White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 80: Seeing Those Without Obsession

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 3, 2010

Good morning. 

So, you managed to successfully cut through
whatever obsessions might have been telling you
that it was too beautiful a day
and you were just too this way or that way,
and you just had too many things to do to actually attend the sitting... 

But here you are!
It's amazing, isn't it
that at some place and some time many many many years ago,
some say 2600 years ago,
someone sat down and decided to look into what it really was to be a human being?
What this process of perception and cognition was all about,
what this process of being a person,
being a human being was all about? 

Well, when we sit down to practise,
what we're doing is studying the vital living experience
of being alive in this moment.
That's what we're actually doing.
Formal practice gives us a chance to see the functioning of this process of perception and cognition.
So we can look into what it's like
when we have an obsessive pattern that comes back over and over again. 

Obsession is the act of anything that engrosses the mind,
a compulsive or irrational or unnoticed pattern or fixation.

Today's verse: 

Seeing those without obsession,
"May all beings

Not incline towards fixation

On fabricated things." 

Well bearing in mind this set of verses was apparently written 1600 years ago,
so I guess we can say that when we're "seeing those without obsession",
we may be noticing people who are not hoarders,
who are not engaging in activities and substances that are detrimental to their dignity
and cause them to act out in ways that they may not
when they are free of those obsessions. 

But the point I put forward last week for your consideration
was that when you notice the watching of other people
and how they're doing,
you're noticing a basic stance of self-image:
self and other.

So the verse can help remind you of that
so that you can look at your own experiencing
which is the only one that you can really do anything about. 

So, "seeing those without obsession" can remind you
to look into your own process of perception and cognition
and notice when any sort of obsessive or repetitive pattern is there.
You have everything that you need to do the most useful possible thing with it
which is to practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment,
recognize that that pattern is not who you are.

It's a pattern.

You're the Knowing of it.

That seems to be quite obvious at the moment that you notice it,
so at the moment of noticing any aspect of reality,
any moment of reality,
any dharma,
you're having a moment of clear seeing. 

That's what you're practising so that you'll have more moments of clear seeing. 

Yesterday morning a student came to see me.
We sit outside, weather permitting, 
and for an hour we look at things that he has noted and brought forward
from various texts that he's been reading,
or thoughts that have come up or questions that have come up.
We sit on the lovely covered bench that's beside the koi pond,
the bench that was built by the Chiden supervising other students—
the rain shelter, now that it has shingles on it. 

We sat there in the dappled sunlight watching the koi being fish,
swimming in water,
but they're not just being fish swimming in water.
There's big Barry: nearly three feet long, orange, black, white,
with a very distinctive personality.
There's Doug: not quite as long, white with a little boo boo on his tail
which we've been treating,
and Doug (he or she as the case may be, we're not sure)
has a different personality from Barry.

And then there's Nigel, who because he's a cripple—
he came here with only one pectoral fin and badly chewed tail—
is smaller although the same age as Barry and Doug, and he's a little bit shyer. 

So they're swimming around being Barry and Doug and "Nige"
and we're sitting in the sunlight
with the shadows of leaves dappling on us and the student said: 

"Osho, can I talk about something that doesn't have anything directly to do with practice?" I said:
"You're sure about that, hmmm?" [students laugh] 

So the student sat up straight and said:
"There's really, since we're practising with this bodymind 
and this bodymind moves through different situations,
there's really nothing that's not related to practice."

And the thing that comes up with that comment
is a contraction into a sense of self that's exhibiting a pattern of picking and choosing,
saying: "this is practice and that isn't. If we're sitting in the Hatto on the zafu, this is practice.
If we're sitting in the Zendo on a zafu, this is practice.
If we're sitting on a zafu in Daisan, this is practice...
But if it's something that happens outside of those very particular parameters, it's not practice."

"Osho, that's ridiculous what I'm thinking, isn't it? It's just ridiculous."

"Okay, yeah, it is, so what do you do?"

So of course he sat up straight,
opened his eye gaze and said:

"Well what I wanted to say was, what I'm going to say is:
you know, I noticed I waste a lot of time talking to myself.
I waste so much time telling myself how difficult everything is going to be.
I've only really started to notice it now,
but I'll wake up in the morning
and I'll start going through this list of stuff 
that I've done a million times before
and I create such a huge burden for myself that I can barely move.
But I'm starting to see it.
And what I'm starting to do is when a thought comes up like
'I have to do the dishes now...'
instead of sitting there contemplating
and telling myself stories about how difficult it's going to be for me to do those dishes—
I do it until I've created something that is impossible—
I've started just walking through those thoughts and doing whatever it is."

So we can,
each of us,
look into how we are with all of that stuff
and recognize we can save ourselves a lot of wear and tear,
not to mention wear and tear on those around us
because really, you know,
when you hear stuff about "how hard" everything is to do,
it can be wearing. 

And remember also,
truth is the first casualty of self-image
because it fabricates things.
It was telling this student that washing a couple of plates was so difficult
that it was impossible to do.
So he had a great long list of things
that he'd taken care of in spite of
and actually because of noticing those patterns saying:
"everything's too difficult". 

Over time, that kind of nonsense wears out
and the truth of the matter presents itself more and more clearly
over and over again
and we can understand through our own experience
that there is freedom from the weight of fabrication,
from the weight of our stories.
And we do carry them with us and they are weighty.

They're weighty to the point that it shows all over our bodymind.
We make ourselves extreeeeeeemely tired, often,
by thoughts about things,
whereas the things,
the moment they're done,
may even give us a little rush of,
what do we want to call it...
accomplishment, satisfaction, energy?
When we deal with the truth of the situation. 

So, the verse again: 

Seeing those without obsession,
"May all beings

Not incline towards fixation

On fabricated things." 

And that inclining toward fixation is indeed the beginning of the downward slope into that great pit of obsessive thinking. 

So, here you sit.
You made it to the monastery.
From the moment you walked through the gate,
you walked into a place of practice.
Practice is not confined to the zafu in the Hatto,
the zafu in the Zendo,
the zafu in daisan.
The whole place is here just so you can practise. 

And have fun with it!
Look at Bodhidharma's big googly eyes when you're walking by in kinhin.
How can you not have fun? [students laugh] 

Thank you for listening.