Identifying what you want to do and what prevents you from doing it. Recording in Los Angeles in February, 2008.
Four Foundations For Success Download
Interest in understanding things; persistence that continues after exploration; close attention to genesis and causation (and the difference between the two); creativity in framing questions (and reversing the six forms of mind-killing as a way to develop them)
Part two. So before we go on to part two, I’m just going to make a couple of comments. One of the things that would be good—and I should have mentioned this before the break—is in the blanks here. You might note, what are the things that get in your way? Which fall under willingness? Which fall under capacity? Which fall under know-how? That’s going to give you a bit of a map about how to work this stuff.
The second thing…I just want to tidy up a little bit. What does willingness look like? It’s the things like confidence, courage, clarity. Know-how is skill-building, training. Capacity, we’ve discussed many of these. They’re things like attention, intention, intelligence, people, time, money. These are the kinds of things that would fall under capacity.
Each of these three aspects are very addressable. Willingness can be developed. As Randye just pointed out to me during the break, willingness is primarily in the emotional arena. So in developing willingness you’re going to be working with emotional issues most of the time. I hesitate to say all of the time, because somebody always comes up with an exception.
Know-how, this can be trained. You can learn. You can learn how to do things. That isn’t simply intellectual, because sometimes you have to get the body to learn how to do things. To move in certain ways for certain kinds of skills, like music and so forth. But know-how is something you can learn. And capacity can be built, or developed, or grown. Whichever way you want to look at it. But you cannot learn capacity. You can learn how to develop capacity, but then you have to develop it. You can’t learn capacity. Okay? You can address all of the emotional issues that you want. But if you don’t have the capacity to do what you want, it’s not going to help you.
So these are three distinct areas. Each of which needs to be addressed in its own way. But that’s very doable. It just helps to keep it straight, so we aren’t confusing, applying the way of addressing one to one of the other ones. That’s not going to work. [Chuckle]
Now, part two proper. What we’re going to focus on in part two are the four foundations of success. Now, this is not worldly success. This is success in being able to make things happen, whatever you choose.
Success—well, I’ve just used the phrase, worldly success—is defined by the eight worldly concerns. Some of you are familiar with these: happiness-unhappiness, gain-loss, fame-obscurity, respect and disdain. So that a person who is happy, wealthy, famous, and respected, we usually say, “This is a success.” A person who is unhappy, poor, obscure, and disdained, we usually say is a failure. These are the criteria for success and failure that are defined by society. It’s why we have the wonderful phrase in Buddhism, “The winds of the eight worldly concerns.”
There’s a lovely story from China about the Chan master who went to see a professor who loudly proclaimed wherever he went that he was free from the winds of the eight worldly concerns. So he went to his residence. Knocked on the door. He wasn’t home. He went in, took out a piece of paper and wrote an exquisite calligraphy—we’ll call the professor, Professor Li—“Professor Li is a fart,” and left it on Professor Li’s desk. Went back to his place, which was on the other side of the Yangtze River.
Well Professor Li arrived home, saw this, and could tell immediately who wrote it by the calligraphy. Stormed out of his house. Went down to the Yangtze River, and rented a ferry, got across. Stormed into the Chan master’s house and said, waving the piece of paper, “How dare you write this? Don’t you know who I am?” And the Chan master said, “Oh, yes, certainly I’ve heard of Professor Li. The great Professor Li who is free from the winds of the eight worldly concerns. But it seems he’s been blown across the Yangtze River by a little puff of air.” [Laughter]
Success in the way that we’re talking about here is simply the ability to implement your intention. In other words, to bring what you want to see happen into being. Now this is very important from a spiritual point of view.
My friend, Stephen Batchelor, gave a series of talks which are available on the web on the life of Buddha, which I found very, very illuminating and very enjoyable. And it’s a complete demythification of the life of Buddha. But at the beginning of the series, he talks about the word meditation, and what one is actually doing. The word in Sanskrit and Pali actually doesn’t mean meditation at all, apparently. But it has the quality of bringing something into being. And then Stephen asks, “Well what are we bringing into being?” And he says, “We’re bringing our path of life into being.”
And I found this very helpful, because from the Tibetan tradition there’s tremendous emphasis on pathas a theme. There is in all Buddhism, but it’s really emphasized in Tibetan Buddhism. But it’s often presented as inThe Path—and I’m going to do this, and then this, and then this, and then this. This is completely contrary to my own experience, both in terms of my own practice, but also in terms of my work with students. Because I had to throw out the traditional path, because it really didn’t work for me. And it doesn’t work for most of the people I work with. And there may be a little bit of cause and effect in there but we won’t go into that. We’re very much bringing our path into being, our path through life of which meditation is a way that we build the capacity to tread that path.
So success, from this point of view, is very important for us. Because are we successful in bringing that path, or finding our path in life. And what is the characteristic of that path in life? It’s what I was saying at the beginning. We find a way to live without struggle. This is what it means to put an end to suffering.
And that has very important ramifications for us. But you know very well that when you’re not struggling, then you’re able to truly assist others in not struggling as well. But as long as one is struggling, one’s not really that available to help others. So the ability to end suffering very much begins with ourselves finding a way to live without struggle. And I don’t mean just materially. I mean the whole catastrophe, all the internal stuff, etc. And then we have a huge capacity of free attention, which we can then bring to the benefit of others.
So we’re going to talk about and explore now, the four foundations of success, which is on page two of the handouts. This I came across when I was reading a book by a very good Theravadan teacher who lives further south from here, Thanissaro Bhikkhu or Ajahn Geoff. Some of you probably know him. He writes prolifically, and he’s—yes, I saw that—has a really, really deep mastery of the Theravadan literature. And is just able to bring all of this stuff together in ways which I think are just very, very good. So I recommend him. I mean it’s very traditional stuff, but there’s a grounded common-sense quality in all that he writes. And he applies his understanding to the pricking of a number of illusions and sources of confusion that are very popular these days. So, this comes from one of his writings. And no doubt he’s got it from one or the other of the Pali texts.
So the four foundations are, Interest in understanding things.
You’re not going to be able to bring something into being if you aren’t willing—this goes straight to willingness, of course—to understand how things actually work. Because, to use a Biblical analogy, otherwise you’re going to be building a house on sand. An activity which I have a great deal of practical experience with. [Chuckles]
Secondly, Persistence that continues after the exploration.
A lot of us get terribly interested in something, and then we find out a certain amount about it, and then that’s it. We don’t actually take it to the next step where we learn it with enough detail and enough thoroughness to really know how to work in that arena. And that can be, you know, finance, it can be martial arts, it can be music, it can be painting, it can be project management, etc. And in any area of life there’s always interesting stuff, and really understanding how it works requires going a step deeper than just learning about it. One actually has to do something and work in it. Because if you don’t work in that particular milieu, you don’t really understand. It’s always from the outside.
That leads to the third one, which is, Close attention to genesis and conditions.
And that’s one of the areas I want to focus on in this part two.
And the last one is Creativity in framing questions, which is a huge topic. And I’ve only taken one particular approach, but I hope you’ll find it helpful.
Now as I was putting this together, I thought, “You know, this is interesting. These correspond to another framework that I use more in connection with the power. Which we’ll be working with in the spring retreat very explicitly. They’re the four steps of standing up.
You have to show up in the situation, otherwise you’re not going to be able to stand up in it if you’re not there. Then you have to open to what is. You serve what is true to the limit of your perception. We can’t do any more than that. The limit of perception defines what we can know at a given moment of time. And then receive the result. Sometimes it goes the way that we thought it would. Sometimes it doesn’t. But whatever it is we receive it and work from there.
Well in a certain sense, show up corresponds to interest and understanding things. Excuse me. [Coughing] Opening means that we’re willing to go deeper and open to the fullness of the thing. That’s the persistence that continues after the exploration. In order to be able to serve what is true, you’re going to have to pay close attention to genesis and conditions.
And this last one is a bit of a stretch, but Creativity in framing questions. You’ve got to let go of assumptions if you’re going to be creative. You’ve got to let go of how you’re used to looking at things. And it’s that quality of letting go of control that is characteristic of receiving the result. You’re just, ”Okay, this is what happened. Now what do I do now?“ rather than, ”How can I make it better for me?“
But right now I want to focus very much on genesis and conditions. The key thing here is to distinguish between genesis and conditions. Now those of you familiar with karma as it’s usually taught in Buddhism, know very well that karma’s usually described as cause and effect. This has always struck me as a very misleading and I now feel that it’s a completely incorrect translation. It’s why cause and effect, the way that we understand it in Western culture— I mean the average person not the philosopher, because philosophers make everything more complicated—is you put your foot on the accelerator, and the car goes faster. You put your foot on the brake and the car slows down, unless there’s something wrong with your brakes. And then the wall slows you down very quickly. So that’s what we mean by cause and effect. I do x: y happens. Very important in science. Establishing cause and effect is extremely important in terms of treating disease, for instance. And there’s the age-old adage, ”Correlation does not equal causation,“ which is a good thing to keep in mind. Just thinking that because two things occur together doesn’t mean that one causes the other. They both may come from something else.
And this takes us into the area of genesis. Cause and genesis are very, very different. The increase in speed in the automobile is caused by my putting my foot on the accelerator, but the genesis of it is the increased amount of gas and oxygen going into the cylinders. So more stuff burns. So genesis refers to what things actually grow from. An easier way to think about genesis is an acorn. An acorn is the genesis of an oak tree. In English we do not say that the acorn causes the oak tree. We would say of course, it’s a seed, but I’m looking for more general terms, so that’s why I’ve chosen the term genesis, even though it’s a wonderfully old-fashioned word.
But a genesis by itself, may or may not grow into a result. You take that acorn, and you put it on the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. Not a hell of a lot’s going to happen. There’s no soil. There may be water, but it just runs off. There isn’t the right kind of shelter, because it’s getting blasted by the sun and frozen at night. The conditions aren’t right. So in addition to genesis, we need to have the right conditions. Now conditions are closer to what we call causes in ordinary English. But—and this is typical Buddhist logic in the way that we think about things in Buddhism—there are usually many causes. Again, Carol, can I borrow Wake Up to Your Life? I didn’t know I was going to need this book so much. A friend of mine, a good friend of mine, when he first got the book, he didn’t read anything except the Nasrudin stories. [Laughter] And then he sent me a note saying, ”I love your book.“ [Laughter]
”What is fate?“ Nasrudin was asked by a scholar.
”An endless succession of intertwined events, each influencing the other.“
”That’s hardly a satisfactory answer,“ said the scholar. ”I believe in cause and effect.“
See, right on topic.
”Very well,“ said the mullah, ”Look at that.“ He pointed to a procession passing in the street. ”That man is being taken to be hanged. Is that because someone gave him a silver piece and enabled him to buy the knife with which he committed the murder, or because someone saw him do it, or because nobody stopped him?“
So in Buddhism, if I take a brick, and I throw it at the window, thank you, and the window breaks. In Western thought, you’d say, ”Ken, you broke the window.“ And I would say, ”Well, no, I practice Buddhism. That’s not accurate. It was really the glass maker who’s the problem. Because he did not make the glass thick enough. But also the brick maker had something to do with it. Because the brick was cooked too long and was too hard, and it didn’t crumble upon impact. And actually, you know, it’s really the vitamin maker, because I had my vitamins this morning and that caused me to throw it with all my strength. And if I didn’t have that much strength, then I wouldn’t have broken the window.“ There are many, many different factors or conditions. And everything is like that. So we have the genesis, which is what really…things really grow out of. And then we have the conditions, which are necessary for that thing to grow, but aren’t the thing itself.
So we go back to our acorn. It needs moisture in the ground so the shell of the acorn softens, activates the genes, which then start doing their little number. And starts absorbing the moisture and minerals from the soil. And it needs a certain amount of warmth so that the whole process doesn’t just freeze in the process. And then it needs sunlight, which then starts turning the chlorophyll…or [unclear] then the chlorophyll turns carbon dioxide into oxygen. And roots go down and extract minerals and all of this stuff. And after, you know, four hundred years you have an oak tree. It doesn’t happen overnight.
So what I want us to do now is to break up into groups, and they can be the same or different. And you might as well take the opportunity to get to know more people here. So different groups. And we’re going to use the same format, maybe not quite as rushed as we were. Because we don’t have quite so much to do here.
And I want you to take one of the things that gets in your way. That’s why I asked you to take notes. And talk about what’s the genesis and what are the conditions. So you may want to take some time right now to think about that. What’s the genesis of that problem? What are the conditions that allow it to flourish in your life? [Chuckles] This is applying these four factors of success to our exercise, our work today. And the point of this is to give you a little practical experience in actually applying them. You’ll be able to apply them elsewhere, but I want, just want—and we’re going to throw in the next bit, because I like to make this a rich thing—is creative questions. The other two people in your group are going to ask creative questions. So this will be a way for them to practice this.
So if you turn again to your handouts, and I know this is a great deal all at once. That’s why we’re going to have a little more time. I thought, ”Okay, how do you form, how do you be creative in asking questions?“ Well, I have a mathematical background, and mathematics is all about solving problems. So one of the techniques for solving problems is, if you can’t figure out how to do something, you try to figure out what would prevent that something from coming about. So when I asked myself, ”Okay, how do you come up with creative questions?“ I asked myself, ”Okay, what prevents creative questions or creativity from coming about?“ That one I could answer very easily. There are many things, but one of the ways, and again this is something we’ll be talking about in the power retreat, are the six forms of mind-killing. Or you can say creativity-killing. And we’ve been exposed to eight years of this in this country. [Chuckles] Very powerfully. And they’re listed at the bottom of the page on page two: marginalization, framing, seduction, alignment, reduction and polarization.
Let me explain each of these.
Marginalization means saying, ”That’s not important.“ It’s put on the margin, and so it’s not given attention. Now, I can’t remember, I think it was either Azimov or Einstein who said, ”The really important words in science are not ‘eureka’ but ’Huh, that’s funny.’“ [Laughter] Because there you’ve discovered something, and now you explore it. So many people say, ”Oh that’s funny. Oh, that’s not important.“ They’ve missed the opportunity.
And a very powerful form of argument is to dismiss the importance of what the other person is saying. So if somebody says, ”Well x, y, and z. I need to consider those.“ You say, ”Those aren’t important. We’re paying attention to this.“ And now you’ve defined the frame. And what is important to them isn’t even being considered. They’ve lost, right there. It’s a form of mind-killing.
What’s important here is how often do various voices in you say, ”That’s not important?“ I mean how many of you have got into relationships you’ve later regretted? Only one or two people, wow! [Chuckles] Okay. How many of you when you look back, recognize the warning signs right at the beginning? [Chuckles] And guess what you said, ”That’s not important. [Laughter] Marginalization. So this is the way our patterns work on us internally as well.
The second one is framing. Framing refers to framing the issue in such a way that the questions that you don’t want asked can’t be asked. That is, they just don’t exist. So I referred earlier to the dominance of financial perspectives. In Harvard Business School they refer to any emotional considerations as poetry. [Chuckles] And so somebody gives an answer to a question and they say, “He’s being very poetic, isn’t he?” Bang! This stuff’s gone! [Chuckles] So the frame is that of money and anything that doesn’t fit into that has no value and can’t even be talked about. That’s an example. Now you can see how this kills creativity.
Seduction. Seduction refers to the technique of saying, “If you do this, all your dreams will be answered.” This is what is at the base of every cult. And again it is a exploitation of your own aspirations, your own wishes, that the other person now takes over, saying, “You’re going to get exactly what you wanted if you do what I do. What I want you to do.” But you never get that. You just get to do what they want you to do and…
Again, looking at our patterns. How many of you run across, “Well if you just do this, you’ll get what you’ve always wanted?” Though usually it doesn’t turn out that way.
The next one is alignment, and that is the presentation of, “You have to do this in order to survive.” So it’s different. It’s not about the fulfilment of dreams. It’s about, this is what you’re going to need to do in order to survive. You get this in law firms, in medical school or engineering school, I’ve come across it…young engineers. Things like saying, “Well you know, this is what we learned in school.” And the old guy says, “If you want to survive in this business, you’re just going to ignore that stuff, and you’re going to do it this way.” And something dies in the person right there.
How many times have your patterns said, “If you do it any other way you won’t survive?” [Chuckles] You’re recognizing these internal voices? These are all forms of mind-killing. They kill the quality of attention you’re trying to bring to your life.
The last two are reduction and polarization. Reduction means to reduce everything to one emotionally charged issue. Which is a great way of making sure nobody can think or pay attention. Back in the time of Caesar, the Roman emperors did this. The Germans did this in the Nazi era. It was done with respect to the Iraq war. Inspire fear in the population and they will go along with whatever you want. And so it’s a very deliberate campaign to promote fear. And that’s how all of this stuff was railroaded through in all three things. You know, whether it’s the Roman Empire, the Germans with the Nazis leading up to the Second World War, and yeah, what we’ve been in with the neo-con administration.
Polarization refers to polarizing the issue so it’s either this or that. And I remember having a discussion with a Republican friend of mine around the beginning of the Iraq war, and it was, “Well, do you want Saddam Hussein to stay in power or not?” [Laughter]
“You know, it’s a little more complex than that.”
“Oh no it isn’t. That’s it!”
And so it precludes any other possible discussion. And it’s a way of simplifying things. And if you can define that then you’ve killed any other possibility. Now whenever you find yourself internally engaged in either/or thinking, “It’s either this or this” you’re caught in exactly that one. That’s polarization. It’s very rarely the case.
Back in about 1987 there was a certain situation I was facing. And I was thinking in this either/or situation. And a friend of mine just said, “Ken, why don’t we just take the idea that you’re going to do both this and this. How would that come about?” And I was just like, “I don’t know.” But then we started to think about it and we came up with a totally different approach to the situation. Because rather than taking the either/or, which was a polarity, is it this or this, take—put those two things together, and then you’ve got all different kinds of ideas coming up.
So in the creativity and questions I’ve—you’ll come up with many more—I’ve tried to come up with six questions. And these are just examples, these aren’t things, which are the opposite of these forms of mind-killing.
So instead of marginalization, you know, “What’s not being considered?” Or, “What’s operating in this situation that we don’t consider is important?” So that’s one possible question. Okay.
“What are we not paying attention to here?”
So that means looking at the margins. It’s the opposite of marginalization where you’re pushing things away.
“What are other ways of looking at this?”
So that’s to shift the frame. “Now how can we look at this differently?”
How many of you are familiar with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain? Okay. So one of the exercises there is to turn things upside down. And now your usual way of looking at things can’t operate. And you usually draw a better picture, because ordinary associations aren’t getting in the way. Or to draw it with you left hand, or something like that.
For seduction, “What assumptions are being made?” is one way.
You may come up with other questions…for instance, seduction is about, “You’ll get what you want, if you do this.” Well, another thing is, “Are there other ways to get the same thing?” Well, there may be.
Alignment, the one I throw out here is, “Well what happens if we do the opposite?”
Because people will say to me time and time again, “Well, you know, if I don’t do this, I’m not going to survive.” And I go, “Umm. Let’s explore this. Okay. Let’s suppose you quit your job, and you go and do this, what happens?” “Well after six months, I run out of money.” “Okay. Then what happens?” “Well then I come back out of the mountains, and I start talking with people, I guess.”
And just take it through. And strangely enough, they’re going to survive this. It’s a somewhat unpredictable path. But they’re not going to die. And most of us in this culture and in the circumstances we’re talking about, these aren’t things that are actually going to kill us. They may lead to very drastic changes in our life, but that’s what you’re here for anyway, so I’m not worrying about that. So the idea that you have to do this because it’s the only way you know how to survive, that’s not true. You will survive. Just in a very different way. [Chuckle]
“What’s the big picture?”
That’s to get out of the reduction. Okay. You know, rather than reduce it all to one emotionally charged issue, let’s take a look at the whole thing. It’s a different…and in which that emotional charge is simply one element. It brings a sense of perspective.
And then the last one. “What happens if we include both polarities?”
That’s putting the two together. You get a lot of really good creative stuff happening there.
But you may come up with other questions. I just was giving you those six ways of eliminating creativity or killing creativity. And just explore this and see what you come up with. I’m always open to new questions.
I met a psychiatrist recently who comes up with the most amazing questions. They’re just brilliant. Here’s one for you. “What is something you ignored that has been a hassle in your life ever since?” [Laughter]
Ken: What is something that you didn’t pay attention to that you wish you had now, because it’s been a hassle in your life ever since? And that just, “Oh wow! Yeah, there’s a few things I could think of, etc.” [Chuckles]
So anyway, what I want you to do now is to divide up into groups, and the first step is to look at what’s the genesis. What are the conditions that prevent you from making what you want to happen happen?
And the other two people, once you’ve told them that, are going to ask you some of these questions with the objective to clarifying and deepening your own understanding of what the genesis and conditions are. Okay? Yes?
Student: So is this…is this, “What are the conditions that allow our…our barriers to flourish?”
Ken: Because you remove the barriers then other things will happen quite naturally. Carol, microphone.
Carol: So I’m trying to relate willingness to genesis. Or is there a relationship there?
Ken: Well, what’s your problem in willingness?
Ken: Fear. Okay. What’s the genesis of the fear?
Ken: No. Well, maybe, but that’s the question. What is the genesis of the fear? And what are the conditions in your life that allow that fear to continue to grow and operate in you?
And those—a lot of that’s going to be internal, and in a few cases, it may be external. In, to give you an example, we often have very, very deep set, seated beliefs that if I do x, then y will happen. And people may have explained to us, this is simply not the case.
I’m thinking of one person who never made demands on people. Never asked them for anything. Because if he felt that if he asked them for anything it would lead to the dissolution of the relationship. So it made it very difficult for him to supervise people. It made it very difficult for him to have satisfactory relationships of any kind. Because he was always giving and getting nothing in return. It’s very imbalanced.
So I said, “Okay. This is what you believe. We’ve talked about it and you agree with me that it isn’t true, but it’s still operating with you. So listening to me is not enough. I want you to scientifically test this belief. I want you to make a small request of someone every day.” And so he started to do this. And he was astounded that the people he was supervising were delighted to be asked to do something. [Laughter] It gave them something to do in their work. And his relationships, people just responded so positively. He had no idea. And so his own experience—through his own experience, he came to understand that his belief was wrong. But that belief was the genesis for that problem. And that’s why I’m encouraging to take at look, “What’s the genesis for the fear?” And we may say, “Oh, it’s x, y.” But I want you to, you know, way back, you know, “My mother hung spiders when I was in my playpen,” or something like that. [Laughter] But what gives rise to it now? What does it come from now? That’s what you want to look at. So keep it in the present.
There’s a question over here. Yes. Microphone please.
Student: I think I’m getting clear. I was wondering if you could just very briefly walk us through one of…like, anger. What’s the…hypothetical anger. And then what are the conditions, just to try to kinda concretize it a little bit more for me?
Ken: Okay. That’s a very good idea.
Okay. Well I’ll take something from my own experience. Writing. Okay. Writing a book. People had started asking me, or suggesting that I should write something as far back as, oh, the late ’80s. And in 1993, I went to Santa Fe and rented an apartment for a month with the sole purpose of writing a book on meditation. It didn’t happen. [Laughter]
Well, I had delivered a series of lectures on basic meditation and had transcribed all of those lectures. So what did writing consist of? Just editing a bunch of transcripts. It didn’t happen. But that one month in Santa Fe did help me to understand the genesis. I didn’t want to write that book at all. I had absolutely no interest in writing another book on basic meditation. And it just looked at…No! I did a lot of other things in Santa Fe, but that I didn’t do. [Chuckle] And I got really clear about that. So now I knew what the problem was. I didn’t know the book that I wanted to write. And so that was very helpful. So when anybody, when anybody said, “Well, when are you going to write something?” I’d go, “Errr, I don’t know, I don’t know,” because I didn’t know what I wanted to write.
Then a condition came about. One of my students said, “Ken, it’d be really helpful if you would just sketch out the big picture of how you’re teaching us.” You know, just what does Buddhism look like, ’cause I would help people with individual things, but I had never given them the whole context. And stupidly, because I understood the whole context, I figured they would. But they hadn’t done a three-year retreat or anything like that, so they didn’t know. Can’t understand the stupidity of people, but that’s how it is. [Laughter] And it’s the kind of ignorance that was operating in me.
So I put something together, and people liked that. And that actually became one of the chapters. And so there was a bit of positive feedback from that. That was a condition. And then there was a bit more and a bit more. So through this I began to get a sense of what was the book I would actually like to write. So not knowing what kind of book I wanted to write, or was interested in writing, that was the genesis of my inability to write. And there all kinds of conditions that went into that. Do you follow?
Student: Thank you.
Ken: Okay. Other questions before we go on? Paige.
Paige: This is just to clarify something in my mind because you mentioned karma was not the common cause and effect. Are you saying it’s this genesis and conditions?
Ken: Absolutely. Thank you for bringing that up. That’s absolutely right. The Tibetan phrase consists of three words: las rgyu ’bras. las is the word for karma itself, action. rgyu is the word that is usually translated as cause or seed, but I’m translating as genesis. And ’bras is the word for fruit or result. And so it is action, genesis, result. And what determines whether a particular genesis matures into a result are conditions.
So for instance, going back to your question, the genesis could be fear of something. The condition could be hanging around with people who all share the same fear. So they keep reinforcing you. It’s very interesting when you hang around people who don’t have that particular fear. You say, “Well, I don’t know how to do that” or “I don’t know whether I could do that. I’m too afraid to do that.”
“You’re afraid to do that? Come on, we’re going to do this right now!” “Ahhhhhh!” [Chuckles]
And then you find you can do it. So that’s another example of separating the genesis from the conditions. Okay? Yes.
Student: So we find that we’re with people that like help continue the conditions.
Student: So like in the tradition that I’ve been studying, they talk about, that all the people that we’re with at any given time, that we’re karmically interconnected in similar conditions. So that’s what we’re trying to work out is, is like changing that. So if we’re with all these people that are holding us back, our work is to karmically purify and move on and change? I mean, does that make sense?
Ken: I think that’s a wonderful myth.
Student: It’s a myth? Okay. [Chuckles]
Ken: It’s simplya wayof looking at things. It’sa wayof interpreting things.
Ken: There’s no way to know at all.
Ken: It’s simply a way of interpreting things. That can be helpful to people. It can also be very, very problematic for people. Because it will take—again, it can be a way of killing their idea. Like, “I don’t want to hang out here.”
And somebody will say, “Well, you need to hang out here, because you’ve got to work something out.” I love the Maori proverb: “Don’t hang out with people who don’t respect you.”
Student: Well, isn’t a way to though, for, for like seeing. Like isn’t that like the mirror seeing? Like if you can, if you can snap to it and realize that these other people have these things going on. And then all of a sudden realizing, well I must too, because I’m in this situation so now I need a way of seeing it to fix it. No?
Ken: What you’re describing there—and I completely agree with you—is making use of the situation. To say that the situation has come together in order to teach you that. That’s what I regard as a myth.
Ken: You may choose to make use of it. No argument there. But the idea that you’re in the situation in order to learn something, and this is your fate. That’s something that I regard as…
Student: Well no, I was talking about it being a karmic mirror type, type thing.
Student: And noticing. Like, like they say if the same accidents keep happening to you, that you need to start recognizing these patterns. And that you might want to start fixing them. Because they’re going to keep happening and happening and happening until you fix them.
Ken: But what you’re describing here is not an existential thing. It’s how you are approaching it.
Ken: And that’s the distinction that I wanted to make. If you’re approaching it that way out of your own volition, not a problem. But I’ve heard exactly the same kind of reasoning being, being used to keep people in situations that are not helpful for them.
Ken: And that’s why I wanted to make the distinction. But if your attitude to the situation is, “What can I learn here? What is this telling me about myself?” that’s great. [Chuckle] Yeah. There was another question somewhere or other? Okay. So to…Yes?
Student: I’m sorry. I think that I may have gotten a little bit lost somewhere. Were you saying, and granted I know that maybe you’re not saying that we actually have to have these three steps exactly. But are you saying like in terms of the Tibetan interpretation of there being karma then seed/genesis then results would then be rephrased as action/genesis and results? Is that what you said? Or I think I understand the difference between genesis and condition as you’re talking about it, but I might also have some confusion.
Student: Okay, I think.
Ken: In response to Paige’s question, he was asking, “When you were talking about genesis and conditions are you talking about karma as cause and effect?” Which is the usual terminology. And I said, “Yes.” Then I went on to explain that the term for karma, the full long word for karma in Tibetan is action. Because that’s what karma means. Karma actually means action. Action/genesis/result. And that’s how you form words in Tibetan…is you put other words together. And, but the whole thing is based on the…on the principle that there is something which starts growing into things if the conditions are right. If the conditions aren’t right, it doesn’t. But you have to have the something to grow. And you have to have the conditions. Without both of those, nothing happens. Does that clarify?
Ken: Great. Okay.
So to review the exercise, and we need to get started now. You’re going to take one of the things that gets in your way that you identified in the previous exercise. Don’t have time to work through all of them. We maybe have time to work through a couple. I don’t know. And to the best of your ability identify the genesis and the conditions that contribute to this—to what gets in your way. The other two people, by asking creative questions, which hopefully will take you totally out of your comfort zone. [Chuckles] Because that’s the point of them, to get clear about the genesis and conditions. Because a lot of people confuse, they think a condition is a genesis or a genesis is a condition and things like that. And the point here is to get as clear as you can so that you have something very concrete to work on in your life. Which is going to help you to be able to make things happen. Okay? Is that clear?
We’ll do the same triads. We need, because of the number of people here—there is one group that’s a pair. Rather than four people in two groups, there’s one group which has two people. So if you end up with just one other, there’s only one of those. So if you end up with that person, that’s just, recognize that. And so divide up into groups, and we’ll do it. [Lots of talking] We’ll do it two minutes, two minutes, two minutes. So we’ll have about half an hour, and then we’ll break for lunch.
Chuck, do you want to bring those people in the hall in, please? [Lots of talking]
Okay. Let’s hear some of your experiences with this exercise, ’cause it seemed to go a little deeper as was intended. [Laughter] Anybody like to volunteer. If not I’ll just volunteer people, but… [Laughter] Where are the microphones? Okay. Can you look around and see…okay. There’s a microphone here. Oh, you’ve got one Kim, good. Go ahead.
Kim: I’m feeling elated. I feel that I have found the answer. [Laughter]
Ken: Would you like to share it with us?
Kim: Well it’s very complicated. I mean it’s a long kind of kind of thing.
Ken: Well, then talk about your experience. What happened? What was your experience of finding the answer? Just what was that experience like?
Kim: Well first, I brought up all the obstacles that were in the way.
Ken: I just want you to describe the experience. What happened in your body? How did you know you had found the answer?
Kim: Well I was looking for a stronger heartbeat which I’m showing now. [Laughter]
Kim: I feel freed.
Ken: So you feel lighter in your body?
Ken: Okay. What else?
Kim: I experience a sense of freedom.
Ken: How do you experience that physically?
Kim: I’m feeling light.
Ken: Okay. Anything else? Do you feel tense? Relaxed?
Kim: Oh, totally relaxed.
Ken: Totally relaxed.
Kim: And not at all, you know, shy or…
Kim: How I used to be.
Ken: Emotionally, what is your experience?
Kim: I’m feeling emotionally open.
Ken: Emotionally open? And in terms of your mind or awareness or your intellect, what’s that like?
Kim: I am in clear mind.
Ken: Clear mind.
Kim: And feeling secure. In other words confident.
Ken: Confident? Okay. So that’s very helpful. Thank you. So these are—notice the experiences here. Relaxed, free from tension, lighter body, emotionally open, and confident and clear in one’s mind. That feels pretty good, right?
Ken: Okay. That’s when something is open and we come to know. That’s what we experience. Even when it is quite painful or difficult. We will still have those same experiences. That, it indicates that you’ve joined with the situation, and there’s a seeing or a knowing that has arisen. This knowing is not intellectual. It is direct knowing. And this is how it manifests in body, in emotions, and in the mind. Thank you Kim. Okay, anybody else? Kathy.
Kathy: I felt squirmy and uncomfortable.
Ken: Okay. And did you ignore these feelings? Or do you ordinarily ignore these feelings?
Kathy: I don’t think I ignored them. Though I felt like I wanted to kind of move on to another topic or…
Kathy: Or wiggle away. And I’m sure in the past, I have avoided them.
Ken: Okay. Did you find it fruitful to open to those feelings?
Kathy: Yeah, definitely.
Ken: Okay. Good. That’s a very, very good example, thank you. So squirmy and uncomfortable. Can anybody else resonate with that? [Chuckles] Okay, do you want to say a word about that [unclear]? You’re also getting a little hot there?
Student: I’ve been cold this whole time. But I was sweating bullets over there. [Laughter] It was interesting, that intellectually, I hadn’t entirely bought into what I was even talking about. But physically I was all over it. So I’m still doing the mind/body thing, but I’ve hit on something. I’m not entirely sure what.
Student: And I sweat a lot. So sorry. [Laughter]
Ken: So when I said at the beginning of our session today, this is about direct experience. You pay attention to what’s arising in the body. What’s arising emotionally, not just the stories that are playing in the head. Because when we’re just working with the stories in our head, we’re working with, at best, one-third of the information that’s available. When we open to our body, when we open to our emotions, we start including the other two-thirds, and there’s a tremendous amount of very valuable information there. It’s also where there’s a lot of knowing in both of those areas that many of us habitually ignore for all kinds of reasons. Okay. Carolyn?
Carolyn: I’m in a almost unclothed state here without the layers.
Ken: You’re feeling naked.
Carolyn: Yeah it was, I felt very vulnerable.
Carolyn: And it was explosive. I mean my heart opened. My eye—I mean, thank goodness you said to stay there. Because I was about to jump ship on the emotional part of it. But it touched very deeply. And it opened up, me up very widely. Still pretty clammy. But very core. I mean it just got to the real center of it. I mean, I’m still trying to…it was just…
Ken: You may not have it in words, but you can feel it.
Carolyn: Oh yeah.
Ken: This is another thing that can happen here, you may not have it in words, but you actually feel it. That’s experiencing it. That’s all that’s necessary. Now it may not be sufficient to experience it just once. It may take a while in order to experience it completely. But now you’re working with the genesis of something. And the reason it’s the genesis is because it hasn’t been experienced. And we developed all of these strategies to avoid precisely that feeling.
But it’s when we develop the capacity to experience it and the know-how. Because it’s a certain skill and that’s basically what I was giving you at that point, by saying. “Okay, do it,” And I know you have the capacity. But I said, “Okay, no, this is where you stay.” And that’s part of the know-how. And you were willing to do that, then you move into experiencing what has been getting in the way. And when we experience something completely, what happens to it? Yeah. It releases.
That’s the nature of complete experience. That’s what all of the direct awareness traditions in Buddhism are about. Experiencing things completely so that they don’t leave residue. In Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, for instance, Suzuki Roshi talks about experiencing something completely so that there aren’t even ashes left. Okay. Anything you want to add Carolyn?
Carolyn: Well, this isn’t an unfamiliar kind of thing. When I get on this, that’s why I try to avoid retreats like the plague. [Laughter] But I knew I, you know…
Ken: And you came here why? [Laughter]
Carolyn: I know, I know, I know. [Laughter] But of course. Boy it’s really hard to articulate around this, about how to use that experience to…or I guess, like you say, it’s just there and it will manifest in whatever way it’s going to.
Ken: At this point and generally speaking, don’t try to use the experience. Just experience it. Because it is part of us that we don’t normally experience. And it’s not being able to experience and not experiencing it that introduces imbalance. So it isn’t the case that we have to use it or figure out some way to do with it. Even when we’re formulating that we’re already removing ourselves from it in some extent. Just open to the experience and become familiar with it so you begin to recognize it whenever it arises, and you don’t fear it. And thus you keep including it in experience, in experience, in experience until it no longer runs your life. Okay.
So you don’t actually have to use it or understand it or figure out what to do with it other than that. This is about experiencing your life completely. What gets in the way of our ability to make things happen is that when we start trying to make something happen, something arises in us. And so we can’t experience things completely. And that introduces an imbalance, and we go off the rails. We get blocked inside or something takes over and starts running us in another direction. But by constantly opening fully to the experience, whatever it is, then we’re in the world of experience. And we know more, we will know much more clearly what to do and how to do it. We don’t, but don’t think of it in terms of using it, just experience it. Okay?
A couple of more comments if anybody has them? Yes? Can we have a microphone down here, please?
Student: Light hearted and tender.
Ken: Very nice. Good. Anybody else?
Student: It was quite revealing. Because I had the thinking of fear/failure as creating a barrier between myself and my goal. And what they…other people in my group pointed out to me was that I’m actually going ahead with it. So it’s not a barrier. That, and, you know, which was kind of like, you’re right. [Laughter]
But I had, risk taking has been that thing, that little thing that I’ve ignored, that little big thing I’ve ignored. [Chuckles] And so I think the feeling around that, you know, is a big pattern, And perhaps, working on increasing the capacity to hold that. And at the same time in my particular case, developing, you know, complimenting my weaknesses with other people’s strengths that are interested in the project. And you know, it was also suggested that I do focus groups…and I do, it’s definitely my goal that this be their project, that this be, serve their needs.
Student: And that their ideas are central in it as well. And so, you know, I think I can do that. [Laughter]
Ken: Great! Good. Very good. Okay, we’re almost a quarter to one. We’re going to take a break now for lunch.
The focus this morning has been setting a framework. I wanted to introduce the willingness, capacity, know-how framework so that you can see it’s kind of a map into what gets in our way. And it’s also, it’s a useful map because it helps us to clarify what efforts to make in specific areas.
And then the second part of this morning—how to go more deeply into experiencing what actually gets in our way. Because it’s by experiencing what gets in our way that being able to experience it that it ceases to get in our way. It may not go away, but it ceases to get in our way, and that’s an important distinction. You know the old adage, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” But you have to have the capacity or know how to feel the fear, and then you can do it anyway. It’s not necessarily that you get rid of fear. You talk to theatrical actors and actresses, they almost universally say, “If you aren’t scared out of your skin before you go on stage, you’re probably not going to have a good performance.” [Chuckle] So it’s not that they don’t have fear. They do have fear, and they do it.
This afternoon we’re going to focus on the process by which we actually make things happen. The first step is to give you tools, ways of getting, working with the stuff that prevents you from making things happen. This afternoon we’re going to focus on how to make things actually happen. Quite a bit of material. Let’s meet back here so that we’re ready to go right at two. That’ll give you…