The Dancers The Dance

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(BENDOWA XLII)

In today's section of Bendowa, Master Dogen presents a rather philosophical argument (reprinted in full below) upholding the Buddha's rejection of the idea of a separate "soul" or "mind essence' which continues on, and is later reborn, after the body dies. He considers that a too simple, one-sided way to view things. It separates life into pieces.

His point is that body and mind are never separate ... and so we cannot say that one ends while the other does not. There is not a time, Master Dogen states, "when body and mind are one reality, and another time when they are not one reality."

However, that does not mean, according to Dogen, that "it's over when it's over". Not in the least! If you think "it's over when it's over" ... then get over "you" now!

I believe that what Master Dogen is describing may best be tasted by imagining all of reality as a Great Dance that has been ongoing with no seeming beginning, no visible end. All of us ... each being, the mountains, stars, wind and rain, all things and all events ... are part of this dance. We are all dancing together.

If we fail to see the "big picture", we see our own life as just a single dancer who steps on stage for a few years, moving here and there (sometimes tripping on our own feet, sometimes bumping into other dancers), all to disappear from the stage when we die.

Our main concern then (a view that fails to see the Big Picture, the WHOLE GRAND BALLET) may be to hope that, at best, we might get the chance merely to come back as another little clumsy dancer for a few more years.

But, says Dogen, that is because we cannot see that we are not just little dancers ...

... WE ARE THE DANCE!

... dancing, unbroken, through all time
. Wholly twirling and intertwined. The dance defined, created and made real, fully exerted, in each step by step we each and all make in this moment.

Then, it is not a question of our worrying about whether our small, clumsy dancer 'self' will be reborn in the future as another small, clumsy dancer 'self' (that may or may not be so). It is just the dancing dancing ongoing dancing ... life-and-death just the great whirling, dancers entering and exiting ...

... all this one Great Dance.


Thus, says Master Dogen in this section ...


... [We] should realize that living-and-dying is just nirvana; [Buddhists] have never discussed nirvana outside of living-and-dying. ... Further, if we think that life and death are something to get rid of [or be free of], we will [be guilty of hating] the Buddha-Dharma. How could we not guard against this? Remember, the lineage of the Dharma which [asserts that] "in the Buddha-Dharma the essential state of mind [Uchiyama: the vast total aspect of mind essence] universally includes all forms," describes the whole great world of Dharma inclusively, without dividing essence and form, and without discussing appearance and disappearance. There is no [state] - not even [life and death and] bodhi or nirvana- that is different from the essential state of mind. All dharmas, myriad phenomena and accumulated things [all the myriad phenomena in the who universe], are totally just the one mind, without exclusion or disunion [everything included and interconnected]. [The myriad things and phenomena] are the even and balanced undivided mind, other than which there is nothing; and this is just how Buddhists have understood the essence of mind. That being so, how could we divide this one reality into body and mind, or into life-and-death and nirvana? We are already the Buddha's disciples.





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

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