Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thusness, Normality, and the Reason (dori) of Dharmas

Thusness, Normality, and the Reason (dori) of Dharmas

The notion of thusness is the Buddhist recognition and acknowledgement of the normality of all dharmas. The normality of things is the Buddha-nature of things; to see the normality of a thing is to see its thusness, that is, to see Buddha.

“I shall pursue the problem of reason… specifically with respect to dori (or kotowari), one of Dogen’s most favorite concepts, that connotes “truth,” “reason,” “reasonableness,” “justice,” “naturalness,” and so on. Broadly speaking, our concern has to do with reason and rationality in Dogen’s soteriology, which has been grossly neglected in Dogen studies. We may ask why we should bother with the subject in the first place when the issue is in such disrepute in this day and age of postmodernism?  …whatever the merits and demerits of postmodernism may be, I am deeply convinced more than ever that no age in human history calls for the genuine understanding and re-vision of reason more urgently than ours.”

Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, pp.100-101

Because in reality all dharmas are Buddha, all dharmas possess intrinsic value, even ultimate value. The ultimate value intrinsic to dharmas (their thusness, or normality) is found in and treated by Dogen according to his notion of the reason, reasonableness, or rightness of dharmas – that is the intrinsic “dori” of dharmas. The term “dori” combines “do” (tao, way, path; also, to speak, to express) and “ri” (Chinese, li; principle, pattern, order; also, to arrange, to regulate).

As the works of David L. Hall, Helmut Wilhelm, Roger T. Ames, and others demonstrate, the significance of “dori” (reason) has a profoundly subtle and wide ranging capacity. In all his works, the preeminent scholar of Dogen studies, Hee-Jin Kim, has eloquently emphasized and illumined the profound significance of dori in Dogen’s Zen. Thus, to convey the primary significance of dori as it relates to Dogen’s Zen we can do no better than offer some quotes by the grand-master himself.

It is noteworthy that the notion of do in the East Asian traditions has a single common thread, namely, the meaning of walking, journeying, or movement along a path. The Way is never extricated from the processes of phenomena themselves.

Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, p.101

All things considered, the li constitutes those patterns, rhythms, and regularities which humans discern as meaningful in carrying out their day-to-day activities, by participating in the dynamics of the natural, and according to their personal, historical, and cultural conditions and forces. Rationality is never regarded as an immutable, self-contained truth or essence transcendentally existent in a hierarchical, teleological world order, but is grasped in an ever-shifting process of human affairs in relation to nature, history, and culture.

Considered in the Buddhist context, li, like tao, attains enormous complexity in its significance: The word is employed to denote siddhanta (fundamental principle/law) and, hence such Buddhist notions as thusness, emptiness, equality…”

Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, p.102

“…li is also used to signify, for example, pramaha (to arrange, to regulate, to rectify). It is particularly noteworthy that in Hua-yen thought li (“principle”) is paired with shih (“phenomena”), and their relationship is conceived in such a way that the non-obstruction of li and shih (li-shih wu ai; rigi muge) is further refined as “the nonobstruction of shih and shih” (shih-shih wu ai; jiji muge)—in other words, the interpenetration and harmony of all phenomena.  

Dori is broad and fexible enough in its capacity to embrace logos, mythos, ethos, and pathos; cognition, affection, and conation; nature and culture; fact and value; theoria and praxis; the self and the universe. …dori is practically oriented, enabling humans to participate in its countless configurations, rhythms, and regularities in life and the world as they discern meaningful …dori regulates, arranges, and manages, as much as it challenges, surmounts, and subverts.

Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, p.103



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