Benedict's Dharma 2
Day 1 - Tuesday - April 29, 2003
Rev. Kusala Bhikshu


REV. KUSALA: All right, it's time for Buddhism.

Let me say here at the outset, Buddhism is not better or worse than other religions; it's just different. A friend once asked, "Kusala, do you think, Buddhism is the best religion?" And I said, "I think Buddhism is the best religion for Buddhists."

I'd like to start by clarifying a few points.

The first one is important, because it deals with God. A lot of people think Buddhists are atheists because they don't talk about God. I tell people, if you want to find God become a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Hindu.

The reason Buddhists don't talk about god is not because there isn't one, but because the Buddha never met a Jew. Twenty-five hundred years ago the only people practicing the religion of the one God of the desert, were the Jews. The Buddha never left India. He never went any further than two hundred miles from his birthplace. His world was filled with many gods.

___Does that mean that all Buddhists are atheists?___

Does that mean that all Buddhists are atheists?

No! I have met many Buddhists who believe in God. I have met many Buddhists who don't believe in God. I have met a lot of Buddhists who just don't care. If you're a Buddhist these three points of view are okay, Buddhism is only concerned with suffering, and the end of suffering.

Another point -- The Buddha said we don't have a soul. But, he wasn't talking about the Christian concept of soul. He was talking about the Brahman concept of soul.

Having said there is no soul concept in Buddhism, and that God is not the focus of our practice, you may be wondering if we go to heaven. The answer is yes, we go to Buddhist heaven.

Only Buddhists can go to Buddhist heaven though, because Buddhist practice determines which one of the thirty-three Buddhist heavens we go to. Heaven is not the ultimate goal for a Buddhist, however. Our goal is to achieve Nirvana and end suffering as well as our future rebirths.

The Buddha once said, "I teach the path to immortality," but he wasn't saying you don't have to die. Even Christ had to die. He was saying, you don't have to be reborn again to suffer.

You might be thinking... Well how about sin?

In Buddhism there is original ignorance, not sin. According to Buddhism, we're born stupid, we do dumb things, and we suffer. What's needed is the transformation of ignorance and delusion into wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom and compassion from a Buddhist perspective goes something like this, instead of greed, generosity. Instead of hatred and anger, loving-kindness and compassion. Instead of ignorance and delusion, wisdom. Buddha nature, is the potential all humans have to realize this kind of perfection.

We don't have sin, and I don't think we have good and evil either. In my mind, in order to have ultimate good a divine law giver is necessary, like God. No God, no ultimate good.

___Instead of God and the Devil, we have "more suffering and less suffering.___

Buddhists don't have God or the Devil in their cosmology. Instead of God and the Devil, ultimate good and ultimate bad, we have "more suffering and less suffering." Our reference point is not divinely based. Lacking a divine law giver, Buddhism also lacks a system of justice. The Buddhist system of making things right is karma.

Okay, I'm going to stop here and get to the task at hand, Benedict's Dharma.

I was thinking about the trellis a few days ago, and remembered one of the Buddhist's in the Book "Benedict's Dharma" felt the 'Dharma' was similar to a trellis. I think the 'Nobel Eightfold Path' is similar as well.

The Nobel Eightfold Path is right View, right Intention, right Speech, right Action, right Livelihood, right Effort, right Mindfulness, and right Concentration.

We can take those eight path factors and put them into three categories.

SR. MEG: Can you do those eight again, please.

REV. KUSALA: Yes. They are right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

We can take those eight path factors and put them into three categories: Personal discipline, mental purification, and wisdom.

In that first category of personal discipline we find right speech, right action, and right livelihood.

In the second category of mental purification we find right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

In the third category of wisdom we find right view and right intention.

As the week goes on, I will talk specifically about each one of these path factors and explain how we as Buddhists use them to get rid of our greed, hatred, and delusion.

I have been asked many times if Nirvana can happen in just one lifetime?

Nirvana seems to be a many lifetime proposition. The Buddha according to the Jataka Tales, was enlightened at least 550 times, before he archived Nirvana as Siddhattha Gotama.

Some people say Buddhism is a philosophy, some say a way of life, and some say a religion. Well to me, it's all of those. But the goal is a bit different from Christianity. The Buddhist goal is the end suffering, ours and yours.

LDB: Isn't one of the main tenets getting rid of duality -- duality is at the heart of suffering, is it not?

REV. KUSALA: Yes, duality is very much a part of suffering. But rather than getting rid of duality, I think it's more about creating a new relationship with duality. Mind can only understand something when it's in a relative context. If I kill duality, wouldn't I become less functional as a human being? I might not suffer, but I couldn't eat, talk, walk, or understand anything. Enlightenment seems to be about becoming more human in the best sense, rather than less.

___"It's really good to meditate, but don't forget your zip code."___

One of my favorite spiritual people is Ram Dass, he said, "It's really good to meditate, but don't forget your zip code." So, relative is important.

VKH: What is your definition of suffering?

REV. KUSALA: Good question. My answer comes from a seventh-grader named Esmeralda.

I was giving a presentation at a middle school in Glendale, California, and this girl, eleven years old, after my presentation raised her hand and said. "Rev. Kusala, I now understand the difference between pain and suffering. Suffering happens when you don't want to have the pain." How did she know?

Suffering occurs when we want things to be different than they are.

JO: Say that again.

REV. KUSALA: Yes, suffering occurs when we want things to be different than they are.

JO: Good.


KS: Well, understanding duality, is that unity?

SR. MEG: Repeat it.

KS: Understanding or accepting duality, does that lead to unity, balance?

___In Buddhism, there are two levels of reality, relative and ultimate.___

REV. KUSALA: In Buddhism, there are two levels of reality, relative and ultimate.

The ultimate is unity, and the relative is diversity. I think the idea of oneness misinterprets the ultimate unitive experience. Unity is a much better way of understanding the ultimate level of reality for a Buddhist.

My body always lives in relative reality. Only my mind can go into that ultimate place of unity and achieve Nirvana. Some people want to ignore relative reality and live only in the ultimate, that just doesn't seem to work.

Great confusion can arise after going into deep states of unitive consciousness. Where all things are interconnected, interdependent, and empty of value. Self/Ego can cause much suffering, it is the one thing that is always separate. But, if I were to get rid of my ego I couldn't function.

So the big question is... How am I going to keep one foot in the relative, and one foot in the ultimate? How can I transform ego from the 'Master' into a much needed tool for living in this complicated world of ours? How do I find balance, using both realities at the same time in my everyday life?

PDP: If I use the sentence, and I'm Christian and I say, addressing the issue of good and evil, if I say, everything God created in the world, everything, good and evil, everything is connected, as you use the word, is that very similar? Do we connect as a Buddhist and Christian with that statement?

REV. KUSALA: Diversity is necessary for unity, and unity is the key to creating community. According to Buddhism we are all interconnected. The real challenge for any of us living in a diverse community, is to find the connective tissue that links us all together?

Now, if you're a Christian, you might say God is the link. God is the connective tissue. If you are a Buddhist, you could say suffering is the link, because all beings suffer. If you are a mediator, you might say silence is the link, because until someone speaks everyone is connected.

We're connected because of diversity, not in spite of it.

RJH: Would you say that as we are doing, not as we're worshipping and being together and being silent and all of those ways we are together, connected, but as we are discussing the Rule, would you say that we are connected by a common search for wisdom?

REV. KUSALA: I think as Buddhists and Christians we need to be careful when we define our ultimate goal, our ultimate truth, and what connects us. In fact, we may not be able to define it at all, only experience it.

RJH: I'm just talking about our common search. Why are we in this dialogue? What are we looking for?

___I think the most obvious connection is heart.___

REV. KUSALA: Well, we may be looking for how we're connected, and to me the most obvious connection is heart. Our minds are so different, but our hearts seem to be pretty much the same. That may be the link?

All right, I'm going to stop here, this has been really great. Thank you for all the questions.

I would like to finish this first presentation with a reading? These are the first few verses from something called, "Verses of the Faith-Mind," from a book edited by Jack Kornfield, called "Teachings of the Buddha," published by Shambhala.

"The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind. When the deep meaning of things is not understood, the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect, like vast space where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess. Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject that we do not see the true nature of things. Live neither in the entanglements of outer things, nor in inner feelings of emptiness. Be serene in the oneness of things and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves. When you try to stop activity to achieve the passivity, your very effort fills you with activity. As long as you remain in one extreme or the other, you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way fail in both activity and passivity, assertion and denial. To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality; to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth. Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know. To return to the root is to find the meaning, but to pursue appearances is to miss the source. At the moment of inner enlightenment there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness. The changes that appear to occur in the empty world, we call real because of our ignorance. Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions."

Thank You.


_Day 1_

Sister Meg
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