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.