White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 27: When Entering a Hall

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 5th, 2008

The birds are chirping.
There are street sounds.
A car just went by. 

There's the sound of your breath.
There's the sound of my voice. 

There's the wall, white, with the changing colour of shadows in front of you.

There's space to each side.

You can perhaps see, in peripheral vision,
the person sitting next to you and the person sitting next to them. 

There's a sense of knowing the white or black of the jubon or robes the person is wearing.
If you're wearing glasses you might be seeing the edge of the frames.

You can see yourself blink. 

There's the feeling of the clothing on your body.
The feeling of the knees on the zabuton.

The fan wafting air onto your face and scalp. 

There's this knowing of the experiencing of the bodymind.

There's this knowing of the experiences, the dharmas, that arise moment to moment. 


...is the opportunity to practise that moment of mindfulness. 

When you've noticed anything
you've noticed a moment of mindfulness.
You practise it.
You take it further by practising the whole bodymind in the whole moment. 

When entering a hall,

"May all beings

Ascend to the ultimate sanctuary
And rest, at ease and unshakeable." 

"Ultimate! Sanctuary!" ...all kinds of things can stirred up by those words.
We might see them as big, far bigger than we are, "
Ultimate sanctuary",
"The Safest Place".
Which, of course, is always somewhere else:
Somewhere other than where you are right now. 

But this is not true.
These are fabrications of self-image
based on previous experience with "ultimate" and "sanctuary". 

Now ... "sanctuary" has, again, all manner of implications;
people seeking sanctuary,
seeking safety from.
"Sanctuary" has multiple meanings.
This is from Wikipedia;
"A sanctuary is the consecrated area of a church or temple
around its tabernacle or altar.
An animal sanctuary is a place where animals live and are protected.
In modern parlance the term is used to mean a place of safety." 

Well, there is no place of safety
where we can hide away from the inevitable reality of our life:
Birth and death.
Now this is not to say that if there is a flood
we cannot move to higher ground.
If someone is chasing after us that we can't run. 

But reality is sanctuary,
in the terms of this practice.
Because the recognition that there is no safe place where we can hide
allows us to notice contractions that come up and say things like,
"Don't tell anybody. Come and find me. This is my secret"
(for we have all sorts of stories about what's going on
and that's a definition of self-image,
the contraction into a sense of self
that has all kinds of stories about how the world is
and how it is).
And as we learned in previous talks all of the precepts
are means for showing us different ways of looking at
our moment-to-moment experience
so that we can actually practise at the moment of noticing
and allow mindfulness to become more completely embodied. 

So, if there is no "ultimate sanctuary" in the way we are used to thinking about it,
a place, a sacred place where nothing can get to us,
what is there?
What are they talking about here?
That we can "ascend to the ultimate sanctuary and rest,
at ease and unshakeable"? 

When every breath you take is grounded with the reality of experience and experiencing
you no longer fall for all the stories
of hope and fear, good and bad,
and you are at ease in this moment
and if action is required
you are capable of very quickly taking the most appropriate action. 

"When entering a hall" is referring to a Dharma Hall, the Hatto.

So this verse, 

When entering a hall,

"May all beings

Ascend to the ultimate sanctuary,
And rest, at ease and unshakeable." 

...is expressing for all beings what would be wonderful if it could happen,
that all beings would practise,
drop all contraction,
have all action fueled by contraction
drop away and be all at ease in this moment
wrapped around the breath. 

[O-sensei whispers:] Word to the wise; don't hold that breath for that to happen.

But... if it did... oh, well...

And "ascending",
sometimes you will hear in Dharma Talks, teisho, traditional writings,
"ascending to the seat",
"ascending the mountain",
"ascending to the mountain seat"
are phrases that are used to talk about a new teacher,
a monastic who has been recognized as a sensei,
a completely transmitted teacher,
ascending to the seat. 

But, we don't need to have anything other than a zafu
and a butt to put on it
to enter into the Dharma Hall
and practise this moment. 

This following piece is a quote from "Water Burns the Stone",
a teisho by Venerable Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi,
which was given at Hakukaze-ji in 1979. 

For those who may not be familiar with the name,
Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi was Anzan Hoshin roshi's teacher
and our grandfather in the Lineage. 

One moment of just sitting is one moment of enlightenment." These are the words of the Buddhas and Dharma Ancestors. These are the words of a dead bald man, Dogen Kigen zenji. One instant of true practice is one instant of enlightenment. True practice is true effort. True effort is true non-effort. True non-effort is without mind so it is Mu-shin (no-mind). Mu-shin is right this moment now. This is instantaneous enlightenment: Enlightenment occurs in each instant. Without past, without future, without even "now", seeing clearly is practice. Anzan sensei has a phrase which I like: "It does not matter what is seen, it is the seeing that matters." 

Breathe in, breathe out, okay? If you try to make some "nirvana" your home, you only hide forever in your own in-turned minds, your personal safety. Nirvana has no place, no time. You cannot get to it. It is always HERE (shouts and bangs teisho table with staff). Breathe in, breathe out. If you make struggle your way, you lose your way in a dark forest of tense muscles, tense thoughts. Relax. 

How should we practise? Too much effort is delusion, struggle. Too little is delusion. You can't struggle into enlightenment and you can't just listen to me say that this moment is it and pretend that you are living it. You have to practise fully, with pure samadhi, pure awareness. Seeing, seeing. 

And in each instant is instantaneous enlightenment. In the Soto Way cause and effect is simultaneous. In Rinzai, cause is one thing, effect another. Now, naturally, both of these views are bullshit and gospel truth. What we have to do is practise without end, without goal, without strategy. Strat-e-gy. Each moment of true effort is both enlightenment and the Path to enlightenment. True effort is like water. It flows and fills the hollows, it goes where it needs to. Subtle. Subt-le. You can't hold water back with your bare hands and can't push it forward. It moves freely, clearly. Slowly, water will burn away the rocks of your delusions. Always water is fresh. Quickly, water flows. 

Okay! Enough. If you remember any of this, remember that water burns the stone. 

So there you sit.
Breathing in.
Breathing out.

Is the thing that you think of as you doing that?

No. The bodymind is doing it.

The bodymind is
the seeing,
the hearing,
the tasting,
the touching,
the feeling,
the smelling.

You are the Knowing of that.

It is the Knowing of that which practises.

Each moment of noticing anything is a moment of mindfulness.
At that moment,
with the whole bodymind. 

When entering a hall,
"May all beings
Ascend to the ultimate sanctuary
And rest, at ease and unshakeable." 

Thank you for listening.