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Barbara O'Brien

Buddhas and Ancestors

By September 16, 2013

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I want to say a little more about Master Dogen's Vow. And I'm going to skip over the second paragraph for right now and go to the third one, because the third paragraph helps me understand the second one. The third paragraph goes --

Buddhas and Ancestors of old were as we.
In the future, we shall be Buddhas and Ancestors.
Revering Buddhas and Ancestors, we are one Buddha and one Ancestor.
Awakening Bodhi-mind, we are one Bodhi-mind.
As they extend their compassion freely to us,
we are able to realize Buddhahood and let go of the realization.

If you are at all familiar with Dogen, you may be familiar with what he wrote about time. In "Uji," he wrote that time isn't something that just passes from past to future:

"Know that in this way there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses throughout the entire earth, and yet each grass and each form itself is the entire earth. The study of this is the beginning of practice. When you are at this place, there is just one grass, there is just one form; there is understanding of form and no-understanding of form; there is understanding of grass and no-understanding of grass. Since there is nothing but just this moment, the time-being is all the time there is. Grass-being, form-being are both time.

"Each moment is all being, is the entire world. Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment."

In other words, all of time is present in every moment. All beings and all worlds are present in every moment. The Buddhas and Ancestors of old are in this moment. We as Buddhas and Ancestors of the future are in this moment. Future Buddhas and Ancestors are in this moment. We are one Buddha and one Ancestor.

In Zen, often we're told to focus on the present moment. "Present moment" can get to be a real fetish. But even as we focus on the present moment we may still be clinging to an idea of "present moment" that leaves things out. Can you focus but not cling?

Understanding "present moment" in this way illustrates, among other things, why it's a mistake for westerners to be in a big rush to sever ties with the Asian traditions. If you're shoving the Asian ancestors out of your western "present moment," you're  missing the present moment.

Reflecting on the Buddhas and Ancestors can be useful if you are feeling discouraged. You might meditate with the words of Master Dogen's Vow. Feel the strength and compassion of Buddhas and Ancestors within you, within the present moment, and let it radiate out to all beings who are struggling and discouraged.

September 17, 2013 at 10:37 am
(1) Mumon says:

Speaking of which, it might be useful for you to give your view on folks who go around claiming to be arhats or enlightened. It’s an interesting discussion, I think.

September 17, 2013 at 11:07 am
(2) Barbara O'Brien says:

Mumon — in my experience, anyone who goes around claiming in public to be enlightened or an arhat is a fool and/or fraud. I know of no exceptions.

September 18, 2013 at 8:57 am
(3) Lee says:

Indeed! and the sciences continue to move towards the same understanding. Deepest of bows to everyone!

September 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm
(4) yolanda says:

I feel unhappy today.

September 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm
(5) donald cook says:

Everything we conceive of is all conception. since we conceive of “reality” in each moment, and that “reality” is phantasm, our conception is phantasm, ‘our’ is phantasm and all “we” think is phantasm, “we” are phantasm. And; “we” are here. No wonder “we” live lives of unquiet dissatisfaction … which of course, is the phantasm. Saying “i am unhappy” was “true” when it was typed .. “I” is a phantasm.

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