painting the rice cake

Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye edited by Kaz Tanahashi: The Moon (tsuki)

The pronunciation means “moon”; the ideograph can mean “entire” (tsu) and “function” (ki) (Glossary, p 1071).  Dogen points out our tendency to get caught in absolutes and to be blind to the 10, 000 dharmas (the moon) contained in the smallest drop of dew.  And we do love our assumptions about how things should be: full moon, half-moon, moon rising, moon setting.

He writes of Nagarjuna who was teaching to an assembly and challenged that “even if (he spoke) of buddha nature, no one (could) see it.”  Nagarjuna responded that in order to see buddha nature, we have to let go of our pride.  He “manifested a body of complete freedom in the shape of a full moon” but no one in the assembly understood what was happening; an understandable reaction when we’re caught in our own translation code of the world.  One among the crowd, Kanadeva, explained that “the samadhi of no-form has taken the shape of a full moon.  Buddha nature is vast, empty, and clear.”

That moon of buddha nature cannot be capture in a single circle.  It cannot be contained in the lines of the brush.  

Know that when you paint the manifestation of a full moon, do it on a dharma seat.

Otherwise it will have no shape of moon, of the moon’s full being or thusness.  Otherwise, “you are not embodying the expression and painting the expounding of dharma, but merely creating a piece of painted rice cake.”

It is only by letting go of our preconceptions of something is, letting go of our pride, that we can truly paint – manifest – reality.

Never paint what cannot be painted.  Paint straightforwardly what needs to be painted.

the teaching of whole-hearted sitting

Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye edited by Kaz Tanahashi: teaching styles

“Wind” can refer to teaching styles and Dogen describes his own journey in search of a teacher.  

After the aspiration for enlightenment arose, I began to search for dharma, visiting teachers at various places in our country….  Later I went to Great Song China, visited masters on both sides of the Zhe River, and heard the teachings of the Five Schools.  Finally, I became a student of Zen Master Rujing of Taibai Peak and completed my life’s quest of the great matter.

It’s no easy journey, this finding of a teacher who can rouse the fires or stoke the coals of an aspiration for enlightenment.  We get caught up – student and teacher alike – in our craving not just for the teachings but for what the teachings will bring us.  We may wish that “the wind of the ancient sages be heard,” but we may wish for the sound to arise from our small heart.

There may be true students who are not concerned with fame and gain who allow their aspiration for enlightenment to guide them and earnestly desire to practice the buddha way.  They may be misguided by incapable teachers and obstructed from the correct understanding; intoxicated in confusion, they may sink into the realm of delusion for a long time.  How can they nourish the correct seed of prajna and encounter the time of attaining the way?

It’s a good question for our time of tangled lineages and multiplicity of sketchy teachers.  Dogen advises:

From the first time you meet a master, without depending on incense offering, bowing, chanting buddha names, repentance, or reading scriptures, just wholeheartedly sit, and thus drop away body and mind.

I would add that in the search of a teacher we take care of who we think is a master.  There is a difference between someone who is a master of befriending her own delusions and one who is  a master of befriending ours.