Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Genjokoan - Dogen's bottomless Zen text

Dogen's Shobogenzo, Genjokoan, is one of those rare Zen texts that seem to be bottomless sources of wisdom and insight. One of the phrases in Dogen's wonderful Genjokoan that has been melting into my mind recently is this:

When a person is experiencing the practice and enlightenment of the buddha-dharma, each practice is complete practice, and meeting each thing is mastering it.

What do we make of such a bold statement? While I am sure that this line (like most of Dogen's work) is much wiser than I can discern, it has come to mean something to me. For me, it seems to be saying that when a person is “experiencing the practice and enlightenment of the buddha-dharma,” each particular practice (moment, thing, or event) is the complete practice of that particular practice. That is to say, when a human being stands up, the whole universe stands up as that particular human being.
Next, the Genjokoan states:

Here, the place exists and the way unfolds, and therefore the area of enlightenment is not conspicuous. For this enlightenment and the buddha-dharma manifest simultaneously and are experienced simultaneously.

This too seems to point out some marvelous implications. Would anyone like to share their ideas, insights, thoughts, etc. on their experience with it?


Ted Biringer

Monday, January 12, 2009

What is it to Realize the Buddha-Dharma?

In Shobogenzo, Genjokoan reminds us of what “realizing the Buddha-Dharma” is:

To realize the Buddha-Dharma is to realize your self.

It is surprisingly easy to get caught up in the details of ‘practice and enlightenment’ and lose sight of the fundamental point of Zen. Buddhism is not about a teacher or holy man of long ago and far away, it is not about metaphysical doctrines, it has nothing to do with objective knowledge; it is about us; real live human beings here and now. Enlightenment, wisdom, true-nature, Buddhahood, Zen, etc. are provisional terms employed for directing us to the truth about ourselves. “Buddha” is a term for an awakened human being. If there is any one thing that all the great Zen masters do seem to agree on, it is that Buddha is not separate from us ordinary people. Here are a few of my favorite reminders from the classic Zen Records:

Through endless kalpas without beginning, whatever you do, wherever you are, that’s your real mind, that’s your real buddha. This mind is buddha says the same thing. Beyond this mind you’ll never find another buddha. To search for enlightenment or nirvana beyond this mind is impossible. The reality of your own self-nature, the absence of cause and effect, is what’s meant by mind. Your mind is nirvana. You might think you can find a buddha or enlightenment somewhere beyond the mind, but such a place doesn’t exist.
Red Pine, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

Learned Audience, the wisdom of enlightenment [bodhiprajna] is inherent in every one of us. It is because of the delusion under which our mind works that we fail to realize it ourselves, and that we have to seek the advice and the guidance of enlightened ones before we can know our own essence of mind. You should know that so far as buddha-nature is concerned, there is no difference between an enlightened man and an ignorant one. What makes the difference is that one realizes it, while the other is ignorant of it.
Sutra of Hui-Neng, Price, A.F. & Mou-lam, Wong,

Q: If our own Mind is the Buddha, how did Bodhidharma transmit his doctrine when he came from India?
A: When he came from India, he transmitted only Mind-Buddha. He just pointed to the truth that the minds of all of you have from the very first been identical with the Buddha, and in no way separate from each other. That is why we call him our Patriarch. Whoever has an instant understanding of this truth suddenly transcends the whole hierarchy of saints and adepts belonging to any of the Three Vehicles. You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can ATTAIN to this oneness by various practices.
The Zen Teaching of Huang-Po, Bloefeld, John

If you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, then never look for something outside yourselves. The clean pure light in a moment of your mind—that is the Essence-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undifferentiated light in a moment of your mind—that is the Bliss-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undiscriminating light in a moment of your mind—that is the Transformation-body of the Buddha lodged in you. These three types of bodies are you, the person who stands before me now listening to this lecture on the Dharma! And simply because you do not rush around seeking anything outside yourselves, you can command these fine faculties.
The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi, Watson, Burton

The way of Zen began without the establishment of any sect. It is simply a religion which points to the one original mind of all Buddhas and ordinary people. This mind is nothing other than Buddha nature. To see this nature is what is meant by religious practice. When you realize your Buddha nature, wrong relationships will instantly disappear, words will be of no concern, the dust of the dharma will not stain you. This is what is called Zen. Attaining Zen is becoming a Buddha. This real Buddha is none other than the heart of all beings, the master of seeing, hearing, and perceiving.
Mud and Water, A Collection of Talks by the Zen Master Bassui, Braverman, Arthur

Peace all you Bodhisattvas!

Ted Biringer