White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 124: While Washing the Body

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko o-sensei

Dainen-ji, January 7th, 2012

There may have been murmurings from those contractions

into a sense of self
when you awoke this morning....
Murmurings commenting on 
what you could and couldn't do,
what you are capable of,

what you are not capable of,
but regardless, 
it's self-evident:

you saw them,

you felt the breath,

one foot in front of the other. 

You may have walked to the washroom,

you may have washed your hands and face,
you may have had a shower.

One foot in front of the other
through that torrent,

perhaps in some cases, in some instances, that waterfall

of reasons why all of this

is just impossible. 

But here you sit, as the Roshi has said,
with your mind running down the wall,
but here you sit with the flesh and the muscles and the blood

coursing over that bony structure

coursing over that skeleton 
falling into gravity.

You're sitting up straight and you're feeling the breath, 
you're noticing those moments of waking up from the distraction of a thought

from comments about a feeling...


You're feeling the breath, 
you're sitting up straight,

you're opening the peripheral vision,
practising the whole bodymind

in THIS moment. 

And here, at Dainen-ji,

you have all manner of things to help you look into how you are,
how this bodymind which may be called:

Senbo or Endai or the Chiden or Ryoshin or Hanna or Jack or Doug and please,
if something comes up saying:

"How come my name wasn't mentioned?"

recognize that contraction into a sense of a self with a little story:
feel the breath,
sit up straight,

open the eye gaze. 

Welcome to this moment. 

You have forms that help you look into this moment of experience.
Forms are tools,

they are ways of comporting the bodymind in certain situations.
They include verses that can be recited, 
either out loud or just to yourself in certain situations.

One of these verses is: 

While washing the body,
"May all beings

Purify body and mind,
Inside and out." 

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Wouldn't that be wonderful
if everyone were practising?

If everyone in the whole world were noticing that contraction into a sense of self
with a story about how it is and about how the world is? 

So eventually that sense of self

and everything else being other to it could be just washed away completely,
could be just ground up

in this giant recycling machine

that we call the Universe... 

But that's not going to happen.
At least not in my lifetime,
probably not in yours either, but, wouldn't it be nice? 

Since we have imagination, why not use it? 

Now, the verse from the The Practice of Purity,
the one we are studying, the one I just quoted, which I'll quote again: 

While washing the body,
"May all beings 
Purify body and mind,
Inside and out." 

This verse, which was written around 1600 years ago,
formed the base of the Soto Mokoyoku No Ge, which is: 

As we bathe this body

In the midst of all beings,
May we purify bodymind
Within and without. 

There's another verse, The Verse of Cleansing: 

As we cleanse with this water,
May all beings

Enter the nature of equanimity,
And realize purity. 

Now, as I was coming up the stairs, it occurred to me that last week
I may have made an attribution and not quoted the correct verse.
I may have quoted another verse as Joshu Dainen's verse, but Joshu Dainen's verse is this: 

Attention, attention.

All is always stainless,

each form is always formless.

Aligning ourselves with the Way,

each dharma is always Buddhadharma. 

Now,

Attention! Attention!

Each dharma,

each moment of experience that is known by Knowing is Buddhadharma. 

You're waking up to that moment of experiencing and using that opportunity

to feel the breath,

to sit up straight, 
to open the eye gaze. 

You're using that moment of clear seeing,

you are practising that moment of clear seeing,
and of course when we practise anything,

we get better at it,

the more we practise anything,

the better we get at it,

including waking up,

including clear seeing. 

So bodyminds...

bodyminds enjoy being washed,

and we are very fortunate in tha
t
in order to accomplish this washing,
basically what we have to do is

walk into the washroom and turn a tap. 

Well it wasn't like that when I was a girl...
Some 60 years ago in a region not very far from here,
there was no running water in the house.
So of course, that meant that if nature called in the middle of the night,
it involved stomping out through crusty snow into a very cold area
where one did what was necessary.
And then for the washing after,
the washing the hands,
back to the house,
ankles red from boots that had filled with snow,
cracking the ice on a wash basin to wash hands. 

Now, where did that water in the wash basin come from?
Well guess what? I'm going to tell you. 

What happened was this:

a bucket, a galvanized bucket,

I am ten, eleven years old,

with a galvanized bucket in the middle of the winter, down to the river,

which had quite a current. 

Now, there were several other houses in that area,
so there was a communal hole in the ice,
and if the hole had frozen over,
a neighbour would have left an axe beside it. 

So, tromp, tromp, tromp out on the icy covering for the river,
bang, bang, bang:
cracking the ice,

putting the bucket through the hole in the ice, 
and then the wonderful shock as your arm almost got ripped from its socket
as the current of the water filled the bucket. 

It was all very very exciting! 

Then, the bucket of water back to the house:
trudge, trudge, trudge...

on top of the wood stove in a basin,

and then came washing. 

First the hair, then the face, then the body, then some bits of clothing.
We were very, very economical in our approach to the use of that water. 

But enough of that, enough of that,
things were worse and they are worse in lots of places in the world right now.

However, not for us,

and because of that, 
because things are so easy on the whole, that's right,
I said "easy",

now don't you feel ashamed for saying "it's all so difficult"? 

It's so difficult getting out of bed,

it's so difficult walking down the stairs,
it's so difficult doing these dishes... 

Things are easy:

walk into the washroom, turn on the tap, as much (most of the time) hot water,
water to your liking
 as you need! 

So, because of that,
we tend not to pay too much attention to what's going on around us,

but because we're practising,

we have the use of these forms, 
we have the use of these verses to help remind us that
in this moment, 
well, for one thing:

we are not

the centre of the universe. 

We never were,
but it's so interesting how a contraction into a sense of self really
believes that it is the centre of the universe,

it's the best thing that has ever happened,

and it's also the worst that has ever happened, 
and that can happen almost simultaneously,

but until we start to take the time to pay attention to our life as it happens,
wrapped around the breath of this moment,

we tend not to notice the obvious. 

Now part of sitting practice,

part of long days when you're doing

retreats or Dharma Assemblies,

or sesshin or O-sesshin

is that the body goes through natural cycles of fatigue,

and let's face it,

this whole body activity,

when it starts at 4:30 in the morning

and ends at 9:30 at night,

can make the bodymind a little tired.

So if you find that you are tired,

or you're just not with it,

or you're dozing off,

you can use the fact that you can walk into a washroom,
you can turn on a tap and water will come running out of it,
to help revive yourself. 

Now there actually are instructions about,
and recommendations about a sequence you can follow for helping wake up a bit: 

Put a small amount of cold water in a sink or basin.

Scoop up the water with both hands and rinse in sequence:

the forehead,

the eyebrows,

the eyes,

the nose,

the nostrils,

the chin,

and behind the ears.

Pick up a little more cold water and slap both cheeks simultaneously.
[the Sensei vigorously slaps both cheeks a few times]

It will help wake you up! 

Now, that doesn't mean that you're going to stay alert and rested,
the way you were after that moment of going...

[Sensei slaps cheeks again a few more times]
....
but it can help. 

So, the verse again: 

While washing the body,
"May all beings

Purify body and mind,
Inside and out." 

Now, Anzan Hoshin roshi has written: 

True purification involves not merely washing the bodymind with water, but with washing ki with kokyo, washing the student with the Teacher, washing space with space. 

Now of course this will mean different things to different students,
depending upon how their practice is in the moment.
People have been writing about these aspects of practice for a long time.
Dogen zenji was writing about it in the 1200s
and in the Senjo chapter of the Shobogenzo, Dogen zenji teaches that: 

Originally, neither water nor body is pure or impure. All things are suchness, as well, neither water nor body is originally moving nor immobile. All things, including the Teachings of Awake Awareness are thus. Water, therefore, cannot purify bodymind. Maintaining the Teachings and acting aligned with the dignity of the Shingi purifies bodymind. Thus, the body and mind of the Buddha and Dharma Ancestors is transmitted as this very body and mind, and through this we are actually able to see and hear the Teachings of the Buddhas and Ancestors. This purification is the actualization of measureless merit. The right time to truly practise the dignity of this body and mind is the moment when all of the timeless facets of complete activity exert themselves, thus, the essential practice of bodymind exerts itself. 

Anzan roshi: 

When we bathe in the midst of this moment, realizing that that which lives as us lives as all beings, we are always in the midst of all beings, and in the midst of that in which all beings and worlds arise. 

I'll repeat Joshu Dainen's verse again: 

Attention, attention.

All is always stainless,

Each form is always formless.

Aligning ourselves with the Way,

each dharma is always Buddhadharma. 

And it's that simple. 

Thank you for listening.