Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fukanzazengi VII: Keeping the 'Real' in 'Realisation'.

When we rise from sitting, we should move the body slowly and stand up
calmly. We should not be hurried or violent.

This direction is very practical. It's not advisable to rush to stand up after zazen as our legs might have fallen asleep without us noticing and we could keel over! Besides, it's good to not be too quick and hurried as it might disturb others in the case where we are sitting in a group.

We see in the past that those who transcended the common and transcended the sacred, and those who died while sitting or died while standing, relied totally on this power.

Master Dogen indicates that zazen was indispensable to those who realised the truth in the past. The truth is the real, present situation which is neither sacred nor common nor contingent on any such implied value or interpretation. 'Those who died while sitting or standing' suggests Buddhist masters who practiced right up until their death. It also suggests to me the state of practice itself where we 'drop off body and mind', our thoughts and perceptions: In zen imagery a person in the state of Buddhist realisation is sometimes referred to as a 'withered tree'.

Moreover, the changing of the moment, through the means of a finger, a pole, a needle, or a wooden clapper; and the experience of the state, through the manifestation of a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout, can never be understood by thinking and discrimination.

Here Master Dogen indicates the nature of our actions and the experience of real, concrete objects in the present moment. When we act we can effectively change and make the moment in which we act. Buddhism is a philosophy based on our real actions in the present moment. As noted in the previous post, the present moment is the only moment where we can really do anything as the future has not yet arrived (it's only a thought) and the past is but a memory confined to our brain.

'A finger, a pole, a needle and a ceremonial wooden clapper' are all things which have been used by Buddhist masters of the past to indicate and realise the truth of concrete action in the present moment.

How could they [the real objects listed above] be known through mystical powers or practice and experience?

The experience of this state of real, substantial action through the use of real things like 'a zen master's ceremonial whisk, a fist, a staff or a shout' can never really be understood or grasped by 'thinking and discrimination' or even by some mystical state of mind. This line points out that zazen is not thinking/ discriminating-type activity, we can't 'get it' in that way as all things actually exist differently to how we think and perceive them (we see things through the 'filter' of our senses and our likes/dislikes... another being such as a fly would see the same thing, say a lump of cow dung, completely differently: 'yum yum, dinnertime!') This suggests that reality exists before our senses and our thinking and that zazen is an action which is not hindered or limited in any way by thinking and discrimination because it contains and allows for thinking and discrimination.

They [the real objects listed above] may be dignified behavior beyond sound and form. How could they be anything other than criteria that precede knowing and seeing?

Master Dogen suggests that real things may be our zazen practice, or our 'dignified behavior', itself: When we drop our discriminating thoughts ('me' versus 'this' and 'that' etc) and we allow our perceptions to just come a go (so that we are 'beyond sound and form') there is nothing left to give the faulty impression that we are separate from everything else, including real objects everywhere. For this reason Master Dogen reveres real objects as expressions of the truth. He sees them as the truth which 'precedes knowing and seeing'.

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