Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reflections: Mind Cannot be Grasped (IV) and Why Dogen Went to China

The phrase 'Mind Cannot be Grasped', the title of Shobogenzo Chapters 18 and 19, is from the Diamond Sutra. An implication of the Diamond Sutra I'm still processing is that, in any given moment, the best way to keep the Four Vows, including 'Beings are numberless, I vow to save them' is to be in the moment without projecting a self onto the moment and simply responding to each moment as it arises. And I can see how living each moment by dropping off our expectations for the moment allows the energies of Indra's net to pass through us in a manner that causes the least obstruction and suffering for ourselves and others.

But 'Buddha mind', 'true self' or 'no-self' is unself-conscious. As I understand it 'Buddha mind' is pure awareness and perception prior to thinking, interpretation or judgement. Even the mind detecting Buddha mind when it arises, or the attempt to attain or maintain Buddha mind, is self-conscious and isn't Buddha mind.

In addition, the unself-conscious state is not acting selfless. To act selfless, in the conventional sense, a person would have to have a sense of self too.

Living as a hermit monk in the mountains of China doesn't guarantee Buddha mind either. And once we're born we have a place as a node in Indra's net and I think non-action or removing oneself to a mountain monastery also sends ripples through the energy field that can't be predicted as much as we might hope, even though it might grant some peace of mind. My own experience going to Antaiji and the reactions of some friends and family are an example from my own experience.

Here's why I'm still processing:

For awhile now I've had the feeling that being a bodhisattva and being a buddha aren't necessarily the same thing.

While I may be projecting myself onto the Shobogenzo, my understanding is that a similiar conviction is what motivated Dogen to go to China. 'Buddha mind' or unself-conscious no-self can't be the whole story. If it were the whole story then practice, the precepts, and the eight-fold path would be pointless for the enlightened being.

The bodhisattva, seeing Indra's net, can't leave the world and its suffering. This realization appears to me to be the motivation for practice based on enlightenment. Practice, following the precepts and the eight-fold path from an enlightened perspective, ie with an understanding of Indra's net and the causes of suffering is the direction that guides us forward in time. From this perspective I can see why Dogen felt such a reverence for the Buddha-dharma and practice.

I have to admit, to some extent, the Diamond Sutra has felt like I've been handed Kryptonite because dropping off expectations for the moment and present moment awareness is actually something I've been naturally good at and has been a source of peace and strength for me. I've become self-conscious about what came easily for me in ignorance. Was Dogen similarly plagued? I have no way of knowing. But here is my working strategy for the moment: Trusting in practice is my direction. And zazen gives us practice in dropping off thinking mind and returning to the ground that is emptiness and awareness of 'Now'.

Not coming or going, the pure awareness and perception that is Buddha mind is always present. The entity that is 'me' only has to get out of the way. I think that trusting in practice is a good way to allow that to happen.


Haiku for these Chapters:

Mind with no abode —
Buddha throughout the three times
And ten directions.

Constantly the mind
Comes, goes, living and dying —
Constantly the earth.


Jordan said...


Happi said...

Hey Jordan,

What a nice surprise!