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When David and Cynthia Trowbridge approached you a number of years ago to ask you about what to use this place Enso House for you were very clear in making this into a hospice service place. My question is why hospice? Of all the things in the world that we could have chosen of all of the things that needed attention in the world why hospice?
January 30, 2012, 3:20 pmI’m a monk and a teacher of people of training. When I was being brought up as a young monk, I was always taught that an important central kernel of training is the question of life and death. So this is a matter of really having to be in the presence of that actuality. The essence of people’s training is apt to become diluted or superficial, or not given the direct energy input that it needs sometimes, so for a person of training, a person of the path, to be able to encounter the matter of life and death with their own experience is a huge bonus for their training because then they can really see that what they are involved in is that real and that direct. Since I´ve been taught in this way, for me to teach other people with that included in how I´m teaching them, would be extremely important for their deepening in a real way.
It was also the teaching of the Buddha that everything is transient. Everything is transient, and within that everything being transient, there is no fixed ego. It isn’t that the ego isn’t there, but that the ego is a phenomena and has no actuality. While we are alive, we make use of it. We need our ego for our livelihood, for our daily being alive physically, but in actuality it is only a phenomena and not something that is ongoing. We can know these ideas conceptually, but to really understand them, to be actually in the presence of and to touch directly life and death, for example, people dying in a hospice, is a huge important matter for a person of training.
So, for that reason and for us to know that the things we have to realize and really experience in our training is: what is it to be alive? This is the number one thing of our training, what is alive? What is it this experience of being alive? And where do we go after we die? The Buddha taught that after we die there is nirvana. We can conceptually know the words: the extinction of all the flames of greed, the extinction of all the flames of anger, the extinction of all the things of ignorance. That is the written doctrine, but to actually have the great blessing of experiencing this and drawing our training that much closer to what we really need to know, we therefore make great efforts on the cushion and go through a lot of challenges to be able to realize this within our zazen practice. But to have the opportunity to meet and be with someone who is experiencing this in the natural way of life that is going in that way, is something that I have always felt to be necessary so that we do not stray away from the central urgency in entering the practice.