Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What does Dogen mean by enlightenment?

Even if we have not yet given rise to the mind that truly aspires to realize full enlightenment, we should imitate the methods of the Buddhas and Ancestors of the past who gave rise to the mind that seeks enlightenment. This mind is the mind that has resolved to realize enlightenment; it is the manifestation of a sincere heart moment by moment, the mind of previous Buddhas, our everyday mind, and the three worlds of desire, form, and beyond form. All of these are the products of our mind alone.
Shobogenzo, Shinjin Gakudo, Rev. Hubert Nearman p.491

If anything should be revered, it is enlightenment. If any time should be honored, it is the time of enlightenment..
Tenzo kyokun (Moon in a Dewdrop, p.64, Kazuaki Tanahashi & Arnold Kotler)

In order that you may now push on in your training to realize enlightenment in an instant, I show you the marvelous path which the Buddhas and Ancestors have directly Transmitted, and I do this that you may become a genuine follower of the Way.
Shobogenzo, Bendowa, Rev. Hubert Nearman

Clearly remember: in the Buddhist patriarchs’ learning of the truth, to awaken the bodhi-mind is inevitably seen as foremost. This is the eternal rule of the Buddhist patriarchs.
Shobogenzo, Hotsu-Bodaishin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross, v3, p.271

Those who have not yet attained the mind of enlightenment should pray to the Buddhas of former ages, and should also dedicate their good works to the quest for the mind of enlightenment.
Eihei Koroku, 4, Thomas Cleary

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11 Comments:

At September 17, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

Ted,

Somethings else to consider/dispose of:

Are you advancing 'realisation' (as in 'practice/realisation') as an equal value to 'enlightenment'?

Enlightened action is enlightened action whether we realise it or not: I think (non-Buddhist) people perform realized, enlightened actions quite often in the course of their ordinary lives without making a big Buddhist fuss... they sometimes 'just do things' selflessly/self-fully.

Via Zazen we can directly realize the enlightened nature of action, but this is not some sort of effective 'permanently installed perfect and complete realisation/'enlightenment'' (from the point of view of our on-going personal psychological make-up and our responses/actions post-Zazen) and so, even if we were for a long time directly performing a clarified 'enlightened' action, this does not at all necessarily make our subsequent actions enlightened or clarified. It may happen, but it does not seem to be the norm.

But maybe it (Zazen/realisation)aligns us in the right general direction. Reality is a bit 'messy' and indistinct at times. Dogen understood this well it seems to me.

I agree that to sit Zazen is not to magically become enlightened; but who holds such things to be true?

And in a sense; it is true. We are enlightened even before we sit down, and I see no problem with the idea of sitting down with an attitude of 'nothing more to do' which must not be a smug sense of achievement or gain, but must be a cessation of other efforts for gain which obscure the true nature of an action such as sitting upright.

Regards,

Harry.

 
At September 18, 2008, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Hello Harry,

Thank you for your comments.

My posts here (and at the Dogen/Shobogenzo blog) are usually (as in the present case) aimed at seeking/sharing/discussing, etc. topics in regard to Dogen's teachings. In light of that, I am not trying to "advance" anything.

Rather, most of my posts are (admittedly fumbling) attempts to share my understanding of Dogen's teachings.

This post is simply a series of quotes by Dogen on the nature, role, and function of enlightenment according to Zen.

Depending on the translator, particular text, context, etc. terms refering to bodhi, satori, bodhcitta, and the like are often translated as either/or 'enlightenment' 'realization' (and sometimes 'awakening').

Of course all these terms are used in different contexts as signifiers or designators for a variety of experiences (e.g. as designating Buddhahood, or as one of the two foci of the nonduality of delusion/enlightenment, or as initial experiences of true nature, or as the dynamic interface of practice, etc.)

My own use of these various terms are usually interchangable, unless they are qualified as something else.

As far as my present understanding of the significance of enlightenment in Dogen's teaching goes, at the risk of oversimplification:

The highest (and most common) use of the term(s) 'enlightenment' are indicative of the direct personal realization of true nature (or Buddha nature, or thusness, or suchness, or whatever name you prefer). That is the experience realized by Shakyamuni Buddha under the Bo-Tree. It is the liberation from the bodange of suffering. In Dogen's words:

"When someone discerns what this
Dharma of Theirs is, It brings about nirvana, which is freedom from suffering."
Shobogenzo, Hachi Dainingaku

I think the next most common designation in Dogen's Zen, is as an indicator of the dynamic, nondual function/essence of practice-enlightenment. The activity or non-activity that Dogen means by, "Buddhas do not know they are Buddhas." This is outlined in Dogen's teachings concerning nonthinking (think not-thinking), which I believe Dogen advocates for all activities (not just sitting meditation).

I think the third most common use of the term is as a reference to an initial opening into true nature. This is sometimes refered to as "entering the room", "awakening the bodhi mind", "attaining the mind of bodhi", and other similar terms. In Dogen's Zen, this initial experience of 'forgetting the self', or 'shedding body-and-mind', activates prajna, opening what he calls the 'Dharma-Eye' or 'Eye to read scriptures.'

Sometimes, Dogen seems to emphasize this experience more than others. I think that is because of his position that until we have actually experienced true nature, we cannot really grasp the true significance of the Buddhadharma. For example, I think this is what he indicates as the 'foremost' task in this quote:

Clearly remember: in the Buddhist patriarchs’ learning of the truth, to awaken the bodhi-mind is inevitably seen as foremost. This is the eternal rule of the Buddhist patriarchs.
Shobogenzo, Hotsu-Bodaishin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross, v3, p.271

Thanks again Harry!

Gassho,
Ted Biringer

 
At September 18, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

Ted,

This post above was meant to go in the previous post's comments section. My mistake.

Regards,

H.

 
At September 18, 2008, Blogger Harry said...

"Clearly remember: in the Buddhist patriarchs’ learning of the truth, to awaken the bodhi-mind is inevitably seen as foremost. This is the eternal rule of the Buddhist patriarchs.
Shobogenzo, Hotsu-Bodaishin, Gudo Nishijima & Chodo Cross, v3, p.271"


Ted,

As you probably know, the Bodhi-mind or 'bodhicitta' is the mind of truth, the mind bent towards truth. Its that which impelled the historical Buddha to leave his home and begin his search.

Nishijima Roshi calls it the 'will to the truth'.

So this will towards realisation may be 'awakened' in someone whose practice and realisation is very inferior, yet, with the bodhi mind active, they will have some direction to go even though they may presently have unrealistic goals, incorrect methods or even questionable motives.

The will to practice/realize must be there initially before the event.

It seems to me this 'will' is what Dogen Zenji was referring to in the above quote.

Unfortunately it seems that the concept of 'bodhicitta' has become somewhat idealised in Buddhism and so may have lost some of its practicality as an idea.

Regards,

Harry.

 
At September 18, 2008, Blogger Jinzang said...

The "mind of enlightenment" is bodhicitta in Sanskrit, Bodhicitta is the wish to attain enlightenment so that one may benefit others. It is an expression of compassion and not wisdom. So Dogen is praising compassion in half the quotes you have here.

 
At September 19, 2008, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Hello Harry & Jinzang,

Thank you for your comments. This has certainly been an engaging conversation.

On "Bodhicitta" sometimes spelled "Bodhichitta" - I am somewhat familiar with the various definitions subscribed to be by various schools. For instance, here are some standard glossary entries:

Bodhicitta: The mind of enlightenment.

Bodhicitta: The thought of enlightenment.

Bodhicitta: The initiative that a Buddhist begins his path to complete, perfect enlightenment.

Bodhicitta: The intention to enlightenment held by The Bodhisattva Vow.

Bodhicitta: A wisdom motivated to the direct realization of enlightenment.

None of these seem to me to really express what Dogen means, which is what this post was trying to get at. Dogen's view certainly includes some of this--yet, seems to go much further.

Dogen usually uses the term to indicate the "intention to realize Buddhahood."

Jinzang made the important connection with "compassion", yet qualified this as "not wisdom." While I agree that Dogen certainly views compassion as one characteristic of Bodhichitta, I would say he also includes wisdom.

For Dogen, bodhichitta (the intention to realize Buddhahood) is totally inclusive of the fully enlightened mind:

"From the time of our giving rise to our intention to realize Buddhahood and our stepping forth, right up to our doing our daily practice now, all is the Living Eye and the Living Bones and Marrow rushing in to see Buddha. It is our doing our utmost in training to realize the Way until there is no gap between our own enlightenment and that of our Master."
Shobogenzo, Kembutsu (Hubert Nearman)

"Shakyamuni Buddha once said, “When I saw the morning star emerge, I was enlightened simultaneously with the whole of the great earth and all its sentient beings.” Accordingly, giving rise to the intention, doing the training and practice, awakening, and realizing nirvana will be giving rise to the intention, doing the training and practice, awakening, and realizing nirvana, and all at the same time."
Shobogenzo, Hotsu Mujō Shin (Hubert Nearman)

And as all of these are inherent to bodhichitta--at least in Dogen's view-- how could wisdom not be? How could we understand this statement for instance:

You need to be clear about this: using the issue of birth-and-death to give rise to your intention to realize Buddhahood is to wholeheartedly seek enlightened Wisdom.
Shobogenzo, Hotsu Mujō Shin (Hubert Nearman)

As far as bodhichitta being an initial opening, or the beginning of authentic practice-realization, Dogen indicates that, while enlightenment is "already there" if it is not realized, it cannot manifest--and that those that have not experienced it, are not ready ready for authentic practice... In other words, he draws a definite distinction between those that have truly engaged bodhichitta and those that have not, for instance:

"Those who have not given rise to the intention to realize Buddhahood by practicing and training until they awaken to their enlightenment and realize nirvana are not those whose very mind is Buddha."
Shobogenzo, Soku Shin Ze Butsu (Hubert Nearman)

"Even so, ordinary, unawakened people have not taken notice of this, and because they have not taken notice of it, they have not given rise to the enlightened Mind."
Shobogenzo, Hotsu Bodai Shin (Hubert Nearman)

He also indicates that it is after engaging bodhichitta, we should study sutras, work with a teacher, etc. for instance:

"Our giving rise to our first spiritual intention and then later encountering the words of the Scriptures is likewise in harmony with Scriptural texts and spiritual friends."
Shobogenzo, Bukkyō (Hubert Nearman)

"From the time of our giving rise to our intention to realize Buddhahood and our stepping forth, right up to our doing our daily practice now, all is the Living Eye and the Living Bones and Marrow rushing in to see Buddha. It is our doing our utmost in training to realize the Way until there is no gap between our own enlightenment and that of our Master."
Shobogenzo, Kembutsu (Hubert Nearman)

Perhaps his lovliest expression on bodhichitta is this:

"Awakening one’s intention and arriving at the Ultimate,
though two, are not separate.
Of these two states of mind, the former is the more
difficult to arrive at,
So when those who have not yet arrived at the Ultimate
first lead others to arrive,
I, for that reason, bow to their first giving rise to their
intention.
With Your first arising, You were already a Teacher for
humans and gods,
Surpassing those who merely listen and those who seek
the Goal only for themselves.
The arising of such an intention as Yours has surpassed
the triple world,
And therefore we call it the supreme state above all.

The arising of the intention means giving rise, right off, to the intention to help others reach the Other Shore, even though you yourself have not yet reached that Place. We call this giving rise to the enlightened Mind for the first time. Once you have given rise to this Mind, you will then encounter Buddhas to whom you should make alms offerings, and you should hearken to Their Teaching. Further, should you then strive to give rise to the enlightened Mind, it would be like adding frost atop snow.

The term ‘the Ultimate’ refers to the Wisdom that is the result of Buddhahood. Were we to compare the state of supreme, fully perfected enlightenment with the state of giving rise to the enlightened Mind for the first time, it is like comparing the universal, all-consuming conflagration of the final age with the light of a firefly. Even so, when you give rise to the heart that helps others reach the Other Shore, even though you yourself have not yet reached that Place, there is no difference between the two."
Shobogenzo, Hotsu Bodai Shin (Hubert Nearman)

It is interesting that he says that the initial realization of bodhichitta is more difficult than the full actualization. What do you guys make of Dogen's intention there?

Thanks again, I look forward to our continuing discussion.

Gassho

Ted Biringer

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

Hmmmm, Ted.

I think that reality is not often so well (and conveniently) defined... so maybe we should be prepared to accept that things are sometimes not so obvious or clearly manifest? Things can always be seen from many different points of view, and often it seems that its just a big jumble that we have to make the best of.

As to your interesting question:

Maybe the realisation of certain truths is difficult for parts of us to accept?

Maybe we avoid these truths and create/uphold all sorts of protective devices to avoid these truths?

Regards,

Harry.

 
At September 19, 2008, Blogger Jinzang said...

Unless you distinguish between enlightenment as ground, enlightenment as path, and enlightenment as fruition, there will be some confusion in understanding the dharma. Certainly it's our buddha nature that allows to express compassion. And ultimately there's no distinction between wisdom and compassion. But while we are on the path it's helpful to distinguish between the different mental factors and not smoosh them into one amorphous whole, so we can employ the proper factor when it is appropriate.

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

Does there exist a Buddha Nature outside our own real actions?

Where is this Buddha Nature, where does it reside? Can something really exist that is not being expressed in reality?

If it is already 'within' us then why aren't we all realized buddhas already?

And so Dogen Zenji realised that if we don't practice it it won't manifest.

We can cleverly theorize/ categorize from now till Tuesday, but it will always be limited if we fail to act beyond the very small confines of the little blips of electricity inside our heads.

Regards,

Harry.

 
At September 19, 2008, Blogger Ted Biringer said...

Hello Harry & Jinzang,

Thank you for sharing.

Harry wrote: "Maybe the realisation of certain truths is difficult for parts of us to accept?

Maybe we avoid these truths and create/uphold all sorts of protective devices to avoid these truths?"

Maybe?! Ha! Yes sir! At least in my own experience this is certainly true.

Harry wrote:

"We can cleverly theorize/ categorize from now till Tuesday, but it will always be limited if we fail to act beyond the very small confines of the little blips of electricity inside our heads."

Absolutely! Sometimes you demonstrate the very art of understatement, Harry. Thank you, your words can, and do 'point directly.'

Jinzang wrote:

"But while we are on the path it's helpful to distinguish between the different mental factors and not smoosh them into one amorphous whole, so we can employ the proper factor when it is appropriate."

Yes, Jinzang, well said! The only thing more odious than the overly-pious, are the detached zombies that worship pernicious oneness...

Thanks again to both of you. Your comments concerning the subject of this post have been inspiring, thought provoking, and insightful. I look forward to our continuing discussions.

In the meantime, if you get a chance let me know what you think about the excerpt from The Flatbed Sutra (latest post here at Flapping Mouths).

Take good care of yourselves,

Gassho,

Ted Biringer

 
At September 21, 2008, Blogger Gimmal said...

I hesitate to define, to myself, that I am seeking enlightenment. If I define it to myself, I will no doubt indicate it to others. If it was something distinct that I could grasp, I could endeavor to find my own way to it -- interacting with others as would be necessary to that personal objective. Whereas it is not such a tangible thing, I must rely on the communications of others to even have input so as to consider what it is that I, myself, am seeking.

If I'm seeking the moon in the water, that would be available to anyone who can see the water. If it is something called enlightenment I seek, then how much can I trust others that I may find it by their advice?

I'm afraid that this may be a sort of philosophical lock-down condition. In how it actually is, I find that it is necessary. I am very careful about what I will pick up from another, at the level of philosophical realism, and what I will allow myself to be exposed to and to condone without simply, tacitly rejecting it.

This is the case when I'm all fully awake, anyhow.

Namaste

 

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