Dogen nonthinking and pseudo Zen teachers


Learned audience, practicing cessation meditation through the method of mindfulness or shikantaza, can be described as mentally stepping back from all your involvements and considerations—that is letting go of all judgments regarding good or bad, right or wrong, abandoning notions about enlightenment and Buddhahood, and simply resting in your own fundamental awareness.
 Good friends, this is in accord with the meditation instructions in all schools of Buddhism. Being in accord with the fundamental teaching, the instructions for mindfulness by all the sages and Zen ancestors are nearly indistinguishable from one another.

Learned audience, do not be fooled by teachers that try to draw major distinctions between their own particular sect or lineage and others by reverting to games of semantics. Some like to argue about the differences between Dogen’s term of nonthinking, and Eno’s term of thoughtlessness. Some give long dissertations on how ‘cessation’ differs from ‘no-mind’. While these arguments may be of interest to linguists, they have nothing to do with Zen. The Zen ancestors abstained from indulging themselves in that kind of hairsplitting. Remember, although ‘going for a stroll’ sounds different than ‘taking a walk’ the actual experience is identical.

   Good friends, Master Dogen was very aware that even the simplest guidelines could be turned into dogmatic formulas or commandments. He often warned students about the dangers of becoming attached to the teachings, which he called “the carved dragon,” that are used to point to reality, and thereby miss that reality itself, which he called the “real dragon.”
 Learned audience, Dogen, more than many masters, recognized the essential role of the teachings or “carved dragon,” nevertheless, he urged us to “love the real dragon more.
Arguing semantics about minor differences between the terms used by Dogen, Baso, Obaku, Hyakujo, and other Zen ancestors, not only demonstrates a failure to “love the real dragon more;” it demonstrates a disdain for the “carved dragon,” which is the teaching transmitted by the buddhas and Zen ancestors.
Although modern pseudo-Zen teachers, with their authentic looking costume and “bloodlinecertificates may obscure the Zen ancestor’s teachings on meditation, with a little effort, you can personally discover the true meaning of authentic meditation. Once you become familiar with the actual practice of meditation, you can apply and compare Dogen’s method of nonthinking and Obaku’s, method of cessation of conceptualization for yourselves. Then you will discover on your own that the actual experience is identical. This is how you should test all the teachings: try them and discover for yourself if they work.

4 thoughts on “Dogen nonthinking and pseudo Zen teachers”

  1. Hello Yamakoa,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I asked Louie your question about the carved dragon. He referred me to a story in The Transmission of the Lamp. I can’t seem to make heads or tails of it myself, but maybe you can make some sense of it– here it is:

    In listening there is no listening; it is not concerned with the nature of listening. The dharma is originally unborn, so how can it ever die? When there is voice, the vibration of voice is created by itself. When there is no voice, the vibration of voice is extinguished by itself. Yet the nature of listening does not depend on the voice that is created, not does it depend on that which is extinguished. This nature of listening is not under the control of the vibration of the voice. We must realize that listening is free from birth and extinction; listening is free from going and coming.
    The Transmission Of The Lamp, Sohaku Ogata, p.131

    Please treasure yourself.

  2. Hello Ted,
    Just “ringing” out to you from the land of the rising sun.
    This post rings timely for me here. Although I am here for work, I have been making an effort to visit the local temples. There are so many carved dragons everywhere I look. Very interesting to say the least and I would have to agree that carved dragons have their purpose.

    Maybe you can ask Louie, if a carved dragon roars who hears it?

    Take care,

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