The days go by – every day the same routine; every day different states of mind, different troubles or joys, peace or not. Reb has a strange routine for his dharma talks. First he gives the talk but if anyone interrupts or asks a question – whether during the talk or afterwards – that person has to go up onto the low stage and sit on a cushion right next to Reb and address the whole hall of 60 or 70 people. This has extraordinary effects on the people who go up there.
One day a man struggles to understand Reb’s lecture and begins talking about the Creator. No, says Reb. In Buddhism, unlike in the monotheistic religions, there is no creator, he explains. The universe is self-moving. “This means we can play with the scientists” he concludes, which delights me. How wonderful it is to find a practice like this that does not entail believing things that are scientifically rubbish. I keep sitting, keep working.
The three fancy vehicles are a con, we learn. When the children find their way out of the burning house there is instead one grand carriage drawn by a great white bullock that flies as fast as the wind; the one Buddha vehicle. Aha. And the gateway is oneself. Or another way of putting it is that everything is both the burning house and the way out of the burning house. Even the outside is really the burning house and the way out; being out is really only knowing that you are in the burning house. I suppose that flying like the wind on that great one vehicle is also really being inside the burning house. I begin to see everything around as the burning house, as the world of delusion.
“We seem to be sitting here, silent and still” says Reb. He urges us to sit wholeheartedly with body and mind. Indeed we must do everything we do wholeheartedly with body and mind. I had never thought of sitting meditation as something you do with the body but obviously it is. Being wholehearted about what you do now seems to me to be the opposite of having pride. As I sit the pointless conversations with myself sometimes start up but now I can see them too as more pride; things I want to tell other people – more pride, reasons why I did things in the past – more pride. It is amazing to me how pride there is!
In one session I go up to the platform and, like others, find the experience daunting (not like giving lectures to hundreds of people which I’m perfectly used to!). I tell Reb that I have seen all sorts of little examples of pride and almost feel ready to face the bigger prides – not just the little ones here on retreat that can’t hurt anyone, like being annoyed with people during kinhin. He is quite sharp with me and tells me not to judge pride as small, medium or large, or to decide in advance which will be easy or hard, or which will hurt people and which won’t. “People are easily hurt”, he says. “Right here being annoyed about kinhin all by yourself can hurt people”. I see his point – we are easily hurt, aren’t we!
We are easily hurt in this burning house; this world of delusion.
(I’ve got one final post to add about the retreat – troubles with a ceremony)