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Friday, January 6, 2006

The Four Philosophies (2) The First Paragraph of "Genjo Koan"

The first paragraph of "Genjo Koan" in Shobogenzo, is as follows.
"When all dharmas are [seen as] the Buddha Dharma, then there is delusion and realization, there are practice and act, there is life and death, and there are buddhas and ordinary people. (1)
When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self, there is no delusion and no realization, no buddhas and no ordinary people, and no life and no death. (2)
The Buddha's truth is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity, and so there is life and death, there is delusion and realization, and there are ordinary people and buddhas. (3)
And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds while hated, flourish. (4)
And by reading them, we can notice that those four stentences are manifesting the four kinds of different thinking methods separately. For example, in the case of (1), it proclaims that when all things and phenomena (all dharma) are considered on the basis of idealistic Buddhist thinking method (Buddha Dharma), there can be the distinctions between delusion and realization, between practice and act, between life and death, and between buddhas and ordinary people.
But in the second case of (2), when we perceive everything on the basis of a perfectly materialistic viewopint ("each are not of the self), there is no distinction between delusion and realization, buddhas and ordinary people, or life and death at all. In other words when we do not have any subjective criteria of meaning, delusion and realization, buddhas and ordinary people, or life and death can not have any difference between them on the basis of material substance alone.
Cases (1) and (2) are representative of Idealistic philosophies and Materialistic philosophies, both belonging to the category of intellectual philosophies, and such, they are very common types of philosophies which are meant to be understood by words. But at the same time, the intellectual philosophy of (1) and (2) are completely, and dimentionally, different from the practical philosophies of (3) and (4).
I think that when we research the many kinds of philosophies in the world, perhaps Buddhism is the only philosophy that includes the two kinds of dimentionally different basis, might be only Buddhism. And I think that only such a kind of philosophy, which includes dimensionally different bases, has been successful at hitting the target of the Truth. In other words, if Buddhism did not have the theory of the four philosophies, not even Buddhism could ever have the power to hit the target of the Truth for the first time in human history. And Gautama Buddha found the Truth in the 5th or 4th Century BC. Someone might insist that the theory of the four philosophies were found by Master Dogen. But thinking about the historical situations, it is impossible for us to think of the existence of Nagarjuna without Gautama Buddha, and it is impossible for us to think about the existence of Master Dogen without the prior existence of Gautama Buddha.
Therefore Master Dogen proclaimed that "The Buddha's truth is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity," which suggests that the Buddhist Truth transcends the relative comparison of mental strength or material volume, and the expression of (3) belongs to the area of act, or reality. In such situations Master Dogen could proclaim that the real existence can exists really, the real extinction can exist really, the real delusion can exist really, the real enlightenment can exist really, the real common people can exsist really, and the real Buddhas, who has got the Truth, can exist really. And this is the basis of Buddhist Realism.
Therefore in the phase of (4), leaving from the phase of philosophy, the Reality itself is described directly. That is the description of "And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds while hated, flourish." This sentence suggests that Reality is just Reality. Furthermore, Master Dogen used the structure of the Four Philosophies in the four nouns, which are arranged by the Four Philosophies, and he arrainged four sentences in the order of the Four Philosophies. And even paragraghs are arranged following the order of Four Philosophies in Shobogenzo. Therefore we have to think that the system of the Four Philosophies is just the structure of the Universe, and it is completely impossible for us to think about the Rule of the Universe without the Four Philosophies.
At the same time even in the Euro-American Civilization, there is a special method of consideration, called Dialectic, in the Modern Age, called the Dialectic. The Dialectic is relevant to the structure of the Four Philosophies, and I think that this historical fact in the Euro-American suggests that even in the Euro-American Civilization, the Age of Realism has already begun.
It is said that when Gautama Buddha wanted to have his first Buddhist lecture, he first planned to have the lecture of the Four Philosophies. But at the same time, he hesitated so much to give the lecture of the Four Philosophies, because the Four Philosophies in Buddhism seemed to be too difficult to understand even to Gautama Buddha himself.
Therefore we, the people in the 21 st Century, having begun to understand the meaning of the Four Philosophies by relying upon the benevolence of Gautama Buddha's benevolence, and relying upon the existence of the Four Philosophies, may experience the very happy condition of the excellent Euro-American Civilization meeting with Buddhism.


Blogger Lone Wolf said...

I am really interested to see how the rule of cause and effect work with reality and how it's incorporated into the four philosphies. Now when Dogen says "Flowers, while loved, fall; weeds, while hated, flourish" he seems to be saying there is nothing you can do it's completely out of your control. But Karma seems to say it's all up to you, you cause your suffering and happines. I am really interested in how action in the present,present action being reality, causes a similar reaction when the present of the action has passed. Even so I do suppose no matter what kind of action, whether good or bad, I am still going to die. But there seems to be something wrong in the idea of doing whatever I want, treating people terrible, and commiting bad actions through out my whole life. I suppose that will be discussed when we get to the real existance of morals. Why have morals if one is going to die whether one is good or bad?

4:52 PM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Adrian said...

Reading this and your previous post I can't understand what exactly you consider to be Buddha's four noble truths ("Philosophies"?).
First you seem to reject the four Noble truths and then you speak about something from the Shobogenzo, but your explications are as clear for the beginner Buddhist just like the words from the Shobogenzo (which means: very unclear!).

5:25 PM, January 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Flowers, while loved, fall; weeds, while hated, flourish"

I think it is the case that we love flowers and hate weeds. Our love or hate does not affect what will happen. It is irrelevent.

A weed in one country is a flower in another. Same plant.

The problem is not with the plant. The problem is with our desire.

6:54 PM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Chris said...

lone wolf- Flowers and weeds- Stuff happens. We live, we die, we fall, we flourish.
My thinking on what Dogen is trying to say is that no matter all the philosophies we discuss, it simply comes down to flowers falling and weeds flourishing- the reality we all have to live with.
Yes, good or bad, we all die. Yet what I love about Buddhism is that we can be good for no other reason than good itself. No rewards of heaven, paradise, or being reborn as a king. Just goodness for goodness sake- a selfless good, something that flows naturally. To be able to see that flowers falling is no different from weeds flourishing. To see that life AND death are the universe's manifestation and we can fear and loathe or rejoice and love but as JZD said "It is irrelevant". Yet our fear, loathing, rejoicing and loving is also part of that manifestation. We need not try to live without it.
Irrelevant as my feelings may be, I will still love the flowers and damn the weeds...

8:54 PM, January 07, 2006  
Blogger Shonin said...

For those you who aren't aware of it, can I just draw your attention to this great overview of Gudo Nishijima's interpretation of the Shobogenzo here:

Understanding the Shobogenzo

I hope you don't mind me doing that Gudo Nishijima.

9:51 PM, January 08, 2006  
Blogger Ken said...

Hi Adrian, thought I would chime in here...I have read some of Master Gudo's complete works so I have a pretty good idea of where he's coming from...and the direction the blog will be going, so stay tuned, it gets good!

In very short summation, the 4 philosiphies (or 3 phil. and one reality) are idealism, materialism, the philosophy of action and reality itself. The best analogy I ever heard to sum up this long and complicated topic was this (from Master Gudo):
Consider idealism (subjectivity) and materialism (objectivity) existing at opposite points on a single line. The normal human mode is to bounce back and forth between the two of these...basically going back and forth and checking between the way our thoughts tell us the world should be and what our senses are actually conveying to us. Obviously, this is where suffering the contrast between these two. Now, if we draw an apex up from these two points, we form a traingle, and at the tip of the triangle is the philosophy of action, the philosophy of Buddhism. However, at this point, it is still 2 dimensional philosophy in the realm of thought. Buddhism, when it ceases to be even "Buddhism" , turns this triangle into a 3-dimensional pyramid, which is reality fall and weeds flourish.

This is a tip of the iceberg description, but I hope it helped.

11:08 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger timbo said...

the very 4 sentences in the openning text of the genjokoan
sound too complicated to grasp.I belive Dogen is a great master and I have no doubt that the man is trying to say something very important but I doubt if any one
of the people who claim to understood it really do.

3:21 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Shonin said...


My previous link to Nishijima's article doesn't seem to work now. Here's a new link:

Understanding the Shobogenzo

9:18 PM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Lone Wolf San

When we think about the Four Philosophies, we have to always think absolutely the dimenssional differehce among the four philosophies. For example, when we think about cause and effect, because the rule of cause and effect belongs to the materialistic dimension, we should never mix the problem of cause and effect with the problem of the real act at the present moment. Of course we can think about the problem of an abstract concept of action together with abstract concepts of cause and effect in the common dimension of intellectual consideration.
But in the case of Buddhism we think everything on the bases of dimensionally different philosophical viewpoints. In the western philosophies it is completely impossible for us to permit such a kind of strange thinking method at all. For example if we believe in idealism, we can never permit to believe in materialism. However in Buddhism we permit the coexistence of four dimensionally different philosophies together, and at the same time it is never be permited the mixture of dimensionally different philosophies at all.

For Adrian San

First, when I read the traditional interpretation of the Four Noble Truth in Hina-yana Buddhism, I didn't accept such a strange interpretation at all.
Second, when I read the four philosophies in Shobogenzo, I accept that the interpretation of four philosophies in Shobogenzo are just the Truth.
Third, I understood that the Four Noble Truth in Hina-yana Buddhism should be understood on the basis of Master Dogen's interpretations in Shobogenzo.
Fourth, I interpret the meaning of the Four Noble Truth in the Hina-yana Buddhism as the same meaning of the four philosophies in Shobogenzo.

For JohnZenDoe San

What you says that "Our love or hate does not affect what will happen. It is irrelevent," belong to the same viewpoint of materialism, which is described in the second sentence of the first pragraph of Genjo-koan in Shobogenzo as "When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self, there is no delusion and no realization, no buddhas and no ordinary beings, no life and no death."
What you says that "A weed in one country is a flower in another. Same plant," is expression in the subjectivism, that is idealism.
Therefore, you have come back to your original basis, that "The problem is not with the plant. The problem is with your desire," and so you has come back to your original basis of idealism at last again.

For Chris H San

I think that what you have desribed here is just Buddhist Realism.

Excuse me, but are you Miss Chris Homer, who lived in Dogen Sangha in Ichikawa at the begining term of it?

For Justin San

Thank you very much for you having used "Understanding the Shobogenzo."

For Ken San

Thank you very much for your beautiful and exact explanation of fundamental Buddhist philosophy relying upon my original explanation. Your explanation is much more beautiful than mine.

For timbo San

It is true that Reality can never be described with words, and it is true. But the great thinker of Buddhism Master Dogen fortunately had so srong intention to describe the Buddhist realistic philosophy with words for all human beings, who would live in future, and I think that he has perfectly succeeded in such a superhuman job at last because of his enormously excellent ability and incredibly hard efforts. Therefore I would like to prostrate myself in front of him wholeheartedly so many times to express my so deep thanks until my death.

For Justin San

Thank very much for your kindness to utilize my "Understanding the Shobogenzo", again.

2:35 PM, April 27, 2006  

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