In the beginning the student is endlessly restless, and so the teacher and the training hold the student in a small container. Having that container, which is part of the tradition of formal practice, allows us to stop seeking external solutions and begin turning the light around upon our own mind. Here, we can at last begin to settle down and taste true ease. As students become more stable, which simply means better able to access their own capacity, that container becomes larger and the teacher can begin demanding that the students actually do what they’re capable of doing—to not seek truth in any pattern. Daido Roshi says, “Why must yin and yang be placed in an arrangement? If you do, you will never have today.” Let go of any fixed pattern.

For many years, I went to my teacher in dokusan, asking my questions and receiving his teachings and guidance. I remember once going to him with something that was deeply troubling me. I asked him about it and waited for his guidance. He just looked into my eyes for a long moment then rang the bell, ending the meeting. I left with what I’d entered with; at that moment I needed to be my own guide. In this the student discovers his or her own vast capacity.

So where is the love between the parent and the child—the love, that one true thing which has never been found? Caoshan says, “It cannot be split apart.” Everyone has it, but no one has ever seen it. This is not the love of Valentine’s Day. This is not something based on feelings and shared experiences. This is not a fabric that can disintegrate with use, or be forcefully split in two. It’s a love that we’re born as, not with. It doesn’t begin with birth and it doesn’t end with death. It certainly doesn’t appear with enlightenment, nor can delusion taint it. That’s why the teacher’s vow to the student doesn’t stop. The student can turn away from the teacher, burn his robe, or spit on the Buddha. But the teacher doesn’t turn away from the student. Having encountered Buddha, one sees that there is no turning away.

While this love that cannot be split apart is not a matter of emotion or feelings, there is no barrier to emotion and feelings. The love that I have for my teacher includes everything we did together for all those years of my training and all that we are still doing together since his passing. It is a love that is a result of these years of training, and it is something which I cannot touch or measure; that is not about him or me. This is a love that cannot be split apart. The teacher’s vow is to help the student discover that love within him or herself, and within every thing. This love is, When the wind blows, the grasses bend; when the rains come the river fills. Each thing moves in accord. Nothing is fixed, nothing is not present.

The only way somebody arrives at the real truth of this life is through true spiritual power. It is always here but we can’t look with our ordinary eyes, or listen with ordinary ears. Discover for yourself this vast, nameless love. When it fills your body and mind, it naturally illuminates in all directions. Thus Bodhidharma taught that to be liberated from the self is the greatest giving


True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koans is a complete, modern English translation of Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koan Shobogenzo. This collection, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori, is accompanied by John Daido Loori's commentary, capping verse, and footnotes. (Shambhala Publications, 2005.)

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