Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Transmission of Wisdom 3

The Transmission of Wisdom 3

Authentic Zen practice-enlightenment consists of ‘these two aspects’ – discerning dharmas as they are, and actualizing that discernment here-now. It is worth noting that the ‘practice-enlightenment’ advocated by Dogen (hence Zen) differs significantly from the ‘practice-enlightenment’ advocated by most contemporary Zen teachers. Many contemporary Zen teachers refrain from even acknowledging the reality of an ‘enlightened perspective,’ fewer still advocate discerning all dharmas from the enlightened perspective, and even fewer encourage enacting that perspective in the ‘world of duality.’ Therefore, whatever most contemporary teachers do proclaim as ‘practice-enlightenment,’ it must be different from that expounded by Dogen. Judging from the classic Zen records, this is not unique to our era; authentic practice-enlightenment has evidently always been something engaged by a minority of those in the Zen community. In harmony with those records, then, I do not say no contemporary teachers proclaim authentic practice-enlightenment, only that they are few.

It is not necessary to detail exactly what the majority of contemporary Zen teachers do advocate as practice-enlightenment except to explain my reason for making the point in negative terms, which may be telling enough. I stated this in terms of what ‘is not’ advocated rather than ‘what is’ because there is little consensus among contemporary Zen teachers in regard to what authentic practice-enlightenment actually consists in/of.

In any case, the point here is that Zen is a dynamic activity, not a fixed form. This dynamic activity is presented in the classic literature as a communication of enlightened wisdom ‘from the mind to the mind’ or ‘from Buddha to Buddha.’ Known formally in Zen as ‘Dharma-transmission,’ ‘mind to mind transmission,’ or, Dogen’s favorite term, ‘(the transmission of Dharma) from Buddha alone together with Buddha’ (yui-butsu-yobutsu). In Shobogenzo, Dharma-transmission is portrayed as the ever-ongoing unified activity/expression of the self and all Buddhas past, present, and future in the ceaseless actualization of universal liberation. As ‘activity,’ Zen is seeing, knowing, experiencing, etc. As ‘expression,’ Zen is seen, known, experienced, etc. ‘Seeing’ is true nature, and ‘seen’ is true nature. If it is ‘seeing true nature’ it is Zen. If it is not ‘seeing true nature’ it is not Zen. 


Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.

Bodhidharma, Traditional founder of Zen, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, Red Pine, p.29

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