1. The Nonduality of Enlightenment and Delusion
1. Enlightenment and delusion are nondual, thus equal in actuality, significance, and value.
2. Enlightenment is only and always realized within and through delusion; delusion is only and always realized within and through enlightenment.
2. The Nature and Dynamics of Enlightenment and Delusion
1. Enlightenment is the experiential verification of reality, the normal sentient capacity that is genjokoan (‘the actualization of the universe’).
2. Delusion is the experientially verifiable existential quality of reality that enables experiential verification (i.e. genjokoan).
3. With the experiential verification of reality (enlightenment) sentient beings see (experience, know) their true nature (their unborn/imperishable identity in/as the universe).
4. In seeing their identity in/as the universe, sentient beings see enlightenment/delusion is infinite and eternal.
Great Delusion and Great Enlightenment
Insofar as the terms ‘delusion’ and ‘enlightenment’ are used to designate the nondual foci ‘enlightenment’ and ‘delusion’ (enlightenment/delusion), delusion is ‘great delusion’ (daimei) and enlightenment is ‘great enlightenment’ (daigo). The point here is that, while the term ‘delusion’ is commonly used to designate ‘wrong’ or ‘distorted’ views, and the term ‘enlightenment’ to designate ‘right’ or ‘accurate’ views, the terms are not limited to those meanings.
For example, Dogen says that ‘Buddhas are enlightened about delusion’ (Shobogenzo, Genjokoan) which means, for one thing, that Buddhas do not exist independent of delusion – delusion and enlightenment are nondual, hence, coessential and coextensive. The recognition of delusion as ‘great delusion’ is one of the key insights informing Zen expressions on the unlimited potential for the expansion or advancement of realization (practice-enlightenment). It is also an insight that resolves an apparent paradox; that of the capacity of dharmas to simultaneously ‘expand’ and ‘contract.’
To clarify, the significance of ‘great delusion’ can be generally understood in light of the truth of how dharmas are experienced. The (only) way dharmas are experienced is by distinguishing them from what they are not – this dharma is this dharma by virtue of the fact that it is not anything else in the universe. Thus, the reality (existence/experience) of any dharma always consists of ‘what is that particular dharma’ and ‘what is not that particular dharma.’ To think of, speak about, or act upon any dharma requires (is dependent on) distinguishing what is that dharma from what is not that dharma – requires the existence of what is and the existence of what is not that dharma. The reason (dori) of ‘great delusion’ can thus be seen as inherent to the reason of experience/existence itself; experiencing something (i.e. a dharma) intrinsically-involves not experiencing everything. In sum, ‘great delusion’ designates the truth that seeing anything depends on (thus is inclusive of) not-seeing everything – in short, seeing (enlightenment) is blindness (delusion).
The wisdom (true knowledge) disclosed by the recognition of ‘great delusion’ is that eternal omnipresence and infinite complexity is inherent to each and all dharmas. If, as we just saw, the existence (existence/experience) of a dharma depends on the existence of not that dharma, then experiencing a dharma is (also) experiencing the ‘presence’ of ‘a lack’ (everything that is not that dharma). As experience is existence, and the reality of a dharma is inclusive of what is and what is not that dharma, the existence of any dharma is the existence of every dharma. To say the same thing from the other perspective, the whole of existence-time is each particular instance of existence-time.
Moreover, due to the quality of passage inherent to the nature of dharmas, their ‘arrival’ and ‘departure’ are unceasing – as Shobogenzo says, ‘Before donkey business is finished, horse business begins.’ With this we get a sense of what it means to say dharmas are infinitely complex as well as eternally omnipresent. The recognition of dharmas as infinitely complex is the reason informing the refrain in Zen records urging us to strive on; to continuously apply ourselves, to diligently refine our skill, and to sustain our effort. Eternal omnipresence and infinite complexity means delusion is ever-present and unlimited (i.e. ‘great’) – just as enlightenment is ever-present and unlimited.
Finally, delusion is inherent to reality whether beings are aware of it or not. At the same time, the distinction between being aware of it and not being aware of it is of the utmost significance in Zen; it is the distinction between ‘Buddhas’ and ‘ordinary beings.’ In the Genjokoan fascicle of Shobogenzo, Dogen underscores this distinction by asserting that to see dharmas as they are is to ‘sense something is lacking.’ To ‘sense something is lacking’ is to experience ‘the presence’ of ‘a lack.’ The ‘presence of this lack’ is most comprehensively treated by the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness which we explore later. For now it suffices to notice that being aware of this ‘presence’ in/as (all) dharmas is being Buddha ‘enlightened about delusion,’ which also means being ‘enlightened about enlightenment’ – being unaware of this ‘presence’ is being an ordinary being ‘deluded about enlightenment,’ which, of course, also means being ‘deluded about delusion.’
With these points in mind consider Dogen’s commentary on the following koan:
Great Master Hochi of Kegon-ji temple in Keicho (succeeded Tozan; his monk's name was Kyujo) on one occasion is asked by a monk: "What is it like at the time when a person in the state of great realization returns to delusion?" The Master says, "A broken mirror does not again reflect. Fallen blossoms cannot climb back onto the trees."
The present question, while it is a question, is like preaching to the assembly—[preaching] not proclaimed except in the order of Kegon, and not possible for anyone except a rightful successor of Tozan to deliver. Truly this may be the squarely regulated order of a Buddhist patriarch who experiences satisfaction. "A person in the state of great realization" is not intrinsically in great realization and is not hoarding a great realization realized externally. It is not that, in old age, [the person] meets with a great realization [already] present in the public world. [People of great realization] do not forcibly drag it out of themselves, but they unfailingly realize great realization. We do not see "not being deluded" as great realization. Neither should we aim, in order to plant the seed of great realization, to become at the outset a deluded being. People of great realization still realize great realization, and people of great delusion still realize great realization. If there is a person in great realization, accordingly there is buddha in great realization, there are earth, water, fire, wind, and air in great realization, and there are outdoor pillars and stone lanterns in great realization. Now we have inquired into a person in the state of great realization. The question "What is it like at the time when a person in the state of great realization returns to delusion?" truly asks a question that deserves to be asked. And Kegon does not hate [the question]; he venerates the ancient ways of the forest orders—[his conduct] may be the meritorious conduct of a Buddhist patriarch. Let us consider for a while, is the return to delusion of a person in the state of great realization completely the same as a person being in the unenlightened state? At the moment when a person in the state of great realization returns to delusion, is [that person] taking great realization and making it into delusion? Does [the person] return to delusion by bringing delusion from a distant place and covering great realization? Or does the person in the state of great realization, while remaining a whole person and not breaking great realization, nevertheless partake in a return to delusion? Again, does "the return to delusion of a person in the state of great realization" describe as "returning to delusion" the bringing forth of a further instance of great realization? We must master [these questions] one by one. Alternatively, is it that great realization is one hand, and returning to delusion is one hand? In any case, we should know that the ultimate conclusion of our study up to now is to hear that a person in the state of great realization experiences returning to delusion. We should know that there is great realization which makes returning to delusion a familiar experience. Thus, recognizing a bandit as a child does not define returning to delusion, and recognizing a child as a bandit does not define returning to delusion. Great realization may be to recognize a bandit as a bandit, and returning to delusion is to recognize a child as "a child." We see great realization as a bit being added in the state of abundance. When a bit is taken away in the state of scarcity, that is returning to delusion. In sum, when we grope for and completely get a grip on someone who returns to delusion, we may encounter a person in the state of great realization. Is the self now returning to delusion? Is it beyond delusion? We must examine it in detail, bringing it here. This is to meet in experience the Buddhist patriarchs. The Master says, "A broken minor does not again reflect. Fallen blossoms cannot climb back onto the trees." This preaching for the multitude expresses the very moment of a mirror being broken. That being so, to concern the mind with the time before the mirror is broken and thereupon to study the words "broken mirror," is not right. [Some] might understand that the point of the words now spoken by Kegon, "A broken mirror does not again reflect, fallen blossoms cannot climb back onto the trees," is to say that a person in the state of great realization does not again reflect, and to say that a person in the state of great realization cannot climb back onto the trees—to assert that a person in the state of great realization will never again return to delusion. But [Kegon's point] is beyond such study. If it were as people think, [the monk's question] would be asking, for example, "How is the everyday life of a person in the state of great realization?" And the reply to this would be something like "There are times of returning to delusion." The present episode is not like that. [The monk is asking] what it is like at the time when a person in the state of great realization returns to delusion; therefore he is calling into question the very moment itself of returning to delusion. The actualization of an expression of the moment like this is: "A broken minor does not again reflect. Fallen blossoms cannot climb back onto the trees." When fallen blossoms are just fallen blossoms, even if they are rising to the top of a hundred-foot pole, they are still fallen blossoms. Because a broken mirror is a broken mirror just here and now, however many vivid situations it realizes, each similarly is a reflection that does not again reflect. Picking up the point that is expressed as a mirror being broken and is expressed as blossoms being fallen, we should grasp in experience the moment which is the time when a person in the state of great realization returns to delusion. In this [moment], great realization is akin to having become buddha, and returning to delusion is akin to [the state of] ordinary beings. We should not study [Kegon's words] as if they discussed such things as turning back into an ordinary being, or traces depending o n an origin. Others talk about breaking the great state of enlightenment and becoming an ordinary being. Here, we do not say that great realization is broken, do not say that great realization is lost, and do not say that delusion comes. We should never let ourselves be like those others. Truly, great realization is limitless, and returning to delusion is limitless. There is no delusion that hinders great realization, [but] having brought forth three instances of great realization, we create half an instance of small delusion. In this situation, there are [snow mountains] realizing great realization for the sake of snow mountains; trees and stones are realizing great realization relying on trees and stones; the great realization of buddhas is realizing great realization for the sake of living beings; and the great realization of living beings is greatly realizing the great realization of buddhas: it cannot be related to before and behind. Great realization now is beyond self and beyond others. It does not come; at the same time, it fills in ditches and fills up valleys. It does not go; at the same time, we keenly hate pursuit that follows an external object. Why is it so? [Because] “we follow objects perfectly.”
Shobogenzo, Daigo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross