"To practice the Way singleheartedly is, in itself, enlightenment.
There is no gap between practice and enlightenment or zazen and daily life." -Dogen Zenji
I was called into practice discussion with the Tanto, our temple's head of practice. I made a passing comment that we were all Buddhas through Dogen's practice enlightenment and a discussion pursued. The short of it was that it may be dangerous to think of one's self as a Buddha, but helpful to think of others as Buddha. An idea arose that maybe there is an element of actualization that comes with the term Buddha, and that a Buddha is a Buddha when the activity of practice enlightenment is pursued with unparalleled effort, when there is no other option to practice enlightenment.
Practice enlightenment is Dogen's jam. It's the underlying philosophy of liturgical reenactment. Remember being Catholic and the wine turned into blood? Well, this is a human sitting Zazen turning into Buddha. So what about after Zazen? Dogen covers that in his treaty that there is no separation between stillness and activity. However, Dogen says it well here:
"Thinking that practice and enlightenment are not one is no more than a view that is outside the Way. In buddha-dharma, practice and enlightenment are one and the same. Because it is the practice of enlightenment, a beginner's wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment. For this reason, in conveying the essential attitude for practice, it is taught not to wait for enlightenment outside practice."
Taigen Dan Leighton writes extensively about this practice enlightenment. I think he has whole books on it, though I can't find them right now. But he said this at Green Gulch, back 2003:
"In this sense of our expression as the expression of our practice realization, it is always going on, but that does not mean just passive acceptance of whatever is happening. We actually do have to express it to express it. This is the practice realization, and the Buddha, that you are expressing right now. How you are listening, how your back is; your posture as you sit there; your eyes closed or open–that is your expression right now. And actually it is up to us to express it. There is a responsibility to express our practice and our awakening and realization right now."
In the 2nd case of The Blue Cliff Record it says something like just to say the word Buddha is to drag it though the mud soaking wet. And when I think of Dogen Zenji and his daunting effort to assert this, and that, neither this nor that I'm inspired to write and speak more carefully and in terms of my experience.
This is not new; I'm hesitant to publish anything, and feel the sting of not quite so after each blog post or comment. I'm also mystified by reader reactions. On my last blog post I received contrasting feedback: One person accused me of taking the teacher's seat and writing glibly with Buddhist jargon; another said I needed to send my work into to Tricycle. I've received praise for posts I wrote in haste before work and snark for posts I worked on for weeks. Who knows? I'm feeling the winds of praise and blame. I'm thinking if you feel one the other is just coming over the mountain. Just sit still.
So I checked in with Thich Nhat Hanh's view on right speech. I didn't like what he had to say so I can't remember what he said. But I felt like if I took his approach I'd be playing The Perfect Soul in a sticky sweet born again kind of way. And I remembered what Kosho echoed to me: is it beneficial, is it timely, is it true, is it about anyone who is not in the room, and does it improve this silence?
I'd add: Does it improve this space, this conversation? What is my intention? Is there subtle violence in my words? Am I derailing a conversation? Am I over sharing? Ejun Roshi wants to know, am I praising self at the expense of others?
And then I feel quiet.
But conversation arises!
I'd like re-post two of my comments in the last week alone that I think are questionable examples of speech. I'm afraid they'll be out of context, but I'm positive they stand on their own poison of greed, hate, or delusion. I'm avowing these by putting them out there. I don't like them, feel a sting by them, but I don't want them just lurking out there while I write "nice" things on this blog. So.
I said to one fellow redditor:
"Well, then I really don't want to delve into your misunderstandings. If everything smells like shit, you can wash your face."
I said that?!?! One million bows. Thirty blows.
"Just shut up already."
Patience would be a nice practice here.
Are these words of a Bodhisattva? I'm not sure. Now I remember Thich Nhat Hanh saying something about inspiring love and compassion with speech. This hardly occurred to me; I was thinking more like hitting them with a stick.
Is getting hit with a verbal stick compassion? My favorite definition of compassion is letting people be free from what you think they are. Can I speak from there?
I really do enjoy blogging and commenting and redditing with my internet Zen sangha. I often feel like this is a dream realm of sorts where our Sambogaykaya prana energy bodies named "ewk" or "Dalai Grandma" or "Nathan" or "Gocloudrunwater" are bouncing around, interacting, talking, even drinking tea together. I do it with a heart of exploration, that through writing I discover things, I approach my inmost request. If I ever seem to be taking the teacher's seat, please call me out. Taigen Dan Leighton also said on that day at Green Gulch, "This is not just passive expression. We do not just automatically have this practice-realization-expression. We have a responsibility."