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Visions of Awakening Space and TimeD=ogen and the Lotus Sutra$

Taigen Dan Leighton

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320930.001.0001

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 Dōgen's View of Earth, Space, and Time Seen in Mahāyāna Context

 Dōgen's View of Earth, Space, and Time Seen in Mahāyāna Context

(p.95) 5 Dōgen's View of Earth, Space, and Time Seen in Mahāyāna Context
Visions of Awakening Space and Time

Taigen Dan Leighton (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses Mahāyāna imagery concerning earth and space, and their confluence and related Buddhist backgrounds on temporality, and how these may have served as a wider context for Dōgen's worldview beyond the Lotus Sutra as his major Mahāyāna source. Discussions of the spatialization of time help further reveal how Dōgen's view of the spiritual potential of space and earth influenced his more celebrated teachings of being-time and his exhortations to inhabit time fully.

Keywords:   Dōgen', Mahāyāna, earth, space, time, Buddhist, worldview, Lotus Sutra

In the spirit of Dōgen's own hermeneutic play, this chapter explores the Mahāyāna context for the views of earth, space, and time arising from Dōgen's references to the Lotus Sutra stories about the underground bodhisattvas' emergence and the Buddha's inconceivable life span. First, we again look at the practical importance of imagery in the Mahāyāna tradition, and for Dōgen, and how it often supersedes theoretical philosophical discourse. Then we consider a range of images and stories related to earth, to space, and then to temporality from other Buddhist contexts, all of which were either directly or indirectly significant influences for Dōgen. While Dōgen himself expresses his worldview most fully through references to the Lotus Sutra, as we have seen, the milieu of Japanese Buddhism in which he lived and was trained offered a variety of available resources for creatively envisioning earth, space, and time.

The Function of Mahāyāna Imagery and the Emerging Bodhisattvas

In attempting to present and describe the Mahāyāna vision of earth and space, and then of time, which are implicit in Dōgen's responses and in this pivotal Lotus Sutra story, it is not possible to reduce what is a complex, dynamic worldview to a single, static definition. Even if it were possible, from the explicit Mahāyāna priority (p.96) of eliciting practical responses for encouraging active entry into the path toward awakening, simply deriving such neat definitions would not be constructive. This chapter accordingly portrays a multifaceted range of suggestive outlooks related to earth, space, and time from the Mahāyāna context.

From the perspective of the authors of the Lotus Sutra and of Dōgen, the purpose of these cosmological views are not abstract, doctrinal, or philosophical, but rather practical and down to earth. Speaking as a Lotus Sutra scholar about the Buddha's inconceivable life span in chapter 16, Gene Reeves offers an interpretation of the meaning of the enduring Śākyamuni Buddha: “What does it mean to say that the Buddha is universal? Though some would take it to be so, this is not, I think, a metaphysical claim about some ultimate reality. … The purpose of the Dharma … is to lead people to act like buddhas, that is, to be doers of the bodhisattva way, and, in this sense, the wider purpose is to enable each of us to be the Buddha in the world for anyone to see.”1 Similar to this practical and liberative emphasis of the Lotus Sutra, Dōgen also expressed his worldview for the purpose of religious practice rather than as a philosophical standpoint. As Hee‐Jin Kim says in his excellent work introducing Dōgen's thought and practice, “Dōgen was a religious thinker, not merely or even primarily a philosopher. … Dōgen's most philosophic moments were permeated by his practical, religious concern, against the background of which his philosophic activities stand out most clearly in their truest significance. What Dōgen presents to us is not a well‐defined, well‐knit philosophical system, but rather a loose nexus of exquisite mythopoeic imaginings and profound philosophic visions.”2 Both Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra are aiming at a praxis based on their multifaceted, lively worldview. The images and traditional contexts that follow are sources for the realms of earth, space, and time, which contribute to the evocative, imagistic worldview of Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra. Such images and metaphors are the material of Dōgen's “loose nexus of exquisite mythopoeic imaginings,” and still may be relevant to the functioning of bodhisattva practice amid shifting contemporary concerns.

Before reviewing Dōgen's perspectives on earth, space, and time inspired by the Lotus Sutra in the light of the importance and function of Mahāyāna imagery, it is helpful to revisit the impact of the striking story of myriad bodhisattvas springing forth from the open space under the ground.

The Lotus Sutra is especially noted among Buddhist texts for containing a great many remarkable images, some from its celebrated parables. These memorable images include the children reluctant to leave the burning house in chapter 3 of the sutra; the prodigal son unwilling to claim his birthright until after years of menial labor in chapter 4; the nourishing Dharma rain (p.97) falling equally on all plants in chapter 5; in chapter 7 the illusory conjured city of nirvāṇa as a halfway house on the road to universal liberation; a beggar unaware of a priceless jewel sewn into his clothing in chapter 8; the stūpa of an ancient buddha floating in the sky over Vulture Peak in chapter 11; the eight‐year‐old daughter of a Nāga king achieving buddhahood as quickly as Śākyamuni can accept her offering in chapter 12 (in the Kumārajīva version); as well as arresting images in the second, “original teaching” half of the sutra, such as the Bodhisattva Regarder of the World's Cries (Avalokiteśvara) saving beings from a wide assortment of distresses in chapter 25 and the six‐tusked magical white elephant of Samantabhadra in chapter 28.3 And yet, with all of these remarkable images, the vast numbers of bodhisattvas suddenly emerging from the earth in chapter 15 remains for me among the most intriguing images in the sutra.

As discussed more fully in chapter 2 of this work, scholars have begun to examine the uses of imagery in the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition. For such scholars, the practical import of images of earth, space, and time for Dōgen, and for the Lotus Sutra, seems more relevant to their liberative function than any of their explicit doctrinal statements. We begin with exploring the role of imagery of earth in Buddhist teachings, followed by imagery of space and of time.

Buddhist Earth Motifs: The Earth Witness Mudrā and Earth Spirits

The emergence of bodhisattvas from the earth recalls a number of other major Buddhist earth motifs. Each of these offers potential areas for further study. They are mentioned here briefly to provide the context for the perspectives of Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra. Primary to the story of Buddha's awakening is the image of the earth goddess said to have emerged from the ground to bear witness to Śākyamuni's buddhahood the night of his awakening under the bodhi tree. As the story goes, after trying various other methods of distraction, such as armies of attacking demons and seductive dancing girls, Māra, the spirit of temptation, attempted to unseat Śākyamuni by challenging his right to claim buddhahood. Thereupon Śākyamuni made the mudrā, the gesture of touching the earth with the fingertips of his right hand (bhūmi sparśa mudrā in Sanskrit), which is a common iconographic feature of Śākyamuni images.4

In response, the earth itself, in some renditions personified as an earth goddess, testified to his buddhahood. John Strong says that in some versions of the story “the earth is actually personified as a great goddess, Sthāvarā. (p.98) Emerging with the upper half of her body out of the ground, and accompanied by a whole throng of goddesses,” she confirms the Buddha's awakening.5 According to another version of the legend, by this gesture Śākyamuni obliged the gods or spirits of the earth “to swear him eternal fidelity.”6 But throughout Buddhism, the gesture of simply touching the earth has come to signify Buddha's awakening.

Dōgen does not mention the earth‐witness mudrā directly in Shōbōgenzō or Eihei Kōroku, and earth spirits or an earth goddess may seem alien to many Westerners' views of Zen and its practical meditation techniques. However, Dōgen does honor earth spirits. In Eihei Shingi, the collection of Dōgen's Chinese writings about monastic and community standards first published together in the seventeenth century, he encourages and emphasizes the importance of venerating the earth spirits. In “Pure Standards for the Temple Administrators” (“Chiji Shingi”), the largest section of Eihei Shingi, he discusses the responsibilities of the various monastic positions, including the garden manager: “Morning and evening in the vegetable garden [the garden manager] must offer incense, do prostrations, chant, and recite dedications to Ryūten and Dōji, without ever becoming lazy or negligent.”7 Ryūten (龍 天) is a heavenly spirit who helps manage weather conditions, essential to good harvests. Dōji (土 地), literally “lands” or “ground,” is an earth protector spirit who watches over the monastic grounds and buildings.

It is noteworthy that there is no mention of any earth spirit in the parallel “Chief Gardener” or “Director of the Farming Village” sections of Dōgen's primary Chinese Chan source for monastic regulations, which he frequently quotes verbatim, the Chanyuan Qinggui (Pure standards for the Chan garden; Zen'en Shingi in Japanese).8 So Dōgen's reference to the earth spirit in this context may in part reflect native Japanese approaches to spirits, and to Mahāyāna bodhisattvas and teachings as situated and available on the earth. Certainly there are ample connections in Japanese Sōtō lore between Dōgen and native Japanese earth spirits, especially to the protector deity of Mount Hakusan near Dōgen's temple Eiheiji. The Hakusan deity is said to have given a variety of aid to Dōgen, including helping Dōgen copy the entire Blue Cliff Record on the night before his departure from China for Japan.9

In Japanese culture the Lotus Sutra has also been regarded as expressed in patterns on the earth itself. Allan Grapard, who has extensively studied East Asian sacred mountains, has shown how Buddhist teachings have been mapped onto landscape terrain. The Japanese volcano Futagoyama in Toyokuni Province, the original site of the Hachiman spirit in Kyūshū, was considered to be a manifestation of the Lotus Sutra text, with its twenty‐eight valleys correlated with the sutra's twenty‐eight chapters, and its paths “lined (p.99) with more than sixty thousand statues representing the total number of ideograms in the text.”10 In this way the earth itself becomes the text, and walking its paths one sees the natural landscape as an experience of the Lotus Sutra teaching. Grapard expresses the view that at this site, “the mountains are the Lotus Sutra; they are the body of the Buddha; the world is the realm of Awakening.”11

The long connection between Dōgen's Sōtō lineage and the Hakusan spirit near Eiheiji has even led to recent speculation that Dōgen left Kyoto in 1243 to move to the remote northern Echizen region (where he founded Eiheiji) because of active support for him from Tendai Hakusan devotees in the Echizen area (rather than due to hostility or threats from the Kyoto religious establishment, the stereotypically speculated cause for his move).12 It is likely that the early Sōtō temples in the generations right after Dōgen were intentionally built along geomantic lines in the earth associated with the Hakusan spirit.13 For example, the important early Sōtō temples Hōkyōji in Echizen, founded by Dōgen's disciple Jakuen (1207–1299), and the temples Yōkōji and Sōjiji founded by Keizan in nearby Noto Peninsula, were sited on geomantic lines associated with Mount Hakusan.14 Such attention to the earth may well reflect the enduring impact on his successors of Dōgen's teachings about the earth.

The Earth Womb and Space Womb Bodhisattvas and the Tathāgata garbha

Another major East Asian Mahāyāna earth motif appears in the figure of Jizō Bodhisattva (Kṣitigarbha in Sanskrit; Dizang in Chinese), whose name means “Earth Womb” or “Earth Storehouse.”15 Although not discussed directly by Dōgen, this bodhisattva was a standard part of the Mahāyāna pantheon in Dōgen's Kamakura period and remains among the most popular bodhisattva figure in Japan. Jizō is a protector whose vow to go down into the earth for the sake of beings in hell realms is described in the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. In the sutra, four past lives of Jizō are related in which these previous persons vowed to alleviate the suffering of all beings in all six realms.16 In the two most extended stories, the former lives of Jizō are women who go down into hell realms to save their mothers, and thereby save many other suffering hell beings.17 As the Jizō figure has developed in popular folklore in China, and even more so in Japan, this bodhisattva functions archetypically as a witnessing presence, easing the suffering of those in hellish situations, or taking the place of those facing imminent threats.18 Close to the (p.100) earth, Jizō is described as aiding farmers and other working people. He especially protects children and women and is a guide to all traveling in liminal, transitional spaces. Jizō's continuing popularity in Japan indicates the strong connection to the earth that endures in Mahāyāna imagination.

Jizō is closely related to Kokuzō Bodhisattva (Ākāśagarbha in Sanskrit; Xukongzang in Chinese), whose name means “Space Womb” or “Space Storehouse.”19 In early Japanese Buddhism, visualization and mantra dedication to Kokuzō were popular practices among mountain ascetics, and Kokuzō was especially important in the early practice of the Shingon founder Kūkai.20 Jizō and Kokuzō images were sometimes enshrined together as bodhisattva attendants on either side of the Healing Buddha (Yakushi Nyōrai in Japanese; Bhaiṣajyaguru in Sanskrit), the focus of chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra. A prom-inent Heian‐period example of such a triad is in the lecture hall of the Kōryūji in Kyoto, best known for its famous image of the pensive Maitreya bodhisattva in its storehouse hall.

The relationship of Jizō and Kokuzō bodhisattvas implies a natural affinity between the earth and space elements in Japanese Mahāyāna imagery. The close correlation between earth and space in Dōgen's references to the Lotus Sutra story may be seen as a further expression of this relationship. Kokuzō was a significant figure to Dōgen's important disciple Tettsū Gikai, whose awakening experience after hearing a Dharma hall discourse from Dōgen about the earth's fertility imbued with the universal was mentioned in the previous chapter. At the end of Gikai's journey to China to research Chinese monastic forms after Dōgen's death, Gikai carved (or perhaps arranged to have carved) statues of Ākāśagarbha (Kokuzō) and Avalokiteśvara to protect him on the return journey.21

Gikai's successor, Keizan, who with his own successors popularized Sōtō Zen in the Japanese countryside, was also a devotee of Kokuzō.22 Keizan had a triad of Ākāśagarbha and Avalokiteśvara images flanking Śākyamuni Buddha enshrined in his main temple, Yōkōji.23 Such practices of Gikai, Keizan, and their successors usually have been attributed to Shingon influence and have sometimes been denigrated as departures from the “pure” zazen practice of Dōgen.24 This characterization of Dōgen misses the actuality of medieval Japanese Buddhism, with the pervasive influence of Esoteric mikkyō (Vajrayāna) from both Shingon and Tendai, true for Dōgen as well. But I suggest that the devotion of Gikai and Keizan to Kokuzō also reflects allegiance to Dōgen's evocative teachings about space and their lingering impact.

The relationship of Kṣitigarbha and Ākāśagarbha, the bodhisattvas of the earth womb and space womb, recall the Buddha womb, or Tathāgata garbha, discussed in chapter 2. According to this teaching, a buddha is a womb of (p.101) embryonic buddha fields, and such an awakened land in turn becomes the womb of embryonic potential buddhas. This dynamic is clearly exemplified by Dōgen in his early writing, “Talk on Wholehearted Engagement of the Way” (“Bendōwa”), in which the person expressing buddha mudrā and the earth and space itself are mutually, interactively supportive.25 As Peter Gregory says, “Since the tathāgata garbha is the enlightened wisdom of the Tathāgata which exists embryonically in all sentient beings, the fact that it is also the ultimate ontological basis of reality [according to the Śrimāla Sūtra] has important soteriological consequences. It means that the basis of Buddhist practice is grounded in the very structure of reality.”26 In a similar interaction, the roles in the Mahāyāna of Kṣitigarbha and Ākāśagarbha, earth womb and space womb, would seem to express and clarify facets of Tathāgata garbha. These figures imply the rich potentiality of the earth and of space to be wombs of buddhas, and in turn to be sacralized or celebrated as buddha fields by the awakening of buddhas, again, as expressed in Dōgen's early teaching about the impact on the earth and on space itself of one person's zazen.27

Spaciousness as an Expression of Wisdom

As mentioned in chapter 4, while discussing the image of “a space below the earth” in Lotus Sutra chapter 15, Gene Reeves emphasizes that “this story wants to affirm … the reality and importance of this world, this world of suffering, a world that is, after all, Shakyamuni Buddha's world.”28 In his citations of the story of the emerging underground bodhisattvas, Dōgen also affirms this world and the earth as receptive and supportive of the ever‐present potential for awakening. As we have seen in many quotations from his “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower” (“Hokke‐Ten‐Hokke”) and elsewhere, Dōgen connects the earth to his sense of space and its open spaciousness. For example, he says, “We should not only realize springing out of the earth; in turning the Flower of Dharma we should also realize springing out of space.”29

David McMahan explicates the relationship of space to the visionary aspect of Buddhist wisdom: “The ability of the visual system to apprehend vast areas, long distances, and many things simultaneously is often highlighted in Buddhist literature and associated with the sense of spaciousness. … This sense of sight as capable of encompassing wide spaces and penetrating to the furthest depths of the cosmos is important to the development of the imagery of Mahāyāna sutras.”30

According to McMahan, in the Buddhist tradition, and especially the Mahāyāna, space often has been understood in the context of “far‐seeing,” and (p.102) so also serves as an analogue to wisdom or liberation. Thus meditation on space may be employed as an entryway to awakening. In the early Buddhist Abhidharma teachings, space (ākāśa in Sanskrit) is one of the few unconditioned Dharmas, alongside nirvaṇa itself: “The Abhidharmakośa describes it as that which does not impede and is unsupported by anything.” McMahan describes the “primary symbolic force of space” as deriving from its vastness, formlessness, sameness, extension in all directions, and nonresistance, those aspects of the world “most akin to perfect, transcendent freedom as conceived in Buddhist thought.”31

Pursuing the metaphoric and symbolic richness of space in the Mahāyāna, McMahan notes, “The association of knowledge with space is one of the more interesting and quite neglected features of Buddhist discourse.” Based on the “primary metaphor KNOWING IS SEEING, simply from a linguistic standpoint, connections between vision and space are apparent.” McMahan relates the verb “locate” to the meanings “see,” “know,” and “perceive,” and to the Sanskrit verb loka, whose primary meaning is “free or open space.” Concerning the rhetorical potentialities of space for Buddhist discourse, McMahan points out that the “etymological connection [of space] to light and vision is not overlooked by Buddhists, and it is sometimes said to shine brilliantly. Mahāyāna texts are often less concerned than Abhidharma scholastics with systematic analysis of space and instead exploit the symbolic richness of the concept, making it one of the primary tropes for awakening and wisdom.”32

While Dōgen uses his comments on the Lotus Sutra underground bodhisattvas as a primary referent to express his view of space, the full scope of Mahāyāna use of space as an image in various sutras, as described by McMahan, provides a context for Dōgen's worldview of space. This creative use of space imagery includes some sources from Chan imagery. One of the foundational Chan kōans involves the great Zhaozhou Congshen (778–897; Jōshu Jūshin in Japanese), who asked his teacher Nanquan Puyuan (748–835; Nansen Fugan in Japanese) the fundamental question, “What is the Way (Dao)?”

Nanquan replied, “Ordinary (or everyday) mind is the Way.”

Zhaozhou asked, “How can it be approached?”

Nanquan said, “The more you try to reach it, the further away you get.”

Zhaozhou, a most discerning student, asked, “Then how do you know if it is the Way or not?”

Nanquan elaborated, “The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is an illusion; not knowing is vacancy. If you reach the true Way beyond doubt, it is vast and open as space.”33

(p.103) Here space has qualities of wisdom, vastness, and openness, and so may be used to represent ultimate knowledge, as suggested by McMahan. But even more, for Nanquan space transcends all dichotomies of knowledge and ignorance. Zhaozhou is said to have awakened upon hearing this image of vast, open space superseding the characteristics of human cognition.

Dōgen also heard this liberating reference to space. He included this dialogue as case 19 in his early collection of three hundred kōans, without any of his own commentary, referred to as the Mana (or Shinji; i.e., Chinese) Shōbōgenzō.34 This is a completely different work from his famed collection of essays called Shōbōgenzō, in which he does poetically and extensively elaborate on kōans. He also comments on Nanquan's first response in this story in a variant (undated) version of the Shōbōgenzō essay “Going beyond Buddha” (“Bukkōjōji”).35

The most important Caodong (Sōtō) lineage teacher in the century before Dōgen was Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157; Wanshi Shogaku in Japanese), whom Dōgen cites or refers to very frequently in Eihei Kōroku.36 In his practice instructions, Hongzhi says, “The essence is to empty and open out body and mind, as expansive as the great emptiness of space. Naturally in the entire territory all is satisfied. This strong spirit cannot be deterred; in event after event it cannot be confused.”37 Here is a model for engaging spaciousness in meditation and everyday practice that seems to inform the spacious aspect of Dōgen's own teachings on practice as the present expression of awakening.

Dōgen's Lotus View of Earth and Space Revisited

Having considered elements of the Mahāyāna context for envisioning earth and space, we now return to review the functional and practical import of some of Dōgen's relevant comments on the Lotus Sutra story in chapters 15 and 16. In the conclusion of his 1241 Shōbōgenzō essay that most fully discusses the Lotus Sutra, “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” Dōgen says that after discussing the teaching of the Sixth Ancestor, interpreted by Dōgen as revealing the nondual Dharma flower turning the Dharma flower, now his assembly has “experienced the meeting of ancient buddha with ancient buddhas. So how could this not be a land of ancient buddhas?”38 Dōgen here indicates that study with the ancient buddhas, and full penetration of their teaching, allows his students to dwell in the buddha land. Where buddhas awaken, the earth must be a land of ancient buddhas. He is also encouraging his students to believe that their practice place is a site of awakening.

(p.104) In his Eihei Kōroku Dharma hall discourse 269 from 1248, Dōgen states, “The Buddha of the land pervades the body and is the entire body. The lands of the Buddha are the suchness of reality, and their non‐suchness.”39 This signifies that in reality it is not possible to separate buddhas from their lands, the location where they express ongoing awakening, sometimes called by Dōgen their Dharma position. In the Dharma hall discourse that occasioned the awakening of his major disciple, Tettsū Gikai, Dōgen connected this reality of awakened land with the particulars of the earth. After quoting Śākyamuni Buddha in chapter 16 avowing his long‐lived presence and teaching, Dōgen remarked, “All dharmas dwell in their Dharma positions; forms in the world are always present. Wild geese return to the [north] woods, and orioles appear [in early spring].”40 It is the natural activities of the earth itself that express Buddha's ongoing wisdom.

In his Shōbōgenzō essay “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas” (“Gyōbutsu Īgi”), amid references to Śākyamuni's inconceivable life span and images of lotuses themselves, Dōgen emphasizes the indispensable, active role of the earth and its lands for Buddha's activities: “That which allows one corner of a buddha's awesome presence is the entire universe, the entire earth, as well as the entirety of birth and death, coming and going, of innumerable lands, and lotus blossoms.”41 The lotus is a significant symbol for this active role of earth, as it grows and blossoms into beauty from out of the swampy mud of earth. In a couple of Dharma hall discourses in Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen uses a colorful line from the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku) kōan collection, “The more mud, the greater the Buddha,” indicating the fertility of the earth and also of the karmic obstructions and suffering that activate the practice of buddhas.42 In another Eihei Kōroku Dharma hall discourse, he says, “The lotus shrine has never been tainted by the mud in the water.”43

Dōgen directly compares Zen students and seekers to the bodhisattvas emerging from the earth in his Shōbōgenzō essay “Sounds of the Valley Streams; Colors of the Mountains” (“Keisei Sanshoku”): “In visiting teachers and seeking the truth, there are mountains to climb and oceans to cross. While seeking a guiding teacher, or hoping to find a good spiritual friend, one comes down from the heavens, or springs out from the earth.”44 Again, this is clearly an encouragement to Dōgen's students to see their efforts in the context of, and as inspired by, the emerging Lotus Sutra earth bodhisattvas.

In “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” Dōgen combines the practitioners arising from the earth with their arising from space, all in the advent of the Lotus Sutra: “The multitudes of the thousandfold world that spring out of the earth have long been great honored saints of the flower of Dharma but they spring out of the earth being turned by circumstances. In (p.105) turning the Flower of Dharma we should not only realize springing out of the earth; in turning the Flower of Dharma we should also realize springing out of space. We should know with the Buddha's wisdom not only earth and space but also springing out of the Flower of Dharma itself.”45 The relationship of earth and space is here expressed as a function of the Lotus Sutra. This dynamic concurrence of earth, space, and the Dharma flower is further described in the 1243 Shōbōgenzō essay “Flowers of Space” (“Kūge”). Dōgen says, “Only the buddhas and ancestors know the blooming and falling of flowers in space and flowers on the ground, only they know the blooming and falling of flowers in the world, only they know that flowers in space, flowers on the ground, and flowers in the world are sutras.”46 For Dōgen, earth, space, and the blossoming flowers all harmoniously expound the Dharma.

Another example of the confluence of the active workings of earth and space and the arising of buddhas and ancestors appears in Eihei Kōroku Dharma hall discourse 174 from 1246: “What is thicker than earth is that which arises in earth. What is vaster than empty space is that which arises in empty space. What goes beyond buddhas and ancestors are those who arise from buddhas and ancestors.”47

Turning to focus on Dōgen's teachings about space, one must inevitably first return to the early (1233) writing, “Talk on Wholehearted Engagement of the Way.” There Dōgen proclaims the mutual interactive support of space and the zazen practitioner, when “all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment.”48 Space (including its expression as the earth, i.e., “grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the universe in ten directions”) is further praised as an active provider of awakening guidance and a participant in the transformative buddha work. However, the responsibility of the practitioner also to awaken space in turn is not neglected.

Dōgen amply encourages practitioners to develop an intimate relationship with space itself. For example, in his Shōbōgenzō essay “Space” (“Kokū”), he declares, “You should penetrate the inside and outside of space. You should kill space and give life to space. You should know the weight of space. You should trust that the buddha ancestors' endeavor of the way, in aspiration, practice, and enlightenment, throughout the challenging dialogues is no other than grasping space.”49 We can see in such quotes how profoundly the awakening espoused by Dōgen goes beyond mere human psychology and reaches to an ontological, existential realization of interconnectedness that pervades space and is supported by space.

Again, in “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” Dōgen gives subjective agency to space itself when, in the context of the Lotus Sutra story (p.106) about the ancient buddha who appears with his stūpa floating in midair, Dōgen states, “Space makes space for the treasure stupa.”50 He even proclaims space as the ultimate framework of practice and realization, saying, “The Flower of Dharma, the world of Dharma, and the wholehearted state, are … realized as space.”51

Furthermore, Dōgen proclaims the enduring power of space even at the spatial and temporal distance of his Japanese students from the historical Śākyamuni Buddha speaking the Lotus Sutra at Vulture Peak. In “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas,” Dōgen states, “Although this moment is distant from the sages, you have encountered the transforming guidance of the spreading sky [space] that can still be heard.”52 Because of the still remaining transformative guidance of space itself, Buddha remains alive and Dōgen's students (and, for Dōgen, presumably current practitioners today) can still hear Śākyamuni Buddha's teaching.

Buddhist and Zen Perspectives on Time

Mahāyāna Buddhism includes many contexts for envisioning temporality that are worthy of extensive study. Before discussing Dōgen's approaches to time, I will just briefly describe some of these outlooks, including the Huayan ten times and the figure of Maitreya, which served as background context for Dōgen. I have already noted (in discussing its importance for Nichiren and other Kamakura‐period figures in chapter 3) that Dōgen denied any credence to the prevalent contemporary view of time and history, which held that mappō, the final degenerate age of the teaching, had arrived, and so true practice and enlightenment were impossible. For Dōgen, practice‐realization is always a potentiality, in all times.53 Dōgen had to look beyond current preconceptions such as mappō for his approach to liberating aspects of time.

David McMahan has suggested that in the Mahāyāna, time is subsumed within space: “The image of time as contained within space provides the basis for maṇḍalas like the Mahākāla maṇḍala in which time is represented as a circle in space.” This spatialization of time represents an important, insightful perspective that allows for a new context for “envisioning” temporality. As McMahan explains, in the earlier Nikāyas (the pre‐Mahāyāna scriptures, or suttas, written in Pali rather than Sanskrit), “Impermanence is not to be celebrated but transcended. This changes somewhat in the Mahāyāna, with its assertion of the nonduality of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa; the Mahāyāna found ways to conceive of the transcendence of time within time itself. Part of this is the spatialization of time—assimilating temporality to the always present (p.107) dimension of space.”54 McMahan adds significantly to our understanding of the Mahāyāna background for Japanese aesthetic celebration of impermanence, as was discussed in the section on Saigyō in chapter 3. The aesthetics of yūgen, with its appreciation of the poignancy of impermanence, is a direct response to the Lotus Sutra, as explicated by William LaFleur.55 But McMahan shows that Saigyō's envisioning of the distant moon over the mountains also brings the “spatialization of time” into the aesthetic celebration of impermanence. Impermanence can be more fully appreciated, and celebrated aesthetically, as it is depicted visually through the space from the poet to the mountains lining the horizon, and to the moon so far beyond but still glowing. Time is marked by impermanence, but space is ever present to help in remembering it.

This spatialization of time helps indicate the importance of Dōgen's sense of the dynamic agency of space for his views of temporality. From McMahan's discussions of the use of spatial imagery to inform temporal awareness, we can more fully see the value of Dōgen's dynamic images of space as actively functioning, potentially expressing the buddha work. Dōgen's views of space transform his being‐time. For example, hearing Dōgen say, “You have encountered the transforming guidance of the spreading space that can still be heard,” one might envision a sky at sunset, splendid with colorful, drifting, or spreading clouds.56 But in this image Dōgen is equally highlighting the persistence of the vision's transformative impact in this time “you have encountered.” And “still heard” becomes an expression for the persistence in time of the enduring Buddha. This significant role of the spatial imagination as informing Dōgen's view of temporality has not been previously noted, to my knowledge.

Dōgen was deeply concerned about impermanence. But, in accord with McMahan's discussion of Mahāyāna nonduality, Dōgen found resolution to his struggles with impermanence in a spacious attitude toward impermanence itself. As Steven Heine says, Dōgen “strongly rejected … efforts to deny the flux both as un‐Buddhistic and, more basically, not true to the nature of his own quest and longing to find release from suffering within—rather than in contrast to—the unstoppable transiency of lived‐time.”57

Returning to consideration of other Mahāyāna approaches to temporality, the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, or Flower Ornament Sutra, in the chapter on “Detachment from the World” speaks of ten times through which great bodhisattvas explain past, present, and future.58 These ten times are the past, present, and future of the past; the past, present, and future of the future; the past, present, and future of this present; and finally, the interfusion of those previous nine times as the tenth, “being the one instant of the present.” Just prior to articulating (p.108) these ten times, the sutra offers ten kinds of entry into ages by great bodhisattvas. These are entry “into past ages, future ages, present ages, countable ages, uncountable ages, countable ages as uncountable ages, uncountable ages as countable ages, all ages as not ages, nonages as all ages, and all ages as one instant.”59 The point of time and its durations for bodhisattvas, according to this sutra, is to enter into and inhabit time, in all its temporal aspects, and not to escape into some timeless state. Although Dōgen does not refer to these ten times directly, to my knowledge, he certainly shares the attitude expressed in this section of the sutra, which he of course knew, about fully examining and engaging in the many aspects of time.

From the perspective of his being‐time teaching, I imagine Dōgen might playfully elaborate on the dynamic interconnectedness of the ten times in some manner such as the following. The past of the present is also the past of a future. The present of the future will be intimately connected to the future of this present, yet is not necessarily predetermined or limited by this present's future. By shifting prior views of the past, one might reclaim the past in the present, and thus actually change the meaning of the past, and present, for the sake of the future. History is the changing process of defining the past for the present. It may be realized that the history of the future can be rewritten in the present as well as in the future. And how we will see this present present in the future present, or saw it in the past, affects the reality of this present.

Just following the passage of the sutra that details the ten times that explain time, the sutra mentions that bodhisattvas have “ten ways of knowing the worlds of past, present, and future: they know their definitions, their speech, their deliberations, their rules, their appellations, their orders, their provisional names, their endlessness, their quiescence, and their total emptiness. Thus do enlightening beings know all things in all times.”60 Clearly the recommended practice is not to transcend time, but to study and engage its full complexity. This encouragement also becomes central in Dōgen's “Being Time” (see the section below on this essay), when he urges thorough questioning and engagement of time, as in, “People do not doubt the duration of daily time, but even though they do not doubt it, this does not mean that they know what it really is. … Their doubting is so inconsistent that the doubts at the previous moment do not necessarily correspond to the doubts at the present moment.”61 Furthermore, Dōgen says in “Being Time,” “People only see time's coming and going, and do not thoroughly understand that the time‐being abides in each moment. … Closely examine this flowing; without your complete effort right now, nothing would be actualized, nothing would flow.”62 Time is not some external, objective, independent entity, but requires a practitioner's “complete effort.”

(p.109) The second Chinese patriarch of the Huayan school, based on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, was Zhiyan (602–668; Chigen in Japanese). In his essay “Ten Mysterious Gates of the Unitary Vehicle of the Huayan,” Zhiyan spoke of the ten times as the fifth gate “of various becoming of separate things in the ten time frames.” He says, “The ten time frames, by virtue of their interdependent origination, mutually identify and even mutually interpenetrate, yet without losing the three time frames. It is like the ten fingers making a fist yet not losing fingerhood. … The ten time frames interpenetrate and interidentify, yet without losing the characteristics of succession and duration: therefore it is said that separate things variously become.” Thomas Cleary comments, “The universe––or in Hua‐yen terms, the universe of interdependent origination––is at once the totality of causes and the totality of its effects; hence its total present at once contains its total past and total future. This is the basis for the Buddha's knowledge of past and future in the present.”63

These Huayan ten times, and their interdependent presence in the present as described by Zhiyan and Cleary, offer a rich depiction of the multidimensional quality of time, and its practical implications. Dōgen was certainly aware of this Huayan teaching. As he suggested in his essay “Being Time,” the ten times may flow in various directions. Although he does not refer to the Huayan ten times explicitly, we could well see his being‐time teaching as playfully elaborating on the dynamic interconnectedness of the ten times.

Maitreya, the bodhisattva predicted by Śākyamuni as the next incarnate Buddha, plays a prominent role in the story of the emerging bodhisattvas and the revelation of Śākyamuni's vast life span in chapters 15 and 16 of the Lotus Sutra. Given Maitreya's claims on the future, this featured role is appropriate, and also ironic. In the story Maitreya represents the traditional assembly of the Buddha, voicing the disciples' questions and perplexity, first about the startling emergence of the underground bodhisattvas, and then at the revelation of Śākyamuni's enduring life span. In some ways, both events would seem to supplant Maitreya's main function as guardian of awakening in the future. Maitreya's future buddhahood may seem extraneous, with the underground bodhisattvas prepared to proclaim the Lotus Sutra Dharma in the distant future, as stated explicitly by Nichiren (see chapter 3). Maitreya's future awakening would be called into question even more by the speculations surrounding Śākyamuni's enduring future activity.

However, the archetypal figure of Maitreya has been a primary source for an expanded view of temporality in the Mahāyāna tradition.64 Maitreya is the bodhisattva who represents the unfulfilled aspect of the bodhisattva as not yet (p.110) a buddha. He is a mere shadow of his future self, not presently being what everyone knows he is promised to become. A common iconographic version of Maitreya depicts him as sitting up in the Tuṣita Heaven, awaiting his next rebirth and pensively contemplating how to save all sentient beings and become the next Buddha. As we saw in chapter 4, in the Shōbōgenzō essay “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas,” Dōgen playfully has the long‐lived Śākyamuni of the Lotus Sutra supersede Maitreya's status even in the Tuṣita Heaven itself, as Dōgen says that the enduring Śākyamuni “still abides there, teaching devas.”65

Traditional accounts of Maitreya emphasize the vast period of time during which he patiently waits for his future awakening to become present. Predictions of the time before his buddhahood vary considerably. Some sources predict his buddhahood in the year 4456 CE.66 Other accounts describe it as 5,760 million years in the future.67 In any event, he is waiting in meditation for a very long time. Such patience embodies a vast time perspective. The Maitreya figure calls up many issues of temporality, but especially invites deep concern for the future, and for future generations, that may be attended to in the present. Thus Maitreya has represented in the Mahāyāna imagination vast ranges of time, but also the hope for the future, with reassurance of a new Buddha age to come. Maitreya devotees have sometimes acted to create the conditions of a better world in preparation for his coming, thereby bringing concern for the future into the practical realm of social reform.68

This figure of Maitreya is one source for temporal awareness and inquiry that Dōgen returns to in his writings to express the intricate and mysterious interfolding of time. Just one example is his relatively early, 1241 Dharma hall discourse number 61. He cites a story in which Nanquan says, “There is no Maitreya up in heaven and no Maitreya down on the earth.” In his comments to his students, Dōgen repeats Nanquan's words and adds, “Maitreya is not Maitreya; [and so] Maitreya is Maitreya. Even though this is so, doesn't everybody want to see Maitreya?” Dōgen then held up his whisk and said, “You have met with Maitreya. Already having met him, everyone, try to say whether Maitreya exists or does not exist.”69 Here Dōgen demonstrates and evokes the experience of both Maitreya's presence and the uncertainty of Maitreya's being in the past, the future, or the present.

Basic Indian cosmology offers a very wide view of time that was adopted by Buddhism. There is a recurring cycle in every universe of four kalpas: the formation or becoming, continuity or the abiding, the decaying, and the “nonmanifest” or empty.70 A kalpa is an incalculably long period of time, with one colorful traditional description of its duration as “the image of a bird that (p.111) flies once every hundred years over the peak of Mount Everest with a piece of silk in her talons; the length of time it would take the silk to wear down the mountain completely is said to be one kalpa.”71 Another calculation is that a short kalpa “is the time required to empty a hundred square mile city enclosure filled with poppy seeds if one seed were to be removed every three years.”72

Just the conception of such vast reaches of time, albeit abstract and difficult to imagine, is a radical shift from the limitations of our conventional Western views of time and the emphasis on quarterly profit margins. Such vast extents of time are certainly part of the temporal context with which Dōgen plays.

The Chan/Zen Buddhist practice of ancestor veneration allows another vast and much more personal perspective on time. The Zen tradition includes daily ritual recitation of a list of patriarchal ancestors going back to the historical Śākyamuni Buddha around 500 BCE, a list that Dōgen deeply cherished and emphasized. For example, the very brief 1241 Shōbōgenzō essay “Buddha Ancestors” (“Bussō”) consists mostly of repeating the traditional list of names, with the need “to bring them forth and look at them respectfully … not limited to the buddhas of past, present, and future.”73

The now accepted historical inaccuracy of the Indian names of the Zen lineage, concocted later in China, is irrelevant to the expanded temporal sensitivity of the generations who have seen the practice as personally and intimately transmitted through many centuries of time.74 Whether or not all their correct names had been recorded, that Dōgen felt a personal, spiritual connection to the ancestors throughout the generations is clear from his frequent citations of so many of them. Certainly the lineage was a source for legitimizing the practice in which he and his students engaged. But awareness of a personal connection to people over such a vast time span also allows a wide, deep perspective on time and history.

Dōgen's Caodong (Sōtō) lineage provides some particular encouragements toward long‐range time perspectives. The early Caodong progenitor Shitou Xiqian, mentioned in chapter 3 and frequently cited by Dōgen, ends his “Harmony of Difference and Sameness” (“Sandōkai”), “I humbly say to those who study the mystery, don't waste time.”75 The notion of profitably utilizing or “spending” time may seem modern and pedestrian. However, Shitou's purposes include more than mere efficiency. As he indicated in “Harmony of Difference and Sameness” in a previous verse, “Each of the myriad things has its merit, expressed according to function and place.”76 For Shitou, time is useful simply in the interest of the appreciation and expression (p.112) of all the particular myriad things. Commenting after repeating Shitou's line, “Don't waste time,” in his 1249 Dharma hall discourse number 319, Dōgen encourages fully inhabiting the present time, saying, “Human life is impermanent; how could we wait for some other time?”77

In his other important teaching poem, “Song of the Grass Hut” (“Sōanka” in Japanese), Shitou said, “Meet the ancestral teachers, be familiar with their instruction, bind grasses to build a hut and don't give up. Let go hundreds of years and relax completely. Open your hands and walk, innocent.”78 This instruction implies letting go of centuries of karmic attachment. But Shitou here also suggests that release from limited, short‐term time perspectives is congruent with complete relaxation, and with innocence beyond all afflictions or suffering.

Mentioned earlier for his encouragement of meditation on space, the twelfth‐century Caodong master Hongzhi Zhengjue, who deeply influenced Dōgen, also spoke of temporal transcendence. Hongzhi references the Lotus Sutra image of the Dharma rain falling equally on all in his espousal of wider time perspectives: “One thought of the ten thousand years is beginning not to dwell in appearances. Thus it is said that the mind‐ground contains every seed and the universal rain makes them all sprout.” Envisioning long ranges of time allows a calmer perspective on the immediate urgency of present needs and predicaments and fosters nurturing, organic processes. Hongzhi also says, “This is the time and place to leap beyond the ten thousand emotional entanglements of innumerable kalpas. One contemplation of ten thousand years finally goes beyond all the transitory, and you emerge with spontaneity.”79 Awareness of the wider reaches of time can support a fuller inhabitation and engagement of present situations, or one's own “Dharma position.” These cherished masters from Dōgen's own lineage, and the very fact of the long lineage itself, certainly informed his sense of temporality.

Dōgen's Being‐Time

Dōgen's renowned 1240 Shōbōgenzō essay “Being Time” is his primary writing that focuses on temporality, and so must be considered as a context for his comments on time in relation to the story of the enduring Buddha in the Lotus Sutra. In this essay, Dōgen clarifies that time does not flow only from past to present to future. Time moves in mysterious ways, passing dynamically and multidirectionally between all ten times and beyond. Dōgen says, “In being‐time there is the distinctive function of [totalistic] passage (kyōraku); there is passage from today to tomorrow, passage from today to yesterday, passage (p.113) from yesterday to today, passage from today to today, and passage from tomorrow to tomorrow. This transpires because passage itself is the distinctive function of time.”80 This multidirectional passage makes it possible for beings to realize how they fully inhabit all times as the present time, rather than seeking for the present as a restrictive escape from regret for the past or anxiety over the future. Although the movement of being‐time is omnidirectional, it is also a discontinuity in which each being and all time are fully present. The richness of being‐time is the vivid presencing of each being's time. For Dōgen, each time of being fully exerts itself in total expressiveness. This is the deep reality of time that he urges his audience to actualize right here and now.

Dōgen says, “Since a sentient being's doubting of the many and various things unknown to him are naturally vague and indefinite, the course his doubtings take will probably not bring them to coincide with this present doubt. Nonetheless, the doubts themselves are, after all, none other than time.”81 Steven Heine says about Dōgen's inclusive present time, “Beings are invariably temporal occurrences; time always presences as all beings. There is no being in the entire Dharma‐realm outside this very moment of time.”82

Dōgen's being‐time reflects the spatialization of temporality described by David McMahan, as time is described in terms of the space of landscapes. But for Dōgen, space also depends on this time of being. As he says in “Being Time,” “Mountains are time. Oceans are time. If they were not time, there would be no mountains or oceans. Do not think that mountains and oceans here and now are not time. If time is annihilated, mountains and oceans are annihilated.”83 Here Dōgen expresses the thorough integration of time, space, and earth, a key aspect of his worldview, explored in this work primarily in relation to his comments on Lotus Sutra chapters 15 and 16.

For Dōgen, time, as we have seen for space, is not some intractable, merely external container within which beings are caught. All beings are time, just as “earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the universe in ten directions, carry[ing] out buddha work,”84 are space. When beings fully express themselves right now, that is time. Dōgen says, “The sharp vital quick of dharmas dwelling in their dharma‐positions is itself being‐time.”85 Beings cannot help but fully express their deepest truth right now. One cannot avoid being‐time. Even a partial, half‐hearted exertion of being‐time is completely a partial being‐time. As Dōgen says, “Even the being‐time of a partial exhaustive penetration is an exhaustive penetration of a partial being‐time.”86 This may well be heard as profoundly consoling, but it does not mean that individual beings do not have any responsibility for being‐time through their own effort or expression.

(p.114) In his intricate philosophical analysis of the Shōbōgenzō essay “Being Time” in Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, Steven Heine discusses Dōgen's being‐time in terms of what Heidegger calls “primordial time” (ursprüngliche Zeit), which Heine equates with Dōgen's “truth of being‐time” (uji no dōri).87 Both Heidegger and Dōgen see this primordial time as transcending the limited, ordinary view of time that vainly imagines some stable, real present, although both recognize some partial validity to the conventional time sense.88 Heine further describes this primordial time as “neither an eternal realm beyond existence nor another attribute of existence which could be logically or ontologically added onto it either before or after existence is described; nor does existence, conceived of substantively, persist ‘in’ objectified time.”89 Dōgen's primordial time is not some objective entity with its own independent process transpiring beyond the activity of beings.

Throughout his writings, Dōgen emphatically highlights the responsibility of practitioners. As Heine says, “Primordial time ultimately depends upon and is fulfilled only by means of each being's fully sustained and perpetually renewed selfless exertive power.” He adds, “Dōgen's emphasis on the temporal unity of practice and realization also seems to suggest that the presencing of being‐time itself is made possible by virtue of the selfless here‐and‐now activity which realizes itself as primordial time. No aspect or realm of temporal existence is independent of the individual's exertive effort.”90

Dōgen's Lotus View of Time Revisited

Although “Being Time” is Dōgen's most focused treatment of temporality, there are sections of other Shōbōgenzō essays and passages in Eihei Kōroku that offer further discussion of time. However, Dōgen does not provide enough developed material to derive a consistent “philosophy of time.” And, of course, he is more concerned with encouraging practice than formulating philosophical positions. Yet reviewing some of Dōgen's comments on the Lotus Sutra story of chapters 15 and 16 that relate to issues of temporality can provide some helpful, illuminating examples of how he expresses his dynamic view of time, and its practice. Near the conclusion of “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” he proclaims the active pervasion of the Lotus Sutra and its teaching through and by time, as he did for the ground of the Buddha land: “We should rejoice that the Dharma flower is turning from age to age, and the Dharma flower is turning from day to night, as the Dharma flower turns the ages and turns the days and nights.”91 The nondualistic Lotus (p.115) teaching is described as fully integrated with and mutually interacting with all the vast expanses of time, as well as its briefer durations. Dōgen here proclaims that this teaching of the Dharma flower, that is, the Lotus Sutra, is both engaged throughout time, but also in some sense itself impels the varied passagings of time.

Furthermore, in “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” Dōgen declares the unity of all Time, or ultimate temporality, which he believes is represented exactly in the long life span of Śākyamuni. We have seen how Dōgen expounded multidimensional qualities of being‐time. The year after writing “Being Time,” he celebrates in “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower” the temporality of Śākyamuni of the Lotus Sutra and encourages his students to recognize this enduring, unified time: “Turning the Flower of Dharma we should realize the one Time in which the Buddha is living.”92 But this “one Time” is a shifting, multidirectional time, in which, as Dōgen says just previously (quoting from chapter 16 of the sutra), “the father is young and the son is old.”93 Here Dōgen points to this enduring Buddha as inhabiting all times, and awakening these times, and also awakening their new buddhas, even while transcending time. Discussing Dharma transmission, he quotes Śākyamuni as saying, “All buddhas of the past are disciples of myself, Shakyamuni Buddha.”94 From this transcendent time of the Lotus Sutra Śākyamuni, all the many particular times usher forth now, including past as well as future.

Dōgen uses the image of the enduring Buddha to show the present moment as a dynamic process inclusive of all times. Near the beginning of “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas” he says, “Know that buddhas in the buddha way do not wait for awakening. Active buddhas alone fully experience the vital process on the path of going beyond buddha.”95 Awakening is not something that can occur in a nonpresent future. It is a dynamic process that happens in the present experience of practice, but without excluding past or future, or any other aspect of this time of going beyond any fixed time. Dōgen explains that it is “not that the lifespan of the Buddha has prevailed only in the past, but that what is called vast numbers is a total inclusive attainment. What is called still now is the total lifespan.”96 For Dōgen, the Buddha's vast life span expresses time as the present actuality of nondual practice and awakening in the concrete, present time that includes all times.

In the Shōbōgenzō essay “The Tathāgata's Whole Body” (“Nyōrai Zenshin”), Dōgen quotes from chapter 12 of the Lotus Sutra: “For countless eons Śākyamuni has practiced difficult and painful practices, accumulated merits, and sought the Way of the bodhisattva, and thus even though he is now a Buddha, he still practices diligently.”97 Dōgen comments, “The long eons of difficult and (p.116) painful practices are the activity of the womb of the Buddha. … When it is said that these practices have not ceased even for a second, it means that even though he is perfectly enlightened, he still practices vigorously, and he continues forever even though he converts the whole universe. This activity is the whole body of the Tathāgata.”98 Above all, Dōgen emphasizes that enlightenment, like Buddha, is not an event that happens only at one particular time, once and for all. Rather, it is an ongoing, vigorous activity that awakens time itself, just as with the zazen practitioner's upright presence “all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment.”99 As it is for space, so this process of ongoing awakening engages time.

Central to the explorations in this work of Dōgen's worldview and how it reflects the Lotus Sutra story of the underground bodhisattvas' emergence and Buddha's life span is the capacity of Dōgen's perspective to inform modern understandings of both Japanese Zen and the intriguing worldview of East Asian Mahāyāna Buddhism. One point is simply the deep Mahāyāna underpinnings of Japanese Zen, markedly expressed through Dōgen's strong relationship to the Lotus Sutra. In these traditions, and particularly in the Sōtō lineage derived from Dōgen, the vision of earth, space, and time as dynamic supports for bodhisattva work is important to their praxis development as well as metaphysical views. These visions go beyond anthropocentric or psychotherapeutic biases to provide a deep ontological basis for Mahāyāna practice as an active, dynamic expression of ultimate reality. Dōgen's conceptions of earth, space, and time exhibit his deep meditative and highly creative articulation of the Buddha Dharma. And yet they also reflect his embeddedness in the wider East Asian Mahāyāna tradition, including its imagery of bodhisattva figures such as Jizō, Kokuzō, and Maitreya.


(1.)  Reeves, “The Parable of the Good Physician,” 16.

(2.)  H. Kim, Eihei Dōgen, 9.

(3.)  The elephant ridden by Samantabhadra is more fully described in the “closing sutra” to the Lotus Sutra, “The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue.” See Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 347–370.

(4.)  Saunders, Mudrā, 80–84. See also Leighton, Faces of Compassion, 91–92.

(5.)  Strong, The Buddha, 72.

(6.)  Saunders, Mudrā, 82.

(7.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community, 146, 190 n.61; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 6: 120.

(8.)  See Yifa, The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China, 166–167. There are indeed references to earth spirits elsewhere in Chanyuan Qinggui. See, for example, Yifa, 137.

(9.)  See Faure, Visions of Power, 97–101, 154–156.

(10.)  From Grapard, “Nature and Culture in Japan,” cited in Malcolm David Eckel, “Is There a Buddhist Philosophy of Nature?,” in Tucker and Williams, Buddhism and Ecology, 332–333.

(11.)  Grapard, “Flying Mountains and Walkers of Emptiness,” 42. This Kyoto Journal issue was republished as Einarsen, The Sacred Mountains of Asia.

(12.)  The hypothesis of Tendai Hakusan support for the move is from Imaeda Aishin. See Heine, “The Dōgen Canon,” 66–69.

(13.)  Ibid.; Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan, 114–115; and Faure, Visions of Power, 182, 186–187.

(14.)  Heine, “The Dōgen Canon,” 68–69.

(15.)  For Jizō Bodhisattva, see De Visser, The Bodhisattva Ti‐Tsang (Jizo) in China and Japan, still a fine, useful study despite being very early in Western Buddhist studies; Bays, Jizo Bodhisattva; and Leighton, Faces of Compassion, 211–240. For a translation of the primary sutra source for this bodhisattva, see Buddhist Text Translation Society, Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. This was a popular sutra in China, probably of Chinese or Khotanese origin; see Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism, 241–242.

(16.)  Buddhist Text Translation Society, Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, 5–11, 23–28.

(17.)  Ibid., 6–11, 24–28.

(18.)  For the range of Jizō's folklore and salvific function, see De Visser, The Bodhisattva Ti‐Tsang (Jizo) in China and Japan, 84–98, 107–139; Leighton, Faces of Compassion, 216–217, 220–222, 227–230; Gomez, “From the Extraordinary to the Ordinary,” 148–149, 165, 182–183; and P. Yamada, “The Worship of Jizo.”

(19.)  See A. Matsunaga, The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation, 235 n.9, 246–247. For a full treatment of this bodhisattva figure, see De Visser, The Bodhisattva Akasagarbha (Kokuzo) in China and Japan.

(20.)  Abé, The Weaving of Mantra, 74.

(21.)  Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan, 14.

(22.)  Ibid., 14, 59.

(23.)  Faure, Visions of Power, 84.

(24.)  See Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan, 14, 71–73, 88, 91–92.

(25.)  See Okumura and Leighton, The Wholehearted Way, 22–24; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 16–18.

(26.)  Gregory, “Chinese Buddhist Hermeneutics,” 242.

(27.)  See Okumura and Leighton, The Wholehearted Way, 22; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 16.

(28.)  Reeves, “Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” 10.

(29.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 215; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 442.

(30.)  McMahan, Empty Vision, 69.

(31.)  Ibid., 76, 77.

(32.)  Ibid., 73, 74, 77.

(33.)  This story is case 19 in the popular Gateless Barrier kōan collection (Wumenguan in Chinese; Mumonkan in Japanese). For other renditions and commentary, see Shibayama, The Gateless Barrier, 140–147; T. Cleary, Unlocking the Zen Koan, 94–98; and Aitken, The Gateless Barrier, 126–131.

(34.)  See Nishijima, Master Dōgen's Shinji Shōbōgenzō, 28; Tanahashi and Loori, The True Dharma Eye, 26–27.

(35.)  See Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 4: 249–250.

(36.)  See Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 664–665.

(37.)  Leighton and Wu, Cultivating the Empty Field, 45.

(38.)  Author's translation from Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 447; see also “Hokke‐Ten‐Hokke,” in Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 219.

(39.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 261; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 180.

(40.)  Dharma hall discourse 91, in Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 134; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 54.

(41.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 83; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 157–158.

(42.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 139, 169; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 58, 88. The line is from the commentary to case 77 of Hekiganroku; see T. Cleary and Cleary, The Blue Cliff Record, 3: 507.

(43.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 361; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 272.

(44.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 94; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 123; see also Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 78.

(45.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 215–216; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 442–443.

(46.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 11; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 268–269.

(47.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 196; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 114.

(48.)  Okumura and Leighton, The Wholehearted Way, 22; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 16.

(49.)  Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, 202–203; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 410–411.

(50.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 217–218; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 445.

(51.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 216, italics by Nishijima and Cross; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 443.

(52.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 95; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 178.

(53.)  See H. Kim, Eihei Dōgen, 16–17, 21, 107, 143; and Heine, Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, 22, 56, 69.

(54.)  McMahan, Empty Vision, 80.

(55.)  See LaFleur, The Karma of Words, 82–85.

(56.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 95; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 178.

(57.)  Heine, Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, 23.

(58.)  T. Cleary, The Flower Ornament Scripture, 1029.

(59.)  Ibid.

(60.)  Ibid.

(61.)  Heine, Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, 155.

(62.)  Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 79–80; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 52–53.

(63.)  T. Cleary, Entry into the Inconceivable, 138–139, 39.

(64.)  For a full treatment of Maitreya as archetypal bodhisattva, see Leighton, Faces of Compassion, 241–274. See also Sponberg and Hardacre, Maitreya.

(65.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 85; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 161; see also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 2: 40.

(66.)  Thurman, The Holy Teachings of Vimalakirti, 120 n.1.

(67.)  A. Matsunaga, The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation, 240.

(68.)  See Leighton, Faces of Compassion, 255–258.

(69.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 118; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 40–42.

(70.)  See Sadakata, Buddhist Cosmology, 99–110; and Ricard and Trinh, The Quantum and Lotus, 33.

(71.)  See Sadakata, Buddhist Cosmology, 96–97; Leighton and Wu, Cultivating the Empty Field, 91 n.12.

(72.)  Morrell, Early Kamakura Buddhism, 144 n.144.

(73.)  Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 184–185; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 160.

(74.)  For the lack of historicity of the recognized Indian Zen ancestors, see Yampolsky, The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, 1–11, including the helpful tables on 8 and 9.

(75.)  See also the translation ending, “Do not pass your days and nights in vain,” in Bielefeldt et al., “Harmony of Difference and Equality,” in Leighton and Wu, Cultivating the Empty Field, 75.

(76.)  Ibid.

(77.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 293; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 208.

(78.)  Taigen Leighton and Kazuaki Tanahashi, trans., “Song of the Grass‐Roof Hermitage,” in Leighton and Wu, Cultivating the Empty Field, 72–73.

(79.)  Leighton and Wu, Cultivating the Empty Field, 32, 45.

(80.)  Heine, Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, 157; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 50. Waddell and Abe translate kyōraku (or keireki; 経 歴) as “seriatim passage,” and describe it as “a discontinuous continuity.” See Waddell and Abe, The Heart of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 51. Tanahashi renders these key sentences as, “The time‐being has the quality of flowing. So‐called today flows into tomorrow, today flows into yesterday, yesterday flows into today. And today flows into today, tomorrow flows into tomorrow. … Flowing is a quality of time.” See Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 78.

(81.)  Waddell and Abe, The Heart of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 49; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 47.

(82.)  Heine, Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, 51 (Heine's italics).

(83.)  Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 81; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 55.

(84.)  Okumura and Leighton, The Wholehearted Way, 22; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 16.

(85.)  Waddell and Abe, The Heart of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 53; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 52.

(86.)  Waddell and Abe, The Heart of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 53; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 52.

(87.)  Heine, Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, 3–4.

(88.)  Ibid.

(89.)  Ibid., 105.

(90.)  Ibid., 125, 136.

(91.)  Author's translation from Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 447; see also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 219.

(92.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 216; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 443.

(93.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 216; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 443.

(94.)   Shōbōgenzō, “Document of Heritage” (“Shishō”), in Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 188; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 373.

(95.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 79; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 151.

(96.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 80 (Tanahashi's italics); Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 153.

(97.)  Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 127; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 350.

(98.)  Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 127–128; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 351.

(99.)  Okumura and Leighton, The Wholehearted Way, 22; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 16.