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Thread: Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 10 - P 143 thru P. 148

  1. #1

    Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 10 - P 143 thru P. 148

    Hello Sailors,

    We will be cruising through the first half of Chapter 10, stopping just before the section "A Palace for Fish ... "

    Some folks think that enlightenment is to reach the empty place where there is nothing all around, just bare water and waves in a circle. However, the ocean is truly boundless, with endless grains of sand each of endless facets, uncountable creatures swimming, twisting coastlines and cultures seen and hidden beyond the horizon. All are the ocean, right down to each atom and drop. The sailor does not know every beach and shore, the secrets of the deep ... and yet, in every single drop of salty brine on the tip of his tongue, he can taste the whole ocean and the whole world.

    I had a small taste of this today while hiking with my family through the woods. Such tangled growth and deep woods, flowers everywhere. One cannot possibly take it all in, let alone even grasp all the features of a single leaf. And yet, when I quieted the mind and truly saw even a single blade of grass, I saw the whole world and all the forests and oceans held safely within its tip.

    This week's work is to see all time and space in everything, great and small. We can never know all the features, yet we can know all of everything inside every feature.

    I do have one complaint about Dogen and Myozen, however. Yes, they were young and seeking, looking for a youthful adventure, so, it is not hard to understand. Also, Dogen missed his late mentor and friend, Myozen, who died in China, so wished to cast him in the best light. However, I cannot help but feel that Myozen missed the message of this chapter when he ran away from nursing his sick teacher in order to find "truth" in China. This "truth" was found just as much at the bedside of his ill teacher as in China, Every feature is the whole ocean. However, they were young and filled with longing, so it is understandable that Myozen came up with a rationale to make his big trip. Maybe it takes an older person's maturity to finally realize what is here all along, and that there is no place over the horizon that is more than here.

    On the other hand, China is also just as much here as bedside, and life and death are but a dream. So, if I were Myozen's teacher Myoyu on my deathbed, I would hope not to be so selfish as to detain Myozen! I would say, "Myozen, death ain't nothing! So, please be off to China, and bring me back some egg rolls."


    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-03-2020 at 07:45 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    It's amazing how Dogen can capture something so incredibly complex, in such a simple way. It's because in the end it is simple, and it's the human brain that makes it so complicated. In this section he uses an ocean, and using that ocean he's able to convey the truth about reality. "Immeasurable characteristics" directly point to our own inherent delusion, and how all of this division, discrimination, and duality is an illusion of our mind. The ocean is just an ocean, but by attributing so many properties to the water, we often mistake the collection of descriptive properties as the ocean itself.

    It makes me think of a person studying the physics of visible light waves, the physiology of the human eye, and the chemistry of pigmentation and canvas, and having a superb grasp on that, but forgetting to just look at the painting. It's so easy to miss the essence of life because we get caught in these small details that seem important, but are ultimately just an illusion. The beauty and wonderous oneness is always here, and it's up to us to just realize it.

    I cannot sing the praises of this book enough, Okumura makes Dogen so very accessable, and I'm able to comprehend him better than I ever have. I think. I may be way off but that's what I got from this section and I look forward to hear what everyone else thinks!

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday/LaH

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    I cannot help but feel that Myozen missed the message of this chapter when he ran away from nursing his sick teacher in order to find "truth" in China. This "truth" was found just as much at the bedside of his ill teacher as in China
    I had a similar thought as I read this. I suppose this speaks to the strength of the human condition to always be searching never truly stopping to see what is here in front of us. I think this is why I truly appreciate the multilayered meaning of Dharma not only as the teaching of Buddha but also reality itself. They are not two.

    The section made me think of the story of the teacup. The teacup sits on the table in front of us but we donít see the same teacup. You see it from your perspective and I see it from mine. Not only that but I bring to this viewing of the teacup my own story. You bring yours. That teacup may have belonged to my grandmother and so I canít help but think of her when I see it. You didnít know my grandmother and so you donít bring that to the viewing of the cup.

    Lovely section.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  4. #4
    The teacup sits on the table in front of us but we donít see the same teacup.
    This recalls a pod cast I recently re-listened to.

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  5. #5
    By the way, I was such a youth myself. So, I should be more sympathetic to Myozen and Dogen really. Mina and I in China in 1986-87, age 26 (about the same as Dogen when he wanted to go to China) when Mina (now my wife) and I were both exchange students there ... before the age of the internet, skype, youtube and all the rest. We wrote letters, and contacted our parents with a rare US $20 ($20 then) for 10 minutes phone call (Dogen did not have even that).

    We had bicycles which we rode down the main streets of Beijing, now impossible to do I understand ... we caught a new mysterious bug about every two weeks (one landed Mina in the quarantine hospital there for a couple of months), the stores were pretty empty, the Buddhist temples were largely still in ruins from the Cultural Revolution, a foreign barbarian in some small town was about like a space alien landing (I actually got the Key to the Town a couple of places!), we stayed in 20 cent a night "hotels" in big shared rooms with farmers and their chickens/goats heading to market, and lots of people wore Mao Jackets and still called each other "Comrade" (Tongzhi, although somebody does that around treeleaf too! )

    No high speed trains, we took buses, hard seat steam trains and the sometime donkey cart as far as Kashgar on the Pakistan border (not so safe now), Xishuangbanna next to Burma and Laos, the Stepps of Tibet (middle photo), Inner Mongolia and points in between. It was lovely.

    Also, Dogen did not travel with his girlfriend, and I had hair.

    They have some BIG Buddhas there ...

    Jim and Mina China Big Buddha Small.jpg Jim and Mina China Tibet Small.jpg Jim and Mina China Train Station Small.jpg

    Here's Mina at the Tibetan medicine doctor, the only doc in town, when she got bit by a spider (Mina had all the bad health luck). They diagnose just by taking the pulse, and the doctor only spoke Tibetan, so we needed a translator from Mandarin. And here was the dentist, and his foot power drill, who treated me when I had a toothache on the road. Maybe that did not change so much from Dogen's time.

    Mina and Jim China - Tibetan Doctor.jpg jim and mina china dentist.jpg

    Wow, one of those pictures was taken exactly 33 years ago tomorrow!

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-05-2020 at 04:18 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Jundo; wonderful; and you did have hair

    gassho, shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  7. #7

    Smile

    Beautiful photos and stories, Jundo.

    a foreign barbarian in some small town was about like a space alien landing
    I was in Beijing a couple of years ago during the Dragon Boat Festival. As you know, thousands of Chinese tourists from all over the country flood the capital during these holidays. I noticed people looking at me curiously or even taking photos, especially when I was navigating the crowds inside the Forbidden City. Adults and children were pointing at me. Such an unexpected experience in the 21st century. Fascinating anyway!

    Gassho,

    Luigi
    ST
    Last edited by Luigi; 05-05-2020 at 06:02 PM.
    "Zazen is good for nothing."
    ó Kōdō Sawaki (1880-1965)

  8. #8
    Sometimes I hear swallows right out my window and sometimes I hear birds in Tsukuba.

    gassho
    shonin sat/lah today
    I'm a visiting unsui from Bird Haven Zendo. Take what I say with a box of salt. Mmm!

  9. #9
    However, I cannot help but feel that Myozen missed the message of this chapter when he ran away from nursing his sick teacher in order to find "truth" in China. This "truth" was found just as much at the bedside of his ill teacher as in China, Every feature is the whole ocean. However, they were young and filled with longing, so it is understandable that Myozen came up with a rationale to make his big trip.
    Yes, I thought the same when I read this chapter and it echoed back to the Buddha himself sneaking out on his family during the night (or whichever version of the story you know) to find himself in the forest rather than the palace.

    I remember hearing a Buddhist teacher quite some time back talk about a student who told him that he needed to go to India for his spiritual practice and responding that there was nothing in India that he couldn't find right here. However, I think that sometimes we need to do the travelling to realise that the whole universe is as much where we are now as it is in Varanasi or Bodh Gaya.

    Re-reading this book has been a joy for me and continues to be so. Shohaku Okumura explains things in such a direct and straightforward way, with a lightness of touch that seems to use no fewer and no more words than is necessary. He is not showing how much knowledge and understanding he has but rather giving us what we need to engage more fully with both this text and with Dogen's writing as a whole. It feels like having a teacher stand over your shoulder while you are reading and pointing out the parts you should pay especial attention to which is quite something in a book!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 05-05-2020 at 10:19 PM.
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Yes, I thought the same when I read this chapter and it echoed back to the Buddha himself sneaking out on his family during the night (or whichever version of the story you know) to find himself in the forest rather than the palace.

    I remember hearing a Buddhist teacher quite some time back talk about a student who told him that he needed to go to India for his spiritual practice and responding that there was nothing in India that he couldn't find right here. However, I think that sometimes we need to do the travelling to realise that the whole universe is as much where we are now as it is in Varanasi or Bodh Gaya.

    Re-reading this book has been a joy for me and continues to be so. Shohaku Okumura explains things in such a direct and straightforward way, with a lightness of touch that seems to use no fewer and no more words than is necessary. He is not showing how much knowledge and understanding he has but rather giving us what we need to engage more fully with both this text and with Dogen's writing as a whole. It feels like having a teacher stand over your shoulder while you are reading and pointing out the parts you should pay especial attention to which is quite something in a book!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    The teacher standing over your shoulder is a great way to put it, I didn't realize that's exactly what it's felt like while reading this. The book is my first exposure to Okumura and I've been so impressed with it that I also ordered his writing on the Mountains and Waters sutra

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday/LaH

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  11. #11
    The book is my first exposure to Okumura and I've been so impressed with it that I also ordered his writing on the Mountains and Waters sutra
    I haven't read that one yet either, Joshua, but Jundo rates it very highly:

    THE MOUNTAINS AND WATERS SUTRA A Practitioner’s Guide to Dogen’s “Sansuikyo” by Shohaku Okumura Roshi - Jundo Comment: I am putting this at the top of the list as the finest book on Master Dogen's teachings and Shikantaza practice that I have encountered in some 40 years of reading Zen books. However, I am not recommending it to newcomers, and more for folks already experienced and familiar with both Dogen and our ways. Perhaps no book in English has ever so perfectly captured our way of Dogen and Shikantaza, "Just Sitting that Hits the Mark" ... but to truly appreciate these essays, the reader needs to have a mature understanding and feel for both deep down.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  12. #12
    This part of chapter 10 seemed to say that we all have different perspectives on the world around us, but non of them are true reality, just our 'take' on it. I guess that is what we are trying to do on a daily basis and through zazen - seeing the universe around us as fully as possible and dropping our personal discrimination that is based on our views, conditions and circumstances. For me the idea of different / changing discrimination is very relevant to what we are doing at the moment in isolation, as my own 'take' on reality has changed. There are so many things in my flat that I now see / experience in a completely different way during lock down in the UK. For example, sitting on the balcony in the sun I now know the details of that balcony floor in minute detail - the insects that crawl along it, the dust blowing across it , but again this is still just my 'take' on reality. It is just that my discrimination has changed, I am still not experiencing 'absolute' reality.

    Sat today
    LAH
    Last edited by PaulinLondon; 05-07-2020 at 10:39 AM.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post


    Also, Dogen missed his late mentor and friend, Myozen, who died in China, so wished to cast him in the best light. However, I cannot help but feel that Myozen missed the message of this chapter when he ran away from nursing his sick teacher in order to find "truth" in China. This "truth" was found just as much at the bedside of his ill teacher as in China, Every feature is the whole ocean.

    Others already said it, but I felt the same way when reading about Myozen's quest for finding truth. It reminds me of people who keep traveling for the purpose of finding themselves. Emerson once wrote: "My giant goes with me wherever I go."

    What struck me most, and also remains an important lesson, is that we should realize that concepts and thoughts are concepts and thoughts. Sometimes they tend to slide into a mental hierarchy of absolute truth, but Dogen is here to make sure that won't happen.

    Okumura writes that "to see this limit is wisdom." There are those who claim to know absolute truths and try to impose their ideas, one way or another, on others. I feel that Dogen's deconstruction is multi-layered because not only we come to accept that our labels/ideas/concepts/views are just what they are, but it also leads others who realize this to stop imposing their ideas on others because of this understanding. Isn't that amazing

    Also, thank you for sharing these awesome pictures Jundo.

    Gassho,
    Seibu
    Sattoday
    Last edited by Seibu; 05-13-2020 at 05:05 PM.

  14. #14
    'When the Dharma has not yet fully penetrated body and mind, one thinks one is already filled with it.'
    I nearly spilled my coffee laughing! Dogen does Comedy Night. Well, that's me WARNED! Better tread carefully here, jumping in at Chapter 10 of Okumura's 'Realizing Genjokoan' with that fresh zen student zeal...

    So I'll start with some humble "thank you's". Wow...how skilled is Dogen? Just awesome! Pictures (imagery) not only paint a thousand words, but go beyond them. Deep bows everyone for posting your insights and reflections that help reveal part of this chapter's meaning. Should I say "part" or "a glimpse" into the Dharma ocean contained here? Thank you.

    Now some brief thoughts...

    "When we see that our views of oneness, as well as our discriminating views, are simply mental constructs, we begin to see true reality. Seeing that we are deluded is the wisdom of seeing the true reality of our lives."
    When I first engaged with Zen, I was drawn by its insistence on QUESTIONS, not answers; of SHUTTING UP, not speaking; of OPEN, not closed. The concept of BEGINNER'S MIND was fascinating and strange in a world that often demands and champions the opposite from us. What Dogen, and Okumura's commentary, are maybe pointing to in the first half of Chapter 10 is the importance of maintaining this Beginner's Mind through all stages of our zen lives. There seems to be no other way, for we can never, ever penetrate all the mysteries of an watery ocean, let alone Dharma.

    A Zen book that has impacted me deeply is Zenkei Blanche Hartman's 'Seeds For a Boundless Life. Zen Teachings From The Heart' (Shambhala, 2015). In it, she offers a lovely picture of Beginner's Mind, influenced it seems by Suzuki's 'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind': [N.B. copied from my notes, so I hope it's accurate!]

    'Beginner's Mind is zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. Beginner's mind is just present to explore and observe and see things "as they are". I think of beginner's mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. "I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?" Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or prior judgement, just asking "What is it?"'
    Also:
    'The very nature of beginner's mind is not knowing in a certain way, not being an expert.'
    Shunryu Suzuki himself warns, 'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few.' (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind)

    Life is full of unfathomable (and sometimes frightening) wonders! Blanche Hartman quotes Emily Dickinson: 'To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.' In this section of 'Realizing Genjokoan', Dogen and Okumura seem to be saying, "Stay fascinated! Keep silently questioning. What you think you know is minute. What you think you know is only one way of looking, there are many others. What you think you know has already gone, and so is the you that thought s/he thought it! So stay fascinated. Be an open child. Sit and question. Sit and observe. Value others and the perspectives they bring. This Dharma, this constantly swirling dance, this drama of life and death is an immeasurable ocean! Don't for one second think you grasp it. Don't for one second assume your view is the truth, over the views of other myriad beings. Sit under a QUESTION MARK, shut up and just listen...enjoy the question...enjoy the swirling, dancing glimpses..." (Don't sue me for plagiarism Jundo! At least I listen!)

    Okaaaay...that's enough of what I may/may not glimpse vaguely from my very limited perspective! Mmmm...I'd probably think differently tomorrow...

    Thank you again for your insights, which are really helpful.

    Gassho, Chris stlah

  15. #15
    Jundo, I'm very jealous of your bum bag (or fanny pack as I think you might call it, a phrase most Brits can't utter without giggling).

    I also got the impression Myozen might have been rationalising the trip to himself.

    Okumura Roshi's writing continues to astound me. Without typing out the entire reading there were three points that really stood out to me:

    1 - the we must endlessly enquire into the nature of all things and, having taken the bodhisattva vow, must perpetually explore how to sincerely practice with all beings;

    2 - our view of 'one-ness' is itself a discriminating view and that when we conceptualise anything we are already outside reality; and

    3. our different karma means we all see the world differently.

    I'm sure I've heard these points many times before but his way of writing seemed to really clarify them for me.

    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah

  16. #16
    Like others here I also felt some dismay about Myozen leaving for China when his teacher was dying, and for all the same reasons you've all stated. But I did think about it a bit more and try to frame it in its historical context. I googled travelling by sea between China and Japan today, and of course it's a whole new world - brief research showed a boat leaves Shanghai daily for Japan, I assume flights are just as frequent, and are much quicker, unimaginable to Myozen and Dogen. Okumura Roshi tells us that there was no guarantee of future boats at all, let alone regular sailings, timetables and bookings, all of which we take for granted today - the next boat didn't leave for 10 years! So seeing it through the lens of history helped me understand and support Myozen's decisions.

    But my mind also turned to what benefit it would have been either to Myozen or his teacher if he had stayed. Why are bedside vigils beside the dying so important to us, what and who do they serve?

    During this Covid-19 crisis, friends and family have not been able to sit with loved ones who are dying. In Italy, where we keep a vigil with the deceased in the brief (usually not more than 24 hours) period between death and burial. We come together to pray for the departed and ourselves, to share memories, to touch and kiss our loved ones one last time before the lid is closed on the coffin. Not to be able to do this has only compounded the terrible pain people have and are suffering. There are many stories ; one from the UK was particularly moving - the death of a young Muslim boy whose mum and dad couldn't be with him,again a terrible experience made worse by the family not being able to express their religious rites.

    It's my belief that in the end we all die alone. Family, friends can accompany us so far but at a certain point we let go and walk forward, no-one can come with us. Thinking about this, I came to the decision that I might prefer not to have any loved ones at my bedside, how hard it would be to witness their grief! I personally find it easier to confront difficult or fearful situations by myself, I find that I can draw on reserves of strength that I don't tap into when I'm with someone I can lean on. This was brought home to me the first time I had to fly alone. I've been a nervous flyer in the past, but to my amazement, despite my worst fears, I loved it, it was a liberating and life changing experience. I was able to concentrate on myself and rationalise my fear of flying, without encouraging it by expressing it verbally,or allowing it to manifest in irritation and impatience with my long suffering partner.

    But to deny others the bedside ritual - would that be a last act of selfishness? I sat with my mother when she was dying. I wanted to be with her but there was also an underlying sensation that not to do so would be unacceptable, unfeeling, self centred. There was no sense of her soul departing, no sense of her leaving, just an outpouring of grief - at last, we could all cry together, and comfort ourselves that her suffering was over. And yet, and yet.. even faced with the death of a loved one, can we ever shake off that instinctive(in my opinion) belief, that despite all evidence to the contrary, we are ourselves, individually, somehow unable to grasp the fact of our own deaths? The rituals and rites, bedside vigils etc - protection against or awakening to our own mortality?

    This is all a digression from the subject of this chapter, but it's interesting where a small detail in a commentary can take the mind, even more to think about than usual.
    If you've read this far, thank you for your patience if this is slightly incoherent. I wrote a longer post which I managed to lose just before posting (all typed with one finger on the phone) impermanence, gah.

    Gassho
    Meitou
    Sattoday lah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

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