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Thread: Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 8 - First Half, to P 118

  1. #1

    Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 8 - First Half, to P 118

    Dear Fellow Dancers in This Life,

    We will read about the first half of Chapter 8, stopping just before the section "Life, Death and 'Time'" at the top of page 118.

    I know for a fact that we have future lives after this one, that our present life is not the end, and that our good and bad actions have good and bad effects that help determine those lives. How? I believe that we are just the ongoing dance of the universe (and the source of this dancing universe too), and all it contains and ever has or will contain that is, each and all, engaged in this dancing. We are the whole dance, not just a single dancer. Because we and all the other dancers are also just the dance, we are the other dancers too (and they just us). We are so in most intimate sense. Even when my personal little time on stage seems to start and finish, the dance still dances on ... so in our dance-nature, we dance on. Whatever will arise on the stage in the future, that is just our dance too, so we are just that ... every baby and blade of grass, mountain and star. We are constantly reborn as all that. And our actions now have effects, good and bad, on all those future babies and all the rest who we just are, endlessly rippling into time. So, do your best to do good.

    I also know that, while there is birth and death all around, there is also no birth and death in the least ... like the waves which appear to rise and fall from the sea, yet are just the flowing sea all along without one drop lost or gained though waves seem to come and go. We can also realize such.

    That is my personal view of what the Buddha may have meant as rebirth.

    But is there also a personal stream that is your stream of cause-&-effect reborn life after life based on your ethical actions, like falling dominoes? Maybe so ... although I personally am skeptical like Okumura Roshi about more literal descriptions of the mechanism for such. On the other hand, I do not deny the possibility. So, I often say ...

    If there are future lives, heavens and hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.

    And if there are no future lives, no heavens or hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.

    Thus I do not much care if, in the next life, that "gentle way, avoiding harm" will buy me a ticket to heaven and keep me out of hell ... but I know for a fact that it will go far to do so in this life, today, where I see people create all manner of "heavens and hells" for themselves and those around them by their harmful words, thoughts and acts in this life.

    And if there is a "heaven and hell" in the next life, or other effects of Karma now ... well, my actions now have effects then too, and might be the ticket to heaven or good rebirth.

    In other words, whatever the case ... today, now ... live in a gentle way, avoiding harm to self and others (not two, by the way) ... seeking to avoid harm now and in the future too.
    If you are interested, you can read more comments by me on Rebirth and Karma here:

    ... and here ...

    A couple of final points: The Buddha did not speak of a personal "soul," but certainly believed in the personal stream of falling dominoes of cause and effect that emanate from our actions and life. It is a very fine distinction, but works to explain how we can have future lives yet not get caught up in a soul.

    Also, Dogen spoke against certain ideas of "Kensho" as seeing some fixed essence, but I believe that he did not speak against "Kensho" as experiencing something more to this world than meets the eye (Dogen sometimes used the term approvingly too).

    In both cases, it is as if the Buddha and Dogen are just opposing our getting caught in the idea of some fixed entities such as a "soul" or "essence" ... but neither thought that this physical body, one life and world of things is the only way to see things. That is why I like the image of a "dance" which is not something that can be nailed down as a "thing," but is a constantly flowing movement ... and there are no separate dancers really, but just their twirling and stepping upon the stage as manifestations of the dance itself. It is real and ongoing, but not some thing easy to nail down either.

    So, you are the dancing and a dancer ... dance as gracefully as you can in your turn.

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-23-2020 at 02:31 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo.

    I cannot add anything substantial to what you've written.

    Always skeptical regarding too detailed and fixed ideas about something that lies beyond our perception,
    I can't say if there is an Atman or the imho Christian equivalent of an immortal soul and I don't have to.
    People tend to search for ideas that soothe the fear about dying and life endig... Something that transcends the suffering.
    Practice seems to teach me resting in 'not knowing' and being ok with it.

    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
    This is an interesting section to be reading in light of the current world events. Like many the idea of life and death are on my mind a bit more these days. I am not particularly worried or concerned for my own health. I am in a relatively good position. I am quite conscious of the fact that my parents and in-laws are all of the age where they are quite vulnerable. It seems unlikely we will make it past the current pandemic without losing someone we are close to.

    Although raised in a Christian family (Baptist primarily) I have been knowingly agnostic since my early teens. That includes losing any real traditional view of an afterlife. I don’t believe in the idea of reincarnation where I come back as something else. It may sound strange but I find comfort in the idea of “not knowing” when it comes to life and death. To me it has taken the uncertainty of whether my actions are worthy of good placement in a heaven or hell. I try to do my best to practice things that are good and to refrain from things that are bad here and now. The Precepts are good guidance here.

    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Currently living in China, Hubei province, Jingmen City.
    Just recently I have become more interested in seriously sitting down to read Dogen and trying to comprehend.

    Like many, I read English translations - but have found some reassurance in that when cross-referencing translation - the basic sentiment seems to be the same. As does the potent directness and imagery he poetically applies.

    Its also a pleasant surprise to realize that is was Dogen who is responsible for the authorship of so many of the phrases tossed around in Zen literature.

    So then, the famous Firewood to Ash

    I have always found Buddhism very unique in that it offered the position of Anatta/Anatman. What a psychologically brave position to take. One could argue that this position is solid stance attacking the question of whether or not there is a soul (as most religious cultures tend to hold true across the world- to the point of safely being held as a shared experience). However, I am not so sure it is directly trying to do that - nor is it concerned with that question itself.

    I think the position of Anatta/Anatman was a more practical teaching rather than speculative, and one that resonates very well with the observations of modern psychology. Nothing we ourselves here today experience - will last. So in this, where is something lasting to be found? I think this teaching was very rooted in our experience of everyday life.

    When Buddhism offers the position of Anatta, I don't feel it is taking up the argument of whether or not there is a soul, but rather offering a solution to the clinging of our simple mortal egos to hold onto what we deem as ourselves and ours. The simple fact is that there is nothing that can be held onto.

    And yet....we do live on.

    All those feelings (which were not you to begin with- just something YOU experienced), will be felt again. All the knowledge you know...will be learned again. All the experiences that made up you - will be experienced again. I think this is how we live on - just without the personalized ego.

  5. #5
    This section took a few re-reads but then made a lot of sense. We spend a lot of time worrying about what has been, or what could be, without focussing on what is happening right now in the present. This is (understandably) something that we may be doing more of in the current climate of uncertainty. Seeing the present moment through shikantaza as constantly changing and renewing itself allows us to connect with life at a deeper level in the present moment.
    Gasho, Paul
    Sat today, LAH

  6. #6
    Like many others I'm also skeptical of the Atman or eternal soul concept, I liked the analogy of a car owner. However, while skeptical I haven't ruled it out entirely, I'm agnostic on it.

    Like Kotei, practice has taught me to be ok with not knowing. I like that there is a contradiction between anatman and the bodhisattva transforming life and death as I'm always suspicious of anyone who has all the answers.

    So I try to live as close to being in accordance with my vows as I can and try to be a good guy. If I'm catapulted into another body after I die then, cool! If not, I'm happy being part of a tree, grass and the rest of existence.




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