Within and Beyond Opposites

This first verse from the *Shushogi just keeps coming into my mind this evening. Here it is:

Introduction (The Reason for Training).
The most important question for all Buddhists is how to understand birth and death completely for then, should you be able to find the Buddha within birth and death, they both vanish. All you have to do is realise that birth and death, as such, should not be avoided and they will cease to exist for then, if you can understand that birth and death are Nirvana itself, there is not only no necessity to avoid them but also nothing to search for that is called Nirvana. The understanding of the above breaks the chains that bind one to birth and death therefore this problem, which is the greatest in all Buddhism, must be completely understood.

….how to understand birth and death completely, you could say understand life and death. This is a huge question isn’t it.

It is common to fear death. We are alive on this planet and there is a lot of livin’ to do and even though future life is unknown at least one knows eventually one will know! When the light goes out on life we are in the dark! And we don’t ever know when that will be. But this is no way to live is it. That’s locked into time going from the white light of youth, through the misty middle days to the advancing dusk. Then night.

How about actively choosing life as a way to go? To be fully present, not swinging between half-asleep or over-awake to the detriment? Perhaps this is the how to of the understanding of life (birth) and death Zen Master Dogen is urging us to get to grips with. Simply put, to simply live within and beyond the opposites, all opposites.

*The Shushogi is a compilation of Great Master Dogen’s ideas, put together by the Soto Zen school in Japan early in the last century. It was created as an introduction to Dogen and as a means of communicating ideas fundamental to Soto Zen practice. The whole of the Shushogi can be found on the Order’s website.

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3 thoughts on “Within and Beyond Opposites”

  1. If I could explain it for myself, I am sure I would not have understood it well.
    Still I want to take a risk and say something about it.
    The ‘how’ might also refer to “ánd” i.e. birth ánd death are not separate in this way.
    From the perception of time great master Dogen states that birth and death are positions in time. So beyond time, one can say these positions ‘are not’. When birth and death are not separate, they are ‘complete’ so to speak and that can take one beyond understanding.
    Example: every in-breath ís birth, every out-breath ís death, breathing ís birth ánd death. There is nothing ‘you’ can do about is, the breathing is complete and allowed just to be.
    Just breathe, “just live”(quoted from rev master Jiyu Kennett).
    It is not easy in my experience, because it ís so easy.

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