Five Elements / Five Dakinis 3
Dakini practice — a way to refine experience and raise energy.

Session 3Download

Water dakini instructions; Issues of avoidance, flow, clarity

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Section 1

Questions about the practice this morning? Everybody totally clear about earth? Transformation into balance pristine awareness. A couple of things that came up in interviews which I think is probably helpful. First thing, the sequence that we go through in the practice where imagine the dakini, look into the dakini’s eyes, invite the initiation and transformation, etc. You may find, as some of you have, that one or more of these steps is a little difficult to negotiate.

There are usually only two times where we really look into people’s eyes, either when we’re intent on seducing them or we’re intent on killing them. There’s a certain intimacy that comes in either of those interactions.

And so if you have any issues about being seen, or really seeing somebody, they’re quite likely to come up at that point of the practice. And there may be other reactions that come at other points.

In this approach we’re not really concerned with trying to understand or explain or account for those reactions.

We already know enough pop psychology and some of us are actually professional psychologist so we don’t have to dabble with pop psychology. You can dabble with real psychology to be able to come up with sometimes quite sophisticated, but probably quite accurate explanations for those reactions. For our purposes it’s is largely irrelevant. What is not irrelevant, what is very important, is to be present right in the experience of the reaction. All reactions have three components.

 

Section 2

How they manifest physically in the body, which typically there’s a kind of tensing or contraction. There can be actual physical sensations in different parts of the body. Your stomach feels churned, or like it does butterflies. There can be a constriction in the throat. I mean there all kinds of possibilities— your heart can beat faster. There are often…well there are always some—and sometimes some quite strong—physical components to the reaction. And most of the time we aren’t aware of them, which means we aren’t really aware of the reactive process taking place. So in this set of practices that we’re doing, stay very much connected with your body—what is actually happening in my body. Again you don’t have to analyze it or explain it, but be aware of it and actually experience it.

 

Section 3

The same is true at the emotional level. Maybe looking into someone’s eyes triggers fear, maybe it makes you anxious. Maybe you feel squirmy. The sense that someone is seeing you without any judgment may make you acutely aware of your own judgment. I think one of the things came up earlier is a feeling of being special.

And I have one student in LA who’s working with that particular issue at this point. She’s very chagrined about it. Because she sees how much of the way that she relates to the world is coming from holding a feeling that she is in some way special. So it allows her to negotiate a lot of situations very easily. But at the same time there’s a certain pride and feeling of superiority. So that’s something you may watch for.

Maybe a feeling of being naked, revealed, exposed. And there could be a whole other set of reactions connected with that.

 

Section 4

And then there are the stories that come up, which is the third component of reaction. This is the component of reaction that we most often notice and believe immediately. We don’t question it at all. And again someone looking at us, really seeing us and seeing us without judgment, we may say to ourselves, “Look what do they know?” Or, “What does she want?” These are what I mean by stories and they again those thoughts come up, I mean we don’t even question them—we just take them as fact.

But if we’re in touch with the physical and the emotional we may appreciate the fact that these are simply thoughts and ideas and may not have that much grounding in reality. And so now we can experience things very, very differently and experience all of that as, “Oh, this is how I’m reacting to this possibility.” You know all the discomfort, all the stuff is in me, even those intended see the projected out there.

 

Section 5

One way to understand Buddhism is that it’s not about assuaging pain, nor is it about making our lives better. It’s about being awake. Being awake in what we experience. To be awake in what we experience means that we’re going to experience it—whatever it is. Consequence of that is you don’t get to choose what you experience.

This is one of the reasons why we’re observing silence, because you take an element of choice away and now you just get to experience whatever’s there. It’s the same in the practice.

Many of you may want to do the practice one way so that you don’t experience this or do it another way so you don’t experience that. No, you just do the practice as presented so you get to experience whatever is there. Now if it gets too hot in terms of experiencing that then one needs to know how to titrate that so you can actually experience what you have the capacity to experience and you aren’t just overwhelmed, and get lost because that’s not particularly helpful.

But what I’m really talking about here is letting go of an expectation that it is going to be this way or that way. No, it’s just what it is. And when we start practicing this way we begin to see how much we actually ignore about our lives, we’re trying to control it, make it into this or that so it fits. It’s comfortable, doesn’t challenge us. But that’s not the same as being awake.

 

Section 6

Okay. Those were the major points from the interviews. So, any questions that you’d like to ask about the earth practice before we go on to water? Maya.

Maya: The dakini that I’ve visualized it’s started to resemble two people in my life in a very positive way because I, I’ve those qualities that the dakini holds are…those people are both actually dead but very close to me still and they completed me…my, my…is that something I should continue or steer away from? What should I do with it?

Ken: Well, I think it’s fine to draw on experiences in your life to connect with these qualities. But the dakini itself isn’t any particular person, it’s an expression of the natural awareness of your own mind, this particular aspect of. So I suggest that you don’t think of it as a particular person but you can draw on those experiences which helps you to connect with that kind of experience.

Maya: [Unclear] the qualities that they held that….

Ken: Yeah, yeah, right and that can be helpful. Okay, any other questions? Okay. Are you all totally drained by the heat?

Student: Ken?

Ken: Yes.

Student: May I just say something?

Ken: Sure.

Student: If anybody goes down to the pool, the pool is about sixty degrees, that totally cools you.

Ken: Oh, okay.

Student: So, it’s there.

Ken: The swimming pool?

Student: Yeah.

Ken: It’s that cool is it?

Student: It is that cold.

Ken: Sixty degrees in the pool. So if you’re really getting hot it will cool things out very quickly.

Student: Ken there’s going to be a bunch of kids in there between 2:00 and 5:00.

Student: There are kids at 1:00 too.

Student: Oh okay, well I know they [unclear] was telling the principle that between 3:00 and 5:00 they’re [unclear]….

Ken: …using it.

Ken: Okay. Water dakini.

 

Section 7

Okay, water dakini. I think we’ll do this the other way around, first I’m going to lead you through guided meditation, then we’ll go through it step by step, then take up discussion and questions, and then this evening at the beginning of the meditation I’ll go through another guided meditation. So it’s going to give you three times through it. It’s what George Bernard Shaw said about writing plays. First you have an actor come on to tell the audience what’s going to happen, then you have the rest of the actors come on and do it, and then you have another actor come on and tell the audience what actually just happened. Maybe someone in the audience gets it. Okay.

So let’s just take a few minutes, let mind and heart and body settle.

[Pause]

And then imagine or feel that your body, as before, is like a rainbow, or everything is like a dream, things appear vividly, but not substantial.

And in this dream, a woman appears before you—water dakini. She has a very different feel from the earth dakini. The water element is associated with clarity.

So this is perhaps like the crystal clarity of a day in winter after the snow has fallen and now the sky is blue and everything is just very very clear.

She is clad in white. Very pure white like newly fallen snow. And when you look at her and you get this sensation, or intimation, of extraordinary clarity of mind, clarity in feelings. There’s just no confusion here at all. Not even the possibility of confusion.

And you look into her eyes, she looks into yours, and you see that crystal clarity in her eyes. And you just know that she sees things clearly. Exactly as they are.

And again, you may find this a little intimidating—really nowhere to hide.

So let yourself feel that. Very powerful, present woman, clad in brilliant white. And she sees you in total clarity, without any sense of threat, how do you respond?

And you know you’re here to transform the water reaction. So you make a gesture or you indicate in some way your intention to do so. And she responds, taking a step towards you, raising her flask, which she holds in her left hand, made of crystal, and again it’s filled with liquified light which she pours into you.

And it comes down the center of your body, radiating light into your body, down through the throat, and through the heart, down to the water center, which is about half way between the solar plexus and the navel. And you can feel it enter there.

And as it enters there you become aware of all the ways that you react in water. The way that you gently evade a question, or deflect a question, or encompass what the other person is saying or doing so it becomes part of your world. They’ve moved into your world, you don’t have to go into theirs. Other words you dissipate any energy, anything which may disturb or disrupt the way you want to experience the world.

And as you feel that quality of dissipating, or deflecting, or evading, encompassing, you become aware that part of you at least is feeling threatened, possibly even attacked, so you feel that. Maybe there are physical, emotional, conceptual components associated with that.

And underneath that feeling of being threatened or attacked, you’re feeling that if you don’t do this [dissipation, etc.] you’re just going to be engulfed, you’re going to be swept away, overtaken. It’s like you’re standing right at the edge of a fast flowing river and your feet are in the water and you can feel the current pulling at you and you don’t do something you’re just going to be swept away. Or maybe you’re in the surf, and like the wave is just about to pick you up and carry you, or the tide, or the current—so you feel that fear.

And as you touch that fear, there is a surge, that like gotta dissipate this energy, get it out of here. So you start to wriggle away from it, or deflect it, or try and do something. But as your efforts become more and more extreme you find you’ve run out of room, you can’t do any more. And you feel frozen and you can’t avoid it.

So now you try even harder to evade, deflect.

So these are the components of the water reaction. And let yourself feel all of them, all of them at the same time. And you’re aware of the elixir pouring into your body. And imagine light shining from the water center. And it illumines your body and it illumines all of these reactions. So they become clearer, more vivid for you. And eventually they become so bright that they just become energy, they become light themselves.

And now a strange thing happens. Something shifts. And you find that feeling of attack or a threat is gone. You’re just there. And there’s a clarity which you didn’t know before. It’s a clarity that doesn’t depend on anything. It’s a clarity you find within your experience.

Allows you to see things just as they are. Like reflections in a mirror. And at the water center, a mirror forms.

And now you look at your experience, and open to your experience, as if everything you experience was a reflection in a mirror. When you look at the awareness of the mind, you find that it is totally clear. No thing there but complete clarity.

So you rest in that clarity for a few minutes. Just experiencing whatever’s there.

Then light shines from your heart. Invites the water dakinis from everything that you experience, and they come flooding towards you, and there are thousands, pouring their elixir into you so your whole being is suffused with this liquid light of awareness. And then they all dissolve into you, including the one you originally visualized.

And you are so filled with light that you yourself become light and you rest in the light.

Then you form the intention to come here back into this room. Do so. And the light comes with you.

 

Section 8

Okay, that’s the water reaction.

In terms of the seasons, it’s connected with winter, where the earth is connected with fall. It’s also connected with anger, a little bit, whereas earth is connected with pride.

Student: Where is this connected, with the book?

Ken: Earth is connected with pride.

That is you’re feeling attacked, you’re trying to control your experience, trying to make it go the way you want, it doesn’t work, you get a little irritated by this. There is a clarity in the experience of anger. When you’re angry everything arises as opposition. But if you drop the opposition then everything arises like a reflection in a mirror, it’s just there.

A lot of people have difficulty sometimes connecting with this notion of dispersing energy. And tomorrow when we do our exercises we’ll get this in the body but….

Any of you know a very skilled party hostess for a party? They are usually extremely good at water. As are most sales people. What does a sales person do? It doesn’t matter what you say. They just take it, and it becomes part of the sales pitch. And you just get carried away by it. That’s what a good sales person does. Same with a good hostess at a cocktail party or something like that, you say something, “Oh no you don’t want to talk with him, you want to talk with this person over there.” And suddenly you are just moved over there, and you don’t even realize anything has happened.

Another you can get in touch with what the water reaction is like, is when someone with whom you want to stay connected asks you a question you don’t want to answer. What do you do? You squirm right? Wriggle. Try to deflect the question, not answer it really clearly. Politicians have to do this, or I don’t know whether if they have to do this. They do this very regularly with the press. Bill Clinton was a perfect example of water. He was very good at it, but it caught him in the end.

Another way that a lot of people do water is they just blend. So they appear to go along with, so there is no sense of opposition.

My favorite quote on water these days is, “The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even dead fish go with the flow.”

And there’s a lot to be said. I mean there are many companies where there is the company way of doing things—actually a lot of companies—and if you don’t do it that way then you never really become part of the company. But they have a very definite way of doing things—that’s the water element. Ways you speak, ways that you get things done and so forth.

 

Section 9

Now let’s go back to the situation where there’s someone that you want to stay connected with, with whom you want to stay connected, but they ask you this question which you don’t want to answer. Maybe you don’t want to answer it because you fear it’s going to break the connection, or maybe it’s something you don’t want to acknowledge, or admit or whatever. But you don’t want to tell them they’re incorrect, maybe they are incorrect, but for whatever reason you don’t want to go there.

And they keep asking you this question. It begins to feel like an attack. It’s coming into your territory. And you’re trying to divert it and do that. Anybody know this situation? Okay.

So there you have the deflection or dispersion, and underneath that the feeling of being threatened or attacked. Very often, in fact most of the time, we’re not really being attacked, but there’s something we’re trying to protect. It feels like we’re trying to protect something, and that’s being attacked so we go into that defensive mode. It’s very different from earth where you just say,“None of your business.” You go, “Well you know, can we talk about something else?” You know, “That’s not really important.” Try to get out of it that way.

But if they persist, the panic in us starts to arise, and it feels like this huge wave is coming at us. And of course as soon as that happens, as soon as we get that feeling—and that’s the emptiness aspect—then we start trying to dodge and weave even more. And eventually find we don’t have any place to go. And we become frozen.

And then they ask us one more time and we go through the whole cycle yet again. And it’s all about avoiding. Finding a way to try to flow around the situation.

And I said earlier Buddhism is not about assuaging pain, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here, we’re trying to minimize pain the amount of pain for ourselves and the other person. And it doesn’t work.

Now when we open to all of that, we just experience it as it is, we come to know that it can’t work this way. That’s the beginning of clarity.

 

Section 10

A lot of people, in terms of Buddhist practice and probably other areas of their lives, either explicitly or implicitly take the approach that “I’d like to find some clarity and some peace or equanimity or whatever other quality and bring that to this situation.” And so they go off and meditate, and they get nice and peaceful and then they try to bring that kind of peace and clarity to the situation. How well does this work? In my experience it doesn’t work very well at all. Because as soon as we engage the situation, all of that peace and clarity’s gone. Because a whole bunch of other stuff which we haven’t worked through in our meditation is suddenly up. The military have a proverb or an adage about this. “The best designed battle plans last until first contact with the enemy.”

The approach in Buddhism is not to try to bring peace and clarity to a situation. It is to find the clarity in the situation. To find our own clarity in it. It’s always there.

Yesterday I talked about how we can regard all experience as being composed of the five elements, and water is the clarity aspect. So because experience isn’t something out there, it’s awareness and experience together. That clarity aspect is always there but is often obscured. What we’re doing here is working with a method in which we can uncover clarity in the experience.

And so this elixir that comes into us symbolizes raising the level of attention. And we raise the level of attention by experiencing what’s actually there. Without getting lost in it. And in that process we will at some point discover our clarity, like, “Oh.” And things just become clearer, our mind becomes clearer. That’s the transformation. It doesn’t come from outside.

When that clarity arises, what was previously causing us so much confusion, because we were trying to manage it or control it in some way, and we were getting irritated because it wasn’t going our way, now simply appears to us, to use the traditional phrase, like reflections in a mirror. It’s just there. And as I was saying yesterday, when you look at a mirror you don’t see the mirror. You see the reflections. When you look at experience you don’t see mind. You see what arises in experience. But just as those reflections arise in the mirror, they don’t’ exist, so our experience arises in mind. So when we were looking at experience we’re actually looking at our mind.

So here we enter into no separation. This is our mind that we are looking at.

There is no separation. Because there is no separation there’s no attack, there is no threat. So we see things clearly. And as it says in the Heart Sutra, “because there is no obscuration, there is no fear.”

And so a whole new set of possibilities opens up, because of that clarity. Then the latter part of the process is reinforcing that sense of clarity and explicitly reminding ourselves that it’s present in every aspect of experience. That’s why we invite dakinis from everything we experience. And we come to rest in that clarity. And this is mirror-like pristine awareness. Where we do not experience separation from experience, but experience arises with the clarity of reflections in a mirror.

Now in one sense, this sounds very difficult. And I don’t particularly encourage you to try to see things as reflections in a mirror. That’s too literal and it won’t work. And if you are able to do it that way, you’re probably going a little crazy.

What I have found is that it can be very helpful just to look at a mirror. And just go back and forth between looking at the reflections, and just seeing them there, and then saying to yourself, “I’m looking in a mirror but I don’t see the mirror.” So you become aware of the mirror in that way. So you go back and forth between the mirror and the reflections, the mirror and the reflections. You do that a few times. And something begins to let go inside. Now after you’ve done that a few times then just take a look at what you’re actually experiencing, saying, “Okay, I don’t see it, but I’m actually right now looking at my mind.” And you may find there’s a little shift there and you experience things in a different way. That could be very useful.

Now it’s not entirely comfortable doing that, because there’s a certain groundlessness that enters in very quickly. You know, “If all of this is my mind, what’s out there?” Well there’s a little problem there because there isn’t any out there, there. Apologies to Gertrude Stein.

 

Section 11

Okay. Questions? Mary what has this to do with positive thinking? [Laughter]

Mary: I don’t know.

Ken: Dear.

Mary: I don’t know. As you were describing that, I was thinking of an interaction between, say, a husband and wife. And I was trying to get up over this mirror and just saying it’s mine and—

Ken: Yeah.

Mary: …we want looking for clarity in the situation.

Ken: Yeah.

Mary: This interaction between person, you know, A and B.

Ken: So you’re the wife right? You’re the wife right? Where’s the husband?

Mary: Right there. We’re interacting, talking about—

Ken: What is the husband?

Mary: Pardon?

Ken: What is the husband?

Mary: He’s there, I mean it’s—

Ken: No but what does the husband consist of?

Mary: Skin and flesh and bones.

Ken: I don’t think so. Those are all projections.

Mary: He’s there…I mean he’s right—.

Ken: Nah, I don’t agree.

Mary: Pardon?

Ken: I don’t agree at all.

Mary: Okay.

Ken: There’s a certain set of physical sensations, visual sensations there, for you. Right? They have a certain shape, somewhat familiar.

Mary: Right.

Ken: You’ve been living together for a while, so you’re familiar with that. But there’s physical sensations, visual ones, probably some auditory ones which we call the sound of his voice and so forth.

Mary: Right.

Ken: So there’s just a bunch of sensory sensations. And a lot of associations which you call your husband.

Mary: Right.

Ken: Okay. Now you’re having an interaction with these sensations. Now whose sensations are they?

Mary: I’m reacting to what I hear and see.

Ken: Yes, but whose sensations are they?

Mary: Mine.

Ken: They’re yours. So there’s these sensory sensations that arise and they’re triggering associations with you and they’re in conflict with another set of experiences within you. Right?

Mary: Right, yeah.

Ken: That’s where the conflict is.

Mary: Right.

Ken: It’s not between you and your husband.

Mary: Okay. But where is the mirror?

Ken: Well, now just open to all of this.

Mary: Pardon me?

Ken: Open to all of this. You have this set of sensations which you associate with arising here, and that sense of sensations which you associate with arising there, and they’re not agreeing with each other. But they’re all yours. So what are you going to do about that?

Mary: Look for clarity.

Ken: How are you going to find clarity?

Mary: By being open to the experience?

Ken: Yeah, by getting right into the mess.

Mary: By feeling the pain?

Ken: Yes! Because that’s what you’re trying to ignore, isn’t it? You’re trying to get away from.

Mary: I guess so, yeah.

Ken: Yeah, because you don’t want to experience this conflict.

Mary: Right, I want it to go another way. So…

Ken: You want it to go another way. You want this set of sensations to conform to something over here. So if you would just turn like this, then we could do this. But you’re going like this and we can’t do that.

Mary: Right.

Ken: Right? Well what if you turn like this? Or what if you turn like this and those turn like this?

Mary: Well yes I mean I’m familiar with that, but the idea of…I guess for clarity is to stop and feel it.

Ken: Feel it, and when you open to all of it without the prejudice of “This is me and that isn’t me.” You follow? Where it’s just all arising like reflections. See a mirror is completely impartial, it reflects whatever is there. Okay. Right now in this situation you’re talking about—you’re not being completely impartial, there’s a preferred set.

Mary: Right.

Ken: Okay. What if you just open to all of it?

Mary: Right.

Ken: Okay. Now it’s not going to go “your way”, you understand?

Mary: Right. No, but I understand what you’re saying.

Ken: Okay, yeah, but that’s how you find clarity is by opening to the whole thing. You find clarity within the situation.

Mary: But for you to say that my husband is not there right now you’re saying his behavior is what I perceive as him—that’s the illusion. But he’s there physically.

Ken: We’ll come back to that. That’s certainly how we experience it right now but whether that’s actually the case that’s a bigger matter. Yes, I don’t suggest you tell your husband he’s not really there! [Laughter] That could be problematic.

 

Section 12

Ken: Other questions? Bill.

Bill: Well you just deconstructed various experiences. What’s the difference between what you just described and so called constructivism. Because I see that you’re playing footsies under the table.

Ken: There’s quite a big difference. The whole deconstruction philosophy is essentially an intellectual exercise. One could describe Buddhism as actually experiencing it that way. That makes a huge difference. We take things seriously. You see, it’s not just an idea. As long as it’s in the intellectual domain it’s completely subject to emotional agendas. Which is the whole point of postmodern deconstruction, okay? And the contradictions within postmodernism come because it is primarily intellectual. If one actually moves into this way of experiencing, develops the ability to experience things this way, it’s no longer an intellectual game. And very very different things happen because you see clearly what is and is not possible.

And the reason it’s not the same as deconstructionism because in postmodern there is a complete negation, as far as I know, of any sense of ability to know things as they are. That all knowing is dependent.

Bill: That’s right. Yeah.

Ken: Okay, what you’re actually cultivating here is to know things are they are.

Bill: Yeah.

Ken: So it may look like but in the experience and the action of it it’s totally different. That makes sense to you?

Bill: Yes it’s the one thing that I always struggle with that way of deconstructing is it really…to me it gets into a place of nihilism where you can take that experience and a constructivist meaning making words but underneath it is just an experience but in living it there’s places that guide us, that have a sense of—

Ken: Yeah.

Bill: …rightness, morality, of compassion, and so a little bit of what I was wondering if that when I’m involved with my own spouse and all that’s going on there’s something in and underneath of caring compassion, hoping the best.

Ken: Right. So here’s a question….

Bill: Which I really resent when deconstruction they try to tear that down and just say no that’s all just conditioned reflex.

Ken: Yes, and they’re quite wrong on that point.

Bill: Right.

Ken: Here’s a question for you. You’re dreaming. You know that you are dreaming, you know that everything you experience is a dream, and in your dream a woman comes up to you in tears. And says that her child has just died. What do you do?

Bill: Well my first that I’ll do is I’ll experience probably some kind of sorrow or loss…empathy.

Ken: Yeah, but you know it’s a dream. Now almost everybody answers the way you did, and they would say that I would console her.

Bill: Or that would be my other option.

Ken: Yeah, but you would console her because you experience loss and pain etc. And I remind people it’s a dream, why don’t you just walk away? Nobody does that.

Bill: Yeah.

Ken: You know why? Because it’s your dream. And in your dream you can’t walk away. This is the difference between deconstruction. It’s not saying it doesn’t exist. It’s a different relationship with it. This is our world of experience. We have…and when you look at things as a dream, when you look at things this way, as just your world of experience, it eliminates the possibility of ignoring anything.

Bill: Because it’s your dream.

Ken: Because it is your dream. It’s Your experience. You cannot ignore anything. So even when you are experiencing a great deal of conflict with your husband, you still have to relate to it because that is your experience. And to do so in a way in which you’re trying to minimize the pain often leads to more and more conflict. Sometimes you just have to deal with it very clearly and directly. And it’s eliminating that kind of confusion which is the objective of these kinds of practices. Does this make sense to you?

Bill: Yeah, yeah.

 

Section 13

Student: Could I ask a question?

Ken: Of course [unclear].

Student: Suppose you’re in this and you have some awareness of this and practice and you are in conflict and you are experiencing the totality of that conflict and you are trying or whether you are indeed breathing through the experience and the conflict reoccurs, and reoccurs, and reoccurs the next day. And it’s not a dream it’s your living reality. I mean it’s a reality that keeps going on and on and you can breath through it as much as you want and you can try do deal with it as compassionately as you want or as you are able but the reality is this stuff that’s there.

Ken: Well, we have to go a step further.

Student: Okay. [unclear].

Ken: Okay, want all of you to take a situation in the last week, last day, maybe last month in which there was some conflict or some difference of opinion and you sought to, as most of us do in these kinds of situations, you sought to minimize the pain on all sides. Right? That’s what most of us do. I want you to go back and recall how you felt in that situation.

Now for me usually if I’m trying to minimize the pain, I’m doing a lot of water. I’m not being completely clear with the person, I’m not demanding that they be completely clear with me were just trying to sort of work through this without anybody really getting hurt right? And that’s what we do in most situations. Is this familiar to anybody here?

Okay. Now I want you to take the same situation and imagine not being concerned with minimizing pain but being concerned with being awake in the situation. Or to put it another way: be concerned not with minimizing pain but ending the suffering. Just ending the suffering. What would you do?

Student: Sometimes you have to then go to the sword I think.

Ken: Of course.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: You have to go to the sword.

Student: You have to go to the sword.

Ken: Yes, and some cases you will. But you can feel the difference between minimizing pain and ending suffering. Okay? There’s a very big difference there—that’s the point. Buddhism is not concerned with minimizing pain, it’s concerned with ending suffering. But it brings up all kinds of things into question that we normally don’t want to bring into question. You follow?

Student: Yeah.

Ken: Okay. Many years ago I had an office in a building, it was a very nice building to have an office in, and there was a social worker who ran a business with workers with disability, and a bunch of psychotherapists in the building. And she was really, really irritated by one of the psychotherapists who she was convinced had this cash cow of a client. She would pick up the client’s daughters from school and take them home and bill for all of these hours.

[Murmurs]

I know so it was not bad if you could live with it. And so anyway my friend would regularly complain about this, I was on the second floor so I didn’t have to interact with this particular psychotherapist, she was in the office next. And it just irritated her no end. And she would pick them up from school, bring them, have sessions with the two teenage daughters, and them take them home and all of that would be billable time. This been going on for years.

And so she would complain about this to me quite regularly when we would get together and eventually I just said to her look you have three choices: you can take action, you can let it go, or you can suffer. Those are your three choices. And most situations come down to those three choices. You know, are you going to do something about it to stop? Do you want to change the situation? Or are you going to let it go? Or are you going to exist in this limbo where you’re just going to suffer?

And cultivation of clarity is about not taking that third option. We either really let it go or we take action. We don’t just sit there and suffer and cause lots of other people to suffer in the process.

 

Section 14

Okay, you have a question?

Student: Well yeah sort of I was thinking out very loudly so where I suspect I would get into trouble is when I start imagining, like I think, well maybe taking action is going to cause the other person suffering. But that’s just my projection.

Ken: Not necessarily. Oh, we’re over already are we? Yes thank you. We need to close here because we need to do the Heart Sutra as well. But let me answer this question. Our actions may very well disrupt the other person’s world and there may be repercussions from that. So taking action is not a trivial matter and we need to be very clear about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it, and so forth. But again, that ability and clarity is precisely what we’re trying to cultivate. Many situations you can see precisely what to do but you know is it worth it? In the sense that it’s going to disrupt their lives, the repercussions are going to disrupt yours. Doing you really want to engage in that conflict?

Another thing that I find important is to distinguish between hurting another person and causing them harm. There are many things when we have interactions we may say something or do something out of clarity which they will experience as pain. But it may or may not be harmful to them and to my mind, if we struggle to avoid ever hurting people, that’s like trying to minimize pain. I take it, my own set of values is to avoid harming people, which is a very different [unclear]. Okay? Okay, let’s….