Zen: realization is practice

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from Dogen Zenji’s Shobogenzo

Dialog on the Way of Commitment

Answer 7:

“At the risk of casting pearls before swine, I would advise you that thinking of meditation and realization as two separate things is just wrong. We teach that meditation and realization are identical.”

[My comment: This first sentence in Dogen’s Answer 7 gives us the main topic of this Answer: “realization is practice”. This statement intrigues me. It points me to contemplate on present moment awareness. Keeping my awareness in the present moment I let go of thoughts and impressions of past events and projections of possible future events. When they arise in my consciousness I do not feed them but rather let them subside. This also suggests choiceless awareness. Being open to ‘what is’ – the suchness of this moment – I do not entertain any frame of reference that could support making choices or coloring my perception of the present moment according to a certain preference.]

“Because realization is practice, a beginner’s way of devotion is the entirety of intrinsic enlightenment. Why do we recommend not having any expectation of enlightenment in your approach to practice?

English: Dōgen watching the moon. Hōkyōji mona...

Dōgen watching the moon. Hōkyōji monastery

Because meditation is already the intrinsic realization that points directly to your true self. Realization is practice, so it has no end; practice is realization, so it has no beginning. Shakyamuni and Mahakashyapa were both filled and enriched with practice within realization, and practice within realization also drove Bodhidharma and Eno. After embracing Buddha’s truth, it is like this for everyone.”

[Here I sense Dogen telling us that all activities of daily life take place more and more naturally in the same quality of awareness that we have when sitting in formal meditation. “Realization is practice” means then that realization brings about in our consciousness such a shift that we continually and pervasively feel the deep pull to be poised in the inner posture of ‘practice’. Here ‘practice’ points to that inner turning toward the ever-present intrinsic enlightenment that makes all of manifestation come alive – as well as away from the conditioned behavior which consists of habits and trance-states. We no longer can bear to take a single step or a single breath in the old, superficial and one-dimensional way, but continually surrender to that yearning to come more and more alive in all aspects of our lives to the Mystery within Mystery of which we are an intrinsic part. The resulting depth of our mortal experience begins to entrain us increasingly to continue deepening that quality.]  

“Practice has never been separate from realization. With each slice of that unique practice which you gratefully learned one-on-one, of your beginner’s mind devoting itself to the way, comes a slice of intrinsic realization in its natural habitat. The patriarchs admonished us to maintain a robust practice in order to avoid defiling the realization from which it is inseparable. As your hands release ineffable practice, intrinsic realization will fill them; as intrinsic realization passes from your body, ineffable practice will course through it.

I saw for myself that temples everywhere in China have meditation halls accommodating five hundred, six hundred, a thousand or two thousand monks, encouraged to meditate day and night. When I asked the head monks about the true meaning of the Buddha dharma, those pious men informed me that it lay in how meditation and realization are one.”

[The sentence, “The patriarchs admonished us to maintain a robust practice in order to avoid defiling the realization from which it is inseparable” stands out for me here. I reflect on times in my life over the past 35 years when I felt ‘comfortable’ with my degree of realization and (also due in part to demanding jobs etc.) relaxed my practice considerably, even interrupting it completely at times. Then, it seems inexorably, came a point at which I once again came to a dead end and felt my life and the tension of conflicts were unbearable. After sometimes cathartic emotional and practical upheavals,   and the ensuing ‘repenting’, I returned to such “robust practice”. What I realize now in hindsight, is that I had been caught up in delusions and trance-like states on very subliminal levels and therefore had not recognized the signs alerting me to my forthcoming fall. However, the term “robust practice” does merit some additional reflection. I don’t know what term you find in Dogen’s original Japanese text, but what resonates with me at this moment is that this refers to a determination to keep myself clear of random past perceptions, and indeed not feed perceptions at all. Krishnamurti speaks often of “dying to the past” in order to be really aware of ‘what is’ and this is my sense of “robust practice”. Sitting in meditation then means to be undistracted by the thought stream and to be then in that awareness that has ceased to follow the pull of sensory objects. Then letting go of accumulated emotional and mental residue that clog and cloud my awareness comes naturally.]

“That is why I call on not just those studying here, but all worthy seekers of truth, all who long for the reality within the buddhadharma, be they new or old, saint or sinner, to follow the path of the masters and devote themselves to the way of meditation as the sages before us have taught.”…

Or as another said, “Those who see the way practice it.” The implication is clear: you must practice within attainment of the way.”

sitting zen large

Further descriptions of the inner posture when sitting (from Dogen’s “Dialog on the Way of Commitment”):

{simply sit and completely leave behind the body/mind distinction, disconnect from random, impure perceptions and thoughts, affirm and enter into the intrinsic truth of Buddhism}

{… we don’t perceive these things while sitting—because in the stillness, stripped of artifice,  we experience direct affirmation.}

{You will join your surroundings in stillness. As your mind and surroundings sit together in stillness, awakening flows in, affirmation flows out.}

{When you now release everything and sit single-mindedly in meditation, leaving behind confusion, clarity, emotion, and intellect, and leaving aside paths sacred or profane, instantly you find yourself enveloped by and imbued with sanity, cavorting freely outside of the framework, fulfilled in awareness.}

{But another reason for you is that one patriarch described zazen approvingly as “approaching the truth in joyful repose,” and you can deduce for yourself that sitting is the posture that best fits that bill. I would also emphasize that this is the path of all buddhas that have preceded us, not just one or two.}

– end –

  • Zazen (allisjustadream.wordpress.com)
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4 thoughts on “Zen: realization is practice

  1. Pingback: Zen: CO N T R O L | heartflow2013

  2. Pingback: Habit Energy of Running and Our Practice | heartflow2013

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