Dharma Talk: Delusion and Enlightenment are Not Separate

This dharma talk explores the intersection of delusion and Buddha Nature, how the awakened heart/mind is always available, even in the most difficult moments.

Delusion and Buddha Nature Are Not Separate

One recent morning while meditating, I was reflecting on the nature of delusion. 2017 started off as a difficult year for me, and having struggled with a multiplicity of challenges, I felt at times as if I were drowning in delusion. Then, a moment of remembering and I was at peace: the awakened mind is nowhere but here, right in the very midst of seemingly impenetrable delusion.

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This is my reflection:

Delusion and Buddha Nature are not separate. Our human nature includes delusion and clarity. When delusion is fully seen and known, this is enlightenment. What allows this alchemy? Letting go of identification with a fixed “self.” A simple shift in perspective and the seeming duality of delusion and enlightenment dissolve.

When we think we have a self that we need to endlessly polish, hone and improve, we get caught in the illusion that awakening is elsewhere. Yes, we need our practice to help us remove what clouds the clarity of mind. As Suzuki Roshi said, “Enlightenment is an accident. Practice makes us accident prone.” Yet in the very midst of delusion, if we see it fully, we are free.

How does this happen? As the mind and heart become still, desire and grasping fall away and there is only this moment and no one needing to do anything, change anything or even see anything. Here there is no self to fix , no self to enlighten. Here is the place of peace. I’m reminded of a quote from Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy.”

Shortly after I wrote this reflection, I vaguely remembered this teaching from my very early years of practice in the Zen tradition. At that time, my understanding of this teaching was beneficial to me, but it only occasionally extended beyond my meditation practice into daily life. A google search brought me to Dogen’s Genjo Koan. Here’s a short piece:

“Delusion and enlightenment are originally inseparable. What is called delusion is as it is and what is called enlightenment is as it is. Delusion should not be detested and enlightenment should not be devoured. They are as they are and they do not get in the way at all. They are inseparable. This is what is reverberating beyond words and you should not overlook this.

If Buddhas recognize themselves as enlightened there is polarization of self and other. This is not enlightenment. You realize enlightenment through delusion and you are deluded through enlightenment. At the place of seeing, knowing perishes and the mind is stilled.”

Summer Retreat at Southern Dharma

Intimate with All Things: Awakening with Breath, Body, Heart and Mind
July 8 – 12, 2016
Southern Dharma Retreat Center, Hot Springs, NC
Led by Lisa Ernst

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Please join me in a beautiful, rural location in the North Carolina Mountains for a four night summer meditation retreat. Southern Dharma is located in Hot Springs, North Carolina, a picturesque four hour drive from Nashville and Atlanta. Full information and registration are here.

Two Special Events with David Loy, October 14 & 15

Please join us for one or both of these events

Why Buddhism and the Modern World Need Each Other
Public Lecture by David Loy
Sponsored by One Dharma Nashville
Friday, October 14, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Healing Well Yoga, 3808 Park Place, Nashville

The mercy of the West has been social revolution. The mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both.

– Gary Snyder

The highest ideal of the Western tradition has been to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and put an end to dukkha “suffering” due to the delusion of a separate self. Today it has become obvious that we need both: not just because individual transformation and social transformation complement each other, but because each needs the other.

Suggested donation: $15. No one turned away for lack of funds. To pay in advance, you can use Paypal here.

David Loy is an internationally renowned Buddhist teacher, keynote speaker, lecturer and author. He is a professor of Buddhist and comparative philosophy and his many published books include his most recent, A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution and Ethics in the Modern World. He lives in Boulder Colorado.

Transforming Self, Transforming World

Workshop with David Loy
Saturday, October 15, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Nashville Friends Meeting, 530 26th Avenue North
Sponsored by One Dharma Nashville

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What is the connection between personal and social transformation?

According to Buddhism, our usual sense of self is haunted by a sense of lack: “something is wrong with me.” Why do we never have enough money, fame, sensory pleasure? Because we try to fill up our sense of lack with them — but it doesn’t work.

Those obsessions also reveal where our society is stuck. The Buddha’s “three poisons” have become institutionalized and taken on a life of their own: our economic system institutionalizes greed, racism and militarism institutionalize ill will, and the corporate media institutionalize delusion. And our collective sense of separation from the rest of the biosphere lies at the heart of the ecological crisis.

Any personal awakening we may experience remains incomplete without a “social awakening” to these institutionalized causes of suffering. Through meditation, interactive inquiry and group discussion we will explore how to connect personal and social awakening and transformation.

Cost is $50 – $75 sliding scale, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. Please pay at the highest level you can afford on the sliding scale so we can accommodate those who need to pay less. You can pay at the Paypal here and enter the amount you will pay. Instructions for paying by check are at this link. Please include your email address. Scholarships are available if you need a reduced rate. Inquire to onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Practice Tip: Creating a Story Room

So often during meditation our minds can wander into planning, stories and other thought patterns that lead us away from our present moment experience. When our minds are identified with thought, we miss our breath, sensations and feelings in our body, and the inner and outer sounds arising and passing away. But anyone who has meditated for a while knows quite well that we can’t simply turn off our thoughts.

Sometimes during meditation, when I’m particularly busy and have a lot on my plate, I slip into planning and stories about what I need to do, how I will do it and when. As my mental formations get stronger, I find it challenging to turn my attention back to my immediate experience. But as soon as I notice anxiety in my body related to planning, I begin to relax and dis-identify from the thoughts. Another simple tool I have found useful is a “story room.” Here is where I store planning, stories and other thoughts about upcoming activities. I close the door to this room, reminding myself I can re-enter after meditation. My mind releases and I return to the moment. Any lingering anxiety about “getting it all done” begins to dissipate and I relax into my present moment experience. Inside and outside dissolve into the simplicity of the breath, sensations, sounds, the suchness of this moment. After mediation, I can reenter my story room with a refreshed mind and open heart. My planning is much more effective.

Daylong Meditation Retreat: Resting in Openhearted Awareness

Saturday, August 27, 9:30 – 3:30
Nashville Friends Meeting
Led by Lisa Ernst

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“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” – Rumi

In this silent retreat we will stabilize attention and deepen concentration through the breath and body, then gradually open our awareness to the boundless space of mind and heart. These practices will help us relax into freedom from our habitual thoughts and patterns and find equanimity in our present moment experience.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this retreat is suitable for newer as well as more experienced meditators. The retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, instructions and dharma talk

Cost: $50, plus dana (generosity donation) to the teacher. A reduced fee spot is available in the case of financial need. The retreat fee can be paid by Paypal here.  Directions and additional information will be emailed prior to the retreat.

Please contact onedharmaretreat@gmail.com with any questions.

Our New Meditation Space

Here are some photos of One Dharma’s new Nashville meditation space. Its spacious, serene and quiet. We also love the raised ceiling and skylight. If you live in or near Nashville and haven’t come by yet, please come see the space in person and join us for meditation. We meet Mondays, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Directions and additional info here.

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Low light for meditation.

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Dharma Talk: The Dancer in The Desert

This dharma talk was inspired by a woman named Marta Beckett who was a professionally trained ballet dancer in New York City. When her car broke down in Death Valley she saw an abandoned old theater and listened to the call of her heart and renovated it. She danced there many years with little to no audience until she was discovered. In the talk I explore how we can devote ourselves fully to our path with love and commitment, rather than seeking results, even when the terrain seems barren. In this way, we open to greater possibilities as unexpected and wonderful surprises often appear along the way.

Making Friends With Your Mind: Getting to Know Self and No-Self

Saturday, July 23, Nashville Friends Meeting
9 a.m. – Noon
Led by Lisa Ernst

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In this half day workshop we will explore in-depth Buddhist teachings of self and no-self. We will learn how meditation can help us identify and befriend our many “selves” while also touching the ineffable freedom of the unconditioned heart and mind. By seeing through the endless flux of identity, we come to rest in compassion, kindness and clarity.

The workshop will include instruction, experiential practice and discussion. Cost is $40 and can be paid by paypal here. Instructions for paying by check are at this link. Please
include your email address. Scholarships are available, inquire at onedharmaretreat@gmail.com