6. Flowers of Emptiness

In Kuge, Dogen comments on a passage from the Surangama Sutra, where the Buddha says:

It is like a person who has clouded eyes

Seeing flowers in space

If the sickness of clouded eyes is cured,

Flowers vanish in space

In the chapter Dogen sometimes renders “Flowers in space” as “Flowers of Emptiness” and comments:

“When we have seen flowers in space (then) we can also see flowers vanish in space.”

He takes a straightforward passage as delusion and turns it into a profound reflection on Emptiness.

It seems to me…

When we see the Flowers of Emptiness appear

Then we can see them disappear

When we see the Flowers of Emptiness disappear

Then we can see them appear.

‘Then’ is not one thing following another. ‘Then’ is this time. In this time we can see the Emptiness of all things; neither existent, nor non-existent. And this is instantaneous appearing/disappearing.

Disappearing/appearing is one expression of the full dynamic functioning of Emptiness.