Conduct and observance

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Today I was thinking about Dogen once again. I don’t have any Dogen source material with me on this trip, so I am left to ponder what I can remember from my readings.

I do have Gurdjieff’s “Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson” with me and I have been reading the chapter on religion. In it, he mentions that the teachings of Saint Buddha and Saint Lama were so changed and corrupted by subsequent followers that they no longer resemble the original teachings in any significant way.

Presuming that is true, we are left in the position of attempting to understand the teachings either from the point of view of the reportedly garbled original doctrine which has been recorded and passed on by followers, or from the words of men who practiced and seem to have attained something real in the context of the teaching.

Of all these men, in the Zen tradition of Buddhism, Dogen seems to be the one that most exemplifies a real level of attainment, so when we read Dogen’s words, I think we are a bit closer to the heart of Buddhism than when we go to other sources. Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part, but if it is, I have company.

Dogen speaks about not becoming attached to non-attachment. Non-attachment is such an important practice in Buddhism – one hears about it all the time – that it is surprising, perhaps, to hear a master speak of not becoming attached to it. He also speaks of not becoming attached to silence, which is perhaps even more surprising, since a deep inner silence- and what lies beyond it- is an aim in meditation efforts.

Attachment, non-attachment, silence—what to make of Dogen’s words on these matters?

Attachment and non-attachment are still dualities. Silence and noise are dualities. Dualities meet within Being: and Being, if it develops, inhabits this edge condition- a place of food- within which duality can be resolved.

I like to use the work inhabitation to describe the organic effort to be within the conditions of duality, but not of the conditions of duality.

In the Shobogenzo, Dogen has an extensive sutra about how to value the Kasaya- the Buddha’s robe. In reading this sutra it repeatedly struck me how clear it is that the sutra is, above all, about practice: about the practice of how we wear our lives. So it’s evident to me he was interested in this question of inhabitation of life, investment in life. The analogy of the Buddha’s robe is nothing more than a vehicle for a set of understandings, of principals, about Being within life.

In the face of the conditional nature of duality, we make an inner effort to become unconditional: to accept the conditions, regardless of what the conditions are.

In this way we become objective in relationship to duality: instead of being attached to duality, a part of it, we are inhabitants within a landscape that contains duality. So we are not attached, or un-attached: we just are. We become observers of duality rather than masters, victims, or slaves of it.

This idea relates to Gurdjieff’s idea of the creation of a new “I” within man. As we are, the possibilities for this kind of relationship are limited. We must become something quite different, inside, in order to begin to understand this better.

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