Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sentient Nature of Zen Expressions

In Shobogenzo, Shoho Jisso, Dogen emphasizes a significant implication concerning Buddhist sutras (scriptures) in light of Zen's vision of the nondual nature of reality; the experience of (i.e. subjective encounter with) ‘this sutra’ and what is experienced (i.e. objectively encountered) as ‘this sutra’ are coessential elements of ‘this sutra’ itself – the subject and object of this ‘sutra’ are ‘this sutra’ as it is:
The subject of “belonging” and the object of “belonging” are both “this sutra.”
Shobogenzo, Shoho Jisso, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
This truth is so alien to central tenets of the common worldview it can fail to register without close attention. Because the independence of subjective and objective reality is taken as self-evident in the common view , it is easy not to notice that if both the subject and object of ‘this sutra’ are ‘this sutra,’ then the one experiencing ‘this sutra’ and what is experienced as ‘this sutra’ are nondual. This truth is an inevitable conclusion of the reason (dori) intrinsic to a nondual cosmology. From the perspective of a nondual cosmology not only are expresser and expressed interdependent, all subjects and objects are interdependent.
At this very moment, ‘this sutra’ really experiences ‘all bodhisattvas.’
Shobogenzo, Shoho Jisso, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
With this it is obvious why Zen teachings about the true nature of reality cannot be understood from the perspective of dualism. Any understanding of Zen that is arrived at from an approach grounded in dualism will inevitably be a wrong understanding. Dogen's discussion on this includes the observation:
The sutra is not sentient, the sutra is not insentient, the sutra is not the product of doing and the sutra is not the product of nondoing.
Shobogenzo, Shoho Jisso, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
The gist of this should be clear in light of our discussion of emptiness and interdependence. Briefly, ‘this sutra’ being nondual, cannot be understood to be sentient or insentient. Sentient and insentient are two foci of a unified (nondual) reality; they are interdependent, coessential and coextensive – the way up is the way down, ‘sentient’ is meaningless in the absence of ‘insentient’ and vice versa. Likewise, ‘this sutra’ cannot be produced by doing or nondoing – if it were a product of ‘doing’ it would equally be a product of ‘nondoing.’
Notice that ‘this sutra,’ insofar as it is real, must be a dharma. In light of this we can see numerous other things ‘this sutra’ is not. This sutra is not ‘confined to a special realm, state, or condition,’ is not ‘indescribable,’ is not ‘incommunicable,’ is not ‘transcendent to language,’ and is not ‘inaccessible to normal human experience and understanding.’
In harmony with the principles of nonduality, when Zen expressions explicitly assert something ‘is not’ they implicitly assert that same something ‘is.’ Thus, to explicitly assert that this sutra ‘is not sentient,’ ‘is not insentient’ is to implicitly assert that this sutra ‘is sentient,’ ‘is insentient.’ Therefore, Zen teachings are definitely not confined to only pointing out what ‘Zen’ or ‘true nature’ is not. Thus Dogen does not only assert that ‘this sutra’ is ‘not this’ and does ‘not this,’ but also points out ‘this sutra’ is ‘this’ and does ‘this’:
Even so, when it experiences bodhi, experiences people, experiences real form, and experiences “this sutra,” it “opens the gate of expedient methods.” “The gate of expedient methods” is the supreme virtue of the Buddha’s ultimate state, it is “the Dharma abiding in the Dharma’s place,” and it is “the form of the world abiding in constancy.” The gate of expedient methods is not a temporary artifice; it is the learning in practice of the whole universe in ten directions, and it is learning in practice that exploits the real form of all dharmas.
Shobogenzo, Shoho Jisso, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What 'Enlightenment' actually means

It is crucial to understand what ‘enlightenment’ actually means; an actual manifestation of truth, realized by a particular sentient being at a specific place-time. It is for this reason that individual practitioners are instructed in the teachings and methods that recognize the nonduality of ‘practice’ and ‘enlightenment.’ Practice is ‘practice-grounded-in-enlightenment’ and enlightenment is ‘enlightened-practice.’ Again, practice means ‘actualizing (making actual) enlightenment’ and enlightenment means ‘enlightenment actualized.’ Practice does not ‘cause enlightenment’ and enlightenment does not ‘exist independent of’ practice; practice is practice-enlightenment, enlightenment is practice-enlightenment. Dogen calls this ‘distinct’ yet ‘coextensive’ characteristic of practice-enlightenment “untaintedness.”


If we failed to recognize the feature of the moment of being in this truth, that might be stupid. That feature, namely, is untaintedness. Untaintedness does not mean forcibly endeavoring to be aimless and free of attachment and detachment; nor does it mean maintaining something other than one’s aim. Actually, without being aimed at, or attached to, or detached from, untaintedness exists.

Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Monday, July 20, 2015

Human Being or Buddha?

‘A Buddha’ is what we call it when enlightenment is manifest by a human being. ‘Enlightenment’ is what we call it when an enlightened being is actualizing enlightened conduct (enlightened thoughts, words, or deeds).

When the supreme state of bodhi is a person, we call it “buddha.” When buddha is in the supreme state of bodhi, we call it “the supreme state of bodhi.

Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Karma is Activity

Karma is activity. Activity is ever and always the conduct (a particular thought, word, or deed) of a particular sentient being at a particular location-time. When the conduct of a sentient being harmonizes with reality (truth, Buddha-Dharma) as it is here-now, that is enlightenment (‘Buddhahood’). When the conduct of a sentient being diverges from the truth here-now, that is delusion (‘ordinary being’). To be deluded is to be ‘bound to suffering’, to be enlightened is to be ‘liberated from suffering’ – the former ‘suffer’ the consequences of here-now of their actions (karma), the latter ‘utilize’ the liberating potential of action (karma) here-now. For karma is never some ‘general’ reality that exists separate from actual distinct actions of particular beings here-now; ‘karma itself’ (as an independent thing or entity) does not exist. Likewise, the only real ‘delusion’ in the universe are the particular ‘deluded thoughts, words, or deeds’ of actual sentient beings here-now; the only ‘realization’ is that manifest as particular thoughts, words, or deeds of sentient beings here-now.


Delusion, remember, is something that does not exist. Realization, remember, is something that does not exist.

Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Not 'Aiming' for Enlightenment does not mean Not 'Aiming' for Enlightenment

The Zen/Buddhist teaching instructing students not to aim for (a fixed notion or idea of) enlightenment has often been reduced to distorted teachings that proclaim practitioners should have no goals whatever, that they should not aim for anything at all. Such assertions are commonly accompanied with comments about how efforts and attempts to realize enlightenment or Buddhahood obstruct practitioners from realization. The truth is, if we do not aim for and make effort to realize enlightenment, we are very unlikely to do so. As long as we learn, and remain mindful of the fact that ‘enlightenment’ cannot be accurately envisioned ahead of time, we will not make the mistake of aiming for a reified concept. Thus, even though our thoughts and ideas about enlightenment fail to perfectly harmonize with enlightenment, our efforts will nevertheless be accurately empowered –in a nondual reality all activity is interdependent, hence even ‘wrong thinking about realization’ is realization itself. As Dogen says:

When we have attained realization, we do not know what the reasons were for our being [now] in the state of realization. Let us reflect on this. To have thought, prior to realization, that it will be like this or like that, was not useful for realization. That it was different from how we had supposed it to be, in all our miscellaneous prior thoughts, does not mean that our thinking, being very bad, had no power in it. Even the thinking of that time was realization itself, but because we were then directing it the wrong way round, we thought and said that it was powerless.

Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Recognizing Enlightenment and Delusion

According to the Zen records it is useless for practitioners to aim for a reified (imagined, envisioned) concept of ‘enlightenment’ or ‘Buddha’ – anyone that is not here-now enlightened or here-now Buddha must be here-now deluded or here-now ordinary; anything they ‘envision’ or ‘imagine’ will be off the mark. Thus Dogen says:

When we perfectly realize it, while still as we are, we would never have thought previously that realization would be like this. Even though we had imagined it, it is not a realization that is compatible with that imagining. Realization itself is nothing like we imagined. That being so, to imagine it beforehand is not useful.

Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

The point, then, is that practitioners need to recognize delusion as delusion. Enlightenment is one possible form of activity (reality), and delusion is the other possible form of activity. To be deluded is to be ‘fashioned by activity’ (to be ‘turned by the sutra’, to be the ‘subject of causation’); to be enlightened is to be the ‘fashioner of activity’ (to ‘turn the sutra’, to be ‘causation’ itself).

Monday, July 13, 2015

The ‘myriad dharmas’ are the ‘one Buddha,’

As the ‘myriad dharmas’ are the ‘one Buddha,’ there is only and always ‘Buddha alone’ (al-one; all-one); as the ‘one Buddha’ is the ‘myriad dharmas,’ there is only and always ‘together with’ (to-gather with) Buddha. Accordingly, ‘Buddhas alone’ is the normality of ‘together with Buddhas’ and ‘together with Buddhas’ is the normality of ‘Buddhas alone.’

Saturday, July 11, 2015

‘Buddha’ means ‘enlightened sentient being’

If we misunderstand ‘Buddha’ to mean something other than ‘an enlightened sentient being’ then it will be difficult to recognize the difference between ‘enlightened conduct’ and ‘deluded conduct’ (i.e. karmic activity).

As Zen/Buddhism recognizes the ceaseless-passage of reality, thus there can only be ‘enlightened conduct’ or ‘deluded conduct’ at any given moment of a particular sentient being’s existence. When a sentient being thinks, speaks, or acts inconsistently with reality as it is (i.e. Buddha-Dharma), they are an ‘ordinary being’ (deluded). When the conduct of a sentient being is in harmony with reality as it is, they are a ‘Buddha’ (enlightened). To be in harmony with the truth (Buddha-Dharma, reality, thusness, etc.) about anything here-now, be it karma, causation, meditation, compassion, is to be Buddha – to diverge from the truth here-now is to be ordinary (i.e. deluded). Accordingly, the Yui-butsu-yo-butsu fascicle opens with this point:

The Buddha-Dharma cannot be known by people. For this reason, since ancient times, no common person has realized the Buddha-Dharma and no one in the two vehicles has mastered the Buddha-Dharma. Because it is realized only by buddhas, we say that “buddhas alone, together with buddhas, are directly able perfectly to realize it.”

Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Monday, July 06, 2015

The Coordination of Understanding and Verification

The Coordination of Understanding and Verification


While the true nature of the self must be experientially verified before it can be actualized, it can be accurately understood prior to verification. Indeed, accurate understanding is almost always a prerequisite to verification. For example, the basic dynamics of the ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ aspects of experience/existence can be accurately understood by learning and applying the methodology presented in the Buddhist scripture known as the Diamond Sutra.


Basically, this method is applied by clearly envisioning a threefold process. First, in focusing attention on our experience we come to recognize that ‘I’ is ‘not-I’ – what we experience as ‘I’ is actually constituted of the world, in particular, sights, sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations, and thoughts. Second, we come to recognize that ‘not-I’ is ‘I’ – everything (the world) we experience is ‘I’.  Third, we come to recognize that ‘I’ is both ‘I’ and ‘not I’, and ‘not-I’ is both ‘I’ and ‘not I’ – ‘I’ is the subject of existence/experience, ‘not-I’ is the object of existence/experience.


The third recognition is the crucial point, getting stuck at the first or second phase of this process is not uncommon. In the second phase we accurately recognize that ‘everything we experience is us’ – but only with continued attention do we recognize the ‘subjective aspect of us’ has certain characteristics that are entirely different from those of the ‘objective aspect of us.’ When we encounter a sheep, for example, the experience itself constitutes the whole of our existence, the sheep is the ‘objective’ aspect of us, and is ‘enacted’ by us, but insofar as we exist (thus are enabled to enact the sheep), ‘we’ are ‘objective’ aspects of the sheep. The point to get is that our capacities as ‘subjective’ aspects of existence are limited – we have the capacity to enact a sheep as a sheep or not enact it, but we do not have the capacity to enact a sheep as a cat.


An expression of Buddha (i.e. a dharma) is the manifestation of the ‘creative striving’ of the self (the subject of the individual body-mind that is ‘you’). Because the creative striving of a subject can only be enacted by striving with something (i.e. a dharma), manifesting an expression of Buddha as it is (i.e. true Dharma) can never be achieved by a subject that denies or detaches from the world, but only by one that strives creatively with it (i.e. clearly discerns and actualizes it). To authentically strive creatively one must accurately recognize and understand the material they are working with and apply the skills and techniques that are effective for working with it. A Zen practitioner, then, is one that strives creatively, employing the skills and techniques developed and refined through systematic study, practice, and verification to fashion a Buddha realm from the ceaseless advance of experience that constitutes the world as it is.


Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Mutual Actualization of the Self and the World

The Mutual Actualization of the Self and the World


The state that is visited by brightness and by color may be present in this learning in practice. “I entrust effects to effects themselves”: this expresses “natural realization.” “Natural realization” means enacting causes and accepting effects. The world has causes, and the world has effects. We enact the cause-and-effect that is this world, and we accept the cause-and-effect that is the world. “The [natural] self” is “itself,” and the self is inevitably just you, in other words, the four elements and five aggregates.

Shobogenzo, Kuge, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


We (the subject we call ‘myself’) ‘enact… this world.’ The actualization of consciousness is an object enacted by a subject; a subject enacts, an object is enacted. Notice that in the case that we think, speak, or act in regard to a ‘subject’ enacted (e.g. ‘I felt myself falling,’ ‘I made myself go,’ ‘I reminded myself of my vow,’ etc.) we think, speak, or act in regard to what is actually an ‘object.’ Further, to regard a subject as an object, or to regard an object as a subject is, in either case, to regard an object – for ‘that which regards’ is the subject in either case. And despite my objectification of the subject with ‘that which regards,’ my meaning should be clear enough; to treat an object as a subject does not make an object a subject. The subject is the enactor, the object is the enacted. For example, consider this expression of Dogen:


So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me.

Shobogenzo, Zenki, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


In the first clause, ‘life’ is the object and ‘I’ is the subject; in the second clause, ‘life’ is the subject and ‘I’ is the object. Subject and object are nondual not one and the same, interdependent not interchangeable, coessential not undifferentiated, coextensive not homogenous. The subject is always the enactor, maker, or fashioner; the object is always the enacted, made, or fashioned.


I am belaboring the point because without a firm grasp it is easy to confuse the limitations and potentials of our actual capacities, our true abilities to respond (hence our responsibilities) to the world. For, while it is true that, in harmony with the principles of nonduality, our (subjective) ‘self’ is all-inclusive (of ‘self/other’) and our (objective) ‘world’ is all-inclusive (self/other), each, ‘self’ and ‘world,’ possesses unique qualities and characteristics. That is, if we fail to clearly distinguish which qualities and characteristics belong to our self (enactor) and which to the world (enacted) we will be unable to think, speak, or act normally (from the enlightened perspective). In short, we will be confused about what we actually can and cannot do in regard to ‘making life what it is.’


For example, according to the doctrine and methodology of certain pseudo-Zen groups, individual beings (subjects) are largely, or wholly enacted or fashioned by the (objective) world, hence efforts to enhance the world are largely, or wholly futile, thus regarded as symptoms of delusion. At the other extreme, for instance among some ‘New Age’ movements, individual beings are supposed to fashion the world so completely that their worldly circumstances (e.g. health, financial status, intelligence, etc.) are largely, if not entirely of their own making. The ‘way’ to peace, happiness, or liberation advocated by the former species is either to accept the world as it is, or else to cultivate detachment or ‘goallessness’ and cut off desire and aversion. The ‘way’ of the latter species is to transform the world into a horn of plenty by rooting out negativity by cultivating positive thoughts or ‘vibes’ with affirmations of health, abundance, and happiness. In both of these ‘ways’ the nature of subjective and objective reality, the truth of existence/experience is seen as it is not, hence can only obstruct their followers from the true Dharma.

Friday, July 03, 2015

The unity and differentiation of consciousness

The unity and differentiation of consciousness


Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one. This is a virtual certainty because even in the vacuum matter is one; and if we don't see this, it's because we are blinding ourselves to it.

David Bohm, Statement of 1986, as quoted in Towards a Theory of Transpersonal Decision-Making in Human-Systems (2007) by Joseph Riggio, p. 66


Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.

Erwin Schrödinger,  As quoted in The Observer (11 January 1931); also in Psychic Research (1931), Vol. 25, p. 91


Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular. Not only has none of us ever experienced more than one consciousness, but there is also no trace of circumstantial evidence of this ever happening anywhere in the world. If I say that there cannot be more than one consciousness in the same mind, this seems a blunt tautology — we are quite unable to imagine the contrary...

Erwin Schrödinger,  "The Oneness of Mind", as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber


It is generally understood that all knowledge or experience (epistemology) of the world arrives through the sense organs. This is accurate, even obvious, as far as it goes. But, like all generalizations, it is only useful as a starting point for inquiring into particular knowledge; in this case particular knowledge concerning the true nature of knowledge. Some of the particular knowledge about knowledge that Zen regards as significant, is that the sense organs – eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind – are components of consciousness. Thus, while experience or knowledge of the world arrives through the sense organs, it is realized (made real) by and as consciousness. In this, then, we come to see; the known/experienced world isexists as – consciousness itself.


The nondual perspective presupposes both a subject and an object are present in/as all instances of consciousness; in the absence of either, consciousness cannot exist. All knowledge/experience is the realization of a sentient being (subject; conscious existent) and a being of sentience (object; existent of consciousness). One thing this illumines is Zen’s recognition of the Buddha nature or wisdom of the human capacities for reasoning (dori) and discrimination – that is, Zen’s affirmation of the essential nature and role of the discriminating mind.


Contrary to the views commonly asserted in certain contemporary Zen circles, discrimination is an essential element of authentic Zen practice-enlightenment. Based on superficial notions of nonduality – notions confuse ‘nonduality’ with ‘oneness’ and/or ‘duality’ with ‘dualism’ – the negative or delusional nature of discrimination is commonly suggested, even explicitly asserted in popular accounts of Zen. Naturally, if one misunderstands ‘nonduality’ as meaning ‘oneness,’ one can only regard distinctions to be unreal or illusory. Similarly, to confuse ‘duality’ with ‘dualism’ can only lead to distorted views of plurality and variety. ‘Nondual’ means ‘not two,’ it does not mean ‘one.’ That ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’ are nondual means they are interdependent, not that they are inter-changeable, much less indistinguishable.


Zen distinguishes between subjects and objects because subjects are not objects, and objects are not subjects. In the context of knowledge, subject and object are coessential, coextensive foci; two distinct, mutually dependent elements of consciousness. The subject of an object has its place (dharma-position) in the universe which is not the same as the place as the object of the subject – consciousness, knowledge, or experience is a subject realizing an object and an object realized by a subject. In other words, the normality of subjects and objects is for subjects to be subjects and objects to be objects; objects exist as ‘what is realized’ by subjects, and subjects exist as ‘what realizes’ objects.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Not “mountains” are “mountains”, rather, mountains are mountains


Not “mountains” are “mountains”, rather, mountains are mountains


Knowledge can be either accurate or inaccurate; To clarify Zen’s view of what is it that makes ‘knowledge’ knowledge, consider this passage from Dogen on what makes ‘mountains’ mountains:


An eternal buddha says, “Mountains are mountains. Water is water.” These words do not say that “mountains” are “mountains”; they say that mountains are mountains. This being so, we should master the mountains in practice. When we are mastering the mountains in practice, that is effort “in the mountains.” Mountains and water like this naturally produce sages and produce saints.

Shobogenzo, Sansuigyo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


The difference between saying ‘mountains’ are ‘mountains’ and saying ‘mountains are mountains’ is, first, a difference between words or concepts about mountains and actual mountains and, second, a difference between seeing mountains as they are and seeing mountains as they are not. For example, to see a mountain from the perspective of the representational theory – as an objective independent reality re-presented in the mind/brain – is to see it as it is not. To see a mountain as a coessential element of the experience of a mountain – an experiencer of mountain/a mountain experienced – is to see it as it is. To clearly see mountains, then, is to ‘master mountains in your practice,’ which is ‘your effort in mountains.’ Mountains are ‘what’ (normal; healthy) eyes see as mountains, and mountains are ‘how’ eyes see mountains. In Zen to see mountains as mountains is to naturally (normally) produce mountains as mountains thus to be produced naturally by mountains – hence, mountains ‘naturally produce sages.’


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Two Significant Insights Verified by Normal Human Experience

Two Significant Insights Verified by Normal Human Experience


1.       You do not and cannot know anything beyond your knowledge (i.e. experience; epistemology).


While this is a simple truism, it warrants close attention; what you know as ‘you’ is delineated by your experience of ‘you.’ What you know as ‘other’ (than you) is delineated by your experience of ‘other.’ Thus, apart from your experience of ‘you’ and ‘other’ you do not and cannot know anything at all. For you, your knowledge is all that exists in the whole universe – that is, for you, your knowledge exists as the whole universe. This is true for every individual ‘you’ throughout the whole universe.


2.       Existence (i.e. being; ontology) is equivalent to knowledge (of self and other).


What exists (as both ‘you’ and ‘other’) is delineated by your knowledge. No ‘you’ or ‘other’ exists beyond your experience. This too is true for every individual ‘you’ throughout the whole universe. In sum, reality – the totality of the existence (ontology) of you and other – consists entirely of your knowledge (epistemology); knowledge – the totality of your experience (epistemology) of you and other – consists entirely of your existence. This is true for every individual ‘you’ throughout the whole universe.


“The body learning the truth” means learning the truth with the body, learning the truth with a mass of red flesh. The body derives from learning the truth, and what derives from learning the truth is, in every case, the body. “The whole universe in ten directions is just the real human body.” “Living-and-dying, going-and-coming, are the real human body.”
(Shinjitsu-nintai, the words of Master Chōsha Keishin. See Chapter Thirty-seven (Vol. II), Shinjin-gakudō; Chapter Forty-seven (Vol. III), Sangai-yuishin; Chapter Fifty (Vol. III), Shohō-jissō; Chapter Sixty-two (Vol. III), Hensan; and Chapter Ninety-one (Vol. IV), Yui-butsu-yo-butsu.)


“The human body” is the four elements and the five aggregates. Neither the great elements nor the smallest particles can be wholly realized by the common person, but they are mastered in experience by the saints. Further, we should clearly see the ten directions in a single particle. It is not that the ten directions comprise single particles. In some instances a monks’ hall and a Buddha hall are constructed in a single particle, and in some instances the whole universe is constructed in a monks’ hall and a Buddha hall. On this basis [the whole universe] is constructed; and construction, on this basis, is realized. Such a principle is that “the whole universe in ten directions is the real human body.” We should not follow the wrong view of naturalism. That which is beyond spatial measurement is not wide or narrow. “The whole universe in the ten directions” is the eighty-four thousand aggregates of Dharma preaching, it is the eighty-four thousand states of samādhi, and it is the eighty-four thousand dhāraṇīs. Because the eighty-four thousand aggregates of Dharma preaching are the turning of the wheel of Dharma, a place where the wheel of Dharma turns is all the world and is all of time. It is not a place without directions or boundaries: it is “the real human body.” You now and I now are people of “the real human body” that is “the whole universe in ten directions.” We learn the truth without overlooking such things. As we continue, moment by moment, to give up the body and receive the body—whether for three great asaṃkheyas of kalpas, for thirteen great asaṃkheyas of kalpas, or for countless great asaṃkheyas of kalpas—the momentary state of learning the truth is always to learn the truth in forward steps and backward steps. To do a prostration and to bow with joined hands are the moving and still forms of dignified behavior. In painting a picture of a withered tree, and in polishing a tile of dead ash, there is not the slightest interval. The passing days are short and pressed, but learning the truth is profound and eternal. The air of those who have given up their families and left family life may be bleak, but we are not to be confused with woodcutters. The livelihood is a struggle, but we are not the same as peasants. Do not compare us in terms of deludedness or of good and bad. Do not get stuck in the area of wrong and right or true and false. “Living-and-dying, going-and-coming, are the real human body”: These words “living-and-dying” describe the aimless wandering of the common person and at the same time that which was shed by the Great Saint. The effort to transcend the common and transcend the sacred is not simply to be described as “the real human body.” In this effort there are the two kinds and the seven kinds [of life-and-death]; at the same time every kind, when perfectly realized, is totally life-and-death—which, therefore, we need not fear. The reason [we need not fear life-and-death] is that even before we are through with life, we are already meeting death in the present. And even before we are through with death, we are already meeting life in the present. Life does not hinder death, and death does not hinder life. Neither life nor death is known to the common person. Life may be likened to a cedar tree and death to a man of iron. Cedar trees are restricted by cedar trees, but life is never restricted by death, for which reason it is the learning of the truth. Life is not the primary occurrence, and death is not the secondary one. Death does not oppose life, and life does not depend on death.


Zen Master Engo says:


Life is the manifestation of all functions,

Death is the manifestation of all functions.

They fill up the whole of space.

The naked mind is always moment by moment.


We should quietly consider and examine these words. Although Zen Master Engo has spoken like this, he still does not know that “life-and-death” is beyond “all functions.” When we learn going-and-coming in practice, there is life-and-death in going, there is life-and-death in coming, there is going-and-coming in life, and there is going-and-coming in death. “Going-and-coming,” with the whole universe in the ten directions as two wings or three wings, goes flying away and comes flying back, and with the whole universe in the ten directions as three feet or five feet, steps forward and steps backward. With life-and-death as its head and tail, “the real human body” that is the whole universe in ten directions can turn somersaults and turn around its brain. In turning somersaults and turning around its brain, it is as if the size of a penny, or like the inside of an atom. The flat, level, and even state is walls standing a thousand feet high. And the place where walls stand a thousand feet high is the flat, level, and even state. Thus the real features of the southern continent and the northern continent exist; examining their [real features], we learn the truth. The bones and marrow of non-thought and non–non-thought exist; resisting this [idea], we solely learn the truth.

Shobogenzo, Shinjin-gakudō, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross