Monday, July 02, 2012

The Mind Alone Is The Myriad Dharmas

The Mind Alone Is The Myriad Dharmas

There is a wonderful passage in Himitsu-shōbōgenzō, Butsu-kōjō-no-ji, that presents a crystallization of Dogen’s world view or central myth. In this passage the nature and dynamics of the universe are presented by a vision of the nondual actualization of the self and self in terms of “the body” and the “Buddha-Dharma” (or “Dharma”). Here we are presented with a vision of reality wherein the individual “dies” (abandons ego-centricity) for the universal, and the universal “dies” (abandons undifferentiated oneness) for the individual. The richness of the images presented by this vision, within which we find Dogen characteristically pointing out significant features, is far beyond the ability of any summary, thus we reproduce it in part here:

“The Buddha-Dharma,” namely, is the myriad dharmas, the hundred weeds, all real dharmas, the triple world. No buddha has failed to perfectly realize this, and so there is nothing that is not perfectly realized as this by buddhas. That being so, when we inquire into life, there is none beyond real dharmas, and when we look for death, it is never separate from the myriad dharmas. Even to act in the interests of [life and death] also is this Dharma. For this reason, the principle of “abandoning the body for the Dharma” is clear. We have been abiding in and retaining this life and this death for a long time, [but] we have not received them from others; they do not depend on anyone else. As exhalation and inhalation at this concrete place, life is the body, and the body is the Dharma here and now. So the inevitable abandonment of life is, from the outset, for the Dharma. When we do not forget that death [also] is abandonment, we are experienced in the present by the Dharma; and even if we sought to abandon the body at a place beyond the Dharma, that could never be at all. As to the meaning of this “abandonment,” it is always incurred by “the body,” and just at the time of “abandonment of the body for the Dharma,” when we turn light around and reflect, it is also “abandonment of the Dharma for the body.” In other words, when the Dharma raises its own voice to proclaim itself, the expression “abandoning the Dharma for the body” is present; and when the body naturally raises its voice to announce itself, the expression “abandoning the body for the Dharma” is communicated: we should know that those to whom these buddha-actions, totally, have come, and those who have been learning them for long ages, are ourselves. Now and eternally, unable to regress or stray, we are put into practice by action in the present, and there is no instance in which action does not overflow from us. Since ancient times it has been said that a person who attains the truth entrusts life and death to the mind. Truly, it may be so; we should not doubt it. When this principle is apparent, we also know our own mind; and when we know our own mind, “this principle” also is apparent. At the same time, we also know what our own body is, and we also clarify and learn the dignified behavior that belongs to our body. In learning this we illuminate the way life is and the way death is. To illuminate this is not to have deviously thrown light upon what [otherwise] might not have been illuminated. We should understand that this kind of illumination takes place when we illuminate what is evident. To illuminate “this principle,” we should first know how the mind is and should learn how the mind is. To learn of its condition means, in other words, to know that “the myriad dharmas” are “the concrete mind,” and to understand that “the triple world” is “the mind alone.” Even what is called “knowing” and what is called “understanding” are the myriad dharmas and are the triple world, and are their having been like this. Thereafter we must exactly investigate what life is entrusted to, and what death is entrusted to. As we continue investigating, an evident truth is present; it is, namely, the vigorous activity of the mind alone. It has not been produced by anything else; it is the real state of the mind alone itself—it has not been marshaled by objects. Thus, the real state of life and death is just the mind alone having been entrusted to itself. The reason, if asked, is that there is no mind alone that is not the myriad dharmas, and no myriad dharmas that are not the mind alone. Even if we purport to banish this life and death to a place beyond the mind alone, it will still be impossible for us to be hated by the mind alone.

Himitsu-shōbōgenzō, Butsu-kōjō-no-ji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

The above passage exemplifies Zen’s insights, culminating in and as Dogen’s works, of the metaphorical nature of reality. In recognizing the self as its root metaphor, Zen expressions (doctrines and methods) provide a perspective from which the myriad dharmas are seen as they are; the expressed forms of the nondual activity of the individual self (myriad dharmas) and the universal self (mind alone). This perspective conveys the true significance of the self by revealing the living vitality of the world (i.e. the myriad dharmas). It is this revelation of living vitality that Hee-Jin Kim translates as “the revaluated world” in his illuminating commentary on Dogen’s teaching of “negotiating the Way,” which begins with this passage:

In the Shobogenzo, “Bendowa” (1231), Dogen succinctly enunciates his Zen: The endeavor to negotiate the Way (bendo), as I teach now, consists in discerning all things in view of enlightenment, and putting such a unitive awareness (ichinyo) into practice in the midst of the revaluated world (shutsuro).” This statement clearly sets forth practitioners’ soteriological project as negotiating the Way in terms of (1) discerning the nondual unity of all things that are envisioned from the perspective of enlightenment and (2) enacting that unitive vision amid the everyday world of duality now revalorized by enlightenment. Needless to say, these two aspects refer to practice and enlightenment that are nondually one (shusho itto; shusho ichinyo).

Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, p.21

The revelation of the living vitality or revaluation of the world manifests as an awareness of and appreciation for the sacredness of all manner of dharmas as well as the individual self. The instruments and institutions of civilization, the infrastructure of transportation and communication, technology, manufactured goods and consumable products are seen to be as sacred as Buddhas, the natural world, and our own body-minds. This metaphorical perspective (i.e. discerning all things in view of enlightenment) revalorizes the world by revealing that this world is, as it is, each and all the myriad dharmas that constitute the totality of existence-time here-now, the (Buddha) mind alone, the sole ancestor that is every “I”, every “I” that is the sole ancestor. Where dualistic egocentric “values” are based on the view of a world of external beings, insentient objects, matter, and empty space stretching outward and away from the self in all directions, the “view of enlightenment” reveals the true mythopoeic vision of the world wherein trees, lakes, motorcycles, shoes, and figures of speech are sentient beings and even ordinary tiles have hearts:

If we belittle tiles as being lumps of clay, we will also belittle people as being lumps of clay. If people have a Heart, then tiles too will have a Heart.

Shobogenzo, Kokyo, Hubert Nearman

The “revaluation” of the world is the “metaphorical transposition” – the “apocalypse” of the common world (the unawakened perspective), that is simultaneously the “revelation” of the Buddha world – wherein the true valuation of the world is recognized and actualized by/as authentic Zen practice-enlightenment. From this new perspective all dharmas are valued (revaluated) as unique instances of Buddha, thus notions of “superiority and inferiority” give way to the active engagement of discerning and actualizing authenticity (discerning all things in view of enlightenment and putting that awareness into practice in the world). This means, for one thing, that human feelings, interests, and passions (i.e. dharmas) are not viewed as more or less “real” (or important) than mountains, stars, historical facts, or scientific proofs; Melville’s Ahab and the carbon dating of a fossil are expressions of the self (self-expressions), equally real, unique instances of Buddha, hence, sacred, eternal, and sentient. The self is the root metaphor of Zen because Zen recognizes that all dharmas are self-actualizations.



DSG said...

Nicely done. I will have to ponder this one for a while.

Ted Biringer said...

Hello DSG,

Thank you for your encouraging words.

Don't slip in the blood.