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Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:20

One of the most significant innovations of the Mahayana is the Dharmakaya; the idea that the whole universe is the body of the Buddha. It is a radical re-imagining and enlivening of our normal view, changing our picture of the universe from a collection of objective, separate and largely inanimate things, from which we are somehow separate, to one where everything is “alive” and expressive, within a greater, alive whole.


I believe it derives from our actual experience in zazen. When we sit, we are not within the primary alienation, which thinks of the body as an object, distinct from, yet controlled by, the self. Rather, we experience ourselves as activity  and expression - aliveness - and there is no clear boundary between this body, and the great body of all being.


It is not that this small body becomes the great body, nor that this small deluded person becomes a great person, because this would simply be ego inflation on a grand scale. But rather, we are taken back into the heart of all being.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:27
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Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:16

I asked my first teacher if the purpose of practice is to become enlightened.

She said 'No. The purpose is to become a human being.'

But what does this mean?

It's like a person who is a counterfeit painter, painting pictures of the world in the style of great artists. These artists are variously called Compassion, Wisdom, Presence, Enlightenment.

But the person knows that no matter how convincing the paintings appear to be, they are fake and will always be at risk of being seen as fake.

Yet what the person doesn't understand is that these ‘great artists’ are demons. Falseness is the whole point.

This pictured world is flooding out of us at each moment; vivid, perfect. If we wish to be like human beings, we only need to be like small children: fearless, whole.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:19
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Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:10

Master Dogen's Dharma Hall Discourse number 453. (Adapted)

“Polishing a tile to make a mirror is our reward for accumulating merit and virtue. Polishing a mirror to make a tile certainly depends on the nourishment from wisdom. Polishing a mirror to make a mirror brings a laugh - how are my hands and the Buddha's hands similar? Practicing Zazen to make a Buddha is putting our jagged karmic stones at the site of awakening - why is it like this?

(After a pause) When one cart is hit, many carts go quickly. One night a flower blooms and the world is fragrant”


He is plainly talking about our practice. The tile is our karma - a chaotic concatenation of selves which we become all too aware of when we start sitting. And understandably wish to be free of. Even though it’s just noise.

The mirror is Buddha, and we imagine that through practice we can make the tile a mirror. Yet he didn’t say that. He never said that. Paint a Buddha face on the tile if you wish, but it will never go.

In our sincere and wholehearted practice a true person appears. Sometimes, this person is like vast space. And the noise doesn't matter, at all.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:15
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Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:09

Master Dogen's dharma discourse number 441.

“Having questions and answers, we smear everything with shit and piss. Not having questions and answers, thunder and lightning crash. The great Earth in ten directions is leveled and all of space is torn open, not allowed to enter from outside, not allowed to leave from inside.

A gavel strikes the sounding block and the ten thousand affairs are completed.

At such a time how is it?

(After a pause, Dogen said) time and again everything exists within a painting. Even allowing for what falls apart snow falls at midnight.”

This discourse, delivered in the last part of his life, in all its vigour and iconoclasm seems quintessentially Dogen, but in fact, prior to the pause, Dogen is directly quoting the words of his Master, Tendo Nyojo.

By this time his master had been dead for more than a decade and he had not seen him for more than 15 years.

Are the words Nyojo's or Dogen's, both, or neither?

It is the responsibility of the teacher to teach with great vigour, and to do so for the rest of their days.

Yet the personal vigour of a teacher - even a great teacher like Dogen - is puny. Yet it is as if sometimes the entire lineage - not just the visible lineage, but the lineage of all times - and the entire universe seen and unseen is all congregated around this person, and given voice.

Whether you believe it or not, you are like this, I am like this and, to live without doubt, it is necessary only once.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:10
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Thursday, 25 July 2019 09:59


Dogen's Dharma Hall Discourse 463 [adapted]

Dropping off body and mind; dropping off this skin, flesh, bones and marrow; dropping off this vivid waterfall of experience: How can this be you? How can this be other?

Breaking into a smile, nothing has ever been separated.

[after a pause]

In other days, we have mapped out this entire miraculous world, but this day, we are as innocent as children singing



Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:04
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