White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 56: Seeing a Road Free of Dust

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, August 1st, 2009

So feel the breath.

That's a sure sign that you are alive in this moment.

So feel that breath,
feel bodymind as it shifts and changes and moves in and out,
perhaps crackles and pops,
moves in and out with the activity of life.

that bodymind,
the thing you think of as YOU is made up of
oh, ten, twenty, thirty pounds of bacteria,
cells that are not you,
organisms that are not you,
so whether you like to think of it or not,
you've been colonized,
as with all living beings.

You shave your head
and you're cutting the tails off little organisms that are burrowed deep into the pores,
eating, eating, eating...

Now, if that doesn't make you itch, I'm sure something else will... 

you have the opportunity
to practise the only thing that's ever going on
and that ever was going on:
this moment.

Every moment of waking up,
clear seeing,
free of the dust of delusion and fabrication
enables you to practise that moment of clear seeing,
of recognizing that you are Buddha,
you are Awareness in itself,
it's just that the dust gets in our eyes from time to time
and we don't recognize that.

So it needs to be pointed out to us with,
in Dogen's lineage, grandmotherly kindness.

As we all know,
a Granny can slap you upside the head if that's what you need,
and with the other hand give you a cookie,
because somehow or another,
you know that it's in your own best interest. 

Today's verse from "The Practice of Purity": 

Seeing a road free of dust,

"May all beings

Always practise great compassion,

With hearts that refresh and nurture all." 

Now, when I read through the text, what was printed was: 

Seeing a road free of dust,

"May all beings

Always practise great compassion,

With hearts that refresh and mature all." 

So, I did some research and found that indeed that "nurture" or "nourishing" seems to be the word,
the interpretation, the meaning that is favoured
and I can't remember, this was translated so long ago with the Roshi,
it was over at Zazenji, I think we may have used "nurture".

But, we might have used "mature". Hmm. What to do?

Choice: get mad because the proofreaders read the wrong thing?
Spend an inordinate amount of time tracking down who was the stupid hmm mmm mmm [students laugh]
who made that mistake?

Pointless, isn't it? But it certainly, certainly is what human beings like to do.
So that gets pointed out to us in our practice all the time.
We sure do like to find out what hmm mm mmm
left the mud on the front carpet of the porch
because somehow or other it seems to us to be more important to load off on the
(air quotes here, air punctuation) "guilty" one
than to fix, than to take care of whatever it is that needs taking care of.

This may get pointed out to us as well
because as human beings we sure do a lot of it,
and not over big matters, oh no no no,
not at all, starting out with little things
and somehow or other when we start out with the wrong approach toward little things,
when by wrong I mean least useful approach towards little things,
as with everything else,
the big things seem to take care of themselves
in that we get into this gigantic habit, globally
of looking around to see who we can blame for whatever it is that's going on. 

Now, here we are,
we're walking down that road,
the non-road really,
because we're not going anywhere,
but we can see through metaphor,
that road has had dust on it,
it's been straight, it's been curvy,
and now it's free of dust,
so in this moment,
this moment of clear seeing,
this moment of noticing anything whatsoever,
the road is free of dust and that
[O-sensei snaps fingers]
...we practise.

Because that moment is free of dust, clutter,
it certainly is a lot easier to see,
to know when something extraneous presents itself.

When something is clear and free of dust,
it is a lot easier to see when the tendencies of self-image come up and want to complicate,
when those tendencies want to create
stories, panoramas, active little scenarios,
a stranger on a white horse, clattering, clattering, clattering towards us to rescuse us.
Someone pinning a medal on us for being so terrific,
we did the right thing.
Someone proclaiming us a saint
because we're soooooooo nice.

All the little chimeras of self-image can be seen at the moment of clear seeing,
you've recognized reality,
and as those patterns of identification with our own personal fictions,
our own personal belief systems about who we are and how the world is
we do become capable of making wiser choices,
or doing the best thing in the moment, for all concerned. 

The wish in the verse is that "all beings always practise great compassion".

Compassion, hmm?

Boy, is that a drippingly misunderstood word. Is that not something that people will knock around?
Is that not something that sometimes when they say it, they get all soft around the edges?

You know what I mean.

So compassion.
That basic warmth, first of all,
for yourself through having seen those habits and patterns and tendencies,
having seen them for what they are,
which is not you,
they are knowns,
you are Knowing,
and by taking the choice to practise that moment of reality,
the whole bodymind in that whole moment,
over time,
the tendency to become trapped and dragged along
and to act out those patterns,

But because we've seen it in our own experience,
because we've experienced it,
we see the functioning of habits and patterns and recognize,
they're not us, well...
so the same for others,
and out of that can come a basic understanding,
a warmth,
which at a certain point will enable us to see the action that is necessary to take moment to moment:
upaya, skillful means. 

The verse goes on to say,
practising this compassion: "with hearts that refresh and nurture all".

Nurture: to nourish, it means:


.the sum of the environmental factors influencing the behavior and traits expressed by an organism
.the act of bringing up. 

So nuture, noun or verb, but basically
it's doing what needs to be done in that moment,
when the situation is seen clearly,
starting first of all with ourselves,
and then developing the capacity to take the most useful action in situations
and the action is based in the Four Great Vows: 

All beings without number I vow to liberate. 

...based in the understanding of the Samu chant: 

May all beings be happy
May they be peaceful
May they be free 

So that choice of action when based in clear practice,
when based in moments of wisdom free of dust,
cannot help but refresh and nurture all. 

The verse again: 

Seeing a road free of dust,

"May all beings

Always practise great compassion,

With hearts that refresh and nurture all." 

Thank you for listening.