Musoku – Empty Space

Good morning, everyone. Onegai shimasu. How nice to see you all. I am going to read about Ki Breathing this morning. Shokushu #15.

The breath goes out, reaching everything in the universe and all of humanity. The breath comes in and falls into an infinitely small space in the lower abdomen. Ki Breathing is the unknown practice that brings you to being one with the universe.
If you do this alone at night when the universe is calm and quiet, you will wonder if either you are the universe or if the universe is you. In other words, you will experience the ultimate joy of being one with the universe. At this moment the life energy of a human being becomes fully active.”

Ki Breathing, Ki no Kokyuho, has three stages: Whole Body Breathing, Universal Breathing, and Musoku, or No Breathing.

Whole Body Breathing is when we breathe in from the tips of our toes and fill our body to the top of our head and breathe out so that we empty our body from the top of our head to the tips of our toes. That’s the first stage, Whole Body Breathing.

Then the stage that Tohei Sensei refers to here in the Shokushu is Universal Breathing. When you are practicing Whole Body Breathing, and you begin to lose the sense of you, yourself being encased in this is skin bag, then you automatically start practicing Universal Breathing. When the breath goes out, it moves infinitely to fill the entire universe, and he says “all of humanity.” And then, when the breath comes in, all of that comes into your One Point and fills you.

So, those are the two stages of breathing that most people practice. But people often ask about the third stage, Musoku or No Breathing, and what that means. Sometimes I say it means “no person breathing,” or “no one breathing.” To understand that maybe a little better, we have to look at space.

Space is emptiness. In other words, space leaves room for the possibility of everything to come into being, or to arise. All actions take place within space, and by virtue of space. Everything exists in space. Your body is able to exist here because of space. If there were no space, there could be no body. So, space it what gives the possibility of everything to be.

When you are focused on breathing in and breathing out, then you are that action. Right? It’s not just you, doing that action. Try to think of that as you are that action. Whatever we are doing at any moment, we are that. So you are a “breather” at that moment, since you are breathing in and breathing out. But if, instead, you rest in the space (and you can try this today) between the breath and behind the breath, the space or emptiness that allows the possibility of the breath action being there, then you become that, and that is what we call Musoku. You then are No Thing, No Breathing Thing, No Action. Not doing, just being. Emptiness.

OK? Let’s do some Ki Breathing.

20 minutes Ki Breathing
12 minutes Ki Meditation
13 minutes Whole Body Meditation

Well, if you were able to experience, in your breathing, the space between the breath and behind the breath a little bit, then you probably noticed that the space does not stop. It isn’t somewhere just inside your breathing body. Space is what allows the possibility of everything to be here. Not just the sound of this bell, for instance, in Ki Meditation, but even feeling this point between the eyes and the point in the lower abdomen being the same in Whole Body Meditation. In other words, even thoughts and feelings can only take place by virtue of emptiness.

We see with our senses, and we hear with our senses, objects or sounds. But if you take apart the object, it is made of atoms. And as everybody knows, atoms are 99% space, with little tiny subatomic particles way, way, way, far apart, and always moving. The same thing with the sound of the bell. If you could take it apart and look very closely at it, it is mostly space. Pretty much everything is space, emptiness.

So, this is why Tohei Sensei adds Musoku as the third of the breathing experiences or practices. You know, if you can begin to have a glimpse of this, which maybe you did today, then that is just the beginning of getting to see how this all works. When we can learn to rest in emptiness, rest in the space that allows everything to be, and see that that is not separate from us, it is in fact us, we are the provider, we are the allower, we, are the progenitor.

OK, that’s, as usual, a mouthful. Charles Boyer please, Mr. Boyer.

Charles: Good morning, Sensei.

So how about space, Sensei?

Charles: Thank you. Yes, I was sitting with that this morning after you spoke about it at the beginning of class. And then your comments just now make me even more curious about this, this idea of us being the “allower.” So space allows everything to arise. What about consciousness? In other words, consciousness seems to create the possibility for thought and for such things, so are consciousness and space related? Are they the same?

Well, OK, thank you. A very interesting question. Let’s look at that a little differently. Let’s say there is free choice, and then there is Free Choice. Just like there is music, and then there is Music. Just like there is taste, and then there is Flavor. Everything is in a sort of gradation, isn’t it? Free choice can be choosing one kind of fruit over another. That is a pretty simple example of free choice. But also free choice can be choosing either plus or minus. And even further along, free choice can be thinking or not thinking. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean the will to think or not think. I mean choosing to be the thinker or the one who allows the thinking to take place, the space behind the thinking. And throughout all of this, there is awareness. Where you are sayng “consciousness” I might use the word “awareness.”

Everything arises out of this consciousness, this awareness. So, in this sense, you might think then that awareness must be the same as space. But there is word for awareness and another word for space. They are not the same. Awareness allows space to allow body, and body to allow action, life and death. That’s why I said, if you can get a little experience of this, even just a little one in Ki Breathing, and drop into the space that is not dominated by the action of breathing in and breathing out, then you are getting a glimpse of reality. You are getting a glimpse behind the curtain. You are getting a glimpse of the unseen. You are experiencing real shugyo practice. This is what I mean by shugyo practice. Sometimes I call it, “resting in the unseen.” OK? This gives you plenty to sit with.

You know, this is one of those things that is still very healthy just to wonder about. Even allowing a little room for speculation, as long as you are not being too much of a “smarty pants” about it. You know what I mean. You want to make sure the you allow your intelligence to serve you. Don’t get caught up in your intelligence. Don’t get lost in “what if it’s this or what if it’s that.” That’s the kind of speculation that is really useless, and just spins you into more confusion.

I want you to rest in emptiness. You know, now we have these pixelated photographs. Well, what we are looking at right now is pixelated, and the more pixels there are the clearer it is for us to see. But conversely, if you can see one pixel over here and another over here and another way over here, then you can really see what’s going on. It’s an illusion, a very attractive illusion because it is so useful. Our senses are so important in our everyday life, because they dictate what is useful to us, what is attractive, what is necessary, what we want to be attached to. But in the real game of life that is why they call that an “illusion.” It’s pulling us away from reality, not toward reality. This is very important.

Someone else want to say something, ask a question? You would be welcome. Does this not make you ask a question of yourself? You can share it with us if you want to.

Student: Aloha Sensei. I really appreciate what you just said about illusion, and how illusion draws us away from reality. Could you speak a little bit more about that? Thank you.

Do you know the story about when the Buddha sat under the Pipal tree and finally got to see what is going on? When he got up and walked away from the tree, the story is that the gods came to him and said, “Okay, now you have to teach this to everybody on earth.” And he was horrified. He was aghast. He just said, “There is no way anyone will every believe this. This is the opposite of what everybody thinks is going on.” This is what he meant.

In other words, it’s very difficult to buy into something that denies your senses. Because we generally live by our senses. When we are embodied, that’s how we get around, that’s how we get through our lives, that’s how we survive. So they are essential, from that perspective. But when we want to see what’s behind the curtain that our senses create, then we have to look at things a little bit differently. We have to be willing to just move that necessary belief aside a little bit, just push it aside.

And that’s what resting in this space is all about. It’s practicing shugyo, practicing being empty of any particular characteristics for just a moment. OK?

OK, so have a nice Sunday. Domo arigato gozaimashita. Thank you for coming. Bye bye.

(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 1. November 2020)