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Shobogenzo Chapter 3, GENJO-KOAN: The Real Law of the Universe

When everything becomes Buddha-Dharma, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is training, there is life and there is death, there are buddhas and ordinary beings. When each of the ten thousand things is not about me, then there is no delusion and no realization, there are no buddhas and no ordinary beings, nothing is born and nothing lost. The Buddha's Way of awakening, inherently, has sprung out beyond bounty and thrift, and so there is life and death, there is delusion and enlightenment, there are beings and buddhas. And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds, while hated, flourish.

Driving the self to practise and experience the ten thousand things in Sitting is delusion. When the ten thousand things in Sitting are actively practising and experiencing the self, that is enlightenment. Those who greatly enlighten delusion are buddhas. Those who are greatly deluded about enlightenment are ordinary beings. There are blokes who, on the basis of enlightenment, get further enlightenment. There are blokes who, in the midst of delusion, get more and more deluded. When buddhas are really buddhas, they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Still, they are buddha realized in experience, and they go on experiencing the reality of buddha.

When we look at a form with the whole body-mind, and listen to a voice through the whole body-mind, even though we experience an intimate connection, it is not like an image being allowed to shine on a mirror, not like what goes on between water and the moon. It is to experience one side, at which time we are blind to the other side.

To learn the Buddha's Way of awakening means to learn the self. To learn the self means to forget the self. To forget the self means to be experienced by the ten thousand things in Sitting. To be experienced by the ten thousand things in Sitting means to let one's own body and mind, and the body and mind of the other, fall away. There can be a fading of the traces of enlightenment. Over a long, long length of time, we allow the fading traces of enlightenment out.

When people first pursue the truth of Sitting, we are far removed from the outer borders of the truth of Sitting. But as soon as the real truth of Sitting has been truly communicated to us, we are individual human beings, each in our own element. When a man is sailing in a boat and he turns his eyes to the shore, he has the illusion that the shore is coming towards him. But if he keeps his eyes on the boat, he knows it is the boat that is moving forward. Similarly, when we are confused about body and mind and yet try to determine the Buddhist meaning of everything, we are liable to suffer from the illusion that our own mind, or our essential self, might be permanent. But if we get intimately into the groove of our own grafting, and thereby get back to this concrete place, the truth is evident that the ten thousand things in Sitting were never about me. Firewood becomes ash. That it might then go back again to being firewood, is never it at all. Still, do not take the view that ash belongs to after and firewood belongs to before. Remember: when firewood inhabits its place as firewood in the reality of Sitting, it has its before and its after. And although it has its before and after, before and after are cut off. Ash inhabits its place as ash, and it too has its before and its after. In the same way that the firewood, after becoming ash, can never again be firewood, people after they have died are not born again. Even so, not to say that living turns into dying is a convention fixed under the Buddha's Law of Sitting. This is why we call it "not arising." That dying does not turn into living was fixed, by turning of the Wheel of the Law, as a motion that the Buddha moves. This is why we call it "not ceasing." Living is a flash, and dying is also a flash. It is the same, for example, with winter and spring. We do not think that winter becomes spring. We do not say that spring becomes summer.

A person getting enlightenment is like water allowing the moon to float on it. The moon does not get wet, and the water is not broken. Though its light is wide and great, the moon floats on a foot or an inch of water. The whole moon and the whole sky float on a dewdrop on a blade of grass, and float in a single drop of water. That enlightenment does not break the person is like the moon not piercing the water. That the person does not get in the way of enlightenment is like the dewdrop not impinging on the sky and moon. How deep it is, might be measured in terms of how high they are. How long it lasts, might be fathomed in large and small bodies of water, and might be surveyed in the width and narrowness of the sky and the moon.

When the true reality of Sitting has yet to satisfy the body-mind, we feel already replete in our realism. When the true reality of Sitting does fill the body-mind, it feels as if something is missing. For example, sailing out beyond the mountains and into the ocean, when we look around in the four directions, the ocean seems only to be round; it does not seem to have any other form at all. Nevertheless, the great ocean is neither round nor square. Other qualities of the ocean are inexhaustibly many: to fishes it is like a palace and to gods it is like a string of pearls. But as far as our eyes can see, it just seems to be round. That is how it is also for the ten thousand things in Sitting. In the practice itself --whether in the dust or beyond any frame -- a multitude of situations is embraced, but we see and understand only as far as our eyes of learning in practice are able to reach. If we wish to hear how, when they are at home, the ten thousand things in Sitting are, we should remember that the oceans and the mountains have numerous and endless qualities besides looking square or round; and that there are worlds in the four directions. Not only out there is it like this. The ground underfoot, and a single drop of water, are also like this.

When fish go through water, swim as they might, there is no end to the water. When birds fly the sky, fly as they might, there is no end to the sky. At the same time, fish and birds since the ancient past have never left the water or the sky. When they need a lot, they use a lot. When they need a little, they use a little. Functioning like this, none fails to realize its limitations at every moment, and none fails to somersault in freedom at every place. But a bird that left the sky would die at once, and a fish that left the water would die at once. So we can understand that water is life and that the sky is life. Birds are life, and fish are life. It may be that life is birds and that life is fish. And beyond this, there may still be progress to be made. The existence of their practice and experience, the existence of their lifespans and their lives, are like this. That being so, a bird or a fish that aimed to go through the water or the sky, only after getting to the bottom of the water or utterly penetrating the sky, could never find its way or find its place in the water or the sky. When we find this place, here and now, it is in the trail of grafting in this groove that we realize the law of the universe. When we find this way, here and now, grafting in this groove is the arrow-tip of the real law of the universe. That this way and this place are great, is not it; that they are small, is not it. That they are the self, is not it; that they are the other, is not it. That they have existed since before, is not it, and that they appear now, is not it -- and so here they are, like this. When a person who, being like this, is practising and experiencing the Buddha's way of awakening, he gets a thing and he penetrates that thing, she meets a groove and she grafts in that groove. In this, the place exists and the way is mastered, in which case what remains to be known is unclear. The reason it is so is that this process of knowing, and the process of getting to the bottom of the Buddha's method of Sitting, are born together and experienced together. Do not assume that what is attained will inevitably become self-conscious and be recognized by the intellect. Experience of the ultimate is realized at once. But to be in secret possession of it, is not necessarily an unambiguous realization. It is rather that the real is the ambiguous.

Zen Master Hotetsu of Mayoku-zan mountain is using a fan. A monk comes by and asks him, "The essence of the wind is eternal. There is nowhere it does not reach. Why then, Master, do you use a fan?"

The Master says, "You have only understood that the essence of the wind is eternal. You do not yet know the truth of there being no such thing as a place it does not reach."

The monk says, "So what is the truth of there being no place it does not reach?"

The Master simply carries on using the fan. The monk does prostrations. The proof of the Buddha's Pudding, the vigorous path that has been truthfully communicated, is like this. To say that we need not use a fan for what is always there, or that we can still enjoy the breeze even without this using, is not to know what is eternity, and is never to have known what is the essence of the wind. On the basis that the essence of the wind is eternal, Buddhist airs would make the whole Earth golden, and turn the Milky Way into ripened cheese.

Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting
The Real Law of the Universe

This was written in mid-autumn in the 1st year of Tenpuku [1233], and was presented to the lay disciple Yo Koshu, from Kyushu.

Edited in the 4th year of Kencho [1252].

This translation June 2008.

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