‘In the entire universe, in the ten directions there is no dharma at all that has not yet been expounded by all Buddhas in the three times. Therefore all Buddha’s say, “In the same manner that all Buddhas in the three times expound the dharma, so now I also will expect the dharma without differentiations”. This great assembly present before me also is practicing the way in the manner of all Buddhas. Each movement, each stillness is not other than the dharma of all Buddhas, so do not act carelessly or casually, Although this is the case I have an expression that has not yet been expounded by any Buddha. Everyone, do you want to discern it?’
After a pause Dogen said, ‘ in the same manner that all Buddhas in the three times expound the dharma, so now I also will expound the dharma without differentiations.’
The passage that Dogen cites and then repeats is a direct quote from the Lotus Sutra.
To understand this dharma discourse it’s helpful that we understand the several uses of the word ‘dharma’. It originally meant teaching, as in the Buddha’s teaching. ‘Dharmas’ are all the individual things within experience: fences, walls, mountains, thoughts, dreams and so on. And because the Buddha’s teaching is about reality, a very creative combining took place of these two senses of the word, on the already fertile soil of chinese culture. It came to be thought that all beings (dharmas) proclaim the dharma. Or, more precisely that everything (all dharmas) is the dharma.
Thus, the movements of Dogen’s monks while they were listening to him, or their stillness were all expressions of the dharma.
Which leaves the question: in what sense was Dogen’s simple repetition of a phrase from the Lotus Sutra a new expression?
It was new because everything’s new.