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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 10 60 the moment of our departure from this world than we would be otherwise; and this, in turn, reduces our fear of dying. For Dogen, each moment of our life can be a complete and all-inclusive experience of life. The life of “I” is not separable from the life of the whole—the life of all beings. In the same way, death is a complete and all-inclusive experience. When we fully live life and fully die death, life is not exclu- sive of death; death is not exclusive of life. Then life and death are no longer plural but singular as life-and-death or birth-and-death. It is a dilemma of life: we all die, and yet, avoiding death is no solution. When we thoroughly face death, death becomes “beyond death.” Dogen tells us that this is the meaning of “life-and-death” for an awakened person. Enlightenment and Beyond The Zen way of going beyond the barrier of dualism is to meditate in full concentration. This is called “just sitting.” Dogen’s invaluable contribution to clarifying the deep meaning of meditation is his introduction of the concept called the “circle of the way.” It means that each moment of our meditation encompasses all four elements of meditation: aspiration, practice, enlightenment, and nirvana. “Aspiration” is determination in pursuit of enlightenment. “Practice” is the effort required for actualizing enlightenment. “Enlightenment” is the awakening of truth, the dharma. “Nir- vana,” in his case, is the state of profound serenity, in which dualistic thoughts and desires are at rest. Dogen says that even a moment of meditation by a begin- ning meditator fully actualizes the unsurpassable realization, whether that is noticed or not. In this way, enlightenment, often regarded as the goal, is itself the path. The path is no other than the goal. The word “enlightenment,” a translation of the Sanskrit word bodhi (literally, “awakening”) has layers of meaning. Firstly, according to Mahayana sutras, Shakyamuni Buddha said, “I have attained the way simultaneously with all sentient beings on the great Earth.” That is to say that all sentient and insentient beings are illuminated by the Buddha’s original particle. Extremely large becomes extremely small, and vice versa. Here is another view of reality distinct from our usual way of seeing. It is not that duality stops existing or functioning; the small is still small and the large is still large. The body remains the body and the mind remains the mind. Without discerning the differences between things, we could not conduct even the sim- plest task of our daily lives. And yet, in meditation the distinc- tions seem to dissolve and lose their usual significance. Dogen calls this kind of nondualistic experience nirvana, which exists at each moment of meditation. Dogen is perhaps the only Zen master in the ancient world who elucidated in detail the paradox of time. For him, time is not separate from existence; time is being. Certainly, there is the passage of time marked by the move- ment of the sun or the clock that always manifests in one direction, from the past, to the present, to the future. On the other hand, in some cases we feel that time flies, and in other cases it moves slowly or almost stands still. In meditation, according to Dogen, time is multidirectional: Yesterday flows into today, and today flows into yesterday; today flows into tomorrow, and tomorrow flows into today. Today also flows into today. Time flies, yet it does not fly away. This moment, which is inclusive of all times, is timeless. Further, time is not apart from the one who experiences it: time is the self. Time flows in “I,” and “I” makes the time flow. It is selfless “I” that makes time full and complete. Beyond Life and Death Time is also life. In the same manner, time is death. Like other Zen teachers, Dogen repeatedly poses an urgent existential question: realizing the brevity of our life, we need to clarify the essential meaning of life and death. Life and death are often called “birth and death” in Bud- dhism, based on the understanding that we are born and die innumerable times moment by moment. Meditation is a way to become familiar with life and death. If we realize that we keep on being born and dying all the time, we become intimate with death as well as life. Thus, we may be better prepared for (Facing page) Happiness, Red