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The Time-Being Part 1
Hakuin's Daruma

Augusto Alcalde

The way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world, seeing each thing in this entire world as a moment of time. Things do not hinder one another, just as moments do not hinder one another. The way-seeking mind arises in this moment. A way-seeking moment arises in this mind. It is the same with practice and with attaining the way. Thus the self setting itself out in array sees itself. This is the understanding that the self is time.

Here we take up again Dogen Zenji's teaching and the marvellous use of language he has through the entire Shobogenzo. Indeed, each phrase, sometimes a word, but each phrase in the whole book is a koan itself, within the true meaning of the word “koan”: the intimate relationship between the essential and the phenomenon. Here we have an essay called “The Time Being”, Uji . Sometimes it is possible to translate this also as ‘The identity of self and time’, or ‘The identity of being and time’—in other words, the ‘oneness’.

He says: The way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world . This is a very interesting point. “The way the self arrays itself”: we say we have the process of the five skandhas getting together and so here we are. And at a certain moment the five skandhas disappear, each to its own place, and we are gone. So that is one way in which the self arrays itself: the five skandhas that we chant about in our Heart Sutra get together in a particular way and we come forth. Of course, when we see that with the eye of Kanjizai (or Avalokiteshvara), we are able to see the pure and clear empty quality of those five skandhas and, as our sutra says, transcend all suffering, all uneasiness.

But also in Dogen Zenji's teaching I think we can distinguish two ways of the self arraying itself. One is when he says: “That the self advances to the ten thousand things and confirms them is called delusion”. That is a process from the self towards the ten thousand beings, or each one of them: what we call ‘delusion’. That means that is just a name: we call it ‘delusion’, but essentially it is just a function of going out, naming, relating with things and beings according to their function. So that is one way the self advances into the world, and in a certain way, creates it by being aware of it. The other way is when Dogen points out: “That the ten thousand beings advance and confirm the self is called awakening, or realisation”. Even though one of them is called delusion and the other is called awakening, both of them have a place in our practice, as they have in our life. Sometimes it is a moment for the self to go toward zazen, go toward our koan, and confirm it, establish it, make it alive. And sometimes we need the other aspect of the self: being completely open, completely available to the actuality of the present moment, so that the ten thousand beings can advance and confirm, authenticate the self.

Here we can see clearly that they are not two things: not the ten thousand beings [on] one side and the self being authenticated on the other side; but the fact that that very authentication is the expression of fullness, of empty oneness between the so-called self and the so-called ten thousand beings. When all beings advance toward the self and actualise it, the three bodies of the Buddha are vividly clear.

So in that way, “the way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world”, in Dogen's words. And the form of the entire world, in its intimate identity with the self, appears either as the dharmakaya, pure and clear reality, or in another moment maybe as the sambhogakaya, when our practice and our moment of life is full and complete. ‘Fullness’ can also be translated as ‘joy’. This is the body of the Buddha that is concerned most intimately with life itself. It's here that, joyfully, we can dance the completeness of each moment as ourselves.

And the third so-called body of the Buddha is the one that is related specifically with personalisation of the experiences of the dharmakaya and sambhogakaya. We call it nirmanakaya, the body of uniqueness or variety, as we say in our meal sutras. Uniqueness. In that way, how the aspect of dharmakaya and sambhogakaya will be embodied, personalised, will be altogether unique. And this is how sangha practice happens, each one becoming more and more unique. And also each Mu is unique, each zazen is unique: no two of them will be the same.

Dogen Zenji continues, saying: Seeing each thing in this entire world as a moment of time . See each thing as a moment of time: each thing or each being, just a moment. I think this is related with the practice of Avalokiteshvara, or Kanjizai, as we say in the Sino-Japanese pronunciation: the one who hears the world. And there we have to be aware of Mumon's words in one of the poems of the Mumonkan, when he says:

If you listen with your ear, it's hard to understand
If you hear with your eye, you are intimate at last

Seeing with the eyes is good, but not enough. You have to hear with your eyes and see with your ears.

So the one that hears the sounds of the world is not merely concerned with hearing, but with total function of our whole body-and-mind, involving all of our senses and, of course, involving completely our own body. This is the quality of true zazen, seeing each thing as a moment of time, just a moment, with no continuity at all. Just a moment, with no trace remaining. Of course, when Dogen says “seeing it”, he means ‘being completely intimate with’. At that point he says time is not really time; time itself is being, and all being is time.

The text continues: Things do not hinder one another, just as moments do not hinder one another. “Things do not hinder one another”: so ignorance doesn't hinder wisdom to come forth, samsara doesn't hinder the world of nirvana, nor do I hinder others from being. At that point, seeing that clearly, we can drop that duality, that illusion that things are hindering one another: me, others; inner and outer. Dogen Zenji elsewhere says: “When you say ‘outside’, skin, flesh, bone and marrow are all outside. When you say‘inside’, skin, flesh, bone and marrow are all inside.” In other words, there is no such sharp line dividing our so-called inner world from the external. When we say ‘outside’, everything and we ourselves are outside; when we say ‘inside’, everything and ourselves is inside. Just one reality, in other words; not two faces, just one reality, as ourselves, as our zazen, as our own body.

There is a poem by Dogen Zenji that says:

A snowy heron in the snowfield
Where winter grass is unseen
Hides itself in its own figure.

The word we have here translated as ‘hinder’ in Sino-Japanese can mean also ‘hide’. So things don't hide each other, in the same way that this “snowy heron in the snowfield where winter grass is unseen hides itself in its own figure”. That's another way of saying ‘makes itself vividly clear in its own hiddenness’. So through sesshin, through our zazen, we hide ourselves into zazen, disappearing completely. We hide ourselves into Mu so that only Mu is there. We hide ourselves in a flashing shikantaza moment, so that we are no more there. Thus the winter grasses of duality are unseen.

Dogen continues, saying: The way-seeking mind arises in this moment. A way-seeking moment arises in this mind . ‘Way-seeking mind’ is difficult to translate from the ideographs. ‘Way’ here means also ‘Tao’; and ‘mind' means also ‘awareness’. We translate it in Sanskrit as ‘bodhicitta’, and in Japanese as ‘doshin’, ‘do’ being the Tao. And a possible way of saying it is: the mind that turns to the Tao, the mind that is turned completely, tuned with reality itself. “The way-seeking mind”: that mind that goes directly to the way, becoming one with the way, that is one with this very place, this very body, this Lotus Land, as Hakuin Zenji says.

A way-seeking moment arises in this mind, says the following phrase. It is the same with practice and with attaining the way . “A way-seeking moment”: just that moment intimately coming from the source; this moment, with all its sounds, images, concepts, delusions, feelings coming directly from the source as the source itself. Each moment is all beings, is the entire world, says Dogen Zenji here. This arises in the mind.

But what mind is that? We have to pay attention to Nansen's words, when he says: “Ordinary mind is the Tao”; just ordinary mind is the Tao. And the ideograph that means ‘ordinary’ also means ‘timeless’: the mind with no time is the Tao, and it is already ordinary, very common. This is a moment of the complete body-and-mind, the entire universe, open to the miracle of the now, with no future, no past and no present, as the Diamond Sutra says. The mind of the future is not possible to get hold of; we also cannot get hold of the mind of the past; and we cannot get hold of the mind of the present. There the sutra also points to practice when it says: “Abide nowhere and bring forth that mind”. ‘Abide nowhere’ is practice; ‘bring forth that mind' is practice becoming realisation itself.

It is the same with practice and with attaining the way. Thus the self setting itself out in array sees itself. This is the understanding that the self is time. “Setting itself out” says Dogen Zenji here: not in isolation, not at the top of a [high] pole of zazen, but showing its entire body and the whole universe itself. In that way, the self sees the self, in the way that Dogen says elsewhere: “When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you understand intimately”. The key here is “fully engaging body-and-mind”. It's there we understand intimately.

This is the practice of sitting the body, sitting the breath, sitting the mind. ‘Sit the body’: we say, sit our posture; and also the posture of our true body, which is the form of the universe in this very moment that is also intimate attention to our whole body presence. ‘Sit the breath’: not just merely air coming in and out, but sit the breathing; not just the moment, but intimate relationship, knocking off concepts, or inner and outer. ‘Sit the mind’ is the third aspect of true zazen: moment by moment, moment by moment, open, sparky atten­tion, making our zazen available to the mountains, rivers, sky, ocean, to come forth and touch the most intimate, authenticating our own self as this very body, this very place, as the Buddha Way itself.

There is a poem that says:
Ask the seagulls offshore the time of the tide
“We are leaving”, they will answer
So ask the waves.
Please, ask the waves. Become truly intimate with the waves, in such a way that only Mu, only shikantaza, are vividly clear.


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