“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” – Zen Master Dōgen
Eihei Dōgen 永平道元 (1200 – 1253) was the founder of the Japanese Soto school, which he introduced to Japan following his studies in China with Caodong master Ju-ching (1163 – 1228) at Ching-te-ssu monastery. Dogen emphasized the importance of zazen above all else, advocating shikantaza – which roughly translates as “just sitting.” In Dogen’s view, shikantaza is not a means to enlightenment, but enlightenment itself. He believed that the practice of shikantaza is the natural expression of our true nature, and he is remembered as one of Japan’s greatest religious thinkers.
Eihei Dōgen’s Guidenlines for Studying the Way [Gakudo yojin-shu]
1. You should arouse the thought of enlightenment.
The thought of enlightenment has many names but they all refer to one and the same mind.
Ancestor Nagarjuna said, “The mind that fully sees into the uncertain world of birth and death is called the thought of enlightenment.”
Thus if we maintain this mind, this mind can become the thought of enlightenment.
Indeed, when you understand the discontinuity the notion of self does not come into being, ideas of name and gain to not arise. Fearing the swift passage of the sunlight, practice the way as though saving your head from fire. Reflecting on this ephemeral life, make endeavor in the manner of Buddha raising his foot.
When you hear a song of praise sung by a kinnara god or a kalavinka bird, let it be as the evening breeze brushing against your ears. If you see the beautiful face of Maoqiang or Xishi, let it be like the morning dewdrops coming into your sight. Freedom from the ties of sound and form naturally accords with the essence of the way-seeking mind.
If in the past or present, you hear about students of small learning or meet people with limited views, often they have fallen into the pit of fame and profit and have forever missed the buddha way in their life. What a pity! How regrettable! You should not ignore this.
Even if you read the sutras of the expedient or complete teaching, or transmit the scriptures of the exoteric or esoteric schools, without throwing away name and gain it cannot be called arousing the thought of enlightenment.
Some of these people say, “The thought of enlightenment is the mind of supreme, perfect enlightenment. Do not be concerned with the cultivation of fame or profit.”
Some of them say, “The thought of enlightenment is the insight that each thought contains three thousand realms.”
Some of them say, “The thought of enlightenment is the mind of entering the buddha realm.”
Such people do not yet know and mistakenly slander the thought of enlightenment. They are remote from the buddha way.
Try to reflect on the mind concerned only with your own gain. Does this one thought blend with the nature and attributes of the three thousand realms? Does this one thought realize the dharma gate of being unborn? There is only the deluded thought of greed for name and love of gain. There is nothing which could be taken as the thought of enlightenment.
From ancient times sages have attained the way and realized dharma. Although as an expedient teaching they lived ordinary lives, still they had no distorted thought of fame or profit. Not even attached to dharma, how could they have worldly attachment?
The thought of enlightenment, as was mentioned, is the mind which sees into impermanence. This is most fundamental, and not at all the same as the mind pointed to by confused people. The understanding that each thought is unborn or the insight that each thought contains three thousand realms is excellent practice after arousing the thought of enlightenment. This should not be mistaken.
Just forget yourself for now and practice inwardly—this is one with the thought of enlightenment. We see that the sixty-two views are based on self. So when a notion of self arises, sit quietly and contemplate it. Is there a real basis inside or outside your body now? Your body with hair and skin is just inherited from your father and mother. From beginning to end a drop of blood or lymph is empty. So none of these are the self. What about mind, thought, awareness, and knowledge? Or the breath going in and out, which ties a lifetime together: what is it after all? None of these are the self either. How could you be attached to any of them? Deluded people are attached to them. Enlightened people are free of them.
You figure there is self where there is no self. You attache to birth where there is no birth. You do not practice the buddha way, which should be practiced. You do not cut off the worldly mind, which should be cut off. Avoiding the true teaching and pursuing the groundless teaching, how could you not be mistaken?
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5. You should seek a true teacher to practice Zen and study the way… (Read More)