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.