Thursday, May 01, 2008

Dogen demanded more than Just Sitting? Say it ain't so!

Hello all!

In a recent comment at another blog, someone mentioned that there are no "shoulds" or "musts."

While he was speaking about the realm of the absolute, he was of course absolutely right (pun intended).

It did get me to thinking about the other realm though (the realm of practice and enlightenment, of delusion, of Buddhas and sentient beings, of life and death, and mowing the lawn and getting the mail).

I thought it would be kind of fun to pick out some random "shoulds" and "musts" from the translation of Eihei Dogen's Shobogenzo by Rev. Hubert Nearman

This experience proved to be quite interesting---and even, if you will pardon my foul language, enlightening. It seems as if, at least in the ones I was able to quickly dig out, Dogen notions of "shoulds" and "musts" include some hints about other recent blog topics as of late.

Anyway, here are the results:

First is the list of "Shoulds" (Scroll down for the list of "Musts")

Therefore, we should just make haste and fully comprehend the principle of the innate nature of the mind being ever-abiding and persisting without change.

You should understand that, in Buddhism, we have always spoken not only of body and mind as being inseparable, but also of the nature of something and the form it takes as not being two different things.

Because of this, should you seek examples from the past up to the present, authenticated instances of it are many indeed.

With him in mind, we should reflect upon ourselves and see how our present condition looks in the mirror of his former times.

This should let you know that worldly duties do not, in and of themselves, impede the Buddha Dharma.

Your exploration of the Wisdom Beyond Discriminatory Thought should be done as though you were making spiritual offerings and respectfully bowing to the Buddha as the Awakened and Revered One.

Nevertheless, you should not hold onto the opinion that the ashes are the future of that which the stick was the past.

Accordingly, as we penetrate deeper and deeper into the Way, our spiritual surroundings, which we should have known, we clearly do not know, but because we are living together with our everdeepening investigation of Buddha Dharma and training with It, we have what we need.

You should not lend support to the misconduct of others, nor should you look upon the human errors of others with a hateful heart.

You should grieve that the proper ways have not yet fully permeated your training.

You should regret that time, in unseen ways, is depriving you of your life of training in the Way.

Beyond question, you should adhere to the Precepts as set down by the Buddhas and Ancestors.

Grasping the spiritual import of what the National Teacher has pointed out, you should take it as the model for your training and study.

Now you bodhisattvas training in the Way, too, should open wide the gate to your training and enter by means of the verse, "That which flows is the Mountain: That which does not flow is the Water."

Even though we speak of the Self as being ‘the great earth with its mountains and rivers’, this is not something that should delude us as to what is returned to.

Flesh-and-blood human beings like these are Masters of bygone days whose determination to seek the Dharma was profound indeed. We humans today should, by all means, consider following in Their footsteps.

And, likewise, we of today should give rise to a similar determination by pursuing genuine training, which is in no wise connected with personal fame or gain.

Accordingly, even though you have spent your past days and nights in vain pursuits, you should make the following vow while you are still in this present life: I pray that I and all sentient beings, from this life through all future lives, will ever be able to hear the True Teachings. Once I have heard the True Dharma, I will not harbor doubts about It or fail to trust in It. Right at the time when I encounter the True Dharma, I will let go of the whole world and embrace the Buddha’s Teachings. Then, together with all sentient beings on the great earth, may we fulfill the Way.

Even more importantly, you should not lose sight of the intention that arose when you first took delight in seeking the Way of the Buddhas.

That which penetrates to the deepest halls of this region is not the shallow cognitive functions of a beginner’s mind. Simply, you should walk the Path that former saints have trod.

Once they have completely awakened, people today will be as those Buddhas of the past. You should take time to study and investigate this principle, for this is what all Buddhas have guaranteed us will take place.

This refers not only to the Seven Buddhas, for these Precepts are what all Buddhas teach. You should examine Them with the mind of meditation and thoroughly investigate the principles They voice.

Since it is a manifestation of our spiritual question, we should meditate on this from the perspectives of both the host and the guest.

You should do your training and practice, even though you may still be attached to discriminatory thinking; you should do your training and practice, even if you have gone beyond discriminatory thinking; you should do your training and practice, even though you may be half-hearted in the attempt.

Meditation Master Shikan’s respectful bowing to the female monk Massan Ryōnen and his seeking the Dharma from her is a model of intent that we should follow.

Since the Ancestors and Masters associated with the Treasure House of the Dharma, as well as the bodhisattvas who lived during the Buddha’s lifetime, did not take this vow, as part of your training and study you should look to see whether there is any place in the Buddha’s Teachings where this could possibly have been taught.

Because of this very principle of the way things are, the earth in its entirety has myriad forms and hundreds of things sprouting up, each sprout and each form being a whole earth—a point which you should incorporate into your study of the Way, for the recognition of the coming and going of things in this manner is a first step in training and practice.

Furthermore, ‘intending’ refers to the time when the spiritual question manifests before our very eyes; ‘expressing’ refers to the time when one looks up and unbolts the barrier gate; ‘arriving’ refers to the time when body and mind are dropped off; and ‘having not arrived’ refers to the time when this ‘dropping off ’ is left behind [as you go always onward, always ‘becoming Buddha’]. This is the way that you should diligently apply yourself, the way that you should treat whatever arises as ‘just for a while’.

We should show our gratitude to the Ancestral Masters for their great kindness in Transmitting the Dharma to us.

Just because they said that such stories are not subject to rational understanding, you should not fail to learn through your training what the intellectually comprehendible pathways of the Ancestors of the Buddha are.

Thus, you should investigate the phrase ‘mountains flow’ with the Ancestors of the Buddha, and do not abandon the matter when you find yourself surprised or in doubt.

A former Buddha once said, "If you would avoid incurring unrelenting, hellish karma, do not malign the Tathagata’s Wheel of the True Teaching." You should engrave these words on your skin, flesh, bones, and marrow; you should engrave them on the outer circumstances and inner conditions of your body and mind; you should engrave them on what is immaterial; you should engrave them on what is material.

This does not mean that the child is not a child, nor does it mean that the parent is not a parent: you should simply explore this as "The child is the one who is old and the parent is the one who is young."

So, novices who are learning through their training should, beyond doubt, be diligent in their explorations.

This statement contains the very lifeblood that we should strive hard to comprehend.

We should by all means have as our investigation through training and practice an exploration that broadly spans the sayings of all the Buddhas and Ancestors.

You should make a diligent effort to consider what this is saying.

You should ask whether the time when Buddha Nature realizes Buddhahood is a time of ‘not having Buddha Nature’, and whether the time when Buddha Nature gives rise to the intention to realize Buddhahood is also a time of ‘not having Buddha Nature’.

Being presented with this statement, you should work hard on understanding the meaning of this expression. You should reflect on the phrase ‘north or south’ with an open mind, for there is a deeper meaning in the expression that the Sixth Ancestor has given us.

If, at that time, the Sixth Ancestor was indeed ‘such a person’, then we should work diligently on the words, ‘not possessing Buddha Nature’. Putting aside the ‘not having’ implied by ‘possessing versus nonpossessing’, we should ask, "What is Buddha Nature?" That is, we should inquire into what sort of thing Buddha Nature is.

It should be like a water buffalo coming out from the water and bellowing "Mu." To put it like this is to affirm It. You should try and see if you can say, in your own words.

We should spend life after life exploring the intent of this statement through our training. We should keep our minds diligently investigating what he meant by ‘whatever the cost of the broth, don’t worry about it for the moment’. Why was he so concerned about the cost of straw sandals?

Okay, here are some of Dogen's "Musts"

To grasp this principle of ‘one’s continually leaving it up to’, you must thoroughly explore what your mind is.

If teaching is in any way different from this, you must recognize that it is not the Buddha Dharma.

We trainees of today must not disregard his remark, "Those of old were just like this."

When That Which Is expresses Itself in this way, even though the whole of Its ‘hands and eyes’ are never hidden from us, we must not look for a time when It expresses Itself as ‘the whole of Its hands and eyes’.

We must not become more and more casual and neglect it, for it is due to just such neglectfulness that teachers in the past who gained an understanding of what spiritual Brightness is were rare indeed.

By all means, those of us learning in these later times must not hold to the same opinions as those non-Buddhists who deny causality.

In all earnestness, you must not compare this saying with other expressions.

The ‘age’ and ‘youth’ of a child, as well as the ‘age’ and ‘youth’ of a parent, must be fully explored, in detail, and without haste.

You must explore this fundamental principle through your training! Because this principle exists, a Master of long ago said, "To read Scriptures, you will need to be equipped with an Eye for reading Scriptures."

We must not forget to explore through our training the principle that when there are a hundred thousand World honored Ones, there will be a hundred thousand Makakashō’s.

You who are studying what Buddha is must never think that those who possess the five or six spiritual abilities—be they non-Buddhists or those of the two Lesser Courses—are in any way superior to an ordinary, everyday person.

In that things are already like this, you certainly must have the ability to use your own mind right at this very moment to see into your own mind.

Truly, you need to keep in mind that when it comes to the Buddha’s Dharma, you must be clear about Its fundamental principles.

You who are now learning the Way must keep close to morally good friends and be on intimate terms with them.

We must clearly perceive, unequivocally resolve, fully comprehend, and infer in detail the principle of a Buddha’s Body being something that is neither tall nor short.

After we have given rise to the enlightened Mind, we must not regress or wander off from It, but must steadfastly protect and defend It.

Should you consider going against your vow to help others to awaken before you do, you must realize that this is the preaching of demons, the preaching of non-Buddhists, the preaching of wicked companions.

You must not doubt that you will inevitably realize Buddhahood, for it is a foregone conclusion. It is precisely what the Buddha gave voice to.

Those who are truly serious in their training must clarify what the effects of karma in the three temporal periods are.

Students of the Way must, by all means, learn first off just what a Buddha is.

(Here is one with a "should" and a "must")

We should not let up even upon arriving at the Wisdom that is the fruition of Buddhahood. This is the Path that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas pursue. We call this ‘the profound awakening to the Law’ and ‘the Buddha’s Truth inherent in every being’. Further, you must pray that you do not dilute this with opinions held by others.

In the realm where one’s own awakening awakens others, from the very moment that you are provided with personal certainty, there is no hanging onto it, and, once your personal certainty begins to function, you must see to it that it never ceases.

Be aware that the Buddhas and Ancestors repeatedly taught that we must not be slack in our training and practice, so that we do not stain or tarnish our innate enlightenment, which is inseparable from our practice.

Understand that you must do your training and practice amidst the realizing of the Way.
Not only that, you must fully understand that ‘birth and death’ is nirvana: there has never been any talk of a nirvana outside of birth and death.

You must realize that It is what is beneath your very feet and within every drop of water.

To be sure, having once realized the Place, you must not analyze It in order to understand It through discriminatory thought and, thereby, reduce It to fit your own opinions.

You must understand that when you fully realize what your mind is, the whole canopy of the heavens is knocked down and the spinning earth is completely torn asunder.

You must understand that to hear "Refrain from all evil whatsoever" is to hear what the genuine Dharma of Buddha is.

Even so, we must consider carefully the principle of ‘becoming a Buddha’ as we walk, stand, sit, or recline throughout the twenty-four hours of a day.

We must carefully study the principle enunciated here. Although it seems that there are people who fail to examine what ‘all Buddhas’ means and thereby create suffering for themselves—and to no good purpose—nevertheless, this is simply suffering from being a sentient being; it has nothing to do with practicing the Way to Buddhahood.

The heart of what he said exists in what a child of three can say, and this we must thoroughly investigate. Also, there is the practice which eighty-year-olds may not be doing, but which we must diligently engage in.

Since we human beings are continually arranging the bits and pieces of what we experience in order to fashion ‘a whole universe’, we must take care to look upon this welter of living beings and physical objects as ‘sometime’ things.

Truly, even though we have been born in a remote region at the time of the final stages of the Teaching, if any of us have the opportunity to choose whether to be Transmitted or not, we must accept in faith—as well as guard and maintain—the true inheritance that is being passed on to us.

So, you must not harbor doubts about the moving on of the verdant mountains at the present moment. People do not know that they must scrutinize and clarify what ‘verdant mountains’ means if they are to measure all the existent worlds about them.

You must devote yourself to exploring through your training not only that ‘the Child becoming the Parent’ is the full manifestation of ‘giving birth to the Child’, but also that ‘the time when the Parent becomes the Child’ is the full manifestation of ‘giving birth to the Child’.

You must thoroughly penetrate what is being said here.

You must have faith that Buddha after Buddha has inherited It in this manner, reaching down to us now, for this is how we explore the Way of the Buddhas through our training.

That place where ‘sentient beings take their delight and play’ has continually existed as the Buddha’s Pure Land, which can never be destroyed. We must meticulously make this our fundamental practice.

You must comprehend this and explore it through your training, for when is it that someone does not have Buddha Nature?

Wow! And that is just the tip of the ice-berg. There must be at least a couple thousand "musts" and "shoulds" in the Shobogenzo alone, or should we call it the True Dharma-Eye Treasury? If memory serves, the Eihei Koroku, and the Zuimonki are even worse!

Be careful not to show this list (or the Shobogenzo for that matter) to "practitioners" who think that Dogen promoted some kind of magic "Zen" that could turn students into Buddhas by "just sitting" on a regular basis. It might really be a "disillusioning" experience!

For everyone else that would like to know what Dogen's masterpiece, the Shobogenzo, actually teaches about what is really involved in the authentic Zen path of practice and enlightenment, follow the link to:
Complete Translation of Eihei Dogen's Shobogenzo by Rev. Hubert Nearman, O.B.C.,translator Shasta Abbey Press

and read the thing for yourself. Then read the translations by Nishijima & Cross, Kazuaki Tanahashi, Thomas Cleary, Wadell & Abe, Reiho Masunaga, Taigen Dan Leighton, Hee-Jin Kim, Francis D Cook, Steven Heine, Carl Bielefeldt, Shohaku Okumura, Kosen Nishiyama, Then study Japanese and check out the "modern Japanese" versions, then study Chinese and Medieval Japanese and you can enjoy the "original" version. Next, put it all into practice on the cushion and in your daily activities for twenty years or so.

Or.... Just find a "certified" teacher and learn to sit and disengage your mind from Dogen's joyous rants about playing in samadhi, and his zeal for deep investigation, and his voracious curiosity about "self" "Buddha-Nature" and "Life and Death" -- Just sit and let go of all your aspiration and joy regarding wisdom and compassion -- free yourself from goals, not to mention from all those nasty thoughts and feelings that give the flavor to life -- just sit in that pure and clear space with a mind like a rock or a stump, letting things be "as they are." Who needs all the hassle of coming back to the market place and dealing with other human beings that don't "really" exist anyway, sure that child thinks it is hungry, but that is just delusion--Why should we be bothered to offer them bread?


SlowZen said...

Dogen did demand more than just sitting! What was that bit about shaving the head and wearing the Kesa?

Kicking over the dinner table,

Ted Biringer said...


Thanks! Ha ha!!

I have just finished picking all the noodles out of my carpet...

Yes, great point. How about when he says things like:

"Those who have not yet left home life behind do not succeed to the inheritance of the Right Action of the Buddha’s Dharma. They have not received the authentic Transmission of the Great Course of the Buddha’s Dharma."


"During the Buddha’s whole lifetime of teaching, not one person in lay life fully realized the Way."

Very interesting... And definitely worth taking up on the cushion, I think...

Personally, this issue is still not resolved for me. But I hasten to add that Dogen definitely has a knack for being "unnattached" to language and positions... For instance, his records are full of references to Rinzai (Lin-chi) as "a rightful heir of the Buddha-Dharma." Yet, in some places he dismisses Rinzai as an "ignoramous."

It seems clear to me that Dogen would not be disuaded to say anything if he thought that it was the right time or place, and saying so would bring his message home loud and clear to his particular audience-- He was definitly not bound by any "system" of thought, philosophy, tradition, religion, or any other theoretical framework.

Yet, his overall message is surely "universal" when it comes to sentient beings---even bats and fish "realize the Way" --- grasses and walls, pillars, and fences, throghout his works he definitely "leans" toward "inclusion" rather than "exclusion"...

His acknowledgement of "lay" persons be equal to monastics far outweigh his denials, for instance here are just a handful of examples from the Shobogenzo:

I would point out, “The Ancestors have said in their Teaching, ‘When it comes to realizing the Buddha Dharma, make no distinction between male and female, or between the exalted and the lowly.’

Who amongst those in the worlds of either the mundane or the saintly could possibly be excluded from entering? Because of this, should you seek examples from the past up to the present, authenticated instances of it are many indeed.

It simply depends on whether you have the determination or not: it has nothing to do with being a householder or a monk.

Nevertheless, once one of them [Lay person] has clarified the
Matter, trainees will gather about him like clouds and mist, respectfully bowing and seeking spiritual benefits, behaving the same as they would towards a Master who had left home and become a monk. Be it a woman or be it an animal, you should do the same.

Even a seven-year-old—were he or she to train in and practice Buddhism, and then say something that is Buddha Dharma—can be a teacher and guide for monks and laity, male and female.

In India and China, there have been many monks and lay people who have been bodhisattvas and Ancestral Masters, but none is the equal of our Ancestral Master Nāgārjuna.

And hardly anyone recieves this kind of reverence from Dogen:

Though some may feel sorry that he was of humble birth, he nevertheless left secular life behind him and even transcended monkhood, for he had realized the Dharma and had had the
sacred robe passed on to him while still a lay person. This is something that was unheard of in the past, not even in India to the west, and it constitutes a remarkable precedent set in the eastern land of China. It is as if even the seven hundred high ranking monks did not compare with him nor could the dragon elephants of his whole nation follow in his footsteps. He is truly an heir of the Buddha who has taken his position as our Ancestor of the thirty-third generation after Shakyamuni.

Okay, don't reply until tomorrow... I am having my carpet replaced with something easier to clean...


SlowZen said...

On a some what related note…
Last night I had an odd dream.

I was at some kind of Pan-Buddhist conference.
I had no Kesa.
A yellow robed monk, maby from China? Gave me an extra he had brought with.
And then he showed me how to put it on. It felt right.

What an odd dream.