Meeting Dogen

Monday, April 01, 2024 9:38 PM | Program Administrator (Administrator)

An article from the April 2024 Red Cedar Zen newsletter:

From Nomon Tim

Dear Sangha,

It's been so powerful for me lately to meet Dōgen with fresh eyes. He's our great founder and he deeply inspired Suzuki Roshi and also my teacher, Norman Fischer. It's not that I haven't studied Dōgen but there's always been some hesitation - a quality of holding him at arm's length. And with a bit of a "should" feeling. He can be so hard to understand and there are so many other interesting things to read!

Between Raizelah's wonderfully immersive exploration of how Dōgen speaks to us in Genjo Koan,  to a scholarly books I've been reading,* and lately taking a fresh look at Dōgen's guide to meditation called Fukanzazengi (also with some extra support from a scholarly book**) it feels more like he's right here with us, encouraging us to show up, to be full present, to "investigate deeply."

At Edie's memorial service yesterday I could really feel the immediacy and intimacy of Dōgen's way. Birth turns into death, death turns into birth, yes but also death is fully and completely death and birth is completely birth. The mystery of death, the incredible awesomeness of birth. Death is fully death, birth is fully birth. 

Early in the ceremony I made this statement:

Birth and death is the great matter, hard to understand, difficult to enact, impossible to avoid. From out of the empty sea of being-non being we emerge whole in this lifetime, for the journey onward.  Our goal and task is to understand this life and, understanding, to love, imitating the compassionate bodhisattva, saving all beings.  So we are born, so we die, so we help and are helped by others.

And right at the moment Edie's son's wife's grandson - a sweet little baby right in the front row called out cheerfully in that way only babies can. With Edie's ashes on the altar in front of me a baby in her family calls out. Birth and death. Right here. And they are always right here.

And then during the sharing part of the ceremony a sangha member reminded me of another member some years ago who was close to suicide. How Edie and I helped him. And that he's alive today and she's in touch with him. Birth and death all around us. Dōgen's teachings. Precious and deep.

And this week 18 of us are off to Dōgen's temple in Japan. In Eiheiji we'll get to visit with some of the monks and participate in a bit of their practice there and feel 780 years of continuous practice. Meeting Dōgen in another way.

Take care,

Nomon Tim

Books I mentioned above:

 * Steven Heine's Dōgen: Japan's Original Teacher

 ** Carl Bielefeldt, Dōgen's Manuals of Zen Meditation

You can enjoy Nomon's recent talks on Fukanzazengi, review Raizelah's class on Genjo Koan as well as find the link to our weekly Reading Dogen group on the Dogen Studies section of the Dharma Talks library.

Nomon Tim Burnett is Red Cedar Zen Community's Guiding Teacher

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