Dogen writes in the fascicle “Going Beyond Buddha”:
Zen Master Panshan Baoji said, “The single path of ‘going beyond’ is never transmitted by any one of the thousands of ancestors.” This expression ‘the single path of going beyond’ is coined only by Panshan. He did not say ‘the matter of going beyond,’ or ‘the person who goes beyond, but rather ‘the path of going beyond.”
What does he mean is never transmitted? Transmission is a big idea in Zen Practice. That the only way to “know” is to have the knowing confirmed by face to face transmission. We need a teacher to bounce off of, to help us with our stuck points, to verify us. And yet if everything has the same essence, if we are all equal, if the mystery is in all of us equally, then what is transmission? Verification in my experience comes from inside and outside simultaneously. Like pouring water into water. Dogen is saying that we need to protect the purity of the idea of pouring water into water. We need to protect the idea that enlightenment is not achieved but is revealed as equality.
What is really important for me is the teaching of a “single path”. Enlightenment is a path. Dogen in another fascicle calls this Way – the continuous path of immediacy. It is also a single path – our path. Each individual entity has its own path based on the circumstances and the conditions of their life. No one else can walk your path. And the path is based on moment to moment decisions, step after step, practicing our vows, seeing the truth in each condition. There is no one right Way. It is fluid and improvised based on conditions. The other important thing is that the path never ends. There is no one moment when you can claim the accomplishment of enlightenment and have the path stop there. Rather it is the path that goes beyond.
In the popular movie, “The Matrix,” Morpheus says to Neo: “Knowing the path is quite different than walking the path.”
Our individual path of going beyond is the expression of our Total Personality, as Katagiri Roshi coined. It is the world being born and dying with our 5 skandhas and simultaneously being the entire co-interdependent world, including all space and all time. Transmission is non-transmission and, strangely, at the same time, studying with a teacher, something is transmitted.
Next in this fascicle, Dogen brings forth another koan demonstrating equality of the relative and absolute, of I and thou, of the earth and the heavens. Here’s the koan:
Zen Master Guanzuo of Mt. Zhimen was once asked by a monk, “What is the matter of going beyond Buddha like?”
The master said, “On the tip of the monk’s staff, the sun and the moon are held up.”
Ah, such beautiful articulation! The monk’s staff has great meaning for me. It is the helper that let’s me be stable as I walk my path which is often difficult, step by step. The staff notes each step. Step, step, step. Now, now, now. The monk’s staff is also my breath, in and out, the landmarks of the present moment. The breath, the feet, our awareness IS the monk’s staff.
At the tip of the monk’s staff, there are typically 6 rings representing the 6 realms of existence; hell, animal, hungry ghosts, humans, fighting gods and heavenly beings. These realms we continuously transverse. Jizo Bodhisattva can shake his staff, making a sound that opens the doors of hell, and Jizo can then enter the hell realm and help people. Even in less mythological terms, as we walk through the forest, the sound of the rings lets all the critters, snakes, and animals know that a human is coming down the path and then they can hide, run away and protect themselves.
In this koan, on the tip of the staff, the sun and the moon are held up. The sun and the moon are the two opposites of yin and yang: the absolute and the relative, the source of light and the reflected light, the masculine and the feminine.
“I would say that the monk’s staff is obstructed inseparably by the sun and the moon; this is the matter of going beyond Buddha, When we study the sun and the moon held up on the tip of the monk’s staff, all of heaven and earth is dark. This is the matter of going beyond buddha. It is not that the sun and the moon are the monk’s staff. “On the tip of the monk’s staff” means on the entire staff.”
The opposites are embraced by the person who goes beyond without any obstruction or preference. The sun is not seen as better than the moon or vice versa. Emptiness is not separate or better than form. They exist in dynamic unity. In order to see this unity, you have to live in the darkness of non-discriminative thinking. All of heaven and earth is dark. It is the same sentiment that is expressed in the Sandokai; The Merging of Difference and Unity.
The spiritual source shines clearly in the light. The branching streams flow in the dark.
Light and dark, seeing and blindness, are all mixed up. Even though we can’t see them and they are not illuminated in the dark, the branching streams flow. In the dark of oneness, twoness still exists. Similarly, in the light of the form world, we can, as we mature, see the spiritual source equally penetrating each and every thing and shining forth in the light.
Lastly in this koan, Dogen adds a deconstruction of space. Dogen subtly adds another meaning to the phrase “on the tip of the monk’s staff.’ Dogen says that that phrase means the entire staff. He is implying that there is no tip or root. There is no up or down. The entire staff contains the whole of the universe, up and down, dark and light. Everything is clearly revealed in each and every moment and each place is connected with the Whole Works.