April 29th, 2006, Serial No. 04332

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Good morning. Good morning. It's great to be back at Beginner's Mind Temple. So I understand that the practice period going on now has been studying this text, Genjo Koan, and coincidentally I've been focusing on this text in my teaching this year. So I'm going to talk about Genjo Koan today. This is one of the basic writings by Ehe Dogen, the founder of this branch of Zen, Soto Zen it's called, in Japan in the 13th century. And in some ways this text defines our teaching and our lineage. So I want to say first a little bit about just this word, Genjo Koan, and then talk about a couple of lines in it. Am I talking too loudly? I kind of hear an echo.


So this word, Genjo Koan, the second part, Koan, you've probably heard traditionally Koan or public case, refers to these old teaching stories that we use in Zen. These stories are often from the 9th century in China, but they might be from any time. But there are traditional stories and that's not what it means in this case, in this situation. Genjo means to manifest, to make real, to completely express. And Genjo Koan together, as Dogen uses them, means to completely express the fundamental point or what's most important, to completely express the heart in each situation. So Genjo Koan is actually a verb. What the practice that is being encouraged is for us to Genjo Koan our life, to Genjo


Koan our practice. And this defines our practice in a way because some branches of Zen emphasize the Japanese word Kensho, which literally means to see the nature, to see Buddha nature. And also refers to not just intellectually seeing and understanding it, but this kind of visceral experiential opening to ultimate reality, to Buddha nature. So some branches of Zen emphasize having this experience of Genjo. And it's not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not our practice. That happens. It happens sometimes in this building that people have Genjo experiences. It's happened and it's okay. But the point of our practice is not Genjo. It's not to have some fancy experience. So at those stories often at the end it says, and the monk got enlightened, and that means


Kensho. They had some opening. But that's really just the beginning of our practice. So Genjo as opposed to Kensho is that we need to express and manifest and make real this truth of Buddha nature, this truth of ultimate reality in our everyday life. That's the emphasis of our practice. So partly we learn this in sitting upright in the meditation hall, just facing the experience of this body and mind as the myriad things arise in us, or as us, or we as part of them. And I'll be talking about that. But having some dramatic fancy experience of this is, it's okay, it's fine if that happens, but it's not the point. So when Buddha had his great enlightenment and saw the morning star, that was not the


end of Buddhism. That was just the beginning. And he continued sitting every day and awakening through the rest of his 40-some years after that. So our practice is to express what's important, to manifest it, to make it real in the world and in our life and in our heart, to find what is important in each situation, in each meeting and engagement with reality, with our friends and family and with the world around us, in our society, and also on our own Krishna chair, in our own heart and mind and body. So that's a little bit about this term, Genjo Koan. The lines I want to focus on this morning, near the beginning, so one translation says, to carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion.


That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening. And then it adds, those who have great realization of delusion are Buddhas, those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion and throughout delusion. So I want to talk about how enlightenment is the Genjo Koan of enlightenment and delusion is the Genjo Koan of delusion. In some ways, delusion and enlightenment are two sides of one reality. And we don't try and get enlightened and get rid of delusion, that's real delusion. And as Dogen says, Buddhas are those who are greatly enlightened about their delusions. Deluded beings are those who have great delusions about enlightenment. So this is a fundamental issue in our practice.


Our practice is about fully experiencing our life and fully engaging in our life and our practice completely. So one side is to carry yourself forward and illuminate all the myriad things, that's delusion. The word that's translated as experience or illuminate actually is practice realize. To practice and realize all of phenomena, all of the things so-called outside, by carrying ourself forward, that's delusion. Another translation says, acting on and witnessing myriad things with the burden of oneself is delusion. So this is our normal human life, this life of delusion. Usually we engage the world in terms of ourself, and there are subtle levels of this, but we


carry forth, we bear the burden of a self. We all have stories about who we are and therefore what the world is. We all have social security numbers and personal histories and phone numbers, most of us, and addresses, most of us. Anyway, we have a story about this self, and we see the world in terms of that. We see the world in terms of this burdensome self. This is our ordinary world of delusion, and we need to study it, and we need to Genjo-Ko on it. The other side is that myriad things come forth, myriad things arise, and illuminate or practice or just realize themselves or the self, and that's awakening. So I believe that all of you, even if this is your first time here, how many people are


here for the very first time? Oh, just one. That's great. Thank you for being here. Oh, two, three, oh good, anyway. So this is Beginner's Mind Temple, and it's very auspicious for the rest of us when beginners show up. We need you to remind us. But my belief is that even those of you who are here for the first time have a glimpse of this side, have some experience, some sense of this other side of our life, which is that when myriad things, when phenomena just arises as it is and illuminates itself, that's awakening. And it's not that that's happening somewhere else, you know, on some mountaintop on Tassajara or the Himalayas or in Japan somewhere. It's actually happening on your own cushion or chair right now.


It's happening all the time that everything is just arising and here we are. And we're part of that. It's not that that's happening somewhere else. So we have this intimate relationship with both sides of this dynamic. So again, oh, I was going to read the other translation of the second part. Acting on and witnessing oneself in the advent of myriad things, that's enlightenment. So I'll read this other translation again. Acting on and witnessing myriad things with the burden of oneself is delusion. Acting on and witnessing oneself in the advent of myriad things is enlightenment. So what I want to talk about today actually is the relationship between those two. But first, it's important to really see each side separately, that when we are projecting


our self, our own story about ourself and the world onto things, this is delusion and it causes lots of problems. And yet that's our human world. This is how we live. So we need to forgive ourselves for being human beings. This is not a practice for super people or for some exotic, strange, altered state, higher being. This is a practice for human beings. So we have to really study this, that when we carry ourself forward, when we see the self, this is delusion. And we need to really genjoko on delusion. It's not that we should try to be more deluded or act on delusion. We need to actually become familiar with it and breathe into it and understand how this


is happening, that we are supporting delusion with our delusion. But then there's the other side, that when everything just arises as it is, including us, this body and mind, these thoughts and feelings that come up in the middle of our life, our habits and patterns and hang-ups and problems, everything, when it just arises as it is, illuminates the self of all things. So this word self is tricky. We have these personal selves and then there's this, we could call it a wider self, which is just reality. And we're included in that. We belong to the earth, the earth does not belong to us. Here we are and the myriad things are arising, and it's wonderful.


So this awakening is the genjoko on awakening, again, in whichever side we're in. The practice is just to manifest it, to express it, to see it fully, not necessarily to act it out when we're genjoko-ing delusion, but just to see, oh, delusion. So another way to talk about this is, and what this is actually about, is the relationship of what we usually call self and what we usually call other. This is the fundamental problem in Buddhism. We have the capacity as human beings with human consciousness of seeing this thing here as a self and all that out there as other.


And we have the capacity to see those as totally separate, and then we have a world in which we try to manipulate all of the stuff out there, including other people, to get what we want or to get rid of what we don't want. Again, this is the world of delusion that we live in, and we kill the world when we see it as just dead objects. And yet this is so deeply ingrained. It's our language. It's almost impossible to talk about this without slipping because our language is based on subject and object. And even less precise, less dualistic languages like Chinese or Japanese, still the same problem. There's a subject and an object and a verb, and so we think we have to verb various objects


out there to get what we want. Or we want to prevent objects out there from verbing us, so we put up this barrier between self and other. This is our fundamental psychological human problem from the point of view of Buddhism. So you can see in these two sentences I've been focusing on that this problem is at the heart of it. One side, the side of delusion, is that we carry this burden of self forward and project it onto stuff. The other side is that everything, there's no subject and object, everything just arises, including ourselves, and sees how it is. And that's the side of awakening.


So how do we heal this split, this problem where we feel this estranged from the world and we feel like the world is a bunch of dead stuff? And we can carry that so far as to make ourselves yet another dead object. We do this. We invest in ourselves. We think that we can manipulate ourselves to get more of whatever we think we need, not just materialistically, but even in terms of becoming, I don't know what, more enlightened or whatever. So Genjo Koan is something that is how we practice. It's not that you can get more Genjo Koan. Genjo Koan is... Genjo Koaning this problem is the point. So a little later in this text by Dogen, maybe his most famous lines in all of his writings


these days anyway is, to study the Buddha way is to study the self. And then he says to study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by all the myriad things. And then when that happens, when everything just actualizes itself, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. But there's a problem with this passage because Zen students see to study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. And sometimes people think that means they should try and forget the self. Studying the self, which is the Buddha way, is itself forgetting the self. So this means we have to study delusion. This is what's hard about this practice, not getting your legs into some funny position. Can you just sustain the gaze of being present and paying attention to delusion


all around us and within us? And our own habits, deeply ingrained habits of manipulating the world, thinking we can see the world out there as other and build walls around the country and not let any foreigners in. This is the problem of carrying the self forward. So we just study the self. And that can be really painful. But when you're really willing to just be upright and find the inner dignity of being willing to not run away from yourself, of just facing the self, that's when the self drops off. That is forgetting the self. So you don't have to try. Don't try to forget the self. In fact, we have to keep coming back to the fact that as long as we're walking around in this body, there's a self. And it's not that that's bad, it's just that it's delusion. And so we need to ganja koan this delusion with delusion and keep studying the self.


So we can't even kill ourselves in that way. We can think that we are just objects. As Bob Dylan says, people do what they do just to be nothing more than something they invest in. We become another other when we're caught up in self. So this is the tough side. The other side is that actually at the same time there is the world arising all around us. And within us. And not separate from ourselves. The myriad things just arise and illuminate themselves, everything. That's awakening. And we're connected with that too. That is what's happening all the time also. So it's important to see the difference between these two.


But then it's also important to see how they're connected. How there's actually no separation. How our illusion of self and the world of myriad things are actually totally dynamically interconnected. This is the heart of this ganja koan. And our willingness to live in this tension is where our practice comes alive. So we think that from the point of view of delusion we see how separate these are. There's this horrible deluded activity which causes us problems and we go through making the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes. And then there's this possibility of just everything as it is just meeting the world in front of us. So self and other are totally interconnected.


One of the basic teachings in Buddhism is to see this non-separation or interconnectedness of everything. In ways that we can't possibly know all of us are deeply interconnected. So we see this sense of separation as a barrier. But actually all doors, all windows, all interfaces are bridges also. We are connected with each other. How many people here have been to Vermont? Wow. So many people here are interconnected by having been to a place a continent away. That's just one example. We can name many other places. And if we actually stayed in this room, just the people in this room now, and we let in the people that were just outside the room too


and spent some hours, or some days maybe would be better, talking, we'd all find many interconnections. Some of you know people that some of you also know and you don't know each other. Anyway, we're totally connected in many, many ways. Not just by Vermont. So we see this connection. We see there's no separation. So Genjo Koan in our life is to see this interface, is to see this face-to-face relationship of self and other. So we do this in Zen. We meet face-to-face. And we see that, as Dogen says, eyes horizontal, nose vertical. There's some way in which there's no separation. This interface is tricky and dynamic, and yet it's very vital.


And it happens when we do this. This is one of the gestures we do. This is not interface. Maybe it's inter-palm. Where is... We separate things, right and wrong, or right and left. And yet, just this. We can't exactly say it's one, but we can't exactly say it's two either. So our interface is like this. We meet this intimately. And sometimes it's like magnets, and sometimes it's like the opposite ends of magnets, and we're doing this dance where we're sort of pushing away or resisting. But there's this connection. There's this energy. This is how self and other actually are in the world. Sometimes subject coming forward. Sometimes object arising. Not as object anymore, but just as everything is subject-object,


or we drop subject-object, we drop self and other. Here we are. So this interfacing or this inter-palming is this dynamic vitality in which we genjo koan our world, in which we see this deep connection and this possibility of bringing... So it's not that one danger is to see that myriad things coming forth and experiencing themselves as awakening. We just kind of sit back and passively watch that. That's not it. Part of the practice of genjo koan is that we take responsibility for genjo koan, that we make the effort to show up in the world of genjo koan. And when we're there, it's kind of effortless, and yet we have to actually give our attention


to how the world is genjo koan-ing the world, and we're part of that. So we do have a responsibility, this effort of just showing up in this dynamic interface or inter-palm of self and other meeting, the world of the self carrying forward as delusion and then the world of all the others coming forth. And in that advent, there is this greater self which goes beyond both. So I want to see if I can... I spent all last weekend leading this, talking about these two lines, and I got tangled up because I started to read this commentary on this text. So I'm going to risk getting tangled up again by genjo koan-ing this commentary


by Nishiyari Bokusan, who was a teacher of one of our founders, Suzuki Roshi's main teachers, Kishizawa Iyan. He lived in the 19th century, well, died in 1910, so he was writing this sometime around 1900. He says, Whether the self carries forward or the myriad dharmas advance, it appears to be the same. To carry the self forward and illuminate the myriad dharmas is delusion. The myriad dharmas coming forth and illuminating the self could also be delusion. So that's possible. It's possible that even the myriad dharmas coming forth, illuminating the self, we could be involved in that in a deluded way by carrying the self forward to that or abdicating the self, that is, this body and mind. He also says,


Or if the myriad dharmas come forth and illuminate the selves as enlightenment, then carrying the self forward and illuminating the myriad dharmas could also be enlightenment. So this gets kind of tricky, and don't worry about following this intellectually. That's not the point of this. The point is not to have some understanding. The point is not to get a hold of enlightenment or to understand it, or to get a hold of delusion or understand that. It's just a gancho koan, the whole thing. How can we meet the complexity of this situation in which self and other and subject and object are interpalming, interfacing constantly? So a little bit more of what he says. In practice, we need to go to this place and look back at this place, to go to the ultimate and look back at the particulars, at the phenomenal,


and continue taking years and years to examining by asking, What? What? So this gancho koaning is not something we do just once. This is a lifelong practice. And some of us have been studying this text for 30 years or more. And it still comes forth with deeper ways of engaging this interfacing, this interpalming, this vitality of this dynamic interrelationship between self and other and delusion and enlightenment. He says, Each of these pursuits in your practice will become integral to the self. So actually, in this wider self, which is not separate, or in this gancho koaning of self, as it continues to unfold, both sides are integral.


There's no way to practice without the self. This is the guidepost for practice in our school. This is the point. So it's not that we can get rid of the self or get rid of delusion. That's not the point. This is not just in our school. The Dalai Lama, too, says the point of Buddhism is not to get rid of your ego. When the Buddha said that Buddhism is marked by non-self, he was saying that right in this activity of self, which includes our human deluded self, there is this gancho koaning. So, Nishihari Boksan goes on, What is the actual taste of myriad dharmas come forth and illuminate the self? When the self does not have a speck of contrivance, myriad dharmas pour into the self without hindrance. When the self is completely the self, there's no self. So this is studying the self, completely studying the self.


When there's no self, there's no other. In this way, myriad dharmas come forward and realize the self. When we see from this realm, it is not at all different from the self comes forward and illuminates myriad dharmas. So, if we gancho koan both sides and interface them long enough, there's just this dynamic dance of gancho koan. So again, when we see from this realm, it is not at all different from the self comes forward and illuminates myriad dharmas. When the self is completely the self, the myriad dharmas are in the realm of the self. When you get to this place, whether you like it or not, delusion and enlightenment are onelessness. From the point of view of enlightenment, there's no difference between delusion and enlightenment.


Maybe I shouldn't say that at Beginner's Mind Temple, but this is actually the teaching of our school. And then we have to go back to the self and to our delusions and study them and see that we think that there is a self. And there we are in the deluded world. Again, when the self is completely the self, the myriad dharmas are in the realm of the self. So, this idea of realm, I think, is important to this. He talks about this later in the text in terms of birds and fishes. Just to take on this realm, your realm of genjo koan, so nobody can genjo koan for you. You have to learn the dance steps yourself. And then, when the self is completely the self, the myriad dharmas are in the realm of the self.


One of my favorite lines from the Blue Cliff Record is just a kind of added comment. It says, he has his own mountain spirit realm. Maybe here we should say he has his own, or she has her own, city spirit realm. Each of you has, in this body and mind, in this lifetime, the opportunity in the realm you're in now to genjo koan the whole thing. So, just to conclude, one other piece from Nishiyari Boksan, the teacher of the teacher of our founder, Suzuki Roshi, who died in this building in 1971. Nishiyari Boksan says, practice always requires the two separate dharmas, which are subject and object. We need to see both sides of subject and object


and how we're caught in this division. Then he says, but as long as there are dualistic views of subject and object, that is not Buddhadharma. When the subject and object disappear and have no affairs to attend to, the self is the self, and myriad dharmas are just myriad dharmas, and nothing gets in the way. And then he says, we need this today. So, it's interesting. Nishiyari Boksan was writing around 1900, and he says, we need this today. So, of course, I can say also, we need this today. This dynamic dance of meeting ourself and meeting others and seeing our connectedness and seeing our illusion of separateness is totally vital. So, Genjo Koan is to Genjo the heart, to Genjo the heart of caring and honoring the world of delusion.


So, in this text, Dogen doesn't talk about the precepts, but actually, it's important not to forget the precepts when studying this text, not to forget, again, our responsibility to be helpful in the world of delusion, in this human world that we are interfacing and interpalming with. And we need this today on many levels. We need it just in terms of healing the brokenness of our own hearts and minds on our own cushion and chair, or chair. We need this in terms of trying to be a little helpful in terms of the people around us, the people we live or work with, the people we meet in our weekly rounds. And, of course, in our society today. We certainly need this today. So it's obvious that we're living in a time of great corruption and cruelty.


And at the same time, there's great opportunity and healing and possibility of healing, anyway. But it's pretty obvious that our government is run by shamelessly corrupt war criminals and torturers. And I say this not in terms of politics. It's not about Republicans or Democrats. Plenty of Democrats are going along with it, and there are good, honest people in all parties speaking up about it. But it's just I feel the responsibility to mention this, at least, that also part of our responsibility to Genjo Kohan is to see how we create this separation of self and other in our own lives, in our own hearts, but also in how our society is involved in this, seeing that there are other people who it's okay to bomb or torture or steal their oil. But yet, we're totally connected,


and we see that also in the world today. So I had the privilege of introducing in a talk a few weeks ago the matriarch of the peace movement, Cindy Sheehan. And one of the things that she says, she's a really amazing person, but she says that in this time, it's important to get out of our comfort zone, and she was talking about speaking out about what's going on in our country and speaking out, taking action, each in our own way, responding. But I would say it's important to get out of our comfort zone on all the levels, in terms of being willing to face this separation of self and other in our own hearts and with the people we meet also. How do we see our connection? How do we see that we think we're separate? And how do we see, how do we genjoko on


that dynamic of separation? Subject and object, or subject and object, or however we want to break it down, and then that we can actually genjoko on that. We can manifest the heart of that. We can look into how is this delusion I'm creating? How is this delusion that humanity creates by our capacity to separate self and other? And we really have to study that and be honest about it and see our own and our world's and our society's problems and hangups and ... So this works on all levels. It's a little uncomfortable to actually be in the middle of this interpalming, interfacing. It doesn't have to be torturously painful.


That's not the point of our practice at all. Although sometimes we all are caught up in loss and pain and grief. So we need to honor the sadness of that, and we also need to honor the joy of the possibility of actually just being able to be upright and face this situation, this dynamic situation of genjoko oning our life. So thank you all for genjoko oning this talk. I couldn't just sit up here and talk to an empty room. And elsewhere, Dogen says that Buddhas remain listening to Dharma talks. And he says you shouldn't think that the person giving the talk is superior and the person listening is superior. Or that the Buddha giving the Dharma talk and the Buddha listening to the Dharma talk


are superior or inferior. We're doing this together. There's no separation, actually. And yet, there's this dynamic dance of genjoko on. So please continue to genjoko on. And I look forward to your comments and questions and responses in the discussion period. Thank you.