A Genjo Koan Translation

A variation from the classic Abe/Waddell translation that is now being used in Jikoji's chant book.

GENJO KOAN   Eihei Dogen Zenji

      When all dharmas are the Buddhadharma, there is illusion and enlightenment, there is practice, there is birth and death, there are ordinary beings and there are buddhas.  When these myriad dharmas are without self, it is said:  no illusion, no enlightenment, no generation, no extinction, no ordinary being, no buddha.  Because the Buddha way is essentially unconstrained by any duality, such as completeness or loss, so it can be available as both illusion and enlightenment, as both generation and extinction, and as both ordinary being and buddha.  Even with our  recognition of this, still we begrudge the fading of a flower, and are dismayed by the flourishing of weeds. 

     To practice and attempt to confirm existence by conveying a self to it is illusion.  For existence itself to come forward as practice and confirm you, is enlightenment.  Those who thoroughly awaken delusion are buddhas.  Those who are deluded with ideas of awakening are ordinary beings.  Also, there are some enlightened even beyond enlightenment, and some deluded even in the midst of delusion.  A buddha may not necessarily notice that they are buddha, yet an actualized buddha continues to actualize as buddha.

     There is just the seeing of forms and hearing of sounds with body and mind as one,  and making them intimate, intimately their own, fully knowing them.  But this knowing is not like a reflection in a mirror, or like the moon on the water.  With noticing one side, the other side is darkness.  To learn the Buddha way is to learn the self.  To learn the self is to forget the self.  To forget the self is to be confirmed by all existence.  To be confirmed by all existence is to effect the dropping off of body-mind identity, and the dispersion of identities beyond it as well.  No trace of enlightenment remains.  This traceless, graspless enlightenment endless then expresses itself.  Yet at the very moment one would seek this dharma, it escapes the seeking.  The dharma already has been correctly transmitted.  It is the immediate recognition of one’s original face.  

     It is like this: If someone were out in a boat and turned to see the shore, they might assume that the shoreline was moving.  But if they examined the situation, examined their boat, they would see it is the boat itself that moves.  It is same when we attempt to confirm existence with mistaken views, such as attributing permanence to body and mind.   If we simply return to ourselves, and make daily activity intimate, intimately its own, then the reason why within all the myriad dharmas there is no self, will be clear to us.

     Once firewood has turned to ash, it will not turn back again to firewood.  Yet do not presume that firewood is before and ash is after.  The dharma-stage of firewood fully possesses a before and after, and is fully free of before and after.  Ashes at the dharma-stage of ashes likewise embody a before and after.  

     Just as firewood does not return, so beings do not return to their lives after death.  The teaching does not say life becomes death, but rather that life is without origin.  The teaching does not say that death becomes life, but rather that death is non-extinction.  Death is its own time and life is its own time.  as are the winter and the spring.  We do not suppose that the winter itself becomes the spring, or say that spring itself is now summer.

     Enlightenment is received like the moon reflected on the water.  The moon does not get wet.  The water is not broken.  For all the immensity of the moon’s height it rests upon a small patch of water.   The moon and the sky in their entirety settle on a single dewdrop in the grass, on a mere drop of water.  Enlightenment presents no harm to a person, just as the moon would not harm the water, and the person does not obstruct enlightenment, any more than a dewdrop would obstruct the moon or sky.  In the depths of that dewdrop resides the full measure of the moon’s greatness.  Examine with this the duration of light, the water’s greatness or smallness, the aspect of the moon, and the vastness of the sky. 

     When truth has not yet filled body and mind, we may feel complete.  But when the dharma has thoroughly fill body and mind, we know something is missing.  Again, it is as if we were out in a boat past the view of mountains.  Then the expanse of the ocean might appear round.  But it is neither round or square.  Inexpressible virtues still remain as “ocean.”  It could even be considered as a palace or a necklace of jewels, but for the moment the eye sees only a circle.  Every phenomena in our experience is like this. 

     Aspects of this dusty life as well as a pure life are perceived only to the extent that practice and the eye of insight will penetrate.  In our study of things, as well as being round or square, an ocean may manifest in infinite variety.  Worlds are in all directions, and are here with us, and even in one drop of water. 

     When a fish swims in water, in the swimming there is no end to water.  When a bird flies in the sky, in the flying there is no end to sky.  This is because from the beginning they are in accord with the water or the sky.  With extensive activity there comes extensive use, and with a modest activity, less use.  Yet essentially and everywhere, the full use is made of all that is functioning, and all that is functioning  turns and moves freely.   Leaving the water or leaving the sky would immediately be the leaving of life, for with the fish, water is life, and for a bird sky is life.  Also for the sky, the bird is life.   For the water, the fish is life.  Life is bird and sky.  Life is fish and water.  It is the same with practice, with realization and with everything in life’s duration.  

     Like the bird and fish, we must first manifest in our element before extending further, or we will not find our way or place.  There is simply the arrival at this place, and with that, everyday activity is manifested as absolute reality.  The way is everyday activity actualizing everything.  

     The way, this place, is not large or small, not self, not other, not from before, not newly emerging.  It is just this.  The Buddha way is with the engagement of one dharma there is the completion of one dharma, and within one activity is the fulfillment of one activity.  

     So here is the place.  It is here that the way opens.  With no distinct boundaries to realization, simultaneously knowing and not knowing come forward, and simultaneously we practice with Buddha as Buddha.  Realization is not an  acquisition, not grasped as knowledge, although it is here before us, it is not held or even necessarily manifest.

     Once the teacher Bao-chi was fanning himself and a monk came and asked:  “The nature of the wind is to abide and to pervade everywhere, so why then, teacher, do you fan yourself?”  Bao-chi said  “You do know that the wind abides, but you do not yet understand ‘pervading everywhere.’”   “What is the meaning?” the monk asked.  Bao-chi simply continued to fan himself.  The monk then bowed in understanding.  

Actualization of the Buddhadharma, the vital transmission of the way, is like this.  Not to see the function of the wind within the function of the fan is to see neither wind or fan.  The nature of this dharma wind is to abide, and to pervade everywhere.

     So from this vast and golden earth, and from the familiar home of the Buddhadharma, the wind, this way, is offered to us like a sweet, ripened, nourishing drink, and is extending outward, like a long, flowing river.