Seeing True Nature: Reading Reality
From the perspective of the individual, Zen practice-enlightenment consists in ‘seeing true nature’ (kensho) or ‘seeing Buddha’ (kenbutsu) and conducting oneself accordingly. When one clearly sees reality as it is – dharmas (i.e. phenomena; particular things, beings, and events) here-now – one is enabled to think, speak, and act appropriately. In short, to see dharmas as they are is to ‘clearly discern’ or ‘accurately read’ reality.
From the Zen/Buddhist perspective, each and all dharmas are ‘expressions of reality,’ that is, ‘expressions of Buddha’ – thus to see dharmas as they are, is to accurately read (hence understand) expressions of Buddha. To see dharmas a expressions of Buddha, is to see each and all things as scriptures (sutras); words of Buddha. Hence, to see the true nature of a mountain or ocean is to accurately understand an expression of Buddha, to understand an expression of Buddha is to see Buddha (kenbutsu). Accordingly, to see Buddha (kenbutsu) is to hear and understand dharmas as ‘this sutra.’
Sakyamuni Buddha addresses Bodhisattva Universal Virtue: “If there is anyone who receives and retains, reads and recites, rightly remembers, practices, and copies this Sutra of the Flower of Dharma, we should know that that person is meeting Sakyamuni Buddha, and hearing this sutra as if from the Buddha’s mouth.”
In general, all the buddhas say that “to meet Sakyamuni Buddha” and to realize the state of Sakyamuni Buddha is to realize the truth and to become buddha. Such behavior of buddhas is originally attained through each of these seven practices. A person who performs the seven practices is “that person” whom “we should know,” and is “the very person here and now, as he or she is.” Because this is just the state in which we meet Sakyamuni Buddha, it is directly “hearing this sutra as if from the Buddha’s mouth.” Sakyamuni Buddha, since having met Sakyamuni Buddha, is Sakyamuni Buddha. Thus, the form of his tongue universally enfolds the three-thousandfold [world]: what mountain or ocean could be other than the Buddha’s sutras? For this reason, “the very person here and now” who copies is meeting alone with Sakyamuni Buddha. “The Buddha’s mouth” is constantly open through the myriad ages: what moment could be other than the sutras? For this reason, the practitioner who receives and retains the sutras is meeting solely with Sakyamuni Buddha. The virtue of not only the eyes and ears but also the nose and so on, may also be like this. The front and the back, the left and the right, taking and leaving, an instant of the present, also, are like this. We have been born to experience “this sutra” of the present: how could we not rejoice to be meeting Sakyamuni Buddha? Life is an encounter with Sakyamuni Buddha.
Shobogenzo, Kenbutsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Thus, the nondual unity of essence and form is the keystone of Zen doctrine and methodology; the profundity of its significance is intimated by Dogen’s often repeated, ‘Nothing in the universe is concealed.’ As the keystone of Zen doctrine, the nondual unity of essence and form is the reason (dori) ‘there are understandable explanations.’ As the keystone of Zen methodology, it is the activity of ‘practice-enlightenment,’ ‘solely seated (meditation),’ or ‘thinking not-thinking’ (or ‘nonthinking’).
To be continued…