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The Poetics of Perception
Dogen Preaches on Nonduality

 

 

 

 

 

Dogen Preaches on Nonduality

 

(A Digital Dogen Project)

 

 

This is a presentation of a lecture, or Dharma Talk, given by Zen Master Dogen to his assembly of monks at Eiheiji Temple. The original Chinese text, as spoken by Dogen and recorded by his attendant, Gien, is followed by an English translation.

 

 

The Nonduality

of Buddha Nature

 

by Eihei Dogen

 

 

上堂、流转二十五有之际、有最难得之事、谓生値佛法也。旣遇佛法、发菩提心亦最难也。

Although there are twenty-five realms of transmigration, there are situations that are most difficult to attain. First is to be born so as to encounter the Buddha Dharma. Even if you have already been introduced to the Buddha Dharma, it is still most difficult to arouse bodhi mind.

 

旣得佛法、舍亲出家亦最难得。旣得舍亲出家、又引导六亲入于佛道亦最难也。

Already having gained entry into Buddha Dharma, furthermore abandoning parents and leaving home is most difficult to do. Even if you have left your parents and gone from your home, it is moreover most difficult to lead your six relatives to enter the Buddha way.

 

诸佛成道后行五事内、为父母说法令入佛道、其一也。虽是父母六亲、若敎其子比丘比丘尼沙门还家还俗、又敎障佛道之因缘者、当知是恶父母也、不可顺也。若敎出家修道之因缘者、当知是菩萨父母也。

After accomplishing the way, all buddhas practice five things, one of which is to expound the Dharma for the sake of one’s father and mother to help them enter the Buddha way. If the father, mother, or six relatives cause these children who are sramanera, whether bhiksus or bhiksunis, to return home to lay life, or lead them into causes and conditions for obstructing the Buddha way, you should know that they are bad parents, and should not be followed. If they support causes and conditions for leaving home and practicing the way, you should know that they are bodhisattva parents.

 

曹溪高祖、昔为卢行者之时、曾辞贫母而欲参黄梅、仅给母四十两银、以充其衣粮。诚是最难办事也。如无先后之齐肩。遂则参黄梅而经八箇月之昼夜、不眠不休、舂米供众。

High Ancestor Caoxi [the sixth ancestor, Dajian Huineng] when he was lay practitioner Lu and left his impoverished mother, desiring to visit and study with Huangmei [Daman Hongren], provided only forty silver coins to his mother to provide for her food and clothing. Truly this is one of the most difficult things to carry out. It seems that none before or since match his stature. Finally he visited Huangmei, and for eight months spent day and night pounding rice to offer to the assembly, without sleeping or resting.

 

大哉大哉。曾为八十生之善知识、忝为三十三代之祖师。果虽俗人之顶冠、传得如来之佛衣,佛法。西天东地少得比类也、未尝得闻也。

How magnificent! He became a good teacher until he was eighty, and graciously was willing to be the thirty-third ancestral teacher [after Sakyamuni]. So as a result, although he was the crowning peak of all laypersons, he was able to transmit the Tathagata’s robe and Dharma. In India and China few have compared with him. We have never heard of anyone like him.

 

儀鳳元年正月八日。屆南海法性寺。夜寓廊廡。聞二僧競辯風幡。祖為決其疑。

In the eighth day of the first month of the Yifeng era (676 C.E.), [Dajian Huineng] arrived at the Faxing (Dharma Nature) temple in Nanhai. In the evening he was resting on a temple walkway, and two monks were arguing about the wind and a banner. The ancestor resolved their questionings.”

 

有法師印宗者。甞講大涅槃經。眾所推重。服其語異。請問勤渠。祖以理曉之。宗駭然起問。何以證此。

There was a Dharma teacher named Yinzong, who regularly lectured on the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and was highly esteemed by the assembly. He appreciated the uniqueness of [Huineng’s] words and invited him for further discussion. The ancestor clarified [Yinzong’s questions] with his understanding of truth. Yinzong, astonished, stood up and asked, “How have you verified this?”

 

祖直敘得法始末。出信衣。悉令瞻拜。印宗等作禮已。復問。忍大師付囑。如何指授。

The ancestor immediately described the story of his attainment of the Dharma from beginning to end, and brought out the robe that had been entrusted to him, and allowed [Yinzong’s assembly] to examine it and make prostrations. After Yinzong and the others had done prostrations, he asked again, “In great teacher [Daman Hong] ren’s entrustment of you, what instruction did he give?”

 

曰。唯論見性。不論禪定.解脫.無漏.無為。

[Huineng] said, “He only discussed Buddha nature, unfabricated without outflows, and did not comment on meditation or liberation.”

 

又問。何故不論禪定.解脫。

[Yinzong] further inquired, “Why did he not comment on meditation or liberation?”

 

曰。為是二法。不是佛法。佛法是不二之法。

[Huineng] said, “Dharma that is dualistic is not the Buddha Dharma. Buddha Dharma is the teaching of nonduality.”

 

又問。何名不二之法。

Again [Yinzong] asked, “What is it you call the Dharma of nonduality?”

 

曰。法師講涅槃經。明佛性是不二之法。且如高貴德王菩薩白佛言。世尊。犯四重禁。作五逆罪。及一闡提等。當斷善根佛性否。

[Huineng] said, “Dharma teacher, you lecture on the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and clarify Buddha nature, which is the Dharma of nonduality. As Lofty Precious King of Virtue Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, ‘World-Honored One, those who violate the four prohibitory precepts, or commit the five grave misdeeds, or are icchantikas, have they severed the good roots of Buddha nature or not?

 

佛言。高貴德王菩薩。善根有二。一者常。二者無常。佛性非常非無常。是故不斷。

“Buddha replied, ‘Lofty Precious King of Virtue Bodhisattva, there are two kinds of good roots, one permanent and the other impermanent. Buddha nature is neither permanent nor impermanent, and therefore it is never cut off.

 

名之不二。

This is called nonduality.

 

一者善。二者不善。佛性非善非不善。是故不斷。

One side is good; the second side is not good. Buddha nature is neither good nor not good. Therefore it is never cut off.

 

名之不二。

This is called nonduality.

 

蘊之與界。凡夫見二。智者了達其性無二。無二之性即是實性。

 

The [five] skandhas and the [eighteen] realms [of sense objects, faculties, and consciousnesses] ordinary people see dualistically, but those with wisdom clearly realize that their nature is nondualistic. This nondualistic nature is exactly their true nature.’”

 

故知佛性乃不二之法也。

[Huineng added,] “Therefore we know that Buddha nature is exactly the Dharma of nonduality.”

 

印宗聞已。起立合掌。願事為師。且告眾曰。此居士者。真肉身菩薩也。我所講說猶如瓦礫。彼所談論譬若精金。諸人信否。

After hearing this, Yinzong stood up with hands joined in gassho, and asked humbly if Huineng would become his teacher. Then Yinzong also announced to his assembly, “This layperson is a bodhisattva in the flesh. What I expound is like tiles and pebbles; what he discusses is like refined gold. What I expound is like tiles and pebbles; what he discusses is like refined gold. Do you all believe this?”

 

眾皆稽首歸依。至十五日。會諸名德為之剃落。二月八日。受滿分戒於智光律師。

The whole assembly made prostrations and took refuge [with Huineng]. On the day of the fifteenth, Yinzong gathered many renowned worthies, and shaved Huineng’s head. On the eighth day of the second month, Huineng received the full precepts from Vinaya Master Zhiguang.

 

师云、曹溪,印宗师资讲诵、旣能如是。如来世尊高贵德王、所说所闻已得如是。今朝永平为云水众、欲重说之。

The teacher Dogen said: Caoxi and Yinzong conversed together as teacher and student in such a manner. What the World-Honored Tathagata and Lofty Precious King of Virtue expounded and heard was also in such a manner. This morning, I, Eihei, would like to repeat and expound this for the sake of the cloud and water assembly.

 

良久云、打开向上关捩、佛性何关不二、诸法本无自性、时人乱言橘枳。

After a pause Dogen said: To open the lock of going beyond, how is Buddha nature concerned with nonduality? All dharmas basically have no self-nature. People of today mistakenly call them oranges [north of the Huai River], or tangerines [south of the Huai River, even though they are the same fruit].

 

 

This is an excerpt from Dogen’s book

Eihei Koroku

永平廣錄

Volume 6, Dharma Hall Discourse 430

 

English translation by

Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura

in their book

Dogen’s Extensive Record:

A Translation of the Eihei Koroku

 

 

A Digital Dogen Project

(presenting his original texts* online for worldwide access)

 

 

*Japanese was Dogen’s native tongue but, coming as he did from an aristocratic background and upbringing, he was also fluent in the Chinese language, and a substantial portion of his work, including many poems and Dharma talks, are in Chinese.

 

Dogen’s masterwork, the Shobogenzo, is already available online at The SAT Daizōkyō Text Database:

 

http://21dzk.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/SAT/database_en.html

 

 

Other Dogen E-texts available on the same site are:

 

Fukanzazengi

Universal Recommendation of Zazen

 

Gakkudo Yojin Shu

Guidelines for Studying the Way

 

Dogen Osho Juko

Master Dogen’s Verses Praising Ancient Koans

 (Volume 9 of Eihei Koroku)

 

Eihei Shingi

Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community

 

 

 

 

 

HyC

 

Zen Koans
Four 12th-Century Zen Letters
Dogen's Metaphors of Enlightenment
Dogen Preaches on Nonduality
Dogen's Fukanzazengi: A Tale of Three Texts
Two Zen Cooks Show Dogen the Way
The Karma of Words: A Poem by Bai Juyi
The Zen Koan
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