Monday, October 26, 2009

Fukanzazengi VI: Of Tigers & Dragons.

Fukanzazengi continues:

This sitting in zazen is not learning Zen concentration. It is simply the
peaceful and joyful gate of Dharma. It is the practice-and-experience which perfectly realizes the state of bodhi. The universe is conspicuously realized, and
restrictions and hindrances never reach it. To grasp this meaning is to be like
a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger in its mountain stronghold. Remember, the right Dharma is naturally manifesting itself before us, and darkness and distraction have dropped away already.

Given the general ideas towards meditation in Buddhism it may seem strange to some when Master Dogen says that the zazen he is advocating is not a matter of improving one's powers of concentration using an object such as the breath, or the counting of the breaths, or following physical sensations, or watching thoughts etc etc etc... The practice which Master Dogen is pointing to is more fundamental than, more immediate and real than, our own mental efforts to control, improve, manipulate and generally interfere with the way things already originally are.

This 'practice-and-experience' is a 'gateway' to 'Dharma' (or the truth of reality). It realises 'the state of bodhi', the state of realising, or awakening to, Reality, or the universe as it just is before we mess around with it! When we sit upright and allow everything to come and go for a time we cease those habitual reactions to thoughts and perceptions which give rise to the impression of some limited 'self'. In this way we can 'drop off' that self and directly realise what is 'naturally manifesting itself before us'.
The image of the dragon and the tiger is nice. In old Chinese symbolism, the dragon was a powerful water creature and so the 'dragon finding water' is its returning to its natural place, its original element. Likewise the majestic tiger is most at home, and most powerful and effective, in it's mountain stronghold.

Our original place is right here when we realise it as such. Reality is right here, our life is always happening right here (although we might not often recognise this!) 'Right here' is the only place where we can actually really do anything effective as 'the past' is just a fabricated memory in our brain and 'the future' is just an expectation, an assumption or a projected thought. Just try stamping your foot now... that's you realising the substantial present, and the substantial present being realised by you.

When we reclaim 'right here' in upright sitting zazen we're no longer confused or disempowered by our fantasies, our confused thinking, our ideas of 'right' and 'wrong' or 'past' and 'future' or 'me' and 'other'... We can give our running after things, and/or our running away from them, a rest and be like a dragon finding its watery home after a time of dryness, or be like a tiger released from captivity back into its majestic mountain home: We regain our freedom and nothing can assail us.



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