White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 127: When Reciting the Discourses

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, February 18th, 2012

Well you rode here on the breath,


maybe your feet might have been dragging a little bit...

maybe self-image was hanging around your neck like a stinking albatross
or maybe

you noticed breathing in and out

and you noticed the party that

was the senses at play! 

Regardless, here you are,

you released whatever obstructions arose,
maybe not wanting to

but isn't that just what self-image does?
It's a real party pooper. [laughter] 

No matter how well things are going,
there may be an observation: 

"Oh, things are going well!" And then... 
contraction starts: 

"But, I know that's just the surface, and I know that this old pattern is lurking there, I can feel it still..." 

And guess what?

If we feed attention into it, there you'll be—

party shut down

only one thing going on:
the grumbling

the mumbling

the bitching

the whining

of the prick that is

Don't believe any of it, okay?

It can be there, you can hear the content, it doesn't matter. 

Feel the breath and sit up straight,

open to everything else that is going on,
everything else that is the Reality of the moment,
which is perceived by the bodymind,

which is wrapped around the breath,

which is known by you
who are the Knowing of all those knowns. 

Today's verse: 

When reciting the Discourses,

"May all beings

Be aligned with the Teachings of the Buddhas,
Through unwavering mindfulness." 

When reciting the Discourses,

"May all beings

Be aligned with the Teachings of the Buddhas,
Through unwavering mindfulness." 


As you go about your day, you'll notice things,

you'll read things,

you'll see things, 
and you can use your imagination,

nowhere in practice does it say that you should not use your imagination... 

...but just imagine when you notice something
what it would be like if everyone,

if all beings
were unwavering in mindfulness? 

This would mean of course
that the actions that get played out and then get seen,

get written about,

get filmed, 
get broadcast,

get talked about,

wouldn't be happening.

There wouldn't be people getting into arguments on the corner,
there wouldn't be people begging and lying,

begging "to get a cup of coffee",

but we know what they're really going to do with the money... [O-sensei and students laugh] 

It's such an everyday occurrence, this lying,
it's around us everywhere

it's like a fungus,

we don't even notice. 

Advertising lies,

politicians lie...
bus schedules lie! [more laughter] 

But imagine,
just imagine what it would be like, if
"all beings were unwavering in mindfulness"... 

Oh someone might be standing in the grocery line

and there might be a little old lady dithering

trying to get that last penny out of the little tiny change purse,
and the person behind them might be seething,

the person behind them might want to reach out and say:
"Here, I'll pay for that!" 

[O-sensei laughs] 

...but they wouldn't do it.

They could see what's going on. 

We can see when energy rises

and attention starts to focus on one thing,

and we've learned the consequences if that's allowed to play out,
or if we haven't really allowed it to play out

in the extreme fashion that we might fancy playing it out—

we know how destructive it can actually be. 

So we feel the breath

feel the grocery cart handle in our hands,

feel our feet sweating in our winter boots because it's a little warm today
and we feel into that moment of experiencing. 

And if everyone did that,

just imagine the difference in the world... 

For one thing,
we might not be standing in a grocery store lineup as we know it today,
where there's so much waste,

not just of the edible products,

but the packaging, 
the packaging, folks... 

It might be all different.

If we looked at situations that arise every day with the mind of practice,

the world would be a radically different place. 

Now, "alignment"... it says here in the third line:
"be aligned with the Teachings of the Buddhas". 

Now what exactly does that mean? 

Well, we've got texts,

we have CDs,

we have digital files,

we have a mass,
a wealth of information about practice as we practise it here, 
about the history of practice,

that we can read or listen to any time we want to. 

We don't have to trek miles to hear someone that we've heard about speak,
we can if we want to,

but we don't have to

to get the information. 

Now bear in mind as well,

even if we were living in the time of Gautama Siddhartha,

chances are we may not, like most, have met him,

we may not, as most,
have put our ass down on some kushu grass and actually sat...

because hey,

it's easier to believe something, isn't it? 

It's easier, we believe,

when something is transformed into a

and it sits on a shelf,

or it sits on our coffee table,

that it is an object representative of a supreme being and we can just,

oh light a few sticks of incense, 
bob up and down a bit

and put all of our troubles in front of this representation of some sort of magical reality. 

That's easy. 

But, to get up in the morning when it's still dark,
to put your little feet on the floor,

in spite of the grumbling that may go on,

to pitty pat eventually down to the Hatto, 
or up to the Hatto,

or to the front door and put your boots on
and out to the car,
that is difficult because it's real. 

But you do it and with each step,

you feel the breath,

you feel the bones of the living bodymind,
you feel
 the heat

the cold

the breath moving in and out,

you see

the colours

the forms,

you hear 
the sounds,

you feel 
the clothes on your body,

you feel 
the temperature of the air... 

It's a party when you're paying attention!
Because no matter what's going on,
it's interesting.

It ceases to be interesting when self-image contracts
into a sense of self that's busy judging: 

"Well, this is okay, but uh, the last time I sat a retreat by 4:30 in the afternoon, my knees were a wreck..." 

...and we don't recognize

that what we're actually doing

is creating conditions

that may very well help that "wreckage of the knees" present itself.

The bodymind is incredibly intelligent. 

But, when you feel the breath when you notice that grumbling,
you feel the whole bodymind,

you're actually 
practising in that moment, 
you're actually
 "aligned with the Teaching of the Buddhas",
you're actually 
"unwavering in mindfulness"

in that moment 

and what a difference it would make 
if everyone did that. 

Don't hold your breath

waiting for everyone else to do it. 

It wouldn't be very successful anyway

because even though there have been times in our life

when we might have thought for a moment:

"I'm going to hold my breath until I die, then they'll be sorry!" [laughter] 

The bodymind just doesn't... [laughter] it just doesn't.
The bodymind literally has a mind of its own,

it doesn't care, really—

although it will be informed by the thoughts of self-image—

it doesn't care about that kind of content. 

Oh, it can be made to feel really bad,


as the biochemistry goes whipping through the bodymind,
having an impact on the chest,

tightening the muscles,

bending the head forward,

narrowing the vision so it's closing time,
folks, for the party... 

Feel the breath

when you notice that. 

I mean really feel it. 

 those over 200 bones in the bodymind,
 the air on your skin

the clothes on your skin

see the seeing

hear the hearing

practise mindfulness in this moment 

and you're the only one who can do it...
...but wouldn't it be nice? Oh well, oh well.

The verse again: 

When reciting the Discourses,

"May all beings

Be aligned with the Teachings of the Buddhas,
Through unwavering mindfulness." 

Thank you for listening. Enjoy the party!