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Sunday, 25 February 2018 15:47


“A special transmission outside the scriptures
No reliance on words or letters”

"Words and letters" means spoken and written language. What does “no reliance” mean? It doesn’t mean that language is anathema to authentic practice.

There is no reliance on language because everything - including language - is ceaseless expression and ceaseless activity; so everything, language as much as birdsong, is proclaiming the Dharma. 

The problem arises when we appropriate this expression and activity to the self. If we can keep dropping off the self, then the wholeness of everything, the aliveness of everything, which otherwise is just an ideal, is expressed. Not in some future life, some ideal life, but now.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 February 2018 15:50
 
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Wednesday, 21 February 2018 18:35

 

Because zazen is entirely outside the dream of the self, it is ceaseless enquiry. Not from a position of insufficiency or acquisition, but faith.

At the moment of gratitude, doing prostrations, we strike our head three times on the ground, and raise our hands. At the moment of enlightenment, the Buddha touched the ground. Is it the same ground, or not? If the same, how? If different, how?

When we raise our hands, we are symbolically lifting up the Buddha’s feet. Of course, we aren’t really lifting up the Buddha’s feet, nor the self. Rather, we are lifting multitudes

Multitudes

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 18:44
 
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Sunday, 18 February 2018 18:49


Master Dogen’s poem ‘Special transmission outside the scriptures’ (adapted)

The Dharma, like an oyster,
Thrown, onto the cliff peak
Waves crashing against the wall of bone
Like words
May reach but cannot wash it away

In the common usage, Zen is:

A special transmission outside the sutras
No reliance on words or letters.

When we are sitting, sometimes we are like a cliff. And in that way, sometimes we experience vast space, sometimes tranquillity. Sometimes storms, sometimes faraway birds. Sometimes, as if the weight of the whole ocean pushes against

this faith cliff, this practice cliff.


 

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 February 2018 18:55
 
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Tuesday, 13 February 2018 16:04

 

Master Dogen’s poem ‘Zazen Practice’:

The moon mirrored
By a mind free
Of all distractions;
Even the waves, breaking,
Are reflecting its light

We have a primitive idea what a symbol is. Usually, we think it’s like a code. So, in this case, ‘Moon’ will mean ‘Enlightenment’, or ‘Buddha Mind’, something like that. But a symbol is like a real person: it has infinite expression.

In his commentary on the Heart Sutra, Dogen said that “the bodhisattva of compassion, practicing zazen with the whole body, sees the five skandas are empty, and relieves all suffering”

So, we can see that one face of the symbol of the moon is Avalokitesvara, whose ‘whole body’ is the whole Universe, whose hands are the moonlight, whose eyes are the space above and the ground below, both holding the mind waves, enabling each wave to break, not through stillness but

through light

 

 

Zazen Practice:

at peace
within the heart
the clear moon
even the smashing waves
reflecting light

(trans. Shogen)

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 23:08
 
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Thursday, 08 February 2018 17:50


This life is described as being like a dewdrop in The Diamond Sutra, and Dogen elaborates on this image in his poem:

To what should I compare this life?
Dewdrops, thrown from a crane’s bill.

We imagine dewdrops, thrown into empty space, reflecting the moon, still, in the same vast space.

But what we need to understand is that if there were no dewdrops, there would be no moon. The sky really would be empty. There is no Buddha waiting in Tusita heaven, or anywhere else. There is no preexisting moon, no preexisting world. Both are born together with this dewdrop person. Both exist in this dewdrop eye. When the dewdrop falls, the world falls.

The image of each dewdrop reflecting the moon, reflecting everything, is reminiscent of Indra’s Net, but with two differences. Indra’s net is still, but the dewdrop is thrown; it’s dynamic and temporal. And Indra’s net is in a galaxy unknown to us, but Dogen’s dewdrop is this person in this world, re-created.


 

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 February 2018 17:54
 
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