Friday, July 30, 2010

Dogen: Qualifying Ancestors, Qualifying Enlightenment

As mentioned previously, Dogen qualifies "Buddha ancestors" on the sole basis of authentic enlightenment (never on the basis of sect, lineage, or even tradition). Now, how does Dogen qualify the "authenticity" of someones enlightenment?
He clarifies this in the opening sentences of Shobogenzo, Dotoku:
The buddhas and the patriarchs are the expression of the truth. Therefore, when Buddhist patriarchs are deciding who is a Buddhist patriarch, they always ask “Do you express the truth or not?” They ask this question with the mind, they ask with the body, they ask with a staff and a whisk, and they ask with outdoor pillars and stone lanterns. In others than Buddhist patriarchs the question is lacking and the expression of the truth is lacking—because the state is lacking.
Shobogenzo, Dotoku
, Gudo Nishijima & Mike (Chodo) Cross
The explicitness of Dogen’s statement that “who is” qualified as a Buddhist ancestor is settled by asking if they “express the truth or not” is not unusual in Shobogenzo. Not only does Dogen qualify the enlightenment of many ancestors with explicit references to the “evidence” of their expressions, he also offers the evidence of expressions to deny the enlightenment of personages. In any case, the point is clear enough; if expressions of truth are requisites for verifying the authenticity of Buddha ancestors, then all Buddha ancestors must fashion such expressions. Moreover, as such expressions must be accessible to experience (e.g. hearable, readable, seeable, etc.) they must be particular artifacts, that is to say, real things (dharmas).


Ta Wan said...

I would agree that a person can express truth as can the wind or a tree.

That a person can be enlightened or not is null as if we say there is a separate person then this split position of us them, enlightened or not is duality at play.

Enlightenment is non-I, it is the tree and the environment as one.

Ted Biringer said...

Hello Ta Wan,

Thank you for your comment.

I am not sure if I accurately understand your meaning here.

If you are pointing out that duality "at play" is an important aspect of the Buddha Dharma, I agree.

If you mean that Buddhism (and/or enlightenment) minimizes or denies the role of duality (in the nonduality of "duality/nonduality") then I would strongly disagree---without duality, nonduality is meaningless.

Having said that, I would add that "duality" is often confused with or mistaken for "dualism" which, of course, is strongly refuted in Buddhism.

Thanks again for your comment.


Ta Wan said...

That a person is enlightened or not is void as a person is a collection of ideas and concepts. The person only appears separate from reality due to these very concepts and is not in fact real but for mind made ideas.

To take an undivided whole and split it with the mind into people, environment, enlightened and unenlightened and then spend time trying to reconcile the split is the farce of seeking enlightenment.

There is not actually a person with the qualities of enlightenment as that would simply be a further idea or concept attached to the person who is already only a separate person due to a set of ideas and concepts.

Removing all concepts then there is no separation, no separate being or person, and so no one to have this quality of enlightenment applied to them.

The only title a person may have is 'unenlightened' and that is the case of the seeker, one who has separated themselves, and is now seeking to reconnect with, that which they could never be separate from in all of infinity.

Enlightenment is not the state of a person but a state free from the concept of the separate person.