Just Sitting and Just Saying: The Hermeneutics of Dōgen’s Realization-Based View of Language

This paper explicates the complex relationship between contemplative practice and enlightened activity conducted both on and off the meditative cushion as demonstrated in the approach of the Sōtō Zen Buddhist founder Dōgen (1200-1253). I examine Dōgen’s intricate views regarding how language, or wha...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Religions
Main Author: Heine, Steven 1950-
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: [2021]
In:Religions
Year: 2021, Volume: 12, Issue: 2
Further subjects:B Dōgen
B non-thinking
B realizational model
B Sōtō Zen
B waka
B kōan
B Hermeneutics
B Treasury of the True Dharma Eye
B Zazen
B Zen pivot
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Summary:This paper explicates the complex relationship between contemplative practice and enlightened activity conducted both on and off the meditative cushion as demonstrated in the approach of the Sōtō Zen Buddhist founder Dōgen (1200-1253). I examine Dōgen’s intricate views regarding how language, or what I refer to as just saying, can and should be used in creative yet often puzzling and perplexing ways to express the experience of self-realization by reflecting the state of non-thinking that is attained through unremitting seated meditation or just sitting (shikan taza). In light of the sometimes-forbidding obscurity of his writing, as well as his occasional admonitions against a preoccupation with literary pursuits, I show based on a close reading of primary sources that Dōgen’s basic hermeneutic standpoint seeks to overcome conventional sets of binary oppositions involving uses of language. These polarities typically separate the respective roles of teacher and learner by distinguishing sharply between delusion and insight, truth and untruth, right and wrong, or speech and silence, and thereby reinforce a hierarchical, instrumental, and finite view of discourse. Instead, Dōgen inventively develops expressions that emphasize the non-hierarchical, realization-based, and eminently flexible functions of self-extricating rhetoric such that, according to his paradoxical teaching, “entangled vines are disentangled by using nothing other than entwined creepers,” or as a deceptively straightforward example, “the eyes are horizontal, and the nose is vertical.”
ISSN:2077-1444
Contains:Enthalten in: Religions
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.3390/rel12020081