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Winter solstice
Listen to this talk:
Reservoirs of Positive Energy (18 min.)
"Reservoirs of Positive Energy"
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
Awakening Heart (Community of Mindful Living)
January 25, 2009 - Dallas, Texas

Good evening everyone. This is going to be a spontaneous dharma talk.

Well, I've been spending a few weeks during the winter break at a couple of places for retreats. And for me personally, these were symbolic for me at this time in my life. I feel like I'm getting close to a mid-life time in my life, and so doing the one week retreat down in Houston at the Zen center there, which was very intense, was a way for me to clear away any negative karma from this point and the past. And then going into the monastery and ordaining temporarily as a novice monk at the Thai Buddhist Center in Arlington was my way of setting a good solid foundation now and into the future, especially the next four years until 2012, and during this wonderful new presidency. Breathing in "Yes", breathing out "we can." Yes, we can.

I encourage all of us to do this in our own way. To find a way to go to a retreat or to create a retreat at home if you can't go away somewhere else — to really purify and cleanse and detox from the past and to lay a strong solid spiritual foundation now and into the future. The world is in the midst of great change and it's only going to get more intense. And so, the world needs us, needs people, needs you and me to be mindful and to be able to release past attachments and to be open with good foundations now and into the future.

As I had been sharing with some people in my life, the last several months I was feeling more and more drained. When I first started practicing it was as if I must have been practicing in past lives because it just was such a, there was just so much energy and it's like a big reservoir of energy there to support me. And then over the years and the last few months I felt like perhaps I was running out of reserves sometimes.

But after these few weeks of practice it's amazing to me. I really feel like there's this large reserve, a reservoir of positive energy once again. And when I had to speak this morning it was like it was just all there. It was effortless. It was like I could let the Buddha breathe. I could let the Buddha talk. And even now, just not so much effort is needed. I think that what I learned during this time was the importance of creating that reservoir of positive energy. If we don't have a large reservoir of that that positive energy it's very difficult to practice meditation and to share spirituality with our loved ones and friends and to engage in our daily lives in a mindful way. It's very difficult. It's like a struggle. And it's a lot of energy. But when we have that reservoir of positive energy backing us up it's so much easier and there's more gracefulness to it.

Now how do you create that reservoir of positive energy? Well, traditionally in the Buddhist tradition, and of course in others as well, the practice of generosity and giving to those who are spiritually givers is one major way. In Buddhism we call it "creating merit," but I don't necessarily think that word means much to us as Americans so that's why I'm using the word "reservoir of positive energy" — same thing. When people give food to the monks and the nuns or give to the spiritual temple to support their spiritual activities, it creates great merit, creates a great reservoir of positive energy. Even to bow to someone who is a spiritual person in service to other beings, even one bow creates wonderful positive energy.

In some ways it is better to support and give to someone such as a monk or a nun or someone who is a spiritual giver in the world, it's almost better to do that than to give to someone who is not giving at all to the world and who needs your help. Now I'm not saying you should choose between the two. Of course we should help those who are needy. But why would I say that to help someone who is a giver creates more positive energy? Well, if you give to someone who's really needing your help but whose lifestyle is not such that it's going to be creating very much positive effect in the world at this time, you give, but many times it helps them but it doesn't go any further than that.

But if you help someone who's giving to others and supporting and empowering others, then you are giving to all those others that that person is supporting. And that's why I say that. Now don't take my words wrong. I still believe we have to help all those who are in need of our help. But to help someone, this is what the Buddha said, in fact this is what the Buddha said to his students, he said "Please don't be jealous that I am giving more attention and time and effort and teaching those who are on the bodhisattva path than to those who are just on the non-bodhisattva path. What he meant was, those who are on the bodhisattva path are not only trying to become enlightened for themselves, but so that they can build up skills, spiritually, to help many others to become enlightened as well. And then those other students were basically doing pretty good just to try to get enlightened for themselves, and didn't have much thought about maybe to helping many, many other beings.

So, even the Buddha said, "Please don't be jealous. I concentrate and focus on those who are on the bodhisattva path because to support them is then to support all these other beings too." So, please support those who are doing spiritual work that is beneficial in the world. Support monks and nuns, support sanghas, support organizations that do a lot of good work in the world. And of course, support one on one, those you meet along the way who just need a helping hand. Because you never know - they might actually be a bodhisattva in disguise, or an angel in disguise.

Another way, traditionally, that we create merit or this reservoir of positive energy is through the practice of the mindfulness trainings, of intentionally making certain vows and living by them - perhaps the vows of practicing with the mindfulness training of non- violence, non-stealing, sexual responsibility, mindful speech, mindful consumption. And of course, we can create merit and great reservoirs of positive energy through the practice of meditation - regular meditation, faithful meditation, consistent meditation.

What I realized during this retreat was an interesting thought. I don't know how true it is but I'd like to share it with you. It is a thought that if we can at least just meditate between one to twenty minutes every day or every other day or even once a week is wonderful, and beneficial to your life. But if you can extend that from twenty minutes or more every day, or at least as much of every day as you can, then that is for the sake of all beings. So if you can meditate up to twenty minutes that's for yourself and if you can meditate from twenty minutes and more, that's for all beings. And if you already meditate that long every day, then consider this - your morning meditation is for yourself and your evening meditation is for all beings. Or, maybe you're not yet to the point of daily meditation, ok, coming to the weekly meditation group and meditating with us once a week, that's for yourself. And if you can meditate outside of meditation group at home, that's for all beings.

And, this attitude of meditating for all beings, creates great merit, creates reservoirs of positive energy, and that is going to come back to you and support you in your life and your practice. These thoughts are not really new to me; I may be just saying them in new ways. But, in Buddhism, traditionally we practice Dana, Sila and Samadhi, or Bhavana. This means generosity, mindful ethical living and meditation. And these three together create great reservoirs of positive energy.

And we need that so that we're not just struggling and just getting by in our life and our practice. Even the practice of prostrations and bowing, it's foreign to us Americans but it creates great merit, great reservoirs of positive energy. We don't do it here because I'm trying to make it beginner friendly and it's too foreign to beginners. But at home you can practice, full prostrations. And we're not bowing to an idol. We're not bowing to some external force; we're allowing our whole being to surrender to the universe for the sake of all beings. We don't bow for ourselves, but we will definitely get the benefit for ourselves. We bow in honor of all beings — body, speech and mind - fully present.

Perhaps you might think of the first bow for yourself but every bow after that for all beings. And I know someone who's in this room, she told me that she thought bowing and prostrating, and just, you know, "I don't want to do that" and "It doesn't feel right", "it's just an Asian custom" or something, but she tried it. And it was amazing - something happened within her when she did it after awhile and something was shifting inside. So, I know it is a foreign practice to you, but give it a try. It's not just for yourself, it's for all beings. It's a way of releasing, a way of letting go.

You know, the reason why Zen masters and other spiritually enlightened persons in the world can just simply say one word or do one action and students might suddenly have a breakthrough experience. The reason why they can do that is because of the great merit and reservoirs of positive energy they've cultivated for many, many years. So that just one word, one look, one action can be full of great power. Same with us - one word, one hug, one smile can ripple across the universe.

One last thing I'd like to share with you. Someone had remarked to me why I go to so many retreats and try out all these different kinds of retreats and workshops and different modalities of helping people wake up or help myself wake up, or whatever, and I thought about that because I don't have to do all those things, it's not necessary, you can just breathe and sit with Amitabha or whatever your method is, and that's good enough. There's no need to try out all these different things. Enlightenment is very simple. So why do I do it? And as I thought about it, I realized if I was just practicing for myself, I would only need to have one method, one teacher, one practice, and I didn't really need to do any more than that.

But the reason why I do all these other things and go to these retreats and practice is because my heart, my heart is for all beings. And I want to be able to learn as many methods as I can to help as many different kinds of personality types as I can so that all of us together can realize and remember that we are one - that we are the infinite light of Amitabha. We are the infinite love of the Buddha. We are the infinite life of the universe.

And I also realized that all the different negative things I go through and all the stumbling blocks I put myself through - that's also for all beings too, because it makes me a lot less judgmental about other people and their issues and problems when I'm so constantly facing my own. It keeps me real, and for that I'm very grateful, even though I don't always like it, but I'm very grateful.

So please repeat after me, "Yes", "we can."

Transcribed by Peggy Browning

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