Being Breathed

A Series of Dharma Talks by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Water chute

Being Breathed - I

Dharma Talk by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Dainen-ji, May 11, 1996

[Ven. Shikai Zuiko osho in a "Good Morning America" radio announcer voice]

Good Saturday morning to you. It's a bright minus 26 degrees here in the capitol with a wind chill factor of minus 44. But of course you, sitting here in the Hatto, know that because you walked here through the bright morning of the second coldest capital city in the world. As you were walking along, it bit your nose. It pinched your lungs. It reddened your cheeks. It was right there in front of your face. You walked through it. It carried you here through the brightness of morning.

It brings you light from the candles and scent from the incense. It bows. More intimate than any lover could be. Stronger than a bull, bigger than an elephant, it supports the earth and gently moves as you.

Now in a little while, we'll have practice interviews and The Question will be asked, "How is your practice?" And you've all had differing experiences of what happens when those sounds are heard.

This story, a short story that I am going to tell you is not about one student but rather it is a compilation. The densho rang. I rang the gong in the Zendo. The student opened the door, bowed, and walked towards The Seat. We bowed and the student sat down. The student took a deep breath, waiting.

"How is your practice?" I asked.

The student gulped, gulped again, reddened, and said, "I never...I don't know...but at home...earlier this week...I noticed that my breath was moving in and out of my body and that it was the air in the room. I noticed my cat was breathing...the same air...my friends, my mother's people I loved people I would never know...all breathing the same air...and then I got scared...it was too big!" The student stopped. Eyes looked around.

"What did you do then?" I asked, "When you noticed you were scared..."

"Aahaa..." There was a long pause. "...I tried...no, no, that's not right...I noticed the breath?"

"Yes?"

"I saw that being scared was really a thought...and then...I noticed the breath. I felt the breath. At the tanden."

The student had recognized something that was true about how they were in that moment which was long gone, and what they were experiencing in this moment. Yes. The student felt the breath at the tanden moving the body in and out and said, "And I remember I wasn't afraid then and I'm not afraid now..."

The student had practised that moment of clear seeing; by making a choice to feel the breath rather than propagating the story about being scared, the student practised. And this practice is about, of course, noticing how you are in this moment.
A long, long time ago, I lived in the country with my family and our family business was caves. We didn't manufacture them. We took people on tours. We were in the tourist business and this business was five miles from anywhere. As a ten-year-old unwaged tourist guide I didn't even have a bicycle. So for recreation, after walking through the caves, talking about them to people, I would go and lie on my back on the limestone near a waterfall. That limestone, I knew, was four hundred million years old. Four hundred million years ago, that limestone was mud at the bottom of a tropical sea. Hard to believe, isn't it? I would lie on my back looking at the sky. I breathed in and breathed out. Noticing breathing in and breathing out, I knew that the sky, the breath, the rocks, the flight of swallows following currents of air around the descent of the waterfall were this moment. I knew I was simply a part of it, no more, no less.

Thirty-five years later I was in the Zendo at Zazen-ji when Anzan roshi spoke of the intimacy of our lives in a Dharma Talk for his associate and general students that was later called "The Sky Talking" he pointed out what I had recognized then and pointed further. The sky moves through breath, is present in the breathing out of every word we say and hear, moves up as far as the blue of the sky and into the deepest cave. We are not just a part of this. This all-pervasive context, this vast activity, indicates something of the vastness, which we all are. Sky, breath, bodies, minds, you, I, are just part of what we each are. I vow to bear this in what I say and hear. It will be difficult to remember it always in each moment. But each moment shows, this so I have only to allow it. As do you. Here is a poem:

this breath
explodes space
this thought
this non-thought
forms, forms,
sounds, sounds
at this moment
what else but just this

This is how Zen Master Anzan Hoshin expressed this moment of practice in "The Sky Itself: Poems on Zen practice", published in 1986. At this moment what else but just this? What a question! Answer it with this whole bodymind in this moment.

Here we sit in the Hatto of Honzan Dainen-ji, the main monastery of the White Wind Zen Community. We sit here in this moment being breathed. Listen...you can hear the sounds from your bodymind as the ribs rise and fall, the spine straightens and maybe snaps and pops with the life that is living as you. Beside you and behind you are other sounds; sounds of bodyminds being breathed. There are coughs and sighs, and swishes and swooshes, and the sound of the fan. Are you paying more attention to the breath of the person beside you or to the breath moving across my vocal chords than you are paying to the breath breathing you?
Balance it out...now. At this moment practice just this.

[Pause]

Isn't it funny that we talk about "my breath" and "your breath" and "the cat's breath"? As if we could stake a claim on something that we literally cannot hold. As if we could mark it and keep it separate. And on those increasingly frequent occasions when we do notice the breath for a moment, judgment arises. "Aaah it's too fast, too shallow, too loud." Well, too bad. Let's not settle for our puny little stories. Come on; let's have a look at what's really going on.

Picture the earth as seen from way, way up in space. We're incredibly lucky. We've all seen the earth from space in films, on television, or in photographs. I'm amazed every time I think that I was amongst the first generation that has actually been able to see our home from space. The beautiful blue pearl turns in space. As we move closer, space becomes sky. As we penetrate the cloud cover and get closer to the earth, we are able to breathe the air unassisted. Just as fish are at home in the water, we air-breathers are at home in the sky. Sky becomes breath; breath becomes sky again.

This morning, January 22 nd , at the formal sitting, we chanted a memorial for Hanamatsu Daiji Tenku daiosho, your great-grandfather in Dharma. The "Tenku"in his name means "ku" or "empty", "ten" or "sky". "Tenku - "empty sky". This is from the memorial we chanted.

[Osho reads from the Memorial to Daiji Tenku daosho composed by Ven Anzan Hoshin roshi ]

In deep snow, in cold wind, your voice sounded forth, striking the sky and setting it ringing. Awakening all beings to the Actual Nature, you blazed in silence as the Great Acala. With the hammer and tongs of Great Compassion you forged Buddhas and Bodhisattvas out of whatever came to hand and set them spinning like suns for beings to find their orbit around them.

Throughout war and devastation, you sheltered the lamp of luminosity. Its light shines even now and lights up our faces, our eyes. It is because of you that we can see.

The Lineage speaks as the sky. Many hundreds of years ago Zen Master Dogen in "Jippo" wrote, "The ten directions are the breath of the Awakened Ones. This is the point of our practice."

Zen Master Dogen never saw the earth from the sky but he said that this breath is the point of our practice. The only place our practice can occur is wrapped around this breath in this moment. You may as well notice it. It is, after all, your life.

The world turns in space and we can know that at this moment, it is night dark somewhere. It's bright at ten o'clock in the morning here in the Hatto but it is, nevertheless, this moment everywhere. In a cave under the earth, there may be total darkness. No waves of light may penetrate to the retinas of beings and there may be no seeing. In other darkness, some light waves travel through the air and some beings can see to hunt. In the bright daylight on the other side of the globe, we sit in the brightness of the Hatto facing a white wall. Waves of light move and touch our retina creating images and light and dark. Light waves move through the air we breathe.

Sound waves move through the air being breathed as you and you and you. A voice, sound waves of a certain amplitude created by the movement of air over the flesh of the vocal cords, travel through the air of the Hatto and strike your tympanic membrane making sound. Scent molecules travel through this air and you can smell the incense and taste your own breath. Warmth from the radiators travels through the air and strikes the skin and we feel hot. Walking in kinhin, we can feel colder air beneath our feet.

We sit in the air being breathed. Walking, we move through the air as we are being breathed. The air moves through us as breath. The air, the breath, is the context of all our experiencing. Without this breath, without this air, there can be no experiencing. In this Hatto, in the monastery, the city, the country, the world, the air is the context within which contents arises. The content may be called weather, rain, snow, rocks, rivers, dogs, or people. The content may be called seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling and thoughts, but it can all only arise in this moment of breathing in and out. You may as well notice it. It is your life.

Thank you for listening.

Being Breathed - II

Dharma Talk by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Dainen-ji, February 5th, 2000

At the beginning of the sitting round when the gong was struck we all bowed and exhaled in the same moment. The gong rang again. We straightened and the air entered each and every one of us at the same time. Another strike on the gong and as if one exhalation in this moment breath dispersed and mingled with the air in the Hatto.

Zen Master Anzan Hoshin told us In "The Pivot", one of the "Saturday Morning Talks" series given for general and associate students during the late 1980's and early 1990's that,

In the moment of breathing out,
There is just each moment of the out breath.
Each moment being this moment,
This moment displaying itself as breathing out.
There is a slight pause,
It is ever so slight,
A slight trembling,
And then,
Breathing in.
And each moment of breathing in is this moment.
Each sound that is heard,
Each sensation that rises and falls,
Is the activity, the turning of this moment.
You and your world are arising here.

You listen to me repeating Roshi's words or you might have listened to the tape and at the moment of hearing it's so clear. "Aha! Yes...of course...! At THIS moment it is so clear isn't it? I understand." Feels good.

You congratulate yourself. You pat yourself on the back because you understand. You think all the effort really has been worth it. "Yes!" you say to yourself as you are seduced by the "good" feeling, the "good" thoughts. "Yes, now I am really practising."

Excuse me? Excuse me!
You have forgotten the breath. You have forgotten to notice a thought as a thought.

"Oh no!" self-image declares, "not again...I thought I had something there."
Wait…Wait... Don't follow it. This isn't a problem even though self-image will try and make it one because that's really its only job. Anzan roshi says,

Breathing in turns to breathing out.
Holding a feeling turns to holding a thought,
Turns to holding another thought and another thought.
The thoughts rise and fall,
Turning in the light of Awareness,
Turning in the knowing of them.

You see, you're not the only one in this Hatto who gets lost in thoughts and feelings; nor are you the only one in this Sangha, or this year, or this century. For 2600 years students have been getting lost in thoughts and feelings forgetting to notice this moment, this breath. Forgetting to notice the only thing that is going on - reality.

In the Satipatthana Sutta: Foundations of Mindfulness as translated from the Pali by Anzan roshi, the Buddha, Gautama Siddartha, is said to have instructed his students (who were required to be monks), thus:

Breathing in, one is mindful, breathing out, one is mindful.
Breathing out a long breath, one understands, I breathe out a long breath."
Breathing in a long breath, one understands, "I breathe in a long breath.
Breathing out a short breath, one understands, "I breathe out a short breath."
Breathing in a short breath, one understands, "I breathe in a short breath."

This instruction is clear is it not? However it can be misunderstood. (And as Roshi has said, "If we can misunderstand our practice we will. And if we misunderstand our practice we practise our misunderstandings.)

It can seem as if this passage is instructing us to identify and judge the depth and the quality of the breath. Many of you have commented in practice interviews that you aren't breathing deeply enough or that your breath is shallow. And that's okay, but you have forgotten a number of things: First, those comments are thoughts. You notice the thought; we know that because you articulate it, in doing so noticed something that is true about how you were in that moment. That moment of noticing IS the only moment that you can practise and you do so by feeling the breath at the tanden, feeling sensations in the body. Noticing seeing, and hearing, and tasting, and touching, and feeling, and smelling, and breathing, you are practising in this moment.

Fortunately, endless opportunities are offered up for this noticing. Sometimes it can seem to be too much. Recently, a student, who was looking very worried, "It seems like practice is too much work. I can't keep track of everything. I keep trying but..." This student was asked to notice how experiencing was in THIS moment of breathing in and out. Upon doing so, the "trying" was exposed for what was: a pattern. This was a pattern that came up over and over again for the student in other aspects of life. "Oh my," the student sighed, "no wonder I feel tired a lot. I am trying to do things I can't do and that I don't have to do. I'm putting far too much energy into "trying to notice" when all I need to do is notice."

The Sutta goes on to say that:

One practises, "I will breathe out with full experience of the whole body,'
One practises, 'I will breathe in with full experience of the whole body.'
One practises, 'I will breathe out, calming the tendencies of the body.'
One practises, "I will breathe in calming the tendencies of the body.

What can seem to be a thought that one is being asked to say to oneself, "I will breathe out with full experience of the whole body," is more a statement of intentionality, this instruction to practise cultivates, as you continue to practise, a knowing which is before thinking, and beyond, and without, words. You are noticing, simply noticing, that which is always already the case.

The Sutta continues:

Just as a skillful turner or a turner's apprentice, making a long turn knows, 'I am making a long turn,' or making a short turn knows, 'I am making a short turn,' just so monks, the monk practises breathing out a long breath knowing, "I breathe out a long breath.

A turner as described is a potter or a woodworker. Whether we are a skilled potter or only an apprentice, whether we are a monk or a lay student, we have to know what's going on. We don't have to be an expert. We don't have to already know what we don't know in order to know this. We just have to be willing to learn from what is actually going on how to pay attention to what is going on. We have to be willing to know that we don't know and to be willing to make mistakes.

As we sit we can know the turning of the breath. Sky turns to breath. In-breath turns to out-breath and is this moment displaying itself as the out breath. In the "Pivot" Roshi said,

Each sound that is heard,
Each sensation that rises and falls,
Is the activity,
The turning of this moment.

Speaking of "turns and turning" I went skiing two days ago for the first time in two years. You may remember that beautiful day with the bright, clear blue sky. It was glorious.

I'm not a great skier. As with almost everything it seems, I was a late starter and then I stopped in the mid-eighties. This was just about the time when I started practising and studying with Roshi. I did not go skiing for over a decade. One day a student asked me if I would like to go skiing and it sounded like a good idea. On the way to the slopes I noticed some thoughts coming up which, if fed with my attention, could have turned into feelings I might in the past have called "fear" or "anxiety" or "worry." I practised the moment of noticing and guess what? That first run was the best time I had ever had skiing. What I had learned on the zafu was presenting itself skiing on the mountain.

After a few years I stopped going and before I knew it I hadn't been for two years. Upon waking from sleep four days ago I knew I was going to ski that day. I did and guess what? It was the best skiing I have ever experienced. Effortlessly the interaction of mountain, snow, skis, and body, breath, and mind, presented a curving down the slope that was this moment. A little while later I started thinking about it, trying to come up with a strategy to recreate that effortless arcing through the pristine powder snow and, of course, I fell. Actually I slide halfway down the mountain on my back with a cloud of sparkling crystals around me fracturing the sunlight and manifesting rainbows of light. Self-image had started to try. It's everywhere. Getting in the way, causing problems. What to do?
Practise.

When knowing becomes a thought about knowing, obstruction is presenting itself and it is ready to be released.

And the Sutta continues:

And further, monks, in going forward, and in going back, complete knowing is realized. In looking ahead and looking behind, complete knowing is realized. Bending and stretching, complete knowing is realized. Carrying the robes and bowl, complete knowing is realized. In eating and drinking, chewing and tasting, complete knowing is realized. Excreting and urinating, complete knowing is realized. In motion and in stillness, in sitting, in sleeping and waking, in speech and silence, complete knowing is realized.

Complete knowing is this moment. Knowing this moment completely is your life. Really. You may as well notice it.

Roshi said in the "Saturday Morning Dharma Talk" I quoted from at the beginning; "Each moment of breathing in is this moment. Each sound that is heard, each sensation that rises and falls is the activity, the turning of this moment. You and your world are arising here."

As we breathe in this sky in this moment together, whether we recognize it or not we are all present in this moment: here, there, everywhere. I realize I haven't even talked about alignment of breath, about great bows, about the moment of bowing together in Dokusan or a practice interview. Hmmmm, well..

Sit in the sky being breathed as this moment.
Move through the air being breathed as this moment.
See, hear, taste, touch, think, feel, breathe, as this moment.

When the gong strikes, signaling the end of the sitting round, you have another vivid opportunity to notice with the whole bodymind as the out breath returns to the sky, a pause, a sound, a feeling, the taste of breathing in this moment as this breath... turning...turning, noticing....

Effortless,

This easy and joyful practice.

Thank you for listening.

Being Breathed - III

Dharma Talk by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Dainen-ji, April 8th, 2000

By the age of forty you will have breathed twenty-five billion, two hundred and twenty nine million, three hundred thousand times. This is a minimum calculation based on 12 breaths a minute. The calculation does not include Leap Year or any times you've increased your respiratory rate through climbing up stairs or mountains, running a marathon or exercising your dog. It doesn't take into account laughter, or sex, or lifting a child, walking, carrying groceries. getting out of bed or giving birth.

How many have you noticed?

Before we begin to practise we have usually only noticed our breath when we can't 'catch it' or when it's too short or too long, or laboured or impeded in some way. In short, as with so much of our life before we began to practise, we only notice it when there is a problem or when we are 'working with it' as a relaxation technique, or in learning to swim, sing, or play a wind instrument or in response to illness or injury. Otherwise we're just not aware of our own breath.

When we first encounter the Teachings of our Hakukaze Soto Zen lineage and read "The Four Gates of Zen Practice" by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi we discover at some point that 'Four Gates' refers to body, breath, speech, and mind.

We are asked to practise mindfulness of breath and to use the breath as a touchstone to reveal ourselves to this moment. Sometimes we understand this and sometimes we don't. Sometimes we practise it and sometimes we don't. And sometimes we pay more attention to someone else's breath than we do our own: We find ourselves becoming irritated at the sound of the person sitting next to us breathing in and out, and in and out, and in and out.

If we mention the arising of irritation to a practice advisor, we are asked what we do at that moment and we might say that we "try to FOCUS ON the breath". The practice advisor will look at us astonished and goggle-eyed, "Wherever did you get the idea that you were to focus on the breath? No one here ever told you to FOCUS on the breath." We start to flush, and squirm and get angry. Self-image likes to be right and starts to look for excuses and justifications. But before we can speak we are told to "feel the breath at the tanden" or to feel "the body moving in and out with the breath" and we'd just like to poke the monk or to scream. We choke out that we are TRYING TO FEEL THE BREATH BUT IT'S TOO SHALLOW or that we don't know how to breathe or that there are too many things to notice. Or we just don't understand and what is the big deal about the breath anyway?

As has been said over and over (and as will continue to be said over and over) the breath being breathed as and through you is this moment of your life. It is this present moment. You may as well notice it because this is where and when your life actually is. Simply by noticing, by being mindful of the breath, the bodymind is being given a chance to balance itself out. The bodymind can and does find its balance. Over time we start to notice that our sense of being overwhelmed and pushed this way and that by thoughts and feelings is less frequent.

In "The Bodymind of the Way, Zen Teachings on Dogen Zenji's Shinjin Gakudo", Zen Master Anzan Hoshin says, "We welcome you with open arms, and I do hope that you practise with wide open eyes and open breath. Open again and again into this moment. Enter again and again into this life."

As our practice opens, words become increasingly slippery and shoot out of our grasp. What we thought we understood of the meaning has changed. We thought that "open" meant wide and deep and big. In this context it means, "As it is". It means not manipulated or changed. It means this moment of breathing in as it is, and this moment of breathing out as it is. Should you notice commentary or judgment as to the quality or length or shallowness of the breath simply notice that commentary as a thought and feel the breath simply as it is.

The Roshi goes on to say,

An open breath might not necessarily be a deep breath. It might be a shallow breath, it might be a strangled breath. It might be a breath riding the crest of a wave of anxiety. An open breath is a breath that is attended to fully and completely, a breath that is breathed completely.

Attending to the breath does not mean to move attention toward the breath and away from other moments of experiencing. That movement of attention would be focusing on the breath and as I said before, no one told us to focus on the breath. There's room for everything in this moment so include the breath in this moment of attending to this moment.

The Roshi continues,

The more fully that we breathe our breath, perhaps the longer and deeper they become. Perhaps. However whether it is a long breath or a short breath, it is this breath.

This sounds pretty simple. And it feels pretty simple when you're actually doing it. But we understand for a moment and then it slips away. We need all of the help we can get in this matter of mindfulness of breath. The forms of practice in the Monastery offer this help and direction...relentlessly....

As we enter the Hatto we bow. If we are attending completely to the moments of the bow we can feel the lungs expand with the in breath as we lift the arms to place the hands palm to palm. As we bend at the hips we can feel the breath being exhaled from the body. As we straighten and bring the hands back to shashu we open attention to the flow of air through the nostrils, across the slightly parted lips, and as the air flows into the lungs the torso expands. This moment is the hands, the feet, the bones, the muscles, the seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, and the smell of incense as we step over the threshold into the Hatto.

During the formal bows as the incense is lit we are given another opportunity to align with the Roshi or the monk who is leading the sitting. In this moment we are also aligning with the Lineage even if we don't yet know what this means exactly. In chanting practice we are asked to align body, breath, speech, and mind with the chanting leader. Alignment means many things as our practice deepens. It begins with just doing the forms together, at the same time, as often as we can. When we notice we are off the next breath gives us an opportunity to align and begin again. This opening of attention relentlessly hones and sharpens our senses but without force. We start to be able to attend more fully to this moment.

Practice interviews, and, for formal students and monks, dokusan, are another opportunity to practise this alignment. We start to see that alignment isn't a one sided affair. At the moment of meeting the Roshi or the practice advisor pay attention as we come to gassho together, aligned in body and breath. The student waits for the senior to lead. Look carefully and you will see that the senior is aligning with you as well. In this one moment two people are breathing this moment together and recognizing and acknowledging this moment as this moment, without, before, and beyond, words. This simplicity highlights anything extra that comes up and gets in our way. Look carefully and you will see how contraction occurs, how it shrinks and knots the space of experiencing and how, if you fall for and propagate whatever story is going on, a self comes into being. This self is frozen, like a deer caught in the headlights of an on-coming car. Quick-notice it-open the tendency to contract around that one moment of experiencing-see the seeing, hear the hearing, feel the breath, and take your place on the zafu. There is no problem. You are, however, beginning to see the functioning of the formation of states. In that seeing you are being offered the key to freedom from them.

Take it. Use it. The Lineage of Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors invites us all to receive our lives as they truly live.

Anzan Hoshin roshi continues in "The Bodymind of the Way",

To try to manipulate and structure or restructure the breath; to try and structure or restructure the mind, to shift around the contents of consciousness trying to find a more pleasing pattern; to manipulate our lives by amputating those parts that don't seem to fit...All of this is confusion about who we are and what the world is, what the body is, what the mind is. If you confuse yourself like this, then the mind will become bits and pieces of a broken mind.

Open to this breath, open to this moment, practise with wide-open eyes.

Open this body, this mind, to the open air. And practise things as they are.
This practice of things as they are requires no struggle. It cannot be constructed or manufactured. This recognition of this moment of body, breath, speech, and mind, is practising yourself as you are. Through this continuous practice, this gyoji, Dogen zenji says. "Thus you will be able to steal the nostrils of the Buddhas and Ancestors and make them breathe out."

Thank you for listening.

Being Breathed - IV

Dharma Talk by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Dainen-ji, April 22nd, 2000

In "Shinjin Gakudo: Studying the Way Through the Bodymind", Dogen zenji said, "Thus you will be able to steal the nostrils of the Buddhas and Ancestors and make them breath out."

When we hear this or read it for the first time... or maybe the second or the third time... there is a moment when we know what our Lineage Ancestor Dogen zenji meant. "Ah...ahha yes. He's saying that if we practise thoroughly and wake up we are the manifestation of the Lineage, of the Ancestors right here, right now. We are the Lineage."

But we become confused as we think about our understanding. We worry it like a domestic dog will worry a bone. 'Worrying', shaking, biting, and sucking on the bone coats it with slippery ropes of saliva, dirties it, and eventually turns it into a shattered thing abandoned...to decay. The activity of 'worrying' the bone exhausts the dog. And for what? The bone is not food. The bone is an object around which the activity of this game of 'worrying' occurs. The bone has become an object of distraction for the dog and a means of burning off energy.

Our thoughts can be used as objects of distraction. They can have the appearance of practice, a true expression of 'the real thing'. When asked how our practice is, we can adopt a particular 'wise' tone of voice and say, ''I am starting to really see and understand how each thing affects everything else." Nodding knowingly (not quite but almost doing a Pythonesque 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink to the practice advisor), "it is really true."

We expect our sagacity to be rewarded. We want the practice advisor to declare, in awe, "Yes, yes...well done...that's it...you've done it...you understand' and we can join the ranks of THOSE WHO KNOW.

The practice advisor instead of gasping in amazement and running off to get the Roshi says, "How is your practice right now.... What are you noticing?"

Left hanging, breathless, in mid-air self-image starts to generate stuff: Wait a minute...Wasn't the answer true? Sure it's true. I heard the Roshi say something like that or I read it or something....I recognized something didn't I?. sputter, sputter, splurt, splat.... Sooner or later with more or less guidance we do notice what is really going on...

Everything, of course, depends on how you are when you are uttering the words. Practice is recognizing how you are and practising that moment of recognition. The words are just words. They are neither true nor false. If you were feeling the tongue against the teeth, the sounds reverberating in your abdomen, neck, and chest, if you were noticing seeing and hearing and tasting and touching and feeling and the breath moving across the vocal chords carrying sounds across the tongue to be shaped into words what you said may have been relevant to that moment.

If you were not noticing seeing and hearing you were "worrying a bone", pretending to yourself to understand, instead of understanding this moment as the only moment to practise. You are being breathed in and out, thoughts are swirling, a "sense of self" is viewing this maelstrom. Practise the moment you notice this sense of a self which is "experiencing practice".

That sense of self is how you are at that moment. You have noticed a 'self' coming into being. Practise that moment of noticing. Practise like this until all moments of knowing are simply knowing in itself. All of the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors provide and have provided, and will continue to provide us with instruction on how to practise this.
Zen Master Anzan Hoshin points out in "The Bodymind of the Way", his comments on "Shinjin Gakudo" that,

The real meaning of practice cannot be grasped because the moment that one tries to grab onto one's practice and tries to 'understand it', the moment that one tries to limit one's practice by taking a look 'at' it, in that moment you have distanced yourself from it. You are then no longer practising but are only pretending to practise. One is only thinking about practising.

We don't know if the dog was actually "thinking" about hunting when worrying the bone. But we can know when we are "thinking" or more accurately propagating a lot of thoughts about practice instead of practising. The more we choose to allow attention to move into, and to entertain ourselves with, descriptions, conjectures, thoughts, about what we have understood, the less likely we are to be actually practising in that moment. But we do have the capacity to practise fully and completely in that moment of noticing. Again, that moment of noticing is the only moment we can practise.

Ancestors such As Zen Master Dazhi of Baizhang caution that "If you just grasp onto the view that primordial purity and inherent freedom will liberate you or that Zen practice will enlighten you, you fall into holding the blind view of spontaneous enlightenment."

What is required is the willingness to see how the energies of the bodymind tend to be attracted to, and congeal around, views, concepts, slogans, ideas, descriptions, conjectures, thoughts about the bodymind and thoughts about practice. At the moment of seeing clearly what is really going on we are instructed to recognize thought as thought, to feel the breath and watch what happens as the bodymind releases its pattern of attachment to that view, concept, slogan, idea, description, conjecture...our thoughts about practice. We are instructed to recognize and realize the exertion of the whole bodymind in this moment.

The Roshi comments that "The teachings are not just a pile of junk lying in an old house, they are the collected effort and energy of those who study the Way".

Chinese Tiantai Master Zhiyi, who died in 598 C.E. wrote a book about studying the way. In Chinese, the title is the Mo Ho Shi Guan, in Japanese Maka Shi Kan. This has been translated by the Roshi as "The Big Book of Stopping and Looking". In "The Big Book of Stopping and Looking", this Awakened Ancestor described samatha and vipasyana, shi and ka'n, concentration and insight, as like the two wings of a bird in flight. They were to be practised together, each informing the other. We need at least a little samatha or will-power or concentration to keep us on the zafu so we have an opportunity to notice when we become concentrated or obsessed about any particular thought and are using it to distract ourselves from everything else that is going on.

Vipasyana; insight or clear seeing, is recognizing that moment of waking up from the distraction of thoughts, descriptions, obsessions. Seeing it for what it is...a moment of waking up from a dream. Waking up to reality we are instructed to feel the breath at that moment of waking up, arising as this moment. Why feel the breath? If you're breathing you are alive in this moment. May as well notice it.

As master Zhiyi said some 1300 years ago, the bird needs to have both wings in balance so that it can fly properly. It needs to be breathing in and to be supported by the vastness of the sky.

The essence of OUR practice, shojo no shu-realized practice is to align ourselves with what is true about experiences and experiencing. This is the practice of Aware Space. As taught by Zen Master Anzan Hoshin Hakukaze this is the practice of the vastness in which everything moves. A little shamatha, a little vipasyana, moving in the vastness of the sky.

Our practice is not the wings of the bird, not the bird; it is the practice of the vastness within which everything moves.

We are freely offered endless opportunities for alignment of body, breath, speech, and mind as we move, bow, chant, sit, have our posture re-adjusted, do kata, meet the Roshi, or a Dharma Teacher, or a senior in a hallway. All you really need to do moment after moment is stop and look. Then follow the instruction which presents itself.

During Great Bows, when aligned with the sitting leader we can notice that the exhalation of the breath supports and guides the bodymind as joints bend and we move toward the floor. The inhalation of the breath as we rise pulls us up. The more our attention can be open the easier it is to move that 100 plus pounds of meat, sinew, bone, and marrow through some 5 to 6 feet of space. Practise it.

The Teachings are what the lineage ancestors have experienced and have expressed about studying the bodymind of the Way with their bodyminds. Their bodyminds were dedicated, through vows taken, to uncovering the Way, and through that to help you uncover who you are before all your thoughts about who you are.

This Lineage of the Way has been expressed for 2600 years. The Lineage continues to express through body, breath, speech and mind, what it is to be a real human being. And the Lineage tells you how to do it.

The Buddhas and Lineage Ancestors were people, human beings just like you and me. The Teachings are what the Lineage Ancestors understood and subsequently expressed from their own experiencing as uncovered through their own practice. The Teachings are about their experiencing. The Teachings are a record of how those experiencings and understandings were transmitted to students.

The Teachings are about you in this moment. We cannot know this moment by memorizing and spouting back some little slogan about "each thing making everything else what it is" and expect to be convincing. We can see how self-image is used to being a mimic, how it tries to construct and present a self that "understands"rather than being the expression of understanding itself.

The recognition of this moment of body, breath, speech, and mind, is practising yourself as you are. Through this continuous practice, this gyoji, you become and recognize that you are, the Buddhas and Awakened ancestors.

When you truly are the full expression of that understanding in every moment, "You steal the nostrils of the Buddhas and Ancestors and make them breath out."

Thank you for listening.