CAVEAT: it is not immediately obvious to most of us what this fascicle is about or “how to understand it”; do not, however, be discouraged. All will be revealed in our study and discussion together! (well, not “all” since that woujld encompass all future interpretations and applications!)
Dōgen: One Bright Pearl
Xuansha, Great Master Zongyi, of Mount Xuansha, Fu Region, China, of the Saha World, used to be called Shibei. His family name was Xie. When he was a householder, he loved fishing and boating on the Nantai River, doing as fishermen do.
At the beginning of the Xiantong Era (860-873) a golden-scaled fish came to him without his seeking it, and he suddenly had the urge to leave the dusty world. So he gave up his boat and went off into the mountains. He was thirty years old when he realized the precariousness of the floating world and the preciousness of the buddha way. Then he went to Mount Xuefeng and studied with Xuefeng, Great Master Zhenjiao, endeavoring in the way day and night.
One day, as he was leaving the mountain with his traveling bag to visit other monasteries to further his study, his toe hit a rock and began to bleed. In sharp pain he suddenly had a realization and said to himself, “If my body doesn’t exist, where does this pain come from?” So he went back to see Xuefeng.
Xuefeng said, “What’s happening, Ascetic Bei (Shibei)?”
Xuansha said, “No one can be fooled.”
Xuefeng loved his words and said, “Who doesn’t know these words, yet who else could say them?” Then he said, “Why doesn’t Ascetic Bei with the traveling bag go and study all over?”
Xuansha said, “Bodhidharma didn’t come to China. Huike didn’t go to India.”
Xuefeng praised him.
Although Xuansha was a fisherman who had never read sutras even in dreams, he focused on his intention to practice and was strongly determined. Xuefeng saw his practice excel in the community and regarded him as an outstanding student. The course cotton robe Xuansha had on all the time was worn out and tattered, so he put on a paper robe beneath it. He sometimes added dried mugwort grass to cover himself. He did not study with anyone other than Xuefeng. In this way, he acquired the capacity to inherit Xuefeng’s dharma.
Some years after attaining the way, Xuansha instructed his students, saying, “The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl.”
Once a monk asked him, “I heard that you said, ‘The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl.’ How should I understand this?”
Xuansha said, “The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. What do you do with your understanding?”
The next day Xuansha asked the monk, “The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. How do you understand this?”
The monk said, “The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. What do you do with your understanding?”
Xuansha said, “I see that you have worked out a way to get through the demon’s cave on the black mountain.”
Xuansha is the first one to say, The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. It means the entire world of the ten directions is neither vast nor minute, neither square nor round. It is not neutral, not active, and not obvious. Because it is beyond the coming or going of birth and death, it is the coming and going of birth and death. Thus, past days have already left here and the present moment starts from here. When we investigate the entire world of the ten directions, who can see it as bits and pieces, who can talk about it as something solid?
The entire world of the ten directionsmeans that you ceaselessly chase things and make them into the self, and you chase the self and make it into things. When emotions arise, wisdom is pushed aside. By seeing this as separation, teacher and student turn their heads and exchange their faces, unroll the great matter and harmonize their understanding. Because you chase the self and make it into things, the entire world of the ten directions is ceaseless. Because you take initiative, you do more than distantly see the essential matter.
One bright pearlis not merely the name [of an object] but an expression of understanding. Although there have been people who thought that it was only a name, one bright pearldirectly experiences ten thousand years. While the entire past has not yet departed, the entire present is just now arriving. Here is the now of the body, the now of the mind. This is the bright pearl; it is not limited to grass and trees here and there, or even to mountains and rivers in the universe.
How should I understand this?These words appear to be the monk’s expression of ignorance, but the great function emerges right here, actualizing the great principle [that enlightenment encompasses time and space]. Step forward and penetrate one foot of water, one foot of wave, ten feet of pearl, ten feet of illumination.
In expressing his understanding, Xuansha said, The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. What do you do with your understanding?These words are an expression that buddhas inherit from buddhas, ancestors inherit from ancestors, and Xuansha inherits from Xuansha. If you do not want to inherit this expression, there may be a way not to do so. But even if you totally avoid it for a while, this expression arises all-inclusively right now.
The next day Xuansha asked the monk, The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. How do you understand this?This is an expression that takes up yesterday’s statement and, adding another layer, blows it back today. His question today pushes down yesterday’s nodding laugh.
The monk said, The entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl. What do you do with your understanding? Speak! This is riding the robber’s horse to chase the robber [the self looking for the self]. An authentic buddha speaking to you walks in the midst of various beings. Now turn the light inward and illuminate yourself. How many ways do you understand this? You may say, “seven pieces of milk cake” or “five pieces of herb cake.” Yet, there is teaching and practice south of Xian and north of Tan [anywhere].
Xuansha said, I see that you have worked out a way to get through the demon’s cave on black mountain. Know that the sun face and moon face have not switched over since ancient times. The sun face emerges with the sun face, and the moon face emerges with the moon face. So, even in the sixth month [height of summer], do not say your nature is hot. The timeless thusness of this one bright pearl is boundless. It is just that the entire world of the ten directions is one bright pearl, not two or three. The entire body is illumination; the entire body is the entire mind. When the entire body is the entire body, there is no hindrance. It is gently curved and turns round and round.
With the power of the bright pearl manifesting in this way, Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya see form and hear sound; old buddhas and new buddhas reveal their bodies and expound dharma. At this very moment the bright pearl hangs in space or is sewn inside the robe; it is hidden under the gill [of a dragon] or in the hair. This is one bright pearl, the entire world of the ten directions. Although it is sewn inside the robe, do not try to hang it outside the robe. Although it is hidden under the gill or in the hair, do not try to take it out.
A man sewed a valuable pearl inside the clothes of a dear friend who was drunk [as told in the Lotus Sutra]. A dear friend always gives a valuable pearl. When a pearl is sewn inside one’s clothes, one is always drunk. This is one bright pearl, the entire world of the ten directions. All things, turning or not turning [seen when one is drunk or sober] are one bright pearl. Knowing the bright pearl is one bright pearl. This is how it is with one bright pearl.
This being so, although you may say, “I am not a bright pearl,” you should not doubt. Whether you doubt it or not, such doubt comes from a limited view. Limited views are merely limited.
How lovely is one bright pearl’s infinite colors and shades! Bits and pieces of its colors and shades express the entire world of the ten directions. No one can take it away, or throw a tile at it in the marketplace. Do not be concerned about falling or not falling into cause and effect in the six paths. Not ignoring cause and effect, from beginning to end, is the face of the bright earl, is the eye of the bright pearl.
To think or not to think one hundred times about what the bright pearl is or is not is like gathering and binding weeds [to trap yourself]. But when you clarify the body and mind as the bright pearl through the dharma words of Xuansha, you understand that mind is not the self.
Who is concerned whether or not appearing and disappearing are the bright pearl? Even if you are concerned, that does not mean you are not the bright pearl. It is not something outside of the bright pearl that causes practice and thought. Therefore, forward or back, your every step in the demon’s cave on the black mountain is one bright pearl.
Presented to the assembly of the Kannondori Koshi Horin Monastery, Uji County, Yamashiro Province, on the eighteenth day, the fourth month, the fourth year of the Katei Era .