Wednesday, June 18, 2008

2. The Great Wisdom of One Gone to the Far Shore

When the Bodhisattva Spontaneous in Listening gets deeply in the groove of the wisdom of one who has gone, her whole body reflects the five aggregates, as totally empty. The five aggregates, the five constituent elements of being, are: material forms; feelings; ideas; doings; and consciousness. They are the quintessence of the wisdom. BUT THE REFLECTING IS THE WISDOM ITSELF. When this principle is expounded, and made real, it is expressed like this: matter is just emptiness; emptiness is just matter; matter is matter, and emptiness just emptiness -- hundreds of things and myriad phenomena. Wisdom on the far shore, distilled into twelve, is the twelve ways in; or, again, there are eighteen distillations of the wisdom. The twelve are the six senses -- eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and proprioceptive system; and their six objects -- forms, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and how the whole thing is. The eighteen are, along with those twelve, the six kinds of sensory consciousness -- looking through the eyes, listening through the ears, smelling through the nose, tasting through the tongue, feeling through the body, and being mindful through the compound sense of proprioception. Again, the wisdom exists in four distillations: suffering, accumulation, inhibition, and the Way. Again, the wisdom exists in six distillations: generosity, discipline, patience, persistence, contemplation, and wisdom. Again, the wisdom of one gone to the far shore, realized here and now, in one go, is the supreme enlightenment of the Buddha -- full, integral awakening. Another three instances of the wisdom gone to the far shore are the past, the present, and the future. Still another six distillations of the wisdom are earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness. Again, four distillations of the wisdom constantly practised in everyday life are walking, standing up, sitting, and lying down.


One of the beggars in the order of Sakyamuni, the Thus-Come, is secretly thinking to himself: "I must bow in veneration of the accomplishment of the profound wisdom, in which nothing arises or vanishes -- notwithstanding all the possible explanations that there are of precepts, stillness, and wisdom, of coming undone, and of views; or explanations of stream-entering, being subject to one return, being beyond return, and arhathood; or explanations of the awakening of the solitary naturalist versus the awakening of Buddha; or explanations of the awakening of Buddha as supreme, full and integrated; or explanations of the treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; or explanations of turning the wonderful wheel of Dharma in order to deliver sentient beings to the far shore...." The Buddha, knowing what he is thinking, tells this beggar: "That's it! That's it! The profound wisdom gone to the far shore is too subtle to fathom."

What one beggar is secretly thinking here and now, in his reverence for everything in Sitting, is the wisdom -- notwithstanding no arising or vanishing. This is true reverence. Just at this very moment of bowing in reverence, the wisdom has been realized as explanation being possible -- that is, as explanations from precepts, stillness, and wisdom through to delivering sentient beings, and the rest -- and it is called nothing. Explaining as nothing is possible like this. Such is the profound, subtle, and unfathomable wisdom gone to the far shore.


The god Indra asks the Buddha's disciple Subhuti: "Great do-gooder! When a bodhisattva wishes to learn the profound wisdom of one gone to the far shore, how should he go about it?" Subhuti answers: "Son of the Kusika clan! If a bodhisattva wishes to learn the profound wisdom of one gone to the far shore, he should learn it as space."

So learning the wisdom is space, and space is learning the wisdom.


The god Indra subsequently addresses the Buddha: "One honored by the world! When your good sons and good daughters receive this profound wisdom which you expound, and make it their own accomplishment, when they read and recite it, think it out according to reason, and expound it for others, how then am I to guard it? I ask only, World-honored One, that out of compassion you will teach me this."

Then Subhuti says to the god Indra, "Son of the Kusika clan! Do you see something that you might guard, or not?"

The god Indra says, "No, great do-gooder, I do not see anything here that I might guard."

Subhuti says, "Son of the Kusika clan! When good sons and good daughters inhabit the profound wisdom, as thus expounded, they are just guarding it. As long as they inhabit the profound wisdom, as thus expounded, of one gone to the far shore, they never go astray. You should know that even if all human and nonhuman beings were out to harm them, that would be impossible. Son of the Kusika clan! If you want to guard bodhisattvas who inhabit the profound wisdom, as thus expounded, of one gone to the far shore, that is no different from wanting to guard space."


Remember, to receive it and make it our own, to read and recite it, and to think it out according to reason, is just to guard the wisdom. And really to want to guard it, is to receive it and make it our own, to read and recite it, and so on.


My late Master, the old Buddha, says:

Its whole body is like a mouth, hanging in space.
Not asking the wind east, west, south or north,
For all others equally it chatters the wisdom:
(The sound of a windbell...) tinkling.


This is the wisdom chattered between direct successors of the buddha-ancestors. It is the wisdom of the whole body, it is the wisdom of the whole other, it is the wisdom of the whole self, and it is the wisdom of the whole east, west, south and north.


Sakyamuni Buddha says: "Sariputra! These many sentient beings should inhabit this wisdom gone to the far shore, just as buddha inhabits it. In serving offerings and bowing in reverence to this wisdom gone to the far shore, and in thinking it out for themselves, they should be as if serving offerings and bowing in reverence to the buddha-beautiful itself. Why? Because the wisdom gone to the far shore is no different from the buddha-beautiful, and the buddha-beautiful is no different from the wisdom gone to the far shore. The wisdom is the buddha-beautiful itself, and the buddha-beautiful is the wisdom itself. Why? Because, Sariputra, the apt, fully integrated awakening of all the thus-come, is able to emerge, in every case, out of that wisdom gone to the far shore. Because, Sariputra, the attainments of all bodhisattvas and all great beings -- such as the independently awakened, the arhat, those beyond returning, those who will return once, those received into the stream, and so on -- all are able to emerge, in every case, out of that wisdom gone to the far shore. Because, Sariputra, the ten paths of wholesome conduct in the world, the four stages of contemplation, the four kinds of formless stillness, the five mystical powers, are all able to emerge, in every case, out of that wisdom gone to the far shore."

So the buddha-beautiful is the wisdom gone to the far shore, and the wisdom gone to the far shore is these real things in Sitting. Everything in Sitting, here and now, is an empty form -- a manifestation that is raw, bare, naked, as it is, devoid of me -- neither arising nor vanishing, neither soiled nor pure, neither expanding nor contracting. That this wisdom has been realized means that the buddha-beautiful has been realized. We should inquire into it, and we should get into it. To serve offerings and bow in reverence to it, is to serve and wait upon the buddha-beautiful itself, and it is the buddha-beautiful doing the serving and waiting.

Treasury of the Eye of True Sitting;
The Great Wisdom of One Gone to the Far Shore


Delivered to the assembly at Kannon-dori-in temple on a day of the summer retreat in the 1st year of Tenpuku [1233].

Copied in the attendant monk's quarters at Kippo temple in Fukui prefecture on the 21st day of the 3rd lunar month in spring of the 2nd year of Kangen [1243].

Translated into careless English in the front room of an old council house in Stone, near Aylesbury, on the 16th, 17th and 18th of the 6th month in the 56th year of Elizabeth II [2008].







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This translation copyright Mike Cross, 2008.
If you wish to use it, please ask. If you would like clarification of anything, please ask. If you object to anything, speak up. If you notice any typos or other mistakes, please let me know.

4 comments:

Plato said...

Hi Mike!

"...her whole body reflects the five aggregates, as totally empty. The five aggregates, the five constituent elements of being, are: material forms; feelings; ideas; doings; and consciousness."

Could we say that one aspect of the emptiness of feelings is what FM Alexander discovered, that he could not rely on his feelings about what is right or wrong?
Plato

Mike Cross said...

Hi Plato,

I think the understanding to avoid about feelings is, because they are not reliable, they are inconsequential, unreal, empty.

That is an easy idea: "Never mind about feelings. Feelings are not important. Action is important. Actions are real. Feelings are unreal, empty."

But when we investigate more deeply what feelings are, they are guided primarily by what is going on in the brainstem, at the level of the vestibular nucleii, and they control us. So unreliable feelings are very real indeed, and very important indeed.

Marjory Barlow used to say: "We can't control our feelings. Our feelings control us."

So, in this sense, feelings are very real, not empty. And their influence on how we behave is very real, not empty. Feelings truly are a constituent element of our being. Maybe that is why homeopaths, for example, pay more attention to a patient's feelings than other less enlightened, more mechanistic medical practitioners.

There are other places in Shobogenzo where Master Dogen explicitly addresses the problem of the limited and unreliable nature of sensory appreciation -- for example, chap. 3, The Real Law of the Universe, and chap. 43, Flowers in the Sky.

If I were to relate this chapter we are discussing now to what
FM Alexander discovered, the turning words I would point to would be those of Marjorie Barstow who often used to talk of "a bit of nothing."

"You all want something," she apparently used to say, "And that something is your habit."

So "a bit of nothing" might mean a bit of freedom, a bit of freedom from our habit, a bit of freedom from that which ties us to our unreliable feelings.

Gudo said to me on a number of occasions: "Buddhism is Buddhism. AT is AT."

But I say that there is no such thing as Buddhism. The view that Gudo calls Buddhism is empty, not real. What Alexander discovered is real, not empty. So I am very grateful for the existence of somebody like you, together with one or two others, who, because they truly revere the real truth of Sitting as the paramount thing in their daily life, have ears to listen to, and eyes to look at, what FM Alexander discovered.

You know, Plato, people like you and me who are truly devoted to Sitting, unlike those phoneys of fixed views whose ears are closed to what Alexander discovered.....

RED FLASHING LIGHTS! ALARM BELLS!!

The "We true Buddhists..." mirror principle strikes again.

Anonymous said...

It's as if self-consciousness creates a choice.

Mike Cross said...

I like the story of John Hunter, some years after completing his Alexander teacher training, going to visit infamous Alexander dragon Margaret Goldie. "Now John," MG is reported to have announced during the course of this lesson, "you are going to make a decision" .... "for the first time in your life."

MG knew that, liable though we are to bullshit about consciousness and choice, a moment of consciousness is in fact a very rare thing -- a thing like an Udumbara flowering.

We just sit according to our old habits, without ever truly stopping for a moment, without ever truly being conscious, and we think this is what Master Dogen meant by SHIKAN TAZA, "just sitting."

Reading in old Zen texts the words "emptiness" (KU) or "nothingness" (MU), or hearing today the words "a bit of nothing," we think we understand them on the basis of our own experience, which is always a bit of something. But the truth is always that what we feel and think it is, is always not it.

I include myself in this, of course. Notwithstanding my own longstanding egoistic desire to be The One Who Knows, I am not the one who is clear in regard to what it is. I am one for whom it has been clarified, at least a bit, what it is not.