Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Authentic Buddha Dharma - Which Zen is Zen? Part 2

The Authentic Buddha Dharma – Which Zen is Zen? Part 2
Dogen’s decision to express the ‘right view’ concerning the significance of how and why the ‘one-vehicle’ or authentic Buddha Dharma came to be identified with notion that ‘Zen’ (Chinese; ch’an, Indian; dhyana) was a distinct school or sect of Buddhism was certainly not an arbitrary or spur-of-the-moment event. According to the journal that is supposed to represent the record of Dogen’s time in China studying under Master Ju-ching, this was a question that raised serious concerns for Dogen personally. For example, in one of his evidently early interviews with his teacher (prior to Dogen’s own awakening experience, also recorded in this journal), we read:
[Dogen] asked: ‘If the Great Way of all the buddhas and patriarchs cannot be confined to one narrow corner, why do we insist on calling it the Ch’an School?’
Ju-ching replied: ‘We must not arbitrarily call the Great Way of the buddhas and patriarchs the Ch’an School. The Ch’an School is a false name that is lamentable indeed. It is the name of bald-headed little beasts have been using. All the ancient virtuous ones of the past knew this. Have you ever read Shih-men lin-chien lu?’
Dogen replied: ‘I have not yet read the book.’
Ju-ching said: ‘If you read through it once, it will be sufficient. The purport of the book is correct.
Hokyo-ki, Dogen’s Formative Years in China, Takashi James Kodera
This citation nicely brings us to the next section of the Shobogenzo, Butsudo fascicle – the fascicle we have been discussing wherein Dogen presents his most comprehensive view of the matter. For the next section begins with a quote from the text that Ju-ching advised Dogen to read on the subject; the Shih-men lin-chien lu (Sekimon’s Rinkanroku).
Sekimon’s Rinkanroku says:
Bodhidharma first went from the land of the Liang dynasty to the land of the Wei dynasty. He passed along the foot of Suzan Mountain and rested his staff at Shorin [Temple]. He just sat in stillness facing the wall, and only that—he was not learning Zen meditation. He continued his for a long time but no one could understand the reason, and so they saw Bodhidharma as training in Zen meditation. Now, dhyana is only one of many practices: how could it be all there was to the Saint? Yet on the basis of this [misunderstanding] the chroniclers of that time subsequently listed him among those who were learning Zen meditation: they grouped him alongside people like withered trees and dead ash. Nevertheless, the Saint did not stop at dhyana; and at the same time, of course, he did not go against dhyana—just as the art of divination emerges from yin and yang without going against yin and yang.
Shobogenzo, Butsudo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Now, immediately following his quotation of this record, Dogen comments:
Calling him the twenty-eighth patriarch is on the basis that [Maha]kasyapa is the first patriarch. Counting from Vipasyin Buddha, he is the thirty-fifth patriarch. The Seven Buddhas’ and twenty-eight patriarchs’ experience of the truth should not necessarily be limited to dhyana. Therefore the master of the past says, “Dhyana is only one of many practices; how could it be all there was to the Saint?” This master of the past has seen a little of people and has entered the inner sanctum of the ancestral patriarchs, and so he has these words. Throughout the great kingdom of Song these days [such a person] might be difficult to find and might hardly exist at all. Even if [the important thing is] dhyana we should never use the name “Zen sect.” Still more, dhyana is never the whole importance of the Buddha-Dharma. Those who, nevertheless, willfully call the great truth that is authentically transmitted from buddha to buddha “the Zen sect” have never seen the Buddha’s truth even in a dream, have never heard it even in a dream, and have never received its transmission even in a dream. Do not concede that the Buddha-Dharma might even exist among people who claim to be “the Zen sect.” Who has invented the name “Zen sect”? None of the buddhas and ancestral masters has ever used the name “Zen sect.” Remember, the name “Zen sect” has been devised by demons and devils. People who have called themselves a name used by demons and devils may themselves be a band of demons; they are not the children and grandchildren of the Buddhist patriarchs.
Shobogenzo, Butsudo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Following Dogen’s presentation of the significance of the fallacious view, he presents a clear view of what he regards to be the accurate expression of Buddhist mythology:
The World-honored One, before an assembly of millions on Vulture Peak, picks up an uḍumbara flower and winks. The assembly is totally silent. Only the face of Venerable Mahakasyapa breaks into a smile. The World-honored One says, “I have the right Dharma-eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana; along with the saṃghaṭi robe, I transmit them to Mahakasyapa. The World-honored One’s transmission to Mahakasyapa is “I have the right Dharma-eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana.” In addition to this there is no “I have the Zen sect and I transmit it to Mahakasyapa.” He says “along with the saṃghaṭi robe;” he does not say “along with the Zen sect.” Thus, the name “Zen sect” is never heard while the World-honored One is in the world.
Shobogenzo, Butsudo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
To Be Continued…

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Authentic Buddha Dharma – Which Zen is Zen? Part 1

The Authentic Buddha Dharma – Which Zen is Zen? Part 1
Within the contemporary Zen community the term ‘Zen,’ when used as a designation for the 1500 year old tradition known as Zen Buddhism, is frequently used in ways that hardly suggest there is much universal agreement about what Zen Buddhism is. That is, while it is usually pretty clear that the term Zen is supposed to designate authentic Buddhism (the Buddha Dharma, Buddha Tao, or Buddha Way), the many various speakers and writers that identify themselves as Zen adherents or representatives often portray widely divergent versions of Zen doctrine and methodology. While it would be an exercise in futility to make any attempt to sort out all the variations of contemporary Zen in order to come to some clear vision as to ‘authentic Zen,’ we can at least get a fairly good vision of what it is that the Zen master Eihei Dogen regarded as the authentic Buddha Dharma.
In 1243 – at the very peak of his creative powers – Dogen wrote Butsudo (Butsu; Buddha, do [tao]; way, truth, path), a fairly long fascicle of Shobogenzo presenting a clear account of his own view of the matter. The Butsudo fascicle (which Nishijima & Cross translate asThe Buddhist Truth”) begins with a quote by the sixth [Zen] ancestor Huineng (Sokei) followed by comments from Dogen thus:
The eternal buddha Sokei on one occasion preaches to the assembly, “From Eno to the Seven Buddhas there are forty patriarchs.” When we investigate these words, from the Seven Buddhas to Eno are forty buddhas. When we count the buddhas and the patriarchs, we count them like this. When we count them like this, the Seven Buddhas are seven patriarchs, and the thirty-three patriarchs are thirty-three buddhas. Sokei’s intention is like this. This is the right and traditional instruction of the Buddha. Only the rightful successors of the authentic transmission have received the authentic transmission of this counting method. From Sakyamuni Buddha to Sokei there are thirty-four patriarchs. Each of the transmissions between these Buddhist patriarchs is like Kasyapa meeting the Tathagata and like the Tathagata getting Kasyapa. Just as Sakyamuni Buddha learns in practice under Kasyapa Buddha, each teacher and disciple exists in the present. Therefore, the right Dharma-eye treasury has been personally transmitted from rightful successor to rightful successor, and the true life of the Buddha-Dharma is nothing other than this authentic transmission. The Buddha-Dharma, because it is authentically transmitted like this, is perfectly legitimate in its transmission. This being so, the virtues and the pivotal essence of the Buddha’s truth have been faultlessly provided. They have been transmitted from India in the west to the Eastern Lands, a hundred thousand and eight miles, and they have been transmitted from the time when the Buddha was in the world until today, more than two thousand years. People who do not learn this truth in practice speak randomly and mistakenly. They randomly call the right Dharma-eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana that have been authentically transmitted by the Buddhist patriarchs “the Zen sect”; they call the ancestral master “the Zen patriarch”; they call practitioners “Zen students” or “students of dhyana”; and some of them call themselves “the Zen schools.” These are all twigs and leaves rooted in a distorted view. Those who randomly call themselves by the name “Zen sect,” which has never existed in India in the west or in the Eastern Lands, from the past to the present, are demons out to destroy the Buddha’s truth. They are the Buddhist patriarchs’ uninvited enemies.
Shobogenzo, Butsudo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Dogen’s comments here are probably clear enough – “This is the right and traditional instruction of the Buddha” – that is, the issue at hand here is what he regards as authentic Zen, or the genuine Buddha Dharma. Before going on to the next section however, it is worth emphasizing the importance of carefully considering the point that Dogen brings into relief with his expression that, “Just as Sakyamuni Buddha learns in practice under Kasyapa Buddha, each teacher and disciple exists in the present.” In Kazuaki Tanahashi translation of Butsudo, “This being so, the function, the essence, of the buddha way, is present with nothing lacking.” The point to get at is that whatever authentic Zen is, it (the function, the essence, each teacher and disciple, etc.) exists here-now (“in the present”, “is present with nothing lacking”).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Once The Bodhi Mind is Established

The Continuous Actualization of the Enlightened Mind

Expressions of truth are actualized by the skillful and creative application of truth via the subjective energy and volition of the practitioner. Obviously, such skill could hardly be cultivated and developed by turning away or detaching from the world. As a Buddhist master, Dogen understood and taught that authentic practice-enlightenment demanded practitioners to engage in a sustained effort to perceive and comprehend the truth in actual experience by engaging intentional, systematic training to activate, develop, cultivate, and exercise the human capacities for perception, cognition, and critical discernment. Authentic expressions of truth, being real dharmas, are and must be eternal forms (i.e. real instances of existence-time). As it is the nature of human experience to ceaselessly advance - continuously take-up and cast-off all objects of consciousness (sights, sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations, and thoughts) - without a moment’s rest, expressions of truth, which present and actualize reality, can only be executed underway, so to speak.

The situation of this supreme truth of bodhi is such that even the whole universe in ten directions is just a small part of the supreme truth of bodhi: it may be that the truth of bodhi abounds beyond the universe. We ourselves are tools that it possesses within this universe in ten directions. How do we know that it exists? We know it is so because the body and the mind both appear in the universe, yet neither is ourself. The body, already, is not “I.” Its life moves on through days and months, and we cannot stop it even for an instant. Where have the red faces [of our youth] gone? When we look for them, they have vanished without a trace. When we reflect carefully, there are many things in the past that we will never meet again. The sincere mind, too, does not stop, but goes and comes moment by moment. Although the state of sincerity does exist, it is not something that lingers in the vicinity of the personal self. Even so, there is something that, in the limitlessness, establishes the [bodhi-]mind. Once this mind is established, abandoning our former playthings we hope to hear what we have not heard before and we seek to experience what we have not experienced before: this is not solely of our own doing. Remember, it happens like this because we are “people who are it.”

Shobogenzo, Inmo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross [brackets in the original]

As actual forms of existence-time, expressions of truth (real dharmas) demonstrate the fallacy of abstract speculation; the insubstantial nature of theoretical doctrines is clearly exposed in direct experiential realization – the vague “mysterious” realms and “unknown” forces suggested by mystical mumbo jumbo simply lose all significance in the living reality of personal experience. Expressions of truth are the transmission of prajna (enlightened wisdom) from the whole body-mind to the whole body-mind. Where knowledge of truth is acquired by sustained effort in study, wisdom is the gradual, organic expansion of human normality actualized through the illumination of that truth in actual practice-enlightenment; the former is accessed via the memory, the later is the actualized integral character of the individual practitioner.
Please treasure yourself.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Zazen True and False - The Continuous Actualization of Sole-Sitting

Continuous Actualization of Sole-Sitting – The Keystone of Zen

To clearly see is to use the Dharma-Eye, sometimes called the “eye to read scriptures.” To use the Dharma-Eye it must first be opened, and thereafter it must be skillfully developed and continuously actualized; this ongoing development and actualization is the keystone of authentic Zen practice and enlightenment, it is the art of Zen that Dogen calls sole-sitting (shikantaza, zazen-only). Once the Dharma-Eye is active, Zen practice (zazen-only) is actively developed and expanded to become inclusive not only of meditation, studying sutras, training with koans, etc., but every aspect of life. Going to work, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, and eating meals is Zen practice (just sitting). Shobogenzo provides detailed examples on the zazen of cooking, making robes, teeth cleaning, and even using the toilet. When the True Dharma-Eye is open, these are not the mundane tasks of cooking and cleaning, but the normal mind of the Tao, the authentic practice-enlightenment of Zen.


Once we find the Way that arrives at Buddha, we leave the area of the common person immediately. The people that have mastered this Way are few.

Himitsu Shobogenzo, Bustu-kojo-no-ji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


From the perspective of Zen, the opening of the Dharma-Eye is simultaneous with the Zen student becoming a Zen practitioner. An authentic Zen practitioner, by definition, solely practices Zen. In a very real sense, for the Zen practitioner there is no “Zen practice” (zazen; meditation) and therefore nothing other than “Zen practice.”
Regardless of what “shikantaza” or “just sitting” might have come to be defined or interpreted as being by various groups and individuals following Dogen’s existence-time, the nature of the “just sitting” presented by Shobogenzo has nothing to do with the kind of sitting that is thought of, spoken about, or performed in the “area of the common person.” Indeed, it is inevitable that the vast majority of ideas, definitions, explanations, and interpretations of shikantaza are distortions and misrepresentations, for “The people that have mastered this Way are few.”


There will be those who dote on what has passed and try to mimic that, and there may even be demons who slander those above them and refuse to learn from them. Do not be attracted to either type or feel resentment towards either. Why do I say not to feel sorry for them or resent them? Because it is said that people who recognize the three poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion to be what they are, are rare enough, so there is no need to feel resentment towards those who do not. Even more importantly, you should not lose sight of the intention that arose when you first took delight in seeking the Way of the Buddhas. It is said that when we first give rise to this intention, we are not seeking the Dharma so that others will praise us, but are discarding thoughts of fame and gain. Without seeking fame or gain, we should simply be persons who hold to the true course of realizing the Way, never concerning ourselves with expectations of recognition or support from rulers or other officials.


Even though this is the ideal, there are some people today who, alas, are devoid of any fundamental spiritual aspirations, having no spiritual goal that they seek, and are not the least concerned over their delusive entanglements with both ordinary people and those in lofty positions.

Shobogenzo, Keisei Sanshoku, Hubert Nearman


Leaving pity and resentment aside, then, let us dive right into Shobogenzo’s own presentation of what “shikantaza” or “just sitting” truly is. First, the term “shikan” (or shikantaza) that is often translated as “just” as in “just sitting” (shikan; just, taza; sitting) does not denote “merely,” or “simply,” but rather, “solely,” “totally,” “wholly.” Here we want to mention a point that is worth noticing; “shikan” is a homophone of “chih kuan” (stopping and seeing, meditation and prajna, samadhi and insight), a central notion of Tendai Buddhism, the actual tradition into which Dogen was initially ordained and which remained a central influence throughout his lifetime. The Tendai notion of “chih-kuan” presents “solely, wholly, etc.” in a specifically nondual manner – Tendai expressions on “stopping and seeing” (chih-kuan) emphasize  the unity of stopping-and-seeing so that stopping is stopping/seeing and seeing is stopping/seeing. The notion that Dogen intentionally employs the term “shikan” in some context of the significance of “chi-kuan” has been noticed and discussed in the scholarly community (e.g. Kodera, Heine) but has been largely dismissed as an interesting by unverifiable possibility. In view of Dogen’s characteristic use of homophonic language, and the fact that he was intimately familiar with the connotations of both terms it would seem that the intentional “double meaning” of “shikan” should be regarded as “given” and the notion it was unintended considered unlikely.


In any case, zazen is presented by Shobogenzo as the archetype of authentic practice-enlightenment itself. While Zen practice-enlightenment is only and always portrayed by Shobogenzo as something specific and particular – never as something vague or general – it is definitely not presented as being limited or confined to a specific form or particular activity. True, the only actual instances of practice-enlightenment that has or ever will manifest, is the practice-enlightenment of particular Zen practitioners at specific locations-times, but the form (hence, essence) of those instances are not in any way restricted to particular structures or activities. Particular Zen practitioners and actual instances of Zen practice-enlightenment are not two (nondual); Zen practice-enlightenment is solely manifest by and as Zen practitioners, Zen practitioners are solely manifest by and as Zen practice-enlightenment. This truth is archetypally embodied and expressed in Shobogenzo as “zazen,” described as “zazen-only” (shikantaza; solely sitting), and methodologically presented and transmitted as “nonthinking.”
As an archetypal image, zazen presents (makes present) Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment on the “immovable spot” or “Bodhi-Seat.” The Bodhi-Seat is the instance of existence-time wherein the Buddha awakens; the moment-event of Buddhism’s supreme of the supreme, archetypally presented by the image of Buddha sitting upright in the lotus posture at the location-time of his enlightenment beneath the Bodhi Tree.
Described and explained as zazen-only (shikantaza), zazen is revealed as the “axis mundi,” the still point at the center of the Dharma-Wheel wherein the myriad dharmas ceaselessly rise and set in and as the continuous advance of the universe into novelty. Zazen-only demonstrates how the “three modes of conduct” (thoughts, words, and deeds) are wholly grounded in, at, and as the immovable spot; each and all the myriad dharmas are solely-seated in, at, and as this here-now of existence-time.
Methodologically presented and transmitted as nonthinking, zazen is made accessible for the liberation of all beings as the Buddha-Dharma itself; the “Great Vehicle” or “One Vehicle” (Mahayana or Ekayana) that is the essence of Zen. The “essence of Zen” being nondual with the “form of Zen,” is thus nothing more or less than Zen’s phenomenal expression in and as existence-time. As a spatial-temporal essence/form, the Zen is accessed by humans in the same manner and through the same capacities humans access any other manifest reality; the normal capacities of language, thinking, and reason. In Shobogenzo these capacities are most comprehensively treated by the vision of “nonthinking,” creatively presented as a unification and transcendence of “thinking” and “not-thinking.”
Thus, in Shobogenzo to engage in zazen is to be a Zen practitioner and to be a Zen practitioner is to engage in zazen. To be a Zen practitioner or engage in zazen is to be solely seated here-now; fully and totally enacting and being enacted in and as the myriad dharmas, in and as every thought, word, and deed.
It is not difficult to see that this vision of zazen is nothing more or less than the practical application of the principles of nonduality. For one that has verified that form is emptiness, all forms are empty; this cup is empty, this speech is empty, this boat race is empty – thus each particular dharma is solely-empty. Likewise, to verify the Buddha-nature of self (thus, of self/other), is to verify the Buddha-nature of all thoughts, words, and deeds; this memory is self, this utterance is self, this walking is self – each thought, word, and deed is solely-self (or solely Buddha). As the archetypal image of Zen practice-enlightenment, zazen is the embodiment of Zen practice-enlightenment, thus to be a Zen practitioner is to solely embody to be solely embodied as zazen.
In this sense, to be a Zen practitioner is to actualize zazen – to actualize anything other than zazen is not to be a Zen practitioner. Hence, a genuine practitioner is “solely seated” in and as existence-time here-now. Zen practice-enlightenment is, as it is, “solely sitting.”
From the Zen perspective it would be dualistic to regard practice-enlightenment as a distinct, independent reality; a Zen practitioner cannot “sit in zazen” and “study sutras,” or “sit in zazen” and “train with koans,” etc., for a Zen practitioner “solely sits” or “just sits.” As authentic practice-enlightenment is just sitting; any and all of a Zen practitioner’s thoughts, words, and deeds are just sitting. Zen practitioners do not teach, work, eat, sleep, and solely sit – teaching, working, eating, sleeping are solely sitting. All dharmas are solely emptiness; self and other are solely Buddha-nature; and the thoughts, words, and deeds of Zen practitioners are solely sitting.
For the Zen practitioner, then, there is sitting that is solely sitting and there is walking that is solely sitting; sitting is not walking and walking is not sitting, but both sitting and walking are solely sitting, solely zazen. The thinking of a Zen practitioner is not the speaking or acting of a Zen practitioner, but the thinking, speaking, and acting of a Zen practitioner is solely sitting, zazen-only.


Hence, there is the mind’s just sitting there, which is not the same as the body’s just sitting there. And there is the body’s just sitting there, which is not the same as the mind’s just sitting. There is ‘just sitting there with body and mind having dropped off’, which is not the same as ‘just sitting in order to drop off body and mind’. To have already realized such a state is the perfect oneness of practice and understanding that the Buddhas and Ancestors have experienced. Maintain and safeguard your mind’s functions of remembering, considering, and reflecting. Thoroughly explore through your training what mind, intent, and consciousness truly are.

Shobogenzo, Zammai-ō Zammai, Hubert Nearman


Distorted, superficial, and superstitious notions concerning Dogen’s teachings on zazen-only abound in the contemporary Zen community. The majority of these distortions can be remedied by simply learning to appreciate the difference between metaphorical or mythopoeic language and the language of literal description, coupled with clear grasp of the basic principles of Buddhist nonduality. Many factors, including superficial views of emptiness and imitators attempting to cash in on the success of genuine Zen, have contributed to simplistic notions of seated meditation (zazen) over the course of Zen’s history. The fallacious notions of zazen embraced today are fundamentally the same as those that have dogged Zen throughout its history.
The most common fallacies combine elements of simplification and superstition; simplifications portraying zazen literally, as “sitting” (the physical posture of sitting), and superstitions about zazen (the simplistic literal sense) being the only element necessary to realize Zen liberation. Not infrequently it is even suggested that “just sitting” (in the literal sense) is enlightenment itself. Commonly dressed up in trite slogans about “no goals,” “nothing special,” “just this,” etc., zazen - the very keystone of Zen practice-enlightenment - is pawned off as a simple arrangement of the body-mind in a proscribed posture of physical sitting. Shobogenzo asserts what common sense already suggests concerning such notions:


Even if some appear to understand physical sitting to be what the Buddha taught, they have not yet grasped that ‘sitting there’ means “Just sit there!”

Shobogenzo, Zammai-ō Zammai, Hubert Nearman


Despite Shobogenzo’s clear instructions, the classical Zen teachings, and common sense however, such notions continue to be accepted and applied by groups and individuals far and wide. Routinely arranging their body-mind in an upright, cross-legged sitting posture for measured periods of time, such groups and individuals honestly believe they are enacting “what the Buddha taught.” This shallow mimicry of the Buddha’s enlightenment is, in their view, the “just sitting” that Dogen taught. 
Of course, there is nothing wrong, or even unusual about erroneous understandings and false views; everyone has them, and even sages are compelled to continuously let go of old views in order to advance, expand, and clarify their understanding and skill. Sages know enough about stagnation and petrifaction to avoid becoming attached to any manner of fixed view; ego-centricity, spiritual pride, and sectarian allegiance however, can be extremely powerful obstacles for even the sincerest of genuine aspirants. 
As noted, promoters of distorted versions of Dogen’s “zazen” commonly proceed as if Zen expressions are meant to be understood in the literal sense of descriptive language rather than the mythopoeic language common to all sacred literature (as well as true art). To support and impress the notion that “just sitting” literally means to just sit in the ordinary physical sense, and that this “activity” is the only thing necessary for actualizing authentic practice-realization, proponents commonly cite cherry-picked phrases from Dogen’s voluminous writings. 
Parenthetically speaking two points are worth mention; in direct contradiction to their insistence on a “literal” reading of zazen, etc., these same advocates frequently insist on the “metaphorical” reading of numerous expressions in Dogen’s writings which they contend "actually mean" the literal performance of zazen. Second, such advocates typically assume a very liberal tolerance for their own biases while imposing strict constraints on the contentions of others; if, for example, one of their “supporting quotes" from Dogen is contested by an apparently contradictory quote from a different passage in Dogen’s work, the latter is likely to by dismissed as “out of context,” while the former is simply repeated as if its context were self-evident.
In general, then, the basic fallacy is that Dogen taught a unique style of Zen (i.e. Japanese Soto Zen) advocating a single method practice (i.e. zazen-only) essentially consisting of the literal performance of physically sitting still, commonly portrayed as being accompanied with a particularly “detached” mental attitude. The physical aspects described are technically equivalent to the basic meditation techniques common to most Buddhist traditions; sitting upright in the lotus (or half-lotus) position (a crossed-legged sitting posture). The mental aspect or attitude advocated is often described (again, in literal terms) as a kind of intentionally “goalless,” “objectless,” or “detached” state of mind. When pressed to elaborate, proponents of such notions tend to explain “goalless” or “objectless” in negative or apophatic terms; as meaning the abstention or avoidance of utilizing traditional Buddhist techniques such as mindfulness of Buddha, the body, mind, breath, koans, scriptures, etc. – zazen, they contend, is literally “just sitting”  with no object in mind, maintaining a detached but focused awareness wherein thoughts, words, and deeds, if noticed at all, are simply to be noted and “let go of” without arousing questions or second thoughts.
This, then, or something similar, is supposed to by Dogen’s supreme method; so effective no other practice is essential for authentic Zen actualization; there is literally no need to offer incense, bow, chant, confess, read sutras, or perform any other traditional or nontraditional practice. To support such notions, the most frequently quoted “authoritative” passage comes from an early writing of Dogen titled, Bendowa:


After the initial meeting with a [good] counselor we never again need to burn incense, to do prostrations, to recite Buddha’s name, to practice confession, or to read sutras. Just sit and get the state that is free of body and mind. If a human being, even for a single moment, manifests the Buddha’s posture in the three forms of conduct, while [that person] sits up straight in samādhi, the entire world of Dharma assumes the Buddha’s posture and the whole of space becomes the state of realization.

Bendowa, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


First, how does one that takes Dogen’s expressions literally go about manifesting “the three forms of conduct (thinking, speech, and action), while [that person] sits up straight in samadhi…”? Fortunately, Dogen was a Zen master not a delusional zealot, thus his language, like that of all the great sages, is mythical, not historical, mythopoeic not biographic – Shobogenzo is an expression of human truth, not an "objective" dissertation. If Dogen had truly believed practice-enlightenment consisted in the performance of a particular physical posture/mental attitude, he would not have dedicated most of his time and energy writing and teaching otherwise. Fortunately, Dogen understood, acknowledged, and taught that the real form of zazen-only was the myriad dharmas:


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


Apparently the expression conveying the true nature of zazen-only presented in Bendowa had already been misconstrued as a literal description or formula of “Zen practice” rather than a mythopoeic expression of truth in Dogen’s own day. For in the Bukkyo fascicle of Shobogenzo, written only about a decade after Bendowa, Dogen again brought the expression out - only this time he did so in a manner that could never mistakenly be superficially misrepresented as a merely formal description of practice.


My late master constantly said, “In my order, we do not rely on burning incense, doing prostrations, reciting names of buddhas, practicing confession, or reading sutras. Just sit, direct your energy into pursuing the truth, and get free of body and mind.”


Few people clearly understand an expression like this. Why? Because to call “reading sutras” “reading sutras” is to debase it, and not to call it “reading sutras” is to be perverse. “You are not allowed to talk and not allowed to be mute: say something at once! Say something at once!” We should learn this truth in practice. Because this principle [of reading sutras] exists, a man of old has said, “To read sutras we must be equipped with the eyes of reading sutras.”

Shobogenzo, Bukkyo, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross


Obviously, if this expression was meant literally, more than a “Few people” would have clearly understood it. Calling it “reading sutras” debases it because it reduces it to literalism, cutting it out of the nondual reality of its existent form/essence; not calling it “reading sutras” is perverse because it fails to discern the truth of its inherent uniqueness. For the “few” that clearly understand, “reading sutras,”  along with offering incense, bowing, chanting, and confessing, is solely-sitting.
In any case, to clearly understand just sitting, reading sutras, or any other aspect of the Buddha Dharma, we must activate the Dharma-Eye. To read sutras, the ordinary eyes of literal description are simply not the appropriate tools; we must be equipped with the eyes of reading sutras.
Whenever “zazen” (or just sitting etc.) is treated or regarded as a separate activity or distinct action, as one activity among others (e.g. working, reading, eating, etc.), it is not the zazen-only illumined and presented by Shobogenzo. As the formal practice of seated meditation, zazen is simply one form of activity among many . As the actualization of the universe (i.e. genjokoan), however, zazen is not only wholly inclusive of “the three forms of human conduct” (thinking, speech, and action), it is Total Existence itself, the myriad dharmas as they are.


In this way, you need to thoroughly explore through your training the thousands of aspects, nay, the hundreds of thousands of aspects of just sitting.

Shobogenzo, Zammai-ō Zammai, Hubert Nearman

Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The True Dharma-Eye Treaurury (Shobogenzo) 65 Gems From Dogen

Nils - Happy 65th


65 Gems From the True Dharma-Eye Treaurury



1.   When this principle is preached and realized, it is said that “matter is just the immaterial” and the immaterial is just matter. Matter is matter, the immaterial is the immaterial. They are hundreds of things, and myriad phenomena.

Shōbōgenzō Maka-hannya-haramitsu


2.   And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds while hated, flourish.

Shōbōgenzō Genjō-kōan


3.   Life is an instantaneous situation, and death is also an instantaneous situation.

Shōbōgenzō Genjō-kōan


4.   Realization is the state of ambiguity itself.

Shōbōgenzō Genjō-kōan


5.   The sun’s face appears together with the sun’s face, and the moon’s face appears together with the moon’s face.

Shōbōgenzō Ikka-no-myōju


6.   When stupid people hear talk of “mind here and now is buddha,” they interpret that ordinary beings’ intellect and sense perception, which have never established the bodhi-mind, are just buddha.

Shōbōgenzō Soku-shin-ze-butsu


7.   The Dharma is rarely met.

Shōbōgenzō Raihai-tokuzui


8.   This being so, we should hope that even trees and stones might preach to us, and we should request that even fields and villages might preach to us. We should question outdoor pillars, and we should investigate even fences and walls.

Shōbōgenzō Raihai-tokuzui


9.   A monk asks Zen Master Chōsha [Kei]shin, “How can we make mountains, rivers, and the earth belong to ourselves?” The master says, “How can we make ourselves belong to mountains, rivers, and the earth?” This says that ourselves are naturally ourselves, and even though ourselves are mountains, rivers, and the earth, we should never be restricted by belonging.

Shōbōgenzō Keisei-sanshiki


10.                Right and wrong are time; time is not right or wrong. Right and wrong are the Dharma; the Dharma is not right or wrong.

Shōbōgenzō Shoaku-makusa


11.                We put our self in order, and see [the resulting state] as the whole universe.

Shōbōgenzō Uji


12.                Let us pause to reflect whether or not any of the whole of existence or any of the whole universe has leaked away from the present moment of time.

Shōbōgenzō Uji


13.                The mountains and water of the present are the realization of the words of eternal buddhas.

Shōbōgenzō Sansuigyō


14.                At the present time in the great kingdom of Song, there is a group of unreliable fellows who have now formed such a crowd that they cannot be beaten by a few real [people].

Shōbōgenzō Sansuigyō


15.                The Buddha says, “All dharmas are ultimately liberated; they are without an abode.” Remember, although they are in the state of liberation, without any bonds, all dharmas are abiding in place.

Shōbōgenzō Sansuigyō


16.                The present is the reality85 as it is of the real form, the real nature, the real body, the real energy, the real causes, and the real effects of the Flower of Dharma turning.

Shōbōgenzō Hokke-ten-hokke


17.                This being so, the present is the “form as it is” of the state of experience, and even “alarm, doubt, and fear” are nothing other than reality as it is.

Shōbōgenzō Hokke-ten-hokke


18.                When we carefully consider this story of the meeting between the old woman and Tokusan, Tokusan’s lack of clarity in the past is audible [even] now.

Shōbōgenzō Shin-fukatoku


19.                A foreigner appears, a foreigner is reflected—one hundred and eight thousand of them. A Chinese person appears, a Chinese person is reflected—for a moment and for ten thousand years. The past appears, the past is reflected; the present appears, the present is reflected; a buddha appears, a buddha is reflected; a patriarch appears, a patriarch is reflected.

Shōbōgenzō Kokyō


20.                In the house of the Buddhist patriarchs, some experience it directly and some do not experience it directly, but reading sutras and requesting the benefit [of the teaching] are the common tools of everyday life.

Shōbōgenzō Kankin


21.                This sitting in zazen is not learning Zen concentration.



22.                The whole universe is utterly without objective molecules: here and now there is no second person at all.

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


23.                The buddha-nature is always total existence, for total existence is the buddha-nature.

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


24.                If you want to know this “buddha-nature,” remember, “causes and circumstances as real time” are just it.

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


25.                The Fifth Patriarch says, “The buddha-nature is emptiness [ku; shunyata], so we call it being without”[mu].  This clearly expresses that “emptiness” is not nonexistence.

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


(Note: Dogen’s comment, “This clearly expresses that ‘emptiness’ is not nonexistence”, reads, in the original, “kū wa mu ni ara zu”, thus, is not mu,” or “śūnyatā is not nonexistence.” Nishijima & Cross)


26.                This emptiness is beyond the emptiness of “matter is just emptiness.” [At the same time,] “matter is just emptiness” describes neither matter being forcibly made into emptiness nor emptiness being divided up to produce matter. It may describe emptiness in which emptiness is just emptiness. “Emptiness in which emptiness is just emptiness” describes “one stone in space.”

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


27.                To affirm [the buddha-nature] as the miscellaneous circumstances manifest before us is “to command the style of behavior that is free of hindrances.”

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


28.                A monk asks Great Master Shinsai of Jōshū, “Does even a dog have the buddha-nature or not?”

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


29.                We should clarify the meaning of this question.

Shōbōgenzō Busshō


30.                At this dharma [reality] has “already arrived.” At that dharma [reality] has “already arrived.”

Shōbōgenzō Gyōbutsu-yuigi


31.                [To research] this truth of moment-by-moment utter entrustment, we must research the mind. In the mountain-still state of such research, we discern and understand that ten thousand efforts are [each] the mind being evident, and the triple world is just that which is greatly removed from the mind. This discernment and understanding, while also of the myriad real dharmas, activate the homeland of the self. They make immediate and concrete the vigorous state of the human being in question.

Shōbōgenzō Gyōbutsu-yuigi


32.                If I put it in words, “expounding the mind and expounding the nature” is the pivotal essence of the Seven Buddhas and the ancestral masters.

Shōbōgenzō Sesshin-sesshō


33.                In conclusion, we should know that in the Buddha’s truth there are inevitably Buddhist sutras; we should learn in practice, as the mountains and the oceans, their universal text and their profound meaning; and we should make them our standard for pursuing the truth.

Shōbōgenzō Bukkyō


34.                Because they are too stupid to understand the meaning of the Buddhist sutras for themselves, they randomly insult the Buddhist sutras and neglect to practice and learn them. We should call them flotsam in the stream of non-Buddhism.

Shōbōgenzō Kenbutsu


35.                We should realize in experience that every single thing is truly “something.” “Something” is not open to doubt: “it comes like this.”

Shōbōgenzō Inmo


36.                When we have the will to venerate the ancients, the ancient sutras come to the present and manifest themselves before us.

Shōbōgenzō Gyōji


37.                In the great truth of the Buddha-Dharma, the sutras of the great thousandfold [world] are present in an atom, and countless buddhas are present in an atom. Each weed and each tree are a body-mind. Because the myriad dharmas are beyond appearance, even the undivided mind is beyond appearance. And because all dharmas are real form, every atom is real form. Thus, one undivided mind is all dharmas, and all dharmas are one undivided mind, which is the whole body.

Shōbōgenzō Hotsu-mujōshin


38.                Just at this moment, how is it? We might say, “it is completely beyond necessity.”

Shōbōgenzō Bukkyo


39.                The mystical power and wondrous function,

Carrying water and lugging firewood.


40.                We must investigate this truth thoroughly.

Shōbōgenzō Jinzū


41.                The time that is just the moment of this [realization] is now.

Shōbōgenzō Daigo


42.                The question “What is it like at the time when a person in the state of great realization returns to delusion?” truly asks a question that deserves to be asked.

Shōbōgenzō Daigo


43.                For example, while I see the “I” of yesterday as myself, yesterday I called [the “I” of] today a second person. We do not say that present realization was not there yesterday; neither has it begun now. We should grasp it in experience like this.

Shōbōgenzō Daigo


44.                Nangaku says, “When you are [practicing] sitting buddha, that is just killing buddha.” This says further that when we are investigating sitting buddha, the virtue of killing buddha is present. The very moment of sitting buddha is the killing of “buddha.” If we want to explore the good features and the brightness of killing buddha, they are always present in sitting buddha. The word “to kill” is as [used by] the common person, but we should not blindly equate [its usage here] with that of the common person. Further, we should investigate the state in which sitting buddha is killing buddha, [asking:] “What forms and grades does it have?” Taking up [the fact] that, among the virtues of buddha, killing buddha is already present, we should learn in practice whether we ourselves are killing a person or not yet killing a person.

Shōbōgenzō Zazenshin


45.                Those who have not illuminated each dharma, dharma by dharma, cannot be called clear eyed, and they are not the attainment of the truth; how could they be Buddhist patriarchs of the eternal past and present?

Shōbōgenzō Zazenshin


46.                The present words of master and disciple we should without fail examine in detail.

Shōbōgenzō Butsu-kōjō-no-ji


47.                We ourselves are tools that it possesses within this universe in ten directions.

Shōbōgenzō Inmo


48.                How do we know that it exists? We know it is so because the body and the mind both appear in the universe, yet neither is ourself.

Shōbōgenzō Inmo


49.                The body, already, is not “I.” Its life moves on through days and months, and we cannot stop it even for an instant.

Shōbōgenzō Inmo


50.                Do not pass time in vain.

Shōbōgenzō Gyōji


51.                The integrated form that is “composed” of “real dharmas,” is “this body.”

Shōbōgenzō Kai-in-zanmai


52.                So is there any Buddhist patriarch who is other than the hundred weeds? And how could the hundred weeds be other than “I” and “you”?

Shōbōgenzō Juki


53.                Without being objective things, [cedar trees] cannot be cedar trees.

Shōbōgenzō Hakujushi


54.                To see and hear the brightness of the self is proof of having directly encountered buddha; it is proof of having met buddha.

Shōbōgenzō Kōmyō


55.                The Buddha’s truth is such that if we intend not to practice the truth we cannot attain it, and if we intend not to learn [the truth] it becomes more and more distant.

Shōbōgenzō Shinjin-gakudō


56.                This I preach as a dream in a dream.

Shōbōgenzō Muchū-setsumu


57.                Because it is the realization of experience in experience, it is “the preaching of the dream-state in the dream-state.”

Shōbōgenzō Muchū-setsumu


58.                The buddhas and the patriarchs are the expression of the truth.

Shōbōgenzō Dōtoku


59.                Buddhas are the state of experience itself, and so things are the state of experience itself.

Shōbōgenzō Gabyō


60.                So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me.

Shōbōgenzō Zenki


61.                What has been described like this is that life is the self, and the self is life.

Shōbōgenzō Zenki


62.                So although the moon was there last night, tonight’s moon is not yesterday’s moon.

Shōbōgenzō Tsuki


63.                Remember that space is a thing.

Shōbōgenzō Kūge


64.                The moment and causes-and-conditions of the present, and the lands-of-dust and space of the present, are both nothing other than the eternal mind.

Shōbōgenzō Kobusshin


65.                How much less could they know that the succession of the complicated continues by means of the complicated? Few have known that the succession of the Dharma is the complicated itself.

Shōbōgenzō Kattō