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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
31 spring 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly It is for this reason that the opening of Dogen’s Fukanzazengi (Universal Recommendation of Zazen) states, “The Way is complete and universal. How can we distinguish practice from enlightenment? The vehicle or reality is in the self. Why should we waste our effort trying to attain it?” Now what does Dogen mean when he goes on to say, “Yet if there is the slightest deviation from the self, you will be as far from the Way as heaven is from earth. If adverse or favorable conditions arise to even the smallest degree, you will lose your mind in confu- sion.” Though the basic reality by which all live is this pure fresh life, it gets hindered when our thinking mind tells us we have “caught hold of it” or conceptualized it. Because the “freshness” created by thought is not the “freshness” of life. The living freshness is when you let go of your thoughts—the place where thoughts are let go of is the very place where true freshness begins. Zazen means to truly let go of thoughts—it is the posture of letting go. Here I must say a word about the actual practice of shikan- taza. Even when we practice zazen we are not in a state in which thoughts do not appear. Various thoughts float into our mind. However, if we chase after them, though we happen to be sitting in the zazen posture, we are just thinking. At such times you tell yourself, “I am practicing zazen, this is not the time to be thinking,” correct your posture and return to zazen. This is called “waking up from absentmindedness.” Then there are times when we become sleepy. During these times, return to zazen, telling yourself, “I am practicing zazen, this is not the time to be dozing,” and correct your posture. This is called “waking up from darkness.” Waking up from both absentmindedness and darkness, returning to your practice countless times is zazen. That is to say, shikantaza is arousing the mind of “practice-enlight- enment” over and over; it is the meaning of zazen, or the experience of raw life. Zen master Dogen was said to have been enlightened by “dropping off mind and body,” but we have to ask what is this “dropping off mind and body?” In the Hokyoki (a record of Dogen’s life with his teacher Nyojo) it is stated, “The high priest Docho (Nyojo) said, Zazen is dropping off mind and body; it is not through lighting incense, reciting nembutsu, confessing transgressions, or reading sutras—it is only through shikantaza. A monk asked, What is dropping off mind and body? The master (Nyojo) said, Dropping off mind and body is zazen. When practicing shikantaza, you should separate from the five desires and rid yourself of the five delusions.” As I’ve said, it means to let go of your thoughts—the zazen in which you let go of your thoughts countless times is the zazen of “dropping off mind and body.” “Dropping off mind and body” is not some special mystical experience. It is the kind of zazen Dogen wrote about in the “Bendowa” when he stated, “Truly you should know that this is the com- plete path of the buddhadharma—nothing can compare with it.” And again in the same text, Dogen called it, “the right gate to the buddhadharma.” We can think of our lives as being somewhat parallel to driving a car. When driving a car, it is dangerous to drive when you are dozing or when you are drunk. It is also dangerous to drive when you are lost in thought or are very tense. It is the same when we drive the vehicle that is our life. Dozing and drunkenness are “darkness” and thinking and tension are “absentmindedness.” And in each of these cases, waking up is the basic way to operate the vehicle, which is your life. Zazen is the very thing that will activate this basic way; the way to drive this vehicle, which is your life. When you practice zazen, you are following the “complete path of the buddhadharma” and the “right gate of buddhadharma.” This is why Dogen taught the way of shikantaza and it is his reason for writing the Fukanzazengi. In the Hotsu Mujoshin (“Awakening of Supreme Aspira- tion,” chapter 69 of the Shobogenzo), Dogen stated, “The body and mind of the Buddha Way are grasses and trees, tiles and pebbles; they are wind and rain, water and fire. Ponder- ing this and giving rise to the Buddha Way, you will arouse the Way-seeking mind. You should create a Buddha image or stupa from empty space. You should create a Buddha image or stupa by scooping water from the valley stream. This is arous- ing anuttara samyak sambodhi (from the Sanskrit, meaning enlightenment)—arousing the one bodhi-mind countless times. Practice-enlightenment is like this.” It is a great mistake for those unenlightened practitioners to interpret the statement, “wake up to the Way-seeking mind If you expect to be enlightened in one fell swoop, you will never understand this raw original life as it is. ➤ continued page 86