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.

Donnerstag, 20. November 2014

Master Gensa: "In the End I just cannot be deceived by Others"

One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 3)

What is fundamental about Master Gensa? He looked at reality very precisely and distinguished quite clearly between ideas, words and pictures on the one hand and reality on the other. And his own words strike the very heart and the essence of the important Buddhist questions; he never lost himself in romantic phantasies and illusions.

The example of the pearl shows us that Master Gensa was not only very clear about the form and the material side of reality but that he also has poetic power to speak about the beauty of the world.

Gensa practised under his Master Seppo with great intensity and without any interruption. But one day he wanted to leave the monastery to look for other Masters. He wanted to broaden his understanding of Buddhism and was looking for the new strong influences of a good Master. It is said that he had not left the monastery for a long time when he set out. But on the path not far from the monastery

he stubs his toe on a stone. Bleeding and in great pain (Master Gensa) all at once seriously reflects as follows: ´(People say) this body is not real existence. Where does the pain come from? ´ “

So in this very moment of pain it was completely clear to him that his body really existed. At the same time he thought that it was useless to go to other monasteries and other Masters, if important reality was just here and now and not far away. So he turned around immediately and went back to his Master Seppo. He did not leave the monastery again his whole life.

Master Seppo was astonished and asked him why he had come back and Gensa answered:
“In the end I just cannot be deceived by others.”

And Seppo liked these words very much and thought that Gensa was an outstanding student, so he said:
Is there anyone who does not have these words (inside them)? (But) is there anyone who can speak these words (so clearly)?”

So the most important thing in Buddhism is to practise yourself and not to learn theory from masters or sutras. This does not mean that theory is useless and not necessary. But the most important thing is to experience and be clear about yourself. Nishijima Roshi makes the comment:

“Everyone should follow the stiff-necked behavior like Gensa. But in secular society a person like Gensa is so few therefore common human societies can never arrive the Truth at all.”

But we should be very clear about the situation in history, for example why Master Bodhidharma went from India to China to teach true Buddhism and the practice of Zazen. He had no egoistic intentions, he was not looking for fame or money, he just wanted to teach the people in China and for this reason he went there. On the other hand, the second Chinese patriarch did not go to India, because it was not necessary for him to go there. He had learned true living Buddhism from Bodhidharma and practised intensively and taught his students to do so too.

Donnerstag, 13. November 2014

Master Gensa has recognized the Nobility of the Buddha Way

One Bright Pearl, (Ikka-no-myoju, Part 2)

The Bright Pearl is round like the disc of the moon or the sun, but it has three dimensions so it has the ability to roll and move and this, in particular, is a symbol of the substantial experience of Buddhism. Moving and changing are examples of action. The universe and everything in nature and in our lives is changing and moving all the time, so it is similar to the pearl rolling in a bowl.

And the pearl is reality itself. And indeed the sentence

the whole Universe in all directions is as splendid as a bright pearl”,

is essential to the Buddha Dharma. Master Dôgen appreciates Master Gensa so much because he was the first to say these words and to introduce them into Buddhism.
Who was this very famous Master Gensa? Master Dôgen says:

“Suddenly he desires to leave secular society; he leaves his boat and enters the mountains. He is already thirty years old (but) he has realized the precariousness of the floating world and has recognized the nobility of the Buddha Way"

Until this decision he was a fisherman on one of the big rivers of China and lived from fishing. He liked to sit in his boat in the floating water as he was a layman and had a normal social life. But it seems that he had already achieved the balanced state of a great person and we can be sure that he was not striving for fame, power and profit. Floating on the river he had the opportunity to reflect about life and the limitations we have until death. So he was asking,

“what is the purpose of our life”?

These questions became more and more important for him and therefore he decided to study and practise Buddhism; he left the river and his boat to look for the Great Truth. It is said that he had not read any sutra and had no knowledge of the theory and practice of Buddhism before. He was a layman who suddenly became aware of the fundamental questions of life and who then pursued the truth.

So he went away into the mountains and eventually entered the monastery of the famous Master Seppo. There he practised with intensity and patience and he was fully integrated into the life and work of the monastary. He had very simple clothing; for example, he had just one piece of cotton cloth, which he mended all the time when it became full of holes.

In the history of Chinese Zen-Buddhism there are many Kôan stories of the teacher Seppo and the student Gensa, which are of fundamental significance  and which reveal the thetrue meaning and hitting the target of Buddhism. On several occasions Master Dôgen quotes these Kôan dialogues of Seppo and Gensa. Gensa became the successor of Seppo in this well-known monastery in China.