Never ending clarification

by Zen Master D. Genpo Merzel

It just gets clearer and clearer to me how much I, and we, are deluded by our enlightenment. We have a saying by Dogen Zenji: “We’re enlightened in our delusion. We’re deluded in our enlightenment. And then there’s delusion beyond delusion”. It’s all delusion, and enlightenment is just another delusion. There’s dualistic delusion, of self and others, and that’s where most of us are at. And then there’s the delusion of being enlightened. That’s the stink of Zen. Then we think we’re beyond both enlightenment and delusion. It’s all delusion, including whatever comes next; “deluded beyond delusion”.

So whether we say, like Dogen Zenji, that there are 4 stages of delusion, or 8 like Ummon, we’re never free of our it. The only thing we can do is be conscious and aware that it’s all delusion. If I call it enlightenment it’s all enlightenment, if I call it delusion it’s all delusion. It’s just words and concepts. It’s our life, and life is ongoing and never ending. It’s all eternal life, eternal transmigrating, eternal clarifying, eternal refinement, it never stops as long as we don’t come to a stop with it. And that’s the problem, we want to come to a stop and say “I’m there, I’ve arrived”.

In the Five Ranks of Tozan it’s always understood that the fifth rank is endless. I’ve always tried to explain them in the way that we keep going through them, in smaller to larger concentric circles. Everybody that’s of any age has gone through some sort of insight or peak experience, and some kind of fall or failure. We can all connect with these five ranks at some place. The big mistake is thinking that we are only at one or the other rank, and that’s why Dogen Zenji was against using the five ranks in the way that Master Tozan did. Tozan, the founder of the Soto school, may have used it more in a linear way. Dogen Zenji wrote about it extensively, for example in the Genjokoan, in different ways, one of which is what I just described.

What I want to be clear about is that we’re always in every rank. There’s never a position we’re not in. We may be more in one stage than another at any given time, but they’re all included, and all there.

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