Sunday, January 1, 2012

The three realms: Dogen's Genjo Koan and Gurdjieff's Law of Three

Dogen's Genjo Koan, constituting his most essential expounding of the Dharma- opens with three sections:

"When all dharmas are Buddha dharma, there are delusion, realization, practice, birth and death, buddhas and sentient beings.

"When the myriad dharmas are without a self, there is no delusion, no realization, no Buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death.

"The Buddha way, basically, is leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms just fall, and in aversion weeds just spread." (Dogen's Genjo Koan- Three commentaries, P.23, Counterpoint, Berkely, 2011.)

These three propositions accurately mirror Gurdjieff's Law of Three. Dogen's first paragraph describes Holy Affirming; the second, Holy Denying; and his third expounds the principle of Holy reconciling.

Interested readers who pick up a copy of the book will discover that much of Bokusan's commentary on the nature of Genjo Koan is closely related to this question. Genjo Koan, loosely interpreted, means "the hidden, whole action of impartiality." (See pages 13-14.) Bokusan's detailed iteration of syllabic meaning notwithstanding, the interpreted gist of the title is broadly consonant with Gurdjieff's "impartial being-mentation." And, indeed, a close reading of the text as Bokusan's commentary develops reveals just such a thrust.

In Dogen's Zen, the resolution of conceptual thought, and consequent duality, is attained through the action of third force, Gurdjieff's Holy Reconciling. This is "going beyond."

Bokusan comments: "Buddha dharma is like this. As being, non-being, form, and emptiness go beyond being and non-being, form and emptiness, there are distinctly being and non being, form and emptiness. Sentient beings, Buddhas, delusion and enlightenment are all like this... This is something that can only be understood by those who have departed from all views and attained true liberation. It cannot be seen with the eyes of those who are eager to be enlightened. Genjo Koan comes forth when this eagerness is removed. What happens in the place beyond being and non-being? Only after going beyond do the three realms come together and sentient beings come together. This is Genjo Koan.

To tell you the truth, even when we are deluded we are within the three realms. Even when we are enlightened we are within the three realms." (ibid, p.36.)

The three realms can be understood as three forces of Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, and Holy Reconciling. Only by the action of third force- going beyond- can the three realms be brought together within the manifestation of sentient (three brained) beings. Just like Gurdjieff, Dogen indicates that we are third force blind- we don't understand going beyond. This blindness towards third force is both a central tenet of Gurdjieff practice and an overarching theme in Buddhism.

Broadly speaking, the forces of cause and effect- a perennial question in Zen- can be understood as related to affirming and denying forces. Reconciliation comes through action- and that action can, perhaps, furthermore be broadly understood as understanding. Understanding- insight- is repeatedly presented in Zen practice as a transcendental action that resolves the paradox of causes and effects- which cannot be denied, but are not in fact separated. Readers who pick up a copy of the book will find that throughout the text, Bokusan's commentaries repeatedly bring up points that are very strongly consonant with comments and observations made by Jeanne de Salzmann in The Reality of Being.

This raises interesting questions about de Salzmann's trip to Japan with William Segal, her meetings with Suzuki and Nakagawa, and later consequences for the Gurdjieff work. Her insights- though undeniably and inseparably in a direct line that evolved from her work with Gurdjieff- unmistakably echo Zen insight and Zen practice, and her introduction of Zen-type sittings to the everyday practice in the Gurdjieff Foundation's work must have followed directly on her discovery of the similarities between Zen understanding and objective understanding, as taught and practiced by Gurdjieff himself.

De Salzmann, in other words, understood both aim and practice in Zen, and how closely related they were to Gurdjieff's own work and aims.    

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

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