--- Namandabs - namandabs - Namandabs ---
I’m happy to see you all here today. We like to over welcome visitors and guests….it’s just our style. For Bhodi day we moved the chairs in a circle of sorts so we could share together. The Buddha is here under the enlightenment tree.
I moved down here - I’m getting back to my roots. In Sri lanka the teacher always sat on the floor.
[Reflections on the weeks]...Moon Rabbit cafe 180 people had dinner here saturday night and Bhodi Day retreat was a wonderful afternoon together.
When I was studying in Sri Lanka we took refuge like this…
Buddham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Buddham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Dutiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Buddham Saranarn Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchâmi.
Tatiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchâmi.
As you can hear we said the three hommages three times each. My teacher explained it is important to be truthful with yourself. We can’t accidentally say something three times - our intentions are clear.
I have taken refuge in the Buddha Dharma and Sangha. Like Billions of people in the last 2,600 years - the Buddha's teachings make sense to me. The world is a difficult place - the teachings have me a sense of meaning in the difficulties. They’ve made sense out of what was confused in life. They have given me a strong compassionate framework to raise our children and lead my life. I hope they can do that for you too.
So let’s talk about Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and what taking refuge really means. We talk about these ideas often - which is good - it helps them soak in and become part of us.
A refuge is a place where we go when they are distressed or when we need safety and security. There are many types of refuges. When we are unhappy, we take refuge with friends. When we are overwhelmed we may take refuge in a bottle. When we are worried and frightened, we may take refuge in false hopes and beliefs. When death approaches we might take refuge in a dream of an eternal heaven. But the Buddha taught none of these are true refuges because they do not give comfort and security based on reality. They are based on ignorance and childish wishes.
The Buddha said….
Truly these are not safe refuges,
not the refuge supreme.
Not the refuge whereby one is
freed from all sorrow.
But to take refuge in the
Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha
and to see with real understanding
the Four Noble Truths.
Suffering, the cause of suffering,
the transcending of suffering and
the Noble Eightfold Path that leads
to the transcending of suffering.
This indeed is a safe refuge,
it is the refuge supreme.
It is the refuge whereby one finds joy.
Taking Refuge in the Buddha is a confident acceptance of the fact that I am ok just as I am. The Wisdom and Compassion of the universe is here for me, when I accept that truth with deep faith. We call that Amida Buddha. One day I can become fully enlightened, fully human, fully sentient as the Buddhas are. And until then I will not worry. Taking Refuge in the Dhamma means understanding the Four Noble Truths and living life along Noble Eightfold Path. Taking Refuge in the Sangha means accepting support, inspiration, and guidance from all who walk the Noble Eightfold Path. Doing this we find we are Buddhist and take steps on the path for the sake of all.
Most of you have heard the story of the Buddha. In bits and pieces from Dharma talks or reading [old path white clouds is a wonderful -long - version of his life]. He was born a prince, renounced his position, studied with spiritual masters, was enlightened and became a great spiritual teacher. For the Buddha part of this talk I will focus on his experience of Enlightenment. I want to transport us in time and space, so I’ll use the language of the sutras as much as I can. I’ll tell the story….
Long ago and far away….About 2,622 years ago, when Siddhartha Gotama, was about 35 years old, He had studied with many teachers and mastered their systems. But - He was still dissatisfied with his understanding. Ultimately he studied on his own as a forest recluse. He followed a discipline of extreme self-denial eating minimal food and water. In the tradition he followed this was thought to free the soul to be one with absolute reality. But he was very weak and on the verge of dieing. As he made his way to a place near Bodh Gaya in India, he collapsed from hunger. The village girl Sujata offered him rice milk and he regained his strength. And he realized that the truth was to be found in a middle way. He selected a good place for meditation and sat - under a tree. There he practiced, a meditation called “space-like concentration on the Truth of everythingness” - the Dharmakaya - focused single-pointedly on the ultimate nature of all phenomena. He had been training in this meditation for six years - his insight was sharp and he realized that he was very close to making a breakthrough, and so he sat in the shade of the Bodhi Tree. He crossed his legs and vowed not to rise from meditation until he had attained perfect and complete enlightenment. With deep determination he entered the “space-like concentration on the truth of everythingness”.
This resolve came to the attention of Mara, the chief of all the demons. And he became concerned. Mara’s job was to keep sentient beings trapped in ignorance and delusion and now one was about to pass into wisdom. So Mara tried to disturb Siddhartha’s concentration by conjuring up many fearful apparitions. He manifested any army terrifying demons, some throwing spears, some firing arrows, some trying to burn him with fire. Through the force of his concentration, the spears and arrows appeared to him as a rain of fragrant flowers, and the raging fires became like offerings of rainbow lights. [Like the ones on the tree here.]
Seeing that Siddhartha could not be frightened into abandoning his meditation, Mara tried to distract him by parading his three voluptuous daughters, Taṇhā (Craving), Arati (Aversion), and Raga (Passion) in front of Siddhartha. You probably know them by their english names - Craving, Hatred, and Rage...
“They had came to him glittering with beauty — Taṇhā, Arati, and Rāga — But the Teacher was unmoved and swept them away
As the wind blows a, a fallen cotton tuft.”
- The Three Watches of the Night - from the Pali Canon
When his mind was concentrated, purified, bright... he recollected his manifold past lives -, one birth, two... five, ten... fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion. What we now call the Jataka tales came into focus: There he had this name, belonged to this a clan, had this appearance.... Passing away from that state, he re-arose elsewhere. There with new name, a new clan, and so on. He ate this food, experienced of pleasure & pain, and saw the end of that life. Passing away from that state, he re-arose in yet a new place. On and on. And that is how he remembered his myriad past lives in their modes & details.” told to Janusson In the brahman in the Bhaya-bherava Sutta
In the first watch of the night - the Buddha saw the nature of rebirth - he saw all his rebirths. The spiritual flow of consciousness from life to life.
I’ll read from the sutra…
"This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, and resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.”
Then the Buddha experienced the second watch of the night…
His mind became even more concentrated, purified, bright. He directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of sentient beings. He saw — by means of the divine eye, pure and beyond the human vision — beings passing away & re-appearing, and he discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: Beings with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who avoided the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the breakup of the body, after death, re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, [we know where this is] in hell. But beings — with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who kept the council of the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world. So - by means of the divine eye - He saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and he understood how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their karma.
"This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.”
In the Second watch of the night the Buddha understood the working of Karma and the 6 realms of existence in samsara.
In the Third Watch of the night…
When his mind was unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, he directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental defilement and infection. He saw, as it had come to be, that 'This is not joyful... This is the origination of the absence of joy... This is the cessation the absence of joy... This is the way leading to joy... In the third watch the Buddha saw deeply into the Dharma. The truth of the way things work. He saw the four Noble truths,
"This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain."
As the Morning star rose…
His heart, knowing this, seeing this, was released from the defilement and infection sensuality, released from the defilement and infection of becoming, released from the defilement and infection of ignorance. With release, there was the thought - “I’m free, I am free, and freedom tastes of reality…”
Well, the actual words in the sutra are…
Through the round of many births I roamed
seeking the house-builder.
Painful is birth
again & again.
House-builder, you're seen!
You will not build a house again.
All your rafters broken,
the ridge pole destroyed,
gone to the Unformed,
the mind has come to the end of craving.
— Dhp 153-4
Siddhartha removed the final veils of ignorance from his mind and in the next moment became a Buddha, a fully enlightened being. He touched the earth with his right hand - the earth was witness to enlightenment.
At that time, he sat there in complete understanding for several days.
Then he came to the question of teaching the Dharma. The story goes, the Buddha was of two minds, he considered whether to teach others this profound truth he had discovered. Thinking that it would be quite troublesome for him, since the Dhamma is deep and difficult, and people, enmeshed in worldly enjoyment, are not really interested in freedom. He initially decided not to teach, but instead to ‘live on at ease’. Brahmā, the great god, having sensed the Buddha’s decision, appeared before him, bowed down, and requested that Buddha teach. He argued that some beings had “but little dust on their eyes”, and would quickly find enlightenment if they heard the Dhamma. In the face of Brahma’s request - The Buddha changed his mind and decided to teach. And so we are sitting here today.
It is important to remember when the Buddha was enlightened, he did not pop! off into another dimension, he did not grow 20ft tall or defy gravity. He lived in the world and continued to practice. He taught and learned from teaching for 49 more years. He had challenges as a teacher and a leader. Reactionary elements in society were unhappy with his total undermining of caste system and on one occasion murdered a prostitute and buried her behind the Buddha’s hut. The authorities figured it out in a few weeks time. There were tough times. The were schisms in the sangha when Devadatta tried to name himself the Buddha’s successor. The significance of the Buddha's attainment is in how he experienced life. At the end of each watch the sutra says “the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.” The pleasant feeling did arise and he experienced it, then it went away - naturally. All the difficulties of life associated with clinging and wanting and thirsting - were gone. And Joy flows in. This is what we learn from the Buddha. Life's a bumpy road, it is impermanent, it is interdependent, and it is good - full of wonders.
That’s is all I wanted to say about the Buddha today. Bhodi Svaha!
Its interesting how as we discuss the Buddha, the Dharma - his teaching about the truth of the way the universe works - comes out too. I think we’ve largely covered the Dharma as well.
I would say that Taking Refuge in the Dharma is a comforting process. When we take refuge in the way the universe works we are unburdened of trying to attain some kind of super understanding. In our rationalist society, we think we need to “figure everything out”. But we don’t - the Buddha did do that. A buddha can do that. We are just regular folks with regular lives. We have insights and these lead us to the Dharma, but we are never responsible to figure it all out. What happens when we try to do that with limited tools? Like children in a broken home. We create fanciful misunderstandings - limited provisional explanations and live by them. Imagining that we were the cause of some family strife or traumatic event - delusion grows. Taking refuge in the Dharma helps us let go of these childlike explanations in favor of the clarity and depth of the Dharma. The universe in the Buddha’s vision is ordered, it does make sense and it has deep and abiding wisdom and compassion for us.
The Dharma is my refuge. When I catch myself trying to make sense of something too complex to really penetrate, I am reminded “matt - matt - you're trying to make sense of it”. Let that go - and I take refuge in the Dharma.
And taking refuge in the Sangha…
You probably know sangha means the community of Buddhists collected together. What binds a sangha together is love. We all need love. Without enough love, we can’t survive, as individuals and as a planet. Sakyamuni taught that the next Buddha will be named “Maitreya,” the Buddha of Love.
The Sangha is a jewel, no less important than the Buddha and the Dharma. We start our service by taking refuge in The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. Please practice Sangha building. Stand by your Sangha. Rennyo - the teacher below Shinran said - “Without a Sangha, sooner or later you will abandon the practice”. Take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Sangha always carries within it the Buddha and the Dharma. The Sangha is a sacred body. Don’t look for that wonderfulness somewhere else. Don’t think that holiness is only for the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa. The sacred is sitting right in this room - within you and within the body of the Sangha. When a community of people chant, breathe, walk, and eat in mindfulness, scared is here, and we can recognize it. When we repair the temple, care for the grounds, sweep and shovel. That sacredness is here.
We had 13 new members of our sangha at the ceremony last time. Welcome to you all. A Sangha is a stream of life flowing in the direction of deep and abiding joy, moving toward peace. The only thing we have to do to enter the stream of the Sangha is to become part. To take part. To participate. If we do, we be “held never to be let go” by the Buddha. These are the words used by the Buddha. If we accept the presence of Other Power in our lives. If we turn toward Amida, we join the Sangha and enter the flow toward the Pure Land. Toward deep and abiding Joy.
The Sangha is your protection. It is the raft that will carry you to the Other Shore of liberation, freedom, salvation. Joy. Without a Sangha, even with the best intentions, you will falter. “I take refuge in the Sangha” is not a declaration of faith. It is a daily practice. Rennyo shonin reminds us in his letters - we need to return to the sangha regularly or we will lose our way.
Conclusion - The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Our three jewels. Treasures we share together as we travel the path toward joy. The Buddha gave us these jewels out of deep compassion for us. Out of true and real love for all sentient beings. This is the Buddha’s wish fo0r all of us. Please look across to some - look into their eyes and say after me….
May you be happy;
May you be free from harm:
May you receive boundless compassion;
And may peace and harmony fill your heart