White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 42: When Going to the Toilet

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, January 31st, 2009

It's as natural and important and vital as breathing in and out but...
as we human beings have done with significant and inevitable activities such as birth and death...
we have ranked this particular activity very low on the scale of things to be enjoyed or noted. 

gives you the opportunity,
when you are practising,
to notice the whole bodymind in the whole moment,
without any stance of self-image necessary.

It's not a problem should a contraction into self-image with its story or stance come up.
That is the stuff of practice.
That is the fertilizer with which your practice of mindfulness is nourished. 

Today's verse: 

When going to the toilet,

"May all beings release

Release passion, aggression, and stupidity,
And wipe away wrong action." 

Now, passion, aggression, and stupidity, what is being spoken of there? 

Well, in Sanskrit, this was and is "klesa",
which came from the, I believe the Pali,
kilesha: mental states which temporarily cloud the bodymind and result in unskillful actions.

Now, of course, human beings being what they are,
this fact of states that come up and contract and cloud
was looked at very closely
and then the states were labeled,
so we had what were called
"defilements" or "poisons", "afflictions" or "hindrances",
variously described as
greed: "rega",
hatred: "dresa",
delusion: "moha".

So the way we have dealt with that in this particular lineage,
the way that Anzan Hoshin roshi has chosen to describe these klesa,
the basic hindrances is: "passion, aggression, and stupidity".

And for those who perhaps find "stupidity" a little too cringe-worthy,
we can call it ignorance.
Passion, aggression, and ignorance,
but basically, all the words are describing
the tendency the bodymind has to learn patterns of contraction and recoil
and then subsequently,
we have stories about them,
we've developed stories about them. 

In "The Straight Path",
which I encourage you to read or listen to as soon as you can after this Dharma Talk,
you will find the ways the Roshi has chosen to describe these basic hindrances. 

Passion, craving or greed: 

A continual wanting,
a sense of need that can never be filled
and so we keep trying to fill it so that grasping, the mechanism of trying to fill—
something that really isn't empty—
with things that exist somewhere else that have to be hauled into the maw of the state. 

The second one, hatred or anger, aggression: 

"It is the flip side of craving. There are many things that we want"
but people being people,
"there are also many things that we don't want."

And the third craving,
and this is actually in the list of five,
but we're going to stop at three in this Dharma Talk
because you will run across passion, aggression, and ignorance or stupidity
mentioned in numerous texts and in chants.
And during Futsatsu, which chants it very clearly. 

The third craving is laziness, sloth, or torpor.

It's unlike craving or hatred, which are both directed outwards.
There's a clenching into a sense of self and it's grasping outward, or directing outward.
Laziness is a folding inwards, a sliding, deep into the swampy lowlands of our own lives.
Laziness is not wanting to be pulled out,
not wanting to be exposed or bothered at all. 

When chewing on the toothstick,
"May all beings

Have the eye teeth of wisdom
And bite through all delusion." 

So, passion, aggression, and ignorance.
Something to think about when going to the toilet,
rather than reading an old copy of "True Romance"
or doing crosswords or looking at the sports page,
or whatever. 

In Fusatsu, the chanting of the renewing of vows,
you will hear the three klesa,
these hindrances or poisons, referred to.
In the Sange Mon, the third verse: 

All wrong actions from beginningless time,
Stemming from passion, aggression, and ignorance,
Arising through body, breath, speech and mind,

I now recognize as purity. 

Then, what I have always viewed as a very hopeful and helpful sentence: 

May the womb of the three klesas
Give birth to Buddha 

So right there, the process of practice is revealed.

It is through recognizing the tendencies we have
to become involved in these states, various states,
passion, aggression, and stupidity basically describing them all,
the fact that they're there, becoming involved, seeing them, is not a problem.
It is through sitting and practising when we notice any aspect of the moment
that practice matures,
and eventually, a Buddha is born,
an Awakened One,
one who has stabilized that clear seeing so that clear seeing is all there is. 

I always found that very encouraging,
particularly when wrapped up in...
any little state whatsoever... 

So, you've got the raw material and out of that,
through the constant polishing of the zafu by your butt
[O-sensei laughs]...
[O-sensei and students laugh, louder]
so the segue, yeah,
the butt!
It's interesting, isn't it
that human beings have this incredible capacity
to put value on aspects of experiencing,
and beginnings are actually seen to be more valuable,
more interesting than ends. 

Being born is celebrated.
Not all the time and not everywhere,
but birth, particularly in this part of the world,
seems to be celebrated.
Now, the end of that is inevitably... the D word.
And THAT does not get the same kind of celebration for the individual going through it,
or for all involved with it,
I mean I have yet to see a Hallmark card that says:
"Congratulations! You're approaching the big D!"
[students laugh] 

Anyway, yeah. Eating. I mean, all be
ings have to nourish themselves.
They have to take things in one end,
gnash away at them,
or suck on them,
or whatever it is that that particular being does,
in order to extract the nutrients,
the things necessary to keep the being going,
to fuel it. 

Now, certain practices, the Theravadin, for instance,
have a tendency to want to shorten the process of being a human being,
and in order to present their understanding of "attachment",
they made the fact of the chewing
and the result of the chewing on the food, into something to be reviled. 

Great, huh? You take in some food, you chew it, you go "aaaaach"
(you've seen people open their mouths when they're eating, I mean, it is not pleasant).

This is not the case with our practice,
which is saying:
Look, the bodymind has all these senses.
It's an explosion of vibrancy each moment that you're breathing.
Notice it!
There's no need to get fixated.
There's no need when eating to focus all your attention on the food.
You don't have to do that (that in itself is less than appealing),
but by openly experiencing that moment of sensation on the tongue,
the sensation of chewing,
the sensation of swallowing, you start to find, actually, that less...
I can't believe I'm almost saying "is more"
[O-sensei laughs]...
But, it's actually true, less IS more,
because through the vivid experience
of that interaction between the food being placed in the mouth
and the sensations of all the sense organs,
there's a sense of incredible satisfaction.
And we won't get into how that could be used,
that could be studied by individuals
and experienced by individuals
to increase the appreciation of the bodymind and what is being ingested. 

So, anyway, in a lot of cultures, this one in particular,
we don't like to speak about the end of the process.
We've developed all sorts of ways of describing the product that results after all that...
chewing and swallowing...
And we've come up with all sorts of nifty little names:
doody... poop... crap... Number Two...
[students laugh]
And it is amusing, isn't it?
This activity that every human being does—
and when things are working well, at least once a day—
I have heard, though, that in some supposedly "developed" countries,
this very natural activity, which should occur, all things being equal, once a day,
occurs two or three times a week!
Now that can make people pretty pretty irritable,
and brings new meaning to the expression, you know, full of... 

So, perfectly normal, perfectly natural activity,
one that can tell us lots,
if we have just a minimum of mindfulness about the processes of the human bodymind,
of our own human bodymind,
but we won't get into that right now...
In fact, the processes of the human bodymind
and the end of the process,
which results in feces,
from the Greek: dregs, the waste at the end of the process,
and it's interesting,
we'll use that when we say "drinking life to the dregs"
[O-sensei laughs]
but we want to hide this other activity and pretend it's not happening,
even when we're doing it. 

So, the end product of that process
can tell lots of things about what's going on in the bodymind,
and actually, the word "stool",
another euphemism for the end of this process,
came from Britain,
where there was actually an appointment in the royal entourage,
the Master of the Stool.
The job was to, after the king had been on the commode,
to take the pot and examine the product,
thus being able to make informed comment on the health of His Majesty.

And also,
you may have come across the word "throne" used to describe the toilet.
So, these are just little interesting anecdotes,
bits of history that I thought you might enjoy.
I'm certainly in no way encouraging fixation,
but open attention,
and when the people were writing these verses 1600 years ago,
they were writing them to help people practise moment to moment,
to open to the incredible vividness of the living bodymind, in the moment. 

Now, before I close, a little fact:
human waste is human health's single greatest hazard.
I'm not going to expand on that.
One gram contains 10 millions viruses,
1 million bacteria
and a hundred worm eggs...
But who's counting? 

When going to the toilet,

"May all beings

Release passion, aggression, and stupidity,
And wipe away wrong action." 

Thank you for listening.