Dogen has been characterized as a "mystic" because he perceived the outer world directly as the body of the Buddhas, etc. So how did the outer world arise? Through action of course but Dogen kind of doesn't seem to say this directly. His major concern was getting people to recognize their minds as Buddha. He was not interested in "metaphysics".
I've read Dogen Scholars, commenting on certain fascicles of the Shobogenzo, say with certainty that Dogen was attempting to teach that all objective phenomena were mind. I myself forget the chapter that addresses exactly that. In relation to that, he has this to say about the mind: [paraphrase:] when you add some thing, it falls short. When you subtract something, it's too much. The stars and the trees and the earth is all mind, just as it is.
Characterizing Dogen as a "mystic" because he perceived the outer world as the body of the Buddhas is a misinterpretation of Dogen. Why? Because he followed the Zen/Chan Mahayana/Ekayana Buddha Dharma as taught in the Lankavatara Sutra
that all dharmas and appearances are nothing but the manifestations of mind. Thus there is no actual "outer world," and to say "the body of the Buddhas" really means "this body of Awakening" where "body" is a synonym of "manifestation" or "realization."
Dogen’s fascicle, “Sanji Go,” “Karma in the Three Periods,” is centered on the transmission story of the Honored One Kumarata, the 19th Indian Zen ancestor, transmitting the Dharma to the Honored One Jayata, the 20th Indian Zen ancestor. The story that Dogen tells comes from the The Jingde Record of the Transmission of the Lamp (Jingde Chuandeng Lu) Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 51, No. 2076 景德傳燈錄, Scroll 2. (Also told in Zen Master Keizan’s Denkoroku .)
When they meet for the first time, Jayata complains that he looks as his diligent and proper parents and family receiving tragedy and hardship, while neighbors who are mean and practicing wrong livelihood are prospering. He wonders how accumulated merit is benefitting the apparent wrongdoers and what crimes has his family committed?
Lamp Record wrote:
The Honored One [Kumarata] said, “How full of doubt! Surely, the recompense of good acts and the wicked exist in the three times. Common people persistently see the virtuous die young, the violent live long, the rebellious be fortunate, and the proper be doomed. Then they designate cause and effect as lost and blameworthy and fortunate acts as empty. Indeed, they do not know the shadows and echoes mutually following at a hair’s breadth blown by the changing winds. Even if they undergo hundreds, thousands, or myriads of eons, likewise they do not extinguish obstacles.”
At the time Jayata heard this talk, then immediately his doubts were set free.
The Honored One [Kumarata] said, “Although you already have faith in the three karmas, you have not yet clarified that karma is born from bewilderment; bewilderment is caused by the existence of consciousness; consciousness depends on unenlightenemnt; and unenlightenment depends on mind. The mind is clear and pure at the root, without birth or death, without making or doing, without reward or response, without victory or defeat. If you enter this Dharma gate you can be together with and the same as all the various Buddhas. All good and evil, with activity and without activity, in every case is like a dream and an illusion.”
So how does the "outer world" arise? In the same way as karma: from bewilderment, consciousness, unenlightenment, and mind.
How did the outer world arise? Dogen would probably respond to you with a question on the nature of causality in order to illustrate his point that all causes and effects arise simultaneously from thusness, in this and every subsequent moment.
However it is clear that Dogen viewed karma and rebirth as literal facts and everything was dependent origination.
No argument here. He definately believed in retribution and becoming.
Well, the fine point would be to ask what is meant by “literal fact”? I don’t see how any reader of Dogen could say that Dogen believed in “literal facts” when he is talking about firewood and ash manifesting free from the confines of literal time and space. In other words, what we may conventionally and mundanely call “literal” when referring to dharmas and things as “facts” is not the way Dogen views appearances. So we should not be complacent in a conclusion that Dogen accepts anything as a “literal fact.” (See also his fascicle on "Painted Rice Cakes" where he bends the convenntions of perception regarding what is literal.)
In his fascicle “Karma in the Three Periods” Dogen relates the famous “Wild Fox” koan of Baizhang, and the “conclusion” there is that while one does not either affirm or deny that even the person of accomplishment is subject to karma, a true person of the Way is not blind to karma. This is much more subtle than simply “believing” in karma.
I'm certainly no expert at interpreting Dogen. From the exerpt I posted above, it's unclear to me how traditional or non-traditional his view of karma is[...]
Traditional in relation to which tradition? It seems to me that Zen is somewhat looked at askance due to Hui Neng's rejection of ritual and traditional methods of practice/study. Which doesn't make sense to me. Even the Buddha realized that the traditions of his own day weren't helping him to overcome suffering and delusion.
Dogen is traditional in the tradition of the Ekayana/Mahayana view of karma. Also, I don’t see that Huineng rejected ritual or traditional methods of practice and study. The Platform Sutra upholds all the major rituals of confession and repentance, recitation of the Sutras, sitting meditation (zazen), etc. It is just that while upholding the tradition, Huineng is scrupulous about Right View in interpreting the tradition. It is just that both Huineng and Dogen are scrupulous in upholding the Right View of the Mind School of Zen/Chan as the heart of the Mahayana of the One Vehicle.