White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 38: Putting on Outer Garments

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 20th, 2008

In ancient tombs have been found...
grains of wheat, barley, spelt, rye
that have lain dormant for thousands,
perhaps even tens of thousands of years,
which when put in the proper conditions,
conditions conducive to the unfolding of the potential of that grain,
have grown and blossomed into the full potential of that grain. 

So, uh, those who think you may come a little late to practice...
[O-sensei laughs]
...may be willing to put that idea aside.

It's never too late,
no matter how strongly and deeply who you really are
may seem to be enfolded in costumes of self-image,
the contractions into a sense of self that views itself in a certain way
and the world in a certain way,
to allow self-image to drop away.

those contractions,
are not who you are.

You've placed yourself in the conditions that provide
the nutrients, the water, the information, the sunshine,
so that you can unfold...
your potential. 

That potential that lives as you. 

The verse, from "The Practice of Purity": 

Putting on outer garments,

"May all beings

Unfold unexcelled foundations of virtue,
Arriving at the Other Shore of the Teachings." 

Well, it is, in fact, quite obvious,
what's being spoken of.
But, some other points that are obvious
when viewed in one light,
and not... not so obvious when viewed in another way,
may present themselves.

So, when "putting on outer garments",
it could be that we think immediately of our own outer garments,
specifically, we may have a memory pop up of putting on that puffy jacket.
But when you can open that up
you can recognize that in this verse,
as it originally was written,
sixteen hundred years ago,
outer garments were completely different than what you are used to.
That's neither here nor there,
but it can be useful to see how self-image references everything to its own experience
to the point that whatever else is available may get blocked out. 

As you're sitting on the zafu,
thoughts come up,
and if attention moves into them,
it can seem as if seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling,
become obliterated
as attention is viewing only that particular content towards which it has moved.

That is not a problem.

That's the reality of that moment
and the moment you see it,
the moment you pop [O-sensei snaps fingers]
for no reason whatsoever,
the moment you wake up and see that you were involved,
you have the opportunity to practise reality
and unfold the foundations of virtue,
unfold that capacity to see beyond self-image's self interest,
and take whatever action is appropriate in that moment. 

Over time, over time... over time...
the tendency to fall into any of these states which obliterate reality drops away.
And there is awareness itself doing what needs to be done
in the moment when it needs to be done. 

"Unfolding" is an interesting word.
You've heard it numerous times used in teisho, in Dharma Talks, and in various texts.
In the Four Great Vows: 

All beings without number I vow to liberate.
Endless obsessions I vow to release.

Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to penetrate.
Limitless Awakening I vow to unfold. 

So when the contractions of self-image come up,
it is as if space becomes knotted and it may get pulled tighter and tighter.

The moment of [O-sensei snaps fingers]
noticing it,
the moment of noticing from the experience of the whole bodymind
allows that contraction to unfold.

There is this moment of waking up to what's really going on. 

We also refer to that unfolding when we chant the Verse of the Kesa.
Monastics will be more familiar with this,
but those who have attended Fusatsu will have heard it chanted: 

Vast and wond'rous this robe of the Buddhabody,
beyond treasure,

without form.

Wearing it unfolds the Tathagata's Teaching
and all beings are liberated. 

So this process of unfolding occurs each time you recognize this moment of reality,
each time the breath unfolds the little pockets in the lungs and the lungs unfold,
your life is unfolding in that moment. 

When you notice the contractions into a sense of self that come up,
which when left untended weave themselves into a covering,
a carapace that surrounds this moment which is living as you
and turns it into a self,
each time that's noticed,
no problem,
you've noticed a moment of reality; 

feel the breath,
sit up straight,
open the eye gaze,
practise that moment,
that carapace,
that covering will unfold until there is nothing to unfold
because all there is is this moment of open experiencing of the whole bodymind.

When you put your arms in the sleeve of your outer garments
to protect yourself before going out into the freezing cold,
perhaps there may be a memory of the verse: 

Putting on outer garments,

"May all beings

Unfold unexcelled foundations of virtue,
Arriving at the Other Shore of the Teachings." 

Thank you for listening.