FaHoLo Retreat - Aaron's Talk, March 5, 2005

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. It has been a long day. You're ready for a bit of entertainment perhaps.

We will vary having the eyes open or closed. It is different for Barbara to work with the eyes open. She needs to be in a deeper trance state. I may not keep them open through the whole talk.

I want to begin by telling you a bit more about the Buddha. Some of you have asked Barbara and David today, 'Was the Buddha a god? Was he considered to be a divine being?'

The Buddha was a man. He was born with the name Siddhartha Gautama. He was born to a father who was—if I use the word 'king,' it perhaps gives the wrong impression; something bigger. A wealthy landowner who was looked to as a king of sorts, as he was a ruler of his territory, but not a king in the way you think of the King of England.

When Siddhartha was born, his father was told, 'Your son will either be a great ruler or a great spiritual leader.' The father wanted to pass on his kingdom to his son, didn't want him to be a spiritual leader. So he protected him. He tried to protect him from anything that might create too much spiritual depth. He lived a very sheltered life in a comfortable home, with all his needs met. He received a good education but not with great spiritual depth.

The following story may seem rather inconceivable to you, living in a modern world. And I cannot speak to its truth, only, this is how it's written.

As a young man he went out to the city in a carriage. He had lived such a sheltered life that he had never seen sickness, old age or death. As the carriage went down the street, he saw somebody who was sick, and he asked the carriage driver, 'What's that?' 'That is sickness.' 'Will that happen to me, to my loved ones?' 'It happens to everybody.'

Then he saw a very old man. 'What is that?' Stooped, gnarled. 'That is old age.' 'Will that happen to me and my loved ones?' 'It happens to everybody.'

And then, not unusual for India, he saw a corpse on the street. Certainly he could not have grown into his twenties without ever hearing of death, but he had never directly experienced death. 'What's that?' 'That is a corpse. That is death. The body dies.' 'Will that happen to me and my loved ones?' 'It happens to everybody.'

This disturbed the young man deeply. What was the point of living if there was simply going to be this progression of sickness and old age and death? He could not protect his parents. He could not protect his newborn son. Because he lived in India, he was used to the ideas of karma and rebirth. He understood the whole cycle of rebirth, of coming into a new body, let us say. The whole process of life after life after life, growing out of one's karma. So this was deeply understood as basic teaching.

But he had the illusion that so many people have: 'I'm different. I'm not going to suffer. Somehow for me and my loved ones everything's going to be perfect and beautiful. We're never going to get sick; we're never going to age; we're never going to die.' But of course you die; of course you will age. You begin to die from the moment you take birth, growing toward old age and toward releasing the body. The suffering is not that that happens; the suffering is in thinking somehow I'm exempt from it, so it's always a surprise when sickness comes. One of you has a very old father. Of course he's going to die. Some of you who have fathers who are only 40 or 50. They also will die someday. The youngest one of you here in the room, of course someday you will be old.

Siddhartha Gautama began to ask, 'Where does freedom lie?' He decided that he could not rest until he found that freedom from the cycle of birth and death, for himself and for his loved ones, for all beings. So he renounced his kingdom, left all his handsome clothing and possessions, shaved his head, and went to live in the forest. He began to do the spiritual practice that was most common in those days, which was a deep concentration practice. Through the power of his concentration, he developed many special powers. He experienced deep bliss. He found some degree of telepathy, and many unusual powers. But still he was not free, and he recognized that. He could do all of these special things but still the body was aging, sickness would come, and a new rebirth would come. He had not released the karma that would lead him into another life and another life and another life. How does one get off the wheel?

He studied with several of the greatest masters of meditation and they each acknowledged his powers and said, 'Please join me. Teach with me.' He said, 'This is not what I'm here for. If I wanted fame and glory, I would have simply become a king. I'm looking for liberation.' So he left these beings.

He began to do a different kind of meditation practice, a severe austerity practice. He had grown up with everything he needed and it had not brought him freedom, so now he began to starve himself. He wore scant clothing to protect him from the elements. And can you guess the result? Was he enlightened? No. He almost died. He was so weak he couldn't meditate, and he realized this kind of austerity is also not the way.

So he gained insight into what he called the middle way, a balanced practice. He took in the nourishment that he needed. His body was sick from filth that had accumulated. He washed his body. He began to meditate with the practice that you are learning here. The word 'passana' means seeing. 'Vipassana' means a deeper, clearer seeing.

He began a meditation practice to watch how everything arose out of conditions and passed away, and as he did that, his wisdom deepened. Finally came that famous night that you've probably heard or read about, seen movies about, for that matter, in which he sat and said, 'I will not move from this spot until I am enlightened.' Now, that would be a boast for some of you. You don't have the karma, the ripeness, to do that. But he had it from his many past lives. He was ready and he knew he was ready.

So he sat himself down under this bodhi tree, awakening tree. Many things transpired through that night of his awakening. Perhaps the most important, he saw deeply. First let us say he saw into what we spoke of earlier today, the Four Noble Truths. Dukha; dukha exists. The causes of dukha. There's freedom and the path to freedom. The word 'dukha' is often translated as suffering, and I find that a very poor translation. 'kha' means the hub of a wheel and 'du' is the wheel that's off-center. 'Dukha' is simply the wheel that's off-center, so the cart lurches. You don't want it to lurch, so you suffer. If you go to Cedar Point and get in a rollercoaster and it doesn't lurch, you're going to suffer. You expect it to lurch, but if you expect it not to lurch and it does, 'Not what I want.'

The other thing that he saw deeply was the relationship between the conditioned and the Unconditioned. We use these terms in a very specific way. By conditioned, the conditioned realm, we mean that world, material things, this mundane world, where things arise out of conditions and when the conditions are past, the object ceases. If certain atmospheric conditions are present, snow will fall. When those conditions pass, the snow stops. With certain conditions of temperature and past snowfall, you have snow on the ground. When then sun comes out and it's 40 degrees, the snow melts.

In a smaller way, many of you today were looking at feelings of sadness, unworthiness, fear. These are feelings that have arisen out of conditions. When the conditions pass, the feeling passes. Certain conditions will bring forth sadness. Then you know, 'I am feeling sadness.' Certain conditions may bring forth anger. And you know, in this moment this mind and body are experiencing anger.

When we speak of things arising from conditions, it's important to understand the feeling of anger has arisen. That does not mean that you are anger, only a certain feeling has arisen in you. If somebody came along and tickled you, there would be a tickling sensation. That doesn't change you. You are simply experiencing the sensation of tickling. If you go outside and it starts to rain, you experience the sensation of being wet. You're not a wet person all the way through, we don't have to wring you out. But the outer surface of the body experiences rain, wetness.

If certain conditions are present so anger arises, you experience anger. You are not the anger, you are simply touching, being touched by anger, and it is the experience of the moment. If you stub your toe, there will be pain. You do not say, 'Why is there pain?' You hold the toe. You understand there's pain because 'I hit it on a rock.' You may feel annoyed that you hit it on the rock, but you're not angry at the toe, and you don't question, you don't say, 'I should not feel pain,' you understand this is how the human body is. If you stub your toe on a rock, there's going to be pain.

When you stub your emotional toe, so to speak, and anger arises, or perhaps a feeling of greed or shame, then you think, 'I shouldn't feel this. I don't want this feeling.' You might not want the pain in the toe either, but you understand this is how it is. But here comes anger. Somebody says something rude to you. The conditions are present and anger arises. But then right on the heels of anger, shame about the anger. 'I'm afraid. I don't want to be an angry person. I don't want to harm people. I don't want people to think of me as an angry person.' Many different kinds of thoughts can come up. But the result is instead of simply acknowledging certain conditions have come, and it created anger in this mind and body in this moment, instead of that you say, 'Oh no! Here is anger! What am I going to do?' The anger is not the problem. The relationship with anger and the judgment about anger, these are what trap you.

So Siddhartha Gautama began to see deeply into the relationship with the conditioned realm, and how everything arose out of conditions, was what we call impermanent, that's clear, and not self. By that we simply mean it arises out of conditions. There's no permanent self that's angry. Certain conditions have come and created anger. There's no permanent self that's wet from the rain, just this body at this moment is wet because of the rain. And then it passes. The sun comes out and the body dries.

Impermanent and not self. That does not mean you are not responsible for what arises in you. If the body gets wet and it's cold outside, you've got to dry it off or you'll get sick. You take responsibility for the care of the body. If anger arises, you take responsibility not to use that anger in ways that will do harm to others. But you also don't want to harm yourself by saying, 'Oh, I'm bad, there's anger!' It's just anger.

Out of that idea 'I'm bad' comes the whole sense of unworthiness, that you cannot control your emotions. But you do control your emotions. I doubt if any of you here have punched anybody in the nose in the last six months because you were angry. Simply, anger arises sometimes. With practice and deeper understanding of the conditions out of which anger, greed, and fear arise, they do arise less frequently and with less force. But for now, just accept these difficult emotions will come. Sometimes there will be jealousy or pride or judging. They will come. Can I have compassion for the human in whom they arise, and not build an identity based on those emotions which leads me into the idea, 'I am bad, I am unworthy,' or any such judging thought?

So this is the conditioned realm. In a very beautiful scripture in which the Buddha is addressing a group of monks, he says, 'Oh monks, there is an Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncreated. If it were not so, there would be no reason for our lives.' That night of his awakening, he saw deeply into the conditioned and the Unconditioned. By Unconditioned, we simply mean that Unborn, Undying. That which Is, exempt from any conditions. In the conditioned realm, everything that arises arises because of conditions. But in the Unconditioned, things just are.

When I say 'things,' what can we call it? Some of you might call it God, call it That Which Is, Goddess, Love, the Eternal, Christ Consciousness, Buddha Nature, you have many different terms for it. But you don't yet understand what it is. You all think it's something out there, but it's right here. The room is filled with it. Your hearts are filled with it. How could it be anywhere else? You are that. This is the core of your being.

The work is not to transform yourself from what you are now into some divine being. The work is to know your innate divinity, your innate radiance and beauty and perfection. You will strive all of your lives to live—how shall we say it—to live in a way which comes close to expressing that divinity and perfection. You will probably never get perfect in that expression. You come closer and closer. The more you know your innate radiance, the more you allow it to shine out. And the more you know your innate goodness, the more you understand that that innate goodness is in every other being. They may be very poor at expressing it, so what comes out is anger and fear. Nevertheless, God is right there in everybody.

The Buddha not only understood—Barbara keeps saying 'The Buddha.' At this point we're still talking of Siddhartha Gautama. He began to see deeply into the relationship of conditioned and Unconditioned. They are not at opposite ends of the pole, separate from each other. Rather, the conditioned is like this and the Unconditioned like this. They are connected. (Aaron made a gesture of one hand encircling the other. The conditioned inside of the Unconditioned, though it could also be reversed as they are enmeshed together.)

If you think of a magnet, it has a positive and a negative pole. But the magnet can't exist without both. What we call the conditioned is simply an expression of the Unconditioned. If you put a small seed in the ground, a sprout will grow and then a plant. The plant is an expression of the seed. Because the seed exists, the plant can exist. If you have no seed, you cannot have a plant. Because your innate radiance and goodness and divinity exists, all of the expressions, both positive and negative, can exist.

What do I mean by that? It's easy to see how love is an expression of that divinity, but can you see that fear is also an expression of it? Fear is not something evil. When you fear, that fear has a root of love and a distortion. Love is there, and the distorted feeling of separation, so that fear arises to protect the self. But it's based on love. And then your minds create the distortions. There is no duality. There is no absolute evil. There is certainly a great deal of negativity in your world, I won't deny that. We must work to challenge that negativity and shake it loose, to bring it out of the fear contraction and into a place of clarity and spaciousness where love and wisdom can blossom. But don't create a duality of good and evil. Remember, no matter what you are seeing, at its heart there is goodness.

So we speak of the Unconditioned. I'm going to get a bit technical here. For some of you, this may be too much technical material. Just let it pass over your heads. Some of you have a much longer term meditation practice and will find this of benefit.

Buddhism divides, let us say it describes levels of consciousness. The Pali language word that is used is citta. It's a 'c-i' with a soft 'c-h' sound. [Sounds like 'chitta.'] Mundane citta, mundane levels of consciousness, the ear touching a sound and hearing, this is a mundane consciousness. The mind touching a thought, remembering or knowing, this is a mundane consciousness.

There is also supramundane consciousness. That is consciousness that takes as its object not a memory or sound but the Unconditioned itself. Every consciousness must have an object. Supramundane consciousness takes the Unconditioned as an object. In your practice, you work with the arisings of the conditioned realm, seeing how everything arises and passes away, arises and passes away. What's left? If the whole conditioned realm is exploding out, passing away, what's left?

I'd like you to try something with me here. Hold your hand up, just a few inches in front of your face. Wiggle the fingers. Stare at the fingers. Keep them wiggling. All you can see is the fingers. You really can't see through them if you're focusing directly on the fingers. Now relax your gaze, allow the fingers to continue to wiggle, and look through, right up here at Barbara. If you can see me, all the better!

Keep the fingers wiggling. Can you see through them? Look at the fingers again. Look through again. You'll notice when you look through, the fingers don't disappear, and yet you see through.

In your practice as you watch conditioned objects arise and pass away, eventually a shift comes where you truly look through. There's a break into this new level of consciousness, supramundane consciousness, where you see through into the realm beyond the conditioned realm. You see into that vast spaciousness, nothing arising or dissolving, simply that which is.

At first when that happens, 'Wow, where was I?' And you come back into the conditioned realm again. And you create some special story about what happened. 'Wow, I was somewhere else! I'm going to get back there!' Wonderful, how are you going to get back there? How did you get there in the first place? You can't have 'gotten there' (quote/unquote) because there was nowhere to go. What you did is akin to looking at the optical illusion. You have this optical illusion with two faces. And if you look carefully suddenly you see a vase, and then there are the two faces again. The faces don't go anywhere when you see the vase, they're still right there, but you can't see both at the same time. You either see the faces or you see the vase. Does anybody here deny that they are both always there?

The conditioned and Unconditioned are like that. You're so busy with the conditioned realm that you don't see through to the Unconditioned. And then you have this breakthrough and you see the Unconditioned, and because you so much want to get back to it, you can't get there, any more than the person looking at the optical illusion can force him or herself to see the other object. When you relax the gaze, suddenly there it is.

So when you have this experience, seeing that moment of seeing deeply into the Unconditioned, remember, they are connected. When you come back to the conditioned, know that the Unconditioned is everywhere. Don't try so hard to get back to it. Rather, focus on the conditioned expressions and know that each one is an expression of the Unconditioned. Just as when you look at a tree, you know the roots are underground. You don't have to get out a shovel and dig up to check to see if there are roots. If the tree is there, the roots are there.

When love is there, gratitude, joy, it's easier to see these are expressions of the Unconditioned. But, my dear ones, when anger, sadness and feelings of unworthiness are there, these are also expressions of the Unconditioned. Can you see that, at least conceptually? So don't create a duality that says, 'This is a good one, that's a bad one.' It's much easier to be with joy than sadness, to be with love than anger. But whatever arises, know it: 'This is an expression of the Unconditioned. Right here can I find God, not somewhere else, right here.' In this anger, where is love? In this sadness, where is love? In this contracted feeling of shame, where is love? Don't go somewhere else to find it. Right there: where is it?

When you practice this way, you begin to open to the Unconditioned, which is everywhere, within the self and beyond the self. You begin to experience the glimmer of it everywhere and all the time. There could be an ant crawling across the ground, and right there is the divine. You look at another person's anger and compassion arises instead of fear because you recognize this person is having a difficult time right now, and your innate lovingkindness comes forth. You look at the judgments you have about yourself and instead of moving into the story of those judgments, compassion arises, and you begin to hold yourself in a more loving space.

So this was Siddhartha Gautama's great discovery. He understood now the relationship of the conditioned and the Unconditioned, and he understood the path that could lead people to that realization.

The word 'Buddha' means 'One who is awake.' After that night of awakening, the story goes that he was walking down the street and he was radiant, and people stopped him. 'You! Who are you? Are you a god?' because he had this radiant energy around him. And he said, 'No.' 'Well, who are you?' 'I'm awake.' So they said, 'Can we call you ‘the one who is awake'?' And he said, 'Fine.' So people began to call him the Buddha, the one who is awake. That's what his title means. He did not give himself the title, he just said, 'I'm awake. I'm awake to the reality of the relationship of conditioned and Unconditioned. I'm awake to the reality of this divine essence, this Unborn, Undying essence of everything.'

It's very interesting. He went out seeking freedom from the cycle of birth and death, seeking to transcend impermanence, and yet it is directly through that impermanence that you find freedom. On the conditioned level, everything is impermanent, and on the Unconditioned level, there is no such thing as impermanence, everything is simply putting on a new face constantly. Everything. But the essence is the same: unconditioned.

So you as humans are asked to rest in this place of balance. On the conditioned level, you can't hold onto anything. And on the Unconditioned level, what could there be to hold onto? Everything is always right here.

There's a beautiful story of a great teacher, Ramana Maharshi. He was on his deathbed. All his disciples were gathered around him crying, 'Don't leave us master! Don't leave us!' He opened his eyes and looked at them and said, 'Where would I go?' Where would he go? Everything is right here.

Barbara has a story that I think is helpful … She was swimming in a river with a waterfall. There were high rocks, higher than your ceiling here, and you could leap off the rocks into a pool. The water was pouring down over this rapids, swirling around and whoosh! rushing downstream. She's a good swimmer. There were no underwater rocks, it was a safe place to jump, but she had some trepidation about it.

But after awhile, watching others jump, she jumped. The current caught her. The river was narrow right there, the width of the room, shot down the stream about fifty yards and broadened out, became shallow. So it was just above knee deep. She knew that it would send her out. The current caught her and she began to spin around. She doesn't have any sense of balance. Because of her ears, she can't tell what's up and what's down unless she can see it. So a sense of panic came up. Spinning. I said to her, 'Just put your feet down.' She was tumbling and twirling. 'Put your feet down. When you put your feet down, the firm ground is always there.' And of course, when she put her feet down, she could stand up. The firm ground is always there. She jumped many times and each time, feeling that feeling of no up and down, of fear, confusion, helpless … Put your feet down. And each time, as soon as she put her feet down, there was stability.

Can you see the metaphor for this in your lives? Here you are tumbling with feelings of sadness or unworthiness or fear. You become lost in the conditioned and think, 'I have to fix something, change something, do something.' And you do have to do something, you have to remember your true nature. And you do that by putting your feet down. You put your feet down and rest into your true nature. Fear may be there. That which is aware of fear is not afraid. That which is aware of anger is not angry. That which is aware of sadness is not sad. Do you understand what I mean by that?

There is consciousness, conditioned consciousness that is experiencing fear or anger or sadness. Pure awareness, supramundane consciousness, cannot be tainted by fear or anger or sadness. You return to this pure awareness, this Christ Consciousness or Buddha Nature. You invite that experience in yourself. You thusly put your feet down. The sadness doesn't go, the self-identity with it goes. The fear doesn't go, the self-identity with it goes. That which is fearless is right there with the fear, and instead of self-identifying with the one who is afraid, you observe the one who is afraid with compassion, holding as the identity that fearlessness, that basic love, and so forth.

So Siddhartha Gautama became known as the Buddha, the one who is awake. What he did, you also can do. There was nothing special about him that separates him from you. He did not have some special awakened nature of which you are deprived. Your work is to realize it, just as his work was to realize it, and each of you can do that. And this practice will take you there, I promise you that. Stay with your practice. Trust the practice. It is difficult. Most things that are worthwhile require effort and may be difficult. You are asking yourself to go against not just one lifetime but many lifetimes of habit energy to get away from that which is uncomfortable. Each of you has different tactics which you have developed. As Barbara was talking last night, she saw deeply into her tactic of reading, a seemingly harmless pursuit, and yet it was a way of diverting herself from discomfort. But how are you going to discover that awakened nature that's present even with discomfort if you run from discomfort? But just as when she jumped in the water, spun around and there was discomfort and then put her feet down, she knew the stability, right there, even though the current was still rushing past her.

You have to be willing to be present with some of these very difficult feelings and discover they're just feelings. 'I'm not owned by them. I'm not identified with them. I can respond appropriately to them, take care of them so as not to use them to harm others, but I don't have to be ashamed. I don't have to be afraid.' These feelings simply arise because the conditions are present. The only way you can change those conditions is to be present with the feeling and create a new kind of conditioning.

I want to use a simple example here. A woman came to see us once who was terrified of cats, to the point that she could not walk outside of her house for fear that a cat would come nearby. We talked for some while about where the fear of cats came from. She understood that it was through an attack from, not a housecat but a larger cat, in a past life. Nevertheless, looking at a cat, still terrified.

Barbara had a cat in her house. The cat was outside on the window ledge. The woman was inside. She sat and watched the cat. We did a lovingkindness meditation. She began to see deeply into the impulse energy that said, 'Cat! Danger!' and to recognize, 'This is simply old conditioning. In this moment, I am not in danger. The cat is on the other side of the window.' So she began to just look at the cat and to watch the strong impulse energy that wanted to run.

After she could sit and watch the cat very close on the other side of the window, we brought the cat inside. Barbara put a collar on it so it could not get away, a harness, and held it tight in her lap. She spent several hours just being with the cat, being with her fear, and seeing, 'The fear is old. I don't have to do this any more.' Eventually the fear stopped coming up. It took several visits with the cat in this way, talking through it, working with metta. But eventually she reached a point where—she will never love cats but a cat is just a cat. And the fear impulse energy that came up is just fear impulse energy. And because she was creating a new way of being with that fear, the fear stopped coming up so strongly. Eventually it was just a minor discomfort. 'Don't like that but it's OK. If it walks past me or touches me, no problem.'

Each of you can do this with whatever difficult emotions most trouble you: feelings of shame, feelings of unworthiness. Some of you perhaps have the feeling, needing to be the good one, the caretaker, to get everything right. It's just as troublesome. You can only shift the habit energy around these feelings if you are willing to be present with the feelings. All of your past conditioning is to get away from the feelings, some of you getting away in seemingly skillful ways, some of you unskillful ways. Regardless, you're still getting away.

As you discovered today, there's no place to go. You come here and you sit, and it's a statement of your intention to be as fully and as lovingly present as you can be with whatever is coming up in your experience. And then the whole thing begins to de-fuse. You see this is just the result of conditioning.

Let's look at unworthiness. For some of you, you may have heard when you were a child, 'You're no good. Can't you get anything right? Why are you like this? Why aren't you more like your sister or brother?' Some of you may have experienced physical abuse, which is not necessarily deeper than emotional abuse but simply a different form of abuse.

The child needs to be loved. The child needs to feel valued. If the primary adult is abusing the child, the child has to try to make sense out of that. So if the adult needs the child to be a victim, the child allows itself to be a victim. It begins to believe, 'I am unworthy.' The child was never unworthy. Nobody is ever unworthy. But that story comes up for the child because it's the only way that he or she can find a way to accept the adult's abuse, which it needs to accept in order to feel valued. The adult communicates to the child, 'If you accept my opinion of you, then I'll value you, because I need someone to beat up on.' So the child say, 'OK, I'll have to do that. That's a trade-off I'll have to make.' But it can only make it if it pushes itself into the belief, 'I really am unworthy.'

The child was never unworthy, but it's carried this all its life because it had no place to go with it. The child truly is a victim. The child has no other way to deal with the abuse. But then the story sticks. So you carry it around and you carry it around and you make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, living your life in a way so as to prove, 'I'm just unworthy.' And you hate to be unworthy, but you don't know how to get away from it, because you're not yet able to see there was no reality to it in the first place. It served as some kind of protection you needed at that point in childhood. And now there's still that stuck place that thinks, 'I still need it. My unworthiness is my armor. Who would I be without it?'

You could use almost the same example for those of you who had to be the good one in childhood, to be good, to be skillful, to get everything right, that's the armor. 'If I lose that, what will I be?' To be the angry one, to be the peacemaker. Each of you has some designation. Who are you? What if you let go of that story? This is what your meditation challenges you for. If you let go of the story, only then can you see through, can see what you truly are. As long as you think you are this, how can you be that?

So your meditation practice gives you a way to see into the stories, and slowly, gradually, gently, to consider letting go. The letting go process is never a forceful one. Consider this. If you did not know how to swim, and you came up to this lake on a hot summer day, here we are at the retreat and the retreat is over and everybody is talking and playing. They're all out there swimming but you don't know how to swim. You want to go out and have fun with your comrades.

I give you a lifejacket. I show you how to strap it on. You climb down the ladder on the dock, and you say, 'Ah, it supports me.' You play with it a bit, experiment and see it's safe. So you go out a bit where the others are. You begin to talk, to frolic. You have a wonderful time. You almost forget you're wearing the lifejacket until you come back in. You take it off and the next day you put it on again. All summer long, every day, you put on the lifejacket. Would you say it was skillful to put it on the first time? Yes. There was no time for swimming lessons right then, you just wanted to get in the water and be with your friends. You put on the lifejacket.

Perhaps later in the summer it would have been useful to take swimming lessons along with wearing the lifejacket for the play period. But you didn't take swimming lessons, you just put on the lifejacket. Now ten years have passed. Day after day you've gone out and swum with your lifejacket. I come back and I see you climb into the water with this moldy, mildewed, waterlogged lifejacket. 'Hey you, what are you doing?' 'I'm putting on my lifejacket.' 'Why?' 'Well, it keeps me afloat. Well, it did keep me afloat ten years ago.'

If I said to you, 'No! No, take it off!' you'd be terrified. 'Without my lifejacket I'll sink. I don't know how to swim.' But, of course, it's waterlogged, you've been swimming for years. If I say to you, 'Just go down the ladder, let go, and see what happens. Remember how it was ten years ago, it buoyed you up. See what happens.' And you let go of the ladder and this heavy weight just pulls you down. Am I going to have to tell you to take it off?

You understand immediately, 'This is pulling me down, drowning me, and I know how to swim.' You take it off. Nobody has to force you. This is what I want you to do with your meditation, to begin to see what kind of old baggage you've been wearing that pulls you underwater and which you don't need any more. How does it feel to release that whole concept of 'unworthy one'? How does it feel to release the concept of the 'good one' who has to save everybody? How does it feel not to have to be that person any more? And when you release that, you begin to find out who you truly are. It's not simply that the unworthy one is suddenly worthy; that's just another concept. It's not that the good one is suddenly bad. You break through all of that. You begin to see the big picture, as I said, to know your true divinity. To rest in awareness and observe how these ways of being are simply different postures that come.

I have talked for a long time. I think that's enough words for tonight. Let me just end briefly here with the rest of the Buddha's story. He did not immediately go out to teach. Instead, he thought, 'People won't understand this'. But he also thought, 'Maybe some people will, and I can't keep it to myself. It's too beautiful.'

So he talked to a few people about what he had seen. And he was able to lead them to see in the same way he had, to understand this whole relationship of conditioned and Unconditioned, to open directly into the Unconditioned and discover their own awakened nature. More and more people came. Word of a good thing spreads fast. Pretty soon there were a great many monks, and then a woman's sangha of nuns. So many of them found freedom, just as the Buddha had, because of the directness of his teachings. Some of you have wished you were alive in those times. 'If only I had been alive then, I'd be awakened.' But these teachings are still here. You have to apply them. You have to do the work. If you do the work, you will also wake up, and if I did not believe that, I would not be here teaching you. I have many things to do! I have no intention to waste my time.

I am here teaching you because I know you have the capacity to wake up. I invite you to do so. It is a joyful experience. Enough words. I thank you for your attention and for allowing me to share my thoughts with you. We will close.

(Tape ends.)

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