Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shobogenzo: Ch 11 (III) Uji – Existence-Time – Dogen’s different views of time

In Uji Dogen presents several different ways to look at time, including the ones we’re most familiar with. Most basically, in this world we live in time passes. We also have different roles we play through our life both on any given day, and also as we grow older.

The leaving and coming of the directions and traces [of time] are clear, and so people do not doubt it. They do not doubt it, but that does not mean they know it.

[Human] skin bags recognize [time] as leaving and coming; none has penetrated it as existence-time abiding in its place.

..in the time of the common person who does not learn the Buddha-Dharma there are views and opinions: when he hears the words “existence-time” he thinks, “Sometimes I became [an angry demon with] three heads and eight arms, and sometimes I became the sixteen-foot or eight-foot [golden body of Buddha].


When we arrive in the field of the ineffable, there is just one [concrete] thing and one [concrete] phenomenon, here and now..

From a practical standpoint, the moment of Existence-Time that we that we think of as Now is primary. Because Now is the only moment in which we can act, in which we can practice, in which we move forward through life. 

On the other hand, although living in the immediate moment is a helpful, practical, and even necessary perspective, to limit our view this way denies the law of causation and limits our sense of direction. Dogen acknowledges this, recognizing that in the immediate moment our past and our future are part of us (even though the actual future we will experience is unknown). 

For example, it was like crossing a river or crossing a mountain. The mountain and the river may still exist, but now that I have crossed them and am living in a jeweled palace with crimson towers, the mountain and the river are [as distant] from me as heaven is from the earth.” But true reasoning is not limited to this one line [of thought]. That is to say, when I was climbing a mountain or crossing a river, I was there in that time. There must have been time in me. And I actually exist now, [so] time could not have departed. If time does not have the form of leaving and coming, the time of climbing a mountain is the present as existence-time.

The three heads and eight arms pass instantly as my existence-time; though they seem to be in the distance, they are [moments of] the present. The sixteen-foot or eight-foot [golden body] also passes instantly as my existence-time; though it seems to be yonder, it is [moments of] the present.

Then Dogen goes a step further to point out that we (and every other thing in the Universe) are Time itself. Because we are always in the moment of now, but moving forward carrying time with us, we are the way that time expresses itself.

The rat is time, and the tiger is time; living beings are time, and buddhas are time. This time experiences the whole universe using three heads and eight arms, and experiences the whole universe using the sixteen-foot golden body.

The mountains are time, and the seas are time. Without time, the mountains and the seas could not exist: we should not deny that time exists in the mountains and the seas here and now. If time decays, the mountains and the seas decay. If time is not subject to decay, the mountains and the seas are not subject to decay. In accordance with this truth the bright star appears, the Tathagata appears, the eye appears, and picking up a flower appears, and this is just time. Without time, it would not be like this.

So if we are time, how big can this moment of Now get? And if we are time, by extension doesn't this Now include not only our past, all our different roles in life, and all our futures -- whether realized or not?

To universally realize the whole universe by using the whole universe is called “to perfectly realize.” Enactment of the sixteen-foot golden body by using the sixteen-foot golden body is realized as the establishment of the mind, as training, as the state of bodhi, and as nirvana; that is, as existence itself, and as time itself. It is nothing other than the perfect realization of the whole of time as the whole of existence; there is nothing surplus at all.

All here and just now –
The field of ineffable
Past duality.

The nows coalesce
Into the always present
That now passes through.

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