‘Put value on the Dharma, not on individual experience and feeling. This means to put value on the bigger scale of the world, and to open our hearts; even though you may feel pensive, open your heart. Then when you have to help, help; when you have to take care of your life, take care of your life. Whatever you feel, pensive or not pensive, like or dislike, open your heart, and then do what you have to do. From this way of life, you can really take care of individual feelings and experience; your life will bloom. It really helps.’ (Returning to Silence)
‘We use the terms universal effort and individual effort, but actually there is no gap between them. You take care of universal effort by your individual effort. It’s a little difficult to do this because we are always critical toward our own effort. We attach to getting a certain result from our effort. Then we judge it in terms of ideas and emotions connected with our heredity, education, consciousness, and memories coming from the past, so it’s very complicated. Universal effort is very simple. That’s why we try to understand out lives in terms of the universal perspective. How?
When you wash your face, accept washing as universal effort first, and then make your individual effort. Deal with everything – your face, the waater, your posture of standing in front of the basin – as universal activity. Through the actions of washing your face, you can go beyond your usual understanding and experience the pure nature of washing your face. This is the realm of total dynamic action. Right in the middle of taking good care of your individual effort as universal effort, the whole world comes into one screen. That one screen is the big picture of your life. When you see that living screen, you can learn who you really are.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)
Some serendipitous moments around this post: first of all, I think it acts as an excellent commentary on Dogen’s post from yesterday. This was not something I planned out when I sat down to type some posts at the beginning of the week. With my impending move, I have started packing up books, and set aside ones that I knew I could use for blog posts. This particular volume of Katagiri’s talks is one I knew I hadn’t referenced for a while, though I had previously noted various passages as suitable for the blog.
When I opened to this particular page, I found a bookmark – an old-fashioned sales slip from the kimono shop in Japantown, dated January 2020, from when my partner first visited San Francisco; an afternoon in Japantown was a part of our first weekend together. I wanted her advice on a nice kimono I could wear as a bathrobe, to replace one that had worn out after ten years of regular use. A month or two ago I tried to visit the store again, but it was closed. Last week, my partner and I went to Japantown again on an outing, and saw a sign on the store window directing us to a different store in the mall – one I recognised as soon as I entered as the place my dharma sister Djinn went to for the best matcha. I bought a noren hanging that I could use as a backdrop for Zoom calls (the reason I wanted to visit recently) and two little calligraphies, one saying love, and one saying health, our two main focuses in these past eighteen months.
‘Dogen constantly emphasizes that practice is shikan. Shikan is just wholeheartedness; it is experience, so practice is experience.
Practice as experience is based on the manifestation of reality. Manifestation means the relationship between subject and object. We manifest subject and object in many ways through the six consciousnesses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought. So we can manifest practice with our mind. But practicing just with the mind is not good enough; we also have to practice with our body.
For example, if you are cooking, and you use a vegetable, if you think, ‘This is a vegetable’, it immediately becomes an object, something that is separate from you, and you see the vegetable in the ordinary way. But you can take a different attitude toward the vegetable. Before you consciously label the vegetable, you can touch and handle the vegetable as something more than a vegetable – Buddha – and face the vegetable in terms of timelessness with no label. This is really the attitude we should take. This is wisdom. Then cooking is practice based on manifesting reality.
This is a very difficult practice, but with wisdom you can face the real vegetable, which is not something separate from you. Then even though your dualistic consciousness says, ‘Oh, that is a vegetable’, wisdom keeps you straight. So calm your dualistic consciousness and just face the vegetable. Place the vegetable right in the middle of timelessness. When you place your object, the vegetable, in the middle of timelessness, then your subject, you, is also placed in the middle of timelessness. At that time, all things come back to nothingness, emptiness, and you wake up.
But practically speaking, you cannot ignore the fact that you and the vegetable exist in everyday life. So how should you deal with a vegetable? First place the vegetable in timelessness, where carrots, cabbage and potatoes all exist with no discrimination. Then come back to everyday time, where you cannot cut a carrot the same way you cut a potato, because a carrot is a being with its own characteristics. Recognize that a carrot is a carrot and deal with your carrot without confusing it with potatoes, water, or the pan. When you deal with a carrot like this, you manifest yourself as a cook and the carrot as a particular being, but at the same time, both you and the carrot are manifested as Buddha.’ (Each Moment Is The Universe)
Katagiri, like Dogen, illuminates the fundamental point with concrete analogies. The only question is, have you ever faced the real vegetable?
‘So, what is this zazen practice that we do? It’s not doing zazen. If you believe it’s doing zazen, then practice is just a task, and that task becomes a really big burden for you. That is not a true understanding of practice. Buddhist practice is to constantly create beauty. Beauty is the functioning of wisdom. That’s why Dogen Zenji says that you have to abandon the usual understanding of the form of zazen and touch the heart of zazen. Otherwise you cannot maintain this kind of practice. That’s why I have to explain it and why you have to understand very deeply what practice means. Then, if you understand even slightly, you should keep going. That makes your life mature’ (Each Moment is the Universe)
I believe this is an echo of what Kodo Sawaki was saying yesterday.
‘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 you fully devote yourself to your activity, the moment and you come together, creating a kind of momentum or energy. You and your activity become one, and this refined activity very naturally leads you to forget yourself. In a moment you go beyond the phenomenal world of time and space to the source of time, where your life is calm and stable and your activity is clear and pure. When there is no self-consciousness it is bodhi, enlightenment. Bodhi-mind is freedom. It is the function of mind that is beyond dualistic consciousness. But to arouse bodhi-mind we have to use our discriminating, human mind. In other words, Buddha’s mind is beyond human consciousness, but the only way to find out what it is is through conscious activity. That is why we practice.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)
This is a wonderful and detailed description of a state I hope you know; meditation is a great way to access this, but there are many other such gates as well.
‘Buddha’s abode is not a room in a structure; it is the room of human existence, the great energy of life. When you see the depths of human existence and touch the original life of all beings, very naturally you open your heart to all beings. Buddha’s robe is the symbol of patience. If you want to teach, you have to be right in the middle of human life. To wear the robe is to be in peace, to practice conciliation and tolerance, and to continue under all circumstances. The seat of Buddha is not some fancy platform; it is emptiness, the original nature of being. There is nothing particular you can cling to, you can think, or you can imagine. You just have to be there. Then you can teach.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)
‘If I say, “When you do zazen you become buddha,” that is beautiful, but it is still words, still doctrine, still the moon in the water. Put it aside and just do zazen.’ (Returning to Silence)
Let’s face it, whatever the phrase is, put it aside, and just do zazen. You’ll get into less trouble that way.
‘The Avatamsaka Sutra explains that truth does not exist by itself, separate from phenomena, and phenomena do not exist separate from the truth. Truth and phenomena work together as one. If so, we have to think carefully and look deeply at the reality we live in. As a practical matter, we have to deal with a reality where space and time, unity and multiplicity, equality and discrimination, are interwoven. How can you deal with it? Where can you deal with it? We have to learn this.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)
Note that he does not tell you how to deal with it – you have to learn it for yourself. When I was typing this out, the ‘if so’ in the middle made me chuckle; he doesn’t want to be definitive about this point. How can you deal with that?
‘You can change the structure of time and space. How? You have to manifest time and space that you don’t know within time and space that you do know. This is not only Zen practice – this is practice for everyone. Whatever you do, your body and mind must be flexible. Usually we attach to our own territory of five skandhas, six senses, customs, habits and memories. We trust the moment we see through our six senses, and we don’t trust the unknown sixty-five moments within one moment. But are you sure of your existence, stably and steadfastly? I don’t think so. Your own territory is very shaky. To be sure of your existence with confidence, you have to see yourself doing something in the universe with all myriad beings, not in your individual territory. That is difficult, but you have to do it. You have to realize that point in a practical way.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)
What does that practical way look like to you at this moment?