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Kuge means Phenomena
Gudo Nishijima: "Ku means "the sky," or "space," and ge means "flowers." What are flowers in space? Master Dogen uses the words "flowers in space" to express all phenomena in this world." [Szm 9]
Kuge is a Zen term for phenomena and noumena: "things" that appear in the awareness, things that "come to mind". Whatever it is, it may be represented by words and/or pictures in a graphic map, an idea map.
Eihei Dogen (1200-53) elaborates on kuge throughout chapter 44 of his Shobogenzo, in a sermon given on 31 March 1243, later published in his Shobogenzo [Sth 551-62]. In it, Dogen speaks of "the Flowering of the Unbounded", Kuge. Dogen extends the meaning of kuge to refer to things as they really are: the flowerings of That which is as unbounded as space. According to Dogen, the whole universe blossoms forth from Buddha Nature [Deep Self].
Thomas Cleary explains that the traditional expression "flowers in the sky" refers to that which is illusory or unreal; but Dogen uses it in a positive way. Dogen points out that not only mundane things are "flowers in the sky", but so are the Buddhist teachings themselves.
Dogen's essay begins with a line attributed to the alleged founder of Zen in China: "One flower opens with five petals, forming a fruit of its own accord."
Dogen emphasises that Buddhism should be viewed not in a fragmentary, sectarian way, but as a whole comprising many different facets.
Dogen in his introduction emphasises practice symbolized by the flower, naturally bearing the "fruit" of realization. The metaphor of the flower and petals also can be extended to refer to the unity and multiplicity of all phenomena.
Dogen stresses that everything without exception is "flowers in the sky."
Dogen aims at cutting through the notion of nirvana as opposite to mundane life. [Shz 65-67]
Selections from Nearman's Translation
When Meditation Master Fuyozan Reikun in the Fuchou district of Great Sung China first came to train under Meditation Master Kisu Shishin, he asked his Master, "Just what is Buddha?"
Master Kisu replied, "If I tell you straight to your face, will you believe me?"
Reikun then said, "How would I dare not to believe your sincere words, Venerable Monk?"
Master Kiso responded, "You yourself are precisely what It is."
Reikun then asked, "How am I to preserve and maintain it?"
Master Kiso answered, "When there is a single moment of your eyes being bleary, the flowers . . . will come fluttering down."
The words . . . express how Buddha is preserved and maintained . . . They have manifested Their Eye within the flowering of [Vastness Idea - ] Space.
The expression 'the blossoming of one's Eye' is invariably synonymous with opening to the luminous, that is, to enlightenment.
When you understand this clearly, the blame will lie with the Buddhas in the ten quarters.
Bodhidharma on Flower and Fruit
Bodhidharma once said: When the Single Blossom opened its five petals, the fruit thereof naturally came about of itself . . . The One Blossom is comprised of five petals, one atop the other. The opening up of the five petals forms the One Blossom . . . Seek . . . the radiance and form of this blossoming.
What Bodhidharma calls 'the resulting fruit', he describes as 'what naturally comes about of itself'.
With the opening of the blossom, the whole world arises.
The Teachings of Buddhas are . . . synonymous with the flowerings of Unbounded Space.
When that bleary-eyed sickness is eradicated, the blossoms [one saw as a sign of disease] disappear into the [Vastness of Space] There have never been any mundane academics or scholars who have understood this saying. They do not know what [Vastness of Space] is, they do not know what blossoms in [Vastness of Space] refers to.
By merely thinking that flowers within [Vastness of Space] are something to be dropped off, they do not recognize the Great Matter [The realization-state of Truth] that lies within the blossoming of [Vastness of Space], nor do they know of the seeding, ripening, and falling away of That which blossoms within [Vastness of Space].
They simply recognize that there are thoughts and things that are in accord with the outer world.
You need to realize that what the Buddha called 'one with bleary-eyed vision' is one who is fundamentally enlightened . . . one who has gone on beyond Buddhahood.
Our Ancestral Master Eka once said, "The flowers, moreover, have never appeared." The main point of this is . . . that the flowers have never appeared, that they have never disappeared, that they have never been 'flowers', and that [Vastness of Space] has, moreover, never been 'space'.
Thought after thought is just one after the other.
To turn one's back on Truth is wrong. To confront Truth is wrong.
The main point about the flowers of [Vastness of Space] and the flowers of the earth, of which Buddha after Buddha and Ancestor after Ancestor have spoken, is Their giving free rein to Their elegantly skillful means.
Keep in mind this main point: the flowers of [Vastness of Space] cause both the opening up of the earth and the unfolding of [Vastness of Space].
Shz: Cleary, Thomas, tr.: Shobogenzo: Zen Essays by Dogen. University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu, 1986
Sth: Nearman, Hubert, tr. Shobogenzo: The Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching. Mount Shasta, CA: Shasta Abbey Press, 2007. Online
Szm: Nishijima, Gudo Wafo and Cross, Chodo,
trs.: Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Book 3. London: Windbell Publications, 1997.
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