Shinji Shobogenzo Book 1, Case 100.

Koan Commentaries

One day a monk asked Master Unmon: What is the Ascending Dharma Body?

The Master said: To explain Ascending to you would not be difficult, but what do you think of meaning of Dharma Body is?

The monk said: Please, Master, find the meaning yourself.

The Master said: Setting aside the meaning for a while, what do you think the Dharma Body means?

The monk said: It means that everything is just as it is.

The Master said: That answer is simply what you learned on the long floor of the Zazen Hall. I ask you, does the Dharma Body eat meals?

The monk could not reply.

Commentary by Nishijima

The Dharma Body, or Universal Body (Hosshin) refers to one of three bodies of a buddha. It describes the body when it is one with the Universe in the present moment. The Master wanted the monk to express his understanding of Dharma Body, and after some prodding the monk replied that it meant everything being just as it is here and now.

The Master felt that the monk was expressing something of the state that he had learned through his long hours in the Zazen Hall, but it was still an intellectual answer. He wanted to see if the monk could apply what he knew in a more concrete way. So he asked if the Dharma Body ate meals.

The Dharma Body is a body of a real person who practices a Buddhist life. So, of course, it must consume meals everyday. The monk was unable to say anything because his understanding was still a little too abstract.

Commentary by John Fraser

The Dharmakaya is one of the three bodies of the Buddha. It is identified with all of existence, and so we can say that the whole world is the body of the Buddha.

It is a way of using language which is unfamiliar to us. Something similar happens in the Lotus Sutra, and in the Heart Sutra. The Numinous is asserted and proclaimed. Language and Reality give birth to each other.

We are used to language being superimposed on reality, giving birth only to itself. But if we can see how it might be different, we can see our own problem, which is the start of a solution.