While we may have doubts about the fact that “our very mind is Buddha,” there is no reason for any Zen practitioner to be unaware, or unclear of the fact that this is exactly what Zen (and Mahayana) Buddhism teaches: your mind, here and now, is Buddha. Anyone can understand what this is asserting, and though we may doubt it, the Zen masters, including Dogen, tell us that having learned this, we can put it into practice and thereby verify the truth for ourselves. With this verification, Dogen assures us, we will realize that, “Your very mind is Buddha” means exactly what it says.
Since this is the way things are, “Your very mind is Buddha” means, pure and simply, that your very mind is Buddha; all Buddhas are, pure and simply, all Buddhas.
Shobogenzo, Soku Shin Ze Butsu, Hubert Nearman
The mind here and now is Buddha, is the myriad clear, clear real dharmas. In accord with the Mahayana scriptures, Dogen affirms that our “self” is nothing other than our “experience,” which is the nonduality of “experiencer/experienced.” Therefore our true self is exactly our experience here and now. While human experience is facilitated through the six sense-gates (i.e. eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind), human experience is singular (i.e. there is only one “experiencer” of all six senses). What is Buddha? Your very mind is Buddha. What is your very mind? Your very mind is your experience here and now. What is your experience here and now? Your experience consists of the sum of what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and think at each instance of existence-time.
Now let’s see if we can get at the significance of the Buddhist doctrine on the identity of “experience” and “existence,” and the reason for Dogen’s constant reminder of it. In Buddhism “existence” connotes “real form” (jisso) and “all dharmas” (shoho; all things, beings, events, etc.) are defined as “existent,” thus, “all dharmas are real forms” (shoho-jisso). So the significance of the teaching that existence is experience is in its illumination of the fact that anything and everything (shoho) we experience actually exists as a real form (jisso). In fact, “to really exist” is synonymous with “being experienced,” and “to experience” is synonymous with “real existence.”
One of Dogen’s classic elucidations of this is his interpretation of “sky-flowers” (kuge). Conventionally a metaphor for “unreal” or “illusory,” sky-flowers is a term for the “appearance of spots floating in the air” due to injured or diseased eyes. Dogen points out that insofar as a sentient being actually experiences these spots in the air, they are as real mountains, stones, walls, or any other dharma. To be experienced is to exist as a real form. To exist is to be an instance of existence-time (uji). To be an instance of existence-time is to be an instance of eternity – thus a “sky-flower” is as intrinsic to the real Buddha as a lotus-flower, the morning star, the Buddha ancestors, and every other real form.
The realization of the Buddhist patriarchs is perfectly realized real form. Real form is all dharmas. All dharmas are forms as they are, natures as they are, body as it is, the mind as it is, the world as it is, clouds and rain as they are, walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, as they are; sorrow and joy, movement and stillness, as they are; a staff and a whisk, as they are; a twirling flower and a smiling face, as they are; succession of the Dharma and affirmation, as they are; learning in practice and pursuing the truth, as they are; the constancy of pines and the integrity of bamboos, as they are.
Sakyamuni Buddha says, “Buddhas alone, together with buddhas, are directly able to perfectly realize that all dharmas are real form.
Shobogenzo, Shoho-jisso, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross