White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 81: Seeing People Who are Happy

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 10th, 2010

Yesterday, here in Ottawa

it was hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot...
People were walking on the street,
they were riding on the buses,
they were riding their bikes,

they were riding in their cars,
shiny with sweat. 

And I had taken the bus out the the wilds of Gloucester to get some antibacterial medication for Doug.
Doug is the big white fish in the pond,
who has a pimple near his tail...
her tail?...
we're not sure.
We think it's a pimple because Doug is four years old,
as are all the koi this month and they are reaching sexual maturity,
so I think it's just teenage acne.
But, we have to take care of these things
because it would be horrible to have a bacteria spread through all of the fish and kill them. 

So, I braved the heat and the humanity
and went on the bus to pick up the medication.
After I bought the supplies,
I crossed the boulevard and was standing at the bus stop.
The sky had been gradually darkening
and there was that ozone that you can smell in the air before a storm.
There is a heightened sense of anticipation or tension.
A stillness comes upon the land,

and then there was a rumble,
and these big drops started to fall. 

To my right, there was a fellow on a bike, on a racing bike.
Middle aged guy, with perhaps a little bit more around the middle that was more—

than he would really have liked to have had
 there in that tight racing suit of black and red,

but I don't know, I don't know anything about that—

he had his helmet on, and he's pedaling like crazy.

The drop starts, one falls, a whole bunch fall.

He makes a turn, as if he's going to stop, find some shelter from that rain.
 it comes pouring down,

he gets back on his bike and starts to pedal in the rain.

And I was standing outside the bus shelter

and had decided not to put the umbrella up,

and I'm just standing there,
the rain is just coming down.

The rain is coming down on him,

and it's coming down on me

and we look at each other
and we smile.

We were happy!

For just that moment. 

Today's verse: 

Seeing people who are happy,
"May all beings

Be serene and joyous,

Gladly offering to the Buddhas." 

Now of course, I made an assumption about what that fellow was experiencing,
but just the little sequence of events

and the fact that I'm a human being
and he's a human being too,

and the process of being a human being
is the same for all human beings.

So we'd both been in the heat.

Seemed a perfectly safe assumption that the moment that rain hit,
he'd made the decision that it felt so good that he was going to pedal on. 

So, I thought "Ahh, happy".

That moment happy.

And I was glad.

And I was was joyful that I'd noticed that,
that that exchange had happened.
Because, we know how it is.
We can get so concerned about our own stuff... 

"Oh, my shoes are gonna get wet"

"Oh, the bus is gonna be late because of this"

"Oh, I'm gonna get splashed"

"Oh, eh, yeah, it's fine now but the rain'll stop in 30 minutes and it's gonna get all hot again". 

Yeah, how much do we hear that kind of stuff, hmm? But there, the moment open [O-sensei claps] Happy. 

"Seeing people who are happy"

Well it's pretty hard to judge.

Actually, what's happy?

What's hysterical? [students laugh]

What's a moment of appreciating the moment and what's drugs?
You know, it's hard. [students laugh] 

But we can look into our own experience. 

That's what we're doing. 

Now, what is happy? It's a commodity, basically, now. It's bought and sold.

The promises...
The promises... 

If you want to be happy, you can buy a program,
a software program that you can put on your computer
that's going to remind you that you're happy.

It'll come up subliminally.

It can remind you that you are happy. 

It can remind you that you want to lose weight.

It can remind you that you want to gain weight.

It can remind you that you are a good person and you deserve to be happy.
So we've commodified happiness.

Happiness can only be experienced, let's face it. 

Do you know what makes you happy?

Do you know what gives you that moment of just experiencing, rather than thinking about just experiencing,

rather than deciding

"Well is this happy or not?" 


"This is good, I want more of it. I'll recreate the circumstance. I know, I'll go buy a pile of magazines
and I will answer every one of those tests:

'How happy are you?'

I'll find out" 

And we find out through these tests research that has been done about happiness.
Here are some of the attributes: 

"Good relationships and social interaction—extroversion Extroversion" 

Which is the first time I've heard of that, but, I guess it's the opposite of introversion? So being outward. 

"Marital status" 

Well, depends on who you read doesn't it?
Married are happier than singles,
except for all those single women who are supposed to be happier
that they are single but are going around buying all kinds of implants and prosthetic thingys
to ensure some future happiness.
So we can't rely on that one. 


So, what you do for a living. 

"Your health

Democratic freedom


Endorphins released through physical exercise

"And eating chocolate.

"Religious involvement


Proximity to other happy people" 

And this happiness has been, for centuries, the topic of philosophical discourse. Aristotle, 350 before Common Era stated that:

Happiness is the only thing humans desire for it's own sake, unlike riches, honor, health or friendship. 

John Stewart Mill 1863 utilitarianism.


You make a choice for the happiness of the greater mass.
Happiness for the greater good. 

But happiness, what is it?
"How will I know if I have it?"
"Who can tell me?" 

So we divide it.

There is the happiness that comes with this
and the happiness that comes with that.

Happiness is different from contentment.

Actions are right if they promote happiness.

They are wrong if they don't produce happiness.

But, what is it?

What is it, really?

Little six steps.
Little courses you can take to ensure happiness.
"Step one. Be optimistic"

"Step two. Follow your gut"

"Step three. You have enough money to meet your basic needs."

"Four. Stay close to friends and family"
Unless of course... [students laugh]

Serious. I found this on the web, so you can too.

"Find happiness in the job you have now."

"Smile. Whether you are happy or not. It changes your mood"
So why not? 

So there is all sorts of stuff that you can read about happiness.
But, by looking into the knowns,
the experiences of the bodymind

you might start

to notice moments that if you were called upon to label,

you might label happiness and the cause, the situation,

the context may surprise you.

Because, we tend to over-think everything.

Practice is very simple.
It says,

if you are thinking and you've noticed it,
you've noticed thoughts.

Practise in that moment of clear seeing.

Sit up straight.

Open the eye gaze.

Feel the breath.

You're alive.

You are practising that moment of clear seeing.

You will have more moments of clear seeing. 

And with those moments of clear seeing,

you may see clearly things that bodymind actually enjoys.
Things, that might be labeled,
if we wanted to label things,
as producing the thing that we really don't know what it is,
but we'll call it "happy". 

So they can be, these experiences you have,

can be reminders that it is possible to know you own experience more and more intimately

and to make choices based on that.

We do samu.

The Samu Chant reminds us. 

May beings be happy.
May they be peaceful.
May they be free 

So we can say "happiness"


Having what we need. Beings having what they need to survive.


No need to engaged in aggressive actions.


Freedom from conditioned experiencing, from reactivities,
which grab us around the neck,
grab all beings around the neck,
choking us and narrowing down what we are experiencing
so that what we end up believing that we are experiencing is
"same old, same old"
because patterns have been activated and fed. 

Now, I am not talking here about any state whatsoever.

I'm not talking about "blissful" states.

What is that? Seems to be ignoring a lot of stuff.

But noticing when there is an absence of any sense of problem whatsoever and there is a natural joy. 

Again this can be experienced,

but it is hard to put it into words because it starts to slip away with the labeling. 

Just before the sitting, Chiden and I were out on the front porch looking at the koi, and there was Barry.

Barry, the biggest one, huge, orange and black.

There was Barry with his mouth and head out of the water,

the other two were feeding in the same area as Barry
and these koi were obviously having a whale of a time because they have a new source of flowing water that the Chiden put in. 

And they play in it.

It's obvious what they are doing.

They are having fun.

They are "happy".

So there is this massive fish playing around in the water.

I look at the Chiden.
Chiden looks at me.
We look at Barry.

There is that big mouth mouth going "Orp! Orp!" [laughter] in the water .

And for that moment,

I was "happy". 

The verse again: 

Seeing people who are happy,
"May all beings

Be serene and joyous

Gladly offering to the Buddhas." 

Thank you, for listening.