Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Dharma Flower
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Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Dharma Flower »

I am reading this article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and I don't think it applies to Buddha-nature as understood by Zen master Dogen. Please forgive me if I'm wrong:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ature.html

Dogen understood Buddha-nature, not as an innate nature of individual beings like a soul or spirit, but instead as Being itself:
…the continental Chinese doctrine that holds that all beings possess Buddha-nature is completely transformed and radicalized in conformity with Dogen’s attempt absolutely to overcome all dualisms, such as those of acquired and intrinsic enlightenment, Buddha and ordinary beings, practice and enlightenment, and the like.

Dogen’s point, and it is one of the hallmarks of his brand of Buddhism, is that all beings are Buddha, and by “beings” Dogen means both sentient and insentient—everything without exception. On one level, distinctions remain and are significant; however, on another level, all distinctions are united and resolved, insofar as all things are merely the presencing of things as they are, or the presencing of reality.

In Dogen’s well-known reading of the passage from the Nirvana Sutra that says that all sentient beings possess Buddha-nature, the meaning comes to be “All are sentient beings and the total being is Buddha-nature.” This means that the total being just as it is is Buddha…
https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/i ... /8591/2498
For Dogen, Buddha-nature is nothing other than impermanence. To realize Buddha-nature is to realize the truth of impermanence:
If one can train oneself through diligence, one can see the impermanence of all things, including the lack of a permanent self. This very existence is Nirvāna. "Birth and death, coming and going, are the real body of the Buddha." In this way, the metaphysical truth of impermanence provides the solution to the problem of birth and death. It is because all things (including oneself) are impermanent that one is not "stuck" permanently in a state of suffering. It is because all [p42] things are impermanent that Buddhahood is possible. In other words, the very impermanence of things is their Buddha-nature. [54]

Since impermanence is Buddha-nature, Buddha-nature is also a metaphysical characteristic of reality as such, always and everywhere present. However, to call Buddha-nature a metaphysical characteristic of reality as such may suggest that Buddha-nature is some special kind of being or entity, and Dōgen works hard to oppose such interpretations. He spends a great deal of time distinguishing his teaching from empirical and supernatural interpretations of Buddha-nature, and one could fairly say that Dōgen's primary goal is deconstructing this idea, rather than stating a position about it.
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Dog ... Dogen.html
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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:good:
DGA
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by DGA »

Dharma Flower wrote:I am reading this article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and I don't think it applies to Buddha-nature as understood by Zen master Dogen. Please forgive me if I'm wrong:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ature.html
You are 100% right to be skeptical of the claims Thanissaro Bikkhu makes about Mahayana Buddhism. He has his critics among Theravadins, too, but I'm not in a position to assess those criticisms.
Dogen understood Buddha-nature, not as an innate nature of individual beings like a soul or spirit, but instead as Being itself
I've seen this claim made before (see the various threads on hongaku shiso or "inherent enlightenment" in Japanese Buddhism). How accurate is this description of Dogen's position?
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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DGA wrote: I've seen this claim made before (see the various threads on hongaku shiso or "inherent enlightenment" in Japanese Buddhism). How accurate is this description of Dogen's position?
Dogen's chapter on Buddha-nature doesn't take very long to read:
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/ ... bussho.pdf

Here is a summary of Dogen's chapter on Buddha-nature from Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations:
https://books.google.com/books?id=jrHi1 ... ms&f=false
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by White Lotus »

I cant say that Buddha Nature is Mind or Emptiness; nor can i say it is impermanence. Even if i say Buddha Nature is Buddha Nature i am still trapped in words. Thats a gradualist take on things and i feel comfortable with it. Since i cant even be sure that everything is empty i certainly can't be sure that Buddha Nature is impermanence. May Master Dogen be patient with my arrogance. Tom.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Dharma Flower »

I can't quite put my finger on it, but something tells me that Thanissaro Bhikkhu has an overly simplistic understanding of Buddha-nature. He might be a good teacher in other ways, but I think he's shortsighted when it comes to the meaning of Buddha-nature.
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by DGA »

Dharma Flower wrote:
DGA wrote: I've seen this claim made before (see the various threads on hongaku shiso or "inherent enlightenment" in Japanese Buddhism). How accurate is this description of Dogen's position?
Dogen's chapter on Buddha-nature doesn't take very long to read:
http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/ ... bussho.pdf
True, one can read it quickly, but I don't think the meaning is necessarily so straightforward. Given the context of Dogen's voluminous writings, and my own ignorance on the subject, I hesitate to make assumptions about what Dogen was getting at. Hence my question for the gallery.
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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This gets me wondering another question: Is Dogen's understanding of Buddha-nature different from the Rinzai school's understanding of Buddha-nature? Dogen's interpretation of Buddha-nature happens to be often-mentioned.
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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White Lotus wrote:I cant say that Buddha Nature is Mind or Emptiness; nor can i say it is impermanence. Even if i say Buddha Nature is Buddha Nature i am still trapped in words. Thats a gradualist take on things and i feel comfortable with it. Since i cant even be sure that everything is empty i certainly can't be sure that Buddha Nature is impermanence. May Master Dogen be patient with my arrogance. Tom.
Is it not true that there is nothing but Impermanence? Why would Buddhanature not be impermanence? It is not some 'thing' inside something. It is not some 'thing' to be 'realized' or 'understood'. It is what is, and what is, is impermanence. It is only one's thinking that cannot accept this because of all the ideas that have been stuffed into us. Our images are what we are chasing and they are also impermanent. It's too perfect for words!
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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Dharma Flower wrote:I can't quite put my finger on it, but something tells me that Thanissaro Bhikkhu has an overly simplistic understanding of Buddha-nature. He might be a good teacher in other ways, but I think he's shortsighted when it comes to the meaning of Buddha-nature.

....he's a Theravadin. He has no reason to even value the notion of Buddha Nature, let alone a drive to understand it, it's not part of his way of seeing things. Kind of the wrong person to read on the subject of Buddha nature.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Dharma Flower wrote:I can't quite put my finger on it, but something tells me that Thanissaro Bhikkhu has an overly simplistic understanding of Buddha-nature. He might be a good teacher in other ways, but I think he's shortsighted when it comes to the meaning of Buddha-nature.

....he's a Theravadin. He has no reason to even value the notion of Buddha Nature, let alone a drive to understand it, it's not part of his way of seeing things. Kind of the wrong person to read on the subject of Buddha nature.
I think your point is clearly not a valid one. It's a passive-aggressive position. :toilet:
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Marc »

Anonymous X wrote: Is it not true that there is nothing but Impermanence?
Hmmm... Nope :)
That is some how an overgeneralized / oversimplified assertion.

འདུ་བྱེད་ཐམས་ཅད་མི་རྟག་ཅིང༌། duje thamche mitak ching

All compounded / fabricated phenomenas are impermanent

Nirvana for exemple being uncompounded / unfabricated is not within the realm of time, hence neither permanent nor impermanant...
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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Marc wrote:
Anonymous X wrote: Is it not true that there is nothing but Impermanence?
Hmmm... Nope :)
That is some how an overgeneralized / oversimplified assertion.

འདུ་བྱེད་ཐམས་ཅད་མི་རྟག་ཅིང༌། duje thamche mitak ching

All compounded / fabricated phenomenas are impermanent

Nirvana for exemple being uncompounded / unfabricated is not within the realm of time, hence neither permanent nor impermanant...
It's kind of like a fairy tale, no?
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by Malcolm »

Anonymous X wrote: Why would Buddhanature not be impermanence?
Because it is a contradiction in terms. Buddhanature is not a conditioned thing. Therefore, it cannot be impermanent.
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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Malcolm wrote:
Anonymous X wrote: Why would Buddhanature not be impermanence?
Because it is a contradiction in terms. Buddhanature is not a conditioned thing. Therefore, it cannot be impermanent.
Is that what Dogen taught?
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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Malcolm wrote:
Anonymous X wrote: Why would Buddhanature not be impermanence?
Because it is a contradiction in terms. Buddhanature is not a conditioned thing. Therefore, it cannot be impermanent.
:good:

Despite my great admiration for Dogen, I've never quite been able to understand him on this particular point. Then there's Nagarjuna's demolition job on impermanence to consider...
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by White Lotus »

Words dont reach it and yet words can sometimes be helpful. sometimes i perceive and sometimes i dont. If everything was impermanent then everything would be dependent. If everything was dependent then everything would be empty. I cant say that all things are that way. Nirvana is not empty, neither is a Buddha. They are not dependant. They are unique. These are just words, they will be forgotten. I have to remind myself: don't get trapped in words. I don't understand Buddha Nature.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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With buddha-nature Dogen does the same thing he does with most of the other concepts and topics he discusses, that is, transforms it into a teaching on suchness as the immediate reality of experience, and indeed, what else could be rightfully called buddha-nature? But that doesn't mean this interpretation is anything new or unique, only that Dogen wanted to correct those (likely the former followers of the so called Daruma school) who falsely take buddha-nature as a self.

In his opening remarks, Dōgen dismisses several of the most common views: that the buddha nature is the potential to become a buddha, that it is the activity of cognition within us, or that it is a universal self pervading the world. Rather, he says, the buddha nature is existence itself — not an abstract principle of being, but the actual occurrence of things, or, as he puts it simply at the end of his essay, “fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles.”
(Bielefeldt: Introduction to the translation of Bussho)

It is said that Dogen Zenji denies Buddha-nature as an intrinsic essence, which is implied by the statement that “all have Buddha-nature,” by interpreting that sentence as “all are Buddha-nature.” But that subject was already carefully treated in Mahaparinirvana Sutra by the discussion on the self. We should understand that Dogen Zenji, following the sutra, simply criticized the popular theory of Buddha-nature in those days that interpreted Buddha-nature as some actual substance within sentient beings.
...
Dogen Zenji says that Guishan’s view of no Buddha-nature is superior to Yanguan’s. Sentient beings and Buddha-nature are not two separate entities which can overlap each other. If we really try to show how sentient beings are Buddha nature, there is no other way than saying, “All sentient beings have no Buddha-nature.”

(Rev. Kenshu Sugawara: Bussho (Buddha-nature), p 3)
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

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:good:
Life is great and death has to be just as great as life.
- Mike Tyson
People not only don't know what's happening to them, they don't even know that they don't know.
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WuMing
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Re: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Zen Master Dogen

Post by WuMing »

aflatun wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Anonymous X wrote: Why would Buddhanature not be impermanence?
Because it is a contradiction in terms. Buddhanature is not a conditioned thing. Therefore, it cannot be impermanent.
:good:

Despite my great admiration for Dogen, I've never quite been able to understand him on this particular point. Then there's Nagarjuna's demolition job on impermanence to consider...
As Dogen is a Zen Master and as such one can't just read Dogen or any other Zen/Ch'an Master, respectively, and try to understand it with ones ordinary mind. AFAIC, it's about experience and experience goes beyond understanding words, though words can be used as (and here I would like to quote Ven. Guo Gu from his latest book):
... a springboard to realize that which lies before words, language, and concepts arise - your true nature, which can never be defined or reified or grasped.
Passing Through The Gateless Barrier - Koan Practice for Real Life
The buddha nature is always the “entirety of being”; for the “entirety of being” is the buddha nature. The “entirety of being” is not “a hundred pieces”; the “entirety of being” is not “one strip of iron.” Since it is “raising a fist,” it is not large or small.
Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
Book 3 佛性 Buddha Nature

emphasis mine
Life is great and death has to be just as great as life.
- Mike Tyson
People not only don't know what's happening to them, they don't even know that they don't know.
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