Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Dogen: The Insentient Preaching Dharma, Shobogenzo, Mujo-seppo

Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Mujo-seppo, Part 1

Preaching the Dharma in preaching the Dharma is the realized universe that Buddhist patriarchs transmit to Buddhist patriarchs. This preaching the Dharma is the Dharma preaching. It is neither sentient nor insentient. It is neither intentional doing nor nondoing. It is not causally connected with doing and nondoing, and it is not something that arises from circumstances. At the same time, it does not follow the way of the birds; it is given to a Buddhist assembly. When the great state of truth is completely realized, preaching the Dharma is completely realized. When the Dharma treasury is transmitted, preaching the Dharma is transmitted. At the time of picking up a flower, preaching the Dharma is picked up, and at the time of transmitting the robe, preaching the Dharma is transmitted. For this reason, the buddhas and the patriarchs have, in like fashion, paid homage to preaching the Dharma since prior to the King of Majestic Voice, and have practiced preaching the Dharma as their original practice since prior to the buddhas themselves. Do not learn only that preaching the Dharma has been orchestrated by Buddhist patriarchs; Buddhist patriarchs have been orchestrated by preaching the Dharma. This preaching the Dharma is not merely the expounding of the eighty-four thousand gates of Dharma; it includes countless and boundless gates of Dharma preaching. Do not learn that later buddhas preach as Dharma the Dharma preaching of former buddhas. Just as former buddhas do not come back as later buddhas, so it is also in preaching the Dharma: former preaching of the Dharma is not used as later preaching of the Dharma. For this reason, Sakyamuni Buddha says, “In the same manner that the buddhas of the three times preach the Dharma, so now do I also preach the Dharma that is without distinction.” Thus, in the same way that buddhas utilize preaching the Dharma, buddhas utilize preaching the Dharma. And in the same way that buddhas authentically transmit preaching the Dharma, buddhas authentically transmit preaching the Dharma. Therefore, having been authentically transmitted from buddhas of the eternal past to the Seven Buddhas, and having been authentically transmitted from the Seven Buddhas to today, there exists “the non-emotional preaching the Dharma.” In this non-emotional preaching the Dharma the buddhas are present, and the patriarchs are present. Do not learn that “I now preach the Dharma” expresses an innovation that differs from the authentic tradition. And do not experience the time honored authentic tradition as if it were an old nest in a demon’s cave.
Shobogenzo, Mujo-seppo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

As observed in recent posts, Shobogenzo distinguishes between the vision of prajna (enlightened wisdom) and common abstract, biased vision. Prajna is the integral unity or the center of gravity of the combined causes and conditions that not only make humans human, but makes each human a unique character. In short, prajna facilitates and informs the meaning and significance of an individual being’s characteristic attitude toward the experience of life.

Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking are the six streams of experience that constitute human existence. These never-ceasing, ever-advancing streams are the common reality of Buddha nature/mu-Buddha nature shared by all beings.

The prajna of each human being (either actively or passively) arranges these six streams into the existence experienced by them. Active actualization is consciously directed prajna; passive actualization is unconscious and haphazard. This is what informs Dogen’s view that true wisdom is most clearly revealed in and as “expression of truth,” here called “preaching Dharma.” To clarify these points, Dogen follows his opening passage with this Zen koan:

National Master Daisho of Kotakuji in the Western Capital in the great kingdom of Tang, the story goes, is asked by a monk, “Can the insentient really preach the Dharma, or not?”
The National Master says, “They are always preaching ardently; they preach without interval.”
The monk says, “Why do I not hear it?”
The National Master says, “Whether or not you hear it yourself, you should not disturb others who do hear it.”
The monk says, “I wonder what kind of person is able to hear it.”
The National Master says, “Saints are able to hear it.”
The monk says, “Does the Master hear it or not?”
The National Master says, “I do not hear it.”
The monk says, “If the Master himself does not hear it, how does he know that the insentient preach the Dharma?”
The National Master says, “It is convenient that I do not hear it. If I heard it I would be on the level of the saints, and then you would not be able to hear me preaching the Dharma.”
The monk says, “So living beings are without the means [to hear].”
The National Master says, “I preach for living beings. I do not preach for saints.”
The monk says, “What are living beings like after they hear?”
The National Master says, “At that time they are beyond living beings.”

Shobogenzo, Mujo-seppo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Expressions of truth (preaching Dharma) are actualized by the whole body-mind. Dogen taught and demonstrated that the immediacy, energy, and authority of the Zen masters do not come from some super-human capacity or a super-enhanced capacity of the human body-mind. The expressions are wholly alive because the masters are wholly alive. Bodhidharma, Matsu, Linchi, Dogen, and Hakuin do not simply speak to our mind or our body, much less to some particular aspect of the body-mind; they speak to the wholeness of our being; for, like the expressions of Mozart, Bach, Michelangelo, and Picasso, they are expressions of wholeness.

This is the reason that, from the perspective of Shobogenzo, direct experience is truer and more alive than maxims, formulas, ideas, memories, concepts, etc. Direct experience is not “pure consciousness” or mere “open awareness.” In Dogen’s Zen, authentic practice-realization is never construed as passive perception, observation, or simply experiencing things “as they are.” Zen practice-realization is the actualization of the universe (genjokoan). To personally verify that “clear seeing is prajna itself” is to clearly see that the fashioner of the universe is nothing other than our own true self. To be unaware that “clear seeing is prajna itself” is to be unaware of our inherent liberation. According to Zen, our very existence is facilitated by our experiential capacities; when the Dharma-Eye is not activated, existence is fashioned by (haphazard) experience; when it is activated experience (intentionally) fashions existence.

Thus, the authenticity of Zen practice-realization is dependent on the “ordinariness” or “normality” of the mind of the practitioner. This means the ordinary or normal mind of an awakened being of course, not the “average” or “common” mind of the unawakened being. The expressions of Buddha ancestors reveal the wisdom of the true nature of human beings because Buddha ancestors are wholly awakened (ordinary, or normal) human beings. Strictly speaking, in Zen, there are no such things as “Buddhists,” there are common, deluded beings and there are Buddhas. For, to “clearly see” the wisdom of Buddhism (prajna) is, by definition, to actualize prajna itself – that is, to be a Buddha.

The Buddha-Dharma cannot be known by people. For this reason, since ancient times, no common person has realized the Buddha-Dharma and no one in the two vehicles has mastered the Buddha-Dharma. Because it is realized only by buddhas, we say that “buddhas alone, together with buddhas, are directly able perfectly to realize it.”
Shobogenzo, Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

In Shobogenzo “clear seeing is prajna itself” (experience is existence itself), and that the reality of dharmas are unique to individuals, as well as truer and more extensive for those that have more fully developed their “eyes of practice,” a task with an infinite potential for expansion. For those unfamiliar with this way of looking at things, this can be difficult to reconcile. For those attached to dualistic or representational views of knowledge, it can seem nonsensical.

That the realities of things (dharmas) are more or less real based on how they are perceived is hard to concede, how much more the notion that “expressions” are more or less true for the same reason. Also, some might ask, if existence is actualized only as immediate experience, expressions, being “post-experiential” products, are as disconnected from reality as abstract concepts aren’t they?

No. Why?

First, for Dogen, expressions of truth are no more fixed than is actual experience; second, expressions need not be “post-experiential”; in fact, if they are post-experiential they are not expressions of truth. Expressions that merely repeat, represent (re-present), or correspond to previous real experiences or expressions of truth, even experiences or expressions of Buddhas, are only imitations of reality, replicas of truth.

Beginners and later students who wish to learn in practice the non-emotional preaching the Dharma should get straight into diligent research of this story of the National Master. “They are always preaching ardently; they preach without interval.” “Always” is a concrete time of many instants. “They preach without interval”: given that “preaching” is already manifest in reality, it is inevitably “without interval.” We should not learn that the manner in which “the insentient preach the Dharma” must necessarily be as in the case of the sentient. [To suppose that the manner in which “the insentient preach the Dharma]” might accord with the voices of the sentient, and with the manner in which the sentient preach the Dharma, and thus to wrest voices from the sentient world and to liken them to the voices of the insentient world, is not Buddhism. “The insentient preaching the Dharma” may not always be sound as matter—just as the sentient preaching the Dharma is not sound as matter. Now, asking ourselves and asking others, we must endeavor to learn in practice what is the sentient state and what is the insentient state. That being so, we should painstakingly apply our mind to learning in practice how the non-emotional might preach the Dharma. Stupid people think that the rustling of trees in the forest, and the opening and falling of leaves and flowers, are the non-emotional preaching the Dharma, but they are not practitioners of the Buddha-Dharma. If it were so, who could fail to know the non-emotional preaching the Dharma, and who could fail to hear the non-emotional preaching the Dharma? Let us reflect for a while: in the non-emotional world are there any “grass,” “trees,” and “forests” or not? Is the non-emotional world infiltrated by “the emotional world” or not? [No.] To recognize, on the contrary, that grass, trees, tiles, and pebbles are the non-emotional is to be incomplete in learning. And to recognize the non-emotional as grass, trees, tiles, and pebbles, is not to have experienced satisfaction. Though we shall now consider the grass, trees, and so on that are seen by human beings, and discuss them as the non-emotional, those very grass, trees, and so on are beyond the common intellect. For there are great differences between the forests of the heavens above and those of the human world; the produce of a civilized nation is not the same as that of a remote land; and grass and trees in the ocean are totally unlike those in the mountains. Still more, there are trees that grow in space and there are trees that grow in clouds. Among the hundred weeds and myriad trees that sprout and grow amid wind, fire, and so on, there are generally those that can be understood as sentient, those that are not recognized as insentient, and those weeds and trees which seem to be humans and animals: sentient and insentient have never been clearly distinguished. Still more, when we see a hermit’s trees, stones, flowers, fruits, hot springs, and cool waters, they are utterly beyond doubt—but how could they not be difficult to explain? Barely having seen the weeds and trees of China, or having become familiar with the weeds and trees of Japan, do not think that similar situations may be present through the whole universe in myriad directions.

The National Master says, “The saints are able to hear it.” That is, in orders where the non-emotional preaches the Dharma, the saints stand on the ground to listen. The saints, and the non-emotional, both realize hearing and realize preaching. The non-emotional does indeed preach the Dharma to saints, but is it sacred or is it common? [It is neither.] In other words, after we have clarified the manner in which the non-emotional preaches the Dharma, we are able to realize in physical experience that what the saints hear is as it is. Having attained realization in physical experience, we are able to fathom the state of the saints. Thereafter we should learn in practice, further, action on the road through the night which transcends the common and transcends the sacred. The National Master says, “I do not hear it.” Do not suppose that even these words are easy to understand. Does he not hear because he transcends the common and transcends the sacred, or does he not hear because he rips apart the nests of the common and the sacred? With effort like this, we should realize the [master’s] expression. The National Master says, “It is convenient that I do not hear it. If I heard it I would be on the level of the saints.” This elucidation is never one truth or two truths. The “convenient I” is beyond the common and the sacred; might the “convenient I” be a Buddhist patriarch? Because Buddhist patriarchs transcend the common and transcend the sacred, [what they hear] may not be exactly the same as what the saints hear. Researching the truth of the National Master’s words “Then you would not be able to hear me preaching the Dharma,” we should consider the bodhi of the buddhas and the saints. The point is this: when the non-emotional preach the Dharma the saints are able to hear, but when the National Master preaches the Dharma that concrete monk is able to hear. Day upon day and month after month we should endeavor to learn this truth. Now I would like to ask the National Master: I do not ask what living beings are like after they hear, but what are living beings like just in the moment of hearing you preach the Dharma?
Shobogenzo, Mujo-seppo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

To be continued in Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Mujo-seppo, Part 2


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