View Full Version : Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 10 - P 149 to End

05-10-2020, 07:13 AM
Hello Humans,

In our last section, we encountered Master Dogen's view of this life and world as like a boat sailing: It takes sailors (us) to sail the boat, just making the boat a boat (and not just nailed together wood or, even more basically, some carbon atoms of a certain configuration that we think of as "wood"). Likewise, the water and shore make boat and us. This week we see that our view and values turn atoms of H2O into "the sea" and grains of sand into "shore," so give them reality and life. The whole universe is interdependent cycles of round and round like this. You might think that sea and shore would exist (and existed for millions and millions of years) without "us" ... and in one sense they did in a basic physical and chemical way we can presume ... but truly "sea" and "shore" did not exist before our human perception any more than a group of carbon atoms became a "sailboat" without a sea and sailor!

(Some quantum mechanical models posit that even the atoms don't exist quite as they are until perceived ... but I don't want to go there now. I am happy to stay at the macro level.)

We tend to see the world as just being "there," and it is "there" as "the world" even without us. We are then born, then assume that we experience rather accurately through our eyes and other senses this world as it really is "out there." However, now you might see how our thoughts, judgments and imperfect mental modeling create so much of what we assume is "out there."

And those features are myriad ... water for you is home for fish (who doubtlessly encounters water very differently than we do ... perhaps not even noticing it any more than we notice the air we breathe ... likely without even a name or complex thought about it). Water is a lifesaver for humans when thirsty (unless sea water, of course) but a lifetaker to a drowning man.

Your assignment for this lesson is to take an ordinary activity ... drinking tea, walking on the ground, brushing the teeth ... and describe it in a short paragraph as a cycle of giving and taking, name and ideas assigned, one way to humans and another way to non-humans ... much as Dogen does with his boat and sea and sailor.

Here are some creatures that call "home sweet home" some environments we would call death and hell.


Gassho, J


05-12-2020, 01:32 AM
Thanks Jundo, to the wise this assignment is a cuddly Labrador puppy [claps]; to a novice like me it's a Rottweiler :mad:

I've tried looking at my screen for inspiration. But it really doesn't care. It's just pixels and bytes. [...]

Gassho, Chris stlah

05-12-2020, 02:15 PM
Went for a walk yesterday in the countryside. It was a hot day and there were lots of ants out on the path. To me the path was an insignificant part of the walk, a surface for me to put my foot on and I normally pay no attention to it. But when I stopped for a second and watched the ants scurrying around going about their daily business I realised that to them the path was a much larger and more significant part of their universe - and to them the distances they were moving were huge. I suppose this is an example of different living things having different perspectives of the same universe, but it can also apply to different humans too as we individually add our own thoughts and feelings to our experience of the universe.
Sat today, LAH

05-12-2020, 04:17 PM
The part of this section that really spoke to me was the excerpt from Sansuikyō and the commentary on it, as it really shows the interconnectedness of Dogen's work. Jundo bringing up the idea that reality doesn't exist until it's experienced is another great rabbit hole to go down as well! Is there a true objective reality, or is the reality we all experience a subjective version based on our own karmic conditioning? I tend to feel like, with most things Zen, the answer is "both", "neither", and "it depends".

As for my experience with this, the last few weekends my partner and I have been demolishing an old deck in the backyard, digging up weeds, burying cables, all kinds of good hands on work. To us we're just fixing up the backyard, but to all the critters I've come across, we must seem like gods. We have the power to conjure floods (watering some roses in), to decimate lands (tilling the soil), and harness the power of lightning (replacing some old outdoor outlets with code-compliant ones). To us it's all basic and normal, but to creatures who have lived countless generations in our backyard, we are extremely powerful forces. Hopefully through all of this we're able to make a nice comfortable home for all these creatures again, and it's nice to keep these thoughts in perspective.

I thought this was appropriate for this section, forgive the cursing if it offends [emoji120][emoji120][emoji120]




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05-14-2020, 06:26 AM
That's brilliant, Joshua!

To me my tea is a tasty hot beverage but what about the poor tea leaves? There they were sitting on the branch of a bush in China or India minding their own business when they were picked, taken away from their home and dried out. Then they were torn into a thousand different pieces and jumbled together with many other leaves and sent thousands of miles away to England where a strange man first boils them then consumes them, something he does with alarming regularity. Poor leaves.

I've seen Uchiyama Roshi's last poem before but it never fails to move me

'...just bow as life becomes life'




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05-15-2020, 01:19 AM
This great ocean, however, is neither round nor square. It has inexhaustible characteristics. [To a fish] it looks like a palace; [to a heavenly being] a jeweled necklace. [To us] as far as our eyes can see, it looks like a circle.

I have read this passage a number of times in the past but never made sense to me until I read this section. Now it seems so obvious [duh].

Heiso, I like your tea leaves observation. It reminds me of something similar I had read in the past comparing us humans taking animals out of nature to put into zoos or doing experiments on to alien abductions [greedo]

Sat today and lah