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Thread: Dogen vs. halitosis

  1. #1

    Dogen vs. halitosis

    I want to share an excellent blog post from a priest at Austin Zen Center. It's all about the connection between self-care and bodhisattvahood, and details a lot of interesting specifics about Dogen's opinions on dental hygiene:

    Back then, folks chewed on the fibers of a willow twig to clean their teeth. Dogen does not approve of the 13th century Chinese custom of brushing the teeth with an ox horn and horse hair brush - he suspects that such a brush may be a "vessel of impurity" - but surely he would approve of the sanitary toothbrushes available in 21st century America? Perhaps we can replace his "willow twig" with "toothbrush."

    "People who have clarified whether or not this willow twig is necessary may be bodhisattvas who have clarified the Buddha-Dharma. People who have never clarified [this matter] may never have seen the Buddha-Dharma even in a dream. This being so, to meet the willow twig is to meet the Buddhist patriarchs. For instance, if a person were to ask 'What is your intention?' [I would reply,] "You have been lucky to meet old man Eihei's chewing of the willow twig."
    Apparently Dogen was also pretty anti-bad breath:

    Dogen goes on to lament that the practice of chewing the willow twig had fallen out of fashion in China; "So monks and lay people throughout the country have terribly bad breath. When people speak from two or three feet away, the stench from their mouth is difficult to bear. Even those famed as venerable patriarchs who possess the truth, and those titled as guiding teachers of human beings and gods, do not know even of the existence of the practice of rinsing the mouth, scraping the tongue, and chewing the willow twig... It is regrettable. It is very regrettable."

    "In sum, chewing the willow twig and washing the face are the right Dharma of eternal buddhas and people who are devoted to practicing the truth with the will to the truth should practice and experience them."
    For god's sake Buddhas, brush your teeth so you don't make the truth stink!

    I found all of this interesting and also hilarious. I like Dogen's practical side. I think that's why I liked the Shobogenzo Zuimonki so much.

  2. #2

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Hehe!

    Thanks Shinkai!
    Very practical
    Truth (spoken with stinky breath or not) is, that in tight quarters without many daily distractions of ordinary life taken away ... bad breath could have been the proverbial straw that broke the camels back when it came to the communities ability to "... harmonize like milk and water" Actually the Senjo (?) chapter - bathing or washing was an interesting read!!

    Gassho
    Shohei - hmmm may need some gum ops:

  3. #3

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Brush brush brush our dirty teeth ... dropping all thought of "clean" or "dirty". Dirty teeth are perfectly just what they are too, pure in their dirtiness ... yet, brush brush brush!

    I have sat Sesshin for a week next to a fellow with bad breath. ... After a while, like the noisy refrigerators of life ... like the loud neighbors ... nothing to resist.

    Maybe this is a good time to repost the "when to sit with, and when to move or take action" post ...

    viewtopic.php?p=30739#p30739

    Gassho, J (with his own annoying habits ... just ask Mrs. Jundo)

  4. #4
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    It's funny, I had the opposite reaction reading the Shobogenzo Zuimonki... Dogen struck me as uptight and particular almost to a level of OCD, and it bothered me. I couldn't agree with a lot of his opinions about politics or daily life, his idealizing of the monastic lifestyle and denigration of normal human traits and foibles. The standards Dogen advocates in that text seemed to me impossible to realize... whereas the 95 fascicle Shobogenzo is a beautiful depiction of how living in truth and reality requires no perfect standards.

  5. #5

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    It's funny, I had the opposite reaction reading the Shobogenzo Zuimonki... Dogen struck me as uptight and particular almost to a level of OCD, and it bothered me. I couldn't agree with a lot of his opinions about politics or daily life, his idealizing of the monastic lifestyle and denigration of normal human traits and foibles. The standards Dogen advocates in that text seemed to me impossible to realize... whereas the 95 fascicle Shobogenzo is a beautiful depiction of how living in truth and reality requires no perfect standards.
    Hi Stephanie,

    I agree about Dogen. You can take Dogen out of ancient samurai Japan, but you cannot take the ancient Japanese samurai out of Dogen. He was a man of his time and culture, writing Zuimonki for "all boy" monks in a 13th century monastery in the boondocks. I find him sometimes obsessive, sometimes grumpy, sometimes naive and ill informed, downright wrong in his advice (as in the sections to a prospective monk leaving his old infirm mother to fend for herself)

    http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/common_ ... 03-14.html

    If you abandon your present life and enter the Buddha-Way, even if your mother dies of starvation, wouldn’t it be better for you to form a connection with the Way and for her to permit her only son to enter the Way? Although it is most difficult to cast aside filial love even over aeons and many lifetimes, if, having being born in a human body you give it up in this lifetime, when you encounter the Buddha’s teachings you will be truly fulfilling your debt of gratitude. Why wouldn’t this be in accordance with the Buddha’s will? It is said that if one child leaves home to become a monk, seven generations of parents will attain the Way.
    "Monk" was his job and life role ... and his way of living may not now serve as a perfect model and fit for someone whose life and role is 21st century suburban 'househusband' or wife or single mom with a mortgage to pay, work in an office cubicle and kids in the public schools.

    Thus, the lessons of our readings in Zuimonki were important, I feel, both for the times they fit our modern, lay lives ... and when they did not fit so well, but we needed to apply their spirit or find a completely new way! One need not live in a 13th century Japanese monastery to find the heart of these Teachings!

    I think that we have to get beyond our traditional assumption that, just because someone may be truly gifted and a genius in some aspects ... be it spiritual or otherwise ... that he/she must be perfect and flawless in every darn part of their life, having every answer to every life question (Rather, our Zenny Way is, I believe, to see human beings as perfectly just what they are ... not as "perfect" by our small human judgment.) Einstein discovered how some of the physical universe works ... Freud a little about the mind ... Mozart made beautiful music ... yet each was a pretty poor husband and father. Well, it is enough for me that Dogen, or any of the other Ancestors, seemed like generally decent and together people who also figured out a good deal about how the music of this mind-self-universe works ... even if his political views, or views on daily conduct or how to treat one's mother ... do not agree fully with mine. I may not agree with Gautama Buddha's choice to leave his wife and kid (I think he deprived his teachings of much richness by too easily doing so) ... nor his views on how earthquakes are created (see below) ... yet believe that he was still on to something vital in the other 90% of his life and teachings. Hui-neng may have had uncouth manners ... and may even have not really existed as a historical person ... and still be a teacher among teachers.

    Heck, I am sure that each and all had bad breath sometimes too! :?

    The Buddhist Teachings are about living in an enlightened, Compassionate and Wise way in/as/through an imperfect world in/as/through being imperfect human beings (all human beings are flawed in human terms ... all human beings are flawless in a Buddha's eyes). These teachings are not about living as perfect human beings in a perfect world. as judged by human standards of perfection vs. imperfection. In fact, these teachings are about seeing past flawed human judgments of "perfect vs. imperfect" ... and finding the Perfection in that.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - For all Dogen's obsessiveness on the "right" way to brush the teeth etc. ... he still taught that doing so is a perfect act beyond "right and wrong and clean and dirty" ...

    Dogen criticizes those who don’t care about hygiene or reject the possibility of using care of the body as a vehicle in practice. But he also criticizes those who seek after purity, who want to skirt past the messy nature of the human. An earlier ancestor, the famous Chinese woman known as Kongshi Daoren, wrote in a poem on a bathhouse wall: “If nothing truly exists, what are you bathing? Where could even the slightest bit of dust come from?. . . Even if you see no difference between the water and the dirt, it all must be washed completely away when you enter here.”

    Dogen reminds us that we are neither pure nor impure. Awakening is the state of seeing past the false opposites of emptiness and form, purity and profanity. So brushing teeth and having a bowel movement are not acts that can lead us to purity—they are themselves purity. They are complete in themselves. And even so, it isn’t enough just to wash—we have to discover what it is to be this naturally pure form. “Without washing the inside of emptiness, how can we realize cleanness within and without?” Such apparent paradox is part of the endless repeated pairing of Buddhism

    http://www.tricycle.com/feature/washing ... fer=dharma
    PPS -

    Buddha's teachings on the causes of earthquakes ...

    13. Then the Blessed One said: "There are eight reasons, Ananda, eight causes for a mighty earthquake to arise. What are those eight?

    14. "This great earth, Ananda, is established upon liquid, the liquid upon the atmosphere, and the atmosphere upon space. And when, Ananda, mighty atmospheric disturbances take place, the liquid is agitated. And with the agitation of the liquid, tremors of the earth arise. This is the first reason, the first cause for the arising of mighty earthquakes.

    15. "Again, Ananda, when an ascetic or holy man of great power, one who has gained mastery of his mind, or a deity who is mighty and potent, develops intense concentration on the delimited aspect of the earth element, and to a boundless degree on the liquid element, he, too, causes the earth to tremble, quiver, and shake. This is the second reason, the second cause for the arising of mighty earthquakes.

    16-21. "Again, Ananda, when the Bodhisatta departs from the Tusita realm and descends into his mother's womb, mindfully and clearly comprehending; and when the Bodhisatta comes out from his mother's womb, mindfully and clearly comprehending; and when the Tathagata becomes fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment; when the Tathagata sets rolling the excellent Wheel of the Dhamma; when the Tathagata renounces his will to live on; and when the Tathagata comes to pass away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains — then, too, Ananda, this great earth trembles, quivers, and shakes.

    "These, Ananda, are the eight reasons, the eight causes for a great earthquake to arise. 27
    ons%2C%20Ananda%2C%20eight%20causes%20for%20a%20mi ghty%20earthquake%20to%20arise.%20What%20are%20tho se%20eight%3F%20%2014.%20%22This%20great%20earth%2 C%20Ananda%2C%20is%20established%20upon%20liquid%2 C%20the%20liquid%20upon%20the%20atmosphere%2C%20an d%20the%20atmosphere%20upon%20space.%20And%20when% 2C%20Ananda%2C%20mighty%20atmospheric%20disturbanc es%20take%20place%2C%20the%20liquid%20is%20agitate d.%20And%20with%20the%20agitation%20of%20the%20liq uid%2C%20tremors%20of%20the%20earth%20arise.%20Thi s%20is%20the%20first%20reason%2C%20the%20first%20c ause%20for%20the%20arising%20of%20mighty%20earthqu akes.%20%2015.%20%22Again%2C%20Ananda%2C%20when%20 an%20ascetic%20or%20holy%20man%20of%20great%20powe r%2C%20one%20who%20has%20gained%20mastery%20of%20h is%20mind%2C%20or%20a%20deity%20who%20is%20mighty% 20and%20potent%2C%20develops%20intense%20concentra tion%20on%20the%20delimited%20aspect%20of%20the%20 earth%20element%2C%20and%20to%20a%20boundless%20de gree%20on%20the%20liquid%20element%2C%20he%2C%20to o%2C%20causes%20the%20earth%20to%20tremble%2C%20qu iver%2C%20and%20shake.%20This%20is%20the%20second% 20reason%2C%20the%20second%20cause%20for%20the%20a rising%20of%20mighty%20earthquakes.%20%2016-21.%20%22Again%2C%20Ananda%2C%20when%20the%20Bodhi satta%20departs%20from%20the%20Tusita%20realm%20an d%20descends%20into%20his%20mother's%20womb%2C%20m indfully%20and%20clearly%20comprehending%3B%20and% 20when%20the%20Bodhisatta%20comes%20out%20from%20h is%20mother's%20womb%2C%20mindfully%20and%20clearl y%20comprehending%3B%20and%20when%20the%20Tathagat a%20becomes%20fully%20enlightened%20in%20unsurpass ed%2C%20supreme%20Enlightenment%3B%20when%20the%20 Tathagata%20sets%20rolling%20the%20excellent%20Whe el%20of%20the%20Dhamma%3B%20when%20the%20Tathagata %20renounces%20his%20will%20to%20live%20on%3B%20an d%20when%20the%20Tathagata%20comes%20to%20pass%20a way%20into%20the%20state%20of%20Nibbana%20in%20whi ch%20no%20element%20of%20clinging%20remains%20%E2% 80%94%20then%2C%20too%2C%20Ananda%2C%20this%20grea t%20earth%20trembles%2C%20quivers%2C%20and%20shake s.%20%20%22These%2C%20Ananda%2C%20are%20the%20eigh t%20reasons%2C%20the%20eight%20causes%20for%20a%20 great%20earthquake%20to%20arise.%2027&pg=PA75#v=on epage&q=13.%20Then%20the%20Blessed%20One%20said:%2 0%22There%20are%20eight%20reasons,%20Ananda,%20eig ht%20causes%20for%20a%20mighty%20earthquake%20to%2 0arise.%20What%20are%20those%20eight?%20%2014.%20% 22This%20great%20earth,%20Ananda,%20is%20establish ed%20upon%20liquid,%20the%20liquid%20upon%20the%20 atmosphere,%20and%20the%20atmosphere%20upon%20spac e.%20And%20when,%20Ananda,%20mighty%20atmospheric% 20disturbances%20take%20place,%20the%20liquid%20is %20agitated.%20And%20with%20the%20agitation%20of%2 0the%20liquid,%20tremors%20of%20the%20earth%20aris e.%20This%20is%20the%20first%20reason,%20the%20fir st%20cause%20for%20the%20arising%20of%20mighty%20e arthquakes.%20%2015.%20%22Again,%20Ananda,%20when% 20an%20ascetic%20or%20holy%20man%20of%20great%20po wer,%20one%20who%20has%20gained%20mastery%20of%20h is%20mind,%20or%20a%20deity%20who%20is%20mighty%20 and%20potent,%20develops%20intense%20concentration %20on%20the%20delimited%20aspect%20of%20the%20eart h%20element,%20and%20to%20a%20boundless%20degree%2 0on%20the%20liquid%20element,%20he,%20too,%20cause s%20the%20earth%20to%20tremble,%20quiver,%20and%20 shake.%20This%20is%20the%20second%20reason,%20the% 20second%20cause%20for%20the%20arising%20of%20migh ty%20earthquakes.%20%2016-21.%20%22Again,%20Ananda,%20when%20the%20Bodhisatt a%20departs%20from%20the%20Tusita%20realm%20and%20 descends%20into%20his%20mother's%20womb,%20mindful ly%20and%20clearly%20comprehending;%20and%20when%2 0the%20Bodhisatta%20comes%20out%20from%20his%20mot her's%20womb,%20mindfully%20and%20clearly%20compre hending;%20and%20when%20the%20Tathagata%20becomes% 20fully%20enlightened%20in%20unsurpassed,%20suprem e%20Enlightenment;%20when%20the%20Tathagata%20sets %20rolling%20the%20excellent%20Wheel%20of%20the%20 Dhamma;%20when%20the%20Tathagata%20renounces%20his %20will%20to%20live%20on;%20and%20when%20the%20Tat hagata%20comes%20to%20pass%20away%20into%20the%20s tate%20of%20Nibbana%20in%20which%20no%20element%20 of%20clinging%20remains%20%E2%80%94%20then,%20too, %20Ananda,%20this%20great%20earth%20trembles,%20qu ivers,%20and%20shakes.%20%20%22These,%20Ananda,%20 are%20the%20eight%20reasons,%20the%20eight%20cause s%20for%20a%20great%20earthquake%20to%20arise.%202 7&f=false">http://books.google.com/books?id=0Nt2ih ... 27&f=false

  6. #6
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Oh, I definitely feel the same way - that a wise person isn't necessarily wise in all areas, a good person isn't necessarily always good, etc. My frustrations with the Zuimonki in no way took away my appreciation of the Shobogenzo. It just brings out my own doubts that perhaps there is an ideal to be realized that us "flawed average folks" will never realize. I fall prey to that doubt/thought far less often now, but it comes up from time to time. When spiritual teachers and writers I respect put forth a position that only people of extraordinary determination, discipline, mastery, etc., can attain realization, though, it brings that doubt back to the surface... that maybe in the perspective I have now that I am being too passive. But then life always brings me back to, "If perfection can't be found right here and now, how could it possibly be found anywhere?"

    And that passage from the Buddha on the origin of earthquakes is golden! Hilarious! That one's going into the mental file cabinet under 'documentation of the Buddha's fallibility,' alongside his disrespect and misknowledge of women.

  7. #7

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    It just brings out my own doubts that perhaps there is an ideal to be realized that us "flawed average folks" will never realize. I fall prey to that doubt/thought far less often now, but it comes up from time to time. When spiritual teachers and writers I respect put forth a position that only people of extraordinary determination, discipline, mastery, etc., can attain realization, though, it brings that doubt back to the surface... that maybe in the perspective I have now that I am being too passive. But then life always brings me back to, "If perfection can't be found right here and now, how could it possibly be found anywhere?"

    And that passage from the Buddha on the origin of earthquakes is golden! Hilarious! That one's going into the mental file cabinet under 'documentation of the Buddha's fallibility,' alongside his disrespect and misknowledge of women.
    Don't get me wrong ... I think that there is a wondrous treaure for "flawed average folks" to realize ... to wit, we are never "flawed" and, that being said, we can and should do so much to fix our very real flaws (much as we brush brush brush to clean those flawless dirty teeth ... that are never dirty and will never be perfectly clean) ...

    ... and that "doing non-doing so" takes extraordinary determination, discipline, mastery. But the parallel may be something like climbing a mountain "because it is there".

    The mountaineer George Mallory, asked the reason for his attempt on Mt. Everest, famously said "because it is there".

    We proceed forward mindfully ... just this step and this step and this step. Not a matter of fast or slow ... but merely safely proceeding forward with care and balance. We sometimes trip and fall, we get up ... continuing onward (tripping just part of the trip). There is no place to fall, yet we try not to fall. We get better and more experienced as we go along, but every step and turn is new and a new test. Reaching the summit and seeing in all directions without hindrance, we then return to where we began. Both the summit of the mountain and its foothills where there all along ... and are all just the mountain. In that sense, there is no where to get to ... nothing to achieve ... and the whole climb is the point (not just planting a flag at the peak ... we could have taken a helicopter up if we just wanted to do that!). Bottom of the mountain is just the mountain, top of the mountain is just the mountain. The "scenery" was not just at the heights, but in every rock face and snowflake along the way. Are we climbing the mountain, or is the mountain ... seen from another angle ... climbing us? Are we one or apart? And, yes, not quitting and proceeding forward without falling off a cliff takes extraordinary determination, discipline, mastery ...

    No climb is perfect, each climb perfectly what it is. Try to leave the mountain pristine, and not scatter trash around ... leaving no traces, even as we can never leave traces.

    Mountain is Buddha ... climber is Buddha ... mountain climbing is Buddha. Buddha Buddhaing Buddha.

  8. #8

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Hi,

    The thread inspired the sit-a-long for today ... or brush-a-long ...

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=17287

    Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Brush, Brush, Brush

    The subject came up in our Treeleaf Sangha Forum of tooth-brushing… the Zen Way. As with many daily activities, the simple and ordinary habit of brushing the teeth is just Zen Practice in life. (Think of it as Zazen… with fluoride).

  9. #9

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    So here's my stab at it. Zazen is just like brushing our teeth in that when we brush our teeth, we don't do so thinking "I'm brushing to prevent cavities, gingivitis, etc..." We just brush to brush (then again, maybe some do think that way, no fault to them). As in zazen we should not sit to gain this that or the other, we just sit to sit. It is just something we do, it is both ordinary and sacred, just like brushing our teeth.

    Somewhere close to that non-bullseye?

    Taylor

  10. #10

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    So here's my stab at it. Zazen is just like brushing our teeth in that when we brush our teeth, we don't do so thinking "I'm brushing to prevent cavities, gingivitis, etc..." We just brush to brush (then again, maybe some do think that way, no fault to them). As in zazen we should not sit to gain this that or the other, we just sit to sit. It is just something we do, it is both ordinary and sacred, just like brushing our teeth.

    Somewhere close to that non-bullseye?

    Taylor
    I agree but I disagree. lol I definitely brush my teeth to prevent all those things from a practical stance but, at the same time, I brush just to brush because if I split my focus on the brushing and a goal, then I'm not brushing with full attention and my teeth will decay. now I'm confused and probably don't make any sense. lol :mrgreen:


    Edit:

    By the way that latest talk with Jundo makes sense and is difficult. It left me with questions. How are we perfect and complete yet have flaws? This is something I've been asking myself everyday now. Thank you for that talk Jundo!

  11. #11

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Quote Originally Posted by cyril
    By the way that latest talk with Jundo makes sense and is difficult. It left me with questions. How are we perfect and complete yet have flaws? This is something I've been asking myself everyday now. Thank you for that talk Jundo!
    Oh, I --do not-- recall ever saying that anything is "perfect and complete"! Does a mountain or a tree ask of itself, "Am I 'perfect and complete'"? Perhaps it is only humans who set up "perfect and complete" in their own minds, which they contrast to human judgments of the "imperfect" and the "incomplete".

    I --do-- recall saying that each thing and instant of life is perfectly just what it is, with nothing to add or take away to make itself more completely itself. Would adding or removing one grain of sand make a mountain more perfectly and completely a mountain? Is a mountain good while a pebble is somehow bad for being smaller? Does the pebble thus feel inferior? Are there "weeds" and "flowers" apart from human likes and dislikes? What do I have to do to Cyril to make Cyril more Cyril? Nor is any change needed in order to make mountains, trees, pebbles, weeds and flowers, or Cyril ... each at the very heart of the universe as much as any other ... more intimately and wholly this entire life/self/reality than all already is (for what is more vital and less vital save judged so by human eyes? What part of the universe is at its center and what part not?).

    As Dogen wrote in Shobogenzo-Bukkyo,

    For all the Buddhas and Ancestors, without fail, there is the emergence of each mote of dust and the passing away of each mote of dust, there is the emergence of whole universes and the passing away of whole universes, and there is their emergence for a single instant and for oceans of [eons of time]. Be that as it may, the emergence of a single mote of dust for a single instant has no function that is incomplete, and the emergence of a whole universe for oceans of [eons of time] is beyond any effort to supply something that is otherwise lacking. ... You need to realize that the Buddhas and Their Teachings are beyond such measurements as ‘large or small’, and beyond such attributes as ‘good, bad, or indifferent’ ...
    Be that as it may ... let us work as we must to keep from deforesting that mountain and covering it with trash (though "trash" just be what it is too, perfectly trashy), to remove "perfect" pebbles from our shoes, to water the thirsty flowers and pick the weeds of life. Cyril (the only one him of him in the whole universe) needs to comb his hair and brush his teeth, fix what needs to be fixed!

    Gassho, J

  12. #12

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Thank you. I think I get it. My idea of what you were saying about perfection... My idea of perfection is just my mind's idea of how I think things should be, but you're saying perfection meaning how things really are... Their actuality as opposed to some ideal. And is part of that reality then that those things need to be maintained?

    Thank you :-)

  13. #13

    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    Quote Originally Posted by cyril
    And is part of that reality then that those things need to be maintained?
    There is nothing in this universe that needs to be maintained ... not even one thing ... the rivers just rivering and the mountains fully mountaining without need for you to do a darn thing. Life goes where it goes. It was doing so long before you were here and will be doing so long after you are gone (although, from another perspective, you were there too and always will be, are right now).

    There are some things in this life that need to be maintained ... friendships, gardens, credit ratings, Precepts, car engines, loving relationships, dental health.

    Nothing and some things to maintain.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Dogen vs. halitosis

    As someone who suffers from a host of respiratory problems, including postnasal drip*, I'm always afraid that after sitting zazen for a long time with a group of people, I'll end up stinking up the joint. ops:

    * I've found that neti pots and prescription drugs are helpful . . . to a point. I mean, I AM trying. And I brush my teeth! A lot! :mrgreen:

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