Friday, November 26, 2010

Dogen On: As Our Eye Reveals Them

As Our Eye Reveals Them...
The Great Earth with all Its hills and streams is the appearance of things as our Eye reveals them.
Shobogenzo, Ganzei, Hubert Nearman

A perception, in Dogen’s writings, is a unification of perceiver and perceived. A concept, on the other hand, is an abstract notion, an idea derived through speculating about perceptions. Perceptions and concepts are both dharmas, real and useful aspects of the world. Perception is what unites us with the world; concepts are tools for acquiring general forms of knowledge and developing systems to organize information and activity. Throughout Shobogenzo, Dogen emphasizes the importance of understanding and remaining attentive to the differences between the two; by uniting perceiver and perceived, perceptions eliminate divisions between subject and object; concepts are produced by abstracting, thus dividing, qualities from dharmas. Concepts are derived from the components of perception (perceiver and perceived) and therefore cannot stand in as substitutes for perceptions.

To clarify, when we perceive a flower, for example, “perceiving the flower” is exactly “what” we are, and “the perceived flower” is exactly “what” it is. The flower here and now perceived is precisely what is perceived as a flower. “Here and now perceived” is our perceiving the flower as a flower; “perceiving the flower as a flower” is the flowers appearance before our eyes. Perceiving the flower is not our “present experience,” it is “what” we are; the perceived flower is not something “previously unperceived,” it is “what” it is. Perception unites subject and object, thus in perceiving a flower, both “we” and “the flower” are the “what” of perception; “present experience,” “previously unperceived,” and similar qualities are concepts – abstract notions speculatively derived from the actual “what” of experience.

What is looked at in this way is what the threefold world really is, and this threefold world is just as we perceive it to be. The threefold world is not one’s fundamental being, nor is it our present existence, nor is it something that newly arises, nor is it something born from causes and conditions, and it is beyond anything that has a beginning, a middle, or an end. There is the threefold world that is left behind and there is the threefold world of the here and now. This is the mutual meeting of a marionette with a marionette. It is the bringing forth and nurturing of kudzu and wisteria vines. The threefold world of the here and now is what we see as the threefold world. ‘What we see’ means our seeing the threefold world as a threefold world. ‘Seeing it as a threefold world’ refers to the threefold world as it manifests right before us, as we manifest it right before us, and as our spiritual question manifests right before our very eyes. We all innately have the ability to make the threefold world be the vehicle for the arising of our spiritual intention, our practice and training, our realizing enlightenment, and our experiencing nirvana.
Shobogenzo, Sangai Yuishin, Hubert Nearman

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