Genjo Koan 3: Dharma on Fire

A couple points today. First, one important insight that several practitioners have had from contemplating, “To convey the self toward the 10,000 dharmas to do practice/verification is illusion,” is from understanding “to convey” as “to express.”

The issue (rather than somehow to avoid illusion) becomes how to express the self. As a monk? As a social worker? As a lover? As an artist? As a friend?

That’s the macro-picture and then there is the micro-picture – how to express this fleeting dew-drop moment? What form and color from the 10,000 dharma paint pallet can best be conveyed now?

A couple Shobogenzo fascicles take this up and I offer them for you here: “Talking of Mind, Talking of Nature” and “Within a Dream, Expressing a Dream” (the first link takes you to a translation, the second to a little of Taigen Leighton expressing his dream within a dream within his book…because I don’t see a translation online although Kaz Tanahashi has a good one in Enlightenment Unfolds).

The second point is the series of metaphors from the Genjokoan commentary about the relationship between illusion and verification. The mundane and sacred are not only entwined but in a very intimate relationship! The first metaphor is from Xuefeng:

All buddhas in the past, present and future dwell in fire and turn the great dharma wheel.

“Fire” here is this burning, phenomenal, conveying life. Fire is not always dramatic. Sometimes, like the fire-ish leaves above, the fire is subtle and soft.

The second is from Xuansha:

Fire expresses the dharma for the sake of all buddhas in the three times and all buddhas in the three times stand on the ground and listen to it.

Expressive and receptive, conveying and being conveyed are perspectives. One dharma’s conveying is another dharma’s being conveyed. The dharma buddha fish is not only leaping but buddha dharma flopping this way and that.

The third is from Yuanwu:

The powerful flame spreads in the entire sky, the buddha expresses the dharma; the entire sky becomes the powerful flame, the dharma expresses the buddha.

This one is most vigorous. How could it be apart from sitting or lying down?

Questions for comment:

- How do these metaphors impact your perspective on conveying and being conveyed (practice and enlightenment)?
- How does your impacted perspective roll out in sitting, walking, standing, lying down?

The Way of Tenderness: the Form and Emptiness of Race, Sexuality, and Gender
Practicing Through Snow and Cold (or Whatever Afflictions May Visit)
Dogen Did Not Practice Shikantaza and Even Had a Gaining Idea
The Deeply Settled Heart: Home-based Practice Period Invitation
  • Mike F

    What a turning word! — “How do I express these illusions?” The great fire suffers from ambition, a headache, and fatigue! Everything is wrong with me! YOWWW!

  • Harry

    The powerful flame spreads in the entire sky, the buddha[s?] express the dharma; the entire sky becomes the powerful flame, the dharma expresses the buddha.This is a great one, Dosho.Life is expression, life is being expressed.Expression is life, being expressed is life.In terms of conduct, the implication for me is this: Our being expressed is the full measure of our effort in expressing.Thanks & Regards,Harry.

  • Uku

    Dosho,great post indeed!I think my perspectives are rolling out through Action; what ever I do, what ever I feel, I’m doing something; this moment is based on action and non-action itself. Like Dogen wrote in Genjo-koan (Nishijima/Cross translation):Do not assume that what is attained will inevitably become self-conscious and be recognized by the intellect. The experience of the ultimate state is realized at once. At the same time, its mysterious existence is not necessarily a manifest realization. Realization is the state of ambiguity itself.Thank you, Dosho.

  • Harriet

    These quotes about fire are deep/tough/puzzling for me. They provoke me to question what is fire, which is really the same as the question what is dharma? The whole deal Expressed, conveyed, expressing, conveyingAll the same.

  • do jhana

    About point 1: understanding “to convey” as “to express”, how are we to express this self: conveying it toward the 10.000 things as a monk, a social worker, a lover…? Or letting the 10.000 things come to the self so it is expressed as an artist, as a friend…? Although I can be tolerant in regard to “conveying/expressing the self” and not so in regard to “the self conveyed/expressed” I don’t want to forget that illusion is illusion and satori is satori for the practical reason that the former is conducive to suffering and the latter is liberation from it.About the fire: a friend asked me today if I had stepped out of the frying pan of theravada just to fall into the fire of zen (it’s got its meaning in spanish, I don’t know how to translate it into english, but I hope you get it); I answered yes, I was being burned alive (my only fear is to get zen-sick). Just put one side on and then the other, until there’s nothing left. Again and again.

  • do jhana

    There is an online translation of the Shobogenzo at Shasta Abbey. I’ve seen the translation is quite different to those we have; is it something we can use?

  • Dosho Port

    do jhana,your comment fits well with the post that I’m putting up next. re: Shasta Abbey Shobogenzo: Please use it and compare with other translations, testing with your experience. All translation is interpretation from some perspective and that’s especially true of Dogen translations. From I’ve seen, that one is quite interpretive. My present favorites are the Soto Zen Text Project’s and Hee-Jin Kim’s.

  • brendan

    - How do these metaphors impact your perspective on conveying and being conveyed (practice and enlightenment)?Do I make fire or does fire make itself through me?- How does your impacted perspective roll out in sitting, walking, standing, lying down?Who or what is sitting? Who or what is walking? Who or what is standing or lying down? Do mind and fire have substance or are they actions? Do the 10,000 dharmas have qualities or are they simply happening? Is the obstacle the destination?

  • BuddhaFrog

    Hi Dosho,I love your titles (the next one too); it takes me a while to absorb the text and comment. Especially with kids and guests in the house.dharma-buddha fishflip-flop-fill the fiery skygateless dragon gateI have an Escher pic that goes nicely with this when I have time to post on the blog.Thanks for the quotes and your fiery comments.

  • nitin

    Respected Dosho, I see all the Buddhas are converting the past, present and future into a holistic ash which was the next stage of burning or the nature of all items that are in the fire, so called fuel of fire. The wheel of Dharma, is the fire itself which requires fuel. the dharma of Buddha requires to be burnt but the dharma of dharma is not requiring fire only. the fire is as long as buddha is there. the fire is like an attraction for the moth only, all else are frightened of fire but not the moth. The moth is looking for the fire, the moth is born in the fire again, the fire and moth together turns the wheel of dharma.similarly, the three states of practicing mind…past present and future needs to be burnt into the fire of mindfullness of buddha so as to turn the wheel of dharma.In the second Xuansha, the buddhas in the three times listen to it is same as the burning of mind in the fire of mindfullness and the gold, the unreacted nature of self, listen to it.The third from Yuanwu , the taste of enlightenment make the appearance that buddha expresses the dharma, this is the perspective of disciple, the sky being the sky of disciples and living beings. But to the buddha himself, the dharma only expresses the buddha and the sky of the buddha himself is the powerful flame. The change of perspective and hence the difference. Respectfully yoursNitin

  • Dhyan

    Dosho, I knew I was behind in following the posts but didn’t realize I was SO far behind. Wandering where I will – I miss the opportunity of sangha and dharma together.Dhyan