White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 85: Seeing People Who are Grateful

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, September 4th, 2010

Breathing in,
breathing out,
bones rattling, creaking, groaning,
celebrating life in this moment, which is the only place

that this life

is taking place...

...it's always been the case 
but somehow or other we just didn't notice it,
and one day we did, and then we heard
"this is the only thing that's going on"
and that might have shaken something in us
and we decided to put one foot in front of the other
and show up at a sitting,
show up to be taught,
to learn what's really going on
before those contractions into a sense of self
tell us what we'd like to have going on,
what should be pleasurable, how we want the rest of the world to be...

Ah! Self-image just doing its usual stuff. The verse today:

Seeing people who are grateful,
"May all beings
Come to know the richness offered by
The Awakened and wakeful ones."

Well, we can gloss our little eyes over that one, glaze them and think
"yeah, grateful sure, 'attitude of gratitude', so what?"
[students laugh]
and go back and continue our little snooze.

But surprise, surprise, if you start to look at it,
you find that there are many different meanings
and most of them come down to noticing what's going on in this moment.
A compilation of definitions:

1. affording pleasure

Seeing people who are affording pleasure? Hmm.

. pleasing to the senses

Seeing people who are pleasing to the senses?

. gratifying

Seeing people who are gratifying?

. delicious

Seeing people who are delicious?

. as a grateful present, as in food grateful to the palate, grateful sleep

Now those are a little old fashioned speak, old speak I guess we could call it.

Definition 2: having a due sense of benefits received, kindly disposed toward one from whom a favour has been received; willing to acknowledge and repay and give thanks for benefits, as a grateful heart.

Well. And the word comes from Latin as many English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and on on do,
from "gratis; pleasing."
So we can understand that if you want to have fun with the word,
look it up, prepare to be surprised.

Seeing people who are grateful,
"May all beings
Come to know the richness offered by
The Awakened and wakeful ones."

Now, how do we know by seeing someone that they're grateful?

Well, I'm making an assumption;
here you are.

You showed up again,
so there must be something that knows,
appreciates that there is benefit to be received
and that it's in fact the Lineage
that's pointing to different ways that you can look at your experiencing
and open beyond the usual understanding of it
to the richness that is here in each and every moment.

Now, gratitude and being grateful is a very individual thing.
We're grateful for different things at different times.
Not all of us are grateful for the same things.

If we were,
I would really be out of here quickly
because what we'd be looking at then is some sort of a cult
where we've been told what we should be grateful for.
That's not the case.

Gratitude, the appreciation of pleasure,
the appreciation of gifts that may not come wrapped up in a little package with a bow on top,
are very individual.

I'm grateful to all the cats who had a nice poop in the rectangular box
that was supposed to be a garden bed at the back of the building.


The blackberry bush which had been in the front yard and had only borne,
to my knowledge,
one berry, was transplanted into that cat box and it went wild!
There are still berries hanging there ripening.
I made, I think it's six pots of blackberry jelly—
from cat poop! [Jinmyo sensei and students laugh]

So we can open to experiencing as it actually is,
the world as it actually is,
all inter-related and it's surprising what you see.

I look at the koi in the pond that have—
they're four and a half years old now—
they were maybe five inches long when we got them four and a half years ago
and now the largest one, Barry,
is three and a half feet long and about as thick around as my thigh.

And how did that fish end up there?

Well, if we looked into it,
we could see that there was the capturing of,
the raising of,
the shipping of into the pet store,
but then a pond in our yard, that used to be a lawn.

And then the idea arose to have a water feature
and through the labour of basically everyone who has been around the monastery since the idea was raised,
including all the monks,
including Jinmyo sensei who was up to her knees in mud at one point,
Saigyo ino, Jido and others...

I don't want to offend anyone
but there are just too many to mention,
otherwise it would be like an award show, eh? [Jinmyo sensei and students laugh]

"I want to thank everyone including my mother and father who made me..."

But this water feature with two ponds and three huge fish in it
came to be there through the efforts of many people
including the people who cleared the land for this property where this house was built
nearly two hundred years ago...
so on and on and on...

So it goes,
giving with one hand,
taking with another,

So I look at those fish and well,
I'm often just speechless
because first of all it's so amusing to see them.
How is it possible?
There they are: huge!
And then how did they get there in our urban,
once was a lawn, grounds? So interesting.

So then there are other ways that people express gratitude:
The fact that they recognize something
and it's very personal.

Someone might recognize that someone's done a good job.

Now the fact that it's their job
doesn't mean you can't recognize that they're doing it well
and it doesn't mean you can't say to them:
"Wow! You're doing that really well, I appreciate it."
Try it sometime.
See what happens to them.
That's fun to see... the response of individuals.

Now you've all heard, as well, expressions such as:
"how you take care of your zafu and zabuton matters,"
"how you take care of lining up your shoes matters,"
"how you hold your water glass matters."

And we may have heard something like that in a teisho
through our haze of sleepiness and think:
"oh yeah sure, that's right"
and then not quite understood how that's possible,
how is it possible that how we handle a cup or a glass matters?
Well, I'm going to tell you:

because you never know how what you do is going to affect someone else.

Something as simple as how you handle a water glass can actually change a person's life.

I know this because someone told me once
that they had come to an introductory workshop when it was being given by the Roshi
and the way he handled his water glass affected them so strongly...
(they didn't quite know why or how at the time)
it affected them so strongly that eventually they ended up taking monk's vows.
So how is that for life-changing?
So everything you do does matter.
A grateful feeling.

What is a grateful feeling?
How do you feel grateful?
Well again, that's individual.

We do know that, as with all feelings,
there are sensations in the body that occur because of something that has happened,
something that we've seen or heard or felt.

As we move through the environment of our experiencing
the bodymind is affected
and then Knowing may or may not go beyond the sensations,
it may compile then into a list and come up with a story
or it may not because in the end what really matters is what we do,
not what we think about how we're feeling in the moment,
but what we actually do.

Now, here we are,
Saturday morning,
sitting with others who for their own individual reasons
and there's not one clear reason
other than the moment when we discover for ourselves
that what is taught is true:
We're not our thoughts and feelings,
we are the Knowing of them.

And here we sit,
having dealt with,
and dealing with thoughts and feelings and patterns
which are not always pleasurable.
Let's say, they're not always the thoughts that a
"nice" person should have.
Sometimes we actually actively set out to try and change these things into nice things,
which is of course a waste of time
because what you do when you notice anything is practise.

You feel the breath,
you sit you straight,
you open the eye gaze.

So here we are, all together yet apart,
yet individual,
different sizes,
different shapes,
different tones,
everything different,
and someone moves
and that impacts on someone else,
it has an effect.

Well, because of the situation in the Hatto
and during zazen
we choose not to act out
based on whatever thoughts, feelings, reactivity might come up.

We can be touched very deeply by something someone does
and want to hug them [students giggle]
but can you imagine the chaos? [students giggle]

Or we might want to hit them.
Can you imagine the chaos?

So we're taking responsibility
and we are doing what Dogen zenji taught:
looking into the self;
the arising of those moments of a contraction into a sense of a self
with the stories about how it is.
We bang up against each other
and those reactivities that come up
are seen for what they are: Something that we alone can take responsibility for and we practise with it
and over time,
over time
that reactivity doesn't happen,
everything becomes smooth
and in the sangha, in the Hatto
there's harmony like milk and water
as opposed to oil and water.

Now those are not feelings, those are facts, right?

So we sit and we practise,
doing what uncountable numbers of people have done over 2600 years.
For your amusement,
I'll read a few words from the thesaurus that were under "grateful":

"Thankful, pleasing, acceptable, gratifying, agreeable, welcome, delightful, delicious, acceptable, acknowledging, affable, agreeable, amiable, beholden, blissful, cheerful, cognizant of, comforted, compatible, complacent, congenial, consoling, cordial, crediting, delectable, delicious, delightful, desirable, en rapport, enjoyable, fair, fair and pleasant, favourable, felicitous, fine, genial, good, goodly, gracious, gratified, gratifying, harmonious, heartwarming, honeyed, indebted to, likeable, mellifluous, mellow, much obliged, nice, obliged, pleasant, pleased, pleasing, pleasurable, pleasure-giving, pleasureful, refreshing, rejuvenating, restorative, restoring, rewarding, satisfying, sensible, sweet, thankful, under obligation, welcome."

Seeing people who are grateful,
"May all beings
Come to know the richness offered by
The Awakened and wakeful ones."

I'm so grateful that you're here


Thank you for listening.