Temple of Peace

Adult practice: Part 20
Just do it - easy to say, but ...

Let me continue to write about our "monkey mind & horse will". In Book 5 of the Eihei Koroku Dogen Zenji said:
"Do not control the monkey mind and horse will. Practice like a lotus in fire."
In the same Book 5 we find him say:
"To say 'this very mind is Buddha' is madness. Directly pointing to the human mind is as distant as heaven is from earth..."
And then there is the famous talk about breathing:
"In the zazen of patch-robed monks, first you should sit correctly in the upright posture ... in the lesser vehicle, people used counting to regulate the breath. However, the buddha ancestors' engaging of the way always differs from the lesser vehicle: 'Even if you arouse the mind of a leprous wild fox, never practice the self-regulation of the two vehicles' ..."
Then, Dogen quotes the Mahayana way to breath from his master Tendo Nyojo Zenji:
"Breath enters and emerges from the tanden (lower abdomen), and yet there is nowhere it comes from or goes to. Exhale and inhale are neither long nor short..."

One of the translators of this work, a Dharma great-uncle of mine, visited Antaiji recently and we were talking about the difficulty of translating Dogen. It often seems to be just as difficult as wanting to translate "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland": A translator will usually look for the meaning in the words, and then decide for different words that express the same meaning in the language he is translating to. But with "Alice", that is impossible. There is hardly any meaning beyond the words themselves. With Dogen, it can be the same. If you translate only the meaning, you lose half of the content. Still, that is what most translators want to do: Render the meaning of a text, not the words themselves. It is almost common sense to think that the meaning is what's important, not the words. Interestingly, in Dogen's work itself we find him writing about "words (ku)" and "meaning (i)". He says that both are "existence-time (uji)", but it seems almost as if he puts more emphasis on words than on meaning. How can that be?

Just like the philosphers in the West found out during the 20th century, Dogen Zenji knows well that the meaning of a thing can not be separated from its expression. Meaning and expression are one, just as practice and enlightenment are one, and body and mind are one, and za-zen is one: Just doing, just being one. This "just" is "shikan" in Japanese, and with this expression Dogen Zenji replaced the Tendai theory of "shi-kan" (written with two different characters): Stopping and contemplating. Now, what is important is that this one-ness must not be a theory. It is our practice. And in practice we have to start with one of the two aspects: Meaning or expression, mind or body, enlightenment or practice. Our common sense seems to tell us that the emphasis should be on meaning, mind, enlightenment. Dogen Zenji flips this idea around - he says: Start with this body, practice, expression in your everyday life. And Sawaki Roshi drives the point home: Zen isn't spiritual, just do it with this body.

The Buddhist expression "tento" (in Japanese) means "upside-down views". These are the views that our mind tells us are common sense: "How can I go on with just sitting, just doing things when my mind is still not satisfied? How many more years am I supposed to just sit around on the cushion without anything happening at all!?"
Maybe it is just because we don't want to give up clinging to that idea of "something should happen", "my mind needs to be satisfied" that we are never really JUST doing things. There is always this thought that "this can't be all to it" that seperates us from just doing it, just being it.
Actually, there are quite a number of very serious Mahayana monks in Japan but also in Korea and maybe China today who feel dissatisfied with this practice of just doing, just being one. Some of them even disrope to take the bikkhu precepts of Therevada Buddhism in Thailand or Myanmar. This happened to another of my Dharma brothers. He said: Just sitting is like a dragon without eyeballs. What he meant was that he was only practicing outwardly (with the body), but that the essence (satori) was missing. Now he is living somewhere in the jungle of South-East Asia. That is fine - it is his decision and his practice. But I ask myself: Who told you to practice like a dragon without eyeballs? Isn't zazen to be practiced like a dragon that dives into water? When you realize that you've lost your eyeballs, nobody will find them for you. You have to look for them, and you won't find them if not in your own practice with this body here and now. Your eyeballs aren't waiting for you out there deep in the jungle or high up in the Himalayas. If your practice is only outwardly, you should penetrate deeper into "just doing".
"Just doing" doesn't mean to just sit around on the cushion, of course.
A typhoon washed away part of the road to Antaiji this fall. The garage was blown away, and the drink water dam was filled with mud and rocks - just as in 1990, when I first came here. For two days we were shoveling dirt in the rain. No time to worry about: Is this practice? Am I doing alright? Is this really the Buddha Way? Just shoveling, shoveling, shoveling...

Let me conclude with a quote from a book by Sawaki Roshi which I am just translating:
"The more you concern yourself with your monkey mind and horse will, the more this crazy monkey and horse mind of yours will jump and run in circles. You can practice zazen, you can practice nenbutsu (reciting the name of Amithaba Buddha), you can keep strictly to the precepts, you can wait until you get old: Still, you will never get rid of your delusion. Even though you practice hard to extinguish this delusion, you will not attain the state of no-thought and no-mind - you will just drive yourself crazy!"

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