Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reflections: Dogen’s Raihai-tokuzui – Prostrating to the Marrow of Attainment (I)

What follows is a preliminary, non-inclusive, non-definitive synthesis following my first read through of Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo:

There were a few practical observations I got out of reading Raihai-tokuzui (Chapter 8 of the Shobogenzo, Nishijima & Cross translation) I wanted to make note of with more than a couple of haiku.

The first relates to finding a teacher:“the most difficult thing is to find a guiding teacher.Dogen goes on to list many characteristics of a good teacher, for example:
- beyond appearances such as those of a man or a woman
- should be someone ineffable (someone indescribable)
- should never be unclear about cause and effect (Law of Dependent Origination)

But the main gist of what he is saying throughout the Chapter is that a teacher should be someone who has ‘got the marrow’, i.e., the Dharma or the Truth.

It would be nice if it were that simple. Later in the Chapter Dogen states that anything can ‘have the marrow’ and be a teacher:[whatever] whether it is an outdoor pillar, whether it is a stone lantern, whether it is the buddhas, whether it is a wild dog, a demon or a god, a man or a woman ….even fields and villages might preach to us …even fences and walls.”
So if anyone and anything can be a teacher, why is the most difficult thing finding a guiding teacher? To me, this statement recognizes that, in our striving for the Truth, each of us may be at different points on the path and may even be taking different paths. Even if we intellectually know this to be the case, our ability to recognize, to really see, the Dharma in different people or things is likely a function of where we are on the path and which path we are taking. Another observation I found insightful in Raihai-tokuzui was:Having met with a guiding teacher, we should throw away myriad involvements and, without wasting a moment of time, we should strive in pursuit of the truth. We should train with consciousness, we should train without consciousness, and we should train with semiconsciousness.” If I put these observations together, what they seem to suggest is that the right guiding teacher for each of us should be someone who inspires and motivates us enough that we are willing to throw away myriad involvements and not waste a moment of time in pursuit of the Truth.

Dogen also states that when we find a guiding teacher we should venerate them.

A couple of preliminary haiku attempts:

Each day prostrating
To the myriad dharmas
That teach me to see.

Without wasting time
The Truth of the Universe
Unfolded by You.

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