Putting the Kōan Back in Genjōkōan

Putting the Kōan Back in Genjōkōan

The Vine of Obstacles Zen has been immersed in an Intensive studying Ashvaghosha's teaching in The Awakening of Mahayana Faith on how suchness perfumes birthdeath and draws us to practice.

"The dharmas of buddhas have causes and conditions; only when replete with causes and conditions can those dharmas be brought to maturity. It is like the combustible nature of wood being the direct cause of fire. If there is no one who knows this, then people will have no recourse to the means necessary to ignite the wood—and it is impossible that the wood will be able to burn by itself. It is just the same with sentient beings. Even though they may possess the power of habituation by the direct cause of suchness, it will be impossible for them to be able to eliminate afflictions or enter nirvana by themselves unless they encounter buddhas, bodhisattvas, or good teachers and use them as conditions."

Here's how old Dōgen concludes his Genjōkōan (Actualizing the Fundamental Point) - much to the same point.

I've taken the liberty to divide it up and apply headers to the sections, emphasizing the kōan in Genjokōan.

Dōgen’s Pointer

Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for re­alization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddhadharma. Do not suppose that what you attain becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although ac­tualized immediately (jikige jōtō), the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.


Mayu, Zen Master Baoche (Clear Treasure), was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why then do you fan yourself?”

“Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent,” Clear Treasure replied, “you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.”

“What is the meaning of its reaching every­where?” asked the monk again.

Clear Treasure just kept fanning himself.

The monk bowed deeply.

Dōgen’s Commentary

The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is perma­nent and you can have wind without fanning, you understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind.

Dōgen’s Verse

The nature of wind is permanent

Because of that, the wind of the buddha’s house

brings forth the great earth's goldenness

and transforms the long river into sweet cream