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.