White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 55: Seeing a Straight Road and Seeing a Dusty Road

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 18th, 2009

The air is heavy this morning.
Heavy with water.
Big raindrops have been falling off and on.
We've had lightening.
The sky has been dark as evening in the early morning.

So all in all, it's been a pretty exciting day so far. 

you can appreciate the excitement of being alive in a bodymind.

The firing of neurons,
the sending of messages throughout,
the seeing, the hearing, the tasting, the touching, the feeling, the smelling,
the breathing in and out,
the thoughts,
the contractions into a sense of self that come up.

This is all being a human being.
You're the Knowing of the experiencing of the bodymind.
The bodymind is how Knowing knows. 

The verse: 

Seeing a straight road

"May all beings

Be straightforward in intention
With no obsequiousness or deceit." 

"Wait a minute...
Wait a minute... I think I kind of recognize some of those words from last week. What the...? What's going on...?"

So synapses are firing.
And yes, good for you!
Except for the very first line, that was last week's verse. 

Now, I could spend some time going into "reasons why that happened"...why I made a mistake...

We love, self-image loves "reasons why that happened"
and it spouts its little stories about "reasons why that happened"
as if it had nothing to do with it.
As if the bodymind that spoke the words,
that wrote the words had nothing to do with it because... 

Like, if my eyes were younger, then I would have seen...

Oh, if I bothered to turn the light on when I was writing,
then I wouldn't have written that verse down last week,
then I wouldn't have made that mistake! 

So we go through—we're all familiar with it,
you've all done it,
don't try and fool me! [students laugh]

This thing we call "self-image",
this contraction into a sense of a self does not want to make mistakes.
It wants to be seen to be...
always right...
Whenever something happens that it was involved in, as it were,
it did not have anything to do with it: 

"Someone else heard what I said and interpreted it in the wrong way!"

"Someone else neglected to do something." 

"Someone else was perfect, but my perfection was marred by the bozo moves of other human beings who happened to be in the vicinity." 

Well kids, you know what?
Doesn't wash.
It does not wash. 

Now, when I first started working in broadcast television,
some two decades ago, we were still doing live broadcasts.
So something would happen.
A bad joke would be acted out.
That used to be done a lot in early morning television.
Terribly bad jokes were acted out, and I had a role which I'm not proud of,
but I didn't know at the time, I was young,
I was the "female", the butt, no pun intended, of most of the bad jokes.
But anyway, fortunately, things were not recorded at that time.
But, there was a sentence that was said
when some sort of error would occur during a live broadcast and that was: 

"They'll never notice at home." 

So, Joe Lunchpail, renowned for their stupidity,
apparently didn't notice much of anything.
The people who would use phrases such as,
"they'll never notice at home", seemingly didn't notice when things started to be recorded on videotape.

So of course something embarassing or silly would happen.
Someone might say: "they'll never notice at home",
someone else, usually a technician would say: 

"Oh, wait a minute..." 

Then the director would flip the switch on the microphone and say:
"Roll back that tape."
(At that time, videotapes were in reels that were two feet across, it was huge!)

So, as things became miniaturized and there was more and more recording,
there was obviously a great incongruity between the idea that no one would notice something
and the fact that it was recorded,
the thing that wasn't supposed to be noticed was recorded.
Anyone who has made a visit to YouTube knows,
has seen all the comedy and has seen all the hits,
those things that at one time no one would have noticed at home get when they get played?
Same thing with self-image:
we think, self-image likes to think that no one will notice... 

when it takes someone's words and reinterprets them
when it takes someone's actions and gives its own version of them... 

So we become less than straightforward
and less than straightforward in intention.

So what's the intention spoken of in "Seeing a straight road"?
Well, you can read all about it or hear all about it by listening to last week's Dharma Talk. 

Of course the thought came up to me:
"Should I do it over again?" because that's when I noticed.
I didn't even notice until I went downstairs after giving the talk in the Hatto,
and then this moment happened;
I picked up my book where I'd written the verse
and I looked as I was going to write down the verse for this week's talk,
I looked and I thought: "O—M—G" [students laugh] 

Hmm, I transposed. What to do? What to do?
Well, I thought I could record it again, but then you all wouldn't be here.
Besides, I only had the verse written down,
I didn't have any content written down because that, in most cases, except for quotes,
is as they say: "shaped at the point of utterance".
There's no script. 

I could just pretend. That's it! Let's just pretend it never happened.
Then, some poor sucker in the future will go "wait a minute..."
Maybe not some poor sucker, someone might be absolutely delighted: 

"Look! She made a big mistake! I will expose it." 

Well, the fact is, in the realm of all possibilities,
it's not even a big mistake because the content is still valid,
we just have mixed up first lines. 

So, no obsequiousness, no deceit. Last week's verse was supposed to be: 

Seeing a straight road,

"May all beings

Be straightforward in intention
With no obsequiousness or deceit." 

Good rules to have available when you're faced with life's sticky moments.
When someone, say, asks you a question
and because a complete explanation does not come tripping off your tongue,
self-image contracts and comes up with an excuse; 

"Oh, I didn't get enough sleep last night."

"If only I would have a great big shot of whiskey right now, then I'd be able to tell you the answer..." 

...or whatever self-image's story might be.
Learn to recognize it. It is, as they say, BS.
It's the stuff of comedy and we should all know that
because as we start to look at media, as we are looking at media,
as we are looking at the essence of the folly of the human condition,
we see more and more that mistakes and the cover-up of same are the stuff of comedy. 

Now. Let's go on to: 

Seeing a dusty road,

"May all beings

Shake away the dust of defilement
And unfold purity." 

Now that kind of makes it sound as if you're taking a sheet and shaking it out,
and all the little crumbs and dust mites and bits of skin are flying away.

Well, if that works for you, that's fine.
There's the open space of experiencing:
vast, with a myriad of dharma,
moments of experience coming and going,
being born and dying.

When you notice that the open space becomes congealed,
in that there's an obstruction,
there's an "I",
there's "me",
there's a pattern pulling everything else to it as attention is fed into it,
you've noticed a defilement of that open space.

That is what you are learning to do when,
as now,
you are sitting in zazen,
eyes open,
noticing experiencing. 

When you as the Knowing notice anything at all,
you don't have to talk to yourself about it because of course,
talking to yourself about it is self-image contracting,
becoming some sort of accountant or judge saying:
"Well, should I practise here?"

Well, that's where you practise,
at that moment.

You are learning to do that. 

Each time you do that,
that congealed space
that was pulling in beliefs about who you are and how the world is
is opened.

As the Roshi called it,
a "knot tied in space" is opened
and the purity of this moment of experiencing
and THIS moment of experiencing
is opened.

You experience that yourself over and over and over again.
That's what you're learning to do. 

So, the verse again: 

Seeing a dusty road,

"May all beings

Shake away the dust of defilement
And unfold purity." 

Thank you for listening.