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Thread: Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition Begins Week of 11 April 2021

  1. #51
    Quote Originally Posted by Nengei View Post
    2. Is my individual practice different from community practice? Should it be? How does Okumura answer this question?
    Okumura roshi uses the example of the Tenzo. When the cook is in the kitchen preparing the meals, that's his practice and his responsibility alone. No other person can do it for him. And yet, his practice affects all other members of the community since meals are for people to consume. That way his practice becomes the community's practice.
    As I see it, that's how it should be. My life is mine to live and no one can do the 'living' for me. But I am a social animal too. I live for others and others live for me. I am there to support people and I expect people to support me. I only wish I could see the more subtle ways of this truth. I feel one aspect of the self is hidden in it too. But then, that's why we practice zazen every day!

    Gassho, Nikolas
    Sat/Lah

  2. #52
    Quote Originally Posted by Nikos View Post
    Okumura roshi uses the example of the Tenzo. When the cook is in the kitchen preparing the meals, that's his practice and his responsibility alone. No other person can do it for him. And yet, his practice affects all other members of the community since meals are for people to consume. That way his practice becomes the community's practice.
    As I see it, that's how it should be. My life is mine to live and no one can do the 'living' for me. But I am a social animal too. I live for others and others live for me. I am there to support people and I expect people to support me. I only wish I could see the more subtle ways of this truth. I feel one aspect of the self is hidden in it too. But then, that's why we practice zazen every day!

    Gassho, Nikolas
    Sat/Lah
    I like that Nikolas

    Doshin
    St

  3. #53
    Quote Originally Posted by Nengei View Post
    1. Okumura offers a few different interpretations of kōan, and focuses most of his discussion on this portion of the word Genjōkōan. He suggests that Dōgen's choice of kanji implies meaning. Still, I wonder whether there was an individual meaning that was Dōgen's intention, or whether the collective meanings of this word are important. Or, maybe none of that matters because the greater meaning comes from context. Thoughts?
    While searching for Dogen's meaning is certainly one approach to a text, I'm not sure the fact an interpretation fits Dogen's meaning is ultimately the most important criteria. Interpretations are layered on the text by different commentators, and it seems that multi-layered approach creates both a poetic richness and many fingers pointing at the moon.

    2. Is my individual practice different from community practice? Should it be? How does Okumura answer this question?
    SN 47.19
    Trans by Bhante Sujato
    At one time the Buddha was staying in the land of the Sumbhas, near the town of the Sumbhas called Sedaka. There the Buddha addressed the mendicants:
    “Once upon a time, mendicants, an acrobat set up his bamboo pole and said to his apprentice Medakathālikā, ‘Come now, dear Medakathālikā, climb up the bamboo pole and stand on my shoulders.’
    ‘Yes, teacher,’ she replied. She climbed up the bamboo pole and stood on her teacher’s shoulders.
    Then the acrobat said to Medakathālikā, ‘You look after me, dear Medakathālikā, and I’ll look after you. That’s how, guarding and looking after each other, we’ll display our skill, collect our fee, and get down safely from the bamboo pole.’
    When he said this, Medakathālikā said to her teacher, ‘That’s not how it is, teacher! You should look after yourself, and I’ll look after myself. That’s how, guarding and looking after ourselves, we’ll display our skill, collect our fee, and get down safely from the bamboo pole.’
    That’s the way,” said the Buddha. “It’s just as Medakathālikā said to her teacher. Thinking ‘I’ll look after myself,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Thinking ‘I’ll look after others,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Looking after yourself, you look after others; and looking after others, you look after yourself.
    And how do you look after others by looking after yourself? By development, cultivation, and practice of meditation. And how do you look after yourself by looking after others? By acceptance, harmlessness, love, and sympathy.
    Thinking ‘I’ll look after myself,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Thinking ‘I’ll look after others,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation. Looking after yourself, you look after others; and looking after others, you look after yourself.”

    3. What are our particular struggles with "put[ting] aside our uniqueness" and "find[ing] the middle way" as discussed by Okumura, in our time and in our Sangha?
    Uniqueness has a dreary sameness. Toss it out with dirty dishwater, self, and other things that you are finished with.

    4. What is the self?
    What we threw out with uniqueness and dirty dishwater.

    5. Is enlightenment within this one word?
    Enlightenment is not found in words. Words are not found in enlightenment. But it's a devil of a challenge to give directions without words.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by JimInBC; 04-21-2021 at 05:16 AM.
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  4. #54
    1. Okumura offers a few different interpretations of kōan, and focuses most of his discussion on this portion of the word Genjōkōan. He suggests that Dōgen's choice of kanji implies meaning. Still, I wonder whether there was an individual meaning that was Dōgen's intention, or whether the collective meanings of this word are important. Or, maybe none of that matters because the greater meaning comes from context. Thoughts?
    I think the various interpretations are important in highlighting what Dogen meant; of course, we'll never know for sure but I feel Okumura Roshi provides a very compelling case.

    2. Is my individual practice different from community practice? Should it be? How does Okumura answer this question?
    I don't think so; I like Jim's answer above. When we practice we aren't just practicing for ourselves. We must do the practice but it is not our own. When we truly practice zazen and try to live in accord with our precepts and bodhisattva vows, we automatically include everyone - not two; I know it sounds cliche but it's not. I was thinking about a daily gatha I started reciting during last ango when I make coffee, and it's a pattern I see in gathas in general. "Making morning coffee, I vow with all sentient beings..." or whatever it is, we vow with all sentient beings because we're all here together. I like Okumura's answer to this, we can't do whatever we want willy nilly. Although we can never fully uphold our vows, precepts or sit zazen properly, when we do try to do those things (by not separating from others) then we are doing them right even as we miss the mark and try again. So by necessity, all practice involves the sangha.

    3. What are our particular struggles with "put[ting] aside our uniqueness" and "find[ing] the middle way" as discussed by Okumura, in our time and in our Sangha?
    I would say if I don't understand something, I try not to just go along. I need to make sure I'm not giving up my responsibility in understanding the dharma by just agreeing; at the same time, I don't need to disrupt the sangha. It's a balance; old ego's die hard

    4. What is the self?
    The self can be viewed as our individual selves. It's real in a sense, but it's also something we create in our minds so we can make sense of the world. But it is only real in relationship to everything else; without anything to compare it against, it doesn't exist. So it is both real and not real in a way.


    5. Is enlightenment within this one word?
    Like any word or concept (including a "self") it's a pointer; it points to something, but it's much more than that and not contained within it or anything really. When you say a word, it has a definition, and definitions implicitly rely on comparison to explain the limits of what it is that is being defined. Without everything that it is not, it could not be said what it is. This is sort of related to the idea of a self. The idea of me, although I am here, only makes sense with relationship to everything else. I have no idea if that makes sense.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  5. #55
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Massachusetts, United States
    Apologies for not commenting as of yet. Life has simply been a bit overwhelming as of late, but I am now caught up with the reading and ready to jump in.

    The various interpretations of "Koan" posed by Okumura are fascinating, but I feel that they ask more questions of me than they answer. I want to sit with this one a bit longer. I suspect that Dogen did not have one, narrow meaning of the term in mind when he used it. With Dogen, there always seems to be multiple sides to his words/teachings, which is what makes them so wonderfully simple and rich at the same time.

    Regarding individualism vs. collectivism, etc., I was floored by Okumura's hand analogy. I'm certain that I've heard/read that analogy before, but reading it again in this moment, it resonated far more deeply at this point in my practice. This is likely due to my having been spending more time as of late reading the Sandokai and considering the whole concept of the relative vs. the absolute. Okumura's hand analogy is a wonderful way to demonstrate how neither side of the coin is any "better" or any more "real" than they other. Reality is equally both (and neither) at the same time. I often simplify this to "not one, not two, both, and neither" (I definitely stole this from someone, but I can't recall where I may have seen it first).

    Using that same lens, I consider the "self":

    self = not one
    Self (capital "s") = not two
    self + Self = Self - self

    To truly understand, perhaps we need to take the square root of self.

    Thank you Nengei and all for the discussion so far. This is a wonderful opportunity to read and reflect with you all.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  6. #56
    Thank you Seikan - your post jogged something about the community part of practice. In a way, all of life truly is a practice. We have to constantly do things in the face of the unknown. From that perspective, as I type on my computer and look around my apartment, all of me is here now because of community (the universe); I forgot where I read this (it is certainly not my original thought), but if you pay close attention it's as if the universe has intentionally conspired to bring me to this moment as I am now. This practice constantly takes me back to Gratitude; this is such a miracle, there is no other way I can put it. I certainly do not deserve any of it, so all I can do is take care of my piece (or "keep my lot" from Senne's translation of koan).

    One thing that I've noticed as a direct benefit of practice is that I sometimes feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude. I know I said it above, but practice has made me realize how miraculous it is that we are here at all. Just incredible.

    So maybe it's not like intentionally practicing to help others (although helping others isn't a bad thing); because we are so interrelated by taking care of ourselves we take care of everyone so the universe can conspire to bless them as well.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    Last edited by Risho; 04-23-2021 at 06:57 PM.

  7. #57
    .1. Okumura offers a few different interpretations of kōan, and focuses most of his discussion on this portion of the word Genjōkōan. He suggests that Dōgen's choice of kanji implies meaning. Still, I wonder whether there was an individual meaning that was Dōgen's intention, or whether the collective meanings of this word are important. Or, maybe none of that matters because the greater meaning comes from context. Thoughts?
    First of all : deep bows of gratitude and hats off to all involved in translating Shobogenzo to English. Apparently it is rare in this world to come across Dharma teachings, how more rare to be able to read Dogen. As someone who grew up speaking only Polish, I'm reminded of my great fortune of being able to learn other languages and read good translations of Ancestors' works.
    Which brings me to a question : has Senne's and Kyogo's Gosho been translated into English or other languages? It would be a treasure.
    . 2. Is my individual practice different from community practice? Should it be? How does Okumura answer this question?
    Okumara's and Dogen's examples of individual and community practice is based on a Sangha that practices the same Dharma. Not only I don't have that experience but also I live in a mega city where the community is not as strong. I never really belonged anywhere, always felt like an outcast so here's the problem of uniquness and individuality. What I've noticed though is that my individual practice reflects on my immediate environment that has became more peaceful. Triggers, anger, stress that previously would have blown into something big, don't carry so much weight anymore and are easier to exstinguish before a spark becomes a flame. I also notice beauty in random people, where previously there often would be some sort of judgment. That little shift affects how I relate to others and I find those exchanges more valuable. Through my personal practice I am finding ways of how to be of service to others. Step by step, smile by smile.
    .4. What is the self?

    I only know what it's not.

    . 5. Is enlightenment within this one word?
    I think it's one of the best descriptions of enlightenment expressed in one word. Genjokoan. Not a particular state to achieve but an action, a practice that deepens with the realisation of Dharma, be it gradual or sudden. Expressing the absolute within and through the relative. Expressing timelessness through impermanence. A practice - enlightenment that seems impossible, yet we sit, chop the wood and carry the water.

    Gassho
    Sat

  8. #58
    Thanks Nengei for your questions, they made me go back and clarify my understanding of this chapter.

    Okumura's parsing of "genjokoan" provided a succinct shorthand of the meaning of both the term itself, and the work as a whole. I like that he opens the book this way, getting straight to the fundamental point of what Genjokoan is all about.

    One surprise for me is that I tend to think of form and emptiness, relative and absolute, in slightly grandiose terms - almost like cosmology and metaphysics; but Okumura adds that these can also be seen at a very personal level, in how our actions affect not only ourselves but others.

    Quote Originally Posted by Onkai View Post
    4. I’ve thought of the self as what is contained in my body and mind, but I’m learning to see that what I am is shaped by environment and circumstances and that what I do changes what is around me, becoming an extension of me, in a way. I trust the idea that I am the universe expressing itself as me, and that I express the universe, but I only get glimpses of that.
    I really liked Onkai's comment. I think maybe this is what is meant by "To study the Buddha Way is to study the self". That the "the self" extends out to encompass, and to be encompassed by, everyone and every thing. One of the most arresting parts of Genjokoan for me is the idea that enlightenment is not a mental state or an intellectual grasp of philosophical ideas, but rather a dynamic moment to moment living or manifesting of this middle way.

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    Sat Today

  9. #59
    “Heart Sutra emptiness is considered to be absolute truth in which there is no separation between the things of this world. For living beings, there are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no hand, no nothing because this reality is just functioning without any fixed entity; it is empty. And as living beings we are interconnected completely, living with all other beings; we are all one whole, all living the same life. In this way the whole universe is just one thing, as five fingers are just one hand. Yet, eyes are eyes, a nose is a nose, a tongue is a tongue, and this person, Shohaku Okumura
    I don’t know how I missed this before. We chant The Heart Sutra regularly and we’ve studied it. I’ve struggled with the concept of “emptiness “ but now that I see emptiness as an expression of the absolute it suddenly all fell into place for me.

    Like many people here Tenzo Kyokun is an important text I revisit regularly

    In Tenzo-Kyōkun (Instructions for the Cook), for example, Dōgen said that as the cook of the community we have complete responsibility for the way we work, since our cooking is our own personal practice. Yet this personal practice is more than just a personal activity since it also has a function within the community.
    I reflect on this as I go about my daily tasks.

    Thank you all for your thoughts on this section. I really enjoy reading Okumura’s writing and your thoughts


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

  10. #60
    In Chap. 2, I was struck by how equality/universality and inequality/uniqueness were presented as complimentary versus conflicting, and how reality is really a combination of the two. I perceive the world through MY senses and therefore, see things as they relate to "me", the natural center of the universe. Yet, emptiness tells us that the "me" is only a construct of my mind, and dependent origination show how everything is connected. Seeing these seemingly opposing views as the Two Truths , and as simply different ways of looking at reality was a very powerful observation. It is definitely helping me to better understand the concept of "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" as a "merging of oneness and uniqueness". The hard part, for me, will be, as Dogen says "seeing the two sides as one action". I think the starting point here, again for me, is seeing my actions like the cook in the chapter - acting not only as an individual in preparing food, but also as a part of the community - namely, the middle way.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  11. #61
    Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition WEEK 3, 25 April-1 May

    Dear Sangha, so many good ideas on the text of Realizing Genjōkōan so far. Thank you, and please keep up the good work. I am grateful for every one of your responses, but am refraining from commenting individually. My opinion on your work is like the opinion of an art critic: worthless!

    This week we are reading through page 46 in the paperback version. This includes chapter 3, Buddhist Teachings from Three Sources.

    Next week's portion will be the following chapter, through page 55 in the paperback, which is Chapter 4, Flowers Fall, Weeds Grow.

    Once you have read and considered this week's portion, please come back to this thread and comment. I will list some question ideas below. Again I will stress that these questions are not an assignment, and there are no certificates or gold stars for answering them. They are meant to evoke discussion, and you may (hopefully!) have your own questions.

    1. From reading Genjōkōan and Okumura's commentary, how does practice relate to dharma?

    2. Reflect on and discuss impermanence and emptiness as described by Okumura.

    3. Both Genjōkōan and the Heart Sutra could be considered fundamental to the paradigm of Sōtō Zen Buddhism. How does Okumura reconcile the seeming contradictions in these texts? How does Dōgen's statement about the nature of the Buddha Way help our understanding?

    4. What is practice?

    I look forward to your thoughts about Buddhist Teachings from Three Sources.

    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.

  12. #62




    aprapti

    sat

    Let silence take you to the core of life (Rumi)


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  13. #63
    Thank you, Nengei, for continuing this discussion and moving it along. I think this reading shows how practice itself can become samsara, but also, whatever we throw ourselves into can be an attachment or seen as illustrating the nature of impermanence and no fixed being. In Treeleaf, especially, it is emphasized that all of life is our practice. Re-reading this chapter put that in a new perspective for me.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  14. #64
    Thank you! This has been a very good discussion.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  15. #65
    4. What is practice?

    What is Practice
    Practice is What
    What's That?
    That's What!

    Gassho
    Meishin
    SatTodayLAH

  16. #66
    Chap3. gave me a lot to chew on. The concept of “samsara” has always troubled me, because it quickly evolves into the difficult concepts of rebirth and the associated realms of rebirth. Okumura provides a different view on this by seeing samsara as simply daily emotional ups and downs, moment by moment, and by seeing the realms of rebirth as simply momentary emotional states – sometimes we are in heaven, sometimes we are in hell. This makes me see rebirth as not an “after death” event, but rather as a moment-by-moment change. The idea of “opening the hand of thought” was especially powerful to me. It lets me see zazen as not attempting to achieve anything, but rather just observe things as they are. The phrase “scenery of life” is staying with me as a reminder to simply accept the ups and downs of life. Dogen’s “Buddha’s Way” seems to say the same thing with simple acceptance of what is happening in life without any analysis or judgement. What most struck me in Chap 3. Was the statement “… When we just open the hand of thought and face whatever we are facing, we can truly find peace. We don’t need to escape and go somewhere else; we just live right now, right here, with mindfulness. This is how we can find a way to live in nirvana within samsara.”

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  17. #67
    I'm still going through this chapter, it's dense.
    A question for you : has practice helped to bring to light your own delusions, projections, certain patterns? How did that feel to you?
    I'm constantly discovering unpleasant things about how I function in relation to others, and this annoying need to Know, that only creates concepts and more delusions...

    Turns out that I don't understand Zen. I thought that "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" and even "form is form, emptiness is emptiness" means inseparable play of matter and consciousness. But apparently according to Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu the only thing that exists is consciousness and matter is delusion. A hermit's quote from the movie "Among the white clouds" struck me hard. When asked if nature supports his practice he replied something in those lines: "There's no nature. Nature is delusion, delusion is nature."
    Now I'll be digging in Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, so expect some silly questions soon on the forum

    Gassho
    Sat
    Last edited by Inshin; 04-30-2021 at 01:57 PM.

  18. #68
    Quote Originally Posted by Inshin View Post

    Turns out that I don't understand Zen. I thought that "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" and even "form is form, emptiness is emptiness" means inseparable play of matter and consciousness. But apparently according to Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu the only thing that exists is consciousness and matter is delusion. A hermit's quote from the movie "Among the white clouds" struck me hard. When asked if nature supports his practice he replied something in those lines: "There's no nature. Nature is delusion, delusion is nature."
    Now I'll be digging in Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, so expect some silly questions soon on the forum
    Been avoiding to jump in here, but perhaps this has a few misunderstandings.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #69
    Okumura writes “…often we fear the loss of everything that our happiness depends upon. And since other people want to have happiness or success, life becomes a competition with others. If we are happy, others may try to take our happiness from us in order to gain their own happiness. Competition makes society a realm of the fighting spirits (asuras) in which some people are happy and some are unhappy.”

    Capitalism, at least American-style Capitalism is based on competition. The question becomes – Is Buddhism compatible with American-style Captailism? Is Buddhism compatible with American culture? If not, how do we live a Buddhist life within a Capitalist society? Perhaps, that is the challenge.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  20. #70
    Quote Originally Posted by Dick View Post
    Okumura writes “…often we fear the loss of everything that our happiness depends upon. And since other people want to have happiness or success, life becomes a competition with others. If we are happy, others may try to take our happiness from us in order to gain their own happiness. Competition makes society a realm of the fighting spirits (asuras) in which some people are happy and some are unhappy.”

    Capitalism, at least American-style Capitalism is based on competition. The question becomes – Is Buddhism compatible with American-style Captailism? Is Buddhism compatible with American culture? If not, how do we live a Buddhist life within a Capitalist society? Perhaps, that is the challenge.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah
    https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcas...=1000490050932

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

  21. #71
    For the past 1/2 year or so I have made reciting the Heart Sutra a key part of my daily practice. I end up reciting it several times a day. I am certainly very glad to have built up that familiarity with it given the focus Okumura puts on it in the chapter.

    Too many good little nuggets in this section to quote any one as key.

    What is practice?

    Often in Zen readings we encounter the conjunction life-practice. There isn’t any obvious English word that covers this concept. Okumura and Dogen really stress this. Life is practice and practice is life. Not two. Sitting is Zazen is practice but so is cutting the grass, going to the toilet, talking a walk, sitting with a sick friend etc. I try to keep this in mind throughout my day.

    Thank you all for your thoughts on this chapter


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

  22. #72
    Quote Originally Posted by Nengei View Post
    This week we are reading through page 21 in the paperback version. This includes chapter 2, "The Meaning of "Genjōkōan." For me, the first paragraphs of this chapter set me up to think that the chapter will be as dry as sand in a desert. It's not that way at all, though! Okumura's exploration of the meaning of the word Genjōkōan is rich with teaching. Parts of this chapter are some of my favorite in the book. I hope that you find it so, as well.
    I am joining this reading late. I'm currently reading chapter 2 and enjoying the discussion on the meaning of the kanjis in Genjōkōan. I did not expect to find this part of the book so interesting at all, like Nengei said, it is not dry but very fascinating. Then, I look forward to reading through your discussions on the topic, as I did for chapter 1. I hope to catch up to where you are all at, but if I don't catch up, I just want to say now I'm happy to have been inspired by this group to start this reading


    Charity
    sat

  23. #73
    Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition WEEK 4, 2 May - 8 May

    Dear Sangha, it is enriching to be able to read your insights on this text. Thank you for participating in this endeavor, no matter where you are in your reading. As I enjoy your comments, my old
    and burdensome teacher habits start kicking in. "Right or wrong?" "Did they read the text or are they commenting from some other position?" Recognizing my teacher-self, I smile and sit back. Not today, professor. The only journey for me to reflect on is my own. I give no As. I give no Fs. I learn from you. I can chase after the 10,000 things, or I can immerse myself in them as they float toward me.

    This coming week we will read through page 55 in the paperback version, chapter 4, Flowers Fall, Weeds Grow. What a rich chapter this is! I hope that you are able to savor it slowly, and to gently contemplate its ideas. It can be like hammering a nail, or like a flower unfolding, opening up to reflect the soft light.

    Once you have read and considered this week's portion, please come back to this thread and comment. I will list some question ideas below. These questions are not an assignment, and there are no certificates or gold stars for answering them. They are meant to evoke discussion, and you may (hopefully!) have your own questions. I liked some of the questions that were posted in the last week.

    Questions for Chapter 4: Flowers Fall, Weeds Grow

    1. What are weeds? When is the weeding finished? What makes one flower a weed, and another something to cultivate and invest in?

    2. What baggage am I carrying when I hear or see the word emptiness? In other words, what am I assigning to this term before I begin to consider this concept in the context of Zen?

    3. Okumura goes to great lengths to get us all on the same page with the concept of mayoi, delusion, and there is a lot of great advice in this section. Apply this to Master Dogen's words: Conveying oneself toward all things... ...through the self is realization. What do you find in these two, brief sentences?

    4. Practice and enlightenment are one, says Dogen. What is practice?

    I look forward to your thoughts about Flowers Fall, Weeds Grow. Next week, we will continue with the following chapter, through page 73 in the paperback, which is Chapter 5, Realization Beyond Realization.


    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.

  24. #74
    Member Seikan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Massachusetts, United States
    Thank you Nengei and all for keeping this excellent discussion moving along. I've fallen behind in the reading due to an unexpectedly busy couple of weeks, but I'll do my best to catch up this week as I am very much enjoying the reading/discussion.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  25. #75
    I'm still back on last week. That was a big and pretty amazing chapter. I don't even know where to start so I'm not going to say much - just mention a couple of personal impressions (I don't claim to be accurately presenting Okumura's views here):
    * Enlightenment and practice as moment to moment living (action or manifestation) - not a state of mind, not obtained by study, not a cure for life's ups and downs
    (tension here, since Okumura's presentation is extremely good and the feeling of "getting it" from his words could in fact be an impediment to practice?)
    * The morality of "emptiness" (specifically, "lack of independent existence") - the need to live well with others because of being both a product of and a creator of our environments

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    ST

  26. #76
    Friendships and community are flowers. Sickness and dying are weeds. In reading this chapter, it occurred to me that as I am a part of everything and everything is a part of me, I will be carried on through the myriad things regardless of what I do and it may be misguided to strive to leave a legacy I control. "All things coming and carrying practice-enlightenment through the self is realization," may be a key source of creativity. These are what this chapter leads me to reflect on.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  27. #77
    "as long as we are alive, we exist only within relationship to everything that we encounter in our lives."

    I think this quote struck me most when I first read "Realising Genjokoan" and since then my concern is not who I want to be in life, but how do I relate to everything and everyone in my life. I don't think there is a single enlightened person in this world, rather there's enlightened activity unfolding through. If this "I" is what wants to practice, wants to sit Zazen, wants Satori then this "I" will always be in the way. It's only when this "I" lessens its grip on things, when it drops completely then the practice - enlightenment can unfold itself. That's how I understand "Conveying oneself toward all things to carry out practice - enlightenment is delusion. All things coming and carrying out practice - enlightenment through the self is realisation."
    Yet we root our practice in delusion and we continue even after we're able to realise the true nature of things, because
    "delusion is not some fixed thing within our minds that, if eliminated, will be replaced by enlightenment".


    Gassho
    Sat

  28. #78
    "All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization."

    Probably my favorite quote from this chapter. For a long time I thought I could "practice" life and zen alone, but lately I see again and again how wrong this idea is.

    Gassho, Nikolas
    Sat/Lah
    Last edited by Nikos; 05-07-2021 at 05:33 PM.

  29. #79
    Flowers fall even though we love them and weeds grow even though we dislike them
    is one of the classic quotes from Genjokoan and one I come back to often because it is such a vivid statement about how our preferences influence our perspectives and actions. I garden and because my house is on a corner lot I have large plot of land to care for. When I moved into the neighborhood 20+ years ago Canada still allowed for the use of harsh herbicides. Many people in pursuit of that ideal lawn used herbicides. More than 15 years ago the domestic use of herbicide was prohibited. Over time the lawns have all become more naturalized. Clover is one ground cover that is divisive. Some people don’t like it because it isn’t grass but others like me actually seed it into our lawns because it is beneficial to both the health of the lawn but also to the pollenating bees etc. For some clover is a weed to be eradicated. For others clover is desirable. It is just perspective. The clover is just clover. How we view it determines whether we see it as good or bad.

    Thank you all for your perspectives on this chapter.


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

  30. #80
    Inshin and Nikos beat me to those quotes. Here's another one in a similar vein that I really liked:

    Our lives are the intersection of self and all things
    Nengei, thanks for your questions:
    4. Practice and enlightenment are one, says Dogen. What is practice?
    At a mundane level it's just me sitting (and only sitting) in silence and remaining open (as Okumuru repeats here "Opening the hand of thought"). At a more sacred level (say) it is a moment of communion at that intersection point between my subjective self and all of reality.

    I'm still not all that clear on how the sense fields are "prajna" ("wisdom that sees wisdom" - seems to imply that truth is perceived through the sense but I thought elsewhere that enlightenment was not sensory or intellectual?)

    Also, curious as to why Dogen adds "in realization" to this (maybe it's because at some level we are already enlightened?)

    Those who are greatly deluded in realization are living beings
    Gassho,
    Kevin
    STLAH

  31. #81
    That's because we are already enlightened , but we have to manifest that enlightenment in our lives; these aren't my words - just paraphrasing; Dogen's hallmark is that all of our life is sacred because all of our life is an opportunity to practice; practice and enlightenment are the same thing. I'm currently reading "Circle of the Way" by Barbara O'brien - to reiterate Jundo and Kirk (from the podcast) it is very good. It seems Dogen got sick and tired of lazy practitioners and made the focus back on practice again, which really led to a revitalization of zazen, which is why Soto is so popular along with Dogen today.

    "nothing is hidden" and there is no where to seek for what you already have, but to realize that you need to really engage with your life to see that even dirty diapers (which I'm now very accustomed ) is the great matter itself. This is why I love zazen; it isn't an escape, it's a practical engagement with our miraculous, crazy short wild ride on this planet.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    Last edited by Risho; 05-08-2021 at 10:12 PM.

  32. #82
    Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition WEEK 4, 9 May - 15 May

    Dear Sangha, it seems that others have enjoyed Flowers Fall, Weeds Grow as much as I. Thank you for your insightful responses to this chapter.

    If you are just joining us, there is time to catch up! This is an open group, and I hope you feel welcome to read with us.

    This coming week we will read through page 73 in the paperback version, chapter 5, Realization Beyond Realization. This chapter... whoa!

    Once you have read and considered this week's portion, please come back to this thread and comment. Below are some ideas for questions to think about as your read, and perhaps to stimulate the conversation and posts. Remember that these are questions that I pulled from my reading, not in any way meant as an assignment.

    Questions for Chapter 5: Realization Beyond Realization

    1. Repentance can be a heavy concept for people from some religious backgrounds. What baggage am I bringing into my self-talk with regards to repentance? Is repentance in Sōtō Zen any different than, say, the burden of sin in other religious traditions (and how)?

    2. Is the non-separateness of all living beings simply a paradigm (a lens through which we see the universe)? Is zazen practice? Why do zazen (this is discussed further in the chapter)?

    3. Delusion "... is the reality of human life." How is delusion different from suffering? Consider delusion within delusion and self-centered practice. What do I want from practice?

    4. What is "the unity of object and subject?"

    I look forward to your thoughts about Realization Beyond Realization. Next week, we will continue with the following chapter, through page 92 in the paperback, which is Chapter 6, Dropping Off Body and Mind.


    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.
    Last edited by Nengei; 05-11-2021 at 01:56 AM.

  33. #83
    Thank you to everyone participating on this thread.

    After reading this chapter, I think a difference in repentance in our practice from many other traditions is that we know our views and understandings are limited, and we expect and accept that we need to constantly correct ourselves. It isn't that we're damned, but that there is something to let go. Of course, if I find I've done harm, I regret it as well.

    The non-separateness of all things is a different way of seeing things, but if I don't recognize interconnectedness, I'm likely to make mistakes in how I expect things to work.

    Delusions can be happy delusions, but they don't last. Impermanence and interdependence intrude on delusions. I want to learn to see reality and find a certain peace with reality through my practice.

    Unity of object and subject is what is experienced when the sense of self drops away. Everything is one. Psychologically, it may be the experience of flow.

    Thank you for the questions, Nengei. They were fruitful to reflect on. In writing this post I feel like the visitor a Zen master poured tea for so it overflowed and said it was like the visitor's flow of words so nothing could be taught to him. I will stop now and look forward to what others post.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  34. #84
    "People nowadays rarely seek genuine reality. Therefore, though they are deficient in practice with their bodies and deficient in realization with their minds, they seek the praise of others, wanting others to say that their practice and their understanding are equal. This is exactly what is called delusion within delusion. You should immediately abandon such mistaken thinking."

    How often the way we relate to others in our Sangha, the way we ask questions to our teachers comes from self referential point, serves to validate our selves : is my practice good enough? Was my experience valid, meaningful and pointing to something? Etc.


    As long as there is this sense of "I" that practices, this "I" will be an obstacle. Yet we have to root our practice in delusion. How else can we do it? How do we address this self-referentiality, the need of self validation in our beginners practice? Is being mindful of this tendencies when they arise enough?

    "Our practice is to realize great realization within this great realization, moment by moment; or perhaps it is better to say that great realization realizes great realization through our practice."

    I found something similar in Master's Torei writings, who points out that the true practice continues from the point of realizing the the great realization, realizing the truth moment by moment.

    How do we work to dissolve this fixation on self?

    Gassho
    Sat

  35. #85
    1. Repentance can be a heavy concept for people from some religious backgrounds. What baggage am I bringing into my self-talk with regards to repentance? Is repentance in Sōtō Zen any different than, say, the burden of sin in other religious traditions (and how)?

    Christian/Catholic repentance and Buddhist repentance both begin with a critical self-examination of past behavior. However, while this Christian examination compares behavior with external standar4ds ( i.e. God’s Commandments), the Buddhist examination compares our behavior against internal standards. The Christian goal of repentance is to receive external approval and forgiveness from an external being (i.e. God). Repentance is done to please God, and involves a great deal of guilt and fear of punishment. In Buddhism, repentance is “lighter” and simply acknowledges our deviation from our own path, and a determination to return to the path we have internally chosen.

    2. Is the non-separateness of all living beings simply a paradigm (a lens through which we see the universe)? Is zazen practice? Why do zazen (this is discussed further in the chapter)?

    In our daily living, we have no choice but to live self-centered lives. We experience the world thru our six senses (five form senses plus thought) which automatically place us as the “subject” and everything else as the “object” in a world in which we are the center. Everything is experienced in relation to “I”. This results in a self-centered, dualistic view of reality. We just assume that this conventional reality is “correct”.
    In zazen, we”… let go of our ego-centered selves and become one with the total interpenetrating reality that is universal reality, or absolute reality.” We become less self-centered and non-dualistic. Zazen allows us to see ultimate reality in a different, more authentic way. One way is not better, or “right”. Neither are they contradictory. The two views compliment each other and together form a true reality.

    3. Delusion "... is the reality of human life” How is delusion different from suffering? Consider delusion within delusion and self-centered practice. What do I want from practice?

    Delusion produces greed (attachment) which results in suffering. Even within zazen, I can remain deluded by thinking that “I” exists, and by “wanting” something from zazen, by striving to attain something.
    What do I want from practice? To see reality in a non self-centered, non-dualistic manner, without greed or “wanting”, to radically accept everything just as it is.

    4. What is "the unity of object and subject?"

    The realization that they are separate and yet the same, the dependent origination of all things.

    I really liked Inshin's comment "...As long as there is this sense of "I" that practices, this "I" will be an obstacle. Yet we have to root our practice in delusion." I keep this in mind not only during zazen, but throughout my daily practice. Very helpful.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  36. #86
    Repentance can be a heavy concept for people from some religious backgrounds. What baggage am I bringing into my self-talk with regards to repentance? Is repentance in Sōtō Zen any different than, say, the burden of sin in other religious traditions (and how)?
    I think there may be an interesting difference between people brought up in Buddhist cultures and those who grew up in Christian ones. Christianity assumes that we are born with the original sin, in Buddhism we believe in basic goodness in everyone. For me it's a striking difference. I see repentance as sort of mindfulness. During the day I notice where I might have been of my Precepts Way, and in a compassionate manner try to understand why. That's the most sufficient way for me to dissolve the habitual patterns.

    Gassho
    Sat

  37. #87
    I am now up to date on these chapters . I have really been enjoying this book, especially this last chapter has been so rich and rewarding for orienting me in practice. I will just respond to a couple of questions—thank you Nengei for setting these prompts for discussion and to everyone for this discussion thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nengei View Post
    2. Is the non-separateness of all living beings simply a paradigm (a lens through which we see the universe)? Is zazen practice? Why do zazen (this is discussed further in the chapter)?
    Yes. Or, kind of?

    Yes, because all conceptions we have about reality using words to talk about it are just lenses through which we see the universe, since reality as we see (express?) on the cushion is not graspable with our conceptual mind.

    Or, kind of, because the concept the words “non-separateness of all living beings” tries to capture/describe is reality.

    Why do zazen? To bring the light of this reality we cannot see conceptually into our lives so that we can live expressing Buddha rather than only struggling for our ‘selves’.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nengei View Post
    3. Delusion "... is the reality of human life." How is delusion different from suffering? Consider delusion within delusion and self-centered practice. What do I want from practice?
    Delusion is always there so long as there are separate living beings, the separateness is the delusion. Suffering happens to living beings who do not realize that this is delusion.

    I liked the comments by Okumura about how a self-centred goal is what drives us to get on the cushion in the first place. But then in practice we realize this too is delusion because there is no independent self? So... what do I want from practice? Just before I sit, to see reality. But when sitting, to just let this desire go and let it all go. At least, this is how I’m understanding it at the moment…

    ,
    Charity
    SatLaH

  38. #88
    Great section. Thank you all for reading along and your thoughts.

    In zazen, our practice is to let go of our fabricated mental map, to open the hand of thought, and thereby sit down on the ground of reality. Thinking can only produce a distorted mental copy of the world, and this copy is based on karmic experiences.
    Okamura uses this phrase of sitting down on the ground of reality (my emphasis) several times in this section. I really like the image it portrays. Being grounded and firm, not floating along maybe lost in our own worlds but here and now firmly grounded in reality

    1. Is repentance in Sōtō Zen any different than, say, the burden of sin in other religious traditions (and how)?

    I can’t really say how they are different. Although i come from a Christian background I don’t think repentance played a big part. Maybe it plays a bigger part in some other Christian traditions like Catholic Church. I know that Atonement has become a big part of my practice. I recite the Verse of Atonement each night before bed, recalling specific moments where I could have done better, particularly as it comes to the Precepts.

    2. Is the non-separateness of all living beings simply a paradigm (a lens through which we see the universe)? Is zazen practice? Why do zazen (this is discussed further in the chapter)?

    I don’t see how it can be simply a paradigm. At the very least we are obviously here because of our parents and they are (were) here because of their parents. The food we eat comes from somewhere. So does the water. What about the air?

    3. Delusion "... is the reality of human life." How is delusion different from suffering? Consider delusion within delusion and self-centered practice. What do I want from practice?

    Delusion is a form of suffering.

    4. What is "the unity of object and subject?"

    Every moment.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    Last edited by Tairin; 05-16-2021 at 01:48 PM.
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  39. #89
    Hello Sangha,

    My apologies for being a couple of days behind; I have been traveling and I have been ill. The timing was fortuitous a I had already planned to have the first of two extra weeks for folks to catch up and/or make progress on what we have covered so far.

    Such nice replies, and thoughtful responses so far!

    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.

  40. #90
    Metta, Nengei. I hope you feel better soon. Thank you for facilitating this discussion.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  41. #91
    Nengei - I'll echo Onkai's comments. Thanks for facilitating this discussion. It is appreciated.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  42. #92
    Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition WEEK 6, 23 May - 29 May


    Dear Sangha, what fantastic responses folks had to Chapter 5, Realization Beyond Realization! I am please to see you participating, and if you are just joining us, welcome!

    We had one extra week built in to allow anyone who needed to catch up to do so. And now we will move on to Chapter 6: Dropping Off Body and Mind. This will take us through 92 in the paperback; all of chapter 6 for you electronic readers.

    Once you have read and considered this week's portion, please come back to this thread and comment. Below are some ideas for questions to think about as your read, and perhaps to stimulate the conversation and posts. Remember that these are questions that I pulled from my reading, not in any way meant as an assignment. There are no right or wrong answers, an it is fine to not answer or to come up with your own questions.

    Questions for Chapter 6: Dropping Off Body and Mind:

    1. What is the self? Is there a self? Has your concept of self changed through these readings and Dharma practice in general?

    2. What does opening the hand of thought mean to you? Can you relate opening the hand of thought to becoming familiar with the self?

    3. What was Dōgen saying when he wrote of dropping off body and mind? What is meant by be verified by all things?

    Okay, those are heavy duty questions.


    I look forward to your thoughts about Realization Beyond Realization. Next week, we will continue with the following chapter, through page 107 in the paperback, which is Chapter 7, When We Seek We are Far Away.


    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.
    Last edited by Nengei; 06-01-2021 at 01:31 AM.

  43. #93
    Thank you to everyone on this thread. There's a lot to reflect on. My sense of self has softened since starting my practice. I find different responses to situations and different results. Who I am was not defined ahead of time. I can see intellectually that in a sense there is no self at all, yet my deepest feeling is that there is an individual, or at least an individuality experiencing the relative world. I guess that is where opening the hand of thought comes in. That to me is setting aside, for a time, my goals, wishes, and emotions, letting them arise but then watching them give way to the next thing or mix differently with different parts of my understanding. My experiences of dropping off body and mind are when I forget myself in what I am doing, and what I'm doing becomes the whole universe to me. That may be a misunderstanding, because it isn't so much related to zazen. Lately I have been restless in zazen making me self-conscious.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  44. #94
    1. What is the self? Is there a self? Has your concept of self changed through these readings and Dharma practice in general?

    A person experiences the world thru their 6 senses ( 5 conventional form senses plus thought). For example, when the eye first perceives an image of a tree, the information is transmitted to the brain. That information is compared with past experiences, “stories” of similar phenomena, and an “object” is created, with the brain as the “subject”. The entire world, the universe is experienced in relation to this brain, this “subject”. This brain, this “subject” is our created “self”. This self is our own creation and is constantly changing as it receives and processes new experiences.
    We delude ourselves into believing that: 1. this “self” is independently real, 2. this self is a separate subject and that everything else in the universe is an object and 3. that everything that happens is only important in as far as it affects the self.
    Emptiness teaches us that there is no permanent self, and that everything is subject to dependent origination. Chap. 6 takes this one step further and seems to propose that while a self of some kind does exist, it only exists in conjunction with the object being perceived and the action of perception. Chap. 6 approaches the question of the self with “…there is no such thing as a self that is separate from our activity…” (italics mine). This refutes the subject-object duality and posits that the subject (self), object and action are linked and working together in one reality. To understand the self, you really need to look at everything.
    I used not think that the self existed, but just not in a permanent, unchanging manner. I can now see that this thinking perpetuated a dualistic, “me vs them” way of thinking. It prevented me from seeing the true connected-ness of everything. In zazen we drop all thoughts of self, drop all judgements, evaluations, opinions and just accept everything as it is. I can see that this is not just a “tolerance” for different things, but rather a true acceptance that everything is just as it should be – nothing needs to be changed.

    2. What does opening the hand of thought mean to you? Can you relate opening the hand of thought to becoming familiar with the self?

    “Opening the hand of thought” is mentioned only briefly in Chap. 6 and is never explicitly defined. To me, it seems to suggest a broader view of the self beyond just the individual and to include other beings and the environment. Perhaps, this is what we do in zazen – drop our restrictions of me, mine, you, yours, good, bad, and just accept the connectedness of everything.

    3. What was Dōgen saying when he wrote of dropping off body and mind? What is meant by be verified by all things?

    “Dropping off body and mind” is zazen, in which we drop the 5 desires and the 5 coverings, just sitting with acceptance. We discard the “clothing”, the costume that we wear and see our real selvers. To be verified by all things is to realize the reality of interdependent origination, to drop the separation between self and others.

    Chap. 6 has been extremely powerful and “meaty”, with a lot of information to think on. I can tell this is a chapter I will need to re-read a number of time to fully appreciate.

    Gassho
    Dick
    Sat/lah

  45. #95
    Another thank you to Nengei for facilitating.

    I found the prompting questions this week very helpful. I had already read the chapter and when I went back to it with these questions I found a lot more. I agree with Dick that this chapter reveals more on re-reading.

    1. What is the self? Is there a self? Has your concept of self changed through these readings and Dharma practice in general?

    Okumura, explaining Dōgen, says the self cannot be separated from activity: jijuyu-zanmai (Dōgen), “self ‘selfing’ the self” (Sawaki Kōdō Rōshi), or “no runner is separate from the act of running” (Okumura).

    I like this, but I will need some time to absorb it to become my own concept of self.

    But then, it is possibly not my own ‘concept’ of self that I should expect to adjust. If the Buddha Way is beyond conceptualisation then I’m not going to ‘get it’ in the way I expect to (as a concept). This is something I have started noticing through zazen practice.

    Okumura writes, “Yet when we think or speak, we use concepts and we must therefore say, ‘I study the self,’ or ‘I study the Buddha Way.’ So the important point is that we should just study and just practice.” – i.e. just do it, don’t get stuck on conceptualising or trying to fully understand before doing. Later Okumura writes, “Even when we don’t realize it, self, action, and object are working together as one reality, so we don’t need to train ourselves to make them into one thing in our minds.”

    2. What does opening the hand of thought mean to you? Can you relate opening the hand of thought to becoming familiar with the self?

    When Okumura breaks down the words ‘study the self’ he says it is like a bird learning to fly from its parents, something already innate but that still needs to be learned by example. So from this point of view studying / becoming familiar with the self is practicing being something we already are, which we do by dropping all our concepts (opening the hand of thought).

    3. What was Dōgen saying when he wrote of dropping off body and mind? What is meant by be verified by all things?

    Dōgen took this concept from his teacher, Rujing. I found this passage of Dōgen recalling Rujing especially helpful in showing me that dropping off body and mind is linked to compassion. Combining this with the comment that dropping off body and mind is dropping the 5 desires and 5 coverings, then it is about dropping off the selfish concepts of body and mind as separate with selfish desires. As Okumura said, it is letting go of roles and self-images and the separation between self and others.

    In Hōkyōki , Dōgen recorded one more conversation with his teacher concerning dropping off body and mind:
    Rujing said, “The zazen of arhats[11] and pratyekabuddhas[12] is free of attachment yet it lacks great compassion. Their zazen is therefore different from the zazen of the buddhas and ancestors; the zazen of buddhas and ancestors places primary importance on great compassion and the vow to save all living beings. Non-Buddhist practitioners in India also practice zazen, yet they have the three sicknesses, namely attachment, mistaken views, and arrogance. Therefore, their zazen is different from the zazen of the buddhas and ancestors. Sravakas[13] also practice zazen, and yet their compassion is weak because they don’t penetrate the true reality of all beings with wisdom. They practice only to improve themselves and in so doing cut off the seeds of Buddha. Therefore, their zazen is also different from the zazen of the buddhas and ancestors. In buddhas’ and ancestors’ zazen, they wish to gather all Buddha Dharma from the time they first arouse bodhi-mind. Buddhas and ancestors do not forget or abandon living beings in their zazen; they offer a heart of compassion even to an insect. Buddhas and ancestors vow to save all living beings and dedicate all the merit of their practice to all living beings. They therefore practice zazen within the world of desire,[14] yet even within the world of desire they have the best connection with this Jambudvipa.[15] Buddhas and ancestors practice many virtues generation after generation and allow their minds to be flexible.” (pp. 58-60 in Google Play version)

    Charity
    SatLaH

  46. #96
    Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition WEEK 7, 30 May - 5 June


    Dear Sangha, it is wonderful to have folks reading along and thinking about Genjōkōan so deeply.

    This week we will move on to Chapter 7: When We Seek We Are Far Away. This will take us through page 107 in the paperback; all of chapter 7 if you are using the ebook. I love this chapter! When I read it, I feel as though it is expressing the weavings of understanding that come from experience with shikantaza. Maybe you will see something different.

    Once you have read and considered this week's portion, please come back to this thread and comment. Below are some ideas for questions to think about as your read, and perhaps to stimulate the conversation and posts. These are questions that came to me while reading the chapter; perhaps other ideas will come to you and you will share them with us. Even if you don't comment about the text, it would be nice to simply post that you are reading along.

    Questions for Chapter 7:When We Seek We Are Far Away:

    1. Okumura starts this chapter by reviewing three perspectives of reality from the first three sections of Genjōkōan. What are some reasons Dōgen might have chosen to teach in this fashion? What is the importance of "the concrete life experience of practice?"

    2. Is enlightenment dependent on recognizing delusion (On the philosophical level of: Are we born having sinned? Do the ultimate rewards of faith come from faith alone, or are good works required?)?

    3. Why do you do zazen?

    4. Does the bell make the sound, or does the wind make the sound?

    I look forward to your thoughts about When We Seek We Are Far Away. Next week, we will continue with the following chapter, through page 126 in the paperback, which is Chapter 7, Past and Future Are Cut Off.


    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.
    Last edited by Nengei; 06-01-2021 at 01:31 AM.

  47. #97
    After reading this chapter, I feel I can't say anything about it directly; I can only sit with it. Yet the chapter is satisfying, full of paradox that conveys something different every time I read it or ponder it.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  48. #98
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Apr 2020
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    Massachusetts, United States
    Onkai's above note about this chapter actually sums up my whole experience with the book so far. Each chapter has provided me with one or more unexpected "aha" moments that I continue to sit with. Why did I wait so long to read this book?

    For example, in the last Chapter (6), there was one sentence that just hit me the right way:
    "This just sitting in zazen is itself the practice of nirvana."

    Have I been taught this before? Certainly, albeit in different words/contexts. However, this particular wording was like a bolt of lightning in the middle of the night. I simply had to stop reading and just sit for a moment before finishing that chapter.

    So again, my apologies for not contributing much to the discussion so far. I have been following along and enjoying both the reading and the dialogue here. As I finish the current chapter (7), I'll see if I can't muster up something more worthwhile to share.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  49. #99
    1. Okumura starts this chapter by reviewing three perspectives of reality from the first three sections of Genjōkōan. What are some reasons Dōgen might have chosen to teach in this fashion?

    Dogen’s method follows the way many people come to understand reality, the progression most people take. First, he explains how, as non-Buddhists, we value life and living, and how we greedily pursue accumulating material things in a mistaken belief that it will make us happy. Them, he explains how, as “new” Buddhists, we learn that this greed, this attachment is a major source of our dissatisfaction, our suffering. He explains how dualistic thinking (i.e. “Me” vs everything else} remains a source of our suffering even as we learn that generosity and compassion can reduce our suffering. He then explains how, even when we zazen, if we do so in an attempt to “attain” something, to “get” something, we remain deluded. The next stage for many people is to stop striving, stop “wanting” and just accept things as they are. However, Dogen explains how most people still think of themselves as separate from everything else, viewing things from outside. The next stage is to lose the separateness, but to see everything as one, as connected, how we don’t live “with the world” but “in the world”. . Dogen explains how even this stage is not true reality. Finally, Dogen explains how seeing both separate and together, different yet unified is the true reality.

    What is the importance of "the concrete life experience of practice?"

    Here Dogen is talking about life and death, not as separate, independent phenomena, but rather as inter-dependent. Rather than thinking of death as the “end” 0of something, we are encouraged to see life and death as simply a continuation of then “dance”.

    2. Is enlightenment dependent on recognizing delusion

    Per Dogen “…delusion and enlightenment exist only in relationship between the self and all … beings…” When we act with striving, grasping, wanting, we act with delusion. Enlightenment comes when we stop grasping, stop wanting, even if that “wanting” is to “want” enlightenment. We need to recognize our deluded state, our delusion before we can escape it and reach enlightenment.

    On the philosophical level of: Are we born having sinned?

    How could I possibly be born having sinned? “When” was I supposed to have sinned? In a past life? When “I” was born, the only thing carried over from any past life might be a karma-disposed habitual tendency of how to act. Plus, all that exists is the present. The past, whatever it entails, is gone.

    Do the ultimate rewards of faith come from faith alone, or are good works required?)?

    Our primary sources of suffering are greed/attachment, anger and ignorance. Overcoming these involve generosity, compassion and wisdom realizing emptiness. Generosity and compassion generally involve good works. So, yes, ultimate “rewards” do require good works.

    3. Why do you do zazen?

    Initially, I did zazen because I wanted to “achieve” something, to “attain” something. Dogen explains how this simply replaces one attachment for another, how I remained “greedy” for something. I do zazen now to “stop thinking”, find that space between thoughts, and see how not only am I connected to everything but that I am part of everything – not to simply observe the world as a separate observer, but to see it from the inside, as a integral, inter-dependent part of everything.

    4. Does the bell make the sound, or does the wind make the sound?

    Neither. The sound does not exist independently, but rather is dependent on everything else. The sound is a result of causes and conditions – the bell, the wind, space, time, a “hearer”. Put the bell in a box, blocking the wind – no sound. Wrap the bell in a blanket – no sound. Put the bell in New York and the wind in London – no sound.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  50. #100
    I agree with Onkai and Seikan, this chapter gives a sense of needing to sit with the ideas. This is especially reinforced when Okumura discusses how he understands these concepts through practice.

    1. Okumura starts this chapter by reviewing three perspectives of reality from the first three sections of Genjōkōan. What are some reasons Dōgen might have chosen to teach in this fashion? What is the importance of "the concrete life experience of practice?"
    I like Dick’s answer on this
    Quote Originally Posted by Dick View Post
    Dogen’s method follows the way many people come to understand reality, the progression most people take. … However, Dogen explains how most people still think of themselves as separate from everything else, viewing things from outside. The next stage is to lose the separateness, but to see everything as one, as connected, how we don’t live “with the world” but “in the world”. . Dogen explains how even this stage is not true reality. Finally, Dogen explains how seeing both separate and together, different yet unified is the true reality.
    3. Why do you do zazen?
    I do zazen because I remember a time I was better for having done it, so I believe it is worthwhile and works toward the values of Buddhism. Without this memory and belief, I suppose I wouldn’t do it. So I must always have some goal or intention before I sit zazen. Okumura talks about how we always start with an intention, then realise this is getting in the way of our practice and we have to drop it and just sit.

    I think this is again like what Dick said above, these are two perspectives of one reality: I have intention and I drop intention. I cannot lose this intention completely or I would never sit zazen, but I have to drop it at the same time.

    4. Does the bell make the sound, or does the wind make the sound?
    The bell and the wind act together. Another version of the boat and the shore.

    I was struggling to see the relationship between these passages about things acting as one and the chapter topic of seeking and being far away. I found this line from Okumura helpful: “it usually seems that things around us are changing and moving while we stay the same, and we try to find the underlying principle of this change so that we can control things” – by seeking we are trying to control things, but our sense of being a fixed person who controls a changing world is a delusion.

    If you asked me if I believed that I am fixed while the world changed, I would have said no, but when I read that line by Okumura, I realised that I do feel that in some way when I try to change things.

    I’m not quite sure what to do with this yet. I guess I will just sit…


    Charity
    sat

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