Dogen Sangha Blog


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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The Four Philosophies (1) Philosophies of Pain, Accumulation, Self-Regulation, and Morals

I have explained before that Gautama Buddha's Teachings are fundamentally based on the Realism that the Truth of the Universe is the fusion between our real act at the present moment and the real existence of the Universe at the present moment. This is the fundamental basis of Gautama Buddha's Teachings, but at the same time Gautama Buddha taught us four very important Buddhist Principles. They are (1) The Four Philosophies, (2) The Rule of Cause and Effect, (3) The Instataneousness of the Universe, and (4) The Real Existence of Morals.
Among the various Teachings of Gautama Buddha, one of the most important is the Principle of the Four Philosophies. The Four Philosophies are (1) the Philosophy of Pain (duhkha satya), (2) the Philosophy of Accumulation (samdaya satya), (3) the Philosophy of Self-Regulation (niroda satya), and (4) the Philosophy of Morals (margha satya). The Teaching of Gautama Buddha were not put in writing for at least 100 years afer his death. Thus, concerning the Four Philosophies there came to be vulgar interpretations in the Age of Hinayana Buddhism. Such vulgar interpretations have been written in the Hinayana Buddhist Sutras (the Agama Sutra being one example).These sutras present the Four Philosophies of Gautama Buddha as (1) the philosophy of pain, suggesting that the world is painful without exception, (2) The cause of pain is simply desire, (3)
if we stop desiring, (4) A happy life will come. Upon reading such interpretations, I found that I could never accept such rough explanations. First of all, I wondered whether this world is always painful or not. I thought that the world is sometimes painful, but sometimes the world is not so unhappy. Since life and the world are not always painful, the second theme could not be always true. As for the third theme, I doubted whether it is possible for us to stop desire and with the fourth theme, I wondered Four Philosophy, after about a hundred year later than Gautama Buddha's death, there was a valgar interpretations in the Age of Hinayana Buddhism, and such a valgar interpretations have been written in the Hynayana Buddhist Sutras. And they say that (1) the philosophy of pain suggests that the world is painful without exception. (2) The cause of pain is just desire. (3) If we stop desire, (4) A happy life will come. But reading those interpretations, I could never accept such a ruff explanations. First of all I wondered whether this world was always so painful, or not. I thought that the world is sometimes painfl, but some times the world is not so unhappy. And so the second theme was not always true. And the (3) theem made me doubtfull whether it is possible for us to stop desire, and so in the (4) I wonder whether it was so easy for us to establish morals. Because of these situations I could never comfirm the interpretations, which was used in the Age of Hinatana Buddhism. But when I have begun reading the Shobogenzo, an excellent collection of Buddhist Books written in the 12th century by a Japanese Buddhist monk named Master Eihei Dogen, I found a very excellent Chapter titled, "Genjo Ko-an." In the 75 voluems edition, "Genjo Ko-an" it was placed at the beginning of all the Chapters. In the 95 volumes edition, it was placed as the 3rd of all the Chapters. Such placement of "Genjo Ko-an" in both editions of the Shobogenzo suggests this Chapter's great importance as a introductory chapter among the rest of the Chapters. I would like to explain the meanjng of the Chapter "Genjo Ko-an" in the next blog.


Blogger Graham said...

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10:55 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

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11:58 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Virtual Ain't Reality said...

Mike Cross wrote: " . . . when a stimulus reaches my consciousness, there is a possibility for me, as a human being, to make a decision NOT to react. The first step is to STOP. Stopping allows the possibility of a new response. Without stopping there is no possibility of anything other than my habitual response, no possibility of any meaningful change.

Gautama Buddha understood this clearly.

Unfortunately you, Mike, do not.

12:01 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Graham said...

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12:30 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...

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12:43 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Rick said...

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4:33 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:07 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Graham said...

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5:43 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

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6:19 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Graham said...

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7:17 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Shonin said...

I think this 'flame war' is detracting from the content of Gudo Nishijima's blog. Mr Cross is entitled to express his opinion, but now it seems he is just being obstructive and using the blog as a forum for promoting Alexander Technique.

It's a shame because I and many others are clearly enjoying the blog.

May I suggest that Gudo Nishijima considers Comment Moderation if this continues?

2:48 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

so mike cross is mr angry right?

3:29 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

i read on the hardcore zen blog that the best thing to do is just ignore him. i think that seems right. lets talk about something else for a change eh?

3:31 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger dharmacloud said...

Master Nishijima,
I have studied Buddhism for many years, but reading your work here and in other articles by you (on the Dogen Sangha web sites), I feel like a new understanding of buddhadharma is dawning. If I understand you correctly, you teach that Buddhism is the way of action. So, as far as I understand, the truth of the path (marga) is the truth of complete action, or action of the whole being, as the way out of suffering and delusion. And zazen exemplifies such action.
Now that I have heard from you Buddhism described as a way of action, exemplified by zazen, it seems obvious and clear. My other teachers taught me that samyak, the word used usually translated as "right" with respect to the path, as in right action, right meditation, etc., means "complete." This seems, to me,to support your teaching.
Before reading you, I think I still viewed Buddhadharma as mainly a matter of training the mind, rather than as a way of action. In that way, I think my understanding of it fell into idealism. You have opened up a new understanding to me. This has affected not just my intellectual understanding, but also my meditation.
Thank you.
I am looking forward to reading your teaching on the Genjokoan.

4:28 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

In regard to right action and complete action, I'm starting to think these are never motivated by desire or aversion. Complete action by definition is motivated by something greater than the incomplete ego. Opinions, likes, dislikes, and wants just aren't important considerations. It's just mindfully "doing what needs to be done" (quoting Brad Warner). There's no choice, no picking and choosing what to do. Just see right action and "just do it" completely (quoting Nike corporate marketing).

Seems to me somewhere I saw a definition of karma which was more than just 'action'. This person defined karma as ego-motivated action, action which comes from desire or aversion. This was their explanation for why Buddhas are free of karma. Buddhas' actions are motivated from completeness and are engaged in completely. They don't act based on their likes or their dislikes.

That's my understanding, at least...?

8:19 AM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Gudo Nishijima Roshi. I read everyone of your blogs. I don't always respond because there is really nothing to add and it is so clear I usually have no questions come to me. I really think its amazing to be recieve these teachings about the buddhist thought online from you. I just wanted to share my gratitude for your effort.

2:09 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Jundo Jim said...

Hello All,

This is a personal e-mail that I wrote to Nishijima. However, given the subject matter, I wish to post it here. Please let me know your non-thoughts about it!

Gassho, Jundo Jim Cohen


Hello Roshi,

New Year’s Greetings to You. Every Moment is New and New and New.

Thank you for ‘GudoBlog.’ It is very interesting to me, as you explain many subjects not mentioned in your other writings in English. You are very patient to just keep writing-and-writing. I believe that our Zen practice is to keep living-and-living, despite distractions and disturbances. In fact, life –is– endless distractions and disturbances, and the only question is how we handle them.

My wife and I are planning where we will establish our permanent Zendo. As my wife is a student of Zen and Ai-ki-do, we will also have an Ai-ki-do dojo and a Zendo. I am looking to purchase a farm, somewhere with water (I like rivers, waterfalls, oceans, rain, creeks, dripping sinks, leaky pipes). Right now, we are looking at many locations. Some are in the United States (North Carolina, northern Florida, New Mexico, California, Georgia. I think, however, we may go to New Zealand, for any place is a good place! (What do you think about that?) It will not be large. I am hoping for a Zendo that can have 50 people sitting. Maybe there will be rooms for a few people to stay and practice for longer periods.

My wife and I are adopting a second baby, from China. Also, we hope to spend several months this year (2006) in France. I am hoping that I can meet and sit with my DogenSangha brothers in Europe.

Roshi, I am writing this e-mail from San Francisco. One of my best friends died. I was asked to perform the funeral. I explained to my sick friend, before he died, that I do not personally believe in funerals, because our Zen practice is about life, moment-by-moment. I explained that a teacher, Nishijima, usually refuses to do funerals, because our practice is about life, moment-by-moment. However, my friend’s family said that they wanted me to do some ceremony as they knew me best and trusted me, and it was the request of my friend who died. He was very young in calendar years, only 50 years old.

About 100 people came, from many religions – Catholic, other Christians, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, Whatever, Nothing Whatever. My hope was to have compassion to comfort my friend’s family, and to speak to all those people. However, I also wished to stay true to my beliefs about life-and-death. I did not wish to say anything during the ceremony other than my understanding of the Teachings.

The ceremony was simple … No incense, no chanting, no song and dance. Actually, my friend was a lover of Jazz music, so we played some Jazz.

We had a moment of silence in which we could all celebrate his life … tears and smiles, sorrow and contentment combined.

Then I spoke some words. Here is what I said …

- Life is not a matter of long or short. We live for as long as we live, not a moment more.
- What matters, perhaps, is what we do during that time. It is up to us. We can do good, acting to benefit others. Or, we can do harm, leaving this world less than it might be. It is our choice. My friend left this world better than it would have been without him, as known by the 100 people in the room who loved him and whose lives he touched.
- His goodness was shown by the 100 people who came to the funeral. He had touched them all in some way, left them all better by having known him. I said that our separation as individuals, the separation of the 100 people in the room, is not the only way to experience life. A lack of separation is shown by how we are all connected (At that point, someone in the audience raised his hand and made a little speech, unplanned, about how my friend had changed his life, helped him when he desperately needed help).
- My friend’s older brother is a farmer. I said to the brother: “This world has its ways. They are not our selfish ways, what we might wish as human beings. Thus, in life, the sun shines, and the rain falls. Despite that, life somehow goes on. However, the sun does not shine as we wish it, the rain does not fall when we demand its falling.”
- My friend’s wife is a sculptor (My friend was a translator of Japanese, and his wife is Japanese). I said to the wife: “You make pottery out of clay. It lasts for a time, then returns to the ground. In between, there may something beautiful if we are lucky and skillful. It cannot be perfect, for the best pottery is imperfect. It must be used, then broken. It is not to last forever.”
- I said that life is a mixture, or it is not life. Because there is life, there is death. Because there is happiness, thus there is sadness. Because we are together, thus we must be lonely. This is the human condition. But, can we see a reality in which life is just life, death is just death. Can we experience a reality in which we smile when we smile, cry when we cry? When we are together, we are together. Where apart, be apart.
- At the end, I told the story of what I discussed with my friend when he found out he had cancer. I said that we are born into a strange boat, our hands at the oars. There are other people in the boat, and we all seem connected. I told my friend that we do not know the reason we are in the boat, nor the direction of the mad river that is carrying us along. “However, my friend, since you are here … row row row! And, when you are too weak with your cancer, put the oars down … time to pass them to others.” That is what I said.
- I explained that I have no idea whatsoever about some “afterlife,” and I do not care. The universe brought us this far, and we can let the rest take care of itself. We need to trust that things are just as they are.

The ceremony then ended with the closing: “Go in peace.”

. Gassho, Jundo

5:06 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger BlueWolfNine said...

thank you nishijima sensei for creating this blog and sharing your knowledge and understanding of buddhism.

6:55 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Shonin said...

Thank you for that story Jundo Jim

10:02 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

thank you again for your blog. all very interesting. I see that your version of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 2 is still available for purchase online. is there any chance that book 1 will be re-issued?

11:00 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Siren said...

Thank you for keeping this blog and sharing your experience, it is much appreciated-

1:34 AM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Taigu said...

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2:42 AM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:58 AM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

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4:34 AM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Shonin said...

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4:37 AM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Shonin said...

What happened to Right Speech ?

4:39 AM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Virtual Ain't Reality said...


It's very kind of you to take the time to write these blog entries. Thank you.


8:01 AM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Adrian said...

If a beginner Buddhist would comment the four noble truths like Master Gudo Nishijima did he would be told that he didn't understood any of them.
But as this are comments from a Zen Master .... only another Zen Master might know what he meant.

5:29 PM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Virtual Ain't Reality San

Unfortunately Mike Cross San erased his comment, and so it is impossible for me to get the theme of your discussion.

For Jutin San

Thank you very much for your kind care for me, at the same time I do not bother philosophical discussions, because they are sometimes useful for getting the Truth.

For Dan San

I think that many people have the same idea as yours.

I agree with you and Brad, too.

For dharmacloud San

Thank you very much for your clear understanding Buddhism, and I agree with your opinion.

I think that the first paragraph of "Genjokoan" is the most clear explanation of the Four Noble Thruth in Ancient India.

For Jules San

I wonder whether Buddhism has such an idealistic view in it, or not.

For Lone Wolf San

Thank you very much for your agreement with my Buddhist interpretation.

For Jundo Jim San

Thank you very much for your beautiful and wider scale planning.

For Blue WolfNine San

Thank you very much for you reading my blog.

For oxeye San

One of my Dharma Heir, called Ven. Peter Rocca produced Book 2., and 3. with the method of POD. And on the Book 1., the former president of Windbell Publications,
Mr Michael Luetchford, is still selling the left volumes of book 1. Therefore if you ask to Amazon Co., I think that you will get the informations book 1,2, and 3.
from Amazon.

For Siren San

Thank you very much for your reading my blog.

For Justin San

I think that the Universe is always talking us Right Speach constantly.

For Virtual Ain't Reality San

Thank you very much for you to read my blog.

For Adrian San

I think that the Universe is always speaking the Four Noble Truth actually, and so it is possible for everyone to notice it, for example, when he, or she, is practicing Zazen.

12:16 PM, May 06, 2006  

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