In another of the numerous examples in Shobogenzo of Dogen using wordplay to invert conventional thinking, in [Shobogenzo] Muchu Setsumu
"Within a Dream Expressing the Dream
," written in 1242, Dogen extensively elaborates on the statement that all buddhas express the dream within a dream
. He thereby denies the supposedly lesser reality of the "dreams" of the transient phenomenal world, and negates a Platonic exaltation of the absolute, which LaFleur describes as the antithesis of Lotus [Sutra] teaching. Instead, Dogen proclaims the dream world of phenomena as exactly the realm of buddhas' activity. "Every dewdrop manifested in every realm is a dream. This dream is the glowing clarity of the hundred grasses. . . . Do not mistake them as merely dreamy.
" The liberative awakening of buddhas is itself described as a dream.
Without expressing dreams, there are no buddhas. Without being within a dream, buddhas do not emerge and turn the wondrous dharma wheel. This dharma wheel is no other than a buddha together with a buddha, and a dream expressed within a dream. Simply expressing the dream within a dream is itself the buddhas and ancestors, the assembly of unsurpassable enlightenment.
Dogen is not frivolously indulging in mere paradox here, but follows the logic of the dream as necessarily the locus of awakening. As Dogen says in his celebrated essay, Genjokoan
, "Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas.
[Dogen] quotes a long passage that concludes the final verse in chapter fourteen of the [Lotus Sutra], beginning from, "All buddhas, with bodies of golden hue, splendidly adorned with a hundred auspicious marks, hear the dharma and expound it for others. Such is the fine dream that ever occurs. . . .
" Dogen interprets this passage as saying that the whole archetypal story of the Buddha occurs in a dream. Dogen's reading takes this passage out of its context in the sutra to emphasize that the Buddha is "made king," leaves the palace, awakens under the bodhi tree, and conducts his whole teaching career, all in a dream. ...
Dogen uses his creative reading to validate, or at least exemplify, his teaching that the dream-state of the conditioned phenomenal world is exactly the arena for awakening. ... Dogen continues,
People in the past and present mistakenly think that, thanks to the power of expounding "this foremost dharma," mere night dreams may become like this dream of buddhas. Thinking like this, one has not yet clarified the Buddha's discourse. Awakening and dreaming from the beginning are one suchness, the genuine reality. The buddha-dharma, even if it were an analogy, is the genuine reality.
For Dogen, the particular events of this dream world are the reality, and also the skillful discourse, of the awakening of buddhas.
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