Dienstag, 19. Mai 2015

I have been searching something sharp like a sword

The Voices of the River Valley and the Form of the Mountains
(Keisei sanshiki) Part 3

Another well-known story speaks about the Buddhist path of an old master who had already been practising for more than 30 years of his life. One day he was wandering through the mountains, when he spotted from a hillside a charming valley in which peach trees were blossoming in spring.

He suddenly realized the great truth and wrote the following poem:
“I have been searching something sharp like a sword for 30 years like a traveler.During the time, treeleaves have fallen down many times, and twigs spread too many times.However, just after looking at the so gorgeous peach blossoms actually. Having arrived at the present moment, I have thrown away the whole doubt.”

The sword is a symbol of the clarity of the body-mind. It cuts through confusion and knots in life, so that one can reach reality. The symbolic meaning of the sword is similar to that of the diamond. With its sharpness it can also cut through the thicket of preconceived opinions, validations and lalready made up ideas of the mind.

In ancient China, Koan-stories were common in which a master refused to answer a well-versed and smart question of one of his students, because he thought the question to be theoretical and made up fictitious. Sometimes the master just repeated the question in the exact same way. In this way he wanted to push his student towards direct experience and action and to bring him closer to reality. At the same time the master wanted to liberate him from a rigid way of thinking and the use of meaningless words.

The following theoretical questions of distinctive reasoning, which the masters did not answer with words  but with actions, are examples of this:

"How can we make mountains, rivers, and the Earth part of ourselves?"
Or the question of a wise philosopher:

"How does pure essentiality suddenly give rise to mountains, rivers, and the Earth?"

In the following, Master Dogen concentrates on the main contents and basic points of the Buddhist teachings: perseverance, the strong desire for truth and the awackening of the Bodhi-spirit, all of which are important premisses to remember on the Buddha-way.

Hunger for fame, profit and ego-pride have to be overcome. Otherwise one blocks oneself on the way.

Dogen also criticizes the fact that  many contemporaries at that time had in fact become monks although they did not really strive for the Buddhist truth or practise persistently. In China, the great period of Zen Buddhism was already in decline.
Many monks and abbots were formally Buddhists, but the strength of the Buddha-Dharma had already become extinct and the pursuit of superficial recognition and financial gain mostly prevailed.

Often times, it was a question of power and influence at court.

Under these conditions, the reality and the truth of the Buddha-Dharma lost their significance and faded, leaving only images and shadows.
This is recounted in the famous allegory in which a living dragon pays the house of a lover of dragon pictures and sculptures a visit. But  seeing the living dragon before him, the frightened man flees, as he loves only “beautiful and harmless” pictures, not reality itself.

Dogen describes it as follows:

“Their body, mind, bones and their flesh have never lived the real Dharma. That is why they are not one with the Dharma. They don’t receive and they don’t use the Dharma.”

According to Dogen, such times of decline are full of false teachers and self-proclaimed masters who are not capable of guiding their students truly onto the Buddha-way.

For this reason Dogen recommends examining teachers and masters precisely. He also points to the irretrievable damage caused if the teachings are not  transmitted in an authentic way.

In such cases, it would be better not to practise the Buddha-Dharma at all – as this would not only be a waste of time, but would also do severe damage.

Those who cannot rely on their own real experience depend mostly on others and often need shallow confirmation from others – and then confuse it with the great truth itself. Naturally, to realize this and to see through it is not that simple.

Dienstag, 5. Mai 2015

The Master said: at a Single Stroke I lost Recognition

The Voices of the River Valley and the Form of the Mountains
(Keisei sanshiki) Part 2
Another famous story speaks about a master, who was later well known, who could not make any progress, though working intensely with his master on the Buddhist teachings. Being asked describe the state prior to the birth of his parents, he could not answer. He was expected to answer this question from his own experience and not by citing the Buddhist writings, which he had studied in detail. He was so discouraged that he decided to burn all his theoretical writings, which he had studied so hard, and to dedicate himself solely to simple tasks in the monastery. 
His realization was,
The image of a rice cake cannot satisfy hunger.”
In this case the image of the rice cake refers to the writings and Dharma-teachings of his own master. The teachings remain theoretical and shallow, if they don’t correlate with experiences and practices in your own life.
Eventually the disciple asked his master for assistance, so that he could continue on his Dharma-Path. But the master saw the extraordinary talent of his student and refused to grant him this wish. The master was probably convinced that his student would gain all the necessary experiences on his Buddha-way himself.
In most cases a verbal instruction wears itself out in words and thoughts and cannot replace real practice. Just like the image of the rice cake, which cannot be eaten and cannot satisfy hunger.
The story continues by telling us that the monk left for the mountains to seek solitude. He settled at a place where a famous master had been practising for years. The monk had set aside to strive for awakening and enlightenment. Instead he lived harmoniously within nature and with the passing of the seasons. He practised persistently and intensely and many years went by.
He planted a bamboo tree, which he nourished and cared for. One day, as he was sweeping the path to his shed, a piece of brick hit the bamboo.
It is said that he reached enlightenment by hearing this sound.
Grateful and deeply moved, he bowed in the direction of his master, because he had not explained hastily and to early what was waiting for him by eperiencing true enlightenment. He had left it to his own experiences life. Due to this fact alone, he had been able to wake up to the truth.
Finally, he wrote the following verse:
“At a single stroke I lost recognition. No longer need I practice self-discipline.[I am] manifesting behavior in the way of the ancients. Never falling into despondency.”
Later on, his master confirmed his state of enlightenment and said that this disciple had reached perfection.