years ago in the practice leaders study group, we were questioning what to
study. Ken Ford said, “Let’s study
enlightenment!” We all laughed and balked. Balked because it’s a tricky or scary question. We all should understand this thing we search
for, ‘enlightenment’, but who does?
Can enlightenment be understood?
And yet, if we don’t have some understanding or framework, we can get
remarkably off the track of an unselfish or non-“self”-oriented
spirituality. So, we began to
study Dogen on enlightenment and we especially studied “Daigo, Great
Realization” from the Shobogenzo.
Since then, I have been studying this fascicle, right side up and upside
down, trying to clarify this essential question.
does not want us to have a fixed conceptual idea of enlightenment. He does not want enlightenment to be a
noun, a fixed state of mind, or worse yet, some experience that one has “once
and everything is changed forever” or that you enter a vermillion tower in the
sky, or that you transcend ordinary reality, never being mud-covered
again. He does not want
“enlightenment” to have a solid space or a fixed time which would be counter to
the desire to really taste open, boundless, timeless reality. This reality is continuously combusting
in every 6 and a half billion moments in the 24 hours.
in Dogen’s wonderfully poetic and non-linear literary style, he tries to show
all the many facets of how inherent enlightenment is felt by humans. He is like a 20th century
cubist as he writes. (How irreverent to compare him to Gertrude Stein!) But his
use of the combination word - practice-realization,
is the beginning of trying to show enlightenment from every angle and
particularly a non-dualistic point of view.
different facets of enlightenment are seen from a Cubist view as different
angles of the same thing and expressed by Dogen thus:
The Great realization is manifested (kensho or satori). This is the actual moment in life
perhaps we could say the peak moments of life, when body-mind-heart are
completely one. When mind and
environment are completely one.
When you have entered into non-thinking and wholeness. This is often such a startling
experience that we tend to cling to it and thus, unbeknownst to the experiencer,
stumble into clinging and desire, the 2nd Noble Truth, and increase
The way is reached through no-realization (emptiness). We might call this
mu-realization. This experience is
beyond conceptualization and beyond achievement. The “enlightenment” disappears and we very naturally follow
the practice of leaving no trace.
No person, no event, no path, no cessation, no enlightenment.
Reflecting realization and freely
utilizing realization. We might call this u-realization or
realization in form. In Daigo, Dogen calls this returning to delusion. One is able to reflect or utilize
realization effortlessly in our ordinary life of the form world and the laws of
cause and effect. This is often
reported as going into the briars and brambles and being covered with mud. Dogen writes, “The Buddha ancestors freely played with mud-balls”.
Losing realization and letting the
practice go. In the end,
enlightenment is a lot about being able to let go over and over and over and
over in each moment. Dogen writes,
“Lose is enlightenment, gain is
delusion.” Living with the
view of timelessness, we can relate to each moment’s arising with
freshness. In order to be fresh,
one has to let go of the previous moment.
This is learning to be fresh in the flow of time. This is learning to relax and let go
completely, surrendering yourself to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Entrusting
ourselves to the waves.
This many faceted expounding of the
dharma of enlightenment, helps me let go of my previous notions and my linear
sense of development. It allows me
to be free to receive this moment as it
is as enlightenment. This
frees me from the burden of centralizing life around my self-centered needs and
security and to be able to participate in life with a fresh wholehearted
presence and with composure based on a very large, universal understanding of
what’s going on.
Labels: Daigo, Dogen, emptiness, enlightenment, Kensho, mu-realization, practice-realization, Realization, satori, Shobogenzo