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Dr. Ruben Habito:
Love on a Spiritual Path (part 2, Q&A)
(16 min.)

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Dr. Ruben Habito:
Love on a Spiritual Path (part 1)
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Dr. Ruben Habito:
"Love on a Spiritual Path"
Part 2, Q&A
Transcript of the Q&A session following
a talk delivered by Dr. Ruben Habito.
Breath of Life (Interfaith Mindfulness Fellowship)
July 15, 2007 - Dallas, Texas

Br. ChiSing:
I'd like to see if we can do fifteen minutes of question-and-answer.

Questioner 1:
When you travel this… your soul… and come to this conclusion, how do you know when you get to the end of it, when you can help someone? How to you get there? How do you know you get there?

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Right from the start, I believe that… that impulse to help others is already there. It's not that you go through this journey and then you find it and then you help someone. But, I would say that it's a spiral that leads you deeper and deeper to that core. And so at any point along the way there is already that impulse. Because, for example, in looking at somebody in distress, our most natural response is to want to help. But then we realize, "Oh, that's… I don't know that person," or, "I don't know how to swim," for example. And so on and so forth. And so it's the "I, me" mind that gets in the way of responding to that initial impulse. So I believe that it is the deepest dynamism in us, to help, already, and to give ourselves a as love. But we are blocked by those things that have come into our lives as karmic baggage.

Questioner 1:
Karmic baggage? Are you talking about things you learn as you're growing up?

About Dr. Ruben Habito…

Dr. Ruben Habito Dr. Ruben Habito is a Professor of World Religions and Spirituality at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He is also Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Habito completed his doctoral studies at Tokyo University in 1978, and taught at Sophia University in Tokyo. He is the author of numerous books on Buddhism, was President of the Society for Buddhist Christian Studies from 2003 to 2005, and serves as spiritual director and Teacher (Roshi) at Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, Texas.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Both the things that we acquire and the things that we do, that creates their own results. So it's a… give and take of cause and effect in our lives that results in blocks of more results that become more causes and so forth. It's a very complicated picture. But yes, all of those are involved: everything we learn as well as our responses to the things that we learn that create their own effect.

Questioner 1:
The more I hear you, the more complicated it is for me.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Yes.

Questioner 1:
There's nothing simple about it?

Dr. Ruben Habito:
There's nothing simple about it. Sorry if I sounded overly complicated.

Questioner 1:
So you just work on your own?

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Well, yes. That's where we begin: our own…

Questioner 1:
And then we get to a point where we can help someone and understand ourselves?

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Yes, but the main thing is that we know that it's already there so we trust our most spontaneous impulse. And so, in the stillness we somehow get a guide as to how to respond. If, we are able to respond from our inner voice. Then, that's the voice that we can trust. That is the most genuine response. But if something comes in that says, "But I want this," or, "that's not my preference," and so on, that's the kind of thing that blocks that deeper voice.

Questioner 1:
I understand that. Thank you.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Thank you.

Questioner 2:
Thank you for being here. I'm Dave from Shambhala… Dallas Shambhala Center… and from Unity.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Ah, Thank you… sister community. Yes…

Questioner 2:
I think I'm going to follow up what she said. One of the things that even I hadn't believed after studying Buddhism, Taoism for years. Reading it as a student, I thought, was that I would find the simpleness in it and I would learn how to become it by reading it. But it wasn't until a year ago, when I found the Sangha and began sitting and practicing in it, simpleness started to come. And I don't know, I can't explain that. Maybe you can comment on it.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Thank you. I think you said it very well in that the invitation to come… to come home to that core of love with a capital L is in all of us. And so it's like reading perhaps a menu or a recipe. And we look at the picture of the dish and our mouth waters. And then we read another menu and our mouth waters some more. So this is what reading spiritual books can do to us. It whets our appetite. But, at some point, we have to set those aside and actually eat. It's practice with a community that enables us to really taste that food together. And it is something that makes a difference. It's no longer just looking at the menu and having a nice salivating experience. But really getting to touch and taste something that can be satisfying. So I do highly recommend finding your spiritual community and being persistent and consistent and regular, and go deep into this practice of silence. Precisely, so that the transformation can occur. And it will be an arduous task because you feel, "Ah, my legs are aching," or "I can't do this. I can't remain inside this for too long. My mind is too busy"… monkey mind and so forth. Well, welcome to the club. That's why we need one another. To help one another in really going deeper. And thank you for that. And there are several communities here in Dallas that are available for that kind of support. So by all means, find one that fits you and go to it and be consistent and go to that core. And when you meet like-minded friends from other communities, you will have a deeper sense of being one really. Because, you know, that your practice leads you there. And that other person and those other persons are also on the same path and you can recognize one another. Thank you for that.

Questioner 2:
Thank you. It's going from recognizing you're hungry to being nourished.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Exactly. Thank you. Thank you. You said it very well.

Questioner 3:
I loved your opening about being beloved and there are times when we don't feel that beloved. One specific time for me is, if I'm in the midst of anger and then I'm sitting down and trying to get to this stillness. That's kind of a blockage. So I just wondered if you had any sort of hot tips about dealing with anger and these times when we've got something that's really rattling us.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Indeed, you put… you point a sore spot that all of us will recognize. And all of the beautiful thoughts and ideas that we cultivate in our sitting and in our reading and so on… can just vanish when something happens that crosses our path and so on. And it doesn't happen the way we want it. And so we react and we get mad and we try to see how to insist on our way and so forth. And it's the "I, me" mind that gets in the way of that love. So, I have no hot tip for dealing with that. But I think Thich Nhat Hanh has a whole book on dealing with that.

Br. ChiSing:
It's called "Hot Tips."

[laughter…]

Dr. Ruben Habito:
It's one on anger.

What I have learned in our practice of Zen meditation just sitting in silence is when something arises in a human encounter, for example whatever the emotion is precisely, anger… the main thing is to be able to recognize it, and acknowledge it and breathe with it. And then somehow, you'll know how to take care of it… before it gets you off-track and leads you to doing something or thinking something or saying something that is based on that anger… before any more harm can come out based on that anger. This practice of sitting in stillness enables us to watch it. "A ha, there it goes." And not want to try to eradicate it. Because we can't. It's there. We can't deny it. We're angry.

Questioner 3:
To be like… be present with it.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Exactly. Be present with it. Acknowledge it. Breathe with it. And somehow, you'll know what to do with it. And there's some types of anger that need to be continued. But not in a hateful way. But in a way that transforms society. There's so much in our society that's happening that really that makes you mad. The kind of things that are happening: spending money in killing people rather than for health and for education and so forth. Anyone who's not mad here is not listening really. But, we have see how to live with that anger in a way that can transform and can heal rather than destroy someone. So anger is a natural human emotion that arises in terms of… in times of conflict. But it's not that we have to eradicate it. We can't. Nor can we. But how we deal with it is really what is important. So, this practice of silence is what enables us to recognize it, acknowledge it, and then deal with it in a way that can be creative and healing. And there's no… Again, there's no set prescription for all cases but we just have to learn how to deal with case by case. That's a very important point. Thank you.

Questioner 4:
Somewhat along those lines, I find that I cannot deal with it alone. I need to have the Sangha… community…

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Indeed and when you find yourself in the Sangha, again you might think, "Now I've found my dream community and so on." And we find that within that Sangha itself, there are all sorts of convoluted things that you have to deal with and again you might be disillusioned. But, you realize, "Well, we're all struggling with our rough edges and struggling with our karmic baggage." And so hopefully, we will find the gem in each one rather than getting put off by the baggage of each one carries. Indeed.

Questioner 5:
Can you tell us, one or two ways that your Christian practice was transformed by your experience of Zen.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Ah yes. Thank you.And that is really a running theme… an ongoing theme of my life. I was born and raised in a Catholic family in the Phillipines and was sent to Japan as a young Jesuit in 1970. And that's where I met the Buddhist Zen master that is now my lifelong teacher. And basically, I was taught how to sit in silence in a very methodical way in a community and had periodic one-on-one interviews with the master in a way that showed me my karmic baggage and showed me how to deal with it. They had a powerful set of tools called koans that enables the practitioner to go through the different angles of our own inner life. And through that, basically what I learned was a very systematic way of sitting in stillness in the context of a community. And what I discovered was that, it's already there in my Christian tradition. But unfortunately, it has not been fully given the emphasis that it needs to be given because, well, there is a lot of ritual and doctrine and a lot of external stuff that has gotten in the way. So what it has enabled me is… what it has… What my Buddhist practice has given me is a new appreciation of the riches of my own Christian tradition. So, it's a way of pointing out that the contemplative life is also within the Christian tradition in a way that needs to be recovered and cultivated again so that Christians can also take part in it. And so that's basically the gift that I received from the Buddhist tradition which I continue to cherish and also hope to be able to offer to others.

Questioner 5:
Do you find Christian communities where that work unearthing the contemplative practice and opening it up for more people is happening?

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Yes. In fact it has been a very traditional form of spiritual life in the Christian community. Like, well there are so called contemplative communities. There is a community of nuns in Oklahoma, in Osage, who run a small retreat house. There are about six or seven nuns. And they open their place to people who seek a context of contemplative living with Christian liturgy and with guidance from some of the nuns there who are also experienced in the spiritual path. And also there are different groups now, lay Christians who are precisely rediscovering the contemplative dimension of the Christian tradition. So, if you know some keywords, just Google it and you'll find a community that meets that context, I'm sure. And right now for example, in some churches, they may have the regular offerings of liturgy and masses or worship services, but at certain times within that community, there are groups who get together in silence like this. So, there's one at an Episcopal Church… Where's Gary's group sitting?

[Various people in the gathering say "Church of the Transfiguration…"]

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Church of the Transfiguration… Thank you. So there are groups who do not feel that they need to get out of their Christian context but are seeking a contemplative life. So there are also those groups that you can find within that context. And so we can also find them as kindred spirits in that regard. Thank you

Br. ChiSing:
Thank you. I think we have time for one more question.

Questioner 6:
What's one of your favorite spiritual films and why?

Additional links…

The Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas

Dallas Shambhala Meditation Center

Osage Monastery

The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration

Taking the Monkey Mind on Retreat

Black Orpheus

Powder

Dr. Ruben Habito:
One of my favorite spiritual films. I have been watching many films. And so many of them are so spiritual. They don't carry the name spiritual. But, anything with a deep human message that brings up that Love with a capital L… I try to remember some. I'm sorry… I have… Well, the one that keeps coming back is an old, old film done by a French director about… with Brazilian actors… The Black Orpheus. It takes the myth of Orpheus in a Brazilian context with Samba and so forth. I don't know if anyone has seen that.

[Several people say they know of the movie…]

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Oh yes, thank you. But somehow that's one of the things that lingers in my mind. So it again, is something that talks about new life through death… New art… So we face all sorts of crises in life. We face all sorts of twists and turns. And at some point, what happens is really a challenge: Can you give your life to this? And if we don't, then we just go on in our very limited ways. But we are able to see that challenge and really plunge ourselves and we really give ourselves, then somehow, there is a new life that emerges. So, many movies are what we call tragic in their conclusion. But that tragedy itself may speak of a different kind of triumph so to see through those themes maybe the thing that challenges in watching films. But yeah that's one of the films that comes to mind right now. Thank you. And I'm sure that each one would be able to give one or other or more that we can all learn from. And I'd like to learn some of it. What's yours by the way? Can you give me one that you've…

Questioner 6:
"Powder"

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Oh thank you, I'll have to check that out. I haven't seen it. Thank you.

Br. ChiSing:
Thank you very much everyone and thank you for coming.

Dr. Ruben Habito:
Thank you.

   [ Go to part 1 of this talk ]

Transcribed by Chelsea and Hal German

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