Dogen Zenji's Genjo-koan Lecture (9)
Rev. Shohaku Okumura
(Text: section 10)
sides of the buddha dharma
Then from section 4 to section 7, he discusses (1)delusion and realization, and (2)buddhas and living beings. In section 8, he speaks about (3)life and death. The first and the second sentence are apparently contradicted each other. But as I explained in my commentary in that section, these are two sides of Buddhist teachings. And the theme of the entire Genjo-koan is how to live and practice based on the clear insight of both sides.
based on the two sides
But still, he says, the moon has infinite height and water has infinite depth and we need to investigate how high it is and how deep our life can be. This process of inquiry is the process of our practice.
the ocean as one circle
In this section, he discusses that, after we clearly see that all things have no [fixed] self, we should inquire how we should live as an original person based on such an insight. Here he uses an analogy that we are sailing on a boat in the midst of ocean where we don't see the coast anymore. We only see a circle of horizon.
In Shobogenzo Zuimonki, Dogen talked to his own students about Myozen's resolution to go to China. Myozen's original teacher was a Tendai monk named Myoyu. When Myoyu was in his deathbed he asked Myozen to postpone the trip to China for a while in order to take care of him and conduct his funeral service. After having a meeting with his dharma brothers and disciples to discuss this matter, Myozen said,
These days, to go to China from Japan takes only a few hours by airplane. Since there are many flights by different airline companies everyday, it is not a big deal to postpone a trip for a while. But, in the 13th century, to sail to China was very dangerous. Many people who sailed to China did not come back to Japan. Also, if they missed a chance they could not know when the next chance to take a voyage would be. The next trip to China by Japanese Buddhist monks after Dogen and Myozen in the history, was in 1233. That was 10 years after their departure. Actually Myozen died at Tientong monastery in China when he was 42 years old and Dogen returned to Japan with his ashes. Myozen's resolution was not simply an exaggeration.
With two other attendant monks, Dogen and Myozen left Kenninji in Kyoto in February 1223 to Hakata, Kyushu probably by a boat and then they changed boats to sail to China.
On the Inland Sea between Osaka and Kyushu, they could always see the coast of Honshu, Shikoku or many other smaller islands. But after they departed from Hakata in the end of March, they saw nothing but the circle of the horizon until they arrived in the port of Ninbo, in April. About the voyage, Dogen said in the Zuimonki, "On my way to China, I suffered from diarrhea on the ship, yet when a storm came up and people on the ship made a great fuss, I forgot about the sickness and it went away."
This voyage must have been a very impressive and important experience for Dogen. I think the process of this voyage and the process of his search for the true dharma and a true teacher were overlapped in Dogen's mind.
seeing one-circle enlightenment?
After we sail out to the vast ocean, we only see the ocean, its horizon like a circle and the vast sky. We see the oneness (or not-two-ness) of all things. It is a surprising experience to us. But is it enlightenment? Or is it the goal of our practice? Dogen says, " No!"
He says, if you feel such a condition is enlightenment, then, the Dharma has not yet fully penetrated into body and mind. He continues and says, "when dharma has fully penetrated the self, we see that something is still lacking." This means that when the dharma fills us, we will see the incompleteness of our practice and the various characteristics of all beings, and we will understand that we need in inquire endlessly about these characteristics and how we can sincerely practice with them as bodhisattvas. The moon has infinite height and our life as an individual self also has infinite depth. But what we see with our eyesight is limited. No matter how deep, high or broad we try to see, our sight is limited. To see this limit is wisdom.
As a finite human being, we cannot see the entire reality as it is. We are born, live and die within the reality. We can only see the reality from inside. We need to take a position in the reality. That means we cannot see the parts of reality hidden by our own existence. Our eyesight is smaller than 180 degrees. When we see forward, we cannot see backward. When we turn our head to see backward, we cannot see in front of us. We can not see our back. Our eyes cannot see themselves.
But somehow, we have an ability to remember things we saw in the past and to integrate them with what we are seeing right now and create a picture as if we are seeing 360 degrees or the total reality. What we need to understand is that this way of seeing is simply a picture of the world we create in our mind, that is, a mind-construction.
Even the circle of the horizon on the ocean is a mind construction. Therefore it is still a limited view of a conditioned self. Seeing that not only our discriminating views but also our view of oneness or beyond discrimination is a mind-construction, is the beginning of seeing the reality. Seeing how deluded we are is the wisdom to see the actual reality of our life.
Kodo Sawaki Roshi said, "Everyone reads the sections of the newspaper in a different order. One person reads the stock market page first, another turns first to the sports page, a serial novel, or the political columns. We are all different because we see things through our own individual discriminating consciousness. Grasping things with human thought, we each behave differently. We can't know the actual world, the world common to everyone, until we stop discriminating."
The view without discriminating is sometimes expressed as one round circle like the horizon in the ocean. But once we take it as a kind of concept or description, we are already out of the reality. "To stop discriminating" occurs only in letting go of thought in our actual sitting practice of zazen.
Sawaki Roshi also said, "People often say, in my opinion ' Anyhow, my opinion' is no good so keep your mouth shut!"
Keeping our mouth shut, does not mean we stop thinking. But rather we should try to see the actual reality more and more clearly, deeply and from a broader perspective. And in our actual lives, we also should see that we are also moving and changing so that the things around us seem different not only because they are changing but also because we are changing. Things that used to be attractive in my twenties are not at all attractive to me in my fifties.
Palace for fish is water for human beings
Dogen Zenji writes about the difference of viewing water depending upon the karmic conditions of each being in Shobogenzo Sansuikyo (Mountains and Waters Sutra) as follows.
The important point in Dogen Zenji's comment on this analogy is that he questions even the fixed existence (self-nature) of the water that is seen by those four different beings. The common interpretation of this analogy is that there is one reality of water and four different kinds of views. Dogen says that it is not certain if there is water as a fixed object objectively outside of the relationship between each being and something tentatively called water. This is what Dogen meant when he said, "Therefore, flowers fall down even though we love them; weeds grow even though we dislike them." We feel sad when we see a flower that we love is fading. We dislike weeds growing only if the weeds are growing in our garden where we have to pull them up. We don't care how many weeds grow on a mountain or a grassy plain where we don't need to weed. We rather enjoy the scenery.
What is the difference between Dogen and Yogacara philosophy? Yogacara teachers say that only consciousness exists and nothing else exists outside of our consciousness. What Dogen says is that our self and the world are working together within a relationship of inter-dependent- origination. The world and everything in the world appears within this relationship between our self and all myriad dharmas. For him the important point is how we act, or practice within our relationship with the myriad dharmas. His concern is not whether the self, or the myriad dharmas exist or not. He questions all the possible ways of thinking and de-constructs whatever concepts we have and cling to, regarding the myriad dharmas and us.
In Shobogenzo Ikka-no-myoju (One Bright Pearl). Dogen Zenji introduces a story of a Chinese Zen master, Gensha Shibi (Xuansha Shibei, 835-908). One day Gensha, while he was still a student, was leaving his teacher's monastery to visit other masters. Shortly after he left the temple, he stubbed his toe on a stone. As it bled with terrible pain, he suddenly had a deep insight and said, " This body is not existent. Where does this pain come from?"
When we study Mahayana Buddhism we learn that our body is just a collection of five skandhas and that it is empty and does not really exist. Still, when we injure even a tiny part of it like our toe, we have terrible pain. If the body is empty, where does the pain come from? This is not a "question" for Gensha, but a realization of reality. To see the emptiness of all beings, or the five skandhas as our body and mind, is exactly the same as seeing the ocean as just the one circle. No individual, independent, fixed entity is there. Still we have pain and the pain is so real, fresh and immediate that we need to take care of it somehow. Each pain comes from emptiness but each pain has its own causes and conditions. We need to figure out what is the cause of each particular pain and how to take care of it. Just seeing the emptiness or oneness of all beings does not work. Even though it's true that seeing the ocean as one circle is to see that the entire ten-direction world is one bright pearl (as Gensha said after he became a Zen master.) But within the one bright pearl, there are many different kinds of pain that people suffer. Each pain has different cause and needs a different cure. We need to study each pain one by one.
As Dogen Zenji experienced on his voyage to China, within one circle of the ocean, he did not have only beautiful, peaceful days, he also had stormy days. Dogen suffered from diarrhea on the ship, yet when a storm came up and people on the ship made a great fuss, he forgot about the sickness and it went away. When we have a larger and more serious problem, we sometimes forget our smaller problems and somehow they go away. Each of us may have had this kind of experience. But such a thing does not always occur. In our actual lives, we experience many different kinds of situations and depending upon our karmic conditions we interpret each experience and condition in many different ways. Most often we make a story in which we are the main subjects.
It is right here in the middle of our story where we need to keep our eyes open and try to examine the myriad beings, and ourselves very closely in order to study the reality of interdependent origination. We should try to see reality with fresh eyes; without grasping our fixed ideas or a system of values that we have created from our previous experiences.
We only see or grasp as far as the power of our eye of study and practice can see. I have been practicing zazen and studying Dogen Zenji's teachings more than thirty years, from the time I was nineteen years old, through my twenties, thirties, forties, and now, my fifties. In each stage of my life, the power of my eye of study and practice has been changing so that the scope I can see and grasp has been changing. On one hand, I feel the longer I practice and study, the more I can see myself and things around me deeply. On the other hand, I feel that I am losing the energy to change myself, and the situations I am involved in. I don't think it is appropriate to say I am improving and growing or I am losing energy and backsliding. Both are true and both are not true. Though I did not have deep understanding when I was 19, I think I was much more sincere in my practice. When I was young, I was young. When I am in my fifties, I am just in my fifties. I am getting older and older, and my condition inside and outside my self will always be ceaselessly changing. At any stage, I will try to be honest and keep practicing and studying endlessly. There is no time I graduate from this practice. On the day, my teacher Uchiyama Roshi died, he wrote a poem on his diary and said that it finally fully expressed what he wanted to say. He kept studying, practicing, and trying to express his dharma in even a little bit better than the day before, until the day he died when he was 86 years old.
as the Logo of Zen
In Shobogenzo Bussho (Buddha-Nature) Dogen wrote about his experience at a Chinese Zen Monastery. On a wall of a walkway, he found the painting of a one-circle. He asked what did the circle mean? The guiding monk said that it was a painting of Nagarjuna manifesting the form of a round moon. Later on, Dogen discussed about the story of Nagarjuna in the same chapter. I think the story of Nagarjuna was the origin of the one-circle. When Nagarjuna sat in zazen, his physical form disappeared and people only saw the form of a round-moon. Dogen criticized the painting on the walkway and said, if they wanted to paint Nagarjuna's form of a round-moon, they should just paint Nagarjuna's sitting as we usually do. Dogen was a very unique Zen Master and probably did not care about being a "Zen Master" anyway.