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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 85 - NEXT: Realizing Genjokoan

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 85 - NEXT: Realizing Genjokoan

    Dear Equanimious Readers,

    From next time, we will begin Okumura Roshi's marvelous introduction to Dogen and Shobogenzo, "Realizing Genjokoan".

    There is a PDF version here, but I very very much encourage all who can afford to purchase the same (especially in light of the Precept on not Stealing). Thank you. This is a temporary measure until your book arrives.

    For today, we visit again the Book of Equanimity ... Case 84 never ends, yet now we turn to CASE 85: THE NATIONAL TEACHER'S SEAMLESS TOMB.

    One can access this Koan and Commentary temporarily here in part (a middle page is not included) ...

    I approach this as another expression of the world when we drop thoughts of opposites, and coming and going. What is death when we realize that waves rise and fall, rise and fall, yet the sea goes on and on? Our lives rise and fall, yet what flows on and on?

    In the Preamble: I read this as, when we toss (smash) even the idea of "emptiness" as a thing, and also toss away ideas of all the separate things of the world (represented here by the mountain), one comes to the truly seamless and faultless place at the heart of all opposites.

    For the Main Case: Shishin explains Tangen's poem nicely on page 270. "South of Sho and North of Tan ... " means the whole world in all directions everywhere is golden. The boat under the shadowless tree are poetic images that also convey a thing of the phenomenal world that is floating in the "shadowless" light beyond opposites. A palace so clear as glass that there is no individual to be seen, and nothing to know (like the Koan about Bodhidharma and the Emperor, in which his "I don't know" actually means a great "Knowing" beyond a separate "I" and something to "know.")

    The Verse continues this theme, with a bunch of symbols for things amid the Absolute. Yamada Roshi explains (using a slightly different translation) ... I just note that many Zen masters of old used to use the various I-Ching symbols as images of the various relationships of the "relative" and "absolute" (e.g., relative only, relative with a bit of absolute, absolute only, absolute with a bit of relative etc.) ...

    Only one – wide and endless;
    Completely round – full and perfect.
    The words “only one” (Japanese: ko) mean the only one in the entire universe. “Wide
    and endless” extending out without limit.
    The character translated here as “completely round” (en) is also used to indicate a
    circle. The character translated here as “full and perfect” (da) is originally a Sanskrit word
    meaning beautiful, full, etc. This second line basically means perfect and complete. It also
    means that it is one with the universe, extending out without limit. This is of course referring
    to our essential nature. Because the verse is written in reference to the “seamless gravestone”
    all the lines in it have some connection with that.

    Where the eyes can see no more, it stands high and lofty. This, too, is a
    reference to our true self. It might be easier to understand if the order is reversed: It stands
    high and lofty, where the eyes can see no more.

    The moon is set, the lake is void, the color of the night so dark and
    The moon has set behind the western mountains and disappeared. The lake is void,
    lacking any reflection of the moon. The color of the night is “so dark and weighty.” This, too, is
    a reference to the essential world. ...

    The clouds are gone, the mountain is lean; the autumn is rich in
    Here we have a scene in autumn. It is a world in which the warmth of human
    passion has disappeared. Here is a world in which all discriminating thoughts and ideas have
    disappeared, where all the “junk” in your head is gone. This is the world of satori alone. Even
    ideas of Buddha or Dharma are gone. This is what is meant by the expression, “the mountain
    is lean,” I feel. And to say “the autumn is rich in atmosphere” is also an expression of the
    world of enlightenment, the very pinnacle of enlightenment.

    The position of the eight trigrams is correct;
    The spirits of the five elements are harmonious.
    These are the “eight
    trigrams” (hakke) originally found in the I-Ching or Book of Changes. You set up the eight
    trigrams to reach satisfaction. This is saying that, in the essential world, the position of the
    eight trigrams is from the start correct, without absolutely no room for improvement. It is
    complete and perfect. These eight trigrams allow eight different arrays, which also have a
    connection with yin and yang. If there is no gap, it is yang. With yin, there is a line in the
    middle. These are combined in various ways and express a sort of endless change and
    variation. To say the “position of the eight trigrams is correct” is to completely reveal the
    seamless gravestone itself. It is the world of the true fact, to which nothing need be added.
    Another expression of the same thing is hachimen-reirō, which expresses perfect serenity, for
    example the graceful dignity of Mt. Fuji. The same expression is used to refer to a serene and
    affable person.
    The “five elements” (gogyō) mean the elements composing the objective world, usually
    considered to be earth, water, fire and wind. But they can also be seen as wood, fire, earth,
    metal and water. To say these five elements are “harmonious” means that the objective world
    is perfectly harmonized. It is not a matter of harmonizing something that is not in harmony;
    as the essential world it is from the very start in perfect harmony. These lines of the Verse
    express the full and complete aspect of the essential world, in perfect harmony. That perfectly
    harmonized world is expressed with those eight expressions.

    The [whole] body is right in it – do you see it? I take this as meaning that the
    body is in the middle. He then asks if we see that body in the body. The content of the body is
    the world of emptiness. The content of that body is the world of not a single thing; it is the
    world of emptiness.

    The father and the son of Nan’yō seem to know that it exists. The “father
    and the son” are National Teacher Chū and Tangen, who are teacher and disciple. It would
    appear that they both know that world exists.

    The Buddha and Patriarchs of India can do nothing about it. This means
    that, when it comes to the essential world of not a single thing, not even Buddha, not even
    Bodhidharma can lay a hand on it. This, too, is the plan for the seamless gravestone. Tangen’s
    words in the Case are examining this world of our own true essence from various angles. ...
    Actually, it is common for Buddhist priests in Japan to use a kind of gravestone that is meant to be round and seamless. These are some priests' graves around a Buddha statue ... the shape is meant to represent just this same wholeness ...

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 06-26-2019 at 11:52 PM.

  2. #2

    it reads a bit like the emperor is asking his teacher, how he would like to see the world developing long after his death. How he should honour his teacher and continue in his meaning.

    'The seamless and faultless place'... the world living in accordance with the Dharma...
    'The seamless tomb'... the place where he is going to after his death. The world NOT seen as a place made of billions of things, joined together, but all being already one bright pearl - seamless.
    Birth and death not as an start and endpoint, but a transformation process of the big whole.
    The seamless tomb - being one with the world - transformed - no death - no birth.

    'my disciple knows all of it' - he will continue teaching through him.
    South of Sho and north of Tan - the whole world
    yellow gold within fills the whole country - all together enlightened
    A ferry boat under the shadowless tree - transformation and awakening
    In the crystal palace, there is no one who knows - there is no salvation/supreme being in the crystal palace in the sky (Vaishravana/duo wen/Kuvera? - symbol for knowing all in the kingdom and a symbol for richness?) - Buddha is right here

    All one bright pearl.

    Kotei sat/lah today.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidou Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  3. #3
    A very rich koan that deals with emptiness and nonduality. Like Kotei said, the Emperor’s question seems to be about how the world should be after the National Teacher’s death. It’s a common thing for us to be preoccupied about. I am myself.
    But the National Teacher appears to be saying that he has done his part, his disciple knows what to do now. He passed on to the next generation. And what he passed is that the world is already perfect, nothing in need of change, no good nor evil battling each other for a good or bad future, just the dance of emptiness through the trigrams and elements that make the world.
    So our worries about the future should not make us divide the world , nor prevent us from realizing emptiness here and now. That is the monument the National a teacher want to be built to him.
    At least this is part of what I read in the koan.
    Sat today

  4. #4
    I agree that this seems to speak to themes of emptiness and non-duality.

    Could it be that the seamless tomb indicates that there is no difference between life and death?

    South of Sho and north of Tan - as Kotei stated, everywhere.
    Yellow gold - the Dharma
    A ferry boat - sitting on the sea of emptiness
    The shadowless tree - the bodhi tree representing the Buddha
    in a crystal palace there is no one who knows - a jewel. Where there is no separation between subject and object and where there is nothing to know.




  5. #5
    I’ve got nothing much to say about this particular Koan. It didn’t resonate with me like some do. As always I liked Wick’s commentary. In particular this made me smile.

    Some Zen students think that if they just sit still enough, then they’ll become Buddha. If you’re attached to sitting like a stone Buddha, you should be out in the garden with the other stone Buddhas. You’ll make a nice ornament! To become a living Buddha, you have to smooth out all the rough edges: your judgments, opinions, projections, images, and deluded thoughts.

    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

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