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Thread: Dosho Port Says Dogen Didn't Practice Shikantaza

  1. #1

    Dosho Port Says Dogen Didn't Practice Shikantaza


  2. #2
    Hi,

    Yes, I sent this review to Griffith Foulk and posted it at Amazon ... Dosho (Port, not our Dosho) mischaracterizes what is in that essay, and the essay itself is open to criticism. You will notice in Dosho Port's essay that he tries to muddle the fact that "Dogen loved Koans" with the quite separate assertion that "Dogen supported Koan Introspection Zazen". There is no basis for the second assertion based upon the essay.

    ----

    AMAZON REVIEW:

    The balance of the essays in this collection are of the usual high and informative level found in all the Steven Heine books. Well worth reading and tremendously valuable for all of us with interest in Dogen and Soto Zen. However, I feel that one essay detracts from that to such a degree, that I wish to lodge this small protest and complaint.

    I am generally a great fan of Griffith Foulk's writings on Soto Zen. It is for that reason that I am so surprised and disappointed at the poor reasoning he demonstrates in the lead paper in the book, "Dogen's Use of Rujing's 'Just Sit' (Shikantaza) and Other Koans". It is almost as if Dr. Foulk is setting up a "strawman" Soto Zen that does not really exist in anyone's mind, and describes a "Shikantaza" Zazen based on some naive "goallessness" and literal "non-attaining" missing the subtle intent of those words, a viewpoint that nobody I know in the Soto world holds or ever has.

    Here is substantially the message I posted about the piece to the SZBA (Soto Zen Buddhist Association, an organization of Soto Zen Teachers in America, where I am one member):

    ----------

    Much of the subject essay consists of Dr. Foulk's making supposed "revelations" about Dogen that, I wager, most of the members of the SZBA already know and, further, agree with!

    For example, Dogen lived and breathed Koans. The Shobogenzo, the Koroku and his other writings are chock full of Koans, wall to wall Koans, and we modern Soto teachers dance with Koans too. There is no surprise here, and has not been in the vast majority of the Soto world for a long time, at least not since folks rediscovered and actually read the Koan-filled writings of Dogen. Yet this is a bit of another issue from whether we are to sit immersed in a Koan or a phrase from a Koan engaged in Koan Introspection Zazen in the manner of Ta Hui. After pages and pages in which Foulk merely underlines the point that Dogen preached Koans and expected his students to do as much, Foulk concedes (bottom of page 33), "One thing Dogen did not do with Koans, however, was use them as objects of contemplation in the manner recommended by Dahui. That Chan master advocated fixing the mind on the "keyword" of an old case ... "

    Foulk points out that Dogen never specifically used the term "Shikantaza" in Fukanzazengi, Zazengi and other descriptions of Zazen. This might be true. But what Dogen describes in those writings as "thinking-non-thinking" and "putting aside all involvements and suspending all affairs ... not thinking good or bad ... not judging true or false" seems to be pretty much what I think (and non think) of as "Shikantaza". Beyond that, Foulk should then also mention the fact that, in Fukanzazengi and elsewhere, Dogen offers very specific instructions on what to do with body and mind during Zazen ... the clothes to wear, how to fold the legs, how to think non thinking, etc., yet what Dogen does not mention as part of these details on how to sit is any instruction such as "take up a Koan phrase" "look at a Koan" or the like. Why would Dogen leave that out of Fukanzazengi and the like if it was so important as an aspect of Zazen in which he is mentioning so many details of the process of sitting such as "Do not think good or bad" and "rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking"? He would have mentioned taking up or looking at a Koan or Koan phrase if such was some part of the process of sitting. (Also, Dogen does use the term "Shikantaza" several times in Shobogenzo. As Prof. Bielefeldt notes in translations for the Soto Zen Text Project, "Just sitting" (shikan taza 祇管打坐; also written 只管打坐): An expression occurring several times in Dōgen's writings -- especially, as here, in conjunction with the phrase shinjin datsuraku. " (Note 3 to his SZTP Zanmai-o-Zanmai Translation)

    The rest of the "revelations" by Dr. Foulk are rather anti-climatic. First, points out Foulk, "Just Sitting" does not mean "sitting alone" and nothing else, because Dogen also engaged in a variety of other practices such as Chanting and Ceremonies and the like. Frankly, I do not think there is a member of the SZBA who would assert that Dogen meant, by "Just Sitting", that all other Buddhist Practices should be abandoned, and I believe all of us understand the "Koan" that Dr. Foulk seems to think he has discovered in light of the famous dictum in Bendowa (quoting Rujing) "you get it only by just sitting; you don't need to burn incense, make prostrations, recollect the buddha, practice repentence, or look at scripture." (For example, as I tell my students ... Just Sitting is the only thing, the alpha and omega, nothing lacking while sitting. But rising from the cushion, there is lots which can be done, all "Zazen" in wider meaning". I believe most modern Soto Teachers preach a similar message these days). This "Koan" of Zazen does not seem very hard to pierce.

    Next, Dr. Foulk makes a rather big deal of the fact that Soto folks (or some strawman version he whips up) believe in a "goalless" Zazen in which there is "nothing to attain" thus foresaking "attainment". Does any Soto Teacher truly believe that there is no marvelous attainment (perhaps attained, however, by non-attaining!)? Is there a member of the SZBA or any Soto Teacher anywhere who actually understands Dogen to be advocating some pointless, dead sitting which foresakes enlightenment? Dr. Foulk seems to take "goalless" as meaning "goalless", something all of us understand in much more subtle ways.

    Anyway, I don't think this essay adds anything new and the "controversies" it seems to raise seem kinda silly. Didn't Dr. Foulk talk to any actual Soto Teachers when writing this?

    Gassho, Jundo Cohen
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-16-2015 at 04:54 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    By the way, I posted a version of the above as a comment on Dosho Port's blog. He pulled it down. I guess he does not want to be criticized.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Thank you for your informative review and response, Jundo. It is a shame that Dosho Port didn't let the comment stand.

    I am somewhat of a novice when it comes to Dogen but agree that the idea that Dogen didn't like koans is somewhat of a straw man since, in addition to liberal discussion of numerous cases in Shobogenzo, he did collect 300 of them in the Shinji Shobogenzo! Equally, I have yet to read Dogen advocate sitting with koans as a method of zazen.

    As has been discussed elsewhere, the revised Shushogi could definitely be argued as a 'dumbing down' of Soto practice yet the notion of practice enlightenment is pivotal to many of Dogen's most important writings and not an excuse for laziness.

    "To practice the Way singleheartedly is, in itself, enlightenment. There is no gap between practice and enlightenment or zazen and daily life"
    -- Fukanzazengi

    I must admit that even from my limited perspective I am surprised to see a Soto priest putting forth these arguments.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    #sattoday

  5. #5
    Only for people who have a wonky interest in these questions ...

    A follow-up email by me to Griff Foulk in a mail exchange between us. Unfortunately, I cannot print his email to me without permission, so the conversation is a bit one sided. I attempt to address the points he made to me:

    ----------------

    Dear Griff,

    I have now read your essay three times with level head. While your research is detailed and impeccable (as always), it is your interpretation of the data which is specious.

    Yes, among members of the Soto school, it is perhaps nearly a universally recognized "fact" that Dogen taught Shikantaza. But I see nothing in your essay which indicates they are wrong. Although the word "Shikantaza" may not appear in Fukanzazengi (likewise for Zazenshin, Zazengi etc.), what is being described there is precisely what most of us consider to be "Shikantaza" (Zazengi: Cast aside all involvements and discontinue the myriad affairs. Good is not thought of; evil is not thought of. It is not mind, intellect or consciousness; it is not thoughts, ideas or perceptions. Do not figure to make a buddha; slough off sitting or reclining.) (Zazenshin: The essential point of its standard is [the understanding] that there is a practice of a buddha that does not seek to make a buddha. Since the practice of a buddha is not to make a buddha, it is the realization of the kan.) So what is your point? That because one does not call a rose as a "rose", that it is no longer a rose and smells less sweet?

    Furthermore, I think it is very common to know Zazen as a Koan (at least, in the 'Genjo Koan' sense) as well as the Koan realized, as Dogen states above. A view of Zazen as a Koan/Koan Realized is very common, at least in the English literature I am familiar with. For example, to quote Dr. Kim on pg. 64 of Mystical Realist here:

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=...ife%22&f=false

    Taigen's description of Zazen as "enactment ritual" is also of this flavor.

    http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/...actment_ritual

    You also present a grossly simplistic interpretation of "goallessness" and "non-attainment". This was perhaps the most surprising and glaring fault of the essay. The fundamental pivot point of Zazen is the famous question (whether or not what actually drove Dogen to China as the legend presents) usually stated as some variation of: "Since we are all already Enlightened/Buddha. why need for Practice?" The point of this Zen enterprise is always realization, both in the sense of realizing/awakening to the reality of our Buddhaness and realizing/making it real through our constant acts in life and constant Practice. One might say that we simultaneously drop all goals, keep our goals (to be Buddhalike) and realize those goals-not-goals in every act and choice. Nonetheless, you present some mysterious Soto Zen teachers who are preaching a "goallessness" that means a Zazen without goal, and a "non-attainment" which asserts there is nothing to attain. Who are these people? (I hear such claims primarily from folks outside the tradition who use such charges in an attempt to show Soto Practice as some thumb-twiddling, dead sitting). I am very surprised that someone who has been so intimate with the Soto world for so long could make such a claim.

    Despite your passing, rather ambigous ("nor did he ever speak against it" reference on page 34) distinction of the methods of Dahui, you also make the error of muddling the distinction between Dogen as the practitioner of the classic Koans (we all are) and Dogen as practicing some form of Koan Introspection Zazen. Nobody (at least in modern times since Dogen's writings became widely available and widely read) could possibly look at Dogen's writings ... page after page of Koans ... while denying that Dogen was a dancer of Koans. Can you show me someone who does? (Yes, I realize that there were such polemics in Japan during the little ideological wars to distinguish Soto from Rinzai Practice, but the emphasis was rarely if ever on the "Koans per se" as on their use, especially in Koan Introspection according to a curriculum).

    There are also some minor points. You attempt to link Dogen's use of the title "Shobogenzo" with Dahui's use of "Shobogenzo" for his own collection of Koans. Well, you do know that "Shobogenzo" is a much older term that had been around and used in Chan literature for hundreds of years prior, and refers to the flower and Mahakasyapa? Why did you not mention that Dogen's use of the name might come just as easily ... and probably more likely ... from such other sources (for example, the followers of the modern "Tea Party" Movement and Lewis Carroll both speak of a "Tea Party").

    In law and science, one might do an excellent job in gathering facts and data, yet an incredibly sloppy job in interpreting and presenting the data. I fear that your paper is such an example.

    Let me add, despite the above, how much I treasure and thank you for most of your fine work.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-17-2015 at 05:35 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Hello,

    Thank you for the lesson.


    Gassho,
    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  7. #7
    Thank you Jundo --

    ..and this is why a teacher is necessary. To help students, like myself, early on the Way to not get dissuaded.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  8. #8
    Wow ...

    Thank you Jundo. I always find it troublesome when anyone throws out statements but does not allow for discussion or reflection. I appreciate your clarification. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sattoday

  9. #9
    Hi there - I don't have a point of view on this as I don't have the knowledge/adequate understanding of the issue under discussion.

    I do know that I don't want to start sitting zazen any other way than what is taught here because introspecting on anything/koan or otherwise. will completely sidetrack/muck up
    the little deepening of practice I'm experiencing.
    In my simplistic view I'd thought that the whole of life/ the whole of sitting is a koan - our life's koan - and it need be no more complicated than that.

    I'm now wondering whether I'm being too simplistic - I hadn't realised that Dogen had written Shinji Shobogenzo (301 koan stories to further get my head around) that there are only two English translations (Nishijima's is one - but I've read not without fault/criticism as it is his own very particular take?) - so can I really understand Dogen without putting in this further study? Should I be reading Steve Heine's 'Dogen and the Koan Tradition?'. Should I just keep dipping into Dogen and taking from it what I can?

    I wish I felt all of this was not really necessary - but I can't help feeling that perhaps to be a serious student of Soto Zen it is?

    (I reckon Dogen would disagree with that last statement )

    Gassho
    Willow (with a very sore 'thinking' head' )

    but Sat today (with a calm, thinking not thinking mind)
    Last edited by Jinyo; 02-17-2015 at 08:05 PM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by willow View Post

    I'm now wondering whether I'm being too simplistic - I hadn't realised that Dogen had written Shinji Shobogenzo (301 koan stories to further get my head around) that there are only two English translations (Nishijima's is one - but I've read not without fault/criticism as it is his own very particular take?) - so can I really understand Dogen without putting in this further study? Should I be reading Steve Heine's 'Dogen and the Koan Tradition?'. Should I just keep dipping into Dogen and taking from it what I can?

    I wish I felt all of this was not really necessary - but I can't help feeling that perhaps to be a serious student of Soto Zen it is?

    (I reckon Dogen would disagree with that last statement )

    Gassho
    Willow (with a very sore 'thinking' head' )

    but Sat today (with a calm, thinking not thinking mind)
    Yes, we all sometimes think about made up problems until our head gets sore!

    I would say that Dogen and many old Zen Teachers turned to the Koans and Sutra stories as teaching tools. Dogen spoke in such terms in much the same way that a Christian minister turns to Bible stories: Because those are the text, stories and homilies they have to work with and which encompass and express our tenets and teachings. (Of course, Dogen then took those Koans and stories and jazzed them up in Dogen's special way, but that is a topic for another time) ...

    How to Read Dogen
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-to-Read-Dogen

    So, I would say that reading the Koans, Sutras and other cherished texts and old writings is not strictly necessary, but helpful at some point. In any event, you rarely will read a modern Zen book or listen to a modern Zen Teacher give a talk without him or her including some old Koan stories in the talk. So, I would say that one will come to recognize most of the most famous Koans just by sticking around Zen long enough, reading Zen books etc. We have sat with a collection of Koans here at Treeleaf cherished in the Soto world, and which are many of the same Koans in Dogen's collection.

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...NIMITY-Case-50

    Now, familiarity with the Koans, and allowing them to flavor and inform one's Zen Practice is very good for Zen students at some point. That is very different, however, from the kind of "work with Koans" in the Rinzai schools (or in many Rinzai-Soto hybrid Lineages such a Dosho Port and most of the heirs to Yasutani Roshi and Maezumi Roshi) who engage in "Koan Introspection Zazen", wrestling with a Koan, and then presenting their special understanding in Dokusan with the Teacher. I don't feel that is necessary or even helpful for most students.

    By the way, I want to emphasize that I am not saying that "our way" is better than Dosho Port's way or some other way. I would never be a "my way or the highway" type who says that Shikantaza is the best way for everyone. It is simply that the historical presentation of Dogen by Dr. Foulk (which was then exaggerated by Dosho Port into "thus Dogen was not a Shikantaza teacher, he was a Koan Introspection Zazen teacher") was just strange in its interpretation of historical information, and based on strawman descriptions of Shikantaza practice. Thus, it is misleading and open to criticism.

    By the way, Heine's "Dogen and the Koan Tradition" is a very good book, but dense and written in that style of modern literary criticism that can truly make one's head explode. Knowing you, it may be right up your alley, Willow.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-18-2015 at 03:11 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11

  12. #12
    Hi. I failed to become really engaged by this controversial-ish issue. The basic Dharma that Jundo teaches has the same root as everything I have been taught by different teachers in different schools of Buddhism. The breadmaking is the same ...it is just that some people like cinnamon loaf, others like challah, or little buns. I didn't read anything that can cause confusion on the cushion.

    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today

  13. #13
    I am just a lay person and sitting Zazen seems to be enough for me. Koans are Ok, but I think too much already, lol.


    ..sat2day

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Troy View Post
    Koans are Ok, but I think too much already, lol.
    I do enough over thinking as it is!

    SatToday

  15. #15
    I fully agree with Jundo.

    However, let's (for fun's sake) assume Dogen did not practise Shikantaza...
    So what?
    The sky is blue, in autumn leaves are falling, things are as they are (as IT is).
    Words...

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu
    #sat2day
    no thing needs to be added

  16. #16
    Hi,

    All I can say is that I still have a long way to go to hold a discussion of this caliber!

    For what I have read in several sources, Dogen indeed used koans as part of his practice and teachings. That's all I can really say since I am no scholar.

    For now all I can do is read and sit.

    Thank you for this, Jundo.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Daitetsu View Post
    I fully agree with Jundo.

    However, let's (for fun's sake) assume Dogen did not practise Shikantaza...
    So what?
    The sky is blue, in autumn leaves are falling, things are as they are (as IT is).
    Words...

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu
    #sat2day
    Yes, I described Nishijima's attitude toward Dogen this way in the Preface to the new book ...

    Nishijima was thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Dogen, was a translator of Dogen’s complete Shobogenzo into modern Japanese and (with his student Chodo Cross) into English, and felt that Master Dogen had found ways to express the Buddhist teachings rarely heard until the modern day. Nonetheless, despite his profound trust in the teachings of Dogen, I would not describe Nishijima as a prisoner of Dogen. Among the many treasured teachings of Dogen that are timeless and survive the centuries, Nishijima knew that some were primarily the views and expressions of a man living amid the society and superstitions of 13th century Japan, words aimed directly at the needs of monastics pursuing a cloistered life. Those of Dogen’s writings directed primarily to his band of monks at Eihei-ji must be placed side by side with Dogen’s other pronouncements recognizing the possibilities of Zen practice for people in all situations of life. Buddhism, and Dogen’s teachings, can be brought forth and adapted for our situations and times.
    I have no problem with Buddhism flourishing in 10,000 fine flavors, suited to different societies, times and individual people's needs. We do not blindly mimic Dogen. The historical question of what Dogen taught is apart from that, and I simply Prof. Foulk said, as well as Prof. Foulk's view that "Dogen did not teach Shikantaza" (because the Professor's definition of "Shikantaza" was so strange from the viewpoint of most Soto Zen teachers I know). I further challenged Dosho Port's further mischaracterization of what Prof. Foulk said.

    The Teachers of the past (including even Nishijima, Dogen, even the Buddha himself) were men (mostly) of their societies and times. I remember once asking Nishijima, a then 85 year old Japanese man, about how we should do some things in a Zen Sangha in America (where I was planning to live at the time), and what was the "traditional" way. He said that the "traditional" way is fine, but sometimes we need to create "new traditions" to suit the West.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    I have yet to read Dogen advocate sitting with koans as a method of zazen
    Mmm. This topic has always interested me. I would be very surprised if Dogen did not include Koan Introspection in his arsenal. He has always appeared to be all things to all practitioners, to me. Back in mist of memory I recall him writing (according to translation) something like, "Find a teacher, get assigned a Koan, then work with it". It will take some time but I will dig this out. I am confident that there will be other examples.

    What I don't understand is why should this be such a contentious issue? I know of no Rinzai Teachers who proclaim that Koan Introspection is the only legitimate method. I have never used Koan Introspection intensively myself but I have absolutely no doubt that it can be a very effective method for some. There is just too much evidence out there to ignore.

    I do agree that when it gets to the point where students are wandering around outside at night at Shesshin calling out 'Mu' its gotten ridiculous.

    m

    Sat 2-day

  19. #19
    Hi Michael,

    Koan Introspection is a very wonderful method for those who benefit, and Shikantaza is not (in my opinion) the only legitimate method. I happen to believe that Shikantaza is a wondrous method which can benefit most people who truly understand its power and pursue such practice, but I am not so stubborn as to insist it must be for everyone. The discussion is not (at least for me) anything to do with what is the best or one true Practice.

    As I stated above (and as Dr. Foulk notes), Dogen did engage in "Koan Introsprection" in the sense of dancing and piercing Koans, but not (most historians including Dr. Foulk agree) in the manner of "Koan Introspection Zazen" in the way of Dahui, holding a phrase of a Koan in mind such as "MU" in search of a particular Kensho experience.

    The passage you mention is from Eihei-Koroku Vol 8., Dharma Words 14. Those pages seem to be a letter by Dogen to some lay people. The entire passage is about these lay folks, probably outside a monastic setting and trying to maintain a practice on their own, finding a teacher. Once they do, they should ask the teacher to give them a Koan.

    Good gentleman, when you meet a teacher, first ask for one case of a [kōan] story, and keep it in mind and study it diligently. If you climb to the top of the mountain and dry up the oceans, you will not fail to complete [this study].
    Taigen Leighton, the translator of the Eihei Koroku and many other Dogen writings, says about the above passage, "Unlike in the formal Rinzai curriculum, or the Koan study of Dahui, Dogen does not explicitly recommend the koan stories as objects of formal meditation, but offers them for general contemplation and intent study." Actually, the entirety of what Taigen has to say about Dogen and Koans is very informative, so I will print most of it below (from his Introduction to the Koroku http://www.wisdompubs.org/sites/defa...view/Dogen.pdf)

    Gassho, J


    -----------------

    Dogen’s Use of Koans

    Although Dogen claimed in Dharma hall discourse 48 that he returned
    from China to Japan “with empty hands,” he brought with him an
    extraordinary mastery of the extensive Chinese Chan koan literature. A
    popular stereotype is that Japanese Rinzai Zen emphasizes koan practice
    whereas Soto Zen emphasizes just sitting meditation, or zazen, and even
    disdains koans. However, even a cursory reading of Dogen demonstrates
    his frequent use of a very wide range of koans. Contrary to the stereotype,
    as amply proved in Eihei Koroku along with his other writings, Dogen is
    clearly responsible for introducing the koan literature to Japan, and in his
    teaching he demonstrates how to bring this material alive.

    One legend about Dogen is that on the night before he left China to
    return home, with the help of a guardian deity he copied in one night the
    entire Hekiganroku, or Blue Cliff Record, still one of the most important
    koan anthologies, including one hundred cases with extensive commentary.
    Whether or not he accomplished such a supernormal feat, Dogen
    certainly brought to Japan not only that text but also an amazing encyclopedic
    knowledge of the contents of many other such collections.

    In the centuries after Dogen, koan study was often prominent in Soto
    Zen history. But the modes of koan practice and study promoted by
    Dogen, and in much of Soto Zen until the present, differ distinctly from
    the modern Rinzai koan curriculum study, which emphasizes frequent
    student interviews with the teacher after intent focus on the koan as an
    object of formal meditation. This Rinzai koan system had its roots in the
    teachings of Dahui, a Chinese Linji/Rinzai master in the century before
    Dogen. The development of this koan system, especially as it was
    informed by the great seventeenth-century Rinzai master Hakuin, has
    often been seen in the West today, mistakenly, as the definition and limit
    of “koan practice.” This has led to the erroneous belief that Dogen, or
    Soto generally, does not use koan practice. Steven Heine’s excellent
    detailed study, Dogen and the Koan Tradition, clearly elaborates the varying
    modes of koan study and praxis employed by Dogen, as opposed to
    the Rinzai approach.

    Generally a koan—the word means “public case”—is a teaching story
    primarily based on a dialogue or some other encounter between a teacher
    and a student. The classic koan stories go back to the genres of the lamp
    transmission anthology and the recorded sayings (Ch.: yulu; Jpn.: goroku),
    mostly from the great masters of the Chinese Tang dynasty (608–907).
    Many of these recorded sayings of individual masters were not actually
    compiled until early in the Song dynasty (960–1278), which has led many
    modern scholars to question their historical reliability. However, given
    the strong monastic culture of memorization and oral transmission, we
    cannot say definitively whether or not these stories are historically reliable.
    But they have unquestionably served as useful tools for the realization of
    awakening truth and spiritual development by generations of monks and
    seekers throughout the past millennium.



    In Eihei Koroku, Dogen follows and expands upon many traditional
    modes of koan commentary. Volume 9, ninety koans selected by Dogen
    with his own added verse comments, usually only four lines, features a
    traditional poetic mode of commentary, patterned after the core of the
    Blue Cliff Record and also followed in the Book of Serenity anthology.
    This collection in Eihei Koroku, volume 9, is one of Dogen’s important
    early efforts at koan commentary. Of course the many essays in Shobogenzo,
    often with elaborated thematic responses to specific koans, display
    one of Dogen’s distinctive approaches and major contributions to
    koan commentary. ...

    Informal meeting 9 features line-by-line interjected brief responses by
    Dogen on Zhaozhou’s koan “The cypress tree in the garden.” This was
    Zhaozhou’s response to a monk who asked what Buddha is. This case is
    also cited by Dogen in his Dharma hall discourses 433 and 488. Such interlinear
    commentary is a mode Dogen here adopts from similar responses
    to the cases and primary verse commentaries in the Blue Cliff Record. In
    the Dharma hall discourses, Dogen uses various other modes of comment
    on this koan. In discourse 433 he praises Zhaozhou and questions his own
    monks’ understanding; then, after a pause, he gives a poetic “capping
    phrase,” another traditional mode of response to koans. In discourse 488
    Dogen takes the same story and sharply criticizes common misunderstandings
    of it, then offers the responses that he, Dogen, would give at
    each part of the dialogue were he in the story, another traditional mode
    of koan response from the Chinese Dharma hall discourses. This ends
    with Dogen giving his own final response in the form of a four-line verse
    comment, thereby mixing modes of commentary. In all these ways and
    more, Dogen plays with these traditional Zen stories to bring forth fresh
    teaching and enlivening awareness for his students.

    One difference between Dogen’s use of koan study and a stereotypical
    modern view of koan practice can be found in his critique of kensho as a
    goal. This term, which means “seeing the nature,” has been understood
    at times to refer to an opening experience of attainment of realization,
    going beyond conceptual thinking. Dogen believes that this is a dualistic
    misunderstanding and such experiences are not to be emphasized. For
    Dogen, Buddha nature is not an object to merely see or acquire, but a
    mode of being that must be actually lived and expressed. All realizations
    or understandings, even those from Dogen’s own comments, must be let
    go, as he stresses to a student in Dharma word 4: “If you hold on to a single
    word or half a phrase of the buddha ancestors’ sayings or of the koans
    from the ancestral gate, they will become dangerous poisons. If you want
    to understand this mountain monk’s activity, do not remember these
    comments. Truly avoid being caught up in thinking.”

    Unlike in the formal Rinzai curriculum, or the koan study of Dahui,
    Dogen does not explicitly recommend the koan stories as objects of formal
    meditation, but offers them for general contemplation and intent
    study. For example, in the last Dharma word, 14, Dogen says: “When
    you meet a teacher, first ask for one case of a [koan] story, and just keep
    it in mind and study it diligently…. Now I see worldly people who visit
    and practice with teachers, and before clarifying one question, assertively
    enjoy bringing up other stories. They withdraw from the discussion as if
    they understand, but are close-mouthed and cannot speak. They have not
    yet explained one third of the story, so how will we see a complete saying?”

    In addition to study of the traditional koan stories, in Eihei Koroku
    Dogen also emphasizes the approach of genjokoan, “full manifestation of
    ultimate reality,” or attention to the koans manifesting in everyday activity.
    In this approach, each everyday phenomenon or challenge arising
    before us can be intently engaged, to be realized and fully expressed. “Genjokoan”
    is the name of one of Dogen’s most famous essays, now thought
    of as part of Shobogenzo. But he uses this term and expresses this
    approach elsewhere in his writings, including in Eihei Koroku. For example,
    in Dharma hall discourse 60 Dogen says: “Everybody should just
    wholeheartedly engage in this genjokoan.What is this genjokoan? It is just
    all buddhas in the ten directions and all ancestors, ancient and present,
    and it is fully manifesting right now. Do you all see it? It is just
    our…getting up and getting down from the sitting platform.”

    ...
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-21-2015 at 02:35 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20
    Koan Introspection is a very wonderful method for those who benefit, and Shikantaza is not (in my opinion) the only legitimate method. I happen to believe that Shikantaza is a wondrous method which can benefit most people who truly understand its power and pursue such practice, but I am not so stubborn as to insist it must be for everyone. The discussion is not (at least for me) anything to do with what is the best or one true Practice.
    Sometimes I ask myself , why are there so many books and interpretations if Shikantaza is so simple? Why are people discussing the way? If they went the way they should know how they went.
    That is my idea of a teacher or Roshi. He experienced "the way".
    If somebody from 12th century is the only knowledge of how to do it......I mean, that is like speaking with a person from Africa about snow (becourse he/she saw a film about snow). That looks a little like in many "churches": we have to have a certain opinion. But for me that is not the intention when I read a book or ask questions. I love to read about the real experiences and aproaches.

    A discussion about Dogens idea of koans without having him here, isnt it like reading the coffee-grounds?

    Gassho, Ernst
    sattoday

  21. #21
    A discussion about Dogens idea of koans without having him here, isnt it like reading the coffee-grounds?
    I see your point, Ernst but Dogen left so many writings of a very specific nature that it is more like historical research than reading the grounds. When someone presents a controversial point of view that has implications for a whole school of practice, it is natural that it will lead to intense discussion.

    We are fortunate to have teachers today with a long experience of shikantaza who can give good first hand accounts. However, since the practice originated with Dogen (and before that with Hongzhe) it is natural that we will still refer back to what he said. Especially since work such as Fukanzazengi are so straightforward and practical and grounded in Dogen's own experience. Why have one or the other when we can have both?

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    #sattoday

  22. #22
    Dear Kokuu,

    thank you for the answer. I can see what you mean. There are two possibilities: "we can have both"
    Especially since work such as Fukanzazengi are so straightforward and practical and grounded in Dogen's own experience
    For me that is a clear answer: my experience is in this kind of practice which is not communicatable. (I do not know, if there is a word like that :-)).
    For example, everytime I ask Jundo about the evidences and how do I know.... his answers are like: "You have to find it yourself. The metaphors are becourse it is difficult to explain".
    So I think, that Dogen is a historical experience. Yes. And there are "koans", which can help us to find certain ideas.

  23. #23
    Interesting discussion. I'll just say that I really believe a lot of this "koan vs. "Shikantaza" stuff is just a lack of understanding as to what the other camp is actually doing. The misunderstanding seems to predate Dogen too. There are countless examples from chans golden age with the koan teachers mocking the just sit guys "If you think you can attain enlightenment staring at walls...." etc. As if the practice is literally staring at walls. I think the same can be said for the misunderstanding of koan study. From my limited but continued experience working with koans, I can say this, when we are sitting zazen, we are sitting zazen. I don't take my seat on the cushion and contemplate my koan. Some koans require no contemplation, but warrant an immediate realization. Others may take a student years, but the koan isn't "done on the cushion". For example, one of my breakthrough koan experiences was with the koan: "How do you rake if you have no hands?" I experienced this koan completely while squatting 260 lbs at the gym. but it never came with me to the cushion.

    Just my experience and observation. I'm sure there are practices that involve sitting and contemplating a koan, but I've yet to come across a teacher who advocates this method. And from working with a few of them, I can't see them working that way. If doing koan work, you're going to get it, when you get it. There's no forcing the matter.

    Again, just the opinions and ramblings of a guy who sits zazen with no authority or real insight into any of this. Just minimal experience. so it should be taken as such.

    Gassho,

    sat today,

    Daijo

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