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Kokyo Henkel has been practicing Zen since 1990 in residence at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center (most recently as Head of Practice), Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, No Abode Hermitage in Mill Valley, and Bukkokuji Monastery in Japan. He was ordained as a priest in 1994 by Tenshin Anderson Roshi and received Dharma Transmission from him in 2010. Kokyo is interested in exploring how the original teachings of Buddha-Dharma from ancient India, China, and Japan can still be very much alive and useful in present-day America to bring peace and openness to the minds of this troubled world.Kokyo has also been practicing with the Tibetan Dzogchen ("Great Completeness") Teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche since 2003, in California, Colorado, and Kathmandu.
First, rejecting all existing forms of Buddhism in Japan as unauthentic, he attempted to introduce and establish what he believed to be the genuine Buddhism, based on his own realization which he attained in Sung China under the guidance of the Zen Master Ju-ching (Nyojō, 1163-1228). He called it "the Buddha Dharma directly transmitted from the Buddha and patriarchs." He emphasized zazen"`UNIQ--ref-00000400-QINU`"'(seated meditation) as being "the right entrance to the Buddha Dharma" in the tradition of the Zen schools in China since Bodhidharma, originating from Śākyamuni Buddha. Yet he strictly refused to speak of a "Zen sect," to say nothing of a "Sōtō sect," that he was later credited with founding. For Dōgen was concerned solely with the "right Dharma," and regarded zazen as its "right entrance." "Who has used the name 'Zen sect'? No buddha or patriarch spoke of a 'Zen sect.' You should realize it is a devil that speaks of 'Zen sect.' Those who pronounce a devil's appellation must be confederates of the devil, not children of the Buddha.",'"`UNIQ--ref-00000401-QINU`"'He called himself "the Dharma transmitter Shamon Dōgen who went to China"'"`UNIQ--ref-00000402-QINU`"'with strong conviction that he had attained the authentic Dharma that is directly transmitted from buddha to buddha, and that he should transplant it on Japanese soil. Thus he rejected the idea of mappo"`UNIQ--ref-00000403-QINU`"', i.e., the last or degenerate Dharma, an idea with wide acceptance in the Japanese Buddhism of his day. It may not be too much to say of Dōgen that just as Bodhidharma transmitted the Buddha Dharma to China, he intended to transmit it to Japan.
Secondly, though Dōgen came to a realization of the right Dharma under the guidance of a Chinese Zen master whom he continued to revere throughout his life, the understanding of the right Dharma is unique to Dogen. With religious awakening and penetrating insight, Dōgen grasped the Buddha Dharma in its deepest and most authentic sense. In doing so, he dared to reinterpret the words of former patriarchs, and even the sutras themselves. As a result, his idea of the right Dharma presents one of the purest forms of Mahayana Buddhism, in which the Dharma that was realized in the Buddha's enlightenment reveals itself most profoundly. All of this, it is noteworthy, is rooted in Dōgen's own existential realization, which he attained in himself through long and intense seeking. Based on this idea of the right Dharma, he not only rejected, as stated above, all existing forms of Buddhism in Japan, but also severely criticized certain forms of Indian and Chinese Buddhism, though, it is true, he generally considered Buddhism in these two countries as more authentic than that in Japan.
The third reason Dōgen is unique in the history of Japanese Buddhism, is because of his speculative and philosophical nature. He was a strict practicer of zazen, who earnestly emphasized shikantaza"`UNIQ--ref-00000404-QINU`"', i.e., just sitting. His whole life was spent in rigorous discipline as a monk. He encouraged his disciples to do the same. Yet he was endowed with keen linguistic sensibility and a philosophical mind. His main work, entitled Shōbōgenzō"`UNIQ--ref-00000405-QINU`"', "A Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye," perhaps unsurpassable in its philosophical speculation, is a monumental document in Japanese intellectual history. In Dōgen, we find a rare combination of religious insight and philosophical ability. In this respect, he may be well compared with Thomas Aquinas, born twenty five years after him.
He wrote his main work, Shōbōgenzō, in Japanese, in spite of the fact that leading Japanese Buddhists until then had usually written their major works in Chinese. Dōgen made penetrating speculations and tried to express the world of the Buddha Dharma in his mother tongue by mixing Chinese Buddhist and colloquial terms freely in his composition. The difficult and unique style of his Japanese writing is derived from the fact that, in expressing his own awakening, he never used conventional terminology, but employed a vivid, personal style grounded in his subjective speculations. Even when he used traditional Buddhist phrases, passages, etc., he interpreted them in unusual ways in order to express the Truth as he understood it. In Dōgen, the process of the search for and realization of the Buddha Dharma and the speculation on and expression of that process are uniquely combined.'"`UNIQ--ref-00000406-QINU`"'In this paper I shall discuss Dōgen's idea of Buddha nature, which may be regarded as a characteristic example of his realization. (Abe, "Dōgen on Buddha Nature", 28–30)
Dōgen is a profoundly original and difficult 13th century Buddhist thinker whose works have begun attracting increasing attention in the West. Admittedly difficult for even the most advanced and sophisticated scholar of Eastern thought, he is bound, initially, to present an almost insurmountable barrier to the Western mind. Yet the task of penetrating that barrier must be undertaken and, in fact, is being carried out by many gifted scholars toiling in the Dōgen vineyard. (Source: University of Hawai'i Press)
The primary concept underlying Dōgen's Zen practice is “oneness of practice-enlightenment”. In fact, this concept is considered so fundamental to Dōgen's variety of Zen—and, consequently, to the Sōtō school as a whole—that it formed the basis for the work Shushō-gi, which was compiled in 1890 by Takiya Takushō of Eihei-ji and Azegami Baisen of Sōji-ji as an introductory and prescriptive abstract of Dōgen's massive work, the Shōbōgenzō (“Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma”).
Professor Stambaugh, whose background is primarily German Philosophy of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, first turned to Dōgen in the climactic chapter of her book The Real in Not the Rational [Albany, NY, 1986]. Also the author of The Problem of Time in Nietzsche [Lewisburg, 1987], she has combined in her present work many of the concerns and issues raised in these previous works while embarking on several new avenues of investigation. She is genuinely impressed with Dōgen, and portrays him as a strong and critical voice capable of insights that frequently go beyond the formulations proffered by the Western philosophers whim whom she compares him, philosophers such as Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.
Generally her method of argument in each chapter consists of setting out basic categories—such as transcendence-immanence, identity-difference, etc.— or sketching the view of a particular philosopher—such as Hegel's notion of dialectic—and then allowing Dōgen to either supplement or supplant what has been introduced. In the earlier chapter this method proves fruitful and she repeatedly zeroes in on crucial passages from Dōgen's seminal works: Uji ('"Being Time"), Genjokōan ("Actualizing the Kōan"), Busshō ("Buddha-nature"), Gyōji ("Ceaseless Practice"), and so on. She is a careful reader, sensitive to many of the philosophical subtleties of Dōgen's writings, and her insights are frequently illuminating and lucid. This is no mean task, given the difficult and unusual language Dōgen uses to express himself.
She is particularly effective, I think, in her discussion of the Buddha-nature fascicle, clearly explaining why, for Dōgen, Buddha-nature is neither something that someone possesses nor a potentiality that someone develops or brings to fruition. (Lusthaus, review, 69-70) (Lusthaus, Review of Impermanence Is Buddha-Nature, 69-70)
Nevertheless, we can still ask if there might be yet another accessible vantage point from which one could regard Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō as philosophical? This paper will argue that the answer is "yes," there is such a vantage point, so long as one distinguishes what Dōgen writes from how Dōgen writes. For the claim of the paper is that while it remains ambiguous to maintain that his writings exhibit a philosophical system based on content, their form realizes what philosophy is at its core, i.e. reflexivity or philosophy’s inherent self reference.'"`UNIQ--ref-00000044-QINU`"' (Müller, "Philosophy and the Practice of Reflexivity," 545–46)
Watsuji Tetsurō (1889-1960) brought Dōgen out of this long period of obscurity with his treatise Shamon Dōgen written between 1919 and 1921.'"`UNIQ--ref-00000485-QINU`"' Watsuji's contribution, however, is not limited to his introduction of Dōgen to public attention. Instead of treating Dōgen as the founder of the Sōtō School, he presents him as a human being, a person, a man (hito):
- ...it may be justifiable to assert that I opened a gate to a new interpretation of Dōgen. He thereby becomes not the Dōgen of a sect but of mankind; not the founder Dōgen but rather our Dōgen. The reason why I claim it so daringly is due to my realization that his truth was killed by sheer sectarian treatments (Watsuji 1925，p. 160).
This realization grew out of Watsuji’s effort to solve the problem of how a layman like himself could attempt to understand Dōgen's "truth" without engaging in the rigorous training prescribed by the Zen tradition (Watsuji 1925, p , 156). A sectarian would claim that the "truth" must be experienced immediately and that any attempt to verbalize or conceptualize it constitutes falsification. If the immediate experience is the only gateway to the "truth," as the sectarian would claim, why did Dōgen himself write so much? Dōgen believed that it was through writing that his truth was to be transmitted to others. For his own religious training, he singlemindedly concentrated on sitting in meditation; yet he saw no intrinsic conflict between sitting and writing. This is why Dōgen started writing Shōbōgenzō in 1231: so that he might be able to "transmit the
Buddha’s authentic Dharma to those who are misguided by false teachers" (Watsuji 1925, p. 157). Watsuji further quotes from Dogen: "Although it (Shōbōgenzō) might appear to be a mere 'theory,' it still bears indispensable importance for the sake of Dharma" (1925，p. 157). Thus Watsuji claims that his approach, which relies on words and concepts, is a valid alternative to the monk’s subjective pursuit.
According to Dōgen, enlightenment is possible only through rigorous sitting in meditation (kufū zazen) and through the study of Dharma under a master (sanshi monpō). One can encounter Dōgen as a master through his writings, for he answers one’s questions in his works. But one still must practice sitting in meditation. Watsuji insists that meditation can be done in an office or a study as well as in a meditation hall; he even goes so far as to say that perhaps a study may be a more congenial place for this purpose than a meditation hall when many monasteries are no longer concerned with the transmission of the truth but are immersed in secular concerns (1925，p. 158). Therefore, for Watsuji, meditation does not necessarily require the act of entering a monastery.
Of the two prerequisites for the realization of the truth, sitting in meditation is left to the individual. But the other, the pursuit of Dharma under a master, is Watsuji's principle concern. Shamon Dogen is an account of Watsuji's personal encounter with the person of Dōgen as he speaks in his writings, primarily Shōbōgenzō and Shōbōgenzō zuimonki, the latter of which was compiled by Ejō, Dōgen's closest disciple. In Watsuji's treatise, we encounter not only Watsuji as he faced Dōgen but Dōgen himself.
Watsuji’s new methodology considers it central to discover and encounter the person (hito) of Dōgen in his works.'"`UNIQ--ref-00000486-QINU`"' Many people have followed Watsuji’s methodology. Professor Tamaki Kōshirō of the University of Tokyo, for instance, remarks that not only was he first exposed to Dōgen through Watsuji, but also that he encountered the living Dōgen in Watsuji’s treatise.'"`UNIQ--ref-00000487-QINU`"'
This writer finds Watsuji's methodology to be particularly applicable to the study of Dōgen. Dōgen himself saw the truth fully embodied in the personhood of his Chinese master, Juching. Dōgen's encounter with this individual was the single most decisive experience in his life, as is abundantly attested in his writings. Furthermore, Dōgen repeatedly discouraged his disciples from associating with institutionalized Zen. This paper, therefore, is the result of the writer’s attempt to encounter the personhood of Dōgen.
While this writer uses Watsuji’s methodology, the main body of literature that is examined in this paper is the chapter of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō devoted to the busshō or Buddha-nature. The reasons for this choice are three. The question that tormented the young monk Dōgen concerned the Buddha-nature. Dōgen's search for the answer to this question took him to the eminent monks of his time: Kōen of Mt. Hiei; Kōin of Miidera temple; Yōsai of Kenninji temple; Myōzen, who succeeded Yōsai at this first Rinzai Zen monastery in Japan; Wu-chi Liao-pai and finally T'ien-t'ung Ju-ching in Southern Sung China. This pilgrimage spanned a period of over ten years ending in 1225 when he attained enlightenment under Ju-ching’s instruction and solved his question. Thus it is possible to look at Dōgen's formative years as a continuing struggle with the fundamental question he first raised on Mt. Hiei. Secondly, the Buddha-nature chapter is one of the longest of the ninety-two chapters, in the Shōbōgenzō which may suggest Dōgen's particular concern for the subject matter. Lastly, the original manuscript of this chapter, now preserved in Eiheiji temple, bears witness to the fact that Dōgen laboriously revised the chapter a number of times. Study of the Buddha-nature chapter, therefore, can reasonably be taken as central to understanding Dōgen's life and thought. (Kodera, "The Buddha-nature in Dogen's Shōbōgenzō," 267–70)
- Dōgen Kigen (道元希玄) · other names
- Dōgen Zenji (道元禅師) · other names
- Eihei Dōgen (永平道元) · other names
- Kōso Jōyō Daishi (高祖承陽大師) · other names
- Busshō Dentō Kokushi (仏性伝東国師) · other names
Affiliations & relations
- Sōtō school · religious affiliation