Lesson
15

Realization is effort without desire

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Dogen Zenji wrote a poem, “The point of zazen.” It ends:

Realization is effort without desire.
Clear water all the way to the bottom; a fish swims like a fish.
Vast sky transparent throughout; a bird flies like a bird.

Is this the same as the Genjo Koan's No trace of realization remains and this no trace continues endlessly?


Realization is effort without desire.


Effort and desire: When we want (desire) something—some thing— we usually have an idea what to do to get it, what effort to make.

But realization? Desiring the Buddha way?

Is it self-defeating to make an effort to reach realization? How can you strive without effort?

“I want realization.”

Well it’s OK to want it. But what happens if you get it? Is your life over? No.

You practice whether you’re enlightened or not.

And it may be better if you’re not enlightened to practice, because that may have true realization in it. What do you think? Are there, perhaps, traps whichever way you carve this up?


Clear water all the way to the bottom; a fish swims like a fish.
Vast sky transparent throughout; a bird flies like a bird.

Like a fish in water. A fish doesn’t say, “Well now I’m water I’m not going to swim.” A bird doesn’t stop flying because it’s in the sky.

Realization is the way we can be—in our truest sense. Actualizing, putting forth effort without wanting something for something small Of course a bird looks for food in the sky and a fish looks…. But that’s part of the depth of the water and the vastness of the sky,.

So actualizing the fundamental point – or the issue at hand. Right here. Don’t hold back. Study the self. Study that which is studying. It’s fun to study texts and think you’re studying something our there. But this text is about studying what’s studying. It’s neither internal nor external. It’s not separate. There’s not a separate object and subject in study in the Genjo Koan.

Clear water all the way to the bottom … Vast sky transparent throughout…


Is the field of your mind different than the clear water of the fish or the vast transparent sky of the bird?

When we talk about emptiness this is what we’re talking about.

A fish swims through water effortlessly manifesting its realization. Does a fish require any special effort to swim like a fish? Is Dogen suggesting that we humans living in our world, which included our mind, should manifest our realization without effort?