"What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and
when we exhale."
When we practice zazen our mind always follows our breathing.
When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world.
When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The
inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless.
We say "inner world" or "outer world," but actually
there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our
throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes
out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you
think, "I breathe," the "I" is extra. There is no you to say
"I". What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves
when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is
all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this
movement, there is nothing: no "I", no world, no mind nor
body; just a swinging door.
So when we practice zazen, all that exists is the movement
of the breathing, but we are aware of this movement.
You should not be absent-minded. But to be aware of the
movement does not mean to be aware of your small self,
but rather of your universal nature, or Buddha nature. This
kind of awareness is very important, because we are usually
so one-sided. Our usual understanding of life is dualistic:
you and I, this and that, good and bad. But actually these
discriminations are themselves the awareness of the universal
existence. "You" means to be aware of the universe in
the form of you, and "I" means to be aware of it in the form
of I. You and I are just swinging doors. This kind of understanding
is necessary. This should not even be called understanding
; it is actually the true experience of life through
So when you practice zazen, there is no idea of time or
space. You may say, "We started sitting at a quarter to six
in this room." Thus you have some idea of time (a quarter
to six), and some idea of space (in this room). Actually
what you are doing, however, is just sitting and being aware
of the universal activity. That is all. This moment the swinging
door is opening in one direction, and the next moment
the swinging door will be opening in the opposite direction.
Moment after moment each one of us repeats this activity.
Here there is no idea of time or space. Time and space are
one. You may say, "I must do something this afternoon,"
but actually there is no "this afternoon." We do things one
after the other. That is all. There is no such time as "this
afternoon" or "one o'clock" or "two o'clock." At one
o'clock you will eat your lunch. To eat lunch is itself one
o'clock. You will be somewhere, but that place cannot be
separated from one o'clock. For someone who actually appreciates
our life, they are the same. But when we become
tired of our life we may say, "I shouldn't have come to this
place. It may have been much better to have gone to some
other place for lunch. This place is not so good." In your
mind you create an idea of place separate from an actual
Or you may say, "This is bad, so I should not do this."
Actually, when you say, "I should not do this," you are doing
not-doing in that moment. So there is no choice for you.
When you separate the idea of time and space, you feel as if
you have some choice, but actually, you have to do something,
or you have to do not-doing. Not-to-do something is
doing something. Good and bad are only in your mind. So
we should not say, "This is good," or "This is bad." Instead
of saying bad, you should say, "not-to-do" ! If you think,
"This is bad," it will create some confusion for you. So in
the realm of pure religion there is no confusion of time and
space, or good or bad. All that we should do is just do
something as it comes. Do something! Whatever it is, we
should do it, even if it is not-doing something. We should
live in this moment. So when we sit we concentrate on our
breathing, and we become a swinging door, and we do
something we should do, something we must do. This is
Zen practice. In this practice there is no confusion. If you
establish this kind of life you have no confusion whatsoever.
Tozan, a famous Zen master, said, "The blue mountain
is the father of the white cloud. The white cloud is the son
of the blue mountain. All day long they depend on each
other, without being dependent on each other. The white
cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always
the blue mountain." This is a pure, clear interpretation
of life. There may be many things like the white cloud
and blue mountain: man and woman, teacher and disciple.
They depend on each other. But the white cloud should not
be bothered by the blue mountain. The blue mountain
should not be bothered by the white cloud. They are quite
independent, but yet dependent. This is how we live, and
how we practice zazen.
When we become truly ourselves, we just become a
swinging door, and we are purely independent of, and at
the same time, dependent upon everything. Without air,
we cannot breathe. Each one of us is in the midst of myriads
of worlds. We are in the center of the world always, moment
after moment. So we are completely dependent and independent.
If you have this kind of experience, this kind of
existence, you have absolute independence; you will not be
bothered by anything. So when you practice zazen, your
mind should be concentrated on your breathing. This kind
of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being.
Without this experience, this practice, it is impossible to
attain absolute freedom.