Great Teacher Dogen's Perinirvana Day

Today is a great day, it is a day we drink Perrier and listen to Nirvana in honor of one of the Greatest Buddha ancestors of the last 1000 years.

Wait what?

Yes, that is an example of how things get screwed up over time. (More on this in the last paragraph.)

While today, September 22, in my time zone (in Okinawa, Japan) it is indeed Great Teacher Dogen's Perinirvana day, it has nothing to do with expensive French water and depressing music from Seattle.

I imagine most of the readers here understand Perinirvana as the final nirvana, which (from Wikipedia) occurs upon the death of the body of someone who has attained complete awakening (bodhi). It implies a release from the bhavachakra, Saṃsāra, karma and rebirth as well as the dissolution of the skandhas.... Whatever all that means.

Those more steeped in the Mahayana tradition might understand Perinirvana more like (from Wikipedia) the realm of the eternal true Self of the Buddha.

Either way, I am not sure it matters so much to me as they are both not that and or while apparently contradictory they are both true and there are other things that are simultaneously equally true which appear to void them out.

I had all this worked out in my brain housing unit pretty well for a bit, and I wanted to try and make it simple before going off on a few other tangents. Then I found out I was going to be posted as the Command Duty Officer of the day... Some people translate Dharma as Duty. Which could be a case in point as to how suffering is Dharma.

Back to the front: When this red lump first started a sitting practice one of the first experiences was that everything that arises passes away. So what is born inevitably dies. Perfectly in accord with reason and I think easily observable.

Later in practice, with the aid of a good teacher, there is another understanding, and that is that now is the only thing that is real, and that nothing arises or passes away at all. This might take a bit of stretching of reason until it doesn't... Great teacher Dogen' does a great job of illuminating this, and so does the Lotus Sutra, but it still can be a little slippery since it is not in accord with the view that everything that arises passes away. Put from the frame of reference that it is so just in this present moment, I find it still in accord with reason.

Here's the kicker, both of these views are true depending on which way you are looking. It is a bit like one of those pictures that look like one thing from one point of reference and something else from another.

And there is something else, which is even harder for me to express, which may suggest to that I have not fully digested it. But that is the view of permanence. While the Lotus Sutra addresses it, The Mahayana perinirvana sutra goes into it further, but I found it so contrary to my understanding at the time that I put it down.

But I may have a glimpse of it like this. Great teacher Dogen did not enter Perinirvana on September 22nd at all. He is alive and well and still preaching the Dharma today. I know this is true; because if he was not I would not be writing this post.

Back to the joke at the top.

Today there is something called the Soto Zen School. This was never the intention of its so called founder. Yet it has been preserved and has persevered through the ages. In Great teacher Dogen's Dharma eye treasury, he went into detail as to how the lineage of Great Teacher Rinzai's lineage had messed things up illustrating how He (Rinzai) would never had said "Preserve my Rinzai School" but rather he would have said "Preserve the correct Dharma Eye." [I'm doing this form memory so if you know where it is in the Shobogenzo, please point it out in the comments.] Never the less Great teacher Dogen's lineage went to great lengths to preserve the so called "Soto School" instead of preserving the correct dharma eye. So it goes.

This may all just be a rationalization of my present view, a view that should ultimately be dropped off in sitting.



HCZ Moderator said...

This rambling post has hit me perfectly in a state of uncertainty. Daughters, truth, life, oh my! Your thoughts are so comfortable and familiar as they todder from this to that with clarity. Thank you.

Lauren said...
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Robin said...
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Robin said...

The Soto/Rinzai axis is a source of endless fascination for me. I trained in Soto, mostly because I think I'm a Rinzai kind of guy and I didn't want to encourage me. But I love how every lineage, every denomination, every religion, points at the others and says, "That will never work!" Hmmmm. Seems to work for _those_ guys, eh?

Some years ago I read a teaching by a teacher of contemporary Ch'an Buddhism in China, named Master Xuyun. He explained the existence of so many Buddhist paths like this:

"It is like giving different antidotes for different poisons. Later on, patriarchs divided Buddha's teaching into different sects corresponding to different theories. Because the needs of people differ at different times, patriarchs propagated the Dharma in different ways."

He goes on to say that the lineages of Ch'an are a response to the varying personalities, and subsequently varying needs, of those who practice.

In short, we have so many lineages because that's how many it takes. Not even, in fact, because there are a lot of people who still aren't practising.

Would that everyone could dig.

Great post, Jordan!


Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit.

Jordan said...

HCZ Moderator,

You are welcome!

Lauren, you too!

From what I have seen, when the eye for seeing the dharma is correctly transmitted, the vehicle isn't of much consequence. This goes well beyond Soto/Rinzai. Someone once tried to clarify this for us in a nice linked verse style when it was just the northern and southern school. I think the statement was "There is no northern or southern school." I would extend the same to Soto and Rinzai. For centuries they practiced under the same roofs in China, along with three other houses of Zen and the precepts school and the Tiantai school.

As far as the different flavors, I think that given the chance at intimacy, and the casting off of aversions and attachments, any competent teacher will do. Finding the competent teacher remains the trick… But thankfully the master of sitting zen Dogen left his dharma eye treasury in print. And there are still good friends to nudge us in the right direction.

Thanks for the encouragement,

Thanks for looking!