So what did Linji do when Huangbo rejected him? He again hacked the ground three times with his mattock and then let out a long exhalation. What was his point? His response was immediate. It was confident. But what was he saying? Was the long exhalation an expression of exasperation? Or was he trying to make a point? His striking the ground three times with a mattock was rejected—why did he do it again? And more importantly, Huangbo then seemingly approved him.

The commentary continues: “The great Master Dogen said, ‘Create a monk’s hall and a buddha hall within a single particle of dust.’” I say, create a monk’s hall and a buddha hall by planting a tree. What is a buddha hall and monk’s hall—or a zendo—and how do they come into being? How did this Order, this Monastery, this moment, happen? In other words, what is this thing we call the world and how does it come into being?

 

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Dogen says, “It is in this way that the human body is created, and such creation comes from the human body.” What is it that each of us is creating? Wisdom? Compassion? Tolerance? Equanimity? Understanding? If so, then you yourselves are created by wisdom, compassion, tolerance, and equanimity. If you create anger, pain, suspicion, and distrust, then you are created by anger, pain, suspicion and distrust. What you do and what happens to you are the same thing. This is what we call karma, the result of our actions through body, mouth and thought. That’s how we create karma. That’s how karma creates us. That’s why, when we chant the Gatha of Atonement, we say, “All evil karma ever committed by me since of old, on account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance”—which is what evil karma is about—“born of my body, mouth and thought, now I atone for it all.” Karma indeed creates body, mouth and thought. It is what we become. Regardless of what else we may think is going on for us, and regardless of how hidden that karma is—we are the very manifestation of those very actions in the world.

“Create a monk’s hall and a buddha hall within a single particle of dust, and create the entire world in the monk’s hall and the buddha hall. It is in this way that the human body is created. And such creation comes from the human body.” Master Dogen is expressing the unity between the dust and the universe, the unity of the sacred and the mundane, of sentient and insentient, of past, present and future—in other words, of all things. And it is this very unification that makes the dharma wheel turn in both directions. “Create a monk’s hall and a buddha hall within a single particle of dust”—or plant a tree—“and create the entire world in a monk’s hall and a buddha hall.” The totality of the universe is right there. “It is in this way that the human body is created”—when you create a monk’s hall and a buddha hall, you’re creating your self—“and such creation comes from the human body.” It is the human body that’s created the buddha hall and the dharma hall, and viceversa.