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The Time-Being Part 2
...look into this deeply. The hours [of the day] which are arrayed in the world now, are actualised by ascendings and descendings of the time-being at each moment. The rat is time, the tiger is time, sentient beings are time, Buddha s are time.
At this moment, you enlighten the entire world with three heads and eight arms, you enlighten the entire world with the sixteen-foot golden body. To fully actualise the entire world with the entire world is called thorough practice.
To fully actualise the golden body ¾ to arouse the way-seeking mind, practice, attain enlightenment and enter nirvana ¾ is nothing but being, is nothing but time.
Just actualise all time as all being; there is nothing extra. A so-called “extra being” is thoroughly an extra being. Thus, the time-being half-actualised is half of the time-being completely actualised, and a moment that seems to be missed is also completely being. In the same way, even the moment before or after the moment that appears to be missed is also complete-in-itself the time being. Vigorously abiding in each moment is the time-being. Do not mistakenly confuse it as nonbeing. Do not forcefully assert it as being.
You may suppose that time is only passing away, and not understand that time never arrives. Although understanding itself is time, understanding does not depend on its own arrival.
We continue today touching Dogen Zenji's teaching on Time Being. It's my job to spoil the thing. The text is brilliant, clearly shining.
Look into this deeply, he says. The hours of the day which are arrayed in the world now are actualised by ascendings and descendings of the time-being at each moment . This is a very interesting point about the two aspects of practice, the two aspects of realisation itself. The hours of the day are actualised by ascendings and descendings of the time-being at each moment . [There] comes to my mind one of Dogen's phrases where he says: “When you practise Zen forward, know that each step is equal in substance”. So there is a process of going forward, of walking forward, along the dharma path. But for this to be real practice, we should know, as Dogen says, that each step is equal in substance, each one of them. Each zazen is equal in substance. And that equality doesn't affect only our own zazen; but each zazen, each moment of zazen, is completely equal with Shakyamuni Buddha's zazen. We should know that, says Dogen Zenji.
And he is talking here about the aspect of process and the aspect of substance, which of course are not two and are perfectly inter-related. Process and substance: processes such as our breathing and our life going forward into the unknown, practising, realising; and substance, when we take complete refuge in this one name, this one moment, beyond continuity, beyond accumulation. This is what Dogen is saying here when he says time is actualised by ascendence and descendence of the time-being at each moment: not the horizontal chain of one step and another step, but the act of our whole body-and-mind ascending and descending into that line as time-being itself, as attention itself, as actuality itself.
There is a Korean Zen teacher called Chinul. He has a phrase I like to quote, a very simple phrase. He says: “Our practice is concerned with sudden awakening and gradual personalisation”. Sudden awakening is what we are calling here ‘equal in substance': each moment by moment dropping away body and mind. And gradual personalisation is, of course, process: it takes time, takes putting our practice to work.
There the rat is time, the tiger is time, sentient beings are time, Buddha s are time , says Dogen Zenji. At this moment, you enlighten the entire world with three heads and eight arms, you enlighten the entire world with the sixteen-foot golden body . I find very interesting that here he is saying not that you get enlightened, awakened, but that you enlighten the entire world. He says it twice. You enlighten the entire world at this moment.
This is not, of course, “the self advances and confirms the ten thousand beings”. It is not that we ourself go out, taking on our shoulders the task of enlightening the world. On the contrary, I think it is what Dogen calls “when actualised by the ten thousand beings, your body-and-mind as well as bodies and minds of others, drop away”. So there our practice is not only concerned with dropping away our own body and mind, but also seeing intimately that at the same moment, bodies and minds of others are dropped away. Thus we enlighten the entire world. Thus in our practice we do not merely search for our own enlightenment, our own awakening, our own perfection or change. What we really wake up is the spirit of the bodhisattva, and at this moment you enlighten the entire world.
He says: You enlighten it with three heads and eight arms and with the sixteen-foot golden body . These are terms that reflect aspects of practice, faces of our own zazen. Three heads and eight arms: this points to those dharma guardians that sometimes we can see at the doors of Japanese or Chinese Zen centres. These are the deities of passion, like Fudo or Mahakala in the Tibetan tradition. They have a fierce appearance, sometimes surrounded by fire, flames all around, maybe with a sword to cut off your head, one fang going up, two eyes crossed. These deities we call the guardians of the dharma, and they express the passion of life, the practice in the midst of the realm of the ten thousand grasses of delusion, of gaining and losing, of living, of dying. You enlighten the entire world with that spirit, with that passion, says Dogen Zenji— vital passion. And also you enlighten the entire world at the same moment with the sixteen-foot golden body, which points to Shakyamuni Buddha, or, according to other traditions, the Buddha of limitless life.
To fully actualise the entire world with the entire world is called thorough [true] practice. Fully actualise the world with the world: here we are not even doing anything. The entire world enlightens the entire world, and we share that in our life. “There no trace of realisation remains and this no-trace continues endlessly”, says Dogen in the Genjo-koan. There we take an ocean and pour it into an ocean. We take a mountain and pour it into a mountain. We take Mu and pour it into Mu, zazen into zazen, life into life.
To fully actualise the golden body—to arouse the way-seeking mind, practice, attain enlightenment and enter nirvana—is nothing but being, is nothing but time . Dogen completes the phrase; Just actualise all time as all being; there is nothing extra .” Just actualise: just make it actual, real, with no memories, no ideas—just be completely open to the living fact. Mumon Zenji in the Mumonkan says: “ Just one nen that is, one moment of the mind completely in the now; just one nen sees through eternity. Timelessness is in the now. When you see through this nen you see through the one who sees .” There we actualise the sixteen-foot golden body and the entire world enlightens the entire world.
There is nothing extra, says Dogen Zenji, touching again and again the aspect of sambhogakaya practice, full and complete, joyfully dancing, the quality of life, the quality of practice, nothing extra. To see this makes joy arise; and when joy arises, wonder comes together, and wonder is another word for deep samadhi, fascination with this mystery, complete fascination with the fact of empty oneness. Nothing extra. Dogen Zenji, elsewhere in one of his poems, says: “Inside the treasury of the dharma eye, a single grain of dust”. If there were not that single grain of dust, truly it wouldn't be the treasury of the dharma eye. Nothing extra, nothing lacking.
A so-called extra being is thoroughly an extra being. Thus, the time-being half-actualised is half of the time-being completely actualised, and a moment that seems to be missed is also completely being. A most interesting phrase: “A moment that seems to be missed is also completely being”. So let us miss ourself into this moment. Miss yourself into this body, into this Mu; because even when our body-and-mind thinks we are missing a moment, missing an opportunity, the dharma body itself keeps practice alive elsewhere, and you will find at certain moments this comes forth as the very Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of endless, beginningless life, which is of course our own true life.
The text continues, saying: Vigorously abiding in each moment is the time-being. “Vigorously abiding in each moment”: really, no comment is necessary for this phrase. But we can say abiding is finding our home, finding our true place in this moment. There we stop wandering around, and we fully engage life, body, and mind into this moment. Of course, ‘vigorously' here means ‘no effort', means ‘no direction', means ‘no controlling'. That is the way in which we can have enough energy, enough vitality, enough passion, to vigorously abide in this moment. Here we engage the totality of our human body, [of] which Dogen Zenji says, “It is the bones and marrows of the realm beyond consciousness and not consciousness”. So let us know that practice, realisation, attention, zazen is that: bones and marrows of the realm beyond consciousness and not consciousness.
Do not mistakenly confuse it as nonbeing , he says. Do not forcefully assert it as being. You may suppose that time is only passing away, and not understand that time never arrives . Very interesting. “Time never arrives”: so there is no gap. As time does not arrive, we don't go away. As attention does not arrive, zazen does not go away. Although understanding itself is time, understanding does not depend on its own arrival. Understanding does not depend at all on its own arrival: see, its own arrival is happening at every moment, every bit of the actual moment is itself understanding, is our body as understanding, each Mu, each shikantaza, each zazen, each step in kinhin.
And he is talking about understanding here, and I think there is a subtle difference between knowledge and knowing, understanding, learning: that is, a process. Knowledge is just the ashes of the past. Knowing, understanding, is a dynamic process of seeing things intimately with our body and mind, understanding them and letting them go. In that way, we can walk the dharma way lightly. And after all, as I think Chesterton was the one who said: “The reason why angels can fly is that they take themselves so lightly”. Lightly, without the weight of expectations or memories, moment by moment understanding, learning the way.
Understanding does not depend on its own arrival, he says here. So we don't need to wait for its arrival. It is right here, right now. Elsewhere, in a comment about the bodhisattva vows, Dogen Zenji says: “The dharma wheel turns from the beginning. There is neither surplus nor lack. The whole universe is moistened with nectar, and the dharma is ready to harvest.” The dharma, our life, is ready to harvest. What is that? There is a poem that says: “Even in the dew on the tiny blade of some nameless grass, the moon is showing itself”. The moon is showing itself, vividly clear. Let us settle there.