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Thread: Dogen in the Bardo

  1. #1

    Dogen in the Bardo


    Probably towards the end of his life, Master Dogen wrote in Shobogenzo-Doshin of the transition from one life to the next:

    ... during the interval between abandoning this life and not yet taking up the next life, there is what we call ‘the intermediate existence’. That existence lasts for seven days ... When we have passed beyond the intermediate world, we draw near to a father and mother, readying ourselves bit-by-bit through Right Knowledge to entrust ourselves to a womb.

    It is likely that Master Dogen wrote so because he truly believed so. Perhaps he believed so only in his later years, as he neared his own death, perhaps he believed so all his life. He was a traditional man of the 13th century with many traditional beliefs. It is possible that, in this writing, Master Dogen only emphasized such a teaching because of a particular audience (e.g., ordinary folks needing ordinary teachings, for Doshin is written in a straight and no frills style unlike most of Dogen's other writings.) Perhaps he sought to bring comfort to a dying someone (I have sometimes done much the same, telling a friend in hospice to chant to Amida or Kannon for the simple reason that it brings comfort at such times.) Perhaps he said it for such reason, but did not believe it strongly. However, I think that, based on this and some other passages in Master Dogen's writings, that the old boy believed in literal, post-life rebirth in the traditional way, for that is what Buddhists believed through the centuries.

    But just because Dogen believed so, need we believe so? Although Buddhists through the centuries believed so, although many Buddhists today believe so ... even if the Buddha taught so in Iron Age India some 2500 years ago ... need we believe so? Some can if some wish, but ...


    ... no, we need not all believe so.


    Or, perhaps, one can choose to take such teachings as representative of something more, not quite literally. Dogen had subtle beliefs about rebirth and Karma, many layers beyond just the simple and obvious. He noted, for example (in Shoaku-Makusa), that causes do not only come before effects! ("Although depending upon the cause we feel effects, it is not a matter of ‘before and after’, because ‘before’ and ‘after’ are merely ways of speaking.") I myself feel that we are each reborn, and our actions have effects, as every baby and blade of grass, star and atom, past and future, here, now or anywhere. When they are born, I am born (and you too.)


    Perhaps we should just focus on this life, keeping an open mind to any possibility but not taking a strong opinion on the matter. After all, next life or not, let us live gently in this one! (That is my personal stance.)


    Dogen taught many, many wise things, but he also could be wrong sometimes, narrow sometimes, ill-informed sometimes, a man of medieval mentality That does not take away from the value of his teachings all the times he was right! It is not necessary to believe everything, for at the heart of the Buddhist Way there is Wisdom True, with or without such literal believes and "side issues."

    Even if Dogen taught so, believed so, need we believe so?

    No.





    tsuku.jpg
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-04-2022 at 02:18 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thanks for this Jundo! I will tie this to your post a few days back, about “not knowing”. Uncertainty about death accompanies the certainty of its inevitability. Admitting “not knowing” I think makes us more understanding, tolerant, empathetic and compassionate when it comes to others and their own ways of coping with the terrifying idea of death, maybe less judgmental, less dismissive and less prone to pointing the finger at someone’s beliefs and more prepared to comfort and ease someone’s suffering from a place they can relate to and that makes sense to them.

    Sorry, I ran a bit long!

    Sat Today
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
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  3. #3
    Thank you

    I have so many beliefs and superstitions that are not logical; I don’t know why; I think tgat’s part of being human. I’m sure when we are considered ancestors people (or robots) will wonder how we did certain things to each other or believed things etc etc

    Bion, that resonates a lot for me with respect to “don’t knowing”; I always try to get philosophical or intellectual with don’t know or emptiness and try to figure something out, but I really like how you put that; it’s more of practicing don’t know; turning that don’t know inward to help and be supportive. Thank you

    I lost both my parents this year: my dad in january and my mom in april. I dont know where they are; they are more part of me than I realized; I pray for them every day. On one hand it could be superstition but, on the other, I don’t know.

    Thank you Jundo for this teaching and Bion for your words

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

  4. #4
    Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.
    E84I - JAJ

  5. #5
    Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho
    Anchi
    生と死をください

    STLah
    安知 Anchi

  6. #6


    I wonder if some of these ideas around the bardo and rebirth came later in Buddhism? I am familiar with the seven days (and 7 x seven) from Tibetan Buddhism but not sure if there is reference to this in the Pali Canon.

    In fact, many statements of the Buddha himself, as far as we know about them, seem far more vague on the subject of rebirth, such as this from the Maha-nidana Sutta (The Great Causes Discourse):

    If anyone were to say with regard to a monk whose mind is thus released that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' is his view, that would be mistaken; that 'The Tathagata does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death' is his view, that would be mistaken.
    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.

  7. #7
    Hi Kokuu,

    The orthodox Theravada position is that rebirth happens immediately upon death with no intermediate state (bardo or chūu/中有) taking place, although it seems that many monks and laypeople in Theravadin societies such as Thailand do believe in the intermediate state. I don't know of any Pali text that discusses it directly--personally, using the parable of the poisoned arrow as a model, I conjecture that Gotama Buddha probably refused to answer the question if he was asked since it didn't relate directly to the Four Truths or Eightfold Path.
    It does seem to be the case that the idea of the intermediate state predates Dogen and the Tibetans and was the orthodox Mahayana belief throughout India and China. From what little I've read, it seems that Dogen (like Gotama) was loath to indulge in metaphysical speculation and always tried to bring the discussion back to the matter at hand. Considering his background in the Tendai school, which does accept the existence of the chūu, Dogen was probably satisfied to relate that doctrine and then immediately turn the conversation back to zazen.

    Sorry to run long--I was a Buddhism nerd long before I became an actual Buddhist!
    Gassho
    Showan
    Sat today
    おつかれさまです

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Showan View Post
    Hi Kokuu,

    The orthodox Theravada position is that rebirth happens immediately upon death with no intermediate state (bardo or chūu/中有) taking place, although it seems that many monks and laypeople in Theravadin societies such as Thailand do believe in the intermediate state.
    This seems to be true, although there appears to be some small debate on the matter in the Theravadan world, decidedly a minority view:

    REBIRTH AND THE IN-BETWEEN STATE IN EARLY BUDDHISM
    Bhikkhu Sujato

    https://santifm.org/santipada/wp-con...tweenState.pdf

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    I like this quote.

    Gassho
    ST





    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Seth David View Post
    I like this quote.

    Gassho
    ST





    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


    Twenty some years ago I was at a retreat with him and during one of his talks he said he
    would return as a flower. That resonated with me and is what I remember most from that week

    Doshin
    St

  11. #11
    Perhaps we should just focus on this life, keeping an open mind to any possibility but not taking a strong opinion on the matter. After all, next life or not, let us live gently in this one! (That is my personal stance.)
    My personal stance too.

    Thank you Jundo


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

  12. #12


    Thank you Jundo! Maybe a great topic for the podcast? I'd love to hear you explore this idea more on my morning run!

    Tony,
    Dharma name= 浄史

    Received Jukai in January 2022

    The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. - Thích Nhất Hạnh

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Seth David View Post
    I like this quote.

    Gassho
    ST





    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Love this. Gassho

    Tony,
    Dharma name= 浄史

    Received Jukai in January 2022

    The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. - Thích Nhất Hạnh

  14. #14
    Thank you, Jundo And thank you Bion - I like the idea of compassionate not knowing, this is my personal stance too.


    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah

  15. #15
    Dogen was very compassionate to offer comforting words about the future life after death. In the broadest sense it’s not like you are going anywhere. Like TNH says maybe you’ll be a flower. So that’s your rebirth if you like thinking in those terms. But what is it that was here before you were born and continues after you die? Maybe with awareness a glimpse may appear

    Sat/lah


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Perhaps we should just focus on this life, keeping an open mind to any possibility but not taking a strong opinion on the matter. After all, next life or not, let us live gently in this one! (That is my personal stance.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    My personal stance too.

    Thank you Jundo


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    and mine

    aprapti

    sat
    Last edited by aprapti; 06-11-2022 at 08:28 AM.

    hobo kore dojo / 歩々これ道場 / step, step, there is my place of practice


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  17. #17
    First, Japanese literature scholar in ancient literature, and on modern and post modern Japanese literature, ABD Japanese literature, comp lit. For years I have mispronounced his name. Second, She agrees, look at Dogen's work as genius literature for present and history. I trust my daughter, degrees from respected schools.
    Gassho
    sat/lah
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 07-02-2022 at 02:41 PM. Reason: editing
    Kind Ubasoku, calm poetry, I seek to support; to be supportive.

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