White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 79: Seeing People Obsessed with Pleasure

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, June 26, 2010

Seeing people obsessed with pleasure,
"May all beings

Delight in Reality,
And be unwavering in love for it." 

Where to start? 

Well, how about right now with this breath because this moment,
which is no longer that moment,

is the only moment that's going on. 

This has always been the case
and when you take the opportunity to cut through whatever entanglements may have come up
between the moment of waking up this morning
and now
allows you the opportunity to see the process of perception and cognition,
the activity of that mass of cells wrapped around the breath,
which of course we like to call "me",
but really, really,
there's a lot of that stuff that is just colonizing,
a lot of little parasites living there,
sucking off this thing you like to call "you".
[O-sensei and students laugh] 

However, first: "Seeing people"
so of course that implies everyone else but you,
and don't we love to do that? [O-sensei and students laugh] 

Because when we see others doing something,
that means we've noticed that our attention has moved towards focusing on that,
something other, so we have a situation right there:
self and other. 

And we do,

let's face it,

get a certain amount of pleasure out of

seeing other people doing stuff.

So we can sit there

and cluck our little tongues

and go: "OMG, I would never!..."

because self-image does like to—

(because it's used to doing it and it's not you,
you're the Knowing of it)
—self-image does like to

try and position itself


it does that by creating

self and other,

this and that. 

So because you're practising this moment,
no matter where or when this moment occurs
and you see that movement,
self and other,
you have an opportunity to practise the whole bodymind,
I mean it is there,
you might as well notice it. 

Now, "obsessed", it's a great word.

Obsess, from the Latin:
to besiege, to occupy.
It even means to sit opposite from,
so again there is a creation of self and other. 

From about the 1530s on, one meaning was:
the hostile action of an evil spirit.
So right there we have a creation of self and other,
a negation of responsibility, one could say. 

1670s: the action of anything which engrosses the mind.
Mind and body;
fundamental split right there,
which is not true,
obviously body and mind arise together right now,
right here around the breath. 

More modern meanings are:
compulsive or irrational fixation,
an unhealthy fixation.
And of course that has developed into something over which we have no control.
So, all sorts of behaviours have become,
somehow or other,
evil spirits that take us over. 

Pleasure? Well, ha ha!...

That has been knocked around a lot by all sorts of people
from Epicurus to Cicero, to Schopenhauer, and so on,
and I know that sometime in the future
there may be someone listening to this
who will come away with the idea that this practice affords no enjoyment,
that somehow or other, it is an ascetic practice
done only by dour people who deny themselves. 

Well, that's simply not true because that denial implies,
a focusing into a self that is acting in opposition to the very aliveness of the bodymind. 

Because, face it:
experiencing the senses openly is a lot of fun,
that's why in practice it is possible to sit hour after hour day after day,
sitting, walking, standing,
with pain, with thoughts,
with this thing and that thing and the other thing,
and it could be classified as one of the weirdest ways to have fun
that people have ever come across. [students laugh] 

But we start to understand that the fact of the experiencing of the bodymind is not the problem.
The problem is that we believe,
we have a tendency to believe,
all of those thoughts that come up saying:
"If only..."
or making promises:
"If I just get the right face cream,
then I will not have to face the horror of a photograph taken where I look remarkably like my father..." 

And on and on. 

We create fictions,
fictions are used against the common weal,
fictions are used to sell products that can never deliver what they promise,
fictions have been used to promote radical killing of others. 

So when we start to look into what's really going on,
when we start to look into reality,
a myriad of things are uncovered. 

Pleasure is defined as:
a broad class of mental states
that human and other animals experience as
positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking,
including happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria. 

If we look it up under Psychology,
we uncover the Pleasure Principle,
which describes pleasure as:
"a positive feedback mechanism motivating the organism
to recreate in the future the situations which it has just found pleasurable.
According to this same principle,
organisms are motivated to avoid situations that have caused pain in the past."

Hmmm. "The experience of pleasure is subjective and different in individuals who will experience different kinds and amounts in the same situation."

... we're starting to swim in a sea of words... 

Many pleasurable experiences are associated with satisfying basic biological drives
such as eating, exercise, sex, defecation.
I mean, having a pee after you've been sitting in a car for nine hours can be what?
[O-sensei and students laugh]

Other pleasurable experiences are associated with social experiences and social drives:
accomplishment, recognition, service.

The appreciation of cultural artifacts and activities
such as art, music, and literature offer pleasurable experiences.
Substances ingested specifically to produce pleasurable experiences
can become something that bodymind craves
and can lead to a narrowing of attention
and what is called habituation, dependence, or addiction. 

So it's not easy, this simple little verse, you can have a lot of fun with it. 

Seeing people obsessed with pleasure,
"May all beings

Delight in Reality,

And be unwavering in love for it." 

So when you notice anything whatsoever about experiencing,
you have a moment of recognition of experiencing
that has been presented to you by the bodymind presenting itself. 

You practise at that moment
by feeling the breath,
sitting up straight,
opening the eye gaze,
by noticing that you've noticed. 

Over time you start to understand through

your own experiencing

that looking for one word to explain everything is ridiculous,

so powers of observation,
of seeing,
of knowing,
of experiencing are freed

and you start to understand
through actually living with Awake Awareness in the moment,
you start to understand that there are choices,

you start to understand that in each human bodymind

where the heart is still beating,

there is this process of perception and cognition,

you start to understand that the creation of self and othe
does not really do any service,

it makes us less intelligent

because it's setting up a conflict. 

With basic understanding of the process of being a human being,
there is karuna,
this warmth,
this recognition that the process of being a human being
is the same for all human beings
and that involves making choices that may be difficult. 

When we can actually understand through our own experience
what we like and what we want,
we can make choices that are actually free choices,
free from experiencing that has been conditioned by previous experiencing. 

So use every opportunity,

appreciate that breathing in and out can fall under the category of pleasure,
that even pains in the knees,

when in the context of the moment,

when not focused upon,

can fall into that category of pleasurable experience. 

But you don't need to categorize them when you're sitting because that means
—if categories come up when you're sitting,
categories that say "well this is this and that is that"
—that as soon as you've noticed
[O-sensei snaps fingers]


you've noticed a contraction into a sense of a self with views about how it is and how the world is,
so at that moment, 


recognize that view as unnecessary.

You don't have to get rid of it because that would be setting up this and that,
that would be setting up an opposition. 

Reality is the totality of this moment, which is wrapped around the breath.

You're the Knowing of it.

Use every opportunity and be surprised!

Experience the richness of the moment,
the flickering of colours, various sounds,

eyes blinking,

hair growing. 

There you sit. Use it. 

Have fun with it!

Thank you for listening.