Set yourself apart and promote others.

Estoy terminando la traducción y los comentarios del capítulo del Shobogenzo titulado Ryûgin, the song of the dragon, del maestro zen Eihei Dôgen. It will be published in a few months by Ediciones Miraguano, within the collection 'From Heart to Heart'. Here I publish, scoop, the translation of a paragraph and my comments.


Siendo así, la pregunta del monje, “¿suena el canto del dragón en el árbol seco?” es una pregunta que aparece por primera vez en incontables eones. Es la expresión de la verdad. La respuesta de Touzi “lo que yo enseño es el rugido de león en el cráneo” significa “uno mismo debe apartarse siempre y promover a los demás”; significa “los campos están llenos de esqueletos”.


Para Dôgen, la pregunta de este monje es un hito, the first time in the history of the Buddhadharma that someone raises such a relevant question. He considers it "expression of truth"[1]. The first time you associate, identifying it, the song of the dragon with the Dharma of the Buddha. As I stated in the introduction, Chinese popular custom associated the song of the dragon with fear, to sadness for the loss, to desolation, to the loneliness inspired by the sound produced by the winter wind when it passes through the dead branches of a dry tree. In this sense, 'dragon's song' is synonymous with 'death'.

This monk was the first to pose the question: Is not the Dharma of the Buddha also manifesting itself in the song of the dragon? Y, in doing so, highlighted that the song of the dragon is not something negative but a true song of awakening. What is awakening if not seeing and understanding the complete cycle of life and death, accept it by surrendering to it and living the nirvana unconditioned within the cycle of life and death, The samsara?    Shoji soku nehan (attributed to the fourth ancestor Dayi Daoxin), "life death is the nirvana”, was one of Master Dogen's favorite expressions. Shoji: the cycle of births and deaths, the samsara; juice: is, full identity; nehan: nirvana, the unborn and not extinct. This is a fundamental tenet of Mahayana Buddhism, unlike Theravada Buddhism, for which samsara Y nirvana They are two separate realities, Thus, the samsara is something to be freed from and the nirvana something to be achieved.

Chan Master Touzi's Answer[2] was “what I teach is the roar of the lion in the skull”. The lion's roar is the Dharma of the Buddha. The skull is life and death, the samsara, the conditioned world of appearances in which everything is continually being born and dying. We cannot find the Dharma of the Buddha except in this world. If life and death did not cause pain and suffering to human beings, the Buddha Dharma would not have arisen in this world.

Para Dôgen, Touzi's phrase means set oneself apart and promote others. This expression is a standard Chinese Ch'an saying often used by Master Touzi himself., as in this dialogue

“A monk asked Master Touzi:

– “Mañjuśrī was the teacher of the seven Buddhas. Who was the teacher of Mañjuśrī?

the teacher answered:

– One should always set oneself apart and promote others.

Setting yourself apart and promoting others is the exact opposite of setting yourself apart and setting others apart., what is happening most of the time, in which the egocentric or individualistic philosophy prevails. The individualistic ideology is based on three principles: 1º. Me; 2º I; 3º. Me. This is the age of narcissistic individualism, in which the individual is considered the center and measure of the universe. Human society is considered as a struggle between individuals for the satisfaction of their individual interests.. The natural environment is conceived by an immense reserve of raw materials whose purpose is only to satisfy the inexhaustible desires of individuals. Individual freedom is enshrined as the highest good. This is called political and economic neoliberalism. Its consequences are social disintegration, the destruction of the natural environment that sustains the very life of individuals. Crazy. This modern guy, drugged by his narcissistic inflation, wants to always live on the crest of the wave, forever young. He does not even want to hear about the song of the dragon in the dry tree and is terrified by the roar of the lion in his own skull. The Buddha Dharma is like the lion's roar that makes us realize that, under the skin, under the face operated by cosmetic surgery, we are a bare skull destined to turn to dust. The limits of economic growth, the reality of impermanence (everything that is born, go dead) it is the roar of the lion that shatters the omnipotent dreams of the narcissistic individual and of the society created by him (and believe it).

We are all pilgrims in transit. We are passing through this life. We have not come to stay forever. We are part of the cycle of birth, growth, decay, decrepitude and death. We are here because the generations that have preceded us have prepared the path we are traveling and have made way for us. Our own parents have prepared and paved our way of life and, then, they have parted to make way for us. Our current generation must also generate the best living conditions for the generations to come., we must also step aside and make way, promote those who come.

During the Dharma transmission ceremony the disciple receives a staff from his master, among other ritual objects, and is enthroned in the seat of the Buddha. Upon being enthroned, he acquires a great responsibility with respect to the preceding generations of Buddhas and Ancestors., and also with respect to current and future generations. He is elevated to the throne of the Buddha and recognized as a spiritual son, as a successor of the Buddha. This ritual can become tremendously dangerous. The ascent to the throne of the Buddha means "set aside oneself and promote others". The risk that the young teacher experiences it as an egoic self-affirmation is very great.. The ego of a spiritual master is the most dangerous of all as it is hidden by the smell of holiness. This empowerment in the Dharma can easily be confused with an empowerment of the self.. Siendo así, the confused young master risks using his position to aggrandize himself. Today there are many scandals of Buddhist teachers - and non-Buddhist- who use their authority and influence to satisfy dysfunctional desires, to commit abuses of power, sexual abuse, Fraudulent uses of community property, etc.

En el Zen, the essence of transmission is to set oneself apart and promote others, that is to say, the mission of a zen master is not to magnify himself and diminish others, but the opposite, set oneself aside and help others realize their buddha nature.

A Zen master is nothing and no one outside the spiritual lineage of which he has been designated successor.. The individual pushes himself aside and gives way, promotes, transmits the spiritual heritage it has received. A good disciple sets himself apart and promotes his master, in the same way that a good teacher sets himself apart and promotes the disciple. I wouldn't be who I am or be doing what I'm doing if it weren't for my teachers., and for the teachers of my teachers. The Buddha Dharma is not my property. I have not invented it. My role is just to pass it on. A Zen Master is an Official of the Dharma, he lives according to and for the transmission of the Dharma he has received. He does not use the Dharma for his own aggrandizement. Because, in the zen tradition, when teachers teach, we must always take into account our teachers, and all those who have gone before us.

At the same time that he promotes the Dharma transmitted by his teachers, the zen master promotes his disciples, helping them grow in awareness, in dignity and in wisdom. A Zen master is just a link that unites the Buddhas of the past with the Buddhas of the present and the future., in a long chain that is much more important than your individual life.

To set oneself apart is to promote those who have preceded us and promote those who will succeed us.. The disciples must learn to roar like lion cubs first and, like strong and mature lions, then. For it, must let the lion's roar of the Buddha's Dharma pierce through them.

Dogen also states that Master Touzi's expression "What I teach is the lion's roar in the skull" it means "the fields are full of skeletons". this expression, created by chan master Guishan[3], became very popular in Chinese Chan. It means that we are all skulls, that the world is full of skulls. Writing these words I am a thinking skull. Reading these pages you are a skeleton reader.

Japanese Zen Master Sojun Ikkyu[4] (1394-1481) he was an iconoclastic and eccentric monk. His life style, his thought and his pictorial and artistic work scandalized the religious hierarchy of his time. He called himself "Crazy Cloud". One of his most famous collections of poems and poetic prose is entitled Gaikotsu (attributed to the fourth ancestor Dayi Daoxin), 'Skeletons'.  In it we find the following:

My wanderings made me come across an abandoned temple in the middle of the field. I entered the temple intending to spend the night there. I was overwhelmed by a deep loneliness and was unable to fall asleep. shortly before dawn, I fell into a sleepy state and dreamed that I returned to the back of the temple. There I found a group of skeletons that were carrying out various activities, acting the same way as they would in life. As I stood astonished contemplating that vision, one of the skeletons came up to me and said:

Truly, of memory there is no trace,

Everything is a passing dream.

What a sad and insipid life of mine!

“We are still breathing!they say proudly,

while they gaze indifferently

Corpses on the side of the road[5].

Later, Ikkyu exclama: “Who among us is more than a skeleton?”

Over time, this work was illustrated by anonymous hands with a multitude of skeletons performing the common tasks of living human beings: Zen masters sitting at their pulpit giving Dharma teachings, women going to the river to fetch water, children playing, judges judging, peasants and merchants in the houses of pleasure, smiling geisha, etc. all skeletons. It's as if Ikkyu, in your vision, had x-rays in his eyes and could see beyond the skin, of the meat, of the muscles. The penetrating vision of vipassana it is similar to having x-rays in the eyes: you see beyond appearances. As usual, when you look in the mirror you don't see yourself as a skull. You see the color and texture of your skin, the shape of your cheekbones, the color and brightness of your eyes. When you fall in love you don't see the skeleton of the loved one either, don't you see the skull under his beautiful face. No one falls in love with a skeleton, although in Andalusia there is the expression "I die for your bones".

We are all walking skeletons. Sooner or later the skin, meat and muscles will dry. The eyes will lose their brightness, the shape will deform.  We will lose body mass and eye sockets will empty. And the song of the dragon will howl through our dry skull.

do you find it depressing? Does the song of the dragon in the dry tree scare you? Do you want to close this book, throw it away and dedicate yourself to something that is pleasant to you? Do you want to run away from the truth or look it in the face?

[1] “Expression of truth” is the translation of 話頭 huatou (ch), watô (attributed to the fourth ancestor Dayi Daoxin), literally: 'keyword'. One also it's like a koan, but much shorter. Sometimes the koans they are dialogues between master and disciple. One huatou it is a phrase or a short question that is used as a support in which to concentrate the mind during seated meditation. The practice of huatou It was invented by the Chinese Chan Master Dahui Zonggao. (1089–1163), member of the Linji school (ch), Rinzai (attributed to the fourth ancestor Dayi Daoxin).

[2] Maestro chan Touzi Datong (ch), Tôsu Daidô (attributed to the fourth ancestor Dayi Daoxin), 819-914.

[3] Guishan Da’an (ch.), Isan Daian (attributed to the fourth ancestor Dayi Daoxin), 793-883, one of the successors of Chan Master Baizhang Huaihai (ch), Hyakujô Ekai (attributed to the fourth ancestor Dayi Daoxin), 720-814.

[4] Watch Zen Red Thread. illumination, love and death of zen master Ikkyû Sôjun, edition of Pedro Castro, in the collection ‘Texts of the Zen Tradition’, published by this same publisher.

[5] on, city.

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1 Comment Set yourself apart and promote others.

  1. Enrique

    Master Dokuso I love when he writes. In this case, he puts my head in the well of death and when I find myself at the bottom with the mirror and I see the truth when I look at my skull face , you can let go of your hand, because I contemplate the truth absorbed , standing still, quiet and grateful. Taisen Deshimaru.


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