White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 96: Seeing a King

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, January 15th, 2011

Seeing a king,
"May all beings
Become sovereigns of Reality,
Always displaying the Teaching of Truth."

Well... how many of you saw a king on the way to the monastery this morning as you trekked through the snow?
—props for doing that,
you got out of bed at the time that you'd set and,
oh, there may have been little nits of self-image
swirling around saying:

"Oh, my nose is stuffed, yes, yeah, it's really stuffed... [students giggle]
Out of compassion for all those people who are going to sit in the Hatto,
I guess I'd better not go today. [O-sensei and students laugh]"

And then we sort of [O-sensei inhales through the nose] clear,
and then we might notice that when attention has opened from that thought of how impossible...
(but how kindly and kingly you are in your generosity)

... that it's not such a big deal one foot in front of the other and here you are.

[O-sensei claps slowly three times.] Well done.

Now, "seeing, a king",
like everything,
it's interesting to look into what that actually means.

Now I can remember at the tender age of,
I think it was around five,
when we immigrated from Chester in the UK to 100 miles, roughly, northeast of here.
We were driving down the road and I remember seeing the "Pembroke Lumber Kings".

I thought that's great!
You picture kings, all this lumber... [O-sensei and students laugh]
Hockey players, hockey players...

So the way language is used was of interest to me at a very early age because you couldn't rely,
I realized,
you couldn't rely on what things "said".

 Now, right here in Ottawa, we have the "Garlic King".

Great! I love garlic,
I love that creamy potato garlic sauce that's made to go with certain types of shawarma,
I love it, so the "Garlic King" surely should have the best tasting sauce?

Not so. [students laugh]
You're never too old to be fooled.

What does it mean this word: "king".
Of course it means someone who is better than we are,
someone who in many points in history had control of our very lives.

We would have situations where the ruler of the kingdom would claim everything
and then persecute those who took a little bit because they were hungry
or they didn't have clothes,
or their kids were sick, you know, on and on

Basically: not fair.

If one could look and see an unbroken familial tree from a certain source
that may be somewhere close to heaven, yeah, that's right, the Kingdom of Heaven... yes...

So we can see how we get fooled over and over and over again: beliefs fold into stories
and then there's another line,
mystical powers attributed to it
and so on...

I find it great fun to look at these things,
not in a serious way (not for anything longer than say six minutes at a time),
coming in looking, saying: "Oh my goodness!"—
the surprise of recognizing something is wonderful.

You start to, as you practise,
you start to be able to see your own patterns, your own belief systems.
The most important ones are beliefs about who you think you are
and these belief systems are often based on and fuelled by something called "poverty mind".
If there's stuff that's better than you are, then you're worse than it.
Unless of course you enter into conflict or you rob or copy or fawn;
all kinds of despicable behaviours to acquire something that was never that other person's right in the first place.
You know, it's the basis of commerce, let's face it.

You've all seen little jars of marmalade, little tins of biscuits that read:
"These were made for HRH so-and-so since 1896".
So when you can have the stamp of the king—or the queen,
(we'll not look into that word today)—
this means of course that your product and you therefore by association are better than the wad, the hoi polloi.

Well, we look at it, (and we can look at it in any country),
and we find that it's simply not true and certainly not applicable right now,
right here in this Hatto.

You're being asked and encouraged to use any reference,
any site,
any symbolic image or any image that can symbolize this superior being,
to remind you that you can be the master of your domain.

You're looking into your experiencing moment to moment.

Now, we like to really hang on to stuff.
We have stories about ourselves:
we're very driven... ... like to where? [O-sensei and students laugh]

This kind of self-definition is definitely a limitation and worse than that,
simply a waste of time and energy,
very important: energy.

The older you get, the more you can recognize this simple equation:
energy of the bodymind that you can use to actually do things is necessarily limited,
so if there's a choice of, say,
spending a lot of time being "driven" by patterns of wanting to be better than everybody else at everything,
wanting to outshine,
when you look at it,
you can see how attention has folded into this story and that,
here's the magic,
the magic of Reality,
as soon as you see that:
it's a moment of clear seeing,
you're seeing reality as it actually is.

There's this contraction, there's this story,
content doesn't matter.
You've all heard that, over and over again,
so we can substitute any content into any belief,
it doesn't matter.

Now, it can be interesting if you're writing a blog, perhaps,
but not particularly interesting in this moment right here in this Hatto, not relevant at all,
other than:
you noticed something about experiencing, and it opened up,
and you're not following it.

After a while, you'll notice that not only is it unnecessary,
it's energy-consuming,
and can become a stumbling block to actually doing well at whatever you're doing.

Because you know how it is,
if you have someone looking over your shoulder looking over every little thing that you're doing saying:
"Mmm mmm, not good enough, you can do better than that..."

Now isn't that an insane statement?
"You can do better than that",
when you're saying it to yourself?
Because if you could, you would, would you not,
if you were that being driven to perfection?

I mean really, that's just silly.
So you see that.
No problem.
Moment of clear seeing.

Feel the breath,
sit up straight,
feel the whole bodymind,
allow that rib cage to open
and that oxygen to get into the lungs,
and then it goes to the brain,
and all of a sudden you feel slightly more awake...

Wow! It's amazing: not a metaphor... Hmm.

So you may uncover for yourself all sorts of interesting things:
You can use that word "king" to recognize that something's being pointed to,
that it is obviously meant to be taken as better than you for somebody's reasons.

Now royalty are few and far between.
Some of them have really disastrous stories;
they get into so much trouble!
Even now we have a situation,
where Edward they say abdicated because of his love for an American divorcée
but was intimately connected with the Nazis.

Now, I don't know what's going on,
so we won't talk about that anymore,
but it's really interesting
if you're interested in those kinds of things.

But what's royalty now? Who's a king now?
Well, you heard the King, 40 years ago, was Elvis Presley.
"The King".
There I was, sitting in Pembroke, Ontario,
looking at a black and white television
and this young man came on the screen
and they blacked him out from the waist down. [O-sensei and students laugh heartily]

Now, what makes you want to look more?
What makes you want to find out something?
Well, when you're not supposed to...

Anyway, that was "the King" in one area
and I'm sure you all have your individual experiences of that word.
When it pops up, use it,
practise your own bodymind in this moment,
recognize how much of what we think we should present to the world is shaped
by forces based in "filthy lucre".
They want you to be dissatisfied with yourself and to feel the anxiety,
the pull of,
the sadness of,
and the depression of not being "good enough"...

"However, if you buy this and use this, you will be as good as"
whatever icon is represented by the product.
I wish I could say it's a lot more complicated than that [O-sensei and students laugh]... but hmm.

So, as you look into the Reality of your own experiencing
and see contraction into a sense of self and its stories:
better than, worse than,
and you're seeing both of them
so you're obviously the Knowing of that presentation of quaint beliefs about who you are and how the world is.

You practise that moment of clear seeing,
that moment of recognizing reality in its completeness.
There's that thought, that pattern, whatever you want to call it: it's there!

... there's also the bodymind moving its breath in and out.

Without that breath, hey, you're somebody else's problem,
you're not your own problem. [students laugh] Once that stops... well...

So, you may as well recognize that indeed you are sitting up straight
and you can sit up a little straighter.
We can always sit up a little straighter.

And then we can start to understand through doing this over and over again
that it's not actually something confined only to the zafu,
we can feel the whole bodymind in the whole moment
and guess what?
you can feel the feet on the floor if you're walking in kinhin,
or down the stairs,
or out in the street,
or on the red carpet,
you can feel those feet.

you can feel that skeletal structure straighten
you can feel little spaces between the vertebrae
you can feel what happens when the shoulder blades drop down and back
you can feel when the lungs, of their own volition go:
"oh thank goodness that person really for a moment recognized what was going on
rather than being all consumed with their thoughts about who they are and how the world is".

It's a remarkable difference.

And you may start to understand that the stories of self-image
are remarkably similar to each other and those of other people.
Sometimes they're funny but not when we take them seriously.

When we start to see them for what they are,
which is thoughts about experiencing in this moment,
and practising in that moment they lose their power to dictate,
as some evil king,
what it is you're going to do.

So at that moment, by displaying the Teaching of Truth, which is:
you're not your thoughts and feelings,
you're not any of the things that you pretend are who you are,
they're just stuff going on like snowflakes and candles flickering,
but they can, when taken to be the truth about who we are and how the world is,
they can and have caused catastrophic harm.

And how, I leave you with this question:
How do you do that?
Enjoy doing it, it's quite refreshing.
And if anyone can come for daisan and give me a really good story,
I'd just love that.

So, thank you for listening, you sovereigns of Reality.