Friday, November 5, 2010

Study Hall - Shobogenzo

Sometimes wrestling with Dogen taxes the brain, and I suspect that is how he wanted it. Selecting a few phrases from these latest fascicles is not to imply that I have penetrated them in any way, but that they are things that may allow some clarity.
After 'Receiving the Marrow by Bowing', and its call to find a teacher regardless of gender or status, the next fascicle 'Valley Sounds, Mountain Streams', also one of the better known in the collection, instructs us to find the dharma in everything around us. Dogen uses three famous enlightenment poems of Chinese masters - layman Dongpo, whose poem provides the title of the fascicle, Xiangyan who heard a pebble striking bamboo, and Lingyun who was enlightened through seeing peach blossoms - and uses them to exhort us to pay attention to everything with way-seeking mind: "To hear with the ear is an everyday matter, but to hear with the eye is not always so. When you see buddha, you see self-buddha, other buddha, a large buddha, a small buddha. Do not be frightened by a large buddha. Do not be put off by a small buddha. Just see large and small buddhas as valley sounds and mountain colors, as a broad, long tongue, and as eighty-four thousand verses. This is liberation, this is outstanding seeing".
The following fascicle 'Refrain from Unwholesome Action', 'Shoaku Makusa', gives us examples of Dogen's playing with words and phrases; taking as his starting point the verse
"Refrain from unwholesome action.
Do wholesome action.
Purify your own mind.
This is the teaching of all buddhas"
he ends up riffing:  "Purify your own mind. This means that you refrain from. Purify through refrain from. You that is your own. You that is mind. Your own that refrains from. Mind that refrains from. Mind that does. Purify through do. Your own do. You do. This is the teaching of all buddhas". Okay then.
This following phrase may help untangle this: "When you arouse your entire mind and let it practice, and when you arouse your entire body and let it practice, eight or nine out of ten are accomplished before questioning, and refrain from unwholesome action is actualized after knowing". Or it may not, but I like the idea of letting the mind and body practise, without trying to interfere so much by striving to understand.

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