White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 46: Washing the Face with Water

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, March 21st, 2009

[O-sensei stage whispers:]

Washing the face with water,
"May all beings

Enter the nature of equinimity
And realize stainlessness." 

[O-sensei repeats the verse in a comic German accent.] 

Vashing ze face vis vater,
"May all beings

Enter ze nature of eqvinimity
And realize stainlessness." 

[O-sensei repeats the verse in a casual, drawling, Southern (American) accent] 

Washin' the face with water,
"May all bein's

Enter the nature of equinimidy
And realahze stainlessness." 

[O-sensei repeats the verse, speaking each line as though it were a question] 

Washing the face with water?
"May all beings?

Enter the nature of equinimity?
And realize stainlessness?" 

[O-sensei repeats the verse, proclaiming each line as though it were a command or an edict] 



[O-sensei speaks plainly:]

Today's verse: [students laugh] 

Everything presented in Dainen-ji
and in this Lineage is presented so that you can see more and more clearly
into the actual nature of experiencing. 

Every form

every way we deport the bodymind

every way that we do anything as we are caretaking

THIS moment of experiencing


when we are willing to look

the many dharmas

(that are, it is said, as numberless as the sands of the river Ganges)
that arise in each moment. 

We start to notice more and more details of experiencing, w
e start to understand that we are and always have been
the Knowing of experiences, rather than the knowns.

The bodymind is how Knowing knows.
We sit it down.
We straighten the arms,
we place the hands in the mudra.
We straighten the skull in balance.
We open peripheral vision. 

The whole bodymind sits in the whole moment.
The whole bodymind has always been present.
I mean that is in fact, self-evident,
it just seems that we get lost
so that we become a great big head sitting on a cushion,
or we become a huge bust walking down the street, or, well...
I think we can stop there, I think you get the point. 

When we focus attention on anything,
it seems to get bigger,
it seems to become the only thing that is arising within Knowing.

That simply is not true,
but the fact of feeding attention
and focusing into one aspect of experiencing
does throw our knowing of reality off.

That's why before we start to practise,
we do seem to be,
and we believe thoroughly that we are the things that we think we are.

Self-image has very definite views about how it is and how the world is.
It fails to notice that these can change in a nanosecond
and when it does start to notice,
it gets confused.
That's not a problem
because recognizing a moment of confusion is clarity,
we've recognized something that is actually going on in our experiencing. 

We follow the instructions as best we can:
to show up,
to sit up straight,
to open the eye gaze,
as we practise any moment of reality that we notice.

So, as it happens more and more,
there is a knowing of the whole bodymind in the whole moment.
We become more adept
at noticing when attention is focussed in on one aspect of experiencing
and appears to be throwing us off balance.

We practise,
things balance out.

Equanimity is restored. 

We start to understand why the mirror is used as a metaphor in this practice,
why there's a tiny little mirror over the kitchen sink in the kamidan,
and we start to understand what it really means.

We've heard that just as no mirror is stained by that which is reflected within that mirror,
so Knowing, which is what we are,
cannot be stained by any of the knowns.
In this moment,
whatever we may have done or said or felt or experienced before this moment,
is in reality, gone.
It may presence and when it does,
pull forth responses in the bodymind
because that's how bodymind functions,
but we as the Knowing,
start to be able to see the details of that...
and, by following the instruction of recognizing and practising that moment of mindfulness,
that moment of waking up,
the capacity for the bodymind to do this increases. 

So we are provided through the instruction
and through the art

and through the poetry 

and through the construction

and through the cooking

through the sprouting of plants

through the washing of floors in the monastery... 

we're provided with many opportunities to open to the actual nature of experiencing,
the nature of the equanimity,
of the balance of the bodymind.

And, even though we may splash water on our little faces without thinking much about what we're doing,
we start to be able to slow down a bit...

we start to be able to feel the actual water touching the face...

we start to understand that just as that coffee stain
caught in that wrinkle creeping up from the ageing mouth

or just as those little white things in the corner of the mouth are washed away with the water,
(they're not permanent,
they can be washed away)

so any state, any thought we may have felt about who we are and how the world is,
starts to be seen for what it is,
something transitory
and something that does not have the ability to stain this moment of experiencing. 

And we have choice about that.

We as the Knowing can make the choice
to keep that little coffee stain in the wrinkle that's going up around the ageing mouth,
or we can make the choice to keep the little white stuff at the corners of the mouth.
Or... we can make the choice to wash it off
and to feel what it feels like as we splash that water on the face.
And maybe we just might remember that the verse says: 

Washing the face with water,
"May all beings

Enter the nature of equanimity
And realize stanlessness." 

Have fun washing the bodymind in this moment of experiencing.

Thank you for listening.