The Circle of the Way

Clouds in Water just finished a sesshin at Hokyoji Zen Community in Southeastern Minnesota. I have been coming to this land and this place for at least 35 years. This land and place is so conducive to sesshin. It’s simply a wondrous place to practice. The mountains, valleys, birds, bells, grasses, tiles and pebbles are all the sounds and sights of the dharma singing and contributing to our awakening.

Reworking a quote from Dogen from Uji, Time-being :

The self that is deconstructed in time and space,
The self that’s contents is that of the ‘other’,
When practicing like this, we see that the self is the whole world.
Knowing in this way, there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses,
All things through the entire earth,
And yet each grass and each form itself, is the entire earth.
All the comings and goings are the dynamic Zenki, “the whole works.”
All is one and one is all.
All relations of forms and grasses, the whole earth and the self arise together.
Practicing with the self of the whole world in this way is the commencement of Buddhist Practice.


Buddhist practice is like a many faceted diamond. All times and all efforts support the idea of a continuous practice.

Dogen describes this as the Circle of the Way.

The perpetuation of the Way is done through the activity and devotion of practice-realization which expresses itself through the activity of these 4 aspects.

  1. Aspiration
  2. Practice
  3. Realization
  4. Attaining the Buddha Way or Nirvana.

If you are experiencing yourself in any of these 4 ways, you are in the perpetuation of the Way.


a. If you are aspiring to practice or to study, that is the Way. Our intentions set the seeds for many blooms. It is very important to keep your intentions strong and in the forefront of your mind. We always hold our aspirations in our hearts.


b. Study and practice the way. From Shih-T’ou’s Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage : Study the Ancestors instructions, bind grasses to build a hut, and don’t give up.


c. These are moments in our practice when we are actually manifesting oneness. Subject and object are merged and the “I” subject is forgotten in the object of the moment and only pure activity remains. From Katagiri-Roshi: You can see yourself, your activity and your body and mind in the realm of emptiness, occupying the whole universe but this is beyond human speculations, concepts or ideas.

Attaining the Buddha Way or Nirvana

d. Nirvana is not a place. It is not a vermillion tower in the sky or a palace of pleasure. Enlightenment is not an event that occurs in time. It is a Way or a passageless passage. We learn and can experience each moment as it arises, as Buddha, and the expression of the source of eternity. Moment after moment, the way unfolds. Each moment is the universe. In this way we can find freedom and release in each moment of the Way of our lives.

From Katagiri Roshi:

When you practice this way, your practice is simultaneously touching the source of existence and blooming your particular flower right now, right here. That is why practice is not apart from enlightenment. Practice is enlightenment.