Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, July 2006
Know that in this way there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses throughout the entire earth, and yet each grass and each form itself is the entire earth. The study of this is the beginning of practice.
When you are at this place, there is just one grass, there is just one form; there is understanding of form and no-understanding of form; there is understanding of grass and no-understanding of grass. Since there is nothing but just this moment, the time-being is all the time there is. Grass-being, form-being are both time.
Each moment is all being, is the entire world. Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment.
-- from “Uji - The Time Being,” by Dogen Zenji, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi
Uji, a collection of writings on time and existence by the Zen master Dogen, was the study text for my recent Buddhist retreat. Each day we would take it out and read a few passages aloud while on the cushion, and consider its meaning. Roshi and the senior students gave one talk each day that touched on Uji.
It’s a complicated document, and I can’t begin to really understand it, but Dogen essentially contends that objects and beings are time. I take that to mean the physical manifestations of time, both past and future. One teacher, for example, talked about her genetics as the product of ancestors going back thousands of years - all that time leading up to the present moment and her own existence. I watched a rabbit on the lawn, and thought the same thing: All those thousands of years of rabbits that came before it, trickling down to the present and this one rabbit.
I’m not sure that’s how Dogen meant it, but that’s how it makes the most sense to me. Anyway, I especially liked the passage above.