This Mind Is Buddha
From the very beginning Buddhism has emphasized the mental nature of reality. The first verse of the first chapter of the Dhammapada, one of the earliest and most revered expressions of Buddhism, we read:
We are what we think.All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
~Dhammapada, translated by Thomas Byrom
The title and subject of an early Shobogenzo fascicle exemplifies this Buddhist axiom in Zen terms, Soku Shin Ze Butsu (“This Mind is Buddha”; translated by Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross as, “mind here and now is buddha”).
What every buddha and every patriarch has maintained and relied upon, without exception, is just “mind here and now is buddha.”~Shobogenzo, Soku-shin-ze-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
This fundamental principle of Buddhism is emphasized by Dogen and presupposed in all his writings. The comprehensive, multifaceted Buddhist expressions and teachings on the nature and dynamics of “mind” are some of Buddhism’s most significant contributions to human wisdom; and some of the most commonly misunderstood and misrepresented. Dogen therefore, like other Buddhist masters before and after, dedicated a great deal of time and energy clarifying exactly what Buddhism means when it asserts, “We are what we think, all we are arises with our thoughts, and with our thoughts we make the world.”
By “this mind” in the statement, “This Mind Is Buddha,” Zen means the “one” totality of the “myriad” dharmas – in short, “this mind” is inclusive of everything constituting the “self” (what we are) and “other than self” (the world).
Authentically transmitted like this, it has arrived at the present day. “The mind that has been authentically transmitted” means one mind as all dharmas, and all dharmas as one mind.~Shobogenzo, Soku-shin-ze-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
As one family is all the individual members, and all the individual members are one family, one mind (Buddha) is all dharmas, and all dharmas are one mind. From Dogen’s perspective, these examples are not to be regarded as analogies or similes; each (family) member is integral to the one family, each (particular) dharma is inherent to the one mind. What is Buddha? This mind is Buddha. What is this mind?
Clearly, “mind” is mountains, rivers, and the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars.~Shobogenzo, Soku-shin-ze-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Buddha – this mind – is (not is like) mountains, rivers, and the great earth, the sun, moon, and stars. Mind – Buddha – is houses and streets, animals, plants, thoughts and laughter, guns, bombs, corpses, books, cancers, and good deeds.
Mind does not make-up a dharma or dharmas, nor is a dharma or dharmas reducible to mind. Mind as a particular dharma is that dharma as it is, a particular dharma as mind is mind as it is. This tree is mind as it is; that pencil is mind as it is. That this tree or that pencil is mind “as it is,” means there are no hidden qualifiers or meanings – this tree is mind – so much so that even this goes too far; better to simply say “this tree.” That pencil is mind with nothing added, not even “is mind,” thus simply, “that pencil.” As Dogen says:
Mind as mountains, rivers, and the earth is nothing other than mountains, rivers, and the earth. There are no additional waves or surf, no wind or smoke. Mind as the sun, the moon, and the stars is nothing other than the sun, the moon, and the stars.Shobogenzo, Soku-shin-ze-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross