Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
The Insentient Preach the Dharma
1. “Not following the path of the birds” (chōdō ni fugyō 鳥道に不行): From a saying, cited elsewhere in Dōgen’s writings, attributed to the Tang-dynasty master Dongshan Liangjie 洞山良价 (807-869):
A monk asked, “The master always has the student follow the path of the birds. I don’t understand. What is the path of the birds?”
The master said, “You don’t meet a single person.”
[The monk] said, “How do you follow it?”
The master said, “You should go without a string at your feet.”
[The monk] said, “If you just follow the path of the birds, then isn’t this one’s original face?”
The master said, “How could the ācārya get it so wrong?”
[The monk] said, “Where did this student get it wrong?”
The master said, “If you didn’t get wrong, how could you take the servant as the master?”
[The monk] said, “What is the original face?”
The master said, “It doesn’t follow the path of the birds.”
(Jingde chuandeng lu 景徳傳燈録, T.51:322c21-27; c.f. Dongshan yulu 洞山語録, T.47:511a28-b3.)
The reader may note that the last two lines here suggest that Dōgen’s comment on not following the way of the birds, though not typically interpreted in this way, could be read to imply that preaching the dharma is one’s original face..
2. “When the flower is taken up” (nenge no toki 拈華のとき), “when the robe is handed down” (den’e no toki 傳衣のとき): The famous story of the first transmission of Zen from Śākyamuni to Mahākāśyapa has various tellings developed over several centuries. The early eleventh-century Chan history Tiansheng guangdeng lu 天聖廣燈録 (ZZ.135:612a1-4) provides the following.
When the Tathāgata was preaching the dharma on Numinous Mountain, the devas presented him with flowers. The World-Honored One took a flower and showed it to the assembly. Kāśyapa smiled. The World-Honored One announced to the assembly, “I have a treasury of the eye of the true dharma, the wondrous mind of nirvāṇa. I bequeath it to Mahākāśyapa. In the future, do not let its propagation be cut off.” In addition, he entrusted Kāśyapa with his gold-brocade saṃghāti robe, to await Maitreya.
There are also several versions of the story, apparently originating with the eighth-century figure Heze Shenhui 荷澤神會, that the Fifth Ancestor transmitted Bodhidharma’s robe to Huineng. Here is the account in the Jingde chuandeng lu 景徳傳燈録, T.2076.51:223a9-18 (noteworthy in our context for a concluding verse that explicitly denies the buddha nature of the insentient):
When night came, he [i.e., the Fifth Ancestor] secretely had someone summon the practitioner Neng from the threshing room to visit his chambers. [There] he announced, “The buddhas appear in the world for one great matter. They guide according to capacities, larger or smaller. Consequently, they have doctrines such as the ten grounds, the three vehicles, sudden and gradual, which form their teachings. However, the treasury of the true dharma eye, the unsurpassed, subtle, secret, perfect, clear truth, was bestowed to the head disciple, the Venerable Great Kāśyapa. It was transmitted successively through twenty-eight generations, until Bodhidharma arrived in this land and obtained the Great Master [Hui]Ke. The inheritence has reached me. I now bestow on you the dharma treasure as well as the kāṣāya handed down. Guard it well, and do not let it be cut off. Listen to my gātha:
The sentient come and plant the seeds,
And from the earth, the fruits are born.
The insentient do not have any seeds;
They’re without any nature, and nothing is born.
3. “Before King of Majestic Voice” (Ion’ō izen 威音王以前): This buddha, who is said in the Lotus Sūtra to have been succeeded by two trillion buddhas of the same name, is often identified with the Buddha King of Emptiness (Kūō 空王, Kumārajīva’s translation of Dharmagaganābhyudgatarāja, “King who has gone forth into the dharma firmament”), also mentioned in the Lotus Sūtra (T.262.9:30a3), who is thought of as the buddha during the æon of emptiness, last of the four kalpas (kō 劫) of a world cycle: formation (jōkō 成劫), endurance (jūkō 住劫), destruction (ekō 壞劫), and emptiness (kūkō 空劫). Both these buddhas are regularly used in Chan texts in reference to a state prior to any differentiation, as in such common expressions as kūō nahan 空王那畔 (“that side of the King of Emptiness” or “over there by the King of Emptiness”).
4. The exact source of Dōgen’s version of Huizhong’s conversation on the insentient preaching the dharma has not been identified. A similar passage occurs in a longer discussion on the topic in the material listed in roll 28 of the Jingde chuandeng lu 景徳傳燈録 as “Nanyang Huizhong guosi yu” 南陽慧忠國師語 (T.2076.51:438a9-25):
A monk also asked, “What is the buddha mind?”
The master said, “Fences and walls, tiles and pebbles are it.”
The monk said, “This is very different from the sūtras. The Nirvāṇa says, ‘Except for insentient things [like] fences and walls, it is called the buddha nature.’ Now you say they are the buddha mind. I don’t understand; are the mind and nature different?”
The master said, “When we’re deluded, they’re different; when we understand, they’re not different.”
[The monk] said, “The sūtra says, ‘The buddha nature is permanent; the mind is impermanent.’ Why do you say they’re not different?”
The master said, “You just depend on the words and not the meaning. For example, in the cold months, water condenses to ice; when it turns warm, the ice expands to water. When living beings are deluded, the nature is condensed into mind; when living beings understand, the mind is expanded into the nature. If we cling to [the view that] the insentient lack buddha nature, the sūtras ought not say ‘the triple world is just mind.’ It seems it is you who differ from scripture, not I.”
[The monk] asked, “If the insentient have the mind and nature [of a buddha], can they preach the dharma?”
The master said, “They’re constantly preaching with ardor without pause.”
[The monk] said, “Why can’t I hear it.”
The master said, “You yourself can’t hear it.”
[The monk] said, “Who can hear it?”
The master said, “The buddhas can hear it.”
[The monk] said, “Should living beings have no part in this?”
The master said, “I preach for living beings; I don’t preach for sages.”
[The monk] said, “I’m deaf and blind and don’t hear the insentient preaching, but the dharma master must hear it.”
The master said, “I don’t hear it either.”
[The monk] said, “If the master doesn’t hear it, how does he know that the insentient can preach?”
The master said, “If I could hear it, I would equal the buddhas, and you would not hear what I preach.”
[The monk] said, “In the end, can living beings hear it or not?”
The master said, “If they hear it, they’re not living beings.”
5. “The sages stand and listen” (shoshō ricchi chō 諸聖立地聴): This expression seems a variant of the more common “the buddhas of the three worlds stand and listen” (sanze shobutsu ricchi chō 三世諸佛立地聴), best known from the words of Xuansha Shibei 玄沙師備 (835-908) that Dōgen discusses in his Shōbōgenzō gyōbutsu iigi 正法眼藏行佛威儀 (DZZ.1:69ff). The saying is included in his shinji 真字 Shōbōgenzō 正法眼藏 (DZZ.5:270, case 287):
Xuefeng addressed the assembly saying, “The buddhas of the three worlds turn the wheel of dharma within the flames.
Xuansha said, “The flames preach the dharma for the buddhas of the three worlds. The buddhas of the three worlds stand there and listen.”
6. “The Great Master Wuben, Eminent Ancestor Dongshan” (kōso Tōzan Gohon daishi 高祖洞山悟本大師): While generally following the version of this episode found in the Jingde chuandeng lu 景徳傳燈録 (T.2076.51:321b27-c11), Dōgen’s rendition of Dongshan’s verse diverges in favor of a slightly expanded treatment of the story seen in the Zhengfayanzang 正法眼藏 (ZZ.118:76b17-a6):
[Dongshan,] having arrived at Yunyan, asked, “Who can hear the insentient preaching the dharma?”
Yan said, “The insentient can hear it.”
He said, “Can the Reverend hear it.”
Yan said, “If I heard it, you couldn’t hear my preaching the dharma.”
He said, “In that case, I can’t hear it.”
Yan held up his whisk and said, “Do you hear it?”
He said, “I don’t hear it.”
Yan said, “Even when I preach the dharma, you don’t hear it; how much less when the insentient preach the dharma.”
He said, “In what scripture do the insentient preach the dharma?”
Yan said, “Haven’t you seen where the Mituo jing says that water fowl and forests all remember the buddha and remember the dharma, the insentient grasses and trees play the flute and sing?
Dongshan thereupon had an insight and composed a verse saying,
How strange! How strange!
The insentient preaching the dharma is inconceivable.
If you use your ears to hear it, it’s hard in the end to understand;
You’ll only know it when your eyes hear the voices.
7. “Sloughs off body and mind” (shinjin datsuraku身心脱落): In several places, Dōgen attributes this expression to his teacher, Rujing; but the phrase shenxin tuoluo 身心脱落 does not appear in the two redactions of the latter’s recorded sayings preserved in Japan (Nyojō goroku 如淨語録, T.48:No.2002A and 2002B). One of these two includes a postscript attributed to Dōgen that records the famous story of his hearing these words from Rujing (T.48:No.2002B:136c3-9; see also DZZ.7:246).
Once, when the master entered the hall, he said to a lazy robed one who was sleeping while sitting, “Studying Chan is body and mind sloughed off. How can you just sleep?”
Hearing these words, I suddenly had a great understanding. I directly ascended to the abbot’s quarters, burned incense and made prostrations.
The master said, “Why are you making prostrations?”
I said, “Body and mind are sloughed off.”
The master said, “Body and mind sloughed off; slough off body and mind.”
I said, “This is just a quick trick. The preceptor shouldn’t recklessly approve it.”
The master said, “I’m not recklessly approving you.”
I said, “What is it you’re not recklessly approving?”
The master said, “Sloughed off, sloughed off.”
In the discussion of this phrase in the Hōkyō ki 寶慶記 (DZZ.7:18-20), Rujing responds to Dōgen’s question about its meaning by saying,
Body and mind sloughed off is zazen. When we just sit, we are free from the five desires [of the senses] and remove the five obstacles [to meditation: desire, aversion, torpor, agitation, and doubt].
Since we have no independent evidence supporting Dōgen’s attribution of this expression to Rujing, some have suggested that the phrase “dust of the mind sloughed off” (xinchen tuoluo 心塵脱落; Japanese shinjin datsuraku), appearing in Rujing’s recorded sayings, might have been Dōgen’s source. (See T.48:No.2002A:130c19.)
For other examples of Dōgen’s attribution of this expression to Rujing, see Bendō wa 辨道話 (DZZ.2:538); Zanmai ō zanmai 三昧王三昧 (DZZ.2:178); Gyōji 行持(下) (DZZ.1:198); Bukkyō 佛經 (DZZ.2:178); Eihei kōroku 永平廣録 (DZZ.4:10; 4:240).
8. “A thousand hand eyes” (senjutō gen 千手頭眼): The topic of Avalotiteśvara’s thousand arms and thousand eyes is treated in a dialogue, between Yunyan Tansheng 雲嚴曇晟 (780?-841) and fellow disciple Daowu Yuanzhi 道吾圓智 (769-835), recorded in the shinji Shōbōgenzō (DZZ.5:182, case 105):
Yunyan asked Daowu, “How does the bodhisattva of great compassion use so many hands and eyes?”
Wu said, “Like a person searching behind [his head] for his pillow in the night.”
The master said, “I understand. I understand.”
Wu said, “What do you understand?”
The master said, “The entire body is hands and eyes.”
Wu said, “You talk big talk, but what you say is eight or nine tenths.”
The master said, “How about my fellow teacher?”
Wu said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”
The dialogue appears in several Chan sources; see, e.g., Zongmen tongyao ji 宗門統要集 7:23recto-verso, Zengaku tenseki sokan 禅学典籍叢刊 1:149-150. Dōgen discusses a slightly different version of the conversation at Shōbōgenzō kannon 正法眼藏觀音, DZZ.1:213ff.