Sunday, February 05, 2006

Dogen's Genjo Koan (Pt.2)

I'm now going to make a direct comparison between analyses of the Genjo Koan published by Thomas Cleary and Gudo Nishijima. For the purpose of comparison I have used the same system of section numbering (in square brackets) that Nishijima uses in his article.

[83] Text:

As all things are buddha-dharma, there is delusion and realization, practice, and birth and death, and there are buddhas and sentient beings. As the myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many of the one; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.

Nishijima comments:

This paragraph is composed of four sentences. The first is: “When all things and phenomena exist as Buddhist teachings, then there are delusion and realization, practice and experience, life and death, buddhas and ordinary people.” What does the sentence mean? This sentence describes the situation when we think about the world on the basis of an idealistic philosophical system—a set of teachings. From this basis we can find differences between many categories; delusion and realization, practice and experience, life and death, buddhas and ordinary people. This contrasts with the second sentence which says that there are no differences if we view the world “when millions of things and phenomena are all separate from ourselves.” This second sentence tells us that if we view the world separate from our own subjective viewpoint, that is objectively, we can find no difference in value between delusion and enlightenment, buddhas and ordinary people, life and death. They are all concrete facts and have equal value as such. This is the scientific or materialistic viewpoint. Master Dogen clearly distinguishes here between the philosophical standpoints of the idealist and the materialist.

At the same time, in the third sentence he separates the Buddhist viewpoint from these first two: he says that Buddhism is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity, and so in reality there are people and buddhas. Master Dogen is saying that Buddhism is different from relative comparisons in terms of large or small, heavy or light. Of course the meaning of the phrase “originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity” is not exact, but he seems to be saying that Buddhism does not belong to the area where we compare; where we say this is more valuable than that, this is not as important as that, and neither does it belong to the area of physical comparisons...

But in the third sentence of Genjo Koan, we see Master Dogen insisting that Buddhism is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity, over all kinds of relativistic analyses. The word “Buddhism” in the sentence is butsu-do in Japanese. Butsu means Buddha or Buddhist, and do means way, principle, or moral criterion. So the word translated as “Buddhism” also refers to Buddhist behavior, conduct or action. I think that in this sentence Master Dogen is saying that Buddhism is not in the same area as philosophical analysis, whether idealistic or materialistic. I think that the transcendent area that Master Dogen is referring to is the area of our behavior or conduct; that is our actions themselves...

Paragraph [83] is the first paragraph in which Master Dogen lays out the fundamental principles which govern the whole structure of the Shobogenzo. This first paragraph lays out the theoretical framework and as such belongs to the subjective viewpoint.

Cleary comments:

The very first paragraph contains a complete outline of Zen, in a covert presentation of the so-called "five ranks" (go i) device of the original Chinese Soto Zen school. The scheme of the five ranks-relative within absolute, absolute within relative, coming from within the absolute, arriving in the relative, and simultaneous attainment in both relative and absolute-is not overtly used in Dogen's work, perhaps because of the confusion surrounding it, but its structures are to be found throughout Shobogenzo.

"As all things are buddha-dharma, there is delusion and realization, practice, and birth and death, and there are buddhas and sentient beings. " According to Nishijima, the first sentence represents the Idealistic viewpoint; according to Cleary it represents 'Relative within Absolute'. Cleary cites a historical precedent for his scheme although Nishijima does not. Both interpretations appear coherent. Perhaps it could be interpreted more simply as the relative viewpoint of an outsider or one who is on the Buddha's Path - the view of multiplicity or the view from samsara.

"As the myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. "

Notice the difference in the way the second sentence is translated between Nishijima and Aitken & Tanahashi. Is this a reference to the objective viewpoint - a world of 'other' - or a reference to the absolute enlightened viewpoint in which all things lack inherent self or essence? It seems to depend on accuracy of translation.

Aitken & Tanahashi:

As the myriad things are without an abiding self...


When millions of things and phenomena are all separate from ourselves...


When myriad things are all not self...


When all things belong to the not-self...

Nishiyama and Stevens:

When all things are seen not to have any substance...

In isolation both interpretations appear to be valid. It could be an expression of a world-view based on 'no-self' as a belief, an objectification or reification of the principle of anatta, a universe consisting wholly of 'other'. Perhaps more convincingly, it could be seen as an expression of the absolute viewpoint, in which all things lack inherent self-nature - the viewpoint of 'oneness' or the view from nirvana.

"The buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many of the one; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread."

The next two sentences appear to be saying that Buddhism is transcendent over both of these viewpoints and thus difference multiplicity does exist in reality (but dependently) and irrespective of our wishes.

The concept of 'oneness' is not generally regarded as true enlightenment in Buddhism, since such a view differentiates itself from multiplicity and hence is a form of dualism. Rather these are seen as interdependent and non-dual.

[84] Text:

To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening. Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddhas.

[85] Text:

When you see forms or hear sounds fully engaging body-and-mind, you grasp things directly. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumined the other side is dark.

[86] Text:

To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

Nishijima comments:

The first sentence of the second paragraph describes delusion arising from subjective intention. It says “Driving ourselves to practice and experience millions of things and phenomena is delusion.” This is a subjective expression of the difference between realization and delusion and so this sentence belongs to the subjective phase.

Then the next sentence says “When millions of things and phenomena actively practice and experience ourselves, that is realization.” This sentence describes objective circumstances which influence a person who acts, and so belongs to the objective phase.

From the third sentence the paragraph says “Those who totally realize delusion are Buddhas. Those who are totally deluded about realization are ordinary people. There are people who attain further realization on the basis of realization. There are people who increase their delusion in the midst of delusion.” These sentences describe the actual situations of people who attain realization and who are deluded by realization. So these sentences belong to the action phase.

The next sentences say “When buddhas are really buddhas, they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Nevertheless, they experience the state of buddha, and they go on experiencing the state of buddha.” These two sentences express the state of realized buddha, and so belong to the ultimate phase. Thus in the second paragraph [84], the first sentence belongs to (S), the second sentence to (O), the next four sentences to (A), and the last two sentences to (R).

Another example appears in the next paragraph [85]. This paragraph relates to direct perception, and so the whole paragraph belongs to (O). But at the same time the first sentence, “to use our mind to look at forms and to use our mind to listen to sounds” relates to the subject, and so this part of the sentence belongs to (S). Further, “to use our body to look at forms and to use our body to listen to sounds” is related with perception of the external world or objects through the senses, and so this part of the sentence belongs to (O).

The last part of the sentence, “[our human perception] can never be like the reflection of an image in a mirror, or like the water and the moon” describes the actual situation of human sense perception and so belongs to (A).

And the next sentence is “When we affirm one side, we are blind to the other side.” This sentence expresses the reality of our ability to perceive with the senses and so belongs to (R).

Cleary comments:

Dogen says the way to enlightenment is to forget the self. The self in this sense refers to an accumulation of habits, including the habit of attachment to this accumulation as a genuine personality. Dogen calls this forgetting "shedding body and mind," an expression which is said to have galvanized his awareness as a young man and which he repeatedly uses to describe Zen study. Commentators on Dogen's lectures describe it in these terms: "Each moment of time is thoughtless; things do not provoke a second thought," and "This is the time when the whole mind and body attains great freedom."

This, however, is not the whole issue. In one of his lectures Dogen says that "shedding body and mind" is the beginning of the effort, and in Genjokoan he affirms that there is continuing progress in buddhahood, going beyond the attainment of enlightenment: "There is ceasing the traces of enlightenment, which causes one to forever leave the traces of enlightenment which is cessation." In the Hokke scripture Buddha reveals to his liberated disciples that nirvana, cessation of afflictive habits, which had been expediently represented as the goal, is as it were a resting place on an infinite path.

It seems that whether or not there is a SOAR structure to the koan, it is subsidiary to the relation between relative and absolute, delusion and realisation.

[87] Text:

When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. But dharma is already correctly transmitted; you are immediately your original self. When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes past and future and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.

This being so, it is an established way in buddha-dharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as no-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as no-death.

Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.

Nishijima comments:

Paragraph [87] relates to concrete reality because it explains the mutual relationship between subject and object, and the basic Buddhist idea of instantaneous time in the present.

So within the second group containing paragraphs [84], [85], [86], and [87] we find the (S), (O), (A), (R) structure, although the four paragraphs belong to Group (O).

Cleary comments:

Dogen states that delusion is a matter of experiencing things with the burden of the self-the bundle of mental habits, ingrained views, which is identified with the self. This is a basic issue of all Buddhist thought. The condition of the self, with its set of conditioned perceptions and views, is implicitly taken as a kind of absolute or veritable point of reference, if one takes one's experience as conceived to be reality. In order to overcome hidden prejudice in the form of unquestioned views, Dogen says that introspection is necessary, to see that things have no absolute identity, that they are not necessarily or totally as one may view them.

But then Dogen goes on to point out the absoluteness, so to speak, of relative identity. Logically, if particular things exist, or are defined, relative to one another and therefore lack absolute identity, yet that absolute identitylessness still depends on their relative identity. The approach Dogen takes, however, is not that of deduction but of direct witness (genryo), which he refers to, in classic Zen terminology, as the realms of before and after being disconnected. Thus Dogen explains the traditional "characteristics of emptiness" called birthlessness and nonperishing in terms of the noncoexistence of before and after, or the nonconcurrence of a state with its own nonexistence. Dogen's emphasis here seems to be not on discursive understanding of this point of logic, but on presence of mind in the most thoroughgoing sense, direct experience of the present.

[89] Text:

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.

Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky.

The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long of short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

[90] Text:

When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you think it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing.

For example, when you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round or square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only look circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this.

Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.

[91] Text:

A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once.

Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish.

It is possible to illustrate this with more analogies. Practice, enlightenment, and people are like this.

Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find you way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past and it is not merely arising now.

Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it--doing one practice is practicing completely. Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddha-dharma.

Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your consciousness. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.

Nishijima comments:

Paragraphs [89], [90], the first part of [91], and the second part of [91], are descriptions of actual Buddhist efforts, Buddhist facts or Buddhist behavior.

Paragraph [89] is an explanation of getting enlightenment, and enlightenment is the mental side of realizing the truth. So this paragraph belongs to the first phase of Buddhist practice: paragraph [89] is an (S) paragraph in Group (A). Paragraph [90] describes the concrete situation of a person who has got enlightenment So it belongs to the objective phase, and paragraph [90] is an (O) paragraph in Group (A).

I think that it is consistent to divide paragraph [91] into two paragraphs, because from the beginning of the paragraph to the sentence on the ninth and tenth lines: "it may be that life is birds and life is fish," Master Dogen represents the idea of oneness between a doer and the action. But from the sentence "there may be other expression that go even further" to the end of the paragraph relates to concrete matter, that is practice, experience, age. So it seems natural for the paragraph to be divided into two.

Cleary comments:

Dogen also speaks of enlightenment in terms of the universal being reflected in the individual; this "merging" of universe and individual does not, however, obliterate the individual or restrict the universal. This leads to the apparent paradox of life being at once finite and infinite. One life, or one sphere of experience, contains everything that is within its scope and nothing that is beyond its range. At every moment we reach, or are at, the full extent of our experience; and yet this never limits the potential of experience in itself. Each moment is complete, hence infinite, in itself, though it be finite as a point of comparison with past or future. In the Kegon philosophy, this interpenetration of the finite and the infinite is represented by the figure of "arriving in one step," each moment of awareness being the focal point of the whole nexus of existence. Again Dogen drives at the full experience of the present without conceptually delineating it.

[94] Text:

Zen master Pao-ch'ih was fanning himself one summer day when a passing priest asked: "The nature of wind is stationary, and it is universally present. Why do you then use your fan, sir?" The Zen master replied: "Though you know the nature of wind is stationary, you do not know why it is universally present." The priest asked, "Why then is the wind universally present?" The master only fanned himself, and the priest saluted him. Enlightenment through true experience and the vital way of right transmission are like this. Those who deny the need for fanning because the nature of wind is stationary and be cause the wind is sensed without the use of a fan understand neither the eternal presence of the wind nor its nature. Because the nature of wind is eternally present, the wind of Buddhism turns the earth to gold and ripens the rivers to ghee.

Nishijima comments:

Paragraph ([94] is the last paragraph in the chapter, and it belongs to Group (R). Master Dogen quotes a Chinese Buddhist story about Master Mayoku Ho-tetsu and his disciple. Fundamentally, the Buddhist truth, that is reality, cannot be described with words. When Master Dogen wants to talk about reality, he sometimes quotes a Buddhist story or Koan. This paragraph is one such example where he uses the Chinese story to symbolize reality.

Cleary comments:

Finally Dogen quotes a classic Zen story alluding to the necessity of practical application even though truth, or enlightenment, is inherent in everyone. A monk asks his teacher why he uses a fan if the nature of wind is eternal and omnipresent; the teacher replies that the student knows the nature of eternity but not the principle of omnipresence, and to illustrate this principle the teacher just fans himself. As one of the Kegon philosophers said, "If not for practice flowing from reality, there is no means to merge with reality."

More to follow...

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