‘A diver jumping off the cliff, a mountain climber, an artist, a poet, or a musician creates a beautiful form that manifests the maturity of his or her life. But spiritual life doesn’t have that same sense of performance. So creativity in religion cannot manifest in the same way. Of course you do manifest maturity because, as Dogen says, ‘you cannot avoid detachment from the zazen posture’. But then, next you must be free from that manifestation. In Japanese we say gedatsu, meaning emancipation, or freedom. Moment after moment you must be free from the beautiful form you created, because the moment in which the form existed has already gone, and the next moment is coming up. Life becomes mature, constantly. You cannot stop it, not even for a moment, so you have to keep going. You must keep practicing to create this beauty again and again. This is spiritual creativity.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)
‘When some older people find out I became a monk at thirteen, they become discouraged, thinking they won’t have time to reach enlightenment. Nonsense. Remember, enlightenment can come in an instant. Is there a queue at the gate of Chan? Are you only allowed in one at a time? You don’t have to take a number and wait in line to achieve buddhahood. Do buddhas have seniority over others? Do buddhas compare notes on when and how they got enlightened? Funny as it sounds, some people go through similar mental maneuvers. “That person over there sits like a rock; she must nearly be enlightened. I’ve been on twenty retreats, so I must be closer to enlightenment than that guy, who is on his first one.” Do these thoughts sound familiar? It is never too late to start practicing. If you missed the first bus to buddhahood, the next one will be by soon. The important thing is to get on the bus and stay on.’ (Song of Mind)
‘The ocean of true reality is boundless and profoundly deep. The Buddha Way is immeasurably vast. Some priests do nothing but seek fame and success until their dying day, never showing the slightest interest in the path of Zen or the Buddha’s Dharma. Others become enthralled in literary pursuits or become addicted to sake or women, oblivious of the hell fires flaming up under their very noses. Some, relying on insignificant bits of knowledge they pick up, shamelessly try to deny the law of cause and effect, though woefully lacking any grasp of its working. Some find ways to attract large numbers of people to their temples, believing to the end of their days that this is proof of a successful teaching career.’ (Beating The Cloth Drum)
I haven’t picked up this book in a while, but it happens that I was writing a Patreon post, and wanted to see if I had written anything about the traditional way of tangaryo when I was writing the Ino’s Blog. It was not too surprising that I had, and, as I often find, a little meander down memory lane from ten or more years ago made me smile. My practice is less traditional these days than it was when I was a temple officer at San Francisco Zen Center, and while I am sure that Hakuin would not stint in his criticism of what I am doing now, I would at least not claim to be seeking fame or success.
‘The precepts guide us in our life. They have come from the experience of the truth in the past, so we can say that they are based on reality. But our lives are tremendously complex and varied. If we try to apply the precepts too strictly we may lose the freedom to act. We are living here and now so we must find rules which can be used here and now. We must find our precepts at every moment. Reality is changeable so our rules must also be changeable. True rules must work in the real world. True precepts are changeable and at the same time unchangeable. This is the nature of Buddhist precepts. They help us to live correctly. They provide a framework which is exact and rather narrow, and yet we are free to act in the moment by moment situation of our life.’ (from a talk on the Precepts)
‘Awakening is a marriage of wisdom and compassion, and both wisdom and compassion are made up of enlightening and endarkening. The enlightening aspect of wisdom is a growing clarity of insight that puts doubts to rest and creates confidence. It’s about what we come to understand. The endarkening aspect of wisdom is our profound acceptance of the great mystery at the heart of things, which we can never understand in our ordinary ways but can come to rest in. This is about knowing what we can’t know, and it’s sometimes called “not-knowing mind.”
The enlightening aspect of compassion includes our shining commitment to everyone’s freedom from suffering. The endarkening aspect of compassion is our willingness to have our hearts broken by the world, so our hearts remain open and not defensive. As we endarken, we see that we are not only continuous with the luminous nature of the universe but also continuous with the great broken heart of the world; we and the world share a tenderness that is both poignant beauty and wound.
It’s as though revelation happens at the speed of electrical impulses in the brain, while embodiment happens at the speed of the heart, which is a slow-beating muscle.’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘Both body and mind drop off in zazen. It is far beyond the form of sitting or lying down. Therefore, free from considerations of good and evil, it transcends the distinctions of ordinary people and sages, it goes far beyond judgments of deluded or enlightened, it is entirely apart from the boundary between sentient beings and the Buddha. For this, put aside all affairs, and let go of all associations. Do nothing at all. The six senses produce nothing.’ (Zazen Yojinki)
Do nothing at all – you heard the man.
Searching for fame and gain keeps everyone restlessly busy but in the sun’s warmth and a peaceful breeze everything is naturally new. Without help from anyone the spring’s brightness is both pale and deep. In the mountains of boundless peace someone sits, alone.
‘If you want to read sutras, you should follow the scriptural teachings recommended by Caoxi [the sixth ancestor Huineng], such as the Lotus, the Mahaparinirvana, and the Prajna Paramita Sutras. What is the use of sutras not recommended by Caoxi? Why are they useless? Ancient people opened the sutras and commentaries simply for the sake of awakening. Modern people open the sutras and commentaries merely for the sake of fame and profit. Buddhas expound the sutras in order to enable all living beings to attain awakening. When modern people open the buddhas’ sutras only for the sake of fame and profit, how greatly it opposes the intention of the buddhas.’ (Extensive Record, 383)
You can’t get far through Dogen’s writings without a salutary reminder of what’s right and what’s not.
‘Zazen itself is the teacher of zazen, not a person. Zazen will teach you about zazen and therefore it is necessary to continue persistently and without negligence. Zazen is not a matter of understanding the nature of delusion. If zazen itself does not end up becoming delusion, how will it be possible to ascertain the nature of delusion? This applies not only to delusion, but to anxiety, fear, and other mental afflictions, or to conflict between self and other. If the ego-self does not intervene, then it is certainly possible for affliction to become delusion – to become greed, anger, and ignorance. Then we will be able to understand the nature of the thing itself. The strength to push on to this understanding is called the “Way-seeking mind.”‘ (Unfathomable Depths)
‘A mind that lacks clarity and breadth will experience a world lacking clarity and breadth. Self-centered thought projects a cramped, self-enclosed world. Similarly, a relaxed, concentrated, and selfless mind peers through the “self” into the larger dimensions of the world. Open, far-reaching vision encounters an open, far-reaching reality.’ (The Six Perfections)