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Thread: Ash and firewood, Genjokoan pointers 2

  1. #1
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Ash and firewood, Genjokoan pointers 2

    Risho wrote:

    Please bear with me, but I don't get this... this part of Genjokoan has always bothered me, irked me... because I want to understand it, but I can't.

    Dogen writes about deep belief in cause and effect. Zen is all about cause and effect.. reality, this is now because of that. I can never wrap my head around this... it's like Dogen's throwing that to the wind and saying ash is only ash, but there wouldn't be any ash except for the firewood! In that sense, isn't the firewood part of the cause of the ash? Isn't the firewood before, and the ash after?

    If we froze time, and we just saw the ash I guess it could be separated, but in reality isn't the ash only the result of the firewood? In reality time isn't frozen. From what perspective is Dogen speaking when he says ash is only ash?

    I guess if I look at my life. The way I am now is a result of all the moments of my life... so childhood is before and where I am now is after that. But I suspect I am wrong and that's what Dogen is hitting upon, but I just don't understand.

    Thank you for your time; like I said this has been driving me a little nuts. lol
    Dear Risho,




    Don't worry, the first time I heard this statement in master Deshimaru's words, I thought this was either a pile of nonsense or an extremely difficult reality to fathom, a profound an subtle teaching. I was wrong.

    It took me some 25 years to catch a glimpse of what it actually means, not just in theory but in flesh and blood and marrow.

    So I will have a go at pointing but won't explain. I 'd rather you have a living and direct and spontaneous experience of this.

    In Genjokoan Shobogenzo Dogen writes this:

    Firewood becomes ash; it can never go back to being firewood. Nevertheless, we should not take the view that ash is its future and firewood is its past. We should recognize that firewood occupies its place in the Universe as firewood, and it has its past moment and its future moment. And although we can say that it has its past and its future, the past moment and the future moment are cut off. Ash exists in its place in the Universe as ash, and it has its past moment and its future moment. Just as firewood can never again be firewood after becoming ash, human beings cannot live again after their death. So it is a rule in Buddhism not to say that life turns into death. This is why we speak of “no appearance.” And it is Buddhist teaching as established in the preaching of Gautama Buddha that death does not turn into life. This is why we speak of “no disappearance.” Life is an instantaneous situation, and death is also an instantaneous situation. It is the same, for example, with winter and spring. We do not think that winter becomes spring, and we do not say that spring becomes summer.
    Now, of course Dogen does not negate time, as the way we see reality in Buddhism is rooted in a deep belief in cause and effect. That being said, you know, in our living tradition, A can be true as well as non A. Simultaneously, something and its opposite can exist. Life and death happens at the same time. As well as life as life, and death as death.

    If i look at my life, am I the round happy looking baby loved by his mother, the young school boy playing in a village street, the early teenager sitting for the first time in a Zen temple that incredible summer of 1977, the proud graduate, the guy noticing this gorgeous chick he is about to date, the young enthusiastic professor of literature, the...or me now? if we pick up our family album are we every single of these guys, all of them bundled together, none of them? You see Dogen loves to challenge our way to see the world or ourselves, usually we see processes in the world, we think The child I was became a teenager, this turns into that. It is true and yet there is something else working here.

    Imagine a necklace of pearls, all different yet all similar, just like this DNA and body- mind through all the stages of his life. What strings all these moments and portraits is a storyline, a fiction called: Pierre's journey. What strings the pearls is the self as ego. Dogen throw down the necklace and pearls start to bounce on the floor, each different, each existing by itself. This is ash being ash, firewood being firewood.Spring as Spring, Summer as summer. The reality of the pearl, as is, is called Dharma position, Dharma stage.I love the way Chodo Cross, my teacher, expresses the reality of Dharma position, or Dharma stage. He uses the words: occupies its place in the universe.
    Expressed differently, when you open your eyes on something happening, appearing, like firewood or ash or snow or car passing by, you see just this, to see a process, you have to remove yourself into an abstract place that can think something like: the seed went into the ground, the tree grew, the wood was cut and burned and became this ash. This process is nor happening really in front of you although, ash is containing fully its origin and becoming, but not meeting it, being itself and being before and after. The past and future moment of ash are not before or after, but instantaneous, wholly manifested as a Dharma position. ju hoi, the dharma position encompasses everything and yet arises alone. Alone and together.

    Now life is arising and vanishing every moment, form appears and dies and appears again. No thread, no continuity. A continuous broken neckless. impermanence is found in the manifestation of Dharma stages.

    In order to dive a bit more into this, years and thousand years of practice are necessary, but ...even in a split second, in the Dharma position of just sitting the absolute beginner displays a perfect Buddha.

    There is a brilliant chapter written by Dogen called Zenki, undivided activity, all functions, total activity, dynamic activity...the metaphor of the boat is excellent to see the implications of this Dharma position:


    Life can be likened to a time when a person is sailing in a boat. On this boat, I am operating the sail, I have taken the rudder, I am pushing the pole; at the same time, the boat is carrying me, and there is no “I” beyond the boat. Through my sailing of the boat, this boat is being caused to be a boat—let us consider, and learn in practice, just this moment of the present. At this very moment, there is nothing other than the world of the boat: the sky, the water, the shore have all become the moment of the boat, which is utterly different from moments not on the boat. So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me. While I am sailing in the boat, my body and mind and circumstances and self are all essential parts5 of the boat; and the whole earth and the whole of space are all essential parts of the boat. What has been described like this is that life is the self, and the self is life.

    Master Kokugon, Zen Master Engo said:

    Life is the manifestation of all functions, Death is the manifestation of all functions.

    Be well, and I hope these clumsy words help.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Last edited by Taigu; 09-02-2013 at 09:27 AM.
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  2. #2
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu. Recently I've been re-listening to your talks on Genjokoan and I'm going to chew on this as well.



    Rafael

  3. #3
    Thank you for this clarity.



    Willow

  4. #4
    Friend of Treeleaf Taikyo's Avatar
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    Deep bows

    David

  5. #5
    Many thanks. Greatly illuminating.

    Gassho
    Andy

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Thank you, Taigu.

    I need to sit with this... for a few years!

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  7. #7
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu. And thank you for your only bringing us to the edge of explanation, but allowing us to experience it ourselves.

    Gassho,

    Dokan
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Ana´s Nin

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    Thank you, Taigu.

    I need to sit with this... for a few years!

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    +1 here
    Gassho
    Myoku

  9. #9
    Wonderful, thank you Taigu.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu. Gassho.
    Heisoku
    平 息

  11. #11
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Yes I am with Kyonin and Myoku. See you all in a few years and we will be THERE and here. But not here AND there

    Thank you for your Teachings Taigu
    Gassho
    C

  12. #12
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Guys, you are totally missing the point. Nothing to do with years.

    Sit, live, breathe and see for yourself!!!

    and don't mind about seing or not seing.



    gassho

    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Wholesome teacher.

    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Edward
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to praj˝a from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  14. #14
    Thank you Taigu for you explanation and encouragement. I definitely need to continue sitting and let this settle in naturally and, if it took you 25 years, I will be patient with myself. I'm learning that about this practice. A lot of things have to be taken on faith to some extent until I've sat long enough and am ready to hear and finally understand the teachings.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    Thank you Taigu for you explanation and encouragement. I definitely need to continue sitting and let this settle in naturally and, if it took you 25 years, I will be patient with myself. I'm learning that about this practice. A lot of things have to be taken on faith to some extent until I've sat long enough and am ready to hear and finally understand the teachings.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    Risho, thanks for asking about this one. Genjokoan is, except for a couple others, one of my favorite things Dogen wrote, and I've always been utterly confused by the firewood and ash thing.

    Thank you Taigu - occupies its place in the universe - there's something so precise about those words, that expression.

    gassho
    Shōmon

  16. #16
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Genjokoan is often seen as the most important chapter of Shobogenzo. If you like it I would warmly recommend Okumura s book Realizing Genjokoan and the following website:

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachin...GenjoKoan8.htm

    Gassho,

    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  17. #17
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    As we sit here reading this on the computer, and we engage in the comments by Dogen in Zenki, you can equally substitute the description of boat/sailing for our own experience...
    at a table/working the keyboard of a computer/in a room with windows and floor and ceiling/thousands of dust specks float effortlessly in air illuminated by sunlight. I am part of it, it is all of me.

    gassho Risho and Taigu.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    My head hurts but I think after reading all this over, and over, I have come to some idea as to what Dogen is driving at. Fully realizing it, or actualizing that realization, well that is a different thing altogether. It was very interesting to see the different translations, and I found that actually helpful. Your explanation of the necklace of pearls is also helpful.

    Gassho C

  19. #19
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Taigu
    迎 Geika

  20. #20
    Thanks a lot, Taigu!

    To die, while living,
    is to be in the eternal present.

    (Tao Te Ching, Translation by Timothy Freke)

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Genjokoan is often seen as the most important chapter of Shobogenzo. If you like it I would warmly recommend Okumura s book Realizing Genjokoan and the following website:

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachin...GenjoKoan8.htm

    Gassho,

    Taigu
    Yes, I've read it and value it tremendously, but it wasn't until reading what you wrote above that Dogen's words about firewood and ash came alive for me.

    Feeling lucky and grateful to be able to work with and learn from you and Jundo.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  22. #22
    Senior Member Matt's Avatar
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    Thank you for this teaching. Gassho, Matt J

  23. #23
    Thanks Taigu. Nice clarification. Will sit with that for a whill. I also see it and "live it" this way: All life and all the universe is the "process and the product", "the artist and the canvas" at the same time, and is no way to separate them, yet they are both present.

    Gassho.
    Dancing between stillness and motion I find peace.

  24. #24
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    As blissfully confused as I've ever been.

    Gassho

    Dokan

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I747 using Tapatalk 4
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Ana´s Nin

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