Monday, June 1, 2009

Dharma Nature




I just finished reading a short chapter titled "The Dharma Nature" in Dogen's Shobogenzo. It's chapter 54 in Book 3 of the Nishijima/Cross English translation. ( you can download book 3 here)


"Buddha Nature" is a phrase you come across a lot in Buddhism, but Dogen's the only person I've read so far who talks about Dharma Nature. In the intro to the Nishijima/Cross translation, they explain Dharma Nature as meaning the "essence of the universe", which makes it a pretty big deal. Here's the full intro:


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[54] HOSSHO
The Dharma-nature

Ho means Dharma, that is the Buddha's teaching, or the Universe itself. Sho means essence, or nature. So hossho means the Dharma-nature, or the essence of the Universe. Needless to say, we are living in the Universe. Therefore what the Universe means is one of the most important philosophical problems in our life. Some people insist that the Universe is something spiritual. Others insist that the Universe is something material. But from the Buddhist standpoint, the Universe is neither spiritual nor material, but something real. It is, however, very difficult to express the Universe as something real using words, because reality usually transcends explanation with words. Master Dogen undertook this difficult task, in order to express the nature of the Universe, in this chapter.

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It's one of those chapters you don't hear about so often, but it's a nice one nonetheless. Worth a look if you're interested in that kind of thing.

Regards,

Peter

14 comments:

Al said...

Thanks Peter!

Where did you find that awesome card?

That is going to be my staple card.

Peter said...

Al,

I came across it on a site called The Worst Horse when I was looking for a picture related to "dharma nature." It's not directly related to the post I suppose, but it's a funny one.

Uku said...

Peter, that birthday card is really great! And thank you for pointing out little less-known Master Dogen's chapters.

All the best,
Markus

Peter said...

Markus,

Glad you like the card. Wish I could have thought of it myself!

Regards,
Peter

marko said...

Card was really fun. Nice writing thank you

all the best

Marko

Harry said...

Hi Peter.

Interesting chapter alright.

I like the bit about the nice type of free thinking that Master Dogen also mentions elsewhere:

"... Opening flowers and falling leaves are naturally opening flowers and falling leaves. Thinking in which it is thought that in the Dharma-nature there can be no "opening flowers and falling leaves," is the Dharma-nature itself. It is thinking which has got free of conceptualization, and for this reason it is thinking as the Dharma-nature."

I think its a great thing that Master Dogen was so confident and realised in his own practice that he could reify it by calling it 'Dharma-nature' while side-stepping terms such as 'Buddha-nature' which have attracted unrealistic interpretations.

Regards,

Harry.

Peter said...

Marko,

Thanks for stopping by.

Regards,
Peter

Peter said...

Hi Harry,

Yes, he seemed really confident in his own practice and understanding. I like the bit about "innate intelligence" too.

Regards,
Peter

Harry said...

Hi, Peter.

Yes, interesting stuff. In a related area; there are modern theories which propose that there are multiple types of intelligence (8 types according to Gardner), not just the one that people are generally gauged on at school (i.e. the ability to recall learned information):

http://tinyurl.com/neq6z

Regards,

Harry.

Peter said...

Harry,

Gardner's idea kind of explains why I'm a translator and not a musician!

All the best,
Peter

Harry said...

Consider yourself lucky!

That theory only represents 8 more good reasons why I'm stupid.

I'm working on being innately and intuitively stupid :-)

Regards to all,

Harry.

jundo cohen said...

Thank you, Peter, for posting the video of Nishijima Roshi. I hope to see him next week. I hope that you and I can get together soon as well.

Gassho, Jundo

Lauren said...

Peter,

Can't seem to comment on the video. Anyway, it all seemed rather bitter sweet. Thank you.

Peter said...

Lauren,

Thank you. It was a very hot day, and the heat made Nishijima Roshi tired. But he kept doing zazen anyway.

After the video part, I sat down and did zazen too. At the end of zazen Nishijima rang the small bell he has. It was a really nice day.

Peter

 
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