Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dogen, The Shobogenzo, Nonduality of delusion and enlightenment

No matter how one "interprets" Dogen's writings, I doubt there are many serious students of Dogen that have not lain awake some nights with one of his phrases turning over in their mind like a multifaceted jewel illumining undreamed of dimensions within what Dogen calls "the homeland of the self." Anyone that has will probably find it easy to agree with Hee-Jin Kim’s observation that "the single most original and seminal aspect of Dogen’s Zen is his treatment of the role of language in Zen soteriology." (Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: His View On Zen, p.59) Saying Dogen believed that language played a vital role in an authentic approach to the practice and realization of Zen would be a gross understatement.

This does not mean, in my opinion, that Dogen was unaware, or unconcerned with the limitations, dangers, and difficulties inherent to the misuse or misunderstanding of verbal teachings, formulas, and doctrines of all kinds. In fact, it seems to me that just the opposite was true; Dogen’s appreciation for the power of language seems to have engendered him with an almost hypersensitivity to anything that he percieved as a misuse of words and phrases. Other than Shakyamuni Buddha, and Dogen’s own revered teacher, Tendo Nyojo, nobody was excused from a fierce scolding when Dogen discovered them using an awkward or ambiguous term, especially if it smacked of dualism. Joshu, who Dogen sometimes refers to as "the ancient Buddha," the great Master Baso, and even the revered Sixth Ancestor of Zen are all the subjects Dogen’s lash for what he perceived as a misuse of language.

However, it was only the misuse of language that Dogen disparaged, it seems to me, not the use of language in itself. The misuse of language, as far as Dogen is concerned, includes more than simply using an improper term or dualistic phrase. His records are filled with just as many instances in which he upbraids the "ancient worthies" for what they failed to say as it is for what they said badly. In one tirade, Rinzai, who Dogen frequently acknowledges as a "rightful heir of the Dharma," is dismissed as an ignoramus for not expressing something when he should have. Poor old Deshan is pummeled, kicked around, and chopped to pieces for several pages in Dogen’s treatment of his failure to express anything in his classic conversation with the tea-selling woman.

One of the corollaries of Dogen’s views concerning the inseparability of ones understanding, and their expressions is the ability to accurately evaluate someone’s understanding simply by examining their expressions. Before Dogen went to China he realized that the authentic teachings of written texts were much more valuable than any inauthentic teachings of certified "Dharma heirs." In the Zuimonki Dogen explains how he came to realize this fact when he compared the teachings of his own "distinguished" title holding teachers to those of the "eminent Buddhists" of the past:

"…I came to realize that they differed from what my teachers taught. What is more, I realized that thoughts such as mine, according to their treatises and biographies, were loathed by these people. Having contemplated the nature of the matter at last, I thought to myself I should have felt rather humbled by ancient sages and future good men and women instead of elated by the praise of despicable contemporaries… In view of such a realization, the holders of the title of Great Teacher (daishi) in this country seemed to me worthless, like earthen tiles, and my whole life was changed completely."
Zuimonki, V:8 (Quoted from Mystical Realist, p.25)

Dogen’s insistence to "study this" "get inside these words" "penetrate this saying" "take up these words again and again" and similar exhortations is so constant throughout his works it is easy to become desensitized to their presence. Dogen’s direct instruction to take up and study specific phrases, words, koans, sutras, and so on probably outnumber his instructions to dedicate ourselves to Zazen by at least 20 to 1. I hasten to add that contrary to some "officials," when Dogen urges us to "investigate these words," he means we should take them up in sitting meditation, as well as our other activities (at least that is what Dogen's records say).

Just to get a feel for his constant demand on "investigating these words" here are a few random examples of Dogen’s constant demands concerning words:

"At the same time we should investigate whether the Great Master’s words ‘I call this thing bamboo and wood,’ and Shin-o’s words ‘I also call it bamboo and wood,’ are the same or not the same, and whether they are adequate or not adequate. The Great Master says, ‘If we search the whole Earth for a person who understands the Buddha-Dharma, it is impossible to find one.’ We should also closely scrutinize and decide about this expression."
Shobogenzo, Sangai-Yuishin, Nishijima & Cross

"Good gentelman, when you meet a teacher, first ask for one case of [koan] story, and just keep it in mind and study it diligently. If you climb to the top of the mountain and dry up the oceans, you will not fail to complete [this study].
Dogen's Extensive Record, The Eihei Koroku, Vol.8:14, Leighton & Okumura

"Even a work produced latterly, if its words are true, should be approved."
Shobogenzo, Butsudo, Nishijima & Cross

"The truth expressed now in the founding Patriarch’s words ‘What people are able to hear the non-emotional preaching the Dharma’ should be painstakingly researched through the effort of one life and many lives."
Shobogenzo, Mujo-Seppo, Nishijima & Cross

"We should quietly investigate the principle of, and learn in practice the realization of words like this."
Shobogenzo, Ganzei, Nishijima & Cross

"Thus the words ‘being without the Buddha-nature’ can be heard coming form the distant room of the fourth patriarch. They are seen and heard in Obai, they are spread throughout Joshu district, and they are exalted on Dai-i [mountain]. We must unfailingly apply ourselves to the words ‘being without the Buddha-nature.’ Do not be hesitant."
Shobogenzo, Bussho, Nishijima & Cross

"Learning these words in practice, we should meet with the ancestral patriarchs of Buddhism and we should see and hear the teachings of Buddhism."
Shobogenzo, Bukkyo, Nishijima & Cross

"We must investigate these words quietly; we should replace our heart with them and replace our brain with them."
Shobogenzo, Daigo, Nishijima & Cross

It seems that the only time Dogen’s rhetoric becomes more passionate than when insisting that we take words, koans, and sutras seriously is in his attacks on those that dismiss or minimize the role of verbal and rational activity in the practice of Zen. The coarsest language in Dogen’s records has been reserved for those that fail to take up and discern the koans, which he treats as the basic texts of Zen Buddhism. For example, in Shobogenzo, Sansuigyo, Dogen says:

"They say that present talk of the East Mountain moving on water, and stories (koans) such as Nansen’s sickle, are stories (koans) beyond rational understanding… It is pitiful that the great truth of the Buddhist Patriarch is going to ruin. The understanding of these [shavelings] is inferior even to that of sravakas of the small vehicle; they are more stupid than non-Buddhists. They are not lay people, they are not monks, they are not human beings, and they are not gods; they are more stupid than animals learning the Buddha’s truth. What these shavelings call ‘stories (koans) beyond rational understanding’ are beyond rational understanding only to them; the Buddhist patriarchs are not like that. Even though [rational ways] are not understood by those [shavelings], we should not fail to learn in practice the Buddhist patriarchs’ ways of rational understanding… [The shavelings] do not know that images and thoughts are words and phrases, and they do not know words and phrases transcend images and thoughts. When I was in China I laughed at them, but they had nothing to say for themselves and were just wordless (sic)... They have the non-Buddhist view of naturalism."
Shobogenzo, Sansuigyo, Nishijima & Cross

His charge at the end of this passage concerning "the non-Buddhist view of naturalism" is also a topic that earns Dogen’s unrelenting scorn. His definition of what he means by such a "view" is remarkably similar to a style of "Zen" which is sometime advocated in modern times. Briefly, this view promotes a notion that "just sitting" calmly in "pure awareness" and allowing things to "be as they are" is the authentic practice of Zen. Some even use the common terms of naturalism like, "natural state," "natural man," etc. In modern variations, this "non-Buddhist view" is sometimes combined with the fostering of cultic belief in the supernatural influence of specific practices or rituals, usually a subversion of "Zazen." In such cases, the term "Zazen" is usually reduced to its most literal meaning of "sitting meditation," then equated with Buddhahood. Thus, the whole of the Buddha-Dharma is degraded to a mere superstition: "to sit like Buddha" is "to be Buddha." But I digress.

Turning back to Dogen’s constant refrain concerning words and language, we should examine one of his favorite phrases; "learning in practice." Dogen uses this term so often that it is important to understand exactly what he means. One of his own explanations about what "learning in practice" means is found in, Shobogenzo, Mitsugo:

"’Learning in practice’ means not intending to understand at once but striving painstakingly hundreds of times, or thousands of times, as if working to cut a hard object. We should not think that when a person has something to relate we will be able to understand at once."
Shobogenzo, Mitsugo, Nishijima & Cross

Reading this, and the multitude of similar exhortations on the rigorous nature of Zen practice, we can understand why some might prefer a "Zen" of "just sitting" or of simply "labeling" our thoughts and feelings. I don't think Dogen would have a problem with that as long as it was not asserted as his teaching on Zen Buddhism.

Dogen’s repetitious insistence on "striving painstakingly hundreds of times, or thousands of times, as if working to cut a hard object" certainly may not sound as attractive as "just sitting" and "letting go" and "having no goal." But if we are going to use Dogen's records as any authority on his teachings, we need to consider what those records actually say.

He does not always focus on the neccesity of "striving painstakingly" of course, Dogen also highlights those rare and wondrous, blissful moments of Zen where mind and body drop away and "Buddha is not aware of being Buddha." This is the inexpressible, inconceivable "state of Buddha" that can only be realized through direct experience.

And, even while acknowledging the impossibility of expressing this experience in words, Dogen goes to great lengths to express what can be expressed about it. In some of his more poetic moments he describes the indescribable in incredibly elegant (and eloquent) terms. The Shobogenzo, Bendowa, for instance, presents one his most memorable descriptions of the "experience" of the "state of Buddha."

"At this time, everything in the Universe in ten directions - soil, earth, grass, and trees; fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles - performs the Buddha’s work. The people that receive the benefit thus produced by wind and water are all mystically helped by the fine and unthinkable influence of the Buddha, and they exhibit the immediate state of realization. All beings who receive and utilize this water and fire spread the influence of the Buddha in the original state of experience, so that those who live and talk with them also, are all reciprocally endowed with the limitless Buddha-virtue. Expanding and promoting their activity far and wide, they permeate the inside and the outside of the entire Universe with the limitless, unceasing, unthinkable, and incalculable Buddha-Dharma. [The state] is not dimmed by the views of these individuals themselves, however, because the state in the quietness, without intentional activity, is direct experience."
Shobogenzo, Bendowa, Nishijima & Cross

Dogen’s exuberance here nearly makes the inexpressible palpable--as when the sound of a child’s laughter causes us to laugh, so Dogen’s exuberance resonates and arouses a sympathetic response in our own body-and-mind. This sense of great joy and zeal for the Buddha-Dharma has a powerful encouraging effect on those that seriously engage in actively reading and implementing his work. In the (relatively few) passages when Dogen sings out on the marvelous wonders of enlightenment, they bring a refreshing moment of release similar to the sound of the dinner bell after a day of hard labor. Of course, in the overall context of Dogen’s Zen teaching, such exhilarating praises on the blissful wonders of Buddhahood are rare. Nevertheless, like the sound of the dinner bell at the end of the day, they are most welcome.

Much more often, Dogen’s expressions sound more like those of an exacting taskmaster. Sometimes, the compassion of an old grandmother manifests as a thump on the head. For every expression about the "blissful" state transcending enlightenment and delusion, there must be fifty expressions urging us to "grind our bones to powder" in our efforts to "get inside these words."

I don't think Dogen is trying to make things difficult for us anymore than the kindly old grandmother administers her thumps simply to cause pain. Dogen has realized something marvelous and he wants to share it with us—no, he has to share it with us. For as we observed earlier, understanding, activity, and expression always occur together. Dogen’s expressions are the activity of his continuous and ongoing understanding.

12 comments:

Jordan said...

Ted (writing of koans) Said:when Dogen urges us to "investigate these words," he means we should take them up in sitting meditation,

What a shame that Shakyamuni, Bohidharma and Nagarjuna had no wealth of Chinese koans to study, oh the pity that according to the doctrine you are prescribing, they could never have understood Buddhism! OK, sorry, even I think that is over the top. But the records of koans are just public cases’ documenting the interaction between people engaged in Buddhist study and practice. I think it may be helpful for some to investigate them too! BUT! We make our own in daily life. We may be making one right now!

Master Dogan said in the Fukanzazengi: Think of not thinking. Not thinking-what kind of thinking is that? Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen.

And also put aside the practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, SZTP

Judging by the extensive rules of conduct for living he wrote; I think
Learning these words through practice is just learning these words through our daily actions, from what I have observed, every aspect of this thing we call life is Buddhist practice.

You appear to be putting daijō above saijōjō. This is maybe a matter of the doctrine you felt implied by Sanbo Kyodan teachers, or what they passed as best for you at the time. The teacher Yasutani was pretty well known for prescribing different practices for different folks. Some got breath meditation, some got Koan study, and some got Just sitting. Or so the records of his students seem to infer. I get the feeling he did not subscribe to a one size fits all doctrine. I am cool with that. Others are more ridged. But I don’t assume to know what Master Dogen or the teacher Yasutani were thinking. I sometimes wonder what “I” am thinking! It is recorded that when the teacher Dogen returned from China on the second time he was asked what he brought back with him he said: a soft and flexible mind.

Did Dogen teach “Zen Buddhism? Or Buddhism? I seem to be loosing track.

Bowing in deference,
Jordan

Jordan said...

In other news, my “Horror” scope seems right on today!

You often attempt to reduce complex situations into manageable pieces through logical analysis. But now you could overreact and worry too much. It's difficult for you to believe that any outcome could be positive, for you've trained yourself to be so critical. Forget about being rational for once and be ready to take a risk. You'll never know unless you try.

How wonderful!

Take care,
Jordan

Dogen said...

Is the Way attained through mind or body? In the teaching-schools it is said that since body and mind are not separate, the Way is attained through the body. Yet it is not clear that we attain the Way through the body, because they say “since” body and mind are not separate. In Zen the Way is attained through both body and mind.

As long as we only think about the buddha-dharma with our minds we will never grasp the Way, even in a thousand lifetimes or a myriad of eons. When we let go of our minds and cast aside our views and understandings the Way will be actualized. One sage clarified True Mind (Reality) when he saw peach blossoms and another realized the Way when he heard the sound of tile hitting a bamboo. They attained the Way through their bodies. Therefore, when we completely cast aside our thoughts and views and practice shikantaza, we will become intimate with the Way. For this reason the Way is doubtlessly attained through the body. This is why I encourage you to practice zazen wholeheartedly.

Ted Biringer said...

Hello Jordan,
I hope all is well with you.
Thank you for your comment!

Jordan wrote "What a shame that Shakyamuni, Bohidharma and Nagarjuna had no wealth of Chinese koans to study, oh the pity that according to the doctrine you are prescribing, they could never have understood Buddhism!"

I did not mean to come across as "prescribing a doctrine." If I did so, I must have been unclear; when I said "Dogen", I meant the records that are attributed to Dogen. Obviously, I do not know what Dogen himself may or may not have said. So when I say "Dogen", I mean those records that the Soto school (and most scholars) attribute to him.

In that sense, "Dogen" means we should take them up in sitting meditation. For instance, here are a couple examples that seem pretty straightforward:

"The present story (koan) 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](Koan) 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 (koan) in detail even before Kyogen opens his mouth. Not only will we steal Old Kyogen’s eyes and glimpse [the story] (koan); 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

"Both horns and four hooves have passed by. Why is it that only the tail cannot pass by? People, look at this in detail in your Zen practice."
Eihei Koroku, 8:2 Leighton & Okumura

"Play with Linji’s lump of red flesh, and penetrate the width of Xuefeng’s ancient mirror. Furthermore, burn up Danxia’s wooden Buddha, and smelt a hundred times the iron ox of Shanfu. Don’t laugh when the cold ash is revived. Return for a while to the meditation hall and deliberate about this."
Eihei Koroku, 3:199 Leighton & Okumura

"In this way, when the aspiration to seek the Way has become sincere, either during the period of sole concentration on sitting, or when dealing with illustrative example (koan) of the people of olden times, or when meeting the teacher, when one acts with true aspiration…

Unless you arouse a mind comparable to this, how will you accomplish the great task of the Buddha-Way, which cuts of the turning round of birth and death in a single instant of thought?"
Record of Things Heard (Shobogenzo-zuimonki), II:15, Thomas Cleary

"Good gentelman, when you meet a teacher, first ask for one case of [koan] story, and just keep it in mind and study it diligently. If you climb to the top of the mountain and dry up the oceans, you will not fail to complete [this study].
Eihei Koroku, Vol.8:14, Leighton & Okumura

There are many more examples, but this should be enough to clear up what I meant. "Dogen" means we should take up "these words" etc. in Sitting Meditation, not Ted.

Or do you have another view?

As far as Shakyamuni, Nagarjuna, and Bodhidharma are concerned, I (Ted) don't think they needed Chinese "koans"... Shakyamuni, for one, had a pretty serious koan of his own to work out...

I am not trying to express "my" views in this post, but express my understanding of Dogen's teachings as expressed in those records attributed to him.

Nor do I deny that he also taught "sole sitting" or "shikantaza" without koans. As you quoted from 1 of his 4 Zazen fascicles--only 3 of which appear in the Shobogenzo, the other 90 or so are dedicated mainly to koans, which he evidently based on his collection of 300 koans in his Shinji Shobogenzo.

As far as being influenced by "Yasutani" or anyone else goes, I am not trying to present my (Ted's) views (in fact, my own views in some areas do not accord even with what Dogen seems to be saying), I am trying to share my understanding of what Dogen teaches in his records (mainly the Shobogenzo).

If you think that when Dogen says, "investigate these words," he does not mean to investigate them in sitting meditation, I would be interested in hearing what you think he does mean, and how you came to your own understanding. Maybe I have misread his teachings.

Thanks again. I look forward to your comments.

Take care,
Ted

Jordan said...

Hey Ted,
Thank you for the well wishes!

Busy weekend so I will skip to the end.

Ted: If you think that when Dogen says, "investigate these words," he does not mean to investigate them in sitting meditation, I would be interested in hearing what you think he does mean, and how you came to your own understanding. Maybe I have misread his teachings... Or do you have another view?

If Dogen wanted someone to investigate them in sitting meditation he told them so directly.
He was very careful and I would say meticulous to give clear concise instructions, that left little to doubt.

I think when he said investigate these words, that he ment for us to investigate these words.
Perhaps a bit like we are investigating words right now.

I also get the feeling that, what we do not see in the record of Dogen,o Or what we like to overlook, is that the teachings are situational. Depending on the circumstances at the moment He may completely reverse himself.

The most vital concern in learning the Way is to practice zazen. In China, many people attained the Way entirely through the power of zazen. If one concentrates on practicing zazen continuously, even an ignorant person, who does not understand a single question, can be superior to an intelligent person who has been studying for a long time. Therefore, practitioners must practice shikantaza wholeheartedly without bothering to concern themselves with other things. The Way of the buddhas and patriarchs is nothing but zazen. Do not pursue anything else.

At the time, Ejo asked, “In learning both sitting and reading, when I read the collections of the old masters’ sayings or koans, I can understand one thing out of a hundred or a thousand words, though I have never had such an experience in zazen. Should we still prefer to practice zazen?”

Dogen replied, “Even if you may seem to have some understanding while reading koans, such studies will lead you astray from the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs. To spend your time sitting upright with nothing to be gained and nothing to be realized is the Way of the patriarchs. Although the ancient masters encouraged both reading and shikan zazen, they promoted sitting wholeheartedly. Although there are some who have gained enlightenment hearing stories (of the masters), the attainment of enlightenment is due to the merit of sitting. True merit depends on sitting.”

I pick on Koans because I think they are not necessary for investigating while "sitting in meditation", They might be helpful to someone at some point, that I will not deny, much like counting the breath. I do think they are just nice stories to express the Buddha Dharma through. And which should also be studied. However, If you happen to come across Master Dogen's Manual for Koan introspection, that would be something to see.

What part of your life is not Zen Practice?
I brush my teeth in order to save sentient beings.

one last quote “The image and relics of the Buddha which you worship will eventually be harmful to you.”

Take good care,
Jordan

Ted Biringer said...

Hello Jordan,

Good to hear you! I hope all is well.

Jordan wrote:
"If Dogen wanted someone to investigate them in sitting meditation he told them so directly."

With all due respect, I think I understand what you are saying, and you may be right, but I can't really agree with the logic of your argument.

Even if he never said to examine "koans" on the cushion (which he did), that would not be enough evidence to convince an objective observer that it "proves" Dogen was actually "against" doing so.

In fact, since it was the common practice in both China and Japan, it seems more likely that if he did not want them to do so, he would have been specific about it. Maybe he was in his talks, but I am only going by his records, and they are brimming with passages that, at least for me, are difficult to read as meaning anything else...

Nevertheless, since he does make some direct refrences that encourage this practice (though they are admittedly few) it seems that, without evidence to the contrary, he meant it. As in:

"...if we consider [the story](Koan) 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 (koan) in detail even before Kyogen opens his mouth."
Shobogenzo, Soshi-Sairai-No-I, Nishijima & Cross

Why and how could this not be read as taking up a koan (on the cushion) in Zazen? If he expected his listeners/readers to draw another conclusion, what?

Or in this example where he cites the classic koan about the buffalo passing through the window:

"Both horns and four hooves have passed by. Why is it that only the tail cannot pass by? People, look at this in detail in your Zen practice."
Eihei Koroku, 8:2 Leighton & Okumura

The term here translated as "Zen practice" is "sanzen" which Nishijima & Cross usually translate as "zazen." Is this not an example of Dogen advising students to take up a koan in sitting meditation? If not, what is it?

The other examples I listed in my last response to your comment seem almost as clear cut to me... And I think I would be able to come up with at least a dozen or so more without too much effort.

One more point on this, have you read Tendo's record (Dogen's Teacher)? He wholeheartedly endorses koan introspection. His instructions on the "MU" koan are nearly identical to those of Mumon. It is clear from his writings that Dogen deeply revered his teacher. Do you believe that Dogen disapproved of Tendo's teaching in this regard?

Jorden wrote:
"I think when he said investigate these words, that he ment for us to investigate these words.
Perhaps a bit like we are investigating words right now."

Perhaps you are right. And I do not deny that others wiser than myself make a similar conclusion (though others wiser than myself also think Dogen used some method of koan introspection). Nevertheless, if Dogen simply meant for us to "read" them, "discuss them" or take some other "ordinary" approach, he was sure dramatic about it. Using terms like "replace your heart and liver with these words" "grind your bones to powder penetrating this story" "exhaust lifetime after lifetime investigating these words" and so on.

Not to mention the fact that at least 80 percent of his work consists of his instructions regarding the discernment of wisdom in explicating the meaning of hundreds of koans. While his instructions on Zazen, even giving a conservative estimate amount to less than 10 or 15 percent of his work (probably more around 5). If Zazen, in the form of shikantaza, or objectless meditation was his primary concern, why did he spend so little effort (relatively speaking) on expounding it?

I agree wholeheartedly with you on your views about taking the context and situational circumstances into our consideration. No doubt, Dogen, like many Zen masters said "contradictory" things, based on the point he was making, his audience, his context, etc. For example, in some places he emphasizes that "lay" practitioners are just as likely to realize awakening as monastics. And in other places he vehemently denies it--even saying that no "layman" ever realized it. Another example is how he acknowledges Rinzai as a "rightful heir" of the Buddha-Dharma, is some places, and dismisses him as an ignoramous in others. There are many other examples along these lines...

My own approach to "resolving" these is sometimes just to let them remain "unresolved." But some things, as in my current understanding of the meaning of his phrases like "Investigate these words in detail" I take in the overall tone and context of his entire works--though I attach a little more weight to the "Shobogenzo" because of the evidence of Dogen's frequent and in depth revisions and editing of these works over the course of his teaching career.

Jordan wrote:

"The most vital concern in learning the Way is to practice zazen..."

I agree that Dogen believed and taught that Zazen was essential to authentic Zen practice and enlightenment. He says so plainly.

Yet, he also plainly cite "awakening" as the "most vital" concern, and cites it more often and in more times and places throughout his teaching life. For example:

"Clearly remember: in the Buddhist patriarchs’ learning of the truth, to awaken the bodhi-mind is inevitably seen as foremost. This is the eternal rule of the Buddhist patriarchs."
Dogen, Shobogenzo, Hotsu-Bodaishin, Nishijima & Cross, v3, p.271

Now just because he says things like that, I don't take it as meaning that Dogen believed that "to awaken the bodhi-mind" was the ONLY essential thing, but, like Zazen, was ONE of the essential things.

Believe me Jordan, I am not trying to beat a dead horse here, or "proove" I am right and you are wrong. If I know anything about studying Dogen, my views could flip in an instant.

I know a number of people and books that make the same argument as you. Many of these people (and authors) are far more knowledgable than I... Yet, after many years of practice and study, I cannot see how they can make such claims about Dogen based on his records, especially make these claims with such an air of certainty... Though I try to remain open to the possiblility, I am baffled by their conviction, their certainty about what Dogen meant...

Hopefully, our discussion can shed some light on how you and others come to such a radically differnt conclusion than me (and others).

In any case, thank you for your sincere words, and continuing friendship...

Take care,
Ted

Ted Biringer said...

Dear dogen,

Is it really you??!!!
I hope you can help us resolve a couple of points about what you meant...

Thanks for your comments,
Take care,
Ted

Jordan said...

Ted:
Thank you for your interesting reply.

you said: Now just because he says things like that, I don't take it as meaning that Dogen believed that "to awaken the bodhi-mind" was the ONLY essential thing, but, like Zazen, was ONE of the essential things.

We agree!

You ask: "...if we consider [the story](Koan) 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 (koan) in detail even before Kyogen opens his mouth."
Shobogenzo, Soshi-Sairai-No-I, Nishijima & Cross

Why and how could this not be read as taking up a koan (on the cushion) in Zazen? If he expected his listeners/readers to draw another conclusion, what?


And:

The term here translated as "Zen practice" is "sanzen" which Nishijima & Cross usually translate as "zazen." Is this not an example of Dogen advising students to take up a koan in sitting meditation? If not, what is it?

Sanzen Literally means: 3000 realms or more practically a whole lot or an unfathomable amount, this kind of depends on the usage and context though.

My position is not to far from yours, but I would like to explain where I draw the gap.

Master Dogen is noteworthy among teachers and his writings stand out like a beacon because of something very interesting. He wrote Doctrine. My position is that the myriad of daily activities are just “Zen” practice. Or to say it in a way that dose not draw differences… just living a buddhish life.

You ask: Is this not an example of Dogen advising students to take up a koan in sitting meditation? If not, what is it?

My position remains unchanged. We should take up the public cases amongst the “3000 things” But this dose not change the Doctrine of sitting Zen.


You ask: One more point on this, have you read Tendo's record (Dogen's Teacher)? He wholeheartedly endorses koan introspection. His instructions on the "MU" koan are nearly identical to those of Mumon. It is clear from his writings that Dogen deeply revered his teacher. Do you believe that Dogen disapproved of Tendo's teaching in this regard?

I have not read Tendo’s Record, But if I recall correctly, it was Tendo Nyojo who used the term shikantaza (just simply sitting) to describe ZaZen.

AH, Praise Google! I have found an exchange thanks to Rev. Okumura:

One section of question and answer Nyojo said, "Zazen is shinjindatsuraku." Shinjindatsuraku is dropping off body and mind. This expression shinjindatsuraku is a kind of unusual expression in the history of Zen, so Dogen didn't understand what this means, dropping off body and mind. Shin is body and jin is mind and datsu is like to take off, like to take off your clothing, and raku is to fall down. So your body and mind somehow take off something and drop off. This is Nyojo's expression of being released from karmic self. But at that time Dogen was 25 and he didn't understand. He asked, "What is shinjindatsuraku? What is dropping off body and mind?
Then Nyojo said, and this answer is very interesting, "Dropping off body and mind is zazen." Usually we think zazen is a kind of a method to attain dropping off body and mind or some kind of revelation or enlightenment. But Nyojo said "Zazen is dropping off body and mind," and yet he said "Dropping off body and mind is zazen." Just sitting. And he recommended Dogen just sit. This is the origin of this legacy of just sitting. And Dogen transmitted that just sitting to Japan.

Ted said: Hopefully, our discussion can shed some light on how you and others come to such a radically differnt conclusion than me (and others).

I am not sure if my position is so radically different.
In the Buddha Dharma, there is right and wrong, and there is no right and no wrong.
This too is sanzen, the practice of myriad things. Which makes it right (wholesome?) by me. But I still like Fuke, and sometimes think the table needs kicked over. Even at a formal party with good friends.

Take care,
Jordan

Dōgen said...

I have seen you cutting me in two, but can you cut me into one?

Yamakoa said...

Hello Ted,
Nice to see you back in the blogoshpere, even though I have not been blogging myself. More of an observer. I do enjoy your writing and insights quite a bit.
It seems to me your "are accomplishing the task of a lifetime."
All this appears extremely dynamic and interesting. From the outside it seems that you and Jordan are saying very similar things, though not completely. Jordan seems not to get pinned under the weight of this method. While you seem to advocate that this is what is exactly needed (although not exclusively).

In the end I would question if these speculations lead us to be more compassionate human beings and more skillful in tempering the suffering of this world. After all, is the task of our life to be buddhas for buddhasake, or to awaken and ease the suffering of us all.
As for rehashing the words of dead men, the Red Beard of the West seems to be the poison that cures me "Many roads lead to the path,but basically there are two: reason and practice."
(Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, Outline of Practice, Red Pine)

Thank you

Ted Biringer said...

Dogen,
Thank you for your venerable visit, and your comments.

Dogen wrote: "I have seen you cutting me in two, but can you cut me into one?"

What's that? Eh...? Who cut what?

Setting aside "I" "me" and "you" for the moment...

If something was cut into 100,000 billion pieces, would any one of them not be True?

Thank you for your edification!
Take care,
Ted

Ted Biringer said...

Dear Yamakoa,

Thank you for your comments
It is good to hear from you.

If you have not been following the posts at:
http://flatbedsutra.com/flatbedsutrazenblogger/

Come on over. Your comments would be most welcome...

Thanks again,
Take care,
Ted