Don’t Have Deluded Thoughts

Arafat Uddin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (55)

Don’t Have Deluded Thoughts

328. Dharma Hall Discourse

「蚯蚓兩段話」             (「蚯蚓兩段の話」)
The story of two pieces of earthworm

無始劫來生死本          (無始劫來、生死の本、)
癡人喚作本来人             (癡人喚んで本来人と作す。)
途中顛倒更流布          (途中顛倒して更に流布す。)
大地山河清淨身             (大地山河清淨の身。)

The root of life and death from beginningless ages
is what ignorant people call the original person.
Even though they turn upside down and disseminate their views in the process,
the great earth, mountains, and rivers are still the pure body.[1]

— • —

This is verse 54 in Kuchūgen and Dharma Hall Discourse (上堂, jōdō) 328 in Volume 4 of Eihei Kōroku. This verse in Manzan’s version is the same as Monkaku’s version.

Don’t Have Deluded Thoughts

Dharma Hall discourse 328 is given during the summer practice period in 1249. In the discourse, Dōgen Zenji introduces the dialogue between Zen Master Changsha Jingcen[2] (Chosa Keishin, 長沙景岑, ? – ?), and a government minister named Zhu regarding buddha-nature of an earthworm that is cut into two pieces. After introducing the dialogue, Dōgen recites this verse without any further comments. The dialogue is as follows:

Government Minister Zhu asked Changsha [Jingcen], “When an earthworm is cut into two, I wonder which piece has the Buddha nature?”
Changsha said, “Don’t have deluded thoughts.”
The officer said, “What about when both pieces are moving?”
Changsha said, “That is only because the wind and fire has not yet dispersed.”
After further discussion, Changsha said, “Ignorant people call this [consciousness that is the root source of life and death] the original person.”[3]

Government Minister Zhu’s understanding in this dialogue is an example of a mistaken view also mentioned by Dōgen in Shōbōgenzō Busshō, written in 1241. Dōgen also quotes this dialogue at the end of Busshō (Buddha-nature). In the beginning of the fascicle, he writes that the inside and outside of a living being is nothing other than the “entire-being” of buddha-nature. Then he points out a mistaken view of Buddha-nature:

Hearing the expression “buddha-nature,” many students mistakenly think it is like the Self (ātman), discussed by the non-Buddhist Senika.[4] This is because they have not yet met a [true] person, have not yet encountered their [true] self, and have not yet come across a [true] teacher. They mistakenly take the wind and fire movements of their mind, manas, and consciousness to be the sensing and knowing of buddha-nature.[5]

The first time Dōgen encountered this view was not in China; he had found the same view at the Tendai monastery on Mt. Hiei in Japan. This was a long-time question for him. Soon after he began to practice under the guidance of Tiantong Rujing in China, Dōgen asked a question of his teacher:

I asked, “Teachers [both] in the ancient and present say that, like a fish drinks water and knows whether it is cold or warm, such natural sensing is awakening. This is considered to be awakening. I criticize this saying that if such natural sensing is itself the true awakening, all living beings have such ability of natural sensing. Since all living beings have such [ability] of such natural sensing, are they all tathagatas with the true awakening? Some people said, ‘That is right. All living beings are tathagatas who originally have [true awakening] from the beginningless beginning.’ Other people said, ‘All living beings are not necessarily tathagatas. Why? If some of them know that [their ability of natural sensing] is self-awakening of innate wisdom, they are tathagata; if they don’t know that, they are not [tathagatas].’ Are such sayings accordance with the buddhadharma or not?”

The master [Rujing] said, “If they say that all living beings are originally buddhas, they are the same as non-Buddhists of naturalness. Such people cannot avoid [the mistake of] considering “self” and “its possessed [ability]” as buddhas, that is the same as saying that someone who has not yet attained [awakening] has already attained it, and someone who has not yet verified [Buddhahood] has already verified it.[6]

This was one the original questions which prompted Dōgen to leave the Tendai monastery and begin to practice Zen, but the question was not resolved until he met with Rujing. Once he settled down on Rujing’s answer, he kept to Rujing’s view through to the time he wrote this verse.

The root of life and death from beginningless ages
is what ignorant people call the original person.

Originally the concept of Buddha-nature or Tathāgata-garbha was that it is something hidden in us, like a diamond covered with rock and dirt. It is permanent and never changes, whether it is hidden within deluded living beings or within an enlightened buddha. However, it seems that in China, people started to think buddha-nature is the metaphysical substantial self that is the subject of natural sensing such as seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. Shakyamuni Buddha taught that because of the contact between sense organs and the objects of sese organs, through the function of five aggregates, we have discriminations such as like/dislike, good/bad, valuable/valueless, etc., and conceptual thinking (prapañca, conceptual proliferation). Because of this, we chase after some things and escape from other things. That is the origin of sufferings in transmigration within samsara, that is, life-and-death.

In Shōbōgenzō Sokushin-zebutsu (Mind Itself Is Buddha), Dōgen quotes a dialogue between Zen Master Nanyan Huizhong and a monk from the south. The monk talked about the teaching of the Zen masters in the south:

‘Buddha’ means awakening itself. Now you are already fully endowed with the nature that sees, hears, senses, and knows. This nature is able to raise the eyebrows and blink one’s eyes; to come, to go, and to do actions. It pervades your entire body. When something touches your head, your head knows it. When something touches your feet, your feet know it. Therefore, it is called ‘all-pervading intelligence (samyaku-sambuddha).’ Apart from this, there is no buddha at all.[7]

Hearing this, Nanyan said that such a view is the same as the non-Buddhist Senika’s view.

When the government minister Zhu asked Changsha, “When an earthworm is cut into two, I wonder which piece has the Buddha nature?” it implies that the minister had the same kind of view about buddha-nature. He thought that one living being has one buddha-nature. When an earthworm is cut into two pieces, in which side does buddha-nature exist? If buddha-nature is in one of them, does the other piece have no buddha-nature? If so, we cannot say all living beings have buddha-nature because the other piece is still alive without buddha-nature.

“The original person,” is a translation of honrai-nin (本来人); this is the same concept as honrai-menmoku (本来面目), “original face,” the true reality of the person beyond the formation of karmic attributes.

When Changsha replied to the minister, he said, “Don’t have deluded thoughts.” “Deluded thoughts” is a translation of mōsō 妄想: (妄) means “illusory” or “delusory,” and (想) is usually translated as “perception” or “discrimination,” the third of the five aggregates, saṃjñā. For example, when we see a piece of rope in the darkness, we may perceive it as a poisonous snake, and then be astonished and afraid. That is one of the examples of illusory perception. But this Chinese character 想 (sō) also means “thinking” or “thought.” When Uchiyama Rōshi wrote the phrase “opening the hand of thought (omoi no tebanashi, 想いの手放し),” he used this Chinese character. To see a rope as a rope is an ordinary perception, but it is not prajñā, according to the Yogacara teachings. We should see that a rope is a collection of fibers, therefore lacking substantial self-nature, that is, empty and unnamed.

When the minister Zhu said that both pieces of the earthworm are still moving, he is continuing to view things with delusory thoughts.

Even though they turn upside down and disseminate their views in the process,
the great earth, mountains, and rivers are still the pure body.

At the time of Dōgen, both in China and in Japan, this kind of view had been disseminated widely and many people had the same kind of view about buddha-nature. The result of such a view is that, because we are inherently enlightened, we don’t need to practice; instead, we can just “be natural.” This is the attitude that Rujing pointed out as “non-Buddhists of naturalness” (自然外道). Such a view is upside down, viewing consciousness as the root source of life and death, and viewing transmigration within samsara as buddha-nature.

Dōgen is saying that such a view is based on illusory thoughts. However, when we are seeing things while being liberated from illusory thoughts, that is how we see things as they are with prajñā. In our practice, when we see things from the zazen of opening the hand of thought and actualize the true reality of all beings, we see that the great earth, mountains, and rivers are still the pure body of the Buddha’s dharma body. This is when we hear the sounds of the valley stream as the Buddha’s voice and see the colors of the mountains as Buddha’s immaculate body. The pivotal point is whether or not our body and mind are transformed from pañca upādāna skandhas (five aggregates of attachment), to five aggregates free from self-clinging. As the Heart Sutra says, seeing the emptiness of the five aggregates is the way we become free from the attachment to the five aggregates and relieve all suffering. In Dōgen’s expression, that is dropping off body and mind (身心脱落, shinjin datsuraku).

— • —

[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record volume 4, dharma hall discourse 328, p.300) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc.,
[2] Changsha Jingcen was a dharma heir of Nanquan Puyuan (Nansen Fugan, 南泉普願, 748–835).
[3] Dōgen’s Extensive Record, volume 4, p.300.
[4] The non-Buddhist Senika is a person who appears in the Mahāyāna Parinirvāṇa Sutra.
[5] Okumura’s unpublished translation.
[6] Okumura’s unpublished translation of section 4 of Hōkyōki. Another translation is in Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dōgen (edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi), p.5.
[7] Okumura’s unpublished translation. Another translation is in Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō (edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi), p.44–45.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:
See Dōgen’s Extensive Record.

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems

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