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September 4, 2018 Tuesday Evening, Dharma Path Class; part 1
What is the Dharma Path and Where is it Taking Us?
Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Welcome to you all!
Barbara and I have been planning this program for well over a year, waiting for the technology to be available. It gives me much joy that finally we can do it, and with enormous appreciation for Tana. You (addressing Tana) are really the one who has done this. Me, I just use telepathy! But we’re going to have to work a few more years before you all are ready for that! Meanwhile, this Zoom screen will serve us.
The dharma path— what is a “dharma path”, and where is it taking us? Perhaps it is taking us just full circle to where we have always been. We offer a prayer, “May you be happy. May you have well-being. May you be free.” Everybody wants to be happy. We all want freedom. But what do these words mean? Are you happy if somebody gives you a piece of chocolate candy? But, of course, in a few seconds it’s gone. Are you happy with a loving marriage for 50 years, and then your partner is at least partially lost, seriously disabled? Where is happiness then? How do we maintain happiness? What is the relationship between freedom and happiness?
Twenty-five hundred years ago, Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha, led us on a beautiful path to freedom. He described the three parts of that path: sila (moral awareness), panna (wisdom), and samadhi (meditation, concentration, mindfulness, and peacefulness). These parts are like a tripod. One leg cannot be lengthened without knocking the other two legs over. Thus we keep going around, deepening in moral awareness, deepening in meditation, deepening in wisdom. And each lengthening of a leg leads to the insight into the importance to lengthen the other legs.
The Buddha was addressing people 2,500 years ago, including, probably, some of you. You have come a long way in 2,500 years. What is the dharma path for us today? There’s a teaching from the Buddha, from the scriptures, called “A Handful of Leaves”, where someone asks him, “Do you teach us everything you know? Do I need to know this and this and this?” The Buddha holds up a handful of leaves. He says, “These leaves represent what I know, all the wisdom that there is,” with thousands of leaves in his hands, “but this one leaf, this is all you need to know.”
BAs I’ve said, you’ve come a long way in 2,500 years, and there are new things you do need to know. Perhaps “need” is not the best word. You don’t need to know. The Buddha’s original path will take you to liberation. But we can enhance that path for who you are now.
You have come from different backgrounds to this present moment. Some of you evolved fully through a human path on Earth, taking birth as mineral first, then vegetable, animal, and finally human, and as human, perhaps a great many lifetimes. Others of you may have evolved on other planes and come to this Earth later on as human, or even in some other form. But some of you who came in that way, later, after much evolution on other planes of growth, came in not as very early human— early 3rd density human— but as high 3rd density or even 4th or 5th density. If you don’t know what I mean by the word “density”, please take a look online; look in my book, Presence, Kindness, and Freedom. I think you can download that; or you can access the talks in that online, or at least the introduction. (if you go to the DSC archives and type n ‘density’ it will give many talks on this topic.) Somewhere online you can access my basic introduction, talking about density. I’m not going to describe it now; almost all of you understand the term.
You are presently here in what we might consider 3rd, or emergent into 4th, density human form. The whole Earth is emerging from a 3rd density into a 4th density planet. This means you are passing out of, I would not call it kindergarten, but let’s call it grade school years and up into the university. The university of learning how to love fully. How to bring love when it’s difficult to love. How to hold that vibration of love. These are things that classical Buddha dhamma does not speak of. — I just used the word “dhamma”. Dhamma, dharma, same word, different language. Sanskrit vs. Pali. I’m used to “dhamma”, but we call the class “Dharma Path” because some of you don’t know the word “dhamma”. Same word.
We are not gathered together here for these two years to make you into outstanding meditators, although, hopefully your meditation will deepen. We are not gathered together to make anything special happen except one thing: to enhance your capacity for unconditional love; to make that the stable ground on which you live.
As each of you becomes more capable of returning to that ground and living from that ground, you bring the higher vibration that is required in order to live from that ground into the whole Earth plane, into the Earth itself. The Earth is a sentient being. You help raise its vibration. The vibration of the elements is raised.
You are here in service. Look at the banner up there on the wall. For those online, it’s a banner that says “SEVA”, with the two eyes of compassion. “Seva” means “service”. You are dedicating yourself to service, for the highest good of all beings. The more you release the obstructions to such service, find the deepest inner truth within you of unconditional love, and learn to live from that truth, the more you serve this whole world of suffering. Because love is the only thing that shifts hatred, terrorism, fear, and suffering. Only love.
So much of your practice with me— and all of you, all but 2, I think, of you have done a lot of practice with me— so much of that practice has been based in the teachings of my book Human, that I asked you to read before my opening talk. When something is extraordinarily painful and great suffering arises, what is your habitual response? It could be as simple as burning your hand on the hot stove. Pain! Or the death of a loved one. Pain! Or simply something that strikes up anger. A political leader— who will go unnamed— but who certainly strikes a lot of anger in many of your hearts! How do we habitually respond to these painful catalysts?
A big part of your work with me up until now has been learning how to respond by breathing and making space; not getting caught in the stories of negativity and fear but finding the always present open hear; really knowing that open heart; not losing that open heart. That open heart is present, simultaneous with the contraction. So, we talk about contraction and spaciousness, contraction and spaciousness. I talk about this at length in Human, and if you have not read it recently, please do before the next class. It’s a very short book. I also talk about it in the Path of Clear Light— not required yet, but soon I will ask you read that too, later this fall. The most important thing that I discuss in Path of Clear Light is this simultaneity— negativity and fear, shock— ahhh, right here in this moment, where is love?
Barbara described briefly how, on that morning in February she got out of bed and walked into the kitchen, because Hal wasn’t in bed, and found him lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood and vomit. Her first reaction was to ask him, “Hal, are you okay??” Shock! Surprise! But within a few seconds she realized of course he was not okay. He’d had a stroke or heart attack. He was looking at her, he was moving his left hand, which was on the upper side, so he was alive. So, she of course came in and called 911. They would send an ambulance. She went back and sat there on the floor with him.
There was the reaction of, not just fear, but terror, and helplessness and anger. I said to her, “Please just offer gratitude, aloud, to Hal, to you, to the life you have lived together. Share with spirit and with Hal how grateful you are for the 50 years you’ve had together, and your intention to do everything possible to support the continuation of that life together. But also tell Hal, ‘If you need to leave now, it’s okay. I will be okay, and you will be okay. I hope you can stay. I hope we have more time together. But if you need to leave, you have my blessing to do that.’” And then she began to talk to him of very precious memories— the births of their children and other beautiful memories. And although he was lying there for those few minutes before the ambulance came, clearly suffering, he also smiled a few times, as she talked to him. He was able to hear her.
Spaciousness as the offering to contraction. Love as the offering to fear. The capacity to do this is the result of freedom, of liberation. Liberation from being caught in old habitual patterns. Liberation from who you always believed you were, to more fully be who you are in this moment, which is: awake. You are all awake in this moment, all of you. But most of you have not quite caught on to that yet. So this is the work of our two years.
I was looking with Barbara at the poem “The Wasteland” earlier this week. I asked her to find it online and was quoting some of it to her. It starts with— I am not quoting it exactly, perhaps, but close—
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land…
Why is it cruel that the lilacs are blooming? Only because you want them to keep blooming, all through the summer, through the fall and into the winter. When you recognize that everything has a season— when the conditions are present it will arise, and when the conditions are passed, it will pass— then you understand the blooming of the lilacs as based on conditions, and you can feel joy for those lilacs; loving them in this moment, without expecting them to be there tomorrow. Just in this moment. In this moment, Barbara’s love for Hal, and his for her. In this moment, M— may I use you as an example here?— M’s mother died last week and the funeral was this weekend. M, your mother is right here with us. She’s in your heart. And all of you who have lost loved ones, your loved ones are right here with you. Frank, who died a few weeks ago, Frank is here in this room, for Frank, the carpenter, helped the sangha build this room, this beautiful space that you’re in. Frank carved these windowsills and created these beautiful shapes around the windows. Frank is fully alive in this room.
You suffer when— let me phrase this carefully— when you cannot stay fully in this present moment and mind drifts off to, “But I want it to be this way, I want it to be that way.” April is the most beautiful month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land! Exquisite lilacs! Of course, they will pass away. Cherish them in this moment. Cherish each other and yourselves, in this moment.
When you are fully in this moment with an open heart, you are able so deeply to bring joy and happiness, gratitude and wonder, to your lives, while knowing this will pass. That is the nature of the conditioned realm. So, to put it in the simplest way, suffering equates with grasping. Joy and happiness equate with being in this moment, free of grasping, and everything else is the trying to get from Point A to Point B, and is what we will be working with in these 2 years.
I want to read you another quote from The Wasteland…
…What have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
What have we given? We are here together to learn to give the power of the open heart, which is the essence of your true being. To live it, to give it, to know it so it because unshakeable.
I’m going to talk for about 10 more minutes here, then give you a break, and then resume talking for another 35 minutes or so. A lot to cover, this first class.
Several words of which I speak, perhaps not in Human, maybe just in Path of Clear Light: the three kayas. These are important words for you to understand. “Kaya” means “body”. Dharmakaya means “truth body”. Nirmanakaya means “form body”. Almost all of you have learned these words with me before. Dharmakaya, nirmanakaya, form body, and sambhogakaya. Sambhogakaya usually translates as “wealth body”. It is the enormous wealth of presence in this moment, of pure being. The movement from dharmakaya— let’s call it God, the Divine, Unconditioned— to nirmanakaya—let’s call it the relative reality. Ultimate reality, relative reality. TSambhogakaya is the bridge that joins Dharmakaya and nirmanakaya.
If you will, picture the sides of a steep ravine, spanned by a bridge with posts dug deep into the earth. On the one side is nirmanakaya, the form body, the everyday realm, and on the other side is Dharmakaya, the heavenly realms. Our work is to get to know the bridge, and to know the— what is the best word?— to know that the bridge has an ultimate reality because it’s anchored in the Dharmakaya and a relative reality, touching nirmanakaya. Even when you move from the Dharmakaya, out of that heavenly realm into this heavy density earth plane, if you develop the practice to stay on the bridge, or, phrased better, to know yourself as always on the bridge— you can’t really fall off of it, you only have the illusion that you can— you are always in touch with the Dharmakaya. You are always in touch with the Light.
I said in my note to you last week these were going to be basic foundational reminders that we will build upon. So, I don’t expect all of you to as yet be familiar with these terms. Some of you will need to review things you learned with me years ago, decades ago. Dharmakaya, nirmanakaya, and sambhogakaya that links the two. When you step onto the bridge, you are touching both. This is where I hope you will come to live more fully in these two years, fully present with this human experience, including the pain of it, the grief, the sadness, the fear, and also the beauty and the joy. To be present with compassion when there is pain, when there is suffering. And pain and suffering, no, they are not the same. We’ll talk about that another time. To be fully present in this human experience with as much love as possible, requires that you stay connected to the Ultimate, to Love, right there with the pain.
Barbara, on the floor reminding Hal of their love for each other. Any of you who have lost a loved one recently, remembering the pain and the love, and that you cannot lose the love. And also, that the pain is a real experience and you must acknowledge it with compassion. You cannot deny it and push it away, and say, “Oh no, there’s only love.” How do we develop that compassion for the human experience? Mostly by holding the simultaneity of relative and ultimate.
So, coming back to T. S. Eliot:
…What have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed…
Are you ready to prove your existence? Are you ready to dare to fully exist? To fully love, without constraints? Which means also to fully lose what you love, to lose it without April becoming the cruelest month, but cherishing the relationships, the friends, the parents, the children, the spouses. Cherishing everything around you, and knowing it is arisen from conditions; it’s impermanent.
In the second half of the class I’ll go into a little more detail on some things. The first half is meant to be more inspirational.
One more quote, from the Buddha. It was on Barbara’s altar but I guess it was put aside. From a sutra, the line I’m looking for is simply, “If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” The Buddha says, “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it…. Cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it….” Well, I’m here, I hope, as living proof that it is possible. — (laughing) Can I say, “living proof”? I suppose not! As I once was living proof; the mind is still alive. I’m here as proof that it is possible to abandon the unwholesome and cultivate the wholesome, and to do this to the degree that you fully awaken, which is the greatest gift you can give to this world that is so deeply suffering. So many of you are coming to me and saying, “Aaron, what can we do?” Learn to love, starting with this politician, who disturbs you so deeply. Learn to love. Learn to love yourselves. Learn to love each other. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.
Let’s take a 10-minute break for all of you to stretch, whatever is needed. We will start promptly in 10 minutes with Part II.