White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Yaza 2007: Sit Through the Night, the Night is Bright Right Through

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Dainen-ji, July 14, 2007

It is very bright tonight.

It is not bright because of the stars and the moon. In fact, the stars are not visible through the clouds, and the moon is just beginning its emergence from shadow and will not reach fullness for two weeks. And it’s not bright because we have the lights on in here. It is bright because the night, the day, and each moment are the radiance of the Luminosity in which they arise.

The sound of each falling raindrop. The sensation of each trickle of sweat. The movement of the breath. The apparent stillness of the wall. All of these knowns are known -- are arising within Knowing. Knowing intimately expresses itself as the day, as the night, as you, as me. Because it expresses itself as all of these things, it is none of these things: none of these things can limit what it is.

Tonight, on this very bright night, we will sit all through the night. This is known as “yaza”. Some two-thousand six-hundred years ago, a man named Sakyamuni Buddha looked up at the sky and saw the Morning Star. And in this seeing, he awoke to the nature of the star, the nature of the seeing, the nature of himself, the nature of all beings.

It wasn’t because of the star; it was because of how he saw it. And although it was the Morning Star, it had been there all night, and so had he. Sitting through the watches -- the hours of the night -- Sakyamuni radically opened attention around everything that arose and fell. All movements of attention were allowed to be released and to collapse into open Knowing.

Since that time, on countless nights, practitioners, Teachers and students, such as Huineng, such as Dogen, such as Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi and such as myself, have sat all through the night. We do not sit all through the night in order to not go to sleep; we sit all through the night in order to practise the brightness that is possible for us in each moment of every day and every night. We commemorate and celebrate the practice of our Lineage Ancestors. But we also celebrate each moment of sitting up straight through the night.

If fatigue arises, let it come and let it go. If attention moves towards it -- funnels towards it -- this is the same activity that is involved in identifying with and becoming lost within and becoming overcome by anything: anger, fear, boredom, torpor, stupidity, discursiveness, imagery, dreams.

When attention closes, open around it whole-bodily. Wake up to this breath, this whole moment. All through the night, be bright because the night is bright right through.

So, please, tonight, enjoy yourselves.