Friday, November 13, 2015


by Elihu Genmyo Smith
When we learn zazen, to sit, often we begin with counting breath or another form of being breathing. For many of us these are new practices, new aspects of being human – even though from the moment we are born, we are breathing. If there is anything “needed,” it is only ceasing not-breathing.

Breathing, being breathed is exactly this life – but when entangled in self-centeredness this requires a practice effort of doing –of doing in the midst of always breathing, a practice effort of doing which reveals and manifests non-doing. This is ceasing not-breathing.

Breathing breathes - and yet we can be breathing, we can allow breathing, experiencing breathing. This is breathing empty of breathing.

Though breathing -if we are entangled with doing or not-doing, entangled with self and not self, entangled with like and don’t like - with how well we are doing - then we miss this, we miss non-doing. Without practice effort, doing often further enhances and entangles self-centeredness. In the midst of ongoing change, this very doing then enhances unsatisfactoriness, stress, suffering.

Just cease doing, cease not-experiencing.

No matter how “long” we have practiced, each moment can be beginning practice. Experiencing is non-doing; at times experiencing calls for doing non-doing, at times experiencing requires being done by non-doing.

Everyone alive breathes. And yet many miss this breathing, miss this life ongoing-change.
It is like a pot-luck. The pot-luck is a sharing opportunity of serving and being served. It is this moment life opportunity we all share. But if we refuse to bring anything, refuse to bring and share our self, then we are entangled in doing in the midst of non-doing, then sharing becomes a self-entanglement poison for us. It is not a matter of what or how much we bring, whether it is special or ordinary. Not being able to bring anything due to circumstances is fine, is sharing self in the midst of ongoing change circumstances as is. But refusing to bring and share because of thinking and believing all sorts of things is something else.

Our practice life is sharing. The practice life with others, of the Zen Center, is built around and dependent upon sharing; the sharing of going beyond doing, of doing non-doing; going beyond self and non-self, self and other. Sharing practice is being circumstance as is, whether sitting together, taking zendo positions, samu (“work”) practice activities, the financial contributions to make possible a Zen Center, including a building to sit in, the electronics for this and much more. All of these are our practice - sharing body-mind-universe, being shared as universal life right here.

Sharing “easy” to share, sharing “hard” to share; sharing “what want”, sharing “what do not want”; sharing “comfort,” sharing “painful;” sharing “like,” sharing “dislike;”sharing “inside,” sharing “outside;”sharing “mine,” sharing “not mine.”Occurring, these are this moment opportunity.

Refusing to be our life, to bring our contribution, to share our life – by this we miss this life, even though we might believe we are safeguarding our self, our life, by refusing to share. What do you refuse?

If we refuse, withhold, hold onto self-entanglement, the sharing of life becomes a not-sharing for us; this breathing, the sharing breath of the universe, becomes entangling in greed, in self and other, in fear. These habits result in missing this life, result in unsatisfactory life. Unfortunately, we may do this self-entangling in many aspects of life, with family, co-workers and friends as well as when “alone.” There are many ways of withholding self, refusing to give self to life, refusing this moment, refusing what is called for right now. Withholding self, refusing to give self, we miss life, we miss this that we are.

In reacting from “should” or “should not”, right here is self-doing, entangling, unsatisfactoriness. And right here is our practice. Please notice where your practice is.

Experiencing; this is non-doing. And this moment reveals the practice effort needed right now.

Our practice, our life zazen, is not to create a particular state of being, any particular state of being; it is being this moment, being this particular as is, being this particular body-mind-world as is.

We might think practice is to create a certain state, whether to be relaxed, more present, calmer, deeper, more mindful. Looking for these, trying for these, holding to these, entangles; advances self and confirms delusion. Holding to delusion is this arising inexhaustible delusion right now – which is this moment practice, this inexhaustible Bodhisattva vow life - your life here now. Please appreciate it well.

There is no problem using a knife to cut food, using a knife to do surgery. There is no problem using breathing and other practice efforts to be relaxed, present, calm, mindful – but only if we see this for what it is, skillful actions of this boundless life, appropriate and called for as is now. But if we do not see this using for what it is, then we may mix up using a knife for surgery with using a knife to wound or kill.

A capacity to use a knife is an important skill, but this skill becomes harmful when used with self-centeredness, with self-centered anger or with self-centered confusion, when used where not appropriate. We see this “mixing-up” in many realms of our life; clarifying this is similar to clarifying the difference between using medications and alcohol for treating illness and being used by drugs and alcohol in addictions and worse. Zazen, practice, breathing is not to create a specific state, change this moment or accomplish any particular goal.

Non-doing is right here.

Master Zhaozhou (Joshu in Japanese) is asked, “What is this indestructible nature?” Zhaozhou responds, “The Four Great Elements, the Five Skandhas.” He is asked again, “These can be destroyed. What is the indestructible?” Zhaozhou responds, “The Four Great Elements, the Five Skandhas.” (The Four Great Elements is shorthand for the elements of the universe - earth, air, fire, water; the Five Skandhas, literally five “aggregates” or “heaps” in Sanskrit, is shorthand for human existence, body-mind forms and functioning.)
Are you adding doing to non-doing? That is extra.

Are you doing but excluding non-doing? That is lacking.

Practice can be noticing adding, experiencing adding or subtracting. In noticing, it does not matter if it is a “small” or a “big;” ours is taking care of right now as this practice effort needed.

Are “you” doing? If so, who is doing?

Everyone breathes; and yet we can miss this breathing. If and when we miss this, right here is appropriate and skillful practice. Experiencing is who we are – not something extra. And yet, we can miss this if we are entangled in the seemingly “natural” holding to self of myriad forms, holding to likes, to dislikes. Therefore I say experiencing.

Zazen is non-doing.

Zazen, life practice, is doing non-doing.

Skillful means, appropriate action, is this Bodhisattva life, this wisdom compassion; the life practice zazen of non-doing doing, of myriads dharmas manifesting this moment.

When we feel, believe, think we are or have some “thing,” right here is the practice of noticing entangling self.

This arising, self-arising, entangling arising - this is a practice opportunity moment. Arising is this life moment, passing is this life moment.

Master Dogen in Fukan Zazengi (following from an earlier dialogue of Master Yaoshan) includes this zazen instruction - “think not-thinking” (shiryo fushiryo); What is that? “non-thinking” (hishiryo).

Right now we are this unborn Buddha - and we may need to allow this unborn Buddha here.

Right now we are this myriad Bodhisattva - and we must manifest myriad Bodhisattva functioning here.

Being unborn Buddha, therefore we have the capacity to hide this, hide from this – therefore we must allow unborn Buddha. We must “give birth” to unborn Buddha - your life right now. Doing this is your particular wisdom, your particular life practice. Your particular life is boundless life.

This, here, now, is both doing and non-doing.

This, here, now, is neither doing nor non-doing.

This ongoing change, this falling apart, this body-mind-world, this body-mind-world falling apart, this is experiencing, your life opportunity.

Experiencing, we can allow falling apart, not be blinded by this; we manifest this, this manifests your life.

Appreciate and enjoy your life.

© 2015 Elihu Genmyo Smith