White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 68: Seeing a Reservoir

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, January 23, 2010


or every breath that takes you
because in a sense,
in a very real sense,
there is no solid and permanent "you",
what there is is a series,
a multitude of contractions into a sense of self
with a story attached to it—
a thought,
when you get it down to its basics,
it's a thought.

Any time you notice a thought
or anything else that the bodymind is experiencing,

any other dharma,

the instruction is to notice that which has already presented itself
which is the breath,
seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling,

all the other dharmas or moments of experiencing,

experienced in that moment by the bodymind

and known by Knowing,

which is what you are. 

Continuing on with "The Practice of Purity" from the Avatamsaka Sutra, the verse: 

Seeing a reservoir,

"May all beings

Wake up right now to

The truth of the seamlessness of the Buddhas." 

Now reservoirs,
at least my experience of reservoirs
has always been quite exciting because a reservoir is, in this country,
something that kind of looks like a spaceship (especially if you're a kid)
with very long legs going up into the sky and it says on it: "Renfrew". [students laugh]

And, nearly every town,
even on other continents have reservoirs with water,
which is being stored for future use.

When we go to the movies,
reservoirs often present themselves,
there is the excitement of seeing that first sign:
"El Paso", "Detroit", "North Fork", "Yellowgrass, Sask."
They are signposts, advertisements,
containers for a very precious resource: water. 

So as an aide-memoire to what it is that you're doing,
a reservoir,
or a picture of same in a film or a photograph
can act as a reminder that what you're doing with this bodymind,
this reservoir of energy,
is practising the truth of the Teachings
which say that each thing makes everything else what it is,

and don't for a minute think of that printed on an article of clothing. 

Now a reservoir has to be seamless or it will leak.
The truth of the Teachings is seamless

and they can prove and do prove themselves
 to you
each moment you notice what is actually going on. 

Each moment when you are poked and prodded to see a thought as a thought,
to see a contraction as a contraction,
to actually notice Reality,
you may start to notice how we affect each other. [O-sensei and students laugh] 

So we start to question into our assumptions about who we are and how the world is
and sometimes we can get so caught up in old patterns,
old patterns of belief about who we are
that we'll fight like crazy to keep them
in spite of having that mirror of the Lineage of instruction shining on us.
We refuse to see
as we clutch to our belief about what's going on. 

"No, I won't! I can't! It's impossible for me to do this! I'm too old! I'm too old... you don't understand."

"Well, I'm too tall. My bones are too long, I just cannot sit like that." 

"I just can't do it
and I resent you telling me that I can do it.
I also have a—
I don't think I mentioned this but if I did, you probably didn't listen—
[students laugh]
I have a thing about authority."
[O-sensei and students laugh some more] 

Hey, listen, I'm just a kid from a small town.

Drop it!

What I'm saying to you is,
can you see how energy has gone into that self,
how it has created someONE who is operating from this thought
which is a belief,
another name for it,
a belief about how you are and how the world is
and it's nonsense. 

Then something might happen, we might go WHOA! Now where did that thought go? 

"Well, I know it's just lurking..." 

Sit up straight,
feel the breath,
open the eye gaze,
feel the bones,
see the seeing,
hear the hearing,

now where is it? 

And at that point,
often the most hardened contraction into a sense of self
will have to admit that it has experienced in its own experience
the truth of what is taught.
The accumulation of those moments,
the practising of those moments of waking up
is what we're doing
until in fact all there is is Awake Awareness bodying forth.

There's a bodymind and it's doing what it has to do when it has to do it,
without all the chit chat,
without all the contractions into the impossibility,
without all the contractions into the creation of hierarchies that don't exist,
there's the freedom of this very moment.

And this one.

And this one,
unencumbered by the chains that we've used
to tie our own hands to our own throat.

[O-sensei laughs] Not so smart. 

So, the truth of the "seamlessness of the Buddhas... the Buddhas... the Buddhas?
Wait a minute, I thought there was just one!?" 

Well, if there were just one,
what we would have is a cult,
the Buddha Cult.

Buddha means "one who has woken up"
and when we chant the Ten Proclamations,
when we chant the Lineage,
we're chanting to people who have woken up before Gautama Siddartha did.

We don't know all their names,
how could we? 

Gautama Siddartha woke up,
made the connection,
some sort of connection between what had happened
and what he had done
and was able to teach others,
but not like this,
not where you come in through the cold
and you open the door of the monastery,
step into a nice, warm place
and then afterwards you go home, shuffling,
maybe wingeing, maybe whining,
maybe joyful 'cause it's all over,
but you go home and forget a lot of what has been taught,
which is okay.
That's how self-image is.

Gautama Siddhartha said, when asked to teach: "No." [O-sensei and students laugh]
and eventually weakened, I guess, under the pressure and said: 

"Okay, but here's the deal:
you have to come and follow me,
you have to be by my side which means
you're going to have to leave your little home where you're waited on hand and foot"
(because it was men at the time, mostly)

"You're going to have to do your own stuff, okay?
I can keep my eyes on you 24/7.
If I don't, you'll just slide back into your usual behaviors." 

So, that was the first monastic sangha.
It still rings kind of a bell today.

The truth was that there is no separation possible between dharmas, moments of experience.
The air we breathe is the very air that has been breathed by every human being, every being, every air breather since the beginning of time.
There are bits and pieces floating around and I read in the Harper's Index today
that there is quite a high possibility that we're still breathing in bits and pieces of people like Julius Ceasar,
and it's funny because you have to name the bad guys,
in a way,
not that he was a "bad guy",
but he did a lot,
he was notable
and it did involve a lot of killing.
But that's an aside about how we don't have the names of just the average guy and gal who did okay. But anyway, back to the verse: 

Seeing a reservoir,

"May all beings

Wake up right now to

The truth of the seamlessness of the Buddhas." 

So you, on your own time can research, can read,
and it will all point to this very fact,
the fact of your own experience
that you are not any thought or feeling that you may have
and that you have choice
and the more you practise,
the more choice you have
until there is absolutely no belief left to keep those things alive,
and there's open experience,
unconditioned by conditions. 

In today's eMirror, there's a text of the Roshi's quoted,
it starts with Dogen, commenting on Dogen's "Yuibutsu Yobutsu":
...the eye is just like the body, and the mind is the same as the body. [...] everything is "fully revealed." 

The Roshi comments on Dogen: 

In many of the Mahayana sutras there are blazing bursts of light when the Buddha speaks and proclaims the Dharma. But in this word spoken now and this sound being heard, in the light that shows the colours and forms that are seen and that light up your eyes, the Buddha's body is directly revealed.
What could be more obvious? 

That's from the teisho "Seeing Eye to Eye". 

Now, when you notice leaks, as it were,
in your metaphoric reservoir,
and you may notice them when they're pointed out to you by a practice advisor or a teacher,
only you can take the necessary action.

The teacher can't run up to with a little bicycle pump
and some glue or chewing gum,
and stop that leak,
but they can say to you:

"Look! You're making a lot of noise there [O-sensei and students laugh heartily]
and you really don't have to.
Perhaps you might be able to look into this from this angle
and this angle
and this angle
and this angle." 

The process of practice is having how you are reflected back to you so that you can see more and more clearly.

What self-image will often want to do is to take that as a criticism,
but I have noticed that that's not happening as much any more.
People seem,
and maybe it's because the base of practice has been established here so that the very simple things,
the simple basics of practice are now embedded in the environment of the monastery,
but the taking of instruction,
even though there may be vivid displays of patterns such as oh you know,
redness of the face,
dry mouth,
[O-sensei and students laugh]
it's not being taken personally. 

Now, I speak from deep knowledge of taking things personally, so indeed it too can be opened
and remember
the process of practice is the same for everyone.
There'll be variants, of course.
Just as the process of being a human being is the same for everyone;
the content may be slightly different,
the strength of patterns may be slightly different,
but it's the great leveler.

Self-image really can resent that if you let it,
it likes to get in there and criticize and boast,
it likes to believe that it's the best,
or the worst,
the strongest,
or the weakest,
needs this,
doesn't need this,
thank you very much,
F you.
[students laugh] 

It's more exciting than a Disneyland ride,
the time frame may be a little different
but it's a lot of fun. 

So, the verse again: 

Seeing a reservoir,

"May all beings

Wake up right now to

The truth of the seamlessness of the Buddhas." 

Thank you for listening.