White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 105: Entering a House

Every Breath You Take 105: Entering a House

Dainen-ji, July 2nd, 2011


And who is it that takes that breath?
Do you really take it?
Or is that a linguistic convenience?

Oh well, never mind.

Every breath you take has been informed by the breath that has left other beings who have
been in this room before you,
is informed by other beings who are in other places
and even in other times
so really can we talk about "pure" air?

But the fact is we are living in and breathing in and out some sort of soup which could be,
again a metaphor and as metaphors go,
kind of stretching it because the air,
although it may be humid is not liquid as such...

Oh my, oh my! Words are so so slippery, aren't they?

But they can turn into what we take to be the ABSOLUTE TRUTH,
and we are RIGHT,
and others who do not believe as we believe,
who do not do as we do are WRONG.

Gee, isn't that how countries run?
Isn't that how groups operate? Oh well, back to the verse:

Entering a house,
"May all beings
Enter the vehicle of Awakening as Awareness, 
Always equal throughout all times."

Now, "vehicle", what are we talking about?

"Where do I catch that vehicle? Is it a number 12, a number 7, or a number 86?
And how often does it come along?"

Well, vehicle comes from the Latin, vehiculum: to carry.
So a vehicle is anything that carries,
that is a medium through which something is transmitted, expressed, or accomplished.
My intention is not to insult anyone
but language, as we say, is slippery and it is changing.

When we say vehicle,
we tend to think first off of something with four or eight wheels that carries people in it.
So here we're talking about the vehicle,
the Teachings of Awareness which carry the possibility for each and every one of you
and for all beings who follow the instruction of

sitting up straight,
feeling the breath,
feeling the whole bodymind,
to wake up to the fact that you are Awake Awareness,
and that this has always been the case
for everything
for all times.

So it's not a matter of there being different capacities or skill sets that people have to have to practise.
Each and every person has what it takes.
When we first start to practise,
we have entered upon,
we have put our little footsy wootsies on the Straight Path.


We carry all sorts of ideas, usually unpleasant,
and usually having to do with denial of things that we like,
we have put our foot on the Straight Path
and with each step we have the opportunity to notice how attention is
and at that moment of noticing, to practise mindfulness,

to feel the breath,
to sit or stand up straight,
to feel the whole bodymind.

Another step,
another opportunity.

Now, practising mindfulness is the beginning of the Straight Path
and it goes on and on until somehow very subtly
it changes into what may be called the Direct Path.

Now, the Direct Path begins when any kind of categorization of experience is given up.

So you may find yourself just sitting there,
just standing there,
just walking
without that metaphoric labelling machine going: "Tick tick tick tick: nice day!"

"Tick tick: oh, cool breeze."

"Oh, look at that."

"Oh, how are you?"

"Oh, what's going on?"

sending out this constant stream of categorizing:
not so good not so bad hope
like her hate her he's cute
oh, she's ugly...
On and on.

All of that drops away and there's just experiencing,
and the Direct Path,
which of course is no path at all,
neither is the Straight Path,
these are just words to point to instruction,
words that can allow people to talk to,
and give instruction to a room full of people.

It would be pretty difficult to do it without words.
Think about it for a moment right now.
It may give us a chance to have another little doze, but instruction could not get passed along.

So there you are, you're on the Direct Path,
labelling's not happening,
directly attending to the process of experiencing.


And you notice how you tend to notice after the fact,
we tend not to notice something that's not happening.

So after a while we may notice that we're not falling for our stories about what's going on
because our stories about what's going on aren't there
and haven't been there...


What will we say in daisan?
(Little sidebar with the hope of a comedic effect.)

Now the Direct Path, as I said is the opening and broadening of the Straight Path,
but whatever we call it, each moment that there is
waking up as Awareness itself
is THIS moment of waking up
as Awareness itself.

When something starts to come into that and attracts attention, basic mindfulness:

feeling the breath
sitting up straight
opening the eye gaze.

It doesn't matter how far along the Direct Path you may be,
that is always there for you.

Now, in "The Straight Path: Zen Teachings on the Foundations of Mindfulness",
there's a poem that Anzan Hoshin roshi wrote about the elements of the Direct Path within the Straight Path.

Since this is a holiday weekend, and we're at a party,
I thought I would provide some entertainment.

Tourist's Guide to Zazen:
one easy step

People run this way and that,
looking for good things to see,
trying to avoid anything ugly.
Since they are so afraid of anything ugly,
they carry this fear around with them
and everything they see is ugly.

What are you looking for?
What is it that you see?
What is it that sees?

Give up the game of good and bad,
happy and sad
and just see what is seen
just hear what is heard
just sense what is sensed
just know what is known.

I'm no tour guide
I have no holiday package to offer
But if you want to come along with me,
I'll show you what I've seen.

First of all, before we start,
you should know that
wherever you are
is always right here.

Each place
is the same place.

No, I'm not kidding.
Although it might seem like a funny thing.

Actually, it's a funny thing
that you have never noticed it.

Oh, something else:
each place
is nowhere at all
because all places are here and "here"
is not really a place.

Here is just
being aware.

I see you're confused.

Well, before we go on
perhaps we should just sit down.

Let's sit down
right here
in the midst of everything.

Just sit up straight
and pay attention
and just be aware
of being right here.

Pay attention
not just with your mind
(because, after all,
it's the mind that's confused;
the rest is all right).

Pay attention
with your back,
your belly, your breath.

Ears over the shoulder,
nose over the navel;
body in balance
will bring the mind around right.

That's right.

After all,
since the mind
is always running around

and the body is always
right here, right now,

if you want to understand
how each place is the same place
and that each place
is no place,

right here
is the place to start.

Oh, didn't I mention it?
Our tour has begun.


Entering a house,
"May all beings
Enter the vehicle of Awakening as Awareness, 
Always equal throughout all times."

Thank you for listening.