Dogen has the reputation to have left a very dense tapestry of poetic and challenging teachings that seem to baffle most people. He displays a very subtle and often paradoxical flow and waves of thoughts, images and it generally doesn't make sense. In front of this chaotic and inspiring movement, words in action, we might take the position of a scholar, digging the ground, looking for a well hidden system which would, beneath the agitated and moving surface, support and structure the whole work. Knowledge and intellectual finesse are the trademark of such an endeavour. Not my cup of tea anymore, although very useful I must say.
We might also take another route, and choose to apply, in the light of the Buddhist understandings, a system of decoding and reading, when Nishijima looks at the Shobogenzo using the four realities, he does that exactly.http://www.dogensangha.org/articles.htm#Understanding .The issue I have with with this kind of approach is that it can become very systematic, automatic, almost obscessional. Both methods seem to have something in common: to rescue the reader from the wreck, to help us out of the stormy waters.
And this is precisely what I think we should not always be doing...
In a recent dokusan with one of my students, he said to me: I don't get it...It was said with a pinch of frustration, a good amount of respect and a feeling that this Shobogenzo was definitely a bit too much for him. And I answered that that was it, the point is NOT TO GET IT. Do you get a jazz improvisation, a miraculous and transparent movement of a dancer, do you get the sound of trees in the wind, should you get this and that and always be in control...We don't like to be in the position of not understanding, that leaves us with the bitter taste that something somehow is missing, and we feel like a fool. "Not getting it" can also be a sheer enjoyement of what is. To understand Dogen, is it to make sense of it all or to enter and live the reality he is talking about? How do we live in the flesh the teachings rather that playing with concepts and ideas? To drop all views is the Buddhist path and that monk who appeared somewhere in Medieval Japan is showing the way inviting us to give life to the teachings. In other words, to appreciate Dogen just for Dogen is merely a loss of time. To fully live what he was pointing act and speaking from, which is believe it or not YOUR LIFE is what he is all about. Read Dogen and chew the silence after the words. Take the shobogenzo into your life, take it in your blood, walks, eyes, take it so intimately that don't even know or care about it. Reading the Shobogenzo really starts when you leave the book behind and live your life. "Not getting it" is the pessimistic take on NOT KNOWING. Dogen challenges our logical perception of the world and ourselves, his teaching breaks through the tight fabric of beliefs so we might just STOP for a while.
To let Shobogenzo resonnate in/with our lives is the key. As the hammer hits the bell, the sound that blooms touches everything. And as you strike the bell again an again, the sound will open same and different. You will never read the same chapter of fragment of Shobogenzo, because, every moment you are different, ever changing reality. So if you don't get it, well that''s very good already. All you may do is stop worrying about it.