A continuous line of immediacy

Dogen is like a twentieth century cubist. He tries to show the “whole” by showing every possible angle. He tries to show the “whole” by contradicting all the views. If we hold on to one view or understand realization through our perceptions, that is not realization. He writes in the Fukanzazengi, “realization can not be understood by discriminative thinking….Is it not a standard prior to knowledge and views?” Realization cannot be understood by holding onto a certain view. In fact, it is by letting go of our names, concepts and opinions and by letting go of our thoughts themselves, that realization is manifested.

The second sentence in Daigo, Great Realization by Dogen in the Shobogenzo is an example of the cubist Dogen. It is also an example of Dogen’s brilliance in expressing the prism-like facets of the diamond of enlightenment. It’s not limited by one thing or view.

The second sentence:

“Therefore the great realization is manifested; the Way is reached through no-realization; reflecting realization and freely utilize the realization, losing realization and letting the practice go.”  (From Shohaku Okumura’s draft translation of 2008)

The different facets of enlightenment are seen from a Cubist view as different angles of the same thing and expressed by Dogen thus:

  1. The Great realization is manifested (kensho). This is the present moment when we have a deep insight into the true nature of reality: impermanence, no separate self-entity and inter-being.
  2. The way is reached through no-realization (emptiness). This understanding goes beyond conceptualization and disappears in the practice of leaving no trace. Realization does not become a “thing” or a “thing” that can have an opposite like delusion. It is completely vast and includes everything. Even though it is completely vast it does not “move a speck of dust or destroy a single form”. (Jijuyu Zanmai)
  3. Reflecting realization and freely utilizing realization. This facet of enlightenment is called returning to delusion or re-entering the marketplace as in the ox-herding pictures. Realization is reflected in every phenomena or form like the moon in a dewdrop. Each form lives in total equality with each other. A mature practitioner can freely utilize their understanding in their ordinary lives. Life is actually not ordinary anymore, as we can see that each form reflects the whole. Understanding this phrase, freely utilize, we can conduct our lives with non-reactivity, non-grasping and deep awareness.
  4. Losing realization and letting the practice go. Kaz Tanahashi translates this as “enlightenment disappears in the practice of letting go.” This is the releasing of our sense of enlightenment as time-bound. If we release our “kensho,” then we are birthed anew in every moment with no looking back. We can be completely fresh, each moment, in the flow of time.

Dogen’s many-angled exposition helps us not hold on to anything about our ideas of enlightenment. This is how we can begin to understand realization as Nishijima and Cross translated it: “a continuous line of immediacy.”