A Few Notes for The Time Being

I read a nice article about novelist and Zen priest Ruth Ozeki yesterday. The piece, written by Terrence Petty of the AP, gives us a glimpse into Ozeki’s life story, her introduction to Zen, and a short description of her last novel A Tale For The Time Being, which was a finalist in 2013 for the Man Booker Prize. The title of her book comes from an essay by Dogen on time titled Uji, often translated as “The Time-Being.”

ruthozeki-2I don’t know Ruth Ozeki, but I know a little about her. For instance, as Petty points out, her “spiritual companion is a Zen master named Dogen. Dead for nearly 800 years, when you listen to Ozeki, you know he’s there.”

Sorry to say that I have not heard her or read her novels . . . yet. I do plan to start learning more about Ruth Ozeki by further exploring her “Web World” at Ozekiland.

I am not a Zen Buddhist, but that doesn’t stop me from being a big fan of Dogen, too. Fan is not the right word, but you know what I mean.

I wrote about Dogen just the other day, and quite a few other times, as well. You can read those posts by clicking here or on the name Dogen in the tag cloud on the sidebar.

I have an old notebook full of random notes and copied quotes about Buddhism and meditation; it dates from 2001 and there is one note that I didn’t really get at the time I jotted it down, but in recent years has stirred my murky depths of my mind.

bielefeldtThe notation is marked simply Bielefeldt –. I am sure it refers to Professor Carl Bielefeldt who “specializes in East Asian Buddhism, with particular emphasis on the intellectual history of the Zen tradition.” He’s also the author of Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation. I don’t recall reading that book, and I don’t believe I have ever attended a lecture given by him, but maybe I have. Perhaps I read it in article or interview, or heard on the Internet or television. Could be just something I heard someone say. It doesn’t matter. The note says,

According to Dogen, the practice of Zazen [meditation] was not of an ordinary human trying to be a Buddha, but a Buddha expressing himself as an ordinary person.”

Think about it.


3 thoughts on “A Few Notes for The Time Being

  1. the quote is beautiful. Though it can take a while for one to fully comprehend what “ordinary” means in that quote. Unfortunately, the average joe is not ordinary, full of deviances of all kinds. Humans make ordinary complex.

    It sounds like its pointing to “stream-enterer”. Ordinary = mula-madhyama (centered/middle way).

    I always felt there is much to meditation than just sitting for half-an-hour practicing (or even few days of practice at a retreat). One needs to be in meditation 24/7. This just means continuous “awareness of self”…like holding a mind-mirror perpetually (=> non-duality). This can sound daunting, but this process is like any “ordinary” person’s daily life living. Its just the ordinary guy continuously tries to “forget”, or “live” his version of life (karmic creation). One can be/become a person who’s nature is to be fully present all the time, nothing to fear, hide, run-away from. Wisdom can be an excellent tool for this.

    Life is a life-long-expression. Like a lotus-flower life’s expression.

    What i find mind-boggling is that its logical, smart, and practical too! It brings perfect wisdom.

    1. I am not an expert on Dogen’s teachings by a long shot, but as I recall in “TheTime-Being” he discusses the differences between ordinary or common people, which as I take it is meaning the “average joe” (there’s an expression I haven’t heard in a long time) and Buddhas. And the difference is that ordinary people are deluded while Buddhas are awakened. There is probably more to it but that the gist of the matter to me.

      You are right, meditation is more than just sitting on the cushion or mat. I feel that the real point of meditation is not to attain exalted states of consciousness but rather to consciously carry over what we realize during meditation into daily life.

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