On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

June 15, 2006

Eight Awakenings of Great Beings – Part II

Dogen (1200-1253)

All buddhas are great beings.  What great beings practice is called the eight awakenings.  Practicing these awakenings is the basis for nirvana.  This is the last teaching of our original teacher Shakymuni Buddha, which he gave on the night he entered pari-nirvana.

The sixth awakening is to practice meditation.  To abide in dharma without being confused is called “stability in meditation.”

The Buddha said, “Monks, if you gather your mind it will abide in stability.  Then you will understand the birth and death of all things in the world.  You will continue to endeavor in practicing various aspects of meditation.  When you have stability, your mind will not be scattered.  It is like a well-roofed house or a well-built embankment, which will help you maintain the water of understanding and keep you from being drowned.  This is called ‘stability in meditation.’”

The seventh awakening is “to cultivate wisdom.”  It is to listen, contemplate, practice, and have realization.

The Buddha said, “Monks, if you have wisdom, you are free from greed.  You will always reflect on yourself and avoid mistakes.  Thus you will attain liberation in the dharma I am speaking of.  If you don’t have wisdom, you will be neither a follower of the Way nor a lay supporter of it, and there will be no name to describe you. 

Indeed, wisdom is a reliable vessel to bring you across the ocean of old age, sickness, and death.  It is a bright lamp that brings light into the darkness of ignorance.  It is an excellent medicine for all of you who are sick.  It is a sharp ax to cut down the tree of delusion.  Thus, you can deepen awakening through the wisdom of listening, contemplation, and practice.  If you are illuminated by wisdom, even if you use your physical eyes, you will have clear insight. This is called ‘to cultivate wisdom.’

The eighth awakening is not to be engaged in hollow discussions.  It is to experience realization and be free from discriminatory thinking, with thorough understanding of the true mark of all things.  It is called “not to be engaged in hollow discussions.”

The Buddha said, “Monks, if you get into hollow discussions, your mind will be scattered.  Then, you will be unable to attain liberation even if you have left the household.  So, you should immediately leave behind scattered mind and hollow discussions.  If you wish to attain the joy of serenity, you need to cure the sickness of hollow discussions.  This is called ‘not to be engaged in hollow discussion.’”

These are the eight awakenings.  Each awakening contains all eight, thus there are sixty-four awakenings.  When awakenings are practiced thoroughly, their number is countless.  When they are practiced in summary, there are sixty-four.

It is rare to encounter the buddha-dharma even in the span of countless eons.  A human body is difficult to attain. By practicing and nurturing these awakenings, you can certainly arrive at unsurpassable enlightenment and expound them to all beings, just as Shakymuni Buddha did.

Actualizing the Fundamental Point

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.

Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

Dogen (1200-1253)

Written at the Eihei Monastery on the sixth day, the first month, 1253

Excerpted from Enlightenment Unfolds :The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen-Kazuaki Tanahashi

The Awakenings are clear and direct teachings that appeal to those of us preferring clean and simple instructions along the Way.  Each one of these contemplations could become an entire practice. Sometimes with so many practices and aspects of training, we tend to accumulate the ideas but not the actual embodiment of the teachings.

The last awakening is to cultivate wisdom. Wisdom is one of the six paramitas of Buddhism from the Prajna Paramita Sutra. The Six Perfections are Dana, generosity; Sila, right conduct; Kshanti, patience; Virya, strength, zeal; Dhyana, concentration; and Prajna, wisdom or insight.  These are strengths we continually develop in practice with wisdom being the crown jewel. In India Prajnaparamita became a goddess worshipped in the form of an icon. The following excerpt expresses devotion illustrating once again the many paths Buddhism offers its followers.

Perfect Wisdom spreads her radiance…and is worthy of worship. Spotless, the whole world cannot stain her. In her we may find refuge; her works are most excellent; she brings us to safety under the sheltering wings of enlightenment. She brings light to the blind, that all fears and calamities may be dispelled…and she scatters the gloom and darkness of delusion. She leads those who have gone astray to the right path. She is omniscience; without beginning or end is Perfect Wisdom, who has Emptiness as her characteristic mark; she is mother of the bodhisattvas. She cannot be struck down, the protector of the unprotected.

Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita

The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan

Edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary 1969

Aspiring onward,

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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