Mittwoch, 26. August 2015

The Lion’s Roar of a Child

(Shoaku-Makusa) Part 3

In fact, it is remarkable to see that some people act quite differently than they think they would. Furthermore, often theoretical moral considerations, which sound  good, are  often linked to the fact that  right is not being done.
In general, a  thing is often  called right which cannot be seen as rightful acting once it has been examined. In addition, it is usually veiled and serves an individual's personal advantage.

At this point Dogen highlights the fact that there are many ways to do good, e.g. the practice of the Pure Land and Zazen practice which he is very fond of.
It is important that while acting rightfully, one acts carefully. Which means, that one should respect other people and their actions. As Dogen underlines, this is not only true in the case of friends and relatives, but even more so in the case of rivals and enemies.
It applies both to family life, while dealing with friends, and also at the workplace which is often dominated by envy and a fight for important positions.

Doing the right thing in a respectful manner takes place in the moment itself. As Dogen mentions, we should not blame outer circumstances or situations as the cause if we fail to do the right thing – this way we would be naming the wrong causes. What applies to active action is also true in the case of letting things happen - because we can realize right by letting things happen.
In such a case one should not interfere in a disruptive or egoistic way – one would only generate wrong oneself.

In a poem it is said that heart and mind would naturally open up and become pure, if we were not doing wrong and respectfully doing the right.
Also, this statement should not be rooted solely in theory and conceptual thinking, but should be discovered and experienced through acting.

While we act we can learn how Buddhas are meant to be. Then we will not, according to Dogen, have to act like ordinary people who accept the suffering produced by unjust actions, resign themselves and will never break through to righteousness. This is how we can avoid generating wrong in everyday life - and it may even be possible to do good.
In a well-known Koan-story a famous poet asked a great master:

“What is the meaning of the Buddha-Dharma?”
The master answered:
“Not to generate wrong and to do what is right.”

The poet, who was also a powerful governor, remarked snidely:
“If that is true, even a three-year-old* can say that.”

The master replied:
”A three-year-old child can already speak the truth, but even a very experienced man of eighty years cannot realize all.”

The poet then thanked the master with a prostration, but he could not fully capture the deeper meaning of this statement. He was known for his great poetic qualities and praised greatly in the circles of writers and poets.
However, the deeper meaning of the words, one should not generate wrong and do good, he was only able to understand on a conceptual level – that is why it remained on the level of words and thoughts. That is, according to Dogen, not surprising, as he was a man of words and not a man of action. Practice and action are crucial and they often differ from talking and thinking.

Obviously, due to his great poetic skill, he was still far removed from the Buddhist practice of Zazen and in everyday life.
In fact, it is easy to say what would be morally correct and meaningful – namely not to generate wrong and to do good. It is certainly true that even a child who has learned to form proper sentences could say that.

But the realization of this moral intent requires a new dimension to life. Often times, the experience of a long life and the learning acquired along the Dharma path are not sufficient to realize this completely.
For this realization an intuitive clarity and the all-encompassing power of acting in the present are absolutely necessary.

You can also call them, as Dogen does, the “miraculous causes and effects” or the “Buddha causes and Buddha effects”.
When people do the right thing – and this can be done in many ways - their spirit, form, body and their positive energy are being realized.

Dogen questions why the poet despises the three-year-old child when he says that even it could phrase such a simple and obvious statement about injustice.
He (Dogen) doubts that the poet even knows what a three-year-old child really is. If he knew it, he would also have access to the Buddha Dharma. He says:

“Whoever got to know a single particle, knows the whole universe – and he who fully realized the true Dharma, realized the ten thousand Dharmas.”

According to Dogen, one could even say that a child participates in the lion’s roar of the Buddhist teachings right after it is born and embarks on its way to the Buddha-Dharma.
Obviously, this poet does not understand the lion’s roar of a child and dismisses the words of the child as being unnecessary babble. But even a three-year-old child can express the truth and we should thoroughly explore and understand it.

We should also explore the question, if and when an experienced man of eighty years has realized the truth.

For this, it is useful not to beinfluenced by interpretations, so that we don’t remove anything or add anything to true meaning – so that we view only reality and therefore understand and experience truth the way it is.

Montag, 10. August 2015

This way we avoid becoming contaminated

(Shoaku-Makusa) Part 2

In the first part of the chapter, Dogen emphasizes active individual action. But he also mentions that it is of due importance to let rightful action happen and not to tolerate unjust action. More observant behavior which lets things happen can often be morally rightful action.

In our lives we often come into contact with unjust action. This can happen through friends, relatives, but mostly through our enemies and rivals.
Buddhism teaches with utmost clarity that it is not correct to allow others to do injustice and to look on. Such behavior cannot be justified with the misunderstood comment, “it is how it is” – this is to shirk responsibility in this world.
Beneath rightful and wrongful action, according to Dogen, there is also neutral action – which is neither just nor unjust.

This is because injustice does not exist as a permanent, abstract reality, but is or is not generated through our own actions which can only happen in the present moment.

Therefore, the right or unjust action exists only in the present of the Now, and not permanently.

From a Buddhist perspective, the injustice of the past, which we can still remember, is only roughly comparable to the injustice of the present – it is not identical. Memories can never be the same as the reality of the present.
The same is true of the expected and anticipated injustice of the future. According to Dogen, we gain clarity about that through Buddhist practice, mainly Zazen.
In this connection he mentions that, regarding the question of justice and injustice, people of the Buddha-Dharma on the one hand and people of the ordinary world on the other , differ greatly compared to other differ more greatly from each other than in other areas within Buddhism.

As mentioned in detail in the chapter  “Just for the Time Being, Just for a While, For the Whole of Time is the Whole of Existence (Uji)” in the Shobogenzo, the true time of the present moment is inseparably connected to rightful and wrongful action.

If you only hear the words that you should not commit wrong, this, according to Dogen, already changes your behavior and actions to some degree. It is important that the Buddhist practice of Zazen is carried out and that a moral code is not limited to thinking and talking only, because the power of practice enables us to gain more clarity and to transform our actions and behavior.
Due to this practice one gains an intuitive and moral clarity in the present moment, so that it is almost impossible to do wrong.

As we are always acting in the present moment, this creates the clarity and power in the Now.
But this moment is so short that we cannot reflect consciously on justice and injustice and act at the same time.

While we are acting rightfully, independent evil cannot evolve – at any place or at any time.
This is even true if we are living in an environment or get into a situation in which a lot of injustice is perpetrated, and we believe that injustice has won over action. Then, in fact, the thought or the idea injustice has become stronger and turned into an essence, which rules the mind.

Dogen speaks about it as follows:
“If we devote our whole mind and our whole body to the practice (of Zazen), eighty or ninety per cent are being realized (that no injustice is generated) just before (at) this moment. And there is (also) the fact that after the moment (no injustice) is generated”.

The practice of Zazen is realized through physical and mindful action. This way we avoid becoming contaminated.
As there is a unity between the universe and the world in Buddhist practice, we can overcome limitations and duality. According to Dogen, we can also say that mountains, rivers, the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars practice as well and that we let them practice.

In this sense, the Buddhas and their predecessors in the Dharma have never contaminated practice and experience. They are free and have never limited themselves. This means: do not commit wrong!
With regard to the Buddhist teachings, injustice as an independent entity is neither existent nor non-existent – but it is always generated immediately through the action itself.

In the same way, it does not have a material or immaterial quality because it is about generating action in the Now. One should not understand it as being too abstract, as it refers to a real and concrete act in the Here and Now. All too easily injustice is minimized and whitewashed. However, these are only assessments of people, which make things unclear.

While we regret having done wrong, the strength and the desire for the rightful action develop, according to Dogen.
If one has gained the necessary strength and clarity through practice, it is not possible to deliberately do wrong.

In the beginning of the poem mentioned above it is said that we can practice  many kinds of right. This involves concrete action in the present moment – and the liberty we possess to do good and right things (by acting in the present moment).

Discussions as to whether  right exists or not do not lead any further and necessarily become rather inflexible on a theoretical level, which is far removed from acting in the Here and Now in our everyday life. For then right is being discussed as a thing, which is not correct.