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.

4 thoughts on “Blog”

  1. The real koans present themselves in very real ways and the truth of the non-rational approach makes them seem absurd to start the practice in the first place. A waste of time until you are ready to test your nondual Western mind and find out that Siddhartha is also Steppenwolf.

  2. Projection. The question seems to be not whether I am projecting, but what I am projecting. If I can accept it is all projection, I have to soften my judgments of my teacher, and myself. Thank you for this, Roshi.

  3. The shoe fits, as you know! As for me the expectations, the ‘glamour’ of my own inflation and others projections, ‘not good enough’ and ‘better than…’ the comparing, it’s a full life’s work.

  4. Thank you Roshi for your comment on this topic.
    Drilling down a bit more, I would say, there is nothing wrong with seeing the weak points and appreciating the good qualities of a teacher. I believe the point is to have a clear view and work all one’s life with this clarity.
    Trying to copy our teacher blindly brings problems, as problematic as trying to live up to our projections and the unrealistic expectations we impose on our teacher. Through these 37 years I saw many moments you were involved in I considered to be mistakes, but that never broke my trust in you in a deeper sense, and with time many appeared as my mistakes much more than yours.
    This doesn`t mean every point of view of our teacher has to be exactly the same as ours, or ours exactly the same as our teacher’s. In regard to the absolute, yes, but not the relative. Respect is crucial, as I learn all the time, rather than imposing my expectations. (So if my students make a choice I’m not enthusiastic about, I do my best to respect it, which doesn’t mean I fully support it).
    My respect for you, Roshi, deepens through time, replacing my unrealistic expectations. I am always glad that thanks to your brave approach I can learn from your mistakes. Sometimes I had to do my own falls to really get it, but many times your honest sharing about your falls has been a great help and support to me. I am very, very grateful for everything I have received from you… and hopefully will receive, no matter what life brings.
    Thank you.
    PS. You said: “You had this ideal which you were trying to live up to. And that’s the problem, because when we have an ideal we’re trying to live up to, we can never live up to it.” Maybe the biggest problem is trying to fix others so they live up to our ideals of them? I would say it is great to have ideals, but as guidelines, accepting we may never live up to them? Maybe acting from the Apex? Owned ideals, and the opposite (having no)?


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