If We Stay Awake
One time when I was small child, I thought I would drown because I physically started to drown. At that time, I remember, I was intensely curious. What is it like? Well, I will die. What is it going to be like? I wasn't in a panic. I was actually feeling quite peaceful. And I had no inkling of practicing then at all. But to me it was like when I was a child reading about some exotic places, and I wanted to see them. I's like that.________________________________________ When I was a young man, always at that time I was chasing after happiness. But no matter how fast I ran after happiness, always it was ahead of me—I could never reach it. Then I met my teacher, and my life changed. As part of my training, as part of my practice, since that time I have always been running away from happiness. But the problem is, no matter how fast I run, it is always catching up to me! ________________________________________ I looked at books: philosophy books, also religion books and psychology books, and among these books I found some books about Buddha's teaching. And Buddha's teaching made a big impression on me, because his teaching was not asking anybody to believe in anything special; in fact, I remember specifically one quotation where he was admonishing people not to believe something only because some great person said it, not to believe something only because some great book said it, not to believe something only be- cause most people in society believe it, but he asked people to take anything—any of this stated or written or believed truth—and test it in their life. And only when one tests it in one's life, to one's own experience, only then if it really works, if one finds it to be really true, then one can believe it, accept it and say that it is the truth. ________________________________________ My friend Michael also told me, You know? Just a couple of days ago I was in a supermarket and I met this Korean Buddhist monk. So he asked me, Well, I have his address, do you want to go visit him tonight? I said, Not tonight, I cannot, but le's go tomorrow. The next day we got together and we went over to this address, which was in a ghetto area of Providence. Tha's how I met my Zen teacher with whom I have stayed since. There was nothing special. He just looked like a nice monk, a nice man, very friendly, smiling, a little fat. He had these round glasses. But then, the first time we met, he sat both Michael and me on the floor in the dharma room, and right then and there he explained the Zen circle to us. And it was great. It was wonderful teaching. I said, wow, that is great. This guy is really good. ________________________________________ Yes, I wanted to be a teacher. But at some point this wanting to be a teacher disappeared. And then I became a teacher. By the time he gave me inka I really didn't care. He asked me. I didn't push for it. I didn't ask for it. It didn't seem to be important. ________________________________________ I have great confidence in my students' true self. Tha's correct. But mostly, I think what it means is that I try not to treat people like children. I don't look at them as children. They are adults. Adults are responsible for their own lives. And even when they make mistakes, when they do something wrong, tha's their life, tha's their practice, tha's their experience. ________________________________________ I love my brother, but he made many mistakes in his life and he also got much suffering, and somebody once said to me, Oh, your brother has so much suffering! And I said, Not enough. More necessary. This person was really angry at me: Why did you say this? He is a nice man! Don't you like your brother? I said, No, quite the opposite: I said that because I love my brother. For him more suffering is necessary. So far the suffering he got is not enough: he still hasn't woken up. ________________________________________ I really believe in the power of practice. If you do it, that means someday you can really do it. And if you really do it, that is what the practice is about. It comes from experience. I have seen how it works, in working with people. I'm not so old, but you have to understand that I've been teaching in a formal way since 1984, so i's already 27 years, a nice chunk of experience! So tha's where this confidence in practice comes from. I have seen how it changes people. ________________________________________ At university I came to the conclusion (this was my great intellectual enlightenment ) that we live in order to die properly. In a way, our life is a preparation for our death. I still think this is not a bad conclusion. There will come a culmination of this vehicle when we have to put it aside. If we want something or are attached to something, this process can be very painful. If we can stay awake, this process can be very wonderful.