In the first part, I wrote about the larger context of Dogen Zenji's teaching of the Shobogenzo and the need to realize that we ourselves are "the treasury of the true Dharma eye." In the second part, we looked at the text from "The Four All-Embracing Methods of a Bodhisattva" regarding the matter of kind speech. In the third part, we will look and see how this can be applied in our everyday lives.
One of the things I love about the Buddhist teaching is that frequently one thing is divided into different parts to show that one thing from different angles. This is to say that these different parts, whether they are three or four or six, are actually different aspects of the same thing. In this case as well, I think that if we can truly practice one of these four all-embracing methods of a bodhisattva: generosity, kind speech, beneficial actions, or cooperation then we are also able to practice the other three. And if we are unable to practice kind speech, for example, then we are also unable to be generous. If we are unable to be generous, we are unable to cooperate with others. These four things go hand in hand. Each of these four methods is asking us to give up the ego.
I believe that all people wish to realize their true nature, which is free and unrestricted. The one thing that prevents us from doing this is our attachment to the ego, the sense of a separate self. While most people speak kindly to their friends and family, we often have difficulty speaking kindly to those we don't know or those people who we think speak unkindly to us. To the extent that we are unable to speak kindly to others, this is caused by this sense of selfishness, our attachment to the sense of self. A bodhisattva is a person who is able to speak kindly to anyone. This might also mean saying things that another person doesn't want to hear if that is what is necessary. To aspire to speak kindly at all times is the bodhisattva ideal. As Dogen Zenji says, "Remember that kind speech arises from a loving heart, and that the seed of a loving heart is compassion." Compassion arises from the wisdom of knowing that while things appear in different forms, in essence they are one.
Shikantaza is the quickest way for us to forget the ego. As Zen Buddhists, our practice is to sit with the intention of grinding up the ego and awakening to our true, compassionate nature. In this way, I think of Dogen Zenji's teachings of "The Four All-Embracing Methods of a Bodhisattva" as being both the way a person who has realized the Way of Buddha lives and acts in the world without intention, as well as the bodhisattva ideals for those of us who aspire to realize the Way of Buddha.
There is the following Japanese poem:
A sweetfish lives in the rapids of a river,
A bird nests in a tree,
A human being dwells in the world of kindness and sympathy.
Early summer is the season Japanese people associate with sweetfish or ayu, a fish that lives in the rapids of small rivers. Birds nest in trees and people live within kindness and sympathy. Everything is interconnected. However, because of causality, a fish, a bird, and a human being each live in different places. I think this song has an interesting way to express this. Essentially, everything is one, but through causes and conditions the places where things live as well as the shapes they take are different. Oftentimes, our world seems harsh and cruel. But let us remember and be grateful for Dogen Zenji's teaching regarding kind speech as it gives us a powerful tool to change that harshness into a world of kindness and sympathy, the place where all people wish to live.