Shobogenzo Chapter 11, UJI: Time, as Existence
An old Buddha says,
There is a time to stand on top of the highest peak.
There is a time to move along the bottom of the deepest ocean.
There is a time of the three heads and eight arms.
There is a time of the sixteen-foot or eight-foot golden body.
There is a time of a staff or a whisk.
There is a time of a veranda pillar or a stone lantern.
There is a time to be the third son of Chang or the fourth son of Lee.
There is a time to be the Earth and space.
In these words “there is” and “time,” time is already just existence, and all existence is time. The sixteen-foot golden body of Gautama is time itself. Because it is time, it has the resplendent brightness of time. We should learn it as the twelve hours of today. The three heads and eight arms of the King of Passion are time itself. Because they are time, they must be completely the same as the twelve hours of today. How long and drawn out or short and pressing the twelve hours are has never been quantified; still, we call it “twelve hours.”
Because the direction in which time travels is clear from the trail it leaves, people do not doubt it. They do not doubt it, but that does not mean they have understood it. The doubting that living beings tend do in regard to every unknown thing and fact, is itself uncertain -- our track record of doubting, and the doubting that we do today, are not always sure to match up. The only thing we can say, for the present, is that doubting is a matter of time.
By first bringing order to the self, we make the world whole. We should glimpse every individual and every object in this whole world as discrete moments of time. Just as object and object do not impede each other, moment and moment do not impede each other. This is why there can be rousings of the mind in the same moment, and there can be moments of rousing the same mind. It is the same also for training practices, and realizations of the way. Through bringing order to the self, the self sees what it is. The truth that the self is time is like this.
We should learn in practice, on the basis of enlightened reasoning like this, that the whole earth includes myriad phenomena and hundreds of things, and each thing and each phenomenon exists in the whole earth. Going and coming like this is a first step on a training trip. When we arrive at a plot of land which is It, it is just single things and single phenomena. It is beyond understanding or not understanding of phenomena. It is beyond understanding or not understanding of things. Because time as existence is only this exact moment, time as existence is invariably the whole of time; and things as existence, and phenomena as existence, each are time. The whole of existence, the whole Universe, exists in individual moments of time. We should reflect for a while, and consider whether or not any of the whole of existence, or any of the whole Universe, has leaked away from now.
In the time of the ordinary bloke who does not learn the Buddha’s now of Sitting, on the contrary, there is the following view -- he interprets the words that time is existence as follows: “I became at one time the three-headed and eight-armed King of Passion, and became at another time the sixteen-foot or eight-foot golden body of Gautama. It was like, for example, crossing a river or crossing a mountain. The mountain and the river still exist, but now that I have crossed them and am dwelling in a jewelled palace with crimson towers, the mountain and river are to me as heaven is to earth.”
Enlightened reasoning, however, is not limited to this one line. Others are as follows:
- When I was climbing a mountain or crossing a river, I was there in time, and there must have been time in me; so, being as I am already, my time must not be up.
- If time is not seen as a process, then the only time of climbing a mountain is the here and now of time as existence.
- If time does allow itself the form of a linear progression, then present here in me, existing in time, is the here and now, which is time as existence.
- How could that time of climbing a mountain and crossing a river fail to gulp down, and fail to puke up, this time of the jewelled palace and crimson towers?
-The three heads and eight arms were time yesterday; the sixteen-foot or eight-foot golden body is time today -- and yet this truth of yesterday and today is nothing but moments of going straight into the mountains and surveying a thousand or ten thousand peaks: it not about what has passed.
- The three heads and eight arms are a passage of my time as existence: though they seem to be in the distance, they are of the present.
- The sixteen-foot or eight-foot golden body also is a passage of my time as existence: though it seems to be yonder, it is of the present.
In sum, pine trees are time, and bamboos are time.
Neither should we understand only that time flies. We should not learn that flying is the only ability of time. If we just left time to fly away, some gaps in it might appear. Those who fail to go through and hear of the truth of time as existence, fail because they understand time only as having passed.
To grasp the nub and express it: all that exists, throughout the whole universe, is both a continuous line, and separate moments, of time. Because it is time as existence, it is time as my own very existence. Time as existence has the virtue of flashing by. That is to say, from today it passes in flashes to tomorrow; from today it passes in flashes to yesterday; from yesterday it passes in flashes to today; from today it passes in flashes to today; and from tomorrow it passes in flashes to tomorrow. Because it is a virtue of time to pass in flashes, moments of the past and present do not run into pile-ups or tail-backs. Rather, Seigen is a time; Obaku is a time; and Baso and Sekito are a time. Because oneness of the self and the other is there already, in time, there is oneness of practice and experience in many times.
Going into the mud and going into the water, similarly, are time.
The view of the ordinary bloke of today, and the grounds from which his view arises, are what the ordinary bloke experiences, but are not the ordinary bloke’s reality. It is just that reality, for the present, has given rise to an ordinary bloke. Because he understands this time, and this existence, as other than the ultimate truth of reality, he thinks “the sixteen-foot golden body has got nothing to do with me!” His trying to let himself off the hook by thinking “I am never the sixteen-foot golden body!” are also just flashes of time as existence. They are glimpses of it by one who has yet to ground himself in experience of it.
What causes the midday hours of the horse and sheep to be ordered as they are in the world today, is the rising and setting of something ineffable that abides in its place in reality. The rat also is time, and the tiger also is time.
Living beings are time, and buddha is time.
This time experiences the whole universe using the three heads and eight arms, and experiences the whole universe using the sixteen-foot golden body. When the universe gets to the bottom of the whole universe using the whole universe, this is what is called getting to the bottom. When use of the sixteen-foot golden body, using the sixteen-foot golden body, is realized as kick-starting of the mind, as training, as the awakening of buddha, and as nirvana, this is just existence, just time. It is simply to get to the bottom of the whole of time, as the whole of existence -- there being nothing left over at all. If there are any leftovers they are just leftovers. Therefore, getting even halfway to the bottom of time as existence is getting to the very bottom of half-time, as existence.
Those phases through which we seem to blunder heedlessly, also, are existence. Because we surrender anew to the other, even while those moments before and after are manifesting our heedless blundering, they are occupying their place in time, as existence. Vigorously occupying one’s own place in reality is time itself, as existence. We should neither disturb it with “absence” nor force it into “existence.”
Striving only to be mindful of how relentlessly time is passing, we do not understand it intellectually as what is yet to come. Intellectual understanding is time, but nothing is contingent on that. There is no bag of skin who, recognizing time as a process, has penetrated it as time as existence, abiding in its place. How much less could any have experienced time passed through the gate? Who, even if he recognizes the abiding-in-place aspect, is able to express the truth that time is maintaining, and leaving be, its prior attainment of the ineffable? There is nobody who, even if he has been asserting it to be like this for a long time, is not still groping for the manifestation before him of its real features.
Left at the mercy of the ordinary bloke’s time as existence, even the awakening of buddha, and nirvana, are still time as existence -- albeit with the faint air about them of only being a process.
Broadly speaking, nets and cages notwithstanding, time, as existence, is realized. Celestial kings appearing to the left of me, and celestial throngs appearing to the right, are time as existence in which, even now, I am using up energy. Time as the existence of mundane beings of land and sea, far removed from those celestial realms, is realized through me now using up energy. The individual beings of many species who in darkness and in daylight are time, as existence, are all the realization of me using up energy. They are continuing flashes of energy expenditure. We should learn in practice that if it were not for the momentary continuance of me using up energy now, not one real thing could be realized, not a single object could continue from one moment to the next. We should never learn that passage from one moment to the next is like movement east and west of the wind and rain. That the whole universe is unmoving and unchanging, is not it. That the whole universe goes neither forward nor backward, is not it. It is passage from one moment to the next. Passage from one moment to the next is like, for example, spring. In spring there is an innumerable variety of momentary signs and situations -- this is the meaning passing from one moment to the next. We should learn in practice that passage from one moment to the next continues without there being any external thing. The momentary passing of spring, for example, inevitably passes, moment by moment, through spring itself. It is not that the momentary passing of time is spring; rather, because spring is the momentary passing of time, passing time has already realized awakening in the here and now of springtime. We should research this in detail, coming back to it and leaving it again and again. If we think, in discussing the momentary passing of time, of a boundary formed by external objects, within which something that can pass from moment to moment moves eastwards through thousands of worlds and through thousands of aeons, then we are not devoting ourselves solely to learning in practice of the Buddha’s way of awakening.
Master Yakusan Igen, the story goes, at the suggestion of his Master Sekito Kisen, goes to interrogate Master Baso Do-itsu: “I am more or less clear about the meaning of the three vehicles and twelve divisions of the teaching, but what was the Ancestral Master’s intention in coming from the west?”
Questioned like this, Baso says:
“There is a time to direct the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye.
There is a time not to direct the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye.
There is a time when directing the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is the right thing.
There is a time when directing the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is not the right thing.”
Hearing this Yakusan is greatly enlightened and says to Baso, “In Sekito’s order I have been like a mosquito that climbed onto an iron ox.”
What Baso says is not the same as anybody else. His eyebrows and eyes might be the mountains and oceans -- because the mountains and oceans are his eyebrows and eyes. His directing the other to lift might be seen up in the mountains. His directing the other to wink might calm the oceans down. The right thing has become familiar to the other, and the other has been led by the directing. That the not right thing is not to direct the other, is not it; and that not directing the other is not the right thing, is not it -- but both these negations are time, as existence; as the mountains also are time, and the oceans also are time. If they were not time, the mountains and oceans could never be: do not deny the existence of time in the here and now of the mountains and oceans. If time decays, the mountains and oceans decay. If time is not subject to decay, the mountains and the oceans are not subject to decay. In the train of this enlightened reasoning, the bright star appears, the Thus-Come appears, the Eye appears,and a twirling flower appears -- which is time. If it is not for time, then it is not it.
Zen Master Shoken Kisho is a Dharma-descendant of Rinzai, and the direct successor of Shuzan. On one occasion he says before the assembly:
“There is a time when the will is there but the words are not there.
There is a time when the words are there but the will is not there.
There is a time when the will and the words are both present.
There is a time when the will and the words are both absent.”
The will and the words are both time, as existence. Being present and being absent are both time, as existence. Before the time of being there is up, a time of not being there comes in -- the will is the donkey and the words are the horse; the horse has been made into words and the donkey has been made into will. Presence is not about coming, and absence is not about having yet to come. Time, as existence, is like this. Presence is impeded by presence itself; it is not impeded by absence. Absence is impeded by absence itself; it is not impeded by presence. The will restricts the will and meets the will. The words restrict the words and meet the words. Restriction restricts restriction and meets restriction. Restriction restricts restriction. This is time. Restriction is being utilized by things in the external world, but there has never been anything called restriction that restricted things in the external world. I am having an encounter with human being; human being is having an encounter with a human being; I am having an encounter with myself; and getting out is having an encounter with getting out -- all of which, without time, would not be like this. Again, the will is time, as the real law of the universe; the words are time, as the pivotal thing -- going on up; presence is time, as the physical substance, stripped bare; and absence is time, as adhering to this, and letting this go away. We should exercise discernment like this, taking time, as existence. Though venerable veterans hitherto have each expressed it as they have, how could there be nothing further to say? I would like to say:
The will and the words being halfway there IS time, as existence.
The will and the words being half absent IS time, as existence.
There should be going into it and getting to the bottom of it, like this.
Directing the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is time, as being half way there.
Directing the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is time, mixed up with existence.
Not directing the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is time, as being half way there.
Not directing the other to lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is time, mixed up with existence.
When we come back to it and leave it like this, being there in practice and not being there, those are moments of time, as existence.
Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting
Time, as Existence
Written at Kosho-horin-ji temple on the 1st day of winter in the 1st year of Ninji .
This translation June 2008.