White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 15: Requesting Ordination

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, March 13th, 2008


...open to your life as it really is

...go on 

...take a chance. 

The verses of "The Practice of Purity",
even though they were written a long time ago,
in a different place,
are giving you a tool to look at and practise with
the details of patterns on many different occasions.
The verses provide another way,
a different way,
of looking at our usual day-to-day experience. 

After years of practice some people who started just like you,
practising as associate,
then general,
then formal students,
decide to ask to be ordained as a probationary monk. 

The verse is not a required part of the formal request to be ordained,
but, as with all the verses,
provides different ways of looking at the situation: 

Requesting ordination,

"May all beings

Reach the phase of 'no turning back'
And their intelligence be unhindered." 

One requesting ordination has recognized,
to a greater or lesser degree,
that there is "no turning back",
no possibility of "going back" into the thrall of previously held beliefs.

There has been a recognition
that it simply is not possible to grasp and hold on to anything.
The fact of impermanence has been recognized.
There is the knowledge gained from experience that the "self" is a fiction. 

Before we come to practice,
we define ourselves by who we "think" we are.
We define ourselves by the fictionalizations,
the stories we have created to explain ourselves to ourselves
and to fashion ourselves
to present an appropriate image to others.
We are an image-of-a-self. 

The displays of self-image run the gamut
from believing that the perfect shade of lip gloss or the right sexy deodorant will make us irresistible
and will attract "the one" or maybe just get us some sex,
[student laughter]
to believing that killing those who don't believe as we do will be our gateway to paradise. 

We grasp at things,
mentally and physically,
that we believe will make us "happy" and fulfilled.
The mechanism,
the functioning of the process of contraction
is the same no matter what is being grasped after,
could be happiness,
a nice butt,
the perfect mate,
the perfect family,
the perfect décor in the perfect home,

Now history and current events show clearly that this grasping doesn't work.

Our personal experience may have shown us that once or twice too.

2600 years ago,
Gautama Siddhartha taught that the narrowing of attention into grasping,
trying to grab that which we believe to be the "thing"
that will make us satisfied and end dhukka,
the sense of unsatisfactoriness that grows and causes suffering,
wasn't necessary.

And guess what?
That still maintains.
That isn't necessary.
The Buddha taught a way to end it.

The Four Noble Truths are the base of understanding what and how you are practising.
They're called "noble" because they're true.
Just the facts.
Just the facts. 

In "Becoming Buddha" from "The Complete Teachings of Reality", Zen Master Anzan Hoshin says: 

These facts are:
that all conditioned existence
gives rise to dhukka or unsatisfactoriness,
suffering, contraction, and confusion.

The second Noble Truth is:
this suffering, this dhukka
is fueled by the mechanism of grasping,
of trying to hold,
to hold on to something when it cannot be held
and by continually misunderstanding the nature of our experience.

The third Noble Truth is that it is possible to end this.
The Buddha himself had experienced the end of this dhukka, this suffering.

And the fourth:
That it is possible for others to experience this by practising. 

We sit.
We practise mindfulness.
We are looking into the nature of our experiencing.
We are understanding the nature of our experience more each time we
feel the breath,
sit up straight,
and open the eye gaze.

Each time we practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment,
the suffering caused by dhukka can be ended.
It can be ended by anyone willing to put their ass on the line or,
more politely,
their buttocks on the zafu. [students laugh] 

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia had this to say about dhukka.: 

Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha repeatedly stated that the only purpose of Buddhism is to seek the cessation of dhukka, by understanding the Four Noble Truths and acting accordingly. The other three Noble Truths explain the source of dhukka, the means of transforming it, and the method of executing its cessation. 

We are often and have often been,
propelled into action based on grasping for things to fill some kind of perceived lack.
You've all experienced that sense of a self
with its fixed points of view that reacts and causes confusion and chaos.

You are learning to see that this isn't who you are.
It is just something going on.
It's a pattern that you do not have to follow.
You can do something else.

You can practise.

You can grind that pattern to dust with that contact between bottom and cushion. 

You know from your own experience
that following any reactivity,
whether it is called embarrassment or perfectionism or anger or anxiety or fear,
is like feeding it
and it gets bigger and stronger,
and impedes the process of perception and cognition.
We get into states and,
when we do that,
we make ourselves more stupid.
Over and over and over again. 

When attention funnels into contraction, 
experiencing is more and more conditioned by the contraction as it gets stronger and stronger. 

Remember: experiencing that is conditioned by contraction causes suffering.

hindered experiencing,
open experiencing that is obstructed,
causes suffering. 

Suffering is driven by dhukka,
that basic sense of unsatisfactoriness
that causes contraction, grasping, and confusion,
that causes "bad space". 

Contractions, bad space,
can be known
and at the moment of knowing
you practise mindfulness by
feeling the breath,
sitting up straight,
opening the peripheral vision,
practising the whole bodymind in the whole moment. 

Those requesting ordination have recognized
through their own experiencing that the teachings of reality are true.
They've learned that conditioned experiencing
or the conditioned existence need not continue and can, in fact, be ended.
They know through their experiencing that patterns can be practised and worn out. 

Those requesting ordination are manifesting that recognition
by offering their flesh, meat, bone, and marrow,
into practising the teachings of the Lineage,
and, they are vowing to practise, and teach,
beyond convenience
for the freedom of all beings. 

All beings can practise,
all human beings can benefit from practice
so the verse is also an encouragement to others. 

The verse expresses both the intention of the one requesting ordination
and the expression of the heartfelt wish that all beings do just this. 

The verse: 

"May all beings

Reach the phase of 'no turning back'

And may their intelligence be unhindered." 

If beings were "open", free from habits, and patterns, and states,
if experiencing were unconditioned,
and the nested intelligences of the bodymind free to function to full capacity,
it's possible the world would be a much different place. 

How could anyone not want that?

Thank you for listening.