Genjokoan

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  • guehla
    Member
    • Dec 2014
    • 9

    Genjokoan

    Hi and Happy New Year!

    I was looking at a few of the term "Genjokoan's" myriad translations, things like "Manifesting suchness" and "Actualizing the Fundamental Point." It's likely one of those words that's best left as it is. It occurred to me though, I wonder if a succinct equivalent could be covered by Thich Nhat Hanh's "interbeing." Is there any reason this wouldn't work? Very interested to hear your opinions! Thanks!

    Chris
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39211

    #2
    Hi Chris,

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm .... as a translation of the words "Genjo Koan", I would say no. As conveying some aspect of what is penetrated when realizing and realized by "Genjo Koan", perhaps.

    Actually, I am not such a fan of TNH's presentation of "interbeing" because it tends to be very material and solid in his example, like saying "the telephone is the wires and the keys and the numbers" or "life is cells and organs and nutrients consumed". For those who do not know it ...

    “If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-“ with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.

    If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. Without sunshine, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see wheat. We know the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. The logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

    Looking even more deeply, we can see ourselves in this sheet of paper too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, it is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. We cannot point out one thing that is not here – time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. We cannot just be by ourselves alone. We have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

    Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper” elements. And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without non-paper elements, like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.”
    However, even such images do not capture how intimate is our wholeness and inter-penetration with the grass and stars and trees and, most especially, every creature ... not only now, but that has ever or will ever live throughout time. What we deem the "beautiful and pleasant" and "ugly and unpleasant" too.

    I would say that Thich Nhat Hanh, like most Mahayana Buddhists, does not just speak of "interdependence" and "inter-relationships" (though there are those too) ... but also "Inter-being" (Thich Nhat Hanh's coined phrase) in the most whole, intimate and single sense ... whereby you are Tom and you are me and you are Thich Nhat Hanh and you are paper and you are sun and you are the rain and you are the logger and you are birth and you are death and you are the universe and you are the horse and you are the blinders too ...

    ... and you are also not you or Mike or me or "Thich Nhat Hanh" or birth or death or the universe or the horse or blind and all the rest ...

    ... and and thus are the Blade of Grass, and the Dust, and the Temple ...

    But there is something richer ... like love being more than hormones and biological function, and the beauty and life of a flower being more than sunshine and rain and petals and soil ... that goes beyond TNH's above example. Small objection, and I think he did not really mean to limit it to the tangible stuff and sheer mechanics.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-09-2015, 05:32 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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    • guehla
      Member
      • Dec 2014
      • 9

      #3
      Jundo,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. Genjokoan is deffinately slippery conceptually. For me anyway! Among other definitions, Yasutani's goes: "So then, genjōkōan means that the subjective realm and the objective realm, the self and all things in the universe, are nothing but the true Buddha-dharma itself." Waddell and Abe rendered it as "Manifesting Suchness." With that and your comments on TNH in mind, I wonder if we could say that Genjokoan is "Realizing Reality" and Interbeing would be an attribute of that realized reality. Is that closer to your understanding of the situation?

      Gassho,

      Chris

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39211

        #4
        Hi Chris,

        Well, best to sit and pierce the meaning. However, I do appreciate "Realizing Reality", and the great flowing whole that is us too.

        Gassho, Jundo
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • Nameless
          Member
          • Apr 2013
          • 461

          #5
          TNH's descriptions do seem to float along the surface a bit. Ponder if it was skillful means? Not revealing so much that it broke our brains right off the bat? Haha.

          Gassho, John
          Sat Today

          Comment

          • Jishin
            Member
            • Oct 2012
            • 4819

            #6
            Hi,

            I heard somewhere that lots of what Dogen wrote was just trying to put Shikantaza into words.

            Gassho, Jishin, _/st\_

            Comment

            • guehla
              Member
              • Dec 2014
              • 9

              #7
              Good Morning and Happy Sunday,

              Perhaps inerestingly, in the context of the book, the author's point is that in experiencing actual shikantaza, for the first time all the imponderable phrases such as genjokoan come clear(er). (Haha)

              And I defiinitely agree, nameless. TNH is often writing for a more general audience, or at least a pan-Buddhist one. Certain works though, such as his commentary on the Satthipatana Suta, get into the nitty-gritty.

              Thank you so much everyone for the feedback.

              Gassho,

              Chris

              Comment

              • Sekishi
                Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                • Apr 2013
                • 5670

                #8
                Sorry for coming along late to this party, but a response has been floating around in this head for a few days, trying to find the right words. And as it is, it may be more of a response to Jundo's comments than guehla's original question.

                Originally posted by Jundo
                Actually, I am not such a fan of TNH's presentation of "interbeing" because it tends to be very material and solid in his example, like saying "the telephone is the wires and the keys and the numbers" or "life is cells and organs and nutrients consumed". For those who do not know it:
                "If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper" ... (snip)
                Slight variations of the quoted passage from Thay appear in a few of his books (my favorite being the introduction to his commentary on the Heart Sutra, but also Peace is Every Step and a few others as I recall). As John alludes to, I think this passage is a skillful means - Thay's attempt to point readers to fully explore pratityasamutpada ("dependant co-origination" / "interdependant arising" -- aka "interbeing"). The language he uses is simple and direct, and importantly is entirely materialistic (in the philosophical sense). There is nothing in that passage that will be off-putting to a reader fully steeped in a "western" scientific materialist worldview. E.g. no "woo woo". But to fully immerse oneself in that passage, is to discover that there is no stable ground to stand on - at least in my experience.

                When I first came to Buddhist practice, I had an old copy of Philip Kapleau's "Three Pillers of Zen". It had some helpful text and a few diagrams to help a first time practitioner sit. And I sat. No Sangha, no teacher, no Dharma. I had no idea what I was doing really (still don't, not really), I was just following my breath, and sitting for a half hour or so every day. What I did know was that a lifetime of chasing philosophy, science, and words was not helping me understand the essential matter of suffering and life and death. A few months into my "practice", some friends brought over a box of books to lighten their load in preparation for moving. In the box was one of Thay's books (Peace is Every Step I think) with the above passage in it. And the passage struck me like few things I've experienced.

                As I followed the logic of that passage, I found myself looking for the "original cause" - some solid ground where the chain of action and causation ceased. Look back through time, and every generation of people to walk the earth is there "in the page", along with the cloud, and the air, and the earth itself. And within each of them are the stars that came before, exploding their guts of heavy elements out into space. Chasing causality the other way (into "the future"), and the result is the same. Every action rings out without end. Every morsel of food, my own body, each other, all of it is "endless twised karma".

                The passage just rang and rang. When I went for a walk in the morning it / everything was there. When I prepared food, it / everything was there. There was no "original cause", no ground to stand on. Everything is provisional, everything is dependant on something else "all through beginningless time" and space. Each grain of rice, existing as rice, but also as a jewel in Indra's Net, reflecting the mountain, the star, and you and me. What can "me" even be?

                Anyhow, long story short, to see fully (even for a moment) into "interbeing" is to realize that there is no solid ground, that all things are connected, different forms, never separated for an instant. It is a radical view - no form but emptiness, no emptiness but form.

                My experience has been that to fully explore dependant co-origination, even with materialist concepts is to ultimately let go of all material views and to get a glimpse of something beyond being and non-being, "intimate with all things" (as Dogen put it). It certainly placed my feet firmly on this path.

                Well, as firmly as anything can be when there is no solid ground.

                I don't understand anything anymore. Anger arises. Fear arises. Joy arises. I love "my" family. I love "my" pets. I love "my" friends. I love the world. Suffering comes to beings everywhere. I sit. But I don't understand anything.

                Deep bows,
                Sekishi

                #sattoday and all things sat together
                Sekishi | 石志 | He/him | Better with a grain of salt, but best ignored entirely.

                Comment

                • Kyonin
                  Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                  • Oct 2010
                  • 6739

                  #9
                  Hi all,

                  I recently have been observing how things are interconnected and how this universe is so majestic and unique that I see it as a Cosmic Beach. Here we all are grains of sand. No grain of sand is more important than the other, but if a single grain of sand is lacking, the Universe would cease to exist because every grain is important.

                  All things are one, interconnected. At the same time each grain of sand has an full universe inside.

                  All perfect, all in time.

                  Gassho,

                  Kyonin
                  #SatToday
                  Hondō Kyōnin
                  奔道 協忍

                  Comment

                  • Troy
                    Member
                    • Sep 2013
                    • 1318

                    #10
                    Wonderful everyone. Thank you for this thread!


                    _|sat2day|_

                    Comment

                    • Byokan
                      Treeleaf Unsui
                      • Apr 2014
                      • 4279

                      #11
                      The passage just rang and rang. When I went for a walk in the morning it / everything was there. When I prepared food, it / everything was there. There was no "original cause", no ground to stand on. Everything is provisional, everything is dependant on something else "all through beginningless time" and space. Each grain of rice, existing as rice, but also as a jewel in Indra's Net, reflecting the mountain, the star, and you and me. What can "me" even be?

                      Anyhow, long story short, to see fully (even for a moment) into "interbeing" is to realize that there is no solid ground, that all things are connected, different forms, never separated for an instant. It is a radical view - no form but emptiness, no emptiness but form.

                      My experience has been that to fully explore dependant co-origination, even with materialist concepts is to ultimately let go of all material views and to get a glimpse of something beyond being and non-being, "intimate with all things" (as Dogen put it). It certainly placed my feet firmly on this path.

                      Well, as firmly as anything can be when there is no solid ground.
                      Sekishi,

                      Thank you for this, it is so beautiful. We should hire a plane and write it in the sky! Oh, wait, it's already there.

                      Gassho
                      Lisa
                      sat today
                      展道 渺寛 Tendō Byōkan
                      Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.

                      Comment

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