The first chapter, Bendowa, of Master Dôgen´s Shôbôgenzô contains a talk about pursuing the truth and especially about the practice of Zazen, which is essential for the path of the Buddha – Dharma. If we take this path, we liberate ourselves from hindrances of body and mind and we are led to reality and enlightenment. This chapter is the first of the four-volume edition of Shôbôgenzô, which has 95 chapters. Dôgen put this talk at the beginning of this profound work not at random. He did so because it is so important. In the following we want to explain these substantial chapters of the Shôbôgenzô, mainly on the basis of the interpretation of Nishijima Roshi.
Dôgen says that the practice of Zen-Meditation, Zazen, is the “gateway of peace and joy to the Dharma”; it relieves hindrances and blockages in thinking and feeling. Body and mind are normally bound to the idea of an independent self and are attached to it, if we have no special training in the Buddha Dharma. Psychologists know that this self is very often afraid of something, focusing on itself, very often desiring or rejecting something.
Gautama Buddha taught us that these fixations bind us strongly and that by being attached to this self we will suffer. That will be the cause of trouble and frustration in our minds. In the western world we would say that it is not only the suffering of the body but also psychological pain.
Master Taisen Deshimaru, who is a student of the great Master Kodo Sawaki, says, “The practice of Zazen is the process of learning about ourselves. When practicing Zazen it is necessary to concentrate on our posture and it is necessary to forget the body mentally.”
Zen Buddhism teaches us by theory and practice how we can enter reality and truth itself and how to live a free and peaceful life of full clarity and joy. This practice of Zazen, which is called Samâdhi in the Sanskrit language, is the center of our Buddhist learning and training. When we practise Zazen, our ideas, images, visualizations and emotions fade away and we sit in the balanced state. And in this way our normal everyday state of mind is transcended and we free our true body-and-mind from all fixations and ideas which are bothering and restricting us. Our true human potential is developed by Zazen and a wonderful new creativity appears.
Master Dôgen didn’t find his true Master in
and he was not able to find true Buddhism either at that time. Finally he went
and met Master Tendo Nyojo and became his student. Under this great Master he
became aware that sophisticated and theoretical questions and answers in the
Buddhist philosophy alone are not helpful on the path to reality. It is
essential to practice Zazen in order to “understand” the Buddhist teachings. Dôgen
says, “The reason this (method of Zazen) is transmitted only from Buddha to
Buddha without deviation, is that the Samâdhi of receiving and using the
self is its standard.” China
In his clear words he continues: “For the enjoyment of this Samâdhi, the practice of Zazen, the erect sitting position has been established as the authentic gateway.” The great Master of the modern age, Kodo Sawaki, says: “Everybody is complaining about being so busy and that they have no time in their lives. But why are they so busy? Because of their delusions, which produce useless and hasty activity. But somebody who is practicing Zazen has time” and Nishijima Roshi adds:
“Zazen is the balanced state of body and mind, even in the busy, modern world of East and West.”
The true self, which is realized by our training and practice, has forgotten the distinction between you and I, I and world, subject and object and so many dualities and assessments. So many people act like this, very often without consciousness, but this true self is present in our actions and observations precisely in this moment.
Dôgen is not negating or scorning the value of the Buddhist theory or specific Images and ideas. But he is saying, that these areas are one-sided, incomplete and only a very special part of reality and truth. Acting and practicing Zazen are also essential for the ‘Buddha – Way’. He says:
“The effort in pursuing the truth that I am now teaching makes the myriad dharmas real in experience; it enacts the oneness of reality on the path of liberation. At that moment of clearing barriers and getting free, how could this paragraph be relevant?”
He is saying that by practicing Zazen the reality of the dharmas, the things and phenomena, will become real and complete. And by practicing Zazen faithfully we will find a path of liberation in our lives.