Excerpt From The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing: The Second Ancestor of Zen in the West - Part II – Commentaries of Louie Wing: A deeper examination of Zen - Commentary 1. The Genjokoan
One thing that places Dogen in the company of the greatest of Zen masters is magnificent Zen expression. Few masters before—and none since—have matched his skill for expressing the profound and subtle wisdom of the enlightened mind. Two of his early predecessors, Tozan and his disciple Sozan, earn their inclusion among these few through their elucidation of the classic Zen teaching of The Five Ranks.
The doctrine expressed as The Five Ranks is one of the most influential Zen expressions of all time. The subject of that doctrine—the function and essence of the enlightened mind—is and has always been the summum bonum of Buddhism. Every genuine Buddhist expression is grounded on this central principal. The presentation of this principal by Tozan, further refined by Sozan, as The Five Ranks, marks one point where the expression of the central truth of Buddhism evolved.
Dogen’s Shobogenzo marks another such point.
Dogen’s genius for expression is displayed nowhere better than in Genjokoan. His views, on every major aspect of the Buddha-Dharma, are revealed, either explicitly or implicitly, in this extraordinary essay. Genjokoan is a skeleton key that can be used to unlock the Shobogenzo, literally “Treasury of the True Dharma-Eye.
The opening lines of Genjokoan outline the fundamental aspects of reality: the interdependence and interpenetrating aspects of the one and the many, the individual and the universal.
When all things are seen as the Buddha-Dharma, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is practice, there is life and there is death, there are Buddhas and there are ordinary beings.
This line affirms the relative aspect of reality. Here, “the Buddha-Dharma” denotes all-inclusive reality. “When all things are seen as the Buddha-Dharma,” indicates one way of perceiving the Buddha-Dharma (reality). In this way of perceiving the Buddha-Dharma, “all things” (the myriad dharmas) are seen. That is, reality appears as a multitude of separate individual things. From this perspective of reality there is, “delusion and enlightenment, there is practice, there is life and there is death, there are Buddhas and there are ordinary beings.“ There are people, animals, houses, stars, and all the other kinds of things.
Dogen, more than most Zen masters, delves deeply into the implications of this aspect of reality. While many Zen masters and Buddhist texts give short shrift to the relative aspect of experience, often simply dismissing it as the experience of delusion, Dogen methodically articulates how this aspect of reality affirms the ultimate significance of every particular thing. The Shobogenzo repeatedly directs us to this truth; because everything is the Buddha-Dharma, the Buddha-Dharma is every thing. For Dogen, every thing has ultimate significance as the Buddha-Dharma; including even such things as broken tiles, pebbles, dreams, illusions, and doubts…