Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Transcribed from a talk given Tuesday October 27, 2009. I started using Dragon Naturally Speaking for transcribing recorded talks, and it really is amazing.

If you would like to listen to this talk on a podcast, simply click the title of the post or you can click HERE.

Who are you? Without opening your mouth... without referring to something else, some act that has happened in the past, right now, is there anybody that can answer this question, that can respond? Who are you? (Ven. Doshu strikes the ground) Ah...Doshu...that's one!

Each of us, when we're asked this question immediately we begin to think, "who am I?" I had an interesting experience as I was sitting just in the corner there, paying attention. The plant light was behind me, so in my field of vision was this black shape with big ears... "Me"... "this is "me" making the shadow". A few minutes into the sit, the light shut off and I disappeared.

Each of us, when we think of ourselves, take ourselves as being something that's fixed. Something that's solid. Something that's permanent. We buy the story that we tell ourselves. We grasp it entirely and cling onto it. Failing to recognize that this thing, this "I", this person that we identify ourselves as, is entirely dependent on everything else in this world.

Think about it. Is it possible to talk about who you are without reference, without talking about something else, something that's happened in the past, some direction that you're headed in the future, some relationship that you have? When we're looking for the self as an object, there is no way that we can find it.

What are we doing when we're sitting here practicing? People come for all kinds of different reasons. Things are getting stressful, things are, my mind is very busy, and maybe my doctor told me I needed to meditate or something like this. The practice that we're engaged in, in Zen meditation, is paying attention to this moment.

I often use this term "this moment" and I think that sometimes people take "this moment" as being a place, something that's fixed. But when I'm talking about this moment, I'm talking about something which is not solid, which is not a place. It's an activity. The activity of this moment, which is unfolding before us all the time, new. Which is being born, and dying, in each moment.

And so when we come to practice, we take it as "I" (being a solid fixed thing), coming to experience "this moment" (which is a solid fixed thing). So when I ask this question, "Who are you? Without opening your mouth, who are you?", there is no place for you to stand. There is nowhere for you to point. There is nowhere for you to look, except into the activity of this moment, into what it is that you're doing right now.

There is no "You" in the past, there is no "You" in the future. You have no life outside of the unfolding activity of this moment. So, if we look at things in two dimensions, if we look at things as being flat; subject-object, we can talk about this practice that we're engaged in as "ME" doing "SOMETHING". As this definite "I" engaging in an objective practice, "I'm sitting looking at the floor". This is a very simple, a very confused way of understanding what is taking place.

What we are asked in this activity of zazen, Zen meditation, is to let go into... to dissolve into the experience of the unfolding activity of this moment. The activity of sitting is not an objective activity that "you" are doing. This idea of "YOU" and "ACTIVITY" is a false one. Without you, where is the activity? Without the activity that's unfolding in this moment before you, without this practice of sitting, where are "you"?

These things that we call lives, are nothing other than the unfolding activity of this moment. Moment, after moment. These aren't discrete little frames, like a movie, but rather a flow, like a body of water... moving. There is no catching it back. There is no doing it over. There is only this moment as it unfolds. But, for most of us, as we go through our lives, we are constantly trying to fixate. We're constantly looking for a place to rest ourselves. Looking for a place to stop. Looking for a place to look around. Looking for a finish line, a place where we can put up our heels and rest.

As we engage in this activity of living, the activity of this moment we're constantly looking around for something else to do. Constantly distracted, constantly dissatisfied with this activity that's unfolding right before us. Right within us. Right through us. Not paying attention to this activity, we have expectations, we make assumptions, we think, "wouldn't it be wonderful IF", and all of this exists in the realm of our imagination. It isn't what's going on. It isn't what's unfolding right under our noses.

So this practice that we're engaged in, is not the practice of "me" coming to "sit" with a "bunch of other people". It's not the practice of "me" going to engage in some religion, or some spiritual practice. And it's certainly not "me" going to go and improve "myself" by engaging in this "practice".

"Buddha". This word "Buddha" means "the one who is awake". "Budh" - to wake up. This practice is not about adding something more into what it is that you've already got. It's not about grasping something that is outside of you.

Wake up! That's what this practice is!

Waking up to the dynamic activity of this moment that's unfolding, being born and dying, again, and again, and again. Not separate from us. It's not taking place so that "we" can "witness" it, but this very thing that we call a "self", together with the activity of this moment, is being born and dying over, and over, and over again. This isn't something that we have to grasp. It's not something that we have to find "out there". This activity is unfolding, always.

All we have to do is, for a moment, to let go of thinking about, for a moment, let go of this concept... this idea of of a "me", of a "myself", of an "I" that stands separate from this world, from this environment, from these people, this experience that I'm having. To let it drop away, and to experience at once, "I" and "all things" being born together. "I" and "all things" dissolving, dying into one... together.

Each activity that we engage in, in Zen practice, is aimed at this same realization, the same experience. Awakening. We begin with a practice which is the simplest thing that we can possibly come up with. Just sit.

We can look at sitting and say, "Boy, there's sure nothing going on there. Not much is happening there".

It's all happening there! What isn't happening as we sit?

What happens as we sit is that we're in a position where we can most easily drop away our fixation with self. Drop away our idea of "me" and "this experience". If we sit still, if we simply practice breathing, if we practice this activity of being born, and dying through the activity of our breath, this notion, this conviction that we have that we are separate from the activity of this moment, is able to drop away.

In the activity of walking it becomes a little bit more challenging, but, no different. If we get stuck on "me"; "am I doing it right?", we have this gap. "I'm" doing "something". But at once, if we let go of our fixation with ourselves, that separation drops away and we can experience what it is to be manifesting the activity of this moment, the activity of the cosmos, as walking.

Our practice isn't aimed, as I say every week, at being successful and accomplished Zen meditators. This is the training, Zen training, and its function is that as we go out into the world, as we go out and engage in our practice of being nurses, or artists, or musicians, or business people, or accountants, that as we engage in our work, as we engage in our play, as we engage in our relationships, and interactions with this world, we don't do this in a way in which "I" am "doing". Subject-object.

Dropping away this deluded concept of a separate self, we manifest the complete activity of this moment "as". As caring, as art, as music, as transaction, as calculation. There is no subject, there is no object. It is the manifestation of the activity of this universe.

Inevitably the self is born. Inevitably again we attach, we fixate to this idea of "I am", and we can look at what it is that has happened in the past. We can say, "Oh... that was good... Oh... that was beautiful... Oh... that was really a mess", but having had this experience of falling into, having had this experience of dropping away subject and object, when the self forms, we understand it for what it is. A concept. A reflective capacity of mind, and we don't take it as something being solid, and fixed, lasting, or permanent.

We don't take this idea of inside and outside, subject-object and distance between them, as being the nature of our experience. It is one pole, and the other is complete unification.

So, until I see you next time, I would really like everybody to really stop once in a while as we go through our day, as we're making music, as we're doing our work, as we're engaged in our studies, or making our art. Stop and ask, "In this moment who am I? Without opening my mouth, without making reference to the ghosts of the past, who am "I".

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