Questions and Answers
I've already overused my time, any questions?
Question: So what is the intrinsic,
unchangeable thing that you can bring through
It is this "knowing." But many people are
confused about it. We take our thoughts, our
conscious judgments, our reactions, our
emotions, our feelings, to be ourselves. I
like this, I hate that. People take these
thoughts, feelings to be the self, but they
are always changing. That's why you feel
this void. But amidst everything, happy
times and sad times, this "knowing" is
always there. So in meditation, you let go
of all these thoughts and all these concepts
about yourself. When you let go of all these
ideas about yourself, your mind becomes
clear like still water. The mind is like a
pool of water. We constantly stir it with
our greed, desires, and concepts. Stop! When
the water is still and clear, you see
everything as it is. It just is. In
spiritual cultivation you don't build
anything, you don't achieve anything, you
just recover what is already there. And when
you get there, that is also ultimate bliss;
it is ultimate peace, ultimate joy.
It's kind of hard to imagine why that inner
peace is joyful unless you practice meditation.
If you practice meditation, you'll find
that the calmer and more mindful you are,
the more serene you are, the more joyful
you are. It's not joy that comes from sensory
stimulation; it's a quiet, serene, satisfying
kind of joy. And it can go deeper and deeper.
And you can actually achieve that by living
your daily life and doing everything you
do. That's what the Chan (Zen) practice
is about—to be able to achieve that
serenity and inner peace in everything you
do. Whether you're talking, walking, eating,
taking a shower, or getting a speeding ticket—you
can be joyful. "Thank you, Officer.
I'm glad to be able to contribute to the
police force." Why not? Right?
Question: I have a question about your
discussion on individuality. I think one
thing that clearly defines the limits of
each and everyone's border is pain. Any
comments on that?
The border of pain—is it so real?
You feel pain in this body because of your
attachment to this body. When you achieve
a certain deep enough samadhi, or concentration
of mind, single-mindedness, when you are
not as attached to your body, then the pain
does not affect you. It's actually possible
to be able to achieve that state. So pain
is an illusion. I'll give you a more mundane
example. Suppose you kick the table and
hurt your foot. "Ouch! That hurts!"
And then your best friend calls and you
get into a conversation on the phone, talking
very happily, and you forget all about the
pain. Why? Because your mind is not on the
pain. Even ordinary people can do that.
Pain, actually, is an illusion. Also, if
you're meditating, you cross your legs,
and at first it's very painful. But, if
you go beyond a certain pain barrier, the
pain will go away. Even if it doesn't go
away, it's there, but it doesn't affect
you. It's hard to explain; those of you
who have experienced it know that. The pain
can be there, yet it doesn't affect you.
And your fingernails and hair and bones.
You don't feel pain in them, but they are
considered part of "you." On the
other hand, you can feel pain when your
new car is scratched, even though the car
is not part of your body, because you are
attached to the car.
Q: If you understand the concept of
emptiness, couldn't you still define the
self as "free agency?"
What do you mean by "free agency"?
Your own choices, and…
Yes, in fact, the Bodhisattva of Compassion,
Guan Yin, also known as Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,
is said to have 32 manifestations. (A bodhisattva
is a Buddha to be, someone who is practicing
the Buddhist way, who wants to be a Buddha,
who is very compassionate, very enlightened.)
Beyond a certain stage in your practice,
you can actually be in control of your form
and appearance. That means that you can
take on any physical form that you like.
That means a bodhisattva can be anybody.
The person sitting next to you could be
a bodhisattva—you never know. Hard
to believe? Let's look at it this way. Why
are we not in control of our lives? Why
are we not in control of death? It's actually
possible. There've been many cases of Buddhist
masters, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and
Indian, who were able to leave this body,
and take on rebirth or another incarnation
at will. It's not suicide. They are free
from death. Why? Because they have this
kind of control. Look at what happens when
you see chocolate, or a beautiful dress.
You lose control. We are not mindful. We
give our minds up to our desires. We let
our desires grab us. That's why you are
not in control of your own fate. You can
be if you understand causality; the cause
of all karma is your mind. Every moment,
if you are mindful, you know what you are
doing, you do what's the right cause, then
your fate is in your own hands. That's part
of the practice of transcending death. You
can actually transcend birth and death.
Question: Can Buddhahood be obtained
in one lifetime?
Well, there will be one lifetime when we
achieve Buddhahood. It can take many, many
lifetimes. Enlightenment can be achieved
in one lifetime. Enlightenment is not Buddhahood.
Enlightenment means that you have suddenly
understood and experienced emptiness, or
"no self". Another way to say
that is to say you have understood the true
nature of the self. But that doesn't mean
that the habits that you accumulated, your
thought patterns or habitual reactions,
and your desires, are completely gone. You
have just understood that the desire and
the anger are totally based on delusion,
the delusion of the ego-personality. So
it will continue to take time to practice
to become a Buddha. But if you don't start
in this life, you'll never get to that life.
Question: Buddha never actually said
"no self," but "not self"
You can say "no self", you can
say "not self", you can say "selflessness",
maybe selflessness is easier to grasp.
Question: It seems like an important
distinction when you talk about the Buddhist
practice. In Buddha's time, people were
really discussing philosophy. 'Am I self,
am I not self?' [Buddha says] I don't care,
I just want people to get out of suffering.
so, you look at characteristics and it looks
like there's no self there. It seems like
there is a difference.
The important thing is that everything,
every characteristic you can say about yourself
can be changed, and that's why there's "no
self." And that leads to liberation,
being free of the concept of "self."
(Our time is up.) Well, you know
an hour is not enough for emptiness; Buddha
spoke 100,000 lines on emptiness—The
prajnaparamita sutra. Thank you.