Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gakudo-yojin-shu (4) No. 3. It absolutely necessary for Buddhism to be experienced and entered by action.

(The Text)

The meaning of the title is as follows. It is said in secular societies that when we study something, the reward of our study exists just in the study itself. And Gautama Buddha says that if we practice Zazen, the effect of Zazen exists just in the practice itself.

There is no one, who receives the rewards without study, and I haven't heard of any case that without practicing Zazen someone has got the truth.

Even though there are so many differences of practice — based on belief, doctrine, the necessity of a short or a long time to get the truth — it is inevitably necessary for everyone to rely upon the practice of Zazen for getting the truth.

Even though there are so many differences of shallowness, profoundity, intelligence, or foolishness in miscellaneous study, it is inevitable for everyone to get the reward after having accumulated so much study.

This might suggest that it is not always decided that everything will be preferable, or not, relying upon whether the ruler is excellent, or not, and that it is not always decided that everyone will be happy, or not, relying upon whether the motion of the Universe is adequate, or not.

If it is possible for anyone to get the rewards without study, (because they do not like to study,) how is it possible for anyone to get the teachings of the ancient Emperors' methods for regulating human societies?

If it is possible for anyone to get the truth without practicing Zazen, (because they do not like to practice Zazen,) how is it possible for anyone to understand Gautama Buddha's teachings, which can distiguish truth, or falsehood?

You should know that first we should establish our own practice of Zazen even in our deluded condition, and then we can grasp the truth before getting enlightenment.

Just at that time we can notice that the ships and rafts, which we expect to utilize to arrive at the distant shores of the truth, were just a dream yesterday, and we can clearly decide that the old views of wisteria vines as snakes were wrong.

These situations never come from Gautama Buddha's intentional enforcement, but it has been managed just by the present function.

Furthermore, what action introduces, is the truth. The miscellaneous treasures in our own warehouse do never come from outside of ourselves.

What the truth utilizes is our action. How is it possible for us to actually turn around the traces of our mental functions in the past?

However, if we turn around our eyes of the truth to look at our own situations of action really, there is no spot, which disturbs our eyes, and if we dare to look at something, only white clouds pervade throughout the sky limitlessly.

If we want to grasp our own grade of experiencing the truth utilizing our real foot of action, there is nothing, even a piece of dust, which supports our foot at all, and if we dare step our foot, we have to notice that the distance between our foot and the ground seems to be like the distance between the heavens and the earth.

Just at that time if we reflect to step back a little, we can trascend even Gautama Buddha's state.

Written on 9th, March, 1234.

14 Comments:

Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you for your continuous teachings of the Gakudo-Yojin-Shu.

This is great advice for my practice of Zazen and also my studies in college.

5:30 AM, October 12, 2006  
Blogger zenducker said...

I like this Buddhism. The ceremony and trappings and what I feel is "fake goodness" or rather people trying too hard to be good or something, that has always bothered me and scared me away. But the entire idea of secular societies and how well this sort of practice fits into secular beliefs really has my interest.

9:49 AM, October 14, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Thank You Master Nishijima.

1:03 PM, October 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nishijima sama, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have questions:

You say of zazen that "There is no one, who receives the rewards without study, and I haven't heard any case that without practicing Zazen someone has got the truth."

What is the reward? Would you know it if you saw it? Do you possess the reward?

What is the truth? Would you know it if you heard it? Do you possess the truth?

9:56 PM, October 17, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

It seems to me that this assumes a great deal about what the term "Zazen" means.

There is a most insidious and persistent deception in the West regarding Dogen’s teaching: the notion that he regarded the ordinary practice of zazen (sitting meditation) and shikantaza (sole sitting) as the ultimate point of Zen. This aberration of Dogen’s teaching is expressed in varying degrees ranging from subtle insinuation, to belligerent insistence. The mere physical act of sitting upright in a cross-legged posture is pawned off as the be-all and end-all of Zen Buddhism. “Just sitting” is exhorted as “full and complete enlightenment.”

It sounds far-fetched; however, this ridiculous proposition actually functions as the foundation of a number of cultic communities that identify themselves as “Zen” centers, or monasteries. The superstitious notion that simply sitting “like Buddha” is itself “being Buddha” is openly expressed by some institutional zealots in Japan, and also by a number of westerners sporting shaved heads and dressed-up like ancient Chinese hermits.

For Dogen uses the term “Zazen”, as well as “Dharma”, “Buddha”, “Bodhi”, and the like, with many different meanings, depending on the audience, and context of its expression. Just as the most literal meaning of the term “Buddha” is (the historical) “Shakyamuni Buddha”, so the most literal meaning of zazen is “sitting meditation.” For anyone with a solid foundation in the records and koans of the Zen ancestors, it is usually obvious when Dogen uses “zazen” in reference to ordinary sitting meditation, and when he uses it in reference to its higher, more inclusive meaning: the non-dual nature of practice and enlightenment.

However, as with all religions, when the vitality of the message is lost and institutions take over, literalism, dogmatism, and general petrifaction often ensue. Thus, Dogen’s evolutionary expressions on the non-duality of practice and enlightenment become stultified and re-formed into simplistic, narrow-minded, dogmatic formulations.

Dogen’s profound expressions on practice and enlightenment were, and continue to be, twisted into the shallow, naturalistic, literal view that practice, as practice, is enlightenment itself. That is to say, Dogen’s teaching that practice is practice-and-enlightenment, and enlightenment is practice-and-enlightenment, is transformed into practice is enlightenment, and enlightenment is practice.

“Practice” ceases to be a term indicating the enactment of enlightenment (in practice-and-enlightenment), and instead becomes equivalent to enlightenment. To use the koan cited at the end of Genjokoan; the fanning is divorced from the ever-present nature of air. In many contemporary Zen books the word “enlightenment” rarely appears —except as a term to be challenged. The word “practice,” however, is everywhere; Zen practice this and, our practice that and, practice is such-and-such and, what practice is all about, and the like. “Practice” has become the catchphrase in popular Zen to such an extent that it is often used synonymously as “Zen” itself.

This misrepresentation is then joined with the literal interpretation of “zazen” (i.e. sitting meditation). “Sitting meditation” is consequently raised to the ultimate point as the highest (and often the only) authentic form of spiritual practice. The final creed for this abomination of Dogen’s Zen is; “there is nothing special to seek, just have no goal other than ‘just sitting’ which is itself full and perfect enlightenment.”

7:51 AM, October 18, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Dear Tedinanacortes,

I believe that everything you say is true. Yet, there -is- nothing special to seek, and there is no goal other than ‘just sitting’ which is itself full and perfect enlightenment.

An instant of Zazen is life, a moment of life is Zazen. Just making the effort to sit Zazen, yet without goal or effort ... coming every morning to the Zendo and the Zafu without any place to go or other place to be ... crossing the legs into balanced position and allowing a quieting of the mind, without any thought of how body and mind should be ... this is how we should lead our lives. In life, in Zazen, there is nothing else to do, nothing more or less to be.

So, Zazen is all there is.

Dear Kumakouji: I think that there is no need to ask after a reward or truth, or whether they are possessed or not.

Gassho, Jundo

6:42 PM, October 19, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Jundo,

If this works for you, great! However, Dogen, it seems to me, did believe there was a much more important goal than “nothing special” or “just sitting.” Dogen, in accord with the historical Buddha, as well as the Zen ancestors, was concerned with one goal only, that is the “One Great Matter”—to awaken the bodhi-mind (enlightened mind). This theme is like a golden thread running through the entire fabric of his works. Here are a few random examples:

Clearly remember: in the Buddhist patriarchs’ learning of the truth, to awaken the bodhi-mind is inevitably seen as foremost. This is the eternal rule of the Buddhist patriarchs.
Shobogenzo, Hotsu-Bodaishin

Those who have not yet attained the mind of enlightenment should pray to the Buddhas of former ages, and should also dedicate their good works to the quest for the mind of enlightenment.
Eihei Koroku

You should sit quietly and consider the truth and quickly determine to arouse the mind of the Way. Neither master nor parents can give one enlightenment; not wife children, nor family can save one from suffering. Property and wealth cannot cut off one’s revolving birth and death, nor can people of the world be of any help. If you are not fit and do not practice, in what aeon will you attain enlightenment? You should cast off myriad concerns and single-mindedly study the Way. Do not think about any later time.
Shobogenzo-zuimonki, V:9

The zazen I speak of is not meditation. It is simply the Dharma-gate of repose and bliss. It is the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is things as they are in suchness {reality as is}. No traps or snares can ever reach it. Once its heart is grasped, you are like the dragon when he reaches the water, like the tiger when he enters the mountain…

…Devote your energy to a Way that points directly to suchness. Revere the person of complete attainment beyond all human agency. Gain accord with the enlightenment of the Buddhas.
Fukan-Zazengi

For this reason I have compiled this writing to leave for bright students who wish to actualize buddha-dharma and for sincere practitioners who wander from place to place like clouds or duckweed seeking the Way.
Shobogenzo, Bendowa

As for the description of the essential point to be mindful of, what thing must be concentrated upon, what practice is to be considered most urgent, that is as follows.

First is only that the aspiration of joyful longing be earnest. For example, suppose a person has a conscious desire to steal a precious jewel, a desire to defeat an enemy, or a desire to embrace a distinguished beauty; while travelling, abiding, sitting and reclining, in the midst of affairs as the pass, though various different events come up, he goes along seeking an opening, his mind occupied [with his quest]. With his mind so forcefully earnest, there can be no failure of attainment.

In this way, when the aspiration to seek the Way has become sincere, either during the period of sole concentration on sitting, or when dealing with illustrative example of the people of olden times, or when meeting the teacher, when one acts with true aspiration, though [his aim] be high he can hit it, though it be deep he can fish it out.

Unless you arouse a mind comparable to this, how will you accomplish the great task of the Buddha-Way, which cuts of the turning round of birth and death in a single instant of thought? If someone has such a mind, we do not talk about whether he is a stupid and ignorant evil man; he will definitely attain enlightenment.
Shobogenzo-zuimonki II:14

Unsurpassed bodhi is not for the sake of self, not for the sake of others, not for the sake of fame, and not for the sake of profit. And yet, single-mindedly seeking unsurpassed bodhi, diligently proceeding without retreat, is called arousing the bodhi mind. After this mind has already been manifested, not seeking after bodhi, even for the sake of bodhi, is the genuine bodhi mind. If you do not have this mind, how could it be the study of the way? Brothers at this temple, single-mindedly seek bodhi mind, and never quit out of laziness.
Dogen, Eihei Koroku, 5:377

True seeing received at birth (Fudo shosho no manako)

Seeking the Way
Amid the deepest mountain paths;
The retreat I find
None other than
My primordial home: satori!
Sanshodoei, J-13

Enlightenment, satori, kensho, seeing true-nature, realization, great awakening, casting off body and mind, and attaining the Way are some of the many terms and phrases used by Buddhas and Zen masters to indicate the goal of Buddhism. Whatever name is used, and whatever methods are applied, this experience and the results thereof are finally the ultimate reason of and for Buddhism.

Though many contemporary teachers are loath to even admit that Zen has a goal, much less name that goal, the renowned Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, is very clear about it:

Seeing into our own true nature is the goal of Zen. -Zen Keys

Dogen wholeheartedly agrees with this contemporary master. He joins the long tradition, established and transmitted by all the Buddhas and Zen ancestors, in clearly defining, and reminding all of us that seeing into our own true nature (enlightenment) is what Zen is all about.

As for the idea that Zazen is only, as you say “coming every morning to the Zendo and the Zafu without any place to go or other place to be ... crossing the legs into balanced position and allowing a quieting of the mind, without any thought of how body and mind should be.” This is the common view of misunderstanding what Dogen means by Zazen.

Dogen, aware of the possibility of even the simplest guidelines to be turned into dogmatic formulas or commandments, warns us about revering the teachings (images) and missing the reality (real dragon) of which the teachings are meant to disclose. In Fukanzazengi:

I beseech you, noble friends in learning through experience, do not be so accustomed to images that you are dismayed by the real dragon. Devote effort to the truth which is directly accessible and straightforward. Revere people who are beyond study and without intention.

Dogen does recognize the value of teachings (carved dragons), but reminds us in Shobogenzo, Zazenshin, (and elsewhere) that the reality (the real dragon) should be the more valued of the two:

More than we love a carved dragon, we should love the real dragon. We should learn that the carved dragon and the real dragon both possess the potency of clouds and rain.

In Shobogenzo, Zazenshin, Dogen points out that “few people know that Zazen is Zazen.” This is as true today as it was in Dogen’s time. Many modern “Zen books” take the position that zazen only and always means “sitting meditation.” Often such books insinuate that effort is not necessary and that “pure awareness” is the only goal.

Dogen warns us not to fall into this simplistic view. He insists that we must exert ourselves and take up each dharma (teaching, thing, and moment), “dharma by dharma.” At the same time, his warning exhorts us to distinguish true Buddhist ancestors, from pseudo-Zen masters.

Those who have not illuminated each dharma, dharma by dharma, cannot be called clear-eyed, and they are not the attainment of the truth; how could they be called the Buddhist patriarchs of the eternal past and present? Therefore, we should be absolutely certain that the Buddhist patriarchs have, in every case, received the one-to-one transmission of Zazen. To be illuminated by the presence of the Buddhist patriarchs’ brightness is to exert oneself in the investigation of this sitting in Zazen.
Zazenshin

It should be obvious that Dogen is not using the term “zazen” in the literal sense of just sitting in meditation. The real significance of zazen, Dogen tells us is, “To be illuminated by the presence of the Buddhist patriarchs’ brightness.” Any fool can sit cross-legged, but that does not make them a Buddhist patriarch. Dogen recognizes that there may be those who do preach just such a ridiculous doctrine. Therefore, he points out that “stupid people” not only fail to grasp the true significance of zazen, but even “mistakenly think that the Buddha’s state of brightness might to be like the brilliance of the sun and the moon.” Zazenshin continues:

Stupid people mistakenly think that the Buddha’s state of brightness might be like the brilliance of the sun and the moon, or like the luminance of a pearl or a flame. The brilliance of the sun and moon is only karmic manifestation of the turning of the wheel through the six worlds; it cannot compare to the Buddha’s state of brightness at all. “The Buddha’s brightness” means accepting, retaining, and hearing a single phrase, maintaining, relying on, and upholding a single dharma, and receiving the one-to-one transmission of Zazen. If [people] are not able to be illuminated by the brightness, they lack this state of maintenance and reliance and they lack this belief and acceptance. This being so, even since ancient times, few people have known that Zazen is Zazen.

To reiterate the fact that zazen is zazen and not merely “sitting meditation,” Dogen continues his explanation by citing the fact that, lots and lots of people practice “sitting meditation,” very few, however, know zazen.

On the mountains of the Great Kingdom of Sung today, leaders of top-ranking temples who do not know Zazen and who do not learn of it, are many; there are some who know [Zazen] clearly, but they are few. In many temples, of course, times for Zazen are laid down, and everyone from the abbot to the monks regards sitting in Zazen as the main task. When recruiting students, too, they urge them to sit in Zazen. Even so, those abbots who know [Zazen] are rare.

Dogen’s kind-hearted, and detailed explanation allows us to better understand how to tell when he is using the term “zazen,” for ordinary “sitting meditation” and when he uses it in the higher sense of the word. It may be helpful to re-state this last section for thorough clarification:

On the mountains of the Great Kingdom of Sung today, leaders of top-ranking temples who do not know Zazen (as Zazen) and who do not learn of it, are many; there are some who know [Zazen] (as Zazen) clearly, but they are few. In many temples, of course, times for Zazen (ordinary sitting meditation) are laid down, and everyone from the abbot to the monks regards sitting in Zazen (ordinary sitting meditation) as the main task. When recruiting students, too, they urge them to sit in Zazen (ordinary sitting meditation). Even so, those abbots who know [Zazen] (as Zazen) are rare.

Although modern pseudo-Zen masters, with their authentic costume and bloodline “certificates,” may obscure Dogen’s teaching on zazen, with a little effort, we can all find the true meaning of Dogen’s zazen. As in Dogen’s words above, this “is directly accessible and straightforward.”

Gassho, Ted

8:23 AM, October 20, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Hi Ted,

Thank you for your long, interesting post.

One perspective I think important to keep in mind, however, because it can be very misleading to students, is that when many Zen teachers use these grandiose terms for enlightenment (seeing one's true-nature, great awakening, casting off body and mind, and attaining the Way, attaining satori) they also emphasize that enlightenment is no less "chopping wood and fetching water" "three pounds of butter" or (in Master Yunmen's famous answer), "a dried turd" and "shit stick."

If you do not do that, the student is left with the belief that Zen is only about some wonderous wonderous view of reality that has little to do with this boring, mundane world we occupy (this is what Master Nishijima means by an "idealistic" religion or philosophy which refers to some great heaven or satori "in the sky," in comparison to which this world we live in is a shadow, has something wrong with it). In fact, Zen is about a wonderous wonderous view of reality that has EVERYTHING to do with this boring, mundane, very ordinary world we occupy.

So, my Zazen sitting is (as in the Dogen sections you mention) "the Dharma-gate of repose and bliss... the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment...like the dragon when he reaches the water, like the tiger when he enters the mountain." It is also the BORING and ordinary act of sitting on one's hind quarters, on a Zafu good for obsorbing farts.

Gassho, Jundo

11:41 AM, October 20, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

Ted,

do you sit zazen everyday?

8:40 PM, October 21, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

also, just out fo interest, what english version of shobogenzo are you quoting from here?

8:42 PM, October 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dear Kumakouji: I think that there is no need to ask after a reward or truth, or whether they are possessed or not."

Come on Jundo, That's such a cop out. If you're gonna make statements about the importance of zazen, I want to know why they're important and what makes it different to any other activity.

What's the difference between zazen and say, walking, or cooking, or playing videogames?

I could just as easily say "Go away and stand on your head -- it's the essence of Zen. Don't ask why though, that's not important."

9:38 PM, October 21, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Dear Kumakouji,

Thank you for your question and comment ...

What is the reward? Would you know it if you saw it? Do you possess the reward?

What is the truth? Would you know it if you heard it? Do you possess the truth?


and

What's the difference between zazen and say, walking, or cooking, or playing videogames?

Dear Kumakouji, one of the wonders of our practice is that two, three or countless perspectives can be true at once, all experienced simultaneously without conflict or dilemma. Thus, we have the goal to practice Zazen, while having no goal in doing so. This is the "Goaless Goal."

What does that mean?

Just to give an example of how this has been incorporated into my life, today I had a vitally important place to be, got very lost on the road I was driving, frustrated at being hours late, missed a big opportunity due to my lateness, was frustrated for that too. However, simultaneously, without the slightest break or tension, I knew all along, every instant, that I was just where I was, always home, that there is no place in life to "go," that time is always just this moment (in Dogen's time, future flows into present flows into past too!), and that there is no opportunity to gain, no opportunity to lose, not any other thing to be doing at that instant than what was being done. As you may guess, with such a wonderful perspective on life, all frustration vanished. It was not an either/or proposition, and both ways of living life were there at once, I was experiencing this like two sides of a coin which is just a single coin (if I just kept the second perspective, I would never get anything accomplished, would never get the cow milked or the shopping done!!).

Is incorporating such ways of living into my life a "Reward" or a "Truth" that I sought to attain through all these decades of practicing Zazen? Sure! Do I now possess them? I suppose I do, as they have become a natural part of me.

However, as in the Goalless Goal, many things are "possessed" by just allowing them to go as they will, by not clinging to them or trying to keep them.

A little clearer now?

Gassho, Jundo

5:45 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Jundo,

Thank you for your response. I think I understand your point, if so, I have to say I disagree--albeit as kindly as possible.
The terms you refer to as "grandiose" (seeing one's true-nature, great awakening, casting off body and mind, and attaining the Way, attaining satori)are everyday food and drink for the great masters of yore (including Dogen). As far as enlightenment being "no less" than "chopping wood and carrying water" (as well as "three pounds of flax" and "dry piece of shit") I wholeheartedly agree. And what marvels they are!

However, it seems to me that expressions about the fact that enlightenment is not apart from the ordinary, everyday world is usually emphasized to students AFTER they have personally experienced body-and-mind cast off. As when Hyakujo was asked by a monk, "What is a special thing?" He responded, "Sitting alone on Daiyu Peak." The monk bowed, and Hyakujo struck him. (As if to say, "Now, don't get stuck in a special thing.") It would have been inappropriate to strike the monk at his initial question, don't you think?
In my experience, there is no shortage of "teachers" emphasising "Nothing Special" and "Ordinary Mind," but there seems to be a great shortage of teachers that urge students to strive for enlightenment "as if their heads were on fire," as Dogen and the other great teachers did.
As far as leaving students "with the belief that Zen is only about some wonderous wonderous view of reality that has little to do with this boring, mundane world we occupy," I doubt there is much danger of that (although I would prefer that over leaving them with the idea that Zen practice and enlightenment was "Nothing Special" or no different than ordinary delusion).
I speak only for myself of course, and I do not claim to be an authority on Zen, much less a Zen master, but for me the "mundane world" vanished quite a while back, along with its sister, the "sacred world."
Also, for me anyway, the "ordinary act of sitting on one's hind quarters, on a Zafu good for obsorbing farts" has been anything but "BORING" for about the same amount of being-time. In fact, I have discovered that it is utterly impossible to be bored with anything anymore. I still get excited, mad, happy, sad, distracted, joyous, grumpy, etc. But never, ever bored. Perhaps I am just some kind of freak, but I blame it on Zen practice and enlightenment.
Thank you again for your comments.
Gasho, Ted

9:40 AM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Dan,
Thank you for your question.
Yes, I sit zazen everyday, and I stand zazen everyday, I get the mail zazen everyday (except Sundays), and pay the bills zazen once a week.
To be honest, Dan, I don't really make much of a distinction between "practice" and "ordinary activities" anymore. But, if you mean what I think you mean, that is, how often do I sit upright on a zafu, the answer is, it varies according to my work schedule, my kid's activities, etc. At one being-time I sit a couple hours everyday for three years, at one being time I only sit for ten minutes once a week.

As far as the English version of Shobogenzo that I quoted, first let me apologize for failing to list the source (I was in a hurry, but I will avoid it in the future). I am pretty sure all the quotes from Shobogenzo were from the Nishijima & Cross translation (by far the best, in my opinion). Shobogenzo Zuimonki came from Thomas Cleary's translation. The poem was from Steven Heines translation.
Thank you again.
Gassho, Ted

9:59 AM, October 27, 2006  

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