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A Poem.of Dogen

[i]To what shall I
Liken the world?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops,
Shaken from a crane's bill.[/i]

Many commentators, led astray by "the languid east" nonsense, and thoughts of maya (understood as "illusion") see such words, understand the poem, as being some some sort of diminution of the individual, and our world as being in a sense unreal.

Sir Edwin Arnold wrote, in his epic poem of the Buddha's life, "The Light of Asia", ended that poem with the words (upon the death of the Buddha as he enters Nirvana):-

"The dewdrop slips into the shining sea". More misunderstanding.

In fact, it is more that the shining sea slips into the dewdrop - yet even that does not capture the Buddhist position, which in fact is a no-position that supecedes [i]all[/i] positions.

Getting back to Dogen's poem, here is a more perceptive understanding:-
“According to this verse, the entire world is fully contained in each and every one of the innumerable dewdrops, each one symbolic of the inexhaustible contents of all impermanent moments. Here the dewdrops no longer suggest illusion in contrast to reality because they are liberated by their reflection of the moon’s glow. Conversely, the moon as a symbol of Buddha-nature is not an aloof realm since it is fully merged in the finite and individuated manifestations of the dew. Just as the moon is one with the dewdrops, the poem itself becomes one with the setting it depicts.”[/i]

Thus the [i]particular[/i] is seen to contain the universal. Each and [i]every[/i] particular. Every moment. Every NOW. In this world, not some imagined "other" promised beyond the grave.

Another astute commentator Hee-Jin Kim invites us to pay particular attention to the pivotal word “shaken.” Many examples could be given of static images of the moon in a dewdrop or the moon reflected in still water but, by virtue of being shaken, the metaphor becomes dynamic and interactive.

So much for illusion, the diminution of the individual!
Another poem of Dogen:-

[i]In the heart of the night,
Moonlight framing
A small boat drifting,
Tossed not by the waves
Nor swayed by the breeze[/i]

The meaning of this, at least for Dogen, can be illuminated by his words found in his "Genjokoan" (the actualisation of reality) He writes:-

[i]If one riding in a boat watches the coast, one mistakenly perceives the coast as moving. If one watches the boat in relation to the surface of the water, then one notices that the boat is moving. Similarly, when we perceive the body and mind in a confused way and grasp all things with a discriminating mind, we mistakenly think that the self-nature of the mind is permanent. When we intimately practice and return right here, it is clear that all things have no fixed self.[/i]

Dogen, in his poem, gives voice to the vulnerability of enlightenment. We do not possess enlightenment. It possesses us.

"A clearly enllghtened person falls into the well. How is this so?" (A zen koan)

And Thomas Merton:-

[i]We stumble and fall constantly, even when we are most enlightened.[/i]

As I see it, many fear vulnerability. We can cling to being right, of having "all truth" - but Faith is of another order. It is a letting go, trusting in becoming.

Which is the "eastern" way of seeing things. Becoming, not Being. The eastern preoccupation with impermanence is well known to anyone who approaches its poetry, and impermanence can - and does - bring suffering when we cannot trust in the river of change.

But impermanence, if we "let go", can transform the suffering. But Impermanence, it becomes clear, doesn’t mean that things last for a while then pass away: things arise and pass away at the same time. That is, things don’t exist as we imagine they do. Much of our experience of reality is illusory. And this is why we suffer. We attempt to hold onto happiness, as if it is a thing, a state of being, but as William Blake has written:-

[i]He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise
Therefore Being IS becoming. "God" can become an idol.
A small extract from the book I mentioned, "A Tale for the Time Being"...

One of the narrators is speaking about being forced by her mother to attend a public bathing area, and she writes about seeing other people naked...

....[i]the hostesses were slim and smooth-skinned, and even though their breasts and waists and hips were different sizes, they were all young and looked pretty much the same. But the old ladies . . . omg! They were totally different sizes and shapes, some with huge fat boobs and others with just flaps of skin and nipples like drawer knobs, and bellies like the skin on top of boiled milk when you push it to the side of the cup. I used to play this game, matching up the hostesses with the old ladies in my mind, trying to imagine which young body would turn into which aged one, and how this cute breast might wither into that sad old flap, and how a stomach would bloat or sag. It was weird, like seeing time pass, but in a Buddhist instant, you know?[/i].

Anyway, continuing with my readings of Dogen. A fascinating character, born into a turbulent age. He found his own path, time and place - did not simply accept what was thrust upon him by time/space conditions. He studied Dharma [i]for the sake of Dharma[/i].

In theistic terms, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him"

Many seem not to understand, no matter how it is explained. In his later years Dogen more and more emphasised repentance. For him it flowered [i]from [/i] enlightenment.

So many see "repentance" as a condition for Mercy, a condition for Grace. See their own "decision" for Jesus (or whatever) as the [b]causal basis[/b] of salvation.

Yet the [b]causal basis[/b] is simply the very nature of Reality. Therefore, [i]realisation[/i] not "attainment". Always - as is said - Faith not works.

Sadly, no matter how it is explained, it brings no recognition. They prefer the comfort of "the only way", [i][b]their[/b][/i] way, no matter how they answer.
I see that my exchange with "fuzzy logic" (some such name) has now been marred by him deleting his own posts. Just about par for the course. It is "one way" (his way) or nothing. He spoke of believing in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, this I presume based upon the words from St Matthew:-

[i]I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.[/i]

As usual, he has no idea.what the words mean. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a [i]Living God[/i], living in each life. Not an unchanging Being, the same for all, to learn of by repeating verses parrot fashion according to one's own conditioning.

Alas, so it goes on. The "one wayers", blind leaders.of the blind. The modern Pharisees.
One of Dogen's fine essays/sermons is Uji, or the "Mountains and Waters Sutra", of the Time Being.

Another way of saying that things come to be and pass away [i]at the same time[/i]. Yet thinking ourselves permanent, and watching the shoreline move, we attempt to cling to each and every moment (if nice) or get rid of it (if awful) or just meander on (if inbetween) But Uji.......being is time, and time is being. Which is very much up there with quantum leaps and "things" being particles [i]and[/i] waves, both at the same time. How "things" separate in space are yet dependent upon each other. All demonstrated by experiment, by science. Yet our common sense convictions of Reality have simply not kept pace. We flounder, continue to suffer. Dukkha.
And if the "philosophy" is too much, try "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Oseki. Very much recommended.

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