Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Enlightenment, from Dogen’s perspective

Enlightenment, from Dogen’s perspective, consists of clarifying and penetrating one’s muddled discriminative thought in and through our language to attain clarity, depth, and precision in the discriminative thought itself. This is enlightenment or vision.

Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, p.63

If anything demands ‘clarifying and penetrating one’s muddled discriminating thought’ it is an accurate appreciation of Dogen’s Zen masterpiece, Shobogenzo.

Fortunately, like other comprehensive literary expressions, the work itself provides its own key, or rather, eye – the True Dharma-Eye – through which ‘clarity, depth, and precision’ are attainable. Two significant points clearly seen through the True Dharma-eye are

·         Everything that is accurate or meaningful can be expressed.

·         Anything that cannot be expressed is neither accurate nor meaningful.

From the perspective of Shobogenzo (hence Zen), accurately expressing truth has less to do with seeing the limitations of language and more to do with seeing through false presuppositions about language.

The widespread notion that Zen is antithetical to language is, from Shobogenzo’s viewpoint, a serious delusion based on a false assumption; specifically, the dualistic assumption that the reality of verbal expressions (spoken or written) is separate and independent of the reality of what the expressions concern. Of the host of fallacies about Zen spawned by dualism, the delusion that the reality of Zen somehow exists independently of the expressions of Zen is the most pernicious. It is to this distortion that we owe all the vulgar claims that Zen is some kind of mysterious or ineffable reality, condition, or experience that is somehow transcendent to, thus independent of, the normal human capacities of communication.

Here it is worth stating the obvious; since claims asserting that the truth about Zen cannot be communicated through language, are themselves constituted of language, they thereby refute their own validity!


Unknown said...

Ted, thank you for all that you do!

Dogen was, in a manner of speaking, "my first love" when I first approached Zen Buddhist practice in 2009, though there were no other Soto Zen sanghas nearby at that time for me. I had some much-needed grounding visiting a local monastery affiliated with Thich Nhat Hanh which was invaluable to my practice -- and always studying.

In 2014 I moved - that year also marked the beginning of a two-year hiatus (stemming from multiple misfortunes), but I somehow knew I would find myself back studying Dogen and practicing shikantaza -- it was just a matter of time. I've been practicing and studying again these past few months. It's good to be "home" again.

I had read your blog before and I'm happy to see you're still helping to bring clarity to Dogen's teachings that are too often misunderstood (as, for example, the crucial topic of this post). I have a feeling I'll be around more often. Again, thank you!


Ted Biringer said...

Dear Josh,

Thank you for sharing your experience with Dogen, as well as your kind and encouraging words on this blog.

Nine Full Bows

Please treasure yourself.