This One Practice

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In other words ...

Question: There are other popular sects of Buddhism these days that have some very ornate traditions, and they are certainly a lot more colorful than Zen. Some of their doctrines are pretty mysterious, claim to be secret teachings of the Buddhas that sound very powerful, and promise that they are the true highway to enlightenment. They claim these as the highest and most advanced Buddhist teachings too. That's all besides the fact that, sometimes, some of their teachings even sound a bit like your teachings. So, Dogen, why do you only recommend Zazen to the exclusion of all other practices.

Answer: Let's not talk about philosophy or who has the most colorful teachings. Let's talk about practicing true practice! 


Question Four:

Q: Someone asks, "[The Hokke (Tendai) and Kegon School Teachings] have now been transmitted into this country, are [said to be] both ultimate expressions of the Great Vehicle. Moreover, in the case of the Shingon Sect, [the transmission] passed directly from the Tathagata Vairocana to Vajrasattva, and so [the transmission from] master to disciple [without deviation]. Quoting the principles whch it discusses that "Mind here and now is buddha"and "This mind becomes buddha," [the Shingon sect] proclaims that we realize the right realization of the five buddhas in one sitting, without undergoing many kalpas of training. We can say that this is the ultimate refinement of the Buddha's Dharma. What is so excellent then about the practice which you now solely recommend, to the exclusion of these other [practices]?"


A: I say: Remember, among Buddhists we do not argue about superiority and inferiority of philosophies, or choose between shallowness and profundity in the Dharma; we need only know whether the practice is genuine or [false].  Some have entered into the stream of the Buddha's truth at the invitation of grass, flowers, mountains, and rivers. Some have received and maintained the stamp of Buddha by grasping soil, stones, sand, and pebbles. Furthermore,[words that express the vasteness of reality are] even more abundant than the myriad phenomena. And the turning of the great Dharma-wheel is contained in every molecule. This being so, the words "Mind here is buddha"are only the moon in water, and the idea "Just to sit is to become buddha" is also a reflection in a mirror. We should not be caught by the skillfulness of the words. Now, in recommending the practice in which bodhi is directly experienced, I hope to demonstrate the subtle truth that the patriarchs have transmitted one-to-one, and thus to make you into people of the real state of truth. Moreover, for transmission of the Buddha-Dharma, we must always take as a teacher a person who has experienced the [Buddha's] state. It is never enough to take as our guiding teacher a scholar who counts words; that would be like the blind leading the blind. In this, the lineage of the authentic transmission of the Buddhist patriarchs, we all revere wise masters who have attained the truth and experienced the state, and we cause them to dwell in and to maintain the Buddha-Dharma. That is why, when Shintoists of [the lineages of] yin and yang come to devote themselves, arhats who have experienced the effect come to ask for Dharma, we give each of them, without fail, the means of clarifying the mental state. That is something that has never been heard in other lineages. The disciples of the Buddha should just learn the Buddha-Dharma. Furthermore, we should remember that from the beginning we have never lacked the supreme state of Bodhi,and we will receive it and use it forever. At the same time, because we cannot perceive it directly we are prone to beget intellectual ideas, and because we chase after these as if they were real things, we vainly pass by the great state of truth. From these intellectual ideas emerge all sorts of flowers in space; we think about the twelvefold cycle and the twenty-five spheres of existence; and ideas of the three vehicles and the five vehicles or of having and not having are endless. We should not think that the leaning of these intellectual ideas is the right path of practice. When we solely sit in Zazen, on the other hand, relying now on exactly the same posture as the Buddha, and letting go of the myriad things, then we go beyond the areas of delusion, realization, emotion, and consideration, and we are not concerned with the ways of the common and the sacred. At once we are roaming outside the [intellectual] frame, receiving and using the great state of bodhi.  How could those caught in the trap of words compare [with this]?

From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross [with some amendments according to Uchiyama]

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

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