3. Birth is No-Birth, Death is No-Death

In Shoji, Dogen says:

It is a mistake to understand that we move from birth to death. Birth is a position at one time and it has its own before and after. Therefore within Buddha-dharma it is said that birth is no-birth. Death is a position at one moment and it has its own before and after. Therefore, it is said that death is no-death’

(from Okumura, adapted)[1]

If enlightenment is a universal quality not a personal one, the question we have to answer is how the sediment of the Self darkens the world.

In this passage Dogen answers the questions. If we assume the continuity of the Self then we assume linear time. If we assume that, then time is a kind of steamroller, crushing and extinguishing what we call ‘the past’.

If, however, we see from the perspective of Indra’s Net, then every event maintains its dharma position as part of the infinite fabric of Being Time. Or, as Dogen says in Uji, we are standing at the top of the mountain at this moment and look out in every direction to endless mountains.

[1] Also from Okumura (on the Genjokoan):

“It is a mistake to think that life turns into death. Life is a position at one time with its own before and after. Consequently, in the buddha dharma, it is said that life is itself no-arising. Death is a position at one time with its own before and after. Consequently, it is said that death is itself no-perishing. In life there is nothing other than life. In death, there is nothing other than death. Therefore, when life comes, just live. And when death comes, just die. Neither avoid them nor desire them.”


2. The Practice of Falling Backwards

The Buddhist state is the feeling state: alive, momentary, soft, dynamic; prior to the interpretation which creates emotions and thoughts; prior to the stories constructed on top of these emotions and thoughts; prior to the creation of the self as the chief character of the stories.

This interpretative tendency is the origin of our delusion. And so, our practice is falling backwards into this simple feeling state, over and over. We do not need to wish our delusions into nothingness.

The ladder that takes us out of our feeling state can also lead us back in.


1. The Feeling-State is the Path

Master Dogen said:

The path of all Buddhas and ancestors arises before the first forms emerge.

So, the Buddhist state arises prior to the creation of the world. It is an active, dynamic state which is there before we create a world of light and dark, good and bad, me and you. It is a state prior to language and prior to concepts.

Much of our life is us putting layers onto our natural, momentary feeling state; layers of thought, layers of emotions. And these layers attempt to answer the question we always put to this feeling state: what is this and why now?

Because when we meditate, we try and put this tendency to one side. Meditation is an affirmation of the feeling state, and this simple feeling-state is the path.


About Kusen

We collect kusen from our teacher John Fraser. Kusen 口宣 means a teaching spoken from the mouth, some kusen are Koan commentary, or about Poetry or Sitting Instructions, the rest are numbered as general Kusen. This page is for all of these types of kusen. These are spoken towards the end of a zazen sitting. Several kusen have references and further information, as well as related videos, on the Latest page.