Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch17 (I) Hokke-ten-hokke - Introduction

Hokke-ten-hokke is translated as "The Flower of Dharma Turns the Flower of Dharma".

What is the 'Flower of the Dharma'? It is just the 'Lotus Universe'. And the Lotus Universe is just this Universe — our Universe viewed from an enlightened perspective.

The content of the buddha lands of the ten directions” is the “sole existence” of the “Flower of Dharma.” Herein, “all the buddhas of the ten directions and the three times,” and beings of anuttara samyaksaṃbodhi, have [times of] turning the Flower of Dharma, and have [times of] the Flower of Dharma turning.

From an enlightened perspective, we can see that when we are in the state of perfect enlightenment (anuttara samyaksaṃbodhi), we turn the Flower of the Dharma. In contrast, when (or perhaps even when) we are not in the state of perfect enlightenment, the Flower of the Dharma turns our Universe and us.

The Lotus Universe is grounded in an all-inclusive view of time and space. It is the manifestation of 'emptiness' in form. Because it is all-inclusive in time, because it is all-inclusive in space, because sometimes we turn the Flower of the Dharma and sometimes the Flower of the Dharma turns us, the Universe is in a state of equilibrium from which there can be no regression or deviation:

This is just the state in which “original practice of the bodhisattva way” neither regresses nor deviates. It is the “wisdom of the buddhas, profound and unfathomable.” It is the “calm and clear state of samādhi...”

The Dharma Flower’s turning may be preaching it as the “disclosure, display, realization, and entering” of buddhas who are rightful successors, and of rightful successors of buddhas. This [real wisdom] is also called the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, and it is “the method of teaching bodhisattvas.” Because this [real wisdom] has been called “all dharmas,” “Vulture Peak” exists, “space” exists, the “great ocean” exists, and the “great earth” exists, with the Flower of Dharma as their “national land.” This is just “real form”; it is “reality as it is”; “it is the wisdom of the Buddha”; it is “the constancy of the manifestation of the world”; it is “the real”; it is “the Tathāgata’s lifetime”; it is “the profound and unfathomable”; it is “the inconstancy of all actions”; it is “samādhi as [the state of] the Flower of Dharma”; it is “Śākyamuni Buddha”; it is “to turn the Flower of Dharma”; it is “the Flower of Dharma turning”; it is “the right Dharma-eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana”; and it is “manifestation of the body to save living beings.” As “affirmation and becoming buddha,” it is maintained and relied upon, and dwelled in and retained.

The last line above suggests to me that once we have a sense of the Lotus Universe, it has a lasting effect on our perception of ourselves and our actions. That 'sense' imparts wisdom from which there is no going back -- a wisdom that "is maintained and relied upon, and dwelled in and retained."


Turner or the turned,
The one buddha vehicle,
Flower of Dharma.

Lotus Universe —
True wisdom of samadhi,
Dwelled in and retained.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reflections: We're All Connected - Visualizing Metta and the Metta Sutra

With the speed of 'news' these days it's easy to get caught up in large scale tragedies, especially natural disasters. Whether we know people directly affected or not, our ability to respond to such events with actual help is limited by distance and other conditions and circumstances.

The truth is we're all connected. When we can't provide actual physical assistance, we have a choice: We can respond by getting tangled up in these events to a degree that negatively affects our ability to respond to what our own circumstances confront us with or we can respond with metta (loving-kindness).

If one visualizes the spreading wave of pain and suffering it becomes a little easier to see that getting tangled up in and adding to the outcry of pain and suffering is unlikely to be helpful. And it becomes easier to see the helpfulness of metta as a restorative calming influence:

The Metta Sutra

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

~ The Buddha

(obtained from: Thanks Jordan.. for citing the Sutra, for any involvement you may have in relief efforts, and for your dedication to practice..

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch16 Shisho (II) - More on the Certificate of Succession

Quoting Dogen's Master:
There are few who have even seen and heard of the causes and conditions of the certificate of succession and the succession of the Dharma. Among a hundred thousand people there is not even one!

So what is the "concrete situation of the certificate of succession"? Dogen writes:

...some succeed to the Dharma on clarifying the sun, the moon, and the stars, and some succeed to the Dharma on being made to get the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow..

...some receive a kaṣāya; some receive a staff; some receive a sprig of pine; some receive a whisk; some receive an uḍumbara flower; and some receive a robe of golden brocade. There have been successions with straw sandals and successions with a bamboo stick.

This suggests that the causes and conditions giving rise to succession vary (and also suggests we should not view succession as something we're entitled to after completion of a program of study). Not surprisingly, the forms of certificates recognizing succession also vary:

When such successions of the Dharma are received, some write a certificate of succession with blood from a finger, some write a certificate of succession with blood from a tongue, and some perform the succession of Dharma by writing [a certificate] with oil and milk; these are all certificates of succession.

Dogen was able to view several certificates of succession during his travels. The specifics of these certificates varied tremendously. However, that he did not regard all certificates as valid should not come as too much of a surprise. He comments:

They receive the Dharma from fellows of fame and repute of the present generation, or from old veterans who are intimate with kings and ministers, and when they do so they have no interest in getting the Dharma but are only greedy for fame and reputation.

they have become uselessly entangled in the net of theory, and so they do not know the method of liberation and they do not hope for the opportunity to spring free.

While reading I found it difficult to judge which of the certificates of succession Dogen described was valid, if any. I wonder if that ambiguity was intentional since Dogen harbored doubts of his own, although it seems that he gained some insight during these encounters.

Dogen quotes his master as saying: ..wherever [people] are sincerely pursuing the truth they are able to see and to hear that the certificate of succession exists. “To have seen and heard” may be “learning the state of truth” itself.

In the end, Dogen admits that it was not until he understood, through the teaching of his Master which resonated deeply, that succession of the Dharma between master and disciple arises co-dependently that he "accepted, for the first time, the existence of Buddhist patriarchs’ succession of the Dharma, but also got rid of an old nest."


Sprig of pine, a whisk,
Or udumbara flower ―
Signed with blood or milk.

Simple and so real ―
Co-dependent arising ―
Succession of truth.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch16 Shisho (I) - The Certificate of Succession

Buddhas, without exception, receive the Dharma from buddhas, buddha-to-buddha, and patriarchs, without exception, receive the Dharma from patriarchs, patriarch-to-patriarch; this is experience of the [Buddha’s] state, this is the one-to-one transmission, and for this reason it is “the supreme state of bodhi."

In our time, and Dogen's as well, masters give certificates of succession — documentation of Dharma transmission — to disciples that have studied with them. A certificate of succession, however, is not a diploma, which is received after completing the requisite coursework, it is recognition of one-to-one transmission and "..[this] is realization of the truth before the Seven Buddhas; it is the same realization of the truth shoulder-to-shoulder with, and in time with, the many buddhas; it is realization of the truth before the many buddhas; and it is realization of the truth after all the many buddhas."

The different views of time, as described in Uji, are significant in our understanding of the succession from buddha to buddha. For example, Dogen writes:

..without buddhas it has no time.

[It] profound and eternal; it is without regression or deviation and without interruption or cessation.

One-to-one transmission and succession occur in linearly in time as we commonly view it — in other words, in coming-and-going time, and also occur in Now, both the immediate moment and the eternal Now. The Buddha's truth also moves via us, much in the same way as time moves via us. If we understand succession in terms of these different views of time, we can begin to understand the truth of the following:

The fundamental point is this: although Śākyamuni Buddha realizes the truth before the Seven Buddhas, it has taken him a long time to succeed to the Dharma of Kāśyapa Buddha...There is also the principle to be mastered in practice that Kāśyapa Buddha succeeds to the Dharma of Śākyamuni Buddha. Those who do not know this principle do not clarify the Buddha’s state of truth.

The state is like, for example, stones succeeding each other as stones, jewels succeeding each other as jewels, chrysanthemums succeeding each other, and pine trees certifying each other, at which time the former chrysanthemum and the latter chrysanthemum are each real as they are, and the former pine and the latter pine are each real as they are.

Transmission of the Buddha's truth and succession arise co-dependently. Their origin and existence are rooted in the interdependence of all things.


Not grouped together
Nor succession in a line —
The gift of Dharma.

Profound, eternal
Passage of truth, no regress
Or deviation.