Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reflections: Dogen's World (II) - umm, errr... my world?*

Once we get a sense of true self and emptiness, it's pretty easy to develop a preference, or even outright addiction to them. And it's easy to think that if we could only live our lives one hundred percent as true self in emptiness we would be perfectly enlightened!

Some of us may start thinking if we sit in front of our white walls long enough, if we manage to attain and maintain the perfect zen posture, if we manage to quiet our minds long enough, if we experience those states often enough, one of these days by some magic we will be that, will be there, will be perfectly enlightened. In other words, when we get up off of our zafu our experience of true self and emptiness won't disappear.

When we think that way we create a whole new set of dualities. Instead of experiencing unity with all things, we create more separation. Instead of being free, we've trapped ourselves solid.

Because it's impossible to avoid the phenomenological world — it's where we are!

And it's impossible to escape self — it's who we are!

So this is the impression I get of the motivation behind practice-enlightenment:*

If we want to integrate or re-integrate true self with self and emptiness with the phenomenological world, how do we go about it?

I'm pretty sure at least one thing Dogen recommends is zazen. Because when we are sitting our bodies and the phenomenological world (typically a white wall but any color is probably okay) are right here with us. In fact, if we haven't been working out enough, ate too much for dinner, or are sitting long hours at a retreat or sesshin, our bodies are pretty good at reminding us bodies can't be denied — at least not forever.

The phenomenological world can't be denied either... It may be too hot or too cold, a fly or June bug may be banging on a screen, someone's stomach may be growling, dogs may be barking, a cat may want to sit on your lap... and thoughts will come and go. Can we learn to be at peace with, and even appreciate, these aspects of self and the phenomenological world while sitting?

Clue: A first step may be to appreciate that we are not appreciating these things!

*after reading the first 17 chapters plus Chapter 43 of the Shobogenzo, combined with a whole lot of stuff that is difficult to describe or quantify.

**posted from my phone using Dragon Dictation and BlogPress

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