White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 131: Bowing Their Heads Before the Shrine

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, April 21st, 2012

A few moments ago,
we all brought our hands together in gassho,
and brought the whole bodymind down to the floor

in a bow

in front of the Butsudan, 
the Platform of Awakening. 

We then breathed in
and brought the bodymind up
and then we did it again,

and we did it a third time. 

Then the hands still together,
bowed over in front of the Butsudan while we were standing,


put the hands in shashu. 

We're recognizing that what we're here to do
and what we're reminded of
by the Butsudan
and the rupa on top of it

is the fact that we're practising 
this practice of waking up to reality. 

Is it a shrine?

Which is what the verse has been talking about... 

Well, it depends on your interpretation.

We can say it's a shrine to the fact of practice,

which is what we're doing,

it can remind us what we are doing,

but I can assure you,

there are no little toenails of the Buddha in that Butsudan anywhere,
and it seems in fact that there are so many shrines
and so many bits that that must have been a very unusual person indeed... 

But shrines are not of course only made by people who are following the practice of Gautama Siddhartha.
Shrines have been made by people for the longest time,
maybe 35,000 years, maybe 50,000 years, who knows? 

Taking something,

putting it in a special place

doing special things in front of it,

and often,

engaging in commerce;

we'll leave an offering because we're going to get something. 

Now, in some places, even in Canada,
the offering can be something like walking on your knees up a flight of,
I forget exactly how many stairs,
in the hopes that you'll be cured of your ailments.
I suppose that includes what's happened to the knees walking on them
up those many many flights of stairs... [O-sensei and students laugh] 

But there are shrines all over the Ottawa Valley,
not of course Platforms of Awakening,

not containing relics of the Buddha,

but promises, 
and they do make nice outings if you happen to want to ride around in the Ottawa Valley. 

One of my favourite shrines is in Arnprior:
the first chip wagon in this area, [lots of laughter]
still making the best french fries. That's a sidebar. 

Today's verse: 

Bowing their heads before the shrine,
"May all beings

Move past the perspectives

Of shining beings and humans." 


Move past the perspectives

Of shining beings and humans... 

What are we talking about? 

Well, when we latch onto any perspective,

any idea,

any contraction into a sense of self

with a little belief about how it is and how the world is,
we will find if we look fondly— 
and I'm saying fondly,
we don't want to be harsh with ourselves—
we may find that we have put ourselves,

from time to time,

in the position of a shining being, 
radiating forth our innate goodness and superiority to everyone in the room. 

Other times we've contracted into a sense of self and said:
"But I'm only human..." 

That's what human beings do. 

"But I'm really hungry, I'm really hungry,
I want something to eat right now! I want it I want it right now!" 

... falling into another perspective of what's going on in the moment. 

So really, of course what we are being reminded of
is that any perspective can be seen

can be known,

it is a known, 
whatever it is,

it's a known,

you don't need to settle there,

it is simply something going on in the Landscape of Reality of that moment. 

You are the Knowing of it,
you are seeing it clearly. 

At that moment,

feel the breath,

feel the whole bodymind,

practise that moment of clear seeing,

thus moving past the taking of any perspective whatsoever. 

You don't need it. 

Now, the forms that we use in Dainen-ji

can help us see the perspectives that we tend to hold onto,
and until we see them,

there's nothing really we can do about them,

but forms,

all of them

from bowing in front of the Butsudan,

bowing at the door,

how we respond when it is time to end the sitting round,

to take care of our cushion,

to get up,

to stand,

to walk in kinhin,

show us how we are. 

Now, sometimes in these actions

there can be a bit of scurrying as people try to get to "their place" 
at the top of the heap,

in their view.

This is holding onto a perspective. 

Sometimes, people will develop—

because this is what people do,

and they have done it since the beginning of people,

since the process of being a human being is the same for all human beings—
sometimes a perspective of ownership will come up

and that raggedy ass whiny little self-image goes:

"that's MY zafu, that's MY spot" 

So you see it. 

No problem,

that's not you,

you're the Knowing of it,

that is a dharma, a known,

a moment when you can practise. 

Feel the breath,

stand or sit up straight,

open to the full Landscape of Reality. 

And we start to see that our little,

I'll use the phrase again: "raggedy ass"
poverty mind,

that's how that can be described,

we feel that somehow or other there's something lacking,
so that if we don't get to our "proper" place

that we're missing out on something,

that somehow we are demeaned,

or that somehow we have a right to that particular place. 

Again: perspective, perspective, perspective. 

I encourage you all, always, to read the eMirror.
Today's quote from a teisho series
"Seeing Eye to Eye: Commentaries on Ehei Dogen zenji's Yuibutsu Yobutsu"
by Anzan Hoshin roshi, it says: 

Whatever we might manufacture within thoughts is of no consequence.
If realization were what people think it might be,
it wouldn't be worth thinking about.
Realization arrives through realizing reality,
like water flowing into water,
like the sky moving as wind and breath.
What is realized is beyond deluded ideas about realization.

As Dogen sees it,
as I see it,
as the Lineage of Awakened Ancestors
and all the Buddhas of numberless worlds see it,
there is no delusion and no realization.
There is just this primordial open luminosity.

Do you see? 

So, any perspective whatsoeve
is simply a mote of dust in the sunlight,
it's simply something that can be known and opened. 

If it's got words,

it's a thought, folks. 

Feel the breath,

feel the whole bodymind, 
sit or stand in that open luminosity.

The verse again: 

Bowing their heads before the shrine,
"May all beings

Move past the perspectives

Of shining beings and humans." 

Thank you for listening. Happy moving day!