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Thread: Realizing Genjokoan - Translation and Chapter 1

  1. #1

    Realizing Genjokoan - Translation and Chapter 1

    Dear Genjoers,

    This week (or two, we will see how it goes), let's read the full Genjo Koan translation from page 1, and all of the short Chapter 1 on Dogen's life up until writing it.

    If you have never read it before (or even if you have), please pick a sentence or two, or a passage, that really jumps out at you. Before we dive into Okumura Roshi commentary, I would like to know your feelings and intuition on what that sentence or passage means and why it touches you. Later, in a few weeks, you can compare your early feelings about the passage to Okumura Roshi's comments about it.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    A couple of sentences for me in the first section.

    Therefore, if there are fish that would swim or birds that would fly only after investigating the entire ocean or sky, they would find neither path nor place.
    The older I get the harder it seems to study and absorb the teachings of Dharma (well most things really), let alone find the time but try to do so. It just seems to take longer to get things bedded down in my mind. I guess that's why I am so keen on following this book, as I have found Okumura Roshi's previous writing, easier to digest and understand.
    However, this sentence to me is saying, that if you are spending all your time studying, then you are not practising. And Dogen is saying "its ok not too study too deeply but its not ok not to practice .......... so practice" . So I am looking forward to how this expressed by Okumura.

    The other earlier sentence is this

    As firewood never becomes firewood again after it has burned to ash, there is no return to living after a person dies.
    This to me initially suggested that Dogen was categorically refuting "rebirth". Now I am one of those "I don't know" if there's rebirth, reincarnation or what. I'll let folks know if and when I cross that line but as discussed here at Treeleaf, I do believe in the constant rebirth and realms that we go through during our mortal lives and often during a single revolution of this planet. Many have I traversed so far this morning alone ! So again I will interested to see how this unfolds, especially in terms of the Relative (this sentence) and Absoloute (all that is in the Universe, stays in the Universe, no log, no person to start with).

    Anyway's my 0.02 euros


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  3. #3
    Thank you Jundo. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  4. #4
    When a person attains realization, it is like the moon’s reflection in water. The moon never becomes wet; the water is never disturbed. Although the moon is a vast and great light, it is reflected in a drop of water. The whole moon and even the whole sky are reflected in a drop of dew on a blade of grass. Realization does not destroy the person, as the moon does not make a hole in the water. The person does not obstruct realization, as a drop of dew does not obstruct the moon in the sky.
    I am no going to pretend that I have a solid understanding of this or any other part of the reading. I like this passage in particular because of the imagery of something unimaginably large like the moon and the whole sky being reflected in something quite small like a drop of dew on a blade of grass. Imagine a whole field of dew covered grass blades all reflecting the vast sky.

    I also like the poetic expression of stillness and equanimity implied by “The moon never becomes wet; the water is never disturbed.”

    I think this is going to be a wonderful experience reading this book together and I look forward to the discussions.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  5. #5
    The whole moon and even the whole sky are reflected in a
    drop of dew on a blade of grass.
    I am reminded that more than 50 years ago (0_0), I read, after running out of D.T. Suzuki, Dumoulin's history of Zen. IIRC he went on and on about Rinzai and koans, and then there was a short, somewhat admiring chapter on Dogen, with some deprecating remarks that struck me as not quite on point. But I was like WAIT WHAT ... and thus a long and slow journey began.

    What set me off was that he included this poem:

    To what indeed shall I liken
    The world and the life of man?
    Ah, the shadow of the moon,
    When it touches in the drop of dew
    The beak of the waterfowl.


    This translation must be different from others, as I've never been able to locate the poem in context. But it has stayed with me all these years ... "gotta get back to Dogen ... that poem! That's the real stuff ..." etc. So when I found that line in Genjokoan, in a sense it was like coming home.

    gassho
    doyu sat today
    自己を忘れ、他人のために生きる

  6. #6
    Hi - I've read the book before but as I don't seem to retain anything these days (ageing brain!) I don't recall Okumura's commentary.
    Also - I find Dogen enigmatic - so every time I re-read him something 'new' seems to pop out.

    'To investigate the significance of the length and brevity of time, we should consider whether the water is great or small, and understand the size of the moon in the sky.'

    This seems to me about our limited perspective on many things (for example, our struggle to understand time and discrete moments - the moment of firewood being firewood, ash being ash, life being life, death being death etc.)

    Reading through I began to experience the whole of Genjokoan as being about human perspective and its delusions/limitations.

    'In fact viewing is not something fixed'

    mm..... lots to ponder on

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat today

  7. #7
    Hello,

    somehow, it feels like an old friend.
    A lot of what Treeleaf taught me and what I think practice is about, is in this text.

    This time, the koan stuck out to me:
    How does the wind permeate everywhere?
    The master just continued waving the fan.
    The monk bowed deeply.

    Buddha-Dharma is not something external, not something outside of everyday's life.
    Seeing it in everything I do, everyone I meet and everything I am experiencing is what I am striving for.

    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.
    Last edited by Kotei; 07-20-2019 at 07:21 PM.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Kotei View Post
    Hello,

    somehow, it feels like an old friend.
    A lot of what Treeleaf taught me and what I think practice is about, is in this text
    I agree Kotei. I've never read Genjokoan before but while reading it pretty much every passage had a familiarity.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
    Join Date
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    Location
    San Diego County, California
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    This week (or two, we will see how it goes), let's read the full Genjo Koan translation from page 1, and all of the short Chapter 1 on Dogen's life up until writing it.
    Done.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    If you have never read it before (or even if you have), please pick a sentence or two, or a passage, that really jumps out at you.
    Always, "To study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened by the myriad dharmas..."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Before we dive into Okumura Roshi commentary, I would like to know your feelings and intuition on what that sentence or passage means and why it touches you.
    It was one of the first teachings of Dogen that I ever became familiar with, and it was also one of the simplest to understand for me when I first started to get it. To me, it indicated that a vast dropping needs to be done, rather than the gaining of some spiritual merit, which is the kind of religious message I was used to.

    Genjokoan along with Fukanzazengi... once you have a good understanding of how to approach Dogen, they are very direct and all you really need for a while.

    Gassho, sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  10. #10
    There are a number of sections that speak to me but I'll go with this one:

    Therefore, if there are fish that would swim or birds that would fly only after investigating the entire ocean or sky, they would find neither path nor place. When we make this very place our own, our practice becomes the actualization of reality. When we make this path our own, our activity naturally becomes actualized reality.

    I am one of those people that wants to investigate, analyze, and understand things fully before I make my next step. But that can often get in the way. Sometimes one has to just get started. And more, the doing is at least, if not more, important than the knowing. Just get started right where you are, right in this moment. Doing the work where is you are is the right path.

    That is how I take this at the moment.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  11. #11
    It is indeed difficult to pick just one phrase, and the "flowers fall even though we love them and weeds grow even though we dislike them" is almost a mantra for me :-) But the explanation of the Dharma in number 10 is just so cool and really helped me form my notion of emptiness (which I think of more as "everythingness")

    When the Dharma has not yet filled body and mind, one thinks one is already filled with it. When the Dharma fills body and mind, one thinks something is still lacking... we only see or grasp as far as the power of our eye of study and practice can see

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  12. #12
    Each time I study Genjokoan a new section seems to stick with me. Having just read the text, this time it is

    "Life is a position in time; death is also a position in time. This is like winter and spring. We don't think that winter becomes spring, and we don't say that spring becomes summer."

    To me Dogen is pointing out how each time in our lives and the universe exists on its own . It includes the point of 'life', but also the point of the seasons (winter and spring), and eventually down to each instantaneous moment. We tend to think of something 'becoming' something else but in reality each moment is something new. Death isn't what becomes of life when it ends, death is death in that moment, and life is life in the moment before.

    Gassho,
    Ryoku
    ST/LAH

  13. #13
    I am finding it very difficult to pick out just one phrase that jumps out for me, but if I had to choose I suppose it would be "When a fish swims, no matter how far it swims, it doesn't reach the end of the water......"

    To me this phrase seems to say that no matter what our practice is, or how much we practice, we never reach the end or (enlightenment), as it is not something we can chase after, but rather something we already have. It brings to mind much of what Dogen writes about sitting zazen, that the path is complete in the act of sitting just as a fish is complete in swimming or a bird in flying.

    Not sure if I am anywhere near the mark on this one! Dogen can be a bit difficult for me!

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

  14. #14
    Thank you, Jundo!

    Just as an aside, here is a link to the text as translated by Okumura Roshi in case you wish to have it onscreen (or printed out) to refer to while reading later parts of the commentary: https://brightwayzen.org/wp-content/...-Genjokoan.pdf

    I love this text. Although there are more than a few writings of Dogen that really resonate with me, this short fascicle is just so full of great material and I often find myself quoting it. It was also the first Zen text I really studied, as a Zen friend invited me to join her in an online course on genjōkōan led by Dosho Port before I was even a member of Treeleaf.

    There is so much to say about each and every passage here and it is fantastic that people have chosen different parts. At present, this part of the 12th section really spoke to me

    When we make this very place our own, our practice becomes the actualization of reality (genjōkōan) When we make this path our own, our activity naturally becomes actualised reality (genjōkōan). This path, this place, is neither big nor small, neither self nor others. It has not existed before this moment nor has it come into existence now. Therefore the reality of all things is thus.
    Practice exists right here and now. How could it be anywhere else? Each action, each breath, each word that comes out of our mouth is practice. It is not something we did in sesshin or Ango, or something we will do at some point in the future. It is not us, yet is not separate from us.

    This passage brings me right into the present moment.

    Seems like I am getting behind as chapter two has been posted already!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  15. #15
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    I've just received my copy and am trying to catch up. Before dawn is the only time I get to read in a quiet space before chaos ensues when dawn breaks. Just started chapter 1. My previous contact with Dogen has been through Nishijima's translation of the Shobogenzo. I initially tried to read it in association with the shitloads of footnotes but decided to read it through without looking at the footnotes even though there are many terms and contents that I don't fully grasp. My idea is to read through it then read it again using the footnotes. From what I know of Dogen's story I really like him. To me as a new Muppet practitioner with a working class background Dogen comes across as bullshit free Buddhism which for some reason after many years of looking into Buddhism from the fringes has connected with me... that and Brad Warner's use of language in a book of his that I stumbled across. Connection for me is everything, if I can't connect with something straight away I tend to walk away. So far in Realising Genjokoan part 8 on page 3 has been the part that has been most helpful to me. A few years ago I lost my father to bastard cancer and didn't get to say goodbye or any of the other stuff people regret not saying when someone is alive. This passage helped me remember the reality of life and death. It's also helpful for me at the moment. My health isn't brilliant, having had multiple skin cancers removed surgically over the past few years and awaiting an appointment with a haematologist at a public hospital cancer clinic in September to see why my platelet count is so low. This passage is helpful in me processing and accepting life as life and non-life as non-life. Sorry if this comes across as grim, it's not supposed to. I've never felt so alive since I found the practice of Shikantaza. Just sitting... Wow!
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  16. #16
    With this book, may be a sweeping calm, but I have become enlightened. I see the moon light in a drop of water. I see myself in the moon light, Marjorie. Pearl in the drop of water, form and emptiness, like the hand with five fingers. Each finger is independent, yet so is the hand complete. This can become narcissism and unhealthy, but with the middle way recognizing both each compliments the other. Calm reasoned path with delight and beauty in both yin and yang when they come together in the encircled or just sitting in the stillness in the turning world. This is something I have ever known, but discover over and over in the present moment, as Thich Nhat Hanh says this is my home ever with me-- the present moment unfolding as in the Zen Cook, As supper is prepared there is a time and a place for preparation with exactness with what we have, then thee acting at the appointed time. The meal is eaten and nourishing food compliments the individuality and work of the Zen cook, the person who provides so all, including himself, can partake, Jundo I am filled with compassion for my AA sponsored. These men ever younger Shawn with brain damage, yet free of alcoholism and Jeremy finding family in his two girls, and free of meth, Tony with tentative responsibility in what he always wanted and now asking is there more with 2.5 years sobriety, my first the one I reach to for understanding. And my newest Antoine who may make it, a black man with already 18 mo sobriety, and will he reach out to this white man? Here he and I have our greatest questions. Can we learn to trust? I am Life looking at death and birth as finally my Father last Tuesday 89-yrs-old, last Monday me 32 yrs sober. This bears great responsibility and compassion, so tread lightly with Zen compliment, and I am Shikantaza. I am just sitting, just being. I can do nothing more than they move toward me, or away from me. I have experience strength and hope as a trusted friend. I can only share who I am.

    Tai Shi
    calm poetry
    sat/lah
    Deep Bows
    Gassho
    "As the Buddha designed it, the Sangha's responsibility is to keep their vows, learn and practice the Dharma, and teach and guide the lay people. The lay people in turn, provide the requisites for life..." So are not the lay people the Sangha? Thubten Chodron.

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