Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gakudo-yojin-shu (5) No. 4. We should never practice Buddhism having a mind of getting something

In the practice of Buddhism, which Gautama Buddha taught us, it seems that we should inevitably receive the true teaching of excellent Masters of the past, and we should never utilize our own private criteria.

Furthermore Buddhism can neither be grasped by intentional mind, nor without mind.

If it is impossible for us to identify our mind to regulate our action and the truth, it is absolutely impossible for us to maintain our mind and body as peaceful and stable.

If it is impossible for us to maintain our body and mind as peaceful and stable, it is impossible for us to maintain our body and mind as peaceful and comfortable.

And if our body and mind are not peaceful and comfortable, in what time is it possible for us to experiece the truth? Then the severely painful obstacles will occur.

As it is usually said, how is it possible for our regulating ability of act and the truth to be fused into one, and how shall we behave in our daily life? In short, it is necessary for our mind not to have any kind of like and dislike, and it is necessary for us not to have an intention of getting fame and profit.

The practice of Buddhism is never to be done for getting others' admiration at all.

When we think about people that are Buddhist practitioners in the modern age, the distance between their mind and the truth is as limitlessly distant as possible.

If people admire and love something, even though a leader really knows that it is different from the truth, he usually practices it.

At the same time, if people do not respect and praise it, even though the leader knows that it is just the true way, he intentionally throws away the practice of it without any hesitation. How are the situations like those pitiful and miserable?

It is necessary for you to reflect and suppose whether such a mind and act are Buddhism, or not.

It is seriously shameful, seriously shameful. The facts are perfectly clear, when the eyes of saints look at them.
Generally speaking, Buddhist practitioners do not practice Buddhism even for themselves, therefore how is it permissible for them to practice Buddhism for fame or profit?

Buddhism should always be done just for Buddhism itself.

The reason for the benevolence of the Buddhas' compassion and love to all living beings is never for Buddhas themselves, or never for others, but the reason for the benevolence of Buddhas comes solely from the common behavior of Buddhas in Buddhism.

Don't look at the facts that even small worms, or animals, when they feed and bring up their children, even though the parents meet so painful and difficult experiences, and they manage so
severe and painful situations, and they ultimately accomplish their long bringing up at last, but they do not like to receive any kinds of rewards because of their efforts.
Nevertheless, however, they supply also their benevolence and compassion to their children.

Even those small kinds of creatures still have such benevolence and compassion, and they are very naturally similar to many Buddhas, which love all living beings so much.

The fine and powerful teachings of many Buddhas are not limited to only one factor of benevolence, or compassion, but they manifest themselves in almost all divisions of the world. The fundamental basis of all kinds of things and phenomena are like that.

We, Buddhist students, are just Gautama Buddha's students already, and so how is it possible for us not to follow Gautama Buddha's elegant behavior in his daily life?

Buddhist practitioners should never think to practice Buddhism for themselves, and they should never practice Buddhism for their own fame and profit.

They should never practice Buddhism for them to get direct or indirect effects, and they should never practice Buddhism to get miraculous virtue.
To practice Buddhism just for the sake of Buddhism itself is just the Truth itself.

(Comment)

In Buddhist teachings, all actions should be done for the actions themselves, and Buddhist action should never be done for another purpose other than the action itself. This is just the general principle of Buddhist act, which is always based on the philosophy of act, and so we should think that Buddhist act itself is always the aim of the act itself.

17 Comments:

Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Isn't act done for nothing other than act itself based on seeing reality? Because if one is experiencing reality there is no act to do for self and other, just the act itself.

7:39 AM, October 20, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Act for self and other takes place in duality, while act itself takes place in non duality.

7:40 AM, October 20, 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

5:44 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

To really grasp the essence of Dogen’s teaching, it seems to me that we need to have incorporated the entirety of his works, as well as the context from which they were intended. Once we have a fundamental understanding of how Dogen perceived the Buddhadharma as a whole we can begin to examine the specific methods he recommended for realizing it (making it real). In Dogen’s words about Dharma for the sake of Dharma (or, Buddhism just for the sake of Buddhism itself) we seem to get a condensed expression of what he considered the essential aspects of Zen practice and enlightenment, and the primary method he suggested in order to actualize it.

Dogen, like all the Zen ancestors preceding him, taught that it was only through the realization of our own true nature that the wisdom (prajna) of practice and enlightenment could be realized. Dogen learned, initially from the records of the masters and from his own teacher, and then through his own actualization, the truth of prajna. He personally realized his own identity with the wisdom and compassion that is the life of the universe. Dogen spent the rest of his life in the activity of helping others to realize this identity themselves. The specific methods of awakening to true nature that he transmitted remained faithful to the essential core of the earliest teachings of the Buddha. However, he also received, penetrated, refined, and presented the expedient techniques discovered by the ancestors as the message of Buddhism evolved through the ages. All of these techniques and methods can be more or less accurately described as “meditation” if meditation is defined as, “focusing on and realizing (activating) our own true nature.”

Nearly all the meditation techniques of Buddhism fall into two modes, broadly described as “cessation” and “contemplation” (stopping and seeing,). Cessation (or nonthinking) meditation achieves cessation of delusion; this, it seems to me, is what Dogen refers to in Genjokoan as “forgetting the self.” Contemplation (or observation) meditation achieves the realization of wisdom (prajna), in terms of the Genjokoan this is “to get one dharma is to penetrate one dharma, and to meet one act is to perform one act.”

We know, through his frequent knowledgeable references and citations, that Dogen was thoroughly versed in all the great scriptures and treatises of Buddhism. Hee-Jin Kim demonstrates Dogen’s affinity for one such text, the Awakening of Faith treatise, (Ta-ch’eng ch’i-hsin lun) in his book, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist (See p.111-117). The Awakening of Faith, is a basic text familiar to nearly every school of Mahayana Buddhism, and has been greatly influential to Zen. It is a distillation and summarization of the essential teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.

Because of its simplicity, as well as Dogen’s affinity with it, I will use this text to briefly outline these two basic aspects of Buddhist meditation (Cessation and Observation), and then examine Dogen’s unique approach to them.

The Awakening of Faith’s presentation of the basic techniques and functions of Buddhist meditation are similar to many such statements throughout the Buddhist canon:

Should there be a man who desires to practice “cessation”, he should stay in a quiet place and sit erect in an even temper. His attention should be focused neither on breathing nor on any form or color, nor on empty space, earth, water, fire, wind, nor even on what has been seen, heard, remembered, or conceived. All thoughts, as soon as they are conjured up, are to be discarded, and even the thought of discarding them is to be put away, for all things are essentially in the state of transcending thoughts, and are not to be created from moment to moment nor to be extinguished from moment to moment; thus one is to conform to the essential nature of Reality (dharmata) through this practice of cessation.
The Awakening of Faith, Yoshita S. Hakeda

He who practices “clear observation” should observe that all conditioned phenomena in the world are un-stationary and are subject to instantaneous transformation and destruction… After reflecting in this way, he should pluck up his courage and make a great vow to this effect: may my mind be free from discriminations so that I may practice all of the various meritorious acts everywhere in the ten directions; may I, to the end of the future, by applying limitless expedient means, help all suffering sentient beings so that they may obtain the bliss of nirvana, the ultimate goal. Having made such a vow, he must, in accordance with his capacity and without faltering, practice every kind of good at all times and all places and not be slothful in his mind.
The Awakening of Faith, Yoshita S. Hakeda

Exhortations on the importance of balancing these two aspects of meditation constitute a generous amount of Zen and Buddhist literature. The Awakening of faith affirms the necessity of this, and sums up the reason that balance is essential:

Whether walking, standing, sitting, lying, or rising, he should practice both “cessation” and “clear observation” side by side. That is to say, he is to meditate upon the fact that things are unborn in their essential nature; but at the same time he is to meditate upon the fact that good and evil karma {action}, produced by the combination of the primary cause and the coordinating causes, and the retributions of karma in terms of pleasure, pain, etc., are neither lost nor destroyed. Though he is to meditate on the retribution of good and evil karma produced by the primary and coordinating causes [i.e., he is to practice “clear observation”], he is also to meditate on the fact that the essential nature of things is unobtainable by intellectual analysis.
The Awakening of Faith, Yoshita S. Hakeda

The practice of “cessation” will enable ordinary men to cure themselves of their attachments to the world, and will enable the followers of the Hinayana to forsake their views {of self-centered personal salvation}, which derive from cowardice. The practice of “clear observation” will cure the followers of the Hinayana of the fault of having narrow and inferior minds, which bring forth no great compassion, and will free ordinary men from their failure to cultivate the capacity for goodness. For these reasons, both “cessation” and “clear observation” are complementary and inseparable.
The Awakening of Faith, Yoshita S. Hakeda

“Cessation” meditation brings about the realization of emptiness (sunyata) or, the Prajna of Equality. To become attached to emptiness causes disengagement from the relative world of everyday life. “Clear observation” meditation brings about the realization of differentiation. To become attached to differentiation causes turmoil, blocking off perception of ultimate reality. “Clear observation” works as an antidote to attachment to emptiness. “Cessation” works as an antidote to attachment to differentiation.

Keeping in mind these basic aspects regarding Buddhist meditation, I will now examine, what I see as the primary approaches that Dogen urged in his teachings on practice and enlightenment, or Dharma for the sake of Dharma.

“Zazen,” in the literal sense of the word (as we know) means “sitting meditation.” Regarding the physical aspect of sitting meditation (zazen), Dogen’s teaching, is similar to that of many teachers before and after him. Dogen gives very practical instructions on how to do this in his essays, Shobogenzo, Zazengi, and Fukan-Zazengi. His language is straightforward and easily understood, so we need not go into any detailed examination here.

I will begin with what I believe are Dogen’s teachings as to the application of our consciousness in sitting meditation as it applies to cessation, which he often refers to as “nonthinking.” For realizing cessation or, “forgetting the self,” Dogen recommended two primary methods, shikantaza (sole sitting) and koan-introspection (examining koans of Zen ancestors).

After describing the physical sitting posture, in his essays, Shobogenzo, Zazengi, and Fukan-Zazengi Dogen instructs his listeners to set aside all involvements and considerations, and to cease all judgements of good and bad, right and wrong, etc. Then, citing the words of a koan (Yueh-shan’s “non-thinking,” various koan collections), he describes “the essential art of zazen.” “Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? It is non-thinking.”

Do not think good, do not think bad; do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thoughts and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. The practice of Zen (sanzen) has nothing whatever to do with the four bodily attitudes of moving, standing, sitting, or lying down…

Once you have adjusted yourself into this posture, take a deep breath, inhale, exhale, rock your body to the right and left, and settle yourself into a steady, unmoving sitting position. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Nonthinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.
Fukan-Zazengi, The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Waddell & Abe

Cast aside all involvements and cease the ten thousand things. Good is not considered. Bad is not considered. It is beyond mind, will, and consciousness, and beyond mindfulness, thought, or reflection. Do not try to become a buddha. Get free from sitting and lying down…

Having regulated the body-mind like this, let there be one complete exhalation. Sitting in balance in the mountain-still state, think the concrete state of not thinking. How can the state of not thinking be thought? It is non-thinking. This is the real secret of Zazen. Sitting in Zazen is not learning Zen meditation. It is the great peaceful gate of Dharma. It is untainted practice-and-experience.
Shobogenzo, Zazengi, Nishijima & Cross

Despite the claims by some, about the extraordinarily profound insight of these simple instructions, they are far from unique. In fact, they are typical of the most common and basic instructions on meditation in all schools of Buddhism. They could be described as the “kindergarten” of Buddhist meditation. They are simply Dogen’s clarification and reiteration of the basic practice of cessation meditation. As such, they are nearly interchangeable with many expressions before Dogen, as in the following examples:

First set aside all involvements and concerns; do not remember or recollect anything at all, whether good or bad, mundane or transcendental. Do not engage in thoughts. Let go of body and mind, setting them free.

… put an end to all fettering connections, and feelings of greed, hatred, craving, defilement and purity, all come to and end…

Not being bound by any good or evil, emptiness or existence, defilement or purity, striving or nonstriving, mundanity or transcendence, virtue or knowledge, is called enlightened wisdom.

Once affirmation and negation, like and dislike, approval and disapproval, and all various opinions and feelings come to and end and cannot bind you, then you are free wherever you may be.
~ Hyakujo, Zen Teachings, Thomas Cleary, p.18


If one only does not get hindered by either good or evil things, then that is a person who cultivates the Way. Grasping good and rejecting evil, contemplating sunyata and entering samadhi—all of these belong to activity. If one seeks outside, one goes away from it. Just put an end to all mental conceptions in the three realms.
~ Sun-Face Buddha, Cheng Chien Bhikshu, p.63

Q: Whereon should the mind settle and dwell?

A: It should settle upon nondwelling and there dwell.

Q: What is this nondwelling?

A: It means not allowing the mind to dwell upon any-thing whatsoever.

Q: And what is the meaning of that?

A: Dwelling upon nothing means that the mind is not fixed upon good or evil, being or nonbeing, inside or outside, or somewhere between the two, void or nonvoid, concentration or distraction. This dwelling upon nothing is the state in which it should dwell; those who attain to it are said to have nondwelling minds - in other words, they have Buddha-minds!
~ Hui Hai, The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening, John Blofeld

The Master said: Only when you minds cease dwelling upon anything whatsoever will you come to an understanding of the true way of Zen. I may express it thus—the way of the Buddhas flourishes in a mind utterly freed from conceptual thought processes, while discrimination between this and that gives birth to a legion of demons!
~ Obaku, The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, John Blofeld, p.127

To obtain liberation is to attain samâdhi of prajna, which is thoughtlessness. What is thoughtlessness? Thoughtlessness is to see and to know all dharmas [things] with a mind free from attachment. When in use it pervades everywhere, and yet it sticks nowhere...When our mind works freely without any hindrance, and is at liberty to come or to go, we attain samâdhi of prajna, or liberation. Such a state is called the function of thoughtlessness. But to refrain from thinking of anything, so that all thoughts are suppressed, is to be dharma-ridden, and this is an erroneous view.
~ Eno, The Diamond Sutra & The Sutra of Hui-Neng, A. F. Price & Wong Mou-lam, p.85

Some contemporary teachers draw a distinction between Dogen and others by playing games of semantics. They like to point out that Dogen’s term “non-thinking,” is different than the terms, “cessation,” “no-mind,” “thoughtlessness,” etc. While literally true, this argument simply demonstrates an attachment to an idol named “non-thinking.” Though “going for a stroll” sounds different than “taking a walk” the reality is the same.
Anybody with actual experience in meditation can quickly discover that whether they apply Dogen’s method of “non-thinking” or Obaku’s instructions for “cessation of conceptualization” the actual experience is identical; in either case success is realized as “forgetting the self.” As in Dogen’s words above, this “is directly accessible and straightforward.”

One Dogen scholar, Carl Bielefeldt, analyzing the topic of “non-thinking” asked a very important question:

At the very least, it would not seem overly forward to ask whether or not the practice of the new nonthinking is different from the old practice of forgetting objects.

This simple question is rarely asked in the considerable literature on the Fukan zazen gi and its famous teaching of hi shiryo {non-thinking}. Insofar as the literature is still inspired—even if often unconsciously—by the spirit of the Patriarchs, the lack of curiosity is hardly surprising; the question clearly ignores the basic premises, and undermines the religious power, of the sudden practice. And even for the uninspired historian…Dogen’s teaching of nonthinking does not permit a final answer.
Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation, Carl Bielefeldt, p.149

Bielefeldt goes on to offer some (as always) very inspirational possibilities of interpretation, which we will not discuss here. The very raising of this question, however, shows the untypical approach that makes Bielefeldt’s work so powerful. It also points out a weakness in the scholarly community; a failure to raise questions about some of the basic premises espoused by many within the religious institutions. The premise that Dogen taught a “new and improved” kind of Zen seems to have become the accepted standard of many scholars in the Zen community.

If we can learn to read Dogen as a transmitter of Zen Buddhism, rather than as the founder of a Zen sect, things begin to become clearer, at least in my own experience. While Dogen did present some evolutionary techniques, as well as some of the most profound expressions in the entire Buddhist canon, the reality he experienced and transmitted was the same as all the Buddhas and Zen masters. Though his “carving” was uniquely Dogen, the “real dragon” was, and is, the real dragon. In Shobogenzo, Kokyo, Dogen reminds his listeners/readers that zazen is zazen, Buddhism is Buddhism, and the experience of reality is the experience of reality:

What all the buddhas and all the patriarchs have received and retained, is the eternal mirror. They have the same view and the same face, the same image and the same cast; they share the same state and realize the same experience. Shobogenzo, Kokyo, Nishijima & Cross

The meditation techniques of cessation aim at stopping the habitual conceptualization that goes on in the brain. Inundated by thoughts, ideas, views, prejudice, associations, memories, and imagination, our ability to experience our self and the world as they are; that is, in their suchness, becomes obscured. In other words, notions of “self” and “other” obscure the Universal Mirror Prajna. Practicing cessation meditation actively brings about cessation of habitual conceptualization allowing us to “forget the self” and thereby awaken to the Universal Mirror Prajna.

While there are no major difficulties in learning how to practice cessation meditation, the actual implementation of it usually requires a fair amount of sustained practice. Once the practitioner has become proficient, cessation meditation can be carried out in activity. However, for most people, especially beginners, sitting is usually the easiest way to practice cessation, or nonthinking.

One way Dogen recommends for achieving nonthinking while sitting, is to “examine exhaustively whether the total world is vertical or horizontal.” This is Dogen’s reiteration of the classic Zen teaching of “raising great doubt.” His students would have been familiar with this technique from the records of Zen. Unlike many contemporary teachers that urge their students not to seek, not to make heroic efforts, Dogen repeatedly urges us to make great effort “as if our heads where on fire.”

Because many Soto officials have tried to erase this attitude, modern Zen practitioners are more familiar with this attitude from the records of the Rinzai masters. Hakuin in particular, is well known for urging his students to arouse great doubt and inquire deeply, for example:

…you should constantly ask yourself who is hosting your seeing and hearing.

...plunge your spirit into the question: what it is that sees everything here and now? What is it that hears?

Questioning like this, pondering like this, what it is, when you keep on wondering continuously, driven by courage and conscience, your effort will naturally become unified and solid, turning into a single mass of wonder pervading the universe. Four Cognitions, Thomas Cleary

Dogen and Hakuin, though separated by lineage and about 500 years, are closer to “Dharma-brothers” than most of Dogen’s so-called successors. In Shobogenzo, Sammai-O-Zammai, Dogen gives a very “Hakuin like” presentation on how to apply our consciousness in sitting meditation in order to achieve realization of nonthinking:

At the very time of your sitting, you should examine exhaustively whether the total world is vertical or horizontal. At that very time, what is the sitting itself? Is it wheeling about in perfect freedom? Is it like the spontaneous vigor of a leaping fish? Is it thinking? Or not thinking? Is it doing? Is it non-doing? Is it sitting within sitting? Is it sitting within body and mind? Or is it sitting that has cast off sitting within sitting, sitting within body and mind, and the like?
Shobogenzo, Sammai-O-Zammai, Waddell & Abe, p.100

In the same essay, Dogen again reminds us not to mistake zazen for “zazen.” That is to say, not to cling to the words (the carved dragon) and miss the reality (the real dragon). Look at the startling way he presents this teaching:

There is sitting with body and mind cast off, and it is not the same as sitting with body and mind cast off.
Shobogenzo, Sammai-O-Zammai, Waddell & Abe, p.100

Dogen continues this wonderful essay by making another very Hakuin-like statement:

Once you attain this state of suchness and attain the harmoni-ous unity of activity and understanding possessed by the Buddha-patriarchs, you examine exhaustively all the thoughts and views of this attainment.
Shobogenzo, Sammai-O-Zammai, Waddell & Abe, p.100

Compare this with Hakuin:

…driven by courage and conscience, your effort will naturally become unified and solid, turning into a single mass of wonder pervading the universe…

This is the meaning of complete perfect enlightenment at the first stage of inspiration. You can discern the source of eighty thousand doctrines and their infinite subtle meanings all at once.
Four Cognitions, Thomas Cleary

Of course, Hakuin and Dogen say similar things because they are both genuine Zen masters. All the Buddhas and Zen masters “have the same original face.” Even when their expressions differ considerably, their intentions never vary—transmission of the Buddhadharma (Buddhist truth). In Shobogenzo, Bendowa, we read:

[The Dharma] was authentically transmitted from patriarch to patriarch and it reached the Venerable Bodhidharma. The Venerable One himself went to China and transmitted the Dharma to the Great Master Eka. This was the first transmission of the Buddha-Dharma in the Eastern Lands. Transmitted one-to-one in this manner, [the Dharma] arrived naturally at Zen Master Daikan, the Sixth Patriarch. At that time, as the real Buddha-Dharma spread through the eastern [land of] China, it became clear that [the Dharma] is beyond literary expression. The Sixth Patriarch had two excellent disciples, Ejo of Nangaku and Gyoshi of Seigen. Both of them, having received and maintained the posture of Buddha were guiding teachers of human beings and gods alike. [The Dharma] flowed and spread in these two streams, and five lineages were established. These are the so-called Hogen Sect, Igyo Sect, Soto Sect, Unmon Sect, and Rinzai Sect. In great Sung [China] today the Rinzai Sect alone holds sway throughout the country. Although there are differences between the five traditions, the posture with the stamp of the Buddha’s mind is only one.
Shobogenzo, Bendowa, Nishijima & Cross

Dogen urges us to learn the “backward step” of turning the light around and awakening to the bodhi-mind (enlightened mind). Sitting still, we “do not think good, do not think bad; do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thoughts and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha.” Just think not thinking. How do we think not thinking? It is nonthinking. How do we do that? Very simple, “At the very time of your sitting, you should examine exhaustively whether the total world is vertical or horizontal. At that very time, what is the sitting itself?”

As we observed earlier, this sounds easy enough, however, it does take sustained effort to accomplish it.

Dogen sometimes refers to the actual experience of this practice as “stopping outflows” or “casting off body and mind.” His most well known articulation of this is the passage we read in Shobogenzo, Genjokoan:

To study the way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever.
Shobogenzo, Genjokoan, Mystical Realist, Hee-Jin Kim

This passage is wonderful in its rational simplicity. However, by its very straightforward and logical construction it is also more prone to intellectual [mis] understanding than many of Dogen’s subtler expressions. Dogen was a master of not only explicating how to achieve the experience of cessation, but also of provoking it with words and gestures. For example:

Enlightenment Day Ceremony Dharma Hall Discourse

The old head of the house, after falling in the grass for six years, during the night entered the plum blossoms without realizing it. The spring wind arising within [the plum blossoms] cannot stay put; the branches all red and white take pride in themselves.

All of you venerable monks, do you want to know the causes and reasons for [the awakening] of Bhiksu Gautama? The first cause for accomplishing the Buddha way is hearing Tiantong [Rujing] speak about dropping away. The second is the power of Daibutsu’s [Dogen’s] fist entering all of your eyeballs. Its spiritual power and wisdom transform and liberate living beings, who suddenly see the bright star, or [this fist’s power and wisdom] take over your entire body so that you sit on the vajra seat [of Buddha’s awakening]. Grasping and letting go are each brilliant. With one raised [fist], we meet thirty-three people.

Although it is like this, how does the life root of the World-Honored One remain in all of your hands? Do you want to meet the World-Honored One?

Dogen raised his fist and paused for awhile, then opened his five fingers wide and paused, then said: You have already met the World-Honored One. How is it to have met him?

After a pause Dogen said: Right now awaken the way and see the bright star. This is exactly the place where the Tathagata eats porridge.
Eihei Koroku, 2:136, Leighton & Okumura

This passage, like poetry, scripture, and koans, contains layers of wisdom beyond ordinary intellectual explication. However, clarification is possible as to some of Dogen’s references that may not be as familiar to us as they were to his audience of monastics. We can also examine some of the implications of this passage in relation to our discussion of “cessation” meditation.

In the first section, “old head of the house…falling in the grass for six years…entered the plum blossoms…spring wind arising…cannot stay put…” refer to the practice, enlightenment, and the ongoing practice and enlightenment of the teaching career of the historical Gautama Buddha (Shakyamuni). There is more subtlety here, but his audience would have clearly understood at least that much.

In the next line, Dogen gets his listeners undivided attention, “All of you venerable monks, do you want to know the causes and reasons for [the awakening] of Bhiksu Gautama?” “Bhiksu Gautama” means “Gautama the monk.” In this manner, Dogen brings the Great Buddha down to the level of an ordinary monk, just like the people listening to him at that very moment. Dogen knows very well what the fundamental motivation of his listeners is, and he blows on that flame with, “do you want to know the causes and reasons for [the awakening] of Bhiksu Gautama?” Of course they do! Don’t you?

We can imagine being a monastic, solely dedicated to awakening to the enlightened mind, hearing these words, “Hey you, I am about to reveal the secret to awakening.” In that instant the monastic may forget about the fact that her knees hurt from sitting, forget her anger toward the other monastic that got the flower-cutting duty while she got the latrine duty, forgetting almost everything for just a moment. Nevertheless, in her desire to grasp the secret, the monastic may fall short of forgetting the self.

Dogen continues, “The first cause for accomplishing the Buddha way is hearing Tiantong [Rujing] speak about dropping away.” Tiantong [Rujing] was Dogen’s own teacher. Dogen experienced his initial great awakening hearing his teacher’s voice as he scolded a monk sitting next to Dogen (a fact that his audience knew very well). Dogen says the first of the “causes and reasons” for the awakening of Gautama, was hearing Tiantong speak. In this way, Dogen erases the division between his own awakening and that of Gautama Buddha. With no distinction between the monk Dogen and the monk Gautama, what distinction could there be between the monk listening to Dogen? This wondrous pronouncement seems incredible. Perhaps with its stunning revelation, the monastic forgets her-self; forgets the self.

Next, Dogen says, “The second is the power of Daibutsu’s [Dogen’s] fist entering all of your eyeballs.” Now Dogen claims that the second of the “causes and reasons” for Gautama’s awakening is, “Dogen’s fist” entering “your eyeballs.” This has nothing to do with punching or hitting. Rinzai’s words are appropriate here:

The Master ascended the hall and said, “Here in this lump of red flesh there is a True Man with no rank. Constantly he goes in and out the gates of your face. If there are any of you who don’t know this for a fact, then look! Look!
The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi, Burton Watson, p.13

When the monastic sees Dogen’s fist, it is going in and out of the eyes (eye gates) of her face, affirming the “True Man with no rank.” The monastic having “forgotten the self” may be “enlightened by all of the things of the universe” (one of which is Dogen’s fist).

Dogen continues, “Its spiritual power and wisdom transform and liberate living beings, who suddenly see the bright star, or [this fist’s power and wisdom] take over your entire body so that you sit on the vajra seat [of Buddha’s awakening]. Grasping and letting go are each brilliant.”

Gautama Buddha was awakened when, as he sat on the vajra (diamond) seat in the condition of nonthinking, he saw the morning star (the bright star entered his eyeballs). In the realm of “nonthinking,” the bright star, Dogen’s fist, a whisk, a tile, a staff, plumb blossoms, and all the myriad things “advance and confirm the self” (Genjokoan). Dogen indicates the non-dual working of the fist and the eyeballs, “Grasping and letting go are each brilliant.” The seeing (grasping) eyeballs are it (brilliant), and the fist and bright star (letting go) are it (brilliant).

As he says, “With one raised [fist], we meet thirty-three people.” The “thirty-three people” indicate the Buddhas and Zen ancestors. Having forgotten the self, and cast off the body and mind of self and other (self and fist), we meet (realize our identity with) all of the enlightened beings of past, present, and future.

According to Zen tradition, the Buddha once held up a flower and twirled it before his assembly. One man, Mahakasyapa, broke into a smile and the Buddha recognized his awakening. However, he went on to use words for those who had not smiled, hoping to awaken them also. We do not know if any of Dogen’s audience awakened at this point in his expression, but Dogen continues to try to elicit a smile.

“Although it is like this, how does the life root of the World-Honored One remain in all of your hands? Do you want to meet the World-Honored One?” Again Dogen provokes and lures his listeners away from their own petty concerns.

“Dogen raised his fist and paused for awhile.” (Look, look!) No doubt, he looked around for smiling faces. Anybody? No? “[T]hen opened his five fingers wide and paused,” (Look, look!) Maybe he saw a smile or two, for the rest he “then said: You have already met the World-Honored One. How is it to have met him?” Even if you did not smile, the “spiritual power and wisdom” of fist and eyeballs (Universal Mirror Prajna) functioned perfectly. Do you know how it functions?

“After a pause Dogen said: Right now awaken the way and see the bright star. This is exactly the place where the Tathagata eats porridge.” The “Tathagata” is the Buddha. This is the place where s/he eats porridge. Like the three bears discovered, someone has been eating our porridge (not to mention sitting on our cushion and sleeping in our bed).

Although I have trampled on sacred ground and ruined Dogen’s wonderful expression, there is every reason to believe that his words will continue to yield up gold for many years to come. The bright star, the fist, the sound of the airplane continues to transmit the Dharma of all the Buddhas and Zen masters. Through the practice of cessation, sole sitting (shikantaza), nonthinking, thoughtlessness, or whatever mask we choose to indicate it by, the reality of “forgetting the self” and awakening to our true-nature is an essential first step on the Zen path of practice and enlightenment.

Dogen points out in the following passage that it is no easy task to reach the “temple” of nonthinking, where the “mind of the way” is awakened. Nevertheless, it “is primary.” That is, until we awaken through the practice of cessation, we cannot tread the ultimate path. As he puts it, “To refine the rice, first the bran must be removed:”

In studying the way, the mind of the way is primary. This temple in the remote mountains and deep valleys is not easy to reach, and people arrive only after sailing over oceans and climbing mountains. Without treading with the mind of the way, it’s difficult to arrive at this field. To refine the rice, first the bran must be removed. This is a good place in which to engage the way. And yet, I’m sorry that the master [Dogen] does not readily attend to others by disposition. However, by day or night, the voice of the valley stream happens to be conducive for carrying water. Also, in spring and fall, the colors of the mountain manage to be conducive for gathering firewood. I hope the cloud and water monks will keep the way in mind.
Eihei Koroku, 3:200, Leighton & Okumura

In one of Dogen’s koan presentations, he gives us an intriguing glimpse into what the experience of non-thinking is like.

Dharma Hall Discourse

Here is a story. Jingquing Daofu asked a monk, “What is the sound outside the gate?”

The monk said, “The sound of raindrops.”

Jingquing said, “Living beings are upside-down, deluded by self and chasing after things.”

The monk said, “Teacher, how about you?”

Jingquing said, “I’m almost not confused by self.”

The monk said, “What does it mean, almost not confused by self?”

Jingquing responded, “It is most easy to be released from the self, but expressing this dropped off body is very difficult.”

The teacher Dogen said: Since completely dropping the body, there is [still] the sound of the raindrops. Released from the self, what is the sound outside the gate? As for deluding the self or not deluding the self, which is difficult or which is easy I completely leave to you. As for chasing after things or chasing after self, are they upside down or not upside down.
Eihei Koroku, 1:39, Leighton & Okumura

(Apparently unfamiliar with the main point of this koan, the translators insert the word “still” into the first line; this word should be omitted.)

Remember that the people in Dogen’s audience were no doubt familiar with this classic case. (There may even have been some working on it in private interviews with Dogen.)

In his words, “Since completely dropping the body, there is the sound of the raindrops.” Dogen gives us a powerful clue about the experience of sound in nonthinking (as well as the experience of sight, sensation, smell, taste, and thought).

In the state, or condition of nonthinking the “sound of raindrops,” like the bright star and Dogen’s fist, “advances and confirms the self.” The monk’s reply, “The sound of raindrops,” is not the same as Dogen’s, “Since completely dropping the body, there is the sound of the raindrops.” For the monk, it is the sound of “raindrops,” for Dogen; there is the sound of raindrops.

Dogen, in his use of the interrogative, “what,” in the next line, drives this point home with, “Released from the self (forgetting the self), what (who, how) is the sound outside the gate?” That is to say: The sound outside the gate is what (who, how). “To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe” (Genjokoan). For the conceptual mind, it is the “sound of raindrops.” In the experience of nonthinking (cessation of conceptual thought), it is splish, splash, drip, drop.

In Fukan-Zazengi, Dogen makes this point extremely clear—if we can avoid being tainted by the “Dogen experts’” that regularly mutilate this inspiring treatise.

This sitting in Zazen is not learning Zen concentration. It is simply the peaceful and joyful gate of Dharma. It is the practice-and-experience which perfectly realizes the state of bodhi. The Universe is conspicuously realized, and restrictions and hindrances never reach it. To grasp this meaning is to be like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger in its mountain stronghold. Remember, the right Dharma is naturally manifesting itself before us, and darkness and distraction have dropped away already.

If we rise from sitting, we should move the body slowly, and stand up calmly. We should not be hurried or violent. We see in the past that those who transcended the common and transcended the sacred, and those who died while sitting or died while standing, relied totally on this power Moreover, the changing of the moment, through the means of a finger, pole, a needle, or a wooden clapper; and the experience of the state, through the manifestation of a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout, can never be understood by thinking and discrimination. How could they be known through mystical powers or practice and experience? They may be dignified behavior beyond sound and form. How could they be anything other than criteria that precede knowing and seeing?

Therefore, we do not discuss intelligence as superior and stupidity as inferior. Do not choose between clever people and dull ones. If we single-mindedly make effort [in Zazen] that truly is pursuit of the truth. Practice-and-experience is naturally untainted. Actions are more balanced and constant.
Shobogenzo, Fukanzazengi, Nishijima & Cross

(Note: The passage translated as “the changing of the moment, through the means of” is a bit stifled. Norman Waddell and Masao Abe translate this same line as “enlightenment brought on by the opportunity provided by…” See: The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Norman Waddell & Masao Abe)

Dogen illustrates the moment of awakening (realization, experiencing true-nature, etc.), “through the means of a finger, pole, a needle, or a wooden clapper; and the experience of the state, through the manifestation of a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout.” When we have “cast off body and mind,” the bright star, a fist, or the sound of raindrops enlightens us to our own true nature. Once we have cast off completely, the whole universe is the sound of raindrops, or a wooden clapper. This is realization of the Universal Mirror Prajna where authentic practice and enlightenment begins.

Of course, I am no authority on Zen and I may be all wrong about this, but this is how I understand one aspect of Dogen’s teaching on Dharma for the sake of Dharma.

If it is helpful to anyone, great! If not, I am sorry for wasting your time.

Thank you, Ted

2:11 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

'I am no authority on Zen' - you're also somewhat disingenuous Ted.

Many thanks for this brilliant essay.

7:51 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

Ted,

it is a strange thing but from time to time Michael Tait and I agree.

Your analysis and exposition is I think spot on (at least for the 75% that I read in detail).

The only thing that I would say is that it feels wrong to me for you to be posting such a long and detailed essay here on Gudo Nishijima's blog.

Such an essay would be fine on your own site and yours alone.

8:47 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear Michael Tate,

Thank you for your encouraging words.

Ted

11:53 AM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear MikeDoe,

Thanks for your comments. Sorry about the length of the comment. I did not mean any to offend anyone. I have not had much experience with blogs. In the future I will keep my comments shorter, or, if I think a short comment would be insufficient to accurately present my understanding, I will refrain from posting.

Thanks again, Ted

11:58 AM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

ted:

I didn't take offence at the comment or the length I just basically wondered what your motivation was.

"I think a short comment would be insufficient to accurately present my understanding"

Who are you trying to impress or convince?

9:51 PM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear MikeDoe,

Thanks for your comment.

MikeDoe wrote:

"Who are you trying to impress or convince?"

Yes! Excellent! I would only add:

And who is it that is trying to impress or convince?

Gassho, Ted

9:32 AM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Dear Ted,

Thank you for a detailed and fascinating presentation. I took it in small bites, and found so much interesting material to consider. I am going to offer a couple of words of caution, if I may.

It is not the quantity of words (although it is that too, because sometimes pouring on a gallon of hot fudge does not make a better Sundae) nor the passion (nothing wrong with having your "head on fire"). Instead, it is that there's a slight "stink of Zen," though in a very, very subtle way. There is, perhaps, the search for a life changing experience that you conflate with "cesssation" (or perhaps that you just overemphasize the importance of "cessation" as the heart of Zen)

Let me explain ...

Nishijima often speaks of Buddhism's having been turned over time into a "religion of Idealism" and the Buddha's being remade into an object of religious fetish. By example, he points to how the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, was soon transformed in religious imagry into a Golden, Bejeweled Cosmic Force, eminating Light and floating on his cotton candy cloud in "Buddha Heaven." As with the Buddha, so with many of the Buddha's teachings. (Today, I am in Italy and spent much of the day looking at 15th century idealized pictures of Jesus and Mary in the very same mode.).

There is a tendency in your words, and in the types of materials you select, to dip "Your Own True Nature" in Gold and Jewels and see it as eminating Light. Just a little.

As a translator of Japanese, and a student (like you) of Zen, I can tell you that a Japanese or Chinese phrase can be given very different flavors in the hands of the translator. Thus, one Zen teacher's simple question to his student (concerning his daily appointments), "What time is it, and where do we have to go now" can be twisted into "What is time, and where is there to go now?" Phrases such as "Since completely dropping the body, there is the sound of the raindrops” need not point to a "cessation" of all thought (more a practice of Hindu mystics that the Buddha rejected), but to the nonjudgmental experience of the rain.

You offer a certain take on Dogen. Ultimately, only Dogen (like Buddha) can answer what he actually intended, and he is not around in person to do so. However, it is not likely to be as you have it. Dogen's own way of writing can be confusing, because he would typically make reference to symbols and stories from other branches of Buddhism (for example, Mikkyo esoteric Buddhism or Jodo) as a means to supplant those competing visions of Buddhism (for example, he might say "take over your entire body so that you sit on the vajra seat [of Buddha’s awakening]" to say (not that he was an upholder of Esoteric concepts like Vajra) but that a moment of Zazen is better than anything fancy-smancy like that. That Zazen is a trip to "Tushita Heaven" did not mean that there is, in Dogen's view, a "Tushita Heaven."

In addition, there is some tendency in the passages you choose (likely originating from some literature associated with Sanbokyodan or the Maezumi Roshi lineage) to conflate Dogen with Hakuin and the like. You say, "Dogen recommended two primary methods, shikantaza (sole sitting) and koan-introspection (examining koans of Zen ancestors)." While, of course, Dogen's writings are chock full of Koan retellings, there is no point where there is recommended by him the use of a Koan as a focus of concentration during Zazen itself, or the "attaining" of some great, sudden "breakthrough" as is typically emphasized in that form of Zen practice. Dogen never speaks of a single "Final Breakthrough," and is more about the countless insights, great and small ("Cessation" is one screwdriver on an amazing tool belt, one trick in a bag of incredible mind-body tricks).

Furthermore, even if Dogen taught some form of meditation leading to "cessation" of thought (and I find that term so extreme that it bears little relationship to the "Non-thinking" now practiced in the Soto lineage, which is more a non-judgemental thinking or "just experiencing"), it was soon to be discarded anyway. It is not the point. You can't live that way, nor are the most important lessons on how to live to be found there. "Cessation of thinking" doesn't get lunch made.

You say ...

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?

No, I don't see it like that. For me, "Now, don't get stuck in a special thing." is more "Now, don't get stuck in something so trivial." You seem beguiled by the import of this "Cessation" of thinking, and I think the fascination is misplaced.

In my talks to my students, I usually emphasize (maybe too much) the Zen of changing dirty diapers, washing the dishes, fighting with the wife and fixing flat tires ... mundane things. It is not that the things you discuss are not true, but they are a big yawn compared to the rest of life.

Here is my main point:

It is not that some Satori experience suddenly makes us see that changing a dirty diaper is an expression of the universe, dipped in Gold and eminating Light.

It is that, in practicing Zen, one realizes that changing dirty diapers, just-this-life, is needing of nothing else, is just as good as a trip to Tushita Heaven.

Subtle difference.

Gassho, Jundo

10:15 AM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:25 PM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:27 PM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Ted,

I wished to clarify something I said ...
__________

Phrases such as "Since completely dropping the body, there is the sound of the raindrops” need not point to a "cessation" of all thought (more a practice of Hindu mystics that the Buddha rejected), but to the nonjudgmental experience of the rain.
__________

I did not mean to imply to you are using the term "cessation" to mean "the total cessation of all thought and consciousness." I think that what you mean, for example, in your interpretation of the phrase "Since completely dropping the body, there is the sound of the raindrops" might be expressed (by me at least as) this ...

"Sometimes, when we do Zazen as rain falls outside the gate, self is forgotten and there is just the sound of falling rain, no inside or outside to it, no gate between. Just raining. Ultimately, no rain for no place to fall to."

Same, as you say, with sight, sensation, smell, taste, and thought. My point, however, is that this is not a big deal for Dogen, it is one little take on things, one minor experience in Dogen's VAST tool belt of perspectives on you and the falling rain. These are shown, I believe, by something else you quote ...

__________


The teacher Dogen said: Since completely dropping the body, there is [still] the sound of the raindrops. Released from the self, what is the sound outside the gate? As for deluding the self or not deluding the self, which is difficult or which is easy I completely leave to you. As for chasing after things or chasing after self, are they upside down or not upside down.

__________

Now, THERE is the Dogen we can know and love!!

It is the Dogen who is making a MUCH more important point out of his bag of tricks. In this case, that sometimes we forget the self and there is just rain raining, sometimes there is just self (why think of that as delusion?) and rain is forgotten. Sometimes the gate is closed and there are two, sometimes the gate is open but one flows into the other (and in all directions simultaneously or one at a time, you falling into the rain and the rain falling into you, with sometimes the rain falling UP, sometimes the rain standing still and you falling! Sometimes Buddhas fall from the sky and we all catch cold.) In the last sentences of the Dogen quote (an echoe of Jingquing's “Living beings are upside-down, deluded by self and chasing after things”) Dogen does not criticize his own Teacher's comment, but does a Jazz riff on it:

As for deluding the self or not deluding the self, which is difficult or which is easy I completely leave to you. As for chasing after things or chasing after self, are they upside down or not upside down.

In Dogen's bag of tricks, reality is much more complicated that\n merely letting there be "be rain raining, the self forgotten."

Thus, cessation is not a big deal. Nice place to visit, wouldn't want to live there.

What is more, it is raining: Better put on your raincoat or get an umbrella, for otherwise you will catch the sniffles - the 100% practical "Realist" Dogen that, I put to you, is what we need in this day-to-day world. Do you think that they just let themselves get wet there at Eiheiji, self forgotten? Why then did they bother to put a roof on the Sodo Hall?

Gassho, Jundo

3:31 PM, October 30, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

True action is a spontaneous happening -- a criterion prior to knowing and seeing.

But usually my human desire is to get some result; for example, to hit the target.

Zen Master Dogen was also like that. Therefore he was not satisfied with Fukan-zazen-gi Shinpitsu-bon, even though it is brilliant, and he tried again with Fukan-zazen-gi Rufubon.

Zen Master Dogen was not a scholar writing for the edification of “Dogen” scholars. He was a Zazen buddha writing for Zazen buddhas. Therefore in Fukan-zazen-gi and Shobogenzo he expressed Gautama Buddha’s fundamental idea that we should just practice Buddhism -- with body, with mind, and dropping off body and mind.

I seriously doubt whether the title of this section of Gakudo-yojin-shu was written by Master Dogen or not.

In reality, when I have a mind to get something, sometimes I practice Buddhism with my mind to get something. Just with my dirty tainted mind to get something, I physically sit in the full lotus posture. In idealistic and scholarly Buddhism this situation is not imagined. But in the real Buddhism of Zen Master Dogen there is practice like this.

Ordinary people who preach the Buddhism of changing dirty nappies do so without knowing their own mind to get something. When real buddhas sit in the full lotus posture, sometimes they do so just knowing their own mind to get something.

It is necessary to understand the difference exactly.

7:05 AM, October 31, 2006  
Blogger TedinAnacortes said...

Dear JundoCohen,

Thank you for analyzing and critiquing my blog comment. I appreciate any professional advice I can get.

As you surely gleaned, from my clumsy presentation on how I understand Dogen’s teaching on one aspect (nonthinking) of “Dharma for the sake of Dharma,” I am no Zen scholar (!) I am not even a Zen Buddhist, nor have I ever been a member of a Buddhist community. In fact, I am only a U.S. merchant marine with a 7th grade education who happens to have a lot of time to read and meditate at work (on ships).

I am also new to “blogs,” and now realize (after some of the responses to my comment) that I failed to adhere to the proper etiquette of “blogs” (my comment was excessively long, and evidently its substance was out of place). In addition, judging by your comments, I even failed to make my point clear (I would chalk it up to a lack of education, but I have done enough reading to make that a poor excuse, Ha!). Allow me to apologize for the “slight ‘stink of Zen’” (I take your qualifying comment that the stink is in “a very, very subtle way” as at least conceding that there may be hope for me, thank goodness!). Rest assured; I will try to avoid smelling up the place in any future comments.

Having said that, please allow me to try to clarify a few points that I evidently failed to make clear:

First, I did not mean to imply that cessation was “the heart of Zen.” In fact, I tried to indicate that most of the meditation techniques of Buddhism fall into two modes, broadly described as “cessation” and “contemplation.” By that, I meant that most Buddhist meditation techniques could be generally ascribed to one of these two general classifications. I tried to explain that it seemed to me that Dogen’s teachings on nonthinking corresponded to the traditional methods of cessation. Do you disagree? If so, how do you see his teaching as different?

I tried to indicate that I believe Dogen, in accordance with the sutras and shastras, urged a balance of cessation meditation (or nonthinking), with contemplation (or observation) meditation. I suggested that the phrase in Genjokoan “to get one dharma is to penetrate one dharma, and to meet one act is to perform one act” was one instance where Dogen was describing contemplation meditation. How do you read this line?

Second, my words and the “types of materials” I selected were simply intended to illustrate the rationale of how I reached my present understanding (which is not to say, ‘my conclusion’ as continued exploration of Dogen’s revelations on practice-and-enlightenment seems to ceaselessly open out into undreamed of realms). However, if it caused “Your Own True Nature” to be seen “as emanating Light” then I guess I was just fortunate. As you know, in the Shobogenzo there is a wonderful fascicle called Komyo, which Master Nishijima says means light, or brightness. In that chapter, Dogen too seems to select “types of materials” that cause “Your Own True Nature” to be seen “as emanating Light” (quoting at least four or five Zen masters in the process). Some of Dogen’s words:

“This was the direct experience of the Buddhist patriarchs’ brightness (light). Before this, no-one had seen or heard of the brightness of the Buddhist patriarchs. How could any have known their own brightness? Even if they came across that brightness, fetching it via the brain, they did not learn it in experience with their own eyes…they think that [brightness] might be like a firefly. This is never learning in practice through the eyes and the brain…Do not learn it from literary Dharma-teachers. And do not listen to the outlandish explanations of Zen masters.”
Shobogenzo, Komyo, Nishijima & Cross, Book 2, p.238-239

Don’t you too see “Your Own True Nature” as “emanating Light (brightness)” or do you think Dogen is “just overemphasizing the importance of” Light and “Your Own True Nature?” Talk about pouring on a gallon of fudge to make a sundae, Dogen seems to be using a whole barrel. He goes on:

“The aforementioned ‘brightness of the Buddhist patriarchs’ is the whole Universe in the ten directions; it is the whole of Buddhas…Practicing and experiencing this brightness, they become buddha, sit as buddha, and experience buddha.”
Shobogenzo, Komyo, Nishijima & Cross, Book 2, p.239

If my words smack of “Gold and Jewels and … eminating Light” how do you see Dogen here?

“We must painstakingly learn in practice the words spoken by Chosa that ‘The whole Universe is ten directions is the brightness of the self.’ We must learn the self which is brightness, as the whole Universe in ten directions. Living-and-dying, going-and-coming, are the going-and-coming of the brightness (light)…Becoming buddha and becoming a patriarch are the black and gold of brightness…To see and hear the brightness of the self is proof of having directly encountered buddha; it is proof of having met buddha…The present seven feet of skull and bones is just the form and image of the whole Universe in ten directions.”
Shobogenzo, Komyo, Nishijima & Cross, Book 2, p.241

As you know, Dogen goes on and on, but I am trying to keep this short. I have a feeling that you will find some flaws in my comment, but I hope that you will write some words to help me understand what you think Dogen is talking about in his discussion of light.

Third, you wrote: “Phrases such as ‘Since completely dropping the body, there is the sound of the raindrops’ need not point to a "cessation" of all thought (more a practice of Hindu mystics that the Buddha rejected), but to the nonjudgmental experience of the rain.”

I am not familiar with any “Hindu mystics” that practice cessation, perhaps you could suggest a few books? I am only familiar with the term “cessation” from the Buddhist sutras and shastras, and of course the whole plethora of classical Zen masters (mainly, the Mo-ho Chih-kuan, the Avatamsaka sutra, the Lankavatara sutra, the Prajna Paramita sutras, the sutra of Hui-neng, and, as I mentioned in my comment, The Awakening of Faith Shastra). As far as “the nonjudgmental experience of the rain,” that is one way of saying the same thing I said (at least I think it is), but for someone that has never had a “nonjudgmental” experience such a blase phrase would not mean anything, would it? I wonder why Dogen didn’t just say, “A nonjudgmental experience of rain.”

Fourth, you wrote, “Ultimately, only Dogen (like Buddha) can answer what he actually intended, and he is not around in person to do so.” I suppose you are right about that. It does make you wonder though… Why does Dogen constantly say things like, “We must master in practice the words of the Buddhist patriarchs” and “These words were spoken by a Buddhist patriarch, we should examine them exhaustively” and other such things since we cannot ever know their intentions since they are not around in person. What do you think?

You also say, “However, it is not likely to be as you have it.” Then you do know his intentions. Is it secret, or can you let me in on it?

Fifth, you wrote “In addition, there is some tendency in the passages you choose (likely originating from some literature associated with Sanbokyodan or the Maezumi Roshi lineage) to conflate Dogen with Hakuin and the like.”

I chose the passages by Hakuin because of their similarity with the passages of Dogen I was commenting on. They are nearly word for word, did you read them? I have found that Dogen and Hakuin are remarkably similar in many ways. At first I thought it might have something to do with both of them being Japanese, but now I realize that all the authentic Zen masters sound very similar because their practice-and-enlightenment is the same, as Dogen so often testifies to. As far as literature from the Sanbokyodan lineage, I have read a couple books that seem to be okay. As for the Maezumi Roshi lineage, most of that seems to me to be nothing less (or should I say Nothing Special) than the wholesale prostitution of Zen, even more so than most of the institutional Soto stuff.

Sixth, you wrote, “While, of course, Dogen's writings are chock full of Koan retellings, there is no point where there is recommended by him the use of a Koan as a focus of concentration during Zazen itself.” This kind of throws me for a loop; are you sure we are talking about the same “Dogen?” His works are chock full of exhortations to “Study in practice” and “master in practice” the words of koans. What kind of “practice” do you suppose he is talking about? If he did not want people to think he was talking about sitting meditation you would think he might have mentioned that. Shoot, I wish I would have known that, all these years wasted. Oh, wait a minute, I just remembered at least two instances where he explicitly instructs us to do just that. I am sure there are more, but here is one from the Shobogenzo (since that is listed as your “favorite book”, I guess you have not read it all yet).

In Shobogenzo, Soshi-Sairai-No-I, Dogen explicitly details how to apply nonthinking to a koan in “effort on the cushion.” In this essay, Dogen takes as his topic the koan, “A Man up a Tree.” Dogen first quotes the koan in traditional Zen style, then begins his commentary:

“The present story has appeared in many commentaries and discussions of the ancients, but the individuals who have expressed its truth are few; for the most part, it seems that [people] have been completely dumbfounded. Nevertheless, if we consider [the story] by utilizing not thinking, and by utilizing non-thinking, effort on the cushion with Old [Master] Kyogen will naturally be present. Once we are already sitting, in the mountain-still state, upon the same round cushion as Old Kyogen, we will be able to understand this story in detail even before Kyogen opens his mouth. Not only will we steal Old Kyogen’s eyes and glimpse [the story]; drawing out Sakyamuni Buddha’s right-Dharma-eye treasury, we will be able instantly to see through it.”
Shobogenzo, Soshi-Sairai-No-I, Nishijima & Cross, Book 3, p.242

What does Dogen mean by “we consider [the story] by utilizing not thinking, and by utilizing non-thinking, effort on the cushion with Old [Master] Kyogen will naturally be present.” By “cusion” is he talking about something other than a zafu? If not, how are we to guess that he does not mean to do this in zazen? What, besides zazen, could he mean by “Once we are already sitting, in the mountain-still state, upon the same round cushion as Old Kyogen, we will be able to understand this story in detail…” It sounds pretty straightforward to me. Am I missing something here?

Furthermore, Dogen’s own teacher specifically recommended the “Mu” koan. His instruction on how to employ it is nearly identical to Mumon’s. And yes, Nyojo recommended using this koan while sitting. Don’t feel bad, many Soto formalists flatly declare that Dogen never taught his students to employ koans while sitting. Dogen’s own record suggests otherwise, so does the undaunted reverence he held for his teacher. Here are the words of his revered teacher:

“When thoughts are flying around your mind in confusion, what do you do? “A dog’s Buddha-nature? No.” This word No (Mu) is an iron broom: Where you sweep there is a lot of flying around, and where there is a lot of flying around, you sweep. The more you sweep, the more there is. At this point where it is impossible to sweep, you throw your whole life into sweeping.

Keep your spine straight day and night, and do not let your courage flag. All of a sudden you sweep away the totality of space, and all differentiations are clearly penetrated, so the source and its meanings become evident.
Tendo Nyojo, Unlocking the Zen Koan, Case 1, Thomas Cleary

There is really no substantial evidence that Dogen believed that his teacher was preaching false Zen, is there?

You also say, “Dogen never speaks of a single ‘Final Breakthrough.’” While I agree that there is no “final” breakthrough, Dogen constantly urges us to make an “initial” breakthrough. He knew from his own experience, learning, faith, and knowing how to sit upright were useless for accomplishing the “task of a lifetime.” Fortunately, Dogen was burning with genuine aspiration and was able to achieve such a breakthrough:

“This Dharma is abundantly present in each human being, but if we do not practice it, it does not manifest itself, and if we do not experience it, it cannot be realized…
After I established the will to pursue the Dharma, I visited [good] coun-selors in every quarter of our land. I met Myozen of Kennin [temple]. Nine seasons of frosts and of flowers swiftly passed while I followed him, learning a little of the customs of the Rinzai lineage. Only Myozen had received the authentic transmission of the supreme Buddha-Dharma, as the most excellent disciple of the founding master, Master Eisai - the other students could never compare with him. I then went to the great Kingdom of Sung, visiting [good] counselors in the east and west of Chekiang and hearing of the tradition through the gates of the five lineages. At last I vis-ited Zen Master Nyojo of Dai-byaku-ho mountain, and there I was able to complete the great task of a lifetime of practice.”
Shobogenzo, Bendowa, Nishijima & Cross, Book 1, p. 1-2

I am sure that you believe the line, “if we do not practice it, it does not manifest itself” means we need to practice sitting meditation. However, could you please enlighten me as to what you think the meaning of “and if we do not experience it, it cannot be realized”?

What do you suppose Dogen meant by, “At last I vis-ited Zen Master Nyojo of Dai-byaku-ho mountain, and there I was able to complete the great task of a lifetime of practice.” He was what, 28 or 29 years old? How could he say that he was able to “complete” the great task of a lifetime? If this was not the result of some breakthrough, what was it?

I have only responded to less than half of your critique, and already I have broken my vow to shorten up my comments. Okay, I will stop here…

Oh, just one more thing; I do not understand what you are implying by your constant references to Dogen’s “trick-bag.” Is that what you call the Buddha-Dharma, or The Right-Dharma-Eye Treasury? Alternatively, maybe you are referring to upaya-kausalya (skillful means to save all beings)? As I am not a Zen Buddhist, I was just wondering if most of the Zen Buddhists you know are comfortable with such a derogatory term for the blood and sweat that Dogen endured to produce it. Though I recall Dogen reciting hundreds of koans, I cannot remember one instance of him referring to Master Nyojo’s “trick-bag.” In fact, I have found many treasures in the Zen Buddhist literature, none of which I would refer to as “tricks.”

Thank you for your time! (Sorry for the long post, Master Nishijima. If I ever have a blog you are welcome to post anything you like.)

Gassho, Ted

7:08 PM, October 31, 2006  
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11:37 PM, October 31, 2006  

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