Midwest Sangha Weekend: Talk on the Four Vows 3

Dharma talks given in Kansas, at the Kwan Um Midwest Sangha Weekend, April 12–14, 2019

I feel in a way blessed that I got this particular of the four vows, the third one. “The teachings are infinite; I vow to learn them all.” Already it’s set up with a hook in it about learning something, like “Well, which book should I buy?” And it’s quite taking us in the opposite direction from where we want to go with it.

            Zen Master Bon Hae sent me an email that said, “Even compassion is not anything to aim for; if it’s a feeling. If it’s an action, maybe you feel the feeling of compassion; maybe you don’t. It doesn’t matter. What are you doing in this world? What is the direction of your life? What is the purpose of your life? Is it only for you? If it is, then you have a problem.”

            Moment by moment, things appear for us that are the teachings. We don’t have to go searching for anything. It all is presented uniquely for us in each moment. Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “What is your correction function and relationship to each situation as it appears?” This is a flow. It’s not something that’s chiseled in any kind of granite setting of teachings that we need to encompass. If you sit, you have to give your mind a job. It’s not enough to just sit in the correct form and then let your mind meander around like in this big mental movie. As things appear, that’s cutting through the delusions of all this. Encased in that are the infinite teachings that are available to us.

            Lao-Tzu said “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” And allow me one more quote, from a friend of mine, a qigong teacher, Lam Kam Chuen:

Your body is a field of energy. If you were to place it under a huge magnifying glass, you would see it in its entirety and stunning clarity. If you increase the magnification to the power of an ordinary microscope, nothing would seem solid. You would start to see the minute particles of which solid matter seems to be composed. Aha! If you are able to place your body under the world’s most powerful electron microscope, it would have seemed to have dissolved. You would only glimpse the traces left by subatomic impulses. Seen as a whole, your body would resemble a matrix of fluctuating signals forming a standing wave pattern in space. From this perception, a web of interpenetrating energies is our existence.

It sounds pretty awesome, to put things in those kind of terms, but really, what we consider a construct of an “I, my, me”—this body sitting here tonight, your ears listening, my mouth moving right now—is phenomena. And all phenomena are changing, changing, changing infinitely. There’s nowhere to grasp. Nothing to hold on to. The wisdom of this practice is to let go and take this single step off the hundred-foot flagpole, as they say. This free fall into the next moment, trusting that the energy, the precision and intelligence that is each moment—not that we give to each moment, not that we present through our intellect, but the precision and intelligence that is this moment—will always afford us whatever it is that we need to have to address that moment outside of a separate I, my, me; a separate ego entity, a separate clinging, and a separate consciousness.

            Compassion is not something that we can aspire to. That sounds contrary, doesn’t it? Compassion actually is our original nature. Compassion is what appears when we let go of all these constructs of I, my, me. Then all the teachings, the infinite teachings, become apparent. We’re there, this moment [claps his hands] just that sound, is the dharma. Thank you.


Read the other talks on the Four Vows given with this one:

Talk by Zen Master Jok Um

Talk by Zen Master Hae Kwang

Talk by Zen Master Bon Hae