from the Shobogenzo by Dogen Zenji; Section 1
Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde
Sesshin, Day 1
“All buddhas are realisation; thus all things are realisation.
Yet no buddhas or things have the same characteristics; none have the same mind.
Although there are no similar characteristics or minds,
at the moment of your actualisation numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance.
At the moment of your manifestation, numerous manifestations
come forth without opposing one another.
This is the straightforward teaching of the ancestors.
Do not use the measure of oneness or difference as the criterion of your study.
Thus it is said, “To pervade one thing is to pervade myriad things”.
To pervade one thing does not take away its inherent characteristics.
Just as pervading does not limit one thing, it does not make one thing unlimited.
To try to make it unlimited is a hindrance.
When you allow pervading to be unhindered by pervading,
one pervading is myriad pervadings.
One pervading is one thing.
Pervading one thing is pervading myriad things..”
Here we are in our first day of this sesshin, and it will be interesting to go through the meanings of that word “sesshin”, to encourage our practice throughout it.
“Sesshin” means “to touch the mind-heart”, “to receive the heart-mind” and “to convey that mind”.
Thus the word “sesshin” has these three implications: touch, receive, convey the heart-mind. And this is our practice, this is our realisation, this is our heart during sesshin.
So let us really and intimately touch the mind, that mind that Dogen says is not just our own mind, “personal” mind, but the mind and the heart that is the stars, the rivers, the oceans, the trees, the birds...
To touch that mind is to become completely intimate with it, no gap, no space between, just that mind. We touch it.
And at that very moment, the second meaning of the word comes forth: “to receive the mind-heart”.
In total acceptance, total openness to the mind, we receive it and this very body, this very heart, this very belly is the mind itself, the heart itself, is the stars, the mountains, the rivers, the plants, the barking of the dog.
Then we have the third meaning, “convey the mind”, which is one of the most important, when we are talking about sesshin as sangha-community practice.
Just one practice, but it’s not basically the adding of individual practice, but one practice, happening and renewed, recreated moment by moment.
We convey the mind with our Genjo Koan, we convey the mind with our shikantaza, we convey the mind with the way we are sitting, the way we are walking each step, in zazen; we convey the mind and the heart when we eat, when we rest, when we sleep, when we dream.
And this conveying aspect is very important, because it touches the aspect of responsibility.
As we are conveying the mind, each one of us is conveying the mind of sesshin, each one is supporting, helping each other’s “conveying the mind”.
So please, let us take full complete and sincere responsibility for this.
Here we are, beginning our sesshin, in just one sangha-community practice, touching, receiving, conveying the heart-mind.
Not only for ourselves, but for all the many beings, and finally stopping suffering around the world.
In this first day of sesshin, we touch the quality of innocence that Suzuki Shunryu Roshi used to call “beginner’s mind”. Total innocence.
We don’t know anything about the sesshin; we don’t know anything about what will happen the next moment, next breath, next Koan, next flashing and blooming moment of shikantaza.
That quality of innocence is a true shelter and refuge in our sesshin.
And part of our practice, an important part, is to keep that “beginner’s mind”, that innocence of the “don’t know” mind, coming once and again, each moment, each moment, each moment as each moment.
In that way, we can drop away time, and just this zazen, just this step, just this breath, will cover the whole earth, the whole space.
Such a sesshin will thus not be a matter of seven days, four blocks of zazen each day.
It will be a matter of dropping away time: just this zazen.
Moment by moment, sesshin begins.
Moment by moment, we complete sesshin.
Dogen here is saying: All Buddhas are realisation. Thus all things are realisation. Yet no Buddhas or things have the same characteristics. None have the same mind. Although there are no similar characteristics or mind, at the moment of your actualisation, numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance. He says All Buddhas are realisation. All things are realisation.
He is not saying they have realisation. He is not saying “become” realisation.
He is saying are: just as they are, all Buddhas are realisation.
Just as we are, all things, all beings are realisation herself.
Here we touch the aspect of inquiring in our practice, inquiring that we call also Great Doubt, inquiring body heart and mind.
How are you?
How many times during the day we hear that simple question: “How are you?”
Yet it is not a superficial question.
How are you? The “how” is not different from “what”, not different from “What is Mu?”
So inquiring mind, inquiring heart, inquiring body is “How is the Genjo Koan?” “How is Mu?” “How is shikantaza?” “How is buddha nature?”
The how is the what, indeed.
But this Ahow@, this Awhat@ needs to be answered, presented, expressed by the whole body, heart and mind.
So please, let us settle there our zazen and life.
Let us settle the inquiring mind-heart there, in the “How is the genjo Koan?”, in the “What is Mu?” that fills the whole universe as our true body itself.
Dogen continues, saying At the moment of your actualisation, numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance. At the moment of your manifestation, numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other.
The moment of your actualisation: the moment of becoming actual, being this very whole moment, alive and shining, moment by moment, in full, open attention, as our true face, our true body, our true home.
There the ten thousand beings advance and confirm, actualise, that true home as our intimate heart, our most intimate belly.
Numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance, says Dogen here. Numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other.
Many actualisations manifesting without hindrance, that is this very moment as Mu, as shikantaza, as the very Genjo Koan, the Koan of our everyday life, as the joyful dance of the limitless life that we call Amitabha Buddha.
This is the place and the ground of practice realisation itself.
It’s that very “no hindrance”.
When that is the context and that is the container of our practice, we are truly free to settle into the deep intimacy of one moment.
Full body-heart-and-mind Mu, one moment.
Full body-heart-and-mind shikantaza, recognising and embodying that very dance as our breath, and our life itself.
Numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other, says our text today.
There is a Korean teacher called Chinul, who talked about “sudden realisation, gradual personalisation”.
Sudden realisation: this is one moment, “dotoku”, full dedication, one moment of full engagement in buddha nature, awaken-ing nature, with buddha nature, as buddha nature itself.
Numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other: we touch here gradual personalisation.
This is manifestations, acts, steps, coming forth and becoming our impermanent body of understanding and compassion.
Our text continues, saying Do not use the measure of oneness or difference as the criterion of your study [or practice]. Thus it is said, to pervade one thing is to pervade myriad things.
Do not use the measure, says Dogen here.
Do not use the measure: not to measure, not to evaluate, not to compare, the three legs of the bed of delusion.
Zazen, Mu, shikantaza truly do not belong to that world.
Janis Joplin says in a song, “Freedom is just another word for having nothing left to lose”.
Well, we do not have a single thing from the very beginning; that is, nothing to lose.
And in that joyful freedom and humbleness abides the opportunity to dance with dignity the intimacy of zazen, dropping off, shedding off body and mind.
This very mind-heart is all Buddhas, all beings, practice realisation itself.
Dogen says here, To pervade one thing is to pervade myriad things.
To pervade one thing: he uses the ideograph “tsu” here, “pervade”, and means direct experience, true understanding beyond discriminatory thinking.
To pervade one thing, that one thing: our true face, the Genjo Koan, Mu, shikantaza itself.
So again, “How are you?” How is original face? How is Mu?
If there is the observer, the “how” is not intimate enough.
Maybe strong Koan is there; maybe strong shikantaza is there.
But there is also a strong observer, and two places of tension, the observer and the Koan, the observer and this very moment.
Two places of tension are working.
So even when we have that dual, if intense, practice, there is a gap, a space in the middle for distraction, discriminative thinking, evaluation; and intimacy and full blooming do not have a chance to come forth.
So please, only Mu, only this moment. We ourselves disappear.
How are you? How is Mu? How is this very moment?
Please, do not answer.
Let the coming forth of the whole true body be the actualisation and manifestation, in total freedom, no hindrance at all.
Liberating the many beings, pervading just that ordinary, subtle, essential thing that is life. Call her the Genjo Koan, if you like.
To penetrate one thing, says our text, does not take away its inherent characteristics. Just as pervading does not limit one thing, it does not make one thing unlimited. To try to make it unlimited is a hindrance. When you allow pervading to be unhindered by pervading, one pervading is myriad pervadings. One pervading is one thing. Pervading one thing is pervading myriad things.
Not to take away its inherent characteristics, not to limit that one thing, not to make that one thing unlimited, says Dogen here.
This is total open acceptance.
There pervading is unhindered by pervading.
Zazen is unhindered by zazen; the koan, shikantaza unhindered by the koan, shikantaza.
The sages of the Tao say, “The Tao is basically utterly open. Utter openness has no substance. It ends in endlessness, begins in beginninglessness.”
There is no place there for an observer at all.
No place for evaluating or making. Just the fertile night of the dharma.
We have a story by Walking Words in my Latino Land that says:
“In Haiti, stories may not be told during the day.
Anyone who tells a story before dark is disgraced.
The mountain throws a stone at his head; his mother walks on all fours.
Night-time draws out what is sacred, and those who know how to tell stories
know that the name is the very thing that it names”
Let us please settle our heart, our zazen, let us settle our Koan, our shikantaza into that night-time.
Night time draws out what is sacred.
Let the sacred come forth, intimate with that name, the very thing that it names.
What is that name?
The bird is conveying it; the smell of incense is conveying it.
Please do not practise outside this fertile, sacred night.
How could we anyway?