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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
buddhadharma| 73 |fall 2006 II. Japanese Buddhism has always (more than any other national Buddhism) been founded on the cornerstone of the doc- trine of original enlightenment. So the Critical Buddhists, needing a poster child for their daring critique, seized on Dogen. They believed that among Japanese Bud- dhist luminaries throughout history, only Dogen saw the light and repudiated the doctrine of original enlightenment in favor of an emphasis on strict ethics and compassion. Heine works exhaustively with the dates of the various fascicles of Shobo- genzo and other Dogen writings, as well as with biographical information, to con- vincingly debunk both the Decline and the Renewal theories as far too simple. According to him, both rely heavily on tendentious selections of fact and text, and leave out far too much contradictory material. He shows that there were many angles and nuances to Dogen’s thought, and that he was, in effect, both narrow and wide from the start, and throughout his career. While there were certainly changes in Dogen’s views as his career progressed, they were probably more complicated and less consistent than any theory would accommodate. But, Heine suggests, one thing seems to have remained constant for Dogen throughout his career: his con- viction that the practice of zazen, always understood both narrowly (as a specific approach to meditation) and widely (as a universal expression of our buddhana- ture), was central to any true practice of Buddhism. In any case, Heine’s almost dizzy- ingly detailed method shows us what we already knew anyway: the closer you look at something, the less definite and more complex it gets. This is as true of Dogen’s life and career as it is of anyone else’s. good explanations may seem apt up to a point, but in the end, multiple, and usually contradictory, explanations are required to fit the ever-proliferating facts. And even then, one must admit that one doesn’t have the whole story. Is there any point, from the practi- tioner’s perspective, in an exercise like Heine’s? I think there is. Dogen is cer- tainly a religious genius, and reading his works will inspire us and give us some fruitful direction for our practice. But it won’t do us any good to try to penetrate some ideal or distant imagined author- ity we call Dogen. Nor will it do us any