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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
29 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly the two realms are independent. absolute is absolute, and rela- tive is relative. a devil is a devil, a buddha is a buddha. Finally, we arrive at the concluding paragraph of this incredible sutra, where Dogen brings it home to the fifth rank. Here, complete unity is attained, so that unity and dispar- ity, form and emptiness, absolute and relative, all disappear. Everything is seen at once, and no trace of enlightenment or non-enlightenment remains. Dongshan’s verse to the fifth rank reads: Who dares to equal the one Who falls into neither being nor non-being! all of us want to leave the current of ordinary life, but this one, after all, comes back to sit among the coals and ashes. In Genjokoan, Dogen says, “no trace of enlightenment remains and this traceless enlightenment continues endlessly.” We call this endless activity “filling a well with snow,” the seemingly inane occupation of the ancient sages. no one can tell whether they’re sages or whether they’re crazy, whether they’re ordinary or holy. one of them gathers a few others and they all climb the mountain to get to the snow-capped peaks. They fill their buckets with snow and carry them down and throw the snow into the well, trying to fill it. of course, fill- ing the well with snow is impossible. Yet they do it, trip after trip, day after day. It is like the four bodhisattva vows that all Zen practitio- ners make each night: Sentient beings are numberless; i vow to save them. desires are inexhaustible; i vow to put an end to them. the dharmas are boundless; i vow to master them. the buddha Way is unattainable; i vow to attain it. It is impossible to save numberless beings, yet we vow to do it. It’s impossible to exhaust inexhaustible desires; impossible to master infinite dharmas; impossible to attain the unattainable. Impossible, yet we’ll do it. an ancient master once said: “Thirty years ago, before studying Zen, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. When I had more intimate knowledge, I came to see mountains not as mountains and rivers not as rivers. But now that I have attained the substance, I again see mountains just as mountains, and rivers just as rivers.” The zazen of a beginner is innocent. It’s free, open, and receptive. But after a while, it becomes rote. It’s one thing to really practice this incredible Way with the whole body and mind, and quite another to simply look like a Zen practitioner. much of our practice involves maintaining this freshness, this receptivity. this teaching is not saying that mountains are mountains; it says that mountains are mountains. This is the mountain of the nature of all dharmas, the ten thousand things, the whole phenomenal universe. It pervades all time and space, from the beginningless beginning to the endless end. In other words, it’s the body and mind of the ten thousand things—and, it’s just a mountain. thus, we should thoroughly study these mountains. When we thoroughly study the mountains, this is the mountain training. then these mountains and rivers themselves spontaneously become wise ones and sages. When Dogen says, “thoroughly study the mountains,” he means for us to take these mountains and rivers as the koan of our lives. Whether we look at these mountains and riv- ers with the eyes of a biologist, a geologist, a hydrologist, a sage, a deer, as the mountain, as the river, the fact is that they are constantly proclaiming the dharma. The river sings the eighty-four thousand verses. Do we hear them? The mountain reveals the form of the true dharma, the virtue of harmony. can we see it? When we go deep into ourselves, when we engage Zen practice fully, that practice becomes the practice of all buddhas past, present, and future. It is the verification and actualization of the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha and all of the subsequent buddhas. It is also the practice and verification of these mountains and rivers, and of your life and my life, the life of wise ones, sages, and ordinary beings. To realize all form as one’s own body and mind is to dwell in a universe that is unborn and inextinguishable, a universe that has no beginning or end.