Transforming Through Play

In our Vine of Obstacles study of Dōgen's "Guidelines for Studying the Way," we noted Dōgen's point about transforming through play, that which is sometimes called "transforming through play samadhi" (遊戯三昧).

The Digital Dictionary of Buddhism has this about that:

“To sport, frolic; to be free and at ease. A positive reference to the unfettered free activity of the bodhisattvas. To arrive to the condition of Buddhahood and enjoy it.”

Here's Katagiri Roshi on transforming through play:

In “Guidelines for Studying the Way,” Dogen-zenji says, “To listen to dharma is to cause your consciousness to disport itself freely.”

In Japanese to “disport” is yūge. is to play. Ge means to transform. Yūge means that we can transform our self in the process of playing freely.

“Transform” does not mean to change. It means without changing your body and mind, ability, your habits, heredity or karma. Without changing your body and mind something is transformed in the process of playing freely. This playing has no purpose. No reason why. Play is the end itself. At that time you can have full commitment to play.

If you just play with wholeheartedness, then there is some power to transform your life, to produce creative new life. Just like the art of diving from the top of the cliff in Acapulco. You can see on TV how beautiful diving is, diving from the top of the cliff. Diver doesn’t know how much they have produced creative life in the process of diving but they are right in the middle of creating life in the process of diving, in playing with diving. Day by day, divers always practice same thing.

How long? I don’t know. In their whole life, they have to do it. They are beginner, they are advanced, They are adept. It doesn’t matter. From beginning to end they have to practice. And then they can produce a creative new life.

“To listen to the dharma is to cause your consciousness to disport itself.” Consciousness is very tricky, very difficult. Consciousness causes your life to stop, not going freely.

That’s why we have to listen to the dharma, the truth, phenomenal world, and teaching from a person. Then you can really get into the depth of human existence.

Naturally, you can play freely with practice. In the process of doing zazen, you can play freely with zazen and produce a new creative life. Real creative life simply cannot be perceived by your consciousness.

How long will it take you to produce that new creative life? In order to cause your consciousness to disport itself, your mind must be big hearted. Your body and heart must produce a new creative life day to day. This creative life must be transmittable. You cannot hold it by yourself. Naturally it must be conveyed to someone else.