Addendum to the 5 Ranks

After doing another lecture on the 5 Ranks of Dongshan, I found some good language to describe it. I talked about the 5 Ranks being the landscape of enlightenment that you move around in. Sometimes hiking the mountains, sometimes in the forest, sometimes sitting calmly by the stream. We move around the different positions but all are rooted in the knowledge and experience of no centralized self and impermanence. They are not like military ranks that you display on your uniformed sleeve. They are not linear or progressive but rather a map of the geography of enlightenment.

Now, after doing this summary lecture which you could listen to on the Clouds in Water website, and having some feedback, I realize that something I wrote in the last blog confused people and I would like to clarify it. I wrote in the 4th rank:

Many of us know this state. Of being a Bodhisattva in this world.

In some ways, that sentence is wrong. All of us know the fire of being in the world of

Samsara and suffering. Human life presents like a constant fire of our dissatisfaction. We do know that fire. The image in the fourth Rank is that of a Lotus shining or blooming in that fire. What we don’t know or what we aspire to is being a Lotus shining in the fire. Which means to be in the fire of life from an enlightened or Right point of view. The 4th Rank needs and is bound by the first three ranks. From that point of view, we can work tireless in the world like Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, the bodhisattva of Activity — working Samadhi. Tireless, because self and other are equal (which means you can take care of yourself as well as others) and because we are not attached to the outcome of our work. We are centered and flow even in the midst of great work. 

One teacher wrote: This is the only way to be a bodhisattva who does not complain.

The last two ranks are two geographies of the tenth ox-herding picture: Returning to the marketplace. They are different views of activity and rest, effort and non-doing. They are as Katagiri Roshi wrote:

“We have to see everything in equality but that doesn’t mean there is no difference. We have to see equality, but not in the realm of equality; we have to see equality in the realm of differentiation. Differentiation must be formed not in differentiation, but in equality.”

The last two ranks are the complete integration or penetration of form and emptiness, differentiation and equality. Not One, Not two. We truly see each phenomena or moment of life as the expression of the source, or emptiness, as it arises. Form and emptiness, the ordinary and the sacred, completely co-arise. As the Tibetan teaching tells us: This is automatic emptiness. As each moment arises you see its truth of interrelationship and non-substantiality and yet we still abide by the rules of form (cause and effect) and in doing so find peace.

Check out Nathan’s blog who wrote about this: