INFORMATION‎ > ‎Dharma Talks‎ > ‎

Deep Hearing and True Entrusting 25jun17

posted Jun 28, 2017, 5:43 PM by Matthew Fisher

Welcome again to you all.  As we look around we see some new faces and some old friends - we welcome everyone at RBC.   That is a very intentional statement.  750 years ago Shin was one of the few paths in Buddhism that said that and really welcomed everyone. We can be proud of that heritage and uphold it.  The Great Compassion of Amida Buddha many Kalpas ago focused on this spirit. Compassionately sharing the Dharma with everyone and anyone is what we do here.  No requirements, no hurdles, just come in and share in the kindness of Amida Buddha.


I grew up  spending a lot of time with my brother. He is 12 yrs older than me, maybe more of an uncle in many ways. When I was a boy he would take me places on the back of his motorbike.  He taught me to free dive in the cool clear waters North of San Francisco.   I was only 12 years old, so the Pacific Ocean was quite daunting.  We had a routine of getting to the beach, gearing up. Slipping into the icy water [it was always cold - sometimes very cold] and then kicking-out to deeper water where the abalone and fish lived.  It was frightening for me, but also wonderful.  The wetsuit he bought me helped. Sometimes it all went well. Sometimes things happened, the surf rose, there water darkened and it took all my will not to run away.  I remember telling myself “it is going to be ok”, many times.  Most of all, I remember all the sights and sounds of the sea. The experiences of all those moments.

Buddhism is about simply experiencing moments - but it can seem difficult to understand.  Sometimes the mystery side is overemphasized in books and documentaries. Some scholars work hard to complicate and systematize what is really not that complicated.  Today I want to talk about two important windows into the Buddha's view of life. Just two that are essential to the Buddhist path.   These are Monpo and Shinjin.   Monpo is translated variously as - Mindfulness - insight - Deep Hearing of the light. Shinjin is translated as true entrusting - faith - Saddha .  Buddhist faith shades more toward confidence, than blind acceptance. These two ideas of insight and faith help us see The Path to a Joyful life that Amida Buddha manifested.  

MONPO - Deep Hearing happens in the present moment.

Now a days - We seem to feel obliged to to be doing a million things at once. But think about it - No dear wise grandmother ever counseled us to worry more about everything that hasn't happened yet.  Regrets about the past and worries of the future take us out of the present. There is a common meme, “Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don't want”.  These words accurately capture much of our experience.

We can simply stay focused on what’s happening right now, we don’t have to be consumed with tomorrow just yet. The monkey chatter of our mind can quiet. We don’t have to try to manipulate the future. What the Buddha taught was, simply observe the current situation, and engage in a way that is the best for the wellbeing of all.

Staying in the present moment is very freeing. It give us space to be who we really are. If you’re walking, just walk. Don’t get caught up in what to say when we get there, or what to do tomorrow.This is how the Buddha lived life. Simply walk. Feel the sensation of the feet. Appreciate the texture of the breeze. Observe what nature offers all around. With open eyes, see the dappled sunlight in the branches. It will be the best walk you’ve ever had.  When we truly are mindful of this present moment, we experience Monpo - deep hearing of the light.

SHINJIN - How can we do this?   First off - don’t analyze the situation.  This is a bit of Right thought from our Eightfold path. Don’t indulge in these analyse-y thoughts.   To quote Owen Wilson “Have some faith, man”  -  Shinjin.  

When we were diving we would kick-out to a kelp bed off of the rocky coast and hunt for abalone.   At times I would lose track of my brother.   I felt lost - disoriented.  I started thinking about all the possibilities. Did he go back to the beach w/o me?  Did he go further out?   Will I find him?  Will he be angry with me? Should I go back?  Will I be able to get back to the beach?  Then I saw his head pop-up out of the ocean just 20 feet from me.

What happens in this experience? My imagination got caught up in a result that hadn’t even happened yet - lostness.  I had briefly lost track of my brother, there was no reason to be upset or worried about what might happen. At that present moment, I was simply swimming along in the kelp.  Once I began to analyze the situation, I was creating imaginary outcomes and fear arose.  

What if I could simply float there? How would I feel when I saw my brother again?  Calm and centered and able to respond to actual reality at hand.  What if I didn't see my brother any time soon?  It would be better to be Calm and Centered and able to respond to actual reality at hand.   The Buddha’s advice here is to have deep and abiding faith in experience. We can wait and find out what will happen just around the corner -  instead of predicting and experiencing the horror of being lost - in advance?  This takes faith in the Dharma, faith in the Buddha, and faith in the Sangha.  The Shinjin in Amida Buddha I wanted to share with you today.

MONPO   - There is more out there than just us.  We finish with the Eko each time we chant, “Ga Ni Shi Ku Do Ku…”  This chant is a dedication - it freely gives away any and all positive energy created by the practice - to all sentient beings - toward their birth in the Buddha Field of Amida Buddha - the pure land - where enlightenment is simple and natural and easy. Opening to the wisdom and compassion of the universe motivates our right effort so much more than just wanting a specific result. With Shinjin -  Deep hearing of the light we can really know that there are things that are outside of the small “S” self that that help us find our way.  This is Other Power awareness is felt through Monpo - deep hearing, it is an essential awareness of a joyful life.

Trusting in something bigger is Right Understanding - a clear view.
I am sorry to have to break this to you -

You are not the be all and end all of everything.

I know spoiler alert!    You are one point in a wonderful interdependent web of existence - the inter-being of all that is-was-and-will be.  That is why we say - our true nature is “Eternal, Joyful, Selfless and Pure”.  Not because one is special - but because we are part of everything that is, and that is so very joyful.  

MONPO - Our RBC member George Killoran always says the Deeply Hearing the presence of Amida Buddha in everything - “Seeing this big picture view” - Appreciate this present moment, it is worth more than the simple experience of having it.  It is a nexus of being and time that transcends all views and thoughts.  We need not worry.  Amida Buddha holds us as if we each were his only child - we are held never to be let go.

The Buddha way finds beauty in every moment - even bad ones. If we pause and consider this, it may be difficult. In a pleasant event we can see beauty - sure. With some small effort, we can even see beauty in a neutral event. But how can we can find beauty in every moment?  Even the difficult challenging - unjust - horrible moments?

Sometimes people are uncomfortable with saying the Nembutsu all the time - They take issue with mindfulness all the time. They ask, “Why would anyone want to stay present in a painful moment?”  Isn't it better to escape? - We pull away from things that hurt -  But mindfulness isn’t about chasing after positive experience.  Life comes in all flavors.  The Nembutsu is about experiencing the present moment in all of its glory.  Because we learn from everything that happens. We expand our consciousness when we actually experience life - good and bad. Pleasant and Painful.

There is beauty in stubbing your toe, if you’re willing to open to it. There is beauty in realizing that you don’t like a particular thing or a certain person. When you stay with the moment - not in analysing and evaluating - you can start to see with new eyes. The Buddha’s eyes. Choose to see beauty. Choose to see possibility. Choose to learn. Choose to open your heart to life.  That is what the Buddha way offers.

This is possible when we stop labeling everything.  You don’t have to decide what something means in this moment. You don’t have to judge and say whether something is good or bad. You don’t have to say whether you’re enjoying something or not. You can just allow life to unfold. You can observe. You can watch. You can exist. You can breathe. But you don’t have to label. You can let something be ambiguous. And you can feel comfortable in the ambiguity.  This is Monpo.

Shinjin -  Shinjin is surrender to what is.  To being itself.

Interesting thing about surrender is that people think it looks like giving up and caving in, but in reality surrender is opening arms [gesture] to receive life.  To receive this present moment.  Not what I want it to be, but what it is.

One of my favorite ways to align myself with the present moment is to chant. When we're chanting we're completely tuned in - we're focused on one sound at a time. We are in flow - one sound leading to another and on and on. So if you're looking for a way to help you shift focus to the present moment, and silent mindfulness practice is difficult for you, come to chanting on Tuesdays at 6pm. It will help you practice mindfulness consistently and help you pay attention to the world around you in a beautiful way.


Focus on one task, one activity, one thought at a time.  Our culture has an obsession with being busy - counting accomplishments and shiny gold stars. We compete with each other about who is doing more, who is doing better, who has more friends on facebook and contacts on linkedIn. Who is more popular…and we sometimes value ourselves based on these ridiculous comparisons.

But we don’t have to.

We can focus. We can be present. We can do one thing at a time and trust that it will all be okay - everything else will not fall apart without our very divided attention.  We can drop out of the competition thing and tune in to our truth. This reality as it is.  We can live in a way that works. We can still love being laser focused and feel good about what we are doing. But, we don’t have to be number one in anything. We don’t have to beat everyone else. We don’t have to impress anyone. We can be with this present moment. We can truly experience the running water in the shower, without thinking about what we’ll wear when we get out.  One thing at a time. One breath at a time. One moment building on the next.

A wonderful part of this Shinjin - true entrusting - and Monpo - deep hearing-  is we can really Embrace being surprised.  The Buddha went into each situation, each experience without preconceived notions. Without pre-judging.  When we think we know everything about how something will turn out, we cloud our experience with an artificial pre-made attitude. But if we simply let the flow of life unfold around us, observing the world around us with wonder and interest, we can take a break from trying to figure it all out.

If you’re going to start a new school, or live in a new country,  start a new job, or try a new restaurant - just try not to expect anything. Invite curiosity to be your companion for the day. This begins with the Right Thought, “I wonder how this will turn out.”  Even when you’re going to do something you’ve done many times before - open to surprises - each day your experience can change. The previously difficult department meeting might not always be horrible. The tense family dinner might be really fun this time. With this mindset - can pay attention to good aspects of the evening simply because we are open to it all - the good, the bad, and the in-between.  This is the openness of Monpo - deeply hearing everything in this moment.  And the True Entrusting that things will be ok. We bring excitement and joy back to each day, inviting surprises and unexpected emotions into our lives as welcome guests and keen insights into life.

Conclusion - So these are two windows into the Buddha dharma.   Mindfulness = Monpo,  Faith = Shinjin.   Let us listen and feel content with hearing the teaching. And then try to live the teaching in our life. We can develop a settled faith - open and clear and adaptive - but confident.  We can cultivate Mindfulness of Other-Power in our lives. We are grateful for the Wisdom and Compassion of the universe that is Amida Buddha.

    As I floated in that kelp bed, I didn’t panic, but it was approaching. I just floated long enough to find my brother. I can see now that enjoying that moment of lostness - really injecting joy into it - was possible and I can see my little frozen smiling face - rolling with each swell.  Simply observing the wonder  and spectacle of the current situation, and deeply engaged in this present moment.

    Above all this friendly universe wants us to be joyful.   Lets all say that deep wish of the universe has towards us - together...

May you be happy;

                 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

                 And may peace and harmony fill your heart

             --- Namandabs - Namandabs - Namandabs ---


Reading - 25jun17

       From the Upajat-tana Sutra….

Thus I have heard, when the Tatagatha was dwelling in the Jeta Grove.  Gathered were 200 brothers and 100 sisters and all manner of lay practicers.

What should be considered often?  What should be the objects of one’s contemplation?  We should be mindful of these five facts.

  • I am subject to aging, I have not gone beyond aging

  • I am subject to illness,I have not gone beyond illness.

  • I am subject to death, I have not gone beyond death.

  • I am subject to loss, I will lose all that is dear to me.

  • I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, I am heir to that.

These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

Now, one should often reflect…There are beings intoxicated with youth. Because of this, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body, speech, and  mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, youth's intoxication with youth will grow weaker…

There are beings who are intoxicated with their health. They conduct themselves in a reckless way in body, speech, and mind. But with mindfulness of that intoxication it will grow weaker...

There are beings who are intoxicated with a living person's intoxication with life. They conduct themselves immoderately in body, speech and mind. But with mindfulness of that intoxication it will grow weaker...

There are beings who are intoxicated with all things they hold dear. They conduct themselves with greed in body, speech and mind. But with mindfulness of that intoxication it will grow weaker...

One should be mindful of actions, heir to actions, seeing birth by actions. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, I am heir to that.

The Buddha concludes the sutra with this gatta…

Knowing this Dharma
I overcame all intoxication with health, youth, & life
As one who sees letting go as rest.
Great energy arose,
The Unbinding was clearly seen.
I could no longer partake of ordinary pleasures.
Having followed the holy life,
I will not return.

[Long Pause]

We will now have a few minutes of meditation accompanied by music.

[Bow at Altar]