A retreatant participates in an Inquiry. She or he sits besides myself in the front of the Dharma hall. A retreatant can speak about any issue that she or he wishes. The participant or myself can say ‘thank you’ to bring the Inquiry to a close at any time. The Inquiry offers mindful/meditative listening for all of us. This Inquiry took place on the retreat in the Thai Monastery in Sarnath, India in February 2020. A few spots of editing to make clear when reading. Different initials used for person.
AB: The question in the last 15 days concern the refrain at the end of the talks. You often end the talks with the words: “May all beings be happy. May all beings live in joy.”
There is an openness towards the approach. I teach yoga sessions so I end the sessions “May all beings be at peace.” At times, I really question myself. Am I really feeling that being at peace and spreading it to all beings or is it a mechanical process?
At times, it happens like a mechanical process even though I say ‘May there be joy and ease.’ Somewhere sometimes there is something holding me back. It is not letting me be free. I need to feel free and open to the deep. Something is holding me back that’s the sense I have.
CT: This is a common voice. There is the heart’s wish in the precious refrain “May all beings be happy. May all beings live in peace. May all beings be liberated.” The refrain in the Pali language is “Sabbe Satta Sukhita Hontu.” It means “May all beings be happy.” There is a resonance in the voice which the teacher shares with others. Did you connect with your resistance? Was there any sense of that resistance when you use these refrains to give to others?
AB: (Pause) If I say for instance “kindness” Sometimes I might get into a work conflict with others. This is a scenario.
CT: You have a situation where people come for four or five days, 10 days or up to a month residential. You are a yoga teacher, a lovely role in life. Is it important to you that you witness a fleeting crowd? Some stay four or five days or a week.
AB: There is no resistance to a fleeting crowd.
CT: So people can come and go quite freely. Going from the outer to the inner. Does your resistance have history to it, independent of the yoga teacher role?
AB: I have not experienced that in my life.
CT: What is ‘that?’
AB: The deep, inner sense of freedom. I wish at the end of a yoga class for all beings to live in freedom and peace, but myself has not experienced that. So, then I ask: Is it becoming mechanical?
CT: I hear you well on this. You share the precious offerings of yoga. These refrains are said in the Buddhist and yoga traditions for a long time. Is their resistance around the language of liberation, awakening, finding God or knowing Reality? If you say, “May all beings be happy.” You know what happiness is. You have the experience of happiness. It is regular and familiar. You can speak it without discomfort. Does resistance apply across the board to any refrain?
AB: Resistance is present when there is reference to freedom. That is where I feel a pulling back.
CT: I genuinely appreciate your openness here. When a refrain includes ultimate language such as Freedom, then you experience more hesitation.
CT: What would you prefer to look at – freedom or the hesitations?
AB: I feel both are interlinked. The hesitation makes me more feel unfree and vice-versa.
I would like to touch more on the space of freedom
CT: Marvellous. This is an expression of freedom. I was hoping that you would say that. It is an expression of wisdom that which we speak we must know, see and experience as well. Otherwise, it is genuinely uncomfortable and unsatisfactory to speak in the variety of ultimate languages, such as Truth, Liberation, the Deep, the Heart of Things, the Expanse and the Infinite. There is a gap between experience and the ultimate. Just saying the refrains could also lead to an impression for the listeners that the teacher knows liberation. That could lead to pressure and difficulties including transference onto you from the listeners. It is genuinely worth looking into. Are there any whispers, statements or confirmations where you felt free, unburdened and not weighed down with anything? Is there any experience of such a freedom alone or with others, indoors or outdoors, in or out of meditation?
AB: In the past 14 days here on retreat, I have experienced letting go in my in-breath and out-breath. That’s why I focus on the outbreath.
CT: Some priority is given to the outflow of the breath. What is the relationship for you in that experience which gives indication of freedom with letting go of the breath? What is the relationship of letting go with freedom?
AB: (Pause). I feel the space reveals expansiveness and no holding back.
AB: It is physical without any uprightness.
CT: The body responds with a genuine benefit. There is a greater sense of expansiveness which comes with it. How expansive is this expansiveness?
AB: At times, it feels metaphorically like an open sky, like a clear night sky.
CT: The night sky is widely used as a metaphor. Another person might use the blue sky or ocean. The expanse then is not confined to the form of the body.
AB: It is the space of not me. There is a resting in the deep in consciousness. There is love.
CT: There are many doorways of freedom that we speak of. One is the outbreath. The response can be bigger than the outbreath. This shows in the expanse. The vitality expands out. This expansiveness finds itself intimate with the Expansive which is authentic and real. What is the relationship of this expanse of freedom? Freedom from what?
CT: (Pause). Freedom from the way I am right now and the habitual me. This expanse is greater than the habitual me. I am fully on board with you. This expanse is precious and important. The hesitations are in a modest place. Can I ask a difficult question? What is freedom from the Expanse with no limits to it?
AB: (Pause). There is more clarity to what is going on. That gives me the space for the clarity of seeing the Expanse.
CT: This is maybe 5% of the response I am looking for. Are you still with the thread? Your hand is going up to your forehead. The questions are not easy. Hang in. It is precious to listen to your voice. Others here can resonate with what you are saying. Can I just reflect the last sentence or two?
CT: There is the outgoing breath with a natural letting go. The breath is letting go of itself. You are not holding back. You are not holding on. The letting go allows things to open out. There is a reduction of the habitual me. This gives the sense of the Expanse. This is a sense of expanse of the body without contractions, which is precious, important and valuable.
You find a closeness with a great Expanse. This Expanse has no limit in its multiplicity of expressions. With inner space you see a clear view of things is present as you pointed out. Valid and useful, this introduces the Expanse into view.
This reveals a freedom to experience a clarity. What is the freedom from the Expanse and the freedom which goes with the Expanse? What is the freedom to view clearly? One is not exaggerating the Expanse nor the freedom nor undermining it. Is this too much to ask?
AB: Put the questions into pieces.
CT: Alright. Slowly, slowly. Freedom with the expanse allows a clear view. The view comes out of the heart/mind from experience. Here is the question. What is freedom from the Expanse in which there is no application of the heart/mind to view anything?
AB: (Pause). The space allows the arising to happen without trying to do anything special. It is a space which happens without a space to struggle.
CT: Each point is insightful and valid. This can lead to further sense of the Expanse. There is non- struggle instead of “I am struggling.” Non-struggle, non-self … the movement of life just happens. Life unfolds itself as an expression of the Expanse. This is a genuine and authentic freedom to see this. As the Zen tradition states. “Green grass comes and grows by itself.” With this non-self way of seeing, I will labour the point. What will confirm freedom from the expanse even though it is precious, vast, a multiplicity of manifestations. Is there a freedom from this Expanse, beautiful, important, deep and profound as it is?
AB: (Pause). I rested in the space of the trust. I trusted in the space of non-struggle. The happening is just happening. I am not trying to dissect it.
CT: In the dynamic of the process, the experience of the Expansive and the view and clarity gives the freedom to explore. Having listened to your voice in the dynamic of the process, there is the expanse of things with a view of th4 clarity with the freedom to explore and experience the Expanse. Do you now have the authority to say to the yogis at the end of a yoga session with you “May all Beings Know Freedom?”
AB: Maybe. Yes.
CT: That means No. Did I pick up from you something you called hesitation? Do I hear that hesitation coming out of your being?
CT: I will ask the question again. You have engaged in a beautiful sharing with us. Based on the foundation of the principle of experience, there is a recognition and appreciation of the Expanse. There is hesitation in a modest and small place. Can I ask: ‘What is freedom from the expanse?’ The process is non-I, non-me and non-my. There is the freedom to be with the Expanse. There is the freedom to explore contractions and habitual patterns. Does this mean what you have spoken about from your experience give you the authority at the end of this inquiry session to say: May all beings be liberated.
AB: I can feel from deeper inside that voice which allows me to say that. It is there. That is the sense I have.
CT: Lovely. I have not finished yet. Do you want to say a refrain right now to this group?
AB: (Pause). May all beings including you, me, be free and at ease and be liberated.
CT: Thank you. Thank you. Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu. (Well said. Well said. Well said)
AB: Thank you. There is more freedom to know what is going on. This gives me the space to know the clarity of seeing it. It is not getting into the loop of things.
CT: It is precious to listen to your voice. Others can listen to what you are saying. Can I reflect the last sentence or two?
CT: There is the outgoing breath with a natural letting go. You are not holding it back. You are not holding on. The letting go of the outbreath with a reduction of the habitual me. This gives a sense of the expanse.
This sense is a sense not just a sense around the body, precious, important and valuable. This experience seems closer to the Expanse. Knowing the experience provides space and clarity.
What is the clarity to experience such a freedom to do that? There is no building up of any dependency of the expanse. This freedom is not bound to the finite, to the limited nor to the expanse. This is liberation.
Freedom makes available that which can be seen more clearly. In this interest in the Deep in Freedom and the Expanse, we wisely include a non-dependency on the Expanse.
This is profound and sets no limits to freedom in accordance with the way things are.
We need enough mindfulness so there is not a building up of any dependency on the Expanse. This freedom is not bound to the finite, to the limited, nor to the Expanse. This is liberation.
May all beings live mindful lives.
May all beings live with love
May all beings live with liberation.