Who are we going to trust?
One of the extraordinary implications of Dogen’s insistence of the inseparability of one's understanding and one’s expressions is his assertion that we can accurately evaluate someone’s understanding simply by examining their expressions. I say "we" to preclude any arguments that Dogen was referring only to the ability of "enlightened" beings. This is clear from Dogen’s own experience. Even before he had traveled to China and resolved his quest to accomplish the "task of a lifetime," he granted greater authority to written texts than he did to certified "Dharma heirs." In the Zuimonki Dogen explains how his reading of a text brought him to the realization that his own "distinguished" certificate-holding teachers were teaching something vastly different from the classic records. Base on the words of that text, his "Great Teachers" were seen as "worthless", and Dogen says that his "whole life was changed completely":
"I came to realize that they differed from what my teachers taught. What is more, I realized that thoughts such as mine, according to their treatises and biographies, were loathed by these people. Having contemplated the nature of the matter at last, I thought to myself I should have felt rather humbled by ancient sages and future good men and women instead of elated by the praise of despicable contemporaries… In view of such a realization, the holders of the title of Great Teacher (daishi) in this country seemed to me worthless, like earthen tiles, and my whole life was changed completely."
Zuimonki, V:8 (Hee-Jin Kim)
It seems to me that there are many "Great Teachers" active in our own time whose teachings differ widely from the "treatises and biographies" of the "ancient sages." When the classic records say one thing and contemporary "Dharma-Heirs" say another, who are we going to trust?
Author of The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing