One of the key passages in the text Genjo Koan written by Dogen Zenji reads in translation as follows:

To comprehend what we call the Buddha Tao means to comprehend the self.
To comprehend the self is to forget the self.
Forgetting self is confirmed by the myriad Dharmas.
This being confirmed by myriad Dharmas causes body-and-mind – and even the body-and-mind of others – to fall away.
This coming to a stop is the enlightenment-trace, the evidence of enlightenment.
This ‘stopping’, the trace of enlightenment, is what causes one to be going forth for ever and ever.

I have dealt with this passage in my book The Dark Side of the Mirror. However, here I would like to make some extra observations regarding this passage.

To comprehend the self is to forget the self. So, let us say: to forget the self – what is it? To forget the self is to have some measure of objectivity. When one can regard oneself with objectivity, then one genuinely comprehends the self, but one does so in a way that is not invested, that is not selfish. The self becomes a phenomenon like any other phenomenon; and this clarity itself constitutes an enlightenment. It makes not only oneself but all phenomena accessible. Indeed, one sees that what one is inclined to call “self”, is just a congeries of phenomena that meet at this particular point. One is made, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, of non-self-elements. Many things conspire to make us the way that we are.

But, generally speaking, we see all the things in this world as if through a distorting lens; and that lens is the self. In other words: we lose objectivity. But when objectivity is restored, when we can have what we might call a special kind of objectivity, namely an objectivity towards subjective matters, then we see ourselves simply as part of all the vast number of phenomena that conspire together to be this world. Then one is a phenomenon amongst other phenomena. One does not have a bias. This is the state of enlightenment surely. The state in which one sees the real situation just as it is, without judgement, without condemnation, simply understanding the nature of things, the process that is going on. This surely is how the Tathāgata views the world. The Tathāgata, the very word means “one who comes from Tathā”, from thusness, from things just as they are. So, the Tathāgata, basing himself in things just as they are, is able to love all being with the same compassion, the same acceptance, the same radiance, no matter how they may be judged by somebody like oneself who is habitually invested in self-preservation, self-justification and so on.

So, to comprehend the self by forgetting the self makes all the Dharmas come forth and confirm themselves and in this state one knows true freedom.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much


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