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Determined to Be a Buddha

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi
Koans of the Way of Reality
New Year's Morning Zazen

Featured in Mountain Record 29.2, Winter 2010

John Daido Loori Roshi (1931-2009) was the abbot of Zen Mountain
Monastery and founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Daido Roshi was a lineage holder in
both the Rinzai and Soto schools of Zen.


The Main Case

The great master Dogen in a New Year’s dharma hall discourse said, “The ancient Buddha Rujing, while residing at Tiantong, in a New Year’s dharma hall discourse said, ‘In the New Year’s morning zazen the myriad things are natural. Mind after mind is beyond dichotomies. Buddha after buddha manifests presently. The snow on the river is completely pure and white. The mind of the son of Sha is satisfied while on his fishing boat. Study this.’”

The teacher Dogen then said, “This morning I, Daibutsu, respectfully continue this poem.” After a pause Dogen said, “This great auspicious New Year’s morning, I enjoy zazen. In accord with this occasion, offering congratulations is natural. Mind after mind the spring faces laugh with delight. Buddha after buddha pulls the oxen around before our eyes, presenting an auspicious sign. Over a foot of snow covers the mountain. Fishing for a person, fishing for a self on the fishing boat.”

Commentary

If you wish to fathom the profound depths of the teachings of these two ancient buddhas, you must first understand the mind after mind that is beyond dichotomies and the buddha after buddha that leads the oxen and manifests in moment-to-moment non-stop flow. As for the mind of the son of Sha and fishing for a person, fishing for a self on a fishing boat, haven’t you heard the saying of master Xuansha:

Xuansha addressing the assembly said, “The old man Shakyamuni and I had the same encounter.” A monk came forward and asked, “I don’t understand. Who was it that you encountered and saw?” The master said, “We encountered and saw the third son of the Sha family on a fishing boat.”

Dogen, commenting on this koan, said, “You should enter this koan at the words ‘We encountered and saw the third son of the Sha family on a fishing boat.’ This was Xuansha’s intimate study of his own karmic self and conditioning together with the ever-present guidance of the Buddha.” It is from here that the spring faces laugh with delight and the New Year’s morning zazen is a great and auspicious sign.

Capping Verse

When the teacher sees the student,
the student sees the teacher.
Isn't this the teacher meeting himself?
Isn't this the student meeting herself?



Dogen gave this dharma hall discourse in the year 1246. At that time in Japan, the New Year was celebrated at the beginning of spring, usually in mid-February. In it, Dogen is quoting his teacher, Rujing, who said, “In the New Year’s morning zazen the myriad things are natural. Mind after mind is beyond dichotomies.” This is one of the key phrases of the discourse. The commentary says, “If you wish to fathom the profound depths of the teachings of these two ancient buddhas you must first understand the mind after mind that is beyond dichotomies.” A dichotomy entails separation, division, two different things that contradict one another. In other words, a duality. And in the midst of duality is the way most of us live our lives.