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.