LIVING by VOW: Sandokai - pp 235-241

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39459

    LIVING by VOW: Sandokai - pp 235-241

    Hi,

    This week is pp 235 to 241 (ending at "Right in light").

    I have to confess my impression that either Okumura Roshi is not explaining himself so well in these pages, or he is unclear or fudging a little for some reason. Perhaps it is simply my lack of understanding. However, if I understand him, he is making a point close to the following:

    When Indian Buddhism came from India to China, there was an influence of some Daoist beliefs which can be seen in writings such as the Sandokai. However, the Daoists had a tendency to reify (turn into a concrete entity or thing) their notion of "the Source." That is a bit different from the Indian Buddhist concept of "Emptiness" as simply a description of the nature of things as being "empty" of independent existence. It is also rather different from the general Mahayana Buddhist notion of the "Absolute" or "Emptiness" as so very fluid that this is more a process or dance than a solid being or thing. We sometimes say "even emptiness is empty" to avoid it being turned into an entity called "Emptiness." Nonetheless, this was always a bit ambiguous in Mahayana Buddhism, and often the "Absolute" or "Buddha Nature" and the like are spoken about almost as if they are some thing which is the source of all the division of the world.

    We also see that the state of separate things and the absolute/empty state are two overlapping faces.

    I hope I am not muddling up the discussion more!

    By the way, the lines about tree and leaves in the Sandokai this week were the inspiration for the Treeleaf name.

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-13-2018, 12:26 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Meitou
    Member
    • Feb 2017
    • 1656

    #2
    Originally posted by Jundo
    Hi,


    I hope I am not muddling up the discussion more!

    By the way, the lines about tree and leaves in the Sandokai this week were the inspiration for the Treeleaf name.

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    At this point perhaps we could say 'No muddling, no lotus' !

    Actually, I was fine with just the two truths, and after about 6 years I've just about grasped the Absolute and Relative, if I look at them sideways and squinty. I really wasn't expecting a third truth to be added into the mix and I admit, it's thrown me. I think, if I squint a bit more, I can just about see, maybe, what Zhiyi is getting at here but I don't really get what 'middle' refers to..I don't understand what Okumura Roshi is interpreting as middle in this passage ..
    ..Zhiyi creates three truths.The first is the conventional truth of all beings as provisional names, the second is the truth of sunyata (emptiness) and the third is the truth of the middle.
    Does Roshi mean a middle way, the middle way we often refer to, or something else? At this point I was very strongly reminded of a Tibetan Buddhist text - The Mahamudra Aspiration - in which these lines appear ...

    It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
    It is not nonexistent--it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana.
    This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity.
    May the ultimate nature of phenomena, limitless mind beyond extremes, be realised.

    If one says, "This is it," there is nothing to show.
    If one says, "This is not it," there is nothing to deny.
    The true nature of phenomena,
    which transcends conceptual understanding, is unconditioned.
    May conviction be gained in the ultimate, perfect truth.

    I could just be adding more mud to the already muddled waters though.

    As an interesting aside in this chapter, I thought the whole discussion about different Buddhisms was worthy of a wider debate. Okumura talks about how Japanese Buddhism could be seen as Buddhism influenced by Japanese culture, but equally as Japanese culture influenced by Buddhism, same rule being applied to Chinese Buddhism and American Buddhism etc. He goes on to say that to judge whether a school of Buddhism is the most authentic based on the national and cultural background of its practitioners doesn't make sense. 'We need to find our own expression of the dharma, of reality. This is a simple, but at the same time complex, reality' This brought to mind a couple of questions - firstly, how far can we go in allowing our own cultures to reinterpret schools of Buddhism, and (something I often think about) when Western Zen always seems to be equated with American Zen, where does that leave those of us in Europe? Australia? Are we practising a type of Japanese Buddhism via a type of American Buddhism? This could be a fun conversation. I personally feel that we do need to find a culturally appropriate language and framework for Buddhism to stay alive and flourish, but the challenge is finding that balance of interpretation without losing the essence of the dharma, not throwing the baby out with the bath water. That's why I'm always nervous around people who say they don't need teachers, don't need to study etc etc, because I think in order to successfully integrate Buddhism into our own cultures we need exceptionally skilled teachers. Like Jundo Roshi, like my previous teacher in the Tibetan tradition, Shenpen Hookham.

    But in the end, I like how Okumura always seems to come back to basics. I loved his reminder about zazen.
    So when we sit zazen we should forget about zazen is, because we are already doing it. When we think about zazen, we are not doing it; we are thinking. When we sit we should forget what we are doing. We should forget what zazen is and just sit. That is the meaning of 'just sit' or shikantaza.
    I've muddled on enough,
    Gassho
    Meitou
    satwithyoualltoday/lah

    PS link to the Mahamudra Aspiration, if anyone is interested. http://www.rinpoche.com/vow.html
    Last edited by Meitou; 05-13-2018, 06:08 PM. Reason: grammar!
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

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    • Onkai
      Treeleaf Unsui
      • Aug 2015
      • 2893

      #3
      Thank you, Jundo and Meitou. I read this chapter just after reading a chapter of Dainin Katigiri's The Light that Shines Through Infinity and I was struck by parallels. I hope this isn't going off topic.

      Okumura says on p 238
      ...Forms are not derived from emptiness. Unity does not give birth to difference. Five fingers are not born from one hand. Rather, one hand and five fingers are exactly the same thing.
      Katagiri says on p 70
      One flower means one Buddha. The whole world is one single Buddha. That is real Buddha, the pure energy at the depth of existence. When that energy functions, the human world blooms. Then, within this one Buddha, particular beings appear as five petals or billions of petals. Each thing that exists in the human world, and every situation in everyday life, is a petal. But those petals are not different from the flower; they are exactly the one flower - Buddha! Buddha is omnipresent because everything is the manifestation of real Buddha.
      I find the theme of oneness in diversity to be quite beautiful.

      Gassho,
      Onkai
      Sat/LAH
      美道 Bidou Beautiful Way
      恩海 Onkai Merciful/Kind Ocean

      I have a lot to learn; take anything I say that sounds like teaching with a grain of salt.

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39459

        #4
        Originally posted by Meitou
        At this point perhaps we could say 'No muddling, no lotus' !

        Actually, I was fine with just the two truths, and after about 6 years I've just about grasped the Absolute and Relative, if I look at them sideways and squinty. I really wasn't expecting a third truth to be added into the mix and I admit, it's thrown me. I think, if I squint a bit more, I can just about see, maybe, what Zhiyi is getting at here but I don't really get what 'middle' refers to..I don't understand what Okumura Roshi is interpreting as middle in this passage ..
        Hi Meitou,

        Perhaps it is not such a complicated point. There are a couple of ways to approach this. We often speak of "form" and "emptiness," but when the two radically blend, what then? That is the third truth. Another way to approach third truth is to experience what is when we forget labels like "form" and labels like "emptiness" altogether.

        As a Zen fellow, I would just advise not to get caught up in this philosophy too much. Just Sit, in which emptiness is form, form is precisely emptiness. Keep it simple.

        Gassho, J

        PS - Onkai, lovely quote from Katagiri Roshi.
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • Meitou
          Member
          • Feb 2017
          • 1656

          #5
          Originally posted by Jundo
          Hi Meitou,

          Perhaps it is not such a complicated point. There are a couple of ways to approach this. We often speak of "form" and "emptiness," but when the two radically blend, what then? That is the third truth. Another way to approach third truth is to experience what is when we forget labels like "form" and labels like "emptiness" altogether.

          As a Zen fellow, I would just advise not to get caught up in this philosophy too much. Just Sit, in which emptiness is form, form is precisely emptiness. Keep it simple.

          Gassho, J

          PS - Onkai, lovely quote from Katagiri Roshi.
          Thank you so much Jundo, I think the approach by dropping labels really makes sense, in a sort of intuitive, non conceptual way and I'm sure it will filter through to my brain eventually by some kind of osmosis without 'me' being too much involved in the process. Sometimes I like philosophy, sometimes not. Best of all I like to 'do', so yes, Just Sitting. Oh and today sewing new Oryoki cloths

          Gassho
          Meitou
          satwithyoualltoday/lah/ sewed!
          命 Mei - life
          島 Tou - island

          Comment

          • Tairin
            Member
            • Feb 2016
            • 2742

            #6
            I have to confess my impression that either Okumura Roshi is not explaining himself so well in these pages, or he is unclear or fudging a little for some reason. Perhaps it is simply my lack of understanding.
            Before we move on I just wanted to respond to this comment from Jundo...

            I actually found it comforting to read that perhaps Okumura is fudging or that maybe Jundo doesn’t understand. I don’t have an extensive understanding of Indian, Chinese, or Japanese history or language. A lot of what I read I have to take on faith that the writer knows what they are talking about in their commentary. Sometimes the words resonate with me and add the my growing perspective. Sometimes I am just lost. I’ve learned not to dwell on either too much. I internalize it and move on. Almost always I find a little nugget, a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase that provides insight.

            I’ve said this several times before... I’ve got far more out of this book than I expected. I will definitely put it on the queue of books to reread in a few years, perhaps it will reveal even more insights with time.


            Tairin
            Sat today & LAH
            泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

            Comment

            • AlanLa
              Member
              • Mar 2008
              • 1405

              #7
              I actually skimmed through the part about two or three truths because I felt it didn't matter, that it needlessly muddled up the unity/diversity theme. Sometimes Okumura overly explains, but up until now that has been more welcome than distracting.

              I fell way behind and am taking the day to catch up. I won't comment on the previous sections individually, but as a whole it strikes me as just how radical all this sounds in today's increasingly egoistic individualistic US society. Speaking personally, everywhere I look these days I see more and more me-ness in the world, more and more separation, more twigs than roots, more distinguishing light and less merging dark, and it's sad. Where I work is rotting from the roots to the leaves. Everyone is unhappy, many are searching for a way out, a new job to get away from all the suffering. The problem is too much change, too much stress and pressure, and too little or poor communication. The vast majority of it doesn't really bother me because, although it is a reality that affects what I do, I am also able to see it as emptiness. Though I try to stay out of the turbulence as best I can, people and circumstances inevitably draw me in, so I occasionally grumble but then let go and move on to focus on the more immediate task on hand, which is the whole reason we are there in the first place, which is to teach students, which is my small way of partly saving the many beings. My sadness over all this is not my own; it comes from my fellow beings', my colleagues' sadness. This is my practice. It is all I can do. It seems very small, though certainly not meaningless, for according to Buddhist principles I am changing the whole world. Far from all delusion, nirvana is already here. This is some comfort, so I stay amidst the growing chaos.

              Anyway, I digressed from my point about the radical nature of these teachings. We live in an increasingly individualistic and tribalistic society where the "self" is under constant threat from so many different sources that to spread a message of unity is seen as just another threat. While it is very well established that the human mind can contain contradictory or divergent thoughts about something at the same time, it seems people are much less inclined to want to do that these days because anything different seems threatening to the self. As society polarizes, the middle is collapsing, which is sadly ironic because the only solution I see to this mess is the middle way.

              I have great respect for teachers like Jundo and Okumura, but I can't spread their message of peace and unity that way here. I teach zen to my students all the time, but I can't call it that here in this religiously conservative area or I might get branded as as evil or satanic (only a mild exaggeration), so I teach the basic principle of compassion for unity of the whole and the parts of this garbage pile called life. My compassion for them informs me that I can't call it zen and only rarely can I even call it compassion, but the message is the same. There is no label to the buddhism I teach my students and try to model for my colleagues, I just do what I can to put my practice into action.

              Now I am going to do some samu housework and zazen in some mixed up order. Thank you for reading my venting. I have missed being in this forum.

              PS: Zazen got pushed to before bedtime, but I did it.
              Last edited by AlanLa; 05-22-2018, 03:46 AM.
              AL (Jigen) in:
              Faith/Trust
              Courage/Love
              Awareness/Action!

              I sat today

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