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7-Week Zen Practice Period / The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
Week 1: "The Zen of Pure Potentiality"
Listen to this talk:
Week 1: The Zen of Pure Potentiality (23 min.)
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
Awakening Heart (Community of Mindful Living)
October 31, 2010 - Dallas, Texas

Tonight we are beginning our seven week Zen practice period, focusing on the seven spiritual laws of success, based on Deepak Chopra's book, and tonight we're going to start with number one, the law of pure potentiality. And since we're going to be Zenifying these, we'll call it the Zen of pure potentiality.

So repeating after me, with our palms together at the heart:
The source of all creation is pure consciousness.
Pure potentiality seeking expression.
From the unmanifest to the manifest.
And when we realize that our true self
Is one of pure potentiality,
We align with the power
That manifests everything in the universe.
In Buddhism, especially in Zen, we talk about emptiness. Emptiness is form, form is emptiness. This sounds very, very esoteric, and I must confess that when I first heard the teaching, it was quite esoteric for me. But over the several years of practice, I have begun to understand this just a little bit more over time. And it's not an
7-week Zen practice period
understanding just based on reading and learning and spiritual education, although that has been helpful, to give me terminology and words to describe this reality of emptiness, but without actual experience, emptiness is just another word, and in fact true emptiness is empty of your emptiness, empty of your idea of emptiness. True emptiness is empty of your idea of emptiness. It's way beyond that. It's not what you think.

A few months ago, at a Zen retreat, I had questions in my mind about the nature of reality. What is real? What is not real? Is any of this real? Is it just a dream? What does it mean to say this is a dream? Is it a real dream? All these different questions… But because of the practice of the retreat, without trying too hard and not thinking about it logically or rationally or analytically but just allowing the question to be held mindfully and silently in my heart, an answer came. And it was during the retreat, during meditation, that I had this visual come to me, come to mind, of a large piece of clay, or Play-Doh, maybe. And out of this one large piece of clay, there was being made different figurines. One was a person, maybe a Chinese person. Another was a female, maybe a Hispanic female. Another one was a house, another was a tree, another one was a squirrel, another one was a car, another one was maybe a bell, or a koala bear, or a flute player. All these different things were made, and they each thought of themselves as separate and different from the others. And yet the reality was that all these different figurines were real and not real. They were real in the sense that they were in those forms. They were real in the sense that they were made of clay. But they were not real in the sense of being separate, of being completely different from all the others. They were not real in the sense of being permanently identified with these particular forms, because their true reality was oneness. Their true reality was the clay.

So my insight from that retreat experience was that everything in this universe is real and not real. Our experience with this universe is real and not real. What does that mean? Well, if we believe that we are separate, and that we are completely different and unrelated to everything else, and that we are not connected to the Source, then that is not real. That is unreal. That is an unreal experience, interpretation of reality. Because the true reality is that we are actually one. We are just different forms of energy, and this vast energy is a manifestation of one pure consciousness or mind or whatever you want to call it. Nature. And that is the reality. So when we talk about pure potentiality, what we're referring to is going back to the source of our true nature. In Buddhism we call that Buddha nature, and many times we describe that Buddha nature as emptiness. But emptiness does not mean nothingness. It just, it's like referring to that clay. It's referring to that pure potentiality and source of who we are as manifestations. Emptiness can be also translated as spaciousness, so there is a sense of a vastness to each one of us. Emptiness can also be translated as flexibility or, what's that word, when something can be changed into something else? Malleability. So it's like we are all this energy, this consciousness, some of you might call it this divine nature or Buddha nature, true nature, universal nature, so emptiness means malleability, because this clay, this Buddha nature, is completely empty, meaning it's completely malleable. It can completely be manifest in infinite numbers of ways. And so all these manifestations, then, are also empty because they are not solid and permanent in that form, because they can always be changed back into something else. Because all you are is simply energy and the energy can be changed into some other form.

So emptiness means that we are malleable, that we are flexible. But our lives as humans, we think that we are very very inflexible. We think of ourselves as very rigid, and in fact some of our thinking is that way. But the good news from all of the spiritual teachers, including the Buddha, including Jesus, is that change is possible, because everything is empty, everything is spacious and everything is malleable and flexible. So if you are experiencing negativity in your life, it is not permanent. If you are experiencing suffering in your life, it's not permanent. Death is not permanent. Sickness is not permanent. Sadness is not permanent. Fear is not permanent. All of these things are simply different combinations of energy that can be changed into other forms.

So the practical comfort of this teaching is that you don't have to stay stuck, and in fact you really cannot stay stuck. So are you really a human being? Are you really a male? Are you really a female? Are you really Caucasian or African-American or Asian? Are you really 41 years old? Are you really nearsighted? Are you really farsighted? Are you really a Buddhist? Are you really a Christian? Yes and no. Yes and no. Who you really are is Buddha, and Buddha is manifesting in this moment as a male, or a female, a Caucasian or an African-American or an Asian or a 41-year-old or a Christian or a Buddhist. There's a tendency in spirituality to go to extremes because some people want to emphasize that we are separate individuals. Individuality is supremely important. Your personal rights are supremely important, and that you are different from everyone else, and that you must fight for your rights, which is true on a certain level. But this separation thinking, taken to an extreme, is not the truth.

On the other side, is the truth that we are all one, that there is only this oneness, and we are simply manifestations of that oneness, and really, it's that oneness that matters. But if you get too caught in the oneness, and the transcendence, what happens? You start to look down on the human condition. You start looking down on individual expression. You start looking down on this glorious messiness called life and you want to transcend it, you want to leave it all behind, you want to see it all as just illusion. But, see, the illusion of the universe is both real and not real. It's an illusion if you think it's not a manifestation of the One, but it is a manifestation of the One, and therefore it is real. Everything is Buddha, Buddha is ultimate reality, and because Buddha is manifesting as this piece of paper, and as this seashell, and as this human being, and as this floor, all of these manifestations, then, are absolutely precious, absolutely beautiful, absolutely real, because they are manifestations of the one reality.

So be careful not to be caught in any of the extremes, but walk the middle path. The middle path honors all things. It honors the fact that we are not separate, but we are one, but it also honors all the different unique expressions of the One, each in their own different ways, manifesting the One.

So Deepak Chopra suggests to us that we have three practices to really get in touch with this reality of pure potentiality. One is meditation. He suggests thirty minutes every day, twice a day. And if you'd like to take that challenge, please do that, starting today. But even once a day is so great. And even 20 minutes a day is so great. Even ten minutes, or five minutes…

The second practice that he suggests is to take time to commune with nature every day, or every week, or as often as possible. And the third practice is to practice non-judgment. To practice allowing and not labeling things as good or bad, right or wrong, negative or positive, but just let them be as they are. Why? Because they're empty of being positive or negative. They're empty of being bad or good. They're empty of being anything that we label them. Nothing is a permanent solid entity. It can always change and shift.

In Deepak Chopra's book, "The Seven Spiritual Laws For Parents," the first spiritual law is condensed into one sentence to make it easy for children. So it is simply this. "Today we tell our children, 'Everything is possible no matter what.'" Everything is possible. So in a way, the law of potentiality is possibility thinking. Everything is possible no matter what. So allow there to be a softness to our thinking. And he suggests that if we have children, or neighbors who are children, we can lead them in a few minutes of silent meditation. We can inspire them to appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature, and we can show them the hidden possibilities in familiar situations.

Deepak Chopra: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success Anyway, I'd like to encourage you to look at any of these books, "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," or the shorter, pocket book version of "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," "The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents," or the "Seven Spiritual Laws for Yoga." And actually, this is also… the entire book is free online, and I sent a link to this in an email, I think this morning.

So. It's interesting that Deepak Chopra started this whole Seven Spiritual Laws with the hardest one to talk about! The law of pure potentiality. Because it's not something you can really talk about. It's something that has to be experienced through practice. I remember a couple of years ago, when I had a major glimpse of this reality. I was meditating, and it felt like I had an out of body experience. I completely disidentified with the body and mind, and it was like a little bubble just popped, and the bubble this whole time thought it was a separate entity, you know? And yet when it popped, it realized that the air outside of it and the air inside of it was the same air, and there's no boundary, no separation. And I realized in that moment, Oh, duh! It was like this Duh! moment, because part of me always knew this reality. But it was like duh! and there was not, it was like presence looked at this body and mind, trying to find a separate self, and there wasn't any separate self. There was just a body, a mind, a table, a chair, a wall, there was just everything, manifestations, but there was no separate entity inside each of these things. Only this one vast spacious presence and reality. And that's… and the first thing I thought, "That's what emptiness means." Because it's emptiness meaning spaciousness, limitlessness, infinite possibility.

But it's not something you can talk about. It's something to be experienced, and so I encourage you to experience this through practice. Meditate every day. Commune in nature and practice nonjudgmental acceptance and allowance every day and see what happens.

At the beginning of Sangha today I had a beautiful feeling come over me, and I'd like to share it with you in closing as a way of practice in our meditiation, an attitude of practice. And it is this: Every mindful breath that you are able to practice doesn't come from you, but was because someone else before you practiced, and they offered that gift to you. And now, in this moment of the mindful - of each mindful breath, it is because of the gift of someone else. And in the same moment that you are practicing that mindful breath that is a gift, now you are making that a gift for someone else. So this one mindful breath, every mindful breath that you are able to practice, it's because it's a gift from someone else. And in that same moment that you are aware of this mindful breath as a gift from someone else, you are making it your gift to someone else. Practice in this way. Every time you are able to enjoy a mindful breath in your sitting meditation or walking meditation or daily mindful living, look at it as pure gift, and every moment that you can see it as a gift, you are making it a gift for someone else. So practice in a way that you can truly and deeply receive in gratitude from the universe, and at the same time, practice with all your heart to make this gift to someone else. And in that way, no one has to practice for themselves. You only have to practice for someone else, because someone else is now practicing for you, which is why you can practice. Isn't that beautiful? So why is this possible? Because everything is empty and there is no separation. That's why we can practice for others, and others can practice for us. Because we are empty of separation. And we are all full of pure potentiality manifesting in everyone else.

Amitabha.

Transcribed by Jennifer Jonnson

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