May 31, 1986 Dharma Talk by Dainin Katagiri Roshi

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This transcript is in rough draft stage.


The last sentence of Genjokoan in Shobogenzo says:

The wind of Buddhism makes manifest the great earth’s goldenness, and makes ripen the sweet milk of the long rivers.

In Genjokoan, Dogen Zenji talks about the outlook of the world and human life pretty systematically. Even though it is a very short chapter, very systematically, [point by point], he talks about the outlook of the world and human beings, how we should understand the world and human beings. And then [in] the last sentence, completely beyond the theoretical explanation of the world, he [say it] exactly like this: “The wind of Buddhism makes manifest the great earth’s goldenness.”

Dogen Zenji says that we have to accept the gold of the earth, and build the human world on the earth’s goldenness. And accept the rivers as sweet milk. And taste the river as the sweet milk. And then, build up human life.

But actually, if you look at the human world, it is difficult for us to believe that the earth is golden, or the river is sweet milk. It’s very difficult for us. The earth under our feet is contaminated. The rivers in front of our eyes are turbid. We have misgivings about the universe, disabled by human historical activities and human cultural accumulation. Not only talking about mountains and rivers in nature, but the earth as a whole, everything in our days seems to be contaminated, disabled, and finally ruined. Everybody is very scared, afraid.

In that present situation, Dogen Zenji talks like this, that the earth is golden, the rivers are sweet. We have to accept the earth as golden, we have to taste the rivers as sweet milk. It means that we have to accept the whole world which you can see through your eyes, through your ears, through your five skandhas, and build up the world, not in the contaminated earth, it is the golden earth.

And also human life should be accepted as sweet milk, not human life seen in terms of your understanding. If you see human life, in the world lots of miserable events happen. Killing, fighting, et cetera. Human life is completely devalued. Killing each other very easily. Fighting easily. This is the present situation. But after explaining the proper outlook of the world and human life, finally Dogen Zenji says in the last sentence that we should accept the world as golden and taste human life as sweet milk. Anyway we have to build up the world in the golden earth, and also we have to establish, built up our life as sweet milk. In other words, we have to build up a beautiful human life.

Usually people think like this, as mentioned before. No matter how long we hope [for a] peaceful world, peaceful life, [the] government, president, or the whole world, everybody in the universe tries to create some miserable situation. Nuclear weapons. By nuclear weapons we try to destroy human life, human world. We don’t know what happens in the future. So there is no hope. But as long as we exist in this world, we cannot sleep, we cannot take a nap always in the world, whatever you feel. So we have to make every possible effort to build up the human world, we have to make every possible effort to live in this world.

And then, after that, let’s leave the rest to fate. This is very common understanding. We have done many things, we are doing many things in the future. But: something happens around us. So let’s leave the rest to fate. But I don’t think this is [an] appropriate way of human life. Because if you have such an understanding [of] how to live in this world, I think your boat is always drifting in the ocean. But a human life is not drifting in the ocean, [rather,] we have to sail across in the ocean of human life.

Is there any hope in this world? Is there any gold in this world? We try to take our proper stance among the myriad beings in the whole universe. And try to move toward the gold, destination. Is there any destination? Is there any hope and gold?

If you don’t understand, if you don’t see any gold or destination, you should open your heart and listen to the buddhas and ancestors who talk about hope and gold. And try to stand up – at the top of the IDS tower, from where you can see a panoramic picture of the whole universe. IDS tower is an example, okay? [You could say] the top of the Himalayan mountains. We have to reach the top of the IDS tower, which will naturally be able to see the whole picture of the universe.

I think [you should] read this Genjokoan with calm mind, [line by line], again and again. And then finally, you will come to this conclusion. And then when you come to this conclusion, in the Genjokoan, Dogen Zenji tries to tell us. Then finally, still you don’t understand this. But, you can see some dim image, with … pretty deep, profound aspiration, or hope. Dogen Zenji tries to tell us.

Even though we don’t understand, let’s try to reach that IDS tower. From where? You should take your proper stand, in order to see the whole panoramic picture of the universe.

This is our peace movement.

We ask people to light a candle every Sunday night. If you do this in your own narrow understanding, it is a really tiny activity. No one knows. But I think this is pretty good for us. Because there is a goal for human life, [some gold,] [toward] which you should go, instead of drifting in the ocean. You can sail across the ocean of human life.

Dogen Zenji says in Shobogenzo that life is like riding in a boat. But usually people are always just riding in the boat, because the big ship of the whole universe, where you ride, is going, carrying you. And then we don’t know in which [way] to go. So that’s why people say, “We don’t know what will happen in the future, so let’s leave the rest to fate.” This is exactly the way to be drifting in the ocean. It is not good. So Dogen Zenji says to please use a tiller, a pole, to row the boat. This is important for us.

I mention constantly, if you really practice spiritual life, you cannot carry the spiritual life in terms of your understanding. If you want to practice spiritual life for the long run, you should live in vow. Vow means you should live your life. In peace, in harmony, with deep, profound aspiration. Living in peace and harmony with all sentient beings.

Living in vow is not the big expectation, big things you can do. You cannot do big things. You cannot expect big things from your life. What you can do is just a little bit, just little, tiny things. When you get up in the morning, get up in the morning. Within the activity of getting up in the morning, there is a hallway to go through a door [into] the peaceful world. That’s why we have to take best care of the activity of getting up in the morning, doing zazen, having breakfast.

This is a tiny activity for us. Everyone does it in that way. It’s not unusual. It’s not outstanding human activity. It’s very usual. But these kind of small details in human life can be seen in your everyday life all the way, always.

So, where is [there a] door, going [to] the peaceful world? [The] door is your everyday life.

So all you can do is, I constantly say, vow is to just form habits of doing small details in your everyday life. But a habit is constantly made with your desires. A vow is a not a habit, with your desires. Living in vow is to do something, small things, carrying on forever, without any desires.

That is a way to live. That’s why Dogen Zenji says, “The way is that the buddha-dharma must be practiced just for the buddha-dharma.” This is called the Way, or Buddha Way. The Buddha Way or the Way is our gold. Where we should build up [human life], what is the destination, what is the gold. This is a way.

And also Dogen Zenji says that [the] Way is that buddha-dharma is practiced just for the buddha-dharma. That means when you do gassho, just do gassho for the gassho.

Where is the door to peace? Right under your feet. It’s not a big deal. It is a really small, tiny deal.

And also we have to carry this tiny deal forever, and under all circumstances, beyond the satisfaction of your desires. Constantly you have to carry it. For what? For living in peace and harmony with all sentient beings. This is a vow.

At that time, whatever happens, you never drift in the ocean of human life, you can sail across the ocean of human life.

This is the point Dogen Zenji mentions in the last sentence of the Genjokoan. I will read it again:

The wind of Buddhism makes manifest the great earth’s goldenness, and makes ripen the sweet milk of the long rivers.

The long rivers is human life, the long journey of human life. But this long journey is really sweet milk. You don’t understand this, because you see your life covered with suffering, pains, et cetera. But Dogen Zenji says, “Please accept or taste human life as sweet milk.” This is his very profound, deep aspiration for living in peace and harmony with all sentient beings.

So this last sentence is really [Dogen’s vow], but not only Dogen’s, this is buddhas’ and ancestors’ vow, to live.

This is not a teaching limited by schools and sects and denominations, any kind of religion. This is universal. If you belong to sects and denominations – so-called Buddhism and Christianity – always the world is seen in terms of a small understanding, narrow understanding. So-called Buddhism, or Christianity, or Zen schools, or Tibetan schools, Tantric, Vajrayana, et cetera.

But your body and mind biologically belongs to any denomination. That’s fine. Because you cannot escape from this situation. But even though you belong to any certain denomination or school, what you have to live in a [concrete] way, your life must be beyond [any] idea of denominations. You have to show yourself, you have to manifest your life, in the universal way. This is our responsibility for the future. Because any different schools, any different cultures, become close, very close. You cannot fight, you cannot argue with each other.

27:11 end of recording

This talk was transcribed by Kikan Michael Howard. Audio recordings of Katagiri Roshi are being used with permission of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.

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