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Talk on Zenki "Total Dynamic Working" Part 2

from Dogenís Shobogenzo, given by Sojun Mel Weitsman
November 8, 1997
Chapel Hill Zen Center

Dogen is one of the most unusual Zen Masters in that he wrote a lot. He respected and valued the sutras, but at the same time he said not to read them too much. For Dogen, zazen and daily life practice was primary. But he didnít say not to study the sutras. Study them, but realize that the actualization of the sutras is in zazen and in your daily life activity. Someone once said that we are writing the sutra through our practice. Itís true that in Zen practice we sometimes talk a lot, which could be a mistake. Suzuki Roshi once said that we make a mistake on purpose when we lecture on Dharma, but we have to do it.

Many Zen teachers, when they came to America, emphasized sesshin. They would go from one place to another holding sesshins. Suzuki Roshi emphasized daily practice. He stayed in one spot and didnít move around the country. He sat zazen every day with people, and we would have sesshins as well, but the main emphasis was on daily zazen, so that zazen and our daily life over a period of time becomes one thing. It is not that zazen is some unusual thing you do, but itís like getting up in the morning and brushing your teeth, or sitting down and eating your breakfast. We nourish our body every day but we donít ordinarily think about nourishing our spirit every day. Our "spirit" needs nourishment every day just like the body needs a meal. Emphasizing daily practice created a vital Sangha.

Suzuki Roshi also stressed not looking for some special experience. A lot of the teachers who would do sesshins were driving their students to have some special experience. But Suzuki Roshi was not interested in special experiences; he was interested in us expressing our true nature, moment to moment, in our daily life as practice. When you have an experience thatís wonderful, enjoy it for what it is and then let go of it. You should have a wonderful enlightenment experience every day. Itís ok. You should experience enlightenment on each moment. But if you are looking for some special experience, then you tend to ignore the experience you are having now. You sacrifice this particular moment for some future moment, and that makes it difficult to see that this moment right now is that wonderful moment, whatever is happening.

Dogen is talking about the same thing: To bring to life this moment and appreciate whatever is happening, whether you think it is good or bad, or whether you like it or you donít. This is a non-dualistic way of life. Sometimes I have students who are very angry, and alienate themselves. So I sometimes give them a practice: no matter what someone says to them, whether or not they like it or donít like it, whether its derogatory or complimentary, to bow and say, "Thank you very much," accepting everything and responding to everything equally. Instead of reacting, they are responding with gratitude for everything that they meet without discriminating. You can really see where you are, and then, gradually, you begin to accept everything without being turned around by what comes to you. I have seen people helped through that kind of practice. Itís a wonderful koan, to turn yourself over to unconditioned gratitude. If you get something difficult to swallow, you swallow it. If you get something nice, you swallow it, you enjoy it. Your mind gets bigger, as well as your ability to include everything in your mind.

Suzuki Roshi would talk about Big Mind and small mind. I started to talk about small mind, our usual discriminating mind. Big Mind is the mind which goes beyond discrimination and includes everything. Suzuki Roshi would admonish us to always live in Big Mind, but that small mind is an expression of Big Mind. Itís not bad. Small mind is necessary, otherwise we would not have it. But small mind should be guided by Big Mind, and as a channel for expressing Big Mind. So our everyday life should be based on Big Mind so that Big Mind is expressing itself through our speech, actions, and thoughts. This brings forth enlightened practice. If you have a big experience, thatís great. But whether we have a big experience or not, practice is practice.

This is the world of comparative values: this one is good, this one is not so good, the realm of like and dislike, value judgments based on personal preference. But Big Mind is the realm beyond comparative values, where we can accept everything the way it is without being judgmental and partial. It opens our mind to seeing things as they really are. In the Mahayana there are the Four Wisdoms. The first is the Great Round Mirror Wisdom. The Great Round Mirror Wisdom is the mirror mind which reflects everything exactly as it is. It has no opinions and no partiality and doesnít modify or change what comes in front of it. It just sees clearly whatís there, without discrimination or distortion. The second is the wisdom which sees the equality of all things, realizing that everything has the same nature. The third is the wisdom of discernment which realizes and sees that everything is different and understands the uniqueness of each individual existence, and the fourth is the appropriate action wisdom.

The equality wisdom recognizes the "horizontal" aspect of equality, where nothing is higher or lower than anything else, and the "vertical" aspect recognizes hierarchy, where everything is in a different place on the vertical scale, which is not good or bad, but, simply, "this is where it is." Mostly we see the unique quality but we donít always see the "e-quality." But where the vertical and the horizontal meet is the doorway to big mind, or reality, because each one has Buddha Nature, which is the same in everyone, and, at the same time, each one is unique and different.

We have to be able to see the Buddha nature in each person. We can look for or address everyone as Buddha Nature rather than addressing them according to their facade. Everyone has a face. This face is what we see, and that is what we address. The face, and the actions, and the dance that everyone puts on. Sometimes, because of that dance, we donít see all the way into the depths of that person. Or they donít want us to see all the way into them. People donít always want to be seen clearly. So there is a lot of dancing going on, and a lot of obscuration. There is an old Buddhist saying that if you shake a stick at a dog the dog will bark at the stick. You move the stick and dog stays focused on the stick, and you can move the dog around with the stick, but the lionĖwhen you shake a stick at the lionĖthe lion goes for the person. We should always try to go for the Buddha nature in everyone. Donít get fooled by the stick.

We should see the nature of equality in all things, but, at the same time, we must also be able to appreciate everyoneís individual nature. Both of them have to be acknowledged. If you are stuck in equality then you canít discriminate properly. Discrimination is necessary. Even though we talk about non-discrimination, discrimination is very important: we have to be able to sort things out and make choices. Hierarchy does not necessarily mean that something is better because it is higher or lower. It just means that each thing is on a different level, in a different place in relation to everything else. We each stand on a different rung of the ladder of life, independent of social status, job status, color, or ethnic status. We have to be able to sort that out and discriminate, but the discrimination takes place on the basis of non-discrimination. We discriminate with Big Mind instead of discriminating with small mind. You see the difference? Hitler was almost non human. This is a good point: does Hitler have Buddha Nature? Now, there was a time in Buddhism when it was thought that there were people who did not have Buddha Nature. One without Buddha Nature was called an Iccantika. In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra it says that all sentient beings without exception have Buddha nature, and this is part of the basis of Mahayana thinking.

But maybe there are Iccantikas. Maybe Hitler was an Iccantika. You could certainly think so. But just because all beings have Buddha Nature does not mean that their Buddha Nature is necessarily manifest. We say that we are all Buddhas, but that is our potentiality. Potentially, everyone is Buddha, but that nature does not manifest without stimulation. This is what Dogen is always talking about. He is saying Practice brings forth Realization and Realization confirms Practice. So even though all beings "are" Buddha Nature, as Dogen says (not "have" but "are"), they donít necessarily realize it. It is realized through practice, so we have to do something. We have to turn the wheel. We have lights, but they donít go on until we turn the switch. We can generate light with a wheel; turn the wheel and the lights start getting brighter. Thatís practice.

Itís nice when the fruit of practice starts to reveal itself. You donít necessarily know thatís happening. You just practice without thinking about any expectations. Then, one day, you realize that you have been acting "this way" for a long time and just now realized it. We say itís like walking in a fog: you reach down and realize that, unawares, your clothes have become wet.

There are so many things to do in this world that are not going to seem fruitful. Working for Peace is not immediately fruitful, although it does have its high points and its low points, but you just do it because that is what you have to do. If you are attached to the results you get discouraged, so itís better not to allow yourself to be attached to results. You just do it, and in the process you become mature and the people around you become mature, and that maturity has wide ranging effects, but we donít necessarily know what the effects are. In the same way, we donít know what the effects of our practice are. I donít know what the effects of thirty-five years of practice are, but I do know that there are people all over the world who know Zen Center and that there is some influence that comes forth from this practice that we donít know about. Something comes back, and that is encouraging. I also think it is important to have faith in knowing that if you are doing the right practiceĖwhat you feel is the right practiceĖthere will be results, but to be attached to those results is a mistake. The enjoyment is in the work.. If we donít find the enjoyment within the work then we wonít find it in the result.

[Question from the audience about "many possibilities."] The practice is to stay open. If you practice staying open in zazen, you can open up your daily life. Zazen, for me, is an offering. When sitting you offer your whole body and mind to "It" without reservations, and you sit up straight, and put all your effort into this one act, thatís "total dynamic working," and that is your offering. That is Zenki You are totally open and you can practice that openness wherever you are. Itís unassuming and non defensive, and it has far reaching effects. Thereís a phrase of Dogenís: "imperceptible mutual assistance." The practice supports many things, and is supported by many things, and we donít know what all the far reaching implications of that are.

"Therefore the total dynamic working of birth and death could be likened to the bending and extending of a young manís arm, or a person reaching back for his pillow in the night. It is manifested by means of a great many all-pervading powers and radiant brightnesses within it." The footnote says that the all pervading powers [jintzu] and radiant brightnesses [komyo] mean radiant light. Everyone has their own radiant light (komyozo). Master Ummon used this term and it appears as a koan in Case 86 in the Blue Cliff Record. "Everyone has their own radiant light but, when they look for it, it is dim and dark." These two terms, jintzu and komyo, are encountered in Buddhist literature and are given detailed treatment by Dogen in separate fascicles of Shobogenzo. Here he uses them as representative of the individual entities, or dharmas, manifested within the total working of birth and the total working of death. "The total dynamic working of birth and death can be likened to the bending and extending of a young manís arm." One position is like birth and the other is like death. These are two movements of the same arm. It is like the moon. Dogen says in Genjokoan, that when one side is illuminated the other side is dark. And reaching back for the pillow in the night: what is the power of reaching back for your pillow in the night? Where does that come from? Itís a kind of inadvertent action, groping for something. What is this groping? What is the impulse for our groping and our searching? You can say Buddha Nature is looking for Buddha Nature, or Buddha seeks Buddha.

Here is Dogenís conclusion. "When it is thus manifested in this moment; since the total dynamic working is being activated by the present manifestation, it may be thought (assumed) that it had not been manifest prior to the present manifestation. However, prior to its present manifestation was the previous manifestation. Although there was a previous manifestation of the total dynamic working, it does not impede the present manifestation. Since it is not fixed or unchanging, and not limited to the present moment, your realization can be manifested moment after moment." This passage is very difficult to translate. This last paragraph gains from being read in the light of the previous paragraph beginning, "Therefore, life does not impede death..."

Undivided activity, manifested previously, does not hinder the present realization of undivided activity. Because of this your realization can be manifested moment after moment without hindrance. Before we start to think we know it, we know all of this. But through discrimination we lose it. Then how do we put ourselves back together again. Thatís the trick, and the trick is zazen. Somebody found out that through zazen we can put ourselves back together again. Itís neither difficult nor easy, but it is possible.

Talk transcribed by James Welsh.

© Copyright Sojun Mel Weitsman, 2002

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