Zazen shin Supplemental
1. This passage, known as "Yueshan's not thinking"
(Yakusan fu shiryô tei), appears in Yueshan's biography
in the JDCDL (T.51.311c26ff), ZMTY (<cite fasc.
7>), WDHY (<cite ZZ.>), etc., as well
as in Dôgen's SBGZ sanbyaku soku (DZZ.5,196,case
129). The passage is one of the prime sources for Dôgen's
meditation teachings: it forms the core of his description of
zazen in his (vulgate) Fukan zazen gi (DZZ.5.6),
SBGZ zazen gi (1.224), and Bendô hô
(DZZ.6.40), and is cited several times in the SBGZ
and EHKR (fasc 5, DZZ.3.238, entry 373; fasc. 7
DZZ.4.104, entry 524).
The traditional Sôtô
treatment of this passage as a kôan often takes it not
as a set of questions and answers but as a series of declarative
sentences, each expressing the mystery of zazen, a style of reading
that is already suggested in the SBGZS (CKZS,4,67).
Under this interpretation, the interchange of the protagonists
can be read somewhat as follows: (1) Monk: "Thinking in
fixed sitting is [only describable as] 'what' (somo)."
(2) Yueshan: "[Such] thinking is not thinking." (3)
Monk: "Not thinking is [is not merely not thinking but]
'how' (ikan) thinking." (4) Yueshan: "It is
thinking of [the ultimate] 'negation' (hi)." (See,
e.g., ZGDJT, s.v. "Yakusan fu shiryô tei".)
For an extended example of one
modern Sôtô treatment of this passage (and Dôgen's
comments on it), see Kishizawa Ian's commentary on the SBGZ
zazen shin (SBGZ zenkô 11,34-102). BACK TO NOTES.
2. "How could [it] fail to penetrate beyond sitting 'fixedly'
(gotsugotsuchi no kôjô nani ni yorite ka tsû
sezaru)?": This sentence is subject to various interpretations,
none perhaps entirely convincing. The subject here is unexpressed;
given the context, this translation interprets it as the "thinking"
of the previous sentence. On such a reading, then, Dôgen
is asserting that thinking must operate both within and (in some
sense) beyond zazen. Another reading (suggested, e.g., at Mizuno
1,227,n.11) has it that zazen must go beyond the state of sitting
fixedly in zazen. Menzan (MG [CKZS.4,69]) interprets
the sentence to mean that sitting fixedly in nonthinking itself
goes beyond either thinking or not thinking. Nishiari (KT.2,523),
on the other hand, reads kôjô here not as
"beyond" sitting fixedly but as "in", or
"in regard to" (ue), sitting fixedly; on this
reading, Dôgen is asking how, in regard to zazen, one could
fail to "penetrate" (i.e., understand) the thinking
of "how do you think?" BACK TO NOTES.
3. The argument of this difficult passage might be interpreted
something like the following. Although nonthinking is an enlightened
activity, free from all obstructions to knowledge (as in the
expression, "all eight sides are crystal clear" [hachimen
reirô]), it is a distinct act of cognition, with its
own agent (the "someone" present in all our cognitive
states). Yet the activity of nonthinking in zazen is not merely
a matter of cognitive states: it is the identification with the
act of "sitting fixedly" itself. When one is thus fully
identified with the act, it is beyond what can be thought of
or measured, even through the notions of Buddhahood or awakening.
4. One way of paraphrasing this passage might be as follows.
Zazen is the orthodox practice of Buddhism, yet at the same time
it is not merely a utilitarian device for producing a perfected
state of enlightenment (sabutsu) but the expression of
a more fundamental perfection inherent in all things (gyôbutsu).
When one understand it in this way, the practice of zazen itself
becomes the actualization of ultimate truth (kôan genjô),
and the practitioner, just as he or she is, becomes the embodiment
of perfect enlightenment (shinbutsu). This higher understanding
-- beyond the mundane categories (rarô) of cause
and effect, universal and particular, and so on -- gives true
zazen (zabutsu) its power to produce the experience of
enlightenment (sabutsu) in the practitioner. In
this experience, one recognizes that one's own zazen is nothing
but the primordial activity of all things -- always present even
before we recognize it, always perfected even in one's most benighted
states, always functioning throughout the world around one. BACK
5. While in one sense the admonition to "love the real dragon"
can be read simply as the advice to see the true import of Nanyue's
question, commentators since Kyôgô have tended to
identify the "carved dragon" here with zazen and the
"real dragon" with its fruit (see, e.g., SBGZCKZS
4.89). Nishiari suggests that the "carved dragon" may
be taken as zazen of the body (mi no zazen), while
the "real dragon" may be understood as zazen of the
mind (shin no zazen). He goes on to associate the former
with "what is near" and the latter with "what
is far". (KT.2,538-539) BACK TO NOTES.
6. One way of paraphrasing what seems to be the point of this
difficult passage is this: the effort to practice and achieve
the goal of Buddhism "entangles" us in Buddhism; yet
complete entanglement in Buddhism -- both in its discourse and
its cultus -- is itself the goal of Buddhism; hence, the practice
of "figuring" is completely "entangled" in
the goal of "making a Buddha". Dôgen is clearly
enjoying himself here with the multivalent notion of "entanglements":
as the constricting language within which we ordinarily "figure",
as the liberating language of the Zen kôan, and
as the interdependence of the two in Zen study. BACK TO NOTES.
7. Huairang's metaphor of the cart and the ox here undoubtedly
reflects a story in the Da zhuangyan lun jing, in which
a bhiksuni, coming upon a brahmanical ascetic engaged in the
pañca-tapas (gonetsu, "five fires":
the yogic ordeal of sitting in the sun surrounded by four fires),
criticizes him for broiling the wrong thing. When the ascetic
asks in anger, "What should I broil?" the bhiksuni
replies, "You should broil the mind of anger. It is like
driving an oxcart: if the cart doesn't go, you should whip the
ox, not the cart. The body is like the cart; the mind, like that
ox." (T.4:266a) BACK TO NOTES.
8. References to various bovines appear frequently in Zen literature;
we may take Dôgen's use of them here as an evocation of
the rich spiritual resonance of his root text.
"The water buffalo"
(suikogyu): Water buffalo often appear in Zen lore. Perhaps
best known is from the saying of Nanquan Puyuan (748-835) when
asked where he would be in a hundred years: "I'll be a water
buffalo down the mountain." (JDCDL, T.51.259a; repeated
by Guishan Lingyou [771-853] at T.51.265c.).
"The clay ox" (deigyu):
Clay oxen were used in ancient China as ritual offerings at the
beginning of the new year. Because they were whipped as part
of an agricultural rite, the term can connote the deluded, discriminating
mind. A particularly famous instance of the term occurs in the
records of Dongshan Liangjie (807-869): Dongshan asked the master
Tanzhou Longshan (d.u.) why he was living on Longshan; the master
answered, "I saw two clay oxen fighting till they fell in
the ocean, and since then there's been no report of them."
(JDCDL, T.51:263a; see also DSL, T. 47:521a.)
"The iron bull"
(tetsugyu): An allusion to a story about the legendary
Emperor Yu, supposed founder of the Xia Dynasty circa 2000 B.C.
Yu is famous for having saved his people from the devastation
of a great flood. It is said that he made and worshipped a gigantic
iron bull in order to help prevent the flooding of the Yellow
River. From this bull derives the connotation of steadfast, immovable.
"Beat out the marrow"
(tahei zui): A tentative translation. Dôgen
is clearly playing with the colloquial verbal marker ta
("to beat"), but commentarial opinion on the interpretation
of the predicate hei here is widely divided. The translation
here follows perhaps the most common reading, that suggested
by Menzan: to "ox-beat" till one's very bones and marrow
gushs forth. Menzan (Shôbô genzô chûkai
zensho 4:118) likes the primary sense "to scatter"
for hei (Morohashi entry 38929) -- hence, his "to
cause to gush forth"; Kishizawa (Shôbô genzô
zenkô vol. 11, 328) prefers the sense "to put
together" (Morohashi 746) -- hence, "the whole";
Kyôgô (Shôbô genzô chûkai
zensho 4:118) reads "to make use of" (Morohashi
12236); hence, "to beat with the marrow". BACK TO NOTES.
9. The argument here would seem to be that (a) seated meditation
is (the act of) a seated buddha, not merely human sitting; (b)
yet, once we recognize why this is so, we recognize that (greater)
self -- or inherent buddhahood -- that is present even in our
human sitting; (c) in the light of this recognition, the distinction
between our sitting and the buddha's meditation, or between ignorance
and enlightenment, is no longer ultimate. BACK TO NOTES.
10. "Buddhas of previous 'discrimination'" (isô
funbetsu naru butsubutsu): The translation here loses something
of Dôgen's play on Hongzhi's line, "It is ever without
discriminatory thought" (sô mu funbetsu shi shi).
He appears to be reading the line as something like, "thought
never discriminating", against which he balances his own
"buddhas already discriminating". While the term funbetsu
("discrimination") typically carries a negative connotation,
as in Hongzhi's line, Dôgen seems here to be using it in
reference to the buddha's power to discern things as they really
are. On this reading, the passage as a whole might be taken to
mean something like the following. The "subtle knowing"
of the buddhas clearly discriminates all phenomena (the "mountains
and rivers"). We should not think that this (higher) "discriminatory
thinking" is something for which we must wait; it is "already
realized" in each mind's inherent power of discrimination
("the buddhas of previous discrimination"). Zhengjue's
"ever without [discriminatory thought]" here refers
to this inherent power, which is "realized" even in
ordinary perception. The spiritual practice of one who understands
this is free to travel Dongshan's "way of the birds".