Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Some implications of the title "Shobogenzo"

I thought it would be cool to check out Dogen's use of "Shobogenzo" for the title of his masterpiece.

"Shobogenzo" means, True Dharma-eye Treasury:
Sho = True, Right, Real, Authentic, etc.
Ho (bo) = Dharma, Law, Teaching, Reality, etc.
Gen = Eye, Seeing directly, Central, Essential, etc.
Zo = Treasury, Storehouse, Compendium, etc.

Dogen used some other terms synonymously with Shobogenzo, most often, The rightly transmitted Buddha-Dharma, or simply The Buddha-Dharma.

For a better grasp on exactly what Dogen means by this term, we will briefly examine the koan (which he often cites in Shobogenzo) from which he derived the title: The World-Honored One Twirls a Flower:

When The World-Honored One was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he twirled a flower before his assembly. Everyone remained silent. Only Mahakasyapa broke into a smile. The Buddha said, I have the True Dharma-eye Treasury (Shobogenzo), The Fine Mind of Nirvana (nehanmyoshin), The True Form of no-Form (jissomu), The Undisclosed Subtle Dharma Gate (bimyohomon), not dependant on words and letters, transmitted outside the teachings. This I have entrusted to Mahakasyapa.
~Mumonkan, Case 6

In Shobogenzo, Dogen often refers to this story by using an abbreviated phrase like, "Mahakasyapa smiles," or "Buddha twirls a flower."

What I think is interesting to ponder here are the terms that the Buddha uses to enhance what he means by this "The True Dharma-eye Treasury", which has been entrusted to Mahakasyapa.

The Buddha equates it with, "The Fine Mind of Nirvana", "The True Form of no-Form", and "The Undisclosed Subtle Dharma Gate". From these expressions, which he used synonymously with "Shobogenzo", we can gain a clearer understanding of the significance of the title Dogen gave to his magnum opus.

Essentially, The True Dharma-eye Treasury (Shobogenzo) can be understood to mean, "the most essential truth of reality," as well as, "the most essential way (or gate) to reality."

Comments most welcome!

Thanks, Ted

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