Just This Is It: Dongshan and the Practice of Suchness

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 1611802288

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Teachings on the practice of things-as-they-are, through commentaries on a legendary Chinese Zen figure.

The joy of “suchness”—the ultimate and true nature inherent in all appearance—shines through the teachings attributed to Dongshan Liangjie (807–869), the legendary founder of the Caodong lineage of Chan Buddhism (the predecessor of Soto Zen). Taigen Dan Leighton looks at the teachings attributed to Dongshan—in his Recorded Sayings and in the numerous koans in which he is featured as a character—to reveal the subtlety and depth of the teaching on the nature of reality that Dongshan expresses. Included are an analysis of the well-known teaching poem “Jewel Mirror Samadhi,” and of the understanding of particular and universal expressed in the teaching of the Five Degrees. “The teachings embedded in the stories about Dongshan provide a rich legacy that has been sustained in practice traditions,” says Taigen. “Dongshan’s subtle teachings about engagement with suchness remain vital today for Zen people and are available for all those who wish to find meaning amid the challenges to modern lives.”

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beings. The ensuing mind-bending dialogue began when Yunyan said, “Nonsentient beings are able to hear it.” When asked if he could hear it, Yunyan told Dongshan that if he could, then Dongshan could not hear him, Yunyan. Then Dongshan asked why he could not hear it himself. Yunyan raised his fly-whisk, and then asked if Dongshan heard it yet. When Dongshan replied that he could not, Yunyan said, “You can’t even hear when I expound the Dharma; how do you expect to hear when a nonsentient being

it? Each student must see for himself, without seeking from others. The Technique to Help Before presenting the main dialogue, Wansong introduces the case in the Book of Serenity with “Jiufeng, cutting off his tongue, made a sequel to Shishuang; Caoshan, cutting off his head, didn’t turn away from Dongshan. The ancients’ sayings were so subtle—where is the technique to help people?”9 Here Wansong references two of his later exemplars of indirect response, akin to Dongshan. But he ends with the

vassal,” which can be read as “Equality becomes diversity.”13 The second degree is “The vassal turns to his lord,” or “Diversity resolves into equality.” The third is “The lord alone,” or “Abiding in equality.” The fourth is “The vassal alone,” or “Abiding in diversity.” The fifth is “The lord and vassal meet on the road,” or “The merging together of equality and diversity.” This first version of Caoshan’s five degrees might be interpreted as dispensing with Dongshan’s third and fourth degrees,

Way. Instead of Dongshan’s faintly familiar glimmer of phenomena, Hongzhi playfully borrows the wooden man singing and stone woman dancing from the “Jewel Mirror Samādhi” and has a wooden boy pounding on the moon to startle a jade woman. In Hongzhi’s second-degree verse he seems to have the true or real overwhelm the partial or phenomenal, as Dongshan’s old woman returns with hair hanging down. But as she shyly faces the cold ancient mirror, the very ocean and clouds gather atop the spirit

beings’ dharmic capacity reflected in part his interest in Huayan school cosmology, with its vision of the world as a luminous ground of interconnectedness and of the mutual nonobstruction of particulars. The Huayan school is based on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, which features lofty visionary descriptions of the awareness and activity of awakening beings, or bodhisattvas. The Huayan patriarchs, such as Fazang (643–712; Jpn.: Hōzō), developed a sophisticated philosophical system that includes

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