In Shobogenzo, Hotsu-bodaishin, Dogen outlines the meaning and significance of the continuous, ongoing practice-realization that Bodhisattvas (Buddhist practitioners) take up with the Four Great Vows. In a marvelously creative illustration of the Bodhisattva intention “to deliver others before we ourselves attain deliverance”, Dogen discusses the nature of a “ksana” (an unimaginably short measure of time) to reveal the inevitably endless, profoundly ambiguous, and sublime majesty of such a task.
In the passing of one day and one night there are six billion, four hundred million, ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty ksana, [in each of which] all five aggregates arise and vanish, but common people never sense or know it. Because they do not sense or know it, they do not establish the bodhi- mind. Those who do not know the Buddha-Dharma and do not believe the Buddha-Dharma do not believe the principle of instantaneous arising and vanishing. One who clarifies the Tathagata’s right Dharma-eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana inevitably believes this principle of instantaneous arising and vanishing. Meeting now the Tathagata’s teaching, we feel as if we clearly understand, but we are merely aware of periods of a tatksana or longer, and we only believe the principle to be true. Our failure to clarify and failure to know all the dharmas that the World-honored One taught is like our failure to know the length of a ksana: students must never carelessly become proud. We are not only ignorant of the extremely small; we are also ignorant of the extremely large. And yet, even ordinary beings, when we rely on the power of the Tathagata’s truth, see the three-thousandfold-world. In sum, as we pass from living existence into middle existence, and from middle existence into the next living existence, all things move in a continuous process, ksana by ksana. Thus, regardless of our own intentions, and led by past behavior, the cycle of life and death continues without stopping for a single ksana. With the body-mind that is swept like this through life and death, we should establish at once the bodhi-mind which is the will to deliver others before we ourselves attain deliverance.
Shobogenzo, Hotsu-bodaishin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
While Dogen certainly intends to convey the need for practitioners to understand that “being ever-deluded” is simply an inescapable condition human life (as he reveals throughout his works), pondering this, I cannot help feeling a definite sense of humility and gratitude.
Unmon once said, “Everyone has a light, when you try to see it, it is dark, dark. What is everyone’s light?”
Answering for his assembly, Unmon said, “The pantry, the gate.” He added, “A good thing is not as good as nothing.”
Then there is that marvelous koan about the water-buffalo going through the window. “His head, horns, and body pass through; why can’t his tail pass through?”
A monk asked Unmon, “What is ‘particle-particle samadhi’?
Unmon said, “Rice in the bowl, water in the bucket.”
Life in the present exists in this pivot-state, and this pivot-state exists in life in the present.
Shobogenzo, Zenki, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross
I bow in gratitude to the Eternal Buddhas–where else could they be but in the present ksana?