The Buddha’s agenda (so he said) was to understand suffering, and to end suffering once and for all. If you share his essential concern, only one thing is required.
I can’t convince anyone of anything – and it’s not my job to try. But I can share – from the depths of my own life – and from the teaching I have received, with anyone who is willing to drop all pretense, and listen deeply.
To listen deeply means listening with the heart and well as the head – with the right brain, the seat of our emotions and intuition, and our left brain, the seat of our reason and conceptual logic.
To listen deeply means listening with an open mind and an open heart – neither with naïve and uncritical acceptance, nor with cynical skepticism.
To listen deeply means being willing to engage in honest dialogue to make sure that what you understand is an accurate reflection of what is being shared.
To listen deeply means taking seriously the responsibility to mull over what is being shared – to contemplate, ruminate and meditate – to listen INSIDE to the depths of your own being as well as OUTSIDE to the person who is sharing.
To listen deeply means laying aside the fine clothing of the scholar and the philosopher. It means being willing to examine the unconscious biases we all acquire as we go through the process of education in our society.
To listen deeply means coming to the discussion naked, as a human being who struggles with the same essential problems of existence as everyone else.
To listen deeply means reflecting on the challenges of our personal limitations – around the difficulties of living what we already know, of coming to and abiding in true wisdom, of manifesting true compassion for ourselves and others.
To listen deeply means to be willing to reflect on the fact that the world is indeed our mirror – that the all too apparent limitations we have a as a race to achieve the kind of world we all dream about is nothing less that the limitations of our own lives writ large.
To listen deeply means neither shirking from nor skirting around the suffering inherent in sickness and in death.
Shin Ugly – the plain teaching of Shinran for plain people - unlike every other kind of Buddhism, calls us to let go of EVERYTHING else – and simply listen deeply.
If you’re a successful person - then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you’re a failure (by this world’s standards) – then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you’re proud of your family – then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you’re proud of your service to others – then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you’re deeply ashamed – then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you know a little or a lot about spiritual or metaphysical teaching – Buddhist or otherwise – then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you know nothing – then let go of that - and listen deeply.
If you are attached to your spiritual practice - then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you have had many experiences of sublime, pristine awareness - then let go of that – and listen deeply.
If you are attached to particular religious forms, prayers, beads, trinkets, statues and alters - then let go of that - and listen deeply.
If you are spiritually bankrupt and don’t know where to begin - then let go of that – and listen deeply.
Whatever you think and feel about yourself, about others, about life and death, about traveling the path towards awakening – let go of it ALL – and listen deeply.
And particularly - if you are already a Buddhist – but do not know how, or when, you can finally become a Buddha – then let go of your Buddhist teaching and teachers (including your Shin Buddhist teachers and teachings) – and listen deeply.
Deep listening is the ONLY thing that is needed.
If you come with open heart, and empty hands – and listen deeply - you will not walk away empty-handed. You WILL become a Buddha at the end of this life.
The one we call The Buddha promises you that. He said so - in his final teaching – given one day in a place called Vulture’s Peak – to thousands of his disciples.
Centuries later, Shinran said - in the plainest possible language – that to give this final teaching was the reason that The Buddha came into this world.
So…I invite you to join me in listening deeply to The Buddha as he gives this teaching. If you are honest, open and willing to listen deeply you will see for yourself - the end of suffering at last.