Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dogen’s Shobogenzo : Ch 9 – Keisei-Sanshiki (V) Single-Minded Pursuit of the Truth

With one-minded aim 
Mountains and River Valleys 
Sing all their verses.

In the rest of Keisei-Sanshiki Dogen gives some helpful advice for those serious in their pursuit of the Buddha-Dharma. 

Dogen reminds us that any beginner’s intellectual understanding is bound to be flawed. That’s probably true whether we are beginners or not. But its also important to note, I think, that he doesn’t tell us to completely stop thinking about the Buddha’s truth either:
         In general, a beginner’s sentimental thinking cannot imagine the Buddha’s truth—[the beginner] fathoms but does not hit the target. 

Dogen also mentions several scenarios that can be discouraging to one’s practice. If there is a central message in these passages, to me, it seems that Dogen is telling us we need to trust our own instincts. He reminds us to remember our joyful determination when we began and to continue our ‘single-minded aiming to get the truth’. As long as we continue our ‘single-minded aiming to get the truth’:
       At the time of right training, the voices of the river valley and the form of the river valley, the form of the mountains and the voices of the mountains, all do not begrudge their eighty-four thousand verses. When the self does not begrudge fame and gain and body and mind, the river valley and the mountains, similarly, begrudge nothing.

He includes the following vow:
     “I hope that I, together with all living beings, may hear the right Dharma through this life and through every life hereafter. If I am able to hear it, I will never doubt the right Dharma, and I will never be disbelieving. When I meet the right Dharma, I will discard secular rules and receive and retain the Buddha-Dharma so that the earth and sentient beings may finally realize the truth together.”
     And notes: If we make a vow like this, it will naturally become the cause of, and conditions for, the authentic establishment of the mind. Do not neglect, or grow weary of, this attitude of mind.

* * * * *
As mentioned, there are a number of straight-forward passages on difficulties and hindrances in this chapter. I've listed some of the ones that stood out for me below:

Lack of enthusiasm in fellow practitioners: There are many who drift into the monkhood, and who seem to have left the secular world, but …they have no will to pursue the Dharma for the Dharma’s sake, and so, when they meet the real Dharma they doubt the real dragon, and when they meet the right Dharma they are disliked by the right Dharma. Their body, mind, bones, and flesh have never lived following the Dharma, and so they are not in mutual accord with the Dharma; they do not receive and use [in harmony] with the Dharma…They explain the bodhi-mind as if relating an old dream. How pitiful it is that, having been born on the treasure mountain, they do not know what treasure is and they do not see treasure.

On looking for praise or corroboration: Because people today rarely seek what is real, when the praises of others are available, they seem to want someone to say that their practice and understanding have become harmonized, even though there is no practice in their body and no realization in their mind. “In delusion adding to delusion” describes exactly this. We should throw away this wrongmindedness immediately.

On expectations of gain: Foolish people, however, even those who have the will to the truth, soon forget their original resolve and mistakenly expect the offerings of human beings and gods, feeling glad that the merit of the Buddha-Dharma has come to them.

On criticism and insult: 
       We should remember that there are dogs who bark at good people. Do not worry about barking dogs. Bear them no grudge. Vow to lead them and to guide them.
       There may be some who have it in their nature to learn, in veneration of the ancients. There may also be insulting demons who will not learn. We should neither love nor resent either group.

On not bragging or boasting: As a general rule concerning actions and vows which are the bodhi-mind, we should not intend to let worldly people know whether or not we have established the bodhi-mind, or whether or not we are practicing the truth; we should endeavor to be unknown. How much less could we boast about ourselves?

More on maintaining single-minded pursuit of the truth, not thinking of fame & gain: Moreover, there have been examples since ancient time of the god Indra coming to test a practitioner’s resolve… these things always happened when [the practitioner] had not got rid of the will to fame and gain. When the [spirit of] great benevolence and great compassion is profound, and when the vow to widely save living beings is mature, these hindrances do not occur.

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