Asia Online (TAO)
Guidelines for studying the Way
by Eihei Dogen
You should arouse the thought of enlightenment.
The thought of enlightenment has many names but they all refer to one and the same mind.
Ancestor Nagarjuna said, "The mind that fully sees into the uncertain world of birth and death is called the thought of enlightenment."
Thus if we maintain this mind, this mind can become the thought of enlightenment.
Indeed, when you understand the discontinuity the notion of self does not come into being, ideas of name and gain to not arise. Fearing the swift passage of the sunlight, practice the way as though saving your head from fire. Reflecting on this ephemeral life, make endeavor in the manner of Buddha raising his foot.
When you hear a song of praise sung by a kinnara god or a kalavinka bird, let it be as the evening breeze brushing against your ears. If you see the beautiful face of Maoqiang or Xishi, let it be like the morning dewdrops coming into your sight. Freedom from the ties of sound and form naturally accords with the essence of the way-seeking mind.
If in the past or present, you hear about students of small learning or meet people with limited views, often they have fallen into the pit of fame and profit and have forever missed the buddha way in their life. What a pity! How regrettable! You should not ignore this.
Even if you read the sutras of the expedient or complete teaching, or transmit the scriptures of the exoteric or esoteric schools, without throwing away name and gain it cannot be called arousing the thought of enlightenment.
Some of these people say, "The thought of enlightenment is the mind of supreme, perfect enlightenment. Do not be concerned with the cultivation of fame or profit."
Some of them say, "The thought of enlightenment is the insight that each thought contains three thousand realms."
Some of them say, "The thought of enlightenment is the mind of entering the buddha realm."
Such people do not yet know and mistakenly slander the thought of enlightenment. They are remote from the buddha way.
Try to reflect on the mind concerned only with your own gain. Does this one thought blend with the nature and attributes of the three thousand realms? Does this one thought realize the dharma gate of being unborn? There is only the deluded thought of greed for name and love of gain. There is nothing which could be taken as the thought of enlightenment.
From ancient times sages have attained the way and realized dharma. Although as an expedient teaching they lived ordinary lives, still they had no distorted thought of fame or profit. Not even attached to dharma, how could they have worldly attachment?
The thought of enlightenment, as was mentioned, is the mind which sees into impermanence. This is most fundamental, and not at all the same as the mind pointed to by confused people. The understanding that each thought is unborn or the insight that each thought contains three thousand realms is excellent practice after arousing the thought of enlightenment. This should not be mistaken.
Just forget yourself for now and practice inwardlythis is one with the thought of enlightenment. We see that the sixty-two views are based on self. So when a notion of self arises, sit quietly and contemplate it. Is there a real basis inside or outside your body now? Your body with hair and skin is just inherited from your father and mother. From beginning to end a drop of blood or lymph is empty. So none of these are the self. What about mind, thought, awareness, and knowledge? Or the breath going in and out, which ties a lifetime together: what is it after all? None of these are the self either. How could you be attached to any of them? Deluded people are attached to them. Enlightened people are free of them.
You figure there is self where there is no self. You attache to birth where there is no birth. You do not practice the buddha way, which should be practiced. You do not cut off the worldly mind, which should be cut off. Avoiding the true teaching and pursuing the groundless teaching, how could you not be mistaken?
Once you see or hear the true teaching, you should practice it without fail.
One phrase offered by a loyal servant can have the power to alter the course of the nation. One word given by a buddha ancestor cannot fail to turn peoples minds. The unwise ruler does not adopt the servants advice. One who does not step forward cannot accept the buddhas teaching. If you are unbending, you cannot stop floating along in birth and death. If appropriate advice is not heeded, governing with virtue cannot be realized.
In the buddha way, you should always enter enlightenment through practice.
A worldly teacher says, "Through study one can gain wealth." Buddha says, "Within practice there is enlightenment."
It is unheard-of that without studying someone should earn wealth or that without practicing someone should attain enlightenment. Though practice variesinitiated by faith or dharma knowledge, with emphasis on sudden or gradual enlightenmentyou always depend on practice to go beyond enlightenment. Though study can be superficial or profound, and students can be sharp or dull, accumulated studying earns wealth. This does not necessarily depend on the kings excellence or inability, nor should it depend on ones having good or bad luck. If someone were to get wealth without studying, how could he transmit the way in which ancient kings, in times of either order or disorder, ruled the country? If you were to gain realization without practice, how could you comprehend the Tathagatas teaching of delusion and enlightenment.
You should know that arousing practice in the midst of delusion, you attain realization before you recognize it. At this time you first know that the raft of discourse is like yesterdays dream, and you finally cut off your old understanding bound up in the vines and serpents of words. This is not made to happen by Buddha, but is accomplished by your all-encompassing effort.
Moreover, what practice calls forth is enlightenment; your treasure house does not come from outside. How enlightenment functions is through practice; how could actions of mind-ground go astray? So if you turn the eye of enlightenment and reflect back on the realm of practice, nothing in particular hits the eye, and you just see white clouds for ten thousand miles. If you arouse practice as thought climbing the steps of enlightenment, not even a speck of dust will support your feet; you will be as far from true practice as heaven is from earth. Now step back and leap beyond the buddha land.
This portion was written on the night day, third month, second year of Tempuku .
You should not practice Buddhas teaching with the idea of gain.
The practice of Buddhas teaching is always done by receiving the essential instructions of a master, not by following your own ideas. In fact, Buddhas teaching cannot be attained by having ideas or not having ideas. Only when the mind of pure practice coincides with the way will body and mind be calm. If body and mind are not yet calm, they will not be at ease. When body and mind are not at ease, thorns grow on the path of realization.
So that pure practice and the way coincide, how should we proceed? Proceed with the mind which neither grasps nor rejects, the mind unconcerned with name or gain. Do not practice buddha-dharma with the thought that it is to benefit others.
People in the present world, even those practicing the buddha-dharma, have a mind which is far apart from the way. They practice what others praise and admire, even though they know it does not accord with the way. They reject and do not practice what others fail to honor and praise, even though they know it is the true way. How painful! You should try to quiet your mind and investigate whether these attitudes are buddha-dharma or not. You may be completely ashamed. The eye of the sage illuminates this.
Clearly, buddha-dharma is not practiced for ones own sake, and even less for the sake of fame and profit. Just for the sake of buddha-dharma you should practice it.
All buddhas compassion and sympathy for sentient beings are neither for their own sake nor for others. It is just the nature of buddha-dharma. Isnt it apparent that insects and animals nurture their offspring, exhausting themselves with painful labors, yet in the end have no reward when their offspring are grown? In this way the compassion of small creatures for their offspring naturally resembles the thought of all buddhas for sentient beings.
The inconceivable dharma of all buddhas is not compassion alone, but compassion is the basis of the various teachings that appear universally. Already we are children of the buddhas. Why not follow their lead?
Students! Do not practice buddha-dharma for your own sake. Do not practice buddha-dharma for name and gain. Do not practice buddha-dharma to attain miraculous effects. Practice buddha-dharma solely for the sake of buddha-dharma. This is the way.
You should seek a true teacher to practice Zen and study the way.
A teacher of old said, "If the beginning is not right, myriad practices will be useless.
How true these words are! Practice of the way depends on whether the guiding master is a true teacher or not.
The disciple is like wood, and the teacher resembles a craftsman. Even if the wood is good, without a skilled craftsman its extraordinary beauty is not revealed. Even if the wood is bent, placed in skilled hands its splendid merits immediately appear. By this you should know that realization is genuine or false depending on whether the teacher is true or incompetent.
But in our country from ancient times, there have not been many true teachers. How do we know this is so? We can guess by studying their sayings, just as we can scoop up stream water and find out about its source. In our country from ancient times, various teachers have written books and instructed their disciples, offering their teaching to human and heavenly beings. Their words are immature, their discourse has not yet ripened. They have not yet reached the peak of study; how could they have come close to the state of realization? They only transmitted words and phrases or taught the changing of Buddhas name. They count other peoples treasure day and night, not having half a penny themselves.
Previous teachers are responsible for this. They taught people to seek enlightenment outside mind, or to seek rebirth in another land. Confusion starts from this. Mistaken ideas come from this.
Though you give good medicine, if you do not teach a method of controlling its use it will make one sicker than taking poison. In our country since ancient times it seems as though no one has given good medicine. There are as yet no masters who can control the poisonous effects of medicine. Because of this, it is difficult to penetrate birth and death. How can old age and death be overcome.
All this is the teachers fault, not at all the fault of the disciples. The reason is that those who are teachers let people neglect the root and go out on the limbs. Before they establish true understanding, they are absorbed only in their own thinking, and they unwittingly cause others to enter a realm of confusion. What a pity! Those who are teachers do not yet understand this confusion. How could students realize what is right and wrong?
How sad! In this small, remote nation buddha-dharma has not yet spread widely. True masters have not yet appeared here. If you wish to study the unsurpassed buddha way, you have to travel a great distance to call on the masters in Song China, and you have to reflect deeply n the vital road outside thought. Until you have a true teacher, it is better not to study.
Regardless of his age or experience, a true teacher is simply one who has apprehended the true teaching and attained the authentic teachers seal of realization. He does not put texts first or understanding first, but his capacity is outside any framework and his spirit freely penetrates the nodes in bamboo. He is not concerned with self-views and does not stagnate in emotional feelings. Thus, practice and understanding are in mutual accord.
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by Eihei Dogen
From: "To Know Yourself" by Albert Low, Tuttle Publishing, 1997.
The great way of the Buddha and the patriarchs involves the highest form of exertion, which goes on unceasingly in cycles from the first dawning of religious truth, through the test of discipline and practice, to awakening and nirvana. It is sustained exertion proceeding without lapse from cycle to cycle. Accordingly, it is exertion that is neither self-imposed nor imposed by others but free and uncoerced. The merit of this exertion upholds me and upholds others. The truth is that the benefits of one's own struggles and sustained exertions are shared by all beings in the ten directions. Others may not be aware of this, and we may not realize it ourselves, but it is so. It is through the sustained exertions of the Buddhas and patriarchs that our own exertions are made possible, that we are able to reach the high road of Truth. In exactly the same way it is through our own exertions that the exertions of the Buddhas are made possible and that the Buddhas attain the high road of Truth.
This exertion too sustains the the sun, moon, and the stars; it sustains the earth and sky, body and mind, object and subject, the four elements and five skandhas.
The merits of these exertions are sometimes disclosed, and thus arises the dawn of religious consciousness, which is then tested in practice. Sometimes, however, these merits lie hidden and are neither seen nor heard nor realized. Yet hidden though they may be, they are still available because they suffer no diminution or restriction, whether they are visible or invisible, tangible or intangible.
At this moment a flower blossoms, a leaf falls&emdashit is a manifestation of sustained exertion. A mirror is brightened, a mirror is broken&emdashit is a manifestation of sustained exertion. Everything is exertion. To attempt to avoid exertion is an impossible evasion because the attempt itself is exertion. This sustained exertion is not something that people of the world naturally love or desire; yet, it is the last refuge of all.
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by Eihei Dogen
Now all ancestors and buddhas, who have been dwelling in and maintaining buddha-dharma, practice upright sitting in jijuyu zanmai as the true path for opening up enlightenment. Both in India and China, those who have attained enlightenment have followed this way. This is because each teacher and each disciple has been intimately and correctly transmitting this subtle method and receiving and maintaining its true spirit.
According to the unmistakenly handed down tradition, the straightforward buddha-dharma that has been simply transmitted is supreme among the supreme. From the time you begin practicing with a teacher, the practices of incense burning, bowing, nenbutsu, repentance, and reading sutras are not at all essential; just sit, dropping off body and mind.
When one displays the buddha gesture 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 gesture, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment. Therefore, it enables buddha-tathagathas to increase the dharma joy of their own original grounds and renew the adornment of the way of awakening. Simultaneously, all living beings of the dharma world in the ten directions and six realms become clear and pure in body and mind, realize great emancipation, and their own original face appears. At that time, all things together awaken to supreme enlightenment and utilize boddha-body, immediately go beyond the culmination of awakening, and sit upright and royally beneath the bodhi tree. At the same time, they turn the incomparable, great dharma wheel, and begin expressing ultimate and unfabricated profound wisdom.
awareness (annutara samyak sambodhi) of all things resonates [with the zazen
practitioner], and whereby [that practicioner and the enlightenment of all things]
intimately and imperceptibly assist each other. Therefore the zazen practitioner
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 the buddha-tathagathas teach and practice, and widely
influences practitioners who are going beyond buddha, vigorously exalting the
dharma which goes beyond buddha.
At this time, because earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the ten-direction-dharma-realm, carry out buddha work, therefore everyone receives the benefit of wind and water caused by this functioning, and all are imperceptibly helped by the wondrous and incomprehensible influence of buddha to actualize the enlightenment at hand. Since those who receive and use this water and fire extend the buddha influence of original enlightenment, all who live and talk with these people also share and universally unfold the boundless buddha virtue and they circulate the inexhaustible, ceaseless, incomprehensible, and immeasurable buddha dharma within and without the whole dharma world.
However, these various [mutual influences] do not mix into the perceptions of this person sitting, because they take place within stillness without any fabrication and they are enlightenment itself. If practice and enlightenment were separate as people commonly believe, it would be possible for them to perceive each other. But that which is associated with perceptions cannot be the standard of enlightenment because deluded human sentiment cannot reach the standard of enlightenment. Moreover, although both mind and object appear and disappear within stillness, merging in realization going beyond enlightenment, because this takes place in the realm of self-perceiving and self-employing (jijuyu) without moving a speck of dust or destroying a single form, extensive buddha work and profound, subtle buddha influence are carried out.
The grass, trees, and earth affected by this functioning together radiate great brilliance and expound the deep, wondrous dharma endlessly. Grasses and trees, fences and walls, demonstrate and exalt it for the sake of living beings, both ordinary and sage; and in turn, living beings, both ordinary and sage, express and unfold it for the sake of grasses and trees, fences and walls. The realm of self-awakening and awakening others is fundamentally endowed with the quality of enlightenment lacking nothing, and allows the standard of enlightenment to be actualized ceaselessly.
Therefore, even if only one person sits for a short time, because this zazen is one with all existence and completely permeates all time, it performs everlasting buddha guidance within the inexhaustible dharma world in the past, present, and future. [Zazen] is equally the same practice and same enlightenment for both the person siting and all dharmas.
Yet this is not all that zazen does. It is like the hammer striking emptiness, the bell's melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, endlessly before and after. It is not limited to this moment. Not only that, but all things are endowed with original practice within the original face, which is impossible to measure. You should know that even if all the buddhas in the ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, together engage the full power of their buddha wisdom, they could never reach the limit, or measure or comprehend the virtue, of one person's zazen.
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following passages are from
'Enlightenment Unfolds - The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen'
All things are like this...
When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you may assume 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 nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks 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.
Permanence and nature of the wind
MAYU, Zen Master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk ap- proached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why then do you fan yourself?"
"Although you understand that the natare of the wind is perma- nent," Mayu replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere."
"What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk again. Mayu just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.
The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of the wind. The nature of the wind is permanent. Because of that, the wind of the buddha's house brings forth the gold of the earth and makes fragrant the cream of the long river.
moon reflected on the water
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 or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.