Monday, August 15, 2011

Tying Knots, Connecting Threads

It's long been undeniable that one of my favorite books is Dōgen Zenji's Shōbōgenzō. I would never put Pabongka Rinpoche's Liberation In The Palm of Your Hand in that category though. It's a great book, mind you, but one of my favorites? Given all the other books i love? Then why do i pull it off the shelf all the time when i'm just looking for something to think about? I have the paper copy on my bookshelves, within arm's reach of the chair i read in most often, and i have a digital copy on both my Sony Reader and my iPad. Does my heart like this book more than my head realizes?

Anyway, this morning i spent a little time with Dōgen and his chapter Shinjin Gakudō (Learning Through The Body & Mind) and ended up spending the rest of the morning while trimming hedges and doing yardwork with these thoughts:

"Buddhist practice through the body is more difficult than practice through the mind. Intellectual comprehension in learning through the mind must be united to practice through our body. This unity is called shinjitsunintai — 'the real body of man.' Shinjitsunintai is the perception of 'everyday mind' throughout the phenomenal world. If we harmonize the practice of enlightenment with our body the entire world will be seen in its true form.


"What we are concerned with is the physical and spiritual action of shinjitsunintai. When we use the expression 'the entire world is contained in each particle' we do not mean the physical world itself [we are not talking about space but experience]."

After lunch i was poking around in Liberation and in a quote attributed to the 7th Dalai Lama, Kaelzang Gyatso, saw this"

"What we call 'living' is but a journey on the highway to death."

Now, there is nothing new in the understanding that from the very instant of our birth we begin the long process of dying; that with each breath, with each moment that passes we are closer to that instant when we take our last breath. Life is the journey towards our death. That's true and there is no getting around it, but that's not the lesson.

What matters is how we live that journey, how we make use of the time allotted to us. What's important is that, like all journeys, we have the choice of where we spend our days, what we do, how we spend our time, what we focus on, etc. Some people lead completely intellectual lives. Others lead completely physical lives. Many try and balance the two with varying results.

Dōgen tells us how important it is to get that balance right. It is only when we get the balance between our intellectual practice and our physical practice right that we are able to see the world in its real form, when we are able to see 'everyday mind' throughout the entire world.

Dōgen points out that 'the entire world' is not, repeat not, a separate physical 'something' out there; outside of who and what you are. The 'entire world' is not physical, it is experience. Your world is comprised of you, the physical world, every experience you have every had, and every experience you will ever have. My world is comprised of me, the physical world, every experience i have every had, and every experience i will ever have. My 'entire world' is not the same world as your 'entire world.' And on and on, ad infinitum, for every being in existence.

And yet they are the same.

So what's the point? I guess it would be, what answers do you come up with when you ask yourself:

- What is everyday mind? More than the usual trash that rattles around our heads all the time?

- What does it mean to see everyday mind throughout the entire world?

- What does it mean that the entire world is experience?

- If the entire world is experience, what does it mean to see everyday mind throughout experience?

- What is a physical practice? More than liturgy and bowing?

And for extra credit, if your world is different than mine, which is different from everyone else's, why are they the same?

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