The universe and the self are one and the same. Time is another name for this thing. So is the "present moment." You are not a person living in a time and a place. You are the person and the time and the place all rolled into one.
According to ancient Buddhist writings, at about the time of his enlightenment under the bo tree, Shakyamuni [the Buddha] reflected on the Law of Causation. Since this law is extremely difficult, to enable ordinary people to understand it he organized his teachings in the form of the Four Noble Truths, which are a clarified version of the Law of Causation. Whereas the Law itself is for the understanding of people of outstanding wisdom, the Truths were devised for the sake of teaching ordinary human beings. In the cases of the five ascetics, Yasa, his parents, his wife, and the rich men of Benares, Shakyamuni employed the teaching of the Four Noble Truths to lead to an understanding of the Buddhist interpretation of the world and human life and thus to enable these people to attain initial enlightenment.
The Four Noble Truths were taught on the basis of a principle of healing spiritual suffering and misery that is similar to the principles that doctors follow in curing illnesses of the body. To effect a cure, a doctor must first accurately diagnose the illness. If his diagnosis is incorrect or insufficient, a complete cure will probably be impossible. For instance, pain in the stomach can be caused by various ailments. If the doctor diagnoses incorrectly and, acting on the basis of that diagnosis, warms the patient's body when it should be cooled, or vice versa, he will not only fail to cure but will also probably aggravate the situation. Accurate diagnoses spell the difference between good doctors and quacks.
The next requirement for treatment is a correct understanding of the cause of the illness. Of course, if the diagnosis is incorrect, it is impossible to understand the cause. On the other hand, a correct diagnosis does not always guarantee correct interpretation of the cause. Illnesses caused by external wounds, overeating, overdrinking, overwork, bacteria, or other factors all demand different kinds of therapy. This is the second stage.
To understand the nature and cause of the trouble, the doctor needs fundamental knowledge and experience concerning the organism in its sound, well state—that is, knowledge about good health. Health is usually judged on the basis of such things as facial color, temperature, respiratory rate, pulse, blood pressure, and so on according to standards for the patient's sex and age. But in more intensive examinations more exacting, higher standards of judgment make it possible to uncover abnormalities even in people who seem perfectly healthy. The more exacting the ideal standards on which health is judged, the more clearly are maladies and their causes seen and the wider the range of treatment that can be applied. This is the third stage.
The final stage of therapy is to apply the treatment judged best in each case on the basis of knowledge, experience, and judgment gained from the first three stages. All methods, direct and indirect, are used that will cure the illness and restore sound health. Among the direct methods are medication, injections, operations, and other mechanical or physical treatment. Indirect methods for curing and for restoring good health include such things as heat or cooling treatments, rests, walks or exercise, diets, bathing, and so on. If the method employed is the proper one, the patient will gradually be freed of negative physical aspects, and positive ones will accrue to him, restoring good health.
Just as there are four stages of therapy for physical illness, so there are four stages in the process of relieving suffering and misery that are illness of the spirit. Those stages are set forth in the Four Noble Truths.
Shakyamuni, a great physician of the spirit with abundant wisdom and experience, conformed his treatment—teaching of the Law—to the illness of the individual. The nature of his teaching method is to offer different doctrines according to the spiritual and intellectual capacities of the audience, just as a doctor adjusts therapy to the needs of the patient.
The first of the Four Noble Truths (the Truth of Suffering) states that all existence is suffering. The nature of the state of suffering must be accurately understood. No matter whether the individual diagnoses his own suffering or that of others, suffering itself must be clearly seen for what it is. It is wrong to interpret as a normal state something that is actually suffering or to suffer when there is no cause to do so. In other words, the first requirement is to see things accurately and completely, neither in a distorted way, as through colored glasses, nor partially, as through clouded glasses. In order to allow people to see things correctly, before teaching the Four Noble Truths, Shakyamuni employed the gradual teaching method that I have already described. This method enabled his followers to accept the Law of Causation and to understand causation correctly.
The second of the Four Noble Truths (the Truth of Cause) postulates that illusion and desire are the cause of suffering. Since there is no suffering without a cause, it is essential to determine whether that cause is the outcome of internal or external elements or a combination of both. If the cause is understood, by eliminating it one eliminates the suffering itself.
The third of the Four Noble Truths (the Truth of Extinction) deals with the ideal condition in which suffering has been totally extinguished. This is the standard against which to judge suffering and nonsuffering. Although only a person who has reached this state can understand it completely, correct awareness of ideals and even scant familiarity with the Four Noble Truths gives a certain amount of knowledge about it. Without such knowledge, it is impossible to recognize suffering as suffering, to know that elimination of the cause of suffering removes the suffering itself, or to put into practice the meaning of achieving such an elimination.
The fourth of the Four Noble Truths (the Truth of the Path) sets forth the means of eliminating suffering step by step. Doctors use either direct or indirect methods to cure illness. The direct methods attack the symptoms. The indirect methods restore general bodily health. Similarly, the fourth of the Four Noble Truths prescribes indirect and direct methods. Either the desires and the attachments causing suffering are directly eliminated, or a state or environment in which such desires and attachments and the suffering they entail do not occur is produced. The Eightfold Path contains all the direct and indirect methods needed to remove suffering and to build a perfect personality in physical and spiritual terms. Developing such a personality—that of a Buddha or an arhat—resembles physical therapy aiming both to cure the present sickness and to create a sound, healthy body in which sickness does not occur. The comparison with the healing principle shows how rationally organized the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths is. It further shows the identity between these Truths and the research attitude of such fields of learning as modern natural science.
Scientific investigation adopts a two-stage method. In the first stage, laws are formulated about the operations of the phenomena under investigation (natural science for natural phenomena, the humanities for phenomena of human culture and civilization, and the social sciences for social phenomena). In other words, the first step in scientific investigation is discovering the Law of Causation in the world of phenomena. This is identical with the Buddhist method of acquiring a correct view of the world and of human life as operations of the Law of Causation. Understanding the actual world as suffering arising from desires and attachments in the terms of the Four Noble Truths correspond with the first stage of scientific investigation.
The second stage is the application of the Law of Causation. Creation of conditions and states of affairs that human beings consider ideal is a matter of applied research. All the conveniences of civilization and the products of culture have resulted from the application of scientific laws. Putting to use laws of phenomena in spiritual culture, politics, and economics for the sake of the improvement of humanity would probably result in the creation of an ideal culture and society. Viewed in this light, the teaching of the Four Noble Truths—in a wider sense, of the Law of Causation—is in line not only with medical science but also with all of the other sciences. It is amazing that Shakyamuni evolved these teaching, which distinguish Buddhism from all other religions and philosophies, as long as two thousand five hundred years ago. The teachings prove the universal applicability, truth, and rational nature of the doctrinal theories of Buddhism.
There was an occasion when the Buddha instructed Ananda to assemble the monks from the Rajagaha area in the hall on Vulture Peak. When the monks were gathered, the Buddha taught them seven rules for the welfare of the Order.
The monks should meet for democratic mutual exchanges of ideas.
The monks should manage the Order correctly, in cooperation and concord.
The monks should abide by correct established precepts and rules.
The monks should respect and listen to the words of the elders of the Order.
The monks should not indulge in the kinds of sensual pleasures that keeps human beings bound to the cycle of birth and death.
The monks should prefer a life of solitude in remote places.
The monks should be the kind of people whom men and women of religion are happy to meet and they should provide men and women of religion with pleasant places to live.
Sariputta (Shariputra) and Moggallāna (Maudgalyanyana) were the two leading disciples of the Buddha's Order. One week after Moggallāna entered the Order he attained the highest enlightenment. Before his enlightenment, there was an occasion when Moggallāna was meditating in a village. Being unaccustomed to such practices, he kept falling asleep. He spoke with his teacher, the Buddha, about his sleepiness. The Buddha explained to Moggallāna a variety of ways to combat drowsiness. The Buddha said in the end if nothing else worked and sleepiness persisted one should simply lie down and sleep. After the rest, resume the meditation.
1 1/2 pounds of small new potatoes
2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon of minced fresh dill weed
1 tablespoon of minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup of a very fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with salted cold water to cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender but still firm, perhaps 20 or 25 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool. Do not peel the potatoes.
Cut the potatoes into quarters, and place them in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, the bell pepper, the dill, and the parsley to to potatoes and set it all aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, the garlic, the lemon juice, the salt and the pepper to taste.
Pour the dressing over the potato salad, add the sunflower seeds and toss gently to coat.
This salad is best served at room temperature, on the day it is made.
My daily zazen practice has helped quiet things down in my head so that I no longer listen to the ways my mind can justify any jerklike thing I do. Those kinds of justifications are endless, and some of them even sound pretty convincing.
But when you step back and look at what's actually going on, apart from how thought tries to frame it, you can see that being a jerk is always harmful to you, no matter what supposed rewards it may bring.
There is no being-a-jerk apart from what you actually do. Being-a-jerk doesn't vanish as if it were a thing in and of itself. You just stop doing jerk-type things. Some people think being-a-jerk arises out of past causes and conditions but don't see how they themselves are those causes and conditions. Those guys are pretty sad cases. The seeds of Buddhahood also come from causes and conditions. Jerk-type actions neither exist nor don't exist. evil doesn't exist or not exist. It is either done or not done.
The moment I have defined another as my
enemy, I lose part of myself, the complexity and subtlety of my
vision. I begin to exist in a closed system. When anything goes
wrong, I blame my enemy. If I wake troubled, my enemy had led me to
this feeling. If I cannot sleep, it is because of my enemy. Slowly
all the power in my life begins to be located outside. And my whole
being is defined in relation to this outside force, which becomes
daily more monstrous, more evil, more laden with all the qualities in
myself I no longer wish to own. The quality of my thought then is
diminished. My imagination grows small. My self seems meager. For my
enemy has stolen all of these.
He who still abides by a dogmatic view, considering it as the highest is the world, thinking "this is the most excellent" and disparaging other views as inferior, is still considered not to be free from disputes.
When seeing, hearing, or sensing something and considering it as the only thing that can bring comfort and advantage to self, one is always inclined to get caught in it and rule out everything else as inferior.
Caught in one's view and considering all other views as inferior—this attitude is considered by the wise as bondage, as the absence of freedom. A good practitioner is never too quick to believe what is seen, heard, and sensed, including rules and rites.
A good practitioner has no need to set up a new theory for the world, using knowledge he has picked up or the rules and rites he is practicing. He does not consider himself "superior," "inferior," or "equal" to anyone.
A good practitioner abandons the notion of self and the tendency to cling to views. He is free and does not depend on anything, even on knowledge. He does not take sides in controversies and does not hold on to any view or dogma.
He does not seek for anything or cling to anything, either this extreme or the other, either in this world or in the other world. He has abandoned all views and no longer has the need to seek for comfort or refuge in any theory or ideology.
To the wise person, there are no longer views concerning what is seen, heard, or sensed. How could one judge or have opinion concerning such a pure being who has let go of all views?
A wise person no longer feels the need for setting up dogmas or choosing an ideology. All dogmas and ideologies have been abandoned by a wise person. A real noble is never caught in rules or rites. He or she is advancing steadfastly to the shore of liberation and will never return to the realm of bondage.
What Dogen is trying to convey to us across the span of eight hundred years is not facts or information. He's trying to pass along an attitude. That's why he says again and again that it doesn't matter how smart or dumb a person is. It doesn't matter how many facts you've got in your head or how many sutras you can quote. Dogen could quote all kinds of texts. But he still praises teachers who were illiterate and completely unschooled because they had the proper attitude.
This is why it's very good to have an in-person teacher. Without a teacher you can still absorb all kinds of facts and learn to regurgitate quotations on command. But you might never cop the proper attitude unless you see it in action in the form of an actual human being who lives it.
There is originally no word for truth, but the way to it is revealed by words. The way originally has no explanation, but reality is made clear by explanation. That is why the buddhas appeared in the world with many expedient methods; the whole canon dispenses medicines according to diseases.
What is disturbing you and making you uneasy is that there are things outside and mind inside. Therefore even when the ordinary and the holy are one reality, there still remains a barrier of view. So it is said that as long as views remain you are ordinary; when feelings are forgotten you're a buddha. I advise you, don't seek reality, just stop views.
[Dogen] believed that nature could often explain the dharma to people better than people could explain it to each other in words. That may sound abstract, but it's really not that difficult to understand.
You could say that nature explains science to people. It explains science by demonstrating scientific principles. The principles of science exist before we put them into words or write them out as equations.
It's the same with the dharma. Reality exists as it is. The words we use to explain our understanding of it are always pale reflections of the truth we are attempting to convey and of our own understanding of that truth.
To me this attitude of insisting that nature can explain Buddhism better than words is part of the bravery of Buddhism. I was initially impressed by Buddhism because, unlike other religions I'd encountered up till then, it was not afraid of science. For example, these days a lot of misguided people in my country try to deny the observable fossil record and insist that the words of their religious book are truer than what nature tells them.
But Buddhism isn't like that. The Dalai Lama famously said, "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change."
To be fair about some of the antifemale rhetoric that occurs in Buddhism, I don't think most of it was initially intended as a put-down of women. By that I mean that the writers probably weren't trying to send a message to women saying, "Hey, gals! You're terrible." Rather, they were heterosexual men trying hard to cope with celibacy and trying to help other hetero men do so by saying, "Hey, guys! The celibacy thing is tough, but if you think of women this way you'll be able to deal with it better."
It's a lousy strategy, if you ask me. Obviously it had the unfortunate consequence of making celibate male monks think of women as almost demonic creatures and led to some of the discriminatory practices Dogen denounces in this essay. It encouraged such frankly idiotic supposedly "Buddhist" customs as monks not being allowed to even so much as shake a woman's hand. This foolishness is still practiced today even by Western converts to certain traditions. Personally, I have no respect at all for that kind of nonsense, no matter how ancient or traditional it is. By the way, I do not particularly care if you're offended by my attitude. I find this repugnant misogynistic practice far more offensive than you could possibly find my attitude toward it.
When we need to pee or poop, we should make the aspiration that all beings get rid of impurity and get free of greed, anger, and delusion. When we get to the toilet we should make the aspiration that all beings progress to the supreme state of the truth.
According to tradition, the Buddha first established a male-only monastic order. When certain women who had listened to his teachings, including the wife he left behind when he decided to pursue the truth and the woman who raised him after his mother died, asked to join the group he refused. At this point his chief attendant, a guy named Ananda, asked the Buddha if women were any less intelligent than men. The Buddha said no, they were just as intelligent. Then Ananda asked if women were any less capable than men of realizing the truth. The Buddha again said no, women were just as capable as men of realizing the truth. "Then why can't they join our order?" Ananda asked. At this point the Buddha gave in and said that women could join.
To speak of practicing the path is an expression of encouragement, a term of inducement; there has never been any doctrine to give people, just transmission of various expedient techniques. These are for expressing the essential idea, to get people to know their own minds. Ultimately there is no doctrine to get, no path to practice. Therefore it is said, "The path of enlightenment is natural."
In the early days of the Buddhist order, there were no specific rules of conduct for monks. Whenever a dispute came up, someone would ask the Buddha his opinion. His answers were memorized by his followers and formed the first rules for the monks. By the end of his life there were hundreds of these rules, ranging from practical advice on maintaining good relations to weird stuff like whether or not it was a breach of decorum for a monk to run up a tree when being chased by an elephant (the Buddha said that it was okay).
To him [Gudo Nishijima Roshi], Buddhism was not a spiritual practice or a religion. It was simply a practical approach to real life that neither denied the spiritual side of things nor held that spirituality was better or nobler than the material side of life.
The book [Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind] was created from transcripts of talks [Shunryu] Suzuki gave. The editors did not correct the mistakes Suzuki made when he quoted Dogen. Given the times [1960s], it's doubtful they even realized there were mistakes. Such mistakes, if one can call them that, are part of what happens in an orally transmitted tradition like Zen Buddhism. Buddhism was a strictly oral tradition for some two hundred years before anyone attempted to preserve Gautama Buddha's words in writing. What we call mistakes today were simply part of the tradition. Teachers quoted the ancient founders of their traditions based on what they'd heard from their teachers, not from books.