(Keisei sanshiki) Part 4
Dogen suggests studying the old masters profoundly and taking them as a role model. This would be more important than staying in close contact with kings, lords, the important figures of public life, the rich and famous of a country etc. It is better not to engage with them. If one did this, one would inevitably depend on them, would be fixated on praise and criticism and hope for benefits from them.
As it is told, in such an environment, even in monasteries, there is and there was envy and jealousy – already at the time of Gautama Buddha.
Those who are spiritually constrained cannot recognize a truly wise man and even develop hostility towards the saints.
According to Dogen, even in Buddhism there are cases in which great masters have been tortured and killed by those who did not recognize who they really were.
Dogen advises insistently never to develop hatred in such cases but rather to teach the Dharma with great love and compassion to make a difference in people's lives and guide them onto the right path.
Beginners on the path to the Buddha-Dharma are still steeped in emotions and ideals which are not consistent with reality.
That is why it is important that the strength of the first learning period does not weaken and fade away, but is transformed into pragmatic perseverance. This is necessary to attain the Buddha-way and to continue the practice: It is necessary to continue practising on our journey to the Buddha-way.
Nishijima Roshi recommends practising Zazen twice a day – even if, after enthusiastic beginnings, it is not always easy and sometimes can even be boring. And it is essential to find a true teacher. On this path, one has to “climb mountains and cross oceans.”
“While we are seeking a guiding teacher, or hoping to find a [good] counselor, one comes down from the heavens, or springs out from the earth.”
He refers to his own experience, when he was looking for a teacher himself. According to Dogen, the closer you get to know a real master, the greater he appears to be as a man, the more you can learn from him.
With a false master it is exactly the other way around.
Dogen also shows his followers how to behave on the Buddha-way if they realize that in everyday life they have gotten tired and lazy. He advises them to confront the problem openly and not to deceive themselves. In front of Buddha one should confess one's inattentiveness and laziness wholeheartetly. This will create strength and energy which are needed if one is to redeem and purify oneself.
Then, the shallow, unsatisfying days of the past are gradually reduced and a change and a new start are possible. This way, the old Karma can be cleared and the obstacles on our learning path can be set aside. An old master is quoted:
“ If you haven’t reached perfection in your past life, you can do it now.”
He continues: “After people have realized the truth, they will be eternal Buddhas now.” On this path, theory and thoughts alone won’t take you further – as important as they may be. But one has to act and practice in the Here and Now. For that, we need genuine trust in our body and mind.
“If we practice like this, none of the eighty-four thousand verses will be withheld from us by the voice and shape of the valley and the shape and voice of the mountains.”
Then we will realize that “the valleys and mountains are (real) valleys and mountains"