Saturday, August 04, 2007

Jordan’s Question on Beginner’s Mind

Jordan’s Question:

What is the "beginner's mind"?
Where is there no "beginner's mind"? Where do we leave the "beginner's mind"?

My Answer:

Your asking me these questions, Jordan, is a very significant thing. In my answer, I will point you directly to the heart of the difference between the true teaching of Master Dogen and so-called Soto Zen.

Beginner’s mind in Japanese is SHO-SHIN. SHO means to begin. SHIN means heart or mind.

Beginner’s mind means the mind of a beginner, what a beginner has in his heart.

A common Japanese proverb, which every Japanese Shintoist and Confucianist knows, is SHOSHIN WASURERU BEKARAZU, “Don’t forget beginner’s mind.”

So if you study so-called Soto Zen, that is the secular teaching of the secular Japanese group called the Soto Sect, or if you follow some traditional Japanese way like swordsmanship or shakuhachi playing, it is very likely that the common concept of beginner’s mind will be emphasized to you.

But if you read Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo in detail, you will find that Master Dogen emphasizes another concept altogether and that is HOTSU-BODAI-SHIN. HOTSU means to establish or to awaken. BODAI means the supreme, integral enlightenment of Gautama Buddha, in short, enlightenment. SHIN means heart or mind.

HOTSU-BODAI-SHIN means to have it in your heart to save all living beings because of the supreme, integral enlightenment that Gautama Buddha realized.

I noticed that what you wrote on your blog was a kind of negation of enlightenment. Master Dogen called this view DANKEN-GEDO, as I explained in a previous post. This kind of negation is very common in American Zen today. And at the root of the problem it may be that Japanese so-called Zen masters who profess to follow the teaching of Master Dogen, in fact are just stuck through their whole lives in their traditional Japanese secular ways. This is what Master Dogen described as HOTONDO SHUSHIN NO KATSURO O KIKETSU SU, “almost totally lacking the vigorous road of getting the body out.”

The teaching of Master Dogen has got nothing to do with any kind of Japanese -ism -- not Shintoism, nor Confucianism, nor Japanese corporate realism, nor even Zen Buddhism.

In order truly to follow Master Dogen’s teaching, Jordan, is necessary for you and me, as individuals, if we really have it in our heart to save all living beings, to strive to spring this body free from all old patterns of thought and action.

Even if great and famous Japanese Zen masters can’t do it, you and I have to believe that we can do it.

Mon Dieu! Ay Caramba! Gazooks! What a challenge! But what an adventure!

And one thing we have got that they haven’t had, is the possibility of understanding at least a little of the teaching of FM Alexander. I recommend you to check out his writings, in his own words. Read his books. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth, and see what you make of it.


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