I think of all the traditions' explanations of Buddha-nature, I still prefer some of the explanations of Buddha-nature by some Soto Zen teachers (particularly those influenced by Dogen).

A few excerpts/postings found on a good blog http://byakurenzen.blogspot.com by Zen teacher Judith Ragir:

The emancipation of suchness

From Dogen, Bussho Fascicle, Shobogenzo:
Although with mu-buddha-nature (no- Buddha-nature) you may have to grope your way along, there is a touchstone – What.  There is a temporal condition – You.  There is entrance into its dynamic functioning – affirmation.  There is a common nature – all-pervading or wholeness.  It is a direct and an immediate access.

In contrast to some interpretations of Buddhism which are about transcending suffering or leaving the realm of samsara behind and not returning, Dogen always surprises me by turning that around.  He encourages us see this moment of what we might call “ordinary life”, as the moment of practice and liberation.  There is no room to stray far from the moment at hand.  He is completely affirming of life, quite different then a nihilistic interpretation of Buddhism.

Katagiri-Roshi said,

The important point is not to try to escape your life.  But to face it- exactly and completely the way it is beyond discussion of good and bad, right and wrong, like and dislike.  All you have to do is just take one step.  Strickly speaking, there is just one thing we have to face and nothing else (the temporal condition). If you believe there is something else besides this one thing, this is not pure practice.  Just take one step in this moment with wholeheartedness.

In studying the fasicle Bussho,  we find that Buddha-nature is not a thing that represents some kind of foundation.  Buddha-nature is impermanence and interconnectedness.  It is essentially empty.  Dogen breaks down the “thingness” or solidness of all things by deconstructing time, space and body.  He only writes of the whole body or entire being, and the total functioning or interconnectedness of life.  The temporal conditions are the coming together of all the factors which produce the formation of this very moment.  That formation itself is Buddha-nature.
The whole body or entire being is often expressed in Dogen with the words:
Mountains and rivers
Earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles
All things in the dharma realm in ten directions
Carry out Buddha work.

    From Jijiyu Sammai, Dogen Shobogenzo
All human bodies completely inter-be with all other manifestations of life.  We are not solitary, independent units.

In this dynamic reality, Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.  The temporal condition of the moment, the
“what”, gives birth to and emancipates the suchness, emptiness, or aliveness of the moment.  Emptiness, impermanence and interconnection are affirmed in this very moment.  They are freed or manifested through their birth in form.  In inversion, form is freed by the letting go into impermanence.  This inter-embrace is Buddha-nature.


It means just appearing, that’s all.
This is the basic nature of existence.

"Entire being is the buddha-nature"

In the beginning of Dogen’s Bussho fascicle of the Shobogenzo, he quotes a famous passage from the Nirvana Sutra (ch. 27) All sentient beings without exception have the Buddha-nature.   In Dogen’s way, Dogen reinterprets this sentence so that it more explicitedly reads in a non-dualistic style.   In the previous sentence, it’s possible to read it dualistically as:
A subject, “sentient beings” “has” an object, “Buddha-nature”

Dogen reinterprets the sentence as:  Entire being is the Buddha-nature.  He tries to alleviate the duality inherent in the sentence structure.  Entire being becomes the complete network of interdependent co-origination, which has no inside and no outside, no I and no you.  Our being or a sentient being is actually the same as the total dynamic working of the entire network of beings.  We cannot pull out a separated “being”.  Dogen deconstructs the space or place of a “being” as a separate, independent unit.  The entire network of beings, functioning together, is the Buddha-nature.

The Buddha-nature is not seen as a “thing” or an “object” but rather the process of life life-ing itself.  It is the total dynamic working of the machine of life.  Katagiri Roshi deconstructs the “time” of Buddha-nature.  He says :
 “Buddha-nature is impermanence itself.  This real moment is constantly: working, arising, disappearing, and appearing. To say what the present moment is, right here, right now, is to say that this moment has already disappeared.  This is called emptiness.  Both cause and effect are exactly impermanence in themselves.  It means just appearing, that’s all.  This is the basic nature of existence.  That’s why impermanence is Buddha-nature.  Buddha-nature is being preached constantly.  When you manifest yourself right now, right here, becoming one with zazen or with your activity, this is Buddha-nature manifested in the realm of emptiness or impermanence.”  From Returning to Silence, page 9.


Friday, June 17, 2011

To know Buddha-nature, contemplate temporal conditions

Buddha said, “if you wish to know the Buddha-nature’s meaning, you must contemplate temporal conditions.  If the time arrives, the Buddha-nature will manifest itself.  From Bussho,  Shobogenzo, Waddell and Abe translation.

This is it for me!  No more seeking. (thank god, after 40 years I’m so tired of seeking) (Joshu calls us,  “Buddha seeking fools”)  No more intellectualizing on the meaning of Zen or the sutras or thinking we can understand.  No more seeking deep and poo-pooing surface (ordinary things).  No more wishing for sacredness and transcendence,  which discounts our ordinary delusions and the problems of life. This dualistic thinking, separating the absolute and the relative, with our concurrent preferences, just continues all the worldly suffering, confusion and fatigue.  Wishing things were otherwise.

The absolute and the relative,  the sacred and the ordinary, are completely intertwined and completely arise together.  That means that this moment is complete, is the Buddha-nature.  There is no “other”  “thing” to search for.  So our practice should be directed at seeing the inter-related quality, the process of no-solid-objects including me!, the openness and no-story (and the taking care of the story) of what is actually arising, the temporal condition of this moment.  We must ONLY contemplate the temporal condition of this moment, and then the next.  This moment is the nexus of process that brings forth this object and brings forth Buddha-nature.  There is no exception and no abandonment.  We can experience this when we release our concepts of truth and our preferences.

If the nexus of forces that arrive are in alignment, we can see "no form" with integrity and "form" with integrity.  We can also experience that they are not separated but whatever the object of our awareness is, This itself is the arrival of Buddha-nature.  “If the time arrives, the buddha nature will manifest itself.   From Fukanzazengi:  :The treasure store will open of itself, and we will use it at will”

2 Responses
  1. Consius Says:

    WHen I read that all is buddhawork, I pivoted back out of the trance of being a doer, a seeker for enlightenment. My memory of the past (glimpses of buddhawork) stopped functioning like 95%, because of the allowing all to be as it is that I learned 5 years ago from adya. I also heard a zen master in spain say that when you stop doing and achieving, you will realize the NO I. I see buddhawork and then I don't, which causes a deep frustration of the seeker for nirvana, which I assume has nothing to do with me. If I believe in 1 opinion or glimpse of seeing buddhaland, I screw it up. I pivot back. It is like that. One belief in I, pivot back. One non belief in I, or self or doer or thinker, I can pivot back to buddhawork. But again, my memory is smooshed due to all the glimpses int he last year.

  2. Soh Says:

    Why is your memory affected? How did you practice?

    Realizing no I is not from 'stop doing and achieving'. It is through a contemplation.

    But if you are frustrated you need to balance it with shamatha and relaxation and letting go.

    Self enquiry should be a joyful inquiry into the Source, not a frustrated inquiry.