Sunday, February 06, 2011

Realizing the True Nature of Yourself - Yes, "Self"

You need to discern and affirm for yourself the underlying meaning of his saying, “If you wish to see Buddha Nature, you must first rid yourself of your arrogant pride.” It is not that one lacks sight, but the seeing of which he spoke is based on ridding oneself of one’s arrogant pride. The arrogance of self is not just of one kind, and pride takes many forms. Methods for ridding oneself of these will also be diverse and myriad. Even so, all of these methods will be ‘one’s seeing Buddha Nature’. Thus, you need to learn both to look with your eyes and to see with your Eye.
Shobogenzo, Bussho, Hubert Nearman

Putting one’s trust in the authority of the true self is only grandiose and misguided if it is attempted with an inaccurate understanding. Driving a car or installing an electrical outlet with no more than a superficial understanding can be disastrous; pursuing the great matter of life and death under the authority of the true self without clearly understanding what that means would be seriously unwise.

Popular notions about individualistic forms of “personal Buddhism” illustrate how ridiculous things get with superficial views of Buddhism. Assertions that “my Zen” and “your Zen” or “your Dogen” and “my Dogen” are all “just Buddhism” are not at all what Dogen means by trusting the true self; to the contrary, such notions come only from the personal self, from bowing to the authority of ego. Such fanciful ideas are one reason Dogen was so vehemently opposed to notions of separate “sects” of Buddhism.

If the principle of setting up one’s own way was the authentic Way, the Buddha Dharma would have disappeared in India long ago. Who would honor principles that individual people had set up on their own? If each person sets up his own principles, who could determine which were true and which were false? What was true and what was false could never be determined. If the true and the false cannot be determined, who could recognize what was actually the Buddha Dharma? If its principles cannot be clarified, it would be difficult to call anything ‘the Way of the Buddha’.
Shobogenzo, Butsudo, Hubert Nearman

In Dogen’s Zen, just as each real dharma is a unique expression of the wholeness of existence-time, each real expression of Buddhism is a unique expression of the wholeness of Buddha Dharma. Buddhism is not our personal opinions about expressions of truth; Buddhism is the truth that is expressed. From the perspective of Shobogenzo, the uniqueness of human experience – its realm, personal self (ego), and relative depth and clarity – is attributed to the integral character resulting from the specific combination of causes and conditions expressing each individual existence.

By “integral character” I mean the natural or innate propensity toward experiencing the world; it is the integral character of owls to eat meat, not clover; it is the integral character of rabbits to avoid owls, not seek them out. Moreover, not only does a newborn tiger naturally advance to become an adult tiger, it advances to become the adult tiger inherent to its specific causes and conditions, its “integral character.” From the moment of conception (or, in Buddhist terms, from before the eon of emptiness) each human being perceives, and interacts with her experience in a manner that is organically consistent with her integral character.

If not directly inspired by the widespread dualistic views (mostly within the Shingon and Tendei traditions) based on distorted interpretations of “original enlightenment” (hongaku), Dogen’s emphasis on the teachings of nonduality was undoubtedly reinforced by these circumstances. In any case, Dogen’s refutation of such views are primarily aimed at undermining assumptions that human experience (hence, existence) is produced or “fashioned” by the world, rather than being the “fashioner” of the world. The owl egg is not haphazardly transformed by the world into an adult owl; the environment does contribute to conditioning this development, but it does not cause it.

Shobogenzo clearly distinguishes between the vision of prajna (enlightened wisdom) and common abstract, biased vision. Prajna is the active force of integral character, the center of gravity at the heart of the combined energies of the various causes and conditions that makes a human not only human, but that particular human. It is the “clear seeing” (prajna) that is the “fashioner” of a universe and the fashioner of a self that each human calls “myself.” In this sense, prajna is the working force that facilitates and informs the meaning and significance of the individual human being’s characteristic approach to and interaction with their experience of the world.

Shakyamuni Buddha once said in verse:

If any people give voice to this Discourse
Then they will surely be able to see Me.
But to express It for the sake of even one person
Is indeed something difficult for them to do.

So it follows from this that to be able to express the Dharma is to see Shakyamuni Buddha because, when ‘such a one’ comes to see ‘Me’, he is Shakyamuni Buddha.
Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Iigi, Hubert Nearman

Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching [feeling], and thinking are the six streams that constitute human experience (thus, existence). These never-ceasing, ever-advancing streams are neither fixed, nor prearranged in particular forms or patterns; they are the random, chaotic, ceaseless manifestation of the one mind, the all inclusive realm of reality, the wholeness of existence-time common to all things and beings. This common reality is Buddha nature/mu-Buddha nature (more on this later); owl prajna actualizes it as an owl and an owl realm, tiger prajna as a tiger and a tiger realm, human prajna as a self and a universe.

The experience of this actualization by owls and tigers is known only to owls and tigers. For humans, however, this experience can only occur in one of two ways, actively or passively. Whether actively or passively all humans, being innately human, actualize a universe and a self from (“bits and pieces”) of the six streams of human experience. Active actualization is consciously directed prajna, intentionally enacted; passive actualization is the random, automatically functioning of prajna, unconscious and haphazard.

The Great Way that Buddha after Buddha has Transmitted has continued on without interruption, and the merits of training that Ancestor after Ancestor has revealed have spread far and wide…

At the same time, the inborn abilities of human beings are of many kinds. For instance, there are those who innately know what life really is. Once born, they free themselves from the sufferings and delusions of living. That is, through their own bodily existence they thoroughly master what life really is, beginning, middle, and end. And there are those who realize the Truth through learning. They undertake study and ultimately master themselves. In other words, they thoroughly exhaust the skin and flesh, bones and marrow of learning. And there are those who know what Buddha is. They go beyond those who realize the Truth through living and those who realize the Truth through learning. They transcend the bounds of self and other, are unbounded in the here and now, and are beyond having opinions when it comes to knowing self and other. That is to say, they have a knowledge that has no teacher. They are not dependent on a good spiritual friend, nor on Scriptural writings, nor on the nature of things, nor on external forms; they do not try to open up and turn themselves around, nor do they try to be interdependent with others; rather, they are completely transparent, with nothing hidden. Of these various types, do not conclude that one is smart and another dull. Each type fully manifests the merits from their training.

As a consequence, you would do well to explore through your training whether there are any beings, sentient or non-sentient, who cannot come to know the Truth simply by living their daily life. Any who have come to know the Truth through living life will have come to realize that Truth as the result of their living an everyday life. Once they have awakened to the Truth, they will reveal It in their everyday lives as they do their training and practice throughout their lives. Thus, the Buddhas and Ancestors, who are already Trainers and Tamers of Human Beings, have come to be called ‘Those who have fully realized what life really is’ because They have fully grasped what realization means. It will be your realization of what life is that leads you to partake of the great realization, because it will manifest from your study of Their realization.
Shobogenzo, Daigo, Hubert Nearman

If you are really doing your exploring through your training, whether by following the Scriptures or by following your spiritual friend, you will ultimately realize the Truth by yourself, independent of your Master. Realizing the Truth by oneself independent of one’s Master is the functioning of one’s True Nature. And even so, if you are inherently keen, you will still need to call upon a Master and inquire of the Way. And even if you are not inherently keen, you will still need to do your utmost in practicing the Way. But who among you is not inherently keen? Each one of you follows both the Scriptures and the advice of a good friend in order to arrive at the enlightenment which is the fruit of Buddhahood. Keep in mind that inherent keenness means that when you encounter the Scriptures or come face-to-face with a spiritual friend, you are encountering the meditative state of your True Nature, and that when you encounter the meditative state of your True Nature, you attain the meditative state of the True Nature of all things. It is our tapping into the wisdom from our previous lives, attaining the three illuminations, and awakening to fully perfected enlightenment. Coming face-to-face with our inherent keenness, we study it; coming face-to-face with the wisdom that goes beyond having a Master and that is inherent within us, we straightforwardly Transmit it. If we had no inherent keenness, then even though we came face-to-face with the Scriptures and a spiritual friend, we could not hear what the True Nature of all things is, nor could we realize It. The Great Truth is not a principle like that of someone drinking water to know for himself whether it is warm or cool.

Even were we to talk or converse as if we lacked True Nature, or were to work or act as if we lacked True Nature, this too would only be True Nature manifesting Itself. The passing of days and months of immeasurable eons past has been the passing of the True Nature of all things. And it is just the same for the present and the future. We may take the measure of our body and mind to be just the measure of our body and mind, not recognizing them as an aspect of our True Nature, but this way of thinking about them is also a function of our True Nature. Or we may take the measure of our body and mind not to be a true measure of our body and mind, while still not recognizing them as an aspect of our True Nature, but this way of thinking about them is likewise a function of our True Nature. Whatever we may consider or not consider them to be, in either case they are an aspect of our True Nature. To think that the ‘Nature’ in ‘True Nature’ means that water does not flow and that trees do not flourish and then wither away is a non-Buddhist view.

Shakyamuni Buddha once said, “The appearance of each thought and thing is just as it is, and the nature of each thought and thing is likewise just as it is.”
Shobogenzo, Hossho, Hubert Nearman

Meditation Master Setcho Juken once said, “The two Masters—Joshu and Bokushu—are examples of what it means to be an Old Buddha.” Accordingly, the words of Old Buddhas are Their awakened experience of Buddha Dharma and Their own personal ways of putting the Matter which They uttered in the past. Great Master Seppo Shinkaku once exclaimed, “Joshu, the Old Buddha!” A previous Ancestor of the Buddha also praised Joshu by eulogizing him as an Old Buddha, and a later Ancestor of the Buddha eulogized him as an Old Buddha as well. Obviously, they are saying that he is an Old Buddha who has gone beyond any spiritually awakened state attained by others of the past or present.
Shobogenzo, katto, Hubert Nearman


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