White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 54: Seeing a Dusty Road

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 11th, 2009

Hey! Yes, you,
and you,
and you, and you, and you,
and you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you,
and YOU, over there...

Wanna have a little fun? Hmm?

There you are,
the Knowing of the bodymind.

The bodymind is how Knowing knows,
as long as it's alive it's very active.
There are infinite possibilities available.
So again,
you're practising the fact that you're the Knowing of it,
so let's take this wonderful plastic toy
and play around with it a bit.

So, I'm going to say a couple of words,
just notice what happens,
what presents itself when I say:
a dusty road.

Now, where is that road?
What was your experience of it?
Because let's face it,
those two words "dusty road"
and your understanding of what that is comes out of your experience.

I was thinking this morning that it's interesting that, in the past 60 years,
many of the dusty roads with which I was familiar as a child in the Ottawa Valley
have now been asphalted over,
so no longer is there that tunnel of dust that you can see for three or four miles away
if you're standing, waiting to be rescued from the desolation of the countryside.
It doesn't happen anymore.

So our image of "dusty road" is very much caused by our experience of dusty road,
and young people who may show up here 50 years from now
and be listening to this may not have any experience whatsoever of dusty road.

Now there are people around who have never seen a cow in person,
or in cow-dom? In bovinity?
[O-sensei and students laugh]

So yeah, experience of things is really very interesting.
So you've got the experiencing of the bodymind
and the myriad of little sparks that shot off
as pictures or sounds, thoughts, with the words "dusty road".

Now, a dusty road in the countryside of rural Ontario
is quite a different thing than a dusty road in Sub-Saharan Africa,
the yellow stinging dust gets in your eyes and up your nose
and you cannot see, you literally cannot see in front of you.
You have to have your mud lights on, your fog lights on
and it still doesn't make any difference.

So there are many dusty roads,
and dust has been used to talk about dharmas, moments of experiencing.

Today's verse:

Seeing a dusty road,

"May all beings

Be straightforward in intention
With no obsequiousness or deceit."

So there we are.
We're walking on a dusty road and we're seeing that dusty road.

Now, interestingly enough, just as all of us are sitting here in the Hatto,
none of us are experiencing the Hatto in the same way.

Think about it, that's so obviously true.

You're sitting there,
and you're sitting there,
and you're sitting there,
and I'm sitting here.
There are many different points of view,
so even if we were all in a bus,
driving on a dusty road,
none of us would be experiencing it in the same way from exactly the same perspective.

It is our own experience of anything that we can know
and we've heard that in practice.
And you practise your experience of waking up for that moment
[O-sensei claps hands]
and practising at that moment,
you'll have more moments of waking up to reality.

So many points of view.
MANY points of view.
The more points of view that are understood,
the more intelligent one can be about choice,
about recognizing those clottings into a sense of self
with their little mini beliefs about who you are and how the world is.

Not a problem,
you are not that clotting into a sense of self.

How could you be?

You're the Knowing of it.

So you have choice,
you have choice not to follow that contracted action.

But interestingly enough, we tend not to notice a lot of stuff that when we do start to notice it makes us go:
"Duh! How could I have not noticed that one of the goldfish up on the third floor
has in the past number of weeks turned completely white? Duh..."
[O-sensei laughs]
Not a bad thing!
A good thing to see how
when self-image is focussed on its ideas about what's important,
getting the task done,
being seen to be a good student,
not wanting to make waves...

So self-image has many many little agendas.
Those are habits,
they're patterns.
YOU did not even invent them.
They were just things that the plasticity of the bodymind took on
because of the situations,
the prevailing social and cultural factors
through which the particular bodymind came
as it was born and grew up.

But you're the KNOWING of that,
so you're learning to see that
and any time you see any pattern whatsoever,
there is the recognition that you're not that,
so there's a moment of Reality.
That was going on.

You're the Knowing of it.

So Knowing practises
and Knowing has the capacity,
clearly evident,
to know moments of experience.

And so the intention when you set out to practise,
the intention,
a course of action that you intend to follow,
an aim that guides action,
an objective...
when you start to practise,
you may not be clear about it,
but you get clarity as you continue to practise,
the intention,
the aim,
is to wake up fully and completely
so that anytime,
you will know that you're not the knowns.

You can make the choice not to act out habits and patterns
and to do it as quickly as possible as clearly as possible,
because after all,
as the Daiji-no ge says:

The Great Matter is birth and death.
Life slips by and time is gone.

Right now, Wake Up! Wake Up!

Do not waste time.

'Cause time is not a commodity that we can put in a little bank somewhere
and take out some when we feel like it.
"Oh yeah, I'm going to buy myself some time!"
[O-sensei and students laugh]
There will be a moment,
and it could be now, or now, or now,
when there will be that last breath.

That's it.

Of course we all have little scenarios about that,
whether we know it or not,
and the scenarios might be dramatic or humourous,
or they might not even be fully formed in any way.
Maybe we don't go home and sleep in a coffin,
as I've heard some do,
including the actress Sarah Bernhardt, she used to do that.
But, we don't know when we will die,
but you know you are breathing right now
and that is a signal to notice what else is going on in your life
which is presencing in the only place it can possible presence
which is right now.


Well, obsequiousness, a nice word, it goes back to the Latin, it means "to follow" from the word "seque", or
.readily compliant

.excessively eager to please or to obey all instructions


Well, I venture to say we wouldn't really want any of that, right?
We're not going to buy obsequiousness when we go to that mythical store to buy some time.
So, do we do it? Does self-image do it? Have we played it out?
I bet we have, each and every one of us.
We've stood there,
and we've listened or have been told something
and maybe we've made a conscious choice not to even listen to the words,
but to obey the pointing finger and we go
"Yeah yeah, yes, okay sir," tugging on our mythical little forelock.

There's a wonderful picture,
a couple of years ago when Saddam Hussein was still the leader in Iraq,
there was a picture of Saddam Hussein who incidentally
you may have noticed
was perhaps the tallest person,
that's an interesting thing too,
if you look into groups of people who are leaders,
often the leader is the tallest person...
there he was in full glory,
military outfit, lots of ribbons, a beret, and that big moustache.
Behind him there were a dozen or so other guys,
different sizes,
all wearing that same moustache.
Isn't that funny?
And it's not limited to dictators.
Look at corporations, look at government, look at political parties, look at, look at, look at...
Wanna fit in? Gotta dress like them. Dress like him.
So when you have the opportunity,
you might notice how often,
when people are in situations when they're receiving information and instruction,
they're nodding away,
they're not listening to the words,
they're just nodding away like a puppy.
[O-sensei pants like a puppy]
"Yeah yeah."

So the trick becomes to see those patterns
and to practise with them.
Over time they will open
and you'll start to find that you will be able to ask questions,
you will be able to notice when you don't understand something
and to explore it more fully.
Now isn't that what teachers are all about?
To help you explore things more fully?
So when you find yourself nodding away,
in any situation, nod nod nod nod...

As soon as you notice it,
feel the breath,
stand up straight,
open to the whole bodymind,
open to peripheral vision,
and see that pattern because it is deceitful.

You're acting out something that you do not know to be true.

It may be actively in opposition to what you may or may not know to be true.
Yet we'll play stuff out,
and again I say "we"
but I mean of course the patterns of self-image,
the contraction into a sense of self with its stories,
"I'd better just nod and look like a very agreeable person, even though I really don't understand."

So, that's deceit.
Deceit is the act of deceiving,
a trick, a strategem, a betrayal, something designed to catch or ensnare.

Again, from the Latin, decipio: to ensnare, to take in.

So, we don't want,
self-image does not want to let on that it doesn't understand,
so it doesn't have,
when the pattern is running,
the guts to say
"Excuse me, I don't understand what you're saying.
Excuse me, I don't know what that word is."
and it'll just nod nod nod away.

It's no wonder we find ourselves getting into trouble.
Self-image is a gutless wonder.
It's asked what it thinks of something,
the taste of something,
or did it enjoy something and it'll quick
[O-sensei snaps fingers]
look for signs as to what the right answer is
and it'll nod away.

However, as the dust clears,
as we start to see that,
as the wind dies down,
the dust'll drop away,
we don't need to track it further with us,
we do not need to carry it on to the next step on that straight path,
we can recognize that the seeing of any patterns,
whatever we call them,
we can recognize the seeing of them is a moment of clear seeing.

No dust?
Saw it!

Now get onto the next one because as we also know,
as soon as we start to say
"Oh, I really understand that",
as the Roshi pointed out,
there is no understanding at that point
because more of the same,
contraction into a sense of a self is being acted out.

So don't let the sand get in your eyes,
even when you're sleeping.

There is no Sandman who comes and fools you and puts dust in your eyes,
the contractions into a sense of self do that quite adequately,
really, we do not need any assistance.

What we need is what we're getting,
the assistance at being able to see reality as it is,
recognize that none of those patterns and contractions are who we are,
recognize that we have choice,
there are infinite possibilities,
and at the same time, in THIS
[O-sensei claps]
moment with that wordless recognition
that this is the only place where your life is happening.

Feel the breath,
sit up straight,
open the eye gaze.

The verse again:

Seeing a dusty road,

"May all beings

Be straightforward in intention,
With no obsequiousness or deceit."

Thank you for listening.