White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 121: When Presenting the Teachings

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 17th, 2011

When presenting the Teachings,

"May all beings

Attain unobstructed eloquence

And display everywhere the essence of the Teachings." 

We have ideas, each and every one of us,
about what the Teachings are, and where they are presented,
and these depend upon our understandings of and about what is taught.

The Dharma, the Teachings of Reality,
are about your life in this moment.
The Dharma as we understand it and practise it
has been taught for 2600 years
and keeping the essence available to anyone who wants to practise is important. 

Human beings get caught up in the views of self-image,
they get caught up in distraction,

love bells and whistles,

love being holier than thou, 
love being on the top of the heap. 

These are patterns,

no matter who is doing it and where,

it's not who they really are,

it's patterns that have been picked up by usual mind,
the mind that's not practising,

the mind that's not sitting itself down,

looking into this moment of experience

and this moment of experience

and this moment of experience. 

Now, "eloquence", well,
we all know what that is, don't we?
But unfortunately

we do that with a lot of words,

we go: "yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what that means" 

and we actually are very unclear about what it means. 

Eloquence means:


.having the faculty of speech 
.fluently persuasive and articulate
.effective in expressing meaning 

So, throw away your ideas about flowery language,

throw away your ideas about complex patterns of expression,

because unless they are effective in expressing meaning,

they're just adornments,
things to play around with, things to have fun with. 

"When expressing the Teachings"
it's nice to understand that the meaning of any communication is the result that it gets.
That's true no matter what you are communicating about,
so the clearer the better and that is why,
although Teachings are presented in a formal setting such as the Hatto,
with students facing the wall,
they are also presented in each and every moment of a Teacher's life, or a monastic's life. 

I want to be clear:
I'm not saying that these are perfect people who do everything perfectly all the time,
that's impossible,
and we fall by the wayside sometimes
because we're now living in a world where lying is an accepted part of the social fabric. 

Think about it: they're everywhere:
If I drive that car...
I'm not going to have all of my emotional needs satisfied.

If you wear your hair in such a way...
you are not going to have a top hit.

If you wear those high heels...
you're not going to become an object of desire
for all the worthwhile and desirable men and women in the world.

It's not going to happen. 

We're surrounded by lies.
We have the Web, where people lie like crazy.
They post stuff that's not about them,
it's about some fictional character.

And we wonder why we're constantly disappointed.

Is it a lie to put up something, to say something,
and to name it as being said by someone else?
Yes, of course it is.
You're trying to fool the public!
You're trying to fool people you don't even know.
Shame on you! Stop it. 

So, you must practise in order to teach,
in order to present the Teachings.

You have to be willing to lay yourself open,

to accept any questions that come up for students or for anyone,

a casual contact at the gym,
someone asks a question,
you answer it to the best of your ability because you are presenting the Teachings, 
no matter what you are doing,

no matter where you are doing it. 

It does sound terribly onerous, doesn't it?

But it is not!

Because when the contractions of self-image,

those beliefs we have about who we are and how the world is,
are seen and practised at that moment of clear seeing, 
over time we cease to believe that chatter.

Now, we might have moments of embarassment when we realize that in the past,
before we knew,
before we practised thoroughly,
we'd actually believed that bullshit,
that's okay.
That's life, that's just what happens. 

And remember: manure is needed for those flowers to grow.
Manure the root that nourishes your unfolding. 

So it's not you,
you're the clear seeing of that contraction into a self
with a belief about who it is and how the world is. 

Interestingly, when we are told that we can practise with anything,
we don't believe that.
Self-image sits back,
twirls its little moustache and says:
"Yeah, yeah, but I'll be the judge". 

So when you notice that,
you practise there,

that is part of any...thing.
Anything is all-inclusive. 

Any moment

of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling,
breathing in and out,

is a known.
It is, in Sanskrit, a dharma,

a moment of experience. 

There are so many, they can't be counted. 

You're familiar with this? [O-sensei tries to snap her fingers]
Oops! Wish I could snap my fingers properly... [students laugh]
Sixty mind moments—major!—
in the snap of a finger.

So the moments, mind moments, dharma,
they really are "numberless as the sands of the river Ganges"...
they can't be counted... 

And you are the Knowing of any known whatsoever.
See how easy it is?

Knowing... knowns.

At the moment of noticing anything at all, 

feel the breath,

sit up straight,

feel the whole bodymind,

open around it,

however we want to code it in language... you practise in that moment. 

Over time, the tendency [O-sensei rubs hands together]
wears out, the butt against the zafu grinding, [still rubbing hands]

those patterns to dust [grinding, then blowing the "dust" away]
liberates you from conditioned experiencing. 

Do you want to be liberated from conditioned experiencing?
[one student says: "Yes"]
There's one! [O-sensei and students laugh] 

So, that something that held its hand over your mouth:
feel the breath,
sit up straight,

practise that moment of contraction into a sense of self 
that had its story about what's appropriate and what isn't appropriate.

Because that's what happened. 


... now it doesn't say "may all Teachers, may all monks"

it doesn't say that,

not in this translation, not in other translations that I've read,

it says "all beings"
so we wish for everyone

that they could attain unobstructed capacity to be effective in expressing meaning.
Wouldn't that be great?

Wouldn't it make life a lot easier? 

You ask someone if they like such and such,
and they say yes or no.

You ask someone if they want to do such and such,
and instead of saying: "well, I'd really love to"
which really is the precursor to "no" 
[O-sensei laughs]...
if people just said what they meant!

[O-sensei and students laugh] 

I for one at my advanced age really don't have time for all the lying,
it's so transparent.
You don't need to, nobody needs to.
The only thing I can think of where it might be useful would be in solving crimes,
but that's another story. 

So please, 

When presenting the Teachings,

"May all beings

Attain unobstructed eloquence

And display everywhere the essence of the Teachings." 

So as we go about our daily business doing whatever it is we do,
driving buses, speaking to people, guiding people, looking after other beings,
express everywhere through how you say what you say and how you do what you do,
the essence of the Teachings. 

And have fun with it!
Life is so much lighter when you don't have to carry around the weight of unnecessary stuff,
especially when it's stuff that you have to keep track of so that you don't get tripped up by it...

We've all been there... 

I think I'll read the verse again: 

When presenting the Teachings,

"May all beings

Attain unobstructed eloquence

And display everywhere the essence of the Teachings." 

Thank you for listening.