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Guidelines for Studying the Way - Part 2
When you hear a song of praise sung by a musician deity or a mysterious bird, let it be as the evening breeze brushing against your ears. If you see a beautiful face, 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 missed the budda way in their everyday life. What a pity! Do 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 people say “The thought of awakening is the mind of supreme perfect awakening. Do not be concerned with the cultivation of fame or profit.” Some of them say “The thought of awakening is the insight that each thought contains the three thousand realms.” Some of them say “The thought of awakening is the dharma gate. Each thought is unborn.” Some of them say “The thought of awakening is the mind of entering the Buddha realm.”
Such people do not yet know, and mistakenly slander the thought of awakening. They are remote from the budda way.
We continue today touching the “Guidelines for Studying the Way” by Dogen Zenji. He is saying today: When you hear a song of praise sung by a musician deity or a mysterious bird, let it be as the evening breeze brushing against your ears. If you see a beautiful face, let it be like the morning dewdrops coming into your sight . When you hear that kind of song or you see something like that, he says, let it be like the evening breeze or like the morning dew. Dogen Zenji here is pointing to the world of ‘makyo' , the world of mysterious experience, pregnant and potent dreams of the dharma. It happens naturally when our practice begins to deepen, and so that mystery becomes present. We call it ‘makyo' , mysterious vision or mysterious experience.
And Dogen here is saying: Let it be ordinary, let it be common. Even if you hear a song of praise sung by a musician deity or a mysterious bird, let it be ordinary; because our first reaction to makyo is sometimes just to step back and see it as something extraordinary. I think what Dogen is saying here is: Let it be completely ordinary, a completely everyday life experience. Even if you are seeing that face or you are hearing that mysterious song, let it be ordinary. So we can get into the world of makyo. Instead of working it or being astonished by it or being fascinated by it, we go into the world of makyo and dance with it, play with it, live with it, as if it were really ordinary life experience.
Here the potential of that mystery becomes the potential of transformation in our practice and in our life. Also we don't have to underestimate makyo or the world of makyo. It is not just a mysterious vision or some kind of distorted perception, or some kind of hallucination. There is always something sacred in a true makyo.
We have a story in the Mumonkan in which Kyozan has a dream, which is a kind of makyo, and he goes to Maitreya Heaven and he is asked to preach there. And he gives a speech. He says, “The truth of the Mahayana is beyond the Four Propositions and transcends the One Hundred Negations. Listen! Listen!” And next day he goes to his teacher, Isan Reiyu and tells him, “You know, I had that dream”, and he tells the whole story. And his teacher, says, “You have attained the level of a sage”. This is, as far as I know, the only case in our tradition in which a confirmation of a true experience happens through a dream, through a makyo. Isan really sees what has happened: he has attained the level of a sage.
As our dreams are, so we are. As our makyo s are, so we are. And if we play with them, if we practise with them, that potential mystery of the dharma transforms the whole universe. So please, if we are going through our second day of sesshin into that world in which all certainties begin to fade away and we are coming into the world of makyo, please have appreciation and respect for that. Let us integrate these makyo into our practice, into our sesshin.
I read in a friend's book that in some part of Mexico, when friends, survivors of the old days, get together intimately, from time to time there comes a mysterious white butterfly that drinks tequila. That's a wonderful experience of the world of makyo, completely integrated into our everyday world of getting together with friends, be that for a meeting, be that for our sesshin. From time to time, a mysterious white butterfly comes into the circle of friends and drinks tequila. That is potential makyo, completely integrated into everyday life. And that is a way in which we can really attain the level of a sage, as Kyozan's teacher said.
Dogen Zenji continues: Freedom from the ties of sound and form naturally accords with the essence of the Way-seeking mind . Freedom from the ties of sound and form: in the Mumonkan, Unmon says “The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of the bell?” He is saying: We have so many options, the world is so wide, so vast, so why, when the bell rings, do we put on our black clothes and come to the zendo to do our sesshin or do our zazen? And if we do not dig completely into that “Why?”, that coming to zazen or that coming to sesshin is just a reaction. So we are not free from that; and when the sound comes, it brings us here, but we don't understand why we put on our robes at the sound of the bell. To understand completely that “Why?” is to understand the act of putting on our robes and the act of coming to zazen, and zazen itself. And to understand that is freedom from the ties of sound and form, as Dogen Zenji says.
He continues, saying: That freedom naturally accords with the essence of the Way-seeking mind. Way-seeking mind: he uses that phrase here, replacing “the thought of awakening” with “Way-seeking mind”. We have a case in our koans about that seeking. We have a story about deep enquiring, pure enquiring, that says: “The purpose of going to grassy places is to search for your self-nature. At that very moment, where is your self-nature?” The purpose of going to grassy places is to search for our self-nature. So here we are searching or seeking that self-nature. But the guy who said those words completes the thing with the question: At that very moment in which you are seeking, in which you are searching for your self-nature, at that very moment, where is it? So that's true enquiring, that's true seeking, that's true searching, in which we are enquiring and finding the very thing in the act of searching itself. We call that deep doubt; we call that deep enquiring; we call it Oneness, Empty Oneness.
Freedom from the ties of sound and form naturally accords with the essence of the Way-seeking mind, says Dogen Zenji here. And then he gives some warnings: 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 missed the budda way in their everyday life. What a pity! Fallen into the pit of fame and profit… Profit or gain: Are you having a “good” sesshin? Are you seeing something new? If we fall into that pit, says Dogen Zenji, we miss the Buddha-Way in our everyday life; which is not to say that we shouldn't have a good sesshin, we shouldn't see something new, and if we have a good sesshin or see something new we have to feel guilty about that! Nothing like that. Only that we are not falling into that pit. We are not running after; but also we are not postponing the possibility of realisation. We are having no expectations, but we are not denying the potentiality of this unique, living moment. We are not Mu-chasing, but body–mind is dropping away into Mu, as Mu itself. We are not “mere sitting”, but “just sitting”; or better, even, “just, just…” Forget about the sitting!
Dogen Zenji continues, saying: Some people say the thought of awakening is the mind of supreme perfect awakening. Some of them say the thought of awakening is the insight that each thought contains three thousand realms . That's a very interesting phrase: the thought-mind of awakening is the insight that each thought contains three thousand realms. Each thought, each ‘nen', contains the whole universe, the whole life; and also contains us, as the living ‘oryoki' of our Buddha dharma. He continues: Some of them say the thought of awakening is the dharma gate. Someone asked something similar to Joshu about the dharma gate, and Joshu just opened his arms and said, “North gate, south gate, east gate, west gate”. Totally open. Whatever you are doing is the dharma gate. Whatever you are going through is the dharma gate, when total openness and total attention are living in that mystery.
Each thought is unborn, says Dogen Zenji here. Each thought is unborn. That means no birth, no death. Tomorrow is not in the script. Past is also not in the script. And much more: present is not in the script. “Unborn” points to that phrase of the Diamond Sutra that says, “Past mind cannot be grasped; future mind cannot be grasped; present mind cannot be grasped”. So the Diamond Sutra is saying that what cannot be grasped is our true home. So the time of the one drop is the time of its falling. And the time of the rain is the time of the drop. The time of our life is just one thought, just one breath, just one Mu, just one moment of shikantaza, just one act. Each thought is unborn.
Continuing, Dogen Zenji says: Some people say the thought of awakening is the mind of entering the Buddha realm . The mind of entering the Buddha realm: coming again to the Diamond Sutra, after that thing about “can't be grasped”, the sutra says, “Abide nowhere and bring forth the mind”. So it is not only that we settle down in that point in which “cannot be grasped” is the vivid mystery of our practice; but from there please bring forth the mind. In that way we enter the Buddha realm.
Many years ago — many, many years ago — I was giving a public talk in Argentina, and there was a large window, and there was a butterfly there, hitting the glass, and there was a hole in one of the panes of glass. And as we were talking about practice, I took that thing that was happening for the talk, and said, “This butterfly is hitting the glass, once and again; and there is a hole through which she can go into the open, into the light. No-one can say how many times she has to hit the glass to be able to go through the hole. No-one can say if she will ever go through the hole, or die hitting the glass. But there she is, hitting the glass. This is practice”, I said.
And then we had a question and answer period, and before anyone was able to make a question, there was a hand at the back of the room, waving desperately for attention, so I said, “That guy — what do you have to say?” He stood up and said, “The butterfly is hitting the glass because she is already out”. And he turned and walked away out of the room, and I never saw him again. But after he said that, there were no more questions in the room. That was the end of the talk; because it's really true. There is the butterfly hitting the glass. No-one can say how many times the butterfly will hit the glass, to be able to go through the hole. No-one can say if she will ever go through the hole. But that unknown guy says ‘she is hitting the glass because she is already out', flying freely in the open, flying freely in the light.
So the butterfly is in the open already, flying freely, and free to drop by and have some tequila. She flies and she hits the glass and, every time, she is flying in the sky of Buddha -nature. There is a hole in every hitting. Please, let's find it, and drop by for some tequila.