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."