Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gautama Buddha's personality (2)

The King, who was the father of Gautama Buddha, was afraid so much that Gautama Buddha would begin to have so much interest in the religious problems and want to become a monk, and so the father gave very beautiful and comfortable residences to Gautama Buddha, and he supplied so many beautiful ladies to serve Gautama Buddha. Of course Gautama Buddha was a very healthy stout young man, and so we can guess that he might enjoy his joyful life in the comfortable residences. And on the other way Gautama Buddha was skillful and strong in many kinds of sports and marcial arts, and so he always wan in many competitions of such a sports or marcial arts. And it is said that the reason, why he could get his beautiful lady Yasodara as the wife, was also caused from his brilliant win in some competition. Furthermore he got a son after getting married, and so it might be impossible for him to be unhappy at that time. But actually speaking, as he seemed to be much happier, he became much more unhappy, because his strong intention to pursue the Truth became so stronger enormously.

15 Comments:

Blogger Ed said...

Roshi, this is not my direct comment on this blog entry in particular but is intended as a question about reincarnation. How is reincarnation compatible with the idea of Buddhism as a realist philosophy? Many of the basic tenets of the dhamma seem clear to me, but reincarnation seems much less clear.

2:25 AM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger Jundo Jim said...

Hello Ed,

If I may take the liberty of attempting an answer as one of Roshi's students ...

Our practice is this moment-by-moment. Reincarnation is a traditional Indian doctrine that was added awkwardly onto Buddhism in its creation and development, but is not a central teaching (except to say, of course, that all phenomena are ever changing, reincarnation moment-by-moment). What happens after death is not our central concern, and will take care of itself. In the meantime, our lives are right here and now.

Roshi wrote the following in his book "A Heart to Heart Chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo" (in my translation):

Gassho, Jundo

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sekishin: However, it is the common belief that Buddhism recognizes some existence after death, perhaps some form of reincarnation, and that is why Buddhist priests are so often engaged in performing funeral services, memorial services for the dead, and the like …..

Gudo: It is true that most people picture Buddhism as containing doctrines of reincarnation or some other life after death. But, these ideas stem from teachings of Brahmanism which existed in ancient India long before the time of the advent of Buddhism, teachings which were mixed into Buddhism in the process of Buddhist beliefs being transplanted and propagated from India to other regions and cultures of the world. In fact, beliefs in some life after death as asserted in Brahmanistic teachings did not occupy any central place in the early, ‘Primitive Buddhism.’ In reality, we who are living cannot know for sure whether there is or is not some ongoing ‘life after death.’ There may be such things, or there may not. Thus, we had best focus on this very life which we do have, here and now, just living fully the life before us. If we focus on being a true human being in this very life we are living, what may or may not come after will take care of itself.

Sekishin: But all people fear death, which is why they will most likely be shocked when they hear that there may be nothing after death …..

Gudo: Yes. That is true. However, to invent some world after this life just to placate people’s fears ….. To do so is a great wrong, I believe, committed by those who assert its existence.

Sekishin: To deny the existence of life after death ….. Is that not to fall into a way of thinking which Guatama Buddha indicated as incorrect, namely, that there are no Karmic relationships, no relationships of ‘cause and effect’ in this world?

Gudo: To deny the existence of ‘life after death’ is not the same thing as denying the existence of ‘cause and effect.’ In fact, precisely because we should strongly believe in the existence of ‘cause and effect,’ we thus cannot seek for some way of thinking in which the spirit pops out of the physical body at death, so as to live in some other world or state.

Sekishin: So how should we deal with our fears about death?

Gudo: With regard to that subject, Master Dogen provided us a clear solution in the Shobogenzo by quoting the words of the Chinese teacher, Master Yuanwu Keqin (known as Master Engo Kokugon in Japanese).

Sekishin: What was that clear solution?

Gudo: What Master Kokugon said was, ‘Life is the manifestation of all functions, Death is the manifestation of all functions.’ The meaning thereof is that, when we are living, there is just life and nothing else ….. We should live with all our heart and being, we should live as if our very life depended on it! And when we die, there is just death and nothing else. We should just die with all our heart and being, dying right to the very death!

Sekishin: That is a pretty harsh sounding idea, and a very intense teaching!

Gudo: However, life can be rather harsh ….. The real world is often most intense! Because our lives can be harsh and intense, it does not help anyone merely to teach them that they should always relax and simply take life easy ….. Sometimes, life must be lived actively, with strength and firm resolve, for the circumstances might demand nothing less!

Sekishin: However, in the end, life is just an ephemeral thing, fleeting and … ultimately … coming all to naught …..

Gudo: That is not the case! First, it only comes to naught when we try to live by, always, always, taking it easy in the world, for such a world does not really exist. Further, an awareness that we cannot have expectations of some life after death should lead us to realize that we must really live to the fullest in this life that we have, here and now. This very moment by moment, here and now, that has been granted to us who are alive, packs all the meaning of all eternity in each instant. How then can it be fleeting and ephemeral? Asking ourselves in each and every moment how we should live in that moment …… This is the one and only source for bestowing meaning in our lives.

5:54 AM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger Jundo Jim said...

Hello,

A Sangha is made up of people, much like a family. People are people, and just as with any family, there is always that uncle or cousin who has some "issues," and causes a ruckus at family get-togethers.

Before we do years of Zazen, we are human beings with rough edges. After we do years of Zazen we are human being, perhaps with the rough edges a little smoothed over. But, if you believe that long time Zen folk, even the Buddha himself, are beyond humanity, that their feet don't sometimes stink and that they don't have bad breath, you fail to understand the first thing about Zen practice. Zen practice is to be a human being, not a machine, not a god.

Yes, we are a family. In any family, there is always an uncle or two with particulary bad breath some days.

By the way, what is to fault on Nishijima's part? He simply said that, after 10 years of going round and round, enough silly talk was enough. He also said not to hide any criticisms of him, not to delete them, but leave them for the world to see. What can be the fault in having such calm and grace?

Gassho, Jundo

6:27 AM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thanks for the comments and exerpt Jundo Jim

5:16 PM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger Ed said...

Jundo,

I guess I'm confused because when I read the Buddha's teachings it seems as if reincarnation is pretty deeply woven into the fabric of the dhamma, even to the extent that if you tried to excise it, the dhamma would be broken into pieces. Even more confusingly, there seems little or no reason to believe that "reincarnation" is meant in some sort of symbolic or metaphorical sense, at least as it appears in the dhamma.

I am not a believer in reincarnation, and I know Roshi is not ... but perhaps what most people understand as reincarnation (being literally reborn as another person or a tree or a dog) is not what the Buddha meant.

At any rate, I'm just not sure that viewing reincarnation as some sort of awkward holdover of an earlier tradition is correct. The Buddha talks about it often and without apparent irony.

Blessings,

Ed

1:07 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Ken said...

Hi Ed, you ever play the telephone game...where the first person whispers into the ear of the next and so on? Picture that going on for 2500 years. Am I ripping a conceptualization off from warner here? I might be...if so, credit where credit is due.

1:58 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Ken said...

Ed, further, there are a couple of other possibilities to consider, perhaps a few of them in combination, I don't know, just food for thought...

1) In an outright empirical sense, materialistic rebirth happens all around us at all times. IE, we die, feed the worms, which feed the birds, which spread the seeds of flowers, etc... Constant change of form of all the Universe's atoms or strings or whatever all this is...

2) All rebirth into realms and such are expedient means to speak of various mental states and placement in the world before us.

3) Buddha was mistaken

4) There was no Buddha

What do you think is true? Sure about that?

2:06 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Ed said...

Ken,

To me it really doesn't matter whether the Buddha is "right" or "wrong" or whether the Buddha ever really existed ... that's not the issue. The issue is, since reincarnation seems to be an integral part of the dhamma, then what exactly does that term mean from a Buddhistic perspective?

I understand your point about the physical aspect of rebirth, the simple breaking down and recycling of chemical matter. But a literal physical reincarnation is not what Buddhists seem to have in mind at all. And I don't think the "playing telephone for 2500 years" is exactly what the dhamma is getting at, either.

Now I can understand and accept the concept of our actions having an impact (kamma) beyond the range of our physical life ... that seems quite obvious to me. And it's even easier for me to grasp the concept of everything being in a constant state of flux. And, given those ideas, I can also accept that we can positively or negatively influence the change that is constantly going on around us, starting by simply being aware of it.

Is this sort of what is meant by "rebirth" or "reincarnation"?

2:26 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Michael said...

Hello all,

I think it's in the Lotus Sutra (and if not the Lotus, then certainly in one of the sutras) where the historical Buddha gives an account of all his past lives. It's said that a buddha can see thusly into his own primordial past.
I think this can be taken either as literal "gospel" (pardon the pun) or as metaphor.
My own feeling, for what it's worth, is that the Buddha's discourses were intended to be understood by everyone, from the wisest sage on down.
Thus, perhaps the Buddha's anecdotes were meant to be used as skillful means to illustrate teachings that might be hard to understand, depending on the audience.
Some listeners interpreted these things as literal truths, others saw the inherent metaphor.
Either way, if understanding was the result, then who cares?
Just my opinion.

3:17 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger reallynotimportant said...

I think reincarnation whether it is actual, a metaphor or a fantasy is irrelevent. It does not help me in any way as to how to live my life today in the here and now.

Let's for argument's sake say that I believe in reincarnation. Is my current life a step up or a step down? Is my next life going to be a step up or a step down? Will my future actions (in this life) result in a step up or have my current actions already resulted in a step down? Do you see how messy and stupid it all gets - and all without any kind of answer.

3:57 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Ken said...

Some great thoughts Ed, I tend to agree with much of what you say. My point about the game of telephone for 2,500 years is that we can't be certain that what we see as "Buddhist Scripture" today were actually words that came out of Buddha's mouth....and it's more than likely the case that they did not. In addition, I think there is a lot of danger in placing Buddha in the role of a kinda sorta demigod, as many traditions seem to do.

5:35 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger SmoggyRob said...

Ed:

There's no good reason to listen to me, but if you're still there...

I take references to rebirth in Buddhism to refer to the moment-by-moment "rebirth" of everything. Each moment of right now conditions the "next" one.

And, I also allow for when and where the Buddha was teaching. I think his delivery would be much different if he had come to modern Los Angeles, for example.

If your mileage doesn't vary, get your odometer checked,

Rob Robbins

1:20 PM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Chris said...

If re-birth or reincarnation exists, like "reallynotimportant" said basically- so what? What possible benefit can this have on our practice?

If this universe is a whole of which we are a part (not even a part, but the whole itself) then we're not really re-"anything". We just always are aren't we?

Our bodies are just some present form in which the universe takes, no? This body will die. The universe continues. How can we seperate? We die, yet we continue. Another paradox. I can buy this intellectually but I am certainly not experiencing this.

I don't believe in a soul that transmigrates from human to tree or tree to dog or whatever. I believe that Buddha discounted this. We are just heaps of stuff.

I just don't dwell on this reincarnation stuff too much. Like Warner said in his book- if this is the afterlife why would we waste it worrying about what's next or what happened in previous lives?

I don't remember any previous lives. Do you? And I suppose in my next I won't remember this one. This is the life to live. Not only the span of our body's life, but this infinitesimal moment which perishes as soon as we speak of it, as soon as we think of it. All that really matters is getting in touch with that.

Buddha saw everything and the only way to really understand that which he speaks of is to follow his directions.

These are just my thoughts and nothing more....

8:35 PM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger grass roots said...

jundo jim,
I have never met you in person, but from your emails I wonder: Are you the kind of priest who licks a master's arse to get his own fame and profit?

6:49 PM, December 24, 2005  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Ed San

It is very common idea that Buddhists believe in the exsistence of the life after death. But this supposition might be wrong. In Shobogenzo Bendowa, Master Dogen wrote that in Budhism we believe in the oneness between body and mind, and so it is impossible for us to believe that when the body died, the soul will survive into another world.


For Jim Jundo San

Thank you very much for your kindness to promote my book "A Heart to Heart Chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo."


For Jim Jundo San

Yes, human societies usualy have some problems actually.

I agree that Zazen practice is to be a human being.


For Ed San

Even though, so many people believe that Buddhism believe in the life after death, Master Dogen clearly describes the denial of the life after death in Buddhism, and so I believe in his belief perfectly.

What Buddhist Sutras include, is the records of many Buddhist believers' memories in ancient India, and so it might be inevitable for them to include some kind of wrong informations.

I think that it is necessary for us sometimes to doubt contents of Buddhist Sutras.


For Ken San

I agree with your idea, and so Buddhism much more rely upon the experience in Zazn than contents of Buddhist Sutras.


For Ken San

I gree with your idea. Even though there are so many suppositions in our mind, it is completely impossible for me to meet a person, who survived from his death to come back to this world.


For Ed San

I think that Dharma does never include any kind of reincarnation at all.

I think that human beings do never have any duty to believe in reincarnation at all.

I think that your new interpretation is just true.

Yes, our life is just at the present moment.


For Michael San

I think that your interpretations are very flexible, but I have idea that a Buddhist monk is permitted to express his or her honest opinion directly without any hesitation.

2:12 PM, March 19, 2006  

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