(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.