At Confluence Zen Center’s recent five year anniversary gathering and book signing in Maplewood, Missouri, I picked up a copy of A Blueprint of Enlightenment: A Contemporary Commentary on Dōgen Zenji’s Gokudō Yōjinshū (Guidelines for Studying the Way) by Gien Inoue translated by Daigaku Rummé and Keiko Ohmae. [Also available via Amazon.] Having attending Confluence Zen Center’s Zoom studies on this text I feel honored, grateful and blessed to have contributed to its digesting and now share a bit, mostly referencing chapters 8 and 9.
But first, a favorite line from the text:
‘Distinguishing clearly between the condition in which you deal with yourself through your own ideas, and the condition that these movements take place irrespective of your own thoughts, this state is referred to as “ancient secret”…’
Also, throughout the draft of the text for the Zoom studies, the only thing highlighted is the word “Buddhism” and seems to be swapped out here and there with “Buddhadharma”.
“Buddhism” is a western term. “Buddha” is one of the historical Buddha’s titles often translated as “awake(n)”. And translating “dharma” as “teachings” and/or “the truth of the way things are” and/or “reality” are words that only kind of scratch the surface of what “(D/)dharma” points to.
So here in the west, taking the title “Buddha” — which references enlightenment, awaking, realization — and then making it just another “-ism” seems like kind of a head scratcher. Is this really just something else to be lumped in with other religions? Granted though “Buddhism” is likely way more recognizable and accessible to total newcomers than “Buddhadharma”. Quite an interesting, and quite literal highlight.
Chapter 8: The Conduct of Zen Monks
A profound contemplation and reflection (practice) — and what it is said to lead to — are found in the following questions from Dōgen Zenji in Chapter 8:
‘What are body and mind? What is Zen conduct? What are birth and death? What is Buddhism? What are worldly affairs? And what, ultimately, are mountains, rivers, and earth, or men, animals, and houses? If you continues to ask these questions, the two aspects — movement and nonmovement — will clearly not appear. This nonappearance, however, does not mean inflexibility.’Dōgen
Our study ended at Chapter 8 leaving two more chapters. As far as I know some major MABA studies ended without completion too such as “Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English” and a “Trust in Mind Inscription” translation, and have heard the same for other MABA studies as well. This could obviously be coincidence and/or for other reasons and factors. Could this also though be a reflection of Zen, the Bodhisattva path, and/or Nirvana/Samsara?
UPDATE: via Confluence Zen Center 9/29/2020: ‘Our next Study Group will start on Wednesday Oct. 14th and run for six weeks. We will meet from 7:00 – 8:30 pm. We will continue reading the Gakudo Yojinshu commentary, which is now available in book form — “A Blueprint of Enlightenment.” It is available for $15. If you’d like it sent to you by mail, send a check payable to: Daigaku Rumme, and he will send you a copy. This is a unique opportunity to read and discuss the book with Daigaku who is one of the translators of this text. Class cost is $20 for members and $40 for nonmembers. Please RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org’
Chapter 9: The Need to Practice in Accordance with the Way
‘Śākyamuni . . . sat beneath a bo tree doing zazen. Suddenly, upon seeing the morning star, he became enlightened. . .’Dōgen
Interesting how Theravada teachings say various things about what went on when the historical Buddha sat beneath a Bodhi tree leading up to realizing enlightenment — possibly including: calming the mind, past-life recall, Vipassanā, turning attention to anicca, etc. — and do not mention zazen. Also is “bo tree” synonymous with Bodhi tree?
Is there a canonical reference to seeing the morning star? The current day morning star — which after a certain period becomes the evening star — is Venus. The star Sirius is also known as the morning star. Perhaps worth noting: Venus is a planet, not a star. There’s also morning star references involving the character Lucifer, and strangely enough, Jesus Christ, amongst several others.
‘The enlightenment that the Buddha realized through his own efforts has been transmitted from Buddha to Buddha without interruption to the present day.’Dōgen
How can a transmission (from elsewhere) happen if realization occurs through one’s own efforts?
‘When you look at a book . . . your whole experience just changes with your facing it. This function is certainly working right now, although you have no idea from where or how this starts to move.’
The value of this fascinating phenomenon never really sunk in until expressed like this. And then these questions naturally arise: why is this so and how does this come to be?
‘Even if all the buddhas of the three times of past, present, and future worked together in order to completely understand the true nature of what one awakened person has realized, they would fail to do this. Even if we understand the way of enlightenment, when it comes to explaining it, only a small part of it can be described. It is such a great thing.’
And, wow, yes, how profound this great expression of vast beyondness is that it surely beckons sharing here.
‘Engendering belief like this, clarifying the Way and practice accordingly.’Dōgen
Context is not included for this quote. I mentioned it here as a curiosity and perhaps a sign of the times to use “engendering” and because the original study text instead says, “Generating belief like this…”
Also, I won’t go into digressions on the differences of belief and faith here. However, please see the Integrating Presence post with pertinent passages on belief.
‘When Śākyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment, he proclaimed, “All sentient beings are completely endowed with the wisdom and virtue of the Tathāgata. There is absolutely no difference between them and me.”‘
What is the canonical reference for this?
‘Try cutting off the function of discriminating consciousness.’Dōgen
‘It is necessary to once and for all cut off the root of thought.’
How exactly is this done? Even enlightened beings still have thoughts right? If so, then, if after cutting off the root of thought, how can there be thoughts?
Providing zero to minimal instructions seems to be both a strength and weakness of Zen. A strength because too much instruction can muddy the waters leaving a practitioner potentially confused — lost in concepts instead of direct experience. And a weakness because if too vague there may be more possibility of doubt, zoning out, and questions about “am I doing it right.”
Interestingly enough, the ability to both lessen and increase discriminating consciousness develop with regular training as well as the quieting of thoughts.
These instructions can also seem challenging because mind (wants to) say(s), “this very pointing out instruction relies on thoughts; drawing from the/a whole world of thoughts; and uses ideas.” But just because there’s language associated with these instructions — and language is a process involving the thinking mind — such a conveyance differs from the way the untrained mind usually uses and engages in thoughts; the world of thought; and ideas. It is kind of a meta reference referring to something beyond itself while nullifying the very construct of language’s entanglement with the thinking mind.
And a practice tip:
‘When you stop following thoughts . . . you will awaken.’
Don’t know if this is the place for this statement or not; here goes anyway: I’m guessing most with non-dual realizations don’t live the majority of life in a non-dual way as day-to-day interactions involve plenty of polarization. Is this because there aren’t adequate numbers (yet) of those having eradicated dualistic perceptions?