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Thread: Thoughts on Kokyo, the eternal mirror

  1. #1

    Thoughts on Kokyo, the eternal mirror

    Hello Sangha,

    today I picked the Shobogenzo out of my shelf and looked at the Kokyo/The eternal mirror-Chapter. I remembered that I found it very inspiring.
    I try to read the Shobogenzo in the manner Nishijima was stressing out when he emphasized the three philosophies and one reality. But I'm not sure if i get it the right way...
    So, as far as I understand Dogen, he speaks about the metaphor of a mirror that reflects everything and has no beginning nor end.
    While we can make it an idea, a concept we will miss it. It's just another thought appearing in the mirror, we (the mirror) can never see itself in purity, yet all the reflections are not separated from the mirror.

    While reading, I reminded myself of Sekkei Harada, when he spoke about consciousness in a way that sounds pretty materialistic almost kind of stoistic to me. And for sure it's right in some way... Consciousness depends on factors like birth and so on, and we are the five skandhas.
    He said that the function of the skandhas are the true self that depends on causes and conditions. So, to see thoughts, emotions, feelings, body, desire, attachment and so on are just functions itself... I said it sounds stoic because I feel reminded of quotes like, I think it was Epicurus who said something like "death is nothing to us, because a dead body experiences no sensation, no good and bad, and the absence of sensation is nothing to us".

    I agree, yet, I think it seems very materialistic, almost nihilistic.
    So, holding a concept of a mirror, like a universal consciousness that embraces everything and reducing everything to the skandhas and "when I die the entire universe dies with me (kodo Sawaki)" / when matter dies, consciousness cannot be established and there's nothing left - both are like the two extremes nishijima was talking about. Both are right in some way but cannot bring our understanding beyond the intellectual understanding.

    Therefore it seems like with our actions and with the action of zazen we can realize that mirror which is always there - if we, or not, are entangled with this reflections. and when the day comes and this body-mind-system will die, probably there will no reflection remain. The mirror cannot perceive itself, but it is beyond life and death, beyond existence and non existence. And if there will be something in the mirror, we cannot speak of death at all.

    Sorry for so much text



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    Last edited by Horin; 02-03-2021 at 10:17 PM.

  2. #2
    I don't know about everyone else, but when it comes to Dogen and practice in general I have more questions than answers, which is the way it should be imho. I am suspicious of answers to things that cannot be understood by the intellect, so good luck trying to explain those things with a binary language

    So I wanted to say something in particular about the idea that we create our universe and it dies with us when we die. I am saying this because I want to put myself out there and be corrected; I mean one of the powers of this sangha is that we grow with each other but our practice can only grow if we can see each other's understanding.

    At the same time, as it says in One Bright Pearl, this is the way of things; what use is understanding? hahahaah Still we do need to understand or at least know what we don't know. So that's where I'm coming from with this - I want to know what I don't know to keep heading in the right direction. To circle back - which is why a Sangha and teacher are so critical - to make sure we don't get into our heads and go off in weird directions.

    What is the use of understanding? Well our typical way of understanding is to get something intellectually so we can do something with that knowledge. But the understanding of practice is different; I Know when I try to understand Dogen or the Heart Sutra or something of that nature, my want of understanding can come from a place of wanting to get something - give me a trophy because of my understanding; but the real understanding is understanding in a way that informs our practice and makes us better.

    I mean if we get things intellectually and can pontificate over philosophical concepts all day, great; but that is not practice. We want to understand emptiness when we can't even put our slippers away properly. How can we even begin to scratch the surface of real understanding when we don't care for what needs to be taken care of in our own lives?

    So when I hear things like this - it reminds me of the Mu koan; just Mu - come back here; there is no use in that understanding that wants to categorize things that will never or can never fit into our narrow views of how things are - even though we need those views to live and function.

    Anyway - when I hear that the universe dies with us- I htink that's pointing to the fact that what we experience is all created by our minds to some extent - it's not that it's not real, but our mind interprets input and creates that to make sense of things. SO we only see a small fraction of what is there - of what we are.

    It's not that our experience isn't real - there is something but we are part of it - probably moreso than we know - it is us. And our perspective is unique to us. We may see something out there called a chair; but that chair is in my mind - it's not even a chair - and how you see it is different than me; although we share this miracle of consciousness that allows us to share this experience together. But when I die, my experience and world dies wiht me.

    So it's not that I create my experience but maybe my experience creates me, or creates us; and it's probably more like this is all one bright pearl afterall. However it is reflected in each one of us - because we are each ourselves too.

    TOo many words - afterall, as Sawaki roshi said "All of Buddhism is a footnote to zazen". What good is my bullcrap pontificating when I can't even wash my bowl or put away my slippers in teh zendo as Jundo roshi pointed out.


    Last edited by Risho; 02-04-2021 at 05:19 PM.

  3. #3
    Thanks risho,
    I loved that. You are right. At least Zen is zazen and not about philosophizing. And if we try to understand it, it's like you said, the questions will never cease




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  4. #4
    Thank you for posting! It gave me an excuse to re-read the fascicle.
    If a Clear Mirror encounters a Clear Mirror it is shattered into myriad bits. Nice.
    From the Nishijima translation of Kokyo:
    "That which experiences being shattered into hundreds of pieces is the Clear Mirror, because when you give expression to the Clear Mirror, It is shattered into hundreds of pieces."
    When I read the sentence in backwards order it seems clearer:
    "...when you give expression to the Clear Mirror It (note the capitalization) is shattered into hundreds of pieces... That which experiences being shattered into hundreds of pieces is the Clear Mirror"
    To me, this is akin to Dongshan's statement "It now is me, I am not it"
    We experience life/the universe/everything only through "walls, fences, stones, tiles"
    When we sit zazen the Clear Mirror faces the Clear Mirror and shatters into hundreds of pieces.


    法 Dharma
    口 Mouth

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Hoko View Post
    Dongshan's statement "It now is me, I am not it
    Hey Hoko! Good seeing you around I love that statement



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