Dosho Port Says Dogen Didn't Practice Shikantaza

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  • Dosho
    Member
    • Jun 2008
    • 5784

    Dosho Port Says Dogen Didn't Practice Shikantaza

    Here is the link:

    More bad news for the orthodox Soto position that Dogen was opposed to koan introspection in zazen. Modern scientific historical research supports what


    Gassho,
    Dosho
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39074

    #2
    Hi,

    Yes, I sent this review to Griffith Foulk and posted it at Amazon ... Dosho (Port, not our Dosho) mischaracterizes what is in that essay, and the essay itself is open to criticism. You will notice in Dosho Port's essay that he tries to muddle the fact that "Dogen loved Koans" with the quite separate assertion that "Dogen supported Koan Introspection Zazen". There is no basis for the second assertion based upon the essay.

    ----

    AMAZON REVIEW:

    The balance of the essays in this collection are of the usual high and informative level found in all the Steven Heine books. Well worth reading and tremendously valuable for all of us with interest in Dogen and Soto Zen. However, I feel that one essay detracts from that to such a degree, that I wish to lodge this small protest and complaint.

    I am generally a great fan of Griffith Foulk's writings on Soto Zen. It is for that reason that I am so surprised and disappointed at the poor reasoning he demonstrates in the lead paper in the book, "Dogen's Use of Rujing's 'Just Sit' (Shikantaza) and Other Koans". It is almost as if Dr. Foulk is setting up a "strawman" Soto Zen that does not really exist in anyone's mind, and describes a "Shikantaza" Zazen based on some naive "goallessness" and literal "non-attaining" missing the subtle intent of those words, a viewpoint that nobody I know in the Soto world holds or ever has.

    Here is substantially the message I posted about the piece to the SZBA (Soto Zen Buddhist Association, an organization of Soto Zen Teachers in America, where I am one member):

    ----------

    Much of the subject essay consists of Dr. Foulk's making supposed "revelations" about Dogen that, I wager, most of the members of the SZBA already know and, further, agree with!

    For example, Dogen lived and breathed Koans. The Shobogenzo, the Koroku and his other writings are chock full of Koans, wall to wall Koans, and we modern Soto teachers dance with Koans too. There is no surprise here, and has not been in the vast majority of the Soto world for a long time, at least not since folks rediscovered and actually read the Koan-filled writings of Dogen. Yet this is a bit of another issue from whether we are to sit immersed in a Koan or a phrase from a Koan engaged in Koan Introspection Zazen in the manner of Ta Hui. After pages and pages in which Foulk merely underlines the point that Dogen preached Koans and expected his students to do as much, Foulk concedes (bottom of page 33), "One thing Dogen did not do with Koans, however, was use them as objects of contemplation in the manner recommended by Dahui. That Chan master advocated fixing the mind on the "keyword" of an old case ... "

    Foulk points out that Dogen never specifically used the term "Shikantaza" in Fukanzazengi, Zazengi and other descriptions of Zazen. This might be true. But what Dogen describes in those writings as "thinking-non-thinking" and "putting aside all involvements and suspending all affairs ... not thinking good or bad ... not judging true or false" seems to be pretty much what I think (and non think) of as "Shikantaza". Beyond that, Foulk should then also mention the fact that, in Fukanzazengi and elsewhere, Dogen offers very specific instructions on what to do with body and mind during Zazen ... the clothes to wear, how to fold the legs, how to think non thinking, etc., yet what Dogen does not mention as part of these details on how to sit is any instruction such as "take up a Koan phrase" "look at a Koan" or the like. Why would Dogen leave that out of Fukanzazengi and the like if it was so important as an aspect of Zazen in which he is mentioning so many details of the process of sitting such as "Do not think good or bad" and "rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking"? He would have mentioned taking up or looking at a Koan or Koan phrase if such was some part of the process of sitting. (Also, Dogen does use the term "Shikantaza" several times in Shobogenzo. As Prof. Bielefeldt notes in translations for the Soto Zen Text Project, "Just sitting" (shikan taza 祇管打坐; also written 只管打坐): An expression occurring several times in Dōgen's writings -- especially, as here, in conjunction with the phrase shinjin datsuraku. " (Note 3 to his SZTP Zanmai-o-Zanmai Translation)

    The rest of the "revelations" by Dr. Foulk are rather anti-climatic. First, points out Foulk, "Just Sitting" does not mean "sitting alone" and nothing else, because Dogen also engaged in a variety of other practices such as Chanting and Ceremonies and the like. Frankly, I do not think there is a member of the SZBA who would assert that Dogen meant, by "Just Sitting", that all other Buddhist Practices should be abandoned, and I believe all of us understand the "Koan" that Dr. Foulk seems to think he has discovered in light of the famous dictum in Bendowa (quoting Rujing) "you get it only by just sitting; you don't need to burn incense, make prostrations, recollect the buddha, practice repentence, or look at scripture." (For example, as I tell my students ... Just Sitting is the only thing, the alpha and omega, nothing lacking while sitting. But rising from the cushion, there is lots which can be done, all "Zazen" in wider meaning". I believe most modern Soto Teachers preach a similar message these days). This "Koan" of Zazen does not seem very hard to pierce.

    Next, Dr. Foulk makes a rather big deal of the fact that Soto folks (or some strawman version he whips up) believe in a "goalless" Zazen in which there is "nothing to attain" thus foresaking "attainment". Does any Soto Teacher truly believe that there is no marvelous attainment (perhaps attained, however, by non-attaining!)? Is there a member of the SZBA or any Soto Teacher anywhere who actually understands Dogen to be advocating some pointless, dead sitting which foresakes enlightenment? Dr. Foulk seems to take "goalless" as meaning "goalless", something all of us understand in much more subtle ways.

    Anyway, I don't think this essay adds anything new and the "controversies" it seems to raise seem kinda silly. Didn't Dr. Foulk talk to any actual Soto Teachers when writing this?

    Gassho, Jundo Cohen
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-16-2015, 04:54 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39074

      #3
      By the way, I posted a version of the above as a comment on Dosho Port's blog. He pulled it down. I guess he does not want to be criticized.

      Gassho, J

      SatToday
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Kokuu
        Treeleaf Priest
        • Nov 2012
        • 6737

        #4
        Thank you for your informative review and response, Jundo. It is a shame that Dosho Port didn't let the comment stand.

        I am somewhat of a novice when it comes to Dogen but agree that the idea that Dogen didn't like koans is somewhat of a straw man since, in addition to liberal discussion of numerous cases in Shobogenzo, he did collect 300 of them in the Shinji Shobogenzo! Equally, I have yet to read Dogen advocate sitting with koans as a method of zazen.

        As has been discussed elsewhere, the revised Shushogi could definitely be argued as a 'dumbing down' of Soto practice yet the notion of practice enlightenment is pivotal to many of Dogen's most important writings and not an excuse for laziness.

        "To practice the Way singleheartedly is, in itself, enlightenment. There is no gap between practice and enlightenment or zazen and daily life"
        -- Fukanzazengi

        I must admit that even from my limited perspective I am surprised to see a Soto priest putting forth these arguments.

        Gassho
        Kokuu
        #sattoday

        Comment

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39074

          #5
          Only for people who have a wonky interest in these questions ...

          A follow-up email by me to Griff Foulk in a mail exchange between us. Unfortunately, I cannot print his email to me without permission, so the conversation is a bit one sided. I attempt to address the points he made to me:

          ----------------

          Dear Griff,

          I have now read your essay three times with level head. While your research is detailed and impeccable (as always), it is your interpretation of the data which is specious.

          Yes, among members of the Soto school, it is perhaps nearly a universally recognized "fact" that Dogen taught Shikantaza. But I see nothing in your essay which indicates they are wrong. Although the word "Shikantaza" may not appear in Fukanzazengi (likewise for Zazenshin, Zazengi etc.), what is being described there is precisely what most of us consider to be "Shikantaza" (Zazengi: Cast aside all involvements and discontinue the myriad affairs. Good is not thought of; evil is not thought of. It is not mind, intellect or consciousness; it is not thoughts, ideas or perceptions. Do not figure to make a buddha; slough off sitting or reclining.) (Zazenshin: The essential point of its standard is [the understanding] that there is a practice of a buddha that does not seek to make a buddha. Since the practice of a buddha is not to make a buddha, it is the realization of the kôan.) So what is your point? That because one does not call a rose as a "rose", that it is no longer a rose and smells less sweet?

          Furthermore, I think it is very common to know Zazen as a Koan (at least, in the 'Genjo Koan' sense) as well as the Koan realized, as Dogen states above. A view of Zazen as a Koan/Koan Realized is very common, at least in the English literature I am familiar with. For example, to quote Dr. Kim on pg. 64 of Mystical Realist here:

          Eihei Dogen, the founder of the Japanese branch of the Soto Zen Buddhist school, is considered one of the world's most remarkable religious philosophers. Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist is a comprehensive introduction to the genius of this brilliant thinker. This thirteenth-century figure has much to teach us all and the questions that drove him have always been at the heart of Buddhist practice. At the age of seven, in 1207, Dogen lost his mother, who at her death earnestly asked him to become a monastic to seek the truth of Buddhism. We are told that in the midst of profound grief, Dogen experienced the impermanence of all things as he watched the incense smoke ascending at his mother's funeral service. This left an indelible impression upon the young Dogen; later, he would emphasize time and again the intimate relationship between the desire for enlightenment and the awareness of impermanence. His way of life would not be a sentimental flight from, but a compassionate understanding of, the intolerable reality of existence. At age 13, Dogen received ordination at Mt. Hiei. And yet, a question arose: "As I study both the exoteric and the esoteric schools of Buddhism, they maintain that human beings are endowed with Dharma-nature by birth. If this is the case, why did the buddhas of all ages - undoubtedly in possession of enlightenment - find it necessary to seek enlightenment and engage in spiritual practice?" When it became clear that no one on Mt. Hiei could give a satisfactory answer to this spiritual problem, he sought elsewhere, eventually making the treacherous journey to China. This was the true beginning of a life of relentless questioning, practice, and teaching - an immensely inspiring contribution to the Buddhadharma. As you might imagine, a book as ambitious as Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist has to be both academically rigorous and eminently readable to succeed. Professor Hee-Jim Kim's work is indeed both.


          Taigen's description of Zazen as "enactment ritual" is also of this flavor.



          You also present a grossly simplistic interpretation of "goallessness" and "non-attainment". This was perhaps the most surprising and glaring fault of the essay. The fundamental pivot point of Zazen is the famous question (whether or not what actually drove Dogen to China as the legend presents) usually stated as some variation of: "Since we are all already Enlightened/Buddha. why need for Practice?" The point of this Zen enterprise is always realization, both in the sense of realizing/awakening to the reality of our Buddhaness and realizing/making it real through our constant acts in life and constant Practice. One might say that we simultaneously drop all goals, keep our goals (to be Buddhalike) and realize those goals-not-goals in every act and choice. Nonetheless, you present some mysterious Soto Zen teachers who are preaching a "goallessness" that means a Zazen without goal, and a "non-attainment" which asserts there is nothing to attain. Who are these people? (I hear such claims primarily from folks outside the tradition who use such charges in an attempt to show Soto Practice as some thumb-twiddling, dead sitting). I am very surprised that someone who has been so intimate with the Soto world for so long could make such a claim.

          Despite your passing, rather ambigous ("nor did he ever speak against it" reference on page 34) distinction of the methods of Dahui, you also make the error of muddling the distinction between Dogen as the practitioner of the classic Koans (we all are) and Dogen as practicing some form of Koan Introspection Zazen. Nobody (at least in modern times since Dogen's writings became widely available and widely read) could possibly look at Dogen's writings ... page after page of Koans ... while denying that Dogen was a dancer of Koans. Can you show me someone who does? (Yes, I realize that there were such polemics in Japan during the little ideological wars to distinguish Soto from Rinzai Practice, but the emphasis was rarely if ever on the "Koans per se" as on their use, especially in Koan Introspection according to a curriculum).

          There are also some minor points. You attempt to link Dogen's use of the title "Shobogenzo" with Dahui's use of "Shobogenzo" for his own collection of Koans. Well, you do know that "Shobogenzo" is a much older term that had been around and used in Chan literature for hundreds of years prior, and refers to the flower and Mahakasyapa? Why did you not mention that Dogen's use of the name might come just as easily ... and probably more likely ... from such other sources (for example, the followers of the modern "Tea Party" Movement and Lewis Carroll both speak of a "Tea Party").

          In law and science, one might do an excellent job in gathering facts and data, yet an incredibly sloppy job in interpreting and presenting the data. I fear that your paper is such an example.

          Let me add, despite the above, how much I treasure and thank you for most of your fine work.

          Gassho, Jundo
          Last edited by Jundo; 02-17-2015, 05:35 AM.
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • Myosha
            Member
            • Mar 2013
            • 2974

            #6
            Hello,

            Thank you for the lesson.


            Gassho,
            Myosha sat today
            "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

            Comment

            • Risho
              Member
              • May 2010
              • 3179

              #7
              Thank you Jundo --

              ..and this is why a teacher is necessary. To help students, like myself, early on the Way to not get dissuaded.

              Gassho,

              Risho
              -sattoday
              Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

              Comment

              • Mp

                #8
                Wow ...

                Thank you Jundo. I always find it troublesome when anyone throws out statements but does not allow for discussion or reflection. I appreciate your clarification. =)

                Gassho
                Shingen

                Sattoday

                Comment

                • Jinyo
                  Member
                  • Jan 2012
                  • 1957

                  #9
                  Hi there - I don't have a point of view on this as I don't have the knowledge/adequate understanding of the issue under discussion.

                  I do know that I don't want to start sitting zazen any other way than what is taught here because introspecting on anything/koan or otherwise. will completely sidetrack/muck up
                  the little deepening of practice I'm experiencing.
                  In my simplistic view I'd thought that the whole of life/ the whole of sitting is a koan - our life's koan - and it need be no more complicated than that.

                  I'm now wondering whether I'm being too simplistic - I hadn't realised that Dogen had written Shinji Shobogenzo (301 koan stories to further get my head around) that there are only two English translations (Nishijima's is one - but I've read not without fault/criticism as it is his own very particular take?) - so can I really understand Dogen without putting in this further study? Should I be reading Steve Heine's 'Dogen and the Koan Tradition?'. Should I just keep dipping into Dogen and taking from it what I can?

                  I wish I felt all of this was not really necessary - but I can't help feeling that perhaps to be a serious student of Soto Zen it is?

                  (I reckon Dogen would disagree with that last statement )

                  Gassho
                  Willow (with a very sore 'thinking' head' )

                  but Sat today (with a calm, thinking not thinking mind)
                  Last edited by Jinyo; 02-17-2015, 08:05 PM.

                  Comment

                  • Jundo
                    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                    • Apr 2006
                    • 39074

                    #10
                    Originally posted by willow

                    I'm now wondering whether I'm being too simplistic - I hadn't realised that Dogen had written Shinji Shobogenzo (301 koan stories to further get my head around) that there are only two English translations (Nishijima's is one - but I've read not without fault/criticism as it is his own very particular take?) - so can I really understand Dogen without putting in this further study? Should I be reading Steve Heine's 'Dogen and the Koan Tradition?'. Should I just keep dipping into Dogen and taking from it what I can?

                    I wish I felt all of this was not really necessary - but I can't help feeling that perhaps to be a serious student of Soto Zen it is?

                    (I reckon Dogen would disagree with that last statement )

                    Gassho
                    Willow (with a very sore 'thinking' head' )

                    but Sat today (with a calm, thinking not thinking mind)
                    Yes, we all sometimes think about made up problems until our head gets sore!

                    I would say that Dogen and many old Zen Teachers turned to the Koans and Sutra stories as teaching tools. Dogen spoke in such terms in much the same way that a Christian minister turns to Bible stories: Because those are the text, stories and homilies they have to work with and which encompass and express our tenets and teachings. (Of course, Dogen then took those Koans and stories and jazzed them up in Dogen's special way, but that is a topic for another time) ...

                    How to Read Dogen
                    LONG POST A few excerpts for some tips and hints I've posted from time to time for those who want to dip into a bit of Shobogenzo ... ---- In my own "in a nutshell" description of how to approach Shobogenzo ... I often describe Dogen as a Jazzman, bending and re-livening the "standard tunes" of Zen


                    So, I would say that reading the Koans, Sutras and other cherished texts and old writings is not strictly necessary, but helpful at some point. In any event, you rarely will read a modern Zen book or listen to a modern Zen Teacher give a talk without him or her including some old Koan stories in the talk. So, I would say that one will come to recognize most of the most famous Koans just by sticking around Zen long enough, reading Zen books etc. We have sat with a collection of Koans here at Treeleaf cherished in the Soto world, and which are many of the same Koans in Dogen's collection.

                    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY
                    A reMINDer that we will take a little pause from the Book of Serenity to look at Ben Connelly's wonderful "Inside the Grass Hut", starting in a couple of weeks ... Information here ... http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?13084-ANOTHER-BOOK-RECOMMENDATION-by-Jundo-The-Song-of-the-Wind-in-the-Dry


                    Now, familiarity with the Koans, and allowing them to flavor and inform one's Zen Practice is very good for Zen students at some point. That is very different, however, from the kind of "work with Koans" in the Rinzai schools (or in many Rinzai-Soto hybrid Lineages such a Dosho Port and most of the heirs to Yasutani Roshi and Maezumi Roshi) who engage in "Koan Introspection Zazen", wrestling with a Koan, and then presenting their special understanding in Dokusan with the Teacher. I don't feel that is necessary or even helpful for most students.

                    By the way, I want to emphasize that I am not saying that "our way" is better than Dosho Port's way or some other way. I would never be a "my way or the highway" type who says that Shikantaza is the best way for everyone. It is simply that the historical presentation of Dogen by Dr. Foulk (which was then exaggerated by Dosho Port into "thus Dogen was not a Shikantaza teacher, he was a Koan Introspection Zazen teacher") was just strange in its interpretation of historical information, and based on strawman descriptions of Shikantaza practice. Thus, it is misleading and open to criticism.

                    By the way, Heine's "Dogen and the Koan Tradition" is a very good book, but dense and written in that style of modern literary criticism that can truly make one's head explode. Knowing you, it may be right up your alley, Willow.

                    Gassho, J

                    SatToday
                    Last edited by Jundo; 02-18-2015, 03:11 AM.
                    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                    Comment

                    • Jinyo
                      Member
                      • Jan 2012
                      • 1957

                      #11
                      Thank you Jundo,



                      Willow

                      Comment

                      • RichardH
                        Member
                        • Nov 2011
                        • 2800

                        #12
                        Hi. I failed to become really engaged by this controversial-ish issue. The basic Dharma that Jundo teaches has the same root as everything I have been taught by different teachers in different schools of Buddhism. The breadmaking is the same ...it is just that some people like cinnamon loaf, others like challah, or little buns. I didn't read anything that can cause confusion on the cushion.

                        Gassho
                        Daizan

                        sat today

                        Comment

                        • Troy
                          Member
                          • Sep 2013
                          • 1318

                          #13
                          I am just a lay person and sitting Zazen seems to be enough for me. Koans are Ok, but I think too much already, lol.


                          ..sat2day•

                          Comment

                          • Meredith
                            Member
                            • Nov 2014
                            • 86

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Troy
                            Koans are Ok, but I think too much already, lol.
                            I do enough over thinking as it is!

                            SatToday

                            Comment

                            • Daitetsu
                              Member
                              • Oct 2012
                              • 1145

                              #15
                              I fully agree with Jundo.

                              However, let's (for fun's sake) assume Dogen did not practise Shikantaza...
                              So what?
                              The sky is blue, in autumn leaves are falling, things are as they are (as IT is).
                              Words...

                              Gassho,

                              Daitetsu
                              #sat2day
                              no thing needs to be added

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