|What Am I? Galen Sharp
(New selections are added to the
end of this page)
(also see Sandeep's Echo To A Sound, Shadow To A Shape)
Dogen was born into an aristocratic family in Kyoto, Japan
about 8 hundred
years back. A uniquely intelligent child, it is said that he began to read
Chinese poetry at the age of four.The Chinese language is probably the
most difficult language in the world as it has no alphabet.It is pictorial
and to read it means year of hard work to memorize those symbols. To the
born Chinese it may not be so difficult, because from birth it is ingrained
into the mind, but to an outsider it may take 20-30 years.
At the age of seven his parents died and at that time he was translating
the most significant Buddhist scripture- "Abhidharma"- "the essence of
religion" from Chinese to Japanese.At the age of seven Dogen took
At the age of 13, Dogen was formally (In those days it was not
be initiated, one had to prove one's capacity, potentiality,
possibility.One would have to prove that one will not betray on the path, that one will
not waste the time of the Master, that one will wait infinitely if needed.)
Dogen at the age of 13 was formally initiated into monkhood at Mount Hiei,
the center of Tendai Buddhist learning in Japan.For several years he
studied the schools of Mahayana and Hinayana versions of Buddhism.
At the age of 14, Dogen left the monastery because no one
satisfactorily answer his question on one sutra of Buddhist teaching
"all human beings are endowed with the buddha
Dogen's question was "if it is so, why is it that one must train oneself
so strenuously to realize that buddha nature, to attain enlightenment?
(If everybody is a buddha, then to recognize should be the
thing in the world.If you are potentially a buddha, or Christ then the
barriers cannot be much.A rose bush brings roses, a lotus see brings
lotus.If a man is seed buddha, then why so much discipline?)
Dogen went in search of one who could answer and met a teacher Myozen.In
spite of long years of training under Myozen, there was no satisfaction.
At the age of 23 he decided to go with Myozen to China to study Zen
Buddhism further.Leaving the ship, he came to T'ien-t'ung monastery where he
trained under Master Wu-Chi.
Still unsatisfied, he spent several years in several
to give up his search and return to Japan, he heard the former abbot of
T'ien-t'ung had died and his successor Ju-ching was one of China's
finest Zen Master.
It was Ju-ching who replied to Dogen;
"No discipline is required, is needed.No discipline, nowhere to go, no
way to be traveled, just "be", silent, settled, at the centre of your being
and you are a buddha.You are missing it because of your very search, your
very act of looking.
You will never find your buddhahood by changing one monastery
one scripture with another.Go in."
In Ju-ching's presence, his fragrance, his grace,his radiance,
When Dogen became a master in his own right, Ju-ching declared
him,"Now no more play acting of a disciple,You have come to understand, now
be compassionate towards the blind humanity."
Dogen later on writes
"To study the Way is to study the Self
To study the Self is to forget the Self
To forget the Self is to be enlightened by all things.
To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one's
self and others.
Then there is no trace of Enlightenment, though enlightenment
continues into one's daily life endlessly.
To seek the Law is to be far away from the border of it."
For me these are the proverbial "pearls"
Each word, each sentence has a depth of meaning.
"To study the Way is to study the Self"
Dogen is saying don't ask about the way. There is no way.The way leads
away and the further you search, the more you are lost.Drop all going and
remain at home, just doing nothing.
I am reminded here of Basho's haiku
A frog jumps
and great silence.
We are little sounds in a great silence.
In east, in every temple Bells are used. Ever wonder what is the purpose?It
is definitely not to announce to All Mighty God that one has arrived. It is
to remind oneself that with the ringing of the bell ,a sound got created out
of nowhere.It echoes and re-echoes and with every echo becomes more and more
silent, eventually disappearing.
Our existence is nothing but a sound in an immense ocean of
Don't bother about the way, any way, just study yourself.
"To study the Self is to forget the Self.
To forget the Self is to be enlightened by all things."
Who is going to study the self? The one who is going to study the self
has all ready dropped the self.The one who is studying the self is the
witness-the real Self.
Then it does not matter in what situation you are- any situation has the seeds of enlightenment.
One day a beggar went to see a Sufi fakir and found him seated
cushion inside a beautiful tent with it's ropes tied to golden pegs in the
Seeing all this the beggar cried:What is all this!
I have heard so much about you and your spirituality and non-attachment but
I am completely disillusioned by all this ostentation around you.
The fakir laughed and immediately jumped up and said Let's go and walked
off with the beggar not even waiting to put on his sandals.
After a while the beggar was distressed.
"I left my begging bowl in your tent. What shall I do without it? Please
wait while I go back and fetch it."
The Sufi roared in laughter. My friend said he," the gold pegs of my tent
were stuck in the earth, not in my heart;
but your begging bowl is still chasing you."
Once there lived a great artist, a sculptor and painter.
His art was so perfect that when he made a statue of a man, it was virtually
impossible to differentiate the man from the statue.
It was so lifelike, so alive, so similar.
Comes a seer who tells him that his death is fast approaching.
Frightened and wishing to avoid death, the sculptor thinks hard and finally
gets a clue for escape.
He made eleven statues of himself and when Death knocked at his door he
stood among the statues, not breathing.
The angel of Death was puzzled, couldn't believe his eyes.
So alike, so same, who to take with him?
It had never happened before, so irregular, God always creates unique, never
duplicates and here 12 of the same.
Worried and nervous, he goes to God and explains the problem.
God laughs and whispers something in his ear.
"Will it work" asks the nervous Angel of Death.
"Oh yes, I know Man a bit" replies God.
Returning back to the room of 12 statues, the Angel of Death looks around
and addressing no one in particular says "Everything is perfect except one
thing.You have done very well, only one point was missed. Only one error."
Immediately the sculptor jumps out " What, what error?"
He the greatest sculptor and error!
The Angel of Death laughs" The only error was that you could not forget
Come along chum."
Death is of what we have known about ourselves, what we have believed
ourselves to be, both the mundane definitions as well as the spiritual
definitions mind you.
This bag of knowledge concretized is the ego.
And the spiritual ego is the hardest to see through as it is more subtle and
hence more powerful.
So long the identification is with these definitions, death is a reality.
Cut the identification and death is a joke.
The sculptor was a caught because he truly could not become one of the
statues, i.e., could not disappear into non-being.
In the monasteries of Tibet, goes a story thus
Randy was the king of Mosquitoes.
It so happened that once his fellow subject mosquitoes were searching for a
place for their king Randy to reside.
Nothing less would do, as after it was Randy the mosquito and hence place
after place were rejected on one ground or the other.
Till they arrived at the ear of an elephant and all agreed that this was
indeed "the" palatial residence fit for their King Randy.
Randy inspected the premises and approved to move in.
Just before Randy moved his stuff, family etc, he thought it fit to announce
to the elephant his arrival.
After all guest should at least inform the host, thought Randy.
"Hey Elephant, I am Randy King of the Mosquitoes. I come from across those
mountains. After a lot of search, it has been decided that your ear is
suitable for me to reside.
You must be honored that I, Randy the III, King of Striped Mosquitoes have
come to reside in your ear.
I along with my family and followers will stay here.
For how long, I cannot say now"
Randy waited for a response. None came.
Thinking that the elephant must be overwhelmed with the occasion, Randy
Being the randy goat that Randy was, soon his family grew by leaps and
Some friends dropped in over the months, stayed back (as usually guests of
guests do) and soon it was a buzz of activity.
Getting a bit squeezed for space (Randy liked a bit of space to contemplate
on the concepts of Life which he kept picking from the Web through his
Web connection), he soon called his council of ministers and announced that
this would no longer do and they better find another place for the King.
"We need space" decreed Randy (speaking in the royal plural for himself)
Soon the search located another suitable place and Randy was ready to leave.
Thinking it was not good manners not to say few words to the elephant whose
ear he had occupied for so long, Randy said
"Hey Elephant. I know you will be heartbroken but I am leaving.
Stayed here for a good 6 months, good pad you got here, little cramped, but
No answer from the elephant.
Randy getting a bit pissed off (nobody ignores Randy not even those humans),
"Hey Elephant, I am leaving"
Again no response.
And so Randy fairly screamed and hollered as it was now a question of pride
for the striped Mosquito kingdom that he Randy the III be heard.
And finally the elephant turned around and looked around here and there and
espied a tiny wisp of a mosquito, making a song and dance about something.
"Yes?", asked the elephant.
"I am leaving" screamed the rapidly turning purple King of Mosquitoes.
"Oh you were there" said the astonished elephant.
"Forgive me, I never knew when you came, when you stayed, when you are
Just who are you" replied the elephant.
The Tibetan Masters go on and explain
A dialogue between an elephant and a Mosquito may well be possible.
After all an elephant is a big mosquito and a mosquito is a small elephant.
The difference is in dimensions, not of essence.
But a dialogue between the empty sky and the man filled with concepts,
ideas, notions about the sky is impossible.
For it is not a question of dimensions.
Man stands in front of the empty sky and screams
God IS NOT
Truth is so and so,
Religion is thus,
Visions are of this nature.
And the empty sky does not answer.
A dialogue between an elephant and the mosquito.
And the conceptual man's concepts like signatures on flowing water is
getting erased within the very process of his signing.
A story related:
Nun Chiyono studied for years and meditated for years on the
question of existence but was unable to find the light.
The thinking was filling her so much that she could not be a passage for the
She was so filled with herself that she could not be a host to the divine
The more she longed for enlightenment
the further off it seemed.
But one moonlit night she was carrying an old pail filled with water
-and the thing happened!
She was watching the full moon reflected in the pail of water
when the bamboo strip that held the pail staves broke.
The pail fell apart,
the water ran out
and the moon's reflection disappeared-
and with it Chiyono herself disappeared.
She was not- and what IS ------was.
Afterwards she wrote these verses;
"This way and that way
I tried to keep the pail of water together,
hoping the weak bamboos
would never break
But suddenly the bottom fell out:
no more water
no more moon in the water
and emptiness in my hand!"
Be empty and you will know
Be empty and you will be the mirror
Only total nothingness is capable of knowing all!
Response to Laura:
I've been reading book after book, scouring the web for
insight, and trying
to connect with people in my area who might be on a similar path to the one
What do you suppose they could do for you?
I've found no one in my area, and it seems that all the
'enlightened ones' I read about on the web have had some sort of guru,
usually in India. I don't see myself heading to India in search of
spiritual fulfullment for a loooooong time.
Yes, you might be totally dissappointed.
Yes, I'm back to the 'what to
do' problem, yet I know some sort of guidance seems to help get people
moving down this spiritual path at a bit quicker pace. What do you all do?
Blunder along like I am, or have most of you had some guidance? Heck, for
all I know, every one of you is fully realized...
Even you Laura, even you.
Only thing is that the search for "it" is more interesting for you right now
than "it", itself.
(gad, thankfully my english teacher is not around to see this sentence
How do you all approach 'the path'?
Where you are, there you will be.<g>
Right now from where you are, with all your "anguishes", your "blisses",
your "angers" and your "peace".
The well learned disciple, one fine morning at the breakfast table asks the
"Is there Life after Death"
"Is it not true that the dialectic process which defines Life at the
surface, is itself a flasity"
'Is it not true the apparent multiplicity while being an illusion, is
absolutely necessary to define what is non-illusory to itself. That what is
non-iilusory needs the illusory.Then why discount the illusory"
All around the table wait in breathless anticipation for the Master to
expound the Truth.
The Master replies 'Your omelete is getting cold".
|What Am I? Galen Sharp