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True Zen Teachings


The Time-Being

by Eihei Dogen Zenji


An ancient buddha said:

For the time being stand on top of the highest peak.
For the time being proceed along the bottom of the deepest ocean.
For the time being three heads and eight arms.
For the time being an eight- or sixteen-foot body.
For the time being a staff or whisk.
For the time being a pillar or lantern.
For the time being the sons of Zhang and Li.
For the time being the earth and sky.

"For the time being" here means time itself is being, and all being is
time. A golden sixteen-foot body is time; because it is time, there is the
radiant illumination of time. Study it as the twelve hours of the present.
"Three heads and eight arms" is time; because it is time, it is not separate
from the twelve hours of the present.


Even though you do not measure the hours of the day as long or short, far or
near, you still call it twelve hours. Because the signs of time's coming and
going are obvious, people do not doubt it. Although they do not doubt it,
they do not understand it. Or when sentient beings doubt what they do not
understand, their doubt is not firmly fixed. Because of that, their past
doubts do not necessarily coincide with the present doubt. Yet doubt itself
is nothing but time.


The way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world. See each
thing in this entire world as a moment of time.
Things do not hinder one another, just as moments do not hinder one
another. The way-seeking mind arises in this moment. A way-seeking moment
arises in this mind. It is the same with practice and with attaining the way.
Thus the self setting itself out in array sees itself. This is the
understanding that the self is time.


Know that in this way there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses
throughout the entire earth, and yet each grass and each form itself is the
entire earth. The study of this is the beginning of practice.
When you are at this place, there is just one grass, there is just one
form; there is understanding of form and no-understanding of form; there is
understanding of grass and no-understanding of grass. Since there is nothing
but just this moment, the time-being is all the time there is. Grass-being,
form-being are both time.
Each moment is all being, is the entire world. Reflect now whether any
being or any world is left out of the present moment.


Yet an ordinary person who does not understand buddha-dharma may hear the
words the time-being this way:

For a while I was three heads and eight arms. For a while I was an eight-
or sixteen-foot body. This is like having crossed over rivers and climbed
mountains. Even though the mountains and rivers still exist, I have already
passed them and now reside in the jeweled palace and vermilion tower. Those
mountains and rivers are as distant from me as heaven is from earth.

It is not that simple. At the time the mountains were climbed and the
rivers crossed, you were present. Time is not separate from you, and as you
are present, time does not go away.
As time is not marked by coming and going, the moment you climbed the
mountains is the time-being right now. If time keeps coming and going, you
are the time-being right now. This is the meaning of the time-being.
Does this time-being not swallow up the moment when you climbed the
mountains and the moment when you resided in the jeweled palace and
vermilion tower? Does it not spit them out?


Three heads and eight arms may be yesterday's time. The eight- or
sixteen-foot body may be today's time. Yet yesterday and today are both in
the moment when you directly enter the mountains and see thousands and
myriads of peaks. Yesterday's time and today's time do not go away.
Three heads and eight arms move forward as your time-being. It looks as
if they are far away, but they are here and now. The eight- or sixteen-foot
body moves forward as your time-being. It looks as if it is nearby, but it
is exactly here. Thus, a pine tree is time, bamboo is time.


Do not think that time merely flies away. Do not see flying away as the only
function of time. If time merely flies away, you would be separated from
time. The reason you do not clearly understand the time-being is that you
think of time only as passing.
In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another
as moments. Because all moments are the time-being, they are your time-being.


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.
Because flowing is a quality of time, moments of past and present do not
overlap or line up side by side. Qingyuan is time, Huangbo is time, Jiangxi
is time, Shitou is time, because self and other are already time.
Practice-enlightenment is time. Being splattered with mud and getting wet
with water is also time.


Although the views of an ordinary person and the causes and conditions of
those views are what the ordinary person sees, they are not necessarily the
ordinary person's truth. The truth merely manifests itself for the time
being as an ordinary person. Because you think your time or your being is
not truth, you believe that the sixteen-foot golden body is not you.
However, your attempts to escape from being the sixteen-foot golden body
are nothing but bits and pieces of the time-being. Those who have not yet
confirmed this should look into it deeply. The hours of Horse and Sheep,
which are arrayed in the world now, are actualized by ascendings and
descendings of the time-being at each moment. The rat is time, the tiger is
time, sentient beings are time, buddhas are time.


At this time you enlighten the entire world with three heads and eight arms,
you enlighten the entire world with the sixteen-foot golden body. To fully
actualize the entire world with the entire world is called thorough practice.
To fully actualize the golden body - to arouse the way-seeking mind,
practice, attain enlightenment, and enter nirvana - is nothing but being, is
nothing but time.


Just actualize all time as all being; there is nothing extra. A so-called
"extra being" is thoroughly an extra being. Thus, the time-being
half-actualized is half of the time-being completely actualized, and a
moment that seems to be missed is also completely being. In the same way,
even the moment before or after the moment that appears to be missed is also
complete-in-itself the time-being. Vigorously abiding in each moment is the
time-being. Do not mistakenly confuse it as nonbeing. Do not forcefully
assert it as being.


You may suppose that time is only passing away, and not understand that time
never arrives. Although understanding itself is time, understanding does not
depend on its own arrival.
People only see time's coming and going, and do not thoroughly
understand that the time-being abides in each moment. This being so, when
can they penetrate the barrier? Even if people recognized the time-being in
each moment, who could give expression to this recognition? Even if they
could give expression to this recognition for a long time, who could stop
looking for the realization of the original face?
According to ordinary people's view of the time-being, even
enlightenment and nirvana as the time-being would be merely aspects of
coming and going.


The time-being is entirely actualized without being caught up in nets or
cages. Deva kings and heavenly beings appearing right and left are the
time-being of your complete effort right now. The time-being of all beings
throughout the world in water and on land is just the actualization of your
complete effort right now. All beings of all kinds in the visible and
invisible realms are the time-being actualized by your complete effort,
flowing due to your complete effort.
Closely examine this flowing; without your complete effort right now,
nothing would be actualized, nothing would flow.


Do not think flowing is like wind and rain moving from east to west. The
entire world is not unchangeable, is not immovable. It flows.
Flowing is like spring. Spring with all its numerous aspects is called
flowing. When spring flows there is nothing outside of spring. Study this in
Spring invariably flows through spring. Although flowing itself is not
spring, flowing occurs throughout spring. Thus, flowing is completed at just
this moment of spring. Examine this thoroughly, coming and going.
In your study of flowing, if you imagine the objective to be outside
yourself and that you flow and move through hundreds and thousands of
worlds, for hundreds, thousands, and myriads of eons, you have not devotedly
studied the buddha way.


Great Master Hongdao of Mt. Yao [Yaoshan], instructed by Shitou, Great
Master Wuji, once went to study with Zen Master Daji of Jiangxi.

Yaoshan asked, "I am familiar with the teaching of the Three Vehicles
and twelve divisions. But what is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the
Zen Master Daji replied:

For the time being have him raise his eyebrows and wink.
For the time being do not have him raise his eyebrows and wink.
For the time being to have him raise his eyebrows and wink is right.
For the time being to have him raise his eyebrows and wink is not right.

Hearing these words, Yaoshan experienced great enlightenment and said to
Daji, "When I was studying with Shitou, it was like a mosquito trying to
bite an iron bull."
What Daji said is not the same as other people's words. The "eyebrows"
and "eyes" are mountains and oceans, because mountains and oceans are
eyebrows and eyes. To "have him raise the eyebrows" is to see the mountains.
To "have him wink" is to understand the oceans. The "right" answer belongs
to him, and he is activated by your having him raise the eyebrows and wink.
"Not right" does not mean not having him raise the eyebrows and wink. Not to
have him raise the eyebrows and wink does not mean not right. These are all
equally the time-being.
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. As time is not annihilated, mountains and oceans are not
This being so, the morning star appears, the Tathagata appears, the eye
appears, and raising a flower appears. Each is time. If it were not time, it
could not be thus.


Zen master Guixing of She Prefecture is the heir of Shoushan, a dharma
descendant of Linji. One day he taught the assembly:

For the time being mind arrives, but words do not.
For the time being words arrive, but mind does not.
For the time being both mind and words arrive.
For the time being neither mind nor words arrive.

Both mind and words are the time-being. Both arriving and not-arriving
are the time-being. When the moment of arriving has not appeared, the moment
of not-arriving is here. Mind is a donkey, words are a horse.
Having-already-arrived is words and not-having-left is mind. Arriving is not
"coming," not-arriving is not "not yet."


The time-being is like this. Arriving is overwhelmed by arriving, but not by
not-arriving. Not-arriving is overwhelmed by not-arriving, but not by
arriving. Mind overwhelms mind and sees mind, words overwhelm words and see
words. Overwhelming overwhelms overwhelming and sees overwhelming.
Overwhelming is nothing but overwhelming. This is time.
As overwhelming is caused by you, there is no overwhelming that is
separate from you. Thus you go out and meet someone. Someone meets someone.
You meet yourself. Going out meets going out. If these are not the
actualization of time, they cannot be thus.


Mind is the moment of actualizing the fundamental point; words are the
moment of going beyond, unlocking the barrier. Arriving is the moment of
casting off the body; not-arriving is the moment of being one with just
this, while being free from just this. In this way you must endeavor to
actualize the time-being.


The old masters have thus uttered these words, but is there nothing further
to say?

Mind and words arriving "part-way" are the time-being.
Mind and words not arriving "part-way" are the time-being.

In this manner, you should examine the time-being.

To have him raise the eyebrows and wink is "half" the time-being
To have him raise the eyebrows and wink is the time-being "missed."
Not to have him raise the eyebrows and wink is "half" the time-being.
Not to have him raise the eyebrows and wink is the time-being "missed."

Thus, to study thoroughly, coming and going, and to study thoroughly,
arriving and not-arriving, is the time-being of this moment.

On the first day of winter, first year of Ninji [1240], this was written at
Kosho Horin Monastery.

From: 'The Moon in a Dewdrop; writings of Zen Master Dogen'
Translated by Dan Welch and Kazuaki Tanahashi

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