‘This mountain monk has not lectured for the sake of the assembly for a long time. Why is this? Every moment the Buddha hall, the monks’ hall, the valley streams, and the pine and bamboo endlessly speak on my behalf, fully for the sake of all people. Have you all heard it or not? If you say you heard it, what did you hear? If you say that you have not heard it, you do not keep the five precepts.’ (Extensive Record, discourse 49)
‘In this floating life, fame and profit exist only for a moment. Why should we wait long kalpas for the causes and conditions for nirvana? Therefore sages who have attained the way and verified the result [of practice] quickly abandon fame for the mountains and wild lands. Wise ones who have reached the other shore and entered the [ultimate] rank rapidly take themselves to forests and streams. Doesn’t this seem better for fully grasping the matter of mind and objects? Because of this, they erase the traces of the way within their lifetimes. The true person beyond study does not postpone [abandonment of worldly pursuits].
However, I do not yearn for mountains and forests, and do not depart from the neighborhoods of people. Lotus flowers blossom within the red furnace; above the blue sky there is a white elm. There are actually no clouds in the sky and no mist in the mountain, so the moon advancing towards suchness is high and clear. There may be bamboo fences and flowery hedges, but the wind that follows conditions does not obstruct the echoes [of the Dharma]. Why should I necessarily stay in lofty halls or great temples, and be bound up in the snares and nets of right and wrong? It is better to play within the streets and marketplaces, and go beyond the threshold of names and forms. Who would cherish this stinking skin-bag and consider it precious? Who would consider it desirable to reject these trivial, complicated dwellings?’ (Extensive Record, vol 8, Hogo 1)
Now, of course Dogen was living at Eiheiji when he articulated this, and spent most of his life extolling the superiority of monastic practice, but perhaps he was tweaking a student’s nose to stop any sense of clinging.
‘In Zen sometimes we say that each one of us is steep like a cliff. No one can scale us. We are completely independent. But when you hear me say so, you should understand the other side too – that we are endlessly interrelated. If you only understand one side of the truth, you can’t hear what I am saying. If you don’t understand Zen words, you don’t understand Zen, you are not yet a Zen student. Zen words are different from usual words. Like a double-edged sword, they cut both ways. You may thin I am only cutting forward, but no, actually I am also cutting backward. Watch out for my stick. Do you understand? Sometimes I scold a disciple – “No!” The other students may thing, “Oh, he has been scolded,” but it is not actually so. Because I cannot scold the one over there, I have to scold the one who is near me. But most people think “Oh, that poor guy is being scolded.” If you think like that you are not a Zen student. If someone is scolded you should listen; you should be alert enough to know who is being scolded. That is how we train.’ (Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness)
This passage was invoked quite often when I trained at Zen Center, even if I didn’t see it played out that many times by teachers (unless I was just being too dumb to notice). The lesson is a valid one; since Suzuki Roshi is discussing the Harmony of Difference and Equality in his talk, lines from later in the poem serve as a reminder: ‘Hearing the words, understand the meaning,’ or as Dogen says so often, ‘investigate further.’
‘Once when I was in Song China, practicing on a long siting platform, I observed the monks around me. At the beginning of zazen in the morning, they would hold up their kashayas, place them on their heads, and chant a verse quietly with palms together:
Great is the robe of liberation
the robe beyond form, the field of benefaction!
I wear the Tathagata’s teaching
to awaken countless beings.
This was the first time I had seen the kashaya held up in this way, and I rejoiced, tears wetting the collar of my robe. Although I had read this verse of veneration for the kashaya in the Agama Sutra, I had not known the procedure. Now, I saw it with my own eyes. In my joy I also felt sorry that there had been no master to teach this to me and no good friend to recommend it in Japan. How sad that so much time had been wasted! But I also rejoiced in my wholesome past actions [that caused me to experience this]. If I had stayed in my land, how could I have sat side by side with the monks who has received and were wearing the buddha robe? My sadness and joy brought endless tears.
Then I made a vow to myself: However unsuited I may be, I will become an authentic holder of the buddha dharma, receiving authentic transmission of the true dharma, and with compassion show the buddha ancestor’s authentically transmitted dharma roves to those in my land. I rejoice that the vow I made has not been in vain, and there have been many bodhisattvas, lay and ordained, who have received the kashaya in Japan. Those who maintain the kashaya should always venerate it day and night. This brings forth most excellent merit. To see or hear one line of the kashaya verse is not limited to seeing or hearing it as if we were trees and rocks, but pervades the nine realms of sentient beings.’ (Shobogenzo Kesa Kudoku)
This passage is about as personal and emotional as Dogen gets in the Shobogenzo, reminiscent of his earlier words in Bendowa and Shobogenzo Zuimonki. For sure, being in a zendo early in the morning and hearing all the monks chanting the robe chant is a wonderful experience, as any visitor to Zen Center or Tassajara would hopefully attest to.
Recently I was asked what my most prized possession was; after a moment of reflection I replied, ‘my priest robe’, by which I meant my okesa (the kashaya refered to here). I then thought to add, ‘though it wouldn’t necessarily be the thing I grab first in a fire.’ It is the object that feels most central and important in my life, but having sewn one, I know I could always sew another, and would enjoy the practice.
‘The world is vast and the body and breath are spacious when we are at ease with others and ourselves. This ease comes through committed practice, in which we learn how to open to the life of the body, the situations of others, and the moods that move through us with equanimity and creativity. Don’t get stuck. Don’t go ahead. Just stop and look at the type on this page, the quality of light in the room where you are, the sounds in the distance. This is where you enter. Each sound is a pearl, a treasure, a wave that brings you back to your body. There is nothing subtle to find. Look at the walls and the crack in the ceiling. Look at all the cracks and the fine woodwork and the realness of the real that pervades all we are doing. All this is a gift. Set forth this miraculous gift. How do you set it forth?… In what you do. In the way you see and hear and breathe. This is the true expression of practice. This is how we activate our practice.’ (Awake in the World)
This passage reminds me of Dogen quoting the old tenzo: ‘In the whole world it is never hidden.’
‘When you leave the way to the way, you attain the way.’ (Shobogenzo Bodaisatta Shi Shoho)
‘When you follow and study a sutra, it emerges. A sutra means the entire world of the ten directions – mountains, rivers, the earth, grass, trees, self, and others. It is having a meal, putting on a robe, and engaging in activities. When you study the way, following a sutra, thousands and myriads of sutras that have never existed emerge and become present.
There are phrases that clearly affirm. There are verses that completely deny. By encountering these phrases and studying them with the entire body and mind, however long the eons you exhaust, and however long the eons you take up, there is always a place where you arrive with full mastery.’ (Shobogenzo Jisho Zammai)