Practice-Enlightenment, Dogen's Shushogi

“The thorough clarification of the meaning of birth and death- this is the most important problem of all for Buddhists. Since the Buddha dwells within birth and death, the latter do not exist. Simply understand that birth and death are in themselves Nirvana, there being no birth-death to be hated nor Nirvana to be desired. Then, for the first time, you will be freed from birth and death.”

In this first paragraph of Dogen’s Shushogi, he states the most important question for all our lives. How do we clarify birth and death. What should I do with my life? What is life for? What does it all mean? This is how I understand what the question of birth and death are in my life. Understanding the question and how it relates in my own life is the most important. How it manifests in another’s life is the most important for them as well.

How are we to understand birth and death. Well, according to Dogen practice and enlightenment are not seperate from each other. Without practice you can not experience enlightenment and enlightenment is the expression of practice. Practice and enlightenment can only take place during our birth and death as that is the only time we have. So, since enlightenment is the expression of our practice during life, then there is no birth and death to be avoided since they are essential to our very practice/ life. Since Nirvana is attained within birth and death there is no birth and death to be avoided. To avoid birth and death would be to avoid the opportunity to practice.

photo of Jizo at Kiyomizu Dera

photo of Jizo at Kiyomizu Dera

devin amato