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Thread: Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 3 - P 42 to end of Chapter

  1. #1

    Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 3 - P 42 to end of Chapter

    Gettin' back to the Genjo ...

    We will spend a couple of weeks just on the last about four pages of Chapter 3 (the section called "Genjokoan) to let all the insights of Chapter 3 settle a bit, and to let folks catch up.

    In these last few pages, Okumura Roshi brings the insights on "Emptiness" which we have been discussing back to the first three sentences of the Genjo, which present three simultaneously true ways to experience reality. I have to say that I completely agree with Okumura Roshi on his conclusions and interpretations of Dogen, but I sometimes might explain it a bit differently. (Maybe it is like two bakers who bake the exact same cake with the same ingredients, but I would stir the batter a little differently). Okumura Roshi's way of expression sometimes seems a bit complicated to me. In my book on "How to Read Dogen" that will be published next year by Wisdom Co., I explained these lines as follows, my way of cake stirring. Maybe my words just complicate things more.

    Does this chapter start to come together for you? Are you getting a handle on how these three sentence/perspectives come together?

    ============

    Dogen begins by offering a first perspective on the world, in which there are apparently weak and inadequate humans (us) who are beings coming and going in life between our birth and death, and in contrast to that, some state of idealized perfection above us and distant. A gap appears between our imperfect lives and the idealized and distant state of perfection that we picture in mind, the state of a “Buddha,” which appears so far from the state of imperfection and sorrow where we seem to live.

    In Buddhism, we often struggle and strive to practice hard, during the time between our birth and death (and perhaps, say many traditional Buddhists, in lives to come as well) to climb some ladder in our minds to get from our present fallen state to the heights of perfection and freedom of a Buddha. Thus, Dogen begins:

    When the world is seen as separate things in Buddhist teachings, there is human delusion and there is distant enlightenment to achieve, there is Buddhist practice to move us from one to the other, there is birth and there is death, and there are Buddhas and sentient beings apart.

    But one can encounter the world another way too, without making judgments of near or far, flawed or flawless, perfect or imperfect, high or low, and without applying mental categories and thoughts of separation and individual things. Buddhas and sentient beings are then experienced as not apart, not separate. Enlightenment is never hidden to clear eyes, even in this superficially confused world, once we learn to see. One even can drop away ideas of coming and going, birth and death, and instead experience an ongoing continuity and wholeness somehow beyond time, beyond birth and death. What happens then? [This is the "puree" of Emptiness, in which all drops away into Wholeness:] Thus:

    When the myriad things are realized as each without an individual self, there is no delusion and no enlightenment in separation, no Buddhas and no sentient beings, no birth and no death.

    Yet we don't stop there. We can experience this life and world in both of the foregoing ways at once. The result is a bit tricky to get one’s head around, but it is very wise. It is like saying that, although Buddhas and ordinary sentient beings in their ignorance are not apart right here and now, if ordinary beings continue to think and act ignorantly they will not realize such truth. We have to think (and non-think, putting aside divisive and judgmental thoughts) and act more like Buddhas, freeing ourselves from excess desires, anger, and divided thinking in order to make the presence of Buddha appear to our eyes and in our hearts. Even when we don’t think and act like it, the fact is that we are still Buddha nonetheless, although our ignorance and poor behavior will keep that truth hidden from us and cause suffering. This is Dogen’s path of “practice-enlightenment,” in which we practice acting as a Buddha now in order to realize that Buddha has been here all along.

    We also learn to see through all the divisions and seeming imperfections of the world, even as they appear to continue to exist in the world as divided, imperfect things. For example, we see many flaws in life and society, yet we also learn to drop all judgments about what is flawed or flawless. Instead, all things become just what they are without our mental criticism, each a kind of shining jewel in its own way, even those things that we usually resist or find abhorrent. However, the uglier and more abhorrent something in life is, such as harm done to children or serious character flaws in ourself, the more deeply buried and hard to see is that shining light. Thus, although this world and all things may shine within (and so, from that perspective, they do so without need of polishing), we still have to keep polishing in our practice to bring out that shine. So, we keep working to fix the problems in our life and this world. In one sense there are no problems to fix, yet in another sense there are many, some very ugly, and we need to keep on our toes. This is a world of flaws, yet not. This is a world of strife, yet not.

    We can even come, through our Zazen, to experience that face of the world that somehow continues on beyond all the apparent coming and going of things, and then this is a world of birth and death, yet not. There is an overriding Peace and Wholeness that embraces this world in both times of war and times of peace. There is something that keeps on churning away through all the apparent birth and death on the surface, like a sea that continues flowing on and on even as waves appear to rise and fall temporarily on its face. Beyond some simple ideas of one versus many, there is an unbroken Wholeness that sweeps in all the superficially individual things of the universe (including you and me), and that sweeps away birth and death even in a world of birth and death. There is a Beauty that shines as/in/and beyond all this planet's beauty and ugliness. All such ways of seeing—me and you, birth and death, beauty and ugliness as well as something transcendent—become true at once, as one. Thus:

    In the Buddha Way, one must leap clear and right through both the view of abundance and the view of lack; and so there are again birth and death, delusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and Buddhas.

    All the separate things, delusion and enlightenment, ordinary sentient beings and Buddhas, are apart yet not apart, the same yet not at all as they were before.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-25-2019 at 04:04 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    "...one must leap clear and right through both the view of abundance and the view of lack..."

    Ah.

    Gratitude.

    Bow, bow, bow.

    gassho
    doyu sat/lah today
    特別な人ではない

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Doyū View Post
    "...one must leap clear and right through both the view of abundance and the view of lack..."

    Ah.

    Gratitude.

    Bow, bow, bow.

    gassho
    doyu sat/lah today
    I do a bit of a freer "translation" of the Genjo in my book for aiding Clarity.

    Gassho, J

    STlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Does this chapter start to come together for you? Are you getting a handle on how these three sentence/perspectives come together?
    The first three lines of the Genjokoan are surprisingly clear now having been through this chapter and the discussion. The re-translation helps a lot:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    When the world is seen as separate things in Buddhist teachings, there is human delusion and there is distant enlightenment to achieve, there is Buddhist practice to move us from one to the other, there is birth and there is death, and there are Buddhas and sentient beings apart.
    ...
    When the myriad things are realized as each without an individual self, there is no delusion and no enlightenment in separation, no Buddhas and no sentient beings, no birth and no death.
    ...
    In the Buddha Way, one must leap clear and right through both the view of abundance and the view of lack; and so there are again birth and death, delusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and Buddhas.
    This might be a bit of a technical question, but why do you translate "dharma" as "world" and "things" in the above? Like I thought dharma was more like the teaching or in some contexts "the way" (sort of like "the Tao").

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    ST

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin M View Post
    The first three lines of the Genjokoan are surprisingly clear now having been through this chapter and the discussion. The re-translation helps a lot:



    This might be a bit of a technical question, but why do you translate "dharma" as "world" and "things" in the above? Like I thought dharma was more like the teaching or in some contexts "the way" (sort of like "the Tao").

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    ST
    Hi Kevin,

    I am glad that it was helpful.

    The Sanscrit term "Dharma" (Dhamma in Paii, and 法 in Chinese-Japanese) can be confusing to folks because it carries three rather different, but actually overlapping, meanings in Buddhist lingo.

    One is something very close to "phenomena", which means the seemingly individual things, properties and events which happen in the universe and all reality. Each is a "dharma." "Phenomenon" would be a good translation.

    One is the overarching central principle that sweeps in the whole universe and the kitchen sink ... Big B Buddha, perhaps "noumenon" and the "Force" from Star Wars combined into one , the Wholeness beyond all divisions of phenomena ... that which should not be named ...

    One is the Buddha's Teachings about how those phenomena, the universe and reality works as all of the above.

    Thus, it means the Buddha's Teachings and what the Teachings are about.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    i found the way Okamura Roshi presents the core themes in this section clear and useful, and like the way he brings the three positions together - it is, it isn't, it is & isn't - and then brings them right back to practice. He explicitly names up the double-bind inherent to even coming to practice - “the desire to become free from delusion or egocentricity is one of the causes of our delusion and egocentricity”, and then how to step past it. This statement really resonated: “This desire to end suffering is another cause of suffering, and the Heart Sutra presents the Buddha’s teachings in a negative way in order to avoid arousing this desire”; it felt like a central principle - leaving no place for the dust to settle. This section also brought ‘mountains and rivers’ to mind.

    _()_
    sosen
    stlah

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin M View Post
    The first three lines of the Genjokoan are surprisingly clear now having been through this chapter and the discussion. The re-translation helps a lot:



    This might be a bit of a technical question, but why do you translate "dharma" as "world" and "things" in the above? Like I thought dharma was more like the teaching or in some contexts "the way" (sort of like "the Tao").

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    ST
    I agree. Honestly I am impressed that the Okumura can take material that seems so obtuse at first glance and make it accessible. And then Jundo, you have such a great knack for adding a slight twist that just pulls it all into focus. Like Kevin I found your translation really helpful.

    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.

  8. #8
    Does this chapter start to come together for you? Are you getting a handle on how these three sentence/perspectives come together?
    Yes and no. I think Okumura does a fantastic job of explaining these passages and shedding light on Dogen’s writing. I find though that I am pretty reliant on his interpretation (yours too Jundo). I don’t think I can get there on my own, at least not yet. The intellectual in me finds that frustrating but then I am here to learn not teach. So I try to put my ego aside and just be with this.


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

  9. #9
    Member Anna's Avatar
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    I'll be honest, Okumura both clarifies and confounds, mainly by jumping around a bit too much for me in chapter 3. It feels as though
    Okumura was anxious about fitting literally everything including the kitchen sink into his commentary. As I may have mentioned earlier somewhere the using of Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Japanese terms and characters all with a translation into English has bent my noggin a bit. I have enormous appreciation for the intent of Okumura to be as thorough in their interpretation and explanation of Dogen's Genjokoan, for me it comes across as unnecessarily dense. I will keep at it though but in saying that I wonder if reflecting on Dogen's Genjokoan without commentary and regularly coming back to it as my journey continues would suit my noggin better.
    Gassho
    Anna

    Sat today
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.
    No Gods No Masters.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Anna View Post
    I'll be honest, Okumura both clarifies and confounds, mainly by jumping around a bit too much for me in chapter 3. It feels as though
    Okumura was anxious about fitting literally everything including the kitchen sink into his commentary. As I may have mentioned earlier somewhere the using of Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Japanese terms and characters all with a translation into English has bent my noggin a bit. I have enormous appreciation for the intent of Okumura to be as thorough in their interpretation and explanation of Dogen's Genjokoan, for me it comes across as unnecessarily dense. I will keep at it though but in saying that I wonder if reflecting on Dogen's Genjokoan without commentary and regularly coming back to it as my journey continues would suit my noggin better.
    Gassho
    Anna

    Sat today
    I think Okumura might agree with you Anna,

    'You must be really free from what I say and you must inquire into pranja and practice pranja yourself.'

    I always get a lot from Okumura but find it hard to retain anything other than a very sketchy level - which signifies to me that I'm attaching too much
    to conceptual thought. The Heart Sutra has always confounded me at some level (but maybe in good company because Red Pine - in his helpfull commentary - says that for years he had put the sutra aside as obtuse and not of much help to actual practice).

    I think it's useful that Jundo aims at a simplification because stripped down to the bare bones of practice the ideas expressed in The Heart Sutra do not need
    to be complicated. However, I've yet to come across a translation/simplification that rests with total ease with me. I'm very wary of the notion that we can ever in life experience those three perspectives simultaneously. Perhaps very fleetingly in meditation ....... Accepting that these perspectives exist is maybe more of the essence - I would liken it to an intuitive 'knowing' - maybe that's where the transcendent element (Jundo mentions) comes into play.

    Anyway - my thoughts on this are not very clear but I always enjoy reading Okumura for those fleeting moments of clarity he gives.

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat Today
    Last edited by Jinyo; 09-04-2019 at 09:16 AM.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    We also learn to see through all the divisions and seeming imperfections of the world, even as they appear to continue to exist in the world as divided, imperfect things. For example, we see many flaws in life and society, yet we also learn to drop all judgments about what is flawed or flawless. Instead, all things become just what they are without our mental criticism, each a kind of shining jewel in its own way, even those things that we usually resist or find abhorrent. However, the uglier and more abhorrent something in life is, such as harm done to children or serious character flaws in ourself, the more deeply buried and hard to see is that shining light. Thus, although this world and all things may shine within (and so, from that perspective, they do so without need of polishing), we still have to keep polishing in our practice to bring out that shine. So, we keep working to fix the problems in our life and this world. In one sense there are no problems to fix, yet in another sense there are many, some very ugly, and we need to keep on our toes. This is a world of flaws, yet not. This is a world of strife, yet not.

    We can even come, through our Zazen, to experience that face of the world that somehow continues on beyond all the apparent coming and going of things, and then this is a world of birth and death, yet not. There is an overriding Peace and Wholeness that embraces this world in both times of war and times of peace. There is something that keeps on churning away through all the apparent birth and death on the surface, like a sea that continues flowing on and on even as waves appear to rise and fall temporarily on its face. Beyond some simple ideas of one versus many, there is an unbroken Wholeness that sweeps in all the superficially individual things of the universe (including you and me), and that sweeps away birth and death even in a world of birth and death. There is a Beauty that shines as/in/and beyond all this planet's beauty and ugliness. All such ways of seeing—me and you, birth and death, beauty and ugliness as well as something transcendent—become true at once, as one. Thus:
    I wholeheartedly agree with Shinshi and Tairin on the clarity of both your explanation as well as Okumura's. The more I read the more the pieces fall into place. The part you wrote here, and Okumura's explanation of how we would miss the point by stopping at the commonsense-explanation of Buddhism, really touched me. To me Okumura explains the goallessness of zazen clearly by saying that it is impossible to eliminate ignorance and egocentric desires, and that this only leads to another cycle of samsara. He elegantly exposes the dualist thinking by saying that samsara and nirvana are not two separate things just like you said above. Wow! Just Wow! This has been such an eye-opening chapter. Thank you all for this wonderful study/practice opportunity. I'm deeply grateful.


    Gassho,
    Jack
    Sattoday

  12. #12
    Member Seishin's Avatar
    Join Date
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    Does this chapter start to come together for you? Are you getting a handle on how these three sentence/perspectives come together?
    A brief response from me as I get weighed down by the events this week in Westminster.

    Yes - this last section begins to pulls the previous ones together along with your's and Okumura's explanations. Like many I have come closer to appreciating the intellectual perspective but personally find it hard to apply that practically in day to day live. Is it just a matter of living via the precepts and Eightfold Noble Path, I not sure its just that easy ?
    Looking forward to your's and Okumura's guidance in that respect.

    Sat


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  13. #13
    I like the way this last section emphasizes Dogen's idea of having no goal to practice. I think this is really relevant to the modern world, where the Western culture is often about setting and achieving goals in every aspect of our lives. Here Okumura interprets Dogen's third sentence to say that comparing 'now' (samsara) with a future goal (nirvana) actually just perpetuates samsara. We just practice every day without goals and this means all aspects of our lives become practice. In my experience this is much harder than it sounds - keeping the practice 'alive' as we go about our daily (often stressful) lives is really difficult to do!

    Sat today
    LAH

  14. #14
    Because we just began all the Jukai readings and Ango activities, l think we will extend here one more week before moving on. l hope that is okay. No rush.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Because we just began all the Jukai readings and Ango activities, l think we will extend here one more week before moving on. l hope that is okay. No rush.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Cool

    Sat / lah


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  16. #16
    Yes, this chapter really pulls together the opening 3 sentences for me. It takes the concept of emptiness right to the heart of our practice: the cycle of samasara and nirvana and shows that these too are empty of seperate existence.

    It really highlighted the concept of the pathless path and goal-less practice, of how to seek an escape is just ego and the importance of the radical acceptance that everything just is already with nothing needing to be added of taken away. That, as we chant, nirvana is already here.

    I like how Okamura Roshi describes that goal-less practice as opening the hand of though and just facing what we have to face and that sitting zazen can be the whole body and mind seeing the emptiness of itself in practive.

    Another point about this section isthat it also confirmed that by trying to understand the Buddha's teaching through intellectual understanding alone we are creating even more samsara - this seems to fit with my own approach to reading Dogen. When I just let go and went with the jazz, things made a lot more sense ( I recommend John Coltrane's album 'A Love Supreme').

    Sorry, those notes seem a bit random - I jotted them down a while back but forgot to type them up.

    Gassho,

    Neil

    StLah

  17. #17
    I like these notes, Neil.

    Gassho
    Doyu sat today
    特別な人ではない

  18. #18
    Hi everyone. I'm coming to this thread a bit late so I will briefly pull out a few things from the book so far that have been particularly poignant for me. Before I do so though, I wish to say that I am ever grateful to those who dedicate a great deal of their time and practice to presenting Dogen's teachings in such an everyday manner. Secondly, I am grateful to those who steer such works away from a purely intellectual understanding of the texts, to their relevance (if not their necessity) for guiding our practice. Thirdly, I am grateful to all past, present, and future teachers and sangha members who keep these teachings alive through their practice.

    Although the wind’s nature is always present, to “feel the wind” we must “wave a fan.”

    It may sound silly, but it took me a long time to understand this response in terms of the necessity of practice in the realisation of practice-enlightenment. I had previously ‘understood’ it, but on this rereading it struck me between the eyes like an arrow. So I wave my fan and try to drop all thought of waving the fan.

    We must use self-identity to live responsibly in society, but we should realize that it is merely a tool, a symbol, a sign, or a concept. Because it enables us to think and discriminate, self-identity allows us to live and function. Although it is not the only reality of our lives, self-identity is a reality for us, a tool we must use to live with others in society.

    This aroused an acknowledgement in me of the ‘two extremes’ of practice that Buddha taught, and that the ‘self’ is no more than what we should expect to have, having been born human.

    Nirvana is the way of life that is based on awakening to the reality of impermanence and lack of independent existence. It is not a special stage of practice, nor is it a certain condition of mind; it is simply the way to live one’s life in accordance with reality.

    No need to speak about the above paragraph, I am grateful to have been saved from the delusion of attaining or ‘chasing’ nirvana, as in….

    Mahayana teachings such as the Heart Sutra, however, emphasize a different expression of reality. From the perspective of prajna, if we think there are fixed places or conditions called “samsara,” “nirvana,” “delusion,” and “enlightenment,” our practice becomes merely an attempt to escape from what we think is undesirable. In this situation we cannot be released from samsara and delusion, because in trying to escape them we actually create them.

    Dōgen says that the five aggregates are not obstacles to awakening, because they are themselves manifestations of impermanence and lack of independent existence; they express the reality of all beings and are therefore prajna.


    I have to say I’ve never been a fan of the practices (?Theravaden) of considering this body, and all its component parts as objects of disgust. I understand they may help to break attachment to the body, but I prefer to just accept it for what it is, and I believe this is what Dogen is telling us.


    Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 3 - P 42 to end of Chapter

    If we don’t find nirvana within samsara, there is no place we can find nirvana. If we don’t find peacefulness within our busy daily lives, there is no place we can find peacefulness.
    And…

    Dōgen’s answer to this question was “just practice”; not because we want to escape from samsara, not because we want to reach nirvana, but just practice right now, right here without any agenda. With this kind of practice, nirvana is already here. Of course when we practice in this way, samsara is still here too. So within this practice, at this moment, both nirvana and samsara are present.


    All I can do is sit with that thought, and then let that thought drop away too.

    This book, on this reading, has drawn me deeper into Dogen’s practice, I am seeing that Dogen’s practice is, in some ways, apart from Buddhism, yet never departing from the Buddha’s enlightenment. There doesn’t seem to be much I can say, just bow, sit, eat, and be buddha.

    Tokan

    Gassho, sattoday, LAH

  19. #19
    Wow, Tokan. _()_

    Gassho
    Doyu sat and lah today
    特別な人ではない

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