White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 130: Inspired by the Sight of the Shrine

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, April 7th, 2012

It's funny, isn't it, the phrase: "You take my breath away" 

... is a compliment? [laughter] 


every breath that the bodymind takes

filling the lungs up

sending oxygen throughout the blood

into the many different areas of the bodymind
where that mysterious exchange of gases goes on that
"live" needs... 

every breath you take

lets you know that you're alive. 

Imagine if someone came up to you and said:
"You take my breath away" 

...and then, if it were literal, what would happen?

Well, they would drop to the floor like an overripe fruit. 

Anyway, we've been talking about memorials
and shrines to the Buddha,
and this was from The Practice of Purity, the Avatamsaka sutra, the Flower Garland sutra,
(and recognize that this stuff was written 1600 years ago,
and not all at once in one place, I'm sure, but bits and pieces come together,) 
people talk, 
people travel,

they pick up information,

they wrote it down,

and then other people from different places read it

or they heard about it

and they translated it,

and changed it and so on... 

So what we have with these verses,
is an approximation,


which of course all words are, 
they are not the experience, they are an approximation, a description,

an attempt to, using words,

communicate something that is understood or observed. 

So every breath you take,

you can be, as the verse says,
"inspired by the sight of the shrine." 

Inspired by the sight of the shrine,

"May all beings

Inspire by the sight of them

All shining beings and humans." 

So this means you, them is us. 

Another translation of this: Reverently gazing at the shrine, 

...isn't that different?

Is that not different than being
"inspired by the sight of the shine"? 

Reverently gazing at the shrine,
They should wish that all beings
Be looked up to by all

Celestials and humans. 

Well of course I prefer our translation: 

Inspired by the sight of the shrine,
"May all beings

Inspire by the sight of them

All shining beings and humans." 

So here we sit.

We don't really have a "shrine" room, one really isn't necessary


the whole monastery is here

so that you

can mature your practice, 

and it is
the practice of Awake Awareness,

the practice of recognizing


you are


you are

Awake Awareness,

you are not
all the stories that you tell yourselves
about who you are and how the world is. 

Each one of those is a contraction
a great contraction or a small contraction
with a story about

how you are and how the world is...
and they do seem to be endless... 

But recognize that

each moment of seeing anything;

a contraction,

a thought,

a feeling,

a sight,

a sound,

any moment at all of noticing anything at all
is the only moment that you can practise 

and you do that by 

feeling the breath

feeling the whole bodymind
opening the eye gaze 

and what will happen,

and it WILL happen,

is that eventually

you won't believe any of that crap
about who you are and how the world is 

the stories that come up about

what an idiot you are,

how you made that stupid mistake,

so-and-so must never make those kinds of mistakes,

only I,
in this whole company,
am the one not able to do the practice... 


look at those mofos

I'm the only one that knows how to actually do the practice,
I am the Enlightened One

it's all on me, 

I'm the one! 

So we see all of them as simply being

the process of perception and cognition
arrayed in a certain way

and as you seem them,

and as you at that moment of clear seeing, 

as you remember to actually practise that moment of clear seeing,
you have more moments of clear seeing,

until eventually all there is

is this clear seeing, 

this depiction

this understanding of the vastness and brightness of THIS moment of experiencing,

as you step forth embodying the Way. 

And as you step forth embodying the Way,

you do not know who may be looking at you,

you do not know what you may inspire in others,

and the truth is that our very presence does affect others,
each thing does make everything else what it is. 

So you have the opportunity
by the very fact that you're alive

by the very fact that you're actually looking into the process of perception and cognition,
you have available the capacity to step beyond

those sordid little concepts about who you are and how the world is

without acting in any way,

without doing any acting whatsoever,

by being who you really are,

who you truly are,

you can shine forth

as a living embodiment of Awake Awareness. 

No biggie. No biggie.

Right now

is the only time that this can happen. 

So you're sitting in the Hatto

we have a depiction of the Buddha,

one who has Woken Up to the actual nature of Experiencing. 

Is that Gautama Siddhartha?

I don't know.

Rumour has it that there were no images of that person until some 400 years after his death,
so what we have are depictions of something that people did. 

It's so obvious:

people sat down,

people looked into experiencing,
and there are innumerable rupas, statues, depictions

of the fact of doing this. 

Are they representing one person?

Unlikely, very unlikely.

But representing qualities that are available to each and every human being. 

Now, we have had this experience of someone being inspired by how the Teacher did something
and it inspired that individual to continue to practise,
moment after moment after moment,
even when the going got rough... 

So you don't know who is looking at you, do you?
You may as well be the best you can possibly be. 

Now, these shrines and sites of shrines have inspired people.
Recently, within the last ten years,
we have heard about the Bamiyan Buddhas that were blown up.
Now I'm not naming any names because everybody likes to blow stuff up,
apparently, but these were incredible.
They were huge, huge statues that were built at Bamiyan in the Hindu Kush Valley
and there was the Silk Road,
a trade route which went between China, India,
and some say into Egypt and into the Roman colonies.
It had a lot of traffic on it. 

So these buddhas were built,
apparently between the 3rd and 5th century, C.E.
The large one was 53m tall, 175 feet,
and is said to have represented Vairocana Buddha,
which is that light shining through the universe.

The smaller one, 36m, or 120 feet,
is said to have represented Sakyamuni Buddha. 

They were visible for miles, apparently, along the Silk Road,
this trade route with people coming and going, coming and going,
and it is said that their faces were copper masks,
and their hands were copper covered.
Their robes were various colours.
Initially, the reconstruction,
which involves looking at little pieces of rubble and so on
with great big microscopes,
shows that originally the robes were blue with a pinkish corallish kind of lining.
Then somewhere down along the line when fashion changed, they were painted bright red. 

So picture this:

you're travelling in the hot sun,

you're travelling along the Silk Road,

and miles away you can see

this gleaming in the sun—

probably nicer to look at than the Golden Arches—
[giggles] but, shining out...

and you can hear people saying,

who have seen this for the first time: 

"Well what's that?

"Look at that over there, what is it?" 

And it would be standing out
because these statues would stand out
because they were carved into the hillside,
which apparently at that time the rock itself was quite non-vivid,
according to things that have been written, and it would be dusty... 


There this bright and shining and seen! 

Someone said: "You know, that's, that's the Buddha." 

"Well, what's that? What's the Buddha?" 

"Well, what it is is someone who...." 

So information travels.

It travelled just like it travels now,
but it didn't travel as quickly as it travels now. 

So each and every one of you

have memories of what it was

that inspired you to end up where you are right now. 

You had information you had inspiration, you followed it up. 

It may have taken you many interesting places on the way here. 

Now, the Bamiyan Buddhas were key symbols in the rise of Mahayana Buddhist teachings,
and one thing that the Mahayana did,
and apparently even then, 4th and 5th centuries C.E.
was emphasize the ability of everyone,
not just monks, to "achieve enlightenment" in some traditions,
or "wake up", and as we know,
that travelled down through the years to Dogen who wrote
"How Anyway Can Sit" which you have read and chanted
and heard in the Fukanzazengi. 

Bamiyan was also kind of a Holiday Inn for travellers and pilgrims
because there were myriad caves in the cliffs,
carved right out of the rock.
Many of them were lived in by thousands, it is said, of Buddhist monks,
and others were available for traveling merchants, monks, and pilgrims. 

So you know how it goes...
people meet,

they sit down,

they might have a little tipple,

they talk about what's going on,

what's going on where they came from,
what's going on where they're going... 
nformation spreads.

Now today those caves are homes for refugees from Afghanistan and the wars. 

And here we sit,

benefitting from little particles of information that filter down about what was happening

what was going on

15, 1600 years ago

when these verses were being written. 

A lot of what was being written about a lot of what we can read about

was informed by places,
by sights and sounds 
that we may not ever see, but

people are still

That process of being a people
being a person amongst peoples
is still the same for everyone. 

Self-image might like to hold onto its ideas
about how different we are 

from the others 
but it's not true.

Absolutely not. 

The process of being a human being is the same

and that is why it is possible

for people, 
no matter where they come from
no matter what their conditions
to practise. 

The meaning we make out of our experiences of course

is very affected by social culture

that is still the case as well, 
but here we sit,

facing a blank wall,

looking at the functioning of

the process of perception and cognition, recognizing

at the moment of noticing anything whatsoever that
that's a moment of clear seeing,

we can practise that
and through that process,
abitual patterns

wear out, 

until all there is,


is this moment of Awake Awareness, 

which was always the case,
but now you recognize it, 
you recognize that

is all that there is

and there's no room

for the extra stuff

and there is no need

for the extra stuf
because the extra stuff

has just all dropped away


you go about whatever you do
bodying forth the Way. 

So as you move about the monastery,
as you move about your day,
as you move about in your travels,
should you be in the vicinity of a shrine,
you can raise this verse: 

Inspired by the sight of the shrine,
"May all beings

Inspire by the sight of them

All shining beings and humans." 

Thank you for listening.