Citations from Dogen Zenji's
The Vines That Entangle: the Vines That Embrace
Shobogenzo, Shasta Abbey, trans. by Hubert Nearman
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My former Master, an Old Buddha, once said, "The vines of the bottle gourd
embrace the bottle gourd itself." This teaching that he gave to his assembly
is something that had never been encountered or heard of anywhere in the
past or present. The vines of the bottle gourd intertwining with the vines
of the bottle gourd is the Buddhas and Ancestors thoroughly exploring what
Buddhas and Ancestors are. It is the Buddhas and Ancestors realizing that
there is no difference between the awakening of a Buddha and the awakening
of an Ancestor. It has been referred to as the direct Transmission of the
Dharma from Mind to Mind.
In speaking to his disciples, our Twenty-eighth Ancestor Bodhidharma (*) said,
"It seems that my time is near at hand, so why don’t you express what you
His disciple Dofuku then said, "As I now see things, I am not attached to
words nor have I given up words. I just make use of them."
The Ancestor replied, "You have realized what my Skin is."
The female monk Soji said, "As I now understand things, it is like Ananda’s
catching sight of Akshobya’s Buddha Land. Once seen, it is not seen again."
The Ancestor replied, "You have realized what my Flesh is."
Doiku said, "The four elements,* from the first, are empty of any permanent
self-nature, and the five skandhas* lack permanent existence. So, from my
perspective, there is not one single thing to be realized."
The Ancestor replied, "You have realized what my Bones are."
Finally, Eka respectfully made three prostrations before the Ancestor and
then silently stood in his place.
The Ancestor said, "You have realized what my Marrow is." As might be
expected, he made Eka the Second Chinese Ancestor, transmitting to him
the Dharma and the kesa.
What you need to explore through your training is that our First Chinese
Ancestor’s statement, "You have realized my Skin, Flesh, Bones, and Marrow,"
is what the Ancestor said. Each of his four disciples, respectively, expressed
what they had realized; each demonstrated what they had learned.
What they all had realized is the Skin and Flesh, Bones and Marrow which
sprang forth from their own body and mind. It is the Skin and Flesh, Bones
and Marrow of ‘dropping off body and mind’. [...] At the same time, folks who
have not experienced the genuine Transmission fancy that there were relative
degrees of intimacy in what each of the four disciples comprehended, so that
what the Ancestor was saying was that skin, flesh, bones, and marrow are not
the same in their profundity. They think that skin and flesh are coarser than
bones and marrow, and they say that the discerning thought of the Second
Ancestor had surpassed that of the others, so that he alone obtained the
certification of knowing what the marrow was. Those who talk like this have
still not explored through their training what the Buddhas and Ancestors are, nor
have they experienced the genuine Transmission of which the Ancestors speak
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(*) A variation of the Bodhidarma koan, along with a capping verse, appears
also in Dogen's Eihei Koroku (v.1.46), as well as EK 7, and in Osakusendaba.