294.


Master Dogen's dharma discourse number 441.

“Having questions and answers, we smear everything with shit and piss. Not having questions and answers, thunder and lightning crash. The great Earth in ten directions is leveled and all of space is torn open, not allowed to enter from outside, not allowed to leave from inside.

A gavel strikes the sounding block and the ten thousand affairs are completed.

At such a time how is it?

(After a pause, Dogen said) time and again everything exists within a painting. Even allowing for what falls apart snow falls at midnight.”

This discourse, delivered in the last part of his life, in all its vigour and iconoclasm seems quintessentially Dogen, but in fact, prior to the pause, Dogen is directly quoting the words of his Master, Tendo Nyojo.

By this time his master had been dead for more than a decade and he had not seen him for more than 15 years.

Are the words Nyojo's or Dogen's, both, or neither?

It is the responsibility of the teacher to teach with great vigour, and to do so for the rest of their days.

Yet the personal vigour of a teacher - even a great teacher like Dogen - is puny. Yet it is as if sometimes the entire lineage - not just the visible lineage, but the lineage of all times - and the entire universe seen and unseen is all congregated around this person, and given voice.

Whether you believe it or not, you are like this, I am like this and, to live without doubt, it is necessary only once.

 

 
293.

 

Dogen's Dharma Hall Discourse 463 [adapted]

Dropping off body and mind; dropping off this skin, flesh, bones and marrow; dropping off this vivid waterfall of experience: How can this be you? How can this be other?

Breaking into a smile, nothing has ever been separated.

[after a pause]

In other days, we have mapped out this entire miraculous world, but this day, we are as innocent as children singing

 

 

 
Issho Fujita on posture

Please read a brilliant essay by Issho Fujita on posture from Dharma Eye.

 
292.

 

In the Courtyard of Master Joshu’s temple was a cypress tree. One day, a monk asked Joshu

“Does the cypress tree have Buddha nature?”

Joshu replied,  “It does”

The monk asked, “When does it acquire Buddha nature?”

Joshu said, “ When the sky falls to the ground”

The inclination is to interpret his answer as something like this:

Buddha nature isn’t an attribute that can be acquired by individual things, or people. It is a mythopoetic  way of describing the dynamic wholeness of all being.
So, it’s not that you, or anyone else, has Buddha nature. Rather, you and everything else are Buddha nature. In Joshu’s answer, “sky” means emptiness, so what Joshu is pointing to is different from an abstract understanding (and hence separation) of form and emptiness. Rather, it is the real experience of both, interwoven in the fabric of full dynamic functioning, or dependent origination, or Buddha nature.

But I think an interpretation like this falls into a classic zen error. We purport to debunk and leave the house of Buddhist theory, but actually never leave, remaining within a weird zen shaped annexe, perhaps called “concrete reality”, perhaps called something else.

We can’t understand practice through theory, but we can understand and explain theory through practice. But without theory, we would never start practice. But it’s not a catch 22, it’s a spiral.

In the exchange, when is the “When”?

When we practice. In your actual experience, when you are sitting, isn’t it as if your face, your head, your torso are hanging in space? And isn’t it as if your pelvis, your legs, your feet are part of the great ground? And isn’t this the sky falling to the ground? The ground falling to the sky?


 
291.

 

Our practice does not start from a position of lack. We do not need to complete or perfect anything. We are not on a journey. We are not spiritual warriors.

Rather, we are like a child filled with wonder. We are like an old person, on the point of death, grateful to have lived, picturing the deep interweaving of all things, picturing - eyeless - the great miracle.

This great miracle is always present, like a mother. Sometimes she embraces me, and sometimes she lets me be. But whenever I drop the weight of my head, she lifts me up.

 

 

 
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