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Taitaiko Go Gajariho – “Pure Standards for the Zen Community”

Taitaiko Go Gajariho – “Pure Standards for the Zen Community”

Taitaiko Go Gajariho – “Pure Standards for the Zen Communnity”

Byu Sebastian Mokusen Volz

Master Dogen, in an early period in Kyoto developed the essential teachings on the path and essence of Zen, emphasizing the effectiveness of Zazen in the Shobogenzo.

After this period of 16 years, he founded Eihei-ji and developed the teachings for a continuous practice appropriate for monastic life. This practice has its source in Zazen and is organized around the platform where the monks do Zazen.

During the Ango that I experienced last year, this monastic life seemed to me to be organized so that surrender to the path is complete. Since the cycle of the days is pre-established, adapted to the nature and the balance of the human being, there is no more choice to make and the mind relaxes. Life flows smoothly and the mind that does not seek gain, Mushotoku, is realised.

The fourth part of Eihei-ji’s rules concerns correct behavior when meeting experienced teachers. This experience is measured in number of Angos. Five confer the position of Atari-teacher, ten that of Osho-priest.

The sixty-two rules that are set out in the chapters are designed to establish a state of respect between the teacher and the monk, so that the learning is done verbally and non-verbally.

To reveal the meaning of this respect, here is a little story :

“An impetuous and proud Samurai entered the temple of an old monk one day. Without warning, he burst into the room where the monk was going about his business. And then he imperatively asked:

“Reveal to me the secret of paradise and hell ! ”

The old monk smiled and said to him :

“A man as stupid as you is not able to understand.”

The Samurai, outraged and dominated by anger, drew his sword and threw himself at his interlocutor. Just as the sword rose in the air to strike, the monk uttered in a powerful voice.

“This is hell “.

Impressed and stunned, the Samurai stopped immediately. Realizing the meaning of the words he had just heard, he prostrated himself. At this precise moment, the Master made this revelation to him,

“Here is paradise”.

The sixty-two rules can be summed up by the mind of this prostration in the face of revealed truth. This truth is expressed through the body of this Taitaiko who lived five or ten Angos, through his gestures, his aura and his words.

The abbot of the temple where I spent three months, spent his life practicing Angos. His eyes are brilliant, his voice very gentle, his gestures particularly fine. He always evolves silently and discreetly. He sees everyone’s mistakes. He says nothing and let the monks take responsibility, unless the mistake is repeated. A natural respect for him is established.

The rules of the temple are also established in order to dignify him : his entrance to the refectory and to Chosan, the formal tea of the morning, is made to the sound of the drum. Finally the monks only see him on the occasions that are relevant to practice such as zazen, Oryokis and Samu. He sometimes calls a monk to Tokusan for an interview. He meets Shusso and Tenzo daily and is assisted by a monk or a nun. While he seems unattainable and elevated by the rules of the temple, he shows profound simplicity and kindness when the opportunity arises to interact with him.

For us who have been educated in an egalitarian society the sixty-two rules are difficult to understand and accept. They are aimed at simple behaviors such as : « Do not look at a Taiko when leaning on something with your legs crossed » « Do not look at a Taiko with dangling arms ». As well as obviously misplaced attitudes : « Do not spit in front of a Taiko »

Beyond inappropriate behavior and words, it is essentially about creating a student-teacher relationship. «Always demonstrate a humble spirit» or « If there is a discussion, remain humble and do not try to gain a higher position”.

And it is also important to take care of the teacher : « Always observe the expression of Taiko and do not cause him disappointment or inconvenience ». Then « If a difficult task is to be done where a Taiko is, do it yourself » « If there is something nice to be done, suggest that he does it ».

Although these rules were primarily aimed at young monks, they truly create a harmonious atmosphere in the sangha and they invite Taikos to take great care of the members of the community.

Tenboring #07 – Octobre 201912As for me, when I am in the presence of my Master Mokuho, I have always felt a spontaneous respect for him and often thought that I should find the time to make Sanpai in his direction. But not knowing the rules of Master Dogen, I have often been clumsy.

The teaching of Buddhas reveals that there is no border between others and ourselves. The others are also inside us and when we raise them up, we rise with them. This unity between us and others on the one hand, and between us and our mind-body on the other hand, is called Jijuyu Zanmai by Master Dogen. Jijuyu Zanmai is a samadhi of joy from the fulfillment of oneself. This accomplishment is realized in Zazen when we become intimate with ourselves. It is also realized in the temple when we become intimate with the rules.

How to become intimate with the rules? They may not please us and may even shock us sometimes. During the Ango where we are observing the rules at every single moment, the ego reacts and tries to escape. Three indications can overcome this reaction : The first step is to have confidence that these rules are designed to free us and lead us to enlightenment.

The second step is to integrate them in harmony with those who realized them. Master Dogen calls them the « pure assembly ».

Finally, it is important to realize that these rules are like those of a game. These are codes that allow us to interact with others and with objects. As the game progresses, it becomes unconscious and it purifies our gestures, our words and our thoughts. In a game, everyone integrates rules in their own way. Thus, even if the rules are unique, they manifest themselves in very different ways through each one of us : the ego and the rules harmonize with each other, as in a dance where everyone takes his turn. Dance with the rules!

In conclusion, even if Master Dogen establishes forms for teaching to be transmitted, do not for a moment forget the profound equality of all members of the Sangha when he writes: «The brothers and sisters of the family of the Buddha should be closer to each other than to their own self. « Or explaining that “you should know that temporarily we are hosts and guests, but through our whole lives we will be nothing but Buddhas and Ancestors ». •