Monday, July 07, 2008

Dogen - On Being Enlightened about Delusion

Those who are enlightened about delusion are buddhas.
~Dogen, Shobogenzo, Genjokoan

Apparently, in the Shobogenzo, being "enlightened about delusion," means awakening to the reality of delusion. That is, realizing what delusion truly is.

Perhaps it is like when, for example, a person is shown the cause of a magician’s illusions: mirrors, wires, hidden compartments and so on. The person can then grasp the reality of the illusion. The reality of the illusion, the mirrors, wires, hidden compartments, is existent, and the illusion is a real characteristic of its existence.

Similarly, when you realize the cause of delusion: misperception or partial perception, of true nature, you realize the reality of delusion. The reality of delusion, misperception or partial perception of our own true nature is existent, and delusion is a real characteristic of its existence. Those who are "enlightened about" this, are called "buddhas."

Ted Biringer
The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing

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13 Comments:

At July 20, 2008, Blogger Gimmal said...

If there are "benchmarks" for "being Buddhist" (as much as it has seemed to me as it being perhaps an elusive state of mind, one of "Buddha-ness" as one may put it -- and indeed, I have not learned any focused practice of meditation, and have not yet resolved myself to consistently keep the precepts) but this that you relate about realization of delusion, I think it is most encouraging to consider. I am glad for this -- was looking exactly for something to turn the mind towards other than base ideals.

You know, this coming up regarding delusion, it reminds me of that famous line from The Matrix -- something seeming perhaps silly, in this context, but what the heck, it comes to mind. It's in the scene when the Morpheus character is offering the metaphoric red pill and the metaphoric blue pill to the Neo character, and if he selects the one that signifies a voluntary exit from the simulations (and may they not be rendered as ego simulations?) of "The Matrix", then Morpheus says, "...and I'll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes".

But, that portrays Morpheus as a character of a proprietary enlightenment, does it not?

If I am engaged in pursuit of kensho, I could be seriously concerned about whether I will either be taken in with or, else, of myself, will then proceed to produce a proprietary, therefore delusional semblance about Buddha-hood and the pursuit of enlightenment -- perhaps being as one skewed with an indulgence in "sectarianism", such that I recall Dogen as having spoken strongly against, in the Shobogenzo -- his criticizing the very essence of the notion, "Zen sect".

I hope I may share this as an intentionally personal comment: If the studying Buddhist may face demons, that is perhaps the greatest demon I face, the demon of a proprietary rendition of the pursuit of enlightenment. It remains as an obstacle I can forsee, and that I am concerned about, in that I cannot presently recognize if I have actually met it, or if it still lies in the potential distance, like a concrete barrier known to be down the road, on a dusty night's travel.

That's nothing to say of any proprietary approaches said to be approaches to Christianity, such that one may have had extensive exposure to as a youth ;^)

The next demon I face, then, is that of "no immediate community". Yet, I suppose that would be more like knowing that one may be more inclined to face companies of demons, and to face them alone -- as the fear goes -- if one is considering oneself to be outside of the the living sangha. The preoccupation with thinking one is outside of the living sangha, then, might be to the root of that one.

Did Buddha not ever speak of community? The community of the wise -- and where have I read of this, recently? I cannot recall it, it is like in a blur of a memory of an inattentive experience.

Experience continues, and I need not stay preoccupied about that half-missed experience.

I am glad that I may be attentive to the community of this 'blog, and to the wisdom that is the prior to the conveyance of wisdom -- met in or through the pages of this community work, this Flapping Mouths web-log, not rarely :^)

 
At July 22, 2008, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Hello gimmal,

Thank you for your comments!

Sorry about the late reply. I don't check in here as frequently as my main blog at:
http://flatbedsutra.com/flatbedsutrazenblogger/

Swing in sometime if you like...

gimmal wrote: "If there are "benchmarks" for "being Buddhist"... [SNIP]... this that you relate about realization of delusion, I think it is most encouraging to consider...[SNIP]..."

Yes. Me too! Also, for an in-depth treatment of Dogen's teachings on the nonduality of delusion and enlightenment, check out Hee-Jin Kim's wonderful book: "Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: A Reflection on His View of Zen."

gimmal wrote: "You know, this coming up regarding delusion, it reminds me of that famous line from The Matrix -- goes" "... [SNIP]... But, that portrays Morpheus as a character of a proprietary enlightenment, does it not?"

I think this analogy is pretty good.

gimmal wrote: "If I am engaged in pursuit of kensho, I could be seriously concerned about whether I will either be taken in with or, else, of myself, will then proceed to produce a proprietary, therefore delusional semblance about Buddha-hood and the pursuit of enlightenment..."

True, but I think that while it may be possible to "pursue" kensho without genuine aspiration to go beyond "kensho" (which is only an "initial" opening, as it were), it would be unlikely to actually experience it. In my understanding of it (which could easily be wrong), true kensho can only occur when we "let go" of all self-centered "pursuits."


gimmal wrote: "...perhaps being as one skewed with an indulgence in "sectarianism", such that I recall Dogen as having spoken strongly against, in the Shobogenzo -- his criticizing the very essence of the notion, "Zen sect..."

Your recollection is accurate.

gimmal wrote: "...If the studying Buddhist may face demons, ...SNIP...perhaps the greatest demon I face, the demon of a proprietary rendition of the pursuit of enlightenment. It remains as an obstacle ...SNIP... I cannot presently recognize ...SNIP... it still lies in the potential distance, like a concrete barrier known to be down the road, on a dusty night's travel."

While facing "demons" is certainly a possiblility on the Zen path (or any path, or no path), I think your awareness of its potential is as good of a "caution" as you could have. You might like to supplament your awareness with some specific knowledge of what, and how "demons" can manifest for those involved in serious meditation, and what to do about it if they do, by reading a bit on it. There is some pretty good info in "The Awakening of Faith" treatise (translated by Hakeda). Also, "The Three Pillars of Zen" has some good basic stuff on it.

gimmal wrote: "That's nothing to say of any proprietary approaches said to be approaches to Christianity, such that one may have had extensive exposure to as a youth ;^)"

I hear you there. A not uncommon experience for those of us born and raised in the "West."

gimmal wrote: "The next demon I face, then, is that of "no immediate community". Yet, I suppose that would be more like knowing that one may be more inclined to face companies of demons, and to face them alone -- as the fear goes -- if one is considering oneself to be outside of the the living sangha. The preoccupation with thinking one is outside of the living sangha, then, might be to the root of that one."

I understand, but really, what is the alternative? If you are truly drawn to realization, failure to follow through may become a worse demon to face than any that might be avoided by not following through...

gimmal wrote: "...Did Buddha not ever speak of community? The community of the wise..."

Sure. In my experience, this is often difficult to find--but not impossible. Even if it is only an individual or a small group you meet infrequently... Or even "online" communities... Also, it seems that once people start moving in the direction that is personally "right" for them, communities somehow become more available...

gimmal wrote: "I am glad that I may be attentive to the community of this 'blog, and to the wisdom that is the prior to the conveyance of wisdom -- met in or through the pages of this community work, this Flapping Mouths web-log, not rarely :^)"

I, for one, am glad you are here. Hopefully you will discover some helpful bits here (and/or at the blog listed above), and I hope you continue to share your own experiences, insights, and ideas with all of us.

Take good care,
Gassho,
Ted

 
At July 31, 2008, Blogger Gimmal said...

Just thought to say that I'm sorry I rambled on so much, in that comment.

Considering this, I think that I have not been fully over a "reaching to be Buddhist" kind of tendency. I really think it's a psychological hold-over from when I was in a Christian church -- not to rebel against the same, to be sure, just a peaceful little apolitical buddhist-geek here, nothing to see ;^)

no edge to this, just being

 
At August 02, 2008, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Hello Gimmal,

Thanks for your comment.

I think I understand exactly what you mean...

Take good care,

Gassho,
Ted

 
At August 19, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

I don't know re. your original post, Ted.

It all seems too tidy and sewn up.

I must defer to Mr. Cross and his statement re. any sort of 'attainment':

"Whatever you think it is, its not that".

Buddhism is for out-and-out losers. Gone beyond, thoroughly gone beyond losers...

Regards,

Harry.

 
At August 20, 2008, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Hello Harry,

Thank you for your comment.

Even though Dogen (and other Zen masters I learn from) speaks of "attainment" (at least according to some translations), I personally try to avoid the word. It connotes the addition of something. I prefer terms like realization, or awakening, as they imply becoming aware of what is, and has always been...

Thanks again,
Gassho,
Ted Biringer

 
At August 20, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

... and if we stop practicing this awakening or realisation does it continue to manifest?

In thinking of running it seems fair to say we can attain running and the benifits of running, in thinking of eating I think it is fair to say that we attain eating and nourishment... likewise in thinking of practicing sitting Zen I think it fair to say that we attain realisation, but only from the point of view of those not practicing Zazen.

Regards,

Harry.

 
At August 20, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

... and I don't think that it is merely a question of achieving some type of self psychoanalysis. Seems way too easy, too obvious. I don't see that Dogen Zenji communicates that at all. What he points to seems more real, more immediate. Involving real action, like how we wipe our asses for example.

Regards,

Harry.

 
At August 20, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

... the ineffable, ungraspable, in the ordinary.

Regards,

H.

 
At August 20, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

Sorry for the multiples, but this is one of the point I find rather interesting. Check this out (maybe you have already):

"Usually intellectual people are prone to think that what is attained will inevitably become self-conscious and be rec-ogized by the intellect, but it is not always true.


The experience of the ultimate state is realized at once. At the same time, its mysterious existence is not necessarily a manifest realization. Realization is the state of ambiguity itself.

(It is true that the realization manifests itself at the present moment, but the misterious existence does not always manifests itself at every moment. Frankly speaking, Reality always seems to be something ineffable)

Reality always exist here and now. But sometimes it is concealed behind the background. It is strange that Reality is not always conspicuous." (Nishijima Roshi)

http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/2007/09/important-principle-in-shobogenzo-3.html

Regards,

H.

 
At August 20, 2008, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Hello Harry,

Thank you for your comments. I think you raise some important points here concerning delusion and enlightenment.

I think one of the more accessible explications on the dynamics of the nonduality of enlightenment/Buddhas and delusion/ordinary beings is by Master Dogen is his Shobogenzo, Genjokoan. While it needs to be studied in light of the whole of his teachings, as well as the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, I think our discussion here might benefit with an examination of the section on delusion and enlightenment. It begins:

That people drive the self to actualize awareness of the many things is delusion. That the many things actualize awareness of the self is enlightenment.

Here Dogen gives a precise outline of his view of delusion and enlightenment, lucidly revealing their most basic aspects. Delusion or enlightenment is what distinguishes a “buddha” from an “ordinary being.” A buddha is someone who is enlightened about delusion, that is, to the reality of his or her own true nature. An ordinary being is someone who is deluded about enlightenment (the reality of his or her own true nature). Because delusion and enlightenment are nondual, meaning they are not two separate, independent entities, we come to the understanding that differences between them are differences of perspective only.
First Dogen says, “That people drive the self to actualize awareness of the many things is delusion.” The very idea that you can “drive the self” to enlightenment implies that you must be experiencing your self as separate from enlightenment. Because in reality you are both separate and not separate from the many things, experiencing your self as only separate is delusion.
Awakening to the truth that “the many things actualize awareness of the self” is the function of Zen practice; your true nature is the true nature of the universe. The Buddhist formula for salvation, liberation, enlightenment or any of the other terms used to indicate the ultimate truth of religion, consists of personally realizing that you are one with all things including enlightenment and delusion. Continuing on, the Genjokoan states:

Those who are enlightened about delusion are buddhas.

In the Shobogenzo, being “enlightened about delusion,” means awakening to the reality of delusion. That is, as I posted here, like when a person is shown the cause of a magician’s illusions: mirrors, wires, hidden compartments and so on. The person can then grasp the reality of the illusion. The reality of the illusion, the mirrors, wires, hidden compartments, is existent, and the illusion is a real characteristic of its existence. Similarly, when you realize the cause of delusion: misperception or partial perception, of true nature, you realize the reality of delusion. The reality of delusion, misperception or partial perception of our own true nature is existent, and delusion is a real characteristic of its existence. Those who are “enlightened about” this are called “buddhas.”
Next, the Genjokoan says:

Those who are deluded about enlightenment are ordinary beings.

To be “deluded about enlightenment” is to view enlightenment as being something outside or apart from you, the myriad things, or the everyday world. This is not a judgmental statement by Dogen; it is a simple observation. When you are aware of your true nature, you are called buddhas; when you are unaware of your true nature, you are called ordinary beings. Flowers fall, weeds flourish; cocks crow, dogs bark. The Genjokoan goes on:

There are people who continue to realize enlightenment based on enlightenment.

Dogen’s emphasis on post-kensho practice and enlightenment is rarely matched in Zen literature. He insists that attaining enlightenment is just the beginning of genuine practice-enlightenment. In fact, enlightenment for Dogen is only authentic as practice-and-enlightenment. In all his works, he repeatedly urges you to realize enlightenment based upon enlightenment, often using the Zen ancestors of the past as examples of how to approach the lifetime process of deepening and refining your realization. The Genjokoan continues:

There are people in the midst of delusion adding to delusion.

Dogen is not simply repeating his previous point but indicating something else. In Shobogenzo, Keisei-Sanshiki, Dogen uses the same phrase in a manner that suggests its deeper implication:

When [a person] tells people who do not know the will to the truth about the will to the truth, the good advice offends their ears, and so they do not reflect upon themselves, but [only] bear resentment towards the other person. As a general rule concerning actions and vows which are the bodhi-mind, we should not intend to let worldly people know whether or not we have established the bodhi-mind or whether or not we are practicing the truth; we should endeavor to be unknown. How much less could we boast about ourselves? Because people today rarely seek what is real, when the praises of others are available, they seem to want someone to say that their practice and understanding have become harmonized, even though there is no practice in their body, and no realization in their mind. In delusion adding to delusion” describes exactly this.
(Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross)

In this passage, Dogen defines the condition of “increasing delusion in the midst of delusion” as the denial of delusion. That is to say, when people in delusion deny they are deluded (or assert they are enlightened) they are “in delusion adding to delusion.”
Looking at case 1 of the Blue Cliff Record can shed some light on this particular condition. The koan reads:

Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, “What is the ultimate meaning of the holy truths?”
Bodhidharma said, “Vast emptiness, nothing holy.”
The Emperor asked, “Who is facing me?”
Bodhidharma responded, “I don’t know.”
The Emperor did not understand. After this Bodhidharma crossed the Yangtse River and traveled to the king-dom of Wei.
Later the Emperor asked Master Chih about it.
Master Chih asked, “Do you know who this man is?”
The Emperor said, “I don’t know.”
Master Chih said, “He is the great bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara, transmitting the confirmation of the buddha Mind.”
The Emperor was regretful and wanted to send an envoy to bring Bodhidharma back.
Master Chih said, “Don’t say you will send someone to bring him back. Even if everyone in China went after him, he would not re-turn.”

Commenting on the line, “The Emperor did not understand” Engo says, “Too bad! Still, he’s gotten somewhere.” The meaning of Engo’s comment, “Still, he’s gotten somewhere,” illumines what Dogen means by, “in delusion adding to delusion.” In following the reasoning here, Emperor Wu was “adding to delusion” when he thought he knew something (asserted his enlightenment). However, (although he is still in delusion) after his meeting with Bodhidharma, he admits that he does “not understand,” that is, he does not deny his own delusion. The Emperor is in delusion (i.e. not enlightened), but he is no longer adding to delusion (by asserting his enlightenment).
Recognizing and acknowledging the reality of your own delusion is a prerequisite to enlightenment. For arousing the necessary will for enlightenment is only possible when you recognize and acknowledge your own delusion. For Dogen, recognition and acknowledgement of your delusion is simultaneous with enlightenment. Throughout the Shobogenzo, Dogen remains ever aware of the nondual nature of delusion and enlightenment. For as we read above, buddhas are those “who are enlightened about delusion.” Dogen does not say that buddhas are “free” from delusion, as is sometimes proclaimed by people without a clear understanding of Zen.
The Genjokoan goes on to say:

When buddhas are buddhas, they do not know they are buddhas.

This line points out what you mentioned in your comment. When buddhas are experiencing the condition of Buddhahood, there is nothing but Buddha in the whole universe. This is the condition that is sometimes described in Buddhist literature as the state where the known and the knower (or actor and action) are one. Obviously, for a buddha to have the thought, “I am a buddha,” they would have to perceive themselves as something (buddha) in opposition to something else (not buddha), hence; they would not be in the condition of Buddhahood. That does not mean there are no buddhas, as the Genjokoan points out next:

Nevertheless, buddhas are buddhas and continuously actualize Buddhahood.

The condition of Buddhahood is not something that is gained or attained, but something that is discovered and activated; that is, the nature of delusion is illumined and your original Buddhahood is realized (made real). Of course, as you pointed out, this experience is only called Buddhahood to differentiate it from delusion. When you speak of a state beyond delusion you call it “Buddhahood.” However, in the absolute sense, as in Dogen’s opening lines to Genjokoan, there is nothing to be grasped (no buddhas, no ordinary beings etc.) and in the transcendent sense, buddhas and ordinary beings always contain and include each other.
I think this accords with what you indicated in your comment. In the actual experience of Buddhahood all names and labels are meaningless; for from the perspective of oneness or emptiness, differentiation does not exist. Even “oneness” is a relative term—that is, oneness is relative and only valid in contrast to multiplicity. Therefore, when differentiation is truly dissolved, so too is oneness or Buddhahood.

Thanks again for your comments.

Gassho,

Ted Biringer

(Genjokoan quotes from my translation.)

 
At August 21, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

Yes, it begs the question: "Then what the hell are we doing?"

Regards,

Harry.

 
At August 21, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

...Just to add that we 'greatly realize delusion' with our entire real body/mind; its not just some mental position or viewpoint.

Everything (our Real Body/mind) is then realized and realises us and the realised/realising action of body/mind continues 'for a very long time'.

Now THAT would be good ass wiping (at the risk of making it more complicated than it is).

Regards,

Harry.

 

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