Sunday, August 15, 2010

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

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


In thinking about Raihai-tokuzui, Chapter 8 of the Shobogenzo, there’s at least one more observation I feel is pretty important. Dogen is clear that anyone exhibiting sincerity and belief can realize the Buddha-Dharma:

“Getting the marrow, and receiving the Dharma, invariably come from sincerity and from belief.”

“Even human beings and gods, in their stupidity, have the sympathy to respond to sincerity, so how could the buddhas, in their rightness, lack the compassion to reciprocate sincerity.”

That means that the Buddha-Dharma makes no distinctions on the basis of an individual’s past behavior, sex, or race. Something we tend to forget.

Sincerity and belief are all that’s required. 
Sincerity and belief are all that’s required.
Sincerity and belief are all that’s required…


In all sincerity, I first read Raihai-tokuzui (Nishijima & Cross translation) several months ago. My reading was shortly followed by news of the expulsion of Ajahn Brahm for ordaining women in his Australian-based monastery, a decision upheld by the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand (Article in the Bangkok News; a great collection of links on this story also can be found over at Nella Lou's Enlightenmentward). The decision by Thailand’s Sangha Supreme Council was a bit of a surprise (and disappointment) for me, although it probably shouldn’t have been. I just hadn’t focused on the role of women in Buddhism in a socially- or politically- minded way. (I’ll also note, though, that I hadn’t thought about ordination much at that time either.) Its not like Christianity has done much better over the years, nor has academia (see, for example, Virginia Valian’s well regarded analysis Why so Slow? ) – in spite of its being a center for liberal and progressive thinking. I had, however, noticed the striking absence of the names of women in Zen lineage. (Some information and stories can be found at Barry’s blog Zen Women if you’re interested.)

In case we forget, historical accounts indicate Buddha ordained his aunt Prajapati establishing a precedent for the ordination of women at the onset of Buddhism.

Given the news of Ajahn Brahm’s explusion, Raihai-tokuzui  really stuck with me. Dogen is clear that the Buddha Dharma is equal opportunity — and not just for men and women. In fact, he’s pretty clear that there should be no distinctions. A few quotes:

“As regards attainment of the truth, both [men and women] attain the truth, and we should just profoundly revere every single person who has attained the Dharma. Do not discuss man and woman. This is one of Buddhism’s finest Dharma standards.”

When they have yet to cut delusion, men and women alike have yet to cut delusion. When they cut delusion and experience the principle, there is nothing at all to choose between a man and a woman.”

“When a woman has [thus] already become buddha, is there anything in all directions that she cannot perfectly realize? Who could aim to bar her from passing?”

As far as whether a person’s background or past actions affect their ability to receive the Buddha-Dharma, Dogen reminds us that we shouldn’t judge or exclude people on the basis of past actions:

“Furthermore, if we hate [others] for the wrongs they have committed in the past, we must even hate all bodhisattvas. If we hate like this, we will discard everyone, so how will we be able to realize the Buddha-Dharma?”

And so, a few more haiku for Chapter 8 (the latter borrowing a bit from Genjo-koan):

True sincerity,
True belief – all that’s needed
To realize marrow.


Who was Kanzeon
The days before she became
A Bodhisattva?


World with no judgement,
Buddhas, ordinary beings --
All Buddha-Dharma.


2 comments:

Matt said...

What made the Buddha so "ahead of his time" was the acceptance of women into the sangha as nuns. Wondering why now a fuss.

I need to investigate and read more on this, and thanks for highlighting it!

Happi said...

Actually, it wasn't that easy, even for Prajapati and Buddha. Prajapati's request that Buddha ordain her was rejected until Nanda interceded on her behalf.

It seems even Buddha was affected by society and its habits/teachings. I imagine the same to be true in Thailand.

Luckily, Buddha, at least, was able to recognize Truth when presented with it.

Thanks for your comment!