Arousing the Way Seeking Heart

What is the Way Seeking Heart?

Sometimes it is referred to as the “thought of enlightenment” and in Sanskrit, bodhicitta (click here for the Wikipedia entry). In Guidelines for Studying the Way, Dogen takes up this issue, saying the various names for the Way Seeking Heart all refer to “…one and the same mind.”

The same and one mind. Hmmm.

What mind is that?

The first piece of reflection in the just-launched Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training is about this essential question because it is a touchstone for our practice.

Vine of Obstacle students are beginning to dig into this and so today it’s on my mind too and I’ll offer a few reflections on the Way Seeking Heart.

“Just return to your first intention,” Katagiri Roshi used to say.

For me it was when I was a kid, laying in bed in northern Minnesota and hearing the fading sound of a far-off train. I knew then that I would die.

Dogen in Guidelines for Studying the Way (and elsewhere) encourages us to see impermanence of both this fleeting world and – turning the light of awareness around – the fleeting self too – the fleeting subject that experiences this fleeting world.

Like Issa’s poem when his baby daughter died:

This world of dew
Is a world of dew
And yet … and yet….

Cut through the bullshit, in other words, and drop prettying up the rawness of the Way Seeking Heart by calling it a “world of dew” or “unborn” or “three thousand worlds in a moment of thought” (Dogen’s examples) or any other cognitive reframing trick.

Just look at how selfish this very mind is, currying favor with phenomena constantly, for our own benefit, for our own fame and gain.

Just look at “…the breath going in and out, which ties a lifetime together: what is it after all?”

The Old Plum Tree Bursts into Bloom
Do Not Waste Your Time Admiring a Painted Rice Cake: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment
Cold as Hell!
Dogen and Koan: The Ultimate Truly Definitive Unquestionable Smoking Gun