White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 136: When Going to Sleep at Night

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 7th, 2012

Oh go ahead,

feel the breath,

feel the whole bodymind,
open peripheral vision
there really really really is only this moment

but now it's gone,

it's another moment. 

Any time you notice

anything at all,

practise that moment of Knowing,
that moment of noticing,

that moment of clear seeing. 

That's what you're practising. 

You're not practising like some obsessed housewife
washing dirt off her doorstep,

you're not practising to wear out those thoughts be they dirty or clean 
it doesn't matter

you're not practising like one of those giant pink erasers
so that you can get every little smudge 
that you believe is present in the way you are 

No no no no,

not at all,

you're practising this moment,
and it is full of dharma, moments of experience,
moments of experience,

known by the bodymind,

and you're the Knowing of them. 

The verse today is familiar to anyone who has ever sat a retreat
and who has ever attended sesshin or O-sesshin

where the Verse of Sleep,
the Shushin-ge is chanted: 

When going to sleep at night,

"May all beings

Calm all things

And uncover the stainless mind of clarity." 

Now, if I were a betting kind of monk,
I'd be willing to bet that many who have chanted this verse
didn't know that it was written some 1600 years ago.
That's neither here nor there
but it can tell us certain things,
it can tell us that people have been practising for a long time,
it can tell us that people are awake and then they are asleep,
that bodyminds need to sleep
and that bodyminds need to be reminded
of what it is that they are doing when they are practising. 


So this part of the Soto-shingi,
the way that things are done,
comes from the Avatamsaka sutra,
from these verses of The Practice of Purity. 

Now, there's something else that's in some places,
some circumstances, for some length of time
people have said to themselves at night,
or in a group at night, now it goes: 

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take. 

Who could sleep after that? [loud laughter from students] 

The point being that the latter,
the one that I just spoke
very clearly promotes contraction into a sense of a self.
It's very useful for solidifying these beliefs
that we are this bodymind
and that life is full of hazards
and that we better ask somebody else to do something about it
because we're incapable. 

The verse that was in the Avatamsaka sutra,
the verse that we translated in The Practice of Purity
is a reminder to oneself
that there's a wish that all beings,
now fortunately it doesn't say all human beings,
because let me tell you
there are some days when human beings are right at the bottom of my list
[O-sensei laughs]
of beings that you want to do something for! 

When going to sleep at night,

"May all beings

Calm all things

And uncover the stainless mind of clarity." 

[students giggle] 

"May all beings",
every little snake,

every little frog,

every little kitten, 
every cat,

every dog,

every horse,

every pig,

every cow,

and on and on

and lions and tigers and bears oh my!
All beings! 

Trees, clouds, water,
may everything

be calm. 

And there is also the instruction and the reminder that

through sitting in front of that blank wall

looking at and uncovering your moment to moment experiencing,
you are uncovering the stainless mind of clarity. 

Now in this Lineage a mirror is often referenced
when speaking of mind
and the reference is that just as a mirror
is never stained by anything that is reflected in it,
so this thing we call "mind" is not stained by thoughts and feelings and sensations,
by anything that arises within it. 

That's impossible. 

In order for there to be an impact of experiences,
there has to be—
let's call it an "enabler",
someone who says: "Oh, I am those patterns".
Oh my does that not sound a little bit
like what we describe in this practice as "self-image"?
A contraction into an image of a self
with a belief about how it is and how the world is. 

So this little verse is saying:

if we all care about all beings,

we do want to take care of them,

we do want to calm all things

because we've all recognized that

the disruptions that occur 
in oneself
when patterns are followed,

in relationships when patterns are followed,
in the larger social group,

in social culture,

in nation states when patterns are followed...
These disruptions aren't necessary

and they aren't useful. 

So by sitting,

by looking at moment to moment experiencing,

by resolving to fall for none of it,

to use none of these random and chaotic events, experiences, dharma,

that arise

to define who you are,

you are allowing that greater space to be available,
you're just seeing these things for what they are, 
just like leaves blowing in the wind,
like motes of dust in the sunlight,
they're just occurrences. 

You are the Knowing of experiences,

Bodymind is how anything at all is known. 

You've all had moments of understanding
how actually self-evident that is but then—
self-image gets in there and says:

"I understand!"

and as the Roshi has said, 

"once you think you understand, understanding is gone". 

So, when you notice anything whatsoever, anything,

practise that moment of clear seeing. 

The verse again: 

When going to sleep at night,

"May all beings

Calm all things

And uncover the stainless mind of clarity." 

Thank you for listening.