White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 104: Coming to Someone's Door

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, June 25th, 2011


from the moment you first took a breath, or more accurately,
since mechanisms of survival...
since being a human being kicked in ...
and your little lungs expanded...
and you went: "WAAAAAAAA"
and you were born into the world,

every breath you take
lets you know you're alive.

And, while you're still alive, check it out: in this moment, you are still alive...

Now, some of you might hold out the faint hope that this condition is going to last forever.
Well. Well. Well.

It won't.
this breath you're breathing in right now
could be the last in breath, but what a way to go! [students giggle]
We should all be so lucky.

The end of the sitting,
the gong has rung,
everyone else is getting up for kinhin, but so-and-so isn't...
Kinhin is ready to start,
but so-and-so is still sitting on their zafu!

I wonder how long it would be until someone said: "So-and-so, it's time for kinhin."

And nothing happens.

Some brave soul takes a step over,
gives a little poke,
and there's a slow toppling towards the wall. [O-sensei and students laugh]

[O-sensei claps] Well done, you become a legend! [O-sensei and students laugh heartily]

Everyone's hopes and fears realized:
"I'm going to die if I continue sitting here any longer!" [more laughter]

We just don't know what's going to happen.

Today's verse from The Practice of Purity:

Coming to someone's door,
"May all beings
Enter all Gates
Of Awake Awareness."

Well, we've all had occasion to come towards a door.
This morning, you walked towards a door.
Some of you in your rooms at home,
some of you in your rooms in residence here in the monastery,
some of you walked up that path to the front door of the monastery,
and did you have in your mind the little verse:

"May all beings
Enter all Gates
Of Awake Awareness."

Well, perhaps in one form or another,
perhaps not articulated,
there was that sort of wishing and hoping and dreaming.

Now remember, these verses were written 1600 years ago
but people did have doors and doorways,
and they too were people just like you.
They were born, they took that first breath in,
they did all the things that human beings do
because the process of being a human being is the same for all human beings
since the beginning of whatever demarcation line was arbitrarily chosen to be the gateway between primates and humans.

So the process is the same,
the meaning we make out of what we experience moment to moment is very, very different,
and when meaning becomes beliefs
or beliefs make the meaning of our lives,
we're on the way to problems,
not just for our self, but for everyone.

We don't have to think about it for very long to come up with examples
in our own lives when we had beliefs
about what was going to happen,
beliefs about who we are and how the world is.
We sat, perhaps, in front of the television set
and watched actions take place that were in fact beyond our comprehension, beyond our experience,
actions of extreme brutality
by humans just like us against other humans just like us
and against every other possible species that we could encounter
because face it:
beliefs are nasty, they're unnecessary and very, very nasty.

I'm not going to elaborate on the nastiness because you can figure it out for yourselves.
I can't elaborate because if I do,
I just might break down and weep because we humans have wasted our potential in so many ways.
Well, "wasted our potential",
we've just wasted our energy in so many stupid ways because of being consumed
by passion, aggression and stupidity.

So at some point for each and every one of us, we had a moment when we said to ourselves:
"Wait a minute, there's got to be something more,
this is not the totality of my life,
I can experience something more, I know it, but I just don't know what it is."

And for each and every one sitting in this room,
we pitty-patted up some pathway and entered someone's door.
In this case, the someone was the door of the Lineage.

You've heard the words "Dharma gates",
well interestingly,
the word gate comes from the same word source as door, as does mouth, actually.
And it wouldn't surprise me, although I couldn't track this down,
it wouldn't surprise me if in fact dharma came from the same background as door
because Sanskrit it was something like "dwara" (??? - I looked this up but couldn't find it)
so we're not going to get into the root of the word but we will say each moment of experience
is a door,
is a gateway,
a dharma that can be entered through into the larger expanse.

So, we come to someone's door.
What do we want when we enter that doorway?
Well, often it's not what we get.
We'll enter a doorway,
sometimes having this vague feeling that
if we can just get enough information
that we will be wise, and of course better than everybody else,
because that's what self-image does.

Self-image, that contraction into a sense of self
with its beliefs about who it is and how the world is,
wants to acquire things,
wants to adorn itself,
wants to turn itself out as bigger and better
and more beautiful
than everyone else.

Well, it doesn't exactly happen that way...

We come to the door seeking to learn about who we really are and how the world really is,
and that is not necessarily an easy process.
Not only can it be difficult on the bodymind,
because sitting still for thirty minutes may be one of the most difficult things that any one of us has ever done,
and the bodymind gets stretched, literally,
and its knees hurt,
and its bum aches,
and its back gets all twisted up,
and of course
it blames practice
because self-image will try to blame anything it experiences
on anything else, rather than,
(as we learn, that's not who we are,) 
so rather than taking that on as who we are, saying: "yes indeed, I am just too old...
this is just too painful...
I can't stand it...
I don't need this...
I'm better than everyone else without it...
I'm worse than anyone else so I'll never be able to do it..."

we start to recognize that
as being the same old script that everyone has run through for themselves
at one time or another
to a greater or lesser degree.

As soon as you recognize that [O-sensei claps] you've recognized thoughts.
See it, don't be it!

Practise at that moment.
Feel the breath,
sit up straight,
practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment,
and as you do that you are, metaphorically, entering a dharma gate of Awake Awareness.

So you keep on doing that
and the fact that it is possible as you experience
means that it is possible for you to do it again...

and again...



It's going to get the information,
eventually, through your own experience
that you are not who you thought you were,
you never were,
and the world is not how you thought it was,
nor was it ever.

I'm going to read you a little poem now, written in December 1990 by someone called Shikai shamini during a December O-sesshin.

Backpacking the Straight Path
Instructions for the Zendo

Bare bones, bare flesh

Leave the backpack of self-image
Parent, child, male, female, straight, gay, old, young, black, white, older, younger at the door,
with your shoes and socks.

Pick it up on the way out.

Too heavy?

Unpack in suchness
and the load lightens.

Now, the purpose of that of course is just to point out that
we all carry with us a backpack of stuff,
beliefs about how we are and how the world is, quite simply,
and when we recognize that,
we're presented with many moments as we see the individual items,
many moments when we can practise that moment of clear seeing,
that moment of recognition,
that moment of Awake Awareness.

Now in a Dharma Assembly by Anzan Hoshin entitled "Backpacking the Straight Path", which was done in January 1991, he says:

"The whole point of the Dharma is to put the Dharma to work for you in your life so that you can apply it."

And so you are learning to apply it.
I recommend that you read that Dharma Talk, "Backpacking the Straight Path" because it addresses questions that come up for all of you, such as:

What is meant by "straight path"?
What is meant by "direct path"?
What is meant by "kensho"?
What is meant by "daikensho"?

Now, I could repeat those things for you, but
not gonna do it, not gonna do it.

You can look it up,
that's a much better way.

So as you walk this straight path, moment to moment,
and the straight path does mean that it is direct,
you're not going to get a lot of little sidebars, even though self-image loves little sidebars.

There really isn't any straight path,
there really isn't any direct path,
there really is only this moment,
so when you notice anything at all,
recognize: it's this moment.

Feel the breath,
sit up straight,
practise the whole bodymind in this moment.

Wake up to Awake Awareness.

Now, when you're coming to someone's door and oh, hey,
did any of you ever go on a date,
and you had to walk up that path to the door,
and all those thoughts that you might have had,
or you went for a job interview
and all those thoughts that you had,
thoughts about how you were and how the world was and how the whole thing
was going to turn out...

Well, should you be doing these things again,
you have something else to do,
you have the opportunity to recognize hey: moment of clear seeing.
Thoughts and feelings rise and fall.
Life and living as Awake Awareness isn't the lack of thoughts and feelings
it's the ability to see clearly exactly what's going
moment to moment.

So remember this little verse, let it just resonate through:

Coming to someone's door,
"May all beings
Enter all Gates
Of Awake Awareness."

Thank you for listening.