Dogen

‘The boundary of the known is not clear; this is because the known [which appears limited] is born and practiced simultaneously with the complete penetration of the Buddha Dharma.’ (Genjokoan)

I know I have spoken before about the liberating possibilities of studying different translations – for all the limitations of words. Shohaku, as well as parsing kanji as part of his scholarship, offers in his book a different translation to Genjokoan to the one I am used to chanting, and this sentence brings a fresh illumination to the words.

And, to continue the thread from yesterday, this also points to how we need to let go of our reliance on knowing in order to be able to experience properly. A timely quote from reading Michael Stone: ‘There is no intimacy in maintaining a life that is always conceptual, always relating to things through our knowledge base. It is curiosity and desire that give rise to intimacy. So that’s why we practice.’

I have been noticing a wish in myself to find other ways to express the idea of understanding, since that tends to bring up for people the notion of intellectual grasping, which is really of no help. I think of different terms that might fit and their etymologies – understanding, withstanding (which would be ideal except for the etymological root in old English where with means against…), comprehension,  realisation, actualisation.

We are so attuned in Western culture to privilege the mind and rationality. I had a friend at college who specialised in the reductio ad absurdum, and it was so exhausting to try to argue with him that I eventually stopped bothering; perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that he became a lawyer. There was something in him that found value in winning through logic. Internet forums are equally tiresome examples of this – though it is noticeable how logicians will get very emotional if other people don’t want to play their game, alternately defensive and aggressive, but generally with no showing of compassion. None of these things is wisdom.

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