Where Do I Start?

Where Do I Start? Transcribed

Okay, so we’re doing live Dharma talks.
So is there any insights, revelations, challenges, frustrations since the last time I’ve seen you guys?
Come on – I know all of the above?
Yeah go ahead? Let’s do it.
Student: I just want to know where to start?
Zen Master E: You already did – you already started.
Student: Okay.
Zen Master E: But – clarify. What do you mean? Why do you feel like you haven’t started? And What is it starting mean to you? Yeah.
Student: I guess – what does starting mean? I think I have a thing in my mind of what it looks like and I’m not like doing that.
I’m like not good.
Zen Master E: You’re a terrible person. You’re a terrible practitioner. A terrible human being.
Well, you gotta let that shit go. You carried that all the way here. You okay?
Student: Yeah
Students husband: We drove
Zen Master E: You drove? Of course – that was heavy (to carry that burden) the car must have been leaning.
What does it look like for you?
Student tries to answer: Ummmm…
No! From your heart. Not from your head.
What does practice mean for you? Right? You need to clarify that because I mean, like, you feel like you want to sit more?
Student: Yeah.
Zen Master E: Okay. So do it. But what does that look like then? Right. Is it a morning sit? An afternoon sit? An evening sit?
You’re busy lady.
Student: Yeah, I’m like bogged down by all of that. Yeah. And then I just don’t do it.
Zen Master E: Oh, that’s, that’s terrible. You’re a terrible person.
But this is our story. All of our story, right?
Yeah. Raise your hands if this is your story. (All the people there emphatically raised their hands)
Right? And I’m not hard enough. Not long enough. Not frequent enough. Everything. Right?
So we have to see. And that’s why for us in our tradition, we use multiple…
Okay, so couple things. Okay.
You know, that fundamental presence that you guys experienced in meditation right there?
Students: Yeah
Zen Master E: That’s your fundamental natural state – available to you at all times.
Doesn’t matter.
You’re running, sleeping, having sex, everything.
It’s always there, permeates and penetrates everything.
No matter what you do – sinner or saint.
It doesn’t matter.
It’s always there. Right?
We believe that it’s not.
These practices do not generate awakening, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it. actualize Buddha. No. They remove all the obscurations, so that you can see what’s naturally present.
So that natural presence is your natural state,
Always available to you.
Right now it’s listening to me. It’s seeing me, You don’t have to do – sinner or saint it doesn’t matter.
It’s always there.
We believe that it’s not.
These practices DO NOT generate awakening, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it – actualized Buddha.
They remove all the obscurations so you can see what’s naturally present.
So that natural presence is your natural state.
Always available to us.
Now it’s listening to me. It’s seeing me.
You don’t have to do anything right now for all of this to arise for you.
In moments throughout the day – we call it snap back right?
Notice it aright?
And it’s good, when you’re having an emotional charge, the moment that you notice that you’re off your throne, getting whipped around by karma, by emotions, whatever it is, that noticing, who is it that’s noticing?
Who’s that?
So cool, just snap back into that presence, into that spaciousness.
The energy and the patterns and whatever is still going to be rolling through the body – but boom there it is.
(Zen Master E gives other upaya for those who are having trouble with the Resting in the Radiance)
Even the single breath, the breath is the medicine. Right? The breath is with you everywhere. Right?
This body, Right?
Come back to the breath.
We have to let go of our fixed concepts of what practice is.
In the Zen tradition we say there’s multiple gates.
Are you a meditation gate?
Chanting gate?
Bowing gate?
What’s your gate?
Maybe in one day, you’ve gone in and out of 62 different gates.
Who cares?
For us – so a lot of things right – so we have a lot of (upaya) skillful means at our disposal. Right? And we are all lay practitioners. All very busy. Right?
So we need – we have different medicines for different environments, Right? Yeah.
When I’m in the car, I play the mantras. I play Mantra practice all the time, Right?
Sometimes I give myself a target, Right? I want to do X for – say we’re doing a teaching – when we’re in a series, right?
Because we’re going to do OM MANI PADME HUM.
So for us – to bring that power and blessings I did 100,000 of those for us. Right. So that when you guys get the empowerment for OM Mani Padme Hum, you get the power.
I did that for you guys. Right?
Boom, they get a kickstart, you know to get you going. Right. Yeah. Again, right.
You have to get clear, right?
Clear motivation (Bodhicitta) right.
Your practice right now is just for you.
This is part of the problem, too. Right?
When it’s just for us, then it’s easy for us to call in sick.
Right? Yeah, You know, this as a mom.
I never realized how much power this body has until I hadn’t slept for four days and the kid cried in the middle of the night and next thing I know, I’m up – I’m not fully awake, but I’m there.
Talks in sweet voice – “Hey there – it’s OK. You want the bottle? (Knocks the bottle to the floor) You don’t want the bottle. OK – I’ll pick that up later.”
It’s amazing, right?
As parents, we need to see that too. Right?
You already have it innate within you. Right?
When “the practice” is just for us then – no.
When my practice switched to like, “Yeah – why can’t we all be free?” and “I’m going to, I’m going to do it! I’m going to awaken and then I’m going to awaken all of us.”
My life, in that moment, was no longer my own.
I made a promise right then and there, I’d taken the Bodhisattva Vow a couple times by that time – didn’t matter – that’s when I really took the Bodhisattva Vow – it was four or five in the morning in the middle of a grocery store I was working nights. Right? No more of this (a life of pleasure and selfishness) As I was getting clearer and clearer and clearer on the true purpose of my life. And it hit me – at that time was delirious, exhausted. I was listening to a Dharma podcast at that time period.
I had already been steering my life that way. Steering I knew it – or getting back on track to that.
Because at a certain point, I started to believe in the “should’s”
Terrible. That guy’s terrible. This guy’s way better.
So – my practice was already pretty good. Right? Because I’m, I’m a meditator. Right? But then it just like, (makes explosion sound).
Then it’s no longer my practice.
Why do I do this?
For you.
He’s hurting… (points to one of the students) And – of course I need to do this now.
There’s no question.
So when we move it out of us, for the benefit of all beings.
Why do I do that? Why do I wake up at five in the morning to do this?
Go upstairs, start the coffee and go over and you guys saw my the altar right?
I start, I start every day I offer incense to the Buddha, to my personal teacher on the physical realm (Zen Master Hwasun Yangil) Padmasambhava on the Sambhogakaya, the energy realm let’s say, then the Dharmakaya, well, and the lineage – you see that little blue book that’s the lineage book. So my name’s in there and I’m part of that lineage and I thank all of those people for all that they’ve done for us, because they’ve done tons. Sacrificed way more than I can ever imagine. To make sure the Dharma got to us here. I thank those people. I thank the fundamental nature of mind, Right?
I pray for you guys.
I do prostrations.
I ask for things, right. Blessings, wisdom, compassion, whatever the thing is for that day, usually it’s a certain things, I thank and I accept.
By that time coffee’s done.
Then I go fill up the coffee’s for me and Andy. And then by that time period she’s usually finishing the shower. And I know I have a little coffee cup for her. I bring the coffee cup downstairs for her. That’s how she likes it. There you go. And then I get in the shower.
I don’t have time to sit in the morning.
And I don’t beat myself up for that. I’ve adapted my practice. Right?
Then I hop in the car and mantras come on. I do the mantras, whatever the mantra is for that time period or whatever I’m working on or teaching that we’re going to come to right?
Oh, then I get to work.
At work I got a mobile practice.
What’s my mobile practice? ATHA – I chew on the Koan – Alllllll day long.
When I’m not engaged as Ian manager guy, people need me, I need to do stuff, I’m chewing on the Koan.
There’s that.
Then again, my job is my temple too, you need to start to look at this too. I was telling the kids this this weekend. I was like guys, we need to – the house is the temple.
When you’re at the temple – because they’ve been coming to temple with me more and more now because they’re older. Thursdays I go and I train with my teacher. But then every so often I go for the big ceremonies when my teacher wants me there. So “hey guys”, when they’re with me, I bring them with me.
And so yeah, so when we’re at Temple it’s so easy, right? When you guys go to clean this (points to the tea set), you don’t even think about it you just do it. Right? But when you go to clean the dishes at home, “Oh my god – the dishes – why doesn’t anybody ever help me with the dishes?” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah dishes story. Story. Whoa is me, Right?
Notice. Listen to that. You just created suffering world for yourself.
(Make poof sound like a magician creating something)
It just arose.
Shut up.
Do the dishes.Because the dishes are the practice then right? And then Okay, no problem. So then I got a stereo in the kitchen now and I played the mantras and I got the whole family into the mantras now.
But if it’s just me I just feel and see the soap and the bubbles and everything. There’s no “Ian” doing the dishes there’s dishes getting done. There’s no “Ian” “doing” “the” “dishes”. There’s just the dishes getting done. I’m just watching it all happen. Look at this.
You walked from the car into the place – how many steps did you take?
How many steps go up and down your house?
Right. It’s interesting, right?
Do you remember putting on your shoes this morning?
Interesting, Right?
Our whole life is the practice – if we drop what we believe the practice is.
Everything is the practice.
Everything that you’re doing is the practice. Every conversation that you have is the practice, right?
I like it within the Christian tradition where Jesus is like, “Hey, yeah, yeah yeah you love me? That’s great. But now see everybody like me.”
Can you do that? Can you see the Buddha in everybody?
They showing up – they’re being a jerk to you, that’s the Buddha, “Oh yeah you said earlier that you want to be more compassionate and patient eh?”
Baka Baka Baka Baka (person being annoying)
Thank you Buddha.
That’s the Buddha just showing up there. You think it’s Henry or whoever but no – the Buddha went into that person and made that guy a puppet for you to show you.
So drop what you think it is – drop this pressure that you have on yourself.
Yeah, man.
Even to just distill it simply that’s why I love Maitreya’s practice. Maitreya, the coming Buddha, they say that he did one practice to awaken – loving kindness.
He was just loving and kind to everybody, everything and himself.
Maybe that’s your practice.
Because it looks like you need some love and kindness for yourself.
Too hard for yourself. Okay?
(student starts to cry)
Good. It’s good.
Feel that hurt.
That’s the thing, right? We’re messy practitioners. Okay. Life is messy. And we love the shit out of it. That’s what we do. We just love. And we see and we know, “Oh god why are you holding this? Stop holding it. Give me it. Put it here, I can carry it. Okay?
That’s why in the Buddhist tradition, we remember refuge, right?
I can’t hold it – I give it to Buddha.
I give it to my teachers I give it to the lineage, I can’t hold – this little tiny (holds heart), trying to hold all the sorrow of the world in this little heart.
I can’t do that. I need to increase my capacity and the only way I can do that is to surrender myself. Completely.
That’s The beautiful thing about the Christian tradition – give it up.
The hell man.
Why are you holding all this stuff?
Just let it go.
Just release it. Right?
Because if not, look at all those hell worlds that you created for yourself.
That’s why in the Zen tradition they just point right back at your mind. Right?
Just look, you’re creating all these different realms.
The human realm is the best. It’s the sweet spot. Because it’s the Goldilocks. You’re not like a god. Right? But we see even see it right? People with money and money and money.
They can just build a giant moats right around themselves and they never even need to know that the world exists. Right.
But that can only last so long.
‘Till the money runs out. Fortune favor and then next thing you know, one moment it’s here, one moment it’s gone.
The practice is important.
But we have to lose what we believe “the practice” is.
You’ll see different different people “No this is the practice. This is the practice. And this is the practice.”
Here, how many practices have given us already tons, right? Even just in this talk right here. There’s tons, you just ride one of those to the end. Right. And that’s the thing, right? We pick this up and you pick this up.
You resonate with something, some sort of practice – just pour yourself into it.
The best practice, is to Rest in the Radiance. That’s the best. But sometimes it’s hard. Because it’s so simple. That can’t it – Come on Ian. That can’t be it.
Okay, All right, then do some mantras and do that thing. Alright alright – I’m tricking you, you know,
Resting in that presence in the radiance – that’s the practice because that’s the great remembering.
When we’re in that space, like the word I used, familiar, used to it, such that when life comes crashing at you, “Oh look at that! It’s like watching a picture show.”
Sometimes even still, the body will have reactions, “Wow – look at that – that’s interesting.”
Just to be staying on the throne, Right?
So this – when we’re in this posture, whatever the comfy, stable posture is, what we’re doing isn’t meditation.
It’s actualizing your Buddha nature. Period.
So until we get familiar completely, then yeah, we do these other things, too.
But we have to see we are so busy, right? We have to remember we’re lay practitioners, Right? We we have jobs, kids, bills, commitments, all this stuff.
So we need an adaptive and fluid practice. Right?
The fundamental is the great remembering.
Always there ever present.
Nothing you can do can make it any better, or any worse. Yeah.
Sometimes we got to work the energy through.
Prostrations are great for that. Anybody done prostrations work? You’ve done it some? Little bit.
Prostrations right where you do bowing.
Yeah. And full right out. Oh, you haven’t done the full one. Yeah.
It’s really good. Right?
Like, if you feel like you have a lot of kinetic or a lot of emotion, or a lot of things trapped in here that you’re working through?
Do some full on bows, man, you’re going work that stuff out. Yeah, give it over. Right?
If it’s not the Buddha, then give it to wisdom, to compassion, to the universe, whatever the word is, put whatever you want in there, I don’t care.
Give it up, give it away. It’s too much for you to hold on to.
It’s obvious. It’s too much – our limited capacity.
Just adapt, adapt, tweak, tweak your practice. And if it’s no longer, You know, it’s no longer the mantra work, then it’s no longer the mantra then.
Thank you mantra.
We just move on.
Yeah. Well, that’s a good thing about our tradition is that we’re not fixed.
Right? It’s not a fixed form. We have a messy form.
Why though?
Because we trust the innate Buddha Nature in each and every one of us.
This is the trick.
I trust the innate wisdom within you. Right?
When you show up here, that’s all I keep magnetizing out of you. That’s it.
You come – bring problems, whatever I don’t care about those.
Yeah, you think – problems are infinite. Just when you think one finishes another, and another and then another, another another.
OK. So the problem is not the problem. Right?
The problem is, you can’t see your own potential.
I can see it.
That’s why I cry for you guys.
I pray for you guys.
I beseech all the Buddha’s, my teachers, the lineage and the fundamental nature of mind itself.
“Please watch over them, care for them, guide them. Help them swiftly and easily awaken.
This is a big thing lately: Give up the hard lessons.
Stop asking for it to be hard.
Just smooth. Easy.
“Please bring me the support, the guidance and the wisdom that I need. The grace and the understanding the patience. Thank you.”
It’s one thing to ask. But we have to thank, Right? You need to own that stuff. Right? You’re gonna suck at it. Yeah, come on.
Come on, you’re not that good. Come on, right.
Just be real man. This is the this is the other thing with our practice, Right? Like people, some people that are caught in, like, what the practice looks like, are going to have trouble with our group and our style and everything like this. Right?
We fundamentally believe in the fundamental good in each and every one of us.
Sometimes it’s really hard to see. Right?
But we, we see it in them. Which means guess what? We see it in ourselves.
So we keep trusting it, seeing it.
When we come here we get more and more familiar.
Confident is good word in it, Right?
Doubt is the mind killer, is the heart killer really, as the awakening killer, Right?
And the teacher, the teachers, biggest job is to give you confidence again, in yourself and the fundamental goodness of each person.
Right? We were talking about this last week, where where did the Buddha come from?
What is the fundamental ground of Buddha’s?
Sentient beings.
Where do they come from?
Everyone you’re looking at is Buddha’s.
That’s why in one of the pieces that I wrote down as “It’s so funny to see Buddha’s looking for Buddha’s.”
This is crazy.
This is nuts.
And when we’re resting in the radiance, when we’re deep within that practice, when we continue to soften, letting go right in that state – come on – are you gonna do anything, anything bad? You gonna hurt anybody? You gonna say any crazy shit that’s gonna wound somebody deeply? No!
So that’s why we just get familiar here.
At the seat of Buddhahood, which is your Buddha hood, Right?
The fundamental nature is the same for each and every one of us. Right?
When we go on a retreat, I’m probably going to try to do an experiment where when we’re in the meditate, we’re gonna describe the meditation.
And you’ll see, we’ll write it down somewhere and I’ll be like, “You just described Buddha.”
You think you’re not. It’s crazy.
But when Buddha gets off this chair to go out into the world – Protibha Buddha, Sally Buddha, Mary Buddha, Christina Buddha, Greg Buddha.
So then the practice is to be authentically and fully you. To allow the Buddha juice to flow through you. As you. Is you.
I don’t have your life.
So just live your life for me.
Fully, freely. Right? And that’s what the teacher wants for you to be open and free and to laugh and to love again to dance as well.
To dance again.
Mary posted a videos and she was dancing in the middle of the house.
Just to be free to be freely ourselves. Oh my god. What is that like?
Right? That’s the thing with my kids, man. I just keep telling them, “This is your dad guys. I’m gonna pretend to be somebody else.”
A dad.
Like they screwed up the other day somethin bad amd I was like, “Hey! Okay. I don’t want to be that guy. So this is practice time. And I said, in the world, people are going to lose their minds if you did this to them. Right? Because they didn’t come home.So I had to go out and find them. Right. I said you had one job – you made a promise to me. This is practice, Okay. This is Practice. There was no remorse? None nothing. I said why are you guys beings asshole right now. Come on, lead with your heart. You feelin bad? Yea we’re feeling bad. Then why didn’t you just lead with that? I said, this is practice for the “real world”. Because you come up showing up like that and the “real world” is going to hack you down. Because the real world is suffering. They’re gonna want to get vengeance on you because you’ve spurned them and you’ve done them wrong, whatever the story is, right? And they got to dominate you with power. So I was like this is practice you guys. Okay. Alright? So we just lead with our heart next time okay? You screwed up. We’re all gonna screw up. I was like Daddy screws up all the time. Let’s just be authentic. Natural.”
What does that look like?
We think we need to be something else.
Drop it. Just put it down.
So much better.
Student: So much better.
Put it down.
Because once you do that, then you’re free.
You can see again, hear again, feel again.
Everything just flowing free.
And this is the practice too right?
Because everything is locked. In certain traditions they say like the biggest thing that happens is there’s like this giant heart knot and we just keep unraveling it.
Unraveling it.
And then again, there’s like a big BOOM but then there’s still – just when you think it’s over.
Holy jeez.
Because you don’t even know how much you’ve stuffed down deep in there. This life, let alone whatever else you brought into this life.
So just give up the ghost man. You know?
Put it all down.
What you think the practice is supposed to be. What you think awakening is supposed to be. Right? What you think all of it is supposed to be.
What you think being a mom, being a dad is supposed to be like, Just keep showing up and be naturally you.
That’s the practice.
That’s the practice.
That’s why I gave you that name (taps one of the students whose Dharma name starts with Sahaja which means natural)
Because once that clicks – oh my god!
(Makes the sound of being in awe)
It’s the whole universe. Right there.
Everything makes so much sense.
It’s just easy then.
Because it’s always been.
But we believe we’re a sentient being.
And we bear down on it.
To open it up. To keep keep unfolding it. And just when you think – there’s more and more and more.
People don’t even understand
It’s crazy.
It’s nuts.
And honestly it just gets easier.
We mess it up man.
It’s so crazy, right?
We mess it up.
But like the fundamental practice is just look at yourself.
Just look.
Look at what you’re creating for yourself.
You’re getting angry, you’re creating anger world.
Sad, sad, world.
Frustrated, frustration world.
When rest in the radiance then you create Buddha world all around you.
At first it’s just tiny and small. Just keep it right here (close to your chest).
Keep it safe.
Create Buddha world for yourself.
I remember one time I was carrying something, I was being stupid and carrying something in my heart, oh my god, it was crazy. I called the Buddha, right? Just call – whatever – you guys maybe resonate with Jesus, maybe more than than Buddha – call Jesus, man. Who cares? So he comes down (the Buddha) and (now Ian demonstrates – the Buddha looked lovingly at Ian – tapped him on the chest and said, “Give this to me.” and the Buddha just went off into the sun and then Ian just describes being free of it and crying with release)
It was amazing.
Why am I holding this?
I don’t know what to do with this.
Why do I keep thinking I know what to do with this.
No. You don’t. You don’t.
That’s why we go for refuge. Right? You guys took the precepts.
You don’t understand the power of refuge.
Give it up. Just give it up.
Go to the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.
Remember we give our squishy and tender hearts over.
Give it to the teacher.
that’s it. Give it up.
You don’t know how to take care of it.
Not yet.
So give it to somebody that knows.
Because when you get it back, you’re gonna be like, “That’s how it works???”
It’s all spit shined and tuned up.
You don’t even know.
So what was the question?
But it started practice something.
So out of all of that, blah blah blah – whatever stuck for you. Okay.
But maybe it’s loving kindness.
Maybe that’s the practice.
Just to be loving and kind.
You don’t need to be formal about it. May I be loving and kind to myself. May be loving and kind to this moment, to this person, the situation.
What does that even look like?
Imagine the world just doing that (loving-kindness) not even a full blown awakening.
But supposedly that’s what Maitreya did, he just poured himself into that practice.
Poof! Awwwwww (like a choir of angels)
Just took it all the way to the end.
Just find the Dharma gate that you go through and then it opens up, right?
I didn’t know I’d be so devotional like we talked about until like, until I met my teacher and had my breakthroughs.
Now I’m just a fuckinig gusher like Oh, my God. Life is so! Thank you soooooo much!!!
Mary’s a Bhakti type (devotional).
Reverence and love and all “Come on, guys. We can do this!”
They just keep loving the shit outta everybody.
But the difference is with wisdom and compassion and understanding and insight.
That’s the difference, right?
The hippies they had a pretty good, right.
Like, Almost there.
What needs to be they need to mesh together – wisdom and compassion – on the bedrock of stability,
But we’ve already seen the fundamental nature of your mind is immovable
Everything rises in it.
See the mirror like – you can see it right now right?
It’s almost like a mirror like. There’s a mirror. Right?
The mirror is unaffected by what arises within it.
That’s The pointing out instructions.
That fundamental nature is always there and always been there.
You can go run around the block – you look, it’s still the same thing. When you walk down the stairs is still the same thing.
Always there, you’re never separate from it. Okay.
As you become more and more familiar in that space, boundaries start to dissolve, and then you tell me what happens after that you’ve come to tell me. Okay?
Oh, looks like it worked.
What should we call this Dharma talk?
Student: Where dp I start?
Oh, yeah.
Where do I start?

By Ian Marshall

Ian Paul Marshall has been initiated by the Dalai Lama, is trained in Zen as transmitted through the teachings of the Venerable Dr. Thich Thien-An and Seung Sahn Dae Jong Sa and is the founder of based out of Toronto, Canada.