Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

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Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby DGA » Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:45 pm

This conversation about Dogen

viewtopic.php?f=107&t=22352

particularly in the discussion around what the term "Buddha" means, raises a question. It seems to me that Dogen is participating in a trend in Japanese Buddhism known as hongaku shiso, or original enlightenment. We have discussed this topic elsewhere here at DW; here's an example.

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?t=7905

In brief, hongaku shiso means that everything, without exception and without alteration, is already full-blown Buddha. Ignorance? Buddha. Wisdom? Buddha. The leaf, the blossom, and the bole. This is different from the claim that all beings and even all things have the capacity for awakening (Buddha-nature); this is claiming that such nature is already realized, and always has been. Dried shit on a stick. The part in this wiki about Japanese Buddhism is accurate enough for present purposes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongaku

For myself: I'm skeptical of hongaku shiso as it developed in the Tendai school and elsewhere in Japan because I think that sentient beings, while ultimately inseparable from Buddha-ness, do not experience themselves as such, and hence are not the same as Buddhas provisionally. But what do I know? I'm starting this thread because:

I'd like to know what Dogen thought about all this. Is it fair to say that Dogen upheld a hongaku view? It seems to me, from Jundo's posts in the thread linked above, that he may have.

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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Apr 05, 2016 3:34 pm

DGA wrote:For myself: I'm skeptical of hongaku shiso as it developed in the Tendai school and elsewhere in Japan because I think that sentient beings, while ultimately inseparable from Buddha-ness, do not experience themselves as such, and hence are not the same as Buddhas provisionally. But what do I know? I'm starting this thread because:

I'd like to know what Dogen thought about all this. Is it fair to say that Dogen upheld a hongaku view? It seems to me, from Jundo's posts in the thread linked above, that he may have.


I feel that Dogen's view was much more subtle than just "original enlightenment". Such simple "original enlightenment" would be to say, for example, that "we are already Buddha, so nothing to do and might as well sit on our ass in complacency." Or,"we are already Buddha, with no killing or taking possible in the dreamlike world, so might as well kill and steal." (As you well know, this latter view was sometimes misused in the Buddhist past by some to excuse all manner of conduct).

Dogen's view is more that "we are already Buddha, but it is our responsibility to act like so in this world and "make it real"". There is no killing and stealing possible, but yet there is. Do not kill and steal.

From Shobogenzo Shoaku-Makusa (Not Doing Wrong) ...

The following may make a little more sense if the phrase "not doing" is taken as a double entendre. On the one hand, there is "no doing" that is the primal Buddha realm of "nothing in need of doing or which can be done." And also, there is the ordinary meaning, just as important in our practice, of "not doing" bad things. Both views are true at once, and should be held as one at once.

"Sincerely practicing" also has a double image, as one's personal acts and practice of "doing good" and something transcendent which is more like "the sincere practice which is all of reality simultaneously doing good".

In this way, right and wrong both exist AND do not exist, are done and not done at once, are your actions and the whole world's actions at once as one.

{T]he term "wrong action" refers among the moral categories of good, wrong, and neutral to morally wrong. Its nature, however, is unborn. The natures of morally good and morally neutral are also unborn. They are unstained ... Right and wrong are temporal, but time is neither right nor wrong. Right and wrong are the Dharma, but the Dharma is neither right nor wrong. ... It is not that wrong actions do not exist, but that there is only "not-doing." It is not that wrong actions do exist, but that there is only "not-doing." Wrong actions are not emptiness; they are "not-doing." Wrong actions are not form; they are "not-doing." Wrong actions are not "not-to-be-done," for there is only "not-doing." For example, spring pines are neither non-existent nor existent; they just are "not-done". Autumn chrysanthemums are neither existent nor are they non-existent; they just are "not-done". The Buddhas are neither existent nor non-existent; they are "not-doing." Pillars, lamps, candles, whisks, staffs and so on, are neither existent nor non-existent; they are "not-doing." One's self is neither existent nor non-existent; it is "not-doing."

... "Every kind of good" is not existent, not non-existent, not form, is not emptiness, nor anything else; it is just "sincerely practising." Wherever it manifests, whenever it manifests, it must be "sincerely practising." This "sincerely practising," certainly manifests "every kind of good". The full manifestation of "sincerely practising" is itself the koan, but it does not arise or vanish, it is not causally conditioned. The same is true of the coming, staying, and leaving of "sincerely practising." "Sincerely practising" even a single good among the every kind of goods causes the whole Dharma, the whole body, and reality itself to "sincerely practice" together. The causality of this "good" is the fully actualized koan "sincerely practising."
http://wwzc.org/dharma-text/shoaku-maku ... ong-action


Gassho, J
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Apr 05, 2016 6:15 pm

Without a complimentary explanation of how beings are deluded, and what to do about it, seems like it can be mainly an ego-boost, or way to assure oneself that bad meditation is actually non-meditation. Was it taught alongside this sort of concept?

I mean other than the seeming lack of practical advice, the doctrine itself is pretty close to other stuff, such as Vajrayana, by my understanding. The question is just whether or not it amounts to an excuse to sit or go about life in a blank, pleasantly ignorant state and say it's ok because you are already enlightened. That's without even touching the question of conduct.

In terms of practice what does the idea of Hongaku Shiso mean for Soto Zen?

Dogen's view is more that "we are already Buddha, but it is our responsibility to act like so in this world and "make it real"". There is no killing and stealing possible, but yet there is. Do not kill and steal.


That's just following HInayana precepts, if someone is indeed practicing in a way that they are this "complete", those are probably secondary. If killing and stealing have really ceased to be possible as one goes about heir daily activities, they wouldn't even need it mentioned.

Of course ultimately Samsara and Nirvana are indivisible, beings were never deluded, etc. It's really just rhetoric though unless tied to some practice, and some understanding of how to deal with ignorance. So my question is: If this is the correct interpretation of Dogen, then how do people progress in meditation or conduct, on a practical, nuts and bolts level?

You can of course say "there is no progress nor non-progress" etc.., but in this context that is a cop out, and similar to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5I94bT23cQ

"Practice, that's not practice, it's group hugging."

I confess I am not a huge Zen reader, but the last thing I read (a commentary on the Ox Herding pictures), I was struck by how wedded the commentary was to standard Mahayana ideas, with of course their own unique expression. Conversely, when I was personally involved with Zen, we never discussed stuff much period.

So I guess the question is, did Dogen see this concept as upending the "gradual" Mahayana approach, or simply sitting on top of it?
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby DGA » Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:25 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
Dogen's view is more that "we are already Buddha, but it is our responsibility to act like so in this world and "make it real"".


Right. There's inherent Buddhahood, and then there's realizing it. Realizing it is practice--doing practice, doing it.

By this interpretation, Dogen must be closer to mainstream Mahayana than he is to the full-flown hongaku shiso stuff that many of us (myself included) are skeptical of.

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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Anders » Wed Apr 06, 2016 9:06 am

DGA wrote:This conversation about Dogen

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=22352

particularly in the discussion around what the term "Buddha" means, raises a question. It seems to me that Dogen is participating in a trend in Japanese Buddhism known as hongaku shiso, or original enlightenment.

I'd like to know what Dogen thought about all this. Is it fair to say that Dogen upheld a hongaku view? It seems to me, from Jundo's posts in the thread linked above, that he may have.


I think it's fair to say that hongaku was essentially Dogen's koan. He went to China because he was trouble by the question 'if all beings already possess awakening, why did all the Buddhas find it necessary to seek enlightenment and cultivate practises?'

The answer he came back with, was in many ways a counter to hongaku, in his formulation of practise is awakening. There are many ways of interpreting this and Dogen engages himself in many different ways of extrapolating the meaning of it. But essentially, I think, it can be boiled down to the notion that enlightenment is only really meaningful to speak of in the moment of actualisation. What is not actualised is not a meaningful object to speak of.

Or, to steal the simile from Genjokoan, though the nature of wind is permanent, the master who understands wind's all-pervasive nature demonstrates it by fanning himself.

He has a very subitist view in that, in any such moment of actualisation, he goes full throttle on many of the same themes of Hongaku:

    In buddha-dharma [i.e. Buddhism], 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

In other words - A moment of practise is total and spotless achievement of Buddhahood - But only for that particular moment.

Quite radically, Dogen asserts this is true of anyone who engages in a moment of true practise/actualisation, claiming that this is true of common people as well before they are even aware of it:

    Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your consciousness. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.

To my mind, this is actually a quite elegant presentation of the sudden path, showing how it is essentially the same from start to finish (Buddhahood) and the path is basically a process unfolding this awakening and illuminating all corners of it from moment to moment.

Going full throttle on this presentation has a lot of implications that he unpacks in different and often quite radical ways. For example, since the Buddha way is not personal and there is ultimately no distinction between living beings, and since a moment of practise is "exactly the totality of original enlightenment", the practise that actualises this is not truly personal either.

    “On the great road of buddha ancestors there is always unsurpassable practice, continuous and sustained. It forms the circle of the way and is never cut off. Between aspiration, practice, enlightenment, and nirvana, there is not a moment’s gap; continuous practice is the circle of the way. This being so, continuous practice is unstained, not forced by you or others. The power of this continuous practice confirms you as well as others. It means your practice affects the entire earth and the entire sky in the ten directions. Although not noticed by others or by yourself, it is so.”

This is another way Dogen unpacks the implications of the sudden path - That a moment of actualising the way, whether we are consciously aware of it it or not, is essentially a tapping into the ceaseless practise of all the Buddhas for that moment and affecting the whole world in that moment as part of the Buddha's ceaseless practise.

You can see from just these few quotes that Dogen dialectic plays with a lot of the same themes as hongaku, both back and forth. But for him, the crucial pivot that all of it revolves around is the moment of actualisation.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Apr 06, 2016 9:14 am

In other words - A moment of practise is total and spotless achievement of Buddhahood - But only for that particular moment.


Anders:

I don't really understand, given the above, how exactly this would differ from various other Mahayana understandings. Is it that simply in other traditions a moment like this is seen as "incomplete", is it ever seen that way? Ir doesn't seem like a common sentiment to me.

What are the practical implications of the differences?
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Anders » Wed Apr 06, 2016 9:27 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
In other words - A moment of practise is total and spotless achievement of Buddhahood - But only for that particular moment.


Anders:

I don't really understand, given the above, how exactly this would differ from various other Mahayana understandings. Is it that simply in other traditions a moment like this is seen as "incomplete", is it ever seen that way? Ir doesn't seem like a common sentiment to me.

What are the practical implications of the differences?


I think if you ask Dogen, he would say it doesn't differ at all. Though he is clearly subitist, he doesn't really address the sudden/gradual controversy. My reading of him is that he essentially presents his teachings as just another way of formulating, and perhaps clarifying for later times, the very same teaching that all the authentic ancestors of India and China taught. He didn't even acknowledge a distinct school of Zen, let alone its various houses. I think if you could draw it out of him (I suspect he rather avoided it though), he would say all true Mahayana is subitist, even though it may not identify itself as such (and as such, neither does he feel the need to assert his own teaching as sudden either).

That said, if you adhere to a more 'gradualist' pov, then yes - A moment of practise does not necessarily = complete attainment of the way for that moment. There is the accumulation of the factors of the path, the prerequisites, the two accumulations, etc. I think it is not hard to find such presentations.

I think a worthwhile perspective, and perhaps a reason Dogen didn't draw himself into a debate on gradualism as an external teaching, is rather to consider that we, as common beings, have a tendency to reify the teachings through gradualist lenses that we can make sense. So, even though we are supposed to believe that a moment of practise is the complete way, what we are actually bringing to our practise is the belief that we are in samsara trying to get to our innate nirvana through this practise and that by getting better at practise, we will move from our currently incomplete state of practise to a level of mastery where we really see the perfection of this moment.

It is these gradualist psychological tendencies that Dogen works so hard at stamping out in his writing, going so far as asserting that even total noobs fully attain the way of all the Buddhas in one moment of wholehearted practise without even have a conscious inkling of this fact.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby jundo cohen » Wed Apr 06, 2016 9:35 am

DGA wrote:By this interpretation, Dogen must be closer to mainstream Mahayana than he is to the full-flown hongaku shiso stuff that many of us (myself included) are skeptical of.


Hi DGA,

Yes, I would agree. However, there is also the feeling that there is no place to fall even if we fall (nonetheless, try not to fall!), nothing to achieve even as we work diligently and achieve. Perhaps the only difference from other areas of the Mahayana which emphasize stage and achievement, progress and Enlightenment even while recognizing that all is ultimately empty, is the degree to which this non achieving achieving is front and center in Dogen's teaching.

I just want to say that Anders' two posts above are absolutely spotless to my eyes, and I do not know if I would change a single letter. Beautiful, wonderfully stated. In my small opinion, perhaps it cannot be described better and maybe I have never heard it better.

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: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby DGA » Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:19 pm

Anders wrote:The answer he came back with, was in many ways a counter to hongaku, in his formulation of practise is awakening. There are many ways of interpreting this and Dogen engages himself in many different ways of extrapolating the meaning of it. But essentially, I think, it can be boiled down to the notion that enlightenment is only really meaningful to speak of in the moment of actualisation. What is not actualised is not a meaningful object to speak of.


Thank you for this.

Overall this has been an excellent thread, no?

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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby jundo cohen » Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:53 pm

DGA wrote:
Anders wrote:The answer he came back with, was in many ways a counter to hongaku, in his formulation of practise is awakening. There are many ways of interpreting this and Dogen engages himself in many different ways of extrapolating the meaning of it. But essentially, I think, it can be boiled down to the notion that enlightenment is only really meaningful to speak of in the moment of actualisation. What is not actualised is not a meaningful object to speak of.


Thank you for this.

Overall this has been an excellent thread, no?


Excellent Non-Excellent. :cheers:

Gassho, J
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Queequeg » Wed Apr 06, 2016 2:52 pm

jundo cohen wrote:(As you well know, this latter view was sometimes misused in the Buddhist past by some to excuse all manner of conduct).



Sorry to interject with a tangent...

Is this true? Are there really such examples? I've read these sorts of claims in the context of OE, but I don't recall much more than this premise.

Thanks.
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby jundo cohen » Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:19 pm

Queequeg wrote:
jundo cohen wrote:(As you well know, this latter view was sometimes misused in the Buddhist past by some to excuse all manner of conduct).



Sorry to interject with a tangent...

Is this true? Are there really such examples? I've read these sorts of claims in the context of OE, but I don't recall much more than this premise.

Thanks.


Hi Queequeg,

Unfortunately, Buddhism combined with extreme nationalism and militarism was a phenomenon which appeared in pre-WWII Japan. Although the Zen folks get a lot of attention, it actually appeared widely among clergy from about -all- the schools of Japanese Buddhism at the time. Hongaku shiso ... such as the idea that there is no killer, killed or killing ultimately ... was one of many factors which allowed the philosophy of Buddhism to be fit to Japan's war craze at the time. However, it happens that it is a phenomenon that has appeared in small (fortunately) ugly corners many places in Buddhism and in all countries in some way ... such as the situation in Sri Lanka and Burma ... without particular relationship to Hongaku philosophy. It appears in all religions too. There is always some way to twist and bend and reinterpret doctrine to support some violent ideology.

Perhaps the best writing on this topic has been by Brian Victoria ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_at_War

However, I and others have also published some articles critical of Victoria for playing fast and lose with his facts, painting with too broad a brush, and dragging in some folks who don't deserve it. He goes too far, and he makes things up sometimes.

http://sweepingzen.com/zen-war-author-b ... ndo-cohen/

http://sweepingzen.com/zen-at-war-brian ... ndo-cohen/

Even so, I would say that the story Victoria tells is largely true.

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Anders » Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:24 pm

Queequeg wrote:
jundo cohen wrote:(As you well know, this latter view was sometimes misused in the Buddhist past by some to excuse all manner of conduct).



Sorry to interject with a tangent...

Is this true? Are there really such examples? I've read these sorts of claims in the context of OE, but I don't recall much more than this premise.

Thanks.


Pick up Brian Victoria's Zen at War for a disgusting example of how Zen rethoric was used to justify and encourage the killing of your enemies without soiling your own spirit (or even as spiritual cultivation).

You can do a google of 'critical buddhism' and 'hongaku' for plenty of hits on how hongaku has engendered loads of ethical fatalism in Japan.

In the milder end of the scale, we also see Hakuin frequently scolding practitioners of 'silent illumination' in his own time, for being stuck in the quietistic attitudes of hongaku.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Queequeg » Wed Apr 06, 2016 4:43 pm

Thanks for the references, fellas.

The obscene interpretations are relatively recent. Post Meiji Restoration and Pre WWII is kind of a bewildering time in Japanese history, and I'm afraid that we're still too close to assess what was really going on. Is OE really the reason some prominent Buddhists lost their minds? It seems Japan in general lost their minds during that period. How much of it was also the huge tide of assimilation of modern Western ideas, norms and tech into what had been a feudal, pre-modern society? How much was the internalizing of the Colonial mentality?

I'm not trying to apologize here, because I'm not sure the OE had nothing to do with this tragic turn, but to single out OE, which had been around for centuries, as the reason people took this turn seems to overstate the case.

This is not a well thought position, but it seems to me that the recoil from OE that we see in recent years has gone beyond measured assessment and has the hallmarks of being reactionary.

I'd be more inclined to see OE as a terrible concept if there were earlier examples - Did Oda Nobunaga rouse his armies with appeals to OE as they prepared for their assault on Hiei? Was this what the sohei used to justify their tactics?

Without that, I'm inclined to look at the war mongering Buddhism as the expression of something more than, or even other than OE.

Gotta run, but I want to share some other thoughts and raise questions on the issue later.
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby jundo cohen » Wed Apr 06, 2016 5:06 pm

Queequeg wrote:Thanks for the references, fellas.

The obscene interpretations are relatively recent. Post Meiji Restoration and Pre WWII is kind of a bewildering time in Japanese history, and I'm afraid that we're still too close to assess what was really going on. Is OE really the reason some prominent Buddhists lost their minds? It seems Japan in general lost their minds during that period. How much of it was also the huge tide of assimilation of modern Western ideas, norms and tech into what had been a feudal, pre-modern society? How much was the internalizing of the Colonial mentality?

I'm not trying to apologize here, because I'm not sure the OE had nothing to do with this tragic turn, but to single out OE, which had been around for centuries, as the reason people took this turn seems to overstate the case.


This is my feeling from readings on the period. I am in the middle of this book now.

James Edward Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution

Of Heretics and Martyrs makes a real contribution here in pointing to the international as well as the domestic pressures confronting Meiji Buddhists. Too often, modern Japanese presentations of Buddhist thought, such as those of D. T. Suzuki or the Kyoto school, have been regarded in the West as transhistorical statements of Buddhist truth. Ketelaar's discussion impresses upon us that modern Japanese Buddhism (like any tradition) was formed in the crucible of specific historical and political demands. In this case Buddhists urgently needed to prove their tradition relevant to an emerging modern Japan, and Japan needed to resist Western hegemony.

http://www.thezensite.com/ZenBookReview ... rtyrs.html

Various figures in schools in Japan (really all major Buddhist schools I think) were imaginative in twisting doctrine to, for example, support war policy without any particular connection to OE. It was just one of many elements turned to. Furthermore, it is not something limited to the Japan, and has been seen at times throughout the Buddhist world in Asia North or South without any connection to OE or Zen, not to mention in all religions. It is always possible to turn good doctrine to some questionable end.

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Apr 06, 2016 5:19 pm

Anders wrote:
It is these gradualist psychological tendencies that Dogen works so hard at stamping out in his writing, going so far as asserting that even total noobs fully attain the way of all the Buddhas in one moment of wholehearted practise without even have a conscious inkling of this fact.



Thanks for taking the time, this was a good explanation.
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Re: Dogen and Original Enlightenment (hongaku shiso)

Postby Anders » Wed Apr 06, 2016 8:41 pm

:namaste:
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra


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