White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 58: Seeing a Gathering of People

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, September 5th, 2009

Wake up! Wake up!
Your life's not done.
You're still breathing.
You can have more fun! 

the bodymind gets the oxygen that it needs to nourish all those cells,
some of which as we already know are not even you,
but it helps nourish those colonies that are living all over you in places that well...
we won't get into that. 

With every breath you take,
you can practise the forms more thoroughly
and we have just practised the chanting form.

You may have noticed it was pretty good this morning, wasn't it?
There was some resonance going on there.
It was terrific!

So let me ask you a question:
do you have to like every person in the room
to practise the form of chanting and to have it be harmonic and resonate?

The answer:

What you're doing when you're sitting there breathing in and out,
allowing the breath to go over the vocal cords,
is you're doing your practice.

You are noticing when attention becomes narrowed
because let's say maybe you're concerned about the way the guy next to you is chanting.
[O-sensei giggles]

So you recognize it because you're studious.
[students laugh]
You recognized that contraction into a sense of self
and you remember to practise the whole bodymind
in the whole moment
and that opens
and guess what?
Those sound waves that come out of your bodymind resonate with those around. 

Another question:
do the drums have to like the guitar for them to be in harmony,
to resonate together,
to produce a piece whose harmonic resonance reaches others?

Obviously not.

Did Gilbert like Sullivan?
Did Sullivan like Gilbert?
Well "The Pirates of Penzance",
whether it happens to be your personal preference or not,
is a big hit,
it's been a big hit with audiences for 150 years, roughly,
and for the longest time those guys wouldn't even get in the same room together.

So what we start to understand,
not just with practice but in general,
liking and disliking,
these patterns and reactivities that arise for us in many different circumstances
need not control what we do. 

You're the Knowing.

Reactivities are knowns.

Any known, any moment of knowing a known,
any dharma,
is the moment you practise mindfulness of the whole bodymind
in the whole moment
because you're using the noticing of one aspect of reality
to notice the rest of the reality of that moment,
practising the whole bodymind in the whole moment.

This has nothing to do with like or dislike
and we start to understand that
through seeing how much of our life has been based on like or dislike,
either reacting to it
or wanting to be or not be liked or disliked. 

Today's verse—finally: [students laugh] 

Seeing a gathering of people,

"May all beings

Display the profound Teaching

So that all may gather in harmony." 

The profound teaching?

We're not our thoughts and feelings.

We're not our reactivities.

We are none of those things
and none of those things need determine the actions that we choose to take. 

Early on in practice, we might think that because certain patterns can be so strong,
we might think that we have no choice.
"Well I've always been like this and it's served me well"
can be something that might come up.

"I've always had a tendency to be a really picky person." 

"I've always reacted to smells"...

and on and on an on...
I'm sure you've got your own variations on that theme and that's what they are,
they're variations on the theme of misunderstanding the reality of the whole bodymind in the whole moment. 

Now in Greek, harmon: A fitting together, a joining, a concord, an agreement, musical harmony. 

So here we sit in concord,
looking into the experiencing of our own, as it were,
bodymind in the whole moment
because we can only do our practice,
we cannot do the practice of someone else.

Out of that,
as exhibited very recently in the strength of the chanting this morning,
out of that comes a harmony,
a concord of sound,
the joining together of many difference resonances
which have travelled over as many people as there are in the room,
has travelled over that many voice boxes and vocal cords.

When we step out of our own way
and get over that contraction into a self which is,
for the sake of this since we're talking like and dislike:
"I wonder how I'm doing?" or
"Good, I'm doing better than them"
which of course disrupts the harmony. 

The basic understanding is that here we are,
practising the Dharma, the Teachings of Reality.
And why would that be?
Well, for each and every one of us there has been a recognition
that the usual social culture
with its many biases and ghettos and harmful points of view need not be,
and indeed, is not
the totality of reality.

So, resonating within each and every one of us,
before we even knew what it was,
there was this chant: 

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

So we end up sitting in front of a white wall on a beautiful Saturday morning
looking into, as Dogen said, the self,
in this case, the contractions into a sense of self that come up
and disrupt the basic harmony and the possibility of that harmony to produce,
when it's working well, to produce for example:
Dainen-ji, because that is how it came about.

There was a gathering of people wanting to understand for themselves
the profound teaching that indeed it is possible to gather in harmony.
So harmony doesn't mean liking or disliking,
but resonating in a way that is in line with the purpose or in the case of music, the piece. 

The verse again: 

Seeing a gathering of people,

"May all beings

Display the profound Teaching

So that all may gather in harmony." 

Thank you for listening.