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Thread: Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 2

  1. #1

    Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 2

    Hi Guys,

    Well, if you did not know much about how Kanji characters work, and the meanings they pack, you will learn a lot this week! You might now see why English language translators have come up with so many ways to express "Genjo Koan." For example, Tanahashi has "Actualizing the Fundamental Point," Nishijima-Cross have "The Realized Law of the Universe", Masao Abe said "Manifesting Suchness," and Cleary came out of left field with "The Issue at Hand." In my upcoming book on Dogen, I think I used "Realizing the Truth Right Here." I wonder if you can extrapolate where all these titles are coming from based on Shohaku's explanation. Is what he is saying about the Kanji hard to follow?

    I had forgotten that Rev. Shohaku also used an example of a thumb and a hand to explain a bit about the relative and absolute, as I happened to do this week about "emptiness." Of course, I really ran with it, talking about "Charlie Cell" in the left thumb and all that.

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post243743

    So much of the Genjokoan, like all Zen, comes down to the dance of relative and absolute, emptiness and such.

    Any other impressions, comments or questions?

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-21-2019 at 02:50 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Permaculturists talk about "function stacking" for example a chicken house that's in the same building as a greenhouse with the hens helping to keep the plants from freezing -- most farmers already understand the phrase but all they tend to mean by it is that the PTO on a tractor can drive a bush hog but also a tiller.

    I think of kanji as stacks of signifiers that can be used in widely different contexts but often are tightly looped, reverberating in the kanji-competent mind like a mass of puns referring to both the moon and old poems about the moon. It's hard for me to follow, but metaphor is what I majored in, really, so I'm willing to put in the time to discover layers in Dogen, as when he fleetingly alludes to some encounter dialogue familiar to all his students but not me; however, sometimes my head hurts.

    I think I'm going to need stronger tea. _()_

    gassho
    doyu sat today
    特別な人ではない

  3. #3
    My friends, while you have been reading exactly what I wish to read, REALIZING GENJOKOAN, I have undergone major surgery and am only now wishing to join you all in your quest for Master Dogen. With this book I have not so far overcome fear that I might not understand the Master. Only now in looking at the title do I realize that I shall be attempting to understand a Koan. Gen Koan, and with realizing this is Koan, perhaps a whisker hair of truth comes my way. I am intrigued with the author of such a book Shohaku Okumura and what this name might mean, and without looking, Is this a Dharma name, or is it a Japanese name, or is it both?

    Here is where I shall make my request. May I dear friends JOIN you in this attempt to understand only a small part of Master Dogen, or a smaller pard of my own Zen practice? Where have I begun? May I begin with you to understand and play catch up with this thoughtful book, an eye glimpse of Soto Zen, with my Zazen this day returning from hospital, the reality of pain and what it does to the human being. So would Master Dogen say pain is real? Perhaps. Let's look at chapters one and tow of such auspicious book, and recover a bit of reality. May I join you?

    Deepest Bows
    In Buddhist middle Way
    Tai Shi
    sat
    Gassho
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Tai Shi View Post
    My friends, while you have been reading exactly what I wish to read, REALIZING GENJOKOAN, I have undergone major surgery and am only now wishing to join you all in your quest for Master Dogen. With this book I have not so far overcome fear that I might not understand the Master. Only now in looking at the title do I realize that I shall be attempting to understand a Koan. Gen Koan, and with realizing this is Koan, perhaps a whisker hair of truth comes my way. I am intrigued with the author of such a book Shohaku Okumura and what this name might mean, and without looking, Is this a Dharma name, or is it a Japanese name, or is it both?

    Here is where I shall make my request. May I dear friends JOIN you in this attempt to understand only a small part of Master Dogen, or a smaller pard of my own Zen practice? Where have I begun? May I begin with you to understand and play catch up with this thoughtful book, an eye glimpse of Soto Zen, with my Zazen this day returning from hospital, the reality of pain and what it does to the human being. So would Master Dogen say pain is real? Perhaps. Let's look at chapters one and tow of such auspicious book, and recover a bit of reality. May I join you?

    Deepest Bows
    In Buddhist middle Way
    Tai Shi
    sat
    Gassho
    Please join us.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SaTodaylAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Doyu I love your description of kanji as stacked masses of puns!

    IMHO, the title "Genjokoan" and its associated Kanji are both mysterious and clever, but mostly just a brilliantly pithy summary of our practice. The manifestation of the relative and the absolute, neatly packaged and described in those four little chicken scratches.

    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).

  6. #6
    Doyu - as a dabbler in permaculture principles I love this metaphor!

    One random point that occurred to me when reading this chapter was that Okumura describes how 'Ko' is understood as to be public, universal and 'an' to mean keeping to one's own lot, to be private or personal. Could we also read this to mean that while the text of the koan is the same for everyone (ko) the meaning is different for each person (an)? So while there's a `uniqueness or particularity of each and every being', there's also a 'uniqueness and particularity to each and every being'.

    We also hear that in Gosho it reads 'Koan refers to Shobogenzo' so could we conclude that Shobogenzo is also unique to each every individual? This does seem to be the case in my weekly Shobogenzo reading group but then that's probably more to me being thoroughly confused by most of what we read.

    Other than my mad ramblings, I really enjoyed Okumura Roshi's reminder how every activity we undertake is an opportunity to awaken to the reality of the individual and the universal in everything and how we must take our practice from the cushion and seek to find the balance between the individual and the collective in all that we do.

    Gassho,

    Neil

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by EnlistedHipster View Post
    .... Could we also read this to mean that while the text of the koan is the same for everyone (ko) the meaning is different for each person (an)? So while there's a `uniqueness or particularity of each and every being', there's also a 'uniqueness and particularity to each and every being'.

    We also hear that in Gosho it reads 'Koan refers to Shobogenzo' so could we conclude that Shobogenzo is also unique to each every individual? This does seem to be the case in my weekly Shobogenzo reading group but then that's probably more to me being thoroughly confused by most of what we read.
    Hmmm. I would say yes, but not totally.

    Yes, there is an "eye of the beholder" aspect, but also Dogen meant some things. What he likely meant is what this book is about.

    The Koans (like "What is the sound of one hand clapping?) are the same way. They are not just "whatever ya feel it means, that is what it means." Rather, there is usually some pretty specific Zenny meaning (e.g., the "the sound of one hand" Koan is also pointing to that "absolute" beyond two). However, rather than being intellectual, you do have to find out the real meaning of that fact for oneself. A good Rinzai master, working with Koans in their way, is looking for both: Proper understanding AND real personal understanding and embodiment.

    Let's explore this question more as we continue through the book.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Thanks Jundo - maybe that's the point I was grasping for - that the path to understanding is distinct for each individual.

    Gassho

    Neil

    StLaH

  9. #9
    I find that in studying Zen, having an author provide multiple meanings for a given word especially helpful, knowing that translating 13th Century Japanese in this case to modern English must be challenging. Sometimes it’s only after hearing four or five possible translations of a given word that I can begin to understand what a fascicle, koan or sutra may be trying to reveal.

    One of the challenges (and there are many) I face when studying Dogen is that you almost have to relax your mind, drop discriminations, go beyond usual ways of thinking etc. to even begin the process of trying to understand what he is saying. It’s like a practice unto itself and I felt relief hearing Rev Okamura’s description in the preface of his first experience studying Dogen. I didn’t understand much of it either. And yet I still feel drawn to it.

    That being said, with each commentary, I feel like the picture does become a little more clear. Of particular impact on me was Rev Okamura’s discription of ‘two realities’, individuality and equality, both the ‘moonlight’ and the ‘drop of water’, and how this is expressed in the Heart Sutra, as well as the Zen teaching of seeing ‘one reality from two sides’. This was a new way of viewing these teachings and very helpful in my understanding.

    Gassho,

    Ryoku
    ST/LAH

  10. #10
    I like Doyu’s comments involving “stacked functions” and “stacks of signifiers” to describe kanji. I never really thought of it that way before but it is a great way to look at how the characters in kanji are built up.

    The whole discussion around language and meaning is fascinating. I have very little facility for languages. I can pick things up here and there but my past attempts at learning other languages has not been successful. I very much appreciate how Okumura uses his study of language to help the discussion and understanding.

    This phrase caught my eye.
    we are the intersection of equality (universality, unity, oneness of all beings) and inequality (difference, uniqueness, particularity, individuality).
    . I’ve read a number of different attempts at illustrating how this apparent duality is really the just different aspects of the same thing. That word “intersection” worked for me. The use of the hand and 5 fingers works well too.


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

  11. #11
    I just love this chapter - especially the section about the hand and fingers. A while back I posted its impact on me and my realizing that I needed to do more in my community. I needed to be more than just a finger.

    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.

  12. #12
    Thank you, Jundo and everyone in this conversation. I'm just getting caught up. The the image of the hand and the fingers is very clear to me, and I enjoyed Jundo's story about the cell in in Rob's fingernail. There was one sentence in the second chapter that stood out for me:
    We are both universal and individual, and this universallity and individuality are not two separate aspects of our being; each of them is absolute.
    It may be more abstract, but it appeals to me.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat

  13. #13
    Hello everyone,

    Please forgive my late arrival. I've had this book for some time, and have been holding off reading it so that i could read along with you all, but then missed the beginning - my sincere apologies. I find trying to penetrate the subtle nuances of kanji fascinating, and Shohaku Okamura's interpretation is wonderful. Among the lovely 'aha' moments in this chapter, i found the following to be quite powerful: "these two extremes are sicknesses caused by misguided views of one reality... To be healthy we must live within both aspects of the truth". I've found I sometimes quietly resist one side of the equation and favor the other, so this was a call to taking responsibility for more balance and integration in my thinking and practice.

    Looking forward to reading along with you all,

    sosen
    _()_
    stlah

  14. #14
    Hi everyone! I am just getting caught up on the reading.

    This chapter was very interesting and I appreciate the explanation of the Kanji. What stood out for me in this chapter was the very last paragraph. Specifically; (Genjo means "reality actually and presently taking place," and Koan means "absolute truth" or "a question that true reality asks of us." So we can say that genjokoan means "to answer the question from true reality through the practice of our everyday activity.")

    It reminded me a little of the old phrase "the proof is in the pudding", or perhaps it could be re-worded "the answer is in the action".

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

  15. #15
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    The last sentence also resonated with me, in addition to reference to Sandokai, in respect that all can been seen in the light (individuality) but not in the dark although everything is still there (universality)

    Sandokai - So light and darkness are two aspects of one reality, as difference and unity are two aspects of one reality. This view of reality is basic to Buddhism and Zen, and understanding it is essential to a study of Zen literature or Buddhist philosophy. Dōgen, however, said that to see one reality from two sides is not enough; he said we should also express these two sides in one action.
    For me its the application of this view that often escapes me. So I look forward to learning more.

    Sat / lah


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  16. #16
    Member Anna's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    In messages Jundo has teased me playfully about me being an anarchist to which I have responded in my own lighthearted way. I understand how it may come across as odd that a long time anarchist would choose to engage in a study that from the outside may seem to require adherence to hierarchical structures and relationships. Chapter 2, particularly the end of it sounds very much like anything you'd find in a 'Social Anarchy 101' reading or hear from almost any anarchist around the world. The idea of an individual's desires or needs being in complete isolation or superseding the needs and desires of the broader community or vice versa is the very basis of what anarchists continually fight for, anywhere. I'm not trying to hijack this discussion so please forgive me if it seems like that. I'm just giving my own thoughts on chapter 2.
    It's an interesting journey I'm on in that previously I have fought for the Middle Way whereas now I'm trying to find the Middle Way in a way that costs me less in terms of damage to my own spirit, damage to my mental wellbeing, damage physically and damage in terms of economic quality of life - and trust me, my politics have cost me a LOT!
    My greatest challenge so far on this journey is engaging with others and readings from a place of peace rather than conflict, either offensive or defensive, because conflict is literally all I've ever known. TMI perhaps but hey, transparency and vulnerability are part of transformation aren't they...
    On to chapter 3 lol.
    Gassho Anna.
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously. Laugh at yourself and try to find the space to laugh at life's challenges. Be kind to yourself and look out for each other.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Anna View Post
    In messages Jundo has teased me playfully about me being an anarchist to which I have responded in my own lighthearted way. I understand how it may come across as odd that a long time anarchist would choose to engage in a study that from the outside may seem to require adherence to hierarchical structures and relationships. Chapter 2, particularly the end of it sounds very much like anything you'd find in a 'Social Anarchy 101' reading or hear from almost any anarchist around the world. The idea of an individual's desires or needs being in complete isolation or superseding the needs and desires of the broader community or vice versa is the very basis of what anarchists continually fight for, anywhere.
    Anna this really turns out to be quite the epiphany, thank you! We spend so much time, and rightfully so I think, focusing on embracing our lack of separation from others. This helps us suffer less, but I really agree that the full embracing of the Way allows for celebration of the individual as well. The Japanese expression of Zen Buddhism strikes me as almost militaristic sometimes in its emphasis on conforming. This is essential for personal growth here in the West, where we tend to be over obsessed with individuality, and our attachment to the individual causes a lot of suffering.

    However, some of us need to learn to embrace the individual as well. Perhaps we have been oppressed because of minority status, or outright abused by family or society, and haven’t developed enough respect for ourselves yet to find what we have inside to give to others. I have been in that place.

    There’s actually a Zen book that addresses this, it’s called “Zen Heart, Simple Advice for Living With Mindfulness and Compassion” by Ezra Bayda. He describes a “me” phase of practice, which seems to me to be pretty accurate, as most of us come to Zen practice to relieve our own suffering and can’t just “skip over” that and go right to Bodhisattva But I think when we do shift our focus to others, although it does relieve suffering, some of us forget that we individually still deserve respect, compassion and loving discipline, just as we are learning to give to others. As you said, the individual leaf is still worth celebrating and cherishing, even though it is inseparable from the tree. Genjokoan fully embraces both individual and group as a whole entity realized, Not Two.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    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).

  18. #18
    For me the metaphor is fish swimming into expanse of ocean finding private suddenly both expansive and public duality of fish becoming one with ocean such as birds taking flight into air: do fish and bird find rest? Where is shoal or tree? Then being here and now the finch battering itself against our window pane finds only solid air at front and back windows! For this moment perhaps rest then search for other bird there is no rest so does bird realize such ness?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

  19. #19
    Sat
    Gassho
    Taishi


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

  20. #20
    There she is again Taishi/sat/Gassho


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

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