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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Gakudo-yojin-shu (9) The practice of Buddhist monks, who practice Zazen

The meaning of the title above, is that since the Age of Gautama Buddha the direct indication of practicing Zazen, which has been transmitted in one lineage through the 28 generations in India, and the 6 generations in China, hasn't been added even with a bit of more, and hasn't been decrease with a bit of fewer.
The ritual robes of Buddhist Kashayas have arrived at Master Daikan Eno on the Sokei Mountain, and they have spreaded throughout the world.
At that time Gautama Buddha's Shobogenzo, or Zazen, has become popular in the Great Tan Dynasty. But the real situations of the contents are very difficult to cope with, and very difficult to look for.
It is said that it transcends consciousness in looking something, and it transcends mind in grasping something.
Master Daikan Eno has changed his total figures under Master Daiman Konin in Obai Mountain, and Master Taiso Eka cut his arm when he visited Master Bodhi Dharma at the peak of Shoshitsu.
After getting the marrow of Buddhism, they have changes their mind to have begun their elegant lives, sometimes they prostrate themselves in front of their Master, and sometimes they show their passive attitudes to get the best situation at the present moment.
However, in their mind and body they do not hesitate even at one moment, and they do not attach to anything even in one moment.
A Buddhist monk asked Master Joshu Jushin. "Whether a dog has Buddha-nature, or not?"
Master Joshu replyed. "Never anything."
Can we be permitted to hesitate to answer because of consideration? Can we be permitted to become
stagnant? Because we are perfectly free without any hindrance like a bridle for us.
Please make your hands free. Please make your hands free for a while. How about your body and mind? How about your behavior? How about your life and death? How about Gautama Buddha's teachings? How about mountains, rivers, and the Earth? How about Human Beings. animals, and
houses, in their coclusion?
Even though we are diligent in coming back to see them and leaving back to forget them again and again, the two different forms of the stable and the unstable do completely never manifest themselves naturally.
And even though there is the present moment, when there is no birth, it is never the moment, when all things and phenomena are caught totally into one stubbornly fixed World. However, people usually do not experience such a kind of the present moment, and so there are so many people, who are deluded by such a kind of misunderstood scenery.
People, who have been practicing Zazen! You have met such a kind of important experience just on the half way for the first time, and so I would like to ask that you do not retire from the whole process at all. I would like to express my sincere pray for you again and again.


In this Chapter, Master Dogen explains Zazen, which has been maintained by many individual Masters without having any change of the contents since the Gautama Buddha's Age, and the characteristics of Zazen are not our efforts to get something theoretically, or to perceive some kinds of special stimuli.
And such the contents of Zazen haven't been recognized theoretically until the 20th, or 21st Centuries.
But, nowadays, it is very happy for us to be able to know the real contents of Zazen so clearly because of so developed scientific research. When we practice Zazen and regulate our posture into the traditional form, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system will become balanced, and the function of the autonomic nervous system will become like plus/minus/zero. Therefore in such a situation, the function of the sympathetic nervous system to worry about miscellaneous problems, and the function of the parasympathetic nervous system to lose tention, will become hermonized, and our body and mind can realize the realistic viewpoint, where there is no stagnation, or no attachment. So we can enter into the state of action automatically, where we are just sitting in Reality.
This is the fundametal basis of Buddhist philosophy, and so without the experience of this state, it is completely impossible for us to recognize the Buddhist facts. Therefore Master Dogen sincerely recommend us to practice Zazen again and again.


Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Dear master Nishijima,

Thank you for your translations and commentary on master Dogen’s profound teachings. In your last 3 or 4 posts you have made references to a certain “state,” and how we can only recognize “Buddhist facts” with the experience of this “state.” For instance, in your last comment you wrote:

“…without the experience of this state, it is completely impossible for us to recognize the Buddhist facts. Therefore Master Dogen sincerely recommend us to practice Zazen again and again…”

One of your students (Jundo) recently informed me that you sometimes apply meanings different than the usual understanding to the terms that you use.

I was hoping that perhaps you could comment a little on what you mean by this “state,” and what you mean by “Buddhist facts.” By “state” do you mean what master Dogen calls, “the supreme state of bodhi”? And by “Buddhist facts” do you mean the koans that master Dogen says, “We should exhaust life after life investigating the intention of these words”? Or do you mean something else?

Your words seem similar to master Dogen’s teaching that koan-introspection requires sustained focus in the condition of nonthinking by allowing the Observing Prajna to illumine the wisdom of the koan (in your words the “Buddhist facts”). Master Dogen, like you, makes clear that wisdom must be realized (made real) by the whole of our being and cannot be grasped by the intellect alone. Trying to understand it or “figure it out” through ordinary conceptual means is futile, according to master Dogen:

In the supreme state of bodhi, Buddhist patriarchs who transmitted the truth and received the behavior have been many, and examples of past ancestors who reduced their bones to powder cannot be denied. Learn from the ancestral Patriarch who cut off his arm, and do not differ by a hair’s breadth [from the bodhisattva who] covered the mud. When we each get rid of our husk, we are not restricted by former views and understanding, and things which have for vast kalpas been unclear suddenly appear before us. In the here and now of such a moment, the self does not recognize it, no-one else is conscious of it, you do not expect it, and even the eyes of Buddha do not glimpse it. How could the human intellect fathom it?
Shobogenzo, Keisei-Sanshiki, Nishijima & Cross

Also like you, master Dogen frequently reminds us to discern the difference between the ordinary rationality of human intellect and that of the authentic Buddhist master. In Bussho, for example, he explains that the intellectual meaning of what is said may differ from the wisdom that is actually expressed:

Obaku says, “I would not be so bold.” … the expression “I would not be so bold” is not a lack of confidence. We should not suppose that this expression means what it says… We should exhaust life after life investigating the intention of these words.
Shobogenzo, Bussho, Nishijima & Cross

Do your words about trying to grasp the “Buddhist facts” through the intellect alone, mean the same thing as master Dogen’s words in Genjokoan, “When we use the whole body-and-mind to look at forms, and when we use the whole body-and-mind to listen to sounds.” In Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Yuigi, master Dogen stresses the importance of wholehearted practice and enlightenment, by calling attention to the nearly infinite gap between ordinary intellect and the Buddha-Dharma:

When you want to glimpse the dignified behavior of acting buddha, do not use eyes of the heavens above or the human world and do not employ the sentimental thinking of the heavens above or the human world. Do not aim to fathom [dignified behavior] by such means. Even [bodhisattvas in] the ten sacred and three clever stages neither know it nor clarify it: how much less could the calculating intellect of the human world and the heavens above reach it? As human consideration is short and small, so too is knowledge-based wisdom short and small. As a lifetime is short and pressed, so too is the intellect short and pressed—how could it fathom the dignified behavior of acting buddha?
Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Yuigi, Nishijima & Cross

In these words master Dogen makes clear your point that if we are to truly actualize the fundamental point, we must do so in the “dignified behavior of acting buddha.” That is through the activation and application of the Four Prajnas of Buddhahood. Like you, he insists that the human intellect is but one aspect of all time and space itself, but practice and enlightenment on the path of Zen is all-inclusive realization. “When we find this place, this action is inevitably realized as the Universe. When we find this way, this action is inevitably the realized Universe [itself].” (Genjokoan)

In the same essay (Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Yuigi), master Dogen describes what it means to discern and actualize the “dignified behavior of acting buddha” through engaging the Observing Prajna within nonthinking, here referred to as “the mountain-still state:” (is what you mean as the “state”).

[To research] this truth of moment-by-moment utter entrustment, we must research the mind. In the mountain-still state of such research, we discern and understand that ten thousand efforts are [each] the mind being evident, and the triple world is just that which is greatly removed from the mind. This discernment and understanding, while also of the myriad real dharmas, activate the homeland of the self. They make immediate and concrete the vigorous state of the human being in question. Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Yuigi, Nishijima & Cross

Is your meaning of this “state,” the same as master Dogen’s “immediate and concrete the vigorous state of the human being,” which seems to indicate the actual realization of the Prajna of Equality (usually translated as “wisdom of emptiness”). The “Buddhist facts” and this “state” are also familiar ideas from the words of the Genjokoan, “If we become familiar with action and come back to this concrete place, the truth is evident that the myriad dharmas are not self.” Having awakened to this, we proceed to deepen and refine our realization. Master Dogen continues his essay by explaining what this deepening and refining is like:

Then, in shaking the sieve two times and three times, grasping criteria within phrases and seeking expedients outside words, there is taking hold in excess of “taking hold” and there is letting go in excess of “letting go.”
Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Yuigi, Nishijima & Cross

The words about “shaking the sieve” are, of course, a reference to the practice and enlightenment of Huineng, the sixth ancestor of Zen. “Grasping criteria within phrases” is obviously the study of Buddhist texts, Zen records, koans, etc. “Expedients outside words” are spiritual practices (zazen, etc.) as well as engagement of the Buddha-Dharma (enlightened reality) in the everyday world of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking. “Taking hold… and letting go in excess of ‘taking hold’ and ‘letting go’” refers to the continuous and ongoing practice and enlightenment beyond the ideas and concepts of ‘taking hold’ and ‘letting go.’ Is this what you mean we must do “to recognize the Buddhist facts.”?

When master Dogen gives his detailed illustration of exactly how to apply Observing Prajna in the real world, do you think it is similar to the pre-kensho practice of raising ‘great doubt.’ As his words from Shobogenzo, Sammai-O-Zammai, seem to imply, “At the very time of your sitting, you should examine exhaustively whether the total world is vertical or horizontal.” In post-kensho practice and enlightenment do you recommend that we focus our inquiry more directly and specifically, as Dogen explains:

Consideration therein is as follows: What is life and what is death? What are body and mind? What are giving and taking away? What are leaving be and going against? Is [this consideration] a leaving and entering through a common gate without any meeting taking place? Is it a stone having been placed already, in which state [even if] the body is con-cealed the horns are showing through? Is it immense consideration fol-lowed by understanding? Is it maturation of thought followed by knowing? Is it the one bright pearl? Is it the whole treasury of the teachings? Is it a staff? Is it a face and eyes? Does it follow after thirty years? Is it ten thousand years in one moment of consciousness? Investigating in concrete detail, we should make investigation [itself] concrete and detailed. When investigation is done in concrete detail, a whole eye hears sounds, and a whole ear sees forms. Further, when a sramana’s one eye is open and clear, this state is not [only] the real dharmas before the eyes, and this state is not [only] the facts before the eyes.
Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Yuigi, Nishijima & Cross

Once we have realized this “state” should we do as master Dogen suggests in Shobogenzo, Gyoji, saying that deepening and refining realization, makes the difference between “passing time in vain,” and “not passing time in vain” and “acting for the sake of the truth” while we are “already in the state of the truth”?

Those who do not pass time in vain wrap the days and months in the bag of skin [which is themselves] so that [time] will not leak away. Thus it was that the ancient saints and past sages treasured the days and months, treasured time, more than their own eyes and more than their national lands. Here, “passing in vain” means sullying oneself and disturbing others in the floating world of fame and profit. “Not passing [time] in vain” means acting for the sake of the truth while already in the state of the truth.
Shobogenzo, Gyoji-1, Nishijima & Cross

Is your meaning of this “state” and of discerning “Buddhist facts” the same as master Dogen describes here:

Once we have realized this state decisively, we should never waste another day. We should solely practice for the sake of truth, and preach for the sake of truth. So we have seen the standard by which, since ancient times, the Buddhist patriarchs have not spent a day of effort in vain; and we should reflect on it constantly. We should consider it on a slow, slow spring day, sitting by a bright window. We should not forget it in the hushed silence of a rainy night, sitting under a plain roof.
Shobogenzo, Gyoji-1, Nishijima & Cross

Once we have awakened the “bodhi mind” through the realization of nonthinking, that is, when we uncover and learn to use our Observing Prajna, Dogen exhorts us to utilize this ability to “study in practice” in order to master the Buddha-Dharma. Could you please say a few comments about this?

Also, if you have time could you briefly discuss what you understand about how master Dogen suggested applying zazen to koans, for instance in his treatment of the “Man up A Tree” koan from Shobogenzo, Soshi-Sairai-No-I:

Great Master Shuto of Kyogen-ji temple addresses the assembly: “A person has gone up a tree on a thousand foot precipice. In her mouth she is biting a branch of the tree. Her feet will not step onto the tree and her hands will not pull her onto the branch. Under the tree suddenly there appears [another] person who asks, ‘What was the ancestral Master’s intention in coming form the west?’ Just at that moment, if she opens her mouth to answer the other she loses body and life, and if she does not answer she goes against what the other is asking. Now say, just at such a moment, what are you able to do?”

Then Acarya Sho of Koto mountain steps out from the assembly and says, “I do not ask about when she has gone up the tree. Before she goes up the tree, please Master say, what is the situation then?”

The Master bursts into loud laughter.

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

Dogen encourages us to make effort on the cushion to “consider the story by utilizing not thinking, and by utilizing nonthinking.” However, what does that mean in practical terms? How exactly do we do it? He seems to offer us some clues here:

“A person has gone up a tree on a thousand foot precipice.” We should quietly investigate these words. What is “a person?”
Shobogenzo, Soshi-Sairai-No-I, Nishijima & Cross

Is this how we begin to work with a koan. We “quietly investigate these words. What is ‘a person?’” Do you also recommend that we “quietly investigate” each word. Sitting on the cushion, “utilizing nonthinking,” making effort to clarify what is “a person?”

As he continues, it is almost like master Dogen is offering us actual “pieces” of his moment by moment mind as he engages this koan.

…Remember that she has experienced a time of going up. That being so, it is a thousand feet up and it is a thousand feet down. It is a thousand feet left and it is a thousand feet right…Now let us ask: How long is a thousand feet?

… “The mouth is biting a branch of the tree.” What is the mouth? …It may be, for the present, that by gripping the branch of the tree, the mouth has been formed…

…I ask venerable old drills everywhere, past and present: is Kyogen’s loud laughter saying something up a tree or saying something under a tree? Is it answering [the ancestral Master’s] intention in coming from the west, or is it not answering [the ancestral Master’s] intention in coming from the west? See if you can say something!
Shobogenzo, Soshi-Sairai-No-I, Nishijima & Cross

Will the wisdom embodied in this koan yield up its treasure through the utilization of nonthinking? When this occurs, will the individual be able to meet Dogen’s challenge to “say something!”?

I am looking forward to any turning word you may have on this topic. It seems as though you are one of the very few here that even likes to talk about master Dogen and what he taught.

Thank you for your time.

Gassho, Ted

5:53 PM, November 21, 2006  

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