After retreat

From: Death: Friend or Foe 7
Full transcript
Ken: Now, as I said the tendency is to try and take the peace and clarity into your regular life. Well, there are many problems with this, we'll just start with the first one, we don't need to go any further. To do that, it means you have to be holding onto the peace and clarity. Peace and clarity can be a little bit like a cat. How many of you have tried to hold onto a cat? What happens?

Student: Their claws, right?

Ken: Soon as the cat doesn't want to be there, it's either out of your arms, or things get extremely unpleasant. Very quickly. So, you can't hold onto this.

Now, where does the peace and clarity go? Let me ask this a different way. It's quite quiet in here. Sometimes in the early morning in the zendo before the cars start running up the hill, the highway, it's completely quiet. A noise arises. Maybe it's the sound of the birds. Maybe it's the wind. Maybe it's a motorcycle. Maybe it's a bomb. Maybe it's a boombox. Where does the silence go? What happens to it?

Student: It's still there.

Ken: Yes, what happens to it is we stop listening to it. The silence is present in all sound. Peace and clarity are present in every experience. Now, I've had some experiences which is pretty damn difficult to find that peace and clarity. And maybe some of you had some of those too. And that's the purpose of practice. It isn't to hold onto the peace and clarity and try to take it everywhere with us. It's to develop the ability to experience the peace and clarity in every situation. It's a very different kettle of fish, and it involves a qualitatively different kind of effort.

Now we've already touched on this, particularly this afternoon in the fire circle. A couple of the coaching points that I did going around were, "Just be with what you're experiencing, or open to what you're experiencing, and something shifts." And there it is. Sometimes in a way that the various parts of us never considered possible.
It's not unreasonable to define awakening as being able to experience what arises, whatever arises, as an expression of peace and clarity. If you look at the moment of Buddha Shakyamuni's awakening, there's a wonderful genre of thangkas in the Tibetan tradition which show Buddha at the moment of his awakening, and there he is sitting like this. And around him is Mara's army, these hordes of demons brandishing and hurling all kinds of weapons, whole universes, cogs, bows, arrows. If someone were to draw this, paint this today, it would be AK-47s, and nuclear bombs, and missiles and tanks, you know. Buddha's sitting there like this, but as these weapons rain down on him they're transformed into a rain of flowers. That's what it says in the text, he transformed the attacks of Mara into a rain of flowers.

Now, in keeping with what I was suggesting yesterday, what experience is this depicting? Well, many of you, if not all of you know exactly what experience this is depicting. You sit in these turgid, visceral, horrific, overwhelming, painful experiences and you open to them and you find you can just be there. And all you're experiencing is the extraordinary dynamism and energy of experience, of mind. And that's what it means to find peace and clarity in experience. And the only way is to open to the experience, not to try to bring something to it, because as soon as you do that, you're engaged in a war. And it's a war between the forces of peace and clarity and confusion and turmoil on the other hand. Well, we all know who wins that war. You find peace and clarity in experience.

So what you take from this retreat is your experience of that possibility and the experience of having done it a few times. Now life being what it is, how you did it here may not work there. That's just how it is. But you know the principle. Now in daily life, it can be very difficult to do this.