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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
buddhadharma| 75 |fall 2006 good to simply read what we want to into Dogen. Yet this is inevitably what we will do if we don’t try to understand, as best we can, Dogen in the context of his own time and place. In fact, our reading, if it is to be useful, must open us to ourselves by challenging us to enter into dialogue with this true Dogen. Knowing something of the historical material that scholars like Heine dig up will help us to more fully appreciate Dogen’s words and intentions, and to minimize our own projections onto them – even if, as Heine implies, there is probably no way to know for sure why Dogen wrote what he wrote, and precisely what he intended by his words. In the last part of his book, Heine looks more closely at Dogen’s Eiheiji period. It seems that Dogen may not have fled to Eiheiji in a fit of personal disappoint- ment, as most scholars have believed. It’s possible that Dogen, who always loved nature and remote places, wanted to go to the deep mountains for their contempla- tive advantage. But there may have been another reason: at Eiheiji, Dogen could create a unique monastic environment, different in important respects from all Japanese or Song Chinese monasteries, which were controlled by the government and patronized by government officials and the literati. Both Japanese and Chi- nese monasteries were bastions of high culture and government power (the gov- ernment appointed their monastic lead- ers). This is reflected in the Chinese Zen literature, so refined and delicate, of the Song period. At Eiheiji, Dogen may well have had something else in mind. Far from the cen- ters of power and control, Dogen could create a truly independent, religiously based institution that was democratic and popular, and more or less free of political influence. While his monastery certainly had major patrons, it was, at the same time, supported by the local population, which regularly attended repentance and other ceremonies. And Eiheiji officials were appointed not by the government but directly by the abbot, their appoint- ments based not on political connections but solely on ability, and faith. Further- more, as Dogen described in his “Eiheiji Shingi,” monastic officials were to be independent operators – not beholden to the abbot or to anyone else – and were charged with performing their duties as they saw fit, for the benefit of the whole community, which included the laity. So when evaluating Dogen’s suppos- edly narrow later writings, which do relate quite a bit to monastic life, it is important to keep all this in mind. But what of the many contradictions that can be found in Dogen’s writings, providing seemingly incontrovertible proof that Dogen must have radically changed his views as time went on? Heine soberly points out that the existence of contradictions in a religious leader’s views need not require us to jump to pre- cipitous conclusions. In reference to the teaching on karma, for instance, Dogen early on wrote about “Baizhang’s Fox” koan, emphasizing the absolute side – that karma is empty of karma; later, after he returned from Kamakura, he wrote again about this koan, this time emphasizing the relative side – that karma is karma, that good actions lead to good results, bad to bad. But this does not need to mean, as the Renewal theory proponents insist, that he changed his view. It may simply be that at different times, and with different audiences, Dogen had good rea- sons to express himself differently. An expert on the forms of Asian reli- gious texts, Heine is in a position to point out another frequently overlooked factor that may also partly explain the contra- dictions in Dogen’s work. As a literary person, Dogen was quite conscious not only of the social context in which he was writing, but also of literary forms. His Japanese writing is quite different from his Chinese writing; his evening talks are informal and often intimate, while his talks from the dharma seat in the Bud- dha Hall are stilted, formal, and employ stock phrases. A dharma talk is sometimes a ritual and a performance as much as an exposition of views, and Dogen surely understood this. Dogen also wrote poetry, and in his poetry he expresses a completely different side of his practice. In sum, Heine’s book shows us that, like any religious practitioner, Dogen’s views changed as conditions changed, but that at the same time, the key thrust of his lifelong religious journey remained fairly consistent: faith in practice, especially in zazen – not as a spiritual technique but as an enactment of Buddha’s awakening; a desire to share practice with others; a sense, simultaneously, of the wideness and the specificity of practice; and strong deter- mination and seriousness of purpose. For more teachings and events go to www.kagyu.org 335 Meads Mt. Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498 845.679.5906 x 10 of f firstname.lastname@example.org BARDOR TULKU RINPOCHE DEC 1-3 Bodhicharyavatara LAMA DUDJOM DORJEE NOV 3-5 Bodhichitta in Action KHENPO UGYEN TENZIN OCT 6-8 The Three Yanas ACHARYA SUNGRAB G. DRONGPA OCT 28-29 Tibetan Language for Beginners KHENPO KARTHAR RINPOCHE AUG 24-27 Gampopa’s Garland of Pearls OCT 20-22 • NOV 17-19 Lamp of Mahamudra KARMA TRIYANA DHARMACHAKRA Tibetan Buddhist Teaching and Meditation Center