White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 67: Seeing a Vast River

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Here it is: 9th of January, 2010. 

comes into the body laden with water.

When you're outside it's frozen.
Those crystals can strike inside your nose and lungs
and as you're sitting here,
you might find yourself manufacturing your own river of salty water
because it is that time of year. 

The verse: 

Seeing a vast river

"May all beings

Enter the stream of Reality
Flowing into the ocean of Awake Awareness." 

Now it's hardly likely they're talking about the vast river of your cold,
contextually, probably it's one of those large, old rivers.
Perhaps the Ganges
because that is the part of the world in which these verses were written
some 1600 years ago.
And a reminder that these are reminders that can be used today
to remind you to practise. 

Now, 71% some say
—I'm not going to quibble over figures—
a lot of the world is water.
So is a lot of that bodymind sitting there
that from time to time you are convinced
is YOU
because contractions into a sense of self
which pull up patterns of this and that,
of thoughts,
of feelings,
of descriptions,
causing you to seemingly get swept away by them,
but hark! 

You're the Knowing of that!

You are the Awareness

of that sense

of getting swept away by delusion. 

It really is unbelievable because there is nothing to believe.
There is the fact of experience, your experience.
There is the fact that [O-sensei strikes the floor loudly]
this produces an effect on the bodymind
which you,
the Knowing of the knowns experienced by the bodymind
can hear, see, feel that brightness that can occur
if you were woken up from having been drowning in a portion of that ocean of reality.
You're woken up to the fact that the breath,
seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling,
all of those dharma experienced with the bodymind
are known by the Knowing
which is what you really are. 

The verse encourages a person seeing a vast river
to continue to enter into the stream of reality.
So when we've started to practise and we do our thirty minutes a week,
face it

that's not even putting a scrap of toenail into that stream of reality.
So if we really want to wake up to that which has already and always been going on,
we have to immerse ourselves a little bit more into that stream of reality.

There we go:
it's hitting the ankles...
thoughts come up... 

"Oh no! What will happen when we get up to the knees,
it's going to be so fast,
it's going to be so cold,

I'm going to be asked to do this, 
I'm going to be asked to do that,
I'm going to be told to believe that I can make it across." 

Yadda yadda yadda.
Blah blah blah. 

Then something happens
and for a moment Knowing clearly sees the reality of the moment.
There's not a problem that thoughts are present,
there's not a problem that you were lost.
The very fact of seeing that you were lost lets you know
that you are no longer lost
and you have entered more completely into the reality of the moment

which is what's always been going on, 

except those patterns of attention
that caused us to get lost in only small aspects
which become big aspects
of that moment
because we feed them and they suck away at attention
like a giant tick

so that all we can see then is this giant tick and

we're not aware that, 

we don't see that,

we don't know that,

we don't recognize that the rest of experiencing,

let's say 97% of what we're experiencing
has disappeared.

No wonder we feel a little weird. [students giggle]
Things are out of balance. 

Now, you don't have to believe that because it's a waste of time.
We all know that we're basically fundamentally lazy
so why waste time in believing things that use up time and energy
when you can just sit there in the ocean of Awake Awareness and,

according to this metaphor,
fed by the stream of Reality
and just watch that stuff go by.

Oh look, there's a dead dog floating along.
Don't have to do anything about it. 

Beautiful flower.

A glass ball.

A nice shell.

A memory from when someone said something horrible to you, you thought. 

It can just flow in that current. 

No problem!
It's not you,
it's not about you.

You're the Knowing
and you don't have to do anything
except sit there
and open to that which is already and was already the case.

The whole bodymind in the whole moment. 

Now we can get a little scared because we think
"Oh yes, so the ocean of Awake Awareness,
so I have to believe that this is what's going on." 

Or, we might go:

"Why can't I get there?

What is wrong with me?

I'm sitting here all caught up in the weeds.

Everybody else is just floating along merrily.

Look how happy they are!" [students laugh]

And as soon as we see that, guess what?
That's the life raft, as it were, that's the water wings. 

Wow! Look at that! So you take a deep breath...
Oops a little salt up your nose...
Oh that's just your cold, relax, it's okay. [students giggle] 

We sometimes fear this thing,

this being asked to be just like everybody else.

Well, nobody is asking us to be just like everybody else.

Not at all!

Never never was the case.

Sure, the process of being a human being is the same
for every human being that's ever walked on the face of the earth.
Now, this is not the time and place to get into a discussion
as to who decided when
whatever became what we call a human being.

So we won't go there, but

breathing in, breathing out,

being born, breathing out,

breathing in, breathing out... dying.

That's the process of being a human being. [students giggle] 

So we don't have to settle for our own stories
about how we are and how the world is.
We can just see them because we're the Knowing of those stories.
We're not the stories.

That can be quite a relief.
Some of the stories that we do make up can be really really awful,
horrifyingly embarassing,
but we're not asked to share those.
We're not asked to take a bad one and turn it into a good one,
not at all. 

We can just see them flowing by,
flowing by in that stream of Reality,
into the ocean of Awake Awareness,
which is what we are, 

we just don't know it

when we're caught in the weeds. 

Now about 30 years ago, I mic'd and taped a waterfall.
There were eight microphones in one little location.
It was amazing because even though the overarching sound was that "whoosh"
[O-sensei makes throaty waterfall sound]
of a waterfall,
of currents of water splashing on rocks,
when it was recorded,
amazingly each little track was different from the other.
The water, when broken down had different rhythms according to its context.

So there is no solid thing called "waterfall",
there is no solid thing called a "stream",
there is no solid thing called an "ocean".

There are words which describe,
roughly, size,
perhaps location,
little pointers,
so there is no one style that all humans have to adopt to be Knowing in itself,
not at all!

Different rhythms, different tastes. 

And you sit, you, made up of a large percentage of water,
you sit being breathed in and out because you're the Knowing,
the Knowing of the whole bodymind in the whole moment
and each moment that there's a moment of [O-sensei strikes the floor]
waking up and seeing that stream of reality,
you practise and that Awake Awareness is more and more completely,
that open Knowing is more and more completely more and more of the time,
a manifestation of who you actually are. 

When you're seeing things as they really are,

when you as Knowing recognize that every known is just that,
and not who you are,

you have all the freedom you could possibly want
as you splash around as Awake Awareness in that ocean of Awake Awareness,

as you splash around as Knowing in itself. 

So, once more: 

Seeing a vast river

"May all beings

Enter the stream of Reality

Flowing into the ocean of Awake Awareness." 

And uh, listen, if you check a map,
if you look at a globe, you can flip it and turn it
and get out big magnifying glasses
but nowhere on that globe are you going to come across white letters over blue saying:
"The Ocean of Awake Awareness". [students giggle]

It's all around you.

Right now!

You are that so have fun with it
and don't get any up your nose.

Thank you for listening.