Click here to go to the next issue
Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nondual Highlights each day
#2502 - Monday, June 19, 2006 - Editor: Gloria Lee
When you dream of an elephant, does an elephant appear to your mind? Indeed it appears very clearly. Is there an elephant there? No. This appearance of an elephant in your dream is a union of appearance and emptiness. It appears, yet it does not exist--yet it appears. It is the same with all external phenomena. If we understand the example of the appearance of something in a dream, it is easier to understand how the mind appears yet does not exist, and does not exist yet appears.
--Kenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in Essentials of Mahamudra
If I go into the mountains
there are nobody there
There is a possibilty of meeting
one or two
on a crowdy day
But what do I know,
there are so many mountains here
it would not be different
if everybody went.
as flowing waters disappear into the mist
we lose all track of their passage
every heart is its own Buddha
ease off; become immortal
wake up: the world's a mote of dust
behold heaven's round mirror
turn loose: slip past shape and shadow
sit side by side with nothing-save Tao
Clouds Should Know Me By Now
By Alan Larus
with more photos: http://www.ferryfee.com/bluesky/islands/clouds.htm
Cosmology of Space and the Practice of Self-Fulfillment
-Taigen Dan Leighton
Conventionally, "flowers in space" are an image of delusion, illusion, and non-reality. But Dogen is affirming that all the buddhas' teachings are just "flowers in space." The supposedly illusory space flowers are exactly where buddhas teach, "The vehicle upon which the buddhas ride." And even the Buddhist scriptures are flowers in space. This paradox is in full accord with the Mahayana principle, enunciated in the Lotus Sutra, of buddhas appearing precisely for the sake of awakening beings from the delusions and afflictions of the mundane world. Dogen says further, "By practicing this flower of space, the buddha-tathagatas receive the robes, the seat for teaching, and the master's room, and they attain the truth and get the effect. Picking up a flower and winking an eye are all the Universe." This is a reference to the legend of Shakyamuni holding up the flower and Mahakashyapa, considered the First Ancestor of Zen in India, smiling. Dogen says, "Picking up a flower and winking an eye are all the Universe, which is realized by clouded eyes and flowers in space. The true Dharma eye treasury [that is "Shobogenzo"] and the fine mind of nirvana, which have been authentically transmitted to the present without interruption, are called clouded eyes and flowers in space."
Dogen has turned a conventional image for delusion totally upside down. "Bodhi, nirvana, the Dharma-body, selfhood, and so on, are two or three petals of five petals opened by a flower in space." And then he quotes this line mentioned above, "Shakyamuni Buddha says, 'It is like a person who has clouded eyes seeing flowers in space; if the sickness of clouded eyes is cured, flowers vanish in space."
"No scholars have clearly understood this statement. Because they do not know space, they do not know flowers in space. Because they do not know flowers in space, they do not know a person who has clouded eyes, do not see a person who has clouded eyes, do not meet a person who has clouded eyes, and do not become a person who has clouded eyes. Through meeting a person who has clouded eyes, we should know flowers in space and should see flowers in space. When we have seen flowers in space, we can also see flowers vanish in space."
Dogen is not just talking about space, but the "flowering of space," and of the Dharma. Zazen and the whole Buddhist project is just a "flower in space" for Dogen. This is typical of Dogen's sense of humor, or at least he is playing with our usual understandings, and even the usual understandings of Buddhist scholars and teachers. It is exactly amid the space flowers that buddhas awaken and produce more space flowers. Dogen is also reaffirming, in a very deep way, the issue of nonduality.
Usually nonduality is considered as opposed to duality. Dogen often refers to nonduality, and it is usually thought that this is about transcending duality and discriminating mind, seeing through the dualities of form and emptiness, this and that, good and bad, right and wrong, all of the conventional dualistic illusions. But in his discussion of the flowers of space, Dogen is clearly talking about the nonduality of duality and nonduality. Dogen's nonduality is not about transcending the duality of form and emptiness. This deeper nonduality is not the opposite of duality, but the synthesis of duality and nonduality, with both included, and both seen as ultimately not separate, but as integrated. In the "flowers in space" of the buddhas' teaching, "space" is not empty space, "space" is our activity and life, the dialectical synthesis of form and emptiness.
Dogen also adds in Shobogenzo Kuge, "People who understand that flowers in space are not real but other flowers are real are people who have not seen or heard the Buddha's teaching." He is saying yes to everything, and cutting through duality and nonduality, right in our everyday life. "The everyday speech of a monk is the whole universe in ten directions" is a kind of a nonduality that goes beyond our conventional idea of nonduality. He is describing the ontological and cosmological awakening of the natural world, and the impact of space itself.
in a distant land
at the castle wall
I let you into my heart
this sky is your skin
When I came to say
I can see the way
One thing leads to another
I am at your feet
She did show me this:
There's no limit to the bliss
by Alan Larus http://www.ferryfee.com/bluesky/islands/no_limit.htm
Another influence is the native Japanese poetic tradition, as Steven Heine elaborates in The Zen Poetry of Dogen. Dogen's rhetoric, his poetic style, and philosophical approach come out of both the koan material, but also from the great literary tradition in Japan, in which he was very well versed. Yet another influence is the whole Mahayana tradition of the bodhisattva, apparent in his many quotes from various sutras. The image of "Flowers in Space" recalls the Flower Ornament Sutra, the Avatamsaka, which also talks about space and buddha-fields as full of flowers, as well as jewels, birds, and the adorned land itself all preaching the Dharma. The Mahayana sutras provide a tradition for this way of speaking about space, but as usual, Dogen turns it a little bit. [..]
says, "When one displays the Buddha mudra with one's whole
body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short
time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra,
and all space in the universe completely becomes
enlightenment." To say that all space itself becomes
enlightenment is a startling and radical statement from our usual
view of space, or of enlightenment. Dogen continues:
"There is a path through which the anuttara samyak sambodhi, complete perfect enlightenment, of all things returns to the person in zazen, and whereby that person and the enlightenment of all things intimately and imperceptibly assist each other. Therefore this zazen person without fail drops off body and mind, cuts away previous tainted views and thoughts, awakens genuine buddha-dharma, universally helps the buddha work in each place, as numerous as atoms, where buddhas teach and practice, and widely influences practitioners who are going beyond buddha, vigorously exalting the dharma that goes beyond buddha. At this time, because earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the universe in ten directions [the whole of space and all the things that are space: grasses, trees, fences and so forth] carry out buddha-work, therefore everyone receives the benefit of wind and water movement caused by this functioning, and all are imperceptibly helped by the wondrous and incomprehensible influence of buddha to actualize the enlightenment at hand."
Because of this mutual resonance, Dogen is saying that not only teachers help the practitioner, but that there is an "imperceptible" guidance and assistance between space itself and the person sitting. Zazen influences not only the people around the practitioner, but also, "grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles." But because the elements of space then also carry out "buddha work," they in turn inform and assist the practice of the person engaged in zazen. This is the import of this previous passage, which is part of the "self-fulfillment samadhi" jijiyu zanmai section of Bendowa that is chanted daily in Japanese Soto Zen training temples.
The etymology of the "self-fulfillment samadhi" is significant in Dogen's teaching about space itself becoming enlightenment. The etymology of jijiyu, or self-fulfillment, is literally, "the self accepting its function." When each person takes their place or dharma position, receiving their particular unique function or role in the world, then that active acceptance becomes the fulfillment of the deeper self that is not separate from the things of the world. There is an intimate relationship between self and the world, and that is involved in what might be called "faith," in trusting both oneself and the world. But this does not mean mere passive and unquestioning acceptance of everything. The practitioner's own active response and participation in the world, based on precepts and on principles of acting to benefit and awaken all beings, is part of the dynamic space that Dogen is expounding.
There is a word in the previous passage that I had not heard before studying in Japan, myoshi, or another version is myoka, meaning "mysterious guidance," or "incomprehensible assistance." This refers to the possibility of practitioners receiving benefit from the bodhisattva energy and buddha energy of the world. But also it works reciprocally; when we sit zazen, we affect the nature of the space. After you have sat a period in the meditation hall and arise, you might perhaps feel a difference in the space. This is hardly objective or scientific in the usual sense, but if you travel to Bodhgaya in India, or certain old temples in Japan, places where people have practiced for a very long time, and then walk into that space, you might feel some of the impact of the centuries of practice.
This idea of myoshi implies trusting the world to give what is needed, no matter how painful it is. It is also taking refuge, returning to the world, returning to one's place in the world. Myoshi is the basis for the whole practice of lay people, going to the temples and making offerings, chanting, and bowing to buddha and bodhisattva statues. Japanese college students call on Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, for help on their tests. But the other side of myoshi is that there is a responsibility; it is not just one-way. It is our practice that activates the response from the phenomenal world. So we have a responsibility to the world and to space, and with our responsive and aware practice, assistance can arrive from the awakened space.
Caring for Space
This view of space has some implications that are significant in terms of Dogen's contemporary relevance. This aspect is not all there is to Dogen's writing; there is also the psychological dimension implied in his teaching of "studying the self." But we could call this teaching about space the environmental aspect of Dogen. Dogen is saying that the environment is alive, just like the Native American peoples say that all our relations in the four directions are alive. The trees and grasses, and for Dogen even the lights, the rug, and the chairs, have some spiritual agency.
For a modern reading and current contemporary recreation of Dogen, one might see how this relates to Dogen's attention to taking care of the monastery or practice place, and taking care generally of the phenomenal world (which some people have considered "fussiness" on Dogen's part). According to Dogen, the space that one practices in is alive, and supportive, in this level of dharma practice. Taking care of the phenomenal world is the natural expression of the practice of zazen. Gary Snyder says that Zen comes down to meditation and sweeping the temple, and it is up to each person to decide where the boundaries of the temple are. There are particular practice places, and then there is the whole universe in the ten directions, and we each work within the limits of the field of space that we are in.
This view of space is also relevant to faith. The sense of faith for Dogen is that it is not belief in some thing, in what Dogen says, or in a buddha image, but faith as a kind of active practice relationship with space. This faith is just taking the next step, meeting each thing. That is because, from this perspective, the dharma world of space is alive. One does receive support when acting from that space of faith.
Taigen Dan Leighton has been teaching at the Institute of Buddhist Studies since 1994. He is author of Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression, and is editor and co-translator of a number of Zen texts, including Dogen's Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Koroku; Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi; and Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community; A Translation of the Eihei Shingi.
Thanks to Ed (stillpointed) for posting the link where entire article may be read.
top of page