Tuesday, October 2, 2007

not only ubiquitous, but also non-emotional Dharma

Today we return to Nishijima and Cross's translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo for a further look at the source chapter for yesterday's quote- book 3, chapter 53- Mujo-Seppo, or, "The Non-Emotional Preaches the Dharma."

As with all of Dogen, the entire chapter needs to be read in order to appreciate the depth with which he covers his subject. I am just going to try to hit a few high points here.

A close reading of the chapter may suggest that when Dogen says 'non-emotional', he means "objective." And in this interpretation, some might be reminded of Gurdjieff's continuing call to objectivity; in his eyes, it is the subjectivity of man that leads to his downfall. We find further parallels in Western psychology, where the "collapse" of objective outside events into the narrow interpretative field of ego may be seen as one of the difficulties routinely confronting the individual in efforts to derive a consistent and legitimate meaning from life.

Dogen was careful to let us know that the non-emotional preaching of the Dharma was not an intellectual practice. On page 102 he says, "... the non-emotional preaching the Dharma, though multifarious, does not require the activation of the intellect. The succession that takes place at this time is truly a secret. Those in the states of the common and the sacred cannot easily arrive at or glimpse it."

He goes on to intimate that the non-emotional preaching of the Dharma derives from a direct, unquantifiable experience of truth. We might call it an unmediated "experience of experience" that lies between the Scylla and Charybdis of intellect and emotion.

Because it is so intimate and difficult to explain, he says: "the present non-emotional, which may indeed be a mystery, and very wonderful, and again very wonderful, is beyond the wisdom and the consciousness of common men and sages and saints and is beyond the reckoning of gods and human beings."

...Does this remind us perhaps of Christ's "the Peace of God, which passeth all understanding?" For me, it does.

On page 103, Dogen speaks even more directly to the question of this mysterious physical experience: "going further, there are instances of the thoroughly realized the body hearing the sound and instances of the whole body hearing the sound. Even if we fail physically to master hearing sounds through the eyes, we must physically realize, and must get free from, [the truth that] the non--- emotional are able to hear the non-emotional preaching the Dharma, for this is the truth that has been transmitted ... This is Dharma-preaching of the non-emotional state, in which the ancestral Patriarch's right eyes have been transmitted and in which the bones and marrow have been transmitted."

Admittedly, as with most of his material, Dogen's exact message has been obscured by the specific language and meanings which Buddhists used a thousand years ago. Nonetheless, we can glean the intimation that Dogen speaks here of a physical experience of objectivity: the objective physical experience of truth as it enters the body.

Non-emotional preaching of the Dharma, in other words, can perhaps be likened to Gurdjieff's action of conscious labor, where one attempts to bring the attention to the point where impressions enter the body.

The potential connections deepen. On page 104, we find yet another possible touchstone between the two practices:

"...What is the non-emotional preaching the Dharma? The Master says, 'no abusive language.'

What Tosu expresses here is the very Dharma-plan of eternal Buddhas and the ordinance of the patriarchs. Such [preaching] as the non-emotional preaching the drama, and Dharma-preaching of the non-emotional, is, in short, not to speak abusive language."

Anyone familiar with with with the Gurdjieff work might be reminded here of the practice of conscious suffering, which is understood to be related to the non-expression of negative emotion. It appears as though Dogen may have linked the practice of attentive objectivity directly with the practice of not expressing negative emotion.

As usual, we are always in danger of finding what we want to find in books like this. Unfortunately, that is a danger that we run with everything we encounter.

It does seem odd, however, that Dogen and Gurdjieff so often seem to find echoes of each other in themselves.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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