White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 120: When Finished Eating

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 10th, 2011

Can you hear them?

Can you hear little feet running around through the trees?
Can you hear little teeth [O-sensei makes chewing sound]
All over the world, beings are eating,

all beings are eating,

beings must eat.

And what do they do when finished eating? 

Well, if Shindo and Kitsune
(the kitten and the adult cat who live in the Sensei-ryo)
are any indication of what certain beings do when they're finished eating,
they play around for a while with the energy from the food,
then they lie down and sleep. 

Now, human beings on the whole don't do that.
In some countries where it's very hot,
they might take the nap during the hottest part of the day,
but on the whole there are things to do.
And in fact, we've convinced ourselves as a species
that there are so many things to do that we don't really have time to eat.
We drive our car into a fast food place,
we order, we jam it down our yob,
we throw away the refuse, the paper, the packaging and we get on with it,
going on with the next thing that we don't really have time to do anyway... 

But here you are,
you're sitting in front of the wall.

You are practising zazen as taught by, basically, Eihei Dogen zenji,

who in the 1200s, already a monk in Japan,
recognized that there might be something missing
and started a trek that took him back to, took him in fact to China,
tracing back the roots of practice. 

And what did he see?
What impressed him very very much was a tenzo,
an elderly monk who was seeking out mushrooms to cook for the monks
whose responsibility it was for him to feed. 


So each breath that you take,
that goes in your body,
nourishes you in a certain way,
but you do need to eat, and here's a little verse: 

When finished eating,

"May all beings

Accomplish all tasks

And fulfill the Teachings of the Buddhas." 

So, let's see, if called upon to put it into a few words,
what are the "Teachings of the Buddhas"?

Wake up! Wake up to Reality!

See the stories for stories, and liberate all beings. 

An impossible task, one might say,

but each and every one of us can do our part
by noticing what's going on,
by practising in a formal environment,

as you're doing right now,

which in a way is like a laboratory. 

You're sitting in your little test tube,
and you are the experiment.

You're sitting there,

and you've eaten, 
you're finished eating

and now that energy that has been given to the bodymind,
and as it says in the chant before eating: 

"This meal arises from the labour of all beings"
Well, that should be a clue right there 
to the interrelatedness of everything. 

So, through the labour of all beings,

you're sitting there in front of that wall,
and when you notice anything whatsoever, 
it's an all-inclusive statement, 
when you notice anything, you've noticed a known. 

You are really the Knowing. 

Now, for a while,

and how long is a while?

Well, it varies.

For a while you have believed that somehow or other,
you're sitting up there behind the eyes,

wearing this outfit called a body. 

Then we start to realize

that body and mind arise together,
you can't really take them apart. 


We might have found that piece of information a little shocking when we first came upon it,
and you might notice if you read and watch and listen,
that the word "bodymind" or "mindbody" presents itself almost every day
in various ways in various popular media,
as does the word "mindfulness".
25 years ago, this was not the case,
it was new and the word "Zen" too was unfamiliar, to,
I venture to say, most of the population,
but now we hear it everywhere, usually used inappropriately,
but more and more,
people are recognizing that there's more to being a human being
than the rules and regulations and belief systems that people have grown up with,
or are growing up with, lead them to believe. 

So we sit and we practise,

we're practising, as I said,

zen as taught by Eihei Kigen Dogen zenji,

who could be said to be the person who established what we know as Soto Zen,
and if you read—
 I  really encourage you to read and listen,

and sometimes to do both with the same text,

not necessarily concurrently— 
your understanding of what you are doing as you're sitting there,

being breathed in and out,
and as Knowing noticing knowns or dharma, or moments of experiencing, 
and using that to practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment,
you recognize you understand more now than you did when you started. 

You may say: "Oh yeah, well I read 'Cooking Zen' way back when..."

and then you may break through the wall of self-image's incredible laziness
and actually pick up a book,

flip a page, 
and recognize: wow! 

It's as if you had never read this before,

never come across it before,

because you actually understand a lot of what is being spoken of and written about. 

Now, on the back page, the back cover, this is written: 

Everyday zen, the essence of Dogen zenji's teaching, is a process of embodying realization in all our lives. Eating, walking, sitting, speaking, listening, cooking, are all opportunities to realize who we are beyond our assumptions and to actualize ourselves as that which embraces all beings and worlds. Dogen zenji's profound instruction on cooking and eating in the zen monastic training environment provide everyone everywhere with teachings on how to use ourselves and our daily lives to prepare and serve the feast of reality. Eihei Dogen (1200 - 1253) was the founder of Soto Zen, his teaching and practice survive today as the vigorous and subtle fountainhead of almost all western zen teachers and practice centers. 

And here you sit, how did you get here?

There you sit!

Being breathed in and out.

And you, you've travelled quite a way to get here,
to sit a retreat for the next few days,
to really marinate yourself in this practice. 

And you over there,
with your ideas about how impossible all this is
because actually, you really are,
oh well you're old and you don't have as much energy as you used to do
and it's just all too difficult.

Well, recognize that as a story
and use it to add a more subtle flavour to your understanding. 


anything at all

that we come across
is something that can be used to open our understanding and realization

of our life as it is in this moment

even further. 

Now with the Samu chant, we chant 

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

And wouldn't it be wonderful if that indeed were the case?
Wouldn't there just be a world where... oh wait!... 

Wait! Wait a minute!

What would the newspapers print? 
What would the radio programs talk about?

What would the television news programs be like

if there weren't these centres of massacre, horror and devastation to talk about? 

Well, perhaps they could talk about who won the regional cooking contest!
Because all beings have to eat. 

Now in the Fushukuhampo, which is part of "Cooking Zen",
Fushukuhampo: How to Use Your Bowls: 

it was always a concern to Dogen that his teachings be understood not as something new imported from China, or as a particular school or sect, but rather as simply the continuation of what the Buddha had practised and realized, and that was the actual essence of practice, the True Dharma, or the Shobo. 

So, the Shobo, or True Dharma is not something that you put on like a Sunday hat,

that you put on when you put your hand on the front door of the monastery and walk in,
not at all,

it is something that is practised by the whole bodymind,

the whole bodymind marinates in it
and so each step that you take

wherever it is that you go
is affected by what that bodymind,

and that bodymind,

and that bodymind,

and that bodymind learns as it sits,
cooking away in the formal practice of this moment. 

So when you're eating,
when you've finished eating,
when you're thinking about running around on the Savannah
to hunt down something that you can eat next,
this little verse might come to mind: 

When finished eating,

"May all beings

Accomplish all tasks

And fulfill the Teachings of the Buddhas."  

And be sure to do the dishes. 

Thank you for listening.