Bendōwa, Part One

The Interconnectedness of Genzō-e

Bendōwa, Part One

Our practice involves awareness of what arises — on and off the cushion. This is especially so when our teacher speaks. His words bear more than low-hanging fruit. They carry meaning straight from the root.

Consider how Shōhaku Okumura begins his talks on Bendōwa.

We learn that before the Meiji restoration, the shōgun’s government protected and supported Japanese Buddhism. But that all stopped when rule was restored to the emperor. The new government declared Buddhist orders should be independent.

In a movie script, this is called the inciting incident. In Mahayana Buddhism, it’s the cause that spawns a condition.

Buddhist monks discovered they’d have to support themselves. These would include the “lazy, feckless monks” 1 Sawaki-rōshi calls out in The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō.

Okumura-rōshi tells us this new circumstance forced monks and priests to start teaching and sharing practice with common people.

We know from our own experience Dōgen Zenji’s Shōbōgenzō isn’t light reading. So at Eiheiji they started Genzō-e to share Shōbōgenzō with monks or priests and also, lay people.

Click or tap play to get the whole story . . .

Rōshi shared an anecdote that tells us what’s special about these recordings. He revealed the writing in The Wholehearted Way — his book on Bendōwa — is based on his understanding of what Uchiyama-rōshi taught. And so, in speaking to people who may have read the book, he said, “My challenge is to talk about the same thing in a different way.”

The low-hanging fruit here seems about events that took place at a particular time and at a particular place, involving particular people. But from the root level, Hōjō-san illustrates the interdependent origination that unifies our lives through time and space. But he never uses those words.

We and those on retreat at Sanshinji find prajna in the silence between the words. It’s in silence that we engage in our core practice, where we lose the gap between self and other. That’s where those who gather today join those who met for the first Genzō-e. But, perhaps, we leak too much.

If you’ve found this offering rewarding, please consider following this link to Sanshin’s bandcamp page for the entire digital album.

[1] Uchiyama, Kōshō, Okumura, Shōhaku, Molly Delight Whitehead, ed. The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō (pp 44-45). Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2014.

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Recorded translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura-rōshi

> Other albums by Shōhaku Okumura

Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

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