November 15th, 2011

Studying the Way, by Dogen, zen_reading1111

Students should know that the buddha way lies outside thinking, analysis, prophecy, introspection, knowledge, and wise explanation. If the buddha way were in these activities, why would you not have realized the buddha way by now, since from birth you have perpetually been in the midst of these activities?

Students of the way should not employ thinking, analysis, or any such thing. Though thinking and other activities perpetually beset you, if you examine them as you go, your clarity will be like a mirror.

Practice throughout the way

To practice throughout the way is to actualize the limitless realm of the buddha way and to illuminate all aspects of the buddha way. The buddha way is under everyone’s heel. Immersed in enlightenment, you are complete. Therefore, even though you arrive at full understanding, still this is only a part of enlightenment. This is how it is with practice throughout the way.

People nowadays who study the way do not understand where the way leads or ends, so they strongly desire to gain visible results. Who would not make this mistake? It is like someone who runs away from his father, leaving a treasure behind and wandering about. Though he is the only child of a wealthy family, he endlessly wanders as a menial in foreign lands. Indeed it is just like this.

Those who study the way seek to be immersed in the way. For those who are immersed in the way, all traces of enlightenment perish. Those who practice the buddha way should first of all trust in the buddha way. Those who trust in the buddha way should trust that they are in essence within the buddha way, where there is no delusion, no false thinking, no increase or decrease, and no mistake. To arouse such trust and illuminate the way in this manner, and to practice accordingly, are fundamental to studying the way.

You do this by sitting, which severs the root of thinking and blocks access to the road of intellectual understanding. This is an excellent means to arouse true beginner’s mind. Then you let body and mind drop away and let go of delusion and enlightenment. This is the second aspect of studying the way.

Generally speaking, those who trust that they are within the buddha way are most rare. If you have correct trust that you are within the buddha way, you understand where the great way leads or ends, and you know the original source of delusion and enlightenment. If once, in sitting, you sever the root of thinking, in eight or nine cases out of ten you will immediately attain understanding of the way.

Immediately hitting the mark

There are two ways to penetrate body and mind: studying with a master to hear the teaching, and devotedly sitting zazen. Listening to the teaching opens up your conscious mind, while sitting zazen is concerned with practice-enlightenment.

Everyone has a body-mind. In activity and appearance its function is either leading or following, courageous or cowardly. To realize buddha immediately with this body-mind is to hit the mark. Without changing your usual body-mind, just to follow buddha’s realization is called “immediate,” is called “hitting the mark.”

To follow buddha completely means you do not have your old views. To hit the mark completely means you have no new nest in which to settle.


Excerpted from Moon in a Dewdrop - Writings of Zen Master Dogen, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

 Even though the purist may take issue with our approach, we are left with studying as best we can with these masters of old, tried and true, to guide us. The difference is there is no one going around correcting our posture in meditation or striking us if we fall asleep on the mat; there is no Master to have a spiritual encounter with to challenge us, and that IS the crux of our situation. We can so easily fool ourselves in complacency.

Who will wake us up? Zen Master Zuigon had his own unique approach:

Every day Zuigan used to call out to himself, “Master!” and would answer, “Yes!”

Then he would tell himself, “Wake up!” and he would answer himself, “Yes! Yes!” Then he would say to himself, “Don’t be deceived by others, any day or any time!” and he would again answer himself, “Yes, yes!”

What creative approach will we find to wake ourselves up?

Waking up once again,