Upaya Chaplaincy Training

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

AI Summary: 



Good morning. It's a lovely late summer morning. I bought a fitness watch. So it really tells me exactly how many footsteps I'm taking in this talk tonight. But as for reading time, it's almost impossible. So I recently spent two weeks at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, where I partnered with Roshi Joan Halifax as a core teacher in their two-year chaplaincy training program. And I realized I spoke about this program a couple of months ago, but that's it. can't remember it, but actually I did, so I'm not going to repeat the same thing, fortunately for you.


But it does seem to me that it's a unique approach to chaplaincy by way of what we might think of as engaged Buddhism. There's a lot of meditation, and this time we had a zazen kaya, a full day of sitting in the middle of it, which was great, really changed gears. And it's bearing witness to people who are suffering in a variety of settings. Conventional settings like hospitals and hospice and prisons and some in the military, but also in what might be seen as unconventional settings for chaplaincy, street ministry with the homeless, taking care of an entire rainforest in Ecuador, serving immigrant children on the border in Arizona and Mexico,


It's one guy who's been helping his project, his chaplaincy is helping gang members do tattoo removal so that they can more effectively enter the mainstream workforce without those visible marks. So it's quite remarkable people. And it's also process of our chaplaincy training is to recognize that chaplains and service workers in all the institutions and that the people who are being served by them are all together entangled in systems of suffering that are impervious to or seem impervious to our usual ideas of best intentions.


Sometimes the best of intentions won't really touch that tangle. And so everyone in these systems bears a portion of the suffering. I was thinking about this, so this weekend there's a the Buddhist Peace Fellowship is doing a whole weekend of workshops and events on a variety of subjects and we had an opening event last night which was a dialogue between the Thai Buddhist social activist Sulak Sivaraksa and Joanna Macy who lives here in Berkeley. Some of you I'm sure know of Joanna and it was a very lively discussion.


There were about four or five hundred people there which was fantastic and one of the things that struck me about Ajahn Sulak's when I first encountered him in about 1990, or encountered his writings before I encountered him, he put forward this idea of Buddhism with a small b. In other words, a Buddhism that embodied the Buddhas because the Buddha himself was not a Buddhist. Christ himself was not a Christian. So what he's talking about is Buddhism with a small b is a practice or a way of living that is not a religion of rituals or institutions and belief systems.


but rather a path of ethics, wisdom, and social action that transcends cultural lines, ethnic lines, religious lines, and national lines. And I think that's in the context of being social activists, in the context of being a chaplain, you're called on to transcend the tradition in which you are maybe fundamentally practicing. I love this practice. I've been shaped by Zazen, by Suzuki Roshi's Zazen, by Sojin Roshi's teachings, and I feel like that's at my core it's not so much a belief system, it's more like, you know, I've been playing music a long time, and others of you have other things that you do in your life where if you're playing, if you're really immersed in music, you know, there's, if you tune in, there's like always a song going on in your head.


And that song is not necessarily, it's like, oh, I play, you know, I just play this kind of music. No, it doesn't work that way. That song can be drawn from anything in your sphere of awareness. And I think the same thing is true. We have our home, we have the things that we know about most deeply, but fundamentally we are widely human. And so we don't just draw on Soto Zen, we draw on the entire panoply of human activity. You know, actually, as I was walking through Zen Do, and sort of holding this talk lightly, I was thinking, what do I say about Ferguson?


What do I say about Gaza? What do I say about fracking. What do I say about children who are on the border, who are being kept more or less in concentration camps? And it's not that I have nothing to say about them, and it's not that you have nothing to say about them, but I'm faced with this tremendous sense of I don't know. I don't know what to do. And I talked about this a few weeks ago and talked about how to be patiently impatient.


Well, not resolved. And I think that one of the real values of the chaplaincy program that I'm working in is it doesn't underscore knowing. It actually underscores what might appear to be opposite, but might not actually be opposite. It underscores not knowing. And this flows through our tradition very deeply. When you sit down to face the wall,


You know, it's an activity that's very familiar, but you don't know what the hell is going to happen there. And actually, we sit down and we face the wall with trust, right? We trust that we are safe in this environment, that nobody's going to sneak up on us and knock us over the head. They used to do that in Zen. We don't do that. So we trust the environment that we're in, which I believe is a fully trustworthy environment. But still, to turn your back on reality, it's like I'm the kind of person that quite unconsciously when I go in a restaurant, I want to sit facing the door. You never know who's going to come in. I think I've seen too many gangster movies. So that trust and that not knowing is embedded in it, not knowing what is going to arise in my mind and trusting that.


This is what in In our literary tradition, the great poet John Keats wrote about this. He called it negative capability. Some of you familiar with that? So, quite beautiful. He wrote a letter to his brothers in December of 1817 and he said, several things dovetailed in my mind and at once it struck me What quality went to form a person of achievement, especially in literature in which Shakespeare possessed so enormously? I mean negative capability. That is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.


It's a wonderful perception of allowing possibility. And I do think that that's at the center. The center of our tradition is not knowing, but actually opening to possibility. It's also expressed by Suzuki Roshi in his famous teaching about beginner's mind. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few. And that's because the expert, an expert, thinks that he or she knows. They've limited they've limited their conception of cause and effect, okay, we're going to do this, we're going to do this cause and there'll be this effect, and Suzuki Roshi, and it's not that there isn't expertise, it's just the fundamental attitude towards life is, can you allow negative capability, can you allow beginner's mind, they're the same thing.


and allow anything to arise. And I think that like the Bodhisattva vow, the Bodhisattva vows, you know, they have these, each one of them has these built-in contradictions or conundrums. Beings are numberless, I vow to save them all. Well, we? delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them. No, if they're inexhaustible, how are you going to end them? And so on and so forth. And in Keats' formulation, this negative capability, those two words almost kind of blow each other up. Negative capability. As language, it's problematic.


As a practice or a frame of mind that we embody, it makes perfect sense. And it's very much what I was talking about, I think, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, talking about patience, talking about Thich Nhat Hanh's notion of patience as inclusivity. Include everything. When you include, when you have the capacity, as you develop the capacity to include more and more, then you have actually a greater and greater negative capability. You have the ability to encounter whatever comes our way. And as we all know as we're sitting zazen, boy, anything can come our way, you know, pain, you know, transcendent joy, lust for some person who's sitting across the room, it's all going, all that shit is going to come up, good and bad.


and our practice is to sit with it, to hold it lightly and not to clamp down on it as the truth or as something that urgently needs to be acted upon. So, another taste of uh this weekend uh the last week which i think is is directly relevant to what i've been talking about so far uh the last last weekend i guess it was last weekend uh we had a workshop uh we had what i might call the Roshi Bernie Glassman experience and i don't know if any of you Have any of you had that? It's an interesting ride.


And so he was presenting and asking questions and answering questions and then Joan Halifax and I were interacting with him. And his own teaching seems to, I'm going to touch on two of kind of his fundamental points that he's been emphasizing. I mean, he has really moved to a position of what I would call Buddhism with a small b. He doesn't wear robes, although he does wear a rock suit. He doesn't see himself as teaching Zen Buddhism, although I think he sees himself as constantly proceeding from the position of Zen. But he's come to a very radical position which is derived from the philosophical argument of the big Lebowski.


And he's explored this actually in his relationship with the dude. with Jeff Bridges and at one point there's some dialogue between John Goodman and the dude in the Big Lebowski and the dude says yeah well that's just like your opinion man you know regarding something that seemed perhaps incontrovertibly true And Bernie has taken this to new heights. I did a day of teaching as he was coming in on using the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as tools for social analysis.


And we were talking and he said, oh, you mean the Four Noble Opinions? And I said, well, that's like your opinion, man. But he's very strict about applying that as a principle. Not to other people, but as well to himself. That's your opinion. And we had some fairly challenging discussion with the chaplaincy group. Some were saying, well, there are facts. And he said, well, that's your opinion. I see everything as an opinion and I can't say that I am completely converted to that perspective but I can see some really powerful places that that leads you and it means taking responsibility for what one thinks


It wasn't even saying opinions are bad, just in a way that everything is filtered through our consciousness and through our perceptions. Even facts are, I mean a fact, it's a fact that you know in any given situation say there's a preponderance of dead on one side and a lesser number of dead on the other that seems to me to be a fact but it's not necessarily it may trigger for us it does trigger for me a kind of moral response or internal moral reaction, but that doesn't necessarily point to an analysis that's going to heal the situation.


So, I'm not going to argue for this opinion to the death, and that's one of the things that you don't do if it's an opinion. you know, you don't fight for it to the end, because then you've made it a belief, right? And then you've really rigidified it. But if it's an opinion, then it lives in just a position to other opinions, and they can dance together, interact, and come to come to some perhaps come to some helpful resolution so he was positing it's interesting because he was positing opinion as the manifestation a manifestation in the world of non-duality which i still have to explore


I need to listen to what he said on the tape. I think the implication is if you understand something as an opinion, then of necessity you recognize there are a multiplicity of opinions in a way like interest net. in which each opinion is at the node of a net of all beings and each opinion has the capacity to shine, to reflect all other opinions. It's getting a bit abstract in my head. So I want to turn to the other teaching And I, you know, I want to leave some time for discussion, which we will have.


The other thing that Bernie emphasized, and I've mentioned before, is what he calls the three tenets. And this is also kind of his model in which he's built this peacemaker community. Now, some people were actually referring to this as the three tenets which made me think of you know yeah they're the ones who have the loud parties and the barking dogs and you can't get them to move out but no this is something else the three tenets and these three tenets are not knowing which means giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe, bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world and then he's over the last 10-15 years he keeps revising the third one and the present version I think is taking action


arises out of oneness or unity. This action that arises out of these activities of not knowing, not knowing of course is negative capability right? Bearing witness is entering a situation without a fixed idea and just seeing what you see and then the actions I think the character of the action that he's advocating is action that brings people into connection. And, you know, that's something that his community has tried to do in very practical ways in difficult situations, bringing without a fixed idea of what it would look like. It began with what he called these bearing witness retreats in Auschwitz and they've been going on for 20 years and you know originally people would came, has anyone been on one of those?


People would come to us thinking, oh well this is going to be healing for the victims and over time It included victims, it included the children of perpetrators, it included people from communities who were afraid to encounter each other and needed a safe ground. You know, it never denied that some terrible wrong was done there. But it was looking at things, how do we exist in our present moment? how do we transform that ground which has been in a horrific way hallowed by the actions. And they've been doing similar things, they've been doing basically bringing together victims and perpetrators in Rwanda.


in council, sitting around in council. In their last trip there, there was a woman in that council who had had her hand cut off, a Hutu woman, and the Tutsi man who had done it was there in the circle. These are unimaginable almost unimaginable circumstances and as I was saying originally they speak to not just to individual delusion or madness but actually to the impossible tangle of our societies and the necessity to both to see the wider system and also to see that that system is made up of individuals and so to sit there first to sit there in silence and they do meditation and out of that silence as you know as I've said again and again referencing


because you have to say something. You can't. You don't remain in that silence. You don't remain in not knowing. You start there, perhaps, which means setting aside your preconceptions and then putting yourself in a circumstance where you're going to be able to bear witness and take in a larger picture of what's going on and then allowing that within you and allowing that within your community to become an action, an action that embodies unity and connection. So actually I think I'm going to stop Let me just say I'm not putting this forward because I think, oh this is really a radical perspective or a new perspective and we should all be doing it, because actually I think we already are.


I just think it's an articulation and if it's a useful articulation, to the extent that it's a useful articulation, use it. And to the extent that you're that you already have a framework, particularly a framework that allows you to let go of your perceptions and preconceptions and that allows you to see what is happening in the world and then that allows you to not be passive or resign to it. Great, doesn't have to have these names. We don't need another club to join. And that's just my opinion. We have some time for discussion, so I'd like to open it up a bit. Laurie? For some reason I was struck when you started talking about beginner's mind.


It happens that this week I've been hearing several stories about the incredible anxiety that some people experience when they're starting a new thing or when they're a beginner. which is not where your mind is open. So I thought, like, do you have anything to say about that? How do you get to the beginner's mind that is an open mind, that isn't super anxious about... Because I think part of the reason why we cling to being an expert is because of that, maybe, that you get to the place where you have something to hold on to that relieves your anxiety of not knowing something. Well, I think I learned a long time ago and I learned it in two sets of circumstances. One was new jobs, and the other was new places to live. And I recognized pretty quickly, you go into this new situation, you really don't know what the hell is going on.


And I just would hold in mind, I'm going to find out within time and now I think there's something really alive about this passage. It may feel uncomfortable but it's not inimical mostly and this is learning. Principle of not knowing that I just I can rely on that and I do And so every new situation is like that's like, oh, I'm you know, okay I'm gonna have to go through some period of discomfort and and I do you know It's like I do when I go down there to this chaplaincy program. It's like first couple days really uncomfortable But I some I know something is gonna happen and it depends upon me


turning towards people and accepting my discomfort rather than trying to get rid of it or get rid of it again in the next plane. Susan? It seems like beginner's mind is related to safety or can be related to safety or what Laurie was talking about. You're learning something new and you're in a safe environment and it seems like beginner's minds were accessible, or at least that's kind of what came up for me. Yeah, and I think it's worth noting that not all sets of circumstances are safe. Yeah, I mean, what came to mind was, like when I first came here years ago, I just remember that I watched for a long time and I think I would have quickly gone somewhere else if I didn't feel safe.


Right. And then experiencing safety allowed me to settle in or drop what Laurie was talking about, that anxiety about, you know, making mistakes or being corrected or Recently, our daughter was talking about being in a dance class where it was an accelerated class where the teachers were giving them lots and lots of corrections. And I said, well, how was that? And she said, well, it was fine because they want to bring out the best in us. They're helping to help us find our best. And I thought, oh, that's an expression of feeling safe. So you can look at it that way, but if you don't feel safe, then you can experience it as criticism? I don't know, does that make sense?


Yes, but I don't want to fall into a dualistic position on safety, unsafety. First of all, there is a very subjective sense of what's safe and what isn't safe, and then in circumstances, even in circumstances that are manifestly unsafe, one is also completely alive. And in fact, the unsafety can catalyze a complete liveness. I'm not saying, you know, it's like let's not all go, and let's not necessarily go there, but it's not different than other realms. This life is not safe. We're going to die. We're going to get sick. We're going to lose our capacities. A lot of horrible shit is going to happen to us and our friends, and it's not safe.


But we are alive now, and we're alive, fully alive to the last breath. So maybe what you're saying, or what I'm thinking, is there's a difference between being a beginner at something and having beginner's mind. So we can go into an unsafe situation, and from practicing for years in our practice, we can call upon beginner's mind. Yeah. I think that, to me, the thing about beginner's mind is to remind yourself, one, you're not going to get it right and that's okay. This is one of the things that you learn. We spent a lot of time talking about this in chaplaincy. We have this idea of the good death. Well, very few people get the good death.


So to have an idea of the right way. You know, I've got to make this the right way for this person, or I've got to make this the right way for me. It's like, that's really imposing your opinion upon reality, which is usually not so responsive. Thank you. Is it not about so much beginner's mind, but I realize it is. There's a great opinion stated that yin gives rise to yang. And if you start with an empty circle, no yin, no yang expressed, nothing comes up. Watching the man and his victim in the African country you mentioned, putting them together is like putting yin and yang. And I do feng shui, so people say, what do I do? Start with something. And the wheel begins to turn. And as something happens from the yin and yang that counter each other,


You put your, what do you call it, ropes on it, and you make the horse take you somewhere. The beginning of the movement is by, in our case, sitting. We present sitting as opposed to moving around a lot. And in this moment, something comes up, and we can, what do you call it, tether the horse, or whatever. What do you do with the horse? You have rein. You rein the horse is right. In fact, you rein the yin and yang, and you make it take you where you want to go. By sitting quietly, you develop a huge energy awareness of movement. Well, by sitting quietly, there's movement within stillness and stillness within movement. It seems like something Sojin would say. One or two more and then we'll go ahead and sue. Alan, when you really worked with the idea of opinions rather than facts, how did that change your concept or your view of self, of yourself?


Well, that's the biggest opinion of all, you know, and my opinion of myself shifts from moment to moment, you know, like I can think of the other day I was sitting here and I was observing something and, you know, I developed a whole elaborate negative narrative about myself and the situation I was in. And I also saw this is a narrative. This is my opinion at the moment. It's not an objective description of what's happening. And then there's the part of me that wants to, well, yes, but what about this and what about this? did not convince me. Still, the feeling tone was very strong, but it had a lesser hold on me and so, you know, I often think when that kind of stuff comes up, it's like, okay, how am I going to feel in two hours?


You know, in two hours, this thing that seems so urgent in the moment It doesn't have that urgency and so that's the constant, that to me is rebirth. It's like I can't think about, I can't remember my past life, maybe some of you can, and I have no projection of what my future life is going to be, but I watch this constant arising and falling away of self as life. I'm working with this opinion thing. I'm curious about it. There's one more. Yes. I wanted to go back to the tenants that you were talking about as a useful articulation of something that we hope we're doing in many ways.


I noticed that in myself there's a tendency once I hear one, two, three, to think of those as like a linear order. And I wondered if you could talk about just the relation of not knowing, bearing witness, and action arising from oneness in terms of their relation to each other. Well, I think it's just like all of the dharmic systems, and I think this is a dharmic system, they're not linear. They're circular and there's cross lines between each of them and they inform each other. So if you take an action, one takes an action with some half notion of what the effect is going to be. But you also, if you are embracing not knowing, you understand


this could have a very different effect than what I think and then you're responsible to bear witness to what actually the full range of what actually happens and so they're constantly interpenetrating each other. I think we have to end here we can talk outside where it is lovely and we'll see some of you tomorrow in our art study, study retreat. Thank you.