White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 25: Receiving Instruction from their Teacher

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, June 7th, 2008

Here you are.

You made it.

It is a beautiful day. 

And maybe the touch of the warm, moist breeze on your face
occasioned some little murmurs or even shouts from "mara",
from self-image,
tempting you to do something else rather than place one foot in front of the other
until you arrived at the monastery door. 

You're learning.

With each breath you're learning more.

The verse: 

Receiving instruction from their teacher,
"May all beings

Enter unborn Knowing

And arrive at liberation." 


...is the only chance you have
to see clearly into the process of perception and cognition
and through practising precisely at that moment
to enter into the moment as it truly is. 

Every breath you take in daisan,
which means great space,
is a chance to learn more about how you are.
In daisan you are invited to enter into the world
as experienced by the Lineage of Teachers. 

Instruction is often beyond words.
Although words may be used,
instruction may also be given through gesture,
through silence,
through a smile,
through a raised eyebrow. 

As is said in many ways,

Its meaning is not in words but it answers sincere questioning.

That's from the Hokyo Zanmai by Dongshan Liangjie daisho which was written around 850 C.E. 

Another one from the Hokyo Zanmai,

Although beyond description it is no unable to speak. It has words but has no words.

Remember you're learning.

Another quote,

Ultimately, we don't understand our speaking is not yet correct.

But is interesting to see how reliant we are upon words.
Before the words there are many moments of experience that arise.
You're learning to see those and to use those as a point to practise. 

What is always being pointed to is your own experiencing
in that moment
so that you can see,
can know,
experiences arising within experiencing
and practise at the moment of being what you really are,
which is Knowing in itself. 

The usual mind acts based on
unquestioned assumptions about how you are and how the world is.
This, at the very least,
is the cause of limitation and obstruction born out of your misunderstandings. 

Teachers instruct you on how to cut through those understandings,
how to use those misunderstandings rather than be used by them,
how to clarify obstruction. 

You don't need to unquestioningly follow the same old tired habits and patterns.
There is a total field of all possibilities available
but you need to be available to seeing,
to knowing,

From "Turning the Wheel of the Way" teisho 6 by Ven. Anzan Hoshin, 

The main point however is not to follow a sense of obstruction. You do not need to believe the limiting views of others. You do not need to limit others by your view of them. You do not need to become blocked by your feelings of incapacity and how you define yourself through thoughts. 

Everything is always beyond our definitions and ideas about it.
For example, this life is seen as a matter of being born
but the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors
know all things to be always Unborn,
always sheer luminosity moving within itself.

Is it born?
Is it Unborn?
If it is unborn then is there old age?
If there is old age, is it still Unborn? 

To help you pay attention and to learn to attend to your own experiencing
and to learn to open past the same old, same old, same old,
you have been given the gift of forms,
ways of deporting the bodymind,
in formal situations,
that will show you more and more clearly "how you are"
and you will be reminded of the instructions for practising mindfulness
as long as you continue to show up.
Just like you did today. 

The forms for deporting the bodymind w
hen sitting, walking, lying down, eating,
have all been carefully considered,
and adapted, by the Roshi and, now,
with the help of the Dharma Teachers.

Although based on traditional forms
they are evolving so that they are contemporary
and they are based, founded, on a simple standard established by the Roshi when he first started teaching:

Does it work? Is it useful? 

Forms are carefully considered and the underlying principle of
"Does it work?" and
"Is it useful?" is always,
"What is the most useful as a tool for students to deepen their understanding and therefore their practice?" 

Forms are informed by context.
There are different forms for associate and general and formal sittings.
The form for entering the room for a practice interview with a practice advisor is not as detailed as when entering the room for daisan with a teacher.
The form for dokusan with the Roshi is even more nuanced. 

There are also forms for interaction by telephone and by email, 
and guidance and instruction is given by telephone and email. 

Ven. Jinmyo Renge sensei wrote this to a student studying at a distance and,
as with everything,
it is very useful to anyone who is a student, 

"The details of the forms are important because they can show you the difference between opening attention and spacing out or folding down. Opening attention is opening to what is, paying attention to what you are actually doing. Through attending to the details of the forms, not adding anything extra, not rushing through them or glossing over the details, old habits stand out more clearly and that gives you the opportunity to practise with them". 

You don't have to 'like' the forms to practise them.
If you feel impatient as you are bowing forward,
bow through the impatience
and do the form thoroughly and completely anyway.
It is as with the posture:
you might be tired,
but there is no need to slump.
You might be bored,
but there is no need to twiddle your thumbs.
To do either of those would be agreeing to allow a state to be more important than your practice
and if you do that,
then you're stuck with the state.
Better to practise with it. 

By practising the details of the forms
you are practising with the movements of attention
that give rise to such things as impatience and boredom
and resentment
and many other kinds of states that are so habitual that usually they go unquestioned.

The forms will not allow us to rush past our experiencing to act out habitual states.
They insist that we pay attention
and through practising them,
we can see more clearly when we are not paying attention
(or are paying attention to meaningless bullshit,
like a state that is so contracted that it doesn't give a fig about anything except being contracted). 

The verse again, just to remind you, 

Receiving instruction from their teacher,
"May all beings

Enter unborn Knowing

And arrive at liberation." 

The use of the forms for deportment of the bodymind,
going to,
entering into the room for daisan,
and sitting in daisan,
give you a "lifesaver",
something to keep you from being swept away by the currents of habitual patterns. 

A quote from the Roshi from "Completely It", from "Five Fingers, Ten Directions: Commentaries on Eihei Dogen zenji's text 'Jippo'", 

Sitting up straight as the ten directions means to sit completely. Practising mindfulness of the breath, of the sensations of the hand does not need someone to do it. Simply be mindful of the breath with the breath, of the hand with the hand. Hearing a sound does not need someone to do it; it only needs the hearing and the sound. 

Use the forms meticulously to see more clearly that you are Knowing,
you are knowing those contractions into a "someone".
Practise at that point.
If "someone" does arise, practise.
Keep doing that until that sense of "someone" no longer arises.
It no longer arises,
those contractions are no longer born,
when it has been worn out by continuous practice.
Use everything to see this.
And to practise. 

When your name is called for daisan use that breath to see "how you are".
Practise at that moment of seeing. 

When you enter the room for daisan use every breath,
use the form 
to see "how you are".
Practise at that moment of seeing. 

When you take your seat use the breath to see "how you are".
Practise at that moment of seeing. 

When you are sitting on the zafu facing the teacher in daisan,
the space between can be said to be a fast flowing river
with no readily available way to cross.
(That of course is a metaphor.)
The teacher is sitting on the other side of that seemingly fast flowing,
perhaps dangerous,
only because their teacher showed them how to cross. 

The teacher you are sitting across from has vowed,
has promised,
to repay this generosity,
the generosity of the Lineage,
by using everything they have available
to show others how cross that seemingly
uncrossable, fast flowing, dangerous,
That's the way it works.
That's how it has always been.
That's how you have the Teachings of Reality available to you. 

You see that fast flowing river and you can't see a way across.
Self-image will come up with all sorts of stories to support that view;
"If I were only feeling better I could get across".
"Well, if I were younger, if I'd started earlier, or if I weren't so sleepy, then I'd be able to get across."
"If I didn't have all these terrible situations in my life then I'd be able to do it."
And it goes on and on and on. 

You can see the details of the process of perception and cognition
and you can use every moment of seeing those details to practise,
as long as there is breath. 

At some point you may notice the "rock" that the teacher is pointing to,
raising an eyebrow about,
smiling about,
and you may decide to put your toe in and practise.
And you may find the "rock" just where the teacher said it would be.
And remember, you found it.
It was your experiencing.
Over time any student may safely reach "the other side"
by following the pointing of the Teachings of Reality. 

You might fall in from time to time
but the hand of the Lineage will reach out and grab you
only if your hand is out.
Only if you're open to receiving
and if you keep showing up. 

This is from "Zazen Yojinki: Notes on What To Be Aware of in Zazen" by Keizan Jokin zenji (1268-1325). This was translated by Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi. 

This is the practice of the supreme Samadhi which is the knowing of unborn, unobstructed, and spontaneously arising Awareness. It is the door of luminosity which opens out onto the realization of Those Who Come Thus, born through the practice of great ease. This goes beyond the patterns of holy and profane, goes beyond confusion and wisdom. This is the realization of unsurpassed enlightenment as our own nature. 

The verse once again, 

Receiving instruction from their teacher,
"May all beings

Enter unborn Knowing

And arrive at liberation." 

Bon voyage.

Thank you for listening.