sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is
missing. For example, when you sail out in a boat to the midst of ·an ocean where no
land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not
look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite
in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can
see at that time. All things are like this. Though there are many features in the dusty
world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of
practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know
that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and
mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you,
but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.
A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the
water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air.
However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is
large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of
them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its· realm. If
the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once.
Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be
the bird and life must be the fish. It is possible to illustrate this with more analogies.
Practice, enlightenment, and people are like this.
Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it,
this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where
you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way
at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the
way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not
carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now. Accordingly, in the
practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it; doing
one practice is practicing completely.
I was asked recently why I still go to retreats with Harada Roshi though I am now a teacher of Zen and am not specifically working with Harada on anything such as a koan. My answer is that each time I do an intense practice such as a sesshin I am continuing to deepen my practice and refine my skill at meditation and the rest of life. Maybe we all become Soto Zen Students in the end. I practice meditation because it effects my whole life. Yes i have had some insights but mostly it just effects my day to day activity in a way that is hard to describe accept to say it allows me to get into whatever I am doing in a way that rarely happens if I don't consistantly sit.
Dogen's position is that practice is enlightenment. But then, what does it mean to practice? Does practice happen every time someone sits in meditation? The Rinzi Zen people emphisize koan practice and kensho. They want insight. But when I studdied koans with Sasaki Roshi he usually phrased his koans with "How do you" experience or manifest Buddha in various settings. In other words he fused practice and insight. He was asking how do you practice to have insight? Passing one of these koans not only meant that you had so have insight into Buddha but also into the nature of practice. And to answer one of these koans Sasake wanted you not to give him an intellectual answer but to show him how you practice, to show him the state of mind which is practice.
Dogen gives a hint at the nature of proper practice. Accordingly, in the
practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it; doing
one practice is practicing completely. When you practice zazen just practice zazen completely. When you walk down the street, when you play music, when you are working, do it completely. Don't drift, don't sleep, don't think about anything else, don't even think about the practice, just do it. This is not easy, it is especially not easy in this world of multi-tasking. It is not even easy for one who is "enlightened." Every moment, every event, every thing is an opportunity for practice and insight, this is the infinite terrain of practice-enlightenment I think this is what Dogen meant when he says When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing. It is only ego that tells us that we are done, that we know, that there is no further growth, that we are enlightened.
Reading Dogen in never easy. Maybe it shouldn't be. What koan is easy to understand? A good Zen teacher is always pushing the student to have their own insight, not just adopt the teacher's insight. Unless the student earns their own insight it will have no real power. People seem to want to find some teachings, some supposed wisdom, that they can revere. This holds even for Zen Buddhists. Maybe they study and revere the classic teachings or maybe they just revere the pronouncements of their own teacher. To paraphrase one of our ancient Zen Ancestors, all these teachings, from the past and present, as well as what you read here is just shit. It all stinks. They are not pearls to be collected and stuffed in our pockets but stink we should not wallow in. On the other hand shit is a great fertilizer.
What is all this stuff about fish and birds swimming and flying in their natural habitats? I was a student of Sasaki Roshi for a short but significant time in my life. I have very fond memories and feelings for him. If you know something about him then you might know that before he died a few years back a scandal erupted about his inappropriate sexual behavior with some of his students. I won't make any comment on his behavior accept to say that many of his students felt that his most important teaching was his being completely who he was. He was not trying to be anything else. Sometimes a person who seems to be completely who they are without inhibitions is very attractive. But also sometimes a person like this can be very dangerious. All religious systems offer a code of behavior for very good reason and Buddhism and Zen are not different. In Zen, when ordained, we take ten basic vows as well as the four bodhisattva vows, and the three pure vows which summarize all the rest, to do all that is good, to do no evil and to keep one's thought pure.
In Buddhism and Zen we recognize that deep down under all our crazy thoughts and desires there is something that is naturally good, filled with compassion and love. We purify our thoughts through the practice of meditation and hopefully reach this place. Hakuin in his Song of Zazen writes, "straight ahead runs the way." This straight ahead is to function with singleness of mind without second thoughts and inhibitions. This is not different from Dogen saying doing one practice is practicing completely. This may seem that Dogen is asking us to be un-self conscious, uninhibited naturally who we are. Yes this is what they are asking but only if we are coming from that deep place filled with love and compassion. This is the activity of the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva is not only un-self conscious, but has dropped the idea of an individual self.
It is very important that we don't attach to any idea about how we should be, what is important is that we understand what we are. The very first step in learning meditation is to learn to turn our mind around and watch the functioning of our individual mind as we sit. One might think this is the very deffinition of self consciousness but it is very different from the self consciousness of most people. For most people self consciousness is the activity of constantly judging our thoughts and actions. In meditation we don't judge. This constant judging which most people engage in creates a degree of tension which is never fully comfortable and sometimes is just plain suffering. In the rare moments when we drop our self consciousness fully engaging in some activity this tension is released and we experience a wonerfull joy. In the business we call this samadhi