Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Master Dogen's thoughts on desire

Recently I have received a book as a present from Ven. Brad Warner entitled "Zen Wrapped in Karma dipped in chocolate." And reading it I was rather surprised that it was a kind of confession of his daily life, and his expression is so sincere and honest.
Therefore I remember Master Dogen's opinion about desire, which appears Shobogenzo (43) Kuge indicated a poem, which was composed by Chosetsu Shusai. The poem includes 8 lines, and at the 5th line, Chosetsu wrote:

"If we want to cut down desire perfectly, the desire will increase much more doubled."

And I think that if the person is a man or a woman, who has experienced his or her life well, would affirm that what Chosetsu descrived is true. (The translation of the poem has been corrected by Gudo Nishijima.)

I think that the line of the poem has indicated that our efforts to erase desire perfectly, usually work well for promoting desire.

So Master Dogen added his comments after the line, that "We have not been free of disease hitherto; we have had the Buddha bug and the patiarch bug. Intellectual excluding now adds to the disease and augments the disease. The very moment itself of eliminating is inevitably disturbance. They are simaltaneous and are beyond simultaneousness. Disturbance always include the fact of [trying to] eliminate them. (by Gudo and Cross)

Therefore Master Dogen insisted that desire was inevitably identified to the supression of desire itself completely.

Reading those Master Dogen's interpretations I feel exactly that Master Dogen's clearly realistic interpretation of Desire must be true.

14 Comments:

Blogger Lauren said...

I wonder...

Striving to be vigilant against "desire" or "anger" or to the other things the precepts guide us from, is like putting a strong cage around them. Now they are there, really, and cannot be avoided. If I am always watching out for them, they are always present.

Let the feeling arise and fall away. Don't cage it and preserve it with ideas of should and shouldn't.

Stay away from fire, but don't build fire places everywhere you go, as a defense against fire that might arise.

Perhaps this is part of Dogen's meaning.

11:19 PM, February 25, 2009  
Blogger Sensei said...

from the Tao Ti Ching...

So... Rid yourself of desire in order to realize Universal mystery.
Allow yourself to have desire in order to experience Universal manifestation.

Cheers!

5:47 AM, February 26, 2009  
Blogger Sensei said...

...from the Tao Te Ching:

Rid yourself of desire in order to realize Universal mystery.
Allow yourself to have desire in order to experience Universal manifestation.

Essence & Form...

- in high regard

9:38 AM, February 26, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Dear Roshi,

I hope you are well today.

It seems this topic of how to react to desire is closely related to Dogen Zenji's central method of non-thinking.

In your translation of Fukan-Zazengi (at the back of Shobogenzo Vol.1) your interpretation suggests non-thinking to be a 'concrete state' ("Think about this concrete state beyond thinking").

Am I correct in interpretting this 'concrete state' as just a real concrete action? If that is the case then, while it is a real or 'concrete' action, it is never static but is always dynamic as an action must be; is it a free 'stateless state' as opposed to thinking, or not thinking, or some mysterious metaphysical area to be achieved?

How do you understand "Think about this concrete state beyond thinking" in terms of an effort of the mind in Zazen?

Thank-you very much & Regards,

Hanrei.

7:59 AM, February 28, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Lauren San,

Thank you very much for your opinion to solve the problem of desire. However I have a little afraid whether such mental efforts can have so strong power, or not.

I think that Gautama Buddha's teachings have begun from the simple fact that our nhuman mental efforts are so week as if they were almost nothing in actual influence to our real action, and so he has found his excellent method to have practice of Zazen, and using such a practice of Zazen, he has entered into the state of balance between SNS and PNS.

And when SNS and PNS have balanced, the function of SNS to supress Desire and the function of PNS to promote Desire will become equal, and then the power of suppressing Desire and the power of promoting Desire will become balanced, and so both Desire and the suppression of Desire will vanish as if they were +/- = 0.

I think that Gautama Buddha's solution of Sexual Desire has been like this, and so I sincerely ask you to think about the problem like this too.


Dear Sensei San,

I agree that Desire might be Universal mystery, but I think that even though it is just Universal mystery, is it possible for us to maintain such a so serious problem without any solution to the such kinds of serious problem of Desire, especially the Sexual Desire?


Dear Sensei San,

I think that your indication of "Essence & Form" does not have any ability to solve the problem.


Dear Harry San (Hanrei San),

I agree with your idea that the topic of how to react to desire is closely related to Dogen Zenji' central method of non-thinking. Therefore it is necessary for us to research the meaning of non-thinking. And non-thinking suggests just Action directly.
I am afraid that the western thoughts do not separate the area of consideration and perception from the area of Action, almost at all.
But in Buddhist philosophy, we have to separate the area of consideration and perception from the area of Action absolutely.
Therefore the expression of a 'concrete state'("Think about this concrete state beyond thinking") just indicates Action itself.

Your interpretation that the 'concrete state' is just 'a real concrete action itself,' is true.
Therefore I agree your expression that it is never static but is always dynamic as an action, therefore we call the states as the Real Act at the Present Moment.
However I do not like to use the expressions as a free 'stateless state' as opposed to thinking, or not thinking, or some mysterious metaphysical area to be achieved, because I think that Buddhism does never permit any existece of mysterious metaphysical area at all.

I interprete that the Master Dogen's expression that "Think about this concrete state beyond thinking" suggests that "Just Sit!"

3:55 PM, March 01, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Thank-you, Roshi, for these helpful answers.

Regards,

Hanrei.

12:05 AM, March 02, 2009  
Blogger Harry said...

Nishijima Roshi wrote: "I interpret that the Master Dogen's expression that "Think about this concrete state beyond thinking" suggests that "Just Sit!"

Dear Roshi,

I think these two statements work very well together and are in balance. Together they suggest to me that we should practice/realise our own real sitting as something ineffable... as the koan realised.

"Just Sit!" helps us avoid seeing the ineffable as some transcendant state outside of our own real actions. 'Think... beyond thinking' avoids the extreme of seeing the sitting posture as some sort of static, lifeless material state of 'enlightenment'.

Thank-you very much.

Regards,

Hanrei.

5:08 AM, March 02, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry San,

I have agreed with your interpretations totally.

11:52 AM, March 02, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

Nishijima Sensei,

We turn to Master Dogen for help in understanding Buddhism and how to practice.

I saw a condensed quote from Volume IV of Shobogenzo on another blog comment today. It was reported to be from "sanjushichi-bon-bodai-bunpo".

The commenter reports the section as

[Right action...is to leave family life and to practice the truth, it is to go into the mountains and gain experience...Nevertheless, for the last two or three hundred years...people calling themselves priests of the zen sect have habitually said, 'Pursuit of the truth by a layman and pursuit of the truth by one who has left family life are just the same. They are a tribe of people who have become dogs, for the sole purpose of making the filth and urine of lay people into their food and drink'].

I have not left family life and gone into the mountains, but I believe I can do right action. I believe my practice is often 'correct.'

I think I must accept that even Dogen has instructions that will not help my practice. As a new person to Zen its difficult to tell useful-Dogen from not-useful-Dogen. Do you have any advice for this?

Regards,
Lauren

8:09 AM, March 03, 2009  
Blogger Sensei said...

Gudo Nishijima…

Thank you for your reply on March 1st.

I think of desire as a form of attraction, much like gravity on a galactic scale. A force of nature. Problems arise in the assumed need for a solution to such forces of nature.

Having desire allows us to experience the manifest world (form).
Quieting desire allows us to experience the mystery (essence).

Either way… necessarily perfect!

With the highest regard,

- Sensei

9:49 AM, March 03, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Lauren San,

Thank you very much for your important question, and I think that if you like to get the true intention of Master Dogen's description in the chapter, it is necessary for you to grasp the true meaning of words, with which Master Dogen wanted to describe his opinion.

For example, even though whether we are living in a family life, or not, we should have transcended "love and hate" in our life. We, Buddhist practioners, whether we are Buddhist monks or nuns, or not, we should never maintain our love or hate. Because we are practice Zazen everyday to keep our ANS balanced for avoiding love and hate. Therefore in the case of laymen, or not, we should always maintain our state of ANS balanced, is our human duty, and about this problem it might be very useful for us to read an American psychologist Karl Menninger's "Love against Hate" and so forth, I think.

Therefore I think that we need not worry about whether we are living in family life, or not, but it is necessary for us to worry about whether our ANS is alway balanced by our everyday Zazen, or not.

11:49 AM, March 05, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Sensei San,

Thank you very much for your opinion, but unfortunately my idea about desire is a little different from yours.

Because you insist that there is something called desire on the earth, but I think that such idea might be different from Master Dogen's thoughts.

I think that Master Dogen insists that it is not necessary for us to think about the real existence of desire, but he thoughts that desire is just a tendency of ANS, whether our PNS is stronger at the present moment, or not.
Of course at that time there is no knowledge about ANS, and so on, but I think that Master Dogen's explanation of desire is related with the problem of ANS, on its basis exactly.

In such a meaning, when we think about desire on the basis of Realism, desire is the state of stronger PNS.

So Gautama Buddha recommended us to keep our ANS balaced, and when our ANS has been maintained balanced, there is no
supression of desire, and there is no desire itself.

Because of such reason, Gautama Buddha recommended us to practice Zazen for making our ANS balanced, and then we transcend both the suppression of desire and promotion of desire.

1:45 PM, March 05, 2009  
Blogger Zen Doctor said...

Aloha and Konichiwa Gudo Nishijima, Roshi

I have just seen an interview with you from empty mind films. I smiled when I heard you talking about zazen and the autonomic nervous system.

I have also been working on teaching zazen in relationship to healthy functioning for the last 15 years. When I saw and heard you talking about zazen and nervous system function, I felt like I was looking at my own body of the future. This is because you are a maturing ancient of 89 and I am still only 65 years old.....just a baby ancient.

I wanted to send you two web pages that I thought you would be interested in reading.
One is my information and diagrams on zazen and autonomic nervous system functioning and the other is an article I wrote 20 years ago on Original Faith Mind and the Body of Zazen. I hope you enjoy them.

http://www.zendoctor.com/StressTeachings.html
http://www.zendoctor.com/Article.html

May you continue to be blessed with the vitality of bright wisdoming, the warmth of lingering compassion and the joyful wellness of this only moment body.

with blessings and gassho,

Dr. Andrew Shugyo Daijo Bonnici

5:15 AM, March 22, 2009  
Blogger mattj said...

I know this is a simple interpretation of this issue, but it just reflects what the buddha says about attachments and aversions. Don't grasp onto anything, there is nothing to attach to or avert. Just go with to flow, so to speak. That is what I have learned anyway. If you avert, it's because your not aware of your ultimate nature. Averting seems to be a form of attachment, because why would you avert if there were nothing to attach to in the first place? In the case of desire, we desire to attain something that is not attainable. Desire, as much as I understand it, is a form of attachment. So let go and instead of searching somewhere for happiness, realize that it's right here in the present moment.

11:17 AM, May 19, 2009  

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