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Dogen's question

Dogen, the 13th century zen master, had as his life koan, his own existential question, this:-

[i]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?[/i]

Such a question may well seem remote, of little consequence. Yet upon reflection correspondences, parallels and equivalences can be found whatever our life situation.

If nihilists, why not commit suicide?

If atheists, and assuming that when we are dead we are dead, how should we spend our lives when here?

If Universalist Christians, why seek the good [i]now[/i] if we are "saved" whatever.

The question - any such question - implies our being serious, a deep commitment, to not waste time on too many frivolities. Dogen lost his father when just two, his mother when just seven. Impermanence, life and death, were his constant companions. Reading his life story, we learn how he made his question his life koan - and found his own answer. His writings are not didactic instructions for us to follow in his exact footsteps, but deep writings that can help us find our own life koan, our own question, and thus our own path, time and place. A life adventure - not being dictated to or turned into automatons by the prevailing spirit of the age, but instead to hear what Carl Jung called the spirit of the depths.

Sadly, many waste their lives on the questions of others. And end up insisting that [i]their[/i] answers must be ours. They are thus two steps removed from any degree of authenticity.
Retiring now to reflect more on Dogen and his writings.

He has a very cryptic style of writing full of word play and paradox.

Two phrases as examples to highlight this:-

“[i]To study the way is to study the self, and to study the self is to forget the self.”[/i]

[i]“Buddha nature never arrives in the future, as it is always already here.”[/i]

As Steven Heine writes:-

(Such) [i]cryptic yet illuminating adages demonstrate the distinctive discursive style found throughout the Treasury[/i] (of Dogen's writings) [i]All highlight difficulties and challenges to overcoming delusion and ignorance by showing that nearly anywhere one turns can reveal a sense of being trapped by partial perspectives, misleading assumptions, circular thinking, uncertainty, deception, or blunder.

Maybe one step towards any genuine realisation of truth is to accept our own [i]parcial[/i] perspectives, to truly [i]see[/i] our own assumptions for what they actually are.

Avoid the purely circular thought process (born of fear and lack of Grace and Faith) that asserts that one knows and believes the true Word of God because one is a true believer, and that one is a true believer because........etc etc etc.

Have a good day
"Question" or "questions"?

Dogen wrote:-

[i]If the Way is originally perfect and ubiquitous, why do we distinguish between practice and enlightenment? If the supreme Dharma is free, why do we need our efforts to attain it? Inasmuch as the whole truth has nothing to do with the world’s dust, why do we believe in the means of wiping it away? The Way is not separate from here and now; so what is the use of getting a foothold in practice?[/i]

This points to the pure nature of existence - that of paradox.

There is nothing to be done - yet we cannot do nothing.

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