A reading from Shobogenzo Zuimonki

On Wednesday our meditation group studied a short text from Dogen’s collection of talks to his monks and lay trainees, Shobogenzo Zuimonki.

“In a dharma talk, Dogen said,

Even if you are speaking rationally 1 and another person says something unreasonable, it is wrong to defeat him by arguing logically. On the other hand, it is not good to give up hastily saying that you are wrong, even though you think that your opinion is reasonable.

Neither defeats him, nor withdraw saying you are wrong. It is best to just leave the matter alone and stop arguing. If you act as if you have not heard and forget about the matter, he will forget too and will not get angry. This is a very important thing to bear in mind.

The original Japanese is dori, which means, (1) principle, truth, (2) reason, argument”

We had a good discussion about what this meant to us and how we interpreted it in our daily lives.

It is one of the most radical aspects of our Zen Buddhist practice, and one of the most difficult.
Radical and difficult because it is totally in opposition to the way my experience and conditioning has been formed.
The society forms us to always argue the point, always put up a good debate, always assert myself.
Build up the Self with Views and Opinions, stories and history.


Flooding in the north east and farmer’s role

The rain is easing off somewhat now but there continue to be some problems due to saturated ground, water remaining in large pools and localised flooding.
I have seen in the last few days  that there are roads in our town breaking up and disintegrating because the ground they are laid on is saturated and unstable. Long term lack of good maintenance has meant there are blockages in road drains (gullies) which mean rainwater forms deep pools on the roads. Water is gradually flooding off the Town Moor onto the roads and as the road drains are blocked in places, it is pooling. This can lead to accidents caused by vehicles aquaplaning and poor visibility.

I have read in the Evening Chronicle about what farmers could do to help. “Claire Bainbridge, senior rural surveyor at land and estate agents George F White’s base in Alnwick in Northumberland, said: “If farmers and estate owners knew that they could add real monetary value to their land by introducing flood management measures, it may well serve as an incentive to improve flood defences within the UK.

“North East farmers have the potential to offer a modern day arc that will protect people, properties and livestock from oncoming floods for many years to come. But they can only do this if Government commits the right level of funding and support in all areas, both urban and rural.

“A strategy as basic as planting more trees in upland areas can act as a buffer, slowing the downward flow of water which could have a significant impact on the likelihood of flooding occurring further downstream.

“Some floods can be caused by the saturation of upland soil. Rather than acting as a sponge, the wet soil accelerates the flow of water down to the towns and villages. By planting bog mosses in those upland areas, the ground may become more absorbent, reducing and slowing the volume of water that could potentially reach homes.”

It also looks like Skinnerburn Road near Forth Banks, Newcastle Quayside, is closed due to the wall about to collapse.
The pigeons who live in the lofts could be made homeless live in
Skinnerburn Pigeon Lofts  with their human companions

To give you an idea of some of the quantities of water we have been seeing coming off the Town Moor and other areas of higher ground, which flow down these small Burns and want to get into the Tyne, here is a video of the Ouseburn, a small watercourse flowing down by Jesmond and into the area known as Ouseburn and then into the Tyne.

I am reminded that Dogen had much to say about water.
Here his Mountains and Rivers Sutra is translated by Arnold Kotler and Kazuaki Tanahashi…

“All beings do not see mountains and waters in the same way. (16) Some beings see water as a jeweled ornament, but they do not regard jeweled ornaments as water. What in the human realm corresponds to their water? We only see their jeweled ornaments as water. Some beings see water as wondrous blossoms, but they do not use blossoms as water. Hungry ghosts see water as raging fire or pus and blood. Dragons see water as a palace or a pavilion. Some beings see water as the seven treasures or a wish-granting jewel. Some beings see water as a forest or a wall. Some see it as the Dharma nature of pure liberation, the true human body, or as the form of body and essence of mind. Human beings see water as water. Water is seen as dead or alive depending on causes and conditions. Thus the views of all beings are not the same. You should question this matter now. Are there many ways to see one thing, or is it a mistake to see many forms as one thing? You should pursue this beyond the limit of pursuit.”
At the hour of the Rat, eighteenth day, tenth month, first year of Ninji {1240}, this was taught to the assembly at Kannondori Kosho Horin Monastery.

Woodland near Torver Jetty

Woodland in May has a special light to it.
The moss and ferns add to the quality of the light.

These woodland scenes are from the path near Torver Jetty last month.

Dogen’s book “Shobogenzo” can be downloaded as a free pdf from the net. Then it can easily be searched for any word or phrase you want.

Here is another quote:
“When the breezes of spring rise up, the withered trees sound forth the Dragon’s song: when the leaves of autumn wither, the chill woods scatter their flowers abroad. The jewel-like stepping-stones make patterns in the moss: the faces of people take on the hue of haze and mist. Distracting sounds have become hushed: conditions are just what they are. ”


From reading “Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen”, I liked this passage about meditation. Bear in mind that “objects” are thoughts, or what comes up in meditation or life.
“Long ago monk asked an old master, “When hundreds, thousands, or myriads of objects come all at once, what should be done?”
The master replied, Don’t try to control them.”
What he means is that in whatever way objects come, do not try to change them. Whatever comes is the buddha-dharma, not objects at all…. Even if you try to control what comes, it cannot be controlled.”

Spring again

I liked how the green on the hedge is glowing with luminous light of Spring.

A poem from Dogen, about the moon

“Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma
see no Dharma in everyday actions.
They have not yet discovered that
there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.”
Check out View on Buddhism for more poems like this. I got into Dogen’s teachings due to his showing us that enlightenment is in the everyday mundane world.