Saigyo and Dogen were both independent Buddhist monks. Saigyo was, perhaps, even more independent than Dogen in that he seems never to have been strongly identified with one sect, although he clearly did have a great respect for Kukai and, therefore, a leaning toward Shingon. He spent a good deal of time in retreat on Mount Koya, but never actually became a Shingon monk.
Saigyo seems to have kept abreast of current affairs more intently than Dogen did. At least, we have little record that Dogen did so, but, then, the times of Saigyo were more dramatic with major civil war overrunning the country. Dogen may, in fact, have made more effort than Saigyo to curry favour with those who had power and influence, but such efforts were intermittent and brought scant fruit.
Saigyo had seen more of 'the world' than Dogen, in that he had been a samurai and part of the 'north facing guard' of the retired emperor before ordaining. He had clearly had a love life of some kind, but evidence is contradictory and details are lost. Many of his poems reveal him to be a sensitive man who sublimated his passions into a love of beauty. Nonetheless, he also spent much time engaged in rather challenging ascetic practices.
This mix of tenderness and harshness, appreciation of beauty and also of strict discipline, is characteristic of both men. Both came out of an aristocratic tradition, both rejected the worldly life and its hypocrisies, both sought to find an answer to the seemingly contradictory currents of grief and delight that flowed through them as a result of their personal experiences of the Buddhist truth of impermanence. Dogen eventually took his community to the mountains. Saigyo never had a community and went to the mountains alone. Both believed that this kind of yamabushi experience was, as we would say, 'good for the soul'.
Saigyo opened doors for Dogen, especially in the domain of permissible feelings. Where many believed that the proper course for a Buddhist monk was to renounce all passion in a rather self-repressive way, by the time Dogen came along, Saigyo had demonstrated that a Buddhist monk could record his loneliness, grief, longing, sense of desolation, fear of shame, embarassment, sentimentality, and many other emotions and still come to be regarded as a saint.
Saigyo was a follower of the idea of honji suijaku according to which Shinto deities were identified with celestial Buddhas. His sense of religion was, therefore, not at all narrow and could accommodate a wide range of influences, uniting them as much for their aesthetic qualities as for any doctrinal similarities. Dogen is generally portrayed as the founder of a sect, but this designation is rather misleading and, like Saigyo, he united within his approach to Dharma a much wider range of influences than many realise.
Saigyo and Dogen 'spoke the same language' and the wide extension and currency given to this 'language' by Saigyo certainly helped to pave the way for Dogen's masterpieces.
Thank You, Rimpoche
The term crazy wisdom is generally associated with Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche (pronounced rim-po-shay), a remarkable teacher who was the first person to give me a real taste of what the Dharma is all about.
Rimpoche had been born and educated in Tibet as the 11th Trungpa tulku. A tulku is an incarnation of a famous teacher. Tulkus are educated within the monastic system in a strict, but caring manner. As a young tulku, Trungpa had several important gurus and learnt many practices and traditions. However, when he was driven out of Tibet by the Chinese invasion and some of his teachers had disappeared into Chinese prisons, never to be seen again, he decided that what mattered was not so much the forms of tradition, but the actual lived life of the Dharma.
Perhaps the inspiration for this attitude came particularly from one of those lost teachers of his, Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen. When Trungpa had asked the Sechen lama what enlightenment was, Kongtrul said, “There is no such thing; but this is it!” Trungpa had learnt early that there were some gurus who were better at conveying the form and others who were better at living the spirit. When he came to the West where the traditional forms were either unknown or, too often, treated as exotic curiosities, he decided that he had to start from scratch.
When I First Found Buddhism
When I first found Buddhism, which was soon after Rimpoche had come to UK, there was not a lot of form to be had. There were few established Buddhist groups at that time and what there were were more academic than practising. To study Buddhism meant to study about it, not to do it. Trungpa was… well, I was going to write the cliche, ‘like a breath of fresh air’, but in fact he was more of a whirlwind, all energy on the outside and dead calm in the middle.
So Trungpa Rimpoche started from scratch and took to heart that Dharma is investigation of real life. And real life is pretty crazy. Wisdom, in Buddhism, is prajna. Prajna means to look below the surface. So, take real life and look below the surface, and you see plenty of craziness. The traditional form of religion is to shape people into the shape of moral people, but underneath that outer shape they can be just as crazy as ever. In fact, the circumstance of being fitted into a shape can make you even crazier.
Got What You've Got
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being moral - I’m just saying that there is something to be said for authenticity. When the Sechen lama said “this is it’” I don’t think he was making a clever remark about living in the present moment. No, he was talking about the fact that you have got what you’ve got. However, whatever you’ve got - which may well be a bundle of really crazy stuff - the Buddhas still throw a light on it, still smile at it like a benign parent, still enjoy the life spirit that it evidences. When you live in that smile, then you know that you've got what you've got, but you also know it is a whole lot more than you thought. However, having a whole lot more does not mean that you have got rid of the rest. The term yana in Sanskrit means a "vehicle". The crazy yana is what we are going along in.
Could Buddhism, which started in the West in the days of let-it-all-hang-out Hippydom, be now in danger of becoming a kind of rather straight-buttoned, killjoy, puritanism, in which the self-perfection project leads people into adopting a spiritual manner on the outside, but does not really touch the cauldron of self-righteousness, self-pity, self-entitlement and self-silliness, on the inside? that does not even look at it in fact, but just goes on and on about perfect Buddha Nature and stuff? Buddhism is not just about living on lentils and carrying out a procedure that one calls "my practice". That is hinayana. Hinayana is not really a school of Buddhism, it is an attitude toward Buddhism. It is the attitude that seeks personal rightness, personal benefit and no-sign-of-craziness. It is Buddhism in a small bottle.
Crazyana & Sillyana
Crazyana is different. Crazyana is what happens when we abandon Buddhism-in-order-to-get-something-for-me, which Rimpoche called ‘spiritual materialism’, and start looking at life ‘just as you are’ with all the self-silliness still happening. After all, that is how the Buddhas see us. They are not taken in by pretending. They see straight into the heart. They see how really silly we are. If it is painful to one to realise that the Buddha sees right into one's heart, then is it because one is ashamed of what he sees there. Well, that shame is part of the silliness, too. One could start right there. Investigate. Wow! Real human nature with no clothes on! What he sees there may be dukkha, but dukkha is a noble truth, and Buddhas love that.
The Root of Compassion
I now practise, more or less, in the Pureland style of Buddhism. One of the things that I like about Pureland is its realism about the human condition. We are all ‘bombu’ which means, roughly ‘foolish beings of wayward passion’. However, ever here, it is difficult to really get away from the question: yes, but how can I get to be a better class of bombu? Which, of course, is to miss the point completely, but is a wonderful example of human silliness. It makes me think of the infamous Madame Mao who followed her husband's injunction that all revolutionaries should wear boiler suits so as to identify with the working masses, and so sent to Paris to have some very chic boiler suits tailor-made. We are like that, right? We mouth a doctrine of ordinariness while convinced deep down that oneself is something different - both better and worse - or just plain too frightened to put our money where our mouth is. The point of pointing this out, however, is not so as to say: so straighten up there and perform better - it is, rather, to help us see that being human is like that. If one can really digest that truth, then one is somewhere near to compassion.
Buddhism is not about me being better, nor worse for that matter; it is about compassion and wisdom and wisdom is really crazyana. Of course, if one is abandoned to compassion and wisdom, third parties might say that one is a good person, or they might just be shocked and disapproving that one is not performing according to their image of what a good person is supposed to look like, but the point is that the gaol is not to arrive at a position where others have such-and-such an opinion of one or, indeed, that one has such an opinion of oneself. Self isn’t in it. It is self that is crazy and that up-welling craving to be something - that is really crazy - but it is studying just that, just as it is, just as one is, that is the wisdom that feeds compassion, because we have all got it, and when you are at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, it is no use being a dormouse.
Presentation of Korean Buddhist Materials
Buddhism is considered to have been officially introduced to Japan in A.D. 538 when the ruler of Baekje, a Korean kingdom, presented a brilliant image of the Buddha along with scripture-scrolls and ornaments to the Japanese Emperor Kimmei. In those days, Emperor Kimmei ruled Japan with his court nobles and immediately controversy started over whether or not such a foreign cult should be accepted. The orthodox Mononobe and Nakatomi clans strongly opposed this new religion on the grounds that Japan already had its traditional and indigenous religion of Shinto. But the influential Soga clan favored Buddhism; they believed that it had much to offer for the enrichment of their culture. Thus in the end, despite the disputes that took place among the court nobles, the emperor deferred the matter to the Soga clan.
About 40 years later, the pious Prince Regent Shotoku (A.D. 574–621) was appointed regent to the Empress Suiko, at which time he declared Buddhism as the official religion. Prince Shotoku was a great statesman and a devout Buddhist. He strongly believed that only with Buddhist teachings could he make Japan a unified and culturally refined country.