Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei
Dainen-ji, October 30th, 2010
Feel that breath.
Feel the rise and fall of the shoulders,
Feel the movement of the clothing on your body.
See the seeing,
colours and forms.
hear the hearing.
Notice anything that's arising.
At the moment of noticing anything whatsoever,
and that anything can be a little squiggly thing floating in the jelly of your eye,
or it can be a thought,
or it can be a sensation in the knee,
This is a total, all-inclusive, everything welcome practice,
use whatever presents itself to practise this moment:
feeling the breath,
sitting up straight,
opening the eye gaze.
So since you're still breathing,
you're alive and that means that when I ask you to turn around and look at the room,
you can do that.
So, turn your head around,
torque the body a bit,
yes, I really mean it,
I'm not trying to fool you [students laugh]
"What the...?" [O-sensei laughs]
Look around, look at the people in the room. [students look around]
Thank you. [O-sensei laughs]
Isn't that interesting?
Today's verse, I believe it's number 90 in the Every Breath You Take series [O-sensei laughs]:
Seeing people who are disciplined,
"May all beings
Keep clear determination in practice
And not wander from the path of Awakening."
So, what did you see when you looked around?
You saw people who are disciplined.
There isn't a mirror in here, so you can't see yourself
( and this is a sidebar—you know of course,
you have never,
and will never see yourself,
you might see a picture,
that's a moment in time that's gone through all sorts of media,
you might see yourself on film:
same thing, we can never see ourselves.)
Someone says: "mirrors hold everything..."
What is that?
That's a reverse image...a "mirror" image
So we can never see ourselves,
so that can help us understand a lot about the misunderstandings,
false beliefs that we might have acquired in the course of a lifetime,
I mean, that one's just funny.
Others are not so funny.
What images come up?
What thoughts arise when we hear the word "discipline"?
Well, it depends what we've been browsing on the Web, perhaps,
or it might depend on what images we've seen,
it might depend on... oh...people that we've known,
it might depend on books that we've read,
on the whole,
it has a vaguely off-putting type of quality to it.
But what it really means, "discipline", the word itself, from the Latin, is
.teaching, instruction, education.
Student, pupil, trainee, "disciple",
someone who's learning something.
When we hear the word, we don't think of that.
The word became used in English, the earliest known usage was in the 15th century.
So, a willingness to learn, "discipline".
Each and every one of you sitting here this morning,
and each and every person who may listen to the recording in the future,
or read a transcript,
is exercising that discipline, that willingness to learn.
Who knows what might have come up for you this morning
as you opened your eyes, and if you are practising,
you may notice that when the eyes open,
it is quite bright and clear,
our favourite little patterns will come in
and ofttimes they will involve reasons why you don't want to do the thing that you're going to do.
So the discipline, the willingness to learn means allowing the memory that
"Oh yes, a thought, that's a thought, when I notice anything, like a thought,
which that is, the instruction is to feel the breath, feel the bodymind..."
[in a whiney voice] "But ohhhhhohohohohohoho unnnnnnnnnhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....."
[O-sensei takes a sharp intake of breath!]
"God, I'm gonna be late!"
So, foot goes on the floor...
and before you know it, there you are.
You may have driven an hour, you may have driven half an hour,
you may have walked across the city,
you may have walked from up the stairs or down the stairs to get to the practice hall,
but you embodied that discipline,
that willingness to learn,
and it is through that exercise,
the acceptance of that discipline
that eventually you'll start to see that whatever those thoughts are,
they're just thoughts,
they can't hold you back.
Now, you can let them hold you back
because each thought does have effects on the bodymind.
Body affects mind, mind affects body,
but each time you recognize a thought, a feeling, a dharma, a moment of experience,
for what it is,
basically: NOT YOU
it's just something going on,
you have an opportunity to practise.
And it is interesting that we've developed all sorts of habits,
all sorts of patterns,
and sometimes because of these habits and patterns,
we really don't know what's going on.
Someone might point something out to us,
a teacher might say something to us and we take it personally.
"That bitch. Can't she see I'm really trying? Doesn't she know that this whole operation rests on my shoulders?"
And yadda, yadda, yadda,
because self-image is really into self-aggrandizement:
(you have to do that when you don't exist!),
you have to fabricate a very strong shell to try to provide armour so that you don't see the chinks in the wall,
so that you don't see the fabrications,
but of course you can't help but...
and all of that stuff that comes up starts to become,
when you let it,
It is the stuff of the human comedy,
so give it a chance,
have a good laugh!
But we don't like to laugh at ourselves, do we?
That thing we think of as "we",
that contraction into a self takes itself very, very seriously.
But then it starts to loosen and we recognize that not only is that stuff not only not unique to us, but that's what people do,
that's what they've always done.
That explains a lot of the stuff that's gone on, outside, as it were, in the world.
So recognize that if someone should offer you a moment to look into
what's going on with you,
it's not a matter that you have done something "wrong" and will get "punished" but rather,
you can recognize that with the help that's provided by the whole environment of the monastery
for looking into how you are
in the moment,
you have an opportunity to notice habits,
And to do something right,
which is to practise that moment of clear seeing.
So in a sense, it's not a matter of obeying rules
that if broken will bring down the wrath of the Buddhas and Dharma Ancestors.
That would be terrible.
That would be something that begins with R - I - I - N,
which comes from the word religare, to tie together,
but that's as far as I'm going to go because I don't want to trash anybody's belief systems...
on tape. [students laugh heartily]
So, the verse again:
Seeing people who are disciplined
...and that can even be you as you walk by that window on Rideau Street and catch a glimpse,
that can be every person in this room, every person in this monastery.
Lots of other people, of course,
who are not practising in this community or in any practice community whatsoever,
exercise discipline, of course they do.
I'm not saying it's something that only students of White Wind Zen Community have,
although interpretations have echoed back of things like that around,
oh things such as ignorance and stupidity, and so forth,
words that we use when talking about the Dharma.
Of course we're not saying that only practitioners here possess certain qualities or can be described with certain words,
no, not at all.
But give yourself credit for the discipline that you do exhibit
each time that you put one foot in front of the other to come to a practice hall,
each time you bend down to pick up a leaf that's found its way into the front hallway,
each time you wipe dust off a zafu or zabuton, that is the willingness to learn in action.
And since the path is what you're doing right now,
and is not something that's straight and clear because those are just words or descriptions, just metaphors.
Each time you feel the breath and sit up straight,
you are on the path of Awakening
with each breath that you take.
Each time you ask a question when you're unsure of something about practice,
in spite of perhaps feeling that you don't really want to ask
because that might make you look silly,
recognize that as contraction into a sense of self
with a story about what's going on,
and ask away.
There is no place to go. There is only here.
There is only this moment. That's always the case,
that will always be the case,
and nobody gets out alive.
Thank you for listening.