The Lotus Sutra as a Source for Dogen's Discourse Style
Taigen Dan Leighton
Paper for an academic conference on "Discourse and Rhetoric in the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism"
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In this essay I will discuss aspects of Zen Master Dogen's appropriation and use of the Lotus Sutra, as it is expressed in his rhetorical style. Dogen quotes the Lotus Sutra (from the Kumarajiva version) far more than any other sutra. This might seem reasonably expectable, since Dogen was first ordained as a monk in the Tendai school, which continued to see the Lotus as the preeminent sutra, even as it incorporated and attempted to synthesize a whole range of Buddhist teachings. However, while prominent Kamakura innovators, Eisai, Dogen, Honen, Shinran, and Nichiren all had been Tendai monks, they vary greatly in their subsequent application of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus is the fundamental object of devotion for Nichiren, but is scarcely mentioned explicitly by Shinran (although it might be discerned as part of the background of Shin thought).
The situation of Dogen's use of the Lotus Sutra in his teachings is more complex. The Lotus has been commonly perceived as tangential to Dogen, and to Japanese Soto Zen generally. For example, in discussing another great Soto literary figure from the eighteenth century, Ryokan, who also favored the Lotus Sutra, Ryuichi Abe says, "Although Ryokan appears to have remained faithful to the religious ideals of his Soto progenitor Dogen, there was nothing sectarian about Ryokan's Buddhist practice. Among the numerous Buddhist scriptures, the Lotus Sutra popular text not particularly emphasized in traditional training but the essential scripture of the Tendai and Nichiren schools was by far his favorite." While the Lotus is certainly not nearly as important to Dogen or Soto as it is to Nichiren, Ryokan's great appreciation for it is revealing of the lingering appropriation of the Lotus Sutra in Soto, an appreciation and usage that does go back to the Japanese Soto founder.
Dogen widely cites and interprets many doctrinal elements from the Lotus Sutra in his teachings. Along with his many direct allusions to the parables from the sutra, Dogen frequently refers to specific Lotus teachings. Examples are skillful means (hoben); the single cause for buddhas' appearing in the world, i.e. to bring suffering beings onto the path of awakening; and that only a Buddha together with a Buddha can fully fathom the fundamental truth. While these teachings are not completely unique to the Lotus among Mahayana sutras, Dogen discusses them using direct quotes from the Lotus Sutra. Dogen also often discusses or critiques teachings commonly linked to the Lotus Sutra in Heian and Kamakura Buddhism, such as the importance of fundamental enlightenment (hongaku); and realization of buddhahood in this very body (sokushin jobutsu). Dogen's use of the Lotus Sutra text is necessarily affected by the contemporary readings of the Lotus in Tendai and other Japanese understandings, a complex subject beyond the scope for this limited essay to detail.
A discussion of all the numerous direct references to the Lotus Sutra in Dogen's writings is also far beyond the scope of this essay. But to mention briefly one of the most prominent examples, in his Shobogenzo essay Hokke-Ten-Hokke "The Lotus Dharma Turns the Lotus Dharma," Dogen discusses and elaborates his view of the liberative reality of the phenomenal world, which Dogen interprets as a primary teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Dogen expresses this interpretation in various ways. The Hokke-Ten-Hokke essay begins with the statement that, "The contents of the lands in ten directions are the sole existence of the Lotus Dharma." In various writings, Dogen creatively reads and interprets parts of the Lotus Sutra such as the stories in chapters fifteen and sixteen about the underground bodhisattvas immanently present and available for the world, and the inconceivable life-span, and continuing presence in the world, of Shakyamuni Buddha. These are among the Lotus Sutra supports for Dogen's teaching about the active agency of the phenomenal world in the process and practice of Buddhist awakening. This interpretation and appropriation of the Lotus teaching as essentially immanent and located in the phenomenal world is not only important to Dogen's philosophy, but is also relevant to Dogen's style of expression, as will be described in what follows in this essay.
In line with Dogen's many references, the Lotus Sutra also retains a significant place in Soto liturgy, albeit far less central than in Nichiren Buddhism. Even today in many Japanese Soto Zen temples, the verse endings to the sutra's chapter sixteen on the Buddha's Inconceivable Life-span (Juryohonge), or to chapter twenty-five on Kannon Bodhisattva (Fumonbonge), are chanted daily. But instead of the sutra's doctrinal or liturgical applications, I will limit the scope of this essay to examining some of the ways in which Dogen's style of discourse and rhetoric, as seen in his Eihei Koroku as well as in Shobogenzo, resonate with his interpretations of aspects of the Lotus Sutra.
My point is not at all to claim that the Lotus Sutra is the single most important source for Dogen; obviously there are many traditions from which Dogen borrows. Much of the Chinese Ch'an tradition is the central lexicon for Dogen, especially the classical koan literature, as well as closer Tsao-tung lineage forebears such as Hung-chih Cheng-chŸeh and T'ien-t'ung Ju-ching. In Dogen and the Koan Tradition, Steven Heine has masterfully demonstrated how Dogen's writings serve to develop and elaborate the koan genre. Dogen also makes ample use of the Japanese poetic tradition, as invoked in Yasunari Kawabata's appreciation of Dogen as a poet in Kawabata's 1968 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Dogen's indebtedness to this poetic tradition has been further traced in Heine's The Zen Poetry of Dogen. Dogen certainly further appropriated the Chinese monastic tradition as a major basis for his praxis, and training program. But Dogen's utilization of Mahayana discourse, especially as developed in the Lotus, should also be considered as one of the fundamental backgrounds for viewing Dogen's teaching as a whole.
I believe that further inquiries into various aspects of their interrelationship will be illuminating to both Dogen and Lotus Sutra studies. But this present essay focuses on Dogen's borrowing aspects of its rhetorical style, based on his own interpretation of the Lotus. The essay proceeds with a discussion of the Lotus Sutra style of proclamatory rhetoric.
The Self-Referential Lotus
The Lotus Sutra itself frequently emphasizes the importance of and rewards for the reading, copying, and reciting of the Lotus Sutra. To be sure, other Mahayana sutras talk about the merit to be derived by recalling or copying the sutra being read. However, the Lotus Sutra at times seems to hold this self-referential quality at its center, such that it promotes an extreme mode of self-referential discourse that is unique to the Lotus Sutra. The sutra often speaks of the wondrous nature of the Lotus Sutra, right in the text commonly referred to as the Lotus Sutra. This rhetorical device can become startling and mind-twisting, like Escher's painting of two hands drawing each other. Various important figures in the sutra appear within the text of the Lotus Sutra because they have heard that the Lotus Sutra is currently being preached by Shakyamuni Buddha on Vulture Peak. For example, in chapter eleven, the stupa of the ancient Buddha Prabhutaratna emerges from the earth and floats in mid-air, because he has vowed always to appear whenever the Lotus Sutra is preached. In the same chapter, myriad bodhisattvas arrive from world systems in all directions, in order to praise the Buddha for preaching this sutra in which they are appearing.
This quality of the sutra talking about the sutra, and especially its many references to the Lotus Sutra as something expounded many ages ago, as about to be expounded, or even as hopefully to be expounded in the distant future, has led some commentators to observe that the whole text of this sutra, more than any others, is a preface to a missing scripture. As George and Willa Tanabe say:
This is a plausible perspective or interpretation. The text does refer, in third person, to a designated text that one might keep vainly waiting for, as if for Godot.
However, this perspective misses the manner in which the Lotus sermon certainly does exist. Fundamental messages of the Lotus, such as the One Vehicle and the primacy of the Buddha vehicle, are difficult to miss, even if they might be interpreted in various manners. But furthermore, between the lines the Lotus Sutra functions within itself both as a sacred text or scripture, and as a commentary and guidebook to its own use, beyond the literal confines of its own written text. The Lotus Sutra is itself a sacred manifestation of spiritual awakening that proclaims its own sacrality. Right within the text's proclamation of the wonders of a text with the same name as itself, the text celebrates its own ephemeral quality with the visionary splendors of its assembly of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and spirits, and with the engaging qualities of its parables.
The synthesis of the immanent spirit spoken about in the text, and the text's own intended functioning as an instrument or skillful catalyst to spark awakening, has been carried on among its followers. This is exemplified in the varieties of Nichiren Buddhism in that they are rooted and focused in devotion to the Lotus Sutra itself as a sacred manifestation, and devotional object, which they are committed to proclaiming and promulgating. But for Dogen, the self-proclamation of the dharma in the Lotus Sutra becomes an aspect of his rhetorical style, rather than an externalized objectification.
In similar manner to the sutra's proclamations of the wondrous qualities of the Lotus Dharma, Dogen in his writings commonly proclaims the wondrous nature of the Dharma, the Buddha, the many buddha ancestors, previous proclamations or utterances by ancestral teachers, and of course the Lotus Sutra itself. Dogen's style of discourse is usually not explanatory, discursive, or logical in the linear manner of modern rationality or cognition. Rather, Dogen seemingly free-associates, making illuminating connections based on doctrinal themes or imagistic motifs, aimed at proclaiming the non-dual reality of the present phenomenal world as fully imbued with the presence of the Buddha and of the ongoing possibility of awakening.
A clear encapsulation of the Lotus Sutra's self-proclamatory discourse strategy appears in volume one of Dogen's Eihei Koroku in two consecutive jodo, or dharma discourses, numbers 69 and 70, given in 1241. Jodo number 69 reads in its entirety:
Here Dogen states that he is proclaiming a jodo. But immediately, without saying anything more about the dharma, he dedicates that statement itself to the three jewels, the ancestral teachers, to meditation paraphernalia, and to famed Ch'an iconoclastic expressions for Buddha, Yun-men's dried shitstick (or dry turd) and his disciple Tung-shan Shou-ch'u's three pounds of sesame (or flax). He then further dedicates the incense offering, which had preceded the statement that he was now making a statement, to toads, earthworms, and monks who manifest as horses and cows, followed by the traditional concluding liturgical dedication. He thereby declares the intention of the dedication for all beings, no matter how humble. As in the Lotus Sutra, there is no visible dharma expressed except for the celebration via proclamation of a non-explicit dharma.
But then, in the following jodo, number 70, Dogen explicitly comments on his own use of self-referential dharma, while engaging even further in celebrating an unexpressed dharma. We do not know how many days may have separated the two discourses. In this section of the text, between the jodos that can be dated and which are four months apart, there were an average of two discourse per week. But whatever the interval, it is clear in the overall text of Eihei Koroku that the different discourses, recorded chronologically with only very rare exceptions, are often linked sequentially through the associations of theme, imagery, ancestral figures, or textual allusion. Jodo number 70 says:
Again, Dogen never talks about the content of his dharma discourse. But he proclaims that his own act of proclaiming this self-referencing dharma is echoed simultaneously in the discourses of the ancestral teachers and buddhas, just as the proclamation of the Lotus Sutra is echoed in various buddha realms, in various times. Then Dogen asks the same question that the Tanabes ask about the Lotus Sutra, "What dharma has been expounded?" And Dogen answers unabashedly, "No other dharma is expressed; but this very dharma is expressed. What is this dharma?" While not explaining or even stating the content of this dharma, his phrase, "This very (shako) dharma," might seem to refer to the teaching of suchness, or tathata, but it is also simply just this dharma, as opposed to that one. Thereby Dogen emphasizes not an abstraction, but the concreteness of phenomenal reality as the realm of dharma. Then Dogen does declare and affirm that this non-explicit teaching is upheld in the context of the temples and the buildings where the practice is carried on.
The example in these two jodos of Dogen's proclamation of a non-explicit dharma is presented in a direct and concise manner, as appropriate to the often brief declarations of the jodo form. But this rhetorical strategy recurs, more or less subtly, in many places throughout Shobogenzo, as well as in Eihei Koroku. That Dogen is adapting this rhetorical posture at least in part directly from the Lotus Sutra is clearly evidenced by another early jodo in the Eihei Koroku, number 24, given in 1240.
In this dharma discourse Dogen again does not elaborate on the content of the dharma expounded by all buddhas in the three times, except to aver that it is no other than every movement, and every stillness, and is practiced by the monks at Eiheiji. Significant to the point of this essay is the context of this quote mentioned by Dogen from Sakyamuni Buddha, "In the same manner that all buddhas in the three times expound the dharma, so now I also will expound the dharma without differentiations." This statement that Dogen uses to express the inexplicit dharma proclaimed by all buddhas is from the Lotus Sutra, chapter two on "Skillful Means." Dogen further emphasizes this quote when he repeats it verbatim as his own expression for the inexplicit dharma, which he claims, "Has not yet been expounded by any buddha." But saying it has not previously been expounded is tantamount to Dogen himself preaching the original Lotus Sutra, or to his own manifestation as the Buddha in the Lotus text in which it is first expounded.
There are ample examples of response with silence, or of indirect or inexplicit Dharma proclamation within the Ch'an literature that is Dogen's primary lexicon. Yet the Lotus Sutra referent for this 1240 jodo about expounding the dharma clearly demonstrates that Dogen himself saw the Lotus Sutra, "expounded by all buddhas in the three times," as an important source for this self-proclamatory rhetorical style of expounding. Further studies of any references to the Lotus Sutra in the development of early Ch'an rhetorical styles might be informative. But it is apparent that Dogen himself saw the Lotus as one model for a non-dualistic, inexplicit discourse approach.
The Self-Reflexive as a Skillful Mode
In The Karma of Words, William LaFleur discusses the sophisticated nature of the Lotus Sutra as literature, and its impact in medieval Japanese poetics.
LaFleur's analysis of this realm of discourse in the Lotus Sutra focuses on its radical nondualism, and its embodiment of skillful means. This standpoint of nondualism represents interpretations of the Lotus Sutra developed in T'ien-t'ai and in Japanese Buddhism prior to Dogen, and which impacted the medieval literature LaFleur examines. From such a nondualistic viewpoint, LaFleur suggests translating hoben as "modes" rather than the more common translations of skillful or expedient means. Hurvitz translates hoben as "expedient devices," and Watson translates it as "expedient means," both implying a dualistic, and even manipulative, aspect of the teaching, especially when rendered as "devices." Kato, Tamura, and Miyasaka translate it as "tactfulness," which implies more consideration and inclusivity, but might still be seen as implying a hierarchy of the teachings.
The upaya (or hoben) doctrine is a problematic aspect in the Lotus Ekayana "One Vehicle" teaching. The Lotus at times has been upheld, within the sutra itself as well as by some of its followers, for example in the T'ien-t'ai p'an-chiao system, as the supreme epitome of the One Vehicle. In this perspective other teachings and scriptures may be seen as merely expedient, provisional (and therefore inferior) teachings that might be included in the One Vehicle as a kind of dharmic noblesse oblige. Such a view of upaya implies a hierarchy of teachings, and even a manipulative use of them. Unquestionably the Lotus Sutra lends itself, and often explicitly encourages, a political, polemical reading in which the Lotus, and those who preach it, represent the True Dharma, and those who follow provisional, expedient teachings exemplify the chaff, inimical to the full teaching.
On the other hand, the alternate mode of reading the teaching of upaya, as championed by LaFleur, implies a radically nondualistic inclusivity, and an acceptance of all helpful teachings as simply a diversity of "modes." Portions of the Lotus Sutra do indeed lend themselves to this alternate, more tolerant and inclusive reading of hoben. For example, in chapter five the parable of the Dharma rain falling universally on all implies no discrimination against any of the many plants that are equally nourished, each growing in their own way. Applied as appropriate to the diversity of needs of suffering beings, all teaching modes might be equally beneficial to the ultimate purpose for buddhas' manifestation, as proclaimed in the upaya chapter: "By resort to numberless devices and to various means, parables, and phrases do [buddhas] proclaim the dharmas, . . . for one great cause appearing in the world, . . . to cause beings to hear the Buddha's knowledge, . . . to cause the beings to understand, . . . to cause the beings to enter the path." Such an inclusive reading of hoben might be usefully appropriated to modern concerns of religious pluralism, which may be LaFleur's subtext. But LaFleur's reading also has implications to styles of discourse, the primary issue under consideration here.
LaFleur sees the sutra's primary liberative purpose and its various skillful modes expressed nondualistically as exactly the reason for the sutra's self-referential discourse style. In his reading:
This common Japanese association of the Lotus Sutra with affirmation of the reality of the phenomenal world, followed here by LaFleur, can be dated back to the Japanese Tendai founder Saicho. Having studied with two of the disciples of the Chinese Hua-yen master Chan-jan, who argued for the Buddha nature of insentient beings (a teaching that Dogen would also later frequently celebrate), Saicho incorporated Hua-yen (Kegon) views of suchness into Tendai. But Saicho also applied this in an original way to his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. His reading "not only acknowledges two aspects of suchness but establishes a hierarchy between the two in identifying the dynamic aspect of suchness—its expression as the phenomenal world—with the T'ien-t'ai category of the "middle" and with the one vehicle of the Lotus. This represents a crucial step toward the profound valorization of empirical reality found in medieval Tendai original enlightenment thought."
From this Japanese Tendai perspective of spiritual reality immanent in concrete phenomena, the Lotus Sutra itself is not separate from, or talking about, a realm of transcendent spirit outside of itself. Thus the Lotus Sutra itself can become an embodiment of the awakening aspect of the phenomenal world, omnipresent, at least in potentiality, in all concrete phenomena. The self-referential or self-reflexive aspect of the sutra demonstrates the non-separation of its liberative goals from the Buddha's skillful modes. Given the nonduality of purpose and context of the Lotus Sutra as a text that itself represents and enacts veneration of the world's liberative potential, it is reasonable that this very sutra would become an object of veneration, as in Nichiren Buddhism.
To be sure, Dogen is not inclusive of the diverse modes of teachings in LaFleur's strictly non-hierarchical fashion, as, in common with all of the Kamakura innovators, Dogen at times upholds his own teaching lineage and strongly disparages others. However, Dogen's use of Lotus style self-referential discourse is directed at affirmation of the nondualism of means and end, and he repeatedly affirms the phenomenal realm as the arena of nondual practice-realization, in accord with LaFleur's view of the Lotus Sutra discourse as based on hoben. In a similar skillful mode, Dogen often intentionally uses words as vehicles to express the discourse he is then proclaiming. Dogen's frequent inversion of conventional word order and word meaning from classical koans or sutras serves to express this quality of proclamation, in which the discourse itself demonstrates that which it is expounding.
A prominent example is the oft-cited wordplay in Shobogenzo Bussho "Buddha Nature," first written in 1241, in which Dogen retranslates the passage from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, "All sentient beings without exception have Buddha nature." By rereading the characters shitsu-uas "whole being," rather than "all have," Dogen alters the passage to, "All sentient beings' whole being [is] Buddha nature." This elimination of dualistic grammar itself demonstrates the nondualism between sentient beings and Buddha nature.
In further accord with LaFleur's view of the Lotus discourse, Dogen specifically affirms "the complete reality of the world of concrete phenomena" in his discourse rhetoric as well as its content, and even when leaving the content itself seemingly absent, or at least not stated. In jodo 49 in Eihei Koroku, also given in 1241, Dogen says:
Here Dogen rhetorically affirms the immanence of the dharmic discourse as well as its content, right in the world of dharmas, or phenomena, including streams, pines, bamboo, and temple buildings, which all themselves discourse on this dharma. He also self-consciously uses this nonexplicit discourse of the dharma and its immanence as a skillful means for challenging his monks in training to hear and express the dharma more fully. "Have you all heard it or not?"
Dogen's Use of the Fantastic
Another literary aspect of the Lotus Sutra that is disconcerting to conventional analysis is the degree to which its stories and teachings are rooted in images and fantasies. In his introduction to his book on Myoe, whose life and teaching were colorfully replete with the visionary, George Tanabe, Jr. cites the centrality of visions to East Asian Buddhist experience, despite the focus of much of modern Buddhist studies on doctrine and philosophy. "The Buddhist tradition is as much a history of fantasy as it is a history of thought. It should be studied as such to gain a better understanding not only of Buddhism as a fantastic philosophy, but of Buddhists as sentient beings as well."
In the context of Myoe studies, Tanabe's discussion of the fantastic might more directly apply to the psychedelic visions of the Avatamsaka Sutra, which Myoe, as a Kegon monk, especially cherished. But Tanabe's remarks also certainly pertain to the striking images and parables of the Lotus, about which he says, "The Lotus Sutra is less a work of memory and more a product of fantasy inspired with new visions derived internally." The Lotus Sutra thus calls for examination of the significance and function of its imagery as much as, if not more than, its philosophical positions. As Tanabe says:
In this context, the Lotus Sutra parables and self-referential discourse style can be seen as the internal expression of vision, or fantasy, that expresses the human experience of Mahayana practice, more than its philosophical content. Even when, as may frequently be the case, such discourse is a literary device or artifice, rather than directly inspired by literal meditative experience, visions, or dreams, such literary framing serves to honor the skillful use of imagination and the visionary.
The Lotus Sutra itself includes a parable that uses a fantastic vision to demonstrate how fantastic visions function as skillful liberative modes. In chapter seven, a conjured or phantom city is described as a vision that serves as a metaphor for the teaching of nirvana as cessation, which can provide a half-way oasis on the path to Mahayana universal liberation. Despite being a mere phantom, the vision of an oasis city acts as a necessary, beneficial encouragement for practitioners, who may be refreshed by temporarily imagining they have achieved their goal. Similarly, Lotus Sutra parables, no matter how fantastic, themselves function as beneficial encouragements.
In another of the numerous examples in Shobogenzo of Dogen using wordplay to invert conventional thinking, in Muchu Setsumu "Within a Dream Expressing the Dream," written in 1242, Dogen extensively elaborates on the statement that all buddhas express the dream within a dream. He thereby denies the supposedly lesser reality of the "dreams" of the transient phenomenal world, and negates a Platonic exaltation of the absolute, which LaFleur describes as the antithesis of Lotus teaching. Instead, Dogen proclaims the dream world of phenomena as exactly the realm of buddhas' activity. "Every dewdrop manifested in every realm is a dream. This dream is the glowing clarity of the hundred grasses. . . . Do not mistake them as merely dreamy." The liberative awakening of buddhas is itself described as a dream.
Dogen is not frivolously indulging in mere paradox here, but follows the logic of the dream as necessarily the locus of awakening. As Dogen says in his celebrated essay, Genjokoan, "Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas." What is worthy of study is not delusions or fantasies about enlightenment, but rather the reality of the causes and conditions of the realms of delusion and suffering. A similar logic is expressed in the Lotus Sutra dictum that buddhas manifest only due to the presence of suffering beings. Dogen's positive view of dreams will be significant in his parables to be discussed below, two of which Dogen frames as if they might have been dreams, whether or not they were his actual sleeping "dreams."
Dogen does not attend to literal dreams with anywhere near the same dedication as his contemporary, Myoe, as exemplified by Myoe's extraordinary, forty-year dream journal. Along with Myoe, dreams and visionary discourse are also more emphasized than they are by Dogen in the teachings of Keizan, Dogen's third generation successor, who is revered as the second founder of Japanese Soto Zen. The central role of dream and vision for Keizan has been discussed and elaborated by Bernard Faure in Visions of Power. Keizan and his successors in the following few generations helped spread Soto Zen throughout rural Japan. One stereotype in Soto studies is the distinction between Keizan's use of the visionary, inspired by Esoteric teachings, and the supposedly more "pure" Zen of Dogen. According to this stereotype, Dogen emphasized zazen and a rational presentation of buddha dharma, untainted by the more colorful and melodramatic Mahayana and Esoteric teachings indulged in by Keizan. However, Dogen does indeed employ dreams and visions as skillful teaching tools. While we may certainly note differences in emphasis and style between Dogen and Keizan, Dogen is in fundamental accord with the world-view of medieval Japan, including the esoteric teachings of Shingon and Tendai that were the background for all Kamakura Buddhism. Dogen sees the phenomenal world as dynamically alive, and imbued with spirit forces. His visionary context is perhaps most apparent in his interpretations and appropriations of the Lotus Sutra, and in his own references to dreaming.
In Muchu Setsumu "Within a Dream Expressing the Dream," Dogen explicitly refers to the Lotus Sutra as a source for the role of dreams in his discourse style. He quotes a long passage that concludes the final verse in chapter fourteen of the sutra, beginning from, "All buddhas, with bodies of golden hue, splendidly adorned with a hundred auspicious marks, hear the dharma and expound it for others. Such is the fine dream that ever occurs. . . ." Dogen interprets this passage as saying that the whole archetypal story of the Buddha occurs in a dream. Dogen's reading takes this passage out of its context in the sutra to emphasize that the Buddha is "made king," leaves the palace, awakens under the bodhi tree, and conducts his whole teaching career, all in a dream. Thus this passage at the close of chapter fourteen is creatively interpreted by Dogen to serve as foreshadowing for the revelation in chapter sixteen of Buddha's inconceivable life-span, in which the archetypal story of his birth, awakening, teaching, and death is more explicitly revealed as a skillful means to encourage beings.
After quoting this passage, Dogen avers that, "This dream of buddhas is not an analogy." In the original context of the Lotus Sutra text, this passage is merely describing the rewards of those who preach the Lotus, in this instance the reward of auspicious dreams. But Dogen uses his creative reading to validate, or at least exemplify, his teaching that the dream-state of the conditioned phenomenal world is exactly the arena for awakening. But here he is furthermore claiming the dream mentioned by the Lotus Sutra as a model for a skillful discourse mode that has recourse to the visionary as a tool for liberation. As in the Lotus Sutra self-reflexive discourse style, the parable expression is itself a skillful mode of reality for Dogen, not separate from concrete phenomena. Dogen continues,
For Dogen, the particular events of this dream world are the reality, and also the skillful discourse, of the awakening of buddhas.
The essays of Dogen's Shobogenzo, such as Muchu Setsumu, are sometimes philosophical and elaborative of traditional Buddhist or Zen doctrines, and are addressed to a general audience of his contemporaries. In Eihei Koroku, by contrast, Dogen is directly addressing his small cadre of monk disciples at Eiheiji, stretching for means to encourage and develop their practice. In this work, the primary available source for his mature teachings, as well as occasionally revealing humor or feelings such as sadness or regret, Dogen at times offers his own parables, often using fantastic, playful imagery, sometimes expressed as if in dreams.
In the following three parables from Eihei Koroku jodos, Dogen's appropriation of Lotus and Mahayana vision is evidenced through the allusions to Mahayana rhetoric or figures in each of them. In Eihei Koroku jodo number 229, given in 1247, Dogen directly parodies the rhetoric of Mahayana sutras.
Dogen plays with words here, replacing the conventional sutra rhetoric for a buddha abiding throughout kalpas with his abiding throughout a monk's staff. Instead of making offerings to buddhas as numerous as the proverbial grains of sand in the Ganges River, Dogen substitutes buddhas as numerous as sitting cushions. Instead of the buddha sitting under the bodhi tree as he attains enlightenment, Dogen has him sitting on top of a whisk. Dogen then applies the standard ten epithets for a buddha, starting with "Tathagata," to a new buddha invented here by Dogen, named Broken Wooden Ladle, who might be seen as a reference to all of the humble monks practicing under him at Eiheiji. Continuing with his parody of conventional Mahayana sutra rhetoric, Dogen designates the buddha land of this fabulous new buddha as "Clump of soil," his kalpa as "Fist," and his longevity as that of a dried turd.
Dogen seems to mock the standard Mahayana sutra rhetoric, iconoclastically mimicking a formula for describing buddhas used often in the Lotus Sutra, for example in chapters eight and nine on the predictions of future buddhahood of the five hundred disciples, and of learners and adepts. However, Dogen actually is affirming his view of the Lotus Sutra, as originally interpreted by Saicho and expressed by LaFleur, that validates the world of concrete phenomena as expressive of the essence of awakening. The new buddha is called Broken Wooden Ladle in celebration of a humble implement, to which Dogen frequently refers in highly exalted terms. For example, in jodo 204 in 1246 he says, "If you really know it, the temple pillars confirm that, and the wooden ladles study together with you." Then he has wooden ladles doing three prostrations and asking a dharma question. Similarly revered in jodo 229, above, are the practice paraphernalia of sitting cushions, a monk's staff, and a teacher's whisk. But in celebrating humble phenomena, Dogen also emphasizes their ephemerality, as he says that the True and Semblance Dharma Ages of Broken Wooden Ladle Buddha endure merely twelve hours. Although an intact wooden ladle is a useful implement, here the Buddha is named Broken Wooden Ladle, further emphasizing transiency, and recalling the Zen phrase, "the bottom of a bucket broken out," which signifies the letting go of attachments in opening experiences.
Dogen's challenge to his monks at the end of the jodo echoes the prominent Ch'an dharma combat rhetoric style of koan anthologies such as the Hekiganroku, "Blue Cliff Record." However, his statement, "If you state your understanding you are making mistake after mistake," might also be seen as a rationale for the whole Lotus Sutra self-referential strategy of not explicitly stating the content of the dharma being celebrated and proclaimed. Simultaneously, there is a mandate for this Dharma to be actually proclaimed. "If you say you do not understand, even the five precepts are not maintained," implies the ethical responsibility not to deny whatever is realized, despite its ephemerality. This may be seen as echoing the frequent theme in the Lotus Sutra of the responsibility of Shakyamuni's disciples to maintain the Lotus Dharma in the future. Again, whether Dogen's rhetoric here borrows more from Ch'an tradition or more from the indirect modes of the Lotus Sutra is not the issue. The fact that he uses this style to mimic Lotus Sutra rhetoric, however, does indicate that in this jodo Dogen is concerned and aware of Lotus Sutra discourse style, and of appropriating it rhetorically, at least in part.
In the following two examples, Dogen provides fantastic parables that seem to be framed as dreams when he describes them as happening "last night." Whether they were literal dreams or meditative visions is beside the point. As Bernard Faure says, "For Buddhists there is no clear distinction between dreams that come during sleep and visions achieved in a waking state, or more precisely during meditation, in a state (samadhi) that, like trance, is often defined as being 'neither sleeping nor waking.'" Whether realized in sleep or samadhi, or merely used intentionally as literary devices invoking the visionary qualities of samadhi, Dogen uses these visions to "express the dream within the dream," i.e. to reveal awakening amid the phenomenal. In his Enlightenment Day jodo, number 88, in 1241, Dogen says:
In this jodo Dogen describes a dream-like fantasy in which he accidentally steps on a piece of shit, and in accord with Yun-men's utterance often cited by Dogen, it jumps up and declares itself to be Shakyamuni. This vision increases the apparent disrespect for Buddha in Yun-men's utterance, as Dogen again steps on his back (albeit again accidentally), even after the dried shit identifies himself as Shakyamuni. But Dogen uses this scatological vision not to degrade, but rather to further celebrate Buddha, by declaring that upon being stepped on, "He went and sat on the vajra seat, saw the morning star, bit through the traps and snares of conditioned birth, and cast away his old nest from the past."
Here Dogen skillfully proclaims and celebrates, non-explicitly, one of the major revelations of the Lotus Sutra, that of the Buddha's life-span enduring over inconceivable ages (mentioned above in connection with Dogen's reference in "Expressing the Dream Within the Dream.") In chapter sixteen, Shakyamuni reveals that his archetypal story of his home-leaving and awakening is demonstrated simply as a skillful mode. The effect of this dream parable of Dogen is to reinforce the story about skillful modes in chapter sixteen by describing Buddha and his awakening process as still omnipresent, "last night" right at Eiheiji, and even in excrement.
Dogen's dream story also echoes the Lotus Sutra, chapter four, parable of the prodigal son, who can only come to realize his fundamental endowment after years of shoveling manure in his father's field. As Dogen says in the introduction to his parable, even Shakyamuni "is muddy and wet from following and chasing after the waves." Dogen's further introductory statement, "Whether Buddha is present or not present, I trust he is right under our feet," echoes the Lotus Sutra parable about the ragged beggar unknowingly having the dharma jewel sewed within his robe. It further suggests the image in chapter fifteen of myriad bodhisattvas suddenly springing forth from beneath the ground "under our feet," which represents the omnipresence of the bodhisattva potential in the ground of concrete phenomena.
Having venerated Shakyamuni Buddha via seeming desecration in this last jodo parable, in Eihei Koroku jodo number 123, given in 1243, Dogen describes another dream vision, this one seeming to poke fun at Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
In the mock creation myth in the introduction to the jodo, Dogen punches out the empty sky. Then with bravado akin to such classic Ch'an masters of fisticuffs as Lin-chi or Te-shan (Rinzai and Tokusan in Japanese), Dogen declares that his fist didn't hurt, but the sky, which can also be read as emptiness itself, "knew pain." Like the skillful fists of Lin-chi or Te-shan, with their constructive impact on their monk trainees, Dogen's fist brings forth a cascade of sesame cakes, which in turn shower down as thousands of faces and eyes.
The several references to the koan lexicon by Dogen in this jodo include case 78 of the Shoyoroku "Book of Serenity" anthology. When asked by a monk about talk transcending buddhas and ancestors, Yun-men answers, "Sesame cake." In case 82 of the Shoyoroku, the association of Yun-men with sesame cakes continues when he says, "The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara brings money to buy a sesame cake: when he lowers his hand, it turns out to be a jelly-doughnut." This story must have inspired Dogen's vision of Avalokiteshvara striving to purchase sesame cakes. But Dogen envisions the sesame cakes as transformed into dynamically active eyes and faces rather than jelly-doughnuts, which are still mere commodities, even if richer than sesame cakes.
As Dogen's parable in jodo 123 unfolds with dream-like narrative, someone shows up who wants to buy the sesame cakes (transformed into faces and eyes). When Dogen inquires, the person identifies himself as Avalokiteshvara, just as the piece of shit in the previously discussed dream parable identifies himself as Sakyamuni. Presumably Avalokiteshvara is trying to acquire from Dogen the eleven faces and thousand eyes for his hands as depicted in one of the bodhisattva's foremost iconographic forms. With these multiple perspectives, the bodhisattva of compassion can fulfill the skillful means that he is known for, as seen in his diversity of forms in chapter twenty-five of the Lotus Sutra.
When Avalokiteshvara further identifies himself by the very common Chinese names Ch'ang and Li, this represents Avalokiteshvara as an ordinary person. Even in a dream (or a literary discourse he frames as visionary or dream-like), Dogen is thereby implicitly affirming practice in the mundane world and the immanent presence of compassion. In "Expressing the Dream Within the Dream," written the year before the parable in jodo123, Dogen declares that, "The expression of the dream within the dream is the thousand hands and eyes of Avalokiteshvara that function by many means." Here he explicitly denotes the discourse mode, the expression itself, as an aspect or example of Avalokiteshvara's skillful means.
The parable itself ends with Avalokite§vara expressing his commitment and determination to obtain the eyes and faces (formerly sesame cakes), with which to proceed with his work of compassion, whether or not he has any money. In his own concluding commentary, Dogen adds, "When Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva makes an appearance, mountains and rivers on the great earth are not dead ashes." Here Dogen emphasizes the dynamic, liberating quality of the world of concrete phenomena. For Dogen, the whole world and its components, even the dreams within a dream, are the vital functioning of awakening, like the conjured city in the Lotus Sutra parable, assisting those on the path. Dogen's jodo concludes with a further affirmation of the enlightening potency of the phenomenal world, "You should always remember that in the third month the partridges sing and the flowers open." Here the emergence of vitality in spring, and also its very invocation, functions skillfully as an encouraging metaphor for the enduring potential of awakening in his disciple audience.
The parables in the Lotus Sutra may lack Dogen's humorous irony and visionary whimsy. But in accord with LaFleur's account of the function of those parables, Dogen uses his dream parables similarly as skillful modes with which to encourage his monks' engagement with and affirmation of "the complete reality of the world of concrete phenomena in spite of the fact that they are impermanent."
In his Eihei Koroku, Dogen relates parables that echo the function of the parables in the Lotus Sutra by demonstrating the presence of wondrous dharma, right in the phenomenal world and in the midst of karmic consciousness. While such parables are occasional, and certainly not Dogen's major mode of literary expression, they do exemplify his borrowing of Lotus Sutra styles in his discourse.
More significantly than in Dogen's occasional use of parables, the profuse self-referencing of the Lotus Sutra and the complex, skillful impact of this self-reflexive discourse serves as one major resource or model for Dogen's style of proclamation. Dogen follows the Lotus Sutra self-referential style in various of his rhetorical modes to proclaim and celebrate a teaching that often remains unstated, but which may be more provocative because of this quality of the non-explicit. Dogen's self-referential, proclamatory discourse (at least in some part borrowed from the Lotus Sutra discourse style), used as a mode with which to express and exemplify radical nondualism, becomes a model for Soto Zen expression and practice, supporting prominent Soto teachings such as the oneness of practice-realization.
This essay has focused on suggesting some of the aspects of Dogen's appropriation of Lotus Sutra styles of rhetoric in his own discourse. Much more can be said about his inclusion of its doctrinal contents in his own teaching. Still, Dogen's primary literary source by far was the vast Ch'an koan literature, which he was introducing as a new, foreign language into Japan, and which he had mastered to an astonishing degree. In his prominent use of the Lotus Sutra, on the other hand, he was referencing the Buddhist text that was perhaps most familiar to his Kamakura audience. His wide use of the Lotus Sutra raises many questions. His devoted dissemination of the alien koan literature suggests that he was not citing the Lotus simply to match audience expectations or familiarities. Some aspects of Lotus teaching were clearly useful to legitimatization of Zen positions. For example, he widely quotes the passage in Kumarajiva's translation of chapter two of the sutra that, "Only a buddha together with a buddha can fathom the Reality of All Existence." Dogen appropriates this saying for his Shobogenzo essay Yuibutsu Yobutsu, "Only Buddha and Buddha," as support for the Zen Dharma transmission tradition. The Lotus Sutra focus on Shakyamuni also fits with the main buddha figure in Zen, rather than the Buddhas Amida or Vairocana venerated in the contemporary Pure Land and Esoteric (and Kegon) movements. But perhaps most fundamentally, the significant presence of the Lotus Sutra in Dogen's teaching content and in his style of presentation may serve to remind us of the substantial underpinnings of Mahayana thought and practice in Soto Zen teachings.
 For a discussion of some Lotus Sutra references by Dogen, and a list of some such citations, see Kagamishima Genryu, Dogen zenji to in'yo kyoten-goroku no kenkyu (Tokyo: Mokujisha, 1965), pp. 121-137; 217-219. A list of Lotus Sutra references in Dogen's Shobogenzo appears in Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross, trans. Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 1 (Woods Hole, Mass.: Windbell Publications, 1994), pp. 293-321.
 Ryuichi Abe and Peter Haskell, trans. with essays. Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan; Poems, Letters, and Writings (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1996), p.xiii. See also p. 21.
 For background on hongaku thought, see Ruben Habito, Originary Enlightenment: Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japanese Buddhism (Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1996); and Jacqueline Stone, Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999). For Saicho's appropriation of sokushin jobutsu from the Lotus Sutra story about the Dragon King's daughter, see Paul Groner, "The Lotus Sutra and Saicho's Interpretation of the Realization of Buddhahood with This Very Body," in George J. Tanabe, Jr., and Willa Jane Tanabe, editors. The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989), pp. 53-74.
 For an English translation of Hokke-Ten-Hokke, see Nishijima and Cross, Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 1, pp. 203-220. I have also referred to a translation by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Michael Wenger, from the forthcoming Beyond Thinking, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi.
 Dogen appropriation of the Lotus, especially in terms of its use in Dogen's fundamental world-view underlying his praxis, will be further detailed in my forthcoming dissertation: "Visions of Awakening Space and Time: The Bodhisattvas' Earth Emergence and the Inconceivable Life-Span in the Lotus Sutra, and their Impact in Dogen's Teachings."
 Steven Heine. Dogen and the Koan Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994).
 See Yasunari Kawabata, Japan the Beautiful and Myself, trans. Edward Seidensticker (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1969); and Steven Heine, The Zen Poetry of Dogen (Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1997).
 See Yifa, The Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery: An Annotated Translation and Study of the Chanyuan Qinggui. Ph.D. Dissertation at Yale University, 1996. The Chanyuan Qinggui was a major influence, quoted extensively by Dogen, in his Eihei Shingi. See Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).
 See, for examples, Edward Conze, trans., The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines & its Verse Summary (Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1973), pp. 15, 120-121; and Buddhist Text Translation Society, Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva (Talmage, Cal.: Dharma Realm Buddhist University, 1982), pp. 69-71, 89-92, along with many other passages.
 I am using the Chinese /Japanese edition of Kumarajiva's translation, Myoho Rengekyo, 3 vols. (Tokyo: Iwanamai Bunko, 1996). English translations consulted are Leon Hurvitz, trans. Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976); Bunno Kato, Yoshiro Tamura, and Kojiro Miyasaka, trans. The Threefold Lotus Sutra: Innumerable Meanings, The Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law, and Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue (New York: Weatherhill, 1975); and Burton Watson, The Lotus Sutra, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
 Introduction to George J. Tanabe, Jr., and Willa Jane Tanabe, The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture, p. 2.
 Jodo, literally "ascending the hall," referred to here as dharma discourses, were the major form of presentation in Sung China Ch'an temples. They were often quite brief, given in the Dharma Hall with the teacher on the high seat on the altar and with the monks standing. Apparently they were the teaching form eventually favored by Dogen, since he nearly stopped writing the longer essays of Shobogenzo after 1244, but continued using the formal Jodo talks, which were recorded in Eihei Koroku, in training his monks at Eiheiji before his death in 1253.
 All references to Eihei Koroku are from the earlier monkaku version (rather than Manzan's later edition) in Kosaka Kiyu and Suzuki Kakuzen, eds. Dogen Zenji Zenshu. vols. 3 and 4 (Tokyo: Shunjusha, 1989). All translations in this essay are from Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, trans. Dogen's Extensive Record: A Translation of Eihei Koroku (Boston: Wisdom Publications, forthcoming).
 Yun-men's response to a monk's question, "What is Buddha?" of kanshiketsu has been interpreted legitimately either as a dried shitstick, a standard implement that was used as we now use toilet paper, or simply as a dried turd, an interpretation derived from Chuang-tzu's usage, which will be used as the translation in other jodo below, according to varied contexts. Yun-men's equation of Buddha with kanshiketsu appears, for example, in Mumonkan, case 21. See Yamada, Gateless Gate, pp. 109-112.
 See Burton Watson, The Lotus Sutra, p. 45; Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, p. 45; Kato, Tamura, and Miyasaka, The Threefold Lotus Sutra, p. 74.
 William LaFleur, The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p. 87.
 Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, pp. 29-30.
 LaFleur, The Karma of Words, p. 87.
 Jacqueline Stone, Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism, p. 14.
 See Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, trans. The Heart of Shobogenzo (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), pp. 59-98.
 George J. Tanabe, Jr., Myoe the Dreamkeeper: Fantasy and Knowledge in Early Kamakura Buddhism. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 9.
 Ibid., p. 5.
 Ibid., p. 13
 See Taigen Dan Leighton and Kazuaki Tanahashi, trans. "Within a Dream Expressing a Dream," in Kazuaki Tanahashi, editor, Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen (Boston: Shambhala, 1999), pp. 165-172.
 Ibid., p. 166.
 Ibid., p. 167.
 Kazuaki Tanahashi, editor, Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1985), p. 69.
 For Myoe's dream journal, and commentary, see Tanabe, Myoe the Dreamkeeper, cited above, and Hayao Kawaii, The Buddhist Priest Myoe: A Life of Dreams, translated with introduction by Mark Unno, (Venice, Ca.: The Lapis Press, 1992).
 See Bernard Faure, Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
 For further discussion of the stereotypical distinctions between Keizan and Dogen, see Faure, Visions of Power, pp. 3-4, 211-215.
 Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, pp. 170-171; and Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, pp. 223-224.
 I am indebted for clarification of the difference in Dogen's reading of this passage, and for many other suggestions for this paper, to the kind response commentary of Jan Nattier.
 Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, p. 171.
 The Lotus Sutra includes a number of variations on the full formula for descriptions of buddhas and their buddha-fields parodied by Dogen, also including versions in chapter twelve on Devadatta and chapter twenty-three on the Bodhisattva Medicine King. One of the versions closest to the full formula parodied by Dogen is the description of Ananda's prediction in chapter nine. See Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, pp. 168-169.
 Dogen refers frequently to ladles in Eihei Koroku, used as a term for reliable practice implements, and sometimes for practitioners themselves. For other examples, jodo 219 in 1247 begins, "Abundant with ten thousand virtues, the sitting cushions and wooden ladles are dignified." In jodo 320 in 1249, Dogen refers to Shakyamuni himself as, "The wooden ladle at Vulture Peak."
 Faure, Visions of Power, p. 116.
 See Thomas Cleary, trans. Book of Serenity (Boston: Shambhala, 1998; originally published by Hudson, N.Y.: Lindisfarne Press, 1990), pp. 332-334.
 Ibid., p. 350.
 For the iconographic forms of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, see Taigen Daniel Leighton, Bodhisattva Archetypes: Classic Buddhist Guides to Awakening and their Modern Expression (New York: Penguin Arkana, 1998), pp. 159-170.
 Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, p. 169.
 See Kato, Tamura, and Miyasaka, The Threefold Lotus Sutra, p. 52. Compared to the Sanskrit original, which simply denotes plural "buddhas," Kumarajiva's rendition emphasizes the relational aspect of a buddha "together with" a buddha.
 See Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, pp. 161-167.