I fucking love Dogen.
I don’t swallow everything Dogen taught, like the stuff Brad Warner discusses in the video above, but I still am in love with his big ideas. Great teachers will change your life even if they are wrong. Because in that wrongness, there is ALWAYS a damn useful question at hand.
IMHO, answers typically enslave, questions typically liberate.
Einstein was wrong a lot, and where he was wrong often did more to help us then where he was right.
So Dogen, thanks for the screw ups in advance. Really.
Dogen was plagued from a young age with a question. “If we are all Buddhas already, then why practice?”
Buddhism teaches that everyone is an enlightened being already. It’s just a matter of waking up. So Dogen was essentially asking “If we are all enlightened NOW why practice at all?”
For him it became his lifelong koan. One he resolved with a sounding thud.
Dogen eventually came to the conclusion there was no separation between enlightenment and practice. He realized that the dramatic enlightenment experiences of other zen masters were just delusions that couldn’t help people in their every day lives. In fact, they often GOT in the way of their practice in many cases.
So what if people had big “WOWS!” when it didn’t matter the next time they needed to shave or go shopping?
He cut through all the Koans and meditation techniques, and faux enlightenment stories to get to the heart of a practice that even common humans could use to gain real freedom. You know, the kind that they can use the next time they had to clean the crusty, dried egg dishes the teenagers left behind after you TOLD them to rinse their plate. Why? So their would be no hellish dried egg dishes that you would have to take a jack hammer to later.
He found a way to make changing the diaper on a mother with dementia a sacred offering to the universe.
His answer was that Zazen ITSELF was enlightenment. And not Zazen like the Renzai school teaches through koans…
JUST sitting. That’s it. Just holding a posture and letting the mind balance itself.
Sounds too easy. Too simple. Too pat.
But the more I look at his reasoning and practice, the more, for me, he nails it just right. There is SOMETHING to enlightenment. But it aint “Total Freedom from Pain and Suffering! Oh! Happy Day!”
So today I sat Zazen again. And today, like before, I declared myself enlightened with great arrogance and hubris. And hopefully, my enlightenment will improve the more I do this practice.
Because I’m enlightened already. We ALL are. It’s just a matter of shining a little brighter and brighter.
And this enlightenment is all I need. I don’t need no dharma transimssion. I don’t need no “approval” or “validation” or fame for being good at being enlightened. I can check enlightenment off my list JUST like feeding the dog.
Dogs fed? Check.
Chores done? Check.
Dogen’s controversial idea about enlightenment rang in my heart like a giant bell. It was like I knew it was right before my conscious mind caught up with it.
I’m really okay about Dogen being wrong about this. Or me for that matter, because that is the real question as far as I’m concerned.
Because if I’m going to be wrong for being absolutely cock sure about something, I like this wrong idea the best.