Sunday, January 23, 2011

Zen Emptiness: The Real Form of All Dharmas

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.
Shobogenzo, Shoho-Jisso
, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

If all reality is particular forms and specific actions, as Dogen contends, there is no reason to worry about our ability to distinguish reality from unreality; everything that can be distinguished is real; if every particular form and specific action is reality, there is every reason to concern ourselves with our ability to perceive, understand, and act skillfully.

The ability to perceive, understand, and act skillfully is the measure of true wisdom, it is the ability to respond wisely in the here and now – this is the real wisdom of responsibility (response-ability). For, if all particular forms and actions are real dharmas, as Buddhism contends and Dogen emphasizes, then every particular “a wise act” (e.g. eating, reading to our child, looking both ways, practicing zazen, etc.) is a real dharma. Corollary with this, every specific “foolish act” (e.g. gluing our eyes shut, accepting views we have not personally verified, giving a 5 year old a pound of chocolate, accepting an invitation to a “special transmission” from a naked “Zen master,” etc.) is also real. And it does not stop there; all specific oak trees are real trees, all particular biases are real biases, all specific expressions of truth are real expressions of truth, all particular lies are real lies, flowers are real, cluster-bombs are real, awareness of the Dharma is real, ignorance of the Dharma is real.

Peace,
Ted

2 comments:

willsimpson said...

Ted, thank you for your practice. A question has been nagging me for a long time and your post has help to clarify it. First, I am a simple person. A beginner and have only started studying Dogen. I can't except views on faith or belief but want to be open for correction.

I'm with you all the way up to "Corollary with this...". I don't see in Dogen's quote any corollary. He seems to be saying as you so eloquently state "if every particular form and specific action is reality, there is every reason to concern ourselves with our ability to perceive, understand, and act skillfully." He doesn't say "if every particular non form and specific action is unreality, there is every reason to concern ourselves with our ability to perceive, understand, and act skillfully."

If I claim that you are a girl with blue hair and big knockers living under the sea with a pet turtle, you are free to ignore me. Plainly delusional and "not real" as unrelated to truth or reality as Dogen talks about truth and reality.

Doesn't taking up false ideas that are completely made up of discursive thought and empowering them with some notion of reality, go against "our ability to perceive, understand, and act skillfully."?

Respectfully
Will

Ted Biringer said...

Hello Will,

Thank you for your comment.

You wrote: "I'm with you all the way up to "Corollary with this...". I don't see in Dogen's quote any corollary. He seems to be saying... "if every particular form and specific action is reality, there is every reason to concern ourselves... He doesn't say "if every particular non form and specific action is unreality, there is every reason to concern ourselves..."

I understand that you are questioning something in my post after "corollory" but I am not sure exactly what...? From the context of your comment, I assume that something I wrote suggested that I was affirming the "reality" of some "non form" or "non existent" dharma...? I hope you will elaborate some...

For now I will respond as best I can.

I wrote:

"Corollary with this, every specific “foolish act” (e.g. gluing our eyes shut, accepting views we have not personally verified, giving a 5 year old a pound of chocolate, accepting an invitation to a “special transmission” from a naked “Zen master,” etc.) is also real. And it does not stop there; all specific oak trees are real trees, all particular biases are real biases, all specific expressions of truth are real expressions of truth, all particular lies are real lies, flowers are real, cluster-bombs are real, awareness of the Dharma is real, ignorance of the Dharma is real."

So, the point I was trying to get at was the reality/existence of all actual, specific forms - tha is, all manifest dharmas (things, beings, instances, etc.).

As for "non forms" and "unrealities" - I have never experienced either.

You wrote:

"If I claim that you are a girl with blue hair and big knockers living under the sea with a pet turtle, you are free to ignore me. Plainly delusional and "not real" as unrelated to truth or reality as Dogen talks about truth and reality."

If you actually made that specific claim - the actual claim would be a "real dharma." The "reality" or "truth" of the claim would be a true/real manifestation of a falsehood or fabrication.

The reality of a false statement is truly real "as it is" - a false statement.

A delusional notion (e.g. I can fly, you live under the sea) is a "real dharma" and it truly IS a delusional notion.

You wrote:

"Doesn't taking up false ideas that are completely made up of discursive thought and empowering them with some notion of reality, go against "our ability to perceive, understand, and act skillfully."?"

First, I would say that any actual "false idea" cannot be made up "completely" of discursive thought. The "true nature" or essence of an actual "false idea" is, like all real dharmas, not seperate from its "true form." The nature or reality of any specific dharma is exactly its form or appearance - the form and essence of a rock are a unity, so too, the form and essence of a false idea - A false idea is "as it is" truly/really a false idea.

At the same time, I agree that "taking up false ideas" does "empower" them - but not with "a notion of reality", but with reality itself. This is true of anything we "take up." When we take up a false view, we really and truly empower it insofar as our "taking it up" makes it manifest as it is - a false view - and it manifests us - as a holder of a false view. Thus, taking up "right views" we manifest them - and they actualize us - as holders of right views.

When we don't look at the moon, it does not exist - and we do not exist as moon-seers. But as soon as we look at it, we actualize it, it actualizes us.

I hope I was able to hit on something here to clarify what you were getting at...
I will keep an eye out for you.

Thanks again!

Peace,
Ted