Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
tariki

Dogen

Recommended Posts

Drifting along, I have become engrossed with the 12th century Japanese zen buddhist Dogen. Not sure how to pronounce his name......is it dough-jen, or dog-n, or perhaps dodge-n? Another problem is that I'm still not sure if it matters - but suspect not.

 

I think we all have our very own koan ( is that ko-ann or kone? ), the concrete reality we live in and the ultimate "answer" to what is/are for ourselves the problem/s of existence. For Dogen, he subscribed to the Mahayana Buddhist view that enlightenment is a given - not to be "attained" in any way, shape or form. His conumdrum, the one that made his head burn, was simply this:- that being so, enlightenment being ours, why practice? Why in fact do ANYTHING?

 

I'm slowly ploughing through a book, "Dogen: Mystical Realist" and to say it is difficult would be an understatement. Its just that at odd intervals a few words hit the spot - possibly they address my own conundrum at some sort of level.

 

Anyway, I will dig out a few words when I get the time. For now I would just say that for Dogen the little quip that is often spoken, "do not mistake the finger that points for the moon itself" is given a new twist. He sees such as dualistic, and instead claims that the pointing is the thing itself, thus enlightenment IS practice, which became his "answer" to his own question; lived, not thought.

 

Well, enough for now. Anyone interested, please post whatever.

 

Thank you

 

(Just to add, there was a quote from Dogen that has rested in me for many years, that "in the whole universe there is nothing that is hidden". The words are just so refreshing, so liberating. Or so I find them. I think they have rested and brought forth fruit.

 

One little phrase I have just dug out....."If you talk about it, it fills your mouth; yet it is infinite in space and time")

Edited by tariki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just to add a similar quote. Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is to be made manifest, or realized, is at the same time presently obscured. We don't see things the way they are. But I'm quite sure Jesus did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks.

 

i'm seeking to clarify my own mind. Reading on, seeking to grasp the thought of Dogen, some from what could be called a "western" perspective could well claim that he was trying to have his cake and eat it too - a dualistic perspective. One that sees enlightenment as a state of being waiting to be realised and known for the first time, a coat we do not currently wear. As I see it, Dogen is not trying to have his cake and eat it too, he IS having his cake and eating it too - a nondualistic living where "to be is to understand" and where "one was what one understood." We are all living just as we are in the "self-creative process of Buddha nature". Not all either in it or not.

 

Pure Land Buddhism is often seen as a reaction to the elitist monastic Buddhism of the 12th century, of which Dogen is seen as representing. Yet, no, it is not possible to see it like that. Dogen rejected the whole idea of levels of understanding........."however lowly one's symbols and practices are as in, say, a peasant's religion, one is nevertheless entitled to enlightenment if and when one uses them authentically". For, again, enlightenment is not a state achieved, but a given, and that which unfolds in the living. It is always complete in and of itself yet always seeking new expression.

 

Getting back to the word and the thing itself, there is a note given in the book, of Wittgenstein, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent" and then "There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself, it is the mystical." Another man, J Wisdom, is quoted, "Philosophers should be constantly trying to say what cannot be said." In his own "eastern" way, Dogen agrees - he has his cake of non-expression, of silence, yet such is expressed in each moment of our lives, in reality itself,

 

Which for the author of the book is linked to some words of a certain Te-shan......."thirty blows if you cannot speak, thirty blows if you can". (Which seems more like not having your cake and not eating it as well.... :D )

 

So Steve, as I see it, we do in fact see things exactly as they are, even the lowliest, yet there is always more to see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps Dogen is saying, we see things exactly the way they are because we are effectively making them the way they are and the changing we perceive in our understanding is nothing more than the unfolding of enlightenment which is always present ? But why punish the brain with all these conundrums and perhaps nonsense when there is in reality nothing to attain that is not already present?

It seems to me, practice and searching is ended for him/her who realizes this and allows life to live itself.

Just musing

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But why punish the brain with all these conundrums and perhaps nonsense when there is in reality nothing to attain that is not already present?

It seems to me, practice and searching is ended for him/her who realizes this and allows life to live itself.

Just musing

Like Thormas with his interest in the historical Jesus, I quite enjoy the interest I have in Dogen's thought, his way of seeing things, the concrete reality of his life. I certainly experience no sense of "punishment" to what brain I have.

 

For ne, as I see it, Dogen is the full package. It could be said he was evangelical in the Bodhisattva way of seeking the good/enlightenment/salvation of all via upaya ( convenient means ) For him there was no "enlightenment retirement". Practice and enlightenment were "one". "Searching", for him, no longer came into it.

 

Myself, I would have to question the idea of life "living itself".

 

Maybe others have some thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By Life living itself, i mean letting go of the need for an expected outcome. It can be quite freeing to the mind and body.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its fine for an enlightened or realized being to say that practice is not required because we already possess what we need. But I'm wondering if Dogen didn't practice.

 

I think he probably did his share of meditation, reflection, contemplation, etc. There is a certain tried and true methodology involved with all of this. Some probably don't need to bother, but for most ordinary beings, we have to deal with a dualistic perspective and are destined to a graduated path. This requires commitment, dedication, devotion and so on. This is true of any endeavor, so why would we think it's any different in what we refer to as the spiritual life. Personally, I think it's a bit unwise to listen too closely to those who claim we already have what we need. There remains the question of afflictive and mental obscurations and how to deal with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve, I must have been unclear. Dogen indeed subscribed to the notion of "inherent enlightenment " rather than that of "acquired enlightenment" (as I do, in the sense that Grace is given, not earned)

 

His conundrum was thus:- why practice? His answer was that practice and enlightenment are "one", on-going, the infinite unfolding of Buddha-nature.

 

( Dogen is actually the founder of Soto zen, the zazen only school, where hours upon the meditation mat is advocated)

 

His thought is complex, but I am finding it helpful in my own particular way.

 

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now I get it! Thanks for the clarification, Tariki. I guess he went from " why practice" to "why not practice". That whole Zazen thing is way too macho for me!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By Life living itself, i mean letting go of the need for an expected outcome. It can be quite freeing to the mind and body.

Yes, I'm happy with that. Just as we receive without price, we "give" without thought of "reward".

 

Relating this to Dogen's thought, as far as I can understand, he sees each and every "expression" ( of the body/mind unity ) as complete in and of itself. In one place it is said that his non-dualism is in fact the "REALISATION of dualism". Back to having your cake and eating it too.

 

Oh well, back to the book, though I may give Winnie the Pooh a go for a little light relief.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I will plough on, punishment or not. Just hit the spot in the book which reminded me once again that Buddhist non-dualism is not that "all is one" but that reality is "not two". A fine distinction.

 

Dogen wends his very own middle way ( his "no position") between monism ( AKA pantheism ) and reductionistic phenomenalism. I realise more and more that this is so we can learn to live, rather than just THINK about living, or - in other terms - live by faith and not by belief. ( Dogen speaks much of faith )

 

Just dipping into yet another book, that speaks of how Dogen was largely ignored in his own time ( and up until the 20th century ) as his thought and writings were too "recondite". Now he has been "discovered" - apparently because he saw the "contextual basis of meaning". Which alerts the "truth is truth" brigade ( THEIRS ) but encourages others who like to have faith in nothing. Meanwhile, as I see it, Dogen walks on, having his cake and eating it ( whether or not "at the same time" I'm not so sure )

 

But as far as having as well as eating, surely if Reality is truly gracious, should it not be so? Love becomes greater the more we give it away, and it "has no why" ( Eckhart )

Edited by tariki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Despite all the talk of "maya" and "illusion" that is projected onto the eastern faiths, once again my own reading and understanding of Dogen reveals that in his thought there is no betrayal of THIS world for some imagined other. Another to "come" in the future, to come as some sort of "reward" (?) or "compensation" (?) or "punishment" (?), this world as a "vale of tears", a "preparation", a "testing ground"........the list seems endless. To my mind, all betrayal.

 

This is it. It unfolds, but is always just as it is, it does not point beyond itself to some transcendent reality that gives it birth. Pure acceptance of what IS is the catalyst of all potential for unfolding.

 

Musing, thinking aloud, seeking clarity of mind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is it. It unfolds, but is always just as it is, it does not point beyond itself to some transcendent reality that gives it birth. Pure acceptance of what IS is the catalyst of all potential for unfolding.

 

Musing, thinking aloud, seeking clarity of mind.

 

Seems reasonable to me in my non-Buddhist way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Seems reasonable to me in my non-Buddhist way.

 

Maybe sounding "reasonable" is not the best recommendation as far as Dogen is concerned..... :o:D Often in the book I am stumbling through the thought and teachings of another Buddhist worthy is quoted and explicated..........and I nod appreciatively at the fine non-dualistic grasp of reality. Then Dogen wades in and denounces it all as dualistic!! I reel away in confusion then get a fleeting glimpse of just what is being said. It does seem to revolve around the distinction between monism and non-duality. They do seem to be confused. Non-duality leaves nowhere for the mind to stick, nothing to grasp and hold, you either live or stay with the intellect.

 

I'm reminded of a little verse or two from one of the most ancient Buddhist Texts, the Sutta Nipata...........

 

Seeing misery in views and opinions, without adopting any, I found inner peace and freedom. One who is free does not hold to views or dispute opinions. For a sage there is no higher, lower, nor equal, no places in which the mind can stick. But those who grasp after views and opinions only wander about the world annoying people.

 

As I still often wander around the world annoying people, I am obviously no sage. But Dogen's way of having your cake and eating it too gives me hope..........

 

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One phrase came back, of enlightenment being "the REALISATION of duality." That duality is the NECESSARY habitat in which we lived and were enlightened.

 

Time was when I struggled to relate such things to the various Christian theologies. Now, that WAS punishment....

 

(Laughing face)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The quote from the Sutta Nipata doesn't bode well for those of us who express our opinions on this forum! I guess we all annoy each other!

 

Steve

Edited by SteveS55

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The quote from the Sutta Nipata doesn't bode well for those of us who express our opinions on this forum! I guess we all annoy each other!

 

Steve

 

Steve, I find your comment just a tad annoying given that I had already said much the same thing...... :D

 

But annoying or not, I will plough on. I've hit a particularly recondite patch in the book on Dogen, where the fine distinction between non-thinking and not-thinking is explicated for those seeking further punishment to the brain. Dogen's position (or no-position, when he can rise from his meditation cushion) appears to be that both non-thinking and not-thinking are subsumed within no-thinking, which seems like having your cake, eating it, and handing it out to others, and leaving it in the cupboard all at the same time. AS the Good Book says, "whoever as ears to hear, let them hear" (or "think")

 

Well, I'm waffling. But reading I am struck by how the very same themes are played out within all faiths. Maybe it is that Buddhism had never been part of a strong "orthodoxy" with political/secular power, able to impose itself by Inquisition and threats of ex-communication. Historically, it seems that all the multitude of ways of seeing and understanding "Buddha-nature" etc etc have been mulled over and taught without any one becoming a Doctrine that "must be believed to be saved" (or variations on that theme)

 

Maybe worth a thread of its own. But then, I would not like to annoy anyone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As clarification (!), both "existence" and "non-existence" are subsumed ( or embraced by ) by "emptiness" AKA "suchness". "Suchness" for me suggests the lived/experienced reality, which is beyond all words and definitions, creeds or formulas. But whatever, those who would see "emptiness" as being in any way, shape or form as being associated with nihilism are simply wrong. I say this as my experience on other Christian forums is that some are determined to insist upon such an association, no matter what.

 

Edit:- Emptiness is NOT some sort of state/ground of Reality from which things "arise", but reality itself. If I have learnt anything in my own association with Buddhism it is that. Dogen clarifies this, at least for me.

Edited by tariki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have now reached the end of the book on Dogen, "Eihei Dogen:Mystical Realist" by Kim Hee-Jin. Irrespective of the punishment to my brain of the thought of "non-thinking" and "not-thinking" being subsumed by no-thinking, a certain clarity unfolds.

 

The final few words of the book concern Dogen's image of humanity, referred to as the "person of suchness" AKA "the original countenance", the "person of no rank". However, Kim Hee-Jin sees Dogen as more insistent upon the "person of a particular rank", the concrete individual who finds fulfilment in the process of individuation. The final sentence of the book....(In Dogen's thought) "Personal and social conditions and cosmic resonance all constituted concerted efforts to define this indefinable mystery of thusness, in a concrete socio-cultural and historical situation."

 

What "clarity" can there be in the ultimate mystery? Each moment is just what it is, it is neither incomplete nor a step on the way towards anything else. The "journey is home", as Basho wrote in his own journey to the far north. Yet each moment contains just what tomorrow may bring, and just what the past has given. We have our cake and eat it too. Such is grace.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once again, for clarities sake (my own if not anyone else), as I see it Dogen's thought relates to certain philosophical preferences. First of "Internal Relations" rather than "External Relations", i.e. if A and B are related, in external relations they both exist independently and any relationship between them becomes a third factor, C. By contrast, in internal relations, the necessary third factor is that which overlaps, or interlinks, in fact the shared part of A and B. This obviously has implications for the relationship between "knower" and "known", subject and object. In external relations, such a relationship becomes "knowledge", and then theories arise as to what would make the "knowledge" true. Within internal relations, knowledge becomes that which overlaps, is interdependent.........therefore Dogen's "we are that which we understand". There would be no obstruction between mindfulness and reality. As has been said......."Such a model stresses engagement and praxis in preference to observation and analysis." The ideal is thus not the detached observer, but the one who is engaged, always somatic and not just intellective.

 

"Further, if one assumes human being in its entirety to be part of the world, then knowledge of the world, in the final analysis, means that part of the world knows itself."

 

The two modes of relations also implies that the passing on of knowledge, rather than something objective being transmitted systematically to another via words, involves more the relationship between human beings - knowledge as "love", "compassion", "empathy" and as Dogen would say, "selflessness." Another corollary, of just how "knowledge" comes about - by reading and study or within the heart of life itself?

 

For me, as with all things, it is not a case of either/or. The reality is that both ways of knowing can be part of just what it is to be human. Yet this perhaps brings with it the so called "argument by relegation" (and of which is to be relegated!) Opposite positions are treated not by refuting them, but by accepting them as true, but only true as a part of the full picture. One way of knowing is therefore not cast aside - the main idea is perhaps to know/live just which form of knowledge encompasses/infolds the other.

 

The consequence of all this is that a "little child can lead them". Ultimately life can be very simple when lived to the very fullest.

 

(My thanks to "Japanese Philosophy:A Sourcebook", the introduction to which is clearer to me after reading of Dogen)

Edited by tariki

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think i got what you are saying....... :o:wacko::unsure::)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think i got what you are saying....... :o:wacko::unsure::)

 

Please give thanks that you have been let off lightly...... :D I actually resisted the impulse to write of the holographic nature of internal relations. I must admit that the reason for this was purely one of self interest - i.e. the fear of being asked to explain exactly what I meant. (The holographic, of whole and parts, seems to be some sort of opposite to the reductionist leanings of external relations. An analogy from biology is given in the rather thick tome I was delving into, this being that the DNA of every cell contains the genetic blueprint for the whole body of which the cell is a part. Anyway, enough of that.)

 

Just to add, and the purpose of this post, I just happened to hit upon an example of "internal relations", this from the strange world of those called "Deadheads", that is, those who still rejoice in the music of the Grateful Dead and their story. In a book that seeks to tell the tale I found this tucked away in the Foreword:-

 

The author generally seems to understand that the real object of this adoration is not the band, but the Mysterious Creature which sometimes arises between them and the audience, which all of us create and of which each of us should be properly in awe.

 

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×