2021 Spiritual Theme
This year with the support of our Teacher’s, Nuns, and Monks, we will complete our three year exploration of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path.
Closing talk – Keeping practice alive and engaged from moment to moment
Zachary Smith of SF Zen Center gave the closing talk in Nicasio. These notes are a belated reconstruction.
Today felt like a retreat. This feels like the end of a retreat. Often people ask “How can I keep this frame of mind into daily life?” The short answer is that you cannot. It will change. But you can retain a perspective that also doesn’t forget. You can release the retreat mindstate and be okay with what is happening where you are. And that’s okay.
There are two angles, and Ayya Sobhana alluded to them in her talks. There is the imperative of the moment which requires skillful means. There’s also a way of holding attention in a softer fashion that is aware and accepting. And the oscillation between the two offers the same perspective we learn on retreat.
It’s always this way. There’s different expressions for it. Relative and absolute. Small self and big self. And so on.
To take it from the Mahayana tradition, we have three Bodisattvas
Bodhisattva of Wisdom (Manjusri)
Stay Awake! Include everything without addition or leaving anything out. Notice your pre-judgements and conceptual framing but hold them (and everything else) lightly.
Bodhisattva of Compassion (Avalokitesvara/Quanyin)
Meet the present moment experience by allowing it to be as it is. Be curious and deeply inquisitive. Be with what is actually happening and what your actual experience is.
Bodhisattva of Skillful Action (Samantabhadra)
Respond authentically, with trust, benevolence, and sincerity, and do the thing that’s called for most directly by the energy and information that’s alive in the moment. Surrender and be free with your actions. “now…. and yes now……..and oh yah now”
This is the continuous practice of awakening and the way to keep the mind of retreat alive.[end of talk]
Advance notes (before the pilgrimage)
Wisdom (Panna) Practiced this year on the 2021 pilgrimge
To understand, it is useful to remember all elements of the Eightfold Path:
Virtues (Sila) Practiced on the 2020 Pilgrimage
Concentration (Samadhi) Practiced on the 2019 Pilgrimage
In some presentations of the Path Wise View and Wise Intention are engaged with first and not last as we are. It is interesting and useful to simultaneously see the Eightfold Path as both linear and circular. From one perspective we have a beginning point and a destination. On our “Classic Route ”, we begin Riding from Spirit Rock on a Saturday Morning and on a Sunday afternoon we arrive at Abhayagiri. The path can be seen as linear as we gain wisdom and grow along the journey. In this way it is useful to see our Spiritual development and the journeys we undertake as having a starting point, a purpose, and a goal. From another point of View, we can see a Pilgrimage Ride as circular. This Year we will begin our Sunday ride at Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma and arrive at Dhammadharini for Lunch. We will then return via a circular loop to where we began at Walker Creek Ranch. Our journey has returned us to where we began. Are we the same? Are we in the same place?
The Noble Eightfold Path can be viewed in this way as well. The Path is at the same time circular and linear. It builds upon previous foundations, and you can also enter the Path right where you are. That’s the beauty and the genius. We begin where we are by entering the transformative circular path when an access point is presented. We also continually revisit and apply the teachings from the components of the Path when they are relevant and compelling. When we return home from a retreat an opportunity arises to reenter everyday life with a greater sense of presence, wakefulness, and compassion. From some perspectives it appears that we have not gone anywhere but internally we have awakened to the path of our lives.
This “Path” that is spoken of can also be seen as internal and external. We have this Eightfold Path within us, and we encounter it wherever we go. The Eightfold Path is the Buddha’s articulation of how to become liberated from suffering, and how we become free. Free to be genuinely Happy, and to have the capacity to serve others with Compassion, Joy, and Kindness. We can apply Wise View and Wise Intention to formal Meditation Practice and to our moment-to-moment engagement with the World. An exciting and humbling realization is that our “Practice” is ongoing and available at any time. Our Pilgrimage offers a unique opportunity for continuity practice whether you are training, on the ride, setting up your tent, or greeting your family upon your return home. This Noble Eightfold Path is a moment-to-moment practice and a journey. It is skillful and Wise to have the means of your practice reflect the ends. If approached with the appropriate perspective and spirit, we can embody the qualities and capacities we are cultivating along the way.
Wise View can be understood as the orientation that reveals the path. Wise View can also be referred to as Wise Understanding. Wise is being used here instead of Right because it tends to emphasize skillfulness and usefulness instead of moralizing. A Wise View allows us to find the path and to become aware that one exists at all.
Gil Fronsdal Teaches during a Dharma Talk on 8/18/2003 that:
“If you are interested in the path that leads to the liberation from suffering, the path that leads to compassion and peace, then you need a certain orientation to find the path.”
Here Gil is using the words right orientation to refer to what we are calling Wise View.
“The Buddhas’ teaching was that the right orientation to have is that of understanding our lives in the framework of the Four Noble Truths.”
The 4 Noble Truths
1) There is suffering and we encounter it
2) There is a cause of suffering
3) There is the cessation of suffering
4) There is a Path and a method to become free of suffering (The Noble Eightfold Path)
This is a profound and useful way to View our lives. It suggests that every moment is an opportunity for growth and for learning. The overarching Wise View is that we can approach any moment as part of our path. The path is the Noble Eightfold Path that has the possibility to lead to the end of suffering. The Buddha taught that if it was not possible to become liberated from suffering then he would not teach that it was. We are invited to become aware of our suffering, what is causing it, and to have a vision that the cessation of suffering is possible.
Gil Writes in an Article from 9/25/2012 “The Buddha’s Eightfold Path” that:
“The Buddha’s Path requires us to take responsibility for our thoughts, attitudes and actions. It builds on the principle that we can move towards liberation by dis-engaging from perspectives and behaviors that weigh us down by replacing them with behaviors that lighten us and support us as we proceed.”
“This orienting perspective is the practice of keeping an eye on our relationship to whatever we are experiencing.”
“Do we feel stress, discomfort or suffering….. What is our contribution to this suffering? What are we clinging to? Wise view includes the encouraging perspective that clinging and its resulting suffering can be brought to an end. It also orients us to the practices of the entire Eightfold Path as the easiest and clearest path to liberation from suffering.”
Wise View can also refer to simply seeing clearly what is happening at any moment. It could be noticing that the nature of existence is impermanent or maybe that a particular situation is not as we originally perceived it. Here is an example:
Oh………, that’s why the car in front of me stopped unexpectedly and waited for such a long time. There was a pedestrian with a stroller crossing in front of their car that I could not see. My temporary annoyance and hint of anger revealed that I may have been in a rush and was not present as I attempted to enter the parking lot. A Wise View revealed why the practical scenario was occurring and what my underlying state of awareness was. This View gave rise to choices, compassion, a transformation of conditioning, and ultimately to some freedom in the moment.
Sylvia Boortsein writes in an Article “How to Practice Wise Intention“ 5/9/2021
“Wise Intention keeps our lives headed in the right direction”
“Wise Intention is the cornerstone of Wise effort, that is effort that is wholesome and positive. The instructions for Wise effort call for us to continually evaluate our actions and choose those that lead to less suffering and eschew those that lead to more suffering.”
Wise Intention asks us to discover our deepest intention. What is motivating what we are doing while we are doing it? How do we discover what our deepest intentions are? When we discover that intention, how do we embody it with each action and interaction? These are challenging questions that lead to a life imbued with purpose and integrity. Sometimes our intentions can be the subject of our mindfulness practice and at other times we may discover our deepest intentions through periods of silence and sincere contemplation. What is important to keep in mind is that our efforts and actions are preceded by intentions. Becoming aware of these intentions and by eventually purposefully setting them we can begin to live with more integrity and consistency
Gil Fronsdal Teaches during a Dharma talk on 8/18/2003
“One of the intentions that is helpful for other people and animals is to be kind and harmless”
“The Buddha actually gave 3 intentions that are helpful when you go on the path. One is to be harmless. The second is the intention to be friendly or to have loving kindness. The third is to renounce. (Travel Lightly)”
Being harmless evokes the beautiful practice of Lovingkindness (Metta). Minimally we want to avoid harm, but our positive intention can be to wish all sentient beings Health, Happiness, Safety, and Ease. We can bring this benevolent intention to any interaction we engage in.
Sylvia Boorstein offers this set of intentions based on traditional Buddhist Precepts.
“On Behalf of myself and all beings:
I intend to refrain from consciously hurting anyone.
I intend to refrain from overtly or covertly taking what is not mine
I intend to be sure that my Speech is kind as well as True
I intend to refrain from addictive behaviors that confuse my mind and lead to heedlessness “
Practicing while on our Bicycles
Whenever we get on our bicycles, we can practice Wise View and Wise Intention. We can practice Wise View while we are cycling by understanding our route for the day as a manifestation of the Eightfold Path. Whether we encounter a beautiful vista, a flat tire, fatigue, or an opportunity to be of assistance, we can View the moment as an opportunity for practice. The Wise View that we are on a path of awakening has the potential to inspire and infuse our rides with purpose and presence. When we are riding, we can approach any experience with this Wise View.
We can practice Wise Intention by reflecting on why we are getting on our bicycles today. What kind of cyclist do we want to be? Who could we dedicate the merits of our ride and our practice to? Could our intention be to awaken, or to be in service and support of other pilgrims? Could we ultimately dedicate each action and each moment of our lives to relieving the suffering of all sentient beings? We may want to wish that all beings be blessed with Health, Happiness, Safety, and Ease. Ultimately the most relevant and important intention is uniquely yours. Why are you riding? Can each moment and skillful action arise out of this deepest benevolent intention
Practicing in and for the our World
When we bring attention and reverence to Wise View and Wise Intention in our lived experience then every moment is a part of the path. From practicing Wise View and Wise Intention it is possible to encounter the World in all its beauty and in its vulnerable suffering. We are collectively emerging from a Global Pandemic as well as travelling further into a Global Climate Transformation. We have the ability to awaken to the path, relieve our own suffering, care for those we encounter, and participate in a Global Paradigm Shift. Environmentally our Wise View and Wise Intention could lead to skillful practices and visionary leadership.
These teachings can be complex and take a considerable amount of time to integrate. At the same time, they can be simple and straightforward. This overview of Wise View and Wise Intention was written with the hope of clearly articulating the principles for our ongoing application. It was also created as an invitation for our Monastics to dive deeper, explore further, and to elucidate perspectives from their vantage point as the moment calls for.
Our formal Meditation and informal practices have the potential to lead us into a lived experience and embodiment of the Dharma. We invite you to Ride, Practice and Cultivate the Wisdom Factors of Wise View and Wise Intention together in person on our Annual Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage. As a collective group of Pilgrims with a range of cycling skills, and Buddhist knowledge, we join together to support each other on the spiritual path, physical trails, and roadways.