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Guidelines for Studying the Way - Part 3
Just forget yourself for now and practise inwardly ¾ this is one with the thought of awakening. We see that the sixty-two views are based on the 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 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. Awakened people are free of them. You figure there is self when there is no self. You attach to birth where there is no birth. You do not practise the Buddha -way which should be practised. 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?
Just forget yourself for now and practise inwardly, says Dogen. Just forget yourself for now and practise inwardly. There is a tendency in practice to be concerned with our self, which is not what Dogen is saying here. He is saying, “Just forget yourself for now”, the same thing as he says in the Fukan Zazengi, another text of the Shobogenzo. There he says, “To study the Buddha-way is to study the self; to study the self is to forget the self; to forget the self is to be actualised by the ten thousand beings”.
Here he is pointing to the true way of understanding our selves, which is basically not to be concerned with ourselves or working with ourselves; but, he says, forget the self, in a simple act that allows you to be actualised by the ten thousand beings, that makes it possible to be the actual self. Just forget yourself for now, and practise inwardly, he says. Practise inwardly: and elsewhere, also in the Fukan Zazengi, he expands that concept, saying, “Stop the practice thus based on intellectual understanding, on following words and argument, and learn the backward step that turns the light inward and makes clear the original self”. Stop the practice based on intellectual understanding, on following words and argument, and learn the backward step: that backward step is to practise inwardly; and in that way we turn the light inward and make clear the original self.
In the Chinese tradition, there is an approach to zazen that is called ‘hua to'. That “hua to” can translate as “source of consciousness” or “head of consciousness”. ‘To' is the same as we use in ‘tanto', being the “head of the tan [the platform]”, the tanto. And in this context it means head and it means also source: ‘hua to,' the source of consciousness. The approach basically is that when something comes forward from our consciousness — some emotion, some thought — or we are going towards something to see or hear, we reverse that flowing of attention. Touching the source of that: if a single thought is coming up, we reverse that, practise inwardly, and touch the source of that thought, the source of that feeling, the source of that sound or sight. There, abiding nowhere, we truly forget the self. And thus there is a wonderful opportunity of being authenticated by the ten thousand beings, in the form of one thought or one feeling or one simple sound.
Your body with hair and skin is just inherited from father and mother. From beginning to end, a drop of blood is empty. So none of these are the self, says Dogen Zenji. Just inherited: just the product of cause and effect. And in that sense it's not only pointing to this body, but to everything that comes as a product of cause and effect. About that, Mumon Zenji says in the Mumonkan, “That which comes through the gate is not the family treasure”. That which comes through cause and effect goes away because of cause and effect. So Dogen Zenji is clarifying here where to really search for this original self, that original face that we can call Mu or shikantaza. Certainly not in the realm of cause and effect; but turning to the family treasure, the family treasure that is always there, not coming through the gate.
He says, after that, 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. What is it, after all? What is mind? What is thought? What is awareness? What is knowledge? What is breath? Hmmm. What is it, after all? He also says, “The Buddha -way lies outside thinking, analysis, prophecy, introspection, knowledge and wise explanation”. Completely outside all of those things. So, again, where does the Buddha -way lie? What is it, after all? That's the practice of the Hannya Shin Gyo; that's the practice of Kanjizai or Kanzeon, as it appears in the Emmei Jikku Kannon Gyo. Kanjizai, the One Who Sees and Hears the Self at Rest, at ease, at peace—completely outside thinking, completely outside analysis, introspection, knowledge or wise explanation. We say that the practice that Avalokiteshvara or Kanjizai Bodhisattva was engaged in is to see clearly that form, sensation, volition and consciousness are altogether empty, thus transcending suffering, thus attaining the Buddha -way, thus being actualised by the ten thousand beings.
Dogen continues, You figure there is self when there is no self. You attach to birth where there is no birth. You do not practise the Buddha -way which should be practised. 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?
So he's saying here: there is no self; there is no birth. No self and no birth. But can we, just when we are in the process of figuring it out, in the process of being completely attached, not practising the Buddha -way, not cutting off the worldly mind, avoiding completely the true teaching and pursuing the groundless teaching — just there, figuring, attaching, not practising, not cutting off, just there — can we completely realise the fact of no birth, no self? Just the act of attaching, just the act of not practising, just the act of not cutting off, just the act beyond labels of “deluded mind” or “enlightened mind”, just that simple act, covering the whole earth, covering the whole universe, forgetting ourselves completely there. That way we can settle into no-self, no-birth, and thus practise the Buddha -way.
Regarding that practice, Dogen says elsewhere, “Zazen is not something to be learned, something that you realise in stages. It is just the dharma gate of ease and joy, the practice and realisation of awakening and the manifestation of intimate reality.” He is saying zazen is not something that we learn. It is not something that is subject to stages, different stages of zazen. He is saying it is just the dharma gate of ease and joy. The dharma gate of ease and joy — just that. Just our zazen, just our Mu, just our shikantaza, just our life — the dharma gate of ease and joy.
We should cut off the worldly mind , he says in the following phrase. This, of course, is the “profit” mind, the “gaining” mind, the mind of comparisons, the mind of “me” and “others”; and this cutting off is a moment-by-moment process, a Mu-by-Mu process, an act of shikantaza and then another act of shikantaza, cutting off completely. In that way, greed becomes aspiration, hatred becomes just pure passion, and ignorance is the vast and wide “don't know” mind in which the mystery can manifest itself as our practice.
What about the “true teaching” that Dogen is referring to here? True teaching: when we forget ourselves, and when the source of that teaching forgets itself, then the smile on Kashyapa's face becomes possible. One sound, one thought, one Mu advances and authenticates this living moment as ourself, this living moment as our true body, as the ground and expression of our most intimate zazen.
To follow the Buddha -way completely, says Dogen, means that you do not have your old views. To follow the Buddha -way means that we do not have any more our old views. And we shouldn't be partial about that: not only our deluded old views but also every view, including our understanding. We do not have any more the old views, so we can face Mu, we can face shikantaza, we can face each moment completely fresh, completely innocent, completely alive.
To hit the mark completely, he says, also means that you have no new nest in which to settle. Completely free of old views, with no new nest to settle in, just abiding nowhere, bringing forth that mind of zazen, that mind of Mu, that mind of shikantaza, liberating the many beings. Then we are a sharp-pointed brush painting in Spring, and we let plum blossoms initiate the Spring. There we can find that grape is indeed made of white.