Sorry this is so long.
I subscribe to this monthly letter.
This one is from October 2011.
They are basically exploring aspects of the teachings of Dogen
This one was oeiginally called "Great Delusion"
(Note: this matieral is difficult, so if you find it interesting you shoild copy it and save it for later study.
It will require effort and repay you for for that effort, I believe.)
Do NOT simply accept it...read it and question it.
Then re-read it again.
(Some of the complexity and the reason for that complexity is explained in the text.)
If you wish to subscribe to this monthly news letter do a Yahoo or Google search for "The Flatbed Sutra Of Louie Wang".
You will be asked to subscribe and your email address...but it is free of charge and sent monthly.
An opening quote from
The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing
(a book by Ted Biringer)
Even if you constantly ponder and contemplate the sacred doctrines of the great spiritual traditions,
unless you have awakened, it is nothing but conceptualization.
Only when you have ceased conceptualization and awakened to the reality of your own mind,
then will you be able to truly grasp the sacred doctrines.
The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing: The Second Ancestor of Zen in the West
by Ted Biringer
by Ted Biringer
Remember that space is a thing.
(translation) Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Without being objective things, [cedar trees] cannot be cedar trees.
(Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross)
According to Dogen's vision the human experience is actualized from one of two modes of existence; Buddhas or ordinary beings.
These are the only two modes of being possible; moreover, the two are mutually exclusive, one is wholly a Buddha or wholly an ordinary being. It is Buddhas, then, that authentically engage in Zen practice-enlightenment.
In his most succinct expression on the distinction between these two modes Dogen says,
"Buddhas are those that are enlightened about delusion; ordinary beings are those that are deluded about enlightenment"
There is nothing substantially different between a Buddha and an ordinary being; the former is enlightened about (more accurately aware of the nature of) delusion, the latter is deluded about (misperceives the nature of) enlightenment.
In short, Buddhas are human beings enlightened to their true nature, ordinary beings are human beings deluded about their true nature.
If that is true the distinction is nothing more than one of perspective; however, that does not make it easy to understand.
Saying that a Buddha is enlightened to their true nature may be accurate, but how is an ordinary "deluded" being supposed to understand it?
We begin by considering what a "human being" is.
By a "human being" we generally mean the individual body-mind that experiences both a "self" and a world that is "other than" their self. This is the being we personally identify with as "I" in contrast to "you," with "me" as distinct from "not me", and which we experience as "myself" as opposed to what is experienced as "other than" myself.
Now, according to Zen, the reality, or true nature, of this "I" is inclusive of that which we experience as "not I" or "other than" our self. To help clarify the significance of this, Dogen asks us to consider the fact that whenever there is consciousness of an "I" there is always an "I" and an "other," and whenever there is consciousness of an "other" there is always an "I" and an "other."
When speaking of consciousness of self and other, there is a self and an other in what is known; there is a self and an other in what is seen.
Shobogenzo, Shoaku Makusa, Hubert Nearman
If we follow Dogen's advice we will affirm that, indeed, whenever we experience a self, it is always accompanied by something we experience as "other than" a self.
Continuing to practice this, we quickly reach a clear understanding that experience is always two-fold.
Experience always consists of an "experiencer" (i.e. a subject or knower) and an "experienced" (i.e. an object or known).
Hence, the experienced always presupposes an experiencer, and vice versa.
Since human beings are both experienced by other beings (and, for that matter, by one's own self) and are also the experiencer of other beings (and themselves), human beings, too, are always two-fold.
Therefore, to speak of a human being is to speak of something that is equally an experiencer and an experienced.
At the same time, the experiencer (the being that experiences a world) is not identical to the experienced (the world that being experiences) - each presupposes and is co-extensive with the other, but each is uniquely distinct.
Thus, here we want terms that distinguish the human being as the experienced from the human being as the experiencer; and each of these terms must be inclusive of the whole human being.
For now, our term for the human being as experienced will be "body-mind," while human being as experiencer will be "true self" or "self" for short.
Again, these terms should be understood as mutually inclusive, yet distinct; "body-mind" and "true self" both refer to the whole human being, "body-mind" as the experienced human figure, form, or image (dharma), "true self" as the human experiencer of figures, forms, and images (dharmas).
Having noted and designated the two-fold aspect of a human being, we now want to take a closer look at the significance of what we have called "other" or "other than."
Just as the self experiences itself objectively (as a body-mind), the self experiences the myriad things (of the world) objectively (as other than self).
In fact, if things (dharmas) were not "objective things" they would not be things at all.
Without being objective things, [cedar trees] cannot be cedar trees.
Shobogenzo, Hakujushi, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
The world in which we find ourselves is experienced as "other than" our self; so too all the things we encounter in the world, including other body-minds (humans), are experienced as other than our self.
Now, if experience is only possible when our "self" and an "other" are present, how can self and other be two different things?
Wherever a self is, an other is there also; wherever an other is encountered, it is encountered by a self - self depends on other, other defines self.
Self and other are clearly two aspects of one thing or activity. If we call that one thing or activity "meeting," for instance, then "meeting" would be self-and-other as one thing or activity; that is, self and other would be a unity constituting "meeting."
I meet with a human being, a human being meets with a human being, I meet with myself, and manifestation meets with manifestation.
Shobogenzo, Uji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Because both heads and tails manifest in the unity constituting a coin, "heads" is the whole coin, "tails" is the whole coin, the coin is heads - thus, heads is heads, tails is tails, the coin is the coin.
To speak of "other" is to speak all-inclusively of the totality of space and time that is not "self" - thus, "self and other" together constitute the totality of "Buddha-nature" (i.e. the whole universe) outside of which nothing exists.
This only begs the question; what, then, is the nature of the substance or essence of reality that constitute the "self and other" of our experience?
According to Dogen's vision, the totality of reality (the universe inclusive of all space and time) is manifest in and as each particular thing, being, and event (dharma) as they appear.
That phrase, "as they appear" does not refer to perception only, much less to visual perception alone.
A dharma's "form" or "appearance" is inclusive of every effect a dharma's presence has on us.
For example, the call of an owl (a dharma), which might make no visual impression, may, in the totality of its form as is, be diverse and numerous - its manifest sound may be short, long, loud, etc.; the instinctive reaction it elicits may be interest, annoyance, dismissive, etc., the cognitive responses it evokes may be classification (a barn owl), speculation (hunting?), memory (Grandma said owls...), etc. Similarly, whether it "appears" as a sight, sound, taste, smell, tactile sensation, or mental formulation, the actual "form" or "appearance" of a dharma is inclusive of its total affect on us - the way it is "felt", in A. N. Whitehead's sense of the term.
For, according to Zen, the reality of a form (dharma) and the appearance of a form are not two different things - and there is no other reality apart from the appearance of forms.
Because the totality of reality is constituted of "forms as they are," Dogen's Zen remains radically focused on the particular things and events manifest at definite places (locations in space) and specific times (temporal occurrences).
Throughout Shobogenzo, time is treated as coextensive and coessential with existence (i.e. dharmas).
The reasoning and implications of Dogen's treatment of time are multi-faceted and far-reaching, here we only emphasize two,
1) the unity of "time" with "existence" which Dogen calls "existence-time" (uji), and
2) the all-inclusive existence of "total time" or "all times" (i.e. past, present, and future) in each specific instance of time.
The first point means that all things, beings, and events (dharmas) are not only particular "forms," but specific "times" as well.
The second point means that all dharmas (things, beings, and events) exist in each instance of time.
Thus, in response to our question as to "what it is" that constitutes the reality of self and other, we can say that the whole universe (self and other) are constituted of the particular individual dharmas appearing before us right here at this location, right now at this time - and nothing else.
To clarify, consider these words from Shobogenzo, Uji:
We put our self in order, and see [the resulting state] as the whole universe.
Each individual and each object in this whole universe should be glimpsed as individual moments of time.
Object does not hinder object in the same way that moment of time does not hinder moment of time.
Shobogenzo, Uji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
Because [real existence] is only this exact moment, all moments of existence-time are the whole of time, and all existent things and all existent phenomena are time.
The whole of existence, the whole universe, exists in individual moments of time.
Let us pause to reflect whether or not any of the whole of existence or any of the whole universe has leaked away from the present moment of time.
Shobogenzo, Uji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
While some might expect a Zen master to say that individual objects and individual beings should be seen and understood as temporary or illusory, Dogen says they should be glimpsed as individual moments of time.
When he goes on to explain that all things and phenomena (dharmas) are particular moments of time we see why Dogen's Zen remains fully concentrated on the distinct, particular, specific, and unique rather than the formless, general, common, or universal.
When Dogen says, "We put our self in order" he means, for one thing, that what appears as the "whole universe" is exactly what we (our true self) arrange, form, or fashion from, of, or with our self.
We (our true self) weave or fashion the various streams of our continual experience into the particular patterns and specific forms (dharmas) that we "see" as the world.
Now, if reality appears as the "universe as it is" due to our self putting it in order, how can we (the self) see what our self is?
Putting the self in order, we see what it is.
The truth that self is time is like this.
We should learn in practice that, because of this truth, the whole earth includes myriad phenomena and hundreds of things, and each phenomenon and each thing exists in the whole earth.
Shobogenzo, Uji, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
A cautionary comment is warranted here; saying that both the "whole universe" and "the self" result from putting the self "in order" might seem to imply that the self is or was originally disordered, chaotic, or undifferentiated; however, this should not be taken too far.
While it is accurate to say the self "fashions a universe" with a (partial) selection of the total array of experience ceaselessly presenting itself, we should not conclude that the universe, the self, or experience is, or was "originally disordered."
In the larger context of Dogen's teaching, putting the self "in order" does not imply original disorder, chaos, or confusion, but rather harkens to the potentially infinite variety of "orders" originally inherent to the world and the self.
Turning back to the issue at hand, we now come to the main point; both the "self" and "other" consist of, and have their source in dharmas as they are.
No experiencer (self) has ever known or could know their "self" as anything other than particular things at specific times: actual, particular dharmas constitute the whole existence of every experiencer (self).
Everything (every reality, all dharmas) that has ever existed or ever could exist is experienced as particular dharmas at specific times: the totality of existence is constituted of those actual, particular dharmas that have been experienced by a self (experiencer). In sum, dharmas, as they are, constitute the totality of everything that is "self and other." Our "self" (and the self of others) are dharmas as they are, all that is "other than" our "self" (and the self of others) are also dharmas as they are.
So it is, then, that dharmas are not what the self sees (experiences), but how the self sees; dharmas are the way in which the self sees.
It is dharmas, then, that are the source of both the self (experiencer) and the other (experienced).
Because both self and other arise from (have their source in) dharmas, dharmas are primary to all existence and experience, and are therefore what Zen practice-enlightenment must begin with. Just as we should avoid hasty conclusions about an "original disorder," so too we should avoid notions that identify dharmas as a "previously existing" source; dharmas are the source of self and other, but only insofar as being the medium that facilitates the occurrence of self and other, dharmas are not a preexisting thing or condition from which self and other evolve. In other words, dharmas do not exist prior to or separate from self and other, it is the very existence of dharmas that constitute a self and an other - a dharma is the unity of self and other. The point now is simply to acknowledge dharmas as the fundamental constituents of reality, the primary source (substance, essence, nature) of self and other.
If the source of self and other is dharmas, what is the source of dharmas? The source of dharmas (real particular things, beings, and events) is the self-generating, self-expressing (or self illuminating; numinous) actualization of the self; Dogen refers to the self-expression activity of Buddha-nature as "self-fulfilling samadhi" (jijuyu-zammai). As the fundamental units of reality, dharmas are the self-generating (self illuminating; numinous) actualization of the universe (Buddha-nature, total existence-time, the true self) - dharmas are not "made-up" of anything "more fundamental" and are thus not reducible to any primordial "stuff" or "previous" condition.
Thus in Dogen's Zen, the appearance of a "dharma" (sight, sound, taste, tactile sensation, smell, or thought) is neither a mere "representation" in the mind of some ("real") aspect of the external world (resulting from sense perception), nor some aspect of the external world "out there," devoid of sentience, particular significance, or value. Each particular dharma is a real, particular instance of the whole of time and space, not a form or image in all space and time, but a form or image of all space and time. A particular tree or even a "person" one meets in a dream (both of which are dharmas) do not "correspond to" or "represent" something else, something "more real" than themselves; nor are they momentary, illusory, random, or insignificant elements, appearances, or occurrences within the universe - they are real, inherent aspects, integral to the whole of space and time.
In short, dharmas are not caused or effected by the universe, they are the universe; that is, the myriad dharmas are space and time as they are, their own cause and their own effect.
This can be expressed by saying that dharmas are transmitted or presented (made "present") by Buddha (the universe, mind, existence-time) and seen (experienced) by Buddha. In Dogen's terms, transmission occurs by "Buddhas alone together with Buddhas." In philosophical terms, then, dharmas should be recognized as "autochthonous."
(Note: autochthonous; originating and/or inhabiting the region, area, or realm in which something is found, seen, or felt)
This aspect of reality is accounted for and treated by Dogen's teachings on the "total exertion of a single dharma." As Hee-Jin Kim and others have pointed out, Dogen's most succinct and radical expression of this is demonstrated in his line on the self-causative nature of dharmas, "obstruction obstructs obstruction" (Shobogenzo, Uji). Thus, dharmas are constituted by or of dharmas as they are "self" and "other" are constituted by and of self and other as they are.
Therefore, dharmas are the self (experiencer) itself, the body-mind (experienced) itself, the intelligibility of dharmas itself, reality itself.
The "body-mind" is a dharma, "exertion" is a dharma, "realization" is a dharma - dharma (body-mind) dharmas (exertion) dharma (realization).
Dharmas are empty; self is empty. Thus dharmas are independent (distinct) of the seeing/feeling self in whom they are seen/felt. As per the Shobogenzo, Genjokoan fascicle, first, dharmas seem to be independent of the self, separate entities, second, dharmas are "clearly seen" as empty (the self also), third, dharmas are recognized as independent (distinct) of the self in which they are seen/felt - dharmas come and go (arise and vanish) at their own will (as they are), as in dreams, with their own dynamic/form, in their own Way of interaction (field of relations), regardless of personal cognition and/or intention - and indeed, it is dharmas that facilitate the actualization of personal cognition and intention. Thus, dharmas advance and "confirm" the self, that is, they demonstrate reality - actuality, distinctness (uniqueness), verifiability.
Fourth, is "going beyond." Here the "personal" self (individual experiencer) directly awakens to the fact that its place/time exists within the myriad dharmas (totality of existence-time; Buddha, Mind) - rather than the myriad dharmas existing within the personal self. Thus the personal self realizes its "true" self, which is clearly and definitely "known" to be the whole of existence-time (Buddha), and also "known" to be "beyond knowing" in that reality is clearly recognized as infinite/eternal (infinitely potential and ceaselessly advancing into novelty) - this recognition is evocatively portrayed in Shobogenzo, Genjokoan as "sensing a lack."
Thus, Buddhas and ancestors (i.e. authentic practitioners of Zen) attain certainty of their true nature (the whole of existence-time) and that true nature's infinite/eternal potential expanse/ceaseless advance, thus its final "unknowability" (its non-fixed form) - as transmitted, for instance, by Bodhidharma's "Vast emptiness," and "(Real) Not-knowing," and Dogen's, "Buddhas are enlightened about delusion," "Great delusion," and "original ambiguity."
That Buddhas and ancestors (i.e. practitioners of authentic practice-enlightenment) are aware of their existence within the "myriad dharmas" (Mind), rather than the myriad dharmas existing within them, means the seer/feeler (experiencer) and the seen/felt (experienced) are unified in the actualization of the universe (fashioning a world and a self) in which the creative activity (sacred life of Buddha, truth, liberation, good doing, etc) is experienced (thus responded to, and treated) as prior and primary (prior: "reality as is" from before the empty eon, and primary: more essential or fundamental than egoistic experience).
The Bodhi-mind/heart (Buddhahood) is the result, then, of the recognition of one's existence/experience as the place/time (location, position, locus) of manifestation of dharmas (formation, imagination, origination) - the interdependence of the "mind/heart" and "dharmas" reveals the reason (dori) of the spontaneous intimacy of compassion (love). Thus, the Buddhist teachings/methods of centering (seating) one's self (mind/heart) in/on a dharma or dharmas (a koan, flower, Buddha, etc.) are informed by the reason (dori) that experience (seeing, feeling, imagining, dreaming, etc.) is not only a human capacity, but the ceaseless advance of the universe into novelty; the actualization of Shakyamuni Buddha's universal liberation - we do not actualize the myriad dharmas (i.e. Buddha) we are actualized by them.
Dogen's view of (thus approach to) dharmas as not things that are seen, but the Way in which seeing occurs resolves all debates on differences between things "as they are" (suchness) and things "as they are-not" (delusion). For Dogen the distinction depends on how dharmas are understood - thus, responded to and worked with. Buddhas, utilizing the "Dharma-Eye" thus deepen and elaborate dharmas, allow them to unfold, reveal, beget, evolve, etc. Ordinary beings diminish, simplify, reduce, classify, peg, and stifle.
In Dogen's Zen, forms (dharmas) neither are good nor bad, sacred nor profane (i.e. generalizations), but they are (each and all) particularly unique and significant in/to their dharma-position. This fact along with the interdependent nature of dharma/self means that dharmas do call for assessment, e-valuation, or judgment - in fact, they don't just "call for it," the evocation of judgments is implicit in their nature (i.e. judgments evoked by dharmas are integral to the dharmas themselves). Failure to accurately judge dharmas is failure to accurately see dharmas (as they are) - to judge (see, experience) is to deepen, elaborate, and clarify (bring precision to) the suchness (reality) of dharmas. To abstain from judgment (in an attempt to be objective) is to presuppose (dualistically) that dharmas are objective. Judgments are as inherent to dharmas as their forms and qualities - as the essence of a thing is nowhere else but in/as its particular form in space and time.
The Zen practitioner observes the judgments evoked by dharmas as integral aspects of those dharmas, as revelatory of the "as isness" of those dharmas. This depends on developing the discipline to avoid "generalizing," and observing dharmas (inclusive of the judgments they evoke) as they are, rather than in contrast to other dharmas, perspectives, dogmatic formulation, etc.
Thus, when Zen says, "Don't think of good or bad..." etc., it does not mean don't "judge" or "choose" but, don't judge "this" in contrast to "that," judge "this" according to "this."
The "evocated aspects" inherent to the suchness of dharmas is recognized, and incorporated into, Dogen's vision of practice-enlightenment by its emphasis on the suchness and dynamics of "interrogatives." This is seen not only in his use of interrogatives (what, how) as synonymous with suchness (reality), but also in his "stream of consciousness" examples on the method of "nonthinking" that accompanies the study and verification of dharmas (most often demonstrated in his examples related to koans and other expressions of Buddhas). Thus, when considering the success of the accuracy of "moral" judgments or actions, for instance, the question is not how well it "corresponds to" or "represents" an objective standard or formal code, but how well the judgments serve to elaborate, deepen, and specify the dharma - does the attained "moral" assessment increase the life of the Buddha or diminish it.
"Exhaust lifetime after lifetime examining this saying (dharma)," is a hallmark characteristic of Dogen's methodology - this because the dharma (koan, flower, etc.) is the primary datum of experience/existence.
As each dharma is an "explicit" aspect of the wholeness "implicit" in its presence, its infinite potential bestows it with the quality of original ambiguity - the more it is illumined, the more it eclipses - thus the unlimited potential for refinement and expansion - and the "paradoxical" (metaphorical) nature of dharmas that, "to expand" them is "to narrow" them also.
This, then, is the reason to observe dharmas, in themselves, as they are, and to avoid comparing them or contrasting them to "objective" standards.
Thus it is that infinite "complexity" is inherent to all dharmas to begin with (i.e. original, before the empty eon).
As the existence of "A" is dependent on the existence of "not-A", the reality of "A" is in some way inclusive of "not-A".
In other words, the whole of existence-time that is not explicit in/as "A" is implicit to/of "A".
Thus, when a dharma is "clearly seen" (as it is) it is seen (sensed) as "lacking something" - it is sensed as being of greater significance (more subtle or profound), greater vitality (more animated and dynamic), and more spectacular (more beautiful or sublime) than it "appears" (i.e. is perceived or prehended); thus the feeling of the poverty or inadequacy of language when attempting to describe a sunset, an encounter with a doe and its fawn on a foggy morning, or the astonishing clarity of a rusty nail lying in the gravel.
The exhortations in the Zen records to strive diligently to master skillful means (upaya) stresses the necessity of the sustained concentrated effort that is required for mastering the ability to actualize dharmas which are implicitly complex.
At the same time, by recognizing the dharma as the primary and primordial first principle or "starting place," Zen is evades the necessity of explaining the experiential complexity of mental cognition with speculative theories about evolutionary or hierarchical "developments" from "simple" or "unsophisticated" origins (elementary or undifferentiated essences or forms).
Thus, the energy Dogen (and other Zen masters) dedicated to the refutation of reductionist views is not necessitated by anything inherent in Zen teachings, but results from the failure to accurately understand Zen's starting point; "Great delusion" - the dharma is originally complex.
As mental cognition (including consciousness) arises with/from/as dharmas, human experience/existence begins with/from/as a mythical (metaphorical, potential complexity, etc.) perspective - the search for, and infinite potential of, essence (true nature, meaning, value, significance) does not "succeed from" or "proceed after" experiential awareness, it is simultaneously realized with experiential awareness which is only and always actualized from/with/as dharmas.
The interdependence of Zen practice-enlightenment and culture (in the fullest sense; civilization, man-kind, cultivation, refinement, cultic enactment, progress, enhancement, enjoyment, ornament, art, humanity, etc.) is the reason (dori) all authentic practitioners not only make wholehearted effort to assimilate and activate the wisdom and skills transmitted by Zen masters, but remain ceaselessly engaged in the "cultivation" (uncovering, advancing, developing) of wisdom and skill to enhance the process for the liberation and fulfillment of all beings.
The richest fields for such cultivation are those uncovered and developed by those sages and visionaries (Buddha ancestors, artists, poets, prophets, mystics, shamans, etc.) whose heart/minds have awakened to and dwell within the highest reality
that is the mythical realm (Beulha, Pure Land, Imagination, Buddha Realm, Kingdom of God, etc.).
For it is there that the reality or essence (meaning, significance, value, truth, etc.) of dharmas (expressions of truth) are most clearly and particularly depicted, specified, and illumined.
Then the Porcupine asked, "Do you have any last words for us?"
THe Raven (answering) said, "Trust."
~Robert Aitken Roshi, Zen Master Raven
First, study and understand it.
Second, personally verify it in practice.
Third, utilize it for the liberation of all beings.
Fourth, go back to the first step and do it again...