A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

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jundo cohen
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A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:56 pm

Hi,

I started a recent thread to highlight the many beautiful interpretations, ways of expression, approaches and the like even to doctrines and stories that the various flavors of Buddhism(s) seem to share.In fact, there a great difference in how we interpret shared symbols (perhaps starting with the radically different ways we often envision "Buddha" itself). Each way is meaningful and powerful for the practitioners with whom it resonates, maybe not so much (and even head scratching) for those outside, of a different turn of mind, less trained in the particular tradition and so with less familiarity and comfort with its approaches, assumptions and "lingo."

One important example is Dogen Zenji's approach to Nagarjuna and the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK) (although it is even questionable whether Dogen had knowledge of that text at all) in contrast to the approach to these in other cornerless corners of the Buddhist world. In a nutshell, our "Nagarjuna" is not (as well as is ... and is is not etc. :smile: ) their "Nagarjuna." The difference is one of approach, in which our dance with Nagarjuna is less based on philosophical analysis and intellectual understanding, more by feeling in the bone, more "impressionistic", focused on praxis in emphasizing Zazen and all of life as the pivot point where all this quiet insight into the MMK is realized. For that reason, persons outside the Zen world ... and particularly outside the Soto Zen sphere ... have to be cautious in applying their methods, interpretations and assumptions to "our Nagarjuna" (or rather, our version of Nagarjuna).

In fact, I feel it is a sliding scale, with some schools' approaches being more on the philosophical side, some being more on the "feeling" side, and perhaps most somewhere between or a bit a both. However, the fact is that in the Soto world I believe we (beginning with Dogen, although an extremely well studied individual) tend to find intellectual and philosophical analysis and pondering of the "meaning of MMK" as actually creating barriers to understanding MMK through the mind's creation of categories, divisions, sides, arguments and distance which actually separate one from the piercing of categories, divisions, sides, arguments and distance that a work such as MMK is meant to reveal to the heart.

There are several writings on the relationship of Zen to Nagarjuna and the MMK. Some find a great influence of the MMK on Zen doctrine, some believe there is none ... all emphasize that the "Zen ways" of approaching Nagarjuna and the MMK are rather different from those in many other schools. On one extreme is this:
While any Mādhyamika influence on Zen is surely indirect, the latter tradition’s particular debt to the Prajñāpāramitā literature (the Vajracchedikā, or “Diamond,” Sūtra figures most importantly here) perhaps explains why many modern observers are inclined to see affinities with Madhyamaka.
http://www.iep.utm.edu/b-madhya/
Vladimir K notes:
Zen’s adoption of sunyata as a soteriological device negates all intellectual speculation and places the emphasis on the practical aspects of achieving enlightenment and liberation. At first, this seems quite different from Nagarjuna’s dialectical approach and it is indeed different. But the difference is only in the methodology, the upaya, not in the purpose. Both Nagarjuna and the old Zen masters were after the same goal: a method of awakening the ignorant and the suffering to the truth of Buddhism. The methods may have been different, but the purposes were identical. Zen Buddhism took up Nagarjuna’s dialectic and turned it into a dynamic and forceful teaching that brought many to truth and the ending of suffering. http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Nag ... arjuna.pdf
Hsueh-Li Cheng in "The Roots of Zen Buddhism" strongly advocates the connection of MMK to Zen, but even he notes:
Zen masters follow the Maadhyamika not to allow themselves to become attached even to the Buddha and Buddhism. It seems that the only main difference between Maadhyamika and Zen concerning this is that the former used logical tools and presented arguments to show that all speculative theories are unintelligible and should be discarded,[53] while the latter did not engage in arguments but simply accepted the conclusion of the Maadhyamika reasonings and put it into practice.
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Nag ... of_zen.htm
But perhaps the most on point essay regarding Nagarjuna and Dogen is this by scholar and practitioner David Loy, " "Language against its own mystifications: Deconstruction in Nagarjuna and Dogen"":
Why Nagarjuna and Dogen ...? Such a comparison is inviting because both are obvious and difficult. On the one hand, they are arguably the two greatest Mahayana thinkers, linked by their commitment to its understanding of the world and (if we accept the traditional account) by a transmission lineage that extends from Sakyamuni through Nagarjuna to Dogen and his successors. On the other hand, however, are vast cultural differences, due not only to the geography and the millennium that separate them but just as much to the disparity between their very different languages, Sanskrit and Japanese.

These linguistic differences are further reflected in their extraordinarily different---I am tempted to say opposite---textual styles. ... Dogen's major work, the Shobogenzo ..., written in his own very idiosyncratic Japanese, is as poetical and allusive as Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika is dialectical and dry. Ddgen's text is mostly metaphor and Nagarjuna's has almost none. While Nagarjuna seems preoccupied with splitting what some see as conceptual hairs, Dogen is concerned with exploring the semantic possibilities of Buddhist texts to discover new meanings, willing and even eager to "misinterpret" certain passages to make his point.

What, then, can be gained from comparing them? My argument is, first, that Nagarjuna and Dogen nonetheless point to many of the same Buddhist insights because they deconstruct the same type of dualities, most of which may be understood as versions of our commonsense but delusive distinction between substance and attribute, subject and predicate. ... The second part of this essay, however, is concerned with determining the limits of this similarity: for, although both texts work to undermine our dualistic ways of understanding ourselves "in" the world, they reach quite different conclusions about the possibility of language expressing a "true" understanding of the world---a disagreement that may reflect the different possibilities of their different languages.

...

Nagarjuna's dialectical arguments are foreign to Dbgen. In fact, the Shobogenzo is interested not in Buddhist philosophy as such, but in semantic analysis of passages from Buddhist Sutras and Ch'an texts. Such analyses are not inspired by any conventional piety toward such scriptures, for Dogen offers many deliberate, and often brilliant, "misinterpretations" of these passages. By his readiness to transgress the traditional readings and contradict orthodox teachings, Dogen is able to challenge our usual understanding and generate a new way of "taking" the world freed from our usual linguistic dualisms, including conventional Buddhist ones such as that between language and silence. ...

...

Dogen is doing more than twisting traditional texts to make them say whatever he wants them to mean. In the examples above, he is using the freedom of a poet to conflate a problematic dualism, that is, a deluded way of thinking that causes problems for us; and, despite the fact that this literary approach to language is so different from Nagarjuna's dialectical one, in each case there is a parallel with deconstructions in the Mulamadhyamakakarika. For example, ho-setsu denies any duality between the one who preaches the dharma and the dharma that is taught, even as many chapters of the Karikas challenge the duality between an agent and his or her action. Uji denies any duality between beings and their temporality, between springtime and its flowers, between us and our birth/death; this parallels Nagarjuna's deconstruction of the difference between time and things in chapters 19 and 13. The Bussho fascicle denies the duality between sentient beings and their Buddha-nature, which may be seen as another instance of Nagarjuna's repeated attack on the duality between things and their attributes. Higan-to (like many other reconstructions) denies the usual duality between practice and realization (means and ends), just as Nagarjuna's nirvana chapter deconstructs the usual Buddhist duality between sarm sara and nirvana.

In each case Dogen, like Nagarjuna, does not allow himself to be limited by the usual dualisms of our language, and of our thought. While Nagarjuna's dialectic exposes the unintelligibility of these dualisms by showing how we cannot relate the two terms back together, Dogen exploits the different resources of the Japanese language to concoct expressions that leap out of the bifurcations we get stuck in. For both thinkers, however, these deconstructions may be understood as conflations of various recurrences of the subject-predicate dualism: nirvana is not something I can attain; the dharma is not something I can preach; Buddha-nature is not something I have (or do not have); "my" time is not something distinguishable from me. This is all the more striking because, although Dogen sometimes refers to Nagarjuna (Jpn: Ryuju), these references are largely confined to quotations and passages from various Chinese collections, and so far as I know they do not reveal any familiarity with the arguments in primary texts such as the Mulamadhyamakakarika.

However, this basic similarity also serves to highlight the differences between them. Part of this difference is emphasis, a shift in focus necessary to respond to the historical development of Buddhist teachings in the thousand years between thema development due in no small part to Nagarjuna's enormous influence. As we have seen, the dualisms that most preoccupy Dogen are versions of the practice/enlightenment-means/ends bifurcation. Granted, nirvana is not something that can be attained, but it still needs to be realized, and by his time many traditional Ch'an/Zen stories and metaphors designed to encourage this process had themselves become more problematical than helpful, in his view.

...

Within the Buddhist tradition, this move from transcendence of language to reorientation within it is perhaps best exemplified by the difference between Nagarjuna and Dogen. The latter shows us that words and metaphors can be understood not just as instrumentally trying to grasp and convey truth (and therefore dualistically interfering with our realization of some truth that transcends words), but as being the truth-that is, as being one of the many ways that Buddha-nature is. To the many dualisms that Nagarjuna deconstructs, then, Dogen explicitly adds one more: he denies the dualism between language and the world. If we are the ones who dualize, why blame the victims? A birdsong, a temple bell ringing, a flower blooming, and Dogen's transpositions, too, blossoming for us as we read them: if we do not dualize between world and word, then we can experience the Buddha-dharma-our own "empty" nature-presencing and playing in each.

...

Both Buddhist thinkers exploit the very different strengths of their respective languages. The complex syntax of Nagarjuna's sophisticated Sanskrit permits precise and terse philosophical analysis. The looser syntax of Dbgen's Japanese, due to the greater flexibility and ambiguity of its Chinese ideographs, allows a poetic allusiveness that lends itself to his semantic transpositions. We have seen that this difference is further reflected in their respective attitudes toward language: to Nagarjuna it seems to be fundamentally problematical, for he limits himself to employing it negatively, solely to deconstruct the dualities that are delusive (from the higher point of view) although necessary in daily life (from the lower point of view). In contrast, Dogen views and uses language more positively, by emphasizing the innovative possibilities that Chinese and Japanese encourage but Nagarjuna's philosophical Sanskrit apparently did not.

...

http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Dog ... gainst.htm
Identical truths yet sometimes quite different in what and how revealed, reality approached and expressed in very different ways, each style and technique with its own poignancy and power.

Gassho, Jundo
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by DGA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:58 pm

This is a great topic for discussion.

I think it's safe to say that the logic of Madhyamaka saturated East Asian Buddhism, particularly Ch'an and Zen, over time--even if explicit reference to Indian authors such as Nagarjuna isn't always or often (or at all) in evidence. How is that possible?

Here are some ways to think about it.

1. Whatever it is that Nagarjuna and Dogen are saying, and however they are saying it, the two coincide because they are both articulating the same truth, which is Buddha Dharma.

2. There is a continuity from Nagarjuna to Dogen that is traceable historically. The most interesting parts of Zhiyi's writings are those concerning Madhyamaka; the content of those writings would have been unavoidable for Dogen as a young man in the Tendai milieu, and among the Ch'an culture he trained in while in China. That is, Dogen's Nagarjuna is mediated through a mature Chinese Buddhism, which includes a specific way of understanding Madhyamaka*

3. both 1 and 2 are true. (this is where I stand based on my small exposure to Dogen.)

4. neither 1 nor 2 are true, Dogen represents a radical departure from Zhiyi or Zhiyi does from Nagarjuna or both, there is an insurmountable discontinuity from India to China and China to Japan to the present, and so on. I am interested in this possibility, because if I'm wrong about 3, then it would be good to know it.

and a possibility 5 just crept up: undisciplined and sloppy practitioners are too ignorant of Nagarjuna, Zhiyi, and Dogen to make such claims as those above. don't rule #5 out.

*interested in this stuff? See Ng Yu-Kwan's book on Chih-i to get going.

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:45 pm

The matter of language and approach can make all the difference in the world. A more poetic or lyrical or abstract approach can result in something very different (although also quite the same) as a more concrete analytical approach.

Take something as ordinary as a kitchen table.

Image

A philosophical analysis of Nargajuna can sometimes seem to Zenny folks as something that takes the very life out of Nagarjuna. It is a bit like this technical, patent description of a kitchen table: The vitality and power appear to be missing.
Referring now to the drawings, there is shown a table comprising a frame including the legs 5, connected by the top rails 6 and the bottom rails 7, said bottom and top rails at each side of the table being connected by a pair of uprights 8. Upon the rails 7 between the uprights 8 is a floor-section 9, which is designed to receive and support a drawer 10, which slides between' the upright from side to side of the table, said drawer at one end being formed to cover the outer faces of the uprights 8, so that when the drawer is pushed in the space between the uprights is completely closed at that side of the table.
I believe that the Dogen view of these teachings is that they can be brought to life through "turning word" word play. For example, a poem about a kitchen table brings some life to it ...
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179782
Or a Picasso cubist table ...

Image

I would say Dogen was much as Picasso, twisting and bending, folding and unfolding the stories and basic Buddhist fundamental teachings to bring out new facets. However, his way was very very far from analysis and philosophy. In twisting and bending, new realities are uncovered, such as this Escher tables and its relationship to space.

Image

Of course, in the end it comes down to each of us actually sitting down and experiencing tableness for ourselves.

What is more, in the case of Nagarjuna, it is not so much about only a kitchen table ... a table sitting in in a busy kitchen that is simultaneously an empty kitchen. What table?

Gassho, J
Last edited by jundo cohen on Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:49 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
What is more, in the case of Nagarjuna...

Gassho, J
The MMK is strictly analytical. One should consult his collection of praises for a more "poetic" presentation of Mahāyāna. Dogen certainly would have learned about the three treatises school in China which focused on Madhyamaka while he was begin educated at Hiei-zan.

Beautiful place. I formally converted to Buddhadharma on the spot while listening to a crowd of Japanese people chanting Hanya Shinkyo in the rain, led by a Tendai priest.
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:04 pm

Malcolm wrote:
The MMK is strictly analytical. One should consult his collection of praises for a more "poetic" presentation of Mahāyāna. Dogen certainly would have learned about the three treatises school in China which focused on Madhyamaka while he was begin educated at Hiei-zan.

Beautiful place. I formally converted to Buddhadharma on the spot while listening to a crowd of Japanese people chanting Hanya Shinkyo in the rain, led by a Tendai priest.
I believe the point made by David Loy is that it need not be strictly analytical, and analytical is only one way to approach, penetrate and express the MMK.

Don't forget that as his personal path, Dogen seemingly rejected for himself that philosophical tradition of the Tendai. That is why he left Mt. Hiei, went searching, turned to Zen, and developed his own manner of expression.

There is no doubt that Dogen's early education in the Tendai seeded and perfumed his understanding, teachings and approach throughout his whole career. Tendai doctrines permeate his writings. However, he was not satisfied with that for himself, so he left. It was not his way. He developed a new musical sound, sometimes using the Tendai teachings as the "standard tunes" for his jazz.

Gassho, J
Last edited by jundo cohen on Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:14 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
I believe the point made by David Loy is that it need not be strictly analytical, and analytical is only one way to approach, penetrate and express the MMK.
Re David Loy, CCL. I don't regard him as a serious scholar. He more like a media pundit, AFAIC. Too sloppy by far for my taste, conflating Buddhist and nonBuddhist concepts of nonduality and so on.
Don't forget that as his personal path, Dogen seemingly rejected for himself that philosophical tradition of the Tendai.
Not so sure about that ——  he still maintained the primacy of the Lotus Sutra as the best of all sūtras.

I think he left Mt. Hiei because he could not find a Chan teacher there. So he went and found one in China.
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by Matt J » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:17 pm

The thing about Nagarjuna is that he uses concepts to undermine concepts. The problem I often had with the Zen approach is that it failed to deal with the conceptual mind in any meaningful way. It is like ignoring a problem and hoping it goes away. But it doesn't go away, it festers, or hides and reappears. Nagarjuna doesn't ignore concepts, he takes them on where they live and refutes them. In this way, it can clear the way for non-conceptual practice.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by DGA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:20 pm

jundo cohen wrote:.Don't forget that as his personal path, Dogen seemingly rejected for himself that philosophical tradition of the Tendai. That is why he left Mt. Hiei, went searching, turned to Zen, and developed his own manner of expression.
^^hmm..

He was certain dissatisfied with the scene at Mt Hiei. I'd heard the story a bit differently, though. Was he not prompted by the very Tendai question of how, if all beings are always already Buddha but don't know it, that they don't know it and need to practice? No one on Hiei at that time could answer his question to his satisfaction so he split. This part is more accurate:
There is no doubt that Dogen early education in the Tendai seeded and perfumed his understanding, teachings and approach throughout his whole career. Tendai doctrines permeate his writings. However, he was not satisfied with that for himself, so he left. It was not his way. He developed a new musical sound, sometimes using the Tendai teachings as the "standard tunes" for his jazz.
This isn't a bad way of putting it. And to extend the jazz metaphor, I would argue that Dogen was making a return to the kinds of moves that Ch'an and Tientai masters had been making before, but that got lost in the wash in Japan over time. That is: Dogen may be a bit more Tientai than Tendai was by the time of, say, Ryogen. (I'm thinking of Peter Hershock's analysis of Ch'an discourse and pedagogy on this point.)

I' interested in this question of what it means for a teaching to be analytic but I need to get some work done. Work...

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by DGA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:23 pm

Malcolm wrote:
jundo cohen wrote:
I believe the point made by David Loy is that it need not be strictly analytical, and analytical is only one way to approach, penetrate and express the MMK.
Re David Loy, CCL. I don't regard him as a serious scholar. He more like a media pundit, AFAIC. Too sloppy by far for my taste, conflating Buddhist and nonBuddhist concepts of nonduality and so on.
His book on critical theory was really hard to get through. It would have benefited from an editor who had some knowledge (any) of critical theory. he also has a habit of mixing Pali-language concepts with Mahayana ones in an uncritical way.

I've enjoyed his remarks on "mindfulness" though.

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:28 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Not so sure about that ——  he still maintained the primacy of the Lotus Sutra as the best of all sūtras.
Ah, but his approach to the Lotus Sutra is a prime example of just what we are talking about. Dogen bent and unbent, re-wilding the already wild Lotus Sutra in order to explore all its facets in a less than "straight" way ...
Taigen Dan Leighton
Dōgen’s Appropriation of Lotus Sutra Ground and Space

The Lotus Sutra is prominent among the many sources quoted by Dōgen in his
writings, highlighting the Mahāyāna context of his teachings and worldview.
In this paper I focus on Dōgen’s use of the pivotal story in Lotus Sutra chapters
fifteen and sixteen—the myriad bodhisattvas emerging from underground and
the inconceivable life-span of the Buddha—to express his own worldview of
earth, space, and time as enlightening forces. The shift in perspective expressed
in this sutra story reflects a fundamental shift in East Asian Buddhist soteriology.
A close reading of Dōgen’s references to this story discloses how his hermeneutical
play with its imagery of ground, space, and emptiness expresses
immediate awakening, beyond stages of cultivation; he cites the inconceivable
life-span story as an encouragement to present practice.

...

A full investigation of the roles of metaphor, polysemy, and intertextuality in
Dōgen’s writing would be illuminating, but is far beyond the scope of this essay.
However, Dōgen’s use of metaphor as applied to “ground,” “underneath,” and
“space” may be somewhat clarified by some of Paul Ricoeur’s discussion of metaphor.
Ricoeur says, “The understanding of a work taken as a whole gives the
key to metaphor…. The hermeneutical circle encompasses in its spiral both the
apprehension of projected worlds and the advance of self-understanding in the
presence of these new worlds” (Ricoeur 98, p. 7). Dōgen’s playful interpretations
of the world of the Lotus Sutra certainly express a pre-understanding of
a “projected world,” and also a self-understanding, or rather, Dōgen’s particular
understanding of the inner nature of self itself, from his Buddhist perspective.
His interpretive play with the world of the Lotus Sutra, in turn, further informs
and explicates the world of Dharma and practice he is expressing.

https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/2862
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:31 pm

Matt J wrote:The thing about Nagarjuna is that he uses concepts to undermine concepts. The problem I often had with the Zen approach is that it failed to deal with the conceptual mind in any meaningful way. It is like ignoring a problem and hoping it goes away. But it doesn't go away, it festers, or hides and reappears. Nagarjuna doesn't ignore concepts, he takes them on where they live and refutes them. In this way, it can clear the way for non-conceptual practice.
I dare say that this may be only because a Zen approach (and there is more than one) just doesn't happen to resonate with you, or you perhaps did not/do not correctly understand it. Others might assert that a Zen approach might go right to the heart of the problem, a powerful medicine.

Gassho, J
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:47 pm

DGA wrote:
jundo cohen wrote:
He was certain dissatisfied with the scene at Mt Hiei. I'd heard the story a bit differently, though. Was he not prompted by the very Tendai question of how, if all beings are always already Buddha but don't know it, that they don't know it and need to practice? No one on Hiei at that time could answer his question to his satisfaction so he split.
I have heard that the story only appeared in a later biography, so maybe apocryphal or a later embellishment (I cannot find a cite for this, but I believe that the story does not appear in his own autobiographical writings anywhere). Nobody really knows.

However, he did leave, and there is not doubt that his ways of expression and approach were quite different throughout his career although peppered and inspired by elements he had learned during his Tendai years. It does not appear that the Tendai way was his thang, that is all. There is nothing in any of his writing which could be considered "straight analysis" of doctrines. He was always poetical, abstract, playful to bring out facets.

Gassho, J
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:58 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Not so sure about that ——  he still maintained the primacy of the Lotus Sutra as the best of all sūtras.
Ah, but his approach to the Lotus Sutra is a prime example of just what we are talking about. Dogen bent and unbent, re-wilding the already wild Lotus Sutra in order to explore all its facets in a less than "straight" way ...
Taigen Dan Leighton
Dōgen’s Appropriation of Lotus Sutra Ground and Space

The Lotus Sutra is prominent among the many sources quoted by Dōgen in his
writings, highlighting the Mahāyāna context of his teachings and worldview.
In this paper I focus on Dōgen’s use of the pivotal story in Lotus Sutra chapters
fifteen and sixteen—the myriad bodhisattvas emerging from underground and
the inconceivable life-span of the Buddha—to express his own worldview of
earth, space, and time as enlightening forces. The shift in perspective expressed
in this sutra story reflects a fundamental shift in East Asian Buddhist soteriology.
A close reading of Dōgen’s references to this story discloses how his hermeneutical
play with its imagery of ground, space, and emptiness expresses
immediate awakening, beyond stages of cultivation; he cites the inconceivable
life-span story as an encouragement to present practice.

...

A full investigation of the roles of metaphor, polysemy, and intertextuality in
Dōgen’s writing would be illuminating, but is far beyond the scope of this essay.
However, Dōgen’s use of metaphor as applied to “ground,” “underneath,” and
“space” may be somewhat clarified by some of Paul Ricoeur’s discussion of metaphor.
Ricoeur says, “The understanding of a work taken as a whole gives the
key to metaphor…. The hermeneutical circle encompasses in its spiral both the
apprehension of projected worlds and the advance of self-understanding in the
presence of these new worlds” (Ricoeur 98, p. 7). Dōgen’s playful interpretations
of the world of the Lotus Sutra certainly express a pre-understanding of
a “projected world,” and also a self-understanding, or rather, Dōgen’s particular
understanding of the inner nature of self itself, from his Buddhist perspective.
His interpretive play with the world of the Lotus Sutra, in turn, further informs
and explicates the world of Dharma and practice he is expressing.

https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/2862
Leighton is reading a lot of things into Dogen. Part of my problem with Po-mo is exactly the kind of silliness Leighton involves himself in above re Ricouer.

What I was referring to was his simple, and not unexpected, declaration that the basic scripture of the Tendai Sect is for him, primary.
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:00 pm

jundo cohen wrote:There is nothing in any of his writing which could be considered "straight analysis" of doctrines. He was always poetical, abstract, playful to bring out facets.
Yeah, I really don't agree with this based on my reading of Dogen, albeit in translation.
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Buddhahood in This Life
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Relax, don’t worry about all the problems of samsara. Everything is relative. But try to be present.


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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by Matt J » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:19 pm

This raises an interesting question: when you say it is a powerful medicine, what do you mean? How does one measure a "successful" Zen practice?

And if you say by abandoning the concept of success, then what's the difference between a Zen student who rapes and murders and one who loves and helps others?
jundo cohen wrote: I dare say that this may be only because a Zen approach (and there is more than one) just doesn't happen to resonate with you, or you perhaps did not/do not correctly understand it. Others might assert that a Zen approach might go right to the heart of the problem, a powerful medicine.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:22 pm

Malcolm wrote:
jundo cohen wrote:There is nothing in any of his writing which could be considered "straight analysis" of doctrines. He was always poetical, abstract, playful to bring out facets.
Yeah, I really don't agree with this based on my reading of Dogen, albeit in translation.
Well, Dogen (bless his heart) rarely played anything straight in his writings. Most of the references to Nagarjuna, by the way, are to a few quotes and biographical stories. No real references, I believe, directly traceable to MMK. Here is a typical example of how Dogen handles one, "straightening" by twisting the straight.
... 尊者爲説妙法。聞者遞相謂曰、人有福業、世間第一。徒言佛性、誰能覩之。尊者曰、汝欲見佛性、先須除我慢。彼人曰、佛性大耶小耶。尊者曰、佛性非大非小、非廣非狭、無福無報、不死不生。彼聞理勝、悉廻初心。尊者復於座上現自在身、如滿月輪。一切衆會、唯聞法音、不覩師相。
.
When the Venerable [Ancestor Nagarjuna] preached the wondrous dharma to them, the hearers said to each other, “For people to have meritorius deeds is the foremost thing in the world. He talks futilely of the buddha nature, but who can see it?”
The Venerable said, “If you want to see the buddha nature, first you must eliminate self-conceit.”
They said, “Is the buddha nature big or small?”
The Venerable said, “The buddha nature is neither big nor small, neither broad nor narrow; it is without merit and without recompense; it does not die and is not born.”
Hearing the excellence of this principle, they all converted to the beginner’s mind. The Venerable, at his seat, subsequently manifested his body of freedom, like the disk of the full moon. All the assembly merely heard the sound of the dharma but did not see the master’s form.

於彼衆中、有長者子迦那提婆、謂衆會曰、識此相否。衆會曰、而今我等目所未見、耳所未聞、心無所識、身無所住。提婆曰、此是尊者現佛性相、以示我等。何以知之。蓋以無相三昧、形如滿月。佛性之義、廓然虚明。言訖輪相即隠。復居本座、而説偈言、身現圓月相、以表諸佛體、説法無其形、用辯非聲色。

In that assembly was Kāṇadeva, the son of a rich man. He said to the assembly, “Do you recognize this form?”
The assembly said, “It’s something our eyes have never seen before, something our ears have never heard; our minds have no recognition of it, our bodies, no place for it.”
Deva said, “This is the Venerable’s manifesting the form of the buddha nature to show it to us. How do we know it? Because the formless samādhi has a shape like the full moon. The meaning of the buddha nature is wide open, spacious and clear.”
Once he had said this, the form of the disk then vanished, and [Nārgārjuna] was once again at his seat. Then, he taught a verse, which said,

I manifest my body in the round moon form,
Showing by which the body of the buddhas.
My preaching of the dharma is without any shape;
The explanations, not sound or sight.40

しるべし、眞箇の用辨は聲色の即現にあらず。眞箇の説法は無其形なり。尊者かつてひろく佛性を爲説する、不可数量なり。いまはしばらく一隅を略擧するなり。

We should realize that true “explanation” is not “then it manifests” “sound and sight.” True “preaching of the dharma” is “without any shape.” The Venerable’s teachings on the buddha nature are innumerable; here, for a time, we take up in brief one corner of them.41

汝欲見佛性、先須除我慢。この爲説の宗旨、すごさず辦肯すべし。見はなきにあらず、その見これ除我慢なり。我もひとつにあらず、慢も多般なり、除法また萬差なるべし。しかあれども、これらみな見佛性なり。眼見目覩に習ふべし。

“If you want to see the buddha nature, first you must eliminate self-conceit.” We should acknowledge the significance of this teaching without overlooking it. It is not that there is no “seeing”; but that seeing is itself “eliminating self-conceit.” The “self” is not one, “conceit” is of many types, and the method of “eliminating” must also be of myriad variations. Nevertheless, they are all “seeing the buddha nature.” We should study this in the eye’s seeing what the eye sees.42

佛性非大非小等の道取、よのつねの凡夫二乘に例諸することなかれ。偏枯に佛性は廣大ならんとのみおもへる、邪念をたくはへきたるなり。大にあらず小にあらざらん正當恁麼時の道取に罣礙せられん道理、いま聴取するがごとく思量すべきなり。思量なる聴取を使得するがゆゑに。

Do not exemplify the saying, “the buddha nature is neither big nor small,” and so on, in [the understandings of] the commoners and two vehicles. Thinking lopsidely only that it means the buddha nature must be broad and big is harboring false thoughts. The principle delimited by this saying right now that it is not large and it is not small, we should think of just as we hear it here; for we make use of hearing that is our thinking.43

しばらく尊者の道著する偈を聞取すべし。いはゆる身現圓月相、以表諸佛體なり。すでに諸佛體を以表しきたれる身現なるがゆゑに、圓月相なり。しかあれば、一切の長短方圓、この身現に學習すべし。身と現とに轉疎なるは、圓月相にくらきのみにあらず、諸佛體にあらざるなり。愚者おもはく、尊者かりに化身を現せるを圓月相といふとおもふは、佛道を相承せざる黨類の邪念なり。いづれのところのいづれのときか、非身の他現ならん。まさにしるべし、このとき尊者は高座せるのみなり。身現の儀は、いまのたれ人も坐せるがごとくありしなり。この身、これ圓月相現なり。身現は方圓にあらず、有無にあらず。隠顯にあらず、八萬四千蘊にあらず、ただ身現なり。圓月相といふ、這裏是甚麼處在、説細説麤月なり。この身現は先須除我慢なるがゆゑに龍樹にあらず、諸佛體なり。以表するがゆゑに諸佛體を透脱す。しかあるがゆゑに佛邊にかかはれず。佛性の、滿月を形如する虚明ありとも、圓月相を排列するにあらず。いはんや用辨も聲色にあらず、身現も色心にあらず、蘊處界にあらず。蘊處界に一似なりといへども、以表なり、諸佛體なり。これ説法蘊なり、それ無其形なり。無其形さらに無相三昧なるとき、身現なり。一衆いま圓月相を望見すといへども、目所未見なるは、説法蘊の轉機なり、現自在身の非聲色なり。即隠即現は、輪相の進歩退歩なり。復於座上、現自在身の正當恁麼時は、一切衆會、唯聞法音するなり、不覩師相なるなり。

We should listen for a while to the verse spoken by the Venerable. “I manifest my body in the round moon form, showing by which the body of the buddhas.” It is “the round moon form” because it is the “the body manifesting” that has been “showing by which” the “body of the buddhas.” Therefore, we should study all long and short, square and round, in this “body manifesting.” For the “body” and its “manifestation” to be alienated from each other is not only to be in the dark about “the round moon form”; it is not “the body of the buddhas.” The thinking of fools who think the Venerable temporarily manifested a transformation body is the false thought of a bunch that has not succeeded to the way of the buddha. Where and when would he manifest what is not his body?44

We should realize that this is not just the Venerable assuming the high seat at that time: his conduct in manifesting his body was like anyone’s sitting now. This body — this is the manifestation of the round moon form. “The body manifesting” is not square or round; it is not being or nonbeing; it is not hidden or apparent; it is not an aggregate of 84,000: it is just “the body manifesting.” “The round moon form”: “where are we, that we’re talking about a fine or rough” moon? Since this “body manifesting” is “first you must eliminate self-conceit,” it is not Nārgājuna: it is “the body of the buddhas.” Since it “shows by which,” it passes through and beyond “the body of the buddhas.” Therefore, it has nothing to do with the confines of the buddha.45

Though the buddha nature has a “spacious clarity” that takes a “shape like” “the full moon,” it is not the case that it lines up with the “round moon form,” let alone that its “explanation” is “sound or sight,” or its “body manifesting” is form and mind, or the aggregates, fields, and elements. Even if we say it completely resembles the aggregates, fields, and elements, it is “showing by which”; it is “the body of the buddhas.” It is the aggregate of dharma preached; and that is “without any shape.” When “without any shape” is further “the formless samādhi,” it is “the body manifesting.” Even if we say the entire assembly was here gazing upon a “round moon form,” it is “something our eyes have never seen”; for it is the turning point of the aggregate of dharma preached; it is the “not sound or sight” of “manifesting his body of freedom.” “Then vanished” and “then manifest” are the “stepping forward and stepping back” of the form of the disk. The very moment when, “at his seat, he subsequently manifested his body of freedom” is “all the assembly merely hearing the sound of the dharma,” is “not seeing the master’s form.”
It goes on from there ...

https://web.stanford.edu/group/scbs/szt ... ation.html

Gassho, J
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:28 pm

Matt J wrote:This raises an interesting question: when you say it is a powerful medicine, what do you mean? How does one measure a "successful" Zen practice?

And if you say by abandoning the concept of success, then what's the difference between a Zen student who rapes and murders and one who loves and helps others?
Oh, maybe two easy questions, Matt.

I measure a "successful" Zen practice when it allows the Practitioner to realize (grock) one's True Nature, then realize (making real) such in one's daily life. The student is freed of Dukkha, sees through the appearances of this ordinary world of birth and death, lives gently and in peace, piercing the interconnection and interflowing of all things in Sunyata.

As to the second question, a Zen student who rapes and murders is filled with greed, anger and divisive ignorance, living far outside the Precepts, and is no "Zen Student". I doubt that such a person can realize True Nature, be free of Dukkha and such.

Simply because we abandon the concepts of "failure and success" and striving does not mean that we stop striving nor that we are not thereby successful! :shock: (yes, a seeming paradox, but not really to clear eyes. That is what all those seemingly paradoxical Koans are on about)

Gassho, J
Last edited by jundo cohen on Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by DGA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:32 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
However, he did leave, and there is not doubt that his ways of expression and approach were quite different throughout his career although peppered and inspired by elements he had learned during his Tendai years. It does not appear that the Tendai way was his thang, that is all. There is nothing in any of his writing which could be considered "straight analysis" of doctrines. He was always poetical, abstract, playful to bring out facets.
That's a fair assessment. Many other prominent and great ones left around the same time; I assume they had good reason to do so. Dogen's way was very different from Ennin's way, or Ryogen's way. My point is rather that Dogen's way may have more in common than one might think with Zhiyi's way which is also prone to unexpected reversals, puns, and jazzy improvisations.

My question is whether or not it's possible for something to be, simultaneously, analytical and indirect, allusive, or figurative. I think it is possible, and I think both Zhiyi and Dogen are. But what's analysis in this sense?

I think Dogen is able to tackle a comprehensive and total problem in a systematic, methodical way. It might not look methodical sometimes, but if you pay attention, you can discern the method and its implications. is this an unfair assessment?

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by DGA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:37 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
A full investigation of the roles of metaphor, polysemy, and intertextuality in
Dōgen’s writing would be illuminating, but is far beyond the scope of this essay.
However, Dōgen’s use of metaphor as applied to “ground,” “underneath,” and
“space” may be somewhat clarified by some of Paul Ricoeur’s discussion of metaphor.
Ricoeur says, “The understanding of a work taken as a whole gives the
key to metaphor…. The hermeneutical circle encompasses in its spiral both the
apprehension of projected worlds and the advance of self-understanding in the
presence of these new worlds” (Ricoeur 98, p. 7). Dōgen’s playful interpretations
of the world of the Lotus Sutra certainly express a pre-understanding of
a “projected world,” and also a self-understanding, or rather, Dōgen’s particular
understanding of the inner nature of self itself, from his Buddhist perspective.
His interpretive play with the world of the Lotus Sutra, in turn, further informs
and explicates the world of Dharma and practice he is expressing.

https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/2862
I can't remark on Leighton's understanding of Dogen, which is surely superior to mine.

I can say that he doesn't really seem to understand what Ricoeur is talking about, and its significance. Of course Dogen's reading of the Lotus Sutra involves a "projected world." Any reading, according to Ricoeur, does so. I'm watching a cat staring at a wall. that's a projected world by PoMo logic: a mind engaged with "text," projecting his kitty-cat afflictions onto that world... That's all it means. Leighton's use of PR doesn't tell us anything new that he couldn't have gotten across without invoking a French thinker.

When I was saying before that Loy's book would have benefited from an editor who understands critical theory, I think the same point stands here.

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Re: A Tale of Two (Not Two) Nagarjunas

Post by jundo cohen » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:40 pm

DGA wrote: My question is whether or not it's possible for something to be, simultaneously, analytical and indirect, allusive, or figurative. I think it is possible, and I think both Zhiyi and Dogen are. But what's analysis in this sense?

I think Dogen is able to tackle a comprehensive and total problem in a systematic, methodical way. It might not look methodical sometimes, but if you pay attention, you can discern the method and its implications. is this an unfair assessment?
Hmmm. I often compare Dogen to a jazz fellow like Coltrane, bending and unbending, synchopating and wilding the "standard tunes" of Buddhism to reveal something, riffing and free expressing-reexpressing-bending-straightening-unbinding-releasing the 'standard tunes' of the Sutras and Koans. The untrained ear can't make head or tail of it, complex rhythms, notes flying, wild tempo ...

Is there an orignal and systematic structure in there? Is it the same or different from the standard teaching/tune? Perhaps. Sometimes Dogen/Coltrane was more down to earth (closer to the original melody of the standard tune) than other times when it is barely discernible. Sometimes, it is just the sound or the "feel", man. Dogen (like Coltrane) may often have sometimes let the notes and feeling lead him where they would, and may not have been always himself quite sure where the music was taking him -- or what he himself "meant"! Nonetheless, each certainly knew what he "meant" cause of the meaning of the feelings felt!

Here is what Coltrane did-undid-diddled-redid, for example, with "MY FAVORITE THINGS", that really "squaresville" (though lovely in its own way) tune ...

phpBB [video]


Gassho, J

PS - Fading out, off to bed here in Japan. I will leave you to enjoy Coltrane.
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

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