White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 63: Seeing Trees Heavy With Leaves

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 12, 2009

reminds you it is this moment and you're alive.

We're all in the process of dying.

From the moment we're born,
that's the case.

Life: a terminal disease. 

So use that moment of feeling the breath
to practise the moment
by feeling the whole bodymind in the whole moment.
Use that moment of noticing anything
to practise the recognition
that this is
this moment.

All knowns arising in this moment are knowns
and what you really are is the Knowing of them.

That's Reality.

You are practising Reality. 

Because the Reality is
that attention funneled into any patterns whatsoever
obscures the radiance and light inherent in this moment of experiencing.

Sometimes we can be overshadowed.
Sometimes we can be lost,
it would seem,
in the mumblings of old patterns. 

"I hate her. I really dislike her." 

"I'm so much better at this than he is." 

"Look at him. Who does he think he is? Look at the way that kunsu is hanging." [students laugh] 

"I'm too tired. I am just too tired to do this. When I've had a good rest, then I'll be able to do it." 

Eventually we start to learn that no matter what the topic is,
no matter what the content,
it's actually the context of this moment.

So we are not any of our mumblings and rumblings.
We are what we choose to do.
And you, apparently,
have chosen to make yourself available to the Teachings of Reality. 

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

Seeing trees heavy with leaves,
"May all beings,

Form a canopy of light

From changeless liberation." 

Words are only metaphors
and if we busy ourselves looking around for "trees heavy with leaves",
we might have a hard time,
but we have memory of trees heavy with leaves.
And it's guess what time of year?
Ho ho ho ho ho!
Needles maybe are not technically leaves,
but they do function in a similar way, providing nutrients, gases for the tree. 

During this season, the festive season,
the season of anxiety
as wishes collide with the letdown of unfulfilled hopes and dreams,
you may perhaps be able to use trees to remind you that as practice matures,
as patterns open never to form again,
there is a liberation from the accustomed pull of all those patterns.

We may see them but we make a choice not to be them.
We recognize them as being simply bad wallpaper,
awful old blacklight posters from some other life.
And perhaps the dread or the suffering
occasioned by attention moving into those patterns
is just a memory,
perhaps even a comedic memory
because how we could ever have believed some of the bullshit we've believed ourselves to be is,
let's face it, folks,
hilarious. [students erupt in laughter] 

Once we start to recognize those moments of freedom from the weight of patterns—
and they're not "ours",
we didn't cause them,
we didn't pick them.
Why would we pick some of the patterns that have run rampant in our lives?
Did they make us happy?
Think about it.
Would you really pick that way to be?


You start to see them for what they are:
rantings and ravings
picked up like burrs acquired walking through the undergrowth in the forest of your life. 

So look up and use those moments of freedom that you have experienced
as the base for continuing to see and practise moments of reality,
and that can seem as if it is a canopy of light over you
because when you're not believing your own stories of being picked upon,
of being isolated,
of being special,
so very special,
of being the centre of attention,
it's pretty hard for anything to rain on your parade because there isn't a parade,
there's just this moment of experience. 

When you see trees "heavy with leaves",
when you see fir trees that have been massacred for a pagan festival in the name of compassion
(that's quite a contradiction, however, let's not go there, that's a whole different topic),
when you see trees that have had their trunks cut off from their roots,
you use that moment of recognition to actually practise,
to feel the breath,
to feel the whole bodymind in the whole moment. 

No matter what festive insanity is going on around you,
no matter what patterns are being acted out by whom,
no matter how strange you might feel with your gut stretched with that wonderful festive meal,
you can practise that moment of recognition. 

Another breath, another moment of clearly seeing reality. 

Today, the 12th of December, 2009
is the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Joshu Dainen roshi,
Anzan Hoshin roshi's teacher.
As part of the Lineage,
we can directly experience his influence,
we can directly experience how important roots are to any living organism,
and a sangha is a living organism.
With this base,
with these roots coursing through you,
carrying the nutrients,
the information that you need to practise,
you can use the memory of this verse to help you do that:

Seeing trees heavy with leaves,
"May all beings

Form a canopy of light

From changeless liberation." 

Thank you for listening.