White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 86: Seeing People Without Gratitude

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, September 18th, 2010


can be felt with the whole bodymind
each cell vibrates with the oxygen that supplies the energy
that in the mitochondria in the body ignites
and provides energy.

The verse today is:

Seeing people without gratitude,
"May all beings
Not add to the punishment
Of those who are hurtful."

Well. Well well well. Well...

When we start talking about feelings,
which of course is what gratitude and ingratitude are,
they are words that describe sensations that the body has felt
but they're not the feelings themselves because feelings,
let's face it, can only be felt accurately by the person who is feeling them,
and when it gets wrapped in a word,
the whole thing is changed.

So gratitude:
the state of being grateful, thankfulness.

"Seeing people without gratitude,"
now what do you see if you're seeing people without gratitude?
Well, if you're the gratitude or ingratitude police, [students laugh]
you can pretty well decide what the symptoms of ingratitude should be,
lash out your metaphoric whip [O-sensei makes a whipping sound]
and take the offender off to some hell,
but that's not what we're doing here.

What we're doing with these verses
and with everything else
is just pointing to aspects of experiencing that you can notice and become more aware of.

Now, number one:

when you find yourself,
and this would be you as the Knowing of experiencing, 
finding there's been a contraction into a sense of self
that is looking around with its beady little eyes,
putting on its badge,
saying that it is is from the Department of Gratitude
and it's peering around at other people,

you've noticed self-image,
a contraction into a sense of a self.

You're the Knowing of it,
you are not that known...
[O-sensei claps:] for that moment of recognition...

So at that moment you practise,
allow the rib cage to open
practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment
and if you had in mind to say something like:
"You ungrateful son of a—"
cut it off before you start because it's not going to add anything to the situation,
in fact, it might do what?

Well, it might make things worse,
it might accelerate then into a "he said, she said, he said, she said"
and then this whole little knot of contraction
a maelstrom of emotion which does no good for anyone.

We've experienced enough of that in the course of humanity
on the face of the planet
and I for one think it's time that we bloody well stopped. [students giggle]

So, gratitude, the word came from the Middle English,
which came from the old French,
which came from late Latin, gratitudo, from the Latin: gratus:


Isn't that nice? Shouldn't it always be like that?
Sure stuff happens, we forget things, we misunderstand.
Now does anyone really set themselves up to forget?
Does anyone really set themselves up to misunderstand?
Unless they're a malicious son of a bitch
and really trying to trap someone else in some sort of situation
(but none of us in this room are like that and I'm sure we've all experienced it)...

So basically, we want to understand.
My experience with beings,
not just human but my more favourite beings [students and O-sensei laugh heartily]
well not really, just sometimes,
but beings want useful interaction.

They want to have fun,
it's not just girls who want to have fun
(it's a song for those of you who may not be up on your top thousand songs in the course of your life)
but yeah, everyone enjoys having fun.

Why? Because we feel good when we do it
and the fun doesn't have to be noisy.
The fun can come from walking into a room,
seeing someone else there,
they're sitting there quietly drinking their coffee,
they notice you enter,
because you're the senior they make the move to get up,
you put up your hand, you look at each other,
both of you know what's going on and you go on your way.
That's fun!

No words spoken but obvious understanding,
everybody on the same page of the sutra,
that's a lot of fun.
That's not hurtful, that's not bad.

Now, speaking of bad,
here's another translation of this little verse [O-sensei reads in a stern tone]:

Seeing ungrateful people,
They should wish that all beings
Not increase the punishment
Of those who are bad.

[O-sensei and students laugh]

Yeah, the Department of Gratitude.
So this is something that can't be legislated
but if we notice ourselves looking around
and making those kinds of imaginings about others,
as soon as we notice it,
we have a vivid example of that contraction into a self,
self-image doing what it does:
creating dukkha, suffering, bad space, literally.

That moment [O-sensei straightens and breathes in]
feel the whole bodymind and you've learned something.

The next time something like that happens to you,
you will be able to see it more clearly and earlier.

That is the process of practice.
Bad space opens.

Now the business of emotions
is something that has in fact caused a lot of people
to spend a lot of time thinking and writing
and trying to discriminate between this, that, and the other thing,
and why?
What are they?
Are they good?
Do we want to have more of them?
Should we have less of them?
Should we develop through practice,
a distancing from these?
Do we become cold, unthinking human beings?

No, quite the opposite.

However, feelings,
they're written about by people who are not practising
and as early as 1884,
William James wrote that
"emotion disassociated from all bodily feeling is impossible".

A lot of people have asked why should we pay attention to the posture of the bodymind?
Why should we pay attention to the forms,
the way of deploying the bodymind?
Well, here's William James again:
"the more closely I scrutinize my states,
the more persuaded I become that whatever moods, affections and passions I have
are in very truth constituted by and made up
of those bodily changes we ordinarily call their expression or consequence".

So there's a guy who didn't practise
but he was looking into the human condition and his conclusion:
everything we experience,
every little thought is reflected in the bodymind.

Every little occurrence in the bodymind is affected in what is called commonly
"the mind"
but mind and body are together so there's this whole interactive situation
and by sitting up straight,
by standing and walking up straight,
by noticing the bodymind more and more completely,
we start to be able to see more clearly how as attention moves,
how as the bodymind is affected by the environment, by the context,
it produces all sorts of experiences,
some of which the usual mind,
the mind that is not practising,
has come to call

feelings and we love them!
We want to have more of them!

And if we're not having them, someone will be around to say:

"you, you're not having enough feelings" or
"you, what you're doing is you're suppressing them, that's not healthy"...

So anyway, on and on.
Pop psychology.
We've had enough of it.

Of course we, as interactive beings,
human beings that interact with the world,
experience all sorts of feelings.
Unfortunately we spend much more time,
it would seem,
talking about them than actually experiencing them.

So next time you have a bunch of them,
or even a little one, and you notice it,
recognize: that's a moment of clear seeing!


Practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment.

Experience what's really going on.

You're increasing your palette of understanding.
That's a good thing.

The last thing you want to do, really,
is to act out random and chaotic states
because sometimes we don't even know what they're caused by.
We're prone to blaming them on other people...
But it could be something we ate,
it could be a set of patterns that we've had for a long long time,
it doesn't matter,
looking more clearly,
taking the time to stop and look,
to see more clearly,
to experience the whole bodymind in the whole moment
allows you to see more.

Take it from one who knows. I'm not making this up.


Seeing people without gratitude,
"May all beings
Not add to the punishment
Of those who are hurtful."

Now, I still don't really know what that means,
"the punishment of those who are hurtful"?
Perhaps the verse is trying to say—
and it was written 1600 years ago
and it's been through many different translations—
but we do know that when we lock ourselves down into a self-protective situation,
that we are locking ourselves off from experiencing,
we are locking ourselves off from whatever learning may be present in that moment.

Another characteristic basic of this pattern that we call self-image,
these patterns that we call self-image,
is that it never wants to be wrong.

So, something will happen and sure,
lots of things go not as planned,
but be grateful for the "not as planned"
because that's where we actually learn.
When everything goes along swimmingly,
we can get, oh,
let's say a little in a groove of just sliding through,
everything being nice, nice, very nice.

When something comes up that trips us
and what we might call colloquially a "mistake" happens,
that's a very rich area.
That's better than manure for growing your practice,
far more useful!

Now there can be all sorts of attitudes and views expressed—
that's fine!
You can be expressing them to yourself—
that's fine!

Pull yourself up through that breast bone,
feel the whole bodymind alive in the moment,
do whatever it takes to keep attention from funnelling down and putting up its little protective shields.

You're not holding it back,
but by the mere fact of holding the bodymind up,
that protective armour cannot weave itself together.

And see it.

Just notice what happens...

It's a lot of fun!

So, that's quite a bit to say about something that is really about:
don't look at other people and decide whether they're being grateful or not.
Notice yourself doing that
and by noticing yourself doing that,
you have a chance to practise
and you are therefore not adding anything extra
to this shifting pile of sand we call samsara,
and everybody might have a bit more fun.

What the heck, huh? [students laugh] Why not?

Seeing people without gratitude,
"May all beings
Not add to the punishment
Of those who are hurtful."

And watch out for those Gratitude Police...

Thank you for listening.