Right Before One’s Eyes

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That which is manifesting
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right before one’s eyes (genjo)
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is the absolute reality. (koan)

Genjo Koan is the first chapter of Great Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Scholars regard the Genjo Koan as foundational to Dogen’s religious understanding, with the rest of the Shobogenzo being a development of the teaching embedded in Genjo Koan.

Here are the opening four lines of Genjo Koan. But first a reminder from me.
Read.
Be still.
Be very still.
And watch your mind as you read.
And then let it go!
I’ll say no more.

When all things are just what they are [apart from discrimination], illusion and enlightenment exist, religious practice exists, birth exists, death exists, Buddhas exist, and ordinary beings exist. When the myriad things are without self, there is no delusion, no enlightenment, no Buddhas, no ordinary beings, no birth, no extinction. Since the Buddha Way from the beginning transcends fullness and deficiency, there is birth and extinction, delusion and enlightenment, beings and Buddhas. However, though this is the way it is, it is only this: flowers scatter in our longings, and weeds spring up in our loathing.

Francis H. Cook, Sounds of Valley Steams

I am no Dogen scholar. A book fell into my hands this morning and opened at Genjo Koan. I read it, I read it again. And then came back to it again this evening. All I can say is, This is profound. And simple.

Better get to bed now. Please don’t lose sleep over this!

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9 thoughts on “Right Before One’s Eyes”

  1. GENJO-KOAN.
    THE PROBLEM OF EVERYDAY LIFE.
    Delusion, enlightenment, training, life, death, Buddhas and all living things are in existence when there is Buddhism; none of the above exist when all is within the Truth; since the Way of the Buddha transcends unity and duality, all of the above exist; whilst we adore flowers they wither; weeds grow strong whilst we long for their destruction.

  2. I woke up this morning in time to hear a bird, locally called a “flute of the woods”, begin the morning chorus of birdsong. Caws from crows, coos from doves, a screech here and there from a jay followed. Perfect genjo koan moments!

    Another favorite notion of Dogen, for me, is ippo gujin – the full exertion of a single thing contains the whole of the Universe. Dogen’s words are truly mystical and truly literal.

    It’s a marvel that the words of a 13th Century Japanese monk can express the freshness of this very moment that I write these words and the freshness of this very moment that you read them; a heartfelt handshake across any imagined distance, this.

    In gassho, Jim

  3. I was just wondering what to have a read of and you’ve reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed and got from that before, so off I go to grab it

    -/\-

  4. ippo gujin – amazing how a single word can embrace such a profound meaning – and teaching. Thanks Jim
    Heartfelt handshake from me…

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