‘An old buddha [Hongzhi] said, “Reach over to grasp what’s there, and bring its workings right here.”
When you take on sustaining this, all things, bodies, actions, and buddhas become intimate with you. These actions, things, bodies, and buddhas are simply covered [immersed] in acceptance. Because they are simply covered in acceptance, they are just dropped off.
The covered eye is the radiance of one hundred grass tips; do not be swayed [into thinking] that it does not see one thing, does not see a single matter. The covered eye reaches this thing and that thing. Throughout journeys, while taking on coming and going, or while leaving and entering by the same gate, nothing is hidden in the entire world, and so the World-Honored One’s intimate language, intimate realization, intimate practice, and intimate entrustment are present.’ (Shobogenzo Gyobutsu Iigi)
As I typed out the last word of the passage, my keyboard suggested the emoji 🎁 . And why not, after all? When we see things intimately, and immerse them in acceptance of what they are, they do not just become one, but they become the complete gift of themselves.
‘When you see a speck of dust, it is not that you don’t see the world of phenomena. When you realize the world of phenomena, it is not that you do not realize a speck of dust. When buddhas realize the world of phenomena, they do not keep you from realization. Wholesomeness is manifest in the beginning, middle, and end.
Thus, realization is reality right now. Even shocks, doubts, fears, and frights are none other than reality right now. However, with buddha knowledge it is different; seeing a speck of dust is different from sitting within a speck of dust. Even when you sit in the world of phenomena, it is not broad. Even when you sit in a speck of dust, it is not narrow. If you are not fully present, you do not fully sit. If you are fully present, you are free of how large or narrow it is where you are. Thus you have thoroughly experienced the essential unfolding of dharma blossoms.
Is it that the manifestation and essence of your practice now originates in the world of phenomena or in a speck of dust? Have no shocks and doubts, no fears or frights. Just this turning of dharma blossoms is the original practice, deep and wide. In seeing the speck of dust and seeing the world of phenomena, there is no attempt to create or measure.’ (Shobogenzo Hokke Ten Hokke)
Before turning to this passage, I was looking at the fascicle on the kashaya, and the same propositions were at work. Don’t get caught on whether silk or other cloth is right, or what constitutes the discarded cloths traditionally used for Buddha’s robe. Here, don’t get caught in measuring. Though, being Dogen, he goes on to say that even attempting to measure is ‘in accordance with dharma blossoms.’ Realization is reality right now, as long as we don’t stop and think about it.
‘Suppose someone asks me, “How is it when a person of great enlightenment returns to delusion?” I would simply say to him: If the great ocean knew it was full, the hundred rivers would flow backward.’ (Extensive Record, 513)
Which I take to mean: what ideas do you have about enlightenment and delusion? Rivers flow into the ocean, and the ocean accepts all the water; thus is the nature of things.
‘If someone asks me: What is Prajna Paramita? I will answer: practice of zazen. If someone asks again: What is the practice of zazen? I will answer: To open Buddha’s eating bowl and to take bath in evening.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)
I had pulled this quote out from a talk, and then posted it to Instagram having forgotten where I had got it from. I attributed it to Dogen – so I wasn’t far off really. The phrasing certainly sounds like Dogen, and Suzuki Roshi, as I often say, was channeling Dogen for his new students in America. In fact these lines came from the first Tassajara sesshin, in the summer of 1967; from the shosan ceremony, to be precise, where Suzuki Roshi answered the questions of those sincerely trying to understand their practice and zen practice. And the answer: eating and bathing, at the appropriate times. Naturally.
‘Studying the Buddha Dharma is most difficult to accomplish. Why is that? Even when people have genuinely aroused the mind of awakening, without knowing it, they might fall in with demons, or unaware they might become sick, and their way-seeking mind will be broken, their practice-realization regressing and collapsing. Truly we must sympathize. Students these days are fascinated by the demons of brilliance and imagine it as the enlightenment of the way. Encountering the onset of the disease of fame and fortune, they imagine it as verification of the merit of their practice. These not only damage and destroy a single life or person, but they can also damage and destroy the merits and virtues of good roots from many lives through vast kalpas. This is the saddest thing for students. So-called satori (enlightenment) is very difficult to realize. It cannot be understood by thinking or discrimination, and it cannot be clarified by brilliance or keen wisdom. Considering fascination with this demon as great enlightenment, and clinging to the sickness and its ailments as merits and virtues, how could this not be a mistake?’ (Extensive Record, 513)
At the end of his life, Dogen was keen not to let anyone off the hook – even as he paraphrases parts of his first work, the Fukanzazengi. A salutory reminder before I head into a corporate meditation, thinking I am any good.
‘Students cannot gain enlightenment simply because they retain their preconceptions. Without knowing who taught them these things, they consider the mind to be thought and perceptions, and do not believe it when they are told that the mind is plants and trees. They think of the Buddha as having marvelous distinguishing marks, with radiance shining from his body, and are shocked when they are told he is tile and pebble. Such preconceptions were not taught to them by their parents, but students come to believe them for no other reason than that they have heard about them from others over a long period of time. Therefore, when the Buddhas and the Patriarchs categorically state that the mind is plants and trees, revise your preconceptions and understand plants and trees as mind. If the Buddha is said to be tile and pebble, consider tile and pebble as the Buddha. If you change your basic preconceptions, you will be able to gain the Way.’ (Shobogenzo Zuimonki)
Are you shocked to hear that Buddha is tile and pebble?
‘To use skillful means – beneficial action – means to see and consider before we act. What has made this situation what it is? What are its origins? How can this tangle of causes and conditions be unraveled? If we look closely, we may see things we don’t want to see. We have to take into account that the most beneficial action might include aspects we don’t want to include. We might need to associate with people we’d rather avoid or do things that are difficult and dreary.
This entails letting go of what we want or what we think is useful and allow reality to tell us what to do rather than imposing our ideas on it. In his remarks on giving, Dōgen speaks of offering ourselves to ourselves and offering others to others. We help by helping others become and be who they are. We offer what they see as helpful and can be used to make their lives what they want them to be.’ (from Ancient Way Journal)
As with Zenju’s post, such work seems to be in short supply in some quarters.
‘The family style of all buddhas and ancestors is to first arouse the vow to save all living beings by removing suffering and providing joy. Only this family style is inexhaustibly bright and clear. In the lofty mountains we see the moon for a long time. As clouds clear we first recognize the sky. Cast loose down the precipice, [the moonlight] shares itself within the ten thousand forms. Even when climbing up the bird’s path, taking good care of yourself is spiritual power.’ (Extensive Record, 434)
‘Some people think that buddha nature is like seeds of grass and trees: when dharma rain is abundant, sprouts and stems grow; branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit mature; and their fruit contains seeds. Such a view is an assumption of ordinary people. If you come up with such an assumption, investigate thoroughly that each and every seed, flower and fruit is itself pure mind.
A fruit has seeds that are not visible, but develop roots, stems, and so forth. The elements of the plants are not assembled from outside, but branches and twigs grow. Not limited to inside or outside, the growth of plants is not in vain, past and present. Thus, even if you take up the view of ordinary people, the rooots, stems, branches, and leaves are the all are of buddha nature that arises and perishes simultaneously with all things.’ (Shobogenzo Bussho)
If it isn’t clear, he is basically saying that buddha nature is not a process of becoming, it’s what is behind the process, and everything else. At least, that’s how I see it.
‘Originally this expression shikantaza was used not by Dogen himself but by his teacher Rujing. We not only just sit – when we eat, we just eat; when we work in the kitchen we just cook; when we clean, we just clean; when we chant, we just chant.
This attitude of “just” is the answer Dogen discovered through seeing the two virtues of mountains and waters. It means the reality of all beings: abiding peacefully in their dharma positions and also constantly walking. These are the contradictory aspects of one reality. When we see both sides of our life, what can we do? What kind of attitude should we maintain toward our lives? The answer is to be just attentive and put our whole energy into whatever we are doing right now. When we are sitting in the zendo, we just sit, one hundred percent there, nothing else.’ (The Mountains and Waters Sutra)