Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Fifty-four years lighting up the sky.
A quivering leap smashes a billion worlds.
Entire body looks for nothing.
Living, I plunge into Yellow Springs.
Zen Master Dogen, (1200-1253)
Four of us from zen center got together yesterday to start a little Dogen study group. It's funny how life flips about. Several months ago (can't recall quite when), I wrote a few posts questioning the "obsession" many Zennies have for Dogen's writing, and now I'm gonna focus on his work again. Actually, it seems like ever since I wrote those posts, he's been appearing in readings and conversations, sometimes in the oddest ways. For example, I recall lying in corpse pose during a yoga class awhile back, and hearing the teacher recite one of Dogen's poems for us to reflect on. There was this interesting moment of spiritual convergence there, which sort of sealed the yoga teacher training deal for me.
Anyway, I continue to stand by the sentiment expressed during those posts that people need to be willing to question Dogen, to not think the guy was somehow infallible. Last night, for example, I read the first lines of one of the talks in the Shobogenzo-Zuimonki, which basically said that monastics are light years ahead of lay practitioners. Gag! There's a pretty heavy monastic bias in many of these little talks, probably in part due to the fact that they were given during the early years of his monastic leadership.
But when you read Dogen's death poem, cited at the beginning of this post, all separation is dropped away. Even life and death itself. What's amazing to me about this poem is how direct, energetic, and even fierce it is, given that it's the writing of a man about to die. He's going into death as if life and death are one continuous experience.
During our little study group, one of the things we talked about was experiencing fully through the body itself. How so often, we remain in our heads, failing to let life run through us. Even as longtime Zen students.
And when you take in Dogen's poem, it's seems to me that he's fully there, even as the physical body is falling apart, on it's way back into the earth from which it came from.
There's an aliveness to this little poem that feels totally calm and at peace all the same. That somehow energetic fierceness can be expressed completely without being tipped over in the process. I find this very attractive.