Saturday, December 03, 2011

Shobogenzo, Genjokoan: Study and the Commentary

Shobogenzo, Genjokoan: Study and the Commentary from The Flatbed Sutra of LouieWing by Ted Biringer


We concluded the last part of our study with the line from Genjokoan:
There are people in the midst of delusion adding to delusion.
Thus, we open our continuing study with some comments on this line:
Dogen is not simply repeating his previous point but indicating something else. In Shobogenzo, Keisei-Sanshiki, Dogen uses the same phrase in a manner that suggests its deeper implication:

When [a person] tells people who do not know the will to the truth about the will to the truth, the good advice offends their ears, and so they do not reflect upon themselves, but [only] bear resentment towards the other person. As a general rule concerning actions and vows, which are the bodhi-mind, we should not intend to let worldly people know whether or not we have established the bodhi-mind or whether or not we are practicing the truth; we should endeavor to be unknown. How much less could we boast about ourselves? Because people today rarely seek what is real, when the praises of others are available, they seem to want someone to say that their practice and understanding have become harmonized, even though there is no practice in their body, and no realization in their mind. “In delusion adding to delusion” describes exactly this.xxix

In this passage, Dogen defines the condition of “increasing delusion in the midst of delusion” as the denial of delusion. That is to say, when people in delusion deny they are deluded (or assert they are enlightened) they are “in delusion adding to delusion.”

Looking at case one of the Blue Cliff Record can shed some light on this particular condition. The koan reads:

Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, “What is the ultimate meaning of the holy truths?”

Bodhidharma said, “Vast emptiness, nothing holy.”

The Emperor asked, “Who is facing me?”

Bodhidharma responded, “I don’t know.”

The Emperor did not understand. After this Bodhidharma crossed the Yangtse River and traveled to the
kingdom of Wei. Later the Emperor asked Master Chih about it. Master Chih asked, “Do you know who this man is?”

The Emperor said, “I don’t know.”

Master Chih said, “He is the great bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara, transmitting the confirmation of the buddha-mind.”

The Emperor was regretful and wanted to send an envoy to bring Bodhidharma back. Master Chih said, “Don’t say you will send someone to bring him back. Even if everyone in China went after him, he would not return.”

Commenting on the line “The Emperor did not understand,” Engo says, “Too bad! Still, he’s gotten somewhere.” The meaning of Engo’s comment, “Still, he’s gotten somewhere,” illumines what Dogen means by “in delusion adding to delusion.” In following the reasoning here, Emperor Wu was “adding to delusion” when he thought he knew something (asserted his enlightenment). However, (although he is still in delusion) after his meeting with Bodhidharma, he admits that he does “not understand,” that is, he does not deny his own delusion. The Emperor is in delusion (not enlightened), but he is no longer adding to delusion (by asserting his enlightenment).

Recognizing and acknowledging the reality of your own delusion is a prerequisite to enlightenment. For arousing the necessary will for enlightenment is only possible when you recognize and acknowledge your own delusion. For Dogen, recognition and acknowledgement of your delusion is simultaneous with enlightenment. Throughout the Shobogenzo, Dogen remains ever-aware of the nondual nature of delusion and enlightenment. For as we read above, buddhas are those “who are enlightened about delusion.” Dogen does not say that buddhas are free from delusion, as is sometimes proclaimed by people without a clear understanding of Zen.

The Genjokoan goes on to say:

When buddhas are buddhas, they do not know they are buddhas.

This line points out that when buddhas are experiencing the condition of Buddhahood, there is nothing but Buddha in the whole universe. This is the condition that is sometimes described in Buddhist literature as the state where the known and the knower (or actor and action) are one. Obviously, for a buddha to have the thought, “I am a buddha,” they would have to perceive themselves as something (buddha) in opposition to something else (not buddha), hence; they would not be in the condition of Buddhahood. That does not mean there are no buddhas, as the Genjokoan points out next:

Nevertheless, buddhas are buddhas and continuously actualize Buddhahood.

The condition of Buddhahood is not something that is gained, but something that is discovered and activated; that is, the nature of delusion is illumined and your original Buddhahood is realized. Of course, this experience is only called Buddhahood to differentiate it from delusion. When you speak of a state beyond delusion you call it “Buddhahood.” However, in the absolute sense, as in Dogen’s opening lines to Genjokoan, there is nothing to be grasped (no buddhas, no ordinary beings, etc.) and in the transcendent sense, buddhas and ordinary beings always contain and include each other.

In the actual experience of Buddhahood all names and labels are meaningless; for from the perspective of oneness or emptiness, differentiation does not exist. Even “oneness” is a relative term–that is, oneness is relative and only valid in contrast to multiplicity. Therefore, when differentiation is truly dissolved so, too, is oneness or Buddhahood.

One wonderful Zen expression of this principle is a verse attributed to Ananda, one of Buddha’s disciples and the traditional Second Ancestor of Zen in India:

When we are awake to the truth, even the nondharma does not

The simple fact that the Genjokoan goes to such lengths to describe the nature and actual experience of Buddhahood is enough to put Dogen in a very exclusive minority. When the experience of Buddhahood is described, it is usually simply described as “indescribable.” In Genjokoan, Dogen not only describes characteristics like “buddhas do not know they are buddhas” and that buddhas “continuously actualize Buddhahood,” he also describes why and how that is. The Genjokoan explains:

Mustering the whole body-and-mind to look at forms, and mustering the whole body-and-mind to listen to sounds, they perceive them directly; not like an image reflected in a mirror, and not like the reflection of the moon on water.

This is a description of the condition called Buddhahood. “Buddha” describes a person in the activity or condition of authentic practice and enlightenment, the deeper meaning of zazen. The keystone of Zen practice is not “sitting meditation” (though that is where it is often first discovered), it is “mustering the whole body-and-mind” and perceiving the world directly…

xxix Gudo Nishijima & Chodo Cross, Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Keisei-Sanshiki, Book 1, 91
xxx Ogata, Sohaku, The Transmission of the Lamp, 10

…To Be Continued…

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