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MANTRA

  1. Frisk Zen: A Hum of Artist Living
  2. Cardinal Matters
  3. Tenet Presentation

Frisk Zen: A Hum of Artist Living

Enjoy Life While You Can

Buddha told a parable in a sutra: A man travelling across a field met a tiger. He fled, and the tiger came after him. Coming to a precipice, the man caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge.

The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other.

"Yummy, what a sweet taste," he said.

Seek alternatives to pitying yourself.

Artistic Living

Elegant living looks like artist living at least parts of the time, but not always. Where such living is quite regular and common, the supreme art could be called fitness for survival that breeds thriving - something like that.

Zen practitioners inform that adequate Zen is attunement to higher and subtler reality layers through "seeing" first-hand, in part as excellent artists are wont to do. What can assist an artist, can also assist his family if he has any. A way of living involves in part some art of living. Being skilful amounts to something and can give good help.

Zen masters may tell there is not much difference between non-Buddhist Zen and Buddhist Zen, if any. There are Christian monks who employ facets of Zen in Japan and the United States. Thomas Merton was one of them.

On another page is gist from one of the major works of Soto Zen, the Shobogenzo by Eihei Dogen (1200-53). Much of his teaching may be traced back to China, where he was taught Zen (Chinese: Chan). Dogen came back to Japan, where he became influential by Soto Zen teachings. The other main Zen school in Japan is Rinsai Zen.

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Cardinal Matters

Best help is the real stuff

If you refrain from doing something because people would think ill of it, or if you try to do good so others will look upon you as a true Buddhist, these are still worldly feelings. - Dogen

Buddhism originated in the Vedic culture of ancient India. Buddhism teaches many core elements of the ancient Vedic doctrines, but not all of them. This is seen in the Buddhist teaching poem Dhammapada, where many passages are considered as expressions of theirs shared background in Vedic India. Dr. Poul Tuxen present such good points in his translation of the Dhammapada (1953).

Hinduism took up many facets of Buddhism in time too. Mahayana Buddhism spread to Central Asia, China, and further to Korea and Japan. Japanese Zen (Chinese: Ch'an, Sanskrit: dhyana) consists of many schools (branches).

Medical doctors estimate that stress hurts many, and that emotional stress is involved in at least half of all common physical diseases (Smith et al 2003:505). It is a corner-stone of Buddhism to get out of dukkha, suffering - including stress. Buddhism is in part made for that.

Not all variants of Buddhism talk down on desire. Some forms seek to harness it for higher ends. This view is found in plenty of the Mahayana lore of India and Tibet, for example. Such forms of Buddhism, Vajrayana, or Tantric Buddhism, contains teachings that do not conform in all detail to the way of life designed for monks and nuns, although some monks and nuns are allowed to marry and have children - but not monks and nuns in Zen.

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Tenet Presentation

Our art of presentation and that of Eihei Dogen

The Zen reverend Gudo Wafo Nishijima writes that according to his inspections, the all-round way of presenting items as used by Dogen, derive from four ideals found in the basic teachings of Buddha.

The regular way of presenting items on this site can be well aligned with the basic design used by Dogen, and conforms to it very nicely. Nishijima also writes:

In the Shobogenzo Master Dogen says, "To practice Zazen [Zen sitting] is the whole of Buddhism, and Buddhism is just the practice of Zazen."

This word "just" above is a little misleading: there tends to be more into a Buddhist way of living that just sitting in dhyana, Zen. Almost all Zen monks meditate and work on a regulated basis, year after year, getting up many hours earlier than farmers, each day. And a monk's and nun's life is hardly easy for other reasons too.

It has never been needed to be a monastic and refrain from sex to get enlightened - to put the matter straight. Just bear in mind that along with good points to chew on, there is meditation to stick to too. The one without the other may fail.

It is well to remember two or three sides to living are supposed to work together in a well designed life:

  • Meditation - there are many forms;
  • Adhering to guidelines: moral standards and practical all-round tips to improve on one's living conditions, as the case may be.
  • Company that is uplifting (sangha, community), that consolidates the good things and bulwarks against detrimental sides to life.

There are many guidelines to adhere to, and seldom time to do everything one desires.

"Everyone who sits at regular intervals is a Buddhist" is a tendentious exaggeration. You should not believe all you read by Zen roshis either, but remember to consider the various claims and utterances well before you commit to any of them, bearing in mind Buddha's teaching in such waters. It is OK to doubt skilfully. [Kalama Sutta]

Nishijima, who has translated the complete Shobogenzo with Chodo Cross, has found that "the Shobogenzo is in fact constructed in a very special way; using a unique pattern of expression." He writes further:

"Master Dogen expresses his ideas in the Shobogenzo based on a pattern of four phases. First, he explains a problem from the idealistic point of view; that is, as an idea using abstract concepts. Then, immediately after this first phase, he explains the same problem, but this time from the objective, or material point of view. In other words, he gives concrete examples and facts. Then, in the next phase, he explains the problem yet a third time as a real problem; that is, realistically thinking. Of course, he cannot explain the reality surrounding the problem with words in a book, but he does so by bringing together the subjective viewpoint which he presents first, and the second objective viewpoint. He synthesizes the two viewpoints into a realistic appraisal of the problem; a synthesis of the self and the external world. And in the final phase, he tries to suggest the subtle ineffable nature of reality itself by using symbolic, poetic, or figurative forms of speech.

The Shobogenzo is full of these four-phased explanations."

[Gudo Nishijima. "The Theory of Four Views". In Three Philosophies and One Reality. 1996.
[www.windbell.com/download.html]

Nishijima also states "The Shobogenzo is written with a unique logical structure", and yet seems "full of contradictions". However, many of them may be resolved by clever calculations.

Comparisons

Dogen expresses his ideas in the Shobogenzo based on a pattern of four phases, says Nishijima, and you may find that four-phased pattern in a hundred Zen essays on this site. They are marked with a "T" in the contents and the icon "Get Tao" in the text.

Nishijima quotations:

  1. INITALLY - "First, he explains a problem from the idealistic point of view; that is, as an idea using abstract concepts."

    A first, maybe intuitive-subjective view.

  2. STRUCTURED ESSAY - "Then, immediately after this first phase, he explains the same problem, but this time from the objective, or material point of view. In other words, he gives concrete examples and facts."

    Here is a clever, all-round evaluation of this and that, with references as seems fit. A strategic handling of items of thoughts and life may come to the fore now, if not before.

  3. SUMMARY - "Then, in the next phase, he explains the problem yet a third time as a real problem; that is, realistically thinking. Of course, he cannot explain the reality surrounding the problem with words in a book, but he does so by bringing together the subjective viewpoint which he presents first, and the second objective viewpoint. He synthesizes the two viewpoints into a realistic appraisal of the problem; a synthesis of the self and the external world."

    Fit summaries are basically realistic appraisals. Summaries should lead to okay, stratified programs to train by, or open the gate to handy all-round practice of a sort, as the case may be.

  4. CANDID OR ANECDOTAL STUFF - "And in the final phase, he tries to suggest the subtle ineffable nature of reality itself by using symbolic, poetic, or figurative forms of speech."

    Anecdotes may seem offhand, but show serious sides to issues by what appears to be joking or kidding. Such stories could even suggest a higher reality somewhere between the lines.

"The Shobogenzo is full of these four-phased explanations," says Nishijima too.

Presenting fit and savoury items

Howdy Dogen's Shobogenzo exists in several versions and several translations (below). I have had recourse to the partial one by Thomas Cleary, the complete one translated by Nishijima and Cross, and the complete translation by Hubert Nearman (below).

How Dogen structured his Shobogenzo is explained under the headline "The Structure of The Shobogenzo" in a booklet by Nishijima. [◦Ref. B]

Dogen is revered as one of the most influential Zen teachers. His penetrating essay design is actually a means to better living, as is a standard essay on this site. But it takes time to find Dogen's nuggets of gold - his essays are generally extremely demanding, and may confuse readers. By contrast, the "Get Tao" essays on this site are easy to survey and make good use of. [ ◦Ref. B: "Understanding The Shobogenzo"]

Zen Collection

Zen, the art of Zen, Literature  

Addiss, Stephen. The Art of Zen. New York: Abrams, 1980.

Chang, Garma: The Practice of Zen. New York: Perennial/Harper, 1970.

Cleary, Thomas, tr.: Shobogenzo: Zen Essays by Dogen. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

Dogen. Beyond Thinking: A Guide to Zen Meditation. Ed. Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Boston: Shambala, 2004.

Fromm, Erich. Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism. London: Unwin, 1986.

Herrigel, Eugen: Zen in the Art of Archery. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

Katsuki Sekida. Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy. Edited, with an introduction, by A. V. Grimstone. London: Shambala, 1985.

Masunaga, Reiho tr: A Primer of Soto Zen. A Translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo Zuimonki. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1975.

Nearman, Hubert, tr. Shobogenzo: The Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching. Mount Shasta, CA: Shasta Abbey Press, 2007. Online.

Nishijima, Gudo Wafo, and Chodo Cross, trs. Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Vols 1-4. London: Windbell Publications, 1994-1999.

Pine, Red, tr. The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma. New York: North Point Press / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989.

Reps, Paul: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, updated 1997.

Smith, Carolyn D., ed, et al. Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. 14th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2003.

Sohl, Robert, and Audrey Carr, eds.Games Zen Masters Play: Writings of R. H. Blyth Selected, Edited, and with an Introduction by Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr. New York: New American Library/Penguin Books USA, 1976.

Suzuki, Shunryu: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. New York: Weatherhill, 1971.

Tuxen, Poul, tr. Dhammapada. Copenhagen: Gyldendalsk Nordisk Forlag, 1953.

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