Riding the Bandit’s Horse, Chasing After the Bandit

The next paragraph in One Bright Jewel is about transmission. The moment one speaks is the entire 10 direction world and the moment one speaks, the knowing of the ancestors is there. While teaching this fascicle during this last intensive, I felt with some alarm, precipitated by the feeling of no-self, that these lectures WERE transmission. I felt like “I” was not giving the lectures. There was really nothing terribly personal in them even though I use personal stories to illustrate the points. What I felt was that I opened my mouth and Katagiri-Roshi, Okumura-Roshi, Uchiyama-Roshi and on and on back to Dogen and then back to Buddha, was in my mouth speaking. There was nothing particularly or singularly creative about what I was saying. It was all-time and all-space speaking through the vehicle of my mouth and vocal cords. It was all my life of studying Buddhism speaking through me. My teachers speaking through me. I thought to myself, “Oh, this is the feeling of transmission.”

It is not yesterday’s speaking of the dharma. It is not today’s nor is it the future’s. It is all-time speaking the dharma right now. It is not emptiness or form. It is not the second tongue or the second moon. It is the aliveness of this very moment and this very understanding. That’s the use – that it is present and fresh and appropriate to this now. All the ancient ones, are nodding and laughing and I am nodding and laughing too. How ridiculous we all are. How ridiculous our consciousness is, when it creates time and space as solid things.

Throughout all of Dogen’s teaching, he is deconstructing time and space and he does so in this fascicle too. He says several sentences that are like sound bites for his overall understanding of the intersection of time and timelessness.

“Before the entire past has gone, the entire present has arrived.”

“It extends over the present and into the future. The present moment body, the present moment mind. Each of them is one bright jewel.”

“Thus, yesterday has gone from here and the present moment comes from here.”

“One Bright Jewel is directly penetrating ten thousand years. Before the entire past has gone, the entire present has arrived.”

It is not that we annihilate the developmental or linear aspect of time – birth, duration and death. But each developmental stage or moment is the arising of the freshness of essence. There is flowing time or historic time, and there is stopped time or eternity or essence. But these are not opposed to each other or even independent of each other. They arise together, co-arise, in every moment. Our understanding of this inseparable co-arising is how we comprehend a different view of our historic self and its story. As I have said numerous times, we take care of our history and story very carefully and tenderly, but we are taking care of it from a different basis of operation in our mind – the basis that every moment is “it”, the precious jewel itself.

But can we understand this view through our discriminative thinking? No! Our discriminative thinking is the creator of historic, linear time and the creator of the world of the dream. The dreamer cannot eradicate the dream. The way Dogen says it in this fascicle is:

What is the use of understanding? This is, so to speak, “riding the bandit’s horse, chasing after the bandit.”

Can our thinking mind, our consciousness, catch the delusion. No, our conscious mind constructs the delusion. We have to understand this riding a different horse altogether. We can’t catch consciousness with consciousness. Like in meditation, we can’t, through lecturing ourselves about silence, find silence. Our minds are just filled with talking, even though our goal is silence or non-talking.

In the language of Buddhism, there are a lot of uses for the word “bandit” or “thief”. There is the sense consciousnesses that rob us of the actual experience of the senses like the sound of the raindrops. There are the three poisonous minds; greed, anger and ignorance, that rob of us our presence and satisfaction with life as it is. Even practice can become the thief nature. We often practice to get something more than what is right here. If we practice too much with results in the future as our goal, like, for example, our future enlightenment, we are being robbed of the bright jewel of the present moment.

These thieves are the demons in the cave of the Black Mountain. But, from Dogen’s point of view, we are not trying to catch the thieves to annihilate them. The thieves are actually the PLACE of our practice. Greed, anger and ignorance arise endlessly, we vow to end them. That is one of the Bodhisattva Vows.  The Bodhisattva needs a land to work, and this land is the land of our demons, the actual place of practice. Because the poisonous minds arise endlessly, we ceaselessly and actively practice pivoting them in each moment that they arrive. Like the Black Mountain of emptiness which holds the cave in its body, we learn to hold each moment of practice as the precious jewel itself.  This is very pro-life. We are not getting rid of our karmic suffering but using it to work with human consciousness. That is what Dogen is calling our livelihood. This is the ceaseless activity of pivoting our moments to hold them from the point of Right View -the view of constant change and interdependence. This is the use of understanding. This is where freedom and well-being arise as we change how we use our consciousness.