Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dogen's Fundamental Point

For Dogen, the Dharmadhatu (realm of reality) is an infinite source of creative energy (brightness) permeating Being-Time (Uji); continuously and impartially manifesting itself according to causes and conditions. Its permeation precludes entry, or attainment and prohibits evasion; thus, Dogen’s creative mis-reading of the Mahaparinirvana-sutra’s, “All sentient beings have Buddha nature”, as “All beings the Buddha-nature of existence.”

Being impartial, Dharmadhatu neither encourages nor inhibits the manifestation of any particular ‘form.’ That is, while the Dharmadhatu is the essence, or ‘equality’ of each and every dharma (thing), the appearance, or ‘particularity’ of each and every dharma is determined by its causes and conditions. This rationale is asserted in Shobogenzo with phrases like, “Right and wrong are Time, but Time is not right or wrong.”

The point to grasp here is the fact that the Dharmadhatu (where we live) is as equally capable of sustaining bondage as it is of actualizing liberation. This quality of Dharmadhatu is expressed in Shobogenzo as, “there is turning the sutra, there is being turned by the sutra” (and, there is using the twelve hours, or being used by the twelve hours, etc.). To be turned by the sutra is to be controlled, restrained, wholly compelled to follow its dictates. Turning the sutra is to command, guide, and skillfully direct its course. Zen literature often indicates these two aspects with allusions to the puppet and puppeteer, or the positions of guest and Host.Ignorance of Dharmadhatu and its characteristics of permeation, impartiality, and infinitely creative potential inevitably confine us to the ‘position of guest’, to being turned by it. Enlightened to the nature and characteristics of Dharmadhatu activates our capacity to turn the sutra; no longer ‘puppets’ confined to being used by the twelve hours, we freely use the twelve hours to ‘actualize the fundamental point’ (genjokoan).


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