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Thread: Dogen and Seng Ts"an

  1. #1

    Dogen and Seng Ts"an

    I've been reading "The Zen Master's Dance", and am struck by the similarity with some concepts from "Faith in Mind", a poem by Seng Ts'an, a 7th century Chinese Ch'an master. Dogen says "However, if there is but a hairís breadth gap, the separation is as wide as between heaven and earth; and if a trace of disparity or preference arises, the mind becomes lost in confusion.", while Seng Ts'an says "The Supreme Way is not difficult
    If only you do not pick and choose.
    Neither love nor hate,
    And you will clearly understand.
    Be off by a hair,
    And you are as far from it as heaven from earth.
    If you want the Way to appear,
    Be neither for nor against.
    For and against opposing each other
    This is the mind's disease.
    Without recognizing the mysterious principle
    It is useless to practice quietude."

    Am I correct to conclude that Dogen was at least familiar with the work of Seng Ts'an, and possibly based his work on that of Seng?

    Thank you

    Gassho

    Dick

    SAT/lah

  2. #2
    Seng T'san is the 3rd patriarch of Zen, so I'm certain Dogen would have known of him.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sengcan

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

    PS -> In reading my response, I realized it may sound trite or condescending, but that is not my intent
    Last edited by Risho; 01-25-2021 at 09:37 PM.

  3. #3
    Hi Dick

    As Risho says, Seng T'san was held to be the Third Zen Patriarch/Ancestor so it is highly likely that Dōgen knew of him and Hsin Hsin Ming (Faith in Mind). At present there are doubts that Seng T'san was the author but, nevertheless, it exists and Dōgen would almost certainly have read it.

    The line talking about separating Heaven from Earth has been said to be influenced by Taoist thinking but you are right that Dōgen does use a comparable phrase in Fukan Zazengi and I noticed the similarity myself. I was wondering if it might have come from a translator picking up on the earlier work but a comparison of three different translations all contain similar wording:

    Yokoi &Victoria - However, if there is the slightest difference in the beginning between you and the Way, the result will be a greater
    separation than between heaven and earth. If the slightest dualistic thinking arises, you will lose your Buddha-mind.


    Nishijima & Cross - However, if there is a thousandth or a hundredth of a gap, the separation is as great as that between heaven and earth; and if a trace of disagreement arises, we lose the mind in confusion.

    Waddell & Abe - And yet if there is the slightest discrepancy, the Way is as distant as heaven from earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion.

    (https://terebess.hu/zen/dogen/Fukanzazengi.html#3)


    Thank you for the question, Dick!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 01-25-2021 at 11:19 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.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    At present there are doubts that Seng T'san was the author
    Why???? Must all of our hagiographies be falsehoods?

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  5. #5
    Why???? Must all of our hagiographies be falsehoods?
    Haha! Yes, it can rather feel like that!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Dick View Post

    Am I correct to conclude that Dogen was at least familiar with the work of Seng Ts'an, and possibly based his work on that of Seng?
    As has been pointed out, there is some doubt among historians that Seng Ts'an was the actual author, and certain phrasings and style elements lead them to believe it was from a later century, although that does not take away a drop from the brilliance of the teaching at all.

    However, it is without doubt that DJ Dogen was pretty much sampling that text when spinning his introduction to Fukanzazengi.

    Dogen:

    And yet, if a hair's breadth of
    distinction exists, the gap is like that between heaven and earth; once the slightest like and dislike arises, all
    is confused and the mind is lost
    Xinxin Ming:

    The Supreme Way is not difficult
    If only you do not pick and choose.
    Neither love nor hate,
    And you will clearly understand.
    Be off by a hair,
    And you are as far from it as heaven from earth.
    In other teachings, Dogen quotes it directly, such as 5-371 in the Eihei Koroku:

    371. Dharma Hall Discourse

    Here is a saying. The third ancestor, Great Teacher [Jianzhi Sengcan], in “Inscription on Faith in Mind” said, “The supreme way is not difficult; only disdain picking and choosing.” Great assembly, have you ever studied the third ancestor’s meaning? Tell me, what is the third ancestor’s meaning?

    Passing through three kalpas, without fail we arrive; passing through numberless kalpas, without fail we arrive; without arising from our seat, without fail we arrive; without arising in a single moment, without fail we arrive. Therefore, [the third ancestor] said, “The supreme way is not difficult.” Simply to disdain picking and choosing is like a garuda not eating anything but dragons.

    [Okumura-Leighton Comment: "A garuda is a mythological Indian bird that is a guardian of the Dharma ... famed for eating dragons. ... In this Dharma hall discourse, Dogen is pointing out a paradox in the Inscription on Faith in Mind. Disdaining or avoiding is a kind of preference, a kind of picking and choosing. But for garudas it is simply natural to eat dragons; for Buddhist practitioners it is simply natural to follow the way."]
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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