I try to convey that the wisdom and compassion we are looking for is already inside of us. I see practice as learning how to purify our mind and heart so we can hear the Buddha inside. In doing so, we naturally embody the dharma and help awaken that understanding and love in others we meet.
I try to use the formal teachings as a doorway for people to see the truth in themselves. I feel I'm doing my job when people look into themselves to come to their own deep understandings of the truth, access their own inner wisdom and trust in their "Buddha-knowing," as Ajahn Chah called it, which is different from their intellectual knowing.
The Buddha-knowing is a deeper place, underneath the concepts, which is in touch with the truth, with our seed of awakening. I want practitioners to have more and more confidence in, and familiarity with, that deeper place of knowing. It is accessing this dimension of our being that becomes the guide to cutting through the confusion caused by greed and fear. We have everything we need inside ourselves. We do not need to look to a teacher when we remember who we really are.
The Buddhist concept of Anatta points to the fact that there is no separate self to whom life is happening. We are inter-connected. This talk explores different levels of this truth. As individuals, biologically we are not one being but rather a complex ecosystem comprised of many different beings. We are connected to each other through our relationships. And we are societal creatures who form groups. In the best of conditions those groups sometimes create an extraordinary field where the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.
The Buddha spoke of the power of non-harming as a support for inner peace and outward harmony. But how can we both commit to being peaceful while courageously and passionately standing up for what we feel is right and make a difference in the world? This talk includes some of the Buddha's words on peace and non-harming as well as two clips of Julia Butterfly Hill speaking about "Anger v. Love" and "Fierce Compassion".
The Buddha taught: "Hatred never ceases by hatred. Hatred only ceases by love. This is an ancient and eternal law." With tragedies like Charlottesville and the reaction of the president highlighting the forces of hate in our country in these crazy times, how can we avoid giving in to the same reaction within ourselves? How can we acknowledge our repugnance and activated feelings without adding more ill will as we emerge with a wise response? Teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and the Buddha help us hold this all with a dharmic perspective.
In a moment our understanding of reality can change with new information or new perspective. Anger and ill will can be released and turn to compassion and forgiveness. And it's also true that old patterns can be activated once again in a surprising and humbling way. The process of waking up requires tremendous patience and a kind heart, especially towards ourselves.
This is a follow-up to James' "Appreciating Our Benefactors" talk (5-25-17).
Besides gratitude for those who've been our benefactors, we can see ourselves as passing on the kindness and caring we've received. We can and do have a significant effect on everyone around us. We can practice seeing the beautiful qualities in others, believing in them and bringing out the best in them. By doing so we help them shine, make a meaningful contribution to the world and experience great joy.
This talk also includes some words about James' local basketball team the Golden State Warriors, who just became NBA champions. The coach, Steve Kerr, tries to instill four core qualities in his players--joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition. And the players' unselfish style, subjugating individual glory for the good of the team, is the key to their success. They embody the attitude of bringing out the best and enjoying seeing each other shine.
It’s important to recognize and appreciate all the support we receive in our spiritual practice as well as in our lives. If practice sometimes seems like a solitary experience we’re not realizing all the ways that life has been supporting us. This can be an on-going rich source of inspiration in our spiritual development and growth. We’ll explore various practices and reflections to make this come alive.
The Buddha spoke of waking up as going "against the stream" in order to see things with fresh eyes. One essential ingredient of the spiritual journey is courage required to grow and be willing to step outside of our comfort zones. Being a spiritual warrior means facing our deepest fears, dealing with loss, opening to the places inside we'd rather not see and trusting that your awareness can meet any moment that arises. We explore this topic in our dharma practice as it manifests on and off the cushion.