if you leave it on a chair or something you may misplace it.
I would like to just kind of go through the slogans briefly. The first slogan in the section on bodhicitta, which we've been talking about, is, "See everything as a dream." And I would like to ask you to reflect on that. And if anyone has any comments from their own practice on any of these slogans, just blurt it out at any time while we are talking about them because I would love to hear your insights. For me, see everything as a dream is a very powerful practice. It is really easy to do this practice if you have ever had any kind of hallucinations or delusional ideas or thoughts in your mind or if you have taken any mushrooms at some point in your life. It is very easy to see how reality is not a fixed state of reality. It is actually very malleable. If anyone has ever been in a state of anxiety or depression—
Audience Member: No. (Laughter)
ChiSing: —have you noticed how things seem different to you than maybe to other people? Yet everyone is walking around supposedly in the same reality. At least that is what we assume. And even though we believe that there are atoms here creating a particular kind of reality, yet reality itself is actually only our perception of reality. For us, for every being, reality is only one's perception of reality. So there is no one fixed reality, in other words. If an ant crawls over here on the floor, and it is perceiving the same atoms, but its perception of what the meaning of all of these atoms is very different from, let's say, Vanessa's perception of the reality here.
So our physical form enables different beings to perceive reality in different ways. But not only our physical form, also our mental states of consciousness create our reality for us. So really, we are living in the universe in such a way that is not a Newtonian mechanical universe at all of fixed meanings and hard objects. It is as if we are each, as we move through reality, reality shimmers around us. Just like in our understanding of the law of gravity, every object has a slight influence on all the other objects around it. And of course if you have a giant object, a very dense object like the sun, it has a very strong pull on all the other objects around it, and if it is as strong as a black hole, it really has a very strong, powerful influence on all the different objects around it.
But that is actually our reality also. As we walk through the world, our mind consciousness, our state of mind is affecting, pulling, pushing, and shaping reality so that whatever is around us then shapes into whatever your mind creates. So that is why someone who is in a drunken state or whatever perceives reality very differently than someone who is in a sober state. And someone who is in anxiety or depression state perceives things in a very different way than someone in a peaceful, happy state, right?
So in the same way that in a dream things are not really what they seem to be, and if you have a lucid dream, you can actually do things in the dream and shape your experience in the dream—in the same way, this is true of what we call reality. Now be careful. Don't fall into the trap of saying everything is a dream. It is rather see everything as a dream. Some people get too carried away and get caught into the whole thing that everything is a dream and an illusion or whatever, and then they do not care about what is going on in this reality at all. That is just an extreme understanding. It is a false perception of the situation.
We practice the middle way. We do not believe that everything is just a fixed, solid reality, but neither do we think that everything is a complete solution and does not matter. It is the middle way that we practice, which is that things are malleable and that we have absolute influence in this reality. We are all co-creating reality moment to moment, and our consciousness as an individual shapes that reality as we perceive it.
The next slogan is, "Examine the nature of awareness." This is a very, very deep practice of meditation. It is when you say to yourself in your practice, "I am not my thoughts. I am awareness." And when you say to yourself, "Okay." You notice there is breathing. In breath, out breath. And maybe at first as a beginner, you say, "I am breathing in, and I am breathing out." But actually if you realize that you are not the body, that you are not confined to identification with this body, then who is the "I" you're talking about that is breathing in and breathing out? The body is breathing in and breathing out, but you are not the one breathing in and breathing out. Rather, this body, you are aware that there is this body breathing in and breathing out.
Take out that "I" because it is an added, extra. It is not actually the reality. So instead of saying, "Aware that I am breathing," just say, "Aware of breathing. Aware of in breath. Aware of the out breath." And that will continue to go deeper and deeper because part of our practice is to practice with the question, who am I? What am I? What is this? And then you go deeper and deeper, and you realize there is only really consciousness, perception, awareness. There is awareness of body. There is awareness of thoughts. There is awareness of sound. There is awareness of color. There is awareness, awareness, awareness. That is all that is really there for you and your experience. But I can say that with words, but that doesn't really mean that you understand that yet experientially, deeply. But these words give you a pointer as to how to practice, so until you realize you're not this body. You're not even this mind. You're not even any of these ideas or experiences you're simply pure being and awareness.
And then the next slogan, "Don't get stuck on peace," which basically negates the last 2 slogans. Or what it does is it helps it to balance out, because you see we can get really airy fairy dreamy, like everything is kind of dreamlike, and I am not really anything. There is no self. You know, I'm just pure being. It gets a little bit ungrounded, said the slogan, don't get stuck on peace, kind of help snap us back to practical reality. Well, what happens a lot is instead of actually experiencing the depth of nonself and emptiness and all of that, we get stuck on the concept of it, not the experience of it, and that is why the slogan helps us, to not get stuck on any one idea, even a good idea. It is still an idea. Ideas are not the reality. Ideas are still symbols of the reality. Think about that.
Bobbie: And the ideas can form an attachment that you don't want to hang onto.
ChiSing: Yes. Exactly. And that is exactly the part of us that creates reality is our attachments and aversions that shape, so we have to be very careful what are our attachments? What are aversions? What is it that we are indifferent to?
Audience Member: ChiSing, can I say that all of this has been sort of exhausting, exhausting like being so aware all the time, you know. And I think maybe attaching to the concepts rather than just being, you know.
ChiSing: Yes. And it is true. Because we start with this to give the ego an idea what we are about to do, just to give a warning to the ego, but the ego does not yet understand what is actually going on. But when you actually have an awakening experience, it is not exhausting at all. It is the most liberating and freeing, peaceful, wonderful feeling in the whole universe. And I hope all of us get at least a few seconds of that sometime during this path in this lifetime. And it is not necessary for you to always be in that state to have it change your life. Just one second can change your life, puts everything back into perspective.
Now, when our whole being is full of habit energy in a negative way, when we finally do something that is a liberating and wondrous and positive, it does not necessarily always at first feel positive, right? Because it goes so much against the grain of our habitual energies previously.
Bobbie: Does that have to do with karmic formations? I mean you get stuck in these karmic formations, and then you spin out of that, definitely you're going to feel a tug back into that old rut.
ChiSing: And remember we were talking about how our energies, our choices, our karmic actions create and influence our reality? See, we have created grooves in our reality, and when we try to change it, it is not always easy because energy is very powerful, but the good news is energy is not solid. Everything can change. Everything can be transformed, anything. Nothing is fixed, and so everything—and that is actually one of the meanings of the term emptiness. It does not mean nothingness. It means that everything can be malleable and changeable and flexible. So this is empty of a solid nature because it can be changed to something else.
And so, I kind of want to jump to that slogan, "In post meditation, be a child of illusion," because what can help us with that exhausted feeling is let go of the inner critical adult who is trying to fix everyone and fix everything and be a child again. Be a child with that fresh awe and wonder. See, we are so serious all the time about this dream that we are co-creating together that we have to remember to be a child again and to play. This nightmare that we have co-created (laughter) does not have to be a nightmare only. It can be a playful dream also. It can be something that we look forward to playing with. Oh, I get to change this reality.
You see, the good news of this teaching is that our suffering, our oppression, our nightmares, they are not permanent and that they are not fixed and solid, but we can change it. We have the power to change it. That is actually the real message here. We innately have the power to change reality. We do. So we can change our depression. We can change our anxiety. We can change our feelings of loneliness or anger. All of it can be changed. And it starts with this awareness right here and now.
And then going back to the slogan before, "Rest in the openness of mind," and that relates to our practice of meditation. We need to take time every day to rest in that open spaciousness of our being. It is so important. Otherwise, we get caught in the dream, and we think that the dream is absolute, solid reality. We forget that it is changeable, that we are participants in reality and we shape reality through our mind. So rest in that openness of mind because, you see, when you are not resting in the openness of mind, rather what you are doing is you are gripping onto fixed ideas of mind. And you create your own prisons through believing things are solid and fixed, and you cannot do anything about things. When you believe that, guess what happens? That is your experience of reality. So to rest in the openness of mind means that nothing is fixed and that everything can change, depending on our choices, our awareness.
Now, this second part of this is that next chapter in the book on relative bodhicitta, which we will go over some more on the next week as well, but I began a little bit of the teaching already through the meditation practice tonight, and I kind of gave it a little twist. Do you remember what we did? First we settled into the here and now with our breath. Then we visualized or felt—some people don't visualize, so you can just feel instead of visualize—visualize or felt a light in the center of the room or an orb or a being or a Buddha of light, however you want to visualize it. It is a symbol of all the love and wisdom and power of the universe that is within us and all beings. So we symbolize it in the light, and we allow it to breathe in our suffering from us and give us its blessings.
And when you feel that love—because, you know, this is using your imagination, but it is using your imagination to point to something that is real. Yeah. Sure. I am just imagining that there is a Buddha in the center of the room and that it is breathing in my suffering and breathing out blessings, but in fact, that imaginary exercise is actually pointing to a reality because enlightenment, Buddha nature, divine nature, universal nature, whatever you want to call it is constantly loving us, taking in all of our suffering and giving us only blessing. That is already the reality. We just start using our imagination to grasp it symbolically.
And maybe some of you in the room visualize that Buddha of light as the Christ, because Jesus was a great bodhisattva. It is unfortunate that too many people have misunderstood his real meaning and message because honestly, any true Buddhist or any true spiritual being in the planet looking at Jesus, it is so obvious he was a great being in history. It is so obvious he was a beautiful bodhisattva who through his life and teachings and example reminded all of us that the divine nature of the universe only is love and embraces our suffering and gives us only blessing. It is just so obvious.
So, to conclude my talk, just to remind you what I was trying to say about the meditation practice, by starting with realizing the infinite love and grace that is already there for us, then we can embody that same divine work in the universe and join the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, join the enlightened ones, join the divine in the work of breathing in others' suffering and transforming it in the heart of light and breathing out blessing. But do it step-by-step. Because to breathe in everyone's suffering in the entire universe and breathe out blessing only is pretty advanced, or don't do it—don't overdo what you are able to do. Just start in steps and processes.
This is the difference between a superstitious understanding of religion versus the practical experience of spirituality. Superstitious understanding of religion thinks that some part of the universe or the divine or whatever is going to stop us and automatically make us all saints, whereas a practical understanding of spirituality is that it takes practice and cultivation, and it takes commitment, and it takes step-by-step openings over and over and over again to make us into infinite beings of love and light.
I want to conclude by saying that there is a wonderful teaching by Greg Baer called Real Love. If anyone feels that that would be helpful for them, I highly recommend it. One of the illustrations that he shares in his teachings is that when we have a car and we are driving around and suddenly our car is almost at empty and we need to refuel, we go to the first gas station that is nearest us, but some sign on the gas says, "Out of gas," or whatever it says sometimes, "Out of order." So many times, our reaction is to drive around and around that gas station honking. "Why can't you give me gas? Give me gas. You are supposed to give me gas. How dare you not give me gas?" Do you know that would be really silly to us if someone did that, right?
And yet that is exactly what we do when we encounter people in our lives, and if they happen to be out of gas, out of love, or out of givingness—because we are only human. We do not have infinite capacities for love yet. We're all just humans, and sometimes we have down days and up days. Sometimes there are days when I am full of light. And then there are days like today, I am just really drained. And if you happen to come and to talk to me today, I won't have a lot to give you maybe. But if we keep trying to get out love out of that person on that day when they are supposed to give it to us, that is as silly as driving our car around the gas station. Just go to another gas station.
Because there is love available, but just maybe not in the form that you wanted today. It might not be the person you are trying to get it from, but the universe is made in such a way that there will be some channel of love for you. Just do not be so fixed in your ideas of where it should come from, because the universe is not fixed. It is very malleable and flexible. So do not be caught by the delusions of the dream. Remember that love is there, but do not try to make it come out of only one form or this form or that form or whatever form. Open your heart to see that love is there no matter what.
And, recently, a song that I used to hear when I was younger came back to mind because I've been going through some personal heartbreak about something, and the song says, "It's never for nothing when you love with no return." It is never for nothing. So light your candle in the darkness, because it is never for nothing. So just love, even if it is not returned. Just shine your light, even when it is dark. Because that practice of love does have an effect in the universe—maybe not in the situation that you're in right now, maybe not that specific person, but the love that you cultivate right now will help someone, someone in the future, another person that you know, or maybe someone you don't even know, or maybe someone in another lifetime. So don't give up just because you can't see the results right now with this specific situation or this specific person. It is not really about those specifics.
I'm going to have to close now because of time. But, um, go find other gas stations.