White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 50: When on the Road

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, May 30th, 2009

Birds outside

talking to each other
making threats

little songs of perhaps


Who can translate? 

But there's a knowing

of the sounds

and the bodymind is how Knowing...
[O-sensei whispers:]

which is what you really are:
Awareness in itself 

...Knowing knows as the bodymind. 

you have an opportunity to practise that fact,
the fact of reality,
the fact of unobstructed knowing,
the fact of the end of suffering,
because it is contraction that causes suffering. 

Now, the verse: 

When on the road,

"May all beings

Move in the stainless realm of Reality,
Unobstructed Knowing." 

The verse, written some 1600 years ago
was basically talking about monastics,
home-leavers at that time who would set out to travel from place to place
and had many things to remember when on the road.
The Roshi recently addressed aspects of this in the "Doing Not-Doing" series, Part Three,
talking about the 37th verse of the Bramajala Sutra.
In it was laid out the things that monks took with them when they were on the road:

The bodymind of course,
three robes,
begging bowl
and a dozen or so other items.

Now you can find out for yourself directly,
if you're interested,
what all those things were.
And I do encourage independent research. 

We can also look at it from the point of view of those who are not monastics
who have say travelled from a distance to come to Dainen-ji.
We could say they're on the road.
Now, this is not the "on the road" spoken of by Jack Kerouac and the dharma bums,
in fact it's quite different.
But again, another area for research if you're interested. 

Your road may be one from your home to Dainen-ji for the sitting.
What do you need to have?
What do you need to remember?
Well you need to remember your practice clothes,
you need to remember to have them pristine,
not just any old thing that you're going to throw on.
You need to remember to remove jewelry.
You need to remember to remove makeup,
you need to remember to shave your face if that's what you do
so that you don't come to the sittings with a 5am shadow.
So there are lots of things to remember.
A very important thing to remember is to notice when a contraction comes up with a story,
with a feeling tone around it
and attention falls into it
and that story becomes a definition of who you are and how the world is. 

Not useful.

And not true.

It is a fabrication. 

We love our stories.
We love to carry them around and tell ourselves over and over again,
and in some cases, ANYONE who will listen,
how unique we are,
how ill-done by,
how heroic to have overcome so many obstacles,
how witty,
how stupid...
You know, self-image is not creative.
It recycles the same old stuff over and over again.
We can learn to see that. 

Those who have something,
some moments of having the light shine through the density of the beliefs of social culture,
may ask themselves the question:

WTF? [students laugh]
Is this all there is?
And it can happen very quickly
and then may be submerged again under the clotting of stories about what's going on.
But it may present itself,
that opening,
that moment of clarity,
that moment when the light shines in and the usual understanding drops away,
may propel us over the years to end up sitting in front of a blank wall. 

Well, fun-seekers... [students laugh] here you are,
learning how to see and recognize the realm of Reality,
unobstructed Knowing.
Now. As it says in the Three Jewels, which we did chant this morning: 

Awareness is the only condition. 

Now Awareness is not different from Knowing.
The words are different but they are talking about the same thing:
something that cannot really be talked about but only experienced. 

All that is arises as the display of Awareness. 

Knowns arise within Knowing.
Whatever is known is known by Knowing in itself.
So knowns rise and fall, rise and fall...
 [sound of birds is heard on the recording]


The little shutoff of self-image saying:
"Well, I'll just take a nap now."
Knees giving off sensations.

They're all knowns.

You're the Knowing. 

You are practising the fact of being Knowing in itself and eventually,
over time,
should you continue with diligence and effort,
the knowns cease to be as magnetic,
as compelling as they used to be and you see them for the tricks of light that they really are,
for the stories,
for the fabrications that they really are.
And they can just be there,
you don't really need to do anything about them. 

The moment of recognizing a story,

the moment of recognizing any content,

the moment of recognizing any feeling tone IS

a moment of recognizing reality.

You practise that moment of recognizing reality...
because guess what?

Just as you get better when you practise the piano,

or skateboarding,

or singing,

or playing the guitar,

or refinishing furniture,

when you practise at the moment of recognizing reality,
you get better at recognizing reality. 

What happens as attention ceases flowing into certain aspects of knowns
is that they wear out because you have to feed them,
propagate them,
in order for those patterns to continue.
So... understandable! 

Human beings tend to believe things, a couple of things:
they believe that words are more important than experience or experiencing.
Words, over time, since language was developed,
have become a big thing,
after all, the workers in words in many cultures,
perhaps most,
those who work in words have a higher status than those who work with their hands.

Well of course that's obviously a sign of a value system.
The fact is, experience comes before words and in the history of the species,
experience and experiencing obviously came before language. 

That can perhaps help simplify things
when you as the Knowing are sitting facing the wall
and you notice that attention has fallen into a story,
you're talking to yourself about experiencing,
you have a heads up that that is storytelling.

The moment you notice it,
you've noticed reality.
There is the thought.
You are no longer totally involved in it
because you are knowing it for what it is,
a known,
something going on and then the rest of reality can pop forward,
the rest of the knowns that the bodymind knows are presented to Knowing.
By keeping it simple,
you might find yourself being less interested in the fabricated stories
about why things are the way they are. 

Now, I'll digress for a moment... 

The other day I was watching a program about a three-legged dog.
The dog had been in an accident and its leg had been taken off,
shoulderblade and everything—
First thing the dog wanted to do, and this was obvious,
we could see it doing it when it came out of the anaesthetic, was get up.
Well, something was a little off and it took actually a very short length of time
before it was running around on its three legs.
I thought: "Hmm hmm hmm." 

Now, we human beings do tend to talk to ourselves about things that happen to us:
"Why me?"

"Why do I have this difficulty? This is not fair. It's so-and-so's fault. It's so-and-so's fault..." 

...and this seems to delay taking care of what needs to be taken care of.
It seems to delay and interfere with the bodymind's ability,
due to its plasticity,
to reshape itself
so that whatever loss or injury has taken place can be effectively integrated,
really, into the life of the bodymind.

So I thought: "Now, I bet that dog was not lying there saying
'Why me? Why was I the one that got hit by the car?
Why has my life been such a misery? Why have I been dealt this deck?'" [students laugh] 


Now here you are, sitting zazen.
Knowing in itself,
each one.

The bodymind,
how Knowing knows.

And this was done since the Buddha started it 2600 years ago
and when Dogen zenji went to China to find a true teacher,
he found Rujing on Mount Tiantong, in Tiantong-shu, the temple there.

Rujing had said that zazen is "shinjin datsuraku",
or dropping through the bodymind.

Hearing these words at that time,
Dogen realized for himself,
the precise time of the collapse of the world,
and that his own bodymind was primordially "better without".

Better without him,
better turned out to the openness of the world,
better just left always and naturally open.

Dropping through, 
opening to the openness that is always open,
dropping through,
releasing opening to the openness that is always open,
is how old Buddhas and new Buddhas are let loose in this world. 

This was in the e-Mirror of this week,
it is from Ven. Anzan Hoshin's commentaries on Dogen zenji's...
[there is a pause and O-sensei says: "can't read my own writing!" students and O-sensei laugh]

Oh well, there we go.
But you can read it when you leave or when you go home,
and what is being talked about is Knowing,
practising at the moment of recognizing knowns
until the knowns have all opened and no longer interfere, no longer obstruct Knowing in itself. 

Dogen zenji also wrote in "Genjokoan: The Question of our Lives": 

Studying the way of Awakening is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. Forgetting the self is being awakened by the vast expanse of experience. Being awakened by the vast expanse, one's bodymind is dropped right through. 


When on the road,

"May all beings

Move in the stainless realm of Reality, 
Unobstructed Knowing." 

So as you're sitting there as Knowing in itself,
remember, at the moment of knowing any thing,
you have noticed reality in itself
and by practising at that moment,
knowns release. 

Have fun!

Thank you for listening.