Genjokoan 2: Illusion and Verification – How do You Relate?

Head smeared with mud and dirt,
Thus does he clearly reveal himself.
- Zen Sand 10.350

In our Genjokoan study we’re continuing to work with these lines:

“To convey the self toward the 10,000 dharmas to do practice/verification is illusion. The 10,000 dharmas advancing and practicing/verifying through the self is satori.”

The conversation was quite rich last night, too rich for one post. Below I’ll begin unpacking the above passage and then make at least one more Genjokoan post this week, probably Sunday. Training period participants, please make a comment to both posts, picking up at least one of the questions at the end of the posts. Those not in the training are welcome to comment as well.

In the Genjokoan passage above, we have the medicine (and disease) koan of Soto Zen: practice (i.e., illusion) and verification (i.e., satori) are one – how so?

Usually in our day, practice and verification are whipped up into a quietistic, ineffectual, bland (save the noxious sweetness) smoothie. The Buddha Way, though, is much more vividly alive than the proponents of dead-sitting conflated practicenlightenment would lead you to believe.

For more on this, see #1 of “Dainin’s Four Essential Points ,” Keep Me in Your Heart Awhile, p. 96-98, and/or keep reading.

Despite the Soto teaching that practice-enlightenment (conveying and being conveyed) are one, most people read the above Genjokoan passage as saying that conveying the self is wrong and being conveyed is right. That is not right.

We worked with this at the study group last night. Understood in the usual way, these lines of the Genjokoan can be used to exacerbate our self-hatred because conveying our delusion is here with (almost) every breath. Or they can be used to self-justify the spiritual masquerade in its many forms. The needle point of zazen thus becomes an instrument of a self-inflicted wound.

Moreover, that illusion is somehow vile isn’t verified by experience. For example, I remember a striking moment years ago, following a strong hit of not-thinking. The first movement of the mind of which “I” was aware was a subtle sense of shame. And for the first time, shame itself was inarguably and clearly, a 100% beautiful leaping fish – thoroughly no problem and not something wrong.

As Kyogo says, “We should understand these sentences as all things are buddhadharma.” Shame, confidence, joy, sorrow, clarity, confusion, conveying, being conveyed.

When we see our illusions as also the buddhadharma, our relationship with illusion may shift and become much more gentle and tolerant, including the usual way of hating illusion, as Kyogo points out. That is also one of the dharmas on the ground of the buddhadharma.

So although Kyogo suggests that if we want it is okay to understand, “To convey the self toward the 10,000 dharmas to do practice/verification is illusion” in the common way (as wrong), he discourages us from having the same tolerance for the common understanding of enlightenment:

‘The 10,000 dharmas advancing and practicing/verifying through the self is satori’ should not be understood as the common meaning.

In other words, be tolerant of your common ways of seeing illusion as “wrong,” but root out your illusions about verification being “right.”

Questions for comment:
- Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?
- How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05168631752214481563 Harry

    - Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?Hi, Dosho.Interesting and vital stuff. I believe experiencing what is generally ‘illusion’ in sitting practice resolves the friction of not seeing it that way, and resolves the friction of resistance to illusion/aspects of our self as a ‘bad guy or gal’. It frees up my habitual responses to all my ‘stuff’. Also, I don’t realise/actualise my ‘stuff’ with actions so readily/habitually, so that seems like a very real change in the relationship.Where I might have gone off on some crazy mission in response to some erroneous view of the world I might instead make my posture upright instead. Not always… obviously. :-) - How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?As far as I currently understand it, verification is the sort of concrete correcting action such as becoming physically/mentally upright and so it is not a matter of how we might think it… which can be just another illusion which leads us up the garden path if we don’t practice verifying it/it verifying us: convincing ourselves that verification might be something other than such concrete/realising action is potentially much more detrimental to such correcting conduct than considering delusion something to be rid of which, at least, might prompt us to do something to correct it.Regards,Harry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05168631752214481563 Harry

    p.s. (sorry to blather) re the point about ‘dead sitting’. I’ve recently been digging a comparison Nishijima Roshi makes between sports and zazen. He referred to zazen as ‘a type of gymnastics’ (actual gymnastics that is, not mental gymnastics)!Dogen referred to zazen as ‘the Dharma gate of joy and ease’… it’s tempting to think of that in terms of a blissed-out state, but I’m presently considering this as the joy and ease with which a figure skater performs a complicated move, the joy and ease with which a solo violinist performs an animated mind-blowing flourish of notes with all he’s/she’s got, the joy and ease in the poise and energy of my neighbour as he contentedly cuts and stacks numerous heavy clods of turf over a period of hours without destroying his back (where I would undoubtedly destroy mine).Regards,Harry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04670642974899172755 BuddhaFrog

    Dosho asks:How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?Enlightenment is not good, not bad.Gassho,Glenda

  • Harriet

    - How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?The common way of seeing verification can lead to zen sickness, the self-rightousness I associate with born-again christians, but in the west almost all of us are converts, or born-agains, to zen. We need moderation in seeing ourselves as verified. The common way of seeing illusion as “wrong” can lead too far in the other direction, what we refer to as “I am the worst sen student of all space and time”, this also misses the point.Hold both views as one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14342446261342127130 Dhyan

    Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?I relax. I was feeling frustration just today, as I was re-reading the commentary you sent us a few days ago, because it feels so incomprehensible to me. As if I am trying to unravel a knot of yarn for which there seems to be no end. Or like the proverbial centiped asked how it walked who stumbled over one of its own feet and couldn’t walk again because he was thinking about it too much. The invitation to see ALL as “the never-failing manifestation of the Mysterious Unfolding of Truth. In any event, any moment, any place, none can be otehr than the marvelous reveloation of its glorious light.” Patience… and encouragement to the mind (which, bless it, tries so hard!) to allow the Dharma to unfold.- How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification? This one I don’t understand. I have some idea of what the “common way of seeing illusion is” (or THINK I do) but I don’t understand either common or uncommon ways of seeing verification. To be continued….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05126604767083301340 Monk in the world

    - Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?Ok, I’m gonna keep this short because I really don’t feel like i know what I’m doing here…My first gut response to the above is that I believe all things are our teachers…not unlike…but not just like…every crisis offers an opportunity.- How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verificationThere’s something about the ego in these words (the second part, that is). I’m reminded of the last ox herding picture where that guy enters town and he just looks like he has always looked…just living his life but something is different…but he doesn’t know it…but it is…I think I remember that right…anyway…

  • Tortoise

    “practice-enlightenment (conveying and being conveyed) are one”While on a walk today I tried to see what it was to convey myself to everything. It was so nice outside that I soon forgot about conveying. The warm sun was on my face accompanied by a mild breeze. To hell with conveying this was nice after such a long hard winter. Then it came to me that maybe I was conveying by feeling the sun and breeze and at the same time I was being conveyed by the sun and breeze both on my face. This was going on at the same time. Both the same. This was most noticeable when I wasn’t trying, or thinking, or moving. It was very nice and everything got in on it.So it seems that being tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion, conveying, allowed me to enjoy the sun and breeze, and not seeing the common way of verification, being conveyed, as being right also allowed me to enjoy the day.Conveying and being conveyed happens at the same time, one is not more important than the other, and when I hold still long enough, it works, and requires nothing special to participate.

  • Mike F

    Go through last time?”All things are Buddhadharma” — I look more lovingly at my “delusions,” my mental constructions, when I accept them as Buddha. I reflect, “this too,” then watch more carefully, and sometimes the whole picture becomes apparent: the mind state reveals its “transparency,” and I see that it is not my true self. The mind state does indeed become quite beautiful, even if it is shame, like a flower of air. But often, I try to struggle against mental constructions, or I buy into them hook, line and sinker. In fact, a part of me seems to want to get hooked. It does seem to be a VERY delicate balance — “like two arrows meeting in midair.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02788581142771056545 Just Zazen

    Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?All things – just don’t know.

  • Tortoise

    I’ve also noticed that this conveying and being conveyed is taking place all of the time, and on the ground that all things are buddha dharma. This is happening right now in this world in which I live with or without me being in tune to it. It is the way things are in this world. There seems to be no right or wrong in this conveying or being conveyed. I just need to pay attention to verify that it is happening.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05168631752214481563 Harry

    Dosho,You must be getting old:They’re quoting you over on Zen Forum International.:-)Regards,Harry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14626111661291384640 Ed

    “How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?” Even though we spent little time on the above part Thurs. PM, it really stuck around for me. Especially the 2nd half: “…(not being tolerant)with the common way of seeing verification.”Intellectually, this sounds pretty straight forward, ie, how can the common/dualistic mind grasp itself? The common mind’s desire to do so is the “disease.”But I think I’m missing something here. What is the actualization (body sense maybe?) of the UNcommon way of seeing verification?No answer to that from me.I look forward to digging into this further.Ed

  • http://catherinesarttours.blogspot.com Seigen

    “Don’t cut your nails under a lamp.” Zen Sand. 5.277Not so dead, maybe, but certainly limited, is the practice/verification that re-affirms itself in the light, that seeks its own contours as something given by that light – certainly one way to describe it is as a form of personal hygiene. This occurs when practice/verification is born of a strong desire to shake off delusions, to tweak things a bit and get it right. This is a way to protect one’s own purity. We’re not really thinking of hygeine in the same way when it is a matter of cutting one’s fingernails in the dark, there’s going to be some bloodied hands there and a heck of a lot of uncertainty. But it is a manicure, just the same.In seeing my own personal hygeine as a distorting sense of agency I am still looking back at myself with an accusatory glance and cutting away the delusion with laser beams. Sometimes it feels right to do this, and then to let go and feel a bit at risk in blindness. This capping phrase had me up in the night.

  • brendan

    - Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?I find this somewhat relieving. The leg feeling like it is going to fall off, this is buddhadharma. Being afraid to answer questions in order to avoid appearing like a smart-ass, this is buddhadharma. Wanting to blow the car horn at idiotic drivers, this is buddhadharma. Looking into the eyes of the self-loathing grocery clerk, this is buddhadharma. At the base of the layers and layers of mind I find a sense of things are as they are-ness, but piled of top of that is the host of characters that I know as my “self” and those guys (and girls, there might be a girl or two in there) don’t intend to leave any time soon. Things are as they are-ness likes them, too. They get angry and they want things and they complain and they want to go places. Maybe they will fall away eventually, I don’t know. They are illusion, though, and perhaps even things are as they are-ness is illusion as well. How does it shift my relationship with all of that? It frees me up to have some compassion for myself. A part of me wants nothing to do with all this Zen business. I have patience with that part. It just does what it thinks it is supposed to do.

  • brendan

    - How do you understand Kyogo encouraging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?This question is difficult for it appears to ask one to assume the common way. From my perspective, the common way of seeing illusion is as something that is foolish, the common way of seeing verification is as something that is grand and austere, like a trophy. I don’t not feel that verification is any sort of trophy. World Heavyweight Verification Master defends title against Universally Crowned Dunce of Illusion!

  • brendan

    Whoops, didn’t mean to use that double negative there. “Do not feel that verification is any sort of trophy” it should have read.Capping Phrase: “The masks simply demanded that their wearers should start up a tragico-absurd dance.”- Hugo Ball

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12604555653201464632 do jhana

    I have been stucked with this post. Yesterday I sat in front of my pc looking for something to write, engaging in different trains of thoughts. Later I sat throwing it all away because it was taking hold on me.While sitting I came to miss my beloved Hongzhi and certain passages of the Hsing Hsing Ming came to mind, especially “nor accepting/nor rejecting” and Huineng’s “think no good, not bad…”I’ve come to see “conveying/being conveyed” as the 2nd and 3rd noble truths. Conveying the self toward the 10.000 dharmas is thirst, craving, inclining towards (as some translator has put it), needing, wanting to be through… Our practice can also be seen in this way: as soon as we are told that by this or that way we are going to be free of the opression we are living in, we throw ourselves to it expecting this or that. The 3rd noble truth is the cessation of this craving, of this thirst and, as such, there is no need anymore to go out in search of things (also in our practice): they advance practicing and verifying through the self.Now if this sounds too theoretical, ask my cells and bones. They were playing conveying/being conveyed for more than an hour last night. Putting together the last two paragraphs, the noble truths are not good/nor bad, the same as conveying/being conveyed. It is just that. Can we then face whatever without the labels good, bad, all things buddhadharma? That’s my answer to question 1.About not accepting the “common” interpretation of verification I can just think and point to the next to sentences in the text we are studying: “…those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings”. I would be very suspicious of somebody who said to me “hello, I’m done with this job. I got enlightened last year (or last month, week…)” even if the thought appeared in my mind (double suspicious then).Excuse the last string of words.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18100647785880123235 Al

    “- Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?”Hmmm- I suppose it makes me look at illusion through non-illusory eyes. To treat it as a precious part of my life that serves an important function. See it for what it is and not adding to it by wishing it away.”- How do you understand Kyogo encouaging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?”The tolerance in the former forces us to create space between that which we assume to be wrong, thus not adding anymore to it. It can function through us and take its course instead of being cut abruptly and coming back with a vengeance elsewhere. To view verification in the common way may mean that we have become intolerant to illusion and thus allowed illusion to narrow our view of verification.Al

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00067864986953584353 David Clark

    “- Specifically how does it shift your relationship with illusion to see it as “all things are buddhadharma” (i.e., awakening truth)?”My relationship with pain becomes more like my relationship with pleasure, both faces of one wakening truth.”- How do you understand Kyogo encouraging us to be tolerant of the common way of seeing illusion but not with the common way of seeing verification?”I’m stuck on this “verification”, how does practice equal verification? Who does this verification?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13485908461100555115 nitin

    Greetings to you , 1. The first question is about the effort which we have to put to equate practice = verification, i.e. to increase tolerance2. The meditation practices, the 10,000 dharmas are the common way of seeing the illusion. The tolerance is required when there is duality, or there is the other , once verified there in no such thing as two, or the dual so no need for tolerance. It doesn’t mean that you dont have to tolerate, instead the root cause of tolerance will be absent, or burnt into the fire. Respectfully yoursNitin Arora


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