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Dogen’s ultimate teaching (Part 2/2)


Dogen’s ultimate teaching. (Part 2/2)

From a French TV programme called “Voix Bouddhistes”

performed the 04 2007


Catherine Barry : Good morning everybody. We are back with Roland Rech, zen monk, who teaches in various countries in Europe and many towns in France, to continue the conversation we started last Sunday about the last teaching given by Master Dogen. This teaching deals with the 8 qualities, the 8 aspects that Master Dogen advises all human beings to develop, that is to say, all people who truly wish to find peace in their hearts and minds. Roland Rech, good morning.

Roland Rech : Good morning.

C. B. : So last week, we spoke about the first two aspects of enlightenment according to Master Dogen. I’ll let you briefly sum up, for those who weren’t there.

R. R. : Yes, the first aspect was to have few desires, to stop wasting time running after lots of desires, so as to focus maybe on a more essential desire, which is a desire for enlightenment. Then, the 2nd aspect was to be satisfied with what we have and what we fundamentally are, to rediscover unity in our lives, to be one with ourselves, in harmony with what we deeply are.

C. B. : Then the 3rd aspect, maybe a recommendation, is about living a solitary life, far from the agitation of the world.

R. R. : Yes, this concerns us all because most of us now live in towns, so in places with a lot of agitation, lots of stressful activities and it’s true that in this atmosphere, it’s hard to find the serenity and calmness which allow us to see things clearly. So, he recommended to be able to withdraw from society in solitude, in quietness. He himself very much liked mountains, he had built a monastery in the mountains. But it doesn’t mean that Dogen advocated, neither did the Buddha, a complete retreat from the world, since it is Mahayana buddhism, which advocates a practice of compassion, of solidarity with all beings. And helping all beings supposes being in contact with all beings, yet with a certain quality of contact and not one in nervous over-activity, which, once more, would prevent us from looking inwards, focusing, seeing things clearly. That’s why even if we don’t completely retire in solitude, entering a dojo, sitting facing the wall, sitting with others and facing oneself, and realizing that we are completely alone, that’s what is important to understand.

Why are we totally alone ? Because, even if we are very intimate with someone, in fact, we don’t have the same history, we don’t have the same karma, we don’t perceive things in the same way, we can exchange but actually we are fundamentally alone, and above all, we are alone because finally we can’t own anything, we can’t grasp anything and that’s what meditation teaches us. It teaches us to let go because we realize we can’t catch hold of anything, so solitude is a basic condition. If we refuse it, we’re going to suffer a lot, we’re going to try and make so-called friends, but only on the basis of sharing a certain number of delusions in different groups. On the contrary, if we deeply accept solitude, if we awaken to the true nature of our existence, then we’ll be able to meet others, and get out of solitude by means of an experience shared with others, get out of this fundamental solitude.

C. B. : Finally, it means entering solitude, retreat, wherever we are.

R. R. : I believe it is important to be able to go to and fro between being in contact with others, being sociable, being attentive and not getting overwhelmed and being able to take a step back. That’s zazen practice, meditation practice, being able to get back to one’s body, one’s breathing, to focus on oneself in a relative solitude.

C. B. : Then , the 4th aspect which is about permanent effort, making a permanent effort, and Master Dogen, or Master Deshimaru, gives the example of a drop of water because it is a vivid example.

R. R. : The drop of water, if it regularly falls on the same place, will make a hole in the toughest rock, so it means that constant effort, even if not huge, regular effort, regular meditation practice, zazen practice, constant respect for the precepts will finally completely change our life, will make it enlightened, from constant practice. We mustn’t believe this effort will make us suffer, on the contrary, because the effort we make to practise is an initial effort to enter the practice but the true Buddha Dharma practice is finally to let ourselves be carried along by the dimension of enlightenment of the Dharma and to follow that, naturally, because, in the end it is about being authentically what we are. As soon as, with regular practice, we are in contact with that dimension of life, then it carries us along.

C. B. : So, it is the sense of discipline.

R. R. : Yes, there is a necessary discipline to get rid of our bad habits, to free ourselves of a certain number of conditionings, from our laziness, our carelessness… and so on… and also sometimes from our bad habits in posture, in our body or our breathing, certain habitual ways of thinking. Practising is really a constant effort. Master Dogen said : “It’s in fact, making the constant effort of practising the first important pure vow which is the vow to practise Good.” It sounds simple, really practising Good. If everybody thought about that in his life, without looking for more, just practising Good. Which doesn’t mean following a dogma which tells you what is good, but practising Good by thinking about the consequences of my actions, my words, my thoughts, and making sure that my words, actions and thoughts lead to happiness, well-being, liberation for me and others equally.

C. B. : At the beginning, there’s obviously a determined action to generate this effort, and then it becomes natural.

R. R. : That’s it, and from time to time, you need to come back to that determined effort too, but don’t believe it is always determined effort, because otherwise we create a tension, a duality, whereas the practice of Buddha’s Way is a practice of liberation.

C. B. : Maybe the term isn’t right, maybe we should speak of initial motivation.

R. R. : The right term is energy, constant energy applied in the same direction.

C. B. : So let’s talk about the 5th aspect, which is keeping right thought. It’s very important.

R. R. : Yes, it means not being deluded, this aspect was translated in two ways, either “right thought” or “not being deluded”. But if we look at what Master Dogen says in this paragraph, it is about the practice of right attention, paying close attention to what is, as it is. And also to remember ; in attention, there’s a notion of memory, that is to pay attention to the Dharma teaching, to listen to it, to get it firmly rooted in your mind and not to forget it, to remember it and constantly practise it.

C. B. : We know, when we practise, that it is very difficult not to forget the teaching.

R. R. : Very often, when we forget, it’s because we weren’t attentive enough. The Dharma teaching is not only the sutras, or Master Dogen’s teaching in the Shobogenzo, it is also the meditation practice teaching, it is what we realize in zazen practice.

C. B. : A meditation which is not wrong, as it can sometimes be the case.

R. R. : That’s right, that means a meditation which is truly liberating, a liberation with a mind without greed.

C. B. : Then the 6th aspect is stability in zen : that’s the translation, or it can be “living in truth”.

R. R. : In fact, it’s the samadhi practice. Samadhi is the mind state in which mental agitation has calmed down because we have managed to find inner unity, and unity with the object of our meditation. Of course zazen is a meditation without object, yet we have a support to concentration which is for example the body or the breathing. Becoming totally one with your body, becoming one with your breathing, causes the mind to be deeply unified. From this moment, consciousness becomes smooth, calm as the surface of a lake when the wind has stopped blowing and the Samadhi image is that in this quiet and steady mind, truth is reflected, naturally.
On the one hand, we become more transparent to our inner reality and most of all, more able to look at things as they are because we won’t be troubled by emotions, thoughts or mental agitation any longer.

C. B. : And the right term for this is zenjo.

R. R. : Yes, zenjo is the zen Samadhi.

C. B. : Jo meaning this stability, this immobility which allows us not to dissipate our efforts. This is very important at a time when we often do too many things at once.

R. R. : And it implies paying very close attention to everything we do, to our body, our breathing, our gestures, and not to lose the thread, but to stay completely attentive.

C. B. : So the Buddha said : “If you control your mind, you’ll understand the cosmic order and interdependence.” So we understand it is really essential. The 7th aspect is : the wisdom produced by zazen or the supreme wisdom practice.

R. R. : I would say that wisdom is to learn and know oneself, to live in harmony with the Dharma, Dharma meaning reality, the reality of oneself, not being limited to oneself but our existence in relation with all beings, with the whole universe, and thus non-self, impermanence, interdependence. Those are the different aspects of this reality with which we are in contact through meditation, which, when we are deeply penetrated, become wisdom ; if we live in harmony with this, if we don’t betray this intuition, this enlightenment through our behaviour, our attitudes.

C. B. : I think this wisdom combines intellectual and body intelligence, both are completely associated.

R. R. : It means the whole being, in harmony with the Way, if not, it’s only knowledge, it is not wisdom.

C. B. :So the last aspect is non-discussion, even if we are not going to stop talking, it is not blathering.

R. R. : It’s about avoiding talking too much. Sometimes, truth can come from a debate if people discuss meditation, deep thinking, they exchange their views. Listening to the other’s opinion, we can give another view point. So we mustn’t stop talking, but we should avoid excess, always chatting troubles the mind, makes it more complicated and finally doesn’t make things clearer but on the contrary, it tires us out, makes us more complicated. In a discussion, what do we very often want ? It is not even the truth, it is being right, that’s a waste of time and when we see everyone round a table doing that, it’s useless, it’s better to stop.

C. B. : That’s why silence is finally very important in zen practices, including during meal time.

R. R. : Yes, coming back to silence. Silence is not only shutting your mouth, it means inner silence, stopping mental agitation and developing receptivity to the Dharma, to the reality as it is, to the others around us, making some room in our own heart, in our own mind to welcome the other, the others, nature, the teaching. That’s true silence, it is not just shutting your mouth, but very often, shutting your mouth helps to contact those calling for silence.

C. B. :So all these aspects, of course, are interdependent, it is important, since we can work on one aspect, which is going to join another.

R. R. : Each one finally involves and contains the others. We could develop that point, it would be a bit long, but in fact, they are totally linked. For example, having few desires implies wisdom and also practice, thus effort… it implies right meditation.

C. B. :So, as a conclusion, we can see how this teaching, given in the 13th century is deeply topical for today and how much we need it.

R. R. : It is both modern and universal. I believe every human being needs such a teaching, that was the reason why I wished to talk about it. That’s it, it only remains, now, to practice it.

C. B. : Thank you very much Roland.

P.-S. Prise de notes Claude Hervé.

Traduction Nadia Rouibah et Helen Cheal.

Source zen-nice.org

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