The Buddha's teachings are compared to an ocean. At the very edge of the beach, it is shallow. Even little kids can enjoy playing in the water. There is no danger. But you can go deeper, for those brave adults who want to go surfing. And it can go even deeper for those who want to travel across vast miles, or even submarines go very, very deep.
In the same way, the Buddha's teachings are presented in different ways—very simple, very understandable, very practical, as well as there is also a lot of depth there as well. So it is up to you how deep you want to go, but whatever depth you want to go, there is always something for you, something helpful.
So tonight, I am going to present you my own insights. You will not find this in any Buddhist text. The concepts are based on Buddhist teachings, but the way I am formulating it is sort of my own way of presenting it, and this is true with all practitioners of spirituality. First you learn from the original teachers and those who have come after the original teachers as they develop the teachings and make them relevant for each society, each time period. So that is what you do. You spend the first few years just going into the basics.
But as you practice and gain your own insights, such as looking into the Four Noble Truths of suffering and happiness that the Buddha taught, you begin to see your own insight of your own experiences, and you can start to share everything in your own language with your own metaphors. It doesn't have to be just the way it written 2,600 years ago. We can also make it relevant for our own time and place.
For example, I had a very deep insight into the Four Noble Truths one time at a retreat, as I was doing walking meditation with everybody at the monastery. We were just walking mindfully, feeling our breath, feeling our step, enjoying nature, enjoying the trees and sunshine. And all of a sudden, I had a deep, great, profound insight I had never noticed before. There was bird crap everywhere. But this was profound for me because I had been practicing for a long time, and the night before, a friend of mine was telling me about how all of the different animals that poop on the earth, actually because of the process of sunlight and leaves coming over and warming up the soil, it then is able to cover, with microorganisms and worms and other things, and process that and turn it into fertilizer, compost. And that eventually goes back into the soil, nourishing the soil to make it possible for beautiful flowers and grass and trees and bushes and vegetables to grow. So I had deep insight.
So the Buddha said there is suffering, but for me, my insight into that first Noble Truth was that shit happens. That is the only way I can say it, that it came to me, in my modern lingo. Maybe I shouldn't have this recorded, but anyway. Poop happens. Maybe that is what I will say. And it was just very profound. I could see the first, the second, the third, and the fourth Noble Truth all through the metaphor of composting and fertilizing and all of that, so I could see, ah, there is nothing in the universe that is totally only negative. All things in the universe of experience have the potential to go from poop to compost to fertilizer to nourishing the garden, everything.
So I started to realize, wow, there is so much profound truth everywhere, and no matter what negative things happen to me, I have the capacity as the baby Buddha to be to transform that into something else. There is nothing in your life, nothing in your experience that has to stay negative. It does not have to stay only a trauma, only a suffering. It can be transformed. It can be used to create something different. And that is just amazing to me.
So anyway, this formulation of teachings is similar to that insight I had that bird poop was everywhere, so it is not like it is going to be found in any books you are going to read, but it is also not different from the Buddha's teachings. It is based on the same truth that the Buddha saw, and this is just how I see it, and this is how I word it. And isn't that lovely, that we can have the universal truth, but it can also be worded in different ways? Right? Isn't that nice?
This is so nice to me because it doesn't mean that everything has to be fundamentalist. It can be part of oneness of truth, but it can be worded in different ways. I think that is why I appreciate all the different religions in the world, because I know that at the heart of what they are trying to say, there is a oneness of truth, a universal reality they are all pointing to, but they are just doing it with different symbols, different words, different angles of teachings. And that is okay.
So, the same thing in Buddhism. Buddhism has many, many schools. If you look at the chart on one of the pages, you see how the various schools of Buddhism have developed, and I think they are all beautiful. I don't think that just because different schools start making different teachings or making different practices, I don't think that is heresy. I just think it is just a wonderful, beautiful other development that possibly is helpful to certain people that other schools of Buddhism might not be helpful to. So, viva la difference is what I say.
You know, a garden isn't just one kind of plant if you want to have a really beautiful garden, have different kinds of flowers. Have different kinds of bushes. Have different kinds of trees. Have different kinds of vegetables. To have a really beautiful garden, have a nice variety. So in the garden of Buddhism, there is also variety. But that doesn't mean you have to do everything that is never been taught, because that is almost impossible for one human being. Choose which one resonates with you the most and go deep in that. That is my advice. Just explore all different varieties of spirituality and then choose what really resonates with you, and go deep in that.
So now on to my real topic, the Buddha's seven laws of manifestation. And I subtitled it, going beyond the Law of Attraction. But that is a good law, the Law of Attraction. And this corresponds to the Buddha's teachings of the mind and thought as being very, profoundly important. Our views, our thinking, our intentions, our beliefs, our feelings have a very, very important role in how we experience reality, in how we co-create reality. So even though I do believe the Law of Attraction is by itself too simplistic, it is a true law. For what we think, we attract. What we intend, what we believe in, what we feel, creates an energy field that attracts similar energy to our experience.
So it is important for us to practice diligently to be mindful of our beliefs, our intentions, our desires, our will, and our thoughts and feelings. So it is important to be mindful of those. But, they are not the only thing that shapes our experiential reality or co-creates our manifestation of reality. The Buddha also taught, very importantly, the Law of Karma. And first, I will talk about individual karma. Karma is a word that just simply means action, and it implies action and effect, so cause and effect.
So, karma basically means primarily our actions of thought, speech, and action. But it also implies the consequences of our thoughts, words, and actions, too. And each of us individually, we have two kinds of individual karma. We have the individual karma of this life, and we also have individual karma of past lives. Now if you don't believe in past lives, that is okay. Just focus on this life. But we do carry the energy of our individual karma with us, whether you believe in many lives or just this one life. So we need to be mindful of our actions of thought, speech, and deed because they create ripple effects and consequences, not only for ourselves, but for other people.
So the other law is basically the Law of Collective Karma, and collective karma not only includes the people in your life, your family karma, but also your nation, your race, your gender, all the different categories you find yourself in, and the whole planet earth, the collective karma of the entire planet. Because when someone else is doing something, whether you think you deserve it or not, it affects you, so you are affected by other people's karma, not just your own.
Also, the teaching on collective karma helps us to meditate on the fact that we are not just an individual alone. We are made of so many other energies. For example, if you are a mother, not only do you have your own personal karma as a mother, they guess what? You also take on the karma of all motherhood, from past to present. There is an energy of motherhood that you carry within you as an individual mother.
Let me give you another example that might be more helpful. For example, if you are married to a spouse, not only do you have your own individual relational karma together as spouses, but you also inherit all of the different ideas, karma, energy, whatever from past society's ideas of what marriage means. So we inherit both the positive and the negative aspects of what marriage means, and if you look at history, it is not all about romance, honey. The larger history of marriage is not pretty, so we are inheriting some of that.
Today, we are trying to work on it so that it is much more about equality between the spouses, and it's more about a partnership, and it is more about love and commitment, but in the past, it was not all about that, was it? It was about property, ownership, control, domination, and security, which are very different qualities than love and commitment and equal partnership, right? So as you are entering into the karmic energy of marriage or partnership, just know that you are not just taking on the individual's energy of this. You are also taking on the history of social karma in this.
Maybe you can think of it as the karmic baggage around partnership and marriage, so when you have difficulties, don't just blame yourself or your partner, but remember that it is difficult because of the difficulties you may have inherited, and not just theoretically, but also ancestrally. Your partner acts a certain way because their mother and father and their grandparents and their great grandparents and their ancestors, and you act a certain way with family dynamics because of your parents and their parents and their parents, and it is passed on, you see? So you have to realize you are not just an individual alone. You carry the weight of all of society and all of your ancestors, too. So this is collective karma.
And here is the thing. What if individually you have such good karma that you would be born into a very healthy body into a very healthy family into a very healthy society, but guess what? There are only so many bodies that are born at a time on earth, and you may just have the body that is available, and then that way, it may not be exactly matching your individual karma, but good enough, but then you kind of take on the collective karma of whatever that is. So you might be wanting to have a particular family type or a particular kind of country or a particular language or particular religion that may not be exactly the match for you, but it is good enough because there is a long line of souls trying to get born here.
So just remember that when you incarnate on earth, you bring your own individual karma, but you also take on the karma of your society at that time. So maybe you have good karma that you usually would attract good health and good medical care, but if you were born in the 1600s, the doctors were not exactly as good as they are today. So you just have to accept that fact, and maybe a century from now, they will look at our 21st century medicine and call us barbarians, right? But if you're living right here in this century, in this year, you have to accept the collective availability or whenever the medical knowledge is. You see what I'm saying?
So you just realize that when you come to earth, you do so partly because of your own karma, but also partly, you just have to accept what is available, whatever body is available, whatever family, whatever country, whatever medical knowledge is available. You just accept that and go with that. Because sometimes we may think, I am going to attract a certain thing, and you can think and attract that all you want, but certain laws are in place. You cannot break them, not easily anyway.
I mean, if you're a very, very high-level being, maybe you can transcend some of these laws, but for example, the law of gravity is the law of gravity. You are standing on a precipice, and you're going to jump and just say, "Okay. I'm going to think and attract that I'm going to fall down safely these thousands and thousands of feet, and I will be fine with no pain, and I will be alive." Well, I would feel a little bit foolish, because you're trying to say that the Law of Attraction is the only law in existence, and you're forgetting that there are also other laws, like the law of gravity, law of physics. So you have got to be smart, wise in the way you work with the laws of nature.
Now, a fourth law is the Law of Positive Merit. Merit is a nice Buddhist teaching, and merit is similar to karma, but it is a specialized kind of karma. And by the way, you don't have to believe anything I am saying. This is just my perspective. I just hope that whatever I say will help you in your own reflections. But you see, you may have the heaviness of past habits of negative thinking or actions, but if you develop enough positive merit, many times it can offset some of those heavy habitual negative energies that are still kind of weighing you down. So that is why we practice spiritual practices. So the way you create positive merit is to do certain actions that are related to your spiritual awakening.
So, merit is basically positive karma geared towards spiritual practice, so a kind of special kind of karma. And when you do meditation, when you do chanting, when you do any spiritual practice over and over and over again, it creates a well of energy, a reservoir of energy, and it becomes like your backup tank. So even if other things are not going very well in your life, you can still have this reservoir to get you through it.
But, here's the thing. If you don't do the spiritual practice, eventually you may have this very low tank of merit, positive merit, and in certain times of emergency or crisis or trauma, when you really need that extra reservoir of energy, you will not have it. It will be depleted. So we need to keep up our practice. Don't just think, well, things are going very well in my life right now. I'm not doing anything bad. I'm not attracting bad things. I have good karma. I don't need to do my spiritual practice. That is not wise because you do not know in the future when you may need that extra reservoir.
And it is not just about you. When we practice a lot of positive merit, guess what? When we are full, we can be over-full, over-flowing, and then all of our extra positive merit we can give and offer to others, you see? That is why I believe that even if your life is good—maybe you are wealthy. Maybe you have a great spouse. Maybe you have a great career. Maybe you get to go on vacation all the time. Things seem wonderful. You still need to do spiritual practice. Otherwise, all you're doing is wasting all the good karma that you have created all just for selfishness, and that is not good.
We are not here just to enjoy life. Yes, we should enjoy life, but that is not the only reason why we are here. We are also here to cultivate wisdom and compassion, to learn how to be of service to others, and to offer our extra positive merit to others. I know one of our young adults, he was so gung ho when he first started doing his meditations, going to retreats, and then he started to slack off because things were going well in his life. He was wanting to focus more on his career and business. He is a good person, so he just thought, I don't need to do my meditation all the time. I don't need to do that. But then he remembered something I said. It is not just about you, because when you keep practicing, or even when you don't necessarily need to at that time, then that extra reservoir of merit flows for other beings.
This is the path of the bodhisattva. We don't just practice for ourselves. We practice for others. Guess what? The Buddha practiced meditation very diligently from age 29 to 35, so diligently that in that six-year period, he finally became enlightened and became the Buddha. Guess what? After he became enlightened, he still did walking meditation. He still did sitting meditation. He still did his spiritual practices until he died at age 80. Why?
If he is already enlightened, why does he need to keep practicing? Why? Because it is not for him. He kept practicing so that he could have an overflow of positive merit to give to each one of us today, so that each one of us could go for centuries and centuries and centuries into the future, even to right now where you are sitting. You are being a recipient of the Buddha's positive merit right now. Isn't that amazing? Thank you, Buddha. Namo Buddhaya.
Okay. So the fifth law is the Law of Dharma Lessons. Sometimes things happen, and it may not be because you attracted it, and it may not be because of your karma, but it might be because deep within, you have a certain mission in this life, a certain curriculum that you want to learn, and so it is important to your soul to learn these things, and to learn certain lessons requires certain circumstances that to our ego may not be so pleasant.
For example, what if you want to learn a lesson of non-discrimination? Now I'm going to share something personal with you, and I have no way of verifying it, but I keep feeling this is true, and also I had a hypnosis and past-life regression, and it kind of convinced me that this notion I have been having for many years I think it's probably true. I think that I was a fundamentalist in a past life, maybe in the 1800s, where I was one of the elders of the church, and I was not nice to gay people, and I was not nice to mentally ill people. I was not nice to people who were different from our church's doctrine, and I was kind of harsh. And I couldn't understand, why can't they just follow the rules? Why can't they just conform and be like everyone else?
Well, in this life, I get a taste of that, because I grew up in a fundamentalist environment, and I realized this is not a healthy environment. So deep in my soul, I understand now that that kind of harshness is not good, and now I see that it is not easy for people who have different sexual orientations to exist in a majority of heterosexuality, and it is not easy for people who may have some mental illnesses or whatever to function in an environment of health and support and understanding. I don't know why.
In my life, I keep encountering all of these people that have mental illness, and I think it is my opportunity now to treat them better than I did in a previous life. So, do I personally want to encounter discrimination or people who have mental illness, or do I want to encounter harshness of religion? No. But by encountering it personally, I now can understand it personally, and in my soul, I will choose differently. I will choose more compassion instead.
So, you may be going through something not because of bad karma or not because you attracted it with bad thoughts or whatever, but because your soul just wants to learn a certain lesson in this life. For example, patience. If you want to learn patience more, well, guess what is going to happen? You are going to have to have some difficult situations so that you can learn patience. And if you want the ultimate goal of becoming a Buddha, that requires wisdom and compassion, the greatest ingredients of Buddhahood.
Wisdom and compassion, they do not come from a bed of roses. They do not come from an easy life. Wisdom comes from going through many different kinds of experiences and maturing through them. Compassion comes from being able to experience suffering of yourself and others and learning how to love and help, even in the midst of the suffering. So perhaps some things that you go through are because of lessons that you are wanting to learn.
The sixth law is the Law of Service. This is a wonderful law because it means that in some circumstances, it may be that you are in a dark situation, a difficult situation, not because of dharma lessons or karma or attraction or whatever, but simply because your soul is so compassionate that you want to be there as a light in the midst of difficulty. Because think about it. If everyone was a not-so-evolved soul in a particular situation and something terrible happened, do you know how much fear and how much suffering they are going through? But if you, the one light in the situation, the one example for calmness, for courage, for love and compassion—if you are in that in the midst with them, you lift everybody up, and you make it less dark.
So maybe you are here in this world and this situation and this particular circumstance just to help the darkness not be so dark, just by being here. Whether you say or do or think anything, if you are truly an awakened, good soul, you do not even have to do anything. Just by being here, you lift the level of consciousness on this planet already. I love the saying that Thich Nhat Hanh says: "A flower does not need to be anything other than a flower, and it is so beautiful just being a flower." So you do not need to strive so hard to change the world or whatever. Sometimes just because you are already an expanded, awakening soul, just being here already brightens the whole world. So do not try so hard. Just let the light that you are radiate.
So, last but not least, there is the Law of Grace, which is related to the Law of Merit, but instead of it being your own merit that you offered others, the Law of Grace is the merit of others given to you. And so this is why Buddhism also practices prayer and also practices gratitude to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, because they are constantly giving it the overflow of their positive merit to us. They do not need it for themselves. They are already enlightened. They just keep giving and giving and giving out of love and compassion, and so we can receive that positive merit from the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. We can receive it from beautiful beings of light on the planet.
We can receive the good actions and the good words and the good thoughts of others because of the Law of Grace, and the reason why the Law of Grace can work is because no one is a separate self. We are all interconnected. That is why we can give and receive from one another. If we were separate entities only, how can you offer your good merit to someone else? How can you receive the good merit from someone else? It would be impossible. But because we are actually one, oneness in diversity, interbeing, interconnection, that is the reality of our oneness. Because of that reality, we are not separate selves. Then grace flows between each other, between ourselves, and we can all be recipients of that. And you know, we all are.
Honestly, if we all just relied on the Law of Karma to get enlightened, it would be such a bleak, depressing picture. But because of the Law of Grace, even if the beings who make mistakes over and over and over again create hells for themselves and others, there is still hope for them, too, because the Law of Grace will always be there to help them out.
Have you ever had an experience when you're depressed or very, very sad for many, many days, and nothing you do seems to help, and yet, one morning you wake up, and you feel better? And you don't even know what you did to make that happen, and you didn't do anything to make it happen, and yet it just happened, like a pure grace. I believe it is because someone in the world was praying for you. That is why we keep praying in all spiritual traditions, because our prayers are like little beams of light. They go to specific persons, and many times, it just goes out generally to the whole world, and it may touch someone who needs it the most, even someone you don't even know. I believe that. I believe that with all my heart.
And I wish I had time to tell you this story about that, but no. Maybe next time. But I do believe that every positive intention that we have, every positive prayer, every mindful meditation that we send off light to the world, it has a real effect because of the Law of Grace. We receive grace from Source. We receive grace from the enlightened ones, and we receive grace from all good souls.
So remember there are many laws at work, and don't assume you know what laws are going on. You don't know. You just have to walk and live your life mindfully, gratefully, and know that there are many, many laws at work to manifest your reality. At the lower stages of our spiritual evolution, we rely mostly on karma, but as we evolve higher, karma isn't so important anymore. What are important are the Law of Dharma and the Law of Service.
In fact, the highest beings who come on earth, they don't even need to be here. They have already learned their lessons. They've already finished all their karma. They have already learned how to radiate positivity in their mind and attract certain things. The reason why they are here? Only because they want to be of service. They want to be a presence of grace on planet earth, and thank goodness that there are beings like that here, because otherwise, it would be a lot worse here. So remember that whenever you think that things are going bad all the time on earth. Think of how worse it would be if these beings were not coming here to help uplift the planet. So don't think on the negative all of the time. Remember the positive and be grateful that things are actually way better than they could have been. They really are because of the grace of all good souls.