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The bodymind experience in Dogen's Shobogenzo: a phenomenological perspective
Hakuin's Daruma

David E. Shaner is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Furman University, Creenville, South Carolina.
Philosophy East and West 35, no. 1 (January 1985)
© University of Hawai'i Press
original source


The purpose of this article is to develop an interpretation of "bodymind" experience that will be helpful in understanding a few prominent philosophical doctrines described by Zen Master Dogen Kigen (1200-1253) in his Treasury of the Correct Dharma-eye (Shobogenzo) . The term "bodymind" denotes the oneness of body and mind. The absence of the hyphen indicates that body and mind are pre-reflectively experienced as one. Body and mind can be interpreted as distinct entities only by reflectively abstracting mental and physical aspects of a person's original pre-reflective experience. The choice of "bodymind" over "mindbody," reflects the order in which these terms are usually written in Japanese by Dogen (shin jin, bodymind).

The "relationship " between the mind and body espoused in Dogen's philosophy may be explained in Western phenomenological categories. Even though people of different cultures may share the same fundamental experiential structures, the way in which these experiences are articulated and valued may vary appreciably. Therefore, a central experiential concern for one culture may be so peripheral to another that it is ignored philosophically and uncultivated as an ideal in everyday life. For this reason, the phenomenological method can be employed to describe the eidetic structure of the mode of experience to which bodymind awareness refers in the philosophy of Dogen. Accordingly, the thesis of this article is not only that the phenomenological method is a useful instrument for laying bare the structure of the awareness of bodymind, but also that the awareness of bodymind is a central theme through which the complex philosophy of Dogen may be penetrated.

It is important to emphasize Dogen's descriptive phenomenological methodology in Shobogenzo. Shobogenzo is a collection of Dogen's discourses, given orally and written, from 1231 until his death in 1253. The apparent phenomenological tenor of Shobogenzo is characterized by Dogen's argumentation based upon reference to everyday experience. Dogen's foremost objective in Shobogenzo is to describe the most primordial mode of experience in which the world is presented to consciousness. He is concerned with faithfully describing a mode of experience void of unjustified presuppositions, metaphysical conceptualizations, ontological presuppositions, or any other impairment of an authentic direct encounter with th world as it is originally given to consciousness. Each fascicle focuses upon specific aspects of experience, for example, its istructure, temporal component, ethical dimension, and so forth. Dogen's appeal to cultivate (shugyo) an unimpaired experience one's situation (jisetsu(e)) was intended to justify his insistence on practicing zazen (seated meditation). Dogen abandoned his initial description of how to perform zazen (Fukanzazengi and [p. 18] justification of its prominent role in the history of Buddhist practice (Bendowa) in favor of describing the experience of zazen itself (Shobogenzo). Since Dogen's endeavor is to describe the structure of paradigmatic modes of experience that authenticate Buddhist doctrines, a phenomenological interpretation is a more appropriate methodology than, for example, a historical or analytical approach.(1)

The thesis of this article will be limited to making explicit the eidetic structure of bodymind experience via phenomenological categories. These categories merely serve to describe identifiable characteristics of bodymind experience. Since the analysis is performed exclusively within the phenomenological epoche, there will be no attempt to justify any ontological status associated with the methodological categories. The structure of experience articulated below is intended to reflect the paradigmatic value given to bodymind experience by Dogen.

Although the historical antecedents initiating the primary significance of bodymind experience exceeds the boundaries of this project, there is textual evidence that suggests that the emphasis upon body and mind inseparability was an inherited tradition. When Kuukai (or Kobo Daishi , (A.D. 774-835) describes an ancient ma.n.dala, he refers to the Sanskrit and says, "Unite your dhyaana with praj~naa in an adamantine binding."(2) Unlike the Cartesian paradigm suggesting that the body and mind are ontologically distinct, for Kuukai and Dogen body and mind are interpreted as one — bodymind. This difference between these fundamental starting points entails a difference in attitude toward mind and body. In general, in the East, body and mind are considered originally one, hence, the problem in Buddhist practice is to verify empirically the primordial "unity of dhyaana and praj~naa." In the West the traditional mind-body problem arises as mind and body are, by definition, ontologically distinct. The problem is to theorize the manner in which they interrelate. In short, the problem in the West is one of understanding the principle of interconnection. In the East the problem is to experientially realize or authenticate original oneness of bodymind.


Using examples of everyday experiences common in the West, various aspects of bodymind experience will be articulated. This is an important starting place as we need to make explicit characteristics of this mode of awareness with which we may identify. Even though bodymind awareness is uncultivated as a philosophical ideal or model for daily life in the West, we may identify fleeting instances of this experience and then, by extension, begin to acquire an experiential insight into Dogen's perspective that gives greater value and significance to bodymind experience. The present phenomenological analysis will unpack the essential characteristics of the experiential correlates to which the terms body and mind refer. It will be clear from the beginning that the experiential correlates are unlike [p. 19] the abstract concepts body and mind. The phenomenological methodology will direct our attention to the primordial giveness of the act of experiencing body and mind. Since this is achieved within the phenomenological reduction of the natural standpoint, a description of the eidetic structure of the primordially experienced body and mind will follow no presupposed criteria other than the act of experience itself.

The distinction between abstract speculations about body and mind, as opposed to describing the eidetic essences of body and mind as-experienced, reflects the methodology, scope, and limitations of phenomenological inquiry. It is important to distinguish phenomenoiogical description of eidetic essences from abstract explanations of ontologically posited entities or ontological explanations of mere abstractions. First, phenomenological description of eidetic essences exposes the a priori structures of human experience by revealing the most fundamental axioms of experience grounded upon apodictic evidence. This is accomplished by the fact that phenomenological description never strays from the act of experience. By bracketing the natural standpoint, those aspects of belief which tend to cloud or distract one's attention from the actual eidetic structure of experience, namely, the ontological thetic positings, are suspended. In this way experience is described as it is given to consciousness. An immediate ramification of this method is the recognition that the "what" aspect precedes the "that" aspect in all experience, that is, the essence precedes existence. Through phenomenological description, eidetic essences are shown to be primordially given to our consciousness before ontological thetic positings.

Phenomenological descriptions of eidetic essences are solely concerned with the modes or structures of the act of experience. For example, belief in the natural standpoint may lead us into making absolute distinctions between subject and object as if there were two separate worlds — one "out there" (objective) and one "in here" (subjective). The phenomenological approach demonstrates that these are only two modes of experience, one that is private or unconfirmed by others and one that is public, about which we receive feedback from others indicating that this part of our experience is shared. The phenomenological reduction (epoche) does not detach one from the world but focuses Upon the world as it is primordially experienced before the ontological status of the world is affirmed or denied. There is an explicit assumption that since experience is our window to the world, a rigorous phenomenological description of eidetic essences will allow one to see the world not necessarily as it really is, but as it is in the only way which we can know it—as it is presented to consciousness.

In contrast to the preceding, abstract explanations of ontologically posited entities and ontological explanations of mere abstractions must be examined. Both the former and the latter violate the spirit of the phenomenological reduction. To give an abstract explanation of an already ontologically posited entity is to have assumed a perspective, with respect to that entity, before the investigation has begun. For example, if I assume that body or mind exist and then [p. 20] attempt to explain their existence via abstract doctrines (causality or temporality), then I have assumed from the start that which I am attempting to prove. Or, if I were to argue for the ontological necessity of an abstraction, I would be attempting to give ontological status to something which has no exact experiential correlate. There is nothing inherently wrong with attempting to argue for the ontological status of an entity or with defending the ontological necessity of an abstraction. However, this procedure sets both apart from phenomenological descriptions of eidetic essences. The latter concerns itself solely with the relations and process of experience in an effort to become aware of the fundamental axioms of experience. In short, phenomenological description attempts to be true to experience as it is given to consciousness, whereas abstract explanations of ontologically posited entities and ontological explanations of abstractions attempt to be consistent with some criteria other than the act of experience itself.

How then does one experience mind and body? Phenomenologically speaking, one can never experience an independent mind or body. Neither mind nor body can become the noematic focus of a noetic glance. This phenomenological observation is not intended to imply that body and mind are meaningless terms, for they may have a meaning that is abstracred from experience. There may be a mental dimension or "mind-aspect" of some complex experience, but a mind may never be experienced as a noema completely independent from the "body-aspect" giving meaning to the background within which the noema is circumscribed. Mind-aspects and body-aspects have been abstracted from primordially given experiences so frequently that there is a tendency to believe that these terms have exact independent experiential correlates. it is difficult, however, to isolate either mind or body as perceivable noemata. Although there may be mind-aspects and body-aspects within all lived experience, the presence of either one includes experientially the presence of the other.(3) In short, in the act of experience neither mind nor body is independently intended as a noematic focus of a noetic glance.

For example, the significance of body-as-object (der Korper) versus body-as-subject (der Leib) hinges upon the "horizon" of the experience giving meaning to the "privileged" noematic focus. (The horizon of an experience includes the content and meaning of everything within the experiential periphery. The meaning of the horizon also includes the accompanying assumptions that one may bring to one's experience as a result of the historicity of the noemata and the familiarity of the experiencer with the environmental conditions. The noematic focus is privileged as it is singled out as the intended focal point within the horizon.) The body-as-subject is valued as such because the mind-aspect is included in the horizon of one's experience, thus giving meaning to the body above and beyond the implications of an inanimate object. The meaning and significance of all intersubjective experience includes, in the horizon, body-aspects and mind-aspects. Mind-aspects and body-aspects may be separated from the context of lived experience only through abstraction. It is only through [p. 21] abstraction that mind-aspects and body-aspects may become noematic foci, for example, in reflection, imagination, or reverie, and so forth. Since intersubjective experience includes, within the horizon, mind-aspects and body-aspects, the presence of these two aspects will henceforth be referred to as "bodymind." This is necessary since our experience, as it is given to our consciousness, is not divided into various aspects. Rather we are conscious, aware, and we act in a bodymind way. We jump for joy, fidget in boredom, blush when embarrassed, quiver when scared, shake when nervous, slouch when tired, wrinkle our brow when angered, and so forth. In our lived pre-reflective experience there is no mediate relationship between body and mind. Our language is full of idioms that presuppose a direct, immediate relationship between a person's physical appearance and mental condition. One might say he "looks tired, " "seems nervous," "appears unhappy," "acted unusual," "revealed emotion," "was visabiy upset," "seems to carry a problem on his shoulders, " "held back the tears, " "let his inhibitions go," and so forth. In daily experience people act as though the lived relation of mind and body is one that is most accurately represented by the term "bodymind."

The essential bodymind quality in all experience may be classified as follows:

(a) First-Order Bodymind Awareness--only in this mode of experiencing is there a direct awareness of bodymind within the horizon. All thetic positings are neutralized.(4) There is no specifiable noetic vector towards a privileged noematic focus. There is only an awareness of the horizon in toto. Example: pre-reflective neutral consciousness in which there is no intentionality.
(b) Second-Order Bodymind Awareness--in this mode of experiencing there is only one specific noetic vector directed towards a single privileged noematic focus. This is, therefore, the most primordial form of intentionality. The awareness of bodymind is secondary to the awareness of the intended noematic focus. Example: pre-reflective assiduous consciousness characteristic of athletic or musical artists.
(c) Third-Order Bodymind Awareness--in this mode of experiencing there may be many overlapping noetic vectors towards a multiplicity of noematic foci. This is the most complex form of intentionality. The awareness of bodymind is filtered by a myriad of noematic foci. Example: reflective discursive consciousness.(5)


By maintaining the spirit of Husserl's phenomenological endeavor (zu den Sachen selbst and Wendung zum Objekt), one is led to a mode of experience prior to intentional experience. The awareness of bodymind is presenced within the horizon of experience only when all thetic positings are neutralized. (To presence is to be aware, without any doxic modifications, of the horizon of experience. It is the condition of being aware of the nonpriviledged horizon in toto granted by the neutralization of all thetic positings.) Bodymind may never occupy the noetically intended noematic position in experience. One is only aware of bodymind as one aspect within the entire experiential periphery; it does not draw attention to itself (alethia) as a privileged noematic focus.

[p. 22] This epistemic aspect of bodymind can be clarified by further consideration of the phenomenological method. Since phenomenological reduction suspends the natural standpoint, one is led to a description of the noetic and noematic aspects of experience. The reduction leads one from a description of ontologically posited objects to a description of the eidetic components of thetic experience. However, if the noetic/noematic relationship is retained, the reflexive analysis of experience cannot move beyond the limitations imposed by second-order bodymind awareness in which there remains "a specific noetic vector directed towards a single privileged noematic focus." Therefore, an additional reduction which leads one to the primordial giveness of bodymind within the horizon is necessary. This additional reduction is the means to lay bare the level of "primary belief (Urglaube) or Protodoxa (Urdoxa) "(6) upon which all doxic modifications are posited. This reduction serves to neutralize all thetic positings leading one from a description of the noetic and noematic aspects of experience to the primordially given nonprivileged horizon. In this neutral, nonvectoral mode of experience the awareness of bodymind within the horizon is immediate and direct. Bodymind can never be experienced as the noematic focus of experience because this first-order awareness occurs prior to the noetic/noematic distinction. Bodymind holds no privileged position amidst the entire experiential horizon (horizon in toto) . At this Urdoxic or primordially given ground level, bodymind is experienced as part of the horizon prior to thetic judgmental positings.

The epistemology of bodymind just presented indicates that one can be aware of bodymind only during first-order awareness when the noetic/noematic distinction is neutralized. Although bodymind can never become the privileged noematic object of a noetic glance, five characteristics of bodymind awareness can be presenced amidst the horizon in toto. First, the spatial size of one's experiential periphery expands since one's awareness is not concentrated in any specific direction. There is no reflection, analysis, abstraction, wish, hope, fear, and so forth. There is only the activity of presencing the horizon in toto as it is given to consciousness. This does not imply that I am merely registering Humean patches of grayness and redness. Insofar as one is familiar with the surroundings, one presences the horizon in a gestalt. The horizon includes within it, as distinguished from the spatial periphery, the meaning and historicity of familiar objects. The horizon is given a structure in accord with the experiential history of its contents.

A second characteristic of this mode of experience is that it is immediate and spontaneous; there are no mediate intentions which attribute any meaning to the situation. The situation is presenced as it is given primordially to consciousness, Tensions and intentions are like mud put into a clear stream of first-order experiencing. They dam the flow of presencing and muddy one's direct awareness of the nonprivileged horizon. When tensions and intentions are neutralized, one's responsiveness to the situation may be immediate.

A third characteristic of first-order bodymind awareness is that it serves as the [p. 23] condition for noetic and noematic relations. The relation between noesis and noema is one in which a change in the meaning bestowing noesis creates a change in the meaning of the noema. One may ask how is it that these changes can be so sensitively experienced? Such determinations are ascertainable only against a background of bodymind awareness. The presence of noesis and noema already entail a second-order experience. Given an initial second-order experience, it would be difficult to utilize additional second-order experiences in order to ascertain subtle shifts between the noesis and noema within the initial experience. Such additional intentional vectors would only serve to cover (7) the initial second-order experience. Additional positings and reflective perspectives would serve to focus our attention upon specific abstracted aspects of the initial experience. This process, however, would not serve to describe the subtle relation within the original experience. A description of the subtle changes between the noesis and noema within a second-order experience requires a description of the entire context within which the changes occurred. The changes themselves are experienced against a background of neutral bodymind awareness wherein the horizon in toto is presenced clearly. Being neutral, the horizon surrounding the privileged intentional vector reflects all the changes clearly. In this way, first-order bodymind awareness of the nonprivileged horizon serves as a backdrop against which noetic/noematic changes, characteristic of second- and third- order intentional experience, may be understood.

A fourth characteristic of first-order bodymind awareness is that it is dynamic, not static. Since bodymind can never be the noematic object of a noetic glance, except in abstraction, it cannot be thoroughly grasped. Bodymind can never be experienced in toto because of its dynamic nature within the horizon. Since the entire horizon, in which bodymind is included, is thetically neutral, it is not static. The horizon is given no intended structure during the act of presencing. The meaning of the horizon is given to consciousness as it is. Bodymind is primordially given as the dynamic ground for all experience. This dynamism expresses itself in the awareness of the myriads of possible ways in which one may focus one's second- and third-order intentions At such times one is aware of bodymind as the ever changing dynamic reservoir from which an infinite number of intentional vectors may be posited.

This dynamic nature of bodymind underscores the positive and lively character of first order awareness. When one has neutralized all thetic positings this does not mean that one "does not do anything" (a negative thetic positing) or "strips away every meaningful thing" (a nihilistic attitude). Rather one could liken neutralizing all intentions with positing only one intention, namely, nothing. This approach underscores the active and dynamic feature of first-order bodymind awareness, thus further clarifying the important difference between neutral experience and negative intentions. Whereas negative intentions serve as noetic attitudes that deny the world, neutral experience may be seen as an active Positing of nothing. One is doing nothing as one intends (noesis) no specific thing [p. 24] (a privileged noema). By doing nothing the dynamism of the horizon is presenced in toto.

In this way, first-order bodymind awareness helps explain why perceptual objects given to consciousness are never completely known. This is due to the fact that (1) intended experience is perspectival and therefore limited, and (2) experience is a dynamic, ongoing process with a seemingly infinite reservoir of possibility. Similarly, it is impossible to be totally knowledgeable of bodymind as it is only directly presenced amidst the dynamic horizon in toto. Bodymind may only be presenced within first-order experience as part of the dynamic ground of subsequent thetic positings.

Finally, the fifth characteristic of bodymind awareness is that it is the condition for the spatio-temporal character of experience. Bodymind is experienced as that aspect of experience which enables us to know that it is ours. The periphery of our experience is always given to consciousness located in some "place." (8) If some noetic attitude were to arise as an intentional vector, then this vector's point of origin would be this same place — bodymind. Bodymind is the phenomenological ground for all experience, since all experience is both located and directed. Phenomenologically, an individual is nothing more than the place through which dynamic experience flows. Intentional experience is thus seen as issuing from a dynamic reservoir that serves as the spatial ground of experience. If one chooses to focus one's attention upon the door, flower, picture, or reflexively upon the self, then the intentional vector is directed from "here" to "there."(9)

Bodymind is also experienced as the temporal ground of experience as it is recognized as a dynamic function that binds our experience together in time. Within a completely neutral horizon, the primordial continuous stream of experience is presenced without interruption. At this time, the past and future have no meaning apart from the now in which they are presenced. One becomes aware that just as the mind and body have no exact one-to-one experiential correlate, the past and future have no correlate other than their meaning as abstracted from the stream of present experience. The past and future can only be experienced as present memories or anticipations, respectively. By focusing upon the primordially given time-as-experienced, one is able to describe the experiential ground of temporality itself--bodymind,

During first-order experience, past, present, and future occur simultaneously. Since the horizon is experienced in toto, there is no succession of moments. There is no t1, t2, t3 in which a series of before and after may be constructed. Moreover, there is no noematic object which is given a status unique to the rest of the horizon. Once intended, a noematic object may be seen as something which stands apart; it is something capable of undergoing relative change in space and time. Spatial change is possible, for a noematic object may be observed to move across the periphery relative to the rest of the horizon. This, in turn, is possible because one is aware of a specific moment (t1) in which the noema became the [p. 25] specific object of our attention. Once intended it may acquire a history relative to the rest of the horizon; it may do X at t1, Y at t2, and Z at t3. However, in first order experience, wherein the horizon is presenced in toto, there is no recognition of anything specific. Therefore there is no recognition of something changing relative, in space or time, to everything else. The horizon in toto is presenced as it is in a simultaneous manner. Since nothing stands apart from the horizon, there is no experience of relative space or time. Only the dynamic simultaneity of the horizon is experienced as the reservoir of possible relative spatio-temporal distinctions. When no noematic object is posited, there is nothing against which relative spatio-temporal distinctions may be determined. Space and time are therefore recognized as conditions which accompany only thetic experience.

In contrast, primordial neutral experience is characterized by bodymind awareness, which serves as the condition and ground (simultaneity) for the spatio-temporal dimension of thetic (second- and third-order) experience. Consistent with the phenomenological methodology, space and time are interpreted solely as components of our experience. Accordingly, space and time are experienced as qualities that allow for the possibility of intentional experience. As such they provide the structure by which the noemata may be distinguished from the rest of the periphery. Without such a structure all experience would be first-order and one could not move beyond the primordial awareness of the dynamic bodymind ground pervading a simultaneously given horizon in toto.

Thus far the analysis has focused upon first-order bodymind awareness because this mode of experience is given tremendous value and significance by Dogen. It is possible to utilize first-order bodymind awareness as a common thread linking various philosophical doctrines espoused by Dogen. First-order bodymind awareness can be interpreted as an implicit feature of a number of different doctrines. Once this link is exposed, the rationale behind a few of Dogen's philosophical doctrines may become more clear.


Since Dogen was one of the earliest Buddhist scholars to write in Japanese, his works constituted a contributing factor to the growth of the Soto sect during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). And, since his philosophy was guided by experience rather than theory, a form of radical empiricism began to emerge as a characteristic of later Japanese Buddhism. Dogen's contribution to the demystifying of Buddhist practice--by underscoring the experiential basis of complex doctrines--was monumental. His philosophy may be understood as a response to an apparent incongruence that Dogen had detected yet could not assimilate. The relationship between the theories of original enlightenment (hongaku) and acquired enlightenment (shikaku) achieved through cultivation seemed to be incompatible. In short, if we are originally enlightened, why do we cultivate that which is already innate? What is the meaning and purpose of cultivation? The apparent inconsistency between the doctrinal teachings found [p. 26] in the suutras and the practical disciplines of Tendai cultivation haunted Dogen until he left Mount Hiei, the center of Japanese Tendai Buddhism, in search of a resolution.

The rift between theory and practice became dissolved when Dogen suddenly achieved enlightenment when he heard his Chinese Zen Master Nyojo(k) (Chinese, Ju-ching, 1163-1268) explain, "In Zen, body and mind are cast off." Dogen had learned the importance of strict discipline and persistent zazen practice, and that proper cultivation (shugyo) included "casting off body and mind." Henceforth, casting off body and mind became the central principle of Dogen's practice and philosophy.(10) Since Dogen's Shobogenzo is based upon a description of the zazen experience, and since casting off body and mind is its goal, the casting off of body and mind may be interpreted as a key to understanding Dogen's philosophical positions.

Shinjin datsuraku

Shinjin datsuraku is a phrase traditionally translated as "cast off body and mind."(11) The importance of this phrase cannot be underestimated. It occurs throughout Shobogenzo, works by Dogen not included in Shobogenzo, and is most evident in Shobogenzo zuimonki, which was edited by Dogen's disciples shortly after his death. The importance of this phrase was punctuated by Dogen as he considered it to be the "one great matter of Zen practice for my entire life."(12) As the key to practice, it became the key to understanding Buddhist theory as well. In fact, Dogen stated explicitly that this is all you need to understand Buddhism.

From the first time you meet your master and receive his teaching, you have no need for either incense-offerings, homage-paying, nembutsu, penance disciplines, or silent sutra readings; only cast off body and mind in zazen.(13)

Dogen states that he became enlightened when he heard his master Nyojo shout at a sleeping monk, "Zazen is to cast off body and mind! Why are you sleeping? " Dogen subsequently prostrated himself before his master and said, "I have come here with body and mind cast off." Nyojo confirmed his enlightenment saying, "Now cast off body and mind!" (14)

On numerous occasions Dogen uses the metaphor of the pole to explain casting off body and mind. One such instance is as follows:

Students, cast aside your bodies and minds and enter fully into Buddhism. An old Master has said, `You've climbed to the top of a hundred-foot pole. Now keep on going'.... Resolve to cast aside both body and mind.(15)

"Casting off," interpreted phenomenologically, is parallel to the neutralization of thetic positings characteristic of first order bodymind awareness. Dogen is emphatic in his emphasis that casting off is not a denunciation (negative positing) of body and mind. One must cast aside all thetic positings, for example, "accepting good" and "rejecting evil."(16) To cling to such "preconceptions"(17) or "personal views," (18) is like clutching on to the top of the pole. One must "let go with both hands and feet,(19) thus suspending all relative thinking and worldly [p. 27] opinions. In words reminiscent of a phenomenological epoche, Dogen teaches his students not to fear the opinions of others when one has given up worldly views (the natural standpoint). The monastic life is not a denunciation or negation of the world for it allows the monk to be in a community of men seeking to experience the world as it is with tensions (body) and intentions (mind) cast off. In short, Dogen hints at neutralization, versus negation, when he says forget body and mind and all preconceived notions about Buddhism.

Dogen states that understanding the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence is contingent upon casting off body and mind. In the work entitled Shoji (Life and Death), Dogen teaches neither to hate nor desire life or death. Such thetic attitudes cloud one's ability to experience life as it is and death as it is. Moreover, one should "not attempt to measure [life and death] with your mind or employ them with words." Rather, Dogen describes the neutral (first-order) attitude, saying that one must "achieve detachment from life and death... without effort or using your mind." (20)

Similarly, Dogen states that casting off body and mind allows the zazen practitioner to verify the doctrine of original enlightenment (hongaku) . Dogen sought to describe this primordial (first order) mode of experience because of his conviction that even the theory of hongaku ought to be grounded in apodictic experiential evidence. In order to articulate the unique features of this thetically neutral experience, Dogen interlaced concrete and poetic images, pushing language to its most expressive levels. Although he uses expressive language to describe the enlightened character of all things," (21) he cautions his readers not to attach themselves to such metaphors. Such expressions are to be understood as mere symbols (not metaphysical realities) that describe the experience of becoming concretely aware of original enlightenment. Using an excerpt from the fascicle shinjingakudo (Learning [through] the body and mind) as a case in point, Dogen poetically describes the mode of experience that confirms the originally enlightened character of all things. This attitude is consistent with first-order bodymind awareness described above.

There is a ground of the soil, a ground of the mind, and a ground of the treasure as well. Even though they are of many kinds, it does not mean that they can not be without a ground. There should be a world with emptiness as its ground. There is a different human and celestial view with respect to the sun, moon, and stars. These views of various kinds are not the same. But regardless of what it is the view of the undivided mind puts it on one plane [unifies it].(22)

In the first sentence Dogen suggests that every perceptible entity seems to Possess its own defining essence. Yet, he then cautions, simply because there may be many instances when one could make this assumption, it need not be the case. Rather than assigning (positing) specific essences for each thing, there is another Perspective from which all things share a common ground--emptiness. This Perspective of the "undivided man" (first-order bodymind awareness) is thus Contrasted with "views of various kinds" (sekond- and third-order bodymind [p. 28] awareness). These latter views, casting different noetic attitudes ("human" or "celestial"), posit different noematic meanings upon, for example, "the sun, moon, and stars." The view of the undivided mind, on the other hand, puts all the various views on a plane and thus unifies them. Phenomenologically speaking, experiencing from the view of the undivided mind entails a neutralization of all intentional perspectives, thus laying bare the bodymind ground within the horizon in toto. The horizon can be perceived with no specific noemata possessing a privileged position. A nonprivileged horizon constitutes experiential verification of the notion of emptiness. Since the undivided mind depicts the sense of shared essence (ground), it also verifies the original enlightenment which all beings equally share. By relying upon the cultivation of the undivided mind (first-order bodymind awareness) , Dogen was able to come to terms with the question which originally inspired his religious quest. The theory of enlightenment is true and insistence upon practice is also true. Cultivation and authentication are one and the same (shusho ichinyo). The cultivation of zazen awareness (first-order bodymind awareness) is synonymous with the act of authenticating or empirically verifying the doctrine of hongaku, precisely because one's thetic intentions are neutralized.

Just as the neutralization of all thetic positings (first-order bodymind awareness) clarifies Dogen's description of the undivided mind, hongaku, and shusho ichinyo, the dynamic character of presencing the horizon in tote (first-order bodymind awareness) clarifies Dogen's description of sokushin zebutsu and the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence. Sokushin zebutsu ([This very] mind is Buddha) is the title of a fascicle in Shobogenzo and an important concept used throughout Dogen's philosophical scheme. Sokushin zebutsu emphasizes the fact that enlightenment is attained in this lifetime. Dogen emphasizes mind (shin) to punctuate the dynamism of neutral (mind-aspect) bodymind awareness. For Dogen the dynamism of cultivation, that is, the act of casting off body and mind, enables the practitioner to participate in, and directly experience, impermanence. Sakushin zebutsu is utilized to demonstrate the futility of searching for a source of permanence within oneself. Dogen makes it clear that the act of neutralization (casting off) eliminates any conception of static, permanent "mind" or fixed "Buddha." In this way, Dogen lays the groundwork for his thesis that sokushin zebutsu ([this very] mind is Buddha) refers to the act of experiencing in an authentic manner. The act of cultivation authenticates the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence. There is nothing substantial to seek in oneself, in Buddhahood, or within the periphery of first-order bodymind awareness. It is during this mode of awareness, when all thetic positings are neutralized, that the dynamic ground of subsequent noetic glances is presenced. The dynamism of "this very mind" ('this very' referring to the most simple, most primordial condition of awareness), which is said to be equivalent to a Buddha's experience, most clearly approximates the structure of first-order bodymind awareness. [p. 29]

In his summary of Sokushin zebutsu, Dogen places his emphasis upon the need to achieve the mode of experience in which "this very mind is Buddha" is not separated from cultivation and authentication. He says, "to not yet have aroused the mind, cultivated it, authenticated it, and achieved enlightenment is not `this very mind is Buddha'." "If," he continues, "for even one instant one were to cultivate and authenticate the aroused mind, it would be `this very mind is Buddha'."(23)


In the fascicle Shinjingakudo (Learning [through] the bodymind), Dogen concentrates upon describing the inseparability of bodymind. Although he discusses the body-aspect and the mind-aspect individually, he prefaces his explanations by stating that each aspect represents a focus of concentration for the purposes of learning. Dogen begins his analysis by discussing "learning through the mind"-hotsubodaishin (hotsu, `departure, radiate, start from', + bodaishin, 'devout disposition, aspiration for Buddhahood'; hence this term is interpreted as "learning through the mind." This translation captures the notion that hotsubodaishin is the key term signifying the mind-aspect of shinjingakudo [learning (through) the bodymind]). Dogen describes this "learning through the mind" as follows:

These [sun, moon, and stars] are already mind. Are they inside or outside of it [mind], coming or going? Coming and going is simply one or two thoughts of mind. And one thought or two thoughts are one mountain, river, and the great earth or two mountains, rivers, and the great earth. Since things like mountains, rivers, and the great earth are neither existent nor nonexistent, they are neither big nor small.... You should decisively accept in faith that learning through the mind means regular practice of personally studying this kind of mind.(24)

There are a number of characteristics of learning through the mind-aspect ascertainable from the passage just given. Dogen instructs that it is wrong to assume that things ("sun, moon, and stars") exist either "inside" (idealism) or "outside" (materialism) this "mind" (first-order bodymind awareness). To make such ontic judgments are merely thetic acts which are reducible to "one thought" or "two thoughts." Dogen acknowledges that for each noetic act (one thoughtght, there is a corresponding noematic meaning (one mountain). This correspondence is, however, only applicable during second- or third-order experience when noemata are intended as either existing or not existing. During a mode of first-order presencing when noemata are intended as neither existing nor nonexisting, Dogen concludes that even mountains, from this perspective, are not "big or small." This may be phenomenologically interpreted as presencing the mountain, river, and great earth from a first-order perspective. Only during firstorder bodymind awareness is the horizon presenced in toto, wherein all possible noemata share a nonprivileged position. No relative distinctions (big or small) can be accessed. There is no fixed (privileged) standard by which such judgments [p. 30] could be ascertained. One can interpret "learning through the mind" as a reflection of the condition of the mind-aspect during first-order bodymind awareness. The mind-aspect (intentions) is thetically neutral, allowing for the occurrence of a mode of experience structurally consistent with Dogen's description just given.

Similarly, Dogen utilizes another term which describes the condition of the body-aspect (tensions) during first-order bodymind awareness. He says that "learning through the mind" must be united with "learning through the body"-- shinjitsunintai (shin, `truth, " + jitsu, `reality', + jintai, `human body — literally, `the real human body'. This translation is intended to reflect Dogen's use of the term as representative of the body-aspect of shinjingakudo [learning (through) the bodymind]). Learning through the body is said to be the goal of Buddhist practice. To embody, internalize, or sediment this paradigmatic mode of perpetual casting off is to presence things-as-they-are (genjokoan) throughout daily life. The ongoing activity of neutralization is most important to Dogen. Whereas hotsubodaishin refers to the dynamic activity of the mind-aspect, shinjit-sunintai is concerned with the dynamic activity of the body-aspect.

The last fascicle to be examined is called Kaiinsammai.(25) It is particularly relevant to a phenomenological study since Dogen enumerates explicitly the relationship between body and mind as-experienced during cultivation.


Kaiinsammai (umi, `sea, ocean', + in, 'seal, imprint', + sammai, Sanskrit samaadhi, 'self-effacement, concentration, meditation', hence `Ocean Imprint Meditation') is a term which traditionally names the `Sakyamuni, Buddha's highest form of experiential insight. The title itself depicts a mode of awareness where in the dharma is imprinted (experientially sedimented or internalized) as clearly as if it were an image cast by a quiet sea. Dogen metaphorically describes this experiential condition as one which "breaks through the chain [of delusions]" (thetic positings). He says this process of "clearing away... is like all rivers confluently flowing [back] into the great ocean,"(26) that is, all things-as- experienced give up their privileged noematic status, thus appearing to "flow back" reflexively to a mutual nonprivileged status amidst the horizon in toto.

Dogen focuses on the relationship between "clearing away" and the body and mind. "Clearing away and breaking through" can be interpreted as the neutralization of thetic positings (casting off body and mind). He says,

In the honorable words of Shakyamuni, "This body is composed merely by means of all dharmas. At the time of generation there is only the arising of dharmas, and at the time of extinction, there is only the disappearing of dharmas. At the time when dharmas arise, one does not say that an `I' is generated. And when dharmas disappear, one does not say that an `I' perishes' Earlier thoughts and later thoughts do not depend on each other, nor do they oppose each other. This is what I call the ocean imprint meditation.(27)

[ p. 31] If the body and mind are posited as separate entities, they are "generated" as abstractions (body-aspect, mind-aspect). Once this separation is "generated" (affirmative thetic positing) or "extinguished" (negative thetic positing), even in the form of a hidden presupposition, the groundwork is set for the arising of "later thoughts" (thetic positings), creating a more explicit gap between noesis and noema, "they oppose each other." If the body and mind are cast off, the groundwork for additional thetic positings are simultaneously cast off. Dogen's emphasis upon shinjin datsuraku is stimulated by his contention that positing a distinction between body and mind is the initial, sometimes hidden, presupposition which precedes more obvious forms of intentionality when noematic foci appear as receptors of noetic vectors.

Dogen metaphorically describes this phenomenon by saying, "suddenly a fire starts."(28) Things "suddenly" (thetically) appear as distinct from one another and arise from a ground that is itself distinctionless. If no "dharmas" (noemata) thetically "arise" with a privileged position with respect to the rest of the horizon in toto, then the relative distinction between the "earlier" and "later thoughts" would be eliminated. In this regard, the eidetic structure of the ocean imprint meditation shares a basic feature of first-order bodymind awareness — simultaneity. Given a nonprivileged horizon, no temporal distinctions regarding "earlier" or "later thoughts" could arise (there is no privileged standard to serve as a criteria for such temporal judgments). In Dogen's words,

The very temporal fruition of the ocean imprint meditation is a temporal fruition [brought forth] "solely by means of all dharmas, " and is an expression "solely by means of all dharmas." This body is nothing but an aspect of one unity which is composed of dharmas. Do not regard this body merely as an aspect of the composed but rather regard it as being composed [of all dharmas].(29)

The body, therefore, as "an aspect of one unity" (bodymind), is presenced within the horizon in toto. That is, it appears as sharing the nonprivileged horizon wherein "all dharmas" are presenced equally.

Casting off body and mind undercuts the foundation for thetic intentions. The presence of a thetically separated body and mind covers the bodymind ground allowing for the possibility of more obvious forms of separation amidst the horizon in toto, namely, noetic/noematic distinctions. It must be remembered, however, that Dogen is not speaking of any metaphysical separation of body and mind. He merely describes a thetic separation that appears as an initial doxic modality that prepares one for a transition from first-order awareness, where the bodymind ground is directly experienced within the horizon, to second-order awareness where the bodymind ground is hidden by thetic intervention. The ocean imprint experience, like first-order bodymind awareness, names the mode of experience which verifies implicitly the presence of bodymind inseparability at the base of all experience. Dogen describes this primordial mode of awareness as follows:

[p. 32] Between the temporal fruition of not saying the generation which I am, and the temporal fruition of not saying the disappearance which I am, there is a simultaneous birth of not saying. But it is not the not saying of a simultaneous death. (The disappearing) is altogether a disappearing of the earlier and later dharmas. It is the dharmas of earlier thoughts and the dharmas of later thoughts. These are the performing dharmas in the earlier and later dharmas as well as in the earlier and later thoughts. The non-interdependence is the performance of dharmas and the nonopposition is the dharmas of performance. Having the performance of dharmas be noninterdependent and having the dharmas of performance be nonopposing are expressing authentication in a near perfect manner.(30)

This quotation discusses a mode of awareness which parallels the phenomenological structure of first-order bodymind awareness and the temporal structure of the ocean imprint experience. When all thetic positings have "disappeared all together" the experiencer is left presencing the simultaneity of the horizon in toto. Dogen suggests that this mode of awareness arises when all "thoughts" (noesis) and all "dharmas" (noema) "disappear" (are neutralized). When this occurs, the dharmas are presenced as "noninterdependent'' and "nonopposing." In other words, all dharmas are experienced as sharing equally a nonprivileged horizon. In conclusion, Dogen offers a rare explicit statement equating the forementioned characteristics with those of "near perfect authentication."


The seat of Soto(ah) spiritual life is thus associated with a mode of experience that empirically authenticates the meaning of the theoretical doctrines through the sedimentation of first-order awareness in daily life. By neutralizing intensions and tensions one becomes one's own vehicle through which the enlightened mode of awareness is eventually internalized. Dogen accentuates the central role of bodymind awareness in religious life when he says,

You should consider carefully that the Buddha-dharma has always maintained the thesis of the non-dual oneness of body and mind. Nevertheless, how can it be possible that while this body is born and dissolves, mind alone departs from body and escapes from arising and perishing? If there is a time when they are not, the Buddhist teaching must be false indeed.... you should see the truth that as all the Buddhas of the past, present and future are awakened and practice the Way, they do not leave out of our bodies and minds. To doubt this is already to slander them. As we reflect quietly upon this matter, it seems quite reasonable that our bodies and minds enact the Way....(31)

The awareness of bodymind is thus tantamount to the internalization of an enlightened mode of experience. Cultivating first-order bodymind awareness allows the practitioner to authenticate the experiential correlates of the philosophical doctrines. By presencing the phenomenal world as it is given primordially to consciousness, the practitioner can react to the situation rather than situating his reactions by imposing his own presuppositions upon the environment.

Finally, this article's thesis may be underscored — the act of presencing things-as-they-are (genjokoah) is cultivated by sedimenting a mode of experience that is [p. 33] structurally not unlike first-order bodymind awareness. Since the greatest value and significance is given to this mode of awareness, it becomes the object of philosophical investigation and the goal of religious life. The above phenomenological analysis has worked as a vehicle to clarify the structure of first-order bodymind awareness. This, in turn, has facilitated a clarification of the relation between the philosophical doctrines and the eidetic structure of the religious experience to which they refer. This analysis does not purport to secularize the enlightenment experience. The method has simply defined the phenomenological categories of the mode of experience associated with enlightenment.

The phenomenological categories utilized in this analysis clearly reflect Husserl's ontological presuppositions and Weltanschauung. This orientation is not, as Husserl maintains, an entirely presuppositionless "rigorous science." Husserl's project reflects his own facticity, historicity, and philosophical assumptions. The crucial point here is that Husserl's existentialist/ phenomenological position (zu den Sachen selbst) is one strikingly similar to Dogen's reflective orientation. Differences in facticity account for vast differences between Husserl and Dogen. Nevertheless, it is their quest for "presuppositionlessness'' that constitutes an important shared presupposition. By acknowledging explicitly their shared assumptions (above), the phenomenological method may be employed as a pedagogic tool for further comparative studies. Early studies of this type run the risk of exaggerated oversimplification. However, if eidetic categories can indeed be laid bare, then common denominators may penetrate the differences in facticity that understandably hinder studies in comparative philosophy.


1. The compatibility of the phenomenological method and Japanese philosophy has been underscored in the following manner: .. Japanese philosophical thinking may be found in its ontological apprehension of man's existence and the world... Japanese philosophy, in fact, never accepted the ultimate reality or its principle as "existing" apart from and independent of the concrete, lived world of experience, although they are separable in our theoretical thinking. (Yoshiniro Nitta and Hirotaka Tatematsu, eds., Analecta Husserlina: The Yearbook of Phenomenological Research, vol. 8, Japanese Phenomenology (Dordrecht, Holland; Boston, Massachusetts; London: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1979), pp. 5-6).

2. Yoshito S. Hakeda, Kuukai: Major Works (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), p. 220.

3. A similar conclusion could be reached by following Naagaarjuna's reductio ad absurdum urguments (Muulamadhyamakaarikaas) applied to the concepts mind and body. Then terms body and mind can be seen as empty (`suunya), since they are relational and have no independent verifiable referents. Similarly, Nietzsche would argue that such terms as body and mind are mere interpretations that have, through history, erroneously acquired an assumed independent ontological status.

4. An account of this thetically neutral mode of experience is acknowledged by Edmund Husserl in his Ideas I, chapter 10, section 109, titled "Neutrality-Modification."

5. These abstract classifications are not intended to imply an implicit value judgment. The use of the terms "first, " "second," and "third" merely denote the chronological order by which our experience unfolds from the most simple to subsequent complex thoughts. The terms "primary," [p. 34]"secondary, "tertiary" might have been employed if it were not for their cumbersomeness. The concentration on first-order bodymind awareness merely reflects the value and significance given to this primary mode of awareness cultivated in the practice of zazen according to Dogen.

6. "Urglaube" or Protodoxa" designate the ground of all belief modifications. These terms represent, for Husserl, "primary" belief insofar as they are the ground, or "intentional back-reference," for all doxic modalities. The realm of primary belief is experienced apodictically. (See Ideas I, chapter 10, section <titled "Doxic Modalities as Modifications"; compare sections 102-105.)

7. For the purposes of clarification, some readers may wish to think of a similar relationship between sammati, sa.mv.rti and praj~naa. For Naagaarjuna "concepts" (sammati) (second- or third-order intentions) may "cover" (sa.mv.rti) the noumenal realm of paramaartha, hence the Praj~naapaaramitaa literature emphasis upon direct intuition (praj~naa) (first-order neutral awareness). See David J. Kalupahana's Buddhist Philosophy: A Historial Analysis (Honolulu, Hawaii: The University Press of Hawaii, 1976), pp. 129-139.

8. "Place" (Greek, topos; Japanese, basho) refers to a region; it designates an area of space. Nishida Kitaro uses this term in his Intelligibility and the Philosophy of Nothingness, trans. Robert Schinzinger (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1976). For Nishida "something is logically defined, when its `place' is shown. Nishida's logic is a `logic of place,' in contrast to the conventional logic of subsumption, where a thing or a term is defined 'per genus proximum et differentiam specificam' "(p. 249).

9. Such an interpretation is consistent with the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, who believed that the Self was fundamentally unknowable when analyzed, and therefore significantly changed, by intentional experience. The second reduction that has been employed in this article has, however, enabled us to move beyond the noesis/noema distinction to first-order neutral experience. In this first-order mode of experience the Self may be presenced as the dynamic bodymind ground of all subsequent thetic experience. This reduction prohibits one from ascribing any ontological status to this bodymind ground as it is presenced within the horizon in toto.

10. For this insight I am indebted to Hajime Nakamura (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University) , who brought this to my attention in a conversation on November 5, 1979, at the Toho Kenkyukai, Tokyo,Japan.

11. In keeping with the terminology utilized throughout, it would be more accurate but also more cumbersome to translate shinjin datsuraku as "cast off the mind-aspect and body-aspect." In other words, cast off all abstractions in order to become aware of the bodymind ground at the base of all experience.

12. Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, trans., "Dogen's Bendowa," The Eastern Buddhist N54, no. 1(1971): 130.

13. Ibid., p. 133.

14. Matsunaga, Foundation, vol. 2, p. 239. In this work it is suggested that shinjin datsuraku is peculiarly Japanese and would be a most unlikely phrase for Nyojo to utter. It is interesting to note that some scholars hypothesize that Nyojo most likely used "dust" (Japanese, jin(aj) ; Chinese, ch'en(ak)) rather than "body" (Japanese, shin(al); Chinese, shen(am)).In other words, Nyojo may have said, "cast off the dust of mind," which has been a typical zen idiom since the days of Hui-neng(an) . Dogen's possible deliberate misconception, typical of his manner of interpretation, only serves to underscore the importance of bodymind with respect to the enlightenment experience.

15. Masunaga, Reiho, trans., A Primer of Soto Zen: A Translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo Zuimonki (Honolulu, Hawaii:

[ rest of the notes missing]