Fall Ango Week 2: As all things are Buddha-dharma…

October 2, 2023

sunrise on a field of weeds, by Katlyn Boone

Dear Practice Period Participants,

Welcome to our second weekly email. We missed gathering in person in the city at Boundless Mind Temple on Saturday, and hope that the unexpected spaciousness was its own Dharma offering as those in the city recover from Friday’s deluge. 

Our passage to turn over together from Genjo Koan this week is the first four sentences:

As all things are buddha-dharma, there is delusion and realization, practice, birth and death, and there are buddhas and sentient beings. As the myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many and the one; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet, in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.

Each week, we will offer some comments and inquiries as a way to start opening the passage and/or get warmed up for our mid-week dharma shares.

The opening of Genjo Koan can sound philosophical, but our sense is that Dogen is not so concerned with how we grasp his words as with how they can nourish and support deep, vital wholehearted practice.

We encourage all of us to receive these sometimes difficult or obscure teachings in the spirit of an offering for our own bodies, minds and hearts of practice, liberation and compassionate responsiveness.

Dogen starts by saying As all things are buddha-dharma

In relation to this, one possibility is to inquire: How are all things buddha-dharma? How is everything teaching me?

Then Dogen explicitly lays out three core dualities that he then turns throughout the fascicle: delusion and realization, birth and death, Buddhas and sentient beings.

We can consider how these dualities live in each of us, and also what are our core dualities? Which ones show up over and over? Which ones really grip us?  Which ones are easy to see through? Which ones are hard to let go of?

Next, Dogen invokes emptiness, or the “no”s that we also hear in translations of the Heart Sutra and the Prajna Paramita texts. Because “the myriad things are without an abiding self”  then there is “no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death.”

Instead of these “no”s being a negation, they are an offering that anything that is happening is happening through relationship, connection, inter-being. And this is the “perfection of wisdom” or the prajna paramita– the ungraspable truth is available and can free us in any given moment.

And now, Leaping clear of the many and the one, we return to the affirmation of the first sentence: As all things are Buddha Dharma….

How is this affirmation different from the first affirmation? How is it changed by the sentences in between?

One lens we can use is to see this as a developmental picture of what happens over time in practice, succinctly wrapped into a few sentences. AND we can hold in our awareness that Dogen is usually critical of setting up steps and stages. So how is Dogen unfolding the practice-life of a single moment?

Finally, in the fourth sentence, Dogen shifts: Yet, in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.

Upon the death of his second daughter shortly after she was born, Kobayashi Issa wrote a poem:

The world of dew is the world of dew, and yet… and yet…

Perhaps like Issa, Dogen shifts here from a teaching that is a deep expression of truth, but also perhaps a bit ideal or abstract, to the actuality of suffering as a living field of intimacy where the practice of nonduality has its real life.

Are there ways in which we use a teaching or practice to not simply be with what is happening? To change it, avoid it or get something out of it?

Liberative practice is grounded in deep intimacy. This is how freedom is relevant, how it has a lively function in the world.

Making real contact with the suffering, attachment and aversion of this moment, how do we study nonduality in the midst of falling blossoms and spreading weeds?

To assist us on our exploration, as we wade into these beautiful, challenging, illuminating waters together, we will try to offer additional resources each week- some from within the Zen tradition, and some from the world of non-dual engagement beyond. 

This week, we offer this quotation from author, philosopher and liberative agitator Bayo Akomolafe about the possibility of a movement of living non-duality, of ‘breaking the binary,’ and becoming ‘undone:’

I am quite confident that even as the oceans boil, and the hurricanes beat violently against our once safe shores, and the air sweats with the heat of impending doom, and our fists protest the denial of climate justice, that there is a path to take that has nothing to do with victory or defeat: a place we do not yet know the coordinates to; a question we do not yet know how to ask. The point of the departed arrow is not merely to pierce the bullseye and carry the trophy: the point of the arrow is to sing the wind and remake the world in the brevity of flight. There are things we must do, sayings we must say, thoughts we must think, that look nothing like the images of success that have so thoroughly possessed our visions of justice. May this new decade be remembered as the decade of the strange path, of the third way, of the broken binary, of the traversal disruption, the kairotic moment, the posthuman movement for emancipation, the gift of disorientation that opened up new places of power, and of slow limbs. 

May this decade bring more than just solutions, more than just a future – may it bring words we don’t know yet, and temporalities we have not yet inhabited. May we be slower than speed could calculate, and swifter than the pull of the gravity of words can incarcerate. And may we be visited so thoroughly, and met in wild places so overwhelmingly, that we are left undone. Ready for composting. Ready for the impossible. Welcome to the decade of the fugitive.

From the home page of his website

Thank you for your practice and your engagement.

We look forward to hearing what is alive in your practice this week,

Charlie & Sarah

Zen Priests, Dharma Teachers