S. "Kuge" (The Flowers Of Emptiness)

Natural Completion

The high ancestor (Bodhidharma) said:
“A flower unfolds its five petals and bears fruit naturally.”
We should study the occasion of the flower’s unfolding,
as well as its radiant light, color and form.

What enfolds “a flower” is the “five petals”;
what unfolds the “five petals” is a “flower.”

The truth of “a flower” prevails [in Bodhidharma’s saying:]
“I originally came to this land [China], transmitted the Dharma,
and saved deluded beings.”

The investigation of [a flower’s] light and color
should lie in the study of this [utterance]:
“Fruit-bearing” entrusts its own fruit-bearing to itself:
this is “natural completion.”

“Natural completion” means applying oneself to cause
and giving rise to effect, [through practice and verification].

Cause is impartial; effect is impartial.
We apply ourselves to the cause and effect of the impartial world
and give rise to the cause and effect of the impartial world.

The ji [in jinen for “natural”] refers to the self;
the self is invariably you yourself—
the four elements and the five skandhas.
Since [this self] embodies “the true person of no rank,”
it is neither the self nor any other.
Accordingly, this indeterminate [self] is known as ji.
The nen [in jinen] acknowleges and approves
[the self’s being “just so”].

“Self-completion” then is the occasion for “a flower’s unfolding
and fruit-bearing” as well as the occasion for [Bodhidharma’s]
transmitting the Dharma and saving deluded beings.”

Kindling the Fire And Its Blazing

[This situation] is, for example like a blue lotus flower,
the time and place of whose blooming are respectively
the fire’s time and the fire’s interior.
Kindling the fire [of wisdom through practice]
and its blazing [verification] are both the time and place
of the blue flower’s blooming.
Were this not so, not a spark of fire would be generated,
nor would its workings exist.

We must know that in this spark of fire are hundreds
of thousands of blue lotuses flowering in the sky,
on earth, in the past, in the present.

To see and hear the fire’s present time and place
is to see and hear the blue flower’s [blooming]. . . . .

Flowers of the Empty Sky

A situation such as this the World-honored One spoke of
as “the flowers of the empty sky.”
Even so, those who see little and hear little
fail to understand the nature of the sky flower’s
brilliance, leaves, and blossoms.

We must realize that within the tradition of
the Buddha-way there is a discussion of “the flowers of emptiness.”
Non-Buddhists, however, are unaware of it,
to say nothing of understanding it.

Buddhas and ancestors alone know the blooming and falling of
the flowers of emptiness and the flowers of the earth,
as well as the blooming and falling of the flowers of the world;
they know that the flowers of emptiness, the flowers of earth,
and the flowers of the world are the sutras.

This is the touchstone for learning the Buddha-way.
Because the vehicles of buddha-ancestors are the flowers of emptiness,
the buddha-worlds and buddha’s teachings are none other than
the flowers of emptiness.

Nevertheless, the fools, who hear from others about the Tathagata’s saying,
“The things dim eyesight sees are the sky flowers,” think that “dim eyesight”
refers to the topsy-turvy eyesight of sentient beings.
They assume that because the diseased eye is intrinsically topsy-turvy,
it perceives illusory flowers in the clear, empty sky.

Bound by such reasoning, they suppose that [Buddhists] mistakenly see
the existence of the triple world, the six worlds, and the buddhas of being
and non-being, where none of these exists.

Furthermore, they believe that, should such a deluded eye’s dimness
disappear, these sky flowers will no longer be seen. This, they think,
is why it is said that “the sky originally has no flowers.”
It is a pity that such people do not comprehend the seasons and
the life-cycle of the “flowers of emptiness” in the Tathagata’s saying.

The truth concerning the “dim-eyesight” and “flowers of emptiness”
spoken by the buddhas is far from being what ordinary persons
and non-Buddhists can see.

Buddhas and tathagatas undergo training in these “flowers of emptiness”;
having obtained the robe, the throne, and the room [of the Tathagata],
they attain the Way and its fruit.

Holding Up A Flower And Winking

The [Buddha’s] holding up a flower and his winking alike
are the koan in which “dim-eyesight’s flowers of emptiness”
realize themselves.

That the treasury of the true Dharma eye, the wondrous mind
of nirvana has been correctly transmitted without interruption
up to now is called “dim-eyesight’s flowers of emptiness.”
Enlightenment, nirvana, the dharma-body, the self-nature,
and all the rest are two or three of the “five petals”
unfolded by the “flower of emptiness.”

Sakyamuni Buddha said:
“Again, it is like a dim-sighted person who sees flowers in the sky;
when his/her eye disease is cured, they disappear from the sky.”

No student yet has grasped this saying.

Seeing the Flowers of Emptiness

Because one fails to know emptiness,
one does not know “the flowers of emptiness”;
because one does not know the flowers of emptiness,
one neither knows, sees, nor meets the “dim-sighted person”;
nor does one become the “dim-sighted person” oneself.
An encounter with the dim-sighted person should make one
know and see the flowers of emptiness as well;
after seeing the flowers of emptiness one should also see that
“they dissappear in emptiness.”

It is the Hinayanist view that once they know
flowers disappear they no longer exist.
When the flowers of emptiness are not seen,
what should they be like?

Those who hold this view only know that the
sky flowers are discarded, not the great matter
subsequent to [the discarding of] the sky flowers:
they do not know that the seeds of the flowers of emptiness
are sown, ripen, and harvested.

[Ordinary students today] are altogether unaware,
that the four elements, in both their active and passive
aspects, as well as all the dharmas of the physical world,
original enlightenment, original nature, and so forth,
are all regarded as the flowers of emptiness.
Nor are they aware that the four elements in the active aspect
exist by virtue of all dharmas, or that the physical world abides
in its dharma-situation by virtue of all dharmas;
they think only that all dharmas exist by virtue of the physical world.

Dimness Exists Because of the Flowers of Emptiness

Since they understand only that the sky flowers exist
because of the eye’s dimness, they do not understand
the truth that the eye’s dimness exists because of the
flowers of emptiness.

We should know that the dim-sighted person
in the tradition of the Buddha-way is the person of
original enlightenment and the person of wonderful
enlightenment; s/he is the person of buddhas,
the person of the triple world, the one who goes
beyond the Buddha.

Dimness Is Not Unreal, Reality Is Not Outside Of It

Never foolishly misconstrue “dimness” as the unreal
and thereby look for the real outside of it. To do so
is a narrow-minded view. Were a “flower of dimness”
an unreal dharma, both the subject that misapprehends
it as unreal and its object would be unreal dharmas.

All being unreal, there would be no way whatsoever
to establish truth. Without being able to establish truth,
it cannot be established that the flower of emptiness is
an unreal dharma.

When Enlightenment Is Dimness

When enlightenment is dimness, all the dharmas of enlightenment
are invariably the dharmas adorned by that dimness;
When illusion is dimness, all the dharmas of illusion
are invariably the dharmas adorned by that dimness.

We must now declare that because “dim eyesight” is equal [in essence],
the “flowers of emptiness” are equal [in essence];
that because “dim-eyesight” is birthless,
the “flowers of emptiness” are birthless,
and that because all dharmas are real nature,
the “flowers of emptiness” are real nature.

Not Obstructed By Arising Or Perishing

These do not concern themselves with past, present, or future,
nor do they have anything to do with the beginning, the middle, or end.
Because they are not obstructed by arising or perishing,
they freely cause arising and perishing to arise and perish.

They arise in “emptiness” and perish in “emptiness”;
they arise in “dimness” and perish in “flowers.”
They do this at all times and in all places.

Different Ways of Studying the Flowers of Emptiness

There are indeed a number of ways to study the flowers of emptiness:
seeing with dim eyesight and seeing with clear eyesight;
seeing with a buddha’s eyesight and seeing with an ancestor’s eyesight;
seeing with the Way’s eyesight and seeing with the blind’s eyesight;
seeing with three thousand years and seeing with eight hundred years;
seeing with a hundred kalpas and seeing with immesuable kalpas.
Though each one of these ways sees the “flowers of emptiness,”
the “emptiness” is intrinsically variegated,
and the flowers are also manifold. (108-11)

The Sky Flowers Falling Furiously In Dim-eyesight

In the great Sung China, when Ch’an Teacher Linghsün
of Mt. Fu-yung in Fu-chou studied under Ch’an Teacher
Kuei-tsung Chih-chen for the first time,
he asked: ‘What is the Buddha?’

Kuei-tsung said: “I’ll tell you the answer, but will you believe it?
The master replied, “Why wouldn’t I believe your sincere word, Reverend?
Kuei-tsung said: “It’s you yourself!”
The master asked: “How shall I maintain it?
Kuei-tsung replied: “If your eyesight has the slightest dimness,
[You will see] the sky flowers falling furiously.

Maintaining the Buddha

In Kuei-tsung’s statement “If your eyesight has the slightest
dimness [you will see the sky flowers falling furiously,”
he speaks of “maintaining the Buddha.”
We must know, therefore, that the “furiously falling of the
flowers of dimness” is the realization of “buddhas,”
and that the “flowers and fruits of eyesight’s emptiness
are what the “Buddhas maintain.”

They bring “eyesight” to realization through dimness.
They realize the “flowers of emptiness” in eyesight;
they realize “eyesight” in the “flowers of emptiness.”

If the “flowers of emptiness” are in your “eyesight”
[you will see] the “slightest dimness fallling furiously”;
If the slightest dimness is in “emptiness”
[you will see] the immense dimness falling furiously.

For this reason, “dimness” is the presence of total dynamism;
“eyesight” is the presence of total dynamism;
“emptiness” is the presence of total dynamism; and
“flower” is the presence of total dynamism.
“Falling furiously” are a thousand eyes­—the eyes
that are the whole body (of Avalokiteshvara).

All in all, whenever and wherever these is even the slightest eyesight,
there are always both flowers of emptiness and flowers of eyesight.
The flowers of eyesight are called the flowers of emptiness;
and the flowers of eyesight, in giving expression to themselves,
always yield lucidity.



                         R I C H A R D  
S T O D A R T      D O G E N

Flowers of Emptiness: Portrait of Eihei Dogen © 2014, acrylic on paper, 18 1/4" x 29 1/4"

Collection the artist