Donnerstag, 4. Dezember 2014

The one Pearl goes directly through ten thousand Years

One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 5)

Master Dôgen appreciates the example of the bright pearl and says,

“It is an expression of the truth. It will be famously recognized. The one pearl goes directly through ten thousand years. The eternal past has not ended but the eternal present has arrived. The body exists now and the mind exists now. Even so (the whole universe) is a bright pearl”

In this wonderful reality we should free ourselves from the emotions of liking and disliking or badly wanting to possess something or refusing something. Considerations like these are not true reality, and the truth of the bright pearl transcends such thinking, emotions and distinctions.

In Buddhism there are several very famous stories about pearls. For example,  a rich man gave his very poor friend a pearl, but he put it in his clothes and it was hidden. The poor friend became aware of the pearl many years later and was saved by it. Thus it is the great rhythm of our life to give a pearl and to receive a pearl. The black dragon of Chinese mythology has a pearl under his chin and in the Lotus Sûtra it is said that the king gives a precious pearl to a human being who has worked very hard for him.

At the end of this chapter Dôgen stresses the fact that we should not complain about the future and the universe in general. So even when it is hot in the sixth month of the lunar calendar in China, we should enjoy it and be happy in this wonderful universe. Because it is like a bright pearl and it is beyond thinking and intellectual philosophy:

“Artificial and non artificial states of surmising and doubting, attaching and rejecting are just the small view. There is nothing more then trying to make (the bright pearl) match the narrow intellect. How we could not love the bright pearl? Its colors and light, as they are, are endless.”

Donnerstag, 27. November 2014

Bright Pearl: What use is understanding?

One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 4)

It is said that Gensa realized the truth after some time and became a Master and the successor of Seppo. He taught the fundamentals of Buddhism with  the words:

The whole universe in ten direction is one bright pearl.”
If a student who wanted to know how this sentence could be understood asked Master Gensa, he answered: “What use is understanding?”

So the whole universe is reality itself. Thinking and understanding might be important for excellent philosophers and scientists, but for Buddhist truth intellectual thinking is not the most important thing. And Nishijima adds:

“It seems that Master Gensa has been much more clever then those so many excellent philosophers and so many excellent scientists saying that `the whole universe in the ten directions is one bright pearl.`"

The sentence about the bright pearl and the universe has to be experienced by everybody in their own life as they travel along the Buddhist path. Not even such a fundamental sentence can be realized just by thinking and speaking. And it is not an abstract theory which can be learned by heart and repeated from memory.

Once Master Gensa asked a monk who he had taught the day before that the whole universe is a bright pearl:

“How do you understand (this)?”

And when the monk repeated literally just the same sentence, the Master said:

“I see that you are struggling to get inside a demon´s cave and black mountain.”

The meaning is that the student was trapped in a habit of thinking and speculating and had no experience or practice of his own. Such intellectual thinking is therefore “a demon´s cave in a black mountain.” This is idealistic philosophy and not realism or direct experience.

Master Dôgen is explaining that it is not sufficient to think that the world is a materialistic formal area because this is just the exterior. Even though it is a part of reality, it is not the whole. There are two alternative philosophies for understanding the world. One is idealism and the other is materialism. But both are not sufficient to enable us to experience reality, because a true and balanced state is necessary, not only thinking and calculating. And the balanced state can be experienced by the practice of Zazen.

Words and ideas are important at the beginning of the learning process, but some time they must be transcended if we are to reach reality itself. And this is true for the Buddhist sutras and the teaching of a true Master. Words are like the finger pointing to the moon, but they are not the moon itself, which is  reality and truth. Of course, languages and ideas are very important for  human civilization and without language it is impossible to have a dialogue and to understand each other on the level of words. But they are limited and they are not truth itself. Ideas, in particular, are associated with strong emotions like greed for fame and money. It is difficult to transcend them and for that the practice of Zazen is so important and effective.

True living and the true experience of reality exist at the present moment. By that we open ourselves up to them. When we enter reality, we leave our thought processes about the past and the future. Reality happens exactly at the present moment and has nothing to do with remembering things from the past or hoping for things in the future.

In the balanced state we transcend the idea of an isolated self and the distinguishing of subject and object. This is the realized universe which Master Dôgen explained in this fundamental chapter Genjo kôan. The fundamental error of the concept of an isolated Self like the Atman, found in India before the time of Gautama Buddha, is the cause of so much suffering and many misunderstandings in our lives. By practising Zazen we can transcend the limitations of the isolated ego and experience unity with other people, and with nature and the universe.

Donnerstag, 20. November 2014

Master Gensa: "In the End I just cannot be deceived by Others"

One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 3)

What is fundamental about Master Gensa? He looked at reality very precisely and distinguished quite clearly between ideas, words and pictures on the one hand and reality on the other. And his own words strike the very heart and the essence of the important Buddhist questions; he never lost himself in romantic phantasies and illusions.

The example of the pearl shows us that Master Gensa was not only very clear about the form and the material side of reality but that he also has poetic power to speak about the beauty of the world.

Gensa practised under his Master Seppo with great intensity and without any interruption. But one day he wanted to leave the monastery to look for other Masters. He wanted to broaden his understanding of Buddhism and was looking for the new strong influences of a good Master. It is said that he had not left the monastery for a long time when he set out. But on the path not far from the monastery

he stubs his toe on a stone. Bleeding and in great pain (Master Gensa) all at once seriously reflects as follows: ´(People say) this body is not real existence. Where does the pain come from? ´ “

So in this very moment of pain it was completely clear to him that his body really existed. At the same time he thought that it was useless to go to other monasteries and other Masters, if important reality was just here and now and not far away. So he turned around immediately and went back to his Master Seppo. He did not leave the monastery again his whole life.

Master Seppo was astonished and asked him why he had come back and Gensa answered:
“In the end I just cannot be deceived by others.”

And Seppo liked these words very much and thought that Gensa was an outstanding student, so he said:
Is there anyone who does not have these words (inside them)? (But) is there anyone who can speak these words (so clearly)?”

So the most important thing in Buddhism is to practise yourself and not to learn theory from masters or sutras. This does not mean that theory is useless and not necessary. But the most important thing is to experience and be clear about yourself. Nishijima Roshi makes the comment:

“Everyone should follow the stiff-necked behavior like Gensa. But in secular society a person like Gensa is so few therefore common human societies can never arrive the Truth at all.”

But we should be very clear about the situation in history, for example why Master Bodhidharma went from India to China to teach true Buddhism and the practice of Zazen. He had no egoistic intentions, he was not looking for fame or money, he just wanted to teach the people in China and for this reason he went there. On the other hand, the second Chinese patriarch did not go to India, because it was not necessary for him to go there. He had learned true living Buddhism from Bodhidharma and practised intensively and taught his students to do so too.

Donnerstag, 13. November 2014

Master Gensa has recognized the Nobility of the Buddha Way

One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 2)

The Bright Pearl is round like the disc of the moon or the sun, but it has three dimensions so it has the ability to roll and move and this, in particular, is a symbol of the substantial experience of Buddhism. Moving and changing are examples of action. The universe and everything in nature and in our lives is changing and moving all the time, so it is similar to the pearl rolling in a bowl.

And the pearl is reality itself. And indeed the sentence

the whole Universe in all directions is as splendid as a bright pearl”,

is essential to the Buddha Dharma. Master Dôgen appreciates Master Gensa so much because he was the first to say these words and to introduce them into Buddhism.
Who was this very famous Master Gensa? Master Dôgen says:

“Suddenly he desires to leave secular society; he leaves his boat and enters the mountains. He is already thirty years old (but) he has realized the precariousness of the floating world and has recognized the nobility of the Buddha Way"

Until this decision he was a fisherman on one of the big rivers of China and lived from fishing. He liked to sit in his boat in the floating water as he was a layman and had a normal social life. But it seems that he had already achieved the balanced state of a great person and we can be sure that he was not striving for fame, power and profit. Floating on the river he had the opportunity to reflect about life and the limitations we have until death. So he was asking,

“what is the purpose of our life”?

These questions became more and more important for him and therefore he decided to study and practise Buddhism; he left the river and his boat to look for the Great Truth. It is said that he had not read any sutra and had no knowledge of the theory and practice of Buddhism before. He was a layman who suddenly became aware of the fundamental questions of life and who then pursued the truth.

So he went away into the mountains and eventually entered the monastery of the famous Master Seppo. There he practised with intensity and patience and he was fully integrated into the life and work of the monastary. He had very simple clothing; for example, he had just one piece of cotton cloth, which he mended all the time when it became full of holes.

In the history of Chinese Zen-Buddhism there are many Kôan stories of the teacher Seppo and the student Gensa, which are of fundamental significance  and which reveal the thetrue meaning and hitting the target of Buddhism. On several occasions Master Dôgen quotes these Kôan dialogues of Seppo and Gensa. Gensa became the successor of Seppo in this well-known monastery in China.

Mittwoch, 29. Oktober 2014

The Pearl reflects Everything which is around Us

One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 1)

Master Dôgen quotes and interprets the words of the great Master Gensa. He appreciated him and his words very much and wrote a special chapter on this in the Shôbôgenzô. The life, the true being and the universe are said to be similar to a bright pearl. What does this mean?

These are very important words in ZEN-Buddhism, which were fundamental in his time and which may be much more essential in our modern time with so much negativity, fear und depression. We hear a lot of complaining about the bad and negative situations in this world and many people speak increasingly about the dark and bad sides of their lives.

The meaning of the bright pearl is the opposite of this. And Master Dôgen appreciated this idea so much and we understand by it that Buddhism is not a negative philosophy and life practice as some people claim.

The contrary is true. The beauty and the wonderful brightness of the world, nature, plants and animals and the whole of human life are all essential to this chapter. This is the true reality of the universe: we should adorn this Buddha World.

But that does not mean that the negative and criminal sides of the world are not seen or are suppressed, because Buddhism is not a romantic religion, but a realistic one. There is a special chapter about ethics and wrongdoing in the Shôbôgenzô and Master Dôgen explains quite concretely what wrongdoing is in our world. But these wrongdoings are not part of the nature of the universe itself. They are just produced by human beings. So it is not useful to close our eyes to the negative side of life and to try to explain away criminal activity.

If we think about this, it is really strange that some people say Buddhism is similar to nihilism and a negative religion. Maybe a lot of missunderstanding is produced by the word of  emptiness, which is rather strange and difficult to understand for western civilization. But emptiness does not mean nihilism, it just refers to the fact that we are free of useless words, ideas and strong emotions and that we can be in a balanced state, as Nishijima Roshi explained.

The bright pearl cannot be used as a symbol for a pessimistic understanding of our life and the world and cannot be used for a sentence like “all life is suffering”, which is the way some people characterize the Buddhist teaching/philosophy. The contrary is true. Gautama Buddha developed a philosophy of life to overcome suffering and to help people. So he is not a theoretical philosopher but rather a therapist in the real world, helping people directly.

The bright pearl has a round form and in the Buddha Dharma this is a symbol for a balanced life and a universe in harmony. The roundness is praised because of its beauty.

There are no corners and edges. The roundness of the moon is a symbol of beauty and harmony like the round pearl and it explains our beautiful and promising life. In this way it can be understood as enlightenment. The pearl  reflects everything which is around us, so it is similar to a mirror, which reflects everything in front of it. A mirror is very often a symbol in Buddhism of a clear and undisturbed view and a correct understanding of the world.

The pearl is an object of many nice colors and extreme beauty that reveal the reality.

Mittwoch, 22. Oktober 2014

Beyond Normal Life, there still may be Further Progress

The Realized Universe (Genjo kôan, Part 6)

There are many dimensions for seeing reality. We as human beings have to leave the dust and dirt of the so-called normal life to go the Buddha way. Then we leave the normal barriers and hindrances of body-and-mind and especially of our understanding of human beings, social groups and the world.

“And beyond this, there still may be further progress. The existence of (their) practice-and-experience and the existence of their lifetime and their life, are like this."

It is important that we find our place in this world and that we find our true actions in society and in the realized universe. And these dimensions cannot be only materialistic and physical, they go beyond the opposition of subjective and objective. Because reality exists in the present moment, the past and the future are not so important because they are just processes in our brain. In the state of perfect realization it appears together with the Buddha Dharma and this is the natural and free situation. It is very important to remember that mere consciousness is not so important:

“Do not assume that what is attained will inevitably self-conscious and be recognized by the intellect.”

And if we are practising: to get a small part of the world, a Dharma, means to penetrate one Dharma.

In the last paragraph of this important chapter Master Dôgen tells a kôan story about a Master, who is using a fan because it is hot and he wants to have some refreshing coolness. A monk comes along. He is convinced that he is very intelligent and knows a lot about the Buddha Dharma. So he tells the Master:

“The nature of air is to be ever-present, and there is no place that (air) cannot reach. Why then does the Master use the fan?”

So he might be intellectually right and have an abstract understanding of Buddha´s teaching, but in the concrete situation of using a fan such nice words are not very important and miss the mark. And this truth is exactly what the Master tells the monk. But at first the monk doesn’t understand what the Master is trying to explain to him. So he asks the question again about the truth of the air being everywhere. But it is evident that words cannot convince the monk and help him to experience reality itself. Because of this, the Master does not continue the conversation, he just moves the fan to get fresh air. Through this action the monk immediately enters into reality and understands the Buddhist truth, and so he prostrates himself before the master:

“The real experience of the Buddha-Dharma, the vigorous road of the authentic transmission, is like this.”

Freitag, 17. Oktober 2014

A Person getting Realization is like the Moon being reflected in the Water

The Realized Universe (Genjo kôan, Part 5)

Master Dôgen explains a analogy, that the things and phenomena in this world “abide in the place” of the dharma. So firewood becomes ash, if it’s burning, but that should not confuse us. Firewood has its own position in the world, and ash as well. So everything is like it is and we should not mingle the facts of the world with our thinking and ideas. Firewood and ash are different situations and are independent of each other, here and now. We combine them by our way of thinking, but this is not reality as it is. The ash cannot become firewood again, both have their own place in the world and in the dharma. And Master Dôgen says that this is true for our whole life.

Life cannot be changed into death and death cannot be changed into life. Both situations are different and have their own reality. And if we concentrate on the true moments of our lives, this message of Master Dôgen is very clear. And this situation is only confusing, if we don’t live in the reality of our lives and are afraid of death in the future:
“Live is an instantaneous situation and death is also an instantaneous situation.”

Master Dôgen speaks about the supreme status of the truth and enlightenment and uses the simile of the full round moon:

„A person getting realization is like the moon being reflected in the water: the moon does not get wet and the water is not broken. Though the light (of the moon) is wide and great, it is reflected in a foot or an inch of water. The whole moon and the whole sky are reflected in a dew-drop on a blade of grass in a single drop of water.”

This is the poetic picture of the moon which is reflected and abiding in the water, and it shows that in reality there are no obstacles between the moon and the water. There are no limitations and there is no stress. Nature is always very calm and this can be experienced in every moment. But it is important that we are not deluded by strange ideas and strange emotions. So we should be very clear about the moment itself and its length or shortness should be investigated.

The longness and shortness of its moment should be investigated in large (bodies of) water and small (bodies of) water.”

Master Dôgen tells us about the reality and lives of birds. Fish swim in the water and birds fly in the air and the sky. They are their places of living/ the elements they inhabit. If they are in their natural element, there is no end and there is no limitation. So they are free and living in good conditions, where they can live and act. But if the fish leaves the water, he must die. And if the bird falls from the sky to the earth, he will die as well:

“So we can understand that water is life and can understand that sky is life. Birds are life and fish is life.” And further: "Simply, when activity is great, usage is great and when necessity is small, usage is small."

Montag, 29. September 2014

To learn the Buddha’s Truth is to learn Ourselves

The Realized Universe (Genjo kôan, Part 4)

The Dharma way is like this:

“To learn the Buddha’s truth is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by the myriad dharmas. To be experienced by the myriad dharmas is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away.”

So we have to transcend our fixations with ideas, our rigid goals for the future and our stiff emotions, which are controlling us, and we have to break the connected cycles of our life. In this way we can be open for new developments and the great truth of Buddhism. It is necessary to be open to the variety and beauty of the world and to experience people, and the many things and phenomena of our daily lives. We should leave the fixations of a subjective body and a subjective mind attached to the ego, and free ourselves.

In this way “our own body and mind fall away.” If we want to find our true self, we have to forget the old ego because Zen mind is beginner´s mind, to quote Master Shunryu Suzuki. Even the so-called objective external world, our body and especially our agitated mind, which is constantly looking here and there, should fall away.

As Nishijima Roshi tells us, we have to transcend the philosophy and views of simple idealism and materialism, because these two dimensions are one-sided and are not the whole truth. The thinking mind will be very narrow, if it is controlled by these philosophies. In this way it cannot become free. This means that the world of materialistic pleasure is in reality a narrow and poor world too. A pleasure seeker cannot find Buddha’s truth which is fine and profound. If we lose ourselves in such superficial pleasures, we are separated from the wonderful flower of the Dharma.

Many people are convinced that they have an ego, which is more or less fixed and unchangeable in their lives. They may admit that we change a little bit and of course we look different when we are young and adult. But many are convinced that there is something like a central core in us, like a particle or something similar, even though  it’s difficult to explain whether it is in the body or in the mind. In the religion of Brahmanism, which existed before the time of Gautama Buddha, they called this core Atman.

But Gautama Buddha explained very clearly that this is a big misunderstanding of our self. And he found that because of the delusion of this Atman a lot of suffering would arise during our lives.

Master Dôgen uses the analogy of a man sailing in a boat:
When a man is sailing along in a boat and he moves his eyes to the shore, he misapprehends that the shore is moving. If he keeps his eyes fixed on the boat, he knows that it is the boat which is moving forward.”

So very often we are convinced that we have a fixed ego and that the surrounding world is moving and changing. But this is wrong. If we observe ourselves clearly, we can see that there is no unchanging body or mind. Of course, this is a big opportunity for a learning process: we can develop ourselves, we can change, we can learn and use the wonderful chances which we have in our lives. If we have the delusion of there being a static ego which is constant like a materialistic thing, it is impossible to act freely and to be open for new developments and new chances.

All the possibilities of life are open in every moment of existence time, just here and now. This can be experienced in Zazen practice.

Dienstag, 23. September 2014

There is just the Moment of true Existence

The Realized Universe (Genjo kôan, Part 3)

The first and the second sentences in the above quotation desribe the views and philosophies of idealism and materialism. Both are intellectual philosophies which distinguish between the thinking I and the objects of the thinking.

These intellectual views are completely different from the practical dimension of true reality as mentioned in the third and fourth sentences of Master Dôgen´s quotation. In the third sentence he describes the great and whole truth of Gautama Buddha and the practice of life, which transcends theory, thinking, discrimination and feeling. This is true reality.

In the fourth sentence, Master Dôgen tells us that we do not live in an ideal world like Paradise or Nirvana. Thus, beautiful flowers will eventually wilt and weeds grow bigger and bigger. Neither effect do we really like, but they are reality. But Dôgen tells us that we should not become depressive as a result of these effects, because we are the owners of the great Buddha’s truth and the practice of Zen meditation, Zazen. We can all realize our true Buddha Nature.

Master Dôgen doesn’t speak about rigid, separated entities like atoms, which do not change; that is not the whole real world. He speaks about living processes and situations that we can see and experience in reality. But even processes are thought of as developments in linear time, which is not the true spiritual time of the real moment, so it, too, is part of the area of thinking.

If we transcend this dimension of time, there is just the moment of true existence and the unlimited experience of great truth and reality.

Master Dôgen has written a special chapter about existence time, uji, which really represents a revolutionary understanding and experience of time. We assume, that our ideas, and especially discriminations, are normally static, that they don’t change, but this is completely wrong. May be we know intuitively what reality is and we stop wasting our time, wasting our moments here and now. If we understand and realize this, we become enlightened, as Gautama Buddha wanted us to be. And the first stage of/step to enlightenment is the practice of Zazen, as Nishijima Roshi told us.

In the next paragraph Dôgen analyzes the action of human beings, which is so important in Buddhism. If we are attached to objectives and goals resulting from  egoism, it is impossible to transcend delusions, we dream bad dreams and are not in  reality.

But “when the myriad Dharma’s actively practice and experience ourselves, that is the state of realization”.

What does that mean? That we must open our Self and transcend egoistic and egocentric thinking and acting. Important for this acting is that there is no greed for fame or profit and that we act as in accordance with the situation as it really is. Such acting is the essence of right Zazen practice, free from greed for enlightenment, just sitting in the right position, as it is.

Freitag, 19. September 2014

Idealism and Materialism are not the whole Reality

The Realized Universe (Genjo kôan, Part 2)

The first paragraph of this chapter is as follows
1.     When all dharmas are (seen as) the Buddha Dharma, then there is delusion and realization, there is practice, there is life and there is death, there are Buddhas and there are ordinary beings.”

2.     When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self, there is no delusion and no realization, no Buddhas and no ordinary beings, no life and no death.”

3.     “The Buddha’s truth is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity. So there is life and death, there is delusion and realization, there are beings and Buddhas.”

4.     And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds while hated, flourish.”

What does Master Dôgen want to tell us with such important sentences which are not easy to understand? Without question they are altogether the essence of Zen Buddhist teaching, but often they are misunderstood and people are not aware of their true meaning and do not concentrate on it.

If we read this chapter of the Shôbôgenzô and especially these sentences very carefully, we understand that there are four different views or, more precisely, four philosophies of our life and of the world in general. The first sentence explains that a distinction can be made between delusion and realization, between practice and acting and life and death and between Buddha and ordinary beings. This philosophy is based on ideas and thinking, for example on the basis of theory and teaching. even the sutras in Buddhism. It is the idealistic method. But normally this philosophy expressed in sentence one is based on the belief in a separate ego or I: the thinking I has ideas and theories.

The dimension of the second sentence is completely different and represents  another method of thinking: It is the materialistic view, focused on the outside of the person. In this case the thinking I is not important. It can be characterized by “when the myriad Dharmas are each not of the self.”

It is not the subject who is thinking ideas and theories; on the contrary, it is the view and belief that there is an objective world outside us. In this case we cannot speak of delusion and realization, Buddhas and ordinary human beings, life and death. In other words the meaning of these words and ideas cannot be understood because the materialistic philosophy is not aware of the delusion and realization of Buddhas and ordinary people. The materialistic view has no understanding of the Buddhist teachings. This view sees only the outside and form and has no understanding of spiritual or mental contents. It is clear that this philosophy is very close to the understanding of the natural sciences and technology in the western world.

But as we know, the scholar Albert Einstein, who might be considered the greatest physicist of the last century, was a religious and spiritual person and he was quite aware of the limitations of our scientific understanding of the world. In the same way, the great physicists Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg are quite clear about the areas that can be understood by the thinking human brain and what cannot be understood.

Therefore we can assume that a one-sided materialistic view is not sufficient for us to understand ourselves and the world; these brilliant scholars in the  natural sciences were already aware of these limitations, more than one century ago. Another scholar, a social scientist, Niklas Luhmann, teaches us very clearly that the world is of infinite complexity. In this way science tells us to be humble and not to over-estimate what we can understand with intellectual thinking. A philosophy of life, which is just materialistic, is indeed naive and superficial.

Donnerstag, 11. September 2014

The Realized Universe (Genjo kôan), Part 1)

The literal translation of the Japanese word Genjo kôan is the realized law of the world or of the universe and our life. That means Buddha´s teaching or the Dharma, the truth. Through this realization there is a unity of the law and true life in our world and in this way the whole of reality becomes true. This chapter is without doubt one of the most important ones in the Shôbôgenzô and in Zen Buddhism. It was the first in the edition of 75 chapters and this underlines its great importance. It is short but extremely meaningful.

On the Buddha Way it is important that we experience and trust both the teaching of the Dharma and the many things? objects? and phenomena in the world. And it is not beneficial, if we are too busy to realize enlightenment, pushing ourselves and feeling stressed as a result of our own activities and the goal of having a spiritually egoistical and maybe exotic adventure.

But if we do not pursue and practise the Buddha Way, it is impossible to reach the path of liberation. And we should be aware of our delusions, which are quoted in the following words of the Shôbôgenzô. We should see our delusions very clearly and try to refrain from making such errors or worse ones. If we don’t, it will be rather impossible to overcome these delusions. And we will distance ourselves  more and more from the Dharma, that means from the true law of the world.

Even if we have a very keen intellect and trained powers of observation and try hard with all our physical and mental faculties, it will be impossible to realize the truth of this world. Why? If we rely just on these areas, every kind of understanding and action will be one-sided and we will be blind to broader, true dimensions.

The following paragraph should be studied very precisely and I will follow the interpretation that was developed by Dôgen and Nishijima Roshi, the reliable practice and teaching of Gautama Buddha. This is necessary if we are not to be  trapped by contradictions and lost in its logical complexity. And Master Dôgen clearly underlines that Zen is logical and not irrational, but it needs a wholly intuitive mind. Normal western intelligence is not sufficient.

The teaching of Buddhism, especially in Zen, is never against reading the Sutras and if somebody claims they are useless, he has really not understood Zen Buddhism.

Freitag, 8. August 2014

Video Zen Moments in Berlin

Dear Dharma Friends,

my friend Beatrice made a video for Youtube: Zen Moments in Berlin with english subtitles. We met on a ferry boat to La Gomera, Canarian Islands, and were talking about the power od meditation. I was looking for a place to build a small dojo there. The climate of the Canarian Islands is similar to Hawaii: Summer till December, spring from January to March and then summer again. Not too bad for a dojo.

Zen moments are nature energy, meditation and archery. Feel the flowing with the musik of the Japanese bamboo flute. To find the true Self is to forget the former small and stressed ego, said Master Dogen.

Here the link:

With best wishes


Sonntag, 1. Juni 2014

Whole body like a mouth, hanging in space. Heart Sûtra (Makahannya haramitsu, Part 3)

 Dôgen says: “Reflection is prajnyâ itself.” And Nishijima adds that this occurs “when the autonomic nervous system is balanced“ and this is just clear, comprehensive intuition. Nishijima Roshi thinks in this regard that western civilization does not revere human intuition very much and that people think that is sometimes very dangerous for human beings to decide important decisions relying upon intuition”.

But Buddhism is different and has the unique principle of this clear and trained intuition. It is much more powerful for decision-making than sequential logic and mathematic models.

By the way, modern neuroscience has proved beyond doubt that this balance is of the utmost importance for our lives and that it is stupid to separate the brain from the body and call it “mind”. And it has been proved that this ability can be trained and developed especially with meditation such as Zen.

Especially in the modern world with its stress, anxiety and excess of unimportant, useless information it is necessary for us to have instruments to train so that we can experience balance and the true self. We have to come back to our center to know what is essential for our lives and what is not.

Dôgen has not developed a complicated and hairsplitting philosophy about prajnyâ and emptiness. He quotes a monk from Buddha´s order who bows in veneration to the profound prajnyâ pâramitâ. By doing this and being exactly in the present moment, he experiences intimately the great wisdom. Nishijima Roshi says:

The monk's secretly working concrete mind at this moment is, in the state of bowing in veneration of real dharmas, prajnyâ itself – whether or not (real dharmas) are without appearance and disappearance – and this is a venerative bow itself”

So he has a sincere attitude and is acting secretly for himself without anybody looking at him, and in this prostration lies the exact manifestation of prajnyâ.
Just perform this prostration: in the reality of veneration the truth of the world and the universe itself are to be found.

In most Buddhist texts and especially in Zen Buddhism the wording for emptiness is: “being without”. This means without ideology, for example ideology which is religious or controlled by greed. Nishijima Roshi says: “The translation ´being without´ seems to be very difficult, but I think that it is better for me to replace it with ´as it is.´”

That means without ideology and not controlled by greed and without delusions, that is the balanced state and the Middle Way.

Dôgen speaks about emptiness and prajnyâ calling it space: “So researching prajnyâ is space itself, space is the research of prajnyâ.” Because space is everywhere in the universe, it is a good symbol for prajnyâ and it exists in the present moment. Nishijima explains,
“Therefore if we like to know what prajnyâ is, it is better for us to suppose the space and we can think that when we have the balance state of the autonomic nervous system we can always use our own prajnyâ everywhere at the present moment.”
So we do not experience prajnyâ in an exotic situation, in a specific mystic meditation, but it is everywhere if we are open to it and trained to experience it. And Zen meditation is a powerful tool enabling us to enter the reality of this great wisdom. It’s impossible to experience it just by reading intelligent books and having nice dialogs with Buddhist teachers; it must be learned and practiced with body and mind. Nishijima says:

“Therefore a person, who is always keeping the balanced state, can be always called Buddha.”

That means that the person who is not able to keep the balanced state can never be called Buddha and will be ruled by sophisticated ideas and deluded emotions

Dôgen quotes his own Master, the eternal Buddha, on the subject of prajnyâ with a wonderful poem of a windbell:

Whole body like a mouth, hanging in space;
Not asking if the wind is east, west, south, or north,
For all others equally, it speaks prajnā.
Chin ten ton ryan chin ten ton.

And at the end of this chapter, “These real Dharmas are bare manifestations…Neither dirty nor pure”; they are just reality and the truth.

Mittwoch, 21. Mai 2014

The Power of Emptiness is the Power of Freedom, Heart Sûtra (Makahannya haramitsu, Part 2)

Dôgen starts with an important chapter,

“When Bodhidsattva Avalokiteshvara practices the profound prajnyâ paramitâ, the whole body reflects that the five aggregates are totally empty. The five aggregates (skandas) are matter, feeling, thinking, enaction and consciousness.”

Empty means that these five components of a human being and the world (skandas) are in the balanced state, they are not deluded, not lost in emotional dreams and not dependant on greed, anger or stupidity. They are free and empty of blockages.

In this state of Zazen we experience existentially both truth and reality: “the whole universe is as it is.” This means that we have not added anything unrealistic or any one-sided idea, that we have not taken away or reduced anything or any idea concerning the universe or ourselves.

This seems to be easy, but it must be practiced, and the effective way to do this is to practice Zazen. In the balanced state of Zazen we transcend conventional thinking and perception. And we are open to the here and now, without tension and stress and with no nervous emotions. In this state there is no fear, no anger and no exaggerated emotions. We are rid of the usual thoughts and emotions. And we are especially empty and free of social ideologies and political hate: that is the basis of creativity and an open mind.

Nishijima Roshi stresses that this balanced state is the balance of our autonomic nervous system; this means that the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, which are in interaction in the autonomic nervous system, are in a state of tranquility. This is a state of calmness and stability and with this it is possible to experience the universe exactly as it is and there is nothing which disturbs us. He says,

Therefore if we, human beings, want to have always the true decision, it is necessary for human beings to keep the balance of the autonomic nervous system at every moment.”

Because great wisdom is not one-sided, Master Dôgen says that “matter is just immaterial and the immaterial is just matter.” But he says in addition to that that everything is as it is

, “matter is matter and the immaterial is the immaterial. There are hundreds of things and million phenomena.”

So with this explanation I think it is not difficult to understand the words “form - emptiness and emptiness – form”. This means that we do not discriminate between matter, feeling and mind, and that we experience a unity, without separation of subject and object.

Master Dôgen explains in this chapter that prajnyâ, the six ways of acting of the Bodhidsattva, is essential for all Buddhist teachings and the Four Noble Truths; there are six instances of prajnyâ: freely giving, pure (observance of) precepts, patience, diligence, meditation and prajnyâ itself.

Master Dôgen emphasizes that the great wisdom of prajnyâ pâramitâ is realized in the present moment and it is also important for the truth of the three times: past, present and future. In Zen Buddhism it is essential to be clear about the material aspects of this universe, which is described by the elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space. The great wisdom should be integrated into our actions, such as walking, standing, sitting and lying down.

I think it might be helpful to explain the Sanskrit word shûnyatâ. In ancient times Indian mathematics scholars invented the zero of the algebraic system of positive and negative figures. They called this zero shûnyatâ. The zero is the middle of the whole system of figures and the center for the functioning of all positive and negative figures.

It has no value of its own; it is in the middle and guarantees the balance. This shûnyatâ was very significant for Indian scholars and Masters at the time of Mahâyâna. Master Nâgârjuna developed his philosophy of the Middle Way in the golden age of Mahâyâna. It is thus very clear that shûnyatâ doesn’t represent a nihilist philosophy and nothingness in the sense that no thing and no body really exist. The opposite is the case. It is a powerful truth concerning the whole system of mathematics; it is the middle and the balance.

Samstag, 10. Mai 2014

The Heart Sûtra (Makahannya haramitsu, Part 1)

The great intuitive wisdom which transcends thinking

Master Dôgen describes in this chapter of the Shôbôgenzô the prajnya paramita of the great wisdom, which is also known as Heart Sutra. It is the second chapter in this great work. This most important Sûtra is associated with the words “form and emptiness”. Master Dôgen quotes these words at the beginning of his comprehensive teaching on Buddhism.

Prajnyâ is a wisdom that transcends conventional thinking, even when it is logical, clear and not unreasonable. But in conventional thinking there are processes of sequential thought which are not capable of providing comprehensive and clear solutions in complex situations. This fact is proved exactly by research in the field of the neurosciences.

For this reason conventional thinking maybe a good tool for scientific research and technical jobs, but it has little effect in the realm of the existential and the spiritual, and not even in the domain of psychology. It is said that the Heart Sûtra is the contents of about forty large Sûtras from Mahâyâna Buddhism. Even today Buddhist groups recite the Heart Sûtra both in East Asia and in the West.

Paramitâ means “to have arrived at the opposite shore”. That is, to have reached the truth. So paramitâ is the central teaching of Gautama Buddha, transcending conventional thinking and perception and free of suffering. Both of the latter are closely associated with emotions which are more or less strong and which change our information process. This means that it is different from reality.

Prajnyâ is very often combined with the word shûnyatâ, which was used by Master Nâgârjuna and extensively interpreted in his main work “Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way”. But the word emptiness is very often misunderstood and some people equate it with nihilism, which rejects logic and realism. But this understanding is completely wrong.

Prajnyâ is a kind of wisdom which constitutes a great ability of our mind, and it transcends the linear thinking in which we distinguish between subject and object. The Heart Sûtra cannot be understood easily because of its wording, and I myself have recited it very often but have in fact had considerable difficulty in understanding its true meaning. At the end of the Sûtra it says that it has the power to transcend all sufferings. But how can its words “form is emptiness and emptiness is form” transcend our suffering?

Before I studied Master Dôgen and Nagarjuna under Nishijima Roshi it was more or less impossible for me to understand the full  meaning of these words. Nishijima/Cross say,

“What is pajnyâ? Prajnyâ or real wisdom is a kind of intuitive ability that  occurs in our body and mind, when our body and mind are in the state of balance and harmony.”

And they continue,
“The right decision (in our life) comes from the right state of body and mind. And the right state of body and mind comes when our body and mind are balanced and harmonized.”

And this is the great wisdom of Prajnya.

For Nishijima Roshi the meaning of emptiness is the same as the balanced state of body and mind, especially in Zen meditation. This is a state of the whole human being and is not only a question of thinking and considerations. With this definition the meaning of emptiness becomes clearer und free of mysticism.

Freitag, 2. Mai 2014

New Movie of Zen

Dear Zen friends,

a young movie maker, Beatrice, was very motivated to make a movie about Zen in the modern society. I met her on the ferry to La Gomera, Canarian Island, were I intend to build a small dojo in the mountain, not far from the coast. 

As you know wintertime is not very convenient in middle and north Europe, so we were thinking it might be a good idea to have a center for Zazen in that wonderful nature and climate of La Gomera: only Spring and Summer.

In the short movie I am speaking about:

- Stress, fear, insecurity, looser situation in the modern culture
- Nature like Dogen´s famous chapters in the Shobogenzo
- Shakuhachi flute is for flow and deep relaxing, no fear about changing
- Archery for action in the moment: past, present and future as one unit in the very moment, exactly the situation of body-and-mind.

I am sorry it is not in English.
We are thinking of crowd funding.

With best wishes


Dienstag, 22. April 2014

Body and Mind are Originally One Reality, A Talk about Pursuing the Truth (Bendowa, Part 4)

Even nowadays you find Buddhist groups in which the leader claims that he does not have to practice any more because he is enlightened already. This is completely wrong, because experience and practice are the same, they must not be separated or deluded. Everybody who experiences the Buddhist path does so by practicing. If anybody pretends to be enlightened as a result of his wonderful practice in the past and because he is already free and liberated, this is not genuine. Practice-and-experience cannot be separated and therefore everybody has to practice, whether he is a beginner, advanced or a master.

Zazen is pure action without the ambition of becoming enlightened, and means acting in the correct posture. It is freedom itself and Zazen is sufficient in itself. Nothing can be added and nothing is lacking. So every master continues to practice Samâdhi because there is no end to it in our lives.
Before the time of Buddha there existed in the religion of India the idea of an eternal and never changing thing called Atman. People believed that this Atman went into the body when human beings were born and left the body when they died. After that it looked for another reincarnation and went into another body for the next cycle of life. Gautama Buddha categorically rejected this belief.

But Dôgen was aware that there were some Buddhist lineages with beliefs very similar to that of this old Indian religion. Maybe they used Buddhist words, for example an eternal mind. But Dôgen rejected such ideas, as did Nishijima Roshi, because they are part of the philosophy of idealism and not Buddhist realism. It is not true that knowledge of such an unchangeable eternal soul, Atman, alone, will free us from our suffering and insecurities. The words “Mind is Buddha here and now” always mean the unity of body and mind, at this precise moment and in this place. That is the Buddhist reality.
Knowing the truth just by consideration is not enough and cannot improve our lives really:

So, remember, in the Buddha-Dharma, because the body and mind are originally one reality, the saying that essence and form are not two has been understood equally in the Western Heavens (India) and the Eastern Lands, and we should never dare to go against it.”

Dôgen says very clearly that everybody can practice Zazen, even if they are not able to keep to the precepts and pure conduct. Of course, this is” the standard of the Zen lineages and the normal practice of Buddhist patriarchs. But every layman, not only monks and nuns living “pure” lives, should practice Samâdhi. It is extremely wrong if people discriminate between men and women practicing Zazen, because Gautama Buddha taught us that all human beings are equal and there is no difference in their status or position, not even in the castes in old India.

There are famous examples of human beings like ministers and high officials in China, who practice Zazen even when they are very busy and have important responsibilities. So the idea that only nuns and monks can practice Zazen in a monastery is completely wrong. This is important for the modern age because many people complain that they are too busy to meditate because of lack of time.. This may be the case but the conclusion  is wrong, the contrary is right. Due to stress and hard work, it is of great importance to find the balanced state, to get rid of stress and to regenerate body and mind with Zazen. For laymen it is important to be determined and to proceed clearly along the Buddhist path, practicing every day as Nishijima Roshi tells advises.

In old times there were some theories that Buddhism would lose more and more quality and Significance,in future centuries, would decline and that it would therefore not be possible to practice true Samâdhi in such a bad time as that which we have now in history. Dôgen clearly rejected such an opinion because Zazen is right and necessary at every time in history and in every country.

Buddhist truth cannot simply be seized just by thinking minds and cannot be taught by teachers who have no experience of their own of Zazen and the balanced state. There is a big gap between theoretical knowledge and speech on the one hand and the whole experience of activity in the unity of mind, body, universe and self on the other. The teaching and practice of Buddhism face to face constitutes very important progress in our civilization: starting in India, going to parts of East Asia like China, Korea, and Japan and now coming to the western world.

If somebody has practiced for long periods over many years, then suddenly great enlightenment may come. There are many true stories of great masters reported by Dôgen. One old master became enlightened, for example, by the blossoms of peach trees in a beautiful valley or by the sound of a pebble hitting bamboo. Furthermore there is a Buddhist story about a prostitute who put on the Buddhist kashaya and in this way experienced the great Truth. Zazen is open to bright and dull persons in the same way, it is directly connected with the practice on the Way, the pursuit of truth or enlightenment.

At the end of this important first chapter Dôgen explains his decision to publish his practical and theoretical experience in China. He was concerned about those honest students who were looking for the true Dharma and could not find a genuine master to teach it. This is why he wrote down what he experienced himself, so that everybody could study and read it. He started to do this work immediately after coming back from China. The first document was Fukan zazengi, in which he describes very precisely all the important aspects of Zen meditation.

We appreciate this decision of Master Dôgen in the 13th century very much because now we have authentic and reliable teachings of the Zen-Buddhism of the golden area in China in our hands. This is especially true of the Shôbôgenzô, “The Right-Dharma-Eye Treasure”.