Friday, November 12, 2010

Study Hall - Shobogenzo

Fascicles 13 and 14 in this collection are 'The Power of the Robe', 'Kesa Kudoku', and 'Transmitting the Robe', 'Den'e', and as is pointed out in the introduction, since they have the same date and largely the same subject, it may be that they were a single talk that got divided in two somewhere along the line.
Dogen uses the Buddha robe, the kashaya, as an emblem of, or even the essence of, true practice, and points to the transmission of the robe as a guarantee of the continuation of true practice; what he writes about Japan in the thirteenth century is just as true for the west today:
"We were born beyond beyond mountains and oceans more than a hundred thousand li away from the land where Buddha was born. We are uncivilized and foolish. However, if you receive and maintain a kashaya even for a day and night, and study one phrase or one verse of it, you will have the merit of making an offering not only to one or two buddhas, but also to countless, one hundred, thousand, billion buddhas...
There is a common saying: 'One thousand hearings do not match one seeing. One thousand seeings do not match one attainment'. If we reflect on this, even one thousand seeings and ten thousand hearings cannot match one attainment, an authentic receiving of the buddha robe.
Those who doubt authentic transmission have not dreamed of it, but authentic transmission of the buddha robe is more intimate than hearing about a buddha sutra. Even one thousand sutras and ten thousand attainments cannot match one realization. Buddha ancestors are the merging of realization. Do not follow the mediocre schools of scripture and precepts".
I do love Dogen when he is righteously dismissing other ways. This is not only due to his confidence in his own understanding, and that of his teacher, and the lineage of his teacher, but also as a way of impressing this on his perhaps fragile congregation of monks, who would have been exposed to other schools in Japan before coming to Dogen.
At Tassajara, before sewing class, we recite the sutra on the ten excellent merits of the okesa, which Dogen also includes in 'Kesa Kudoku', and I was trying to find a copy of it on the ino's computer, or even online, rather than copy the whole thing out by hand, but have not managed to locate it, so that will have to be for another time.

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