Showing posts with label Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho. Show all posts

 John Tan: "I really like the expression of this article and the quote from Dogen's Genjokoan. No preference and privileging of either -- water or moon's light; no over emphasis and extrapolation of water into ocean, instead the metaphor of "a single drop of dew dangling from a blade of grass" is used - the maha of vastness sky and radiance of moonlight in a dangling dew drop. So deeply intimate even though it is just a reflection. How long such a reflection will last? just consider the water's depth, the moon's light. Beautiful!"



The Touchstone 10: Serenity Is Not Special

by Ven. Jinmyo Renge sensei

Dainen-ji, June 21st, 2014

At any moment that you recognize that you are lost in thought or are propagating a feeling tone or a state, you can use that recognition as a prompt to come back to the breath and the body, seeing and hearing. Experiencing this moment with the whole body is practising an intimacy of experiencing that comes about only when you simply allow yourself to meet your experiencing as it really is.

Meeting experience as it is might be feeling the breath at the diaphragm and tanden, opening to seeing and hearing while chopping vegetables. It might be opening attention while pulling wads of who-knows-what out of the drain in the kitchen sink because it's not emptying properly. It might be a moment of opening to seeing and hearing and bodily sensation while listening to birdsong as you walk under the canopy of trees on the way to the monastery. Or you might find yourself opening attention while someone nearby is expressing frustration and anger. It might be feeling the breath at the diaphragm and tanden and opening to whole-bodily sensation and seeing and hearing while listening to falling rain, or it might be while measuring out medication for someone who is ill. You don't know, from moment to moment, what will happen, what will need to be done, what someone might say. Yet each moment of your life is a moment of breathing, of feeling, of seeing, of hearing. Each moment is always a moment in which you can simply allow yourself to meet experience intimately.

If you were not practising at all, you might still walk down this street and hear the birdsong and you might still have to pull wads of who-knows-what out of the sink drain when necessary. And you'd still be interacting with other people and their states. But if you are practising, the difference is that you can do each thing you are doing more fully and completely. You can do each task with the whole bodymind instead of doing them with a sense of resentment. You can recognize how your attention is as you do them and choose to release attention into the sensations and colours and forms and the doing of the task instead of recoiling and holding yourself at a distance from it.

Self-image -- or the process of contraction that gives rise to a sense of self -- would much rather think about what's going on than really engage in what is going on. This is because through contraction, the sense of a 'self' sets itself up as the 'knower' of experiencing, as a some 'one' who is separate from what is being experienced.

When you sit zazen you can see this process of contraction and separation quite easily. You might begin by following the instructions to stay with the sensations of the breath and body, to open to seeing and hearing and pay attention to where you are and what is going on. But a few minutes later, you begin to drift into a storyline, in which the sense of self can seem to be at the center of the storyline.

In zazen, again, and again, when you come back to the breath and body, and refresh your practice, you see the storylines fall apart because there is no "one" at the center of experiencing. There is just this moment and the details that present themselves as the exertion of this moment which are constantly changing. Our practice is to release contraction, and instead of recoiling, learn to meet experiencing as it actually is. This is why we begin with this very simple practice of sitting cross-legged in the posture of zazen, opening attention to all of the sense fields instead of ignoring them to pursue internalized states and stances. And this is why, when we practise Anapanasati, or mindfulness of the breath, we come back to the touchstone of the breath, we mark the moment with the touchstone of this breath. We touch the breath and ground ourselves in this moment.

Grounding oneself in this moment doesn't mean hanging on to the moment. It means letting yourself drown in the moment. If you try to hold on to the moment things can get quite complicated. So I will talk about that a little, because it is something that comes up in people's practice at one time or another.

In people's lives there is usually a lot they have to contend with that they don't particularly like. For instance, being bored at work; having to participate in social events they don't want to go to; being immersed in family issues that are not interesting to them.

Zen practice isn't about any of that stuff. But we are instructed to practice while those experiences are going on. So here's where a misunderstanding can creep in.

If you are practising Zen you will see more about your own states. And you will recognize more often when other people are in a state -- because you recognize some of your own. Now, all this stuff that was going on before you started practising - the boredom and arguments and family foibles and all of the rest of it -- that stuff is still going to be going on after you start practising. And what can happen is that you may make the mistake of trying to use your practice as a way of distancing yourself from all this stuff you don't really like.

So, for instance, there is a family member in front of you talking about an issue. It doesn't matter what the issue is. What matters is the stance you might take up relative to that person and the situation. If you recoil instead of releasing, this is not practising. It's taking up a stance about the situation and perhaps about the other person. And if you allow this recoil to continue, it can seem as though you are at a distance from what is being experienced, in a kind of special practice space that they don't share. Because, the story says, you're different. Because, the story says, you practice and they don't and that makes you superior and special. And if you allow this state and its story to continue, you may actually begin to feel quite serene about the whole thing. But what is being mistaken for a sense of serenity is actually a sense of flattening and withdrawal.

I do want to make it very clear that this has nothing to do with practising. This is merely the acting out of various patterns of contraction with a storyline about practice woven through them.

If you are in a social interaction and this comes up, open around it by coming back to the touchstone of the breath and actually do your practice. If you are in that situation it is because you agreed to put yourself in that situation. So be in that situation with the whole bodymind. If you don't wish to experience that sort of thing again, then you can change the activities you engage in. If you are in a relationship or are married, it is because you agreed to that. You can change that, but if you are going to change it then do it. Don't fence-sit, secretly holding yourself at a distance. Fully participate in your life and if you make a change, then fully engage in and take responsibility for that change. Don't use your practice as a way to avoid your life. This is not how a bodhisattva behaves - it is how self-image behaves.

When students make the mistake of recoiling from their own lives, and from the people around them, to some extent they will recognize that this is not good. And they will ask if Zen is devoid of feeling.

No, Zen is not devoid of feeling. If you are really practising, you will feel more, not less. But genuine emotion, real feeling, is a momentary flash. It does not colour or predispose, so it is not something you can hold on to.

In Anzan Hoshin roshi's translation of the Genjokoan, The Question of our Lives, Eihei Dogen Zenji says:

Gaining enlightenment is like the moon reflecting upon water; the moon isn't wet, the water isn't stirred. With all of its radiance, the moon can still be seen in a puddle. Full moon, vast sky, can both be reflected in a single drop of dew dangling from a blade of grass. Enlightenment does not disturb you just as the moon doesn't ruffle the water. You can no more grasp enlightenment than the dew drop can restrain the full moon, the vast sky. As deep as the drop is, so high is the moon. As to how long such a reflection will last, just consider the water's depth, the moon's light.

We cannot grasp enlightenment and we cannot grasp mindfulness. Mindfulness is only mindfulness if we are really allowing ourselves to meet our experience as it actually is in this moment. It's not something we can 'oversee'. We can only enter into it, moment after moment. It penetrates our lives like sunlight through water and the longer and more deeply that we practice, the more transparent we become. And being transparent to experiencing allows us to see that all experiences arise within a much larger space.

To be transparent means that there is absolutely nothing you can hang on to. It means that none of your thoughts are solid, none of your feelings are solid, none of your views or attitudes are solid.

So when you are practising formally or informally, at home or at work, interacting with other people, the same is true. Practise this transparency by coming back to the breath and body, by opening to seeing and hearing, and allow experiencing to present itself to you. With other people, let them be how they are and don't hold yourself separate from them. Again, if you don't want to be with them you don't have to be. But if you ARE with them and this is what you agreed to, then let yourself fully BE in that situation. Don't be half-assed. You can't sit up straight as the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors if you are half-assed. You need to practise with the whole bodymind, both legs, both feet, both hands, and arms and legs and ears and eyes and the nape of the neck and behind the ears.

You can't do other people's practice for them. Do your own practice. If you just do your own practice, it includes all people that you know, all of the things that you do, all of the colours and forms that you see. In doing your own practice you practise the moment and everything that arises together as the moment. Meet the moment intimately and wordlessly. Don't recoil. Release. In this way you embrace everyone instead of holding everything at a distance.

You can release grasping at them and being entangled by their grasps as well, by embracing them and everything in the intimacy of experience. You are not people's ideas about you and they are not your ideas about them.

Zen practise is not an idea. And it is certainly not the ideas you can have about your practice, many of which are quite contradictory. Zen practice is something that you actually do. And in actually doing it, it does you, it changes you. Not into a special version of you, someone who is not only more spiritual or wise than you were but more wise and spiritual and special than your family and friends. It changes you so that you can live your real life, be a real person instead of a story about yourself, and really meet others beyond your ideas about them. We will explore more of this next time.

Right now, let's sit.

by Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho

Dainen-ji, June 10th, 2006

Golden leaf
Not long ago it was spring and now it is becoming summer. From spreading roots, shoots and stems have appeared and now countless buds burst forth and blossom and then fall to the ground. In the monastery garden, the ferns have unfolded and now tower above spreading moss. Skunks and squirrels and hundreds of finches have come to drink from the stream along with a mother racoon and her young who also stopped by the front porch to investigate the Buddha rupa and offering bowl. And the Engleman ivy creeps up the building with small fingers that attach themselves to the brickwork.
Not long ago, it was night and now its morning. Not long ago, we began this Dharma Assembly and not too long from now, it will already be over. Not too long from now, someone will be listening to the recording of this Dharma Talk and I will have been dead for years. It all happens so quickly. This happening, this activity, this exertion of the reality of impermanence is all that is ever going on. Our practice is the practice of opening to this reality and realizing it as part of our own natures.
Virya, or exertion, is one of the six Paramitas. The Paramitas describe aspects of being Awake to Reality that unfold through the process of practice. You have to start off with some initial element of, say, generosity, exertion, and so forth, but they unfold dynamically as you actually practice. In the Mahayana schema there are six Paramitas:
Dana Paramita: generosity
Sila Paramita: Integrity or discipline
Ksanti Paramita: Patience or flexibility
Virya Paramita: Exertion
Dhyana Paramita: Zazen or practice
Prajna Paramita: Radical insight or perfectly knowing emptiness
Of these six, exertion is the most important Paramita because without exertion, nothing is going to happen. We will just sit around instead of actually sitting and doing the practice of realization.
There are many ways of understanding what virya is, such as "the sustained effort to overcome laziness"; vitality; enthusiasm; prowess and potency. But none of these understandings are adequate to what we need to understand through and within our practice.
In the book, "The Pathless Path", Zen Master Anzan Hoshin says about virya:
…Exertion may well be the most crucial of the Paramitas that we must develop. Without it, our practice can only be based on images and ideas, expectations and concepts. Exertion is like the fine steel of a sword blade. Without a strong blade, it does not matter how sharp or well-honed the edge is, because the blade will snap off at the handle as soon as it is drawn. In fact, without exertion, the blade will just stay in the scabbard.
To truly sever the confusion and duality of the usual mind with Manjusri's sword of Dhyana and Prajna we must be able to exert THIS fully, holding nothing back. If we do not sever the duality and strategies of the usual mind, then the seamless unity of the whole moment will never be lived.
In order to practice beyond strategy we must first see our strategies, not to follow them but to open beyond them. And so it is of utmost importance to stay with the instructions we have been given and refrain from making up and following our own version of the practice. Not propagating means not propagating any thoughts, feelings, theories and concepts about anything and this of course applies to our practice as much as it does any other topic that might come up while one is sitting. Thinking about practicing is not practicing. If you have not been specifically told to do something in your practice, then don't do it. Ask about it if something has caught your attention and you think it worth discussing, but don't experiment.
There are ten thousand strategies that we may attempt to apply to our practice, but in the end they all fall apart. For instance, hunkering down around the breath instead of using the breath as a touchstone from which to open to the whole of experiencing will just lead to more and more discursiveness. Students will also sometimes "watch" themselves practicing, as though following themselves around. If you follow yourself around, you will inevitably get in your own way. Continuously "assessing" one's "progress" is another pitfall that frequently comes up. Letting yourself passively drift into storylines and justifying this by occasionally checking to see if you are still breathing or if the wall is still there and then going straight back into the storyline is not exerting yourself in your practice. Over and over again I see students allowing themselves to fall into the same cesspools of confusion and torpor again and again. Don't just muck about in that stuff. Don't put your face in it. STAND UP from it. How do you do that? Sit up straight, Shut up. Practice.
The Roshi continues,
Exertion must be clean, it must be free of strategies and romantic notions about enlightenment and Buddhahood. There is no use gritting your teeth and locking your legs in full lotus and trying to pull yourself out of samsara and into nirvana.
There is simply nowhere else that you can be than right here, in this moment. Exertion does not imply some kind of spiritual gymnastics or punching out self-image.
Exertion is surrendering completely into attentiveness again and again. Exertion is being utterly straightforward with whatever arises. Exertion is doing whatever needs to be done, and doing so as completely as possible: taking a complete step, a complete breath, touching completely, hearing completely. This is complete and wholehearted practice.
Without this kind of exertion all of this would just be talk. We could say, "Oh yeah, everything is Buddha Nature inhering within itself. Don't struggle, just wake up." And we could go through the motions, sit on the zafu and stare at the wall for the prescribed number of minutes and bide our time. But what is time? Who is this?
Zen is "the direct transmission outside words and letters, pointing directly to the mind," pointing directly to the moment, directly to just this.
The wall exerts itself completely and directly as the wall. No doubts about it, nothing held back, nothing pushed forward. No matter whether you call it a wall or not, the wall exerts itself completely as what it is. This exertion is what the wall is.
Complete exertion is our practice, it is what practice is. Cutting through blame and fame, hope and fear, here we are. Breathing in, breathing out.
Without calling it samsara or nirvana, good or bad, self or other, let us exert ourselves completely in just this. If you are walking, walk; if you are talking, talk; if you are listening, listen. In complete exertion, in whole-hearted practice, the Buddha Dharma begins to exert itself. If we exert ourselves completely as this breath, then this breath will begin to exert itself. Seeing has its own intelligence, hearing has its own intelligence; you are redundant. All struggle drops away and we discover that we don't even have to try to know anything.
Everything is self-known without a knower, without a known. Limitless Knowingness begins to dawn and continues to blaze as the mandala in which enlightenment is continuously born.
This occurs nowhere else and in no other time than just this. So let us exert ourselves completely, practice completely, realize the Way completely.
Moment after moment, the world opened by practice extends in the Ten Directions, exerting itself as sun and rain and wind. It exerts itself as the pain in your knee and the pleasure of cool water on your face on a hot summer day. It exerts itself as the creaking of the floorboards on which you walk in kinhin. It exerts itself as the empty toilet roll that needs changing, the printer that won't print, the bill that can't be paid, and exerts itself as your job, your family and your friends. It exerts itself right now and in each moment as everything you experience. The world presents itself as rich, playful, ever-changing details.
You are not separate from the exertion of the world and the possibility of your Waking Up exists only because of the possibility of your exertion. Unless you exert yourself, you're not really sitting, you are just sitting around. But if you're pushing and pulling you're not sitting either. You are doing some weird meditation trip.
When we are really practicing, we are not making anything happen. We do not make the sensations happen or the colours and forms and sounds happen. They are already present. All that we need to do is let attention fall open to what is already the case. Sensations and colours and forms and sounds already exert themselves. When you release yourself into this exertion, you release yourself into that which exerts itself as you and exerts itself as the world.
In the teisho series, "Wild Time: Commentaries on Dogen zenji's "Uji: Being Time", the Roshi says,
Everything arises here and now.
It is not that this arising is a matter of here plus now.
Here is now.
Now is here.
It is not a matter of time plus place equals our experience.
It is now equals here equals is.
This is the exertion that you must release yourself into in order to realize who you are.
Without the exertion of you releasing yourself, nothing is realized, nothing is real.
All that you have are stories,
By releasing yourself into That which unfolds itself as everything,
which arises everywhere as everything, right now,
you realize this arising.
You are the realization of this arising.
Without the exertion that needs no one to do it,
that is done by no one at all
but is simply exertion exerting itself,
Nothing would arise.
We are open to the exertion of this moment only when we do not hold ourselves back or get in our own way by following tendencies and habits. Actually recognizing that a pattern is a pattern, that a tendency is a tendency, can be difficult. We have used patterns and tendencies to define ourselves and can sometimes find it impossible to believe that we can be any other way. But as Roshi says, "We are really only ourselves as we really are when we are open to reality as it is." And we can do this so easily. All that we need to do is actually sit when we sit. Just sitting around just won't do it. Just sitting back and hoping it will all work out won't do it.
Open to this breath. Now. Now. I mean it. Now. I really really mean it. Please? It's not just for your own good. There is no good that you can do without doing this. Look at this world. Read the newspapers. Or just actually listen to the nasty stuff you tell yourself about yourself. And about other people. It's terrible. The problem is that every body else is saying these terrible things to themselves about themselves and every one else. And they're out there: driving cars, shooting guns, buying shoes, having babies, ruling countries, writing code, playing music, cooking and eating and all of the things that affect every one and every thing else in the world. Someone has to do these things that doesn't have such a grudge about actually doing something clearly and completely and well. So, please, exert yourself. Exert yourself by just stopping. Stop that stuff. Just sit up straight. Now.
I mentioned before how quickly everything goes. Now this Dharma Talk is almost finished. Spring comes and goes, summer comes and goes, autumn comes and goes, winter comes and goes. You and I and all of us come and go. So let go. Let go INTO this coming and going. Exert yourself by not following yourself around and open to the ten directions all around you.
Now I've finished talking. You should stop talking to yourselves too. And so let's all sit.

Dainen-ji, November 17, 2017

Each moment unfolds as a display of richness, of colours and forms and sounds, as a myriad of sensations. Sincere practice is allowing the whole bodymind to live as the brightness of seeing, the depth of sound, as ever-changing sensations, as the Luminosity of experiencing as a whole. And when we allow ourselves to do even a measure of this, there is a quality of questioning, of interest, of intimacy with everything that is being experienced. But to do this requires that we choose to stop following the congealing of attention into fabrications that lead to further contraction and inevitably, suffering.
Anzan Hoshin roshi says, in the series of classes on “The 8000 Line Prajnaparamita sutra”:
Fear is the underlying mechanism of self-image, the attempt to reify reality in the most basic kind of way by simply freezing it and contracting. And the conventions of consensual experience or the experience of those who are unlearned, those who have not studied their experience, those who have not heard the Dharma, who have not practiced it, those whose lives are based on the understanding of a culture which is itself founded on contraction, will allow themselves to fall into that fear and will allow themselves to be held back by that fear from their own freedom.
What this points to is that we must wordlessly examine absolutely everything, taking nothing for granted: not who we think we are, not our memories, not what we think the body is, not what we think the mind is, not what our tendencies and habits tell us to do, not what our anger or fear is telling us to do. Any state you experience, any stance, any structure of attention you experience is not necessary. They are all recoil. They are all self-inflicted damage.
As the Roshi explained in Class 4 of the series “The Development of Buddhist Psychology:
All conditioned existence gives rise to dukkha or unsatisfactoriness, suffering, contraction, confusion; that this suffering, this dukkha, is fueled by the mechanism of grasping, of trying to hold on to something when it cannot be held and by continually misunderstanding the nature of our experience.
“Dukkha” does not describe one particular kind of state and the "suffering" isn’t necessarily traumatic or dramatic. I mention this because sometimes students will describe a particular kind of state, such as boredom, as dukkha. For example, a student might describe a state of sinking mind, of disinterest, when what they really mean is boredom, and boredom is the result of stupidity klesa. In other words, boredom is a way of experiencing that is poisoned by a flattening of attention that you are fabricating, following, propagating. It is a kind of pouting that one is not being entertained. It is not as dramatic as the tantrums of anger or grasping. But it is still a childish tactic.
But dukkha refers to all  states which are the result of conditioned experience, and all states create suffering, unsatisfactoriness and bondage.
The roots of the Pali word "dukkha" are "jur" and "kha." "Bad" and "space". The root metaphor behind this is the hole in a wheel through which the axle passes being blocked. So the word means obstructed space.
We need to learn that the space of who we are, which is present as seeing and hearing and just the fact of experience is already open. When you are in a state, you think you have no choice about that, but the truth of the matter is that you are not choosing. You are following compulsion. Choose to actually practise and open attention and the axle will turn freely.
It’s easy to cultivate states when you are sitting - states of boredom, states of calm, states of quiet, states of euphoria, shiny, shiny states. But all of these are dead ends because whatever is experienced within the state can only be the product of the state. The context is narrowed to the kind of content that suits it. And this is why such states can seem so convincing, and so compelling. This is why you fixate on them. There is no one who is better at lying to you than you are, and the thing that’s convinced by the lie is the same thing that’s doing the lying. It’s not magic once you understand how the trick works. The states define who and what is imagined as a self but is really just a process of obstruction and fabrication.
In Zen practice, however, what we are doing is attending openly, rather than fixating. You can’t ‘fix’ a state from inside of a state. You have to open around it and release it first. Anything you experience when attention is arranged in a structure (a state) is going to be biased and therefore cannot be true. Seeing these structures and learning to attend to them more and more openly with the whole of your experience is part of the many truths that zazen reveals. In the Class Six Outline in the series, “The Development of Buddhist Psychology”, the Roshi said,The Buddha has clearly seen that the root of dukkha was clinging to what  could not be clung to. This clinging was the result of conceiving of the impermanent and dynamic exertion of experience to be a collection of real and permanent objects and entities, believing that this clinging will bring pleasure and satisfaction whereas it results only in suffering and confusion, and that what is selfless and beyond the personal is self and personal. The succession of these moments of grasping and confusion he called “samsara”, the “flow”. He called the cessation of this useless struggle and strategic approach to experience “nibbana”, the “blowing out”. In many places throughout the early texts, we find the Buddha again and again asking students to give up their spiritual and secular strategies and just understand something so obvious that it is often missed.
This is why we ask students to sit according to a schedule, why the Roshi has said so often that “the schedule IS Buddha”. The dreaded committed sittings and the schedule you have promised to follow is important because you have to make choices that go beyond compulsion in order to do it. It is something in your life that will insist that you go further than your habits and tendencies dictate and can invite you into the world of the Buddhas. The world of the Buddhas is unfabricated and unborn and you arrive there by releasing yourself into it.
We sit zazen and we do this practice because moment after moment, we do not understand. Any snippets of understanding that come and go are not enough. We cannot afford to entertain ourselves with our states, our thoughts, our interpretations, our fabrications. These are all part of how we misunderstand and will not help us to clarify our understanding. We cannot afford to be lazy. So this morning and throughout this Dharma Assembly, please make the effort to really practise the richness of colours and forms and sounds, the nuance of sensations. Allow the whole bodymind to live as the brightness of seeing, the depth of sound, as ever-changing sensations, and as the Luminosity of experiencing as a whole, by opening all around, all at once.

Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho-ajari:…/touchstone-10-serenity-not-special

Self-image -- or the process of contraction that gives rise to a sense of self -- would much rather think about what's going on than really engage in what is going on. This is because through contraction, the sense of a 'self' sets itself up as the 'knower' of experiencing, as a some 'one' who is separate from what is being experienced.

When you sit zazen you can see this process of contraction and separation quite easily. You might begin by following the instructions to stay with the sensations of the breath and body, to open to seeing and hearing and pay attention to where you are and what is going on. But a few minutes later, you begin to drift into a storyline, in which the sense of self can seem to be at the center of the storyline.

In zazen, again, and again, when you come back to the breath and body, and refresh your practice, you see the storylines fall apart because there is no "one" at the center of experiencing. There is just this moment and the details that present themselves as the exertion of this moment which are constantly changing. Our practice is to release contraction, and instead of recoiling, learn to meet experiencing as it actually is. This is why we begin with this very simple practice of sitting cross-legged in the posture of zazen, opening attention to all of the sense fields instead of ignoring them to pursue internalized states and stances. And this is why, when we practise Anapanasati, or mindfulness of the breath, we come back to the touchstone of the breath, we mark the moment with the touchstone of this breath. We touch the breath and ground ourselves in this moment.

Sitting here right now, there are so many sensations that you could be noticing. You might have sat in this same room countless times before, and everything around you might seem to be as it usually is. But is it? You have never experienced this moment of experiencing before. This is ALL new. What does it feel like to be sitting here? I mean bodily? What sensations are you noticing? Your hands rest in the Dharmadhatu mudra, thumbs touching. Feel your hands. There are 48 named nerves in each hand, which includes 3 major nerves, 24 named sensory branches and 21 named muscular branches. That's a LOT of nerves and they're all working, all relaying information, moment after moment. And that's just one range of sensation. There are others.

You might sometimes think that it's easier for you to experience the ‘benefits' of practice in your informal practice. That's because things are more on your terms when you are not sitting. When you are sitting, you will often tend to get bored; you'll want to propagate storylines and states just to have something to lose yourself in. Or you'll want to try to attain some sort of ‘special state' to make yourself feel better, so that you can feel as though something is happening. There's nothing in any of that. This is what happens when you allow yourself to follow that basic sense of poverty that I referred to earlier.

When you are sitting on the zafu, open attention to the richness of experiencing presented by Samantabhadra. You have never been here. You have never breathed this breath or heard these sounds or felt these sensations. The beginning and the end of the Path meet at the touchstone of this moment of this breath, so feel the breath, and use the touchstone as a place from which to open to the richness and wholeness of experiencing.

The Touchstone 6: Not a Tourist

by Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho-ajari

Dainen-ji, August 24th, 2013

The breath is always immediate, simple, direct. This is why it is the touchstone for mindfulness. It is something you can open to anywhere, at any time, for as long as you are breathing. It's not even really something you "do". The breath is already going on and all that is needed is for you to release attention from the ways in which it is usually bound, in patterns of contraction and recoil, and attention can just open to it. Simply. Directly.

And the touchstone of mindfulness of the breath is a path to greater and vaster simplicity. Let go not only of what attention seemed to be bound within. Let go not only of the habits of discursive thought and daydreams; let go also of the strategies of attention of being someone who is being mindful of the breath. Let it be just the breath breathing the breath, in just this moment. Let mindfulness be mindful.

If there is the sense that you are watching the breath from above it, from somewhere up behind the eyes viewing down, you've taken up the stance of an 'observer'. When this happens, you're not entering fully into your practice. The 'observer' has little discrimination. Watching is watching, whether it's watching thoughts, watching feeling tones, watching theories, ideas, concepts, about this or that, watching the breath. It doesn't really matter to it what it's watching providing it gets to watch, because as long as it's just watching it doesn't have to really do anything. It doesn't have to take any responsibility, it doesn't have to engage in what is going on at all. It can seem to be quite removed from what is really going on, free to maintain whatever agendas it views as important while ignoring almost everything that is really going on around it. A tourist.

This is a quote from the Fukanzazengi: How Everyone Can Sit by Eihei Dogen zenji:

In this and all other worlds, in India or in China, every place is marked by the seal of Awake Awareness. Upholding the essence of this Way, devote yourself to zazen, completely do zazen. You might hear about ten thousand ways to practise but just be complete and sit. What's the point of giving up your seat to go wandering around in dusty lands and countries? Take a wrong step and you'll miss what's there.
You've got what you need, the treasure of this body and birth, so don't waste your time. Keep to this as the basis of the Way of Awake Awareness. Don't be attracted by just a spark from the flint. Anyway, your body is like dew on the grass, your life a flash of lightning; vain for a moment and then vanished in an instant.

You who are in this excellent Lineage of Zen, don't blindly grope only a part of the elephant or fear the true dragon. Put all of yourself into this Way which directly presents your own nature. Be grateful to those who have come before and have done what was to be done. Align yourself with the enlightenment of the Awakened Ones and take your place in this Samadhi-Lineage. Practice in this way and you'll be what they are. The doors of the treasure house will fall open for you to do with as you will.
We miss so much of our lives through being inattentive. As the Gokan No Ge, the traditional Five Remembrances Meal Chant, says, Delusions are many, attention wanders. No matter where you are, no matter the circumstances you find yourself in, if you are not attending to experiencing, if you are not questioning into the nature of experiencing, you are missing most of what is really going on.

A tourist doesn't gain real insight into the experiences of people living in other lands and countries. They skim the surface of experiencing, noticing only the coarsest details. People will often say they want to travel to this place or that because they want to experience a different culture. You can't experience a different culture unless you live within that culture for many years, forming relationships and interacting with people, speaking their language, eating their food, reading their books, listening to their music, engaging in all of the details within that culture to take on its characteristics so thoroughly that you know it inside out. That is understanding another culture. Anything else is just being a tourist.

Being a tourist in one's own life is one of the characteristics of self-image. Self-image is very concerned with how things appear to be so the most superficial details will tend to stand out. We learn to dress according to what we think is our 'part', we learn to speak our 'part', play our 'part', fit in. It's really not comfortable and we tend to complain a lot, but we don't really have any better ideas about how to go about it all so we go along with it. But if there is a glimmer of real questioning within all of this, eventually we may find ourselves sitting on a zafu, facing a blank white wall, coming back to the touchstone of the breath, in order to question further into what it is that we are really experiencing - past the expectations and associations and assumptions that make up so much of what we think of as 'our lives'.

When you come to the monastery to attend a sitting once a week as an associate student or perhaps a few times a week as a general student, it's easy to forget that practice isn't just about the round and a half of sitting you do in the Hatto or the Zendo. It's about the WHOLE of your life. What you see while sitting in zazen is how your attention tends to move towards and away from whatever is noticed - a thought, a feeling, someone on the other side of the room coughing; the sound of a bird, the breath, back to a thought, an itch, a reaction to the itch, a reaction to the reaction. And on and on. Attention waxes and wanes, closes down with contraction, opens, sinks, opens, sinks again and you fall asleep. And then you're wide awake, feeling the breath for a moment, then lost in thought. And so it goes, throughout the round just as it does all of the rest of the time, through all of your waking and sleeping hours. But the difference between what is going on when you are sitting zazen and what is going on for the rest of the hours in your day is that if you are making an effort in your practice, that effort is to be more intentional about how your attention is moving.

Now, when I say "that effort is to be more intentional about how your attention is moving" this doesn't mean that being intentional means directing, aiming or focusing attention. The intention that is needed is to release attention from exactly that directing, aiming and focusing you engage in most of the time. The intention is to release attention into reality, beginning with the simplicity of the breath. And by 'reality', in this context I mean simply something that is going on, something you can verify through your actual experience. You are breathing. That is unarguably true. So we start with something that is very simple and completely true. We come back to the touchstone of the breath as a starting point from which we can open to more of what is true of our experiencing. We are breathing, but we are also experiencing the sensations of the whole bodymind sitting. Those sensations are not something we make happen, they are already going on. All that we need to do is let go of continuously distracting ourselves with thoughts and feelings and release attention into the breath and the sensations of the body. The bodymind is also seeing. You can see the white of the wall. That is unarguably true. You are hearing the sound of my voice, the pauses between the words I speak.

These sensations, this breath, these sounds and colours and forms, the experience of the bodymind and the space in which the bodymind arises - this is your life. You are not a tourist, visiting temporarily to have some kind of special experience. The practice of your life is the practise of whole bodymind in this moment, just as it is. You've heard the expression Progress into the ordinary? Well this is what it means.

Tourists like to watch other people's lives. They like to just pass through without having to do anything. They pick and choose the kind of experiences they think they want to have, living temporarily in a kind of bubble that floats above 'ordinary' life which allows them to watch what is going on and interact with it as little as possible.

This is just like the sense of being a watcher that can obstruct true mindfulness. It is like just being a tourist in the land of Zen.

A point of interest about the 'watcher' is that it likes to believe that it is being very subtle, very covert. It's as though it were back and away from what is going on, off at a safe distance from which it can observe and generate various judgments and notions about what seems to be going on. All by itself, all very secretive. Sometimes people will refer to the movements of contracted attention that are really what this observer is, as their "innermost thoughts and feelings".

But through the process of mindfulness practice, one begins to realize that in fact there is no 'inside' or 'outside' and the appearance of a secretive "self" or "me" who is at the center of experience watching and making judgments is nothing more than the self-image attempting to set itself up as a 'knower', a voyeur, a tourist just passing through, who watches, makes judgments, but never really engages in anything that is actually going on. Because it doesn't really considers itself part of what is going on.

Now sometimes the observer will show up as that thing that seems to be looking over your shoulder making judgments about everything you do. "You shouldn't have said that, you sound like an idiot". Sometimes it will do replays of events that occurred previously, echoing them back to you over and over again, re-writing what you should have said or should have done. It likes to pretend it's much more intelligent than the rest of you is, much more worldly. But it's only AFTER the fact that it has anything to say. And that is a dead give-away. There's actually nobody inside of that thing that's doing the observing, no entity that is more intelligent or more knowing than you are the rest of the time.

For many people, taking up the contracted stance of an 'observer' is so habitual that they don't realize they are doing this most of the time. It comes up in dokusan, daisan and practice interviews with students quite frequently. An extreme example of this would be when a student is facing the Teacher or a practice advisor waiting for some kind of 'big' experience. Like a tourist waiting to be entertained.

I was an associate student when I first started having dokusan with the Roshi and I used to get into quite a lot of this in the beginning. I used to sit opposite him and as he spoke I would be coming up with all kinds of thoughts and opinions about what he was saying and how he was saying it and what it all meant about me and how I felt about it, whether I agreed with it, how it fit into what I thought I already understood, and on and on and on. All from up behind the eyes, in 'secret'.

What I didn't realize at first was that he was seeing all of this.

I don't mean that he was reading my mind or anything like that. Reading other people's minds even if it were possible would be very rude so he wouldn't do that. No, it was simply that he could see how my attention was. When attention is more open that is quite obvious. When it is contracted, that is quite obvious. Different kinds of contraction generate different kinds of textures that can be felt. And how a student responds or doesn't respond shows quite clearly how willing they are to be exposed to and and by the process of practice. Again and again and in so many ways the Roshi invited me to come out from my hiding places to meet with him and receive the Dharma. In some of my other Dharma Talks I've provided a few glimpses of exchanges I've had with the Roshi. Sometimes they were very uncomfortable; sometimes he could be quite fierce; sometimes very kind; but always in speech and action, through example, what I was being shown was the Dharma. I remember on one occasion a particularly snippy comment I made, which was I'm not learning anything. The Roshi responded simply by saying I am Teaching you, moment after moment in how I am. Pay attention.
The great debt of gratitude I owe my Teacher can never be repaid.

When you are called for daisan or a practice interview, the first question you are usually asked is How is your practice? This is first and foremost a reminder to practice, to really make use of the opportunity to meet with a monastic. A practice interview or daisan is meeting with the mind of practice. So it is about speaking from your practice, about your practice. Other topics may come up about your life or your activities outside of the monastery, but these are only relevant at all if the reason you are bringing them up is to clarify how you can practise with them. If you bring up something like your relationship with your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend or work concerns or health concerns or the state of the universe, there is nothing a monastic really has to say about any of this unless you are speaking about it from the mind of practice, with the intention to practice with the reactivity that comes up about it. It's important to understand that your practice is your life. Your life is not your practice, not unless you're practising with it. Difficulties you may experience in your life would be going on whether you were practising or not. They don't come up because you're practising. And what a Dharma Teacher or practice advisor can offer you in the way of advice about these is to really allow mindfulness to inform your decisions; to practise as continuously as possible. That is what we do; that is what we are trained to do; that is what we are here for and that is what we have to offer you.

In the teisho series, Entering Completely: Commentaries on Bodhidharma's "Two Entries and Four Practicesby Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi:

A thought comes up, and we think that we have thought it, even though we don't know where that thought has come from, or where it goes. We pretend that we have thought the thought. We pretend that we are the thinker. And we are coloured by the contents of that thought, as we propagate the next thought, and the next thought, and the next thought, and continue this game of dancing around pretending that we are the thinker, pretending that we are the contents of the thoughts. We bind our experiences together into lumps and heaps, into piles of junk.

We get up in the morning, and once we get over that moment of panic of the first opening our eyes and realizing that there's a world there, and we collect together all of our thoughts and feelings for the day. We start to ramble around inside of our head, feeling a grudge about this, feeling anxious about that. We wake up in our usual bed, in our usual way, get out of bed into our usual room, and wander around through our usual world for the day, looking for some kind of satisfaction someplace, something interesting to happen to cut through this usualness, this pettiness. Desperately searching for something to make us happy, or at least give us some sense of being alive.

And yet, things are not bound together, nor are you tied. Sounds come and go. Thoughts come and go. The world comes and goes over and over and over again. When a thought comes up it is instantly gone. It is impossible for you to hold onto a thought. It is impossible for you to hold on to a sound. It is impossible to find any place to hold on, let alone to be able to pile things up in ugly heaps.

The world is not usual. The world is amazing. The world exerts itself as world, simply for the fun of it. In our search for something to make us happy, we pass over this basic joyfulness that is existence. And so the reason it is not manifest is only due to being wrapped in external objects and deluded views. We have a deluded view if we think that the world is the same moment after moment. We have a deluded view if we think that we can hold onto anything. We have a deluded view if we think that we are anything at all. We have a deluded view if we believe in time and space and body and mind and self and other. We have a deluded view if we think that we have to become Buddha. We have a deluded view if we think that we are not Buddha. We wrap ourselves in external objects when we hope that something will make us happy. Wrapping ourselves in external objects does not just mean collecting cars, and houses, and mink coats. Giving up wrapping ourselves in external objects is not as easy as selling your property and going off to live in a cave. Ceasing to wrap oneself in external objects means to come out into the open, to stop hiding, and to come out and play.
Practise the simplicity and honesty of opening attention to things just as they are. Release the strategies self-image entangles you in by coming back to the touchstone of the breath. Do this as much as you are able while sitting in zazen and then follow through and practise mindful speech while meeting with monastics in daisan and interviews. And beyond that, practise this simplicity as often as possible the rest of the time too. You're not a tourist in your life or in the monastery or in your practice and this is not some 'spiffy Zen thing' you do now and then. This practice IS the practice of your life as it really is, beyond your ideas and interpretations about it. And as the Roshi would say, Please, enjoy yourself.

Related: Contemplating/observing breathing (观呼吸)

Someone asked me about practices and said that this blog does not have much specific information about practices... which is true. I told him my practices evolved according to my understanding and some of it is described in my e-book.

I also pointed out this article, as it is is similar to the practice I currently do.

The Touchstone 2: Countless

by Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho

Dainen-ji, January 26th, 2013

Breathing in, sky becomes breath. Breathing out, breath becomes sky. The breath comes and goes; thoughts come and go; feelings come and go; countless experiences come and go. Practising the posture of zazen, feeling into the countless sensations of the whole body sitting, feeling the breath and opening to the senses, we begin to understand, to experience directly, the vastness and richness of this life.

For moments here and there.

In truth, most students are really doing this practice of opening to Openness for only a split-second here and there in the course of a half-hour sitting round. It's not that you couldn't do this more continuously, that your practice couldn't be more open and clearer, but only that habitual patterns and tendencies are strong and attention will tend to follow them. Habitual patterns of attention are rather like dry channels that have been cut into a landscape by streams of water. Just as water will follow channels in the ground, your attention will tend to fall into and follow the narrow channels of habit and tendency instead of opening to richness.

So for a moment you may be sitting zazen, and you really are feeling into the sensations of the body sitting in an aligned posture, feeling the movement of the breath at the diaphragm and tanden, feeling your hands in the mudra, your legs crossed, your backside on the zafu. Peripheral vision is open and you are hearing whatever sounds there are that present themselves, and then a thought comes up: "I have a hole in my boot. I'm going to have to put my wet sock back on and my boot and it's going to be cold and nasty. Damn, I've got to remember to go look for new boots. I hate shopping and I don't want to spend money on boots. I'm saving for a new phone. Oooh, a shiny new phone. The breath. Right, the breath. I have to feel the breath. But oooh, that phone. No, feel the breath. Right. Breathing, breeeeeeathing....hmmm. There's a hole in my boot."

Of course, that's a very brief description of something that could come up. But sometimes these channels are cut very deeply and the compulsion to follow them is quite compelling. It could be about one's child or husband or wife, or an illness or a situation at work or financial difficulties, some past event, or what to make for supper. Thoughts and feelings come up simply because they can and they'll go on for as long as you focus on them and give them attention.

Attention can be round and wide, or it can narrow and congeal. The tendency is to focus attention and allow it to congeal into knots of contraction. These knots can vary in duration, from a few moments to hours, days, weeks, months, even years of contraction. And they can be about anything. I'll just mention here that what seems 'light' or 'open' to you may not be light or open at all. It's just as easy to be contracted over thoughts about what enlightenment might be like as it is to be contracted over breaking up with your girlfriend. Contraction comes about through a narrowing of attention, a congealing, directing and focusing of thought and feeling that becomes increasingly internalized.

Most people don't really question into what the process of contraction is, what really happens. But some do recognize that there is this tendency for people to become very scattered and spaced out or to become overly focused, obsessed with thoughts and storylines and feeling-tones. And this has given rise to many techniques and strategies designed to calm the mind and control the scattering or the focusing.

Any strategy or 'technique' you apply to bodymind already has an agenda because it is the product of the presumptions underlying how you experience the world and yourself which are themselves products of the process of locating a sense of a "knower" or "self-image", an "I". The agenda is to strengthen the sense of an "I" or a "self" that is "doing" the practice. If you engage in such practices, what you will actually be doing is practising self-image and if you practise self-image, what you end up with is self-image.

If you truly want to Wake Up, YOU need to get out of the way and allow the bodymind to sit as bodymind. You need to shut up and attend to what is already going on and allow the countless experiences to reveal themselves as the Total Field of experiences as the radiance of the luminosity of Experiencing itself. The bodymind is already breathing and it doesn't need your help, your direction, or any interference from you. It doesn't need you to concentrate on it or regulate it or count it. All that you need to do is feel into the breath at the diaphragm and the tanden but don't stop there. Use the breath as a touchstone, a place from which you can open to the whole of experiencing.

Recently I had a conversation with a student about a technique they had encountered, called something like 'conscious breathing'. This involved following the instructions of a recording and deliberately regulating the breath by focusing on it and counting it. Counting the breath is a practice used widely by many groups and organizations and students sometimes ask me why we don't use it, so I will explain. I have done this practice of counting the breath. In fact, earlier on in my own practice, the Roshi instructed me to do it for a time so that I would understand it and would be able to explain to students why we don't do it. Its aim is to settle and calm the mind by directing attention to a point of focus -- the breath and the counting. This will have the effect of seemingly 'calming' the mind, but it's important to understand what's really going on. You're not stupid and attention is not stupid. If you focus on something, what you are doing by focusing is seemingly making whatever it is that you are focusing on stand out or light up. It seems to become bigger, more important. It's much like looking through a telescope - something far away seen through the lens of a telescope looks much bigger than it is in real life. A cow standing on a distant hillside looks the size of Godzilla. But if you take the telescope away from your eye and see it in context, you'll realize you can barely see it, it's so small.

When you focus on the breath and count it, you're trying to limit experiencing to only the in-breath and the out-breath and the numbers. Those details can seem 'lit up' or much bigger, much more important than anything else because you've thrown a huge circle of darkness on everything around them. If you do that, you will be practising focusing. Of course the mind seems to become quieter -- as I mentioned previously you're not stupid and attention is not stupid.

If you force the mind to pay attention to only one or two details of experiencing, you're numbing it. You're deliberately choosing stupidity. You're putting up a wall of attention to exclude everything else. But what will happen outside of your dull little place of quiet is that the patterns of attention that spawn all those pesky thoughts and feeling tones are regrouping and when your wall crumbles, which inevitably it will, they'll come back with a vengeance. Traditionally, it's compared to holding an empty gourd under water; when you let go of it, it pops back up to the surface and bobs about wildly.

You see, it's not the scattering that's the problem, it's the focusing. When you focus attention on one thing, you do that by excluding everything else. You become so used to focusing on one thing and then another, that if something comes up unexpectedly, it throws you off balance. Your attention becomes less and less flexible, less and less able to open to life as it actually is, full of interruptions and surprises, and change.

A single moment of seeing a thought rise and fall as you open around it is worth years of counting the breath. Why? Because counting the breath or applying any other strategy to the breath will not show you anything about how attention moves towards and away from what is noticed, including thoughts and feelings. You're just swapping one set of thoughts - your storylines - for another set of thoughts, counting and concentrating on the breath.

In Anzan Hoshin roshi's book on the Buddha's Satipatthana sutta, "The Straight Path: Zen Teachings on the Foundations of Mindfulness", he says,

The practice is not to concentrate on the breath, but to just breathe the
breath. If you try to "concentrate" on the breath, what will happen is that you will
abstract yourself from the actual situation. You will create some kind of special
realm and you'll enter into conflict with yourself by trying to screen out what is
really just your own life. So, just sit and breathe the breath. When you get lost in
a thought, or in a feeling, you have separated yourself from the rest of your
experience. So when you have noticed this, gently return to this moment of
breathing in or breathing out.

He also says:

The practice is actually just being aware. It is not really about following the
breath or trying to produce some kind of feeling tone of "being one with the
breath." Zazen is the practise of experience as it actually is. This begins with
being mindful, and so you are using the breath to be reminded of that and to
show you what your mindfulness is like. Just sit and breathe. Do not try to
concentrate on your breath. You are not trying to make any particular mental
state happen, you are just seeing what's happening by looking into the breath.

Although some contemporary Soto Zen Teachers, especially those in the West, might have counted the breath and now instruct their students to do this, our own practice is based directly on Eihei Dogen zenji's foundations and those Awakened Ancestors who have come before him.

In the Eihei Koroku, Dogen zenji says,

In our practice the most essential matter is sitting in the correct posture. Next it is important to release the breath with a calm mind. In the Narrow Path there are two ways of doing zazen. The first is counting the breath and the other is to contemplate the body as impure. So a practitioner of the Narrow Path would control the rhythm of the breath through counting the respirations. However, the practice of the Awakened Ones and Ancestors is completely different from the Narrow Path. A Discourse says," You should never follow styles of practice of the Narrow Path which are based upon 'cultivation'. (EK 2:97)


The Shibunritsu and Kusha schools that are active in Japan currently are of this sort. The Vast Path way of balancing the breath is just to know that a long breath is long and a short breath is short. Breath rises and falls at the lower belly. Breathing in is breathing in and breathing out is breathing out. However the breath is, breathe in and breathe out from the lower belly. When you breathe in this way through the belly, the impermanence of your life becomes clear and the mind stills itself. (Eihei Koroku 2: 96)

And so in "The Straight Path", Roshi also says,

The body breathes. It breathes in and it breathes out. Begin with this. Know this moment of breathing. Attending to the breath, attending to the body, attending to movement, attending to sitting, standing, walking, or lying down, is attending directly to the experience of body. To see directly the rising and falling, the coming and going, the birth and death of each moment, is the Straight Path. So we begin with this body, we begin with this breath.

Note that he says "So we begin with this body, we begin with this breath". He doesn't tell us to focus on the breath or follow it or concentrate on it. Instead he is pointing to the practice of feeling into the breath and body, in the same breath, at the same time.

Just feel this breath as it is. Without focusing on it, without counting, without manipulating it, just breathe. Open attention to the sensations of the breath, but simultaneously open to the rest of the sensations of the bodymind sitting; open to seeing and hearing; open to as many details of experiencing as you are able, all at the same time, all in the same breath. Do this now, in this breath. And now again. And now again. At first it may seem very effortful, but that is because your attention is used to jumping about like a spoiled child. It has to learn to attend, to be available to the open intelligence of the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors. It has to learn to be a 'big person' instead of a petulant child. And as you practise this, coming back to the breath again and again with each breath, practising this 'Beginner's Mind", over time you will find the gaps in your mindfulness will shorten.

Then you will begin to see what gives rise to those gaps, how they happen, how you get lost. But that will be for the next Dharma Talk.

As I mentioned in the previous Dharma Talk in this series, paying attention to the sensations of the breath, the real details of the real breath as it really is just brings about what is actually going on. It is not a matter of drilling down into the sensations to dig up some special thing, some kind of hidden ore that will make us spiritual or saintly. Or to construct some miracle device out of them that can let us float above our real lives. The simplicity of the practice is so honest and direct that it allows us to be really honest and direct.

Breathing in, sky becomes breath. Breathing out, breath becomes sky. You have never experienced this breath before. Earth and water, wind and breath, nothing held and no grasping. Just breathe and experience this measureless moment with the sensations of fingers and toes and belly and spine and colours and forms. Attend to what already is.

Dharma Assembly: Too Intimate to be Personal

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho

Dainen-ji, June 11, 2011
Intimacy is simply being open to the intimacy of experiencing which is already present and always available. This is what Zen practice actually is: opening to this openness, being a bodhisattva.

Intimacy is the recognition that everything within your life is alive AS your life. Every moment of experiencing, regardless of how you feel about it, regardless of what you think of it, is this intimacy, and everything you experience points to this intimacy whether you recognize it or not. Zen practice is seeing how we turn away from this intimacy and releasing this contraction.

On your way into the monastery this morning, you walked through the Sanmon, the Mountain Gate, and up the stone path. On either side of the stones of the path, an array of colours met your eyes as the many different greens of ferns and moss, the small flowering plants and ground cover.  The air in the monastery grounds, cooled by the water in the ponds, is cooler than the air down the street. Did you feel how it was soft on your skin? And as you walked on the path, step after step, you were being observed by countless birds from overhead branches or from inside the thick hedge, calling from all directions. Perhaps you noticed some of these details. Perhaps you were so caught up in just ‘getting into the building on time’ that you missed most of this.Perhaps you were even thinking about what you would do after you left or what was happening before you came or even last week or something that has never happened and never will.  In any case, whether you were allowing attention to open to those details or not, there was intimacy with your life. The question is, how intimate were you with your life? How responsive were you? If your attention was folded down into contraction, you will have noticed very little about that walk up the pathway. So you see, this intimacy we are speaking of is not something you are ever denied, it is something you can choose to open to.

You don’t have to wait for experiencing to be arranged in a certain way or for you to be interested in how experiencing is to open to this intimacy. Even when you are not feeling well, when you’re tired or grumpy, you can still be intimate with experiencing. You can have a pounding headache and still open attention to the context in which you and the pounding of your head are taking place because you are aware of the headache. The question is - what is it that is aware? How is it that you are aware of anything at all? If you have a headache, trying to manipulate it with your practice isn’t going to cure it. Take an aspirin if you want to change it. But while it’s going on, practise with it. Practice isn’t about manipulating experiencing so that you can limit and contain it and only experience what you want to experience. You can’t control reality. You can influence it, but if your attention is contracted, you will inevitably influence it in ways that will deepen contraction.

Wanting to manipulate experience by turning practice into a strategy or a formula is a misunderstanding that beginning students in particular fall into. This strategizing comes up while sitting zazen, but also when you’re not sitting. It comes up concerning work issues such as dissatisfaction with a job or a career, or a living situation, but also with more personal issues such as relationships. This is why you spend so much of your sitting time pondering these issues - you think that if you just spend enough time thinking about them, you’ll reach some state of perfect mental clarity and you’ll know exactly what to do; you’ll have the formula for it, the cure. And of course, the fact that all of this is only going on inside your head and reality is not inside your head is something that you will tend to overlook when you’re really caught up in it.

Because you spend so much time thinking about strategies and designing formulas for yourselves, topics of this sort will also come up from time to time in practice interviews and daisan. It’s not that this is a problem - far from it, students are welcome to bring up any topic they wish to discuss in interviews and daisan. But I think it’s important to understand how limiting this can be.

If you ask a practice advisor to tell you how you should respond to your boss or your significant other when they say or do this or that, yes, the practice advisor could probably put together a response that would be very clever. But the problem is that if they were to do that, all they would be giving you is one of many possible solutions to this particular problem and it’s not YOUR solution. You won’t have learned anything from that. Why? Because what you’ve asked for is a formula that will only work in a very specific set of conditions. The next time an issue comes up, that formula won’t work because the circumstances will be different. And there’s no guarantee that it will work anyway, because the practice advisor or Dharma Teacher is not IN that situation and does not know all of the details of it.

What we can do, however, is talk about the habitual patterns that people tend to fall into so that they can recognize them and avoid certain pitfalls.

Everyone wants intimacy but there are many things people call ‘intimacy’ and most are not  intimate at all. Many are what you settle for when you are not really being intimate with your life - the touchy-feelly kind of intimacy people try to share that comes and goes and goes and is gone more often than it is present. There are many patterns people engage in around this, so I will bring up a few of them.

Relationships aren’t all they’re made out to be. As Anzan roshi has often pointed out, ninety-five percent of the time you’re trying not to get in trouble with the other person. Another five percent can be nice or kind of nice, or just slightly better than not being in trouble. And for the last five percent, which is spread throughout, you’re in trouble. This is not intimacy, it’s the result of following habitual patterns that involve a lot of ‘leaning’.  People who are in intimate relationships do tend to lean on each other a great deal and I don’t mean the kind of leaning one does with an injured hip. No, the other kind of leaning - wanting someone to prop you up, jolly you out of your states or distract you from them. When people are sad or angry or confused, there is the expectation that the other person will be available to hear their stories, sympathize with them and try to make them feel better and this can become more than a full-time job, it can become a life-long job. Even if there is something really serious going on, your first obligation as concerns your states, is to work with them yourself. Looking to another person to do this for you is sheer laziness. When both parties do this to excess, their time together is spent primarily looking at each other, continuously trying to gauge the kind of states that are present, day after day after day.

If I were to use a metaphor for good and bad relationships, it would be this: There are two people walking down the street together and as they walk, they are looking at the sky, the ground, the trees, the buildings and perhaps commenting on those. Or they might talk to one another about possibilities that may unfold for them or they may just walk together in silence. But they are attentive to the details of the walking, of their surroundings, and that of course includes each other, but without an enormous sense of problem. A bad relationship is like two people walking down the street but they are seeing nothing but each other. They watch each other, continually worrying about what the other is thinking, what facial expressions might mean, wondering what is going on in the other person’s mind, wondering about their relationship, wondering “do you love me?” which is stifling and claustrophobic.

Relationships with other people, be it with a significant other or family members or friends, provide us with countless opportunities to notice how the three klesas determine for us the criteria by which someone is worthwhile or not. If your attention is bound up by habitual patterns of contraction, then these will dictate how you view other people. Again, first and foremost, it is your responsibility to work with your own states and habitual patterns. Because these are so habitual and you feel so justified in propagating them, your attention becomes consumed by them and it is very difficult to for you to recognize that they are even present unless you make the effort to open attention. And I mean as much of the time as is possible. Any state you experience has one agenda and that is to continue itself. Practice is about interrupting states. It’s not convenient and it is never habitual. It requires an effort to open to reality in the midst of your life. But there is time to do this and there is space in your life to practice. If you can find the time to spend as much time as you do lost in habitual thoughts and feelings, you can find the time to practice.

The intimacy people wish to find in their relationships does not begin as romantic engagement. It doesn’t start with becoming personal with another person. Real intimacy is intimacy with your whole life and it is only to the extent that you can be intimate with your own life that you can be intimate with the life of another. I think this is really quite obvious. If your attention is so folded down that you are spending a good portion of your time lost in storylines and feelingtones and strategies, you make yourself unavailable and unresponsive to reality. Other people are not your thoughts and feelings about them.

If you are in a relationship that was formed on a weak foundation and you practice, it may fall apart. And that won’t be because practising will make you cold or indifferent. It will be because you will begin to understand what intimacy really is. If you are in a relationship that was built on a strong foundation and practise it will become even stronger, even more intimate. The reason for this is that intimacy is too intimate to be personal. The intimacy of the bodhisattva, of one who is opening to openness is not just intimacy with another person, it is intimacy with the whole of one’s experiencing. It includes other people but is not dependent on other people. And this intimacy is something you can practise right now.

When you are sitting and choose to open past your storylines to feel the actual contact of thumb against thumb, you are practising intimacy. A step in kinhin is intimacy with the sensations of the foot, the texture of the floor beneath the foot and the coolness of the air that passes beneath the foot as it is lifted to take the next step. And further, opening attention to the whole bodymind, balanced and at ease, intimate with the sensations of the warmth and weight of the hands held in shashu resting against the diaphragm, feeling the breath come and go; moving through the space of the room; opening to the seeing as you move through the space and the space moves past you and intimate with the space of experiencing in which all of this is occurring, When you pay attention to the sensations of the bodymind, the sounds you are hearing and the colours and forms you are seeing, you are opening past self-absorption - this same self-absorption that limits and constricts the relationships you have with other people. This intimate practice of zazen shows you how your attention abstracts and recoils from present experiencing so that you can release contraction and become intimate with the life that lives as all lives, as your life.

There is much more to look into concerning these topics and we shall continue to do so in the next Dharma Talk.
Session Start: Friday, 30 April, 2010

(9:38 AM) Thusness: The tata is very good. The Stainless is also good but just to be picky... the 'it' must be eliminated...stainlessness is the ungraspable of the arising and passing phenomena. Without essence
and locality of any arising...nothing 'within or without it'.
(9:38 AM) Thusness: all the expressions in what u quoted are excellent.
(9:38 AM) Thusness: and all those phases of insight is to get u to what's being expressed. 🙂
(9:38 AM) Thusness: and all those phases of insights are to get u to what that is being expressed in the tata and stainless articles. It is the place where anatta and emptiness become obsolete. 🙂
(9:38 AM) Thusness: put this in the blog...great expression

Also see: Stainless

Dharma Assembly: "Tada!"

Dharma Talk Presented by Ven. Jinmyo Renge osho
Dainen-ji, October 24th, 2009

People have all kinds of expectations, not only about how their lives will be, but how today will be, or how this moment will be. But reality is not an idea. It is what it is. Tada.
In the colder autumn air, the trees are changing colour and fallen leaves line the gutters of the streets. And seeing this, we know winter is coming. But although most of us sitting here today have seen this happen again and and again, year after year after year, we don't really know what the cold of winter will actually be like. We have memories of cold fingers, the sound of snow crunching underfoot, memories of having to put on many layers to protect ourselves from an icy wind. But memories of cold are not the reality of cold. It is what it is and we will know cold when it is...cold. Tada. And now, before the snow comes, we see the colour fading from our immediate world as the trees lose their leaves and bare branches stand out black against a graying sky. And mixed into, and swirling along with the leaves in the street, are discarded paper cups, gum wrappers, used Kleenex and the odd sandwich wrapper. All swirling in the wind. Is it beautiful? Is it ugly? Neither. Is it good or bad? Neither. It is Tada.
"Tada" is a Japanese word that means "Just, exactly, of course, just as it is." It is sometimes, as in the Teachings of Eihei Dogen zenji and Anzan Hoshin roshi, used as a synonym for the more techincal term "immo" or "tathata" in Sanskrit, which means Suchness. Suchness is the reality of all dharmas, all things or experiences. The "actual nature" is another technical term for this. It means that each thing is sunya or empty of all of our ideas about and knowledge of anything, that it is impermanent, that it is the radiance of the Luminosity of experience.
Impermanence is so blatantly obvious. We see our grandparents die, and as we ourselves age,we see our parents die. We see other people around us die. We know that all around the world countless people die every day. But when someone close to us dies, we are so surprised. We are surprised when our relationships change, when the economy changes, when our environment changes and we are surprised that we have to change and that what we do has to change because of these changes. We are surprised when we become sick, surprised when we let things slide and difficulty ensues. And most of this surprise is due to a conflict that comes about when our ideas about reality do not match up with what reality actually is. Reality is Tada: Things as they actually are. Suchness. Tada.
That itch behind your ear? Tada. That's it. The sensation of your hands resting in the mudra? That's it. The moisture you feel on your tongue? That's it. The movement of the breath? Just as it is. The form of the person sitting next to you? That's it. The release in your neck and spine when you straighten your posture? That's it. The sound of my voice and the quiet pauses between words? Exactly so. In the moment of Waking up from a thought, the recognition that streaming thoughts that can never settle on any one definitive "truth" because all that they can ever be is a continuously changing streaming? That's it. Tada.
The details of each thing stand out clearly and distinctly just as they are and experiencing is new and fresh, moment-to- moment. There is no need to embellish, to ponder, to strategize or hold on to anything whatsoever because each thing that is known is simply being known as detail arising within the Knowing of it. Tada. So simple.
But, of course, if you let attention narrow and focus, the distortion that focusing will produce is far from simple. We make such a big deal out of our stuff....
We can make a big deal out of a yawn: "Y-AAAAAAAAAAAAA-W-N".
Out of a sneeze "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-Choo!"
Out of a sensation "I have a....headache"; "I'm tired", "My knee hurts".
Out of a feeling tone (whiny, plaintive voice) "Oh but I thought I was supposed to....". "But you told me..."
Out of a stance "I'm right and I know I'm right and that's all there is to it".
Out of a petty memory: "I remember when you did that thing and how it made me feel and I will never, ever forgive you".
We can make a huge deal out of having to get up in the morning.
Out of having to go to bed at night.
Out of having to eat when it is time to eat.
Out of having to go to work.
Out of having to wait for a bus,
Out of which seat we get on the bus,
Out of simply having to sit down or stand up.
We make a big deal over the simplest of tasks.
Before we do them: "Ugh I have to do yada".
While we are doing them: "Ugh, when is this going to be finished?"
And even after we've done them "I did SUCH a good job of that. Never has such a good job been done of that thing by anyone, anywhere, and everyone else should acknowledge that."
We make a big deal of how we look at other people and how they look at us because we think it all "MEANS" something. It "MEANS" something about "ME".
"I am so sad. Look at my mournful eyes, so deep and full of feeling".
"I am so angry, look how I GLARE at you". (that one can be pretty funny).
"I am sick, look how haggard I am, how near death I am".
Just stop with the "yada yada yada." Just tada. Just practise.
But we can make a big deal out of anything and everything, including our practice. We can make such a big bloody deal out of being mindful that instead of just practising it's ME practising. Tadaaaaaaaa!
But that's the wrong kind of tada. The richness, the dignity, the intimacy of our experience just as it is, without all of our fabrications and contractions and manipulations is inconceivable. It is literally and completely beyond concepts and ideas and stories. In order to realize this, we need to just let go of our habits of attention in all of the ways they are manifested by body and mind.
The Roshi has pointed out that a sense of a "me" is more directly and basically a "sense of locatedness" and that along with it there is a directionality, as it can seem to us that attention moves from a central point, a "me", out and towards experiences. When this sense of locatedness first begins to form, it is the wordless presumption that knowing moves from "here" to "there" in order to know. And yet, this sense of locatedness as a self can itself be known and so obviously cannot be a "knower" or a "self". It is a freezing or crystallization of attention which is much like a frame and from this frame, attention seems to move out and towards what is known. This is why instead of just practising, it can seem to us that there is a "ME" that is practising.
In Rhythm and Song, a series of teisho on Dongshan Liangjie daiosho's text the Hokyo Zanmai, Anzan roshi recounts many mondo-kien or encounter dialogues between Great Master Dongshan and his students. One student was Xuefeng, who much later became a great Teacher after receiving Transmission from Deshan who unlike Dongshan did not mind beating students with his staff. But while he was studying with Dongshan, Xuefeng was still full of himself and full of ideas about Suchness and emptiness. Here is one story:
Once Xuefeng was carrying a bundle of firewood. When he arrived in front of the Master, he threw the bundle down.
The Master asked, "How heavy is it?"
Xuefeng said, "No one in the world can lift it!"
Dongshan asked, "Then how did it get here?"
Xuefeng didn't know what to say.
Poor Xuefeng. What a tool. He was a tool because he was trying to use everything around him as equipment to aggrandize himself. Even a bundle of firewood. Even the simple act of carrying it. For him even samu, caretaking practice, was about the profundity of his idea of his understanding of emptiness. What a tool.
In Rhythm and Song, Anzan Hoshin roshi calls out to us from what all of the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors of our Lineage have realized and practised,
Intimacy is revealed when we release. We release when we realize that there is nowhere apart from us that we can drop away all of the things about ourselves that we wish were not the case; all of the thoughts and feelings and strategies that at times we are so tired of, and at others, so convinced of.
It is not as simple as that.
It is much, much, easier than that.
It is the simplest thing.
Nothing is true about us. Our nice thoughts do not make us nice. Our devious thoughts do not make us devious. Our bad thoughts do not make us bad.
A thought cannot make anything.
There is nowhere to hide because there is no need to hide.
There is nothing that is true 'about' us because we are that which is true. We are that which presents itself everywhere as everything and yet is itself nowhere at all, no thing at all.
You are this deep intimacy.
Where have you been?
So please join me in not just saying, but in actually being: Tada.