White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Our Confusion is Groundless

Shuso Hossen Dharma Talk

by Ven. Chunen Rampal angya (while training as Shuso)

May 24th, 2002

Our confusion in groundless, our suffering is unnecessary; and all of us, through the instructions to practice, have a choice to release into the inherent joyfulness of experiencing. This is my deepest recognition, even if glimpsed for the briefest of moments.

Now a few years ago, I never thought I would be able to say this, as I am today, wearing robes, scheduling my life around endless rounds of zazen, and around meeting the Teacher.

At that time, I just wanted to get some sense of what this life is, and to live it in some way without bothering myself to much. I tried a number of things, reading this and reading that, surrounding myself with friends and trying to have relationships. However it was just not working. Somewhere in all this planning this and then planning that, I felt a certain hollowness.

By chance I came across the Zen Centre of Ottawa and attended an introductory workshop. The memory is quite hazy: you know how it is, a monk greets you very simply at the entrance, kind of shows you how to bob your head up and down, and then you sit in this room, where another monk starts talking. During workshop when I was getting quite lost, I found myself listening and following Jinmyo osho, who said: "But you can hear the sound of the fan". There was something very refreshing about that because it pointed to something that was true about this moment, and about how that single moment of noticing completely changed how this bodymind was.

They were willing to answer questions. Perhaps I should give them a try I thought.

As it turned out, they were quite nice but kept asking me about the sitting thing, which made me very squirmy.

So I regularly went to Saturday sittings for many months, but never could see what the Roshi was talking about. I would hear a few sentences here and there, and towards the end of the sitting I was sure that my ankles and knees were going to explode. Also, Roshi often finishes Teisho with "Please enjoy yourself"; This would get me really angry, I would talk back beneath bated breath, "What? Fun? Me? Don't you know that I have problems. I have laundry to do, a paper to write, plus I am trying to get laid, so I do not know how that is going to work out."

Who are we? What are we? How does any of this happen? Somehow, inspite of myself, maybe due to the dignity and clarity inherent in zazen, the forms and the practice environment, something moved, something was noticed. For one I was alive. Around me I could hear sounds, and I could see the wall. And surprisingly the thoughts did not overwhelm me. They were still there at the end of zazen, but at that point I knew I had a choice. "Ah, I see,", as I recalled and paraphrased something I had heard the Roshi mention "A thought is just one element of our experience".

Amazing.

So I paid a little more attention to what the Roshi said, I would listen to the first few words or sentences, and very soon after start talking to myself about what the Roshi had said rather than listening and exploring further. Again, by the end of a Teisho, everything would be in pain, and I would hear "Please enjoy yourself" and get upset again. Soon I realized that in order to understand the "Please enjoy yourself" I would need to listen to the entire Teisho, understand, remember and then actually practice the instructions.

It took me a few years to actually be able to listen to a Teisho completely. These teaching that are made available to us here, are the Teachings of Reality, and show us how to be intimate with our experiencing. Everything else in the world today that is based on recoil from reality just doesn't seem like a good option.

Would you like to take a look?

Over time, I recognized that our lives are the continuous rising and falling, moment and moment; and that I was missing most of this. Ah!, so that is what a monastery is for. The environment of Dainen-ji of continuous practice allows us to recognize the release every moment as it arises.

Dogen zenji has said in Shinjin Gakudo, "The Teachings the collected effort and the energy of those who study the way" My deepest gratitude to the lineage and to Anzan roshi for everything that he does for the liberation of all beings. Hundreds or colors, millions of tastes and smells, oceans of sounds, and uncountable sensations can be unfolded in each moment of experience. My gratitude also so Shikai osho and Jinmyo osho who have helped me form the first step I took here and are a reminder even today.

Our confusion in groundless, our suffering is unnecessary; and all of us, through the instructions to practice, have a choice to release into the inherent joyfulness of experiencing. This is my deepest recognition, even if glimpsed for the briefest of moments. I vow to practice this by yielding body breath speech and mind for the liberation of all beings.