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Thread: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

  1. #1

    The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    I would like to propose a discussion of the third section of Dogen's "Genjo Koan." I'm slowly, slowly reading the Aitken and Tanahashi translation in Moon in a Dewdrop and have been rereading the Genjo Koan fascicle for the last few days. If you don't have a version handy, fear not: you can read the GK in eight English translations including Aitken and Tanahashi's on this very useful website.

    Here are three versions of the third section. First, the most recent Aitken & Tanahashi:

    3. When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumin[at]ed, the other side is dark.*
    The footnote at the end of the section in Moon reads:

    In direct realization subject and object include each other. In "darkness" everything is included and there is no sense of boundaries.
    Here's the Waddell and Abe translation from that website:

    3. Seeing forms and hearing sounds with body and mind as one, they make them intimately their own and fully know them. But it is not like a reflection in a mirror, it is not like the moon on the water. When they realize one side, the other side is in darkness.
    And Nishijima:

    3. Even if we use our whole body and mind to look at forms, and even if we use our whole body and mind to listen to sounds, perceiving them directly, [our human perception] can never be like the reflection of an image in a mirror, or like the water and the moon. When we affirm one side, we are blind to the other side.
    Though I'm not sure what it gets me, I did line up the "sides" in the different translations:

    • one side is illumin[at]ed; the other side is dark
      realize one side; the other side is in darkness
      affirm one side; blind to the other side


    I'm not sure I have anything precisely to say about this, nor can I find my way to a question -- thus my interest in prompting some discussion! For starters, I'm in the dark about the darkness.... :?

  2. #2

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    Hi Chris,

    It is a good suggestion, and we might talk about some of it and sit with it.

    Taigu had a very good series last year on much of the Genjo, and you may wish to have a look at those. Most are here ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-s ... 2&limit=20

    (you will also see in there a long series I did a few years ago, but those talks, alas, have faded into dust. Then again, such emptiness is a central lesson of the Genjo!)

    Gassho, J

  3. #3

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    Gassho, Jundo! I appreciate your navigation skills, both of forum and more.

  4. #4
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    Thank you so much for asking...

    Yes you may watch the vids and this endless rambling about this and that.


    Now, you are a scholar...And this is wonderful.

    Genjokoan is like a birdsong. You know, you walk in the wood, and there it is. It really does something to you. It kind of speaks to you.
    Speaks...

    Two birds, three birds singing now...Who is right? (Can you think that bird is right, this bird isn't ?).

    The tapestry of songs is it.

    Now let's look at the original Birdsong.
    You mean , is there a first, crystal clear birdsong?

    Or shall I ask: the one looking for the perfect birdsong....Who is he ?

    Isn't he asking about the way he hears birds singing?


    Isn't he inquiring about the very nature of his selfless self?


    Sure. Down there.

    And that's it really.


    Translations are many. The source is one. OOps, not even one because it is you and yours from the very begining.

    stay with this and remember, the very source of genjokan is...


    By now, you understand.



    gassho


    Taigu

  5. #5

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    Gassho, Taigu! As you can see above, I was hesitant even to ask a question. Yet there is something very powerful here that I want to offer for... what? discussion? consideration? sitting with? Not sure.

    I think you captured something that brings me back to this reading again and again much better than I could do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Genjokoan is like a birdsong. You know, you walk in the wood, and there it is. It really does something to you. It kind of speaks to you.
    Speaks...

    Two birds, three birds singing now...Who is right? (Can you think that bird is right, this bird isn't ?).

    The tapestry of songs is it.
    I sit in a room with large windows that face our backyard, and there many birds sing and chirp and flutter. When tonight I set aside words and translations to sit, I'll sit with you and Dogen and Jundo and those wonderful birds.

  6. #6

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    I also think a discussion on Genjo Koan is a great idea.

    I see scholarly discussions on these topics, not as a means to gain knowledge, or to agree on some standard interpretation, but as the manifestation of Manjushri himself. We discuss, throw ideas, not to clear ourselves from delusion, since the only delusion we have is thinking we are deluded, but, just like Dogen's one moment of sitting, is one moment of enlightenment, one word of Dharma discussion is one moment of Manjushir's wisdom, our wisdom.

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  7. #7

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA

    Aitken & Tanahashi:

    3. When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumin[at]ed, the other side is dark.*
    The footnote at the end of the section in Moon reads:

    In direct realization subject and object include each other. In "darkness" everything is included and there is no sense of boundaries.
    And Nishijima:

    3. Even if we use our whole body and mind to look at forms, and even if we use our whole body and mind to listen to sounds, perceiving them directly, [our human perception] can never be like the reflection of an image in a mirror, or like the water and the moon. When we affirm one side, we are blind to the other side.
    Hi Chris,

    One of the most treasured and oldest writings of Zen Buddhism (which is also chanted during our monthly Zazenkai) is the Sandokai, the "Identity of Relative and Absolute" ... which contains statements such as the following:

    The subtle Source is clear and bright;

    The branching streams flow in the dark.

    ...

    The dark makes all words one;

    The brightness distinguishes good and bad phrases.

    ...


    Light is also darkness,

    But do not move with it as darkness.

    Darkness is light;

    Do not see it as light.

    Light and darkness are not one, not two
    Suzuki Roshi points out that "Dark" here is not a negative sense (in the west, we tend to think that "darkness" = ignorance and "light" = "illumination/enlightenment"). However, the usage of those terms in many Chinese Zen writings is not as we use them in the west. In fact, "when we have the lights on" in a room, everything in the room appears separate and standing apart, with different shapes and colors and pieces, some good things and some bad, beautiful and ugly things. However, in a dark room, all the separate, broken up things vanish into oneness and wholeness! In Buddhism, of course, that "one and wholeness" is a medicine for always only seeing the world as broken, divided, good/bad, beautiful/ugly.

    Now, some people thus may think that this "light" world of broken, divided, good/bad, beautiful/ugly is "ignorance ... AND IT IS, and we need to stop only seeing the world (and our self) that way! In our ordinary life, before Buddhist Practice, we may only encounter the world in this broken, sometimes beautiful sometimes very ugly way. HOWEVER, notice that the poem does not say that the "dark" world of wholeness, oneness is the final destination. In fact, the poem points to something much more profound:

    Light is also darkness,

    But do not move with it as darkness .

    Darkness is light;

    Do not see it as light.


    If you get stuck in the light, your world is broken into pieces. However, if lost in the darkness, we cannot live in this world (we need to live in/as separate people in a world of separate things, good/bad, beautiful/ugly or we cannot function, cannot have a life). In fact, the myriad things flow in the dark! So, encounter light as darkness, darkness in light ... knowing how to bounce back and forth between these ways of seeing/being ... their total penetration ... sometimes turning the light up bright, sometimes turning the light low or off ... The best of both worlds, One World ... Thus:

    Light and darkness are not one, not two

    Anyway, that is the basic description. Dogen, however, expressed this as Jazz and brought this "squaresville old song" to life (i.e., same basic tune of the Sandokai, but Dogen gave it real feeling and body and expression!) The Nishijima/Cross and Takahashi/Aitken versions seem to read the grammar a little differently (I feel in my heart that Tanahashi is closer here), but really both are making the same point:

    Usually when encountering the dark, we lose the light ... and when living in the world of light, we are blinded to the dark. We cannot see the light and dark at once, in their Total Intimacy (what I sometimes call "both sides of the no sided coin"). Or, we think that a mirror (sometimes a symbol for enlightenment too, for it does not exclude or judge anything shown in the mirror) is seen as separate from the objects reflected in the mirror, and we cannot experience both at once. Likewise the moon itself (often a symbol for enlightenment) is thought by us as something apart from the reflections of the moon and the things the moon lights up.

    However, Dogen is calling for us to experience a profound Total Intimacy and Whole Intrapenetration of light-dark, mirror and all shown in the mirror, the moon and all places where the moon is seen. So, a few sentences later in Genjo Koan, Dogen writes ...

    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.
    I believe that Dogen is expressing this Total Intimacy and Whole Interpenetration of Moon and reflections, light and dark, you and all things. Even the smallest dewdrop or vast sky each fully hold and manifest and give shape to the full moon.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J

  8. #8
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    I believe that Dogen is expressing this Total Intimacy and Whole Interpenetration of Moon and reflections, light and dark, you and all things. Even the smallest dewdrop or vast sky each fully hold and manifest and give shape to the full moon.

    Most beautifully expressed, Brother.
    The thing is that Dogen doesn't just improvize on the Net of Indra kind of thing, he goes beyond.
    The more I read the bloke, the more I get really amazed.
    A quote brought to my attention by Ted Biringer (the flatbed sutra):

    Grass, trees, tiles, and pebbles, and the four elements and five aggregates, are all equally “the mind alone,” and are all equally “real form.” The whole universe in ten directions, and the true and real buddha-nature, are both the Dharma abiding in the Dharma’s place. In the true and real buddha-nature, how could there be such things as “grass” and “trees”? How could grass, trees, and so on not be the true and real buddhanature? All dharmas are beyond “intentional doing” and beyond “nondoing”; they are real form. Real form is real form as it is, and the as-it-is is the body-mind here and now. With this body-mind we should establish the mind. Do not be averse to treading in water or treading on rocks. Just to take one stalk of grass and make it into the sixteen-foot golden body, or to take one particle of dust and construct an eternal buddha’s stupa or shrine, is the establishment of the bodhi-mind itself. It is to meet Buddha, to listen to Buddha, to meet Dharma, to listen to Dharma, to become Buddha, and to act as Buddha.
    Shobogenzo, Hotsu-mujoshin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
    Nobody has spoken so eloquently and deeply about IT.
    This is just unique.

    gassho

    Taigu

  9. #9

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    DIGG IT, BRO! 8)

  10. #10

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    Gassho, Jundo and Taigu! I read your posts several times yesterday and again today, and sat with it last night (bathed in firework flashes and booms, of all things) and again this morning. I also found and read the Sandokai in the Treeleaf chant book a few times, which provides crucial context for that section. (Is that the right word, "section"?)

    I'm not surprised at all that I fell into merely dualistic thinking on this one -- the phrase about being "blind to the other side" fed that, I think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Usually when encountering the dark, we lose the light ... and when living in the world of light, we are blinded to the dark. We cannot see the light and dark at once, in their Total Intimacy (what I sometimes call "both sides of the no sided coin").
    Ah! I think I have a handle on the no-sided coin: you flip it in the air to make it tumble over itself, never calling heads or tails!

  11. #11

    Re: The Third Section of the Genjo Koan

    Every time I read Genjokoan, it's as if someone turned on a light in a dark room. Or turned off a light in a dark room. Or both.

    Thanks for the commentary.

    Gassho,
    Matt

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