Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections: Dogen's World*

The following post is my attempt to synthesize a cohesive set of notes reflecting my understanding of the concepts self, true self, emptiness and the phenomenological world, an understanding that is based on my readings of the Shobogenzo to date. This synthesis was made shortly after attending a Genzo-e on Kuge offered by Rev. Okumura and, therefore undoubtedly has been influenced by his efforts and expertise in the study of Dogen, an area in which I am a beginner. My reading of the Shobogenzo is far from complete and therefore this post likely contains many inaccuracies if it is taken as a summary of Dogen. It is more accurate to say this post is a temporary framework or point of reference for the rest of my readings.

In Kūge, Chapter 43 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen discusses the interdependent nature of flowers (representing phenomena and cause and effect) and space (emptiness). Dogen's discussion of the interdependent nature of phenomena and emptiness also can be applied to the relationship between self and true self and can be summarized in the following statement:

Flowers give rise to emptiness and emptiness gives rise to flowers.

In terms of true self and self, Dogen suggests that true self and emptiness, in isolation, would be static and sterile. Specifically, true self and emptiness are not phenomenological because of the absence of coming and going — in other words, the nature of true self and emptiness is always the same, but true self and emptiness are phenomenological because our experience of true self and emptiness arise out of the phenomenological world, which includes self.

Once we perceive emptiness and true self (or no self) we have to integrate the perception with the phenomenological world or self — otherwise we are not experiencing the unity of all things, we are only creating another duality.


A second complimentary way to view the opening statement is from the perspective of a single flower, where the entire flower represents Indra's net (or the plasma field/grid I referred to in an earlier post) and you and I are individual petals of that flower. We each have our own identity as a petal, but the flower itself is a phenomenon or reality that is greater than the sum of its parts, our Universe. This is suggested by the chapter title Kuge — Space Flower or Emptiness Flower.

The existence of the flower, Indra's net, is real in spite of the coming and going, impermanent nature of the phenomena it describes. Experience proves it — although the exact nature of the proof in this cause and effect world differs depending on who you are and your actions.

The awareness of true self and emptiness, to the extent it stays with us, gives rise to another dimension in our perception of reality. This awareness can be very helpful in understanding our lives and as a guide for our actions. This awareness can also insulate us in that we are more able to stay grounded as we walk within the phenomenological world.


Interdependent —
The space-flower blooms and falls
In our triple world.


* Previous posts along similar lines:
Keisei-Sanshiki - ...Enlightenment Again
Weird Plasma Field Dream, Gridlines, and the Ten Thousand Things
Sansuigyō - Water: Not Matter, Not Not Matter


Jordan said...

My hackles go up when ever I hear or read things along the lines of it is Master Dogen's view or Master Dogen believed Et cetera.

Dogen expreses many views, but rarely would he say it is my view that... And when you think you may have Master Dogen in a box, he may pop out like a jack-in-the-box to express an opposite view. Not that he is contradicting himself, but that there are many points of view that reality expresses.

Don't fix on views...
And that is my fixed view!

Happi said...

Thanks Jordan! I stand corrected!

Happi said...

For any passersby, I've changed the text accordingly -- in such a way as to place the responsibility of the interpretation more squarely on my shoulders. I'm not even a quarter of the way through the Shobogenzo yet!

Happi said...

misinterpretation, as well as interpretations...

Jordan said...

is it Dogen attempts to clarify or Gisela attempting to clarify?

Is it Dogen's understanding of the interdependent nature of phenomena and emptiness Or Gisela's?

Does Dogen differ from some other Mahayana Buddhists or is it Gisela's view of what Dogen is expressing in Kuge .... And now you are speaking for Mahayana Buddhists and what they believe? ??

This is not being upright. This propping oneself up on corpses and bones of ancestors instead o venerating them is beneath you. When you see writers do this you should want to rinse the taste of ash from your mouth!

What is your intention here, to retranslate?

No, this won't do, unless you are familiar with Kamakura era Japanese.

To state a view? This is dangerous but admirable.

Be bold and upright in your expression, don't be apologetic or hide behind the dead.

Happi said...

Hey Jordan -

I can't say I'm entirely sure what you are getting at with your last comment. I have considered the possibility that you are trying to shock me out of academic habit.

To answer you questions, my Shobogenzo posts up to this point have been an attempt to clarify for myself what Dogen is saying. These are not my original ideas so I have in most instances included quotes and references to others. In doing so, I am trying honor those who passed this way before. I have excluded the quotes from this post now based on your comment because this post is a bit more of a synthesis, but I have to tell you I am not entirely comfortable with that because I do not consider these my original ideas. Finally, since the quotes are gone so is the footnote explaining the difference in terminology, however, I am obviously not a translator.

Thank you for your critique. You've certainly given me something to think about!


Happi said...

PS, don't expect me to revise my posts based your comments again. But be aware that I value your opinion.

Jordan said...


I will try to explain conceptually for you.

Immagine you have a good, wise, and true councilor.
For many years this person passed on and doled out sage wisdom to you which facilitated the dumping of your cup and awakening to the great way.

And after he passed away someone began to put words in his or her mouth and attributed expressions tho them that were not their own.

How would that make you feel?

Immagine if you had a student that you cared about very much, and all they ever did was say so and so says this, and so and so said that. Never stepping out of the shadow of what they had read.

Again, how would that make you feel?

Happi said...

Jordan -

That's a stellar explanation.

Answers: Angry & Awful