Every Breath You Take 106: Seeing Those Who Refuse to Make Offerings

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Dainen-ji, July 9th, 2011

Just this morning, I'm starting to feel somewhat better, but forgive me if I should start coughing.

A really strange thing happened and again,
I don't want to get too personal about things,
but I went to the doctor to have an annual checkup and when I was there, the nurse said:

"Now, good, we're going to give you a couple of shots. One is for tetanus and the other is for pneumonia."

And I think I got pneumonia from that shot!
Is this a plan to get rid of seniors? [Sensei and students laugh]
because apparently now this shot is something that seniors are supposed to get.

However, aside from that,
the fact of congested lungs does make it more uncomfortable to breathe.
It makes it painful to breathe,
and it's a very good reminder that with

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE

you're breathing in the life that lives as you
and if that breath doesn't get taken in,
well,
it's goodbye to you.

The meat drops
and you're no longer you,
you never were really,
but you're now someone else's problem.

Today's verse is about making offerings
and each time actually you step inside the door of the monastery,
you are offering yourself to the Dharma.
You're offering yourself to learning the Teachings of Reality so that,
as Dogen said,
you'll study the self and eventually through studying the self,
you'll drop through it.

You recognize that there is no self whatsoever.
There is Awareness in itself and this bodymind,
which is how you are aware of anything at all.

The verse:

Seeing those who refuse to make offerings,
"May all beings
Never turn from
The ways of supreme virtue."

Now, what do we mean?
"Seeing those who refuse to make offerings"?
Offerings to what?
And what business is it of ours anyway?

But, that's how we are.

Self-image peers out from behind its eyes and looks around:
Who's giving more?
Who's getting more?
Because in the usual social context,
that is how we judge and how we are judged.

A long time ago, when I first took monk's vows,
I decided I'd like to give myself a little present,
so I ordered a very nice mala, a 108 bead black glass mala.
I was really pleased with it.
It certainly signified something.
I put it on, went and met with the Roshi, then Sensei. He said:

"What's that?"

I said: "It's a new mala, isn't it beautiful?"

He said: "Yes it is, give it to me."

So I did, because I'd forgotten the part which says
that with anything that a monk purchases or is given,
the first thing they do is offer it,
and since there were only the two of us,
there was no doubt as to whom it should have been offered in the first place.
I had just forgotten that part.

I've never forgotten that part ever again.

What is the point of all of that?
Well, what you are doing is you're offering up body, breath, speech, and mind,
as a monastic, to the Dharma. So, that is, one could say, a supreme offering.

It doesn't mean anybody's perfect, not at all.
That's why we study.
That's why we sit here and go: "Yadda, yadda, yadda",
in the hopes of saying one thing
or showing one thing
that will help students look more clearly
into how they are in each moment.

So what do you do when you notice yourself peering out from behind the eyes, 
looking around saying:
"Boy, is she ever cheap? They didn't do blah blah blah..."? 

But of course, none of us in this room ever do anything like that,
we never have thoughts like that, do we?
No, not at all!
We're just all loving, all encompassing, all nicey nicey. [Sensei laughs]

Well, maybe I'm alone! [students laugh]

So, I'm going to ask a favour of you.
I'm going to ask you to draw your attention to your right hand
and pick it up in a little fist and put it front of your chest.
Good!
You all did it, that's amazing,
there was very little reluctance,
that's a good sign.

Now, you've got that little fist.
Usually we point with our index finger,
so point with the index finger as if you're pointing at someone who is refusing to make offerings,
so that one finger is pointing out.
Look down at your hand.
Look where the other three fingers are pointing. [students laugh in recognition]

Where are they pointing. Go ahead, say it out loud.

Student: Me! [Sensei laughs]

Exactly! So, that can be really helpful.
You can put your hands down now,
but it can be really helpful to remember that when we notice things,
or maybe have a critical thought,
it's not that we're a bad person because that critical thought is there,
or because we're comparing ourselves to someone else.
It's not a matter of having to get rid of all of those kinds of contractions and thoughts
and then we'll really be able to practise.

It's a matter of using the environment that we interact with
to show ourselves the habits and patterns and tendencies
that we may not have noticed before.

So remember: if you're looking around and seeing
"those who refuse to make offerings"...
and how would we know anyway, really?
But, we're looking around and we're being critical of others,
or having any thoughts whatsoever about others,
remember those three fingers that point right back to you.
You are the one who can practise with what's going on with you.

Sangha, the larger community around us,
all help us see more clearly how we are
because we see the reactivities,
we see the tendencies
and that's great because each time you see anything at all,
any known,
you have the opportunity to practise the whole bodymind in the whole moment.

You don't have to worry about being clean of all of those thoughts and tendencies before you can practise,
they're just stuff going on,
they're just leaves in the wind.
They are the very things that can help you practise more and more deeply.

The whole point of the Dharma is to put the Dharma to work for you in your life so that you can apply it.
None of the things that arise within Awareness,
none of them
are who you are.
They're things arising in the Awareness of them,
that is what allows you to practise,

And you can practise,
it doesn't matter who you are,
it doesn't matter who you think you are,
it doesn't matter who others think you are,
you can use every moment to see more clearly into the process of perception and cognition
and to open it up more and more completely.

The verse again:

Seeing those who refuse to make offerings,
"May all beings
Never turn from
The ways of supreme virtue."

And virtue: manliness or courage.

Isn't that interesting?
It has the same root as virile and up until the 17th century
that word was basically only applied to men,
and then in the 17th it was applied to the moral conduct,
the sexual conduct,

especially of women.
That's just an aside...

But virtue, doing the right thing,
and sometimes it's a risk
because doing the right thing may mean
actually thinking about what it is we're doing
to look into what's going on.

Now, monks have the Shingi,
which are instructions for monastic behaviour,
how one checks things out.

In the case of the mala,
it says very clearly in the Shingi that the senior should be consulted
and that the senior should be offered that which the junior has.
Well, I just, as I say, forgot about that part.

I'll never forget about it again
and it is useful to have these types of guidelines,
which is what they are,
to look into how we are.

So, virtue.

Hey, doing the best we can with the information we have at hand.
That is helping us offer ourselves up to the Dharma,
the Teachings of Reality and each and every one of us can do it.

And where do we do it?
Well, not just while we're sitting in the Hatto,
not just after we've opened the door to the monastery and entered,
but in every moment.
This does not mean that we carry some idea with us as to how we should be as a Zen student,
not at all,
but we can recognize
that any moment we recognize
anything about experiencing
is the only moment we can recognize that moment of experiencing
and it is the moment that we can practise.

We're practising that moment of clear seeing,
that moment of waking up to Reality.

So once again... [Sensei coughs] ... I think we'll end here.

Thank you for listening.