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    Ash and firewood, Genjokoan pointers 2

    Risho wrote:

    Please bear with me, but I don't get this... this part of Genjokoan has always bothered me, irked me... because I want to understand it, but I can't.

    Dogen writes about deep belief in cause and effect. Zen is all about cause and effect.. reality, this is now because of that. I can never wrap my head around this... it's like Dogen's throwing that to the wind and saying ash is only ash, but there wouldn't be any ash except for the firewood! In that sense, isn't the firewood part of the cause of the ash? Isn't the firewood before, and the ash after?

    If we froze time, and we just saw the ash I guess it could be separated, but in reality isn't the ash only the result of the firewood? In reality time isn't frozen. From what perspective is Dogen speaking when he says ash is only ash?

    I guess if I look at my life. The way I am now is a result of all the moments of my life... so childhood is before and where I am now is after that. But I suspect I am wrong and that's what Dogen is hitting upon, but I just don't understand.

    Thank you for your time; like I said this has been driving me a little nuts. lol
    Dear Risho,

    Don't worry, the first time I heard this statement in master Deshimaru's words, I thought this was either a pile of nonsense or an extremely difficult reality to fathom, a profound an subtle teaching. I was wrong.

    It took me some 25 years to catch a glimpse of what it actually means, not just in theory but in flesh and blood and marrow.

    So I will have a go at pointing but won't explain. I 'd rather you have a living and direct and spontaneous experience of this.

    In Genjokoan Shobogenzo Dogen writes this:

    Firewood becomes ash; it can never go back to being firewood. Nevertheless, we should not take the view that ash is its future and firewood is its past. We should recognize that firewood occupies its place in the Universe as firewood, and it has its past moment and its future moment. And although we can say that it has its past and its future, the past moment and the future moment are cut off. Ash exists in its place in the Universe as ash, and it has its past moment and its future moment. Just as firewood can never again be firewood after becoming ash, human beings cannot live again after their death. So it is a rule in Buddhism not to say that life turns into death. This is why we speak of “no appearance.” And it is Buddhist teaching as established in the preaching of Gautama Buddha that death does not turn into life. This is why we speak of “no disappearance.” Life is an instantaneous situation, and death is also an instantaneous situation. It is the same, for example, with winter and spring. We do not think that winter becomes spring, and we do not say that spring becomes summer.
    Now, of course Dogen does not negate time, as the way we see reality in Buddhism is rooted in a deep belief in cause and effect. That being said, you know, in our living tradition, A can be true as well as non A. Simultaneously, something and its opposite can exist. Life and death happens at the same time. As well as life as life, and death as death.

    If i look at my life, am I the round happy looking baby loved by his mother, the young school boy playing in a village street, the early teenager sitting for the first time in a Zen temple that incredible summer of 1977, the proud graduate, the guy noticing this gorgeous chick he is about to date, the young enthusiastic professor of literature, the...or me now? if we pick up our family album are we every single of these guys, all of them bundled together, none of them? You see Dogen loves to challenge our way to see the world or ourselves, usually we see processes in the world, we think The child I was became a teenager, this turns into that. It is true and yet there is something else working here.

    Imagine a necklace of pearls, all different yet all similar, just like this DNA and body- mind through all the stages of his life. What strings all these moments and portraits is a storyline, a fiction called: Pierre's journey. What strings the pearls is the self as ego. Dogen throw down the necklace and pearls start to bounce on the floor, each different, each existing by itself. This is ash being ash, firewood being firewood.Spring as Spring, Summer as summer. The reality of the pearl, as is, is called Dharma position, Dharma stage.I love the way Chodo Cross, my teacher, expresses the reality of Dharma position, or Dharma stage. He uses the words: occupies its place in the universe.
    Expressed differently, when you open your eyes on something happening, appearing, like firewood or ash or snow or car passing by, you see just this, to see a process, you have to remove yourself into an abstract place that can think something like: the seed went into the ground, the tree grew, the wood was cut and burned and became this ash. This process is nor happening really in front of you although, ash is containing fully its origin and becoming, but not meeting it, being itself and being before and after. The past and future moment of ash are not before or after, but instantaneous, wholly manifested as a Dharma position. ju hoi, the dharma position encompasses everything and yet arises alone. Alone and together.

    Now life is arising and vanishing every moment, form appears and dies and appears again. No thread, no continuity. A continuous broken neckless. impermanence is found in the manifestation of Dharma stages.

    In order to dive a bit more into this, years and thousand years of practice are necessary, but ...even in a split second, in the Dharma position of just sitting the absolute beginner displays a perfect Buddha.

    There is a brilliant chapter written by Dogen called Zenki, undivided activity, all functions, total activity, dynamic activity...the metaphor of the boat is excellent to see the implications of this Dharma position:

    Life can be likened to a time when a person is sailing in a boat. On this boat, I am operating the sail, I have taken the rudder, I am pushing the pole; at the same time, the boat is carrying me, and there is no “I” beyond the boat. Through my sailing of the boat, this boat is being caused to be a boat—let us consider, and learn in practice, just this moment of the present. At this very moment, there is nothing other than the world of the boat: the sky, the water, the shore have all become the moment of the boat, which is utterly different from moments not on the boat. So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me. While I am sailing in the boat, my body and mind and circumstances and self are all essential parts5 of the boat; and the whole earth and the whole of space are all essential parts of the boat. What has been described like this is that life is the self, and the self is life.

    Master Kokugon, Zen Master Engo said:

    Life is the manifestation of all functions, Death is the manifestation of all functions.

    Be well, and I hope these clumsy words help.


    Last edited by Taigu; 09-02-2013 at 08:27 AM.

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