Dogen Sangha Blog


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Friday, July 28, 2006

Dogen Sangha (1) The Sprout

Buddhism and I

Even though I have now become 85 years old, when I reflect on my life in the past, I feel very happy that I have met with Buddhism in my life, and to have continued studying it. And having understood the total meaning of Buddhism, I am now posting my Dogen Sangha Blog to all people in the world.
When I was young I didn't have any idea that there was only one truth, which can survey throughout the universe, but after meeting with Buddhist philosophy, which Gautama Buddha has established, I have begun to believe in Buddhism absolutely, and have spent more than 60 years studying Buddhism, practicing Buddhism, teaching Buddhism, and spreading Buddhism as far as possible. And recently I have begun to post Dogen Sangha Blog through the world, and feel very happy to spread Buddhism through the world by this method.

Of course the religious situations of the world are not so simple, and there are so many seriously difficult problems accumulated in the world related to religious views, the problem of Islam being only one such example. The situations are so complicated, and even though so many excellent politicians, religious people, and scholars are making their efforts to solve the problems, still it does not seem to be so easy for human beings to solve such religious problems.

Fortunately for me, I met with Buddhism. Buddhism insists that we should throw away the two fundamentally incorrect philosophies, that is, idealism and materialism, and we should directly accept reality itself. When I heard this theory for the first time, I was much surprised, and it was very difficult for me to accept it. But when I began to study Buddhism, I found that Buddhism is a so reasonable theory, which can persuade us to indicate the one-sided and imperfect characteristics of idealism and materialism, and open our eyes to the direct situations of reality. Having studied such a so simple and so direct philosophy, I was much surprised, but it was inevitable for me to refuse the so understandable and so practical teachings of Buddhism at all.

Buddhism and My Family

The family in which I was bought up was not so religious family. Following the common situations of Japanese family life at that time, my father cleansed a small Shintoistic alter near the ceiling, and changed the leaves, water, Sake, at the beginning of every month, but he was not a so sincere believer of Shintoism. My mother was very diligent to visit a Shinto Shrine near my house, but she was also not so sincere a believer of Shintoism. Therefore in my case I did not have any religious belief to influence me so much.

The Second World War and Buddhism

Following my family life I was not so religious in my childhood, but in 1932, and in 1936, the two big accidents of coup d'etat occured in Japan, and the political confrontation between the nationalistic militarism, and Marxist communism, had become sharper and sharper, and so it was inevitable for me to think which is true between the two, as the problem of the fundamental religious viewpoints had become so serious.
In such situations I had a chance to attend a Buddhist retreat, which was presided by Master Kodo Sawaki, at a temple called Daichu-ji in Tochigi Prefecture in the northern district from Tokyo.
And at that time I heard the very clear proclamation of Master Kodo Sawaki that "The right wing is wrong, and the left wing is also wrong." And listening to his proclamation, I thought that this idea might be true.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fukan-Zazen-Gi (4) Real Situation of Zazen

After explaining Fukan-Zazen-Gi, I would like to add some concrete knowledge on Zazen.

(1) Without practicing Zazen everyday, it is useless for us to practice Zazen

Zazen is a practice to realize the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system. Because the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system is a momentary state, if we have lost the balance for some reason in our daily life, it is necessary for us to practice Zazen as soon as possible to recover the balanced state at once. Therefore Master Dogen also recommended us to practice Zazen four times a day regularly.

However, there are many differences in human societies since the time when Master Dogen lived, and so we should select the lifestyle, which is convenient for our daily practice of Zazen. Nowadays most of us live in modern capitalistic societies, and so we usually need to get monetary income regularly. Therefore, if we want to continue our practice of Zazen everyday, we need to find an adequate time to practice Zazen, which is suitable to our daily life and also allows us time to get some monetary income regularly. In my case, I practice Zazen in the morning for 30 minutes, and in the evening also 30 minutes after retiring from Dogen Sangha in Ichikawa City. Therefore I would like to recommend all people in the world to practice Zazen everyday following their own adequate schedule.

(2) Misunderstanding of "Satori," or "Enlightenment"

It is true that there is a fact, which is called "Satori," or "enlightenment" in Buddhism, but in fact there are so many misunderstandings of enlightenment in Buddhism.

For example, some insist that if we are practicing Zazen diligently, our mental and physical conditions change suddenly, and a miraculously splendid situation manifests itself at once. But it is very important for us to notice that those kinds of miraculously splendid facts do never manifests on the earth at all. Such stories come from an exaggarated apparition, or a fantastic pretention. Because we are just living in the real world, and in the real world it is impossible for us to meet such miraculous facts at all. If we are affirmative to idealistic philosophy, we can imagine the possibility of such a fantastic story. But we, Buddhists, who are just realists, should never believe in such an idealistic story.

At the same time there is another story, which is also related to so-called enlightenment. Some Buddhist practioners insist that if we practice Zazen intensively and enormously, we can meet very strange physical situations, in which we can experience unusual and fantastic situations. If we follow an unhealthy schedule and practice Zazn in unhealthy conditions, it is true that we have to meet many kinds of physical disorders, or confusion, and we will lose our healthy and stable condition at once. Therefore it is necessary for us to think in accord with what is true, and that is that we always need to be healthy.

So there is much confusion in Buddhism, which has come from the misunderstanding of enlightenment. In the case of Master Dogen, when he was in Japan before visiting China, he had also the same misunderstanding of enlightenment. At that time he was also very dilligent in practicing Zazen in order to get enlightenment. But while visiting China, he met Master Tendo Nyojo. And Master Tendo Nyojo proclaimed that "To practice Zazen is just throwing away both consciousnesses of body and mind. If we just practice Zazen, we can get the state (of enlightenment) just from the beginning at once." Hearing this from Master Tendo Nyojo, Master Dogen realized what enlightenment was. And he noticed that the first enlightenment is just to practice Zazen itself.

(3) The True Enlightenment

The true enlightenment in Buddhism is just to practice Zazen itslf. In the Euro-American Civilization, from which we have received so many benefits, there are two kinds of value. One is the very sharp and exact intellectual consideration, which has been produced by so many excellent philosophical thinkers, and the other is the direct and clear sensuous beauty, which also has been produced by so many excellent fine artists.

However, in Buddhism we are making our efforts to transcend both intellectual consideration and sense perception to find the real world itself.

Therefore, relying upon the practice of Zazen when we make our autonomic nervous system balanced, the sympathetic nervous system, which is the cause of intellectual thoughts, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the cause of sense perception, become plus/minus/zero, and we, human beings, can live in the real world, or the world of the truth directly. This is just the first enlightenment. In another words, when we practice Zazen every day, and when we are keeping our autonomic nervous system balanced, it is just the time when we are enlightened.

And if we continue our practice of Zazen every day, we can keep our balanced autonomic nervous system every day, and so we can think about all kinds of philosophical problems on the basis of realism, leaving from idealism and materialism. I think that this experience includes the very valuable and very strong power to erase our former idealistic or materialistic life habits, and we can just live in reality completely.

Relying upon such a habit we can think about all philosophical problems on the basis of realism every day. When we have solved all philosophical problems on the basis of Buddhist realism, then the perfect understanding of all philosophical problems on the basis of Buddhist realism will come. This is called the second enlightenment.

Reading the examples of Chinese Buddhist Masters, for example, Master Joshu Jushin, and Master Reiun Shigon, they both needed more than 30 years to get the second enlightenment. It takes rather a long time. But it is not necessary for us to worry about the fact that it takes too much time to get the second enlightenment. Because if we practice Zazen every day, we can enter into enlightenment itself at once. In other words we can get the enlightenment every day, so there is no problem for us to worry about it.

(4) Concepts of Emptiness (Ku), or Nothingness (Mu), are Completely Wrong

In the Buddhist societies today, many people insist that the fundamental Buddhist philosophy is a kind of nihilism, and many Buddhist thinkers insist that the fundamental Buddhist theory is that this world is not the real world, and that such nihilistic thought is Buddhism.

But I think that this interpretation of Buddhism is completely wrong. This wrong understanding Buddhism as nihilism comes from the very seriously incorrect translation of Master Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamaka-karika by Kumarajiva, an ancient Indian scholar of the Chinese language. Mulamadhyamaka-karika was written around the 3rd Century by Nagarjuna, and in 4th Century Kumarajiva translated Mulamadhyamaka-karika into Chinese. But when I read Mulamadyamaka-karika in Sanskrit directly, it is very clear that Kumarajiva didn't understand the true meaning of Mulamadhymaka-karika at all. Therefore the translation of Mulamadyamaka-karika in Chinese by Kumarajiva does not express any true meaning of MMK (from here I would like to use the abbreviation of MMK) at all. But Kumarajiva's translation was done as a part of the Chinese governmental translating project, and so his translation was authorized in China, and the influence of it was enormous in the Oriental societies. Therefore, in Mahayana Buddhism in the Oriental societies, the orthodox Buddhist thinkers usually insist that Buddhism is a kind of nihilism, which insists that the world is not real, but that it is an abstract image of emptiness.
However when we read MMK in Sanskrit carefully from the original text, MMK is just an example of the fundamental Buddhist thought, which explains that Buddhism is just Realism, which clearly believes that this world really exists.

(5) Realism in MMK

When we read the original text of MMK in Sanskrit, it is very clear that MMK is a book which insists that Buddhism is just a realistic philosophy. This is without doubt. MMK is divided into 27 Chapters, but even reading only the 1st chapter, it is very clear that Buddhism is just a realistic philosophy without fail.

The 1st chapter of MMK is entitled "pratyaya" in Sanskrit, which means belief, or faith. So we can interpret that Nagarjuna proclaims the fundamental Buddhist thoughts, which pervade throughout the total MMK. In this chapter Nagarjna desribes that this world is the real world, where everything exists really as it is. Therefore I selcted the title of "Reliable Facts" as the title of the 1st chapter in my English translation.

The 1st chapter includes 14 verses,. In the 1st verse, Nagarjuna insists that "subjectivity" is not real, and also "objectivity" is not real. "Subjectivity" is a tanslation of Sanskrit word "svata", and "objectivity" is a translation of Sanskrit word "parata". I interpret that the word subjectivity means our thoughts, which we produce in our brain, and the word objectivity means our sense perception, which stimulate our sense organs. Therefore I understand that Nagarjuna proclaimed that ideas, which are produced in our brains, are not real, and sense perception, which is excitement in our sense organs, is also not real. And so I interpret that Nagarjuna denies both the real existence of ideas and of sense stimuli. This suggests that Nagarjuna fundamentally denies both idealistic philosophies and materialistic philophies exactly.

I think that the Buddhist idea, which denies both idealism and materialism, is a very important point, when we want to understand Buddhist philosophy, because the absolute denial of idealism and materialism in Buddhism suggests that Buddhism has a rather strong criticism of intellectual consideration. However, where can we find any kind of philosophy, which is different from intellectual philosophy? Related to this question, Buddhism proclaims fundamentally the existence of practical philosophy, which is dimensionally different from intellectual philosophy. Therefore, even though this absolutely strong denial of idealism and materialism seems to be some kind of affirmation of nihilistic Buddhist thoughts, which was Kumarajiva's wrong interpretation, the fact is never like that at all.

We can know this because in the 2nd verse of the 1st Chapter, Nagarjuna indicates four entities as real exsistence. The first one is the reason, or the rule of the universe, which pervades throughout the universe. The second one is the external world, where we are just living now. The third one is the present moment, when our act is done. The fourth is Reality itself, which can be identified with God. And Nagarjuna bravely asserts absolutely that there is no fifth, and so relying upon his decisive attitude, we can suppose he had very strong confidence in his own Realism.

In the 4th verse in the 1st chapter, he says that those four factors of Reality are identified with our human act at the present moment.

In the 9th verse he insists that our real act at the present moment in our daily life is just the same as the whole universe. In other words our real act at the present moment in our daily life is just the same as the whole universe itself.

And I think that this kind of Realism of Nagarjuna's must be the same as Gautama Buddha's Realism, Master Boddhi Dharma's Realism, and Master Dogen's Realism.

(6) A Place for Zazen

A place for Zazen is not always necessary to be wide, but Master Dogen says "It is sufficient enough for us to have a space, where we can keep our body to enter."

(7) The Posture

In Zazen, the true posture of Zazen is very important, and Master Dogen describes the concrete and exact postures so precisely, therefore we have to follow his instructions sincerely. For example, even in Buddhist sects in Japan, there is an example of using a chair for Zazen, but I think that such a kind of compromising attitudes should be avoided.

The most important posture in Zazen is to keep the spine from the lower part, the backbones, the neckbones, and the top of the head a little backward, into a straight and vertical line as much as possible. Therefore, to do so, it is necessary for us to pull the chin backward and downward as far as possible for fixing the total spine. Without this posture, it is difficult for us to avoid intellectual considerations during Zazen. Without the fixed posture, a relaxed posture in Zazen sometimes becomes a cause of irritation because of the difficulty to stop thinking.

(8) Method of Breathing

Even though there are so many methods of breathing in Zazen, which have been transmitted traditionally or through legends in Buddhist societies, I think that for such a problem it is very adequate for us to follow Master Dogen's teachings, which he has shown in chapter 5 of Eihei-koroku (the consecutive number in the total paragraphs is 390) as a record of his formal lecture, which has been done in the Lecture Hall. About Eihei-koroku, there is a very reliable eddition, which has been founded by Master Kishizawa I-an in the warehouse of Eihei-ji temple some decades ago. The Abbot of Eihei-ji temple, Master Niwa Rempo has reprinted this version (Kanazawa Bunko in Tokyo publishes it), So I think it might be much reliable for us to utilize this edition.

In Eihei-koroku even when Master Dogen describes the method of breathing in Zazen, he insists first on the importance of keeping the regular postue exactly, and then he describes the method of breathing. Therefore we can notice how much Master Dogen reveres the regulated posture of Zazen.

First, Master Dogen denies the regulation of breath, and the practice of keeping the mind at the highest grade, which are much revered in Hinayana Buddhism. We can interpret that Master Dogen clearly recognizes that Buddhism is never idealistic philosophy, and so he clearly notices that the idealistic efforts in Hinayana Buddhism can never be Buddhism. Therefore, even though there is the method of counting the number of breaths during Zazen in Hinayana Buddhism, Master Dogen clearly refuses such an incorrect method.

In relation to Mahayana Buddhism, even though Mahayana Buddhists sometimes insist that when the breath is long, we should recognize that it is long, and when it is short, we should recognize that it is short. In short, we should accept the real fact as it is, and we should not do any kind of intentional efforts. Therefore, in Mahayana Buddhism there is the habit to do a special breathing method, one which is done by inhaling the air by utilizing the abdomen, and exhaling the air by utilizing the abdomen. But Master Dogen also denies such a special method.

And at the end of his lecture he describes his own opinion of breathing situations, then he says that "When we are vigorous, then we practice Zazen. When we feel hungry, we eat meals, and then we feel satisfaction sufficiently." These words suggest that the practicing of Zazen is also our vigorous activity in our daily life, and so it is not necessary for us to have any kind of intellectual criteria, or strange habits. Master Dogen encourages us just to enjoy the practice of Zazen, without worrying about the intellectual interpretation.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Fukan-Zazen-Gi (3) Interpretations

Generally speaking we can say that, what is necessary to write about Zazen, was written by Master Dogen in Fukan-Zazen-Gi, and what is not necessary to be written is not written in Fukan-Zazen-Gi. Therefore, what is written in Fukan-Zazen-Gi, has always inevitably had important value, and so I would like to trace through all of its sentences again according to my interpretations.

(1) Affirmation of the Real World

In general, a person, who absolutely believes in an idealistic philosophy, usually thinks that what they think in their brain is the highest criteria in the world. Therefore, they think that the real world, which is different from their ldeal, is always imperfect, that it is always unsatisfactory.

But at the same time, there are people who believe in a materialistic philosophy, who think that it is very clear that this world is made of matter. To them, the world strictly made of matter, is never satisfactory, but it is the one and only world in which we can live. And so, they think, if we want to make this world better, it is necessary for us to destroy the world.

In Buddhism, however, the world, where we are living now, is only one world, which really exists. So it is necessary for us to affirm the real situation of the world. It is inevitable for us to live in the world and to make the world a little better as much as possible. Master Dogen proclaimed that, generally speaking, human beings believe they are living usually in an adequate situation, and so to them it seems to be unnecessary to pursue the truth relying upon practice and experience.

(2) Real Situations of Human Life

When, however, we actually examine the real life of human beings, we find that our situations are not so adequate and easy. For example, when a very small problem occurs in our daily life, that small problem oftens becomes bigger and bigger, and it will usually grow so big that it will usually become very difficult for us to solve the problem at all. With a sharp mind and an excellent intuitive ability, we seem to acquire great understanding of our particular problems. This apparant understanding of the problem gives rise to a very strong confidence in our mental ability. This confidence is so strong that it becomes impossible for us to enter into the area of real act, the area that is beyond our mental function.

(3) Real Excellency of the Ancient Masters

Looking at the excellent Masters of the ancient past, we find that Gautama Buddha practiced Zazen at Jetanava Anathapindikarama for 6 years, and the Great Master Bodhi Dharma in Shorin Temple, practiced Zazen for 9 years. Those excellent Masters have practiced Zazen enormously, and so it is inevitable for us to practice Zazen as well.

(4) Real Contents of Zazen

The real contents of practicing Zazen is never the same as researching words, or pursuing the meaning of sentences. It is to turn the direction of the light inside to illuminate ourselves for reflection. Then our consciousness of our body and mind vanishes naturally, and our original eyes and faces manifest themselves actually. Therefore, if we want to experience such a kind of reality, which cannot be described with words, it is necessary for us to realize it by the act of Zazen.

(5) Circumstances of Zazen

Originally, it is better for us to utilize a quiet room, and drinking and eating should be moderate. Throwing away all circumstances, and stopping all of our jobs for a little while, we should never have any consideration of good and bad, and we should never have any interest in the true or the false. Stopping the functions of mind, will, and consciousness, and stopping the consideration of images, verbal and other types of consideration, intuition, and so forth, we should never even intend to become Buddhas. The situation of Zazen is completely different from the usual types of sitting and lying down in our daily lives.

(6) The Concrete Methods of Zazen

We usually spread a thick mat at the place of sitting. At the time when Master Dogen lived, even in Japanese houses, mats were not used so much. So when they practiced Zazen, they needed to use a mat on the wooden floors. And on the mat they used a special round cushion called Zafu.

In Zazen, sometimes we use the full-lotus posture, and sometime we use the half-lotus posture. In the case of the full-lotus posture, first we place the right foot on the left thigh, and then we place the left foot on the left thigh. In the case of the half-lotus posture, we push the right thigh with the left foot. In the case of the half-lotus posture the description Master Dogen used the phrase "to push." Such a description might suggest a little looser folding of the legs.

There is a problem concerning whether it is permissible for us to change the legs right and left. Master Kodo Sawaki clearly explained that, "Master Dogen has given only one example." So we can interpret that it is permissible for us to change the legs right and left during Zazen, if it is necessary.

The clothes should be placed over the legs and the feet softly and neatly. Then the right hand should be placed over the left leg, and the left hand should be placed on the right hand. When the positions of feet are opposite, the position of hands also should be opposite. The two tops of thumbs should be put together, and they should be placed in front of the navel.

Then just sit in the regular posture, without leaning to the left, without inclining to the right, without slouching forward, and without leaning backward. The horizontal line of the shoulders and the horizontal line of the ears should be parallel and the nose and the navel should be constrasted vertically.

Hold the tongue against the palate, and the lips and teeth should be closed. The eyes should always be kept open. Breathe softly through the nose, and after having regulated the posture truly, take a deep breath once, and swing the trunk right and left. Then sit stably without motion, similar to a mountain, and think the state without thinking. How can we think the state without thinking? It is decisively different from thinking. This is just the summarized method of Zazen. Therefore we should never think that "to think about not thinking" is a kind of thinking at all.

(7) The real substance of Zazen

The practice of Zazen is never an effort to become balanced, but it is just the state, which has realized the balanced state of body and mind in the universe already. It is just the perfectly realized truth, and the fusion between practice and experience. The rule of the universe has been realized already, and any hindrance, or any restriction, hasn't appeared at all. If we have begun to recognize such a situation, we are like Dragons, which have become very vigorous getting water, and we are like tigers, which were guarding themselves in front of a big mountain. First of all, the rule of the universe has been realized in front of us, and both the gloomy darkness, which comes from the stronger sympathetic nervous system, and the flimsy easiness, which comes from the stronger parasympathetic nervous system, have vanished already, and we should experience such real situations directly and exactly.

(8) Finishing Zazen

After finishing Zazen, when we stand up from the sitting, we should stand up slowly, keeping our stable condition peacefully. We should never be hasty or violent.

(9) Effects of Zazen

When we look at the real effects of Zazen, the state, which has transcended both ordinary people and the saints, has appeared from the practicing of Zazen, and an example of death during Zazen, or an example of death standing still, comes from the effect of practicing Zazen. Furthermore, Master Gutei in China, always held up his forefinger to answer all questions of Buddhist philosophy. In the case of Master Ananda, he realized the truth, when he was putting flagpoles down in order. Master Nagarjuna threw a steel needle into water to simbolize a becoming monk. Bhodhisattva Manjusri utilized a hard wooden clapper. These examples have always come from practicing Zazen. And when Buddhist Masters teach their students, they use a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout. Such explanations can never be understood by the mental ability of thinking, or distinction. It might be perhaps a dignifided form, which transcends verbal expressions and external form. How is it possible for us to deny that they belong to the criteria, which are beyond intellectual consideration, or sense perception. Of course, when Master Dogen lived, human beings had no knowledge of the autonomic nervous system. But we can think that Master Dogen clearly noticed that the effects of Zazen could never be related with intellectual consideration or sense perception at all.

(10) No Relation with Cleverness or Foolishness

Therefore it is not necessary for us to discuss whether people are clever or foolish, or whether they are preferable, or not. If someone practices Zazen sincerely, it might be just the pursuit of the truth. The practice and experience are originally the perfect fusion of the two, and so they are never separated from each other. The direction of going is always identified into one, and they are always balanced and eternal.

(11) Universality of Buddhism

Generally speaking, in the area where we are living, and in the different areas, where others are living, or in India, or in the West, or in China, or Japan in the East, Buddhism has common characteristics, which Gautama Buddha has taught us. It has occupied the fundamental attitudes exclusively, and because we practice Zazen so sincerely, we are just self-regulated in the perfectly stable situation. Therefore even though there are so many differences among us, relying upon the balanced state of Zazen, we should make our efforts to pursue the truth. How could there be any kind of necessity for us to have to throw away the place, where we should keep for our practicing Zazen, in order to run about in confusion? If we make even one mistake at the present moment, we have to commit the mistake just at the moment. Fortunately we have got the valuable life as a human being, and have been given the important ability to practice Zazen. So we should never spend our valuable time doing useless hobbies in vain. We have already kept the valuable practice, which Gautama Buddha has presented us. How is it possible for us to spend such valuable time for any kind of useless pleasure at all?

(12) Entreaties to All Buddhists Through the World

Furthermore, our physical substance is so transitory like a dewdrop on a leaf, and the changeable condition of our human life is very similar to a momentary flash of lightning. They vanish suddenly, and they are lost in a moment. Therefore Master Dogen entreated to all Buddhists through the world whole-heartedly that, "Because of having been accustomed to the artificial images of dragons for a long time, you do not doubt the truly real dragon, that is, Zazen." I would like to ask you to make your efforts to do Zazen, which is just the truth, that can be shown by itself as it is. Please revere the person, who has transcended scientific knowledge and forgotten intentional efforts. Please identify your truth with the truth, which many traditional Masters have kept, and please succeed the balanced state of the authonomic nervous system, which many traditional Buddhist patriarchs have succeeded authentically. If those kinds of efforts are practiced for a long time, those efforts might be something which can never be described with words. The door of the gorgeous jewelry warehouse will be opened, and it will be possible for you to utilize the jewels of the warehouse well in your perfect freedom.