Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shobogenzo: Ch 11 (I) Uji – Existence-Time – The Whole Universe is in the Present Moment

Awhile back, while I was reading Uji, I told someone that Dogen’s writing ‘shimmers.’ Each time I read it, this chapter manages to enthrall me a bit because of the beauty of Dogen’s language, as well as the different ways he looks at time and what it means for our existence. Each time I read it, I see something new, something thing else that resonates with me. And each time, I get the sensation like I am standing at the edge of something...

To me the ‘reality’ of Now described in this chapter far transcends any words that attempt to describe it, although Dogen comes close. It transcends, to paraphrase Uchiyama-Roshi, in the same way that any definition of ‘fire’ cannot actually be fire.

Most basically, Existence-Time is just us meeting this moment right now, plain and simple. Most of us know this already, having Ram Dass’ “Be Here Now”, or more recently Tolle’s “Power of Now,” etched somewhere in our psyche if we’ve any Buddhist inclinations whatsoever.

But to limit what Dogen says in Uji to “[real existence] is only this exact moment,” seems to short-change this chapter. In fact, in looking for a quote that supports this basic idea, namely that “[real existence] is only this exact moment,” that stand-alone quote is hard to find. Here’s one that's close:

When we arrive in the field of the ineffable, there is just one [concrete] thing and one [concrete] phenomenon, here and now, [beyond] understanding of phenomena and non-understanding of phenomena, and [beyond] understanding of things and non understanding of things. Because [real existence] is only this exact moment, all moments of existence-time are the whole of time, and all existent things and all existent phenomena are time.

Note the underlined part. To me, the fundamental realization of this chapter is way more than Now is the only moment there is. I feel like Dogen’s trying to show us that the whole Universe and the whole of existence are manifested in the present moment. To emphasize this, Dogen follows up the previous quote with:

Let us pause to reflect whether or not any of the whole of existence or any of the whole universe has leaked away from the present moment of time.

Is this idealism? Maybe. But the realization that we can see the world this way doses my brain with a lot of serotonin. And that feels pretty real. Plus, I suspect that sitting helps us see the moment this way, fully appreciative of the moment just as it is, rather than from a flat, black & white perspective.

Borrowing a bit from Shunryu Suzuki:

Season's splendor held
                     In a single leaf falling,
Falling through falling.

Or more intellectually:

Face of Emptiness
                                All Existence-Time, our Now
Pivoting between.

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