White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 12: Move Past Householder's Life

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, February 15th, 2008


Is a moment you can practise.

Every breath you take could be the last one. 

The Great Matter is birth and death
Life slips past and time is gone,
Right now, wake up! wake up!

Do not waste time. 

The verse: 

When they move past householder's life,
"May all beings

Have no hindrance in 'leaving home',
And their hearts be free." 

Early on in the series,
it was mentioned that these verses were most likely written originally for monastics
but they can be useful and informative for lay practitioners.
After all, we all go up in "high places", elevators, stairs, escalators.
We all go to the bathroom.
We all have family and friends, acquaintances, and people we interact with.
We all see water and use it.
We all may put on adornments or see people putting on adornments.
We see people who are in good health and ill health.
We see or are in gatherings of people. 

The verses are speaking of the stuff of everyday life.
This particular verse is specific to monastics. 

When they move past householder's life,
"May all beings

Have no hindrance in 'leaving home',
And their hearts be free." 

In this lineage,
monks are those who have "left home" to practise intensively for the liberation of all beings.
That intention is expressed daily, moment-to-moment,
and in different ways with different verses and chants
all stating that this is rooted in the Four Great Vows
and is being done so that all beings are happy, peaceful, and free. 

The first disciples of Gautama Siddhartha had to leave home
if they wanted to practise and study with him.
There was a realization, an understanding,
that when people would pop in to get their little bit of teaching
and then pop out and go home,
they'd pick up and reinforce a lot of their usual patterns
and the Way would not be as completely open as quickly
as it could be when the teacher could keep his eye on them. 

Giving up the life of a householder
and vowing to practise with anything that comes up
is essential to the training of a monk.
Monks have recognized that our usual definition of family is far too small.

All beings are family. 

Not just referring to a physical structure or location,
the word "home"
can also refer to the bundle
of convictions
and beliefs
and states
that define who we think we are and what we do.

To paraphrase the Roshi,
we are used to hunkering down in the nest of self-image
with its unquestioned assumptions and its usual circle of petty concerns.

That little nest can be a prison.
The prison of self-image narrows and pinches
and the bodymind experiences the painful effects of contraction
and the choices fueled by contraction. 

We live in a world defined by states
and the fictionalized accounts of the reasons for those states.
We dream and imagine what life would be like
if there were freedom from the constant nattering of self-image.
There's a yearning to move beyond and we seek it out. 

And one day you entered through the front door of, in the old days, Daijozan,
in the more recent old days, Zazen-ji, or,
as this evening, Dainen-ji.

You are seeking and asking to be taught to practise. 

Some who enter the gates of practice have taken monastic vows
and now some are teachers,
some are practice advisors continuing to study and practise,
moment-to-moment, 24/7. 

Now, if thoughts come up in reaction to this such as,
"Yeah, yeah, that's what I want to do..."

Or on the other end of the spectrum,
"Not in a million years!"

Just recognize that that thought is there.
You've recognized something about experiencing in this moment.
You've noticed thoughts as thoughts, feelings as feelings,
and you can
sit up straight,
open the eye gaze,
and feel the breath.

You can practise basic mindfulness in this moment. 

Associate and general students are learning to practise
and are seeing the process of perception and cognition more and more clearly.
Students are learning to see states
as those knotted nests of conditioned experiencing
rather than as something we might call a "personality". 

In Sanskrit,
these obstructions, defilements, poisons,
were named klesa
and in your study you might come across references to
"the burning flames of passion, aggression, and ignorance".

The three klesas. 

Indeed we've experienced the strength of states,
haven't we?
When, through the practice of basic mindfulness,
basic patterns have been opened
and the burning flames are somewhat quenched,
you may find that you have more energy.

As the energy that was locked into maintaining these contractions,
be they falling into the category of passion, aggression, or ignorance,
there is more energy to do what needs to be done.
There's more energy available
and more and more, it will be dedicated to the liberation of all beings. 

This recognition has led,
and will continue to lead students to receive monastic vows,
to become "home leavers".
Becoming home leavers in this lineage
means that each monk has walked away from the life of a householder
and all that entails.
They have dealt and are dealing with situations that arise
just like anyone else.
Rather than the romantic "running away from the world",
which of course is impossible,
there is in fact a more inclusive embrace which includes more beings. 

Each monk has vowed to practise and teach for the liberation of all beings
beyond convenience.
All resources are dedicated to that end.
This makes for long days
and there are interactions with many beings.
You can see how impossible it would be
to engage in and sustain any socially defined relationship.
So much time is required for maintaining established social relationships
that the time for practice would be severely diminished.

Each monk has faced many situations,
many hindrances,
and is vowing to continually practise with whatever arises. 

Vows have been received.
Vows are taken seriously.
The vows which you've heard if you've ever been at a sitting when Fusatsu,
the renewal of vows,
is celebrated,
provide ways of seeing more clearly into moments of experiencing
and to practise
rather than feed into the creation of hindrances
through the playing out of old patterns. 

When they move past householder's life,
"May all beings

Have no hindrance in 'leaving home',
And their hearts be free." 

And let their hearts be free. 

Basically we're stating a wish or an intention
for those moving past householder's life
that the shin, heart, mind, essence,
be free from the bonds of conditioned experiencing,
and that there be no hindrance. 

Now that can apply to all students
looking at and seeing more and more clearly
those comfortable little nests.

May all beings be happy, may they be peaceful, may they be free.

That's nice.

Oh! A suggestion. You may wish to go on the website and read through "The Eightfold Path". It's a lot of fun.

Thank you for listening.