dreaming of dogen

I had a dream about Dogen last night.

I was in a zendo, though it was unlike any zendo I’ve been in. It had a loft and felt a lot more like a little, hole-in-the-wall Japanese noodle joint in the City than a zendo. And it was filled with young hipsters, with old hippies. And I felt awkward and weird.

I was in the loft. And the roshi was up there, a young guy with a very unkempt beard and ratty hair wearing a collared, striped shirt and black jeans. And he was giving a dharma talk. But I couldn’t pay any attention because I was trying very hard to get the right posture on the zafu, on the meditation cushion. But, of course, I couldn’t. I couldn’t quite sit with my knees under me, and I sure as hell couldn’t get in lotus position. So I ended up sitting cross-legged, not unlike you would sit on the gym floor when the coach is either about to start his obligatory “sex-ed” talk or call out the names of the kids who made the team and the ones who have to be on the team because, well, it’s gym class and everyone’s on the team.

And then the roshi starts talking about Dogen. And he says something about how Dogen isn’t enlightened. Or, that is to say, that Dogen is only enlightened when all of us are enlightened. That enlightenment is an all-or-nothing kind of thing. And the more I think about it, the more it sounds like an absurdist syllogism — nothing is better than eternal happiness; a nice MLT, a mutton lettuce tomato, sandwich is better than anything; therefore, an MLT is better than eternal happiness. So, the roshi says, if we assume that Dogen was enlightened, then we have to assume that all of us are enlightened. And I’m thinking, “Funny, that’s exactly what Shinran was saying.” (Which isn’t true, of course; neither one of them said anything of the sort.)

But then I start feeling anxious again and feel like something that this hipster roshi is saying isn’t right at all, that he’s completely wrong about the dharma. And I’m pretty sure we start arguing, but in a very dokusan sort of way, all witty koan banter. But, now, in the waking world, I can’t remember what he was on about, what I was taking issue with. What I do remember is my neighbors slamming kitchen doors or walking heavily up their stairs. It’s two o’clock in the morning and my wife is telling me about her bad dream, and I’m trying to console her; but it’s damned hard to stay awake. I fall back asleep thinking the whole time that it’s Saturday night. And when I wake up at six-forty, I’m a little disappointed that it’s Monday.

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4 thoughts on “dreaming of dogen

  1. Really great short-story. Absurd and quite strange feeling in your post; reminded me a little bit of stuff of D. Lynch and F. Kafka. Thank you, wow!

  2. OK I have to comment on the MLT…”a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, when the mutton is nice and lean. So tasty”

    Sorry had to comment on the awesome use of a Princess Bride line.

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