Also see: What is Total Exertion?

 Shinshu Roberts


Shinshu Roberts is a Dharma Heir of Sojun Mel Weitsman, abbot of Berkeley Zen Center and in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. She received her priest training at San Francisco Zen Center and from the North American branch of the Japanese Soto School. She has been appointed Kokusaifukyoshi (International Dharma Teacher) by the Shumucho (Japanese Soto Administration). She co-founded Ocean Gate Zen Center in Capitola, CA with her spouse Jaku Kinst.


Excerpts from Being-Time: A Practitioner's Guide to Dogen's Shobogenzo Uji by Shinshu Roberts:


"...Moving Endlessly Up and Down

Dynamic movement can also be understood as a moment abiding as impermanence. Tanahashi translates this section as "actualized by ascending and descending of the time-being at each moment," suggesting a quality of staying put yet dynamically moving.

If you are a dancer, you respond to sound and rhythm with your body. Yet each dance has its own demands or particularity. If you are a ballerina, you have a certain set of forms defining the style of how you will dance, yet within these parameters, your options of expression are innumerable. As you dance, that moment also holds the moment of the music's composer, the moment of composition, the history and culture of the music, the creativity of the choreographer, endlessly naming and including everything in the universe. There is also the nondual, total inclusivity of each moment, as the dance dances the dance - no subject and no object. At the same time, there is just the unique, independent, exclusive moment of the individual dancer dancing. Both are happening together, both depend upon the other for being-time's expression. This is the moment's constancy in the midst of dynamic expression.

Abiding in the moment is the right-here-and-now of our experience: it is enduring suchness. This suchness is the dynamic interpenetrating connection with all of reality. You may have a feeling that this moment is tranquil and quiescent, separate and complete. Yet, this moment is still interacting with all of reality. We're not usually aware of the universality of the moment, but that does not negate its expression.

This moving up and down can be understood as a kind of deep penetration of a particular occurrence of our being-time. At the same time, it is all being-time. The universal quality is the connective glue of all dharma positions as they simultaneously actualize being-time. Because each moment is interpenetrating being-time and also independent in and of itself, we get a sense of impermanence expressed.

A Glimpse of the Entire World

Continuing the paragraph, Dogen writes, "This time realizes the entire world by being a creature with three heads and eight arms, and realizes the entire world by being a sixteen-foot golden body." Dogen is reiterating that a particular dharma position's independent nature might be perceived as a creature with three heads and eight arms or a sixteen-foot golden body..."

"Deep Investigation
In the United States, we often hear about mindfulness associated with Buddhism. A popular definition of mindfulness is a kind of complete attention on an activity and its object. For instance as we are washing dishes, we might be saying to ourselves, "I am washing a plate," and focusing our thoughts on the feeling of the activity itself. We might slow down, follow our breath, and put all our focus on the sensation of the task as an object of our attention.

This would not be how Dogen would approach the practice of deep investigation or exhaustive penetration. He might be describe the activity of washing dishes as washing washes washing, thereby removing the subject-object relationship. Mindfulness may be a dharma gate to intimacy, but it is not the Zen practice of exhaustively penetrating the totality of one's experience. In the true intimacy of complete engagement there is no labeling of self or other that comes from paying attention to something outside the self.

When engaging in work practice, a Soto Zen student is interacting with the totality of all the elements arising within the context of that activity. This means that one makes effort to fulfill the task in such a way that one is respectful of the tools used, the context of the work, the instructions of the work leader, the time allotted for the task, and working in unison with others. The purpose of our effort is to complete the job through our total exertion and practice with the task itself. It is not to be mindful of the activity as an object of our attention. When we are able to engage in work this way, we drop our own agenda and fully engage with the complete activity of cleaning and community.

Included in this intimate total immersion in the being-time of a particular moment is the simultaneous arising of all being-time. This nondualism is not separate from the relative or everyday. Washing dishes is not special. By entering the world of washing dishes, we enter the whole world, which is our world, by jumping in with wholehearted effort.

Dharmas Are Real Form

Nishijima and Cross translate Waddell and Abe's "penetrating exhaustively" as "perfectly realizing" and associate it with a phrase from the Lotus Sutra: "buddhas alone, together with buddhas, can perfectly realize that all dharmas are real form." Dogen unpacks the meaning of real form in "Shoho Jisso" (All Dharmas Are Real Form):

"Real form is all dharmas. All dharmas are forms as they are, natures as they are, body as it is, the mind as it is, the world as it is, clouds and rain as they are, waking, standing, sitting, and lying down, as they are; sorrow and joy, movement and stillness, as they are; a staff and a whisk, as they are; a twirling flower and a smiling face, as they are; succession of the Dharma and affirmation, as they are; learning in practice and pursuing the truth, as they are; the constancy of pines and the integrity of bamboos, as they are."

This perfect realization is all dharmas totally expressing their true nature. We are "buddhas alone, together with buddhas." We remember the true state of ourselves and all being(s).

The integrated self is therefore not separate from all being-time. For this reason, Dogen writes earlier in "Uji," "to set the self out in array is to make the world," which is the singular expression of "entirely worldling the entire world with the whole world.""


"...Practice-realization is predicated on the actualization of our interconnection with all of life. Our practice is about realigning our behavior to reflect the truth of interconnection, not only from the perspective of the self, but also from the perspective of the totality of each thing arising simultaneously in this moment. Dogen comments in "Gyoji" (Continuous Practice):

'When the continuous practice which manifests itself is truly continuous practice, you may be unaware of what circumstances are behind it, and the reasons why you do not notice them is that to understand such a thing is not that special.'

When we don't force a moment of practice into a preconceived idea, we find that we may not recognize practice-realization when it arises. Dogen writes in "Kajo" (Everyday Activity) that the Zen masters manifests their understanding while drinking tea and eating rice. Understanding is manifest in the everyday activities in which we all engage. When we are trapped in the supposition that realization must have some special quality, we miss the fact. We tell ourselves that our current life is not special enough; therefore, it could not be a life realized.

If we follow this way of thinking, when we read that Zen masters express realization while drinking tea and eating rice, we believe that the being-time of their drinking and eating must be special and outside daily life. How could our eating and drinking be in the same league as that of a Zen master? Zen masters sit in grass huts, stillness radiating from the holy mountains that surround them, accompanied by the sound of a creek. Their tea is as green as the frog leaping into a nearby pool and their rice is infused with their enlightened nature. Surely they do not put their pants on one leg at a time!

From this erroneous view, we extrapolate that Zen masters are enlightened outside of the interactive arising of all dharmas, so-called daily life. Actually, Zen masters are Zen masters because they do not get caught in some idea about reality. Rather, they respond to the arising dharmas in such a way that they include the totality of each moment, thereby enacting realization. This is a fluid, continuous, impermanent response state.

When we respond with an idea about how we should be, we are forcing the moment. We get caught in thinking Zen is special and outside daily life. From this view, how could we understand our life as realized response? How can we possibly understand that when nothing special is happening, our life, just as it is, can resonate with realization? We don't recognize the skillful things we do as practice-actualization. Yet, each moment that we are able to fully participate in the totality of that moment is realized response. Enlightenment is not a fixed state residing within an individual. Rather we engage in enlightened behavior, at this time, responding in concord with the continuous practice of all beings worlding the world.

Do not underestimate your realization by negating it, and don't make it more than it is by concretizing it. Just pay attention to the business at hand. Zazen, going to the bathroom, chanting, going to work, or any other activity you can think of is an opportunity to fully inhabit our lives within the context of all life. Most of the time we don't even notice when we are fully occupying a moment."

"A Wind-Bell in Space

Dogen offers an example of the multiplicity of passage as the transmission of Buddhist ancestors in his fascicle "Maka Hannya Haramitsu" (The Perfection of Wisdom):

My late Master, the eternal Buddha says:
Whole body like a mouth, hanging in space;
Not asking if the wind is east, west, south or north,
For all others equally, it chatters prajna:

Chin Ten Ton Ryan Ten Ton.
This is the chattering of prajna [transmitted] by Buddhist
patriarchs from rightful successor to rightful successor.
Iti s prajna as the whole body, it is prajna as the whole of
others, it is prajna as the whole self, and it is prajna as the
whole east, west, south and north.

The wind-bell exemplifies passing in and through this moment's moment. The particular moment of the wind-bell's sounding is the culmination of the passage of wind, metal, sound, the bell, and the effort of all being-time throughout time and space. It is not just the direct cause and effect of wind moving the clapper.

A wind-bell hangs in space. This bell exists as an independent moment of being-time. It does not try to control the direction of the wind. The wind-bell does not perceive the wind as sequential. The wind itself is just the is-ness of the being-time of passage, it has no particular agenda called "moving the wind-bell's clapper." This wind's arising and this bell's being-time are mutually penetrating and mutually engaged in their activity. There is the passage of the bell and the passage of the wind. The bell is pure response. The wind is pure response. The east is response. The west is response, south and north are response. Nothing is left out. The wind-bell's song is the mutual penetration of everything seen and unseen. All passage is just this, and yet there is the moment of the wind-bell's sounding. This can be said of each element mentioned in the poem.

All together, affirming, rings out the voice of "Chin Ten Ton Ryan Chin Ten Ton." Because the wind-bell's voice is also the voice of all being-time, Dogen writes this is the affirmation of wisdom transmitting passage from "rightful successor to rightful successor." It is the wisdom of the whole body of universal being-time. This is also true for spring's passage. It is the wisdom of the particularity of a dharma that is both the independent self and the self of no-self of that dharma. It is the wisdom of everyday life called spring's-passage-being-time."

"...In the main story, a young man was a student of Master Gutei. This student didn't seem to realize what he was learning or practicing. Dogen comments, "a boy who attended Master Gutei (Judi), without noticing when he was learning or when he was practicing, realized the Way because he served as a personal attendant to the master who had been practicing for a long time." In the course of attending to Master Gutei, he attained realization.

By focusing on the activity of helping Master Gutei every day, the student was not aware he was being trained. He probably spent his time making the master's bed and fetching tea. Yet those activities, in accord with Master Gutei's instruction, created his passage from student to master. This transformation was due to the confluence of all the activities: all the befores and afters and the independent moments of the student's life with the master. His interactions with Master Gutei resulted in his total immersion in practice-realization. Transformation was always present, yet there was a particular moment of its recognition when Master Gutei acknowledged his passage into spiritual maturity.

Another example is found in "Udonge" (The Udumbara Flower). Dogen explains the awakening of Buddha's disciple Mahakasyapa. Buddha holds up a flower. Mahakasyapa, seeing the flower, smiles. The moment of Buddha-flower-smile is passageless-passage. Dogen describes it this way:

'All instances, however many, of the twirling of flowers, are individual instances of [the transmission from] rightful successor to rightful successor; they are the actual existence of the transmission. Indeed, forget the World-Honored One's twirling of a flower!... Because the time of twirling of flowers is the whole of Time itself, it is the experience of the same state as the World-Honored One, and it is the same twirling of flowers. The meaning of 'twirling flowers' is flowers displaying flowers [phenomena manifesting themselves as they are]: it is plum flowers, spring flowers, snow flowers, and lotus flowers.'

Furthermore,

'Twirling flowers are twirled by eyes, twirled by mind-consciousnesss, twirled by nostrils, and twirled by flowers twirling. In general, the moutnains, rivers, and the Earth; the sun and moon, the wind and rain, people, animals, grass, and trees - the miscellaneous things of the present displaying themselves here and there - are just the twirling of the udumbara flower.'

Just one flower being held up for display is passage through all time and being, awakening each and every thing. This is what Mahakasyapa realized. Essentially his realization was already present as his own being, yet it was the passage of all buddha-nature in and through him that revealed his true nature. This is our passage too.

Carefully Examine the Matter

Dogen ends this paragraph with the admonition 'All of this you must give careful and repeated examination.' At each critical juncture of the text, Dogen reminds us to pay attention. We want to grapple with this teaching in such a way that it brings us back to our present situation. In particular, understanding passage is critical to conceptualizing how practice-realization is enacted. In this case, the story of Gutei's student is instructive. His awakening is the result of his complete immersion in the activity of his life, through the guidance of his teacher. His realization did not come about because of his preconceived idea about enlightenment.

Realization is not intellectual understanding. Dogen warns us in 'Bendowa' (Wholehearted Practice of the Way):

'We should remember that from the beginning we have never lacked the supreme state of bodhi, and we will receive it and use it forever. At the same time, because we cannot perceive it directly, we are prone to beget random intellectual ideas, and because we chase after these as if they were real things, we vainly pass by the great state of truth.'

Of course, this book, Dogen's 'Uji', and all of Buddhist writings and teachings are a product of the mind and heart. We must use them as pointers along the path of practice. Deep understanding of Buddhism is always grounded in dharma teachings, dharma teachers, and dharma community. Guidance in practice happens within the context of connection with these three elements. Teachings, teachers, and community give us the forum to explore, actualize, and be confirmed in our understanding. In this way we are able to 'carefully explore the matter' of being-time's actualization in daily life, not in our heads.

Before I began to write this book, I did not realize the immense scope of Dogen's vision of being-time. But no matter what I think I know about being-time, it is stopping and being in my being-time just as it is, enacting the no-self of my exertion with all being that is actualizing being-time. This is enacted in the context of my Buddhist practice community. It is actualized at the supermarket, while driving my car, or when walking the dog. Nothing other than living one's life completely in the Way is actualizing being-time's passage."

"...Practice-realization is only expressed in the now. Practice-realization is not something acquired and then never revisited. A fully realized being can constantly express buddha-nature in a continuous series moment after moment. As Dogen says (again in 'Gyoji'):

On the great road of buddha ancestors there is always unsurpassable practice, continuous and sustained. It forms the circle of the way and is never cut off. Between aspiration, practice, enlightenment, and nirvana, there is not a moment's gap; continuous practice is the circle of the way."

"Immediate Present, Ultimate Dharma
Since our activity is not a progression from delusion to enlightenment made solely by the independent self, Dogen defines the first thought of practice as 'immediate present ultimate Dharma' or genjokoan: the presence and perfection of all dharmas as they are in the here-and-now.' Hee-Jin Kim further explains the meaning of genjokoan:

'It does not suggest an evolutionary ascent from hidden-ness to manifestation, or from imperfection to perfection, or conversely, an emanational descent from one to many, or from reality to appearance. Rather, things, events, beings are already unmistakably what they truly are; what is more, they are vibrant, transparent, and bright in their as-they-are-ness.'

This 'mind' of or intention for 'immediate present ultimate Dharma' is things-as-they-are-ness, or being-time. When we find ourselves wishing that we could experience our life with equanimity, compassion, and wisdom, we are listening and connecting with what is already present within ourselves and all of life. This inmost request is an expression of each being's continuous practice-realization. Even when we feel most alone, we are still embedded in community. Even when we think our delusion cannot go deeper, we are accompanied by enlightenment. In each moment that we glean a small part of the totality of life, the whole is never missing. As Dogen Zenji says, 'But do not ask me where I'm going / As I travel in this limitless world / Where every step I take is my home.'"

"'Uji' is one of Dogen's most revered and difficult texts. In it, he attempts to clearly elucidate the meaning of practice within the context of the totality of the world's expression. Reaching or not-reaching, blinking an eye, reciting the robe verse, driving to work, caring for a parent, or weeding the garden - in every activity, we transmit and receive the Buddhadharma. Everything recites the sutra of uji, in the midst of joy and gratitude, grief and pain. Heeding the words of Old Buddha Dogen, we have faith that nothing is missing; practice-realization is not apart from us."
9 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Too many play of words,imo ....simply put,

    " allow grace to flow,and b contented ...."


  2. Soh Says:

    Wrong, totally out.

    She is talking about total exertion.


  3. Anonymous Says:

    Allow(ing) grace to manifest and be contended

    :-)


  4. Anonymous Says:

    Ultimately theres not even a self to exert anything, only the manifestation/or flow of grace ...


  5. Anonymous Says:

    And when grace moves freely,with no selfhood, contentment inevitably manifests


  6. Anonymous Says:

    My point is, truth gotta b simple,so shld any pointer or writings of it .....too many words simply lead to clutters of the mind,or worse ,false sense of security and realization....

    Actual difficulty on the path really lies in our attachment which streams frm sense of selfhood..


  7. Anonymous Says:

    "Move up and down , moment abiding, herenow , etc.... "

    .... no need to complicate the simplicity of Truth with such and such words leh ....

    Once "grace descends" (i prefer the word 'grace' ), everything will b clearly seen, is there need for many clever words and sentences ?

    Cheers

    And b contented

    :-)


  8. Anonymous Says:

    Im not questioning her realization, for she may b highly realized, but me simply criticized her way of describing the path/practice...


  9. Soh Says:

    No, you still don't understand what total exertion is. It has nothing to do with a self.

    Read http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2017/12/what-is-total-exertion.html

    Her words are very straightforward. You just don't understand because you haven't experienced that.