I found a great, short example of this, of Dogen at his wildest and best. Thought to post it for folks who might not get what the fuss is about.
The great 'Dogenologist
' translator and historian, Prof. Carl Bielefeldt
, has just released his brand new translation of Shobogenzo Bussho
(Buddha-Nature) for the Soto Zen Text Project.
I have been slowly reading it to compare with the Nishijima-Cross version (which, so far, seems to come out very well. The two versions are incredibly close, and I find Nishijima-Cross often captures the "feel of the music" a bit better).
Anyway ... here are a couple of paragraphs that are playing with the famous phrase "all living beings in their entirety have Buddha Nature". Dogen first plays with an ambiguity in the grammar to change that to "all living beings in their entirety are
Buddha Nature". But he does not stop there ...
If you can hear the perspective that "Buddha Nature" is not a "thing" that we become or have or develop ... but is radical, existential being that leaves nothing out, whole beyond whole, the reality of reality (something like that
:) ) ... you might get a feel for what Dogen is going for here ... It is everything leaving nothing out, yet beyond categories (something like that
:) ) ...
What is the essential point of the World Honored One’s saying, “All living beings in their entirety have the buddha nature”? It is turning the dharma wheel of the saying, “what is it that comes like this?” One speaks of “living beings,” or “sentient beings,” or “the multitude of beings,” or “the multitude of types.” The term “entirety of being” refers to “living beings,” “the multitude of beings.” That is, the “entirety of being” is the buddha nature; “one entirety” of the “entirety of being” is called “living beings.” At this very moment, the interior and exterior of living beings is the “entirety of being” of the buddha nature. This is not only the “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” singly transmitted; for “you have got my skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.”
We should realize that the “being” that is here made the “entirety of being” by the buddha nature is not the being of being and non-being. The “entirety of being” is the word of the buddha, the tongue of the buddha, the eyes of the buddhas and ancestors, the nose of the patch-robed monk. Furthermore, the term “entirety of being” is not initial being, not original being, not marvelous being; how much less is it conditioned being or deluded being. It has nothing to do with the likes of mind and object, nature and attribute. Therefore, the circumstantial and primary [recompense] of the “entirety of being” of living beings is not by any means the generative power of karma, not deluded conditioned origination, not of its own accord, not the practice and verification of spiritual powers. Were the “entirety of being” of living beings generated by karma, or conditioned origination, or of its own accord, then the verification of the way of the nobles as well as the bodhi of the buddhas and the eyes of the buddhas and ancestors would also be the generative power of karma, conditioned origination, and of its own accord. And this is not the case
The Professor's footnotes clear things up a bit ... (emphasis on 'a bit
' :shock: )
“Essential point” (shūshi 宗旨): A common expression for the “purport,” or “message” of a statement.
“Turning the dharma wheel of the saying “what is it that comes like this?” (ze jūmo butsu inmo rai no dō ten bōrin 是什麼物恁麼來の道轉法輪): I.e., presumably, a Buddhist teaching equivalent to the famous question put to the Chan master Nanyue Huairang 南嶽懷讓 by the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng 慧能. The question is likely a play on the term “Thus Come One” (nyorai 如来; tathāgata), an epithet of the buddhas.
The Chan Master Dahui of Mt. Nanyue (descendant of Caoxi, named Huairang) visited the Sixth Ancestor. The Ancestor asked him, “Where do you come from?”
The Master said, “I come from the National Teacher An on Mt. Song.”
The Ancestor said, “What is it that comes like this?”
The Master was without means [to answer]. After attending [the Ancestor] for eight years, he finally understood the previous conversation. Thereupon, he announced to the Ancestor, “I've understood what the reverend put to me when I first came: ‘What is it that comes like this?’”
The Ancestor asked, “How do you understand it?”
The Master replied, “To say it's like anything wouldn't hit it.”
The Ancestor said, “Then is it contingent on practice and verification?”
The Master answered, “Practice and verification are not nonexistent; they cannot be defiled.”
The Ancestor said, “Just this ‘not defiled’ is what the buddhas bear in mind. You're also like this, I'm also like this, and all the ancestors of the Western Heavens [i. e., India] are also like this.”
“Sentient beings” (ujō 有情); “the multitude of beings” (gunjō 群生); “multitude of types” (gunrui 群類): Terms regularly used as synonyms for “living beings.” The point here would seem to be that all these terms (as well as the synonymous “multitude of beings” [gun’u 群有] in the following sentence) may be referred to as the “entirety of being.”
“The term entirety of being” (shitsu’u no gon 悉有の言): Dōgen here creates a neologism from the adverb shitsu and the verb u in the phrase shitsu u busshō 悉有佛性, translated in the quotation as “in their entirety have the buddha nature.” The word play relies on the fact that the term u 有 means both “to have” and “to exist” and is regularly used in philosophical discourse as a noun for “being.” The resultant expression might also be rendered “all existents” or, more simply, “everything.”
“One entirety of the entirety of being” (shitsuu no isshitsu 悉有の一悉): Presumably the point is that “living beings” represent but one type within the “entirety of being” — with, perhaps, the added suggestion that any one type is in some sense one with the entire set.
“Skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” (hi niku kotsu zui 皮肉骨髄): An expression, very common in Dōgen’s writings for the essence or truth or entirety of something or someone, as handed down in the Chan tradition; from the famous story of Bodhidharma’s testing of four disciples, to whom he said of each in turn that he (or, in one case, she) had got his skin, flesh, bones, and marrow. For the story, see Supplemental Note 2.
“Singly transmitted” (tanden 單傳): A term commonly used in Chan to describe the passing down of the dharma from master to disciple; here, no doubt a reference to the transmission from Bodhidharma to Huike. Though the term suggests (and in some cases is used to indicate) a lineage in which there is only one representative in each generation (e.g., see below, Note 48. “Single transmission”), it regularly appears in contexts where the graph tan is better understand as “unique,” “pure”, or “simple” (e.g., see below, Note 29. “Singly transmit it”); closely related to the notion of direct transmission “from mind to mind” (ishin denshin 以心傳心).
“For you have got my skin, flesh, bones, and marrow” (nyo toku go hi niku kotsu zui naru ga yue ni 汝得吾皮肉骨髄なるがゆゑに): Quoting Bodhidharma’s statement, “you have got” to each of his four disciples (see above, Supplemental Note 2). Presumably, the implication here is that the statement concerns not just Bodhidharma’s “single transmission” to Huike but the affirmation of the buddha nature in all beings (as proposed, e.g., in Shōbōgenzō keiteki 正法眼藏啓迪 2:185).
“The being that is here made the entirety of being by the buddha nature” (ima busshō ni shitsuu seraruru u いま佛性に悉有せらるる有): An odd locution, presumably meaning something like, “the term ‘being’ in the expression ‘entirety of being’ that is here being identified with the buddha nature.”
“The tongue of the buddha” (butsuzetsu 佛舌): No doubt here used as a figure of speech for the speech of the buddha.
“The nose of the patch-robed monk” (nōsō bikū 衲僧鼻孔): The term “patch-robed monk” (nōsō 衲僧) is a playful self-reference used by Chan monks. The “nose” (or “nostril”; bikū 鼻孔) is often used in Chan texts to indicate (a) the person, especially (b) that which is essential to the person, or (c) the very essence or identity of someone or something; a term occuring frequently in the Shōbōgenzō.
“Initial being” (shi’u 始有); “original being” (hon’u 本有); “marvelous being” (myō’u 妙有); “conditioned being” (en’u 縁有); “deluded being” (mō’u 妄有): A series of terms expressing modes of existence discussed in Buddhist thought. The first, “initial being,” while not itself particularly common, is here contrasted with the familiar “original being,” a term used to express the fundamental reality from which the phenomenal world emerges. The expression “marvelous being” is probably best known in the phrase “true emptiness and marvelous being” (shinkū myō’u 眞空妙有), where it expresses the ultimate emptiness of phenomena. The term “conditioned being” suggests that which exists as a result of conditions — i.e., the conditioned dharmas of dependent origination (engi 縁起; pratīya-samutpāda); “deluded being” suggests that which exists as a result of deluded thoughts — i.e., the false objects of our misguided discrimination (funbetsu 分別; vikalpa).
“Mind and object, nature and attribute” (shin kyō shō sō 心境性相): Two standard pairs in Buddhist thought: the mind, or thought (citta), and the objects of thought or of the senses (viṣaya, ālambana); and the nature, or essence (svabhāva), of a thing, and its attributes, or characteristics (lakṣana).
“Circumstantial and primary recompense” (eshō 依正): A standard Buddhist term for the results of past karma reflected respectively in the circumstances into which one is born and the mental and physical makeup of the person; an abbreviation of ehō shōbō 依報正報. Here, perhaps to be understood as “the quality of the experience” of living beings as the “entirety of being.”
“The generative power of karma” (gō zōjō riki 業増上力): I.e., the power of karma to produce phenomena; adhipati.
“Deluded conditioned origination” (mō engi 妄縁起): An unusual expression, probably indicating phenomena that arise as a result of deluded thoughts. Given the apparent distinction, above, between “conditioned being” and “deluded being,” one is tempted to parse the expression “deluded or conditioned origination.”
“Of its own accord” (hōni 法爾): A loose translation of a term indicating what is true of itself or by necessity, what is naturally or inevitably so; used to translate Sanskrit niyati (“destiny”).
“Practice and verification of spiritual powers” (jintsū shushō 神通修證): I.e., mastery of the “supernormal knowledges” (jintsū 神通; abhijñā); here, presumably, the ability in particular to manifest oneself in diverse bodies and circumstances — one of the powers known as the “bases of spiritual power” (jinsoku 神足; ṛddhi-pāda).
“Verification of the way of the nobles” (shoshō no shōdō 諸聖の證道): I.e., the spiritual attainments of advanced adepts on the Buddhist path. The phrase “verification of the way” is a somewhat forced translation of shōdō 證道, a common expression for Buddhist spiritual awakening; here, as in many other contexts, the term dō 道 could be taken as a rendering of bodhi. The translation “nobles” takes shoshō 諸聖 in its Buddhist sense of ārya, those who have transcended the state of the “commoner” (bonbu 凡夫; pṛthagjana); the term could also be rendered in a more “Chinese” idiom as “the sages” or “holy ones.”