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!