Breaking Concrete

Breaking Concrete


Tesshin is very active in the Boy Scouts.  One of the scouts named Eric Song recently completed his “Duty to God” emblem/badge.  He is a 9th grader at Yorktown Heights highschool.  Tesshin invited Eric to give the Teisho (Dharma Talk) to the group this week.  Below is the transcript of his talk…


Good morning everyone, How is everybody doing?


So a little bit of an introduction: My name is Eric, and I am in the 9th grade. Half a year ago, I started learning the fundamentals of Buddhism under Mr. Silverman, and since then, these lessons have literally changed my life. I became more confident, more positive, and more understanding of people. These teachings have given me more insight and a deeper understanding of life.


Today I want to share with you some of the most important things I learned under Mr. Silverman, the first being looking for the sun beyond the clouds.


Optimism is one of the most important qualities to possess in my opinion. Many people today disregard optimism, believing it isn’t as important as many say it is. However, a happier mind leads to a happier life. Instead of focusing on the bad things, always remember that there is a sun behind the clouds. This doesn’t just affect you, but also the people around you. There is a story about a man who was a stock trader. He was always a grouch, he never smiled, and people didn’t like him for this. However, he decided that for one week he would try and smile as much as possible to see its effect. The result? When he woke up the next morning, the first thing he did was smile at his wife and tell her how much he loved her. She was bewildered, this was different from the grumpy man she once knew. She was happy, and he was happy. Next, when he arrived at the trading floor, he noticed something. Whenever he smiled, people would smile back. Not only that, but the people he worked with slowly grew to be more fond of him. This change also enabled him to treat the people around him with more respect, and not to ridicule them. Ever since then, he has made many new friends. 


While this may seem common-sense to the people here today, for other people, especially teenagers, this is not as obvious.


I’m not saying that people should be happy and cheerful all the time. Sometimes you feel sad and sometimes you feel angry. But in those situations, always remember somewhere behind the clouds there is a sun. Even in the darkest of times, there is a sun. Be optimistic and smile, and I guarantee people will smile right back. 


But looking for the sun beyond the clouds isn’t entirely optimism, it can apply to many different things as well! In Buddhism, clouds are a distraction from the sun: delusion. This can be feelings of greed, hate, and anger. Despite these feelings, purity still exists. No matter how thick the clouds, this part of you will never be affected. Buddhism is based on breaking up the clouds to get closer to your purity. It’s like an onion. To get closer, you keep peeling off layers. To get closer to yourself, you need to look for the sun beyond the clouds. 


Imagine this: A man comes up to you and says some very hurtful things. How would you feel initially? Most people would feel angry. To many people, everything seems concrete. The insults are very real, the attacker is very real, and you feel like an attackee. This causes people to give in to the anger: possibly hurting the attacker and themselves in the process. 


How would one defuse this situation? This is called breaking up the concrete: using wisdom to address these thoughts. Take a look at the words attacking you. In these sounds, where can you find the insult? Do any of the individual sounds coming out of his mouth contain an insult? Keep breaking it apart like this, and you’ll never find an insult. It wasn’t so concrete after all. The insult is part of what the words mean to you, not the words themselves. 


Now take apart the attacker. In his physical and mental makeup, where is the attacker? Is it in his face? His jeans? In his many thoughts/emotions that go through his mind? The more you break the attacker up, the less of a bad guy he appears.


Finally, where are you? Can you find where the sound waves entered? In which part of your brain did the sound come through? Maybe in your body? Somewhere else? 


The more you analyze a situation, you realize things aren’t as concrete as you initially thought. Instead of being things with hard edges, they are actually “loosely organized phenomena.” They are your thoughts, your feelings, and so on. They rely on how you interpret them. By looking at it through a different lens, there is no option for aversion.


That’s all I’m going to share today, if you want to share any of your experiences, please feel free to do so.