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.

16 thoughts on “On Turning 75”

  1. Happy Birthday Roshi!
    Enjoy the relaxation.
    Enjoy your life.
    Thank you for your Teachings.
    love, Shigetsu

  2. Such eloquent words from both roshi and Charlotte. We have yet to meet in person but you have given us so much in this life that we will never be able to entirely thank you for what you have done and continue to do even if it resembles “nothing” it will never be the case.

    As I sit non-zen each morning, having never known traditional zen. I taste the nothingness you express in your words and a smile comes to my face when I think that this will stay with me from 41 to 75 and on into the timeless now. My smile widens when I think that you will always be sitting with me as well.

  3. As I read this irregular, regular conversation. The time keeps ticking for all, impermanence drives us down a winding road. I too see my failures as my biggest teacher.
    In gratitude for Big Mind and your years of service. Thank you both for sharing.

  4. Happy Birthday G!

    I remember very vividly sitting in my home in Buffalo, watching the video of the Big Mind practice, and feeling empowered to be what I had only had hopeful glimpses of. Then to work with you on Maui, in times of joy, and crisis, while you maintained your vessel, your clarity, so that I could reflect with you as a mirror, saved my heart, my mind, and all of my awareness. Your services have sown, and grown a great deal of appreciation , and gratitude into my world. I feel that I have a harvest that continuously overflows. Thank you so much for sharing.
    With great tenderness

  5. For he’s a jolly good fellow,
    For he’s a jolly good fellow,
    For he’s a jolly good fellow,
    Which nob’dy can deny.
    For he’s a jolly good fellow,
    and so say all of us.

  6. My facilitator is active and alive with great joy this memorial day… Happy Birthday; anything you need you know what to do. I accept the silence between breaths as a refuge from the temporary sufferings of this world; and to our veterans who gave us this freedom thank you. I feel that Big Mind has huge unborn potential; I hope what I say makes some sense. I’ve never been more excited; I feel active and awake and most importantly I feel alive.

  7. Happy birthday, Genpo. Thinking of you. Thankyou for sharing. I’m not far behind you either. Have a great celebration for your birthday of ordinary life. I must be very enlightened because Clay and I are thrilled to be ordinary with lots of love. We think of you fondly.
    Nancy LoDolce

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