Thursday, April 28, 2011

Clear Demonstration of Buddha-Nature...

The Clear Demonstration of Buddha-Nature...

The fourteenth patriarch, the Venerable Ryuju, called Nagarjuna in Sanskrit, and called either Ryuju, Ryusho, or Ryumo in Chinese, is a man from western India, and he goes to southern India. Most people of that nation believe in karma for happiness. The Venerable One preaches for them the subtle Dharma. Those who hear him say to each other, “The most important thing in the human world is that people possess karma for happiness. Yet he talks idly of the buddha-nature. Who can see such a thing?”

The Venerable One says, “If you want to realize the buddha-nature, you must first get rid of selfish pride.”

The people say, “Is the buddha-nature big or is it small?”

The Venerable One says, “The buddha-nature is not big and not small, it is not wide and not narrow, it is without happiness and without rewards, it does not die and it is not born.”

When they hear these excellent principles, they all turn from their original mind. Then the Venerable One, from his seat, manifests his free body, which seems like the perfect circle of a full moon. All those gathered only hear the sound of Dharma; they do not see the master’s form. In that assembly is a rich man’s son, Kanadeva. He says to the assembly, “Do you know what this form is or not?”

Those in the assembly say, “The present [form] is something our eyes have never before seen, our ears have never before heard, our minds have never before known, and our bodies have never before experienced.”

Kanadeva says, “Here the Venerable One is manifesting the form of the buddha-nature to show it to us. How do we know this? It may be presumed that the formless state of samadhi in shape resembles the full moon. The meaning of the buddha-nature is evident and it is transparently clear.”

After these words, the circle disappears at once, and [the master] is sitting on his seat. Then he preaches the following verse:

[My] body manifests the roundness of the moon,
By this means demonstrating the physique of the buddhas.
The preaching of Dharma has no set form.
The real function is beyond sounds and sights.

(Quoted from Shobogenzo, Bussho, translated by Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross)

This is a wonderfully rich Buddhist story. Anyone that takes the time to memorize it and carry it around with them probably find many subtle layers here… Let us simply consider one of these for now.

The great Buddhist ancestor Nagarjuna, the story goes, preaches the “subtle Dharma.” Those that hear him are surprised that his preaching fails to support their own presuppositions about the Dharma. According to the “common” view (in that place and time) the “most important thing” in the world was assumed to be good karma. Then, along comes Nagarjuna preaching about something as insignificant (in their view) as Buddha-nature.

Presuppositions – in a certain sense, the whole nature and function of authentic Buddhist practice-enlightenment is the undoing of presuppositions.

It is sometimes easy to dismiss or ignore words, thoughts, and deeds that fail to agree with our own presuppositions. Fortunately, “the people” in this story did not simply dismiss Nagarjuna and go home or back to their own temples; they questioned themselves (“What does he mean about Buddha-nature?”), and they questioned the master. What’s he saying? Is our own view about what is of greatest importance mistaken? Excellent Zen practice!

Nagarjuna said, ““If you want to realize the buddha-nature, you must first get rid of selfish pride.”

To get at the reality of “Buddha-nature” requires one to “first get rid of selfish pride.” That selfish pride can be very stubborn (and subtle) – the fact that “the people” did not simply dismiss Nagarjuna in the first place, but instead were willing to seriously inquire into his teaching (and thus their own views) seems to suggest that they were a little less attached to “selfish pride” than many of us are today.

What else can you reveal Nagarjuna? Let’s say that we are willing and able to rid ourselves of selfish pride and “realize” this “Buddha-nature” you speak of, what exactly will we be “realizing”? What is the Buddha-nature?

Nagarjuna said, “The buddha-nature is not big and not small, it is not wide and not narrow, it is without happiness and without rewards, it does not die and it is not born.”

Interesting, at first glance the Buddha-nature seems to NOT be a lot of things, and to be WITHOUT many qualities, and also does NOT DO various things – in short, it is NOT big and NOT small, NOT wide and NOT narrow, it is WITHOUT happiness and WITHOUT rewards, it does NOT die and it is NOT born.

Is this the same as “neti, neti” (not-this, not-this)? Certainly, some would argue thus. Just as the Buddhist teachings of emptiness are often used to support certain presuppositions about uniformity and non-differentiation, about non-existence and void oneness…

But does that account for the whole of Nagarjuna’s statement? Can we also read it like this:

“THE BUDDHA-NATURE IS not big AND not small, IT IS not wide AND not narrow, IT IS without happiness AND without rewards, IT DOES not die AND IT IS not born.”

If we can realize it like this the wisdom of this story may shine through and be as clear and present as a piece of fruit held in the palm of our hand. And why wouldn’t it be? The Buddhas and ancestors reveal and express the Dharma – they never conceal or begrudge. To realize what the Buddha-nature IS, and DOES we must first be rid of selfish pride – and then we realize, as Dogen says, “the buddha-nature is ‘transparently clear’ and is ‘evident.’”

The ancestral master does not begrudge them [the teaching], but their eyes and ears are shut and so they cannot see or hear it. Never having established body-knowing, they cannot make out [the teaching]. As they watch from afar “the formless state of samadhi” whose “shape resembles the full moon,” and as they do prostrations to it, it is “something their eyes have never before seen.” “The meaning of the buddha-nature is evident and it is transparently clear.” So the state in which the body manifesting itself preaches the buddha-nature is “transparently clear” and is “evident.” And the state in which the preaching of the buddha-nature is a body manifesting itself is “demonstration, by concrete means,” of “the physique of the buddhas.” Where could there be one buddha or two buddhas who failed to realize as “the buddha-physique” this “demonstration by concrete means”?
~Shobogenzo, Bussho, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

It seems as if this was the reason that only Kanadeva (Nagarjuna’s successor) was able to see the Buddha’s body (physique of Buddha) at that time. Fortunately, this event was recorded and there have certainly been many beings that have been able to meet with Kanadeva and Nagarjuna since. This story is exerted by the liberating potential of the whole Buddha Dharma – carry it around and see if you don’t find the bare fact of the Buddha-nature shining right before you. Check in with Dogen’s commentary on the story from time to time (in Shobogenzo, Bussho) for a little help clearing your vision; there you will find many clues, like this gem for example:

Remember, at this time the Venerable One is simply seated upon his high seat. The manner in which his body manifests itself is just the same as in the case of any person seated here now.
~Shobogenzo, Bussho, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Loving Memory – Jade Alexendria Biringer – April 27, 1993 – July 13, 1993

In Loving Memory – Jade Alexendria Biringer – April 27, 1993 – July 13, 1993

Jade Alexandria Biringer
In Grateful Thanks to Bodhisattva Mahasattva

Jade Alexandria Biringer

April 27, 1993 – July 13, 1993

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Parent and Child - Stones and Flowers

In response to the interesting comment by David H-T, I thought it might be appropriate to post a couple of creatively expressive Dogen quotes that I think offer a remarkably clear vision of nonduality. See what you think:

The monk Dokai of Mount Daiyo, in instructing his assembly, said, “The verdant mountains are constantly moving on, and the Stone Maiden, in the dark of night, gives birth to Her Child.” The mountains are never lacking in the spiritual merits with which they are undoubtedly endowed. This is why they constantly reside at ease and are constantly moving on. By all means, you must examine in great detail the spiritual merits of their moving on. The moving on of a mountain will be just like the moving on of those who wander through life in ignorance, so, even though you may think that it seems the same as the human activity of walking, nevertheless, do not doubt ‘the moving on’ of mountains.
The statement “The Stone Maiden, in the dark of night, gives birth to Her Child” refers to the time when the Stone Maiden gives birth to Her Child as ‘in the dark of night’. Generally speaking, there are stones that are male and stones that are female, as well as stones that are neither male nor female, and all of these quite nicely fill up the heavens and fill up the earth. And there are heavenly stones and there are earthly stones, which those who wander without a preconceived goal speak of, though persons who really know them are rare indeed. One needs to understand the principle of Her ‘giving birth to a Child’.

At the time of Her giving birth to the Child, are Parent and Child made separate? You must devote yourself to exploring through your training not only that ‘the Child becoming the Parent’ is the full manifestation of ‘giving birth to the Child’, but also that ‘the time when the Parent becomes the Child’ is the full manifestation of ‘giving birth to the Child’. You must thoroughly penetrate what is being said here.
Shobogenzo, Sansuikyo, Hubert Nearman

Generally speaking, the time of the Dharma’s flowering is inevitably one in which, as the Lotus Scripture puts it, “The parent is young and the child is old.” This does not mean that the child is not a child, nor does it mean that the parent is not a parent: you should simply explore this as “The child is the one who is old and the parent is the one who is young.” Do not follow worldly disbeliefs and thereby be disconcerted, and that which is a worldly disbelief is also a time of the Dharma’s flowering. On account of this, we should make our turning of the Dharma Flower be ‘that singular time when the Buddha was dwelling in the world’. We come pouring forth from the earth when we are aroused by opening up to, manifesting, awakening to, and entering It, and we come pouring forth from the earth when we are aroused by what a Buddha knows through direct experience. At this time of turning the Flower of the Dharma, there is the mind’s awakening due to the Flower of the Dharma, and there is the flowering of the Dharma due to the mind’s awakening.
Shobogenzo, Hokke Ten Hokke, Hubert Nearman


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Perceiving the Buddhas Expressions of Truth

Perceiving the Buddhas Expressions of Truth

If we can manage to see through and beyond our own presuppositions (or those espoused by popular Zen books and teachers) about the nature of Zen and the significance of the Buddha Dharma, the Mahayana sutras and shastras (treatises, or commentaries) as well as the classic records of Zen can be seen in the clarity with which they are expressed. When Shakyamuni Buddha saw the morning star (which he had seen many, many times before) and realized enlightenment he said, “How wonderful, all beings are the Tathagata (Buddha), it is only their delusions and preoccupations that keep them from testifying to the fact.” The moment before, the moment of, and the moment after his enlightenment, the human being Shakyamuni was the human being Shakyamuni, and the morning star was the morning star; yet each of these three moments present some vastly distinct differences. How was Shakyamuni’s experience of the morning star on this instance so different from all his many previous experiences?

Just as seeing through his delusions and preoccupations allowed Shakyamuni to experience the true nature of the morning star (and himself) for the first time, when we manage to see through our own conditioned views, beliefs, and presuppositions we will find his teachings (and those of his authentic heirs) to be clear, accessible reliable guides along the ancient Way. The nature, dynamics, and nondual interaction (inclusive of and transcendent to both nonduality and duality) of Buddha and human beings is profoundly and clearly elucidated by Dogen in many direct expressions of truth throughout Shobogenzo. Shakyamuni truly saw the morning star when he forgot everything he already “knew” about it; we will truly see his expressions of truth (the Buddha Dharma) only when we forget everything we know about Zen and Buddhism. Cast off all your pre-occupations and pre-conceptions and consider this passage from Shobogenzo, Sangai Yuishin:

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. This is why our Great Master Shakyamuni once said in verse:

These three worlds, right now,
Are what we all innately have,
And all sentient beings within them,
Without exception, are My children.

Because these three worlds here and now are what the Tathagata innately had, the whole universe was His threefold world, because the threefold world is the whole universe. ‘Here and now’ encompasses the past, present, and future. The occurring of past, present, and future does not obstruct the here and now, but the occurring of the here and now does obstruct past, present, and future from arising.

That which ‘we innately have’ refers to the whole universe in all ten directions being our real, true Body. It refers to the whole universe in all ten directions being a mendicant monk’s Eye. ‘Sentient beings’ are real, true bodies of the whole universe in all ten directions. Because each and every sentient being is born sentient, they are called ‘sentient beings’.

‘Without exception, they are My children’ means that children are also manifestations of the ceaseless operation of Buddha Nature. Even so, of necessity, children receive their bodies, along with their hair and skin, all unharmed and unbroken, from a compassionate parent. Parents regard this as the child’s fully manifesting. Yet, at this present moment, since there is no parent who is before and no child who is after, nor a child who is before and a parent who is after, nor a parent and child being lined up beside each other, we call this the principle of ‘My children’. Although the body is not something that is given, we receive it; although it is not something that we snatch, we acquire it. It is beyond the characteristics of coming and going, beyond the measure of large and small, beyond discussions of old and young. We should hold to it like the ‘old’ and ‘young’ of the Buddhas and Ancestors. Sometimes there is a parent who is ‘young’ and a child who is ‘old’, or a parent who is ‘old’ and a child who is ‘young’, or a parent who is ‘old’ and a child who is ‘old’, or a parent who is ‘young’ and a child who is ‘young’. One who makes a study of his parent’s ‘agedness’ would not be a child; one who has not seen through the ‘youthfulness’ of his child would not be a parent. The ‘age’ and ‘youth’ of a child, as well as the ‘age’ and ‘youth’ of a parent, must be fully explored, in detail, and without haste.
Shobogenzo, Sangai Yuishin, Hubert Nearman

Zen or Buddhist teachings don’t get much more straightforward than this. The truth expressed here is as obvious as the morning star in the sky. The only confusion we might experience here would be that confusion concocted by our own efforts to try to force this teaching into our previously constructed conceptual notions. As soon as we try to make Dogen (or other Buddhas) say what we mean, rather than what they are expressing, we inevitably subvert truth to falsity. The unity of Buddha and human beings revealed in Dogen’s expressions on practice and enlightenment and Buddha nature and no-Buddha nature are as lucid and straightforward as the parent-child relationship is to parents and children. For those still unclear about his meaning, immediately following his elucidation Dogen breaks it down even further and expresses the truth in terms we cannot fail to understand (provided we drop our presuppositions).

There are parents and children for whom the parent-child relationship emerges at the same time, and there are those for whom the parent-child relationship disappears at the same time, and there are those for whom the parent child relationship emerges at different times, and there are those for whom the parent-child relationship disappears at different times. Without standing against the compassionate parent, one has brought forth ‘my child’, and without standing against ‘my child’, one has brought forth the compassionate parent. There are sentient beings who are mindful, and there are sentient beings who are not mindful; there is my child who is mindful, and there is my child who is not mindful. In this manner, my child and I —and I am also a child—are both the true heirs of our Compassionate Parent Shakyamuni. All beings of the past, present, and future in the whole universe—every last one of them—are the Buddhas of past, present, and future in the whole universe. The children of all Buddhas are sentient beings, and the Compassionate Parents of all sentient beings are Buddhas. Consequently, the flowering and fruiting of the hundreds of things that arise are what all Buddhas have as Their own, and the rocks and stones, large and small, are what all Buddhas have as Their own as well. Their peaceful places are the forests and fields, for They are already free of attachment to forests and fields. Be that as it may, the main point of what the Tathagata said was simply the phrase ‘My children’. You need to thoroughly explore that He never spoke of His being their parent.
Shobogenzo, Sangai Yuishin, Hubert Nearman

Finally, as Buddha is all existence everything we can possibly experience is Buddha. Moreover, the only possible experiencer must also be Buddha. And indeed, this exactly corresponds to Dogen’s teaching about Buddha nature, no-Buddha nature, and the unity of practice and enlightenment. These are only a few examples of the many ways that Dogen illumines that the significance of expressions of truth (the Buddha Dharma) are the significance of the dynamic interaction of Buddha and human beings. Every expression of truth is an expression of the one mind (Buddha, existence-time, the true self, etc.), while every instance of experience is a wholly unique, real, particular thing, being, or event (dharma). Buddha is the universal expression, the total existence of/as human beings; each individual human being is a real, particular instance of Buddha...


Monday, April 11, 2011

Zen and the Perfection of "As It Is-ness" - Dogen's take

The Perfection of Zen's "As It Is-ness"...


To see and hear that the living are inevitably mortal is the small view. To be of the opinion that the dead are without thinking and perception is small knowledge. In learning the truth, do not learn such shallow knowledge and small views. There may be those among the living who are immortal, and there may be those among the dead who have thinking and perception.
Shobogenzo, Gyoji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

The timidity of those inflicted with self-doubt or attachment to dualistic views causes some to see teachings that refer of human “perfection” as irreverent. From the self-centered perspective perfection can only be envisioned as a kind of super-ego. In contrast, Buddhism views perfection as the authentic actualization of the whole body-mind rather than a particular aspect or specific quality of reality. A willow is perfect insofar as it is a willow “as it is” – that is the whole of space and time exerting itself as a particular willow here and now. Attempting to find the perfection of a willow by isolating and abstracting the “best,” “highest,” or “most essential” quality of willows only defiles the perfection of a willow “as it is.”

The same thing is true of trying to define the perfection of Buddha nature. From the ego-centric standpoint, reality is divided into "subject" and "object", "self" and "other than self." From such a dualistic perspective, perfection can only be envisioned in contrast to, and separate from imperfection, that is, as a conceptual abstraction.

As an abstract concept, perfection lacks reality - it cannot be pictured, experienced, or expressed (perceived, known, or communicated). Lacking real form (thus, real nature), perfection can only be discussed in negative terms such as “inconceivable,” “incommunicable,” “ineffable,” etc. Attempting to substantiate speculative notions theorists sometimes insinuate esoteric knowledge by substituting negative terms and obscure generalizations such as “undifferentiated-oneness,” “undefiled-goodness,” “pure-awareness,” etc. This kind of perfection only succeeds in eradicating the reality of particularity and differentiation – the “skull littered field” of Zen parlance. In contrast to this, Shobogenzo portrays perfection in a vision that harmonizes with the classic Zen records.

Thus it was that Shakyamuni Buddha once addressed His great assembly, saying, “I, on My own, have come to know how It appears, as every Buddha in the ten quarters has also done.” You need to know that the appearance referred to in His statement “I, on My own, have come to know how It appears” is the appearance of That which is fully perfected. The appearance of perfection is, as the saying goes, “This cane of bamboo is on the tall side whereas that cane of bamboo is on the short side.” The Way of the Buddhas in the ten quarters is synonymous with giving full expression to the saying, “I, on My own, have come to know how It appears, which was the same for Shakyamuni Buddha.” It is “I, on My own, have awakened to this appearance, and Buddhas in Their own domains are also like this.” It is the way ‘I’ appears, the way ‘knowing’ appears, the way ‘this’ appears, the way ‘all’ appears, the way ‘this ordinary worldly country of ours’ appears, the way ‘Shakyamuni Buddha’ appears.

The underlying principle of this is what the Buddhist Scriptures give voice to. The Buddhas, along with Their Buddha lands, are beyond duality, beyond being sentient or nonsentient, beyond being deluded or enlightened, beyond being good, bad, or neutral, beyond being pure or sullied, beyond being something created and beyond being something permanently abiding, beyond yearning for things and beyond there being nothing to yearn for, beyond permanence and impermanence, beyond existence and non-existence, and beyond self. They are apart from the four phrases—there is existence, there is no existence, there is both existence and nonexistence, and there is neither existence nor non-existence—as well as apart from the one hundred ways of negating. They are simply nothing other than the ten quarters, nothing other than the Buddha lands. Thus, the ten quarters are nothing other than what they are, just as we humans are: we have heads but no tails.
Shobogenzo, Jippo, Hubert Nearman

As humans “we have heads but no tails,” stones have color but no leaves, bamboo has joints but no legs; each is perfect “as it is.” Clear seeing “as it is” is perfect clear seeing, which Dogen calls “prajna itself.” To exist “as is” is to “exist as experienced.”

In sum, “perfection” in Buddhism has less to do with the quality of a thing (dharma) and more to do with the whole actuality of a thing; perfection is the measure to which a dharma is “as it is.” Perfection is not “purity,” “uniformity,” “cleanliness,” etc., “it is beyond being pure or sullied, good or bad,” the perfection of a thing is the total exertion of the “as it isness” of that thing.

In grateful thanks to Master Dogen once again - Nine Full Bows



Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Homeland of the Self

There has never been any real division

Nic asked, “How do we cease conceptualization and become one with the unnamable void?”

Louie Wing said, “First of all, you do not ‘become one with the void’. You are the void. Awakening is just realizing the fact. The unnamable void is your own mind. When you conceptualize, you are abstracting partial aspects from the whole. That is, you are dividing the one true reality into this and that, self and other. This can be done skillfully only when you realize that in reality, there are no such divisions.

“When you cease conceptualizing, you realize that your own awareness is pure, clear, and luminescent, that it is the unnamable void. You then grasp the fact that all the myriad things are not separate from the void, but are in fact the void itself. All the myriad things are nothing other than your own miraculous awareness, which is infinitely vast and eternally present.

“Once you realize your own identity with the unnamable void, you realize that there has never been any real division between things and times, self and other-than-self. All such divisions are merely delusions based on conceptualization. Then, knowing your own unity with all things and events, you enter any environment and participate in any activity without ever leaving what Dogen called, ‘the homeland of the self’.”