Hui-neng opened the Platform Sutra with the same salutation, “Hello Good Friends.” The occasion for Hui-neng’s address was a jukai ceremony for lay practitioners. Hundreds of practitioners had assembled to receive the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts. In Sanskrit, good friend is kalyana-mitra which literally means companion of virtue or, as we say, friends on the Way.
You are lucky to have friends to sit with, and very lucky to study with. The Discourse on Happiness, a short text of the Buddha, lists practice-study friends as one of the great joys of this life.
Because of the circumstances in your life which brought you to this very point of studying and practicing with friends, to this very moment right now, you can consider yourself blessed. There is pain in your life, I’m sure. There is suffering, undoubtedly. The world we live in right now is hurting, but still you are blessed. That blessedness, however, is not yours alone. Allow yourself to mature and grow by passing the blessedness along. Be kind to someone today in your heart and in your mind and in your actions. Care for someone today in your heart, in your mind, in your conduct. The blessings grow by moving so keep your hands and heart open and allow it to touch you. Then pass it on to someone else.
After all were seated, Hui-neng said, “Please good friends, purify your minds.” He then stopped speaking and sat quietly as did the assembly. Please stop…stop…stop and clarify your heart-mind. You do this by sitting up straight, taking a deep breath and putting your focus on your one and only practice. Allow yourself to hear the sounds of the world for a few moments. If you cannot hear the call of the spring breeze through newly open leaves; the squawking of jays; the chit-chit-chitting of squirrels, you are too restricted. Take a deep breath and open. Sit up and allow your chest to slightly rise, to soften. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and hear the sounds—that is how to clarify the heart-mind. You can trust, you can take refuge in the truth of your own heart-mind–which you know when you clear, when you purify it. That is its original state, unblemished and unstained, vulnerable and able to respond to life’s circumstances whether difficult or easy. You can take this mind with you wherever you go because it is yours, unending and beginningless. Just stop, open and hear the sounds of the world calling…calling and responding.
“I take up the Way of not misusing sex.” Another way to say this precept might be, “I take up the Way of no subject, no object, no activity.” This is the definition of true intimacy where your eyebrows are entangled with those of the great ancestors, hearing with the same ears, seeing with the same eyes, walking hand in hand over the mountains and valleys in our trials and joy, in our tribulations and happiness, in our suffering and ease. In this subtle and marvelous relationship, there is no veneer of attachment or non-attachment so you are free to take pleasure in your body and the body of others who are no other than yourself…and you no other than them. From this realization of inter-connection there is no grasping or rejecting, no using or being used, no self-aggrandizement or shaming. In this relationship of intimacy, we fall in love with things as they are, not as we want or think we need them to be.
This is a vast field of practice, one which we will never master but can continually return to deepen and learn anew about ourselves, and about the other and the world. Intimacy is a radical re-membering of relationship. Normally we think you are out there and I am over here. I am within, you are without. In this re-membering, however, we realize, we experience that we are all parts of the same body though occupying unique dharma positions expressing yourself as only you can, as only I can.
To practice re-membering takes a strong commitment. We are habituated to the world view of subject, object, activity. We are married to the notion that I am here and you are there, that there is an inside and outside. When you read translations of the old texts by Westerners, you will sometimes see ‘return within, look within’ and other such notions. We are wedded to the these arbitrary distinctions, which really sully and confuse sex and sexually. When we know for a fact that we are all in this together, that we are closer than each other’s brother and sister, wife and husband there will no longer be a misuse of sex. There will only be a language of love spoken in many tongues, and the practice of hearing and re-membering will continually deepen in more subtle and marvelous ways.
If this all sounds too wonderful, my apologies. It is springtime, the sun is shinning for the 10th day in a row and the daphne and flowering quince are in full bloom!