White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 51: Seeing an Uphill Road

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Daniel-ji, June 6th, 2009


...lets you know you're alive.
You can still practise at the moment of noticing the breath
or any of the other myriad moments of experience that are your life.

Remember... you're the Knowing.

The bodymind is how Knowing knows.

And, another key thing to remember:
"Its meaning is not in words but it answers sincere questioning".
What you are doing is practising the bodymind,
the whole bodymind in the moment.
Words are incredibly useful as pointers to practise,
but learning a whole lot of words and repeating them to yourselves over and over again
obstructs and conditions,
often in a less than useful way,
the ability to see the clarity and reality of the moment.

The verse:

Seeing an uphill road

"May all beings

Always climb above the usual
Their minds free from wavering."

Now, "usual" as opposed to "ordinary",
usual mind as opposed to ordinary mind:

Usual mind

"Usual" is a word that is used to describe how social culture,
non-practitioners operate,
which often is,
(and before we started to practise,
and even now without pointing any fingers,
we fall for our words about what's going on)
coming up with an argument, a contraction,
an argument to use against what that particular thought is saying,
and then there's the judge that's saying:
"no no, that's not the way it is, it should be this way...".

[O-sensei knocks on the floor twice]

"Objection! Objection!" [students laugh]

So we have a whole courtroom:

pleading our case
prosecuting us

giving us a sentence

(and it's usually not very nice)
[O-sensei and students laugh]

Learn to see it.

It's comic when it's seen.

When we act it out

it is indeed not comic

it takes a terrible toll on the bodymind

on the environment (wherever we are at the time)
and everything around us.

This has always been the case.

Not just for these people 1600 years ago but now.

At the time this verse was for monastics

but now

these commentaries from "The Practice of Purity"
can help us notice bits and pieces

we can take and use

to help with our own practice.

"How do you walk up an uphill road?" [O-sensei asks in a "little" voice]

"Step by step, son." [O-sensei answers in a deep, "knowing" voice]

I mean, come on, it's so obvious! [O-sensei and students laugh]

So it is breath by breath,
step by step
that we do anything at all.

There is only this moment and it's not as if WE are someONE,
separate from this moment,
moving through this moment to the next moment to the next moment to get to
some idea of a future.

This is it!
This moment is it.
It's the only thing going on.

Recognize it.

When attention starts to narrow,
and you start yakking to yourself about what it is that's going on,
you are conditioning experience in a non-useful way,
particularly when you are sitting in formal practice in the Hatto.

To quote from the teisho that are Anzan Hoshin roshi's commentaries on "Yuibutsu Yobutsu", which was in the eMirror of today, June 9th, 2009:

You understand. And then you think, "I understand," and you no longer understand. Over and over in your practice and study of the Dharma you can see how you obstruct yourself by inserting a self into the open space of experience.

So you have something you can follow up on, if you so choose.

Now, it's not as if this moment is something you can get away from...
or, get TO...
looking up the hill...
to the top...
When we get there...
THEN we'll have the ANSWER.

Well, the answer is in this moment, as it presents itself.
All you have to do in the knowing of this moment
is allow the bodymind to be as it really is in this moment,
which necessitates recognizing the content of the thoughts as content,
as words... as thoughts.
Bad or good, it doesn't matter,
a thought is a thought.
You don't have to do anything to get rid of it,
you don't have to haul out the anti-aircraft guns and sit there in the little position,
firing at these thoughts as they come up,
exploding them in the air. You don't have to do that. You go: "Oh! Thought."

But, there's also the breath,
there's seeing and hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling,
and this can happen wordlessly
(because those are words: breathing, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling).

The bodymind starts to learn to do it.

If there's a little something there that is contracted
and starts to check off its little list,
recognize it as self-image
in the guise of accountant or secretary,
wanting to have its little list,
then check it off.

It's more of the same.


This moment of reality.
Open to the rest of what's going on.
And the repetition of this is in fact what practice is,
you're practising the whole bodymind in the whole moment.

So, the usual mind is the mind that follows all of that stuff.
It thinks it's thinking.
It doesn't recognize that by going back and forth,
usually between two points of view,
it doesn't recognize that what that is doing is just making a knot
that's tighter and tighter and tighter
and contracts the intelligence of the bodymind.

Let it go.

And the way it gets let go of,
is by recognizing that moment for what it is
and noticing that it is arising within all these other moments of knowing
that the bodymind is presenting to Knowing.

Now, "waver"... "waver"... "waver"...
minds free from "WAVERing"... "waver".
What does that mean?
Well, as is the case with words,
there are many many many many many many meanings,
so here are a few:



hold back in uncertainty and unwillingness

being unsure or weak

moving hesitantly, as if to give way

the act of moving back and forth

...and there's more, so if you're interested in words,
have some fun, look up what it might actually mean,
notice the applications.

Now the mind free from wavering.
Well, you have a determination.
You decide you want to practise because you want to know what's really going on.
You recognize it is a straight path,
but it doesn't say that it's a smooth asphalt superhighway.

You might want to push down the speed pedal
like a high performance car on the autobahn, but guess what?
That's a view of self-image.
Self-image is not who you are.
It's something going on.

Like life,
practice takes as long as it takes.
It's a process.
We may wish that we could have ideal circumstances and be the perfect practitioner,
but those are crazy dreams.
They're self-image trying to let us understand
that it knows what it's talking about,
but remember when that voice comes up saying: "I understand",
understanding is gone.

So you feel the breath,
you feel the whole bodymind in the whole moment
and you let reality,
the reality that is already going on,
be known.

That's how it is.

Self-chattering, ranting, whining, whingeing,
if it's doing any of those things,
it's got words to it.
Go back to the source,
look at it exactly,
as clearly as you can.

What's going on in the bodymind that occasions that particular tone?

That's more interesting than the words.
'Cause face it, the words are pretty boring, eh?

"I'm doing it better than he is."

"I can."

"I can't."

"Why me?"
"Why not him?"
"Don't they see?..."
and on and on and on...

Those are words, they have to be words.
So see them.
Use them.
If you don't use them, they'll use you.
(Sounds like something for a trucker's hat.)
[O-sensei and students giggle]

Don't anybody dare. [students laugh] So, the verse again:

Seeing an uphill road

"May all beings

Always climb above the usual,
Their minds free from wavering."

Doesn't mean that wavering is defying those many other words.
Doesn't happen.
It comes up, right?
Little contraction,
moment of despair.

Another little contraction,
moment of elation,
you know,
so what?

See it as a moment,
see it as a dharma,
a moment of experience
and use it to practise with.

you will find that the moment then is free from the conditioning
occasioned by the contraction
into conditioned experiencing.

Freedom from conditioned experiencing.
Things as they are.
This moment.


Seeing an uphill road

"May all beings

Always climb above the usual,
Their minds free from wavering."

Have fun!

Thank you for listening.