Sunday, December 25, 2011

Definite Mysteries and Particular Unknowns

Definite Mysteries and Particular Unknowns

In contrast to the assertions of some claiming to represent Zen, Dogen vehemently denied all notions of Buddha-nature (i.e. reality) as being something mysterious, ineffable, or inexpressible. When these terms do apply to Dogen’s Zen, they apply to definite mysteries, particular unknowns, and specific inexpressible experiences. For Dogen, definite, particular, and specific, applied to all dharmas, thus his constant refrain, “Nothing in the whole universe is concealed.”

Throughout Shobogenzo, Dogen constantly emphasizes that reality is only and always actual manifest particulars, real specific things or events, that is - “all dharmas are real form” - for example:

The realization of the Buddhist patriarchs is perfectly realized real form. Real form is all dharmas. All dharmas are forms as they are, natures as they are, body as it is, the mind as it is, the world as it is, clouds and rain as they are, walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, as they are; sorrow and joy, movement and stillness, as they are; a staff and a whisk, as they are; a twirling flower and a smiling face, as they are; succession of the Dharma and affirmation, as they are; learning in practice and pursuing the truth, as they are; the constancy of pines and the integrity of bamboos, as they are.

Shobogenzo, Shoho-Jisso, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Dogen frequently speaks of “walls, fences, tiles, and pebbles” in acknowledging the fact that Buddha (mind) exists nowhere but in the very miscellany of the things (dharmas) populating the here and now of every moment of our existence. In his best known meditation treatise, Fukanzazengi, Dogen cites some of the various forms (dharmas) of Buddha frequently mentioned in the classic Zen records as having awakened practitioners:

Moreover, the changing of the moment, through the means of a finger, a pole, a needle, or a wooden clapper; and the experience of the state, through the manifestation of a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout, can never be understood by thinking and discrimination.

~Dogen, Fukanzazengi

Many Zen students will recognize the “means of a finger” from the koan of Zen master Gutei, “a needle” from the story of Kanadeva meeting Nagarjuna, the “staff” of Teshan, and the “shout” of Rinzai. The specific particularity in which the Buddha is manifest (a finger, a pole, a whisk, etc.) is characteristic of Zen’s universal inclusivity and nondiscrimination – all dharmas are equal in status, value, significance, for each is an essential person of Buddha-nature, an integral form of Shakyamuni Buddha, an image of truth.


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